Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fair Clean-up

For those of you bloggers who have never known the pleasure of 4-H, or for those who don't live in an area that still features the County Fair, we're here to tell you: it's that time again! And we're getting psyched..
The entire year's work gets summed up at the Fair. For us it's the Schaghticoke Fair. Which is the County Fair for Rensselaer County. (Forgive the ridiculous's what we get for living in an area settle by Dutch and already populated with Native Americans). And two weeks in advance of the opening, the 4-H kids and parents descend on the grounds to get the barns and displays ready; to clean, sweep, label, plan, plot, eat (of course) and even workshop.

We are an independent club, meaning Madison pretty much just does her thing, and we latch onto as much activity and meetings as we can manage, and her social calendar demands. Not surprising, as we live in a pretty isolated corner of the county (just not that many kids!) and her interest is pretty narrow (just not that many kids interested in poultry!) In fact, fellow blogger Lauren has a son who appears to be just as ga-ga over poultry as Madison, but he's the only other one I know of...

So drumming up help to clean the Poultry cages and barns is sometimes a little tough. There are a half dozen kids who do poultry in addition to other animals, but that's it, so the work party is kinda small...(Further reason not to lock up the help, no matter how young!) I had nothing to do with this...the kid in yellow is her big brother...

We washed dozens of cages, dishes, swept floors, painted display boards (we did this part two weeks ago) and of course, talked "bird"...

Here is the 4-H side of the barn (pre-chicken):
And the open class side: (I still don't know why it is that the 4-H kids clean the whole barn, even if they only use half....hmmm...)

But she will have, (fingers crossed here - we just lost Speedy the Rooster to the foxes, and I don't want them to get the "fever for the flavor"...if you know what I mean) 9 entries: 5 in 4-H, and 4 in Open Class.

Then she's got veggies galore, and the shirt she made in the MakeIt/TakeIt Workshop after dinner...

And not to be outdone, Mommy is entering knitted socks in the County Fair this year. Yee-haw! All I need now is a gingham blouse...I have the overalls, but alas, no pigtails.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Business of Farming

In a never-ending struggle to pay for this hobby/passion/obsession/dream job of mine, we actually do a little business here at the farm. We run a small CSA:

This is one of the two-person baskets from this month. We have done pretty well this summer; more berries, beans, and peppers than last year, but still waiting on cukes and carrots...

There's always eggs for sale:

And even Madison gets in the act; she raises and sell produce through 4-H to the local market. Here we are on the first delivery day, ready to deliver boxes of cocktail tomatoes:

(Always time for a little Max love...)

Monday, August 06, 2007

In which I find myself talking to rats

I talk to myself. I'm not even shy about admitting it anymore. And I keep up a pretty regular banter as I go about the farm doing all the chores, or checking on things...most of it is directed towards the animals, who are consulted on all sorts of topics from gardening to politics, and some of it is just general commentary. Any human who is close enough to hear can join in, but it's mostly just my way of keeping my thoughts from racing so far ahead that I lose my train of thought about what needs to be done next, and I find myselft standing stock still in the middle of the yard with a completley blank look on my face, struggling to remember where I was going and what I was supposed to do when I got there.

So it was with much surprise and dismay that I found myself talking to the rats in the barn. They are not supposed to be there; and more than that, they are not supposed to break my reverie of rodent denial ( I know - having chickens means having rodents, but it's all good until I SEE them) by making noise, but they did.

Walking into the barn, I see the broody hen with the hatchlings, and I answer their chirping with a greeting, and I chatter while I feed them, and I turn to leave the barn and I hear squeaking that is too high and at the same time too quiet to be the chicks. I freeze in my tracks and bark, "I did not just hear rats, did I?" They fall silent, and I wait for more. After a minute, I turn to leave, and they squeak again. (Mocking me now, they are.) So I threaten them with poison pellets, and they fall silent, so I can leave. (Oh, for a chicken like Kathy's....)

But this scenario is repeated an hour later when I am back in the barn to retrieve the grain scoop. Bold, audible, too-numerous-to-be-one, rodent squeaking. And before I can stop myself, I explain to them that my next actions are regretable, but that they brought this all upon themselves by letting me know they are there: I break out the poison pellets. And I sprinkle. Liberally, but in all the spots too tucked away to be appealing to the chickens. Like under the floorboards.

I have been told, that rats are smart. So smart, that when you try a poison or trapping method once, they are then hip to it and won't fall for it a second time. So, I tell the rats that they are NOT that smart, and that they will come, eat the tasty pellets, and go far, far away to die. Any human listening at this point would surely be questioning my grip on reality as I am conversing with rats, but that does not stop me. I am keeping up this banter to quell my absolute disgust at the fact that I am in the same building with cootie-carrying rats.

I move on. To something far more interesting and productive - my latest natural dyeing experiment is finished. I have dyed two skeins of fingering weight (enough for men's socks), with butternuts.

I love the color, and even though the photo included coneflower for color reference, they still did not show quite as golden as I had you'll have to trust me.

We are going to try and do a fiber festival next fall, and if we get accepted, it is our plan to have a nautral dyes line. This is the season for dyeing, with lots of plants available on the farm. This is our year to experiment and develop reliable colorways. Maybe four or five will make the final cut...Rudbekia is in the pot now (a repeat) and we are still searching for an acceptable pink. Goldenrod coming up soon...and I am experimenting with sumac bark for an orange...
Oh yeah, before I forget: two dead rats on the floor of the chicken coop the very next day. Obviously they did not hear my admonitions about going far, far away to die, but I'll take dead over live and sqeaking anyday.