Friday, December 26, 2008

Since we last spoke...

Whew!  Too much time has gone by, and I have been very bad about posting.  Shame on me!  Coal in my stocking would be too profitable, so Santa will have to come up with another punishment...

There is no easy way to capsulize what has been happening, but I came across something in all my reading that has given me a lot to think about, so let me share it and see what I can do.

Traditionally, this is the time for lots of cleaning.  Mostly because I anticipate company, or at least cannot even think about erecting a tree in my house or baking dozens of cookies without cleaning off lots of horizontal space and cutting the dust load about 60%...and it's very tiring.
Wish we all could have curled up on the sideboard and gone to sleep...but, no.  

I save articles and things I want to read all year long, and get to them when I can, and many of them this year have been about sustainable farming including checklists and guidelines about measuring progress.  I've taken the liberty of condensing them all into a workable list for 2009 and so I am going to treat you all to a "test run" if you don't mind.  (Those of you groaning, can exit here; the rest of you find a chair.)

You could follow this list daily, and come Spring, I am sure we will.   But for this time of year, there are certain considerations that might limit us, as you will see.

Plant something.  I took advantage of our little aspect of Global Warming (thank you, George Bush!) and put in another 65 garlic bulbs and about the same number of tulip bulbs before any cold temperatures set the frost in the ground.  It sets later and later each year, and although gardening wisdom tells us to do all this way back in September or October, I have discovered that if you do that, our freaky temperature swings often get the bulbs starting too early, and they get vegetative growth in the Fall, and do miserably in the Spring.  So perhaps I was pushing the limits by doing all this at the end of November, but we shall see.  (And it has worked for the last three years, so who knows?.  Anybody else having to alter their farming schedule due to changing weather patterns?  

Harvest something.  We participated in the Thanksgiving Farmer's Market and took jams and jellies to sell.  We were actually able to harvest windfall apples and quince in November, and so we put up quince jelly and apple jam.  And we are still harvesting eggs in December!

 Even though we turned our light off at Thanksgiving, the girls are still laying.  Any of my other chicken friends still collecting? 

Preserve something.  In the more traditional sense, that would mean something like this.  I get tired just looking at the picture.  But, we did put up more jams and applesauce even in November, and I like to keep my aspirations high...but seriously, I read a blog post that reminded me I had all but forgotten the cheese in the cellar I've been tending to them.  I'm hesitant to open them...and what the heck, one is Parmesan and the other Cheddar, both benefit from aging.

Prep something.   We are planning on hatching turkey poults next spring, so there were calculating decisions when it came to harvesting for our customers this year.  In the end, DH decided he liked the Bourbon Reds better, and so they have been designated as our official layer flock for next year, but I couldn't give up our Narragansett tom, Onyx.  A face only a mother could love... 

Anyway, I prepped their pen by laying a thick layer of straw in the back half to give them insulation against the cold ground and a draft blocker.  We have six left; two toms and four hens (two of those have dates with the processor after the New Year.)

Cook something.  It wasn't hard to fulfill this item.  Jams, jellies, cookies, turkeys, dips, party foods, and addition to the regular stuff with as much farm food as we could manage.  Favorite farm food used so far:  garlic scape pesto.  I put it up in the early summer when the scapes were ripening, and it freezes very well.  It is yummy!  What's everyone's favorite "farm food" that they used for the holidays?

Manage reserves.  For us, we planned to give lots of homemade gifts this year.  So managing reserves was all about deciding which went for gifts, and which stayed for consumption here.  My ultimate foodie gift box went to my sister in Monterey, who got goat cheeses, jams, maple syrup, organic popcorn, mustard and an antique platter in one of her patterns.   (Collecting antiques is like recycling, right?)  

She made me a beautiful necklace for Christmas, which is kind of like managing reserves for her...she collects beautiful stones and beads and she has an entire room full.  (Beader's heaven)

Work on local food systems.  We participated in the Thanksgiving Farmer's Market in Bennington, VT.  It was indoors (thankfully!) and it was a lot of fun.  We got to bring our yarns as well, and business partner Allison featured her new line of mustards.  Participating in the market this year was very educational and connected us to consumers in a way we had never done before.  (Can't wait for next year.)  We are planning several plantings of beans for drying for next year, as that was one item I thought needed better representation at the market.  People have gotten away from using beans, and they are a wonderful source of protein, vitamins, etc. and great for winter food storage. What other items have people noticed are wanting at the Farmer's Markets?

Reduce waste/recycle.  I'm busy turning old wood into a new coop, sending outgrown clothes to a friend's two daughters, and making a dedicated effort to use up my stashed yarn into worthwhile projects and finished items. (Talk about reducing wasted space!)  And I happened by a neighbor's farm at the right time two weeks ago...she was cleaning out a storage bin and was taking the expedient route and simply shoveling the old spelt
 into the tractor bucket for dumping.  I snagged 4 big bags simply by being willing to shovel them full while she dumped her load in the compost pile.  Turns out the turkeys and chickens really love the stuff, and it's organic!

Learn something.  This is perhaps the hardest one to document.  Besides learning what spelt was, and reading all those articles about sustainable farming and the like, what can I point to as new learning? How about learning that Canadian geese (despite being named for our snowy neighbor to the North) do not really like snow.  In fact, they seldom come out of the barn unless paths have been well shoveled, or there is something decidedly NOT snowy to walk say, a snow angel?
What has everyone learned lately?  

And finally, my own personal addition to the 2009 list: 

Be a friend.  What is more important to sustainable living than building a community of people that you care for and want to be around?  I have learned painfully and poignantly this year that family can be rotten (don't panic "family" that are reading this!  I don't mean you.  Believe me, the rotten ones aren't reading-not that I'd care if they were, but they are off spending the thousands that they stole, and wouldn't know how to read a blog if they wanted to...but I digress...) and friends can be found in unusual places.  Better to cultivate the friends...
What do you like about your friends?

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday, and looking forward to blogversations in the new year!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What the pedicure was for...

Yeah, it's a non-farm post, but I gotta tell somebody.  Today was our sho-dan test.  I'm a black belt in Shohei-Ryu Okinawan karate.

(Wonder if that will make the goats behave?)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The misadventures of Kitty (or why I can't get a DAMN thing done around here)

For the umpteenth time, a service person has made an appointment to come to our house, but is unable to narrow their arrival down to less than a 5 hour window.  The service industry apparently has NO understanding of farming or any other stay-at-home enterprise, because they are convinced all you have to do is sit around in the house and wait for their arrival.  Around here, they have taken to calling you before they arrive, and GOD FORBID you not answer the phone, because that's all the excuse they need not to come...

Being the good-natured person I am (cough, cough) I decide to make the best of my time indoors and do something constructive and hopefully profitable like making jam/jelly for the final market on Saturday.

I make several lightening fast trips outdoors to collect apples and quince, running like a frantic rabbit between trees (my neighbors must think I am completely soft-headed) and settle in to prepare fruit.  I notice (slowly) that the indoor cat has been absent for the last 15 minutes or so, and then I notice that there is a cat outside the bay window in the kitchen that looks remarkably like our indoor cat.  Hmmm....

S--t!  I throw on my house slippers and fly out the door (again) to try and retrieve the cat.  She runs away from everything, so I approach slowly and she moves onto the front porch.  Not wanting to scare her further away, I run back inside the house to open the front door and coax her in.  Thankfully, she comes in, but as she passes by me, I notice she has something in her mouth.  Ick!  a mouse...

Before she can get the chance to drop the disgusting thing and chase it all over the house, I scoop her up and head for the bathroom, where I dangle her over the tub and shake her to loose the varmint from her jaws.  (The thinking on this, in case you are wondering, was that if she does drop it, the mouse will fall into the tub and be unable to scale the slippery sides, giving me time to do....something...)

It's clearly dead.  Only now I have to wad up enough paper towels to protect me from actually feeling the mouse as I clean it up, dash the whole mess in the garbage can, put all of that outside the back door (no time to run to the burn pile lest I miss the furnace man!) and go back inside to scrub down the tub followed with a bleach rinse for good measure.

Finally back to the fruit, I resume peeling when I hear a strange scrabbling noise coming from the living room.  The cat is up on the PC.

No, she is not adjusting the connections.  Nor is she chasing dust balls, like I had hoped.  She is stuck.  Yep, stuck.  As in her claw has hooked itself into one of the teeny holes in the metal cover plate on the back of the computer and she can't get loose.

Believe me, she tried.  And I tried.  And there were six or seven really good tries where I grabbed a hold of her leg and maneuvered it forward to try and wrangle the curve of her claw out of the teeny hole.  (Kind of like trying to crochet with a fish hook...)  She hissed.  I hissed back. She growled.  I growled back.  Finally, I had to clean off the entire table top, pull the PC tower around so we could pull at a better angle, and worked her loose.

Forget putting all the stuff on the table and the PC back, my jam is boiling over.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Follow the Leader

Your Autumn Test Results

You are a energetic, warm, optimistic person. You approach everything with a lot of enthusiasm.

When you are happiest, you are calm. You appreciate tradition and family. You enjoy feeling cozy.

You tend to be afraid of change. You are never ready for things to be different.

You find abundance to be the most comforting thing in the world. You love shopping and having nice things.

Your ideal day is active and full. You like to keep busy with your favorite things, and you appreciate a routine.

You tend to live in the moment. You enjoy whatever is going on, and you don't obsess over the past or future.

OK, Michelle, I caved. Took the test.  Three things in common...but I had to laugh about the shopping part...have they LOOKED in my checkbook?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A day at the office

No..., I did not go and get myself re-employed at a real job.  I've kind of had a second (or third) one all along.  It's just I don't talk about it much.  But I still have to put in some days at the home office for this Monday.

Husband and daughter out the door by 7 a.m. - check
Kitchen cleaned and dishes washed to empty the sink - check
Dye materials ready - check
Animals fed and what not for a few hours peace - check
Dance music CD's prepped and ready - check
Large glass of Diet Pepsi, chilled - check

Ready, set, go!

Seven hours later (with a lunch break to the feed store) - 

There's case anybody's counting.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Back from the Anti-farm

So, if you've been wondering where we've been...we're just getting back from a stint in NYC.  Yeah, the anti-farm, as I like to call it.  The polar opposite of where I like to spend my grass, no chickens (although PLENTY of pigeons), no sheep, lots of dirt (although not the kind you want to run your fingers through) and WAY too many people.

DH had a training gig (actually he's doing what I used to do, and training community social workers with the curriculum I wrote!) and we went along for the trip.

There was Times Square (hence the picture up top - which I thought would be a perfect memento for Madison to bring to her school to show them where she had been - she refused...)  Actually, due to election fever, Times Square was REALLY crowded, so I stole the stock photo because ours were so full of people, you could hardly see the Cowboy...

And we did the museum thing...

It's the Museum of Natural History, Central Park West @ 79th St, in case you don't recognize the bones...

And they had a reptile show:

(Which, BTW, was pretty much the same offering as was in the Berkshire Museum several years ago, so I feel very good about our local level of culture, if we are on par with NY)... 

...and there was lots of time lazing in the hotel with TV (don't tell my mother) and general walking about Manhattan (much to Madison's dismay) including a trip to FAO Schwartz, where Madison decided it was interesting but too juvenile for her tastes, a subsequent trip to ToysRUs that was somewhat more mature, but still not satisfying for the Princess of Lego, lots of restaurant food (including one breakfast out at a ridiculously expensive hotel restaurant where two pancakes cost more than I will admit to anyone, but Madison loved the decor and the lady sitting next to us with the $5,000 mink coat she shrugged off and left in a pile on the floor while she ate...) and lots of wandering around on Election night taking in the partying, dancing, and live broadcasts on practically every corner.  Here we are catching a quick rest somewhere around 52 st...

Madison's favorite part of the trip (besides the restaurants) was the Paley Center for Media on W 52nd St. which houses thousands of archived TV and radio shows from forever, and you can actually browse the collection and watch some on private viewers (we took in an X Files episode and a crime show from way back...).

But my favorite part (aside from the excellent knitting time on the train) was this:

I got to patronize my favorite salon (Joy Nails, 7th Ave, btwn. 30th and 31st).  Lest you think I've gone to fancy farming...this was for something that is coming up in three weeks.  Tell you later...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pied Piper

Our heritage turkeys have now decided they would like to free range on the upper lot as well...(much to our dismay) so Madison was the quick thinker and put her new trumpet to good use.

Not a bad sized audience for only one lesson, eh?

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Friend.  That word generates a lot of thoughts and feelings for me, and I want to share some of them with you.

We use the word so often to describe people around us; co-workers, neighbors, members of a church or other organization, or schoolmates, for example.  But to give a label to something does not necessarily mean you know what to do with it.  And that is where I find a lot of people are stuck.  What does a friend do?  What do you do for a friend?  How do you feel for a friend?  Is there a length of time that defines a friendship?

Interestingly, in communally-based societies, (today that means mostly indigenous tribes and ethnically isolated groups; the United States is definitely NOT communally-based) a "friend" was someone outside your community with whom you could share common interests, a meal, or territory, but you still lived in that identified society where the nomenclature of "friend" was not necessary.  You lived in a group that worked for the betterment and support of the group, regardless of biological or legal relationships.  Within that community, you found people to talk to, laugh with, share tasks and chores, learn from, trust, and enjoy.  Differences could be accepted and conflicts worked out.  Since the advent of individual rights, democracy, and (especially) the United States of America, we have been becoming more and more alienated, competitive, individual and selfish.  In the pursuit of happiness and wealth, we have replaced the 10 Commandments with Inalienable Rights.  We have replaces Faith with Science.  We have replaced Sharing with Privacy.

Now, this is no religious diatribe, rather I use the ideas loosely to illustrate my point.  Consider these ideas as just that, ideas.  Ponder them, like you might savor the taste of fine wine before swallowing it and pronouncing your reaction.  It's meant to generate thought and discussion, and maybe even action.

In my case, I hope to work towards action.  But not without a better understanding of "friend" and what place that can take in my life.  One blog that I read talks about key words that motivate the writer for a length of time, usually a year.  She has written about the concept of "enough" and tried to live it for a year.  Now, she is focusing on "nurture" and how she can find more opportunities for it in her life.  I like that idea, and am going to give it a run.  So for the next year or so, I am going to explore the idea of "friend".

Sometimes, it's going to feel a lot like work.  Most times, I hope it feels more like fun.  Either way, I feel it's important to do...especially as I read of the fear and trepidation in more and more people with our looming economic depression.  (Because I don't see competition and wealth and profit as the road out of this mess...)

So Karin has given me my first assignment.  She tagged me to tell you all more about myself.  (like the soapboxing wasn't enough, she wants facts.   Six of them, in fact.)  And I'm supposed to find six others of you to play this game with us as well.  So let's start with the first fact:

I love to change rules.  That goes along with I love to be different, I love to challenge, I love a puzzle.  So I'm only going to tap 4 people.  Six is too big of a number for me to absorb all that information and really keep it.  So, four people I want to know more about, or think you will.  The following are officially tapped:

(She is currently "funemployed" and should have lots of time to talk...)
(She was so kind as to tag me and let me know she loves my blog, so I am reciprocating...)
(She recently had the most amazing post all about have to see it - pun intended...)
(If I lived anywhere near this woman I would be a large as a should see what she bakes for the farmer's market...)

I  love logic.  Or at least for things to be congruent.  So the game as I was told says I must tell you quirky, boring facts.  (I don't know why this was the rule; personally I suspect the originator of the game was a little afraid of self-disclosure and didn't want to seem too invasive - bosh on all that!)  If something is quirky, it is different, odd, or even strange.  That does not seem congruent with boring.  So from here on out, the fact are just the facts.  Any ones you choose.

I love the way sheep smell.  Nuzzle 'em, hug 'em, and bury your nose right close.  Ummm....

I hate the phone.  I hate the dozens of people who think they have the right to pester me with calls about politics, offers of merchandise, polls, calls about credit, computer-generated appointment reminders, even long-winded folks who can't stop talking even when you tell them you have to go...I hate the hundreds of people who suddenly can't walk, eat, drive, or watch a movie without a phone stuck to their ear.  I understand it is a fact of current modern life.  That doesn't mean I have to like it.  Curses to Alexander Graham Bell!

I love jigsaw puzzles.  I can remember doing one with my mother on the dining room table when I was probably no more than 6.  It was a scene of a big red barn by a pool of water.  I used to do them in the summer at our camp when it rained and there was nothing to do outside.  My neighbor who managed a toy store used to bring me puzzles as a challenge to see if he could find the one I could not complete in 24 hours.  He never found one. 

I hate to talk to anyone first thing up in the morning.  Give me ten or fifteen minutes to get my bearings, brush the moss off my molars, and decide how I want to deal with the day.  I just need that period of quiet and isolation before I have to deal with human voices.  (Otherwise I am very cranky.  Consider yourself warned.)  My DH still has not mastered this one; he asks me silly questions like, "Is everything OK?" when I return from a nocturnal bathroom trip, or "What time is it?" when we sleep two feet from a glaring, red LCD alarm clock with 3" numbers.  I don't answer.  Ten more minutes of sleep will usually rectify the situation.

So there you have it.  Six things (I guess) that qualify as quirky.  All facts.  

And while we're on the topic of used to be considered strange to have (invisible) friends you couldn't how does  blogging change all that?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall Shearing, #2

Little Angel was next.  Mostly because she is anything BUT an Angel, and constantly gets under the electronet fencing by simply absorbing the shock with her fleece...

I hand shear my little flock, mostly because I haven't mastered the electric shears (beyond cutting myself - 5 stitches) and it allows me to sort of "skirt as I go" meaning I can take all the fleece I want, and leave the yucky stuff for clean-up later.  Here, I have taken some nice fleece off the neck and shoulder, and have left the burdock messy right leg for waste.  I will continue on and get most of the rest of the "barrel" (body) and although it won't look like a traditional fleece, once it's washed and cleaned, it's all good...

BTW- I can afford to be picky, since I seem to have an accumulated "backlog" of fleece..which my chickens discovered in the barn and decided one bag made a really nice nest.  Don't tell the hubby...he is still waiting to see yarn from these guys...

I also am in love with my smaller hand shears that I got from the Nasco farm catalog.  I ordered these as a backup to my larger ones, and have stopped using the larger ones altogether.  They list as single bow, dagging and trimming shears with a 3 1/2 inch blade, 10 inch length overall.  They retail for just under $34, and I want another pair!  At the rate I am using these, I will need them, and a sharpener as well...

Here, she has rejoined the others, all munching away on apples.  Hattie, the first to be shorn is in the background.  The grey in Angel's musket fleece really shows through when she is shorn.  The wether to the right is her twin - Alexander.

He's probably next...

But it's not all fun and fleece around here.  We have other projects going on (so it looks like I'm earning my keep...)

I just finished fixing up the front yard a bit where our well head is garishly located near the porch and the driveway.  DH was afraid someone would drive into the well (not sure what type of visitors to the farm he envisioned, but I didn't argue...) so he covered it with a bright orange bucket and plunked a little wishing well wanna be in the front.

It then went on to be one of the settling spots on the property where it just seems fitting to drop off lumber, spare pots, and pails without a home.  Kind of anti-Martha Stewart.  So I changed all that one day while everyone was at work.

With about $50 in lumber and what not (it's awful what split rail fence goes for around here...) I transfigured the dumping ground to a respectable landscaping moment.  And the DH bought in completely once he realized the fencing presented another opportunity for planting flowers along its length.  And still protected the well head against raging drivers.  Or whatever.

And I've earned my dinner for another day...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fall Shearing, #1

It was a nice Fall day, so I HAD to get some work done outside.   First project up: shearing.  Hattie, my flock matron, went first as she is the best behaved (and had the halter on so I could catch her without too much gymnastics)
Hers is a pretty nice fleece; each year her silver gets lighter, and this year it looks almost white...

She is standing next to Secret, her granddaughter, making the perfect "before and after" shot.  Photos of anything "during" were more challenging, as many of the farm's other inhabitants were on hand to "help"...

The turkeys hovered around, in case anything edible should appear.  They tasted the bits of fleece that were flying about, but settled for pecking the freckles on my legs in case they were bugs.  (Thanks guys.)

BTW - Anybody know how to sex turkeys?  What exactly is one supposed to look for when deciding who goes to the chop shop and who gets to stay home making babies for next year???  I mean if there is some visual difference in plumage or something, please clue me in.   Based on last year's comedy of errors, I need all the help I can get.  (For those of you that don't remember, we apparently ate the hens...)

And the geese...

...kept squeeking and squawking until I sat down and took a break with them.  They seem to want me to sit with them and pick grass for them to eat out of my hand.  It must be some kind of geese ritual, because they eat three or four handfuls, then they settle down and either take a brief siesta, or walk off to continue grazing.  But if I ignore them, they keep up the anxious squeeking...(I have learned this from experience)

And once the word was out we were taking a break...

Max came by to soak up some attention.  Somedays I just want to be a cat...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

THAT'S what I get for being lazy...

It's Sunday, and I am desperately trying to cling to a few minutes of blissful inactivity early in the morning...which includes not feeding the cat the very INSTANT my feet hit the kitchen floor...and this is what I get.

The kitty decides to go get breakfast on her own.  She got it in the cellar (God, I hope that's where it came from!)  And she brings it upstairs to show it to me.  Kind of a feline "So, there!"

My usual rodent-catching hero is upstairs, asleep.

I get the bathroom garbage can.   I catch "breakfast" and quickly cover it up with the closest thing on hand.  Any chance of that blissful, lazy moment is gone, because now both kitty and the "breakfast" are sitting there, mocking me.  I can't take "it" outside, because when I remove the cover, I am afraid it will jump up and eat my eyebrows off my face, or run up my leg, or be in reality, a rat.  

I am going upstairs to join my hero, and see if I can subtly entice him into waking up.  For me.  'Cause who wouldn't want to deal with rodents the very first INSTANT their feet hit the floor... (for the one they love?) 

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fair News

Summer has unofficially ended; the Schaghticoke Fair has come and gone.  That's our county Fair, and 4-H project year wrap-up.  Madison entered a slew of vegetables from the garden this year and took away 8 blue ribbons out of 10 entries.  (She needs to work on presentation...hear that, Martha?)

And the chickens didn't do too badly, either!  Here she is standing with her Reserve Champion, Blueberry, who is a Splash (Blue) Cochin.  Blueberry didn't want to cooperate for the photo, so she is hiding behind Madison's head.  (She also didn't want to cooperate on salon day, so she won with dirty feet.  Go figure.)

There was showmanship:

And plenty of showing the chickens to the public:

If you are wondering why I am holding the chicken, just take a peek at my right leg - once there's poop, I become the holder and she does the introductions...(sigh)

That's Spring, one of my favorites.  She is a Rhode Island Red from two years before, when she was part of the day-old baby chick display that the kids get to divvy up once the Fair is over.  This year our family set up the entire chick display, so all the babies are ours. (Pictures in a day or so...)

For Madison, one of the Fair highlights was the guy with the reptiles - 

 But for me...well, I'm simple.  I like the Fair food (who doesn't?), and the simplicity of one blue ribbon.  Yep, Mommy won a blue ribbon.  

(Fellow Ravelers, those are my Mystery Socks from my projects page...)
Of course, it is only one ribbon, compared to the dozens that Madison racked up, but I handle that situation like the mature, non-competitive,  supportive adult that I am...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's not what you think...

OK, well, IS my daughter in a cage.
But she's not doing a time out or anything...really.  She's catching the next chicken in our long line of beauties for the Fair Salon.

The world of competitive poultry requires either separate, full-time cages for everyone to insure cleanliness, or a day at the spa where we bathe, primp, and pedicure all the contestants before shipping them off to the Fairgrounds.

So this is Sapphire, the white silkie, getting her pedicure.  Everyone must have poop-free/mudfree toes and nails.

We only bathe those chickens who really need their feathers washed, since the process removes natural oils.  Not to mention the blow dryer time.

Here, we are dipping Cotton's nether parts in the soapy bath, since only her vent was a muddy, poopy mess.

(Doesn't that face say it all?)

So, yeah, I spent my Monday washing chicken poop off chickens and trimming toenails and fluffing feathers for a dozen of the family fowl.  Isn't that how everyone's week starts?

" Just a little off the top, dahling..."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Attention, Everyone!

Excuse me!  Can I have your attention?
I have something to tell you all that you should hear:
Michelle is AWESOME!
(For some of you, this is not news, but bear with me...)
She is one of the wonderful people I have met through blogging.  She and I share funny similarities (some we will mention, some are ours to know...)  That is enough to warrant the attention.
(Ahhem. Clear throat)
But several weeks ago, completely unsolicited, she did something very sweet. (Literally!)
When I commented on her blog about the cherries she had been  picking, she packed some up and sent them along!  I was very touched.  (There might have been wee tears of joy, but we're not confirming or denying.)
Now if I were at all artistic, there would be a cool award picture. (I am not.  So you will all have to settle for the next best thing - sheep.)

Shetland Sheep can stand in for a nice award picture any day.  If you do not own some, trust me on this.

P.S. The cherries were accompanied by a deadly cookie recipe, which I was unable to resist and forced to make as soon as they arrived, at which time I realized I was out of regular chocolate chips and had to substitute white chocolate chips in the recipe.  I could tell you that the reason I have not posted all of this news until now is that I was stricken by an uncontrollable urge to eat said cookies right from the oven and burned my mouth on their chocolately cherry goodness.  If I did go with that story, I would not be going to h-e-double toothpicks on THIS day...

The Market

That, my friends, is a Savoy cabbage.  My daughter grew it, or rather she encouraged me to grow it as I had never tried cabbage before. (And who can resist a little girl with a flat of seedlings?)

My new friend, Maryann (God help me, I don't know if I chose the right spelling on her name...) said I should take the photo and post it on the blog - so here it is!  Isn't it spectacular?  I will grow these again next year, even if just for the look.  They are the cabbages that artists use when they make those beautiful pictures of produce, all crisp and textured and every shade of green...

Madison sold it at the Market on Saturday - to a fellow who bought it on memories of his mother cooking that type of cabbage when he was young.  That's not unusual...I hear all kinds of stories from our customers about why they are at the Market, and why they buy what they buy. It's what I like best about Saturdays.

Sure, we have had our share of nutters, but that's an aspect of dealing with the public that you just have to bear. Like the guy who walked up and ate a handful of Madison's berries she was selling without paying for them, and then walked off and threatened the gal who sells organic meat and accused her of killing babies. Or the woman who shops at our booth every week, but refuses to touch us. I offered to shake her hand one week as an introduction and she almost had a stroke.  But the funniest part for me is that she uses the excuse every week that she is an artist and she is shopping, so THAT is why we can't touch. 

And my fellow Marketers are loads of fun - there's Maryann to one side (who sells veggies and soaps, honey, maple syrup, salsa, jams and was the one to turn us on to garlic scape pesto) and the meat CSA to the other side (with two of the cutest kids around - not for sale!)
Here they are under the table (when business is slow) with my daughter...

I have resurrected an old play tent of Madison's and we bring it with us now for the kids, so they do not scare the customers by popping out from underneath the table without notice...

Can you see the cage on the table? (look back at the last photo)  We try and bring a chick or bantam with us every week, and it has become a highlight.  People like to see the variety in chickens, or the kids like to touch and pet them, or people share stories of when they were kids and used to raise chickens.  We've even had repeaters who come looking not for the veggies, but to see the chicken we've brought!

As a beginning farmer, the best part about the Market is all that I learn about what people want, and what to grow next year (more dill and cilantro, please ) and what to avoid (stop trying to push my love of bulb fennel on the world),  I also see a trend that is both heartening and frightening - people are patronizing the market more because they are no longer willing to compromise their health for domestic and foreign produce treated with Lord knows what and they are taking an interest in shopping locally.  That is good.  But many of them are also shopping to supplement their own gardens, grown not only out of love for gardening, but necessity as their wallets grow thinner and thinner.  We are headed for some rough times (if we are not there already) when the idea of shopping locally because you can't afford the gas or having to rely on your own garden to supplement your budget is a daily reality.  THAT'S gonna wake some people up...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Things I've learned from Geese

We were given two Canada Geese goslings to foster, and we started right from the beginning saying they were destined to move on to a farm that could handle them, as soon as they were "ready".  

Lesson 1: Small, vulnerable, fuzzy things cause considerable weakness and lack of will.  They can erode even the most steely resolve NOT to keep them around.  My husband, who would not settle down the first day until he heard me say ten times that I had alternative plans for them, has now been heard to tell friends, "We are raising them.  And the one can't fly, so she may have to stay here, probably in the barn for winter."  He only says this when he thinks I am out of earshot.

They were clearly imprinted on humans by the time we got them, and they wasted no time in seeing us as foster parents, following us around the yard.  They would frequently come into the garden and sit with me as I weeded, and soon began to display what I thought was funny behavior.  They would squeak quite urgently and come over to see what I had pulled from the garden, tasting every clump and plant, seeming in the end to prefer the grass.  It took several days of this activity for my light bulb to go on...they clearly thought I was "eating", and came to taste test whatever I had pulled.

Lesson 2: The laws and intricacies of Mother Nature are not fool proof.  Sure, they had imprinted on us, but until we started to show them what was expected goose behavior, it was going to be hit or miss whether they learned what they needed to know, unless us dumb humans could get ahead of the curve.

How many times had I counseled teachers and educators that work with challenging kids that you need to teach the desired behavior, not just quell the problem behavior?  (Thousands of times would be the true answer, in case anyone is wondering...)

And the lessons did not stop with eating grass.  We made the same naive assumption when it came to the pond.  Sure, they would just take to it like, well, geese to water.  Right?  No.  Not until I donned the waders one day to pull the cattails did they dare to venture into the water; first a tentative few steps, then a quick jump in and right out again, and only after much trial and error did they settle down to glide and enjoy the pond.

I repeated the "grass picking" behavior, this time with pond plants, and now they easily will graze in either domain, although they seem to prefer the grass.

This pattern of behavior does leave me a little concerned, however, as I do not know how to fly, and have absolutely no intention of purchasing an ultra-lite.  (A reference to the movie, Fly Away Home, for those who have never seen it-check it out.)

Lesson 3: Puddle play and slapping one's feet when you walk are FUN.  Mothers everywhere should reconsider discouraging their children from these activities.  I have seen the geese do this repeatedly, and tried it plenty of times myself lately just to see what they see in it.  And I swear, when I do it along with them, they look at me sideways, and they approve.  I see it in their eyes.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Sorry if this grosses anybody out, but this is the best representation of "what's new" around here...According to the clinic, it is a brown recluse spider bite.  I guess the purple ring and the growing center areas where the poison is dissolving my skin is very characteristic.  Now I am sure there are entomologists that would argue we are out of the spider's native territory, but just as many say that with the highly mobile population of the United States, and the tendency of this spider to hide in darker places, that it could just have easily been transported up here.  The best I can guess, I encountered this spider on  Thursday while pitching hay bales in the barn at work.  

The bite is right in the middle of my back, beneath my right shoulder blade.  There is no effective anti-venom for this spider's bite, and if I weren't as healthy as I am (so the clinic says), apparently it could be a lot worse.  Thank God for small things!  It still hurts like nothing I have ever encountered, so it has put a wrinkle in my usual workload around here...hence the time to post!

I've got lots of photos to update everyone, so we won't linger on the icky one...