Friday, September 25, 2009

Mad chickens. "You must stay in until I get some eggs!!" Chicken slavery, they think, I'm sure. A friend is delivering a few guineas this weekend, so everyone will have to stay in until the guineas get used to their new home anyway.

It's cool, rainy, and the autumnal equinox has come and gone. We are rising to dark mornings, and the day is slow dawning, much slower than in the summer. Daylight savings doesn't end until November 1, which is much too late. I would rather see dawn creeping over the eastern horizon when I rise.

The garden is ratty, and my enthusiasm is waning. Green beans, pears, tomatoes, and zucchini are all demanding, "Pick me!" "Can me." Freeze me!" "Preserve me with honey and spices!"

The duties of the harvest season call me. Perhaps I will find inspiration in the kitchen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's been raining softly on and off all day. The new pasture south of the house is coming in emerald green and thick. I think Cory and Jim both found a few artifacts in the turned earth.

Chickens are traveling all over the farm now, but I find very few eggs in the nests. I might have to lock them up in the chicken yard again until they get in habit of laying in the chicken house. One adventurous hen stayed out all night for the last two nights--she must have roosted in the spruce tree next to the coop.

A black capped chickadee and a red breasted nuthatch are feeding in the tulip poplar out my window. I guess it's time to join them and take Seamus and Sadie for a walk.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


According to the local rag, clouds of soybean aphids are attacking people whenever they walk or bike outside. The first killing frost cannot come soon enough . . .

Problem pests and problem biological controls: Ain't industrial agriculture great!?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy chickens--found and secure.

The chickens came home to roost tonight. They weren't far away--under two spruce trees near their house.

Today the onslaught of the orange lady beetles began. The pirate bugs are probably not far behind. Biological controls? Now we need a deterrent so the biological controls won't chase us indoors during one of the most beautiful times of the year.
Happy Chickens.

Last week I attended the National Small Farms Conference, sponsored by the USDA, put on by UIUC Extension (thank you Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant), and held this year in Springfield, Illinois.

It was a great conference--lots of information on training new farmers, marketing strategies, and USDA/CSREES/NRCS programs and funding. I learned a lot, made some great connections, and it was extremely well run. I stayed at a great place in Springfield, Mansion View Inn and Suites, just across from the Governor's Mansion on 4th Street. I recommend it highly in all categories!

After attending the conference and listening to the many presentations and participants, I felt like the progress we're making in developing the support structures necessary for small, diversified farms and local, fresh, diversified food systems is indeed significant. And then on Saturday I heard an ad during a baseball game on the radio that reminded me that our opposition has really deep pockets and a vested interest in industrial farming.
"You hear a lot about sustainability these days. Sustainability is farmers growing higher yields of corn and soybeans and being able to feed their families and the world," sponsored by Monsanto or some similar agrigiant. Feed them what?? Junk food and bacteria-laden meat and dairy products produced in filthy plants here and overseas?? From animals confined to feedlots and fed antibiotics for their entire lives and fields that cannot produce anything without chemicals? Enough.

So on Sunday, we let the chickens out of their chicken yard for the first time. It was off-and-on rainy and mostly overcast, but they spread out all over the back yard making happy chicken noises and eating bugs, grass, and generally exploring unlimited new territory. Everyone was back in the chicken house by dark, but I'm not sure if eggs were laid out in the "territory." No new ones this morning, so I'll have to look around. And this morning when I looked for them after they'd been out for a few hours, there was no sign of the "happy chickens" . . . more on this mystery later.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm happy to announce that Edina and Sindy arrived yesterday! Edina, the mom, was a little the worse for wear, but she perked up
once she got off the trailer, drank some water, and ate some alfalfa/grass hay and a handful of corn.

Everyone in the group is looking pretty good. It's time to think about getting ready for breeding season . . .

Moritz is ready for the fun to begin!

Gracie, the good girl guardian of the sheep.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yesterday's walk

More flowers for the list. I saw them on a short walk around the farm with the dogs.

White Snakeroot
Ageratina altissima (Eupatorium rugosum) Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
Blue Lettuce Lactuca floridana
Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
Great Blue Lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica Family: Bellflower (Campanulaceae)
Phytolacca americana Family: Pokeweed (Phytolaccaceae)
Yellow Ironweed Verbesina alternifolia Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
Prairie Ironweed Vernonia fasciculata Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
Tall Goldenrod Solidago canadensis (Solidago altissima) Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
Illinois Bundleflower Desmanthus illinoensis Mimosa family (Mimosaceae)

An egg!

Today one of our lovely young hens gave us our first egg!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Misty, overcast morn

The new sheep pasture should be planted today (many thanks to Cory). Cory also suggested we rent a DR brush mower for the tall weeds where it's too rough to mow with the tractor. Maybe renting it monthly through the fall and next summer would help us control the teasel and thistle. I would still like to have a scythe. The weedeater is dead to me, although Ken still wields it when he has the patience.

:) Two new black English Leicester ewes are coming tomorrow!!

:( We need a new septic system. The Ancient One has ceased to function. Fortunately, as of Saturday, only two humans will reside at Seven Sis, so we should be able to limp along until a new one can be put in. The idea of a cesspool in the pine trees as an emergency measure does not appeal, although I could go for an outhouse.

I can hear and see many birds from my aerie this morning--the air is absolutely still and their calls echo and float in the mist and haze. I saw a downy woodpecker on the feeder today, so I chose downy and hairy as my "two."

Pears! I need to wash and determine where to store three bushels of pears, which I picked on Sunday. Alternatively, I could sell them at the market along with wool yarn, roving, and some peppers. My produce, however, is neither pretty nor uninhabited by insect life.

Today's taxonomy lesson is courtesy of Cornell Ornithology Lab, Birds of America Online

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens

Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two named flowers

Courtesy of the Connecticut Botanical Society (

Woodland Sunflower

Helianthus divaricatus

This is a very common sunflower in partly shady places.

• Family: Aster (Asteraceae)
• Habitat: sparse woods, dry thickets
• Height: 2-6 feet
• Flower size: 1-1/2 to 3 inches across
• Flower color: yellow
• Flowering time: July to October
• Origin: native

Helianthus divaricatus

Jewelweed (Spotted Touch-me-not)
Impatiens capensis, Impatiens pallida

Jewelweed is an entertaining plant. The ripe seedpods pop open at a gentle touch, hence the name touch-me-not. Water drops bead up on the leaves, and a leaf held underwater has a silver sheen. There is also a species with yellow flowers, pale touch-me-not.

• Family: Balsam (Balsaminaceae)
• Habitat: moist shady areas
• Height: 2-5 feet
• Flower size: 1 to 1/2 inches long
• Flower color: orange
• Flowering time: July to September
• Origin: native

Impatiens capensis Impatiens capensis

Getting started

Getting started on a new writing project always brings on Introduction Block. There will be no introduction, no beginning, and no end.

Dog walk this morning, saw wild impatiens, lots of woodland sunflowers, and goldenrod. Today is sunny and a little hazy, and the air is full of the sound of crickets. Later the cicadas will begin their infield chatter. The dogs were happy with the unexpected attention, and we played with Gracie when we returned.

Resolution: Find common and taxonomic names for two living things each day.

Septic system is full--the laundromat is on the schedule for this afternoon. :(