Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wedding day (Halloween) dawns clear and chilly after several days of rain. Sadie is up first, ready for a quick peep outside and breakfast. Seamus comes down just late enough to get breakfast before his peep and then lounges in the dog run for while. As the morning light creeps in it becomes apparent that all six guineas have successfully spent the night out (again).

We all miss Ellie, but none of us more so than Seamus. I remember how they played when he first came to the farm. He and I were both sad that her attitude toward him changed once he matured. Perhaps she was too much like me (and vice versa).

In reflecting on her death, I'm led to believe that perhaps she was finally willing to pass her job of looking after me to Ken, or perhaps she was just tired of hurting, but she looked into my face with a peaceful, steady gaze as she slowly relaxed and slipped away. I will miss her for a very long time.

The sky is blue, the air is crisp, the leaves are gone, and the new grass is a richly colored emerald swath stretching across the width of our farm. Oh, how many hopes rest on that gorgeous field! (All we have to do is get it fenced by summer.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eleanor Rose
June 2, 1994 - October 28, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eggs!! We're getting 6 a day now, chickens are running all over the farm, scratching in the mud where the new drain field was put in, and occasionally sneaking into the barn to look for spilled grain. Every now and then the guineas fly over the fence into the electrified sheep pasture. They can't figure out how to fly back out and run the fence and squawk and carry on until I rescue them. We still have all six. Watching the chickens scratch up tasty bits in the yard and pastures and listening to their convivial clucks brings such contentment!

Parts of the garden are still hanging on, I still have pears to attend to in Mom's fridge, and I'm spinning like crazy trying to get ready for the Spinners and Weavers' Guild show and sale (Friday and Saturday, November 6th and 7th). The outdoor tasks are piling up again, and that will probably continue for a while. The rains seem to come when I schedule time for outdoor tasks.

Farm Beginnings is going along well, Session 2 is over, although I have a few assignments to complete tomorrow before I can take off the rest of the week to do final prep for our Halloween wedding. It's hard to look forward to it because of the seemingly endless list of things to be checked off before the day. It will probably be an anticlimax for Ken and me in the way a big meal is an anticlimax for the cook. I hope our guests have a great time!!

Today it's cloudy, in the 60s, and we haven't yet had a serious frost. The weather has caused a very damp harvest with farmers losing money because their grain has to be dried at the elevator. Generally, the moisture content is too high for grain to be dried on the farm. I wish the farms were more diverse and everyone had more choices to make in the interest of their own profits and well-being. I wish I wish. Commodity farmers have to take whatever they're offered at the elevator, and it's the sole source of revenue for their farms and families. There is something to be said for feeding that grain to livestock that you then use to feed your family and community.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Link to a story about perennial grains. If you think about it, annual crop agriculture contributed to the failure of many civilizations: the city-state at Teotihuacan and the Anasazi in the American Southwest come to mind.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's warm and sunny today, it was warm and sunny yesterday, and the day before that, and it's supposed to be nice tomorrow.

The orange ladybeetles, slayers of soybean aphids, are swarming at every door, window, nook, and cranny of the house. But what's a few bugs when you think of all those soybeans being saved from the voracious aphids! Maybe there are too many soybeans, and that's why there are too many aphids, and that's why we have to deal with chemicals in our water supply and biological controls biting the hell out of us and stinking up our houses when the crops are harvested. Layer upon layer . . .

Ranting aside, a lot of work got done this past weekend. Wood was cut, gates and feeders were constructed, and I found someone to fix the spinning wheel that Gram (my grandndmother) gave me!! I think it will really be fixed this time!

I've been spinning when I can but not enough to build up my inventory. The photo is some of my yarn undyed and some that I dyed at Natural Dye Day at Forest Glen County Park in September. The scarf will include all 8 colors: walnut, marigold, goldenrod, cosmos, indigo, marigold overdyed with indigo (green), pokeberry, and cochineal.

The septic system should be finished by Thursday, but it's supposed to rain. We'll see what happens. So far the chickens are having a great time hunting bugs in the open trenches. We're up to 5 eggs most days--now I need egg customers!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

This morning it's chilly, damp, and drizzly: runny-nose weather. The sheep are soggy, the the dogs are sleeping, the human's enthusiasm is low, but the chickens seem unaffected. They roil out of the chicken house when the doors open in the morning, looking for bugs and scratch and whatever they can find. They are eating, egg-laying machines!!

All six guineas are still accounted for. They arrived on Sunday and initially weren't sure they wanted to stay. I rounded them up Sunday night by covering the sleepy group with a sheet and put them in the coop. Next morning they weren't sure they wanted to come out! Now they go in and out like pros, but they sure eat a lot of chicken feed!!

It's time to put Moritz in with the girls, but I might wait until Sunday. It should dry up a little, and we can move the electro-net to make a new pasture for the lambs. The vet is coming Tuesday to "wether" the ram lambs, so I can start feeding them for market.

The trees are turning, and the leaves are wonderful hues of gold, red, and deep green. I love this time of year, as the harvest comes in, we put up the fruits and vegetables of our labors, and look forward to the feast of Thanksgiving. This year we'll gather at mom's house--it will be like old times to have her home, matriarch of our feast. But first we have to get through Halloween and the wedding!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The end of a long rainy day. . . . Tomorrow I'll make my final preparations for the first Farm Beginnings class, which happens day after tomorrow (Saturday). I'm spoiled--I'm not looking forward to spending all day Saturday indoors even though I do look forward to teaching the class.

More on the big ag front:

Monsanto Under Investigation For Antitrust Abuses

and from Tom Laskaway:

The Superweeds are Winning and Monsanto Blames Farmers

At the end of the article, Laskaway observes that it won't be the intellectuals who change ag. He goes on to quote a Rodale Institute report on superweeds:

  • Agriculturalists around the world are looking for better answers than have come so far from herbicide-focused efforts. They seek productive systems based on evolving local farmer wisdom. These deal with all pests—weeds included—as part of an approach integrating soil health, biodiversity, advanced understandings of biological interactions, and just enough steel to give crops the edge they need.
And, as Laskaway concludes, "That sounds about right."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Great post from Tom Laskaway on industrial beef and food safety. Follows up on a front-page article in the NYT this past Sunday. This is a big deal--local beef producers should be hearing from more potential customers soon. If my mom read it, she would never eat another hamburger.

Beautiful fall weather. Preserving in full swing. Only two and a half more boxes of pears (and 6 giant zucchinis) to go. Oh, and a few peppers to smoke and dry and hang in ristras.

The sky is so blue it feels like the West. Seamus and I are thinking of Alex, high school biology teacher in Gallup, New Mexico. Teach them to eat locally, Alex! Give them a fire in their bellies to raise their own food and food for their communities! Seamus and I miss you!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The leaves are beginning to turn, woodsmoke is in the air, and most of the perishables have been put by for the winter. From the frantic to the fat season, a harvest moon presides this weekend. Time to party, for the death of winter quickly approaches . . . Halloween is just around the corner.

The weather has changed--it's chilly and off-and-on rainy. Our dogwalks are lively and fast-paced to ward off the chill. The sheep are smug and snug in their woolly coats, and the chickens hide under and inside the chicken house more often now.

Sadie is sitting on my lap sucking my warmth as I write, Seamus is resting pensively next to us, and Ellie is downstairs on her blanket curled up in her inner bliss. So little of the outside world penetrates Ellie's failing senses. I miss young Ellie with her cheerful, bright greetings, her need to watch over me, and her unbounded enthusiasm. We are generally called to witness the frailty that slowly overtakes the dogs we love. Ellie is moving inexorably toward her own winter, and I will miss her terribly.