Thursday, May 22, 2008

farmas eve is here

I got out of work around five and drove home feeling like I was back in elementary school and on my first day of summer vacation. I swear if you looked below the dash you could see my feet swinging in a pair of faded jellies inches above the pedals. I am taking off work Friday - half out of necessity and half out of the need for a long break from fluorescent lights and ergonomic desk chairs.

Over the next few days I’ll be picking up chicks, goslings, and installing a hive of bees I'll personally pick up from their apiary in New York. I’ll also be helping a co-worker install her first hive and holding fiddle lessons here at the cabin. I’ll be working hard in the garden too - planting mounds of jack o lanterns and rows of sweet corn. And if that wasn’t enough, Saturday I’ll be driving up to Rutland for a rabbit show, partially to be a spectator but also to pick up my own pre-ordered pair of French Angora rabbits from a breeder in Massachusetts. I’ve never been to a rabbit show, just walked through rabbit sections at county fairs, so I’m extra excited about that. I'll be breeding my own fancy rabbits in the next few months, so talking with people in the biz will be an eye opener.

Tonight the work was light, prepatory and for people like me, exciting. My bathroom has a climate controlled brooder box waiting its new occupants. The cardboard box is lined with pine shavings and the thermometer inside reads a toasty 90 degrees, perfect for the new downy fowl on an airplane right now as I type. Outside my hive is set up under some maple trees awaiting its swarm. I have a pot of sugar water on the stove (bee syrup for their feeders) and the water font and feeder are stocked in the brooder. With experience in all of this under my belt, I feel prepared and less anxious than I was a year ago. I’m excited to know that in 24 hours I’ll have a hive going to work on combs and Jazz and Annie will be prostrated like in front of the closed bathroom door, cocking their heads at all the cheeping sounds behind their walls. It’ll be like the time I tried to watch March of the Penguins and they spent half an hour trying to “find the penguins” in my Knoxville apartment. They're crazy, them.

I have about 20 small corn plants ready to transplant to rows and seed corn as well (so to extend my summer corn harvest, I’ll have them ready at different times). I have starter pumpkins and seeds for them too, (for the same reason). It’s all out there waiting for my attention. It will all get it.

I know it sounds like a lot. All this running around, preparing and planning. But just like you look forward to cutting down and trimming a Christmas tree, I look forward to making this cabin into a farmstead. Both require effort, and dirty hands, and sometimes occasional discomfort – but when the work’s done… Well, I stand in front of my coops and gardens the same way I’d stand in front of those decorated living room trees of my childhood. In awe of the effort. How it made something magical out of hollow space. I know a better writer could’ve somehow explain that by coming back around to the summer vacation metaphor, but all this farm stuff if more complicated than that. Or it is too me. Christmas in July maybe? Eh, too far of a reach. Regardless, I’ll update all weekend with pictures and stories.

less bugs, more plants

This is a psa for all you gardeners out there. I got one of these at the Orvis store in Manchester, and it has been a blessing outside. When you're hiking, or more importantly, gardening - you'll always be a sweaty mess that bugs are constantly swarming around. Well these bandanas are treated with some chemical that doesn't hurt you, but repels insects. So the biters and flies leave your face alone while you plant or smash mountains. They are a little pricey, at 15 dollars or so a piece, but you're paying for a bug-free face, not a fashion accessory. However, you get both. Bully.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


This past Sunday I loaded up my day hiking gear and dogs in the wagon, and we drove upstate to Merck Forest and Farm center. Which is exactly what it sounds like. It's a local Mecca of hiking trails, barns, sheep, rhorses, sugaring and chickens all surrounded by the lazy rolling vistas of the Green Mountains. You can stop in at the visitor's center, grab a free map and the shove off to spend the day hiking through the woods, or if you're not into that, you can just spend a day hanging your feet off a fence post and watch lambs play in the fields.

If you mix backcountry with farm country, I am a very happy girl. So I spent a few hours there with Jazz and Annie. We parked at the visitors center, walked across the dirt lot to a building marked visitors center, and I tied up the dogs to a post while I went inside to explore. The center had walls lined with jugs of syrup, books, maps, eggs and yarn from their animals. It was nice. Quite a little store for the middle of nowhere. I talked with Pam (the ambassador/salescler/ranger behind the desk) for a while about the finer points of maple syrup (they sell their own farm made syrup in the center, and we both agreed darker more maple-tasting version is better then the "finer grade" light stuff)

After this we started walking down the dirt roads to the barn and pastures. Cars aren't allowed through here, only foot traffic. Which makes the fields of animals and gamboling horses even more pristine. We walked past the fields of animals (which Jazz and Annie slowly stared at with resigned apathy of restrained wolves) and padding towards the signs for hiking trails and cabins.

Everything was uphill. It was awesome.

We got a hell of a workout, and in less than two hours had climbed uphill nonstop. Annie, who started out with more energy than Jazz and I combined, hated everyone 45 minutes into the hike. Jazz, a master of moderation and pacing himself kept his head down and just kept hiking without glance at Annie, who kept trying to lie down and snap at salamanders like little orange pieces of salt water taffy at her paws. Annie's kind of an asshole.

When we arrived back at the farm area, storm clouds were brewing. I loaded them up in the car and checked back at the visitors center's events calendar. Merck is renowned for it's sheepdog trials in July. They say if you want to get into sheep, herding, border collies or all three, you should go and talk to this person or that person. I of course, will be there will bells on.