Saturday, August 16, 2008

a view from vermont

Here are some photos taken over the last few days. Thought you fine readers might like seeing my world of south western Vermont in high summer. There's Annie in her forever spot in the front seat, always by my side. And a view of my big ol' layers in front of the cabin. An heirloom tomato from the garden, and sunset at roadside.

sick as a third rooster

I stayed home from work yesterday because I feel like I fell off a horse (which, I have once or twice, his name was Cezak, that’s another story.) I have a sore throat, headache, and an intense urge to nap. The chickens however, don’t care. Even if their keeper feels like sleeping in - they still require their daily routine. So at 6 AM I was out in the coop sorting the morning poultry and feeding the giant overly-hormonal turkey. I came back in the house, called off of work, and dove right into…baking.

When I feel sick, I like making my home feel homier. I read under blankets, but only after something is in the oven, filling the house with it’s warm aromatherapudic scent. So I baked my father’s apple cake and then drove to Wayside for Dayquil. (I am certain this combination will heal me.) In the meantime, I am swilling lemon tea and watching bad movies with the dogs. The farm has a definite activity deficit, but a strong surplus in apple baked goods.

In more interesting and sexy news. I found out two of my pullets…aren’t. Two of the Ameraucana “hens” are actually growing up into roosters. Not good. I found this out yesterday morning when I witnessed one said rooster trying to have sex with my duck. The duck's name is Henry.

Now, this farm is a hate-free zone and if my poultry wants to dabble in mild youthful sexual exploits – that’s their business. But three roosters means fights, blood, and eventually… two dead roosters*. I learned this last year and have no interest in repeating the experiment.

I might keep one. The young birds and older gals are two separate corporations right now. The young gals could use a stud to watch over them while Rufus is down the creek with his concubines. But the other has to go. If anyone around here wants a free alarm clock, come pick him up.

*Yes, I understand many small flocks have more than one male, but it’s well understood those males are more tense, aggressive, and annoying when they are always on alert. No thanks.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

ox roasts and widows

Living in a rural community signs you up for things you don't always expect. Some of these things are good. Like when my neighbor asked me if I was following her to the Ox Roast, or would I drive up on my own? And what was I bringing for the potluck? There was no question if I was attending - even though no one had invited me or asked me if I cared to go... of course I was going. This was a simple truth. I lived here and since I was one of the few hundred people who drives by the farm with the whitewash sign telling us the day and time - it was branded in our psyches' that we'd all attend. If you didn't you were riff raff or snobs with summer homes. I told her I'd follow her car. I'll bring a pie.

But not everything is swell in paradise. Yesterday when I stopped in at the Wayside (our country store/social networking hub) I found out one of our neighbors became a widow as of 1:30 that afternoon. Her husband was out mowing the lawn and died of a heart attack. It was the silent hum of the whole store. When your village has only 381 people in it, you find yourself signing up to cook a strange widow's casseroles or watering gardens. No one asks if you'll do it - it's expected. Just like attendance at the ox roast. This is just how things are.

There are a lot of stereotypes about New Englanders. That they're a cold, closed off people. Maybe some are, but when you live in the mountains you need people. you need them to jump and tow cars, feed and care for animals during vacations, and help with small crisis. We're not Amish, and we're far from ideal, but Sandgate is a place where people keep an eye on each other. It's a good feeling, to be cared for like that. Like we're all in one big barn together being fed and cared for by the community. There is little difference between the care I give the chickens in the coop, and the food I'd make for the women grieving. It's just being aware of what's going on around you, taking part in it, tending to it, and keeping everyone as safe as possible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

a dry afternoon

Last night it wasn't raining. A novel approach, since it has been pouring in southern Vermont for weeks. But yesterday, when I pulled into the driveway after work, I stepped out of my car into the... not rain! It wasn't sunny but there were bits of blue sky and the ground was dry. I'll take it. I went about the business of random chores I'd been putting off till the rain stopped. I lugged a bale of fresh straw from the covered porch to the coop. Within moments the crew had a fresh clean bed to sleep on. While my birds have never said thank you, I can only imagine their relief to come home from a long day of mud and rain to a soft, safe, and dry place to fall asleep in. Creature comforts.

After all that, I cleaned out all the water fonts and buckets and refilled the feeders with fresh grains. I grabbed a pitchfork and removed the soggy old gross hay and put it on the compost pile. While I was doing this, a clunky old Subaru pulled into the driveway. This is pretty common at the farm (when you have a giant "FRESH EGGS" sign up on the road by your driveway you get used to meeting locals.) This particular local was one of my favorites. An elderly ex-patriot of some "old-country" with a thick European accent, a friendly beard, and a gentle smile.

He told me he had a spare half gallon of milk, and would the animals use it because he would hate to waste it? I said yes and thank you, and he proceeded to buy a half dozen eggs (I offered a trade, he put his foot down on paying for the eggs, in quarters.) Before he rolled off he insisted I come up to their cottage for coffee and to "meet the wife" I told him I'd love too. I want to hear their story. Everyone in the hollow seems to have one equally exciting and weird set of circumstances that brought them to Sandgate, or keeps them here. I want to know them all. Specially when it's not raining.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

every type of poultry on the farm

Here at Cold Antler, we have four types of poultry. Chickens, geese, a turkey and a duck. This weekend one of those moments happened when they were all hanging out in the grass together. That's a Toulouse goose, an Ameraucana hen, a Magpie duck and a Broad Breasted White turkey. How about it!