Friday, September 18, 2009

woodsmoked life

There are things I do all the time on the farm, mundane things, and I can still remember the first time I did them. I have yet to lose that beginners rush. Pouring the scratch grain into a big metal 50-gallon container and mixing it in with the layer crumbles. (My recipe for warmer birds: more fatty corn in colder weather.) Watching the deep yellow pieces of cracked corn mix in with the lighter layer crumbles still looks beautiful to me. I swirl them together with my hands and feel the tiny grains slip through my fingers. A rush of sensations. Every time I bury my arms elbow deep in the concoction to really get it all mixed up. When you get a buzz from mixing up corn in a bucket—I think that's a fairly good sign you're supposed to be living this kind of woodsmoked life.

They want tonight to dip into the thirties. Tomorrow they want frost. I hope the pumpkins hold their own. They're starting to turn a loud orange and I can not hide my shit-faced grin everytime I see them. This is the best crop of pumpkins I have ever grown, some so large I doubt I'll be able to pick them up without help.

Anyway, this cold streak—it's a fluke early bite. By Tuesday night the weather report has nights back in the fifties again. Regardless, it'll inspire most Vermonters to continue stacking wood and ordering winter fuels. I'll be filling up the cabin's oil tank and am stacking up my second cord of firewood, just dropped off today. Someday I'll be on all woodheat and electric, but for now my rented cabin has a 275-gallon oil tank to keep the place snug and pipes from freezing when the nights drop below 0. I can't believe it's time to fill up already... Fall is certainly at our doorstep. That's a fact no longer up for discussion. I am thrilled to welcome him home.

I bought a new black and white checkered flannel shirt on my lunch break. There is nothing quite as glorious as a new flannel shirt on a crisp night outside. It's a men's medium and literally comes down to my knees, but it is so soft and warm. It's like being wrapped up in someone's arms. Soon as I pulled into the farm I changed right there in the driveway, and did my evening chores wrapped in it. I didn't even need a jacket.

I have 330 feet of field fence in the back of the pick up and hopefully I'll get it up tomorrow so the sheep will finally have a fence I can be proud of. I put up the last fence by myself but that cheap garden wire but it's nearly falling apart. The hot mess is being held together by bailing twine and luck. I put up that monster alone, (but those cheap welded wire rolls didn't need to be loaded into the back of a truck with a forklift...) so I'm hoping some friends come to help tomorrow. My friend James did offer to help next weekend, so maybe fence-redux will be postponed till then. I'll play it by ear.

Some friends invited me out for drinks but I don't think I'll be heading into town tonight. Between the long work week, a stalking fox, and the promise of a warm fire I think I'll be in for the night. (I blame the shirt.) It's one of those nights where you pull the dulcimer off the mantle and mindlessly pluck away at it while you watch a favorite movie. Tonight I'll watch Cold Mountain. If my father was visiting he'd demand an apple cake be baking on a night like this. If I had some apples, I would, just for the aromatherapy of it all.

photo by sarah stell


Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Wish I could help with your fence. God knows I've put up enough of it - some with help, some by myself. I do have a few pointers, though (learned the hard way).

Get yourself a smallish bolt cutter to cut that wire. It seems big for the job, but will save you massive amounts of effort.

Lay the roll of wire on the ground and unroll it part way - cut off how much you need and just wrangle that much. Trying to heave around an entire roll of field fence is just nuts.

Corner posts. Brace them adequately. I suggest using wood corner posts and braces. That would mean you would put 3 posts in the ground and two for braces for each corner. Yeah, a lot of work, but strong when you're done.

Stretch your wire. I use a block and tackle. One hook attached to a pick-up truck hitch and one attached to two 2x4s that are screwed together with the end of the fence in between them. Once the wire is stretched you can use some nice strong fence staples to attach it to each corner post.

Wow, this got really long and of course, you may not want to go to all this trouble and effort since you are renting. But if you do, it would pay you to go check out how some nice wire fences are put in so you know what you're trying to create.

Good luck!

September 18, 2009 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger P said...

If there is one bit of advice I could offer, please do be extremely, I mean e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y careful how you cut the hog rings off the wire. Years ago I was by myself and cut the last hog ring, and had my hand in the wrong place and the roll sprung open on my hand, pinching it in the roll. All that force that's wound up in a roll of wire is pretty mighty, and too much for a wimp like me to get open with only her other hand. And it HURT! bad- I kept calling for help and started crying because I thought I was going to lose my hand, which was turning blue. I don't remember how I got out of that sticky wicket, but I did, and I learned an eternal lesson!! So Be Careful!!

In other news, I got laid off today. It was the right thing for the company to do for the direction in which they are going, but it still smarts, and I am no spring chicken. The bright side is that it's afforded me more time to get my winter garden started, and also concentrate some time on what I want to be doing which is homesteading! And the best news of this week, is that my husband sent me a link this week to a local farmer's market that's going to have a chicken workshop a week from tomorrow. This is 180 degrees in change in his attitude from when I first mentioned that I wanted chickens, so I'm pretty stoked about that.

Jenna- please keep taking your wonderful pictures, and please keep inspiring the rest of us. I hope you enjoyed the HDT quote I posted last night for you. Have a swell weekend- Paula

September 19, 2009 at 12:48 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thank you for the advice Kathleen and Paula, two readers are coming to help me today at 3, and maybe some local friends will show up too. I'm giong to see if I can bum a bolt-cutter off a neighbor.

Paula, I know that feeling all too well. I wish you luck and while you are job-hunting, enjoy the time you have at home in your winter garden. And thank you for the quote.

September 19, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When you get a buzz from mixing up corn in a backet-I think thats a fairly good sign....."

Ha ha ...yup. I agree. I dont get the buzz from seeing it. I get a buzz from feeling it between my fingers. The chickens act like freaks just HEARING it hit their feeder. I get my buzz from the smell of hay..or making home made food for my family on a windy Fall day. Also, the first time we crank up the wood stove for the night. Well, I guess there are a TON of ways for me to get my country buzz. You should do a post on that! "How Jenna gets her country buzz". LOL

September 19, 2009 at 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, stacking of the firewood! It's likely we'll have our first woodstove fire tonight, as it's supposed to get down into the 30's! We've been heating solely with wood for the past five years or so now, and there's nothing like it...I'm excited for you to be able to do so one day yourself Jenna! (Just be prepared to have a lot of wood on hand - we probably burn about 14-15 cords each year!)

And good luck with the fencing project today...I have no useful advice to offer, except to also add "be careful" after reading P's story!

September 19, 2009 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger English Animist said...

Wow - do you play dulcimer. I have a mountain dulcimer and I have just started learning fiddle. Both are just wonderful instruments. It's so rare to find another dulcimer player.

September 19, 2009 at 8:52 PM  

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