Saturday, April 25, 2009

hungry naked sheep

a cold antler morning

While the coffee is heating up on the stove, and the farm is waking up, I thought I'd check in. Two eggs I collected last night are frying in a pan, and right now I can hear Chuck Klosterman crowing outside. He's usually the middle man of the roosters. Always running from the cabin down to the stream and back to check on his girls. The other boys stay at their posts, but not Chuck. He owns that stretch.

The hive is lost. The bear came back the past three nights and not only destroyed my entire box, but took out my neighbor's Chris and Katie's hives as well. It was a bear rampage around here. And last night I took Jazz with me on my farm rounds. I just feel safer with a wolf at my side, even if all he would do is lunge and howl if a bear did show up. I am very happy to say the sheep, birds, bunnies and garden are all safe as houses.

The day should prove beautiful. The forecast calls for 80 degree weather, a first for the season, and I am chomping at the bit to get into that garden. So far the rhubarb, peas, salad greens and some early potatoes are already poking out between the straw-lined rows. Today I'll be planning the broccoli and onion garden and getting it ready for started plants next weekend. Soon every day will be spent among those leafy rows. To look from the raised beds and see a sheep trot by, watch a goose waddle into the coop, or see a robin land on the grass... all little things, but there's nothing bigger.

I like these weekends where the whole goal is to just work. I know I have things to prepare, and by nightfall I'll feel whipped from tha hand tools and long hours--but tonight I'll have that hammock and some ibuprofen and sway. And with a banjo in my lap and the Vermont stars above me everything solid a few feet below will feel better all the better when my bare feet finally decide to return to land.

Have a great weekend guys. Plant something. But first, enjoy some coffee. Which is what I'm going to do right now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

podcast, check it!

A popular website called Craftsanity recently published a podcast interviewing me about Made From Scratch. If you want to hear me talk about farming, and all my big plans, you can listen to it here:

Craftsanity

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

still a chance

Every morning I go out and do my rounds. I check on all the animals. I carry water and feed. I look things over. This morning when I walked by the hive on the way to the sheep pen, my heart sank. You just can't know how hard it is seeing a year's work broken like that ... To know those bees survived one of the coldest New England winters in recent history... that all summer they built comb, raised brood, and helped pollinate my forest and gardens...and now this; a pile of bear rubbish.

Sometimes all this farm business just takes your heart and throws it under a bus. This morning was one of those mornings.

Thank you to everyone who wrote, commented, or emailed me to say they're sorry about the hive. I am truly sorry if I haven't been able to respond to your emails. More and more have been coming and with a full time job, and a full-time spring on the farm, email has become a luxury. But I appreciate your writing me very much, and even if the responses are late, I'll get them to you.

And some good news: After this morning's drama, I did what I could to recreate the orginal green hive body. I put in the combs that were intact, and put the lid on, hoping the bees that swarmed off would return. Tonight, I checked and bees were back inside! No way of knowing if the queen made it back, but there is still a chance I could replace her from an apiary and keep the honey flowing this summer...cross your fingers folks. I'm living on a prayer.

Let's hope the bear doesn't return tonight for seconds. That hive is weaker than water right now...

sad day...

Monday, April 20, 2009

CAF on mother earth news

If you'd like to see a bunch of photos from my old life in Idaho, and read an excerpt from my book, Mother Earth News has put the entire feature online! So you can check it out, write a comment, and click around their site. The crew at MEN is a fine bunch of folks, even Maude agrees with me there. I showed her the article when it came out and she stared right at it. Which may sound despondent, but since she didn't try to eat it or instantly defecate upon it's arrival. I consider that a glowing review.

See Life on the Homestead here!

strumming and jogging

So the farm is jogging into spring. In the next week weekends the garden will have seeds and started plants in the ground. The Angora Doe, Bean Blossom, will be delivering a litter of kits, and new chickens bought at the annual Poultry Swap will be strutting around the yard. Slowly the grass is starting to show up, and my arms are starting to feel the soreness of the rake. Evenings at the farm call to my guitar, fiddle, and banjo. I sit on my porch with the dogs and play and sing, sometimes with a hard cider in my hand, just to spice it up. A small prayer for fall, which I miss more than any of you know.

UConn yesterday was great. The University Bookstore hosted a fine author event, and about thirty people came to hear about the book. I got to meet some blog readers, shake hands, play some nervous fiddle music, and drive around campus (which was all green hills and beautiful). It reminded me of UT back in Knoxville, and a small part of me pined for Market Square and that old scene. Oh, Tennessee. The only ghost I'm haunted by...

My bags of wool are all awaiting processing. The plan is to hand spin some, and send the rest off to be processed at a small mill. The end result will be blankets, yarn, hats, scarves, and hell, maybe even a sweater if I'm feeling brassy. But just having the sheep shorn, and seeing them adjust to their new bodies has been an educational experience. This morning when I went out to check on the flock I couldn't see them. Usually, soon as daylight breaks they are pacing in the pen, yelping for breakfast. But this morning the chilly air and lack of wool changed their habits. They were all asleep in a pile in their shed, which had just been lined with clean straw. I had to yell for them to get up and watch them trot out baahing for hay. They look like goatdogs now, like a white Labrador and a goat were mixed together. Quite the combo, them.