Saturday, May 2, 2009

gardens and a poultry swap!

It's a cool, damp, Saturday morning here in Vermont. The coffee's on the stove, and that is something I will allow trick me into thinking it's a lot nicer outside than it is. I have big plans to spend most of the day in the garden. So far the dogs already walked, the rabbits are fed, and the sheep are munching on hay as I type. I can hear the roosters in the coop, but refuse to let them out before 8AM on a Saturday morning. It doesn't seem fair to my neighbors to have a rooster in their lawn before any good cartoons even come on.

I'm at ground zero of a weekend that should be productive. Today, the garden and tomorrow, the poultry swap! Day one will be knee-deep in the dirt, getting this garden to a respectable place. I plan on planting a few dozen new vegetables in the ground I turned over last week. But before I do there is a lot more work to be done on the chicken coop and weeding fronts. But if my plan goes through, by end of day today I'll have four or five raised beds planted, and between them, thick piles of straw feeding the soil and killing those damned weeds.

Sunday is a big day as well. It's an annual Schaghticoke Poultry Swap. Every first Sunday in May local farmers and hobbyists get together for this little expo. We'll sell birds, trade livestock, get new animals in and out our doors. I am hoping to come home with a few layers and possibly get rid of a rooster or two. Wish me luck out there where the feathers fly.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

welcome to the neighborhood

When I drive over the state line to Hebron for hay—I never know what's in store for me. New York may only be a few miles from my door, but it's an entirely different world from Vermont. (Let's just say there's more tractors than Volvos over there.) Last weekend I ran into a small herd of young cattle using Nelson's (my dealer) neighbor's yard as pasture. To see twenty calves eating take out in a lawn is kinda great. As I drove by I rolled down the window and got a shot of this kid near the mailbox. He mooed back at me, and I drove back to CAF with a station wagon full of hay bales.

I love living out here.

bears, trucks, and bailing wire

What a week. The bear returned every night, save last. He was a horror--taking out garbage cans, ripping down the sheeps ' fence, knocking over grain bins, and taking out the neighbor's bird feeders, hives, and more. The neighbors and I have been talking about our options on how to deal with the problem. Two of them are strongly against calling the Fish and Wildlife department, since they don't want the bear shot. I'm not for slaying bears either, but if I wake up one morning to a pile of dead poultry or bleeding sheep—I will be. I'll keep you posted.

Yesterday I had to run to Tractor Supply on my lunch break to buy replacement fencing. As I was leaving the store, trying to load the fencing into the back hatch (which was bursting with feed sacks, hay, a hose, and other homestead gear)a guy next to me in a pickup truck looked at the back of the station wagon and then his empty bed and said, "Wow. You need this truck more than I do.."

I sure do. He has no idea.

Last night, as the sun was setting and the farm was still feeling warm, I fixed the fence while the sheep grazed behind me in their pasture. I sang a little to myself, tying up the woven wire with green baling wire (the veins of this operation is green bailing wire)to make a sort of fence band-aid for the night. At least it will get the job done till I can replace the fencing later this summer. And so far, it's been holding the sheep in, and keeping Mr. Bear out. And right now, that's all I can ask.

Monday, April 27, 2009

that'll do

I have become a great disciple of the hammock. Every night I sway out there, thinking about things that make my mind reel. Usually until they stop and all that's left is some gentle rocking and peace of mind.

Tonight I brought out blankets, pillows, and a banjo. And I plucked along my favorite waltz as I looked up at the waxing crescent moon over the pines. The wind picked up now and again, rocking me even more. The creek sang, the frogs chorused, and occasionally a sheep cried out in the dark, from across the pasture. I played my banjo and thought about my day.

Every time I do an interview, or a radio show, or go to a book event--someone always asks me if I'm lonely? I suppose I should be, but I'm not. There are of course people I miss when they're not around, but there is no blanket desire to seek out company for the sport of it. Things are how they are. I like being by myself. It allows for times like tonight. Quiet. Full. Completely engaged in the world without getting attached to it.

That'll do.

No, I am never lonely. I'm always thinking, and that bides all my time and borrows more I haven't yet earned. Tonight I swayed and I was glad.

back to how things used to be

I came across this song and wanted to share it with you guys. It's called Old Old fashioned, by the Scottish indie kids, Frightened Rabbit. I adore it. You can click this link here to listen to it. Here are the lyrics. I would consider this some great gardening music for the ipod. But I wouldn't consider the album 'family friendly'. Just a heads up if you buy the cd and have kids in the car...

Old Old Fashioned

I'll turn off the TV
It's killing us, we never speak
There's a radio in the corner
It's dying to make a scene
So give me soft, soft static
With a human voice underneath
And we can both get old fashioned
Put the brakes on these fast, fast wheels
Oh let's get old fashioned
Back to how things used to be
If I get old, old fashioned
Would you get old, old fashioned with me?

Put the wall clock in the top drawer
Turn off the lights so we can see
We will waltz across the carpet
1-2-3-2-2-3
So give me the soft, soft static
Of the open fire and the shuffle of our feet
We can both get old fashioned
Do it like they did in '43
Oh let's get old fashioned
Back to how things used to be
If I get old, old fashioned
Would you get old, old fashioned with me?

So give me soft, soft static
We won't need no electricity
If we both get old fashioned
We won't have to rely on our memories
Oh let's get old fashioned
Back to how things used to be
If I get old, old fashioned
Would you get old, old fashioned with me?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

porch dogs

and the garden roars...

Yesterday was heaven. A perfect day of hard work, good music, a sunset jog, and then a long hot shower. It all ended with meditation in the hammock under the cold stars, swinging above the world, smiling like an idiot. The happiness I find in the refuge of this farm could make the ground beneath me shake as I walk across it.

The day started in town with errands and a dog walk. But on my way home I stopped by the Equinox Garden Center to see what they had in store for me. I came home with twelve baby broccoli and lettuce starts (budget is tight, or I would've came home with five times that!) and placed them on the floor of the passenger seat for the ride home. Annie hung out her window as we drove, such a happy girl. I sang to the Frighten Rabbit cd blasting in the car, and since it was lunchtime and 80+ degrees out I saw no reason not to stop for ice cream. Which I did, and to be driving up my green mountains with good music, happy dogs, garden hope, and a mint chocolate chip was all I needed to feel a slice of bliss. After I wolfed my treat, I stopped at wayside and bought some Coke in a cold glass bottle to wash it down. Perfect. All of that morning, perfect.

When I got back to Cold Antler I changed into my Rosies, work boots, and an insect repellent bandana. Time to work! I grabbed a pitchfork and went to tackle the chicken coop, mucking out the winter's bedding and moving it into the garden as weed control/fertilizer. When that was in fair shape--I set down the pitchfork and picked up my hoe. I turned over four raised beds, and checked on the progress of my little supermarket. Peas were rising from the earth, as were seed lettuce and potatoes. The rhubarb was coming up nicely, as were last years strawberries. I planted the new started plants I bought and then planned where the corn, tomatoes, onions, and everything else would go. Hours later, stood back with the hoe across my shoulders to take in the effort. I sighed a long sigh.

Beautiful. Nothing is more beautiful than turned earth and the promise of good food.

The sheep watched from their pasture. Marvin hopped the fence once and that was a hoot getting him back in. Bean Blossom, my pregnant Angora doe, also escaped from her hutch (I forgot to turn the latch after cleaning out her bedding) and that was another adventure in animal husbandry. But by evening all the animals were back in their clean pens. And my garden made my back and shoulders roar in that satisfying pain of a job well done.

So I decided to be a sadist and go for a run. Which was impossible, and silly of me. I was beaten down from the yardwork, but I wanted to end the day completely whipped. (I wanted that shower with mint soap to be earned, and when dark came and it was just me in my hammock, to sink into it as I swayed.) I made it half a mile before my body gave out on me, and walked the rest of the way home. The sunset over the Sangate hills was amazing.

A few years ago, had you told me I would find this level of contentment after putting my body through hell and only spending $5.98 on veggie six-packs. I would have laughed in your face. But I've come to love this homelife, and the responsibility and work that makes it all sing. To put down a hoe, and pick up a banjo for a few minutes costs nothing - just work and rest. Yet it gives me more satisfaction and sense of self than anything I read in any book or was told in a college class. There is freedom in this. Maybe our only chance at freedom?

Gary Snyder, might be my favorite person on the planet. He was the inspiration for Jack Kerouac's Japhy Ryder, a man who is all fiction but I can't stop spending time with. I love that man. I've read the Dharma Bum's a dozen times, and keep reading it because it makes me so happy to hear about the thoughts of those scrappy, wild, and searching men. Anyway, Snyder says this in his book, The Practice of the Wild:

"Wild and free." an American dream-phrase loosing images: a long-maned stallion racing across the grasslands, a V of Canada Geese high and honking, a squirrel chattering and leaping limb to limb overhead in an oak. It sounds like an ad for a Harley-Davidson. Both words, profoundly political and sensitive as they are, have become consumer baubles. I hope to investigate the meaning of wild and how it connects with free and what one would want to do with those meanings. To be truly free one must take on the basic conditions as they are--painful, impermanent, open, imperfect--and then be grateful for impermanence and the freedom it grants us. For in a fixed universe there would be no freedom.

Well said, Gary. Well said... It takes a lot of shit to grow a garden. Be grateful for the manure--it's the cause of those first sweet bites of your harvest. Just don't get too attached to the taste. It will soon be gone.