Saturday, July 10, 2010

photos from the field

Friday, July 9, 2010

hey blue gate farm!

Did I just read about you in Hobby Farm Home?!?!

october hope

this will just take a minute

If you're a single man who isn't scared of livestock, I'd like to have a word with you. This will just take a minute.

I've been alone for a long time. I choose to be. I don't date for sport and get nothing out of bars, clubs, or online dating. But I am getting to a point in life where I'm starting to accomplish things I want to share with someone. It's a great feeling—buying your own farm and following a dream—but it feels less real without someone to lean against. By choosing to follow my goals like a workhorse with blinders on—I've learned how to do a lot of amazing things—but in all honestly, I've had a little trouble cultivating a social life.

However, I have managed to keep this blog and it's become a home base for my goals, plans, and dreams. So it only seems natural that I'd post a PSA asking one of you who fits this description to take this farm girl out on a date.

Yes. I'm serious.

I'm not tall, thin, or particularly attractive. I'm over-educated, under-paid, and my savings account currently rivals a fast-food paycheck. I have a lot of faults and I make a lot of mistakes. But despite all that: I really do have good intentions and try to lead a healthy life. I can jog a few miles at a good clip. I've read some swell books. I can keep up in a conversation about analytical continental philosophy but I'd rather be herding sheep. I capable of crawling uphill when something matters. I take crisis in a panicked stride, but a stride none the less. I'm good at resolving conflict, I subscribe to logic over emotion, and I'm serious about composting table scraps. I can grow you breakfast and a sweater.

I want to know a man who only says my name when he exhales.

I want to play music with you. I want to brew homemade beer and wine in August and then get drunk with you on it during a Halloween bonfire kept stoked by stories and a string band. If you are drawn to fireflies, mountain streams, stringed instruments and are more excited to watch a Thunderstorm roll in than the series finale of LOST, please consider me. And if you're not 100% country, that's even better. I want to find someone who will go with me to concerts and art galleries, listen to authors read to us, listen to 70's punk on my record player, and ride rollercoasters all over the east coast just for the hell of it. Someone who demands the occasional guilty pleasure like Pizza Hut during a Buffy marathon on a Tuesday afternoon we both called in sick. Someone who drinks coffee. A lot of coffee. Demetri Martin, Jon Stewart, and Joshua Jackson may move to the front of the line, but I'm pretty sure they're all with girls who don't ever have to worry about pulling lambs out of ewe orifices...

I'm not particular about looks, age, hair, eye color, or any of that impermanent garbage. I am interested in someone who likes to think as much as he likes to laugh. Someone with sharp wit, clever observations, who drinks dark beer and displays darker humor. Someone who feels most content when he's accomplished something he set out to do. It could be as simple as mowing the lawn or as grandiose as building a barn, but someone who shares that sense of satisfaction in shared work and can revel in the simple relaxation of hard cider and stringed instruments when that work is done. Someone who feels more alive on the back of a tractor or quarter horse. Someone who can grab heavy oxen by the reins without shaking. Someone who doesn't think teaching a goat to backpack is mildly insane. Someone who considered making cheese, reads books, and loves swimming holes (yet hates swimming pools). Beards are not necessary, but encouraged. Civil War buffs make me weak in the knees.

Selfishly, I want to know someone is keeping an eye on me, making sure I don't get hurt or do too much. I want someone to be out there with me when the lambs are born, his arm around me because I ran outside with Gibson in a fever, forgetting to grab a jacket. I want him to realize I'm cold before I do. And I want him put his hand on my shoulder when those same lambs are taken to market. (I want him to eat the lamb chops too.) I want a partner. I want him to love October more than anything.

For what that's worth. I make a damn good pie.

So if you love dogs, like dirt, can't help but make music, and think you could tolerate me: send me an email. It's a long shot, but most things are.

I am aware that this is mildly pathetic. Maybe it's the whole birthday thing causing this, but I have learned you only get things in this world when you ask for them. I know putting myself out there like this is just asking for ridicule. Please don't judge too harshly. I may or may not respond to any emails (if I get any, that is) based on how foolish/lame I feel in the morning. But if you are reading this and aren't the guy in the post, maybe you know someone who could be, feel free to share it.

i will never be a size 4

Not as long as I live a life where fresh garden potatoes and scrambled eggs from my own hens are on the menu. Cover up that beautiful gold starch and protein with some smoked maple cheddar...heaven

I enjoyed my breakfast this morning since I had time to cook. I am taking the morning off from work while a technician cleans and services the oil furnace downstairs. Turns out my hot water, heat, and everything else that causes warmth comes from that little box and it needs some TLC. When I ran out of hot water this weekend I realized it was because I ran out of heating oil (not something you think of buying during a heat wave). When the oil guy came to put 100 gallons in the tank and restart the furnace, flames shot out of it. He looked at the inferno, then looked at me, and said calmly. "You should get this cleaned. Soon."

So here I am, 500 bucks in the hole because one day I ran out of hot water. Welcome to home owning folks. All of a sudden one little thing happens and you realize all these expensive parts need to come together to fix it. It's going to be a frugal July. That's for sure.

So there's amazing things about my own farm. Like backyard breakfasts of this caliber. And there's also the money pit of home upkeep and repairs. Not a new song, but one I'm happy to sing.

P.S. That's a small plate. I'm not a lumberjack!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

rats and rabbits

My la rattes have been unearthed! My small french potatoes started as six little seed taters and have exploded into a saucepan of future meals. It's a good haul, and a small success after such a rough garden year. It's been a bad one for the lettuce and beans, but the onions and potatoes are strong. Hash browns will know me as well as I know them.

I decided to sell the rabbitry. I will just keep Bean and Ben, the rest of the rabbits and cages are going to go. It may seem sudden, but the rabbits are the most time consuming animal on the farm. And while I love and appreciate rabbit meat: I also know that I can get it from farmers twenty minutes away. I'll have meat rabbits again, I'm sure but right now I need to scale down and focus on my farm passion: sheep. I'll keep my pet angoras and continue to breed them. But going from two to over twenty rabbits is too much, too soon. I learned my lesson. I'll eat crow.

I need to scale back, slow down, and realize one woman does not a superman make. Right now I'm all about the uphill that is beginning a wool and lamb operation. After this weekend at the trials I'll be pounding more fence posts and looking at barn plans with drool coming out of my mouth. I am a shepherd. I am not a rabbitry with sheep. This is simply how things are.

If anyone is interested in two healthy does (one with two kits) and a few young adult french angoras, let me know. I have some that need new homes for bargain prices, and cages to boot.

huge fan

a hell of a year

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't part of the joy of farming the mix of low points and high points you achieve along the way" That was my friend Kevin, talking to me over the phone from his air-conditioned apartment in Philadelphia. I, however, was dripping buckets of sweat by a pasture in Washington County. I was trying to assemble an electric fence kit I picked up from Tractor Supply to save what was left of the deer, groundhog, and rabbit eaten dried up pumpkins. I wouldn't put up this kind of fight for anything else in the garden, but pumpkins mean October. You fight for the things you love.

"Yeah...but when the low points drastically outnumber the high points, you realize you might be doing something wrong..." I was frustrated. I made up some excuse about getting electrocuted and got off the phone. Between the heat wave, falling behind on etsy orders and writing projects, the loss of half my turkeys and new laying hen pullets, the garden's decline, the dead rabbits, and the fact I wasn't seeing straight due to having spent the last two hours after work in a dramatic heat wave: things felt bad. I was exhausted. I was coated in sweat, hay, and smelled as bad as the invisible fence I just sprayed around the edge of the pumpkin patch. I instantly felt bad for having snapped at Kevin, and guilty for having the audacity to not be grateful I was having these problems in the first place. It's just that sometimes, you feel beat.

And when you're exhausted you seem to only know how to pile the negative things into a rucksack and carry it around with you. I could have easily told Kevin I was outside on a beautiful day. That I had a healthy pair of breeding turkeys, a newly fenced sheep pasture, a freshly mowed lawn, a 4th of July spent with good friends from Boston, and sheepdog trials this weekend. I could have told him how healthy the remaining free-range rabbits were, and the geese were getting pretty new feathers, and that the new hens I bought the weekend before were settling in fine. But something about a heat wave and dying pumpkins makes me grumpy. I don't know why exactly but I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I blame the heat with lack of thunderstorms. I couldn't get the fence to work either. Ugh.

I also don't mean to make it sound like I'm some sort of prisoner in my own prison. I adore this place, this work, and this life. But when I click back to this blog last July, I can only see an amazing garden, a laughing goat, healthy rabbits, no broken sales or looming deadlines, and less stress. Or at least the illusion of less stress.

I'll snap out of it, I'm sure. A poor mood does nothing to benefit me and certainly nothing to benefit anyone else. I just have to focus on what's ahead that I'm excited about, and slowly work towards those things. I realized that this morning when I was about to step out of the shower. On the hook just outside the curtain was a wool hat I knit, and a rusted orange towel. Together the colors and wool made me think about how all this tension ends with the pleasures of Autumn. I actually got a little jolt of excitement when I saw them together, and it reminded me that no matter how moody or distracted I might be in the fog of July: in a few months fall will be here. And when it comes, I'll be ready.

Hopefully, with at least one farm-grown pumpkin.

I turn 28 on Saturday. It's been a hell of a year.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

heat wave

The first thing I did when I walked into Wayside was head straight for the walk-in cooler. Wayside, like many small general stores, has a wall freezer stacked with soda and beer, but if you read the signs in the store you learn that is also where they keep the iced coffee. We're in the throes of a heat wave here that has temperatures in the high 90's and humidly near 100%. It's causing the sheep to sprawl in the shade, almost dead. The birds are spending all their time in the creek, letting their tiny raptor feet search for salamanders instead of slugs. The garden (now almost gone to deer and woodchucks, another sad story for another time) is barely getting by. I soak it with water everyday but the heat sucks the life out of it.

I am certainly meeting my challenges as a small scale producer this season. Between predators, garden pests, heat waves, groundhogs and deer I have lost half of my poultry and half of my garden crop. Right now I am with the pumpkins for the fight of their lives. I can take buying my salad greens and tomatoes at the market. But buying pumpkins, the heart vegetatble of cold Antler, breaks my young heart.

The dogs are okay. Jazz and Annie, were born and raised in Tennessee and didn't leave the Volunteer state till they were five years old. Both were outside dogs before I had them, meaning they grew up in the swelter and seem to take it in stride. At night the dogs lay in front of the fan and pant. I put ice cubes in the dog bowl. Gibson spends the day with me in the shade, taking many breaks for swimming in the pond and drinking lots of water. The whole pack is fine, me included.

Monday, July 5, 2010

best. roadside. find. ever.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

ready for finn

Now with the expanded pasture and new fences...
I think I'm ready to bring Finn back!