Saturday, August 27, 2011

calm before the storm

This video taken around 6PM, and by the time I was done with my chores the sky was dark and the wind was picking up. Looks like this all starts out with a bang here, the pregame is a series of heavy thunderstorms and the real show starts early in the morning. Prayers and thoughts out there for all in the path, may it be swift and understated.

here she comes

Irene will hit Washington County later tonight and stick around till Sunday evening. I feel as prepared as possible, and will even board up the glass French Doors with plywood if makes me feel safer inside. I have plenty of water, food, flashlights, lamps, and crank radio waiting with me. The dogs seem just fine, to them it is nothing more than Saturday.

Off to a three-hour yoga retreat to breathe and stretch. The perfect storm prep for me at this point. I'll update with photos and news long as I can, but am certain we'll lose power sometime around midnight or sooner. There's no way storm crews will be out in the hurricane repairing either, so check back on Monday for more coverage!

Friday, August 26, 2011

no back up

Everyone is out of generators and the builders from Common Sense Farm canceled the sheep shed. They said they ran into an issue with their hay and a broken mower, and could not install the new barn. I am worried now. Worried about the flock out in 80+ MPH winds in a shabby shelter that barely stands on its own anymore, but with nowhere to put them. There is no space in the barn with Jasper, and I think it would only irritate the horse a dangerous amount to have the sheep trapped in a small space with him where his food is = kicked lambs or worse. And while I don't care about the lights or even the freezer, I am worried we'll lose power and torrential rains will flood the basement, and without electricity the sump pump will not bail me out like it did in the spring during the snow melt episodes. Suddenly, I went from feeling prepared to feeling terrified and vulnerable. I'm worried about the flock, who I was certain just yesterday would be safe under a solid roof...

Update: 3:30PM
I found a small generator! Karen, over at the Salem Agway, had a 1000watt small generator at the store, they held it for me till I came to pick it up, and then the staff showed me what fuel to buy and how to mix the gas/oil. They were amazing, and now even if the power goes off, I'll have a dry basement. I have 10 gallon of oil in the back of the pickup in addition to a full tank of gas. Also, I got a call from the Daughtons and Diane Kennedy: all of them are coming over with scrap lumber and power tools to help shore up the sheep shed and get it secured for the storm. Prayers answered and friends to the rescue! And thank you for all your emails and support! People offered to lend me battery sump pumps, drop off supplies, it is amazing what this internet can do.

I feel ready now! we're going to tough it out!

P.S. IF it gets really bad, Sal and Maude are going into the pig pen, and if you think that's playing favorites...well, you're damn right it is.

Update: 8:30PM
Sheep shed is reinforced, amazingly so. Diane, the Daughton's, and luck got me and the flock in the safe zone. We fixed the walls, reinforced the posts, stuck t-posts on the outsides (thank you, commentators!) and I fed everyone pizza and wings. Tim showed me how to start and shut down the generator, if I need to use it, and I am letting out a sigh now that hits 5.9 on The Richter Scale. Thank you, everyone. From the folks who came here tonight, to the emails, the comments, and the phone calls. All will be well, and if it isn't, I'll be ready.

listen to gillian, darling

Thursday, August 25, 2011

storm dogs

As I write you, I am barely able to see the computer screen. My glasses are fogged up from the heat of my own face, stopped moving, indoors. I just dug a 25 ft long, shallow ditch in a U-shape from my muddiest spot hillside pasture. The ditch is to help move and torrential waters away from the house and well areas, and out into the street and grassier sides. It took a little over an hour. I already popped some ibuprofen. I look and smell like an extra from a Civil War movie (one towards the end) and I am looking forward to that mint shower with a sinful amount of glee.

I will sleep well tonight.

I feel as prepared as I can be for this storm. The news keeps getting scarier, and I am starting to feel it seep in. But I do have four hurricane lamps, plenty of lamp oil, candles, matches, gallons of water, food, flashlights, first aid gear, hard cider and a truck with a full tank. I have a weather radio, cell phone charged, and a non-electric land line in the house. I have neighbors within walking distance, a stream and a gravity fed artesian well (the animals will have fresh well water regardless of power), water tablets and an electric lantern. I have ice packs and a cooler ready to keep meat and food if the power leaves over 24 hours. I have a wood stove if I need to cook. I have a pony in a sturdy stall, and a flock of sheep about to get a brand new shed built by professionals. I do expect us to lose power a few days, so I am loading up with books and knitting projects for the evenings.

I don't know what else I can do but pray it's something less scary than the news is telling me, or winds take it out to sea. A lot can happen in a few days time. Perhaps all this preparedness is foolish or trite. I stopped at the bookstore and the girl behind the counter looked confused when I asked her if she was worried about the storm. "What storm?" she asked. And I felt like Chicken Little.

Well, Chicken Little or not, here's one thing I KNOW I am not doing that would help a lot: breathing. Long, deep, breaths that clear the mind and calm the soul. I have started to meditate more and practice some yoga everyday. It is helping heal my farm-worn body and back, and helping me sleep better at night. I am starting to depend on it, feel new muscles in my arms and legs. I don't look like the woman on the cover of Yoga Journal, but I do feel healthier, and that's a gift. Saturday there's a three-hour morning retreat at Hubbard Hall here in town and I signed up. The first hour is meditation, the second two are restorative yoga. I think it was a wise investment.

I am as prepared as I can be. Keep us Storm Dogs in your thoughts and prayers, if you have any to spare.

red sky at morning...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

freedom fart

Jasper is getting rowdy. He can't help himself. Ever since the new stall and paddock was built he has been moved from pen to pasture regularly. This haltering up, leaving the gate, and walking him to and from a location isn't always easy. When he spends a day or two in the barn he comes out snorting and whinnying in my hands. He's just 11 hands, but strong as all get out. After a summer on grass with all the space and exercise he could crave, he is strong, solid, and if I had the nerve to put a saddle on him there is no doubt in my mind he could carry me across these few acres. He's thick with muscles and alive with curiosity. But even as a pony, he is easily 550 pounds, and that's not always easy for a 5'3" tall gal to carry, even one of swarthy slovak stock.

On grass he is skittish and wants to bolt. He hooves dance, and I am as careful as an electrician in a swimming pool. Soon as he hits pavement or a road, he is calm as a kitten though. A testemant to his days as a working amish cart horse. Pavement means business to him. Grass means college kegger. I can walk him like a swaybacked ol' trail horse on the road, but going across the lawn is like rolling a fat kid over twinkies and asking him to keep his mouth shut.

I refuse to back down or give up though. I move him around, and he knows who is in charge. I hold my ground and work with him every chance I get. Last night at the rodeo I saw these women barrel racing on their quarter horses like champions in a western flick. That is not me and Jasper. If I am lucky, Jasper and I will be able to someday hitch up the little buckboard cart and head the three miles into town.

Tonight I we up to the pasture together, him all excited and fussy, and I focused and determined. I held his hatler in my hand, guiding him tough. When I finally let him out to those acres of green grass and apple he exploded! He leaped into the air, kicked out both back feet to the left, and while both back legs were airborn sideways in glee, he let out a merry fart. I laughed so hard I nearly peed. He then pounded around, blowing off steam, leaping and running like a colt on crystal mushrooms. The sheep watched from behind a fence, happy to be away from that mad man farting amongst the apples. Jasper ran to the top of the hill and rolled around on his back like Gibson does on the living room floor. He then started down at me, resting on his legs like an equine sphinx. If I knew what he was thinking I could conquer the world.

He is a goofball, a free spirit, a jackass, and a piece of work. But I love that pony. And on those occasional calm walks down the mountain road I feel like the luckiest girl in New York. Learning to work as one will be a huge lesson in this life. Stay tuned.

c'mon irene

A storm is coming, a bad one. Irene is set to slam the northeast with high winds, constant rain, and serious possible damage to the coast. I don't know if it's all churched-up scare tactics to sell ad space for the weather channel or a real threat, but I do know this: my sheep need a safe place before the storm hits. Right now, they don't have one.

The shed build here last fall was a beautiful thing, inexpensive and a true team effort. It held up through the entire winter, one of the worst in decades, and it is still standing as I type. Well, kinda. It only has 4 of 6 posts touching the ground, two walls missing, and a lot of chew marks in it. There was no way it would make it through winter, and I didn't have the time or skill to build a new shed. So I hired the guys down the road to build me a true blue outbuilding at an honest rate. I gave them a couple hundred bucks and they cut down pine trees on their land and took them to a sawmill up the road. They build the four walls, and will be using the old roofing material from the last shed to finish it up. It should be an outstanding, solid, home for this year's flock.

But they weren't set to build it on site till two weeks from now....
So, I called the guy down at Common Sense Farm who is building the new sheep shed. I asked if they could possibly install the newer, safer, shed this Friday? I already paid half up front, and I could offer another half of the half I owe that day of set up (leaving me with just a quarter of the price in debt, which I can scrounge soon enough). I'm happy to announce that the sheep here will have a safe home. Let's hope it's not too rough a storm.

bulldoggin' and broncs!

I loved the rodeo, ate it up. The horses, the cowboys, the cows...I loved the clothing and the smells and the happy crowd. I adored the drama, and the anticipation, and the chances taken. Here's a video of steer wrestling (bulldoggin' they called it) and a bronco ride. I sat by myself in the stands, wearing my straw cowboy hat, watching these men and women compete with such fierce love for their sport, care for their horses, energy and excitement ruled the night. I drove home thinking about cowboys, the country station cranked.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

well, that settles it

I want to marry a cowboy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

a whole lot of random news

My turkey poult, the last one left, was killed by a weasel. Found him in the coop with two bite marks in his neck, taken in broad daylight. What a shame. There's still some hope for a trio of adult Bourbon Reds from a breeder here in town, but waiting to see if the flock gets over a bout of the sniffles.

This farmhouse is the cleanest it has been all year. I was on a tear this weekend, ripping out wet carpets, mopping floors, washing linens and appliances. It feels like a new space. Hell, even the shower feels new. Makes me feel a little more solid going into this fall. My house is generally clean, as clean as it can be working 32-hours a week and running a farm. I keep up with the dog hair and lawn, at least. But I'll never forget when my friend Wendy walked into my bathroom the first time and was shocked at how clean it was. "No farm bathroom is that clean...never ever" I swelled. It's clean because the dogs don't go in it, and only one person uses it, but still. I was proud as a mama hen 22 days into her nest.

Besides the dead turkey, things are quiet. It's a weird calm. In the next few weeks there will be so much going on, it is daunting to think about. A new sheep shed will be erected where the old one stood. The chimney will be installed for the Bun Baker in the living room. I'll be heading south to be a keynote speaker at the Mother Earth News festival outside Pittsburgh (anyone here going?), and it'll be my first off-farm trip since last Christmas! I can't wait to hear Joel Salatin speak....Then the Fall Festival (I'm calling it Antlerstock) will be here before you know it with folks from all over the country in attendance! Today I decided we'll all carve a pumpkin to light up the Saturday night campfire. Folks coming from the south or west, bring warm clothing! It might be in the thirties that night!

Tomorrow I head to the Washington Country Fair to watch the professional Rodeo. Cowboys strike something in me, that's for sure. A man who knows how to handle a horse is seriously worth paying the 10 dollar admission fee to watch. I am being shameless right now. I'm okay with it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

agri culture?

The weather report was calling for rain. A lot of rain. Reports from various sources varied but all seemed to have a window of sun and haze before the deluge set in. I decided to head up to Nelson's farm in Hebron to pay for some hay I took earlier in the month and bring home another load. The humidity and sunlight fighting through the liquid air was breathtaking. I love the world before a storm. I especially love it when its a morning occurrence, a rarity around here, and you start the day feeling like summer vacation and you're 7 years old.

This isn't related to hay, but the other night I headed over to Firecracker farm for dinner, and something strange happened. It was around 9PM on a Wednesday, and I was driving home in the dark from White Creek, 20 minutes south of home. They say smell is the sense that brings back memories, but it was motion that delivered back to the summer of 2004 that night. Driving under the stars, singing along with the music, just having left the laughter of friends...I felt like it was a weeknight in college. Still a school night, but free. Like my day would start at 3:30PM if I called someone for their Art History notes. The lawless, self-governed weeknight is what I felt, even though I still had to be at my desk by 8AM. I don't know what brought this feeling of youth and freedom, but it was thick. I was happy as as 1960's beach movie dancer about to pick up MoonDoggy for the clam bake.

I did get my hay, 17 bales. Nelson and I piled them onto the back of the Dodge with the help of two local guys. I got to listen in on a stellar conversation about hay and deer hunting. I told them I was going deer hunting but they just kinda smiled and nodded. This was a conversation among serious men, newbies and womenfolk, step aside. I smiled. I don't take offense when 80-year-olds in feed caps don't take me too seriously. Who knows, maybe I'll get the only 8-pointer on the mountain. It was good to fill up the barn with some more bales though. And stacking them in the barn right before the clouds broke felt like I won something. It is still raining out there but that hay is dry in the barn.

Tomorrow is the first day of the Washington County Fair and I might make it over that way for dinner. I'm excited! It's a great big Ag Fair, one of the largest in the state. And after living here a full round of the seasons I even know some of the farmers in the cow and sheep barns. It'll be a big time, and that ferris wheel at night is magical.

I was talking with a friend about the fair tonight and he raised a good point: why is it that in a farming region, there is nowhere at the county fair to buy local foods? Everything is shipped in and deep fried? I'm not saying there shouldn't be funnel cakes and pastry-covered Snickers, but why not a grass-fed burger stand or cheese tent? For a festival of local agriculture, where's the Agri Culture?