Saturday, May 12, 2012

butterflies

I am so nervous about tomorrow's dressage show...

two old men sleeping in the sun

a day for the garden

There are big plans for the garden this year, starting with the small row of raised beds I have along the horse fence by the house. A small kitchen garden, but a happy place already full of new lettuce, kale, pea shoots, and garlic. Today I'll plant a heap of stuff I picked up as six-packs from the Stannard Farm greenhouse a half mile down the road on route 22. I also decided to turn the south side of the house into two herb gardens. There is already a beautiful sage bush I inherited with the house and a bit of hoe work, anti-poultry fencing, and some topsoil is all I need make that dream come true. As important as it is to feed yourself, it is also important to know how to heal yourself.

I want to grow herbs for stress-relief, sore muscles, colds and flu. I'm not anti-modern medicine by any means but there is wisdom to the folk remedies. Most common illnesses can be cured with the right care of the body and help with rest, meditation, herbs and positive thinking. That's my experience at least. This year the plan is to grow things for teas and tinctures. I would like to start an echinacea patch and various mints, chamomile, rose hips for vitamin C.

Do any of you grow medicinal or tea gardens and herbs?

spoon garden markers from this etsy shop!

Friday, May 11, 2012

morning kits

Every morning the little, bottomless, meat rabbit hutches get moved around. They still get feed pellets and water bottles, but eat the grass down to nubs. Usually twice a day it gets scuttled about, leaving a neat square with little brown turds. It's a tight little mowing operation, that.

I like raising my kits this way, out in the sunlight, on the green grass. It's a fun task, too. Moving that small crate and watching them hop along. In a few weeks they'll be in the freezer or bartered off to other farmers, but today is grass and sunshine. They eat and soak up the rays. They watch the chickens, put up wit Gibson's stares, and sleep in a pile in the little sheltered section. They don't know what's ahead tomorrow, neither do we, but at least the rabbits take it all in stride. Focus on the grass. Feel the sun. Stretch like you mean it. Eat till you're full. Always be ready to move.

We all just have today. Live it like meat rabbit.

turkey wrangling: level 600!


so starts the work

It's Friday morning and the farm is alive. The goat's been milked and the dogs have been fed and walked. Right now a half gallon of fresh milk is chilling in an ice bath in the sink and tonight after evening milking I'll make cheese from the day's full gallon plus. In a bit I'll go outside and see to all the birds and rabbits, sheep and Jasper. No sign of the turkey's since they wandered back into the woods last night, but I'm not worried. They spent a week here at the house, where water and feed flowed. They are fairly easy to herd where you want them to go.

When chores are done I'll get changed out of kilt and sweater into breeches and half chaps. Friday is our lesson day down at Riding Right, and by "we" I don't just mean Merlin and I. Patty and Steele have their lesson right after mine so always spend the morning with our horses, learning and working on our dressage tests for Sunday's show. We always stop at Central House in Salem afterwards, Patty's long horse trailer right out front with Steele waiting patiently while we enjoy our salads and paninis. It's become a happy ritual.

Merlin will be back here at the Farm by my birthday in July. Brett and Patty and Mark are certain we can get a proper horse paddock ready for him by then. Since the land is cleared and the wood hauled out it is more a matter of slapping together a quick run in shed, some fences, and gates. It'll happen. I know it will.

I'm excited about the interest in the Fiddle Camp! So far three are signed up and a few more emailing interested. I'll start designing t-shirts and we can all vote on the winner here.

Okay! I need to get off this old computer and head outside. So starts the work!

P.S. Ryan Gosling healed up great!

photo by jon katz

Thursday, May 10, 2012

my favorite photo of me and jasper


photo by 468photography.com

rough morning

A lamb just died in my arms. One of the twins, a little ram. When I called in the sheep from the back pasture 14 sheep and two lambs came running out to greet me. I looked around the black and white feet, but the third lamb was nowhere to be found. I grabbed my crook and I walked around the sheds and feeders. He was nowhere to be seen.

Then I walked out to the farthest pasture. I could see the small white clump in the grass. I ran over and found him wet, dirty, but still alive. I carried him inside the farmhouse and wrapped him in a towel, set him next to the small electric heater in my bathroom. While he warmed up I put milk on the stove to warm and got a bottle ready. He took to it and my heart soared. If he was interested in food it was a good sign. He suckled and when I took the bottle away he baaed. "That a boy!" I yelled. Then he convulsed, cried out, and went limp. His heart stopped beating next to my own. He was dead.

And now I need to go milk a goat, and get a shower, and go into the office late. I'll go into that office and spend a day inside an building pumped with heat that doesn't come from fire, light that doesn't come from sunshine, and cool air that doesn't come from wind. A place with windows that do not open. I will sit in my desk chair and start working on email marketing and spreadsheets. I'll think about the dead lamb, and listen to people talk about our job as if it was some how a part of the real world. As if anything that entertains itself beyond the gates where blood and shit, dirt and compost, sex and birth, and shaking death was real? It isn't.

Reality is out where the lambs die.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

look at that boy STRUT!

herding lessons starting again soon!

The Milk Pail Diaries:
A Month of Milking

It has been a full month of living with a dairy animal as a single woman with a full-time job. I thought I'd check in and let you know my thoughts now that milking a goat has gone from novelty to a regular chore around here. I have now milked Bonita, my large alpine doe, over sixty times! She has produced over 45 gallons of fresh milk! All of it done by one gal, by hand, over the course of thirty days. And now I can not imagine having to buy milk from the store. Just like eggs, veggies (in summer), and most of my meat, milk has wandered from the realm of things I was just a consumer of and am now a producer.

This little dairy is chuggin' along.

I have totally converted to goats milk in my house. I use it in my cereal, oatmeal, coffee, iced coffees, chocolate milks, milk shakes, baking and cooking. I learned to make cheese, watching the curds transform overnight and drain right here in my kitchen sink. Chevre is my new favorite bagel spread. And the time I spend with Bonita has helped grow our bond in a way you just don't get from sheep. It's closer akin to horses, only instead of riding and working, you're milking. It's a quiet skill. I like milking. With one goat it takes minutes, and I have my post-milking chores down to a science. I ice the steel sink first, half filling it with cold water and ice cubes. It cools while I milk outside in my little stainless steel flat-sided pail while Bonita eats her grain and minerals. When milking is done I feed the goats their hay and then soak the milk till it is cold in the sink (about 15 minutes to half an hour). After that it is strained, poured into half-gallon or quart glass containers and set in the freezer for two hours. It comes out pipin' cold and slightly frozen, but really does remove any possibility of "goaty" flavor for a few days.

I appreciate what it is doing for my body. My forearms are the most toned they have ever been. I have dedicated myself to months of regular yoga practice and Downward Dog's got nothing on Descending Udder. It's made my fiddling easier too, since I am using my gripping hand muscles so much more than before. I feel stronger a month into goat ownership. And that fact that only three escapes happened mean my fencing skills are stronger too!

I did say that milking has gone from novelty to chore, but that isn't accurate. Milking is different than pouring grain into a chicken feeder and moving bales of hay. It requires an attention all of its own. It's become a mix between meditation and conversation, never one or the other. It's a mindless action in some senses, letting my head wander a bit, but then a back hoof starts to wriggle or there's a loud fart or something that reminds you to be reacting to the animal your head is pressed against as you empty those teats. So it's neither delicate or brash, just what it is. Just like farming.

BIG changes coming....


photo by 468photography

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

rainy morning updates

Another morning of milking a goat in the rain. Not anywhere near as bad as it sounds. The rain was more of a mist, gentle and making your clothes cling to you. I like this kind of dampness, where precipitation and perspiration mix. On a long day outside it can grow weary, but this morning a hot shower and a steaming bowl of oatmeal were month a half hour away. It is easy to sing through chores, wet and smelling like goat, if those promises are kept.

The rain grew harder but Jasper and the sheep (and their three lambs) weren't deterred from their morning meal. They are eating what's left of winter hay while the pastures heal and grow. Four days of rain means a lot of new green. I welcome it.

Yesterday while walking Jazz and Annie on our slow mile jaunt, I told Jazz about all your well wishes. He has trouble on the walk sometimes so we go slow. Allowing him time to throw up if he has too, walk at his pace. We stop at the stream and he and Annie adore wading through it, lapping up water, feeling cold stones on their heavy paws. As we were just leaving the stream and heading home I saw the green Tacoma I know so well rolling up the mountain. It was Othniel and his son, ShimShoan. They had a lawn mower in the back bed. Othniel said out the window, "We heard your mower was broken! We've come to mow your lawn!" and I beamed. I knew the rain was coming and four days would mean knee-high grass. I was trying to keep up with it with my reel mower, but its old and needs sharpening, so this was a blessing. I walked the dogs home and ordered Jay's Pizzeria's largest pie with extra cheese for us. They weren't leaving hungry.

So the lawn looks beautiful, Jazz is still plugging along, and the lambs are well. Goats get milked, even in a downpour and the new turkeys are making themselves right at home. One is for me and my Thanksgiving Dinner here at the farm and the other I bought for Jon and Maria. They'll pay me to raise it and have it harvested for their own table. I'm proud and honored to do it.

I have been practicing with Merlin. I'm excited and nervous about this Sunday's show. Anyone who wants to come and watch is welcome, we ride at 9:30 on the dot and Patty and Steele ride right after at 9:36. Come up to South Cambridge and enjoy a day of pretty horses and jittery people. The weather will be divine.

Monday, May 7, 2012

jazz isn't well

Jazz is my 13-year old (possibly 14, not sure since he was adopted) Siberian Husky. He isn't at death's door, but has slowed down so much from his large leg tumor and thyroid problems that a mile walk is enough to end him for the whole day. It seems like yesterday this fiery wolf was pulling me across the Idaho forests. Now he has a hard time getting up. It is hard to watch. I don't know how much time he has with me, but he may have all of it.

Today was not one of the good days.

PLAN B WORKSHOP IS MAY 19TH!

It is not this weekend! Please note the date was changed months ago, but folks are emailing me about directions for Saturday. It is May 19th!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

the monster and the mother

The ewe who's lamb was taken away will not stop crying out, sounding the call that once brought her babe running to her. It's hard to hear. Sometimes this place makes me feel like a monster. I steal babes from loving arms, chop off heads, hang bodies to skin and gut, and rip plants from the ground. It's just part of the story, of course. Every act of violence and deceit has a reason and an opposite cause. I am hearing that wailing mother, and it is ripping me up inside. But I also nearly cried through my smile, handing over the most beautiful ewe lamb in the world to Yesheva. It would be one of their new breeding animals, raised by an entire community who would call her by name. These are my friends, that lamb was a symbol of an entire year of work. She did not cry for her mother on the ride to Common Sense, just sat in Yesh's arms next to her 17-month-old son Rhea's car seat. She looked like a fertility goddess of spring. Her farmer's glow, perfect skin, flowing hair and lamb and child side by side. I was so proud to be a part of that photograph.

This weekend I engaged in so much physical labor and sleep I lost three pounds. I've been having a hard week, too many things happening at once and none of them pleasant. Nothing worth sharing here, and nothing consequential to my health or the general goings on of the world. Just life, family, old dogs, and friends and all their particulars and sustainabilities. I will be okay. I'm turning thirty in a few weeks and I still have so much growing up to do.

I don't know anything that heals me like work, save music. Tonight, tired and sore I set a pot of tea on the stove. While it puttered and smoked off whatever remains on the burner, I grabbed my fiddle in the kitchen. The fiddle I bought in Idaho, moved to Vermont with, and brought to New York. It isn't my 1900's Fiddle, not the one I gave away. It is a cheap fiddle from ebay. It sounds fine though, at least to me. All I wanted to play was one song, a favorite Appalachian Ballad I first heard in Tennessee called Blackest Crow. I played it until my hands ached.

I learned that song so many years ago, I brought it from Tennessee in my heart, learned it in Idaho on my first fiddle, played it on countless summer nights in the hammock at the cabin in Vermont. It rang out of this farmhouse tonight like an anthem. I played it clean. I played it with drones. I played and sang at the same time. I wish I could tell every practicing therapist in the world to hand their patients a pitchfork, a pig pen, a long walk and a fiddle. If it can help me fall to sleep it can help anyone.

blackest crow

now THAT'S determination

pasture romp

the ewe and yesheva

best twenty bucks I spent all weekend

The Poultry Swap was a great success! I got two Royal Palm Toms (9 months old), an english saddle and saddle pad, tomato plants and shared my rig with Patty Wesner and Yesheva and her kids (children and goats) from Common Sense Farm. A big block party, a livestock tailgate fiasco of the greatest sort.

After the Poultry Swap we all rode back to Cold Antler and I caught the oldest ewe lamb, now a beefy twenty pounds and tail docked, to go live with the doelings at Common Sense. I was so proud to hand Yesheva that big-boned sheep. A sheep I bred right here at my own farm, from buying the ram last summer to shots and rubber bands. She's beautiful. I'll post a photo of her at her new home with her new shepherdess soon!