Archive for July, 2009

Pictorial tour, high summer…

July 26, 2009

Well, it rained again last night,  and there are thunderstorms and torrential rain scheduled for this afternoon, not terribly convenient as we are going to a commitment service of two friends, with an outdoor reception afterwards…which, I assume, will be transferred to the church hall!

But for right now, though overcast, there is a little breeze, which is keeping the bugs down.  I spent part of the morning transferring the turkeys to their new pen, out of their nursery, then came inside, wet and filthy and smelly, got cleaned up, and answered my email.  Then, I decided it was a good day to go take some photos of some of the bounty around this place.  First, my perennial garden…

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A daylily in bloom, one of many varieties, whose name I have long since forgotten.  Some I remember,some I don’t…oh, well…I keep promising myself to get better, more permanent markers for them, but I never seem to be in the right place at the right time…

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Some phlox, again, one of many varieties…I didn’t buy this one; someone gave them to me years and years ago, and they didn’t come with a name.

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Red monarda (bee balm)…with some filipendula in the background.  I love it when a second monarda flower grows out of the middle of the first.  Did you know that filipendula is a precursor to aspirin?  That if you ache, you can make a tisane out of the leaves and drink it?  Or so I remember from the herbalism course I took.  My friend, Pam, just gave me a bit of variegated leaf, white filipendula…quite lovely.

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Ligularia–the Rocket.  I first learned about these in an Alan Bloom book on perennials maybe 25 years ago, and have had some ever since.  I like them a lot.

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The turkeys in their new pen, trying out the roost, exploring the grass, looking for bugs.  One of them has already “flown the coop” and is wandering around in the ram pen.  Theoretically, when he wants dinner, he’ll come home.

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Cicero (coopworth, just part of a brown lump at the far upper left, and Frodo (jacob) rest while Gandalf comes over to see what I’m up to.

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My very limited, very haphazard attempts at gardening this year (and always) are producing some hubbard squashes, two here pictured.  (Now, I doubt very much I’ll EAT them, as I’m not a squash fan in general, but who knows.  After all, I’m now making and eating butternut squash and potimarron squash soups, so maybe I’ll advance to whatever one does with hubbard squash.  If not, my neighbor, Dottie, will be happy to have them, and I can say I grew hubbard squash.  The potimarron and butternut squash seeds were planted later, are just starting to flower.

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Then, in contrast, there’s the order and preciseness of John’s garden.  Why, he even knows where he planted what!  Showing here are the asparagus, long since gone and now going to seed, beans (variety: Jade. This row will produce enough before frost for me to can 50 quarts and freeze another 25 quarts or so for my son and family, and probably give away a significant amount.  Jade is a marvelous variety. John discovered it years ago,and it’s all we grow now. Very disease resistant, very prolific, very tasty.) and tomatoes, which he’s working on in the photo.  You’ll notice there aren’t many weeds. He’s out there every day weeding and picking bugs off.  What you can’t see are the beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, carrots, lettuces, radishes and melons…I think that’s it, oh, no, lima beans as well…I guess I’ll have a lot of “putting food by” to do later this summer, into the fall.

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Elizabeth Ann Fischer, my dog, walks with me up from the front where the gardens are, to the back, where the pigs are.  Lately, I’ve begun to hope that Lizzie is finally becoming civilized. She’s coming when called, behaving, and even helped me corral a little ram lamb who stayed behind when I moved the sheep pasture yesterday.  She’ll never be a Margaret, but she’s growing into a very nice Lizzie, finally.

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Jack and Jill, up on the hill…they are getting big, especially Jack.  This year, instead of two girls, we tried one girl and one castrated boy.   Matt assures me there will be no boar taint because he’s castrated, and he will yield more meat.  More meat, I can guarantee. He’s already MUCH bigger than she is.  They are happy in their large area behind the house, with room to run and root, and play.

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Last stop, over by the carport behind the barn:  John has planted his leftover Asiatic lilies in the midst of the dahlia bulbs.  He is planning on putting a garden in with a stone wall in this area in the future.

Well, that’s it for today.  I didn’t walk down to where the chickens were, nor to the lower meadow where the ewes and lambs are…that will have to wait til another day.  Hope you’ve enjoyed your tour.  Have a great day!

The Jungle Recedes…a little, for now…

July 19, 2009

Keeping up with mowing, where the sheep AREN’T, is a constant and steady chore.  Each day, I mow a bit…the edges near the woods, around the fencelines, around the vegetable garden, the “lawn” (a fancy word for the same stuff, which is growing around the house), …ongoing maintenance.  In addition, when the sheep are finished in a particular pasture, I need to mow it after them…sounds silly, but truth is, there are some things they won’t eat, largely, invasive annuals, and if I mow them down, they don’t go to seed and produce more of themselves.   So, I mow…every day, practically.  I’m about to put the sheep in a patch of blackberry brambles out beyond the far pasture, part of reclaiming more of the land for pasture for the future.  John will mow through the woods today, a swath, so I can put out the fencing.  Then, the sheep will go in, and have a ball eating blackberry and other shrubbery.  Blackberry and wild raspberry type bushes are very good for them, a toner and tonic for their reproductive tracts, and nourishing food as well.

In the next two weeks, I have to put up fencing on John’s pasture (his part of the front, where he raises veggies and fruit trees, but where there is also a lot of unused pasture, which he graciously lets me use, though he tries to micromanage the use of same, suggesting when I should move the animals…well, it IS his pasture!) for it is time to separate the boys from the moms.  There are six or eight of them, can’t quite remember, offhand. At least two are not registerable, and I think I have them sold for meat.  One is iffy: he is gorgeous, but has a fifth horn, a scur.  Should that scur fall off, he will have perfectly spaced four horns.  When I catch him, I’ll check it all out.  And there are three or four left who are good breeding ram potential, at this point.  Horns coming in nicely, good conformation, excellent fleece and markings…hopefully, I can sell at least one of them, if not more.  (The thing is, you only need ONE ram and maybe a second, in case the first gets tired.  All other rams are superfluous, unless you have a spinning flock of wool wethers, which most people don’t have…it’s hard to make wool wethers pay for themselves, unless you knit a LOT!)

On the veggie scene, John’s garden is looking pretty lush: the tomatoes have small fruits on them, the melons have started blooming, the beans look about ready to bloom, the raspberries are just about ready to burst forth in succulent redness. (Which means, for the next few days, I have to take the rest of LAST year’s raspberries–about 8 quarts left, I think–and make them into raspberry-banana bread, or have John make them into raspberry ice. )

In my little garden bed, the experimental hubbard squash I planted looks prehistoric: the leaves are huge, the fruits are 8″ long or more so far, with a few smaller ones bringing up the rear.  The butternut and potimarron squash plants are coming along, not quite ready to bloom.  I’ve recently planted the vacated ram pen with zucchini and sweet peas and sunflowers and dill and basil, with a few other things thrown in (called getting rid of all old seeds).  The seedlings are coming up.  I’m not getting a high degree of germination, but then, these seeds are at least two years old, at best, so ANY plants are a blessing!

I solved the “how to get the chicks out of the cage” problem, simply by putting a ramp from their cage to the ground: mama immediately hopped down and out, and the babies followed, enabling me to clean up their nursery and dispense with it.  The chicks are doing fine, growing like weeds, seem happy, are not disturbed by the other hens or the roo.  All is well in chicken village.

The turkeys are growing like weeds as well. It’s about time to transfer them as well.  They are running out of room in their chicken tractor, AND I will need same for the meat birds in a few weeks.  The turkeys will go in the goose pen behind the sheep shed, where they’ll have lots of room, lots of greenery, lots of bugs, and the rams just outside their pen to amuse them and be amused by.

Off to church, then back home to make more raspberry banana bread (stuff currently in the oven is due to come out any minute!), and possibly off to St. Gaudens in the afternoon for a chamber music concert by some people named Fischer, who spell it like my great grandparents spelled it, always an incentive for me.  Silly, but hey, I can be silly.

Like Susan (see “The Shambles…” link), I am knitting in between all this farm stuff.  I’ve been working on some socks for Josie, who has the booth across from us at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival.  I’ve just about finished the three pairs she wants…and another pair for me, with yarn I bought in York.  I’ve spun up one ball of the Wensleydale fleece I got in Leyburn (Wensleydale), and got all enthused about giving away bits to others, so managed to give away most of it…which was my purpose in buying it, but still…

Tuesday, spinners are here…I guess they’ll get raspberry-banana bread for tea!

Pigs, turks, and baby chicks!

July 4, 2009

Well, things are about back to normal around here, at least as “normal” as they ever get.

Thursday morning we moved the pigs, no mean feat, from the ram pen, where they’d run out of green stuff and fresh earth to turn over, out to the woods behind the house, where they are in hog heaven.  Jill was only maybe 65 pounds, so it wasn’t too difficult to lift her. (I tricked them: put a bowl of milk into the dog crate, one pig went in, pushed rump in with my knees, closed the crate, and John and I hefted the crate onto the wheelbarrow; he wheeled it to the new pen, put the crate inside, turned the power on, opened the crate, out she came!)  But Jack, I’ll bet he’s more than 100 pounds. In any case, just lifting didn’t work, once he was in the crate.  We had to tilt the wheelbarrow, and jimmie the crate onto it, and then, slowly lower the wheelbarrow handles, simultaneously pushing the crate a bit further into the barrow.  It was hard work.  But he’s there now, too.  They have been running around, sniffing plants, rooting around for whatever they root around for, and generally, having a great time.

Yesterday, Joyce took me with her to Black River Produce, a local place with high quality produce.  Every day, their trucks return with stuff beyond sell-by date, most of it NOT beyond use-by date…We filled Joyce’s truck with cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, corn, assorted root veggies…came back here and divided it. Joyce said she was advised to go between 4:15 and 4:45, for that’s when the trucks come back in with stuff, so it’s quite fresh.  So, Dottie and I went back, and came home with a truck filled with flats of California strawberries (who wants them when the local, plant-ripe berries are in season?), corn on the cob and two big bags of onions. Stopped at Joyce’s to give her l/3; on the way home, we still had so much, that we stopped at Julie’s around the block to give her some strawberries for her chickens and corn for her cows.  Then, back here to unload.  Last night I went through eight flats of strawberries, picking out the moldy ones, setting the rest aside, to take out for the animals.  This morning, I discovered pigs and chickens love strawberries; turkeys and sheep won’t eat them.  Now, for the corn!  It is too bad, really, that they can’t give a lot of this stuff, not past its “use-by” date, to soup kitchens around.  But at least local animals are feasting on it…with grain and hay costing what it does, it is a big help to get free “kitchen scraps” (can you call 30 flats of strawberries kitchen scraps???) for the animals.

I found one of the dozen turkeys dead this morning.  No idea why…turkeys do that.  So, into the compost s/he went.  The baby chicks are growing like weeds. I’m almost ready to put mama and babies out into the general populace.  The trick is, Mama is very protective of her chicks, so going in there and getting them out will not be fun, I’d imagine…and it is too high up off the ground for me to just let them go out on their own…ah, wait, what if I put a ramp up to the cage. I wonder if they’ll all follow her down the ramp?  It’s worth a try. Later today, I’ll do that…then, I have to put their “bed” under said cage, so they can get out of the weather.  I think it’s time they saw the world and became part of it.

Today is Independence Day.  My prayer for this day is that every person on earth can know freedom and independence, but also recognize we live in a global village, and so interdependence may be the better watchword for us all.  Once we learn we are all interdependent, perhaps we can also learn that sharing is a better model than greed and hoarding…though I have my doubts we can ever truly learn that.  How different the world would be if we could, huh?


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