Archive for August, 2008

Busy week

August 30, 2008

It’s been an unusual week in which we’ve eaten out more than we’ve eaten at home, very rare!  Last Saturday we drove up to Burlington to the Champlain Valley Expo to see Prairie Home Companion, which was quite wonderful.  We’ve never seen it before, though we’ve listened to it off and on for years.  Garrison Keillor is very talented, as is his team of actors and musicians.  He has an uncanny ability to take the background noises from the fair and the community (screaming women on rides, train whistles) and work them into whatever he’s doing at the time without batting an eyelash or missing a beat.  We stayed overnight in a motel so old it was all made of wood: no plastic walls or ceilings or showers.  It was clean and adequate.  We took the long route home on Sunday, stopping at various places, principally a wondrous nursery south of Burlington, in Charlotte, on route 7, called Horsford’s, I think, where we purchased too many new perennials, and stuffed them in the back of the Matrix.  Got home to find everyone fed and watered, thanks to Rick and Bonnie, “godparents” of the animals around here.  He later said that Bonnie lay on the hammock watching the pigs, while he hauled water to everyone, and each time he returned to fill up, she had another pig story to tell him. Pigs are fun to watch, for sure!

Monday and Tuesday were chore days, with lots of pasture changes, mowing, and harvesting crops.  Wednesday, our anniversary, we went out to dinner to find a restaurant we’d come to trust to have at least two plain choices without the current nouvelle cuisine (or whatever you call it) tendency to make chocolate covered chicken with tarragon and marmite, had gone over to the dark side almost completely, and so John was stuck with fish and chips, bar food, instead of the luxurious steak he was hoping for, as the steak was pre-marinated in some chemicals or another…or herbs, whatever.  I managed to order a filet without the stuffed mushroom and some weird sauce smeared on top.  So, it was not the best meal we’d had.  More and more, we find restaurants are so busy covering and disguising the principle foods (they would call it enhancing, I’m sure, but hey, what’s wrong with a carrot that tastes like a carrot?)  so that our only options are “family restaurants” which, in general, start with lesser quality food.  Besides, we like to go to fancy places once in a while.  Oh, well, the world votes differently, and these places are out to make money, so we’ll just have to deal with it.  (Even the assisted living place my mother in law was in, and the nursing home she is now in, serve food “enhanced.”  I shudder to think of what we’ll do when we get to the point of needing such places.  What will we eat?)  Enough kvetching!

Thursday night we ended up going to the local outdoor barbecue/hamburger/creamee place because I somehow thought it was Friday when I knew we were going out so I didn’t get anything out of the freezer in the morning.  (Losing my mind?  Oh, well, if my mind’s gone, maybe I won’t mind “enhanced” foods!  There’s always a silver lining, I guess.)  Friday night we went to a friend’s for dinner, groggy because we stayed up the night before for the high point of the week: Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.   What an incredible man he appears to be. I say “appears” because I’m jaded and cynical. I hope he is what he presents as, but so many aren’t…If he accomplishes 1/10 of what he is promising, our country and the world, I think, will be a much better place.  John and I have both decided, for the first time in our lives, to assist in his campaign, not by calling and visiting, which is just not our thing, but by doing data entry in the office, to free up all those young, enthusiastic political activists to go do their thing, and not be stuck with administrivia.  It is exciting, after 40 someodd years of voting, to finally be enthused about a candidate.  And proud of the people of our country, who nominated not only a good man, but a Black man as well.  Even if he doesn’t win, we have taken a big step, FINALLY!  What a year it was: a woman, an African American, a Mormon…and the usual assortment of rich, smarmy, ambitious extras.  Now, unward and upward to November…

Last week, on Thursday, one of my older rams went to a friend who has been patiently waiting for a mature jacob 4 horned skull.  And I sold a ram lamb for meat, whom I will deliver to the butcher in two weeks.  This coming week, two of the pigs go to the butcher, and another ram lamb.  Slowly, I’m getting the population down.  AND, at the end of this week, I’m off to Essex Jct, outside of Burlington, for the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival, which means I have to get health papers for two lambs, load the truck with stuff from Sue’s store which we will take up in anticipation of selling it, and then pack the sheep in the truck as well, heading up early Saturday morning, and coming home Sunday night.  This year, since I’m NOT in charge of the animals, I don’t need to spend as much time up there; nor do I have to bring two vehicles, John driving one up, and back twice.  The money generally spent on those extra trips will go toward a motel room for Saturday night, instead of sleeping in the back of my car, which is never very productive!  The following week is the Tunbridge World’s Fair, where I need to bring those same lambs, and my spinning wheel to demonstrate spinning.

Today, it looks like enough tomatoes are ripe so that I can fill the canner with quarts of tomatoes and process them, which I’ll do later this morning. First, I’m thinking that I’ll head out to the Cornish (NH) Farmers’ Market where I was a vendor for many years, to visit old friends, and maybe find some goodies I haven’t got here…maybe some good crusty bread, some fudge, not sure what else.  And I have two new perennials still to plant.  The hibiscus we bought are in bloom, one pink, one deep maroon.  We’ve planted them along the south side of the house, the warmest and most protected place we could think of, hoping they will overwinter.  We shall see.

I love this time of year, cooler nights and mornings, so few bugs until mid-afternoon.  Lots of fruits and vegetables to harvest and preserve.  Doing a lot of cleaning up of piles of things, trying to go into winter (not that far away up here!) with no piles of things which should have been disposed of, put away, etc.  And sometime in September, the hay will come, late because of all the rain we’ve had, and more expensive than imaginable, due mostly to fuel costs.   Sometimes I wish we had our own haying equipment…but the cost of same would be impossible for us, so we are at the mercy of the “hay guys.”

Lizzie is out “checking on the pigs”, her passion.  LAter in the fall, I will switch her to checking on the sheep, since Jan. 1, the second two pigs go to the butcher, and there will be no pigs for several months.  Hopefully, by then, she’ll be a bit more behaved, and I can get her to help me with the sheep as well.  Now, she goes with me to collect eggs.  Later in the fall, when the sheep are in close, she will go with me each morning to “feed the sheep.”  For now, I’m content to have her “checking on the pigs”.  (which she does for hours each day, not harassing them, just standing there watching their antics, much like Bonnie in the hammock…only she doesn’t come in and tell me stories about the pigs.

Okay, time to go get out of grubby farm clothes and into something without pig snout/mud stains around the knees. (Those pigs are very friendly, always wanting attention and back scratches.) Then, off to Cornish, while John finishes his project of building up the dirt around the gully where the bank has worn away, with the load of topsoil he had delivered on Thursday.  It’s long, hard work, but is looking good.  Hopefully, we won’t have any torrential rains before the grass takes root.


Rain: good thing or bad?

August 19, 2008

Hmm…..It is raining this morning, which is too bad, as it will put me yet another day behind in mowing. (It’s that time of year, when all the pastures need to be mowed  before the annuals go to seed, to both keep them from reseeding and to encourage the perennial grasses to spread and not go to seed, putting their energy into leaves and roots, instead of seeds.  AND, since it’s teeming out, I haven’t been out yet to feed any of the animals, except for a quick run to the pigs with a pail full of zucchini, summer squash, and stale bread to hold them over til the rain calms a bit, and I can put some pig ration out for them. (I am growing a bunch of zucchini and summer squash, neither of which we eat, for the pigs.  It is working out well, yielding 3 or 4 squashes a day which I cut up to supplement their commercial ration.  They also eat all leftovers from our food, except for pork products.  I’m not too into cannibalism.  AND, the rainy day means no picking beans or carrots or other veggies, with the need to can or freeze for the morning, after chores.  Mostly, it gives me a chance to post here on the blog, something I’ve fallen way behind on, given summer farm chores, and visits from the grandchildren last month, and today (still sleeping: God bless teenage sleep patterns!) 13 year old cousin from Virginia, visiting for a few days. Her parents return today, stay over, and they all leave in the morning. Tomorrow night I have company for dinner, Thursday: baking pies for the church pie sale (last one of the season), AND Lucas coming to help catch some sheep for rabies vaccine.  (In nearby Windham County there have been several incidents of animals with rabies, so it is especially important this year to make sure all the animals possible have rabies shots.)  Friday is free for the moment, Saturday, we go to the Champlain Valley Exposition and a live broadcast of Prairie Home Companion, while house sitters stay with the animals and care for them.  Sunday, we come home.  Then, it’s full speed ahead continuing with knitting and spinning in spare (hah!) time to have as many as possible items to sell at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival the weekend after Labor Day, and the Tunbridge World’s Fair, the week following that.  Then two weeks off to knit and spin like crazy again, and the regional Jacob Sheep meeting here, and the Monadnock Wool Tour,. all over in time to get ready for breeding season…and in between all these, several sets of overnight guests.  I’m both exhilarated and tired, thinking about all this!  Anyway, this gives you somewhat of an idea of why I’ve been lax in posting to my blog.  Summer on a farm where sustainability is the key word is a busy season.  AT this point, we raise all the beans, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, we need for the year, plus a little dabbling in other veggies; plus all the chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, and goose we need for the year, plus egg gathering, plus pasture management, plus making socks and sweaters to replace older ones, on a regular basis.  Not to mention the knitting and spinning I do for sale, to help pay for the grain and hay for the animals.

We did take some time off on two evenings to see “Momma Mia” (Mamma mia?).  It was wonderful. Hence the second time. There are so few movies we really want to see these days, that occasionally we’ll go see a good one a second time, when there’s no others. In this case, we had a houseguest and went with him to see it.  If you haven’t seen it, consider doing so.  It was quite wonderful.  My favorite part of it is that the leading women are all the same ages as the leading men, quite different from the usual Hollywood thing of pairing 60 year old men with 30 year old women!  AND, most of the leading folks were a bit overweight, which I keep thinking was deliberate, since they are all actors who usually are not quite so chunky.  Even Meryl Streep looked like she was a size 14!  And to see all these softig, chunky folks in 70’s bellbottoms and platform shoes was hilarious, rolls of fat in some cases hanging out or over clothing.  It seemed to me a kind of tongue in cheek critique of the modern tendency in overweight teens to wear low slung jeans with fat rolls hanging out, something which is a mystery to me.  Maybe it’s healthy to not be bothered by own’s rolls of fat, but personally, I try not to let those things show!  I gave up wearing bathing suits years ago as a gift to the world.  People should not have to look at my flabby body at the beach!  And I couldn’t care less about swimming, so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice.

It almost seems like the rain has slowed to a drizzle, so I guess, before the hoards start caterwauling, I need to go out and feed them.  The weather guy promises that later this morning it will clear, and we should have a reasonable day.  I’m off to spinning this afternoon with a friend, and John will be doing stuff with our cousin around the farm, I suspect.

I love this time of year, with the plants yielding their fruit; going out each morning to find what treats are hidden under leaves, what surprises the plants have brought forth for me in the night; gathering veggies and fruits (it has been the year of the raspberry here!), freezing and canning and baking pies…it’s a time to be grateful for the fruits of the earth, and to celebrate the fertility of the plants.  I can see why ancient religions of all kinds have harvest festivals of sorts.  It makes me want to have one myself…perhaps in late October…yeah, I like that idea…late October, invite all the neighbors, have a feast…an early Thanksgiving of sorts, for the bounty of the harvest and the blessings in our lives…Enjoy the harvest in your backyard.