Archive for August, 2009

Highs and lows…

August 29, 2009

Well, this is our anniversary week.  Thursday, our actual anniversary, we went out to dinner, a high point…Yesterday, we went to the Caledonia Fair in Lyndonville, up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  The Northeast Kingdom is still pretty rural, and so we enjoy going to this fair, which generally has a large agricultural component, along with the inevitable rides and sales booths full of mostly junk.  The animal population was way down, though.  Walter, of course, brought his own tent full of his birds, prefering to keep them away from the birds in the poultry house.  He had pheasants and guineas of several kinds, and some chickens I’d never seen before, and peacocks…all looking good.  The poultry house was pretty full of barnyard chickens, for the most part, and ducks, and rabbits, and, for some reason, a horse.  So far, so good.  The sheep and goat house had a few goats, including some Dwarf Nigerians which made me miss mine…(I really liked the goats, but didn’t like milking them, and overwhelmed with a bum knee and tons of expenses, I sold them.  Probably, I should have kept them…but I couldn’t see keeping something that didn’t pay for itself.  Some day, maybe I’ll try again.  The sheep there were few and looked like crossbreds. There was one crossbred jacob ewe, fat, big headed, funny looking.  And six or so plain ol’ sheep.  Not a good showing.  No swine; they had banned swine because of swine flu, mistakenly thinking they are related.  And there were about half as many cattle as usual, only two teams of oxen that I could see…disappointing. A high point of the cattle barns was the brand new little bull, l/2 hour old, born there a little while before we arrived.  Should have gone to the cow barns first!  And another high point, which we look forward to, is the turkey dinners, home cooked food (as opposed to the “foodish” sorts of things, including deep fried oreos–blech–that are usually served at fairs).  These folks put on a complete turkey dinner, all homemade, with homemade pies.  The Methodist Church in Lyndonville has been doing this dinner at this fair for 72 years.  It is always good, and the people are always friendly.  I recommend it to anyone going to that fair.  We also spent some time looking at campers, if you want to call them campers–great huge, motor homes, rather, sleeping 8, two baths, bigger than my house, in places, or so it seemed.  One pop up but no smallish campers that you could actually pull behind a normal big car or small truck.  Disappointing.  I don’t dream about luxury homes on wheels, just simple campers.

Got home, did some chores, got dinner ready, and proceeded to get ill…some sort of intestinal bug.  Not food poisoning, since I ate nothing John didn’t also eat and he was fine…Also, achy bones and nausea and general all over tiredness, in addition to the diarrhea thing.  (More than you want to hear, right?)  Well, at least I can’t say I got swine flu from the swine at the fair, since there weren’t any.

This morning, after dreaming that all the chicks were drowned in a pool of water in their tractor (in a fairly low place) in the night, and a second dream in which the pony was missing (we don’t have a pony, by the way), the cat was missing, the chick shelter was destroyed, the chicks and chickens dead or running around like a chicken without a head (Hah!), and the sheep shed out on the field (there isn’t one) was destroyed, with dead and injured sheep lying all over the place, I got out there this morning to find all well, except that the light bulb in the chicken tractor where the chicks are had exploded. I picked up the pieces, fed everyone, and am now back inside, where I think I’ll stay, taking it easy today. I have a new book to read by one Flora Thompson, called …hmmm…can’t think of it…it’s about the English countryside in the pre-auto days, though I’m not sure exactly when, turn of the century?  Gladstone is prime minister…1880’s? 90’s?  Not that good about history, though I do know that would be during the reign of Queen Victoria…but then so much was for so long.  (It interests me that the three longest reigning monarchs–I think–in England were all women: Victoria and the two Elizabeths.)

While out there, I checked out the pig fence to see where a good place will be to put the green gates to contain them when Boz comes to shoot them, bleed them, and take them away, early next week.  I think I found the perfect spot. Between now and then, I have to move the sheep, give rabies shots to the four little girls going with me to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival next month, take down fencing and mow, to clear a path for Boz’ truck…but none of that will happen today.  Today, I’ll just look up the rabies vaccine and order some.  I used to get it at my vet’s, but my vet has decided not to do farm animals anymore (no money in it!) and now has even decided not to supply me with meds when I need them.  (In order to make a good profit on such meds, he’d have to order a lot…) I’m thinking I need to change vets which is unfortunate.  I really like the vets and techs at Springfield Animal Hospital.  But I can’t see going to one vet for the farm animals, since they make almost no money from me on that front, and keeping the money-making animals (pets) at Springfield. It seems to me only fair that the vet who takes care of my farm animals deserves to also treat the animals which bring in the geld.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Okay, time to go lie down a bit and rest these achy bones.  Hopefully, this bug will pass sometime today.  We were supposed to go see Harry Potter 6 again tonight…now it will depend on how I feel.  And we are supposed to go to a picnic (which I’m sure will be indoors, with all day rain predicted) at Cedar Hill, where John’s mother lives, but I suspect I will not be attending that either. No point in giving a bunch of nursing home folks the thing I have.

Summer is winding down. It was not light at 5:30 this morning!  Some of that was the storm/cloud cover, but also, I notice it is getting dark at 8:15 or so, as well…That’s okay with me.  I’m not all that fond of summer.  Enjoy what’s left of it…

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Fruits of the Harvest…

August 16, 2009

Yesterday, I received notes from three different people talking basically about the gifts we bring to each other with our presence.  A sort of Bread of Heaven concept…We connect in deep ways, sometimes only for a second, which transforms our lives…and today, out in the garden, I realized that sense of “consolation without previous cause” as St. Ignatius called it, also applies to other species connecting with us.  The sheep who recognizes my sadness and comes over to look deeply into my eyes, the marvelous bounty of the garden, plants giving their fruits to me to feed me and mine.  Only three days ago, I picked 18 gallons of beans.  Today I picked another 3 gallons, roughly.  There will be another couple of smaller pickings and then, the beans will bloom again, and there will be more beans, from that one little 20 foot row in John’s garden. In addition, today, I picked two more cabbages, another cauliflower, and (couldn’t resist) a potimarron squash (Is it ready yet?  Is this an okay time to pick winter squash, or should I be waiting til after frost? Just before frost? Leaves to die back?)  I also picked two hubbard squashes which are enormous and turned blue.  I asked three people when to pick them, and got answers ranging from as soon as they turn from green to blue, and like pumpkins,after the vines have died back.  I give up.  I decided to let most of them sit there until the vines die back, but cut the two big, blue ones now, for a comparison.  I still won’t be eating them for awhile, I would guess, but I wanted to see if it made a difference to let them stay on the vines…sweeter?  Anyone out there: opinions helpful!

Early this morning, after chores, I washed about 20 skeins of yarn, which I skeined up yesterday, just back a week or so ago from Friends’ Folly Farm, who did a remarkable job of spinning these shetland fleeces into yarn.  They also made rovings for me from a couple of jacob fleeces, streaked, not homogenized, colorwise.  I can’t wait to spin that.  It looks like I”ll have lots of yarn to sell at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival!  Once it’s dry, I’ll take a photo of the yarn, so you can see how lovely it is.  It is somewhere between DK and Sportweight yarn.  I would guess size four or five needles.  I’ll have to experiment.  The caramel colored seems thinner than the moorit (brown) color.  I think it might well make a lovely shawl…

I’ve made the potato salad and cole slaw for tonight’s dinner.  I actually have to BUY meat.  I went to the freezer and found that all the meat that’s left until Sept. 1 is two pork roasts, three pounds of bacon, one flank steak, and three chickens!  THat’s cutting it pretty close.  The beginning of September the two pigs go to the butcher, and when I pick them up, four ram lambs go.  In October, the chickens get slaughtered, and in November, the turkeys and any other lambs left and not sold for breeding stock go as well.  And we will get our beef.  All set for meat for the year. I’d have more left, except I brought a lot to our son and family, last time we visited, and I paid Joyce in pork for the turkey poults!  I haven’t bought meat at a grocery store in two years: not even sure how much it costs these days!  I guess I’ll find out.

I sent photos of the four ewe lambs I still have for sale for breeding stock to the woman who does my website.  I haven’t been able to get photos of the ram lambs: they run away when they see me coming.  There are two really nice ones, one spectacular one…until you get to the fleece, which is lovely, but freckled, which means he can’t be registered…GRRR!! And one who looks like his lateral horns will not clear his head, so freezer meat!  I wouldn’t mind selling the two nice ones, but this year I’ve not had a single inquiry for lambs for breeding.  Oops, not true, Megan bought a ram lamb from me for breeding, but not through the internet.  I’m wondering just how useful this website is!  It certainly allows other breeders to see what I’ve got, out of curiosity, but in three years, I’ve had one inquiry about breeding stock from the website.  Hmm…

Okay, time to go to the farm stand and get two bushels of tomatoes to can, since our tomato plants all got early late blight from somewhere in the neighborhood, via wind.  We raised our plants from seed, but someone, I guess, got theirs at Home Depot, where the plants were infected with the early late blight. (It’s called late blight, but came way early this year. If it comes on time, late, it isn’t an issue, but early, it kills all the tomato and potato plants. )  So far, the potatoes look okay. John dug up some yesterday, because they were looking browned out, but I thought it was just the “harvest time brown out” which apparently it was, since the potatoes were all just fine.

Any idea on how to cook potimarron squash?  I found a recipe for soup on line and made up one which I liked even better…I guess I could bake it in the oven with cinnamon or something…I am such an inexperienced squasher…I hate zucchini and all summer squash.  Just in the past couple of years, I’ve come to like butternut squash in soup…that’s as far as I’ve ventured.

Farmwife chores…

August 7, 2009

Okay, it’s started…the season when I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  Yesterday, I canned 7 quarts and 9 pints of beans.  There will be more to do today, but I’m waiting for John to finish picking the beans before beginning today’s canning, which probably means I won’t get to it ’til after lunch.  He is already behind on his chores, so I doubt he’ll have them in in time for me to get them canned before leaving for Donald’s at 10:30 or so.

It’s also time for more banana bread making, as I have a ton and a half (slight exaggeration) of bananas from Black River Produce. There’s only so many that the chickens and pigs will eat before they go bad!  The turkeys won’t eat them…Haven’t tried the sheep.  So, yesterday I made 8 loaves; most are in the freezer at the moment.  I left two out for tomorrow is my turn for “coffee hour” at church.  Today, I’ll make another four loaves, but have to wait til the afternoon, since I gave most of the eggs to Kirk to take to his next destination on his family roundabout trip this week.  Temporarily, I’m out of eggs!  By this afternoon, hopefully, there’ll be another half dozen eggs, which will just do it for the banana bread.

Donald called last night, and today I’m going to his place to help him decide what to cull and what to keep.  He has different flock goals than I do, doesn’t register his sheep, but is a good friend, and it’s fun to go have tea with him and check out his sheep.  (Probably when he says, which of these two would you keep, he keeps the one I don’t choose! But who cares; it’s always fun to go talk sheep with another breeder.)

Tomorrow morning I’ve volunteered to help neighbor, Julie, who is on the board of the Weathersfield Historical Society (yawn), with the “Frippery,” a glorified yard sale they hold each year.  So, I’ll be busy smiling for a few hours in the morning, and taking money from people looking for bargains.  I seldom get to this event, and haven’t really helped with it.  Interestingly, JOHN is a member of the WHS, but I am not.  Nevertheless, it’s ME they asked to help.  I will never understand these people!  I’m sure there’s great value in what they do, but they seem to obsess on details of the past.  (I know, I know, those who pay no attention to history are condemned to repeat it, or something like that…Santayana? Spelling? A LONG time ago…)

It is a glorious day, my kind of Vermont summer day: cool this morning (50), bright and sunny, no humidity, high supposed to be around 75.  A good day to get stuff done, either inside or out.  I don’t know how people manage canning in hot, humid N.J. and places like it.

High Summer

August 5, 2009

My sense is that global warming, or climate change or whatever you want to call it has resulted, at least in the NorthEast, in a shift in weather by about a month.  Winter doesn’t really seem to start in earnest until January or late December, instead of the mid-November of 15-20 years ago, and high summer, with temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s is now coming in August instead of July.  It may be just a temporary thing, but it surely seems consistent over the past several years.  Today is the second day of what I call high summer: hot and humid, might hit 87 or 88, who knows.  Yucky.  A day I try to get everything done by 9 a.m. and stay in the rest of the day.

Yesterday morning, I managed to catch two out of four of the remaining ram lambs, and my nephew caught a third last night. Overnight they spent in the winter chicken pen, which is an old dog enclosure, 10 x 10.  This morning I transferred them to nice, fresh, lovely pasture, where they are discovering that there is, indeed, life after mother.  Then, I went out to the ewe pasture and managed to catch the last of the four.  GREAT!  I got him as far as the recently vacated chicken pen, remembered I’d forgotten wormers, put him in the pen, and went to the house to get wormer.  While up there, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and filled a bucket with water to bring to the turkeys.  On my way back to the chicken pen area, one hand carrying a big bucket of water, the other a bunch of bananas (for the turkeys) and the wormer, I saw the little ram lamb, beating the side of the chicken pen, which was secured with some baling twine, unfortunately, that had been there since last fall, and hence, was not in the best of shape. By the time I made it to the entrance, he had snapped the twine, squeezed through the opening, slid through the straight wire, perimeter fence, and was hightailing it back to where the mothers were.  I managed in the next ten minutes to get him (oops, split infinitive, not good according to Mrs. Rossiter, my high school English teacher) back in with the mothers without his either seriously tearing up the fence, or letting the mothers loose.  I’ll give him a few days’ rest, hoping he’ll forget what a terrible person I am, and then try to get him again.  Luckily, he is the youngest of the four, not four months old yet, so hopefully, there will not be any unwanted breeding.  It is not likely the mothers are cycling yet, but better safe than sorry.  So, what started out as a very successful sheep day, ended up with one wrinkle.

After finishing chores, I went to John’s garden, thinking to check on the beans.  I picked beans down one side (wide row, two sides and middle of row plantings) about l/2 way, and ended up with a big bucket of beans, hardly a dent in the first crop.  But I was tired and the bugs had gotten the word out that there was a human feast in aisle 9 of the grocery garden.  I brought the beans in and “snapped” them, put them in a plastic bag in the frig.  About a gallon.  Tomorrow, John will pick the rest, and I dare say there will be at least another two or three gallons, which means I’ll spend the morning canning.  Too hot today, and so far, not enough to fill the canner.

Kirk, my nephew, and his two young children, Ethan, age 10, and Emma, age 8, are visiting for a few days. This morning, they took off with hammers and chisels to find minerals at several sites they found on the internet.  They will be gone a couple of hours.  I get to rest a bit.  Basically good kids, though last night, Ethan, tired after a long day, had a bit of a hissy because the bed he was scheduled to sleep in had “girlie” sheets on it, which meant, of course, he couldn’t possibly sleep in it.  But he did, albeit on top of the blanket, for we all know if you are 10, almost 11, and you sleep in girlie sheets, you could end up not developing the proper male parts or something!  This morning, he is showing no signs of having been emasculated, so I guess he survived. Yesterday, we went to a shearing at my friend, Suzanne’s in Norwich…blade shearing by Kevin Ford, and then to the ever popular Montshire, where they had a blast.  They may wish to return to the Montshire today, or go swimming at the local pond or Dottie’s pool, or hang out in the woods…whatever.  Then, they’ll go visit “Gram”, John’s (and Kirk’s father’s) grandmother and then we’ll head out to a simple dinner somewhere.  Tomorrow a.m. they leave.  Oh, I forgot the most important thing!  Ethan with Emma’s help, will gather eggs.

The day is kind of overcast, with a grey sky and lots of humidity already.  And very still; I’m sure the bugs are out in force. THank God for these nice thick log walls and lots of insulation in the roof, and the dehumidifiers upstairs and in the basement.  The house is at 65, and will probably stay there all day.

You should see my hubbard squash: they are huge!  Okay, time for some quiet reading.