Thursday, February 26, 2009

A good day is:

I know it’s been a good day when I can barley move my fingers to type. It’s been a good day when every muscle in my body is alive with festive flamboyancy, Yelping out ol’blue grass didies- (Up beat tempo folks): G, D,G,C,G I… was a juz an arm juz this mor-a-nin’ and now I’m an arm on fire oh, oh I’m on fire!

I know it’s been a good day when my stride has become a slow side to side waddle. I know it’s been a good day when my face feels hot and is caked with uncounted layers of dirt, haydust and sweat. I also know it’s been a good day when I notice I have really (really) bad B.O. and don’t givadam.

I know it’s been a good day when I watch the sunset wrap around my world even though I’m still hoping for just a little more light so I can finish my project. But nothing stops the sunset and I have to stop what I’m doing and let the vibrant color soak into my very foundation.

I know it’s been a good day when the sun goes down and I come in to eat dinner and I have to scramble an egg to eat, just to get me through cooking my dinner. A line from a Tall Boy’s song comes to mind: “I can eat more chicken than a pretty girl can fry”. I can.

I know it’s been a good day when I can barely get my clothes off to take a bath. I know it’s been a good day when I lay my head down in the quiet darkness and sink softly into sleep.

It’s been a good day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Opossum Ostory

It’s not that I have anything against opossums. I have a clear understanding that they too are creatures like me on this great planet and that why, when and how they do business only concerns me when it collides with my where, when and how I do business which happen to be yesterday afternoon in the chicken coup while gathering eggs. In other words folks, while reaching my hand into the dark nesting boxes gathering eggs. Yup.

About five years ago my dear friend Ann who is by all accounts an ol’time farmer, gave me some words of wisdom. I should mention that both Ann and her husband Ed have given me a books worth of do’s and don’ts of farming. Reaching your hand in where ya can’t see it was like #1 on the don’t list. And my mind shot back to that mental list as soon as I realized that this was no chicken I had just reached my hand ever so gently under. Suddenly I was face to face with a sneering, hissing, violated, interrupted possum.

After I had the screaming under control I realized I was no longer in the chicken coup but in the garage with a pitchfork in my hand. How did I get here? And what exactly was I going to do?
All the chickens were out of the pen. (I guess I left the gate open)They were making quite a ruckus and I see what looks like a big raccoon lying (appears to be) dead about 20 feet away from the coup. It has blood on it and I realize this is no raccoon it’s a HUGE ASS possum. But it looked dead.

Oh no, not the dead possum trick. I nudged it with the fork, kinda turn it over. The teeth were big and sharp! I could tell somehow it was injured but how? I guess it was one of the dogs. I walked away to put the pitch for up and as I turned around to see if had moved, it was gone! Sadie my dog who was right behind me had picked it up and was now running around the back yard with it shaking it wildly. (I really need to get her a toy). If it wasn’t dead it is now.

Now I don’t like it when a dog kills an Animal but…… then I noticed a silver hen limping with a huge gouge taken out of her back I realized I had came just in the nick of time. I would have to bet money it was the possum who had done this. I tended to my hen and got her fixed up with pine tar, water and lots of scratch that she wasn’t interested in. I picked up the dead, very dead possum and placed it in a feed bag and disposed of it in the compost pile.
Back to the earth where you were born my dear possum back to the earth.

The Wisdom of Ann and Ed:
Farm wisdom #2, in the summer when cleaning up the wood pile, never reach your hand or body part where ya can’t see it. Snakes love wood piles.
Farm Wisdom #3 if an Ewe rejects her lamb, take the lamb in the house, clean it up, feed it keep it warm and raise it as your own. Because it is yours.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Life begins for pepper plants

The pepper seeds I planted on the 8th have sprouted! I have never started pepper seeds before so I was a bit nervous, I still will be until they are on the sales table. Until then I will treat them with ominous respect. I’ll step lightly until they have flown out of the nest to be planted by their adoptive gardeners’. I planted some tomato seeds on V-day. Tomato seeds don’t take as long as pepper seeds and I feel much more comfortable with them. Watching these little seeds sprout was amazing and even though I’ve seen it over and over again I still get such a sense of awe and immense gratitude every time.
I did manage to get one layer of greenhouse plastic on yesterday with the help of Linda and Jill. Linda and I started out on our own but quickly found we needed two more hands. So with a desperate phone call Jill came to the rescue. Even though it seemed like a pretty still day it didn’t take much for the plastic to balloon out and make things extremely difficult for us. Occasionally we would have some still moments and would work as fast as we could to get the plastic secured. By the end it was on and tight. Still need to put the second layer on not sure when it’ll happen I hope soon.
Lady L update: She’s doing well. She’s eating, but still a little slow. I walked to the back last night for chores and she was laying down enjoying the late afternoon sun, she looked so serene and beautiful, chewing her cud. My friend Ann who has been raising sheep for sometime came over yesterday, I told her the situation and she concurred that it was just old age. I asked what I could do and she told me just let her eat grass and have a good time. Oh, I can do that.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lady Lef-teat

{Heed my warning: This story isn’t for everyone, it contains a short part that may induce stomach turning. That being said, don’t let that stop you}

I got home from OSU last night around 6pm, which is two hours past chore time. The sun had set heavily and the purple-blue-red horizon reached almost a full circle around the farm. There was still enough light to make my rounds with hay, and surprisingly enough light for the chickens to come out of the hen house and wait eagerly at the gate for me to throw down some scratch and steal their eggs.

The night was calm and quiet, but there is always something eerie to me about doing chores into twilight. I can’t really make out every shadow and I can’t read the expressions or body language of the animals. As I headed to the back pasture to hay the sheep and young does they weren’t at the gate waiting as they always are, and I mean always. When these animals get out of sync I know there’s trouble. I looked for Paschal (my guard llama) knowing he would lead me to where I needed to be. Soon enough I was noticed by a doe and the whole gang came running from behind the loafing shed.

I did my standard OCD head count; 4 kids, 3does, 3 bucks, 2 rams, spot, 4 lambs, two……I was missing an ewe. Lady Lef-teat was not with the ragged little heard. I’ve been concerned about her lately, she’s been slow to get to the hay and doesn’t like to compete for alfalfa. She’ll eat, but after everyone else. She’s also the one who had the nail that I cut several weeks back. Lady L is a sweet ewe she is one of the original sheep who was owned by the tomato mans daughter’s father. She is probably at least six, maybe seven years old.

But of course, Lady L has a story. A few years back she had lambed, everything was fine until I noticed her right teat was bruised badly. Now lambs can be rough on their moms when it comes to getting milk, but I thought this was a little much. After further inspection I realized her whole bag was black. I’m green behind the ears here and didn’t have a clue what it was, so I called Dr. Denham. He suspected it was gangrenous mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the lactating udder and generally is pretty easy to clear up, however gangrenous put a whole new twist on things. He sent me home with a weeks’ worth of antibiotics and told me that eventually it would just lop off. He warned that she might not make it.

Lady L was fine otherwise and kept up with everyone and yes it did sort of almost lop off. Actually it kind of hung there, well…..rotting (I know). I needed to deal with this. I noticed one morning….yes, brace yourself…. Maggots had overtaken the area inside the rotting gangrenous utter. So I did what any would do and I found us a nice quiet spot in the barn. I had gathered all the supplies I thought I might need; warm soapy water, two bottles of hydrogen peroxide, a drench tube, needleless syringes, iodine, bag balm, antibiotic cream, and a bucket of my finest grain. Off to work I went. She was so calm and peaceful with me she laid back and let me clean out the depths of her spent udder. It was bad and the smell grabbed me something horrible.

It took maybe an hour of constant flushing, plucking, picking, blotting, cutting, compressing, cleaning and the constant verbal assurances from me to her that we would get through this together. After that morning I went out twice a day and cleaned it and rubbed it with udder cream and treated her like a princess. I decided culling was not an option that I just wouldn’t breed her but she could remain on the farm with “pet” status. She throws twins and I didn’t know if one utter could handle it. She ended up healing completely and much to my surprise raising two lambs perfectly on one teat.

So, where was Lady L? I walked toward the barn trying to be nonchalant, I half expected her to be lying peacefully in the corner just too lazy to greet me, but no. I did notice however the gate to the hay stall was open a little at the bottom but still fastened at the top. I checked in the stall and sure enough there she was but something wasn’t right, she was down and pressed into the corner. It was getting dark now and I couldn’t really make out if she was stuck. I figured she wasn’t too bad off because she was nibbling alfalfa. Apparently she had gotten herself locked in and somehow gotten pinned in the corner. She had surrendered to her fate and probably thought it would be as good of place as any to die, so she might as well eat some alfalfa while she was at it. It took all the strength I had to gently move her back side so she could get up. She stood there for a minute stunned not moving. I checked her out as best I could in the dark. She took one last bite of alfalfa and headed out like nothing at all had gone on in the hay stall.

She is moving kind of slow. I’ll keep an eye on her tomorrow. I’ll take her temp see if she’s running a fever. I’d hate to lose her and I hope I can figure out what’s wrong with her if anything. We’ve been through a lot together. The hardest part about raising animals is the risk and fear of losing a part of your gang. Yet it’s the natural beautiful process of things that I need to embrace and respect. Accepting the losses and the miracles is part of the life. So I’ll do everything in my power for her, I’ll honor and give her the special attention she needs but ultimately I know to some degree it’s out of my control.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy days!

Greenhouse frame is up!
On Saturday Mike and Emily came over with their friend Safiyanu who is visiting from Niger. Back home Safiyanu is an agricultural extension agent and met Emily and Mike on their last visit to Africa. So, I was no doubt in the mists of experts and felt snug as a bug under their guidance. However, turns out squaring the thing was a real bugger! We were using the standard right angle 3-4-5 measurement, but after about two hours of unsuccessful results I decided to disappear and make us some lunch and also to clear my head of the fear that we would never get this thing up. But, Sure enough minutes after I left (ran away to hide in the kitchen, which is where I go when the world is just too much for me) I heard a hoopin’ and a hollarin’ I put the fifth back in the cabinet where I keep it neatly tucked away for emergencies and cursed myself for even doubting our success. What did it was a bigger right angle 6-8-10 I think. The greenhouse is 14’X60’: I’ll be completely honest I don’t really know what the heck I am talking about but, that’s what it is and it worked. You want I should question the mystical workings of these things? I don’t think so. Anyway…. after the corners were squared the world seemed a more welcoming place. We all felt the magic. I know we did.We celebrated with a feast of spice lamb chops, fresh goat cheese, braised greens from the cold frame, cous cous with dried plumbs and corn bread. Safiyanu liked it a lot! That warm evening the chiminea burned bright the moon was almost full and my body felt the satisfied tiredness of a day well spent.
Sunday reality hit. Linda and I woke up to the knowledge that getting this thing completed was going to be difficult and I was just gonna have to be patent. We were both pleasantly exhausted and really hadn’t planned on getting a whole lot done until Carissa (three peas in a pod ,#2 I think) called and asked what we were up to. Her and Cartson were gonna come on over and check out the progress of the day before. I explained there was still a lot to do but come anyway. She called back a couple of hours later to tell me she had a whole posse lined up to help. The greenhouse dream team showed up at about 2pm or so and by 4:40 in the afternoon we were 95% Finished! Pow Baby! That’s friends!

That evening the seven of us feasted on a frittata that Carissa had made from her girls’ eggs, gahram masala spiced lentils, brown rice, fresh goat cheese; plain and garlic-dill, breads and a big salad from the cold frame. Peach and berry crisp (from last summers’ harvest) and pecan pie. Chai, red wine, a little pickin’ and a strumin’ and a whole lot of grinnin’. Life just keeps getting better!
What’s left is this: finish bolting the baseboards to the frame; attaching the things that hold the plastic in place (I call them “those thingies that hold the plastic on”). And, of course the plastic but we need a still or still-as-we-can-get kinda day. I have no doubt it will be at just the right time and just the right people will show up, and god we will eat sooooo good.
I did start pepper plants on Sunday. My yoga room is now “the germination room” an even more spiritual space than before! I am blessed and deeply grateful to my friends: Linda, Mike, Emily, Safiyanu, Carissa, Cartson, Scott, Susan and Carrina, oh, and always my neighbor Robert for drivin’ a post and loaning me his drill and for the comfort it brings to me on lonely winter nights to see his porch light on.