Monday, November 23, 2009

I cannot believe its almost evening chore time. The day flew by and I got very little accomplished. Mostly because I had to drive into Tulsa to run some errands and of course have lunch and well, if time would have it the day is nearly gone. Thank goodness there is always tomorrow right?

Living in Depew, Oklahoma is a joy but I'll tell ya jack its a long walk to the rest of the world. It seems like the farm is an hour from everywhere. So if I decide to leave my enchanted farm and village, I'm out for the day.

Maybe this is a good thing at times but with 11 Southdown sheep at the fence trying to find that small space I may have missed. Why? so they can somehow squeeze their big fleecy bodies through and be on the other side which is so so similar to the side they were on in the first place! I've still got work to do.
I swear they are worse than the goats! I know!
But it does seem like the work is never done so I dont have to worry about missing anything.
Tonight all of the southdowns get pedicures, I'm sure it will be very relaxing for them.

Off to it


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Date with a fence

I was driving into town last night making the CSA delivery and I was trying to find a decent station on the radio, one with out news just music. I started to get frustrated till finally I found this station that was playing this great sounding tune. It had a slow old country twang to it guitars, fiddle, banjo maybe, I don't know. It made me feel really happy. The tune sounded so familiar, but I just couldn't name it. It was great though, then a male voice, tenor came on singing happily, "walkin in a winter wonder land" . AGHHHHH! NO !!!!!! its November 20th!. I was tricked!!!! I nearly ran off the road kids. The station I tuned into was THE CHRISTMAS STATION 24 HOURS OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC! IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE??????


yesterday was a fence day. The one thing you've probably heard about goats is its hard to keep them in. Its true. Goats prefer the fodder on the other side of the fence no matter what. They can get themselves in a whole bunch of unfortunate predicaments in the process if not looked after carefully. The Southdown sheep apparently have been taught by skillful goats on how to do the same. A few days ago they were all on the road happily grazing the fence line. It was a little difficult to herd them back, but a little alfalfa and the three of us being human blocks finally got them back into their pen. There was Ram wrestling. Now everyone is in the 10 acre valley fenced in safely.

I have really come to respect the ability to pull wire especially barbed wire. Yesterday I used a barbless wire to add a few more strands to the already existing 1/4 mile of fence. Normally I would have used field fence but the cost right now was prohibitive and I had the wire so I'll give this a try for now. So far so good. its been 10 hours so far. I know I'm setting myself up.

Ginger was a big help!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Slowing down

There is just the lightest frost on the ground this morning. Winter is slowly edging its way in. In some ways I've been fighting it a little which believe me I know is futile, but the garden looks so awesome and the threat of freezing temps is really gonna put my winter growing effort to the test. So maybe its not winter I'm against, I'm just a little scared of failure. OK terrified. But.... I have to re assure myself. Its been done before and even by me. There are books and farmers out there that make their annual living from winter growing. Anyway, all of the rows are covered. The green house is ready for plastic and I'm sure all will be well. I have 18 CSA members I'm accountable to so I nor Kasey will be slacking on making sure our green rows of spinach and lettuce and kale and chard are well taken care of.

On the other hand however, milk production has gone was down. I'm at half the production I was at just one month ago. Went from two and a half gallons a day of milk to just shy of a gallon. That means I've got no milk to spare or sell Every drop of milk is going into cheese making. I really need some more goats:) So right now I am milking 5. Next season I'll be milking 7 and after that 12. Talk about slow growth.

Egg production has increased slightly from zero to two now up to four a day. Thank goodness! I can eat a mess of eggs again for breakfast (a mess is over three). But really all this reduction of milk, eggs, etc its just the natural process, its smart really so I'm the one who needs to adjust. It reminds me I need to slow down start my winter projects. And just settle into to the cold comfort of the season to come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

May you rest in the greenest pasture Racey

Sadly we had to put Racey down on Monday. This will have been the first milk goat I’ve ever lost and I was very emotional but was able to hold most of it in until I went to bed. Then I allowed myself to wallow in this great loss for as long as I needed to.

The thing is Racey was such a people goat. She loved humans. We bonded easily when she was a crazy little kid. She had the potential to be herd queen but with Sally doing a fine job at it, it looked as if she was perfectly content with second, always heading up the back. I would watch her taking care of business with the younger ones and she was always second in line for milking.
It’s worth saying she was a very affectionate goat and loved being petted and kissed and she loved having her cheeks scratched. During the winter, the milk parlor is freezing so I would tuck my nose in the crook of her back leg and rest my head there. It was so warm and soft and the smell was so pleasantly earthy and sweet. She seemed to enjoy taking care of me.

Deciding to put her down was not a hard decision. She was suffering. I knew it, Linda knew it and Kasey knew it, and deep down I know Racey knew it. I had to rest in the knowledge that I had tried everything. That letting her struggle like this would not be honoring that goat I described before.

I’m grateful to Dr. Denham for all he has done to try to help. He did a necropsy on her so we could make sure we knew what we were dealing with and could prevent this from happening with any of the herd. It turns out she had emphysema which was secondary damage from pneumonia she had gotten last year in August when I was in Seattle helping my family with my sister. It looked like she recovered but It never really went away and there is no way to treat an animal with emphysema.

The good news is none of the herd is in danger. Everyone else is healthy and strong. I'm really going to miss that goat, so I'm just trying to think of the rest of the herd. They know shes gone, I can tell. She was a powerful force in our lives and we'll notice her absence for a long time to come.


Monday, November 16, 2009

A walk in the woods

Yesterday before evening chores Linda and I went out for a hike. We like a path that outlines and snakes through the back 230 acres of the property, We think it may be three miles. Since we moved here we've had the opportunity to see the Forest change day by day. It was raining lightly so our steps were quited as we mushed through the thick fallen leaves.

The light through the filter of clouds and misty rain made the Forest flora stand out in vibrant color. Blues were intensely blue, greens were vibrant and bright. and oranges and reds screamed out for attention.

There was an intensity of spirit that came alive under the heavy fallen wet leaves of Autumn, a time of year I associate with death and transcendence. That ol' end of season that looms over and dances in the gnarled leafless trees and tall prairie grasses that are dried frozen in mid stand was invisible to this new budding life.

Under all these decaying leaves was an ocean of pulsing breathing shining life.

all these years I had been fooled

all these years I had been fooled into thinking this was a time of rest.

Not so.

I'll never be fooled again or be sad that summer is over
I'll see a cold rainy day not a day to stay indoors but a day to visit my new found friends and to celebrate my life that is now cafefully and thoughtfully interwoven with theirs.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Getting ready

Cool weather is forecasted for this coming week and likely thunderstorms today, so that makes this morning about getting ready for it. This includes making sure all of the animals will stay warm and dry, putting the covers on all of our veggie crops (this afternoon). Even though there is no freeze in the forecast I still want to maintain the soil temp and prevent any possible frost damage from the evening lows this week. I’ll put all the tools and equipment away and getting the hot chocolate ready. I still have a lot of outside work, fencing and such for the sheep, and I might just be out there in the rain.

I let the new sheep out into the ten acre goat pasture yesterday. Over a week and a half of observation and getting to know each other they seemed very healthy and incredibly ready for some serious grazing. I’ve had them in a small pen behind the house were they had a beautiful and taunting view of the eighty five acres that someday soon will call them in.

I feel in some ways I’m hunkering down for the winter or something. My dog it’s been like spring around here, I have enjoyed every second of it! The winter garden is off to a raging start and the warm weather and sun has given me a chance to really get some things done, but its November 15, 2009 its time for spring and summer to move aside and let the natural process take its course, right? Winter is just around the corner. I am ready to see snowflakes and thick steamy breaths come out of my mouth and nose. But for now I’ll enjoy this day getting ready. I hope my Carharts still fit.

Late this morning I’m on a panel at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa ready to discuss the movie food inc. for a forum series they have after the first service. I watched it again last night so I’m fired up and disturbed but I have to admit I’m really bad at public speaking so I hope I don’t make an ass of myself.
Off to milk now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

quick racey report: improvment! not getting hopes up but still have hope.

Hay day

Every year round this time I make a trip with truck and trailer to get my alfalfa for the year. I must say its something I always look forward to. It makes me feel so darn farmy. I get my alfalfa from a grower in Blackwell, which is about 20 miles south of Ponca City, just over a two hour drive. The drive through the prairie lands is unbelievable beautiful, a sight in Oklahoma I expected to be more prevalent before I moved here. There seems to be thousands of miles of rolling hills and prairie dotted with cows and the occasional coal burning power plant. Have you ever seen the huge mountain of black coal, its huge! no wonder they need to take off mountain tops to get to it. (don't worry I'm not going to preach)

I do have to confess, I moved here in October of 2003. I had been to Europe many times and never in the middle of my own country, not once! I had imagined Oklahoma being like the last frontier, with cowboys and cowpokes, barroom girls and religious fanatics in one man bands on every street corner, lulling and scaring the begibers out of you so you could be "saved". I also expected the the streets all to be dirt and I was convinced before I moved here I would have to stock up on essentials that most likely I would not be able to find here, like socks and skivvies, shampoo and the likes. Ha! I couldn't believe it when I drove in to town and saw Tulsa. Oh my God! I talk to more people that move here that thought the same thing before they came. I couldn't have been more wrong (about most of it anyway). However, I was slightly disappointed at first.

Once I get to Blackwell, I pull into a monstrous barn. This time I have to back the trailer in trying to get as close to the wall of hay as I can so the heavy 80 pound bails will be easier to load. It's difficult to back a 16 foot trailer perfectly parallel to the hay, oh heck, or anywhere for that matter. I have gotten much better at it but it takes me a few times. The hay is about one story high, Lance, the grower climbs up on a hay stairs he's made to get to the top. He sorts out the sun bleached bails that I reject and tosses down the bright green moist bails for us to place like a puzzle in the trailer. We need to take home 70 bails today.

BAM! the first one hits the trailer bed startling us. The bails are heavy and its hard to just toss them around like he does. but we manage to finally get all 70 snug as a bug and tied down for the ride home. He checks all my tires, which are of course all low he tells me with a eye rolling sigh that says, dang girls. He also tells me I don't have the safety pin in the trailer where it hitches to the truck. I say "oh is that what that is". more eye rolling.

We drive off into the sunset, literally. Stop in Ponca City for some "authentic Mexican food" and were off back to the farm where we will quickly be the most popular girls on the place. All of the animals LOVE alfalfa, even the chickens. Its dark, and were tired. I'll unload in the morning. A days work done.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A little bit o yesteryear

I saw this little horse and buggy riding down rout 66 the other day on one of my many trips to the vet this week. The driver was thrilled I took a picture and after I had taken the shot he waved and gave me a tip of his hat. I felt like a tourist! Part of me was a tourist.

There is this fascination I have with the romance of yesteryear and when I see things like this my mind goes there for a spell. I think about it in terms of closeness and interdependence of community. I wonder what it would be like not to have the option to speed down route 66 going 65 or 70. The fact that our bodies’ race through time by train, plane and automobile must be proof of our own species rapid evolution that we are encountering in real time. But thinking like that just makes me crazy.

The year is 1868, Who would I be? what would I be doing? Probably the same thing I am doing now but knowing how easy I have it now, a whole lot harder. Daily chores and tasks like washing clothes would sound and feel very different. Maybe I wouldn’t go through so many clothes if I had to wash them all by hand, or I wouldn’t have so many clothes if I had made them myself or traveled far and paid a pretty dollar for them. If I had to boil the water, carry buckets in from the well etc. What would it be like when the folks you knew called and it still meant they came over? “The Dr. called on mother today”. “The tinker called and mended some tin”. Wouldn’t I value things and people more? Wouldn’t I care more? Or would not knowing the difference keep me benign. I don’t know. I will give myself a little credit I do put an extremely high value and gratitude for the people in my life and the task at hand.

Folks welcomed “progress” I’m sure I would have, fast traveling electricity and so on. I get that. But, the tradeoff I think is how “progress” has polluted us as a people, poisoning our bodies and environment. There are so many wonderful advancements that I can’t even pretend to imagine life without but…what is the trade off? For each of it is probably different. For me the trade off is the cancer my sister died of last year, it’s the obese children in our schools that are malnourished, and the fact that we’re just so busy and overwhelmed to do anything that actually addresses the cause, Because in doing that we would have to compromise “progress” or admit that “progress” is actually killing us and saving us at the same time and for that there may be no compromise.

This fine gentleman in his horse drawn carriage reminds me of the balance I need in my values for a way of life and the ease in which I’m able to conduct it.
If you were to reach back into the past what would you like to bring into your life right now?
What would you leave behind?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today is all about garlic! I’ll be finishing the garlic beds with some llama doo, planting, mulching and hoping for the best. It’s one of those things you plant where immediate gratification is not a driving force behind the intention. I won’t get to harvest the bulbs until mid June of 2010. I’m planting this garlic for next year’s farm table dinner “garlic lover’s dream” and our farmer’s market booth. Kasey and I will be planting about 12 different varieties of heirloom garlic.
The great thing about growing garlic is it over winters, so it’s not really affected by those snow storms and freezing cold wind we get, it just keeps in truckin’ till spring. So in February when everything else is dead, the garlic shines bright with its green leaves spiking up tall out of the ground. It’s really beautiful!

Garlic is planted in the fall. Each bulb’s cloves are separated, and these are the “seeds”. Each one of these cloves will produce an entire clove of garlic! How cool is that. There are hundreds of different varieties. We’re usually offered only one variety in the grocery store called California early or late, surprisingly much of the garlic we see in the grocery store comes all the way from China. You can order garlic on line and get a choice of all the different offerings which each has its own unique character and flavor. You can only plant grocery store garlic if it is organic. Any garlic that is not organic is treated with a chemical to stop the plant from ever sprouting. Yup, and we’re eating that!

Garlic loves rich soil, they call it a heavy feeder so it really benefits from composted manure or if you are lucky like I am to have a barnyard worth of fertilizer, sheep, goat and llama works great. Anyway if you ever want to plant go to or (seed savers exchange) to learn more.

Racey report: She seems to be slightly and I mean slightly better. She gets her last round of antibiotic this morning and we’ll just have to cross our fingers. I spent a lot of time with her yesterday telling her how much we love her and what a wonderful goat companion she is. It’s really sad to think I might lose her. So were all just hoping for the best giving her whatever we can. She’s pretty used to being spoiled rotten.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Racey, I love you.

Life on the farm isn't always blissful and euphoric. Sometimes there are problems that rattle you down the very marrow of your bones. Some problems you can fix and some you cant like when an animal fall sick. Most of the time they recover but sometimes they don't and the reality that someone very special might be edging there way out of the herd, out of the family is a heart wrenching reality for me right now.

Racey, one of my milk goats has been very sick with a respiratory disorder, I've treated it with antibiotics, antibacterials, and a host of other things all to no avail. She's getting worse and in obvious distress and dis-ease. After a long talk with my vet we came to determine this had every sign of chronic respiratory disease. She had this before one year ago but was able to recover. This time its a lot worse. As a last ditch effort I've given her one of the strongest antibiotics available hoping something anything can break through. But in the event it doesn't work I'm sure I will loose her.

She is a sweet one and had been one of my best milkers. She is so affectionate and can just sit forever with you and have her cheeks rubbed and her cute little face kissed. I am really crossing my fingers this will work. I have her isolated in the hopes that this doesn't spread and no one is too happy about this at all, but she seems comfortable just very labored breathing and obviously she seems really sick and tired of being sick. I should know fairy quickly if this drug is working, by tomorrow evening she should show some signs of getting better. I'm not getting my hopes up but I'm not giving up either. I've seen a goat recover that I was sure was a goner and now thrives. So today is a day on edge, fingers crossed and breath held.

I have had friends who have lost goats and other farm animals and I know its part of the life, its never easy. If it does come down to that I pray I can handle it with grace as they seem to have done.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

a living or a life?

meet Martha.

The weather the past few weeks has been so beautiful, feels like late spring. Yesterday (Saturday)I Slept in until 7am and awoke to the bright morning staring me right in the face like a hungry chicken. I wanted to be outside immediately. I wanted to do something, walking, planning, counting fallen leaves, something, anything to give me a reason to go outside. The new flock of sheep was a good reason, so after morning chores and after breakfast Linda and I went out to the sheep yard and sat with our eleven new additions to the farm.

They have been keeping their distance but after a while I was nose to nose with Annabelle and some others showed a slight interest in me as well. I was pleased their response wasn’t fear. I know it will take a little time for me to earn their trust and I’ll give them that, I expect to have a fruitful partnership with them for many years.

Ya know I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with the previous shepherdess of my new flock, Heidi. She asked me if I was a full time farmer. Strangely I was taken aback a little, I didn’t know quite how to respond, a simple yes or a simple no really was not a kind of answer this question deserves. But it’s complicated. Yes, I farm full time, like more than eight hours a day but I make a part time wage, so I don’t as some would say make a living, but it’s how I live. I work very part time at OSU Stillwater teaching cooking classes, for this I get a tangible usable wage that I couldn’t be more grateful for especially deep in the throes of February when the cash spring has dried to hard cracked red clay. But for me it’s not about making a living, it’s about making a life. I don’t know how to express that in a sound bite but I think it’s a good conversation to have.

Everyday I’m torn about this very thing of making a living and making a life. I’m happy. I mean really happy. But I stress about making ends meet. I’ve never felt more happy and content in all my life but I worry how I will pay the hay bill. What’s the compromise? Is there one. I could be unhappy and be stressed about the same things right.

Yesterday Belize one of my milk goats looked a bit under the weather so I put her on the stantion, let her eat grain while I stuck a thermometer up her butt. She had a high temp. So I mixed several aspirin with warm water and molasses and sucked up the mixture into a syringe that had the needle removed and squirted it in her mouth. I checked her every few hours, shes doing better this morning. Several days ago I found a hen unable to walk. Can’t for the life of me figure out entirely what’s wrong, been giving her water and food but no success, she’s one of my oldest hens and she seemed content and calm, but I made the decision to put her down, if I hadn’t I was sure she would die a slow death of starvation and dehydration, now she is in my freezer.

I have such a profound respect for the cycle of life and my role in it. There is death in my future I’m sure of it. So that settles it for me. Making and celebrating a life comes before making a living. Yes I am a full time farmer like most making a part time wage, but living a life I love.

BTW I went to the Garden Diva open house Friday night. Denise from Clear Creek Lavender brought some of her yarn which she had dyed herself. May I just say I was moved in ways that made me wonder what the hell is happening to me, how did fiber get so firkin cool?????? cant wait till my first sheering. .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sheep Raisin' good time

Well, I did it. I bought 11 Southdown sheep. I Went and picked them up on Tuesday from a beautiful family who just could not keep them any longer due to some major fencing issues.

I've talked about having fiber sheep and goats for a while now but strangely in spite of my desires, I have actually been in the market for more St croix or Katahdin Hair sheep to add to my flock. Its funny because even though I really wanted fiber sheep I was too scared to even think about getting any. The shearing, the fiber, I dunno the unknown, uncharted territory, insecurity, fear of.....who knows.

Well this young shepherd and his family needed to sell their flock I heard about it and called. I went out that afternoon to give them a look and came home will all 11. It was one of those meant to be kind of moments for me, where I feel like I am not in control but everything is right, the good, the bad the The. I swear just when I feel like a budding atheist ready to bloom and I go and screw it up by feelling that giddy presence of that, thing. That something greater, that mysterious mystery. Like the universe is like "um I think its time now for you to have fiber sheep and here they are".

So I hope to raise a large flock for all natural pasture raised lamb and fiber. I have a plan, I have hopes, I have dreams and all doubt seems to be clearing the way for what I feel is the next fantastic journey

The new sheep are in quarantine for a while so I can make sure there are no potential problems or diseases but the goats are really curious and ready to be introduced, and keep getting into their pen but so far the sheep seem very healthy so hopefully all should be well.

This is all pretty exciting for me. I'll keep ya posted!