Wednesday, August 31, 2011

dry times

More and more I'm seeing the effects of the drought on the pasture. The effects of rain we had a while back is long gone and panic is starting to set in again. There are nice lush grassy places but difficult areas to get the sheep too. I keep waiting. Waiting for rain to wash this whole problem away. Rain to satisfy the dry crusty hard earth. The ponds are holding out so that is a good sign at least, but I'm getting weary and there is just the slightest amount of dread clouding up around us. With the temperatures still in the 100's planting has been put off one more week. According to the forecast we should be looking at cooler temperatures. Beds are ready to be planted.

Yesterday I talked to a man I call my "hay guy". He is an optimist and tells me not to panic. He'll have hay. He's got several fields that just arnt high enough and one or two more rains and we'll be in business, so I'm procrastinating buying hay at $80.00 a bale opposed to $45.00. Its the kind of chance I'm really not confident in taking. If I wait too long I might find myself in worse shape.

Reclaiming our pasture from the decades of abuse and neglect is a slow process. The bare patches of pail dirt and erosion tell a story of a child who has not been loved. I don't own this place I just lease it but I've grown to love it in a motherly way. But its like an abused child and I realize its just going to take time. If given the opportunity to grow a seed I've planted, it retreats, void of the life sustaining nutrients needed. By grazing the sheep they help clean up the dry grasses and weeds, till in their manure from one place to the next. They spread grass seed and nitrogen, then the chickens come and scratch a little go through the manure, till up the thin layer of seed bed and move on to the next spot, then presumably the rains come, making life available. This is a hard slow deliberate way to love someone. Machinery and chemicals are another way but the effects cause greater harm and are short lived. But I can see the temptation. This is an enduring love.

I have plans to buy a manure spreader I can use over the winter to spread horse manure from a nearby stable over the pastures. Again more work for a love I may never reap the rewards from. I know this will pass, at least that's what seems more probable than another dust bowl, but really I don't know. But being positive is my only defence from despair, so I go on and look to next week, next month and hope for a wet cold winter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

no break

Well it looks like summer is rearing it's ugly head again with temperatures topping 105 degrees. Last week we planted our first round of fall vegetables. We had alright germination but I was really pushing it. It was our plan to plant the second succession of vegetables today but I think I better just wait, soil temps are back up and I don't want to waste the seed. One more week I hope.

I'm telling you fall cannot get here fast enough. Yesterday I'm not sure what I was thinking but Kathleen and I worked in the field from 8am-3pm somehow I thought it was only 97 and found out later temps had gotten to 105 no wonder I could barley move this morning. I kept thinking It was really hot but then would tell myself it was only 97 push through it. I was hoeing and I love to hoe.

Today were working out in the field until 1pm and then spending the rest of the day reading Elliot Coleman. We're gearing up for winter. I think this may be my best winter ever.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Catching up

I'm taking a little break from fall planting this morning and thought I would catch ya up a little on the farm happenings and such. Well, we are surviving and that thanks to the rain we had last week. Cooled things off just enough to enable us to plant this week and untwist our tighty whities. I'll tell you we were all women on the verge here. On the verge of what I couldn't tell you we were just on the verge.

I'm still having troubles with sheep, The electro net just doesn't hold em any longer even with moving the fence everyday. The ground is so hard its nearly impossible to get the steaks in even with a sledge, the steaks just bend and just pop out. So the last straw was last week when they... all 145 of them were in the garden. No damage really but slightly frustrating. So they are in the 10 acre goat pasture until I can figure something out. I'm kinda stuck with them for the time being. So I will work this out. Got some ideas up my sleeve.

The goats on the other hand are perfect angels in every way. I know, go figure. The sheep I must say do like being in with the goats. Strangely I think the sheep want more attention from us, they are more content when they are close to the goat barn and house. So I really do need to figure this out.

It feels good to start planting fresh clean beds. Kathleen and I have planted arugula, chard, beets, spinach, broccoli rabe, and carrots. Next up is lettuce mix, turnips, kale, collards, more beets and carrots more arugula and spinach. So far so good and this morning the arugula had begun to germinate. Good sign. real good sign.

I'm in the process of applying for a grant to help get the dairy up to grade A and have been talking to potential investors. **If your interested in being one now you just let me know**. But its kind of scary. Not the Grade A dairy and cheese processing facility, that feels like all good. The prospect that I may not raise the money, I may not get the grant. Then what? I don't know and I suppose I haven't really spent too much time thinking about it, but there is a little pang in my heart when I think of the possibility that this might not happen. But I'll know soon enough. But right now I'm positive and motivated.

The cool weather mostly the evening lows of 78 have helped the tomato plants start setting fruit. We may end up with a fall crop after all. The pepper plants too have lots of blossoms. It would be really nice to see things make a come back. Melons and Okra are thriving.

We sent out a call for winter CSA and are nearly sold out, that is pretty inspiring.
So, all in all things are going okay. Days are long and the work seems to never end but I've gotten accustom to it and rather think that's a good sign. I don't mind that its 11:20am and I am caked with dirt and sweat. nothing sweet cool water wont wash right off.

Well, I guess I better get back out there

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Time to start getting ready for winter folks!

Last night it rained! We woke up and both giggled a little. Oh how we didn’t want it to stop. It cooled things down beautifully!
We might just be the middle of the hottest driest summer I’ve ever experienced in Oklahoma since I’ve moved here, but there is one thing for certain, winter is a coming. This means in spite of the heat it’s time to go out into the woods and mark dead trees and trees that need to be thinned for the health of the forest. We won’t cut them down till September, but one day soon I’ll go out with florescent red/orange ribbon and mark what will become our sole heat source come this winter.

A group of us, my closest friends who I call my family will fell, cut and split hickory, black jack oaks and some others whom I haven’t yet learned the names of. It will probably take us a week or more to gather all we need, I alone will go through five or six ricks this winter, and the rest of the family probably the same, maybe a little more but that’s the average. It will be a little difficult getting to some of these trees but the woods will benefit greatly. There is too much competition for sun and moisture. Forest management, good for the land and good for us. It takes a lot of work but its important work that needs to be done.

Being prepared is the key to this life. So we have to think far ahead. Creature comforts are a warm yurt, plenty of dry kindling, you can’t fall short on these things or you suffer. We’ve chosen to live as close to nature as we can, our philosophy our life style, our choices mean a lot to us but it also means we work for these things. We don’t pay for our heat we earn it. We don’t pay for our food we earn it. We pay for motor fuel and the extras that go into the pantry like olive oil and flour and salt and some normal things. I trade what I can, for some vet services, beef when we want it, some produce that we don’t grow. There’s a beauty I’ve discovered in all this it makes the fire seem warmer and the food more delicious. I can’t explain it as well as I would like to but it’s a feeling that comes inside the wave of gratitude.

It’ll be a nice break from field work to wander through the woods marking trees. I’m sure we’ll get our share of ticks and chiggers but it will be nice to be in the shaded coolness just for a spell.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's 10:05pm do you know where yout farmer is?

I've chased the sheep out of the field (garden) three times today. No damage ... uh but...we wont be having corn this year....again...long story expect pt 2.

I have consumed approximately two gallons of cold water, 1/2 gal of goat milk, 5 eggs, 1/2 pound cheese, some lettuce ( i bought at wall mart) few strips of bacon, 3 ounces of fried paneer, 2 cucumbers in the field, 1 at dinner, 7 Juliette tomatoes, 1/4 onion, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, oh and a little feta, two slim glasses of wine and one shot of birthday vodka...that I sipped.....sweetly....

Its 10:13 I'm finished with my birthday vodka and now I will go check the charges on the fence and at 3:30 I will drink coffee, at at 5 I will be loaded, goats milked water filled and headed to the farmers market and that will get me through another week, in high spirits with birthday vodka to thank.

Thanks T-Hawk

Monday, August 1, 2011

Have it be for this

It truly isnt my intention to complain. More just to document. Something I can look back on for a better understanding of some situation somewhere far off into the future. A place I can’t see now, but a place where and when I might feel it necessary to look back on the past. Maybe I’ll need reassurance, maybe I’ll learn things do get better or pray not, things get worse. Documenting a day or a time might not mean much now, writing about the ups and downs, the triumphs and struggles, the tears, the joy, the rich times and poor ones. I got to know they happened. Got to have some proof. Some words, some understanding.

I have memories and hundreds of photographs of a time before this one, the time before I called myself a farmer with some seriousness in the tone and meaning. I have one photograph I took on the beach of Saint Vito Lo Capo in Sicily. It was of my sun tanned feet and the bright clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea behind them. It’s my favorite photograph of myself. My feet looked so relaxed so comfortable and so unaware that these many trips to Sicily would ever come to an end. I’m sure it has something to do with being young and having limited knowledge in the inevitability of change. Bless my little heart.

But just like then and just like now my life continues to change, evolve and transform, and I feel like I’ve come a long way with settling into that. And the older I get the more pleased I am to put some distance between the person I was and the person I am now, not having one iota of a clue of what lay ahead for the person I will become. I have some blind non affiliated faith that I’ll be okay. But I do have to admit when I wake up at times between the hours of two and four A.M. it all comes up for me to question.

Truth be told, I’m struggling a little right now. I’m trying to keep my chin up and I’m quite pleased with the job I’ve been doing but I’m losing a chicken a day to the relentless blistering heat. The animals are suffering the most discomfort and I try what I can to help. No casualties with sheep or goats thankfully but I have to say this heat is taking its toll on every creature four and two legged, round and oval heads alike on this farm. We find ways to cope and to keep a good attitude and look to the future, that’s the best remedy. There are little things that give me great pleasure like my solar shower and waking up each morning to the sounds of my heart beating in perfect sync with the natural world.

These nonstop days of 100+ degrees is reaching desperate levels. I’ve been told it’s been over 30 days of this. I try to hide my discomfort, mostly for myself, denial I guess. But getting things accomplished after 10 am takes everything I got. Kathleen my intern seems to really be taking it in stride but I wonder sometimes if she doesn’t have her dark moments too, when she just wants to give up and throw in the hoe. We don’t talk about these things. Cant. You’d understand. It’s just fuel to the flames. Stay quite about it, head down make some jokes, spray your face and head off with the hose. Let it run a while till it’s cold and go back to work. Come back in a few minutes and do it again.

The other day I sat on the floor of my office escaping the heat, thumbing through seven years of journals. With some comfort I learned that after August 15th temps start dropping dramatically, something to look forward to. But work needs to be done now. Important work. Fall planting, so I have produce in October and November. Broccoli, carrots, beets, fall tomato plants all need to be cared for now, not then, now.

Last Sunday night we got a ½ inch we think of rain, I lay in bed listening to it with a huge grin on my face, not giving a rats ass that the windows in my truck were wine open. When I first heard the patter on the roof of the yurt I was worried, worried it would stop, but after sometime my worry turned to exhilaration and excitement and Monday morning Kathleen and I spent the day on the tractor preparing the fall/winter beds. It was just what we needed. It was wonderfully cool in the morning and by late afternoon it was back to sweltering but we were fine ‘cause we were living in the future. We were plowing that field for October and we saw ourselves in it picking and cultivating in October until first hard freeze.

I have been offered some relief at times, when the wind hits me just right I get Goosebumps on my arms, breasts and stomach. I feel a deep chill. For a spit second I have to check in make sure it’s not a heat related illness, but mostly it’s just a split second of relief, when a breeze be it hot hits my damp sweat drenched body I’m cooled. But it aint enough, I want more. I want take a swim in the Mediterranean and eat gelato and go to a nice restaurant at ten O’clock at night. I want to sip limoncello under the starts with hot salty sea air in my nose. Sometimes I want this. Sometimes. Not all the time, not most the time not hardly ever, jus’ sometimes.

The sun goes down and I come back to life. We busy ourselves with preparing dinner, the night sounds blend in with the guitar strums. A cool shower under the stars before we crawl under the sheet. A fan gently blows on us and the temperature is warm but bearable and sleep is thick and deep, things don’t seem so bad.