Tag Archiv: farm

Thistles

Thistles, by Shibata Zeshuin (1808-1891). Compliments of thefamousartists.com

Thistles, by Shibata Zeshuin (1808-1891). Compliments of thefamousartists.com

Lawn mowers are my life long love affair. The roaring drone of the engine is ironically all about quiet. Sometimes I sing, or not. What I never do is hear who did what to whom, or what anyone needs, wants, or is looking for.  My lawn mower is a portable combination church, library, nature sanctuary, divine telephone line and therapist all rolled into one.

Before this summer, I mowed the fields when the lawn wasn’t big enough. Sincere men tried to explain that this was not what the ride on mower was designed for.  They were missing the point. Twice we had to have the blades replaces half way through the summer. The fix it man could not understand how a lawn could be so hard on a mower. But it wasn’t the lawn. I was traversing a field/pasture/premier breeding ground for frogs, snakes, praying mantises and mice, and swerving accordingly for any sighting of small life. The whole farm sits a few inches above bedrock. What can I say? Sometimes it sticks up.

This year we have bush hog, “to do the fields properly.” This is a mostly blessing. But the bush hog has to be officially hooked up in some kind of grand manner and then grandly unhooked and parked just so in order to fit everything in the barn. The bush hog cannot be summoned because I feel the yearning to mow rising to fever pitch. The current lawn mower is slower, coughs, squeals, and after it’s years of service, mows drunkenly uneven swaths . . . but it does not require advance notice to use it. The old girl still gets a go at the open spaces if no one is looking when the lawn is not big enough by half.

Farms can fill you with joy and overwhelm you with discouragement. It was a day of the latter a few weeks ago. Bee hives were not thriving. Ditto for apple trees. Ewe #3 did not get pregnant this year. Small but promising garden was demolished by a hurricane of cows. (When they couldn’t reach to eat any more off the tops of the tomato plants, they knocked down the fence and ate everything except the weeds to the ground.)

I finished the lawn and finished the apple/bee yard. It wasn’t enough so I started in on part of field covered in thistles. Ruining our beautiful, previously pristine field, thistles. I imagined the farm in a few more years. No bees, dead apple trees, and the pasture an unwalkable sanctuary of thistles. We would have to name our farm Thistledown.

I began mowing a hopeless protest through the four foot high sea of thistle. After four or five passes, I stopped for a honey bee. I looked closer and laughed. Honey bees were everywhere, inches apart from each other, buzzing in and out of endless thistle flowers. For the bees, the thistles were a paradise of flowers a short flight from home. The kind of thing a beekeeper would plant on purpose to help them.

I stopped mowing, happy. The thistle looked beautiful. It could stay, even multiply. Grace tickled my heart asking what other thistle things of my knowing might be secretly brimming with the stuff of honey.

Sharing review

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

Today I’m sharing links to some older posts (fall 2013/spring 2014) and saying a word about sharing. People ask me sometimes if it’s okay to share my posts. The answer is absolutely, yes! (and yes please!) Any help in spreading the word about the blog is much appreciated. If you like what you read on a particular day, tell your friends. If you find something dull, troubling, or unpleasant, why not send along a link to your enemies? A thought anyway. :)

Today’s sharing review has a bit of a family stories theme . . .

http://countyroad21.com/2013/10/30/tailless-as-in-without-a-tail/

http://countyroad21.com/2013/11/26/healing-and-how-the-short-people-do-it/

http://countyroad21.com/2013/11/19/uncertain-and-solid-things/

http://countyroad21.com/2013/12/12/girl-two-on-day-three/

http://countyroad21.com/2014/01/15/advice-to-my-children/

http://countyroad21.com/2014/02/24/grounded-with-wings/

 

This photo caught my eye on morguefile.com as well.

This photo caught my eye on morguefile.com as well.

National Holiday Cake

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Picture is upside down but candles are arranged to spell, “old.”

 

The holiday was national as applied to the nation of County Road 21, where my husband and I were again celebrating our shared birthday. The kids made the cake, to which the poor lighting does not do justice. My contribution to the cake was in the form of empathy band aids for all the emotionally disenfranchised during it’s making. Knowing only who hurt whose feelings, whose ideas got TOTALLY ignored, and that they didn’t like any of the frosting recipes so they made up their own, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cake.

It was delicious, including the frosting. I should say that outright. Their joy in presenting was helpfully contagious. Unfortunately, I have a few issues with germs and food cleanliness. The decision to decorate the cake with fragments of potentially poisonous bits of chopped up rubber snake, cars, and other well used toys was a stretch for me. We didn’t have to guess the theme (which is good because I wouldn’t have figured it out). The birthday man and I were treated to a verbal tour of the cake with great pride and enthusiasm.

Look at the cake. Do you get it? We’ve got everything.

Look. See that brown thing? It’s actually a hat from one of our toys, but here it’s the poop. Get it? It’s a farm!

Don’t forget to show them the pee.

Yeah, see that? There was a trailing blob of yellow food coloring in one corner. That’s the pee. It is definitely not a farm without pee.

There was a car, people, fields. The cake was chocolate. Brown was the color chosen for the icing. Earthy tones all around. Coconut and walnuts for texture.

Doesn’t it look like the snake is actually crawling through the cake?

And did you see the sheep guts? That’s what the red is with all the lumps. Blood and guts. 

Isn’t it great? We knew you’d like it.

 

It really was delicious. I removed the germ infested toys and poisonous rubber snake bits as soon as possible and shook my head at the comradery and pleasure they never tire of finding in all things uncouth. It reminded me of Father’s Day. After all the cards and sweet things, one child ran for his gift. He returned with a blindfold, a nasty concoction he’d made, and the sincere belief that would be fun for his father to drink his recipe and guess the ingredients. Behold the man. :)

 

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Family Work Days

wood cutter

Wood Cutters, by Tom Roberts. 1886. (Gratefully, not the way we do wood splitting!)

 

Spring has inaugurated the pecking season. That season where one never finishes but faithfully pecks at the list whenever possible until October. Saturday was a family work day. The sheep barn is clean, we put in some hours with the wood splitter (a shiny red machine, not a person), we made a start towards cleaning up some more of the pasture, and we spread brown treasures around the property. Our manure spreading is shovels and pitch forks from a wagon pulled by the smallest tractor driver who can still reach the gas and brakes. We also leveled some places for our new hives, picked them up, and got them in place.

Not a single child was excited about family work day. The older three accomplished quite a bit. The youngest did a little. There were lots of complaints, some good natured, some not. Feet drug in a range from periodic to emphatic. The after lunch return to labors was especially unpopular. It ended like this:

“I actually really like family work days,” I said. We were stacking some more of the wood we’d split.

“Me too,” said voices from every side of me.

“They’re one of my favorite times together,” I said.

“I know what you mean,” said one.

“Me too,” said another.

They began recounting all they’d accomplished, especially impressed that some of them could no longer reach the top of the stack we had started along the wall of the shed on the ground that morning.

Family work days give me hope. Not because we ever come close to what we thought we might do. (Why my husband and I spend such large amounts of time debating what should be done on the list which we never complete is a good question.) Not because everyone is happy all day.  My husband and I disagree on and off about how best to do it all. Once every fifteen minutes or so, someone hides in the bathroom, stomps off incensed at an egregious insult, or insists that they are starving, exhausted, or seriously injured. I tell myself as I re-motivate another child that work days are like democracy: the only thing worse than doing them is not doing them.

Conclusions:

Before this year, there is no doubt that my husband and I could have accomplished more in a day working by ourselves than with the family. But the scales have tipped. Not a lot, but a little.

Family work days say that work is an important part of life, but efficiency is not everything.

Knowing in the moment, the difference between failure and success, might not be a particular human specialty. Maybe the point is to keep at it as best you know, celebrate the stacks of wood and piles of poop you have, and leave the rest of it as tomorrow’s problem so you can go inside eat meatloaf with baked potatoes.

4000 Words

A picture’s worth a thousand words . . .

A lot of hay gets wasted (according to us) but the animals are quite happy with the edible bedding in the middle of the field. The white stripes on the barn are feed bags hung and weighted to keep the wind out at night.

A lot of hay gets wasted (according to us) but the animals are quite happy with the edible bedding in the middle of the field. The white stripes on the barn are feed bags hung and weighted to keep the wind out at night.

Unlike the rest of us, Buster is not phased by winter.

Unlike the rest of us, Buster is still unphased by winter.

 

Game of tag

Game of tag to celebrate some warm days!

 

Boy two making Anabelle happy by letting her lick his face. We don't know why she likes it or why he lets her.

Boy two making Anabelle happy by letting her lick his face. We don’t know why she likes it or why he lets her.

State of things

Summer 2014 July Aug 059

Apple trees:  Only some bore fruit this first year. The ones that did had one or two apples, except our champion tree with more than a dozen. Resulting apple cobbler was priced at $70 a plate, but maybe it was only $60.

Bees: Despite the failure of the Let the Boys Become Men campaign, and my subsequent involvement in beekeeping (due mainly to my ability to read) we are still glad we got our bees. If they can survive the winter, we’ll be sittin pretty for next year. If they don’t, well, we’ll re-evaluate.

Misty (the pony who arrived with a “staying for one year only,” guarantee) has had her chances of staying around here upped mightily. We had an actual horse person come and work with Boy one. They were happy with what he was already doing and gave him some help going forward. (Strike one success for the Boys Become Men Campaign.) The clincher was a show by a Canadian folk singer (Marie-Lynn Hammond) that I went to last weekend. I bought a CD about horses called, Hoofbeats. I thought I bought it for the kids (who are absolutely crazy about it) only I am in love with it too. (Honestly, if you love horses, kids, or good storytelling, you would love this CD.) There is some kind of magic floating around in the music because I’m starting to feel lucky when I see Misty in the field instead of wondering how many pounds she’d dress out at for the freezer.

The other animals are all happy. Chickens are laying billions of eggs. Currently, 1103 to wash on the counter. 31 little meat chicks are growing like weeds. We’re down to one chicken left in the freezer, so I am pretty happy to see them getting ready to address the situation. Until then, I’m scratching my head for recipes to hide tongue, heart and liver in. They seem to be most of what’s left in the meat section. I thought I’d done it with a stir fry the other day, but later Boy one got to shivering, telling me he knew there was liver, he just knew it.

Maybe you had a little, I said, but less than half of that meat was liver.

Mine was all liver. I could tell by the smoothness on the outside.

Statistically, that’s just not very likely, I said. Anyway, heart meat is kind of smooth on the outside too, so I doubt you could tell the difference.

His eyes bulged out and his lips trembled a little bit. Cocky boy whispered, you’re not joking are you.

Hmm – not joking, but feeling pretty good.

Lastly, the cats are failures. There are a lot of little somebody’s moving in for the winter to the space between the downstairs ceiling and the upstairs floor.  If, for example, you sit quietly writing during the middle of the day, they run over your head, in and out for hours. Does marvels for the peace and concentration.

Smart Bird

I saw this from my bedroom window and went to get the camera.

I saw this from my bedroom window and went to get the camera.

 

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Ms. Bird apparently liked the restaurant. She walked around without a care, stopping to pick up a bite, then wandering on.

Ms. Bird apparently liked the restaurant. She walked around without a care, stopping to pick up a bite, then wandering on.

 

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She outlasted me contented on her perch so I went in for breakfast.

She outlasted me contented on her perch so I went in for breakfast.

 

 

Drawn and quartered

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Until further notice, I see these in my dreams.

Current status: run off my feet with lambs. I’m not sure yet how many will need me for the long haul. I’m feeding one and half from the four batch, and the littlest lamb from the three batch. He was getting lethargic and falling behind. One of the kids asked if we could try feeding him. I assured them that it wouldn’t work. It takes a day or two for the new ones to get the hang of the bottle and after a week with just mom, most won’t touch it unless they’ve been hungry for a long time. First try, Jr. was sucking back on the baby bottle like a pro. Now he’s the first to come crooked happy leaping when he sees me.

None of the five batch have taken to the bottle yet. One does ok. I’m trying everybody on little nibbles and swallows so nobody gets dehydrated and Lily gets help with the milk supply. Overfeeding means scours (diarrhea) which means dead if it isn’t fixed. It’s a juggling act with bottle fed lambs to give enough nourishment, but not too much.

Milk is mixed, measured, and delivered at mom milk temperatures. Amounts are tracked according to when each lamb was born. The finicky five group, still deciding who is going to give in and who refuses to budge for sub par, takes extra time to cajole. From preparing through to clean up, each feeding takes about 30 minutes. Times five feedings a day means a lot of time and a short leash for being away from the farm.

Lily with five lambs stresses me. Lambs always do best with the mother. Mothers do not always do best with so many lambs. My sheep advisor (200 plus ewes and 700ish lambs) recommends removing any lambs past three, period. Only the very exceptional ewe can take four, he says. He has a separate barn for all the bottle fed lambs. They can bleat their hearts out until they settle in at the orphanage and grow slowly.

In years past we tried lambs in plastic tubs in the house, the garage, tiny pens in the yard. It is just soooo much work and away from the mom, they don’t thrive. You kill yourself for scrawny, weak, and barely, maybe. When you finally put them in the pasture with everyone else, they run to their mother, and she knocks them down and refuses to have anything to do with them. As is already clear to real farmers everywhere, I am not psychologically designed for farming.

But what if we are asking too much of Lily to raise all those little lambs? She doesn’t seem stressed but am I missing something? Decision still pending. Sleep still disturbed. Lambs fill and empty me both. Meanwhile I am stretched. Tough teachers those little four pound weaklings.

Letter from the Shitzoo

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Dearest Mother,

How is Arizona? Do you miss me? I am fine, the farm is AMAZING . . . but it’s really not the same without you. I have been thinking of home and how great it is. Then I was thinking that as terrific as our house is, it would be even more terrificker if we could, well. Ok, I’ll just say it. Could we get a little of the poop from here and take it home?

They’re very possessive about the stuff. Why they couldn’t spare some when they’ve got fields of the stuff is beyond me, but we’ll have to put our head together about how to get it. You should have heard the kerfluffle when they found me rolling in a mound of fresh bovine excrement.

“Grandma’s dog has crap for brains,” one of them said, but the tone did not indicate a compliment. How does that work? I mean, crap? I love the stuff. In my brain or anywhere else. Unfortunately, I had to settle for my neck, under my ears, and on my back. At least I managed to get it properly massaged in, down through all that gorgeous long hair you love so much, right on through to my skin. (Why do people use oatmeal on their skin? Moist cow plop is a hundred times better.)

The woman was on her way out the door when I found that most perfect eau de manure. At least I had the hour to let it set while she went to pick up the kids. After that it was no nonsense, time for a bath, and lah ti dah.

Only it wasn’t like home. No clucking and sweet talk. Actually, I felt pretty exposed. They do baths here outside. The water was warm enough, the day was fine, but you know what I look like when I’m sopping wet. I look naked. And I felt naked dripping out there for everybody and his dog to see straight through to my bare skin.

Luckily a breeze came up and she took me in to dry off.  My collar benefited from the massage as well, but they were bitter about losing one little square foot patch of dung, so they took it away. For most  everything, home is better, but for smells (and teensy, weensy little tastes) well, mother, there they’ve got us beat from here to Pluto and back. I hope you can find a way to bring some of it home for me. Maybe my birthday? The more kinds the better.

Your loving, long haired, shitzhu, lapdog,  Jasmine.

p.s. I’m watched like a hawk now, so no time for rolling. My taste testing tour has been slowed down, but I’m determined to finish. So far, either sheep or horse is the best (for eating) but I’ve still got a few more kinds to try. Cat is interesting too.

p.s.s. Birthday FYI: Best rolling= WET. Best eating = dry.

XOXOXO

Ode to an Old Farm Girl

Our 1950's era Ford 8N tractor

Our 1950’s era Ford 8N tractor

 

Ode to an Old Farm Girl

Oh the brand new is spanky and starts up real quick

Supposedly rarely in need of a fix

But the old’s not so bad, it feels good to drive

She might not be perfect but she does alright

 

I like my things real like the Velveteen rabbit

The old girl’s the one until she says she’s had it.

The husband, he dreams of snow blowing machines

But me, I’m in love with this tractor