Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yesterday Evening, In The Field

As I was getting ready to make dinner, a deer being followed by a turkey caught my eye out in the field.  To see deer and turkeys in the field at the same time is not unusual, but this turkey was following the deer.  Everywhere the deer went, the turkey followed, for some 100 yards or more. 

It was kind of comical, as when the deer looked at it, the turkey would stop.  But as soon as the deer started moving again, it would keep right behind, never getting too far away.

After a little bit, the deer stopped, and instead of looking at the turkey, it ignored the bird.  The deer now stood looking toward the woods.  I went back to prepping dinner (chicken fajitas).  When I looked out again, this is what I saw:

Aww!  First time I've gotten a picture of a fawn nursing.  But wait!  In closer examination, I saw not one fawn butt, but two!  The next picture shows what looks like a fawn with two tails.  It is actually two fawns, one on each side of the doe, tandem nursing.

When they were satisfied with milk, they stepped away from mama and nibbled a few of the soybean plants.  It was much easier to see two distinct fawns at that point.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Looking Pretty Organized

I just printed off a list of what is in my garden, section by section, row by row.  It is three pages long, and makes me look uber organized.  Which I find humorous, because while I always strive for organization, more often than not it eludes me.  In fact, the whole reason I made this printed list is because I can never remember just exactly what is planted where.  I can tell a tomato from a cabbage from an onion on a glance.  But remembering which type of tomato and which type of cabbage and which type of onion is a whole 'nother story.  Since I usually want to stick with the best growers from year to year, I need to remember whether it was the National Pickling cukes that produced like rabbits, or if it was the Boston Pickling ones.

So, this year while planting the nearly quarter acre that is my garden, I actually had a clipboard, paper and pencil with me.  I stopped at the end of each row and wrote down what I planted.  So organized!!

Just don't look at the tomato rows, where it says "2 ?? tomatoes, 6 ?? tomatoes, 4 Mortgage Lifter tomato". . . Those ?? aren't I don't know how many I planted.  No, they are I planted six tomatoes of all one type but forgot to write on the container which seeds I put in it!!  Again, organization eludes me.

But, just to look impressive, here are my three pages of garden rows.

2013 Garden
NE Section
1.  red potatoes from cellar
2.  red potatoes from cellar
3.  red potatoes from cellar
4. Yukon Gold potatoes (from FF&H)
5. Early Wonder beet
6. Detroit Dark Red beet
7. Catskill Brussels sprouts (seedlings from house, replant from seed 6/10)
8. Calabrese broccoli (seedlings from house)
9.Waltham broccoli (seedlings from house)
10.   Copenhagen Cabbage (seedlings from house)

SE Section
1. Danvers carrots
2. Blueberries w/leeks between plants
3. Berlicum carrots
4. Centennial Hops
5.  Asparagus (3 E/W rows)
6. Garlic (4 E/W rows, Georgian Fire, German, Inchelium Red, Siberian )
7. 2 Gooseberry bushes
8.  Strawberries (4 E/W rows after hops)
9. Strawberries (5 E/W rows after asparagus)
10.   Snow's Pickling cukes
11.   Boston Pickling cukes
12.   National Pickling cukes

NW Section
1. Bodacious corn (planted early May, poor germination; replant most of Bodacious 6/1)
2. Bodacious corn w/ Sweet & Early cantaloupe
3. Bodacious corn w/Sweet & Early cantaloupe
4. Bodacious corn
5. Bodacious corn
6. Bodacious corn
7. Honey & Cream corn (planted mid-May, doing fine)
8. Honey & Cream corn w/KY Wonder pole bean
9. Honey & Cream corn
10.   Honey & Cream corn w/KY Wonder pole bean
11.   Honey & Cream corn
12.   Honey & Cream corn w/KY Wonder pole bean
13.   Magic Lantern pumpkin
14.   Green Arrow pea (double row) (planted mid-May)
15.   Green Arrow pea (single row)
16.   Green Arrow pea (single row)
17.   Sugar baby watermelon w/parsnips, Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon w/leeks
18.   Crimson Sweet watermelon w/spinach, Charleston Grey watermelon w/spinach
19.   squash volunteers (acorn? Long Island cheese? pumpkin? )
20.   Crimson Sweet watermelon (1 from Dad) 18 Alma Paprika peppers, 15 Pepperoncini
21.   12 Ancho peppers, 12 WI Lakes peppers, 1 Bull Nose pepper
22.   7 Glacier tomatoes, 15 Bull Nose pepper
23.   19 Glacier tomato
24.   2?? Tomato, 6 ?? Tomato, 4 Mortgage Lifter tomato, 5 Celebrity tomato, 2 Glacier tomato
25.   4?? Tomato, 4 ?? Tomato, 6 ?? Tomato, 5 ?? tomato
26.   4 sandwich type tomato, 1 ?? tomato, 14 San Marzano tomato
27.   3 Roma tomato, 15 San Marzano tomato, #9 Cherry tomato (from Dad)
28.   17 Roma tomato, #7 Cherry tomato (from Dad), #1 Cherry tomato (from Dad)

SW Section
N/S rows
1. Experimental Tri-Color bush bean
2. Experimental Tri-Color bush bean
3. Filderkraut cabbage (seedlings from house)
4. Perfection Drumhead cabbage (seedlings from house)
5. 6 Perfection Drumhead cabbage (seedlings from house), Rd Lt. Green zucchini (trail packet)
6. salad cukes (Ashley?)
7. 9 sweet potato, 4 Cauliflower, 4 Brussels sprouts (from FF&H)
8. Honey & Cream corn (planted end of May)
9. Honey & Cream corn
10.   Honey & Cream corn
11.   Honey & Cream corn
12.   Honey & Cream corn
13.   Honey & Cream corn
14.   Bodacious corn (planted 6/8)
15.   Bodacious corn
16.   Bodacious corn
17.   Bodacious corn
18.   Bodacious corn
19.   Bodacious corn w/Waltham butternut squash & Hubbard squash
20.   Green Arrow pea (planted 6/10)
21.   Green Arrow pea
22.   Filderkraut cabbage (from seed)
23.   Di Ciccio broccoli (from seed)
24.   Boston Pickling cukes (from seed)
25.   Boston pickling cukes w/ Long Island Dill
26.   Snow's Fancy pickling cukes w/Dukat dill
27.   Copenhagen cabbage (from seed)
28.   Rutabaga, kale, swiss chard

E/W rows
1. Grapes, niagara & concord
2. Spanish onion
3. Spanish onion, E 4 ft Long Day Sampler onion
4. Long Day Sampler onion
5. Copra onion
6. Artichokes, Black Beauty zucchini
7. Birdhouse gourd
8. Detroit Dark Red beet
9. Rhubarb (from Jimmy)

Looks great, right?  I can see the omissions in it--like those darn unnamed tomatoes (I seeded Rutgers, Homestead, Red Alert, and Federle and apparently forgot to mark which container was which).  I also know that it does not yet reflect exactly what is in each row, especially the tomatoes and peppers where I have filled in 'missing' plants (seedlings that did not survive transplant) with others--the cherry tomatoes "from Dad" are designated exactly how I want my records to read: which plant in the row is what kind.  I lost a bunch of my peppers to a late frost and recently filled in some of the spots with banana peppers from a fellow farmers market vendor, but have not yet notated which numbers in that particular row are actually paprikas and which are banana.  That is something for this afternoon, and, if I don't actually get to it, once the peppers are on the plants it is easy enough to tell a paprika from a banana; they are two different shapes.

Overall, though, it's a huge step up from prior gardens where I didn't write down anything, let alone which row was which.  This will help not just with knowing what I planted this year, but where in the garden it sat, so I can avoid using the same section for the same vegetables sooner than every three years.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bees and Me

My salvia is in full bloom.  Although unless you knew I have several clumps of salvia in the flowerbed that runs along the front of my house, you probably would overlook them for all the weeds that have run rampant since I started planting and tending the vegetable garden.

Tonight, since the garden is still waterlogged from our approximately 3.25" of rain received in a 24 hour period Wednesday and Thursday, I decided it was time to give the flowerbeds a little attention.  So I went to work pulling out weeds.  Dandelions, ragweed, lambs quarters, horsetail, shepherd's purse, several types of grass. . .  I have a 'nice' variety of weeds. . .

As I weeded, the front flowerbed actually started to show some color other than shades of green (darn weeds!) and I could see the red of my 'pinks' and the deep purple of my salvia.

The closer I got to the salvia, the louder the buzzing became, and I found them to be occupied by numerous bees all busily collecting nectar.  One bore bee (aka carpenter bee) carried a load of pollen on it's hind legs, making it look like it wore fuzzy legwarmers.

I had come upon the bees slowly and innocently enough, working my way from the edge of the flowerbed a good eight feet away, and they apparently didn't feel threatened.  I slipped  into the house to retrieve the camera, then returned to the flowerbed.  Despite my childhood fear of bees (I tended to step on them a lot, running barefoot, and consequently got stung a lot), I now see them as not out to get me.  They just want to do their bee things without being bothered.  Watching them do their bee things is kind of interesting.

Sitting on the pavers of the front walkway, I sited myself right in front of a big clump of salvia, and tried to focus the camera on the busy bees.

The bees didn't mind me at all, and I sat for probably twenty minutes trying to get non-blurry pictures that also had bees in them.  The bees moved pretty fast around each spire of salvia blossoms, so getting clear pictures was no easy task.  

Some pictures didn't even have bees in them, like this one, which I think is a pretty good close-up of a spike of salvia.

And one really close-up that was horribly blurry actually looks cool when I viewed the pictures on the computer.  Isn't this a pretty shade of purple?  It is the salvia, all blurred together.  I think it would be awesome to find some fabric in this shade and use it in a quilt sometime.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Twenty Years Now

Where'd they go?

Twenty years,
I don't know.
Sit and I wonder sometimes
where they've gone. . . 

Those lyrics are from "Like a Rock" by Bob Seger, my all time favorite musician.  When that song came out in Spring of 1986, when I was just 14 years old(!!), I loved that song. It spoke to me.  As I've gotten older, I've better understood the lyrics, and I've loved the song even more.

But this month, they've been playing in my head more than usual, and I've been thinking of certain sections in particular, like the one above.

Twenty years now, where'd they go?

Twenty years ago today, DH and I were wed.  We were young, 21 and 23, with two kids all ready.  Strikes were against us--our ages, our children, our having lived together before marriage.  But we were committed to each other.  We were both hard-working, and focused, and loyal.

Twenty years, I don't know.

I do know, but they sure went by fast.  They went to living.  To the daily tasks of waking up, of working, of keeping a home, of raising a family, to going to sleep at night.

Sit and I wonder sometimes, where they've gone.

They've gone quickly.  They've gone to conceiving and birthing two more children, and to raising all four kids.  They've gone to preschool and elementary school, middle school and high school, even college.  They've gone to countless ball games and track meets, to choir concerts and school plays and talent shows.  They've gone through four Confirmations, three high school graduations, and a Marine Corps  boot camp graduation.  They've gone through dropping two kids off at college, and through two overseas deployments of a son.  They've gone through the joy of a first (and so far only) grandchild.

They've gone to rolling with the economic punches and the job losses, to making ends meet somehow.  They've gone to career decisions that weren't always easy on the family in the short-term but were blessings when you looked at the big picture.

They've gone to saying goodbye to grandparents and even a parent as those lives ended. They've gone to  teaching our children about death being another part of life, and that life goes on, there is always a better time waiting on the other side of the bad and challenging times.

They've gone to times of joy and to times of struggle. They've gone to times of feeling like we were falling away from each other, like our marriage was being pulled apart; and they've gone to times of reaching out to each other and stitching "us" back together stronger.

That has been the key: reaching out and stitching our relationship back together.

Like a rock.

This is the title of the song, and the theme behind it.  Like a rock.  Solid, strong, weathering the storms.  That is my marriage.  Committed to the promises we made to each other, and to God, on our wedding day.

And I held firmly
To what I felt was right
Like a rock.

I pray God gives DH and I at least another 20 years of this rock, this strong, solid, firm marriage.

Friday, June 7, 2013

I Don't Want To Be a Hobby Farmer!

I want to be a farmer!  Not a hobby farmer.

What is the difference?  Well, one is real, and one is pretend.  As in, one actually makes money for their endeavors, and the other spends more money rather than makes it.

We bought the forty acres of this little place here so I could be the first, a farmer, someone who makes money from their land.

Unfortunately, I have been the second, the hobby farmer, one who has done more playing around than serious farming, and who has definitely spent way more money at it than the amount of money I've brought in.  Selling extra eggs and hay now and then is great.  But it doesn't pay the taxes, and doesn't get anywhere close to touching the difference between our mortgage for this little place here (40 acres) and our old home (not quite 2 acres).

Even more unfortunately, I have spent ten years piddling around with 'farming'.  Ten years and untold amounts of money.  It makes me ill when I think of the funds that have gone out without generating any sort of return.  It makes me ill when people say "oh, you have a hobby farm!"

They are not saying it in a mean or condescending way.  Having a hobby farm is cool right now.  Society is getting interested in real food, and it's not so crazy anymore to be a person who grows a garden or raises food animals.  People think I'm neat, because I grow food and have a 'farm'.  They wish they could have a hobby farm, or if they know they aren't cut out for it, at least they get enjoyment out of telling people they know a hobby farmer.

But it isn't my intention to be a hobby farmer.  I want to be a real farmer.  I want to stop playing and get serious.  I want this little place here to be more self-supporting.  To pay it's own way.  It has the potential, the potential just hasn't been unlocked.  The farmer has not appeared, just a hobby farmer.

I think it's time for the hobby farmer to stop piddling.  Its time for a transition to real farmer.  I have land, I have time.  I don't have to go out and work a full time job off farm to make ends meet, DH has been doing that all along.  What I have to do is stop being afraid that I won't do it good enough or do it right, and just take the plunge to do it.

Do It: Invest in some fencing and the materials to finish my barn, then take in boarders and students like was the plan when we bought the land in 2002, and built the barn in 2005.

Do It:  Stop renting my 'extra' 18 acres of field to the local farmer for a paltry yearly per acre dollar figure, and plant it: to hay, to pasture for meat, milk and fiber animals, maybe plant some of it to u-pick crops such as berries, corn and pumpkins.

Do It:  Stop talking about making a pastured pork area and do it.  Put up the fences. Plant the forage.  Build the shelter.  Buy and raise the piglets.  Sell the resulting pork.

Do It:  Stop wishing for a cow in order to have raw milk for my family, and get one.  Start that herd share with the people I know who want raw milk but aren't in a position to keep a cow.

There is so much potential at this little place here.  There is so much potential in me.  Time to get over the fear and go all in.  I don't want to be a hobby farmer.  I want to be a real farmer.  All I have to lose is time and some of DH's hard earned money.  But I've already lost ten years worth of both of those.  What I have to gain is my dream, and money to pay off the mortgage sooner--to get DH an earlier retirement.  So really, there is no fail in diving in and becoming that farmer I've always wanted to be.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Time Machine

This is a time machine:

(It's also a really crappy picture, but what do you want from a cheap cell phone camera in an unlit barn?)

In reality, it is my tack trunk, that my father made when I was thirteen.  I had just started showing horses, and he'd seen a lot of other people at shows with tack trunks that they could pack all their gear into so it was easily accessible at the show, as well as portable.  He thought it would be a great thing for me to have, so he found plans, and built me my own wooden box.  It is not only stained to show off the grain of the plywood he used, it is sealed in marine varnish to make it weatherproof.  And after 28 years, it's still in great shape.  Still has the silhouette of a horse painted on the front, under the latch, and still has my maiden name painted on it.

The first year I took it to the county fair, we discovered that while my tack trunk is great for holding all the gear I could possibly need for three straight days of showing, it is not so portable.  Not fully loaded, not unless you are a personal friend of the Hulk and he happens to travel with you.  It is heavier than. . . well, I'm sure you have heard any number of nouns that would fit the sentence.  No way can one person carry it, even with handles on the sides.  Even two people, when one is a young teenage girl and the other a thirty-something mom, couldn't tote it very well.

So that fall, Dad added an axle and wheels to one of the ends.  Now, with muscles, one person could tote it around fully loaded.  Did I mention it can hold two saddles:  one western and one hunt seat?  Heavy, heavy.

And tote it I did.  Shows.  Fairs.  To the Upper Peninsula when I moved away from my parents' home and struck out on my own.  Back to lower Michigan when DH graduated from college and we woefully left the U.P. in search of an engineering career.  To five other houses before landing at this little place here.  Where it has sat, mostly unopened, for almost a decade.

You see, through the years and the moves, and the fact that I haven't been in a show ring since DS2 was six weeks old (yeah, I was that obsessed and on a borrowed horse of some old 4-H friends) in 1993, the tack trunk hasn't held my daily horsey necessities like it used to.  It has held the things that I owned and planned to use "someday", but didn't really need at the present time.  Present time went by faster than I imagined possible.

When I was getting ready for our garage sale a few weeks ago I decided I should go through my tack trunk and see if there was anything in there (like pony equipment from the kids' pony we'd had put to sleep in December 2004. . . ) that I probably didn't need to keep hanging on to.

I uncovered my tack trunk from the pile of stuff that had accumulated on top of it, unhooked the latch, lifted the lid and. . .

. . . found myself back in time.  First the pony equipment, and memories of how excited the three older kids were the day he was delivered--a week before DD2 was born!

Pony 1997

Memories of how DS1 would jump on the pony bareback if the neighbors' granddaughters were over, trying to impress them, and how many times that pony dumped him in the water trough dousing his pride.  Memories of how DD2 loved to go see the pony, and the day I'd discovered that her 18 month old self could open the screen door at the back of the house--she had let herself out and run to the pony pasture in the time it took me to use the bathroom!

Deeper in the trunk, under the pony stuff, was the show sheets and winter blankets from my main show horse.  I'd sold him in 1992, shortly before getting engaged (and subsequently getting pregnant with DS2, really it happened that way!) but always planned to have another horse some day, so kept all gear except the western saddle (I had moved on to dressage), including his size 72 apparel.  I'd forgotten I had those, but now that I know, they might come in handy.  You see, I had kept tabs on where that horse went after it left my ownership, and in 2005 when I heard that the therapeutic riding center that currently owned him was selling off some of it's herd to alleviate financial problems, I offered to buy him back.  That is how Old Man ended up back under my wing.  He'd spent ten years carrying children and adults with various disabilities, and that made him an excellent mount for my kids after their beloved pony had to be put to sleep at age 32.  Now that he's 29 and its getting a bit harder to keep weight on him, having that winter blanket in just his size is a useful thing.  Good thing I kept it 21 years, lol.

Old Man spring 2013

Digging deeper still, I found gymkhana equipment from when I borrowed a barrel racing horse to use on my high school equestrian team.  I competed two horses that year, my own show horse (Old Man) in hunt seat, and the borrowed horse in gymkhana events.  Gymkhana equipment that hadn't been used since 1989, when I last rode a barrel pattern.  Oh my!  I don't think they use leather skid boots on the horses anymore.

Ah, the polo wraps and cotton quilts from my days of working as an assistant trainer at a barn in the U.P. where all the horses did a little gymnastic jumping as part of their education.  The neoprene splint boots and doughnut-style side reins from that same era. . .  The horses I have known, have ridden, pictures of them flooded my mind; I can still remember the feel of most of those horses beneath my seat and the feel of their mouth against my reins.  Dozens and dozens of horses, numerous breeds, variety of sizes and personalities.

I probably spent an hour in the barn, finding one memory after another in that tack trunk time machine.  I'm not sure where all the years went, but I am glad that after all this time, nearly 29 years since I purchased my first horse, I still am able to have equine companions.  And running a few barrels, or taking a few jumps does sound kind of fun.  (I had promised DH when we got engaged I would give up jumping; he was afraid I'd kill myself via jumping green horses.  So that's been a few decades too. . .)  I don't think I'm too old yet.  ;0)