Garlic and Basil and Dill, OH MY!


Finally — we are starting to see some of the “fruits” of our labor. Here are just a few of the things we have begun to harvest:

This may be my favorite thing that we grow: GARLIC. YUM. Garlic gives twice during the year -- first when we harvest the delicious garlic scapes, and now.

This may be my favorite thing that we grow: GARLIC. YUM. Garlic gives twice during the year — first when we harvest the delicious garlic scapes and now as we collect the full heads.

Here is our garlic in the drying racks. We will keep it here for a couple of weeks and then store it in our basement to use during the year. We will cut the "hair" off the bottom of the heads in a few days after the dirt has dried It is just easier that way.

Here is our garlic in the drying racks. We will keep it here for a couple of weeks and then store it in our basement to use during the year. We will cut the “hair” off the bottom of the heads in a few days after the dirt has dried It is just easier that way.

We have A LOT of cucumbers and they are huge. I have also started harvesting some of the beets. This one was particularly large!

We have A LOT of cucumbers and they are huge. I have also started harvesting some of the beets. This one was particularly large! Xandy yelled at me because I gave the beet greens to the pigs. Hey, a pig’s gotta eat too, right???

My basil has just taken off. Pesto, here I come.

My basil has just taken off. Pesto, here I come.

Look at this fabulous dill. Hmmmm...and I have cucumbers. I think I know what is my next post! :-)

Look at this fabulous dill. Hmmmm…and I have cucumbers…. I think I know what my next post will be! ūüôā

Stay tuned for the rest. Tomatoes are coming, and I think that it may be time for coleslaw. Hooray for summer!

Advertisements

2 Comments

July 29, 2013 · 8:00 AM

For All that is Good and Hole-y


My husband loves to dig holes.¬†“I can see my progress,” he says when I ask him just what it is about hole digging that he so likes.

I think about this often as I mow our unending lawns. We have about an acre of them and during the summer the things never stop growing. Xandy HATES mowing the lawn (yes, I get the irony), which I fortunately do not. I, too, like to see the progress as I go from lush jungle to finely trimmed golf green. OK, if you have been by the house you know that our lawn looks more like the hay-field across the street than a golf green, but you get the picture.

Anyway, back to the holes. There are many holes to be dug on the farm. Most of them are due to fallen fencing from our barbed wire fence that is probably as old as our 100-year-old farm. Sometimes, though, the holes are for different purposes.

One such purpose happened a few weeks ago when I noticed a horrendous stench and volcanic-like gurgling emanating from our upstairs bathroom. Both could only mean one thing: full septic tank.

“When’s the last time it was emptied?” I asked my father-in-law when he arrived later.

“Emptied? We never emptied that thing. My father’s theory was stir in a box of RidX every now and again and you’ll be fine.” He chuckled as he mimed stirring the pot like some sort of noxious witches brew.

“UGH! Have you ever stirred it then?”

“Well, no, that would just be silly. But don’t worry, that tank is not that old.”

I knew “not that old” was all a matter of perception in this family, as our “not that old” tractor is a circa 1982. “How old is it?”

“Oh, I suppose about fifteen or twenty years old.”

FIFTEEN OR TWENTY YEARS??? For any of you non-septic tank owners, tanks are supposed to be emptied every three to five. If not, let’s just say you might end up with a wonderfully soupy manure pond in your back yard.

He then went on to tell me that there were actually three septic tanks in our back yard.

Lovely.

So first Mark and then Xandy set to digging — because not only has the tank never been emptied, Mark was not quite sure where the damn thing was. He chose an area dug for a while, and when he couldn’t find the tank moved a few inches and dug some more.

“It’s around here somewhere,” he told his son, and left him to dig.

Xandy was finally able to find the tank about four feet or so down. We both commented on what “six-feet-under” must look like and were pretty happy that we weren’t grave-diggers. Xandy did tell Kitt that he was looking for dinosaur bones when she asked, but all he found was an old toy matchbox from his childhood, which made me doubt my father-in-law’s twenty year timeline.

After even more digging, Xandy finally found one of the two tank covers. We learned when the tank was emptied (don’t worry I won’t talk about that God-awful stench) that he had uncovered the wrong tank cover, so that night he set off to digging again.

Here is the hole:

IMG_1530

At least that is one less chunk of lawn that I have to mow for a while.

Ah, the wonders of home ownership.

Leave a comment

July 28, 2013 · 6:14 AM

Hammer those Bees


So my father-in-law Mark has been quite anxious to get into my blog more. I think that he is jealous of all the attention that I have been paying to his son. I have tried to tell him that I am not sure that the type of attention that Xandy is getting is positive, but I don’t think he believes me. Anyway, this is the story he told me today.

I was out fixing fence up the road when this wicked vicious bee attacked.¬†To hear him tell it, there was a swarm, but to go on…the thing wouldn’t leave me alone.

“So what did you do?” I asked.

Well, I started swatting at the damn thing with both my hands. I forgot that I was still holding the hammer, and I smashed myself in the head with it!

“Then what happened?”

That stupid bee still got me in the corner of my eye. Then it flew away! You should tell that story.

This is for you, Mark, and for that damn killer bee, too.

Mark deserves much more than this lame-ass bee story, considering the fact that it has been in the 90s for the last week, and his 70-year-old self has been in the hay fields every single day working his ass off. But I can give him at least this.

 

2 Comments

July 17, 2013 · 8:43 PM

And Now There Are Two


A few nights ago I awoke to the incessant barking of my eight-year-old Norwegian elkhound.¬†If I keep very still,¬†I told myself,¬†maybe Xandy will take care of it. ¬†We both play this “wait-it-out” game when our daughter Kitt comes into our room, going back and forth with taking care of her, but the dog is usually my responsibility.

“That damn dog never listens to me,” Xandy often says.

“Well, if you didn’t call her ‘Stoop’ (short for ‘Stupid’) she may listen to you more.”

“She likes it!”

“Yeah, everyone loves to be deemed an idiot.”

“Damn dog.”

Thankfully, Xandy this night took pity on me and got out of bed to take care of the barking. When he came back to bed, I thought he said something about Lakota being choked by her collar. He later told me that he said nothing. Regardless, the barking stopped, and we slept.

The next morning this is what we found all over our front lawn:

IMG_1319

One of our hens had been dragged from the barn to some unknown location by a creature during the night. A trail of feathers stretched out into the side pasture and then just disappeared, as I imagine the hen herself did — into the belly of a fox or other night predator. I thought about the fear she must have felt as she was taken from her perch, her feathers ripped from her body, her neck broken. It was so sad to see only two hens out in the yard the next morning.

“Poor thing.” I said later to my husband.

“She’s just a chicken.”

“But still. That is not a way to go, and Lakota was trying to warn us.”

“She’s still a damn dog.”

I thought about how the first time Lakota came to the farm, she saw the entire place as her own personal dog park with the chickens as chew toys. She actually de-feathered a couple of birds herself. Now, she is a protector — spending her days and nights watching over all of the farm inhabitants. I love to watch her sitting majestically in the morning overlooking the pool.

Man, I love that dog.

Lakota and I years ago at a canine 5K in Colorado. She still looks the same!

Lakota and I years ago at a canine 5K in Colorado. She still looks the same!

1 Comment

July 15, 2013 · 9:19 AM

Vent Sexing and an Egg Hunt


I have absolutely no idea where our hens are laying.

I think about this fact as I use two eggs for chocolate chip cookies and open our usually full 18 pack only to find 12. Time to go on an egg hunt — one that I am willing to gauge will not be successful.

We have three Rhode Island Red hens that in the summer we allow to roam free. This fact makes my hippie-heart proud. I often sit on the front porch and watch the birds pecking their way over our front lawn.

Chickens

My hippie-side gives way to the carnivore, however, when our free range hens stop laying in the coop — and start laying in different places all over the barn. We then have to search in all of the crevices and all over the hay to find where the hens have decided to lay. Unfortunately, we often miss a few spots causing my husband or father-in-law to be pelted with frozen eggs mid-winter as they pull hay to feed it out to the cattle.

We started our chicken collection with a dozen chicks about three years ago. Chicks are extremely fragile, and my husband ordered that number under the assumption that a few would die. Laying hens at their peak, after all, lay one egg every 25 hours.

No one eats that many eggs.

All of the chicks (of course) survived — with one of the so-called “hens” a rooster. This is normal, I have found, as it is difficult to “sex” chickens. One of the main ways that “chicken sexers” determine the sex of a chicken is to squeeze the feces out of a young chick and look in its anal “vent” to see if there is a small bump which would indicate a masculine bird. This is called “Vent Sexing” — I just call it plain icky. Check out the¬†Dirty Jobs video¬†if you need a visual of the practice. If you aren’t eating, of course.

We decided, after an inundation of eggs, to give a few hens away. We kept five and the rooster. I am not sure why we kept the rooster, save that he was a beautiful and somewhat docile bird (rare for a rooster, I have learned). I say “was” as we sold him along with a son that he helped to create after a particularly harsh season of hen gang-rape. Our poor hens had no feathers on their backsides after repeated attack by the two roosters. Two even died.

So now we have three happy hens that produce just enough eggs for us to consume. Just enough, that is, unless we can’t find them.

Right now, our barn looks like this —

IMG_1296

which is making it a little difficult to find any eggs.

As I entered the barn, I inched by the wagon to search all through all of the former laying spots only to find the singular egg that was left to ensure the hens continued laying in that spot — obviously, a practice that does not always work.

Frustrated, I left the barn empty-basketed.

I think next time I will take Kitt with me — she is much better at finding eggs. It must be the farm blood in her.

Leave a comment

July 11, 2013 · 7:48 AM

Once a Cheater


On the day that we were married, Xandy delivered hay. Granted, we eloped, but still.

“It’ll be fast. I promise,” he said and then off he went to the farm, to load up twenty or so bales to deliver to some customer whose own livestock was hungry.

I should have known then.

Being a farmer’s wife means that, especially during the summer, you lose your husband, taken not by another woman but by a darker enchantress — the farm. She offers constant stimulation and a place where there is always something needing to be done and/or fed.

Even before moving to the farm, before we were married, I would often not see Xandy until well beyond dark. He’d come home covered in hay and sweat, with a smile that I knew was not for me. It was his idea to marry in early May so that he wouldn’t “be on a tractor pulling a hay wagon for all of our¬†anniversaries.” Truthfully,¬†I yearned for the days when we would finally be living together on the farm so that I could see him more.

And see him now, I do.

I see him out in the hay fields on a tractor round-baling or on the back of a wagon loading square bales. I see him walking the fence in our lower pasture or opening a new paddock for a herd of cattle that just won’t shut-up — wanting the fresh grass that they see beyond where they are fenced in. I see him heading to the barn with his red bucket filled with warm water ready for the milk¬†replacer that keeps the motherless calves in the barn alive or in his truck driving away to check on the free running cattle up the road.

My father-in-law told me, when Xandy and I were first married, that I should not let Xandy talk me out of a vacation. “We can come and watch the farm,” he said. “Don’t let him tell you that he can’t leave.”

I thought about that for the hour or so that Kitt and I sat and waited for the local 4th of July parade. I realized, as I watched fathers with their wives and daughters walk to find spaces to sit, that it never crossed my mind to ask Xandy to go with us to the parade. As I loaded Kitt into the car, he and his father discussed the haying that they would be doing for the day. I waved and left. Perhaps the reason that I never asked was that subconsciously I knew how miserable he would be. He would go, because I asked him to, and then he would tap his foot and look at the sun, quietly longing to be back where there was work to be done. I would then feel pangs of guilt taking any pleasure away from whatever we were doing.

The number of fathers at the parade actually stunned me. Don’t they know that now that the sun is out, there is hay to be made? I thought about that again when I saw friends of mine with their baby at the library yesterday morning. Together. The library. Really.

In the middle of the day.

Xandy and I often talk about taking a family vacation ¬†or an actual honeymoon instead of just an overnight to Boothbay Harbor which is what we had. Maybe someday we will do that. For now, I plan trips for Kitt and I — as she is too young to help in the hay fields. Santa’s Village sounds fun.

“Won’t it be exciting when Kitt is old enough to hay?” My husband looks at me in gleeful anticipation ¬†as I read to him this post. “Then I can come home from work and you can have all the hay raked and tedded ready to go!”

“Um, yeah, exciting.”

Then I will have lost both my husband and daughter to that temptress.¬†Can’t wait.

8 Comments

July 6, 2013 · 8:33 AM

Rain, Rain…


It’s wet here.

I say that not as a surprise to anyone who lives in the state, but just as a matter of fact that has been hanging in the air for the past couple of weeks. Rain during the summer is depressing for many — but for farmers it becomes harder the more it continues.

The rains here started with evening thunder storms, which I have to admit I am quite fond of.

I love to sit on the back deck and watch the rains roll in.

I love to sit on the back deck and watch the rains roll in.

 

Then move to the front porch to see the damage they inflict. I guess that I am a mini-storm chaser.

Then move to the front porch to see the damage they inflict. I guess that I am a mini-storm chaser.

While the rains thunders on, the haying equipment has remained
silent — a source of great frustration for my husband and his father who live the old adage “gotta make hay when the sun shines” — No sun. No hay. No hay. No chance of taking time off at the end of the summer. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

At least the cows up the road are keeping my husband busy. The electric fence fix has tripped a couple of times, forcing my husband to again have to chase the critters. This is a source of paranoia for us after reading an article in the local paper — “Bad fences make for second court beef between Readfield, farmer.”

The article caused my husband to immediately look up livestock laws.

“Did you know that I had 24 hours to get the cows back in? I could have gone back to sleep that night!”

“Um. Sure you could have.”

“I’m just saying.”

We need sun. And soon.

 

 

1 Comment

July 3, 2013 · 6:47 AM