Thursday, August 27, 2015

so meet a bear and take him out to lunch

AND the bears got all the sweet corn.  We'd planted that patch because we had the space and nothing to do with it and couldn't get any more hard corn seed and extra sweet corn is always a good thing.  It had done well too.

We had up some hay nets to discourage crows.  We had traps baited at all times against racoons (and those caught met a timely demise).  We usually post a dog to the garden in the summer to discourage deer but had not done so this year.

The ground was wallowed.  They ate not just the corn but the entire cob.  They drug entire stalks off to eat later.  All bear sign.  We live in a bear preserve.  There'll be no bear barbecue.  Unfortunately.

We'd had one supper on that corn, slightly immature.  We thought we were just getting ready to process it in bulk.  Freeze some cream corn and parch some.  And eat massive amounts.  And share some with friends.

The dog is on his way down.  Another PETA violation.

Friday, August 14, 2015

here & now

ducks are big, should be laying, aren't

milk from weeds, and we love 'em.  She knows horse cookies.

Why no one can come to our garden?  This is the "path" to it.

hard corn -- those ears are @6 feet off the ground

what I came looking for, McCaslin beans.  Has anyone ever explained to you how to "set" your eyes?  Does that make sense to you?  You have to "set" your eyes if you want to look for morels, or deer, or cucumbers, or beans.  For beans, everything is green -- you have to "set" for the shape.  And I also follow the vines on the corn stalks.  There are always more than I see.  This is something that amazes me about the natural world, and where the ideal of abundance comes from I think.

some of them are really high -- I stood on a bucket and managed to get these but I couldn't find the old pool ladder to get some of the others!

the potato patch, obviously mostly stink weed right  now as the potato vines have died (the pontiacs are still alive, these are the yukons).  The bare spot is where one hill got dug and it seems it was a good potato year!  We'll have potatoes with those beans for supper tonight.

ooops a rabbit decided to sample this cushaw growing on the fence by the west garden gate


pumpkin or some other kind of winter squash, with more blooms

some other cute baby melon or squash

gratuitous butterfly shot on the joe pye weeds

Thursday, August 13, 2015

to ask the questions that have no answers, to provide the answers to questions no one asks

Turns out that around this time ELEVEN years ago, I must have been thinking about doing a blog.  I don't even remember now what or how much I even knew about blogs.  I'm pretty sure it was a lot like having children was for me -- I had no expectations.  I wanted to write about what we were doing, what I was thinking about.  And I wanted to show people that a different life IS possible.

Eleven years.  A lot has changed.  A lot hasn't.  There is time, so that my eldest was 12 and is now 23; the youngest was 4 and is now 15.  Just that changes a whole lot.  Life with young children IS different, and should be.  The life of a parent should not just go on as though nothing important has changed -- it has!  And it will always be different.  Life with a household of adults is also quite interesting.

This morning:  one child home from a few days working in town, one child (and a parent driver as she works to get her license) goes in to work a few hours, I -- just off having to get up early several days in a row -- sleep in, boys pick up most animal chores.  Then I get a supper started while one son does laundry and husband works in the wood shop.  You know, everybody does their thing.  But everyone pulls in roughly the same direction.  And help is generally available.

And yes, the corn is tasseling and the hunt is on for the cucumbers.  Weeds are over your head high.   Potatoes seem to have set on well.  There is good grass and some fencing projects are in my mind's eye.  The bull has a little neighbor's field with his cows but still comes up for his creep, and the billy we'd like to not breed the girls to got out of there just now so we need to go investigate.  Supper is on, sweeping needs to happen, unschooly lessons in Japanese and Spanish are planned for tonight.

Time invested with kids is a good thing.  Working to keep a good family dynamic is a good thing.  Farming the soil is a good thing.  Loving your food and your community is a good thing.  Working three years out is a good thing.  Being prepared for change tomorrow is a good thing.  Consuming very little is a good thing.

But I'd take a huge wasteful blowout trip to Disney tomorrow given the opportunity, and I wouldn't apologize for it.  But we'd also come right back and pick right back up and if it were another 20 years before we took another "vacation", we'd all be fine with that since we haven't built a life we need to vacate from every year, or several times a year.  And it is stuff like that that I think needs to be looked at.  It is never "the thing" but always the lie about the thing that is deadly harmful.  It is not the specific thing but the system of exploitation you buy in to that is deadly harmful.

And so the question very often is, what is the lie, what is the system?

What is in that Wendell Berry poem?  "Ask questions that have no answers"

Also, answer the questions that the psychotropically drugged and privileged and overly paid masses will never ask.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Morality: discuss amongst yourselves

When is it moral to have someone else clean your toilet for you?

My first suggestion would be that it never is -- there are some things that we should ALL do for ourselves, at least mostly, at least when we are physically able.

My second suggestion would be that it might be moral when you pay your servant enough for him to have a servant of his own.  Which of course never really happens.

There is, as Amanda Palmer elaborates upon, "exchange-exchange" -- you fix my car, I fix you supper.  Good old Eleutheros would have called those exchanges "like coin" I think.   You do a painting for me, I do an interpretive dance for you.   But few exchanges are like that.  Most involve class disparity.  This can be overcome.  But only, as far as I can tell (and I've been on both sides of this) by the servant class.

It is the whole reason for foot washing, which, well, culturally you probably don't even know about.

Friday, August 07, 2015

revisit: Wednesday, October 08, 2008 Econtraryonomics, part deux

Because I went looking, I got to read this (& below) again.  Because not only do I know another post came down, I know a whole lot of people who knew housing, the economy, and everything else pre-"Great Recession" wasn't coming back.  Ever.  And that isn't a bad thing.  Said so then; say so now. 
My sister-in-law said it best. She said, “It’s unnerving.” She lives outside of Atlanta and they have not had gasoline, businesses are in business one day and gone (with the doors locked to the former employees) the next, nothing anywhere is as we might have expected it to be.

Where I am coming from is that I have seen this coming, even though I have never known (and don’t now) the exact form it will take. I said to my father back in the 1990s, “This cannot continue.” That was about the stock market. But I said the same sort of thing about land prices as they became untenable. Housing. Everything that has inflated beyond any real form of value. And now, unlike in the Great Depression, there is not an ever-expanding source of domestic oil nor do people actually know how to grow or even cook their own food as most did then. I’ve long felt food, especially food, was vulnerable because of its dependence on oil. So now we have peak oil combined with a financial meltdown fueling . . . who knows what.

So, just so you know, I feel the same sorts of uncertainties I think as everyone else. I do think I’m more prepared for them than most people, but still. It is an uncertain time. I do feel for people who expected one thing, who worked hard for one thing even, and find that it won’t be there for them, no matter what they do. I understand the factors that blind people into believing that it can’t happen, or at least that it can’t happen to them. I know that denial is the most basic Freudian defense mechanism, and if you are a little more advanced, you’ve probably learned to rationalize why I just can’t happen, not to you, not again.

And even if you are more enlightened, like me and my SIL, it is still unnerving.

Suck it up, folks. Life is changing. It would have been better to have developed a vision for what it could be, for the wonderful possibilities that it can hold, before now. But right now, well, don’t be expecting it to stay the same. Or for it to get back to “normal”. Rather, retirement and vacations will be seen as useless and wasteful things not needed by those living a useful life. Instead of “investing” in children's college funds, we can invest in building multiple generational lives with them, real life skills, etc. We can save ourselves, save the earth, and live moral lives worth living all at the same time.

There are alternative and hopeful visions to be seen out there. It is part of what I’ve been trying to model for all these years here. Come on folks, shake it off, suck it up, get on with it.

Now SIL also didn't adjust it turns out, just blamed the current resident of the white house because he isn't white which I find interesting.  Vision is different than hallucination.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

the religion of mowed grass

It is kin to the religion of money.  Which is the most common religious belief there is.

We had an incident with the county highway department and their road crew.  They have the right to, and they need to, clear their right of ways.  Out here their ROW is 30 feet, or 15 feet from the center of the road.  They came with their big tree chewing machines (really, think FernGully), which they have done every year.  They are idiots with these machines but mostly on our property at least they would trim off the tops of trees growing in the fence line and move on.  It was ugly but hey, it's on their ROW and we haven't ever maintained that fence.

This year they went 24 feet from the center and mangled some 10 and 20 year old trees whose job it is to hold our creek bank.  To cut that close to a creek they are supposed to have an EPA permit anyway which I doubt seriously they do.  They are hardwood trees for the most part so if they were cut straight off they would at least coppice and and not die.

We raised holy hell.  That's 9 feet of trespassing and vandalism of our property.  The area supervisor said, "Well *I* didn't do it."  So did the guy back to "clean up" this morning.  Fine guys.  You give me the name and address of the sole operator who did do this and let me go trim his trees for him, what do you say?  What?  No?  That would be criminal you say.  Goose and gander boys, goose and gander.  You, being with the highway department are responsible and right now your job is to set it right by me.  Get busy.

So they did come to "clean it up" as I mentioned.  And this is what "clean it up" means to them:  Bring the big tree chipper and chip up the tree tops they cut down and left laying.

And this is what "clean it up" means to me:  The trees you mangled, cut them off clean so they can coppice out, live, and hold that bank, say you are sorry, put it in writing that you understand that the right of way is 30 feet and that you will never again trim past that point, and show me that EPA permit.

But the interesting points to me in this are these.  1) The boys who did the trimming, they just thought they were doing a bunch of hillbillies who either were too lazy or didn't have the resources to keep up their property to do that.  They were doing us a favor.

And 2) The boys who came to "clean up" really think "cleaning up" is chipper-shredding the "trash".  No concern for the trees, the creek bank, the mail box or the fence.  None.  "What is this crazy thing you are talking about?" their look at me said when I said the trees need to coppice out.  "We are just here to clean up," they said.

Here once again you have the juxtaposition of real vs. appearances.  And it is so stark to me I almost don't have words for it.  How could "cleaning up" mean anything but repairing the environmental damage you caused and then allowing nature to heal?  How could anyone even begin to believe that making it look a little bit neater, more suburban maybe, would be "cleaning up"?

And yet they sincerely do.  People live in appearances:  "What does this look like?" instead of, "What does this do?" or even "What is this?"  And yes, this is a truly bad thing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

the land of mañana

So, when we first came out here one of the first things we noticed was "the land of mañana".  When there wasn't an exact commitment as to when something would be done, mostly it wouldn't be.  Oh, it would be, but just eventually.  Not in any hurry.  Not displacing anything else.  One day.  Maybe.  If it ever made the top of the priority or interest lists.  Which at least felt like never.

And we were still jobs and town and thinking things had to be done.

But it didn't take too terribly long to figure out that there was just no way it was all getting done so what are we gonna do today?  Set priorities.  I think sometimes people don't actually have priorities because they just don't set their sights high enough and they get everything done.  If you are getting everything done, maybe something is wrong, maybe you really need to be more than that.

I've seen people stay in the get 'er done mode in life on the farm.  Eventually they either run out of time and energy, or they run out of money.

So the bull is one of those land of mañana things.  I don't even know how many years now we've talked about it, said we should do it, said we were going to do it.  One time we were going to pick one up and the truck broke down and I took it as a sign not to do it then.  So we finally did it.

So far so good.  But it has also been a very long time since I did something that I had only read about before.  But we have a good community to help.  He is cute.  He is drinking out of a bucket.  He's been dehorned.  He's starting to creep feed.  He leads reasonably and has met his herd.  He is polite.

So I guess mañana es hoy.

(If my dang internet connection actually worked, there'd be a photo here.  Maybe in the morning.  Nope not in the morning.  Rural electrification.  But now, that is part of land of mañana, no?)

So what does the new mañana hold?  Well, the possibility of lots of milk and butter and pigs and beef and perhaps a cow or two for other homestead milkers and who knows.   Who knows.

We need enough hay for everyone.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

appearance vs substance vs zero tolerance

So we plowed, then we harrowed, and plowed again, and harrowed again, and plated hard corn.  Then we planted potatoes, sparsely, meaning it is a BIG potato patch.  But still there was some room left in the rectangle garden, so we decided to plant extra sweet corn there.  It is hybrid because that was the seed that was left, but it is also short season, and we might parch some, might freeze some, but what I really want to do is put up some corn relish/salsa/chutney stuff.  Yeah, I don't have the recipe yet and you know I'll change it anyway.

So weeds had grown down there in that part of the garden since the last harrowing.  The hard corn, which here even before July is more than waist high, has been worked over more than once, as has all the potato area, but the boys just marked the rows and took shovels and cleared maybe a foot for a row and planted the sweet corn.  When they did that the weeds were maybe 8 inches tall?  Maybe not that tall.  Now, and I'm not really sure how much later "now" is, but now the sweet corn is maybe 8 inches tall.  It is definitely the tallest thing in the cleared row proper.  But in that 2-3 feet that wasn't cleared between rows, those weeds are now at least 2 feet tall, some bigger although not many (mostly stink weeds).  There's a lot of grass in that too, which means it is harder to hoe.

But it has been a project for the past week or so, especially for me.  I hoe better than most things in the garden.  Or weed.  Destruction.  Kali.  But it is also hot, and difficult work, and if you make a penance out of it, you won't do it again.  Better a couple rows at a time.  Enough to feel accomplished but not enough to kill you.  Enough so you at least don't mind doing more another day.

Today we did the final 3 rows of sweet corn.

And the strongest thought in my head as we did that (me and the husband, while the kids were working elsewhere):  This is why I have absolutely zero tolerance for appearances.

Even I have a little trouble following that, making those connections, but obviously my brain or heart or soul or whatever it is that talks to you in the gap between the thoughts made those connections just fine.  All the corn needs, all most of it needs, is a slight advantage.  It doesn't have to be perfect, not to mention that perfect is the enemy of good.  We hoe it down and all those weeds once again becomes a part of that field, nourishing those plants that we leave (corn and purslane mostly) through the worms and the fungus and the bacteria and the host of other things that make the soil alive.  Grass might be harder to hoe but it also brings up a ton of nutrients to leave behind.  The corn or the field really doesn't care how I do it, or when, or what I look like doing it, or anything else -- just that at some point somebody does something that gives it just a little advantage that it needs to make itself.  Then it will make itself.  If we have water, if a storm doesn't blow it down, if the crows don't come (we "thread" the field to thwart them, and use hay bale nets later on), if the racoons don't throw a party and invite their friends just as it is ripe, then with just a little advantage over the other things trying to grow (and if you have fertility, lots of things try to grow) it will make itself generously.

It doesn't care about appearances.

Neither do horses.  Probably a lot of what always attracts me to them.  It might be nice to have a really cool silk wild rag but that's for the human, not the horse.  A saddle that fits, important.  That it looks nice, not important.  Appearance vs. substance.

I mean, it is an age old debate, is it not?  "Saved by faith alone" vs "faith without works is dead."  I'm sure it is no surprise that as incredibly aware as I am of grace in this world, I put not an ounce of importance in what you say but all importance in what you do.  Perhaps because once I didn't do it, once I didn't say it?

So humans, they by and large don't get this.   And it is because, I think deep down bottom line, that their lives are all about appearances, not substance.

But gardens and horses and those things care not a whit for appearances.  So what if those weeds are not perfectly hoed -- the corn will not hold it against you.  If you weren't effective in communicating with the horse but then find a way to be more effective, the horse will not hold it against you.  And I think that is why I was thinking about the fact that I have zero tolerance for appearances while I hoed that corn.

I am reminded, however, that zero tolerance is usually not a good thing.

Well, I've moved before . . . but the garden and the horses will have to speak to me of this

Friday, June 19, 2015

family farm fun time

It is a fun time of year.  Every day plant something.  Everyday harvest something.  It is a jungle, everywhere.  When you hear the thunder you hope it will bring rain.  You water some things, hoe some things, weed some things, try to keep up, never keep up.

Pintos grown as snaps.

the mess we got off that planting, first picking.  Those are savoy cabbages growing well.  The fresh Bt in the new sprayer has taken care of the chewing worms on those and all the other cruciferi.

spring beet bed protected by hay netting from deer grazing

and a beet

and a turnip --it is about time to plant seeds for fall beets and turnips and such

wild raspberries ripening -- the topping we went to pick for the goat cheese pie

purslane (and other weeds)

beans in the hard corn


the "extra" patch of sweet corn --those are weeds that just need to be hoed between the roes

potato patch

farmer in the hard corn

Thursday, June 18, 2015

goat cheese pie & more

First, have some children and some fresh milk goats.  Get the kids to milk the goats.  (this is the definition of "success" -- for parent AND child) (not amount of money the girls make or the amount of "housework" the boys do because goats and milk "count" as both) (or not as no one here is "counting") (see how silly that sh*t is) (which is why we are on the farm doing things differently, LIVING differently) (*life on the farm*)

Now get some fresh goat milk (which is different from fresh milk goats) and make some farmer cheese, or paneer, or whatever you want to call it.  I'm pretty sure I made some of this early on in my goat milking life (when I did all the milking since the children were small or even not born yet) and didn't like it as I found it astringent.  I don't know.  I don't find it that way now.  I don't remember what recipe I might have used, or maybe I used older milk or something.  Anyway, this is working for me now.

If you've gone to read that recipe, yes it really is that easy.  Heat milk, add vinegar (and I use straight up white vinegar), drain curds, salt.  It is good just to eat.  I'm experimenting now with rolling it into logs (I think there is a mat here somewhere) and rolling it in cracked pepper, and with freezing it to use for pies later but I don't know how those turn out yet.

If you are using it for pie, don't drain it too much.  And save some whey but it is easier to just not drain it so much.  It also might be easier if you have an honest to the Gods food processor but I have to choose between a vita-mix and a whisk and I really don't like kitchen gadgets in general so drain it less for pie is my motto.  Then use the vita-mix.  Also, you can use lemon or lime juice to smooth the cheese with.  At least this is what I'm trying now.  I would use lemon zest but come on, I'm a homesteader in Tennessee and I don't generally just happen to have a fresh lemon on hand.  But we do keep a good key lime juice on hand, so that's what I'm using.

Now, the recipe I used called this a cheese cake, but in the description said it was somewhat like a paskha.  Whatever that is.  I did google it and I did used to trade milk with an Eastern Orthodox family. But to *me*, made according to the recipe the first time, this thing was MUCH more like my mother's "cream cheese pie" that was my very very favorite when I was a child.  So I took it right out of that spring form pan and put it into a regular Southern glass deep dish pie pan and added key lime juice when smoothing the cheese.

That step with the heated up milk and the egg yolks is still a bit of a mystery to me, and chilling it, and how thick it will get.  I haven't yet been satisfied with this step so I've looked up some custardly things and I'm trying it using one whole egg and one yolk and then cooking it gently until it coats the back of a spoon and see if that helps.  Also, chilling the pie enough is problematic as we're generally ready to eat it THAT DAY.  THAT DAY.  Not the next.  Sigh.

BUT it would seem that adding the egg white and cooking a bit has done the trick as the now refrigerated for a couple of hours pie seems solid!

Now do I want to make some fruit topping for it?  Or maybe just sprinkle on some of those great wild black raspberries the husband picked the other day?

Also, there is one garlic and cracked pepper encrusted cheese log in the fridge, along with a container of peppered cheese (the ends of the log that I cut away, and the garlic pepper that didn't encrust) and that stuff is delicious.

I will say that this pie seemed to be less trouble the day that I didn't make the cheese the same day that I made the pie but as daughter #2 is making a serious supper tonight, that's entirely ok.  I'll experiment with freezing later, and thawing even later than that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

a tale of two roosters . . . and a fox

We have had chickens forever and they get occasional infusions of blood from the game hens down the road (no better mothers or laying hens, but small, *very* shy, sometimes mean which means good mothers/bad roosters) or 25 of some dual purpose breed from Southern States.  They are a little of everything -- games, rocks, new hampshires, orpingtons and large helpings of aracauna.

An aside:  A local college's mascot is the buffalo.  They have billboards that say "Be a Buff".  I inevitably and always wonder why anyone would want to BE a Buff Orpinton.

Anyone who has ever had any sort of intact male animal knows they can sometimes be trouble from the testosterone.  Which is why to not have too many (generally that would be ANY) intact males who are not specifically and actively used for breeding.  We had a goat once who decided I smelled good, to the point that I had to carry a 2X4 with me outside.  We shortly ate him.  Years ago, after we were in this house but before this blog, a rooster decided he didn't like the buttons on one of the girls' snow boots and attacked them (and thus her) repeatedly.  We ate him.

So one day we went out and one of our roosters was bloodied.  (We had a lot of roosters, I don't know how many.  They sort of divided up their territory and got along peaceably.  One who stayed close to the house even had a name, Uno, because he was a single hatchling.)  We are not without predators so we thought the bloodied one had valiantly attempted to protect the flock because mostly that's what roosters do -- sacrifice themselves.  He died.  The next day (this is how fast this was), I saw another one bloodied before I left for the barn and woke up a daughter as I didn't know it wasn't Uno who was bloodied, and I didn't know that a dog hadn't done it, and would she watch and figure it out. 

It wasn't Uno, and it wasn't the dog.

It was another rooster who had gotten testosterone poisoning.  And even though we caught on relatively quickly and he was quarantined by that afternoon, there was only one other rooster left.  The rooster with too much testosterone had decided that every other rooster was his enemy and had dispatched them that quickly.

The lone left rooster had survived because he was just that low in the pecking order.  We had never even noticed him.  I don't know where he hung out before but it wasn't at the house.  His toes had gotten frozen at some point in the winter and he has two stubs on one leg and a peg leg for the other.  So now he has a name:  Pegleg, or Peg.  He manages to roost, on the roosts, in the coop at night so he should be good for the next winter.  He manages to impress and mount hens.  He is, as far as he is concerned, not the least bit disabled.  Hooray for that attitude.  I mean, it cannot be easy to be a chicken without any toes.  How in the world does he manage to roost, much less hold on to the slick back of a hen while, ahem.  Yeah.  So.  People who feel sorry for themselves should learn from him.  "Excuses are utterly irrelevant."  (Janus Uranus)

And then the fox showed up.  Taking one hen at a time, every few days.  He has to be dispatched.  If we could just shoot him we would but that is a tricky thing mostly on the timing.  He's in and gone.  Perhaps we could find his den.  Someone better at tracking, and better at foxes, likely could.  I think we are really supposed to have a trap one size bigger than we do.  We trap mostly racoons out of the garden, but the occasional ground hog or possum too. 

Trapping the fox could be a challenge.  But he or she is hooked on the easy chicken.  And we haven't dispatched the delinquent, testosterone poisoned chicken yet.  So live bate.  Oh, the rooster is safe in the same cage he was in otherwise, and in the shade, and fed and watered daily.  But he is camouflaged and hidden, except for through the trap.

So hopefully this works.  We trap and kill the fox.  We finally eat the rooster.  More (nice) roosters rise up from this year's hatchlings. 

Peg becomes a legend.
Peg crowing

Thursday, June 11, 2015

& for dessert, goat milk

It is sort of a paskha.  It is sort of a cheesecake.  But no baking.  When I get it tweaked in, I'll share it.  But goodness, I haven't been good at using the goat milk this year, but suddenly I've discovered farmer's cheese which is just made with hot milk and acid (vinegar) to curdle it, and it is good itself AND I can make this with it?  Well all right.