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.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

we don't hoe shame here

So the bid to give the corn plants a slight advantage over the weeds, while still protecting them from deer/crows/everything else has begun.  Last night I hoed one more than half the rows.  All the while watching for purslane so that it can have the chance to grow and feed us too.

And I would hoe a bit (really sharp, specially angled, convex shaped hoe), stand to look for purslane and ease my back (despite trying to be an ambidextrous hoer, I am not really still) (I try this, about as unsuccessfully, with the industrial brooming of the hall at the barn too), and think about this.  It is certainly a form of yoga, or maybe crossfit.  It is certainly a meditation, a here and now.  There is that dirt that we've brought offerings of all sorts to for years, and it had me thinking of how I would time bringing the manure to it this year.  There are the little corn plants, some with water still in their funnel (corn funnels water to itself, you may not have known this).  There are the weeds:  the burdocks just with cotyledons, the stink weeds biggest, a few morning glories, ragweed, spurge, agrimony, milkweed, pigweed, and at least one of everything else no doubt.  Watching for the purslane the whole time, sparing it, working around those tiny little things, wondering several times if I forgot then and cut it down anyway.

And I would watch my husband who was shovel hilling the potatoes and I would think about how "real skill" this is.  People think anyone can hoe corn, anyone can hill potatoes, anyone can grow food.  Haha.  But I would also think about how "entertainment budget" it is.  I mean, we don't go to the beach: we might get a new hoe and then use it the next 20 years (or more).  Or we might spend a Saturday morning after chores going around the flea market and we might buy a pair of shoes, some socks, a hoe handle, an ax handle, and a piece of iron cookware.  Entertainment budget.

And I thought about this blog.  And I thought about what I write and why.  And I thought about what I think about what other people do and don't do.  No skin off my nose.  I thought about how good this is.  I thought about this quote: 

I don't know why people don't do this.  It is a very nice thing because it doesn't demand perfection, but you *can* be as anal retentive about it as you want to be.  It is a very nice thing because it doesn't care if you are male or female or gender neutral; black or white or striped; able bodied or crippled (because you just do things different ways, or different things, what you ARE able to do); it doesn't care if you are rich or not because it doesn't actually cost much and having money doesn't get you anywhere but distracted and in need of your meds; it will make you sore every night and enable you to appreciate being sore; it is important and it will highlight the things that have no substance to them.

I do know why people don't do this.  It is hard.  It is demanding.  It doesn't give a sh*t.  It isn't performance art.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

same and others, as the year advances

Well, Uncle and the two doelings are gone. But other than the goats, these photos show advancement of the year from the last ones, plus some other things.

This is another thing:  a nest being sat.

the bees

can you see the line of the corn?



the same pea and onion plot



red cabbages and peas



well, it appears to be a mulberry tree.  We've planted several mulberry trees and none have lived.  This one volunteered so we'll see how it does.  We had trouble forever with raspberries until, duh, it occurred that they WANTED to grow on the other side of the garden . . . . 

the setter back on her nest

gratuitous cat photo

This is all the husband's doing by the way.  Including the cat.  His cat.   AND this evening there is a soft, sustained rain.

Monday, May 04, 2015

the three bucket campaign

You know it isn't much, three buckets.  Three five gallon buckets.  I mean, I bring buckets home all the time.  People look at me funny.  My family looks at me funny.  We have a place on the farm we call "bucket town". 

"What in the world do you use all those buckets for?"  A lot of things.  We put eggshells in them, and ashes.  We can take those to the garden or where ever they need to go.  We have a bucket of gloves, a bucket of hats, a bucket of scarves.  Several buckets of fencing paraphernalia.  Tools.  Chicken manure.  More tools.  Small dry wood to help ret up the fires.  And probably many other things.  They are rather ubiquitous here.  Because they are free and useful and I rescue and scavenge and hoard such as that.

If you need a bucket, I can probably spare you one or two.

And there is a road.  You might not know it but roads are alive.  Creeks are alive.  Roads and creeks are made to change.  Stability is not static.  Water says hahahahaha and with roads and creeks and lots of other things there is always water (and that is a good thing -- just ask California, or see this blog during the drought when we were still hauling water in December just to wash dishes) and there is no point in getting mad and there is nothing to fight (and if you think you are ever going to get the upper hand on water, you have delusions of grandeur) so you might as well enjoy.  We've spent some family days working on the road this year, hauling some rocks, widening some ditching, hauling some more rocks.  In a lot of ways, it is really not too bad now.  At least I remember the last time we went on a "three bucket campaign" it was worse in that someone actually said, "Those aren't ruts; those are canyons."  There aren't any canyons.  At least not since the first major rock hauling day. 

But there are some soft spots, some holes, some places that need to be built up, places where water needs to be persuaded in a different direction, tree roots that need back underground.  And that is where the three bucket campaign comes in.  We drive past shale banks every time we go out.  Take three buckets, a shovel, 10 minutes tops, and most every trip in, bring three buckets of shale and put them somewhere needful on the road.  It is amazing how quickly just that makes a huge difference.   HUGE.  Combine that with periodic family days hauling more rocks, building better water bumps, and wow, driving up becomes much less of a challenge.  Even in weather.

Better road.  Decent workouts.  Mindfulness.  Faithfulness.

But still don't visit without calling first.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


The cucumber trees are just beginning to bloom.  I remember Jim, and trying to get a photo of a cucumber tree in bloom for him.  I don't remember why, probably just because I wanted to.  He killed himself.  He may well have had good reason.  But still, that is hard.  And I will still think of him and still miss him.

And for reasons that I can't even fathom, cucumber trees are some of my favorites.  Maybe it is because my mother used to hand build ceramic bowls using the leaves as the relief on the clay.  Or maybe it was the one that grew more horizontal than perpendicular and I could walk out on its smooth bark trunk barefoot and sit rather hidden in a grove of wild trees in my grandparents' yard.  I only knew them as cucumber trees, and honestly had rarely if ever even noticed the flowers until the day I was thrilled to learn that cucumber trees were magnolias!!!  Deciduous magnolias!  Wow, imagine that.  And then, of course, steel magnolia.  My mother certainly was one.  My mamaw certainly was one -- I remember her telling me of her firstborn struggling to breathe for almost a month before she died and that memory still, all those many years later, broke her heart.  Lois.  That was the baby's name.  Her baby Betty died at 18, rheumatic fever.

People think they have it hard.  People should man up, woman up, deal.  So somehow cucumber trees are tied in with thoughts and wonderings about resilience for me.

Of course, life is hard (or as what's his face put it in the opening sentence of A Road Less Traveled:  "Life is difficult").  No sh*t Sherlock.  But I like the graphic that I've seen come across lately that, "A pessimist sees the glass as half empty; an optimist sees the glass as half full; a realist adds two shots of whiskey, two cubes of ice and says cheers."  Well, a realist who isn't otherwise an alcoholic anyway.   And I do not like water with my whiskey.  But other than that. 

So life is hard.  So life is blessed.  So comparisons are noxious.

When I think about resilience, it isn't being brittle, or useless, or quitting.  It is finding meaning, and purpose, and doing (sometimes doing anyway, doing in spite of not feeling it).  I don't think hallucinations are very useful but then again, I think by the time you get down below the hallucinations, you've really come a long way already.  Resilience is not about being numb or shut down but managing to feel it in full.  Anyway.  Confidence comes from competence, not esteem, so skills, problem solving, taking steps.  There are not insurmountable problems like boulders in your path, but, really, your path may change and it is not all that out there you control but only "in here".

As with so many things, I don't know.  I do know that the view that nothing bad should ever happen is stupid.  Life happens.  Life on the farm is good for that.  The road is alive.  Try to control the stream and it will laugh at you.  There will remain many mysteries.  Life will tell you not to be fat, not to be lazy, not to whine and complain.  The cucumber tree will listen, but it won't care.  The garden will listen to your hoe, and it will listen to the chicken manure you brought to it.  And the chickens, they will sing but if you die they will peck your dead body and this is not tragedy, and they will die also but if you manage to kill them all, that is tragedy.  And there is something useful for everyone to do.  And there are creative outlets galore.  And challenges.  And and. 

And there are failures.  And difficulties.  And sorrows.  And in these are the gift of resilience.

And here is a website to help you think differently instead of staying on the "hooray for our side" side of things:  Resilience.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

old old old school

You know, we try to figure out how to live.  And how to not live.  And nobody gets it perfectly.  And all of us get defensive.  And sometimes strident.

So yeah, I was revisiting a few posts, and a few comment threads, and a few bloggers I haven't read in about a million years.  The nasty ones are all divorced.  I don't think I'm supposed to notice that and certainly not say it.

But mostly what I was thinking was, oh shit and WTF.

Mostly I just wanna say, this is what I'm thinking about.  And doing because of what I'm thinking about.  And I think it is worthwhile.  The doing.