“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25, 2010

Christmas morning…

I’m up early with a headache that a few aspirin has not yet taken away. I should know better. I did a few glasses of wine last nite- we were having pizza between services and I had a craving, which is very odd as I don’t drink very often at all. But to say the least, I satisfied my craving and off we went to meeting.

I guess too, that the ‘lemon chello” I had earlier in the morning helped contribute to my headache. My assistant at work makes this with vodka – more vodka that lemon. And he brought it into work Christmas eve morning, and we shared toasts with our staff…and that was followed by some chicken meal that was soaked in a chile sauce – a staple tradition of Oaxaca. I am not sure what it was called, but it was good. Traditional Mexican cuisine is the best. Its handmade food, and you can taste the time and care that goes into it too. But, the lemon chello probably was the start of this morning’s pain…

When I got home, the horses were out in the pasture grazing, and when I walked over to the fence, Louie looked up and after a few more mouthfuls of grass, lumbered over to me, and offered his forehead for me to rub…then he went back to the spot he was working on. Good ‘ol Lou….doing the greet and eat.

Lately the chickens have been coming to greet me too – and that’s sorta surreal. The last few days, when I crawl through the fence, they have come from nowhere and everywhere and “run” towards me. They know I am going to feed them their afternoon snack. But its weird,,,,all these chickens coming at me full speed. They run very unbalanced, shifting their wings to balance, like how a tight wire walker uses that pole…I don’t know if I will ever get used to chickens coming at me…

This morning, a few minutes ago, I tore up pizza crust for them. I save all the crust that I don’t eat and give it to the chickens for a snack. Between the chickens, the goat, and the compost pile, we don’t waste too much around here. So, the girls and Bejay will have a bit of pizza for breakfast. Their favorite is left over spaghetti – they tug-of-war with the noodles – one chicken on each end til it snaps or one lets go. Chickens are cool. I feel bad for the ones that live in cages- its pretty sad, cause chickens have outgoing personalities and can’t ever be happy caged up. That sucks.

We went to two services yesterday – it more or less has become traditional for us over the years. We go to Catholic Mass in the afternoon, and then to Quaker meeting in the evening. They are very different ways to worship, but the message gets through the same…I like going to both. The Catholic service is filled with thousands of years of traditions and symbolism that in a way the mass itself is a history lesson in Christianity through the ages…and the Quaker is so simplistic its almost as if it’s a seedling that has yet to branch. It’s all good. But I have to tilt my favorite to the Quakers, because afterwards, we get to eat all the cookies that each person brings…and there are some great Quaker bakers…and ya know, that probably is part of my headache too – all that sugar! Oh well.

Not sure what I will do the rest of this Christmas day…spend time with my family, and then with the animals…maybe take the hippos out for grass in the front yard. I like a quiet Christmas. I’m more of a reflective type person, and in the world that we’ve inherited, its hard to find time for quiet, although every day I do my best to get out of the bombardment – I hide out in the stable, or take a walk, or something…even writing a ramble like this helps. Life just seems too noisy – so noisy that we cant hear it.

But anyhow, I want to thank everyone who reads this blog and follows it – I appreciate it a lot…and a thank you to those who support our farm and what we are trying to do with community agriculture…and thanks to all of you who come out and have buried their hands in the soil here helping out…I am lucky to have all of you in my life…

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15, 2010

A long journey and some postponed plans ended this afternoon as the last garlic clove was planted…

Esther, who is a shareholder, planned to start a garden in her backyard and had ordered garlic seed to plant, but somehow, the garlic was sent to a wrong address and had to be reordered. The second order didn’t ship till early November and was sent to her former address in the nation’s capital, where her brother lives. Esther’s brother then re-mailed it to Esther.

Then somewhere along the line, Esther decided that she’d like to donate it to our farm, and that it’d be fun if she, Karen (our volunteer and shareholder) and I could get together to plant it. It sounded pretty good, but it took us quite a while to get together as none of us has had much free time lately. Times that we thought we could get together for some reason fell through. At one point we thought that the only time that we would all be able to get together would be at night, and we thought we might plant using head lamps and flashlights to see our way, and share a bottle of wine to take the chill out of the starlit night. We couldn't seem to organize that either!

But finally today, it worked out that we could all get together and so at about 3:30 this afternoon, the garlic that had begun its journey in October made it into the ground, planted in a row next to the garlic I had planted earlier in the fall. We know it's a bit late to plant garlic, but nonetheless, I have a feeling that it will grow ok. After all, we are pretty good farmers!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 2010

I am having a ‘writer’s block’ these days… I do think of stuff but I cant seem to develop any of my ideas into sentences. Its not burnout, but more like a blankness. It’s like opening your eyes in the dark…

It will pass.

Meanwhile, I have been playing around with taking black and white pictures around the farm, some of which I am posting here…

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010

It was Sunday morning….
There was frost in the garden and the moon tried to hide

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23, 2010

I was supposed to give a message at tonight's Ecumenical Thanksgiving service - at least that's what I thought I was going to do until I got there and read the program. I had been given a whole 'nother part...doing a pasteurized responsal thing, where I say a line and then the flock says a line in response, neither of it our own - I am told what to say to them and they are told what to say back...I don't quite get the point of it all. Very different for me because Quakers don't do these types of things in worship.

I am pretty disappointed.

So it goes.

Anyhow, I will share my Thanksgiving message here with you...and you can respond anyway you want...

Thanksgiving is a day we give thanks to God for all that God has given us… God gave us this earth and all we grow and harvest. God gave us family and friends. God gave us His son…These are real gifts…

Thanks giving is also day that shows that we need each other – no less than the Indians and the Pilgrims found that they needed each other. Thanksgiving, like it was on that day long ago, is still about tolerance…accepting the differences in us all – physically and culturally.

An important theme of Quakerism is that “there is that of God in everyone”. Its not necessarily a belief or creed, but rather it is a practice of living – it’s a truth that guides us to be let go of our conditions and be peaceful to others. It is the truth that gives us the courage to put down our arms and take up service.

But this truth is hard to live. It’s not easy to always explore or celebrate differences. Many times we try to eliminate what is different. And I don’t mean to eliminate in a violent sort of way. Of course that happens, and it is happening now in many parts of our world. But I mean sometimes its by keeping our distance or turning our backs, or erecting borders around us. Many times we do it unconsciously.

To tolerate is to let go of fears. It is to learn. It is to listen. It is to accept…it is to invite someone into your world so to share it with…We know that none of these things are easy. Its hard. Just as you might do, I too struggle to be open to others.

But our ancestors, on Thanksgiving Day, were able to do that. That is why Thanksgiving is not about arrows and muskets….it is not about an Indian raid or a new world conquest. Its about peace. Its about sitting down with each other. Its about giving ourselves to others…

Diversity is a gift that God gave us and that we should be thankful for…

But without tolerance, we will never know this gift, and without tolerance, we will never know peace.

When it gets hard, we need try to remember, that “there is that of God in everyone”.

I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 9, 2010

It’s only a few days into the end of daylight savings time and I am already a bit whacked out. I hate these time changes.

Its bad enough that the earth needs to tilt back a bit to get away from the sun, causing the shorter days…but…moving the clock hands around only makes it worse.

This argument of an extra hour of sleep is, well, not coming from me! I went to bed Saturday at 9pm and my inner clock told me to wake up a little more than 7 hours later - like it has been doing for years and years. Seven, seven and a half hours of sleep is pretty much all my body wants, so I woke up at 3:30 am (formally 4:30 am) Sunday morning. So yeah, I got an extra hour – of dark!

Since I was “given” this extra hour, I took great advantage of it by flicking on the tv and watching a hundred channels worth of infomercials…what else can I do at 3:30am in the dark. And let’s face it, they only sell the good stuff to make my life easier and better at 3:30 in the morning! They can’t sell this stuff during the day cause then everyone would want it and if everyone had it then no one would need it.

My shake weights, real estate cash flow program, Magic Bullet blender, and a new leopard print Snuggie should be arriving in a few days. I was thinking of getting those special tablets that makes a “guy last longer” – well ya know, I do have an extra hour now, so I was thinkin’, why not? But I hesitated that last split second and didn’t get the phone number in time before a vacuum infomercial popped up.

Oh well…I guess I can rationalize that it's better at my age to use that extra hour to get in shape, sell real estate and get rich, and make salsa in less than ten seconds. I haven’t decided yet what to do with the Snuggie. Not that I’ve quite yet decided what to do with all the salsa that I am going to make either.

But now that I will have all these cash flow secrets to get rich by flipping incredibly valuable real estate with no money down, I will be able to retire by a pool, and not be too worried by the time change at all. Of course, by then I will have a huge house and will need that vacuum cleaner that even without the extra attachments doubles as a steam cleaner and button hole maker…

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 1 and 2, 2010

Nov 1:

It’s the first day of November. Its 7:43 am. It’s also our first real frost. The ice crusts the grass and the world is diamond white for now.

Tomorrow is Election Day, which will end the candidate bickering, mud slinging commercials, and the wasted signage that litters the roadways. All the promises go with the trash. The day after we will wake up to find that nothing has changed. The war will still drag on. We’ll still have the same taxes. Unemployment will remain. But those guys will still have jobs….

Last night I went late to check on the chickens and to close up the coop. I never take a light. I want the darkness because I like to stop along the fence line, look up, and wonder at the stars and the moon…
While out there I check on the horses too. Last night Louie wasn’t in his stall, but outside in his paddock. In the dark he was an even darker form, lying down with his legs tucked underneath him. Restful breathes couched drawn out, melancholy snores…Louie was sound asleep, just he and the night and the stars and his dreams….

Down the road there used to be a farm and the farmers sold their produce along their highway frontage. When the township changed the zoning from rural use to residential/ commercial, the land became much more valuable and the farmers sold and retired. Soon mc mansions dotted the back fields while a business and then two suddenly fronted the highway. There is one field still fallow but yesterday a developer put up a sign looking for tenets…I imagine it will not be fallow too much longer.
With all this, our food chain just got longer…every time a local farm goes to development we have to reach further away for our food and also more to the processed kind. Our connection to the land gets bulldozed away along with the topsoil.

Nov 2:

This morning, like every morning, I walked out into the morning darkness to feed the horses before I headed to my real job…Like always, Patrick was waiting at the fence for me. He must wander out of his stall when he sees the house lights come on. The lights must say that “its time for breakfast so I’ll wait here for my hay”. Anyway, I always stop and let him lick my hand, which is his way of saying good morning – if I walk past without offering my hand to his tongue, he grumbles at the snub. I know that no one should ever put their hand to a horse’s mouth, but Patrick is a bit different – unlike Louie and Zip, Patrick doesn’t think that fingers are carrots….he just likes that touch, that connect. He waits for it every day, and I am realizing that this ritual is becoming just as meaningful to me as it is for him…

Saturday, October 30, 2010

October 30, 2010


Steph was home this weekend and she and her friend Rose carved pumpkins!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 24, 2010

Yep! That chicken’s a rooster! Bejay crowed this morning – two times! Kath said he crowed last evening although it was raspy and tensed and not very clear or loud. He must have loosened his throat up a bit during the night, cause this morning while I was feeding the hungry hungry hippos (our pet name for our horses) it was LOUD and CLEAR!

We had our suspicions…Bejay had always been a bit bigger than the other chicks, with longer, orange legs – in fact, his first nickname was “Mrs. Long Legs”!. When Zips had the bout of laminitis and I’d take him out to cool off his feet with the hose, Bejay would always search for bugs near Zips feet, and peck at the water that puddled up near Zip’s hooves. Bejay seemed to have a boldness that the other girls lacked, as they tended to stay back. Bejay didn’t seem timid around Zips stomping feet. He seemed to like the challenge of playing with his own self preservation….

Then a month ago we noticed that as he grew, his feathering was more decorative than the others. The hens had nice feathering, but Bejay’s neck and tail feathers were much longer and flowing – not short and practical – and his had a different, more black metallic shine. His feathers were more and more becoming to look as if they were made for parading and strutting, and not so much for laying! At the same time, a little nub began to appear on each of his legs – were they the first signs of spurs?

It did seem that something was up…

But now that he is crowing, the deal is sealed!

This morning’s crowing is the first step of a journey that will bring Bejay and Kath and I to a future crossroad where we will have to decide if we can somewhat peacefully live together or part ways. You see, Bejay might develop the instinct that we are the enemy who needs to be attacked, and that our blood needs to be drawn…or he might just realize that he has it so good with a roof and food and 22 girls all to himself that we are not worth his bother. That is yet to be known….

I hope he becomes the latter. I like to hear his crowing, and I like that he will grow to protect the flock from predators. And that maybe one of the hens will become broody and stay on a nest of fertilized eggs til they hatch into a new flock of birds…that’d be the best scenario.

But only time will tell, and only nature will decide.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October 19, 2010

John and Lisa Howard-Fusco wrote a really nice article about the Dig In held at our farm on September 25, 2010. Here is the link to the article and their website, Eating In South Jersey:


Saturday, October 16, 2010

October 16, 2010

Its just a mud puddle. Not very big. Not very deep. It was formed, and is ever forming, by the pockets made by the hooves of the horses and the water that overflows their drinking bucket. It is a landscape in itself. A small world that except for its scale, is not much different from the larger earth. It is a land of lakes with shores and beyond that there are ranges of pushed up earth that make up small mountain ranges, with grasses that make up the wildernesses of forest.

Ok,,,I am crazy, but that’s what I see. But you know yourself that at times, you’ve stopped long enough to study something and realized that you saw that thing in a much different way…or took the time to really listen to the sounds that you hear, and heard sounds that were always there but you never heard…

There are so many things that we selectively pay no attention to – and not just to nature, but we do the same to others.

But this is about a puddle and not that stuff. (That is another post for some other time.)

Lately, in the dusky afternoon, I have stopped long enough and leaned against the fence, drawn to look at this puddle.

Along the shores, honeybees from the hives visit to drink the water. They land on the mountains and crawl down to the water to drink before lifting off for home. At times there are four or five quietly sipping.

And then every so often a chicken, which must be the Godzilla of this world, steps through and dips her beak to drink, or pulls a worm from the mud. She leaves three toed tracks in the puddle bed that trail behind her.

The wind stirs the placid pools into waves. Even in a puddle, there is no resting water.

And its all so quiet

The dying sun drops its paling reflection in the water before it falls behind the trees. I watch its colours dull and at last disappear. With that I push my weight from the fence and shift it back onto my feet and head in to the house…so much of this day is over.

While on my way back to the house, I remember that yesterday a monarch butterfly landed next to the puddle on the mud shore and probed for a drink of water. When it was finished drinking, it flew off to the south, continuing its fall migration to Mexico. And the thought came to me - I wonder how many puddles does a Monarch visit on its way to Mexico?

I think that there's a lot more at stake with a puddle than I ever thought there was before.

God has reasons…

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 13, 2010

Robin Shreeves wrote about South Jersey’s Slow Food “Dig- In” held here on September 25th - check out her blog about the day at:


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October 4, 2010

Its almost 8 am….I slept in a bit. The horses are waiting to be fed. I’m having my coffee first before I go out. Louie is pacing up and down his fence line – we call it his “worry path”. Over the years he’s worn a trench along the fence. Whenever he gets nervous or excited or impatient, he paces back and forth… it’s his personality. Zip is standing in his stall, framed by the door opening, with a concentrated stare at the house. Patrick has his head between the fence rails, reaching through as far as he can to steal blades of grass from the back field. But I need my coffee. Once I go out there, I will be out there for awhile. Not for any other reason than that I like to be out there, so I stay.

The horses and Snoops are shedding out their thin summer coats and growing in thicker, longer hairs, prepping for the coming winter. Louie’s mane is back to growing in too. What he grows in each winter he rubs off in the summer…no matter. We’ve tried covering it, applying lotions, etc, but he still manages to rub his neck almost bare when it gets hot.

It seems that their winter coats are developing a little later than normal this year. Years past, I could feel their coats thickening in mid August. Maybe it’s because it’s been an oddly warm year. Probably is.

One of our newer hens appears to have enough testosterone to be a rooster! This thing has long legs, knobs on its shins that might be the start of spurs, and long sweeping tail and neck feathers. It hasn’t crowed yet…neither has it laid an egg. So Kath and I have a little bet going – she’s saying a hen, and I am saying a rooster. I keep making crowing sounds when it comes near as an encouragement. It looks back at me like I’m some sort of idiot. I keep telling it that Kath gets dinner if it’s a hen, and to think between the lines….

I seeded the areas between the strawberries with cover rye to hold the topsoil through winter, and as a green manure for spring. I am slowly taking down the summer garden so that I can do the same…seems it wasn’t too long ago that I was planting the seeds for these spent vegetable plants. It throws a little bit of melancholy over the whole process. I love the fall, but I really don’t like the growing season to end. I don’t like shorter days. But I will deal with it.

As always, I will leave plants for gleaning. It is traditional for me, when the summer csa ends, to let people who visit us to pick what is still growing. The persons who signed up for the fall csa have been enjoying these gleanings too. I like it when I can just give things away.

I hate to say it, but at the same time, there is a spoiled goat that can’t get enough arugula…and horses who love radish tops. Everybody here eats from the garden. It’s sorta cool how that works. It’s fair to say that Snoop’s mom and brothers and sisters are probably living in some Jersey swamp eating green briar while she dines for free on stuff that even President Obama has to buy at Whole Foods! She’s a lucky goat.

My garlic came last week, and when the soil dries enough that I can work it, I will plant them. I am trying three types of german garlic this year, along with my old standard, elephant ear. I’ve been growing elephant ear for years here, and use my own “seed” that I save from the summer’s harvest. Garlic, planted in the fall, is not ready for harvest until mid summer – here it’s a nine month plant. I have to be really careful where I plant it, because it will be there awhile.


I’d better get moving. I don’t think that the goat, horses, chickens (and rooster?), and ducks will stay patient too much longer. They don’t really care about my caffeine addiction…

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 29, 2010

there is something about running my hand down Louie's shoulder...all that strength at peace...built by something as unappreciated and unassuming as grass

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24, 2010

Its 4 o’clock pm, September 24th, a day after the equinox and a day into fall…but its 96 degrees and the heat index is 101! Wow! Another day well over 90 degrees! We have passed the mark of 50 days above 90 degrees this year.

It’s been very hard to grow fall greens like lettuces and spinach in this weather. The soil temperatures have remained high, there has been no rain, and of course, this day’s weather is another day of how it’s been.

If it wasn’t for the irrigation well which brings up cooler water, I would be having an even much harder time of it. Right now I am running the sprinkler on the lettuces, which earlier this week reached the 2nd leaf stage. I am doing it just to cool down the baking soil. Later tonight, I will do my watering. If I watered it now, only about half of the water would get to the roots – the rest will have evaporated by the time it left the sprinkler nozzle and hit the ground. It’d be a waste of water and the energy to pump it, and wouldn’t do my garden much good.

Right now I don’t know if I’m just writing this to tell you a story, to get out my hot weather frustrations, or to come up with some point because I feel obligated to end this post with some flash of farming wisdom. I’m sure not going to lecture on global warming though. Don’t need to.

Think that I will just have to deal with the 96 degrees. That’s all I can do. Well anyhow, I need to walk out to the field and move the sprinkler over a few rows…get things cooled down. See if I can keep the lettuce going.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19, 2010

There are a few things I'd like to share-

South Jersey Slow Food is hosting this year's "Dig In" volunteer day at our farm this coming Saturday, September 25th. The Slow Food movement is about many things - local food, natural food, healthy food, earth care, cooking, creating, and gathering for meals together- everything that is the opposite of "fast food" and the fast food culture.

The purpose of "Dig In" day is to support local farms by helping out on a local farm. It is a national event, with Slow Food groups helping farms and farmers all throughout the country! It's really something when you think of it - people volunteering to weed, hoe, hammer, repair, etc. It's hard work.

I am pretty moved by the fact they they have chosen to help me. And even though the event is still a week away, I want to thank them now. To me, it's more than offering to help or to volunteer - to me it's Grace. I hope Slow Food can understand how much and how deeply I already appreciate that they chose to come to Seventeen Farms this year.

One other thing to share -

Karen, who comes to the farm every week to help us with the CSA, asked if she could put some of her recipes on the blog. I didn't even hesitate to say yes! Karen is working on some of her recipe ideas , and I will be posting them very soon. I think hers will be a great addition to the blog, especially because she is very creative and has so many good food ideas to share. Thanks Karen!

Spetember 19, 2010

The turkeys are still around. They have really made a home here. It’s not that wild turkeys are rare or too shy to show themselves, but to have them in the front yard and all around the farm all thru the day is new to me. It is a new pattern. Something that hasn’t happened here before.

Through the years there have always been turkeys here, but they would come and go and never stay. We’d see a flock now and then, and maybe a flock would be around for a few days, but they never took up residence like these.

The other day they were sleeping in the front yard! Last weekend they were gobbling outside the bedroom window. Last evening they were hunting grasshoppers with the chickens. I was washing potatoes Thursday and turned toward a “squeal” sound behind me and there was a turkey just five steps from me, supervising I guess! The rest were at Snoopie’s pen having a discussion. And then there was another day that I was in the garden and as I turned at the end of the tomato row, there they were on the other side. Wow! I never knew turkeys liked arugula!

In this flock there are two toms, one hen, and five yearlings (I’m sure there’s a proper name for turkeys this age, but I don’t know it and I am too lazy to go looking for it right now). I am getting so used to having these turkeys around that I am afraid that I will become upset if they leave or are found out by a hunter come turkey season. That’s the thing with everything that finds comfort or security with any of us – we begin to rely on it too, for comfort and security in return…

And that’s a good thing. Even if it’s only for a little while. And even if it’s over a few turkeys.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15, 2010

Today I harvested the remainder of my potatoes. Earlier in the season I had rummaged through the hilling hay every so often to sample a few for dinner, or to find some to give to friends, but today I decided it was time to get them all. Overall, I harvested more than I planted, so I am considering this first attempt of growing potatoes a success.

These guys are so different than what I see in the store. Most store bought potatoes are graded for size and shape, so that they all look and weigh the same. But because these came straight from the garden, I have a real assortment to work with. I’ve got every size- “store” size to marble size - and every shape you can imagine. Some are round, others are oval or long, and then there are a few that are so uniquely shaped that with a little creativity, I can easily make out animal shapes!

Some I will bake, others I will slice, and then others I will cut up into chunks. Every size and shape will have a good use for cooking.

And that is what I like about growing things myself. Variety. Nothing’s for sure and nothing’s standardized. Everything here is nature’s way when I find it. It’s a lot more fun this way.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12, 2010

Wild turkeys were once rare in this area, but over the years they have been re-introduced and have made quite a comeback.

So this guy in Florida wants to make a name for himself and burn a Quran. Stupid. Let’s spread a little more hate…it always makes things a little better

All week long there has been a small flock of turkeys coming and going from the yard. They basically travel in a wide circle throughout the day. The flock always comes from the neighbor’s back yard, across the driveway and into our front pasture where they chase grasshoppers and find seeds.

Outside Philadelphia a woman opened fire in the Kraft Foods plant, killing two co-workers and injuring a third. She had been suspended a day earlier. For two days

From there they turn into Louie’s paddock and head to the back field where they mingle with the chickens. The two flocks dissolve into one before separating and going their own way. The chickens scatter to the raspberries and the compost pile, while the turkeys lazily hunt and peck their way to the garden.

Two troops were killed in Afghanistan this week. Why do they call them “troops”? Is it so we don’t react that they were people? “Troops” keeps it impersonal. “Troops” does not tell the truth. The truth is, they were just kids

Most times the turkeys then meander around the garden fence and make their way into our back yard. But one afternoon a few “hopped the fence” and explored the garden, leaving all these three toed “dinosaur tracks” in the freshly tilled soil.

Once in the back yard, the flock finds time to visit Snoopy. I am not really sure why. The turkeys crowd around her pen and look at Snoops, and Snoops looks back with her relaxed, floppy ears hanging down. She’d give them a quizzical look. I would watch this from the kitchen window each day and still can only guess what they might have been thinking of each other.

Unemployment is 9.6%. Wages are falling. Bonuses are getting bigger

After a few minutes of this quiet meeting, the flock moves on to the woods line and disappears behind the bottle bush and bayberry that guards the stand of trees beyond.

He is a socialist, a Muslim, and born in another place. Carnegie shot a few steelworkers with Pinkertons while he vacationed in Scotland. He wants everyone to have health care. Huey Long made sure every child in La had free school books. TR made lands public for everyone. “Imagine there’s no…” Rockefella was surprised about Ludlow – hated to miss out on a good ol’ tent burning massacre. People burned to death underneath the canvas. The children were screaming

And then the next day, the turkeys appear in the neighbor’s yard again before crossing our driveway and coming into our front pasture. In fact, its 7:46 am and they are out there right now.

They are going to do it all over again. It is so peaceful here

(Playing with styles. A variation of John Dos Passos "newsreels" form from the U.S.A. Trilogy)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

September 5, 2010

I am not so sure that we missed a bullet, but at least we gained some breathing room – enough to take a sigh of relief.

On Thursday Dr. Beth came out to see Zippy to re-evaluate him and to see if the treatments she suggested had made him any better, and to take x-rays of his feet to see how bad the laminitis is.

To us he seemed to be getting better- walking less gingerly, and trotting a bit now and then to get away from flies. And his eyes were brighter and responsive. He didn’t look depressed and in pain like he did last week. It seemed to be a start.

Dr. Beth was pretty pleased with what she saw too. He was walking better and did not seem too pained to move. The x-rays showed that his coffin bone on the right foot had not rotated and that there was only one degree of rotation in his left foot. There was also very little inflammation in either front foot.

It doesn’t mean that the laminitis is over – he will always have to be watched carefully and stay on a low carb diet and light exercise to help prevent another attack. For now though, we are going to continue the original treatments of medications, cooling his feet with water, and lowering his carbs until we are all sure that this bout is arrested.

Seems like we can breathe a little easier for now. We all feel a lot better.

Notes from the week:

This was the last week of the summer CSA season. Overall, we estimate that we grew enough vegetables for over 2,300 meals, not counting the shares we gave to our volunteers and to the food bank!

Friday night we were out and about and when we came home we checked on all the animals. Inside the chicken coop we found a 4’ long black snake helping himself to eggs. Since he wasn’t a paying customer we caught him and took him to a new home in the wildlife refuge area that is just a few miles away. I think we will have more eggs for our friends now!

Its really weird how we went from a tropical storm warning on Friday that included serious predictions of heavy rains to receiving no rain at all and sunny skies, requiring that a forest fire watch be issued, all in less than 24 hours. The weather is just so crazy. We could have really used the rain, and most of us around the area would have welcomed a swipe of Hurricane Earl to get it…

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29, 2010

Been one of those weeks, but the good news is that the bees are still working on their “we didn’t sting him” record. Thinks its close to 8 weeks since any took a taste of me. Sorta forgot all about that til my daughter said something about if I am still getting stung. She was home for a week and was just catching up on my bumps and bruises I guess.

Yeah, the bees have been awfully quiet…content is more descriptive. Maybe I have just gotten a little better at handling them?

A few months ago what we determined to be a fox visited the back field and helped her/himself to a few chickens. A few meant seven. An eighth, our oldest named Sam, was one that escaped. Her tail feathers were ripped out and her back was deeply scratched with teeth scrapes. But she healed. She’s a really personable chicken, follows us around, and when I weed she waits beside me patiently for a worm or a bug to be exposed by my rummaging fingers. We coexist happily. She’s the one I let roam the garden, nipping at the lower tomatoes and beans for little bugs. She’s pretty cool – always willing to help me out…

We were able to find six chickens to replace the seven. They are young, but should begin to lay eggs in a month or too. When we are home we let the flock roam, thinking that as long as we are in the area, the fox will be too shy to attack. I like roaming chickens. When they are in their fenced yard, the fields seem too empty – a green sky without stars. It looks a bit lonely. There is just something about wandering chickens that makes me feel at home.

Back to my week.

Zips has come down with a foot disease called laminitis. It is not good. Laminitis is when the hoof loosens from the coffin, or foot, bone. Its very painful for the horse, and if it worsens, the horse can become too lame to walk. And if it comes to that…I don’t even want to think of it. We are doing all we can, and the vet we are working with is a good one. Next week she’ll be taking x-rays to see what the damage is and we’ll go from there. Meanwhile he’s on pain meds, a different diet, and meds that help the blood flow to his feet. We also give his feet cold water treatments as many times a day as we can. And we pray…

So its been one of those weeks. Really sucks. But no one around here gives up – its just not in us…

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010


(Yellow mortgage Lifter heirloom tomato with yellow wax beans; okra flower; sweet gum leaf in the yard; luffa gourd flower; yellow wax bean on the bush; ornamental gourds; mint scallop squash flower; yellow squash variety unknown)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15, 2010

As you already know, I like to ramble on a bit with scattered thoughts…its probably natural to think in unorganized ways that skip around. I mean, clouds don’t march do they?

Oh well.

It’s been hot. There’s been no rain. Harsh describes the weather. That I spend close to fourteen hours (or more) every day working or just being outside, the weather is my home.
I don’t usually have the luxury of separating myself from the weather with walls, roofs and air conditioning until the day is over and I gather myself for a nights sleep. This type of life has pushed me beyond the five senses to a sixth which sensitizes me emotionally and physically to the weather, almost as if I too am a plant depending on sun, rain, warmth and cold. I too, need all these cycles and seasons…I need to feel them on my skin and bring them into me with deep breaths. I don’t think, that no matter how harsh the weather becomes, that I could totally deny it with walls. It’s not the life I want to live.

Today is Sunday. Quakers call it first day. It’s the first day of the week. Tomorrow is second day, and then the next is third day and so on. It’s the same with the months. August is eighth month. Today is first day, the fifteenth day of the eighth month. Pretty simple stuff.
Quakers live in simplicity. They more or less search for simplicity. And they search for silence. All the clutter and noise is just litter. When all of the junk is cleared away, there is an open path to God. It makes sense. This is why I am Quaker. It makes sense to me.
Once a while ago, a good friend told me that any religion is a good religion. Any way to God is a good way. I think this is the wisest statement I have ever heard about searching. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Mr. Mower Man has moved away. His acre back yard has returned to natural growth, and nature is moving back in. A lone turkey spurned from its flock hunts seeds and insects there almost every day. And a lone doe deer visits the ‘once was’ yard too, sometimes gaining the courage to be in the wide open and wandering over to our yard to eat the hosta plants in our birdbath garden.
This all leads to a moment I had yesterday. Let me explain: I was in the strawberry field and when I left, coming out of the gate, there stood the same turkey, not less than ten feet away. Both of us were surprised…enough so that we both froze facing each other in an unexpected encounter. If we were cowboys it would have been much like a stare down before the duel. Neither of was going to be the first to blink.
So to break the ice, I began a one sided conversation with the fella. “What’s your name?” Where are your turkey friends?” “I won’t hurt you”, yada yada yada…
That was enough to ease the tension. The turkey pivoted to the left and very slowly walked away – but just to the raspberry hedge. And began to peck off my raspberries….I figured there were enough for all of us and let him be.

One last thing. Orion. At this time of year I can see the constellation very early in the morning just above our tree line to the east. It’s the harbinger of an ending summer and the transition to the fall. It signals that the days will quickly become shorter, and the time to harvest the last of the summer crops will be upon me soon…

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8, 2010

While picking sweet and hot peppers the other day I was struck by their reflective red colour. I tried to capture it in these photos...

A study in red...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1, 2010


Famine to feast…

Last season was a terrible year for tomatoes with all the rain, hornworms, and the diseases early blight and late blight that shortened an already unproductive season. This year is totally different with the stingy rain patterns, plenty of dry, warm days, and very little blight (there are reports of it occurring now in parts of Pennsylvania).

Our tomatoes plants – varieties of Roma, cherry, grape, Rutgers, yellow, and Brandywine- have been producing surplus quantities this season. I’ve never seen tomatoes grow like this!

Rutgers tomatoes on the vine...

Last Wednesday evening's harvest...

And an afternoon treat!

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 26, 2001

Yesterday afternoon it finally came…

The western sky changed from a haze shaded blue to a rolling black. The lightning began to spark in the sky and electrocute the air. The volleys of thunder shook the ground. A wall of wind driven rain came sideways, unleashing its pent up anger on all it found. Trees were flung over by gusts of wind. The afternoon had become a furious fury of swirling grey.

Where I stood, in a store entrance way, groups of persons gathered seeking shelter. There was talk of a tornado, of still stronger storms on their way. There was some fear among this fugitive group, but there was also a lifting of spirits. No matter how bad the storm was, its wrath had taken the afternoon temperature from 101 degrees to 76 degrees – a 25 degree loss. A swelling spirit of relief and happiness began to outweigh any sense of fear or foreboding.

And just as suddenly as it came, it was all passed! The area was left with some damage, a lot of clean up, and power outages, but the heat was gone! And that seemed to be the only thing at all that mattered…

(We arrived back at the farm to find a bit of “damage “. There were downed branches strewn around the yard and fields, my jeep had an inch of water on the floor boards and the inside was soaked because I had left the windows open, and our upstairs bedroom was soaked because the rain had been driven in through an open window. Many tomato plants had been blown down – although I had them caged and staked, the wind and rain was too much and toppled them over. All was repairable, so we counted our blessings and began the clean-up!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21, 2010

I really wish that I had more to say this time around…but the heat has quieted the summer to the point that everything around here is in what I describe as a heat induced hibernation. The sun has ground the farm down to still life…

For the most part we have not had a break from the 90 degree plus heat for almost two weeks now. We have had over 30 days above 90 degrees since June.

Basically, all the animals are laying low – keeping inactive and staying in the shade as much as they can. We have fans running in the stables, and ever since Louie got overheated a few years ago, we give him a “blue” Gatorade every day (spoiled Lou doesn’t like the “red” flavor”). When the heats been really tough on the horses, we hose them down to cool them off…same goes for Snoopy. The chickens find shade, and keep their wings slightly lifted to ventilate their bodies. Egg laying has dropped off to say the least. (no, you cant hose off chickens…at least not easily enough to make it worth either mine or the chicken’s effort)

Even the bees are having a time of it. In the evening about half the colony comes out to rest on the outside of the hive, draping down like a black curtain. A thousand or so others perch at the hive entrance with their wings going a mile a minute, fanning cool air into the hive. It’s a hard life. Bees never really stop working. Ever.

I was able to dig onions of late, and have them hanging up to cure. The tomatoes are coming on, as are the sweet and hot peppers. The potatoes are beginning to die back. I have pulled away at the straw in places to find a few good sized tubers forming – so I am hopeful that my first try at potatoes might at least yield as many potatoes as I used for seed. Anymore potatoes than that would be a success! The soybeans like the heat and are about a foot tall with light purple flowers, which will bear edemame pods in a few more weeks. The acorn squashes are pushing out vines to everywhere, and the butternut squash has gone crazy. There is going to be a lot of butternut!

The most exciting crop this year is the Dutch heirloom Dragon Tongue bean. These beans date way, way back to long ago. They have a yellow background colour, with purple streaking the length of the bean. The Dragon Tongue is juicy, crisp and sweet and has been bearing prolifically. It has become the CSA favorite.

Earlier in the year when I made the decision to plant heirloom seed instead of hybrids, a local gardener gave me a funny look and said sarcastically “good luck with that!” as if to say I was nuts. I keep thinking of him – it’s been my best cropping year ever… I am not looking back! I still wonder why he thought it wasn’t such a good idea.

Tomorrow they are forecasting the high to be 95 degrees, and temperatures in the 100’s by the weekend. It’s just been unbelievable and I don’t see any change to the long term forecast. We will all have to just do our best to hang in there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11, 2010

I guess it was a few weeks ago that the vet was out to take a look at Patrick’s teeth. He had begun to have troubles chewing (grinding) his hay because his back teeth had become worn and uneven. This is pretty typical for horses, as they take in sand and other abrasives from hay and grasses that over time naturally, and eventually, cause their teeth to wear unevenly.

So Dr. Beth came out to “float his teeth”, or in other words, use a specially made rasp to even out the irregularities and make Patrick’s back teeth flat again.

Although it looks a bit masochistic, its not so bad on the horse. Patrick got a sedative that put him in “la- la land”. Dr. Beth fitted him with a jaw brace to keep his mouth open, and quickly went to work flushing and cleaning his teeth, feeling for the uneven areas, and finally, rasping, or floating his teeth until they were smooth once more. In all, it took a half hour or so. When Patrick came out of his happy daze, he had a perfect smile again!

The ironic part of this whole story is that Dr. Beth, after repairing his teeth so that he could eat again, put him on a weight loss program, which means that even though she restored him to be an efficient eating machine, he wasn’t going to be allowed to be one!

Patrick needed to lose about 200 lbs! If you ever tried to lose even 5 lbs, you can easily appreciate the challenge Patrick was given!

So Kath has put Patrick on a diet and exercise program – cutting back his intake, and putting him to work each evening in the paddock. Its working – Patrick is adjusting to the light menu and beginning to enjoy the extra time with Kath, running this way and that, and being ridden more often. Although we haven’t measured him yet, he has begun losing weight and seems to feel a lot better!

The whole series of events reminds me of the times I have gone to the doctor with some typical complaint, yet he finds a much bigger problem in me that I had no idea was there! And so it is with Patrick, and for the best! It’s always nice to know that someone is looking out for you in the long run…and I think that poor ‘ol Patrick understands that, even when his stomach is growling! At least he can smile about it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5, 2010

Yesterday evening I took a walk around the garden and the yard with my camera. It had been another hot day. In the past thirty days we have had sixteen days with temperatures reaching ninety and higher. Today and tomorrow are forecast to be ninety eight. I had spent most of the day hand watering almost every plant with an open ended hose, and also some rows with drip hoses laid on the ground–the sprinkler is useless because it breaks water into droplets that easily evaporate in this heat and low humidity, so even though it throws out plenty of water, very little gets to the plant. The air gets the water instead.

Well anyway, back to my camera….the following are pictures that I took at the end of the day when things began to cool off, and I want to share them with you.

Honey bees need water too! I keep a saucer of water(with a few "landing rocks")for the bees. Usually I need to fill it twice a day. Bees will get water from dew, pools, etc. At times, I have seen them crawl up the garden hose to get water that lines the inside! This gives em a break, especially in this heat.

This is buckwheat in flower. I throw seeds around in the spring and let it go. Buckwheat is a great cover crop, and also an attractant for beneficial insects, which is the reason I plant it around the garden.

Yellow chard...chard is a beautiful plant, and one of my favorite greens.

This is a tomato, or tobacco, hornworm, which can devour a tomato plant in days! Every evening Kath and I walk through the tomatoes and pull them off. This one though has a problem - the white pods on its back are cocoons of a parasitic wasp that lays eggs inside the worm. The larvae feed on the worm, then make cocoons and mature into adults that will seek out more of these worms. This worm is no longer feeding - its hours are numbered. Nature has its own way of controlling the bad bugs!

This is garlic that I dug over the past few days and hung to dry. This was planted last October, and has been in the garden nine months.I will save enough bulbs from this harvest to seed this fall for next years crop.

This is a flower from the apple gourd plant. Gourds flower in the evening, last through the night, and shrivel in the new daylight.I think that they are the most attractive flowers in the garden.

I like walking around and seeing these things - its part of farming that makes it all the better!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 1, 2010

I just finished a dish of chopped zucchini and garlic, sautéed in olive oil, and topped with parmesan cheese. It was the first zucchini of the season from my garden and I picked it yesterday. The zucchini is a heirloom variety named “black beauty” and I am growing about 10 plants that I started from seed. Looking at the forming fruit on the plants, I can see that they are all a bit different in color due to the nature of an open pollinated plant. Some are very dark, and others are light green, while a few have an almost black striping along their length. Variety within a variety – it can’t get any better than that.

It amazes me too, how these plants are feeding me, but at the same time, feeding my honey bees and the countless bumble bees. Every squash and cucumber flower is visited by one or the other and sometimes both. When I walk over to the nearest bee hive, I can see honey bees landing on the bottom board with their leg sacks bursting with the bright yellow pollen from these plants. I am taken aback that the three of us – plant, bee, and I – are connected. And that’s only the tip of an iceberg that I see. There are probably infinite other connections that are happening beyond my vision and limited comprehension, all because I planted a small zucchini seed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20, 2010

A month ago a pair of barn swallows built their nest in the roof rafters of the stable. It didn’t take them very long – two days to bind mud with pieces of straw to create a home that resembles an over sized coffee mug. It was fun to watch as they would swoop into the stable and quickly bank towards the rafter, add a ball of mud and be gone within a few seconds.

Within a few more days, the “mom” was on the nest.

Late this week the swallows were acting differently. Instead of ignoring us and the animals, they’d swoop at us. They would charge at me from out of nowhere, coming so close to my head that the air from their wings lifted my hair. It was amazing how close they would get to me – maybe a few inches- before miraculously changing direction, just barely missing me. Their attacks were non stop while I went about my “barn” chores. Days later, it still is going on without any lack of intensity!

Looking up at the nest in the rafters I saw the reason – an open beak pointing upwards waiting for food. Now there are three sets of hungry beaks. I hesitate to get out a ladder and climb up to take a closer look, as I really don’t want to upset them. I also am not as nimble as I used to be and am not sure if I can still duck and bob fast enough to escape what I would expect to be an even more aggressive attack being so close to the nest. So I will just keep an eye on the nest from the ground.

Across the way in the martin house, the martins too have young. The martins are not so protective towards us. I can be right under them watching them and they just do their thing, flying to the opening of the plastic gourd and pushing their head in to feed their young. For a few day a big black crow would show up a few hundred yards away and land on the compost pile, and the martins and swallows would dive on it until it flew off, which worked as it has not been seen back lately. Crows will prey on eggs and hatchlings, and perhaps that’s what was on this big old crow’s mind. Or maybe he/she was picking for worms to take back to a nest of young crows. Other than that, the martins seem content that they are safe.

And we have other nesting birds here. In the back corner of the field two bluebirds are nesting in a bird box that I made to attract them. They come to it every year – three years now. And in the front yard we have a common sparrow nesting in another “bluebird box” I had made – this is the fourth year that this sparrow has come back to it. And I am certain that there are many more birds settled and raising young in the trees, bushes, and hedges here.

I am wondering that being our first pair of nesting barn swallows, if they will come back next year. I’d be ok with it, and if their young returned with them. They are fun to watch and they catch so many flies and mosquitoes that being swooped at for a few weeks is not such a bad price. And anyway, their acrobatic attacks take all the boredom out of cleaning stalls, turning it into a one sided game of tag, where I am always “It”!

And I’m so cool with all that!