It’s only fair to warn you that this post is a bit long – but hopefully not a bore. I was off this week from my “other” job, and spent a few minutes each morning writing down a few thoughts and experiences that had come by…
I was stuffing apples in my pockets this morning for the horses, getting ready to head out to feed the animals, when I looked out the kitchen window and saw the “white” flock of turkeys under the bird feeder, pecking up the gleanings. I call it the white flock ‘cause one of the turkeys is mostly white – a sorta albino. So I waited. I didn’t want to go out and have them scatter back to the woods. I let them eat. I haven’t seen the flock for weeks and I wanted them to be there. And I wanted them to get something to eat.
One thing about the snow is that it betrays every animal that moves in the night, preserving their tracks for all to see. The tracks of deer come from the west wood line, around the apple trees, along the front pasture fence, and then into the woods along the east side of our property. Rabbits are everywhere along the wood and brush lines. And there are also fox tracks. The fox came from the woods and circled out through Louie’s paddock, then went near the chicken coop. From there its tracks follow the wood line in a zig zag pattern. Most likely the fox was trying to hunt rabbits. I am thinking it may be the same fox that took seven of our chickens last summer.
During the day, winged predators have been keeping watch over the farm and pastures. Often, I have spotted a red shouldered hawk and what I think is a sharp-shinned hawk gliding along the east wood lines. Every so often, the red shouldered hawk perches on any one of the cedar fence posts and patiently watches over the area underneath, waiting for a mouse or small bird to inattentively come close enough to become its prey. A mature red tailed hawk also shows up every so often, perching high in a tree, looking over the yard and fields.
For this reason, we have not let the chickens free range. Instead, we keep them loose in their pen, which is netted above so that a hawk or owl cannot swoop in to take one. They might not be as happy as they would be running all over the place, but at least they are safe. One of the most interesting things I see with the chickens is their instinct to keep an eye on the sky. Whenever a hawk or large bird flies over, the chickens freeze, or sometimes run for cover into the stable, under the raspberries, or anywhere else that separates them from the sky above. They do the same when a low flying plane passes over.
Rain. Not enough yet to melt the snow. The ground has not thawed so the water has no where to go but to pond in the fields and overflow towards the woods in slow moving streams. Usually I am not too good with cloudy wet days…especially in the winter. I think we were evolved to slow down in the winter, preserve energy for the coming spring. We aren’t supposed to be jumping out of our skin. Artificial lights, clocks, alarm clocks, schedules, to-do lists, etc have replaced the human tendency and the intuition to live a life of natural rhythms. We have given these up to live as if there is always something chasing us – we have made ourselves the prey of time. Always out of breathe. There is always something yet to be done. We feel guilty if we slow down.
But the farm is so different. Today it is saying that there is nothing to be done. Rest. “It is raining and there is nothing you need to do that the rain can’t do”…. So today I will try to do my best to keep from wrestling with the pace of the world. And I will try not to feel that it is wasted.
I went out to the hoophouse to check on things. Inside I am building a new raised bed that will fit between the two that I had built last spring. I pretty much have it finished except for filling it with soil, which can wait a few more weeks.
In the two original beds I have a few things growing – parsley, rosemary, chives (dormant), a few scallions that are left from the summer, and a lot of carrots. A few weeks ago I planted spinach and arugula too. The arugula is up pushing double leaflets now, and in a few weeks I think I will be having baby leaf arugula salad! The spinach has yet to emerge…
The carrots are great. I had read that carrots that go through a frost, or a cold snap, get sweeter because they naturally produce sugar as a survival mechanism against the cold. I can say it’s true. Very true! These things are really crisp and sweet. I am eating up all the sized ones, and giving the tops and any small carrots to the horses.
For dinner, I pulled about 20 carrots, washed and sliced them – I don’t peel them, because fresh carrots don’t have a dried, coarse skin like old ones do– and sauteed them in butter…and served them garnished with parsley.
This afternoon I am going to a friend’s farm to borrow their horse trailer, so that Kath and I can trailer Patrick up to New Bolton on the 31st. Figured I‘d get it now, so I can practice loading and unloading Patrick, and get Patrick used to loading and traveling and unloading. Our horses don’t go anywhere, so this is a new experience for all of us. The last time that Patrick or any of our other horses were trailered was to come here. That was years ago.
Besides getting Patrick used to the trailer, we will all have to deal with separation anxiety – horses don’t like to leave their herd or buddies. I am sure that Patrick will get upset, but on the other end, I can pretty well predict that Lou and Zips will go nutty pacing, calling, and running the fence til they’ve completely exhausted themselves. Patrick is the leader of the herd, and he leaving will not go unchallenged.
When you see a horse in a trailer, quietly munching on hay, it just didn’t happen. The horse is calm and content only because it was patiently trained to be that way. I wish I had that option, but I don’t. Patrick has developed a dental problem that our vet cannot treat here – Patrick needs a horse dental surgeon/vet. Some of his teeth are broken and might have to be removed to stop the abscessing that has become a problem. Its not an emergency, but it cant wait either. So I’ll have to train him the best I can with the few days I have. Actually, I am up for the challenge – looking forward to see what I can do with him. But first I am going to buy a bag of apples…apples can tempt a horse to do almost anything.
Another note from yesterday….the sun has melted off the snow almost completely now, and it gave me the opportunity to walk through the “garden”. The lettuces, although frost burned, are hanging on, as well as a few cabbages (their outer leaves are flopped, but the leaves coming from the center are healthy). Neither are pretty or grocery store chic, but towards spring when the weather begins to warm again they will out grow their cold withered leaves and be better than anything one could buy.
We had planted Esther’s garlic late, and my curiosity as to how it was doing peaked as I looked into the row covers and saw no green leaves pushing through the straw mulch. I peeled back the first couple feet of the tunnel fabric and reached my fingers down into the soil, feeling around for a clove till my fingers were able find the first one. I pushed deeper into the soil and curled my fingers around and beneath the clove and lifted it out of its dark, warm nest. It had a root ball the size of my fist and a small tip of flesh pointing up from the clove's top- all good signs of a healthy start. I worked the clove back down into the soft soil and covered it with mulch and redrew the fabric over the hoops…things are doing fine.
Yesterday I donated blood to the Red Cross. I try to do this whenever I can. I used to give money to charities, but…for example, I gave to a popular housing charity years ago, and then every week thereafter I received mailings to donate to them again – fact being that they spent more money in stamps and letters trying to get another donation from us than I had donated in the first place. So I figured that my donation never bought even a nail. So I give blood, because I know that someone will benefitIt will actually reach someone. Kath and I also do a thing called Family Promise, which helps families who have lost their housing although they are working. We make dinner and spend an evening with the families. I know they are benefiting – and I am too, because these families have a lot to teach someone like me who has had the luck in life that I’ve had. Imagine working seven days a week at two full-time jobs and not being able to afford a simple one bedroom apartment….its very common. It’s sad. And it isn’t right.