Monday, April 21, 2008

Typical crazy day

This photo has little to do with this blog post but since I seem to have trouble posting without at least one picture I thought I'd share it. It's funny anyhow.

This morning I woke up at 8, around the same time as the kids. They hung around in bed for a little while and I started the teapot. I had to wait a bit for the electricity to gear up as the sun crept over the trees to the East so while waiting for the toaster and the internet I used reserve battery power on the computer to work a while on transcribing grant info for the flamenco conservatory. This is work that I do in exchange for a reduction on my tuition for dance class. The kids started to get hungry so I put some oatmeal on for them. When there was enough electricity for my toast, I got that going plus some tea and checked e-mail while the kids ate. Then I finished my grant work and made my way outside by 9 or so. Chris does the morning feeding of livestock so I was able to get straight to watering. While we do have drip irrigation in place, none of it is on timers yet so I have to manually open and close all the valves. Some of my beds are not set up for drip yet either so I water those by hand. And then there are all those starts! Lots of little pots to water.

So I worked on watering, making rounds, checking animal water, spraying aphids off the peach trees, dragging hoses around, adjusting shade cloths, pulling a few weeds, occasionally going back inside to help a kid with something, answering a couple phone calls, and getting quite crispy and dusty out there in this dry, warm, windy, and dusty weather that has been nearly constant for weeks now.

Around 10:30 I made my way back inside to see what the kids were up to. I got some checks written for bills and made a shopping list for the co-op. I was feeling somewhat optimistic that I'd get done with all the morning rounds in time to get out of the house and run all the errands I needed to do before getting to our regular Monday homeschool park day at around 1:30. One of the moms in our group is seriously ill and she was planning to drop her daughter off at that time and I had told her that I would try to get Eliza to the park on time so her daughter would have someone to play with (the other kids who were sure to be on time are all older). I also needed to get to the co-op, the bank, a mail drop, and a few random errands. I try to combine errands whenever possible so when I go to park day I always try to squeeze in other things as well. Today I was so close, but it wasn't meant to be.

Eliza and I hopped in the bath and it took forever to get the tangles out of her hair. It was past 11 by then but I was still thinking I'd make it out on time. I had to run back outside to shut off water here and turn on water there and take some scraps to the chickens. Back inside I started to put together a bag full of everything I needed to take for the park and all the errands, not to mention all my dance clothes for class later in the evening. I usually go straight to class after park day, again to save driving (Chris meets me and takes the kids). At some point, fast approaching noon, I noticed that the cows were out in the street.

Yes, the cows were in the street. Chris' dad was down there trying to get them back in, but that's usually at least a two person job so I started frantically trying to find shoes and sunglasses and car keys (the street is 1000 feet away and I had to get there fast) but by the time I finally got it all together I could see that the cows were back where they belonged. The gate had been opened for our neighbor so he could bring his big tractor in to laser level one of our large pastures and when no one was looking the three cows just walked out. But they still needed to get the tractor back out when they were done and it wasn't right that they were having to contend with mischievous livestock so I walked down the field with some hay and lured the little $#!+s up the field to a place where they could be locked up and out of the way. That took about 30 minutes.

Then the great Leaving for the Park Routine officially began. I had to find clothes for Eliza. This was not easy because all the clean laundry is in a huge pile on the bedroom windowsill (remember they are deep sills) and her little shorts and t-shirts just drown among all the sheets and towels. I found some shorts but no decent shirt (i.e. one that isn't full of stains) but I remembered that there was a nice shirt in the car so I just got the shorts and underwear and the only pair of shoes I could find, some sandals that she wore last year. The kids were outside somewhere so I figured I could use that momentum and just get the house locked up and ready to go--I could get her dressed outside. So I gathered up the dance bag, the bills for the mail, and Eli's partial outfit, ran around turning off phantom loads and locking doors, and headed outside. On the way I stopped in the mud room and filled a chick waterer so I could replace the one in the brooder with fresh water. OK, I was outside with the waterer and the stuff and we were officially in Leaving Mode. I popped into the shop to exchange chick water and find a dying chick in the brooder. There was no hope for this little guy--his neck seemed twisted and he was near the end. I wasn't going to let him continue to suffer so I had to finish him off myself. I'm sure you don't want to know the details but I promise you it was instant and painless.

It was now almost 1:00. None of us had eaten since breakfast and all I had was toast so we were all hot, hungry, and cranky. The wind was kicking up. I locked up the shop after the chick murder and realized I needed to wash my hands. On my way back into the house, which I had to unlock, Eliza came around the bend--naked and covered with mud. Remember she just had a bath. So it's back into the house to clean up again. I'm laughing now but at the time it was not so funny. Typical, but not funny. Another attempt to get out of the house and I got her shorts on and tried to get her sandals on but they don't fit at all. Hoping there are shoes for her in the car, I ask Scotty to find his bike and get it to the car. The car, by the way, happened to be parked about 100 feet down the driveway for some reason. Halfway to the car Scotty announced he couldn't find his bike helmet. Back to the backyard to look for the helmet. No helmet. I remembered seeing one in the house--so it's back in the house again through the locked door (fumbling for the key while holding bags of stuff). Got the helmet, can't find the bike rack. Oh, have to remember to shut off the rest of the irrigation! Walk around to the pump house, find the bike rack, hike the 100 feet to the car.

Eliza's nice shirt was not in the car.

Yes, Chris had thoughtfully cleaned out the car earlier in the week and everything was now--back in the house. Well, at least there was a pair of shoes for her in there. So after another round trip to the house the kids were dressed and in the car. It took me several minutes to get the bike rack on the car and the bike secured. Finally we were on our way, and it was 1:20. The park is 20 minutes away and we still had to stop at the co-op.

The drive to the co-op is uneventful but when I got there and parked I realized that I had left my purse at home!!!! Thank goodness I had the rent money from our tenant in my pocket, which I was going to take to the bank (one of several errands that never happened), so we could still do our grocery shopping and have food for the park.

We finally arrived at the park at around 2:30. The wind was going strong by then and we spent about 3 hours there. I wound up missing the first hour of dance because my friend wasn't back from her Dr. appointment in time and I was watching her daughter, but I finally made it to my class at 6:30 and danced hard for an hour. I got home around 8 and had dinner, caught up with Chris for a few minutes, made the kids a snack, and sat down at the computer to catch up on email. Now I'm in bed with the computer and the huge pile of laundry that needs to be put away. Hmmmm, do I blog or fold laundry? That is the question most nights.

I don't know, I guess I am a bit disorganized, but today is so typical of this swirling, unpredictable life of farming and homeschooling and dancing and playing and loving. I'm not complaining, just letting you know why I don't blog more often! OK, back to mostly pictures for a while. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We can't stay away.....

Last fall the kids and I stopped at Danielle's farm during our mega road trip and we just didn't get enough so Eliza and I decided to fly out again this spring! Scotty and Chris held down the fort while we were gone.

Here she is on the plane. It was very exciting for her. She was a joy to travel with and we had so much fun.

We flew into Philadelphia and before heading to Maryland we stopped in Lancaster, PA to visit my grandmother. The drive from Philly to Lancaster was so nice, especially all the small farms everywhere. We passed a couple of horse-and-buggies and this really cool horse drawn trailer which I just had to pull over to photograph.

Here are four generations together! Try to ignore the terrible angle on me--I had to set the timer on the camera.

Eliza and the girls started playing the second we arrived at the farm and didn't stop for four days.

One of the highlights was getting to video chat with their friend Emma.

Another highlight was salsa dancing! It quickly became the evening ritual to put on some Celia Cruz and dance.

The salsa dancing quickly morphed into "salsa running," which was a wild sprint back and forth across the kitchen.

Speaking of the kitchen, I must say that Danielle and Jim are amazing chefs. They work together beautifully and they fed us like royalty.

Here are just a few of the amazing treats I indulged in that weekend. For more of their culinary creations, see Danielle's blog here, and in the index of her sidebar, select "farm to table." Most meals were accompanied by fresh greens from the garden, which had been growing in a hoop house all winter.

I was treated to eggs benedict with farm fresh eggs and their own bacon for Sunday brunch, complete with mimosas.

Jim made an amazing pulled pork shoulder roast on the grill, which was so good I ate way too much and didn't sleep well that night. Again, that was pork raised right there on the farm. And I tasted my first goose, which both Eli and I loved (upon returning home I immediately ordered a dozen geese to raise this spring). The braised goose was accompanied by pan roasted mixed potatoes and yummy Southern style turnip greens. I came home with a couple of extra pounds, but they were so worth it.

And to top off a perfect trip, you won't believe what I saw at the Philadelphia airport on the trip home:

Thanks again Danielle, Jim, and kids for a wonderful time. If it is at all possible, we will be back. We love you all!

Livestock update

We have been feeding the animals in our large field garden that was used the last two years by a local CSA. This year we are taking it over and will grow chiles, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, and other row crops out there. The animals are fed just behind a fence, where they hang out and poop in between feedings. We have been moving the fence back down the field periodically to distribute the manure and uneaten hay across the whole thing.

Here they are getting their breakfast.

And just last week we had another lamb born! Look at the face on this one. So cute.

The sheep are definitely big woolly messes right now. They are scheduled for shearing at the end of the month.

Greening up

All of our busy farm work combined with warmer temperatures is starting to result in some growth!

Here's the cold frame that was planted the first week of January.

Strawberries in full bloom:

Here are all my herb seedlings that have been growing for a couple months now. They are hardened off and just waiting for the right time to get moved to the garden.

The pasture is still pretty crispy but notice all the fencing! We should really be able to properly rotate the grazing this year.

Onions are finally planted.

They are still coming to the farm!

I managed to snap a couple more photos at our last work day. We got the onion bed dug and prepped. This involved moving a bunch of sand out from the pond that we are digging in the front "yard" and digging it into the bed along with a generous helping of compost. That's the kind of job that is made so much easier with several hands.

Here is Sue removing Johnson grass and bind weed from my herb garden.

Alison is an intern who is working on the farm for credit in a college Biology class. She's giving the peas a drink.

We have really been so happy with how the community farm help has been going. We continue to be amazed that people actually come back! We do work them pretty hard but they seem to have a good time and we all enjoy spending the afternoon together talking about all manner of sustainability related things. We really do believe that strengthening our local community ties will become more and more important as we face great new challenges as a society.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Social Studies?

Last month Chris invited the kids to decorate the floor of his shop with clay paint, which would stick to the earthen floor before it was oiled. I was walking outside the shop and I heard Chris say "wait for it, wait for it......" and then a "ppffttthhhh" sound. Then a lot of giggling. Turns out they were having a little anthropology lesson, using a prehistoric technique to leave hand prints on the floor and walls.

First a mouthful of (non-toxic, totally natural) clay paint:

Mix with water:

And blow!

The kids both gave it a try.