Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sometimes, Things Just Don't Work Out

Grandma Lois had this amazing 40-year-old rototiller housing mice in her shed for the past 10 years, which she recently donated to the Cause. I had high hopes for this rototiller -- it's a beast, and if anything short of a tractor could handle the sod and rocks of our garden plot, this was it for sure.

Well. Big Man has mad skillz at fixing stuff, and we thought he had it all jiggered up right swell, with a rope holding some things in place, sure, but still, roaring through the sod she was, when, on the fourth pass through, the camshaft broke in half.

(Probably under the weight of all those commas.)

This was very frustrating to us.

Insult to injury, we spent twelve full hours at the annual farm bureau auction afterward, hoping to get a sweet deal on a tractor. And while we procured some small sundries, engaged in truly rewarding people-watching and got to sit in a lot of big, fun machines, a tractor we did not buy.

This leaves us with a garden with 4 inches of tilled soil, roughly one fourth of what we want.

Also, we have not kept up with the lawn. (Which I really want to use as an excuse to get some goats, stat, but, you know, you didn't hear that from me. They'd probably eat my lilacs anyway. Stupid hypothetical goats.)

Turns out, if you don't mow your lawn, you find tulips, so that's cool.

ANYWAY, we don't know what exactly, we're going to do about the garden. Tiller parts will be hunted for, time will be spent experimenting with a pitchfork, manure will be added. The garden is key (some of my seedlings are getting downright jungle-y upstairs), but this weekend is the Weekend of Pigs. Finally.

(The artichoke cheers in excitement.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Today in Pictures

We've gotten a lot done in the last few weeks. This post is a digest of photos describing the work we've done. But first, a short breakdown of the weekends to come, an inspiration to visit if you will:

4/23: Big ass farm auction, going to buy a ton of cheap farm crap, fencing, tractors, who knows what. Installing fence for sacrificial paddock (50'x60') for pigs and other livestock. Tilling the garden plot, amending with compost, and tilling again to mix it in. What fun!!

4/30: We're gonna buy some damn pigs!! and put 'em in the pen! We've got to buy them food and bed them down and set up water and other essentials, as well as small odd jobs.

5/7: Big Man goes to Maine, but only for an overnight, to pick up a riding lawn mower from his mom, who happens to be visiting this weekend. Also, perhaps we will build a poultry brooder or coop? Who knows!?!?

Other jobs with no set date: barn roof repair, barn wall repair, barn beam repair and grease collection. Come join the party!

We built a pen for the pigs and goats.

It has a door, reminiscent of a friend's art and TV's "Lost"

The door goes to the outside, where we will build an enclosed pasture next weekend.

If the pigs were tall enough to look out the door they would have an amazing view.

We've amassed quite the wood pile for friendly bonfires.

and finally, a note on the baby bunnies. Here's a few pics, and another Vid, all taken this last Thursday. We're sorry to say the now adolescent bunnies vacated their dent Friday afternoon, I have to assume they're off plotting how to eat our garden fresh produce.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Baby bunnies are the cutest.

It's a week late for Baby Easter Bunnies, but we found a nest today. Becky's people are visiting to help around the house and we tore up a bunch of brush and cut down some trees which was quite fulfilling. We unearthed many a treasure, lots of trash of course, and a god damn nest of the cutest little turds you've ever seen. Ursula found them, actually, she stepped on one and it EEEKED, but she didn't feel it or hear it apparently. Here's a few absurdly cute videos of unearthing baby bunnies. Try not to explode.



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hear Ye Hear Ye!!

Announcing Big Man and Johnson's First Ever Annual Hippy Dippy Zero Mile Dinner. That's a working title, I have a few more.

How about the...
hunt it,
garden it,
ferment it,
kill it,
bake it,
forage it,
cure it,
curdle it,
smoke it,
churn it,
roast it,
compost it,
Pickle it,
fence it in,
have an animal make it for you party!!

Or the juxtaposition party, featuring long term and short term events, friends from both near and afar, food that is both gathered and farmed, lifelong loved ones and perfect strangers?

I digress, so let me explain in more concrete terms:

What: Together we will make a meal from scratch, and I mean scratch. We will plant the barley for the beer, we will raise the poult for the turkey, we will curdle the cream for the cheese and we will slaughter the hog for the ham.
Where: Our house, TBA Farms, 913 Caldwell Hill Rd, Lisle NY.
When: The culminating meal will be on Saturday, October 30th.
How: Every weekend from now until then we will host an event that will contribute to the meal. You are invited to come to all or none, at your leisure. The weekends are structured to be 3 day affairs with visitors arriving sometime on Friday and leaving mid day on Sunday. The event that pertains directly to the party will be small, a 4 hour affair on average. The rest of the time we get to work you to the bone on more mundane tasks, although you will surely relish in the hard work, sunshine and sense of accomplishment that will accompany it.
Why: This one is unnecessary.

This being our first year we will not be able to make absolutely everything from scratch, but we will do our best while we set up the infrastructure to make that goal possible in years to come.

At this point the menu looks something like this:

Cured ham
Smoked turkey with sausage and dried fruit stuffing
Wild mushroom and rice risotto
Homebaked bread and home churned butter
Green beans and onions
Mashed potatoes
Roasted squash
Sweet potatoes with homemade marshmallows
Garden salad of whatever fancy ass greens Johnson has growing at the time

ice cream and wild berry jam walnut tart
Pies (type to be determined)

Beer (type to be determined)
Wine (type to be determined)
Wild sumac tea

Of course this menu is open to change, and we'd love to hear your ideas for additions. There is a possibility we will try to make the breakfast on that day as well, we shall see.

So, the question on the tip of your tongue I'm sure, is when do we do what? Well, some events are very fixed in the time table while some are fluid. Some events are ongoing, like garden maintenance or foraging and some are short and quick like hog slaughtering. If something strikes your fancy let us know when you'd be available and you can reserve it. People are welcome to come out by themselves, with people we've never met, or whatever works.

Rough schedule:

Plow and till garden
Amend soil with compost
Fence garden
Build paddock for animals
Build sacrificial pasture for animals
Set up water for animals and garden

1st: Piglets on the ground
8th: Last frost, lots of planting
Build poultry brooder
Build poultry coop
Plant early crops

5th: Poultry on the ground (chickens for eggs and turkeys for meat, also perhaps ducks)

3rd: Last weekend to make wine (Can happen anytime before this date)
30th: Last weekend for brewing beer (Can happen anytime before this date, may want to make multiple batches)

Prime time for foraging (Mushrooms, rice, berries, other fruit, many interesting greens)

More foraging
Lots of garden harvesting, canning, drying, etc.

16th: Hog slaughter, bacon and ham started in cure. Sausage made
29th: Tons of prep work, baking, etc.
30th: The big day!

This list does not include the following, which all must happen before 10/30 but have no specific date:
Dairy product making (cheese, yogurt, butter)
Fruit tree planting (we won't get any fruit from them this year, but we will in years to come)
Compost bin fabrication
Hayloft cleaning
Banquet table building
Pasture fencing
Grain sowing (Not sure if we'll be able to do this this year)
All the activities that will be necessary for the recipes you suggest

Whew, that was a lot!! This is very much a work in progress and it will change as time passes. All I ask at this point is an RSVP, either via e-mail or in the comments so we can get a rough head count. As you can see there is more to do now than in the middle of the summer, so while we'd love to see you in July you'd be most helpful if you came next weekend (I know, short notice right?)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nature Lesson

Yesterday Mrs. Spike was down at the farm, and amid a general discussion of dogs and the ticks that love them, she noted that "They say ticks don't come out until the frost has killed the peepers three times." Aha! I thought. Peepers. That's what those loud night things must be.

Exhibit A:

(You kind of have to move the little bar along to get it to start playing, but it works.)

There's no picture, because aside from being loud in the country at night, it is also very dark. But mostly loud.

According to the Internet, these are tree frogs, and variously known as "pinkletinks" (which is what they are called in Martha's Vineyard, obviously) and "tinkletoes" (only Canada could come up with this).

Others (ahem), when they hear "Peepers" of course think of Marvel Comics and stare at Mrs. Spike with confusion for a few seconds. These literary folks recognize Peepers as a tragicomic accidentally evil mutant with a stutter, who was rendered mute by Captain America, and retired from fighting to demurely wait tables at a bar for bad guys. Wikipedia informs me that after this, he hit a deer while driving, ended up stuck in a ditch, and was there eaten by a supposed "Predator X," who was invented waaaaay after I stopped reading comics.

Anyway, what Mrs. Spike really meant, was Spring is coming; you better get ready.

Exhibit B:
The lake is a lake again, and even Ursula wants to play. Or at least, bite its ass.