Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lawn Boers

Can you find our new helpers?

Last year, when we first got our riding lawn mower, it was one of the chores we really loved. After all, this was our first Lawn since becoming Adults, and for some reason riding around on a lawn tractor felt Adult and Amurican. It was fun to put on flip flops and a sun hat, open a soda or a beer, and cruise around the yard, accomplishing something while sitting.

As the summer wore on, the novelty wore off. We had More Important Projects to focus on. The garden quickly ate up all my "free" farm time, and a series of big projects -- building the pasture fence, nursing a sick piggo back to butchering weight, buying and rehabbing a tractor, canning, brewing, dealing with the oddness of the barn well, building shelving and organizing the barn, chasing turkeys and unsuccessfully trying to police ducks and geese -- made the prospect of parking oneself on a mower for a couple hours on a nice day seem fairly absurd.

How about now?

The weather this spring was the final nail in the coffin. I mentioned last week that we were growing slowly frustrated with our waterlogged hill that made plowing, planting and mowing impossible. A couple of times I ruefully thought that if we had an ox, or a mule team, or a draft horse, we could manage to move a plow through the garden.

And so it was natural that we now find ourselves with two munchy little helpers, Goat with No Ears and Goat with Giant Ears. We named them after two totally normal goats in an "Animal Freak Show" that the Big Man and I paid $1 to visit a few summers ago. Goat with No Ears actually has tiny ears, being a cross between a no-eared breed (LaMancha) and a normal-eared breed (Boer). Goat with Giant Ears basically just has normal ears.

There they are!!!

Goat with No Ears is very sweet, although he seems a bit frail for my liking. Goat with Giant Ears is stubborn. He never wants to walk with you on his leash from the barn stall to the lawn, or from the lawn to the stall, instead preferring to lay spread eagled on the ground and be dragged. They really like each other, and even though Goat with No Ears is much smaller and has a smokers cough, Goat with Giant Ears always hides behind him (see above) and bleats plaintively whenever he is out of sight. Goat with No Ears is perfectly happy being patted on the head and rubbed on the nose, while Goat with Giant ears leaps 5 feet in a random direction if you get near him (although, to give credit where credit is due, I did accidentally un-clip Goat with Giant Ears when he was in the lawn (a totally understandable mistake!!!), and the Big Man was somehow able to sneak up behind him and grab him by the leg as he tried to leap away. Thank GOD our grass was so long. Like the savanna.)

They are really a bit small to keep up with the grass…but they will grow, and in Busy Season as we are, we'll take all the help we can get.

The Grandma Lois Memorial Garden Season is off to a good start with a bumper crop of lilacs.

More posting soon – this is an extra busy weekend here at the farm, and I'm behind on posts anyway, so they will be often but brief this coming week or two. Goings on include the garden, which is going in thanks to an intricate system of drainage trenches that a frustrated and panicky me hacked out of the earth yesterday, the piglets, who have unlearned the electric fence due to a long power outage last week, leading us to spend hours variously amused and frustrated chasing them about the pasture, sometimes during severe thunderstorms, some funny-nosed and quiet creatures that we've acquired, and a sick chicken that we've placed in solitary confinement for Rest and Observation. Details coming soon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Again, re: the Garden. Sigh.

I always have such high, organized hopes for punctuality in the garden.

And yet, here is the list of things that should be planted in the garden and are not: beets, onions, potatoes, salsify, scorzonera, tendersweet cabbage, parsnips, artichokes, carrots and beans.
I am doing a good bit better than last year, in that the garden is plowed and manure has already been dumped. And I have managed to secret some peas and shallots into the back corner, and they're already coming up, and looking promising.

However, we are still waiting for the universe to dry out enough to allow the garden to be tilled, so it looks like I will end up planting around the same time as I did last year. Buh. We are giving the onions a head start, however, with a bread tray full of seedlings in the guest bedroom, and the greenhouse (should we manage to reassemble it after its horrid, depressing flop (yes, everybody - always stake your greenhouse. ALWAYS.)) should extend the season for some of the more delicate plants (red peppers this year are a tier-one mission). Not a disaster, but an annoyance, in other words. We will not suffer much for produce, but my fingernails daily complain at being too immaculate, my straw hat sits forlorn, and I come home from work only to fritter the daylight hours away watching drops fall and lurking about the barn with the cats, moody and pent-up.

Relatedly, the rain has made the front yard into a jungle still too damp to mow down. Oh my, whatever shall we do with all that grass? (Coming Soon.)

And, in the For Sale Now category (because to be sustainable, somewhat unfortunately, you have to make money) we still have a very few pigs available for 2011. Amazing pork chops included:

And an overabundance of eggs (11 a day!) has forced me to start pushing them onto the unsuspecting populace as soon as I gather some egg cartons. Gray, large, white, medium, beige, small. All incredible, and recommended to be poached over anything and everything (think spicy tomato soups, sauteed vegetables, fried rice, carbonara pasta dishes, burgers, crusty toast, dressed salads, etc...). Unwashed and untreated, like the French do, from our very own frustratingly feral chickens (their consumption of chicken feed is down to about a cup a week for the whole dozen...they seem to eat pretty much only what they forage and hunt on pasture). Anyone who doesn't mind buying eggs in paper bags is welcome to have them ASAP: $3 a dozen.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Piglets Starting to Look Like Pigs; Chickens still Clueless and Ungrateful

A brief post before we exit the scene for a much-needed extra-long weekend in the sun of Nashville.

Big Man built a mighty fine chicken coop for the chickens.

It has cozy nesting boxes, more than enough room for roosting, a luxurious carpet of hay, a feeder and fresh water, and windows on all four sides that can be closed for chilly nights or rainy days. We locked the 9 that we could catch in there for four days to get them sensing that it was their home, and not the milk room of the barn. We also cleared out all the scrap metal that they had been roosting on in there.

If I were a chicken, I would love the coop, I thought.

Well, I am apparently not a chicken. They still prefer the dusty, drafty barn full of cats that any day now will attempt to net themselves a large and delicious prize. Every dusk, we troop down to the barn, armed with brooms, to swat them out, lock the piglets in, and herd them into the general vicinity of the coop. 10 of them will always end up in the coop. But two of the original Splinter Group from the Long Chicken Winter War of 2011 still refuse, instead roosting in the tree behind the barn. Ah well, feral chickens.

Meanwhile, in somewhat less annoying animal news, the piglets look great. They, like the chickens, run wild over the land despite our best efforts with some temporary fencing to keep them a bit more central, so they have lost their foraging privileges until they learn to respect the temp fence some more, or until we figure out a better, safer way to rotate small ones through the pasture.

House arrest is nice and sunny.