Life. What matters? What is important? What is the purpose? Why? Why? Why? The reason I love farming is that all that mess falls away when I am digging out weeds or planting or doing chores. I still don’t have answers but I do have this absolute knowledge that there is reason and purpose–that I am a cog in the wheel of a life that makes sense.
OMYGOSH it’s mid-April already! Since my last post, the other two mamas had their calves. We now have a full complement (3), Cinder, the female mentioned in the previous post, Wester born 5 days later and Easter born on, you guessed it, Easter day. The last two, unfortunately are male (or “fortunately” if you either love veal or are Winston–the bull who had have to go if we kept his daughters.) Wester is in the picture on the left and Easter is to the right (east-ha!) Mama and Cinder are in the background next to the bale of hay. I’ve been milking Mama daily since three days after Cinder’s birth. She continues to tolerate it (though she gives me a look that tells me she things I am a weirdo.) I only get about a pint of milk a day but that is enough to keep me in milk and allow me to make a bit of yogurt. I’m very thankful and don’t like to think about what the future inevitably holds for her–she’s our oldest cow.We also have 6 little chicks hatched by one of the black hens. She’s been a great mama so far–a relief since our two best moms were killed by a local bulldog. Why is it alwasys the good ones who get caught?! I especially hated to lose the little hen who last year single-handedly raised two broods. She was the best mom I’ve ever seen–training her babies to eat bugs, avoid fluttering helplessly around kitties, and raise a big ruckus when something bad is trying to get into the pen.
We have the garden about half in. It is still missing the hot weather crops–peppers and okra. The peppers in the greenhouse were killed the night it went down to 27 degrees (the night after Wester was born! It was so cold, he didn’t get up to poop and ended up with a bad case of pasty butt that nearly did him in–ask us and we will give you ALL the details!) A lot of things got killed that night including any hope of a crop from the pomegranites. However, the blueberries made it through. Since they are our biggest crop, that was a relief.
We are trying something new to help build our soil. We have planted some patches of hairy indigo--a legume that the cows love and that is tolerant of low-fertility soils. we are hoping it will build the soil and that we will also be able to get a cutting or two off of it for the cows. We seeded it on a rainy day but hadn’t had any rain since it germinated. It was at critical stage yesterday but, thankfully, today it rained. The seed cost $150 a bag so we were VERY happy to see the rain. It is another reminder that we humans can plan and set goals but in farming, it really isn’t up to us. God laughs (and it isn’t usually a santa-belly-laugh. )
FINALLY, we have our first calf of the year. We have been expecting one since late December (obviously there was a miscalculation!) and, at last, it is here! What a little cutey. It was born very quickly–we did the chores this morning and wondered if Mama was going to have it today. I checked on her before noon and the calf was up and trying to nurse! I would say I expect Buffalo Girl to deliver today but I have been saying that any number of days now!
We also have a chicken setting on some eggs (since last weekend) and lots of blooms! Although the Mayhaws got frosted at absolutely the wrong time, the pears and blueberries are looking good. It just might be a productive year despite the odd hot/cold spring weather. We are hopeful.It has been great porch weather. As an example of how good it has been I am posting a picture of our two boys–one happily lounging and using his brother as a cushion, the other annoyed at me for waking him.
Well, the sun is coming up and it is 18 degrees right now. This is not abnormal for February–just abnormal for the lows in the 50’s we’ve been having. Since our pear trees are now in full bloom–and we’ve had little rain to cushion the blow–we fear for the worst. But, that is farming. Anyone who has ever read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder knows it has ever been so.The odd thing is that it is impossible to feel hopeless in the spring. Fall, yes but spring, no way. Every day shows something new fighting its way to the surface or showing a bit of green. This is why people still love to farm. And that also has ever been so.
Oh no!! After weeks in the 70’s and 80’s with warms nights as well, the pears, mayhaws, and citrus are covered in blooms. The pomegranites and figs have leafed out. The blueberries are budded. Everything thought it was spring.Then, cool air blew in some much needed rain. We got only a quarter inch but hoped it would be enough to give the ground enough additional mass to hold some warmth. Unfortunately at 5 AM the temp on the porch was already down to 30 degrees. That is NOT a good sign.
It was a frosty morning this morning. The crystals in the grass were shining like diamonds and John wore his Rocky squirrel hat. It was one of those mornings when a warm house feels like a huge blessing. Our only concern is for Buffalo Girl’s calf–due any day now. I hope s/he waits for a toastier day!
I found the camera! The picture shows our herd, including Midge and Cocoa. Midge is in the forefront with Cocoa to her right. Cocoa is half lowline angus and half Murray Grey. Midge is half Dexter and half lowline angus. Midge will be a year old in January and Cocoa is about 5 months old. It is possible Midge was bred when we bought her but we hope not. Because the are both naturally polled (hornless), they will (hopefully) give us calves that do not need to be dehorned. We would have preferred to stay with purebred Dexters but both price and proximity made diversity a better approach.Now that we are nearing the end of the year, this is a good time to look back and reflect as we move forward. For a while there, struggles with weather made me ready to give up on the farm. This past summer we had a great crop in the garden and it looked like a good year for fruit. Then we had a severe drought followed by a flood that annihilated the garden. This was followed by a huge crop of caterpillars and other bugs. The cows were bedeviled by them. It seemed as if we would never make a profit on the farm! We both questioned the choices we had made.
However, the market is slowly changing. I feel more hopeful now. The ironic thing is that if times do continue to get tough, our local farm makes sense. It means that if times are good, our farm has value because someone will have money to buy it from us some day when we are too old to tend it. And, if times get bad, the food we grow on it becomes more valuable. Either way, our farm makes sense as an investment of time, love, and money. It feels great to be able to end the year on a positive note and to again take joy in what we do.
Tomorrow we are picking up two additions to our herd–both cross-breeds. We had a line on some full-blood Dexters at a reasonable price but Bruce wanted to sell them as a group. This would have been too much for us–4 cow-calf pairs would have overwhelmed our little herd. However, because that didn’t work out we met Jessica and her herd of mismatched (but much loved) assortment. We decided to purchase a Dexter/Lowline Angus mix (10 months old) and a Lowline/Murray Grey mix (4 months.) We are excited to add them to the herd–pictures are coming (as soon as I remember what I did with the camera!!)
The weather is doing its annual October thing–a few cold days to kill off the lingering summer crops before a return to warm weather. So, we are trying to keep some of those lingering summer crops alive through the cold spell so we can reap their bounty for a bit longer! I’m hopeful about the zucchini and cucumbers but worried about the tomatoes and eggplant. I’ve moved the peppers to the hothouse. I’m crossing my fingers about the watermelon–if we can’t eat them, the cows and chickens will. The cold should sweeten the grapefruits and oranges. It is looking hopeful. YEAH!
Mood: not sure
Fall.Such an interesting word for a time when things are slowing (growth of grass, speed of heat-loving reptiles), things are dying (butterflies, annuals, heat-loving veggies), and things are settling in for the cool, dark days.
It is easy to become morose and maudlin at times like this. It takes energy to get up and get moving. I love working at the school but at this time of year it is easy to feel I do not make a difference. It is hard to rise up against the fall.
What sustains me is the knowledge that this too shall pass. So, for now I will just fall and prepare to rise again.