Monday, August 31, 2009

Lucky Duck

Lately, the chickens have begun trying to spend the night on the patio, under and upon the patio furniture under the gazebo canopy and next to the house. After fifty or sixty birds sleep on the patio it is not a pretty sight in the morning -Thank goodness for power washers! We have been shooing them away from the patio each evening, sometimes deterring them with a spray from the hose, until they finally begrudgingly find a new roosting site for the night. Last night, most of them chose to gather together around a large tree by the garage. After their usual evening squabbling and vying for position it became quiet.

It was almost midnight and we were all asleep except for Sara, the insomniac daughter, working on her computer. Suddenly there was a terrible commotion--squawking and clucking and quacking. The male duck especially was in a state of agitation. Sara ran downstairs and went outside to investigate.

There, in the driveway, she saw a dark form. It was the terror of the night- the great-horned owl- and he had the female duck in his talons. Sara approached and the owl turned his head to look at her, then let go and flew off.

The duck sat very still, probably in shock. Sara stroked the duck and her hand became covered with blood. Sara was certain the duck would not make it through the night but a bit later she checked on her again and the duck had managed to move to a sheltered spot beneath the hammock. The duck remained there all day. This afternoon when I took her food and water she got up stiffly and waddled away with the male. (She is the top duck in the photo.) Perhaps she will be ok.

Now I feel guilty for chasing all the birds away from the patio, the place they must believe to be the safest spot on the farm.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Turkey Freedom

The turkeys are loose! Cadence decided it was time to let them out of their pen, hoping they had been there long enough to know it was a safe place to return to at night, somewhat protected from the great horned owls who have been eating our chickens, and the source of food and water. First, they explored the fenced pasture sticking together as a flock.
They happily chowed down on the lush burdock in the corner where I can't manuever the mower. Good turkeys. It is amazing how fast they have grown! We got them as day-old chicks on June 28th ---they are only 8 weeks old. Even more surprising to me is their sweet and curious nature. They prefer to be around people. And they make many lovely sounds that are not "gobbling," although they are learning to gobble a bit now, too.
They have already expanded their explorations beyond the pasture and been an object of curiosity to the other animals.

Last Market of Summer!

I have been feeling bittersweet, realizing that August is ending, school is starting, and it will be Fall next week. I know it is not offically Fall until the fall equinox, but to me school marks the beginning of autumn, and the weather has sure felt autumnal. We haven't had any sultry summer weather (yet)! I feel a bit cheated. But it has been a wonderful summer, and I won't complain (well maybe I will if my bumper crop of tomatoes never does ripen because it's so darn cold.) Although the Farmers Market goes year 'round, I'd call this the last market of summer.

At the market this morning, a darling young customer proudly showed his huge green pepper to me.

We all underdressed for the weather today - we were shivering in the brisk wind. It was a great day for selling baked goods, though, and we sold out of most eveything pretty quickly. People seem hungrier for bread and pastries when it's not hot and humid.
One of the wonderful things about the Farmers market is the live music. Today Rog played a set with members of Fiddlers and Company.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Veggie Garden Update

While Sara and Cadence harvested veggies for supper tonight (onions, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, chard, zucchini and herbs from which they concocted a delicious beef-veggie soup), I took a few photos of our garden's progress.
Cadence's tomatillos are beautiful.
The chard looks so pretty in the evening sun.
The tomatoes are absolutely loaded with gorgeous tomatoes. We just need some warm days so they ripen!
Some are huge. I think this must be a Gold Medal.

Sara inspects the progress of her fancy melons and squashes:


Our chickens are turning out to be better mousers than our cats. Twice today I saw roosters dispatch mice that must have gotten into the dried corn in the barn. They raced off quickly with their prizes, not allowing much of a photo opportunity. Maybe they were afraid I would try to steal their quarry from them.

A Walk in the Meadow

Today over lunch I took a walk on the path that Rog weed-whacked through the meadow. We have been so busy and it's so overgrown I hadn't walked out there for a long time; when I saw all the wild strawberry plants I regretted missing out on the berries.
The prairie has some beautiful specimens of invasive species - such as this humongous buckthorn, one of perhaps a dozen large, mature buckthorn trees --the mothers of thousands of buckthorn saplings.
A branchlet of the buckthorn, covered with berries. Birds eat the berries and scatter the seeds in their droppings. Buckthorn grows thickly and chokes out everything else inthe understory. We have a mighty buckthorn control challenge ahead of us on about half of our 10 acres.
I don't know what this lovely flower is...
Dogwood. Another attractive nvasive species.
Seeing the gorgeous fall color on the sumac leaves is a bittersweet reminder that summer is almost over.
Honeysuckle berries (yet another invasive species) glowing in the sun.
The trails ends by winding through a lovely stand of white pines, complete with a healthy patch of poison ivy we will have to try to eradicate.

Little Red Hen

We have a couple of bonus hens in our laying flock-- a few of the 200 male broiler chicks that Cadence ordered were mis-sexed and grew up to be hens rather than roosters. A few days ago, a pretty red speckled hen began laying eggs. She had laid two eggs in the hay stack in the barn, which we discovered because she was so proud of herself that she couldn't stop bragging loudly about her accomplishment. When we took those eggs away she found a new spot--a cardboard box full of feathers from the roosters we had harvested! Kind of gruesome, but a pretty soft nest.
Her eggs are large and a deep brown color, darker than they look in this photo.
Several roosters have been vying for her affection and she seems fond of this handsome Rhode Island Red. I am considering keeping him because Chagall is a great protector of the 5 Aracaunas but doesn't seem interested in protecting any of my new young hens.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action, Music!

Sara's college friend Daphne took the train from Chicago to visit for a few days. Daphne is pretty quiet,but there was a whole lot of laughing going on. She is a city girl, but a good sport - even when spattereed by smelly pig mud, as in this photo.

Daphne plays in a band in Chicago called "Careful Q." She and Sara spent much of the weekend making a fun music video for one of Daphne's original songs, "I'll Let It Be." View the music video.


Sometimes there are so many interruptions to getting my work done. Just now, the dairy farm across the road phoned that our Dexter cow and calf had gotten out and were visiting them. I grabbed some cow cookies, a bucket with a bit of corn, the cow halters and my camera and ran there. If nothing else, becoming a farmer has helped me get in better shape. A year ago I am not sure I could have run all the way there without serious huffing and puffing.

When I got there, all the holstein heifers were congregated by the fence, curious about our little cattle. I got Lariat and Lasso's halters on them, but they were not in the mood to be led home yet and not really interested in the treats.
Lariat introduced herself to the heifers. I don't know why she periodically gets out but I suspect perhaps she is in heat and restless. She is pretty clever about escaping. I wish she wouldn't teach Lasso her tricks.
Finally I convinced Lariat, or she decided, to return home, running along the road in the ditch with Lasso not too far behind. She always seems quite self-satisfied after these little escapades.

August Fog

This morning's tooth-brushing view was a romantic foggy sunrise.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tractor Parade

This morning I was gathering up my keys and wallet to make my inevitable weekend trek for home improvement supplies when I heard a curiously loud rumbling sound. When I got outside I saw a long line of tractors chugging eastward along our road. I waited at the intersection for the tractors to pass - and shot a few photos --but they just kept on coming. There must have been over a hundred tractors -- big, small, vintage, modern, and every make.
The drivers waved and mugged for me as they passed. I suspect it might actually get a bit monotonous driving such a distance at such slow speed and a spectator with a camera is a welcome diversion.
One tractor pulled wagonload of exuberant kids.
I pulled into a gap in the line of tractors, thinking it might be the end of the parade, but no, more tractors appeared putzing over the hill behind me. I was in the middle of the tractor parade, traveling at about 5 miles an hour for the next half an hour. This was my view.
I don't know what the occasion was, where the tractors had come from or where they were headed. Maybe it's an annual farmer rite of summer. I wish I had a big old tractor!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mid-August Market

Last Saturday was our biggest farmers market day so far. It may have been every vendor's biggest--the day was sunny,the produce was spectacular and the market was hopping. We sold our signature wood-fired sourdough bread, Cadence's specialty breads, Sara's gorgeous tarts, and our chickens.
We also sold fresh garden herbs, squashblossoms and summer squashes, but zucchinis were ubiquitous at the market and we couldn't even give them away.
I made no-guilt garden veggie cupcakes: Zucchini Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Velvet Beet, and Carrot Walnut. A sneaky, delicious way to eat your veggies.
The chocolate beet cake was so awesome that yesterday Cadence made a whole cake of that recipe, garnished with flowers, to celebrate her friend Javier's birthday --too bad Javier is in Colombia and didn't get to taste it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Pig Picture Post

I know I don't have proportionally as many photos of our pigs as I do of the other farm animals. This evening I went out specifically to take pig picture to rectify that and it became clear that the reason I don't have many pig pictures posted is that pigs in pictures are problematic.
Our two pigs have a small penned area next to their pig barn that opens out to a huge fenced area in the woods. The "fence" is just three strands of electrified nylon wire that the pigs could easily clamber over, but they respect it--they don't want to risk a little zing to the snout.
Tonight when I went to see the pigs they began tearing around the woods like maniacs. Until I got there, they had been lazily lying in the mud. Were they overjoyed to see me? Just showing off?
Usually, as soon as I go out to the pigs they begin wrestling around with each other obnoxiously--butting each other's heads and shoving each other around. The image I can capture im my viewfinder is generally of the top of their their heads or of their butts.
My best option is usually the sterotypical shot of the pig wallowing in the mud.
Frequently one or both of the pigs will flop down on the ground to rest and then they look...dead. I suspect if I find the image of a pig relaxing disturbing, I must be watching way too many factory farming documentaries.
My next strategy will be to photograph the pigs with Sara, who finds them mesmerizing. I am hoping to see the beauty in pigs that she sees.

Big Birds, Little Pond

The geese have so much fun in the kiddie pool on hot days I sometimes wish I could join them. (On second thought, maybe not...the water gets rather disgusting very quickly.)
The pool is only 5 feet in diameter, but the geese swim around at breakneck speed. It's a veritable whirlpool.
The goose not in the water noisily cheers on the racers.
Apparently it only requires nine inches of water depth for a huge goose to swim upside down.
If you are taking photos of the goose swim meet, you are going to get wet.

It is important to remember to scrub behind your ears while bathing.