Saturday, June 30, 2012

Whirlwind Tour

Today was the Mora Garden Club Bus Tour visit to our farm, an event which we have been looking forward to for a couple months.  The club was on its annual tour of interesting garden sites around Minnesota.   I  had warned them that we are not really a garden (yet) , but an actual small farm, run by beginners.
Nevertheless, I wanted everything to look as beautiful as possible.  Last week, I  purchased some end-of-season flowers to replace those that had not survived (mostly due to the darn chickens scratching them out, some due to benign neglect.) A few of them did not make it into the ground, so I scattered the pots in the flowers beds - but I  doubt the garden club was fooled.

Many things did not go according to plan - primarily, our lawn mower would not start this morning and the lawn REALLY needed to be mowed to look civilized.  Rog zipped to town and  bought a new battery charger and it still wouldn't start.  No neighbors with potential lawn mowers to borrow could be reached.  At the last minute, Rog got it going and was able to mow the main areas just before the bus arrived.

What a wonderful bunch of enthusiastic, friendly gardeners!  It was a hot steamy day, but I gave a short tour of our farm projects,  they shopped in the store and ate lunch on the patio.  Three friends,  Mara,  Julia and Lynn, helped and miraculously made everything go smoothly.
Love this lady's hat!  (She is eating a little tart made with our garden raspberries.)
The bus tour was a great  test run for whether we would ever want to promote regular events on our farm.  Hmm...maybe... but we definitely would need competent help (like my friends today) to pull it off.

After the tour departed, we had  raspberry-mint mojitos and lunch on the patio with our invaluable assistants.  Rog and I  hadn't gotten more than a few hours sleep last night, so as soon as everyone left, we collapsed in the hammock for a little snooze in the shade.

All in all, a very fine day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Maybe it's the recent heat, but a few of the chickens sure have been acting weird the past couple days.  This morning I noticed  this hen acting all  motherly toward this turkey poult, shepherding it around and  protecting it from any other bird getting near.  Now I just finished cleaning the coop and the two of them were snuggled up together inside. Maybe the hen decided it wasn't worth being broody in such hot weather, and besides I kept taking all her eggs away, so she adopted a turkey. The poult seems to like the attention.
This buff orpington hen has also gone broody, hunkering down in a nesting bucket the past couple weeks.  She is SO crabby.  A couple times she has actually drawn blood, pecking my arm when I reach under her to collect any eggs.   That makes me all the more certain I don't want  her to raise any chicks to grow up to be like their mom!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tail Tale Chapter 3 : LaFonda's Tail is Hot Topic!

Yet another, possibly my last, post about LaFonda's tail.   The pink nylon tail worked for a couple days, but the fringes got tangled up on themselves and it lost its effectiveness as a flyswatter. So then, at a suggestion from a blog-reader, I made a baling twine switch, which has been working quite well. It is a bit heavier, stiffer and  maybe easier for LaFonda to aim at the flies pestering her, but it wasn't  as pretty.

On Sunday, our farm store was open and the Nodding Wild Onions played music. A young woman, Winona, was admiring LaFonda's makeshift tail switch. She told me that the place she works, Hot Topic, had crazy hair extensions on clearance for 99 cents and suggested that they would look awesome as a poof on her switch.
So, yesterday I bought several hair extensions at Hot Topic (a shop whose customers are generally much younger and hipper than I)  in an assortment of  colorful hombre and zebra-striped patterns.  I  cut off the little clips at the top of the extensions and sewed  four to the poof-y part of the jute switch, with a dab of  super-glue for good measure.
The trendy new tail switch hanging form a light switch.
The colorful zebra-striped switch looks  great with her spotted fur.  She is one stylin' cow!
The new switch with crazy hair extensions also seems to function very well as a fly swatter.  Winona says with time they will dred-lock, l just as  a real cow tail switch does.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tail Tale, Chapter 2

LaFonda can swat the flies off her back and legs now! (In case you haven't read my previous post, she came in to be milked with switch of her tail totally missing yesterday!) I made her a pink prosthetic tail and she seems to like it. She has been swinging it around all afternoon.
I found cow tail extensions available to order on line, but they cost $50 to $100. Today when I was doing errands I bought some supplies to try making one for much less:  Pink nylon line, super glue and double sided velcro.
I cut 18-inch lengths of the pink nylon twine and melted the ends with a match so they won't unravel.  I glued them to the fuzzy side of the velcro, then sandwiched the ends inside with another little strip of velcro so the dried glue bits won't irritate LaFonda's tail stub.
I braided the top few inches so the switch hangs together as a bunch. Then I gave LaFonda a treat while I velcro'ed it on.  She seemed puzzled at first, craning her neck to look at it and waving it around, but after a few minutes, she seemed to accept the prosthetic switch.

Next I will make one a bit longer and  thicker so it is more similar to her real switch.  I have plenty more materials; if she loses it I can make another.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Creature Feature


I was horrified this morning when I called LaFonda in to be milked -- the switch of her tail was gone!

The switch is the long whip-like part of the tail that the cow uses to brush flies off of her back, or to swat you in the face if she is annoyed with you while you are milking. LaFonda's beautiful long switch just touched the ground.  Some cow, probably she herself, must have stepped on it when she stood up and pulled it off.   It won't grow back.

Many dairy farms actually cut their cows' tails short  so  they aren't getting in the way - and so the farmer doesn't   get swatted with a muddy tail a hundred times per milking. But that switch serves an important purpose for bovine comfort during fly season and I suspect it is also a point of pride for the cow. LaFonda looked a bit humiliated this morning and kept tucking her stubby tail between her legs.

I haven't found the switch yet, but after I make the CSA boxes I will search for it in the pasture. I have read about people making prosthetic switches for their cows from horse tail hair, so maybe if I can find it I can re--attach it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Few June Highlights

It's too busy these days for a proper blog post, but here is a rundown of a few recent happenings.

Of all the current events, the most wonderful event has been having Cadence, our younger daughter, home for a couple weeks. In addition to assisting with many farm projects, she baked bread and pastries for the  Farmers Market for two weekends. It was wonderful to get reconnected with long-time market customers, and Cadence appreciated earning a few bucks. Alas, she leaves tomorrow - we will miss her!
While Cadence was here, our turkey poults arrived.
Last week we had fierce storms with heavy rain and strong winds that broke many branches and toppled a few trees.
The saddest part was finding so many nests with baby birds destroyed all over the farm.

Our main pasture fence was damaged by a fallen tree. Branches are hung up in the top of the tree, so we will have to pull it down with the truck in order to saw it up. We haven't had a chance to do that yet, so I re-routed the electric fence around the fallen tree so the cows don't escape.   Add this project to next weekend's to do list...
Last week's CSA box (Box # 4)  might be the prettiest yet.   Contents  included  sugar snap peas, lettuce, spinach, garlic scapes, baby zukes and squash blossoms, a little bundle of Italian herbs, golden and red beets, and elder flower blossoms.  I wonder if anyone was adventuresome enough to try elderflower fritters?
Cadence and I  (mostly Cadence) washed and pitted all the beautiful tart cherries we picked from Don and Betsy's tree, over half a bushel. We have an actual cherry/olive pitting tool, but  figured out it was much faster to pop the pits out by squeezing the cherries between thumb and index finger.  We made cherry shortcake and cherry smoothies and froze the rest. Some are destined to go into wine later this summer.
Work has finally begun on my tiny garden shed. I had wished it was a bit taller and our friend Chad said he could make it so. He disassembled the entire structure from the floor,  built a knee wall, and re-assembled it so that it is now 18 inches higher than it was. Now it  is tall enough to stand in without brushing your head on the ceiling and useful for rakes, spades and hoes to hang on the walls.   Next will come windows and doors, siding and a little porch. I can't wait to finish the exterior.

We have also made significant progress on the aquaponics system, but  I will devote a separate post to that project.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Blast from the Past

Last weekend, three dear high school friends came for a visit.  There was a little food, a few mojitos, a bit of farm work, some music, and a lot of laughing.
We made raspberry ice cream, courtesy of LaFonda.
Betsy invited us over to feed lambs.  Margy really has the knack.
Deb was our photog.
Deb snapped me feeding some lambs.
Gayle demonstrated her excellent sheepherding technique when the sheep broke through the fence.
We have been friends for over three decades!  Thanks so much for visiting us on the farm, seesters!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Potato Bug Ponderings

A few days ago I discovered  the potato patch has been invaded by potato bugs, more accurately called Colorado Potato Beetles. This is the pretty striped adult,  but what I first noticed were the larvae,
fleshy, humpbacked orange critters, devouring the leaves of the potato plants until they turn into lacy, poop-covered shreds. No time to waste in dealing with these pests.
I think most organic gardeners hand-pick and squish these bugs, but that seemed too disgusting to me.  Instead I got a bowl of  water with dish soap and a spoon to knock them off the leaves into the water. We used this technique a couple times last year and it worked well.

In addition to knocking the larvae and parent beetles off the plants,  I checked under all the leaves for clusters of eggs and squished them with the  back of the spoon.  I only found a few adults and not too many eggs, so maybe we are on top of the problem.

This was a tedious, time-consuming task, but not unpleasant since it wasn't too hot this morning. I noticed curious things about the  potato beetles and began to wonder about some things. (I bet gardening has been the impetus for much scientific experimenting throughout the ages.)
For instance, I am growing several different heritage potato varieties, some of which have darker leaves and stems.  Most of the potato bug larvae on the dark green plants were  brown rather than red.  I wonder if there are two subspecies of potato bugs, with dark ones preferring dark plants for camouflage, or, if eating the darker plants causes their color variation?
The potato bug infestation was concentrated in the plants in the middle of the plot.  Most of the edge potatoes had no  potato bug larvae or eggs at all. Is that a demonstration that diversity is  more resistant than monocultures?  Does the initial potato bug land in the center of the patch to lay eggs and  the population works its way out to the edges?

It was  difficult to  knock the baby potato bug larvae in the crevices of the plants with the spoon, so I  sometimes resorted to squishing them, turning my thumb and fingers a vivid rust color. Hmmm, could you use potato bug larvae as a dye colorant?

At first I  found the larvae to be  repugnant, but as I worked the patch I tried to view the babies as their mom,  might -- cute, lovable little larvae.  It worked, and I actually felt a bit sad drowning them in soapy water, but I also felt very protective of my precious potato plants. If I don't significantly reduce their numbers, they will destroy my crop.

It took several hours to work my small potato patch, and I am sure I will have to do it at least once more to catch the bugs that eluded me.   If I were being paid minimum wage to grow these potatoes, I wonder how much per potato the pest control would cost?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Cherries and Critters

In which our wonderful neighbors, Don and Betsy, invite us to harvest cherries and bottle-feed lambs at their farm.