Monday, October 29, 2012

Mask Maniacs

For the past two weeks, Cadence and I have been making papier mache masks late into the night.  Not,  as you might guess, for Halloween costumes, but for a Mexican Day of the Dead  event  Cadence is organizing at our farm.  It is a private dinner party for 36 people, with three courses of amazing, authentic Mexican cuisine. She has been working like crazy to transform the south wing of our barn into a beautiful dining room with a south-of-the-border atmosphere.   So, we have been  creating colorful tissue flowers,  pinatas, and masks.
I must say, there is nothing quite as much fun as making an ambitious, creative mess with your daughter.  Our dining room has been a catastrophe of torn newspaper and splattered flour paste for weeks, but the results are worth it. Today I photographed each completed mask in the barn:

The alligator with a fish in his jaws.

The snow leopard.
Cadence's javelina.
Cadence with her traditional Day of the Dead skulls.
My Cow mask. I might have to keep this one for future cow pujas!
Crazy rooster mask,
Artist Frida Kahlo.  Not quite finished yet.
After being consumed by making Mexican masks, especially that Frida Kahlo mask, I  was inspired to become Frida for Halloween.
Logically, Rog should have been Diego Rivera, but  he is way too tall, lanky (and handsome) to be Diego, so he became surrealist artist Salvador Dali instead.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's All One Water

My favorite local arts venue, Crossings at Carnegie, currently has a terrific exhibition of photography and poetry focused on water, called "It's All One Water."  The show was organized in partnership with the Zumbro Watershed Project and is up through October. 

I was honored to have both this photograph, Thirsty Bees, and a poem accepted into the show. I do not fancy myself a poet, although I do like to play with words.  Since becoming a farmer  I have a whole new appreciation of the critical role water plays in every aspect of farming:
Farm Water Cycle

Six 40-pound, 5-gallon buckets, 2 times a day
Lugged through deep snow
Watering the cows
My nose dripping, face numb, elbows throbbing
Grateful cows, slurping thirstily, exhaling clouds that
swirl like the steaming coffee my husband is drinking                  inside the cozy house

The turkeys and chickens huddle next to the barn
Sad feathers plastered against their bodies
Miserable drizzle.
The goose and ducks chortle and splash through the puddles
Wings raised in joyous victory
After months cooped inside with smelly chickens
Rain streaming over them
Water off a duck’s back
Squawking appreciation to the sky
Glorious drizzle.

Oppressive, tropical afternoon
Cats flattening in the shade
Dogs melting into the dirt
Chickens sprawled under bushes, beaks parted, panting
Sows mired in a cool, soothing concoction
Of spilt drinking water, soil and pee.
Bovines, motionless but for tails swishing a pesky fly
Ankle-deep in cool water of the kiddie pool
A front hoof splashes water up onto a hot cow belly.
Farmers heavy in the hammock sipping ice water
Hoping evening will wring out the humidity.

Arriving home late Saturday night
Twisting faucet to brush teeth --
Nothing!  The well pump has quit! Panic!!
The chickens need 10 gallons of water tomorrow!
Each cow needs 15 gallons of water to wash down the hay!
Dogs and cats and ducks and geese and turkeys and pigs must drink!
Farmers need water for morning coffee!

Whew! Rural well drillers work Sundays so animals can drink
Thankful, farmers
Pockets empty, thirst quenched.
                                                            - Susan Waughtal 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bye, Bye, Blackbirds

The red-winged blackbirds are flocking up for their big fall migration.  This morning they gathered in great throngs in the trees along our pasture, thick as leaves.  I was hoping to catch a murmuration flight on video, but no luck.

Here is a bit of video, but it doesn't capture the incredible surround sound of being there:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


We have not had the greatest success raising chicks this year. We lost several families to a raccoon, then a bunch to a feral cat, and recently, two half-grown chicks out of a batch of three mysteriously disappeared.

So, yesterday when I heard peeping I was a bit dismayed - it is so late in the year and going to be so cold for a hen to raise a clutch, and these chicks were hidden somewhere in the cluttered, storage section of the barn.

Today Cadence and I found and  caught the hen and her babies, all nine of them, and put them in a dog crate in the chicken coop.  The other chickens won't be able to harrass them in the crate and they will be much warmer in the coop than the barn.  Not to mention they will be fed and watered.  In a few days I will open the crate door so the family can go in and out at will.

It is impossible for your crabbiness not to melt a bit when you see how cute the chicks are and how proud and motherly the hen is.

Wordless Wednesday; Oh, Goosefeathers!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Because we had a healthy jungle of tomatoes taking over the high tunnel greenhouse and couldn't bear to pull them out, we got our winter crops planted quite late.  According to Elliot Coleman, the guru of  cold-climate winter gardening, the winter crops we planted will grow in the cool weather, but the greater issue is the short day length.

So, we are experimenting with  adding some light for a couple hours a day. Now, once it gets dark, the greenhouse glows beautifully.
The lights are just 4-foor fluorescent shop lights, the same lights I use to start my seeds in the spring. I don't know if  we are adding enough light to spur the plants on to greater growth, but it can't hurt.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bittersweet Season

As lovely as autumn can be, it always makes me feel a bit sad... days getting shorter and darker, garden harvest wrapping up, bare trees, impending winter.  I do appreciate the  change of seasons but it is a bittersweet time.
Appropriately,  the bittersweet vine I planted on the chain link fence two years ago is now covered in brilliant orange berries.  Bittersweet, indeed.
Last night it started to rain and continued a warm, gentle drizzle most of today - the first real precipitation we have had in months.  By evening chore time, it started to get foggy and I was inspired to get out the camera. Everything had been so parched and dusty for weeks, but the muted colors became saturated in response to the rain.
Amazing how fast the brown lawn greens up with a bit of moisture.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beautiful Bovines for Sale

I have been procrastinating facing this, but we really need to reduce our herd size.  We have too many cows for our little pasture.  So, I am listing our Dexters for sale. This makes me very sad --they are  so sweet, and aren't they pretty?

I hope to sell Lariat and her  bull calf Poblano together because is still nursing - and will nurse until he is even bigger than his mom, if allowed.  But he is plenty old to be weaned, so I could sell him separately if somebody only wants a Dexter bull.
I am also offering Jitterbug,  Lariat's year-and-a-half old heifer calf, for sale.  I hope to keep at least one of the Dexters, but if somebody wanted to start a small herd, I would sell all three together.

Dexters are very small, hardy cows,  bred for meat, milk and work (although they don't really do any of those things on our farm.) They are the perfect cattle for a small hobby farm.  Our Dexters are  mostly pets,  very food-motivated --offer a cow cookie and they will follow you anywhere.

All of the cattle were abundantly blessed at the Cow Puja two weeks ago, so I hope that means they will find wonderful new homes.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wooly Booly

Yesterday my friend and neighbor Virginia invited me to check out the Sheep Farm & Fiber Tour.  We only had time to visit two farms, so  we headed to the two closest sites. First up was Barn Quilt Farm, which has lovely barn quilts on each of its buildings.  This one was my favorite - with maple leaves which honored the owner's Canadian roots.

Barn Quilt Farm is unusual because it is a  10.5 acre farm  completely within the heart of the city of Rochester.  Developments sprouted up around it, but it has continuously operated as a farm so farming has been grandfathered in.
A delightful family purchased the farm last winter and is diving into their farm dream.  They have their own llamas and also board llamas for other people.
They also have a few alpacas --this is Zipster.  He is so  cute!! I am smitten --now I really want an alpaca...
The new family added chickens - and built the most beautiful chicken coop!  Look at these fancy nesting boxes!  The newly-laid egg rolls out  the back of the box for easy collection by the farmers.
The colorful barn quilt on the Chicken Coop.
Here is Virginia with one of the huge fluffy, Angora rabbits. Barn Quilt  Farm has  diverse fiber  livestock.

Their pride and joy seems to be the  sheep, a small flock of Romeldale CVM (California Variegated Mutant) sheep, an extremely rare breed with wool that is  excellent for hand spinners.  I just loved these stocky, wooly, badger-faced sheep.
We had so much fun meeting this family and  exploring their  beautiful farm!
Next we went to the Ellison Sheep Farm in Zumbrota. Nancy Ellison is  sort of a legend among regional textile artists. The farm is very old and she has installed a tiny fiber arts gallery in the barn silo - this is the view looking up inside the silo.
In addition to raising Godtland and Icelandic sheep,  goats, and geese. Nancy teaches spinning and weaving and sells many kinds of spinning wheels and looms from her  barn shop. Virginia tested out a wheel - and is now re-inspired to take up spinning again.
Nancy's talented daughter Elsa Jo creates charming felted characters and animals.  The faces are amazing. I love this felted Santa with a raccoon on his back!
I purchased this darling felted black-faced sheep with a crescent moon blanket.
Our final stop was a new shop in Zumbrota, Bee-lighted, which sells  textile art supplies and sells the work of local textile artists. I succumbed to buying this cute felted hat, garnished with vintage trims, made by an artist in Chatfield.   Something tells me this hat will be my signature look this winter.

It was so much fun visiting these farms with Virginia. Now I have a rekindled yen to acquire some sheep...or goats...or maybe an alpaca...and learn to spin and dye and felt and knit!