Monday, October 31, 2011

normal?!

Things might be back to normal. We left the farm on Saturday as darkness descended, with no power and no fireplace the house was the same temperature as outside. I still have silver status with Marriott, and when I called to inquire about rooms that allow pets they gave me an incredible deal. A great enough deal that the front desk clerk was annoyed with my rate, he mentioned that everyone else there was paying at least twice that amount. Yay for the farmers!

We returned to the farm early Sunday and completed chores. Then the task of hooking the generator so our furnace and a light or 2 would run. Neighbors advised on how to shut off power from the line and transfer to our noisy little power maker on the back porch. By dark we had a little heat and light. And flannel sheets and down quilt on the bed! That change in weather came on us so quickly..fresh tomatoes and heavy snowfall are an unusual combination.

Homer had to play with his food..

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween decorations?

Or winter vegetables? you decide..0

no power

Last night spent in a hotel. Back at the farm with the generator running, hooked to heat and fridge. No running water, no lights. Rumor has it tomorrow mid-day before electric is restored. We will all be ripe by then..

Popcorn on the camp stove. Movie and heat courtesy of the noisy generator, so glad to have it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October snow

Fall has been brown this year. So much rain that the leaves on the trees didn't really dry out and change color..instead the leaves sort of browned out and stayed on the trees.

We have set records in wet stuff falling from the sky this year. More than ever recorded. And today the predictions are for 5-8 inches around here, and threats of wires laden with such heavy snow snapping and stopping electric supplies.

The last time we had snow like this? Before Halloween? 1972, the year my father died. And again, now that his brother died. Not related..or maybe?!

Here is the road in front of the house. It is expected to snow for 12 more hours.

cow salad

this is what we are working to have all over the farm. No poison ivy and plenty of this.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

my uncle

My father's older brother died this evening. He was 92 and I loved him dearly. He will be buried in the cemetery in Greenup, IL, right next to my dad.

My father died when I was a teenager. We had visited his family a couple times a year, traveling to St. Louis in a station wagon packed full of my family. After my father passed, I still traveled to St Louis for the holidays, my younger brother and I took the greyhound bus from the D.C. area. My uncle was a tall man with little tolerance for teenage high jinx, and Jeff and I behaved ourselves in his home.

When I graduated college the economy was similar to how it is now..tough to find work for a gal with a degree in English Literature from Towson University. The world was not waiting for me, and I went from part time to full time in the warehouse I was employed in while attending Towson.

So I was making little money, paying rent..and began to wonder how in the world I was going to make it. And so I called my uncle. And asked him how I would ever be able to get ahead, buy a house, have children, make ends meet.

I asked and listened. Asked again and listened more as my life changed..married, became a mother, started working in the corporate world. Every step I would ask his opinion about work and investment situations. I listened and did my best to heed his advice. At the same time his life changed..he had served in the Navy in WWII and shipped out via San Diego, and almost 30 years ago moved there. And loved it. He worked as a project manager/engineer after graduating from college, worked for what became McDonnell-Douglass (now Boeing) and eventually retired from there.

And in retirement he had a couple of interests: a van filled with video equipment..he and his friend George traveled to Dixieland jazz festivals and taped many of the bands. And a tire shop that switched out tires and wheels for car dealers in the San Diego area.

He loved it. My uncle and my father had lives they loved, careers that they loved, family they loved, friends that held them dear. It is only fitting that the two will be at rest next to each other, surrounded by many generations of the Peters family. I don't get much to Greenup anymore, but I find it a comfort that when I do they will both be there.

In the last year I have come to realize how valuable in so many ways my uncle has been to me. I have always, without fail, known that he has been there for me. He regularly set chunks of his time aside to be with me. He encouraged, asked tough questions, called me on things I did not want called out, noticed things and gave compliments on my accomplishments..celebrated birthdays, weddings, my daughter..told me stories that made me snort drinks in my nose, told the worst jokes ever..in short, he demonstrated his love for decades by knowing me and the details of my life.

As I have reflected on him..this last year he has faded, allowing much time for reflection of my time with him..I have been struck by how many people have told me they had no such man in their lives. The guys in their families were just not stand up guys. And I realize, on another level, how lucky I am.

My sister saw him this summer, and I asked her to tell him that it was ok for him to pass on to what ever is next. That we would be alright without him. I meant it it when I said it, and I guess it is true. I guess we will be alright but I will certainly miss him. Godspeed Budd.

when things go rotten

It happens to the best of us. Things get away from a farmer and start to turn. And stink. Or get too hard. Or too squishy. And attract yellow jackets. Traditional farms kept a pig or 2 around to eat those things that were no longer edible by humans, because a pig can and will eat anything.

Orchards sell their fruit, classified as number 1, for consumption as fruit. There are number 2's that are cheaper, have a few blemishes, and might not be even on each side. Most people who buy those make apple sauce, apple butter and pie filling from the number 2's. Next are apples that are good for making apple cider..these are pretty ugly, beat up, the fruit a grower wants to hide. Makes delicious and refreshing juice.

Then there are those that just go bad..they get hot and start to rot. The stink bugs really ate them full of holes, and warm weather made them break down earlier than other fruit. This is the fruit that makes its way to our farm, for the pigs, a little for the cows and yes even some for the yellow jackets..
We fill the back end of our little pickup truck with the fruit. Then, on other days, we fill the back end with stale bread, rotten vegetables, pulp from a juice bar. And every few days, everything is gone. Consumed. That's why they are called pigs.

predictions

The weather people are calling for snow over the next few days. Not a lot, no accumulation, but snow falling from the sky.

The cattle have changed their attire. In summer they were all very light in color and had very thin coats. As the amount of daylight shortens each day their coats shaggy up, and comes in much darker than their summertime wear. And Homer says sometimes he feels like he is being watched. And other times it looks like there is a push me pull you out there..

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

trash talkin

video
When we look at this..2 of our bigger male tom turkeys interacting..it looks just like 2 guys trash talkin..

eggs

The new hens (pullets..hens just now old enough to lay eggs) are doing beautifully. When we put them in their pen last week they took dirt baths and ate grass..they knew right away what to do.

Now they are settled in, and we are getting about 4 eggs a day from these 19 girls. All heritage birds, they do not produce an egg a day like production birds. In the Row Toe Tiller between the garden rows they are tearing it up.

And the thin little leaves? Garlic, planted a few weeks ago, will be ready for 2012 CSA boxes next spring/summer..

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

covers or none?

Homer is constantly experimenting. As a formal experimental model maker, he does it without thinking about it, as he was trained for decades to try different methods and only put into production what really worked.

On the same day a few weeks ago he planted lettuce. He used his seed plotter to position the seeds and then covered with the same compost and drip tape. Water amounts have been about equivalent. The big difference is that one is covered with the floating row cover and the hoophouse, the other open to the elements. The thin wire and thin floating row cover make quite the difference.

Monday, October 24, 2011

one man's gold

We plant flowers every year. Tons of sunflowers, zinnias and marigolds. One package of seeds yields an amazing assortment of blooms, and we can fill vases and enjoy their beauty inside and out. We would love to add more native perennials to our planting beds and will do so, from seed, for years to come. The native plants help support a wide array of butterflies, bugs, birds and other creepy crawlies. Love those.

Our cattle appreciate our flower plantings, but maybe a little less than we do. When we transported 2 pigs to the butcher last week it was a dark evening and a cow got into the garden area. Their electric fence was off because we had visitors that day and did not want to jolt anyone. The cow spent the night chomping away at greens, and left this. At sunrise the next morning Homer got that cow back with the herd and turned the electric wires back on. No more breakouts.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sticky Paper

If you were here for the CASA/Future Harvest field day you saw how Homer planted with sticky paper. Here are the results.

demarcation

The herd of cattle move every day. As each has gotten larger, the grass consumption has increased. This morning they ate right up to the electric line and then stopped right there. That bit of cord that looks like clothes line has electric running through it and stops the cows from going beyond today's paddock. Doesn't that next paddock look delicious?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

mushrooms

As the record setting rains continue around here this year, there are more mushrooms on the farm than we have ever seen. Maybe I'm hungry, but I'm seeing bacon here..

Friday, October 21, 2011

good lord yes

we will have 30 pound turkeys for Thanksgiving. They are eating us out of house and home!

massive and gorgeous.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

new girls

Laying hens are pretty easy to care for. They love a few things: sunshine, grass, bugs, worms, dirt. A dark place, in private, to lay their eggs.

Yesterday I visited a family that had purchased laying hen peepers in March from Tractor Supply. They have fed and watered, provided rocks and oyster shell since the birds arrived at their home. After 8 months and no eggs the family had enough, and the prospect of feeding 20 hens all winter with no eggs prompted them to offer the birds to me.

When I arrived, I saw a flock of beautiful, healthy birds. Living in a shed with no light..their small yard in the shade of a large old tree, no light in their shed. We loaded the girls into a dog crate and brought them home.

Homer installed them into a Row Toe Tiller, his design for keeping the area between our vegetable rows clear. Even though their chicken yard had no grass and was mostly mud, these girls knew just what to do when they went into their pen! Birds love dirt baths..it helps them clean themselves. They love to eat grass and most favorite of all scratch in the ground, and they all got right to it.

Here they are in the pen:

and here you can see the scratching and eating action:
video

and if you listen, you can even hear them purring, not too different than a happy cat..these birds were well loved and cared for, hand raised and gentle, just missing out on sunshine, grass and dirt. We expect eggs in the next 7 days..as long as the sun shines! We will keep them away from our full flock for at least a month, just to make certain their health is fine.




Wednesday, October 19, 2011

turkeys without human intervention

What defines a heritage breed? The breed has to have been around for a while. It seems about 20 years ago food changed..more human intervention in many areas..GMO's, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, and breeds of animals that..um..can't reproduce on their own. Hmm..at the same time, an increase in humans that can't reproduce on their own either.

Our turkeys are clearly in the category of heritage. This is not a close up shot..but believe me, they are engaged in activity that will produce fertilized eggs. Consider yourself warned..

Monday, October 17, 2011

They're off!

Our 2 biggest pigs are going to the butcher tonight. We had a PASA innovative farmer field today, where Homer was able to show his pen design, seed plotter, field layout and all. Then quickly he built sides onto the truck, tempted them into the back with some tasty tidbits and here we go'

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ducks versus mosquitoes

You might not be aware of the fact that ducks eat mosquitoes. I had no idea! Slugs had been mentioned as a delicacy for ducks, but never skeeters.

Homer's sister Pat kept Muscovy ducks for a long time. His parents had what began as a couple of Pekins, and became quite a flock. When his parents farmed on the eastern shore of Maryland, Homer observed the ducks catching mosquitoes. The ducks ran around all day and most of the night with their mouths open, swallowing mosquitoes the entire time.

We have buff ducks. Small, sort of golden in color, they are quiet and take good care of themselves. Our perimeter is fenced so the ducks are free to roam the entire farm. Their favorite spots are the ones with shallow bits of water..sometimes rainwater collects, or a hose drips, or with the record setting rains we have had this year, the water table meets the surface of the earth!

Here is what the flock of ducks do all day long, at every patch of water they find. It has been a good year if you are a duck. Lots of muddy spots all over.

video
Not so great for growing root vegetables. Carrots and beets have taken a beating.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

tatters

We watch the weather predictions every day, multiple times.

Today was forecast to be windy, and on our 13 acres the prognosticators were correct. Windy. Seriously.

The row covers meant to protect the growing plants from..wind..look like this now.

Not the plan. Those clips, still attached to the metal hoops, were supposed to keep the fabric in place.

Oops.

Tom Thumbs fall appearance

One if the most loved lettuces we grow is called Tom Thumb. A small head of crisp sweet lettuce, just the size for a kid to eat themselves. Sometimes without any dressing, as the lettuce is so tender. We can grow in the spring and fall but not the summer..Tom hates the heat! Winter time..not yet certain. We will grow in the hoophouse under row covers and see what we get.

Now, it looks like this, in a little while longer it will be individual heads of the prettiest shade of green..

Friday, October 14, 2011

pig break

Homer went out to the garden this morning..only to see this:


the big pigs got loose, and ate all of the potatoes. The soil is beautiful, isn't it?


and they ate all of the ripened tomatoes, destined for CSA boxes this weekend..notice they left the green ones..those 2 big pigs might just have a destination themselves in the next week or so..

Thursday, October 13, 2011

late

It might just be too late in the season to get peas. The plants are covered with flowers, but we need sun and warmth to get the bees out to pollinate. So we will eat pea shoots, provide shoots to our CSA and then see if they will survive the winter and bloom again.
still tomatoes too!

and the lettuce just loves this time of year..
makes for beautiful salads!




Wednesday, October 12, 2011

identify?

This was blooming about mid-September in the field. We don't know what it is, any ideas?

new growth

October might seem a funny time to see new growth in south central Pennsylvania. But we need to eat all winter, and want to eat local as much as we can.

Lettuce and other greens keep getting planted. Every week a few more beds of seeds go in. We have until mid-November to supply our CSA members, and then all winter to gauge how much we can harvest in the dead of winter. Of course these beds will get covered..the hoophouse sides will go on this week, and the beds inside and out will get floating row covers. Homer is conducting his own, semi-scientific experiment, to see how the same lettuce does with 2 layers of protection versus 1 layer of protection.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

potato flowers

Did you ever see a potato plant flower? In the spring and summer months we hustle out and pick the bugs off and don't really have a chance to stop and look at the flowers. Now, with cooler temperatures, we have a chance to look around and see such small beauties.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October, tomato sandwiches

It is well into October. And still our indeterminate tomatoes are producing. We have pulled green tomatoes so our CSA members can make pickles and fried green tomato sandwiches, as well as delicious cooked up loveliness to smother things in all winter. And we still have tomato plants with fruit ripening on them.

So today, in what feels like the most luxurious thing, lunch is tomato sandwiches. A little bread, cut with an empty can to be about the size of the tomato. Olive oil and garlic in the hot pan, bread toasted, tomato slice, special reserve Keswick Creamery cheese shredded on top. Salt and pepper. Yum.
With about 10 weeks of fresh tomatoes, we are feeling like the richest people ever..it just feels decadent to still be eating such beautiful food.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

eda..what. what?!

We grew them. And Homer left them in the ground long enough for the pods to fill out. The fresh beans are delicious raw! Soybeans. Edamame. 90+% of them grown in the U.S. Are genetically modified. Modified to match up with the herbicide/pesticide and whatever other cide they add in..to poison every bug, rodent, plant, butterfly, bee, microbe..anything on the field except for that soybean dies.

But not ours. With seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange we had a harvest this year. Nothing sprayed on them. Next year we will plant twice as much so there are more for all in the CSA. So happy they grew without anything but compost, water and sun. Happy harvest day!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

when mom says..

you eat like a pig, does it mean like this?

video
and here is the overview:
and on the move (note the other pig, in pen where they both belong):

those pigs are looking good..


plant update

There was frost on the grass the other day. Not a killing frost, but enough to get our attention and get final rows covered up with floating row covers. It is amazing but true: if protected from wind some plants (greens mostly) can be grown all winter long without heat. We have lots of things started, and add more weekly. Friday was the day garlic went into the ground, to be harvested all of next year.

Here are some ready to pull, growing for winter, still sprouting flowers for peas and tomatoes harvested in the next month..a little protection goes a long way.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

blue heads

In the 1960's it was not unusual to see a woman with blue hair. Not certain why this was done, but I can recall being told by an older family member not to stare and point. So I know I saw it and stared at it with my own two eyes.

As our turkeys mature we are getting some that have blue heads. It made me think of the blue haired ladies of my youth. The blue heads on the turkeys let us know that the birds are maturing..and maybe that is what the ladies were doing back then too. I'll have to google it and find out why it was done.

The turkeys are growing beautifully. they are in most of our moveable pens now, as we are winding down on chickens  for the year. We have some tiny ones, some massive ones (those are in this picture) and many that are in the middle. This pasture raised, moved daily birds make for a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner..we are certainly looking forward to that!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

thoughts on Steve Jobs

I worked in the video business for a good portion of my adult life. First, at a distributor of non-theatrical video. Then I was lucky enough to work for Random House, helping to get Sesame Street videos into many retailers across the country.

And then one of those days, one of those meetings "we want to focus on our core publishing business and video is not it". Gulp.

A week or so later and the phone rings. "would you consider working for BVHE, the division of Disney that sells video and DVD?" I did!

And for a number of years, through a number of fantastic Pixar movie releases I had the pleasure of representing Steve Jobs and his amazing, creative team of geniuses. Awesome movies. Great story lines. Jaw dropping animation.

In that time business was good. Now things have changed, most people have direct streaming of movies or use Netflix or shop for DVD's at the big box stores. But what fun we had when those big titles from Pixar were released on DVD! Such loved characters, such great rewards to our counterparts in distribution and retail. And to the BVHE employees.

We always worked to live below our means: to pay the mortgage down, to not carry a credit card balance and to live without things some deemed absolutely necessary. And when it came time to sell our city house and move to a farm, we did so without a mortgage.

In no small part to the creative genius that was Steve Jobs. A visionary, who hired incredibly talented people to work with him. Thanks for doing that. Thanks for being a part of my life that changed my life. For living your dreams and helping us to live ours. rest in peace.

the wall

There is another building on the farm. A portion of it is Homer's workshop and another portion is Matt and Claire's ministorage. And then there is the big room with tiny, ceiling height windows. It used to be a store..where Woody's Bird Farm sold exotic birds, their feed and gear. Now it is a large empty room. Last year we added a large window we salvaged. This week more will change in there. With the pigs weeding between beds, friends helping prepare vegetable beds for winter and not as many chickens to process, there is time to turn to other tasks.

This room has a beautiful view of the farm. This view is obscured by the wall and the general ugliness of the room itself. Mismatched colors, stains, horrid lighting, and industrial tile combine to make it an unpleasant space.

We have continued to salvage windows. Will be looking for doors in the upcoming weeks. Here shows where these will go into this room..Homer will cut holes, install windows and flashing and the the walls will be painted with Kilz. All white primer to start. Windows and doors to see all the beauty here. A change of lighting and ceiling tile. A more appealing floor. And then comes solar panels to heat and cool the space..and then..who knows? A popover cafe? Or something..

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

fall pie

Oh! It is fall! The weather tells us, as does the desire to use the oven. Helps to warm us up!

From local flour, eggs, squash, cream comes a delicious treat. Pie. Yum.

Monday, October 3, 2011

eggs

In early spring, as the amount of daylight increases daily, the amount of eggs also increases. And as the amount of daylight decreases in the fall, eggs become scarce. Using plenty of extension cords to reach the movable pen..there are now lights on the hens. Today the timer will be added to give 12 hours of light each day. We are just hoping to get enough eggs for those in our CSA while still allowing the hens to get the rest they need.

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