Thursday, April 23, 2009

A fine day

Yesterday was beautiful. Sunny, sixties, very little wind and no bugs. A perfect day to be out in the garden planting potatoes, peas and onions. Which is, coincidentally, what I did.

I wasn't the only one with high dirt-digging aspirations. The farmer who owns the land around our homestead was out with his tractor, turning over the dormant soil, breaking up the sodden lumps and churning the rich brown earth. Breaking it up this early probably means he will be planting wheat, which is the earliest of our Big Three to be planted. The Big Three being, of course: wheat, soybeans and corn.

I'd love it if someone, just once, planted something different. Okay, maybe more than just once. Back in ye olden days there were some fields of barley, oats, rye and flax scattered about. Even some sunflowers and potatoes. I'd love to see a vast horizon of sunflowers outside my kitchen window. Or a lovely blue sea of flax flowers. But for the last ten, twenty, thirty years it's been nothing but wheat, beans and corn. Sigh.

Graham took the camera and snapped a shot of our yard, as it looks now. Chicken coop, Number One Son, goat corral with old hog barn in the distant right. And lots of scattered yard toys.

We had a bit of rain, only a bit, not enough to send boys scurrying for umbrellas. But just enough to make a rainbow in the southern sky.

Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Up with Rhubarb

Hooray Hooray! It's time to play! So thinks my monkeyrific children, and so thinks I. The yard is green now, not brown nor white. And walking over to the side of the garage, what did my woundrous eyes perceive (besides Calico, one of our outside cats) -- the glorious sight of rhubarb!

The first budding leaves of rhubarb are one of the most beautiful sights of early spring. The buds emerge from the cool earth and unfold like a flower. The colors are a mix of green, yellow, red and rust, and the leaves are jagged relief maps with mountain ridges and canyon valleys. Not only beautiful, but perfectly designed to catch rainfall and divert it downward toward the stem base. Each leaf is its own watershed.

Just a few more weeks, and we'll savor the first rhubarb cobbler of the season. Sinfully delicious rhubarb cobbler. Rhubarb - so easy to grow, so simple and yet so complete. Food and beauty, bread and roses.

So what are you waiting for? Go find yourself some rhubarb!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Not much time to post, but here's a bit of what's going on:

-- 21 days is arriven, and no chicks yet. For some reason my incubator temp spiked up last night to 110 degrees. Don't know why, don't know how long it was that hot before I noticed. Don't know if that will do any damage. If none of these eggs hatch I will blame it on an ineffective rooster.

-- I ordered 33 chicks from McMurray Hatchery, delivery week June 8. Good thing, too, if none of my 'bator eggs make it.

-- Spent part of Easter Saturday shearing Dawn, with help from many family members gathered here for the holiday. We were able to see something moving around in her tummy, which proves she is either pregnant or severely indigested. She's quite thin for being pregnant, however. Yesterday I dewormed her, just in case, although she showed no other signs of having worms (bad poops, anemic, etc.). Next week is Evie's turn for the razor treatment.

-- I raked away the straw from atop the garlic bed and saw some yellowish green spikes poking up through the soil. Next step is to till the garden and plant potatoes. I plan on doing a lot of potatoes this year.

-- Started over 100 tomato seeds in my basement on April 3. Just checked last night, nothing growing yet. I am moderately concerned. They should be growing by now.

-- Lots of other spring projects to look forward to -- putting the mower on the lawn tractor, cleaning out the goat barn, cleaning out the chicken coop, mending fences, etc. etc. Spring is finally here, and it's time to get moving. I'm still having trouble shaking off my winter lazy, though.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Farm visit

I visited the dairy farm the other day to get milk, and when I got there I discovered my camera in my coat pocket. I couldn't resist a few photos (with permission) of the animals.

The air was a little chilly. Apparently cows make good hot water bottles.

This pretty girl will soon (a few days?) be having her first calf. Her udder is starting to 'bag up' (get bigger). But since this is her first, her teats are itty bitty. You can hardly see them, just in front of her rear leg.

Here's the newest arrival, less than a day old. A handsome bull calf. Such tiny hooves!

And such a long tongue!

And lastly, a new litter of piglets, Just a week or so old. The mother is a Berkshire, the father a Chester White. Hard to believe that in just nine months these little piggies will weigh over 200 pounds.

I love visiting the farm. Love love love it.

Tapped out

I've pulled the taps from the trees, though the sap is still running. Our syruping season is now officially over. The weather is warming up and the buds are starting to open. I've read that when the buds open, the sap changes flavor and becomes less pleasant. And besides, I've gotten more than I hoped for. We collected over a hundred gallons of sap total. Some I gave away, most I boiled down myself.

The boiling process went much better than I imagined. I had a lot of surface area of boiling sap, which means a faster evaporation. After six hours of boiling, I had enough boiled down to bring back to my house and finish off. Figuring out when it was 'done' was tricky, but I'm not that picky about the final product. All in all I ended up with about five quarts of sticky, caramelly sweet syrup.

This picture was taken just a few hours after I poured the syrup into jars. Several days later, a layer of fine particles had settled onto the bottom. Some jars have just half an inch of particles, some nearly two inches. I understand this is 'sugar sand' -- vitamins and minerals that have precipitated out of the final syrup. It's harmless, just strange looking. In commercial syruping operations, this sand gets filtered out with fancy equipment. But I'm not fancy, and so the sand stays.

The boxelder (okay, 90% boxelder, 10% amur maple) syrup doesn't taste at all like regular maple syrup. The maple tang is missing, and in its place is a caramell, marshmallowy (to steal a word from my friend Kathy) flavor. My husband sniffed it and said the smell reminded him of the old KarmelKorn shop we had at Maplewood Mall in the 1980's. It does, kinda sorta. But the taste is different.

How can I explain it? I can't, really. You can't explain a brand new taste (other than 'tastes like chicken,' which this really, really doesn't). So, I am at a loss. But regardless, it is good. Very good. Guess you'll just hafta go and make some and taste it for yourself. Next year.