Thursday, December 9, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Tessa

My dear dear goose Tessa died not too long ago. She was the sweetest goose ever. I would step outside and yell "Tessa!" and she would always answer me with a "HONK! HONK!" I found her in the pond and she appeared to be injured. I had noticed that she did not come out of the pond the day before with the other geese so I had Dan come up to the pond with me and we got her to come to the edge of the pond and then I caught her and placed her into our spare room in the barn where we often keep sick or injured animals. I couldn't find anything wrong with her and Dan couldn't either. We gave her a thick bed of straw and some food and fresh water. The next morning my son went out to let the chickens out and he yelled to me "what's wrong with Tessa?" I yelled back that she was injured but when he told me that she was not moving I grabbed my shoes and ran out to the barn. She had died. I was in total shock. I did not want to believe it. Immediately I started sobbing. I cried for a long time and I cried really hard. I kept petting her not wanting to believe it, hoping that somehow she would come back to life. I must have sat in there for at least half an hour. I finally composed myself long enough to go in the house and I asked my oldest son to go out and cut a feather from her for me. I spent much of the day in tears. I will miss the times that she would come to the door, or onto the porch looking for a treat from me. I would sit on the stairs with bread and she would come up to me and eat out of my hand. She would honk and honk every time I talked to her. She will always remain in my heart. Goodbye, Tessa. I miss you every day. The farm just isn't the same now that you are gone.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

No More Tilling For Me

After tilling my garden a few times my clay soil was so bad last year that I hardly got any food from my garden. I was quite distressed to see that the soil was cracked and hard and I began to worry. Yes, I know it sounds strange to some of you but I would lay awake at night worrying about my soil and how I would produce food for my family. I decided that I would do as others have done, and I began to cover my soil with all the leaves from my yard. I made paths of mulch and covered the rest of the garden with straw. When I need to plant I push aside the straw and plant the plants that I want to, then I cover it back up with straw. No tilling doesn't mean no digging. I still have to dig deep holes for my tomatoes and other plants but I am not tilling the entire garden. I am already seeing the results. When I went to put in plants my soil is full of earthworms. Last year that wasn't the case. I know it will take a few years, but I can wait and in the meantime I add composted manure and humus to the areas that I am planting to help things along. Do you till? Maybe you should try a small speck of your garden without tilling and compare the results.
I suggest reading:
Lasagna Gardening

Square Foot Gardening

Organic Gardening The Natural No Dig Way

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The End of Fall, The Beginning of Winter

Fall was quiet here on the farm. The colors seemed to fade
just a little too fast for me this year. I can hardly believe that 2009 is nearly over. It seems this year went by faster than any I can ever remember. I love the quiet of winter, how everything is so still and beautiful when it is resting. I love to walk through the garden and see the dead sunflower stalks that the birds have picked clean, and the rosemary that makes it through most of the winter. I also love to look for birds nests in the trees, and collect the ones that are blown to the ground by the fierce winds this time of year.
The hens took a few weeks off from laying as they do every year, and now things have started to pick up again. The ducks and geese are doing well and spending most of their time in the pond. Our most exciting event since the hatching of our chicks and ducklings happened last Wednesday though, the birth of our baby goat Star (see photo).
Jackie is a good mother, but is very very stubborn when I try to milk her. We are still working on it, so I hope that it gets better over time. It's actually very easy to milk her once we can get her to stay still. We haven't tried any yet but I hope to after we have it tested by a vet. I love to watch the baby jumping and running around, it is thoroughly entertaining to watch.
I plan to spend the winter reading through seed catalogs and making plans for the spring. I haven't decided if we are going to order more chicks in the spring, but I will replace a few of our lost ducks. I will also read through a lot of my gardening books this winter. Winter is a perfect time to make a list of goals for your farm in the next year, plan your garden and decide if you want to add or subtract from your livestock. So grab a cup of hot chocolate, a notebook and lots of seed catalogs, gardening books and hatchery catalogs. Spring will be here before you know it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Late Summer

It's late summer here at the farm and everything is changing. The nights are cooler now, the pumpkins are turning from green to orange and the giant sunflower heads have begun to drop under the weight of their seeds. The tempo of the crickets have slowed, and the birds are more active than ever anticipating the coming cooler weather. It's time to think about planting a fall garden, harvesting apples and putting food up for the winter. Fall is my favorite time of year. To me there is nothing better than the smell of fallen leaves, the sound of football whistles and the taste of hot apple cider. I love the smell of pumpkins while they are being carved, seeing acorn candy on store shelves and eating pumpkin seeds. There is something nostalgic about all of it. It's during this time of year that I miss home the most. I long for the beautiful foliage of Massachusetts, the trips to my favorite orchard and walking along the beaches when they have been abandoned by the summer vacationers. I love making new memories here at the farm, ones that my children will one day look back on and long for after they have left to go and make their own way in the world.
Fall at our farm means picking apples, raking leaves, burning twigs, cleaning chicken coops, feeding the birds, collecting leaves from our maple trees and lots of baking.
What memories will you make with your family this fall?

Friday, August 21, 2009

A mouth full of Germ X and other life's lessons

Some things that I have learned along the way

-Live your life as if someone is watching, because they are

-Don't eat after using Germ X. Those of you that have done this already know why, those who have not let me assure you that it tastes worse than it smells.

-Tomato Horn Worms will try to stab you with that HUGE thorn on their back so if you find one in your garden get a pair of tongs to pick it up then and feed it to your chickens. If you don't have chickens and your plant is already gone then leave it, they turn into the beautiful sphinx moth, which is an excellent pollinator.

-Alton Brown is THE GOD of Food Network

-True friends are worth more than all the gold in the world, hold on to them for dear life!

-If you are going to go on a diet don't go any buy all your favorite junk food before you start, then you will have to lose an extra 5 pounds or maybe more

- Weeds will take over if you don't pull them out every day, this goes for your garden and your life.

- Don't leave Raisinets in your car during the summer, they all melt together and it's not pretty.

- Your kids grow up so fast. You blink and they are teenagers. Enjoy every moment that you have with them, it will be gone before you know it.

- If you haven't read books about George Washington Carver you should. He was an amazing man.

- Don't feed your chickens off your porch. One day you will go out to find chickens waiting by the door for a treat. Feed them as far away from your house as possible.

- Mice make really good pets, snakes do NOT.

- Most spiders are good, and so are bats. They eat lots of mosquitoes and other annoying insects.

- It's OK to let your kids get dirty and messy. It's lots of fun and everything can be washed when they are done.

- Lysol is your friend during cold and flu season. Spray door knobs, light switches, faucet handles, car door handles, phones and anything else that you touch. If you can't use Lysol spray, the Clorox wipes are great too.

- After you have recovered from and illness throw away your toothbrush and get a new one.

- A container full of rice or kidney beans and a few cups will keep a preschooler occupied for at least an hour.

- Spend a lot of time with the elderly. They can be your wisest and dearest friends. Be sure to take your kids with you.

- If you only had one month to live what would you do? Go and do it now. Life is short and you may never get the chance again. You never know when you are going to be called home.

- Forgive and forgive and forgive.

and finally let me leave you with a quote from George Washington Carver

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Life and Death

This year we have had a lot of deaths on the farm. I know that it is part of life, but it doesn't make it any easier. Grief has visited me more times than I care to admit, but I have made it through with the help of family, friends and most of all my faith. It is one thing to go through grief yourself, it is another to watch your child lose a beloved duck, dog or cat. It hurts in a different way to watch your child go through the process, wanting to make the pain go away and sometimes feeling powerless to do so. Yesterday Crooked Beak (a chicken with a severe cross bill) died. It was especially sad because we had never expected her to make it through the winter. She proved us all wrong and I thought that she would live at least until this winter hit. Her birth defect made it very difficult for her to eat, but we did our best to help her out. We allowed her to sit in the feed barrel and eat, and it made it easier for her to get food into her mouth. She was very sweet and friendly and would follow us around always looking for more to eat. She grew weak over the last two days and I sat with her as she died and went off to chicken heaven. I carried her out of the barn and placed her into a box. My heart was filled with sadness.
But there is also new life on the farm. A few days ago seven beautiful baby ducks hatched out and they are all doing well. Mama Duck (that is what we have named her) is very protective. The ducks are unimaginably tiny and just the cutest fuzzballs you will ever see. Yesterday Dan went into the coop to check on our three broody hens and discovered that one of the chicks have hatched out. It is a beautiful deep reddish brown color and it looks very healthy. We are still waiting for more chicks.... very impatiently I might add! I am hoping that the days ahead will bring more life, but at least I am prepared if it does not.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Healthy Lunch

Summer is here, and it is easy to provide your kids with a healthy lunch. I find that if I put a plate out filled with colorful fruits and veggies they will munch on it all afternoon. The more color the better. Baby carrots, celery, grapes (green and purple), strawberries, cherries, melons, tomatoes and beans are all good choices. You can also have a dip available if your child doesn't like veggies much. I find just a pinch of salt on cukes makes my son very happy, and he will eat lots of them!
Now you may be saying "there is no way my kids will eat that" but just put a plate out and don't say anything... I have seen even the pickiest eaters start eating a well arranged plate of healthy food! Don't forget to join in, if they see you eating healthy then they are more likely to try it too.