Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Babies having babies

Two years ago, when we brought the cows down to my farm, we decided to keep three of the calves that were born here that spring.  We were lucky enough to have three heifer calves born in close proximity.  It is quite a lot of work to raise them - feeding them twice a day, and milking twice a day, too, so that we had enough extra milk to feed them without taking milk away from the shareholders.

Even with milking twice a day, it still affected shareholder production by the end of the 90 days that they need mother's milk.  In addition, it creates a lot of work for the people who are milking.  If you have never had the privilege of leaning over a fence with three milk buckets, trying to keep three calves from butting them off the fencing they are hooked to, then you haven't lived! 

This year, we intend to use one of our milk cows to nurse the calves.  It is healthier for the calves, or anyway more natural, and it will certainly be easier on the milkers.  Here is a pic of one of our calves from two years ago.

It was taken within minutes of the calf's birth.  Mom is Lucy, and calf is Smarty Pants, so named because she was a real escape artist.  She made her way out of the pasture and hid under a pine tree when she was only three days old! 

But look at her now!  See that fat belly?  She is about to have a calf of her own. 

The other two calves we kept are Dolly, who is out of Baby Doll, the cow we lost two years ago, and Lucky, out of Rosie the Alpha Cow.  Rosie is our biggest cow, but Lucky is the smallest of the three calves.  But she is ready to pop! 

I am pretty sure she is going to be the first of this trio to bless us with a calf.  She has a beautiful udder!  So does her mom.  Rosie is 11 years old, still a great milker, nice high udder.  It would be nice if Lucky takes after her - only maybe not so bossy?

Dolly is the shyest of the three.  She has never let me hug her and kiss her like the other two do.  Maybe it's because she lost her mom when she was only a few weeks old.  That was a very sad time for all of us, but especially for her, I'm sure. 

I think her belly is the fattest of the three.  It should be a big calf.  Dolly's mom was a wonderful milker.  It is good that she is carrying on her mom's genes in the herd.

These three have gotten into a lot of trouble over the past two years, which has led to their nicknames -  Larry, Curly and Moe.  They were the canaries in the coal mine if there was a break or a short in the fence.  In fact, it was Lucky and Smarty Pants who were at my bedroom window at 3 a.m. a couple of weeks ago, an event that precipitated Androo and I doing some fence repair.

Soon, within a week or two, I expect that we will become "grandparents."  The first of our babies are having babies of their own.  :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ya gotta love 'em!

Today I put two flats of plants out to get them hardened off before planting in the garden.  I set them on top of some bags of potting soil, where I had set them a couple of other times.  In the meantime, I went down to the garden to prepare a strip for planting.  I couldn't find my garden rake, looked in the barn, the greenhouse and the garage.  No rake.  I called Androo.  He said he looked for it the other day, walked the whole perimeter of the garden, looked in both barns and the greenhouse, no rake.

This is so frustrating!  There are three of us using the tools now, Androo, Clay and me.  I often misplace tools, but I have my favorite places for misplacing them.  So I walked around the garden again, then into the back part of the barn and the haymow.  (I have used it to rake up hay from the floor a few times.)  No rake.

Enough!  The rake is a piece of junk anyway, 25 years old, falls apart.  I headed uptown to Kabelin's Ace Hardware and bought a new one.  It was a bit pricey, but it has a fiberglass handle and it is light as a feather!  I was in a very good mood when I got home - until I saw the chickens.  They were on the bags of potting soil having a ball with the plants!  The cabbages may be done.  They pretty much mowed them off.  However, the tat soil and pac choi afforded them some real entertainment!  The plants were a little bigger, and when they picked at them, the whole plug popped out of the seedling tray!  There were plugs on the bags of potting soil.  There were plugs lying every which way on the tray.  There were plugs on the ground.  And there were plugs in a few beaks!  Argh!!!!!!

Now you know why I am mad at them.  Here is a picture that shows why ya gotta love 'em even when they are misbehaving!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Measure twice, cut once.

I learned a few valuable lessons during my marriage to a tool & die maker.  Probably the most valuable of them was to "measure twice, cut once."  He would stand around watching me wallpaper and say it to the point where he was lucky he didn't end up with a wallpaper brush firmly implanted in his ear.  But truly, it was a good lesson, and one that was once again demonstrated during Androo's day here at the farm last week.

On the first day that Androo was here, I put together a long list of things I wanted him to do during his tenure here as an intern.  These are the sorts of things that will be lasting, since he may or may not be here next season, but definitely not the season after.  So best use to put him to, after the lessons in seeding, planting, chickens and cows, are those things that will last long after he is gone.  To that end, the garden was enlarged by 400 square feet.  The perimeter of the greenhouse now has a hardware cloth barrier around the foundation to minimize mouse infestations.  The fencing is in place around the big garden.  The trellises in the garden were rebuilt.  Another thing on that list was to bury an old refrigerator to use as a root cellar during the winter months, for carrots and other root vegetables.

Androo had a drawing of how to use a fridge for cold storage, and it showed the fridge sitting 5" or 6" above the surface of the ground.  I chose the spot where I wanted the fridge to be buried and Androo and I gathered up the tools needed.  My ground is very sandy, and I knew it wouldn't be too big a job to get the hole dug.  I needed to get to the butcher to pick up half a hog I ordered, so I told Androo I should be back within a couple of hours, and that we could work together to get it in the hole, as I was pretty sure that would be a two-person job.

When I got home, this is what I found.  Not only was the fridge 5" or 6" BELOW the surface of the ground at one end, it was considerably deeper at the other.  In his haste to finish the job, the fridge went into the hole without measuring, and it was in there way deeper than it should have been.  Androo said, "We can just slope the ground down towards the fridge."  I pointed out that rain water would be directed at the fridge and all of the moisture would build around it.  He said, "But the soil is very sandy and there is a layer of rocks under the fridge for drainage."

I reminded him that our drain system from the barn is always plugging because my sand is so fine that it really doesn't allow proper drainage at all!  When they dug my well out here, they got great water at 75' but had to come back and dig down to 125' because the sand was so fine that it plugged up the screening.

"Androo," I said, "there is only one thing to be done.  This fridge has to come back out of this hole and the depth has to be adjusted.  Did you measure?"  Silly question - it was obvious he hadn't.

"I estimated the depth," he said.

Sigh . . .

The biodynamic calendar flipped over to "fruit" at 3 pm and I wanted to be hard at potting up pepper seedlings when the clock struck 3. We had several hundred plants to pot, and it is tedious work. 

"Start digging," I said.  There was no way to get the fridge back out without enlarging the hole at one end.  "And remember, measure twice, cut once.  If you had measured carefully, this wouldn't have happened.  And there is a level in the greenhouse.  Let's make sure it is level this time."

An hour and half later, here is what I found.  Fridge is sitting above the level of the surrounding soil.  Note the level sitting on top of the fridge.  Job well done!!

There were several lessons to be learned here.
  1. Measure twice, cut once.  
  2. Break the job into small tasks so that you don't need to drop the fridge in the hole to get that rush of accomplishment.  Dig the hole and do it right. Give yourself a pat on the back.  Put in the rocks for drainage and make sure they provide a level bed.  Another pat on the back is in order.  Drop the fridge in the hole.  Yet another pat on the back.  This prevents an inopportune rush to the finish line.
  3. Think through the job from start to finish - what can go wrong at each step?  how hard is it to fix at each step?  Making the hole a bit too big or too small - piece of cake to fix.  Putting the fridge in the hole without measuring first - big deal to fix!  Understanding the pain of making an error helps to put things in perspective.
So we started  potting up the peppers a little late, but they all got done, and I was in the house by 7 pm.  All in all, a very good day, and one more BIG job ticked off the list.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Growing the garden

My garden is way too big for one person, even with all of the canning, pickling, fermenting and freezing that I do.  But it is really too small to support my market basket business, as well as to offer a variety of fresh organic produce at the Farmers Market and Purple Porch Co-op.  So I put Androo to work.  He took off the sod, which went into the compost pile.  Then I brought down the big rototiller.  Earlier this week, Clay and I turned the compost pile by the milk barn and brought the scrapings from the bottom of the old pile down to the new strip of garden.

It's 4' x 100' - 400 square feet of new garden space.  That will grow a lot, once it is brought up to speed with the rest of the garden.  It needs more compost, but I don't have any that is ready and meets organic standards.  Getting my compost piles up to organic specifications is high on the list this year.

There was a pile of mostly composted grass (no manure of any kind in it) from last summer, and we threw that onto the fresh strip, then I brought down the rototiller again and worked all of that into the new soil.  Now we will let it sit until any weeds emerge - about two weeks, depending on the weather.  After the new and very tender new weeds emerge, they will be easy to remove with a shuffle hoe.  Only then will it be ready to plant.  I don't expect a great crop off of it for a year or two.  We will have to mulch it heavily as the plants grow this year, and hopefully we will have some really good compost to add in the fall.

Androo put in a hard day taking off the sod.  Here he is, hard at work.   At this point, the new strip of garden was at about about a fifth of the total distance.

To Market, To Market

Two or three days a week, I go to market to deliver raw milk and to sell at my booth.  Annemarie opens for me on Tuesdays, and during late winter she runs it for me all day on Thursdays.  But soon greenhouse plants will be coming in with me, and then I will go back to being there three days a week.  When May 1 rolls around, the market will open on Fridays as well.  Annemarie doesn't come in on Fridays, so I make a valiant attempt to get there by 9 or 9:30.

I enjoy being at the market, and I enjoy the people I work with.  They are good, hard-working people.  Here are some of their pictures.

Kay  is our office manager.  Marie is the Market Manager.  Bill makes the world's best Angel Food cake!  He also sells homemade jams, jellies and salsas.  Tasting is encouraged, but no double dipping!!  Julie has been at the market for over 40 years, and she makes booties and other knitted and crocheted items. Annemarie is Julie's daughter.  She helps her mom and also helps me with my booth.  Esther is truly organic, never ever has used the nasties on her garden.  If I run out of certified organic produce, her booth is the first place I send people.

There are over 100 booths at the market.  These are just a few from my neck of the woods.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tommy Goes a Courtin'

A picture (or two) is worth a thousand words . . .


The first of the seedlings went into the garden yesterday.  Androo came over after work and we did a row of onions, it being a root day on the biodynamic calendar.  Androo is here for an education, as well as to make some extra money, and he got one yesterday.  I'm sure it is the first time he ever planted the way I do!  We set a line, then I took a garden rake and raked away a foot-wide strip of last year's mulch on that line.  Then we dug out any lumps of grass, always the bane of a gardener, and threw them over the new fence into the yard.  Let them multiply there, NOT in my garden!!

Then it was on to the hard work, poking holes in the soft earth and putting in tiny onion starts.  They are pretty close together.  I'll harvest half of them as scallions for my market baskets and for my dinner, then leave the others to grow to maturity.  We put in Clear Dawn yesterday, an open-pollinated onion with good keeping qualities, yellow, medium size. 

Clay is on spring break and he was looking for some hours of work, so he and I turned a compost pile in the morning, then went down to the garden and incorporated a couple of wheel barrowfuls of compost into the 4' x 100' strip of new garden that we put in last week.  That is hard physical work!

I quit planting onions about 8 pm, having been at it, either in my office or the garden, since about 5:30 am.  (Okay, okay, I took a little nap in the afternoon!)  I left Androo to finish the tray of onion seedlings. I fixed myself some soup and called it a day.  It was nearly dark when I saw Androo's taillights going down the drive.

It's kind of nice knowing that the garden is back in business for the season.

Monday, March 22, 2010

No chicks - at least not for now

I'm not sure if the problem with the eggs in the barn was that I messed with them, or because the door was shut for several days and she couldn't get to them, or just because I was being a hopeless optimist and thought my Superhens would beat the odds and get broody.

I made one last stab at it and brought them into the Moop.  One of the chickens goes into the Moop late in the day and sits on the whole nest full of eggs, so I added the eggs from the barn to that day's production and hoped that she would set and remain setting.  It didn't happen, so the eggs are all in a special carton marked for coloring for Easter Eggs.  Fresh eggs just don't peel worth a darn, and so these eggs, which are older than the rest, will be set aside to color.  They will be plenty old enough to peel very well.

Just to give you some perspective on how old an egg has to be to peel well, when my husband and I had chickens, I quickly learned to bring in the eggs for coloring about a month before Easter.  If you are buying your eggs from the store, they may already be plenty old enough to boil when you buy them.  One way to tell how old they are is to check to see if they float - or rather tilt a bit - in a pan of water.  The sack inside the shell tends to shrink as the egg ages, and that means the size of the air pocket at the big end of the egg increases over time.  And so, by putting the egg in water, you can judge its age by whether it lies flat on the bottom of the pan (fresh egg) or tilts upward because of the buoyancy caused by the enlarged air pocket at the blunt end.  The tip will point down and the blunt end will rise a bit.  Old egg.  Nothing wrong with that.  Eggs have a pretty neat built-in preservation system.  You can safely eat an egg that is reaching two months.  But you would want to save those for deviled eggs, or to put in your pancakes.  For a fried or poached egg, the fresher the better!  I love having fresh eggs here.  It is really a wonderful luxury.

And now it is time to fry up a couple of those fresh eggs, in a combination of lard and butter of course, and get on with my day.  It's a root day on my calendar, and I'm going to try to plant at least a few of the onions, leeks and chives that were started in the greenhouse a couple of months ago.  It's supposed to get up into the mid-50s today, and that's not at all bad for working outside.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Exciting news

Today I was finishing up the fencing around the garden and needed the post driver.  I thought I remembered asking Androo to take it to the barn.  It was not in its accustomed place, so I called him and asked him what he did with it.  He didn't really remember, but was pretty sure he put it right where I said, and seemed to remember leaning it against a wall.  Neither of us thought he would have found a new place for it.

I was so frustrated!  I wanted to get the job finished.  It's blackout time on my biodynamic calendar, and that means leave the plants alone.  Don't seed, don't weed, don't till, don't transplant.  So it is the perfect time for things like fencing, fencing being inanimate last time I checked.

About that time, Verle came down to look at the cooler door in the milk room.  One side isn't closing as tight as it should.  I showed him the problem and excused myself to go back to the barn for one more search for the post driver.  I didn't find the driver, but I found a nest with five eggs in it!  The barn door has been stuck open because of snow drifts, so it would have been easy for a hen to sneak in there.  I just finally got it closed again a few days ago.  One of the girls lays off-white eggs, a lovely ivory color.  The rest lay pure white.  These were all ivory, so I think it is safe to say that it is the same chicken that has been sneaking into the barn daily. 

I went back to the milk room to talk to Verle and showed him the eggs.  He told me she was going to set.  I said, "No, these chickens aren't broody.  They won't set, and besides,  I would have noticed if one of them was setting.  I would have been short a chicken when I counted at night."

I really do need educating about some things.  Verle said, "Oh, she won't start to set until she has twice that many eggs.  She's just saving them up."  Well, I never!  So that's how they do it!!  I put them back and tucked some loose hay into her nest, which was composed of Styrofoam packing peanuts.  I think she deserves better than that, being as she is going to be a mother!

So the barn door is opened back up.  This is so exciting!  I didn't think I would be blessed with Golden Campine chicks.  Like I said, they are not supposed to be broody - but one of them is.  And they are only supposed to lay five eggs a week - but they are laying more than six on average.  And everyone is surprised that I let them out to run free in snow drifts - but they loved it and dug through the drifts to get to their grubs.  Hah!  These are Superhens!!  Ta-da!!!!

Coming attractions . . .

I got a new camera.  It doesn't have all of the features I would like, but I know my budget.  I opted for the best lens I could get for the money.  The zoom isn't bad - much better than my old one, and it takes good pictures.  I just need to finish installing software so that I can upload them into these blogs.  So when I get that done, you will be able to read about these happenings.
  • To Market, To Market - pictures of the people I work with at the market and their booths
  • Tommy Goes a Courtin' - starring several Tom turkeys on a mission with the hens
  • Growing the Garden - not what's growing IN the garden, but making the garden bigger
So now I am committed.  Hopefully sometime before midnight tonight, the pictures will be making their way into the queue for the blog.

Oh, a chicken update - the girls are laying seven to nine eggs a day.  They have definitely exceeded what is to be expected for their breed.  It's all those good bugs, and a lot of fresh air!  Someone asked me about how they did living in the Moop in the winter.  I said they didn't live in the Moop, only at night when they are locked up for protection against the predators.  Every day, without fail, the door was open and they were free to roam.  And roam they did.  One of the reasons I got this breed is because they are supposed to be good foragers.  That was no lie.  Even when the snow was deep, they were out in it, scratching away until they got down to the good stuff.  Yesterday it was nine eggs again.  Oh, they are superstars!!  :)

I am finally working down the "eggs owed" column. Those who worked on the Moop were promised eggs for their time, and I ended up with an "eggs payable" column of 1,700 eggs!!  But I'm down to 1,472.  One of these days . . .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Last Supper

Why is this the last supper?  No, I am not going to butcher a chicken.  Hopefully this is not the last day on earth for any of them.  But this is their last supper in my garden - at least until next winter!  They are enjoying the dormant garden ever so much -- and proving that it is not really dormant, but very much alive with little critters.

My garden has way too many grubs, but I just live with them and leave it to nature to balance things out.  Now the chickens are adding to the equation, and the balanced state will look a little different - fewer grubs for one thing.  It will be interesting to see if the chickens' work in the garden will have a positive effect on it.

There are broccoli plants and Asian greens ready to set out, but it would be hopeless at this time.  These voracious eaters would be following me down the row gobbling up the plants and saying, "Thank you very much!  What's the next course?"  So the deer netting is going up tomorrow, and the dinner party at the Garden of Eden is over.  They will have to go back to scrounging in the pastures.

Androo worked very hard on Friday.  I wanted to extend the garden another four feet so that I can move some things into the main garden inside the fence, like strawberries and herbs, rather than having to put up fencing around many small beds that are scattered here and there.  The garden is 100' long, so Androo removed the sod from a strip 4' x 100' feet, a formidable task, and then was on board to milk Friday night.  He usually does my morning chores on Saturday so that I can get to market a little earlier, but I gave him the morning off because I knew he would appreciate being able to sleep in.  He put in a long, hard day!

The number of plants starting in the greenhouse continues to grow. Today is a leaf day, so I put in some herbs, cabbage, and lettuce.  I re-seeded lettuces that didn't germinate very well from our planting a couple of weeks ago.  Old seeds --I knew they wouldn't do well, but I emptied remaining seeds from the packages into the cells and am giving them one more chance.  Time to get the oldies out of the inventory.

The weather is cold, damp and windy, a very nasty combination.  My wood stoves have been cold for nearly a week, but I cranked up the one in my bedroom so that I could have a warm and toasty place to go after being outside off and on all afternoon.  It is good to be in my cozy house for the night.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time flies when you're having fun . . .

Last night Androo got the first of the tomato seeds into seedling trays.  I'm about to go out to the greenhouse and finish the job for our first planting of tomatoes.  I'm carrying 67 different varieties this year, more than usual.  That is primarily a result of my seed suppliers sending more complementary seeds than usual, or because I'm phasing out some old ones, and I always try a few replacements.  Next year, I will try to be back down to Heinz size again, you know, "57 varieties." ;-)

A new offering this year is a miniature bush pea plant.  You supposedly can keep this on your kitchen table (if you have enough light) and it will bear a mountain of regular sized peas.  I'm anxious to see if it really does.  This could become a very popular addition to the lineup.  My neighboring vendor started doing large bowls of cut-and-come-again lettuces, and they just fly off her shelf.

I'm already getting pre-orders.  Everyone is itching to get outside.  This was a nasty winter - not nearly as cold as last year, and not as much snow - but it was so DREARY!  Day after day of clouds, spitting snow, misting rain mixed with sleet and ice - and that makes for winter misery.

But at last I think it is behind us.  The pastures are already greening up.  Last year at this time they were still under snow.  I am hopeful that we will not have to buy any more hay this year, that we will eke out the last of the winter feed with the few bales we have left.  The cows are already leaving the dry hay behind to wander around in the pastures for some bits of grass.  I can see Paddock #5 from my office window, and it is quite green - not exactly Emerald Isle green yet, but it's moving in that direction.

The chickens are loving it too.  They were all the way down into Paddocks #5 and #6 yesterday.  There are a lot of trees in those two, and that means lots of leaves to scruff around in.  They are really into it - leaves flying, beaks down, only to come up and let their flock mates know of a particularly good find, methinks, based on the cackling that breaks out from time to time.

This is truly a magical time here on the farm.  I consider it a privilege to live here.  Life is good.

Blessed be!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The greenhouse

We are already starting to pot up seedlings.  Several trays of broccoli are sitting there, roots free to expand in the larger pots, reaching for the sun that has FINALLY shown for the past few days.  I'm offering them at my Purple Porch Co-op next week.  Plenty of people will be happy to nurse along a little four-pack of broccoli plants until they can be put in the ground in a few weeks.  Broccoli is such a prolific plant!  And so long as you pick, it will continue to bear, a real work horse.  So that four-pack will probably provide enough broccoli for the average family of four for the whole summer.  What a bargain!

Today is a fruit day on my biodynamic calendar, so it is time to start planting tomato seeds.  And peas.  I bought these nifty pea seeds that make a fat little plant that can sit in a flower pot in the house near a sunny window.  It will produce peas for picking and eating as you walk by the plant.  Yum!!

But the tomatoes and hot peppers are my babies.  They are the ones I love to grow and raise and eat fresh and can.  This year I am growing 67 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  Last year I ran out of nearly all of my red tomatoes.  I get carried away with black ones and orange ones and green ones and striped ones.  I just love them!  Not so much with my customers, so I've added several new reds to the line-up, including three new red cherry tomatoes.  To my taste buds, there is no better cherry tomato than Snow White, but I guess most people associate cherry tomatoes with, well, cherry RED.

As for the hot peppers, I'm growing 20 different varieties this year.  Again, I ran out of hot peppers last year, accidentally selling a tray of them that I had set aside for myself.  I ended up with only one jalapeno plant.  And because I cannot put anything but organic plants into my garden, I just had to do without.  Needless to say, there are going to be many trays of jalapeno plants for sale this year, and my plants are going to be better marked!

Well, it's a busy day today, so I had better get on with it.  Time to let out the hens and Buster.  They are enjoying this warmer weather and having the snow gone.  They are venturing far out into the pastures, and the egg production is up - undoubtedly a combination of longer days and more worms.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A birthday celebration

Yesterday I went to Indianapolis to spend the afternoon and evening with my daughter and her family.  Her youngest, and my youngest grandchild, was celebrating her 11th birthday.  What a joyous day!  How different from the day of her birth 11 years ago.

You see, Sarah has Down Syndrome.  My daughter was 34, certainly not at the "dangerous" age, and there was no reason to suspect that anything was wrong.  Short arms and legs are a sign that the baby may have Down Syndrome, but ultrasounds showed a baby with arms and legs of normal length.  The doctor didn't take into consideration the fact that in our family, we all have very long arms and legs.

So Mike and Val found out after Sarah's birth, in the delivery room, when Valerie kept asking why everyone was so quiet, was anything wrong?  Well, the answer is yes and no.  Yes, she has Trisomy 21, the medical term for Down Syndrome.  This means that every cell in her body, at the 21st set of chromosomes, has three chromosomes instead of a pair.  Sarah has challenges.  She faces a more difficult world in many ways.  She had to have surgery to close a hole in her heart.  She wears glasses, and her eyes tend to cross.  She wore braces on her legs, then graduated to shoes with special inserts.  She has had more dental work than you or I would want for our child.  That's the "yes" part.

There is also a "no" part to this story.  No, there is nothing wrong.  Sarah is just fine, thank you very much!  She is a healthy happy child with red hair and the temper to go with it, legs that are strong and sturdy (braces and shoe inserts are gone), a heart that is working just fine, and glasses that stay on her face most of the time.  Oh, the bills for glasses were pretty bad for the first few years - lost, broken, left behind. 

Sarah has a lot of self confidence.  She reads well.  She is very creative.  She will never be a doctor, but then neither will I.  I'm not sure what path Sarah will take as she matures, but I know it will include bossing people around.

Here is my favorite Sarah story.  This happened about five years ago, on a hot summer day sitting around the pool.  Sarah had just learned to sing Pop Goes the Weasel.  She went up to a total stranger, a woman, and said, "Let's dance!"  She and the woman danced in a circle together while Sarah stumbled through the words, pretty unintelligible, but the lady got the drift and began singing with her.  Then Sarah saw another woman and said to her, "Come on. Dance!"  So the three of them began circling and singing.  Then Sarah stepped back from the circle, put the two women's hands together, said, "Now you dance!" and walked off!  I still laugh out loud thinking of that.  Social director in the making, perhaps?

Yesterday when I went out to meet Sarah as she got off the bus, I hugged her and impulsively said, "Sarah, I am so glad you were born."

"Thank you, Gramma," she said.

Later, over dinner, one of our guests (a teacher from her school) said, "Sarah, what a wonderful day it was when you were born!"

My son-in-law Mike looked across the table at Sarah at one point and said to her, "Sarah, it was such a great day when you were born!"

My daughter said it with her eyes, and the lovely smile on her face, "I'm glad you were born, Sarah!"

That seemed to be the theme of the day, this realization from all of us that we are so GLAD that she was born!

Oh, yes, it was a great day, a very great day, and my daughter's love and devotion to HER daughter is so much of the reason that all of us can say that now, eleven years later, after all of the trials and tribulations that accompanied Sarah's birth and the early years of her life.  Yes, Sarah, we are all so glad you were born.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Refreshed and renewed

I spent the weekend at a woman's conference in Milwaukee.  What an experience!  Our keynote speaker was Starhawk, a magnetic and powerful woman, and the subject was "Nurturing Ourselves, Sustaining Our World."  Of course that dovetails nicely with so much of what I believe in - this farm, my use of sustainable farming methods, my belief that the answer to most if not all of our world's problems lies in moving away from monolithic institutions and back towards micro farms and micro businesses.

It is good to hear my beliefs confirmed, and it was good to learn so many new things.  Each of us had the opportunity to attend two workshops.  My morning workshop was fun - how movement affects our brain, you know, dance to stay young, that sort of thing.

The afternoon workshop was how to use wild herbs (better known as weeds to many) to nourish ourselves.  If our leader was any indication of how we could expect to feel as we introduce more wild food into our diets, then I'm on board!  She had long thick hair, skin that glowed.  Eighty-two acres here, every imaginable weed and wild vegetable growing underfoot, and it is time to start taking advantage of that.  With the exception of stumbling onto a morel mushroom now and then and harvesting a little ramp each spring, I ignore what is out there for the most part. 

I got a book at the conference that will help me do a better job of identifying plants.  I also get a lot of help from Bob, who works for a large native plant nursery and knows more about plants than anyone I know.  He comes out here from time to time to walk through my woods.

Soon the redbud trees will be blooming.  The first time he was here, he said, "You know, these blossoms are really very tasty."  He proceeded to strip a handful of blooms from a branch and pop them in his mouth.  Yup, they are very tasty.  Who knew?  He showed me wild ginger and ramp, showed me what an Indiana banana tree looks like, and pointed out mushrooms that were edible.  That brings to mind an old saying - there are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are NO OLD, BOLD mushroom hunters.  Point taken.  I will leave the bold mushroom hunting to others and stick with my morels and the big white ones that look like volley balls.  (Do you understand now why I am not the best person to go 'shrooming with?)

My enthusiasm runs high - TOO high - at this time of year, so I am tempering my desire to become a botanist and settling for taking a little more time to walk in the woods, and to get a lesson or two about all that grows here from Bob when he has some time this spring.