Monday, January 31, 2011
The blog has been neglected lately, but not because I've had nothing to write about. Quite the opposite, in fact - it's been busy around here, so busy that I haven't had time to write much. After a week or so, it starts to feel very difficult to catch up on the writing, so I keep putting it off. Next thing I know there's such a laundry list of things to write about that I probably can't even remember them all.
This blog has a case of mission-drift. It started out as an online diary, a place to record anecdotes about my new life as a farm girl. I wrote very much as if I were writing letters to friends. Then it slowly morphed into a kind of farm-log, where I tried to record mating records, birth records, vet visits, treatments, garden planning, et cetera. Not being a very good record-keeper, that effort kind of fizzled, but at least I can use the blog as a kind of genealogy, if I tend to forget which goat is related to which other goat and how. And I can page back and find out which garden crops did well in a given year, and where they were planted and what the weather was like. Rather than neat records, what I have here is kind of like an archeological garbage dump, but it's still useful.
Then I began to insert some politics here and there, and to compile interesting articles and bits of theoretically useful information. I linked and crosslinked and put gadgets on the sidebar! The blog was out of control! So I guess the first thing that is not a simple as it would seem is writing a coherent blog. Oh well, I've always been a scatterbrain in the real world, I don't know why I think I would be any different in the blogosphere. It is what it is, and I yam what I yam.
Here's what I've been so busy with: Poppy. She has developed an abscessed foot, most likely secondary to her foundering last month. I thought at first she had sprained something climbing all over the giant mound o' hogfuel, but when her limp became more pronounced I called the vet. He tried to evacuate the abscess with a knife, but was not able to. Instead of a single pocket of pus, which is what usually develops, Poppy had a diffuse infection throughout the hoof. He applied pressure to the bottom of her hoof with large blunt pincers, and showed me how the infected matter (sickening black goo) welled up out of the cracks all around the perimeter of her hoof, in what they call the "white line."
There was no way for him to relieve the pressure under her hoof wall, so all he could do was give her antibiotics and dress her foot with mag-paste (green goop, basically an epsom salt emulsion that draws the infection by osmosis). I was given instructions to dose her twice daily with the powdered antibiotics mixed in a bit of grain; to change her dressing every day, to get a boot for her foot to protect it from mud and poop and stuff; and to give her an oral anti-inflammatory for the pain. As anyone who has ever suffered from an abscess knows, it is exquisitely painful, in this case especially because the infection is contained behind an impermeable, inflexible wall. It's like having an abscess deep under your fingernail.
Keeping up with Poppy's regimen has been a little tiring, especially because she absolutely hates some of her medication and I have to get Homero out to help me hold her head and forcibly cram a tube in her mouth. It's also a bit scary - I almost got the shit kicked out of yesterday. She is also confined to the stall, so there is extra mucking, feeding, and watering to do. Putting a boot on a horse's hoof is one of the things that seems simpler than it actually is. Look at the photo at the top of this post: she is making it look easy. I'm here to tell you, it isn't that easy. However, Poppy is improving and that's the important thing. She's young and healthy, and should recover fully.
Another thing that is not as easy as it seems: building a greenhouse. My brother-in-law Fransisco left here with the greenhouse 95% done. All it needed was a few more pieces of siding to fill in the chinks, and silicon all around. Then, of course, it needed to be stocked with shelves, containers, soil, tools, and all that. When did Fransisco leave - I think three weeks ago now? More, a month. Homero told me he would get the greenhouse finished within a week (just the last of the construction part - the stocking and preparing was up to me). He did finish it a couple of days ago. I told him that even with three sliding glass doors, I still needed some ventilation on the roof, or my plants would fry and die come August. Since all the glass roof panels are already installed, I came up with the neat idea of installing a long piece of siding with hinges, so it can be closed in the spring and then propped open come a summer heat wave. Thank you, thank you, yes, I'm a genius.
Yesterday I found a whole bunch of beautiful wooden planters at a garage sale for $3 apiece, and bought all nine of them (for a discount - $20 for the lot). I dragged a set of old metal shelves into the greenhouse and set up the boxes. Now all I have to do is fill them with compost and potting soil and wait a few weeks, and then I can plant early crops. Yay!
The last task with which I have been busy is pruning the fruit trees. We have a pretty decent orchard going now; three pears, four apples, three cherries, two plums, and four gigantic old blueberry bushes larger than most of the trees. Oh and the hazelnuts. That's just what we've planted ourselves, we also have the enormous old antique pear over by the garage. Some of these trees were planted just last year and don't need pruning yet, but others are in dire need. Pruning is an art I know little about, but unless I want to pay someone a ridiculous sum every year or else let my trees turn into thorn bushes and resign myself to a far less-than-optimal harvest, I need to learn to do it myself. Last year I took my first stab at it (Fear of Pruning and Unseasonable Weather) and didn't do too badly - at least, all the trees I pruned lived and grew, and one of the pears produced a respectable crop. So once again, I took my hoof-trimmer in hand and girded up my loins and went to work.
The smaller trees that we planted are really not all that difficult. Most likely, I am under-pruning out of an abundance of caution rather than over-pruning. Fruit trees can easily stand losing 30% of their bulk to pruning, and will give a better harvest for it, but I can't bring myself to trim more than 15% or so. I just try to take off the suckers (stems growing straight up) and generally clean up the interior a little bit. Overall, I believe I am doing more good than harm and that's about all I can hope for.
The antique pear, however, is a monster that I cannot even begin to cope with. That really does need professional attention, but it is worth it, because the difference in the harvest between a well-pruned and an unpruned tree is amazing. The first year we were here, the old pear tree gave us about a dozen gnarled old pears, and we figured it was nearly dead. But after professional pruning, the next year it gave us a super-abundance of big, sweet pears. Pruning fruit trees is probably not as difficult as it seems, as long as you can climb a ladder without fear, but I am willing to pay somebody to climb that ladder for me.