"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

State of the Farm (Spring Equinox)

When two feet of snow melts, it leaves a lot of water. For more than a week, there was a tiny running stream going out the driveway and into the ditch. As it warmed up, we passed from winter to spring, as marked by the beginning of mud season. The mud is knee deep out in the barnyard, viscous and hungry. Pulling my boot out of the mud takes real effort, and once in a while my knee joint slips out of place as I pull, being weaker than the mud. 

The thaw was followed by a few fair days, and even though I knew better, the warm sun tempted me to plant a packet of snow peas. I do this every year; I can't seem to resist the temptation to plant too early. Mr. B., my 80 year old neighbor who has had a farm stand for some sixty years, shook his head at me dolefully when I told him, over coffee in the church basement, that I had planted peas. 

"Them peas'll rot in the ground," he told me. And I know he's right. It rained like murder the last three days. But what the hell - the exercise was good for me, it won't hurt me to repeat it in another week. 

The arugula in the redneck cold frame is doing better. The soil was so warm I had to take the glass off; then I had to put it back on to save the sprouts from drowning. The other bathtub is full of mixed mustards; they are further along than the arugula. The first vegetable and herb starts are available at the farm store, and I bought some italian parsley. They pack about a hundred seeds into a three by three pot; separating them is a laborious task. I did the best I could and planted a 12"x24" container with them. Hopefully that will keep me in parsley for the summer. I also have radish and carrot seeds on hand, ready plant whenever the next stretch of dry weather comes along. 

Rowan's boyfriend, P. (I must come up with a blog nickname for him) pays me rent in work. I charge him and Rowan each eight hours of work a month in rent. I think it's a fair deal - that's $100 a month at $12/hour, roughly. This month, he's been doing general yard clean up and last week it was dry enough to actually make a burn pile. We got rid of all the scrap wood - broken chairs, rotted lumber, fruit tree prunings - and paper-based trash about the place. It makes a big difference. I am planning a big party for May and I don't want the homestead to look like Arkansas circa 1936. 

Lucky for us, the annual breakdown of the dryer coincided with the start of spring. Homero made one attempt at fixing it that took him most of a day, but it still makes a hideous clonking and squealing whenever we turn it on, so I asked him to string some clothesline instead. Even if the dryer doesn't breakdown, I try to switch to air-drying during the warmer months. Why pay for electricity when the sun and the constant stiff breeze up here will do the job for free? 

More cleanup: there were three winter squash that didn't get eaten over the winter, and with the warm weather they finally began to get soft and icky. For a while I kidded myself that I could still save the seeds, but finally the mold took over and I threw them out on the compost for the chickens. This is what I call "spring cleaning" at my house.

Finally, spring of course means kidding season. Two of my three does have kidded already - both throwing twins. The last one is Iris. I'm thoroughly puzzled by her behavior. All winter I would have sworn she was pregnant. I saw the buck service her many times, and she failed to return to heat after his visit. Her tail skin got thick and doughy (a sign of early pregnancy) and as the season progressed, she got just as big as the other two. But they both kidded weeks ago. And Iris has gotten slimmer instead of bigger, and her udder remains stubbornly flaccid. Today she managed to slip out of the field through the loosely chained gate - something she hasn't been able to do for months. I can't figure it out. Maybe she lost the kid sometime over the past month and I missed the signs? But I haven't noticed any bleeding or discharge. I'm at a loss. She is still quite a bit bigger than the does who DID kid, so I'm not giving up hope. I'll just have to wait and see.