Thursday, May 13, 2021
Friday, May 7, 2021
Shame!! Shame and embarrassment! Animal escapes are always entertaining unless they are your animals. It's bad enough that people know my animals were out, but the fact that they were actually wandering along the state highway was worse. Tanker trucks blast by at 60 MPH and we live on top of a hill with a very short sight distance. Only blind luck prevented a terrifying accident. Oh well - all's well that ends well, and at least somebody driving along got a giggle out of it. As it turns out, there was no breach in the fenceline (although we do need to do some maintenance). The chain holding the main gate shut had broken. Probably secondary to a couple of big pigs pushing on it.
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Built a fire this afternoon and had a carne asada, just for us. It’s still cold, but the sun was bright and tempting. I just took the oven rack out to the fire pit and laid it over the coals. Nopales and spring onions, tasajo, and a bit of fresh chorizo. I whizzed up a quick raw tomatillo salsa in the blender, heated up tortillas, and brought out the quesillo I made last week.
Saturday, April 10, 2021
The trampoline has been overrun with blackberries over the last few years. It took me a solid hour with a pair of pruning shears and a pair of gardening gloves (not thick enough - need leather) to get it cleaned up.
The cut blackberry vines went over the fence into the hot yard, where the goats were very happy to see them. There are still blackberries growing underneath, but I can’t get at those without loving the entire trampoline, which is staked down against the wind. That will have to wait.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
So far, spring this year is cold. There was a week of warm sun sometime in early March - there usually is - that tempted me to start shoveling some dirt into a wheelbarrow and laying down cardboard in the garden, but it was only a tease, and the frost returned as expected. I knew it would, of course, even as I stood on top of the compost pile in my shirtsleeves, shovel in hand. I'm slow but I do learn.
The awareness that the warmth on my shoulders was the product of a small, false spring didn't matter. When the sun shines in March in the far Pacific Northwest, and you live on a farm, you get outside and you pick up a shovel with as much thought as worms have as they come to the surface when the ground thaws, as much as chickens who start to lay when the days lengthen, even though the eggs may freeze in the nest boxes overnight. After a Northwest winter, especially this last one which threatened to draw a final dark curtain across so many lives, you take your lumens while you may. Get out in that thin wind and squint, and take off your coat, and shiver, and give thanks.
It was a bad winter. In so many ways. Last spring, when the pandemic was just ramping up and we didn't know how long it would last, we made jokes about lockdown lasting a whole month, and we distracted ourselves with the rites and tasks of spring on the farm. I took up an old habit and carried a sketchbook around the property, drawing leaves and bugs and chickens. Like everyone else, I put in a big garden. I bought mountains of craft supplies for the girls and we all planned the ways we would enjoy ourselves and better ourselves and learn things and have fun together during this time of enforced togetherness. We were optimistic, if not about the course of the pandemic then about the possibility of our own growth and development during it. Like healthy people everywhere, undamaged people, people who know not what lies ahead, we embraced the imagined challenge of joy in adversity.
And I'm not saying none of it happened. We did stuff. The craft supplies were used to make crafts. I taught the kids to play cribbage and rummy. We took to going hiking on Sundays as a family and discovered beautiful places we'd never gone before. The garden did pretty well and many vegetables were fermented, and many loaves of sourdough were baked (yeast being in short supply). The farm produced, as it does every summer, a crop of beauty and fun in the form of baby goats and baby chicks and, this year, baby guinea hens. For months, the work of the day was sufficient thereunto, and we were more or less content.
Then fall came, and school did not start. Life refused to return to anything approaching normal. Milestones passed uncelebrated. The new systems that were hastily constructed to replace the old, now-impossible ways of doing things were confusing and inadequate. We were all sick of the sight of each other. The stress of waiting to get sick was making us sick. The uncertainty -the total, global uncertainty - was wearing us all down. Would Hope be able to apply to colleges? Would school sports ever happen? Would we ever be able to have a birthday party? Would ANYTHING ever be NORMAL again? Time seemed more meaningless by the week, and I stopped updating the altar or looking forward to seasonal celebrations.
It was especially hard to keep our spirits up after the string of disasters among the animals. The problem of multiple drug-resistant parasites with my goats has gotten worse and worse, and my veterinarian has basically thrown up his hands. First baby Stormy died, then Flopsy. Trying to medicate Lilac - out of desperation, as all the medications we have tried have utterly failed - the plunger slipped in my hand and I accidentally gave her a fatal overdose. This was especially awful, as Lilac was young and healthy and I expected her to be the star of the next generation of milkers. Polly and Christmas are looking thin and unthrifty and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. All I can do is keep them all contained in the sacrifice area, where there is nothing to eat, and feed them (presumably parasite free) hay. I am terrified I will simply have to watch them all die slowly, one after another. I can't sell any babies, should there be any, because I can't ethically export these awful worms to other farms. Paloma is not even looking forward to baby goats this year, after she fell in love with Stormy last year and lost him so soon.
An entire clutch of newly hatched chicks drowned in a waterer.
Thirteen out of fourteen baby guinea hens failed to survive. They just disappeared one by one over a few days, and by the time we could catch the mother and remaining babies there was only one left.
Gucci, Hope's beloved ferret, got tumors in the belly and had to be put down.
Turning our attention away from the farm to the outside world was little solace; the news was full of death, disaster, riot, war, idiocy, and fear. Fall was scary and long and dark and cold, and it often felt like the whole damn world was going straight down the shitter. The election was a bright spot of blessed relief, but the period between November 3 and January 20 was nerve-wracking. Every day threatened rampage and disruption on a scale unimagined in my lifetime.
Now I've just been sitting here staring at the screen for five minutes. Then what? Then it was winter. We lived through it. It was not so awful for us, really, not compared to so many others. We had work. We didn't get Covid until January, and when we did it wasn't so bad, thank God. Homero's oxygen dipped down to 89 a few times and that was scary, but they put him on prednisone and gave him an inhaler and he was fine. I had awful chills and couldn't stay warm. I would shiver and my teeth would chatter while submerged in a hot bath. But it only lasted about ten days and we have almost totally recovered. I get winded quickly, that's all. Everyone should be so lucky.
There was a pretty good snowfall in February - 18 inches or so, enough to entirely transform the landscape and bring a welcome intermission from the tedium of rain and mud. My kids no longer play in the snow much, being in their high teenage years, but the dogs do.
I don't know what I'm going to do next. Im staring down the barrel of empty-nest-hood. Hope did apply to colleges, and she will go away next fall, to one or another of them. Paloma is only two years behind her. Sports did start, and both girls have evening practice most nights. They have jobs on the weekends. They drive. They kiss me and say "goodbye, mom!" and go see their friends. I cook too much food, and nobody eats it. Well, the pigs do.
Will nothing be normal ever again? No, it will not. Not for me. Normal is little girls blowing dandelion clocks on the lawn; normal is shiny baby goats bouncing across the field. Normal is reading bedtime stories. Normal is being able to make it all better with a kiss, and having answers to all their questions, or at least them believing I do. Normal is a memory now.
It is the equinox today. Winter is passing away and Spring is on the verge of emerging. The year of the pandemic - godwilling - is over, but I cannot see what is coming next. Like the planet, I am balanced on the knife edge of a new season. Be gentle with me, spring. I'm getting old and I'm slow, but I learn if you give me enough time.
Friday, March 5, 2021
A girl and her goat in happier times.
Saturday, January 2, 2021
Posted by Aimee at 12:13 PM
Monday, October 12, 2020
(Altar tools: the turkey feather fan is for wafting smoke, smudging an area. The pampas grass wand is for doing a limpia of a person - brushing their aura, for lack of a better term)
The picture of the whole altar doesn’t show details, so here are a few of our seasonal items. Shed antlers, decorated with rose hips. Reminds me of a seasonal crown on Cernunnos, although he isn’t really a deity I have dealings with.
Pomegranates, of course, are a beautiful and appropriate decoration for an autumn altar. Persephone is sinking into Hades right now, to meet her husband and take on her aspect as queen of the dead. The black corn I brought back from Oaxaca, and is there simply for its beauty. The skull shot glass has apple cider in it, for visitors. And that tattered crocheted animal is a representation of the Black Rabbit of Inlé (What? You haven’t read Watership Down? Go start it right now).
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
What most volunteer squash will NOT be is palatable. Grocery store zucchini, crook necks, and other common varieties are all hybrids, and so plants that grow from their seeds will revert back to one of the (usually useless) parent types. However, they are often beautiful.
Posted by Aimee at 7:40 PM
Saturday, September 26, 2020
Sunday, September 13, 2020
I’ve been on an absolute tear in the kitchen the last two weeks. Late August/early September is the middle harvest season (Mabon is coming right up), the prime harvest season around here. Here’s a list of what I’ve done lately - as far as I can remember.
Plums. This in an on-year for the Italian plum tree, and there are hundreds and hundreds of plums. I’ve dehydrated enough to fill a gallon ziploc bag - more plums than you probably think - and the dehydrator is full of plums right now too.
Saturday, August 29, 2020
Saturday, August 22, 2020
Just a few days ago, we lost six baby chicks to drowning in the water trough. It was a tough reminder that babies need a special environment, even when the mama hen is raising them herself. They need a warm, dry place for mama to care for them, and they need a very shallow watering dish, no more than 1" deep. They also need grit, oyster shell, and high protein food. They need to have shelter that is devoid of crevasses where they can get lost (another way we have lost chicks - fallen down in between hay bales) and they need a roof to protect them from hawks and eagles. Mama hens do their best, but they are neither very smart, very fierce, nor very dextrous. I hate to imagine (but of course I have imagined) the distress of the mama hen unable to help her babies out of the water trough.
For the last several weeks - not sure exactly how long - we have been aware that the Mama Guinea hen was sitting on a nest somewhere in the pasture. She disappeared, and for a week or so we were afraid she had been eaten by something, but she made several brief appearances over the following month. She would show up in the barnyard, snarf down some food, and quickly scuttle off back into the weeds. Homero wanted to try to find the nest, but I forbade him, because I read that Guinea hens will abandon a nest if you discover it.
Yesterday morning when I went out to milk, I saw she was back with her husband. Then I heard some peeping, and sure enough, she was surrounded by a flock of tiny chicks. They were quick, and they stayed huddled together in a pretty solid mass, and Mama stayed on top of them for the most part, but I could tell there were a lot of them. I couldn't get close enough to count them, because Papa Guinea was very protective and he charged me, feathers a-fluff, when I approached. As best I can tell, there are about a dozen.
I'm not going to try to do anything. If I discover another set of surprise baby chickens, I will scoop them and the mama hen up and put them in the rabbit hutch, but I'm going to assume that the mated pair of Guinea hens can raise their own young better than I can. It's delightful to see Papa Guinea so solicitous and proud. Roosters don't give a goddamn about their offspring, but Guinea Cocks apparently do.
What we are going to do with a score or so Guinea hens, though... that is another question. Google says they taste like pheasant. Guess we will find out.
Posted by Aimee at 3:55 PM