Chapter 38 – hay and vows

The intense July heat broke with a huge thunderstorm that night, and the freshly cut grass in the hayfield was rained on. The rain could have ruined the cutting if the grass had already dried, as the water would have leached out most of the nutritive value. Luckily, it was still fresh cut and green, and the following morning was bright and breezy with pure sun. It was almost completely dried before our neighbor came back to rake the newly transformed hay into windrows that afternoon.
Learning about the gambling and artistry required of a hay-maker was fascinating. I was relieved we didn’t have to be in charge of this particular job. After the windrow raking, our neighbor and reported that the yield was decent for an unfertilized grassy field, looking like it might be around 350 bales or so. He instructed us to locate the site  for our hay stack, so when he had the hay wagons full of bales that night, he could drop one off for us to unload. The second wagon full of fragrant bales would go home with him as his payment. After having to buy hay from other farms for the past several years, this “free” hay was one of the most exciting prospects ever.

The tiller was still in the back of the truck, so Andrew brought it up to his folks’ place to work on it with his Dad’s assistance. That day I had a taste of running the whole farm on my own, and it was not the same as when I had been single. We had so many beings to care for, it was rather daunting. Plugging ahead, I milked the goats, feed and watered the turkeys, the 2 big pigs, the 8 piglets, the goat kids, and the ducks. I collected and cleaned eggs. Just tending to all these animal chores was a fulltime job, and then there were the gardens.

In the row of parsley, I discovered a couple of swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. I’d read about them, but what a shock when I tussled one by accident and it ejected neon orange sticky feelers out of it’s head which absolutely reeked. As I weeded, I picked some lambsquarters weeds and then some kale, soaked them in cool water, salad spun and bagged the mix up for our salads over the next few days. I pulled all the garlic scapes out of the garlic growing from last fall and bagged them up for our CSA members. The Napa Cabbage babies were bolting from the heat, so I picked those for fermenting. The first baby, tiny zucchini was spotted. I ate it, to tell the plant to produce more according to demand. I found the very first miniscule cucumber and ate that as well. How delicious it was, but I felt kind of guilty. Oh no, that basil looks about to flower…I pinched off top of that, and ate it. There was a snow pea pod that looked a bit too huge- I ate that too. Oops, looked like some of the broccoli shoots were bolting with flowers, into my mouth they went. A tiny head of lettuce looked a bit past prime, I ate that. As I continued my weeding and snacking, I spotted a tiny brown snake, one we called a red-bellied racer when I was a kid, hiding under a cabbage plant and I saw quite a few toads hopping along the garden paths as well. Biodiversity in all forms was being preserved on our farm.

We were getting married in a couple of days, and I had to finish writing my vows. Andrew had double dug an over grown bed and as I hoed it loose and raked up the pernicious goldenrod rhizomes, I thought about my wedding vows that I would make to him. As I dropped Ruby Queen beet seed into rows, manifestation as a theme kept coming back in my mind.  I felt I had manifested this farm life with him, sort of knowing what I was doing, but unaware of powerful intention. As I made a trough with my hoe for Little Leaf cucumber seeds, I remembered the first days of my crush on Andrew, and the glee of those feelings rushed over me in waves. I knew it would be easy to declare my love for this man, I just had to make some time to put my thoughts to paper.

Before I had gone out to the garden, I tethered the goats in a new spot, between the house and the field garden, where I could watch them while working out there. There was new grazing and browse for them, and a cycle break from any parasites they may have dropped in the area they were grazing the previous week. But goats don’t like change in their routine. Desti, the lanky Nubian, was defiant about going down the path to the new area. I hooked her up to the lead rope and as I walked over to the garden, she immediately began balling. She reminded me of a drag queen, her yell being surprisingly masculine. The whole time I was in the garden, she watched me and hollered. Her restlessness passed off on May, who started yelling too, sounding like a character straight out of the movie Gremlins. I tried to find it entertaining, not distressing. I knew they were fine, just unhappy about change, no matter how delicious all those brambles were. Metallika and her daughter Trixie settled into stuffing their faces just fine.

After weeding, during the hottest part of the day I came inside to work on milk projects- making chevre and dulce de leche. I usually made a lot of feta cheese from the goats’ milk, but when it was so hot, the culturing cheese would often go overboard, leading to a rowdy batch of bacteria and a big mess of wasted milk (although the pigs loved the botched batches!) Chevre was a soft cheese I hadn’t made recently, and with it’s shorter 8 hour culturing time, it seemed a safer bet for hot weather cheesemaking.  Dulce de leche unfortunately involved heating the kitchen up though. I simmered 3 gallons of milk with cinnamon sticks and a bit of sugar for hours, until the volume reduced down to a thick syrup. At that point of rich carmelization, it was absolutely divine. I was sure our CSA members would love it.

At night chore time, I found myself not happy to be farming alone. One of the piglets got out. Trying to remain calm, I went through the routine with the piglet sniffing about the feed buckets I had brought to the pig paddock. Stealthily I reached down low and snagged his front leg before he saw it coming. The piglet screamed BLOODY MURDER as I wrangled and hung on to the 60 lb pure muscle maniac by his front legs. Would he gnaw on me, bite through to the bones of my knuckles? I remembered reading somewhere that piglets are calm if you hang them head down, so somehow I got his back legs in my hands and suspended him. It worked, but now what? That was exactly why I needed a partner! I couldn’t lift him over the 4 ft pig panel by myself. Adrenaline surged and I somehow hoisted him up like a lamb in my arms and over the fence. The poor guy was so freaked out, but I fed the group and he was back to normal instantly. Pigs and food. As I tried to figure out how he had gotten out and not the other 7 piglets, I noticed where the pigs had made a wallow in a little dip by the fence. It appeared that the escaped piglet had been wallowing, as pigs do, and probably rolled over and then found himself under and on the other side of the fence. I blocked that spot off with the pig hut, and waited for Andrew to come home.

One thought on “Chapter 38 – hay and vows

  1. Something ALWAYS goes wrong when you’re on your own…or maybe those things happen when both people are there, but they don’t seem very big when there’s two to deal with them…
    Love the nibble through the garden in the morning.

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