gardening big, alpacas 2011

7/14 i hate weeding

Struggling along in the field with weeding. We’ve made major headway with the Brassica Patch, which we call “Darryl.” Don’t ask how that happened. The magnificent raised beds Andrew invented with his 2-bottom plow keep the plants raised up to the sun, and even though the weeds try, they can’t completely block the vegetables’ growth.

The “field” on the other hand, has been kicking our butts. Start with a wild meadow that’s growing on clay loam soil, and has not been disturbed for 20 years. Til it up, rake the slightly loosened soil into raised beds, plant in them. Right? WRONG. The soil here is home to the motherland of all goldenrod plants. Goldenrod, a charming plant which spreads underground and from seeds as well, reaches heights of 7 feet, and this goldenrod is actually encouraged by having it’s rope-like rhisomes chopped up. Each new tiny piece makes a whole new plant! We tried eating it-far too bitter, Andrew made a ok tasting tea with the flower heads last fall. He read it’s sap makes a version of latex so once we figure out how to harvest that, we can make our own line of Goldenrod Rubber Gloves or something else.

It’s hard to make peace with such a pernicious plant. We have been weeding goldenrod since April. Around the “field” garden, the jungle of wild plants does indicate we are waging a major battle, and we are doing pretty well, considering. But today I decided I hate weeding. My hands hurt, and every set of hours I spend doing it seems to somehow encourage other weeds to grow faster. Will this ever get better? Of course it will, over the years, we’ll keep at those dang plants and adding fertility and organic matter to the soil, and some day, yes, some day we’ll have Eliot Coleman-esque beauty beds of gardening perfection. But until then, I will remain firm in my stance.

I brought this up to Andrew. He said, I know, I didn’t want to say it, but I kinda hate it too. We talked about next year. It’s important to keep one step ahead of yourself for planning, at least one step ahead in dreaming and ideas. Otherwise things would get boring. Having veggies as part of our CSA is very nervewracking, since we ARE having such a tough start with them. Luckily we have all kinds of other farm goodness as part of our shares. So, we’re prepared to change the shares next year. Not sure how yet, but there is no reason to be doing things we really don’t like, if we can help it.

  1. life is short, why spend it weeding?
  2. or, why weed all the time- some is totally acceptable and rewarding
  3. let’s focus on perennials and permaculture aspects instead of annuals
    if we can eliminate inputs from off-farm, this saves us money, and makes more sense in eco-friendliness (this is why we didn’t buy pre-made compost, but our gardens suffered without that instant fertility.)
  4. let’s grow the several things we know do well here so far and stick with them- no more crazy experiments (belgian endive? come on!!- it was my good but dumb idea). That’s just crazy-making.
  5. Our top veggies we’ll stick with and need: tomatoes, garlic, peppers, basil, parsley, kale, cabbage, green beans, dry beans, chard, potatoes and onions.
  6. are we farming, or are we RANCHING? Are we controlling things and their environment, or nurturing but allowing beings to just be? What’s the difference, and does it matter?
  7. how do we focus our energy better next year? and on what?

We have a long time before we get to really think and make and decisions about how next season will look. Meanwhile we have many more months to this year, and lots to finish. Our gardens are beginning to bear fruit, and it is incredible to see. After our little day-meeting, we went back out to weed more.

That evening we went to our community’s Stone Soup event. It’s once a month, with a small market and a free meal prepared by different people in the community. Some bring bread they make, or eggs from their flock, or salad from their garden. It’s not always soup, tonight’s was a big salad. We moved into a major hub of awesome forward thinking people; there’s already a Transition Town Initiative going strong. Just so grateful for such good neighbors, and interesting like-minded new friends. Andrew was wearing this baby blue Tshirt that matched his eyes, and his blond curls were poking out the back of his hat. He’s my husband!-I kept staring at him.

As we arrived home at our place, Little Blue and Javier were running to greet us- in the middle of the road. These dogs are SO dumb sometimes. They never have learned. Then as I turn into the drive, Little Blue ran right into the side of my car and I accidentally drove over his foot. I could NOT believe it. Upon inspection, it was a bit swollen, but nothing broken. He’s been a bad car-jumper all his life, and now he really got it. I am surprised this never happened before. Normally he’ll run alongside the car and when you stop, he jumps up on the car door. Urrrgh!

2 people have cancelled for the cheesemaking course. That’s it- we’re doing half down deposits from here on out. If anyone even comes at all, I’ll be surprised at this point. There’s a sad disconnect sometimes with the computer, since I don’t know these people personally yet, it’s no biggie in their mind to cancel their RSVP. Meanwhile I spent HOURS writing out the agenda and recipes, formulating the play by play, hording up a large stash of milk for the class too.

7/15 alpacas & roast goose?

Our neighbors have alpacas, like 10 of them. These beings look like a muppet character; huge eyes with gigantic eyelashes, the shapes of their bodies look as though some kids were in there holding up a play animal from the inside. Alpaca legs are very different from goat legs. The pastern seems to rest right on the ground along with their crazy pad-hooves. They are related to camels, and are just fascinating!

These are the same neighbors who hayed our field for us, such good kind folks. And we can walk down the road to visit them! We found out the first mother gave birth to her little boy cria (that’s what a baby alpaca is called.) So of course we had to go see. Baby animals, especially ones you are not familiar with, are irresistible. They have two boys that were born on their farm last year, they are unusually friendly due to all the 1 on 1 time and gentle handling they receive on this small farm. Our neighbor told us the girl alpacas are generally more stand-offish though.

If you know how horses behave, when you see ears go back, it means they are pissed. Alpacas do this too, but it isn’t as strong of an indicator of their mood. More like a thought crossing their busy minds. Alpacas are a prey animal originating in the Andes Mountains of South America. They are constantly on the look out. A friend had come to visit that day as well as us, along with her new puppy. One of the boy alpacas kept whistling/whinnying (hard to describe the sound) over the puppy, to alert everyone else about the imminent danger.

What’s funny to me is that people primarily keep alpacas for 2 reasons- their fiber and their offspring to sell as fiber animals. They don’t milk them, or eat them. They are just too expensive for that. The world of fiber-lovers evades me. I just don’t get it. I have tried knitting, but failed miserably. But talk to those who can whittle away hours, days, weeks, years knitting scarves, mittens, socks, jackets…..they are maniacs over all the various qualities of different fibers. These people pay alot of money for the best, up to $100’s of dollars an ounce. Just crazy to me.

While we walked around seeing our neighbors’ place, a pair of white geese was stalking us. These two honkers can be heard all the way over at our place, a raucous duo of tin-horn screech honking. As we came out of the barn, they charged, wings out and giving us an up-close and personal chorus of ear damage. We have thought about geese on our farm, but have read about this vocalizing being far from pleasant. In person, it is the most insane noise you can imagine. And not just a “bark”, these two came in for a literal bite the moment we turned our backs. “Just shoo them away,” our neighbor said. We did, and then the geese came after Andrew’s backside. I yelled bloody murder. Malicious animals really don’t float my boat, to tell you the truth. Off they were chased, and they carried on at the top of the hill, most likely mocking our fear, and proudly feeling like successful mean birds.

She said, you know, I wouldn’t mind if I came home one day, and they just weren’t here. Andrew and I had offered to help them out with their situation. Roasted goose is not to be mocked- it is delicious. I had it at a friend’s farm once. Like a steak in texture and richness, but with a lovely poultry taste. Amazing. I was all for it. But later I thought about it and I just don’t know.

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