the 2011 fall rush

sunday journal 10/16

Today we had scheduled a butchery class on the farm, but had to cancel due to lack of full grown pigs, and holding off on deciding about Rosie. Is she pregnant? Am I hallucinating those milk glands getting slightly larger along the bottom of her belly?

The first 2012 CSA shares are getting signed up for already, this is SO exciting. One customer is jumping from the once a month option to the 2x/month. That means we did a good job! Yes!

The ducks are laying better, now that their celebrity status has stopped going to their heads. Haa! Our eggs and our farm got featured in the major Twin City newspaper a couple weeks ago, and suddenly the eggs slowed down. What a blessing for the return of the eggs, now we can bring eggs into our accounts instead of telling them “not this week, sorry….” We’ve been keeping a light on in their hoophouse to help deter the predators who creep through the night, and maybe that is helping the ducks to keep laying for now. When the days shorten, now it is dark at 6:30pm, usually their production slows and then stops. We were down to so few eggs they weren’t even paying for their feed expenses. Of course there are non-producing months we plan for and price our eggs to reflect winter maintenance. If the ducks had quit 2 months ahead of schedule though, that would have been a killer for our farm account.

The baby goats at 7 months old, have been an absolute handful. They figured out the gate’s weak spot and kept sneaking out to gorge on the turkeys’ food. They are also way to rough on the turkeys, plowing through the flock at breakneck speeds, frantic for grain. Little maniacs. As they are also hitting “goat puberty,” this has added to the loudness and wild behavior. Time to figure out something different, separate them from the turkeys. The only other goat proof paddock has their moms in it currently, and I fear the kids will just go right back to nursing. If their mommas let them, that is. With so little milk coming these days, I need every drop for storing up winter cheese.

Our apple bounty is about over. I must have processed about 15 – 5 gallon buckets full of assorted apples from our trees. We were trying to keep track of which trees ripened their fruits when, but it was a crazy awesome apple year, and we got a bit overwhelmed with all the fruit, let alone keeping track. There are some scattered notes on our calendar for next year’s reference, if the notes make any sense then. it’s also possible next year won’t be such a good fruit year, you never know. So meanwhile I have tried to preserve as much of the appley goodness as I could. Applesauce, jelly, honey syrup, cider, juice…our basement shelves are loaded with canned apple-everything. We wanted to make alot more hard cider, but got foiled when our grinder broke down. Have to figure something better out for next season, before the apples start coming in droves (if they do.) I think something non-electric would be best, motors love to overheat and machines just love to die. Looking into the “Awesome Food grant” project which could fund a portable community apple grinder next year.

The fall garden has turnips that make you giggle with the enormousness. We had some turnip seed mixed into our cover crop seed, and without even trying, we grew turnips in one of the old pig patches. These turnips have this flavor unlike anything else. Sort of woods-ey, bright but deep dark. They are absolutely lovely in a topless Whole wheat crust pot pie, along with seared duck hearts and liver, carrots, leeks and a luscious turkey/shiitake-broth sauce.

STILL picking tomatoes in the hoophouse, which just knocks my socks off. The hog heart paste tomato is by far my most favorite and prolific tomato ever. Golidie and brandywine are throwing out some precious few, but monstrous fruits.

Had a soap making class today, and made Poppyseed Paprika Soap, scented with rosemary oil. Should be gorgeous when I cut it tomorrow, smells fantastic already.

sunday journal 10/23

We had BLTs for dinner and then for breakfast, with arugula instead. Oh boy. Charcueterie is amazing. This bacon from our pig Roxy has lasted us exactly 1 WHOLE year. Of course we were stingy with it, as it was quite special. And being an ex-vegan, I am just not used eating bacon. She was a lovely pig, who lived a glorious life in the sun and dirt, and she’s still plowing up earth in pig heaven.

As I harvested napa cabbages, tenderly embracing each one and angling it to the side to make the clean cut along the soil, my mind goes to turkey harvesting. It is very similar, in many ways. Nurturing life along through it’s time with us, whether it is plant life or animal life, is sacred. Harvesting that life is serious. Even if it is a plant, it is a glorious life which will nourish in it’s end. No one can argue that, but not many hold this viewpoint in the relation between animals and plants.

The watermelon heart radishes are insanely bulbous and slightly vulgar in their protruding out of the dirt. Radish tops are especially loved by the ducks. As I came up the path towards them, carrying an arm load of the giant radishes, all the ducks started to race to the fence, letting me know vocally they see what is in my arms. Greens are one of their most favorite treats, and the more they get, the richer color their egg yolks. Next year we are going to triple the size of our kale garden, just for the ducks!

Our first group of baby lady ducklings arrived this week and they are so freekin adorable, it is out of control. We have the next group arriving on Wednesday. These girls will be some of our new layers next spring, after caring for them through a long cold winter. Once they reach 4-5 weeks, they will nearly be big enough to live in the hoophouse without a heat lamp. They grow so quickly with good care. Each baby knows our voices, we call to them as we enter the spare bedroom where they are brooding. Loud, excited peeps call back, and as you lower your face to them, they run over and try to leap up and out to be with “momma!” Baby birds do indeed imprint very quickly, but we don’t want our ducklings to think they are humans, just know they can trust us and not be freaked out. Usually though, it isn’t long before the group mentality takes over and they act more as a flock vs. little individuals. Safety in numbers is all I can guess.

Will I ever get sick of this? How COULD I?? This my dream life, and the diversity in every day provides such a well rounded set of activities. Sometimes, many times, it has been absolutely overwhelming though. Making soap, culturing feta, milking goats, holding workshops, picking apples, labeling and delivering eggs, trellising tomatoes, moving pigs, harvesting chickens, hanging out with the turkeys, weeding and seeding and harvesting in the gardens, washing milk jars, organizing shares, feeding pigs, soaking grains, collecting compost, cleaning the barn, bottling vinegar, planning for winter shares, brewing mead, canning tomatoes, hauling feed, re-fencing paddocks, making apple honey syrup, trying to organize our thoughts for next year, taking turkey orders and keeping it all straight. I couldn’t do all this alone, and I don’t want to. I enjoyed the aura of being a single woman farmer in my past, but I also yearned for a partner to do all of this with. Someone who complimented my skills with his own unique talents and abilities. I’m so so so lucky to have him and be farming together. It’s been a hell of a year, but sticking together and talking everything through, we’re still in love.

sunday journal 10/30

The eyeballs ache. I’m coming down with something alright, but I’m not gonna complain. It’s been a week of stress, frantic reorganizing and celebration. Our CSA finished on Tuesday, the pigs nearly got out again, one piglet was mysteriously down and out but then rebounded, and 58 ducklings arrived to our post office on a pretty cold morning.

Visits. canning. two more buckets of apples. mead with andrew’s grandpa’s farm honey. picking all the tomatoes and peppers in the hoophouse. 120 lbs of green tomatoes. green tomato cake. lance chops. failed cabbage rolls. building brooder boxes. massive turnips. caulking the house. window treatments. working on our kickstarter launch. last batch of raw feta culturing. duck eggs dwindling slowly again. setting up the wintershare if kickstarter doesn’t work. seed inventory. chopping wood. window kits. being cozy finally in our house. seeing my sister once more before she moves far away with my niece. buying 50lbs of organic white flour. watching the grizzlyman diaries. getting up at odd times in the night. drinking too much coffee. website problems. pulling out cabbage roots to try forcing baby cabbages through the winter. almost bringing home a puppy. kraut making. sighing over so little milk at each milking. walter trying to get at the young doelings in heat. weighing carrots. digging carrots. blanching kale tops for freezing. finishing the endwall. admiring the baby bellies of the two big milkers. soap inventory check. realizing we only have one more month with the turkeys.

Fall gardens have finished providing for our CSA, and the remaining bounty is ours to use. Honestly, that was the hardest part of the CSA- when you have small quantities, it’s theirs, not ours. We still ate very well though. Lots of kale. I harvested a whole bunch of napa cabbages in the sunshine, even removing my jacket for all the late October warmth. The napa heads are barrel shaped and heavy, folded tightly inside a rosette of frilly chartreuse leaves. I cleaned them up to store in our walk-in cooler, which is homemade, but will keep the freeze from products stored in there, into December I hope. By the we’ll have made most of this napa into kimchi and kimkraut, salads and stirfries.

Yesterday there was another heavy heavy frost. The carrot tops laid limp along the soil, fallen haphazardly into a frosted green shag carpeting. The napa cabbages outer leaves were frozen solid, completely stiff and brittle. Even the rutabagas looked demolished- the glaucus brassica blue leaves, once arching to the sun for their purple and yellow tinged roots, now were sprawled like a tutu on a crosslegged ballerina. Afternoon came, though, and they were all right as rain. Back to normal. God I just LOVE frost hearty plants, pure magic.

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