Nov 2013- start of the month

Duck barn

We’re making real progress on the addition to the duck barn. The roof is on and we’re aiming to get the walls on tomorrow, which first involves taking the existing inner wall’s metal siding panels off and then reattaching them on the new outside wall. The end walls get attached then, and we’re good to go. Seeing a project in your mind, and then in visual plans drawn on paper, and then the lumber delivery arrives, we work our butts off and suddenly, here we are, it’s almost done! Wow. My husband has really got a knack for designing pole barns down to the last detail. He also has a tenacious patience for perfection in construction projects which I do not have. I feel confident this structure will be here for a really long time, and it is so versatile in all it’s potential uses. Our bank account (winter money) went down substantially after ordering all the materials, but it would have been worse if we’d had to pay full retail for the metal panels. There’s a great surplus lumber yard nearby called the Lumber Farm. Super score on metal panels there 2 years in a row!

While Andrew finished the roof attachments, I moved many wheelbarrow loads of dirt over to the build up the sides. My little herd of 31 Bubsters excitedly climbed on the dirt pile, scratching and watching for the slimy flash of an exposed worm. These guys are going to be our own Chicken stash for the next year, and they are going to be soooooooo tasty. They’ve been eating charcoal out of the firepit, foraging like maniacs, running ALL over the place, growing robust and rotund as only a Bubster can. I had way more fun moving dirt today with their worm hunting exuberance accompanying me. Life with animals is really so wonderful. I feel so blessed to be able to give our animals a good and real life before they turn into meat. I wish everyone who ate meat could experience the joy of the animal’s existence before it ends up on their plate. I also wish people would stop calling the Cornish Cross Broiler fat, lazy and stupid. Give them the opportunity to be a chicken, and they will be just that!

It’s gonna be wonderful to get this project finished up, so we can move the 200 ducklings into their new home. They are getting a bit crowded in the brooder-mobile, as they are growing like weeds and their unquenchable thirst is just a weeee bit messy.

It was so nice and sunny out, and we were actually pondering whether to attack the siding and get’er done today, but the wind kicked up and those metal panels could slice you up pretty good in a strong gust. So we went inside to eat pot pie and some chocolate and then I looked at feeder pigs for sale on craigslist.

dammmm

Mee oh my oh! We harvested almost all the heritage cockerels today, and with the help of a featherman plucker (which we bartered to use rom some friends) I think we got 90 chickens processed in 6 hours. I LOVE the plucker, holy crap is that thing amazing. We only missed the clever 15 or so remaining chickens who were unreachable under the horsetrailer or who lept from the holding bin when the lid slid off. My back is a bit achey and I got bit on the cheek by one ferocious Dark Cornish dude, but we have gotten a major job checked off the to-do list, and a LOT of beautiful pastured, organic heritage meat ready for our customers. I’m now showered, there are burritos in the oven, and I’m gearing up for my first training sessions at my winter job tonight, at A Wise Choice Dairy. I going to learn how to milk cows after all! Super looking forward to it, I mean cows and super nice people?! After milking tonight, I’m crashing in their guest house, learning about morning milking and then returning home to harvest turkeys and geese in the afternoon. Straddling a bunch of worlds right now, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

our beautiful goose —-raised and harvested and processed on our farm. Kind of infatuated, rather smitten and lusting after my first taste.

selective memory

Once upon a time, not too long ago, and not too far away, it was warm, bright and green all around. I wore skirts day in and day out which I used to lug loads and loads of sun-kissed summer veggies up from the garden. Life was grand and glorious and the garden was a completely magnificent beast of overflowing abundance.

That’s how I remember summer right now. Don’t you? Once seed catalogs arrive in November, my brain immediately leaps to the upcoming garden’s planning. It doesn’t matter that we’re 6 months away from it happening. I’ve forgotten the hours and hours and hours and hours spent weeding, forgotten the failed crops and wrongly timed seedings, forgotten the poor harvests. I get this selective memory problem every time this year, as I slowly finger each page of glossy garden porn. Those seed companies are such clever marketers, they hit you at the precisely right time, before desparation hits mid winter, but not so late that you procrastinate placing an order with their company.

During our growing season I took note, and some notes, of what did and didn’t work, tried to keep tabs on when what was started and planted and harvested. We aspire to do better than that, be 100% accurate, but the reality is, when you raise more than just plants, there are too many distractions. Most gardeners work off of their intuition more than wanting to pore over notes. Even if I took intensely scientific records, every year will be different no matter how well you plan. There are so many elements you cannot control- climate patterns changing, insects pests arrive in cycles and plagues, raccoons eat your sweet corn, deer graze all the tops off your young green bean plants, etc.

All in all our garden this past year was pretty good, but the late arrival of spring really messed us up. When we normally would have been maintaining the baby plants, weeding them carefully, we were still transplanting them in. Spring types of crops didn’t get in until the time when we’d normally be working on the summer varieties. Super delays on nearly every type of plant caused us to lose yield potential because we were trying to get it all done at once. For example, the onion plants, which I carefully seeded and tended in the living room, were transplanted when they were the thickness of a piece of thread. They did not get weeded soon enough, while we busy trying to catch up with transplanting thousands of other plants. The onions were shortly buried under a tall canopy of ragweed, unable to plump up because they were not getting enough sun. Once I did get them weeded, which involved hours of ripping out huge trunks of the ragweed, the sudden exposure to sun pretty much did the onions in with sun stroke, and the stunting had already occurred. We also suffered from a lack of fertility in certain areas, because we didn’t get enough compost there in a timely fashion. Our potato crop was terrible for this reason.

Reviewing the failures, I like to look ahead and be positive and hopeful! Here are my aspirations:

Grow a large variety of Melons, try out sweet potatoes, grow more kinds of squash and start them earlier indoors, yield more potatoes,start rhubarb and asparagus from seed (WHY have we not gotten this going yet?-  our 1st transplants did not work,) grow sunflowers for seed, succeed with cauliflower, try out big bell peppers (I had great luck with pimento types this year,) grow more kinds of eggplant and do it in the hoophouse to help them blossom sooner, try growing celery, grow fennel & raddicio for fall (the trials I did this year were started a bit too late, but both are very frost hardy!) grow lots of BIG onions for godsakes, as well properly huge rutabagas and also salad turnips, brussel sprouts, shelling beans, shelling peas. We’re also planning to graft apple branches from our favorite trees onto root stock and start an orchard as part of our “soon to not just be theoretical” permaculture installation. I’m sure there’s a gazillion things I’m missing on this first list of winter dreaming and planning. Let it begin!

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