Tuesday, June 27, 2006

OK, You Can Stop Now...

Raining, that is.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. Again. First it's drought, then it's flood. Serious flood in low spots. But my rain barrel is full again. I'd buy more, but I'm on a budget. Maybe soon I can get more, because it has been a great investment (when it rains...).

The ducks and geese are quite happy, even though I won't let the geese into the wet garden. The poultry and the goats are not so excited by all the rain. Note: There is probably no worse smell than a wet chicken or turkey. And then there's the desperate need to clean the chicken coop, but they are all hanging out inside making that chore impossible. I'm hoping for a break in the rain later today so I can give the coop a swift and thorough mucking.

Liz, way up north at Pocket Farm, has had a genius idea. It's One Local Summer. I'll be playing along, making one totally local meal a week. I think we can handle that here on Little Swollen Creek Farm.

Oh, and a house sitter has been found. How would we survive without starving college students in need of somewhat easy (considering the animal load at the moment) money? So tomorrow, we'll be heading here for a few days of scattered thunderstorms, loggerhead turtles (hopefully), shrimp, sand, and relaxation.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekend Update

We planned to camp out on Saturday. It started raining around 4 o'clock (of course, it did). We remained undaunted and set the tent up on the front porch. We cooked our food on the grill and we played Chutes and Ladders, watched the bull frogs in the fish pond and the chickens chasing bugs across the lawn. Dinner was a scrumptious Silver Dollar Casserole.

The Silver Dollar Casserole goes by various names. The SDC is the summer camp version of Salmon en Pappaillote. The salmon became hamburger. The vegetables were baby potatoes, onions and carrots from the garden. The parchment paper became aluminum foil. All was cooked on coals in the grill. It was yummy. We later toasted marshmallows over the grill and made s'mores.

We did have a little time to work in the garden. The tomatoes are getting taller and are covered in little green fruits. The much needed rain is triggering some rapid growth among the cucumbers. Unfortunately, the heat is signalling the demise of the green peas. But then again, there is a silver lining - the corn and cow peas are taking off. It's time to pull the beets and put in a few more rows of green beans. The black raspberries are there for the picking and the blackberries are loaded and starting to turn. The blueberries needed this rain, but I hope it doesn't cause them to split.

It's still raining. And I can't really complain. We are leaving for the beach in two days and if it's raining south of Charleston, I will be slightly cranky. A couple days of fresh seafood, low country hospitality, loggerhead turtles, alligators, sun and surf will be good for us. My only concern is that my regular animal sitter cancelled on me and I have to find a replacement ASAP - like today. Keep your fingers crossed. I don't think the house owner would like it if I brought the goats along...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Go Outside!

Look over at the sidebar. It's only two more days (or is it one more day?) until the Great American Campout. We will be camping outside here at the homestead. The menu is being planned. It will include s'mores and maybe after looking at this it should include steak! Monkey picked out the spot for the tent today. She's getting very excited. I'm going to lock the doors so Charlie can't sneak inside. Everything we need, we'll take with us... ...to the yard. We'll sit outside in our camp chairs, look up at the stars and listen to the hooty owls. Life will be good.

Join the outdoor revolution and camp out this Saturday. It will be good for you, I promise. You don't have to rough it. Who says you can't have steak and a good French red wine on a campout?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Return to the Daily Grind

I came home Saturday afternoon. Camp was quite enjoyable, but one week was enough for me. I think I may be getting too old to get up every morning, feed 12 horses, ride all day and then participate in counselor hunts and hoe downs. There is the will, but at some point, the knees and back scream "NO!" That point would probably be a big-boned 9-year old who was the fifteenth child to need a knee up on Thursday... My favorite camp horse, who was pictured in Thursday's post (he is much more handsome in real-life) is still there and still being ridden by horseback counselors or very good young riders. He's a big boy and strong. And the early morning canters were to die for.

Charlie and Monkey had a busy week of baby-sitter shuffling (Monkey's had a family emergency), playdates (Monkey), and impending law-suits against clients (Charlie). Charlie did, however, find time to finish the gate for the duck pen. He also installed a movable sprinkler system around the garden and it is a life saver. He mounted adjustable rotating sprinklers on the fence posts and added a timer. We are now in a "moderate to severe" drought, so it is especially fantastic. He staked my wildly growing tomatoes and took care of these...

The Newest Members of Little Creek Farm

There are ten of them - seven black and three red. Rufus is the dad of all. Ruby, the Rhode Island Red, is the mother of the red ones and I think the solid black have Dominique moms and the "penguin" ones have Australorp moms. The broody hens (one on an empty nest (?!), two on the same nest) did quite well. The two on one nest have worked out a system. One sets on the eggs the other on the hatched chicks. Once the chicks are dry we remove them and put them in the brooder where they are safe from the other chickens. My plan is to build a brooder pen and move them back outside as soon as possible. There are two eggs left in the nest. I think I'll give them until tomorrow morning to hatch, then I'll remove them and put the hens in with the goats to hopefully break the broody cycle.

I've spent most of my time since my return catching up on the garden. It's amazing how fast weeds can grow. There are tons of English peas and snow peas. The beets are about ready and the onions are huge. Charlie is quite impressed with my new no till gardening. I think I'm slowly converting him.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More Thoughts

Being at Camp has made me think about lots of things. I'm really enjoying myself and I'm enjoying my time with the campers. I somehow think being older has made me appreciate the camp experience even more. I am much more in tune to the campers and their needs. Perhaps this comes from being a mom. All the little things that are so "camp" - the songs, the daily ritual, the smell of the barn - bring little moments of intense joy. It's almost like being a kid, or better yet, a 20 year old, again and being able to enjoy it.

We are having a "Hoe Down" tonight. Most of the younger counselors are coming up with ways to avoid it. Many are taking their night out. I'm looking forward to the hilarity of little girls square dancing. I'm not even feeling the need for a night out (although I do get one). I can eat at a cheap chain restaurant and drink a domestic beer anytime I want. How often do I get to make a s'more and sit in the moonlight singing silly camp songs?

It's a good time to enjoy the little things - catching baby toads, seeing wildflowers, cantering down a trail, coming across a box turtle laying eggs, and even feeling a strong breeze all night brought on by a hurricane that's cruising up the other side of the state. I'm not half way done with my time here and I want to enjoy every minute.

I also seriously think I have to figure out a way to get a horse. I miss riding every day. Having a little feedroom at home filled with hay and grain for the goats has been bliss because it reminds me of my childhood and early adulthood and every moment I spent with horses. Hmmm.... I must plot...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Random Thoughts of a Camp Counselor

  • Someone needs to wake up before me and have coffee waiting. Granted, I seem to be one of the first people up in the morning. I'm dressed and on my way to the barn before the kitchen staff arrives.

  • My morning classes were full of lovely girls who followed directions. I was happy. I was also a little sunburned.

  • I'm not getting any care packages, I know it.

  • Campers who have not taken their behavior modifying medicine should not be allowed in my late afternoon class. "Janie Jetson* wants to ride Trigger*" (I have a riding student who thinks she's Denny Crane...) "Can we trot yet? Can we trot yet? Can we trot yet? Are we done?" Well, before we trot Miss Camper, you should be able to walk, turn, and stop Trigger. I'm just saying...

  • They had to kill a rattlesnake in camp today. I'm still walking around in the dark without a flashlight.

  • We found one of these in the barn today.

  • Did I mention how hot it is here?

While I am enjoying my time back at camp, I do miss the Monkey and Charlie. Oh, and I'm an aunt again. My new nephew was born yesterday at 7:05 a.m.

*Not their real names, of course.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

They're Here

Today was the first official day of camp. I interviewed lots of campers about their riding abilities, gently ignoring the well-meaning parents who feel they must answer for their children. I mean really, I'm talking to little Susie, not you ma'am.

I hope I don't turn into one of those parents someday. Right now I still have to translate Monkey Speak from time to time, but my kid's got opinions and she can express them quite well, thank you.

So, today was spent planning for the rest of the week, going through all the rules with kids and taking official camp photos. Tomorrow it's off to the barn where I might lose one or two campers, who knows! Mayhem could ensue quite soon...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I'm Melting

The heat is incredible. Perhaps we'll get a nice pop-up thunderstorm this afternoon. Why didn't anyone warn me? I spent the morning in the barn and seriously need air-conditioning. When did I become so soft? Am I getting old? Oh well, there will be pool time this afternoon. Which should I wish for - pool or rain?

Tomorrow campers come and Monkey and Charlie go home. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Leaving On a Mid-Morning Drive to Georgia...

Tomorrow I'm leaving for Camp. I get to spend a week in the North Georgia mountains trying in vain to keep little girls from falling off horses, watching them pet and fall inexplicably in love with hooved creatures who would rather toss them than cuddle. I'll be tapping my impatient foot as the girls want to brush them instead of having a good canter through the woods. Oh, and I'll be eating s'mores and really bad cookout food made by the little girls.

You may remember a year ago (or you may not, so read about it here), I took off for camp to train the riding staff and wear out the horses for the little girls before camp actually started. I was quite pleased with the staff and most of the horses. I sent one packing (horse, not counselor). This year I am going back to a position I haven't held in over 10 years. I'm going to be the actual "Horseback Director" while the girl I trained last year is off at a wedding. I can call her a girl, can't I? I mean she's still in college and cute and thin and all... damn her.

Anyway, the Monkey and I are off for a fun weekend at Camp before I have to begin work. Charlie will be joining us and then the two of them will come home Sunday. If you're thinking about robbing us while we're gone - don't. The ducks will create quite a fuss. The dogs are useless, but the goats have been put on patrol. Besides, we have two lovely housesitters in the form of Monkey's teacher's assistant and her beau. She's even offered to do it again when we take off for the beach in a few weeks!

You will notice to the right, that I've added a link to the Great American Backyard Campout.
We will be camping here at Little Creek Farm in Monkey's pink (yes, pink - hot pink) tent. It's a real 3 person tent. It just happens to be hot pink... I'm planning a classic meal of hotdogs, bake beans and s'mores. Or maybe silver dollar casseroles (meat and veggies rolled up in foil and tossed on the coals). They could receive a much more gourmet treatment. Maybe we can stay up and try to catch the rather fat racoon who has been raiding the dog food bin on the back porch at night... Or we'll just look up at the stars, drink wine (Charlie and I, not Monkey) and sing camp songs until Monkey passes out, or Charlie. Whoever goes first will get their hand stuck in a bowl of ice-cold water...

I've been thinking about loads of things I want to write about. Perhaps I'll be able to steal a few moments on the computer at camp and leave some posts late at night with dial-up - if it's working, that is.

Until then, I'll leave with a picture of Dulcie, looking more like a dog than goat. Maybe I could teach her agility...

"Take me with you, please."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ducks Say What?

What the hell has she done now?

We're the geese. And no, these are not yarmulkes.

The Tufted Roman geese arrived today. The ducks are much kinder than chickens. While they didn't become instant buddies, they didn't harrass and peck the little guys. Everybody went into the duck house tonight with no problems. Keep your fingers crossed for these little guys. Esther brought me a small and large one, hoping that one is a boy and one is a girl. We'll just wait to see. While I've read several descriptions of sexing waterfowl, I'm not to eager to massage cloaca and invert to find out what little sex organs pop out. We'll just play "wait and see". I've been thinking of names. I guess it's lucky for them (or maybe not) that I had way too many years of Latin. The good thing is that whatever I decide to name them, there is probably a masculine or feminine equivalent. Gaius/Gaia, Julius/Julia, Augustus/Augusta ad infinitum.

Which reminds me - Jelly Jam goes in the mail tomorrow to Jamie and KW. I can't mention enough how much Dulcinea and Agatha (Agatha Grunker, that is...) enjoy their names.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Pretty Perfect Day

The weather was near perfect today. I didn't even mind the late afternoon shower. In fact, I stayed in the garden weeding until the rain changed from an easy-to-live-with drizzle to a more steady downpour. After a half hour I was back outside in the late afternoon sun, grazing the goats on the still-wet lawn. Bliss.

We visited Spinning Spider Creamery earlier this afternoon for their open house. Chris Owen taught the dairy goat class I took this spring at the Organic Growers School, which was supposed to convince me that I didn't want goats (yeah, we know how that turned out...). We checked out the milking shed, saw the creamery with it's coolers full of aging cheese (Chris had some bleu cheese that I'm dying to try, but it's not ready yet.). Monkey got to milk a goat and actually did well considering the size of her tiny hands. She was more interested in the litter of Cairn Terrier puppies than the goats, however. I'm really in awe of that family. They all pitch in and everyone is involved with the farm. The goats are lovely and well cared for. The boys are personable and talkative. They all are knowledgable and friendly (the boys, that is. The goats are friendly, but I'm not sure that they are very knowledgable). I can't wait until we can milk Dulcinea and Aggie Grunker.

While at the farm I struck up a conversation with a woman named Esther, who is a friend of the Owens and raises sheep. In the course of conversation she found out I had chickens and casually, in a tone I should have recognized, asked me if I would like a couple of geese. I should have run, but I said "Yes!" (You thought I would say, "No"???) I really wanted geese and have been quite sad since I lost the last four. Esther ordered 5 American Buff and 5 Crested Roman geese this spring (10 is the minimum order). They are now about a month old and she doesn't want to keep them all. So it looks like later this week we'll have two new geese on the farm - I think Crested Roman, as she said she had been trying to get the Buffs for several years. Let's hope they have better luck than the past geese. Now that we have the duck pen, I think they'll be safe. Don't you like when life throws you those pleasant little surprises? I was really just hoping to check out the goats, ask a few questions and pick up some more fresh chevre and now I get a few geese as well.

Liz has tagged me for a photo of my favorite view from home, so here it is:

The view from my office.

Life does indeed toss us some good little treats every now and again.

Addendum: Thanks to Liz for pointing out that my goose link was not quite right. Now you may check them out!

Barnyard Confusion

On Friday Gigi the Chicken was setting on Number Four's nest. Number Four was setting on Number Three's nest and Number Three was setting on an empty nest. At first, I thought that Gigi was just taking her time depositing yet another egg on Number Four's mound. She stayed all day. Perhaps she was offering Number Four a little time away from the kids, because yesterday morning everything was back to normal. Is it just me, or do my chickens have issues?

I'm allowing them to carry on in this manner as I have enough daily eggs and enough chickens. And they seem to want desperately to set, so I'll amuse them. If I actually get some chicks, it will be an amazing thing.

Another animal with issues is Louis the Royal PalmTurkey (You see, he's named because he gets to stay). He seems to have developed a crush on Juliette, the Cochin hen. She's not returning his affection and I'm not sure about how I feel about this interspecies attraction. Luckily his attention span seems rather short and hopefully he'll turn his attention to one of the Royal Palm hens soon.