Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tailgate Market 6.30

Another busy market day...

Gigi guards the carrots. Good dog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Living on a farm, even a small one like ours, is a life filled with dichotomies. There's the joy of catching fireflies each evening. Monkey runs across the lawn squealing with joy as she captures floating balls of light. She is allowed to keep the jar overnight. It sits on a shelf in her room, nature's nightlight. When she wakes up, she runs outside barefoot on the dew-soaked lawn and opens the lid to free her source of joy. It's a summer cycle that starts over each evening as the sun drops behind the mountain and edges of the forest grow dark.

There's joy in harvest; in finding the first tomato of summer - a small round Stupice - a perfect little fruit.

Then there's heartache. Lots of heartache. Two freezes in spring destroyed the fruit crops. Drought has hindered the blackberry and raspberry crop (although the smaller fruits that are ripening are quite sweet). Losing an animal is the roughest. We've lost so many this spring - over 20, to predators. There's the financial loss, the promise of eggs and meat lost and the loss of hours of care put into raising them. Anyone who's raised chicks from hatch or day-old chicks will know what I mean.

So, I should feel joy when I catch the predators, right? For an instant yesterday morning there was elation when I saw the two live traps had caught a full-grown racoon and a juvenile possum and then this morning an adult possum. But then there's the need to "dispose" of those wild creatures and it's heartache time again. I know the necessity of the action, but it still doesn't stop me from regretting the act. I cried yesterday morning and today. Tonight the poultry will be locked up safe and tight, but the traps will not be set. My soul needs a break.

Monday, June 25, 2007

One Local Summer 16.24.07

Liz's One Local Summer Challenge has started. Here's our first meal:

Grilled Filet Mignon - Foothills Family Farms, Old Fort, NC - 23 miles

Fire-Roasted Potatoes (All Blue and Green Mountain), Carrots (Cosmic Purple, Amarillo Yellow, Atomic Red and Thumbelina), Onions, Chiogga Beets - The Garden - 0 mile

Shiva I.P.A.- Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, Asheville, NC - 10 miles

A perfect meal to end a day of work in the garden and yard.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tailgate Market

Our little local tailgate market is booming. It's so much fun to pack everything up and head down to the fire station on Saturday morning. Local small and hobby farmers are selling their produce and wares. People are stopping by and buying things. We've developed a following for eggs and late arrivals were sad to find we were sold out.
We sold out of everything but a pound of white potatoes yesterday. The exciting part was that we had a couple of chefs and caterers seperately stop by and they loved our market and, in particular, our produce. Two are supposed to call and talk about growing for or selling to them. I think for that to happen though we'd need more land.
In the garden, everything is growing despite the drought. We have been carefully watering. I need to get in there today and attack the potato beetles. The Japanese beetles have arrived and I'll have to set up a few traps. The chickens will love that!
Speaking of traps. The first night of trapping - nothing. Last night one bantam hen and two guinea keets would not come in despite our best efforts (when they fly high up in the beech or crawl under the chicken coop, it's impossible to lure them or catch them). There was only one keet outside this morning. She had flown high up in the beech. I'm so frustrated I could scream. The bait had been eaten out of the trap. So again tonight we'll be setting traps and locking up birds. The geese are not very happy with having to spend the night with the chickens. I've been telling them that once the new goat barn is built, they can have a fancy stall next to the goats.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I'm mad, I'm sad, I vow revenge!

We've lost quite a few chickens to a night-time maruader. Everyone that was taken was outside of a pen at night. Last night the mangler got crafty. We lost one of the guinea cocks, who was in the large enclosed pen and two lavender guinea keets and Lazarus in their own enclosed pen. The large pen is attached to the chicken house with the door open. No one in the chicken house was injured or killed. My guess is 3 geese guarding the door would make it hard for anyone to get in. While there is a spot on top of the large pen where an animal might get in, the little coop is completely enclosed with 2-inch woven fencing. I have no idea what got them. I'm extremely sad about Lazarus - she had survived so much. This morning I was so disgusted and discouraged, that I wanted to get rid of them all. I feel like I've let them down. I thought they were all safe in their pens. Raising animals is painful sometimes.

Here's what my conversation at Tractor Supply sounded like today:
Me: "Excuse me, could you help me get that live trap down off the top shelf?"
Harry, the sales clerk: "Sure. Do you have a critter problem?"
Me: "Yes. Something's been getting my chickens."
Here's where we go in to long discussion of fencing, what the kill looks like, where we live...
Harry: "It could be a skunk or coon. I've had the same problem. I set out a trap.
First night - nothing, second night - all the bait was gone, third night there was
a big racoon." And then he added, "It's better to find a coon than a skunk in a trap." (I'm not looking forward to either...)

I'll keep you posted on what, if anything, turns up in the trap. I don't particularly like the idea of a trap. I've lost a few chickens in the past to predators, (mostly neighbor dogs) and figure that's just what will happen from time to time. But now I'm at close to a 20 animal loss and I don't want to lose anymore. Tonight all feathered creatures will be locked in the chicken house and the traps will be set. The wild beasty must go!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

One Local Summer

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Liz's One Local Summer. Interest has grown so much since it's creation last year that she had to close off the participants at 100. Way to go Liz! I'm making our local area the Carolina's - both North and South, but I'm hoping to keep it pretty close to home. I'm very excited with the market and all this year. I've found a lot of local sources in the last year.

We will be traveling some during the challenge this year, so wherever we go I'm going to try to have one local meal per place. Last year, that seemed to work well. There was a Missouri meal and a Carolina Coast meal.

Participating in OLS and in the Eat Local Challenge has helped open my eyes to all the wonderful things grown in my area. I've also made a lot of friends along the way in my journey to self-sufficiency and protection of local small farms. This Saturday is the tailgate market's Summer Celebration. I hope to have a lovely meal next week prepared with ingredients from our own garden and the gardens and farms of our neighbors and friends.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Keets gone wild

The keets enjoy some sunshine on their first day out of their pen. Like good little birds they went back into their pen at night.

Lazarus, the miracle chicken thinks she is a guinea hen. She's almost all grown up. I keep hoping she's a she. I promise I will tell her story one day soon.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It's off to the new job today. This will be day two. Yesterday was quite entertaining. I've gone to work for Charlie. When he started his own consulting and design firm last September, the last thing I thought I would do is go to work for him. But really it only makes some sense, as my name is on all the bank papers; it's my company too!

So, here's the backstory: Charlie left the design/build world of landscaping and went off to consult with and design for the big, bad wolf developers. His goal was to convince them that sustainable development was not only good for the environment, but good for their pocket books (that's how you convince them that limiting the amount of disturbance to the land is good for them). Luckily he came across several clients that were like-minded. He's pushing organic methods for home-sites and vast tracks of undisturbed land for the enjoyment of all. He now has projects in Virginia and North Carolina, working mainly with preserve and resort developments. We have upcoming projects in New Hampshire, the NC Coast and Florida. He had asked several times this past winter if I wanted to come work for him and I always said "no", fearing I would become an office manager or secretary. While I hold no disdain for these jobs, I think I've made it clear over the last several months that I cannot sit in an office or at a desk all day. So when Charlie proposed that I take over a lot of the field work, I thought, "Yes, I can do and would enjoy doing that!"

Yesterday I spent my day on site, meeting the managers of vast acreages, driving over very scary roads up and down mountains, and talking to a couple of guys from the NC Wildlife Commission about reestablishing and protecting native brook trout. Today I'm off to look at more property holdings and meet more people. I'm sort of hitting the ground running and it's very exciting.

The perks of this job are that I only have to work three days a week (which gives me lots of time in the garden), I get a hip office downtown and the work environment is ever-changing. I also get to buy a bunch of new clothes! My summer wardrobe has been limited to dirty, torn shorts and old t-shirts. Now I need nice, neat outdoorsy clothes. All those cute skirts for school are just going to have to hang in the closet.

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's good to be home

A week away from home is difficult. It's extremely difficult with 38 chickens, 3 geese, 4 ducks, 3 turkeys, 11 guinea hens, 2 goats, 2 dogs, a cat and a fish. Oh, and don't forget the garden and all the new shrubbery we've planted.

Luckily, we had the world's best pet sitter, who just happens to be one of Monkey's teachers. She is also 8 months pregnant. How she did it I'll never know, but almost everyone was healthy and happy when we returned. I say "almost everyone" because we had a mystery attack on the young cockerels and pullets. Out of 16, there is now only one Salmon Faverolle rooster. I think the youngsters must not have gone into the chicken coop at night and something (most likely a raccoon or possum) picked them off over several nights. We had planned on butchering the roosters when we got home. I don't have the heart to kill the survivor now. Carly had warned us that she had found one eaten chicken carcass; it turned out to be more than that. She felt terrible when she realized how many had disappeared, but there was really little she could have done. In fact, the first year we had chickens, I lost all but 8 when I went inside for a few minutes and left them unnattended in the yard. Birds can be hard...

Tonight I made sure everyone was in their respective coops and hopefully we won't lose anymore.

And in the garden...
Everything is growing! We've finally pulled out the last of the peas and put sweet potatoes in their place. It's the first year for sweet potatoes in the garden. Beans are coming up, as well as okra, cow peas and cucumbers. I was really jealous when I saw the size of my sister-in-law's tomatoes in Missouri. Of course, they've had rain and heat. Our last frost was mid-May and we finally had nights above 55 degrees in early June. And I would like a little rain please...

Oh, and I'm very excited to participate once again in Liz's One Local Summer!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

On the road

We are on vacation. We've come to Mid-Missouri for my nephew's first birthday. I've been relaxing as much as possible with a five year old and her grandparents. It can be daunting. Tomorrow we are heading up to our old neighborhood to visit this. I can't wait to visit the new expansion. As a student, I spent many hours in the basement looking at paintings that the public rarely saw. There was no room to display all the work. I've waited a long time for this.
I also plan to chow on Vietnamese food. It's the single greatest thing that I miss from city-living (next to weekly visits to the art museum down the street, of course).
I'm planning on seeing to very close friends tonight and then my dear, dear friend is arriving from Switzerland tomorrow and another is coming in from New York. We are having a little reunion Friday night and I just can't wait.
I would be posting exciting photos, but I left my camera cord back in North Carolina. Oh well, now that I'm free from the daily desk job, I'll have more time to post things when I get home. I may just have a review from the museum tomorrow. It depends on how tired I am.
I hope the goats are behaving for their sitter!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How life should be

It is much more satisfying to go to bed physically exhausted than mentally and emotionally exhausted. I collapsed into bed last night, sore and happy. I spent the day in the garden. I finally got to weed and mulch three aisles that were out of control. That took most of the morning and my compost bin is filled with the weeds.

I despise untidiness in the garden. I love overabundant chaos, but the designer in me needs tidy aisles for plants to spill over. I prepared the remaining unplanted beds. I also planted roma beans, haricot verts, yellow wax beans, okra, crooked neck yellow squash and two types of zucchini (not to mention dozens of sunflowers and marigolds). I wish I had planted them two weeks ago, but my time was not under my control.

More cutting flowers and herb plants will go in this afternoon. I also h0pe to get the watermelon plants, pumpkin and vining squash in the ground today.

We've started planning the rebuilding of the greenhouse. This time instead of a kit, we are going to build it from scratch. We found a nice-looking design a couple of weeks ago. The materials should cost around the same as the kit Charlie got me for Christmas and it should be sturdier (besides, we can adjust it to suit our needs). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have time to build it before the end of summer. I want tomatoes through the fall. I want lettuce all winter. I want my greenhouse back!

Agatha Grunker is feeling much better. Her discomfort doesn't seem to have taught her anything. I caught her trying to find a way into the chicken house yesterday. She's a naughty goat.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Return to the land of the living

The last day of school was last Friday. I'm beginning to feel like a real person again. I've had time to drink coffee and linger in the garden in the morning. Feeding the animals is a time to relish, not to hurry. I also have time to plan for the market on Saturday. I'll be cutting flowers, pulling onions, clipping herbs and cleaning eggs on Friday instead of Saturday morning.

Agatha Grunker got her little goat-self into the chicken coop on Sunday and gorged herself on layer pellets. It's not an understatement to say that she's feeling well under the weather. She has perked up a little today. I'm limiting food to a nice hay and water. Keep your fingers crossed. I think she'll be o.k. in a day or two.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

To market to market

Yesterday was the first day of our community's tailgate market. It was so much fun. There's not too much to sell just yet - lots of greens, lettuce, radishes and onions. There were a few beautiful beets. Our Little Creek Farm table sold out of spring onions and eggs. It was much busier than expected. All of the vendors had expected a very slow start, but word had gotten out and the neighbors turned out in force to by fresh produce. I can't wait until next week.

We finally have cooler temperatures and a little rain. I'm hoping to get some more things in the ground today. Something is eating my lettuce and the tops of radishes as they come up. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's rabbits. Dang them. I'm going to have to stake Biscuit the Wonder Dog out there to catch the varmits...