Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

jack o' lantern, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

Hope your's has been full of treats and short on tricks.


frost, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

Fall has arrived. There has even been ice on the water troughs for the last three mornings. I guess I can finally safely plant the garlic.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


We've had rain the last couple of days - most of it has been light and sporadic, but it's rain. There's a little over an inch in the rain gauge and perhaps more to come. The good news is that it seemed to rain heavier a little to the south of us - which could be good news for the Georgia lakes, which are so low.

If you haven't heard, Atlanta (a rather large city) has only 90 days of water left. There has finally been lots of discussion about water management processes. My only hope is that water management and city planners and citizens will take a good long look at long standing practices and change. My fear is that those planners and citizens will get over this crisis and go back to living like they always have. On a recent trip down to Georgia, I heard one person complain that they hadn't been able to go boating this summer. That was their biggest concern. How about drinking? Hmm.

rain barrel

But on to the topic I planned to start with - rain barrels. I love our rain barrel and we are adding more (the plan is one to every corner, for all the beds surrounding the house). We don't have a huge problem with water runoff waste out here in the middle of nowhere. Generally it all comes from the roof, but there is a lot off the roof that we could use on our plants. The best way to gather that water is with rain barrels. If I had the budget to retrofit our house right now, I'd add a large cistern under the porch to gather all the rain water off of our roof. For now the barrel is doing well. We bought ours through a local non-profit and paid a little less than retail. Looking at the barrel, it would be easy to make your own - I've seen many versions. Here's one with directions for a rain garden as well! Rain gardens are a whole other topic. I'll just say I love them and they are a great spot to grow incredible plants.

Our rain barrel will fill with about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of rain - that's 65 gallons of water off of one small side of our roof. We've used ours to water the vegetable garden in the past, but this year I concentrated on using it to keep a bunch of young hydrangeas alive. And it worked. I placed a soaker hose on the spigot and let gravity force the water to slowly and conservatively water them. All are doing well. I don't think they would have survived without it. I put a pretty tight restriction on watering ornamentals over the summer, prefering to limit watering to the things we eat.

If you don't have a rain barrel or two, I encourage you to build or buy your own. Make it a project for the winter. You'll be able to use it in the spring to water all those seedlings.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No water

The well pump died yesterday. No water, not a trickle to be had. We've been waiting all day for the well men to squeeze us in and hooray! the cavalry has arrived! There's a lot of pipe running down our driveway and some rewiring going on. Hopefully soon we will have water again. The good news is that there is water in the well*. I was a little worried as Little Creek is just a faint trickle and the three springs on the property are mere mud pits at the moment. But the water is there and the machinery that brings it to us will be repaired (keeping fingers firmly crossed) and we'll be bathing, watering the animals and making ice soon.

*The well men say there are a lot of wells going dry. I couldn't imagine. What would we do with all the animals? I mean I can drink bottled water and shower at the YMCA, but I think they would frown on a gaggle of geese and a couple of feisty goats. Keep rainy thoughts in your hearts for us, please.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jesus ate local...

I mean that in a very tongue in cheek way, so don't get offended (but, it's true). As part of another program at the Cathedral, we organized a 'meal of conscience' for our monthly family dinner. Out with the spaghetti, in with the brats and a little local beer. It's time for Octoberfest! Almost all the food served last Wednesday came from local sources. The bratwurst came from Spring House Meats at Hickory Nut Gap Farm . A big thank you to Jamie Ager of said farm for helping us with the vast quantity of sausage. Everyone thought they were the best bratwurst ever eaten. And there are quite a few Northerners in the mix, so that is a complement. Charlie and I made roasted potatoes and peppers, coleslaw (both with produc grown in the area) and baked beans (not quite local, but baked to perfection). Beer came from several local breweries, depending on personal taste. We have lots of local breweries in Asheville, so if you can't find a beer you like, well you must not like beer...

The crowd for this particular dinner was double the normal spaghetti supper crowd - around 150 people. We fed them all and had a few leftovers. The amazing thing was that it cost less per person to feed locally grown, organic, and humanely-raised food than it normally does to feed everyone spaghetti made with processed products bought at Sam's. It was a simple lesson to all present.

The most gratifying thing is that from this simple meal a whole discussion began. We Episcopalians are good at discussing. It's a particular talent of ours. It was decided that there should be a whole series of lessons on what it means to live in a conscience way - how as Christians, can we respect and protect the world around us. So, now there will be Sunday formation classes devoted to a whole range of topics (even food and farming!).
And wonder of wonder, a promise came to me, through Charlie, that the flowers will be fair trade, organic, and maybe even local. It's been my pet peeve for a while. I'm sure there will be some resistance, there always is, but hopefully things will change up there at the altar. Don't get me started on the floral industry and the amount of pollutants, chemicals, fuels and unfair labor used to create the perfect cut flower.. Or perhaps you should get me started. Look at what one local meal of sausage can do.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The new girls

We've inherited three new hens from our friend, Starr. He asked if I wanted three of his older hens who were being bullied by his younger hens and rooster. We have a lot more room than he does, and who could say no to these three lovelies?

the new girls

I fell in love with the Light Brahma (the big girl in front) this afternoon. The Buff Orpington and the molting Rhode Island Red are a little shy, but the Brahma is quite friendly and her size may just intimidate any would-be-bullies in my flock. I don't think I have any bullies, unless you count the young guineas (and most of them will be holiday dinners...). The girls should be alright here.

They are three years old just like my oldest hens. They may be slowing down a little in the laying department, but should be o.k. for another year or two. I haven't had to yet cull the hens, but that is something we will have to face in the future. Right now though everyone is laying fine (even these girls, according to Starr) so we won't think about that at this moment.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A little rain

rain on dogwood

It has rained about a half an inch of rain since yesterday. That's good news for us. We seeded the pasture before the last rain and then there has been nothing for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, this should help.. It's been enough to fill the rain barrels and there is a little more water in the creek. And the ducks are happy, if no one else in the barnyard is. I've posted more photos on my flickr page.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Some of the natives

With all these walks in the woods, I'm back to identifying plants. Some are easy...

Smooth Sumac

Some are hard. This one in particular is giving me a headache. I'm thinking a Helianthus, but it could be an aster. It's in an open field on top of a mountain at around 3800 feet. The top is an abandoned Christmas tree farm. Perhaps if the flowers were in full bloom it would be easier...

Any guesses?