Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To lawn or not to lawn...

grass, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

Driving to my hometown took us across the vast wasteland of monoculture that I'll refer to simply as Illinois. I could add Missouri and Kentucky to this as well, but in my experience, Illinois seems to take the cake in the world of vast swaths of single crops. Just take a drive on Interstates 70 or 64 and see what I mean. This made me think again of a topic I thought to write about, the lawn - America's favorite monocrop.

The concept of lawn didn't really exist for most Americans until the industrial age. Before then very few could afford the upkeep of a lawn cut by hand. The mowed lawn has it's origin in France and England. Before the invention of the lawnmower, it was mowed by hand or kept short by grazing sheep, cattle and even rabbits. In our time, 58 million Americans spend over $30 billion every year to maintain 23 million acres of lawn. 30 to 60 percent of urban water is used for lawn care. 67 million pounds of synthetic fertilizer are used to keep that turf happy. You see, our modern turf grasses come from other climates. They are basically exotics in the wrong environment, so we spend lots of energy and water trying to keep them green and happy.

As many of us have faced drought this year and most likely next year as well, it would be a good thing to reconsider the lawn (if you haven't already done so). It would be a good thing to consider it even if there wasn't a drought. In full disclosure, we have a rather large lawn. We didn't plant it. We don't water it. What we basically do is mow it. With the drought this year, we mowed rarely and it went dormant for a long period of time. Grass will do that, you don't need to water so much. I promise.

The lawn is slowly shrinking as we increase garden space and beds and fence it in for pasture. It is used as pasture - the geese and ducks are out on it almost every day one of us is home. How much lawn space do you need? Turf grass does make an excellent surface for play. However, beds for flowers and ornamental shrubs are much more interesting than grass. They conserve water, create attractive space for wildlife (especially our little feathered friends), and can easily require less care than turf grass.

Lawns don't have to be grass! Depending on your climate, a lawn can be composed of various ground covers (some are invasive, so check before you plant), moss, and a mixture of plants. Ours is a mixture of pasture grasses, clover, and various other things that pop up. I can't say enough about clover. Bees love it. We love bees. After the horrible late freeze and storms that wiped out our apples, blueberries and greenhouse this spring, beekeepers were asking people not to mow their lawns so that the honey bees could find sustenance in clover. We were more than happy to oblige.

So that's the introduction. Next up - Water Conservation.

I need to get back to the work I get paid for. And, the first of the seed catalogs has arrived - Pinetree Garden Seeds. I've got to start perusing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Home again

26 November, 2007, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

Let's see. Being away from home for almost an entire week is just too long. Going home for the first time after the death of my mother was not easy. It was downright devastating. However, we survivied. We all managed to catch a stomach bug that had ravaged my brother's family earlier in the week. Lukily, or unluckily, as you see it, it hit me and Monkey overnight on our way home. Charlie held out until last night when we got home. We lost one guinea hen last night to a predator (she was out and we were to ravaged by illness to notice).

On the upside, we've had rain! The new dog was renamed Moon Pie at a Tennessee rest stop somewhere along Interstate 40. It's great to be home again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Unexpected views

20 November, 2007, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

We woke up early and saw the sunrise, along with the morning star.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A new dog at Little Creek Farm

new dog, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

As if 2 new acres weren't enough to our lives, Charlie had to go and adopt a dog. He's been wanting another dog for some time (ever since Chelsea passed away almost a year ago). After months of talking to breeders and being placed on waiting lists for various breeds, he wised up and went and got a dog that needs us and has lots of love to give. That's how we arrived at becoming the new family for an "almost" Beagle. She's actually Beagle/Jack Russell Terrier (who would allow that to happen??? really.).

We adopted her this weekend from the Animal Compassion Network and she came home today. Speaking of the Animal Compassion Network, if you feel so inclined to check out the link, look for a dog named "Rounder". I was in love with him. He is a gorgeous dog (older now than the photo - big and uniquely handsome, and oh, so wonderful. However, this dog was not going to be mine, but Charlie's.

Ha! He's already lost her. She and the Monkey were instant soulmates (the pink collar covered in butterflies helped, I'm sure). In fact, they are currently sleeping together in the Monkey's bed, curled up like, well two little puppies. Biscuit the Wonder Dog is not so enamoured and is rather put out. Gigi is just clueless ( the new dog is not human, nor does she produce wool, so she is just under the Border Collie radar).

We are off to my father's house for Thanksgiving with New Dog in tow. She was given the name "Sadie Blue Girl" by her foster home. We are thinking of "Daisy McBoing Boing". Well, that's Monkey's suggestion. We'll most likely just go with "Daisy". It was either "Daisy McBoing Boing" or "Angel Cakes". Look for young Daisy's journey across the country for the next couple days.

Friday, November 16, 2007

riding tigers

riding tigers, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

In case you need help reading kindergarten English, it reads:
I like to walk in the woods. I like to ride tigers. I took a walk with my mommy.

We are planning another girl hike tomorrow. Let's hope we don't see any tigers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Change in the weather

November 15, 2007, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

I spent the morning in a meeting and decided to come on home at lunch time. All the work I need to do today I can do from home. It's getting awfully windy and cold outside. It's the kind of weather that makes me want to hunker down and cook. I'm planning something warming for dinner.

We had some rain overnight. I don't think it really made a great difference, but I'll take any preciptation I can get. Our "exceptional" drought has me worried about a lot of things. How long will it go on? While our well is fine now, will our self-imposed water conservation help (we do after all share the aquifer...)? How will the drought affect our gardening next year? It seems many people are thinking about water these days. Let's hope they realize that it's going to take a lot more than prayer to get out of this situation...

There's discussion in other parts of this state to raise the water fees. If I paid for municipal water I'd be a little cranky to pay more because someone else wanted a green lawn in a time of drought. And on that point - why have a lawn? I have seen idiotic waste of space to have a tiny strip of lawn when other plantings would be more appropriate. Perhaps the answer could be a higher fee for those who use a lot of water... Or a tax on lawns! That said, I do have quite a lot of "lawn". We could call it pasture. It is made up of more than grass and it's never watered. It spent a lot of the summer in a very dormant state.

I think I need to eat some lunch, and maybe work on some suggestions for lawn replacements.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

11 November, 2007

11 November, 2007, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

I once did daily photos of the "view". I think I'll try again, but store them on the flickr site.

It's a big happy birthday to Charlie today. He spent the day playing with his new techno toy. Thank God it didn't come from that particular website... wheh! Well, there will only be socks and underwear for Christmas.

Gigi and I went for a long walk in the woods. We almost literally ran into a barred owl (or rather, it almost flew into us). Things that large should not fly silently. Gigi is now completely exhausted and passed out on the kitchen floor. She is one of those dogs who picks up sticks the entire time you are walking through the woods. Sometimes they are more like logs. No matter what they tell you, border collies are not always that smart, particularly when the branch is wider than the opening between two trees. I chuckle heartily at my pet's ineptitudes...

Biscuit didn't go with us, as she as been rather mopey and under the weather. She would not eat yesterday, and only ate a miniscule amount of food today. I had to coax her with a duck egg cracked on top of her kibble. I'm calling the vet first thing in the morning to get her in and see what is wrong. It's not like her to be this way and I'm a little worried.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

10 November, 2007

10 November, 2007, originally uploaded by maggiesfarm.

This morning is the first time in a week when I've felt I've been able to sit down and catch my breath. I spent an hour or so gazing out the window with a cup of coffee in my hand watching the sun rise.

This week I managed to finally get the garlic in the ground. It's now sleeping peacefully under a bed of goat bedding (that's my root crop secret...). The garden is all neat and tidy, if you ignore the dead plants finally wiped out by a couple of hard frosts. I'm contemplating getting out and laying down more mulch on the aisles because it's my least favorite spring chore.

I spent a morning raking leaves, grinding them up and setting them aside for leaf mulch. It's been so windy that we don't have many leaves in the yard. Most just seem to fall and blow into the woods before we get a chance to rake them.

Oh, and speaking of woods... We are signing a contract for several acres of woods to our north. I'm so excited. I haven't wanted to talk about it because I didn't want to jinx it. I've been coveting the woods to our north since we moved in. We'll be preserving it as woodland. It gives us a great plot to test our forest restoration and test products. We have talked about putting a small rather primitive cabin on the property for vacation rentals and personal retreats (mine). I'm planning some mushroom growing. The land does include the Morel Patch and an incredible spring. Future pasture purchases are in the scheming stages. And they'll have to be in the future. I'm feeling slightly stressed with rapid growth of both business and home.

In case you've been wondering, the discussion of local food last Sunday went extremely well and I don't think is was just due to my incredible PowerPoint creation skills. There was a great audience. I've been asked to come talk to other groups because of it. One woman told a story of a friend of hers who always asked the Hostess or Maitre d' of a restaurant if they know who the owner is. If they can't answer, she won't eat there. Interesting. I think I like that approach.

And one last story from the week - Charlie took his car in for a tune up and tire change. The mechanic came out to him and asked if a chicken had been nesting in the car. Odd. There were five eggs in a small cubby spot in the back. Charlie was a little dumbfounded and then he remembered that after he had unloaded feed this week, Miss Monkey had been climbing around in the back of the car. He had the eggs from the chicken coop in the back and she must have stashed some in the side panel. I like the idea that the mechanic thought we would have let chickens nest in the car.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What to do when you should be doing something else

I'm supposed to be preparing for a talk on Sunday about the importance of sustainability and making wise food choices (and somehow how it relates to my being an Episcopalian... I think).* Anyway, I've been doing anything but that. Monkey is home today due to parent-teacher conferences and we took a walk this morning... for an hour and a half.

a girl and her dogs

We then came home and went outside to plant garlic and enjoy the incredible weather. I can now check the garlic off my list and move on to finishing the cold frame around the cabbage. I'm also in the middle of processing these.

tomatoes in november!

I never would have guessed I would still be picking tomatoes in November. There's around five pounds and more to pick from the plants on the south side of my studio. These are destined to be dried and ground into tomato powder. I'm finished with canning, really.

*Actually, I just talked to the Dean and the discussion I'm leading is really focusing on sustainability as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals as viewed by the Episcopal Church, at least that's where the discussion started last week... ...but we're going to talk about it from an individual's experience (that is how I view "sustainability"). Because really, have you seen those goals? Overwhelming, to the individual I mean. Tell me, how do I get roped in to these things.