Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Holding Water

A reader notes that they have missed my updates...sometimes that's the kind of feedback it takes to get me back on track.

My life lately has seemed a little like holding this elegantly-marked baby black rat snake that I found under a concrete block near the chicken coop. We are getting a lot more eggs from our 13 remaining hens (from 80 two years ago), now that the weather is cold and this fellow's parents are less active.

Holding this snake was like holding water...impossible. As tight as I could reasonably squeeze with the gloves, it slowly oozed out between my fingers. Getting the picture at all was a real challenge...I had grabbed the snake in my dominant right hand, of course...and the right-handed camera in my left hand. It was almost impossible to hold the camera and activate the shutter button with just my left hand, because cameras are right handed!

I let the snake go in the garage, where I can tell that mice have been visiting. Just the smell of it will discourage them, I hope. It will likely eat crickets, too. Had it ended up straying into the chicken coop, the hens would have had a tasty snack. Perhaps I should let them? The snakes do make it difficult to produce eggs. But, on the other hand, they control rodents and rabbits in the garden and house. I can buy eggs from friends in the summer, when the snakes are active. Rodent control is not so easy.

Note Toss's intense stare and lifted paw. She doesn't point birds, but she points snakes just as a hunting dog would point quail. Luna was intent, as well, but less of a classic point. When a snake is loose on the ground, Toss approaches with the point, hesitantly, step by step, stiff and wary. I call it her "snake dance." It is useful dog body language to know; in other ecosystems it could save me from a venomous snake. We have never found any at the farm.

About life at the farm: Transition after transition, esp. in terms of people. I've been a gypsy in my own home for the past couple months, as people come and go and I shift from room to room. Now everyone is gone and I'm hoping to settle into one room and a better routine. I'll insist that whoever comes next fit themselves around ME, rather than vice versa. People talk about getting less flexible in their "old age"--for me, it is not about age but simply weariness from people constantly changing their minds. I invest time and energy in accommodating and training them, then they leave. For the last month I've been using the computer (laptop) on the floor, waiting to move into the room with the built-in desk and not wanting to move file cabinets twice. Fine for e-mail, but a strained muscle in one shoulder made it very uncomfortable for extended writing.

The death count from internal parasites has soared to 10: a full 1/3 of this year's lamb crop. Very discouraging...probably another reason I haven't written much.

Last week was our first light frost, and I picked tomatoes from midnight to 5 a.m. 12 big crates, compared to last year's 4 or 5. Probably around 500 lbs. of green, red, yellow, orange, pink and striped tomatoes! So far the vines haven't actually frosted, so I probably could have left the fruit on. But, now I don't have to worry about when the killing frost will come...and that night, I was off work the next day and able to sleep in a bit.

We had a great tomato crop this fall, even though we lost a lot to ill-timed rains that caused excessive splitting. If I weren't working off-farm, much of that fruit could have been processed into tomato sauce, but...oh, well. Another year. Just getting crops harvested for market has been a real challenge. Three hours Friday morning is not enough. The apprentices have tried to do some on Friday afternoons but we haven't been able to work together enough for me to train them to be really efficient.

I've also spent a lot of time dealing with bad cell phone reception. A visitor had great reception with a different provider, so I switched to that provider. Alas, I still lost a high percentage of calls. They gave me a different phone, which dropped nearly 100% of calls the first day! This leads me to question why I am using all this technology at all. I got along just fine...and got more real work done...before I went on Sabbatical and came back with the cell phone and internet.
Plans for next season need to be made, but I really can't do much planning until after Election Day. The citizens of Lawrence have to vote themselves a sales tax increase, or the entire public transit system will end Jan. 1, 2009. Whether or not I have a job next year will determine the extent of my farming.

1 comment:

dave88 said...

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