Looking back through the summer's posts, I realize that I've neglected to mention her passing.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Looking back through the summer's posts, I realize that I've neglected to mention her passing.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some recent photos from around the farm. I'm not even going to pretend to put the text in the order that Blogger puts the photos. Some of the images include:
- A menage a trois of praying mantids: two males cling to the same female. After awhile, my presence seemed to startle one male and he scurried off; then I got some rather intimate shots of the remaining couple.... These are the big mantids that are most visibly common at the farm, about 4-5 inches long. As I struggle to clean up some of the weed patches, I'm finding numerous egg cases on green stalks, confirming that they are this year's batch. I always clip these out carefully and try to keep them safe for next spring.
- A mantis of the smaller species rests nimbly on a water lettuce plant in the tank north of the high tunnel, where we capture the waste water from washing potatoes. Recently we released a school of ten tiny tilapia fish in this tank...my parents in Manhattan are sharing their high tunnel with a grad student who is doing an aquaculture/hydroponics pilot project destined for Uganda. Her fish weren't supposed to breed, but guess what....! It is great to have fish in my life again; guppies were constant childhood companions. I'd rather hang over a pond watching for a glimpse of fish any day, than punch away at silly some computer farming game. We'll move the fish indoors for the winter and see what happens.
- A classic view of the torii and willow row. At a distance, you can't tell how much of the green is that nasty Japanese Hop Vine.
- I was thrilled to have the camera with me when a goldfinch lit on a dead weed next to a blooming sunflower, as if trying out some camoflage! Two females are right below the brilliant male.
- That gorgeous yellow-flowered "hedge" is Red Grape tomatoes, setting on a mind-boggling display of blooms that will turn into sweet red fruit in a few weeks. The vines were over 7' tall at one point, but now the tops are leaning over as the weight of developing fruit bears them down. Good thing...I'd hate to have to go up and down a ladder to pick tomatoes!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Those who have been guests in my home very much have doubtless heard me refer to the fuzzy lumpy unidentifiable THINGS under the beds, in the corner behind the desk, etc. as "dust dragons"...because I invariably have some that are far too large to be considered "dustbunnies". When dissected, they prove to be primarily cat and dog hair, sometimes a long strand of my own, bits of blanket fuzz, dust, and other little shreds of stuff. As long as my allergy meds are working, they are quite harmless, and I don't place a terribly high priority on eradicating them unless they somehow manage to crawl out from under their hiding places and catch my attention. That generally only happens when I'm sweeping the floor for company, or rearranging the furniture.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
While rummaging scrumptious Yukon Gold new potatoes out from under the mulch, I found these two distinctive beings. Some sort of fungi, probably slime molds? Very small. I would not have noticed them except for being down on my hands and knees, and the striking colors.
These two handsome creatures have been sharing the garage with me for several weeks now. They like the low water dish I keep for Toss.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Spring is always a time of such self-doubts, esp. when I am touring gardener after gardener through the farm, extoll the virtues of our soil and our system to them. "You NEVER water???? You NEVER till except an inch or two for tiny seed like lettuce???? Do I really not? Am I imagining things?
As the season wears on, I tend to be vindicated.
Today we planted tomatoes. Dozens of tomatoes. Flats of tomatoes. To be more specific, 126 tomato big, tall, succulent, thriving tomato plants from Pendleton's Country Market (yes, they have LOTS left, some great heirloom varieties, all colors and sizes and shapes!). Only another 90 to plant on Sunday, and then we start planting the 117 lbs. of seed potatoes that arrive tomorrow....
Our method is simple and direct...usually. The extra tall plants (some more than 2 feet) were a bit of a challenge, though. Our normal method is to bury all but the top few inches, so that there is lots of root system down deep to anchor the plant and to draw up water from way down if there is a dry spell. Judging from the length of roots that had crept through the holes in the pots, given the time and the need they could go down to the water table by August.
We are planting tomatoes and potatoes (and some cole crops, like cabbage and broccoli, by way of experiment) on the NorthEast Quadrant, which has been fallow and untilled for at least 4 years, probably longer. Mostly it grows a thick stand of crab grass, and we use it for hot-weather forage for the sheep.
Last fall we didn't graze it, just mowed it once to prevent a particular noxious (in a wool-grower's sort of way) weed from setting seeds, a.k.a. burrs. When it frost-killed, it made a dense silvery-tan blanket over the field. I've observed that a crabgrass cover like this, even a thin one, seems to have unusual weed preventive powers. I have never heard of it being allelopathic, but it sure looks like it. So we thought we'de experiment with using fall crabgrass as a self-mulch.
Early in the spring, we started planting potatoes out here...50 lbs. of Yukon Gold, and some early red 'taters, too. I worried a bit about planting them directly into this soil that hadn't been tilled for so long. Surely it would be very compact and hard to dig the potatoes? They might not even be able to grow well?
Imagine my happy surprise when I discovered how wonderful the tilth of this field has become! The sharpshooter went in easily; three progressive step-inn/pullback motions and the shovel was up to the top of the blade. Then I could burrow down in all that and be up to my elbows in perfect dirt.
If planting tomatoes is this easy, then digging potatoes will be even better after the soil has enjoyed a deep mulch of grass clippings on top of the crabgrass.
We worked as a real team on this, assembly-line fashion. JL would lay the string line, locate the plants using a planting stick (a willow twig that was lying in the garden, broken to the right length (a bit more than 2 feet)), pull back the mulch to reveal about 12" diameter of soil surface, move the string line out of the way to the next bed, pull the leaves off all but the top cluster of the plant (to reduce transpiration and stress; an important technique for transplanting without added water)
I would dig holes where the mulch was pulled back, take off the pot, wiggle myself elbow deep in the dirt, drag a tomato plant root ball down there with me, firm the dirt around the plant, circle it around gently in the hose to get more of it under the ground level if possible. Repeat.
TK ran the mower, keeping us well supplied with mulch. Nex, we need to mulch even bigger and thicker.
Before we know it, we'll be harvesting the fruits of our labors. Some tomato plants had fruit set on them already!
The best part of our soil, though, is NO CHIGGERS! When we are this tired, we can just go lie on the grass and stare at the stars.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Then a morning like this puts it in perspective.
I had just finished breakfast and the morning's crew of volunteers (two resident WWOOFers, and two off-farm volunteers) was all lined up in the kitchen looking at farm layouts, about to begin the introductory lesson on our very complicated network of electric fencing.
A strange van pulled in the drive, so I went out to see who was here. Surprise! Our properly unannounced visit from the KS Dept. of Ag Meat Wholesaler Inspector (or whatever his exact title is).
And I realized in a flash that I AM organized and up-to-date in the things that REALLY matter, because my automatic reaction to his arrival is always to relax, shake hands, and welcome him to my farm. I KNOW that I have nothing to hide from the inspectors, because I've done my "homework"--and "housework"--on this key aspect of my business all along. I look forward to this annual opportunity to visit with him and show off the results of my work.
Some regular inspection points included:
- Meat Wholesaler's license up-to-date and posted.
- Scale up-to-date on its certification.
- All meat properly labelled, state inspected, frozen solidly.
- Freezer area clean enough (it passed muster last year, too, but he noticed that it looks even better this year! Strange but true, this is mostly due to getting casters put on Gilbert the Garage Piano, thanks to a couple volunteers...!).
- Ice chest that we use for Farmer's Market clean, freshly painted this year (with a great stencil of our logo, thanks to a couple other talented volunteers!), and made even more cold-keeping by moveable sections of Reflectix that help insulate the meat.
- Marketing materials (my price list) provide detailed information about practices we use, but don't make any unsubstantiated claims like "hormone-free" (we don't ADD any hormones, but we sure like it that our ewes and rams have plenty of the hormones that make them want to breed and raise their young!)
He seemed pleased about other things I voluntarily showed him, that aren't necessarily required but certainly contribute to the quality of our operation:
- We've developed a written Food Safety Plan for the farm, which not many other farms this small have.
- We have a trace-back system in place where we can track any package of meat back to the animal's production and breeding records. This year the core documents are even right there hanging above the freezer...we realized the processing plant was throwing away one part of the triplicate forms, and asked them to give us two copies, one for our files and one to keep handy near the freezer. Was order # XYZ the old tough ram or the younger ewe? We can look it up in an moment.)
- We have an effective system for handling and sorting meat from the processing plant to our freezer that helps keep packages clean and undamaged (clean pillow cases for each order or category!).
Little things, in some ways. But huge in the overall operation of the farm. We ARE making progress.
Of course, the best part of the inspection was the part that wasn't required at all: a tour of the sheep pens to show off this year's crop.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Mostly I am a "method" cook, not a "recipe" cook. This can annoy recipe cooks to no end! On the other hand, it means that you get to use your old favorite recipes in a new way, by substituting lamb for whatever the recipe calls for.
A few general hints about enjoying Pinwheel Farm's forage-fed lamb: First, it is very lean.That means you pay for delicious, nutritious meat, not fat! It also means that it's easily overdone or dried out. So use low heat and cook it a little longer.
Never thaw lamb in the microwave--guaranteed to make it tough! To quick-thaw chops or cubes, unwrap the meat and put it in a sealed plastic bag with the air squeezed out. Submerge in a bowl of lukewarm water. Keep changing the water and turning the bag. A bowl on top of the lamb can help it stay submerged. Do this while you're peeling the garlic and prepping the veggies (or whatever), and it doesn't take long.
Ground lamb can be thawed/cooked simultaneously, if your goal is to brown it. Use a little oil (olive is great for most cuisines) in a cast iron skillet, on medium heat, and put the unwrapped frozen lump in the middle of the pan. While you are peeling the garlic and prepping the veggies (or whatever), turn it over every few minutes and scrape off the browned layer to the side of the pan. Keep turning and scraping (and stirring the browning crumbles on the edges of the pan) until it's all thawed and browned.
Pinwheel Farm calls it "lamb" if it's less than a year old. Generally this means about 7-9 months old. If the animal was in its second summer, we call it "young mutton"--not quite as tender, but delicious. "Mutton" is anything past its second autumn, and may be richer/stronger flavored and chewier/more tough. There is a "YM" or an "M" printed on the paper package if it was anything but true lamb...the processor doesn't have special printers for "mutton".
Some of my favorite ways to cook lamb:
Festive Leg of Lamb (is there any other kind?)
- Thaw leg roast in fridge for several days (in a dish to catch any juice that runs out).
- Have on hand a head of fresh garlic, lots of fresh or dried rosemary, and a large organic (because you'll use the peel) lemon.
- Slice the lemon crosswise to the core into paper thin slices with a sharp knife. Set aside for now.
- Peel a bunch of cloves of garlic. Cut lengthwise into pieces the length of the clove and about 1/8 square in cross section. They will look like slivered almonds.
- Use a sharp, pointed knife (steak knife or paring knife) to stab the leg every inch or so. Insert a garlic sliver in each slit. Takes some time, but well worth the effort.
- When the entire leg is embedded with garlic, place in roasting dish. Start pre-heating the oven to 325 degrees.
- Cover the entire surface of the leg with slices of lemon, with the prettiest ones on top and filling in with the scrappy ones on the edges.
- Sprinkle liberally with rosemary, a little black pepper and salt as desired.
- Roast until done, using a meat thermometer.
The Joy of Cooking has a nice illustration of the carving method for Leg of Lamb.
Grill, panfry, broil, bake...marinate if you please, season how you wish, there are so many options. Mostly I sell these and eat the liver myself, so I can't give much expert advice.
I used ground lamb just like I would beef in many favorite dishes. Browned crumbles are wonderful in chili, tacos and other Southwestern-style dishes; curries; any sort of red-sauce-and-pasta favorites, etc. For pizza topping and lasagna, I like to saute the garlic and onions along with the browned meat, and add some fennel seed as well as salt, pepper, and Italian herbs (basil, oregano, etc.). The fennel gives a wonderful "Italian sausage" flavor.
You can also make meatloaf, burgers, etc. Because the meat is very lean, patties tend to be more crumbly than beef, so adding oatmeal or breadcrumbs and an egg can not only feed more people but help the patties hold together better. Add seasonings as desired, or simply enjoy the special flavor of lamb.
Kibbee is a wonderful Lebanese dish that blends bulghur wheat with ground lamb and spices. An easy version is at http://www.recipezaar.com/123-baked-kibbee-381713.
Cubed lamb makes wonderful hearty soups and stews! It can also be used in chili or curry dishes, and of course kabobs. Use your imagination, and fresh local vegetables in season! Tonight's soup featured Jerusalem artichokes, onions, and carrots, with allspice and other spices.
Well, barbecue them, silly!
OK, seriously, you can grill them or do them in the oven or simmer in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. Marinate with your favorite flavors first, or rub, or baste.
My favorite for quick and easy. I mean it. No, not everyone loves liver, you don't have to, someone else will gladly buy your share. But if you like liver, lamb liver is delicious. And it thaws quickly in lukewarm water, and reheats well after it's cooked.
I dredge with seasoned flour (whole wheat, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and sometimes rosemary) and brown just until done in a little bacon grease or olive oil. Serve warm with bacon crumbles and sauted onions...or put in a bun warm or cold, dressed up with all your favorite hamburger fixings. Oh, so healthy!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
WWOOFer CC arrived Wednesday and really hit the ground running...I think she was part of the team on every single heavy load of wet, half-composted/halt ensiled, manurey hay. KU student gardener LP pitched in on several loads, I helped on some, longtime farm volunteer MW did a bunch, too. New volunteer PM worked two long days with us, helping stake out the new beds (4 corners per bed, 10 beds per block, 3 blocks completely marked...hmmm...120 stakes measured and pounded?!? We also received a delivery of brome--square bales to stack in the barn and big round bales in the barn pen.
The goal was to have the barn floor cleaned in time to get the sheep under shelter for Saturday's shearing, in case it rained or...snowed? As we put finishing touches on rearranging the gate panels, and spread the floor with lime and sawdust and brome hay for bedding, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. We hastened to run the sheep in, did a few more chores, folks headed home.
CC and I went to a Taize service in town with a friend, pulling out our warm sweaters since it had gotten dark and a bit cooler. A bit cloudy, too. Silly us! An hour later when we left the church, it was raining a light, icy rain. None of us had jackets on.
We went home, ate dinner, went back to town for groceries wearing rain jackets this time. By the time we got out of the grocery store, icy pellets of sleet were freezing on the windshield.
We awoke to a thick blanket of snow on shearing morning! The sheep were snug and dry, though, and the roads were passable so the shearer could get here, even if a bit late. A very odd first day of spring!
It snowed all through shearing, all day, all evening, amounting to about 8 inches of moderately heavy snow. But the streets were mostly clear, because they were so warm to start with.
Today most of it melted away, the frogs were singing again, the grass is greener than ever where the snow has gone, the crocuses emerged largely unscathed.
And we had our first lamb born this morning!
I have photos, but never enough time.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Partly we are transitioning to other internet venues. Pinwheel Farm (that's right, NO "s") is now on facebook; it would be really helpful if you could let me know you're a blog reader when you make a request to be a friend.
We are also on the verge of having a web site, TBA very soon I hope. We'll keep a lot of our policies, directions to the farm, etc. there, as well as (eventually) lists of what's available and how to get it from us.
Spring is suddenly here, we got the roof mostly on the west end of the barn, shearing (March 20, 10:00 a.m.) and lambing will be here before we know it, Farmer's Market Pre-Season opens April 10; things are really growing in the high tunnel...such abundance!
We are especially impressed with how well the salad greens came through the winter under the row covers. Lettuce is looking great, and there's tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, etc. still thriving. A few sunny weeks and we'll be harvesting again!
Spring plans include a new washhouse facility, a walk-in cooler, rearranging some sheds (I mean moving the buildings, not just the content), massive garden expansion planned this season so we can supply even more veggies to Lawrence Memorial Hospital than last year....
We're looking forward to seeing all our friends again, whether at the farm for purchases or volunteering, or at Farmer's Market. See you soon!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Out of the depths of the woodshed, which housemate DK had stacked late last winter from the huge mixed piles our arborist friend accumulated over at the woodlot, came a supply of wonderful wood to see us through this especially cold winter.
With housemate DK, at first, and then WWOOFer KK more recently, doing most of the woodstove "work", I didn't really pay much attention to what was going into the woodbox, just what was coming out of the stove: HEAT.
But with DK having moved on to new digs in town, I get more opportunities to poke at the fire, and I started noticing this wood in the wood box. Deep furrowed, solid bark over yellowish-grayish, dense heartwood, it reminded me a bit of hedge. Certainly it was nearly that heavy in weight. And in the woodstove, it behaved like hedge: catapulting showers of sparks like the 4th of July out the door as I pushed the coals around. Not quite as intense in the pyrotechnic department as hedge, but definitely enough to get your attention. Another thing I noticed was the particularly pleasant smell of the woodsmoke from it.
It was certainly not nice, quiet, dependable, bland oak. And it was a trifle too lightweight, and too pale a color, for hedge. The tree had been reasonably good sized, not some odd little foreign ornamental cut out of yard.
I finally got a chance to ask the arborist the other day. Turns out it's Black Locust, the same tree whose fragrant, white trusses of flowers enchant me in early summer in certain groves along my bus route.
A real dilemma: I would love to grow it here at the farm for firewood, especially because it grows back quickly from the stumps in a sustainable production method called "coppicing". But apparently it's toxic to livestock, and invasive in some situations.
But no thorns. Fixes nitrogen. Fragrant, showy flowers. And fabulous wood that grows quickly. Worth thinking about.
Winter is the season for planning, here at the farm. The whole coming season stretches out before us with the calm expansiveness of the snowblanket outside the window. Anything is possible. A time for dreaming.
This year I'm dreaming big and long, trying to dream enough for a lifetime or two.
Today I let a big chunk of the winter's worth of planning go free, to fly as it will, buffeted by the whims of politics and rumor and economics. Like Luna chasing sticks on the snow, under the stars on a crystal clear COLD night, I have little control. My dreams will come back, but not necessarily at my beck and call.
OK, enough riddles and metaphors. This afternoon at 4:00 I handed my Conditional Use Permit submittal materials to my friendly Planner at the Lawrence/Douglas County Planning and Zoning Department. We've been working on this for about 2 months now, more intensely as the deadline drew near.
I'm sure I could have picked over it and tried to make it perfect for next month's submittal day, but why bother? The public comment period, when neighbors and other interested parties can pick it to pieces, will quickly dispell any notions I have about perfection!
In about 3 months, we'll know the results. Hopefully the staff will understand and support it, the Planning Commission will agree with the staff's recommendations, and the County Commission will approve it substantially as it is, with a few additions along the way as we think of things we forgot in the haste to meet the February deadline, and maybe some tweaks to accommodate the neighbors' opinions.
So what's it all about? Essentially, a Conditional Use Permit is a temporary "rezoning" that allows activities that are not permitted under the existing zoning for the land. There are some surprising things that are not "permitted" on land zoned for agriculture, and there are some funny regulations that have sprung up as city regulators tried to exercise a little prudent control over activities in the county, at the edge of the city. So, legally I cannot camp on my own land...if you aren't a friend or a relative you can't go birdwatching here...and I can't have more than one animal per acre, whether it's a bison or a chicken.
Enough is enough. I need to focus my energy on farming, not continually defending my right to farm, continually explaining to folks that yes, my land IS "developed" from fence to fence, even if it doesn't look like anything but a rather scruffy open field on Google Earth.
Today's submittal asks for permission to allow a very limited number of folks to camp at the farm while they are working here. It outlines all the activities the farm plans to do in the foreseeable future, so that they can be "grandfathered" activities if the regulations become even more restrictive. So that we can invest in our future with the assurance that we will not be breaking the law by holding an open house for sheep shearing (Mar. 20, 10:00).
What's our "foreseeable future"? Most CUPs are written for a duration of 10 years, with a review after a few years to be sure the conditions are being met. That sounds like a long time to many businesses, but for a farm? Goodness, I feel like I'm just getting started after 13 or 14 years! I talk a lot about how my grandmother turned 100 last fall, and I'm just barely over 50, so I need to plan for the next 50 years. So initially I was going to boldly ask for a 50 year CUP.
This morning, an email came through from the Grower's list, which spans both Kansas and Missouri: a request for information about farms that might be celebrating their 100th year of ownership by the same family in 2010. Seems there are already some 7000 (seven THOUSAND) "Century Farms" in Missouri already! I know there are many in Kansas, as well...I know people who run them.
So, why not? Dare to dream the real dream that I've been dreaming all my life. Dare to think that this farm could BE a Century Farm someday!
The CUP asks for a term of 100 years.
I can't do it alone. I don't WANT to be around for it's 100th birthday.
But I will die happy knowing that the land will have the right to be a farm for that long. Hopefully a wonderful, adventurous, happy 50 years from now.
After finishing a big project like this, there's often a period of wandering, drifting, a bit of sadness, a lost feeling. But I don't have time for that this year. I'm leaping out of the frying pan into the fire of another big project: More planning, this time for PLANTING season.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
With the full-time job and so many other important pursuits, I have to admit that my diet has degenerated to new lows in the past year. I eat what comes prepackaged from the grocery store or from Burger King. How embarrassing for someone who produces such amazing vegetables and meat!
So it's been a real treat, and balm to my soul, to come home each night to a dinner plate prepared by WWOOFer KK. The last two nights have been especially local/seasonal.
Last night, it was spring rolls. Homemade whole wheat wrappers (definitely localable/seasonal) filled with Jerusalem Artichokes (harvested on the farm last week), onions (localable/seasonal; could have substituted green onions from the high tunnel) and PWF's Mutton and Pork Summer Sausage. YUM! I could have scarfed all 3 down last night but savored two then and saved the third for my lunch on the bus today.
Tonight was even more local/seasonal. Barbecued walnuts and apricots with acorns.... WHAT???? Well, it's a food chain, right? KK asked one of the "tree rats" that has been decimating our favorite tree crops for years to star in tonight's main dish, and then didn't give it the option of saying "no, thanks". Actually, if we do get a crop of apricots and walnuts this year thanks to her skill with a .22, I may experiment with developing an apricot/walnut barbeque sauce to serve with next winter's squirrel dinners.
A salad from the high tunnel--baby chard, shepherd's purse, chick weed, green onions, carrots, and salad turnips--complemented the squirrel nicely, dressed with a celeryseed dressing sweetened with PWF honey. Biscuits (localable) balanced the plate and filled in the empty corners.
Someone on the bus was grousing gently today that their doctor had told them to try to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. It just seemed like a lot of stuff to them. But as I crunched and chewed through my small but incredibly colorful salad, I got to thinking that it probably has several times as many vitamins and minerals as a similar sized salad from a restaurant or grocery store. The leaves are dense, not watery, and deeply colored, not pale. The plants have especially deep roots because they've grown slowly over the winter...bringing up minerals from deep in the soil. They haven't been force fed water to bulk them up.
That leg of squirrel, small as it was, probably was more nutritious than any store-bought meat. It was raised on the fruit (grrrrrr) of trees rooted deep in healthy soil, drawing clean water up through their roots. It certainly bore no resemblence to bland, pale store-bought chicken.
The cost of such a meal is hard to calculate, though. Do we include the bushels of fruit stolen by squirrels over the years? If so, it was a very pricy affair. If not, it hardly cost a thing.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I lept up, slid across the vinyl kitchen floor to the entryway in my sock feet, and quickly donned full winter gear. The temperature has dropped from 32 degrees last night to a mere 5 degrees tonight. Brrrrr! But the clouds from the drizzle and sleet and snow of the day were swept away by the vicious cold wind earlier this evening, and now it is clear and bright. The stars twinkle as they do only when it is so, so cold.
I went out the back door, and the owl called again from the direction of our wonderful huge silver maple. I answered, feeling very rusty indeed at this foreign language. It has been a long time since I've had a conversation with an owl of any species, and Great Horned is not my best dialect. I'm better (in my human opinion) at Screech (a haunting, breathy whistle descending in shivers down your spine) and Barred ("Who cooks for you? Who cooks for YOU all?").
But it answered back after a few minutes, anyway. I haven't lost this voice, entirely.
We carried on for awhile. When it didn't seem to be inclined to move towards me, I walked further out towards the barn, thinking more distance might lure it to fly closer. But it remained in its invisible spot in the branches of the magnificent tree. Eventually I decided to walk towards the voice, and try to see exactly where it was perched.
We kept exchanging phrases, and I slowly moved towards the sound. No sneaking up on anything: The frozen snow crunched loudly under my feet. It took awhile, but I finally found it: straight above my head on the highest branch, as I stood under the spreading branches.
After a few more hoots, it flew off to the trees on the west side of the garden. I searched out the deaf dog, and we went back into the house, deeply satisfied.
If you have had this experience, my words will conjure up the very smell of the cold air and the glittering stars. If you haven't, and pictures would help, go to the children's section at the library and find the book Owl Moon, and you will have a better idea of the experience.
It is something a camera cannot capture.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
A pile of poop solidified my suspicions as to the creature's identity, though since I don't know what woodchuck poop looks like, I have retain a shadow of a doubt. I DID once see a woodchuck sitting on the roof of the woodshed, chewing on a branch. But then the squirrels do the same. Popular dining spot. I've also seen a hawk perched there....Possibly why no one seemed to be home in the woodshed hideaway.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Whenever it wants to...after dithering around for a few months first.
I know it's been more than a month since I've posted, and you're all probably wondering what's up at the farm. Esp. since the last post showed a glacier on the roof.
Well, the good news is that I've been back to normal use of the septic system, and hence running water, for a couple weeks. That month with only sporadic showers at friends' homes renewed my commitment to having a home with a hot shower, esp. in the winter when it's sometimes the best way to get warm.
But where will that home eventually be? I've spent a large part of the last couple months delving into the arcane realm of urban planning, property development, annexation, re-zoning, etc. The time has come to formalize my 50-year plan for the farm, so that the farm doesn't gradually, regulation by regulation, lose the rights that are critical to that plan. A key question is the future of Dawdy House and Granary...including how they are taxed. Seems the taxes are based on some fictitious future land use that isn't legally possible right now.
There is a certain amount of confidentiality that is prudent in this process, up to a point. No sense getting the neighbors up in arms about something I'll later decide not to do...so I want to really have my winding road through the jungle of jurisdictions and regulations figured out before trying to explain it to folks that don't speak "regulese" as well as I do.
And since that adventure has tied up nearly every waking hour recently, I haven't taken the time to share with my dear readers the fact that I can't share with you what I've mostly been doing...yet.
But spring is coming, sooner than we think. WWOOFers are coming, volunteers are starting to pour in, it's going to be a busy season. So for a little while longer, bear with my wintery silence.
It has been an interesting exploration.
It was a slow Saturday. The customer who boarded was not one I remembered seeing before...which is mostly to say, I didn't recognize his jacket. I don't remember names and faces, as a rule...too many of them. Clothes, however, cue me in as to whether I've seen the person earlier in the day...an important piece of information in the type of customer service relationships I have both on the bus and at Farmer's Market during the growing season. I mainly need to know whether or not I'm supposed to act as if I remember a 2-minute conversation with them from earlier in the day, or if I'm supposed to greet them as if I haven't seen them for a week.
He boarded quietly enough at one of my layover points, but as we waited for my departure time he began to chat at me a bit. Typical slightly disgruntled out-of-towner stuff about how much better/faster/easier the busses are wherever they come from. I focused, as I should, on driving, while tactfully throwing in enough "Oh?"s to prevent offending him by seeming to ignore him. Years of practice have trained me to do this semi-automatically, based on vocal inflections and pauses, rather than on actually paying much attention to the words. I would far rather get "busted" for distracted listening than distracted driving.
When we arrived downtown, he ceased his monologue and rose to deboard the bus. As he passed by me, he paused, and alarm bells started in my mind. A female driver learns the warning signs--even one who wears a religious covering over evidently gray hair. Sure enough, he started to speak to me again, this time in a strained, nervous voice, as if it were hard to get the words out.
Even though I knew (I thought) what was coming, I am a highly trained professional customer service person. I am never rude to passengers, since that could escalate a situation and place me in danger. Staying calm on the outside, I mentally rehearsed the exact reach for the "panic button" for the video camera, waiting for the appropriate moment to trigger it.
"My name's Frank" he haltingly began. Yep, same line, different face. Normally they smell of alcohol, and I'm prepared for this script. This one caught me off guard because he hadn't seemed "impaired" when he boarded. He continued, turning away from me as he mumbled the next words so I could only make out part of what he said: "I was wondering if you mumble mumble me."
My tactic in this case is to pretend I didn't hear, and ask them to repeat. Either they will be ashamed of what they said, and say "Nothing. Never mind." and quickly flee the scene, or (if sufficiently well along in their celebration of the day) they will repeat it more loudly and clearly, and that's the time to trigger the Drive Cam.
He was halfway down the steps by this point, but he swivelled his head to look me in the eye for an instant (they never do that!) and started over. "Frank. My name's Frank. If you're the praying sort, would you pray for me, please? I'm in a real difficult situation right now."
He took the last step to the curb and walked on down the street without looking back, heading to the homeless shelter.
In case anyone wonders why I persist in wearing my funny rainbow prayer covering day in, day out...THAT is why. Because it told Frank that I was someone he could ask to pray for him. Would you ask that of someone wearing a John Deere cap? Or a cowboy hat? Or a fancy little number with feathers on it? Would you even walk up to someone with a fish on their car, or a cross around their neck, and ask them to pray for you? Probably not. But something about the covering invites people like Frank to take that risk, when they have nothing left to lose.
Yes, Frank, I will pray for you. And I will let others know to pray for you as well, by sharing your story.