Death on the Farm and Other Bits & Pieces

Friday, July 20, 2012

It’s been awhile since I brought you all up to speed on our farm happenings and for that I apologize. It always amazes me how life can take over and you are doing good just to put one foot in front of the other. And — if anyone tells you getting a kid off to college is a fun bonding experience they are dead wrong.

So — here we go — the update.

The meat chicks are about 5-weeks old now and I have to say honestly I am not thrilled with their progress. I tacked on an order of 15 with my friend Angela who buys from a different hatchery than I usually use. In the first four days after their arrival I lost 3 for no apparent reason. They are slower growing than what I’m use to and I may need to keep them longer to get them to a decent butchering weight.

They are out in the barn now, which has had its own problems. First, I came home from running errands, walked in the barn to check on everyone and realized I was missing 4 chicks. As I looked around I noticed one in the nursery that borders my property. I was able to catch him and return him to his friends, but never did find the other 3. Then a few days later I found one dead on the floor of the barn and another one injured, which I put down this morning. In all my years of raising meat chickens I have NEVER had so many problems and lost so many chicks. It’s a sad commentary indeed to lose half your flock of birds to mostly dumb luck. I don’t like it at all!

On a brighter note…the greenhouse I have so desperately wanted for years is well on its way to completion. Normally I would have taken it upon myself and a few begged for hands and build it myself, but this time I wanted instant gratification and was happy to pay for it (for a reasonable price). Jordan set the foundation piers in just half a day. When the cement had hardened overnight he came back and built the floor; a deck type flooring with spaces in between the boards so the dirt could fall through. One week and a new baby later he returned with a friend to build the walls and install the antique windows and door I had collected. I will attach the siding myself over the next few weeks and when Brianne is firmly settled in her new college housing Jordan will come back to put the roof on. Hopefully, all will be finished by September, in time to start a few winter veggies and some flowers. Three cheers for a long growing season!

On the veggie front we are not faring very well this year. We have had a raft of damage from rabbits, birds, squirrels and rats. My beautiful pumpkin patch, which looked like it was going to produce a nice selection of field and pie pumpkins, was wiped out one foggy day a few weeks ago. I did plant new seeds hoping they will ripen in the 90 – 100 days stated on the package. We’ll see. The squirrels decimated my peach crop, again! Even with the protective netting and now something is going at my tomatoes. It is what it is folks, and with Brianne leaving in just 25 days I’m loathed to replant anything until I have time and will be  home enough to tend the beds. So now I’m leaning towards a nice fall garden that, with luck, should take us into December before the weather gets too cold.

Last week we traveled to the state fair so Brianne could compete one last time in a competition she qualified for at last years county fair. It was strange to be there with no animals. But, even stranger was the energy and vibe of the livestock barns. There didn’t seem to be the camaraderie and friendly competition overtones we’ve seen in past years. All of her friends are gone (aged out of their respective programs) and the new comers are people we don’t know. The competition was on Sunday so Friday we drove over to Petaluma and visited the Baker Creek Seed Bank. It was great to see row after row of their heirloom veggies, made me want to buy a whole new garden right then and there, but I held off. I still have seeds from this year and I want to use what I can in a fall garden before buying new. I did satiate my urge and buy a few packets of hollyhocks to plant around the greenhouse and one pumpkin I just had to have. If you’ve read this blog for long you know my love (or obsession) for those orange globes no matter how big or small. On Saturday we visited four of the cheese factories/shops on the Sonoma Cheese Trail I wrote about before. It’s a long list and with the distance between them, shopping in the area and having lunch those four took us all day. But, it was wonderful to taste cheeses that are not available in any of my local shops. The whole area is very food oriented and we enjoyed seeing shops and restaurants proudly serve local grown and local made. One shop in particular caught our fancy…Petaluma Pies. All their pies (sweet and savory) are made fresh daily from ingredients grown in the county. We savored the sweet peach and plump berry right from the oven smothered with hand-churned vanilla ice-cream on their outdoor patio after a long day of driving and shopping. Perfect, and perfectly wonderful.

I did get one pleasant surprise though. The sunflower quilt I made for Brianne arrived from the quilters before we left for state fair. I’ll take a weekend and attach the binding and stitch it down, hopefully in time for her move to college.

The dog days of summer have hit the mid-point here and our weather has been all over the place; cool and foggy, stormy with a few light thunder showers, but now we’ve hit a typical So Cal heat wave (not unlike the rest of the country) with temps in the mid-90s. Not many farm chores get done in the heat. We wait until the cool of evening or scurry around in the early morning hours before the suns rays can beat down on our little place. Most of our time is spent filling water troughs and watering plants, it’s a circular dance that seems to go on forever.

This whole summer scenario has gotten me thinking about how much I wish fall was here. I like summer don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something about a crisp fall morning or the way the evening sunset throws a golden glow over the whole farm that makes me want to hunker down in front of a warm fire with a hearty stew and a chunk of home baked bread smothered in butter. Those days are months away, I know, but a girl can dream can’t she.

When I woke today it smelled of a fading storm, remnants of some far off monsoon, made myself a glass of tea, turned on the garden water, killed a chicken, cooked breakfast, readied myself for work, wrote, cleaned, and did laundry. Just an average day on a small farm at the edge of town. Gotta love it. Right?

Fall is on its way, I can feel it.

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