Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just a little cow update...

It is Wednesday evening, there are no new baby cows and I haven't reached Andrew the AI guy yet--our schedules are exactly opposite--hopefully I will get him tomorrow. And I didn't call the butcher. All that worry and no action. Such is life in a busy week. Tomorrow, I vow, tomorrow I am going to get to the details.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cows on the brain...

I woke up this morning thinking about cows. Well, more truthfully, I was thinking about what to do about cows.

You see, we have Brigid the mama cow who is dreadfully late having her baby and I am beginning to think she might be experiencing a hysterical pregnancy. I need to call Andrew the AI guy (that's the artificial insemination specialist in cow lingo) and see if we can get him out here to see what is what. My problem with calling Andrew is that then I will know that she isn't pregnant and that it will be almost another year before we have a baby cow and fresh milk again. The thought of that makes my heart go thump. I have been so excited about this calf.

I think I just don't want to know the truth. I keep giving Brig the benefit of a doubt and waiting another week. This is sort of like the parent who doesn't want to face the facts about their child flunking out of high school. Denial doesn't do anyone any good at all.
I gotta call and I gotta call on Monday.

Just for the record, Brig sure looks fatter than when he was here last November and stuck his hand way up in there while she was kicking about as fast as she can kick! And let me tell you, that guy has lightening quick reflexes.

Anyway, after pondering the Brigid pregnancy dilemna, I moved onto Gilly, her baby. He'a a big fat oaf of a cow. Big and fat, that is, for a dexter cow. They are much more petite than the usual cow which makes him the perfect size for us. He's happy to hang with people, cows or sheep and has even made friends with the goat. He's always in a chipper mood and is ever curious about what is going on the other side of the fence. Gilly is just a great guy. He's the kind of guy you would have for a drinking buddy. You can tell him anything and he never tells a soul.

I really need to call the butcher regarding Gilly. But he is such a sweetheart. He eats raspberries straight out of my hand without getting a bit of cow spit on me. He lets me scratch that hard spot right between his horns without ever flicking me with them. He follows me wherever I go and I don't even have to bring food. He's my baby and he knows it.

Gilly will be our first cow that we raised from day one, much less had butchered so that call is a big deal. It's on the board for next week too. It takes the butcher a long time to get out here because of hunting season so I need to get on his list. Sigh. Guess I should be glad for the list.

Once I got done fretting about Gilly and the butcher, I only had Joey the Jersey steer calf to worry about. Only, he's no worry at all. Growing like a fat little piglet, he has a plump round belly and there's barely a rib in sight. Which after knowing him as a four day old is reassuring. He was one scrawny little guy when he first arrived. Our job with him now is to love him up, feed him a couple times a day and wait. I figure the more love we can pour into our food the better it is for all concerned. So far that theory holds. We'll see after the butcher comes for Gilly. But in the meantime, I love watching Joey bounce around the fields chasing bees and butterflies. The only thing odd about Joey is he still thinks Gilly is his mother.

I know I sound like I anthropomorphize everyone around here. It's true, I probably do. It's just that my animals ARE like people to me. They have personalities. They respond to my emotions, and I respond to theirs. I love them and I know they love me too. It might make me less of a farmer but I can't help it. I talked for the cats when I was five. So did my mom, maybe it is genetic.

Anyway, getting back to the cows. The problem is what to do about Brigid and that hysterical pregnancy situation. It would be fine to have the AI guy out again and get her pregnant for real this time. But I don't want to wait nearly a year for fresh milk again. Raw milk from your own cow is the BEST. And if you do it like we did--milking once a day and keeping the calf with the mom--it isn't even so much work. About a half an hour a day, maybe an hour if you have a cow that gives more milk that Brigid does. That's not a bad exchange for all the peace and relaxation milking provides. I swear, milking is better stress relief than a massage. And it's free, if you don't count buying the hay.

Here's a picture of me milking Brigid last winter when Gilly was a medium sized little guy.

Thinking about Brigid's new baby makes me excited to make kefir and cheese again. If she isn't pregnant (which is the rational conclusion any logical person would have come to by now), I don't want to wait another year. This thought led me to the shocking realization that I have been nursing fantasies about getting a new milk cow, a bigger one with a bigger udder. A cow that gives more milk.

I feel so disloyal. When we were looking for Brigid we knew nothing about cows except that they were BIG and had brown eyes. I read about breeds and got all interested in Dexter cows because they are known to be good for small holdings like ours. Dexters are small cows that give a managable amount of milk, produce just the right amount of meat for a small family and are good at pulling. (Not that I could ever figure out how to get Brigid to pull something besides me when I naively think I can lead her around.)

So when I saw the ad for a Dexter/Kerry heifer who was pregnant by a Dexter bull and about to give birth, I thought perfect. And she was. I even loved her name. The only downside with Brigid was she wasn't halter broken (now there is a story for another day) and she was more than a little wild. We've tamed her (mostly) and we love her to bits but all the things that made her so attractive a couple of years ago as a first time cow owner, make me long for a different cow today.

I want big, I want milk, I want babies with some extra meat to sell.

See, I like making cheeses and kefirs and yogurt. Right now when (if) Brigid's milk comes in, with the way I want to milk her, we don't get enough milk to make all the things on my list. I keep dreaming about a pretty Jersey or Guernsey cow who'll give me oodles of creamy white milk full of butterfat. My friend Jacqueline has a Jersey/Brown Swiss mix and she has cream frozen in chunks in her freezer. That's enough to give a girl serious cow envy.

The problem is we don't have enough space for too many cows. So I have to think about this carefully. How much is making more cheese worth to me? Is there room for two mama cows around this place? These are the questions that kept me in bed. And so far, I don't have any answers. Only a list of cow chores. Guess I better get at them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Scary Noises and Chicken Nightmares

It was a bad sound that woke me. A chicken screaming in the night. Sending a jolt of adrenaline through my body, that was a sound I would be happy never to hear again. That sound makes my heart wince because I know exactly what it means.

My chickens have fantasies. In their minds they not the pampered domesticated pets that they are. They dream of being free. They imagine that they know how to care for themselves. They feel the ancient DNA of their wild ancestory beating in their hearts. I think it is this feeling that makes them rash. A feeling that says they are safe when they don't return to the coop at night. The coop where they are locked up tight and are free from predators. They fly up into a tree or a brushy bush and roost, still as stone. In the morning they hop down and return to their usual chicken behaviors of pecking and scratching and running to the coop with that certain look of urgency that means an egg is on the way.

The problem is that if they are out of the coop they are likely targets for raccoons and possums and sometimes even coyotes to snatch them in the dark. We know that happens when we hear that horrible scream.

See the thing about chickens is they have NO night vision. Not a bit. The second the sun goes down they are down for the night and no amount of convincing can change their minds. They don't have rods--the part of eyes that allows people and animals to see in the dark. Predators tend to have extra rods so they see even better in the dark.

Without rods, chickens are sitting ducks (or well chickens, if you want to get technical about it). Wherever they go to bed is where they stay until first light cracks the dawn and they can see again. And this is fine if they go to their beds and their people come and shut the door to the coop. But if they remember that tiny bit of wildness living in their hearts and roost on a branch, things don't always turn out so well.

Chickens can find an amazing number of ways to die. I have seen chicks peck the wrong thing and drop dead 30 seconds later. A bout of diarrhea can leave a chicken dead in a couple of hours. All kinds of things eat them--hawks, dogs, coyotes, bobcats, cougars, possums and raccoons to name a few that we have seen. They have strokes and die on their roost. Sometimes they even fight each other so brutally that one will die of peck wounds. Keeping chickens is not for the faint of heart. They are so easy to love and just as easy to lose.

All in all though, I think the fun of chickens is well worth the pain of occasionally losing them. They keep me entertained every day. I love looking out my window and watching them do their chicken business. They can always make me smile. About the only thing they do that drives me crazy is poop on my back stoop, but that really is my fault if I let them run around the yard. Where else are they going to go to get out of the rain?

We keep heritage and unusual breed chickens here. Old varieties that are prized for their genetic diversity and interesting characteristics. I like having these kind of chickens for all kinds of reasons but most of all because many of them still have personalities.

For example, I love the white orphington who always seem to be first to the food and tried so valiantly to be a mama this summer.

I also enjoy the gentle black and red speckled girls who prefer a worm over any kind of food. They hang back when the grain is passed out but rush out the coop door towards the compost pile to dig and scrape their way to the worms. We even had a couple of them be successful at hatching chicks this year. A very exciting development.
She has that look about her...

One of my favorites is the cuckoo maran who lays chocolate brown eggs (rather unreliably I might add). And I love the black minorcas which lay a beautiful white egg and have the prettiest black plumage with a little white patch right where their ear would be if they were human. Plus they are just the cutest little chicks I have ever seen.

I suppose to be honest, I'd have to say that if I think too closely about chickens, there are plenty of things to get disgusted the fact they only have one hole down there and everything (and I mean everything) comes right through it. Or the nitty gritty of eggs, I won't even go there.

But they are so sweet and I have such fun watching them hunt and peck and chase each other. I really could go on and on because I love my chickens. So, on days like today, when I have to mourn the loss of one of my little friends, I like to remember the happy moments because I know that invariably, if I keep chickens I will be dealing with death.

If you want to know more about chickens and chicken breeds, check out McMurray Hatchery. I could spend hours on that website debating the merits of my next batch of chicks.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who's been eating them apples?

There is a mystery going on in our orchard and I can't quite figure it out. Somebody has been eating my apples and leaving half eaten apples on the tree. The apple looks like it was snapped in half. Literally. Here's an example of what I picked off the tree this afternoon.
We've never had a problem like this before. Occassionally a bird will peck at an apple or pear and leave something that looks like this:
Or a slug will nibble one near the ground. But we've never had apples that are bit right through the core. A deer is the obvious culprit, but we have a good deer fence, and the orchard has never been bothered by deer.

Still there is no denying the facts. Yesterday when I went out to pick this box of apples for making sauce, ten apples were eaten in half. And the fence was bent over and wound up into the branches of the walnut tree. It would really surprise me if a deer could have jumped through that mess, much less made it. It looked more like a bear sat on the fence on his way over the top. Don't ask me how the walnut tree branches were threaded through the weave of the fence.

And this all happened yesterday. I was out there the day before eating apples and checking on things and everything was fine. No halved apples and a perfectly intact fence. hmm.

We have been seeing oodles of fresh bear scat all around the place, in the woods, in the blackberries, on the hillside above the road. Looking at that fence made me wonder...could a small black bear crawl over the fence? They do love apples.

I looked all around the trees scouring the orchard for scat. Didn't see any. But still. What else could bend down a six foot high fence and mangle it like preztel baked into a walnut tree. Something big must have done that.

Either it was our friendly neighborhood Bigfoot or our busy local bear. Guess I ought to be glad whomever it was had the courtesy to leave me some apples. They sure taste good!

Unmoored in midnight water,
no waves, no wind, the empty boat
is flooded with moonlight
by Eihei Dogen (1200-1253)

breathe, me.

Lazy, Lazy sunshine

I thought that nice afternoon sunshine was going to find me digging up cowhorns (more on that another time). I thought it was going to make me ambitious and I would get that list done. But oh no, it made me wander out onto the front lawn and plop down on the grass.

All that warmth made me realize how bone tired I was. And how nice it would be to just do nothing for awhile.

So I laid on my back, in the itchy, scratchy grass and relaxed. I covered my face with my arm and soaked in all that radiant warmth. I could feel my muscles melting into the grass. And when that frontside was properly roasted I rolled right on to my stomach and toasted my other side.

It wasn't like I was tanning or anything, haven't done that since I was about 14. Besides, it wasn't that warm. I was wearing layers and wool socks.

It's just that it was so perfect. Out there in the sun, doing nothing, Just being. Feeling the earth, breathing in all that fresh air, watching the redtail hawk soar up high riding on the thermals, listening to the chickens clucking and scratching in the weeds nearby. This is it, I thought. And I rolled right over on my back again.

Something about the light captured me, those radiant, soul-nourishing late September rays. Charlie sensed it too. He laid right next to me, head on my leg. It wasn't too long before his silky head was HOT. I kept petting him, letting the heat ooze into my fingers. It felt so good.

The heat of the air had that kind of desparate feel to it. You know the one where you can feel the chill of winter hiding in the shadows, waiting. Meanwhile the sun shines
down shouting, "Soak me up, must soak me up. You need me. Winter is on the way." My body understood that if I don't fill my bones with heat now it is going to be a long, long time before they feel this way again.

And so I laid there, doing nothing for a long, long time. Actually, I was doing a little something--talking. Becca came over for the day and had the same idea. She was out there too laying on her stomach roasting her back.

So there were the three of us, doing nothing (or maybe it was everything), laying in the sun, feeding on the heat, soaking in the beauty. It was a good thing.

This morning when we woke up it was 40 degrees F.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Raindrops

Woke up this morning to gentle whisperings, raindrops on the roof, the stream rushing a little faster, the rooster crowing in the distance. Felt like the cloud cover hushed all the usual sounds and made the whole world softer. Nestling into the covers I laid in bed just absorbing. Nothing to rush towards, nowhere in particular to go, I could just feel the rain, breath the rain.

When I finally roused myself out of bed there was an interesting email waiting in my inbox. It was talking about the relationship between the endocrine system and the sinuses and how our nasal cavities have these special sensors that inform us about the ionic state of the air and how that in turn affects our attitudes and our day. Negative ions=happy days, positive ions=cranky days.

Laying in bed this morning, and even now sitting here on the couch, I can feel that sense of happy hormones being released in my body in response to the fresh air smell of the rain. If you want to read more about this nasal chakra idea click here. It's kind of cool.

But besides releasing all those nice negative ions, I like rain because it makes my world softer. I lose my expectations of big jobs in the garden. I think of tea, of making jam out of those ever ready plums. The sun creates purpose but the rain creates space. And sometimes it is nice to have a little extra space.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My mistake. So sorry bees.

Ever have days when you are just not paying attention. Days when if you had your mind on what you were doing you could saved yourself a whole mess of trouble. I sure do. Like today.

I woke up this morning thinking, I gotta' get that honey out of the hive before it gets cold. Seems kind of rude to me to take the roof off of some-body's house during the cold months. So I got up bright and early, forgetting everything I know about working with bees and ready to work--yep, it was a gorgeous, gorgeous day. Check it sky, wispy clouds, and the freshest air.
I was loving it.

The second the guys left for school and work (around 7:20 am), I went in search of all my bee gear (which had been relocated out of the barn to make room for camp this August). It took me a while to find it, even though Becca had neatly stacked everything right in the place she told me she would. I just didn't see it the first couple of times I looked (maybe this was a hint, don't do bees now!) Eventually I found everything, lit my smoker, piled all the gear into the garden cart and went off through the cow pasture.

Inadvertently, when I was pulling the cart through the first gate Gilly almost barged out. Phew on that one cuz he doesn't wear a halter and it could have been an all day project catching and herding him back behind the fence. I think I must be big and scary because the second I glared at him and said "NO, Gilly", he trotted right back inside the fence looking very contrite. Thinking back on it now though, I think Gilly might have been clue number two--don't do the bees now. Usually, he is sooo well behaved.

Then when I was opening up the second fence that led right to the bees, the sheep went ballistic and started charging the gate, the fence and me. Clearly this was very unsheeplike behavior. Gilly followed suit and came racing up behind me and charged right back at the sheep. This was unnerving, to say the least, as he is a big boy and has big horns and seemed fighting mad. Hmm, hint number three, not that I was noticing.

After I navigated the charging sheep and the fence, Brigid came tearing around the corner of the barn and decided to charge towards me too. (Hint four. Are you paying attention yet, she seemed to say.)

I started to think somebody painted a red bulls eye on the back of my bee suit that I can't see. Charge here, it seemed to say. She won't mind, in fact she won't even notice. Luckily before Brigid gored me, she spied her beloved boy Gilly and was so happy to see him she stopped short and went right up to nuzzle him up. They were so happy to see each other after spending a couple months on opposite sides of the fence.

By this point, I was starting to wonder what was up with everyone this morning, but it was early and I probably wasn't thinking straight cuz it didn't stop me. Still determined to get that super of honey out of the hive and into jars, I kept at it. It was a really nice day and I had enough time to do it. In my life it's hard to find a day with both of those characteristics.

So with as much peace in my heart as I could muster after being charged at by 20 animals, I walked up to the hive and took off the lid. Hmmm, thousands and thousands of bees were sitting right on top. That is unusual but I thought I can deal with this. Though I really wasn't sure how. I gently smoked the hive which usually causes the bees to settle down further into the hive and protect the queen. Not this time, hundreds of bees rose up and flew right at my face. Hmm, that's interesting I thought. They don't usually do this.

I could have stopped at this point. A smarter girl might have. But there I was, I had the time, the equipment, the will and the sunny day. Nothing was going to stop me.

So I kept at it, quietly, gently. And the bees just kept being crazy. When I finally got a single frame out to look at the honey, I saw what the bees already knew. It was not quite done. They were still fanning the nectar and evaporating the excess water out to make the honey. All those hundreds of bees were sitting on the top of the hive for a reason. They had been making late season honey from the Japanese knot weed, which is many people's favorite honey. I just hadn't given them enough time to finish.

Now that I got it, it was easy: just put the hive back together and try again in a couple of weeks when everything is done and it is another nice day. So I lifted the super to carry it back to the hive but by this time the bees are pissed. Royally pissed. Queen bee throwing a tantrum kind of pissed.

Every time I lifted the super hundreds of bees flew at my face. They were crawling on my arms and my legs, on the netting by my nose. It took a great deal of focus to stay calm. And if there is one thing I know, you have to be calm when working a hive.

Every time it got really bad I put down whatever I was doing and walked away allowing the bees to settle down. I walked around the pasture slowly, hoping they would fly away from me and go home. Eventually, they flew back to the hive and I would slowly walk back and try again. Must have done this five times.

It took awhile, and three stings (which is more than the total number of stings I have gotten in all 4 years of keeping bees) but the hive is back together. The bees have calmed down and things are ok.

Next time I feel like being that industrious at 7:30 in the morning, I am going to pick tomatoes and make tomato sauce. I am going to leave working with the bees until the sun has warmed the hive and they have had that second cup of coffee.

No doubt about it, early morning honey gathering is just plain a mistake. Mea culpa bees. So sorry. Sometimes I learn things the hard way. Even when everyone (and I mean everyone) is trying to warn me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

15 minutes to heaven...

People are always asking me how I do so much and I am always saying "Huh? What do you mean?" Because I really don't. It never feels like I get much done at all. And I certainly don't get near as much done as I would love to.

I seldom spend big chunks of time doing stuff. This is for lots of reasons--being busy with kids, short attention span, but mainly because of some funky health issues that mean I am kind of screwed in the long-term energy department. To adapt to how my life is (as in really is, rather than how I want it to be) I have developed this odd way of dividing tasks in little spurts of time. Five minutes here, ten minutes there, I seldom do big crazy long pushes anymore. But from looks of my pantry, I guess these efforts add up.

For example, one morning this week, I had a big pile of tomatoes sitting on my counter. I was thinking about grinding them up to stick them in the freezer for the beginnings of fresh tomato sauce but I only had a few minutes and I knew that would make a mess. I hate leaving a mess behind when I leave in the morning so I opted to salt-dry some tomatoes instead. They only take a minute to clean up afterwards.

This whole process took literally 7 minutes to slice and place the tomatoes on the dehydrator trays, salt them and put the trays in the dehydrator, start the machine and clean up. Then the machine ran all day while I was in and out. Later that night I checked on them and decided that they needed more time and let it run all night. In the morning, it took another 6-7 minutes to take them off the tray and stick them in a jar for the winter. All in all, I preserved about 15 pounds of tomatoes in as many minutes of work. Nice. And the best part is they will be delicious in any recipe I make that has tomato sauce in it.

I learned about salt dried tomatoes a couple of years ago when we went to visit our friends in Switzerland. Sean is Steve's and my old skiing/climbing buddy from back in the old days--you know, college, when doing something fun was way more important than anything on the "list". Anyway, Sean apparently was studying in addition to having fun because he went on to be this very prestigious professor of geology (even inventing some kind of famous theory about the birth of mountains). He's now the Geology department chair of the Swiss version of MIT or something grand like that and has a house in the alps and Italian sweetheart Guiditta.

Guiditta, who is also a geologist, grew up in a hotel in the Dolomite mountains of Northern Italy. Her mom was super busy running the hotel so her virtual nanny became the hotel cook. Seeings how the cook was supposed to be busy cooking, not watching Guiditta, Guiditta learned to cook early and from a master. On our visit, she taught me all kinds of things about making delicious pasta sauces.

One night she searched the hidden back corners of their food cupboard and took out this little teeny, tiny jar of salt dried tomatoes that a friend had brought to her from the southern tip of Italy. (I think she might have been hiding them from Sean. He LOVES salty things.) Anyway, she explained all about their particular properties and handed me one to eat (oh my gosh, it was divine!) and then she dropped a few in the sauce she was making. Did I say I almost died of heaven eating that sauce?

Anyway, when we came home I immediately set to work figuring out how to make them. And every year since I have been salt drying tomatoes to add to fine sauces. If there is one ingredient that takes a sauce from good to out of this world, it is these...and as you can see they are EASY. I love things that rock my cooking world and take 15 minutes to make. Thank you Guiditta.

So here's the scoop on what I have learned about making them. After three years of experimenting I still don't have an exact replica of Guiditta's little jar...probably because my tomatoes are not grown in the heat of southern Italy and I am drying my tomatoes in a machine. But I have learned to make a pretty good imitation.

My first trick is to be liberal with the salt. It looks like a lot but you are only going to be putting a few in a whole batch of sauce so the salt gets absorbed. It should look like this when you put it in the dehydrator.

Secondly, spend the money on good salt. You can make salted tomatoes with Morton's, but they are ever so much better with a delicious mineral salt on them. Yes, even salts are worth spending money on. Did you know that some research links good salts to longevity?? That is something to remember when you are paying $5.69 a pound for a little stash of salt.

So far, my two favorite salts on these tomatoes are a himalayan pink salt which I can buy in the store but some people might have to special order it from a place like Tropical Traditions and a course celtic sea salt that I grind with a mortar and pestle (and yes, this time is figured into the 15 minutes).

Thirdly, dry thoroughly but not over much. They can burn and then aren't as tasty. Here is what they look like before, during and after drying to get an idea. Sorry the picture isn't so great.
Lastly, use the very best tomatoes you can find. A good tomato makes the difference between a decent and fantastic dried tomatoes.

So what is the point of drying them? Drying makes the flavor rich and the salt does something magical. The tomatoes end up almost like dried tomato chips...sometimes I steal a couple to snack on when I feel like something salty. They have the same crispy salty deliciousness as a potato chip without the fats. Yum. Here's what a jar of tastiness looks like.
If you aren't into having salted tomatoes, I just learned another dried tomato trick. Slice tomatoes and dry them halfway (about 10 hours in a dehydrator) and then throw them in ziplock bags in the freezer. Either pre freeze them on cookie sheets or throw in recipe amounts into individual ziplock bags or they will clump together. Partial drying dramatically cuts the cooking time for fresh sauce by wicking away much of the moisture and gives the sauce some of that same rich dried tomato flavor. Yum!

Now bring on winter, I can't wait to make spaghetti!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mighty Man Makes Hay!

I think of Steve as my mighty man because he is always doing things that I would love to see done but would never or could never do. He hacks down large patches of blackberries and chain saws through fallen trees to build new fencelines in the mosquito ridden woods. He erects beautiful grape arbors, and trellises and hoophouses, fixes the septic system, digs zillions of fence posts holes straight down into glacial till in a weekend (which is no easy feat) and he seems to think this is fun. Me, I cook dinner, and play with plants. He chops a cord or two of wood and brings it home in the truck, I build compost piles.

His efforts build monuments; it's the work that fill woodsheds and keep us warm all winter or keep the cows in from wandering in the woods. He does these things that I really don't want to do and he enjoys it. I really don't get it. But I am glad.

So when he has what seems like a goofy desire--say wanting to get a scythe from the nearby feed store, I don't question him, I know he has an idea. That's what happened last year. When the scythe came and he tried it, we soon had hay drying in the field and then stacked in the barn. Pretty cool. But I didn't think a whole lot about it. It seemed like an awful lot of work for a small amount of hay and besides I kind of like the red-necked hay guy that delivers both hay and philosophy to the barn. He's a kick.

But apparently scything was brewing in the back of Steve's mind because earlier this year I found scything pamphlets hanging around his office. His friend Joseph was scoping out the scything info at a a country fair for him. (Do these guys talk about things like scythes when they get together? hmm...)

Should he order the handmade one from the guy in Tennessee or get the really exotic one from Austria. Are these the thoughts lurking behind those blank stares I get when I ask him to take out the trash and he is too busy to do it?

Always up for a sustainable adventure, Becca joined his scything team when she sent him this gorgeous scything video of a 14 year old girl scything in the most beautiful way possible. It is almost like she is barefeet and a skirt! A more techy person than I would have this showing up a classier way but this is the best I could do. The video is on the the right hand side of the home page of this site--you probably don't want to watch the whole thing but give it a minute or two to see what she does. It's incredible. I especially love the end.

Videos like this give a middle aged man a sense of possibility. Soon he was signed up for an all day scything workshop where he learned about snaths, hafting angles, and the lay of the blade. He learned to peen the blade and came home with a nifty tool to strap on his belt for quick blade tune-ups out in the field. This scything is technical stuff.

He was barely home that night (on our anniversary, I might add!) when he out headed to the shop where he banged and whacked and came out of there with a whole new hafting angle, or was it the angle of the tang? I don't know but what I do know is he went straight to the field to try it and seldom have a I seen him happier. This scything is cool stuff.

Luckily for him, that day we were running low on hay and the hay guy was busy for a few days. New purpose filled Steve's heart. The animals might be hungry (no matter that it is late summer and there is still food in the fields). Look at these guys--don't they look hungry to you? Every night when he got home from work he rushed outside to try out his new skills. Gilly and Joey would watch through the fence with big mournful eyes that just seemed to say "Hurry, I might just die over here if you don't get me some of that juicy green stuff right now!" Scything for an hour yielded a couple of loaded garden carts of fresh green hay for the cows and a lot of sweat on the man. Guess it would take a while to make it look as easy as that barefoot girl did.

One night as I was going to bed I noticed I light out in our orchard bouncing almost spinning around. Huh? I thought, what the heck is that...and then I remembered Steve saying he would be back in a bit, he just wanted to check on something. Believe it or not, he was out there armed with his headlamp and his scythe at 11:30 at night. That right there is why I call him the mighty man. He's going to learn to scythe well no matter what. Me, I would much rather sleep. And I guess that's the difference between us two.

Did you know that there are serious scything competitions? People travel all over the world to race each other as they chop down grass in a field. The guy Steve learned from is an expert. A World Champion. I'm impressed. But I was even more impressed with what Steve could do with his apparently inferior scythe (a new one is coming) and its super inferior blade...apparently feed stores are NOT the way to go when buying such a tool.

So if this peak oil thing happens soon, we know how we will be getting our hay. I got the man, and he has the tool! In the meantime, I think I will keep gardening and cooking dinner.

And maybe even growing a few flowers on the side. I hope you get a chance to go outside where it is easy to remember that life is good.