Saturday, February 20, 2010

When the cats are away, the mice do what they want....

It is the last night of a week home alone without my family. Talk about a mid-winter treat. Not much to do outside (it is February after all) and with the family gone, well I didn't find myself too motivated to do much of anything except exactly what I wanted to. I did yoga, I went on walks, I pet the cows, I took naps. I read books. And then last night I finally got hungry and I made a feast. Wish I had taken pictures because it was a beautiful dinner.

First of all, a bit of broiled beef from recently butchered Gilly. He tasted all full of love, and was amazingly okay to eat. Guess it helped knowing he had a good life and a gentle death. Then there was the roasted asparagus (brushed with a tiny bit of olive oil and sprinkled with coarse Himalayan salt and then roasted at 400 degrees for 8 minutes--superb). And lastly, was this coconut dish I made up and will definitely have to make again...try this..melt some coconut oil in a hot skillet then drop in some bits of chopped fresh ginger. Add some sliced leek (preferably from the garden like mine were) and then saute those three ingredients until slightly tender. Add some chunks of cauliflower. Let that cook a bit, until the cauliflower started to get a bit tender, add some chopped red pepper and season with turmeric. Add slices of ripe mango and smell. When all the vegetables are tender slowly add some coconut milk and cook it until it thickens. As the coconut milk thickens add some Himalayan salt and a bit of fresh or fresh frozen basil (like this was from last summer's basil). Serve hot and enjoy. I was deliberately vague on the amounts because I was cooking for moi and you might be cooking for more. Anyway, it was well worth repeating. In fact, I may just have the leftovers tonight. Yum.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Flowers, flowers everywhere

I don't get this Febuary but I like it. Today was blue sky heaven. Took a walk in the woods and the grass along the path wasn't just green it was growing--already 4 inches tall. And our garden is full of flowers. Crocus, hellebore, violets and oodles and oodles of snowdrops. Feels like a gift out there.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tales of a lazy farm girl

Sooo, the second batch of wwoofers left yesterday. They did a lot of dirty work (literally) weeding and especially hauling manure/straw for sheet mulching. They did our annual bury the mummy berry spores under cardboard, compost and mulch effort with the help of Steve, and Becca (and me driving the truck). That means the worst jobs of winter are all done and now it is time to wait for the sun.

Some of those seeds I planted that larky warm day in January sprouted and are valiently braving the cold. They aren't growing much but they are there, a testament to the will to grow no matter what. I believe in them. And I believe in that sentiment. I may build them a little plastic tent to grow under if I get ambitious but the way I am feeling today I doubt it.

In fact, I doubt I am going to do much except feed the animals and do what I want today. See, the gang all went skiing for a week and left me here alone (well, alone if you don't count the cat, the dog, the 17 hens and 2 roosters, the 2 cows and 2 steers, the goat, and the 5 ewes and their 4 babies). That's almost alone. So far today I cleaned house cuz it was bugging me and I wanted to. I am about to go on a walk with a friend and if I knew somebody with TV recption I might beg to go over there and watch the Olympics.

Clearly, a lazy day. Hope you are having a grand V'day. Steve left me beautiful flowers before he took off for Montana. What a guy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things to be thankful for...

First off, you should be mighty grateful that you aren't a wwoofer here this week. If you were, you would be like Julia and Shelton and be tucked in your bed with very sore muscles. Poor wwoofers. We are seriously working these guys HARD...

In the last two days they have shovelled and wheeled an untold number of beautiful finished biodynamic compost and carefully laid it around the blueberry bushes.

They have also been dumpster diving for cardboard to put around the said blueberry bushes (under the compost). AND then they drove (numerous times) to my friend George the dairy farmer's dairy where they collected many (and I mean many) tons of yep, you guessed it, FRESH manure. Luckily for them, George has a great big green tractor that he used to plop the stuff into the bed of the truck. Saved a lot of shoveling on that end!

Once the truck was loaded, they drove it home (no doubt wishing it had better suspension--and ventilation) and then they shovelled it the goop off the truck and into the garden cart and hauled it around the blueberry patch to put in the paths.

Not only was this backbreaking work, it was REALLY smelly. George feeds his cows lots of grain and their manure smells like it. In contrast, Brigid who eats no grain, has lovely smelling poo. Cows were not meant to eat lots of corn, even if they love it.

On Friday (after a couple of well deserved days off) Shelton and Julia will spread many bales of straw on top of the manure so we can both walk on it while it is composting and it will help balance out all that nitrogen in the manure when it decomposes.

The whole point of this exercise is to build the fertility into the soil since most blueberry diseases (and most plant diseases for that matter) come from a lack of or imbalance in the soil fertility. We've been working hard on our soils and hopefully, this year will be the year we get the mummy berry licked. For those of you who don't know, mummy berry is a fungus that infects blueberries plants and ruins the berries. Once it gets established is harder than heck to get rid of. Our bushes were covered in it when we moved in, but it has gotten much, much better over the years thanks to a monumental yearly effort such as this.
While we've been pretty successful with our methods but it is never easy work. If we get it right we will get rewarded with hundreds of pounds of beautiful berries so we can make things like this delicious almond cake.

The second thing you can be grateful for is that you aren't here. I am sure we would love you to visit, but maybe not this week. The smell from the above mentioned tasks is well, horrid and will be for few days (weeks?) to come. Hopefully the rains will come soon and wash away the amnonia.

But what has me extra thankful (besides all this amazing help we are getting from the wwoofers) is the glorious springish night we have outside. The stars are so bright I feel like I could fall into the sky. And the frogs, they are singing, even in the cold. They don't even seem to mind the smell of manure. What a great night.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

One of those days

Ever have one of those days where you had really high hopes for the day and you just didn't pull it off. Today was one of those for me.

I woke up smiley like a bunny and hopped right down and took a nice warm shower. Ummm. I love showers. The day was going to be just fine, I thought. But then I slowed down. Steve is teaching a class here today so I was being kind of quiet so as not to disturb the 12 people trying to learn to feel a cranial pulse.

I started reading about how to grow nutrient dense food and how to interpret the soil test results we just got. I quickly got in WAY over my head with the chemistry stuff. (Makes me wish I had spent more time in high school learning chemistry and less time playing jotto.) Eventually, it all started looking like gobbly gook so I set that down and made myself some yummy little toast pizzas for breakfast. They were just like my 7th grade cooking teacher taught me to make except I used Dave's amazing bread instead of little white English muffins. (Hate to say it but they were super yummy and a great way to use that last little bit of Friday night's spaghetti sauce--do you know how to make them--a slice of bread, a dab of spaghetti sauce and then you sprinkle it all with cheese and broil for 3 minutes. They are surprisingly yummy). Anyway, after a couple of those little pizzas jobbers, I read for awhile as I am starting to feel guilty about not having read our coming book for my book group but unfortunately that didn't hold my attention either. Nothing against the book. I really like the book--Astrid and Veronica by Linda Olsson--I was just restless.

By then it was lunch time and the class streamed downstairs and I still hadn't really done anything. So I quick like a bunny hopped outside to pick more nettles but I forgot my gloves so that inspiration didn't last long. Now my hands are all tingly and sparkly (kind of nice, kind of not so nice). I got the nettles drying in the dehydrator and it was already time to go on a walk with my friend Gloria. This was the good part of the day. Nice weather, beautiful walk by the river, and time with a good friend. That was perfect except that Charlie the wonder dog decided to be obstreperous instead of his usual gentlemanly self. He began chasing cars just to bother me (I could tell by the look on his face). I had to rein him in and drag him along instead of let him run free on this very rural road we were walking on. I have to say that this put a damper on the relaxing part of the walk. But still, it was a great walk and very fun to see Gloria.

Then I came home all tired and crashed on the bed. I was supposed to be putting clean sheets on it but that big pile of comforter and pillows looked so inviting, I snuggled right in. I finally dragged myself out of that delicious pile of pillows and made the bed but then I immediately started longing to be a regular American with TV reception so I could watch the superbowl. I don't know why but I love watching the superbowl. It isn't like I even like football or anything. I just like the spectacle of it. Earlier in the day I tried to talk Aidan into a plan where we would drive into town to the movie theatre to watch it the game on the big screen where it is free and we could eat popcorn. I think he thought that sounded stupid because he sort of grunted one of those classic 14 year old grunts that tells a mom in no uncertain terms how dumb her brilliant idea is. Using my superior intelligence, I took his grunt as a definite no and that ended that. Eventually, I started calling my friends that have TV reception but not a single one answered their phone so they either were all engrossed in the game or were smart enough to be out doing something more exciting than watching a bunch of grown men bash their heads in.

So that leaves me here, waiting for Steve's class to end still stinky from my walk (which thereby undoes the one thing I actually did accomplish today beside walk--ie take a shower). I have absolutely NO ambition. The day is almost over and I did virtually nothing. I guess somedays are just like that. Maybe I will take a nap.

Friday, February 5, 2010

NO time for pictures...too busy working

We have had a busy week...with two wwoofers here to lend a hand all kinds of forward movement has been made. The nettles have been pulled from the blueberries (ouch, is right. I forgot to wear gloves). And Shelton and Julia worked and worked down in the raspberry and marion berry patches in the garden. All is weeded and denettled.

We made nettle infusions, and nettle soup and dried batch of nettle in the dehydrator. Our first 'crop' of 2010.

Yesterday they watched Andrew the AI guy work his magic with Mattie. They seemed more than impressed with just how far he got his arm in there. Phew. Then I showed them how to dock the lambs tails and turn the boys into wethers (is that how you spell that, hmm). I expected the wwoofers to be a little more squeamish than they were but they dove right in and in minutes were pros using the handy dandy little tool which is seriously called the emasuclator. It only took a few minutes and all the boys were fixed.

So far, we have four boys lambs this year, one set of twins and two huge singles. Since we are growing the lambs for meat is always nice to get boys as they grow quite a bit larger than the girls. Two of them are going to have four horns just like their daddy did. We have two ewes left to lamb so maybe we will get some girls, who knows. Those poor ewes can barely make their way through the barn door to get their dinner. It is no fun being late to birth when you are expecting twins!

I also got started growing the flowers for Grace's wedding. I was outside today in the wind and the sun mixing a big vat of potting mix. Peat moss, coconut hulls, perlite, compost, worm casting and a bit of dirt...stir until mixed. I felt sort of like one of Macbeth's witches brewing my magic. As soon as the seeds turn into little starts I am going to plant them out in the hoophouse and wish them a speedy life to flower. July 4th is going to get here sooner than I can imagine.

Next week we are going to compost and mulch the blueberries, working to keep the mummy berry in check. The list is long. Good thing we have these two young backs to help cuz we have lots of work to do. Yea for wwoofers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Wwoofers have arrived...

Julia and Shelton (two friends from college) have arrived ready to get to work. They got here just as it was getting dark so I introduced them to the cows and then messed around with kefir and ate dinner. It's lovely to meet them. I wonder what we will do. There's a big list on the chalkboard--pruning kiwis, rooting out nettle roots, planting seedlings. Always lots to do.

Spring seems to be settling in. So maybe it wasn't so crazy to have planted all those seeds last week. Lots of things are greening up. Maybe the seeds will sprout. Hope so. I have high hopes for the garden this year. It would be great to get things going so early.