Thursday, September 30

Weather Rhythms

Last night we had a beautiful sunset, all colors, which I enjoyed from my kitchen window as I scrubbed away at dirty dishes. the pine trees blocked the view somewhat but I could still tell it was a beauty. Our local tv station weather cam caught some of it, plus some raindrops.

I always say that little rhyme that my Grandma would say. If I was staying at my grandparent’s farm and we saw a particularly pink-ish sunset, she would recite the verbiage about pink skies and night being a sailor’s delight. Meaning good weather for the coming day, any sailor that took last night’s color show for a good omen, weather-wise, would be sadly disappointed.

Today's weather was one big rainy mess with some wind mixed in. The entire house was chilly and damp all day and despite the long list of outdoor chores I have to get done, I was sequestered indoors. Annoyed, but determined, I forged ahead taking care of a whole bunch of little things around the house. Stuff that I had on the back burner and wanted to get done. I ended up feeling ok, even though I got soaked taking out the garbage.

The love/hate relationship I have with the weather has changed since I have started gardening for food as well as flowers. I seem to be paying a great deal more attention to frosts and rains and droughts. Trying to balance things out with plant covers and sprinklers, and learning to live in the rhythm of the weather. I can honestly say that this had made me slow down, and it has helped me prioritize and it has made me much more observant. It feels like I wake up in the morning being a part of something - checking the temperature and the skies. I am not responsible for a 1000 head of cattle or a sheep ranch or 5,000 acres of cabbage and my livelihood does not entirely depend on what our small farm produces but I am responsible for the lives of 16 chickens. And if it is too hot, they will need extra water and a shade tarp. Chilly temps? Extra layer of bedding.

Weather rhythms have slowly started to replace my previous rhythms of anxious and over-stressed days. It has helped me slow down.

My lawn is a soggy mess. My basement pump has been running off and on all day and I still have a shed to paint. But today all I could do was stand on my front porch and watch it come down.


Monday, September 27

Chickens and Fencing

Another day of rain here. A slow, soaking rain that started around noon and has not let up since. And it has been a restful day here, all be it dark and dreary, and even with the little guy needing his constant entertainment, it felt like the rainy days I used to enjoy before baby.

Despite the rain, little man was insisting on going outside to play. He absolutely loves to be outside and does not understand that running around in the rain is not always a good thing. I tried everything to distract him but he was not going to give it up. So I relented, put him in warm clothes and was grateful that it was just a drizzle at that particular time.

We did the usual wandering around the yard and then we headed over to check on the ladies.

And it was a good thing we did.

One of the ladies was stuck in the fencing that surrounds their enclosure. She had somehow managed to get her front half under the bottom of the fencing, so she was half in and half out of the enclosure. She also had a wing stuck in the first row of fencing 'rectangles'. She was wet and very stuck.

I went into the enclosure and approached her slowly as not to scare her. I could see that her wing was stuck tightly and at an awkward angle. She was scared and I very slowly got my hands under the fencing, gently bending it upward. Then I very gently maneuvered her wing out of the rectangle and then she was able to move get out from under the fencing.

She moved slowly but she seemed fine. I checked her and watched her for a few minutes to make sure and the other ladies came over to her, also seeming to look her over for damage. I checked on her again tonight and she is fine. I am just glad that the little man was so persistent about going outside this afternoon.

I now see that I am going to have to do some work on the fencing this week. I am planning on putting logs along the bottom of the fence on the inside. I already have a few by the spots that were not as tight to the ground as other spots, and it has worked very well. So, I think I am going to out logs around the entire perimeter. We recently cut down a few cedar trees on the property and those logs will work nicely. The ladies have just managed to peck all the grass, as far as they can reach, on the outside of their fence so the dirt is getting scratched and thinned. Therefore the fence is not as tight to the ground as it used to be resulting in areas where the ladies can get their heads under it. This particular area that she got stuck in was the area that they like to take dust baths in. They have managed to created holes to roll in near the fence which makes the ability to get under the fence, and stuck in it, much more prone to happening.

Despite this incident, the ladies are all doing fine. I get, on average, a dozen eggs per day and everyone seems happy and healthy. I have started letting them out into the yard about 1/2 hour before dusk so they can forge for bugs, which they seem to love. They put themselves to bed which is nice and I don’t have to chase them all over the yard that much.

Finn, my only lady from the 12 chicks we got this past spring with the black tale, is a very large lady. She is the biggest chicken in the flock, even bigger than the older ladies. Here she is, looking concerned but confident:

Saturday, September 25

2010 Ionia Fall Festival Report

Saturday the 18th was the annual Fall Festival and Tractor Parade in Ionia, NY, the tiny town where I grew up. As a child, I remember Fireman’s Carnivals, kiddie parades, and socials all taking place in town and at the Fire Hall. The carnivals and kiddie parades have long since faded away, but a few socials do remain on the calendar - strawberry, ice cream, raspberry.

To have a festival in Ionia, centered at the Fire Hall, is like having all the great memories come back. They even have the old cake wheel in service - I won a chocolate zucchini cake.

We arrived early enough to visit the tractor field - a large mowed field behind the oldest barn in town that is still standing - the Miller Barn - built by the Miller's who founded the town in 1789. Rows and rows of restored tractors from the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. 104 of them in total - all lined up for people to look at. We wandered through the rows of red, green, orange and blue tractors, all shiny and gassed up, ready for the parade. Their owners were all mingling with the other tractor owners, discussing makes and models and what attachments could be acquired for which model.

The parade, all 104 tractors, started at 1pm and it was a fantastic show of history and mechanization. Our little boy was in his full glory - he is obsessed with tractors - and he loved every minute of the parade. He also got to go on a hayride, towed by a shiny John Deere, later in the afternoon which was a thrill.

The rest of the day was filled with eating chicken barbeque, browsing at the used book sale and enjoying the pygmy goats on display from Rader's Ranch, a local farm. They did not have the alpacas or the police dog demonstration, as they did at last year’s festival, about which I was disappointed. I was looking forward to buying some nice alpaca yarn for a new winter hat.

The whole day was filled with fun and history and memories. This great, tiny, old town and the revival of the Fire Hall carnival grounds (and the cake wheel!), the people lining the streets for the tractor parade that showed numbers not even seen for the Memorial Day Parades, and just seeing all those people out and enjoying the day.

This great bumper sticker was on a van:

I am a very nostalgic person. I long for the past. For the good old days. I may never again have the Ionia Fireman's Carnival with the pick-a-duck game and the old metal rides for little kids, and I will miss them and what they represented. But as long as I can go to the Fall Festival and see the town getting back some of what it once had, I will be content. Historical tours are a part of the day’s events so people will not forget the history of this tiny NY town. It does not have a stoplight at the four corners in town. Not even a flashing yellow light. The flag pole dedicated during WWII stands there, in the grass on one side. I think that is all it needs.

Monday, September 20

Avalanche vs. Snow Shovel

Usually I love the rain. I look forward to days when I can stand on the covered front porch and watch it come down. The heavier the better, and thunder and lightning is a definite plus. Maybe a little wind...... And losing power is not a big deal around here.

But this morning, despite the commotion pouring down from the sky outside my windows, I am in a foul mood. It has been building for a while, a little at a time. Something goes wrong in the garden, something is wrong with the freezer, a part fell off the lawnmower, I cannot seem to find the time to work on sewing projects.....

Those little things add up, but the big thing that has been on my mind is does this all really matter. Everything that we are doing to live a more sustainable life, to reduce our carbon footprint, to do for ourselves and be good stewards of the planet. Does it really make a difference?

Top it all off with the astronomically high school tax bill we got in the mail recently and you have the makings of a perfect storm.

And we lost another chicken. Spot was found on the floor of the coop. We do not know how she died - there are no signs of trauma and she did not appear to be in distress in previous days.

It all just seems to be a mess lately. We did have a good day last Saturday at the Ionia Fall Festival and Tractor Parade which I will post about later, but today I am a bit sad.

I think that the main thing on my mind is questioning why i am doing all this. Why are we trying so hard to live sustainably? To use less? To leave less of a footprint? To eat local, organic foods?

For the environment? For our health and well being? To make a difference in the state of the planet?

I want to say yes, what we are doing is helping. But then I see so many other people not trying. Not conserving, wasting and just not seeming to care all that much. Why am I having to take on this responsibility and live, not with sacrificing, but with restraint.

Poor decisions made by other people, today and yesterday and 20 years ago should not be my problem alone to grapple with. I do not want to have that on my shoulders. And besides, what can one person, one family, actually do to reverse years and years of bad decisions and actions?

It seems like we are just trying to stop an avalanche with a snow shovel. No amount of digging is going to get us out of the mess we have made with our planet, unless more people start putting an effort in to conserve. I know it is hard - not being able to have everything you want, when you want it. And people don't want to change. They want things to stay the same, and I don't blame them. I do too.

It is hard to figure out how many people are trying. I read a lot of blogs about homesteading and sustainability and I love hearing about what other people are doing, and that they are actually doing something to help. That makes me feel good - like we have a shot at turning things around. But there are just so many people who don't seem to realize or care. How does out little minority equal out the vast majority?

Big Question: (quite selfish, I know) - Why should I have to budget? To save? To spend summers pulling weeds and falls over a hot stove canning? To not have a cool new sport utility? To not have those beautiful, expensive boots? To not bother hauling the recycle bins out to the roadside? Why can't I just go to the store and buy cheap plastic junk that I know will break for the sole reason that I want it and it meets a need for the moment?

I know the answer to all those questions. It is because I care about what kind of place we live in and how we live in it. To be selfish again, I feel great in the garden and I feel great when I can things. Proud? A sense of security? Something I can do to protect against what might come because the majority will not change?

All this is starting to make my head spin a little. Am I making any sense to anyone? Does anyone else feel this way?

Thursday, September 16

Harvesting Decor

As part of my ongoing effort to do more with less and to save money, I have again this year grown my fall decor in the side yard by the shed. Every year I watch my Chinese Lanterns slowly take over areas of lawn and the green lanterns turn light orange and then to a deep red-orange.

I usually dry them on the branch and use them in the house for a warm and welcoming fall decoration, along with pinecones and miniature pumpkins.

As we all know now, fall is here and I am enjoying the first days of my favorite season. And what better way to celebrate then to cut the Chinese Lanterns and get them hanging to dry in the shed.

The area that I let them expand to this year was larger than last year so I had to spend quite a bit of time cutting the tangled branches. Of course, the ground under them was void of grass and it was mostly just a large patch of musty smelling dirt.

Then I saw him. The biggest frog I have EVER seen. I am not exaggerating, like in the snake incident. This guy was HUGE. Cool. I guess I must have taken away his home - a heavy canopy of leaves and intertwines branches, for which I do feel a little guilty. But by the size of him, I have no doubt that he will be able to muscle his way into a new home quickly.

Tuesday, September 14

Monach Madness

I have seen more monarch butterflies this summer than I think I have ever seen in my life, combined. They are everywhere - in the yard, flying around us as we walk down the road, in store parking lots and loitering in neighbor’s fields by the dozens.

I counted 14 on my one butterfly bush the other day. 14, all on the bush. They are absolutely beautiful and I am constantly taking pictures of them.

The other day while the little guy was napping I looked out the back window and saw a ton of them flying around the butterfly bush and the garden next to it. It was a beautiful, sunny day so I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures. I took a few and then a light breeze came up and startled the sitting Monarchs. The air around me was filled with fluttering and I just stood there and let them all fly around me. I could hear the breeze and their wings beating. I could hear the bees buzzing around the anemone and the ladies clucking away in their enclosure. For a few minutes, all was right with the world.

Or at least my little part of it. Little things like this make me glad that I chose this kind of life.

But these monarchs still amaze me. Why is the population so high this summer? With the recent years of decline and concern about their population, I am hoping that is might be a little upswing. And I hope it is here to stay.

Monday, September 13

I See You.....

Our little guy is back, sneaking around the property and at the neighbors as well. Being as sly and crafty as he is, he will hide and observe from a distance. Quite a change from when he would come within throwing distance a few months ago.

Today is was dining in the neighbors field on moles and decided to venture into our field as well looking for desert.

Friday, September 10

Pointless Post About Sun Chips

We are a Sun Chips family. They taste great, they are not as horrible for you as say, potato chips, and they pack well in Roy's lunch bag.

Not paying much attention, I grabbed a bag a while ago at the store and noticed how loud it was. But I was in hurry and the baby was crying and we made a rush to the checkout. Then I noticed it again - when the cashier picked up the bag to scan it. (A note on "scanning" later). It was loud - obnoxiously loud. Crinkly and the texture of the bag was different.

Turns out I had somehow missed the ads for the bio-degradable bags back then. Fabulous idea, since I am so sick of seeing garbage litter the sides of roads. At least this one, when pitched out some teenager’s window will not be there forever. But I just wish they could have made the bag less loud.

Check out the neat little composting video from Sun Chips HERE.

I know, this is a petty thing and I should not complain about it. There is no reason to complain about it unless you are a little kid or someone on a diet trying to sneak a treat. Try opening one of those bags with the whole neighborhood knowing that you are sneaking a snack. Come to think of it, they should put all fattening foods in loud packaging so you will be just the little bit embarrassed opening it.

According to Mother Earth News, these bioplastic bags from Sun Chips are the only ones, currently, that totally biodegrade in a normal, backyard composting situation. There are others out there that claim to be biodegradable but it is not really the case. You can read about it HERE.

Wednesday, September 8

Thunder Storms

The storms rolled through here last night bringing booming thunder and a massive lightning show. The wind picked up and I knew I would have a ton of yard clean up to do in the morning but I didn't care. It was actually exciting to sit and listen to the pouring rain and thunder claps that seemed to be centered right over our house.

The little guy slept right through it, snoring loudly. He has decided not to take afternoon naps anymore, much to my disappointment since this is when I usually take my much needed afternoon nap. So by the time 7pm rolls around, he is usually down for the count. Out like a light and he missed it all.

This morning I woke to a wet and wind-blown couple of acres. Branches down and various not-so-heavy garden decorations laying around the yard. The sky was a cobalt blue, not dull but enjoyable and I let the chickens out to attack the unlucky bugs that wandered into the enclosure overnight. I am getting over a dozen eggs a day now since the younger ladies have started producing - at present count I have 7 dozen in my fridge. I have a few regular customers but due to the present quantity, I am going to have to drum up some more business. Either that or we are going to be eating a lot of omelets. Alot.

The ladies did not seem to be bothered by the storm and they stayed warm and dry in the chicken coop. But the chill weather that seems to be slowly creeping in lately has got me thinking about the ladies and how they will deal with the coming winter. I am planning on plenty of straw and pine bedding for insulation, lining some of the interior walls of the coop with straw bales and also having the heat lamps on stand-by in case of extreme cold.

I am unsure about letting them out in the snow but I don't want to keep them inside for months. Time to consult the chicken books, and my blog friends for advice! Tips anyone?
Image from HERE

Friday, September 3

Another Reason Why....

Just another reason why I like the rain. Sometimes when the sun is setting and the rain is coming down, not too heavy, we get a beautiful sight like this over the side field. After a day I would rather forget, this was a nice little 'pick-me-up' before I wrote the day off.