Friday, October 28, 2011


There is panic in the mountains of Pennsylvania today. News reporters on the radio and television are repeating a certain four-letter word beginning with an “S” with every rotation and before every commercial break. They are doing it in spite of who might be listening. They are saying it in October, before Halloween, in the presence of school children, the elderly, and anyone else who can hear….
* * * *
*  * *  SNOW * *  *
* * * *

Even Mr. Farmer was almost swept into the pre-storm panic. How can your mind help but rush back to the things that should have been done earlier in the week? How many times did Young Master Farmer promise that he would get to splitting that woodpile tomorrow? Why oh why didn’t we move one of the pig huts into the adult section of the enclosure sooner? How did the supply of straw for pig bedding get so low?

After setting all the pre-storm tasks on paper, however, he regained his composure and got to work. We put our heads together as he drove me to work and ran through the plan for the day. He could pick up additional straw right away in the morning. Rather than take the hut to the adult pigs, he could take the adult pigs to the hut. After all, the “babies” are fully weaned and large enough to hold their own against giant-boar Tiffany for a couple days. He split a fair amount of wood, and Little Miss Farmer brought it in the house to dry. A quick trip to the store for the items we had intended to purchase on Saturday, which is now Storm Day, and everything is settled for a long, cold weekend.

After the boy finishes spitting the rest of that firewood, of course….

Here we go again...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blogging: Cold, Lonely Internet

I know that I have been a little quieter than usual lately, and I apologize for that. It has been quiet here this fall, so there isn't much to write about. The pigs are far enough away that I miss out on their daily antics, and the weekly visits that I make to them don't always result in any kind of real story. The chickens are molting, and therefore not laying, but that isn't much to talk about. The garlic is planted for next year, and the garden has been put to bed for the winter. So, I have been filling the time I usually use for writing with reading other people's blogs and trying to promote my own a little.

I added a fan page on Facebook. As of today, I had SIX "Likes". That is sad, people. I am really pretty disappointed about that. Even adding a link to it on my sidebar isn't helping much, nor was recommending the page to almost everyone I know on Facebook. I do not update every day, so you don't have to worry about me jamming up your feed, if that was your concern. I do, however, post when I put up a new article, and post status updates when something happens that isn't long enough to write an entire story or essay about. If you want to follow me on Facebook, you can use the LIKE button here directly, or see my page HERE (then click LIKE, right?).

I set up a separate Twitter account for the blog as well. Like the Facebook page, it will include short updates, links to new and old posts, and maybe the occasional farm-related joke (I will keep the puns to a minimum, for those who know me personally and who have requested it). Of course you can send me @ replies and direct messages as well, and I will always answer (though not always immediately- I have a day-job, you know). Did I mention that I follow back? Well, I do. Here's my TWITTER PROFILE.

I want to thank you all for your support. I know that we crazy, chicken-chasing, dog-snuggling, wood-splitting, fruit-canning, yard-planting, animal-slaughtering, suburban hicks are a rare breed. This blog, and others like it, are a small niche, and I appreciate each and every one of you. See you on the InterWebz!!

My Dearly Departed Father-In-Law's
Top-of-the-Line Commodore Pet PC
Circa 1984
Belongs in a Museum, right?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gardening: Fall Garlic Planting

We're trying garlic in earnest next year, so we have to start planning now. A friend gave me some garlic bulbs from a gardening store two summers ago. We planted it in the spring (WRONG!), and hoped for the best. It sprouted. It died. We left it alone for a whole season. The onions we also planted that year didn't get even a little bit bigger than they were when we planted them, so we left the garlic in the ground to winter over. In the spring, they sprouted many new tops, but when I dug them up, they were just the small sets you see above. So I put them in a dry, dark corner until fall.

Columbus Day weekend I planted the garlic sets. Mr. Farmer told me of a pile of fine soil made mostly of worm castings and leaf rot. So after I pulled out the last of the dead tomato & pepper plants, took the unripened, frost-killed fruit inside for pickling, and turned up the bed, I set out for the woods. I found the soil, filled the wheel-barrow, and mixed the new soil into the old.

Somewhere in that process I injured my shoulder. The pain was terrible, even after taking an anti-inflammatory, and many motions caused it to worsen. So, I took Saturday night off and rested. I sat like my arm was in a sling and pouted because I wanted to plant my garlic.

The rest did me good, and I was able to put the garlic in the ground on Sunday. They needed to be set 8 inches apart, so I used a wooden pencil (7.5 inches) as a guide and used a screwdriver handle to poke holes of the right width and depth. Twenty-four sets went into the ground at perfect distance, were patted over, and covered with a tarp. I'm hoping the tarp will keep my marauding, free-ranging chickens from disturbing them before they settle in.

Twenty four is more than enough garlic for my family for the year. I really hope we are successful this time. We LOVE fresh garlic.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Off Topic: Mushrooms

As I have mentioned, 2011 was a crazy, wet summer. The rain was almost unending, and the ground was almost constantly mushy and slick. The tomatoes drowned. The eggs (and the chickens themselves, for that matter) were constantly muddy. The park and lake flooded. The wild mushrooms, however, were amazing. I saw more interesting mushrooms in the late summer than I have in my entire life. I became almost consumed with hunting them down and photographing them. Here are some of my favorite photos.

There were white mushrooms:

Inside out mushroom
There were brightly colored mushrooms:

Something was nibbling on this red one

This one is SO bright yellow- the picture doesn't do it justice
Mushrooms in bunches:

Traditional Rotten Log Fungus

Amazingly Cool Orange Mushrooms
Right at the End of My Street

Mushrooms that stood alone:

Red Mushroom

I found mushrooms that looked like flowers:

Doesn't it look like a Daisy?

This one looks like a petunia
(Mr. Farmer says, "There's no such thing as a black petunia!")

And mushrooms that had some animal company:

Orange Salamander
Just hanging out with the Mushrooms

Giant Slug!

I even saw a pink/coral Indian Pipe, which is not really a mushroom, but grows in similar conditions:

Indian Pipe

Aren't they great?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Life Is Good: Ouch

"Many Hands Make Light Work." -Proverb

Fall is creeping up on us- and not too subtly, either. We have had several chilly nights already, and the wood stove is keeping us cozy.The humidity-eradicating side effect of the wood stove, cursed in previous years, is helping to ease the fall mold allergies that we all suffer from. The wood fire is driving the dampness out of the house, and the mold from this overly wet summer is dying off quickly- at least inside the house.

Of course wood fires need firewood, so the work begins. Big, strong, healthy Young Master Farmer can wield an ax or maul better than even his father or the very athletic neighbor next door. He mows through piles of wood like a scythe through grass. I loaded the wheel barrow with cut wood and moved it from one side of the yard to the other. Little Miss Farmer helped me stack the split wood and broke the dead treetop at the end of the street into kindling. The three of us had a very industrious operation going on, and we were very productive in just an hour and a half of work.

The Start of the Woodpile

Sadly, even an eight hour day of work for me usually means sitting at a desk and taking two to four short walks to the bathroom and perhaps three or four more to the printer or a co-worker's desk. That means that an hour and a half of bending, lifting, stacking, and breaking wood is a more than my soft body is used to. Ouch! It is a satisfying kind of ache, however. I earned it. There is a nice stack of drying wood and several buckets of kindling to show for it, and a cozy cabin to relax in afterwards.