Thursday, August 20, 2015

a box of peeps

A couple of weeks ago, I wandered out to my husband's office (it is in the part of our house that used to be a garage) and found his office manager frantically making phone calls. 

"The chicks are in, and I can't find anyone to pick them up for me," she said. I immediately volunteered, because although I had heard about how baby chicks are delivered in the mail from hatcheries, I had never seen it. I grabbed the boys, and we headed to the post office.



We could hear them as soon as we walked in the door. No doubt as to which box belonged to Joan. The chicks are shipped when they are only one day old, because they still have the energy from the yolk to sustain them. (It lasts for up to three days.) The receiving post office calls the new owner as soon as the chicks come in, for immediate pick-up, for the benefit of the post office worker and the chicks.




Something about holding a box of loudly peeping chicks that makes you smile.



To get an idea of just how loud they are, the boys made this video in the car driving home:





Once you get them home, you have to put a shallow container of water in the box with them and dip each chick's beak into the water, to make sure they start drinking since they are close to three days post-hatch, and the yolk nutrition is running out. (She fed them as soon as she got them home; this first, critical operation took place in the office storage room.) Joan dipped each chick's beak several times, both to make sure they got some water in and to make sure she had gotten every chick, since there were two of each breed.



Don't ask me what breeds. I think the yellow ones are Buff Orpingtons but not sure about the others.



Dusty was very concerned about the strange sounds emanating from the storage room, a place he is not allowed to visit. All he knew for sure was that something odd was going on, and it probably wasn't allowed, and just what were those noises, anyhow?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

mystery squash

Thanks to the great ditch-dig of 2014 (which was totally worth it; running water and electricity in the back of the farm revolutionized our winter chores), we were left with huge troughs all over the place. We have spent much of the spring and summer getting fill dirt and trying to even things out a bit around here.

A few days after we filled in the trench, Secondo was observed working away with great purpose in the middle of the yard. A 16-year-old working away with great purpose is noteworthy enough that it deserved further investigation, which revealed this structure:



He had found a different-appearing plant in the fill dirt, determined it was a squash of some sort, and set out to fashion a structure to protect the plant from marauding sheep and lawnmowers. 

He even remembered to water it on a somewhat-regular basis. Truly, when he puts his mind to it, his dedication knows no bounds. If only we could channel these tendencies...




The squash plant has thrived, as squash plants tend to do. Recently, blossoms and now these strange fruits have appeared on the plant. Any idea what they might be? Secondo says acorn but my money is on pattypan. 

The mystery of where this plant came from has still yet to be solved. We have never had a plant like this on our farm, and I am amazed that a volunteer survived the transfer from another place so successfully. I don't know why I continue to be amazed by Mother Nature. Her ability to astound knows no bounds.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

how does our garden grow?

How does our garden grow? Despite the late start, in the way of most things having to do with Mother Nature...

Surprisingly, shockingly, well. She is amazing, that Mother Nature.



Lots and lots of eggplant blossoms on the plants started by my father. Two baby eggplant are just visible in the bottom right of the photo. It's almost ratatouille time!




Provided the tomatoes can hustle along a bit. Plenty of green ones but not a lot of ripening going on. Maybe next week, with the rain we got today.




A little baby pumpkin! Secondo is quite excited. He grew this plant himself, from seed. It will (hopefully) turn orange in time.





Our best crop? Marigolds. They are crazy happy this year. We always plant them around the borders of our raised beds to discourage rabbits and other pests, though they haven't been much help with the deer, who have been feasting on the tops of the tomato plants. The marigolds are riotous with growth and blooms this year, maybe thanks to the fertilizer we put at the bottom of every hole to compensate for our late start.

Whatever the reason, they do a great job of distracting the eye from the weeds.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

blue moon fair

It has been that kind of week... Actually, make that weeks, with woes too many to mention, both large and small. Thankfully, 4-H fair wasn't one of them. Preperation was hell, but once we were settled in, things went off without a hitch.



Though the blue moon was fitting. Fair was tinged with quite a bit of melancholy as we were reminded over and over again, all weekend, that this was Primo's last fair. (The 4-H program extends into "year 13," i.e., the first year of college.) We have attended ten straight years of 4-H fair together, so this ending was more momentous than the end of high school because, as he put it, "I didn't attend high school for ten years!" Nor was high school so enmeshed in our entire family's calendar and operation that entire summers were built around its immutable, immovable presence smack in the middle of the season, with everything to be planned around it, as 4-H fair is.



We still managed to have the usual great time together. Lots of hard work as always but plenty of time for play. Campfires on Friday night under the full moon. Pie-eating contests under the shade trees.



For the first time, they went head to head in the pie-eating contest; the first place winner was glad to come out on top in pie eating, at least.

And there was the costume contest. Always the costume contest. Stuart and Kevyn (her real name) Minion took fourth place.




Hard to say if Terzo or I was most saddened about Primo's time in 4-H coming to an end. The future of the sheep show is uncertain, with few members left with sheep. Terzo's fair experience will likely look much different than Primo's. Which is fine, of course. He has been doing it for ten years, too, so a little change isn't necessarily a bad thing.




Primo may think it's his last year, but there is no way that the 4-H program is going to let him (and his good friend G.) off that easily. They are getting quite polished at their sheep-shearing show; Primo narrates and answers questions while G. shows off his considerable skills. They've already been invited back for next year.




Though it will all look a little different, for all of us.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

out and back

So behind that I don't know how I will catch up with all the happenings around here, but let's see if I can do it in five minutes or less...




Secondo and Terzo went to camp and had a great week, except Terzo being very, very blue about the fact that it was Secondo's last year. HIS LAST YEAR. I am blue, too.




After picking them up, we headed north for vacation, but since we had a little time to kill, stopped at a few colleges to give Secondo a few ideas. Middlebury was our favorite; too bad it doesn't have his major. But I plan to apply there.




Then onto points north and Montreal. Lots of architecture and art and churches and history.




Even a jaunt up to Quebec.




Our favorite day was the day we rented bikes and toured all over Montreal, across the St. Lawrence River to the Parc Jean Drapeau Island, down to the St. Lawrence rapids and up the Lachine Canal.

We have just about recovered and now it's time to turn ourselves around and head back out for fair this weekend. Better stock up on sleep now.

Friday, July 17, 2015

july greening

All the rain we have been getting lately has meant a lot of greening up. April colors were more like August's parched brown, but July is looking positively May in tone.





The corn just down the road, shown here as dusk was falling, is taking full advantage. Not quite as high as an elephant's eye, but getting there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

cleaning sheep houses

Big projects last weekend, with big boy toys—a Kubota backhoe from Home Depot. That sucker was put to work, sun-up to sun-down, so much that the rental guy couldn't believe the hours that were put on it during a single day.




Big surprise, the two boys leaning on their shovels (or in this case, pitchforks) again. Though for the majority of the time they were super helpful,especially given the smelliness of the situation


Shed all cleaned out and freshly strawed, though the line at the back shows how overdue we were. Now it is even more obvious how much it needs a fresh coat of paint.



Despite all our hard work, the grass is fresh and deep and green away from the shed, and never mind the rain. They'll stay right out here, thankyouverymuch.