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Archive for July, 2011

One of the challenges of bi vocational farming is balance.  Both jobs require a great deal of time input, but for the life of me, I can’t squeeze more than 24 hours out of a day.  And, unfortunately, at my age, sleep is a necessity.  When I was 24, burning both ends of the candle was easy, even normal.  These dotage years, though, require rest and recuperation.

My outside job takes about 12 hours a day, counting travel time.  Do the math.  With the days growing shorter now that we are past the solstice, I am finding myself in a race with daylight.  This morning, I finally lost and had to don a headlamp to go work in the garden.  Headlamps will not get me more hours in my day, but they do give me more hours to work.

The last couple days, I’ve been prepping the fall garden beds and transplanting some tomatoes.  I’m not confident in growing tomatoes from cuttings.  Last year was the first time I tried it.  Only about half the plants lived, and though they grew well, we got a blight before getting any fruit developed.  Also, I planted them a bit late.

I have three beds weeded and clear.  The next step is to get some compost and fertilizer (non chemical, of course) in them, then they will be ready to plant.  I’m thinking beets and potatoes.  I will plant the squash and cucumbers in containers.  Radishes, lettuce, cabbage, etc. will come later, probably September.

The garden looks terrible.  I fell behind with weeding and now I’m facing a monster as I do my fall prep.  Too bad.  So sad.  It’s pay me now or pay me later.  I’m paying.

I love gardening.  I’m not very good at it, but fortunately, the ground continues to produce despite my ineptitude.

The heat and humidity drain me, but at the end of the day, I feel a sense of accomplishment.  I feel almost heroic when I carry in a load of harvested goodness that my hands have grown.  I feel a sense of satisfaction when I see the raised beds clean and prepped.  I just can’t tell if I’m getting ahead or falling behind.  What I know for sure is….I’m tired.  Getting old S.T.I.N.K.S.

 

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FREEBIRD

Meet Blondie.  Blondie, is a one year old Dixie Rainbow.  Technically, she lives in a pasture with 10 of her sisters.  Her job, along with theirs, is to keep the pasture clean and provide nutritious, tasty, free range eggs.  I say, technically,  because Blondie has a wandering spirit.

Let me back up for a moment.  Because of the layout of our farm, it’s proximity to major roads and that there are still large segments of the place without perimeter fence, we have a modified rotational system.

Right now we have 4 pastures fenced, with a larger pasture that will be finished very soon.  Each pasture has a small flock of chickens to clean up after the grazers.  We have three cows and two miniature donkeys along with our assortment of goats, sheep and pigs.  The chickens spread the manure and keep the fly, grasshopper and tick populations in check.  Each pasture has a shelter with laying boxes for the hens to deposit their appreciation of free ranging.  Sometimes they lay in the boxes, sometimes they find creative hiding places.  We’ll address laying hen hide and seek another day.

Back to Blondie.  Blondie has a wonderful, lush pasture, one of our better ones, that she roams with 10 other hens.  The pasture is a little over an acre, giving plenty of space for the girls to wander, forage, aerate and fertilize.  But that world is too small for Blondie.  She sees the entire planet as her pasture.  Each morning, Blondie bids farewell to her sisters and flies over the fence to the greater farm beyond.  She heads straight for the barn, because she knows full well that is where the feed is stored.

Blondie will hang out in the barn while we prepare the morning feedings, picking up the chicken crumble scraps that inevitably fall to the ground.  She pecks around the dirt floor,  picking up insects while checking in on the chicks in the brooder box.  Then she’s off to explore.

Normally, she goes from the barn to the cow pasture to say hello to the bovines and greet the hens who maintain that pasture.  Then she is off to look in on the dairy goats.  She will frequently move from there to the neighbor’s side yard to pick off any unwary grasshoppers.  Finally, she will waddle down the driveway to go visit the rabbits, who are in a large open pasture.

Usually, Blondie follows me back to her pasture for night time feeding, where I presume she spends the night and lays her eggs.  There is every possibility, though, that she has a clutch hidden somewhere that we may never find.

We don’t have the heart to try and force her to stay in her pasture.  She makes us laugh with her sociable clucking and relentless nosiness.  So, for the time being at least, Blondie lives truly, totally free.  I only hope she does not become a bad influence on the other hens.   I worry about what she tells them.

 

 

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It’s July, so it’s time to wind down the summer garden and begin work of the fall version.   We are now planning on beets, potatoes, squash, zucchini, corn, green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, lettuce and maybe a few late season tomatoes.  Most of this will be for farmers market/vegetable stand.   Who wants in on some pre orders?

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Ok, when you’re wearing logo gear I guess you don’t really expect to be anonymous, but I couldn’t think of a title for the blog so I picked something out of the air.

Since it was raining (Hallelujah) this morning, B and I decided to do some shopping after morning chores.  Among our stops was the Survival Store on Cobb Parkway in Marietta.  We’d been there before and enjoyed it.  They specialize in things like food storage, emergency supplies, camping equipment and a few other interesting odds and ends.

It was fairly quiet, Brittan and I were the only customers, so we were able to take our time and enjoy the peace and quiet.  We picked up a few things, as as were checking out, the guy running the register (who turns out to be the Operations Manager, Charlie Workmon, and the only person present), sees our shirts and says, “East of Eden Farms.  That would mean you are Sam and you are Brittan.”

B and I stared for a minute, and B, figuring Charlie wasn’t using witchcraft, asked how he knew who we are, to which he replied, “I’ve read your website.”

How cool is that?  We chatted for a minute, then took our goodies and left.  It was very cool to meet someone who has visited our site.  We are honored and flattered by all of you out there who grant a few of your precious moments once in a while to read our ramblings and our dreams.  You make us feel so special.

If you are into the outdoors or preparedness, check out The Survival Store  website.  After you finish reading ours, of course.

 

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Peter Pan is what I used to bait the rat traps, but that’s another thread.  Patty Pan is a scalloped shaped  summer squash.  This year, it has been far and away the most successful variety we’ve grown.  The Prolific Straight Neck variety wasn’t.  The zucchini never really showed up.  The Spaghetti Squash went out for pasta and the Hubbard was more like Old Mother Hubbard.  Only the Butternut offered real competition to the Patty Pan, but the little Pans have come out victorious.

We’ve grown them before, with various degrees of success, but this year they have been splendid.  They have been outstanding in number, size, quality and taste.  If you have not grown any of these little beauties, you really should give it a try.

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Got ‘im!

Mothers, it’s safe to let you children play outside again.  Home owners, you my unload your weapons.  The SWAT team may stand down.  Ratzilla has been subdued.

Tonight, as I was harvesting tomatoes and peppers, an object that looked like a piece of wood, but lying in what was recently our green bean bed, caught my eye.  As I approached the object, I suddenly recognized it as our missing trap.  It’s location was approximately 20 feet from where it had been set.  It was hidden in the remnants of the green bean plants.  I tentatively approached it and turned it over.  It was sprung and empty, except for about 3 inches of rat tail.

Disappointed and afraid, I picked it up and turned to take it back and reset it, when my eyes fell on the corpse.  Fully six feet away from the trap, lay in all his glory, 9 full inches of slate grey rodent.  His teeth were a half an inch long and his claws were equally as large as the teeth.

Land O Goshen, it really was a monster.  It appears that he was caught by his tail (BTW, these rats have surprisingly small ones.  I’m used to those long tail white rats you see in pet stores.  These beasties appendages are only three or 4 inches at the most.) and ran away dragging the Victor trap behind him.  Somehow, it got tangled in the bean vines and he was stuck.  At some point he broke free, leaving his tail behind.  He either died of dehydration, shock or blood loss.  Frankly, I don’t care much.  I’m not a big fan of rats, as you may have figured.

The burb is safe again….for now.  But the Zilla has offspring and a bride still at large.  It is my duty, my responsibility to hunt them down.  I am the last line of defense for humanity.  I am The Rat Slayer.

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The Truck Ride Home

Today we added 4 ten week old Vietnamese Pot Belly Pigs to our collection of animals.    We now have a virtually complete food chain.  We grow grass and vegetables that feed the animals.  The hens lay eggs and the goats provide milk.  The milk, eggs, chickens and rabbits feed us.  The leftovers and excess milk, whey, eggs and veggies feed the pigs, the pigs provide pork.  Nothing is wasted.  Everyone has a job and a purpose.  Speaking of waste, the animal waste becomes fertilizer and compost that feeds the soil that feeds the plants.  I can almost hear Elton John singing, “The Circle of Life”.

Brittan is especially excited as she has wanted pigs for a while.  They are a bit wild right now as they have been pasture raised, but knowing B, she’ll have them spoiled in no time at all.

The little squealers will live in an old chicken tractor for a few weeks until they become accustomed to us and their surroundings.  Then they will be released to roam the ‘baby pasture’ with a group of broilers.  Once the pigs get large enough, they will go to a special pasture enclosure we are building just for them.  It’s a bit of bottom land that is rough and weedy.  We want them to root it and till it up so we can plant it with clover.

We chose Vietnamese Pot Belly Pigs because of their small size.  They go well with the size of our farm and our collection of other miniatures, like cows, goats and donkeys.  For some reason we have normal size sheep, chickens and turkeys.  Our dogs are giants.  Ok, we’re not exactly consistent, but in general terms we have miniature animals and it’s pretty cool.

Sometimes all this gets a little overwhelming, especially when its so hot that the chickens have stopped laying.  But today, when a middle aged couple out walking their German Shepherd stopped to talk and say, “We just love your farm”, I was reminded of all the reasons we do what we do.  We are healing the earth while we’re feeding the world.  And we’re doing it by being good neighbors right here in suburbia.  We are blessed.

 

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