Monday, March 29, 2010

Farm kids and ruminations on herd life

I so love that my children get to spend time out with the goats and the animals and the outdoors. I hope that it will give them a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world and of life.

There is something about sitting out with the sheep, goats and cows that makes me feel more human. I love sitting by them watching them eat and forage or chew cud. They come and nibble on me, smell me. I'm their leader, I lead them to plants they like and hold high branches down for them to browse. They belong to me, but I also feel a sense of belonging to them. They are my source of food, of life, of survival. I have never felt so safe, so welcome, or so communal as I have in the middle of my herd. I watch them and see their interactions, their personalities, and how they are reassured by my presence. They bleat and call after me when I go. They accept me in a way that I have never felt around other humans. At the same time, I can tell what is different about me, what sets me apart, and makes me feel glad to be a human.

Spring and and Easter spread

Some of the winter garden survived. We still have lettuce, collards, carrots and parsnips. I also have been collecting wild sheep's sorrel. I've been reading Masanuoba Fukuoka (whew, I hope I spelled that right) and was inspired by his writings about the seven herbs of spring and the seven herbs of autumn. I think that if I could pick seven herbs of spring for North Florida, I think I would pick sorrel, wild garlic, cleavers, chickweed, smilax, wild mustard and betony, except that leaves out lyre leaf sage, poke, violets, wild lettuce, oxalis and spiderwort.

I gathered these greens for our dinner one night, and it struck me as being Eastery in the old sense--the eggs and rabbit food sort of way.

The blueberries are blooming! At least the earliest varieties. We have several different varieties which bloom and fruit at different times.


A few weeks ago we attended a beekeeping workshop with the Urban Homesteading project. Neil Lorenzini taught the class, right next to his beehive, which is located in a nice old Gainesville neighborhood. They whole time the bees were just calmly going about their business, ignoring us. We built a top-bar hive, which looks like a wooden cradle with thin pieces of wood as frames. Popsicle sticks are glued in a groove on each frame to help guide the bees, who draw their own comb. This helps with diseases because the bees draw smaller size comb.

This weekend we got our bees, and they are happily buzzing about, visiting the blossoming cherry and plum trees. Something about having bees makes me feel settled down out there somehow.


Isla has really grown up. Here is a photo of her nursing beside Honey.

Isn't she a HUGE baby? I couldn't believe how big she is. I hope she becomes more friendly before we have to milk her.

The Summer Garden 2010

Ages ago, back in January, I started my eggplants, tomatoes and peppers. This year I didn't try mixing my own potting soil and I had a heat lamp and a cold frame and the seedlings actually survived and grew!

This past weekend we planted our summer garden. I saw among the starts that survived and were planted:
Dr. Wyche's yellow tomatoes, Roman candle tomatoes, Amish paste tomatoes, cherokee purple tomatoes, Tlacolula pink tomatoes, yellow pears, Aunt Ruby's German Green tomatoes, German Strawberry tomatoes, Matt's wild cherries, black cherry tomatoes, white wonder tomatoes, snowberry cherry tomatoes, purple calabash tomatoes, fish peppers, ancho peppers, sweet yellow stuffing peppers, chocolate peppers, fehrozen paprika peppers, Ashe county pimento peppers, louisiana long green eggplants, Listada di gandia eggplant, and Rosa bianca eggplants.
I am so hoping our melons do better this year. I am particularly looking forward to the Delice de la table, the early silverline, prescott fond blanc and the Charantais melons. We are experimenting with 3 different ways of growing and trellising the cucumbers and melons this year. It really is a relief not to be gardening for other people this summer because I don't feel so pressured to succeed. Whatever we grow we'll eat, and hopefully there will be lots and lots!

Our dog Belle

After we sold Java (the donkey who wasn't very happy with us. We didn't have time to pay her enough attention and the treats were not forthcoming enough. We had expectations of her being a guard animal, not a pet, but luckily she was bought by someone who LOVES donkeys, and I'm sure she will be infinitely happier there) we had no one to guard the goats, but as chance would have it our mail-lady raises goats and Great Pyrenees dogs.

So we went to her farm and picked out a puppy, who was named Princess (Rosie still insists that we call her this) but we renamed her Belle, after Belle and Sebastian.

When we first had her in with the other animals there were mixed reactions. Honey wanted to kill her and the goats got together in a little clique and flapped their lips at her. Nougat and Ellie were even doing head slides. They didn't approve at all. The sheep warmed up to her first, probably because she looks like a sheep (big, white and fuzzy). Everyone has mostly gotten used to her, except Honey, who stares at her disapprovingly as she chews her cud and Ellie, who picks on her.

Soon after Isla was born she and Belle became fast friends. They are always charging around after each other. It is so funny to watch because Belle is playing like a dog and Isla is playing like a calf and they are not quite sure what the other one is doing. We just hope that Isla stops trying to mount Belle when she gets bigger, since she is already larger than the dog (that's how calves play). They also lick and groom each other when Honey is being milked. Honey would NOT approve. When Honey is away and Isla is lying down chewing her cud Belle stands over her like she is protecting her. It's very sweet.

I'm not a dog person but I love Belle. She is polite and doesn't jump up on people and she is a great guard dog. Even the tiniest little sparrows aren't allowed to land in her paddock, and if a crow or large bird flies over she runs after it barking her head off.