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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

November 27th, 2014 Comments off

As a special holiday treat, I (Julia) am guest blogging for the day. We arrived safely from Ohio last night, and I resumed my farm duties this morning and milked with Grandpa at 8 sharp. Luckily my memory hasn’t depleted as much as my muscle mass, and I had no major fiascos. Madison finished up the chores while Grandpa did administrative work and I joined the kitchen crew. We baked pies and made stuffing, Chex-Mix and the famous lemon jello. Grandma then ran to the store for a turkey while Grandpa ran errands to get freezer parts and random groceries from Walmart. We also welcomed Uncle Danny and Aunt Liza and Aunt Sherrill and Uncle Don with rabbit pot pie and pumpkin cheescake for dinner.

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August 10, 2014

August 10th, 2014 Comments off

Well, this is it. My last day at the farm, my last bowl of cereal with fresh milk, my last morning feeding my animals, and my last blog post. This morning I said goodbye to the church choir and began packing before we headed out for our traditional Mexican dinner in honor of Megan and my time here. I wrapped up the evening laughing around the bonfire and now here I am, a melancholy mixture of sadness and sweet memories.

This summer I have witnessed both death and life, learning that one cannot exist without the other. I have come to understand self-discipline in a new way, for never before have so many creatures depended on me for their survival. If I don’t feed them, they won’t make it, regardless of whether or not I want to get out of bed in the morning. The satisfaction of living off the land has given me a newfound appreciation for where my food comes from, and a renewed respect for the earth that provides it. Goodbye Woodcrest,

thank you for a lovely summer.
               -Julia

(P.S. Thank you all for sticking with me throughout my adventures. I’m glad you came along for the ride. Here’s one last picture: me in my African gardening hat which was my sunburn savior. Have a wonderful rest of your summer!)

 

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August 6, 2014

August 6th, 2014 Comments off

I went down to feed the guineas this morning with baited breath, and was relieved to see every member of the little flock upright and breathing fine. I spent the next couple hours weeding an empty garden row before it gets replanted while Megan and Joe milked and Shea took care of the bunnies. Later in the afternoon, Joe and Megan worked on sanding and repainting a couple of antique chairs that had been sitting in the barn loft. Noah and Shea continued the massive barn clean-up/organize project while Beth worked at East. I pulverized tomatoes for sauce and Grandma and Grandpa worked on the less glamorous administrative side of farming operations. Shea used up some of our overabundant egg supply to make a delicious frittata for dinner which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Tuesday, August 5 2014

August 5th, 2014 Comments off

Once again, the life and death cycle played itself out at Woodcrest, with pain followed by joy. When I went down to feed the guineas this morning, two of them were sprawled on the ground with their eyes closed. They weren’t the first or the last of the keets to die from this unknown killer: one died yesterday and one this afternoon. Grandma thinks they caught a highly contagious virus at their previous home and that it is just now rearing its nasty head. The disease swiftly sweeps through flocks, shutting down their respiratory systems. Unlike most of the other deaths I’ve witnessed this summer, there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the process from happening. Every time I checked on them, another little bird was motionless in the grass, weakly gasping for air. Frustration filled me as I helplessly watched the babies die. I can’t imagine how much more painful it was for farmers of the past to witness grasshoppers eat their crops and chickens get carried off by foxes. Watching your livelihood vanish in front of  you wrenches your stomach apart.

But while the keets were passing away, one of our Jerseys, Fiona, gave birth to a baby girl. Grandma named her “Eve” in hopes that she will be the mother of the new Dexter/Jersey breed she hopes to start called “Homesteader.” She hadn’t even nursed yet when we found her, and she chugged a bottle of milk in record time.

Joe, Shea, and Megan did a fantastic job cleaning out and reorganizing the barn and milking kitchen. Joe moved cabinets, reconfigured shelves, and even spray-painted the sinks so that there’s much more room to haul heavy pails in and out. Shea worked hard clearing out the miscellaneous section of the barn and the end result is a significant improvement. I started making tomato sauce, Beth worked in the garden, and Megan planted several trays of seeds as well. Despite the tragedy of the guineas, today was ultimately redemptive and productive. Hopefully tomorrow will be all of the ups of farm life without the bitter pills that are part of the job.

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Monday, August 4 2014

August 4th, 2014 Comments off

My alarm went off at 7:05 this morning, but I gave myself the gift of an extra 15 minutes of sleep before thumping down the stairs and out into the barn. Now that Shea has taken over the rabbits, my chores went much more quickly. We had our first staff meeting of the month and projects piled up so everyone should have something to keep them busy this week. I headed back outside to move the guinea keets into a bigger pen so that Megan’s chicks can move into the cage in the kennel when they get a little bigger. We also found one our chickens and five chicks in the neighbor’s yard a few days ago so they had to be corralled and wrangled into the kennel cage as well. I thought the job would be simple enough, I mean, I definitely have the height advantage, but I underestimated their tiny brains. The chicks were extremely feisty, and I had to practically get down on my stomach to grab them from the corner where they were hiding and thrust them into a carrying box. While they flapped around and I started sweating, the mama tried to peck me HARD through the wire around their cage. And the guineas weren’t any easier. One got out and we played a little game of hide and seek/tag before I got a grip on it. One poor little bird was sick and is on his last leg. But finally, I managed to get everyone into the right cage, even though I looked like I lost a fight with Godzilla afterward.

Joe bravely mucked out the stalls and spread shavings over the muddy manure spot right outside the milking parlor so our ladies have a dry place to stand while they wait. Later in the afternoon, he, Shea, and Megan built a new step for the milking parlor. This means that we no longer have to worry about falling flat on our faces and spilling all the milk every time we walk out of there. Beth harvested and prepared for the next planting. Our summer CSA just finished but our fall CSA begins in three short weeks, meaning old plants need to be yanked and the greens we started from seed can be planted.

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Sunday, August 3 2014

August 3rd, 2014 Comments off

After a week of carefree mornings and evenings, today I hauled myself out of bed to get back to feeding the animals. Welcome home. But it was also kind of nice to see how much my poultry babies have grown in such a short time. The guinea keets were enormous and

 the baby chicks have entered their teenage phase. To mark the occasion, I gave the chicks a new water dish since their old one cracked. Shea fell in love with the bunnies while we were gone, so I handed over my rabbit duties to her since I phase out in a week anyway.

Grandma and Grandpa arrived home after dinner and the house is now comfortably crowded again. The picture to the left is an Assateague wild pony that wandered into our campsite on the first evening we were there. Much like bears, the ponies will eat your food if you’re not careful. (I had to duct tape our peanut butter jar lid back together after a curious pony crunched it to bits.) Tomorrow Megan and I start our last week here. I can’t believe how quickly this summer has gone; I wish I could capture it in a bottle to breath during the brutal Indiana winters.

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Saturday, August 2 2014

August 2nd, 2014 Comments off

In case you were wondering, I did not get mauled by a cow, eaten by a goat, or pecked by a chicken. My communication came to a standstill because I have been sitting in a chair by the beach for the past week (mostly) isolated from the online world. Grandma, Grandpa and I headed to Assateague Island last Friday for a Green family reunion of sorts and we thoroughly enjoyed our time crabbing in the marsh, devouring the crabs, reading by the ocean, eating ice cream in Ocean City, and singing around the campfire. It’s hard to jump back into the reality of needy animals but chores rev back up tomorrow morning bright and early. Sigh. But thanks to all the capable farm hands we left behind, the farm is still running smoothly and three of Megan’s chicks hatched with more to come tomorrow.

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Thursday, July 24 2014

July 24th, 2014 Comments off

Confession: I went to the library yesterday and checked out the first Harry Potter book since I’ve never read the series. At approximately 7:30 that evening I started chapter 1 and by 12:41 I had finished it. But unfortunately I was so engrossed in Hogwarts that I completely forgot the farm blog. So please forgive me.

Anyway, Chewy is now taking the bottle without having to be backed into the corner and held down. The gardens are getting overrun by squash bugs but are pretty healthy other than that. We finally saw some sun all day yesterday and most of today but we had an epic rainstorm this evening complete with thunder and a temporarily lost TV connection. The constant changes in the weather have led to some problems with our tomatoes (cracking, mushiness, etc.) but at least we’re not in an awful drought like we had a few years ago.

Farm life is not for the faint of heart. I don’t consider myself to be a squeamish person, but my rabbit encounter tested my limits. While I was pouring water into a cage with three female bunnies yesterday morning, I noticed a tiny squirming gray blob that looked an awful lot like a baby bunny. But there is no way three females can birth a litter. Needless to say, I was confused. Calling Grandma confirmed that I wasn’t crazy and that the bunny in the next cage over had given birth sooner than expected. Since the rabbit birth process operates purely on instinct, the mother wouldn’t take her baby back. There was no choice other than to let nature take its course. It was so helpless, blindly wriggling but getting nowhere, but I was helpless to do anything about it. While it may seem like the territory of the brave and bold, in many ways farming is the perfect occupation for learning that you are not invincible. No matter how hard you try to control the cow, even putting her in a head gate and luring her with food, she may still knock over the milking pail. No matter how hard you try to lift the bag of feed, you might have to humbly ask one of the guys to carry it for you. And no matter how badly you may want to, you cannot save the little life struggling to hold on.

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July 22, 2014

July 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Chewy sure is living up to his name. He was moaning when Megan went to the barn to feed him this morning and after his belly was full. He’s noisier than either of his larger cousins but his mother has left him totally in our care. She was quite a handful in the milking parlor though, kicking the pail of colostrum and generally being Heidi.

Megan, Beth, and Shea spent the entire day in the garden trellising tomatoes, pulling off the never-ending squash bugs, and harvesting. It is a process that won’t give any of us a break. Megan’s hands were stained black from the tomato pollen and she’ll have a job getting it off. I cut quilting squares for Grandma’s sewing class all afternoon and Grandpa went into town to run some errands. Shea’s pie was demolished within an hour of coming out of the oven last night so she made two more this evening. I can smell them baking now and am just about to head down to nab a slice before it disappears again.

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Monday, July 21 2014

July 21st, 2014 Comments off

Our biggest concern this weekend was Heidi’s calf. Even though she looked like she might pop, no baby came. But when Grandpa went out to milk this morning, he found Heidi guarding a tiny black bull calf in the pasture next to the barn. But our sigh of relief only lasted for a moment, since we had to somehow get Heidi into the milking parlor to capture the colostrum. Grandpa scooped up the calf (Beth named him Chewbacca, Chewy for short) and she followed right behind him without any protest. Thank goodness. Once the calf was safely in his pen in the barn, Megan tried to bottle-feed him but he was finicky and didn’t take it right away. A few more tries and he’ll hopefully get it.

Noah got the first slice of Shea’s caramel apple pie

Megan worked hard at East today, ripping out squash bugs and harvesting with Beth before trellising tomatoes and pulling off all the rotten ones. She even sacrificed her body for the greater farming good, scraping her leg on a hidden trellis wire. The lengths we go to due our duties well…I may have built more muscle since I’ve been here, but my arms and legs are also marred from bug bites, scratches from the rabbit cages, and dirt perpetually implanted in my knees.

Grandpa continued working on the new lighting in the lower half of the barn as well as the leak under the sink. Shea and I pulled squash bugs in the main garden and then we went inside to do a little baking. Shea made the most beautiful apple pie I’ve ever seen as a thank-you present to Noah, who drove her to the airport on Friday at five in the morning. I was definitely too excited to eat it, and I scarfed down my piece faster than the baby goats chew my shorts (quite an accomplishment).

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