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Saturday, July 19 2014

July 19th, 2014 Comments off

Everyone slept late this morning and the extra hour was glorious. Heidi’s calf has yet to appear, but she wobbles a little when she walks so for her sake I hope it happens soon. Although not many projects got done today, it being the weekend and all, the farm was hopping. Several families stopped by to play with the bunnies, pet the baby goats, and chat with Grandma in the kitchen. Megan and I used our day off to run to Target and re-enter civilization (and grab some Starbucks). When we got back I read my school book for a couple hours before helping Grandma make dinner. Uncle David, Aunt Sandi, and the girls joined us for chicken pot pie and now Grandma, Grandpa and I are watching a Hallmark movie about a crazy young couple who want to become organic farmers, much to their parents’ chagrin. Ha.

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Friday, July 18 2014

July 18th, 2014 Comments off

We were all sad to tell Ryan goodbye this morning but we wish him the best as he ventures to India for the next month. Poor Grandpa had to work on the electrical wiring in the barn all by himself…

One difficulty with keeping bees is that they require a fair amount of hands-on attention. They have to be checked regularly to make sure the hive is healthy and right now our bees have to be fed every day. This means that to have a successful honeybee enterprise, you need a dedicated beekeeper. Hopefully we’ve found our man: Logan is a local teen with plenty of bee knowledge and an interest in helping us keep our hive alive.

While Grandma and Grandpa chatted with Logan and his family, Megan spent hours weeding and laying hay in the garden. She’s a champ. I pruned the unruly fig tree which required three different ladders, two saws and a large pair of pruning shears. My arms turned into limp noodles and by the end I’m sure my attempts to hack off the branches looked pretty pitiful. Joe worked hard on the fence lines all day, clearing up grass and strengthening the infrastructure. After our long day there was just enough time for a quick nap before our dinner of fresh hamburgers and ice cream.

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Thursday, July 17 2014

July 17th, 2014 Comments off

Beginnings and endings are so closely intertwined on a farm that you are continually moving from joy to sorrow, expectation to fulfillment, living to dying. This morning Ryan, Grandpa and I drove five minutes down the road to pick up our two bee nucs. They were brightly painted blue and orange boxes that didn’t appear to be anything special. But once we got them back to the farm and took off the lids, hundreds of little treasures flew out into the garden. We made up some sugar water for them to eat and hopefully they’ll settle in without too much trouble.

The garden is pretty much under control, but Megan still had to harvest the tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers. Even I’m starting to get tired of the endless abundance of yellow squash. You can only grill it, roast it, and stew it so many times before your taste buds can’t take any more. I think more zucchini bread might be in order.

Heidi is going to calve at any moment, and as our most rambunctious Jersey, separating her from her baby could be a challenge. Once the calf is born, we put it in the barn since we’ll be milking Heidi in the parlor. Megan will take it into the fold along with Midnight and Brambleberry so it will have friends right off the bat. Over the last couple days we’ve gotten calls from several people interested in buying milk from us, meaning that the extra milk will be welcome.

The bittersweet part of the day came when we all headed to Bandidos Mexican Restaurant in Hillsborough for Ryan’s last supper. He’s leaving early tomorrow for a three-day return trip to Wisconsin. We celebrated with good food, an appropriate way to end your stay at Woodcrest, including homemade strawberry honey ice cream. Not a bad way to say goodbye.

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Wednesday, July 16 2014

July 16th, 2014 Comments off

Finally, after weeks of preparation and anticipation, the bees are coming tomorrow. The timing couldn’t have been better, since Ryan leaves on Friday and he’s the one who wanted them in the first place. Megan, Shea and I cleared out the weedy patch behind the hoophouse while Noah fixed the weedwhacker. Ryan and Grandpa continued setting up more electrical circuits in the barn. While I made dinner, Shea and Ryan tidied up the compost pile. Heidi is due to have her calf any day now and the new lights in the lower half of the barn should make it easier to help her if the birth happens late at night. Stumbling around half asleep with flashlights isn’t the  ideal way to help a giant Jersey so the lights will definitely be an improvement.

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Tuesday, July 15 2014

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Not only are my grandparents closely involved in the details of life at Woodcrest, they are also intimately connected with their local community, meaning that Grandma woke up at 5 a.m. in order to fulfill her duties as Chief Judge of the polls. There was a run-off election today, and she didn’t get home until 9 this evening. Grandpa also headed off the farm to attend a seminar on raising meat chickens and rabbits. Noah and Ryan ran errands in Hillsborough: picking up supplies from Home Depot before swinging by a pizza place for lunch. The rest of us spent a stimulating day cleaning the barn and cooking dinner.

Before coming to the farm, it was way too easy to complain about summer rainstorms. They ruin cookouts, blue skies, and trips to the pool. But here I constantly hope for a heavenly drenching that waters the entire garden and bumps the heat gauge down a few degrees. Finally my wish was granted and we got our first thorough soaking this afternoon. Nothing beats rocking away on the front porch to the rhythm of rain on a tin roof. Instead of making us depressed, the gray skies created an ironic joy at the dinner table when Beth beamed at the thought of a break from the oppressive heat.

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Monday, July 14 2014

July 15th, 2014 Comments off

Monday’s to-do list included tearing out one garden, planting another, installing lights in the lower part of the barn, weedwhacking around the pasture, cleaning out the chicken cages, teaching sewing classes to second graders, everyday chores, working on the WWOOFhouse, pulling out giant thorny pigweed plants, hauling and chopping logs, getting the Aveo fixed, preparing seed trays, harvesting vegetables, picking up our beef from the “beauty parlor,” completing the barn bathroom, fixing up an antique tiller, working on electrical stuff in the barn, continuing preparation for the bees….and attending a wedding.

Our former WWOOFer and family friend Shuo (Rachel) Yang  is now Mrs. Jonathan Dymond. She was a glowing bride and promises to visit the farm as often as possible even though they’ll be moving to Charlotte soon.

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Sunday, July 13 2014

July 13th, 2014 Comments off

There is not much farm activity to report from yesterday, since I was either traveling to or getting sunburned at Carolina Beach all day long. We had a great time, aside from the fact that the gearbox on the Aveo started acting up about 15 minutes from the ocean and by the time we drove home only third and fourth gear were still functioning.

Our weekly Whole Foods shipment came this afternoon, and after digging through layers of wilted salads and spoiled milk, I found some slightly smashed muffins that tasted delicious. Several days ago, we got a call from the “beauty parlor” telling us that our beef will be ready for pick-up tomorrow. We just ran out of ground beef so the timing couldn’t be better. The latest Woodcrest WWOOFer arrived today from California, giving her the award for greatest travel distance within the lower 48. Shea Robinson is with us for several weeks and we look forward to acquainting her with life on the farm.

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Friday, July 11 2014

July 11th, 2014 Comments off

Due to our new guinea hen chicks, chores this morning consisted of running from rabbit cages to the pigeon palace to the chicken pen and back to feed the new arrivals. Sometimes I wonder why they can’t just feed and water themselves, but then I look into their blank and beady eyes and take pity on them. Walking into the pigeon palace is a harrowing experience. There’s nothing like having six pigeons produce gale-force winds inches above your head. Every time I step in to change their water I pray that I won’t get rained on by a downpour of bird poop. So far, so good, but I haven’t dodged the bullet yet. Maybe I should start taking an umbrella in with me.

Grandpa continued to put the finished touches on the WWOOFhouse and Joe weed whacked the entire property. The tractor also got stuck in the mud behind the garden, but he and Grandpa safely removed it without too much trouble. Ryan spent the day helping Uncle David remove counter tops while Megan and I ran errands and got library cards at the Hillsborough branch. We were probably too excited about it, but as I carried my large print edition of “The Help” out the door I felt like I had reached the final step in becoming a full-fledged member of the local community.

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Thursday, July 10 2014

July 10th, 2014 Comments off

The Woodcrest men had a very productive day. They spent a good chunk of it in the forge since Grandpa gave Joe and Ryan a blacksmithing lesson which yielded one retaining hook for the water hydrants the cows keep turning on (Colin), one sphynx-toed finial ladder hook (Ryan) and one gardener’s cupholder (Joe). Plus Grandpa fixed the clam rakes for the upcoming trip to Assateague. Meanwhile, Megan and I finished up school with the girls after Grandma left to teach. Our lesson consisted of baking oatmeal raisin cookies and dancing wildly around the kitchen while listening to the Frozen soundtrack. Needless to say, everyone was in a good mood, especially since we got a solid soaking today after weeks without rain. I was so happy I raced outside in my rain boots and jumped in the first good puddle I found.

Later in the afternoon, Joe cleaned out the old pigeon pens to make way for the baby chicks while Ryan built a new storage shelf above the kennels. Grandma brought a few new friends home with her from work: approximately a dozen guinea hen chicks. When they grow up, they’ll gladly eat every tick in sight and we’ll gladly endure their weird screeching noises in return for the free bug removal. Colin and Amber treated us to an incredible Chicken Tikka Masala dinner after which we sang old folk and church songs. With the rain falling outside, it made for a picture-perfect evening.

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Wednesday, July 9 2014

July 9th, 2014 Comments off

Although the sky was grey for most of the day, the clouds taunted us and only spilled a few drops of water late this afternoon, meaning Megan and I were back to hand watering this morning. My fingers were striped red from the bucket handle, but I didn’t trip. Ryan finished the storage area for the bees and Noah, Megan, and I helped him scrape off the hive boxes and frames.  They were covered with dead hive beetles and drips of honey that had hardened. Many of the frames still had old beeswax on them, and they smelled good enough to lick like a honey stick.  We now have a clear path between the kitchen and the milking parlor with neatly stacked bee equipment that no one will stumble over. Grandpa also tweaked some of the plumbing in the barn bathroom, and built a bed frame for the new WWOOFhouse in addition to rescuing a goat who managed to get her head stuck in the chicken feeding area (for the second time in two days).

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