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Archive for July, 2014

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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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 ┬áideal way to help a giant Jersey so the lights will definitely be an improvement.

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Tuesday, July 15 2014

July 15th, 2014 Comments off

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 ┬áis 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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