Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Was Thinking of You

I find it funny, and a sign of my age, that so many daily tasks are accompanied by a memory of a person I have little or no contact with; sometimes they're dead and sometimes they're just lost to time. Still, it's funny.

For example, I spend MANY hours mowing; I use a tractor, a lawn tractor and a push mower. I am mowing my yard and I am mowing behind the cow and I am mowing to control seed heads in the pasture. As I mow- every single time- I think of the grouchy neighbor who lived across the street when I was growing up and I think of the boy I liked in junior high. They both said that if my family would just mow the yard, it would get denser and we would have a lawn. No one had the emotional space to do that when I was young, but now, I keep hoping they were right. I keep hoping that if I mow that pasture, it will get denser.

I have thought of these two people so many times since I started trying to be a grass farmer that I keep thinking, "I should write about that." Then, yesterday, another ghost of memory haunted me.

I was spraying diluted milk on the back pasture. I did it in May when the grass was just coming on; that's supposed to be the best time, but I don't figure it'll do any harm now and we're awash in milk. It's a slow process, but kind of pleasant. I have a borrowed pump style sprayer. So I put the diluted milk in the sprayer, then I pump it, then I spray and walk a little, then I pump it, then I spray and walk. It's quiet, it's nice to focus so much attention on the pasture to see what's actually happening, it's nice to be outside. And, it looks like it has indeed increased the density, but I'm sure it hasn't hurt anything.

There I was, lugging that two gallon sprayer, moving slowly down the hill, and I paused at the fruit trees. I thought, "What the hell- TK said his grandmother put milk on the leaves of her plants," and I sprayed the trees. Then, I could see Mrs. Bullard, my 9th grade English teacher, with her stillness and her bustle and her metal sign she shook for the thunder in MacBeth. I could see her frustration with TK, who always had something to add and whose essays were always too long. The happy memory accompanied me for the rest of my work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life With Tractor

The thing about the tractor is that we always are looking for ways to use it. The farm is small enough that the tractor is in a marginal area of usefulness. Usually what happens is I say, "We need to do this job," and Jason says, "Let's use the tractor!"

So, the other day we were taking the bedded pack material from Chappy's stall. Throughout the winter and even most of last fall, we did not clean out her stall; we just added bedding on top of it leaving it to compost in place. In case you are not getting a clear notion here, that means heaps of packed straw and hay.

Jason thought the tractor was the best way to move it, and he had a good point. The bedding is heavy and if you could lift it out with the bucket, you might be saving your shoulder for another year or two. By hand, the bedding had to be thrown into the back of the truck then gotten out of the back of the truck and into the pile. The bucket meant you could lift and dump.

The problem is that you cannot really get the tractor into the barn, much less into Chappy's 7x10 stall.

Plan B was to move the bedding by hand (manure fork) from the stall to the bucket and then drive the tractor with the filled bucket to the dump spot. However, it took two of us a solid half hour to fill the back of the pickup with manure forks. It took me about five minutes to fill the tractor bucket all by myself. I hope that gives you some sense of the different volumes involved.

Now imagine our very sandy soil and a piece of big equipment, either a truck or a tractor, driving back and forth however many times it takes to empty the stall. Obviously, the truck is much more efficient when you consider the number of trips necessary.

And while we were working all this out, we detached the rough cut mower from the tractor; if you haven't done this, then you have no notion of what kind of exercise in frustration it is. We are not sure if we're just incompetent or if tractor implements are deliberately exasperating so that your sense of accomplishment is met before you even turn the tractor on. We wonder if either of us knew diddlysquat about tractors or grew up using one whether we would know the magic trick to getting the mower off and on the PTO attachment and hitch. We have learned that there is no finesse and a sledgehammer comes in handy.

Sadly, when Jason was moving the tractor so that the detached mower would not look abandoned in the middle of the field, he ran the bucket into the barn wall. He did not even manage to poke the hole into the part of the wall that would have made cleaning Chappy's stall easier.

Once the wall was fixed and the mower detached, we abandoned the idea of using the tractor and were able to use the pickup truck to remove all the bedding with time left to bathe before we went on our date.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not So Sentimental

No, really, I'm not. Occasionally, though, something will just hit me.

Jason and I went on a date the other day. We had had a few lovely hours of finishing sentences and quiet interludes. We were headed home and driving through a resort town.

In Vermont, not only do pedestrians have the right of way, but there are signs everywhere reminding you of this fact. Add to that that Vermont drivers mostly seem more polite than other driver stereotypes I'm familiar with, so they notice a person waiting to cross, and they stop. All of this is to say that on this idyllic, late spring evening in a town bursting with out-of-state vacationers, traffic was moving very slowly.

There was a family of four waiting to cross. The children were probably 14 and 17. A cluster of people just in front of them crossed, but they hesitated. So, we stopped completely and maybe even waved them across. They stepped quickly from the verge and the mother swept her hand back and down- you know the gesture. But no one took her hand. Then, she glanced down at her hand in confusion as if she wasn't quite sure what she was doing, and they crossed the street.

My own hands suddenly felt so empty.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flowers and such


Blackberries blooming

Volunteer cucurbit on the manure pile

Bleeding heart in a weird place

Ezra's pansies

Yellow flag

Volunteer cosmos?

Bad, bad bindweed looks like morning glory

Little white flowers just transplanted, forgot name

Can't remember, but they smell good

Newly transplanted purple irises

and white

red and white clover, so happy!

Black eyed susan

Morning glory, not bindweed

I think these might be my very favorite

Forget me Not
Don't know, but we have alot in two colors


The lovely Johnny Jump Up

Roses that showed up last year after the pine trees were gone.

Are there buttercups in Texas?

Roses planted last year have blossoms

Found this rose last year; it's flourishing here. Does it need a trellis?

The girls each have a geranium

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Carrots and Zinnias
 The greenhouse is looking good. I have made mixed beds as much as I feel like I can. It seems I've planted 86 tomatoes- more than fifty here and the rest in the garden. All the cardboard will be covered, but I need leaves or burlap. The paths will be covered with cardboard, then something more attractive over that. I dug trenches around the perimeter which we will eventually fill with pea gravel both to handle water that collects there and to store heat.
Tomatoes are the most obvious thing

But there's also cucumber, celeriac, and calendula here.

Here we have lambs quarters, carrots, broccoli, borage, and kale

Borage, tomatoes, and broccoli

beets and broccoli

This is watermelon and there are a couple of cantalope vines in another bed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Garden Plants

This borage is a volunteer, one of many. I was warned borage would do this, but I love how it looks and it's a good companion for potatoes and tomatoes. I've decided to appreciate it's self-seeding tendencies. It also means I do not have to start it; I can just transplant the volunteers.

See all the volunteers! See the tomato? Oh happy tomato!

Cucumber, lettuce, sunflowers, some day pole beans!

Chives in flower

Brussels Sprouts with onions and daisies


Rhubarb in flower; they smell bad

Beans and hot peppers

Beets coming up

Gilfeathers I'll have to thin

These butternuts may fill this bed if I can kill their predator

Potatoes, cabbage, peas in the background, cardboard mulching underway

Cabbage, fennel, tomatoes

Phaedra's radishes

One of my favorites

Black Raspberries are coming
Salad, chard, yarrow, bronze fennel, parsley, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, Oh My!

Peas are Blossoming