Time to change…

Well, as anyone trying to follow this blog has realized, I’m no longer blogging.  This is because I’m working on a new book (Season of the Raven, a Servant of the Crown mystery set in 1194 and including some old friends :-D).  I have discovered that I can write fun stuff about farming or I can write chapters in the book, but I cannot do both.  More importantly, I have to get our new website up and going, including all of our farm products:  eggs, jams, jellies and vinegars.  We are now actively selling to a select clientele (that’s because we’re still really small) and, as Ed said the other day, we’re starting to feel like REAL farmers–not fakes.

I stopped feeling like a fake farmer after I slaughtered my first turkey.

Now that we’re real farmers, life is as crowded and busy as we could ever have imagined.  Ed’s up at 6:00am to feed and water our critters.  I’m up by seven starting some new cheese, making breakfast or working on writing chores.  We milk, I clean the milking machine and cream separator, Ed goes off to work on the fields, I make cheese, we miss lunch, I clean and sanitize the kitchen for the 10th time as I finish whatever cheese I’m working on that day, Ed feeds and waters critters, we milk Brighty for the second time in the day, I clean and sanitize the milker, feed the dogs and cats then make our dinner.  Ed falls asleep in his chair by no later than 8 pm and I start writing, working until midnight usually.

So…no time to blog but we’re LOVING the farming life.  There is nothing more satisfying than feeling connected to the earth every single day.  It’s a concept that finds its way into all my books because I think it was the root of humanity until these last two centuries when, for reasons buried deep in Western philosophy, the idea of that Nature was our enemy and needed to be conquered–mastered, as if we ever could–for our profit came to the forefront of our belief system.

So, for the foreseeable future I’m ending this blog to work on our farm site:  ourgreenacresaz.com, where I’ll be listing our products and produce as we create them.

Happy Green Living!

 

 

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The Lady Series

Just an FYI.  I’ve packaged my two Elizabethan novels as a set–The Lady Series–and the set will be free Sunday through Monday.  Click here and enjoy!

(Of course, if you’ve already read them it’s fine by me if you use the above link to either “Like” the set or leave a review.  Thanks!  :-D)

 

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Farm Helper

tango, our anatolian/great pyrenees mix

Tango, in the pose we most commonly see during the day

At last and as promised to so many of you, here are pictures of Tango, our new dog.  He is an Anatolian/Great Pyrenees cross and an all-around great dog.  He patrols the property all night, barking a lot and things like skunks (I’ve seen the tracks–and I told Ed that if he didn’t pick up the chicken food at night and store it that HE was going to have to bathe Tango should the dog get sprayed), racoons and that horrible, awful, very dangerous not-to-be-allowed-in-our-airspace Great Blue Heron.

Tango is FAST!  When he runs it’s like watching a cheetah move.  His previous owners told me they’d seen him outrun a coyote and turn back to catch the coyote by the throat.

tango on his feet

Tango, wondering why in the world I’m pointing that thing at him.

So why did his former owners need to find him a new home?  Well, I think because Tango really wants to be a pet.  He totally enjoys getting lots of touching and has taken one of Sedona’s beds as his own.  They had six other dogs and I don’t think he was getting the sort of attention he needed, thus he was taking off to visit their neighbors (a lot harder to do on 40 acres than our meager 8) for days at a time.  They were constantly worrying that he’d been killed…only to worry again when he got home that he might get killed when he took off again.

Yes, Tango has visited all our neighbors, but he’s home within a few minutes in most cases.  He’s careful to do his job every night in trade for good food, a good brushing now and then and a nice dog bed on the porch with Sedona.

That’s right, Sedona is now an outside dog, although Ed still protests that the massive furball is going to be cold at night.  She also has a new job: play with Tango, which she is doing very well and seems to be enjoying a great deal.  That may also be part of why Tango is working out so well here: he gets to be the leader of an all-girl pack consisting of Sedona, Cappuccino and Honey from next door.  He was never alpha in his previous pack.

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Farm Helplessness

This morning a coyote trotted boldly across our fields to snatch a Buff Orpington.  What was Sedona doing?  She was lying in her bed on the porch watching this “Nature Show” as if it were television.  Not a peep from her.   Now, I was dashing across the field armed with the nearest tool I could find (a rake…what I thought I was going to do with it hasn’t yet registered), screaming at the top of my lungs.  And Brighty?  Her hooves were flying as she protected the Buckeyes and the turkeys.

But that dog did nothing.  Ed, you’re on notice.  We are getting a farm dog, no ifs, ands or buts.  I will not stand helplessly by as varmints steal my critters.

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Farm Sadness

Little Surprise didn’t make it.  We called the vet when after an hour he hadn’t gotten to his feet.  When Dr. MacDonald came, he informed us that Surprise most likely had been born healthy and vital, but that coyotes or some other predator had gotten to him during the night. Leah remembers hearing the coyotes last night making a lot of noise.  I didn’t hear anything, and neither did Ed who had trouble sleeping last night.  Apparently the reason the calf was half out of the corral was because the predators had dragged him out.

The doctor suggested putting him down; we were all thinking about internal injuries.  Leah and I agreed.  Ed’s presently digging a hole for him while Brighty says her final goodbyes.

As Ed was putting the backhoe on the tractor to dig the hole, he said to me, “That’s farming.  You make one mistake and something dies.”  Of course, he blames himself but none of us knew she was THAT pregnant, not even the trained vet.  If we had, the coyotes wouldn’t have had a chance to get to him.

But I think Ed’s comment points to a terrible flaw in the way we think in our modern culture as compared to the Medieval people about whom I write.  They experienced death in some form, whether that of the animals they ate or the children who died so easily, every day .  Here in America, our culture actually entertains the idea of “defeating” death.  We keep our kids away from the funeral home for fear they’ll be traumatized but what is a natural and every day event.  In doing so, we’ve disconnected ourselves from REAL life and that’s a shame.

Still, poor little Surprise.

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OMG!

Brighty had a full term calf this morning and she’s still pushing. The vet is embarrassed. More to come??? (Pictures to follow)

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More fertility here on the farm

More Farm fertility.  Another 500 plus plants hit the soil today: spinach, beets and lettuce.  I put them in last spring’s lasagna garden, the one closest to the barn.  What had been bagged compost, straw and cardboard is now rich, black, wormy earth.  It was a joy kneeling in it, using my hand fork to set in the tiny seedlings.  It even smells good!

This may turn out to be a winter to remember, especially with that garden enclosed in plastic sheeting.  Wouldn’t it be something if I managed to keep the tomatoes until Christmas?

 

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Moo-zel Tov Brighty!

Farm Fertility!  Ralph the Bull did his job after all.  Brighty is with calf, due in late spring.

This is very good because we really weren’t looking forward to eating her.  Thanks Dr. MacDonald (really, that’s his name—his practice is EIEI-MacDonald).

 

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Seedlings

I spent the day turning empty garden beds into something more fruitful.  More than a 1000 plants went in today and that’s about half of what I need to plant.  Kale, spinach, lettuce, tatsoi, cabbage, more lettuce, beets, bok choi, more lettuce.  And I haven’t even gotten to seeds yet.

The worst of this is…it’s still hot during the middle of the day here.  I think I sunburned my neck.  Yuck.  I’m a REDNECK and I don’t make near as much money as Jeff Foxworthy.  Well, dang.  Then again, The Seasons Series–the box set of my first five books–is presently #5 on Amazon’s Free Kindle Bestseller list.

Imagine that happening while I’m plugging plant after tiny plant into garden beds gone loamy and black through worm work.  That’s enough to make me smile…and go find another bottle of Lambert Bridge Zinfandel to celebrate being sunburned in November!  (Of course I’d rather be drinking their Petit Verdot, but I’m out.  Shelby will send more soon I’m sure.)

Tomorrow: the barn garden.  1000 more lettuce plants to go.  If only there’s some way to keep the chickens from penetrating the bird netting and digging up my few cabbage plants!  Why they do that and avoid the other seedlings is beyond me…as is how they manage to find the tiny holes in the bird netting that let them into the garden.  Stop it, I say!

Blame this whole post on sunstroke in Arizona in November.

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Farm Miraculous!  After skinning the chickens the raccoon had left us–and learning that hens have a fascinating ovarial contraption for producing eggs, I started into a day of gardening with Leah, who’s taking over our bucket garden.  While we were working on refreshing the watering system, Leah glanced at the ditch and cried out, “Otters!”

There, bouncing and playing in the water near the orchard was the mama otter and her four babies.  Although four of them scattered when they realized we were looking, one stayed back and eyed us as if curious about what we were doing at the top of that strange hill.  It floated on its back in the water, blinking up at us.  Where was the camera when I needed it?!

It was a little gift to make up for what was taken earlier in the day.

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