Friday, November 30, 2007

Garden Rant

HEY dear readers!

I am ranting today at Garden Rant. Go check it out.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On apostacy

Me, outstanding in my (septic) field: view from Mont Merde
Apostacy: from Greek αποστασία, meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "standing"

I understand dogma, I understand rules. Rules are out there for many very good reasons: for social cohesion, for safety, for clarity. Dogma is an interesting nut. It throws rules and religion (or at the very least, orthodoxy) into the works.

What does it mean to cheat, though? Cheating has been a purely academic exercise for me for a while now. There is nothing that stirs me up enough that I feel I need to cheat at it. There is nothing in my life (and I consider myself highly fortunate to have achieved this state) that I wish to cheat on, or from. No strictures, no bridles, no ties from which I wish to loosen myself, nothing that I feel I am denied or in want of that I need to bend, or break, life's rules to get, or to achieve. Again, I feel fortunate.

But (and there is ALWAYS a "but")...but, in this life I lead now of living with less, in so doing, I am continually restricting my access to "the great more" that is out there. I cut up my credit cards before I went to grad school. That was nearly twenty years ago, so I suppose I am out of the habit of credit spending; should I go out and get one, and go wild? Should I buy a gas-guzzling vehicle, just because I have denied myself the pleasure of driving one, these last ten years that I have had my miserly one? Should I leave a light on all night? Should I plug the dryer back in?

Should I eat meat again?

Ah. There is the rub. We're plumbing the depths of my own personal orthodoxy. I have been a vegetarian for, what is it now, either 15 or 16 years. A long time, in other words. I have been a vegetarian on moral grounds: I really did not think anything needed to die to keep me alive. (And yes, that, like any orthodoxy, is hairsplitting: how many poor little fieldmice and bunnies had to die to cultivate my grain and bean meals?) My main reason for it is I just did not want to eat anything that had been badly treated, and let's face it, the vast majority of the meat animals in this country have lives of horror and pain. I just couldn't turn a blind eye to CAFOs and continue to enjoy a rare steak.

But now, now in this world, there are animals that have been humanely raised, pasture fed, living their lives out the way they naturally would have lived, or at least how they'd lived on farms of 100 years ago. And this meat is available widely, if you look.

My new dogma, or rather my walking papers, are another big nut: local eating, low impact lifestyle, thrift, living close to the land, doing things ourselves, permaculture. I grow my own food, I raise my own chickens for eggs. This spring, I will raise my own chickens for meat. Turkeys too, and maybe ducks.

What has come over me? A hard look at our household, that is what. I'm looking at things like the nutritional needs of a growing child. I am looking more to traditional foods. I am also looking at the fossil fuels that are expended to continue to supply my Michigan-based vegetarian diet. Some studies have stated that omnivorous lifestyles actually use less land than pure vegetarian ones do...and that is intriguing, in these trying times. I am all about having a smaller footprint on this earth.

I am often asked if I ever really missed eating meat in all those flesh-free years. Yes, I did cheat on occasion: our annual family clambakes were my once-a-year binge on molluscs, and there were times I tried bites of things off others' plates. But I never went through Wendy's drive-thru or anything. (Bleck, the idea gives me the willies, frankly.) It just did not appeal; my life, and my palate, were well sated on the diet I have had.

But it is with some reluctance that I here admit that I have become an apostate to the vegetarian lifestyle. We are now practicing a diet of meat from one animal every other week or so. I usually stretch things far, so the beast's sacrifice is spread over many different meals. It is my goal to know the animals I will kill and eat. But now, we are only eating animals from farms we have visited, from farmers we know. We have seen them alive. In a couple of cases, like our turkey, I have seen them killed. For our family, for our life here, this is just enough syncretism to make complete sense to me: occasional meat-eating is the answer, frankly, to the trajectory of the life that has led me to this farm.

Floral wonder

We had a HUGE dinner of just salad last night. It is getting mighty cold, so up came all the greenery that was still hanging on out in the gardens (I had it under some Reemay) and into the kitchen it went. Slight frost damage, but otherwise, yum.

Today, though? Today? VERY cold out there. That snow is gone, as I mentioned...but now it is a crackling 28*. I went to the garden after feeding those chilly chickens this morning, and was surprised by the blooms I found. Calendula is quite amazing. Though after today, it will be gone, too. (Big sigh.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Girl in the plastic bubble

View from my chair: yes, it's gray. It's winter in Michigan after all.

Three o'clock in the afternoon on Sunday: I had finished my chores, so I went back in the house, poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed a book, and went back into the greenhouse. It is a bit early to be hitting the sauce, admittedly, but I had lots to celebrate. My greenhouse was 98% finished, 100% enclosed.

Sssh! Plants are sleeping: double-coverage this morning. Chair in middle, fig trees wrapped up, 6 of the 8 raised beds in view

I was warned that there is not much to do in a cold-frame greenhouse in the wintertime except harvest. And wait. Seems I will do a lot of waiting, watching that produce grow. (I am okay with that, really I am.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Winter slinks in, slinks back

Penny loves the snow

It was quite beautiful, looking out the steamy kitchen window on Thanksgiving day, watching those fluffy snowflakes fall. I knew it was coming. It was Lake Effect snow: a rather common occurrence around here. I was surprised, on moving here and practicing architecture, that the requirements for roof members (structures) weren't more stringent: our average winter will see something like 70-80" of snowfall. But the reason they're not so tough? The stuff melts. Quickly.

And so it is, looking outside today: I knew the ground wasn't frozen yet, and that 5" of snow didn't have a chance to stick around. The chickens and guineas are happy. They see their precious grass again, and they've found their dirt-bath dirt. About every half hour I am scared witless by ice crashing from the house roof onto the porch roofs (metal roofs on all both expedite and amplify this effect).

I step outside and look toward the back of the property, looking northeast. The leaves have finally fallen off the trees, and the world is still white, at least for a little while. I hear the roof dripping, and I smell...I smell nearly nothing, just that great outdoor fresh-air smell. No vegetative funk, no burning leaves, just the winter air. I can just hear the sound of the lake's waves crashing, but I need to strain to hear it.

This snow will go. We'll get one more grass cutting/leaf pickup done, probably within two weeks, and then we'll steady ourselves for winter in earnest, when the snow comes and stays.

And if I grow to miss that smell of vegetation, I will just need to step into the greenhouse to smell it again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

First snow

Pauline and the guineas, unhappy with the white stuff
First snow for the new chickens and guineas. The guineas were not pleased, and spent half the morning voicing their complaints.

First snow means of course first snow man

And the first snow means I can still get my gardening jones fixed, as it was toasty and warm in here. I need to compose a sonnet, describing my love of this greenhouse.

100 Mile Thanksgiving (burp)

Whee! Loosen that belt!

--Roasted butternut squash soup (my squash, veg stock, nonlocal butter and curry powder)
--Salad from the greenhouse and what is still out there in the snow
--20.75 lb. hen turkey from Providence Farms, roasted with home herbs under her skin (parsley, rosemary, winter savory, thyme and sage)
--Giblet gravy with a white wine reduction
--Mashed homegrown Russet potatoes with homemade yogurt and nonlocal butter
--Stuffing, both in and out of the bird, with my usual bread and cornbread and celery from here; onions, parsley, sage, thyme homegrown; Maldon salt and homemade vegetable stock
--Brussels sprouts: my two, plus one more stalk from Eaters' Guild
--Roasted root veggies: my few cute sweet potatoes, fennel, turnips and small white onions in a balsamic glaze
--Mashed rutabagas at my mother's insistence
--Caramelized local chestnuts
--Corn spoon bread with local corn (canned by me in August) and Bloody Butcher cornmeal from here; eggs from our girls, veg stock from home
--Cranberry sauce with sugar from the Thumb (+100 miles, but Michigan grown!)
--Applesauce from our trees and that Thumb sugar
--Pumpkin pie and an apple pie (homegrown pumpkins and apples) with flour from here and nonlocal butter in the crust.
--Local wine and homegrown grape juice for toasting

We had eight people, and today we've not got a lot of leftovers, except that huge turkey, which is today destined for sandwiches and soup.

I feel rather pleased that I was able to provide all the vegetables except two. Next year, we are venturing into Turkey Land ourselves (and some meat chickens, too) so I will hopefully be able to reduce the food miles even more. And I keep threatening to get a milk cow for that demon butter I am so very fond of, but that's just me dreaming.

I hope you all had a wonderful, delightful, thankful holiday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cheapo garlic

Some naturalized cloves

Have you planted your garlic yet?

Like spring bulbs, garlic cloves are planted in the fall in this part of the world. My garlic is planted: I made a fairly large purchase from Filaree Farm last year, and saved some good-looking heads from this year's harvest to set out this fall. (Getting bulbs from a local farmer's market is also an idea: if they grow for them, they'll grow for you. Just make sure you ask if THEY have grown them!) But making a big purchase is not the only way to go about getting garlic.

Now, to be frank, growing big, beautiful heads of garlic is not always an easy thing to do. I'm getting rather boring by repeating how tough my clay soil is on most things, but let's just add garlic to that list, too, okay? But if big garlic is what you are after, then by all means buy your seed garlic from a knowledgeable place like Filaree: the catalog is long, and they will gladly make suggestions to you regarding your area. And growing place-appropriate garlic is important. Most of the allium family are sensitive to day length, so that store-bought California stuff will just not do all that well for you in Indiana. It's not you, in other words, it's the garlic!

But as I have mentioned here before, I just do not like waste. And occasionally, some of the kitchen's cloves will sprout, turning into rank little sulfur bombs as they do. My solution? Stick the danged things into a corner of the garden, and let them do their thing. They won't get big, they will spread (nicely, though), and...voila, instagarlic. I find I use it as green garlic, and I readily snip off the greens for a salad or soup topping, and, well, I will harvest a minihead and pound the snot out of it in the mortar just because.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On things going well in the garden

Par-cel cutting celery and wildling garlic greens

Two days in the garden can do wonders for one's spirits. (One's back, though? Ouch!)

There is much still green in the vegetable beds. It dips below freezing nightly now, so I am a bit surprised by all the photosynthetic fireworks still out there. The above has been my "new favorite thing," and really, something THIS green and showy, so late in the year? It's a tonic.

And it has been used as a tonic, too. This stuff is definitely more celery than parsley, taste-wise, but is used more like parsley, chop-it-up-wise: its leaves are a little stiff, but do cook down easily. I have planted oodles of it, and it's a good thing, too, as it's been the green of choice for all those jars of vegetable stock sitting in rows downstairs. I just adore it. It will go into the mounds of stuffing I am making for Thursday's big pig-out.

I didn't find it too tough to sprout, though I did plant it indoors very early, with the Italian flat-leafed parsley. It's a biennial, so...I only expect to get to use it through the winter; once the sun comes back in earnest next spring, it'll shoot into flower. But then again, I will have a bunch of seedlings to set out, and so it goes...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On the efficacy of tears

Thank you all for your warm sentiments. I appreciated the cyber-hugs!

Gardens, in the scheme of things, are nothing to cry over. I didn't lose my job, I didn't lose a loved one in a war, I don't have an incurable disease. Those, frankly, are great reasons to cry.

My first thought, honestly, when I was pulling out the posts for the chicken fence were this: what's with the waterworks? Is this The Change Of Life? So even among the tears, I am always laughing at myself.

I'll tell you this, though: when Tom came back inside from talking with the propane guy, and heard me sobbing, he freaked OUT.

So, today, my task list is especially long. That chicken run needs to be put back up, as those happy birds again have free range, but they're easy targets for the hawks. The damage needs to be assessed in the herb garden. Compaction is a bigger problem than just getting smashed: this clay soil becomes positive concrete when it's run over. I think the only loss, as far as Thanksgiving is concerned, is the sorrel: it is ripped to shreds. And the fence needs to be put back up around the herb garden. And then there's all that other stuff I need to do.

I'm time-crunched is all. Considering I adore having lots to do in the gardens, you'd think getting one uprooted and another run over would be seen as opportunities by me!!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

On tears

I did something yesterday that I never do. I cried.

Yes, I am normally very much a tough cookie, and am not easily given over to much sentimentality or, indeed, to tears of any kind. My first reaction is usually anger. It's a wave, usually, of red-eyed steaminess that, with much social grace and coaching I have tamed to...well, at least a deep intake of breath before I blow my top.

And gardens are nothing to cry over, in the big scheme of things, but...

...the propane gas guy HAD to drive right over the kitchen herb garden yesterday. And I cried. I cried A LOT.

What the hell is THIS about, I wondered?

I guess it started with having to get our well replaced. I had to move a whole bed of perennials in order for that to happen. Have they moved back? No. Has the bed been reaugmented with lots of organic matter and new soil? No. Is the front yard still a clay-filled unsightly mess? Yes, why, yes it is!

So, what's with the propane guy? Is the driveway all of a sudden not big enough for him? Well, welcome, friends, to the joys of country living, where all services (electric, gas, water, sewer, trash, internet) are YOUR responsibility!!! There IS no city or township or county system to plug into. Propane is only (thankfully) used to heat up the hot water heater, and the dryer, which now sits unused. So our propane tank, a small lovely looking R2D2 thing outside the basement door, sprung a leak. You would walk outside and think: 'did something die under the back porch? By Dog it stinks out here.' So the whole tank had to be replaced, and he had to drive a big truck back there and boom the old tank out, new tank in. This required that I first remove the chicken fencing, remove the decorative fence around the garden, take one of the clotheslines down, and then go inside and cry.

(I should say I harbor absolutely no malice toward our propane guy. He is, though maybe 10 years younger, and sporting a 'I Heart Jesus' keychain, a dead ringer for Michael Moore. He is actually quite a sweet man, and he felt horrible about the garden.)

What's with the tears? I guess it is because I have absolutely no time to redo what has been undone. The greenhouse is only now just enclosed, the other gardens need to be put to rest, the compost needs to be made, leaves raked, chicken coop windows reinstalled, etc. etc. etc. No time for extras. So thus, I cry. It's the overwhelming hopelessness that I remember as a child: I have no power over this situation, these tears say. It's not a comfortable feeling.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

One week countdown

Thank you NYTimes

Anyone else out there experiencing a tiny bit of pre-Thanksgiving panic?

I guess it started on Tuesday night, when my mother came over for dinner. She began to grill me (lightly) about what she can do, what the menu was, what I had in the garden or in storage that she could take home with her that night to make ahead: I blanched. "I haven't gone down that path yet," I told her after I could breathe normally again.

You see, for we non-religious types, Thanksgiving is a high holiday. Scratch that: it is THE high holiday, as it celebrates food and companionship above all else. Last year, I did the 100-Mile Thanksgiving, and it was quite fun, quite festive, quite a bit of work on my part...but according to our guests, it was also quite tasty. This year I expect the same. Our one exception to the 100 miles is (as ever) butter.

So it is a week away, and I have begun my planning. We pick up our bird on Saturday; she is not a heritage breed, though next year our meat friends have conservancy on their agenda. I have found a new farm for flour and cornmeal. Wine and cider come from down the road. Most other things are coming out of the garden. Our few sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts will be lovingly prepared. I have already begun to cut up, dry, and freeze any leftover bread, biscuits and cornbread we've had for the future stuffing. I even found a source for local cranberries, something that was missing at last year's table.

So, why the panic if I have all the goods? I don't know. Maybe because I have to work on Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Canning season is finally finished

"Aack, what IS that? You're KILLING me," says Tom, coming down the stairs to the kitchen. I am scraping off the top layer of sauerkraut from the crock in which it had been fermenting.

So that three heads of cabbage that I chopped and salted in late September have yielded six quarts of sauerkraut. Personally, I thought it was a tad salty coming out of the crock, but the canning instructions said to add some fresh water to the warming pot, so actually the kraut is quite tasty. (You heat the kraut to boiling before you ladle it into the waiting canning jars. Then, it's processed in the pressure canner for about 20 minutes at 10 pounds' pressure.) It's crunchy and somewhat briny and definitely has that cabbage stink that makes my husband gag.

Tom, in no uncertain terms, has stated it will not be eaten if it finds its way onto his plate. (He's such an ingrate, isn't he?) But me? I'm a convert! Bring on the stinky stuff!

But gone now, until next year, is the metallic click and tonk of the cooling jars of goodies. Away, downstairs on a high shelf, now sit the ceramic crock, the monster pressure canner, and the small boxes of the screw-down lids. Two of the three food mills, the big water bath canners, and the extra bowls and scrapers too have made the trip downstairs. And do I have enough food, do I think I was successful in putting up enough victuals to feed us?

I might have to find a way to disguise the sauerkraut, though.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fencing as a state of mind

We fenced up the chickens recently, enclosing them in a large area of the yard behind some deer netting.

Last week, I was harvesting more spuds, this time in the greenhouse beds. The greenhouse is adjacent to the chickens' area. Bloody Beatrice let me know that, in no uncertain terms, their cage is really just a state of mind. She saw that I was digging up the dirt, and therefore had to join me.

The chickens were very young last year when they learned that a kneeling me with a trowel in my hands means there are worms and other goodies to be had. I have never been able to dissuade them otherwise. It's actually fairly amusing. It makes things like bulb-planting rather difficult (last year I had four birds vying for the gleanings). But I do enjoy the company.

And within no time, Beatrice's sister Bonnie made her way through the fence to "help" me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dirty progress

Getting a lot accomplished with a small child around can sometimes be a challenge.

Lucky for us, we have no fear of dirt, and neither does the kid. So while her parents worked on the greenhouse, our kid tricked out my 4+ yards of topsoil, Three Little Pigs style.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This will be a short autumn I fear

So the time to fritter and waste, thinking the cold weather will not hit us, has come and gone. I wasn't completely lax in my outdoor tasks, but there still is a large to-do list around here that needs to be checked off, item by item, before the snow comes for good.

Yes, snow. We've had our first blast of it: scatterings on the grass, peltings of hail on the windows.

I had another of my juicy rationalizations the other day: I can kid myself, being teased by sunshine and a wind-less day here and there, but winter is nigh at hand and the season for growing has finished for the year. The lawn furniture needs to be put away, the hammock taken down (always a sad day). My juicy rationalization is this: I am still gardening, a lot, and won't be prohibited from doing so until the ground freezes solid...something that doesn't happen until December 1st or so. And gardening for me begins around St. Patrick's Day, with peas, onions, and potatoes going in the ground, so: that's only, what, a little over three months of no gardening? Not bad!

But now, I scurry about, mostly with the trusty wheelbarrow. I am augmenting the existing beds in an effort to avert the flooding problems that befell the gardens this last August. The beds need to have lots more organic matter in them; the resident clay holds too much water. First I clear and weed the beds (if necessary), then I put down 2"+ dried grass mulch, then 3" new dirt, then 2"+ mostly not finished compost, then 2" dirt, then another 2" of chopped leaves and grass. (I have not forked up the existing ground; I know the worms and microbial friends will move upward, devoring what they find and doing the forking for me.) It is a lot of work, but it is fun to do in the early morning before work. Breathing is important when slinging shovels-full of dirt: I don't get winded, but it's nice, in the cold air, to feel a little sweaty.

I've always said gyms are for people who don't have farms!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stalking the Amish

I said I was going to stay away from religion in this blog, but today I am making an exception.

My friend Michele is a writer. This summer, in Ohio, she had a week to kill between dropping off and picking up her daughter and niece at summer camp, so she decided to avail herself of some of the local Amish community.

"Thinking I will learn something, I visit Amish country. Sure enough, there is nothing to do. As promised, I see people in buggies and on bicycles. I see boys fishing in ponds. I see people walking up and down roads. Everyone seems cheerful. I find a windmill maker, a birdhouse maker, a chair maker, a broom maker. None seem particularly anxious to sell anything.

In Yoder's store, where I buy a few hand-drawn coloring books, there is a small index card with writing, in script: 'Newlywed Special. 10% off furnishings for all newlyweds, to set up your new house. To be used by your first anniversary.' There are cups, and bowls, and plates, and coffeepots. There are dishtowels, and trivets. There is, in this small set of rooms where the only sound is that of a ticking clock, everything one could need for a house."

So I asked Michele about her experiences. Had she gone specifically to learn something, or had she gone merely to observe? Is she, as I asked her pointedly, a seeker?

No, she said, she is not a seeker. There is a Buddhist phrase she asked me if I knew of: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, haul water. After enlightenment, chop wood, haul water." In other words, do things one at a time; they need to be done. She went looking to see if the Amish live their lives one task at a time. She did not come away with one answer.

I am struck by the image of that general store. It was not the Town Square general store of our minds a la Little House on the Prairie; it was a man's house, a few rooms of which were devoted to commerce. Can you imagine finding all you need to set up your house and live your life in one store? Sure, Target or Wall*Wart fit the bill, and, of course there are charity second-hand stores like Goodwill that could, too. But the idea of parsing your life down from what you want to what you only need? Now there, there is a thought to live by.

I believe we all find something inspiring in a willful existence. Unplugging from the hurly-burly craziness of 21st century life for an 18th century one sounds appealing to those of us trying to declutter and simplify our lives. It may not be THE answer, but there is something small there to learn. Chop wood...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

On failures, part two

I should clarify what I meant in my last post about failures. It's a failure of expectations.

Here is an example. Today was one of those nice cool fall days, perfect for garden work. I had a long task list but encountered too many obstacles to complete even half the list. For one, the wheelbarrow's wheel was underinflated, a fact I noted but did not stop to do anything about until, when it was fully loaded with dirt, I turned it hard and the tire completely deflated. Ahem. (This is one of those tube-less tires: the only way to refill it is to take it to a mechanic.) Considering I had lots to do with that wheelbarrow, I was rather peeved. Off came the wheel, and off it went with the husband to get reinflated.

So I undertook a bit of chopping therapy, dispatching old broccoli plants into tiny pieces for the compost. It helped me get back on track. And, if you breathe correctly, chopping with a machete is something you can do for a long time...or, well, at least I can. WHACK!

Here's the thing about crop failure. I *understand* crop failure. But crop failure, as a black and white concept, is fairly rare in a vegetable garden as varied as mine is. In other words, yes, I can and do expect reduced yield, but seldom is something completely written off. I did find a sweet potato or two today. Not the buckets I had expected, but really, it can't be a complete failure if I found a meal.

I have set out to produce everything we eat, year-round. This doesn't mean I have fields of wheat or corn, oats and rice in the back forty. What I do have is a full freezer, sagging shelves of canned goods and a somewhat wimpy cold cellar of stuff that I can grow. I have fallen short in the onions department, and it was a crummy year for the cole crops. Certainly, we will not starve; we could probably live on potato/leek soup all winter (with no exaggeration, such is my love of spuds and leeks). The winter garden is mainly greens: someone once said that at $5 a box of organic greens, my cold frame will pay for itself in a season, and...well, let's just say it will take two seasons.

For me, it is a moral imperative, this growing of stuff on our land. I have the land, I have the knowledge, I have the will. That I harvested only one broccoli romanesco means that that one plant was like Thanksgiving turkey: so celebrated was it, so lovingly prepared, so savored. (My two remaining Brussels sprout plants will actually BE Thanksgiving fare.) I am ever grateful I have the opportunity and the health to go out and bust up the sod, to coax stuff into being for our plates. I am sad when things don't grow well, that the critters or the weather lays waste to something. But I truly believe that this little thing I can do, using just my own sweat, is greatly helping the health of those I love...and the reduction of CO2 that growing things here instead of getting them from California helps this planet, and all of you, that I love, too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

On failures

Entire sweet potato harvest eaten by voles.

Another personality trait of mine (seeing as I seem to be throwing them around a lot lately) is I am the last person to ever admit I was wrong. Wait: Scratch that. I am prone to glossing over my failures. (There, that's much more truthful.)

This hasn't helped me in all situations, which is understandable. As a contributing member of The Working World, I realized early that admitting fault was actually an admirable trait, especially in one both young and female (in the old and male profession of architecture, that is). Now? Now I am past young, and am past the peculiarities of my chosen profession. Now, though, I wonder about the educational value of failure.

As humans, we learn by failing. It starts when we have the barest grasp of any ability. Fail to cry, fail to get soothed and fed: it's an easy cause/effect lesson to learn as an infant. But perhaps the word "failure" is an awkward one on our tongues, as it is on mine: perhaps the word I should be using is more enabling, more encouraging, more...more of a soft landing. Like mistakes, like simple error.

In the mail last week I received my loaned-out copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The friend to whom I had loaned it is my best friend from college: she has just moved to the wilds of Athens, Georgia, and has recently voiced a putative interest in locavoreism. So I was curious what she thought of the book. "Not enough stories of failure," said she. And it was true: this book, though wonderful, does gloss over the difficulties their family had in securing local food. Excepting turkey sex, this is a story of successes.

Failure on the farm is an easy prospect. With little knowledge and less skill, one can rapidly go through lots of money and time. Add to this the fickleness that is weather, one can lose whole crops of things. Failure, then, if it does nothing for the farmer, at least makes good copy: it makes an interesting story. Giants in the Earth this is not, though; I am no Ma Ingalls. My family's very existence is not dependent upon my ability to extract things from our soil. But, without hubris, I can fairly say my family's lives are made more interesting by the giants I find in our earth.

But failure, here on my own farm? Well! Take a glimpse at the mostly empty root cellar. (It's the uninsulated back stairwell to the basement. A nice feature, incidentally, and an easy if inadvertent coldcellar.) NO Brussels sprouts, no Napa cabbage, just a few onions, no mounds of carrots. All these lovelies rotted in the ground in our wet, wet August with our heavy, icky soil. It's the Brussels sprouts I most miss; at the time of the loss, I was well on my way to having my largest crop ever of 8 purple and 24 green plants. I have done what I can to secure their replacements from other local organic farms, and have no fear that we'll starve. But am I disappointed? Damn straight I am.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On fencing

Verloe: Hey, what gives?

We locked up the chickens yesterday. It took about two hours to string 250' of fencing. Now, will it keep the hawks out? Hard to tell. It'll keep the chookies in, though, which is very much the point.

But don't feel too bad for them: I would have been OH so happy if I had half as big a yard as they do when I was a city person.