Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 9-29

While Fall means harvest season and a lot of long hard work hours to some farmers…around here the shortening days and lack of light mean that we need to shift gears and get into cool weather (winter) mode. 
Unlike the big farms that grow grains, we plant and harvest year-round.  Our year-round harvest means year-round income, but it also demands a lot of creative thinking and more than a little planning.

Romanesco Broccoli
There is still much that can be harvested in the gardens, although the cool temperatures slow the ripening process considerably. 
This is a yellow ZUCCHINI
Yes, it really is a zucchini...and it stays yellow
Isn't it pretty?

Hundreds of little plants are growing steadily in the greenhouses before they go to their new homes in the hoophouses where they will provide fresh greens for weekly harvest throughout the Winter. We hope to get that completed this week.
this variety is known for its red veined leaves
even when they're smaller than my finger

The garlic for fall planting arrived the other night.  It is just beautiful!  We don’t always buy new seedstock, but this year with the wet Spring, our garlic crop wasn’t the best.  So we’ll start fresh this fall and hopefully late next June, we will be harvesting some beautiful bulbs ourselves.

As a little aside here, I was at the barn when I heard the FedEx truck coming up the lane.  Since we were expecting the garlic delivery (yay 21st century technology of internet tracking) I figured I’d carry it down to the house while I was outside.  When I got to the gate, the FedEx guy was still there talking to the dog and watching her wolf down the dog biscuits that he offered.  “hey, where’s your other dog?”  …and I explained the story of Jed-the-dog.  He offered his condolences and we stood and talked about dogs/dog bites and other random stuff for a few minutes before he wished me well and headed on his way, waving and grinning as he pulled out of the lane.  You know, that’s one of the things about life out here…other people care…and let you know about it.  Maybe it’s the FedEx guy, or the Post Office lady or the folks at the feedstore…it could be anybody. It’s one of the best parts of life in the country.

Since I know you're wondering...Gus is doing incredibly well. I put him on the stock scale the other night and he weighs in at 19.2#.  Yep, he's growing like a weed!
This is Gus...and his goofy approach to life.
Poor Ellie Mae has become the ever patient "puppy-sitter"

Squeekie cannot be convinced to play with a dog

If things work out...Gus  will be the subject of his very own blog post sometime this week.  Stay tuned!

September brings with it the beginning of particularly beautiful skies.  I reckon it has something to do with the atmospheric conditions or the angle of the earth in its annual rotation or maybe it has something to do with ice crystals and dust.  Rather than get all scientific…I just enjoy the ever-changing, always amazing skies…on both ends of the day.

The shortening days mean we need to get as much light as possible in the hoophouses, so we did the whole “let there be light” thing on one house this week. Here's the story.

This year we have really struggled with a lack of light.  There have been SO many foggy, gloomy days that we took the shadecloth off early this year. We’ll probably do the other one in the upcoming week, as well as adding another lamb hauling trip to the schedule.  (only 2 more days of that black lamb! Hopefully, getting her on the truck won’t become sort of fiasco!)

Thanks for stopping by!

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My #1 Fan

110 years ago today, a blue-eyed baby made her first appearance somewhere in Chicago.  As the tenth of thirteen children, no one would have expected this tiny Miss to be one of the family leaders…but, then this was the world's first introduction to my grandmother.
infant Pearle and older brother Percy

Her quiet determination became a thing of legend. When she learned to walk, she encouraged her older brother, Percy, in his endeavors to finally become ambulatory.  Percy had been stricken with Infantile Paralysis (polio) as an infant and didn’t actually walk until he was four.  The entire family credited little Pearle with his success.

In future years, they would look to her for aid and comfort in time of crisis. One phonecall and she was packing her bags, looking up the train or bus schedule and on her way to help the family.  She would sit with the sick and/or grieving, hold the newborn babies or just make coffee so they could sit and talk things out.  Any relative, no matter how distant, had a place to stay if they were in town. If it needed doing…she found a way to get it done.

When the hard times of the 1920’s hit the family, she packed her bags, left the family home in Atlanta, boarded the train and headed for Washington, DC. There she secured a job that would provide income to send back to the home folks in the South. This smart, hard-working little girl from the South became a career woman when few women were in the workplace.

At some point, she met a big, handsome, gregarious farm-boy with a flair for the dramatic and flamboyant.  While he seemed a most unlikely match the small, demure, detail oriented perfectionist…they managed to make the combination of opposites work for well over 50 years.  Since she worked full-time, had a child AND kept the books for my grandfather’s upholstery business all that time, this is just another example of her quiet determination.
Bing and Pearle 1932

When I arrived on the scene as the first grandchild and only granddaughter, I was received with great joy.  The fact that I inherited red hair from the farm-boy (turned successful city business-man by now), endeared me to her even more.

She and I were kindred spirits from the start.  She was my “Danny” and I was her “Dolly”. I would like to say I could do no wrong in her eyes…but, I remember being corrected (ever so gently) more than once.

She loved books and storytelling and encouraged me in all my academic endeavors.  Once, she discovered a book bin at the local department store where everything was a quarter.  She must have needed a wagon to haul all those books back home! We were both in booklover's heaven.  With the patience that only a grandmother can possess, she would read aloud for hours, allow me to comb her waist length hair, and let me call her “Mildred” when I felt it necessary to conduct make-believe school during summer vacation.
wearing Granny's glasses was SO fun!

A week at my grandparent’s home in the city was like a trip to another world for this little country bumpkin.  Even her mundane, daily tasks seemed exotic. We took buses and taxis, shopped in department stores and ate in restaurants…but, only after the housekeeping had been done and any errands for Granddaddy’s business had been completed. She was nothing if not disciplined.

Once when I was quite small I was attempting to do something she thought was a too much for my size.  “Dolly, are you sure you can do that?”  “Oh, I tan do it, Danny!” (and I did)  She told this story to her sisters and friends repeatedly.  In later years, she would remind me that I said it…instilling in me that same determination that had served her well over the years. She would hold my hands and tell me they were CAPABLE.  That sounded exciting and opened the door to all sorts of possibilities.

Just as she was there for the kinfolks back home in Georgia, she was always there for me.  School activities, birthday parties and summer vacation…there she was.  When I thought my high school heart was forever broken, she patted my hand in quiet comfort. When I arrived at college, found myself surrounded by strangers and totally out of my element, she listened to me on the phone for hours. When I married the Boss, she was the first through the receiving line, beaming with outstretched arms.
When I showed our new baby off to the family for the first time, she was there again…beaming and admiring.

When it became obvious that dementia and failing health were going to seriously limit our time together, I packed the baby in the car, stopped at the store for my grandmother’s favorite cookies and icecream and went for a visit.  At first, the visit was difficult.  She didn’t remember liking the cookies or the icecream had nuts.  But, the fog lifted momentarily and she called me “Dolly” once again.

And, that baby…”that’s such a nice baby!” She was thrilled to be offered the chance to hold that nice baby.

My grandmother has been gone for a long, long time now.  But, today, on her birthday, I find myself thinking of her and feeling ever so grateful for her example of work and devotion and her unfailing love and support. 

I’m pretty sure that her influence made me who I am today, due in no small part to her quiet determination.

For this Thursday I am very thankful for my #1 fan…

                         Pearle Mildred Eckman Burner
                                              September 26, 1903 -January 3, 1990

Monday, September 23, 2013

In the Good Old Days

We'd get up before sun-up to get the work done up
We'd work in the fields till the sun had gone down
We've stood and we've cried as we have helplessly watched
Some of my grandfather's family
-circa 1880  Edinburg, VA

A hailstorm a' beatin' our crops to the ground
We've gone to bed hungry many nights in the past
In the good old days when times were bad

No amount of money could buy from me
The memories that I have of then

No amount of money could pay me
To go back and live through it again!
                                                      -dolly parton

“Don’t use anything your grandmother or great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as an ingredient.”

This statement is making the rounds these days. A popular "food-issue" author is touting this as the newest of ways to make food choices, spinning it for all it's worth as he travels around the country.  (cynically, I think he's looking to sell more books, but...)

While I wondered at the statement and tried to determine WHAT DOES THIS GUY MEAN?--- it got me to thinking about my great-grandmothers and their daughters, my grandmothers.

Now, those were some amazing women. Our modern life may seem fast-paced and somewhat stressful, but most of us have no utter idea how grueling daily life was back in the late 19th and/or early 20th centuries.

The whole romance of the “good old days” is somewhat laughable if you stop and do any serious amount of thinking.  As the lyrics that open this piece state:  we'd get up before sun-up to get the work done up…every day…all the time. There was no easy way to do the daily chores, no automatic coffeepots, microwaves, dishwashers, toasters or many of the other things we take for granted when we roll out of bed after the alarm clock wails.  Oh, wait.  No electric alarm clock, either!

My great grandmothers were born in the decades after the Civil War into a world far different than the one we know today. "Hand-made", "home-grown", and "local" weren't trendy definitions...those words described everything these women were able to provide for their families. And, they devoted their entire lives to those families.

 I'd like to introduce you to two of these amazing women. 

Great-Grandma Irene- wedding picture 1894
This is Irene, my paternal great-grandmother. She married my great-grandfather, Sidney, shortly after her twentieth birthday. She became a farmer's wife on the Eastern Shore at the the end of the 19th century.

I might add that Great-Grandad was known as a prosperous farmer. This is a great accomplishment, no matter the century! They embraced the modern age and the opportunities it offered them and their young family.

But, I never got to meet her.  Because health-care was what it was in the early 1900’s, she (and an infant child) died when my grandfather was just six years old.  Her untimely death, at the age of 33, left my great-grandfather with four very small children to care for until his death from appendicitis a just few years later.  The four orphaned children were then separated and went to live with various family members.

When my grandfather died, nearly 80 years later, his brother was still lamenting the loss of his dear, sweet Mama. It was heartbreaking.

In the good old days…I think not.

Hilda Amanda -1882
This is Hilda, my maternal great-grandmother.  I never got to meet her, either.  My great-great grandparents immigrated to America from Sweden when Hilda was just 2 years old. The picture at the right was taken the year before she married my great-grandfather at age 15. In the course of their marriage, she gave birth to THIRTEEN children while travelling across the country with him in his work as a machinist, coming east to raise their family in Atlanta, before one final move to Florida, just prior to her death.

I cannot imagine that she would describe any of that as “the good old days”…she lost four of those children in either infancy or as toddlers.  She passed away at the age of 57, when her heart simply gave out. A loss that haunted her daughters for the rest of their adult lives.

One lesson that Hilda did teach all her daughters (the girls in the family far outnumbered the boys) was to embrace modernity.   I remember hearing the stories as my grandmother and her sisters would talk of “Momma” for hours. Apparently, she quite a feminist, despite the fact that the term wasn’t used at the time. She didn't want her girls to settle for the life that she saw as her only option.   Most of her daughters (my grandmother in particular) would go on to become career women long before that was an accepted path for women. They eagerly embraced progress in most every aspect of their lives.

in the kitchen with "Danny" 1967

…and while I never loved anyone quite like I loved my grandmother, she was a horrible cook.  My "Danny" didn’t recognize a whole lot of things as ingredients!

A family dinner at my grandparents' home always included some sort of cooking fiasco. For years, I honestly thought that dinner rolls always came as little frozen balls of dough that one coated with Crisco prior to baking...and then the blackened/charred bottoms were carefully sawed off before serving. Good manners kept anyone else from ever mentioning this at the table.

But, baking aside, my grandmother taught me everything I know about true hospitality and concern for my fellow human beings. Everyone who ever entered their home felt loved and cherished.

There will never be anyone quite like my "Danny"!

1917 kitchen (Penny Lane Vintage)

To assume that these women would refuse to accept or embrace today’s food options is a ridiculous claim. They spent hours preparing one meal.  Food procurement was an arduous task, and housework and meal planning were their entire world.

No career path, fun hobbies, or hopping in the car for a little shopping, not when there were meals to fix! ...and playing on the computer...ha! (hadn't even been invented yet) Think about that one for a minute. Certainly NO one wants to return to that.

Many things that they considered progress are under fire by today's food elite.  We (as modern folks) need to recall the entire picture from the "old days" in order to truly understand why and how things have changed over the years. For instance, the introduction of refrigeration changed food preparation, storage, sales and procurement forever. Imagine for a moment a world without refrigeration...or the ability to freeze foods. (that alone is a whole new blog entry!) If we want to "turn back the hands of time", we need to understand it would have to come as a package deal.

Progress is not a bad thing. It may bring with it new challenges, but anything that makes the daily work of life slightly less overwhelming is welcome.  I'm pretty sure that great-grandmothers everywhere would have agreed with that one.

And when it comes to recognizing ingredients...
Did you know that today's food labeling regulations require that every ingredient used in a product be identified?
Every. Single. ingredient.

For instance, if something has chocolate chips…every ingredient in the chocolate chips must be identified.  I know I would be hard pressed to come up with that information and I’m pretty sure that one would have totally escaped a whole lot of my ancestors!

Ruth Wakefield is credited with inventing
tollhouse (chocolate chip) cookies in 1930LESS than 100 years ago!

Wait a minute…chocolate chips are a fairly modern thing, too. That fact alone threatens the whole basis of this "food theory".

 ...and personally, I find considering a world withOUT chocolate chips more than a little disturbing!

When you read the ingredient label on food many of the things listed are vitamins…would my great-grandmother, the Swedish immigrant who knew little English, recognize those?  Should I only eat foods that she would have fixed?  In the manner she fixed them?  But, there are a lot of things in the traditional Swedish cuisine that I really don’t like!

Many of the foods we enjoy in today’s global cuisine were virtually unheard of even fifty years ago. Should we eschew those as well?  My mother-in-law used to tell me that when she was a kid, she’d never even HEARD of broccoli!  (actually, she told me it hadn’t been invented...and I laughed a little.  Thomas Jefferson was purported to grow broccoli at Monticello...long before mother-in-law was born) But, broccoli was not consistently available years ago. Today…broccoli is touted as the health food and you can find it fresh every month of the year.

While I realize it sells books to come up with some “new” spin on food…While I realize it makes some market customers feel like they must be connecting with the small producer when they use the "buzzwords" and seem to know the "lingo"…While I realize that in some small way it may be true that our food is "too processed" and not nearly as "natural" as it could be…

…let’s get real here.

We are incredibly blessed with abundant, accessible, affordable food. (Something I know for a fact my great-grandmothers and grandmothers did not have)  Rather than pick it apart and fuss and fume over things that are really non-issues…we need to focus on the positives.

Instead of making it harder and harder to find food that is acceptable for our very spoiled, first world palates…it’s time to remember to simply say, “THANK YOU” for everything we have.

I'm pretty sure that we've got it good...even if it's no longer the "old days".

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 9-22

It’s been one of those weeks that left me wondering…

WHAT did I do all week?

I mean…it was Monday…
…and then…just like that…it was Saturday.

What happened?  Did I actually accomplish ANYthing?

Well, let’s review.

Monday was…well…Monday.  A half a day of town errands and then home to take the dog to the vet.

As the “mother-nurturer” around here, I get all the fun jobs like vet visits.  Gus had fleas. Seriously?  What is it with fleas this year?  First the kitten, now the puppy.  I swear…I’m beginning to itch! But, he also needed a check-up, heartworm preventative and all the stuff that is seen as necessary when you’re a dog owner.

Anyway, I figured since Gus was SO good coming to the farm that the vet trip (about 20 minutes in the vehicle) would be a breeze. Right? WRONG!  We didn’t even get out the farm gate before he began to howl.  I turned on the stereo.  He howled louder. I cranked the volume.  We repeated this cycle a couple of times before I figured I would probably deafen us both and just let him howl.  As we cruised along, Gus howling and me singing along with the CD, it turned into a nice drive through the countryside. When all of a sudden…hey, wait…that dog…no, deer…is gonna cross the road! RIGHT here! Well, at least I now know that the Xterra brakes are pretty awesome.  No deer dents in my front grill and Gus didn’t even slide into the front seat. Once my heart rate returned to somewhat normal, I stopped singing and started scanning the roadsides.  Deer are a real problem around here…but, more than a little unexpected in the middle of the afternoon before mating season.

Gus kept "smiling" while at the vet
and he thought my phone looked tasty
The vet visit was uneventful.  Gus had gained over a pound in the 5 days he had been on the hill.  Maybe we should have named him Clifford! (certainly you remember Clifford the big red dog of pre-school literary fame) He did indeed have fleas and parasites, so we left the vet with a little bag of puppy meds and headed back home.

On the way home, I paused to take a picture of something that has puzzled me for a long time.  Check this out.  There is a pair of shoes hanging from the phone wire.  They’ve been there for a long time.  Such a long time that I look for them whenever I drive over to the vet’s office.   Yes, I really do drive along wondering…are the shoes still there? (I know, I need to get out more)
Look close...see the shoes hanging from the wire?
Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Tuesday, since I wasn’t careening through the countryside while singing with a howling puppy, dodging deer and looking for lost gym shoes…the Boss and I processed broilers (again).  This batch was quite nice…they were fairly uniform in size and we’ve gotten so we can do our monthly batch in short order. The rest of Tuesday was spent at the dentist…but, since I wasn't certain which tooth was troublesome...I was sent on my way...only to return Friday after harvesting for Market.

On Wednesday we had a frost.  Yes, I know that our thermometer showed 41* when we went out to do chores (and yes, it is accurate) and nobody else in the county seemed to have frost. But, there was definitely frost in the lower spots.  It was just a “wake-up” frost.  The real deal is coming…just wait. The frost (real or otherwise) meant that we needed to rearrange a few jobs to start to get ready for the cold reality that is winter.

The Boss ran the bush hog through the weedpatch I mean fall potato patch. (Yes, he DID get the bush hog AND the tiller back in working order. Yay, Boss!)  Cutting the tops of the potato plants will cause the potato tubers to stop growing and will toughen up the skins just a little.
cut potato plant in foreground
This will help the potatoes to keep better through the winter. It also makes the garden look a little neater and will keep the weeds from engulfing us when we begin the potato harvest. If you ever wondered if we use herbicides…just look at the weedpatch I mean potato patch…and you will see the answer to that question!  All that green, weedy looking stuff in the background is...well...WEEDS. (ugh)

Sometime this week, we moved the broilers from the brooder to the field, got MORE broilers in the mail (last batch for 2013!), picked beans…beans and more beans, did some bookwork and a little planning for next season, started more seeds, moved the sheep and lambs to fresh paddocks,
lambs at sunset

The sheep are still wary of Gus despite the size difference
 planted in the hoophouses, pulled out spent crops, took a few photos...

Come on, Ellie....PLAY! just REALLY need a nap!

morning light 

Whenever I miss my cows...
I just watch those belonging to the neighbors

Gus is learning to watch and wait

We worked on training the dog and gave up on ever even trying to train the cat.

If I could just get her to dust when she's up there!

While it’s not actually farmwork per se, we also finally brought the canned goods off the front porch and put them on the shelves in the utility room built specifically for our winter larder.  Yes, I realize some of them sat out there for months and months…but…that’s just the way it goes sometimes (most times).
rows and rows of full jars
ready for Winter

Then we harvested, washed, packed and chilled this week’s harvest.

After months and months of a low-grade headache and just feeling generally yucky, I finally got that bad tooth pulled. (I will spare you a picture)  I must say a big THANK-YOU to Dr. Bang and Dr. Bigelow.  I feel amazingly better…which just goes to prove that I indeed did need another hole in my head! J

vegetable portion of Market stand starts to look like Fall
Saturday morning found us at the Market hoping against hope that the dire weather prediction would prove to be wrong and that the rain would hold off until closing time. It was a very close call. Despite a few sprinkles and very threatening skies, we got off virtually rain-free for the morning. The real downpours didn’t start until around 5pm after we had gotten back, gotten unpacked, had lunch and finished afternoon chores. All right!

We really needed some rain, so I wouldn’t mind a rainy weekend, but that doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen, either.  We’ll take what we get…and be thankful for it. J

1984-seems like SO LONG ago

We ended up with a little over a half an inch of much needed moisture.

Today, the Boss and I note the 29th anniversary of our wedding day.  (I almost typed WEEDing day…that would be oh, so very appropriate! ha) It’s been a most wild, incredibly amazing ride (yes, we’ve had more than our fair share of absolutely ordinary, somewhat boring and mundane, too) and I feel safe in saying that neither one of us ever expected to be here, doing what we do, having experienced all that we have and loving (almost) every minute of it. …I, for one, am looking forward to the next 29+.  I guess I could have just re-posted this.

So, today I leave you with a song that we both really like---it's a good anniversary-type song. ...and Darius Rucker has an astounding voice.

Oh, and to answer my original question...yeah, I guess we did accomplish a little bit of something this week. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Come on back now…ya hear?

Happy Sunday!