We've had an animal-intensive time of late, starting with the squirrel babies we accidentally separated from their mother with a roof hole-patching (two we successfully reunited, two we are hand rearing), and an unexpectedly quick milk goat acquisition (we're actually just the co-milkers, as it were, our friend Rosemary traded her five Boer (meat) goats for two yearling milk goats this week, and we've agreed to share feed costs and milk production, once they kid, which may be mid-winter if their time with a buck over the last week was productive. If not, Rosemary will have them bred again).
This morning, Steve took one of our two rats in to the campus veterinary school to be put down -- Remy's tumor had grown larger than she was, and while she was still alert, eating and seemingly undistressed, the tumor had just grown too large.
And while we've found a foster home for the squirrels, I'm hesitant about giving them over just yet. We'll see how Harry is taking all this.
But we have some exciting weekend getaways planned, first a UU Church camp in the mountains this weekend, then mountain lake camping with some fellow unschoolers next weekend, and raising baby squirrels doesn't fit into those all that well.
Here's some pics that I've already posted to facebook of the various critters.
We've been surprisingly busy for unscheduled folks, but all is well and we've been having a great time. I'll wade through the photos on our digital cameras and post them next, but for now, a quick recap:
Late June we headed back east and did a whirlwind tour of DC (Smithsonian museums, Washington Monument, White House, National Zoo) before heading to Great Grandma Shirley's 99th birthday party on July 3. Wonderful to see her again, and Jack, Jennifer, Alison, Sarah, Ava, Nick, Ellen, Jeff, Becky, Jay and Warren too. What a fun houseful of cousins!
We came home and got to see JeffBeckyJayWarren the following weekend -- so cool to have family to bike and tube down the Poudre River with. Pics to come.
Then visits from Grandpa Russell and Uncle Ray (they were driving bulls around the Midwest and stopped in for the night) and my folks came for a great visit as well, with a 9th birthday party for Owen capping it off.
That was followed by a weekend camping in the gorgeous mountains here with a couple of families in our neighborhood, then the New West Fest over the weekend -- saw the headliner, Melissa Etheridge (hey, she's thoroughly middle-aged! How did that happen?! Makes me afraid to look in the mirror...), and wandered around downtown in the dark, goggling at the carny rides (which seemed too frightening to the kids to try at night, but the next day they rode the giant revolving swings several times, shrieking and whooping the whole time. I was much quieter, preferring to spend my energy focusing on the horizon until I could get off the damn spinning thing...)
Back to work for Steve, who has not only Nexus' next edition heating up, but who is also designing a dozen or two new toys for this outfit , everything from sewing boards to puzzles to bookends. An interesting new sideline for him.
I've been, yes, tending the gardens, harvesting and processing carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatillos, chard, raspberries (okay, we're just eating those out-of-hand, haven't managed to actually preserve any yet), shredded zucchini and pureed beets (mmmm red devil cake is sooo good), learning how to make enchilada sauce with the tomatillos that are coming in, and generally expanding my homestead-y skillset. We now make our own butter from the cream skimmed off the top of our raw milk. I made my first soup stock from a chicken carcass (no, not one of ours. They're doing fine and laying mightily.) And I made my first batch ever of custard with some extra milk -- ohhhh, that was heavenly.
Steve scored a brand-new, 14-year-old Jotul woodstove (sat in someone's garage with the tags still on it all that time) on Craigslist for $700, and he's now scouting free wood there too and waiting for the next break in his Nexus schedule to install it. Next post-deadline project is to install the woodstove, which should be able to heat the top half of the house very well.
Crops are coming in at the farm, some better than others. Maddie and I picked 10 pounds of beautiful Swiss Chard this week, which I blanched and froze for winter soups, and we also froze several batches of basil in olive oil for later pestos.
Heading back out there today to do battle with the fearsome weeds that have to be wrestled mightily out of the soil. Makes me *very* glad I'm doing raised bed and mulched gardens at home, where I hardly have to weed at all....
The full text is here Actually, I don't know if this is the full text, but it's where I found the speech. It moved me enormously, but I won't rhapsodize too much. Here it is (and don't forget to visit Maddie's blog (link's on the right sidebar), she's been quite prolific of late. She's doing a much better job of updating the world on our doings than I am.)
The Unforgettable Commencement Address by Paul Hawken to the Class of 2009, University of Portland, May 3, 2009
When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” Boy, no pressure there.
But let’s begin with the startling part. Hey, Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.
This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food, but all that is changing.
There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.
When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.
You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.
There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.
Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit.. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, and non-governmental organizations, of companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.
Between helping out with Home Grown Foods, organizing homeschooling physics field trips, working at our friend Rosemary's mini-farm in her co-op garden (I'm a field laborer now! From journalism to massage therapy to working in the fields, what an interesting career path I've taken :P ) and taking care of our own back 40, it's been a busy six weeks or so.
Steve's in Pennsylvania right now, for Grandpa Jack's 70th birthday celebration (that's a video of him paddling to shore from the sailboat, where he spent the night Friday night, taken by his brother). We miss him, Harry especially, but we've been keeping busy while he's been gone, visiting all the baby animals on Rosemary's little farm (kittens, kids, a lamb and a piglet), digging up perennial flowers and herbs from a homeschooling friend's garden and building an herb garden in the backyard.
Here's some photos of life on the homestead, as of this morning... One corn patch is in the foreground, covered with straw, then there's the strawberry and greens beds, another corn bed where we're planting the four sisters (corn, beans, squash and bee balm) and our raised no-dig bed behind it.
Here's the 36-foot long bed, outfitted for plastic row cover in case of frost, or these days, hail, with our winter greens going to seed (I'm going to collect the mustard seed, in case it will be useful for pickling cucumbers.)
These are the raspberries on the upper level, and you can see below them a trench of potatoes that are just starting to sprout above the surface.
At the other end of the raised bed are the potatoes I planted under the protection of the hoop in March. They're ready to be partially buried again and start forming tubers on the buried half of the vegetation.
Some tomatoes and rhubarb in the upper corner of the yard....
And our chicken run, with the four laying hens inside and one of the pullets (almost ready to lay!) wandering in freedom next to them. The pullets don't eat the garden greens yet, so they're free to wander. They're not quite as big as the hens yet, so I"m putting off that fateful day of flock integration a bit longer. I've tried it once already, and it wasn't pretty. Much pecking, flapping and squawking. That, by the way is Hawk, a.k.a. survivor chicken. You can barely tell she was grabbed by a fox and stuffed under a woodpile!
Here's our big strawberry bed, which we covered with plastic starting in February. It's giving us a bowl of berries a day now, though it's a pitched battle between us and the robins. Theres' a second smaller bed on the level above it that's still setting fruit.
Here's a view of the south side of our yard. You can see the new herb spiral (closeups to follow), a trashcan full of last night's rain, and in the foreground, tomatoes, basil and chives and one of our greens beds.
Here's another south side view, with the chicken coop under the deck, the herb garden again, and you can see our solar heat collector, that big triangle sticking out of the south side of our house. I think it would be more efficient with some new, more translucent paneling, it's on our list of things to do.
Steve's bed of snappeas and greens is looking good.
And here's some closeups of the herb spiral I built yesterday, with rocks from around the yard and herbs from my friend's garden and from the nursery.
In the front yard, our south-side berm of raspberries and pear trees is doing well...
In the foreground is an elderberry bush, and on the other side of the mulched berm are some serviceberries, part of our edible perennial landscaping out front (yes, those are onions on the berm, between the sticks of bare-root raspberries. I ran out of room for onions in the backyard!)
And finally, my big digging project of early spring, the permaculture-inspired berm to retain water. Under that pile of dirt and bark mulch is an 18-inch deep trench filled with more mulch, which will hold moisture for the raspberries planted above, and the whole thing should keep water from running off our slanted front yard. After we finished it, I realized that I really should have bermed up by the sidewalk in front of the house, as most of the water retention benefits flow downhill underground from the berm, but I'm going to plant perennial flowers in the strip between the berm and the road, so they should be happy and well watered, at least! Oh, and in the driveway you see how we've been spending the occasional hot days we get -- in the purple canoe at the nearby fishing ponds.
Oh, and I can't forget that other growing project we've been working on...
eta: we just got our first egg from our buff orpington pullet! She laid this afternoon without much fanfare, so now we're up to 5 layers! Our poor americauna might be a bit behind the laying curve, what with having to heal up from those fox bites...
It was a rough weekend at the S&S homestead, starting at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
That's when I was awakened by a strangled squawk. I lay in bed for another half a minute wondering what exactly I had just heard, until a frantic racket sent me flying out onto the deck shrieking. I won't go into the gory details, but after waking Steve up, we searched the backyard with a flashlight (note to self: must buy more and better flashlights) we found the body of Luna, one of our four-month old Americaunas. In the garage (I left the back door open on a day full of gardening, an Easter egg hunt with one neighbor family and a BBQ at another family's house that went late into the evening), the other Americauna was missing. Our Buff Orpington pullet was huddled safely in the pen.
After another search of the yard, we retreated inside to comfort Maddie who had woken and was distraught. I was particularly upset that Luna's death had been all for naught, as the fox had dropped her and fled, and I considered taking her out to the marsh preserve a mile away where neighbors told us a fox kits every year, but Steve thought we shouldn't give them a taste for chickens.
As we were laying in bed, we suddenly heard another chicken racketing. "Oh my god, it's back and it's got another one," I thought. Steve ran out this time, I couldn't face another tragedy. He came back in with Hawk, our missing Americauna.
Our best guess is, the fox grabbed Hawk and she fell unconscious, as I think chickens may be prone to do under great stress. She took her to the back of the yard and stuffed her under a woodpile (Steve stood on the woodpile and he was looking over the fence in our first frantic survey of the yard and heard not a peep from Hawk under his feet, so she was probably still unconscious, but safely protected from his weight, I might add, by the structure of the pile), then the fox went back for Luna, who put up more of a fight and sent me flying out onto the deck, which caused the fox to drop her in the yard and flee. Then, sometime later, Hawk came to in shock and disress and began calling for her flock.
We got her in and wrapped up warm, daubed some betadine on the puncture wound we could see on her back, and set her in a box in the bathroom to stay warm. In the morning, she was still looking alert and Steve did a more thorough inspection, found two more puncture wounds on the underside and washed and disinfected those. I'd gotten on the Backyard Chickens forum at 3:30 in the morning and asked about wound care and had gotten some great advice, which we followed. I wanted to take Hawk into the veterinary school's teaching hospital Saturday morning after Steve found the additional bites, but they were going to charge a weekend fee of $95 right off the bat, so we decided to see how she'd do on her own.
After two days in a dark box, she was ready to be interacting, calling softly when we left her room. We brought in Minimax, our young Buff Orp and her sole remaining flockmate, and they cozied up together on the wire shelf over the bathtub that Steve had rigged as a perch. At first Max really wanted to groom Hawk's dissarrayed feathers over the wound, but we kept pushing her away and she stopped trying after a while.
They sat together for half a day on the shelving, then I came in to check on them and nearly bowled them over with the door -- they'd begun wandering the bathroom. So into the garage pen they went. Hawk's eating and drinking (and pooping, had some lovely bathroom cleanup to do), and they've mostly sat quietly together in the straw. Max has been a good companion.
Meanwhile, we had a ceremony to bury Luna, whom we lost under a nearly full moon on Good Friday night. We buried her next to the compost pile Sunday evening. Yesterday morning, I noticed a small hole had been dug over her grave, and attributed it to Sunny nosing around there. This morning, Steve said, "You were right that the fox would keep coming back." He'd found a significant hole dug into Luna's grave, and when he probed to see how deep it went, he found only her empty shroud. Somehow, I felt much better knowing that her death hadn't been for naught, that she had fed some fox kits after all.
Several people have suggested we get a gun a shoot the fox. I would never do that, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is, I'd just have to shoot the next one, and the next one and the next one, until we had a plague of rabbits, mice and voles in our neck of town.
We'll keep a sharp eye out for signs of the fox trying to get to our other girls, but I think they're well protected. We're closing off Sunny's dog door out of the garage at night now, and the girls in the coop under the deck are protected by wire dug under the ground and in an L shape out from the fence.
It's been a rough and painful lesson to learn for me, an opportunity, as unwanted as it may be, for the kids to begin to learn how to process grief, and a meal for a handful of hungry kits.
Haven't written much, feel like I'm perpetually holding my breath, wondering what might collapse and when in this breathtaking world economy we're living through right now.
But in real life, all has been well. February was weirdly warm, we got some planting done and the little sprouts are doing well. We're helping out Home Grown Food with publicity and running workshops and Steve's been creating fun buttons for them to sell.
Our chickens are doing fine, though our boss girl is molting and she looks a bit odd without a big beautiful bouquet of tail feathers. The three pullets are in the garage now, we put them out in the big coop on warm days and lock them in there. They will have a bit of a time integrating into the flock when they're full-sized, but I hope the hen-pecking won't be too severe.
We missed Nick's birthday party because pertussis was running through his crowd of friends, but short of holing up all winter, there's no escaping the bugs. We went to a really fun, huge, hands-on physics fair at the university the following weekend, and shortly thereafter came down with a lovely coughing crud that we're still expectorating.
Harry is still going to croup, but glory of glories, we went in to urgent care and found that they've created a new liquid steroid formulation that doesn't taste like poison anymore! He was able to slug it down and we didn't have to do the middle of the night drives with the window down for hours on end. I can't tell you what a relief that was!
My folks arrived for a wonderful visit which ends tomorrow, we even got a dash of snow while they were here. They've split their time between our house and Cindi's. On Saturday, Dad came up with Nick and Owen and we met downtown for the St. Patrick's Day parade, which was hokey but fun.
Steve's still got a job (hooray!) and he even negotiated a raise, because he's been so damned efficient that he's reduced his hours by 20 percent. So they're paying him 10 percent more and he's going to make up the other 10 percent of lost time by generating new moneymaking ventures for the magazine, calendars, t-shirts, etc. to sell.
I went out for a mother's brunch out yesterday with a group of six or seven women, all of us unschoolers, down in Boulder, and I was shocked at the degree and rapidity with which the economy has affected them. Two husbands are laid off, two women are going back to work part-time, two are considering how they might manage through a divorce because the financial stresses are creating such strain. It made me realize how fragile people are going to be throughout this crisis and how valuable an extra dose of gentleness for people I meet will be.
I'm excited to get planting and growing. I've been reading up on various intensive gardening methods. I'm going to plant out some potatoes in a protected bed today, but I really want to plant more using this method.
We're going to experiment with some grains. I have amaranth seeds to plant, but eventually i think it would be fun to grow oats and wheat.
My new friend who is hosting a community garden on her land wants to raise piglets and has asked if we want to participate and buy/help raise a piglet. I would like to, though I'm wondering how I'll handle butchering time, when it comes around. (We won't be doing the job ourselves, mind you, but I imagine it will be emotional nonetheless.) I figure either I'll make my peace with it or be motivated to go vegetarian.
I'm still waffling on the dairy goat partnership. I just don't see getting up crack-of-dawn to go over to Rosemary's farm and milk most mornings. Housing here would be problematic. We still haven't figured out how to pen the chickens up to keep them out of our gardens but still able to roam and graze. They're nibbling away on the green grass shoots coming up, and they get very antsy if we lock them in their coop for too long during the day. (Oh, we moved our compost pile from one side of the yard to the other on Friday and the whole thing was loaded with worms. The chickens were positively apoplectic, running back and forth along the fencing we'd put up temporarily so they'd stay out of our way, as Steve carted the smelly goo across the yard. Once we released them ("Release the chickens!" she bellowed, and all the worms quaked, but you couldn't really tell because they were pretty gelatinous to begin with."), they raced over to the new compost pile and walked around the sides of it, heads cocked sideways, beaks darting between the wooden slats to grab whatever critters were unlucky enough to have landed at the outer edges of the pile.
Morning and it's duties calls, so I'll sign off for now!
ps. Maddie just finished a blog post as well, if you haven't found her blog, it's here
In more ways than one. I had written a post about today's market convulsions, as I've been glued to the Internet this morning, reading fascinating and frightening commentary about what's happening. But I notice that each time I do that, I ruin my enjoyment of the day and skew my perspective on life in detrimental ways, so I think instead, I will let the world's economies do what they're going to do, and head out to a community garden planning/seed ordering meeting with the kids. It is, after all, a glorious day here, and in many other places in the world. And gardening is the best antidote for economic crises, both in spirit and in pratical returns! So I'm changing my mind -- all *is* well, sun is shining, children and chickens are happy, and I feel much better realizing all that!
It's one of those questions that nags at me each time I catch Sunny giving me the eye as I stoop and grab her poop in my bag covered hand. What is she thinking? Am I undermining my status as pack leader by picking up her poop? WWtDWD?
I brought this up with Steve the other morning, as we were walking in circles on the schoolyard, getting a little exercise before our kids were up and before the school kids were heading to school.
I said I was pretty sure Cesar didn't pick up after his dog pack, didn't seem like a pack leader-ly thing to do, but then I remembered that dogs are coprophagic and decided that maybe he could pretend to eat the poop and still retain status. And then Steve really grossed me out by saying that he's such an authentic pack leader that maybe he actually does eat... eewwwww, nevermind.
We're doing fine. It's been a mild, dry winter and I'm giving in to the gardening urges and planting spinach in a cold frame. We've got greens started in a windowsill and will finish erecting a hoop cover over our new long raised bed this week, to let the soil heat up and speed the composting process so that we can plant out in another few weeks.
The kids and I have been immersing in all sorts of survival skills reading -- from My Side of the Mountain (one of my very favorite books growing up), to Bear Gryll's new book, Man vs. Wild, based on his TV series, to the first two seasons of Survivorman on DVD (thanks Grandma and PopPop!)
We're inspired to learn some fire starting and knot tying skills at the very least, and Maddie would like to construct a small building in the backyard, so she and I may build a larger coop for our growing flock, though she is also drafting ambitious plans for a two-story home.
We're trying to get more organized about our garden records and the kids and I are going to track how many eggs we're producing and perhaps even weigh our garden produce as we harvest it, if I can find a little kitchen scale at a reasonable price.
We're also going to participate in a co-gardening venture at the mini-ranch of a friend of a friend who lives a couple of miles away. She has chickens goats and horses and is going to plow a bunch of aged manure into an acre or so of unused paddock, which we and a few other families will plant and tend over the summer months. The kids will enjoy going over there, for all the animals and the wonderful barn full of rope swings. Even though we'll have a lot growing in our own yard, I'm thinking I'll learn a lot from gardening with others and may end up growing things I didn't know I liked. Plus, we'll have all the more surplus to share with neighbors and there's always dehydrating, canning and freezing that can be done.
Steve's working a lot these past couple of weeks and both he and the couple who publish Nexxus are breathing sighs of relief that not only are ads coming in, they're actually reversing the decline of the last couple of years! There are four more pages of ads this issue than last, and last issue had more ads than the previous. At least for now, Nexxus is in good shape and people are willing to spend on advertising to keep their businesses going.
That's most of the news that's fit to print (okay, maybe the Cesar Milan stuff was a bit libelous, but I doubt he reads my blog....)
Found a reference to this huge Flickr collection today (imagine, the Library of Congress is now on Flickr!) I find it utterly fascinating to see color photos from this era. I love the carny/fair shots and I found the sharecropper photos particularly poignant.
How balmy to hit 70 in January! I'm starting to warm up to this whole climate change thing....
Yesterday was nearly as gorgeous, we watched the inauguration then took off for the raptor rehabilitation center for a hike along the poudre river and a visit to some disabled birds of prey, including a huge bald eagle, golden eagle and great horned owl. In the afternoon, I bought 27 bags of steer manure for some garden bed building today. Of course, whatever I want to get done, I need to finish it by tomorrow, as the weather is expected to turn tomorrow night.
Steve and I have had a prosperous week, which is nice for a change. Steve last did two pieces of freelance art for the LA Times over Thanksgiving, and with exquisitely bad timing, he submitted his invoices in that narrow window just before the company declared bankruptcy. His unpaid invoice is now part of the bankruptcy proceedings and who knows when or if we'll ever see the full amount.
A week after the filing, the company was okayed to continue payments for future work and Steve got two assignments last week, which he just finished. Whilst I got my first writing assignment in 4 1/2 years from the LA Daily News, where my good friend and former colleague is now the editorial page editor. She was putting together a package on this current out-migration from California, and wanted a first-person piece. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it for her and you can read it here. Doesn't pay much, $150, and that is if I can get payment before something drastic happens at the Daily News, a distinct possibility these days. Still and all, a fun return to writing, and I may do more in the future.
We bought a grain mill last month and finally got it up and running this week. The pancakes and muffins we made with the first batch of wheat were deliciously nutty. I'd read that fresh ground wheat tastes worlds better than the store bought stuff, and wheat berries last for decades when stored securely, while whole wheat flour can go rancid fairly quickly.
I'm trying a batch of the no-knead bread with it right now, though I'm not sure how it will do, as our wheat is whole grain and I haven't tried this recipe out on straight whole wheat flour before. I'll report the results tomorrow morning. Here's Maddie and Steve doing some grinding....
Other recent events include a warm spell that got my gardening urge flowing again, so we started on another sheet-composted bed, down on the main lawn. The chickens, ever hopeful that there might be worms, were quite the hindrance while I was shoveling, but they spread things out nicely once I was done. We'll plant corn, beans and squash on this patch, but I might try another sheet composting on part of the lawn to grow some winter wheat in the late summer or fall, I'll have to read up on how to grow wheat. Threshing might be a fun adventure.
We tossed another layer of dirt onto the bed that was built in October with the Grow Food Not Lawns workshop, and watered everything in hopes of keeping some composting action going as we wait for spring. I'm going to tunnel-cover at least the October bed to get a head-start on spring crops.
We also enjoyed a visit from Grandma Judith and Aunt Joanne, who rode the train from Iowa to stay for a long weekend. They toured the Budweiser plant just down the road from us, learned to place a dice game called Farkle that we learned over Christmas from Aunt Cindi, and spurred Maddie to new knitting heights, which she blogs about here.
Yesterday, we had a close call at S & S Homestead, but thanks to the sharp eyes and quick wit of Harry, all is well. It was midafternoon, very cold and the playground was deserted. I was fixing Harry a snack in the kitchen and he was standing at the sliding glass door when he cried out, "Mom, there's a fox in the yard!"
I ran onto the porch in my stocking feet, brandishing a paring knife, and I bravely shouted "Git!" The fox promptly turned tail and leapt lightly back over our back fence and into the school yard. I ran around the yard looking for signs of chicken carnage, not knowing how long the fox had been in the yard (it turns out Harry had watched it jump in) and not finding them in the coop, I feared the worst. I called and ran around and one by one they sauntered out from the far side of the garage, wondering why I was making such a racket. One, two, three four. Phew!
I locked them in their run and ran back upstairs to change socks and thaw my toes. I was surprisingly shaken by the worry that the girls had been gotten.
Maddie looked up information on the red fox, its diet and its home range, and we determined that the fox in our yard was mostly likely the same fox we've seen several places in our neighborhood and several times on the canal path. As they're omnivores and need about a pound of protein a day, and we're now in deep winter, we decided to put some dog food out for it, sprinkling it in the grasses along the canal in hopes that a hungry fox will be diligent about hunting out the kibbles, but a well-fed dog on a walk won't work that hard to steal it first.
With any luck, we can keep it from getting so desperate that it goes after the chickens again, or, heaven forbid, Sunny.