Sunday, September 30, 2012


Our friendly neighbors recently acquired angora and cashmere goats. They plan to harvest the wool for spinning. Today they had a woman come to the farm to shear the goats. I inserted myself and my camera into the scene.
The lovely woman who did the shearing clearly knew what she was about. She handled the goats with care, compassion and infinite skill. She lifted them off their feet and plunked them down on their hindquarters. This immobilized them, so she could use her clippers to remove the wool. It took about 30 minutes for each goat.
Once released the goats looked rather pleased. They stayed around us, though they were free to go back "home" where food and shelter were, or even to roam the property. Inquisitive and companionable, they hung out, investigating what the humans were up to.
The un-sheared goats were quite curious about those who had just lost their pelts.
And the sheared goats seemed... happy. They frolicked and showed off their new, lighter forms. The skies shed rain and the air was warm and wet. There were goats and conversation and frank amazement at the woman with the sharp clippers that removed the goat pelts. There was "baa-ing" and the ancient scent of lovely goats... animals that have provided milk and wool and meat to humans for generations. It was a fascinating way to spend a morning.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Measuring pigs...

Tonight we did something I was very excited to try. We measured the pigs. Why measure a pig? you might ask. To find out how much it weighs. The pigs we are raising are destined to go to "freezer camp." I have read (and heard, from pig raising friends) that in an ideal world one wants pigs to go to "camp" when they weigh approximately 220 lbs. Pigs grow very rapidly from tiny to 220, but after that the growth slows. So, (in my newly learned farming lingo) in order to take advantage of the best feed to meat ratio, I want my pigs to go to camp at the right time. If I send them too soon I will get small chops and silly little hams. If I wait too long, I will be wasting money feeding them. The measuring process is a bit complicated... there is a special tape, (generously loaned by my pal Carol who raises pigs.) One measures from between the pigs ears to the base of the tail, then around the pig just behind the front legs. There is multiplication and subtraction involved, so I sent Chris into the pasture with the tape, because he is a math whiz and my math skills hover around those of a first grader. The pigs were having none of it. Despite food bowls full of pig chow and fresh goat milk, they kept running from bowl to bowl to escape the man with the tape. So I jumped into the fray. Since I am the one that feeds the pigs most of the time, (and scratches them with a bristle brush and brings them treats and things to play with) they are more tolerant of me. The male pig is skittish, and has been since the day we got him. He avoided me with a nimbleness the belied his size. The girl pig, however, stood quite still while I measured, and didn't even flinch when I put the tape around her. She measured 44 inches long and 41 inches around. If my husband the math whiz's calculations are correct, Yum Yum, the female pig, weighs around 190 pounds. Tiller, the skittish male, is quite a lot larger, but I didn't tape him. Because he was having none of it! The plan is for the pigs to go to camp on December 3. So, I would say that even if we are off on our measurements, the pigs will be plenty big by then to fill our freezer with big chops, succulent bacon and plump hams. Meanwhile, they are happy pigs, rooting up their pasture, sucking down goat milk, wallowing in mud holes and avoiding men bearing measuring tapes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It was the sort of day...

It was the sort of day that you wanted to slide down a hill on cardboard. And giggle.
A day plump with color and flavor.
Swirling and curling in scent and scene.
There were women spinning and people singing. The scent of food and foliage filled the air. My daughter and I spent the day at the Common Ground Fair. Not the sort of fair with a midway and junk. This is a fair that features farmers. Even the fried dough was whole wheat with maple sugar sprinkles. There were chickens and bunnies and goats and horses skidding logs. There was home made soap and crafts and jewelry and lovely things. Sunshine and cool breezes and perfect weather. And when we got home there were goats to milk and pigs to feed and lobsters and corn on the cob to cook. It was the sort of day to cherish and remember.

Something to celebrate..!

I got one of those phone calls yesterday. The kind that made me shriek, then laugh, then cry just a little bit. Aimee, my precious niece, will be marrying Tim, of whom I most heartily approve as a life mate. When Aimee was born I drove a straight 15 hours from Lynchburg, Virginia to Georgetown, Massachusetts so I could meet her. I fell in love. Hard. Her mother, (my sister) was beyond gracious. In the ensuing months she let me drop in to her house any old time. She let me wash the baby, dress the baby, hold the baby and best of all, strap the baby onto my chest in a cozy front pack and go for long, long walks. I was at a restless phase of my life, without direction and feeling unhinged. I would walk with that wee child against my heart and sing to her and talk to her and try to figure out just where I was going. I kissed the top of her fragrant head so much that my sister joked I prevented any hair from growing. I fell in love again with my sister, too. Suddenly she was someone new and different. We moved from being siblings to being good friends. That has been a gift, as well. So when I heard that special Aimee and wonderful Tim are embarking on the greatest sort of of life adventure that there is I was beyond happy. I wanted to break out party hats and horns that toot! (This photo was taken last year at my sisters birthday celebration.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Sometimes we get in a bit of a rut when cooking. We trot out the same meals again and again. And they are good, but (yawn) a tad boring! This week we were gifted with a freshly processed rabbit. Our friends have raised rabbits for years, and I've been wanting to try one. I marinated the rabbit overnight, then cut it up and browned it a bit. Next I tucked it into a wonderful clay pot with some carrots, onions, salt and pepper. I cooked it low and slow until it was tender and delicious. We had a nice little feast... it was the first time I've ever cooked rabbit. If you are wondering, it does taste remarkably like chicken. Rabbit is a very lean meat, good for those watching their weight or their fat intake. Trying new foods is a simple adventure that we find delicious!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A few years back, after much agonizing, I brought 4 chickens home. They have been a constant source of entertainment (and eggs!) I keep getting more chickens, and now at night when I tuck them into their cozy coop I count 22 beaks. This year I got a little crazy when ordering spring chicks, it seems. As these new birds begin to lay, most figure out that the nice next boxes in the coop are the place to deposit eggs... but some get more creative. We found this little nest in the herb garden, tucked up under the sage plant. It was so pretty I had to snap a shot to share.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Regrets and moments...

In the end, it is regrets that hurt me most. For example, I regret losing contact with people that I love. I don't know why I hesitate to pick up the phone or put a pen to paper, but I do. It is one of my many failings.
But I am good at seizing little moments. If there is water my shoes fly off my feet and I am soon ankle deep in the cold, toes happily on sand. And if there is a flower I smell it, admire it, and (often) take its picture.
I am good at savoring the flavor of my days. But there are aspects I need to work on, because those regrets? They haunt me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Strange birds...

My husband will tell you hates horses. HATES them. Yet he pretty much insisted I buy a horse, and now he and Chanel are pals.
She follows him like a big puppy. If he stops short,she nearly smacks into him.
And then there is Luna goat. People think it is a little mean to put a goat on a milking stand, but here is Luna, waiting hopefully for milking time.
And here is the strangest bird of all. In the fall, chickens molt. That means they shed their old feathers and grow in beautiful, bright new ones. In most cases they lose a few feathers, and before you notice it, new ones are in their place. But once in a while a bird goes through a "hard molt." In this case, I literally saw it happen. The bird came out of the coop, shook hard and POOF! like a cartoon chicken she was suddenly naked!
The good news is that new feathers are already growing in. But she does look awfully strange!

Good things...

My kind and generous friend Scott came over this weekend with his tractor and mowed my field. I had a large area of brush and Sumac which the goats had eaten every leaf off, resulting in a forest of sticks. He whacked them all down, and evened out all the grass and weedy areas, too. It looks beautiful and I am so grateful. The animals delighted in exploring after the mow. The birds found lots of bugs to eat, the goats and horse seemed to enjoy nibbling on the fresh cut vegetation, too.
The thistles are in bloom. I don't love them, their leaves poke me when I pass, but the Goldfinches adore them, and I had to admit they are pretty. The goats have eaten most of mine this year, but missed this one, tucked amid the milkweed.
I cleaned out the coop this weekend, and the hens and ducks seem quite pleased by my efforts. I like to open the door and smell fresh pine shavings.
The weekend was memorable for good rest, bright flowers, and good friends over for supper two nights in a row. They filled this old house with stories and laughter. These are the sorts of good things that make my life happy.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

On homes...

A clutch or two of tree swallows called this little house home this season. As summer draws to a lovely close the house is empty, but a spider has decorated it with her home as she harvests flies.
In April, when we bought the lovely Luna goat, she came with a one week old buckling. I knew from the start I didn't have room for him, and our early plans were to raise him for the summer then send him to freezer camp. I tried my very best to not love him, but he is the most engaging little guy. If I sat outside he'd sit by my feet. If I were doing chores he was "helping." He licked my cheeks and legs and arms like a puppy. The thought of eating him was unappetizing. At the local farmers market I bought some goat chops so we could see if we even liked goat meat. To my delight, we didn't! However, the fate of male goats is generally not kind, so I was hesitant to give him away or sell him. I needed A PLAN.
Many years ago I had purchased this sweet little cart, thinking I'd train my Doberman to pull it. I never did. It has been sitting in my garage attic collecting dust and making me feel remorseful when I looked at it. I had the brilliant idea that if I sold the cart and the goat as a package deal, someone might take him on as a project and give him a good home. So I placed an advertisement in the local swap paper: He's too cute to send to freezer camp! I have a 6 month old Saanen wether. He is up to date on shots, and has been disbudded. I also have a very nice little cart that I could part with. If someone wanted to take this friendly, smart, very tame little guy and teach him to pull the cart, I'd be delighted.He is great with other animals, especially my horse. Please keep him out of the freezer! The very next day my phone rang, and a young woman told me that she and her husband had been talking about getting a little wether (castrated male goat) and training him to pull a cart. Before I could say lickity split she arrived with her two pretty little girls and her nice husband. They loaded the goat and the cart up and off they went. I think the wee goat guy will have a nice home on her small farm. She has other goats to keep him company and he was quite enchanted by the children. And today I am home, a rare Saturday off. I have a list of things I want to get accomplished in the hours that spill before me like a ripe promise. So I am up and away, "to do" list in hand