Saturday, October 22, 2016

Up on a Roof!

 The past two days Adam has been on top of the "little building" (as we call it), putting on a new roof.
 He drove to Jacksonville to pick up the new roof materials. Thankfully the weather has turned decidedly cooler.
 He pulled off the old junky metal roof.
 And you know how we are on this farm -- we will definitely repurpose all that metal in some way!
This exposed the wooden roof beneath, which had some rotten spots. You can see one area on the right hand side, near the ridge line.
 He's my hero. I made him pose.
 Then he ripped into the other side that faces the road. You see that the vines have kept encroaching on this structure in spite of Adam's valiant efforts.
 He ordered a nice deep barn red color. I love it!
 He put on the black tar paper yesterday. Then it rained lightly last night, but all is well. Today he got one-half of the new roofing on.
Through an order mix-up, the other half of the materials won't be here for almost two weeks, unfortunately :( But doesn't it look good so far!
 This was supposed to be Adam's "practice run" so he could also put a new roof on the main house later. But this roofing experience has shown him that he is a bit too old and wobbly to attempt the steeper pitch of the main house. So we will buy the same materials over time and find someone to do the labor. This wife is now breathing easier for that decision. I was not eager for the nervous days I'd spend with Adam overhead, skittering around. That's the latest from the farm.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bernie and the Bachelor Pad

I love my ladies, I really do. I didn't plan to leave them that night, but a tempting aroma wafted toward me over the fence in the corner of the yard -- a cross between honeysuckle and old shrimp. I couldn't resist. I leapt into the air and landed on the fence! A narrow gap allowed me to perch there atop the vines. And sure enough, beneath my claws, was a delectable black snake. Not too big. Not too small. He was caught in some black mesh fencing, snared in the honeysuckle vines. I made short work of him.
That's me -- not my best side though.
Dusk was falling. The ladies clucked at me and meandered through the small coop door to their nightly roost. But I felt the breeze of freedom blowing my tail feathers from across the field. How can any real man resist the urge to fly free, escape the womenfolk, and pursue an evening's adventure after a good dinner of snake? Again I leapt! I landed in the cool grass of the open pasture. What grass! After the pecked-clean chicken yard, it was a smorgasbord of delight! Fescu, crabgrass, centipede, goldenrod, old tomato plants, and various weeds! All for the taking. And I the lone chicken in the yard. Life was quite good.

Then I saw him, loping across the field -- that black labrador. We'd had a previous altercation which landed me in the hospital for a week. He had not dared accost me since, and I felt we'd established a farm truce. He and I even coordinated for defensive purposes occasionally; I squawked my warning for aerial predators; he responded with an alarm bark. The ladies hustled to the corner by the pine tree, and Ned (for this is the beast's name) scanned the sky for the attacker. In this way we'd saved the ladies lives many times.

Still, I did not trust him. He has a lolling head and gaping mouth. He is sheer, solid muscle, lean and fast. His piercing eye is flawless and no squirrel can step foot upon earth in his field. He is the master from fence to fence! And now, I was pecking grass in his kingdom. Retreating into my hen yard and coop did not occur to me. How can a rooster, having recently leapt into manly freedom, cow and hide from the large black beast, fleet of paw and ferocious of bark? I thrust out my chest, squared my wings, thrust out my spurs, and crowed!! Then he knew I was there!

He pounded across the pasture, beneath the pecan trees. I leapt in the air, let out a squawk, and scampered sideways. A sideways maneuver is a rooster's first ploy. He neared, growling savagely. The dusky sun was setting behind the orchard trees, and I felt my life might end in a moment. His shoulder muscles heaved as he approached while his gaping mouth and white fangs lunged for me. I ran -- oh, how I ran -- for my only escape. I glimpsed a light in the darkness behind me and escaped into the door behind me! I flew into the air hoping to land on something -- anything! -- high on the wall. At the same instant I fluttered up, the beast crashed into the room, which became a cell of thunderous barking and high-pitched squawks. I landed on a high shelf, panting and heaving with panic and relief.

The beast stood beneath me. His leering, hungry face relaxed slowly. His deep black eyes sparkled. Then he seemed to smile. He tilted his head inquisitively to one side as if asking me a question, but I don't speak dog, and I'm quite certain he doesn't understand the complex language of the fowl. I grumbled a little at him and squatted down on my feet. He stepped into his lounge chair. (It was his office, after all.) I half-closed my eyes. Well, to be honest, my noble, bright-red comb is not the stiffest of ornaments, and it droops embarrassingly over my right eye. So I closed my right eye as I always do, and I scrutinized him with my left. This I did for many minutes.

Then we both heard the shouts. The humans arrived. The beast stood quivering at the door and barred my escape.They soon realized my absence, and I waited patiently for them to rescue me from my imprisonment. But although they obtained flashlights and searched all around the barn, the coop, and the pasture, the silly humans never looked in the most obvious place: the room with high shelves. The first thing the loud human did was close the door of my cell, trapping me with my tormentor! What terror! I heard their shouts for me outside. The gentler one seemed woeful and teary, and my heart yearned for her. How could she not find me? At last they abandoned their search and retreated to their coop. The night grew black and still. My eye discerned the beast, now curled into his chair, and finally sleeping. I, however, slept little. The mice that inhabit the room and feast upon his pitiful dog fare each night scampered all around me. What hideous companions for a noble fowl such as myself! But I dared not move from my safe position.

At last morning arrived, and with the sun the humans resumed their search for me. I crowed for them once, and although the sound elicited a grand "hallooo!!" from the loud human, it also aggravated an aggressive challenge from the labrador. So I lay back down to wait. They scoured every inch of the farm, venturing into overgrown corners and beyond their land, over ditches and into other fields. I dared not crow again. The gentler human sadly made her way back to her coop, and then -- at last! The loud human turned the knob of the cell door. My beastly companion had been whining and complaining of being kept there during their search. The door opened; he erupted into the pasture. And finally, the human saw me there! He beckoned his lady! She entered, reached for me, and picked me from the shelf. I admit to a bit of scratching and complaining as she carried me from the place. But what a night I'd had! All because they would not check the one place they should've known I'd be: trapped with the labrador monster. He had me at his mercy, locked in his own room, and I barely escaped alive!

My night's adventure ended well; I returned to my ladies without a feather missing. The gentler human spent the morning cutting away vines and netting around my yard, and the loud human erected yet more of that appalling metallic irritant they jokingly call "chicken wire." He thinks he will keep me from further thrilling escapades by moonlight.

I plan to learn the beast's language so we can communicate. The shelf in his office is vastly superior to my own roost, and if I can convince him of my peaceful intentions, his bachelor lodgings might be a quiet alternative to the constant pecking, nagging, and claustrophobic sleeping conditions I presently experience each night with four wives plaguing me. With time, I may tame the beast and convince him to share his bachelor pad. I am now plotting my next escape. When opportunity knocks, I'll pursue a truce and agree to eradicate his mice if he will share his dwelling and a morsel of his food. I've heard it is superior to layer pellets. Why, I ask you, should a rooster be submitted to the indignity of eating layer pellets?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

First Hurricane on the Farm

Hurricane Matthew was kind and skirted out to sea, leaving us with high winds and a dab of rain for us, but no serious damage. Saturday evening brought the heaviest rain and the beginning of flooding in our house lot.

With a forecast of 10-15" of rain, I was quite worried our house would be stranded like Noah's ark in a small pond by morning.
We moved our 3 vehicles by evening to get them out of the water. That was a pain! Adam had to walk back from Bayboro twice.
The wind howled loudly most of the night, and our electricity went out. I tossed and turned. Everyone I spoke to on Sunday said the same thing: "We have no electricity. I slept horribly last night."
Sunday morning, we walked the farm to assess damage. I'm happy to say we had only one branch fall on the barn roof. Otherwise, the yard and field were strewn with hundreds of small branches. Adam got one small hole in the barn roof that he'll repair.
The chicken yard was attacked by the pine tree overhead.
Before the storm hit I removed everything on the front porch -- 65 mph winds were expected and they did arrive! I noticed my rose bush had one last bud just opening. I cut it and brought it inside, a little touch of warm, bright summer as autumn's stormy season takes over.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and suddenly cool. What a relief!
We began gathering debris, two truck beds full.
Monday morning Adam began a fire to burn it all. The wind had died down.
Strong winds robbed most of the county of power, and work continues to restore it. Ours came on Sunday night, and I'm so thankful. The farm is fine. Our young pea plants and lettuces were battered by wind, but I hope they'll recover. But another crop was encouraged by that wind ... the pecans! Quite a few fell, and I began gathering them today. Pecan-gathering means that autumn is truly here!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The October Garden

That's what we brought in from the garden yesterday: a few tomatoes, a green pepper, some fresh green beans, cayenne peppers, and three fresh eggs.

Not bad for October!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

This and That and a Hurricane

A few days ago Adam came in the house and said, "Guess what?" And he showed me the first two pecans he'd picked up this season.
We each ate one. They were large and well-fleshed and tasty. 
Quite a young, chewy pecan, if you know what I mean.
What is that new drapery over the back door, you ask? Did I mention that Adam found a torn weather balloon in our field? He did. There it is. I had fun taking that in to work and showing it to the kids and teaching them a little about weather balloons. I'm constantly looking for anything that might be interesting and educational to them. They enjoy seeing and touching anything that they've never seen before. I enjoy letting them guess what it is before I tell them.
Take this food sieve for instance. I found it at the local thrift store for $5.
I used one of those 20 years ago in Iowa to make grape jelly. An elderly friend brought a box of her own grapes to me, with her sieve. That was fun! I also have a food mill that I used to make applesauce. I suppose they serve similar purposes.
In addition to the sieve and the food mill, I took these wooden items to show the kids:
The bottom one, of course, is a sock darner. But the middle one? For years I wondered what it really was. I used it to darn socks, but it's a bit long. Neither the top nor the middle item really works as a rolling pin -- although I think my mother always described the top item as my great-grandmother's rolling pin. As I researched these items a bit online, I discovered that both the longer ones are pestles! Think of how large the mortars would've been, that they were used with. For the kids to understand what a pestle is, I took in Adam's quite-heavy stone set with a sprinkling of crushed allspice in it. I passed the mortar around for them to smell. Such experiences are important with children. As a teacher, you toss out to them dozens (even hundreds) of little experiences, little pieces of information, little sensory appeals. A few of them embed deeply in a few children's minds and take root and grow. You never know which ones.
A chicken in Beaufort is ready for the foul weather.
Rain gear will soon be in vogue here on the farm. Hurricane Matthew is coming this weekend. It will probably bear down on us sometime Saturday night/Sunday morning. We haven't lived through a bad hurricane since we moved here in 2012, but Hurricane Irene did horrible damage in 2011 just before we arrived. Our farm is a bit of a low spot. Much depends on wind direction, wind tides up the rivers and creeks, how fast the storm is moving, and how much rainfall it dumps on us before it moves on. I'll keep you posted as long as I have internet connection to do so.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nearly October

Hello, all. I promise I have not dropped off the planet. Busy week last week. 'Tis the time of year for pretty fall weeds to bloom on the farm:
Ned has been sick. We thought he'd been snake-bit, but instead he'd scraped his chest on some sharp farm object, developed a bit of an abscess, felt quite puny, visited the vet, been on meds, and nearly recovered. He loathes being on a line instead of free in his field.
Our cayenne pepper plants finally decided they would do something with their lives.

Aren't they pretty? 
And we have a couple other not-so-fiery pepper plants that are performing.

The white peppers and some deep black/purple ones come from those two plants.
Did you see those tomatoes up there? Yep -- we still have a handful coming in! 
We have two plants still bearing:
One is (I think) a Black Plum, and it's large with lots of fruit, but ...
Its fruit rots on the vine. Meh. Not planting that one again.

This other one, however, is doing well. Its fruit is good. Not too shabby for Nearly October! And considering that my first tomato was eaten on June 1st -- four months of tomatoes!
Adam planted sweet peas in the old tomato beds.
He used leftover peas from spring in the bed above, and only two plants came up.
But in the bed below he used new Wando peas from the farm store,
 and they've come up much better.

Our asparagus is doing well for its first few months! 
I love it when things I started in the greenhouse actually succeed.

This is a crazy volunteer gourd plant on an old cucumber trellis.
I'm hoping since these gourds have good ventilation and sun, they will ripen and not rot.
Adam also put in some lettuces and collards for the fall. 
Some are in this long raised bed. You can just begin to see them.
These are in the old hoop bed where lettuces were before.
 I think we'll have some autumn salads!
We've had a bad watermelon year. All of them so far had blossom end rot -- 
low calcium in the soil, we think. These last two look good so far, 
but Ned will probably eat them when he can roam around again.
We also valiantly tried a few more bean plants. We had no success with beans this year. 
But these couple of vines seem to be healthy.
 However, I'm not gettingmy hopes up about actually eating beans from them.
Beans have disappointed me too many times before!
Our two horseradish plants look quite happy.
Adam had some dirt in the back of his truck -- good, compost dirt -- 
and he dumped it out on this piece of plastic. 
A few days later we noted that many little
 squash/cucumber/gourd seedlings arose from it. 
It is too late in the year for you poor little things! We will not let you grow and vine your way around half the yard.
The chickens are good. The bees are good, if not overburdened with honey stores this wet year. The worms got too hot in August (didn't we all?), and their numbers declined sharply. We will replenish our population of worms.
That's it from the farm!