Monday, September 30, 2013

And Into Fall We Fall

September flew by.  Oh, I know, I say that every month.  But the months seem to be going by faster and faster.... I feel like I did as a kid, rolling down the mansion hill.... wait, no, that was sledding down the mansion hill ... well, OK, it was sledding down the mansion hill until I hit a bump (or a tree) and THEN it was rolling down, but the point is, time is passing and one moment the month is just beginning and then, here we are welcoming in the next.  I'd like to say that time flew by because we got so much accomplished around here, but it seems the more we do, the more we have left to do.  And so, in that sense, we have spent the month of September preparing for the month of October!

While I was out of town on one of my business trips, Joe finally braved the attic in the old farmhouse, sealing the open cracks and running cabling for TV and computers to the different areas of the house.  Even in September, with summer on the decline, it is pretty hot up in that attic.  Still he spent two full days up there and finished what he set out to do.  That puts us one step closer to being able to live full time in the old farmhouse.

Vacuum before starting attic work
Cracks and crevices sealed
The other main September project has been creating new "level" spaces for new carports we will have delivered in October.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  It requires removing roots and stumps and clearing enough space to actually build the four new units.  Once the area is cleared and relatively root-free, Joe imports dirt of various types to build/level the terrain.  Finally, before the buildings arrive, he has to trench the areas to accommodate the rainwater, and run fresh water lines and electricity to the new structures.

Preparing pad -- digging roots
Digging up roots
Level pad coming along well
Of course, around here, no job simply starts one day and is worked to completion.  There are too many jobs and too many things contingent on other projects, so much of our work seems to be snail pacing along, until one miraculous day we actually FINISH a project! September saw the completion of new rabbit quarters, new chicken quarters, new dog pens, and a new goat milking stand. Joe installed timers on both water heaters. Joe is more patient than I am and that's a very good thing.  When we look back at the photos of all of the work, it amazes us both we have managed to get this much accomplished.  Nevertheless, winter is approaching and that means more work before we can take our long winter's naps.  Actually, I don't think we CAN take a long winter's nap.... these animals around here don't hibernate... guess we'll have to still work through the winter, but the construction work will move indoors when the weather gets too cold.
Judy helping with chicken house construction
Joe puts finishing touches on goat milking stand
First section of new dog kennel erected
New chicken house
Judy milking Sally
New rabbit hutch
Joe installing water heater timer
New dog pen expanded
Farm living is wonderful in many respects but it is also has some sad moments.  This month, while we had no dog-injured chickens, we did have one chicken which was injured by something... the result being that she now has only one eye.  So, our "rehab yard" is back in service separating her from the others while she heals.  She is unable to see anything coming at her from the one side which puts her at a considerable disadvantage.  Still we have seen several chickens we thought would not last the night make it through and return to the flock.  We are hoping this "zombie" will be able to live out her life happily laying eggs, regardless of her missing eye.  From what I have read online, chicken folks tend to be of two schools on what causes this type of injury.  One school contends it is another chicken that pecks out the eye, and the other school contends it is classic weasel attack.  I have no idea.  I just know it is sad.
Zombie chicken.... poor, sweet thing
September was also the month when I tasted rabbit meat for the first time.  We had decided to raise rabbits for meat, and Joe was familiar with the taste, but I don't recall ever tasting it before.  I can report we are both big fans of the lean rabbit meat.  This success brings us one step closer to our goal of self sustained farming.  With chickens for meat and eggs, rabbits for meat and goats for meat, milk and cheese, we have the protein pretty well covered.  The old farmer down the road has been a big help to Joe, teaching him how to butcher and portion the meat.  It's nice to have someone who has been doing this forever, since we are such novices.

Milder than chicken
Fried is OK, but I like it better slow cooked
The summer garden is wrapping up.  We are still getting tomatoes and bell peppers and there are a couple of watermelons yet to pick, but we are preparing to plant the spinach and such that will see us through the colder months.  Figs are still quite abundant, but many on the trees may not ripen if we get an early cold snap.  We are at that point in the season where everything looks a little ragged and overgrown and we start looking forward to clearing it all out and planning for the new start next Spring!  Every year we think, "This will be the year we can focus on the gardens...," perhaps 2014 WILL be that year!

Harvesting grapes

Tomatoes and peppers

Among my least favorite educational experiences this September was learning more than I ever cared to know about the Saddleback Caterpillar.  I happened on this knowledge quite by chance, as I was picking some grapes.  What I THOUGHT happened was that my hand had brushed against a sharp leaf, or something sharp.  Not seeing anything suspect, I continued to pick grapes, and brushed against it a second time... this time, I found the little bugger...  However, finding him was no real reward considering the intense pain that was now engulfing my entire right arm, from hand to shoulder.  I could not get away from the pain and yet, I could see no puncture, rash, swelling.... nothing!  I ran around like an idiot, shaking my arm, as if that would help anything.  I went upstairs and awoke Joe, because while misery may not care about company it SURE craves an audience! Joe was as bewildered as I.  Until that moment my sheltered education had not covered the fact that some caterpillars sting... and that some of those that sting really HURT!  So, Google is my friend and within a few minutes I'd found the name of this little monster that some people (who obviously have never met one of these things up close and personal) think is "cute."
Saddleback Caterpillar
Oddly enough, just a couple of days ago, Joe found another odd looking caterpillar, and recalling my recent encounter, was very cautious with it.  When I Googled this one, the match was obvious, even though my photo was blurry.  This White Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar is another nasty stinger  .... what's the likelihood that in one month we'd encounter two different varieties of stinging caterpillars, after living more than 55 years without such an encounter?
White Tussock Moth Caterpillar
My personal September favorites this year included getting the opportunity to have a short visit with my daughter, son-in-law, nephew, granddaughter and her French grandparents visiting Jenn and Ben from France.  We had a lovely evening, with Miss Eloise the center of attention as she danced to her favorite song, Down, down down down down, down-be-do-be-down down down down down, down-be-do-be-down.... She spun in circles so long she literally made herself dizzy... then, as we all watched with humor, she ran full-tilt through the living room, into the kitchen and headed toward the back door, seemingly trying to get away from the dizziness!  We laughed as we caught her and brought her back into the living room, where she continued, for several more minutes, to have that wide-eyed look of a dizzy child.

Another favorite was having the opportunity to have Miss Eloise stay with us at the farm for a few days this past week.  At 21 months old, she is a most willing farmhand and she awoke each morning asking first about the "co co's," which, in her French language, means, "chickens."  That child loves feeding the chickens, goats, dogs, cat, and rabbits.  And she is fearless, with the exception of a slight aversion to our oldest rooster.  I am not sure why she seemed scared of him, as he is very laid back and never rushed her or anything.  I guess he is just pompous looking!
Eloise feeding goats
Hauling straw
Laughing at chickens
Baking brownies
Feeding chickens
Earlier this summer, during one of my trips to Maryland to help my mother, as I was sorting through piles of odds and ends in her furnace room, I discovered a couple of unframed paintings done by my grandfather in the '60's.  One was a watercolor, the other an oil painting.  I had never seen either before, though I'd seen many of his paintings and drawings over the years.  I brought the paintings upstairs to show Mom and she seemed surprised... it seems she'd never seen them before either.  I had found them in a stack of carefully flattened cardboard boxes.  I told Mom I'd have them framed, and in mid September I got them back from the framer.  I gave them to Mom as my Christmas present to her this year.  She continues to marvel at the watercolor in particular, as it is different from any of Granddad's other paintings.  Interesting to find these, almost fifty years old and apparently forgotten by all.
Oil painting -- held in front of two of Granddad's paintings that hang in my living room

And now as we greet October, we look back on September and are satisfied...we worked hard, made some progress, made some discoveries and had a lot of fun in the process.  And as we fall into Fall, we look forward to more work, shorter days in which to get everything accomplished, and that constant feeling that time is flying past faster and faster!