Agricultora


Finding Inspiration in Culture & Community: The Reedsburg Fermentation Fest
October 26, 2012, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Farm, Fermentation, Food | Tags: , , , , , ,

I went to one day of the more-than-a-week-long Reedsburg Fermentation Fest last Saturday. WORT’s “In Our Backyard” interviewed Sandor Katz and Erin Schneider live on the radio the week before the fest started, and because I ended up filling in as co-host with the amazing Rob McClure, I got to ask Sandor some questions on air. The day I drove up to Reedsburg, I went to one of Sandor’s workshops, and one with Vanessa Tortellano and Alla Shapiro of NessAlla Kombucha here in Madison. I interviewed all three of them.

We aired the interview with Sandor on Wednesday and with NessAlla on Thursday. That part was totally fun, which I expected.

What I didn’t quite expect, maybe because I’ve been fermenting things for a while and started to take it for granted to some extent, was to walk away totally inspired and reinvigorated to ferment, to preach fermentation, to try new things, to share, and to “bubble over.” A lot of it was Sandor’s talk on the bigger picture of fermentation.

Sandor Katz on Fermenting Social Change

When I got home to Madison that night — well, first I had to do a few hours of work on a report that we published at work today, but then soon afterwards — the first thing I wanted to do was ferment something. And, in Vanessa and Alla’s workshop, they’d shared some lemongrass ginger kombucha that was delicious. So I decided to try making some. I’d never made flavored kombucha before. Not for any good reason. I just hadn’t tried it. Cosmo Joe was here with me after painting on State Street all day, so he got to watch the process.

Can you see that funny-looking little nugget floating amidst the various tea bags in the middle there? That’s a dried reishi mushroom from Kingbird Farm. I boiled it with the ginger before I added the oolong and fresh lemongrass (from the Dane County Farmers Market). Does anyone know what reishi does to kombucha? I didn’t, but I decided to try it.

I tried the brew for the first time today, a little early I thought, but what the heck, it had been warm for a few days. It was downright tart! I haven’t had kombucha ferment that quickly in a while. Maybe it was just because I poured a new batch of sweet tea in with my scoby right after bottling the last batch rather than waiting a while, maybe it was because of the reishi, who knows — I don’t, anyway.

So I bottled it up and added a little maple syrup to see if I can get some bubble.

My last batch, which I bottled right before making the sweet tea for this batch last Saturday night, doesn’t seem to have had enough residual sugar when I bottled it, because it stayed flat.

Speaking of bottling, a few weeks ago I bottled the red wine vinegar I’d started a while back.

That same night (October 6th), I started the batch of root kimchi I’m about to jar up for this month’s CSYay. It has (can I remember it all?): cabbage, multi-colored carrots, daikon, beauty heart radishes, black radishes, French breakfast radishes, rutabaga, scallions, garlic, ginger, and Thai chiles. I know I’m forgetting something.

I pulled off the cloths and tried it today, and it’s delicious (especially the stuff in the lighter colored crock, which is *supposed* to be the same as what’s in the brown but apparently is just different enough).

Back to today: I bottled that last batch of kimchi and made the sweet tea for the next batch. This time it’s half black tea, half green tea, with some roasted dandelion. I’ll add some frozen raspberries after it’s done fermenting, if it seems like it’ll go well.

And I’ll leave you with this: some foggy bottoms at Trautman Family Farm this last Tuesday:

For the rest of the images that accompany this post, please visit my F(ermentation)Log on Posterous.



Planned Rock County Mega-Dairy Criticized at Public Hearing
May 13, 2011, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Activism, Farm

(Long time no post, I’m sorry! But I went to a hearing in Janesville Monday night that I want to give a heads-up about, late as it is, if anyone still reads this:)

A public hearing in Janesville, Wisconsin Monday evening allowed the community to comment on the proposed Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit being finalized by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for Rock Prairie Dairy LLC in Bradford Township in Rock County.

Tuls' Butler County DairyRock Prairie Dairy LLC is owned by Todd Tuls, who, with two similarly sized CAFOs in Nebraska, is recognized as Nebraska’s biggest dairy farmer.

Mr. Tuls will send his son TJ, a college freshman, to Wisconsin to run the new facility.

The proposed dairy, a confined animal feedlot operation (CAFO) and “factory farm” in every sense of the term, would milk 4,600 cows three times a day and house a total of 5,200 (including dry cows and heifers), according to a company handout available at the hearing and confirmed by a DNR fact sheet.

The WPDES permit would be issued for the maximum allowable period of five years, expiring March 31, 2016.

The proposed site of the operation is in the watershed of Turtle and Blackhawk Creeks, two tributaries of the Lower Rock River. Construction has already begun, based on other permits already approved by the DNR and other agencies.

According to DNR permit drafter Mark Cain, there would be zero discharge from production. Liquid manure would be strained out of the sand bedding and solid manure from six freestall barns, collected in four manure storage facilities and sent via a dragline hose to fields where it would be injected straight into the soil.

This reflects a change in the permit. An initial draft proposed “center pivot nutrient applications,” or spray irrigation with liquid manure. After a February letter from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services expressed concern over “Public Health setbacks for manure spray irrigation,” Tuls removed the center pivots from the application, but Cain says that they’re not ruled out permanently and could be added at a later date after further review and permit modification.

The liquid manure storage facilities, or lagoons, one of which is already built, would be lined and covered with high-density polyethylene (HDPE), with bio-filtered vents.  One is lined with cement.  The three remaining would be lined with HDPE, and leak detection units would be installed under the liner. The capacity of all four is enough for a projected 397-days of manure.

Solid manure would be stored (with enough storage for a year of production) and then spread over more than 5,200 acres of leased farmland in the area as “nutrient management,” replacing a portion of the synthetic fertilizer currently used on those lands.

The draft permit specifies that applications of solid manure “will not occur within 100 feet of a private well or other direct conduits to groundwater or within 1,000 feet of a municipal well.”

Cain said that Rock Prairie Dairy’s provisions are more protective than other Wisconsin CAFOs but admitted that compliance would be self-monitored and -reported by the factory farm, submitted annually to the DNR.

All 5,200 cows would be housed at all times and fed a mix of conventional feed and sweet corn silage made from the waste from Seneca Cannery in Janesville. Excess sweet corn silage could also be applied to land in the area under a provision of the permit.

Members of the audience distributed pamphlets with pictures of a release of 320,000 gallons of purple leachate coming off of 26,000 tons of silage at Traditions Dairy, a mega-dairy near Nora, IL in late September and early October, 2010. This dairy was also designed to be zero-discharge, and dumped this leachate on 5 acres, causing a tributary of the Apple River to turn purple within 24 hours. Samples of the leachate-contaminated creekwater showed a Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) of 400, twice the level of raw sewage.

Tradition Dairy Leachate

Tradition Dairy Leachate

Tradition Dairy LeachateLocal resident Dr. Margaret Palera, in an impassioned speech in opposition to the permit proposal, showed maps of the proposed site and pointed out that it’s located directly over a large recharge aquifer in the Turtle Creek Watershed.  Turtle Creek Watershed has been “a priority watershed project under the Wisconsin Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Abatement Program,” but a post-project evaluation report found that “there was no discernible watershed-wide reduction in nonpoint source (runoff) pollutant loads” and so it is still an area of concern, according to a 2001 “Lower Rock River Water Quality Management Plan” published by the Walworth County Land Use & Resource Mangement Department.

Palera Comments & Maps

Dr. Palera suggested 350-foot setbacks between manure applications and direct conduits to groundwater given the volume of manure, a three-year rather than a five-year permit and a prohibition on spray irrigation of liquid manure.

Miriam Ostrov, a staff attorney at Midwest Environmental Advocates who has been working on behalf of community members like Tony and Dela Ends of Scotch Hill Farm in Brodhead, a family farm with a small herd of dairy goats, pointed out remaining deficiencies in the permit application. For example, she said, “the draft permit fails to require groundwater monitoring of land application fields” for standard contaminants like “nitrate, fecal coloform and chlorides.”

Julie Waite, who with her husband Jeff and three children has a small family farm in southcentral Wisconsin, pointed out that the land leased for the land application of solid manure is largely tiled, so that manure runoff could leach through into groundwater. She pointed out that there are 150 pathogens in manure. A 2003 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report entitled “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Regulation and Effluent Limitation Guidelines and Standards for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)” confirms that “more than 150 pathogens found in livestock manure are associated with risks to humans.”

Comments on the proposed permit can be sent to:

Mark Cain, Permit Drafter
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – South Central Region
3911 Fish Hatchery Rd.
Fitchburg, WI 53711

The comment period ends Tuesday, May 17, 2011.



Farm-Sitting & Food
February 12, 2009, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Farm, Food, NYC

It’s been a while again, I know, but most of that time was spent upstate either at the winter NOFA-NY conference in Rochester or back at the farm, caring for the critters while the farmers were on vacation in France.  It was a great trip, and I think I could very easily have stayed there, but it’s nice to be back in the whirl of city life I suppose.

Non-animal life was pretty hidden under the snow up at the farm, but besides the abundance of food in cellar, pantry, attic, eggroom and freezer, I did manage to scavenge a few green leaves from the T’aj (the big ol’ greenhouse) despite the snow cover letting in very little light, and we had some fresh-picked salads while we huddled around the wood cookstove for warmth:

Arugula & Lettuce Salad

Arugula & Lettuce Salad

 

Wilted Spinach Salad

Wilted Spinach Salad

Most of our food was cooked, however, and this was the preferred method of doing so:

Cooking on the Woodstove

Cooking on the Woodstove

The purple carrots were from the cellar, the tomato sauce from the cupboard of canned goods.  There were plenty of eggs:

Breakfast

Breakfast

We were given permission to eat what was there, and we ate well!

I did a little bit of knitting in between trice-daily chores.  I’d gotten some yarn from Catskill Merino Sheep Farm at Union Square before we left that was dyed with indigo, among other things, and I made use of the farmhouse facilities to wash, dry (over the other woodstove) and wind into a ball (with their swift and ball winder) the two skeins of yarn, but despite my repeated rinsing, I still ended up with very blue hands every time I worked on the scarf.

Scarf & Gerdi

Scarf & Gertie

That critter there next to me, modeling the scarf (although, of course, not as lovely a model as the beautiful Basil Hayden) is Gertie the Whiner.  She has the most awful voice.  I wish I’d recorded it.  I take that back– no, I don’t.

The other critters were doing well.  There are five turkeys left in the backyard after Thanksgiving, two toms and three hens.  One of the toms is a real piece-of-work and attacked me every time I brought food or water.  At one point, he slapped me full across the face with his wing.  Nevertheless, he is particularly attractive, as far as toms go:

Narragansett Tom

Narragansett Tom

The feeder pigs are quite fat, since they were really almost ready to be sent off before the farmers left:

Wiggles

Wiggles

See the huge scars on the side of the one second from the left?  She was stepped on by her mama when she was a day or two old, and not only did she get back up and survive, but she’s one of the fattest there.  I think these pigs are all a little darker red than the ones sent at the end of the summer.  I don’t know if the summer pigs’ hair gets a little bleached in the sun or if this batch’s genetics is just a little different.

Clara is the same ol’ Jersey, framy and weeny, constantly picked on by the big, mean, long-horned Highlands, but always compliant and productive.

Clara

Clara

Unfortunately, her fellow dairy cow, Dearie, who did not back her up in a fight and in fact probably caused more damage than the Highlands– but dammit she had a lot of spunk and character– passed away in December, I think it was.  Her calf seems to be doing fine, though:

Sue-Bob, Last Calf of Dearie RIP

Sue-Bob, Last Calf of Dearie RIP

Ain’t she purty?  Clara Bell’s calf, Tinker Bell, is looking very different from her first few days, when she was dainty and leggy:

Tinker Bell, or should I say Tinker Bull?

Tinker Bell, or should I say Tinker Bull?

My favorite Highland, Ruth, is looking quite pregnant and seems to be doing quite well with it all this year:

Ruth

Ruth-o-the-Shag

Speaking of shag, the Fjords (especially Mira) are showing all the other critters how it’s done, winter-style:

Mira

Mira

(Check out that beard!  Total Prezwalski’s!)

Lovely Dagna

Lovely Dagna

And surprisingly, Leo looks quite handsome in his velvet coat!

Black Velvet Leo

Black Velvet Leo

 

There are four pigs in the compost middens by the barn, getting very socialized:

 

Hi, whats up, how you doin, can I help?

Hi, what's up, how you doin', can I help?

 

The infernal duo, Reuben & Felix, were up to their usual antics, only with the snow to set off their black-and-white markings this time:

 

Reuben & Felix

Reuben & Felix

This was, however, one of the only times Felix braved the outside.  Most moments found him much more like this:

 

Ensconced

Ensconced

 

What we couldn’t find on the farm (which wasn’t much) we got at our favorite old haunt, Greenstar.  Y’know, the necessary luxuries:

 

Passionfruit Mango Coconut Sorbet w/ Elderberry Syrup

Passionfruit Mango Coconut Sorbet w/ Elderberry Syrup

Actually, the elderberry syrup was from the farm, cooked down from wild elderberries along the driveway.  We made jam from the domesticated elderberry bush in the yard of the strawbale, and the berries were much smaller, so I left in the seeds (which taste a little like hazelnuts) to bulk up the quantity at least a little and still only got two 1/2-pint jars out of it.  The farm family, on the other hand, got quite a bit of syrup out of their big wild berries, darn them.

We brought back some of the good food with us, namely the last of my weekly meat salary that we couldn’t keep up with during the summer.  We lugged a huge box of it onto the Metro-North at Middletown.  The little half-size Manhattan apartment freezer is now extremely hazardous (I step back when I open the door or I would get my toes smashed by an avalanche of solidly frozen meat every time), but it’s paying off.  Last night we got out the little sack of duck hearts and livers Karma gave us when I learned to process ducks (well, to pry out pin feathers, to be precise), separated out the hearts, sliced them in rounds, sautéed them in bacon grease and added them to a mafé variant (a West African groundnut stew):

 

Sautéed Duck Hearts

Sautéed Duck Hearts

 

Mafé

Mafé

It was peanuty-gingery-delicious.

When I set the kali chana (black chickpeas) to soak (they also went in the mafé, although they ended up being rather incidental), I also boiled a couple cups of the Roy’s Calais corn that we harvested from the big strawbale garden in water with cal and set it to soak overnight.  I rinsed it and massaged off the skins this morning and set it to simmer when I left for the rickshaw shop for a day of riding courier.  To make a long story short, I ended up back home from the shop a little earlier than expected, so I turned the corn into a late lunch of pork posole that exceeded my expectations.  Alvaro, who stopped by after work and tried some, looked at me, a little surprised, and asked, “Who made this?”

 

Pork Posole

Pork Posole

I love the little corn-flowers.  Yay nixtamalization!

Not to be outdone, however, Matt just took those duck livers and whipped up a little of this:

 

Duck Liver Pâté

Duck Liver Pâté

 Rest assured, the competition will continue tomorrow…



Put By
October 23, 2008, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Farm, Food

I mentioned all the things we’ve been canning, pickling, jamming, drying etc. in my last post, and thought I’d send you over to Flickr to look at some obsessive pictures like this (click on the picture to see the rest of the set):

Put By

Put By

You can see a little bit of the evidence of Matt’s beverage making efforts this summer underneath the bottom shelf, too.

And I caught a little more color across the pasture from the house:

Color

Color

Today we “processed” ducks.  It was my first extended hands-on involvement in this process, and I have to say that I won’t be eating any poultry for at least a day (not that we eat much poultry anyway, but that’s beside the point).  My job was just going over the ducks that had been scalded and waxed to get rid of the last pin feathers.  Oy.  I won’t begin to describe.  Suffice to say that if you ever get a pin feather in a mouthful of rich juicy duckmeat, try not to be too angry at whoever processed it.  Those suckers are a pain.



Northeast Animal-Power Field Days
September 30, 2008, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Farm

Since life on the farm has been more or less business-as-usual, with a couple of exceptions, I had to wait for something newsworthy to post about.  That happened this weekend, when I went with a couple of neighbor friends, Donn and Julie, to the 2nd annual Northeast Animal-Power Field Days (NEAPFD) in Tunbridge, VT.  My main interest was in seeing working oxen for the first time, and I got to see some beautiful teams and amazing teamsters.

Frank & Jessie, Ray Ludwigs Devon Team

Frank & Jessie, Ray Ludwig's Devon Team

Howie Van Ord Training the Raffle Holstein Calves, Lewis & Clark

Howie Van Ord Training the Raffle Holstein Calves, Lewis & Clark

I got to try driving another, slightly older, team of Holsteins, and Julie drove a two-year old team of devons that looked sweet, but I was too scared of their long horns, which grazed her stomach between her ribs and hip…

Although I loved the oxen best, the most exciting and emotional thing I saw was this:

I was sitting in a workshop Sunday morning and heard a loud jingling and left to go see what it was.  As I turned a corner, I saw four horses hitched abreast, followed closely by another four, and I started running after them.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’d heard that driving 4-up was hard.  Super impressive, and so awesome that I actually started to cry.  Later, Donn gave driving them a shot:

Those horses were gorgeous, but there were lots of beautiful horses there:

Jay Bailey & Fair Winds Farms Suffolk Punches

Jay Bailey & Fair Winds Farm's Suffolk Punches

and mules:

Percheron Mules Pulling a Wagon

Percheron Mules Pulling a Wagon

It was a great weekend despite the rain all day Friday (soaking our tent and bedding through) and overcast weather the rest of the weekend (not letting anything– tent, bedding, clothes, etc.– dry).  I brought a bunch of food, and we picnicked, several times with Mark & Kristen Kimball, with whom I’m rather enchanted, and somewhat tempted to try working at their Essex Farm.  They served us an excellent dinner Friday night, and we collaborated on a couple of breakfasts the next two mornings.  Their bacon (nice and salty) and milk (how else could I have gotten raw milk while traveling?) both rock, as do they.

We got home late-ish Sunday night to find Sunday dinner waiting for us, including a cake for Julie, whose birthday it was, and a visitor from the city, our friend Mike.  Oh, yes, and a gift from Cheryl of Bellwether Cidery, a bottle of my favorite cider in the whole wide world, King Baldwin!  A great evening, with ice cream and homemade chocolate syrup to top it off.



Artisan Cafe & Farm News
August 6, 2008, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Farm

Our friends Ellen and Ken came to visit us this weekend (yay!), and we explored the farmers’ market, cooked a couple meals, drove and walked around Ithaca and then headed up to Trumansburg hoping that the Rongo would be open. It wasn’t, nor was Hazelnut Kitchen, nor much of anything else in little downtown Trumansburg, so we walked into the Artisan Cafe, which was and I’d heard was quite good. Better yet, it seemed they had In Pursuit of Tea, which meant I could get some darned good white tea to up my energy level. They had pastries and sandwiches, but I figured everyone else could eat their good baking and I’d get a sandwich without the bread, so I asked them. The woman I spoke to, whom I believe was one of the owners and the sister of the chef, looked offended and informed me huffily that “our bread is what we’re known for, you know, but I’ll ask the chef if he’d be willing to accommodate you.” When she came back, she told me that “he’s not sure that any of his dishes would be good without the bread.” I told her that I would love to try the bread, as I’d heard good things about it, but I couldn’t eat gluten and, since nowhere else in town was open and we were all hungry, I hoped we could figure something out. Perhaps at this point she realized the impression she was creating, because she said she was just trying to keep me from paying for something I wouldn’t enjoy. I thanked her and walked out, nearly in tears because I was hungrier than I’d realized and pissed off by her attitude and sick of being the one who makes eating out difficult for everyone else.

I recovered and we went to Ithaca for lunch at Smart Monkey, who although they were out of the gluten-free bread I was so impressed with last time, were able to make me a burger without the bread as well as without the attitude. Conclusion? I’m never going back to the Artisan Cafe, that’s for sure. It’s a shame, because that kind of place– small local business with real food– is normally exactly where I’d like to be. Too bad about the attitude, hon.

In other news, I made a court appearance today for a speeding ticket and got it knocked down from 81 in a 65 (which it’s nearly impossible for me to have been doing) to 71 in a 65 (which is what I was doing anyway), swiping three points off my license and leaving me $180 in the hole. I’m more convinced than ever that Owego is the devil’s playground and that the road down there, moreover, is about like you’d expect the road to hell to be– not even paved with good intentions in several parts, I’m afraid. The grin from the construction worker didn’t really make up for the detours I was sent on.

And in more pleasant news, there are 11 adorable piglets in the sow barn! Their mothers, Marusia and Crimson, are doing fine. The boys (8 of them, I think) don’t seem to miss their parts, which were rudely removed Monday evening. Our friends in the city had an even cuter baby, though, this one quite human and absolutely beautiful. Welcome to the world, Eden! If you’re reading this, Vikou, send more pictures! Still on the baby front, Rosie’s silkies have 18 chicks and counting (one more was poking its way out of its shell earlier this afternoon and is probably tottering around by now), and she just arrived back from Tofino by way of Texas to revel in all their glory. After discovering them, she spent all afternoon in the woods, checking in on her trees and eating berries and things.

The ducks, which were to be processed yesterday morning, have received a reprieve (except for 8 of them). They were too much “in pin.” I only plucked one of them. It was the easiest one and wasn’t too bad. Their butts really are as big as they look when they’re waddling around with their feathers still on. They look like they have fuzzy white diapers on. Two broiler chickens (a white one and a red one) received reprieves on Sunday, too, and they were wandering around the farm causing trouble with the Australorps until they got crated today to send, along with two old layers and a Silkie rooster named Puff Daddy, to a woman who’s never had chickens before and will therefore pamper them to no end. Speaking of the Australorps, they laid 86 eggs today! Some of them are almost large! I’m pretty sure they’re laying more than the old Red Stars now.

More piglets are due in a few weeks, and the ducks will be herded down to the processing shed again, and the feeder pigs and beefers have various appointments with the butcher starting at the end of August, but in the meantime, the whole fandamily is leaving for NOFA this weekend, and I’m stuck with a farm to run while they’re gone. For a good time, come out to the farmers market Saturday to see if I can handle the booth on my own.



MaryPat and Mike, plus Horse Stories
July 23, 2008, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Celebration, Family, Farm

Matt’s parents spent ten days with us, leaving Monday afternoon. It was wonderful to have them with us, they took us to great restaurants and to see lots of live music and we’re sad they’re gone now. We all went to the Grassroots Festival to see Lucinda Williams last Thursday night.

Lucinda & Moon

Lucinda & Moon

MaryPat & Mike

Mike & MaryPat

That’s all the pictures I have for y’all today, but they’re sweet, right?

In case anyone was worried by my hooks last week, here are some horsie stories:

A week ago last Thursday, I believe, Karma and I worked all morning and part of the afternoon, and then she announced that I needed to learn to ride, and she and Rosie and I were going to go walking in the woods– on ponies. Rosie was kind enough to lend me her pony, Mira, while she rode English and Karma rode the fat round barrel that is Friday (an incredibly hard worker, and the fattest animal on the farm, except maybe for Beatrice the eldest sow). We took off at a leisurely pace up into the woods, back onto the road behind the farm, down into someone’s field where Reuben scared off a posse of neighbor dogs, only spooking Mira a tiny bit (but spooking me a little more, although we only jumped a bit and I felt fine afterwards). She leapt a log once, which was very exciting. Overall, it was an uneventful walk and I had a great time.

We came back through the top of the farm past the pond and were just taking saddles off, etc. when Mike and Nathan arrived home, and Mike wanted to work all three of the ponies we’d just ridden. So we gave them a little rest, then harnessed them all up three abreast and led them up and hooked them to the disk implement, which smooths already plowed and harrowed soil to make a nice neat seedbed, in this case for covercrops like buckwheat, clover, etc. It has several sharp metal wheels set at an angle so that they don’t roll straight through the soil but create a lot more drag and therefore necessitates more than the regular two pony work team of Mira and Friday. English, Friday’s sister, is a little high-strung, good for riding but not usually used for farmwork because she’s harder to control there. She was hooked up next to Friday, who was in the middle with Mira on the other side, looking very patient. Friday was worked up as usual, throwing her head around a bit and bending it down to eat grass while things were getting ready behind her. Mike led them out to the field before we noticed that, in bending down to eat, Friday had gotten one of her hames (one of two metal bars with decorative balls on the upper end that attach around the collar and have the lines hooked through rings along their length) hooked under one of English’s lines (like reins, to direct the horses by means of the bits in their mouths), and English’s head was being pulled a little sideways towards Friday and Mira. As Mike started out into the field he wanted to disk, Karma and I shouted, but he didn’t hear, and before we knew what was happening, they were running pretty fast down the row alongside the mangels (feed beets for the pigs, which had just been thinned). Mike was shouting and pulling their lines, but they weren’t listening. Soon, he had jumped off his seat behind them and in front of the disk, to the side so as to avoid being disked himself, and continued to shout and pull. They kept running, and he dropped the lines and held up his hands, still running and shouting but signaling (we figured) to us that he had lost them. They went racing down the rest of the row, curving into the mangels towards the far end, then turned a neat corner around the end of the beds to the right, then to the right again at the barn end of the garden, running fast along the high-tensile electric fence, the disk flying along and bouncing behind them. About halfway back towards us, the disk caught on a locust fencepost and snapped off, and they kept running, dragging a bit of the fence line along with them for a while. They kept going when they reached the end of the garden, and probably would have continued full-pace back to the barn, but the sight of the ducks’ poultry net stopped them short.

We ran over there, and all the horses seemed to be fine, breathing heavy and sweating but not hurt that we could see. I turned the poultry net charger off and we got them out of the little alley they’d run into, turned them around, and hooked them to another piece of equipment when Mike rejoined us so that they wouldn’t stop work on a bad note. It didn’t go well, since the same thing kept happening with Friday’s hame and English’s line, so eventually we took them back to the barn and I headed home. The disk was broken, but not so badly that we couldn’t hobble it together the next day, and the fence post had been snapped at about ground level but could be propped back upright so that the paddock it enclosed could be used that evening, and none of the fence lines were down. Mike was OK, just shaken and winded. Karma did find a small cut on English later.

I think I also mentioned hay? Not half so exciting. We loaded 200-some square bales of varying conditions of hay (three wagonloads, if I remember right) into the haymow (the upstairs, open, well-ventilated area for hay storage) of the barn last Wednesday on a pretty darned hot and humid day. Never having done more than a trial run of hay loading the Saturday before, when Michael, Matt, Karma and I loaded about 70 bales, many of them badly baled and therefore relatively light, I may have overworked myself a bit… I was exhausted when we started chores afterwards, itchy, shaky and generally not in a very good mood. Matt and his parents wanted to go see Donna the Buffalo and a zydeco band play on the Commons that night, and I didn’t think I would make it, but I headed up to the house for a nice cold shower, and lo and behold, once I was clean, a little less itchy, and changed into a skirt, I felt much more up for dancing, although still quite tired. We ate tacos and danced in the rain. The Gloses were there, Rosie in her cape and Karma’s parents dancing under an umbrella. Matt’s parents danced, too, photographic evidence of which I posted last week. Quite well, too, I might add. For more dancing pictures, you’ll have to bother Matt to finally post to his blog again.

It’s been raining a lot here, and we spent most of today indoors, cleaning and packing eggs and then garbling herbs (rubbing the dried leaves and flowers off the stems) and weighing and packing them for sale until it was time for chores. Everything is awash in mud outside. The cows seemed to enjoy the rain, though, lying in the field looking thoroughly relaxed. The bull, a temporarily purchased Red Angus always named Colonel Angus (no matter which particular bull he is), was lounging, too, showing no desire to do his duty by the ladies, all of whom have horns (he doesn’t) and most of whom are quite sassy and hard-to-get. The milkers have his digits, and Dearie (the half-Jersey, half-Shorthorn who’s old enough to badly need a bra) has been showing him how to mount– by doing it herself, to him. She’s always been a favorite with the bulls, but this one apparently needs a little more help than previous colonels. Here’s hoping for pregnant cows someday relatively soon.

Speaking of pregnant, the two youngest sows– actually gilts, because they haven’t had any previous litters– are expecting come Monday, so the sow barn is cleaned out, and we should have lots of tiny little piggleties for me to photograph and generally ogle soon. Maybe I’ll even get another birthing film. Hopefully the camera and I will communicate better about that this time.

The second batch of broiler chickens will be processed on Sunday, and the ducks either the week following or the second weekend in August, I think. In between, Michael and Karma are going to NOFA in Massachusetts, and I’ll be left alone with the farm, so I’ve been practicing my milking and trying to build confidence. Poor Clara Bell, whom I milked this evening, is currently being beat on by the other cows and suckled on by the other calves besides Tinker Bell. Hopefully things will be a little more in order when they’re gone so she’s a little more comfortable while I’m milking.

Enough for today! I hope everyone’s enjoying their summer, has enough rain but not too much, etc.