Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Paddle like hell.

When the going gets tough, the rats abandon ship. The strong paddle like hell. Well... I am paddling.

In the last 2 days I have had 39 ducks killed by a pack of coyotes and a small band of raccoons. They are stealthy and cruel and have ripped several of my best buddies to shreds. Many have just been gone the next day. After I literally broke down in their big run, I started to clean up the mess left behind by the raccoons. At least the coyotes take most of their victims with them. They left only 4 to be disposed of. There were 4 they just killed for fun. They were probably teaching their young to hunt using my babies. Sad, the circle of life, it is what it is, so be it, hopefully they were hungry and my babies dies swiftly. As they say in my favorite TV series, "Their fight (flight) is over".

As I clean up the aftermath it reminds me of two of my own sayings, "be careful what you ask for" and "don;t speak it into existence". Bill wanted less animals, he got his wish. I had planned on taking 12 to be harvested. Only 4 f them remain. I had planned on taking 25 to auction as they were young and would make good barnyard pets, there is only 1 of them left. Among the dead was my best buddy, the mother of most of my babies, Penelope. She was a beautiful brown and white duck that always wagged her tail when she saw me. She was not friendly enough to pick up but we had an understanding. Id say hello to her and she would wag her tail. I let her sit on however many eggs she wanted as long as she raised her young. She did all of that well. She raised 21 of this years duckling crop. Most are dead along with her. Only 1 remains. My heart is broken.

As I try to remedy the situation with traps and loaded weapons and late night walks in to the pens I wish humanity had not encroached on these wild critters to the point that they felt they must break in and devour my babies. They got by 10 foot tall bird netting by digging under and pulling one section down, hopping over a fence, clawing through netting and fence in one area and the coons just climbed a tree and walked right in as they scampered down the tree next to it. They have stolen eggs, lives, love... I want revenge. I saw 2 of them. I tried to scare them with the pellet gun to no avail. Next time it wont be a pellet gun I take to their fight. Id rather bury them than my babies.

I will mourn the loss of my feathered friends but I will swim on. Always in shark infested waters but I paddle nevertheless.

Watch out for the human vultures and coyotes this week. They are out en masse as well. Having issues with people following through on promises and keeping their word. I have vowed to not get nasty. Its hard for me as it is so upsetting that I keep my word to all of them and follow through on every promise yet they do not respect me enough to do the same for me. May the coyotes and coons find them and usher in a visit from karma. I normally wish no harm on anyone but today I find it difficult. I pray tomorrow is a new dawn and a new day with a new heart for me.

As I withdraw for a while to regroup I pray that we can save whats left and that our neighbors' babies are spared. If you have a moment to say a prayer for all the babies we lost and those we will try to save, it would be greatly appreciated. Paddle on friends!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Email trash

I forgot how much time it takes to clean out the e-mail in-box and folders. Whew. I was at it eight hours and it is still not done. I took a break from the jewelry as it was stressing me out so I am working on other invisible things like email and computer files. What a mess. It is so easy to get bogged down in crap these days. What a mess my in-box is.

I spent the morning deleting and unsubscribing and answering notes I had overlooked. Whew! How does anyone really run a business these days? I could spend half and whole days just on the phone and computer. I have no idea how other folks do it. Thank goodness we are shutting up the shop. I have been too stressed for too long.

I had a very nice surprise yesterday. I had a little box arrive at my door filled with morel mushrooms from a dear friend from Illinois. The heart of morel country is northern Illinois and man oh man I miss that taste.

They arrived mushy and in a lot of water so I was terrified that they were rotten and no good. But upon investigating the bag I found them to smell just like the old mushrooms of my youth, just a tad soggier. SO I drained them and chilled them and today I sauteed them up with some red wine and butter and some quinoa. Oh my Lord were they tasty. Lets just say there are NONE left after Bill and I dove in. What a sweet and considerate surprise.

These days packages and snail mail have been put aside a lot but I will tell you that this simple little package filled with fungus made my year. I have not had a morel since 1988. Maybe even before that. It brought back memories of fishing on Honey Creek and the Rock River and getting bored on a no fish day and hunting for mushrooms. The gems of the mushroom hunter are the morel and chantarelle. Morels are harder to find in my humble opinion so to me they are even more prized than the tasty chantarelle.

I cannot thank Paul enough for the yummy surprise. I wish I was going to be up North in the spring when the morels peek through the moist earth after a rain. I miss the crocus and the jonquils poking through the snow, the robins arrival to signal that spring has finally come and the warm breezes are soon to follow and the baby deer and little animals that are everywhere in the spring.

SO today was a day of remembrance. Funny how a little fungus can make such vivid memories return like a flood. Tomorrow I dive back into the sorting project so today was a nice respite. Have a great day and we will see you again once the moon sinks into the sea.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Today I begin the arduous process of downsizing. We all think about doing it but do we all REALLY know what it takes to downsize? I have to downsize a FARM. Now its a small farm so no I do not have to get rid of lots of big things but even on a small farm there are things that accrue. Oh soooo much things. We will get to that but first I decided to start with my room.

My closet is the smallest space in my room yet it seems to hold the most so I decided to start there. My goal is a week to clean. That's probably being optimistic but I had to start somewhere. My jewelry box is in that room so I started with that. Bad decision. It stalled me in my tracks.

I laid out all, yes ALL, of my jewelry on the bed. Its a queen bed and it covered the entire thing. You cannot even see bed anymore. So... I found that I have acquired things from my travels, from my friends and family and I also have things from my Mother, Maternal Grandmother, Paternal Grandparents, Aunts, and extended family. I have many heirlooms. Only I found one hitch, I have no children of my own. I have the kidlets but we have become distant over the years. I have cousins but they too are distant. I try to keep in touch but I am less than perfect. Go figure.

So to remedy the situation I am taking photos of everything and if the thing has a story I am writing it as well. I will gather all these photos and stories into one place and let the kidlets and cousins decide if they want things I am parting with and even things that I am keeping so that I can put it in my will that they may have that item. Its the only thing I could come up with. After that I will extend that to friends and former students that I keep in touch with and after that I will sell whats left. Hows that for a plan? I like it so far. Maybe one day my jewelry stories can be collected into a book. Antonio, my former wwoofer, liked that idea and offered to read it so if one person reads it, to me that's a success!

SO off I go to start the process. I will try to share some here. Id love ideas of other ways to do this too. Its always good to brainstorm. Never hurts!

Here's to the beginning of my 2018 summer journey. May it free me for a new adventure this fall!

I already feel the power of downsizing. it is quite empowering to think you can free yourself by letting go of things. There is much to let go of here. I will be sad for some to go and happy for some to leave but the process will be treated as an adventure! I do love a good adventure!

If anyone wants to do it with me I will be glad to be your cheerleader in exchange for some people motivating me. I know me, I will get discouraged when the tough decisions come up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Coming Home

It feels so good to be home. The smell of the air is so different here in Illinois than it is in Florida. It's hot this time of year up here but it is a different hot: not the drippy sopping wet sweaty heat I am used to at home in the south.

It is also nice to be with my kidlets. They are all growing up so fast and becoming their own people. It is nice to see how they have grown and talk to them about their activities throughout the year and see the end results of their 4-H projects as they ready them for the fair this weekend.

I am looking forward to the fairs, it has been a long year for us and I am so ready for some fun. I can smell the cotton candy and kettle corn already! I love walking through the exhibit halls, seeing the projects all the young people brought in for judging. There is always so much creativity and innovation in their creations. I enjoy witnessing the ideas of the next generation of world leaders, inventors, businessmen and women, farmers, artists and more.

My favorite part is to walk through all the animal barns and see the happy healthy animals these 4-Her's and Junior exhibitors have raised. It makes my heart happy to know that they will be the next generation of farmers to feed our nation. This weekend I will take root in the beef barns, watching the cattle and kids and listening to their lively banter and witnessing their jovial antics. There is never a dull moment in the beef barn.

I am hoping to see some family, have some great ice cream at my favorite drive in, take a drive through my home county to drive by and revisit the pastures filled with gorgeous green grasses, endless cornfields, old rustic barns, quaint small towns, rivers both small and massive, big rolling hills and ancient limestone cuts that make this area so great to come home to.

Just breathing the air makes me nostalgic. It is so good to be able to "come home".

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Well, it is hell getting old. Don't do it... Its a trick!

I am pretty strong and kinda agile for a gal who has terrible arthritis in every joint and who has undergone several major surgeries on joints and too many minor ones to count. I have been hauling feed and dirt, digging up dirt, sand and manure, fossil hunting in mines and rivers, have been crawling in and out of trucks hauling dirt, rocks, manure etc for many years. Well, today I can say is the first time I have fallen out of the tuck. No I am not hurt badly but I do have a nasty foot long very dark bruise starting to show down my left leg and a second nasty one on my right leg.

This comes a couple weeks after I had a four hundred pound rain barrel fall on me and pin me down. That one gave me a concussion as my head hit the steel pig cage on the way down. UGH. Poor ole Wilbur the 400 pound boar was out and came over to see what was happening and as I had his corn in my hands when I fell he came over to see what the heck was taking me so long. All I saw were those tusks and started screaming. He looked at me like "what the heck is she screaming at? She is on top of MY corn!!!" He walked away like nothing was happening. I didn't hurt hardly at all from that and it should have been the worst pain; my knee was twisted sideways until Bill got the barrel off me. I was pinned there for a while, screaming my head off. Not a good day.

So todays embarrasment, yes my ego is bruised too, showed me that I am not invincable and maybe I should stay on the ground from now on. I am going to let the tractor do the majority of the work and if I get one less bucket load in that truck so be it. At least I will still have a heartbeat.

Many thanks go out to Aaron, who was loading the truck with the tractor, for catching me on the way down. I had a bad feeling about my dismounting the truck and I had asked him to stand behind me in case I fall. After he caught me as I fell ass over teacup, he said, "nice planning". I limped away, bruised in ego as much as body, and all I could say was, "that's gonna leave a mark".....

Friday, February 27, 2015

It is carzy here at the homestead as it is spring and planting is right around the corner. We have two new baby goats so ffeding bottles every four hurs and watching them play is our only entertainment. We also have a new pig, Wilbur, a 300 pound Hampshire boar. He was emaciated when he arrived but as put on about fifty pounds in ten days and is looking better each day. He get all the extra produce from the garden, 40 fresh scrambled eggs a day, daily baths, a nice pasture to root and nap in so he is in hog heaven. We are harvesting our watermelon radishes which grew as big as softball, truly I mistook them for turnips. We roasted some with turnips and carrots last night with some olive oil, garlic and sea salt and they were amazing. I am looking forward to planting and have been working on getting a seed inventory. We got the seed collection organized, mostly, thanks to Delphine, she has been a godsend this year!!! We are starting to move some of the beds ad refresh them and the rest with gorgeous composted manure from a loal farm we have partnered with. We look forward to the new season, I hope you will all come visit soon. 

Our woofers have been working like mad and have been hauling manure, emptying beds, feeding baby goats, going to classes, we attended an alpaca birthing program where we learned to assist with difficult births, it was amazing and we even had a lab where we could practice ientifying positions of the cria inside the mother and also to practice moving the amanimpulating cria to allow passage into the birth canal. It was an incredible experience and we hope to do more classes like that one. We held two classes here already this year, one was for spring gardening in Florida and other zone 9 areas and Delphone held another short class on seed starting as she is the queen of germination!

We madly labled and packed up 33 entries for the strawberry fest's canning anc baking competitions. We have several interns entered and even Bill and I and some friends got in on the action. We go tomorrow to se if we won anything. I am excited. I earned a grand champion ribbon last year with our chicken soup. I am hoping to do well but I drem of another pretty purple ribbon!!! :)

The dogs are getting a bit neglected with all the babies around but they have been spending time with the girls as they unload manure trucks. They seem to enjoy watching us work. I'm thinking "get off your butt and grab a shovel" but I am glad they are out in the fresh air enjoying being with us, I hope to start working them soon once the frenzy of hauling is over and we settle into maintaining the garden once it is planted. 

The market is going strong and we hope to see you all there the second Saturday of March. We will have eggs, veggies, greens and so much more. I made a fresh batch of laundry soap and hope to make some more soon. We made marmalade last week from our sour oranges and our intern Lisa made us a french rabbit dish for diner that was incredible. Always something interesting happening in the kitchen. Annelise and I made homemade noodles last week and she was amazed at how simple it is to make this tasty morsel from scratch. I do hope she takes it back to France and makes some in the future. 

Thats all for now. I will try and write again soon.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Woofer #1 Quinn and our adventures

Quinn was here for over a month and helped start us on our woofing adventure and motivated us to begin many projects we had been neglecting. 

The first and most important was getting our house painted. This was no easy task as it had to be done a certain way in order for the warranty to be good on the paint. It is a new paint called an elastomeric sealer and let me tell you, it is amazing stuff. It costs a pretty penny and has to be done "just so" but it is well worth it if you have cracks in your stucco or want to seal it FOREVER!!!! 

We started y digging a trench around the house. This would allow the sealer to totally wrap around the house and extend down to the foundation to seal out moisture and insects for which Florida is famous (ask me about cockroaches that could carry you away sometime).  The trench took a while but Quinn was very good and got it done in no time. 

Bill and his friend Rob got the house pressure washed so all Quinn and I had to do was to knock off the dirt that had splattered up on it during the rains. Quinn started priming and once he got going it went ok once he figured out the best way to do it but it was hard work in the heat. It is thick stuff and goes on like glue. He had to get it into all the cracks and crevices in the stucco so it was slow going at times. 

The rain stopped us many times and it frustrated us all to no end. I kept reminding Bill and Quinn that we only wanted to do it once so we needed to wait and do it right. Try telling hat to two impatient men. Yeah, that was frustrating to me for sure. They found other things to keep themselves busy though. Quinn helped us start one of the biggest projects we have had this year and although it has snowballed into something huge I cannot thank him enough for getting the ball rolling. 

For several years we have wanted berry bushes, blueberries and raspberries. We had a place in the garden for blueberries and the fence lines seemed the best place for the latter. We are on sand so the first thing we needed to do was to build a bed and make some soil for the plants. Both plants love rich soil so we had to dig trenches to fill with manure and compost. This was not easy. Bill started by digging what looked like graves in the garden area and filling them with manure. This was all well and good but it wasn't well thought out and his holes ended up looking like a crazy quilt. Quinn spent many days out there as well and we now have very rich soil in that area. Too bad this is the only place viable for our greenhouse. However we may be able to utilize it for growing once the inside is mapped out. You never know. 

The fence lines were the biggest job of 2013 and I am happy to say the front area is almost complete. Quinn started on the south side of the house but the going was slow die to the roots and invasive bulb I call the vine from hell. He dig out so many of these and they can get bigger than basketballs. It was a nightmare for him. I helped when I could but it often was more than I could handle. 

I did make it easier for him by accident one day. It was a calm day and we had been wanting to burn a couple stumps on the fence line by where he was digging so I had been piling grass on them from mowing and letting it dry so we could burn them lower than the ground and then bury them.I thought it was the perfect day for burning so we lit them and we both agreed to keep an eye on them throughout the day. 

I don't remember exactly what we wee doing that day but we were working hard and decided to break for lunch and relax a bit before heading out to work again. I made some lunch for us and we sat in front of the TV to watch something for an hour or so. Quinn had just checked on the fires and all was well so we didn't think anything of watching them.  I checked during lunch once but then let it go for about 20 minutes or so.

All of a sudden we both saw a wall of smoke drift by the front window. We both knew something was wrong and jumped up. We ran out to the front yard and the entire fence line was a wall of fire. The fire had jumped to the dead leaves on the fence line and had started the vines on fire that went all the way up and into the trees. It was a literal wall of fire. I ran and got the hose and as he drug it over to the fire I ran for rakes and a shovel. By the time I got there with tools the fire was out (it had totally burned away the vines and had run our of fuel and Quinn had doused the leaves and put them out). Just as I arrived at the fence with the tools I heard the sirens and saw the fire trucks. Not one but several fire engines arrived to help us put the giant fire ball out. I guess a car driving by had seen it and called it in because he didn't see anyone there tending it. Quinn thought he saw the guy as he was driving by. 

The fireman who came up first was very nice and said "sooo, what are we dong here today?" I just smiled and said "We're burning a fence line, how 'bout you?". He then asked me if I meant to and I admitted I didn't really mean to THAT particular day but we were going to do it eventually anyway to find the vines. I explained that in order to find the bulbs where they originate you burn the vine and then wait for them to come back up as small vines. Otherwise you hunt forever in the mess and get frustrated trying to find the beginning. 

He and I and several other firefighters all stood there discussing ways to do it other than burning and all eventually agreed that burning was the best way even though this had been unintentional. They saw the fire area had crept to my neighbor Fred's yard a bit and warned me that if it started again I would be liable for damages. I took all responsibility and told them I would do no more burning since the breeze has picked up and we promised to keep it wet and watch it so it didn't flare back up. 

The one fireman was kind of a jerk wile he did the paperwork for the station, He took my info and warned me that I was now on an arson list for three years. Great. Now I am a firebug. Geez. SO I do no more burning here. Billy has now taken up that mantle. AT least for the next three years, God help us. You should see the bonfire now, it is huge. If he lights it we are so in trouble. He did promise to make it smaller before he burns the House down. I just got it painted he better not burn it down Now!!!

ANyhoo, Quinn got a good start on the trenches on the front fence lines and started a summer long project I am sure several woofers will NEVER forget. ;)

We did get to go fossil hunting with him several times and kayaking and fishing too. It was great fun showing him Florida's wild side. I'll try and post some photos, we have some good ones!!!