It’s That Time of the Year…

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Bill’s newest price bull.  Despite his already impressive size, he’s a sweety and loves getting pets and hugs from his “dad.”

My brother, Jim, and I drove down the road to Bill D.’s place to pick up the two loads of hay the sheep need to get them through the winter.  It’s always a mix of 1st and 2nd cut hay; the 2nd cut being the more tasty and fattening of the two and of course, the hay my chubby sheep prefer.  This winter, however, in an attempt to get them to shed some unhealthy pounds, I purchased more 1st cut than 2nd.  There will be much baa’ing and fuss, but they’ll have to deal.   I also picked up bedding (for sheep barn and coops) and insulation bales for the outside of the hen and duck coops.

 

Bill is an old-time farmer; the last of a dying breed, or so it seems on some days driving around North Country.  He and his wife, Diane, keep a meticulously maintained farm of 450 acres – a mix of woods, pasture for rotational grazing, and hay and corn fields.  They raise a small herd (50 or so) of cattle, and keep some laying and meat hens for family supply, and always have a family of healthy and happy barn cats running around.  They grow some of the best hay around here, and I consider myself lucky to live just down the road from them.

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The cattle were in the barn yesterday morning – happily snacking on some fresh hay and waiting for Bill to toss some corn on top as an added bonus.

 

I love picking up the hay at Bill’s.  He has a huge, old barn that comfortably houses his cattle over the winter months and a mammoth hay loft on the 2nd story that is, by the end of haying season, stuffed to the rafters with layer upon layer of hay bales.  It’s an impressive sight to behold.  Walking across the stacked bales, the smell of freshly cut grass filling the air, dust motes dancing in the beams of sunlight streaming in from the open loft doors — it always brings me back to playing in the barns on my great grandmother’s dairy farm.  It’s a warming and comfortable memory.

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Mamma barn cat on the left with one of her wildlings

 

 

Climate Change

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Most of my close friends are concerned about climate change and the impact these changes will have on their children and eventually, grandchildren.  Several have taken active steps to make changes in their lives to reduce the impact they have on our beautiful planet. 

But there has been little in the climate change literature, until somewhat recently, about the impact the consumption of meat has on the climate.  This growing, global phenomenon is having catastrophic effects. 

For example, according to an article in the Guardian, in 1982, the average Chinese person ate just 13kg of meat a year “and beef was nicknamed “millionaire’s meat” due to its scarcity.”  The average Chinese person now eats 63kg of meat a year, with this amount expected to increase another 30kg per person by 2030 if nothing is done to divert them from this path (China is in the midst of implementing guidelines that will attempt to reduce the national consumption of meat by 50% both to aid the environment and to improve the health of their people).

The fact is, globally, 15% of greenhouse gases emanate from the raising and consumption of cows, chickens, pigs and sheep — more than the emissions from the entire transportation sector.   Factory farming, from the raising of the toxin-laden, GMO corn that feeds most of these animals to the methane the animals themselves produce in the way of gas and waste, not to mention the energy needed to slaughter, process, freeze and transport this meat around the country and the world, contributes greatly to this problem.  Factory farming — one of the most grotesque and inhumane forms of business in existence — has made it possible to make most meat afforbable to most income classes, thus increasing demand and consumption.

And yet, the public remains largely, woefully, ignorant of these statistics (thank you powerful meat and corn lobbies)  – even among people fairly well-versed in climate change literature.

If people simply scaled back their meat consumption to once or twice a week — a diet by the way that was the norm for all but the wealthiest of families in America a mere 60-70 years ago — we could reduce the production of greenhouse gases by more than a 1/4 (according to the Chatham House study out of the UK).

Although recycling, walking more than driving, limiting air travel to all but the most essential, building energy efficient homes and offices, consuming less material goods, growing and eating locally, adopting permaculture methods for our gardens and yards, composting, etc. all aid our planet, the mere act of reducing your meat and egg consumption will have a much greater and more immediate impact.

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Foraging

IMG_5654.JPGBetween the above average heat and lack of rain, this summer has seemed unpleasant and relentless.  I have to say that July and August have always been my least favorite months of the year.  Strange, I know, for someone who loves to garden.  But in the northeast, July and August translate into hot, humid days, too many biting bugs, too  many pests that spend all of their time devouring my flowers and veggies (e.g., Japanese beetles, lily beetles, squash beetles); the demise of the June explosion of growth and color in the gardens, and did I mention the heat and humidity?  Yeah, not a fan.  

Although we’re beginning to see glimpses of the late summer and autumn flowers — the dahlias, zinnias, cosmos in the garden, and wildflowers such as Joe-Pye Weed (above), goldenrod, daisies of many types, and Queen’s Anne Lace — the gardens are looking wilty and beaten down by heat and drought.  Since we rely on a well for our water, watering is reserved for any new trees and shrubs, container plants and any vegetables that are on their last leg. The other perennials and annuals are required to tough it out during the periods of no rain, which this summer, have stretched as long as 2 weeks or more.

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So, rather than deal with the depressing reality of my flower gardens, this last Sunday we went on a blackberry foraging expedition in our woods.  It was early morning; the the air was still cool and the bugs not entirely awake yet.  The brambles are laden with blackberries this year — thousands upon thousands of them.  

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We found a few raspberries tucked in among the blackberries as well.  We spent an hour or so walking, gathering berries, listening to the bird chatter, and taking photos.  

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Purple Thistle or Spiny Thistle — this plant has a couple of names — it has some nasty spines, but is drought-tolerant and the pollinators love it. It’s growing wild among the brambles.

It was wonderful, until the day began to heat up and the mosquitoes found us.

 

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Milkweed, which I was delighted to see in such abundance, is happily growing among the young trees and brambles of the “staging area.”  This plant is a host for Monarch butterfly caterpillars and as we bulldoze over open fields and/or spray them with a host of toxic chemicals, milkweed is becoming scarce, as are the Monarchs.
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Possibly Purple Loosetrife, but I’m  not positive.
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Great Mullein (verbascum Thapsus)– a 5-6′ tall spike that grows wild in the northeast, is actually a native of Europe, Africa and Asia, not N. America.  It tends to appear in open fields and farmland areas.  The pollinators love it, and it’s rather striking with its tall, yellow flower covered spike.
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This is a lovely vine I noticed dangling from the lower branches of a tree on the edge of the walking path; the light from the rising sun was reflecting off the leaves and the flowers were so delicate in appearance.  I have no idea what this is, but thought it was worth the photo.

But we returned home with quarts of berries that were added to bags of raspberries and blueberries already in the freezer, waiting to be made into jams and jellies in another month.

 

We’re Free!

In a June 25th post, I introduced you to two wee little mice that I rescued from one of our chicken coops. They were no more than a week old judging from the closed eyes and tiny size.  For a week or more, until they opened their eyes, Nora and I fed them kitten formula (using a qtip) every couple of hours.

Once their eyes opened and they became more active, I switched them to gerbil food and water.  We bought them a gerbil cage with a wheel, which they loved, and ramps to run around on.  We tried not to become too attached knowing that we intended to release them back into the “wild” once they reached 6 weeks old.

Today we decided it was time… we brought the mice, still in their cage, out to the barn and placed it on some hay bales.  We tied open the door and waited for them to discover they were free to come and go as they pleased.  It didn’t take long. IMG_5661IMG_5662IMG_5663

Soon after the first ventured outside the cage, the other was not far behind.  We watched for 15 minutes or so as they ran in and out of the cage, ran on their wheel in their excitement, and finally settled back into their nest for a much needed nap. 

We’ll continue to provide food and water for the next couple of weeks while they acclimate, unless they wander off before then.  If they follow the lead of the chipmunks who inhabit the barn, they will quickly learn the ropes — where to find food, water and a warm spot to curl up in.  We wish them well and we’ll miss them.

An Early Morning in the Veg Garden

Thankfully, a brief thunder-storm and some much needed rain arrived last night around 10pm.  Everything has looked so sad and brown without our usual, weekly rain fall.

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Note the brown grass everywhere, although the sheep still manage to find the green stuff

 

I woke up this morning and brought the dogs out to the orchard area while I tended to the hens, ducks and sheep.  Although they have a rather large fenced in “dog” area to call their own, they love to roam around the orchard and, when allowed, in the sheep pasture.  So many new smells for them, since the bunnies, deer, wild turkeys and whoever else, pass through this area on their treks to and from our woods.

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Magnolia and a Corgi bum (Tilly) sniffing around the compost pile.  Every year we seem to have sunflowers and often pumpkins that grow in the waste of last year’s veg garden.  I even dropped some extra potato sets I had into the compost this year and they’ve done marvelously.

The grass felt marvelously cool on my sandaled feet after the rain, and there was a light mist dancing among the tree tops of the wood line.  The sun was breaking through some of the remaining clouds, and everything glistened in the early morning light.  Even though it still felt humid, there is something wonderful about an early summer morning after a rainfall.IMG_5559

 

Despite the lack of rain, the vegetable garden is doing quite well.  The “three sisters” produced a bunch of pole beans (so many that I had to remove many of the plants because of the weight on the corn stalks), acorn squash (I just harvested 2, with plenty more in the vines) and even our corn is beginning to form cobs.  The “Contender” green beans are beginning to flower for their second round.  IMG_5555.JPG

The zucchini and cucumbers are in full swing, as our the delicious cherry tomatoes.  I’ve already pulled the majority of the onions and shallots (which are now curing in the barn for 2-3 weeks), and the first planting of beets (roasted and frozen for later use).  The zinnia, cosmos, borage, scarlet runner beans and nasturtium are all flowering beautifully as well, and fulfilling their purpose of adding a splash of color and attracting pollinators and beneficial insects.  I’m even daring to hope that the Japanese beetles might be on the downswing.IMG_5558.JPG

The pumpkin patch, although a bit weedy, is doing well despite the early attack of squash beetles this year.  I had planted 4 rows of different types of pumpkins.  Two rows survived – I have no idea which types, so it’ll be a surprise.  But the vines are loaded.IMG_5544.JPG

I had several “volunteer” sunflowers pop up throughout the patch thanks to the resident crow family.  I had to remove most of them, but I left the large one you see above at the head of the patch.  Nora says it looks like a scarecrow from a distance.

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The “scarecrow” up close and personal; she does look kind of ominous
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The new arch covered in scarlet runner beans and snap peas (done for the year); you can see the corn stalks in the distance.  This is the first year we’ve gotten this far with our corn; usually the crows beat us to it.  As you can see from the brown foliage on the front right side, the potatoes are getting close to harvest time as well.  Hard to believe we’re already in early August.