Sunday, April 25, 2010


These hands are beautiful hands and have done beautiful things. They have held newborn babies and touched the cheek of death. They have played compositions and planted tiny seeds. They have painted and sculpted and designed and written. They are strong hands. They have wrestled goats and raised up men. They have hauled lumber and soothed pain. I look at them now full of lines and scars, full of life, and I wonder. I wonder what you see. Do you see these hands and what they have done, where they have been, or instead perhaps you see what I see when I gaze at the mirror, the rest of me. The parts and pieces I try to hide. Do you see what I have done or do you see who I seem to be or who I am.

As I listen to waves crash against the shore and cool air brushes my cheek, I remember. I dream. That these hands are again being held gently as the sun sets and we gaze out at the world. I feel soft and delicate as we dream together of things that we hope will one day be. Together in our Eden surrounded by life, overcoming the past. Our hands together with one purpose pursuing our future. Hands covered in earth and life.

These hands with jagged nails and callouses. Hands with cracks and compulsions. They have kneaded bread and pulled weeds. They have entered data and drawn butterflies. They have done so much and still have so much to do.

These hands are strong and beautiful hands and I am beautiful because of them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Adventures in Gardening

I love Spring and Fall. I love planting seeds, and harvesting produce. I love the gearing up, the new earth turned and cool, buying seeds, daydreaming about the bountiful harvest, buying supplies for when the harvest is picked... but I do not like the middle part. I have enthusiasm for weeding for maybe a week, sometimes two. I rarely think to water after their initial just planted watering.

My garden reflects my life. I am easily enthused by many things, but rarely stick with it for long. Last year my garden was constantly tangled with weeds - 1/2 my radishes came up squished because I did not thin them out. My carrots were tiny things that I had to dig up at the end of the year. Despite this, I was very proud of my harvest last year.

However, I am trying a different style of planting this year. I am trying to be meticulous. If the package says thin to 8" apart - I am planting 8" apart. I put my peas in first. I planted them 8" apart, and only one row to start. The following week I did another row, and then a third row the following week. My hope is to stagger the harvest. I also got my radishes & carrots in - although it is too hard to plant carrots to correct spacing - I might look into seed tape next year for carrots & lettuce. I meant to stagger the planting of my radishes so they would be ready in shifts, but I was running late, and just planted them all. I really was hoping to get all the spring veggies in right away. Ran out of time. Too much to do. Life gets in the way - the usual.

Every spring the organization I work for puts on the largest conference of its kind. I work on it from September to May every year, and in March and April I am swamped. This year I put in a lot of extra hours, and therefore the spring garden was not fully planted. Then when I come back from the conference, I have to play catch up not only on the gardens, but the house work, and time with the hubby and kids (and sleep too).

Then there is May. Events on weekends, fences to build or reinforce, animals to rearrange, new animals to integrate into the coops, plus getting in the garden.

When we first started planning our gardens for this year, we thought it would be a great idea to use the pen we had used for the goats & sheep last fall. Natural fertilizer, and weed control by the critters. Then it rained. It was too soggy to till when our friend came to till our other plots. I really wanted to get in there last weekend, but we had to do other things - pluck the turkey, shear the sheep, build new fences, farm stuff. Finally this week the hubby tried to plow it with a friends cultivator - could not cut through the sod.

So it is 5pm on May 20th, I have no idea where I am going to put my over 60 tomato plants, and the goat pen is not cooperating. A friend and I head out with hand tools. I start with the shovel, after several minutes I get through the sod, only in order to actually pull the clod out, I have to cut it out on all 4 sides. The hoe did not do much on its own, the garden fork poked decent holes, but really did not do much either.

25 square holes later, we have pulled the clod out, put back as much dirt as we could separate from the sod, and piled the sod next to the new chicken fence - now they can not escape underneath. I now I have 25 holes that are 1/2 full of dirt. First I mix in some sand to help it drain, and then put a few shovels full of dirt on top - finally I can plant - 5 down, 20 left to go, plus, only about 40 more holes to make.

We are planting big this year with the intention of selling at the farmer's market. We have taken last year's garden, and put in only peas, spinach, letuce, green onions, radishes, and carrots (the Salad Garden). The 2nd garden which is twice the size of the Salad Garden is filled with beans, squash, pumpkins, and melons (the Gourd Garden). The final garden (the North Garden), which is the one I am digging by hand, will contain everything else, however, because I am having to work so hard at it, I might forgo most of it and just get my started tomatoes & peppers in. Maybe plant just a few cucumbers & other things I want for home.

So there you have it, the first installment of the Adventures in Gardening. We will be at the North Branch Peterson's Country Mill Farmer's Market every Saturday - wish us luck or visit us!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

a plan

Well here's what I started to do:

1. write a very opinionated, offensive piece - couldn't post it - didn't want certain people to read it, so I didn't feel I should post it.

2. find time during my 24 hour website building experience to post on the night, and other things - didn't have a spare moment.

3. write a lovely Easter piece, or anything because post 1 was sitting in the back of my mind, still undecided... really don't feel comfortable posting it. I think I will polish it up a bit, and leave it here.

So here we are almost 2 months after my last post, and I will try to come up with something interesting for you to read.

Spring is lovely. Rebirth, renewal, and life everywhere you look. The gardens starting to come in, the grass and trees starting to turn green. The babies being born.

This spring we decided to order 50 chicks from McMurray Hatchery. We order their super assorted bargain, which means they can send me 50 of any chicks they have, plus they always offer 1 free "exotic" chick. This year's batch looks like it will be so pretty. We ended up with almost half of them being feather footed! I'm so excited to see what they'll grow to be. Our plan is to keep most of the hens, 1 or 2 roosters, and then let them make their own babies next year! We did lose 8 of them the first 48 hours, and McMurray allows you to be refunded for those loses. I was very disappointed, because they seemed to be all of one breed - I wish I had separated them from the rest. But we now have 43 active 4-week-old chickies in our basement! We even had them vaccinated this year to avoid what happened last year, and they'll stay separated from everyone else until they're 6 or 7 weeks old.

Our cat princess had 3 kittens this week. A gray, an orange, and a cream. Cute little ones.

Then there's Mary. Hubby brought her home when she was 4-weeks-old. She is the cutest little pygmy goat, and is being bottle fed until she is 6-weeks-old. We are hoping this will make her more docile when milking season starts for her. We have plans to use Jimmy our male as her husband, since our other female, Annie seems to be oblivious to his charms.

Then there's Betsy. I stopped milking her in March because her milk was decreasing again, and I knew I had several engagements that would take me away during milking. She didn't seem to mind at all, and actually because quite willing to let us pet her (through the fence, when she was in a pen by herself). We moved her down to the "fields" to help us start clearing it out. She happily munched away at the grass and cattails. We moved her further down, and added in Annie and Jimmy. She was so happy to see Jimmy again. She would cuddle up next to him, so content. She died this week. We don't know why. It was almost as though she died of a heart attack, mid chew. It prompted us to get the goats all dewormed and vaccinated. The vet didn't have any ideas of why. It puts a big dent in your confidence as a farmer when your animals keep dieing.

My 5 adult chickens are doing great. Pip my tom turkey has decided it is his job to keep them all in line, he follows them around, proudly on display, making faces at anyone who thinks they can talk to his girls. And the girls don't seem to mind either. Molly, my old lady - we got her when we lived in Minneapolis. She, is just as sweet and docile as ever. She is still the easiest to catch, and everyone's favorite as she's a bantam cochin (small feather footed - black puffball). Clara is a cream colored English game hen - if I remember correctly. Chicken-Licken is the same size as Clara, but is a mixture of a smaller version of Clara with a Red Star rooster we had, so she has pretty golden feathers and cream accents. Henny-Penny is of the same mixture but more standard sized. Chicken-licken and Henny-penny were both hatched on our farm last year. Then there's Peeves. Peeves was named from the morning I though I heard juvenile crowing down in the chicken pen. I figured we had a rooster on our hands until the morning I discovered the most beautiful green egg in the egg basket! Green, yes truly a lovely, pale green. Easter eggs without the dye. Peeves started laying faithfully last fall, but then stopped as they often do in the winter. I didn't think anything of it until this spring when everyone else was laying, and I still wasn't getting any green eggs. The kids & I had several of our very own "easter egg" hunts trying to figure out where she was laying - I still don't know. But finally I gave up, and put her in the hay shed with Mary, and "forced" her to use the egg basket in there and have successfully begun collecting green eggs again! Yippee. I hope I get more green layers in this batch of chicks... or maybe even some with blue tints!

More to come soon.