Saturday, November 6, 2010

Life, Death and a Little of Everything in Between!

I have not posted since the end of August...really? I'm shocked at how time flies when you are living life, and unlike most people, dreading Fridays. The last few months of Fridays have proven to be very unlucky, even though not one of them was on the 13th.

The first Friday in question began as a very joyous occasion. Our Sicilian donkey had given birth to a beautiful, although tiny baby Jack. I came home from the museum and found him in the pasture. I knew he was a few hours old because he was dry and perfectly clean. Dusty (the momma) was nearby but was not acting as maternal as she had with Pearl (her Jenny that she had the previous year).

I ran back to the house and got my cowboy to come and take a look. There seemed to be something wrong with this beautiful little bundle of fur. He had extra soft hoofs, a problem with his tiny jaw and he could not stand on his own. We debated what to do, in the end, we scooped him up and took him to the barn, Dusty in tow.

We made him a fresh bed of hay and placed him in the middle. I decided to grab a chair and sit on the other side of the gate and observe momma and baby for awhile. The scenario that I envisioned never played out. The baby never stood up, never attempted to nurse and I knew in my heart that it did not look good. I knew after a few hours that this little boy needed colostrum or else he would die, he also needed a vet but it was 11:00 PM on a Friday night.

We worked throughout the night giving him powdered colostrum with a special bottle (he just would not suckle) and some electrolyte gel. Thank goodness we have a vet 30 miles away who has office visits on Saturday. Dr. Bennett did what he could, taught us how to intubate and feed him goat's milk (second best thing when equine milk is not available) but said he felt like chances were slim. Upon examination he noticed that the baby's mouth was very swollen and felt like he had been injured during delivery (fallen on his head).

Dr. Bennett was right, our little donkey left this earth behind 24 hours after his arrival. Even though he was with us for such a short period of time, it was very hard to say goodbye. To make matters worse, our little Banty Polish rooster, Bad Ass (named for his personality) met a mysterious death inside the open coop in the middle of the day. My tears flowed freely for both, one innocent and one "bad ass" both gone in a blink of an eye.

At sundown, we buried the donkey near my beloved dog P.I.B with all of our donkeys in attendance. We fed all the donkey relatives some treats and included a few in his little resting spot. Goodbye boys, may you both have sunsets in other skies.

The next Friday arrives without a thought. Again, I arrived home from the museum and my ritual is to whistle for all the animals. On a normal evening, they all come running for treats. Our horses are usually in the corral yard and the bottle fed cows in the pasture next to the barn. On this day they were all intermingled (a gate had blown open a while earlier).

this is after the 2nd day
 I noticed immediately that Skully, our 6 month old colt was standing out in the pasture with an odd stance. At first, I chalked it up to him being in an unfamiliar pasture but as I observed a few minutes, I just knew something was really wrong. I thought he might have his hoof caught in a hole or maybe a snake had bitten him. We decided to investigate. What we found was horrific.

You have to remember, I'm a city girl and farm and ranch emergencies can sometimes involve mass amounts of blood. This one was no exception. My beautiful handsome colt was in shock and precariously close to passing out, I have to say, so was I. Skully's left upper leg and shoulder were ripped apart. I really thought he had been attacked by a bobcat but later, we learned he had been gored by our miniature bull.

Again, a Friday night, again, no vet. This is when experienced neighbors come in real handy and this night was no exception. Tonya Anderson, a high school friend of my cowboy lives a few miles away and she is an experienced horse after care specialist. She rushed over with her son and took charge of the situation.

She was able to lead Skully to the barn, his injured leg dragging but functional. Skully had never been harnessed, so this was a hurdle for all of us. Tonya instructed us to begin hydrotherapy as soon as possible. She also wanted to apply a product called Pink Lady, a wound dressing that would help stop the bleeding and help to heal the injury.

wound after 2 months
 I believe Tonya saved Skully's life that Friday night with those two very important instructions. Again, thank goodness for Dr. Bennett and his Saturday morning appointments. Even though we could not take Skully into him because of the gravity of his injury (it would have been impossible to load him on a trailer), he was able to treat him through technology. I took pictures of the wound and rushed over to his office. He gave me a tetanus/penicillin injection to administer and some puffer antibiotics along with wound spray to keep insects away.

We also had another vet who does barn calls come out to look at Skully as soon as he could (which turned out to be two days later). He added edible antibiotic powder to his feed for 10 days and painkiller paste. He said that Skully was one very lucky horse, if he had been gored one inch over towards his artery, he would have bled to death. As it was, Dr. Bonner was very worried about permanent nerve damage. The swelling was so bad in the beginning that it was affecting Skully's ability to walk and all he could do was drag his foot. As soon as the swelling went down (about two weeks, he was walking and cantering without even a minor limp).

So, for the last two months we have been caring for our horse's wound twice daily with the following regime:

1) Administer a tetanus/penicillin shot as soon as you can. Secure the horse to a post near a high pressured water hose. Give the horse a bucket of tasty oats to distract him, add antibiotic powder and painkiller paste if vet recommended. Begin spraying the wound on low and gradually increase the pressure to as much as the horse will tolerate. The goal is to make the wound bleed profusely. This actually helps regenerate the tissue. It's important to hydrotherapy for at least 12 to 15 minutes per session twice a day for the first month. Eventually, it will be harder and harder to make the wound bleed.

2) Apply Pink Lady for the first couple of days after each hydrotherapy session. Once the bottle of Pink Lady has ended begin applying the puffer antibiotics (just squeeze the fine powder all over the wound). Use the wound spray lightly, it is primarily to keep insects from contaminating the open wound.

3) The wound will begin to fill in, although this process can take a lot of time so be very patient. Watch for fever (around the wound or checking the horses ears), infection is the worst thing that can happen. It's normal for some discharge but if the wound looks infected, contact a vet as soon as possible.

We are so thankful for his full recovery!

So that brings us to the final unlucky Friday. No deaths, no injuries, not even a cut or scrape. Nope, this time it was a skunking...yep, a real skunking by a REAL skunk. Let's just say it involved two dogs and one very potent skunk. Bleu and Walter have hopefully learned their lesson, two hydrogen peroxide and baking soda baths later....the white dog is more white and the black dog is....well...a bit more GRAY...and our living room going to have to be burned!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blogs of Note, Who Knew?

(could not do a screen capture so I tried to take a picture)
Well, I sure didn't. It took a day or two to find out that my blog had been chosen by the Google Blogger staff as a "Blogs of Note". There is no warning or congratulatory message, you just wake up one day and notice that hundreds of readers have logged into your corner of the world. I had messages from readers all over the world, its quite an exhilarating feeling, that is until the spammers find you. I could really do without the spambots, robots, spiders, spamcrawlers,spamnests etc..

But, I realized you must take the bad with the good. I'm so happy to have so many new readers. I hope I can live up to the expectations that I somehow feel that Google has placed in my non-manicured, short, little hands. The good really does out way the bad in this case!

Speaking of hands, I'm sure that many of you have no real idea of who I am, or what really makes me tick. Take a peak through the key hole for just a moment, I will give you the penny tour of my life and times and how I got here, writing this entry. Sometimes, I wonder myself!

I am American by birth , a Texan by choice, but really grew up in South America, my motto when I was younger was "my body is American, but my heart is Brazilian".  I actually lived in 4 countries by the time I was 8 , I lived in Brazil the longest and all of my schooling was there. I was more Brazilian than American for a good portion of my life but alas, I returned to the U.S. as a young adult in my late teens and have been here ever since. I went from a life of priviledge to the real world.

I spent many years discovering who I am and found out that in reality, I still don't know! I did find out that I am a strong, opinionated woman who is adaptable to almost any environment. Life is ever evolving and that in order to survive and thrive, I have learned that I must evolve with it. One year I was a translator, another I was working for a radio station,  a few years later I was in the mutual fund business and moonlighting in the photography and modeling business.

Throughout all those years, I was always known for my cooking and dinner parties. September 11th, 2001 changed my life forever. I was living in the largest city in Texas, working in the mutual fund industry and unhappy with the corporate world. I knew there had to be something else than the endless rat wheel of traffic, office, traffic, home, traffic...etc...

So, I cashed in my 401K, got married and moved to a little, tiny town and opened a restaurant. It was the hardest thing I ever did but also the most rewarding, I was praised in magazines and periodicals for my cooking and for the vision of keeping a dream alive. An opportunity came along to move the restaurant to a bigger small town with a University campus. So, not once, but twice I went through the unbelievable experience of starting something incredible from scratch.

Fast forward a few years later...the marriage had crumbled (owning a restaurant will do that), the economy was faltering, food prices were skyrocketing and rents were rising. My life as I knew it, was about to come to an end.

As a phoenix rises from the ashes, so does a stubborn woman! A new relationship developed with an old friend (if only we had realized how great we were together back in the day, it would have saved us years of romantic heartache), but yet again, looking on the bright side - we now appreciate each other and know what true love can be. It is truly amazing to find a real partner in life. That more than anything, is the secret to real love.

Fast forward a few more years, a few more grey hairs and a few fine lines around the eyes. I now live on my cowboy's family farm, mostly happy, healthy and evolving as usual. Instead of receiving food deliveries, we now produce it and it goes directly from farm to table. Instead of dealing with traffic, I deal with wild hogs and deer crossing the road. Instead of pouring over recipes, I am pouring over seed catalogs and wildlife course manuals.

I have not transitioned completely to country life, I work in town as the county curator for the history museum, we have taken up ghost hunting as a hobby (the museum happens to be haunted) and I still cook elaborate meals, even if it is just for two. In the coming months we are attempting to get a few new ventures off the ground, leading us closer and closer to a sustainable life style.

Here is a bit of what really makes me tick:  I love Halloween, I am not so much about Christmas, I love true and unique individuals, I hate conformity, I love different cultures, I hate bigots, I love New Orleans, Rio, and New York but I love small towns and the rural life too, I hate urban sprawl and ugly strip shopping centers, I love history, I hate wrecking balls, I love wine, I hate light beer, I love real butter, I hate margerine, I love maple syrup, I hate artificial sweetener, I love Indian food, I hate fast food, I love art, I hate sports, I love television (I think I am smarter for watching it), I hate video games, I love speaking my mind, I hate having to hold my tongue (which happens too often). I love sunsets and the in between hour.

I'm not rich in cash terms and probably never will be. I have mastered the mystery of money does not equate happiness. You must learn to bloom where you're planted, or else you will wither on the vine.

Please forgive me if I don't blog regularly. You will find that I only blog when I really have something to say.

I really would like to thank Google and Blogger for choosing my blog, to all my old friends for reading this, and to all my new readers for following along on the next adventure.....

Wow, Blogs of Note, who knew?

Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shutterbug: Cosmic Hitchhiker & Kali

Sunset on the farm, a beautiful ending to a long, hot July. This is one of Andy's small sculptures. Our alien greeter is one of the many things that makes Feed Me Farms unique. Andy is adept at taking old discardable junk and breathing new life into it. One day, we hope to open our place to other visionary artists and visionary art enthusiasts. I wish this Kali gate was going to stay on the farm (because the cows really seem to like it), but its a commissioned piece destined for an old Victorian home in town, (The Dentage) right on the main road, at least we will get to see it everyday!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bird's Nest on the Ground

"A bird's nest on the ground" describes some thing or some situation that is rewarding to the owner in a very big way. Another similar phrase: "low hanging fruit." Meaning a task that is done easily.

I don't know about tasks done easily but here goes:

This is the first post in almost two months, but Feed Me Farms is back with a new look and an even bigger vision. All this after a very disappointing summer growing season.

It's very hard to admit failure, but I admit, we failed miserably this summer with our farm venture, but the best lessons learned are the ones that are built upon failure. So as we come to the end of this season (much sooner than we anticipated), we look ahead to fall, winter and 2011. 

What happened? We are not sure, but we know that this years crops were nothing like last year. Last year we grew beautiful heirloom tomatoes, greens, okra, peppers, melons,squash, tomatillos to name a few. This year we have been lucky to coax a few tomatoes and squash off our vines, and our okra although plentiful, is nothing like last years bounty. We believe it had to due with a number of factors : late winter, dry spring and summer, early heat wave, unbalanced soil...farmer error (our timing), the list goes on and on.

But, have we given up? No, in fact, we are more determined than ever to have a viable, sustainable and ethical food production operation. We want to grow clean, nutritious and incredible tasting food for ourselves and for others. We want to be good stewards to the land, the animals and the impact that we can make with it.

In our quest to take care of this bird's nest on the ground ,we now know that there will be many trials and tribulations along the way. We know too,  that this way of life is a grand experiment and that flexibility and resilience must be two virtues that farmers and land stewards must possess in order to survive. Our ancestors had to possess these amazing qualities, and we too, need to embrace these two little words.

There is a tremendous learning curve and we have found ourselves at the very bottom, and now know that there is much to learn and from many different sources. We have also learned that diversifying the risk means we must open our eyes to more options, but where to start?

Luckily, we live in the great state of Texas and we have discovered that there are others out there just like us (in our way of thinking) and are willing to open their gates and share their knowledge and expertise. I think farmers and ranchers are some of the most generous people to work with in the world, they seem to love to share their own bird's nests on the ground.

Even though Andy always has and always will be an artist, he was also born into a family of farmers and ranchers and their love of the land left him and his sister with this beautiful patch of Texas soil. I think somewhere in the back of Andy's creative mind, he always harbored an idea to bring this patch of soil back to life in ways that would honor his ancestors. I know this because, as I was cleaning out a book shelf one day, I found this old ,yellow, faded copy of East Texas Farm & Ranch News from March, 2006.

I almost threw it away but the cover grabbed my was a picture of an old cabin with raised vegetable beds surrounding it with the caption " Roots Farming, East Texas farmer growing plants the natural way. Inside it highlighted the work of Moon Swanson, who shares a similar background to Andy's (more of a music loving artistic soul than a traditional farmer), now I knew why he had kept this article for so long.

I decided to keep the article and knew that one day, maybe Andy's and Moon's paths would cross, and if not, maybe I could hasten the process. It took four years but that day finally came. I knew from the article that Moon's family owned one of the oldest operating old fashioned basket companies in the United States and it was less than 60 miles from here in Jacksonville. I also knew that Moon's farm was even closer, in a little township called Neches just outside of Palestine.

We decided to take a day trip with Andy's mom to purchase some vegetable harvesting baskets and some display baskets for our vegetable cart (at the time, we still had high hopes to be selling our bounty at a farmer's market this year). On a hunch, I asked the woman behind the counter if Moon was there. She replied no, I explained that I really wanted to meet him. A few minutes later, she came out of the back office with Moon's cell number.

I called it and left a message, a few minutes later I got a return call. I explained to Moon that we had just moved back to the family farm and ranch and really loved the old article that had highlighted his methods and the next thing you know, we were on the way to his place.

We passed through the gates of the Diamond B Ranch and knew that we were looking at our future. What a serene, picturesque setting, even more amazing, this garden of Eden was feeding many locavores in Jacksonville and Tyler at their weekly farmers markets. Moon, his father Martin and their families have done an outstanding job blending traditional methods with modern conveniences (drip irrigation systems, decorative but functional arbors and hoop houses, even a beautiful old fashioned chicken coop surrounded by a modern predator fence system). He assured us that this was a long and ongoing process and that he was lucky enough to have his father's guidance and some additional help.

It was wonderful experience sitting on the old seed cabin porch, munching on fresh white peaches picked right from the orchard and talking fresh vegetable feasts with Moon's lovely wife, and their toddler son, happily playing with a fresh tomato. Andy's mom was savoring the taste of her peach and marveling at the fact that it was grown without pesticides. We sat for a while and found that we shared many similarities and that they had done what we so want to do, feather our bird's nest on the ground

Thanks to the Swanson's, we have a renewed outlook and a vision. We do not have the additional help so we know now, that this will not be as easy as picking low fruit from a tree. We are going to have to stretch ourselves and learn to grow in more ways than one. But we need to consider how lucky we truly are to have this bird's nest on the ground!

* besides our empty farmers market trailer, all of these photographs were taken at the Texas Basket Company & The Diamond B Ranch*

Monday, May 24, 2010

Shutterbug:Learning to Fly

 One of my favorite annual events is the return of our swallows each year. They have made their nests on our porch for years. There is a nest in each corner of our wrap-around front porch, they have now spread to the back porch and the tractor barn as well.

My favorite nest is the one right by our front entrance, the generations of swallows who have filled it are not afraid of us and the babies like to watch our comings and goings. As they begin to fly, they like to swing on our wind chimes. This year we have noticed that the butterflies like to chase the little swallows as they dip and dive through the air. I love their chatter outside our windows and their patterned flights over all the pastures and barns.

The swallows stay all Summer helping with insect control and then, just as they appear overnight, they disappear one morning. We will wake up and they are gone and I'm sad for a day or two, but I know in my heart that they will make their way back again next year.  Swallows will always be welcomed guests here at Feed me Farms. In fact, we will always keep the porch light on for them.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I'm a mother too... ..

it just happens to be to 100+  furry, hooved, feathered, two legged & four legged babies.
Today is a day to show love for your mother and oh, how I love my own mother. I have a wonderful mom, she imparted many lessons of love to me, including the love of animals and all things great or small. Fate would have it that even though I always thought I would be a mom, it just wasn't in the cards for me. But, ever since I was old enough to have a pet, I did. I was lucky enough to grow up in South America so besides the usual cat and dog, our menagerie also included at any given time such creatures as spider monkeys, sloths, marmosets, Macaws, parrots, iguanas, snakes and even an anteater.

As I grew older and moved out of our family home, the trend continued. I have never been without at least three or four balls of love at any given time. So, am I a mom? Well, yes, I think so.

I have bottle fed, spoon fed, force fed them. I have cooked for them. I have cleaned for them. I have sat up with them when they were sick and have held them for hours when they were injured. I have kissed them, petted them, rubbed their bellies and necks till my fingers went numb. I have bathed them and doctored them. I have cleaned up their little accidents and their spills.  I have assisted with their births and their babies births.

I have laughed at their antics and cried at their mistakes. I have worried sick over them when they were not where they were supposed to be. I have rushed home from work to care for them and make sure they were safe. I have canceled plans or trips when I felt they should not be left for one reason or another. I have worried sick about them when I left them in the care of others, for fear something would happen or they would not be cared for as I care for them.

 I have been with them from the beginning of their lives and I have felt the deepest sorrow imaginable when their time here on earth came to an end. My heart has loved and my heart has been broken.

What have I received in return?

I am greeted every morning with smiling faces and wagging tails. I am serenaded with squawks, barks, meows, chirps, braying , neying, mooing and purring. I am followed to every room in the house and every corner of the pasture. I can't even be by myself in the bathroom most times, because one of my little balls of fur wants to be with me. I am licked, cuddled and nuzzled to death.

Who else jumps up and down, howls in delight or runs along the fence line when they see me?

Is it any wonder that I have found real happiness on a farm surrounded by animals, where any given minute I can find unconditional love right beside me? No, I think that the farm life really does require a mother instinct regardless whether you have had a flesh and blood child or not.

So on this holiday, remember the women who take care of all creatures, great or small...

Happy Mothers Day! 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shutterbug: Training Day

It's training school for me and Skully. We get to learn together. This is my first attempt to train a horse from birth. I grew up around my dad's race horses in Brazil and they came pre-trained. I used to exercise them on occasion. Back then I weighed only 90 pounds and at barely 5' 1" the other jockeys thought I had potential. My mom put a big stamp of "no way" on me becoming a jockey. She felt it was too dangerous. Damn, I could have put my shortness to use! Now it just comes in handy when climbing under fences.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lucky La Moo Wins This Round

Lucky La Moo has survived her health crisis and is back to her sweet self. It started almost exactly a month ago, we noticed late one afternoon she was straining while trying to defecate. By that evening a part of her rectum was hanging out. My cowboy was calm, separated her from the herd of misfits and valiantly disinfected her backside area and placed it back in. I could barely sleep that night because I knew there was an underlying condition causing this and knew that she was going to have a rough time surviving this. By the next morning, she had a prolapsed rectum. It was a horrible sight, I thought she was going to die.

Our vet made a barn call and said he had seen this over a hundred times. He even said it was common after weaning (and we had weaned her just a few weeks before) . We have weaned four others and never had anything like this happen, but there is always a first for everything. Instead of feeding her for almost 4 1/2 to 5 months, I weaned her at 3 months according to a very famous bovine care book. Another farm lesson learned, don't always listen to the experts and follow your instincts sometimes.

The vet gave her an epidural (to stop further straining), an antibiotic injection and then corrected the condition with minor surgery and stitches. Her back legs were paralyzed for almost 12 hours. It would be touch and go for the next few weeks while her intestinal illness waged a bacterial war inside her. He told us not to get our hopes up too high.

Lucky's backside got better but she was dull and seemed to be getting weaker. We fed her milk replacer, scour ease and electrolyte gel but she was just not getting better. We called the vet after two weeks and had him come back out again, he was surprised that she was still alive. He said we must be doing something right as many calves do not survive the intestinal illness and infection. He gave her another round of antibiotics and this really seemed to help her fight off the internal infection.

We did not give up on her either. We made sure that she drank large two bottles of milk replacer mixed with the electrolyte supplement that seemed to help keep her energy up. We had her segregated from the rest of her calf friends and her mom , but we decided it would be better for her to re-join the herd. We would just have to make the pasture trek to bottle feed every day. My cowboy had to rope Nandi the little bull calf that shares the pasture with her, otherwise he would fight for the bottle. Lucky was finally  feeling so much better on Easter that she even came up to watch my God son's Easter egg hunt.

Our calf box that we keep stocked with essentials came in handy through this crisis. I highly recommend having an emergency box stocked with powdered colostrum, milk replacer, scour ease and electrolyte gel. I also recommend having wound cleanser, clear iodine, medicine droppers, clean bottles and latex gloves handy.  We replenish it every time we make a trip to the tractor supply and feed store. Emergencies tend to happen when everything is closed and a few hours can mean life or death.

Lucky's voracious appetite is back and she is up to her funny antics in the pasture. She has really lived up to her name. We are SO happy to have you back Lucky La Moo! You really are one lucky little calf.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Shutterbug: Just in Time for the Hunt!

Wow, the Easter bunny delivered just in time for my God son's visit!!! My hens had slowed down egg production in the last couple of weeks and I just attributed it to their cycle. It looked like there was going to be a shortage of eggs for Easter weekend. I had planned on having a big Easter egg hunt for my little God son (he just turned two). But the hens and Guineas were just not cooperating, or so I thought. Imagine our surprise when we moved some fence posts that had been leaning on a wooden rail. There was a hidden nest that had been receiving deposits for about a week.
Looks like Easter after all, and because some of my hens lay green, blue and pink eggs - no need to even dye them this year. Have a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, laughter, Easter eggs & lots of chocolate!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shutterbug: Happy Horse Day

The day finally arrived. Our beautiful mare and handsome colt have been delivered. Star (named for Lonestar because of the unique shape of Texas in her markings) is a beautiful 5 year old mare that came to us from a good friend who breeds and trains wonderful horses. Star is so well behaved that she will allow you to hunt off her back and is steady on trail rides (even near busy highways). Skully is her handsome colt who was born a few weeks ago right after a late snowstorm here in Texas. Skully (his nickname for obvious reasons) will get a new regal name for his registration. He has to be regal as he is a direct descendant of one of the top horses at the famous King Ranch here in the lone star state. We're in love with them both. What a way to welcome Spring!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lessons Learned and Still Learning

Mother Nature fooled us last year. You know the saying "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature" from those old margarine commercials? Well , we're turning the tables on her this year! As I sit outside on my laptop enjoying this lovely Spring afternoon, my cowboy/artist now turned farmer sits on top of his beloved tractor carefully tilling the many black soil rows that he is designing along the old terraces used by his ancestors. Our Guineas happily following along behind him nabbing each and every tasty bug that surfaces. But lest we forget,  it was only a few days ago (the first day of Spring) that we had a freak snowstorm that put a damper on all those poor gardeners who were so eager to play in the dirt a couple of weeks ago. All those poor little pansies and cucumber vines that went in too soon, may have been all for not. We learned our lesson the hard way.

One of our dear neighbors and best friends passed away earlier this year and we are so saddened by his loss. He was a life long farmer/rancher and taught several generations of farmers around here how to grow and prosper off this land. Last year we were trying our hand at our first large scale vegetable garden and we were so eager that we planted at the beginning of March because the weather had been so beautiful. Our old friend found out that we had already seeded the garden and stopped by our place to tell us that we should have waited till after Easter here in Central North Texas. To soften the news, he brought us a few wonderful vegetables out of his Winter garden.  Oh was he right! A few weeks after our plantings were popping up everywhere, a late March freeze came and killed about 30% of our vegetable garden. Hard lesson learned. If only we had sought his wisdom out BEFORE planting, but again lessons learned.

To curb our hastiness this year, we entertained ourselves over the Winter by pouring over colorful seed catalogs (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Landreths and a few others) and power reading a few good books (Good Bug, Bad Bug, Seed to Seed, Carrots Love Tomatoes, The Have More Plan). Last year we waited until February to order seeds and found that many of the varieties of heirlooms we wanted were sold out. Lessons learned. This year we started our ordering in January and even then,  missed out on a few things we wanted. Another valuable learning experience.

That's the great thing about gardening and farming, there is a constant learning curve. Every planting season and harvest teaches us a new technique or trick. This year we are trying a new technique that our local Sheriff imparted to us. He learned it from his neighbor who learned it from the Japanese when he was a POW in a Japanese work camp. The sheriff patiently drew out a diagram of tomato cages fed by a compost tea IV contraption when he heard we were getting into heirloom vegetables. Ironic that something learned by the enemy during the war would bring several generations of joy and great harvests to him and his neighbors and now he was passing his knowledge on to us. That's really what I love most about farming. It breaks down age, ethnic and economic barriers. I have seen a room full of gardeners who would otherwise have nothing to talk about because of their different lifestyles, but you get them talking about their garden secrets and you can't get them to stop.

I have noticed something else about farmers and gardeners. There is a bit of gambler in all of us,  sometimes it feels like the odds are stacked against us battling weather, natural disasters, wind, heat, cold and bugs. But once we bite into our first tomato or saute up some fresh greens, we know that our gamble has paid off hitting the gourmet jackpot.

So as we watch the weather report for tomorrow, we find out that there is more cold and rain on the way. Easter is only a week away and the tangy taste of a Cherokee Purple tomato is yet a few months from consumption. But patience is a virtue, and that too, is a lesson well learned out here on the farm.

Happy Planting Everyone (but not till after Easter)! This years planting is dedicated to Don Tolar, a thick neck Czech who could grow anything. We will miss you and your wisdom Don. Wise lessons learned.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Redneck Snow Day

O.K. I know I talked about snow envy earlier this month and then lo' and behold the snow deities delivered a few inches so we would not feel slighted. Well, I'm not sure how my wish went haywire, but obviously those same snow deities got their geography messed up this week and decided to deliver a second storm that dropped a record 7 1/2 inches here in Texas. You know, that place where all the retired RV roaming  Northeners go to , to get away from the stuff. 

Now,  we could have gotten down in the dumps about our Winter crops failing, our animal chores increasing and the fact that we were without electricity during the night but instead, we chose to have a "snow day". A "snow day" is what kids pray for back in the North East, so we rolled back the clock for a day,  and did a few things that adults wished they could do on a Tuesday during the beginning of their work week.

My cowboy artist went into town to get his childhood sled that was stored away in his mom's shed. Unfortunately, he found out that she had sold it during last year's annual citywide garage sale, thinking it would never see action again since her children were all grown up and over 35... undaunted, he looked around and spied his old basket ball hoop that was out by the pool. Now he hadn't shot hoops with that thing in 20+ years, but,  he did notice it had this great plastic base that even had a place to put your feet. I can see the light bulb glowing over his head as he turns a basketball hoop holder into a mean sledding machine.

He came back out to the farm all proud of himself and said "look what we have, it's a redneck sled, I'm going to tie it to the truck and we're going to Antioch (the part of the farm that has hills). I thought he was crazy but having a little cabin fever, decided what the heck, let's go redneck sledding!

Not only did we go sledding but also built a snowman for his mom's yard, went around town snapping a series of Texas snowmen built by locals and just enjoyed this very rare occurrence. I say "rare" , we will see what March brings us !

Last year we started our plantings in March but this year we may postpone until April based upon the Farmer's Almanac and other weather forecasters. We are not out of the woods, or possibly , the snow until then ~

happy hour @ FMF

happy hour @ FMF
party till the cows come home