About me...

Because this journey is intensely personal, there will be times when my posts will be about more than just rebuilding the physical aspects of my life. They may be random and sometimes I think they may not even make sense to some. But whatever I post here will be as honest as I can make it, no punches pulled, telling it like it it. I hope that I can share some insight with others who might be going through a similar transitory period in their own lives. With luck and perseverence I know I will eventually successful in my new life. I have very high hopes for all of this but then I had those when Dave was alive, too. I am naturally a pretty optomistic person, I think.

Jack sings the "Blues"

Jack Russell has made it to YouTube. This is a still picture from the video of Jack, singing the blues accompanied by The Farmer on his guitar. Jack has the blues because Maggie (the other Jack) is in season and he has been confined to another part of the house for a week.....he ain't too happy at the moment. If you would like a good laugh, go to and see Jack do his "thang". I have a couple more videos to upload, so check back again later if you want a hoot.

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How about this weather!!!

Christmas in July or is this the reverse, July at Christmas? Or at least early June...


Yesterday was one of those days that just made you glad to be alive. We had a lot of errands to run early in the day and by 1pm were chomping at the bit to be home and out of the car. The Farmer and I both hate driving/riding unless we absolutely have to and so we try to pick one day a week to try to get all major errands (if necessary) done with one trip.

A Day in the Life (This story is a long one....read on.)

There hasn't been much excitement around the Farm lately, so I think I will just take you through one of my ordinary days, like yesterday.

First of all, we get up with the chickens or in our case, the puppies. That means it is just about the time the sun comes up. If the puppies sleep in, so do we. Since there is no time clock to punch we pretty much take the day as it comes. Most summer days we are up at 5 am or earlier, but at this time of year, it is too dark and cold to get up that early, so things move at a little slower pace.

I get up first, usually, unless the Farmer has something to do. I am one of those people whose eyes fly open early and then they are AWAKE. No lounging around in the sack or going back to sleep. That drives me crazy and I don't know how people can do that. Anyway, I get up and immediately get dressed because there are 6 dogs waiting to go outside for their morning constitutional.

For the most part, our dogs are outside, but once it gets to around 45 degrees at night, they all come in for the night. Because we follow a routine that is almost a ritual, getting everybody out is not a big deal. Of course, we aren't quiet, so the Farmer is not far behind. Usually all this is happening about 6:45 and it has been COLD for the past couple of mornings. We come back in and the big dogs go back to bed and the puppies get to run around the kitchen and play with us, get their breakfast, wrestle and then go back to their kennels until it is "outside time". Soon as it warms up enough, they go to their outdoor kennel to run and play some more. Maggie and Jack are usually wherever we are and Callie goes into her outdoor kennel. She is the official guardian of the chickens, so she spends her day patrolling the perimeter of her kennel (which is right by the chicken lots), taking long naps in the sun or barking at those big, funny looking dogs in the back pasture (they are actually dairy cows from the organic dairy next door).

After the dogs settle in for the rest of the day, it is time to feed the chickens. That doesn't take but about 20 minutes and is so boring a chore it doesn't warrant more than this sentence. After the chickens, I feed the barn cats their breakfast. Like the dogs, if it is cold, they are huddled up in a pile and reluctant to come out, so they get fed later in the morning.

The feline matriarch at our farm is Garbo and she is mother to anything and everything that comes around. She even catches mice for the puppies. The first time I saw her do that I thought she was just playing with them (pups)through the fence but when I went closer, she was actually pushing the mouse into the pen with the puppies, just like she would do with her kittens.

A couple of years ago, she stole a litter of kittens from another cat and when I went to check on her kittens in her box on the back porch, there were nine kittens instead of 4. She raised all of nine of them. The mother of those kittens was a little sad stray somebody put out and she was wild as all get out and a terrible mother. I think Garbo sensed that and decided to step in. She has never done anything like that, either before or after that time.

Garbs is also a great big cat, bigger than most toms. She is not called Garbo because of shyness but rather because she has given new meaning to aloof and haughty, even when referring to a cat. Also, IF she is in the mood to let you pet her, you better be prepared to do so at your own risk because if you don't pet properly or for the amount of time she has allotted for your attention, she will grab your hand (or anything else handy) and hold onto you until you start up again. While I don't think she means to do any harm intentionally, a 15 lb cat can hurt you with their love. The good news is that if you never start petting her, she will accept that and leave you alone. And when I said she was 15 lbs, I might add there is not an ounce of fat on her anywhere.

Garbo is also our miracle cat. Back in the summer, I was out in the backyard hanging up clothes when I saw her coming across the yard. She wasn't walking or moving any different that normal but as she got closer I noticed a gaping wound all the way across her chest.

I have to be graphic to make a point to this story, so skip this next part if you are squeamish.

The only way to describe this wound is to say that it looked like somebody had flayed this cat open. The wound was at least 4 inches long and it was so deep that you could see the bones in her chest moving as she walked. Miraculously, there was not another mark nor was there any blood on her anywhere. She just walked up to me and me-meowed like she always does when she is feeling social. Because it was late on Sunday afternoon and my vet was out of town, we decided since she wasn't debilitated or in any pain, we would wait until Monday and take her to our regular vet instead of the emergency clinic. Since she loves to be indoors, I put her into one of our pet crates, fed and watered her and made her as comfortable as possible. She purred and just rested quietly for the rest of the evening.

First thing, the next morning, I took Garbs to the vet. The first comment everybody who saw her made was that they had never seen anything like it before. The muscles were severed in two, the skin peeled back and you could still see the white bones of her sternum and her front legs moving when she walked. It was an amazing thing to see.

The prognosis from the vet was pretty bleak. She said that the wound couldn't just be sewed up because of the damage to several layers of muscle and the angle of the cut. Garbo needed major surgery to repaid the damage and then she would have to have meds, lots of follow up and a long recovery period. The bottom line cost was estimated at about $500-600 if no complications. My heart sank because I knew we couldn't afford to spend that much on a barn cat, no matter how much I loved her. The alternative was euthanasia which was something I couldn't even consider.

Shaken, I called The Farmer and he said to get some antibiotics from the vet and bring Garbo on home. The vet hooked us up with antibiotics, pain meds, something to irrigate the wound and something extra for the last moments. I brought Garbs home and we again put her in the kennel and made her comfortable. This was mostly for my benefit because she still acted like nothing was wrong. I brought her home to die but she seemed to be in complete denial.

But then the miracle continued. I tried to give her the pain meds but she resisted to the point that I decided it would hurt her more to be jumping around so I put that away. When I tried to clean and irrigate the wound, she let me know very quickly that she could do a much better and efficient job and so that item, too, was put away. I did crush up the antibiotics into her food because I knew that trying to shove a pill down her throat would be worst than the other two "treatments" I had tried to administer.
(Let me point out here that this is the way it is on a farm. Taking every sick or injured animal to the vet is usually not an option. You have to learn how to treat wounds, deliver meds, give injections and so on, so this is not something I recommend for you to try with your pets at home. I know what I am doing and have been an animal rehabber. The Farmer is also a licensed general falconer and we have kept a red tailed hawk for the past 9 years, so our combined experience and varied knowledge is way past the average person's.)


By the next morning, I was beginning to have a little hope, although I figured that she would be damaged beyond having a normal life and would spend her days sitting around the house. Of course, Garbo had other ideas. She finally decided that she was hungry enough to eat the food with the crushed pills in it and didn't object after that point. She simple spit out any pieces big enough for her to detect. Her tongue must be ultra-sensitive because there was dust in the bottom of her bowl. I tried dissolving the stuff in some milk, which she hates anyway and that was just a waste of a pill and a bowl of milk.

Finally, after about 3 days of trying to trick her into these meds, I gave up. She looked fine, the wound was starting to heal and I figured what the heck. If she was doing that well with the relatively small dose of meds I had managed to get into her, we'd just chance it.

On the fourth day, she wanted to go out and stayed out for most of the day. The other cats came up to greet her and she warned them off with a hiss, which is all it has ever taken, so there was not a major confrontation in the backyard. She hung around the back steps and lounged on one of the yard chairs and came back in to eat, etc. a couple of times when I came in from the field to check on her. At the end of the first week, she was almost completely back into her regular daily routine, except she was smart enough not to go out hunting or stray too far from the house and yard because that gaping hole in her chest remained. Every day she seemed to be a little more her old self, just a little more restrained. After 3 1/2 weeks, there was little sign that she had ever been injured so severely, just a little bare patch on her chest and a little pink spot that took a while longer to heal over.

Garbo is now 100% back to her old self. There is not even a scar where she was hurt. Her beautiful soft white fur has completely grown back in and you can barely feel a little bump under it where that awful wound was. We can only speculate but think that she may have jumped up after something and gotten caught on a barbed wire fence and her weight caused the barb to slice through her. We haven't come up with anything else that makes any sense because that wound looked very much like an incision.

We will never know what really happened, but I am just thankful that we made the decision not to have her put down. She is totally Garbs again, the Queen of the Farm and everybody knows it. Now, she is as powerful and graceful as she was before the accident...the tiny lioness once again.

She is also the keeper of a secret that we will never have the answer to. The miracle of her recovery from what should have been a devastating injury is something to ponder. Was it the incredible healing power of a predatory animal, or her instinctive knowing what to do to heal herself that saved her life? Who knows? The fact remains that she showed us just how much faith she had in her own ability to recover and she never waivered in that. There was a profound lesson to be learned here and it was not wasted on me.

This is Garbo today. Garbo showing her love.

NO EAT! NOT FOOD! What a great kid's book!!!




I’ve just finished reading a WONDERFUL new book that I’d like to recommend to
anyone who has kids, knows kids, likes kids, works with kids or has ever been a kid!

This is a story about the “search for intelligent food on planet earth” and
tells the adventures of a hungry alien looking for some REAL food here on earth. Although
“No Eat Not Food” was written for 8 to 12 year olds,
I’m sure anyone would find it a delightful romp
through the principles we hold so dear: biodiversity, sustainable
farming practices, food ethics and a healthful, natural lifestyle for all.
The book is funny, sweet, informative and the artwork is excellent.
I am just thrilled to help to spread the word about it.

The book has won two national level book awards, and I personally give it
the official “New Moon Farm Sustainable Stamp of Organic Approval!”

To order go to http://www.mountainpathpress.com/ or call 888 224 9997.
Order directly from the author and get your copy personally autographed!

-Suzanne





WHAT'S SHAKIN' AT THE FARM

While you can plan for just about anything, the worst drought in 100 years is something that just cannot be predicted. Yet, we have still been very lucky. Even without the ability to water the crops, from the middle of July on, there has been something being produced in the gardens all season long, even though the late summer/fall harvests were smaller than in past years.

There has never been the need for us to go the the expense of putting in a new well before because the rainfall and our planting methods, soil condition, etc. has always been sufficient for a very productive season. Next year, however, the drought is expected to continue and possibly even into 2009. For that reason, we will have to take on the financial burden of putting in a well and irrigation system if we are to continue to run the Farm.

Putting in a well means we will have to tighten the belt yet another notch (I personally am running out of notches) and make the best of it. That is the nature of farming. A farmer doesn't have the luxury of feeling secure or complacent about much of anything, especially when he/she is an organic farmer. You just have to accept things, deal with them best you can and move on. There is nothing that we would rather do, though, so we will continue to make every effort possible to continue to make this work.

The drought has been a humbling experience for a lot of people in this region, because it has shown us that we simply cannot take our resources for granted anymore. Environmentalists and ecologists have been making dire predictions about these types of things for years and years, but until it finally hits close to home, it is easy not to pay much attention.


AT THE FARM
The Farmer, in particular, has worked so very hard this year to keep things on track. Adverse conditions, while not something one desires, must be looked on by us as a learning experience. Because of the extreme conditions of this summer and fall, we have had to completely rethink how we do some things. Some of these changes will enable us to better manage our resources and give us the ability to still continue to work the Farm with just the two of us.

We can't afford outside labor and need to have things at a level we can maintain with just our 2 strong backs and 4 willing hands. And while we love to have volunteers come to work at the Farm, the majority of them just can't make enough of a time commitment to reduce our workload. Mostly our volunteers/apprentices/interns are here for the learning experience and we love having the opportunity to share our knowledge and passion with them. Part of the good stewardship of an organic farmer is to pass the torch onto the next generation and that is something we take very seriously.

Our farm products are marketed through a CSA (See "What the heck is a CSA?" posted 10.10.07). Because the spirit and structure of a CSA means that everyone shares in both the bounty and the risk of a farm we are not the only ones who have all been affected by this year's extreme weather conditions. Record cold, a record heatwave, a record drought...we had it all this year. Our CSA members have been given a close up view into the day to day trials of being a farmer.

It has meant a great deal to us to have had so many words of encouragement and support throughout the past several months from our memberfriends. If anything positive has come from this situation, it has given us all the time to stop and appreciate just what it takes to get our food to the plate and to be more aware of the fragility of all of our food sources.

This year has also been an eye-opener for Americans about the dangers of imported and non-local foods, with food safety issues cropping up on almost a weekly basis. It only takes one catastrophic event to affect our food supply, no matter what the source. Belonging to CSA has gives you access to one of the safest food supplies available (unless you are growing it yourself). Even our handling methods are geared toward food safety (it is a requirement of our certification).

Next year, we are going to go back to making home deliveries. After making a study of the logistics of this plan, it is actually more environmentally friendly for us to drive 100 miles per week to deliver than to have many people driving to one location to pick up their produce. (I calculated the number of miles that our customers drive and it is considerably less for me to do the driving.) We have a small gas sipper that will be used for this purpose and so we will stand by our commitment to Mother Earth.


THE NEW AGE OF POULTRY
Next year, we will be producing our own eggs for our CSA. As I have mentioned on several occasions, we already have about 50 chickens that we have for our own usage and making a transition to a larger laying flock is just a matter of renovating the chicken house, obtaining the chickens and setting up nest boxes for them, etc. which will be one of our projects for the winter months.

This project is very exciting for us for many reasons, not the least of which is that we will be attempting, over the next 2-3 years, to establish a breeding flock of two critically endangered breeds. As defined by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy Critical means: Fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States, with five or fewer primary breeding flocks (50 birds or more), and globally endangered. This has been a goal that we have had in our long range plans since we started and we are finally ready to make this happen. Anyone who participates in our CSA in the future will be a key part of this project.

Bringing a livestock breed back to the role for which it was originally intended is necessary to ensure that the breeds are truly viable again and so stabilize their status. The work of the ALBC and small breeders have rescued many breeds of livestock from near extinction. We strongly believe that these animals are part of our history (human history...not just American history) and should be respected and appreciated for the role that they have played in that history. Preservation of our past can certainly help to shape our future, if we are willing to learn from that past.

SIMPLE LIVING PART 1



Chapter I


The Chaos Before, During and After the Storm.



You have all heard the phrase "the calm before the storm". My story is about the chaos after the storm and one of the pivotal periods in my life that moved me from princess to pioneer. I used to believe that roughing it was a 4 star hotel with bad room service. It is funny how life will rap you on the head time after time until you start to get it.



Back in the '90s we lived on the North Carolina coast. First we lived on the Outer Banks, in Buxton, where the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located. In fact, we lived so close to the lighthouse that at night the beam would illuminate the whole house like daylight and then it would be plunged back into total darkness every 15 seconds, with the flash coming in at 7 1/2. That was quite an experience.



If the lighthouse hadn't been so tall, I don't think we could have lived in that house. Because the light is actually 200+ feet off the ground, it mostly went above us and out to sea, but it still was like having the sun blink on and off all night long. How we solved this problem for sleeping would take way too long to explain here but it is a really good story, so I may tell it in a later blog.



(Interesting FACTS: Hatteras Lighthouse Specs: Two 1000-watt lamps; Flash pattern: Every 7.5 seconds a short flash is visible, with rotation every 15 seconds;Visibility: From out 20 nautical miles (37 km) in clear conditions. In exceptional conditions, it has been seen from 51 miles out. Now that is what I call a nightlight.)

After about 5-6 months of living in Buxton, we moved to a quiet little beach town near Cape Fear, which came with its own set of interesting turns. The location of the place where we lived made it a frequent target for tropical storms. The second year we lived there, hurricanes seemed to be directly aimed toward on a regular basis, only to take an 11th hour jog to the east or north. for the most part, our area would just have to endure several days of bigger than normal ocean swell, wind and rain. This is actually a good thing when your life revolves around wind and water driven sports like surfing, windsurfing or kite boarding. That, after all, was the main reason we chose to live there (The sports, not the storms.).

Unfortunately, though, one year, our little town seemed to be the bulls eye for every storm that came up the coast. It was also an incredibly active season and several storms threatened early in the season. Two different named hurricanes made landfall right over us in a 3 month period, one in July and another in September. The first one only knocked out power for about 2 days. With the second one, all services in the area were devastated and we were left without any semblance of "civilization" for almost two weeks. Not a fun experience but one chock full of important lessons.

The second big hurricane caused major flooding in our town and the days after the storm passed were an experience I will never forget. I cannot make any comparison other than to say Hell would probably be a much scarier contemplation for me if it was presented as the aftermath of a flood, instead of fiery flames. Even now, when I see pictures of floods my stomach clenches and I feel sick. It only took a couple of weeks for things to get back to normal in our situation, but that has increased my already considerable sympathies ten-fold for the victims of any disaster where the forces of nature are involved, especially where flooding is involved.

The weather at that time of year was our typical unpredictable early September in the South. With humidity still high and temps unseasonably warm, in the low 90's some days, the whole island was a miasma. The town had been flooded by storm surge that had no where to go because the catch basin pumps installed in the town center had needed repair for years and the town had spent their budget on other "more pressing" things or so we were told. The result of this blunder was that much of the town was under 3 feet of water for over a week, until natural evaporation and seepage took care of much of it. And it wasn't all seawater, either.

I don't think that I will never get that smell out of my memory. When the water finally went down, the garbage that was left behind was like a festering wound. Flies and mosquitoes were having the biggest party of their short lives. Noxious, foul odors permeated the whole town. Some people were even forced to leave the island because mold and mildew levels were at the unsafe mark. The visual devastation was nothing compared to the stink of what humans leave behind. Thinking about what the aftermath of Katrina must have been like is the stuff of my worst nightmares.

Because we were located on a coastal island, fresh water was not an abundant commodity during this time. Saying that things were miserable is an understatement. Having no A/C in the heat, coupled with the high humidity, made for some pretty fragrant people. We counted ourselves as incredibly lucky because our street was on the same power grid as the local government buildings (EMT, Police, Fire Station) so our power was back on before the other 3 grids on the island. Our house was like a oasis in the middle of a fetid desert and of course, we opened it to our friends.

The business we owned was completely destroyed and so while it was relatively comfortable at home, that devastation had to be dealt with. We spent weeks cleaning out the building, trying to catalog the losses and save what little inventory and fixtures that weren't completely ruined. Our eclectic little beach boutique had been furnished with architectural salvage pieces and antiques, all of which were one of a kind and unique and were completely irreplaceable. Pretty downheartening when your business is only a year old and underinsured because of the value placed on these items by adjusters who failed to recognize their antique quality. But we did what any entrepreneur with a sense of the ironic would do. We rebuilt.


Up until that time in my life, I took a lot of things for granted but that experience gave me first hand knowledge of what it is like not to have luxuries like electricity, running water or hot, decent food for days and days. It also made me realize how vulnerable we are both personally and as a society. Not vulnerable to terrorists (that came much later), but to something as simple as the power going off. The hurricane experience woke me up to the fact that I was way to dependent on things that I had no control over and decided to do something about it. It also made me much more sensitive to issues like the homeless and hunger in our country.

It was around this time I started thinking about the concepts of sustainable and simple living, although at that time, I hadn't heard those terms used in that way. Living off grid, with no dependence on the power or water company; no phone ringing incessantly with strangers invading my privacy to try to cheat me out of my hard earned savings, going to bed when I was tired and getting up when I had had enough sleep, living off the land. My parents called people who lived like that "hillbillies. I thought it sounded like Nirvana (the place, not the band).


Because The Farmer is a true Renaissance man, I have been extremely lucky to have an excellent mentor living in the same house with me. We had only been together for a couple of years when the hurriane disaster struck and up until then I had not realized just how resourceful and adaptable he was until that time. (This ability he has continues to amaze me on a regular basis.)

Everybody relies too much on other sources for their needs. We go to the supermarket for food, we take for granted that the lights will come on when we flip a switch, we turn on the tap and out comes running water. What happens if all that is gone in the blink of an eye? How do we c

That is one of the reasons that we practice simple living. If there is no electricity, we are fine. If there is no heat, we can build a fire. If the supermarket is closed, we have food stores to last for months. It may seem a bit apocalyptic to think that way, but it has served us well on more than one occasion.

We don't make a concerted effort to constantly be in a state of preparedness. Instead, there has been an evolution in our thinking processes.

Keeping it Real...

At New Moon Farm, we are firmly rooted in the rhythms of life. Everything is connected in some way and every action has a consequence, good or bad. To be aware of all aspects of one's life is paramount to peace and happiness.

No less important is our belief in seeking harmony in everything around us. We strive to maintain the natural habitats and riparian areas of the Farm. We build habitat to encourage birds, insects, animals and other native species to grow and flourish here. Sections of what appear to be weeds and brambles is a planned sanctuary for birds that nest close to the ground, as well as a place for beneficial insects to lay their eggs or burrow in for the winter. Certain crops are allowed to go to seed or winter over because they produce blooms early in the spring, giving the bees a source of nectar earlier than they might find it otherwise.

Instead of fighting to conquer the natural elements around us, we seek to find that balance which allows us to live in accord with them. These simple but powerful ideas are the foundation on which New Moon Farm was built and that touch everything we do.Here at the Farm, we try to promote not only a peaceful, healthful, natural lifestyle for ourselves and others, we also employ many of the tenets of simple living. By producing as many of our needs as possible on the farm and practicing voluntary simplicity wherever we can, we limit our dependence on other sources for our comforts and necessities. Sustainability is key not only to our farming methods, but to our daily life.

One of our specialties are the heirloom varieties we grow here at the Farm. These "antique" vegetables and flowers are literally a living historical link to our past. Many of the heirlooms we grow have their origins within the cultures that brought them to America during the settling of this country. Some of them are even indigenous species that grew wild in our region and were harvested by the native people who populated this area before the Europeans settled here. This fascinating aspect of what we do is something that is both intriguing and exciting. Not only are we able to grow our own food, we are able to make a connection between the past and present in a very tangible way.

Biologically, the human body responds to things in its immediate environment...we get allergies in spring, are more lethargic and have cravings for protein rich foods in cold months, things like that. Humans have always coexisted in the same environment as the plants that they used for food, until we started using the industrial food complex for our food supply. The rise in disease and other conditions related to diet have tracked a path right along side the evolution of our modern food systems.

We believe that eating local organically grown produce, in season, is one of the best ways to provide optimum nutrition and to feed both the body and the spirit. Government intervention has made our food supply about commerce instead of good health and nutrition and now as a nation, we are all suffering. It makes more sense to me to eat foods that grow in the same area or region where one lives than to consume something the came from thousands of miles away (or even from another country half way around the world...) not only for the sake of the environment but for our own good health. And there is an almost spiritual result from eating food that you know is good for you. If one truly believes in a Higher Power, how can that person not treat their body as a temple. How can one believe that human beings were made in the image of God, yet treat the body with such contempt? "You are what you eat" is one of the truest axioms ever put to paper.


Namaste

A day in the life (This post is a long one....)

There hasn't been much excitement around the Farm lately, so I think I will just take you through one of my ordinary days, like yesterday.

First of all, we get up with the chickens or in our case, the puppies. That means it is just about the time the sun comes up. If the puppies sleep in, so do we. Since there is no time clock to punch we pretty much take the day as it comes. Most summer days we are up at 5 am or earlier, but at this time of year, it is too dark and cold to get up that early, so things move at a little slower pace.


I get up first, usually, unless the Farmer has something to do. I am one of those people whose eyes fly open early and then they are AWAKE. No lounging around in the sack or going back to sleep. That drives me crazy and I don't know how people can do that. Anyway, I get up and immediately get dressed because there are 6 dogs waiting to go outside for their morning constitutional.

For the most part, our dogs are outside, but once it gets to around 45 degrees at night, they all come in for the night. Because we follow a routine that is almost a ritual, getting everybody out is not a big deal. Of course, we aren't quiet, so the Farmer is not far behind. Usually all this is happening about 6:45 and it has been COLD for the past couple of mornings. We come back in and the big dogs go back to bed and the puppies get to run around the kitchen and play with us, get their breakfast, wrestle and then go back to their kennels until it is "outside time". Soon as it warms up enough, they go to their outdoor kennel to run and play some more. Maggie and Jack are usually wherever we are and Callie goes into her outdoor kennel. She is the official guardian of the chickens, so she spends her day patrolling the perimeter of her kennel (which is right by the chicken lots), taking long naps in the sun or barking at those big, funny looking dogs in the back pasture (they are actually dairy cows from the organic dairy next door).



After the dogs settle in for the rest of the day, it is time to feed the chickens. That doesn't take but about 20 minutes and is so boring a chore it doesn't warrant more than this sentence. After the chickens, I feed the barn cats their breakfast. Like the dogs, if it is cold, they are huddled up in a pile and reluctant to come out, so they get fed later in the morning.



The feline matriarch at our farm is Garbo and she is mother to anything and everything that comes around. She even catches mice for the puppies. The first time I saw her do that I thought she was just playing with them (pups)through the fence but when I went closer, she was actually pushing the mouse into the pen with the puppies, just like she would do with her kittens.

A couple of years ago, she stole a litter of kittens from another cat and when I went to check on her kittens in her box on the back porch, there were nine kittens instead of 4. She raised all of nine of them. The mother of those kittens was a little sad stray somebody put out and she was wild as all get out and a terrible mother. I think Garbo sensed that and decided to step in. She has never done anything like that, either before or after that time.



Garbs is also a great big cat, bigger than most toms. She is not called Garbo because of shyness but rather because she has given new meaning to aloof and haughty, even when referring to a cat. Also, IF she is in the mood to let you pet her, you better be prepared to do so at your own risk because if you don't pet properly or for the amount of time she has allotted for your attention, she will grab your hand (or anything else handy) and hold onto you until you start up again. While I don't think she means to do any harm intentionally, a 15 lb cat can hurt you with their love. The good news is that if you never start petting her, she will accept that and leave you alone. And when I said she was 15 lbs, I might add there is not an ounce of fat on her anywhere.



Garbo is also our miracle cat. Back in the summer, I was out in the backyard hanging up clothes when I saw her coming across the yard. She wasn't walking or moving any different that normal but as she got closer I noticed a gaping wound all the way across her chest.



I have to be graphic to make a point to this story, so skip this next part if you are squeamish.



The only way to describe this wound is to say that it looked like somebody had flayed this cat open. The wound was at least 4 inches long and it was so deep that you could see the bones in her chest moving as she walked. Miraculously, there was not another mark nor was there any blood on her anywhere. She just walked up to me and me-meowed like she always does when she is feeling social. Because it was late on Sunday afternoon and my vet was out of town, we decided since she wasn't debilitated or in any pain, we would wait until Monday and take her to our regular vet instead of the emergency clinic. Since she loves to be indoors, I put her into one of our pet crates, fed and watered her and made her as comfortable as possible. She purred and just rested quietly for the rest of the evening.



First thing, the next morning, I took Garbs to the vet. The first comment everybody who saw her made was that they had never seen anything like it before. The muscles were severed in two, the skin peeled back and you could still see the white bones of her sternum and her front legs moving when she walked. It was an amazing thing to see.

The prognosis from the vet was pretty bleak. She said that the wound couldn't just be sewed up because of the damage to several layers of muscle and the angle of the cut. Garbo needed major surgery to repaid the damage and then she would have to have meds, lots of follow up and a long recovery period. The bottom line cost was estimated at about $500-600 if no complications. My heart sank because I knew we couldn't afford to spend that much on a barn cat, no matter how much I loved her. The alternative was euthanasia which was something I couldn't even consider.

So, I called The Farmer and he said to get some antibiotics from the vet and bring Garbo on home. The vet hooked us up with antibiotics, pain meds, something to irrigate the wound and something extra for the last moments. I brought Garbs home and we again put her in the kennel and made her comfortable. This was mostly for my benefit because she still acted like nothing was wrong with brought her home to die but she seemed to be in denial.

But then the miracle continued. I tried to give her the pain meds but she resisted to the point that I decided it would hurt her more to be jumping around so I put that away. When I tried to clean and irrigate the wound, she let me know very quickly that she could do a much better and efficient job and so that item, too, was put away. I did crush up the antibiotics into her food because I knew that trying to shove a pill down her throat would be worst than the other two "treatments" I had tried to administer.
(Let me point out here that this is the way it is on a farm. Taking every sick or injured animal to the vet is usually not an option. You have to learn how to treat wounds, deliver meds, give injections and so on, so this is not something I recommend for you to try with your pets at home. I know what I am doing and have been an animal rehabber. The Farmer is also a licensed general falconer and we have kept a red tailed hawk for the past 9 years, so our combined experience and varied knowledge is way past the average person's.)

By the next morning, I was beginning to have a little hope, although I figured that she would be damaged beyond having a normal life and would spend her days sitting around the house. Of course, Garbo had other ideas. She finally decided that she was hungry enough to eat the food with the crushed pills in it and didn't object after that point. She simple spit out any pieces big enough for her to detect. Her tongue must be ultra-sensitive because there was dust in the bottom of her bowl. I tried dissolving the stuff in some milk, which she hates anyway and that was just a waste of a pill and a bowl of milk. Finally, after about 3 days of trying to trick her into these meds, I gave up. She looked fine, the wound was starting to heal and I figured what the heck. If she was doing that well with relative little of the meds in her, we'd just chance it.

On the fourth day, she wanted to go out and stay out. The other cats cams up to greet her and she warned them off with a hiss, which is all it has ever taken, so there was not a major confrontation in the backyard. She hung around the back steps and lounged on one of the yard chairs and came back in to eat, etc. a couple of times when I came in to check on her. At the end of the first week, she was almost completely back into her regular daily routine, except she was smart enough not to go out hunting or stray too far from the house and yard.

Garbo is now 100% back to her old self. There is not even a scar where she was hurt. Her beautiful soft white fur has completely grown back in and you can barely feel a little bump under it where that awful wound was. We can only speculate but think that she may have jumped up after something and gotten caught on a barbed wire fence and her weight caused the barb to slice through her. We haven't come up with anything else that makes any sense because that wound looked like an incision.

We will never know what happened, but I am just thankful that we made the decision not to have her put down. She is totally Garbs again, the Queen of the Farm and everybody knows it.
She is also the keeper of a secret that we will never have the answer to. The miracle of her recover from what should have been a devastating injury is something to ponder. The incredible healing power of a predatory animal, her instinctive knowing what to do to heal herself and the fact that she showed us how to help her are as inspiring to me as anything I have ever experienced and the lessons are not wasted.

New pages on our website

Our CSA is taking reservations for 2008 at the moment, so if you are interested go to New Moon Farm and read all about how is works, etc.

And since running and working an organic farm isn't enough for me to do, here
are some of my other projects.

Here is the link to my newly updated recipe site called
It's Vegetarian, Ya'll! In the Kitchen with the Farmer's Wife

Also recently updated is the information on the all natural soap that I make
New Moon Naturals

Welcome to my world....


This is Maggie.

Maggie again, wondering what I am doing.
She is mama to the puppies in the following pictures.


2-Wk Old JRT Puppies - look at those little fat bellies.
Jack Russell puppies look remarkable like hamsters
for about the first 2 weeks. At this age, the look is
beginning to morph into something more puppylike.


Same puppies in just 2 more weeks. See what I meant.
How cute is this?


Diva, Turtle and Pi. All the pups in this litter are special.
Pi went to his new home at 8 weeks, because I know his new family.
By 10 weeks, he was already learning the commands no, sit, down and
learning stay. The 3 I still have are on about the same level. I never
sell or give a puppy to a new home, until I am satisfied they are ready.
That means some training is done but I make sure they have a level of
confidence that won't lead to neurotic behavior because of some traumatic
event in their early weeks. It just makes sense to me that puppies are
like babies and putting a 6 week old puppy up for adoption is cruelty of
the highest order. It is like giving a 6 month old infant to a family of chimpanzees.


Pyglet, Pi, Diva and Turtle


The Diva (Devious) This little girl is very special.
Her markings, size, coat, etc. are remarkable. She is also
very small and will probably be tiny like her mother.


Turtle, looking forlorn. Turtle is my boy. He
is a "shorty" like his dad, Jack. He looks a little
bit like a beagle because of the color combi, but
he is all JRT. He is the quickest to respond to
"Let's go in the house" and "Who's hungry?"
He already knows how handsome he is and loves
to be petted. This boy is a lover not a fighter, demonstrated
by how often his sisters beat him up.
Pi and Diva are looking at Prissy, the cat.


And this is Prissy, resident pest. This is the cat
that is into everything and wants constant attention
when you are outside. She has the one most likely to
get locked in the basement.


We promise be good if you let us out...sure you will.


Diva looking for a way out, while Pi and Turtle play.
That is momma, Maggie, in the background.


Diva and Pi, playing with Puffers


Turtle running laps around Puffers.


Pygmalion a/k/a Pyglet...sweet, sweet little girl.
Pyg has a bristly rough coat and little whiskers
around her face. She is the tallest and the calmest,
if there is such a thing. I called her Piglet as a tiny
puppy because she was the fattest puppy. Now she has become
Pyg(malion) because she is turning out to be such a great dog -
looks, personality, everything. Love the Pyget.


Pyg and Pi play with Puffers....check out her kitten
in the background. My Jacks are raised with cats
and everybody gets along. Puffers has no fear that
these puppies will harm that tiny kitten.


Case in point...here are a three of our roosters
and three of our cats, just hanging out.

Rainy Days and Mondays

First thing this morning I was awakened by a Cooper's Hawk breakfasting on one of my pullets (that is a young chicken, a hen actually). It was too late to save the chicken, so I let the Coop's have her meal in peace.
This is a Cooper's Hawk. Beautiful, isn't she?

For those who have grown up believing that the Red tailed Hawk is the infamous "chicken hawk" I shall correct your perception's at this point. Cooper's Hawks are the culprits and unfortunately many, many red tails have paid the price for the Coop's indiscretions. If you live in the city and have a back yard bird feeder or bird bath, Cooper's are notorious for staking out these areas and routinely picking off songbirds
This doesn't mean that the Cooper's hawk is doing anything wrong, just taking advantage of a good situation that human beings have set up for her. Unfortunately, most homeowners will immediately believe the hawk killing the happy little tweeters is an evil being that should be punished. Which is just wrong. The hawk is only doing what it does naturally....prey on other birds. It is a predator of the highest order and should be thought of that way. Humans have killed them for years, simply for doing what nature designed them to do. So there is no point in my getting too upset over losing the chicken this morning. It is part of that Circle of Life and Nature's perfect balance, which I mention frequently.

So anyway, that was how the day started. Then I looked out the window and it was raining. It only lasted a couple of minutes and was so unexpected that I walked outside to make sure I hasn't having a self-induced hallucination (this is a farm and it hasn't rained in a long long time,

you know). But it was really raining, although I didn't even get damp when I went out. Maybe it will rain Wednesday like the weatherman predicts.Of course, I don't put a lot of store in the weather forecast. Like The Farmer says, meteorologists are the only people he knows who have a job where they are guessing at everything they say and that even if they are wrong 90% of the time they still get paid a lot of money. This is near the top of my list of things that make you go "hmmmmmmm".

A Peaceful Sunday Morning to All

It is Sunday morning again. Pretty peaceful around here today. We just had
a big Southern breakfast with the works and I almost need to head back to bed for a nap, which of course, will never happen. I have to go out to feed critters soon and am just finishing up my morning tea and writing this brief blog. My last entry was a bit heavy so I will just say "hi" for now and leave you to enjoy your Sunday.

Life is a song ... sing it.
Life is a game ... play it.
Life is a challenge ... meet it.
Life is a dream ... realize it.
Life is a sacrifice ... offer it.
Life is love ... enjoy it.

~ Sai Baba ~

UP ON THE SOAP BOX

"It may be long before the law of love will be recognized in international affairs. The machineries of government stand between and hide the hearts of one people from those of another." -- Mahatma Ghandi.

Each paragraph below is a link to the webpage cited.

HUNGER IN AMERICA This is a hard many of us to imagine since America considers itself to be the richest country in the world. But this is the reality of economic and social disparity in the U. S. In 2004, 38.2 million people lived in food-insecure households, including 13.9 million children In 2004, 11.9% of households (13.5 million households) were food insecure compared to 11.2% (12.6 million households) in 2003. In 2004, 3.9% of households (4.4 million households) lived in food insecure households where one or more members was hungry compared to 3.5% in 2003. Sadly, these figures continue to rise. To learn more about Second Harvest and Hunger in America and what you can do to help by clicking anywhere in this paragraph. The above statistics were pre-Katrina. Go to www.hungerinamerica.org for 2006 study results which were released this year.
GLOBAL WARMING AND THE FUTURE It's real, it's here and we (humans) did it. Now what are we doing about it? The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, a worldwide think tank, may not have the answers, but they certainly have the facts here

WORLDWIDE BIODIVERSITY Biodiversity provides not only food and income but also raw materials for clothing, shelter, medicines, breeding new varieties, and performs other services such as maintenance of soil fertility and biota, and soil and water conservation, all of which are essential to human survival. Nearly one third of the world's land area is used for food production. The issues covered on this website range from agricultural diversity to invasive alien species. A must read for anyone who cares about the future of our planet.
WOMEN'S HUMAN RIGHTS Every day, women and girls around the world are threatened, beaten, raped, mutilated and killed with impunity.Currently, Amnesty International is involved in an international campaign to stop violence against women. Join the "Stop Violence Against Women Campaign" and help make women's human rights a reality. Also visit other areas of the Amnesty site for information on other human rights issues across the globe.
PEAK OIL -- FACING WORLDWIDE DEPLETION
What is Peak Oil? "The term Peak Oil refers the maximum rate of the production of oil in any area under consideration, recognising that it is a finite natural resource, subject to depletion."

ANIMAL RIGHTS Animal rights might seem like a stretch on a simple living info website, but the fact of it is that this is a very important part of finding your spirtual path. Kindness, love and caring for your fellow creatures is the reason for taking care of the Earth in the first place. Domesticated animals did not ask to be dominated and have their species manipulated by humans. I think that many people intepret the Biblical term "Man's dominion over the animals" to mean we can do what we choose with them. I believe that just the opposite is true and that mankind was charged with the care and protection of all our fellow creatures. This link will take you to a less radical section of the PETA website called "Cruelty-Free Living" and has a lot of information about vegetarianism, consumer products, etc. WARNING: Don't visit this site with your kids unless you look at if first. There are not any particularly sensitive images on this page, but there are links to them. PETA is not for the faint hearted, but if you care, you need to know about these things. While I do not condone their extremist tactics much of the time, the investigation and reporting that they do is top drawer. And their ads do get people's attention.
www.greenpeople.org/animalrights.htm is the Green People website and its state by state list of animal welfare organizations.

Be responsible.

MORE COOL KID STUFF

WildWatch Wildlife Live Cams
This is one of my all time favorite websites. The State of Washington has live wildlife cams set up so that you can watch nesting eagles, herons, owls, even salmon (they are not nesting...they are swimming). This is a great resource for homeschoolers who want to learn more about wildlife. Previously I watched a clutch of eaglets hatch which was very cool. Cams are seasonal, of course, but when spring is approaching there should be lots to see. Of course, the fish never sleep (there is a salmon cam).

A Parents Guide to Internet Safety (for kids) This is also a great website for activities, vegetarian recipes for kids, etc. This site was created for and about kids from India, but there is lots of info any parent can use. Also gives you child a change to learn something about kids in another culture.

Origami for Kids The word origami is Japanese: oru means "to fold", and kami means "paper". Origami is an ancient art where sometimes simple, sometimes intricate paperfolding is used to make 3-dimentional objects. Origami can be an activity for younger kids using simple patterns or older kids using more intricate patterns and skills. It can also be a great learning tool because of the geometry of the folds, angles and building of a 3-dimensional object from a flat piece of paper. And it can be done anywhere there is a sheet of paper available (great activity for a plane or long car ride.) Another great origami site is Origami USA which is a national organization for the enjoyment of origami.

Killer Freebies for Kids This site has loads of free stuff kids (and big people) can order/win/earn. When I was a kid, I belonged to the Around the World club and each month I got something from another country. Stamps from all over, an ink block and brush from Japan, a book mark with the Eiffel Tower from France, it was all pretty cool to a 10 year old. Still sounds pretty cool to me now and I am way more than ten. Only warning about this one is that you might want to look at it with your kids. There are some offers there that are not completely "free" (magazines with 1 issue free, stuff like that). You might find something cool, too.

Youth on Line Pen Pals Did you have a pen pal when you were growing up? This is a great way for kids to learn and get to know someone from another city, country, culture, or simply with something in common. The main site for Youth on Line is pretty good, too. From what I can tell from this site, it is pretty safe for kids to use online. Of course, be your own judge and read for yourself, but check it out.

HOME MADE TOYS!!!
The following websites have instructions and plans for making homemade toys with your kids. HAVE FUN!!


Super Sock Monkey on the Web
The intro to this site says it is "A fun and safe Web site devoted to all things related to sock monkeys. If you're a longtime fan of sock monkeys or a new comer, this site will fulfill all your sock monkey dreams."
Okay, I admit it, this one is a little weird. Personally, I think sock monkeys are a bit strange, but I also think real monkeys are too, so it is probably just me. Many people love monkeys, sock or not, so if you are a monkey lover, here you go. All kidding aside, the history and other info about this piece of American nostalgia is kind of interesting, even to a non-monkey lover.

Homemade Toys from Recycleables A couple of the toys on this website don't seem to be completely safe to me in an unsupervised setting but I put it here any way so that you can see how simple your plan can be and still make a pretty cool toy.

COOKING WITH KIDS

Cooking with your kids is like a no brainer, in my book. You have to cook, they have to eat. What could be a better way for everybody to get to spend some quality time? You can even involve Dad and make it a total family affair. You get some help (?) in the kitchen, the kids get to see what goes into preparing their food and everybody gets to help clean up the kitchen at the end.

There is a wealth of opportunity for learning experiences in the kitchen. Math (measuring and weiging), organization (getting your equipment and ingredients assembled and prepped), problem solving (reading Great-Grannie's handwriting on that famous family recipe) and patience (waiting for water to boil is nothing compared to waiting for your cupcakes to bake). And who knows, you might end up with a budding chef?

I also think this is a great way to instill a degree of future independence in kids, because it is one thing you can check off the list of what you need to teach kids about the "things mommy won't be there to do for you when you grow up". This is especially important for boys, although I know a lot of girls who could use some lessons, too. I have two sons and both of them were taught to cook,wash and fold their own laundry, clean the toilet, sew on a button and a host of other mundane chores that some guys have no clue about once they are out on their own. This can go a long way to making a college kid away from home a little less lost and confused when away from home for the first time. Anyway, now that you are inspired, here is a good website to get you started.

Cooking with Kids GREAT SITE!This is an online version of the book "Cooking with Kids" and the author has taken great care in providing information that is more than just how to bake cookies with your kid. It is about families preparing and having their meals together and the value of a child's involvement in that process. There are insights into why cooking with your child is more than letting him/her be "mommy's little helper" once in a while. And I particularly like the section on helping to set up your little "chef" with their own set of "pint sized" cooking tools. Tasty recipes included, too.

Working Title

We are adamant about not using ANY pesticides here unless there is ABSOLUTELY no other choice(even pesticides from natural sources like pyrethrum are indescriminate...they kill the good bugs with the bad and we just can't tolerate that. That means that we rely on the judicious usage of the natural cycles of plants, insects and birds, in season, integrated into a balance that keeps things at a managable level. I read once that organic growing meant that we must accept that we cannot need to exterminate pests, diseases and weeds but rather to learn to manage them and thereby create safe, sustainable, productive garden systems. The Farmer and I have stuck to that principle for many years and it is one of the 3 basic doctines here at New Moon Farm



  • First, do no harm.


  • Peace, love and harmony in everything you do.


  • Always have fun.


Keeping perspective about things is an absolute when you farm. Acceptance is such big part of farming. You have to let go of many of the notions about life that you develop through the value system subscribed to by the marjority of people in this country. It is not necessary to drive a new car, live in a big house, have a lot of designer clothes or get plastic surgery to be happy. Indeed, none of that will ever make anyone happy. Happiness is knowing who you are. Simple as that.



Because we choose, and I emphasize the word choose, to live on the fringe of what many people call "normal", we are largely considered to be eccentric or even odd by many. Nevermind that the way we live is basically how almost everyone's grandparents and even parents lived in the twentieth century. Just think about how much advertising is centered around a nostalgic theme, instead of that 50's catch phrase, "New and Improved".




Modern society has moved so far ahead, so fast, that our technologies have produced a generation that has little or no clue that things were ever any different. Our children have lost their ability to see wonder in the world. Flashing computer game screens have taken the place of looking for falling stars on a clear summer night. Mom in the kitchen making dinner and the family sitting down at the table together has given way to McDonalds or pre-packaged, microwaved meals. Families have lost the ability to communicate with each other because the real estate agents and housing construction companies have convinced so many people that everyone in your family needs their "own space" and so we live in cavernous homes where nobody has to interact on a regular basis.


Because civilized humans do not live in a tribe any more, but rather a group of loosely connect individuals that share little in common, there is something basic is missing in almost everybody's life. Lives often seems meaningless because we don't know our natural selves any longer. There is no purpose to the things that we do, it is just the day to day struggle to live.


We wrestle with articifial circumstances that grow more complicated every year. Giant faceless corporations are invading our homes with an almost sinister stealth that very few people even recognize. We are bombarded over and over and over with images that almost brainwash us into thinking how we should look, what we should believe. Do you really believe that a particular toothpaste will make you irrestible to the opposite sex? Can washing your clothes in a certain fabric softener raise the quality of your life?




The Art of Happiness

HAPPINESS
You will need to use the back key to return from these websites.
" Children smile 400 times a day on average ... adults 15 times.
Children laugh 150 times a day ... adults 6 times per day.
Children play between 4-6 hours a day ... adults only 20 minutes a day.
What's happened?
~ Robert Holden (from 'Living Wonderfully') ~

I am happy. I admit it. I laugh often and play alot. Everyday I look at my life and I am so profoundly grateful for all the gifts I have been given that I almost burst at the seams. I love what I do for a living. I have two of the best kids in the world. I have a beautiful granddaughter who is nothing but pure joy. I share my life with the most amazing man who makes me feel special and loved every day. I love my parents who gave me so much of what I am and who are pretty great themselves. I love my brother because he is my brother. I love my in-laws for many reasons, not the least of which is the contribution they made to shaping the life of my love. I love the furred, feathered and scaled companions I get to spend my days with. I have a pretty incredible life and I'm loving every minute of it!
How about you?




14000 Things to Be Happy About I have a wonderful book called "14,000 Things to Be Happy About". It was written by Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer and it is a gem.
In the book, Barbara lists page after page of things she has to be happy about.
She also has a website that lists daily random "happinesses" and this is the link to the site. I find such affirmation in the contents of this little book that I was inspired to make my own list. So far, I am up to several hundred things and I add something new almost every day. With all of the negative aspects of a hectic and busy life, this can be a great exercise in the advancement of self-nurturing. Try to spend just 5 minutes each day writing down those things that do make you happy. And share it with others.


The Secret Society of Happy People Here is a site that will put a smile on your face. The founder of this site is Pamela Gail Johnson, author of the book "Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade: Adventures of the Secret Society of Happy People"

Read an excerpt from the Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living or visit the official website of the book The Art of Happiness.
This book is a groundbreaking collaboration between His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, and Howard C. Cutler, M.D., a Phoenix-based psychiatrist. See what one of the most revered men (the Dalai Lama)on the planet has to say about happiness.

Martha Beck Oprah has called Martha Beck one of the the "smartest women I know". Read what this Life Coach has to say about what happiness really is and how to achieve it. She has some inspiring things to say. You can read more from Dr. Beck at her "O" magazine online column.

How to Be HappyThis is a "how-to" manual for being happier. I think the format is interesting and some of the "instructions" are too obvious, but overall worth a look.


howtobehappy.org Michael Anthony is the author of this website and offers a free e-copy download of his book entitled "How to be Happy and Have Fun Changing the World". May not be everyone's cup of tea, but certainly worth taking a look at what Mr. Anthony has to say.

The Great Chicken Round-up of 2007 (so far)

Previously, I wrote about our chickens. We are very fond of our chickens but lately they have started doing bad chicken stuff. It may just be a phase they are going through. Most of the roosters are "teenagers", so maybe they are just acting out. In reality, they are not really doing anything out of the ordinary in chickendom but some things were getting a little out of hand. Chickens on a rampage can be quite annoying.

For some reason, about a month ago, they decided to invade the big lettuce patch. I guess they thought we had put in a salad bar. Anyway, they decimated an entire row of lettuce in about 10 minutes. Chickens are real flockers, so when one hit the garden, the rest of them followed. In their defense, with the drought, there has been very little greens for them to eat this summer and chickens like to eat green stuff so as I said, they aren't doing anything unusual. They just chose a bad place for their foray.

After exhausting every idea we had--from moving one of the Jack Russell kennels to the edge of the lettuce patch (that didn't work because we have trained the JRTS not to bark or chase the chickens....the dog just sat there and watched the chickens run past her...Good Girl, Callie! Good Dog!) to patrolling the perimeter with a long stick of bamboo, looking for marauders and chasing them away (they just looked at me for a moment and went right back to eating).

Drastic events call for drastic measures and so we decided that we would rather put them in a pen than in the freezer. We spent an ENTIRE day rounding them up. As I mentioned in previous entries, they are almost like wild chickens and they are pretty darned smart. We set up a "chicken trap" by using one of the empty dog kennels and rigging up a way to pull the door closed from about 20 feet away while hiding behind a bush. We put bird a special bird netting over the top to keep them from flying out the top. Since I feed the chickens daily, I went inside the kennel and called them and threw out cracked corn like usual. They mostly came up to the wire and cocked their heads from side to side, looked curiously at me and then ran back over to the garden. I guess they figured I couldn't chase them if I was in the pen and Dave was nowhere to be seen (he was behind the bush, remember?) so the coast was clear.

Finally, we just went in the house and let everybody calm down. We eventually caught several of the young roosters, put them in another pen, inside the big pen and the flocking instinct of the birds won over. They never figured out that the other chickens were enclosed in a pen, so over several hours, we rustled them up a couple at a time.

There were two wily roosters and one little hen we were unable to catch and they are still patrolling the backyard, but they haven't been anywhere near the garden. Our chickenhouse and the big fenced area is way down back by the barn, so the free birds are hanging around there with the incarcerated birds, so I don't think we will have a problem with them.

Help stamp out Food Snobbery!!!!

I think that it is time that I do my part to bring attention to the issue of food prejudice. Since I am so in touch with food, I am going to address the food snobs of the world here on my blog today. That's right, it is my blog and I can say what I want to about whatever subject I am inclined to write about....mu-ah-hahahahahaaaa.I love the power of the blog!! Okay, I am getting a power high so I better get back on subject. This just has to be said.

My simple definition of food snobbery: Refusing to even try or consider trying a particular fruit, vegetable, regional or local dish for any reason at all. If you are a food snob, let me help to set the record straighter on a couple of things:


Sushi versus Chitlins
I went to a Sushi restaurant in Japan once where there were a bunch of fish swimming happily together in a huge tank. We ordered and the next thing I know, the chef is screaming like a ninja and grabbing a live fish out of the tank and flinging it down on the table in front of us. When he pulled out a cleaver and hacked the head off right in front of me, I almost fainted. Needless to say, I didn't eat sushi (or much of anything else) for a while. Chitlins on the other hand are quite civilized by comparison. I have seen them being cooked before but that is it. Chitlin preparation has the good manners to stay out of the public eye as much as possible.

Grits versus Polenta
Grits and polenta are the same thing. If you let your grits simmer too long and they get really thick, you have made polenta. In Northern Italy, where polenta is a staple dish, it was first made when maize or corn was brought there by explorers. It is cooked down more than grits, but there is not much difference except for the seasoning and serving methods. Of course, grits can be pretty bland and boring if you buy those wussie white ones at the grocery store or you don't know how to cook them. I buy stone ground, organic yellow corn grits. Fortunately, I do know how to cook them (Granny taught me) and mine are delicious.


Livermush versus Blood Sausage
Do I even need to explain this one? Yes, I guess I do.
Livermush is decidedly Southern and Blood Sausage is decidedly disgusting.
Livermush probably had its origins with German settlers to the Southeastern areas of the US from Pennsylvania. Blood Sausage never quite caught on here in this area although I understand it is popular elsewhere. My best friend growing up moved to the US from Europe and I helped them to make BS at their house once. I repeat, ONCE. And I never ate any that I am aware of but sometimes when I ate dinner at their house, I was a little confused as to exactly what I was eating.

Okra versus anything
I already wrote an entire blog entry about okra, so refer back to that post from August 16th, to read up on okra. One quick note about okra: it is NOT indigenous to the Southern US (it just loves our climate); it is native to Africa; is an edible hibiscus; and is eaten all over the world.

Caviar versus Catfish Roe
I have eaten caviar once or twice myself, but don't remember particularily liking it. It tasted a little fishy. And speaking of fishy, there are people willing to pay $50+ for Beluga caviar yet look down their noses of folks who catch and clean their own fish and eat the roe. Joke is on them. Back in the late 1990's, the FDA busted a caviar "importer" who had been packaging and selling catfish roe as Beluga for years. Took DNA testing to determine that the roe in question was not from sturgeon, but in fact from the lowly Ictalarus punctatus or the common channel catfish. Nobody noticed the difference because, lets face it, who eats caviar on a regular basis? Do you know anyone who does? Neither do I.


Cow Peas versus English Peas
Cow Peas- A drought tolerant and warm weather crop, cowpeas are well-adapted to the drier regions of the tropics, where other food legumes do not perform well. It also has the useful ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through its nodules, and it grows well in poor soils with more than 85% sand and with less than 0.2% organic matter and low levels of phosphorus. In addition, it is shade tolerant, and therefore, compatible as an intercrop with maize, millet, sorghum, sugarcane, and cotton. This makes cowpea an important component of traditional intercropping systems, especially in the complex and elegant subsistence farming systems of the dry savannas in sub-Saharan Africa. English peas are just a cooler weather, slightly different cultivar of Fabaceae or Leguminosae, or the legume family. There is nothing sophistocated or gourmet about English (green) peas. In fact, if you compared the common field pea grown in the South to the English pea, the English pea is by comparison a thin and pale relative, as far as adaptability and usage.


Water Cress versus Creasy Greens
If you ever watched the Dobie Gillis show back in the 60's, you most probably remember Mrs. Chatsworth Osborne, Jr., Resident RB&S, who was forever giving parties where they served watercress sandwiches. This is probably about the silliest food affectation I know of, in all of my culinary experience. Watercress on buttered slices of bread with the crusts cut off was supposedly the height of snooty cuisine. Somehow the idea of a weed that grows along the sides of the road, in ditches where there is standing water pasted onto a tiny piece of white bread doesn't really impress me all that much. And why couldn't they even have a "big boy" sandwich with the crusts still on...did those rich people have weak choppers or just still long for mama? I don't get it.


I don't remember my Granny even planting this delightful little green plant, but she certainly got excited once it showed up in the corn field in the fall. It grows in a rosette, kind of like arugula. Today, you can buy creasy green seeds (Upland Cress is how it is sold) and plant some for yourself, but in the foothills and mountains of NC, they were/are considered a wild, uncultivated food, not to be taken for granted. I think maybe planting creasys would not set well with some old timers. Creasy greens are cousin to watercress and the name "creasy" is probably an Appalachian mispronunciation of cress. They are peppery and add a little spice to other greens.


There are lots more foods I could mention, but my fingers are tired and I have to go feed chickens. My break is over and I need to get back to some real work. Hope you enjoyed my little tongue in cheek (Really? Maybe.) missive today.




Time to talk about this drought

Time to get serious for a moment. For those of you who read this blog and live in North Carolina, which is where my farm is located, you are already experiencing the extreme drought conditions here in our state. We are not the only state affected, but this is where I live and so this is what I want to talk about.

As farmers, we know that we will always have to consider any possibility in regard to growing anything. Insects, weather, disease, predation by animals are only a few of the obstacles we face. Because we are dedicated (and certified) to the principles of organic farming, we face more than conventional farmers. Organic farmers and conventional farmers often disagree, sometimes vehemently. There is one point neither can argue, however, and that is that plants and animals have to have water to live, so there is a solidarity between the two factions when it comes to the drought.

I have personally spoken to older farmers (in their 70-80's) who can't remember it ever being this dry for this long and some of them have farmed their whole lives. The local TV weathermen have stated over and over that we have broken yet another record, for heat, for lack of rain. Recently, I have heard mention that this was a "100 year" drought but I read that it has actually been closer to 200 years since we had a year this extreme.

At this point, we are down over a foot of rainfall and we have a couple of months of this year left, so who knows where we will end up for the year. Dire predictions point to a continuation of drought conditions and record high temperatures through 2008 and possible even 2009. They don't know for sure because records weren't kept much past 200 years ago and so can only guess as to whether this is a one time phenomenon or a natural weather cycle. I am sure that it could be studied more easily if logging hadn't decimated NC's old growth forests back in the 30-40's (the rings of trees are generally used to study weather patterns).

While I totally believe that we are in a global environmental crisis and that global warming is real and that we need to FIX IT NOW!!, I am not at all convinced that this is not a completely normal weather pattern for the planet. How can a 200-300 year period of records come close to answering questions about a planet that is billions of years old? Humans tend to be so arrogant about their little blink of an eye on Mother Earth that we can't put into perspective that we are one of the newer species walking the planet. With all of our technology and education, our politics and armies, our philosophy and authority, in the end Nature still holds the trump card.

But, I got off the subject of the drought. Let me return. On a personal level, the drought has affected every waking (and some sleeping) moments of my life for the past 2 months. Because we grow food crops which we market to the public, every day that it doesn't rain, we lose money. The money we make during the growing season has to sustain us and the Farm, through the rest of the year. Farming doesn't just shut down when growing season slows down (we grow food year round, just not all for market), there is still much to be done around the Farm. There is never a real slack time of year at the Farm and the money we have put aside will go toward not just daily living expenses. Maintenence and updates on fences, buildings, etc. that had to be let go during the busier times, soil prep, cover crops, setting up winter beds and greenhouse space are a few of things that have to be done when less growing is going on. The chickens still have to be fed and watered. Tractors and equipment have to be winterized. Long term storage crops such as winter squash and sweet potatoes have to be monitored for deterioration and culled and sorted. There is something to do every single day so a farmer's life doesn't slow down all that much once growing season does.

Being a good farmer means you try hard to stay connected to the natural order of things. Not all farmers are good farmers because some farmers are not really farmers at all. They work for huge corporations who operate giant farms, so the American public can continue have that 99 cent cheeseburger at McMeaty's, which is probably going to kill them (the people who eat at McMeaty's) before global warming ever will, so nobody really cares much about that (global warming, that is). These guys are actually more like factory workers. They are just trying to take home a paycheck to feed the family, like everybody else, so it is not their fault that they are raping, plundering and pillaging the land and water. They are like the crew on a pirate ship. The Corporation is the pirate captain and they are just doing what they have to so that they don't get marooned (get passed over for promotions),have to walk the plank (get fired) or be keel hauled (laid off 6 months before they can collect their pensions). But, I got off the subject again.....

Here are some things a good farmer does:

  • A good farmer is always aware of his/her source of water and manages it accordingly.
  • A good farmer is not wasteful of his/her most precious resource and doesn't need to be told that a little dirt on the car is not a big deal.
  • A good farmer plans and uses conservation without government officials having to tell him to do so.
  • A good farmer doesn't get golf. (You can figure that one out for yourself).
  • A good farmer doesn't waste good dirt on grass and so he doesn't complain about his grass being brown.
  • A good farmer thinks about how his use of water from his well will affect the well down the road and so is ever mindful that this is his neighbors' plight also.

Not having an abundance of water puts stress on everything, from crops and livestock to the farmers themselves. So many aspects of farm life are connected to whether or not enough water can be provided for some use that it is a constant challenge, particularly during a drought. Since we can't change the weather, we must be willing to bend to it. If we are flexible when we bend, we will snap back. If we are not, we will break.

Thursday, just another day....yeah, right.

Today is tater digging day. We grow lots of sweet potatoes, which have to be harvested before frost because if the vines die off due to the cold, the tubers will be ruined. Now, whether that is an old wives' tale or the gospel according to Farmer John, we are not going to chance it. So now that there are some potentially cold temps coming, we are a-diggin' so we don't get caught with a surprise frosting with taters still in the ground.

By the way, for those of you who don't know this, North Carolina is the leading producer of Sweet Potatoes in the US, accounting for about 40% of the entire supply. Sweet Potatoes are also native to the warmer parts of North America and have been cultivated for 5000+ years. Sweet Potatoes are highly nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare. Sweet Potatoes are only distant cousins of real potatoes and even more distant cousins to the yam. If you would like to read more about the history of sweet potatoes visit SWEET POTATOES


All kidding aside, we are harvesting sweet potatoes this week. The last of three patches will be dug soon and it will take the better part of the day.The first step to harvesting sweet potatoes on a small scale is to chop down the vines. This is one of the only harvests we do with the tractor. It is just too labor intensive to do it any other way with just 2 people. So, the Farmer will mow down the vines. Next comes the hard part, the part that requires a lot of finesse with the tractor. There is no special implement used for this part, so one of the single blade plows will be used to go down the side of each tow. As the blade of the plow digs down into the dirt, it lifts that dirt along the side of the row.


Theoretically, it will also lift the potatoes out of the ground as it moves the dirt along. I say theoretically because you never know where the potatoes are growing exactly, so you might chop a lot of them into pieces, unless you are very good with the tractor. Thanks goodness the Farmer is very good with operating the tractor. Sometimes it takes 3-4 passes down the rows to get all of the potatoes out, so it is a relatively long process. Very few potatoes come out chopped in two so I consider this a testament to the patience and skill of the Farmer. We don't really like to use the tractor for anything that is not absolutely necessary. Since digging up all these hills of potatoes by hand would take weeks, we bite the bullet and use a little mechanization to help. We have harvested sweet potatoes, one hill at a time but we only did that once...experience is, after all, a great teacher.


After all of the potatoes are up out of the ground, we pile them up and leave them in the field for at least a day in the sun, to dry the skins and make them less susceptible to bruising and scuffing. After they dry a bit, we pick them up and put them in a small trailer and take them back to the 'tater shed, where they are sorted by size. As I sort them, I look for ones that are damaged because they won't store as well over the long haul. We try to use those up ourselves as quickly as possible.



Sweet potatoes tubers grow in a main cluster close to the plant but progressively smaller ones grow out from the larger ones, almost in a chain. You will never see these teeny taters in the supermarket because the ones in stores are graded according to size and only ones that are "baking size" are sent to stores. Also, the big ones that look like footballs are rarely seen. Customers at markets are always amazed at the varied sizes and shapes of our sweet potatoes so I try to explain how they really grow.


It seems to me that there a lot of people who have gross misconceptions about how things grow, which I blame on supermarkets. Americans have been brainwashed into thinking that if a vegetable is not perfect, it is defective when in fact, a totally uniform, perfectly unblemished fruit or vegetable is the one that is kind of unnatural. (I am not talking about obviously damaged produce, I am talking about the shape, size, etc.)




To get consumers to buy them, marketing geniuses have dubbed heirloom tomatoes that grow in irregular shapes "ugly" tomatoes, probably to make them seem novel. The fact is that those "pleated" tomatoes are a specific variety and they have always looked that way. Growing up, I don't think I ever had a tomato that was perfectly round, except for Tommy Toes. My granny must be slapping her knee over that one (Granny passed on in 2001, but she is still looking over my shoulder, critiquing my gardening methods, I am sure of it.)