For those who don't know the story, there was once a beautiful and talented weaver in ancient Greece named Arachne. She was so talented that the goddess Athena, also a weaver, challenged her to a weave-off.
The other day I sadly swept a small, dead, completely desiccated toad out of my basement. I love my toads. I love them despite the fact they make the weirdest sound of all the creatures on the farm.
That cow! Remind me the next time I decide to buy a cow that I need to ask if she was raised by other cows or raised by humans. I definitely prefer cow-raised cows.
Our Monsoon season opened with a storm so powerful that it sent a flash flood right through my property.
It's official. I'm not selling the farm. What makes my decision official? I bought piglets.
Over the past eight years (and this month it's officially eight years that I've been a co-owner of this property), I've only once seen a beaver. That was about five years ago in July, no less. I was standing on the porch when all of sudden Moosie, then just a pup, went racing down to the Mason ditch. I watched as he walked along the ditch bank his attention on something in the water.
It's only been a few years since I last had dairy cows on the property, but in that short time I completely forgot how awful the flies are. However, before I get into discussing the pestilence of flies, I need to get you caught up on general cow news.
And how am I certain that summer has arrived? Because on Friday the temperature got over 100 degrees while Saturday brought us a lovely all-day rainstorm. It was overcast, drizzly, and cool, and I had all the windows open. Welcome to summer in Northern Arizona.
You know how some people are shoe fanatics, or have shelves full of bobble-heads, or collect those theme plates? Well, I've decided I'm an animal-aholic. It's for this reason that I stay away from the "Farm and Garden" section of Craigslist.
I wasn't a helicopter parent with my kids, and I'm not a helicopter farmer when it comes to my animals.
That title should read More Sheep Tales, but it's been a week of sheep giggles for me. First up is Mari, who has made an amazing turnaround. I had her sheared ten days ago. Like her father Cinco, that wool of hers is a throwback to the Hampshire side of the family. Unlike most Dorpers, who shed their hair (Dorpers have hair, not wool), Mari has wool and it just kept getting thicker. So as I did with Cinco, I hired a shearer.
I've never owned a dumb farm animal. That's not dumb as in unintelligent. From the cows to the pigs to the turkeys, every one of my critters has proved capable of figuring out how to get what they want. That includes opening gates, breaking down fences and crossing hot electrical wires.
I'm getting to this post late today because I wanted to finish the last bits on the coop so I could take a proper picture. And I did, both finish the coop and take a picture. The wooden structure is now wrapped in hardware cloth and chicken wire. There are a pair of wheels at the back of the coop although I haven't yet strung the rope handle at the front that allows me to move it. A technicality. It's well and truly done.
As you, my patient readers, may recall I recently stretched my "I can build it" muscles and added flooring to my stairway. In that process I conquered my fear of a table saw. For more than forty years I'd been haunted by the two missing fingers on my first father-in-law's hand. He had removed them while using a table saw. I need all ten of my fingers to do my job and I know very well that I am a certifiable Klutz. That, and nothing else, is what has kept me from venturing too deeply into the massive workshop that fills my front barn.
For the record it turned out that six sheep is better than simply sufficient. Having just the new moms and their babies has been both peaceful and easy. Tiny only calls now when one of her babies is lost (this usually means on the wrong side of a fence) or she wants me to open a gate.
Tiny, as usual, was late but efficient. Her lambs finally made their appearance on March 28th. At birth both of them were larger than Mari's little guys. That didn't stop Tiny from pushing them out one right after another with less than 5 minutes in between.
I was surprised by lambs again this past week. That's not to say I didn't expect to have lambs toward the end of this month. It's that I didn't expect those lambs to come from Mari.
Before I get started, I'm here to report that it seems I now have semi-domesticated ducks. This morning when I reached the turkey coop to release Tom and his girls, the boldest pair of ducks was sitting outside the coop waiting to be fed.
What a change. January brought days in the 80s but now that it's late February we're enjoying a stretch of cold, wet weather. Today, the wind is howling, the sky is heavy with thick dark clouds, and it smells like snow.
When my ex-husband and I bought this place back in July of 2010, we were told that Sam, the previous owner, had upgraded the house from a tiny, tar paper shack to a 2500 square foot McMansion.
Before I throw myself into this week's post, I have to kvetch over the recent full moon. I know everyone was going on about it being this blue-blood-full-eclipse moon, but why didn't someone warn me what that meant? Here I was, figuring this was a full moon like all the other full moons I suffer through, what with the coyotes showing up and Bear barking all night.
It appears from this title that I am on a "D-D" kick. Perhaps this is apropos as my initials are "D.D." Over the years a few people have tried to call me Deedee, but I'm really not a Deedee. I am Denise, named for a villainess in a Frank Yerby novel. (Hmm, do you think that steered me into authoring historical novels?) My father tried to soften the somewhat awkward name by calling me Den-den. No one else was ever allowed to call me that. It's even worse than Deedee. Enough about me. Let's talk ducks.
Once again, I've managed to work my way through another week of barn cleaning. OMG! Whole counters are bare. How awesome is that? Another few days and I'm going to call the "great clean out" done.
It's time to come clean. I admit it. I am not a spit-wife.
Well, it's happened again. Somehow an entire year--a full 365 days--has slipped past me at light speed. Where does my time go? Into writing books and farming, of course.
Nothing really funny has happened on the farm since the pigs became pork. This is very frustrating for me. I mean, the high point of my day has been walking out during my breaks and observing the hi-jinks that always seemed to occur while I'm outside. Sigh.
I caught him (or her) in the act! Friday morning I was preparing to take a load of household goods to Prescott for donation. I had just called my friend who runs the organization to which I donate, warning her I was leaving, and stepped outside onto my porch. From my porch I can see the full two acres of pasture that fills Tier Two and a good part of Tier One, the lowest portion of my five-tiered property.
I can hardly believe that the two little guys (who don't have official names for a reason) have been around for almost 3 months now. Not only that but in three months time they've gotten huge! They're almost as big as Peanut and Mari, their biological if not chronological siblings. Another three months and they'll be--gulp--rams!
The Mason Ditch (the stream/irrigation ditch that runs through the center of my property) was well on its way to being empty. Like "down to a trickle" empty.
Typing this post is going to be interesting. I've got tape on three fingers, two of the cuts are on my fingertips. I'm hoping writing this will break in the tape, as it were, so I can go back to work on the novel in progress.
It’s 3 PM on Sunday and I’ve had a glorious day. I’m still in my robe and jammies. This is the first time in more than five years that I have refused to dress for the day.
November. That is not a month most folks connect with tomatoes ripening on the vine. I sure wouldn't have, but there seems to be a lovely little miracle occurring in my new hugelkulture garden. If you recall, back in July I planted San Marzano tomatoes as a reward to myself. All those months ago I was fairly certain I wasn't going to get anything out of them, having planted so late.
It's a science geek-out day for me. Once again, I'm growing radishes, which I emphatically hate but cannot stop myself from eating. Not sliced in a salad, but the instant I pull them out of the dirt in my garden. It's like an addiction. I yank on the leaves, rub the little red bulb against my jeans, then consume it, grimacing the whole while. I absolutely hate them, but I can't stop myself. I must eat the radishes the instant they come out of the ground.
That's what happened on the farm yesterday morning. Creatures were moving at the speed of "lickety-split". Let me step back and set the scene for you.
Okay, they weren't precisely a surprise. I could see that Tiny was pregnant. But as of yesterday she didn't look nearly as tubby as she'd looked with her first lambs, so I figured there was another month to go.
Ya-HOO! I completed enough of the sheer drudgery work on my list that I took the day today to plant my first winter garden. The drudgery included putting the dirt back into the hole for the plumbing fix Al and I did a few weeks back. The fix is holding and it's now safe to refill the cavern. After that, I emptied the dirt from the somewhat smaller but wider cavern where Al and I fixed plumbing two years ago.
Dang it, I just finished editing the print version of the book and opened this page to start this post, only to remember that I have water running on my trees.
Only one chapter left! Well, one chapter--the hardest one, of course--and an epilogue. But I don't count epilogues because they're more postscript than chapter. I just read through the book again to check for any loose ends that I haven't pulled through. As I did I thought of all my knitter friends. Miss a stitch and the whole thing is off. So, because my mind is still stuck in 1211 AD, this is going to be a quick post.
So, I'm sitting at my desk watching the day steadily darken with the eclipse. Unfortunately, there's nothing to see. Here in Arizona, the place famous for 360 days of sunshine a year, it's cloudy. That fact is likely to save my eyes. I can just imagine myself shooting a glance skyward without thinking. Yep, with only four chapters left in the book, it's safer for me to stay inside.
When I say "free water" I do not mean the stuff that's been falling from the skies so copiously of late. Although that free water is really nice and has saved me much time dragging hoses and running sprinklers this summer, the free water I'm talking about is the water that comes from the spring, my drinking water. Having that sort of free water is the kind of thing that makes real estate agents sing. They might tell me things like "You will have more water than you know what to do with" and "You'll have water forever."
Yesterday afternoon, we had the storm of the summer. I hope.
It's been quite a couple of weeks for predators out here. This is because something large--the mountain lion, I assume--killed something equally as large between my fence and the creek. (Of course, the mystery writer in me spun a completely different story. Morbid is now my middle name.)
India isn't the only place where Monsoons are a given. Northern Arizona has its own rainy season and it started with a bang last Friday. Well, not a bang as much as multiple crashes of thunder.
For anyone uncomfortable with the idea of animals being slaughtered for meat, you may want to skip this post. I promise there will be nothing graphic, just a difficult description and a little sadness.
Don't ask me why the title of that movie (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) came into my mind as I looked at the little black hen sitting on nine turkey eggs. It just did. From that moment on, she became Miss Jean Broody to me.
Yes, that is a picture of dirt. Well, not dirt. It’s compost, specially made for me by piglets and chickens.
Once again, I lost a day. Monday whizzed by while I was caught in the early 13th Century, researching just how long a Medieval courser can gallop on summer-dried ground. "Arcane" is my middle name. (Not really, but I'm not about to reveal my middle name to anyone. I hate it.) Oh, and I finally found the "soundtrack" to this new book.
Oh man, and I thought the sheep were a ravening horde! They got nothing on piglets. Today the eight of them decimated my new chard on my new hugel. When they were done eating greens, they did a little tilling for me, although not quite where I needed it.
This is a hard post to write. However, I feel if I don't write it I'd be painting a false picture of farming life. Last week was a week of death.
She did it.