Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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Birds of prey

While relaxing this afternoon after getting the day's chores completed (completed, huh?) Anyway, I saw a couple of hawks circling an area of the property.  That reminded me of one of the first times I ever came to the property before I bought the place.  I was with an excavation contractor, picking his brain about where to put the driveway, and we were driving into the property and a hawk with a squirrel in its claws grazed the hood/windshield of the truck!  That was pretty amazing.  Since I've moved onto the place there was a juvenile hawk down near the pond.  I didn't notice it was there but one of the dogs was acting like something was awry so when I investigated, there was this juvenile hawk that would not fly off.  I was able to walk all the way up to the hawk, take this picture, then throw a jacket over it and take it to a local vet who cares for injured raptors.

That very same week I was driving down the road about 4 miles from the house and I saw an owl on the side of the road.  I thought it was strange because it was the middle of the day, so I stopped.  I was able to get out of the truck, walk up to the owl, say "hi", go back and get my camera and walk back over and take this picture....

I phoned a friend who was behind me on the road and told him what I had seen.  An hour or so later he came to my house and the owl had died on the side of the road.  It had obviously been in a fight with something else and it lost. 

 Last night I heard the "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all" call of the barred owl.  Although the farm is little more than a mile from I-40, there are still sounds and appearances of wild things.....


Am I losing it?

Today was one of those days when you wake up, know that you've got at least a million things to do, and the weather is cooperating.  I started out by grabbing the weedeater and the mixed gas can, which had only about 1/2 cup in it, and I headed for the blackberry patch.  For some reason, the distance between the three rows of thornless blackberries I have ended up being less than 5 feet, which is how wide the mower is that I pull behind my tractor.  Trying to squeeze as many plants in as I could, I guess. 

Anyway, this is the first time the weedeater has been started this year and I did empty the tank last year and run all the fuel out of the carburetor like a good girl, but when I primed, flipped switches, and pulled the rope, nothing happened----over and over-----you know the sound.  Not even a hit. 

Well, being the non-mechanically-oriented person that I am, I immediately started looking for stuff I thought could be wrong.  I took one cover off and there was a filter, so I put that back on.  The other cover took a really weird looking screwdriver to open it, so I abandoned that option.  Then I saw a really obvious looking rubber plug thingee on the front of the cover and I started picking at that with my pocket knife and voila'---it came off and there was the spark plug.  Well, it looked like a spark plug but I didn't have the appropriate socket to remove it, so I blessed it, put the rubber thingee back on, pulled the rope, and it started!  I don't know why, but I did a happy dance.

While weedeating (before I had to stop and go to the local store to buy more gas) I saw a really big toad flop out on it's back right in front of me.  I felt so bad that I had injured the little guy (this is where I thought I might be losing it).  I stopped the weedeater, stooped down and flipped it over.  The toad was still breathing and I kind of nudged it and it kind of moved, so I felt better and thought maybe I had just addled it.  I noticed on the next pass nearby that it was gone so I felt better about the whole situation. 

Anyway, the thought crossed my mind to kiss it to see if I would get my handsome prince, but I wasn't sure if it was of the "princitonian" type so I didn't want to chance getting a wart on my lip for nothing :)


Easter Eggs: Brown vs. White

I've always loved Easter eggs.  I loved changing an ordinary object into one of colorful beauty.  I loved coloring eggs when I was little and trying my best to imagine what I was writing on the eggs with the wax crayon that came in those egg coloring kits.  It was also difficult to keep those transfers still enough to keep them from being blurry; but it didn't matter--by the time we got through hiding the eggs for a week (imagine that much time out of a fridge now!) you couldn't tell what it was anyway. 

My best friend Kim and I colored eggs.  She thought I was a lunatic because neither one of us has had kids at home for several years, but it was fun!  I was always curious how brown eggs would look when colored so we did a "scientifical" experiment.  Here are the results:


The eggs on the left side of the towel were white eggs (notice the blowout) and the ones on the right were the brown eggs.  Overall, I would vote for the brown eggs.

I called my Mom and Dad a while ago and asked the proverbial question "Whatchya doin?"  They were COLORING EGGS!  75+ years old and they've colored eggs every year--gotta love it :)

The best part of the whole thing is that at my age I don't have to beg an adult to hide my eggs for me; I can hide them myself!


You never know what you can do until you try

This poster has been a source of inspiration to me for the 25+ years that I've carried it around.  For most of its life it hung on the back of my office door so when I had to "shut the door" whether it be to concentrate on something or coach an employee, I would always see this and remember to try really hard to excel in whatever I was doing.

One of the springtime projects on the farm is to build a combination chicken/garden house for the 20 chicks arriving in April, and I think that will be a fitting new home for my beloved poster.


Life as a "Farmher"

There have been lots of new words and phrases "coined" in the last decade, mostly due to the internet and cyberspace, twitter, facebook, etc., but also in the gardening and food communities.  "Locavore", "Evoo", "green", "googled", and so on. 

During the few mindless chores around the farm (mulching, weeding, driving fence posts) I have time to think about all sorts of things and so far I think I've created two words:  organical, meaning it's grown using organic methods, and "farmher", meaning a female farmer.  There are many occupations that are traditionally held by men and we tend to stereotype the person in the job without seeing them; mechanic, welder, carpenter, etc.  I know there are women in those jobs; I was one of those for years.  Salesmen would come into my office (Facility Manager) and they looked confused for a minute until they figured out that Terry was a woman and not a man. 

Anyway, back to "Farmher".  That's one occupation that we could spell differently to recognize  female farmers, and they are increasing in numbers, you know.  Living on a farm is a daily education in all things mechanical, animal, and vegetable, and farmhers are well suited to life on a farm. 

We love baby anythings, chicks, pigs, cows, puppies, kittens, and the nuturing side of us takes over when any kind of babies show up.

We tend to read directions before attempting assembly on tools.

We keep the "lefty-loosy, righty-tighty" in mind when dealing with nuts and bolts.

We can wear cute garden clothes if we want to, and get away with it!

We can till the soil, plant the veggies, harvest them, and, and, preserve them too!  Then we cook with them.  Who else do you know that has that much involvement in a meal? 

There are times when that extra muscle helps out, so whenever someone comes to visit........


All Cooped Up

Yesterday my friend Kim came over to help me install handrails on the house porches.  After we had been working for a while I noticed that only 3 dogs were around (I have 4).  Reuben, the catahoula, was no where to be seen.  I called several times, but still no Reuben, which is quite unusual.  About that time I noticed Angus, the boxer, racing around the shop toward where the chicken tractor was parked.  I ran over there to see a chicken flapping around the field, my really old Great Dane Buck, with a rare surge of energy, chasing the chicken, and Angus was double-teaming with Buck for fresh chicken for dinner.  That wasn't my plan for the bird, she just started laying eggs!

I was able to scream, stomp, and flail my arms enough to scare the dogs away. I scooped up the trembling chicken and headed back to the coop.  Inside the coop was Reuben.  His ears were down and his tail was way between his legs.  He was terrified of the roosters in there and he wanted OUT.  I had fed the chickens some bread earlier and Reuben decided he wanted to try some. 

After coaxing the very skittish pup out of the chicken coop, and securing the wire where he had gotten into the coop, my friend Kim shouted "Hey, an egg!"  That makes 4 eggs so far! 

 Each day on a farm is an adventure, and I wouldn't trade it for any other lifestyle.


The $148 Egg


Last year I saw a picture of a chicken tractor in Mother Earth News magazine and I thought that would be a great way to dispose of vegetable scraps, control bugs, and fertilize all at the same time.

Several weeks were spent building "the perfect tractor", although it’s too heavy for me to move around without John’s help (John Deere, that is).   In August I drove to Gainesboro (about 55 miles from here) to buy Red Star chickens because I had researched several breeds and these are gentle (they won’t step on you and hurt you like a cow or a horse will) and they are good layers, and they lay brown eggs, which is what I wanted. 

They were little tiny things but they were also getting feathers so they didn’t need a light to keep them warm.  I read up on them some more and this particular breed is supposed to start laying at 18 weeks.  I got out the calender and oh boy, fresh eggs for Thanksgiving!

One day after harvesting green beans, I pulled the chicken tractor into  the green bean bed  and it promptly sunk up to the axle in the soft ground.  Well, so much for taking the chickens to the plants, so I pulled the exhausted bean plants out of the ground and tossed them in to the chickens–they went crazy!  It’s fun watching them as I move the tractor around the yard; they get all excited about the “new territory” and if one of them catches, say a grasshopper, everybody chases the one with the bug until somebody wins and gets the bug.  I always cheer for the one who caught it in the first place, but I’ve told myself I’m not getting involved in the fights!   Back to the egg……

I’ve got about $100 in the tractor; $48 in feed, feeder, waterer, grit, etc.  Today I found an egg!  (note that it’s been almost 2 months since Thanksgiving)  It’s the most expensive egg I’ve ever bought, but it was as much fun as finding the prize egg on an Easter egg hunt:)

I think my chickens will get a permanent house, more chickens to play with, and they will take daily excursions in a more lightweight, sporty edition of the clunky tractor they now have.


Advice from an old farmer

I get lots of neat e-mails from friends and family, and most of them are just enjoyed for the moment then deleted to the Recycle Bin.  Once in a while there's one I simply have to share..........stay warm and keep those pets warm too!

Old Farmer's Advice:

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.  

Keep skunks and bankers at a distance. 

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.. 

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. 

Meanness don't jes' happen overnight. 

Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads. 

Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you. 

It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge. 

You cannot unsay a cruel word. 

Every path has a few puddles. 

When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty. 

The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Most of the stuff people worry about ain't never gonna happen anyway. 

Don 't judge folks by their relatives. 

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. 

Live a good, honorable life.. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time. 

Don't interfere with somethin' that ain't bothering you none. 

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a Rain dance. 

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'. 

Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got. 

The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'. 

Always drink upstream from the herd. 

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment. 

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.. 

If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.. 

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. 
Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God. 
Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight,
he'll just kill you.


My Favorite Wintertime Place

Inside greenhouse April 09

Wintertime sure is hard on us CSA gardeners.  Sure, there are lots of chores to be done around the farm and there is a little extra time to rest and recuperate from the insanity of "the season", but there's nothing like the smell of fresh earth or tomato vines once they're brushed against.

This year I tried something in the greenhouse that I hadn't done before.  I potted up 6 tomato plants in really big pots later in the season so that they were blooming by cool weather in the greenhouse.  So far, without heat, I've harvested 8 tomatoes, with the last 3 being harvested yesterday! 

On really cold, windy wintry days the greenhouse soars above 80 degrees and it's a really neat feeling to be inside and warm, but still outside, well sort of.  It's connected to the shop, so I can stay warm while working on projects in the shop.  Maybe next year I'll have some other crops in there with the tomatoes.....that's one thing I love about gardening; there's always next year (good Lord willing and the creek don't rise anyway).

Happy New Year, Everybody!


Time to relax a little

This time of year is full of mixed feelings; glad to not be rushed by picking and delivering every week, but still pushed to get chores done before really cold weather sets in.  The urgency of picking and packing is gone and most veggie farmers can relax a little--well, as soon as the pumps are weatherized, stakes, posts, and wires are all out of the garden and stored, and garden beds properly "put to bed" for the winter.

This season a few different concepts of winterizing gardens are being explored.  A winter cover crop of winter rye has been planted in the newest strawberry patch to be harvested early next year and cut down and applied as mulch next spring.  Large quantities of leaves are being used both as soil amendments (tilled in) and as mulch in the garden areas to amend soil and suppress weeds.  Black plastic is being used in the blackberry patch to keep weeds at bay, although an effective method of keeping the plastic attached to the ground is yet to be discovered.  The newest addition to the critter patrol, a Catahoula dog named Reuben, likes to crawl under the plastic looking for critters--he pulls the staples out in the meantime and the wind blows the plastic around.....

An orchard including apple, peach, and pear trees is being developed this fall, as well as blueberry plants are being incorporated into the growing areas.  Got to plan for the future!

Stay warm and active!


Projects and Presidents

Anyone who lives on a farm knows about projects.  There's always something to build, tear down, fix, add-on to, move, clean up, or paint.  The latest project here on the farm is a greenhouse.  The greenhouse came from a dear friend who got it from someone else about 12 years ago, carefully stored it in their barn, and never could come up with a good place to reconstruct it until now--here on the farm.   It's like putting together a life-size puzzle with no directions and not all the pieces.  It should be ready for use in a few weeks, though--just in time for seed-starting for the year!

Now for Presidents.  I've never been one of those moms who would bore other people with "My kid did this" stories, but every President's day I recall what happened when my youngest son (now 21) was 4 years old.  He attended day care at the time, as I had an office job.  I went to pick him up at day care on President's Day and the day care worker told me to ask him what he had colored that day.  I asked him and he said very casual tone, "Everhead Naked".  I looked at the day care worker with a puzzled expression, and turned back to my son and said "Show me".  He pulled out a picture of Abraham Lincoln and proudly said "See, Everhead Naked"......priceless!



So much to be thankful for.....

This year I'm so thankful that I have a job I love!  After 25 years in Facility Management and the last 18 as a Facility Manager, being a CSA farmer is awesome.  Each time I get to witness Bluejays chasing a Hawk, a calf being born, a Green Heron stalking the pond, or simply play with my dogs during a quick break from gardening, I'm thankful.  I'm thankful for all the members who believed in me enough to go through the first year of this new endeavor, and the ones who have pledged to support the farm next season.  I'm thankful for friends who have helped and supported in getting the house and farm to the point it is now.   If you're lucky enough to have good friends, take care of them and nurture your relationships because you never know when you're going to need them. 

Take time this season to be thankful for local farmers who work really hard to provide good quality, fresh produce for you and your families.  During these trouble economic times, support your local CSA and enjoy a season's bounty of healthy, fresh vegetables.  May God Bless each and every one of you.

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