Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Honey, there is a black and white cat sniffing at the door

We moved into the farm house in August 2002, at the height of bug activity.  Each and everyday was a new adventure or problem for us, the phone, the well, the heat (we were in the middle of a drought that summer), the wildlife in and outside the house.  One animal in particular was disconcerting for us and that was this little furry  black animal with a white streak on its back.  It has kind of a waddle when it walks and could be mistaken for a cat when looking at it from behind.  Of course that vantage point is the most hazardous view of all.

The house was empty for a bit while the estate was settled and the wildlife got use to running the place.  We would find things for the next three years, that had I been told we would, I would have never agreed to live there.  But that is ancient history, as is our furry friend who turned out to be a skunk.  We had a skunk family that had a den about fifty feet from the side of the house.  One of the first nights in the fall my wife was taking out the trash, she opened the sliding glass door and saw what she thought was a stray cat waddling away.   She came back into the kitchen and said that we had a black cat walking around.  I didn’t think anything of it, "Oh" I said, then added "we’re not bringing it in the house so don't start". 

The next night we pulled up to the house and saw the black furry cat sniffing at the sliding glass door.  “That looks like that cat,” my wife said.  It turned sideways to reveal itself for what it was, a big old skunk.  “No, I think that’s a skunk,” I said.  “Blow the horn to scare it away,” it didn’t sound right when I heard her say it but I lifted my hand to hit the horn then keyed on the word scare.  “Don’t they spray if they get scared? I asked.  Okay, let’s rethink this, can we get out of the car and yell to move it away?   “Why don’t you try it" I said to my wife, being the chivalrous person that I am.   

“No, I think you have more experience,” I didn’t yet but I bravely opened the door and got out and yelled at it.  The skunk stopped sniffing and turned towards us.  Well at least I am not looking at the business end of this animal so I yelled a little more and it waddled off towards the direction of their den.

One of the first research projects was learning about skunks, specifically skunks in and around Maryland.  One of the interesting facts that we learned was that skunks love grubs.  If you don’t know, grubs grow up to be Japanese beetles.  So skunks in essence were beneficial to the enterprise.  Moving them away from the house was going to be an exercise in patience, tact, cunningness and a whole lot of luck.  None of which do we seem to have at this point in our life on the farm. 

You can say you are a resourceful person, that you like challenges and that you have the ability to problem solve and that every problem is an opportunity and a chance to prove your metal.  I am one of these people and these skills have helped me tremendously in my other world, but we’re talking about getting sprayed by a skunk here. 

I don’t think I’ve ever solved a problem where the potential for failure would make me be socially unacceptable let alone not be able to stay in your own house because of an offensive odor.  I just wanted them moved a little bit or at least away from the house.  They are surrounded by fifty acres of undeveloped land.  They certainly should be able to find a new home somewhere down by the stream or edges of the trees.  So we set about sending them eviction notices.

During the day I would fill in the whole and then leave my calling card.  The other thing I did was pour used kitty litter in the whole and closed it.  They would dig it out and I'd find the hole open again.  This went on for a couple of weeks.  I don’t really know what happened but I think the combination of the two smells were too much for them.  That and the constant activity that now was occurring around and in the house. 

I think they decided it was best to find a place a little less smelly and less populated.  We still have them because you can see evidence of them digging for grubs and as I have written we’ve captured one or two in our traps.  So we learned to co-exist, no one has been sprayed accept for one cat and our Japanese Beatle population seems to be less each year.

Buy Local – From a farmer you know and trust, not a chain profiting from the word.

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Anticipation

Planning the garden, is something that we really enjoy, emotions get involved, words might be said and past experiences brought up and used as salvos.  Each person pushing to have their favorite fruit or vegetable planted.  It is all done in good fun and eventually we find ways to add a vegetable here or more fruit plants there. 

We'll be using field two which the chickens are now on and tearing the grasses to shreds and dropping their fertilizer.  We've used them as weeders and feeders and will start to move them off to the next resting field.  We started out with six Rhode Island Reds that were seventeen weeks old.  They weren’t organic but they were being raised organic. 

Layers are supposed to start laying eggs when they get to about twenty one weeks of age.  So at the twenty week mark I started looking for eggs.  Each day I would go out check the egg door only to be disappointed.  This went on for fourteen straight days.  Each evening after work I’d check for an egg.  Here we are going in week twenty-two and I’m not seeing anything.

So, I thought what if I give them an inspirational speech?  Show them what they are here for and hopefully get them thinking about their true calling in life.  We had gotten carry out from the local Chinese restaurant the night before when I got this brain storm.  The next day I took my materials out to the hen house and put one object on the edge of the pen and the other at the opposite end.

The chickens were out and curious as to what was sitting on top of their pen.  So I started my speech.  I told them how we were a small farm and they were here to help and that we were helping their species by ordering and using them in our system.   Then I pointed to the left and explained to them that this was an egg carton.  I explained what they needed to do in order to fill the egg carton so we could make money to help with their costs.  Then I pointed to the right hand side and explained that the object sitting on the corner was a Chinese take out container and it could contain General Tzu’s Chicken, or Broccoli and Chicken and so on.   I gave them a choice they could fill one box or the other.  I explained that it was up to them as to what choice they made but that we needed to make money somehow.

I left both boxes there so as to continue the intimidation.  This was all in good fun but our records show that they started laying a few days after that.  I know deep down that I had nothing to do with there productivity but I love the coincidence none the less.

Buy – Local – From a farmer you know and trust, not a chain profiting off the word

 
 
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