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July 23, 2011
Okay, I admitted I was new to this blogging business--unfortunately, I apparently violated some important blogging "rules". I didn't give my blog a heading and I didn't add a date (which means it would be difficult to "archive"). Who knew????
Anyway, I have to confess I've always been a little critical of bloggers--my reasoning--"What kind of person thinks that what they do and think is important enough for other people to want to read??? For some unknown reason it finally dawned on me--this isn't an issue at all because no one HAS to read it. It's not like that mandatory English assignment in high school when the teacher demands that the first 20 pages of some Shakespearan epic has to be read by tomorrow and there "WILL be a quiz"! So, I'm blogging just for fun and it should be read with the same intent.
It occurred to me that this entire "Cardinal Point Farm" thing might make more sense if I explained a little about how it became a reality. I use the pronoun "I" but, in fact, I have a partner--in this case a husband--who is the best thing in my 65 years of life. He was raised farming and I was raised non-farming but with a vocational-agriculture-teacher- wanna-be farmer father. When other little girls wanted to be ballerinas, I wanted to be a farmer and have black cows. In reality, I became an educator and my husband became an engineer and nearly every day of our marriage we would make some reference to "when we get our farm". All this was well and good except we suddenly realized we were getting older and would be unlikely to do all the physical things that farming required, not even considering the financial issues so....we decided to be sensible and continue living in town--close to medical care and grocery stores and other such mundane destinations of everyday life.
Understand, this was a reluctant decision, but it did seem to make sense and we proceded to plan accordingly until we went on our annual retreat. The annual retreat has been one of the most valuable things we've done together. We try to do it early in the calendar year and we go somewhere with few distractions and stay two nights. Each year we look at the goals we set the year before (personal, health, finanacial, and spiritual) and decide what we've acomplished toward each of them. We keep some, tweak others, and occasionally have to admit we don't even care about some of them any more. Periodically during this retreat period, we do a values clarification exercise. For those of you not around in the Sid Simon 60's you'll have to "google" the term but I can tell you it predated the recent "bucket list" but accomplishes the same goal. It makes you decide what really matters. We always do this exercise separately and then compare results. When we did this back in 2008, what immediately jumped out was that nearly everything on the "valued list" required living in the country.
Back to the drawing board, only this time we threw caution to the winds...called a terrific realtor...put our house on the market and gave him a list of 10 requirements beginning with "at least 10 acres". A house was 5th on the list and I told him I'd live in a double wide if the land around it was what we needed. We spent nearly every evening poring over MIBOR and the realtor sent us lists of possibililties. We must have done 100 "drive-bys" but nothing was exactly right. As you might guess, it took awhile but when we found THE place, we knew it immediately. It even met one anticipated criteria..we couldn't afford it!
More about Cardinal Point Farm's beginning in the next episode.
Earlier today we hosted a lovely young lady and her grandparents. As a 10 year old, she had already declared herself an animal lover so I invited her along as I did my morning feeding. It was fun to see her enthusiasm and her natural ability with the animals. What was even more surprising--and a treat for me--was the fact that she was that most unusual of individuals--a reptile lover. I seldom mention my snake collection to visitors since I've long-ago learned that the usual reaction is shudders and unpleasant snake stories. Yesterday was an exception and she proved fearless in her ability to hold and converse about each of the 4 snakes (all non-venomous, of course). It resulted in a fun experience for both of us.
Later in the day when I was musing about the pleasant morning, I realized how much I enjoyed our animals and how pleased I was that I could introduce visitors to each of them with no fear of the meeting resulting in bites or kicks. Each of the animals has it's own personality and role on the farm. We have 22 hens and one rooster. With that many chickens, I can't swear I know each of them personally but there are some who stand out--like the red hen who comes each morning to the bird feeder for snacks or the speckled Plymouth Rock who runs to meet me and converses all the way to the chicken house. Our chickens are literally free range and we run into them everywhere, including, to the misfortune of my vegetables, in the garden. We also have 2 guineas that are loud and always investigating something (or chasing the cats) and 2 pair of chocolate turkeys. The hen turkeys have taken to roosting on the deck right outside our bedroom window. They fly out of the chicken pen in the evening--roost on the deck railing all night--and then fly into the yard and wait until I let them back in the coop the next morning. I don't know why...turkeys just live by their own rules. We have a single duck that was half of a pair of wild ducks that were found as ducklings. Her room mate flew off a few days ago but each time this one flies, she gets cold feet and comes home at supper time.
We have 7 St.Croix sheep. The sheep are wonderful. They meet you at the gate when you go to feed and as soon as they finish eating follow you to be petted. I had no idea sheep were so personable. The lambs are playful and affectionate--so much so that the ones originally intended for dinner are going to grow up to be mothers instead. We have a huge ram that has to live separate from the females much of the year so we can control when lambs are born. I feel sorry for him--he moves as close to the ewe's fence as possible and looks longingly at his former pasture mates. Oh well, absence should make the heart (or something) grow fonder when they are re-united. The ram's name is Curly since he has long hair. St. Croix have hair instead of wool and they shed in the summer. Curly isn't so Curly right now. His friend in the pasture is the donkey, Daisy. Sheep don't do well alone so Daisy was drafted as a companion. Daisy and Curly both push each other out of the way to get to whatever human comes to visit. Again, wonderful personalities.
In the barn pasture we have Amira, an Arabian horse. She was the first animal we purchased. I had begged for a horse since my 12th birthday and I had no intention of wasting any time in acquiring one. I knew nothing about horses but Amira is bright and has been very patient as I've learned. I swear she sometimes rolls her eyes when I do something particularly clumsy or ignorant, but she tries her best to guide me in the right direction. I've almost never ridden her but that will come. Finally, I have two pregnant cows. Part of the dream that Steve and I shared was to look out on the pasture and see black cows. These cows are Lowlines which are a type of Angus. They weren't tame when we bought them but are becoming tame and they will come when they are called. The cows are Lucy and Ethel with Ethel being the big baby who likes to be scratched.
In addition to the farm animals, we have two German Shepherd dogs and 5 cats. The cat population exploded recently when I adopted 3 cats from the local animal shelter after I found out they had to euthanize most of the cats who come in since no one adopted them. The adopted cats are lovable and cats are no trouble. I don't understand why more people don't give them a home but I've done my share this last month. I can't forget my 4 snakes and a tarantula I raised from a tiny baby--they all live in my upstairs office. As I write this, our canary is in full song in the corner of the kitchen. A large salt water fish tank and a small fresh water tank round out the menagerie. I know this wouldn't appeal to everyone, but I love taking care of the animals and making sure they have what they need. It's been an amazing learning curve...who knew there were different "cuts" of alfalfa hay and you needed certain kinds of hay for certain animals. All the different personalites and quirks of the animals makes every day different but also means that it doesn't take much for my conversation to be overrun with animals stories. Anyway, as the titles says, "I like our animals".
August 15, 2011
I mentioned when I began blogging that I would share some examples of poor judgement on my part. Well, here goes:
Creating a meadow sounds both easy and idyllic, well, it's neither. I faithfully studied all the available information. I prepared my seedbed and found sources for wonderful native plants. Okay, that all seemed pretty straightforward. I planted everything when the signs were right (I'll talk another time about planting by moon signs--I've been doing it for nearly 40 years) and most everything came up. There's when the trouble began. Indiana has had a terrible two year growing season. It's been wet in the spring--right up through June and then it's turned totally dry. The result is that crops that were planted in the narrow time when they benefitted from the rain and got a start before the drought did okay. Everything else is pretty pitiful, including my infant meadow. Why is it that valued plants struggle and weeds seem to gain strength when faced with challenging weather? My poor native meadow was slowly but surely overtaken with native weeds. There was no way to combat the invaders since all the plants were growing together and the area was much too large to weed by hand or hoe. I ended up mowing it all. So much for that grand experiment. Now I have to decide whether to try it again or resort to something else to relieve that large expanse of unwanted lawn.
Just yesterday I got another painful lesson in poor decision-making. You have to understand that I'm cheap. No other word for it. When I realized we had purchased some hay that was such poor quality that none of the animals would eat it, I was determined not to waste the hay.No problem I thought, we'll just use it for stall bedding instead of buying straw. Well, I've already shared my disillusionment with my cows' ability to produce enormous amounts of manure--wet, slimy manure. Add that quantity of manure to long, tightly packed strands of hay and you have what amounts to wet brown concrete--about 4 inches deep and nearly impossible to separate and lift. I finally resorted to a potato fork and was able to lift a little at a time and gradually work my way to the floor of the stall. It took ages, all the profanity in my vocabulary (which is an impressive amount) and an aching back, but the stall was clean and we made an immediate trip to a neighboring farm to buy STRAW. Lesson learned.
Hay and Housework September 9, 2011
This might seem an odd combination, but not in my life. I can't believe how obsessed I've become about hay. For years, hay was just something that was in fields and then you picked it up and put it in a barn and then you fed it to something. Well, now I own those "somethings" and let me tell you, they put away that hay. And, it can't be just any hay---there are "kinds" of hay--who knew?
At some times of the year, sheep need alfalfa hay--second cutting alfalfa. Again, who knew that each time you cut alfalfa (I did know what alfalfa was), you get a different quality hay. Cows, on the other hand, don't need alfalfa hay--they can eat grass hay. Horses can eat grass hay but it's okay if it has a little alfalfa, but clover will give them the "slobbers". This just goes on and on.
To make things more complicated, hay comes in different sizes and shapes--small square bales, large square bales, and small and large round bales. The round bales last longer and make my job in feeding the animals easier because I don't have to take it to them everyday. On the other hand, they are harder to move when you don't have equipment. Steve and I can usually roll a small bale into the feeding area (which, of course, must be covered so the hay doesn't get wet and spoil) but the large bales (which last longer and so are cheaper for what you get) are so big that they sometimes won't even come out of the truck bed. Just last night, we spent nearly two hours just trying to get a large round bale out that was wedged in the truck--not fun especially as you worked trying to dodge manure piles. Fortunately, we were able to shut the horse and cows (Lucy and Ethel) into an adjoining pasture so we didn't have to work around them. We were eventually successful and the afore mentioned animals are eating away.
I start dreading seeing the hay bales eaten down because then we have to start the search for more hay. This will only get worse--our area is officially in a drought and there isn't as much hay so it will become hard to find and expensive and we don't have a way to store anything but bales. I am already storing the second cut alfalfa to feed the sheep when they become pregnant so that's one less worry. See, obsessed with hay.
Now, the housework part. As much as I spend time and energy on hay, I spend little on housework. I've never like to clean house--I learned early on that if I pick up big things so it doesn't look messy, then the dirt doesn't show as much. Unfortunately, since we've moved to the country, dirt is larger and more difficult to hide. We sometimes visit people and they say "Oh, my house is a mess." and I look around and it seems spotless. When I say "my house is a mess", I'm talking major dirt. Right now there are pieces of hay all through the family room and kitchen (hay, again) and also some mud that both the dogs and I have tracked in. There are some small pieces of paper that came from somewhere and just an overall yucky look. If you walked in, you wouldn't want to eat here. Now, here's the problem. Obviously, I'm aware of the floor but I don't do anything about it. I could. It would take about 20 minutes to clean the entire floor with this amazing stuff that makes the dirt go away from wood floors but I don't. I read instead or go outside. Just now I lifted the dish pan and the sink underneath was grimy. What did I do? I put the dish pan back down so I wouldn't have to see it.
It's a sad situation when hay gets much of my attention and housework nearly none, but it is what it is.