Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sweet Potato Ponderings

Forecasts of weekend frost forced me into the garden last night.

After picking a few dozen tomatoes, I turned to the sweet potato patch.

Soon, I was into the dig, dig, root, root, pull, and occasional snap rhythm of harvest.
If I were relying on my own produce to feed us this year, I would not be looking forward to winter.

A wet, cold spring meant a lousy fruit crop and a delayed vegetable planting.  Planting red potatoes in May reduced yields. A dry July and August reduced yields further. I'm not sure what the summer weather did to the sweet potato crop.

This was my first attempt. So, for now, I'm calling it sweet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our New Dog Mickey

I went to get a dog license for Mickey today.

"Dog's age?" the shelter worker asks.

"Nine," I say.

"Nine months?"

"Nine years," I say.

The shelter worker looks at me.

She doesn't ask why I would take in a nine year old dog.

Mickey is grey around the muzzle. She's a few steps slower than some of the younger Border collies.

But our sheep don't see her as an old lady.

I see her as a wise lady, better trained than any dog I've every owned.

She's very capable of herding sheep.

Tonight, while my younger dogs were snoozing in the living room, she also showed, that she's still young enough to get the zoomies.

How I wish I had a camera to capture the look on Tag and Caeli's faces as they watched Mickey run from room to room.

Signs of Fall

I awoke without a cat alarm this morning.

As I made my way to my office (also known as the cat feeding station), I wondered why Dewey Kitty wasn't his annoying self. I'd been away the previous day so I didn't have a chance to wear him out.

When I turned on the light, I had my answer.

There, on the floor, near my computer lay a dead mouse.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Color Green

"Maybe we're getting too much green in the house," the husband says when I finish painting the bedroom.

"Do you think?" I ask.

"The main rooms downstairs are green, my den is green, the walk-in closet floor is green, your office floor is green," he says.

I ponder this comment as I take the dogs outside for their evening walk through the fields.

The recent rains and cooler weather revitalized the grass.

I admire the patchwork of greens.

The rich green of the alfalfa fields,

The yellow green of the winter wheat field,

The lighter greens of the pastures,

The fading green of the corn and soybean fields.

Coming inside, I return to work in my upstairs office. The trees in the yard have grown so tall that they now block the red barn from view. I notice, though, that the green leaves from the ash tree are beginning to turn purple.

Soon, cold weather will come, the leaves will fall, the grass will go dormant and turn tan. But inside the house, I'll always have some green.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Last Bit of Daylight

Darkness was fast approaching.

The chickens roosted. The sheep had come in from the pasture.

Temperatures were in the high sixties and the wind, calm.

I had planned to work my mare, Jet. A little lunging, a little ring work in the paddock, some work in the adjacent pasture.

With daylight running out, I scrapped those plans.

I threw the western saddle on Lily, the pony, and led her to the fields.

Lily didn't mind the darkness. The sliver of moon provided just enough light.

Letting Lily pick her way, I listened to the frogs croaking, the crickets chirping, the rustles in the fencerows. I relaxed to the four-beat rhythm of her walk. I thought of my younger days when darkness was never an excuse to not ride.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Construction Assistant

The contractors finished repairing the ceiling and walls in the bedroom.

Now, it is time for me to wash the walls and ceiling and paint primer on them.

As I'm washing the door, I notice the paws.

I let Dewey Kitty into the bedroom, and he immediately climbs onto the ladder.

"I have to wash the ceiling," I tell him.

He looks down on me.

I wash the walls. Surely he'll get down soon.

Eventually he does, thanks to a slow September fly.

When he spots the fly, the leaps from the ladder and slaps it with his paw.

With the fly dead, he climbs back atop the ladder.

I still have to wash the ceiling.

Next up: Dewey Helps with Painting.

Friday, September 16, 2011

September Mornings

The music of songbirds and crickets is gone now.

Instead, horse whinnies greet me in the mornings. The whinnies are for food, not me. I'm trying to make the pastures last. So they get a few hours of grazing and hay each day.

Overhead, the southbound geese honk.

But my favorite September morning sound comes from the chicken house where the four-month-old cockerels are attempting to crow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Counting to Five

I've been counting on my fingers a lot these days.

If I want lambs on April 1, when do I need to let the ram out with the ewes? I count to five backwards and come up with Nov. 1.

When I saw twin lambs, on their knees and contorted so that they could nurse, I paused.

Because we castrate the ram lambs, we no longer separate the lambs from the ewes. We let the lambs wean themselves -- a quieter, less stressful option. Surely they can't still be nursing. Most give it up at four months. These lambs are almost as tall as their mothers.

I count months on my fingers. When I reach five, I wag my finger at them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Planting Buckeyes

We have Buckeye chickens roaming our yard, but no Buckeye tree.

I hope to remedy that today.

I've collected Buckeyes from a tree on a neighboring farm. Now, I plan to dig two holes and plant the seeds. I'll mulch them and water them, and then wait.

In spring, I'll know if any seeds germinated.

If all goes well, I'll have my own lucky Buckeyes in five years.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Mystery Corn

When I returned from work on Friday afternoon, I found a note from my mother, a few bunches of grapes, and three dozen ears of corn.

I was expecting the grapes. My mother said she was harvesting that day.

The corn perplexed me.

My parents don't grow corn. Why would she leave three dozen ears for my husband and me?

On Saturday morning, I saved a few ears for eating and froze the rest.

Thoughts of eating a taste of summer during the winter months made me smile.

That afternoon, I thanked my mother for the corn.

"It's not from me," she says. "It was there when I dropped off the grapes. It looked so good, I thought about taking a few ears."

The corn mystery was solved when the man who farms for us stopped by to deliver corn.

"I never knew you grew sweet corn," I commented to the bachelor farmer.

He says his family has usually planted a plot near the farmhouse.

"I planted it on the Fourth of July," he said. In our area, the Fourth of July is the date most sweet corn farmers want to have ears for sale. "I told my brother it would be Labor Day corn."

He watered it weekly through the dry summer. When ears formed, he played the radio to keep raccoons away from the ears.

In the past week or so, he's harvested about 100 dozen ears.

He gives it to friends and family, and only hopes for a thank you and smile in return.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Finally -- Rain!

The rain came.

The ground softened.

The sheep ran laps in the field.

The temperatures cooled to the 50s. The winds picked up speed.

The ponies, who were compliant and mellow under saddle last week, now pranced and hopped.

Grass that turned brown weeks ago showed hints of green.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Life without Dogs

I look at the house and expect to see two black noses, two white stripes, and four eyes peaking through the screen door. When I enter the house, I await wagging tails and a Tag whine.

But there is none of that.

We were gone for part of the weekend, and Tag and Caeli went to a boarding kennel. I'm discovering that life is not as fun without my two cheerleading Border collies.

They are much more excited about chore time and walk time than me. But after an eight-hour car ride, I needed to take a walk and stretch my legs.

I had no dogs circling as I walked down the driveway. There was no Caeli pouncing mice in the grass or twirling her Jolly ball around her head. But after several yards, I discovered I had company.

Trick the Cat was tagging along behind me, and every few strides, he was scanning the landscape, looking for dogs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What the Elders Teach

Early one spring years ago, I sprayed the thistles with molasses water.

I saw the fruits of my efforts this afternoon.

The sheep nibbled down the thistle patch in the side pasture.

I was a newbie to farming when a grazing specialist asked why certain sheep don't eat thistles. His answer? Because their moms don't eat thistles. By spraying the young tender plants with molasses, I encouraged the ewes to eat the thistles. When they did, their young followed their lead.

But what ewes teach the young isn't always good.

I discovered this during a herding lesson yesterday when I watched an old white ewe jump the fence to another pasture. Other ewes followed two by two, until there was one ewe left.

Maybe I should spray the practice field with molasses water.