these feathered friends.

it occurred to me today that i haven't spoken much to the consistency of our farming here in boston. it hasn't been the most structured of traditional farm time for me as there is quite frankly not a lot to Do on this particular farm in the winter. instead, i've been helping out at the farm store we opened up in town. which has been a blast. mainly because my favorite farm co-worker...aside from nick...is the store's captain. but i've felt more like a shop girl during the past month than a farmer. and this concerns me. worries me. beats down my brow into a crumpled mess.

for, i don't want to be a shop girl. as much as i don't want to be an astronaut. or a cyclist. or a chef. or a banker. all i want to do, with my entire being, is farm.

but right now, we take money where money is being made. and so, for me, that is at the farm store. in the Big City. i take the train into town in the morning and come back the same way in the dark of night. it feels closer to the Old Life than the one i have since chosen.

since this is, more than likely, the last time nick and i will live so close to such a big town, i figure i might as well Lap It Up. so i buy scones from the bakeries. i indulge in cheeses from the fromagerie. i visit clothing shops and hat shops and bobble shops on my lunch break. i wear dainty shoes and the occasional frock.  i keep my hair combed.

this week i wasn't feeling my prettiest or my most energetic...post-christmas exhaustion i reckon. so the past two days my darling boy has taken my place at the shop. and i've taken his at the farm. and so i spent a good portion of today, after all the necessaries were completed....lying on my stomach, camera affixed to eye, observing and capturing my chickens.

did you know that we are raising 200 chickens for this farm? have i ever told you that? have i really been such an uninformative blogger? this is the beginning of this farm's livestock program. these 200 beautiful little birds. they make me so proud. watching their personalities develop. knowing that nick and i did this on our own (mainly nick, with a sprinkling of Me). we've raised these birds since two days after they hatched (shipping time). building their coops. building their perches. sourcing the best local feed. mixing that feed. introducing them to the Big Outdoors. they are nearly two months old now and are becoming such little people-chickens.

so i wanted to introduce you to Them. i plan on writing about several individual chickens (and of course, the ever-present duck) with whom i am in love over the next few weeks. to show you what is happening on this dear farm. and to remind me that i am still a farmer.....that these creatures are still my life.

so prepare yourself for a NewYear of feathered features.


putting up the goods

nick and i have spent the last few weeks belatedly preparing for winter. apple sauce. pickled beets. radishes. carrots. cranberry jam. butternut squash soup. carrot ginger soup. we are running out of ideas for what to can and are now fearful that we will be dining on nothing but puréed squash all winter long. a bit too similar to a baby's diet.

fortunately, the hens are laying again. i think the fox attacks have quite literally scared the eggs out of them. we also had the good fortune to buy some beef from a friends farm in western massachusetts. and we purchased 60lb bags of wheat and oats from a friend up north.

all of this doesn't distract neither nick nor i from the one glaring deficiency of our larder. the lack of dairy. we have no milk cow. still. we have kind friends to keep us satiated with yogurt, butter, cheese, and milk from their sweet cows. but we need our own milk cow.

counting the days until spring when this issue can be addressed properly.

a belated merry christmas to all of you. nick and i spent the weekend with my parents and sister on the vineyard. it was, as it always is, the most needed rest and comfort i could have hoped for.


a typewritten induced silence

please excuse the silence as i hurtle myself towards the christmas deadline that so torments the card season. i certainly wish i had chosen an implement other than the typewriter. i typewriter type with one finger. it is loud. painfully slow. and ludicrously unecessary.

so while i type away you can look at an interview the nice ladies of bcfootwear did on me and my animals.


season of rest

winter fluctuates...for me...between two existences here in new england. between rest and boredom. the grass is gone. the veggies have been pulled. the flowers have finished. life becomes less picturesque. less of the bucolic pasture-life i love to show. everything is either a sticky muddy mess or frozen solid. most animals move indoors. into the bowels of an old barn. life becomes a series of mazes. with everyone in different stalls. everyone still in need of feed and unfrozen water. life becomes more condensed on the farm in the winter. which is good in some respects. everybody is warm. everybody is together. its like a party in the barn. the party get's a little old in march, when everybody is still inside. still in such Close Quarters. but for now. it's new. it's warm.

we don't have enough barn space here on our farm outside of boston. so we are making do with a hijacked greenhouse and a couple of animal houses nick and i built for the pigs and chickens. bella has a windbreak. the big barn is filled with vegetable farming equipment, but we have one stall saved for Us. the one stall will be our savior some nights. some nights when the wind and the freezing, sleeting, unforgiving rain is more than what bella or the pigs can stand.

so we don't have quite the same jovial animal kingdom going on in our barn here as they do at the farm in western massachusetts.  we were at the farm last friday for a visit and i spent most of my day sitting in the barn amongst all the animals. observing. hiding from the cutting wind outside. thankful for the big barn. thankful for the animals and their acceptance of Winter.  we spend all summer waiting for the Rest that winter brings. and now we will spend all winter waiting for the Life that summer brings. i love the cycle of this. i cherish how connected it makes me feel to the earth and to the animals. and so here we  are in the last few days of autumn. the first few inches of the ground have frozen. everyone is at their winter stations. we are all ready for the winter solstice this thursday. all ready for the official Season of Rest to begin.



playing around with misty and the iPad this morning. today started with milking. then bottle feeding a calf. moved on to cleaning eggs. nick is grinding flour with the lady of the house for tonight's dinner....so bitterly cold this morning and still so comfortable to be here..back at the farm in western mass...if only for the day.

(testing out a new blogger app on this little device, so apologies for the grained photos)

have a bon week-end.


the fox

an oana befort watercolor
while feeding the pigs this tuesday's chilled morning nick caught a glimpse of a not-very-sly fox slipping through the woods and over the farm road. he followed her path as it seemed to be pointed distinctly towards our Unsuspecting. the chickens and pascal-the-duck. when he reached our brood he found them scattered, scared, and squawking. pascal was limp in the mouth of one fox. another was corralling our sweet chickens. fortunately for pascal he was too heavy for the little rascal's mouth (and i am oddly proud of his playing dead technique). she dropped him. and nick's pure human presence ---and a fair bit of yelling---scared the two red cloaked hellions away. but they got one of our little 3 month old chicks. one of mama-sister's babies. mama-sister was as devastated as a chicken could have capacity for such emotion. standing atop an old compost pile looking for her little-one.

it takes a tremendous amount of effort on my part to not allow such a traumatic morning to send me into the usual emotional tailspin that i imagine you are all quite accustomed to by now. i understand and respect the Hunger of the Fox. it's is becoming quite cold here. and food is seasonally scarce. i have historically always cheered for the protagonist Fox in any disney/pixar rendition of the timeless chicken-farmer-fox triangle. and i recognize the good fortune that i am only just now confronted, as a farmer, with this sordid triad. so i have been trying all day not to think of mama-sister's little baby chick. to not think of the 28 days she sat on her egg. to not think of all of the cold nights mama-sister had her two babies under each wing, keeping warm. to not think of mama-sister's other baby chick. who Lived. who no longer has her sister. i'm doing a fairly commendable job at keeping these thoughts at arm's length (save for writing such words). reminding myself of the ever-warned dangers of personification.  but then...is it commendable to keep Emotions for the Animals away? or is it just the beginnings of a dark stormy path of apathy and a wizened heart?

** this watercolor is one of my favorites from the Very Talented Oana Befort. you can visit her blog too which has fun giveaways of her art and and downloadable beauties. i highly recommend a visit.**


the dog sort of tired.

some days homelife is more thoroughly tiring than worklife. yesterday we spent all afternoon making christmas cards (their steps to creation may border on too ambitious this year...why do i insist on a typewriter when the computer is sitting idly by.) last night was devoted heartily to canning 10 pounds of cranberries and 40 pounds of carrots. resulting in more pints, 1/2 pints, and quarts than is good for our nomadic selves.

on the topic of burdensome material objects...nick and i had christmas with each other early this year. 13 days early. precisely. as i retrieved his present from the seashore on saturday and given its size --17 feet long-- i couldn't imagine hiding it in our one room home for very long. a wooden canoe that was built in 1963 in old town, maine. it's lovely. most assuredly. but i'm not sure it was a wise purchase. it will take up the majority of the bed of our truck. it is delicate. it was pricier than my farm-hand bank account could afford and it needs a winter's worth of repairs. but i've always been a romantic for wooden boats. my summer's have always been speckled with them. and nick and i have always wanted to build a ship. so i think what is wise about that dream would be starting small, by fixing up a canoe.

nick got me an ipad. which i am Over The Moon about as i haven't had any new computer/phone anything since i worked at facebook. its wonderfully curious to think how totally different our gifts were to each other this year and how much it highlights our pull between the Old and the New worlds. all we want, most days, is to be together with the simplest of technologies. the tent. the canned goods. the wooden boat. the raw milk. the livestock. but other days, how could we resist the promise of connectivity the World of Apple and the like can give us?



raking. that i artfully avoided whilst home.
flowering, in december.
a basket acquired at a yard sale. with a serious lean.
yogurt and raw milk. both from my island. both happily perfect in taste.
dress-up. trying to decide on a dress for the christmas party.
marcel. my companion this past week-end.
the 'before' of a family photo.
i love every inch of the house i grew up in. but most of all this room. with this rug. and this table.
it's not every december 4th one can sit on the deck of a boat and fully enjoy the sun in Her glory.
the stowaway.

i used to worry a lot. it fed my insomnia. or my insomnia fed my worry. either way. i was always worried about everything. and then i moved to california. and whatever it is in the ocean air, you are enabled to stop worrying. life is so goddamn beautiful in california that you couldn't possibly have anything to worry about. it's so simple to say that a state takes your worries away. of course i'm Simplifying. but it's nearly midnight here and so i allow myself such a late night extravagance. something did take my cares away. something eased my brow for the last several years.

and now something has changed in the past few months to fill me top up with worry.

i worry a pack of coyotes will attack and eat me on my way to tuck in the chickens...in the middle of suburbia.
i worry that our christmas photo won't stick to the wood-backing as planned and will fall off...off friends' mantels and refrigerators.
i worry that rose will get another rubberband stuck improbably around her snout like she had this morning.
i worry that the baby chickens are cold. every night.
i worry that bella doesn't like her hay and that we won't be able to afford the $9/bale horse hay this winter that she likes best.
i worry that i'll never live again, for a long stretch of time, on the island where i grew up.
i worry the emails to which i never respond will disappear and the loved ones awaiting my answers will assume the worst.
i worry that the world will really end next december. sometimes. just for fun.
i worry...i know...that i don't talk to my two best friends enough at all.
i worry over every bump on rudy's body, hoping he's not as old as he says he is.
i worry rocco cat is still lost somewhere on cape cod and that i've missed the craigslist post saying he's been found.
i worry life won't be as peaceful here as it was in north carolina.
i worry we won't have as much space, as much land, here as we did there.
i worry obama won't win the 2012 election.
i worry i haven't set aside enough squash, enough cabbage, enough onions, enough food for us to enjoy through winter.
i worry about where on earth i'm going to find parking in the south end tomorrow.
i worry the townsfolk will smirk that my hair is one big snarl and that i smell like muddy pig.
i worry that i won't be able to fall asleep until too late tonight.

i know it's dreadfully unhealthy to worry. i know it's boring. it's pedestrian. so i need to shake it. it's just that...somedays (or some months, as this case may be) the responsibility of It All is terrifying and you worry that something's got to give. and all you can do is hope it's something small, like the parking.


another month come

another month gone. another crappy homemade calendar here. damn our frugality. made out of scrap plywood from the farm. which will coincidentally, also be backing our christmas cards this year. you must use What You Have.

a good cuppa this morning with some eggs and toast. the perfect end to chilly morning chores. the perfect beginning to the week. so happy to be home with rudy and nick after a much needed weekend on the island with the family.

here's to you and yours for a rainy and mild december week.


doulas rock...and other pieces of advice from melissa

my sweet melissa is on her blog talking about the need for the self-education of women in how they birth their babies. having been right here with her as she labored through arlo's birth i can tell you that Women's bodies are an incredible creation of nature. they can do amazing things. they can, sometimes, most-times, create and deliver human babies all on their own. melissa and i both certainly agree that modern western medicine can save mothers lives. can save babies lives. can give babies to mothers who would naturally, not be able to have them. and all of that is equally amazing. equally miraculous. but the natural delivery is a lost art in the states today. something that needs revisiting. something that needs saving. for the health of the Mother. for the health of the Baby.


sister come home

this sister of mine travels east today for a whole month. which will have december in the running as the best month of the winter.

tonight nick and i and billy and fiona will all reunite in cambridge for dinner. i cannot wait for this month to begin.


the prospect of rest.

some photos of nick's adorable nephews that have little to do with this post but were taken on the farm this week-end.
its been nearly a week since the vegetable farmers were here. nearly a week since our last market. since our last CSA harvest and pack. things are calming down here. there are only so many veggies you can grow in new england in winter. most of the roots have been harvested. all of the carrots are dug. the kale has been picked through. the brussels and the broccoli only have a handful of flowers remaining. i believe there is still some cabbage in the far field. and with this warm weather i don't doubt the mesclun and the oak leaf lettuce are still there. so i wouldn't say the harvest season is quite yet finished.

there are still restaurants to supply and a small group of devoted CSA members who signed up for the month-long 'holiday' share. we're opening a farm store in boston in december, so we will have that to stock. if i cannot say the harvest crew is finished for the year, i can say, with all correctness that they are damn well near done. they're in the coveted home stretch. they're cruising. so much so that they were able to take a real thanksgiving break. gone. off the farm for five days. all of them.

of course...they do deserve it. i have never seen a group of my peers work as hard and as long-day-ed as they do. 7am to 7pm. monday through sunday. pouring rain. beating wind. even under the threat of hail and snow. in conditions too chilly for rudy to even think about going outdoors these farmers are out there kneeling in the mud,  bare hands digging into the soil searching out the last of the potatoes. every single time i have worked with them i have given up before they've finished their day. they are badass farmers and deserve every hour of every day they have rest.

so i have been happy for them while they are on their break. but i would be a dishonest woman if i didn't admit to you my misgivings about animal farming in times such as these. for, with livestock, you cannot simply leave for the week because you need a break. or because its your nation's favorite holiday. or because a friend is in town. the animals aren't going anywhere. they --every morning and every evening-- need the same attention you've always given them. there are always substitutes you can find to help you on days you need off. but for those of you who have ever had a friend take care of your dog or cat or pig or horse or cow, you know...despite the friend's best intentions...that your four legged free loader is only 100% his peak happiness when you are there. and so it goes.

nick and i barely get to travel with one another anymore. when the outside world calls one of us, the other generally stays behind on the farm. it's just easier that way. you know everyone is safe. everyone is happy. there is nobody i implicitly trust with the animals more than nick. and i gather he feels similarly about me.

i do hope that someday we can be rich farm barons that can afford the luxury of 10....or maybe just even 1 person to look after our flock when we need the rest. but betting on that sort of future is not suggested in this sort of life. so for now, we need to find someone who can help us on the odd day or two or five so that nick and i can enjoy a small slice of what the veggie crew is enjoying. the prospect of winter. the prospect of rest.
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