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Lunch Anyone?

I love those moments in life when we become clear about the choices we’ve made.

While having lunch with a friend of mine from Twain Harte this week, she asked if I was happy living on The Farm.  I quickly responded and gave her the litany of reasons why living off the mountain was so great.  She laughed and made some comments about farm life and cowboys which I quickly dismissed.  But later that afternoon while driving home, I took notice of the world in which I now live and realized why this place called out to me two years ago.

I love salt-of-the-earth people… people who live close to the land and all that it provides.  I don’t mind having dusty shoes.  I love brushing my goats and giving names to my hens.  Being in the mix of life excites me.  Seeing homegrown vegetables on my kitchen table fulfills me.  Feeling the sadness of a lost honeybee colony brings me closer to the core of the Big Picture.

This is not a sophisticated world but it brings a stillness to my heart and balance to my world.

Resurrection

I have no excuses or explanations. Let’s just say that my creative writing was derailed about a year ago and leave it at that. But what’s most important is that I’m sitting here now typing as if no time had passed.

Life here in the past year has been filled with lots of ups and a sprinkling of downs. Some new additions include six additional hens, a miniature Tennessee Fainting Goat named Priscilla, a white fuzzy Pygmy Goat named Lisa Marie, two (sometimes three) barn cats simply called One, Two & Three, and a son-in-law named Mike!

This year, I began the day with a cup off coffee, a warm blanket, a writing tablet, my favorite pen and a seat in the barn surrounded by a number of curious animals. Yesterday, one of my new friends, Lorinda, posted this on Facebook: “Until you commit your goals to paper, you have intentions that are seeds without soil” and I was definitely inspired. So I set about doing just that.

I was actually pretty pleased with my progress until Mrs. White decided that she’d like a closer look at what I was doing and jumped up on my lap. (You may recall that my initial flock were all named with the help of my grandson.) She felt satisfied that there wasn’t anything of interest and walked across the blanket to the other side. Shortly thereafter, Little Red decided that she needed to take a peek and took a stroll up my leg to inspect the progress. “Nothing much going on,” she clucked and retraced her steps back down to the ground.

Now I was getting close to having what I would call a rough draft (don’t goals always need more definition?) when my blanket was suddenly engaged in a tug-of-war. Lisa Marie vs Millie! It became clear to me that my presence there in the midst of their barnyard routines had become enough of a distraction that it was time to move my chair onto the porch.

I cherish days like these; they don’t occur as often as I’d like. But to start this new year as I did was enough for now. And did I mention that resuming this blog was on my list of goals?

Sequel

And there, in the early morning mist, the modest moon bade farewell to her celestial companions not realizing the magnificence of her performance.  Who better than she to usher in the Season of Darkness?

A Solemn Entry into Winter

We walk into the Season of Darkness with the glorious glow of an eclipse… a lovely lunar lantern surrounded by a ring of shimmering stars.  Welcome Winter… you may enter at will.

Where’s Wattle?

What, you say?  Wattle?  You know those long worm-like rolls that CalTrans places along the bottom of freshly graded hillsides?  Well, that’s wattle and I need some desperately!

The downpours of the past few days have transformed my pasture into a pond.  The creek is overflowing with the most wonderful sound of rushing water and croaking frogs but the chickens can’t quite maneuver in the soggy mess.  The grapevines along the pasture fence may not need irrigation for an entire year if this continues as it has been.

Water has a way of allowing itself into places without waiting for an invitation.  Unfortunately, the creek is right behind the barn so need I say more?  The barn floor tells the story.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to locate some of the elusive wattle tomorrow and see what I can do about providing the creek with some new direction.   Like most of us from time to time, the creek appears to have lost its way.

It’s been a spectacular Autumn here… colors everywhere!  The leaves on the mulberry tree turned the most magnificent shade of lemon yellow, and the grapevines went from green to yellow to rust before releasing themselves from the canes.  In spite of the heavy rains in the past two weeks, the fruit trees have been reluctant to give up their foliage and continue to provide a glowing chartreuse to the landscape.  Color continues to brighten the view even as the season comes to an end.

While the color may be the upside of Autumn, the downside definitely is the maintenance.  Branches and leaves to be raked and burned, veggies to be tarped to protect them from frost, insulating the chicken coop to protect them from the cold nights, shoring up the banks of the creek to divert the overflow from the rains away from the barn, hauling alfalfa in the back of my car for the chickens (yes, I know I need a truck)… it’s quite the little job.  Five years from now, this season may get old but for now it’s still a pleasure.  And please, don’t remind me that I said the same thing about snow shoveling 15 years ago!

As we move closer to the dark days of Winter, I am reminded that I have been here almost a year.  How very different my life was last December… waiting for the moment when this chapter of my life would begin.  And, as the farm prepares itself for this cold season, the joy of Christmas has descended upon me.

Ten Ten Ten

What I’ll remember about this day:

  • I harvested my first batch of wine grapes that have been growing along the pasture fence.  Unfortunately, I only managed to get the equivalent of a gallon of wine so it looks like grape jelly is next on the canning list.  No one (including the former property owner) seems to know the varietal so I’m hoping the owner of the local winery might be able to identify them.
  • 75 daffodil and narcissus bulbs went into the ground.  Gophers beware!
  • The fishpond got an Autumn cleaning only to discover that the pump was burned out (or so I thought).  Off I went to the hardware store to get a new pump… got back & learned that the tubing was too small so it was back to the hardware store for an adapter.  After much anticipation, I plugged in the new pump and waited for the sound of running water… and waited and waited.  Nothing!  What I learned next was about the most shocking discovery of the day:  the electrical cord from the old pump was connected to an extension cord via a 3-prong adapter that was buried underground.  Just laying in about two inches in dirt under a wet piece of wood!  Isn’t there a law??

 

Uvas Misterioso

 

Autumnal Return

I’d like to say that it was a long hot summer that kept me away from writing but to do so would not exactly be the truth.  This first summer on the farm was a busy one with a long learning curve.  Projects everywhere… growing fruit and vegetables is one thing but finding time to do something with the harvest is another.  I lost the war with gopher control and realize that living with these rodents will be very much like living with the demonic deer in Twain Harte.

I did manage to resurrect my skills in the art of canning… pickled beets, strawberry preserves, pickled peppers, and tomato sauce.  During the long winter, all of these will be reminders of the glorious feeling of warm sun on my back and the joy of walking into the garden each morning to see what had ripened overnight.  What I’ve learned is that overplanting can be intimidating when one only has a limited amount of time to deal with a prolific crop.  How many eggplants can I eat in a week??  So my fall and winter garden is much more reasonable for a family of one.

As I became comfortable with caring for chickens, I increased their ability to roam and allowed them to truly be free range.  Unfortunately, they quickly learned how to scurry under the pasture gate and my vertical sunflower garden became horizontal overnight.   The demand for farm fresh eggs has increased so much that I brought four more hens into the fold a month ago.  That was an experience!  Each flock kept to itself, refused to blend, and claimed its own area of the henyard.  Literally lots of henpecking going on as they jockeyed for position within the fold but eventually they became one.  Now, when I walk into the pasture, ten hens start their half-run/half-fly/half-waddle toward me and I feel like a nursery school teacher entering a school yard!

Ironically, as the demands of my farm increased this summer so did my business.  I expressed my creative energy in the form of gardening, planning, and summer living; writing took a backseat.  However, now that the shorter days of Autumn are here and the outdoor work begins to decline, I long for the opportunity to write again…  to sit in the quiet bubble where the words just flow like water.

Freedom… at last!

Well, today was the big day.  After spending a week inside the coop making sure they knew it was their home, I opened the door to the hen yard and let The Girls out for the first time.  At first they were quite apprehensive… What’s This??  I stood out in the yard with some fresh greens and tried to coax them out.  My favorite Girl “Little Red” was the first out the door, mostly because she follows me everywhere; slowly the others exited one by one.  Once they realized that they had more to do than just scratch around the floor of the pen, they started flitting about everywhere!

And now, of course, my anxiety sets in.  I keep walking to the window counting to make sure they’re all still there.  Today I need to leave for a few hours and I’m already worried much in the same way as I did on my children’s first day of school.

Millie and The Girls

I must have made at least ten trips to the barn today just to sit & visit with the chickens.  Everyone has told me that the way they will bond with me is by the sound of my voice.  There is just no way I’m going to start calling “here chickie, chickie” so I’ve decided to walk in and say “hi girls, hi girlie-girls” instead (in a very high pitched voice, of course).  So far, they seem to responding well… they provided me with three beautiful eggs today!

My first eggs