Garlic, Gardening and Sunrises

Scape paste also known as HEAVEN!

Morning Ramblings:

We wake up at 4:30 around here to get chores done before our ‘off farm’ jobs require our attention. By 5:15 this morning it was just getting light enough for me to head down to the garden. I figure I had an hour or so before I had to get to my other work. I turned on the sprinklers, puttered with weeding and trimming back some kale and herbs. The garden has always been my happy place but if you get a chance to watch the sun come up from your garden, I highly recommend it. It takes gardening to a whole new level.

I also spent some time fixing and re-securing the strawberry netting – side note: years ago I met someone who grew berries and told me he believed in sharing his berry harvest with the birds and living in harmony with them. This sounded perfect to my peace loving, hippie soul and I decided right then and there that’s what I was going to do if I ever grew berries. Well, I’m here to tell you that he either didn’t have a clue what he was talking about or he didn’t like to eat berries very much. Sharing only works when both parties buy into the philosophy and at least on my farm, someone has neglected to tell the birds how this is supposed to work. The winged berry thieves completely devastated the first of the season’s strawberries. Even after they had their fill the greedy little buggers would still take a ‘taste’ out of each and every berry, leaving none untouched. Apparently sharing with wildlife is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory but in reality works out different than anticipated.

It was also finally time to start harvesting garlic scapes. Anyone who’s been following our blog or Facebook page know that I am a confessed garlic scape addict. I want impatiently all year for the incredibly short season. The only downfall of scapes is that they seem to bring out my inner kindergartner, the one that failed in sharing with others. My mother would be mortified by my lack of sharing with my friends, but since she is rarely on the internet, they’re on their own. This picture of a bowl of vibrant green, mash may not look like much to you but to me, it represents a year of impatiently waiting for a taste of heaven.

I love scapes fresh but also appreciate how easy it is to put up scapes for later use. I wash, chop and throw my scapes into the blender with olive oil and a pinch of salt. When blended into a paste I put them in ice cube trays and freeze them. This scape paste is indescribably amazing! I haven’t found the recipe that isn’t made better with scapes. I throw them in soups, mix with other herbs as a pesto, put it over potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, and right this very minute I am enjoying them with a mashed avocado spread over hunks of fresh sour dough bread. I’ve devoured an embarrassing amount of this scape paste already today, but on a positive note I’ll be free from any potential vampire harassment for the foreseeable future.

Garlic, gardening and sunrises. I got to enjoy some of my favorite things before many had even woken up. I’m feeling particularly blessed today. ❤

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The Danger of Collars

Boomer during happier times.

I used to see these memes on Facebook about dog collars being dangerous to be honest I figured people were over-reacting. After all, I’ve had dogs my whole life and they have never had any issues with their collars. I figured it would take a one in a million chance that something like this could happen right? Besides, it seemed way more dangerous to NOT have a collar on my dog and have them get lost with no way for people to identify and contact me than to wear a simple, little collar. Apparently I had been very lucky. That long standing misconception changed in mere minutes yesterday.

Hubs and I were outside working on one of the ninety million projects we have around the farm and the dogs were playing a few feet from us. Suddenly they went from making happy, play noises to Boomer screaming in pain and panic. As I was scrambling to climb down from where I had been working on the ladder I could see him thrashing around, throwing his body one way and then another trying to get away from Shandy. Shandy, although confused was doing her best to stay still. She obviously understood something was very wrong.

Shandy watching over the farm from her perch on the porch.

It took me only seconds to get to him and he was already foaming at the mouth, fear in his eyes and in obvious pain. A quick glance and I saw his jaw and tooth were stuck on Shandy’s collar and metal ring which attaches the rabies tag. As Boomer struggled to free himself he was now pulling harder and harder on Shandy’s collar, digging it deep into her fur and tightening her pink camo collar into a macabre make-shift noose. Shandy, now getting choked and started to panic as well, beginning her own fight, the fight to breathe.

Between Boomer’s panicked and frantic efforts to pull himself free and Shandy’s frenzied fight to get air I had my hands full and couldn’t get them separated. I started screaming for help and Hubs came running. We were able to get them separated in minutes but it felt like hours. There didn’t appear to be any residual physical trauma to anyone from the ordeal but we were all left deeply shaken.

Afterward Hubs and I, although thoroughly rattled, were feeling incredibly grateful as we played the “what if” game…”What if we hadn’t been right next to them when it happened?” “What if we had been inside and hadn’t heard noise?” After all, neither one could bark and the whole event was remarkably quiet for as traumatic as it was. “What if they had been in their outdoor kennel and we weren’t home?” I truly believe if any of the above scenarios had happened we would have one, possibly two dead dogs. We were so incredibly lucky that this happened while we were literally a few feet away from them.

After decades of having dogs and using collars all the time, I am now a full convert and avid believer of no collars when they are home. I would much rather have a lost dog and be looking for them, than a dead dog. Please, please learn from my mistakes. Don’t let this happen to your fur babies.

Best friends forever.
And the Wheel Goes Round and Round

And the Wheel Goes Round and Round

You may be looking at the picture and wondering what the heck you’re looking at. Don’t worry you’re in good company, I wondered the exact same thing. Turns out the answer to that question is quite the tale.

I arrived home from work, late in the evening one night last week and stopped at the barn to say hi to the horses, as I usually do. Hubs drove down the hill to the barn and rather than his usual greeting, he started with, “You just missed the show.” This statement always strikes a bit of fear in my heart. It either means I missed something adorably cute that one of the animals did or he narrowly escaped death. There never seems to be any middle ground between these two. In this particular instance it was the latter.


Some of you may remember the very large spool we have in the goat pasture. Hubs brought it home many years ago and it was quite the hair raising adventure getting it across the horse pasture and put the hillside to the goat pasture. The goats have always loved playing on the spool, but alas it’s time in the goat pasture is coming to an end. We’ve decided to repurpose the lower portion of the pasture and so we needed to move the spool (along with a rather large stack of old split rails and a ton + pile of rocks).

With us both working off the farm and only having a few hours each evening of daylight to work by, it took most of a week to get all the wood rails and rocks moved. The last thing to move was the spool. I figured we would get it this weekend when we were both home because the spool has a few of the bottom pieces broken out and won’t roll well  and if it happens to get out of control  on the hillside there’s a fence right below it that I would prefer to keep in one piece and just past the fence is the pond.

Despite my concerns, Hubs decided he could get it done alone.  Inevitably whenever he decides that a two or more person job can be done alone, I picture the little imp that sits on my shoulder whispering into my ear, “grab a beer and watch this!” Sure enough, he proceeded to tell me the tale of how he had wrapped a chain around the spool and begun to drag the spool. Of course we don’t have a 4WD tractor and between the rain slick, mud and the slope of the hill, the tractor started sliding. The new angle between the spool and tractor cause the chain to strain and then break. The chain went flying by and when his life stopped flashing before his eyes he looked back he saw the spool tipped and had started a slow motion, drunken roll down the hill. He watched in equal parts fascination and horror as it continued its ungainly wobbly roll, down the hill toward the fence. Then, just when he was convinced the fence was going to be demolished  the spool, rather miraculously hit a bump in the ground, launching the huge spool several feet in the air, causing it to only graze the fence before landing on the other side. It finished its Olympic worthy rambling downhill journey by rolling into the pond before falling over.

So the answer to the question, “what the heck is that a picture of?” is the spool, sitting in the pond and half covered in brush, half covered in mucky and water. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, farming isn’t for the faint of heart.

Farming Lessons & Life Goals

pepper starts 012019Once upon a time I hated pepper plants. They are notoriously slow to get started from seed and no matter how much I babied the seeds they were always weeks behind the other plants. While all my other starts were tall, strong and bursting to get outside and into the sunshine, my pepper plants were always tiny and struggling. It became an annual frustration. I would move them to the best location for light, place a seed mat under them, have a small fan blowing nearby for air circulation, etc… But every year when it came time to move the seedlings outside I would look at my peppers and feel as if I had failed once again. I took to starting them much earlier than the other seeds but I did it with so much frustration, mumblings and complaining the whole time at the extra work and attention they needed.

A few years ago I decided to approach the growing season differently. Rather than trying so hard to get my peppers to go against what is their inherent nature (being slow to start), what if I embraced that trait? Rather than complaining about starting them a couple weeks early, why not start them a full 4 weeks early and do it with a happy heart? After all usually by the beginning of the new year I am itching to get outside. I’m perusing seed catalogs with glee and dreaming of when I can sink my hands into some dirt. So why not start the peppers super early, enjoy playing in the dirt and let the peppers take their sweet, and molasses-like, slow time to reach maturity. It took me a bit to finally stepped outside the box of my normal schedule and routine and try this life shifted without a grudging heart, but once I did….. what a change.

I was able to enjoy having a valid reason for playing in the dirt in the middle of winter and the peppers were finally allowed to follow their natural inclination. Best of all they were ready when the rest of the plants were, standing tall and strong and I didn’t feel like a frustrated failure. Win- win! Wouldn’t life be awesome if this idea could be applied to people? Rather than trying to get people to fit into other’s ideas of what or where they should be in life, we just support and appreciate their individual quirkiness? I love it when farm lessons teach me about life. ❤

Enjoying the Season

47345720_1154511974723742_810125995615977472_n[1]I recently saw this meme on my Facebook feed and it resonated deeply with me. A few years ago we made a conscience effort to try to live with the seasons, rather than fighting against them as I had done most of my life. The result was to feel a sense of peace settle over me.

For most of my life I’ve felt hurried. I was either wishing away the winter so I could get outside and work on projects that I had fallen behind on or I was wishing summer get here quicker so I could finally harvest the garden. Rather than living my life to the fullest and enjoying it, I was actually wishing it away. Being the typical farmer/homesteader I always have a list of to-do projects that are about a mile long. Also being the typical farmer I never seem to get to the bottom of the list. As soon as I cross off an item, 2-3 more get added to the list. It’s the farming version of Sisyphus’s hell. When you also have to take the weather into consideration when planning your projects, meaning you can’t drive fence posts when the ground it too soggy or frozen and roofing repairs needs to happen to structures before the heavy rains hit, planting needs to occur when the temperatures are right for that particular plant, etc… it just adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult task. Trying to coordinate with mother nature, who is a fickled team player at best, can make even the most patient person sizzle with frustration.

thumbnail_IMG_1849[1]I’ve been told that I am incredibly stubborn, but even I had to admit that I would never win in my ongoing war against mother nature. Remember that old saying, “if you can’t beat them join them.” I decided to take it to heart and in an effort to simplify my life I decided to give up the war and join her team. Once I stopped fighting mother nature and aligned myself to her schedule, however wild and unpredictable that may be, I finally felt peace. I stopped feeling as though I was running as fast as I could and still falling behind. Suddenly, I was able to appreciate the present.  I wasn’t late or playing catch up. I was exactly where I was meant to be for that moment.

We were blessed with a abnormally dry and warm fall this year and that helped us get a few lingering summer projects completed, but there are always more that didn’t get done. So when I woke to the hard frost this morning I felt the old apprehension set in for just a moment. I thought about the roof and walls that hadn’t been put on the new temporary shelter, the trees that hadn’t been  planted yet, the gate that hadn’t been hung, the cabbage that I still needed to harvest and so many other things that needed my attention, and then I took a breath. I reminded myself that mother nature and I now played for the same team. Apparently she felt those things could wait and so I took my lead from her. Things would get done whenever they got done and there was nothing I could do to change that timeline. After a sigh of acceptance, I built a fire, set some butter chicken simmering on the stove (with extra garlic of course) and settled in to do some computer work, all while enjoying the best view in the world, because this is exactly where I am meant to be right now.

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Firewood that Fights Back

 firewood cropped

It’s still a busy time on the farm, we have almost finished getting the garden cleaned up and put to bed for winter,  the garlic has been planted and is resting and preparing for spring and now we’re working on planting trees. I know most people plant trees and shrubs in the spring but I prefer fall. Planting trees in the fall when the roots have gone dormant allows them to be naturally watered by rain and they have a whole fall and winter to get settled before the stress of growing season. The only downfall is that most nurseries don’t have a great selection at this time of year.

 The other big project is firewood. We try to heat by wood as much as possible. We do this for two reasons, mostly because it’s cheaper but also because wood heat seems to chase the damp chill off my achy joints much better than electric heat. In our rainy winter weather that’s a big deal. Plus, I confess a true love of wood smoke. The hint of wood smoke in the air is one of the most comforting scents I know.

 We had quite a bit of windfall wood from the past couple of years that had fallen in our hillside pastures and we figured this was the year to get it cut  or it would go to rot. Hubs took the tractor and chains and we began the careful work of getting the tractor into the slippery and sloped hills, chaining the logs and then slowly dragging them out of the pasture. This last part was done while we prayed like crazy that the log wouldn’t develop a mind of its own and go rogue, rolling down the hill, taking out fences, shelters or us. fred tractor 1018

Once the logs were brought in from the pasture we began one of the worst chores on the farm, in my humble opinion. The splitting, cutting and stacking. It’s not the backbreaking, never ending labor part I hate, it’s the splinters. It’s like the wood is fighting back with little, invisible weapons of warfare. They get EVERYWHERE! I’m amazed at some of the locations I seem to get them. It is impossible to pick them all out and then there’s the cold shower. I was always taught that heat opens the pores and can allow the splinter to settle further into the skin, so cold was necessary if you have splinters. It’s just adding insult to injury.

 Last weekend I was determined to walk away with fewer splinters. I usually wear heavy pants and boots. I also usually added a windbreaker type jacket (a heavy duty one is just too warm for this work). The material on a windbreaker or rain slicker is usually provides a good barrier to protect from the miniscule needles attempting to take residence on my body. Anyway, I digress, I was determined to up my game and keep myself adopting any orphaned wood products so I wore my usual jeans and boots, two layers on top, covered by the windbreaker (of course) and then, the final touch, was to add latex gloves under my work gloves. The tiny splinters seems to always work their way through the leather gloves and imbed themselves into my palm, fingers and wrists. The latex was long enough to also cover my wrists, a usual splinter magnet, so I was set!

logs for firewood A couple hours into the process my hands and wrists were relatively splinter free. You would think I would be ecstatic….. but I wasn’t. Apparently in my careful wardrobe planning I had neglected one very, very important item. A belt. I was doing what I think city kids call “sagging”. This would have been just been a slight inconvenience, if not for the fact that when I went to hitch up my pants with my leather gloved hands……I apparently was shedding wooden shives down my drawers. You’ve heard of ants in your pants? This was kinda like that. I now had splinters on a part of my body that until this year, had remained unscathed. They were also in an area that I couldn’t remove by myself, giving Hubs and I a whole new relational challenge in the marriage game.

 Anyway, all this to say, I’m definitely going to remember my belt during next year’s firewood work. Also I’m pretty sure I’ll be filled with a tiny amount of vindictive glee, giving me an extra special warmth, as I pitch each log into the fire.

Stay warm my friends.

Ramblings: Heart Attack Farming Style

I was working from home, minding my own business when I suddenly heard a loud commotion coming from the goat pasture out behind the house. I went to the window and took a peek out. The goats had all run for the safety of their barn and the dogs were frantically running back and forth on the perimeter fence in that area. I watched for a bit to see if I was needed but nothing else appeared out of the ordinary so I turned to head back to my computer and the awaiting pile of work. As I was turning away my eyes happened to fall on a lump leaned against the fence. Upon closer look, I discovered the lump turned was one of my goats, sprawled against the fence, eyes closed and not moving. I yelled to her, “hey Sadie….”, nothing. I clapped my hands and whistled, hoping against hope that she was just resting, but there was no response. The rest of the goats had all run off in a panic and Sadie wasn’t moving. This wasn’t good.

My heart was in my throat as I ran for some shoes and raced out back. As soon as I was within eyesight of the pasture I started yelling for the goats. The entire herd rushed over to greet me at the gate, except Sadie. By now I was muttering under my breath as I opened the gate and made my way across the pasture. My mutters went something like this, “oh crap, please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead, oh crap!”. There might have also been a few, “What the *%#*!” mixed in for good measure. All I could think was that if I got there in time and she wasn’t dead, I would somehow be able to save her (apparently, I have a totally misplaced sense of confidence in my vetting abilities). My mind was racing with possibilities, did something get through the fence and attack her? Is that what sent the herd running and the dogs barking? She’s one of the friendliest girls and I could see her being more trusting of predators, but could it really have happened so quickly when I was only a few hundred yards away?

 As I stumbled down the hillside in Hub’s shoes (they were the closest ones to the door and the first pair I grabbed in my hurry) I continued yelling, whistling and clapping my hands, but not even an ear twitched. By now, sensing my anxiety, the dogs had given up on whatever held their fascination at the perimeter fence and sat just outside the goat fence that Sadie was leaning on, watching with some concern. I reached her and gave her a quick visual once over. There were no signs of trauma. No blood on the ground or on Sadie. I started wondering if she had a heart attack or choked. I gently nudged her in her ribs. But got no reaction. Nothing. Damn! Sighing heavily and facing my fears, I leaned down to roll her over so I could thoroughly inspect her and figure out what had happened. As I placed my hands on her head and shoulder to roll her over, Sadie opened her eyes, lifted her head a tiny bit and gave me a look of utter disgust. I nearly fell over from surprise, but caught myself and instead just sat down rather ungracefully in the dirt. Apparently when Sadie sleeps, she REALLY sleeps and nothing is going to wake her until she is ready. Not barking dogs, the herd running off in a panic, me yelling, whistling, screaming and clapping, or even a nudge or two to the ribs. To be honest, after recovering from my initial heart attack, my first coherent thought was to be a bit jealous of how soundly Sadie can sleep.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, a problem that apparently doesn’t bother Sadie in the slightest.

 By this time the rest of the herd had wandered down the hillside to see what all the fun was about. The dogs were still looking at me with puzzlement, as if they didn’t get the joke, and Sadie had wandered off, looking backward long enough to shoot me the stink eye capture in this picture.  As anyone with goats will tell you, they have tons of personality and can communicate their feelings quite effectively. Unlike the other goats she wasn’t happy to see me, in fact she didn’t seem at all appreciative of my efforts to save her life. It fact, it was clear that she was downright irritated that I interrupted her restful beauty sleep.

I took another minute or two to rest my racing heart before the other goats trying to climb in my lap, forced me back on my feet. Thanks Sadie for helping me get the old pumper thumping this morning.  I’m the first to admit that farming has a lot of heartache and loss, it also has a lot of mini- eart attacks, anxiety and downright comical moments.  I’m so glad this moment turned out to be one of the latter.

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