Waiting for a Naked Chorus.

Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis

arboribus comae;

mutat terra vices et decrescentia ripas

flumina praetereunt;

Gratia cum Nymphis geminisque sororibus audet

ducere nuda chorus.

 

The snows have fled, the grass returns to the fields,

The leaves to the trees;

The earth changes in its turn and the flooding rivers

Wear down their banks;

Grace dares with her nymphs and twin sisters

To lead the dance nude.

-Horace


Ver iam advenit! Spring has now arrived and an ornamental cherry in our backyard is its harbinger.

Okay, full disclosure: the snows are still in the mountains and the fields here actually grow very verdant in winter. The trees are only just coming into bud, the streams are not increasing because we have had a very dry winter, and Grace is still wearing a fleece with insulated bogs (not even Birkenstocks yet) and her sisters and nymphs are still shy about coming out, clothed or naked. But a corner has definitely been turned, and things are really ramping up for us. We are already busier than one can imagine.

Our road is lined with 10,000 daffodils and they abound on our property, courtesy of the furry borrowing creatures that move them. Puck takes a break and enjoys one under our oak trees. Please don’t eat it!

Last weekend was spent pruning and pruning and pruning fruit trees, each one of which has about a thousand water sprouts that need to be removed if it is to be productive in the summer. I’m not sure this is a task we will do ourselves in the future, at least not with our full size trees, which now makes me understand the wisdom of dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties. These are much easier to reach and usually not a whole lot less productive, so our full sized pear tree and cherries will probably be in the hands of outside help in the future. Through the kindness of a neighbor we were able to borrow an orchard ladder which helped us get the job done. Over this weekend I planted a number of dwarf fruit trees: eight apple trees for hard-cider (Amere de Berthcourt), two more peach trees (disease resistant varieties for our wet climate known as Oregon Curl Free and Charlotte to add to our Red Haven), and two walnut trees (not dwarf – they get to 40 feet in height). All of the digging has left me pretty sore! Hopefully we will be adding another fig tree or two as well as a couple of plums and maybe an apricot. I also added two Camillias to our circle garden and removed the two rod iron benches that I intend to use as a trellis for wine grapes. Horace indeed!

Lori and Nancy do some much needed Saint Patrick’s Day spring cleaning!

We also moved the coop this week so that our laying hens could be out in the garden. They were extremely unhappy to be moved but have finally adjusted to their new home and are now tilling up our garden for us, hopefully in time to plant it in the middle of May. Their productivity dropped for a day or two due to the stress of the move, but as of yesterday they got back up to their normal number of around two dozen, and we are handily selling every egg laid on the farm these days – in fact we can’t keep them on the shelf they’re so popular, and these days we don’t get to eat them so we have our duck eggs for breakfast instead. Sulyeman, our Barred Plymouth Rock rooster, has been particularly fussed up, but he’s an especially neurotic bird like our high strung Rhode Island Reds. (We have one Rhode Island who is an escape artist and insists on laying her eggs in our goats’ hay feeder these days despite all of our efforts to keep her out!)

We’re lazy so we are letting our chickens till and fertilize our garden this spring. Hopefully the ground will be ready come mid May.

The big thing coming up is kidding, which we are facing in the next month so we are giving them boosters and keeping a close eye on them. We still need to build kidding pens and so are facing some work in our barn this month, and to build a corral for any buck we get this spring.

Our pregnant goaty girls – Leah had a mishap with her horn this week and snapped it right off, thankfully with minimal injury to herself. Now if we could just convince Anna to stop getting her head stuck in her fence life would be good.

The greenhouse is also getting full and it is very satisfying already in March to be eating out of our garden – salad, spinach, and chard are already on our table nightly from our raised beds, and I have two beds of baby greens growing in our greenhouse. In our big red barn there is also a room full of tomatoes and cucumbers (both greenhouse varieties) which have germinated – the cucs are already about three inches tall after just two weeks, but the tomatoes just germinated about three days ago. I’ll plant starts for our garden at the beginning of April in time to get them planted in the garden as soon as our layers are done scratching it up.

Cucumbers, dandelion greens, lettuce and more are growing away these days in our greenhouse. The greens will be ready to transplant into outdoor beds in a few more days but the cucumbers are staying inside – food for us and the chickens!

This week will also see our first wave of broilers in for the spring – we will have about thirty of them on pasture by the second week of April. We’ll be getting them from Gervais over near Woodburn, but have another set coming in June from a Midwest hatchery which we hope to breed – they are Red Rangers and are supposed to be excellent foragers, so we are hoping to save on feed costs by seeing what they can do out on pasture. Our first set of broilers, by the way, have been delicious; the meat is sweet, tender, and flavorful, and those fattier processed birds that one finds in the store are pretty poor fare compared to how good the meat on our birds has been.

Worlds collide! Or maybe not so much, since our ducks seem to get along admirably with the chickens so far.

It seems like only yesterday that we were covered by sweat, grime, and hay as we put in our fence around the garden and goat corral, and now here we are again, covered in the same three layered coating as we clean up for spring and get ready to ramp up this year. And as soon as we see Grace disrobe and dancing with nymphi nudae you will read it here first!

This, That, and Serendipity

It’s been a tough month. We hate February, as any sane person should. Lori’s business has hit a bit of a speed bump. I had to head to the hospital for a bronchoscopy because of something weird on my lung on an x-ray (for the record, they detected it a year ago, and I feel great!). My best friend’s wife has passed away. Weather veers between sunny and 65 or 40 and rain. Make up your damn mind weather gods!

February was created in order to create, it seems, alcoholics. “Let’s get drunk and watch TV, life’s lost all meaning to me.” That sums up this month pretty well.

The only highlight was Nancy coming on the farm and fitting in like a glove (hooray!) – oh, that plus the big guy in the leather jacket with the pony tail beard I met at the Goat conference who regaled me with tales of success he had in running his ducks with his goats (keeps down parasites!), but apparently he punches out his goats when they infiltrate his cannabis crop (understandable to say the least!)

That’s all for February from DFF. Good night and good luck and good riddance to February!

Now on to March. Life has turned a corner a bit. We got to reconnect with old friends at the Small Farms Conference this past weekend in Corvallis; we also met some great people at the Northwest Dairy Goat Conference the week before that. We have had some sunny evenings with temps around 60 and been able to sit and drink cider on the deck while being regaled with glorious views of Hood and mountain snows in the Coast Range.

During the sunny days in the past week I’ve been happily managing our raspberries; I’ve been planting in our greenhouse; I’ve been managing our compost (of which we have tons – farming is 6/10s managing manure, but my years in academe gave me great preparation!)

But today was very special indeed. We visited a the farm of a friend today, Stacey Brucker. She and her family have a kick-butt rabbit operation; they run cattle and horses, have an orchard, and quite a goat operation, which we went to check out specifically (they also had a great hog operation).

Hot off the presses, two tiny Nubian kids not more than 90 minutes old are tended by their mother. The picture does not really capture their beautiful mahogany sable color they both sported.

Stacey had two pregnant does and had last been in the barn at 8:30 this morning. When we went with her after 10 the Nubian doe had delivered two kids. Then, literally while we were standing there, her second Nubian (a variety with big floppy ears), delivered triplets. We got to see it and it was fabulous. The hay was flooded with amniotic fluid and blood, and Stacey soon removed it along with the membrane that covered them entirely, and within the hour the kids were dried off and nursing on their mothers (with some help). The cries of the kids were virtually indistinguishable from those of a human baby (who was also present!). Their ears were incredibly long, their hooves soft, their legs gangly and wobbly, but it was very moving to see their mothers gently tending their newborns.

This lovely black and white Nubian popped out triplets while we were standing there and handled herself, I must say, with real aplomb. She was up and eating her hay in no time!

Stacey cleans off and tends the newborns. Soon Stacey and her daughter Emily were helping them to nurse off of their mothers and the kids were on their feet.

And it has occurred to me as I have thought about this in the course of the day what a simple thing life is – it slips out of the uterus in slime and blood, quickly dries, and then sucks life from the mother. So simple, so awful in every sense of the word. And as with our timing, in a sense utterly unplanned. We like to think life has order, but it is Chaos – the Greeks knew this, it was their first principle. Chaos and Eris (strife) and Eros (sexual desire) – this sums up life. It did for Hesiod, and it does for us.

Stacey and her family have a great hog operation, and these hogs were, well, laetiores quam porci in stercore (and if I need to translate the Latin you may as well lay down and die right now!)