Summer to Fall

Light posting this summer because we were just so durned busy! And sorry if this comes off more as an illustrated diary than a creative blog post, but after selling countless eggs, putting up innumerable jars of tomato sauce, salsa, and jam, and some difficulties with animals this summer, we are all feeling a little spent, but are now looking forward to the quiet of winter. So what we have here is a running narrative, given in chronological order, of how we spent our summer non-vacation! First, there was a visit to Yamhill River Farm to meet our little boar who will become our breeder, Guns (more on the name later); he’s the little guy resting in the mud on the right with his siblings and mother. That was in June . . .

That was also when the cherry harvest from our trees came in – here Lori and Nancy spend a peaceful afternoon with our dogs outside while pitting them in early July.

That was about the same time that we had the surprise birth of twin bucklings out on pasture to our herd queen, Marguerite, who took the event in stride (we did not!) It was also about this time that we lost our lamb, Bandit, to illness.

But life goes on. A week or so later we attended an event at Belle Mare Farms run by Susan Richmond, who works her fields by horse. The event included a demonstration by her mentor of old time farm equipment.

The cart on which this gentleman is riding is used for stacking bales of hay.

It’s handy since you can attach a conveyor to it that will lift the hay – us? We drive a pickup truck into our neighbor’s field and heft the already bundled bales into our pickup truck using back power and often our knees (hence, “bucking” hay!).

After hauling in the hay, a demonstration followed on mowing.

Susan grows heritage non-gmo, organic grains for feed for our animals, and we are her biggest customers. At the party held afterwards, a number of small farms, us included, highlighted the animals turned food that were fed on her grains. For us that meant highlighting dishes with eggs, chicken, and pork, so we offered attendees ham, frittata, Scotch eggs, chicken liver pate, chicken salad, and ricotta cheesecake with lemon curd. Above, Lori shoes away flies from dinner!

In late July and early August we were flooded with peaches from our little Red Haven, a happy, supper productive little tree in our duck yard. I thinned it and thinned it and thinned it, and we still ended up with a boat load of lovely orange-red fruit, each one absolutely sweet and delicious.

Another project slash experiment this summer was our first batch of heritage breed turkeys. Here we see Bourbon Reds, Blue Slate, Royal Palm, Midget White, and Naraganssets.

There is no pasture for these guys though – unlike Bronze Broad Breasted, they have outstanding flight capacities, and so need to be contained in an aviary we built early this summer; in the future, we may use this for keeping pheasant or quail when not raising these breeds of turkey. Why heritage? All of these are prized for their dark meat. They grow more slowly than Broad Breasted ones as well; with Broad Breasted, we get them in early August and they are ready for harvest in late October or early November. These we got in May and they won’t be ready for harvest until January.

Okay, so now we come to Guns. Why Guns? Well, here he is pictured with his future life-partner, our sow Rosey. So Guns and Rosey.

We brought him home in July and just love him – along with our buck Benny he is the best tempered animal on the farm. Most hogs we have had take a while to warm up to you. This little guy came up to us when we were at his old home and instantly befriended us. We could instantly pet and cuddle him, and give him rubs that would make him go slack. Just rub his right jowl and his left leg gives out from under him and he is flat on the ground enjoying a belly rub. The little guy is part Tamworth (hence the cinnamon color), part Large Black, and part Berkshire (Rosey is all Berkshire).

If you want to know about the garden just go to old blog posts from past years! We got two harvests of potatoes, and reams and reams of dry black beans and cannelini beans too, and the tomatoes and onions were off the charts – note to self: even if you are canning your own tomato sauce for the year and your own salsa, you do not need 50 tomato plants! We put up 50 pints of salsa and an almost equal number of quarts of sauce until we just said to hell with it. The rest are for the pigs. We had a fabulous crop though of Brandywines (which are totally awesome with our own bacon on BLTs!) and this year discovered Black Krims and Green Zebras, which we will add to our favorites list when it comes to tomatoes.

As the fall harvest comes on, I am wondering just how I am going to get these Dills Atlantic Giant pumpkins out of the garden and to the hogs and hens – I wish I had someone in the pic for scale. Just take my word for it, these things are huge, and if I get around to it I’ll post a pic of me posing next to one of these guys later this fall.

My sister and I spent a Saturday at the Carlton Crush, sampling Pinot Noirs from local vintners in Carlton. Here they are hauling in the season’s harvest. This year our own vines produced enough wine for me to put up about two dozen jars of Pinot Noir grape jelly. August and September are pretty harry times for us . . . in fact, June through September is crazed because of all the fruit and produce that comes in then, but it is intensified at the end because nature has a system whereby an enormous amount of fruit ripens and needs to be processed at season’s end.

This year, in addition to salsa, sauce, and jelly, we put up several batches in late August of plum jam from our tree out in front, participated in the local “farm crawl” a couple of weeks ago, helped mentor some younger farmers to get up and running, managed to almost finish another market season (yah! only two more to go!), nursed and continue to nurse and injured lamb (ugh! another lamb issue!) as well as to complete a big portable sheep shelter now out on pasture, and as of Thursday had put up 33 gallons of hard cider, which is now bubbling away in the fruit room of our studio barn. This year I’ll infuse a couple of the seven batches I have brewed with hops, and one with cinnamon stick and clove.

As we look forward to winter, we are prepping for turkey harvest, for the construction of a pig shelter so we can start to breed our hogs, and to taking stock of our first three full years on our property, to think about what is working and what is not. But we are proud to report these days that, with the exception of a few staples such as oil, flour, coffee, and sugar, that an enormous amount of what we consume comes from our land – much more than does not – and that we are able to offer great eggs, chicken, pork, and now goats milk on farm to our friends and clients.

As an undergrad at UMass Boston many years ago who was aspiring to go to grad school and eventually to enter academe, I imagined it was simply not humanly possible to be busier than at that time in my life. Our farmstead has disabused me of that particular error.