August 29, 2006 – A Garlic Testament

This is a wonderful gem of a book about farming and life, exquisitely written. The title is A Garlic Testament (I think that because it is “a” garlic testament and not “the” garlic testament, author Stanley Crawford, New Mexico garlic farmer allows for another version).

Here’s a great passage that is entitled – The Cranky Farmer Talk.

“Is your stuff organic?”┬á There will be a moment of hesitation, I will look you in the eye to assess what kind of response you want. If a rhetorical one, I’ll say merely: “we have never used any chemical herbicides or pesticides and never will.”

Often this suffices. But sometimes I see genuine curiosity. Then I go on to explain that the only organic pesticides I have used are rotenone for bean beetles and sabadilla dust on summer squash, and only occasionally. Yet even these, because they are still poisons, however, organic, I’m still reluctant for a narrowly personal reason, that of my own health.

So what about you? I would conclude. What about your life? Is it organically lived? Here I might pause to summon up the courage to bring up the forbidden subject. And if I might ask, what about the money you would offer to pay me with? Is it organically earned? In short, how have you managed to solve these problems in your life? Have you actually figured out how to live a clean life in a dirty age?

Then I will listen. I may hear rationalizations of a fanatic, fretting over notions of exalted states of bodily purity. And for good reason. Perhaps in the poisonous desert of a city there is little else you can do besides seek out what you hope is “pure” food. Yet I hope I will also hear the deliberations of someone who understands the endless dilemmas of living in these times, someone who understands the term organic as pointing towards an ideal of how a community might better elaborate itself around the use of land and water. How it might regard the rural landscapes that surround it, the cycles of nature and the interactions of the vegetative, the animal, the human and cultural. How it might seek to draw back into its life what the fashion of the moment has exiled to “the country.”

The question is posed. I will ask it or not, you will answer it or not. But whether spoken or not, all this and more comes to bear on that instant of suspicion or of trust in which I hand over at last a small sack of garlic in exchange for a few pieces of paper.

These will be new and crisp or wrinkled and smudged. Either way, as always, they will be engraved with magical images and words, and will reveal nothing about the uses to which they’ve been put.

But enough. Thank you. It’s been good talking to you. Enjoy your garlic.

Now go read it.

Last week I lamented about the world swallowing up Martin. Well, today, my fears of letting the world engulf him were justified. The little guy came home with a battered nose, mouth, and chin from falling off playground equipment. He looked bad, but I don’t think he is any worse for wear. He said the nurse was nice.

August 28, 2006 – Stuck Goat

This evening the goats were bleating like they do when one gets separated or they need help. It’s a different kind of sound than the “feed me” or “milk me” sounds.

Nellie caught her head in the fence.

Trying to get her head out every which way – neck first, nose first, and on…

Finally, it’s time for the fence bending blocks and levers to try to bend the wire just enough to release the goat. If this doesn’t work, the ultimate solution is the sawz-all!

Free at last!

Last night it started raining (about 2.25 inches worth of driving rain) about 3:30 am and strong east wind and unseasonably cold August temperatures in the mid-50′s. I started to worry about the chickens outside, but tossed fitfully until first hint of light, hoping not to see a pile of dead birds. Just one died – a turkey – but I jerry-rigged additional shelter with tarps to get them through the rest of the day.

August 27, 2006 – Why are We Doing This?

Today Linda presented the service a church entitled: Greetings from the non-barcode people: eating and living well in place (first part stolen from a chapter title from Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma). It is kind of ironic as just the night before we considered liquidating all the animals, ceremoniously burning the gardens, and going to Wal-Mart to buy a freezer full of instant dinners at 5 for $10.

Then we’d have time to read more books, drink more coffee in coffee shops, travel more and yada-yada. We’re at the end of the season burn-out. It was on top of a bad week at High Hopes. One of the sheep died, we figured we had lost at least 17 of our broilers to an unknown stalker, the cows broke through the cattle panels in the back pasture and munched down all the hardwood trees I planted last year, we had to temporarily move the 2 day old turkeys into the house, and attended a wonderful, but sad memorial service. This is on top of a transition week to all kids starting a new school and Linda starting another academic year.

On Friday she had a meeting with our congressional representative and Senator Grassley’s aides concerning an appropriation for the sustainable and entrepreneurial program at MCC. Keep your fingers crossed.

I also was able to do more scavenging. The local Freecycle site announced a farm was open to take any and everything from the outbuildings (for free). It was only about 30 miles away, so I thought it was worth a try to see if it was good or junk. I didn’t find out about it until day two of the “open barn,” but still got some good stuff, including a 1/2″ drill, lots of oyster shells, transluscent panels, an aluminum and wood 8 ft ladder, a vintage 50′s Scwhinn Hiawatha bike with the nice baskets on the back, cream separater bowl, and so on.

August 26, 2006 – Putting Food By and By

As today was the Memorial for Mildred Grimes, we weren’t able to go to market. I’m glad we went to the service – it was very beautiful. We were, however left with many tomatoes, beans, and raspberries to “use or lose.” Linda and Emma canned 21 quarts of tomatoes.

We’ve got our old kitchen countertop on wheels and old gas stove on a propane tank, so we can keep the mess out of the house.

Claire and I dug more potatoes. I had a crabby and happy picture of Claire, and chose the happy picture this time.

August 25, 2006 – Photo Friday “Circle”

This week’s Photo Friday Contest theme is “Circle.” Here is my entry.

This is a Gaillardia from our garden photoshopped into a round shape.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Gaillardia:

Gaillardia is a genus of drought-tolerant annual and perennial plants from the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to North America. It was named after M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, an 18th-century French magistrate who was a patron of botany.

August 24, 2006 – Thingamajig Thursday #38

Here’s this week’s “Thingamajig Thursday” entry. Also check out
last week’s answer.


As always, put your guess in a comment below.

Answer…

This is a three point attachment for a tractor with a receiver-type hitch commonly attached to trucks and cars. It can be used to haul trailers and equipment with ball connections.

August 23, 2006 – The World Swallows Martin

Here’s the world opening up its mouth to swallow up my little boy!

Like all of us, he was very brave in starting his whole new world. So many questions – how do I act, who will be my friends, what will I eat, can I do it? For Martin, it is just the beginning of those questions. Now, once again, I to have to face the same questions with my new spaces and time.

I missed the little guy more than I envisioned today. I’m kind of moping around with a feeling of loss. He was a constant companion for five years at home. I’m sure I’ll get over it – he won’t look back and eventually I will adjust to the stunning silence, lack of questions, and absence imaginative play. I hope he manages to keep that alive, despite of school and its attendant structure and conformity.

I for one, have to learn how to do something for more than 30 minutes at a time! With Martin, he would help, but had a 5-year old’s attention span. The good news was there is always something new to do. Given the variables of season, weather, and Martin, the nearly unlimited choices narrowed to a few. Now one of the variables is gone. We’ll see how dad adjusts!

August 22, 2006 – Livestock = Deadstock

There’s a saying – if you’ve got livestock, it won’t be long before you have deadstock. Two things struck today. We had a group of laying hen chicks in with some of our broilers that free-ranged during the day and were locked up in a building at night. The layers are much younger and smaller. Other broilers were in chicken tractors and out on the “range” in electric fences surrounding them. Linda kind of thought the numbers were going down. I had seen a wild cat numerous times in and around the building they were living.

Tomorrow 10 replacement turkeys may come, (the original 10 died in transit) so we were moving the chicks from that building to new accommodations so the new turkeys can brood in peace and be protected from the cat. Only 8 of 25 layer chicks remain! Time to find a new home for the cat!

While I was readying the brooder, Claire yells out that she thinks Blindy (the lamb) is dead. Sure enough, he was – no signs of anything wrong with him. I think that whatever caused him to be blind and have deformed feet, must have finally killed him. He was nice and blocky, fat tummy (but not bloated) and free of the runs.

I gently brought his body over to the animal composter pile, placed a layer of half-rotted manure/compost on the bottom, placed him on the compost, then covered with a bunch of hay and got it soaking wet. In a strange way, it felt good to take care of him in a respectful and natural way. It will be the first use of the new composter.

August 21, 2006 – Last Martin-Daddy Day!

I still can’t believe this day is here. Most MWFs since Martin was born were “Martin-Daddy” days. Today was the last one as he starts Kindergarten on Wednesday. I’m not sure what it means to him or me with him gone each weekday at school. He was my constant companion and helper for the last five years. He has shown a great willingness and aptitude for helping on the farm.

I sensed that he too knew today was the start of a new adventure for both of us. One way this expressed itself was that he made two lists:

One list was things that Daddy wanted to do. The other list was things that Martin wanted to do. He carried the lists around all day and if you look closely, you can see he crossed a few things off the lists.

Martin wanted to put together the baking rack that was in pieces in the barn.

Dad wanted to get the leftover tomatoes from Market canned – 7 quarts and 7 pints. There were more things on the list, but that’s just one from each of our lists.

August 20, 2006 – Today’s Bounty

Fellow scavenger and bargain hunter neighbor calls me about 5:00 yesterday and informed me of this “rummage sale” at a former small state nursing home. Everything was for sale, but nothing was marked – it was make an offer.

The best bargain, I think, is an 8 ft long stainless steel table.

I did a quick check on e-bay and found a used one for $650.00, so I’m probably all right on that one. They wouldn’t sell me the stainless 3-section sink off the wall though.

I also got a couple of 5 foot bakers racks with about 5-6 shelves, two gym style locker towers, a CD player, some food service items (cookie sleeves, portion cups) and cases of old food for chicken food – chow mien noodles, oatmeal, ice cream cones and a bunch of other things. Total bill for everything $72.00.

It was a sad place – all the old beds, institutional-type furniture and dormitory-type rooms – even some people’s personal effects were boxed up in a closet – clothes, tapes, Christmas decorations etc. It was as if the place was closed suddenly and everything was just left as it was.

August 19, 2006 – Unnatural Fruit of the Garden

You’ve all seen the unnaturally shaped garden vegetables – misshapen potatoes and squash seem particularly amenable to be Rorschach Test subjects. Some are even purposely grown in uncommon shapes in special vegetable molds.

We have a tomato entry (unmodified) in the non-standard tomato shape contest.

I will let the readers jump to their own conclusions regarding the particular resemblance of this tomato to other natural forms. Suffice to say that many drug companies will no doubt want the genes from this tomato!

August 18, 2006 – Mildred Grimes

A notable person in our community passed away this week. Mildred Grimes was perhaps most notably known for the Nature Center at Grimes Farm. Mildred and her husband had tended the farm with TLC by planting trees, restoring wetlands, and reintroducing prairie. They donated the farm to conservation groups for all to use as an educational and recreational facility.

Mildred is pictured in the middle of this snapshot from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Today there is a nature center managed by the local Conservation Board. The place holds a special place in my heart as I wrote a grant that helped build the nature center.

Here’s a bit of an article by local state legislator, Mark Smith, reflecting on Mildred:

My grandfather was an eighth grade educated Iowa farmer who lived by these simple rules: feed your family, honor the soil, and be a good neighbor. Nothing could better describe Mildred Grimes. Anyone who knew her was aware of how valuable family was to her. She honored the soil by working constantly to return the land to its native conditions. She was a good neighbor who always found the best in everyone.

Mildred was not without enemies. But her enemies were plants that had been imported and provided environmental contamination: Reed’s Canary, Multiflora Rose, and Musk Thistle were some of her archenemies. There was not a person on her list of enemies.

Mildred’s husband served as a successful Marshalltown area attorney for many years. He was Mayor of Marshalltown. Mildred supported everything he did. In 1965, he and Mildred purchased their farm and began to work more actively for land conservation. Together they began efforts that resulted in the development of the Grimes Farm Nature Center.

As a result of Mildred and Leonard’s generous donation, Mildred’s love of nature will live for years to come. Each time a child visits the Nature Center and experiences the natural environment and wildlife, Mildred’s teaching will be present.