october is a rainy month

October 23, 2009

So my stay here is quickly coming to end, the begining of Nov to be specific. Our 3 month time-frame will be up then and i’m heading off to a new place to learn a little something different, still in the farming category though. My overall plan is to continue to work on these farms and gain experience until which time I can re-submit my Peace Corps application (which I was deined for back in March for the TESL program) under the Agriculture program. This is a pretty long-term goal for me, who usually doesn’t plan much in advance.

Anyhow, I’ll miss the stay at my farm here, it was my first one after all and i’ve learned a whole lot. It hit me when I was doing some work the other day also, that I’ll probably never see what happens to say, the row of beets i’m starting on, or all the cabbages and broccoli I planted, or the chickens, or everything here. It’s weird, in a way, to form such a connection with the land and your work but I think it’s inevitable when you have to invest so much effort and self into it. I hope that thinkgs here continue to go better, I definitely joined up at a slower time for the farm due to all the problems with the weather and crop, but I think that we learn the most through the bad times.

And speaking of the weather, after nearly a week of beautiful sun and fall breezes we had a day of rain and what is looking like another chilly overcast morning. Yesterday was one of our CSA days (we’ve moved them to once a week in order to compensate for the poor garden turnout) and it was just a fantastic time harvesting in the pouring rain. Nothing beats getting up in the morning and walking around outside under a downpour for a few hours.¬†I hope they enjoyed the vgetables, is all I can say ūüôā¬†¬†One of my friends had asked what we do when it rains on the farm, and nothing changes really, things that need done still need to get done, good or bad weather. And once you have that attitude, the weather becomes, not as much meaningless and inevitable. It’s easy for me to ignore a rainy day at home by staying inside and reading or making some soup or something, but you have to encounter it here and be ok with it, which I am learning to do. Once you learn you aren’t made of fluff life becomes more worth living for sure.

One interesting problem we’re having is with the roaming chickens, they’re getting a lot of fresh grass and bugs but they’re also getting a lot of herbs and leaves from trees and bushs we’d rather not them eat. I guess this is taking the good with the bad. We’re taking about either moving the chicken coup farther away from the house, fencing in the area we don’t want them in, or just ignoring it.

The strawberries we picked up about a week back are still growing in their pots, waiting for a dry day to plow. I think 1/3 of the field they’re going in is covered in puddles because of yesterday’s rain, so it will be a while still.

Other than all that same general thing going on here, amending rows for transplants, taking care of the animals, pulling up diseased plants (of which were a good number of the pumpkins which was very dissapointing to me personally since one of my first jobs here was to do a lot of weeding and mulching and composting to make those look good and grow big), and tilling for new rows. Today will be clean out the chicken coup day, which is a mark on my calander i hold sone reserves for as it is a thankless job, the chickens not so much appreciating the work as much as wondering why someone cleaned their house when Рbased on the rate at which they mess it up again Рthey apparently like it dirty.

What is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)?

October 14, 2009
 

Good question! I’ve had several friends ask me recently, after I told them what I was doing, what exactly a CSA is. This is something that I myself didn’t fully understand before actually working here, and something which I probably still don’t 100% “get” as it is kinda confusing. But i’ll try and explain the best I can.

But first! Our eggs are all done hatching and we had quite¬†the turnout…¬†*drumroll*

 

una pollita

una pollita

Yes, once again we are left with one baby bird. I don’t know what it is with this, but i guess we’ll have to settle for one at a time. On the plus side, there were no fire ants this time around, and if you compare the picture of this bird with the baby turkey, this one is much better looking. Although it is much louder which is no good.

Anyway, back to the CSA. I guess the real basic idea is this: We all need food to live, and food usually comes from farms (except things like soda and energy bars and candy and breakfast cereals… but even some of those ingredients need to be grown). Now in order to get that food you obviously need to buy from a farm or start growing/raising your own food, obviously. Since most people choose the former option we end up with things like grocery stores to get lots of food to people as quickly and cheaply as possible, hybrid and GMO produce to grow the biggest and most, and factory farms to do the same.

Where the CSA idea comes in is at this point in the chain of supply. Some people are choosing to bypass all those steps and buy directly from smaller (usually) organic (usually) farms. This can be from a farmer’s market, a roadside stand, a store at the farm or u-pick,¬†or a CSA (that’s us!). Here is the difference between the CSA and all those other options: with the others you are buying a carrot, or some lettuce, or some fruit, but with us you are purchasing a membership (a share as we call it) with the actual farm and farmers. So what does that mean? It means that instead of supporting us only through the purchase of our product,¬† you are putting money directly into the ground in the form of seeds, you are purchasing fencing for new pasture for grass-fed beef, you are picking up the tab for the broken clutch on the tractor we need for plowing… and that is way better for everybody.

So it’s a little bit like a sponsorship, the member assists with¬†the financial support of the farm (a cause which they believe in for the above reasons) and in return they get a number of benefits. Benefit #1: Great access to an actual farm, with opportunities to visit, learn, work, and socialize. Benefit #2: The knowledge that you are participating in an effort to make the world a better place by sponsoring local food, sustainable growing techniques, and small business. Benefit #3: A physical share of whatever success the farm happens to have.¬† This last one can take the shape of a jar of honey, a few pounds of beef, some eggs and milk every week, or a box of vegetables. BUT although those are the rewards, there are plenty of risks, and benefits aimed for are not necessarily benefits promised.

And that is what makes it a pretty good idea, that the member assumes the responsibility right alongside the farmer. So, say the farmer’s chicken coup burns down, the members might not be getting any eggs for a while but their money will go towards building a new one, and soon there will be more eggs than before. And the farmer might even let some of them come out and help build it on a weekend ūüôā

So that’s what it is, there are a lot of other interesting facets to it, especially in the way that something like this would work on a broad scale (would it?) and how compatible it is with modern society (is it?). Hopefully this gets you thinking and explains a little!

come on, baby chickens!

October 13, 2009

Well we have 2 so far, and it’s anyone’s guess how many we’ll end up with. Our incubator holds about 40 and we added eggs at 3 different stages, so there’s still some hope for a few more. I think I like the chickens better than the turkeys, they seem a little smarter and tougher. I have told Pam to keep me away from them though, I have bad luck with little birds ūüôā

In other news, I’m wondering if anyone else is actually doing this wwoofing thing? Anybody? One other thing I am doing is the National Novel Writing Month!

www.nanowrimo.org

This is going to be all sorts of amazing, the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, pretty self-explanatory. The motivation behind it is just to get your creativity going and words down on paper. People get incapacitated by all these big ideas about books and novels etc that they forget about just doing it. It’s a good time, I recommend it if you like writing.

Farming news: We’re in the process of planting a lot of garlic, a lot of strawberries, and a lot of transplants. This means a lot of getting rows ready, amending soil, and weeding. All of which i love. Another interesting thing has been the chickens. They have been absolutely flourishing¬† on the “pasture”, getting quite a bit fatter and happier. But their eggs… SOOO much better! Everyone can tell a huge difference, the yolks are stiffer, creamier, richer; they taste exceptional. If it were only for taste difference in the eggs, the pasturing would be worth it.

We’re starting the CSA back up, slowly but surely as we start to grow more vegetables, hopefully the wait will be worth it, we have a lot of great stuff coming.

there you go, George…

October 10, 2009

 

Done and done.

boots

 

sunflowerrow

rainy farm day

October 6, 2009
 

Hello! So today’s weather calls for “T-storms” all day, but so far it’s been pretty weak, definitely not enough to keep one inside all day; but here I am anyway. It’s rainy enough to warrant¬†some tea and some writing anyway.¬†On the agenda for today is getting some flats of seeds planted and ready for transplanting, which can be indoor work. Some of our vegetables (kale, broccoli, some other greens) are having a little trouble sprouting in the ground so we’re going to try and plant them first in the flats with some potting soil. We did this already with some

newrows

 

 

Back in business

cabbage and broccoli and planted them in the garden a few days ago, and they’ve almost doubled in size, they’re doing really great. With those rows done we have a pretty good amount of the garden back after the disasters of a few weeks ago…

 

¬†For the rest of the empty rows, we have heaps and heaps of plants coming in this week. Strawberries, mainly, but also some more vegetables. Thousands of them. Some months are slower than others but this month will not be one of those. Luckily for us though, an extremely gracious farmer friend of ours has lended us his bed maker, which will save us a LOT of time – days in fact. With that out of the way, we can focus on ammending the soil and putting the plants into the ground, still a very labor intensive little chore, but made more manageable by knowing we won’t have to make the beds (see previous posts for how wonderful that was).

 

 

In other news, the chickens are finally free! Last weekend Ronny and I got around to moving the chicken pens to the field and opening them up so the little birds can roam around at their leisure. We still have the 7 from before, but on top of that we have a recent addition of 10 Turken birds from a very amazing donation. As much as I appreciate them and all their eggs and antics, Turkens are the ugliest birds ever. Ever. Some of them are nice, yes, but when they’re bad, they’re bad. Here are some of the nicer looking ones. See how happy they are!

 

turken1

More roaming chickens

  
 What a life

What a life

¬†Now – unfortunately – for the bad news; because there are a few things. Firstly, one of our turkeys was eaten by some sort of animal, probably a coyote. This is sad because it was our turkey, of course, but more so because we were literally just about to go out there and do it ourselves and put him in the freezer… they beat us to it. That specific turkey had a childhood (childhood? chickhood?) vitamin deficiency and so couldn’t really judge its balance or where it was flying, which mad for a lot of amusing nights as I watched it try to fly up to roost, but eventually was its downfall since it was roosting on the ground every night. Secondly, and this is gonna be tough, brace yourself… the baby turkey died ūüė¶ It was partly my fault, but let me explain.

It had been doing really well, so we had placed it in a cage inside the chicken pen so it could be less lonely and adapt to the outside. This was a good idea I think. We would let it run around every day, the chickens were (sorta) warming up to her, it was pretty good. Saturday we went off to the Eco Fair in Wichita Falls (which, side note, was a really good time. We had a booth and had coffee for people so there were plenty of people to talk with and share about the farm and CSA’s. The people at River Bend did a really great job setting it all up too, it went very smoothly), and as I do in the mornings, went out to feed the chickens before we left. Which was early, i don’t even want to say how early i got up. That previous night i had left the cage open a little so the turkey could get out and roost, and i just left it open that day. Well, you know how it is with baby turkeys out in the wild. I think either the chickens pecked it to death or it got its head stuck in the fence; or maybe a combination of the two. Sad day. My Turkey Raising Success Rate is now at 0%. Dang it.

Other than that, I weeded a bunch of stuff, got some new coffee, reconciled with the goat, am thrilled about the fall weather (although I miss the sun), and am learning to kill squash bugs without hesitation. Here is a nice picture of the sparkling morning dew on the row covers to brighten your day.

  dewtule

 

*Edit: Ok, it’s really storming now, I take it back. It started up right as I went outside… of course it did.

we survived the flood…

September 25, 2009

So¬†a whole lot going on here recently, i apologize that I haven’t updated in a while. To kick things off though, this has been a week of amazing sunsets; just blows me away every day…

sunset7

sunset5

sunset6

They’re way better in real life though. So any of you that live in Texas or watch the Weather Channel know that we got a whooole bunch of rain last week. It came out of nowhere for us because it absolutely NEVER rains here. In the first month and half I was here I must have seen a thunderstorm pass within a half mile of us on all sides at least once a week; but never on us. We were getting kinda down since we need the rain to grow our garden. Irrigation can cut it but it can only do so much. There’s something special about the rain, I don’t know what it is (plus irrigation doesn’t fill up our pond and the creek, or water everything else out there).¬†

So I think it was maybe a Friday night, Pam and Ronny and George were all out of town for the weekend and I was left to watch things on my own :O. This was the weekend following several days of unsuccessful gopher hunting on George and I’s part and so I assumed I would spend my time trying to catch the darn thing, working on the garden a bit, and maybe even go running since I hadn’t been since I’ve moved out here (due to me being tired, living on a thin gravel road which i’m not excited about running on, and just never getting around to it). After they had gone I made my way back down to the garden with the traps and decided to try and wait the gopher out and see what was going on since he was consistently burying the traps. Every. Single. Time. I think over the course of the weekend I set them, had them buried, and dug out a new hole about 10 times. But anyway, I was sitting on a bucket down there trying to be real still when i started feeling some raindrops. I thought i’d wait it out since it never rains here, but it started raining pretty heavy and didn’t stop till Tuesday. All the chores… in the rain. All the trap setting… in the rain.¬†Everything… in the rain. This is another thing about farm life i’m finding out. We may have weekends where we don’t need to do any work, but nature really doesn’t. Every day is pretty much the same.

In one of the books i’m reading, Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr., he says of the sailors life back in the 1800’s, “Six days shalt thou work and do all thou art able, and on the seventh, holystone the decks and scrape the cable.” It’s sorta like that. Other than running around in the rain i read a lot and baked cookies. There are times to work and times to rest i suppose.

In terms of the garden and the effects of the rain, there is good news and bad news; more good than bad though. Rain of any sort waters the ground, obviously, and so we were able to turn of the irrigation system, and like i said it’s a better sort of watering so the plants grow better. Another benefit is that the rain washes away a lot of the bugs in the garden ( or at least i suppose thats what happens). We were having a pretty ridiculous time with the grasshoppers and squash bugs and cutworms etc etc, but ever since the rain there haven’t been as many, and several of the plants, specifically the swiss chard, have been able to grow back a good amount, also with the help of some foliar feed spray. There is the downside though, in that anything we spray will be washed off as soon as it rains again, which was usually in about an hour or two, although that can be helped by just spraying at the right time I suppose. Our garden is also situated in a way which pools up water on the south end so there are about 15 ft. of tomatoes and pumpkins underwater still ūüė¶ I think we will market those as our hydroponic variety if they live; that our just put a little rice paddy down there.

Other garden news: lots of disease. There just seems to be no stopping these diseases, but we are trying the best we can. George was researching some biodynamic method which involved collecting clear urine from a certain cow and maturing it under a full moon, then stirring a certain number of clockwise/counter-clockwise stirs… I have not tried that but believe me I will let you know if I ever do. It sounded kinda Harry Potter-esque to me. We are however using potassium bicarbonate and hydrogen peroxide, which I suppose works a little. The latest strategy has been to really drench the leaves and that might be working better. Oh! Another big help with the bugs has been some row covers we bought. When I say row covers I actually mean tule, like a wedding veil. I felt just a little bit silly going down the rows with Ronny laying out this huge thing like we were decorating for a wedding or something. It is working fantastic though, covering the cabbages, kale (my favorite), turnips, and whatever else.¬† I’ll have to get a picture of that. It’s pretty great.

Last update which i’ve put off at the risk of getting everyone all excited then not delivering, we are expecting about 20 baby chickens any day (actually any minute) now. We have them in an incubator in the office and are just waiting now, as the deadline was today. It should work since we pretty much know what we’re doing with the incubator and I know the eggs were fertile; just belive me on that one. Keep your fingers crossed. Perhaps the saddest news for last, my good friend and working buddy, George, has finished his time here at Rose Creek Farms and has moved on. I will miss him, but only until Pam finds a nice¬†young¬†lady wwoofer ūüėČ

gopher hunting 101

September 5, 2009
 

 

Before I get into this let me just say that it has finally begun raining and i’ve never been so excited for a storm. I am not a particular fan of the rain, it’s why I will probably never be able to live in the Northwest, but when it rains here my heart just gets so happy. I guess i’ve never been in a position to really needthe rain. It can make or break a farm for sure.¬† I suppose there is just a different set of things you rely on and anticipate¬† when you’re out a little more on your own out here, I can’t imagine how much stronger these feelings would seem if I were relying on this farm for my sustenance and livelihood.

So gophers. Let me preface this story with another story though.¬† Part of my work here is helping to take care of the animals, one of which is a goat. They are pretty low-maintenance, provide them with water and a fresh place to graze and that’s about it. We have a nice long tether that we¬† put on a tree or anything and try to move it every once in a while. So George and I were loading up some compost and soil amendments to go planting, when he sees our man the goat just kind of saunter by, no tether or anything, right in the middle of the farm. Now we caught him when he ran off before – he’s always busting up whatever is holding him – and I found the best way was just run after him until he got tired since I was pretty sure i could outrun him. So I spent the next 5 or 10 minutes chasing this goat all over the farm until he finally just gave up and I could grab in and bring him back where we could fix the chain. Dang, I thought, I won’t ever let that happen again. We fixed the hook that had bent out and let him off then started dragging him back to where he was grazing, and I started feeling sorry for him, getting chased and dragged all over the place. I was feeling a little compassionate and held him a little softer,¬†guiding along, inviting him to be a part of our little family… when he bucked his horns out of my hand and took off across the field. Moral of the story, there is no room for compassion on the farm.

The first gopher clue, a crescent shaped mound

The first gopher clue, a crescent shaped mound

 

With that in mind, I threw myself whole-heartedly into our latest adventure, which was getting rid of the gophers digging up all our plants. We had figured out we had gophers after seeing some mounds popping up around the vegetables and after I saw, no kidding, an entire plant get sucked under the ground right in front of my eyes. Maybe the weirdest thing I have seen so far.

After buying some traps at the Alvord Farm Supply, we headed out to the field with nothing but the directions on the box and some YouTube video George had seen earlier about catching gophers. Despite all that, we managed to find some fresh mounds, and despite being city folk, we managed actually unearth a tunnel (which George found first, consequentially upsetting me a little since my dream as a child was to become an archaeologist and thought I was pretty good at digging stuff up. Apparently not). But we got those traps set and we were ready to go. I guess the idea is that you try to dig into the main tunnel, not their lateral feeding tunnels. Once there you position the traps so that they trip them as they walk past to investigate why there is a gigantic hole in their roof.
Danny&George Gopher Trapping Inc.

Danny&George Gopher Trapping Inc.

With that set we went back to weeding for about an hour or two¬†before heading up to the house for some water. Right before we left though, we thought we would make sure the traps were still there and set and everything, we sure weren’t expecting what we found, which was a gopher. That’s right, within two hours we had trapped our first gopher ever. So we did what we do with trapped gophers¬†then decided to set the traps again over on the other set of mounds we saw, although we had heard there was usually only one gopher in a vicinity.

 
Trap set, we got to talking about something down there in the field for about 15 minutes before getting set to head out for a break. Just for kicks, we thought, let’s check the trap. What do you think was there in that hole, not 15 minutes after we had dug the tunnel up. Yep, another gopher.
This gopher's belly is full of our black-eyed peas, which is no good.

This gopher's belly is full of our black-eyed peas, which is no good.

We were both pretty shocked and excited at our success, I don’t think either one of us were expecting anything, or at least so quickly. I think I felt sorry for them for about 2 seconds before I remembered the goat, and the turkey we had for lunch, and then got over it. Like I said before, there is no room for compassion on the farm. But lest anyone thinks otherwise, we are still very full of love for nature and all creatures great and small.

Other than that recent excitement nothing else really outstanding going on. We have been hearing from a lot of interested volunteers lately, WWOOF and non-WWOOF alike. It’s great to hear that so many people are interested in this sort of thing, as well as willing to get out and work despite school¬†and whatever else they have going on.¬†It really says a lot for the character of these people, and for the types of things¬†we (young people especially) are are¬†starting to value.¬†¬†We were even privileged with the company of a volunteer this Saturday afternoon, which was enormous help, and he’s a pretty cool guy for a home-schooler ūüėČ

I also got a wheel alignment for my car today and despite exceptional performance, gas mileage, aesthetics, and street cred, I don’t think I will ever buy a VW again for the sheer cost of parts. You don’t even want to know.

 

more of what i'm doing

September 2, 2009
 

For a while there I thought I was pretty invincible, working all the time, but turns out not so much. I think I went to bed the other day at 9:30; that’s pretty early for a kid like me. But 6am comes pretty early too. I was able to get away a little bit this last weekend to help some friends of the farm do some gardening over in Lewisville. I went over to Denton a little bit to a bookstore and coffee shop, a little bit of the old life for a day ūüôā It was nice, but i forget how stressful it can be, all those people and putting up show and trying to be all trendy… exhausting. Anyway, i think i brought back some sort of cold bug from them city folk cause i haven’t been feeling too hot these last few days. I’ve been taking it easy so I haven’t been able to get as much done, but still a lot going on.

I made up a new (bigger) box for our quickly growing baby turkey, who unfortunately is all alone as her brown baby brother died a few days ago. On the plus side she is doing really well, very energetic.

Strawberry field sans strawberries

Strawberry field sans strawberries

This week seems to have been taken up with tearing down. We are in our make-up CSA week which means we have only about half the amount of boxes to fill, so we can really concntrate on the projects that need getting done.  Last year they grew strawberries here, and instead of leaving the plants in (they were in pretty bad shaped, diseased etc) we decided to pull up the rows and plow them under and start again. This meant tearing up the 5 or 6 beds they had made last year. Like I said before, this is pretty tough work making those beds, easily a 3-4 hour deal with Ronny, George, and myself, so it was a little heartbreaking tearning them up. Once i found out how tough it was I got over it pretty quick. You have to dig down the side of the row to get all the plastic out, pulling up any weeds, then pull out all the runners on the weeds on hte top so the plastic can lift off and roll up. I think it took all day, lots of fun.

 
 
 
 
 
In the vein of getting rid of stuff, there were a few rows of squashes and green beans that were diseased with powdery mildew, and not really producing
4 empty rows

3 empty rows

anymore on top of that, and so we tore them up and then towed them over to the charcol oven to turn them into charcol for future soil amendments. This also took a little bit of time, but was annoying for me since squash plants, as you may know, are sorta prickley. I don’t really wear gloves so I just had to man up and pull ’em out. Which I did.
 
Gloves were one of the things the WWOOFing people recommended I bring along with a hat, sunscreen, work boots, a bike,¬†and all sorts of crazy stuff. The things I’ve found that are essential are boots, a knife, a bandana, and a bunch of old t-shirts and jeans. Done. You can keep all that other fancy stuff.
 
Today was a CSA day, and after we harvested all that and divided it all up, Pam and George took off for Arlington and I stayed back to rest up from this cold and maybe do a little planting. I listened to a little Ryan Adams, drank some tea, and finished part 1 of Anna Karenina which I just started reading, then decided that the best way to fight a cold was not to do any of those things, but rather to go work outside for 5 hours. Since our fall season is coming up we need some vegetables, and to get those we need to plant them, so I got a bunch of planting done.
 
Our soil here is pretty sandy and certain areas are lacking in quality, so we ammend it as best we can. I tried to document our basic planting process for anyone who cares:
Your basic patch of dirt

Your basic patch of dirt, ready for a good planting.

 
Dig a hole and add...

Dig a hole and add:

 
Soil ammendments...

Soil ammendments...

 
And compost.

And compost.

 
Mix 'em up in there and smooth out the dirt,

Mix 'em up in there and smooth out the dirt,

 
A hole for the seed, cover it up and you're done.

A hole for the seed, cover it up and you're done.

 
Finished down this row and the row on the left.

Finished down this row and the row on the left. Lots of holes and seeds... hopefully they'll grow ūüôā

 
 
Oh and some more good news, the weather has been a chilly 90 degrees lately with a little breeze. Those few degrees really make a difference. Keep it up out there.

 

baby turkeys

August 26, 2009
 

 

This story about baby turkeys cannot be told without first letting ya’ll know about Texas fire ants. A lot of people here disagree on politics, the weather, gardening, ranching, food, and everything else, but I don’t think i’ve met one person so far who thinks fire ants are worth anything. So far the universal response to any statement regarding them has been a sad gaze at the ground, a slow shake of the head, and a mumbled ” ****¬†fire ants.” Ever time.

Apparently these little ants came over from Africa, where they actually have predators and a balanced ecosystem. Now they just move across this country without any care in the world.¬† From what I found out they showed up all over Texas about 15 to 20 years ago and have multiplied ever since. There are plenty of interesting examples of what happens when you introduce a foreign creature into a new environment, for example there used to be quite a thriving population of quails in the area. However, since they lay their eggs right there on the ground in the middle of the fields, they are extremely vulnerable to fire ant attacks as soon as the chicks come out of their shells. There are even stories of fire ants killing baby deer as soon as they are born… they are worthless.

Enter our turkey into this story. She laid about 13 eggs next to the dog pen, which meant she was safe from the sorts of predators who are afraid of dogs, and it looked like a pretty snug little nest. Turkey eggs take around 4 weeks to hatch (it’s either 21 or 28 days, I can’t remember), and I guess I miscalculated it because I totally didn’t see it coming.

I was in the field doing some work around 6 in the evening when I remembered that I needed to feed the chickens. So I left the garden and headed up to the area where the chickens and turkey nest was. As I approached I noticed that all the animals were behaving really oddly, some where really quiet, some where making weird noises, and all of them real really anxious. I glanced over at the turkey nest and noticed that the mom wasn’t sitting, but was standing off to the side looking very worried. Some of the eggs were hatched but the chicks were not doing what I thought they should be doing, namely sleeping contentedly under their mother.

So I ran inside and yelled to Pam that the turkeys were hatched, then ran back outside to the nest to find everything crawling with fire ants. I don’t know much about animals or farming yet, but this didn’t seem like the way it should be. These are the moments in life where you can shoose to save the children from the burning building,¬†¬†or not… and i did. I’d like to think i’m just another person being a good citizen, but I am very much a hero, it’s true.

Using my music festival crisis mode operandum, i grabbed the nearest chick and brushed off as many as I could before carrying it about 10 yards away and laying it in the grass. It appeared as though they had all wandered away from the nest as soon as they realized they were covered in ants,¬†but i managed to¬†find five¬†in the¬†10 ft square area, under pallets and¬†branches and buckets and whatnot. At this point i made probably the only decision I regret, and that was dunking one of the turkeys in a bucket of water… hm,¬†not that good of an idea now that i think about it. The logic there, if you’re interested was this. The turkey in¬†question was the¬†worst off, absolutely covered in ants, 100%. I knew i had to get them off quick and figured that submerging him in water would loosen all the ants. It kind of worked, but the water was kinda cold and it probably did more harm than good. After we moved all of them¬†and the eggs to a box under a light that Pam prepared, he was the first one to die ūüė¶¬†¬†

Freshly saved turkey

Freshly saved turkey

 

This isn’t him, but sort of a dramatic re-enactment of the moment. Can you feel the¬†tension?¬†Don’t let his¬†contentedness fool you, they were scared for sure.¬†With 5 out of 13 hatched and¬†safe (for now), that left 8 eggs that still needed to be hatched. Teh mother, at this point, was kinda wandering lost¬†around the yard, presumably trying to find her precious babys. Well¬†we had

turkeymama

 

Turkey taking a second shot at raising chicks.

them, and after we got them into a box and removed the rest of the ants, we let her in and she sat right down in the box on the eggs.

The next morning we found out that our man i dunked didn’t make it, along with one other one. Good news was that another had hatched during the night, a pure white one, and so we now had a total of four. Wee kicked the turkey out the next day and moved them to a smaller box where two more died (I think of internal injuries from the fire ants getting inside their mouth, gross.) One of the two was blind and he actually held on a little while longer than the other, but eventually just wasn’t strong enough.

And so we are left with two, and they are doing exceptional. The white one is energetic with a remarkable attitude, pecking at everything, jumping around, running away when you try to pick her up. The brown one is a¬† little more shy (tame?), a little slower, and¬† a little more curious. I’ve been letting them outside these last few days to run around in the grass and find grasshoppers to eat, and they’ll explore and peck and do all sorts of tukey things. They also think I am their mother.¬† Which isn’t very accurate but probably pretty close to the truth. If i get up and walk away they’ll follow me around, which i suppose the mother turkey does. Interesting fact, when i use my hand to kind of ruffle the grass, they’ll run over and try to peck whatever i’m touching. I’m guessing it’s the way the mother turkey teaches them to hunt and eat. I try to show them tasty things.

 

These are them

These are them

They grow about an inch every day it seems, we’re just so proud. Pretty soon we’ll be able to reintroduce them to the rest of the turkeys and we can leave them on their own for a while, at least until next thanksgiving ūüėČ

yep, still farming.

August 24, 2009
 

 

 

LOTS going on lately, sorry i haven’t been able to provide¬†that many updates; ok, any¬†updates. There were some computer troubles and besides that I was too busy relocating armadillos, building gardens, and saving baby turkeys.

This next week will mark a month I have been here at Rose Creek Farm. The time seems to go by so slowly when i’m working outside, but I look up and a week has passed in a second; it’s strange. We have such a routine here and I think that contributes to the time going by so quickly. When you don’t have to think too much about everything you can just relax and work. We have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)¬†every MWF, and then a “rest day” on Sunday. This last Sunday was the first I actually took, previously weekends had just meant sleeping in until 8 and taking an extra long lunch. And lest anyone think Ronny and Pam are some sort of slave drivers, I’m doing this all on my own ūüôā We agreed that I wouldn’t have to work weekends and that I was able to take off and do whatever if i wanted to, but after going to Dallas to drop off some CSA shares, I don’t think i’ll be going anywhere near that place ever again, the traffic was that bad. I’ve seen pretty bad traffic, that’s not the problem. A year in LA and you’ll get some of that. But the traffic in Dallas was just annoying.

There are a lot of things that seem that way. We’ve been having lots of great discussions around the dinner table, Pam, Ronny, George, (the other intern) and myself. Most often they’re centered on food quality or health or alternative medicine, very interesting stuff. One thing that stands out to me though is the lack of “natural” in the natural world. For instance, if a product label claims 100% natural strawberry flavoring, that in no way means that the flaviring was derived from a strawberry, and that sort of stuff is EVERYWHERE. The dirt is no longer clean and free of chemicals (ours is though:), you can’t drink water out of a stream or river like you used to be able to, you can’t trust produce – the “natural” food source – to be fresh or nutritious unless you are gonig through very trusted channels like a farmer’s market or local CSA. It’s just something i’ve been thinking about, and i hope that I can live to see some of it change. It seems a shame that we can’t trust what I used to think had the most stability and integrety of anything out there.

 

Me doing something incredible. 

Me doing something incredible.

 
I kinda neglected to give a lot of details on how and why exactly i’m here, so here’s a little more detailed information. I am here through a program called WWOOF, which connects interested volunteers with organic farms. They leave much of the details up to the parties involved, so we’ve been able to work out a pretty good arrangment here. I really have no prior farming experience so in return for teaching me everything they know and providing room and board, I will be working for them a minimum of 3 months, for about 6 hours a day.¬†In reality though, since my #3 stregthsfinder is Achiever and i never stop, i end up working all day. It’s difficult for me to just not do any work since i’m living here and this is essentially my whole life. It’s one of the first times i’ve really been driven to accomplish things every hour of the day. But then i’m able to get stuff like this done:

 

 

 

raisedbed

 A garden bed we made     

 
 
 
 Weeding job in progress

Weeding job in progress

 

 

Weeded row (it was 3 ft high weeds... seriously)

Weeded row (it was 3 ft high weeds... seriously)

 
 
¬†So these are the things that I do. A lot of weeding and digging and¬†building gardens. A lot of our MWF are taken up with the CSA though. We spend the morning harvesting the vegetables¬†and herbs, then the¬†few hours before and after lunch¬†dividing¬†the shares and packing¬†them up. ¬†There are a lot of things to learn here, every day it seems like something new pops up to be dealt with. Ronny and Pam are really great¬†teachers though, and i’ve learned a whole lot from them. For instance, in a second here i’m going out to spray some potassium bicarbonate on some of the plants to fight the powdery mildew fungus that¬†has diseased some of them ūüė¶¬†
 
 
 
In the¬†animal news side of things, we had a couple¬†interesting things happen. Actually the first one¬†wasn’t really that interesting, all that happened was that I got to hold an armadillo for the first time ever! He snuck into our garden and was rooting all around so we caught him (read that Ronny caught him while we watched) and I turned him loose¬†down the road a bit.¬†Heaps of fun.
 
 
 armadillo

They love being held

  
¬†There is a pretty great story about me saving 5 baby turkeys from fire ants, but that will have to wait until next time…