Thursday, April 28, 2011

Slow, Chilly and Waiting

For all of you Buster fans out there--he's adjusting just fine.

Not much has been going on at the farm since Monday. It's been cold and rainy since then and this morning I walked out of the granary into a flurry of snow, which baby plants aren't real fond of. Honestly the rest of us are ready for some warmth too. My living quarters (the granary) are not heated--and my farm family has generously offered to let me stay in the farm house these past weeks, but I want to stick out out here. I wear layers to bed (including hat and mittens) covered in 5 trusty blankets I have slept just fine. I even dare to say I'm getting used to the cold (while still inviting the warm weather.) All part of the fun.

The past few days I've been working on creating a searchable archive of all the recipes from the farm's newsletter for the past 8 years. It should be a wonderful resource for the members of the CSA, or for anyone who lives in the upper Midwest who is a member of a CSA or those who would just like a locally grown, seasonal cookbook. I, myself, am pretty excited to try a lot of the recipes--I'll put up the link to it once it's complete.

Yep, the most excitement I've seen around here in the last few days is from the chickens. They start clucking before the coop door is open, and when it is, they are hungry and raring to go. It doesn't take long to figure out how their name was slandered. Brave, they are not. They are funny and fun to watch, and I'm sure the breakfasts and baking they'll support this summer will be nothing short of yum.
Since it's been cold and wet so late into the Spring, it sounds like we'll really have to hit the ground running when the good weather comes. I'm looking forward to it.

I've been taking the opportunity of this lull to drive around the area a bit after work and listen to my new friends' advice on great places to visit here.

For instance: Laura Ingalls Wilder's cabin is nearby, as is Caddie Woodlawn's. There is local pottery in Downsville. Two cheese factories, one only about 5 miles away in Eau Galle and another in a place called Katie (I'm not sure if that's how it's spelled.) I want to bike the Red Cedar River Trail, explore the Tiffany Bottoms and fish all the streams around here--Nugget Lake too. We're right at the edge of the Driftless Zone of Wisconsin here. Apparently one of the glaciers hit us and the other missed us--so it's pretty unique. I've heard there are good local wool/yarn sources too (oh boy.)

It just seems like there is always so much to see and do, no matter where you are. In every place that I have lived, whenever I tell someone I lived in such and such a place I will inevitably be asked about a portion of it or near it that I have never even heard of, and always wish I had. I am immediately followed by the desire to go and check it out for myself.

I don't move around a lot (I think, though some may beg to differ.) And I'm no world traveler by many people's standards--though I love hearing stories and seeing pictures about visits to far away places and cultures. But more than that--I love listening to people who have lived in one place for much of their lives because it's a place that they love. A place that they chose, that they are proud of, because they love it and feel a connection to it. City, country, state, country.... heck even suburb. I may not fall in love with the place myself, but one's passion for it I can't help but glow with respect for.

I can tell there is love for the place I am now and am fast learning why.
Despite the cold, it is beautiful and bountiful and the people I've recently come to know are good, good people. I'm sure of it.

It will warm up soon--I'm sure of that too.

For now the plants are safe in their greenhouse, the chickens, in their coop and Buster and I in the granary--just waiting.

Some of you have been inquiring as to how big my buddy/guardian Oscar really is--I tried to take a few photos of us together for a sense of scale--I'll do a better job soon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Manual Labor Monday

Common Sense doesn't get the respect it deserves. "Common" just sounds so undistinguished. But it's knowledge that is tried and true --the stuff that you should probably keep at the ready in your head at all times. Little things, like wearing rubber boots and leather work gloves can make a big difference (especially if you need your fingers in good shape for knitting.)

Fingerless gloves have also been very good to me here as the temperatures are taking their time to get to a consistently comfortable level. I made myself a few more pairs out of old Smart Wool socks that had holes in the toes--free tip for you all there.

Today we conquered the task of digging 38 holes (27 inches deep, 12 inches in diameter) as a next step in the construction of the high tunnel. Though we had the help of heavy machinery for about half of them and I personally was easily the slowest digger of us all--it was more digging than I've ever done before and I could feel it. I'm guessing I'll feel it tomorrow too, but it was a beautiful day and I appreciate the honesty of this kind of work. You can't fake it. We have our physical limits and all we can do is push them to make them greater. It's humbling and I'm hopeful that I'll have big strong arm muscles by the end of the season.

My co-worker, always generous with his knowledge, his stories and a hand to help, (also generously) brought me some super tasty Ramps (wild leeks that grow around here.) If you come across any I recommend giving them a try. I hear you can eat Nettles too, we have a bunch growing around the farm--but I've yet to try them--I'll let you know.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Farm Life

This April through October I'm stepping out of my comfort zone to work on a farm, learn more about how to be self-sufficient and attempt to further figure out what I think I want in life--to find out if the farm is where I really want to be, or something I've romanticized for a good chunk of my worldly being.

My living quarters are a bit rustic (a word my Dad used--and I think fits) by most people's standards, but pretty, if you ask me. It's also pretty roomy, and comes with built-in nature sounds (sparrows live just above my ceiling.) This building was an old granary on the farm, now it's where Buster (the cat) and I call home

Luckily we have the family's guard dog, Oscar, looking out for us. (He is enormous and oh-so-lovable)

It's been a bit chilly this week and since the ground isn't ready for us yet, we've been spending most of our time in the greenhouse listening to Wisconsin Public Radio while tending to the plants that will provide so much this season. This process of life and growth never fails to amaze me. --they were seeds, and now they're plants--and in the not too distant future (though we can hardly wait) they'll provide us with bountiful, nutritious, delicious food.

Yesterday we moved the chickens to their outdoor coop. Apparently it's best to transport them by grabbing them by their feet and holding them upside down --it calms them. There were up to four in one hand as they were being caught to crate up--a bouquet of chickens. They're entertaining little ladies, expected to start laying in July. Farm fresh egg breakfasts can't come soon enough.

Today, with the weather being a bit nicer, we worked outside mostly. We plotted out the high tunnel that will go in soon to house tomatoes and laid a deer fence around the fields. Up on this hill we can see for miles, the view is beautiful, and giant birds feel like they're almost at our eye level. I feel lucky to work out in the open air.

I'm learning a lot about growing plants, about foraging the area for ramps, nettles, mushrooms and wild asparagus and about all this scenic area has to offer. I would never have guessed how entertaining "the middle of nowhere" actually is--but I should have known.

I'm hearing wonderful stories, ones that shock, amaze, or make me laugh--I hope they keep them coming. And soon, I'm sure, I'll have some of my own to share with you.