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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Morning Walk

Ram Lamb Lays Chewing His Cud
Kai Plays By the Lambs

The air, still and crisp, hints at the coming fall months of warm days and cool nights. With heavy dew covering the plants, steam rises from the warmth of the morning sun. The sheep lay quiet chewing their cud watching my movements as I come to the barn to let the chickens out for the day. They do not stir when the puppy plays by their fence line.

Sunflowers Peek Around the Greenhouse Door





I walk into the far end of the greenhouse and make my way to the front, examining the tomatoes and picking the ripe ones from the vine. The purple pole beans across the isle sag under the weight of the beans. As I come to the front door of the greenhouse, I am greeted by a sunflower plant, bending and twisting to enter in. Perhaps the flowers do not like the cool nights and come in search of the warmth of the hoop house.

I walk past the orange and yellow cosmos in full bloom and resist the temptation to pick a handful to begin a dye pot right away. On the other side of the cosmos, the blueberry bushes stand full of ripe berries.


As I walk, I make mental note of the things I must do today:        

Orange Cosmos
1. can tomatoes                        
2. pick and freeze beans
3. dye yarn
4. pick and freeze blueberries
5. take in all these blessings and record them one by one in my journal
 
Blueberries

Ripe Tomatoes on the Vine



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Living the Good Life

A Visitor Checks Out the Pigs

Our pigs attract a lot of attention from visitors to the farm. There is just something fascinating about these little animals.

Here are ten intriguing facts about pigs:
Our Dominant Pig!

  1. Despite what you may think, pigs are clean animals. When given enough space, they prefer to choose one spot in their fencing to use as their "bathroom", keeping their eating and sleeping areas clean.
  2. Pigs share the same diseases and illnesses with humans. For this reason, we do not feed our pigs table scraps. If you feed pigs food from your plate, you must boil it for 30 minutes in order to kill any bacteria that may be present. Our pigs enjoy garden scraps, over grown cucumbers and squash, lettuce that has begun to bolt, and over ripe tomatoes. In the fall, they get apples from the wild apple trees that line the field.
  3. Pigs love to play! Someone once told me that pigs are like dogs, they are eternal optimists and love to play and interact with one another and people. Our pigs often play games of chase with one another and enjoy tramping through the woods and bushes of their enclosed area. A couple of years ago, our pig pen ran alongside of the road. A neighbor said that every time she jogged up the road, the pigs would jog with her along the full length of their fenced area.
  4. Pigs are very social animals. They sleep snuggled next to each other regardless of their age. 
     Making New Pasture
  5. Pigs establish a pecking order within their herd. This hierarchy becomes evident at feeding times when the dominant pig will push away everyone else from their eating area. This pig usually grows out larger than their mates. 
  6. Pigs love a good back scratch.
  7. Pigs have a wonderful sense of smell, using their large round noses to root in the dirt.
  8. Pigs properly manage ecosystems. On our farm, we have used the pigs to help reclaim overgrown pasture. Acting as mini bulldozers, the pigs use the rubbery cartilage in their noses to dig up and turn over rocks, stumps, saplings, and massive amounts of dirt. This allows regrowth of healthy pasture grasses. This year, we placed the pigs in an area where the forest has been slowly creeping into the open field. As the pigs uproot an area, we extend their fencing to give them more area to recapture. At the end of the season, we will pick out the rocks and stumps they have overturned and replant with mixed grass seed.
  9. Pigs do not sweat, rather, they cool themselves by wallowing in cool dirt or mud. Our pigs dig depressions in the cool of the underbrush. Here they, roll and lay in the heat of the day. On rainy days, their hollows fill with water and mud, much to their enjoyment.
    Enjoying the Cool Dirt.
  10. Pigs are intelligent animals. We have easily trained our pigs to electric fencing. A single electric wire hold our pigs within their area. With some disciplined training, the pigs learn to not challenge the fence line.

Our pasture raised pigs live a good life on our farm, with plenty of room to roam and root around. Our B&B guests appreciate them for their entertainment and bacon, our sheep appreciate them for the new pastures they create, and we appreciate them for the biodiversity and sustainability they bring to our farm.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

A Vermont Farmstay Experience

Tossing hay from the wagon
Every now and then, we rent our Farmhouse Suite to a family that makes their way into our hearts. This summer, we have been blessed to host several of those families who have come for a Vermont farmstay experience. They come to us from large urban areas with a desire to make a connection with the land, the farmers, and the work of their hands.

This family came with eager hearts to learn and to experience rural farm life.

Picking wild raspberries.




Enjoying Moses
In seven days time they helped stack hay in the barn, enjoyed a local sheep dog trial, walked on the trails in the woods, picked wild raspberries with us, learned how to use a gas grill, gazed at the stars, gathered eggs, toured local farms and small villages, and fell in love with our puppy and barn kitties.

Here is what they wrote in our guest book before leaving:

"Dear Kim, Chuck, and Anna,
Resting after putting up the hay.
     We leave the farm today with so many indelible memories-egg collecting, wild raspberry picking, communing with the sheep, gazing at the Milky Way and a shooting star in the night sky, watching the sheep dog trials and for Elena-playing with Kai, Aaron, and Moses. This week has been everything we wished for and more-peaceful, restorative, and offering us a genuine glimpse at the rhythms, challenges and rewards of life on a small family farm. Thank you!"
D. M.

Showing off their berries.

Hauling hay




Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Awakening Herding Instincts


Strafford, Vermont
The handler and his border collie stand in the field, waiting for their turn to run the course. Chairs and spectators line the dirt road that runs along the field. Border collies sleep under chairs or in the cool shade of a tree waiting their turn. At one end of the field, a border collie and its owner stand side by side. Without an audible sound to the crowd, the handler sends his border collie to find and gather the sheep high on a hill lined with maple trees. Did he murmur a command or was it the motion of his hand that signaled his dog to take off in pursuit of the small flock of sheep? The judges start their stop watches, and so begins this dog's run at the sheep trials.



Steve and his dog wait their turn to run the course.





The Sheep Dog Trials at Steve Wetmore's farm in Strafford, Vermont has become one of my favorite summer events. It is magical watching the way that the handler and dog work as one. Though most dog trials are held in an open field, on Steve's farm, the dogs must run up a steep hill to the edge of the woods to gather the sheep and run them through the course. With a whistle or gentle command from the handler, the border collie gathers the sheep and runs them through a course that leads the flock down the hill, across a stream, through a series of gates and to a gathering pen. Judges evaluate each team for workmanship, skill, and speed. Each dog has its own style of working the sheep. Through the course of the day, the spectators learn how distinctly different each dog works the sheep, and that each trainer has their unique way of communicating with their dog.


Handler watches...
...while his border collie gathers the sheep.
Kai watches attentively.


This year we took Kai, our young border collie along to watch from the stone wall. Kai will not be ready to train with sheep for many months, but now is the time to arouse his herding instincts which border collies are known for. He watched with much interest as the dogs rounded the sheep up and brought them close. Every time a handler blew their whistle, Kai's ears perked up and he turned to look at me as if looking to me for direction. All of these behaviors show his keen interest in sheep awakening.



The next sheep dog trial in VT will be at the Quechee Scottish Festival & Celtic Fair in late August.







Thursday, July 31, 2014

Waffles, Relish, and Pickles

I do not need to look at the calendar to see what the date is today. From my kitchen window, I can see the garden. The heavy laden cucumber vines, ripening red tomatoes, and blue jewels hanging on the blueberry bushes keep time for me. I feel the summer days ticking off one by one as I frantically try to capture all that the garden has given. With our Farmhouse Suite filled nearly every day with B&B guests, I must divide my time between the harvest and tending the families who have come to experience rural farm life.

As I whisk the eggs and fill the griddle with batter-steam fills the kitchen. My kettles bubble and boil with smells of sweet relish mingling with the aroma of maple syrup and  Belgium waffles. As I stand and wait for the green light to illuminate on the waffle iron, I ladle hot zucchini relish and bread & butter pickles into the jars. The canning pot slowly fills with my jars, ready to process and create a vacuum seal on each. I carry plates with steaming waffles out the kitchen to guests waiting and then back to the kitchen to fill more jars. This will be my routine for the next few days-waffles, relish, and pickles- as I work my way through the over flowing bowl of veggies and berries.

on my counter.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Raspberries for Kai

Kai eats only the ripe berries.


Kai, our border collie puppy, has learned a new trick...raspberry picking. Wild raspberries abound in the old meadow across the road from our Vermont farm. You can smell their sweetness as you walk-red little gems peeking from behind the green leaves. You can not help but put your hand down to pluck one off the vine, warm and ripe from the summer sun, to eat as you walk. Kai puts his nose in the air, sniffing for the ripe berries. You know he has found raspberries when he dives into the tall grass. All you see is the white tip of his tail and the grass waving back and forth as he gently plucks each ripe berry from the cane, leaving behind the green ones for another day.

Photography & Video by Anna Goodling.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Open Studio at VT Grand View Farm

Making our dolls
The past two weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with this lovely homeschool family during our Open Studio Day. Each Monday afternoon in July, I open my fiber studio on the farm to folks ages 9-99 to come and explore fiber art. Every week, I plan a new activity to guide the group through the wonders of working with wool. Yesterday, we made fairy dolls out of all natural materials. This activity introduced them to wet felting and three dimensional construction.  Next week, we will be making flat pieces of felt and then cutting and sewing our felt into birds.