Heifer Diary 2009 - Continued
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April 18, 2009 Saturday
Abby, Marcia and I took an expedition to Gloria Varney’s Nezinscott Farm Store for their Saturday morning doughnuts. Gloria has a jolly store with a little of everything but the centerpiece of the operation is a comprehensive bakery. She also sells farm reared meats and dairy products. It is a Biodynamic farm and is a 45 minute drive from my farm.
When we got home we discovered that DS Martin was on his way here with little Hannah and DIL Mitra was also on her way with Shireen and Roshan who will be staying with Martin to take care of Hannah. Martin will be free to run the tractor etc. This afternoon he put the barn wiring back into conduit. It had been jerry rigged during the carriage house reconstruction. He and the girls also walked down to inspect the spring line. It is broken as usual.
We had a nice visit from my friend Kelly, (kellyj on the forum) and her daughters Sarah and Emma. Little William was napping. She showed me a tray and bag she has made using foil coffee bags. Very clever.
Marcia dug out a lot more comfrey and Abby improved the duck pen. It is now high enough to walk around in. The ducks are beginning to eat their feed.
While in the garden, Marcia observed Jeremiah methodically draining every bit of Jasmine’s milk. There is a lot of pressure on the milk right now, lots of people need it, and so I will keep him in his stall now until we catch up.
With lots of help from Abby and Marcia, I pulled together a steak dinner. With the steak I served roasted beets and Abby made scalloped potatoes and a green salad. I made a flan which we had with raspberry sauce. After dinner Abby played the piano and we sang old songs.
I am starting some beans for tomorrow. These are yellow eye beans that Abby bought at Nezinscott Farm today.
April 19, 2009 Sunday
As expected, Jasmine gave only 2 ¼ gallons this morning. I had to ration milk and cream today. The beans I cooked overnight were a hit. Everybody ate a lot for lunch including Hannah . Abby made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. Abby and Marcia went to Wal-Mart and bought collars for the sheep, a pink one for Agnes and camo print ones for the boys. I found bells for all three. I considered putting them out in their paddock today but the shadows were getting long so I thought it better to wait for tomorrow. I would like them to have all day to get acquainted with their paddock before night falls. One ram, Kabob, has an infected ear. It does not appear to bother him but is puffed and warm.
I dug a couple of garden rows. My very first daffodils bloomed today. That is always an important season marker for me.
Max passed this way on his return from a couple of days of noise monitoring for an Army artillery range in Burlington VT. He had supper with us before taking the girls home. We had beans again, assorted leftovers and lots of my new sauerkraut, which is very good. Abby has started sourdough bread using my home made raw milk yeast.
April 20, 2009 Monday
Without Jeremiah at her side, Jasmine gave over 3 gallons this morning. It is already all sold.
Max and Roshan climbed Bald Mountain this afternoon. They reported ice and snow on the trail. On the way back down they saw DD Abby coming up the trail towards them. She was on her way home from the dentist and saw Max’s truck parked at the trailhead so she parked and set out to meet them.
Back home, Max and Roshan ate roast chicken and brow rice pilaf that I had ready. Abby worked a couple of more hours on the sheep paddock fence. We think it is now lamb proof. Kabob’s ear is still warm and puffy. He seemed to enjoy having me stroke it. Abby slathered it with antibiotic cream which we hope does it some good.
April 21, 2009 Tuesday
Some more tweaking of the fence, and around noon we led the lambs out to their paddock. Did I say led? These guys are pretty big and they were bounding and pulling. We each held a dog leash. Jasmine had to be shut inside the beefer pen. She ran into the paddock when Abby opened the gate and waved her foot in the air in a naughty way when I ran her inside. We had foreseen most problems, though, and the lambs were soon settled in their new quarters. I opened a bale of hay in their run-in under the buttery.
The ducks have been refusing to eat their feed. We bought what we understood they were accustomed to but it must not be. Today I tried them on straight cornmeal and along towards evening I saw the drake sampling it. It rained all day. They do have shelter but I notice they stayed out in the rain.
Jasmine gave over 3 gallons.
April 23, 2009 Thursday
They keep promising us good weather but it has been cold and rainy. Maybe tomorrow. Yesterday Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons, 3 gallons today. Jeremiah is still in his stall. It is roomy and dry with a view of activities but he sure feels sorry for himself.
My vet stopped yesterday to look at the sheep with a swollen ear. He lanced it and squeezed out bloody plasma, not pus. It went all over DD Abby’s lavender sweater. (I forgot to ask her if it washed out). He then gave the sheep a shot of antibiotic and gave all three sheep a dose of Ivormectin.
I gave him lunch, macaroni and cheese made from scratch with Cabot cheddar, home made sauerkraut and bread pudding.
DD Abby has spent two days making a new pen for the 3 Muscovy ducks. This one is in the old granite foundation next to the new building and is larger and more secure. Now, because of the rain, it has some puddles which the duck appreciate.
Max came over today and brought grain. He removed a granite pier that was causing a problem in the doorway of the new carriage house. Formerly the door had slid past it but the new construction is slightly different at that point. It stuck up about 2’ above ground. Max dug down about 2’with a shovel to expose more of it. Then using the Kubota bucket he rocked it enough to loosen it. He wrapped a heavy chain around the tractor bucket and around the granite pier and lifted it out. It was 6’ long. It is hard to imagine what the purpose of this granite can have been. It was of course cut by hand.
Roshan came today with Max. She and Abby played a little duet on the piano. It looks like Abby will be starting her on piano lessons. I am terribly pleased at the prospect of a new pianist in the family and it will be wonderful for my piano to get some exercise.
April 24, 2009 Friday
At last we got the long promised fine weather. Jasmine is able to find a few spots with grass long enough to graze. She spent all day trying. She gave 3 ¼ gallons this morning.
Abby stayed home while Marcia and I went to Farmington and did a series of errands and had a good time shopping. Besides picking up farm supplies, we hit two thrift shops. I found a perfect dress, actually a jumper, a brand new blender for $3, a large cotton afghan with a woven design of an angel in shades of blue, and a few tchotchkes I didn’t need such as a pair of cow salt and pepper shakers.
Mitra could not join us today because she took Shireen shopping for a dress for her school dance.
While we were gone Abby cleaned the garage and a lot of the house and planted lettuce.
I spoke on the phone to the lady from whom we bought the lambs. She confirmed that they had never been on pasture. They still don’t graze at all. I am going to try snipping grass into their grain as soon as I can find some long enough to cut. They do eat hay just fine.
For supper we had meat balls containing feta and pine nuts and a big handful of my lovage and chives that are just up.
April 25, 2009 Saturday
The spring peepers have begun! This evening is full of the sound of their high pitched chorus. Once the peepers start, spring is officially here.
This morning I let Jeremiah out with Jasmine. Her cut teat was completely healed and I have plenty of milk in the fridge so I gave him a break. When I let him out he danced around pestering Jasmine until I could tell she was fed up and wished he would settle down. She came in this evening sucked dry so I will be lucky to get 1 ½ gallons tomorrow. He is now bigger than she is. This morning she gave 3 ½ gallons.
DD’s Abby and Marcia and I drove down to Turner today and had lunch at Gloria Varney’s Nezinscott Farm store. She gave us a tour of her expanded cheese room. We next drove around until we found Hummingbird Nursery where we bought several plants. Although they had advertised their Spring Opening Day they were not really organized for customers, many of their perennials had not broken dormancy and they had very few things we wanted. I did buy a peony and a banana plant, both of which looked good. Marcia bought some tuberous begonias.
On the way home we stopped at the new fish store in Dixfield and bought a haddock fillet for our dinner. It was of superb quality. We had it with baked potatoes and green salad.
It got up to 70˚ today. Marcia and Abby spotted the lambs nibbling grass at last, just a little.
April 26, 2009 Sunday
Despite Jeremiah having sucked yesterday, Jasmine gave 2 gallons this morning. I believe she was holding up a little so will expect less cream. There were no new cuts so I put Jer back out with her today. He is a bouncy guy who spends quite a lot of time doing other things besides grazing. He wanders around sniffing things and takes a lot of naps. From a distance it can be clearly seen that he is as tall or taller than Jasmine. The weight he lost when dehorned has been regained and he is sleek with a beautiful grey coat. He gets about 2 ½ lbs/day of grain which is partly 16% dairy sweet feed and partly COB (corn, oats, barley).
I had a big surprise this morning when I looked down from a new angle into the duck pen and spied three eggs in their little shelter. I had the thrill of pointing them out to Abby and Marcia when they arrived. Abby climbed down into the pen and got them. To get in you have to go down a ladder that she has leaning against the granite wall of the old foundation where she has built the pen.
Marcia loaded up her truck and took a mountain of stuff to the dump, then went on home to take advantage of the good weather to work in her garden. Abby also took a load to the dump in the trunk of her car, and then returned here to work all day. She made a wading pool for the ducks by excavating part of their area. Later she planted seeds in the veg garden.
I collected unopened leaf buds from my Balm of Gilead trees to make a rub for stiff joints or bruises. I soak the buds in olive oil. The buds are highly aromatic. The tree is in the willow family, I believe.
I also hoed out young weeds from the garden. Then I chitted my potatoes. It is customary to cut potatoes into quarters, each bearing an eye. They are then laid out in trays to await sprouting. Last year my potatoes were a total disaster, firstly from a major Colorado potato bug attack which I was unable to fight because of the relentless rain last July. Then the entire patch flooded which I dearly hope drowned the bugs. I swore I was done with potatoes, but hope springs eternal.
The lambs still spend a lot of time blatting but did some grazing. They appeared to have full rumens.
Here are some pictures of the lambs from last week when granddaughters Shireen and Roshan came to meet Agnes, Ramsey, and Kebob for the first time.
Jasmine was way out of sight in the pasture when it was time to come in but she came when I called with Jeremiah bounding along. He always runs directly into his stall. Such a good boy.
DS Mark and DIL Ann are now moved into Mitra’s mom’s condo in Farmington where they will be during their April rotation in Family Medicine, or is it Primary care. They love it.
April 27, 2009 Monday
Beautiful weather today! My little Jasmine responded to the fresh grass by giving 4 gallons this morning. The ducks have now laid 4 eggs. The lambs are still just nibbling grass in a desultory manner, not with any conviction. They will eat handfuls if fed. I suppose that eventually they will graze properly.
DD Marcia worked in the garden for hours. She is preparing beds. She makes each bed into a work of art. Abby had an emergency dental appointment but came here afterwards with all sorts of lovely food for dinner including sea scallops. I sautéed them in coconut oil and served a dipping sauce of soy sauce in melted butter. We also had cucumber and yogurt raita.
My sister Barby in California shipped me an antique standard balance scale but the freight company would not come past Dixfield, 7 miles away, because the road is posted against heavy loads. This is done every spring after the ground thaws and until it stabilizes. Marcia and I went down in her pickup and the trucker loaded it for us. Now it will have to stay there until we can get help to unload it.
April 28, 2009 Tuesday
Milking did not go too well this morning. I don’t think Jasmine had quite as much anyway. Most likely Jeremiah feasted yesterday. But the main trouble was that about halfway through milking one of the small air hoses to the pulsator came off and I could not put it back together without removing the machine. This annoyed Jasmine a lot. She pooped and quit letting down. In the kitchen I pour boiling water on them to soften the rubber but in the barn I have to use brute force of which I don’t have so very much. She gave 2 ½ gallons.
All morning the weather was perfect. Then about noon a strong hot wind started up. The weatherman says it is going to pull cold weather in behind it and we may get a freeze.
Abby worked around here for hours. She connected up the hose to the garden. If no rain comes with this wind we will surely need it.
Abby did the evening barn chores. When she went into the barn to do the feeding she discovered Jasmine cavorting around in the main aisle acting silly. The shaking of the barn by the wind had danced the door hook open from the beefer pen where she waits and she had come on in. That latch, supposed to be a safety latch, had become defective and I have not been able to find a replacement. Fortunately, I have a good secondary door to the grain room and as usual it was closed. I verge on fanaticism about that door, ritually closing it even to walk across the room. By now I have a trained arm that sends guilt vibes, should I grow careless.
I started a new teleme cheese.
April 29, 2009 Wednesday
It did get down to 32˚ last night and did not get about 60˚ all day although the sun was bright and the wind less strong.
Jasmine made up for yesterday by giving over 4 gallons. So far Jeremiah has not cut her teats, in fact I don’t believe he has nursed for a couple of days. Perhaps the presence of a bit of grazing is keeping him happy. That is what I have been hoping for. I do so much prefer for him to be outdoors and of course so does he.
I hard boiled and chopped a couple of eggs for the ducks so they would have better protein than what is in their feed, since they are now laying every day.
My little black hen that lives in the barn rafters with her rooster has been setting on eggs in the grain room and today was her due date to hatch. As of this evening there was just one chick but I expect more will hatch in the night. Abby has everything set up now for her convenience when she decides to move off the nest.
I took a nice little coffee break this morning out at the lake with Marcia and Abby. They came down to the farm later and we unloaded a heavy crate shipped by my sister in California. The crate contained an old fashioned platform scale with sliding weights of the sort once found in doctor’s offices. Abby and I spent quite a while trying to get it adjusted to weigh us correctly. We may need advice on this. It had me weighing 135lbs which I am sorry to say is probably off by 30 pounds. Anyway, I am thrilled to be the new owner of this elegant scale.
Barby also sent some wool blankets woven long ago from wool from my grandparents’ farm here in Maine. In those days you could take your wool to a mill and get it back as handsome blankets.
April 30, 2009 Thursday
Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons this morning.
Max came over to repair my spring line so that I can once again have spring water flowing into the granite sink. During the winter the pipe always breaks where it crosses the brook at the mouth of the river. He took the dogs with him. The loose end of the broken plastic pipe had to be retrieved from the far side of the brook. There is a big fallen tree that we always cross on. The dogs followed him across on it and disappeared into the woods so Max came back over without them. A bit later as he was working on the repair, he heard splashing and whimpering and after a few minutes he investigated. It was Willie, my West Highland terrier, who had fallen in when trying to return on the log. He could not get up the steep muddy bank and was about to drown. Only his eyes and nose were above water. Max was able to reach down and rescue him by the scruff. He would have drifted away under water and I would have been hunting and calling in the woods never suspecting what had happened. It is not far to a sand bar but he wore himself out trying to get up in the worst place.
Back at the house, Max was able to get my new scale to weigh correctly. A couple of stabilizers under the platform had come loose during travel.
We saw a pair of Cooper’s hawks circling each other high in the sky, no doubt a mating pair.
Abby was here all day working with the animals and in the garden. The hatching clutch is progressing slowly. I thought it best to take out the three chicks that have hatched so far and offer them a mixture of corn meal and whey. Abby put their beaks in the mixture and they all drank. She also held the dish up for the hen who seemed grateful too.
My two family doctors, DS Mark and DIL Ann, came over for supper. Mark is in the ER on this rotation and was pleased to have had the opportunity to stitch a scalp cut. He has seldom been offered the chance.
I served them beef brisket that had simmered slowly in the Aga all day. We also had fiddleheads that Max picked down by the river.
May 01, 2009 Friday
It rained all morning, and then turned into a balmy spring day. Jasmine gave 3 gallons. She has stopped eating her hay and only wants to graze. I still cannot tell for sure whether her erratic production is due to Jeremiah nursing or perhaps to not eating hay. She has been free of mastitis for some weeks now. In the evening before I separate them her udder feels uniformly half full.
My setting hen hatched only four of her 8 eggs. My rooster may not be up to his job. The two ducks continue to lay an egg each.
The sheep are looking just fine. They graze a little better. They blat like goats whenever they see me and are very friendly.
Abby planted a lot more seeds including French sorrel and arugula. I cleaned one of the strawberry beds.
I made doughnuts this morning using my grandmother’s recipe. I have to say without fear of contradiction that these doughnuts can’t be beat. I think I have posted the recipe before, but will again. There is no big secret. You just have to use good ingredients such as fresh eggs, real butter, freshly grated nutmeg, and the most important factor, real animal fat for frying.
Here is the recipe.
You need a heavy pan that will float 6 or 7 doughnuts at a time without their touching. The fat needs to be at least 1 ½ “ deep. They are best cooked in a fat that is solid at room temp such as lard or a mixture that achieves the same thing. One time I used a mixture of 4 fats. 1 pint lard, 1 pint duck fat, 1 pint beef fat, and maybe 1 cup sunflower seed oil (just so I didn’t have to use any more of my scant supply of lard. Today I used half beef fat (tallow) and half lard; this is perhaps the ideal combo of fats. You vary the amount of fat according to what is necessary in order to get it deep enough. You can strain and reuse the fat, adding some vit E while it is still sort of hot as a preservative.
Have everything set up and ready. Line a cookie sheet with a couple of layers of newspaper on which to drain the doughnuts. Set this next to your hot fat.
I don’t use a thermometer. Fry a test piece. It should sink for about 30 seconds, then float up and sizzle but not violently. As you see the edges getting tan take a fork and turn it over. If the fat is too hot the doughnut won’t puff because the crust forms too fast. If the fat is not hot enough a flocculent surface develops that soaks up to much fat. Get all your doughnuts cut out before frying. Then work fast, slowing down only in case the fat cools down too much. If it does, pause while it heats up.
1 cup sugar 1 heaping tablespoon of soft butter or lard 2 eggs Salt , about 1 teaspoon (Grammie’s recipe just says “salt”) 1 cup milk Nutmeg Flour (amount not specified but it takes a scant 4 cups, more for rolling out) Today I used 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour substituted for 1 cup of King Arthur unbleached. 1 tablespoon baking powder (Rumford) Combine dry ingredients well.
Beat eggs and add soft butter and sugar. Beat well and add milk
Add dry ingredients to egg mixture. Dough should not be hard but add enough flour so that it is easily handled and rolled.
Grammie listed the ingredients with no instructions. I have evolved these.
Shake doughnuts in powdered sugar if desired.
May 02, 2009 Saturday
DD Marcia put on a fabulous Kentucky Derby dinner party for 10 of us. For starters Abby made crisp oven baked eggplant slices. She dipped thinly sliced eggplant in egg and seasoned flour and baked them on a cookie sheet brushed with olive oil, turning them once. The slices stood in for crackers with a dip of Greek tzatziki. For dinner, Marcia served Creole shrimp served on a ring of polenta surrounded by a ring of roasted red pepper sauce. It was perfect. She also served a beautiful salad and crusty bread that Mark and Ann brought from Standard Baking Company in Portland. DD Abby made a chocolate pecan pie in which she substituted dark molasses for the corn syrup. It too was awesome. (I made the whipped cream.) Present were DS Mark, DIL Ann, granddaughter Hailey (who passed her driving test today!), DS Max, DIL Mitra and granddaughter Roshan. Shireen is away on a school trip.
When I left to go to Marcia’s it was pretty early to bring in Jasmine and Jeremiah and she did not come when I called. It was 9 pm when I got home, totally dark, and she was not up at the barn. I have left them out together. They should be OK but I doubt I will get any milk in the morning.
The hen and chicks are thriving. Only four hatched.
May 03, 2009 Sunday
Despite having Jeremiah with her all night, Jasmine gave 1 ½ gallons. The lambs are now grazing with more of an air of commitment. All three call out whenever they see me. The two rams say “Baaa”. Agnes says “Mwaagh” rather like a goat being strangled.
I added compost to my strawberry bed, dug out some excess horseradish and some clumps of goldenrod that I should have dug last fall. It is an invasive weed here. I could scarcely believe it when I saw goldenrod seed for sale in the Thompson and Morgan catalogue.
DD Abby did not come down today. She has a terrible toothache. She hates to call her dentist again on a weekend but she will surely see him tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The sun came up fair but rain is predicted for later today. Yesterday Marcia and I planted two long rows of potatoes out in the paddock garden. We were both so tired we could hardly move. Later I went out to the lake taking my black beans. The flavor was outstanding. First I soaked them overnight, and then I simmered them for an hour or so in plain water which I discarded and replaced with hot chicken stock. I seasoned them with a lot of garlic, a big handful of fresh lovage, some chili mix and half a can of tomato paste. I added some leftover fat from a roasted brisket (beans without fat have no character). Towards the end I added in some pre made meat balls from a Middle Eastern dinner that I had frozen. The beans were a huge hit. Marcia served them in soup plates garnished with a heap of steamed collards. I also brought a flan.
At noon I made a quick trip to my dentist for some easy cosmetic work. While I was gone it started to rain and the rain continued all afternoon, not heavy but steady. Nonetheless, Abby worked in the garden until 6 o’clock.
Jasmine gave over 3 ½ gallons this morning.
May 06, 2009 Wednesday
Jasmine gave 3 ½ + gallons again this morning. I had hoped to switch to measuring the milk in pounds now that I have the scale but carrying the full machine the extra distance is more than I can do. Once in a while when I have help I will weigh it. I have things arranged so that I need only lift the milk straight up onto the wagon and off again onto a little low table to pour it, which I can do by tipping the bucket.
I roasted one of the Luick chickens for dinner. Marcia and Abby brought the rest of the meal except for my first asparagus. Such a treat! Abby made mashed potatoes and a red bell pepper and cucumber salad. I cooked the chicken all day in the Aga at a very low temperature. It was perfectly tender and very juicy. To top it off, Abby made a lemon meringue pie. Instead of water in the lemon filling she used half cream. What flavor!
It rained most of the day.
May 07, 2009 Thursday
Marcia and I went to Farmington today on errands. Marcia really meant to go to a dental appointment but it turned out that she had mistaken the time and missed it. We rounded up Mitra and went to lunch. Abby also went to a dental appoint driving separately. She continues to suffer a great deal with toothache and cannot seem to get satisfactions from her dentist. He acts a bit as though he suspects her of faking the pain to get pain pills.
On the way home Marcia and I stopped at the garden of Marion Hutchinson, president of our garden club, and bought a few plants. I bought a large well potted hosta for $5 and Marcia bought some lilies.
Over the last couple of days Marcia and I have both been making yogurt and yogurt cream cheese using commercial Greek-style yogurt as our starter. We are both delighted with the rich creamy results.
Jasmine gave nearly 4 gallons this morning. She is still holding up some of her cream due to having Jeremiah with her during the day but with volume like that we don’t feel deprived. She is wonderful about coming when called in the evening when both are far away grazing. She trots right up the hill to the barn with Jer dancing along. He is wonderful about trotting right in to his stall, right past her bucket of grain. There is always a little grain waiting in there for him. In the morning I take grain into his stall and put it into his pan. I say “Back, back”, fluttering my hand at him, and he always gets right back out of my way. That and “Walk up” are the only commands he knows. I say “Walk up” in the morning when it is time to leave his stall. I think “back” is perhaps the most important command to teach. Steers are excellent learners. I have always found them to be friendly and cooperative. Jer was also good while he was a horned bull but I did not fully trust him.
The lambs are growing fast now. Ramsey must weigh at least 50 pounds.
It rained all day. Early this morning I was greeted by a leak in my office. Fortunately it did not hit any books but the basin I set out got a gallon in it in 2 hours.
May 08, 2009 Friday
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons.
My mind is foggy. I have just learned that my grandson Tommy (18) in Australia has broken his spine between the 5th and 6th vertebrae. He was practicing back flips. He is fairly accomplished at acrobatics and a skilled bareback rider but the accident occurred while jumping off the back of his parked car. He was able to weakly call his brother from the house. Jack then called the ambulance. Tom was taken to the regional hospital in Murray Bridge and then air lifted to the Royal Adelaide. He has had an MRI and is in traction. He can move his hands but is otherwise paralyzed. Surgery is planned right away.
May 09, 2009 Saturday
I got up pretty early because of thinking about Tommy. Jasmine gave close to 4 gallons of milk. It rained most of the day and at the time they should have come in Jasmine and Jeremiah were somewhere in the trees. We were having an electrical storm and I did not feel like going to look for them so both are out together. It will be interesting to see what she has for milk in the morning.
During the afternoon I was up at Marcia’s place at the lake with her and DD Abby and DS Max and Mitra and the girls. Mitra made pulled pork which she served on buns and I brought cole slaw to add to the buns. There was plenty for everybody. Marcia made an elegant torte with a layer of marzipan and a topping of crumbled amaretto cookies.
Early this morning Marcia went in her kayak (before the storm), as usual taking her two Chihuahuas, and paddled up to see the eagle’s nest. She paddled very close to a Canada goose that seems to be part of a breeding pair, the first I have ever known of on Lake Webb. Just then the eagle swooped down between her and the goose and sunk its talons into a very large fish. The fish was too heavy to allow the eagle to become airborne again so it did this extraordinary butterfly stroke dragging the fish to a bit of beach where she could see it flopping around as the eagle tore it up. And then, to top off the drama, a pair of loons took exception to her presence and swam up to scold her. They must have a nest in the shallows.
When I got home about 5pm DS John called me from Adelaide and gave me a report on Tommy’s surgery. The doctor made a 3 or 4 inch incision in the front of his neck and rebuilt the 5th cervical vertebra using bone from Tommy’s hip. He has the use of his arms and torso but his lower half is paralyzed. He can feel if someone squeezes his toe but cannot move anything. The doctor listened with his stethoscope and was able to hear bowel sounds, which means Tommy can eat when he wants to. He is still too sedated to even try, plus his throat hurts from the tubes that were down it. It is still way to soon to predict when Tommy may regain functionality but John sounded a lot more confident.
I talked to DS Bret whose specialty is nutrition and physiology. He says that what Tommy especially needs is Omega 3 fatty acids to bring down the swelling in his injury. We will see that Tommy gets these right away.
During evening chores I found a kitten wandering around in the beefer pen. Max had reported hearing one this morning when he was over here getting some hay for Helen but could not find it. I suppose it had fallen through from the hay mow. It is pretty small, a mere toddler, but its eyes are open. I brought it into the kitchen, quieted it with warm cream from a medicine dropper, and put it in a box on the Aga with a sweater to sleep in. It is a long haired black kitten.
I do not need a kitten.
May 10, 2009 Sunday
Tommy’s doctor discovered that his blood oxygen was very low and he has been moved to the ICU and is on a ventilator. He was having trouble breathing. It is not yet known whether this is due to lung infection or to failure of the spinal cord to relay the proper instructions to breathe. He is now in a medically induced coma and has a feeding tube. He will be on the ventilator for at least another day but the report this evening is that Tommy is starting to breathe better.
Here is an excerpt from my son John’s most recent email:
I just phoned the social worker on the case - Manoj Pereira. He is a nice young man, I suspect from Kerala, otherwise perhaps Goa or Malaysia. (Most of the Indians with Portugese surnames that I run into are from one of those places.) Most importantly, he knows everything about the way the hospital operates. When I called, he had just been through Tommy's case notes. He mentioned that all the fees, from the ambulance, to the helicopter (from Murray Bridge Regional Hospital to the Royal Adelaide Hospital), to the MRI, doctor's fees, everything - are covered by Medicare. And I have to say everything has been first-rate. For example, in ICU he has one or two nurses with him at all times, and there have been no delays at any stage. The night Tommy was admitted, they called Manoj in from his home at around midnight to sit with us and explain procedures. He hung around for a couple of hours in case he could be of assistance. It's a good system.
Abby and Marcia came down today. Marcia is working to make a dear little garden by the bulkhead outside the kitchen window. Abby worked for hours to put better leak proofing over the chicken room. The barn roof is in terrible shape. So is my house roof. Yesterday during a cloud burst I collected a gallon of water in my office in about a half hour. I have my contractor lined up to do roofing – soon I hope.
Abby, as I knew she would, took charge of the kitten today. She tried to find a mama to put it back with but none of the cats wanted it so it is back in its box in the kitchen. Sigh.
May 11, 2009 Monday
Fine weather today. Jasmine gave almost 4 gallons. The grass is now about 4” long and totally beautiful. Abby carried the kitten around inside her sweater yesterday, and then gave it the sweater to sleep with. It slept about 12 hours. In fact this morning I finally woke it up to feed it. We are using a medicine dropper rather than a nursing bottle. It takes it better.
John called me at 8 this morning from Adelaide. His brother Bret in Alaska had sent him an important abstract about Omega 3’s in spinal injury by: Dr.W. L. Huang and colleagues, Neuroscience Centre, Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Queen Mary University of London. It is evident that Omega 3’s given following spinal injury (the sooner the better) make a significant favorable difference in outcomes. John is hoping to get cooperation from the dietician to include Omega 3’s in Tommy’s stomach tube feed.
Tommy’s respiratory status is improved but not enough to discontinue the respirator. A tracheotomy is being considered.
May 12, 2009 Tuesday
Jasmine gave over 4 gallons this morning. I was a half hour later than usual getting out there and she was crabby. Despite being stuffed she resisted letting down, particularly in her best quarter, her front left, which is Jeremiah’s favorite. She kept whapping me with her tail which was not as clean as one would expect of a cow on gorgeous grass. I finally stood up and pulled it up in between her left leg and udder where is remained stuck. This trick works pretty well if the udder is full.
Son John wrote this morning: Negatory on the trach - they keep discussing it and putting it off. They really don't want to do it because of risk of infection, esp. infection around the plates they installed on the vertebrae, which are very close by to the trach op point. Respiratory insufficiency is due to weak diaphragm...there was minor damage to C4, the vert just up from where the main damage was done. The nerves from C4 control the diaphragm.
As long as Tom can tolerate the breathing tube through the mouth, they will persist with it I think. But anything is possible.
John is still not able to get cooperation on giving Tom Omega 3 oil. He says the down side of socialized medicine is bureaucratic stubbornness. I have to say, in the US requests such as this also meet with resistance but without that excuse.
George Brown, my builder, came by today with his crew and dropped off staging for the roofing which is next. My house and barn are headed for serious trouble if not repaired so I must get this done whether I can afford it or not. DS Bret says never mind worrying about your electronic equipment getting swamped. If your walls fill up with black mold the house gets toxic. Yipes!
The kitten, still nameless, is doing well on cow’s milk. It’s a fighter.
Marcia and I worked out by the front gate clearing nasty bittersweet vine. I planted my new pink peony out there next to a white rose. I quit when my back started to give pain but Marcia kept on working and now she is suffering. She ran her weed whacker too, until its battery died.
May 14, 2009 Thursday
Jasmine gave more than 4 ½ gallons this morning. She was so stuffed that the machine wouldn’t fit right. I had to physically support her heaviest quarter to make it high enough off the floor to allow the vacuum to function. On a Surge, squishing down on the teat cups cuts off suction. I left Jeremiah out with her tonight in hopes he will drink some of the milk and take the pressure off of her. I am worried about her attachments. It is raining so they may stay inside and eat hay although I doubt it.
I was up to the Grange Hall this morning on an errand and one of my neighbors told me that the other day her mother-in-law was driving past my place and observed Jasmine and Jeremiah running fast towards the river. Then she saw that they were chasing a fox! I guess I have watch cows. I am definitely missing chickens. They are shut in at night so the fox is coming during the day.
John says that Tommy had a bit of a scare yesterday when his potassium levels fell and he developed tachycardia. After he was stabilized he was again sedated. The doctor has made the decision to do a tracheotomy on Monday. Tommy is suffering a lot with the air tube. It is eroding his throat.
DS Max and DIL Mitra came over today and we potted up seedlings for her to sell tomorrow at the farmer’s market. I gave her chervil, lettuce, Brussels sprouts and arugula in 4” pots and lovage and horseradish in 10” pots. Marcia also has some of her bags ready to sell.
The kitten is now named The Black Plague.
May 15, 2009 Friday
Jasmine and Jeremiah appear to have had a pleasant night on pasture. The rain stopped as did the horrible wind and it got up to 60˚. Jas gave 2 ½ gallons. I left them together again tonight.
Abby and I went together to Farmington to pick up my 12 ducklings and 4 poults. Boxes and boxes of baby birds were ranged on long tables with heat lamps. They were all vigorously racing back and forth between the feed and water and peeping. Talk about cute! I wished I could have one of each.
We also visited Mitra at her table at the farmer’s market where she was meeting lots of interesting people. On her table were two small glass bowls, one with a duck egg and the other with a chicken egg. People were very interested to see the difference between the two and also wowed by the color of the yolks. She sold out of duck eggs in the first ten minutes at $0.50/each. She also sold all the lovage seedlings we dug up. I came home with 6 Danish Ballhead cabbage seedlings.
Abby is taking care of the new birds out at camp where there is a good unused room in Marcia’s shed. She reported that the poults seemed discouraged and out competed by the ducklings. She has now set them up separately.
Back home, I carried on with digging the grass and dandelions out of my rose bushes and planted my cabbages.
John called from Adelaide. Tommy has stabilized following yesterday’s alarm and his blood oxygen has normalized and he is breathing well. They are still unwilling to remove the respirator tube and still have the tracheotomy scheduled for Monday. The ICU docs want the tube out and the trach available for emergencies. The spinal docs want the tube left in, or possibly removed and the trach op cancelled because they don’t want another incision so close to the first because of fear of infection.
But!! One doctor today put his hand on the sole of Tommy’s foot and asked him to push back against his hand and Tommy could do it. We are all thrilled as also of course was Tommy. Then the nurse took John aside and told him not to get his hopes up too much, but they are already up.
May 18, 2009 Monday
Last Friday Jasmine’s milk was slow to strain and on Saturday it was even slower. There were only a small number of tiny clumps, but trouble was brewing. I suspected stress from her overfull udder on Thursday. I cut her about half a bushel of comfrey which is now up in thick clumps. I did this again Sunday and today. Today the milk strained perfectly. Both yesterday and today she gave 3 ½ gallons. Jeremiah has been with her the whole time. This evening they got no grain. She came up at 4:30 and hung around for half an hour but I was slow getting out there because DD Marcia and I were having a toasted cheese sandwich on the deck. It’s not like she really needs any grain. The grass is super.
So were our sandwiches. On Saturday I made yeast raised pumpkin bread using one of my Long Pie pumpkins stored from last year. It had just begun to get some little spots so I needed to use it right away. It was perfect and so was the bread. I made a pan of rolls and a loaf of bread. For our sandwiches I used this bread and a teleme cheese that I made a couple of weeks ago. It was my best so far. I must start another right away before I forget my tweaks.
We had family dinners at the lake both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday we had red beans and rice and braised chicken. On Sunday we had beef ribs that I cooked very long and slowly in the Aga – a fine beefy flavor. Abby made an excellent apple pie flavored with freshly ground cardamom.
DS John writes that after reaching a decision to do a tracheostomy on Tommy on Monday it has been postponed until Tuesday. It is already Tuesday in Australia so I hope to hear soon if it was done. Tommy is suffering a great deal with the respirator tube down his throat plus an intermittent feeding tube. He is being terribly brave but it really is awful. The tube has been in for a week and is eroding his throat and preventing speech. He has had another episode of collapsed lung. We don’t understand how this is possible with so many electronic monitors and nurses in constant attendance.
The construction crew is back to start on roofing.
May 19, 2009 Tuesday,
Fortunately I was up and around by six this morning. Things soon got complicated. The construction workers always make an early start. Mike, who keeps lots of animals himself, said he could hear a baby chick in the bushes by the barn. He and I crept about in the shrubbery for a long time nearly catching a newly hatched black chick, but not quite. It is remarkable how hard it is to catch a tiny bird. Willie kept trying to help and mostly he stayed back as told but I guess finally he could not stand our ineptitude and he darted in and grabbed the chick and ran off with it. He dropped it when I yelled at him but sorry to say, it was dead. Perhaps he did not realize we were trying to save it. I have been in the habit of letting him catch mice when I find them in the sunflower seed bin.
I found the mother hen up in the hay mow with two more chicks. I had known there was a black hen setting up there somewhere. Max arrived a little later and moved her to safe quarters.
By now it was 8:30. I had seen nothing of Jasmine. I had been calling her intermittently and getting no reply so took a walk along the river where there is a copse favored by cows hoping to set up private colonies. There was no evidence of recent cow visits to the area. I have the north side of the farm fenced off so did not immediately check in that direction. Then I spotted her in the former horse paddock that we have made into a garden. They were both there and being very quiet. Jasmine had pushed over a fence but no other harm was done apart from big footprints and the strings along the rows all torn out.. The potatoes are not up.
It was easy to get Jasmine back to the barn with the bribe of grain but not so easy with Jeremiah. It looked dark in the barn and he wasn’t having anything to do with it. I ended up having to tease him around the front yard for 20 minutes before I got him through a different gate. Moving reluctant cattle is not my favorite aerobic sport, no it is not. In fact I had hoped to complete my earthly course without ever doing it again.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons. I gave her more comfrey and the milk strained flawlessly but one quarter (the same one as before) gave salty milk.
DD Abby came over this morning and washed up the milking things and tended to the small animals. She is not feeling well. Max came over and repaired the fence mashed by the cows. Marcia came over and we marked out the cornrows with strings and hoed little trenches for easy planting. I made a couple of loaves of bread. The workmen have scaled the old shingles off a big section of the roof on my house. What a mess it makes.
DS John called from Australia. Tommy’s tracheostomy was postponed yet again because of scheduling conflicts. He had a bad night but feels better now. He and of course John are getting a little distraught over the delays. John called and says he feels pretty confident that by tomorrow morning, my time, he will report it has been done.
May 20, 2009 Wednesday
They were good little cows and waited for me this morning. They had to wait a long time because I overslept and did not get up until 7:15. Jeremiah amused himself by drinking nearly all the milk. Tonight I kept him in so that I can catch up on the supply and maybe make some cheese. Also I try to make as much butter as possible at this time of year because of its special quality. I am keeping up with feeding comfrey to Jas. There is now no evidence of mastitis apart from slightly less sweetness to the milk in the one quarter.
DD Abby has been suffering from a disagreeable tummy upset and now swears by comfrey tea. She feels that it is making a real difference. She just boils the leaves and sips the infusion.
The crew got a big section of roof onto the barn today.
I did some more flowerbed prep and put in two rose bushes I got from Walmart for $3 each.
May 21, 2009 Thursday
First thing this morning instead of letting Willie run around I put him directly on his chain. He has been finding places to wriggle under the fence so he can chase the fox. I can never see the fox myself because he or she approaches so that the barn blocks my view. To reach the chickens I enter their room in the barn through an interior door and open their outer door from inside. When I did this today, there was the fox about 50’ from the barn where he had been waiting for the Coburn Farm Slow Food Emporium to open for business. The cheeky thing did not even hurry away. Undoubtedly it knew that Willie was chained, not that with his stubby legs he could outrun the fox. I am down to 10 layers.
I found one missing layer setting on about a dozen eggs. She was hiding in plain sight. Amazing how they do that. Another hen has flopped down broody with no eggs on the top shelf in the hen room. Until today I did not notice that behind her under a flap of insulation sits another hen. It is not a good idea to allow a hen to brood a clutch in with the others birds because her friends will keep popping extra eggs under her with the result that some hatch way later than others. Also another hen will sometimes try to usurp the nest and cause a fight that ends up with nobody sitting on the eggs. However in this case I believe I will leave her alone. At least she is safe from the fox.
Marcia worked up some more ground in my veg garden today for the pole beans. Unfortunately I have mislaid my bean seed. I think I will have to try to buy some more. I have done a germination test on last year’s corn seed and am pleased with the results. We have the ground all ready for the corn. Abby is feeling a little better and planted some last potatoes that I was afraid were going to waste.
Doctor Cooper, my vet, was in the neighborhood and stopped in for lunch. Marcia and I flew around and got some food together. We had some of last night’s curried turkey and I made stir fried greens with this and that from the garden including comfrey, which cooks up like spinach.
My grandson Tommy has now had the tracheostomy. They also inserted a feeding tube directly into his stomach so no more tubes down the throat. He is very much happier now despite that fact that for some reason they did not place a trach tube that allows for speaking. Soon it is expected that he will be able to eat.
I kept Jeremiah in last night. This morning Jasmine had 5 gallons of milk! I left them together tonight so she will not get so stuffed.
Here is an exerpt from an e-mail from Mitra about Max and their pig Sophie:
Max was just down near Sophie's area digging in our manure pile while Sophie supervised him closely. She is due with her piglets on June 3rd and is finding that laying about is all she's really up for these days. Max called me to come watch him demonstrate how pigs should be properly scritched and rubbed. Sophie was laying on her tummy and he rubbed the side of her big red hairy belly. She heaved herself over onto her side to give him better access to her whole belly. Imagine a 700lb tub rolling over. And now she has two rows of teats that are growing bigger each day! He rubbed the length of her belly while she stretched out as far as she could including her neck. He also happens to know the exact spot to rub/tickle on her belly that makes her shake her leg like a dog. She was blissed out with her eyes closed and everything while Max continued to give her this amazing belly rub! The he says, "You usually only get this view when they've been slaughtered." Horrible man.
May 22, 2009 Friday
Sweet little Jasmine gave 2 gallons of perfect milk this morning despite being all night with Jeremiah. I separated them again tonight because I have extra requests for milk this weekend but will make every effort to milk early tomorrow.
Marcia came down and prepared a highly professional looking area for beans. She reordered bean seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and they may arrive tomorrow. We probably won’t get them in the ground for a couple of more days because tomorrow we are going to Whitehill Farm/Tomato Lover’s Paradise to pick up our heirloom seedlings. That is always fun. It is a beautiful hillside nursery with commanding views of Maine farmland and hills. We expect to meet Mitra there and also DIL Amy.
DS John called from Adelaide. He said that now that Tommy is not just hanging on for dear life to endure the tubes down his throat, John feels that he is beginning to heal. He still cannot speak because no air is going through his vocal cords but he is not in pain. He can be raised to a 45˚ angle and can be raised to a 90˚ angle with a neck brace. Nothing yet by mouth except a few sips but the omega 3 has been restarted. I suggested probiotics and John is going to shop for some that can be added to the feeding tube and maybe a high protein drink if one can be found that is not soy.
The recent episode of vomiting that resulted in discontinuation of the O-3 was most likely due to erythromycin. Eve, his mother, had told the doc when Tommy first entered the hospital that he had been allergic to that med as a baby but the doc thought that was too long ago to be of importance and did not mark it on his chart. He is not on a BP monitor because no-one could find an artery in his wrist. They tried for a half hour. That happened to me once in the hospital and it’s no picnic. Tommy’s nurse was terribly upset (as was mine when that happened). Tommy’s care is actually very good and always attentive.
I had not, until today, understood that although Tommy has strength in his arms, he has very little dexterity with his fingers so he cannot write. It is now exactly 14 days since his accident. On or about Monday the current trach arrangement is to be replaced with something that permits speech.
May 23, 2009 Saturday
Max writes: "We got an unusually early phone call that turned out to be a highly caffeinated Scott Greaney informing us that we had to come get our chicks this morning. Mitra and Shireen just finished dipping each of their 100 beaks into clabber and counting them off into their ward in the basement. They are cute for a couple of days before they begin their mutant transformation.
As I drove up to the Greaney's I saw a small hawk struggling to fly with a very fat mouse hanging from its talons. The mouse appeared to be still alive and was hanging down by its scruff with a very resigned look. Probably not enjoying the flight.”
Some years ago I figured out that if chicks can have a first meal of whey or clabber they are protected against coccidiosis. We never buy medicated feed and never lose and chicks to disease. I should modify that to state that we try never to buy medicated feed but in some cases no other feed is available.
I did not hear from John today about Tommy.
May 24, 2009 Sunday
DD Abby and I went to Dixfield today to take lilacs to my Grammie’s grave. We stayed about 20 minutes. The weather was perfect. It took me some time to find the gravestone because they have cut down the tree next to it. I can’t think why they did that. Many other trees at other plots were not cut. My father planted that fir tree 35 years ago.
May 25, 2009 Monday Memorial Day
DS Mark, his daughter Hailey and wife Ann stayed here last night as did Max and Mitra’s daughters Shireen and Roshan. Max returned this morning and he and his girls worked about four hours picking up the roofing mess. What an improvement!
Jasmine gave 2 gallons. She had Jeremiah with her last night.
Dot Mason, a lifelong resident of this area (89 years) called this morning asking if I was a good sport. I said I hoped so and what might I do for her. She wanted another woman to come along and ride in the back seat of the 1925 Model T Ford that the Town of Carthage always has in the Memorial Day Parade. The sun was bright and I dressed in light touring clothes not taking into account that at 15 or 20 miles an hour one is experiencing a 15 or 20 mile an hour wind in a vehicle with no windows on the sides. Fortunately Steve Brown, our First Selectman and driver, smartly dressed in black with a bowler hat, provided a big lap robe. This was a very good thing because a gusty head wind was added. We picked up our third passenger, Ken Ellis, 91, and set out for the parade which was seven miles away in Weld where DD Marcia and DS Martin have their camps. The brave little car hiccupped, jerked, bounced and backfired for the entire trip. It was variously conjectured that there was water in the gas, that the ethanol component of the gas was alien to the motor, and that most of the gas had been in the tank all winter (not a good thing). The route is hilly and several times I thought we might all soon be pushing but we actually made it early to the mustering ground behind the Legion hall. The reason we got there early, was that the planner of this expedition had misunderstood the hour. Dot and I did not stir from under our rug while we watched the parade line up. This included a group of 12 Legionnaires assemble along with a cluster of children on bicycles, a mom with two children in a patriotically decorated wagon, a new red International tractor, the freshly washed and still wet Weld fire truck and the Old Crow marching band assembled on a flatbed trailer. The tuba player walked. There was also a 4-wheeler with a big black Lab up behind the driver and ourselves in the flivver. Have I left anyone out? Yes, a County Sheriff and a spiffy looking military gentleman in a black beret. There was a delay, surprisingly brief, when it was discovered that the International was out of gas. “She’s drizabone”, I heard somebody say. Weld is small and it only took a minute to run with a can to the gas station, whose owner Mike was no doubt in the crowd. We then moved off along the parade route, our Tin Lizzy gasping and stuttering, across the bridge over Bowley Brook, past the Weld Historical Society building which Dot told me used to be the home of her grandmother, skirted the flagpole that marks the center of Weld, proceeded steeply up past the Congregational Church where I spotted my lovely twin daughters Marcia and Abby running beside us each leading a Chihuahua, and just a few more steps to the circular driveway of the Weld Free Public Library where there is another flagpole and monuments to Weld’s fallen soldiers. A citizen of Weld (Fred English) gave a speech followed by a prayer offered by a citizen of Carthage (Eddie Pulk). The band played three suitable numbers, then taps. The flag, which had been standing at half mast was then lowered and raised up. As the parade retraced its route I saw son Martin and his FIL Ken waving. There were many friendly faces. The church bell was set to ringing with the full natural resonance of a real cast bell.
The return drive to Carthage was pretty tense. The Model T often gasped nearly to a halt and Steve would roll it to the shoulder for safety, he detoured into driveways to get it restarted, and once he had to get out and crank. Every hill was a thrilling challenge as Dot and I huddled closer and wrapped our blanket tighter. I got to hear many anecdotes from Dot’s years in Weld, Carthage and school years in Portland long ago where she and her girl friend lived carefully but comfortably on $10 a week including their rent. They even went to all the new movies. Dot worked all her life as a hairdresser and there are few people around here whom she does not know. When they were little, she even cut the hair of my sons Mark and Martin.
Back home, I ran around hand watering plants in pots and in the ground. Many of the pots were dry as biscuits and by tomorrow would be toast.
An email from John in Adelaide says that Tommy still cannot speak even though the tubes are out of his throat. John found several doctors clustered at his bedside trying to agree on what treatment if any to explore. He says he thought that were he to speak up and declare his preference they would have agreed but he has no way to know what is best. The plan now seems to be to encourage solid food with only water to drink so no more fortified milk drinks at present.
May 26, 2009 Tuesday
Jasmine gave 4 gallons. The milk fridge was empty so thank you Jasmine. I kept them separated again tonight. I have been able to make very little butter because most of the milk is being drunk and because of Jeremiah, Jas continues to hold back half the cream. I made one pound of butter today.
We had a light frost last night. I lost a few plants.
Together, Marcia and I planted the corn. You are supposed to wait until the soil warms to 60˚ which it has not. But the sun was bright and rain is predicted. That should help. We planted four rows, two of Bicolor and two of Sumptuous. I will pace them out again but I would guess that these are 100’ rows. The potatoes are up. I still have to plant beans. I am hoping for a hot spell for planting tomatoes. The plants must go in soon because they are in tiny 2” pots and are all at least 8” tall. They have good leaf color. Amy LeBlanc who grows them is all organic. Most of the varieties are heirlooms.
The men now have the front side of the barn roofing on.
May 27, 2009 Wednesday
Jasmine gave slightly less than 4 gallons. She was very sweet and cooperative. Despite her 4 gallons yesterday and today, there are only 2 gallons in the fridge. Jas and Jer are separated again tonight.
The crew arrived this morning at their usual hour of 8am. The moved their scaffolding to the back of the barn and got all set for roofing when it began to rain. This was several hours sooner the predicted. They had to pack u p and leave. Max arrived about the same time and resumed mowing, also did a bunch of other needed tasks such as delivering more manure to the paddock garden where I will plant the curcubits whenever it stops raining. It is quite cold. I think the high today was 44F. I have a brisk fire in the kitchen fireplace but refuse to turn the furnace back on.
DD Sally called from Haines AK to tell me that her chicks are hatching. She bought herself an incubator and her daughter Rebecca gave her a couple of dozen eggs. Until now she has always had to order chicks. She has not had electricity for very long.
I made the happy observation that my Dutchman’s Pipe vine (Aristolochia) that was such an elegant adornment to the old carriage house but had to be mostly torn out in the reconstruction has put out a few little tendrils. Everything else around here is leafed out and the remaining wood of this 100 year old vine appeared dead. I am terribly pleased.
Here is a picture of Tommy sent by John called "My Wild Colonial Boy".
John writes of his visit today with Tommy:
I bought Tommy a new laptop today. He is able to use it using the touch pad. We waited two hours to see him because of delays in radiology. They wheeled him there only to be told he’d have to wait. He waited there in the hall for over an hour. When they brought him back he went into a new room in “stepdown” which is still ICU but only one nurse per two rooms. The radiology seems to have been a great success - no esophageal leakage. It is a tentative result as the specialist was unavailable. I think Mark can describe this procedure if you are interested as he would have a lot of experience there. Some sort of dye is swallowed and they see if any makes it into the lung. That was a very important result. The speech lady, diet lady, doctors, and nurses will all confer tomorrow about removing various things like his trachie tube and putting him on solid food, getting him talking, etc. So I am very hopeful that tomorrow evening there will be a good report following my evening visit.
A rather funny thing happened when Lou and I entered Tommy’s room, which could have been very unfunny. A student nurse was standing with him, about to feed him a dessert - some typical hospital pud (chocolate pudding with whipped cream, if you must know). The main nurse was conferring with the head nurse at the time and not paying attention. The student nurse, who was a chubby, spotty little Chinese girl, asked us if we would like to feed it to Tommy, who was eagerly “eyeing it off” as they say here. So Lou started feeding it to him. When she was halfway done, the nurses realised what was going on and freaked out a little as he has been back on “nil by mouth” since yesterday or so. Lou pointed at the student nurse and said “she told me to...!” The poor little student nurse went sort of reddish brown.
But what topped it off was that a few minutes later we noticed that a full tray of food had been delivered - minced beef, mashed potato, etc....and of all that food, the Chinese girl had chosen to feed him the pud first!
May 28, 2009 Thursday
It rained all night and part of today. Jasmine gave 4 gallons again. I am bringing Jeremiah in at night now at least until I get way ahead on milk again. I want to be able to make lots of clabber for Max and Mitra’s pig, Sophie. Her piglets are due very soon. I am really looking forward to seeing how many she has.
John called this evening (already tomorrow morning in Australia). Tommy still cannot speak at all. He is running a low but persistent fever. Another scope down his throat showed inflammation. They have him back on tube feeding. John feels intensely frustrated at not being able to provide a health drink or other good food.
May 29, 2009 Friday
Jasmine only gave 3 gallons this morning. I think Jeremiah is sucking her dry in late afternoon before I bring him in. I noticed tonight that she was pretty empty at 5pm whereas formerly this was not the case. I get scarcely a pint of cream off a gallon of milk. This is annoying. At least he is not damaging her teats. And it is better for her udder not to get so full. Just trying to look on the bright side. Oh, and most of the customers don’t want so much cream anyway. But I do, dagnabbit.
The rain continues, not drenching but steady. I went out in the rain this morning and moved some of the Brussels sprouts around. They were too close together.
An email this morning from John expressed frustration on numerous levels including stonewalling by the head nurse, a man, on giving Tommy additional vitamin E. John has learned that recovery from spinal injuries can be prejudiced by build-up of scar tissue at the site of injury. He hoped to be able to add some more to Tommy’s tube feeding which now only includes the RDA, a maintenance level, not a therapeutic level.
May 31, 2009 Sunday
Tommy is still on tube feeding. Nothing is to be done about this until Monday. It is now already Monday Down Under but I have not heard from son John. However in his last email he reported that Tommy seemed cheerful. He had been in to visit and watched two episodes of Spongebob with him. I also learned from my sister in California who had been talking to her son, Jon Lars, who had learned from his wife Eve, who is married to the younger sister of my son John’s wife Lou (got that?) that Tommy had been up sitting in a chair. Lou and Eve chat on the phone in Cebuese.
The weather today was crazy. It went from rain to thunder and lightening, then to sunshine and back to thunder and lightening and hail three times today with intermittent gusts to 60 mph. Frost is predicted for tonight. My sister says Mother Nature has gone bipolar. Fortunately I have not set out the tomato plants that I bought a week ago or they would have been flattened.
DD Marcia has been talking of making tamales and last week bought the cornhusk wraps. I have been talking of making a Dominican pineapple cake from a recipe in the Hannaford supermarket magazine and bought the pineapple. Today Marcia made her tamales and I made my cake. I’d say she had better success than I. The tamales were great. My cake called for creating a core of pineapple jam in a cake baked in a tube tin. It also called for extra moves such as grating orange zest and making orange juice and more stuff, a pretty fiddly cake. I finally got the thing into the oven but halfway through baking when I had to remove the “cold shelf”, a piece of sheet metal one places in the Aga above the food to prevent too much browning, it dragged the cake tin with it because of those little feet that stick up on a tube pan and dumped the whole thing onto the floor in front of me. My loud “exclamation” brought granddaughter Roshan, who was here for her piano lesson with DD Abby, from the next room so there was no concealing the fact that I was scooping up the batter and putting it back into the pan. Well, it finally baked and we ate it. In fact DD Abby declared it delicious and graciously took seconds. I was still mad at it though.
June 02, 2009 Tuesday
The weather today was beautiful. I had little time for gardening because I had an eye appointment. I don’t so far notice anything different about my vision but the doc said that I am again bleeding into the macula. I will go back the specialist next Tuesday.
The crew is working away on the barn roof. They have the old shingles covered with strips of wood and tomorrow will apply the metal sheets to the west side. The east side is all done. During the most recent rain the chicken room, which is in the front of the barn, stayed dry.
A hen that was sitting on four eggs hatched one chick yesterday. They were easy for Abby to catch and put into a nice caged area. There are still two hens sharing a nest with a vast number of eggs in the layer room. Abby modified the big pen in which we have the Muscovy ducks so that they can get out and fly around. They did get out and explored their expanded world for a while but then got back into their pen where their food is. They did not do any flying.
Marcia, Abby and I ate dinner here at the farm. I made a casserole with lamb and we also had artichokes, a rare treat.
Marcia got word that her horse, Peter, just won a big show and is now one of the top dressage horses in the country. She is walking around with a big smile.
John wrote yesterday that Tommy’s muscles are dwindling despite the manipulation that John and others are doing. I wrote the following to him:
One thing I forgot to mention in case you weren’t aware of it. Muscle wasting is not just due to inactivity. Our bodies do not store protein in the sense that many individual nutrients are stored. Calories are of course stored as fat. If you are sick and not eating much or for any reason are not obtaining sufficient protein, the body uses the protein of muscle. It also uses the protein that forms the supportive structure of skin. Hair stops growing. The gut lining ceases to be restored at its normal rate, which is supposed to be constant. The body uses these things according to some priority of its own but you always see muscle wasting. “He can spare this for now ”, the Field Marshall says, and eats the muscle. When you are able to supply protein fortified drinks Tommy will be a lot better nourished. I don’t recommend soy based drinks.
John answered: I looked at the various high-protein powders available in the health store meant to avoid muscle wasting. You were right, they are all based on soy protein. meanwhile, Tommy continues to make incremental improvements in his overall health each day. The "cuff' is now deflated full time and they are hoping to take the trachie tube out today, at least for a while. The speech therapist tells me she is still mainly focused on his swallow, and will start on speech next (after being 100% happy with the swallowing).
John confirmed that Tommy gets to sit in a chair. When upright he must wear a neck brace. He sits outdoors.
June 03, 2009 Wednesday
We had beautiful weather today. For the first time this year I did not wear a sweater to the barn. Little Jasmine gave 4 gallons of milk.
There was an early morning note from John written before he went to bed. He wrote as follows:
Finally they have the trachie tube out, and his throat taped over, so Tommy can speak normally. I am sure that tomorrow afternoon they will start reintroducing oral food.
It was really a great surprise to us when we walked in. Actually he didn't say anything for about 15 seconds to increase our shock when he finally opened his mouth and spoke for the first time in nearly a month. Naturally we had the most enjoyable time with him ever, by a long shot. He kept chatting away. He really enjoyed being able to communicate. It was also touching that the first things he wanted to talk about was how lucky he was to live in a time and place when the technology exists to keep him alive as he is quite aware that with what happened to his lungs he would have been unlikely to survive in times past. He also pointed out that he was lucky not to be a horse, as if he were, he'd have been shot. I agreed, that was a stroke of luck.
So we are all in great good moods now. I think he will be transferred to that spinal ward in a couple of days, which is nice because far less restrictive.
All the family is now very happy with this good news. Tommy is a cheerful soul. He is determined to fully recover.
DD Abby moved our 12 ducklings that she has been nurturing at Marcia’s place down here today and put them in with the Muscovy’s. The ducklings are now 3 weeks old. She has made a little pond in there and the duckling were soon swimming about and ducking under the water. Ducks are the greatest fun to watch. They are such happy birds. These are still yellow and downy and their wings are tiny but some feathers are coming in. They look about 10” long. Sorry to say that the male Muscovy has taken it upon himself to herd them around and generally be annoying. We hope he soon tires of this game now that he and the two female Muscovy’s are free range.
One of the female Muscovy’s was standing in the middle of the dooryard early this morning. This was a new sight to Willie, my Westie, and he ran at her. I yelled and he stopped but she flew around behind the barn. Jasmine and Jeremiah had never seen anything like her either and they got her into a fence corner and were doing their best to flatten her. One of the carpenters, Mike, reached through from the other side of the fence and rescued her.
June 04, 2009 Thursday
This was another day of perfect weather. Jasmine gave 4 gallons of milk. DD Abby came over quite early to see how the merged populations of ducks were getting along. The Muscovy male was still standing guard over the ducklings and keeping them backed into a corner. He appeared perfectly willing to forgo food and entertainment in order to maintain sentinel duty. Abby discovered to her sorrow that two ducklings were missing. I blamed the fox who I know was around yesterday evening. Willie always tells me. Abby spent hours on further fortifications. Then as she was placing her last ballast of hay she moved a box and found the two missing duckling packed in behind it. I guess they could not wriggle backwards out of their crevice. Hurrah! We hated to think of our plump little ducks feeding that pesky fox and his family. With the fox exonerated (for now) Abby ended up leaving the Muscovy’s outside the pen with a separate feeding station.
Max came over and worked for hours on setting up electric fence around the North Field. Then he went and bought some scattershot for my 20guauge and sat in the barn for over two hours to see if the fox would show up, but no. I fixed some dinner and took it out to him (rice, teriyaki beef and steamed greens from the garden that were mostly mustard and lamb’s quarters).
No news about Tommy so far today except that he feels a lot better. John is going to see about getting more vitamin C into him. Tommy was pretty sure that he would be allowed solid food today.
June 05, 2009 Friday
This was another fine June day. Jasmine trotted right in as always but only gave 3 ½ gallons. I think she held up a bit because I shrieked at her for pooping. This is the third day in a row she has done this and I was on the alert with the shovel. Previously I did not say much because I knew she did it because I was late and also had spent extra time because she was dirty. But it is a habit I can’t tolerate. Her manure is soupy because of the lush grass and yesterday it splashed on my favorite shirt and I have not been able to get out the stain. Max will be milking her tomorrow and I have warned him to be on the alert. Abby, Marcia, Mitra and I are going to DS Mark and DIL Ann’s graduation from med school and it takes place early in the morning in Portland, two hours away. Afterwards we have been invited by Ann’s parents to join a family group for lunch at DeMillo’s floating restaurant. Max is going to be mighty busy tomorrow with us all away.
Abby and Marcia were here for several hours today and did a lot of gardening. They weeded, transplanted and planted more seeds in the veg garden. It is looking wonderful. All the tomatoes and eggplants are in. We still must plant the squash and cucumbers.
The sheep are looking wonderful. They are pretty much full size now and very charming in appearance. They are noisy, though, especially Agnes. Every time they see any of us they stop grazing and bound over to their feed pan in hopes of a handout which they never get except at the prescribed times. The ducks love their little pond. It is just large enough to hold all twelve in a solid fluffy raft.
The workmen are finished with roofing the barn, apart from some minor details. It looks very good. They are to start Monday on the house roof. On the barn they were able to lay metal roofing over the old asphalt shingles. On the house they must first tear off all the old shingles. This makes an appalling mess. Martin has parked a flatbed trailer out front with sides he has contrived to collect the old shingles.
John just called and told me that Tommy is eating and drinking pretty well but still has the tube down his nose for the liquid feed. They don’t think he is able to eat enough solid food. There is no progress to report on regaining lost functions but he is getting stronger and not regressing. He is shortly to be moved to rehab, John thinks.
Mitra also called a little while ago to tell me that Sophie is farrowing. At that point she had five. Max was in with her taking out excess bedding and rubbing behind her ears. She was not hostile. All the little red piglets were sucking away. Now I have a message that there are eight piglets! They are mighty pleased about the litter because Max had to learn how to artificially inseminate to achieve this breeding and they were told that with artificial insemination the litters tend to be small. Here are a couple of pictures of the new litter (the first 5) and Max, their nurse mid-husband.
June 06, 2009 Saturday
Today started early. I set my alarm for 4am so that I could meet daughters Marcia and Abby at 5:30 and we could go together to meet Mitra and Roshan (10) at 6:30 and drive together to Portland to arrive at Merrill Auditorium at 8:30. This was the day of DS Mark’s and DIL Ann’s graduation from medical school. We were in our seats on time but others were earlier so we sat high in the balcony. We had a good view and the acoustics are good (it is a concert hall). I am getting pretty deaf but I think I heard at least half of it. The commencement speaker, Bernard Lown, MD, was very good. Along with his other distinctions, he was cofounder of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is a strong advocate for compassion and putting the patient first. He said that US health care is now all about making money. This I heard clearly.
Our two graduates looked very fine in their robes. I am so proud of them.
Following the ceremony we were all invited to lunch by Ann’s parents. We ate at DeMillo’s floating restaurant. I think these days it is well grounded but was once a ferry. It was ever so much fun. Abby and I ordered champagne cocktails and then seconds. Neither of us could finish our second round, delicious though it was. It definitely had something besides champagne in it.
Here is Max hugging Helen. He didn't realize his picture was being taken.
Dear Max came all the way over here and milked Jasmine this morning. He got 3 gallons. Then he returned home to milk Helen. He was feeling very sad because two of Sophie’s piglets got squished. They were perfect little piglets. But Jessika says you have to expect to lose some. It is just so sad.
When we arrived back at their house in the afternoon, Max was out on a bike ride. He clocked 17 miles. Shireen and her friend Chelsea were waiting for Mitra to dress their hair for the long awaited semi formal 8th grade dance tonight. They had done their nails, toes included, in silver nail polish. They put on their high heels and new dresses for us. They looked very pretty even without their hair dressed but I believe there may be pictures taken later.
Roshan showed us her five runner ducks. I had never seen any before. We also visited Helen but did not attempt to visit Sophie for fear of upsetting her.
Everything was in good shape here at the farm. DS Martin and 3 year old Hannah arrived shortly after I did and invited me to supper at camp. Martin fixed a quick spaghetti dinner that we all enjoyed and then at dusk we went out in the kayaks. Hannah rode in Martin’s lap. The lake was still and magical. There is a full moon tonight. The loons were calling constantly.
June 07, 2009 Sunday
Max and Martin came over today and set up electric fence for me all around the north field. Tomorrow I will open it up for Jasmine and Jeremiah. I spent most of the day catching up after having been gone yesterday. Max brought Roshan and Abby gave her a piano lesson. She is learning fast. Hannah sat and listened attentively.
Roshan also took some pictures while she was here of my sheep and Bagel.
I cooked a pot roast and took it to Marcia’s this evening. Marcia and Abby made salad and potatoes. Before dinner we sat out on Marcia’s lovely dock. It has a table and chairs on the platform at the end and she has four big urns planted with flowers.
June 08, 2009 Monday
This was another fine June day. Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons of perfect milk, well it would be perfect if she would let me have all her cream. But I am still able to make butter once or twice a week. When I let her and Jeremiah out this morning she did not notice that the gate to the North Field stood open. She was just walking through the gate to the River Field (south) when I called her name and walked through the gate into North Field. She spun on her heels and walked fast right out into it. I noticed she spent only half the day there before coming back to her usual pasture.
I keep forgetting to mention that there seem to be more bees this year than last. Partly this is undoubtedly because last year we had too much rain just when the apple trees needed pollination. But I do feel sure there are more this year. The honeysuckle is blooming very densely now and is really humming.
Marcia and Abby were both here today gardening and both forgot to take milk and the asparagus I gave them for their dinner so I drove it out to them along with some frozen scallops and some spinach and pigweed I had picked for a stirfry. . We had a fast and easy meal together that was really delicious. I defrosted the scallops by simmering them in milk. I then sautéed them in butter and seasoned salt.
DS Martin hauled away a trailer load of asphalt shingles to the recycling center. Hannah stayed here with Abby and helped in the garden. She was adorable in her sun hat.
DS John in Australia writes that Tommy’s appetite is good. He said he was hungry for bacon and asked John to bring him some which of course he did. John also found a protein powder that is all milk protein, no soy.
The carpenters have the shingles off the pitch on the north side of the kitchen and put up the wrap that goes underneath. They kindly put up some boards and tarps to keep the shingles from falling on the flowers below. I do hope my beautiful dicenetra, lilies and hosta are not damaged. This crew is so much more careful about collateral damage than other crews I have known. I really appreciate it.
There are two hens sitting together on a nest of about a dozen eggs in the chicken room. Today they started to hatch. I saw two. Abby is going to look after them tomorrow. Marcia will be taking me to the eye specialist.
DD Sally emailed me today top tell me that her daughter Rebecca successfully defended her thesis today and is now Dr. Rebecca (McGuire Bentzen). Baby Torleif, first birthday last week, attended and was well behaved in his grandmother’s arms. Don’t know if I will ever get Sally back here now that she has a grandson! Rebecca is an animal biologist. There was a celebration with champagne. Local tradition requires the new doctor has to sign the spot on the ceiling where the cork hits.
June 09, 2009 Tuesday
Jasmine gave over 3 ½ gallons and had a good day.
The workmen came but left after an hour because it started to rain.
Marcia drove me to Lewiston for my eye appointment. En route we stopped at Nezinscott Farm Store and each had one of their outstanding hamburger sandwiches. They make rounds from their homemade whole wheat bread using a 4” diameter cookie cutter and use their home grown beef for the burgers.
Dr. Hamzavi agreed that I have new bleeding but it has stopped and he saw no advantage to giving me another shot in the eyeball. There is nothing to be done about the loss of central vision in my left eye. Fortunately my right eye is still at the “dry” stage which does not interfere with vision.
When we got home Abby had done all the animal care including establishing one of the mother hens in a safe corner with the three chicks that have hatched and leaving the other one on the sea of eggs to await further results. Both hens seem satisfied with this outcome.
Max was here and had cleaned up all the fresh pile of shingles from the pitch over the kitchen. I have my garden back temporarily until the rain stops and they shovel off more shingles.
June 10, 2009 Wednesday
Amazing! It rained all day so then men worked under cover. They rehung the garage door. I was amazed how little time it took to mount the hardware and hang the door. The door is a great heavy old thing that must weigh 500 pounds and rolls to the side. They said that they too were surprised how quickly it went together.
They also set a six foot post into the ground below floor level, I mean under the carriage house floor in the run-in used by the sheep. This post is positioned beneath the posts on the floors above and bears the weight of the building above it all they way through two floors and up to the roof and completes the post and beam construction. This last post could not be placed while the ground was frozen. A couple of feet of manure had to be dug away to set a cement footing which they call a pill. DS Martin did this digging a couple of weeks ago.
While doing this work a building jack was set and somehow in this operation the floor got shaken under my milk refrigerator, which sits in that area. Two gallon jars of milk hit each other and one shattered in a mess of milk, cream and glass. This took about an hour to clean up. But wait, there’s more. The other jar, which appeared intact, wasn’t. It had an unnoticeable leak so when I came back later the fridge had again filled with milk. To relieve frustration I went out to the paddock garden and dug 22 holes for my hills of cucumber and squash that I need to get planted. I will fill each hole with rotted manure tomorrow and plant even if it is raining.
I made cottage cheese and qvark today.
Jasmine gave over 4 gallons this morning but two were broken, as mentioned.
Here are some photos of Roshan's Indian Runner duckings:
June 11, 2009 Thursday
We had only a few sprinkles today. The crew got the remaining shingles off of the roof over the bathroom and have the underlay nailed on so that even without new shingles the roof won’t leak when next it rains, which will be tonight. Max will be over tomorrow to clean up the mess and then we will be able to restore the flowerbeds in that area. It is the area you walk by to get into the house and I long to have it looking pretty again.
DD Marcia distributed manure to the spots I dug for squash but I did not get the seeds in. I made butter and also fixed dinner for the three of us. I picked the first heads of lettuce and we had a marvelous salad. We also had lamb ribs in bbq sauce. I started a big batch of chili but it won’t be done until tomorrow.
Abby worked a long time in the veg garden. She dug out a new section of comfrey, revealing excellent soil as is always left behind by comfrey. She wants to plant turnips.
Just before dark Abby and I moved the remaining brooding hen out of the chicken room along with all her eggs and set her up in isolated quarters. The egg count under her had risen to 15. Other hens kept popping more under her. This always happens if you let a hen set where other hens have easy access and it messes everything up. Some may hatch while others are still weeks away from ready. Besides which, I don’t get enough eggs for the house.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons.
June 12, 2009 Friday
A very busy day. Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons. Morning chores always occupy me until 10 o’clock. Then I got ready for my vet, Dr. Cooper, who often stops for lunch if in the neighborhood. The chili I started yesterday was ready today. Max was on his way over to clean up asphalt shingles so I asked him to pick up a loaf of sour dough bread and I ran down to the garden and picked lettuce. Dr. Cooper took another call on the way so was late. This gave me time to make a rhubarb crisp. After he left I felt pretty tired but did manage to get six hills of cucumbers and squash planted before it was time for evening chores.
The hen we moved last night got off her eggs this morning when I left her door open. I had to leave it open because there is another hen family in there that needs to range. I found her an hour or so later back in with the layers sitting on somebody’s new egg. I carried her back to her raft of eggs and she was still there this evening.
DS Martin and DIL Amy invited me to join them at camp for grilled sausages. I took along lettuce for a salad. Every bit was eaten. The sausages came from a butcher shop in Biddeford. They make them to order and they are truly excellent. After supper all of us, Amy, Martin, Amy’s dad Ken, both toddlers and I went out in the canoe and two kayaks and paddled towards East Brook. We did not make it the whole way as there was a bit of a head wind. Winds on Lake Webb are notoriously variable. The minute we headed for home the wind shifted and was in our faces all the way home. It was fun anyway, although we were out nearly an hour. I had the impression that others were moderating their pace so that I would not get left behind whereas I was paddling as fast as I could.
June 13, 2009 Saturday
Dear Jasmine started the day by giving 4 gallons of milk. It rained off and on. It has been impossible for most people to make hay. Last year DS Martin and a friend went in together on haying equipment and he had hoped to make hay this weekend but it is impossible. He got everything greased and ready.
DD Marcia got some coupons for Kawanhee Inn and invited her family there for a meal tonight. What a treat! We were ten at table not counting little Henry (1) and Hannah (3). Kawanhee Inn is a fine old rustic place overlooking Lake Webb and in good weather, like tonight, one can be seated on a screened porch. Happily, the skies cleared in time for a pleasant sunset. Kawanhee has a new chef. He made a great impression tonight with a lovely four course meal. Because of his high chair, we put Henry at the head of the table where he gave a steadfast demonstration of commitment to his dinner. He feeds himself and stopped only to signal for more whenever he ran out of something. He is a meat and potatoes man.
After dinner some of the party adjourned to Marcia’s camp to go kayaking but I came home. We had a 5pm reservation, and what with doing my hair etc., I did not get Jasmine and Jeremiah in. She was still waiting when I got home and came right in.
Son John called from Australia to say that Tommy’s “trachie” as they call the wound is now closing up. It has not been needed again. He is about to be moved to rehab, a hospital in a different part of Adelaide. There they will keep him busy all day with treatments. There will be others in his predicament including one of John’s colleagues, a young woman who pitched over the handlebars of her bicycle in March with an outcome similar to Tommy.
Here is a picture that Mitra took of Sophie giving one her piglets a good morning kiss.
June 14, 2009 Sunday Flag Day, but too wet to put out my flag
Jasmine only gave three gallons this morning, no doubt because of coming in late and spending more time with greedy Jeremiah last evening. The rain has continued and her run-in, the “Beefer Pen”, is a mess. She was very dirty. It was an eight towel clean-up job. I have bags of white terrycloth towels that I wring out in my bucket of hot water and spray with a mixture of vinegar and detergent. Each soiled towel is then set aside and I take a fresh one so that the hot water stays clean. Every few days I put all the soiled towels through a sanitizing wash.
Max came over to do more builders’ clean-up and I asked for help with the beefer pen. At this point it is a job for the front end loader. Max tidied the lean-to and for the present I will make her stay out there at night. When Helen comes in dirty Max ties her outside and hoses her down but my barn arrangements do not lend themselves to this solution.
I finished planting the paddock garden. I put in 22 hills of squash and cucumbers, mostly working in drizzle. My corn is up rather sporadically compared to last year. The potatoes are up a foot. They are glistening green. This is about the time last year that the potato bugs arrived followed by endless rain. Now it is raining again. I have the potatoes on higher ground this year. Faithful readers may recall that last year I swore off potatoes but hope springs eternal. I do believe that if one has the land and the strength that it is a good idea to grow ever more of one’s own food. I say this as a matter of principle but also because you can’t just say, “Right, boys and girls, if you want to eat this winter, we‘re going to have to put in potatoes.” It is best to have built up your soil and your skills. My soil has responded well to years of manuring. (Not so sure about my skills.) The paddock garden used to be where DD Marcia had her horse, Peter. He did his best to manure it and it is producing an impressive crop of pigweed. Mitra tells me that at the farmer’s market people are paying $8 pound for it. It is every bit as tasty as spinach but does not hold its green well when cooked.
I still had a lot of the chili I made last week so Marcia invited us all over to her place for a chili supper. I was able to bring enough lettuce for a huge salad and DD Abby made carrot cake.
June 15, 2009 Monday
Jasmine gave a full four gallons this morning.
Marcia and I did errands and Abby took care of Hannah while Martin made further improvements to the haying equipment. It rained all day, harder than yesterday. The lake is rising and Marcia has attached the guy ropes to the end of her dock. These are hundreds of feet of rope that her brother Bret affixed last year when the water rose so high that it floated the dock from its moorings. She has a very long dock with a seating platform at the end.
Mark and Ann, our two new doctors, are taking a few days in Quebec City despite the rain.
I had hoped to watch Antiques Road Show but PBS has bumped it in favor of an earnest gentleman who is talking for three hours about building mind power at any age. He has a large attentive audience. I don’t know how they sit so long. As the old farmer said to the agent who came around to teach him better farming practices, “Young feller, I ain’t farming half as well as I know how to right now”. I ain’t using my brain half as well as I know how to right now either.
June 17, 2009 Wednesday
The weather was perfect again today. What a treat. I was not outside as much as I would have liked to be, but did make my now daily tour of the potato rows. I knew I would soon begin to spot potato beetles and today, there they were, about half a dozen. I knock them into a can containing a little lamp oil. My corn is not coming up as thickly as it ought to.
Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons. I was quite late getting to the barn which always makes her a bit irritable.
DS John in Adelaide wrote this morning:
Tommy was shifted over to rehab yesterday morning. I visited in the afternoon to check it out. He has a large shared room with an older fellow but will move to a single room when one becomes available. The RAH (Royal Adelaide Hospital) rehab centre is considered one of the best of its sort anywhere for this sort of thing so I guess we're lucky to have it so near (40 minute drive) - I will bear this in mind while battling my way down South Road.
He has wireless internet for his laptop and would be pleased to receive email from all and sundry but warns that his replies will be brief (he was always a two-finger typist, but now the typing is especially slow because of difficulty pointing his finger straight). Feel free to send photos and all sorts of "we're thinking of you" type messages and anything else (short and sweet is best).
His hair was sort of semi-dreadlocks which has turned into a sort of helmet. He plans to get "number two" haircut asap!
He's happy to have a power wheelchair to zoom around the facility which is a sprawling one-story building. He has a big window overlooking an enormous paddock (a good 100 acres) with sheep and cows (until recently owned by the Dept of Ag, but about to turn into housing estate). I understand the staff intentionally organized this room for him because he was from the country.
Coincidentally a young woman who until recently worked where I work is in there (she went head over teakettle on a bicycle 9 weeks ago). I introduced her to him and she has showed him the ropes of the place. She also is on pretty much the same supplements, including fish oil, C, E, and kelp. (I presume the latter appealed to her as a marine biologist). -John
John also wrote to say that they are planning a 25th birthday party for Tommy’s brother, Jack. It is to be held in the parking lot by the hospital, which is all on one level. Tommy will be able to wheel himself outside to be with everyone.
For my supper tonight I picked a batch of pigweed (chenopodium), which can be eaten like spinach, and made an Indian dish. I don’t know the name of it but have had it in restaurants. It is sautéed with butter, garlic and curry paste and white cheese is added. All components were from the farm except the curry powder. I used cottage cheese in it.
Yesterday I made lovely loaves of brioche and forgot them in the oven. They were ruined. Ooh, I was so mad! So today I repeated the recipe and this time carried the oven timer with me and they turned out perfectly.
June 18, 2009 Thursday
The day started out very fine but turned to rain by mid afternoon. Max arrived to mow my lawn before things got too wet. Poor Max has a streaming cold so it was noble of him to come.
Abby came over too and worked long and hard in the garden.
Yesterday Abby took my contractor, George Brown, over to have a look at DD Sally’s little house across the river. Today George told me that the house is very sound. Its issues are cosmetic. It has a wonderful setting within the sound of the river so this is good news.
The men worked until about 3pm and got the plastic underlay onto a big section of roof before they got rained out.
I made butter, started a new teleme cheese and made 3 quarts of kim chee. I somehow ended up with two napa cabbages so thought now must be the time to make a batch. I merged several recipes. They were all so different that I have the impression that about anything I did with the standard ingredients would result in kim chee.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons and behaved perfectly in every way, as did Jeremiah. It is wonderful the way I have only to open the door for him and he races in and rounds the corner to hop into his stall.
Mitra’s parents, Alex and Marie, arrived from California last night. They have a condo near Max and Mitra’s house. I hope we can give them good weather and a good time.
June 19, 2009 Friday
Jasmine gave over 4 gallons this morning but there were clumps on the filter. I can think of no explanation for this related to any stress, unless she doesn’t like rain. Darn. I saw to it that she got a big heap of comfrey. So we will see what tomorrow brings.
It rained all of last night and all of today until evening. The drainage system that is supposed to lead water away from my paddock garden is clogged. Like last year, there is a great lake forming and even though I planted the potatoes on higher ground, they are under water. I waded down the rows in the rain looking for potato bugs but they were all in hiding. DD Abby worked a long time with a shovel trying to get the water flowing but to no avail. Max is going to come over tomorrow and see what he can do.
I cheered us up by making a blueberry lemon cake. It is like a giant blueberry muffin made in a bundt pan and it turned out perfectly. I used half whole wheat pastry flour.
John called from Adelaide. They have started rehab exercises on Tommy. He is able to feed himself with the aid of a Velcro thing that fits around his hand. He is to get new X-rays tomorrow and if the doctor is satisfied with his condition, he may be allowed out in a wheelchair accessible taxi next weekend to meet the family at a pizza parlor. If this works out, as Tommy hopes, they will do the barbecue at the rehab another time. The rehab has a roofed meeting area outdoors with built in gas barbecues and seating. Tommy has been switched from an electric to a manual wheelchair.
June 21, 2009 Sunday, Summer Solstice
DS Martin was born on this day at home in Los Altos Hills, CA.
DS Max came over yesterday and dug a great trench from the big puddle in the yard that I call Lake Coburn all the way out to the culvert by the paved road. About 60’. He had to take up the plastic drain pipe that Martin laid three years ago. It was crushed in too many places to be fixable. The lake was threatening my garden. By this morning it had drained almost completely. Unfortunately there is another area almost as bad which needs similar trenching. The rain continues in what we fear may be a reprise of last year. The corn is not doing well. It is not hot enough. The weeds like this weather and are thriving. I will have to do some hand weeding if we are to have any corn crop. The potato plants actually look great but so they did last year before they were flooded. The cucumbers and squash are all up. I sprinkled each hill with diatomaceous earth in hopes of discouraging the slugs, which are thick. Down in the lower garden the lettuce is looking great. I pull enough for a salad every day. It is a battle with the slugs, though.
All my roses and peonies are blooming now.
The barn swallows came back this year. Until recently I was not sure they were here. I was afraid the roofing job had frightened them but today I saw a fledgling. I am not so sure about the tribe that always nested in the old carriage house. They came back last year and nested in the broken rafters. Now with everything new, I have not seen them although the evening sky is full of swallows.
Max came back today and took a load to the dump. He brought both girls. DD Abby gave Roshan a piano lesson while Shireen baked cookies.
I joined Marcia and Abby for supper at the lake. The water is up to within an inch of her dock. She has the whole thing tied onto its moorings in about 40 places.
We had hoped to have a Father’s Day dinner at the lake but the weather was too discouraging. We will plan a get together soon.
June 22, 2009 Monday
It hardly rained at all today! We even had some intervals of watery sunshine. Jasmine gave 4 gallons of perfect milk. The mastitis alarm that started last week cleared up with daily armloads of comfrey. I would say close to a bushel of the lush leaves and flowering stems.
Abby stayed home today and worked on an order for a batik handbag. Marcia came and hand weeded one row of potatoes. The rows are about 100 ft. I weeded about half of one row of corn. The cool wet weather has encouraged the lush weeds and discouraged the corn. It is barely 3” high and has germinated poorly. Last year it got a head start on the weeds before the rain hit but this year the soil was too cold. I told Marcia, nobody better leave any corn or potatoes on their plate after all this work.
June 24, 2009 Wednesday
Jasmine again gave 4 gallons of perfect milk.
Yesterday, Tuesday, Max returned and did more mowing and weed trimming. There are still piles of shingles to pick up but that will have to wait another day.
It rained again last night, very hard, but dwindled during the day to a Scotch mist and even sunshine for awhile. Marcia and I carried on with the heavy weeding in the paddock garden. All the potatoes and two of the four rows of corn are done. The chickens have scratched up my four hills of winter squash. Drat. I will replant but probably it is too late to get a crop. Marcia found wire tomato frames to put over some of the so far unmolested hills.
We think one of the Muscovy ducks has a nest somewhere. She flies off somewhere every day and is gone a couple of hours.
I made butter. It comes out a brilliant yellow at this time of year. I will never forget the time that a house guest of Marcia’s could not be convinced that I wasn’t dying it. I am not sure that I ever succeeded in persuading him that was its natural color.
I made bread pudding and took it out to Marcia’s camp at the lake for supper. Abby served a delicious chicken casserole with beans and we had our own lettuce. It was a fine clear evening. As always, the lake was lovely.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons.
June 25, 2009 Thursday
I am able to report that we had a fine sunny day, in fact it was hot, probably 80˚. Marcia and I finished with weeding the paddock garden. The little corn seedlings were turning yellow among the weeds but they loved the weather today. I think that now they will be able to outgrow most of the weeds. I did not find a single potato bug. Marcia made little fences around the hills of cukes and squash by pounding shingles into the ground in a circle.
The workmen are now building the new dormer window onto the playroom. It faces south. They are building it right onto the roof and when it is done they will come into the playroom and dissect away the part of the roof that has to be removed.
I made my chocolate ricotta pudding using cottage cheese. It is made with gelatin. I could not get the cottage cheese completely smooth. It would be better with quark. But it was tasty with whipped cream. I will give it to Marcia and Abby tomorrow.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning. She may have held up a bit. One of the tubes on the machine fell off halfway through milking. It was one of those horrid little narrow hard rubber tubes and I had to stop the machine in order to get at it. Jasmine hates any disturbances to normal procedures.
June 26, 2009 Friday
Even our weatherman, a low key guy, has taken to remarking that what we are getting is the result of climate change. It rained another 2 inches last night. Following a fine evening during which I was able to see the new moon, about 12:30am I was awakened by a major electrical storm. There was no pulling a quilt over my head and turning my deaf ear. I at once remembered that I had not powered down my computer. The lightening flashes were so bright that I did not need any other light to get downstairs to turn it off and unplug the TV. After that, sleep was impossible for the next couple of hours so of course I overslept. What I found in the morning was that Bagel had lost control of his bowels in an impressive way and had jumped out the window. He has jumped out this same window so many times by knocking out a pane that I have stopped repairing it and now keep a board-type placemat duct taped over it. The trenching Max did last week kept the garden from flooding.
Mitra’s night was worse. When the storm woke her up she remembered that she had not closed in her ducks and chickens. She had to go out amidst thunder and lightening and torrential rain with her umbrella and LL Bean headlamp which attracted hundreds of moths to the light and shelter of her umbrella. She did not get to sleep until 3:30 and then had to get up early to do all the animal chores because Max is on a camping trip. She then had to clean and polish her duck eggs for sale at the farmer’s market where she has a table on Fridays. The early part of today was clear and sunny but by early afternoon another electrical storm hit bringing us another inch of rain.
DD Marcia came over and improved my duck pen. The ewe, Agnes, has been hopping in and eating up the duck feed. Agnes is an impressive leaper, but so far so good. Marcia and I then went to Wal-Mart where I found myself unable to resist three fruit trees for $11/each. I bought two cherry trees, a Montmorency and a North Star, and an apricot tree. Maine has seldom vouchsafed anyone a ripe apricot but hope springs eternal.
From Australia John writes: Tommy continues to make gradual improvement - slow but steady returns to functionality. These are to be expected during the early months after sci. Let's hope they continue. Yesterday, the physio told him that in the time since Tommy arrived at rehab, his functionality has moved down the spine by three or four vertebrae. So, his mobility is now consistent with someone with an injury at C8 (cervical 8), the 8th vertebra down from the top. The next vertebra down is T1 (thoracic 1). All this is good.
Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons this morning. I must try to find somebody to work on her feet. The lush grass is making her hooves grow.
June 28, 2009 Sunday
Saturday (yesterday) and today it once again rained pretty much all day. The cows don’t seem to mind. They graze in the rain and have a dry hay lined run-in. We people are trying to keep smiling. The center 20’of my two 100’ rows of potatoes are swamped just like last year. The wharf at DD Marcia’s camp on Lake Webb is actually floating. Marcia laced it all together with little pieces of rope every 3’ or so and it has long guy ropes from the far end up into the trees so although it would be unsafe to walk out on it, I don’t believe it is going anywhere.
We had a lovely family meal at camp Saturday night. We got to see Mitra’s parents at last. They arrived over a week ago and this was our first chance for a get together. I made a vast pot of chili with beef that I had coarse ground last winter for this purpose when we butchered. Marcia had a lot of cans of beans of different types and we put them all in. Somehow it turned out well. We also had rice and a big salad from our garden and kim chee. For dessert we had strawberry shortcake with whipped Jersey cream and fresh biscuits that Abby made. Martin and his family are here too.
Once again tonight a smaller group of us got together and ate sautéed scallops, Israeli couscous cooked in chicken stock, pureed winter squash, salad and strawberries with ice cream.
DD Sally called from Alaska to ask about Willie. Marcia ran over his foot yesterday when backing up her pickup. He does not appear to have any other damage but I think it still hurts. He acts subdued. Sally told me that her son Rafe and a neighbor went out on the Chilcoot river in front of her house and caught 18 sockeye salmon. They are also catching crab.
Martin and Amy’s little Hannah is not complaining about the weather. They went on a hike today in the State Park and came to a pretty brook. Hannah said “It’s fun playing in a brook in the rain.” It really is not cold. It was about 65˚ all day.
June 30, 2009 Tuesday
Monday I was gone the entire day on an excursion with DD Abby to Farmington. We joined Mitra and her girls and were guests of her parents, the Eskandari’s for lunch.
Also in the restaurant was Hilda Heinrich, mother of the well known nature writer, Berndt Heinrich. Although she is one of my milk customers, Max or Mitra have always delivered her milk and I had never met her so introduced myself. Afterwards we went to Mitra’s house so that Abby could give Roshan her piano lesson. Then we all went out and admired Sophie, the sow, and her six piglets. They are so bouncy and cute and all are red like mom. Of course with all this rain they are mostly mud colored. They will be a month old on Friday.
It rained most of the day.
Every since yesterday, my 12 Peking ducks just sit around and have not eaten their food at all. I began to get pretty worried that they might be sick. I once lost a flock of 24 Khaki Campbells to botulism in their water. Consequently we have been scrupulous about running fresh water into their little pond, at least until it began to rain 3” every night and 2” every day. I figured that their pond got plenty of refreshment. But after seeing them camped out in the same spot for 24 hours with their food untouched it suddenly came to me that I had better turn on the hose. Amazing! They all waddled over and began dabbling and splashing in the fresh water, then ate a pan of food.
Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons this morning.
July 1, 2009 Wednesday
It rained again last night and a little early in the morning but was otherwise dry today albeit with a low grey sky. Towards evening the sun came out for about 3 minutes just to prove it was still there I suppose.
Abby and I went to Rumford on errands and stopped at the thrift shop. I bought a good pair of suede shoes that had never been worn. Abby bought a lovely aquamarine skirt of cotton satin. I never buy new clothes.
DS Bret, who does nutrition research, recently chatted with a pediatrician who does her best to offer nutritional guidance to her patients. At her office she makes a point of wearing only polyester suits and cheap shoes. Many of her patients complain that they cannot afford fruits and vegetables. Yet they are wearing expensive name brand clothes and shoes.
I joined Marcia and Abby and Marcia’s daughter Abby Rose who is visiting from California with her boy friend Ernie, for supper at camp. They served one of the Luick chickens and collards from Marcia’s little veg garden (she has mostly flowers). DD Abby made a coconut cake. As usual everything was excellent and we all ate too much. Marcia’s dock is still floating. All sorts of flotsam is collected on it including a couple of dead fish. Out at the far end her urns of flowers are still rocking gently as the dock lifts with the waves.
In the newspaper there are many pictures of farmers’ flooded fields of tomatoes and unplanted corn fields too muddy to admit tractors.
DS John called this morning from Adelaide. He has discovered a health food store across from the rehab center where Tommy is and the gal sells raw milk. Sale of raw milk for human consumption is against the law in Australia. John made me guess how they have labeled it to elude the law. Answer: milk for bathing in. (John was pretty surprised when I guessed it.)
Jasmine gave a bit under 4 gallons today. She was right at the barn waiting for me both morning and evening. She and Jeremiah both look sleek and shiny.
July 3, 2009 Friday, Fourth of July holiday
It hardly rained at all today and we even had some sun, until evening when we had a severe electrical storm for about an hour. It is still rumbling but so far we have not lost power. Mark and Ann, the new doctors, and Mark’s daughter Hailey are here for one night. We were joined for dinner by DS Martin and his family and DD Marcia’s son Harper who is visiting from Alaska. I fixed braised short ribs, pureed winter squash (from the freezer), short grain brown rice cooked in chicken stock, a big green salad and for dessert, strawberries and cream. DS Max came by this afternoon to pick up clabber and brought the strawberries and I was very pleased to see them, since I had not managed to come up with any dessert. As usual, Hannah (3) and Henry (1) were good little guests. Henry eats with single-minded attention to the job. You don’t hear from him until all his dinner is gone. Afterwards he crawled around like a little tractor in high gear.
Jeremiah is still helping himself to a lot of the milk. He has resumed his old habit of nursing Jasmine dry along about the time I separate them for the night. I wish I had a practical way to separate them but I don’t. I got less than 3 gallons this morning which would not be bad if Jasmine did not hold up her cream. There are only 2” of cream on a gallon of milk and there ought to be 4”. Of course Jeremiah is correspondingly sleek. He is a lot bigger than Jasmine. At least he is not damaging her teats at present.
July 04, 2009 Saturday
According to the weatherman, today was supposed to be our first dry day but instead it rained. It was raining hard when I got up and rained off and on all day. I did manage to set out some replacement squash plants that Marcia bought for me. The ancient seed I put in last week to replace what the chickens tore up has come up nicely. I am amazed. I soaked it in wet paper towels kept them warm on the Aga for a day before planting.
I’ve been feeling a mounting sense of failure lately as a farmer due to dissatisfaction with the steer, the sheep and the Muscovy ducks all behaving badly. The ewe, Agnes, has continued to jump the fence and eat the duck feed. The male Muscovy has been stationing himself so as to intimidate the Pekins from getting to their feed, and as often mentioned I am frustrated with Jeremiah nursing. Today Abby reinforced and raised the fence to make it much harder for Agnes to jump over. Time will tell. She also helped me figure out what to do about separating Jeremiah: we put him in with the sheep. Most of that fence is in good shape and if he gets out I will ask Max to run electric wire. There is plenty of grazing there for at least a month. As for the Muscovy, he goes into the freezer. Past experience instructs me that it will take three or four days of separation before Jasmine lets down her cream for me.
Marcia’s son Harper who is visiting from Alaska has become very ill. He is keeping to his room with a headache, fever, muscular aches and digestive issues. He is taking some herbal tea, that is all. It came on very suddenly.
July 05, 2009 Sunday
Jeremiah has been doing a great deal of bellowing. His mournful complaint can no doubt be heard halfway across town. Jasmine has not been answering but has been grazing close by. All of a sudden the face flies have become pesky. Something, possibly the combined stress of the flies and worrying about Jeremiah, brought back lumpy bits on the filter this morning. So far there is no hint of Jeremiah challenging the fence. Nor did Agnes get back in with the ducks, although I caught her giving a considering look over the granite wall.
I put on boots and walked around in the marshy area behind the barn in hopes of finding one of the Muscovy ducks that I have not seen for several days. I suspect she has a nest. If so I should look for ducklings around the end of July.
Harper is somewhat better today but says he feels like a noodle. Abby continues to make him herb teas. He cancelled his plan to visit other oceanographers at Woods Hole but he made an appearance downstairs.
I have lost my cars keys, my only set. My mind is a blank on where to look. Others kindly came and ferried me up to camp for supper last night where we had a grand old feed. Most of us ate lobster but some ate Max’s BBQ chicken. Max’s family was with us including Mitra’s parents, the Eskandari’s. Also present were Martin’s family including Amy’s dad Ken. Some old friends of Marcia’s from Canada stopped in on their way through town and stayed over night.
It rained off and on. I got drenched running from the car to the house. All the kids went swimming anyway. Ken is discouraged about his garden. A black blight has hit his peppers. I just read in Science News that Late Blight, the fungus that caused the Irish potato famine, is spreading rapidly in gardens in the Northeast.
Max rode his bike over today from New Sharon, a distance of 35 miles. Then he rode all the way home.
We got some sun today just as most were leaving.
July 06, 2009 Monday
The sun shone nearly all day. The weather was perfect.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons this morning of flawless milk. She has gotten over hanging around the paddock fence where Jeremiah is but she still answers his calls occasionally. He continues to bellow a lot especially if he sees me. The sheep do the same thing. Now we are frequently listening to three sheep and one steer all sounding off at once.
I discovered that I still had more squash plants to set out and have squeezed them in here and there. Let’s hope we get a good crop of squash in case the potatoes and corn let us down. So far everything is looking OK except the swamped part of the potato patch. What with bad weather and widespread crop problems all over the country and the world, I am taking my gardening more seriously than ever. Right now I am most worried about getting hay. Very little has been made in Maine. Someone said they read that the crop is down 50% because of the rain.
DD Abby came down and helped out for a long time. She thinned the beets, among other things.
The fields and woodlands are at their height of beauty now. After I called Jasmine this evening to come up for her grain snack I sat on the ramp behind the barn and soaked up the sight of the waving pasture grass and deep green woodlands and my little cow marching home and thought that heaven could not be lovelier.
This is my grandson Harper’s last evening. He is pretty well recovered from his sudden illness. He loves to cook and did the lamb chops for dinner. Tonight it was just Harper, Marcia, Abby and me. Besides the chops, we had brown rice, beet greens – the first this year and delicious – and green salad from my garden. Marcia made fried bananas for dessert. Harper put rum on them and set them alight for the flambé effect, always spectacular.
Harper regaled us with accounts of meals he and his family had on their many travels, most recently to Asia. They especially liked Tokyo. He said the Japanese have some traits in common with the French. They have a wonderful country, are satisfied with it, and make few concessions to foreigners. Most restaurants have menus entirely in Japanese. They learned to say the Japanese for “Chef’s choice”, “Omakase shimas”, literally, “It’s up to you” or perhaps “Please decide for me”.
July 07, 2009 Tuesday
I was up at 5:30 and everything was so quiet on the farm that I feared Jeremiah had broken out and was in with Jasmine. He made up for it later with some relentless bellowing. I felt sorry for the workmen. At milking time Jasmine was way down in the pasture and ignored my calling. I guess she just was not paying attention. When I walked down where she could see me and waved my arms she came right away. She is ever so much better than Helen used to be. No amount of yelling would get her moving if she was enjoying her grass. I would have to go around to the far side of her and wave a switch. Jasmine gave 4 gallons of perfect milk. Already by noon it was evident that there is more cream, although not yet as much as there should to be.
It drizzled lightly all day. Marcia went to Portland to start Harper on his journey home and pick up his daughter Amara. They were planning lunch. I understand that Amara (18) has a bad cold.
Abby and I went off to Rumford on errands. We stopped at the Rumford Falls overlook. These great falls on the Androscoggin are among the largest in the Eastern US and with all this rain are spectacular. I often try to imagine how they looked to the Native Americans. They were then twice as wide. Noble pines would have bordered the river everywhere. Half of the falls are now taken up with a power plant. We opened the car windows to hear the roar of the water.
July 08, 2009 Wednesday
It rained another 2” last night and at least another inch during the day.
Jasmine was waiting for me like a good girl and gave 4 ½ gallons. Cream production is improving slightly. She will very likely hold up again tomorrow though. Jeremiah got out and is now back in his stall. About mid morning I heard a great ruckus of clumping and barking and a sheep baa-ing. There was the larger of the two rams, Ramsey, standing in the buttery with Willie barking in his face. What followed was a great deal of bounding around and calling. I put Willie and Bagel inside the house and contrived a plan which eventually worked. As it happens, these sheep are absolutely not fearful of me so with grain in my hand I tempted him forward until I had him at the top of the stairs that lead from the deck down into the sheep paddock. I managed to finesse him through the little gate and onto the stairs at which point I gave him a push and he bounced on down like a mountain goat. I wish to note that these sheep are now huge. Ramsey has got to weight 100 lbs.
I had no clue as to how he had gotten out of the paddock but apparently it was no mystery to Jeremiah. The next thing I knew he was tearing around the lawn leaving great divots. I ignored him while I put a sign on the front gate warning people not to open it - no one else was here. Then I opened the front door of the barn and started trying to move him that direction. He was totally high and just kept circling around the bushes, the pond, the car and generally doing the opposite of what I wanted. Fortunately one of the workmen arrived, a fearless young man, followed not long afterwards by Max. Another five minutes and he had him in the barn. He is going to have to remain in his stall now for a couple of days until Max can do some fencing. I did find the breach. It was a broken post where sheep had been reaching for wild cherry – don’t they know it’s bad for them? Max repaired that spot but I guess electric fence is the best answer now. Max is more in favor of making them all an appointment at the abattoir, which for the price of the new fencing materials, I could do.
My great granddaughter, Amara (18), Harper’s daughter, is now visiting from Alaska. DD Abby made a nice lamb and eggplant stew. We were six at dinner at Marcia’s camp: Marcia, Abby, Amara, Max, Roshan and I. Roshan was over for her piano lesson from DD Abby and Max is supervising a teen overnight party at DS Martin’s camp a few doors down. Shireen and three other young ladies are eating mac n’ cheese and making s’mores. I hope we have better weather tomorrow for them.
I visited both veg gardens today. This last rain has clearly discouraged the plants in the paddock garden. It is just so soggy. I picked off potato bugs. It is striking to note how much greater insect damage there is on the more stressed plants that have their feet in the water. Down below in the older garden everything is in raised beds or rows but the little trench around the garden is full of water. The soil cannot absorb any more.
DS John wrote today from Adelaide: I just wanted to mention that as of yesterday, Tommy began moving his feet a tiny bit. He also is regaining his health and general vim, and as a result is able to do much longer and harder workouts with the physio and in the gym. I may have said something before about leg movement but this is really the first he has been able to demonstrate reliably and repeatedly, and clearly not spasm-induced, mentally-controlled movement. Naturally we are all "over the moon" and as always, just hoping that the progress continues.
July 10, 2009 Friday
DD Abby is particularly fond of cream and is alert to the changes in Jasmine’s cream line. There is not only more cream but there is more heavy cream. Jasmine gave 4 gallons Thursday morning and almost 4 ½ this morning.
On Thursday we had another festive dinner at Marcia’s camp. She is a great hostess. We wanted to have Mitra’s parents one last time before the return to California taking Shireen and Roshan for the remainder of July. I sorted through my freezer and found all the remaining steaks. Max grilled them very nicely. The weather was pretty good.
It did not rain today. In fact it was mostly sunny. First thing this morning it was 45˚ but warmed to about 64˚.
I tried to make butter but had left the cream in the churn too long and it was too thick to churn. I gave some to cousins Holly and Richard who stopped in for a little visit. Maybe they will think of something to do with it. I expect to be able to make butter more often now. They showed me wonderful pictures of themselves and other cast members from last winters’ Gilbert and Sullivan production in Minneapolis. They were all in various period costumes.
Harper took two pints of cream back to Alaska with him. This morning he wrote: Thank you thank you thank you for the cream. I made ice cream last night with half of it with fresh organic strawberries, fresh local eggs, not too sweet, not too berry-ish, and the cream shone forth, redolent of grass and sunshine. Everyone had two helpings. Fantastic!
Marcia and Amara came down today and weeded the veg garden. I weeded what I could of the paddock garden. The corn is getting swallowed up again. At least the squash and cucumber plants look pretty good.
The workmen finished up today. They took down all the scaffolding but left a terrible mess of shingles for Max to work on. On the final section of roof work they were not as careful to protect the plants and ruined a lot of flowers. They still have some finish work to do indoors on the dormer.
DS Martin arrived unexpectedly. He split wood while I whipped up a bit of supper. I had some frozen fillets of tilapia and a nice little bowl of strawberries given me this morning by Holly and Richard.
July 12, 2009 Sunday
Jasmine gave 4 ¼ gallons yesterday (Saturday). The entire day was sunny. We wanted another family dinner while Amara is here and everybody rose to the occasion with contributions. Mitra made her famous pulled pork and a Mexican rice pilaf. I made cole slaw and queso blanco. DD Abby made a sponge cake and chocolate pudding sauce.
I had limited supplies for cole slaw, needed to accompany the pulled pork burritos: only a red cabbage and a quart of my sauerkraut. I shredded the cabbage using the finest slicing disk to my Cuisinart. I added the sauerkraut and half of a red onion. I made the dressing with olive oil and juice remaining from my kim chee and decorated the top with calendula petals. This slaw was so successful that I might try making it another time if I ever have this constellation of ingredients on hand again.
I used a gallon of whole milk for the queso blanco and shredded it. Instructions are in KFC. It only takes a few minutes to make it.
Present were Marcia, Abby, Amara, Mark, Ann, Hailey, Max, Mitra, Martin, Amy, and little Hannah and Henry, and my cousins from Minneapolis, Holly and Richard and myself. After dinner DS John called from Adelaide SA and put us through on skype to Tommy. For those who don’t know what skype is, don’t feel bad, it’s not even in my 5 year old Microsoft dictionary. You have a phone connection through your computer and can see each other on the screen. So there was Tommy in his hospital room with his brother Jack and Jack’s wife Miyumi. Tommy looked very cute and charming, as did the others.
As the guests were preparing to leave, the weather could not behave itself any longer and exploded into a cloudburst and electrical storm. It was the sort of rain where you run the wipers full speed and still can scarcely make out the road. I barely exceeded 30mph on the drive home but perhaps others are braver or have brighter headlights. One pickup got impatient and roared past me. Because of the thunder and lightening, once home I turned off my computer and am writing this on Sunday.
Jasmine gave over 4 gallons this morning. Of course everything was soaked again but the sun was bright and Martin and his haying partner, Ted, decided to take a chance on cutting hay. During the afternoon they cut and tedded about 100 bales-worth.
Max came here and loaded his pickup with nearly all the remaining shingles and other construction rubble. They left a huge mess, very inconveniently strewn, with very few of the shingles and nails actually on the tarp. Max took three loads to the dump and then mowed most of my lawn. He was very tired, having ridden his bike the 37 miles down from his place.
Marcia came and worked in the garden. At the Weld town dump she found a big collection of 8’ stakes made from small trees. She loaded these up and is installing them as tomato supports
I have decided to stop graining the lambs. It is getting a bit dangerous for me to negotiate the stairs down to their run-in with the can of feed. Now when I open the trap door they begin climbing the stairs to greet me. Today, Agnes slipped on the open treads, caught a back leg and hung upside down until I got down and tried to lift her out. When I got hold of her front legs she immediately began thrashing and got herself free. I was sure she had broken her leg but Marcia doesn’t think so. However she is limping badly.
July 13, 2009 Monday
Jasmine gave 4 gallons.
Agnes is still limping but does put some weight on her left rear leg. She is otherwise behaving normally. Abby came by and devised a method for feeding them that does not involve going down any steps. Their grain tub is now out the back door of the carriage house with a length of baling twine attached for reeling it in. She says she will feed them.
Marcia and I were hatching plans for taking Amara to Farmington to shop on her last day here (her choice of activity, we’re talking pretty 18 year old girl) when Marcia decided to double check the plane ticket. Yipes! She flies today! She was still in bed. Marcia, Abby and Amara flew into action, stuffed things into bags, and were out the door in time to make the 2 hour drive to Portland to catch her bus to the airport in Boston with just seconds to spare. I’ve heard nothing to the contrary so assume she is now winging towards Seattle.
It rained again last night. There was sun all day today, not hot sun, but I know the men hoped to bale the hay that Martin and Ted cut yesterday. I have not heard if they did or not. It rained again about 6pm.
Yesterday I overbeat a full churn of cream. This will only happen with an unattended electric churn. The butter comes, and then if one does not turn off the churn, the buttermilk gets beaten back in. You now have something resembling mayonnaise and it is virtually impossible to get the buttermilk back out. I put the whole lot into the Aga simmer oven and made it into ghee, which so far as I can tell is the same thing as butter oil - that highly touted product. In any case I now have a quart of clear golden oil, perhaps worth a lot of money, but I would have preferred butter. The buttermilk fraction of this mess formed a quite delicious substance resembling buttered dry cottage cheese.
July 15, 2009 Wednesday
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons. This would have been a good day for haying but the baler is awaiting parts. The weather was fine all day, sunny with a light breeze. DD Marcia stopped by with her trimmer and did some more edging and Max cleaned up the remaining builder’s rubble and did more mowing. I felt as though I was busy all day but don’t seem to have accomplished much except making a pot of beans and putting 2 lbs of butter into the freezer. At one point I was sitting quietly by myself on the deck and saw the Muscovy duck dawdling around in the manner of a bird pretending not to be returning to her nest. I sat very still and saw her disappear into the granite foundation of the carriage house. Max went down to have a look and said he could see a duck’s butt under there. I don’t know just when she disappeared but it has been at least two weeks. Regular ducks have a 28 day gestation but I don’t know about Muscovys.
Dr. Cooper was at Max and Mitra’s today to help with castrating their piglets. They did two of them and Max felt he had not done it right so called for help with the remaining two. Dr. Cooper had a different and perhaps better method that involved laying the piglet down on its back and Max holding its head between his ankles. Dr. Cooper then rolled up the pig enough to make the testicles bulge out for easy cutting.
But there was gloomy news about Helen. She is still open. Dr. Cooper says she is cystic and gave her the first of three shots which it is hoped will bring her into heat. She has been giving around a gallon a day for a year or so and I guess will have to continue.
The only gardening I did today was the potato bug patrol and some weeding in my neglected borders.
July 16, 2009 Thursday
Jasmine is still on a roll with over 4 gallons. But now I am worried. I must get Dr. Cooper over to make sure she is really pregnant. She was bred by Jeremiah last winter and has never come in heat again. She would be due either in late October or in November.
DD Abby was here when the duck was off her nest. She was able to count seven eggs. Abby and I picked peas for the first time. Now that will be a daily task for a couple of weeks. The row is only about 6’ long but DD Marcia set up poles and string so the peas go straight up in an orderly fashion and are easy to get at. The row is about 5’ high.
DS John sent this account of Tommy’s first visit home.
Tommy just left the house, after his first visit here in ten weeks (since 8 May). It was only a one hour visit but it was really great, and I am sure he enjoyed it a lot too. I started up his car so he could hear the sweet notes of the engine. He had a piece of Lou's tasty carrot cake and some fizzy honey-based nonalcoholic beverage we had bought for the party we were having on 8 May when he had the accident (he blames a puppy for his accident, because he would have been at the party but for the puppy, which was to be delivered or something, requiring the car he would have otherwise have driven into town).
The occasion for the visit today was for the OT to inspect our wheelchair access (very poor). She wasn't impressed but said that if Jack were here to help pull the wheelchair while I pushed, then it was okay with her. I hope to build a long (about 15-20 metres) ramp soon, then the problem will be resolved. Tommy's arms are getting stronger (he finally gained a kilo as of two days ago, after a steady loss of weight). But his hands are very weak. We tried playing a bit of ping pong but he couldn't hold the paddle strongly enough. Well, with two hands he could sort of play. So he wouldn't really be able to stop a fall. But the wheelchair is pretty stable and we are very careful. (I had asked if he would be able to use his arms to prevent injury in case of a fall.)
I have been encouraging John to find raw milk for Tommy. He located a nearby health food store that sells raw milk as Cleopatra’s Bath Milk. He sent a picture of the container using his phone. He wrote:
I put in a standing order for 2 litres per week of the milk. That is enough for Tommy but Lou and I will have to go without. It is too expensive, being flown down from Queensland etc. But we did get to each have a glass of it. Actually Jack and Mayumi drank "our" milk, 2 litres, in one day, their excuse being they were worried it would go off (the use by date being a week or more hence notwithstanding!).
Tommy ranked goat's milk a little below fish oil in palatability, I am afraid. So it was discontinued. (A friend had graciously offered to provide goat’s milk, but Oh Dear.)
Marcia and I went to Farmington. I bought a little canister of some very expensive cocoa at the gourmet shop and not much else except for a bag of dairy feed.
July 17, 2009 Friday
Those positioned to make hay today will have had pretty good luck in this county. It was warm and sunny all day with some breeze. There was one sprinkle as the sun went down but it only lasted five minutes. I think I heard mowing across the river.
All morning I worked on milk related duties (2 more pounds of butter and filled the churn for tomorrow), also made two custard pies for the Historical Society public supper.
Marcia and I worked in the garden for about 45 minutes. We picked the peas, but you need a hazmat suit. The mosquitoes are unreal.
Tomorrow is the day Max and Mitra take their meat chickens to be dressed off. Those birds should be mighty good.
July 19, 2009 Sunday
On Saturday Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons, 4 today.
At 8am Saturday morning Max and Mitra delivered their meat birds to Greaney's Turkey Farm, a local processor, to be dressed off. They had very little attrition. They ended up with 96. Two died of heart attacks. Max said they only received 98 in the order. Mitra attributes their quality and health to clabber. I guess that now Sophie and the piglets will get all my clabber.
DD Abby helped me during the afternoon with picking peas and general bottle washing. I was way behind on everything. She also shampooed Willie. He has gone from grey dreads to fluffy white ringlets. She gave him a pennyroyal rinse which is supposed to help with fleas.
Max and Mitra and Cousins Holly and Richard joined Marcia and Abby and me for dinner at camp. Marcia made two casseroles, one with artichoke hearts n a cream sauce and one with rolled up egg plant stuffed with quark. Quark is proving popular lately. Richard brought a beautiful strawberry pie. I got back one of my custard pies from the Historical Society public supper and brought that and a quart of whipping cream.
I also brought a successful salad of blanched sugar peas and young carrots. These were cut small and had a dressing of olive oil and lemon and a lot of mint. It was served on a bed of lettuce.
Occasionally I have wondered what I would do if I ever locked myself out of the house. This morning I found out. The first thing this morning after another night of rain I let the dogs out without twisting the knob from its locked position. I always keep a convenient key outside in the buttery … except this time I had left it inside the house. I was wearing my caftan and not a whole lot else. There were not many options available but I tried the window over the bulkhead outside the kitchen. It has one of those sliding screens. I was able to slide the thing to its small position, reach in, and release the toggle lock on the sash. So much for high security. Anybody could do this much. The next bit was more demanding. The window itself is swathed in dripping wet climbing hydrangea and the counter inside was crammed with loaves of bread, eggs in a basket, my coffee maker and a lot more. Everything unbreakable I pushed ahead of me onto the floor, the rest I brought out the window onto the bulkhead. From here on it was a case of hoping nobody was looking as I wriggled in the window. The only pain I suffered was from the sash, which refused to stay up, repeatedly dropping on my Achilles tendons on the way through.
July 21, 2009 Tuesday
Jasmine is still giving 4 gallons every morning. I am making butter two days out of three. At last I am getting ahead and have frozen some nice grass fed butter for next winter.
Max came over yesterday (Monday) and completed work on electric fencing around the sheep paddock. We put Jeremiah back out with the sheep which made us all happy. I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The three Suffolk sheep have been noted for their loud baa, a noise which has not made friends for them. Now they cluster around Jeremiah and are much quieter. I can walk out onto the deck and down to the garden without setting them off. I recall how our flock of Jacob sheep remained independent until we got rid of the ram. Then they all joined up with Helen and the other cows.
Today is DD’s Marcia and Abby’s (twins) birthday. Obstetrical management was somewhat different in 1949. Nowadays I would have been browbeaten into getting a C-section as I went 10 days past my due date. They were 6 ½ lbs each. They were a surprise to all. The doctor apparently did not suspect twins. He predicted a 13 lb boy.
It has started to rain again. It is pretty discouraging. It is warm. After evening chores I went down and picked lettuce and peas and the rain felt good. But it is terribly frustrating not to be able to get on the Internet. Wildblue, my satellite service, does not function in the rain. When the sun comes out I am torn between catching up with the forum and various researches and getting outdoors.
DD Sally called from Haines AK. Her sons and their friends have been catching salmon in the Lutak River which runs past her house and she is running her canner all hours.
DIL Mitra leaves for California tomorrow to her mom’s house in Oakland. Shireen and Roshan are already there. They are all going to a large Iranian wedding, so, Max will be holding the fort in New Sharon.
July 22, 2009 Wednesday
Jasmine gave her customary four gallons but she seemed irritable. Ordinarily, she dawdles in her stanchion after I release her but today she seemed annoyed at having to wait while I moved the machine and pooped a great soupy mess. I then made her wait while I got it all cleaned up. I imagine that the bugs are bothering her as badly as they are the rest of us. She does have flies on her while she is grazing but they don’t come inside whereas the mosquitoes do. I handle the milk in the open carriage house and yesterday I bought a citronella candle in a bucket to see if that will clear them out a bit. This morning I was not sure if it helped or not.
Max came by today and brought me a very fine birthday present. He made a nice wooden gate for the garden shed. One walks through the shed like a little archway to reach the garden. We have been putting up with scrunchy fence wire that has to be constantly opened and closed for dog security. The new gate is a joy.
Cousins Holly and Richard stopped by for milk and presented me with delicious whole wheat muffins and some black cherries. They had been up on Center Hill to see if the blueberries were ripe. They said there are lots.
I made the velvet spice cake from the Joy of Cooking for Marcia and Abby and me. We had a modest little dinner at the lake. As I was about to leave I discovered that Agnes, the ewe, had hopped over the fence and was in with the ducks. I was not sure what to do. There is no gate through which I might urge her back to her own side. I put out a bit of grain for Jeremiah and Ramsey and Kebob, the two ram lambs. I checked a few minutes later and she was back where she belongs. I did not see how she did it.
DS John points out that I am a perfect square: 9 x 9 = 81 today.
July 23, 2009 Thursday
Jasmine was happy this morning. She gave 4 gallons again.
Max reports that he had Helen AI’d this morning and the inseminator will be back tomorrow morning for a follow-up hit. How we do hope she settles.
He also reports that out in California Mitra’s mom took the girls shoe shopping and declares it has taken two years off of her life (or was it seven years?).
John writes from Australia about his son Tommy (18), still in a wheelchair following his accident May 8:
This is a bit of an update on Tommy, which I like to do when there are glimmers of good news. He was in a good mood when I called this afternoon, having had his first swimming session, which he loved, and was put in some structure that helps him stand upright (it supports all or most of his weight) - he was ecstatic to feel the earth through his feet and legs again.
Sally McDonnel, from whom I bought Jasmine, now has her own little farm in Ohio. She wrote this description of her new garden. She laid it out on overgrazed and impacted ground:
This year I spread my winter manure pile out in a 14' x 40' four inch deep swatch. Thick composted hay, goat & cow manure kinda thing. Then I went and got material from a dump and covered it with blankets and fabric. I cut holes for the plants and put in a shovel full of dirt around the plants in the thick compost. I put the hay that was wasted, soiled & trampled under hoof over the whole thing to kinda hide the obnoxious patterns in the material from the 70's.
NOW it is all 5' high and LUSH. I get a 5 gal bucket of vegetables every day. It is unbelievable, the best garden I have ever grown. “
I love accounts like this. People who think we can’t grow significant amounts of food locally just aren’t paying attention. But you need animals to make it work. Animals complete the circle of fertility. You also need to be willing to work but that can also be fun.
Agnes is sick. She has lost her appetite as a result, no doubt, of eating that duck food. She walks around a bit and drinks a little water but does not eat.
It is 9:30 and dark. Willie is going nuts barking about something. Both dogs are in the garage and very agitated. I went out on the deck with my big rechargeable flashlight but it is going dim. I could not see or hear anything. I don’t dare let them loose for fear it is a skunk or a porcupine.
Later: The barking continued for over an hour. I sure hope I don’t wake up tomorrow to a disaster.
July 24, 2009 Friday
No disaster. Although I don’t see the female Muscovy. I know she has a nest somewhere nearby and has most likely set on her eggs. If the fox were after a duck I think he would have taken one of the big fat juicy looking Pekins They are the very definition of sitting ducks, always parked in a convenient group in plain sight. Furthermore, the fox does not hang around for an hour without doing any damage. I did not smell skunk. So it is a mystery.
I thought Agnes was a goner today. She just lay around and when I went down to have a look she was resting her head on a log. I was expecting DD Abby and figured maybe she could help me give Agnes a molasses water drench, as I thought she must be ketotic by now. I would need help with fending off Ramsey and Kebob, who are pushy and out of control. Abby finally arrived and I asked her to go down and survey the sheep situation. She came back with the report that Agnes was out grazing with the boys! Later she went back in to lie down so I don’t think she is 100% yet, but I feel a lot happier.
Marcia invited me to come out for dinner. I volunteered to bring a pot roast. The one I picked out was labeled last winter by DD Sally as “Non cosmetic chuck roast”. She and I cut all that last steer ourselves, mostly without any power saw. We got some funny looking cuts. But we all agreed, the flavor made up for everything.
DD Marcia got a call saying that her horse, Peter, who used to live here, did very well today at the Green Mountain Horse Show. It is an FEI show (Federation Equestrian International). He is now Reserve Grand Champion, First Intermediare. He was ridden by Pam Goodrich, his co-owner. His real name is Donerhut.
I don’t know what this all means either, but the judges were pleased and that’s what matters.
We woke up today to rain and it rained all day and is still raining. An article in today’s paper states that all farmers in this part of the country report crops and potential profits are down at least a third no matter what they are growing or raising.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons this morning. To make the cluster fit on her full udder I have to milk the front two quarters out halfway before putting the cups on the rear teats.
July 25, 2009 Saturday
It rained hard again last night but did not rain during the day. There was quite a bit of sun but I don’t think the temp reached 70˚. Marcia worked a long time in the garden. When she completes weeding a bed, it is a work of art. She also planted the three fruit trees that I bought a couple of weeks ago, two cherries and an apricot. Max had the holes ready. Apricots scarcely grow here in Zone 4 but with climate change I might as well take a chance.
Max came over and built me a new ramp leading out of the chicken house. It too, is a work of art. I doubt anyone will ever slip on it. It is very sturdy and has cleats and a handrail.
Martin came with little Hannah but the rest of his family stayed home. He and Amy gave me a lounge chair for use on the deck. I will have to rearrange my life so as to get a chance to sit in it – always supposing the rain stops.
Max had to go home and take care of his animals but the rest of us ate dinner at Marcia’s camp. We had one of the new Luick roasting chickens which was such a treat. Abby made potato salad and green salad and cookies.
Agnes is back grazing but not spending as much time at it as the two others. Sometimes she goes inside their run-in by herself and lies down.
Jasmine gave a bit under 4 gallons this morning.
July 27, 2009 Monday
Jasmine is still keeping up with her 4 gallons of full cream milk.
Agnes is now fully recovered to the extent that she pushed in with the ducks again and ate some more of their Game Bird Crumbles. I have not been putting out much as I figured she would and I have not had a chance to work on the fence. Today Marcia helped me with it. I dismantled an earlier duck pen and rescued some metal posts and Marcia pounded them in and put up a pretty good fence. An apple tree is dropping green apples into the duck yard and Jeremiah is eyeing them so we may need to extend the electric fence to further enhance the project.
While in the duck pen I picked up 10 duck eggs from a muddy niche where one Muscovy is laying. She is not yet setting so probably the eggs are OK.
Marcia and I also worked in the veg garden. We picked the peas and did some weeding. I picked a lot of calendulas for the table and for drying.
My kitchen sink is stopped up … again. It seems to do this once a year. It is something to do with all the milk related washing up plus the fact that the outfall line has virtually no slope for the first 50 or more feet before it joins the sewer line. It stopped up nearly a week ago. I have been running the tap into the dishpan and dumping the dishpan into a 5 gallon bucket. This gives one a dramatic awareness of how much water one is using. I don’t consider myself profligate with water, just on principle. I never leave the tap running even though I do not have any water shortage here at all. Now that every bit I use has to be lifted out of the sink and then carried outside to dump, I am shocked to realize I use 15 or 20 gallons a day. This does not include the dishwasher. Water will slowly drain from the dishwasher. I hope that somebody will help me establish a grey water line from the kitchen. This would make a lot better sense.
I joined Marcia and Abby tonight for dinner at the lake. Abby had been to Farmington and bought buffalo burger. She made a fire in the outdoor grill and we had truly delicious grilled burgers. She also made a fine salad of butter lettuce from my garden dressed with toasted walnuts. The mosquitoes finally got the better of us and we ran inside with our arms full of plates and relishes, munching our last mouthfuls.
July 28, 2009 Tuesday
Jasmine gave 4 gallons.
It has not rained for over 24 hours although the three-day forecast includes thunderstorms. I took a tour of the paddock garden where the potatoes, corn and squash and cucumbers are planted. A few potato plants are alive. The corn is behind schedule and is not a good green color but is struggling upward. It is nothing like last year’s crop. The side of the garden where the squash and cukes are planted is slightly higher ground. Nearly all of them look good.
All three sheep got through the fence that Marcia and I worked on yesterday. Abby came over and worked on it again for several hours. Agnes, instead of pushing through a weak spot as before, gave a graceful leap and went right over. It was 4’ high. Abby added more wire so that it is now 5’ high except for one little bit up under the apple tree. She may not notice this right away. I need to roust out some more posts from somewhere.
Abby also worked on upstairs clean-up. Her daughter (my granddaughter), Helena, is arriving tomorrow from Carlisle, PA with two toddlers, Natalie and Logan 3 ½ and 1½, two of my great grandchildren, to stay two weeks.
July 29, 2009 Wednesday
Abby came back today and worked some more on Helena’s room. She changed the curtains. She also did a lot of animal care to help me out. I made butter. I was able to put 4 lbs in the freezer today. The pounds of butter are like precious gold ingots to me. DS Max came over and mowed the lawn. It took him 3 hours and even then he did not complete it. The part around the paddock garden has grown too long for the mower and will have to be attacked with the weed whacker. The incessant rain has interfered with mowing. Things were dry and sunny today. We have had two days in the 80’s which has us Mainers wilting and moaning.
Helena and the kids arrived tired and happy. Helena has promised to instruct me in the use of my neglected digital camera.
The air today was heavy and by late afternoon I knew a storm was coming. Flies were sticking and the mosquitoes redoubled their feeding frenzy. About 7pm it hit with violent wind and rain out of the west. It hurled two vases off the window sill but only one broke.
I talked to DS Bret from Fairbanks AK. He and the kids were down in the Seattle area where he has a sailboat. He said it was 100˚ there and all the way up into BC.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons. So far the sheep have not breeched the fence into the duck pen.
July 31, 2009 Friday
Jasmine gave 4 gallons.
The day started out sunny and fair but before lunch it clouded up and began raining again. I did not stop all day. We got another two inches yesterday also. Yesterday morning (Thursday) the Muscovy duck that has been setting on 7 eggs showed up in a puddle in the sheep paddock with 7 ducklings. It was not until today that I figured out a way to feed them so that the feed would be safe from the sheep and Jeremiah. She returns with her ducklings to her nest which is a deep niche in the granite foundation of the carriage house. I leaned a big plastic bread tray, the kind used to deliver sliced bread to supermarkets, up in from of her nest and put a pie plate of clabber and grain in her doorway. I do not know if she ate it. Later I saw her out with her family in the mud puddle again in the rain.
Martin and the children came up for a spaghetti dinner at Marcia’s camp. Besides Marcia and Abby, we had Abby’s daughter Helena and her two kiddies and are now joined by Marcia’s daughter Caitilin and her 9 month old baby, Lily. Lily is an exuberantly healthy baby of the sort seen in the baby section of Nourishing Traditions.
We were also joined by Roseanna Rockwell and her brother Zeke. Roseanna is a long time contributor to the KFC forum. They had also been up in Lubec ME to see Jessika.
I got a surprise phone call from sister Barby in CA telling me that her son Jon Lars and his wife Eve have a new baby, Janna. This makes three girls for them. Eve is the sister of DS John’s (in Australia) wife Lou. Janna weighed 6 lb 11 oz and was four days “early”. No problems were reported.
August 01, 2009 Saturday
The weather today was truly fine. Many of the family were able to enjoy swimming in the lake. Martin went wind surfing, but slowly. The wind was very light. Max towed the float out with a kayak and there was lots of diving and splashing. Right around the dock the teenage girls helped the toddlers to have a good time in their floaties. Mitra threw a stick for their dog Lulu until the stick finally disintegrated. Lulu is a black Lab (mostly) and takes a great leap through the air before landing in the lake and retrieving the stick. Then she swims back and climbs the little “people” steps to get back on the dock. DIL Mitra’s brother Davoud returned with her from CA. We were so glad to have the sunshine so he could have a good day at the lake. He is only here for a week.
For our dinner, Mitra brought a fresh ham done in her slow cooker. I think one might hope to again eat pork that good but certainly not better. I heard several people say it was the best pork they ever tasted. The rest of the dinner was also good. Abby made potato salad and Mitra made red cabbage slaw. I made a spice cake with chocolate fudge frosting. This was in honor of Max’s birthday which is Monday but he had to leave today for his job in Cape Cod. He will be gone all of August.
Abby raced down here to the farm between courses and managed to get the mama duck and her seven ducklings into the pen with the other ducks. We hope they will have a better chance to eat without competition although so far I am not at all sure this is happening.
Today I worked all afternoon in the garden trying to rescue the corn. The weeds are once again out pacing it. The only things doing well in the paddock garden are the squash and cucumbers. The potatoes seem hardly worth any further effort, they are so damaged by flooding but I picked the bugs off anyway.
After this I took a basket into the pasture and picked up the first apples. I say “picked up” because the cows keep the branches trimmed to a height beyond my reach. By jumping I was able to get one branch tip and shake it a bit. I got about 5 lbs of apples which I immediately made into applesauce. Martin, Amy and little Hannah and Henry stopped in on their way home to Biddeford and all ate some with cream. If it doesn’t rain, I will go back tomorrow with a tool and shake the tree.
While here, Martin got the electric fence going and had a look at the clogged sink pipe. He thinks he at least analyzed the problem. If correct, it may not be so very hard to repair.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons on both Saturday and Sunday.
August 04, 2009 Tuesday
Another fine sunny day, a great treat for all. I didn’t spend much time in the garden. DD Abby and I moved a hen with 6 chicks down from the hay mow into my small box stall where she can raise them for a couple of weeks. She is one of the “rafter birds” that never comes into the hen room at night and always hides her nest. These birds get restless in confinement. They want to take their chicks out into the shrubbery and pasture to learn about life. I start leaving their door open when I sense the hen has reached this point. Often she will bring her chicks back into the box stall at night for a while.
The seven Muscovy ducklings are doing alright in with the mature ducks. We now see them over at the feed pan lined up around the mash. The pen is a large and quite muddy area about 50’x50’ with puddles in it, an old foundation. I think they must be augmenting their diet with mosquito wigglers. I see them dipping their beaks in a feeding sort of way. The mother duck is a terrible Nervous Nellie. I can’t even look over the granite wall at them without her leading them away.
The carpenters were here today trying to do the finish work on the dormer. It is going slowly.
DD Marcia, her daughter Caiti. DD Abby and I met for dinner at camp. I made beef teriyaki. I sliver up round steak while semi frozen and marinate it with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, toasted sesame oil and various herbs. It only has to stir fry for about 4 minutes and is excellent over rice.
Jasmine gave four gallons.
August 05, 2009 Wednesday
The sun shone all day. Nonetheless my internet connectivity was spotty and I can’t get onto the forum to discuss the Food Safety bill as I had intended. If truth were being told, it would be called the Small Farm Discouragement bill. It greatly extends the power of the FDA to search and seize food and records in a one-size-fits-all manner that will certainly discourage me. It require a $500/year licensing fee to be paid by even the smallest producers, a discouraging sum but one which is a mere fly speck to agribiz companies. The intent is to make the expanded bureaucracy self supporting through collection of these fees. It gives FDA the power to impose ruinous fines which also will help support repressive enforcement. None of this will be more than an inconvenience to big corporations which say they “welcome the Food Safety bill.” That alone should be a tip-off to who benefits from this feel-good legislation which has been rushed through the House of Representatives with almost no debate.
This legislation will override states rights. FDA has for decades made no secret of the fact that it believes that under no circumstances should any raw milk or milk products be consumed. Citizens of those states which now permit sale of raw milk will soon lose this privilege. We can then expect attempts to convict parents for child abuse in case they serve raw milk to their children as has already been attempted. I am not making this up. It has already been considered in some jurisdictions.
August 06, 2009 Thursday
Another sunny day, another four gallons of milk from Jasmine.
DS Bret from Fairbanks AK and his kids arrived today for a week’s visit. What fun! Mitra came over with her kids and they all swam in the lake.
My granddaughter Helena, with some help from her brother Steve, set up a clothesline for me. I have not had one since the carriage house collapsed in ‘08. A pulley arrangement had been attached to the back of the building. Then the tree that held the other end of the line fell. It was hard to find another place to set it up. What they have now set up is not ideal but I am thrilled to have it. It runs from the deck to a closer tree. I have been making do with lines in the attic/playroom and with draping things over the banister in the upstairs landing and on the deck railing. A lot of things I have put on hangers wet and hung in doorways. I try to avoid the drier.
DD Abby gave Willie dog another bath. She also trimmed off a lot of his ringlets that were matted. I hated for him to lose his ringlets but no doubt he is more comfortable.
Bret, Helena, Abby and I (and all the kids) had dinner at Marcia’s camp. Mitra had to get home to her animals. Marcia made excellent chili rellenos, I made beans and brought salad greens and for dessert Marcia served fried bananas which she spectacularly flambéed with brandy. She served them with yogurt.
DS Martin called and will be up tomorrow to work on haying. It looks like we finally have the weather to do it. I am thrilled about this.
August 07, 2009 Friday
The weather let us down. The day started sunny but about 11am there was a sudden electrical storm with high wind and horizontal rain. It lasted less than a half hour but was enough to soak the newly cut grass. I still have no hay in the barn.
I made two big pans of Korean style beef ribs for our dinner tonight. There were 18 of us counting the kids. DIL Amy has her dad and her brother’s family visiting. Marcia’s daughter Caiti and Abby’s daughter Helena are here for a few more days. DS Bret and his kids, Maia and Roger, are here and Mitra’s brother Davoud. This is his last night.
While at dinner I got a call from DS John in Adelaide. His son Tommy had a slight emergency with a blocked catheter and had to be rushed from rehab to the hospital. They fixed him up with a direct abdominal catheter, said to be safer. John is still working on his wheelchair access ramp, although it is already usable.
At dinner tonight we also finished up yesterday’s beans. It turns out that Roger loves beans.
Last month when Mitra’s parents were visiting here and staying in their condo, mom Marie found a large snake in the garage. It was 4 or 5 feet long and of an alarming appearance. Marie saw it several times over the course of their visit, usually sunning itself outside the garage door. Mitra brought back pictures of the snake, printed from her mom’s camera in CA, which then DD Abby and DS Bret used to identify its species. It is a Burmese Python, a non native species of course. Presumably somebody had it as a pet and discarded it, perhaps in the nearby pond.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons.
August 08, 2009 Saturday
Jasmine gave only about 3 ¾ gallons today. Yesterday and again today I am pretty sure I felt a little calf foot moving under my hand while I had the machine on.
A neighbor gave me a gallon of very high quality goat’s milk. For some reason her family does not like it. I made a gallon of yogurt with it. I also made another pot of beans. Bret can feed these to the kids for breakfast. We have Max and Mitra’s girls, Shireen and Roshan, tonight along with Bret’s two and Helena’s two. I hope they will sleep OK. The campground right across the river from me is having a loud group party with musicians and a sound system. I think we will have to sleep with the windows shut.
We had a nice dinner tonight at Marcia’s camp with Luick chicken, Coburn Farm salad, roasted root veg, local corn on the cob and a custard that I made.
We think we may have a better ID of the snake. It looks like an Eastern Milk Snake.
August 09, 2009 Sunday
DS Bret has unclogged my kitchen sink. What joy! He thinks we had better install a grease trap, though. There is just no escaping the presence of milkfat in my rinse water and this is the source of the trouble.
Most of the day was sunny and the kids did a lot of swimming. Bret brought along the inflatable cabana that they won a couple of weeks ago in Fairbanks with their bicycle powered boat in a race on the Chena River. The wind came up and Bret and his son Roger (11) sailed the Hobie Cat at a high speed.
I walked the electric fence around my North Field to make sure it wasn’t down anywhere. It looks pretty good. I need to put Jeremiah in there. There is a weak spot in the wire fence that will separate him from Jasmine. I propped it up so that he may not immediately notice it. He needs to be out of the sheep paddock. It is getting pretty bald and I want him to keep gaining. Right now he is looking sleek. The North Field is about 7 acres. The grass is very tall and a lot of it has grown up to sedge due to the weeks of rain.
Bret made pizza tonight for the crowd, only six at the table this time. It was excellent.
I got my first zucchini, always a cause for celebration. Later, of course, we view them differently. I took it up to Marcia who was suitably impressed.
I have a lovely white lily in bloom. It has 8 blossoms. It is my Easter lily from two years ago. They eventually correct their internal clock and bloom in summer if you plant them out.
August 10, 2009 Monday
Jasmine gave a bit under 4 gallons today. The weather was hot and muggy. I moved Jeremiah into the North Field. He did not get more than one cow-length into the field before he started grazing. I heard only one moo from him and that was hours later. Bret took the lawn tractor into the pasture and mowed as much as possible under the electric fence.
The sheep now have their paddock to themselves. I think that without Jeremiah the grass will keep ahead of them. Right now it is pretty short.
Caiti and baby Lily left today for her home in North Carolina. We will miss her.
The kids are all with Mitra tonight. We ate at Marcia’s, just four of us, Marcia, Abby, Bret and I. Abby served one of my standing rib roasts. I picked the first green beans from my garden and we had them too. Both beans and roast were delicious.
August 11, 2009 Tuesday
Jeremiah did not last one night of separation. He pushed down the fence and was standing innocently next to his mother this morning. Needless to say she was down a gallon this morning. I am not equipped to do a fence repair right now. It will have to wait until I can get a couple of steel posts so must brace for a few days of less milk and scarce cream. There will be fewer people here to feed. Sadly, this was Bret’s last day. Marcia will drive him to the airport bus tomorrow morning.
The kids have had a fine time. We had dinner at Marcia’s camp again tonight, haddock and fresh green beans and one of DD Abby’s cheesecakes. Then she drove me home so that Bret and the kids could have a late evening swim without worrying that they were keeping me from my work.
August 12, 2009 Wednesday
I just consoled myself with half a box of Ben & Jerry’s, not a thing I ordinarily do, but “it was there” and I had to say goodbye to Bret and kids today. I think they all had a good time in their brief six days. At least it did not rain every day. There are no more summer visitors scheduled although I am hoping my sister can visit in September.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons so Jer did not take much. So far the cream line on her milk is holding steady. It will be a couple of days before I can get at any fence repairs. Abby, Marcia and I have plans to go see “Julie and Julia” tomorrow with Mitra.
I just finished writing a mini essay on the role of methane in global warming for Grist Mag. It is a commentary on an article by Eliot Coleman. I have had little time to write lately. While doing other things, I think of a sentence, then when I can steal a minute I run to the computer and put it down. Sometimes I just scribble a few words on an envelope.
August 13, 2009 Thursday
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning. I met Marcia around noon and we went to Farmington and met Mitra and the girls at the cinema where we saw “Julie and Julia”. Julia was well portrayed by Meryl Streep. The Julie part seemed a bit contrived. An in depth biography of Julia would be a worthwhile endeavor. She was indeed enormously influential in waking America up to food.
Back at the farm, I did the evening chores, hung out laundry and made myself a dinner entirely from my garden along with one of the bratwursts DS John sent. My three daughters and I all have July birthdays within a week of each other and John ordered a nice box of sausages sent from a place in the Midwest called Koenemann’s.
August 14, 2009 Friday
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning. The weatherman has promised us four days of summer. It was 80˚ or more today. Perhaps this will discourage the mosquitoes. They have been making headlines lately in the local paper right up there with the revenge shootings. I actually had to water a lot of things today. I have now picked five zucchinis. Marcia picked the beans. I would guess she picked five pounds. But we need to do something about the Japanese beetles. They are ravaging the top growth.
My ducklings are going missing. Each night another disappears. There were 7 and now there are 4. We are so upset about this but can’t figure out any way to deal with whatever is the predator. I have never had a serious rat problem here but am inclined to suspect one in this case. There is no whiff of skunk about. All the other logical predators are so much bigger that I think they would snatch one of the fine fat Pekins rather than a little duckling.
John reports that Tommy can now move his pinky fingers. This is important progress, the doctor says, as it indicates control moving farther south on his spinal column.
August 15 - August 21, 2009
Everything in this diary to date disappeared yesterday when I was closing another document and opening Heifer Diary. I lost four months of writing. I am told that it may still exist somewhere but I have tried everything suggested, hours of trying, to no avail. Of course all except this week’s material can be found on my home page under Heifer Diary where it is posted every week. All I can offer for this week is a brief synopsis.
DS John says that my grandson Tommy (18), now confined to a wheelchair as a result of a gymnastics accident three months ago has regained the ability to move his pinky fingers. So there are some little improvements.
DD Sally McGuire and her husband Tom and daughter Rebecca and R’s husband Torsten and their baby Torlief (15 mo) and their enormous Husky dog Bjarke are doing a canoe trip in northern Alaska. They put in (2 canoes) at Old Crow in Canada on the Porcupine River which joins the Yukon. They will leave the Yukon at a bridge, the first place with road access. The trip will take 2 or 3 weeks. Further details now vanished in cyber space.
All efforts to keep Jeremiah in a separate field have so far failed. The heat has been terrible, over 80˚ with very high humidity, so the girls and I have not tackled fencing. Right now J and J are back together.
I am quite confident that I feel a calf inside of Jasmine. If confirmed, she will have to be dried off in a couple of weeks.
I have put up 10 pints of sauce from wild apples and 10 4/serving bags of green beans in the freezer and also frozen ten quarts of blueberries. This is not much compared to some people but I feel pretty good about it. I also have 11 pounds of butter frozen.
For the first time ever, I think, I overslept by two hours this morning and did not get up until 8:30. This was due to hours spent last night searching for my lost Heifer Diary.
August 22, 2009 Saturday
Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons today. I am not sure if Jeremiah had any or not. They have been together since yesterday and remain so tonight. Starting about midday we have had severe electrical storms with driving rain. I didn’t feel like going out there and sorting them out so just took them each a little grain.
Marcia came down and helped me for a couple of hours this morning, then went home and she and Abby put together a big dinner. It was in honor of birthdays of Max, Mitra and Roshan but I included Shireen too. Guests included DS Martin and Amy, the four Luicks (Max, Mitra, Shireen and Roshan) and our cousins Holly and Richard, and of course Marcia, DD Abby and me. Marcia made an excellent chicken curry. She served it over brown rice. DIL Amy’s dad contributed a huge salad from his garden and Amy made a great dressing. Shireen made blueberry upside down cakes. Martin and Amy’s little Henry is now taking a few steps. He was charmingly willing to show off, then kicked his legs with joy when Martin picked him up.
The rain appeared to have let up, but about the time the party broke up it started up again. Holly and Richard convoyed home with me because they needed milk.. I could barely see the road even with the wipers on high speed. Richard knows computers and had a look at mine. He says for one thing I need more RAM.
Max must leave again right away on a job, this time in New Foundland. Now that passports are required, he has to race to the Federal Building in Boston on Monday and get one.
The campground directly across the river from me is having their now habitual thunderous Saturday night party with loudspeakers. I don’t believe I will feel the need to apologize to the neighbors next time I have a cow in heat or a separated calf.
August 24, 2009 Monday
Jasmine is dropping off to 3 gallons a day or a bit more. I don’t see much evidence that Jeremiah is taking any. If true, that will be a famous first. Mostly in a small domestic setting such as mine with only a few cows, two in my case, the great big calf never stops nursing. When I do start seriously drying Jasmine off, I will not feel confident unless Jeremiah is totally separated. Now during milking I am consistently and unmistakably feeling the calf bouncing around.
Willie has been scratching a lot and has hot spots. Marcia gave him a bath with various shampoos and sprays. He loved his bath and stands perfectly still in the tub. He seems to feel better.
Cousins Holly and Richard came over today. Richard installed some more memory in my computer. It now is a lost faster but seems to be having trouble digesting the new memory. It is giving me threatening messages. Holly helped Marcia with freezing beans and corn. We had a nice lunch of quiche and salad with a blueberry buckle that Richard made.
Abby spent all day making an outdoor run for the turkeys. She single handedly moved them out there. They are now great big birds but have quiet dispositions. The pen is mostly light wire and bird netting. I don’t think they will try to escape as they are not acting flighty. However, I am concerned that the cows will push their way in to get at the turkey feed.
Marcia’s son Harper and my grandson and granddaughter, Rafe and Rosemary McGuire and Shane, a friend of Rafe’s, have all gone up into the Brooks Range in Alaska to hunt caribou. Harper, known for his luck, got a big buck within three hours but they will be there a week. Fortunately for the meat, it is pretty cold.
There is no word from DD Sally and her McGuire/Bentzen party off on their canoe trip down the Yukon but we did not expect any news. According to the weather map, it is raining.
August 25, 2009 Tuesday
Jasmine gave just over 3 gallons this morning.
Holly and Richard came back today so that Richard could work on my computer. It took him about six hours of wrestling with the stubborn thing but now it seems not only fixed but improved. Holly helped again with freezing corn. Marcia also was here and worked a long time in the garden weeding the strawberries and picking more beans. I made lunch for everybody except Marcia who needed to get home and work on her bags. I made lunch in two shifts, first for my vet, Dr. Cooper, who was in the neighborhood, then for Holly and Richard. We had fish fillets, green beans and new potatoes, simple fare, but good with plenty of butter.
We have ever-bearing strawberries and Marcia brought enough to the house for me to make a little batch of jam this evening.
August 27, 2009 Thursday
Jasmine gave less than 3 gallons this morning. I have cut her grain to less than 2 lbs/day.
I had quite a lot of company today. My neighbor, Ronnie, the only other person in town milking a cow so far as I know, sold her cow today. She needs to get a job. The buyer, who has my KFC book, wanted to meet me when she came to town to pick up the cow. Her whole family came except for one of her five kids and we had a nice visit. They admired Jasmine.
The weather today was very fine, bright and sunny without the heat. Marcia worked a long time on weeding but there are still several beds to go. Dear Max came over with Roshan and mowed my lawn. It was in a dreadful state. Roshan helped Marcia to dig some potatoes. There are a few plants down in the kitchen garden and these were not flooded.
I made a braised beef shank and took it out to the lake along with some lovely tender carrots. Marcia baked some of the new potatoes. They are purple. I also made a single crust blueberry pie that turned out well. I cooked up the blueberries with a tablespoon of black currant jam from last year (this year’s crop was a total loss due to Marcia having misunderstood the directions she had for pruning). A little black currant is what blueberries need to pick them up.
Marcia and Abby showed me two more beautiful panels they have made using the batik process. Marcia applies these to the bags she is making.
August 28, 2009 Friday
Jasmine gave 3 gallons and a quart.
It was cooler today, down to 40F this morning, but sunny all day. It warmed to about 65F. This is perfect weather for working. Not that I got much done. Early in the morning I discovered that three of the four turkeys were gone from their rather fragile pen. They were nowhere to be seen. I went ahead with chores feeling quite grumbly until I discovered them out behind the barn under a tractor. DD Marcia came down and herded them into their former room inside the barn. They know her well, having lived up at her place until recently. Later DD Abby, constructor of the pen, came down, repaired the breach and moved them back outdoors. She and Marcia had to carry them back out. It was agreed that they must now weigh 20 pounds. Thankfully, they have a date with destiny in two weeks.
Marcia has gone to visit a friend in New Hampshire and will be back tomorrow. I made the first tomato and cucumber salad of the year with a big ripe tomato and our first cucumber. Abby made an apple crisp (oatmeal topping) with apples she picked up off the ground in Weld. This is about all we ate for dinner and very good it was.
A major storm is predicted for tomorrow which may impact our family plans for the weekend.
August 29, 2009 Saturday
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning.
We were told to expect rain around noon, result of Hurricane Danny, but it was already raining when I got up. It was cold too, barely reaching 50F. It was a pleasure to put on warm clothes. It was a good day for working indoors. I got everything moved out of my upright freezer into a chest freezer that was recently given to me. It is a nice little freezer and everything fit. I had this inspiration to organize things into big fabric shopping bags rather than boxes (hard to lift when cold and heavy) or plastic bags (always tearing). Now corn and beans have their own sturdy bags as does the remaining beef.
I joined DD’s Marcia and Abby for supper at the lake. During dinner we got a call from Harper, Marcia’s son, my grandson, in Fairbanks AK. He and DD Sally’s kids, Rafe and Rosie, and friend Shane went hunting for caribou very far north in the Brooks Range. They got their limit of six caribou (two per Alaskan household, Shane is from another state). They came down from their campsite in two greatly laden canoes. They are processing the meat at DS Bret’s house where there is lots of space, equipment and expertise.
Here are some photos from the caribou-hunting trip.
August 30, 2009 Sunday
Today dawned bright and sunny. Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning.
DS Martin and family and DS Mark did not come this weekend. They missed some beautiful weather.
DD Marcia came over and worked in the garden. She picked beans and carrots for dinner. Both are lovely but voles are eating the carrots. I think we will go ahead and dig them before they are destroyed. So many crops are doing poorly this year for us and for everyone in New England that I hate to lose any carrots. There will be no corn, few potatoes, and the squash and cucumbers are retarded. So far our tomatoes do not have the blight that has hit many gardens.
I tried a blueberry scone recipe that was demonstrated on America’s Test Kitchen. It involves using shredded frozen butter to create flakiness and the use of frozen blueberries. The scones were outstanding when fresh from the oven but the blueberries remained half cooked with the result that later the scones got soggy. The initial flavor and texture were so good that I may take the trouble to solve this problem. Chopped dried apricots or cranberries steeped in something might be the answer.
Max and Mitra and the girls joined us for a mid afternoon meal at the lake. Mitra brought one of her superb clabber-fed chickens, roasted, and a pan of inspired stuffing; it had chorizo and purple tomatillos in it. Abby made a very nice potato, onion and cabbage dish with Southern origins. It is much like bubble and squeak. We had very fresh steamed green beans and carrots. I brought a flan for dessert and some of the scones.
As I started home it suddenly started to rain torrentially. I ran around doing evening chores with an umbrella in one hand. Just at sundown it stopped and there was a rainbow.
August 31, 2009 Monday
Jasmine gave 3 gallons this morning. Marcia and I were both able to very distinctly feel the calf moving. Jasmine looks good and is very friendly although sometimes a little irritable. Jeremiah has a sweet disposition. They like to stand behind the barn and look across the ramp at the turkeys. I put their snacks on the ramp, usually apples. At this time of year in Maine apples are everywhere.
Max drove the Kubota down from Weld. No hay is going to get made. I will have to buy all my hay. So far there is none in the barn. Let’s hope the weather holds steady until at least November and that spring comes early. I do have some hay reserved for later in September.
Marcia worked in the garden for a long time. Most of the beds are now weeded and beautiful. She has planted a lettuce mix and spinach and both are up under floating row cover. I worked for less than an hour. That is all I could take of what I was trying to do. The Balm of Gilead tree sends big feeder roots out in every direction and many are in the veg garden. These send up aggressive growth that cannot be pulled up. I have to use an old pruning saw and saw off the roots underground on each side of the growth. Many of the roots are 2” in diameter. I got three of these horrid clumps out.
Abby has received a job offer which if it works out will take her back to Pennsylvania. We all have mixed feelings about her going but it will be about 2 hours from her daughter Helena as opposed to 2 days now.
The weather today was beautiful but I doubt we will have any more hot weather. It is about 50˚ this evening but some of the state got frost warnings.
DD Sally is back from canoeing down the Yukon with her husband, daughter Rebecca, SIL Torstein and baby Torlief and Bjarke, the large Husky. I have not spoken with her yet but she sent an email. Here is an excerpt. Rose is her other daughter, who has been out in the Aleutians all summer working for Fish & Game.
I'm at Becky’s now and will be till Weds morning when we start driving. I'll call you when back in Haines. All well though. I got to see Rose!!- she had been hunting caribou with Rafe and Harp for 8 days, then had to do the cutting and hanging, so was still there. She left for Cordova this morning, I saw her at the coffee shop and then we both took off. Had a GREAT party at Charlie and Sherrie's last night. Harp barbecued (in a frying pan, I think) little strips of caribou liver, only s & p on them, as an hors d'oevure (sp) which was incredibly delicious and wildly popular. Disappeared in about 50 seconds. Then a round of heart cooked ditto, and then caribou steaks for dinnner- yum!! Bret and Andrea brought ratatouille, also terrific, and a yummy beet dish. Huge salad, bunch of other delicious things. Many nice wines but of course I had lemonade. Sure was fun. Tom is now in Fbks till tomorrow when he flies to Dawson which is where we left a truck at the beginning of the trip- he will drive it back here. Then I can finally go HOME!!! I talked to Rafe today and he says my animals are fine. I sure look forward to talking to you too, and to seeing my house.... They cut Harp and Rose's caribou at Bret's- so nice of him, and he lent us his house too God bless him. What an incredible fine thing to have a house to go to at such a time- everything jumbled and dirty and damp. Trip very fun of course, pretty stressful the last day, and I was able to paddle without collapsing hurrah!
September 01, 2009 Tuesday
Very fine weather. Sweater weather this morning but warmed up later. Jasmine gave 3 gallons. The pasture remains very good.
Marcia was here by 9am and accomplished further wonders in the garden. All I did was dig 5 or 6 lbs of purple potatoes from the little patch in the veg garden, the only place they succeeded. Up in the paddock garden one can’t even make out where they were.
Cousins Holly and Richard stopped by for milk and I gave them some chard. Richard helped out with a couple of minor computer issues, just some settings I could not figure out. Holly took some nice pictures of my barn with its new roof and two of my sheep.
Don Houghton is getting set to bushhog my pasture now that the tractor is back. It is late to be doing it. The weeds have mostly all gone to seed but it is important anyway. That, and manuring by a few animals per year is all the help the pastures get but compared to what the grass was like when I moved here 35 years ago, the improvement is noteworthy. One step backwards is the North Field which tends to be wet. With all the rain this year a lot of sedge has taken over.
DD Sally wrote from Rebecca’s house in Tok with a few details of her canoe trip:
This is such fun to have access to communication again. I wondered so much, paddling along, how all was going there. And of course at my house with my dear garden, and my equally-dear animals including the chicken young stock- how big they must be getting! I wonder if Rafe will get a black bear. He got three halibut yesterday. I hear from Judy that it has been RAINING, hurrah hurrah, a lot while I was gone, bless her for telling me. Almost until I left it was still pretty much dry as a very old dry biscuit, and I worried. But my garden I didn't ask , and wouldn't ask as it's such a huge job, for anybody to water- just the greenhouse and even there I only asked for "every few days". Which is also what Becky asked for her greenhouse, and it was GREAT.
It was such a thrill to be out with Torlief etc. T was just learning to walk when we left here, but couldn't really do it in the many clothes he had to wear most of the time on the river - not all the time though as a lot of the time it was screeching hot. Maybe most of the time!! Also had rain, but usually only in the night or early morning, and then cleared off. Poor thing had to wear a large lifejacket over all his mountains of clothes when in the boat- so did I, but could take things off and on as necessary. At first he hated the lifejacket but by the end when he saw the boats being loaded he would crawl over to the lifejacket and try to get it on, it was So Cute. In the mornings he would get up and sit in a lap while breakfast was being fixed, then start rampaging around while things were being done. He had a personal attendant every single second, no lapses.
The river is pretty good sized and fast, but very smooth, no rapids. Not even where constricted by cliffs. Every so often there were old cabins to look at, and two (they changed their minds) old customs houses, really interesting. (nowadays there isn't one at all). One is being carefully reconstructed by the Canadians, at least I think it's the Canadians. Lots of bear and wolf signs but only saw two groups of bears and no wolves- moose signs everywhere too, but didn't see any either. Thank heaven. I'd have loved to have bears or wolves around (well actually we did have a group of three, mother and large cubs, by the camp one night but they ran off when Torsten said 'hey bears'- the trick is to do this BEFORE they get too close since it really pisses them off to be surprised- just like anybody else)- but anyhow, having a moose in camp is a really bad idea. They're so **** stupid. Many loons both common and arctic. Now I am waiting for Tom to arrive as he had to fly to Dawson to pick up the truck we left there. He flew there this morning and should arrive here around suppertime. Then we drive home tomorrow, and I can see all my dear plants and animals etc, hurrah!!
September 02, 2009 Wednesday
Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons. A raccoon has visited the garden and badly damaged the tomatoes. Marcia and I were gone all day to Farmington so we have not evolved much of a defense. I went around with my solution of Irish Spring soap which so far is deterring the deer, leastwise they have not so far molested the garden, and sprayed all of the tomato plants. I got the idea of putting a couple of kerosene lamps down there only to discover that I have no lamp oil. Also I picked a lot of tomatoes that were close to ripe.
Of course now the ducks and turkeys are at greater risk. I do hope they survive until September 12, their date with destiny. It is tempting to leave the dogs loose at night but I am so fearful of Willie getting out onto the road. DD Abby did further work on containment today. She upgraded gate security.
Donnie Houghton arrived first thing this morning and commenced with bushhogging. He did the entire North Field. I let the cows in there for the night as they enjoy eating the chopped off grass.
September 03, 2009 Thursday
Jasmine gave 3 gallons. The Kubota had a flat this morning on one of the big rear wheels. Fortunately Marcia’s compressor was here and Don Houghton was able to pump it back up and it held. He bushhogged another large section of field, Pocket Field.
I got a nice long call from DD Sally from Haines. She was on her front deck overlooking the Chilcoot River drinking tea. Across the river there were bears. She is promoting the construction of a greenhouse here at Coburn Farm. We all agree and will stockpile more sashes. We already have lots. We get them from the dump.
Marcia carried on with weeding the veg garden. There was no new raccoon damage. I spritzed it again tonight under a bright moon.
This is DD Abby’s last evening before setting out for PA to her new job as caregiver to an elderly lady. I fixed one of her favorite dinners; beef cooked in the Romertof in the Aga until falling off the bone and flan for dessert. We sat out on Marcia’s porch and watched the hummingbirds and loons as night fell. The changing colors on the lake are endlessly beautiful.
September 04, 2009 Friday
Jasmine gave almost 3 ½ gallons. The weather is superb. Donny Houghton continues to bushhog. He is almost finished with my pasture. Next he will go across the river to DD Sally’s 17 acre field.
DD Abby left today for her new job in PA with her car loaded to the gunnels. She is making a 2-day trip of it and should now have reached Northampton. She was hoping to get there early enough to visit the art museum at Smith College, her alma mater, but will have arrived too late unless they have evening hours.
The raccoon was not impressed last night by my efforts to fog the garden with Irish Spring and he mutilated more tomatoes. My latest idea is to put a mirror in the garden with an oil lamp in front of it. I am hoping he hates his own reflection. I went to Rumford today to buy lamp oil. It has proved surprisingly hard to find. Between us, Marcia and I tried four places. Two lamps are now glowing in the garden.
Mitra reports that Helen is walking poorly. At first I thought arthritis but now that she has sent me a video I am thinking sore feet. It could well be something totally different. Our vet is out of town for the entire month.
Marcia gave Willie a bath today and saw only one flea. There was no more dried blood on his skin. He seems friskier. Probably he is sleeping better. Poor little guy.
Mitra also reports that Max reached the work site in Newfoundland. There was some panic when the airline lost his luggage containing his hard hat and other essential gear but it was located in time. He will be working 12 hour days seven days a week, for a few weeks. They are taking core samples from an old paper mill that has a new owner.
Here is an interview from Acres USA with the producers of the two movies, Food, Inc. and Fresh.
http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Sept09_Kenner&Joanes.pdf (copy and paste into browser if link does not work)
September 05, 2009 Saturday
Jasmine gave a bit under three gallons today. I bought a new weight tape and have taped Jeremiah twice in the past week. Both times he taped over 1000lbs. It is a dairy tape so won’t be quite accurate for a steer, but he is pure Jersey. He is 4” higher at the hip than Jasmine. He is a beauty and has a lovely disposition. He is now 21 months old. So far as I can determine, he is no longer sucking.
I found no new raccoon damage this morning. Maybe he did not fancy seeing himself in the mirror or else the lanterns did the trick. Or maybe Willie’s barking made him wary. Willie stood out on the deck and barked his head off from 12:30am to 2:30am. I didn’t sleep much. I set up the lanterns and mirror again tonight. It is a full length panel mirror and is lying on edge propped against tomato vines.
Donny Houghton has now mowed all of my pasture. He plans to start Sally’s on Monday morning. It is so lovely to see it mowed. It was looking pretty scruffy.
We have not heard from DD Abby today and are hoping she reached her destination safely.
DD Marcia’s daughter Caiti called to say that her baby Lillian, 10 mo., stood by herself today. I had one baby who did that, DD Sally walked at 10 months. Then they walk around under tables bumping their heads.
September 06, 2009 Sunday
It was cold last night but did not frost. It may tonight.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons.
A hormone switch got tripped today with the sheep. They are racing around, leaping and cavorting, butting and randomly mounting. They have a few things to learn before any breeding occurs. Their run-in under the buttery has some beams across the front, part of a failed attempt to keep Jeremiah out while he lived with the sheep. It was fun to watch them sailing over that barrier again and again.
We had a nice dinner at the lake with Mitra, Shireen, Roshan, and cousins Holly and Richard. Marcia made eggplant lasagna and roasted a leg of lamb. I made some baguettes. Richard brought his famous blueberry pie. Then Marcia came down to the farm and helped me cover some of the plants with frost cloth and sheets
September 07, 2009 Labor Day Monday
Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons this morning. We did not get a frost last night after all. We did get another destructive visit from the raccoon. Besides mutilating tomatoes he has torn out the roots of some of the string beans. I had hoped the fact that things were swathed in white sheets might prove to be a deterrent but not so. DS Martin brought down his Havahart trap and set it but I suspect it is too small.
I took the afternoon off. Marcia gave me a nice lunch at the lake. We had scallops cooked in leftover lobster butter that I had saved. Delicious! Then I got into her hammock and read for an hour. The sun was bright but the air was cool enough to require an afghan. That is so preferable to mosquitoes. I did not get a single bite.
September 09, 2009 Wednesday
Jasmine only gave 2 ½ gallons. I really have the impression she is ready to dry off. I will begin on Saturday. Mitra, Marcia and I were invited to a lovely lunch with Holly and Richard at their camp on Wilson Pond. Holly made an excellent Thai chicken curry and kindly shared the recipe. It looks very easy and the ingredients are mostly items a person would have in their pantry and freezer. Holly kindly shared the recipe.
Thai Chicken dinner for 5 or 15
For 5 For 15
1-2 T. 3-6 T. green curry paste
½ c. 1½ c. chicken broth
3 T 2/3 c. fish sauce
1 3 stalk lemon grass, in 1-inch chunks
1¼ lb. 3-4 lb. chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 3 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 lb. 3 lb. green beans (frozen)
1 3 can straw mushrooms 1 2 red peppers, cut in strips
? 1 lb cauliflower
1 3 cans coconut milk
Saute chicken breasts & onion briefly. Mix in chicken broth, curry paste, fish sauce, and lemon grass, and bring to a boil. Add vegetables, cook a few minutes, covered. Add coconut milk, but don’t overheat after this or it’ll curdle. Simmer slowly til ready. Serve on rice. Might need bowls.
Richard made another perfect blueberry pie.
Richard then played several rousing songs on his player paino. It is one he has owned since he was 18 but it has been living elsewhere until now. Holly and Richard sing wonderfully together so it was all a great treat.
September 10, 2009 Thursday Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons. I had to hurry her along because Don Houghton was back to clean out the barn and could not start until I brought the cows through. Jasmine did not like the sound of the tractor at work in the barn. I am afraid that an early morning tractor has sometimes been the preamble to the loss of a colleague.
After cleaning the barn and creating a new manure pile out back, Don took four loads of manure down to the veg garden in the tractor bucket.
Marcia worked a long time weeding. There are still some patches left to weed but she is nearly finished. There was no new damage to the plants. I put out a big bowl of peanut butter a couple of days ago. Whoever is eating our vegetables ignored it until last night but is now eating it. I am hopeful that he critter will get so full on peanut butter that he won’t eat the tomatoes. This morning I canned five pints of tomatoes that had been nibbled. I cut out the chewed portions.
This evening I went to a lovely gathering arranged by Dot Mason with whom I rode in the Fourth of July parade. It was a going away party for Carthage residents Betsy and Jim Collins. They moved here from Pennsylvania about 25 years ago and now are returning to be closer to their family. About 60 people attended and many brought food. I took banana bread. Dot had arranged for entertainment by a woman who sings very well while standing up and playing her electronic piano.
Max writes from Grand Falls, New Foundland, that the work is going fairly well but the locally available food is terrible. I guess he has a couple more weeks of restaurant food there.
September 11, 2009 Friday
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons. She looks good. This will be her last regular milking in this lactation, now 18 months. Until about two weeks ago she rarely fell below 4 gallons OAD. What a champion little cow. I will milk her again on Sunday if her udder is very tight but the milk is usually a bit “off” after being inside a cow for two days. Mitra’s chicks are appreciative consumers in case I decide to clabber it all. My milk customers are desolated.
Our fine weather is holding. We will actually have to do some watering in case it does not rain this weekend. The tomatoes were not molested last night. He or she ate more peanut butter instead of tomatoes. But voles or other small rodents are eating the root veg.
Marcia brought her horse trailer down and we loaded up the ducks and turkeys. We were able to herd the ducks into a corner of their pen and catch them 2 or 3 at a time. They are very soft and squishy. Then she backed the trailer over to the barn. We lowered the tailgate and she herded the turkeys in to join the ducks. They did not like walking on rubber matting and one flapped off to the side but they are so tame that Marcia could pick him up.
To celebrate the reduction in farm chores now before me, Marcia and I took ourselves to dinner at Kawanhee Inn. We had one of the best meals I have ever had there. I started with a cup of butternut squash soup with a scoop of tiramisu. Marcia had calamari which she shared. As entrees we both chose the tuna. It was served Asian style, very rare with seaweed salad and wasabi. We drank a pinot grigio. Then to be really ridiculous we ordered chocolate cake. Our waitress, who is the wife of the chef, said he orders it from a baker in Florida.
My sister is coming to visit on September 23! I am thrilled.
©opyright 2009 Joann S. Rogers
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