Friday, February 24, 2006

Learning and Growing

Look what the mailman brought on Thursday!

I started reading Pastured Poultry Profits that night after dinner then brought it to bed with me. After the words began swimming on the page and I kept losing my place, I finally put it down and forced myself to shut off the light. Joel Salatin's operation is far and above what we plan to do here and there were a couple of things with which I disagreed, but he does have a lot of experience and wisdom to share which I am certain we will profit from. I think we will take his advice not to order chicks until they can be shipped when the temperatures are at a consistent 50 degrees or more to avoid health problems from the cold. That gives us plenty of time to fix up a brooder, build a pen, arrange for feed, etc.

My seed order from Baker Creek arrived this afternoon. As I tore open the big yellow padded envelope a profusion of colorful packets tumbled out......33 to be precise. I must have been feeling extra ambitious when I ordered them......or delirious! They also included a planting guide which looks to be helpful. I've saved up about a million cartons and plastic containers so now I'll have to determine which ones to start indoors and when, not to mention where. Thankfully I have wide windowsills and lots of sunny windows plus an enclosed porch.

About a week ago Anna-Rose planted a sunflower in a pot of compost she charmed out of a local farmer at our state agricultural show, and it's already six inches tall. I wasn't planning on planting any flowers this year....we have plenty already on the property....but sunflowers are useful besides being beautiful so I'm encouraging her to plant more. KSMilkmaid has some great ideas for including children in growing and learning about vegetables, wildflowers, and herbs. Who needs to sit behind a desk to learn when you can be up to your elbows in the soil with the One who created it as your teacher?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

God Is Good No Matter What

Dwayne has been the recipient of some trials this week. Early on in the week he needed to replace a very expensive piece of equipment and the very same day on the way home his Jeep blew a tie rod and died on the highway. He has two choices: replacing the engine or buying another vehicle. Thankfully he was able to use my car to travel to the jobsite a couple of days but then needed to rent an SUV to haul equipment that won't fit in my trunk. With taxes coming up, this is tough on us but the Lord is ever faithful and will see us through. He has a long record of promises kept and we have no reason to doubt that He will continue to provide as He vows in His Word.

Our long list of indoor projects is addended on a daily basis. Seems we just cross one off and another materializes to take its place. Today I've stripped the top layer of wallpaper from the bathroom and now have to spray and scrape the remainder underneath as well as scrape and sponge off the glue layer. Messy tedious work especially since the sprayer was totally uncooperative and I ended up using sponges to soak the walls. Ugh. Even wearing gloves, ugh. The Terrorist Baby helped me for quite awhile and even encouraged me when I was ready to fling the sprayer through the window after pumping it for the millionth time with no results......"Don't cry Mama." She's a terrorist but a compassionate one. The Lord often uses her to minister to me at times like this when I'm ready to throw in the towel. I just had to take a break after getting a grand total of one wall cleaned off. The wallboard at the top was disintegrating because some moisture had seeped through the ceiling at some point in the past, and it looks like some patching is in order, so I'll leave that to the expert to address this weekend. I discovered a lovely patch of mildew under one section that had me grimacing in dismay. Ugh again. Eventually we plan to gut the whole room and redo it but in the meantime a fresh coat of paint on all surfaces will do wonders.

Anna-Rose just asked to go out and play. Hopefully she won't blow away, although knowing her she'll be out there with her umbrella with the anticipation of being carried off into the clouds like Mary Poppins. We're experiencing some extremely high forceful winds today and the promised buckets of rain simply did not materialize. After an ominous slate grey morning with a few sprinkles, it became gusty with a backdrop of sunny blue skies and puffy white clouds. Wondrous thing, the New England weather. Keeps us in mind of Who is really in control. It certainly isn't the meteorologists. I'm in prayer at this very moment because of that huge hollow maple tree that is leaning frighteningly over our side porch just swaying and bowing its branches up and down in rhythm to the wind. How something that enormous can sway is beyond me. If it ever takes a tumble that side of the house will go with it.

Just checked on the terrorist and she's up to her armpits in mud out in the driveway. Having the time of her life. What a blessing it is for her to be able to do that after living the first six years of her life in an apartment. God is good, and I don't care how many boots I have to hose off or clothes I have to wash. His Creation is her playground now and I am so thankful for this place.

We've already lost power once today for an hour and I hope it stays on because I have a nice pot of bean soup bubbling away in the kitchen and hope to bake some corn muffins to accompany it for dinner. Now if I had a lovely wood cookstove........losing power would not be such an earth-shattering difficulty. Someday, Lord willing!

I'd better go and check on Anna-Rose and see if we have any limbs down in the yard. One day I opened the back door to her grinning face and an armful of saplings she had cut down. To decorate her room she explained. And of the course the bathroom awaits.........

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Got Snow?

This was the scene looking out back earlier today. We'd been getting snow since before dawn. A beautiful sight but a little too nippy for a walk with the low temperatures and blustery wind, though by the time I took this photo it had died down a bit.

We were treated to a comical sight by the bird feeders in the lilac bush by the back door. The juncos were burrowing in the snow to get at the seeds on the ground, squabbling and bickering like a flock of hens. They made quite the amusing spectacle: feathers puffed out on fat round bodies, topped with tiny mound for a head, with a startlingly bright yellow-orange beak that appears to have been stuck on almost as an afterthought. Dwayne thought they looked like miniature penguins shuffling and trundling about.

Despite this new onslaught of snow, our hope for spring remains. It's hard to believe that what lies dormant now will soon be teeming with activity in barnyard and garden. I've spent the past several days searching determinedly through catalogs and websites for seeds to order. That was my goal for the week. Yesterday the deed was consummated and in a short while my mailbox will be jammed with brightly colored envelopes filled with possibilities. I'm sure my experienced agrarian correspondents will be slightly aghast at the sheer number and variety of seeds I ordered in my feverish naivete, but here is a list, and scold if you must!

Melons - American - Golden Honeymoon
Melons - American - Golden Jenny
Beans - Old Homestead (Kentucky Wonder Pole)
Broccoli - Romanesco Italia
Brussels Sprouts - Long Island Improved
Corn - Golden Bantam Sweet Corn
Carrots - St. Valery
Cucumber - Japanese Long
Peppers - Hot - Cayenne Long Thin
Lettuce - Forellenschluss
Lettuce - Lollo Rosso
Lettuce - Gentilina
Melons - European - Boule d'Or (Golden Perfection)
Melons - European - Charentais
Greens - Assorted - Wrinkled Crinkled Cress
Onion - Yellow of Parma
Oriental Greens & Cabbages - Komatsuma Tendergreen
Peppers - Sweet - Topepo Rosso
Peppers - Sweet - California Wonder
Parsnip - Harris Model
Italiko Rosso Dandelion
Radish - Easter Egg
Chef's Choice Mixed Greens - Rocky Top Lettuce Salad
Swiss Chard - Five Color Silverbeet (Rainbow Chard)
Spinach - Bloomsdale Long Standing
Squash - Winter - Bush Buttercup
Squash - Summer - Lemon Squash
Squash - Summer - Striata d'Italia
Tomatoes - Red - Tappy's Heritage
Tomatoes - Red - Pantano Romanesco
Tomatoes - Red - Red Grape
Watermelon - Blacktail Mountain

I decided to purchase from the Baker Creek catalog so I could get everything I wanted in one shot, and I accidentally ordered two melons I had intended to omit. I do hear that a certain party in Minnesota may be expanding his operation to include seed peddling so that will be a future option to look forward to. If anyone knows of a source for heirloom herb seeds that includes a wide variety of medicinal herbs I would appreciate it. It seems that of all the places I've checked, the majority of the herbs are culinary although some do serve dual purposes.

Which puts me in mind of chickens. I'm having a very difficult time finding a hatchery that sells what I want except for McMurray's. I've narrowed it down to Plymouth Barred Rocks, New Hampshire Reds, and Buff Orpingtons. From what I understand they may all be used as both layers and meat. Online I can find nothing in this state; as a matter of fact, I can't locate anything in New England. How can I find a local farmer who will sell newly hatched chicks? I did find one only an hour from us who will have guineas in the spring so I'm excited about that. With all the tick (and other insect) problems we have here, I thought they would be quite beneficial.

And so, slowly but surely, our plans proceed. All in the Lord's timing and with His approval as we pray and seek His wisdom and guidance. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. - Proverbs 16:9; Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. - Proverbs 19:11"

As usual, I welcome and encourage (actually I beg and plead!) for advice......."Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. - Proverbs 15:22"........ All of you in this agrarian community are in the estimable position of being my mentors and guides, and I consider you my friends as well as we journey on down this road together, each at his own pace, but with similar aspirations.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

One Step at a Time

I grew up in a chaotic household, to put it mildly. My mom had her hands full: separated from my dad, she spent her time working an assortment of part-time jobs with too many kids and too many pets left to fend for themselves. Ours was a God-less home and we children were undisciplined and unsupervised a good deal of the time. This is not to condemn my mother who did the best she could with what she knew, but to explain my nature. My response was to rebel and become what was completely antithetical to the environment in which I was raised. I do not thrive on chaos nor do I relish being in the midst of a crisis. Au contraire, I delight in putting things in order and keeping them that way.

When we bought this property a few months ago, at first I was totally in my element. While Dwayne was hard at work as our family's provider, I was industriously creating the blueprint for our new agrarian way of life: researching, organizing, planning. That's who I am. That's my gift. That's what I do best.........Hey, that's even what my name means! Wait!!!! {sound of brakes screeching} What comes first? The chicken or the egg? No, seriously. I we incubate eggs........or do we buy newly hatched chicks? Where do we get them? What's going in the garden? How do we make raised beds? What about an orchard? Dairy goats? Should we get a dog? As Winnie the Pooh would say, "Oh help and bother."

Beyond the swirling confusion of questions and ideas and list making and fact finding, there is One whose very presence is the peace I seek. I take a deep breath and settle into His calm sea of tranquility. Thank you, Lord. Where You have led, You will provide. Foolish me, thinking that I need to be in control when You are the author and finisher of my faith. You lead me beside still waters, You restore my soul. Quiet my mind that I may hear Your still small voice in the inner depths of my heart. Where You lead, so shall I follow. One step at a time.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Long Live the Family Farm

We spent Friday afternoon at the NH Farm and Forest Expo. Talked to a variety of folks about this and that. This morning I was chagrined when I realized that I had completely forgotten to ask anyone their opinions on the NAIS! We went our separate ways as Anna-Rose chased down baby chicks and goats, I interrogated a gentleman from the state wildflower commission about pruning my lilacs, and Dwayne fell in love with a sawmill. We came home with armloads of flyers, leaflets, and pamphlets on everything from organic gardening to outdoor wood burners. And we got that great bumper sticker you see above plus a T-shirt displaying the same slogan. When my mom saw it she was reminded of a friend and her husband who just sold off part of their farmland to a developer who is now putting up 192 houses.


The biggest shame was that despite the fact that they have raised twelve children they had to do it so they would have the money to pay their taxes. It's such a blessing to see all the agrarian bloggers who are creating an inheritance for their children, as it should be.

This past week found us traipsing around to all our favorite antique shops searching for furniture to fill all the nooks and crannies. Dwayne came across a great old spinet desk which will be perfect for doing his paperwork. I needed one as well but he saw it first! We also picked up a couple of wall cupboards for storage and yet another bookcase. Let's see.....that must make about sixteen now. Oh, and a very interesting piece labeled "old locker" which fits the bill for the kitchen island we needed, and it was quite the steal. Waist high with four square doors on the front which open to reveal a shelf and drawer behind each.

This morning Dwayne was off to the dump first thing and is now hanging the storm windows on the porch. We discovered them in the basement along with screens! Now all we need is a porch swing to go with our rocking chairs. My own plans for the day include painting bookshelves, stripping wallpaper, and scraping paint from window panes. God willing, it will be a productive day for all!