September 12, 2005

Unseasonably cool weather, it’s about time! After about two months of heat-mandated idleness, finally some long-neglected jobs have been started. Not that summer was entirely a bust. Our grape crop this year was sad–the heat resulted in uneven ripening and other problems on three out of our four vines. We at least got to try a Black Monukka (very good), but whole bunches to eat were right out. The Flame variety was a disaster, and Muscat of Alexandria wasn’t far behind. But the one grape we don’t like to eat, Golden Muscat, had itself a little bumper crop. This is a slipskin grape that assaults the mouth with a pineapple/sugar cane sort of flavor. Based on the taste alone, it really doesn’t taste like a grape. But the skin sort of gloms up in the mouth, making for unpleasant chewiness. So we learned last year, this is the one out of which to make grape juice. This year’s proceedings, aside from reminding me that I would like to own a grape/apple press, yielded about 6 quarts of juice. Very respectable. And the bottles which were left neglected in the refrigerator  fermented nicely, leaving me in turn with some fizzy sweet stuff which seems to be  mildly alcoholic. Either way, it’s good and I’m drinking the last of it as I type this. The whole process proved to be another path of discovery. It’s one thing to know that wine comes from grapes. It is another to discover by watching and learn by googling the internet that the fizz comes from yeasts which exist naturally on growing grapes, and that if you mash the whole thing up and leave it, chemistry takes over and guess what, you have accomplished what people have done for thousands of years. Hm, didn’t I read something about corn, rye and juniper berries…..?

The turkeys are all growing nicely, no major incidents. We still don’t know whether the Narragansett turkeys are boys, girls, or what, but they are becoming very good looking. The chickens are basically on strike, we probably are going to buy 25 chicks from the hatchery because egg production is in the toidy.  Right now we are somewhere between Delawares and  top-hat mix of hens, to be announced. In other animal news, there has been a coyote fest and both our cats  Mom and Darkness likely won’t be coming home again. We had them for almost 5 years, exactly. It’s a sad loss, but from what I’m hearing a lot of people are having predator trouble right now.

This weekend I made a partial list of fall chores. I try to alternate between huge jobs and easy ones, it makes the list seem more tolerable. Sunday I started one of the biggest, the maintenance of the berry hedges. I’ve dug myself a deep hole with this one, by planting what I think is more than two hundred feet of hedge. After nine hours, I am most of the way through one-third of the hedge. And, I am getting what I deserve for not doing this job the two preceding years. I didn’t understand what was supposed to be done, but I get it now. I let the canes get much too long, and consequently I now have to cut out long, old sections that have snaked and interlocked with every other long, old section. It’s something like a horticultural ball of yarn, after the cat has finished playing. Add in the gobs of dust, and the one plant with needle-like thorns everywere, and it’s just fun-fun. To be fair, this is the first year that the plants are established enough to send up robust, thick canes that support their own weight. These won’t need wrapping around every t-post and wire, they just sort of drape themselves. After all the cutting and pulling is done, there will be absolute cartloads of trimmings for disposal. These will be hauled into a big pile, and I’ll burn them then they are dry enough. The canes can harbor plant diseases, thus the bonfire.

I’ve been doing hours of research on greenhouses. The variety of prices, styles, materials, and options boggles the mind. There is dinky plastic crap for $100, all the way to conservatories in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think I’ve settled on one. It won’t be the Musee du Grand Peat Pot, but it should be a respectable structure that will give us decades of service and be an asset to the property and our farming efforts. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself when I’m swearing at page 32 of the assembly manual.

The roofers should come in a few weeks, and then the bowl can be removed from over the kitchen cabinet, won’t that be nice. We selected a sort of medium-dark brown. I won’t say that I like it, but it seems the least annoying color. It was better than forest green or white. We went online to the previewer, and the funny thing was they didn’t have an example that looked like our house and trim colors. Hmpf.

We received a complimentary copy of a magazine called Hobby Farm. I loved everything about it, the content is geared toward the scale, variety, and philosophy of what we do. But I admit to resenting the title. A "hobby farm", to me, conjures images of a wealthy retiree who loves to dabble in livestock and gardening. The ten-horse barn stands in the background, as do the white wooden-fenced lush pastures where the three impeccably groomed show cattle graze, while the glass conservatory off to the side holds plump beefsteak tomatoes ripening in March. Oh, and the retiree is surveying his realm from the deck of his trusty golf cart. While he points out to Arthur the caretaker all the little tasks that need tending. Anyway, "hobby" just trivializes the very hard work needed to try to do this, on top of a 40 hour a week job. I love what I do, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, but hobby–my foot. emoticon




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