Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Everything I know I learned from my farm

We promise we won't get out again, honest!
The sheep got out again this morning, and I was in a rush so I banished them back to the barn and the small paddock that they had already picked pretty clean last week when they got out three separate times and had me running around the neighborhood pleading them to come home to a little grain. So late this afternoon, I decided it was time to change the fence to its final pre-snowfall location. I have temporary mesh wire fencing that's designed to be mobile. All you have to do is pull the polls out and then carry the fence to a new position and put the polls back in again. Except that the wiring between the polls is better at getting tangled up than angora yarn and the polls themselves are just the other side of a pleasant weight. Still, I was tired of chasing the sheep, so off I went.

Fall and political colors
It's a blustery, bright, downright gorgeous fall day. Although it's been a lackluster fall color display, today was one of the better days: crisp blue sky with orange and yellow leaves blowing around the bright green grass. I started pulling out the fence and thinking about where I would move it, when I realized that the sheep had barely gotten going on the grass inside this particular area. Could I figure out what was going wrong with the fence? I had already tried this game three times last week. And then my very first rule of troubleshooting came to me: try the easy stuff first. I put the half-removed fencing down on the ground and went to check the connections. And sure enough, the wire leading from the charger to the fence had somehow gotten disconnected, and no electricity was getting to the fence. It's like finding a minor typo in your Javascript. You can't believe you didn't see it. So, I put the fence back where it was, plugged in the fence, and let the sheep back out. They were thrilled, and have yet to find a new way out.

Who's been eating my sunflower seeds?Of course, once you're out on such a nice day, it's hard to go back in no matter how many books, projects, and presentations you've got half done. Plus, I had walked back and forth under the apple tree while I was fixing the fence and had noticed that the apples had gotten really big and really red. I don't know how I got so lucky with this tree. It's gorgeous all seasons, and every two years, it gives us more apples than we can possibly handle. This year, we made 16 gallons of sweet cider, 8 of hard cider, bags and bags of dried apples, and sheets and sheets of fruit leather.

apples and gourdsI got a bucket and picked up the apples and noticed that a fair number had been chewed on. I'm pretty sure it's the same wascally rabbit that ran into the garden the last time I tried to shoo it away. But we got a hard freeze the other night, and the lush, endless gourd and pumpkin leaves that gave it cover have evaporated leaving behind a carpet of eggs and snakes.

egg gourds

Snake in the wheelbarrowGourds that is. I planted them, together with some sunflowers, the morning that we left for Barcelona in the middle of June with a haphazard hope that they would survive our six weeks away. And when we got home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had begun their assault on the whole garden. I kept turning them away from the peppers and peas and tomatoes, gently turning their tendrils back on themselves, and they kept reaching out until they had overrun the fence, the trellises, the onions, and a good bit of the yard to boot. I turned a blind and indulgent eye.

I'm not sure why, but gourds speak to me. I love their knobby texture, they're crazy shapes, they're outrageous size. Sometimes I dye them and carve them and otherwise play with them. But mostly I just admire them. I think part of their charm is that they're one of those rare things that well, are still rare. You can't buy them at the store, some people have never heard of them, there's no good word for them in Catalan. They're special.

Who's been eating my apples?Lessons: Check the easy stuff first. Sometimes, just wing it. Appreciate bounty. Share, even with rabbits. Notice beauty. Get outside once in a while.

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