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Posts Tagged ‘farm’

HOMEGROWN Life: A Tiny Life, Remembered

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

HOMEGROWN LifeWe lost one tiny life today on the farm. One so small, if you weren’t really watching, you might miss it.

One of the turkey chicks was showing a little weakness yesterday as it wandered around the garden, being carefully watched over by both it’s parents. It was back in the coop in the evening, eating with the other little ones so I thought maybe it had just gotten a little tired exploring all day. When you’re only 3 inches tall, it’s a big world out there.

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But then, this morning, when I opened the coop to offer the new flock it’s breakfast, I noticed the same little one was not looking refreshed and seemed to be struggling. I snatched it up and took it to the barn. I have an emergency station set up in case of needing some extra heat or a bit of sugar water for a weak chick to give it a boost. I popped this little one in and turned on the warming light. It was standing, although it was obvious it was making a great effort to do so. I prepared a tiny dish of water and added a drop of molasses to it, instant energy. I offered it a bit on the end of a dropper but it was spending all it’s energy just staying upright so I didn’t force it.

Knowing that sometimes, just a bit of extra heat can make the difference between life and death, I left it standing under the light to provide it additional warmth. A sorry substitute for snuggling under Mom or Dad admittedly, but Mom and Dad were pretty busy at the moment getting their breakfast and keeping their eye on the other tiny yellow bits in the coop.

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Every 15 minutes for the next couple of hours, I went out to the barn to check on this little one. After the 3rd or 4th check, it was receptive of a drop or two of the vitamin rich molasses water. It opened it’s tiny eyes after having them closed from the time I brought it in the barn, blinked, and I was hoping we were maybe, just maybe, turning a corner.

I wish I could say there was a happy ending to the morning but, there’s not. The little one lost it’s battle with weakness.

What difference does it make that one tiny farm animal doesn’t make it? After all, there are plenty more where that one came from, right?

But when I think of all the effort that went into bringing this little one into the world, I feel a little sad for losing it. It’s Mom spent 3 weeks, laying one egg a day to create the nest of 21 eggs, nestled in the catnip bed. She spent the next 4 weeks sitting on the eggs, carefully turning each one daily, rotating them under her to spread her warmth evenly over them.

I covered her with the wheelbarrow at one point, to shade her from the blazing summer sun and the rains and offered her dishes of water and food to keep her comfortable.

When the eggs hatched, 15 new Royal Palm turkey lives filled the garden and the coop with their tiny yellow fluff and little feet, following their Mom and then their Dad wherever they went. Now, there is one less.

Losing this little one brought back memories of when I drove across country with one of my son’s friends. If you’ve never done it, put it on your bucket list. We were crossing Iowa. The land out there is so huge, you can’t imagine it. Fields of wheat stretched to infinity. It was then it occurred to me how small we all are. Specks. It also occurred to me the importance of each speck.

This tiny chick was an important speck on the Bittersweet Farm, even for it’s short life. I’ll miss you little turkey. You gave it a good fight, and you left a tiny mark on this humble farm. I won’t forget you.

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MORE FROM DYAN:

HOMEGROWN-life-dyan-150x150Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

PHOTOS: DYAN REDICK

HOMEGROWN Life: Farmer Dyan’s Spring To-Dos

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN LifeWith spring officially here, days are filled with a billion and one things on the to-do list. How to pick and choose which comes first is always a challenge.

There’s the ancient fallen apple tree, one I’ve been waiting to take scions from in an attempt to propagate more of this unidentified fruit. The taste of these apples is a combination of fruit and flower. There are many apple trees on this property, but this one in particular produces a fruit I’ve not found in any store or farm stand.

There’s the pond, finally uncovered from the wrath of winter’s snow and ice. Each spring, I drain as much of it down as possible to start fresh with clear water and a bag full of new inhabitants in the form of algae eaters. The ducks are particularly happy when this chore is finished.

There’s the pine tree that landed across the fence and into another apple tree. It went down in a gust on a winter day when storms were blowing up over the Gulf of Maine and right across the farm. The sheep have been enjoying bark from it’s limbs and trunk all winter, using it as a mineral and vitamin supplement to keep them going through the long, dark months.

Romeo & Ariel

Then, there are the garden beds. My kitchen garden, the one right outside the new back door, has softened and seems ready to accept the hoe. Its dirt is a deep, dark brown. I’m adding the ashes from the fireplace and heading to the sheep compost pile to add carts full of sheepy richness. It will be ready to accept this year’s crop of basils and parsley. Can you really have too much? I’ve enjoyed Lemon and Thai Pesto all winter. Each time I open a jar, I’m reminded of warm summer days. It helps when the snows are blowing sideways and the temps are, once again, down in the teens.

There’s the dairy barn. Overwintering for this building means deep compost, all needing hand forking out. It’s a big job. I usually wait until the nights are a bit warmer, just to give the girls some nice bedding under them during the transition from winter to spring. In the fall, we start with a couple inches of fresh soft shavings. The girls do the rest throughout the winter, pulling hay from their racks and laying it where they need it. Goats are fussy eaters. They selectively eliminate the bits out of the hay they either don’t like the taste of, don’t have the particular nutrition in it they need, or just because they want a softer, drier bed. No matter. I indulge them, and their feet and legs benefit from not standing on a cold hard surface all winter.

Barnie & Sea Princess munching apple branches

There is a method to our madness in farming. It comes in many forms. Everybody seems to have their own, but it always seems to come down to the same thing: it’s a lot of work. The reward comes in the form of lazy summer days with gardens bursting at the seams with fresh vegetables and herbs. While we work away in spring, uncovering and freshening beds, pruning and trimming to let sunshine in for bigger juicier apples and other fruits, cleaning and wiping and painting and hauling and digging out from winter, the spring sunshine warms our backs and lightens our hearts.

At Bittersweet, Romeo is growing into his amazing lamby self. He is enjoying days playing in the pasture with Ariel, our other great lamb from last spring. He’s romping about, doing that springy lamby thing with Buttermilk. Seeing each other from behind the old pine tree or from across the spread, they run to greet each other. Just before they literally run into each other, they stop in their tracks, gently lower their heads, and touch each other on the forehead. Connections.

Romeo lap cuddling

Romeo and I are soon visiting Story Hour at our Jackson Memorial Library here in St. George to read the tiny book he inspired me to write. The message is about building confidence in kids. I’ve found a farm to be a place where that can happen.

In a few short weeks, goat kids will arrive. Frannie is up first and her big Mama belly is starting to grow at the seams.

Frannie & her baby bump

She’s lazier now, slower to get up and down. In her gentle motherly way, she looks at me with her big doe eyes and comes to my side. She leans against my leg and once again, I pat her head and remind her, I’ll be there for her when the time comes. Connections. I don’t know who benefits from it more, her or me.

Welcome spring! We’ve waited a long time for your arrival. Thanks for coming back to visit, even if it’s only for a short while.

MORE FROM DYAN:
Raising Romeo, a Love Story
Farmer Dyan Gets a Four-Legged Valentine
A Bittersweet Month on the Farm
Lambing, Loss, and the Cycle of Renewal

HOMEGROWN-life-dyan-150x150Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

PHOTOS: DYAN REDICK

HOMEGROWN Life: What We Learned From Our Year Without Groceries

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t believe it’s been a year now since we started our year without groceries. We learned a lot in that year. We are definitely healthier, but also we’re happier. Our relationship with each other is stronger as we’ve had to learn how to really work well together.

When we first decided to do a year without buying food from the grocery store, convenience stores, box stores or restaurants we thought the challenge was going to be really difficult. And it kind of started out that way. We had difficulties getting local milk, even though we live near a lot of dairies, and our goats hadn’t been bred yet so we had to wait for them to start producing. We had an order on part of a steer that almost didn’t come in, and our first monthly co-op order was missed.

But as time continued onward we started to get into the groove of things. After a lot of research I had found a milk delivery service that actually came to my town. We made do that first month without our co-op order and the steer finally came in. We visited the farmers’ market every Saturday and if something came up and we couldn’t make our local one, we were able to always find another one in a nearby town that we could go to. Our little urban farm started to become more productive and eventually we were able to provide all of our own dairy from our two goats.

 

We met a lot of great small family farmers and built relationships with them. They answered our questions, gave us tours, and we relied on them for our food. We learned that you don’t have to produce your own food to give up the grocery store, you just have to get out there and meet the people that do produce your food. Not to mention that we saved money on food while buying higher quality products.

About 6 months into our year we realized that it was pretty easy and that we wanted to have more of a challenge. We decided to go the last three months of our challenge without buying any food. We would have to rely on what our little lot could provide us along with anything we had on the shelf.

We were so far behind on planting due to Mother Nature refusing to cooperate that I was worried we wouldn’t have anything to eat fresh. We got lucky and our first big harvest was the day we started the three month challenge. For those first few weeks we were limited to cucumbers, green beans and zucchini. That was probably the hardest part of the challenge – having such a limited diet. And because of our less than stellar weather during the first part of the year, our fruit trees were a complete failure.

On the plus side though we learned first hand what we should have in storage in case of emergencies. We also developed a bartering system with friends which helped strengthen our community.

After a year of being free from grocery stores we decided to continue this journey indefinitely but we’ll allow ourselves one restaurant visit a month. We met a lot of great people along the way and we learned a lot about ourselves.

 

My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!