Independence Days Update: Leaving the Farm

Sharon May 5th, 2010

One of the problems of farming is that it does make it hard to leave.  I don’t mean the difficulty of getting animal care - we are fortunate enough to have  a wonderful 14 year old neighbor, who does a terrific job of animal care - and his equally terrific mother who brings him over and supervises.  We’ve also got other friends willing to house-sit - so we’re lucky.

The big problem is not arranging animal care, but dealing with the psychological difficulty of my own desire to keep hands on the tiller all the time - the fact that even though we have wonderful caretakers, they aren’t me.   It is control freakiness, of course, but also the fact that much of the knowledge of what our plants and animals need is simply too complicated to convey. 

Even though I know our caretakers will water the plants, I worry about a sudden freeze, about over and under watering.  I know they have milked the goats well for years, but I worry will they recognize signs of illness, if any.  I worry the ducks won’t come back for them and will be eaten by predators.   I just worry.

And there’s some reason for that - we came back last night to find a power outage, a missing cat, the ducks refusing to come in and that dogs had dug up some plantings.  These things could have happened when we were home, of course, and none of them was serious - the cat returned this morning, the ducks are still happily floating on the creek - but some part of me believes that they won’t happen if it is just me.

Moreover, it isn’t just worry - the more we live in our home - eat from our home, heat from our home, live wholly here, the less I want to go away.  I left to see family, excited about the trip, but was reluctant as well- the first serious gardening weekend of May, perfect weather, and I’m leaving my dirt??!!? Are you kidding?

But it was a lovely trip, filled with family and friends which are at least as important as the rest.  We had a great time, and if we’re glad to be back, it is because we took the risk and went away.

It was a low key week, because of five days away, but I did a bit of planting.  But now, the deluge.  We are getting ready for kidding (we think maybe Bast is pregnant after all, but it is hard to tell, and who knows, Jessie always looks pregnant), hitting high planting season and preparing for our next apprentice weekend - a bunch of families are coming to the farm.

(On that subject, btw, I’m looking for someone who is good with kids and has some experience teaching, as a camp counselor or other kid activities do a couple of hours of child activities on the farm each day of Memorial Day Weekend at my house (with parents around to help and supervise, it wouldn’t be solo). In exchange you get free room and board and to be part of goat milking lessons, gardening and a whole host of farm learning - and to hang out with a great group of people at my house.  Email at [email protected] if you are interested.)

There’s a lot to do now, and after a long period of “ok, too cold, too wet, too much snow, too not here, too busy too…oh, crap it all needs doing right now!)  So there’s that.  But hey - that’s farm life.  And I’m home!

Plant something: Squash (in paper pots), second crop of peas, carrots, beets, beans.

Harvest something: Milk, eggs, sorrel, nettles, lettuce and bok choy thinnings, pea shoots.

Preserve something: Dried some raspberry leaves

Waste Not: Hauled some stuff that would have gone bad in our fridge to Boston to share.  Lose points, however, for the fact that Eric left one of the bags on the counter to rot ;-) .  Otherwise, the usual.

Want Not: Took advantage of the fact that all nurseries are having sales right now to order some more fruit trees and bushes.

Eat the food: Lots of asparagus and rhubarb, but we’re not doing much fancy with it - we’re just so happy it is here.

Develop local food systems - talked to 80ish people who want to have chickens at my Mom’s house, and encouraged them.

How about you?


19 Responses to “Independence Days Update: Leaving the Farm”

  1. Ann says:

    Northern York County, Maine. Age 63

    Plant: Buckwheat on both gardens. One will be plowed under bit by bit for crops. The other will be plowed and reseeded about every 6 weeks. It catches nutrients, chokes weeds, and adds green matter.

    Harvest: Still gathering lots of various chicories for salads, stir-fries, and stuffato. No need to cut field dandelion greens this year. Golden turnips overwintered through the extremely warm winter, and the little flower buds are just like rapini. A chard wintered over, too, with silvery stems and a faint pink cast. No other turnips or chards made it through. Kale leaves and buds. Daffodils. Tulips didn’t make it. Too warm? Lots of little purple/blue flowers: violets, bugle, forget-me-nots, grape hyacinths. Gorgeous together.

    Preserve: No, but need to: onions, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, potatos.

    Waste not: the usual compost. Spread the alpaca manure someone dropped off for us last fall - exhausting!

    Want not: Enough of everything at the moment. Saving cash for leverage in any emergency.

    Eat: Greens - stirfry, salad, stuffato. Beets, potatos, onions in stews, duck eggs, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, frozen raspberries. Flowers on the table.

  2. Mama Bean says:

    “and im leaving my dirt??” LOL IRL funny how we grow these roots that can’t be seen, but keep us tethered nonetheless…

  3. Karin says:

    Our life is in flux. We are in an in-between time. So gratefully, having the IDC challenge keeps me on task.:)

  4. AnneT says:

    Plant: carrots (again), Malabar spinach in pots, apple peppers in pots, white potatoes, and sprouts.

    Harvest: dandelion greens, garlic chives, rhubarb, sprouts.

    Preserving: dandelion wine

    Waste not: exchanged our gas mower for a rebate towards a cordless electric one. Picked up some acrylic caulking for further house sealing from a garage sale. Found that old foam snow boggans a neighbor left on the boulevard make wonderfully cushy kneeling pads that you don’t have to move often when weeding garden beds and a gravel driveway.

    Want not: buying the cordless electric lawn mower (we have a big yard that seems to get bigger as we get older, even though I keep converting more space to garden). Also stocked up on cedar lumber for garden projects. Used it and a double-paned window to make a seedling cold-frame that I can move around from bed to bed.

    Community food systems: shopped the farmers’ market. The Wednesday one has just opened up - yay for grass-fed Angus beef sausages and new asparagus!

    Eat the food: the dozen plus jars through the dish washer every week means the preserves are being used by the two of us! Dandelion greens in salads (two potlucks on Sunday!), raspberry vinegar in dressing, blueberry syrup and frozen blueberries in pancakes, dried greens and canned tomatoes with stored onions and sweet potatoes and southern Ontario peanut butter in West African groundnut stew. Grass-feed Angus beef cross-rib roast for one dinner and round steak for another.

  5. kathy says:

    We so often lead similar lives. My daughter is having a baby next week and we are off to Pennsylvania. I’m already homesick. The “what-if’s” are driving me nuts.

  6. Lynne says:

    Oh Sharon, thanks for this. We are going away twice in May and it is killing me. And we just have a little suburban mini-farm and really great neighbours who look after things, and we are going away to see places and people we love and it is still killing me!

    Plant: More Rudbeckia; more sweet potato starts; Russian almonds x 6; bought many more but haven’t actually got them into the ground yet; a big plant starts today but I can’t count it because haven’t actually done it yet….

    Harvest: asparagus, kale, spinach, lettuce, green onion, basil, eggs

    Preserve: Nope

    Waste not: We’re still eating our potatoes and they definitely fall into the waste not category now

    Want not: Got a scythe (!) as we’re not mowing our orchard anymore, just going to cut it; Just today bought still more “farm” blankets at thrift stores


    Eat: Two readings came into my life at the same time the other week - Sharon’s article on greens plus Michael Pollan’s pro-greens stance in his “In Defense of Food”; so we’ve been eating greens twice a day. I feel great but last night I actually dreamed that I was washing lettuce, and it had a slug on it and that’s when I woke up. So that’s the extent of the drama in my life right now. Perhaps I do need these trips away :)

  7. NM says:

    Ha. I do that worrying, too! Makes me nuts just to have to leave for work every day.
    Plant something: No. Too cold and wet out to want to go out, too little time at home.
    Harvest something: Local eggs, csa vegetables, farmers market vegetables (and strawberries!), overwintered parsnips.
    Preserve something: Candied ginger, started a batch of vanilla extract. Made a quince applesauce galette and froze it, in order to use up the quince applesauce that had been sitting in the fridge.
    Want not: Ordered more organic vanilla beans and some spices. Bought a pair of jeans and a sweater on sale at the thrift store (I’ve gained weight, and none of my clothes fit me anymore. : { ).
    Waste not: Went through the closet and set several items aside for donation. Turned vastly overripe bananas into muffins, and leftover French toast batter into custards. Also lost points for letting some rhubarb and greens turn into compost.
    Community food systems: Nothing.
    Eat the food: Rhubarb galette, savory galette with plum, fig, onion confit and sauteed kale rapini; sauteed kale rapini and onions with eggs, cauliflower macaroni and cheese, pizza with sauteed greens, banana pecan muffins, oatmeal custard, green salad with spring turnips, carrots, strawberry vinegar vinaigrette, dried rhubarb water (adds a lovely tart flavor), chard and mushrooms with fettucine, parsnip hashbrowns, strawberries.

  8. Leigh says:

    Here’s mine -

    I have a hard time when I have to leave overnight too. but then, I always was a homebody. Glad you had a good trip.

  9. Evey says:

    Going up to the WV farm this weekend YEAH. This time of year, major planting, I get up about every 2 weeks as it costs about $50 in gas to go. Also get to see DH. I am spending today, my birthday and 31st wedding anniversary, alone in NC.

    Plant something: potted-up tomatoes, sunflowers, seeded more greens- will take cold tolerant starts with me.

    Harvest something: greens at the farm-nothing here

    Want not: I am in the middle of Depletion and Abundance ( borrowed- sorry Sharon) so I decided to resort my books at school that I will move. Now I am packing more nonfiction books including a few teachers’ editions of science and Literature textbooks for possible future homeschooling of youngins’ at the farm. This is in addition to many fiction books for multi age readers.

    Food Community: Monday morning, I was gifted with about 2 cups of locally saved Heirloom Greasy Short Cut pole beans by my school’s data manager. Last year I gave her a doz. or so sweet potato starts and a few extra tomato seedlings. I will share the bean seeds around with my gardening WV neighors and encouage them to save seed for next year.

  10. Ms Betterhome says:

    Plant something: not this week, but did lots of feeding & caterpillar control.

    Harvest something: lettuce (radiccio, cos, mizuna), parsley, basil, spring onions, nasturtium leaves, collards, tuscan kale, pak choy thinnings, a lone snow pea.

    Preserved something: not this week

    Waste not: usual composting, worm-farming & recycling. Sorted through clothes, identified ragbag & giveaway items.

    Want not: Re-stocked bulk supplies of organic salsa & pasta sauce, arborio rice, falafel mix and plain & brown rice penne. Made huge pot of chilli black beans & froze in portions for weeknight ‘fast food’.

    Build Community Food Systems: Not this week.

    Eat the food: Homebaked vegan choc-chip cookies; apple/cherry crumble; falafel wraps with pantry/garden and ‘random crisper’ fillings; dal & curry with home-made nectarine chutney; stir-fried veggie noodles with LOTS of home-grown greens; homemade lime juice cordial.

  11. Claire says:

    Transitioning from spring to summer in St. Louis … the peonies are blooming.

    Planted: As seedlings: purple mustard, calendula, two varieties of basil, anise hyssop. As seeds: sunflowers.

    Harvested: lambsquarters, green onions, the first strawberries of the season.

    Preserved: more oregano, by drying (trying to keep it away from the lavender).

    Waste not: I researched how one might stretch a too-small wool sweater and tried out a method on the sweater my DH gave me last week. It worked pretty well; the sweater seems to be just about the right size for me now.

    Want not: checked the stored food supply, put in orders for bulk seeds, flours, herbs, tea, and dried milk.

    Community food systems: talked about how to make sauerkraut, beer, and wine with friends with whom we were sharing our versions of these; they want to try making them now.

    Eat the food: the aforementioned homemade sauerkraut, beer, and wine. Strawberries cut in half and eaten just that way, nothing else added … heaven in a bowl. Lambsquarters added to soups and spaghetti.

  12. Sonrisa says:

    Plant: Pear, nectarine, cherry, hazelnut, butternut, grapes, poplar, russian olive, sea buckthorn, green beans.

    Harvest: Lettuce, green onions, broccoli leaf, asparagus, mushrooms, oregano, sage, thyme, quail, milk, eggs. Grass for critters.

    Preserve: Cheese, yogurt, sour cream (the counter top culture is working great). Canned 6 pints quail and 4 broth. I filled out the canner with 4 pints of dry beans for quick meals.

    Waste not: After picking the meat off the quail I boil the bones down a second time then give the bones, skin, and offal to the pigs. More feathers for the insulating window shades. The whey from cheese making gets used for baking and whats left goes to the pigs. Experimenting with using the whey to make Blaand (whey wine).

    Want not: Remodeling the barn/animal pen to be more efficient. Bought more canning jars.

    Community: nope

    Eat the food: Used the second boiling of quail broth to make a risotto with home grown mushrooms, green onions, and herbs. Lots of salad. Spaetzle and red sauce with home grown mushrooms, herbs, and eggs (spaetzle).

  13. P. Clark says:

    The pressures of subsistence gardening and farming are especially great on lead crew members.

    I’m grateful for everyone’s inspiring accounts.


  14. Teresa says:

    My entry is here:

    I’m loving everyone else’s accounts, and quite jealous of those in warmer climates who have strawberries already!

  15. Gabrielle says:

    The garden is lush. The Market Square Farmers Market opened this weekend. Our family picked strawberries and gorged. Fresh jam is on the counter. -I couldn’t be happier!

    Plant—Watermelon seeds.

    Harvest—The first of the radishes, beautiful reddish pink, sweet and pungent at the same time. Spring onions, spinach, lettuce, strawberries. Broccoli raab, bok choy, and beet greens thinned and added to salads. I was bursting with joy when I saw that our plum trees FINALLY have plums on them. We’ve been waiting for about 4 years for them to fruit, almost giving up on the idea. We’ll look forward to those in the early summer.

    Preserve—A few green onions were put in the freezer. Two batches of strawberry jam.

    Waste Not/Reduce Waste— I’ve been working on cleaning out last year’s veggies and fruits from the freezer to make way for this season’s crops. We ate the last of the pesto, and almost all of the berries. I made a big batch of whole wheat berry muffins to use up the berries. I brought home the coffee grounds and banana peels from the men’s breakfast at church on Saturday for composting.

    Want Not/Prep/Storage—Added a few supplies and foods to storage this week. Ordered a few cases of items at the local food co-op. Bought some extra sausage and ground beef from our favorite local beef and pork farmer. Hubby put together the potato boxes, and the potatoes finally arrived. Of course, with the prospect of a very heavy rain we didn’t plant yet. (Much of Middle and Western TN is flooded).

    Building Community Food Systems— Helped with the breakfast at the church on Saturday. Attended the opening day of the farmers market in downtown Knoxville. Delighted in buying spinach, eggs, pork and beef. Picked strawberries with my husband and daughter on Saturday. This was our first time to pick at this farm, and we’ll definitely be back. They specialize in broccoli and strawberries. I hope to preserve some broccoli this year, too. I made plans to work in the church garden this week if it is dry enough.

    Eat the Food— There were many “happy dances” at the table this week. Local, fresh food, much of which was grown in our yard makes us very pleased indeed! When eating the first salad of the season, we all kept saying, “We grew this salad in our garden!”

  16. Gina says:

    Weather is not cooperating here in “Michiana” with still chilly temps at night. I feel like I am behind, but most people don’t put the hotties out until May 15 anyway. I am usually a week earlier.

    Hopefully next week’s update will seem more productive! :)

    Planted: tomatoes (the cherries and pears which seem hardier than the other types); various hot peppers (these in pots by sunroom); fruit trees: two sweet cherries, apricot, pear and plum; purple beans; beets; onions for green onions

    Harvested: Dandelion blossoms (not quite enough for wine, but plenty for jelly or bread); lamb’s quarters; burdock root; raspberry leaves, eggs

    Preserved: working on cooking up last year’s chickens (so I can defrost the meat freezer) and I plan to can the meat tonight in pint jars for easy meals. Froze the dandelion petals until I can get to them and dried the raspberry leaves.

    Want Not: Added feed for rabbits, cats and dogs and purchased new storage bins to help keep feed from being wasted; added three bunnies to chaos; bought a few more quail chicks the same age as the ones I hatched to add in some genetic variation. Researched quail processing (these things are ready in 6 weeks and even lay eggs at that age!) Bought new fence wire posts (damn, cattle!) Added canned beans and apple juice to storage (but I am now in an Eat from the Pantry period as we have items past expiration dates and we need to rotate, rotate, rotate…); sorting littlest’s too-small clothing and other stuff for my sister’s garage sale at the end of May

    Waste Not: Read the National Geographic’s Water Issue while working out (OMG, it is a real eye opener and I may post about this soon); the usual R’s; changed chicks bedding and it is now rotting in the compost bin; re-purposed bed springs and metal bottom part from the boys’ broken crib as a trellis for cucumbers (I saved the sides for another project too); pulled 5 very nice tomato cages from a “FREE” pile near to me

    Community: Not sure if this counts, but I found 2 really old, dear friends through facebook and have been catching up with them. I figure I can tell them about all of this eventually!!

    Eat the Food: Made an Indian inspired dish, ravioli with sauce made from my canned tomatoes; chicken tacos (trying to use up the chicken in the freezer); deviled duck eggs which everyone loved; lots of scrambled eggs

  17. Sue says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I just love reading your posts.

    Plant: chard, kale, lettuce/greens, onions

    Harvest: rhubarb, asparagus, eggs

    Preserve: orange rhubarb jam, rhubarb BBQ sauce

    Waste not: still eating down the freezer, lots of home baking, mended some socks

    Want not: canning jars on sale so I got some more

    Eat: eggs, rhubarb, potato soup, blueberry bread (we froze them last year and I still have a bunch)

    Supposed to snow here this weekend. Yikes!

  18. dltrammel says:

    Great lists from everyone. Especially good as I’m about to head to the nursery for more compost.

    BTW, Claire, good to see another Saint Louis person here. The weekend looks to be beautiful and hopefully very productive.

  19. Beegirl says:

    Just wanted to stop by your blog after reading your excellent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette today. My family and I are “suburban homesteaders” and I have been bitten by the farming bug. We have been growing more and more on our own and produced over 500 pounds of food for our family last year… that is if you count the honey: produce= over 380lbs honey= 151 pounds!

    Plant- More spinach, carrots, chard!

    Harvest- Eggs (from our illegal ladies we’ve smuggled in ) and Rhubarb.

    Preserve- Pot of Rhubarb on the stove now for canning Rhubarb sauce later today.. and maybe another batch of Bluberry Honey Spice Jam (from frozen blueberries from last years harvest)

    Waste Not- Re-potting a few zucchini plants to give to friends. The seeds always look so innocent in April..

    Want Not- While I’d love a “real” greenhouse, those windows from Construction Junction are making a wonderful (packed to the gills) cold frame!

    Eat the food- Eggs for breakfast, spinach and chard from the cold frame, Blueberry Honey jelly in homemade yogurt for lunch, and rhubarb sauce on ice cream tonight!! YUM!

    Eating Local- After melting down in the grocery produce section last weekend, all grocery shopping was done at local farm markets this weekend. Not in season? Not eating it. Refuse to buy melons etc. from Mexico, Guatemala, Chili… Just found a local farm too that sells flour/grains and ordered a catalog.

    Looking forward to following your blog..

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