Yes, we have no pumpkins

Our daughter and granddaughter made a jack-o’-lantern.


But even though we live on a vegetable farm, they had to buy the pumpkin because we don’t grow them here.

It’s interesting that this time of year one of the best-selling vegetables in the country is purchased not to eat, but as a decoration.

The jack-o’-lantern tradition originated in Ireland, where they carved turnips, not pumpkins.

We do have plenty of turnips. Maybe we should try to revive the old tradition.


A Day in the Life

Recently I saw a post on a homesteader’s blog that was a recap of her day– she called it “a day in the life post.” I found it interesting, so thought I’d do it too. This was today:

6:30-7:15 coffee and internet time. On Mondays I treat myself to 3 new (free) music downloads. Today I added 3 more tracks from the Pretenders’ 1980 debut album, an old favorite.

7:15-7:30 let the chickens out. Filled their waterer and feeders


7:30-8:30 went to my mother’s house to change the oil in her tractor. During my chores and work this morning I was listening to an iTunes-U course on the Foundations of Modern Social Theory. These days if you want to learn political theory from a professor at Yale, you can either get yourself admitted to Yale and come up with $68,175/year, or you can download the lectures for free from Open Yale on iTunes. We live in a great time to be a nerd. Unfortunately I didn’t have a tool I needed (an socket extension) so I didn’t finish the job. Visited with my mother a bit and she gave me some more tasks for another time.

8:30-9:40 filling some gaps along the bottom of our new hoop house, with fill dirt I scooped up from a mound on another part of the farm.



The hoop house was just erected on Thursday.  We’re excited about being able to extend our seasons. But now this old dog has to learn some new tricks. Growing inside a high tunnel is new to me.


9:40-10:10 breakfast. I cooked sausage and gravy. We didn’t raise any pigs year, as we were concerned that we might not be able to sell all the pork we got from the 7 we raised last year. That concern turned out to be unfounded. All of the most popular cuts are long gone. Fortunately for me, we still have plenty of breakfast sausage, and since no one ever orders neck bones, we still have those too.

10:10-11:10 back to my Mother’s to change the oil in her tractor. A job that should have taken a half hour ended up eating up nearly two hours of my morning. But I got it done, and with only one busted knuckle. Other people in Keeling may have changed the oil in a tractor this morning, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one listening to a lecture about Thomas Hobbes while doing it.

11:10-11:30 cleaned and sterilized our vegetable packing station, which is a corner of our basement. After every market day we spray down and wipe off all containers and table tops with a sterilizing solution.

11:30-11:40 checked on the Chinese cabbage. It’s looking good but still not quite headed up. This Saturday is our last farmer’s market of the year and I’m not sure it will be ready in time.


11:40-12:15 cleaning debris out of the hoop house and beginning to mark the beds. The house is 30 feet wide. My plan is to lay out 7 beds: two 2 foot wide beds on the edges and five four foot wide beds in the center, with one foot wide walkways between them, imitating what Pam Dawling describes in her book Sustainable Market Farming. I still don’t know what we’re going to plant. I’m open to suggestions.

12:15-1:30 lunch break. I cooked potatoes with onions and peppers.


1:30-2:15 cleaned the waterer in the pasture, trimmed Fannie’s hooves, cleaned the horse’s stall and spread the manure on a garden.

Goats need their hooves trimmed at least once every six months, for the same reason we trim our fingernails and toenails. I trim our goats’ hooves in the order of their ear tag numbers. That way I make sure no one gets skipped or goes too long without a trim. It was Fannie’s turn (she being number 85). Unfortunately Fannie is one of only two goats in our herd who won’t come to me voluntarily. So I had to chase her down. I ended up with a skinned knee and she ended up with neatly trimmed hooves.


Annie (L) and Fannie (R). That look in Fannie’s eyes means, “If you want to trim my hooves you’re going to have to catch me first.”

Some may remember me blogging about Annie and Fannie last winter. They both nearly died. Now they’re both strong and healthy, and due for their first kidding in March.

We usually compost horse manure before applying it to a garden. But this time of year, as long as nothing will be planted in the next four months, it’s OK to spread the manure directly on the garden and let it compost there.

2:15-3:00  Checked the sweet potatoes, made sugar water for the bees, checked the tatsoi.

We still have the sweet potatoes in the crates we cured them in. It’s time to spread them out on tarps in a dark corner of the basement, but I haven’t quite finished trimming the garlic that’s there now. So in the meantime I have to check them now and then to remove any that are starting to rot.

The good news is that our hive of honeybees has made it through its first year. The somewhat disappointing news is that they didn’t make enough honey this year to share any with us. As winter approaches we feed them a solution of sugar water (50% water, 50% dissolved sugar), to make sure they can use every opportunity to make honey for the winter while it’s still warm.

Our second planting of tatsoi looks good. It needs thinning but when possible I like to wait until I’m harvesting for market, so I can take the thinnings to market. Should be no problem this week.


3:00-4:00 Worked on an “inside” project, inputting family history data into This is a project I’ve been putting off for years. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but now that things are slowing down I try to devote an hour to it every so often. I’ll finish it this winter during the quiet times.

4:00-4:05  Fed the worms and moistened their bin.

4:05-6:00 cleared along a pasture fence. This is a twice-a-year job. I have to weedeat along the bottom of the fence, pull up or chop down any saplings that are coming up, and (in today’s case) use the chainsaw to cut down a limb that was touching the fence. A lot of this work could be eliminated if we sprayed Roundup along our fence line like many folks do.


6:00-6:30 A longtime friend of the family passed away a few days ago. He had hunting privileges on a farm once owned by my great aunt (now deceased), and now managed by me. His son and my cousin (my great aunt’s daughter) dropped by to ask about transferring those privileges to him.

6:30 Supper time. Lentil puttanesca featuring our shiitake mushrooms, which have done really well this year.


7:00-7:45 Post-supper walk. Gathered and washed the eggs. Filled the bees’ feeder.

7:45-now Putting this post together.

So that’s it. Not a typical day, but none of them are.

It’s been an interesting experience, but I don’t think I’ll do this again. It’s too much like filling out a timesheet.

The Rest of Day 3

Following our return visit to the Musee d’Orsay, we walked to the Pompidou Center to visit the National Museum of Modern Art, regarded as the best collection of modern art in the world other than New York’s MOMA.

A few of my favorites:


Henri Mattise, La Blouse roumaine (1940)



Henri Mattise, Girl with Black Cat (Marguerite) (1910)



Pablo Picasso, Femme nue couchee (1936)




Marcel Duchamps, L.H.O.O.Q. (1930)

Ever the provocateur, Duchamps simply drew a mustache and goatee on a cheap copy of the Mona Lisa, which he bought at the Louvre gift shop. Fittingly, this now hangs behind a kiosk where museum souvenirs are sold. The museum also has a reproduction of Duchamps’ famous “sculpture” titled Fountain, which was in fact nothing but a urinal, upon which he crudely painted the date and the name of the supposed artist “R. Mutt 1917.” He submitted his work to an exposition of avant garde art in 1917, creating the stir he intended.



Jean Dubufett, Jazz Band (Dirty Style Blues) (1944)


Jean Dubuffet, D’hotel nuance d’abricot (1947)


I was pleased to find a Rothko there.


Mark Rothko, Untitled (Black, Red over Black on Red) (1964)



Martial Raysse, Made in Japan–La grande odalisque (1964)


Afterwards we walked to the Notre Dame, but chose not to join the long line of people waiting for admittance. There were no long lines anywhere else we visited–often no lines at all. But there was always a long wait at the Notre Dame.


We ended our day with a visit to the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle. My poor pictures don’t do it justice.



A very fine day indeed.

Day 3

I’ve never much cared for impressionist paintings. It’s hard to say exactly why, but generally it’s because they’ve seemed to me to be insubstantial.

But reflecting on our visit to the Musee d’Orsay that night in our hotel room, I realized something about impressionism that had escaped me to that point. It made me wish I’d paid more attention to the idea during our visit and caused me to wish I could go back.

The next morning as we were leaving the hotel the receptionist gave us unexpired museum passes that had belonged to a couple of guests who had just checked out. Thoughtfully they left the passes at the front desk, asking that they be passed along to anyone who could use them. And thoughtfully the receptionist offered them to us. So we had free passes to most of the museums in Paris for that day.

Cherie’s itinerary for the day had nothing on it but a visit to the National Modern Art Museum at the Pompidou Center.  Now that I knew indulging my desire to go back to the M d’O wouldn’t cost us anything but time, I asked Cherie if she would mind stopping in for a quick return visit. The museum was on our way and, as some of her favorite paintings are there, she was happy to go back.

It was seeing the impressionist paintings in the context of their time that had struck me. All the art in the M d’O is from the late 19th and early 20th Century. Of course impressionism is now immensely popular and very well known. But what was going on in the art world into which impressionism dropped?

So on our quick return visit I compared the impressionist paintings and those that preceded them. The comparison was striking. Here’s a sampling of some of the paintings just prior to the advent of impressionism. These photos won’t reveal how large the canvases are, but note the violence.


Henri Regnault, Summary Execution under the  Moorish Kings of Grenada (1870) The painting is about 10 feet high and 5 feet wide


Jean-Leon Gerome, Young Greeks Attending a Cock Fight (1846) The painting is about 5 feet by 7 feet


William Bouguereau, Dante and Virgil (1850) app. 9 feet by 7.5 feet


Gustave Courbet, The Kill of Deer (1867) App. 11.5 feet by 17 feet


Gabriel Farrier, Scenes of the Inquisition in Spain (1879)

And so on.

Now consider the kind of work the impressionists produced.


Edgar Degas, Blue Dancers (1893)


Claude Monet, Study of a Figure Outdoors (1893)


Claude Monet, London, Parliament (1904)

So it wasn’t just the style of painting that changed. There was a dramatic change in subject matter as well. It’s no wonder the impressionists have endured. Which would you rather have hanging in your home?

The impressionist paintings are also much more modestly sized. Some are quite small.

I now understand impressionism, at least in part, as a reaction, and a much-needed corrective, to the prevailing standards of the day.

A couple other thoughts from my visit. Looking carefully at how the impressionists created the images in their paintings left me amazed. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that it takes genius to make this…


…out of this:


I’m not so impressed with pointillism, on the other hand.



Paul Signac, Les Chateau de Papes (1900)

…is made of this:


In my little notebook I wrote, “Monet is a genius. The pointillists are technicians.”

A final thought.

I’d never seen this painting before, but it made a powerful impression on me.


Gustave Guillaumet, The Sahara (1867)

Sparse and bleak by comparison to most of the other paintings in this part of the collection, the camel corpse in the foreground is the only recognizable thing in the picture. Remove it and the painting might start to suggest a Rothko. I found it fascinating, imaginative and even risky. I also wondered if George Lucas has ever seen this painting.

OK, that’s enough for one post. I’ll have to save the Pompidou for another day.

Day 2

We’ve been home over a month now. I haven’t been very faithful in following through on my planned series of posts with vacation pictures. But today I’m finally getting around to another one.


Our hotel was only a few blocks from the Notre Dame

Rather than rush around and try to cram too much sightseeing into a day, Cherie wanted a slower pace. For day 2 of our vacation she planned only two things–a visit to the Musee d’Orsay and the obligatory Seine cruise.


We walked to the museum, along the Seine

The Musee d’Orsay features 19th century art. In our prior visit to Paris, 16 years ago, we didn’t visit this museum and Cherie has regretted that ever since. So it wasn’t surprising to me that it was the first stop on her itinerary this time.


The museum began life as a train station. It was much larger and grander than I had expected




A detail from Sain’s painting “The Excavation at Pompeii.” I was struck by the girl’s arresting stare. This painting itself is much larger. I regret I didn’t take a photo of it.


I was surprised to find Whistler’s mother in Paris



We enjoyed the accessibility of the paintings. More on that in another post.


Evidence of Monet’s genius




An original composition I call “L’adoration de Van Gough”

We spent over half the day at the museum. It awoke a lot of slumbering interests in me, and had my brain buzzing so much I had trouble sleeping that night. More on that in the next post.

The drizzle from the previous day was gone. It was a beautiful afternoon for a boat ride.



The Musee d’Orsay


OK, I reckon that’s enough for today. I have onions and garlic to plant.

Garlic Time

It’s time to plant garlic.

Traditionally (here at least) Columbus Day is the day for planting garlic, and traditionally tomorrow is Columbus Day.

But we won’t be planting garlic tomorrow. Over the weekend we got over five inches of rain and now our intended garlic beds are muddy and sloppy. They’ll have to dry out a bit and that’s going to take awhile.

Absent another hurricane it shouldn’t be a problem though. Some people plant their garlic as late as November and that’s fine.

Even as we’re preparing to plant a new crop, we’re still not done processing last year’s garlic. We used to hang our garlic to dry, tying it to cattle panels in a shed. As we increased the amount we plant (we now aim to plant about 1,000 cloves) that just became way too much work. Now we spread it out on upturned vegetable crates and use box fans to dry it out. Eventually, as time permits, we trim the roots and tops off and peel away the top layer of skin. A good job for rainy or wintry days. We’re still working on it.