Archaeology in the Garden

I’ve found arrowheads in our gardens, but most of the time when I find discarded human artifacts they’re of much more recent origin.  It’s common for me to find plowpoints, muleshoes, bits of broken glass or pottery, old rusty nails, lumps of coal, and other such stuff. Some of it is stuff that one might expect to sometimes find in a long-used field.  Other times the stuff is evidence that the land wasn’t always used as a field.

Today while hoeing the broccoli here’s what I found.

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That’s fairly normal in that garden.

I don’t know if my family left behind more debris than the typical farmers over the last couple hundred years.  I’ve wondered about that.  My working assumption has been that, yeah, they probably did.

This past weekend we attended a Food, Farming and Faith conference at the Duke Divinity School.  It was great to spend a couple of days in the company of some of the folks who inspire us in what we do.  I’ll have more to say about that on another day.

One of the highlights of the conference was our visit to Anatoth Community Garden. It is a beautiful place, with an inspiring history and mission.  I was like a kid in a candy store, of course, checking out their crops and techniques, and paying particularly close attention to their soil.

Near the end of our visit, I was bending over one of their beds, which was being prepped for planting.  And there, in that special garden, something caught my attention that made me smile.  What I noticed would have been missed by most folks, but White Flint has trained my eyes.

There, in the newly prepped soil at Anatoth, I saw a piece of an old brick and a rusty nail.

It reminded me of home.

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Garden Dweller

See who I found hiding in one of our old gardens?

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You may have to look closely.

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While I’d rather not have rabbits in the gardens, they do so little damage compared to that done by the deer, groundhogs and raccoons, that I don’t bother much with them.

Nevertheless, I’d prefer they find some other place to hang out.

What a Wonderful World

Last night I went out to feed the bees.  It’s the time of year for them to get some sugar water to make sure they have enough food to get safely through the winter.  It had been a busy day and I’d forgotten to do that.  So it was pitch black when I went out to do it and my flashlight, on the verge of expiring, was shining very dimly.

So my evening routine was disrupted and my flashlight wasn’t operating properly.

Those were lucky circumstances.

It was a dark, cool, clear, moonless night.  The stars were magnificent.  Few things are more awe-inspiring than the Milky Way stretched across a clear, moonless sky.

I stopped, took at deep breath and smiled.

It’s a crazy messed-up world.  But it’s also a beautiful place.

I’m awakened by a rooster crow each morning and I fall asleep each night holding my wife’s hand.

That’s the reality that I remind myself I must never take for granted.

What I focus on determines what I miss.

Sans Joey

Me and Joey

This month’s Mother Earth News has an article about livestock guardian dogs and it has me thinking about our pal Joey, who died in January.  I miss his big slobbering goofy self.  He was a great friend and protector for our goats.  He was dedicated to their safety and he never failed them.

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We’ve talked about it several times, but we’ve never replaced Joey.  I know we’re taking a risk and on the nights I hear the coyotes yipping and howling nearby, I especially worry about that. But we wanted to let some time pass and we’ve been reluctant to go through puppy training again.  Maybe we’ll get another guardian dog someday.  But for now at least, we’re going without.

According to the article terriers are good for keeping a farm free of possums, groundhogs and foxes.  I hadn’t realized that.  I’d like a farm free of possums, groundhogs and foxes, so maybe we ought to consider a terrier too.

Of course we’re not without a farm dog.  Our lab Ginny, graying though she is, has over the years proven her merit against possums, groundhogs, raccoons and even coyotes (although she prefers chasing squirrels and rabbits, despite having never managed to catch one).  Ginny has probably lost a step over the last few years though and she increasingly seems to prefer napping in the house to patrolling the farm.  But she still gets her game on when an unwelcome animal is around.

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Joey left us too soon.  I’m sorry he’s not still waiting for me at the barn each morning.

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Until he has a successor, if ever, we and Ginny will keep holding down the fort.

Meanwhile…

I just read that 3 more American servicemen were killed in Afghanistan this week.  That makes seven this month.  I have no idea how many Afghans were killed lately.  I’m not sure anyone even keeps count.

There are over 60,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan today, down from the peak of over 100,000 in 2011-12, but still nearly triple the number who were there when President Obama took office.  There are also over 108,000 taxpayer-funded quasi-military private contractors in Afghanistan.  That number continues to grow.

This month marks the 12th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.  It is the longest-running war in American history.

Many of the American soldiers now in Afghanistan were only 6 or 7 years old at the time of the 9/11 attacks.   As were their Afghan counterparts.

70% of the population of Afghanistan is under 30 years old.

They have never known a time of peace.

Baby Pictures

The last of our sitting hens only hatched two of the eggs in her clutch.  She’s bringing them out of her coop now and they’re pretty little fluff balls.

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You can’t tell from these photos, but both of these chicks have feathered legs making it probably that they are offspring of Elvis, our buff Cochin rooster.

Elvis.  Proud Daddy.

Elvis. Proud Daddy.

The four chicks hatched a few weeks earlier than these are growing fast.  They like eating out of my hand.

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I'm a chick magnet.

I’m a chick magnet.

Meanwhile we’re brooding a couple dozen Barred Rock chicks, which we didn’t hatch here, in a barn stall.

Rayne with one of the Barred Rock chicks.

Rayne with one of the Barred Rock chicks.

It’s nice to have so many babies on the farm these days.

Late Tomatoes

I’ve just come in from picking tomatoes.  In a normal year that would be no big deal.  But after losing everything we planted in May to blight, I wasn’t sure we’d have any tomatoes this year.

Every year we try to plant a “late garden.”  The late garden is for summer crops, intended to arrive late in the summer.  It’s part insurance and part just a way to stretch the summer veggies out.  So in the middle of June I planted a couple of rows of tomatoes in the late garden.  And now, as we’re able to enjoy them and provide them to our CSA members, I’m glad I did.

The blight is killing the late tomatoes as well, but much more slowly (oddly, it seems that our earlier crop suffered from “late blight” and what we have now is the more common, less catastrophic “early blight”).  So even as the blight moves slowly up the plant we’re still able to harvest lots of tomatoes.

We’ve been pigging out on tomatoes lately (and so have our pigs).

Next year I’m planning to plant more of the blight-resistant cherry tomatoes that thrive here.   We’re also going to put more tomatoes into our late garden.  It’s just not summer without vine-ripened tomatoes fresh from the garden.