A Pear From the Past

There were once lots of families living on this farm.  In addition to the house where my family (the farm’s owners) lived, there were at least seven other houses with families living in them.

Only three of the old tenant houses are still standing, but even with all traces of the old houses gone, it’s pretty easy to tell where they once stood.  If you find fruit trees, nut trees and domesticated flowers growing wild, then you can be sure there was once a house nearby.

One of old, long-abandoned houses

One of old, long-abandoned houses

We heat our house with wood, so I spend a lot of time cutting wood this time of year. A few days ago I took the chainsaw to get to work on an old oak that that had fallen over on the other side of the farm.

Firewood

Firewood

On the edge of the woods next to the fallen tree I noticed an overgrown Asian pear tree.  Sure enough, it was growing near the remains of one of the old houses.

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A closer view--high in the tree

A closer view–high in the tree

The lowest pears were at least 20 feet off the ground and impossible to reach. But, using a stick as a missile (a skill I developed as a child here) I managed eventually to knock down one of them down.

The pear was good, but sadly the effects of multiple freezes had taken it beyond its prime.

I’m sure the folks who planted that tree so long ago would be pleased to know that all these years later someone on White Flint Farm would take a break from work to enjoy a pear from it.

And then there were two.

Only two of our original five pigs are still on the farm.  They seem to be enjoying the fact that there is less competition at the feed troughs.  We’ll keep them a few more weeks at least.

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Our end of year review is fast approaching. That’s when Cherie and I take a day or two and carefully go over all aspects of the farm operation (as well as household management and finances) and make decisions for the next year. Last year we decided to raise 4 hogs this year, instead of our usual two.  We ended up raising five, but one was for friends of ours who live in an intentional community in town.  We only raised 4 to sell.

I’m considering increasing again, perhaps to ten and perhaps going to year-round production.

If we do that we still probably won’t get new piglets until spring.  As soon as the last two fatties are gone, I’ll open the gate and let the goats enjoy the forage that’s been stockpiling in that pasture for 8 months.

Fracking and Fabs

It’s encouraging to see so many communities standing up successfully in opposition to fracking.  From Dryden, New York to Denton, Texas, and in dozens of other towns across the country, citizens are enacting laws banning fracking.

The Denton success is particularly remarkable, given that Denton lies in the heart of natural gas country and already has 275 active wells within the city limits.  Unable to get their city council to enact a ban, citizens of Denton gathered enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot there, then prevailed with 59% of the vote, despite the industry pouring nearly $700,000 into advertising to defeat the measure.  Of course now they will have to defend the lawsuit the industry has filed, but their victory will hopefully inspire other communities to follow suit.

Our community has its own battles to fight these days and the odds seem to be greatly against us.  But seeing towns standing up to the oil and gas industry, and winning, gives hope.

On a completely different and unrelated subject, our missing cat Mr. Fabulous has returned home after being gone for nearly two weeks.  My sister and her husband are staying in our old farm house this weekend and they found him meowing outside the back door.   Skinny, very hungry, missing his collar, but otherwise no worse for the wear, he seems relieved to be home.  I wonder how many of his lives he used up during his adventure.

When we went to get him, he bolted for the woods.  But Cherie was able to coax him to her.

When we went to get him, he bolted for the woods. But Cherie was able to coax him to her.

After living in the wild for two weeks, Fabs was very happy to see his food bowl again.

After living in the wild for two weeks, Fabs was very happy to see his food bowl again.

It’s good to have him back, especially in light of the other events of the week.

Working Chickens

We keep two flocks of chickens here.  One group is totally free-range.  They go where ever they want.  Mostly they want to go in the woods.  They seem to enjoy scratching around in the leaves and I’m happy to let them to do it, but they aren’t doing much good for the farm there. Of course once a year we thoroughly clean their coop, spread the litter over gardens, then till it in.  That does the farm a great deal of good.

We keep the other flock inside poultry net fencing, which we move around depending on where we want the chickens to forage. We put them in gardens that are done for the year and they till the soil, eat the bugs and deposit fertilizer for next years gardens. This group is definitely earning its keep.

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These chickens are good representatives of the symbiosis we try to create here.  We give them feed and shelter, they give us eggs and garden work.  They are an important part of the reason we don’t need to use any chemical inputs of this farm.

The Fullest Pleasure

While our fall gardens have largely been done in by freezing weather, the overwintering veggies remain defiantly green. We have lots of spinach, which hugs the ground in the winter.  It is poised, we hope, to erupt this spring.

And our garlic and onions look healthy and happy.  We’ll have to wait until summer to harvest them, of course, and they won’t grow any more over the winter.  But their fall head start should pay off once the days begin to lengthen and warm.

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I like seeing green things alive in the garden even when the rest of the world around us is turning brown.  They’re reminders of the goodness to come.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Unitedstatesians.  Here is some wisdom appropriate to this day from Wendell Berry:

Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

May we all enjoy today’s feast with the fullest pleasure.

Dixie

Yesterday was a day of deep sadness on the farm.

We had to say goodbye to Dixie, our beloved pet of 16 years.

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Sorry for such a somber post, but it didn’t seem right to blog about anything else today.

R.I.P Dixie Belle

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Sharona

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According to my records, Sharona’s due date is January 15.  From the looks of her, I could be wrong about that.

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She delivered healthy triplets in January 2013 and again in December 2013. She’s a good mama, as was her mother.

I well remember the day Sharona was born, nearly five years ago.  That was a day I won’t soon forget (the story is told HERE).

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Baby Sharona, with her twin sister Ramona and her cousins Barbie and Blondie.