Monday, May 18, 2009

65, cloudy and windy

Things have been so busy lately, there has been no time at the end of the day to write, or even to blog, which isn't actual writing, is it? There has only been time to sink into the sofa, muscles sore, hair dirty, face and arms glowing from the sun and wind.
The exhaustion that comes at the end of these days may seem terrible to the soft city folks who might be following along, but it is not at all terrible. In fact, quite the opposite- it has the effect of feeling really alive. Knowing what got accomplished today, and it is substantial. Getting soil turned. Seeds into the ground. Recalling how open and wet with dew the lawn looked when I first arrived this morning, and how when I finally quit there was a new chicken coop sprouted up. Or how it feels to keep plugging away at the major parts of a long-term task, things we've been planning and working on since winter, such as the started indoor tomatoes, or the cold smoker. It is a great feeling of deep satisfaction and accomplishment to work toward a part of a big goal.

Today, I finally realized my funny, cool, quirky and genius goal of building my own cold smoker on the cheap. After several months of planning and thinking and scoping and scrounging, I finally had the parts and the time, and I dug out my trench smoker. I did it with a grin on my face, since I knew I had a few pounds of fresh side pork curing in the fridge with maple syrup and salt, waiting to be smoked into bacon. As soon as my smoker was ready and the first trial fire burned, I put that slab of sweet and salty pork into my smoker, and fueled it with apple wood. The culmination of many hours spent tending the pigs, and dark cold winter nights researching and dreaming about home made bacon and other smoked meats was everything I had hoped it would be.

So it is anything but a terrible feeling when I sink into the couch, and maybe enjoy a cold beverage before I hit the shower to wash off the soil. I think humans are meant to work, as the feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing we put in a good day at it ranks way up there. Of course, the work we do needs to be meaningful to us, not simply random in order to have this effect.
There is no other work I would rather be doing, than to be creating and building our own food and shelter systems. It just makes me happy. The fact that I get to do it outside while listening to the wind and the birds and the distant sound of neighbors tilling and plowing and planting just makes me feel connected and alive. If I only have one life to live, I am lucky that I am able to work so hard in this way, able to create and see and feel and eat the fruits of my labors.
I will post pictures when I can access them!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mistakes and happiness

So today I worked on thinning out seedlings. The rows of carrot seedlings are emerging along with the grass and weeds- and the picking out of things all less than an inch or two high was not the kind of task I was in the mood for. The crooked rows and the sod clumps left behind felt chaotic. I didn't mark the rows so I'm not sure where things ended intentionally ( I left room in each row to plant successively) and where my seeds just failed to emerge. It was a sudden jolt into reviewing and assessing. It made me mighty mighty cranky for a beautiful May day.

I have been making new beds, tilling up soil and shoving things into the ground (including fence posts) non-stop for the last 2 weeks. We've put in beans (4 kinds but still many left to get in), peas (snap and early), broccoli di rape and romanesco, beets, radishes, lettuces (how many kinds?), raspberries and strawberries, the pears and the hazelnuts, thyme, oregano, basil, mint, dill, cilantro, thunbergia, delphinium, sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, catanache, nasturtiums, hollyhocks, columbine, artemisia, sedum, and 50 lilies. The lilies I ordered from blooming bulb - which offers things in a minimum of 25 but the prices are great and they actually do have a guarantee that they will grow. I have dug up 4 new flower bed areas in addition to the asparagus garden that has lots of room for flowers. It's been a keep-on-moving kind of pace and it's felt good and I can feel the progress we are making.

But this morning- the seedlings were both a success and another moment of self-doubt. I thinned- which is not easy to do- yanking out the beginning of something that just did this tremendous job of pushing out from the soil. I couldn't connect that the jumbled mess would look like a row of carrots worth eating. I wished I had mounded the rows- pulled out more sod clumps- made more space between the rows so I didn't tromp the babies when I tried to straddle my work.

I realize it may seem a little silly to have been (and still can be) anxious about this gardening thing. With money tight- it's felt like a big investment and I can't keep the details so straight. All my great planning beforehand (more detail than I like) and then I look up and realize I've poked several seed packets into the ground and I'm not exactly sure where or what. Today I planted some glads and a dahlia and after putting the last one in began to worry that they were closer to 6" deep rather than 4. I started to dig them back out- but then didn't find them all and now I'm a bit worried that I stirred them up under the soil- maybe turning them upside down... and now none of them will grow. And the flowers especially- are a big splurge. I'll confess that we have 2 rows of fingerling potatoes- one of which is emerging fairly consistently and the 2nd row isn't. I dug at it today to see if I had planted the entire row too deeply and now they were all rotting in the ground. Maybe I could nudge them up a bit higher and it wouldn't be too late. Instead, of course, I merely lopped off the shoot that had been trying to push through. It feels like there isn't much correcting here. I feel in some ways that I'm working out some things about 'doing my best' and letting go. And I see Birkleigh leaping along beside me, while I teach her to focus and finish and do your best... and I realise gardening is going to keep on being a lot like parenting. So here we go- our first season. And my crooked carrot rows and my curvy bean rows and maybe just maybe my dug too deep dahlias will amaze me.

As the day ended, I smelled the sweet lilacs, and my eyes kept scanning over the hill into the orchard with the blooming apple and cherry trees and the linden and the redbud and the sun setting on the barn. I looked up and saw my lovely mate coming from saying her goodnights to B. If I can look up from the mistakes, I can see that this place is what happiness looks like.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

I smell hazelnut encrusted pork in our future.....

Had to work today, but I've got the next 5 days off. I knew back in March or so that I would need this time to get things ready for the Spring rush. Baby chicks are coming next week, the garden needs planting, yard needs attending, we want to put in rain barrels, etc. There are just a million projects and little jobs that need doing. I look forward to the time, but I know it will end too fast and I will be disappointed in how much I did not manage to cross off the list.
Nevertheless, after work today we all planted the two hazelnut trees, worked in the yard some, watered the new plants, and I mowed the lawn for the first time this year while Karen planted the rhubarb crown we got. We had chicken on the grill, made with the two barbecue sauces I tried on the ribs earlier. Delicious!
And oh, yeah! I started my first try at home made bacon today. took a hunk of fresh side pork as it's called in these parts, and rubbed it with half a cup of salt and half a cup of maple syrup. Popped it into the fridge to let it marinate. This should take a few days. I may need to check it in a few days to change the salt for fresh, etc. This process draws out much of the moisture, so that it keeps longer in addition ot flavoring it. When it has been salted enough, I will rinse it and dry it off, then I will attempt my first real smoke. I'm very excited to try it. It is a deliciously, beautifully slow process. Stay tuned!

If You have A Stuck Bolt, Give Me A Call

Friday, May 1, 2009
Sunny, breezy, 67

Today our order from Jung's came. We ordered 3 black raspberry plants (Jewell Black), 2 Filbert or Hazelnut trees, and some Valentine Rhubarb! We got the raspberries put into the ground right away. They came as sprouted shoots. The others we got earlier are canes which look dead and are supposed to sprout new canes from the roots. Karen is certain they are dead as door nails. I remain optimistic.
One of the pear trees we planted is blooming! Yay! the other still looks like it may or may not wake up. Karen also thinks this one is dead. I don't think so.

I mulched the onions and raked some more of the garden.

After work, I decided to tackle the trailer hitch. I ordered the hitch for the truck, as well as the necessary wiring needed to hook up a trailer. It had come in the mail a few days earlier. I had made a few attempts to start by trying to remove some bolts from the frame of the truck. As I had anticipated, they were rusted solid under there. I used my trusty can of PB Blaster (that stuff works!), and swore a million times getting under and back up from my truck. looking for the right size socket, etc. Though I actually own no less than 3 socket and ratchet sets, somehow I seem to be lacking a 3/4 inch socket. Guess which size my offending nuts were? Go ahead, make the offending nuts joke.

In the following days, I chewed on my lunch plotting and scheming against those bad nuts. They were obviously in cahoots with a couple of real undesirable bolts. I plotted my revenge, and headed to Sears.

A few minutes later, I left Sears with a renewed sense of confidence, a lilt in my step. I had a new toy. I'd always thought my air compressor was lonely without a real air impact ratchet. Well, she'd need to pine no longer! Heh heh. That bolt was coming off. And in a hurry. With no smashed knuckles. Not hardly any effort on my part. And bonus - it would be with a satisfying vornado! of garage sound!

Now, don't worry I'm sure I will be able to find plenty of other applications for my air impact wrench. Farms are full of rusty bolts and stuff. And I got it on sale! I did pick up some necessary accoutrement's; goggles (cuz shit FLIES when you use one of these things, whee!), air tool oil, and some impact sockets. All I need.

Honestly, I wish I could have made it last longer. Those bolts unbolted in a speedy fashion once they had the business end of my air impact wrench ordering them to spin. They backed out in a satisfying cloud of flying rust and vvvvv vvvvvvv! I was wishing I had more rusty old bolts to unhinge. I started to think maybe I'll learn to do my own brake jobs. How hard can that be?

Not as hard as putting a 60 lb. trailer hitch on the back of a pickup truck! Now, basically, all I had to do was lift this hitch into place, line up the three holes on each side, and bolt it on. The hard part was getting it up there and holding it steady while putting a bolt in. I tried using two jacks and a crank, but it wasn't working. So I had to ask Karen to come and give me an extra set of hands.

She emerged from the house in a purple lounge suit, covered in a plaid quilted jacket. At least I got her a towel to kneel on. After lots of jockeying and excited talk between us, we got the first two bolts in, and the rest was all downhill. She went back inside to put Birk to bed, and I finished wrenching under my truck, listening to blues on the radio. Life can be good. Got the wiring harness all hooked up properly, and voila! We are in business and ready to haul!

I will admit, however, that I may have developed a slight hitch in my giddyup from all the rolling and thrashing on a cement floor, punctuated by a zillion repetitive stress movements of crawling back out from under the truck for parts and instructions, and from trying to bench press 60 pound with my arms and alternately my legs while gingerly applying a cross bolt. Man, I woke up the next morning feeling like a Bears quarterbck after a game at Lambeau. What is the name of their quarterback? Does anyone know who their qb is this week?