Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fowl Weather

The day after the storm, we are still feeling the affects.   Rain, some wind gusts and the birds have not returned.  Some minor wind damage to the barn roof across the street, but nothing more than that.  Not at all what I expected.  The wind was howling last night as it zoomed down the mountains and hills around here. I was surprised that there were not trees and wires down all over the place, especially the legendary dead elm that watches over this farm.  My friends were not as lucky, they had trees down, power out and were trapped in their homes further south.

Monday was the last perfect morning before the high winds and rain of Hurricane Sandy came to Vermont. The sun was out, the clouds were beautiful, until 10am, and it was a steady 58 degrees.

During these last few hours the hens took advantage of the secret jungle path and dust baths they had created this summer.   They had one last fling before they were cooped up during the storm.  The wind gusts started at 4:15pm, but until that moment the flock and the herd ran free and grazed and did what ever they wanted to do.

The Speckled Sussex have the ideal camouflage to hide in the bushes and eat unsuspecting spiders and bugs before the really nasty weather came in.

Two of the other Sussex Sistas enjoyed their favored dust bath area.

As I continued to close down my garden and bring in all my poles, tomato cages and other garden ornaments, I was entertained by the flocks activity. They were all busy hunting and covering a lot of ground.

I took a chance and left my brussel sprout plants up and didn't cut them down before the arrival of Sandy because they are still growing delicious orbs and I didn't want them to stop.   Are you leaving yours up or any other crop?   They did survive the high winds and they are the first things I saw early this morning.
I am planting many more next year as they are drought resistance and chicken proof!

I hauled out more buckets and containers yesterday morning to fill with water for the flock, the house, the dogs and evacuated guests, should the worse happened.    I now have lots of water to fill the duck pools for a week or more.

I worried how the new community garden would withstand the extreme weather, so after church on Sunday, I drove down to take a final look.   I noticed that the "garden fairies"had  returned to the Rowe Community Garden and kindly raked a ton of leaves and deposited them on the garden.  I was going to spread the huge piles of leaves around and distribute them to the other areas of the garden but thought better of it.  I had a feeling they were going to blow all over the village with help from Sandy and I thought they had a better chance of staying on the garden if left in a giant pile.  (I made the right decision. They were still there this morning when I drove by.)

When the flock was let out of the coop this morning they ran to the porch hoping for treats. They had lots to say about the wind and all the noise last night.

They got their treats and went on their way to graze and look for worms and bugs that surfaced in the soggy garden. 

Rudy & Agnew waddled down to the asparagus patch for better bug hunting.   Then they paddled around in the many puddles that dotted the meadow by the house.   They don't seem as affected by the storm like the chickens are.  Ducks are much more mellow.

I jumped into my vehicle, it was still raining off and on, and headed down to check on the herd.

Our disaster plan had changed on Monday, when it was decided to let the herd have a 25 acre field somewhat away from the trees and streams.  It was a bit too close to the giant power lines for me, but the herd seems to have a sense for when power lines are falling (from the barn fire), so it would be the better choice for this particular wind event.  I wasn't able to stay with them during the storm, like I did during Hurricane Irene as my vehicle would of been stuck in mud out in the middle of the field where they stayed during the night.

As I got closer to the fields I saw the herd still grazing and then I saw the rainbow.

 What a beautiful sight!

The cows were fine. The moms were washing their calves.  The water had drained off the field quickly and there were no downed trees. I saw some bent fencing, probably from deer running out of the woods, but that's the only damage that happened.  The side road was clear from large debris, just small branches and lots of pine cones and pine needles.

I went down into town and looked at the community gardens, the 3 rivers and took a quick drive around to a few farms to make sure neighbors and livestock were ok.

All day the skies have been dark and there have been downpours of rain on and off.

A sign that Sandy is still around.

After every shower there was a rainbow. 

My thoughts are with all the people and farmers who have suffered losses during this storm.

If you have a chance to volunteer to help those that are affected, please do.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wrapping Up Before Sandy Arrives

Everywhere I have been in the past few days, people are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.

Farmers are frantically harvesting their crops of corn, grains and hay to alleviate the oncoming damage of severe winds and flooding.

Some crops are being harvested early or wet.  Anything is better than losing an entire crop to wind and high water damage.

My neighbors were busy wrapping new, and quickly harvested, last cutting of hay.  As the bales were being driven off the fields they were being unloaded from the big trucks and put in a long line so they could be wrapped.

 I have only seen this method at a distance from a fully automated system. This one was a little manual and a little automatic.

This entire system is run by one person who must line the legs of the wrapper up to the next bale so it can be bumped up into the cradle to be wrapped multiple times.  It is bumped off the cradle when it is done and a special tractor with grippers must move it to a stacked pile out of the way so the process can be repeated.

 There were 60+ bales left to get done today and then more harvesting of corn and 20 acres of sunflowers.  We are all hoping the rain will hold off til Monday and give the area farmers just a bit more time to rescue their crops.

 As the plastic ran out, more rolls were brought and put onto the rollers quickly.
The Briggs and Stratton engine was refreshed with $4.00 a gallon gas to keep it humming.

Its an incredible process.
And the bales kept coming.

I hope this makes you look at those field marshmallows a bit differently the next time you see them.

They represent an entire growing season and a lot of work and effort.

The skies are getting darker as we all continue to rush to get things done before the bad winds and rain start.

All the flocks of geese and ducks have been flying out of this area for the past 2 days.

Its very quiet here. No birds are singing and my birdfeeders have not had a visitor since last Friday.

If you live next to a farm, you might want to go ask the farmer if he/she needs any help getting a few tasks finished.  An extra set of hands are priceless.

Stay safe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Cows Said....

I went and had a chat with the herd this morning.

Its hard to believe that in a little less than 2 years they have survived 3 floods, a road collapse, their barn burning down and the other barn collapsing in an ice storm PLUS Hurricane Irene.

So, I needed to inform them about another big bad hurricane possibly coming to Vermont.

It was a scary night for me when Hurricane Irene came tearing up the Connecticut River and right over my head last August as I sat in my vehicle as the winds shook it violently, in the cemetery, right next to the herd.    It was good planning and luck that they survived that storm unscathed. Other livestock in the state were not that fortunate.   And now it might happen again, so I wanted to just warn them and talk things over.

They will have to be moved to another area, away from trees, power lines and streams.

A roll or two of hay will be brought to their evacuation area so they have something to munch on before Sandy gets really ugly.

And I will again be parked next to them as the storm beats on us.

They listened attentively as I spoke:

"What do you think of this Hurricane Sandy coming to bother us ?" I asked.

 Their response?

"No big deal. Bring your sleeping bag."

And then went right back to grazing.

I guess this herd feels they have "seen it all."

Don't underestimate the power of a storm.

Hope you are all making plans for your family, pets and livestock.  Don't wait til the last minute.

Stay tuned to the weather stations, stock up on water, batteries and good books..

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Community Garden Project

The past several weeks have been hectic ones since a few dedicated gardeners and I decided to turn a beloved 100 year old rural village doctor's fertile garden into a community garden to feed the local families who need more food.

Dr Rowe died in August.  There have been several huge memorial tributes about his amazing life, but none more legendary than the beloved garden he tended and shared with the needy families he saw in his daily visits.

When his large family decided to have a giant yard sale in September to empty the family home he lived in most of his life, I asked for his many cedar poles that he used to grow his rare pole beans. They graciously granted my request and I asked the village librarian to assist me in pulling them all up out of his big garden.  It was an emotional afternoon as we walked down to his garden, passing his favorite chair and going down into the garden where he spent so much of his time. As we were pulling up the poles the librarian remarked that it would be a shame to make this fertile piece of ground into a lawn and that it would make a perfect community garden.  I thought the same thing.   Both of us have been feeding other families in town who needed food.  There is a "share the harvest" basket at the library where extra veggies from gardens are brought so other people who need it have access to it.  The local food pantry has had increasing numbers of people showing up to get food as well and are having  a difficult time keeping the food pantry stocked with basic items.   The community garden is within easy walking distance from where most of the needy families live, most without transportation.

The librarian and I brought our idea to our little Garden Club meeting and discussed the possibilities with the members.    Lots of questions were asked, a sub committee formed and a long list of things we needed to do.

I am a dirt diva. I just want to get in the soil and grow stuff.  Little did I know that we had to get permission from several different places and contact 4 non-profits in town with hope they would "adopt" the community garden so we could apply for grants if we needed them and borrow their kitchen facilities for Harvest classes next year so that community gardeners could learn how to preserve and cook the foods they grew.   So far 3 organizations have adopted the garden, as long as "we" the Garden Club members organize, maintain and run it.   So far, so good.

Yesterday was the 1st annual "Put the garden to bed" day from 10am-1pm at the new Rowe Memorial Community Garden.  The day before had been torential rains for 16 hours so it was doubtful weather we would even be able to get on the garden at all.
Luckily, Saturday morning brought blue clouds and sunshine.  A picture perfect October day.

Five hardy gardeners gathered under a huge oak tree at the garden promptly at 9:56am.  I was quickly appointed as the Project Manager and I read my list of things that had to be done before 1pm OR before we collapsed from exhaustion. 

We had 2 wheelbarrows, twine, stakes, tools and many smiles, so we knew we could accomplish the job.

A local high school student and his grandfather showed up to help us and because of these two wonderful new volunteers we were able to get much more done than we anticipated.


While some of us cut down the cornstalks and weeded, others raked leaves from the large front lawn and wheel barrowed them down to the main garden for mulch.

I roped off the asparagus beds and put tomato cages around the rhubarb so the rototiller man (when we find one) won't chop them up. Good thing I learned that this spring!

The present garden is 100 x 40 and we think there will be 10-15 garden plots for people who need and want to grow their own food.  We can also grow a few long rows of veggies to supplement the local food pantry.  PLUS there is plenty of room for expansion!  Doctor Rowe's garden once spread to the furthest limits of his 4 boundaries, which would be 3-4 times the size of this remaining one.

As we were starting to slow down, two more garden club members came and re-energized us.
They got right down to weeding the other side of the garden.

Every time I walked up the hill for water after dragging tree limbs and giant picker bushes to the tree pile, I could see the progress being made.  I had a vision of many people growing their own gardens next May.
This will be a happy place. This will be a colorful place.  And it will grow!!

Just before 1 pm we knew that we all needed to stop. Our knees and backs had pretty much slowed down and we were out of water.    100% of the garden was weeded and 70% of the garden was covered in leaves. 
The giant picker bushes, vines, tree suckers and other debris had been removed from in and around the garden plus from a few other smaller gardens near by.

The big items we will need to raise funds for will be electric fencing and a solar charger to keep the hungry deer out, several truckloads of magical 3 year old composted cow manure and the rental of a rototiller or someone who will rototill the garden next spring.

Meanwhile, we will continue working on the garden plus start repairing a possible future tool shed for spring use.
There will be gardening classes this winter at the library with supplemental reading provided by the hundreds of great books the library has and classes run by other Garden Club members.

Next there will be an article in the local paper announcing the community garden and its mission.

The local church food pantry will be directing needy families, who are interested in growing their own food, to us to reserve their 2013 garden plot.

We will also be looking into applying for grants for deer fencing, seeds and perhaps our own rotoiller.

Every time I see this garden I think of Pete Seeger's song, Inch by Inch, Row by Row.
The 30 grandchildren of Dr Rowe sang this at his memorial service and I just can't get it out of my head.
I think you will agree that the lyrics are perfect for this project.

So, my questions are:
Do you have any experience with participating in or organizing a community garden?

Please share some of the best ideas, cautions and suggestions.

Does anyone know of grants for community gardens or great ideas for a fund raiser?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Color

The fall colors have arrived and are breathtaking.  The reds are really red.

The peak areas are now in central Vermont... and right here.

All the local farm markets and farm stands have lots of fresh veggies and fruit waiting for you.

Its onion and potatoe season!!

Of course there is maple surup on most shelves.    Get yourself some.

I learned a new brussel sprout recipe this weekend and it includes maple syrup, so I will be gettting some.

On the back roads of the mountains there are little farm shacks that sell veggies by the honor system.

Its nice to see that the Honor System still works!

The specialty at this farm stand are snake gourds.   Very unique.

Still some sweet corn left in some areas.   Pumpkin pie is everywhere . And pumpkin ice cream , pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin casserole.
What veggies and sweet stuff is available in your area this month?
Got your pumpkin yet ?