Bonafide Farm

View from the kichen window

August 29th, 2010 § 0


Listening to

August 29th, 2010 § 0

“Firecracker” by Frazey Ford, from an excellent new album, Obadiah, which I’ve been listening to on repeat all weekend. Perfect summer evening porch sittin’ tunes.

Keeper of the crawl space

August 24th, 2010 § 0


I woke up at seven this morning to rain pouring on the skylight over my bed. It’s the first time I can remember awakening to such a hard rain all summer, and given our record heat and dryness this year the sight made me happy instead of glum as grey skies usually do. I got out of bed and went outside to drag all my potted plants into the deluge. As I was coming back in, I glanced toward the nice little pond that had formed in my crawl space well and saw my old friend Toad.

Toad had been living in the doorway to the crawlspace for quite a while, but then disappeared around the time of the black snake incident. I figured Toad was a casualty of close quarters, though this particular toad is quite large—about the size of the fingerless part of my not insubstantial hands. He’s also a striking black, exactly the color of oxidized silver.

I’m glad to see Toad back. I love the way he sits like an oracle in the doorway, all quiet and wise.


August 22nd, 2010 § 0

I opened the coop door this morning around nine and set the chicken walk in place. I went about my weekend chores, checking back every now and then to see if any guineas had ventured forth to freedom. After several hours and no takers, I fired up the weed whacker and went to work around the property. I’d totally forgotten the coop was open when I went to noisily trim around the garage. The next thing I knew I looked up and a great flurry of grey feathers exploded out of the chicken door and into the field. Whoops. So much for a gentle introduction into free ranging!


When the flurry landed I realized it wasn’t a whole flock, but just one bird. Which walked a bit this way and that before heading into the shade of the cedar tree and grapevine. I watched her for a while and then went back to weed whacking.

The next I saw the guinea she had flown deep in the brush at the wood’s edge. Dumb guinea! A wood full of foxes, and you choose to fly right into their territory. Oh well. I can’t control these birds because they are basically wild, so I just went back to weed whacking the ditch near the road.

When I looked up again, the guinea was near the front of the property under the big silver maple. I took a water break and watched her from the front porch. It was pretty cool to see her strut about the yard, and to poke her head under the cherry and stick her head amongst the azaleas in front of the garage. It gave the farm an air of an exotic wildlife preserve.


The guinea made her way around the edge of the garage and finally realized she was in the vicinity of her tribe. I had thought she would have been drawn back to the coop by the sounds of her flockmates much earlier than she was—it was almost as though she couldn’t find it based on sound alone and needed to actually see the other birds to know where they were.

IMG_9215WebShe spent the next couple of hours making fast circles around the coop while her flock mates anxiously peered down from their balcony seats. Not one made the move to join Magellan as she churned a path through the straw around the chicken walk without figuring out that she need only walk up it to rejoin her family. At one point she burst a few feet into the air in a desperate attempt to hit the chicken door, but upon failing she didn’t attempt that approach again.


I let her go for a few hours figuring she’d eventually get it together. But around five o’clock I had company coming and dinner to cook and wanted the birds to bed for the night. And the guinea had been out in the hot sun for the first time in her life, and I figured she’d had enough excitement for the day. So I stood in the storage area of the coop and opened both the interior and exterior doors that I use to access the coop. In a few minutes Magellan jumped up into the vestibule and greeted her flock. A few minutes more and she jumped back into the coop proper and was home sweet home.

Silly bird—maybe she thinks she’s a person!

A brave new world

August 21st, 2010 § 0


Keet update: Fifteen weeks old and so close to free!

August 19th, 2010 § 0

The keets turned fifteen weeks old yesterday. The most change in them is visible in their heads, which continue to grow their bony helmets and take on deeper purple and aqua hues.



On Friday the keets will have been in their coop for six weeks, which means—drumroll, please—that they can officially be released to free range and will know to return to the safety of their coop each night. I am not sure how studying every knothole and nailhole inside their coop will help them identify it from outside, at fifty yards and with the local fox hot on their tails, but I am just following all the advice I’ve heard and read.


They definitely show curiosity about an open door, and I think it will be fun to watch them explore a brave new world. I plan on releasing just a few at a time so that hopefully the sounds of their flock mates will keep them near—and returning to—the coop.

I know that there will be inevitable losses, but I am hoping that at least a few survive to do their job, which is to rid this farm of ticks, and mice and garden pests and snakes, and to alert me to to any untoward activity on the property.

First Farmwarming

August 18th, 2010 § 0

I just hosted five old friends, some who’d crossed oceans to visit, at the farm for a long weekend.


It was a great time of porchsitting, beer drinking, can shooting, campfiring, and catching up.


The house glowed with all these bodies inside, and it felt great to finally open its doors wide to some of the people I love most in this world.


We ate the tomatoes and peaches and melons of summer. We watched hummingbirds on the porch, saw the mists swirl in the mountains, took in the local color on a gun-buying expedition, treked to a great brewpub, toasted mashmallows, melted ants, basked in dying firelight, and some urban dwellers slept the deep and quiet country sleep.


This summer’s gone too fast, and I’ve been working so much, that to just actually enjoy what I’ve been working so hard on was a great treat and a hopeful taste of the future. And for my visitors: Thank you all for coming, and for helping to connect one of my old lives to this new one. I know I’ve been talking about this farm dream for as long as I’ve known you, and to finally be able to share it in real life is incredible. You—and your beer—are welcome back anytime.

Arachnid dreams and vanquished piles

August 7th, 2010 § 0

Finally got around to picking up the piles around the back of the house. Stacks of lumber and concrete, old stakes, all sorts of junk finally got “tidied away.” Which really means it just got hauled into the woods for what may be permanent storage. I’m a bonafide redneck now.



And I found three black widows in the process, so it makes me feel even better to get this area cleaned up.





Much improved, right?

Keet update: Thirteen weeks and a roof in progress

August 5th, 2010 § 0


The keets turned thirteen weeks old two days ago. A week ago I switched their food from medicated gamebird starter to a combination of nonmedicated chick starter and layer feed—to meet their high protein requirement. They need to be off the medicated food by twelve weeks because, believe it or not, they are actually old enough to be producing eggs! Each day I step into the guinea house I expect to find a new surprise…but nothing yet!


In the past two weeks the keets have developed a beautiful aqua blue over their heads, which have completely lost their baby racing stripes. Their helmets and wattles continue to grow.


In another two weeks they will have been in their coop six weeks, which means I get the green light to open their door and let them out to explore the brave new world. It will not doubt be the start of sadness, as I can’t imagine all of them surviving. But I hope that it will also be the beginning of a new phase of farm life in which my livestock actually gets to range free.

In a whirlwind of accomplishment last weekend, Dad and I got the tar paper on the roof of the coop—a crucial step to prepare for the actual roofing material. But then there were two evenings of rather violent storms yesterday and tonight, and when I went around doing damage check late this evening after the rain stopped, this is what I found:


So much for those staples I used to attach the tar paper to the roof!

I fetched the deficient stapler and hauled myself onto the coop. There I relaid the tar paper and peppered its surface with staples, hoping that perhaps a constellation of weak metal would make up for having the proper tool for the job.


While I was up on the roof, the sky blazed up with hot pink clouds and a cool breeze came off the mountain to cut our almost-100 degree day.


I lay on my back and watched the clouds fade from magenta through puce to ballet pink. Above my head, a fat contrail chased a small jet flying west. And for once, I didn’t wish that I was on it.


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