October 29th, 2010 §
My favorite thing about fall is the light, which lately has been doing wondrous things.
Testing paint samples last night. Even after the sun went down, the mountain kept tricking my eyes because the gold trees looked like the last reflected rays.
This morning I enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise reflected on the mountains and field out back. That block in the left corner? That’s when I set my cans up to shoot them off the porch.
And the light coming around the front of the house, hitting the Chinese chestnut and burning bush, was pretty great too.
P.S. And when I hit “publish,” I will have officially crossed the 100-post blog threshold. Whewee—triple digits, baby!
October 26th, 2010 §
I’m one step closer to redneck cred with my latest purchase:
Meet my new flamethrower. This baby dragon spits out 450,000 btus and sounds like a hot air balloon. If that’s not enough, it’s made in Italy, which makes me happy as I try to buy less cheap crap from China. This is the Ferrari of implements of destruction.
Now before you go writing to me that flamethrowers aren’t the most practical tool for self defense, understand that I bought this thing to wreck havoc on my renegade pasture, which is crawling into my driveway, instead of on household intruders. My plan is to kill back the overgrown weeds and grass, and then dump a bunch of new gravel on the driveway to make things pretty. Thus far, my plan appears to be working:
Not only is the flamethrower effective, it’s also hella fun. I feel like a smokejumper as I torch lines in the ground, stomping out sparks and flareups. I love this thing so much that I sleep with it under my pillow. Right next to my shotgun.
October 19th, 2010 §
You knew it was coming. I knew it was coming.
Friday evening I came home from work and went to feed the guineas. The wind was blowing like crazy, it was spitting rain and cold, and I was barely walking from the second round of a virus that had me down for the past two weeks.
As I filled the guinea water, the door to their house blew open and two birds jumped out, a pearl and a lavender, no doubt freaked by the gale gusting around them. I spent most of the evening chasing them through the fields, trying to get them back home. I tracked them with a flashlight through the tall, uncut pastures as they hunkered down in the grass. At one point I was close enough to grab one, but she erupted under my fingers in a whirl of muscle and beating wings, leaving me in a swirl of feathers.
I gave up, went inside, and posted the 14 remaining birds on CraigsList.
At 10:30 that night I was reading in bed and I heard the cries right under my bedroom window. A few shouts and then quiet. I went to sleep.
Around daybreak I was awoken by more guinea cries. There goes the second one, I thought, and when a quick trip outside to investigate turned up no body, I returned to bed.
When I finally got up for good, I found the front yard littered with pearl guinea feathers. In several distinct patches, which must have been where each attack took place before the bird was finally caught. There was no trace of the lavender’s remains. There was also no trace of my CraigsList post, which appeared to have been ghosted and never showed up. Perhaps it was because I offered the birds for “farm or table?”
I went about my day, out for errands, and when I returned in the afternoon what should I see but the lavender hen walking right outside the guinea coop. She was unscathed, and jumped right in when I opened the door. What a story she had to tell, of her night outside while her mate was murdered! I was amazed that she was alive.
Things improved on Sunday, when the 15 remaining birds spent more than nine hours outside, wallowing in dust holes, sticking close to the house and generally appearing to enjoy themselves. Around dusk I guided them back to their coop and all jumped right in but for one, who spent ten minutes frantically circling the coop before figuring his way in. I shut the door, and bid them all sweet dreams.
October 10th, 2010 §
I’d grown tired of my trees looking unkempt in the field, with grass growing right up to their trunks. Not to mention it made mowing very difficult! Pretty ugly, huh?
So I ordered a load of mulch and a load of compost and got to work yesterday sprucing up the trees.
First I used a rope and a can of marking paint to draw circles around the trees. Then I got out the weed wacker and took down all the grass within the circles as short as I could get it. I trimmed around the trunks with hand shears.
Then I put down a layer of newspapers to help kill the grass around the trees, and covered that up with a thin layer of compost. The compost will provide a great nutrient boost to the trees. The hardest part of this project was working alone it was hard to get the newspaper to stay down long enough to get compost on it—the paper kept blowing away in the slightest breeze.
And then I spread a couple of inches of nice mulch on top of the paper and compost. It was slow work and I am quite sore today from all the pitchforking and shoveling but the trees that I finished look great and seem happy. Stay tuned for a final reveal! Meanwhile, I am taking the day to recuperate and enjoy some good times down in Nelson County at the Festy!
October 8th, 2010 §
Of all the bird nests I’ve found, this is the first to contain mummified occupants. Two little babies, broken necks.
October 1st, 2010 §
Yesterday Tropical Storm Nicole slowly spooled up the East coast, dropping a much-needed four inches of rain on the farm. The rain had tapered off by sunset when I looked outside and saw the landscape suffused with the eeriest yellow/red light:
I didn’t make the connection until today, but I believe the strange sky was a harbinger of a wild weather night. After sunset, the wind picked up. I went to bed with the windows open to the breeze, but awoke around midnight when the sound of the wind grew too loud to sleep. I got up and shut all the windows. Around two, I awoke again to the sound of large objects flying around outside. I got up and went out on the back porch to bring in the glass-topped coffee table, as I was afraid it would go flying and break. I could barely control the door, the wind was so strong, and the river birches I planted near the porch were blowing parallel to the ground. My chairs had blown off the porch and unceremoniously landed in the mud of the unfinished crawl space hole. I fished them out, fought my way back inside, and slept fitfully the rest of the night as the sounds raged around me.
This morning I woke to this:
One of my favorite trees, a beautifully shaped Chinese Chestnut in the front yard, had taken a hit. There’s nothing to be done but cut the broken pieces out and live with a lopsided tree. It’s sad, but I could as easily controlled this outcome as I could have controlled the wind.
I was talking with my grounds manager at work today when she dropped off a pruning book for me to borrow. I told her this makes me even more interested in planting trees for the future, though I know that when I do that I open myself up to heartache when things go awry. “Yes, but nothing ventured, nothing gained,” was her reply. And I think that’s very apt advice that applies not only to trees, but to the farm and the whole of a life lived on it.