April 28th, 2011 § 1
April 24th, 2011 § 0
Today, on Easter Sunday, with what couldn’t have been more perfect timing, I was thrilled to discover my first guinea egg.
Here’s how it went down in a rather magical way. This morning around eight I opened the guinea coop so the birds could come out. The first chore on my list was cleaning out the coop, a disgusting task that involves shoveling and scraping manure and pine shavings followed by blowing feather dust out of all the coop crannies with the air compressor. While I labored the birds roamed the entire property, sticking close together while enjoying the dew on the grass and all the fresh bugs. Since the massacre I’ve hardened myself to their fate, and I no longer go after them when they head into the woods or out of sight in the field. I figure that they all experienced the night when their flock mates were dragged shrieking into the woods, and if that didn’t teach them to stick around nothing will.
After finishing the coop, I carried on with other farm chores but left it open to air out. The guineas did their thing, which hopefully involved eating lots of ticks. Around three I dumped in fresh pine shavings, and added cool clean water and food to tempt the birds inside. I went in the house to shower off the guinea dust, and when I came back downstairs I noticed the birds were in the doorway of the coop—certainly a welcome sight after their recent deadly doorway skittishness. I headed out to shut them inside for the day.
I glanced in the coop as I was closing the door and did a double take. Sitting right on the fresh pine shavings was a perfect light brown egg. The guineas hadn’t been in their house for more than a few minutes, and when I picked up the egg it was still warm with a tiny bit of fresh blood on the shell. It actually was amazing, this thing so perfectly manifested out of what seemed like thin air. When I picked up the egg, the past year’s emotional and physical work of keeping these birds was totally worth it. And my mom will no longer need to say, “If you’re going to go to all this trouble you should at least get something that makes eggs!” Can you spot the egg below?
I took the egg in the house for a quick photo shoot, to show you what it looks like compared with some chicken eggs I got from a friend’s farm. The guinea egg is on the right. I think it’s pretty amazing that this hen—and I have no idea who she is—laid in the coop after a whole day of freedom. Guineas are known for laying outside under the cover of brush. And unlike chickens, they don’t use nest boxes.
I didn’t know what to do with the egg! At first I returned it to the coop thinking it may encourage the hen to continue laying, but when I checked on the birds a few hours later, the egg was buried and forgotten in the pine shavings. I didn’t want to accidentally step on it in the coop, so I found it and brought it in the house where I stuck it in the fridge. If anyone would like to sample a guinea egg, it’s all yours! They are supposed to be delicious.
And if that weren’t enough eggcitement, check out what’s in the bluebird box!
And that, my friends, is how we do an Easter egg hunt at Bonafide Farm.
April 23rd, 2011 § 0
of watching the full moon rise over Buck Mountain.
The maple leaves are budding out, coating everything with insidious yellow pollen—which is fitting, as April brings the first full moon of spring.
One name for April’s full moon is the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, which is also appropriate as it coincided with the first of the season’s mowing here on the farm. The dark, clean and dry days of winter, with their hibernating around the woodstove, are over. Bring on the weed whacker, the grass-flecked pants, the ticks, the heat, the sweat, the life. Full steam ahead toward my favorite season.
April 23rd, 2011 § 1
I took delivery of 10 yards of mulch from my mulch and compost purveyor, a 50-something man who was born and raised about 20 minutes from my farm. He wears Carhartt overalls, a camo baseball cap, and spends all day wheeling and dealing mulch and compost from his cellphone. He is unfailingly polite and helpful to everyone who calls, which I know not only from my own calls to him, but also from overhearing him speak to his other clients on the phone while at my place.
He backed his dump truck into the pasture and dumped my mulch. And then we got to talking. He noticed the garden space I just prepared, and noted that the soil looked good. He pointed out the broom straw in my field and told me I needed lime. We shot the breeze about our shared middle schools and the recent wind-fueled wildfires down the road. He walked over to the guinea coop and peeked in, talking to the birds. He noticed the old oak tree near the well house and that it had been topped by a previous owner of this property. Which led us into a discussion of trees. He looked into my woods, said, “Let’s take a walk,” and shut off his truck.
We scrambled around the woodline, and he pointed out all the different trees that grew there. “I used to work for the forest service,” he told me, as he spied an old cherry tree growing amongst a group of “Paradise Trees,” which he said I should cut for fuel because “they’re good for nothing else.”
When he found the big old white oaks further in the woods he stood still, calculating in his head. Finally he spoke. “Now don’t go cutting these just yet. Save these for the future, for when you need a little bit of money.”
It took me a minute to process what he’d meant. A little bit of money?
“I bet you’d get a tractor trailer load of lumber out of these woods,” he said.
It all became clear. He was looking at my woods as a cash crop, something I’d never considered as I’d tiptoed beneath these beautiful old trees, willing them to withstand wind storms and time.
“Well, I kind of would just like to leave them as they are,” I said.
He considered that idea, head cocked to the side. “You never know,” was all he replied. Then he told me a story of a huge old cherry tree, “growing up in the hollow,” that he’d kept tabs on for most of his life and how the minute the property it was standing on was sold, the tree was cut for lumber.
We walked out of the woods and he pointed out scars on the oaks I’d never noticed where an old wire fence had been subsumed by bark. That’s too bad, he said, noting that the embedded wire lost me several board feet of timber.
Our talk turned to the future as he advised me to go back in my woods and dig up any little beech trees or dogwoods I could find to transplant around my house. He looked me up and down. “Not higher than your waist,” he said. “Any bigger and they won’t take.”
Then he shook my hand, climbed back in his dump truck, and drove away.
April 19th, 2011 § 0
Saturday’s storm brought this old dead tree down, right across the path I use to get to the creek. I’d had my eye on this tree for a while, weighing its potential benefit as firewood versus woodpecker habitat. But the storm made the decision for me and now the tree, which is severely decomposed inside, is mushroom fodder.
April 18th, 2011 § 0
We had torrential rains Saturday from the storm system that left dozens of people dead in the midwest and southeast. With tornado and flash flood and thunderstorm warnings it rained steadily all day, interspersed with howling storms. Around nine Sunday morning I headed into the woods for what’s become a customary romp with Tucker to find this, a creek where I’ve never seen one before in the two years I’ve known this land.
A swale coming out of the pasture was so full of water it was actually flowing, racing down the precipitous hillside on its way to join the creek at the bottom. It was amazing to see what I normally view as forest floor become a beautiful aquatic world.
I couldn’t resist heading further into the woods to check out the real creek, the one that’s always there. I figured that if the storms were strong enough to create creeks where none had been in a long while, serious stuff must have happened below. And I was right. The little creek that’s normally a demure trickle resembled a small river. And I would have loved to have seen it in the height of the storm…I happened along more than twelve hours after the storms were over, and I could see that the creek had flooded its banks almost twenty feet on either side. It was truly remarkable to see the change in the landscape. The woods that had become familiar was now unrecognizable. The creek was muddy and churning fast.
I went back to the creek about twelve hours later, after sunset, and found it still high and muddy, though it wasn’t rushing as violently as this morning.
And even 24 hours after the last storm, the pop up creek still ran through the woods.
April 17th, 2011 § 1
Please meet the latest addition to Bonafide Farm: Tucker.
Tucker is a registered English Shepherd, a breed of dogs known for three traits: guarding, hunting and herding—all things I need help with here. English Shepherds used to be abundant in America during more agrarian times. These old-time “farm collies,” known for their good judgment and devotion for their families and homesteads, became a rare breed when the AKC began encouraging dogs to be bred for looks in the show ring instead of their working ability.
Tucker comes from a long line of steadfast and accomplished farm dogs and shows great promise as my right farmhand. I found him online and then traveled to Columbus, Ohio to pick him up on March 20, when he was about eight weeks old. He will be thirteen weeks old tomorrow.
Since he arrived we’ve been getting to know each other, taking lots of long walks in the woods and pastures, attending puppy class, learning to be respectful of kitty and guineas, meeting friends, and settling in to a new routine. It’s been quite the experience for someone who has never raised a puppy until now, but we are having fun and the joy he takes in life is contagious. I am really enjoying watching as he grows in confidence and ability—simple things like him learning to walk up the porch stairs fill me with happiness and pride. And it is wonderful to have a dog about the farm. In fact, I can honestly say that he filled a hole I knew existed here and with his arrival things feel complete. One of my favorite sounds each day is the tag jingling on his collar as he walks around or flops on the floor for a nap, which he does a lot!
I am wary of turning this into a “blog about my dog,” but Tucker has managed to sneak his way into most of my recent photos, and he needs a proper introduction. Please welcome Tucker. Of Bonafide Farm.
April 13th, 2011 § 0
April 12th, 2011 § 1
One thing I’d like to become more knowledgeable about before I die is tree cultivation. I’ve started by planting a few trees each year at Bonafide Farm, and you’ll find academic arborist texts on my bedside table. Hot, I know.
I planted a peach tree last year—or was it two years ago? I forget. Anyway, as I rationalized that it needed some time to get established, it had grown tall and spindly and leaned in a most unattractive way. I finally resigned myself to the idea that it was ready for obedience school. On the advice of a friend, photos of a local peach orchard, and a very thorough booklet from the Virginia Cooperative Extenstion, I gathered my instructions, tape measure, and loppers and headed out in between spring thunderstorms to do the deed.
At precisely 35″ up the trunk, I applied light pressure with my lopers and more than half of my still-blooming tree fell to the ground. It was a bit horrifying to make the cut, but I have to trust in my instructions that state that instead of a central leader, I want to develop a nice “upside down umbrella limb structure.”
I say we’re closer already. Only time will tell if this was indeed the right move, but at least I got rid of the annoying lean!
April 10th, 2011 § 0
It was two years ago that I first laid eyes on what was to become Bonafide Farm. I was living in Northern Virginia, working in D.C., and actively scouting all real estate between there and Charlottesville. My parents discovered this property, for sale by owner, on one of their drives. They sent a couple of photos, and I wrote it off until the next time I was down for a visit. Then my mom and I took a drive. It was raining, and I was taking photos from the passenger’s seat of her car as we slowly passed by.
The house was nothing to write home about, but I liked the setting…the way the house sat proud and high surrounded by its fields and trees and mountains.
That night, I called the number on the for sale sign. Fast forward two years and I am sitting in a beautiful almost year old house that looks like it’s always been here, windows open, smelling daffodils and woodsmoke from last night’s fire, bacon from this morning’s breakfast. I’ve eradicated the honeysuckle that was suffocating the quince in the photo above, and replaced the mailbox, and added many young trees. My kitty is in the open window, listening to the birds singing their evensong. What a two years it’s been, but I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be right now.