Bonafide Farm

The elusive Hopslam

March 30th, 2012 § 4


Snagged the last sixer of Hopslam at Rio Hill Wine this week, out of the only two cases they received, and it wasn’t even marked up to some of the prices I’ve seen reported (hello…$60/six pack on ebay!?) Any web search will lead you to a raging debate about whether this beer, made by Bell’s in Michigan, is overrated and price-inflated, but I vote with my palate. To me, Hopslam is pure perfume, one of the best smells in the world. It tastes like a buzzing hot August afternoon inside a wild meadow beehive. And at 10% ABV, it very quickly gets one in the mood to party with the queen.

Happy Friday. I hope you are enjoying something wonderful tonight.

Anniversary, or an excuse for puppy photos

March 20th, 2012 § 2

A year ago today I met Tuck.


He rode all the way from Ohio to Virginia on my lap.


Picking an eight-week old puppy out of a litter from a breeder I’d never met could be considered a gamble, and I never expected to get so lucky but I really think I did with Tuck. He’s been a forgiving, patient teacher for this first-time puppy raiser. Now that we are through the first year of training (for him and me!) and constant vigilance while establishing the rules and boundaries, I enjoy him more each day. I am also looking forward to seeing where he goes from here.


Now that he weighs about 60 pounds he doesn’t fit on my lap as well, but we still stick pretty close. He’s kept the same thoughtful and serious expression he had as a puppy, but he also smiles a lot too—especially when we’re on adventures.

Tuck at Sugar HollowWeb

Happy anniversary, happy boy.

Animal husbandry

March 19th, 2012 § 0

For a few weeks I’ve been monitoring the beak on one of my guinea hens. It was way overgrown, no doubt from spending a pampered life indoors and not naturally wearing it down on rocks while eating outside.


After three weekends in a row of free ranging failed to knock her beak back a bit, I knew it was time to take action. I had to steel myself for a fight, because nothing is easy with these wild birds.

I put on my gloves and thought about putting on a long-sleeve shirt, but didn’t feel like going into the house to change. I also briefly considered trying to grab the hen in my hands, like I do with the chickens. But at the last minute, I picked up my net. I entered the coop. A beak and claw explosion occurred, and each time the birds freaked into a whirlwind of flying dinosaurs in a small, confined space I huddled in the corner with my head protected in my arms. When they momentarily settled I took swipes with my net.  After about five minutes of this gauntlet, I got my girl.


One swift squish with the dog’s toenail clippers and her Frankenbeak was history. While I had her confined I also gave her a pedicure, getting rid of a very strangely spiked back toenail that was more than an inch long and stuck straight out like a thorn.


I hit the quick on one nail and had a bleeder. Don’t fear. It wasn’t terminal.


I untangled the guinea from the net and set her loose. Doesn’t she already look more comfortable now that she’s lost a half an inch of extraneous beak? I have to imagine eating with that thing was no picnic.


I definitely took one for the team, though, Team Idiot Who Doesn’t Wear Long Sleeves While Guinea Wrangling. In the feather flurry I got hit by somebody’s claws, and within ten minutes had this nice lump rising on my forearm. It shows you how powerful these birds are that they can raise an instant bruise the size of a silver dollar just by trying to escape a perceived threat. Though it maybe could have been avoided with long sleeves, the idea of a freaking guinea getting caught in my clothing sounds bad enough to make me thankful that I got away with just this quick hit. And thankful also that I didn’t get hit on my face!

Dutch master

March 17th, 2012 § 0

I came home Thursday night to this gift from my madre on the kitchen counter. It was so incredibly beautiful that it made my week.


Taking inventory

March 16th, 2012 § 1


Our week of 80-degree days has me thinking, perhaps prematurely, of the garden. Part if me is raring to go, to poke seeds into soil and hope for the best, and the more self-preservative part of me is silently begging for another month of rest. I make half-hearted preparations, some lists, soon abandoned.

This winter hasn’t turned out how I planned, with big dreams and spreadsheets of goals and books read by the woodstove and inspiration filed away to use in warmer weather. I was looking forward to a winter of regeneration, but if anything, I am just happy to have survived what’s been a devolving spiral of doubt-tinged panic.

One would think that the longer daylight hours would bring hope—they have in year’s past. But instead it’s brought insomnia and this strange hot weather and mistimed growth is amplifying my worry. Between nightmares I lie awake and even the animals are upset—the hunt club hounds cry through the night, echoing the coyotes on the mountain. The guineas squack at three in the morning and the robin’s incessant songs sound desperately insane.

I wish I could fold the peach flowers back into their buds and slip the daffodil stalks back safe underground. I wish for more time to get my head into the gamespace required to run this place through the summer, and I wish for the ability to enjoy it all.

The taming of the quince

March 14th, 2012 § 1

At the end of my driveway lives a wild beast:


I wouldn’t call this ornamental quince pretty, except maybe for a week or two each spring when it’s covered in coral blossoms. I’ve thought about chopping it down, but it’s big old shrubs like this that lend a sense of history to this farmstead. And I’d worked so hard two years ago to eradicate the honeysuckle vine that had overtaken the shrub. We had history.


(Above: Quince and honeysuckle in March 2009, before I bought the property.)

However, in our third spring of acquaintance, I wasn’t loving the looks of this monster and felt some pruning was in order. I wanted to thin out some of the older canes that had been flattened by the snow two years ago and yet still maintain the structure of the shrub and the height that conveyed its age.

Armed with a great article in the latest Fine Gardening (How to Prune the Unprunables, by Paul Cappiello), I unholstered my pruners and prepared to do battle.


And what a battle it was! This shrub is more than six feet tall, and dense with individual canes bearing inch-long spikes. If I ever need to guard a castle from marauding heathens, I’ll do it with quince beneath the windows. They’d beat a moat any day.

I had to basically climb into this medieval torture device to make some of my pruning cuts, and soon I was scratched and bleeding up to my elbows.


I had to lie down on the front porch to recover.


But eventually I thinned the shrub out by about half. It looks a lot more airy, and I am sure the postman will appreciate not having to scrape his truck against the bush each time he delivers the mail.


During cleanup I sure was missing the green tractor, which is on a winter rest cure at my father’s farm, where it’s receiving spa treatments and being coddled under roof out of the weather.


For a week after this job, broken-off thorn tips festered out of my thighs where they’d punctured through my jeans. But I have huge bunches of blooming quince branches in my house, and they sure are pretty!


But riddle me this: The blossoms that are opening inside are very pale pink or white, quite unlike the blossoms that opened dark pink outside. Does anyone know why this is?

A visit from Mr. Dead Mouse

March 12th, 2012 § 0

It’s been a while since we’ve had a visit from Mr. Dead Mouse. But don’t worry—you should know by now that it’s never too long before he drops in for a visit.


This time he at least had the good sense to drown himself in the dog’s water bucket—outside.


His well-executed offing earned him a burial with full honors in our local memorial garden, Dappled For Rest Glade.

Until we meet again, Mr. Dead Mouse…


March 3rd, 2012 § 0

I’ve coached a young dog up and down his first slippery cliff scramble, and in and out of a joyful storm-swollen river. I’ve held a black hen so tight to my chest that our heartbeats blended, and I clipped her winter-overgrown toenails until drops of red blood ran down my fingers. I’ve packed cold clay against quick and detonated a bomb of blackgreen flapping as I released her to her sister, safe.

Even after showering, my hands smell like animal, earth and wild water.

It was a good Saturday.

She’s back…

March 2nd, 2012 § 0

Last week’s rest cure in the garden worked: Iris was no longer broody when I returned her to the coop last Friday. And today she laid an egg! Which is entirely unexpected given the length of her broodiness. According to the eminently wise Gail Damerow and her “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens,” a hen that’s not broken up until her fourth day of broodiness “may not start laying for about 18 days.”

Iris started going broody the day I left on vacation, and brooded for a week and two days before I came home and moved her to the garden. Which made me expect to wait almost a month for her to return to laying.

But I guess she got right back up on the horse, though her output is paltry compared with her sister Lilac’s characteristically purple offering:


Funny how sisters from the same clutch lay such different eggs!

I hear spring peepers tonight

March 1st, 2012 § 0

What is up with this winter?

Where am I?

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