Bonafide Farm

Bluebirds in the burning bush

November 27th, 2012 § 0

A few weeks ago, as my giant burning bush was dropping its leaves, the resident bluebirds feasted on its seeds. I shot them through the window as I lay on the couch.





There seem to be many more bluebirds out this fall than I’ve seen in prior years. They really seem to be enjoying the new forest. It would be wonderful if they are some of my nestlings.

Cora’s triumph

November 26th, 2012 § 1


On November 8, Cora laid her first perfect blue egg. This was a discovery of pure joy as Cora—my only Wheaten Ameraucana pullet— survived a vicious attack in her young life and walked so close to death for several months as her scalped head healed.


The Black Copper Marans have also started laying (darkest brown eggs above), as well as the Lavender Orpingtons (light-toned eggs above). Lilac and Iris still seem to be keeping up in their second year of laying. The light on a timer set to turn on at 5:00 a.m. seems to be doing the trick to foil the low-daylight hour laying slowdown. My record has been seven eggs in one day, which of a flock of eight hens is a pretty good return. I am not sure that my “barred olive egger” Oregano has laid yet—if she has, she’s not an olive egger!

One of the best parts of my day is picking up the eggs. It’s this pleasure that exists to offset the pain of discovering and nursing bleeding mostly dead birds, managing flock integration, mucking out the coop, and all the other rough aspects of being mother hen.


Recovered, and now productive, Cora, with only a slightly mussed feather pattern about her beautiful head to belie her hard young life.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 22nd, 2012 § 0


I hope you stuff your face with as much abandon and appreciation as my chickens as they tucked in to their Thanksgiving meal: beet, carrot, nettle and sweet potato pulp from my morning juice. Give thanks and enjoy!

Tucker’s first varmit (that I know of!)

November 12th, 2012 § 0

I spent five hours outside today cleaning out the garden for winter. I chopped down freeze-blackened plants, dug dahlia tubers for storage, pulled out tomato stakes, transplanted tender plants into pots for winter storage, and rewound chicken wire pea supports. I had all nine chickens penned in with me, and I believe they all thought they’d died and gone to heaven as they enjoyed a veritable banquet of bruised greens, displaced worms, slugs and the occasional black widow spider.

All day long Tucker had been worrying a pile of brush in the woods. It’s a spot that’s always fascinated him for some reason. It’s not large enough to shelter a fox, so I figured it must be home to some smaller critter. Whatever it was captured Tucker’s complete attention, and he spent three hours snuffling and digging in that pile with almost unbroken concentration.

I left the garden to grab something out of the garage and as I did, Tucker trotted out of the woods, head high, holding something in his mouth. Without me saying a word, he came right up to me, flung a creature at my feet, and collapsed into a happily panting pile next to it.


A rat! Tucker got a rat! And boy was he proud.

Turns out the rat wasn’t dead, just partially paralyzed. I tried to get Tucker to finish it off, but he just wanted to play.



He was surprisingly gentle with this creature, just batting it and lightly mouthing it. I am a little surprised he didn’t try to kill it immediately. Maybe he is inexperienced or just wanted a toy, or perhaps he saw the rat as a creature to be protected, as English Shepherds are wont to do? Maybe the countless hours we spent learning that baby chickens are to be guarded and not eaten translated to this rat? Who knows? Perhaps with this and his love of water, he really is a retriever in a sheepdog’s clothing?

Regardless, I forgot the first lesson of rodent handling, which I learned as a child keeping mice: don’t try to pick them up by the end of their tails! I tried to pull this little guy out of the grass and his tail skin came away in my hand with a rip. Gross, I know. Sorry. Just reporting the facts. It gets worse so if you are squeamish stop reading now.

I had heard of chickens eating mice, so I picked up the rat and threw it into the garden thinking my birds could use the protein. It got quite a lot of interest from the gang before Lilac commandeered it. She spent about ten minutes tossing it too and fro, nibbling its toes and divesting it of its eyes before she gave up and went on to munch less-challenging bugs. I think it was too big for her to find an easy way in. photo(77)Web

At this point the poor rat was still alive and had been tortured enough, so I dealt it a quick blow to the neck with a garden hoe and took it into the woods for the foxes to find. I did feel sad for it—a rat!—but this is pretty close to the way nature works. Proud Tuck, meanwhile, took up his post right outside of the garden door with a keen ear and eye on the woods.


In fact, not a second after I took this photo he was off like a shot to investigate some scurrying action in the leaves. What a good farmdog—in my book he earned his hunting merit badge today!

Acadia National Park hike: Gorham Mountain to Sand Beach

November 5th, 2012 § 1

In the morning, I headed to the private beach near my cottage to give Tucker his first glimpse of the sea. As he does with most any body of water, he waded right in, regarding the small waves with first puzzlement and then delight. The seagulls bobbing further from the shore were most attractive, and if I hadn’t called him back I am sure he would have been on his way to Nova Scotia.

This beach was made up of very sharp, very slippery rocks, which were in turn covered by razory barnacles. I worried about Tuck ripping up his feet or me twisting an ankle—neither ideal ways to begin a couple of days of hiking—so I cut our time on this stretch short and headed in to Acadia National Park.


I briefly stopped at the visitors’ center to pay my $10 admission and chat up the rangers about a good hike. Some of the Acadia hikes involve iron ladders over granite cliffs, and though Tucker’s scrambling skills are improving, his lack of opposable thumbs might make those routes challenging. We settled on a nice, easy starter hike: Gorham Mountain to Sand Beach.


Tuck was so thrilled to be off leash in the wilderness that he was literally flying along the trail, racing ahead then back to check on me and then back out ahead. For every mile I did, he did at least three. The trail started with a nice granite path—which I would soon learn was a signature of Acadia’s trails.The way was marked with blue blazes and rock cairns.


Sand Beach, our destination, in the distance:



We encountered perhaps ten groups of hikers on this trail. We were the only solo woman/dog pairing, and I was asked to snap countless portraits of happy trail companions. I must have looked approachable, or interruptable. Alas, no one offered to take my picture, or my dog’s, which I find sociologically very interesting. Does one need to be traveling with another human to warrant the making of a photographic memory? Or any memory at all?



I knew the minute I stepped on this trail that I was in for a treat. The combination of blue ocean, pink granite, inky green evergreens, white birch, golden beech, late fall colors and blue sky added up to my dream hiking combination. Every sense was full to its max and I was loving it. I’ve never hiked through deciduous forest with a sea view, so my paradigm was shifting with every step.


Truly one of the most enjoyable walks of my life.



We made our way down to Sand Beach, where Tucker graduated to slightly larger waves. He’d run after and chase them as they broke, take a tumble as he was rolled in the surf and then right himself, shake off, and look around, confused and a bit crestfallen that his toy had disintegrated beneath his feet. Thank goodness there’s always the next set headed toward the shore. I truly believe he could play in the ocean all day. It’s the happiest I have ever seen him.


The ridge in the photo above is what we just hiked: Gorham Mountain.


Up next, our adventures in Acadia continue with an oceanfront evening hike.

Bethel to Bangor to Bar Harbor

November 2nd, 2012 § 0

When last I wrote of my New England adventure, I had just left Gorham, New Hampshire and was headed toward Maine. I was fascinated and impressed by a style of architecture I saw almost everywhere: farmhouses connected to various outbuildings connected to gigantic barns. IMG_3552Web

It is so wonderfully sensible, in such a cold climate, to be able to do most of your chores and tend your animals without having to go outside. I loved the looks of these frankenhomesteads and how they grew as the need arose.


I was still traveling along Route 2, and it wasn’t long past the Maine state line that I came upon an antique store housed in one of these architectural wonders.


Route 2 is lined with “antique” stores—most of them selling junk out of mouldering houses—but Steam Mill Antiques in Bethel had a wonderful upstairs room filled with old books on all sorts of subjects that interest me. I picked up a trio of Euell Gibbons’ 1960s forager/naturalist cooking classics, including Stalking the Wild Asparagus, as well as an original copy of We Took to the Woods, Louise Dickinson Rich’s autobiography of going back to the land in Maine. All books that have been parked on my Amazon wishlist for years—how nice to find them in their natural habitat!


It didn’t seem like too much longer until I was in Bangor, Maine, which I detoured to visit on my way to Bar Harbor. Bangor is a place I’ve always wanted to see, and it totally didn’t match my expectation. I suppose that’s because I’ve always envisioned it grey-skied and covered with feet of snow. On this nice fall day, it looked much like any other New England town, with a small downtown of old buildings. I didn’t seeĀ  much that caught my eye from the car, so I headed east again toward the ocean.


And there it is, my first glimpse of the sea. Right next to the landmark Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound which was, sadly, closed for the season.


The sun had set when I pulled in to Hanscom’s Motel and Cottages a few miles north of Bar Harbor. I had taken a darling freestanding cottage for the evening, with a full kitchen and nice, fast internet. Just the perfect size for a girl and her dog!


It was wonderful to pick up a few groceries and be able to cook a bit after eating out for so long. It was also nice and quiet, and I settled in to rest up for the next day, in which Tucker met the ocean for the first time in his life and we hiked Acadia National Park!

Hurricane Sandy

November 1st, 2012 § 0

So Hurricane Sandy has come and gone. She brought many hours of wind so loud that it sounded like an ocean inside my house—ironic given how many people ended up with actual ocean in their homes from this storm. Just before four on Monday the power went out as I had anticipated it would. IMG_0925Web

Except for the awful wind noise outside, I was pretty cozy with the Jotul fired up for the first time this season. The wind blew rain down the chimney, rain penetrated the seal between chimney and roof and ran down the front of my fireplace, inside. All night long I listened to rainwater sizzle as it hit the hot stove pipe. Thankfully the blizzard warning my area was under never amounted to any snow, but from my house I can see snow in the Blue Ridge mountains to the west.


In the morning I went out to survey the damage. The well house lost quite a few more shingles from its roof, a trend begun with the derecho in June. Tree branches fell, screens flew out of windows, the garden was smashed.

I’d come home from my trip to the prettiest stand of snow peas I’d ever grown, just starting to form pods and full of flowers, underplanted with thriving arugula:


After Sandy:


And my dahlias are toast. Before the storm, that orange one below stood taller than my 5′8″ height.


After Sandy:


Compared to many other folks, I got off easy with this one and have no right to complain. Twenty-four hours without power was no big deal, and nothing but the garden suffered irreparable damage. It’s the end of the season, so it’s only a matter of days until frost blackens most of those plants anyway. But it is my favorite season in the garden, when moisture tends to be plentiful, heat and bugs relent, and most crops and flowers are on autopilot and keep surprising with unexpected last-minute gifts made all the more precious because I know that each harvest could be the last of the year.

Anyway, Sandy has cleared out and now it’s time to go pick up tree branches, fix the blackberry cages that were leveled, collect the well house shingles that are scattered about the yard, and see what I can salvage from the garden.

I hope that wherever you are you weathered well.

Where am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for November, 2012 at Bonafide Farm.