A Story from Merciful Hearts Farm
Deb Potter, 21 June 2008
This has been another pleasantly busy week. I taught at the Anderson Arts Center every afternoon for their summer camp. The children had to prepare all of their own wool from two of our sheep, Freckles & Abe. They dyed some of the wool & yarns to use in their projects. And then they spent the rest of the week wet felting, needlefelting, weaving & lots of other fun things. We even made paper & added bits of our leftover yarn & wool scraps to decorate it. I loved camp & since I only had to be there in the afternoons I still got plenty done around the farm.
One of the things that I did this week was to dig garlic. Back in the fall I planted lots of different varieties of garlic. It sprouted & began to grow nicely. As the days got cooler going into winter, Mr. Potter raked up lots of leaves & dumped them in about a three inch pile on top of the plants to protect them from the winter cold. When the weather began to warm a little the garlic continued to grow taller. Unfortunately, the goats saw what was going on. One of them found a lower spot where the fencing was bent so invented her own way to climb the fence around the little garlic patch. Others saw what she was doing & joined her. Although they started by simply eating the grass & weeds growing around the bed, before long they were snacking on my garlic as well as some beautiful lilies that were sprouting. I know I've told you before that if a fence won't hold water it won't hold a goat. Well, we just could not keep a few of the trickier goats out of this patch so I resigned myself to the fact that I would never have any garlic to harvest this season.
Katy & I were coming in from the chicken yard when she suggested I try to find the little stubs of stems left by the goats to see if there was any garlic in the ground. Since the trowel was handy, I gave it a try. I found little short brown sticks at about the places I knew the garlic should be. The ground was quite hard because of our drought but I guessed how far away from the stalk I would need to be so as not to split the garlic with the trowel blade & dug around. I found my first fat pink-tinted clove of garlic. I managed to find an entire milk bucket full of garlic. Of course, it no longer has long pretty stems to braid so that the garlic can hang to dry but it is still nice garlic that I can lay out on a paper to dry so all is not lost.
On Thursday morning I ran up to Seneca to our meat processors' to pick up 300 pounds of beef. We had sent a young bull up a few weeks ago so our meat was ready. We raise Dexter cattle & they are a smaller breed. A single cow can fill my freezer nicely with lots of steaks, roasts & ground beef. The first thing I did when I got home was to thaw some of the ground beef to see how tender it was & it was wonderful. So now I have some more good meat to go with all that garlic I brought in!
I did lots of little fiddling-around things that needed to be done. None of them are a big deal but they are still important in their own little ways. I refilled some of the nest boxes with straw. The chickens work their way around in a nest box so that they have a hollowed area they like to sit in. Unfortunately, when they work too much they kick out straw & their hollow area goes right down to the wood at the bottom of the box. They don't mind sitting on the wood but a chicken stands to lay its egg & an egg that lands on the wood is often cracked or squished in on the end. The instant an egg is layed the shell is a bit more soft & flexible but it quickly dries into the hardness you think of for an egg shell. Because it was so hot a week ago, the chickens were not eating as well as usual & their calcium intake dropped so the egg shells were a little more brittle to begin with. Dropping that brittle egg a few inches onto their wooden box floor is not good for the egg or for my supply of eggs to sell at the Market. When the weather was really hot & the shells were quite brittle, the pasture dogs were getting lots of cracked eggs to eat. Now that the past week has been a little cooler & I've refilled nesting boxes the eggs will be coming with me to Market so that the chickens can help pay for their feed!
Our Border Collie, Fern,is petrified of storms. On Monday when I was teaching, a very brief storm came through the area. Sadly, it left us with almost no rain. But it certainly caused Fern to do some damage at the house. I knew something was wrong when I pulled up to the gate at the driveway only to see Madison, our beagle, trotting down the driveway. Madison is supposed to be in the big fenced yard behind the house along with Pearl, our Schipperke, & Fern.
My first thought was that somehow Fern had pushed through the gate in her fear but as I rounded the corner of the garage the gate looked closed. To the left of the gate & down on the ground I saw part of Fern. The part I saw of Fern was way down – in fact, Fern's hips, back legs & tail were sticking out from a muddy hole full of gravel that she had apparently dug under the wooden fence when she realized a storm was coming. I opened the gate to find the other half of Fern on the other side of the fence. She was laying on her side & could not move an inch. She'd dug herself down into a clay spot that was too slick for her to get out of & she was covered with mud. I used my hands to move a little more dirt & then gently tugged her forward in her tunnel. I had to reach back under the fence boards to slip her hips down so that they could clear the fence. After about five minutes I had her free from the hole. I kicked some gravel back into the hole & dropped a big stone into it until I have time to repair it. Fern did not stay around to watch me but ran to her water dish. Although she was quite muddy, she didn't seem injured.
I got my keys back out of my pocket & went to let myself in the downstairs door. That is when I noticed that part of the pretty green wood on that door had been chewed & scratched off. Apparently Fern had tried to get into the house when the storm was coming. We have put her in the garage during a big storm but have never brought her into the house. The garage door would have been right behind her as she attacked the house door but for some reason she felt she had to find us. I was very sorry not to have been home during her scary time; I would have been glad to comfort her & to save the door & the fence in the process.
Liz, the little goat kid who loves Lila, the big Anatolian Shepherd in the front yard, has decided that she is a dog. Just this week Liz has started accompanying Lila on her “bark at the dogs on the other side of the fence” visits. Although Liz can obviously not bark at dogs, she stands right next to Lila. Liz is so excited at it that she is just all wiggly as she holds her nose next to the fence just like Lila. Lila jumps a bit as she & Fern bark at each other. Liz was also springing her back legs up & down. As Lila left the fence to run bark at Mollie & Amanda, Liz was right at her heels. She raced along with Lila & came to a quick stop at the fence, posed herself just like Lila & repeated her little routine for a minute until Lila walked away.
And as I walked in from my day at the Arts Center on Friday, I noticed Sally, Liz's mother, grazing in the front pasture with the donkeys. Lila was curled up in her usual place on the front porch. Curled up next to her was Liz.