July 21, 2005

Farm Report

Haying season has begun. Tom has started swathing the alfalfa, but this year rather than letting it dry and baling it, we're going to try haylage. Haylage is similar to silage (which is made from corn, barley, oats and so on) in that it's gathered up green to ferment, which sounds rather nasty to me but is quite tasty and nutritious for cattle. It's also a better choice for us this year, when every passing cloud seems to contain a shower. To put up bales of hay, you need a good long stretch of dry, sunny, and breezy weather, and right now Mother Nature can only guarantee the breezy part.

Our field peas, about 100 acres of them, are growing nicely, and I'm thinking of snitching some pods when the time comes to supplement the few rows growing in our vegetable garden behind the house; I have a new raised bed currently under siege by a mole. With apologies to Kenneth Grahame, moles are not polite, charming visitors to be encouraged. They are rude, destructive, persistent, and sneaky. Mr. Mole has done a number in and around my peas, trying to get to the lettuce he prefers.

We went to check our wheat the other day, and it's beautiful. Because it's growing without any synthetic fertilizer (our farm has been certified organic for the past eight years), the plants are a considerably darker, richer green than the neighboring fields of conventionally grown wheat. If it just doesn't hail -- farmers are always hoping and praying for the right weather (no hail, not an early frost either, enough rain, some more sunshine) -- it will make a nice crop come harvest time, in a month or so.

The blossoms are falling off the canola plants now, and the seeds are starting to form. We don't grow any canola ourselves -- it's nearly impossible to keep an organic canola crop uncontaminated by the genetically-modified interlopers, and the consequences if you don't can be ruinous -- but I love to see the huge yellow fields throughout the countryside. There's nothing like a beautiful sunny day, with a rich blue sky, bright green grass, and the vivid yellow of the canola to make you appreciate life in this part of the world.

Tom cut some more rhubarb for me, a hint I think -- I have stalks poking out a large five-gallon pail in the middle of my kitchen -- and I'm busy making an rhubarb crisp with some and cutting up the rest to freeze. The plants grew beautifully this year; I have a soft spot for anything that grows so vigorously and tastes so good.

Our new kittens are thriving and growing. We had a call from an acquaintance shortly after we bought a new Shorthorn bull from his parents the other month, asking if we'd be interested in the gift of some kittens. "How many?" I inquired suspiciously. "Well, Mom said you have three kids, so I was thinking of one apiece," was the overenthusiastic reply from the young man, on his own with a house in town. It turns out that a heavily pregnant mama cat wandered into his yard, and he found himself with too many mouths to feed. In the end, we were happy to oblige, and took three of the babies -- two mostly black with some white on the face and on the paws (they look alike to me, but Laura and Davy, the new owners, can tell them apart easily), and one gray tortoiseshell with rusty highlights. Laura named her kitten Vibrissa, after the cat in our Minimus Latin book, Davy's (in good Davy Crockett fashion) is Cougar, and Daniel's is Tiger. Like their owners, they are always hungry. Also like their owners, they've become pretty good at finding their own snacks between authorized mealtimes; even without the help of their mama, the kittens have figured out how to catch and eat mice in very efficient and elegant fashion, even though they don't seem too much bigger than mice themselves. From my seat at my desk in the kitchen, where my computer and cookbooks are, I watch the kittens on the deck, wrestling with each, sleeping in a heap in the shade under the barbecue, climbing into the flower pots, and trying to catch dragonflies.

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