Rain, rain, rain… Too much of a good thing, folks! After a much-needed dry spell last week, the soggy is back with a vengence. The intense storms of the past few days, plus today’s steady, soaking rain, have left the farm well saturated. We dare not drive the truck around the fields much because things are so wet, and walking in the wheel tracks between beds for harvesting is, in many spots, a harrowing experience. So far, things are growing well, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the sun will return soon. And, farm life may now be a little less hectic (though also, perhaps, a little less interesting) going forward…read on…
Your third share of veggies for the 2012 season includes the following:
1 bag of French Breakfast radishes
1 head of lettuce
1 Napa cabbage
1 pint of strawberries -or- 1 pint of sugar snap peas
1 bunch of scallions
15 garlic scapes
1 bunch of basil
So, the strawberries are fading, and I’m sorry to report that our Friday CSAers in Lewiston and Portland will probably get peas. We’ll run through the strawberry patch again on Friday, but the rain has caused many of the berries to rot and slugs have been happily chowing on the rest. Strawberry season: short and sweet! In happier news, the peas are just getting started and should be included in shares for a few weeks to come. These are sugar snaps, so you eat the whole thing, pod and all.
And what the heck is that purple thing that looks like a lawn dart? It’s kohlrabi! It’s wonderful raw, shredded into salads or slaws, and we also love to shred it and sautee it with butter and sage as a side dish. As always, check out our Recipes page for more ideas.
In animal news…gosh, where to begin? As of a couple days ago, I’d planned to lead with the sheep, so I guess I’ll stick with that. The flock has been wandering lately. After last Tuesday’s harvest, our neighbor, Ernest, pulled into the driveway and shouted to me that our “goats” were down Estes Way. 2 minutes later, another neighbor, Ray, pulled in to report that the sheep were in his yard. He gave Brittany and I a lift down Estes Way, where we just about ran into Ray’s wife and kids cleverly leading the sheep up the road by shaking cans of oatmeal to entice them (The Desjardin family “sheep-sat” for us a couple of times this past winter, so they know some of the tricks). Brittany and I took over, and jogged the hot and tired sheep back to the farm and into their pen. A couple of nights later, we got a call from our next door neighbors saying that the sheep were at the end of their driveway. Though the flock disappeared and I spent a few minutes driving around looking for them, this time they came back to the farm on their own, and Sonya promptly locked them into their winter pen. So, what hell is going on here? The problem isn’t a lack of shelter, or water, or fresh grass…it’s simply that Savannah, our black ewe, has discovered that she can jump over the fence at will. Then, everyone else simply follows. So, I’ve been trying to shore up their fencing by essentially making 2 fences: their usual portable electric mesh fencing plus a couple lines of deer fencing, one low and one about a foot higher than the top of their existing fence. I’ve had mixed results… The first time I did this, I left a gap that was quickly discovered. In the past 2 days, I think the rain has been shorting out the fence. I’ll keep at it… One possible solution is to, er, remove The Instigator from the herd, but I’d rather not do that. Savannah is gorgeous, healthy, a good breeder, and little Coco has yet to be weaned. But we have to figure this out, because we can’t have 5 sheep running all over the neighborhood all the time.
And the pigs… Sunday morning, as we were gearing for a family ocean day at Popham Beach, I went out to check on the pigs and found no pigs. Gone, right under the fence. I’d been afraid of this. The heavy rains left their area muddy as hell with the bottom of much of their fence line in standing water, shorting it out. A little digging in the mud and they could go right under the now useless fence. They weren’t just hanging out in the hay field this time, either; they’d headed for the woods. I chased them around back there for awhile before stomping back up to the house to announce that I would have to stay home and figure out how to get them back. Sonya and the kids took off to meet her aunt, uncle, and cousin at the beach while I tried to determine what to do. A little more woods chasing ensued, to no avail. I finally just set a pan of food soaked in milk inside of their house, opened up the fence, and went off to do some other work. When I came back a little while later, there they were. After a few fits and starts, I managed to get all 5 pigs inside their house and sealed each end with a pallet tied to the house itself. Victory! But then what? It was clear to me that they had to move. Their spot back in the hay field was far from the house and tough to get to to begin with, and now it was obvious that it wasn’t a good spot for pig fencing, either. I had the thought of getting them into the truck, moving them into the sheep’s winter pen, and then getting another area ready for them, perhaps between the barn and the greenhouse. Sonya wasn’t too keen on this (we were keeping tabs on each other by phone) because of the stench so close to the house, barn, and wash station. We also discussed saying the hell with it and selling the pigs. The pigs spent a day locked in their house as I considered options, none of them very appealing. What did it was going out to check on the sheep Monday morning and discovering that they had escaped yet again. No wandering this time…they were contentedly grazing right next to their area…but still… The words of Henry David Thoreau roared into my brain: “Simplify! Simplify!” And that was that: We would sell the pigs. I went in and composed an ad which we posted on both Craigslist and the MOFGA Journeypersons’ e-mail list. Within an hour we had a couple of responses, and a fella from Waterford agreed to buy the pigs and pick them up that very afternoon.
Our work wasn’t done, though. We had to get the pigs from their house into the truck and up to the driveway for this guy (he was bringing a trailer, and there was no way he could have gotten out there without getting stuck). It was raining steadily, and both kids were home. So, we got Ezra down for his afternoon nap, and Son, Lydia, and I hopped in the truck and drove out to the pigs. Lydia stayed in the truck playing with my phone (if you get a hang up call, blame her) while Son and I tried to make a plan. I figured I would try to crawl into the pig house and grab a pig while Son acted as the gate keeper. Keep in mind the highest point of the pig house is about 3 feet off the ground and that the house was filled with 5 pigs (who are much bigger now than they were many weeks ago when I first brought them home), standing water, and mud. Did I mention that a full-on thunder storm was also happening by now? In I crawled, and I spent the next 15 minutes trying to grab and hold onto very slippery and freaked out pigs. I could get ahold of them but the holding and trying to crawl backwards part was a problem. I gave up and climbed out and almost immediately to pigs somehow busted out of the other side of the house. Now they were running around their area. We got bowls of food, put them out, and tried to grab the pigs as they settled in to eat…nothing. And the pigs eventually became so freaked out that they made a dash for the fence and scurried under. Now, we had 5 pigs running around in the hay field as thunder boomed and lightning flashed everywhere. Just another Monday… The pigs were upset, but they were also very hungry and wanted to get back in their area. So, we figured out a strategy: Sonya stayed by the truck to block things off while I chased the pigs next to their fence from the opposite direction. As the trap closed, one or two pigs would inevitably veer off and try to get under or through their fence and back into their area. There would be a few seconds where they stopped and perhaps tangled themselves a bit, at which time I would fling myself, like Farmer Hulk Hogan, on top of the poor pig. I would then lie on top of the pig (flailing about intensely and screaming his head off…the neighbors must have wondered) while Sonya swooped in and put a bucket on the pig’s head. Then, I would manage to pick up the pig, stand up, and carry the pig (Sonya still holding the bucket over the head) to the truck and dump him into the bed. Folks, this was the most ridiculous day I’ve ever had as a farmer. Pigs, screaming…thunder…lightning…driving rain…a concerned Lydia peeking out the window…pigs and people soaking wet and covered in mud…madness! But, we caught each and every pig…except one! The biggest and heaviest pig, one of the brown ones, was really hard for me to carry, and just before I was about to yell to Sonya to drop the tailgate down because I knew I couldn’t lift this one over, he squirmed, squealed, and slipped away, into the woods. Thinking “4 out of 5 ain’t bad” we sat in the truck for a few minutes to see if the lone pig would return, then drove the rest up to the house. A half hour or so later, the fella from Waterford came, and we got the pigs into his trailer without incident. As for the lone pig, he stayed in the woods for quite awhile until this morning. While we were harvesting peas, I wandered over to see what I could see, and sure enough, he was inside their area looking for food. I walked over, poured food in a bowl, and put it inside the house. After several wary minutes, he went in, and I locked him inside. Someone from Greene’s JED Collective wants him, and hopefully we’ll send him off tomorrow.
So, this year’s pig experiment is over. I think we bit off more than we could chew…perhaps 5 was too many, and we definitely made a poor decision about where they should live. We feel bad about this…a group of customers had put down deposits for pork in the fall, and they will now have their money returned to them and no pork…but relieved, too. Once we get things figured out with the sheep fencing (and we will), we can direct our time and attention to where it needs to be: growing the veggies! Next year, we may try 2 pigs again, and see if things go more smoothly. But I don’t even want to think about that just yet…
Thanks to all who have helped out with harvesting and more since last week: Our pal Bernadette Wolfe, visiting from PA; Glenn Briggs (Glenn and Bernadette brought in today’s harvest with us in the pouring rain…hot showers and dry clothes pronto!); Christina Keilt, a.k.a. Mean Auntie; our own little Lydia, who helped out some in the strawberry patch on Friday…when her interest waned, she was happy playing with Tom the Talking Cat on my iPhone; the continually awesome and wonderful Brittany Wallingford; and, Leah Desjardins for hangin’ with Ezra. Thanks, everyone! And, very soon…towards the end of this week, in fact…our first WWOOFers of the season are scheduled to arrive! Hooray! Also, don’t forget about the potluck: Saturday, June 30th from 5-9 PM!!