Monday, April 25, 2011

Baby chicks

Only they're not really cute baby chicks anymore. They're more like awkward eight-year-olds whose permanent teeth are coming in and looking all goofy.

Veggie tales

Snow peas
This past weekend, we assessed the results of our February and March plantings . . . and we ate some. The bok choy and rapini had gone to seed, but we cut the good parts off and ate them anyway. :-) They were delicious. I was disappointed not to have more, but at least we got a decent meal from them. Our lettuce never really did anything . . . mostly because it rained (flooded, actually) a few days after we planted it. The deer ate the spinach and kale. The early peas fizzled out for some unknown reason (making them prime candidates for pea green salad). There were times when I felt like a dismal failure as a farmer.

But then I saw the carrots, beets, peppers, onions, potatoes, Swiss chard and various herbs. All of those are looking great and on track so far. The chard and potatoes could actually be eaten now, but I'm going to give them a couple more weeks to let them mature just a little more.

The snow peas are from my Mom and Dad's garden. Their garden looks so much better than ours! My Mom gets out there everyday and hoes the weeds away and breaks up the dirt so the veggies can "breathe." It really helps the plants. (I'd like to get out there everyday, but I'm just a weekend farmer.)

This weekend, I transplanted about two dozen tomato seedlings (several different varieties, including Amish Paste, Fresh Salsa, and some orange, pink, and even a black variety). I also planted five types of beans; two types each of watermelons, squash, cantaloupes; pumpkins; and some herb seedlings. In the meantime, Sandy planted three very long rows of sweet corn.

So now we wait. Again. And we hope. Such is the way of the farmer. :-)

Dew-drenched Irises

It was foggy on the farm last Saturday morning, and the morning dew lingered longer than usual. Here are some photos of some of Mom's "dewy" Iris flowers. She has about a million of them right now!

Mom said this is actually called a Black Iris, but it looks purple to me. :-)
I call this one Old Lady Pink.
These are my favorite.
It was really impossible to get a good shot of these, for some reason!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Birthday report

I've had quite a few birthdays, and have lots of good memories of my special days. When I was a kid, my parents always tried to do something I enjoyed, whether it was a party or my favorite cake or another treat. My most memorable birthday as a child was my 10th, because that was the year I got a stereo. I'll never forget walking into my bedroom (in the farmhouse), seeing the turntable and speakers set up nicely on my dresser, and hearing the stereophonic strains of Tony DeFranco singing "Heartbeat, It's a Lovebeat" through speakers the size of microwave ovens (which nobody had yet).

There were other memorable birthdays over the years: the 15th, spent with good friends at Pizza Hut (a really big deal in 1979); the 16th, when I got my drivers' license; the 18th and 21st, which were memorable for obvious reasons. After the 21st, things were kind of a blur for a few years. Fast forward to 1999. That was my first birthday spent outside the USA, in Montreal. We went for a horse and buggy ride, and it was all a big deal because we were poor graduate students at the time.

Since then, I've celebrated my birthday in all sorts of interesting places: dining at Tavern On The Green in New York's Central Park (someone slipped the host a couple of Jacksons to get us into the Crystal Room); whale watching in Washington's San Juan Islands; drinking fresh grapefruit juice at a cacao plantation on Saint Lucia; eating Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna; enjoying a Hawaiian luau . . . it's been one adventure after another.

This year, we didn't plan a vacation around my birthday. After all, it's not a particularly special year. There's no "0" or even a "5" in my numbers this year. But it was still very special, and one of the best birthdays ever. Why? Because I did all the things I wanted to do!
  • Took the day off from work.
  • Slept until almost 10:30AM.
  • S gave me my present . . . the ice cream maker attachment for the Kitchen Aid mixer - just what I wanted!
  • Had a wonderful lunch at The Crȇpe Cellar, then drove around Plaza-Midwood looking at the awesome Arts & Crafts houses.
  • Went to SouthPark Mall and shopped at The Walking Store (shoes!) and Sur La Table (cooking stuff!)
  • S picked up some cupcakes from Polka Dot Bakery . . . Raspberry, Tuxedo, and Creme Caramel.
  • Got a pedicure . . . and got some sparkly polish on my toes. :-)
  • Had Indian food for dinner (my favorite - Navratan Korma and Naan bread).
  • Spent the rest of the evening lounging around, doing nothing in particular except loafing.
It was a wonderful birthday, even if I spent it in Charlotte (and not on an island or some place requiring a passport). Hopefully, this is the start of a good year, perhaps the best yet!

Monday, April 18, 2011

NC tornadoes: how you can help

If you've seen the news anytime since Saturday night, you know that North Carolina was hit hard by tornadoes Saturday afternoon.

Here is a link to some photos.

Fortunately, our family, home, and farm are all OK.  But other North Carolinians didn't fare so well. At least 22 people were killed across the state, including 3 people in the county next to where our farm is. Up to 2,500 homes were destroyed or damaged. It was a sad day for our state.

If you're able and interested in helping out financially, here's a link to some ways you can help.

Thanks for anything you can do - and thanks to everyone who sent messages of concern/support on Facebook and Twitter.

Scenes from the farm tour

A curious goat on a farm in Alamance County.
Look Dad - no hills!
This little piggy was happy about all the rain and mud.
Tunnel farming in Orange County.
Hothouse tomato plants.

This is a chicken tractor.
Chicken tractor, up close and personal.

Twangy jingle

Here's a local TV commercial whose jingle is currently stuck in my head. I'm not saying this is a good or a bad thing. It's just a thing. Anyway, here's a little Carolina for you. Enjoy! Hahahahaha teehee LOL!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

This just hatched

We've got baby chicks! They arrived on the farm earlier this week, flown in from Iowa probably on the same day as they were born -- er, hatched. They're Rhode Island Reds, and I hope to have some photos up soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring is busting out all over

The elm and oak trees at the farmhouse. The water oak in front of the house is easily 150 years old or more.

According to my nephew, this is a winged elm, and it's one of the largest in the Carolinas.
A very old Dogwood tree.
Dogwood, up close and personal.
Azaleas by the front porch.
Photos taken with my phone's camera (hence the quality) April 3-4, 2011 on the farm in Robeson County, North Carolina.

Future pears

We've got five pear trees, and they're budding like crazy. On this tree alone, I counted over 100 buds. While not all of them will become fruit, I'm thinking that we're gonna be canning a LOT of pears this year. Which is fine by me!

Bees in the trees

A swarm of honeybees invaded the farm last weekend. While this may sound like a scary Hitchcock movie, the fact is, honeybees are our friends. We need them, and not just for their honey. They help pollinate crops, which make food. And they help pollinate flowers. So not only do they help feed the world, they make it pretty, also.

Yet honeybees are disappearing. Whole colonies have been dying out, not just in North America but in Europe and Australia, too. A new documentary called Queen of the Sun takes a look at this crisis. I haven't seen it  . . . yet.

In the meantime, we should be afraid. Not of the bees, but of what things might be like without them.

Anyway, so for years now, we've been trying to do things to make our farm more hospitable to honeybees: everything we can think of from planting certain types of flowers they love to eliminating pesticides and certain chemicals. We've even thought about having our own hives. So when the swarm of bees seemed interested in our tree, we were excited.

Mom & Dad's dentist is a hobby apiculturist, so they gave him a call and asked him to come out and advise us. We all agreed that the swarm, or colony, or whatever you call it, wouldn't really be happy in this tree because it's too close to human and canine activity and we didn't any species to be agitated by the other. So Dr. C shook the tree limb and the bees fell into a special bee box. Dr. C told us that if they liked the bee box, they'd make it their home and we could move it to another place on the farm. He promised to come back in 8-10 hours to see if they were still in the box.

The bees stuck around for a while, and we thought they were acclimating to the box. But three hours later, for no apparent reason, they began gathering into a swarm outside of the box. As if part of one brain, they collected themselves into a large black blob. And then they flew away.

I (for one) was really disappointed. But I hope the bees found a more suitable home, and I hope that they'll survive . . . and thrive. 'Cause we need bees. Really, we do.