We’re back to damp and clouds today, slug weather, after two and a half days of summer redux. It was hard being stuck inside all day at work, knowing how precious and few these kinds of days will be for the next six months. The weekend was mostly cloudy, with Sunday overcast and dull, and chilly too, though it was at least (?) precipitation-free, which means the animals (and I) can get out without getting drenched. This is especially important for the chickens – the coop is decent shelter, but for long days of rain, it’s not ideal. Saturday was a wee bit nicer, and we had some sunshine after 2:30 p.m. I was out much of the day, running errands and attending a fiber show at the fairgrounds. I stopped by Linda’s farm stand in town (local grower) to pick up the things I didn’t grow in my own garden – onions and a couple ears of fresh corn. I don’t eat a lot of corn (at least in its whole form, and try to avoid it in its many derivatives – it’s in pretty much every processed food you can imagine, and some you can’t imagine) but this fresh picked, sweet corn is so delicious it almost makes me want to grow some myself. I won’t (not worth the space, and the attractant quality for local wildlife is a negative as well (thinking bears)), and buying a few ears from Linda here and there is just enough. Every time I have corn on the cob I’m transported to my childhood and memories of my grandmother. It’s strange, because it is/was a food I’ve eaten my whole life, but every time I eat it I’m reminded of when I was six or seven, and temporarily without front teeth. I remember gnawing on the cob with my molars, my face a mess with melted butter and corn detritus, an exercise in frustration (I’ve always been a good eater, and missing corn on the cob season wasn’t going to happen). We lived next door to my grandparents at the time (a gift I’m only just truly appreciating, intellectually, these many decades later) and my grandmother would take the cob and cut the kernels off for me to eat like a civilized human instead of an animal. I was/am grateful, and remember how different tasting the corn seemed, eaten this way. And remembering my grandma is always a warm fuzzy. We were lucky kids; she was a good grandma.
I got about half as much done as I wanted to on the weekend, and am feeling guilty about it as well as trying to analyze why I do this. My goal was to (re)build my website – I let it lapse in March – and get going on my goal of establishing my business (writer/editor). I’m moonlighting right now, and need to step it up. The day job is becoming more and more intolerable to me. It’s a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation, as it’s not the job itself (a decent company with good people) but the fact that I’m not doing what I want to be doing, nor honoring my gifts/talents, and I find my unhappiness grows. Little things bother me much more than they should (co-worker idiosyncrasies top the list), and I find myself growing more and more impatient and unhappy with life in general, which translates into being less of the person that I want to be, and certainly less than I am. Time to switch it up and get back on track with who I am, what I’m meant to do, and leading a life filled with purpose and fulfillment, rather than just showing up for a paycheck. I serve no one if I don’t serve my Self first. The writing/editing jobs I’ve done (too few this year) prove that I am able and capable, and the excuses no longer hold water.
So, I’ll working on the website in the coming days and will hopefully have something to show for it soon. There are so many things I want to do, and so little time it seems. As previously mentioned, I went to Fiber Fusion on Saturday (www.fiberfusion.net) and though it was mostly alpaca people, the vibe of fiber crafts was still a huge draw. The woman who is processing my wool (from the March shearing of the flock) was there – a delightful gal who taught a felting workshop I attended last winter. I dropped off the fleeces a few weeks ago, finally (they were in the garage for six months!), and will have them back in the next couple of weeks. She has alpacas, and was one of the organizers/participants in this weekend’s fiber show, and I’m looking forward to getting the fiber and starting to work with it. Spinning wool hasn’t held a lot of interest for me, but I may just try it – Pebbles’ cloud-soft fleece seems too nice to “just” felt. Shetland wool is known for its softness and fineness; a traditional item it’s used for is lace shawls. The boys’ fleeces will definitely be felted – slippers or hats or scarves or…
Hopefully next year’s fleeces will be as nice or nicer, though right now I’m not feeling very hopeful. The sheep are off the pasture now in their winter confinement area, and are being fed hay almost exclusively (I occasionally let them out in the late afternoon to graze and browse until dark). I purchased a ton of grass hay and have been less than thrilled with its quality. Last winter’s weekly hay bale was tiresome, not to mention expensive (averaged $20 a bale, of varying quality, from various local feed stores). I contacted a friend who has horses about where she gets her hay, and was thrilled when she and her husband offered to deliver a ton from the guy they purchase from in Eastern Washington. They’ve been happy with the product and the price was right ($16 per bale for extra-large, 130 pound bales). But by the second bale, I was struggling with it – the quality isn’t what I’d hoped, and the flock isn’t happy with it either. I’m going through 130 pounds at the same rate as a decent 80 pound bale, which means this ton will last about a month less than I’d calculated. The hay is very choppy and the sheep look like they’ve rolled in it every day. Vegetable matter (a.k.a. VM) in the fleece is an issue when you’re raising wool, which is why you’ll sometimes see sheep wearing cloth coats – to protect the wool from getting too much VM, not to keep them warm or dry. Another tactic is to shear in the fall, before they come off pasture. I didn’t plan on that, but it might be something to consider for next year. In the meantime, the hay is dusty and has a lot of brown grass. It breaks apart into a waterfall of chop (vs. a nice pancake flake you can pick up and carry) as I fill their hay nets and they are wasting as much as they’re eating. Ah well, live and learn I guess. I try not to dwell on the nearly $300 I spent, or the fact that it will last only three and a half months (if I’m lucky), rather than the almost five months it should have, and especially not the condition of the fleece (the reason I keep sheep!).
I did some late season harvesting in the garden recently and began the prep work for putting the it to bed for the winter. The pumpkin and squash plants were pretty much done, so I harvested the last few delicata squash still on the vine. All total I’ve harvested about thirty of varying sizes. A few have been as large as what you find in the stores, but most are smaller. They taste much better than what you get in the stores, though. They’re the only winter squash I really like, and are delicious. The pumpkins outdid themselves, with nearly 50 pumpkins produced. Granted, they’re all the “personal” size (like personal size watermelon you see) or smaller – but it’s still a lot of pumpkins. I baked one of them up one night, and sliced it onto the dogs’ dinners for several nights.
After I harvested all the squash and pumpkin, I pulled out the vines and composted them. I then covered the former pumpkin and squash patch with wheelbarrow load of spent hay and droppings that I raked out of the sheep barn. The zucchini plants are pretty much spent, though there are a few baby zucchini still on them. I harvested what are probably the last of the year, but decided to wait to see if the last few develop. I also harvested a couple of hills of potatoes. I grew reds and some blues, and the reds definitely outperformed the blues. I got at least 10 pounds of spuds from two hills dug up, with the other two hills still out there (the plants still looked viable, so I left them in). Most of them are normal sized red potatoes, but I did get a couple of larger ones and one mondo (which I stuck the pitchfork into as I was harvesting). The blue potatoes only yielded a couple decent sized tubers and a few nugget sized ones too. Next year I’ll definitely put in some Yukon golds or Yellow Finns, and work a little harder at mounding them too. These weren’t planted very deep and I only mounded them once, so produced accordingly. Still, the 10 pounds I harvested will take me a while to eat up. I picked a few more zucchini, probably the last ones that will mature – most of the rest are rotting from the blossom end. And I pulled a few carrots and a turnip, plus some kale and chard (made a vat of vegetable stock Sunday night). If not for the pests on the kale and chard (cutworm looking worms on both – some pale green and others a green and brown color; plus plenty of slugs), you’d hardly know it’s mid-October out there. Both plants do well in this cool weather, as does the collards – same pests are dining on it, too. I’m hoping that these pests will die off in the winter months (with plenty of help from the chickens, free ranging out there and eating up all the parasites). I made another big bowl of my kale/chard salad, so have lunches for the next three days. By then it will be the weekend, with more time to cook and try new recipes before I totally burn out on all this wonderful produce.