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Posted by [email protected] on October 2, 2013 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (38)

Goats in the Mist: Summer Reflections 8

Posted by [email protected] on August 2, 2012 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Today was my final day at the farm. I watered the animals and picked a few tomatoes before heading to the house to process tulsi, lima beans, and fresh millk. Given mozzerella made within the hour, soap, a loaf of zuchini bread, and a round of hugs, I left Hard Earth Farm with the hope of someday returning. My farm shoes are boarding at the Avrett house for that very day.

I've been thinking of the things that I've learned while at the farm, and I'm finding that there's no way that I can list all of them--how to rid tomatoes of aphids, the signs of cutworms, that goats need high grazing after a rain, how close I can approach the sheep without sending them running, etc.

It's been an incredible experience. There've been trying times and many obstacles, but every day, we made it through. I'm so very grateful to have had this opportunity.  

Goats in the Mist: The Intern's Top Five 7

Posted by [email protected] on July 30, 2012 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

With my last few days of internship soon to break upon us, I've been thinking of the many jobs that I've completed at the farm. Here are my top five favorite and least favorite tasks in the order that they come to mind.

Favorite Jobs:

1. Shelling peas--by hand or by machine, there's something very soothing about it. 

2. Making soap--I feel like a witch when I'm mixing all the ingredients together in the cauldron (read:  very large bowl).

3. Working in my garden--I love the plants (see:  My Green Children).

4. Working with the goats (sans Jill)--I'm really very fond of the goats, even trouble-maker Jill, and they can be so sweet and entertaining.

5. Culinary work--be it with tomatoes, milk, tulsi, or the like, working with food has a dual reward:  1) the satisfaction of finishing a job and 2) being able to eat your home-grown accomplishment.

Least favorite:

1. Killing kudzu bugs--I believe that I've already dedicated an entire blog post to these nasty fellows.

2. Picking lambsquarters--it's fine for an hour or two, but after the three hour mark, it gets tedious--imagine a rapidly warming, muggy afternoon and aggravated sinus/skin condition for added effect.

3. Picking tomatoes--I love tomatoes as much as the next person, but tomato acid is torturous to my ever-broken skin.

4. Uprooting live plants (not weeds)--it's rather depressing to pull up a green and flowering plant although there's generally a Catch-22 behind it:  for example, we can pull up the tomatoes before the end of their cycle and plant something else or we can let the cut-worms devour them and plant something else.

5. Working with the goats (avec Jill)--make that working on anything within Jill's reach. I love her, but she has the curiosity of a two-year-old with a strength and reach that no two-year-old should ever possess.

Goats in the Mist: My Green Children 6

Posted by [email protected] on July 16, 2012 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

As you may or may not be aware, at the beginning of my internship, Mrs. Avrett provided my fellow farmer Nate and me with a generous plot of land on which we planted garbanzo beans, quinoa, tulsi, blue corn, and mustard.

Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are a type of fruit (any unbelievers are invited to check Wikipedia) full of protein and fiber. Our oldest garbanzo bean plants are now close to the height of my knee--those that have not been bowed to the ground by the recent storms, that is. I say oldest as we planted more a few weeks ago. The new fellows are cute little plants about three to five inches tall. Unlike the old guys, they are not carrying seed pods. Yes, that's right. We have seeds! Unfortunately, the cutworms appear to have taken a shine to them, so we've been trying to harvest them as soon as possible.

Quinoa is a pseudocereal whose seeds are covered in saponin which can be used as a soap, and who also can provide a full protein. As a vegetarian, I rejoice heartily that our quinoa are towering, six-foot giants with many developing seeds. Despite online warnings that bugs might eat the leaves to pieces, our quinoa have remained remarkable pristine in the foliage department. Miraculous plants that they are, they few that the storms grounded have grown to reach for the sun despite the main stem's lateral position.

Tulsi or sacred basil is a plant that has long been used in religion and medicine; recent studies on it suggest that it truly has beneficial properties where lab rats are concerned. Our tulsi have arguably taken on bush-like proportions and need to be kept from bolting almost every day. The leaves have a delightful scent and taste delicious in our tulsi pesto. We have yet to make tea with the leaves, but we have dehydrated some of leaves. I am looking forward to experimenting with tulsi tea-making.

Blue corn, aka Hopi maize, can be differentiated from its paler cousins by its multi-colored kernels, and they are healthier. Literally. Our blue corn stalks were strong enough to withstand the storms without being knocked over and are a beautiful, seemless green. One fellow has a bend in his stalk and has still managed this feat. They have all tasselled, and some have begun to form heads. Although neither Nate nor I were aware of this at the time, honey bees love corn. This has now become apparent to us from experience.

Mustard is an extremely versatile plant whose leaves, stalks, flowers, and seeds can all be eaten, and in our case, grows like a weed. Due to our inexperience with the plant, Nate and I planted the mustard three inches apart. Now that they are grown, it's difficult for me not to see them as taking part in a caged battle royale to the death. They are producing leaves that look like an elephant's ears and are vying against their neighbors with them for sunlight. Now that most of them have flowered, they are hot, hot, hot. Eating one of their leaves raw is now akin to taking a bite of wasabi, and, we haven't even tasted the ones that have begun to develop seed pods yet.

I'm so proud of them, my green children. 

Goats in the Mist: Concerning Love, Loss, and Fauna 5

Posted by [email protected] on July 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Sassy, Holly, Jill, Beezle--someday, the only things that we will have left of them are our memories of them. It's easy to picture Sassy and Holly, mother and daughter, lying side-by-side in the shade with their heads resting on each others' backs. Jill's and Beezle's bleatings for food and attention are very distinct in my mind. Even though I haven't known them and the other animals for as long as the Avretts, I've grown very attached to them--I can't imagine not loving them.

No matter how hard the day  (working from 6 a.m. to very near midday catching and squashing kudzu bugs in a large plastic bag, for example), the animals can still make us smile. From comically and adorably chewing cud to coming up to us and waiting to be scratched, it's as though they go out of their way to be their wonderful selves.  

It's really no surprise, then, that a death in a herd (or flock) can be so painful. When Sassy gave birth earlier this year, she had twins, but Holly's brother was born with a condition that would have brought him to a slow, inevitable death. To prevent his suffering, Nate had to put him down. It was a heart-wrenching experience for us. The passing of Cinnamon was equally difficult, but for different reasons.

Cinnamon was expecting, but she did not pass the lamb despite exhibiting all the signs of having gone into labor. No one knew what was wrong, and we suspected that she had already had the baby (and that it was no longer alive) or that one had not formed. We left her that night because we didn't know what was happening. The next morning, Mrs. Avrett found her. She told us that Cinnamon had been in labor the whole time, but she had needed a Caesarean section which none of us could have professionally performed. We lost Cinnamon and her little Nutmeg. Nate and Mrs. Avrett buried them beside Holly's brother.

I suppose that all that we can do is to love the animals that we can and to remember fondly those that we cannot. 

The Road Less Graveled: Of Lice and Hens

Posted by [email protected] on July 5, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I would be remiss (not to mention lying by omission) if I did not give voice to my sorrow over the loss of Beaky. She was a wonderful individual and the most spirited of our chickens. Safe travels, little sister, wherever you are bound.

I have, however, been tasked with writing about the ordeal which served to remove many of the lice which previously infested our new chickens. A moment, if you will. Going from two cringe-worthy puns to a solemn commemoration to more ridiculousness can cause whiplash. Alright, here we go.

Our new hens were infested with lice, with the parasites all over the(all too visible thanks to lack of feathers) skin of their heads and necks. Presumably there were legions more under the feathers as well. Mom had suspicions about this, but it was confirmed with (after having my ankles repeatedly attacked while modifying the coop) I investigated. So we leapt into action, rounding up three different anti-lice powders and a spray designed to rid cattle of them, the bottle of which was plastered with warning labels contain phrases like "[upon] contact with skin, wash with soap and water for 20 minutes and call poison control" and "contains dangerous petrochemicals." I gloved up, covered my face with a bandanna , eyes with sunglasses, legs with jeans, et cetera, and proceeded to pursue the chickens into the two-foot tall gap beneath their house, alternately blasting away with the spray bottle and flinging powder over them. The air filled with fumes and billowing clouds of lice dust. The poor chickens, confused and frightened, dashed about in all directions.

Once the dust settled, all over the floor of the house, the enclosure around the house, and the chickens themselves. I beat a hasty retreat.

In the aftermath, we've been gratified to find that the chickens are looking much better (they've since been released to roam freely). The eggs will be edible in a bit, and are serving as supplement dog food until then.

And so it goes. Take care out there, dear reader, until we meet again.

Goats in the Mist: Requiem in Pace, Beaky 4

Posted by [email protected] on July 5, 2012 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

If you've read our last post, then you're aware that the farm recently acquired several new chickens. This post, however, is a remembrance of one of the old chickens, Beaky, rest her fowl's soul.

Of the four original chickens, she was the one that I could most easily distinguish. She had blue merle feathers, a wonky beak, and an indomitable spirit.

Although her beak made it difficult to eat, she made up for it by being smart and alert. When one called to the chickens she was the first to come, and she would follow the caller. To the bearers of food, Beaky was always very friendly. She never tried to jump anyone like the goats would; rather, she would gladly eat out of one's hand in a precise and dignified manner.

Unfortunately, a penchant for eating dog food may have been her downfall. 

On this day, July 4, 2012, Mr. Avrett discovered the fallen hen, after several days of absence, beneath the floorboards of the porch. Although he did not thoroughly investigate her cause of death, it seemed to him that her neck had been broken. By one of the dogs. 

Dear, sweet Beaky, may you forage in a forest whose floor is comprised of corn and insects. 

Sunsetted feathers

Forays in a strange, new land

Rest in peace, Beaky

The Road Less Graveled: Strangers in a Strange Land

Posted by [email protected] on June 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Nate here. Though my writings here are being eclipsed by those of our intern, I thought I should shed some light on some new developments. We have recently received a "generous" donation of twenty-one-and-a-half specimens of Gallus gallus geriatricus, or Hell's Neck Vulture Chickens. Most of the hens, either on account of advanced age or the ministrations of their fellows, are missing most of the feathers on their heads and necks. In a few cases the plucked area extends down to the tops of the wings, and one is missing a tail. Not a single one of them is completely outfitted as nature intended. 

All that said, our Farmer in Chief is an expert in geriatric health with years of experience, and has made their recuperation a priority. I am concerning myself with their survival and the retention of what sanity remains them. They will be sharing space with our current four hens and single rooster, which will require some modifications to the chicken house. Imagine fitting a Japanese capsule hotel into a shotgun shack and you'll get the right idea.

Must run. Best of luck in all your endeavors, Hard Earthers.

P.S. Photos of the new chickens to follow soon.

Goats in the Mist: The Market of Eden 3

Posted by [email protected] on June 27, 2012 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday (June 26, 2012), I, Emily the Intern, representated Hard Earth Farm at the August Locally Grown Farmer's Market at the Jewish Community Center in Evans, Georgia. August Locally Grown works like so:  Farmers post what wares they have online, customers place their orders, and then the customer collects their purchase on Tuesday at their preferred August Locally Grown location. 

Some Tuesdays, there are people such as my respectable self who sell produce right at the pick-up site. The Hard Earth Farm straight-to-you fresh-ware that Tuesday were black-eyed peas, blue lake green beans, yellow pear tomatoes, and kale; all of which, I might add, were grown organically and hand-picked.

The nice customers were of very diverse ages--some were venerable, some were young children and some were from every generation in between. A few stopped to chat with me while purchasing and/or waiting for their significant other to pick up a purchase. There was a polite, middle-aged gentleman who owned an 80-acre farm and raised chickens but had trouble trying to manage a garden as he was the only full-time employee. Another man, this one venerable, had planted an entire acre of corn and was at the market hoping to sell some of it.

The most trying part of the experience came from talking to one man who was accompanying his brother and who clearly had no interest in purchasing anything. It was, of course, my fault--I corrected him when he asked whether I had graduated. "Actually, I'm in college," I explained.  

That opened up a storm of questions from him as he tried to regain the semblance of an all-knowing adult. I did my best to politely answer every question of the interrogation, but I was also attempting to attract more customers. This was quite difficult with him standing directly in front of the stand, blocking the kind folk's view of the produce. Fortunately, he left with his brother, allowing the customer who'd sent a cursory glance at the stand to browse at leisure.

All in all, it was a pleasant experience, and we sold all of our tomatoes--yay!

For more information about Augusta Locally Grown, click on this convienent link:


Goats in the Mist: Kudzu Bugs from Kudzu Hell 2

Posted by [email protected] on June 18, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (1)

 See these nasty guys? They are kudzu bugs, a.k.a. bean plataspids, globular stink bugs, and, colloquially, bugs from Hell. They infest legumes and suck nutrients from the leaves and the stems. Due to their sheer numbers, they can wipe out one's entire crop. For us, they are in the green beans, black-eyed peas, and lima beans.

We've taken several measures against them:

  • Cinnamon--they don't like fine powder. They even appear to stay off of plant stems with dirt.
  • Early morning hand removal--exactly what it sounds like. Early in the morning, before the sun has risen, we shake infested plants and brush off bugs into trash bags. They are sluggish and can't fly, so it's the best time for them to be removed. The bugs may still try to 'suicide jump' off of the branch and onto the ground, but a careful placement of the trash bag can resolve that.
  • Hand removal during rain--getting them into trash bags while it is raining. This method's efficacy varies with the strength and duration of the rain.
  • They like light colors--if one wears a light shirt or straw hat, they are apt to perch on it.
  • They like ragweed--I suppose that someone has to.
  • They can stain one's hands orange--not painful, but quite unnecessary.
  • They smell absolutely repugnant--if one fills a bag full of them, for the love of all that is Earthy, one ought not take a whiff of it.