I Mustache You a Question

“Mustache” = “must ask” haha.

I’d like to introduce you to my new cat. Isn’t he stunning?

P1140708

Well, maybe not “new.” I mean, I’ve had him for a month now.

Do you want to know how soft his fur is? Well, I don’t have any idea; I haven’t been able to touch him. He is wild.

This mustached cat is a feral cat who was on death row, the victim of a “catch and kill” program for feral cats in a neighboring county. I saw his photo, with his mustache and goatee, and just HAD to go and get him. How could I not? I showed up just in time; he was scheduled to be put down the Monday morning that I got there. Yes, he was saved by his mustache.

The animal control facility told me that they do not adopt out feral cats. They catch cats in their area, wait 3 days to make sure they didn’t catch someone’s pet, and then kill them. Controlling the cat population. Pa-leeese. Can you imagine the uproar if a county did that for squirrels or bunnies or birds? Yeah, I remember a politician who got in big trouble for poisoning the Canada Geese who were taking over his farm. Hunters can only hunt during certain times of the day and months of the year for wild animals. And yet, cats are free game?!?!

I love cats.

This little animal control facility had lots of cats there on death row. I left the building,  sat in my truck, and I cried.

Later I sent an email to the animal control facility and offered to find and write a grant to help the sad situation of these feral cats they trap and kill. There are monies available to help start a trap, fix, and release program for feral cats. Guess what response I received? None. (As if that will stop me.)

Now, I mustache and must-answer some questions. I’ve gotten some lovely emails lately with some interesting questions in them. So I thought I’d answer them here. And then I mustache you a question.

First, I just have to say thank you to each and every one of you who has ever written to me or commented on the blog. The stories you share, the warmth you show, the friendliness and caring you offer, well, I just love you all! I have had a terrible case of “I don’t have time to write” lately and your outpouring of support and positivity helps me find the time to write.

So here goes.

Debbie: “I was reading were you had a old 1939 farm house in the mountains, I was wondering do you still have that? It looked really cute.”

Debbie, I loved that farmhouse. It was my introduction to farm living, though it was a part-timer, a weekender for us. I could write a book about everything that house taught me. You mentioned that you read the old blog posts and I probably talked about this in those. But that house had a certain special vibe in it. It wrapped its nurturing warmth around us when we stepped through the front door. It smiled. We’d step inside and immediately feel like everything was right with the world. It was tucked back in a “holler” on a dead-end dirt road outside of Asheville, NC. Heaven on earth. If there had been any way I could have afforded to keep that house, I would have. Forever. It was special and precious.

Debbie: ”do you ever get down??? I like the way you can turn a situation around when things don’t go right and make them good. I need to learn that.”

Oh my gosh, Debbie, yes. I get down. We all do, right? In truth, it’s been a hard year for me. I’ve had to deal with a lot of things I didn’t feel ready or equipped for. But I don’t dwell on those hard parts; they are there if I wanted to focus on them, but I choose not to. What I try to do is concentrate on the good. In a day, in a year, in life, in people. I deal with the yuck, but I focus on the good. One thing that helps is that I have the worst memory in the world. That helps keep me bouncy. My Aunt Margie once told me, “God blessed me with a bad memory.” Me too. I try to hang onto the good and forget the not-so-good. Oh, another thing that helps foster a good attitude? Brownies. Definitely brownies.

Sharon: “I’ve decided to get chickens this year. Should I get a rooster? I read how much you enjoy yours, but I hear that they can be aggressive. Is there a downside? Also, with your rooster are you concerned about eating fertilized eggs?”

Sharon, I’m so excited that you are getting chickens. We have enjoyed ours more than I would have thought possible. Our chickens are fully enclosed. They are in a locked tightly in their house every night. During the day, they enjoy the outdoors in their chicken run. It is fully fenced, even the top. I say that because many chicken owners get roosters to help protect the flock. That’s not the case with me.

My rooster was the “free” rare breed bird that came with my hen order. I was super excited when I finally learned that SHE was a HE. I love hearing him cock-a-doodle-doo. It makes our farm seem like a farm. He is a docile, sweet, gentle rooster. He exhibits no agresstion whatsoever. He’s just a real doll. And gorgeous.

When he was a chick:

And now:

MrCochie

However, there is a down side. He’s very busy with my hens. Amorous. I have 14 hens and 1 rooster and he wears them out. I have purchased some chicken saddles for several of my hens who were loosing their back feathers due to his…uh…amorous-ness. I also have one who he has injured by grabbing the back of her head with his beak. He has pulled out all her feathers and is bloodying her neck. That attracts all her friends to further peck. This poor girl is terrified of him and screams and runs away as much as she can. Totally freaks out when he gives her the googley-eye. So that’s not good. I currently have her, with one of her friends, in a separate area that I call the “infirmary.” Her neck is healing. But, I may have to keep her separate until he simmers down some. He’s full of himself this spring. I should rename him Casanova.

The other thing you should do if you decide to get a rooster is to provide places for your hens to be able to get away from him. I have some large plywood sheets propped up against the walls and sides of the pens. The girls go under there to get away from any of his unwanted advances.

As far as fertilized eggs are concerned, I collect the eggs every single day. Because of that, there is no opportunity for any development. So, I don’t worry. I don’t think about it a lot, because I love animals so much, but I don’t worry. I’ve never had an egg that was anything but normal, regular, and delicious.

So, should you get a rooster? If you want one and can provide him with plenty of hens, then definitely. If you can only have a few hens, then he’ll definitely wear them out, possibly injuring them.

Julie: “How do you write? Is there a particular schedule or time each day that you dedicate to the craft?”

Julie, I am the most disorganized person in the world. I have a million projects going at one time. (I thrive on that.) I don’t often know when I’ll have time to sit down to write, so I just do it when I can and when I’m in the mood. I think if I had a schedule to write, it would interfere with my flow. I’d feel like it was a job rather than like it is the outlet that it is. So to answer your question, no.

Kim: “How did you get up the courage to drop everything and move to a farm?”

Kim, I have no idea.

Kim: “Are you able to make a good living farming?”

Kim, I have no idea. I think the answer is going to turn out to be no, but we shall see.

Pam: “I always enjoy reading about them, but I can’t follow your animal situation. How many animals do you actually have? How many do you want? I read about your pond, are you going to get ducks or fish for it?”

Pam, I have 4 horses, 15 chickens, 3 dogs, 2 cats (including the mustached one, the only animal we have who doesn’t have a name).

I love animals.

P1140711

We thought about getting ducks for the pond, but have since learned that you have to care for them to the same extent that you do for chickens. I didn’t realize that. This means that they need shelter and safety from predators. We have lots of coyotes here. And hawks. I’m not able to protect ducks from them. I don’t have the proper fencing or housing. So, my current philosophy is that ducks and geese are welcome, but I’m not raising any babies that I’ll fall in love with only to put out on the pond to become food for hawks or coyotes.

As far as the fish are concerned. Yes, we WERE going to get some fish. But remember all those frog eggs I found in puddles and transported to the pond? Well, fish eat tadpoles. So we decided not to get fish this year. And my daughter doesn’t feel right about feeding and caring for animals that we plan to eat. Me either.

Pam: “How did you meet MaryJane?”

I discovered MaryJane by picking up one of her catalogs/ magazines at a local grocery store some years ago. I instantly fell in love with everything she stood for. Her book came out soon thereafter and I devoured it. I didn’t actually meet her until several years ago when she made a stop in Atlanta.

MaryJane is everything you think she is! She is authentic and fabulous. She is smart and extraordinary and real. She’s warm and funny. She is beautiful and dedicated and loving. She dreams of a better world and is willing to work for it. She cares about people and the earth. She thinks outside of the box. She is supportive and kind. I doubt she’s ever met someone who didn’t love her instantly and forever. MaryJane has impacted me beyond measure. But I’ve only spent maybe three hours with her ever.

Tammy: “What is the one thing I should plant in my garden this year? I’m a beginner, so make it easy to grow.”

Tammy, vegetables are easy to grow, especially if you purchase plants instead of seeds. Give your vegetables a nice sunny, well-drained piece of land and they’ll grow. Make sure to water them if there isn’t enough rain. I personally can’t live without greens in my garden. Lettuces, kales, spinach. Yum. Those are easy to grow from seeds, too. You should definitely grow a tomato. For that, buy a plant. There is no comparison of flavor or texture between the tomato you purchase and the tomato you grow. Mmm, Mmm, Mmm.

 

The other vegetable I love having in my garden is sugar snap peas. Try those!

 

The other thing I enjoy growing is herbs. Make a little herb garden with your favorites. Mine are basil, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, parsley. Buy the plants (rather than growing from seed) and you’ve got an instant herb garden. Fabulous! Nothing like fresh herbs. This is my tarragon plant at my previous herb garden.

Jeri: “Where are your Christmas trees shipped to? Do you think there is a chance that my tree came from your farm? I’m in Michigan. Can I order one from you next year?”

Jeri, this year our trees were shipped to Oregon. They are Frasier Firs. Special Frasier Firs that are grown with love. They are carefully hand-groomed and sprayed only when and as necessary.

We are a small wholesale operation, but maybe they’ll be a time in the future when we can offer retail or mail-order. I don’t know. But I want to learn to make wreaths this year. Maybe I could ship you one of those?

Jeri: “Which of the hats you wear is your favorite?”

Favorite? I’m not sure. Lawyer, Chef, Farmer, Writer, Designer, Entrepreneur, Creator, blah, blah, blah…I don’t know my favorite! I bore easily, so it’s nice to have a bunch of hats on my hat rack to pick from on any given day.

But the most important one is the Mom hat. Definitely Mom. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I think it is by far the most important. It has taught me to be self-less and patient. Before having a child, I was self-ish and snappy. I’m a better person since I birthed that baby 13 years ago.

Oh, I also like my red hat. It’s old and the dog, Oreo, chewed it, but it’s still my favorite.

Now, y’all, talk to me. I mustache YOU a question. Do you have a good recipe for brownies? haha. (Unless you really do have one.)

No, it’s the hat question I really pose to you. I know you each wear many, many, MANY hats. Can you pick the very favorite one you wear??

Tell us! After I hear all your good and inspired answers, maybe I can come up with my own?

Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

Continue reading

What I’m Digging

I attended another farming conference this past weekend. The morning was a lecture and the afternoon was a workshop. It was fabulous.

Here’s my favorite photo from the workshop. This embodies the spirit of the farming community to me. Everyone working together. Many hands make light the work.

biodynamics

This farming conference was filled with “groovy” people just like the last one I attended. I love that vibe. I had no idea that farmers were such a “hip” group of people. (note to self: become hipper) But they are. They dress hip; they talk hip.

Like, wow, Man, you see, I’m talking to this farmer guy and he used a term I hadn’t heard in awhile: “digging.”

“Digging” in the 70′s sense, not the garden sense. I asked him how he liked his new endeavor as a farmer, bread-baker, coffee roaster. He said that he was “digging” it.

And I made a mental note to myself to start using that word again: “dig”

So here goes.

I dig this weather we’re having. Warm and sunny one day, snow the next. We’re expecting several inches tonight. I have a feeling it will be the last hoorah in the white, fluffy, winter wonderland department.

Yes I dig winter, but I dig springtime too. The pasture is just starting to green up. People are starting to plow and till up their gardens and fields. We’re all thinking about planting. About seeds. About compost.

I dig hearing birds sing again. And seeing them flit joyously around. Earlier there was a flock of robin red-breast birds out in my front pasture. Hundreds of them. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

And yesterday I also saw a lone bluebird on my fence.

 

And when I walked down a path beside my very weedy hillside this morning, I guess I was too noisy. Two cardinals burst out of the weeds right in front of me and rushed to safety in a nearby Christmas tree (I live on a Christmas tree farm, btw.) I appreciate seeing and hearing the birds again. Winter was quiet. I missed them. I will try to be more quiet myself. So I don’t freak them out so early in the morning and early in the season.

I dig seeing the daffodils in bloom. They are just beginning to break out of their bulbs this year and push up out of the earth. They mean spring to me. Yes, they are springing forth!

Because we live at a 150 year old farm, we have no idea when or where or what flowers are going to pop up. Last week, this little pretty came up in the area around an old oak tree in the yard.

P1140724

I didn’t know this plant, so I looked it up. I believe it is Lenten Rose.

And something else I dig. A pond.

Ponds have always interested me because I like water. I like light reflected on water. I like movement on water. I like frozen water. I like frogs. I like lily pads. And cat tails on the bank. And weeping willows. I like those big gigantic gold fish, koi. But. Since I’m afraid of snakes and have always heard that ponds attract snakes, I never really considered having a pond on our farm.

But life happens. Lemons fall into our paths. Sometimes they hit us on the head. But we all know that when that happens we must make lemonade.

Our lemons and our lemonade is water.

We have an abundance of water on our farm. So much that it is a problem. Springs erupt from the earth and rush down the ridge behind our house. Sometimes water gets very close to the house. Creeks are numerous here. It makes it hard to navigate the paths we need to take.

And we were having a drainage problem.

So, a fellow who has a track-hoe and knows-how-to-use-it-like-you’ve-never-seen-before came to help us create a drainage system that would take the water away from the house area and the pasture area. Our pasture is in bottom land. That means wet. Soggy. We needed to divert the water elsewhere.

But. Every place he dug he hit underground water or an old drainage line. Every idea we  had to divert the water failed.

And then.

A thought.

Why don’t we create a pond with all this water? Capture it in one place. Enjoy it instead of fighting with it.

So we did.

P1140693

P1140715

The day after he dug the pond, two Canada Geese showed up to enjoy it. And we all said, “Build it and they will come!”

P1140743

We’re hoping some ducks come. Maybe those little white ducks that showed up last year for a couple of days? Or some of the mallards I’ve seen on the nearby mountain stream.

I saved some frog eggs from a ditch a few days before we dug the pond. I knew the ditch would be drying up, so I gathered the eggs in one of those big plastic storage containers.

It was pretty funny. I had found the jelly batch of frog eggs in the small ditch and knew exactly what they were because of our experience last year with finding tadpoles in a ditch.

Anyway, I was so excited and showed the guy who was digging the pond what I had found. I proudly asked, “You know what those are? Those little jelly balls?” I couldn’t wait for him to say, “No. What in the world are they?!” Instead, he said, “Yeah, frog eggs. Tadpoles.” And I said, “Oh yeah, you’re from the country, of course you know.” Oh well! Maybe some of you haven’t ever seen them before?

That weird jelly looking thing in the corner of the large plastic container is a bunch of frog eggs.

 

P1140825P1140819

That’s a close-up. Some are already hatching into tadpoles.

I released them into their new home–the pond–and look forward to falling asleep this summer listening to their lullabies.

P1140830

It’s slowly filling up! I have a feeling I’ll be taking lots of photos of things reflecting in my pond. Like the house in this one.

Now, tell us. What are you DIGGING lately?!

Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!
Lots of love, The City Farmgirl in the Country, Rebekah Continue reading

Dreaming of a New Kitchen

You know that photo of yourself?

The one that is goofy and hilarious and you hope nobody ever sees?

And then you see your daughter showing it to her friends because it is so very rip-roaring funny?

Or maybe somebody else posted it and tagged you on facebook and you think–oh no! all those people I haven’t seen in 20 years are seeing this–and quick! you untag yourself.

You know the one?

P1140026 That’s what my precious boy is saying to his horse friends out in the pasture now.

“You can’t trust her…you won’t believe what she is putting all over the Internet….” IKR. But. I love it.

I just took this photo of my soul-horse Merlin and adore it. It has nothing to do with this post or kitchens, but I had to show you my boy.

Look at his grey and pink lips and those freckles. And his muzzle drives me crazy with its softness. And that brown dot in the white of his eye that I admired when I first met him. It’s an intimate view of Merlin. Do you see the spot on his head where his unicorn horn comes out when we’re not looking? And if you look closely you can see my lipstick print on his head. Oh my.

BUT. Back to what I meant to be talking about: Yes, Yes, I am. Dreaming.

All winter long, I have been dreaming about snow and a new kitchen. Our farmhouse has a barely useable kitchen. The stove is old and the oven temperature is way off. I burn lots of dinners and cakes and cookies–yes, so many things. There is NO counter space. There is NO cabinet space. There is NO drawer space. There is NO light. The faucet leaks. The ice-maker doesn’t work. I haven’t unpacked most of my kitchen items because I don’t have anywhere to put it.

Here’s what it looked like when we toured the house for the first time. Orange shag carpet, orange brick linoleum.import july 2012 182

Everything I’ve mentioned is true about it. But isn’t there something special about this kitchen that makes your heart swoon? It’s so cozy and inviting. And the fireplace! It doesn’t work, but what a beautiful feature to have in a kitchen.

I have had some gorgeous kitchens in my day. I designed this one. Which is the one I had before we moved here. sqkitchen1 Large and shiny and useful. But not my dream kitchen.

And I designed this one. Which is the one before the one before we moved here. It was awesome too, with a dramatic stone arch over the free-standing range. (can’t find a good photo of that, but it is to the right, see it?) Loved the cabinets and granite. But not my dream kitchen. I’ve spent countless hours on houzz.com and browsing in magazines. Search “farmhouse kitchen” on houzz and you’ll get over 791,000 photos. What a wonderfully enjoyable and creative Time Sucker that is. I found this kitchen though, which I think is my favorite so far:

http://www.houzz.com/photos/298698/Crisp-Architects-traditional-kitchen-new-york

Oh, and Pinterest! Just search for “farmhouse kitchen” and have a big long sit-down because you’re going to be there awhile.

I’m looking at kitchens, from big to small. From fancy to simple. From white to blue. From country to traditional. I’m creating my DREAM.

So, tell us about your dream kitchen. Maybe you are already living in it; maybe yours is just a dream too?

What color is it? What kind of appliances? Gas cooking or electric? How big is your pantry? Is it a walk-in? Do you have any special work stations? Like a baking center or a canning station? What kitchens have you seen that inspire you?

Here’s where I began. I thought, “okay, let’s say I’ve won a new kitchen. I don’t have to pay for anything. What does it look like?” Now, granted, I have entered every new kitchen sweepstakes I’ve ever seen. And no, I’ve never won one. And no, I can’t have the kitchen I’d have if money were no object. But, that’s where I like to start my dream. And now I have a pretty good idea of my Dream Kitchen.

Picture this:

My dream kitchen has a wall of windows where the sink is.

The sink is a huge farm sink, with double bowls and an apron front.

It has an AGA stove. Or maybe a free-standing range like I had before.

Oh, and it has a pizza oven in the corner.

It has a huge island in the middle, with nothing on it. No sink. No nothing.

It has a baking center, with a dropped countertop for rolling out bread and biscuits and pie crust. And a place for the stand mixer.

It has a coffee bar.

It has an ice maker.

It has a vaulted ceiling. With old barn beams.

It has a pot hanger. And a pot filler.

And a fancy crystal chandelier.

And a fireplace.

It is big enough. But not too big.

It has a banquette. You know, that little spot where we eat breakfast and my daughter does her homework.

There are some glass-front cabinets, maybe with wavy glass.

The cabinets are white or off white. Except for the island. It’s barn red. And there’s a surprise color somewhere. Like turquoise painted on the wall behind some open shelves.

There’s some beadboard somewhere.

And space for an old antique hoosier.

My dream kitchen is always clean and tidy. (now THAT, my friends, is a dream)

And probably the best part: there’s always a kettle on for tea, and a pot of soup, and bread and cookies are baking in the oven.

And most importantly, it is filled with people I love.

Hmmm…now that I think about it, I have that “best part” now. In my little kitchen. Tea and Love. Oh, and burned cookies. (just take a knife and scrape off the top, they’re still good.) Your turn! What does your dream kitchen look like?

Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

P.S. Here’s one of my favorite things to make in my kitchen that doesn’t require cooking. Ya can’t burn it. I love this in the mornings. So good!

Rebekah’s Mediterranean Breakfast

1 cup oats (steel cut oats are great, but so are regular)

1 cup organic vanilla yogurt (low fat is a-ok)

1 cup milk (anywhere from skim to whole is delish)

1/4 cup oat bran

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

3 Tbsp chopped dried figs (I use figlets..lighter flavor and cute name)

3 Tbsp chopped dates

3 Tbsp other dried fruit of your choice (golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, fruit bits combo)

Combine the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. (Or at least a couple of hours.)

By the way: fresh berries make a lovely topping. Continue reading

Will I Ever Be A “Real” Farmer?

How exactly does a person LEARN to farm? I guess what I really mean is how do you LEARN to make a comfortable living at it?

Owning a farm and knowing how to make a living on a farm are two entirely different things. Most people I have met since we moved to the countryside have an off-farm day job and farming is their second job. Actually, I think everybody I’ve met fits that bill, part-time farmers, full-time something else.

Now that I have a farm of my own, I’m trying to learn how to farm AND trying to figure out how to make a living on these beautiful acres. I should add: I happen to be completely untrained and uneducated in farming. So far I’ve “trained” by talking to people who have farmed and by reading books about it.

This weekend, though, I did something else. I went to a farming conference.

Continue reading

I Don’t Like the Turn, Turn, Turn

You know a post that has ”Turn, Turn, Turn” in the title is surely about there being a season to everything, a time to live, a time to die. You’re right on that.

It is a stark, unfortunate truth, there is a season for everything.

Yes, death is a part of the circle of life. And sure, I can sing that song too. (“from the day we arrive on the planet…”)

But knowing the words to the songs doesn’t mean that I can deal with it. And being able to quote Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” doesn’t make it so.

I am faced with the “turn, turn, turn/circle of life/loved and lost” concept much more frequently since I moved to a farm. And, quite frankly, I don’t like it. I’m not so happy about that part of farming. (I keep saying that I should just stick with turnip farming.)

You have heard me talk about one of the sweetest, most friendly chickens ever hatched, our Sicilian Buttercup we called TyGee. She was the tiniest in the flock. She was also the most loving in the flock. She’d rather be held by me or my daughter than to eat.

P1130978

She was sick last week. I did my best to nurse her back to health, but I failed. Epic failure.

Continue reading

Farming In A Winter Wonderland

“I can never remember
whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve
or
whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”
Dylan Thomas

Blue running in the snow

Continue reading

A Year at the Farm In Photos

2013 was my first calendar year living on a farm. Whew!

I ended the year feeling rather overwhelmed. Both my husband and I lost friends at the end of the year and it put us in a contemplative mood. (another way to say “in a funk”)

Man, we’ve got so far to go…

And then I started looking back at the photographs I took this past year.

And that made me realize that

Man, we’ve come so far…

Continue reading

Oh Christmas Tree

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone and we have all rested up from the big feasts

(Blue and Tom)

it’s time to think about Christmas! And Christmas Trees!

Oh, but just to update you, I’m eating a big ole turkey sandwich right now.

Yep, there was turkey on the Thanksgiving Day table. Hubs insisted.

And next thing you know, I’m serving myself a slice of white turkey breast and some home-made gravy.

And. It. Was.

GOOD.

Real good. So good that I’m having a sandwich of leftovers.

(note to self: never raise turkeys. never raise turkeys. never raise turkeys.)
Continue reading

Turkey Day Fowl

A declaration was made in my house by my daughter: no turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Dag-nab-bit. She has become such a poultry lover since we moved to the farm and got baby chicks. Little fluffy, precious, peep-y baby chicks. So what shall we have for a main dish? That remains to be seen. She recommended that we make a tofu dish and shape it like a turkey.
Continue reading

Favorite Farm Day

I received the sweetest email from Tracy in Florida. Shall I spare you the flattery contained therein? (Flattery gets you everywhere.) Well, maybe for the beginning of this post. Further on, well, no indeed, I shall not spare you. I shall boldly and unabashedly and without humility, BASK in the flattery. Cause I love it.

But for now. Let me just share with you the question she asked that really really really REALLY got me to thinking.
Continue reading