Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall continues...

Alexe had a few hiccups on her trip home from NY, (really just the one, going to the wrong airport first,) and we spent the day prepping for her homecoming and belated birthday party.  Outfit selection was high on Annaliese's to do list.

Caspian, my little afternoon helper, is very proud of his muscles.  He carried three bags of supplies between Fred's and the back of the BTC, and before he would relinquish them, I had to take his picture.  He disappeared into the store with my phone, and I saw him show the picture to everyone he found in the store and explaining how strong he was.

We made cider!  A case of slightly old and bruised apples, a cider press from my father's collection, and a cuisinart made some of the tastiest cider I've ever had.  After some experimentation I found the grating blade on the cuisinart is the fastest method for grinding the apples up. (Medium sized apples fit into the cuisinart chute whole and grind down as fast as you can load them.)  Transfer into the press, about 8 cuisinart loads to fill the press, and crank away.

A case of apples 2/3 full made for two pressings, and a gallon and a half of cider.

The end of the soccer season.  My team, missing Graham.  If you measure success by how much fun they had, I think we were successful.  Any other metric...

Sunday afternoon pumpkin carving:

I have no idea where she gets it.

But MOST of the time she's still our little girl.

Annual meeting of the Water Valley Main Street Organization, with this year's award recipients lining up for the newspaper photo-op.  Alexe finished out her third year on the board and rolled off, receiving the standard participation award.  (She's been otherwise occupied this past year, and may have missed most of the board meetings.)  Dixie Grimes, queen of the BTC kitchen and chef extraordinaire, received the Person of the Year award for being the most significant single person to positively impact the Water Valley over the past year.   

Snow cone at the Crawdad Hole, (pretty sure these were the last of the season, again,) along with a beer from Yalobusha Brewing Company.  In this town where a few short years ago you could be arrested for beer possession, you can now enjoy a tasty brew 50 ft from the brewery that produced it.  

It's getting nippy outside, requiring fresh, clean bedding for the animals.

Speaking of animals, we've had a rough animal related week.  One of the pigs came down with pneumonia, (current theory is the other four kicked her out of the house on a chilly night,) and died the next day.  I put a full round bale of hay in their pen, hopefully providing a surplus of warm nesting to go around no matter how they all get along.

The second event, the next day, was the putting down of Shadow.  At 15, Shadow has been a faithful companion, watch dog, and mother figure to all the dogs that have followed for years beyond her shepherd/lab blood lines generally allow. She was a great dog, and is buried next to the garden, nose to nose with a suckling pig.  (That was just a fluke of timing, but we think she would be pleased, and it may be the start of a tradition.)

To cap off the week, a dog with a collar but no tags came wandering through, and massacred all but one of the chickens.  After the welcome he received on a return visit this morning, I'll be surprised if he comes back again.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Playing on the farm.

Another month gone.  The weather turned and we finally dipped below the 90s, making the farm feel like a crisp, clear, new england paradise.  

Projects continued, but with a sense of pleasure and pace that was lacking in the slog through the summer heat.

The new chicken / cow / goat / sheep shed.   

Several brush piles from last fall were dry enough to burn after the two months of blazing heat and no rain.   

The number of farm animals is up, which has necessitated many trips to the feed store and the beginning of the fencing project to get them into their long term pastures.

My little helpers.  Caspian tags along with me each afternoon until the girls get home from school and work.  The other day he  asked his mother if she was proud of the pretty fences he was building with his daddy.  

Form for the post that will hold up the front gate.

Voila.  That post is 350 lbs+, and even with the tractor, a bear to wrestle into the hole.  It gives a pleasant sense of solidity to the entrance though, and will hold up that 200 lb gate with ease.  (Gate was on the property in a different spot.)

The pigs have moved around a lot, and are now in their permanent pasture.  This moveable electric fence is great, until they figure out how to short it with furrows of dirt they push up with their noses, then sneak under.  After a solid week of having pigs trot up to me wherever I was working, I took a few days to knock out their high security pen.  

The only feature in the new iPhone software I've found a use for, the panoramic picture.  This is the new pig run, over an acre running down the valley.

A family trip to Grenada for dinner in the street with a live band featuring our good friend Kevin Guyer.  The music was great, the food was not. 

They make everything less about the destination, and more about the journey.  Some days I'm more conscious of how lucky I am to be hindered in this way.

Family walk for snow cones, last of the season. 

The first section of the fencing that will eventually cut the property into three pastures.  There's been a learning curve on this project, for several reasons.  First, I've never put up high tensile fence before, and it requires very strong corner bracing to deal with the 200 lbs of tension on each of six wires I'm running.  Second, I'm building these to last the rest of my life, and to be pretty.  Rather than H braces at the corners, I'm using the remaining sections of steel wheels to make it look awesome.  And it does.  But each of those sections weights between 200 and 400 lbs, and there's no room for error on post spacing when putting these in.  Also, the ground was rock hard after a two month drought, making post hole digging a challenge at the outset.  Third, or fifth, I am putting gates everywhere to accommodate the many routes we like to walk, and that adds a pair of braces and a gate that would otherwise not be necessary.

All that griping aside, this last week has been pleasantly cool in the mornings, and all the heavy lifting is complete.  Running the last of the wire tomorrow and Monday, and the cows will be contained away from the house, and the fences, if I do say so myself, look awesome.

For our 8 year anniversary, Alexe and I took Caspian fishing.  This is how he preps for any trip away from home: packing his snacks.

Not much luck, but we had fun with our little boy.  And talking about how we never would have predicted we'd be standing side by side, in our matching Hunter boots, in a muddy river in Mississippi, happy as can be.

We drove out to Tupelo for dinner and a movie that evening, sans children.  Alexe, author and grocer, doing one of her favorite things: exploring another small market.

These cows have been more work than I ever would have expected.  We've managed to keep the sickly one alive. She looks horrible, is half the size of the other female who was born within a day of her, but she's eating and drinking plenty on her own.  Hopefully her weight will start picking up soon.  (They are nursing on each other's ears, something they do during bottle feedings to vent their jealousy of whoever is being fed in the moment.) 

My little helpers, trailing behind the tractor as we harvest fence posts.  (Yes, they're holding hands, all on their own.  Despite what seems like endless bickering, they are best friends.) We've done a number on the cedar tree population in our woods, but didn't have to buy any of the wooden posts.

Art crawl, our favorite event in Water Valley.  The kids came on half the walk with us, then parked at a friend's house for the later part of the evening.

We picked them up when we were through, then wondering why the main street was closed down, parked and walked up the street to catch the fashion show featuring dresses by Julia Ray.  They moved it out of Bozart's gallery this year, and into the middle of the street.  

My little Tom Sawyer.

The chestnut trees were very productive this year, and Caspian has been obsessed with collecting these shiny nuts.  For a week he spent easily half an hour each day filling up bowls and buckets, either with me, or happily by himself while I worked nearby.  Alexe bought several pounds from him to sell at the BTC, which made him very proud.  (We roasted a few, and found that nobody likes chestnuts, so the pigs are getting them.)

One of countless snack times.  

A family trip to our favorite milk shake and ice cream stand in Grenada.  The girls having an impromptu dance party to the music being piped to the sidewalk.  

Doing the dishes, watching Top Gear.  The kids helping with one of those activities.

View from a booth in the BTC, while having breakfast with the kids.  Alexe hard at work making her produce pretty.  The new hot menu has begun at the BTC, with Dixie cranking up the new stove and putting out some amazing new things.  I've tried the burger (amazing,) the french dip sandwich (amazing,) and one of the plate lunches that are featured Wed. - Fri. each week.  The lines have lengthened, and I'm going to have to find more seating.

These kids are self starters.  This lemonade stand appeared while I was in the workshop.

Hard to see in this picture, but halfway up the hill is a sick jersey calf and a pit bull curled up together. 

Soccer continues.  Caspian was dominating his 3-4 age group, so I pulled him up to Annaliese's team, much to the relief of all the parents watching the younger age group games.  They were a little tired of watching Caspian score around their kids.  While he doesn't get to score quite as much, he and Annaliese are both doing very well. 

Annaliese even snaps pictures while sitting on the sidelines. I'm finding all sorts of patience reserves trying to keep the kids on their feet, facing the ball, and sometimes even chasing and kicking it.  

The helpers.  On this day they learned how to push dirt in around a post while I packed it down with a ram rod, keeping their fingers and toes clear during the packing.  It was surprisingly helpful, and in between post settings they played king of the post and/or had a healthy dirt clod war going.

Capsian came home from school and insisted on making a sign for the store.  He sat right down and knocked it out.

This just about melted Alexe.  It's hanging on the wall above the play house in the store, installed by Caspian himself. And looking at this picture I'm reminded we had a father-son hair cut date at the local hair cutter-y.  We're out of barbers in this town, but he and I agreed we weren't going to a stylist.

How lucky am I?

This rock star turned 31 on Weds., and flew out that morning to NY to meet with her editor, marketing team, and take half a dozen meetings with various magazines to promote her and Dixie's book, due out in March.  (It's available on Amazon as a pre-order.)  We're waiting for her to get home this afternoon.  Birthday cake is frosted, and the kids have decorated the kitchen in preparation for a belated birthday party.

The kids spent an afternoon and evening coloring together.

Prepping Alexe's garden for the fall.

Installing the stairs for the back porch.  These will be bricked at some point in the future, but for right now it's nice to have a comfortable exit from the porch.

Nothing being simple, (and those concrete steps and pad were not light or simple to install,) the screen door and final pieces of railing had to go in immediately to prevent the dogs from getting on the porch and gnawing on everything.

We went shopping for Alexe's birthday present, and though we didn't find any treasures here this day, the kids always love visiting Deedee's. 

Hay delivered for the winter, with several bales of mulch hay to cover the garden.  Some late night bow practice with a friend taught me that a compound bow will drive an arrow into the heart of one of these bales, and it takes a long time to dig them out.

This was meant to capture the front gate, trenches dug in preparation for the new hedges Alexe is planting, and the lovely fence that runs alongside the driveway.  The panoramic doesn't really capture it.