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Posted 8/26/2011 6:59pm by Jeanette Wilson.

While we hurried off to market last Saturday, one of the donkeys - our jenny named Lou, was busy preparing to surprise us when we got home.  


She had spent all summer keeping us wondering if she was indeed expecting.  Her pasture-mate, Misty, had given birth to Junior, a jack, back in the spring and we sure hoped Lou would give birth too.  But the hot days drug on and she would hang out by the barn or just graze, and we couldn't be sure what was up.  Well, looks like she was able to keep a secret only so long - so we came home to see this little beauty.  And Lou is making a fine mother for little Lucy.  



Posted 8/5/2011 5:47pm by Jeanette Wilson.

We are sweating it out with the rest of the nation right now as we move into our final month of summer.


Days start as soon as we can see to do anything to try to get ahead of the humidity-heat combo that seems to build from about 9 am on to peak in late day.  Its easy to get lethargic and we keep telling each other to drink plenty of water.  But just when you aren't expecting it - something will happen to wake you up.  Today was like that.  

I started cutting some flowers early, then headed to start packing meat coolers for tomorrow's market.  Frank fed everything early.  Garrett started by picking tomatoes and moved on to other things.  At about two oclock I was taking some young friends to see the two-day-old chicks in the little brooder house.  We stepped inside the low-roofed little barn and they were anxious to hold a chick.  

We all got into the pen, and I was explaining how to hold them gently with two hands.  Suddenly, I heard a thud, saw something black, and thought for a minute that I had knocked something loose connected to the brooder lights.  Maybe an extension cord.  Then it moved.  My heart hit warp speed, and I told the kids to "let's take those chicks right outside.  Come on, don't worry."  Inside I was feeling like "run for your lives!"  Just kidding, but I did have the presence of mind to see if that invader had any telltale lumps meaning he had already swallowed one of the biddies.  


Seeing none, we did take our chicks outside and called for Garrett who was picking blueberries accross the hill.  He came and managed to run off the snake, but that will just mean we will face it again.  (Technically, that means Frank, Garrett, or anybody but me will, I hope.)


After that excitement, we decided to pick a blueberry ourselves, and sample my Dads grapes.  Everyone seemed to like that.  They still wanted to see  the barn, though, so we loaded up and went down the hill.  Once there, both kids were out of the car like a flash and running toward the open barn doors.  I said something like, "watch out, remember there could be a snake" at which point the oldest looked to his right while racing in, and said well, there is a skunk!"  


Now my kids say I can smell danger a mile away - but I certainly knew we were getting pretty close to a gigantic smell.  We all took a peek and fled, leaving skunk managment to Anthony and Garrett.  So much for an ordinary day - what are those anyway?

Posted 7/8/2011 7:18pm by Jeanette Wilson.

What would happen if someone asked to follow you around and film what it is you do each day (or have you do it) for the rest of the summer and fall?  Actually, someone asked during my childhood, and my parents - really my Mom - just politely said - No thanks.  Translation - NO WAY!  Mom was a tad busy already working full-time off the farm, and all her "spare" time went to caring for the old and young of us on the farm.

This year, someone new came and asked almost the same thing of me.  And with some convincing, I said ok.  Why?  Probably because I am usually looking at the glass as half full, at least at first.  But also because the point was to let folks get a little look at life on our and several other small farms as we finish this growing season.  Since less than 1% of families do any form of agriculture production, it is not that easy to experience these activities anymore.  Children have a hard time comprehending where food is really coming from - some adults do too.

The folks producing this have a website  We don't know how all this will turn out, but we are adding this to our list of adventures this year.  As if farming isn't enough.





Posted 6/10/2011 8:29pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Just a quick shot of some valuable farm workers here.  They may seem pretty tame, but try coming around in a coyote outfit - or a stray dog - and you will see some fancy footwork, be deafened by some braying, and most likely hurry back from whence you came.  The little guy on the left is really new.

Posted 4/30/2011 1:23pm by Jeanette Wilson.

What year was it that Spring Break became a right?  or Rite?  If it was announced during my childhood springs, we would have missed it while getting the tobacco and tomatoes in the ground.  Or just maybe my folks heard about it, and decided it was best all the way around that they keep that info to themselves. 


When I was a young wife, married to a young farmer to which every year seemed the "most important", it was hard to get him away at all in the spring.  His body might leave, but his mind stayed behind, thinking of all that was urgent.  Finally, other folks seem to be doing what we had to do, and are spending their time just at home - the economy forcing them to be creative and enjoy closer sorts of fun.  So in the spirit of the overused word - "Staycation" - here is how we passed a recent week.


Anthony worked on his tan.  Turns out that if you are really into that sort of thing, you can get a decent golden glow by taking care of the mowing and weedwhacking between the garden rows.  Add some cool shades and perhaps some music - lose the button-up shirt - and before you know it, you too have the look of a beach-goer.  (That one part is for men only: the girls here tan elsewhere - and sometimes the guys keep the shirt on to get a more farmer-friendly tan.)

Frank saw every sunrise and sunset!  Both early and late he made his ridgetop rounds and as it happened, every time someone needed a bucket of feed or water, the sun was coming or going.  

Shucks, who needs to wander down to the surf to take that in? And you can kinda combine it with a workout walking up and down hills.

Garrett, our vegetable grower, mostly took it easy.  As in, he easily finished planting the greens and potatoes, leeks, and even eagerly put out a few tomatoes.  Then all the guys shared the joy of putting down the plastic mulch in the sections that needed it.  At least it "looked easy" when one drove by and it was over.


As for me, I did a lot of shopping.  It takes someone to hunt and gather one more roll of this, box of that, and bundle of whatchamacallits, along with a few more bean seeds, plant food, and so on.  You can tell by looking that I don't get to the mall often, partly by choice, but partly because I don't want to make another run into town.  

I guess now that its past, I can see why people are more worn out after Spring Break than when it started.  

Posted 4/8/2011 7:21pm by Jeanette Wilson.

If you grow up here, it may come as a shock to find that the rest of the world thinks we sound....different.  Leaving home allowed me to meet people who sounded differently to my ears as well. Even word meanings changed.  

I met the most wonderful farm kids from Eastern North Carolina (that's Down East to them), who used terms like "carry" differently than my family.  For us, that meant to lift something up into your arms and take it with you.  They used it as in - "We carried Momma to the store, and then carried her to see her sister".  

Since I never witnessed anyone physically toting any Grannies into the grocery or elsewhere, I realized they meant what I said when I "took" someone somewhere.  So in that spirit, this week we carried some steers to the "processor".  

In today's society, it sounds better to refer to meats as being processed.  And the folks who do that for us, take real care to handle it as well as can be achieved.  So I can look forward to having ground beef and all the even more valued cuts.  As the demand has grown, I can't believe I ran out of simple ground beef! 

But more and more families are tightening their belts at the same time as they commit to buying from farmers they know who use thoughtful methods for raising their meat animals.  That means so much!!

I, too, try to keep the money I spend circulating through hands in our area.  And we love being a part of the few folks who are growing food to feed neighbors who do all the other jobs.  So this weekend, we are taking part in a day at the WNC Farmers Market off Brevard Road which features a chance to meet local farmers.  It's a start at getting more and more used to knowing who really grew something you ate.  

Oh, I will still be carrying home some peanuts and sweet potatoes when I go visit family down east, and I will be learning about making soup with a chicken's foot from new friends who came from "up north",

but I'll have plenty to eat all summer from things we grow right here.  (pronounced "rite heeyar")

Posted 4/1/2011 6:16pm by Jeanette Wilson.

What is a tried and true way to let someone know you like them?  Candy? Flowers? Notes, jewelry, homecooked meals?  Songs written just for the beloved?  But what about that old favorite...the henhouse?!


Yes, I know that last one is a little out of the ordinary.  Its just that if you know who you are dealing with, sometimes you have to adjust your idea of the perfect gift.  And Frank knows enough to tell what I really want by now.  

And he is gifted enough to make just about anything!  So this week, we transported the newest, most custom-built henhouse down the mountain from where he built it, to the lower hayfield where it will move each week, hens inside, to fresh pasture when they get up the next morning.  I was tickled to see the design, all his, including skylight panels to make sure they get long days, and roosts made from thin trees to help them feel comfortable all night. But the coolest thing is the little sliding doors into each nest so I can gather eggs (or any of us who want the ultra-fresh egg) from the outside!  As one who has made many a trip to the henhouse, I love this feature! 

Now Frank has deep roots in construction, and this was no real big deal - except for the care it involved. I am not sure he thought I even needed more laying hens.  Both of us have seen the benefits to our pastures from the broiler chickens, so that was my edge I think.  

Today, I got to get my new hens and move them in.  I think I speak for them when I say they LOVED their new digs.  Shouldn't be but a few weeks before they show their gratitiude on a daily basis.  

Now there's only a couple more things I can think of on my list of wants for the farm.  One of them gives milk.  And I have experience in taking care of them already.  I am afraid that Frank doesn't think I need that gift either. Anybody remember which anniversary is the one for giving a Jersey? We are bound to be getting close to that one.

Gotta go..... I owe someone a home-cooked meal.  

Posted 3/11/2011 8:07pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Have you ever gotten the opportunity to head out of town and found when you got there that you had forgotten something from home and wished you hadn't?  I guess we all have.  And we vow not to make that mistake again!

Last week, I got the call to come for a visit to dear loved ones and headed out in a rush.  I called on our delivery customers as early as decent, then grabbed my bags and a cooler with beef to share, and hit the road.  I sped along pleased that I would have roast for my mother-in-law and daughter, jerky for my son-in-law, and stew meat and ground beef for them all.  It's a simple thrill, but they love having stuff from home on their tables.  

When I arrived, part of my mission was to cook and keep things going, so that meant a trip to the store for anything I was missing.  Of all things, I needed a chicken.  Me - the one who has raised all her own for the last three years - had to find the makings for some comfort food.  We debated the merits of close-by grocery stores.  I mentioned one, and everyone thought it was too expensive overall.  Others were closer, etc.  But I stuck with my choice and made my way to an upscale meat counter.  Not that money is no object, mind you, but this is for my LOVED ones!  

I spotted some big fresh broilers and inquired as to where they were grown.  The nice man gave me a name, and I believed that it was close by.  He assured me that they were "natural".  That was the best I could do.  I took big bird home and cooked him and covered the meat with a buttermilk crust that makes almost any fowl rise to a special level.  But I missed our chicken.  Right now, we are one week away from starting our processing for this year.  


I used to kind of dread it.  Its not for the faint of heart until you get the hang of it.  It definitely helps to have a sense that it is important work -  the love of food production that makes you take pride in a job well done.  All the women in my family two generations back would have found this to be an appropriate use of their time, and one job necessary on the way to a wonderful meal for family.  My dad can remember as a boy keeping an eye on young roosters wondering if they would ever get to the size his mom would decide was ready to fry!


So every day either Frank, or Garrett or one of the Wilson boys has to feed.  Pens get moved to fresh grass which is getting greener every day.   I am double checking supplies.  And early one morning we will start again for this year.  These chickens will be processed with individual attention and packed up to take to customers and put in our freezer.  We'll do this every week until the end of summer.  

And when I head out of town again - you better believe this Grandma will be packing some poultry!

Posted 2/19/2011 11:22am by Jeanette Wilson.

What keeps people awake at night?  Barking dogs come to mind.  Neighbors who either fuss or party.  

Stress.  Hunger.  Crop rotations.  

That last one is not that common, but happens occasionally to farmers.  I try to think of this aspect of farming in terms of a puzzle.  In my mind, I am shifting crops like one of those little toys that children have with tiles that slide up and down, back and forth, until the numbers are in order or the picture is correct.  (To be honest, I don't really enjoy puzzles for the sake of passing the time, but I like ones which work your mind and accomplish something.) 

So in the middle of the night when sleep won't come, there I am, staring at the ceiling trying to recall where the tomatoes have been the last two years, and the cabbage, and the corn.  Throw in carrots and other root crops, potatoes (a close relative to tomatoes) and beans.  Get up above 30 crops, with different varieties and your eyes are wide awake!  The puzzle begins to look more like a Rubik's cube.

So why do it?  What's the big deal?  Just get a garden graph, plan it once for all, and let it be settled.

Would that it worked that way!  Farmers have to rotate crops if they want to make it more than a very few years and not ruin their soil and face an onslaught of disease and pests.  Planting the same family of crops in the same spot takes all the nutrients out of that patch of soil that are required by that plant. Bugs, fungi, etc move in to attack. ( It is really helpful to them if you will leave the same crop there year after year.  They can overwinter in the ground and get a very early start to consume your potatoes, beans, cabbage, you name it. ) Better to keep them guessing where it will be.  


About the time I get things figured out, I face one of two things: get up and write it down, or go back to sleep.   Now my head is exhausted!  I only hope I can remember what I figured out the next morning.

Well, what if we started out in the south field with lettuce early, then followed that with some winter squash in June??  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.



Posted 1/24/2011 7:21am by Jeanette Wilson.

Every year, though we enjoy delicious naturally grown meats and vegetables all year, around early January we seem to decide to whip ourselves into better shape.  Instead of joining the gym, which we still don't have time to do in the winter, we just comfort our minds with the idea of all the ways we have around the farm to get some exercise.  I decided to list a few of our favorite farmer shapeup routines.

  1. The Henhouse High-Step - consists of walking back and forth through the snow carrying water buckets, egg baskets, kitchen and greenhouse fresh greens, and hay for nests.  Attire required is knee-high boots, coat, gloves.  Prepare to have a lively conversation with restless hens upon entering as they are frustrated with the snow too, and don't hesitate to let it out. Don't try to use the cell phone unless you want to include a bunch of clucking in the background.  Note - if the ground freezes and heaves up outside the henhouse door, you will have to really suck in that middle to get inside until it thaws.  Don't ask me how I know.
  2. John Deere elliptical  - consists of getting on and off the tractor to open gates, close gates, load feed buckets,  dump out feed buckets, fix frozen water faucets, repair busted hay feeders, and hook and unhook the scrape blade.  You can really up the heart rate by trying this on icy ground or by forgetting that extra layer of long undies.  
  3. Greenhouse rocking chairs - Reminiscent of a little league exercise my brother's pee wee football team did.  Must be in the greenhouse not to look silly.  Start from standing up and bend from the waist and then squat down with arms outstretched.  Reach out and cut some spinach, bring arms back and put spinach in basket, straighten back and stand up.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.Repeat until you don't want to ever see spinach again.  
  4. Compost toner - consists of sticking a fork into a decaying pile of organic matter and lifting and turning it over.  Very good for your spring soil.  Also very good for your torso area.  Attire that is not helpful includes tight pants, and skimpy workout tops.  Better to just be sure to wear a back brace.  Better now than later. Nothing ruins a fabulously fit image faster than going stooped over for a week holding your back.  

Truthfully, we may not show up in the spring with any muscle parts looking like steel, even though we do all these exercises in cold weather.  I am not sure why it is that way.  Sometimes I wonder if it has to do with the fact that after you work like that nothing looks as good at supper as an extra hot buttered biscuit!