I’m a human being, but I look like I reek

By on Jul 10, 2016 in Big Dummy | 0 comments

Hello, Life, you magnificent wonder, bleating illustration of universal mysteries. The Native and I spent some minutes this morning trying to dislodge a baseball-sized mound of feces from the week-old undercarriage of this little black goat. Farming is sexy. And my nasal passages may never be the same.

I remember that rusty car, like it was yesterday

By on Jan 10, 2016 in Hyperbolics | 1 comment

There was a moment, years ago, when upon receiving the details of a new website project, I was told by the client at the time “yea, I could probably figure this out for myself, but I’m too creative for this.” It was neither the first nor last time I would seethe at a client for this very indiscretion, but it was one of the most brazen instances of it. For anyone with eyes cracked even the slightest might realize that the potential for creativity, and elegance, and substance, is all over the damned place. (But seriously, if you don’t understand what’s creative about writing code, you have absolutely no business doing so.) But this summer, when untangling wayward goats from impossibly tangled net fencing threatening to electrocute all of us, or when herding escaping pigs in the middle of the night while our daughter cried in the car, or when fighting the mama goat for milk, only to have her kick the bucket over after she has finally given out enough quarts to get the carpal tunnel fired up, or when breaking up fights between the awful (non-debudded) goats and the even more awful (uselessly neutered) dog, when setting fences and troubleshooting electrical issues and finding myself knee-deep in shit for hours at a time, in my most pitiful moments, all I could think was some variant of “I’m too creative for this,” but usually delivered in my inner monologue a little less haughtily, something like “this just isn’t the life for me.” And it isn’t. I derive no pleasure from the act of farming, don’t consider it a noble cause, and I don’t revel in any notion of a “simpler life” that seems to fill back-to-the-land types with peace. And while I’m glad my daughter is eating food removed from the food supply, I think she’d be just as happy with vegetables. Vegetables don’t knock you down into their own shit when you try and save them from themselves. This was all true until two weeks ago, when I became the recipient of an ice cream making attachment for my KitchenAid. Because it effectively means I can make this every day. Do you know how impossible it is to hate farming when it turns into ice cream? If you look closely at this recipe, I have everything i need right here on the farm. Except chickens. Goddammit. I’m too creative for...

It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker

By on Jun 8, 2015 in Big Dummy | 2 comments

We expanded the farm by about 20,000 members a couple of days ago, figuring there’s no use in growing our own vegetables and raising our own livestock if we can’t sweeten the deal ourselves as well.  The idea of helping to save honeybee populations appeals to me almost as much as the idea of helping to germinate my massive garden.  Which appeals to me nearly as much as the eventual sweet stuff. That said, I hemmed over the decision for honeybees no small amount, as I have a long and moribund family history involving allergies and stinging insects, but when I expressed my concerns to my doctor, she prescribed me an epi pen and essentially told me to live a little, and given that her very job is not to kill me, I figured with her blessing I’d be golden.  A visit to friends with a hive sealed the deal: beekeepers are enthusiastic about their hobby. I bought a nuc from a local apiary, which transfers the colony on-site to a stapled and screened-up hive body, a godsend for a beginner.  The beekeeping friend owns a pickup truck, far smarter for transport than the passenger seat, and was eager to accompany me.  Easy. Between our spotless, still-creased suits and my gleaming white hive body, there’s no way we stood out as noobs, but the fat that I couldn’t work the zipper attaching my veil to my suit might have given us away.  While standing in a field of hundreds of nucleus hives at 18:00, just as the bees were coming home for the day, I channeled the hundreds of Youtube beekeepers and assiduously adopted their zen levels of comfort, figuring if I kept chill, it wouldn’t be a problem.  Zippers were for noobs. Do you know about the rule of writing that says that one mustn’t mention something not being a problem unless it becomes a big problem? It was our turn at last to load my hive.  The apiary manager removed the lid from a nearby nuc colony, and immediately declared “this isn’t the one for you.  This colony doesn’t have a queen.” Apparently my vision of a leaderless society does not gibe well with that of bees.  These girls were pissed off, aggressive, shiftless, just flying around stripper-brawl-style looking for someone to punch in the face. Or, barring that, someone to sting in the back of the neck.  And my veil was unzipped.  So that person was me. As it happens, my allergy to stinging insects isn’t expressed nearly as badly by honeybees as it does with others, which is good to learn before bringing the bees home, and while in the company of a nurse.  So we moved out of the field, figured out the damned zipper, and returned. The apiarist removed the lid from another hive.  It was okay, but nothing special. On the third hive, the bees basically greeted us with a glass of bourbon and a sexyfunk Barry White dance.  The apiarist transferred the frames gently, but really he could’ve launched them from a canon and they wouldn’t have broken their cool.  It had the works:  a nice, full pattern of capped brood.  Egg cells.  Uncapped honey.  Bees everywhere assiduously doing their work.  And when he got to the fourth frame, there she was. I thought beekeepers were a little bit nuts when talking about how glorious and wondrous their queen is.  Then I saw mine and almost couldn’t suppress the urge to give her a smooch.  And my cool was already blown thanks to the veil incident, so I made no attempt to mask my excitement at seeing her. The rest was uneventful; we brought them home, installed them in their new site, and I’ve kept an eye on them from a distance for the nearly two days since.  There’s activity at the hive; I’m not sure how much is normal.  But here we are.  Now with bees. There’s a lot of learning ahead of...


By on May 30, 2015 in Hyperbolics | 1 comment

Our efforts to breed the goat were somewhat more successful than our attempt to impregnate the sow, as evidenced by the two insensate little white lumps on the floor of the goat hutch early last Thursday morning.  I’d been checking her for days – she was a first-time mother, and I wanted to be around to perform any required acts of caprine midwifery, remind her to breathe, feed her ice chips, or maybe just faint.  But elas, very early on a seasonably arctic morning, I skirted down to her hutch and there they were. My first instinct was to let them care for things their way— this is what all the books say, after all, that 90% of the time, human intervention isn’t needed, that they know what to do, instinctively, that We the People are quite adept at getting in the way more than anything.  But a little more reading suggested that these kids should have been up and eating, that first-time teenage mothers on cold cold nights sometimes don’t know what they’re doing at all, that if I didn’t interfere, these helpless lumps would be lifeless lumps soon enough. So we intervened, creating the goat equivalent of an NICU, tending to them every few hours to ensure they stayed warm enough (indoor barn with heat lamp), that they developed muscular strength (standing them up, waiting for them to fall down, standing up, waiting for them to fall down, standing them up, WAS THAT A STEP?!), and most importantly, of course, trying to get sustenance into them. For three days (and as we hosted a group of twenty for a weekend-long party at the Hollow), we attempted bottles, we held them to the udder and milked the mother directly into their mouths, we milked off the engorged mother and spilled most of the contents, when we weren’t being shat on.  And so it went, until slowly, the combination of getting up and putting oneself on a teat and sucking and detaching and eventually frolicking just clicked in them. And now, at 8 days old, we have prancing, playful, goofy, clumsy baby goats.  Goat farming achievement unlocked. (Bonus: the mama has great tits.) Behold! Goat...

Nothin’ but the dog in me

By on May 9, 2015 in Big Dummy | 1 comment

I wasn’t in the market for a new dog, not yet.  Mud Season was high upon us, and I wasn’t quite finished being sad for my dearly departed sheepdog.  But the Squirrel hadn’t stopped talking about the dog, and definitely hadn’t stopped loving up any and every dog we happened upon, nor had she stopped pretending to be a dog at every other minute. So, a dog in need came up, and we, innkeepers of strays and house of crazy, brought him into our fray.  He’s older than a new puppy (read: he knows where to do his business), but too young to be of much use (read: in the way of everything, chewing anything in his path, flopping in gardens, terrorizing cats).  But the Squirrel loves him in the devoted and unconditional way of hers.  My last month’s days have gone like this: — Squirrel goes to Dog, throws her arms around his head to give him a hug. — Dog sees this as invitation to play. — They wrestle until The Squirrel gets knocked over, stepped on, scratched, or otherwise roughed-up.— Squirrel cries that The Dog pushed her over, stepper on her, scratched her, or otherwise roughed her up.— I yell at The Dog.— The Squirrel yells at me for yelling at The Dog, expresses her undying love for The Dog, and throws her arms around his neck.Repeat 200 times per hour. Which means that I’ve spent the past month rating the decision to get this dog among my life’s bad decisions, and finding it easily cracking the Top 10, which is impressive because my Bad Decisions List is not exactly short. And then today, The Squirrel and I were in the garden when from the vicinity of the river, The Dog began yelping, then whining, then going silent, then yelping again with more intensity.  And in an unexpected heart-grew-three-sizes moment, my first thought wasn’t to disparage the dog for being a little wanting in the brains department, but to jump to his rescue.  I grabbed the Squirrel, hopped the barbed wire fence, and dove through the bramble to the riverside.  I couldn’t spot him at all, but he answered when I called, with endless scared yelps. I put the Squirrel on my shoulders and got into the river, wading around trying to figure out where the sound was bouncing, but still couldn’t find him.  Panicked now that I’d have to deal with a second dead dog in less than a year, and one that the Squirrel had clearly already bonded with, we forded the river, which was what one might expect from a river still cold with runoff, where we had a better vantage and a rocky beach.  And suddenly, there he was, happily bounding over to us.   Whatever he had been stuck on had simply found itself unstuck as soon as he was called in a different direction. And I, freezing and anxious and with confused Squirrel, I let him jump upon me with all his freezing wet idiotic being, and I patted him and made sure he was okay. Rest assured, I’m back to perpetual annoyance with him. I wouldn’t want this moment to otherwise soften my...

You can shine all the buttons on your green shirt

By on Apr 21, 2015 in Look at My Big Garden | 1 comment

I caved and bought a hoop house, and not a modest one.  I could live inside it.  I have, in fact, lived in smaller spaces, as has been well documented on this very web site.  Here’s a general schedule of our first few days with it: Friday:  assemble hoop house. Saturday morning:  eagerly move scrawny, desperately sun-searching seedlings into hoop house.  Install thermometer and hose.  Watch hourly and document temperature change as the seedling soil ruptures and the new leaves pop open in time-lapse fashion.  Watch the temperature reach triple digits and high-five melon seedlings.  This will be our year. Saturday night:  haul everything back in, because of course in my excitement I might also have planted a hundred or so new seeds, and because it still gets down around freezing at night, even in the hoop house. Sunday morning:  move newly invigorated seedlings back into hoop house.  Meticulously arrange contents of hoop house in a way that the contents of any of my living quarters have never seen.  Watch again as the temperature reaches degrees that would make any Vermont-born thermometer melt, while the seedlings lap it up. Sunday evening: again dash everything inside, where flats and treys now cover the freezers, the tables, the appliances, the drum set, and the squirrel’s bed. Monday morning:  wake up to snow. Greenhouse maxes out at 45 degrees.  Curse everything.  Seedlings shake their fists at the skies. In any event, I can’t tell if this means I’ve become a yuppie or I’ve really committed to growing vegetables.  Possibly both.  Possibly, if I keep up this attitude, I’ll end up living in there.  Which would be okay, given how nicely organized things are...

Dirt in my toes, dirt up my nose, I’m a perfect curse to pest control

By on Mar 27, 2015 in Hyperbolics | 1 comment

When we last left off, we’d sent our Sweetie Pig to go visit the boar up the hill for some good grownup fun, only to discover that she hadn’t quite let down her hair enough to get comfortable with the idea. The ensuing slapstick is already well-documented. We got a call some weeks ago:  The Boar Had Died, leaving Sweetie Pig a virgin still.  The story of the boar’s death is for another medium, perhaps, or a more bourbon-soaked post at a later date, but the point was: Sweetie Pig had not even been immaculately conceived, it was a little late in the year to consider a backup plan, so she’s going to hang out with us for some time, and we’ll have sleepovers, and braid each others’ hairs, and talk about boys and what to do with them.  Maybe we’ll practice on pillows together, now that we have time. Of course, now that she’s not happily roaming fresh pasture all day, she’s ballooned to about twice the size, and needed to stop for frequent naps in the snowbank on the trip back down the hill.  Some day her prince will...

There’s a party up there all the time, and they’ll party until they drop.

By on Jan 30, 2015 in Hyperbolics | 1 comment

This year’s Pig Slaughter came and went, and was something less of a redneck riot than last time.    Notably, though, in the interest of slowly extricating ourselves from the hallowed land of cash capital, we kept alive a breeding sow, and sent her up the hill to the lady farmer neighbor with a passel of stiffied boars. We’d kept this particular sow because she was so wonderfully even-tempered; The Native had christened her Sweetie, and she was the one of the bunch of seven who could be pat, and who wouldn’t try and eat you on sight. But maybe seeing your friends murdered, plucked one by one over the course of two days, then being spirited away up a country road in a four-wheeler’s trailer and dropped in a muddy pen with a boar several times your size who immediately smells your heat and responds accordingly… maybe this is more than the porcine mind can bear. So if you were Sweetie Pig, what would you do?  If you said “I would jump over the fence of the strange pen and rapist pig, bowl over any persons in my way, and make a break for it,” you would be correct.  And if you were my Native, and you said “I would chase her down and gently talk her down, and coax her back to the safety of the barn,” you would also be right.  And if you were the neighbor, you might follow them into the barn, in order to make a plan for what comes next. And if you were the neighbor’s eager twelve-year-old son, and you were really jazzed at being part of a farm circus, you might enter that barn behind them all.  Naturally. And if you were Sweetie Pig, you might see the opening where the boy didn’t close the door behind him, and you might make a bolt for it AGAIN, AGAIN knocking over the neighbor and jostling the boy, who in an effort to get his footing steps on the ponytail of his mother, the lady farmer.  And if you were the lady farmer, pinned to the ground by the foot of your son on your hair, the string of words that emanated from your mouth at this moment is the stuff of legend, the stuff that might parthenogenetically bestow nature’s blessing on our Sweetie Pig.  Or so we might hope. Sweetie Pig was gently wrangled back into the barn, where she has stayed.  All attempts to introduce her to the lady farmer’s boars have resulted in similar circus acts, and whenever we inquire as to her status, the lady farmer neighbor grumbles back:  she’s a bad pig!  Rotten and spoiled!  She always jumps over the fence and has taught my pigs how!  Very high voltage fencing has been acquired.  We are assured there will be a pregnant pig in our future. For the time being, Sweetie Pig is still holding out, ladylike.  Stay tuned for an...