Posts Tagged ‘grits’

Happy Halloween! The final harvest is upon us. We woke to our first frost this morning, glad to cross picking peppers off our list of things to do. Brad’s milling corn, in red, white, and yellow, and his red and yellow popcorn fill bins, dump trucks and combines, thousands of gleaming pounds of kernels waiting. Hay bales stacked three tall fill the hay barn, calves graze apart from their mamas, and mamas graze fresh fields not yet worn down from their plodding hoofsteps, gestating.

playing in the corn bay

I used to think that all farms always have All The Things that a farm might produce, but in truth this is our first year growing pumpkins of the variety and quantity that I have always coveted. Thanks to the squash bugs our plants produced mere fractions of what we expected from all these varieties, but we did grow several large Lumina pumpkins, and this makes me happy. As none of our Howden pumpkins (the standard “jack-o-lantern” type) made so much as one, all our lanterns this year we carved from Luminas:

This pumpkin has white skin and pale flesh, with size comparable to a typical jack-o-lantern, perhaps rounder, and smoother. We also have a smattering of pie pumpkins.

Lumina pumpkin, carved

pie pumpkins and Luminas


Now that frost has struck we can stop wondering what else we’re going to get from the field. Winter wheat now waits in the wings for another rain to ready the fields for planting. Almost back into calving season…


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Julia Child rose, very fragrant and a prolific bloomer

May is already upon us, and the fertility of earth swells forth everywhere. Calico blankets of white clover, buttercup and hop clover soften field road edges, their honey-like fragrance enticing local pollinators. Spiky wands of milk thistle wave their pink poufs high above the grasses they punctuate. The heifers have been inseminated and the bulls bellow and whistle, claiming their respective herds. Spreaders trundled back and forth all through April, feeding the soil that feeds the grass that feeds the cows, and we’ve baled the first field of hay from this year’s growth. Nightshades and peppers grow strong in the hoop house, and corn planting has begun, with the planters now resting mid-field, awaiting the next rain.

when there's rain...

This has been a month of tragedies and triumphs. My first order of chicks got lost in the mail, arriving a few days too late and putting a damper on everyone’s expectations. The unceremonious roadside disposal of thirty-five dead chicks reminded me of the indifference of experience. I was raised to not spend much time grieving over animals; I wonder if I am too cold, too detached. It is what is, however, and arguing with reality wastes precious time and energy; so, onward. The hatchery sent me a replacement order the following week and while the survival rate was not stellar we now have two crested girls that we’ll keep for layers and twenty boys. (Apologies for their blurriness, they wouldn’t sit still for anything!)

"heavies" from McMurray Hatchery

In better news, Brad found one more calf in the field, at least two weeks old, born after the mamas and babies had been sorted into separate pastures for breeding. Thus we have one bull from this year’s birthings, a mother to identify and extra attention to pay in a few months when we’ll need to separate him from the others.

The calves nearest the house have a particular disregard for the electric fence, browsing the field roads and the yard many mornings:

just another pretty face

mmm, figs

in the clover (and perhaps the blackberry canes)

the grass is greener over here

My raised beds are built, filled, and planted; seeds sprout in flats, and we’ve begun preparing the field that will be the veggie patch. If all goes well (this is also the season of tractor repair as things break or malfunction periodically) Brad will put the sweet corn in the patch today, while I am once again headed for market this afternoon, with eggs, cornmeal, grits, and polenta. Happy Beltane!

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mama drinks, baby follows


Writing time has been hard to come by this week. Calves keep coming, two and three a day most days. Brad tagged the sixty-eighth one this morning. We had our first coyote victim a few days ago, a three-week-old calf, healthy and strong. The men loaded their guns, watched and waited. A family friend fired at one I spotted in the field behind the house; we hope he gut-shot it, but at such a distance we can’t be sure. Brad goes out after dark and searches, hopefully running off any that might be around. Another three-week-old calf was dead this morning, this one by the hay bale, with no observable injuries. It may have gotten trampled, or perhaps it simply died. The mama wanders the field, calling. She comes over to us at the fence when we walk past and follows us, bellowing, as if we might lead her to her calf. She is called “Lumpy” for her swollen face; the vet gave her a shot of antibiotic last October for her apparent infection, but too much calcification surrounds the mass and she isn’t improving, which may be somehow related to her calf’s demise. She may have to be culled. The harsh realities of herd management…

Virginia Willis ordered a hundred pounds of grits this week, so Brad will spend all day tomorrow milling. At least the weather has been decent, if a bit warm for the season. The field roads are still puddled and mucky; Steve (a friend of my father-in-law) worked on moving some gravel around with the skid loader this morning to smooth out some of the bigger potholes.

The frogs are loud and plentiful with such mild temperatures and wetness. So far it really hasn’t been a proper winter at all, even for Georgia. I wonder about crops: have the peaches and pecans gotten the cold they need? The apples? Will we get bitten by a late snowstorm after the blueberries have set flowers? What about the strawberries? So much vulnerability. Perhaps I am thin-skinned, but it irks me when I hear people joke about global warming. It seems to always be the same people who complain that their groceries aren’t cheap enough. Which way do you want it? Crops are our livelihood. If that doesn’t matter to you, perhaps you should stop eating.

froggy bog (highest water level; stays dry most of summer)

We’ve been diversifying our homeschool process over the past week. Although we are unschoolers, I was delighted to win a year’s worth of materials from Oak Meadow  and have been incorporating many of their ideas, particularly in keeping artistic materials more handy and using them myself. We will spend tomorrow at the Tellus Museum with other homeschoolers. The kids and I all are excited to see friends, and I am excited to have an outing planned that won’t involve too long of a drive. With so much to do at home, it gets hard to leave…

Tom rests high in the hay barn, enjoying safety from Zen, the cat-tormenting dog

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Today’s forty-three degrees feels almost warm compared to yesterday’s high of twenty-six. Intense cold complicates even the most basic daily chores: yesterday Brad visited each of the waterers with a hammer to bust up the ice after the previous night’s low of twenty-one, and the fuel pump froze on the tractor bearing the hay bale spear, delaying feeding until afternoon when he thawed it with a torch. A driver moving one of the semis we borrowed to haul soybeans had to cut through the yard to get around the tractor, motionless in the cold sun in the driveway. Today we are grateful to be spending at least part of the day above freezing.

Still no calves, but the full moon is in a few days, perhaps that will bring a few on. Meanwhile the mundane tasks of living consume my minutes and hours, cooking, feeding children, cleaning, wash, rinse, repeat. The seed catalogs wait patiently for me to finally sit down at the kitchen table and begin this year’s plans for vegetables and flowers, fruits and herbs. For a couple of days now Brad has been picking the last of the soybeans planted along the Coosawattee River; today he shifts gears, taking a break from driving a combine to go to the Main Street Market in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This morning after checking the cows he finished milling stoneground grits and meal, his market staples. He’ll bag those up in one- and two-pound hand-stamped bags and head north. Tonight he’ll come home with freshly roasted coffee, honey, and raw milk he trades for from his fellow vendors, plus some surprises perhaps. I’m hoping for fresh mushrooms, but they may have all frozen in this last cold snap.

I look now at the foods we eat with a critical eye, weighing the path taken to get to us as heavy as price and nutritional content. We do eat most of our foods from local farms, both our own and those of our friends, but we still consume a fair amount of nonlocal edibles. The global market has spoiled us to year-round availability of all that should be seasonal; it’s a tough argument, giving up cheap and available produce in winter just because there’s no way we could have grown it here, now. As I make my first pass at this year’s garden planning, this is foremost in my mind. What’s missing here that we want to have on our table?

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