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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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