I’ve mentioned often that part of the Littles’ learning process here at home is working on the farm, but I’ve never really given you much of a tour. So today I’m going to take you on a photo tour of some of the cool things we’ve done/encountered so far this summer.
We’ve had a couple of run-ins with snakes already. Now, my beautiful husband loves snakes and there isn’t anybody here who is afraid of them, so when my sweet mama called me and said, “Snake in my strawberry netting!” with abject fear in her voice, Martin rushed home from work and we went over to save her. Save the snake. Save somebody.
My beautiful husband was about as patient as a person can be. The blacksnake’s head was caught in the netting. He had a mouse halfway down his throat that he couldn’t swallow because the netting had tightened around his neck. Martin took his pocketknife and a pair of scissors and loosened that netting strand by strand. Eventually, the snake coughed up his dinner, his head was extracted from the netting, and Martin set him free at the edge of the woods. Mama Did Not put netting back over her strawberries.
Look at those muscular arms. Swoon
Yesterday was a different story. Littlest came running over at feeding time. It’s his job to gather eggs. “Daddy!” he yelled, “there’s a snake in the hen box.” So off we all went again to get a look at yet another blacksnake. This one was stealing eggs. It was so cool to witness, we just let him eat. I mean, what’s one egg? Right?
How often do you get to watch a snake suck down an entire egg?! The Littles got to see how his jaw unhinged, how when he got to the biggest part of the egg his eyes closed, how patient he was to get that meal into his gullet and get his belly full. We watched him for about 10 minutes. But after the initial awesomeness, it kind of became like watching paint dry. Apparently, it takes a Long Time for a snake to eat an egg. The little thief. Isn’t he beautiful? We couldn’t even be a little bit mad.
Because it was incredible.
Snakes aren’t the only things we see a lot around this place. Dragonflies and butterflies love it here, especially when we let the meadow grow up and provide plenty of food and hiding places. These butterflies are Everywhere. They came and hung out on the ladder when we were working on one of the outbuildings. They follow us around in the woods. I think they’re trying to let us know that we might think we own this place in human terms, but really it belongs to them. I’m good with that.
It’s berry season, and the wild raspberries are finally ripening. They grow everywhere along the edges of the woods, so we spend a good part of our summer walking along the edges and gathering all that yummy goodness. I love that the Littles are getting the opportunity to learn how to identify these plants and also learning to appreciate what the Earth has to offer us that can’t be found in stores. (If you’ve never tasted a wild raspberry, you haven’t Really tasted a raspberry. They are so much better than the ones you can buy in stores.) I don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but when we went out to get to the bushes between the woods and the meadow this morning, we scared up a flock of goldfinches. They landed safely on the electric lines and chirped at us until we were out of sight. They nest in the tall meadow grasses and we get blessed with the sight of them daily.
Yesterday, for some unknown reason, all my boys decided to go hang out on the tailgate of Big’s truck. In the blaring hot sun. You can tell by their faces that it is too hot and bright to be hanging out on a black tailgate. But they wouldn’t be country boys if they didn’t tailgate in some way. So even though Littlest Still Won’t Put on a Shirt Unless You Make Him (he’s been like that since birth), I had to capture the moment. See the turkey by the truck? His name is Peeper, because of the loud peeping sounds he made as a baby. He is a family pet. He travels everywhere on the farm with us. And scares any woman who dares show her face here with his strutting and cooing. It’s pretty funny.
Here are a couple of cool things about our veggie garden this year. See the weird white thing at the bottom of the pic in front of the pepper plant? That is half a bar of Irish Spring soap stuck onto a stick. Why? It keeps the rabbits away. My sweet mama taught me this trick, and it appears to be working. I guess the strong smell of the soap masks the smell of the plants. Rabbits were tearing us up a couple weeks ago, but since we put out Irish Spring on either end of our rows, they have left it alone. A quick spray of cayenne pepper diluted in water keeps the bugs away from the leaves of the plants. We never use non-organic materials on our garden. Unless you count the landscape fabric we put down to keep the weeds out. We learned that from the GAC reality show Farm Kings. If you’ve never watched that show, it’s a really good way to learn some new farming tricks. You know I don’t like TV, but this show really does teach something a person can use.
This next pic shows my beautiful husband’s idea for getting my cucumber plants up off the ground so they’re easier to harvest from. We had some old wall-racks for feeding livestock hay that we had no use for. Instead of building a trellis, he lay them down by the plants, covered them with a piece of fencing, and the plants are growing up through them beautifully. And, they can just be carried back to the barn in the fall with no fuss whatsoever. He’s a genius.
But the really cool thing Martin has done around here? He built me my very own building. Walled with bookshelves. Containing a desk. And electricity. A haven for me to write in, read in, escape to when I need some quiet. Sitting in a clearing just inside our woods, it reminds me of something out of Little House on the Prairie. It’s my favorite place in the whole world.
Speaking of favorite things, how cute are my cats? They totally have that brotherly love thing down. I’m taking them to the vet today to be neutered, and even though logically I know they’ll be okay, I have this weird, paranoid fear of anesthesia. So wish them luck.
Some of the animals we raise to sell here on the farm include rabbits, doves, and golden pheasants. Pheasants are incredible creatures. They look like little Samurai warriors, and their colors are breathtaking. In comparison, the doves are like the sweet version of bird on the farm. They have soft voices, soft, lovely colors, and a gentler approach to life. We don’t often get to see the little ones before they’re learning to fly, but here’s the one pic I’ve been able to catch of them while they’re still just a few days old. My favorites, though, are the rabbits. I love how the little ones will cuddle against your chest until their heart rate slows and they get drowsy. I love that the Littles get to see how they grow from birth to weaning and learn the responsibility of taking care of something and keeping it alive.
There are so many things to learn on a farm. Invaluable lessons about life that are harder to grasp in the city. Animal husbandry. The life cycle of mammals and how to handle death. The miracle of birth. Getting your hands dirty and feeding yourself. How to tell one tree from another, one plant from another, one insect or bird from another. Every day is a free science lesson. I am grateful every second to get to live here.
I suppose I’d better get busy…