We planted two chestnut trees in early Spring 2009: a Colossal Chestnut and a Seedling Polinator. This is their sixth growing year and the first we had a decent harvest (though we had one or two chestnuts last year). Both varieties ripen in late September, so we began collecting the fallen chestnuts during our waits for the school bus in the morning.
Most of the chestnuts were ripe and the husk could be pulled off easily, but some of them were a little underripe and needed assistance with some pliers. Still others were not ripe enough to be used.
If you’ve never seen a chestnut husk in real life, it’s got the most painful arrangement of sharp spikes on a protective husk. That husk must be removed to expose the nuts — usually two or three per husk.
Our next project will be to do something delicious with our harvest.
Due to lack of rain and drought conditions in Connecticut (not nearly as bad as elsewhere), our pond is at the lowest point we’ve ever seen it. It’s pretty much a muddy wet spot. Our ducks aren’t so happy at the moment. There’s a storm forecast, along with several days of rain, so hopefully the situation will begin to reverse.
After a couple of weeks in the hydrogen peroxide solution, the goat skulls, horns and random smaller bones were basically finished. They’re looking pretty good.
The next step will be to finish the cow skulls, but those needed longer in the water to let the bugs and microbes do their work. We’ll post that as soon as they’re ready.
Almost two years ago we got a bull to breed our girls. Turned out that one of our girls (“Bossy Mama”) was mean to him and nearly ran him off, so she ended up at the butcher that very week. (You can read more about that in our Where’s the Beef? post.) When we got her skull back, we hung it in the woods with a couple of goat skulls.
First, a bit of eye bleach, some recent spoils of the garden.
We realize that some of these images may be disturbing to our visitors, so we’re making the “worst” of them hidden by default, click to reveal if you wish…
This is the fresh skull, with skin removed.
Hanging in a tree.
The rest of the images aren’t too bad, so we’ll go ahead and show them.
After two years it looked like this and we needed to figure out something to do with the skulls. We decided to clean and whiten them. We’d thought about using chlorine bleach, but then after some research decided to use hydrogen peroxide, as described on BoneLust.
Here’s the cow skull with the three goat skulls we were also processing.
Jamie sorted through the random bones (jaws, etc).
And M helped with the water.
We’re going to leave them to fester in a bucket of water for at least a couple of weeks. Then we’ll finish them in a hydrogen peroxide bath to whiten them.
The whole skulls are in a big blue bucket, with the top sealed by a garbage bag. I can only imagine the foulness in there.
Check back in a couple weeks where we hope to show the finished skulls.
Here’s another “cute” image, our resident garden spider.
Last year, we got some ducks for the pond after a couple years without any (bad winters and predator issues), but they didn’t make it. I didn’t do a good job acclimating them to their new house and the pond. It was a difficult loss.
This year, I decided to put things right. I got some ducklings and raised them in an enclosure. When the time came to put them on the pond, I made an another enclosure off the back of their house so they really couldn’t go anywhere. At the very start, the front (by the pond) was closed, so they only had the house and the run.
Once they’d figured out that they could go back and forth into their house, which took a couple weeks, I opened up the front side with a ramp down to the water. Last time, I didn’t contain the ducks well and teach them where their new home was, so this time I was very cautious. I made a fenced area in the pond. They could get down to the water and back up to the house using a ramp.
After another couple weeks, I removed the fence from the water, and the ducks were on the pond and knew where their home was. They were so happy and we were happy to have ducks back on the pond after a couple years without.
Note: the water is pretty low here. When the pond is full, the water will go to just under the house and the ramp will mostly be submerged.
Also, last night we had a gentle rain come through. It created the brightest, most gorgeous double rainbow we’d ever seen. It hovered over the orchard and was so beautiful.
It is the middle of June and one of my most favorite times on the farm. We have so many new creatures and the garden is really coming to life. We have been eating fresh greens for weeks and even had a few cherries today. It is just a small sampling go the bounty that is to come.
First, we have to tell you about our amazing new kitten, Willow. She is sweet and playful and lovely. She is an indoor-only cat for a while but soon enough we hope she is hanging out with us outside on the farm.
We also got our pigs last weekend. The are named Ham and Bacon and seem to be enjoying the pigs life. Laying in the sun, rooting in the dirt, and eating everything that goes in their trough.
We have baby chicks and baby ducks and baby rabbits and they are all doing really well. Our little lamb Snowflake is outside full time and has been weaned from her bottle. She still hasn’t joined the sheep flock yet but that’s okay.
One of the best parts of June is all of the plant growth. The greens are in full-swing and many of the end-of-summer crops are just beginning.
We experienced a bit of a surprise. A few weeks ago during morning chores, I heard some baaing out in the field. Our two lambs were in the barn, so this was unusual. It turned out that our yearling ewe had given birth to a single tiny lamb. We had been checking her and didn’t think she was bred, but she was. We put mother and baby in a hay stall in the barn and spent four days trying to get the pair bonded. The ewe would let her lamb nurse as long as we stood in the stall, but if we moved away, she would head butt her until she stopped.
So, we brought the lamb into the house. The kids named her Snowflake and our dog Elsa immediately took to all of the motherly duties like cleaning her bottom and making sure she ate enough. It has been a cool spring, so we have let the lamb sleep in the house at night. Snowflake is adorable and growing very quickly. She has been the most pleasant surprise.
Jamie gave a talk at the University of Connecticut based on her experiences as both a psychologist and a farmer. This was part of the UConn Reads & Global Learning Community discussion series on the book Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Jamie recorded this version of her 25 minute talk so we could post in on our blog. Enjoy!
We’ve had quite the winter. Living in eastern Connecticut, we’re on track for one of the snowiest winters of all time. The last 30-days have been one of the snowiest every, anywhere in the US and February is on track to be the coldest month since records started being kept. In late January, right after our first lambs of the year were born, we were hit by a massive blizzard (the first snow of the season). That was January 27th. Since then we’ve had “record” snowfalls 3 or 4 more times and are on track for the snowiest winter ever, with total snowfall for the year approaching 100 inches. The kids haven’t even had a full week of school since January 12th.
Normally I move the snow around with my tractor, but since the weather got cold the hydraulics (which operate the bucket loader) hadn’t been working right – after the first blizzard the hydraulics didn’t work at all. Jamie and I started trying to shovel the driveway (all ~200 feet of it). Jamie had to get into work the next day and neither car was movable. Luckily we got it good enough get the truck down to the bottom of the driveway and called it a night (there was still probably a foot of snow on the driveway).
At 10:30 at night, I hear a truck in the driveway. My friend who does snow removal brought his plow over and cleared our driveway. He’d heard we had tractor problems and really saved the day. We had another storm and I finally started getting serious about fixing the tractor hydraulics. The dealer suggested it might be a clog in the filter or intake strainer. Sure enough, after draining the hydraulic oil and replacing the filter, cleaning the strainer and putting in 10 gallons of clean oil, it worked like a charm.
Now it’s fairly easy to move the snow around (this was from our latest snowfall, a dusting).
It hasn’t been all bad though.
Elsa loves the snow. She’s sitting on at least a couple feet of snowpack.
The kids have loved the snow mountains.
And we were able to go to a friend who’d made a tubing course in their back yard.