The stone paths that lined the small rectangular garden plots in the
kitchen garden are beginning to emerge, one stone at a time. It
is too late to gently weed the grass that grows in between them.
I attack with a knife the now thick roots and stems, first cutting the
green stems for the donkey, then digging out the brown roots and bases
of last year’s growth. This past summer was spent concentrating
on building the new roof. I planted almost nothing. This
year shall be different. Choosing the correct method in which to
proceed has always confounded me. It seems both to clear each
plot, one at a time, and plant them as I go. That makes the most
sense. That, of course, is not what I am doing.
There is a stone bench I’ve made in one of the little plots. It is surrounded by mown grass. It is my special place on which to sit with coffee in the morning, my dogs at my feet. I placed the stone bench in the perfect position from which to see the most lovely aspect of garden and a perfectly balanced curve of the Sops of Wine apple tree framing the house. The garden is at its best when viewed from slightly below. The slope of the land lends itself to an absolutely lovely aspect. I plant each plot in relation to the others and so each type of vegetable is coordinated visually in color and graduated height. The tallest are in the back of the plot. Kale at the farthest end radicchio at the nearest. Some of last year’s radicchio has grown back, however, I’m planning to plant a great dear more of it. Tomorrow, as a matter of fact. I’ve become obsessed with Friday and cleaning the stone paths rather than considering the wiser choice, to dig each plot individually and plant it. It may be revealed that I have more than twenty or so neatly bordered, well manicured places each surrounded by wood free stone walks. And not a vegetable in sight. Several lupins have emerged, seeding themselves from an original stand planter by a former tenant nearly thirty years ago. I loved them so and was heart broken when they seemed to die out, however, a seedling or two emerged every year and now mysteriously, a pristine and perfect clump of white lupins stands serene among the surviving radicchio.
I have a fondness for beans of all types and recognize with great respect the varied uses that each king inspires. There are beans for soup, and dried beans that, when cooked, love to be caressed by melted butter and beans that we eat with sausage and potatoes. Left over from last year’s non planting are about eight or ten different variations. My daughter sent me some heirloom beans from San Francisco to cook last winter. I saved some to plant. Also saved were some Jacob cattle beans that both hold their shape and add flavor to minestrone. However, it would seem that I am resetting the stone paths rather than planting garlic which was the plan for today. That could change tomorrow. There are flowers that have spread in some of the plots as well, perennials which were planted to add definition which are now definition themselves commanding their own spaces. The goats have been designated a large patch of comfrey which has extended itself as well. They are given some as dessert each time they are milked. The early morning is, of course, the best time to be digging. We are getting warmer weather of late, and by eleven o’clock housework becomes appealing. The house remains cool, perhaps cold is a more accurate description. I still sleep with a down comforter. The currants have lost almost all of their fruit due to the inhospitable weather we’ve entertained this spring. Snow, sleet, cold, hail will all win out. The wild gooseberries that Ernest Westcott transplanted for me are bearing fruit, however. I saw some birds flying out of the bush, startled by my approach a day or two ago. I really should get some netting for them.
This is one of the year’s “free” months. It seems as if, because it is the sixth month that the year is half over. It isn’t. It is five twelfths over. Every moment in this one is doubly precious because next month’s savings once again towards into winter. June days are still growing longer, until the solstice. And the most effective base need to make of them, to avoid suffering in the winter. I’m determined to do something every day to ready myself for the inevitable. Bundle kindling every day. Dig part of the pack in the barn every day. Do something in preparation every day.
The men are making hay this week. Last year hay was scarce. We all were desperate. The weather held in the fall and some made hay into November, however, there were problems with it. This year the grass was held back by weather again. It is beginning to grow but is heading out a bit too soon. It is so hard to know what to do and how to manage.
I was given an offer to raise lambs for someone for the fall. As many as I could give him. However, I was uncertain if I could bring them up to the weight he needed. Oh, I’d grain them, of course. A lamb grower, cracked corn and pasture. But while I could be certain of the grain, although not the price of it, I can’t be certain of the pasture. Nor of my livestock converting their food into weight. My lambs were born between mid February and late March. Were they born in December – January as always, I’d take a chance. Ironically it was the deposit they offered me that held me back. Were some of the lambs not up to snuff after I put the money into them as well as in the fencing and the building of a creep feeder how would I be able to give the deposit back. I’d have to in clear conscience, return the money. It was such a nice offer. However, tomorrow morning I’m going to turn it down.
The same person wants me to raise goslings for him. That is another story. I really want to do that. Geese have done very well here in the past. The money they’d pay me to raise them would pay one to make the perfect set up for them to live in. I stopped raising them after the third year. The first two years I did extremely well with them. The third year something swept through the flock and I lost some. That prompted me to decide to not raise them again unless my set up and conditions were perfectly organized, even though I’ve had a number of customers request them. One year I sold them simply butchered. The other year I sold them already made into confit and rillettes. I stuffed the necks and Elena made a goose liver mousse. We sold all of the above to Dean and Deluca. Raising geese for someone else would enable me to raise some for myself or my own customers as well.
The most earnings in the farm were made the years I diversified. Those years I raised three or four veal calves a year, a few buck goats for meat, lambs, chickens, sold eggs and bagged manure. While the farm was the most profitable in those years I hesitate to use the term profit in relation to my farm at least. Farmers are the only business people on earth who call what rightfully should be termed wages or salary as profits. Every other business refers to a profit as the money made after the expenses and wages have been met. According to Martin Harris in June’s Farming magazine over 80% of farm income is derived off of the farm. We, on the other hand, tend to count our labor as free and call the income from the farm as profit. However, it has been awhile since this farm has shown anything in the black, or should I say blue as it is blue and that I use every day, whether it be called wages or profits. And so, tomorrow I shall turn down a very nice offer to buy every lamb on the farm in the interest of stress management for this shepherd.
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