Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The State of the Summer

So we're in the thick of it now. It's all about keeping the race on until we see the weather start to shift into the glory that is autumn. I'm sorry, summer lovers, and I promise I'm not wishing away the warm weather. It's just that it really won't be long until the mud smeared hands and knees will fade away into mittens and lined coveralls.

But for now, it's about keeping the weeds at bay (or trying to) and figuring out what else we can plant to ensure full bellies. The growing season is simultaneously so short and so long here. Long days full of working hours, but only for a few months. We've been hitting the fields early this week, and then retreating inside during the afternoon bake. It's one thing to work up a thick sweat and let the sun hit your skin- it's another to play with fire. So we work, then we break, then we work again.

The field is coming, a bit slower then we'd like, but the sun should get things dried out a bit and we're catching up with weeding/on constant pest patrol. We're marked up by some especially voracious crew of mosquitos. The meat chicken season has proven to be more challenging then the last one. The price of feed is a constant worry, and though we do use less with a pastured system, grain is still important and it's nearly prohibitive to keep the flocks fed. Between that and weather that froze the first batches and is live roasting the current groups, it's been a very management intensive operation.

In contrast, the field pens for the rabbits have been a real pleasure. Litters co-mingle in wooden and hardware cloth pens, lazing in the shade and munching fresh grass. It seems to work well, and has allowed us to up production quite a bit. We spent afternoons packing ice packs for all of the rabbits, who do not love the weather like this-- with their fur and quick hearts.

There are 40 turkey chicks resting in our garage at the moment in a temporary brooder set up for them there. Two lambs are going to the butcher on Friday, and the goats have a one way ticket up to the field to hang with our permanent sheep residents- leaving their barn space open for the turkey chicks. There is a door to the outside in that barn pen and when the turkeys start to strut with full feathers they will be allowed to march around. Once the pigs go to the butcher in 6 weeks (yikes!), we can then move the turkeys out to the field. The dance of summer: production, management, and shifting gears constantly. With a finite amount of pasture currently- we have to rotate all of the animals and keep on top of our grazing space.

Right now I like the feel of heavy water buckets, and the sound of grumbling pigs as I approach with a full 40 gallon tank to refill their tub (which they use for bathing and drinking). I like sight of turkey chicks, with big alien eyes and little beak bumps.

I like the smell of tomato leaves, and squash blossoms- and the sight of bees cultivating the crops we'll eat all year. We'll be pulling most of the garlic in the next couple of days to cure it, with brown leaves forming I'm hopeful big flavorful bulbs are living just below the surface. After a battle with japenese beetles, the first of the early potatoes too will be unearthed. Soon it will be tomato sandwiches, and maybe fried peppers if the plants make a come back after the drenching rains.

There's always worry, about money, about crops, about the health of the livestock. But there's also always something to like. It's summer, and it's hot- but it's also just so full. Bursting really, and bustling, and it makes me feel not so bad about my plans to catch up on a few novels during winter's chill. For now though a quick wade in the creek and a bowl of ice cream are all the better because of the heat. The extreme shift from overheated to chilly is glorious, revitalizing. I'll take my blisters and rough hands buried in cold rushing water over an office job, any day.

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