In an attempt to keep ppl more updated on a regular basis, I’ve started a Facebook account. The blog will still remain here but it’ll now be a place for longer submissions where the Vet and I will use the Facebook account to keep everyone informed about the smaller daily details. So, go check it out and friend us or like us or whatever you’re supposed to do and we’ll see you soon!
Okay, so the bat wasn’t really a flesh-eating meat bat but a bat did attack me and I was forced to defend myself today. Two years ago I started fixing up the old barn to prepare the conversion of our old rural homestead to that of a farm again. There were many late nights with rock-n-roll (and a bit of country) blaring on tiny speakers while I sawed, screwed, glued and even bruised and battered myself. The whole while, I shared this space with a bat that’d come out of his hiding at dusk and start flying through my tiny barn looking for dinner. To say that the bat was unsettling to me would be a gross understatement.
The Vet and my father-in-law assured me that the bat was fine and I had nothing to worry about. He’d leave me alone, the barn was a good place for him and it was good to have bats around. They eat insects and are signs of a good eco-system I was told. I didn’t like him.
For two summers I’d spend my nights under fluorescents while rebuilding stalls and replacing doors until the fluttering shadow above my head would un-nerve me enough to call it a night and head in.
I opened the front garage door to the barn this evening and walked into the barn to grab the feed for the goats. Just as I reached for the door to the feed stall I felt a sudden slap above my left breast. I looked down to see the bat stuck to my shirt not three inches from my lips. I immediately swatted him to the ground and began pulling the collar down on my shirt to see if I had been scratched or bit. I couldn’t get a good look in the darkness of the barn so I start walking outside but was stopped by the squeaking of the bat on the ground. I knew that if that winged-mouse got up and flew away I’d never catch him. If I was bit, I’d need to catch him to see if he might have infected me with something that could potentially ruin my summer. I ran in to the tool room and grabbed a plastic grocery bag. I came back, scooped him up just as he was getting his feet under him. I quickly tied the bag and swung it into the metal Miller High Life sign that adorns the end of my chainsaw shelf.
I held the bag up to see if he was twitching. I hit the bag against the shelf one more time just to ensure he was dead. I then walked out into the sunlight and started to closely examine my chest. The skin was pink where the bat had hit me but there were no scrapes or visual bite marks so I think I came through it unscathed.
When the Vet came home I told her the story and she immediately asked where the bat was. I told her that I had it sitting on the hood of my car in a plastic bag and thought I should hold onto it just in case I start frothing at the mouth in a few days. She laughed at this but told me to put the bag in the fridge and she’d send it in on Friday to be examined; just to be safe. Cross your fingers.
Last Weekend the first cutting was done on our hay-field. It was long over due and most of the alfalfa had already went to seed. The hold up was the never-ending rain. You need approximately 4-5 dry days in order to properly cut, windrow and bale hay. We only had a three day window according to the weather forecast but we needed to cut the hay and hope for the best just so we could start growth towards our next attempt around August. Also, we still hadn’t had the chance to actually try bailing with the new Oliver Bailer I had bought at the auction last winter.
Well, we didn’t make it and the rain came the following afternoon. We’d turn the hay and it’d rain. We finally got about a day and a half of no rain and a lot of heat. We decided we had to bail the hay despite the danger that wet hay can cause. The hay needed to be removed so it wouldn’t kill the growth beneath it.
We had a good friend come out and give us one quick walk through along with a few tips and pointers for when things go wrong. Things always go wrong when bailing. Shortly later we were out there in the field and watching our little Oliver Bailer spit out perfect bails one after the other with only a few early glitches. It was a proud day for my father-in-law and I, we celebrated with quite a few barley pops. We were beaming for days and even managed to pick up and store the 100+ bails out in the woods away from anything that we’d miss. So far, there are no fires and we now know that the bailer works great!
Sorry for being away so long avid readers. I can assure you that the farm has been busy in my lapsed time from this blog. The corn is sprouting, the hops are going mad and we’ve been enjoying a lot of fresh spinach and lettuce from the garden.
Also, we’ve got about three weeks before our maiden voyage to the Lisbon Meat Locker. This is going to be my first experience of killing and eating something that I raised. It’s going to be delicious.
Auntie Bean (the vet’s sister) came to visit on Tuesday and took a lot of pictures. I thought posting the them would be a nice return to the blog so I stole the pics from her Facebook account:
The picture above is of an old tool shed that we’ve salvaged from the neighbors (family) to use as a goat shelter. Thirty years ago the structure started at the property that you can see in the back ground of the previous picture. Five years later the little tin building was moved to its last location next door. After this weekend it’ll be used to house goats when they’re locked away from the barn.
Well, it’s a holiday weekend and while everyone is enjoying their cookouts, parties and relaxation, please take a second to consider the reason for this holiday. Please remember those who gave everything so we could live free.
God Bless America
My whole life, my father has said, at any occasion that would call for it “He stood there like the house by the side of the road, and watched it go by.” It was a famous remark from Ernie Harwell to describe when a batter would take a third strike. Ernie Harwell was the hall-of-fame baseball broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers and he passed away at the age of 92 yesterday after a year-long battle with cancer.
This blog entry might seem off topic given the usual theme of family heritage, farming and animal husbandry and friends and family; but it’s not. Ernie Harwell and a few chosen others throughout the years act as symbols of all of this for many of us. Whether it was sitting in a bedroom with three generations of men and sneaking 8oz Budweiser’s to grandpa while watching the home run record being broke and the batter hugging his son at home plate or “Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air!” while tinkering in the barn with our goats. In my life, baseball has been there in many ways as a backdrop to what’s really important in life, the little moments that if gone unnoticed will simply pass by.
Four years ago my father and I went to game two of the World Series in Detroit. It was a bitter cold night that had seen a mixture of rain and snow delay the game for almost an hour. While we sat in our seats and watched the players begin to warm up and marvel at the spectacle of the event, we casually talked with the people sitting around us. A couple sitting behind us asked where we were from and we explained that we were from a small town southwest of Chicago. They were surprised that we would have traveled that far to be there but my father explained that when he was young, his father took him to see the Tigers and the Cardinals in the World Series. He now had the opportunity to share that with his son and he wasn’t going to let it pass by. I was so wrapped up in the excitement of the Tigers in the World Series that until that point I hadn’t stopped to reflect on what it actually was I was experiencing. John Melloncamp sang the Star Spangled Banner and the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers were introduced and their manager Sparky Anderson threw out the first pitch. It was the announcement of and the giving of a humanitarian award to Ernie Harwell that received the loudest ovation however.
It’s strange to think about why a sports broadcaster can receive the loudest ovation when so many heroes of the game are on the field. The answer is simple. Players, no matter how big they are to your team, come and go. They might hit the game winning home run that acts as the catalyst of a memory, but it’s the call of that hit that you remember. When fans rush onto the field in celebration, they’re the ones that convey the image to you. When you’re suffering through a season that sees your team lose 102 games, they’re the ones that commiserate with you day in and day out. When your alone with your thoughts and doing your evening chores, it’s their voice quietly keeping you company.
This morning I heard an interview with current Tigers manager Jim Leyland and he was asked what his reaction was to the news. Leyland has been a long time friend of Harwell’s and spoke about first meeting him when he was a minor league manager for a team affiliated with the Tigers in 1981. He said that he was sad to have lost a friend but felt that instead of mourning his death we should applaud his life. It’s rare that one person can connect with so many people for so many years and Ernie Harwell seemed to always do so with respect, modesty and consideration.
You may remember my post from a few weeks ago about Blaze’s two kids and the cleft palets. We have been bottle feeding the other kid, who we named Legacy, since birth and though she was definitely the runt of the group, she was strong, responsive and very playful. Matter-of-fact, she had developed a horrible habit of jumping up on legs and pushing over the babe. It had become routine for her to follow me throughout the barn while I prepared the grain and feed for the other goats and it seemed if given a choice, she’d rather be with humans than with her herd. It probably didn’t hurt that she was brought into a house twice a day and given a warm belly full of food each time.
Today was the scheduled day to try and correct the birth defect. Though she appeared strong and healthy, her survival was primarily due to how she was being fed. She would never be able to live on her own without the defect being corrected. The surgery went very well and the problem was corrected wonderfully. The Vet and her staff were happy with the results. There was a complication shortly after surgery however and Legacy simply couldn’t pull through and went into cardiac arrests. They tried to resuscitate her but were unsuccessful.
It’s strange because I’m not effected by her death but must admit that I’ll miss her quirky personality. Because of her special treatment, she was becoming dangerously close to being regarded as a pet instead of a production animal. Now that’s she’s gone, we simply have Blaze’s future to tend to and then we can make a clean run at expanding the herd again in the Fall.
While writing this, it has occurred to me that we still have two doe’s that are unnamed. Clover, who was born from Neely, is named so because she was born on St Patty’s Day; Her full name being Neely’s Lucky Clover. I had considered naming Dominator’s two females Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum but couldn’t commit to calling one of them Dum for short. Perhaps instead of Legacy being a referral to Blaze, it could stand for the growing legacy of our farm and be given to Dominator’s first-born. I do like that name.
Friends and Family of Hickory Grove Farm-
I’d like to invite you all to the first (of hopefully many) “Will Work for Food” CSA event at our farm. First of all, what is a CSA? Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Instead of selling our food this year we would like to first invite our friends and family to come help out in turn for a share of the produce when it becomes available. If you’re following this blog or the Vet’s facebook page you would know that we are planting a large variety of vegetables and will also have some delectable fruit to share.
The first project day will be Saturday, May 22nd. We want to thank our friends and family for the overwhelming support they’ve shown us on our endeavor so far. However there are a few obstacles that we simply can’t tackle on our own. One of the things needed In order for the goat/livestock portion of our farm to get to the next level is to begin fencing in the wooded area to the east of the cabin. Before we can fence (or repair fence that was once there) we need to clear the trees and brush from the property line. What I’m asking for on May 22nd is for helping hands to come with sheers, chainsaws, chains, weed-eaters, muscle and sweat and help us simply mow a path along our South and East property line. Once we have a clear line I can begin repairing and constructing the fence over the course of the summer. With proper fencing, we’ll be able to move the goats down below a few days a week and let them start helping to remove brush and undergrowth.
In addition to putting you down for free produce, we’ll be grilling food all day and offering all the beer and water you can drink. You’re also able to take home any firewood that you cut. You don’t need to bring tools but if you have any it would help to bring what you can. Before the day is over, we’ll ask you what preferences you might have for produce and obviously do our best to oblige once they’re ready to be delivered.* We need to remind you that what we’re essentially asking for first is a favor from you. We will try our hardest to adequately reimburse you for your time and effort through food served that day and with our up-coming produce (and homebrew) but we can not guarantee how much produce we’ll be able to offer any one person.
Please email me with any questions or concerns you have and let us know by May 20th if you’ll be able to attend.
Thank you again for your support
Robb & Amy
* We unfortunately cannot guarantee that you will receive your exact request nor can we guarantee the amount of produce you receive.
Saturday I had planned to attend 3 Floyds Brewing Company’s Dark Lord Day. This is the day when the brewery sells its coveted Dark Lord beer. Justifiably acknowledged by beer lovers and the booze press alike as one of the finest beers on earth, the beer’s cult following has turned Dark Lord Day into a veritable all-star summit of boozehounds and brew snobs. These plans were thwarted Friday night so I instead planned to spend the day clearing a corner of brush on the East end of the bridge.
The day was trifled with frustrations. I discovered the battery in my truck had finally gave up the ghost once I had all my tools packed into the bed so I then had to move everything to the tow-behind cart on our garden tractor. Before doing so, I noticed that one of the wheels in the cart was flat. This has been an ongoing problem with the cart and because the wheels don’t have inner-tubes you have to wrap rope around the wheel and then use a screwdriver or other long piece of metal and twist the rope tighter and tighter in order to get a seal and be able to refill the tire with air. Once that was completed, the babe and three of our dogs made our way to the work site.
One of the hardest and most time-consuming jobs of our property is maintaining the tree lines. Nature tends to want to fill in space; the trees, bushes and plants all searching for a little more light. Therefore the tree lines are a constant struggle. We spend a great deal of our springs balancing on the top step of a ladder with a chainsaw and a few barley pops. The ladder is usually balancing on the bed of our pick up truck putting us about 15 -20 feet in the air. I assure you, this is not work that lends itself to sober nerves.
There is a gradual decline from the road to the field below that is constantly needing maintained. It was decided earlier this year that if I cleared this area out because of it facing the South, grass would grow easily. Grass is easier and faster to maintain then a brush and tree line.
I started with removing a lot of the smaller trees and dragging them to the ravine on the other side of the bridge where we tend to hide most of our cut brush. I then raked out the grape vine and a few other miserable, thorny vines that grow wild in the woods. The whole time the babe would go back and forth from sitting on the garden tractor which she refers to as a car and laying in the thick alfalfa with bennie our beagle. When I was finishing for the day I had noticed that the wheel of the cart was again flat so I had to remove the tools and bring the cart up empty trying not to damage the rim. The babe enjoyed her tractor ride home and made sure to point out all the flowers and birds along the way.
Sunday morning I was able to get about an hour of work in before having to head to Somonauk for a Poker Tournament at Rambo’s sports bar. The tournament is the last Sunday of every month and proceeds go towards the Open Door rehabilitation Center in Sandwich. There were 39 people playing and though the cards weren’t coming easy, I was able to claw my way to a respectable (but not pot earning) tenth place.
Once I finished the tournament I headed first to Farm and Fleet for a new battery for my truck and then home to do some more work and a bit of cleaning up along the corner of the bridge. It threatened to rain all day but there was never anything more than a mist. Instead it was very humid and as I sweated, the weeds and thorn bushes clawed and scraped at me. I was feeling a bit tired and decided to call it a weekend and head for home. So far I have managed to clear out the brush of about 2/3rd of the space and still have five good-sized trees to remove. It’s hard work clearing brush but there is something fulfilling about it. To step back and look at the difference you made and reflect on the energy put forth, there’s a certain almost yoga calmness that takes over leaving you with a very satisfied mind.
Click the song below for music. I’m eventually going to figure out a way of inserting multiple tracks and developing a “Hickory Grove Radio”. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
We have the following plants for sale at $1.50 a piece. Please contact me at Hickory.firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange pick-up:
Tomatoes # for sale
Viva Italian 12
Early Girl 18
Better Boy 9
Yellow Pear 6
Red Oxheart 21
Peppers # for Sale
California Wonder Bell 8
Ancho Chili Pepper 6
Early Jalapeño 19
Santa Fe Grande 9
Cayenne Long Slim 9
Anaheim Chili 9
We Also have the following plants for sale:
Italian Parsley 8
Eggplant Black Beauty 4
Long Island Improved Brussel Sprouts 14
Spring Broccoli Raab 6
Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage 7
Not long after Amy and I were married we decided that we needed another Dog. We had a dachshund that she had bought at the end of her freshman year of Veterinary college but this dog was going to be for me.
We went to the local humane shelter where a friend of hers was volunteering and took a tour. There were far too many dogs to keep track off but none that really grabbed my attention. While walking through one of the holding areas I saw a small beagle/basset mix and quickly asked about it.
“That dog is a stray and just came in, we need to hold it for (so many) days and see if it’s claimed then we can adopt her out.” My wife and her friend continued to walk but I had stopped at the kennel to offer this little pup some scratches. She was white with red spots and had a red mask that went down her long ears. The friend stopped, looked at me and said “well, I guess if you like her we can take her to the meet and greet room but remember we can’t adopt her yet.”
Amy could see the excitement in my eyes and off we went with the mix on a leash. The room was small and all four walls were lined with a soft vinyl bench. This little pup was so excited to be out of its cage and among people that it was doing laps in this small 10×10 room. The two student vets inspected her and with all of their newly acquired knowledge were able to noticed all her deformities and the surgeries they would no doubt cause down the road. I didn’t care.
We didn’t find any other dogs while there but before leaving I asked for specifics on when the basset pup would be available.
A few days later (but before the quarantined time would be done) Amy pulled into the car dealership I was working at and told me to come out to the truck where she had a surprise. I followed her out as she explained that the basset I liked was claimed but that her friend had another dog that she thought I might like. I went out to the truck only to see the basset wagging her tail and eager to be let loose from the confines of the truck cabin. I was obviously overjoyed with this surprise.
When I got home that night I told Amy that I decided on one of two names: Blue or Rose. We decided on naming her Rose after the many references in Grateful Dead music and art. We’ve had her now for over ten years and in many ways she’s my first child.
Through the years the herd (as we refer to our dogs as) was added to twice more and then about four years ago we got involved with Guardian Angel Basset Rescue. We were able to proudly foster six dogs in just over a year; Then Peaches came to our house.
Peaches was an old cantankerous red and white basset. She had a few cysts and tumors visible and moved about as fast as molasses in winter. She was a beautiful old lady. After a year it was clear that Peaches wasn’t going to find a home. It’s hard to adopt out an 11-year-old basset. Not to mention, Peaches loved the farm.
We decided to adopt her ourselves and offer her the retirement that she deserved. Peaches and I quickly bonded because she loved barns and workshops and, well, barns and workshops are typically where you can find me. She’d follow slowly behind where ever I was going and when finally catching up, she’d lay down and sleep until I’d walk somewhere else.
This new relationship didn’t lessen my love for Rose, mind you. The problem with Rosie was that her basset genes were mixed with beagle genes. This meant if not locked up or leashed, she would simply roam. A dog that has the free spirit of a beagle and the stubbornness of a basset is hard to manage loose outside.
After having Peaches in our home for over two years, last Fall she developed cancer and we knew that she wouldn’t have long. With the help of medicines we were able to keep her feeling good for a few months but not long after one last great parade at the Basset Waddle, it was time to put Peaches down. We did it on a Friday night so she could be buried first thing in the morning. I had helped the vet many times through the years and had watched families having to put down there beloved pets. I was always effected by helping others with this but even with all the experience, I wasn’t prepared for that night.
The next morning I dug a hole and she was buried with her blanket just under the window of my workshop in the barn. I chose that spot because when she couldn’t catch up and would lose me, she’d go there and lay down while waiting for me to return.
Rosie is now eleven years old and with that elapsed time she has slowed down considerably this spring. We no longer have to keep her locked up or leashed when outside because she rarely wanders further than the yard proper.
This afternoon I was preparing lunch for me and the babe when I looked out our kitchen window. I was numbed by the sight of what my mind thought was Peaches laying just under the window of my barn workshop. After a few seconds it occurred to me that what I saw was Rosie, curled in a tight ball and sleeping in the shade of the barn on the cool dirt where grass hasn’t yet grown on Peaches’s grave.
When lunch was through I walked out to the barn and was warmed to see Rosie still laying there just as Peaches had for the two previous years. As I walked through the door into the barn to move a few stacks of hay, Rosie followed me in, watched for a few moments and then decided to lay down just out of my way while I worked.
Last night I was able to get to the hop plants which in the last week went from small sprouts to giant bushes. It’s important to keep your hop plants trimmed so that all the growth/energy is going towards just one vine and its cones.
Our Willamette hops are the early leaders in growth. Its vines were growing up the rope trellis, around the utility pole that’s supporting the trellis and on over into the bed where the Goldings were trying to grow. I felt bad having to choose just two vines to keep with all the strong stalks this plant is producing but I knew that it was what was the best for both of us. Last year we were only able to use the Cascades in any beer brewed but this is our second year with these rhizomes and we’re expecting a decent production from all four varieties this year.
When I was through with pruning I had the pleasure of taking the scraps over to our goats. The thick, sticky broad leaves on the hop vines are like candy for them. While watching the goats divvy up their treat I was reminded that hops are actually a close relative to the cannabis plant. Our one wether goat, Jerry, is named after the warm, charismatic guitarist for the Grateful Dead. I smiled at the weird correlation my brain just made and thought for sure that Captain Trips would be smiling down upon this small moment. Jerry looked up at me chewing a vine that dangled from his mouth and I swear he winked back.
When that was through, the sun was setting and I could see the silhouette of a tractor pushing across the top of the horizon. There was a cloud of dust in its wake as it tilled the dirt in, preparing the ground for this year’s crop. I had just enough time to get out our push mower and cut the grass inside our dog run. I filled the stock tank with fresh water for the goats, gave them a pale of grain to go with their hops and sat down to scratch a few kids while taking a second to catch up on the progress of the tractor at the horizon. I then picked up a few miscellaneous tools left lying around, re-coiled the garden hose and went in for a homebrewed barley pop in celebration to this year’s first hop pruning.
(click on the “Blue Yodel #9” for music!)