Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I guess tires get warm and a fellow feels cozy underneath the chassis.....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Trooper update

World's cutest goat at 6 days. Mama and boy doing great. Today was the first time we let them out in the "free range" pasture - Trooper especially likes the hill!

He frolicked, he tasted, he rested.

Life is good.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Farm Stand - What's fresh now

The rain has finally abated and suddenly it feels like time to get fresh again!

Right now at the stand we've got plenty of fantastic free-range eggs from happy (and, finally, we hope, safe) hens.

Garlic scapes! These delicacies are only available a couple weeks each year - and now's the time! Chop 'em up and throw them into stir-fries. Jan likes hers poached gently in a little white wine and butter - then you could spoon them over a silky pasta with a little olive oil and parm. Guests? Mince them fine (the scapes, not the guests) and fork-mash them into plain or herbed goat cheese. Don't let the season pass you by!

Oregano - use in place of dry to give your pasta sauces, salads, soups, and stews a little zing. Rub, then crumble over salmon before baking or grilling. Make oregano butter and place a dollop on pork chops when you pull them from the oven.

Rosemary - Ah, rosemary. Is there anything this beautiful shrub can't do? Dot the landscape, perfume the outdoors - and then take you from apps to dessert like nobody's business. Make a dipping oil from your best olive oil, a splash of balsamic, a tiny pinch of coarse sea salt, and a fistful of minced rosemary. Then fold some more into a paste with some garlic and butter and rub it over a chicken before roasting. Throw a sprig into your ice cold lemonade or chilled sauvignon blanc and, finally, pair just a pinch with minced lavender and make the perfect summer sorbet.

Bay - anywhere stale, jarred storebought bay can go, a fresh bay leaf will do it one better. Sauces, soups, stews, casseroles. Don't forget to remove before serving.

And, lastly - mint. Whether your cool one is tea or mojito, a couple sprigs of crushed mint announce to your palette: It's summer!

If you're out and about, you can find all this at our farm stand this week.

Buono gusto ~

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life & Death (with a happy ending - I think)

It is amazing how this simple liquid is the elixer of Life. And a critical ingredient in our Story of the Day.

We have ventured into Goats. Or, goat - specifically, one Kinder goat we bought in February scheduled to kid in June. May or June. So, we've been watching her rather beadily these past couple weeks because she is waddling around with an udder the size of Manhattan but no indication otherwise of Anything Imminent.

This morning she presented a little mucus and immediately thwarted all attempts to catch her as she is the world's only goat compl
etely and thoroughly uninterested in humans. Or grain. She is The Goat That Walks Alone, apologies to Rudyard.

Well, we went about our day and I came home alongside my pal Judith to discover our Middy grazing grass with what looked to be a dead kid hanging out of her. I sprinted for surgical gloves and we tried to figure out what was going on. We called Mark to come home and our pal Tammy who knows goats and then the vet. The baby was blue and wet and cold and not budging. I tried to figure out what how things were stacked up in there but couldn't make heads nor tails of it. At some point Mark got home from my frantic call, attempted the same, and we decided the baby was done and now it was time to save Middy. She was frothing at the mouth, screaming, her tongue lolling to one side and her eyes beginning to roll back. It was a long, long (and bloody) ride to the vet's.

Judith heroically put my groceries away and spirited the boys up to her house and fed them. (hugs, Judith).

But, a funny thing happens in the hands of a pro: we lifted the hatchback of the - thank god, OLD - subaru and our pal the on-c
all vet Dana reached in and pulled a baby goat right out without so much as a ble from the mama. She did some minor karate chops on the little wet noodle and low and behold, he breathed.

And here he is. Bottle fed and warm-towel warmed, he's h
ere to tell the tale. Welcome, Trooper.


The phoenix of order arises from the ashes of total porch chaos.

Our pals Jan and Rich rented a power washer this past weekend and I had mentioned that we'd like to get in on the action. Saturday was crummy - yet one more day in this dismal June of temperatures in the 40s and 50s (yes, I said 40s) and rain, rain, rain so I assumed that the deal was off - wrongly.

Suddenly Saturday afternoon I discovered that Jan and Rich had been hard at work on their place and pretty soon now we'd be in possession of said machine. I had switched gears and merrily had winter comfort foods like bolognese and stock burbling on the stove while my son and his pal enjoyed a Voyager marathon in the den. Power washing the porch seemed but a distant dream.

Now, you have to appreciate the state of my porch to understand why coming into a time-limited power washer induced no small amount of panic among my insides. My pals on the island are smiling knowingly now. As of Saturday, our front porch had pretty much evolved into an outdoor closet, with every manner of useful and not-so-much items littering one's entry. There was a tiny path from driveway to door that welcomed both inhabitant and guest alike into our home.

It was ridiculous. And humiliating. It had taken us many months to grow it into such a state.

But, enter power washer. And a 10AM deadline.

We fell out of bed around 7:30, half and hour behind schedule already according to my precise timetable laid out on the kitchen counter the night before, and got to serious work.

And by golly, it just wasn't that bad. Not the way most guys would choose to spend the wee hours of Fathers Day, but hey - by 9:30 we were done, I spirited the machine back to its rightful owners, and now we have this back. A real, live outdoor room that is once again a joy to spend time in and no longer an embarrassment to stand behind when a car pulls up.

It's the little things, I guess.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It may not look like much, but this little beauty represents a giant leap for SSF. For the last 4 years, the only outdoor water for our 5 acres has been from house or the wellhouse - so it was long hoses and hauling for most H2O-related tasks.

But now! Behold the indescribably beautiful "frost-free"! This one lives in the small space between the almost-greenhouse and the chicken coop, handily supplying future plant starts and thirsty hens with this singular life force.

It's twin is installed in the garden (of course). Ready to attach to the equally-wondrous drip irrigation system Mark designed and ordered and is currently installing - with timers!!!

20th Century technology finally arrives at Stop Sign Farm. Yay!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Warm breezes and progress

This morning is the first of 2010 that I can do this on the steps of my front porch. I won't pretend it's balmy - I'm sitting on a towel to keep the damp away and I'm wearing my trusty, ever-present blue vest - but it's downright pleasant out here and a relief to take my morning coffee outdoors...finally.

Crisis has its silver lining, namely moving the projects that are hovering near the bottom of the pile right smack up to #1. Thus, finishing the large chicken run so we can finally plant landscape plants again and say good-bye to the perennial bird poop on the porch suddenly found itself Urgency #1 when eagles and raccoons made Stop Sign Farm their favorite neighborhood bistro. So: done. Done! With electrical tape top and bottom to give the raccoon his appropriate welcome and bird netting above to give pause to hungry national symbols. And while I miss the sweet peckings of curious hens, moving ever closer to one's feet in hopes of spare treat, I can't pretend this long overdue separation of Human area and Animal area isn't welcome.

Mark got lots done on getting water to the almost-greenhouse - the almost-greenhouse whose plastic skin won't...quite...stretch...to...meet in the cold weather (argh!). He was knee-deep in standing trench water laying pipe yesterday and by week's end, I do believe we will have irrigation to both garden and almost-greenhouse. Plus, it's almost worth the trials just to get to see him in Mucks and Carhart overalls. Who'd ah thunk it? I'll sneak a photo later today and slip it into my next post...


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When nature becomes the enemy


It's turning into a tough spring here at SSF. We have practically wrestled our majestic national symbol into letting go of a half-eaten - and still alive - hen, been on high alert for a couple of neighborhood dogs that enjoy prowling the area, and once again find ourselves facing at least one raccoon that's missed the memo on his or her nocturnal-ness.

The last two weeks, we've become the cafe du jour of a local bald eagle and his mate. I would be lying if I didn't admit that they are indeed majestic close up - but their sheer size on close inspection - especially when you're fighting over a living part of your farm - is daunting and, frankly, infuriating. These birds are mammoth and completely unafraid. Bald eagles are actually supposed to be "opportunistic eaters" - AKA scavengers, only hunting when necessary. But a free-range chicken farm a mere 500 yards from the nest is too convenient to ignore, I guess.

So, a week spent readying a nice spacious area, complete with 8-foot fence and a couple of swaths of bird netting overhead to deter predatory avian swooping, and we were feeling a little better yesterday - even if we could count at least 6 missing hens lost to who knows what these past couple weeks.

And then today, washing vegetables at the kitchen sink, what do I see but of course a raccoon, taking advantage of the contained birds and somehow finding a weakness in our fencing.

This is now the 4th or 5th time in just the last few days I've been and acutely felt my helplessless in the face of a predator just doing its job at the expense of our farm. It's too much.

I never thought I'd find myself - a lifelong advocate of gun control and a sworn non-gun-owner, feeling I have little choice but to give up what I do or buy some kind of gun. In my own defense, I have always believed that guns have a place - just not a place where there are kids (which includes my farm) or close proximities, like urban areas. One visit to Montana and I knew immediately I would never live there without a firearm at the ready. In that wild state, full-scale predators can literally - and do - show up on your doorstep.

So, I guess in some small way, I'm experiencing Montana on a micro scale. But the reality is, I have animals I'm responsible for, animals I've placed in a certain environment - and to ignore their safety is irresponsible not to mention horrific.

So, pellet gun, .22, or??? Ugh. Would that I ever thought I'd be facing this dilemma. But, it has to be done. I can't stand the prospect of continually looking up - as I have so many times this past month - to see a killer in my midst and have no way to protect those in my charge. Mark has gallently rushed out with bow and arrow, but that's a one-shot-deal at best. It's not the answer.

And, no. I won't be shooting any bald eagles. My plan is just to put my girls away where the eagle can't get to them, then deal with the raccoon - a cute cartoon character to city kids, but a true villain out here - more aggressively.

The less bloodshed the better. But my poor girls deserve to be safe in their own house.

The less fun side of farming.