Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hang on to your hat

Sabbath morn, March 5, 2011. Leah is gone to Oklahoma to help her brother move. So I inherit some but not all of her chores. It takes Leah all day to do what she does, from feeding and watering chickens, gathering eggs, suckling baby goats, processing milk, making cheese, paying bills, washing dishes, doing the books (I’ll go to jail first), making pottery…

She inherits some of my chores on the rare occasions I am gone, so it’s only fair I fill in while she is out and about.

The pace at which we proceed into the future has warped into hyper-drive. By the time I think of something that needs done years into the future, I realize the time is now. But thinking is easier than doing and if things aren’t done in time, they might as well not be done at all.

Spring planting is upon us. Martin planted half a field of non-genetically modified, open pollinated non-hybrid corn in an irrigated field yesterday while Victor, Juan and Pancho hastily patched holes feral hogs have made under and through the fence. In past years hogs have eaten freshly planted corn seed almost as fast as I can get the stuff into the ground. I called Dale Harper to see if he could make a run through the woods with his hog dogs and long knife, but he says he lost a couple of dogs last week to a particularly vicious boar and has a few more cut up and in need of healing.

I still haven’t sold all of last year’s crop of corn, but if futures prices on my computer are to be believed, it’s worth exactly twice as much as it was the day it was harvested.

The ground in which we’re planting corn is fertilized with chicken shit. I won’t use an herbicide. But I am applying a pesticide for corn root worms, better known as cucumber beetles in their adult manifestation. I will not be the guy with a sob story for not having organic corn to sell if I can help it. Nor will I be the guy selling corn as organic when it isn’t. I have already seen the first adult cucumber beetle and a tiny grasshopper in my garden.

If someone has a good and affordable organic solution for these bastards, I want to hear about it.

I bought Orange Rox cane seed this year; three of four 50-pound packages arrived at the post office, one, according to postal records has been in transit from Dallas since February 21. I’m no longer holding my breath. I hope to plant the seed for cane syrup/molasses. The leaves and stalks left over from the cane press make good livestock feed. The seed heads are similar to milo, which makes excellent chicken feed. I’ve never tried making homemade syrup but it was a staple crop on sustainable farms in this area a few generations back and I suspect it needs to be once again.

Potatoes have sprouted in the garden, as have English peas. I replanted gaps in a row of beets that had been damaged by unusually cold weather last month; they have sprouted and are growing. About a third or less of the beets I previously planted re-sprouted from the bulbs with an irrigation; the rest folded and died completely.

I harvested spinach right before the freeze; the re-growth is ready to harvest. Leah cut cabbage while I was gone to Balmorhea; a crock full of sauerkraut brews in our kitchen.

A group of fifteen feral pigs grew to nineteen when one of my hands caught four more young pigs. Their mother, a young sow, has been consumed by the various people and canines that live and work on our farms. Not all eat pork. I do.

Two Percheron broodmares near foaling dates; both are said to be bred to a mammoth jack.

Eleven of twelve Great Pyrenees pups Chiquita whelped grow by the day.

I sent a calf to be processed. I know how to do this, but just couldn’t find the time. I did tell the butcher to save the fat so we can render tallow which we use (alongside lard) in place of cooking oil. I am told the meat is ready to be picked up.

Glen Zumwalt and crew have continued burning branches in the Dos Rios pecan orchard despite the current burn ban. One visit from the local fire department sent Glen to seek a burn permit. Unlike me, Glen was not to be deterred. The pecan bottoms are green and not in danger of burning out of control on most days, but area-wide the land is getting dry and the danger of wild fires remains high.

I expect less than normal rainfall in our piece of the world this year (and yes, this is our piece of the world).

Another man is hedging our pecan orchard and Glen is removing non-productive trees from the orchard to give more room to other trees so they will produce more and better pecans. We fertilized our pecans with chicken litter this year, so I am anxious to see how they perform.

I met with Link Benson yesterday to see about installing an underground pipe so we can irrigate the orchard from the San Marcos River. The place came with water rights but the previous owner has not used them for a couple of years and the system in place is in a state of disrepair and inadequate even when functional.

The best part of raising chickens is the shit they leave behind. Broilers have consistently made money in these parts as well, but I see this as an extremely fragile endeavor, totally and absolutely dependent on an abundant supply of cheap fossil fuels. I am not saying we won’t be able to continue raising chickens, just that we won’t be able to continue raising chickens like we now do if and when the fuel supply is interrupted.

The fuel supply will be interrupted.

Hang on to your hat. The ride’s about to get a bit rough.

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