Team Mom, season two. Now that they're together they get to switch off nursing duties, and the piglets get to make a bigger, warmer pile of themselves to sleep in. If only we all had a partner to help with all of our chores.
A few days ago, a purposeful gaggle of geese flew over the farm. Noble creatures, these. And as I looked up at them, despite my t-shirt, all I could think was:
Sorry about that. But: it is coming. And that means we are busy little bees.
The meat chickens are busy eating an absurd amount of food, constantly.
For the garden, this means harvesting, with the resulting canning, pickling, freezing, fermenting and infusing (cucumber gin, anyone? cucumber anything, anyone?). Because this winter our goal is not merely "survive," but "survive in style," I have been making a variety of colorful relishes, chutneys, pickles and pesto to eat during the Dark Days, to remind us of the busy warm green days ahead of (and behind) us. The garden has been very helpful in this regard and has been bestowing upon us bushels and bushels of everything from basil to zucchini.* It is keeping me hopping in a vague panic-mode, as it should in August.
The innocent lushness of the garden conceals the grueling hours of labor saving its bounty entails...why, oh why must the garden grow so quickly??? (a/k/a thank god the garden finally grew)
I only have a few more rounds of planting, and then I am devoted entirely the mad dash to save it all up. It is very satisfying work to sweat it out in the evening with all four burners going (canning pot, brine, lids, overflow jars), thinking of how lovely it will be to eat the beets alongside a pan-seared pork chop, to dollop the pesto on top of a bowl a stew, to add the dilled carrots to brown rice as the snow blusters about on top of the slumbering garden outside.
A couple weeks' worth of variety. Nom.
The geese also mean that we really need to be pushing hard on the downstairs remodel. I assume I've mentioned that we are redoing the entire first floor of the farm house. Turns out, this takes a fair amount of time and work, in an already busy season. But, thanks to a fairly regular supply of helpers throughout the summer, the drywall is not only up but painted, concealing behind it actual INSULATION (as I said: "survive in style".) with a greater 'r value' than the mice, mice nests, and dead mice that removed, and we are remarkably on schedule to have a buttoned up, cozy little house by the time snow flies. Right now there is some very careful woodwork going on to repair the numerous holes in the floors left from walls that we and owners previous have removed and heating registers that haven't existed for years, and then we move on to a delightful few days of sanding and polyurethane, in which the dog will sleep in the car and we will travel upstairs via a ladder to a bedroom window. Just like Romeo and Juliet.
Oh, hello, new downstairs for grownups!! (almost).
Then there has been the seasonal increase in the spatter of unavoidable surprises that are such an integral part to farming, stealing precious hours and afternoons away. Little Red mysteriously failed to have piglets; the breeding schedule must be reshuffled and her farrowing stall dismantled so she can move back in with the boar. A farmer friend suddenly decides to leave the game; we end up with one of his sows and several hundred of his chickens, making for more breeding reshuffling and a lot of mowing with the tractor that needs done to get ready for birds. Concurrently, a tree branch decides to thrust itself into the radiator of the tractor; it is taken to a man named "Randy" who tries to fix it for five (5) full days before determining that it is irreparably damaged, thus leading to evenings hunting for a replacement part and an entire afternoon of driving to retrieve it. The turkeys break out of their brooder on a Sunday morning; they must be wrangled and moved into their outside pasture pen when we weren't planning on it. And so on.
Little Red, Borst, and the new sow, Missy.
All of this, on top of the the regular, expected pace of things. Spot's and Scar's new piglets are growing like weeds; this past Sunday morning they were wrangled, castrated (to answer your questions: no, not an especially lovely process. But not as bad as you might think, either - so long as you have hearing protection.), and moved into the outdoor pen with their grumpy mothers (who are thankfully mellowing out now that they have company and sunshine). The weeds have been growing like weeds; the fence-line must be weed-whacked. Bunnies are having (and not eating!) baby bunnies, the garlic bed needs compost added to it, the fruit trees need monitored for Japanese beetles, the grower pigs need buckets upon buckets carried to them, next years garden must begin to be thought of, fuel must be stored up, and so on.
But, as much as the geese and the cooler evenings mean that we have to hurryuppleaseitstime, they also mean that calmer evenings are ahead, evenings in which one can dote on a simmering pot of stew, where the only real chores are to make sure everyone is cozy, fed and watered, where the pace of growing slows down enough that one can pause, breathe, and spend an entire month's worth of evenings reading a book, and an entire month's worth of Sunday mornings reading the entire New York Times over lazy cups of coffee, when I can finally pop open the jars I've been sweating over and savor the results.
* Everything EXCEPT tomatoes, which are currently large, glorious, and stubbornly green. And it's not just me! My gardening forum is awash with impatient, miserable New England gardeners, waiting in vain for their heirlooms to ripen up. It seems it has been a slow summer at providing the "growing degree days" necessary to ripen the big heirlooms and beefsteaks; next year I will have to make sure to plant a few extra-early varieties so I won't have to have a minor temper tantrum every time I drive past the farmer's stand that has tomatoes starting in late July. Yes: next year begins the Quest for the July Tomato.