Saturday, July 28, 2012

Good News from the Farm

It's been just a whirlwind of a year, really, starting this time last year with our departure prep for the 2011 Big Trip while also in the throes of trying to sell our house. Then it was the holidays, then the house sold and we moved, then unpacking (and still unpacking) and settling (and still settling), then moving forward with life in the new place. I recently wrote about some regrets I was having about the move, but things are looking up.

E's heavily involved in activities already and yesterday V said, "I like our new house. We have good neighbors." I think we're settling in.
In short, July brought us Cuesta College for Kids (a full schedule of arts, literature and performing arts classes at the local community college), membership to a local climbing co-op gym for V, intensive rehearsals at a local theater for E, visiting family from out of state, a ballet performance to wrap up the spring rehearsal season, lessons in the garden, swimming in the pond next door and plenty of little projects here and there, including MORE TRASH removal. In between all this, we had some nice finds, including a free pool from a neighbor a few miles up the road. Our visitors helped put it together and it's been a refreshing playground in our parched territory. It's not big, nor fancy, but it'll do the trick and the price was certainly right!

We have a couple more weeks of the theater rehearsals before the big show, then I think we'll take the last two weeks of August to do NOTHING that involves leaving the property. Yep. I plan to stock up on groceries, too, so we don't have to head into town at all. We'll see how long we can manage it. (We haven't spent three consecutive days at home since V was an infant - I wonder if we CAN!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seriously Hot

So, I knew that moving to the northern half of the county meant we'd have high temperatures, and I tried to prepare myself mentally. But this week's temps were "unseasonably high," according to our local weatherman. "Ridiculously high," would be my choice of words.
At 4:50 p.m. Tuesday it was ACTUALLY 108 in Creston (103 in the shade of our north-facing front porch). Wednesday, it was again 103 on the front porch. Today, they're looking at 102. I'm really looking forward to Saturday, when all this is supposed to break, and Sunday when it's "only" going to be in the 80s.

I'm not big on heat, but the tomatoes are. And (touch wood) the rodents don't seem all that into the tomatoes (heirlooms) I've planted. The last round of peppers I planted lasted 'til the sulphur-stinkin' rodent repellent wore off (about 6 days, and I was on a weekly spray schedule).

So, how do we beat the heat? We don't. This morning, I arose early to enjoy the fantastic morning temperatures (mid-60s) while I took care of releasing the chickens (minus one we lost to the coyotes last week), riding two horses and squirrel hunting (no dice today - even the squirrels were too hot to come out this morning). Back inside by 9:30 for the day. We MAY trek the 9 miles into town for a dip in the community pool which is wonderfully clear, cool and clean. Or we may get some work done around the house - or even play a game!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Making Changes

If I've learned nothing else from this move, I have learned that young children probably really don't know what they want; that when they say, "I want to..." they're probably just talking; that striving to help them make the big changes they can't make for themselves so they can live out those spoken dreams is unnecessary an unappreciated. For the first time in my life, I'm not going with my regular mantra: "Change is good."

I love our new home, the crickets at night, the livestock right there in the back (and front, and side) yards. I love the rope swing and the garden. I love that the kids can now run outside and explore nature every day without having first to climb into a motorized vehicle to make their way to publicly accessible open space. But the girls, who have always been about exploring the outdoors, picking flowers, searching for wild animals of any size or description, aren't taking advantage of the new situation. If anything, they're becoming housebound by their own choosing.

Granted, it's hot out midday, tick season scared us out of the tall grass and the mysterious disappearance of a chicken has us wondering whether the wildlife is watching our every move to sharpen their hunting advantage over us, but mornings and evenings are beautiful, tick season has subsided and the only carnivores we've experienced firsthand are the plentiful coyotes which sing in the fields and hills every evening.

Both girls used to take horseback riding lessons; now neither spends much time with the horses. E had stopped the lessons a year before we moved because, she said, she was tired of riding in the arena and just wanted to "go off exploring." Last week, she told a local cowboy who enquired about her interest in riding in the local rodeo that she didn't ride "because we don't have an arena." What?!

They talked, before we moved, about building a tree house. Now that we're here, they've still get to identify a tree in which they want to build the house. They talked about what they wanted to grow in their gardens, but while V has planted some sunflowers (none of which she tended), E, my botanist and herbologist, hasn't so much as spit in the general direction of a garden.

They talked about having sheep and goats and dogs, but now realize all those animals require work. E read a book about sheep care and decided she might not want to have sheep "because so much might go wrong!" (I suppose, for the same reason, it's a good thing we didn't read "What to Expect..." before we had our first child!)

While the kids are still, apparently, adjusting, Mr. B is thriving in the new place. When we're not together building fences or fixing gates or digging trenches or otherwise repairing the rundown bits of the place, he's up on the hill working on a trail system he's building by hand. He's managing a commute which, while beautiful, eats hours of his every work day.

If I had it to do over again, would I move? I don't know. At this point, I feel like my mental health is a LOT better in this place. I feel like the opportunities for the girls to explore life are much better here. We're closer to a community with more performing arts opportunities (of which E is already taking FULL advantage). When 4H rolls around and they say, again, that they'd like to do an animal project, we'll be able to accommodate that wish. And the drawbacks of the old place remain: an airport runway extension has already brought heavier, louder planes over our old flight-path home; a new freeway offramp is on its way there, and will bring markedly increased traffic to the neighborhood. And while we were on a picture-perfect culdesac, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be in these days when people lock themselves behind closed door to play on their electronic devices or stare at the glowing tube. I miss the friends we made there (as do the girls), but each of them has come to our new place (some frequently).

Would I do it again? It's too soon to say, and too late all the same. You can never go back, so we'll forge ahead and hope the girls come out of it when the temperature drops.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Life on the Farm is Kinda Laid Back?

John Denver said it, but now that we've been on the farm for nearly 5 months, I wonder if he knew what he was talking about. Sure, it's laid back at night, when the stars are out, the crickets are cricking and the horses are sleeping. Otherwise, there's a LOT of work to do around here. Still, I wouldn't trade it.

We bought a place with not a single out building: nowhere to store hay or grain; nowhere to store tack; no arn; no outhouse. We thought the fences were repairable, but it turns out they were largely in need of replacement and, the case of many of the interior fences, realignment. We've spent a lot of our time, therefore, tearing down old fence, wearing through gloves, digging post holes and erecting new fence. My favorite part is when we stretch that last wire and tie it off. It all looks so sharp, so cleaned up and so FINISHED! Sure, the joy is in the journey, but with hard ground, jagged wire and high summer temps (even early some days), there's a LOT of joy to be had in wrapping up that journey!

I've also spent a bit of time working on a garden. I harvested the colorful carrots the previous owner left behind in the garden, then the garlic. How she managed the carrots I don't know, given what we've learned about local fauna, but the garlic must have had a lot to do with it.

In our lower garden, we're having lots of challenges. First, we battled gophers. While I was watering my beautiful row of beans, a gopher stole three entire plants. The next morning, 5 more complete bean plants had vanished down gopher holes. That's the day I learned to use the Macabeen gopher trap; the first day I ever killed a fuzzy beast. (I thought I'd feel bad about it. I was remorseful for a moment, then burried him in his hole and thanked him for becoming compost before setting the trap for the next fat dude to crawl into my family garden.)

Next it was the heat. I misjudged the May heat index and managed to lose the sprouts when temps rose to 101 in the shade of our front porch one otherwise beautiful day. I've since installed a drip irrigation system, a surprisingly easy project in the end!

Then it was the grasshoppers. They arrived in a cloud, entirely denuded five of the little trees in our orchard, ate the garden to the ground, and carried on to the wild grasses and "weeds." My aunt, who was visiting, and I tried diatomaceous earth (no dice) then a concoction of mineral oil, garlic, castille soap and such to spray on the leaves. That slowed them down, but too little too late.

I planted the new garden, now greatly reduced in size while we continue on this steep learning curve, sprayed the new plant and everything surrounding it for a 20 feet, and all the trees. The onslaught seems to have waned.

Next challenge: keep away rabbits or squirrels or whatever it was that came into the garden in the light of day to eat all the peppers - Anaheim chillis, heirloom bells of various shapes, colors and sizes. The peppers were there when we left for town in the morning - and gone when we returned home mid-afternoon. (sigh)

Our salvation is in our tomatoes. Apparently there isn't a lot out here that likes to eat these nightshade varieties. Let's just hope we get to the fruit before the critters do.

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