5.31.2015 Haying, Homes for the bypassed, Irrigation and Heat

The end of May means haying season in this part of the country. The weather cooperated completely for the last two weeks of the months. No rain. Enough heat and enough wind to dry things down quickly. Enough coolness and enough breeze that old people stacking hay in the barn didn’t have a stroke. Although we had help from two neighbors, we really missed having all the kids here to toss the bales. Instead we approached the job with the wisdom gained with age. We broke it down into small, reasonable pieces, meaning we kept the stacks on the trailer and the truck fairly low. (Middle aged people don’t toss hay bales very high. Apparently, it takes young muscles to do that.) We took nice long breaks. We had plenty of water and Gatorade. Still, 240 bales went into the barn in next to no time. We’re definitely getting better at this sort of stuff.

After the hay went into the barn, I spent the better part of a day, replacing a good portion of the irrigation in the kitchen garden. There was rumor of heat wave with no rain for days and days. That rumor didn’t pan out, (thankfully) but it was enough for me to get that chore done. It’s very hard on the hands to force the diverter valves into the feeder line, but laying drip irrigation, while time consuming, isn’t all that difficult.

Once I had all my beds under irrigation, it was time to plant the flowers and herbs that I had started way back and never transplanted, because I was focused on getting the veg in the ground. It’s been a rather strange spring, as I’ve stated before, but finally everything it starting to take off. Probably got a lot to do with soil temperatures being too cold and the microbial life in the soil being slow to going.

Bug damage has been light so far, but the cabbage moths are here in force. I went after them with a butterfly net one afternoon. That got old real quick. Most of the damage seems centered on the collards and I cut them hard once a week, taking the cabbage worms with me. Potato beetles put in appearance, but I was smart enough to plant the potatoes along the path to the barn. Every time I pass by, my eyes are scanning for the little buggers and I squash every single one that I see. After a week of that, I’m not seeing many potato beetles or their larva. I’ve also seen a few harlequin bugs, stink bugs and cucumber beetles. They all seem to be coming at once.

By Wednesday, it was time to do something with the flat of strawberries in the fridge. I made jam and syrup, and I discovered the “foam” that you’re supposed to skim off is the best strawberry marshmallow you’ll ever encounter and should never, ever be discarded. So I didn’t skim if off my jam. Instead I put it in some of the jam jars. It doesn’t look as pretty, but I’m pretty sure I can sell it as the special treat that it is. The foam from the syrup? Well, I claimed that as cook’s privilege. The strawberry syrup was a brilliant idea that didn’t pan out. Very time consuming and expensive to make. I don’t think I have a market that will pay me what it’s worth.   But, oh, the possibilities! Pancakes and waffles, of course, but also flavored tea and soda, not to mention a marvelous topping for cheesecake or icecream.

I was literally sweating over a hot stove because that’s the day our air conditioner broke. Blower motor is blown. Since then, any cooking has been done on the grill and a good night’s sleep has been hard to come by. No oven usage meant no bread for market on Saturday and that was a pretty big hit to take. I am hopeful the part will come in and the air conditioner will be fixed on Monday. The part should be covered under warranty, but I’m pretty sure I have to pay labor. Lovely. Did I mention the vacuum cleaner exploded in a cloud of dust on the same day? Thursday. Masquerading as a Wednesday. Happens from time to time.

In the meantime, life on the fat farm progresses. The horses: Ophelia, Cookie and Sadie all lost weight this week. Pony, back in her muzzle for the week, is clinging stubbornly to every floppy bit of neck fat. My daughter’s fat cat discovered the joys of nights out hunting dragons with the dog. The happy result is a cat that sleeps more during the day and obsesses much less with food. She’s trimming down and no longer seems to bounce off the walls.

One of my Cuckoo Marans hens insisted she was broody, so we set her up in the crate in Squatch’s old spot in the big barn. We gave her ten eggs to set because she’s a big girl. Among the ten eggs, was the very last egg our dear Squatch laid before she was murdered. Broody hen stayed with the eggs for about 36 hours and then ran back to coop. I caught her and put her back to work. She’s there still, sulking and brooding. There’s nothing else for her to do, locked as she is in a dog crate. I’ll let her out briefly once a day so she can relieve herself in one of the horse stalls. Hopefully, hormones will take over once the eggs start talking to her.

The daughter and her boyfriend are back from California and off again to summer jobs.

Busy week.

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