Counting Blessings, Cutting Loses, Culling Critters

A respite from the heat, but still no rain. We surveyed our fenced land for grazing and have come to the sad conclusion that our intention last year to grow the herd will not be achieved in the near future.

Seemed like the right thing to do, growing the herd, considering food inflation and especially high meat prices, and the fact that Hubby is here full-time now, and that more bartering/trading could be in the foreseeable future. But, the parched land screams otherwise.

Between the steeply rising cost of feed and the meager forage available, and no guarantees the stranglehold of the weather terrorists will let up any time soon, we come to some difficult decisions.

We will wait another year to freshen the goats, drastically reduce the number of sheep, and breed back only one sow. We will maintain the poultry flock as-is for the most part, but had hoped to add ducks once again to the mix. No rain means fewer bugs means more supplemental feed. So that plan is not looking too good now either.

Planned building projects are also getting postponed. A ‘milking parlor’ was on the list, some much-needed repairs to the deck, rebuilding the greenhouse, a field shelter for the herd, and on and on, plans are easy, implementation, not so much!

We are blessed with an already achieved minimalism: Living seasonally, frugally, well-acquainted with the boom-bust cycles of our overlords and still small enough to be flexible, and with enough local support to know we’ve got each other.

Our most crucial long-term goal remains: Growing our own feed—perennials as well as annuals.

We hear the word ‘sustainable’ repeated multiple times a day these days, but there’s rarely anything truly sustainable being suggested.

It’s 99% hype and green washing. But actual sustainability does exist, and the more self-reliant we can be, the closer we are to achieving it.

How do we measure up?

And it’s not like there’s not plenty for us still to do and learn here, even with squeezing the belt tighter.

I’m still very interested in herbalism, especially as it pertains to our local environment. The best things in life are free, or nearly so, no?!

And while I do appreciate the allure of the consumer life, I’m far more fascinated by the natural world all around me. It’s always a matter of slowing down, observing ever more closely, teasing out the potential of all that is all around me, and some of that certainly means our local community, but that doesn’t just mean the people.

I’d love to learn more wild crafts, as well as more fine art tuning; more science, and more speculation; and much, much more about where and how these endeavors mesh.

There is a different brand of “More!”, isn’t there, than the furious Billy Idol sang about?

Or, maybe it’s all the same, in the midnight hour?

Nature’s Myriad Mysteries

Every day on the wee homestead brings some new mystery, most of which go mostly unsolved. No need for UFOs, Jesus’ image on your morning toast, or Big Foot sightings around here—we’ve got baffling bees, mystical mushrooms, and unexplained murders.

I’ll start with the most dramatic. A rancher neighbor was terribly shaken up and recounted a recent disturbing event at their place, meaning to warn us. They found two calves bleeding, one dead, one still barely alive, which they had to put down, the injury was so severe.

She had been crying, as I would’ve been as well, and told me in their nearly two decades here they had never seen such a thing and had no idea what creature had done it. It wasn’t any kind of injury they recognized or have had to deal with before. Each one had a single tear right up its undercarriage, with the entrails spilling out, and nothing eaten. Coyotes being our typical predators around here, I inquired along those lines and she shook her head, clearly, not this time. We do hear stories about panther sightings on occasion, I myself thought I saw one once too. But again, the gnawing question, predators don’t just kill calves for the fun of it. Two calves killed, no markings or traces of a struggle, and nothing eaten. That is a mystery I prefer not to think too much about.

So, quickly, on to better stories!

I have an update on the bizarre ‘mushroom blob’ from a recent post. Over the last weeks it has developed into typical bracket or crust fungi. While now at least it is generally identifiable, the mystery still remains, because bracket mushrooms grow on trees, not under vines in regular garden soil. There is not even wood mulch on the top of the bed where it’s growing.

The fungi when I first found it above, and again today, below.

My only guess is that the mycelia network is coming up from below this raised bad. We threw a bunch of wood chunks down before piling on the soil. But, that might be a stretch, as I’ve never heard of these mushrooms growing on anything but living or dead bark. I just don’t know.

Mushrooms being my second favorite mystery after bees, we end with a sweeter little story.

This bitternut tree was all abuzz with activity this morning. It’s hard with photos to get a sense of how many bees were working it, so there’s a short video clip below for the sound effects.

We couldn’t help but think it was such odd bee behavior, because nothing on this tree is blooming—no pollen, no nectar. Yet the bees were clearly eating something off the leaves. So, we licked the leaves, and they taste sweet! I have no idea why this would be, but the leaves seem to be exuding some kind of sap. The bees have been all over it all day, so it wasn’t just morning dew.

This sounds like the simple sort of mystery a local arborist could solve for us. If I find out, I’ll be sure and let y’all know, so you don’t loose any sleep over it! 😆

Homestead Happy Snaps

High 90s again this week—will it ever end?!

Kinda hard to stay motivated when we’re melting!

Luckily as mood boosters we have Hubby’s homemade sparkling wine coolers. It’s his own concoction, made from our own ‘new’ wines—pear mixed with wild grape—complete with bubbles! It’s really tasty, not too sweet, and a lovely color. And bubbles!

Delicious!

The goats are still impressively darling and annoying and belligerent at once.

Beautyberries and mist flower don’t mind the late summer heat.

The garden still has many happy visitors, but I’m not one of them!

You’ll find me inside with the air conditioning, an icy wine cooler, and a pile of books and movies to attend to!

It’s the System, Stupid

To me this entire story positively reeks of stagecraft. But, even if we take it at face value it demonstrates how screwed up our food system really is.

MONDAY, JAN. 26, 2015 PHOTO In this Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 photo, cows are milked on one of the carousels in a milking parlor on the Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Ind. Fairlife, which is rolling out nationally in coming weeks, is the product of a joint venture between Select Milk Producers, a dairy cooperative, and Coca-Cola. The product is filtered to have more protein and less sugar than regular milk. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Here’s the story in tiny nutshell: The McCloskeys were sued for animal cruelty at their dairy farm following an undercover employee’s secretly videotaping several instances with four workers involved. Now a settlement has been reached:

Completely denatured milk sold as natural, tasty and healthy

The Fairlife ads, cartoon milk dresses.
Classy.

A $21 million Settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed against Defendants The Coca-Cola Company (“TCCC”), fairlife, LLC (“fairlife”), Fair Oaks Farms, LLC (“FOF”), Mike McCloskey and Sue McCloskey (“the McCloskeys”), and Select Milk Producers, Inc. (“Select”), relating to fairlife and FOF Milk Products. The lawsuit alleges that Defendants falsely labeled and marketed certain dairy products produced using milk from cows that were allegedly not treated humanely. Defendants deny all allegations and have settled this lawsuit to avoid further litigation.

The Court has not decided who is right.You may submit a Claim Form to receive 25% of the average retail purchase price, up to $100, for your purchases of fairlife Milk Products and FOF Milk Products, if the products were purchased for personal use and not for resale, and were purchased on or before April 27, 2022. Claim Forms submitted without Valid Proof of Purchase will be capped at a Cash Award of up to $20 and Claim Forms submitted with Valid Proof of Purchase will be capped at a Cash Award of up to $80, subject to certain adjustments (upward and downward) depending on the number of claims submitted.

So, there’s video evidence, but the Court has not decided who is right. Must be so confusing, poor kids.

But you get some money anyway if you can come up with your milk purchase receipt, potentially from 2015. Brilliant.

In an interview the McCloskeys talk about all the fantastic improvements they’ve made to garner public trust once again in their dairy products since the video’s release, and the broad coverage of ‘the scandal’ by MSM (I do believe they neglected to mention the product line was owned by Coca-Cola, but I may have missed that part and really do not care to re-listen. It was annoying enough the first time listening to Mike Rowe pander to these creeps).

What I did hear in the interview was how proud the McCloskeys are now of their complete video surveillance system, how they are well on the road to becoming ‘Net Zero’ so that they can help curb climate change as responsible business owners, and how very excited they were to see the gleam in the eye of the school children who came there to tour their facilities and were so thrilled to see cows being milked by carousel machine.

Now they might grow up to become mechanical engineers, Mrs. McCloskey beamed!

I’m so excited for our Green future too, aren’t you?!

Still This Love Crap

Have you ever experienced unrequited love? Ever love someone who was so out of your league they didn’t know you existed? Ever been horribly, unfairly, unceremoniously jilted by a lover? Ever love someone for years who treated you like shit most of the time? Ever love someone who turned out to be completely different than the one you thought you fell in love with?

Ever tried to muster up feelings of love for someone or something you did not, could not, love?

And yet still, despite its ephemeral nature—from its meaning, to its translation, to how it is individually experienced—some of our greatest thinkers, philosophers, social critics, poets, not to mention a good chunk of pop culture, still repeats “Love is the answer.”

We should love everyone and especially nature. That’s what’s wrong with the world, they insist, not enough love. And every time I hear this, I roll my eyes, even when it comes from someone I love.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b08njtjg

Most recently I heard it in an interview coming from Wendell Berry (link). How someone so inspiring, who has led such a charmed and wholesome and respectable life, who now at an advanced age seems so wise, could repeat such nonsense confirms for me only one thing: “We don’t see things for what they are, we see them for what we are.”

Love is the answer to the West’s problems, they say, because you take care of what you love. And the younger thinker and social critic Paul Kingsnorth agrees with him.

How lovely.

Now here’s a homework assignment I’d love to give to these fools. Kingsnorth likes to study tribal cultures, which I think is really cool. He likes them because they have a solid home in nature, unlike Westerners. And I agree. So, I think he should ask all those tribal folks their opinions about this ‘love’ solution so many Western thinkers keep harping on about.

My bet is, it doesn’t translate. At all. I bet he’d have to write an entire essay for them about what he means by love in the first place, let alone how he expects that will solve anything.

How do you make someone love you? Or care about you? I have a difficult time imagining a more monumental task. And yet, somehow those who care about nature are tasked with getting those very great many, like the Technocrats and their vast entourages, to not only love it, but to respect it, to care for it, to nurture it even. Seriously?

What a debilitating delusion they are spewing. And not just once or twice out of an understandable desperation. But constantly, for decades now.

Yet to call it out for the obvious shallow fantasy that it is, I become the bitch.

Well then, so be it. Let me play that role for a minute or two right now.

Imagine Mother Nature is your very own mother. Maybe you love your mother, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. You love her, but your sisters love her more. And your mother and your sisters are screaming at you—“You don’t love me!” “You don’t care about me!” “You are exploiting me and you must stop!”

How will you respond to their shrieks and demands of love and care? Deny your lack of love, perhaps? Maybe yell back that they are all wrong about you? Maybe ask what they mean by that?

You might be so sure of your love that you ask what you can do to prove it?

Maybe Mom replies she wants you to write her a poem professing your loving feelings. So you do. You go even further, and you write 10 poems and throw in a tediously long essay to boot. And you’re very proud of your efforts and you feel you’ve really captured the intense love you have for her.

And she says she likes them, even the tediously long essay. In fact, everyone who loves her also agrees how perfectly you’ve captured those feelings of love through your words. Astonishing.

But, after all, those are just words, and you said to love her is to care for her, so she wants to see some action.

So with the same zeal you wrote the ten poems and tediously long essay you tackle the part where your loving words become caring actions.

You chop wood and carry water for her. You refrain from any negativity in her presence, because she doesn’t like it. You insist that everyone in her company, through shame or coercion or even force, abide by her rules and preferences.

At long last, she is satisfied with your efforts. You can feel the power of her appreciation filling your heart and coursing through your veins.

She tells you, “Child, you are a true master of loving care!”

“Except, you see, there’s so many children over there who don’t love me. And their lack of love for me is upstaging your love. Their lack of love is demonstrably more powerful than your true love. What can you do about this?”

And you reply, “Great Mother, don’t you worry, I can make them love you like I do!”

Really? Can you? What makes you so sure about that?

You read them your poems, and they smirk. Then they read your tediously long essay and shrug. You show them your admirable work in fetching wood and carrying water for your Great Mother, and they respond by clear cutting your forest and damming your river.

Then they tell you their favorite joke, laughing all along.

The joke goes like this: There were these three dudes on a yacht. One was an American, another was Russian, and the third one was Mexican. They were all drinking and getting boastful as drunken men like to do.

The Russian said, “In my country, we have so much vodka we can afford to throw it away!” And he takes a full bottle of vodka and throws it into the ocean.

They all laugh harder. So, the Mexican says, “In my country, we have so much tequila we can afford to throw it away!” And he takes a full bottle of tequila and throws it overboard.

And they all laugh harder still. Then the American says, “Well, in my country we have so many . . .

And he picks up the Mexican and throws him overboard.

The Russian and American look at each and howl with laughter. And the American blurts out between guffaws, “Tough love!”

To The Holy Spirit

O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,
Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.

Wendell Berry

Fun With Goats

No, I don’t mean Goat Yoga, that’s just dumb.

Really, yoga’s not enough torture for you, you need hooves to the spine, too?!

We love our goats, but not inside, duh.

New screenplay idea: Goats Who Stare At Men!

Because of the heat and drought the best forage is close to the house, where we are regularly watering. It’s good for the goats, and for us it makes for better entertainment than most TV. There are drawbacks though. Like they eat pretty much all the plants, not just the ones we want them to eat.

And they tend to follow me around, waiting for the extra special treats I bring them from the garden, like their favorite, sweet potato vines and morning glory.

Feeding frenzy

And they want to climb on everything.

Going out on a limb
Just out of reach!
“I’m too sexy for this grass”

Our once somewhat peaceful morning coffee now attracts a team of show-offs. (I don’t think Bubba approves, considering what they do to his bed.) They do giant leaps off the deck, too, that look a lot like the tricks snowboarders do, but not on cue, unfortunately.

Please feel free to enjoy 2 minutes of Chez Kensho programming!

Homestead Happy Snaps

As hot and dry as it still is, we’re still managing to get-r-done. Much has died in the garden, but the weeds and grasses still thrive with irrigation. We used to complain how well we grew grass and weeds, and little else, but we have a different attitude now. It all serves to feed the critters, who in turn feed us, which is a pretty good deal.

The honeybees love the purslane, and we love the honey.

The goats love the morning glory, and we love the goat cheese.

The bumblebees love the luffa flowers, and the pigs love the luffa fruit, and we love the bacon. How fortunate for us this cycle of life!

The volunteer cucumber has shown me we can indeed get fruit in 100 degrees, it just has to be from a fresh plant.

Fence clearing duty, thank you! And who doesn’t love pink zinnias?

Peek-a-boo!

I think we can tell who will be the next herd queen—Bluebonnet, daughter of the current herd queen—go figure.

A fantastic shot from a friend in the northeast US, so amazing, I just had to include it!

Wow! Almost makes me want the new IPhone.

And last but not least, Bubba and Buttercup in their favorite places, which is always, as close to Hubby as possible. 🙂


Thanks for stopping by!

Homestead Happenings

Just posting some happy snaps to distract our attention away from all that’s dying in the garden. And the fact that the hens have mostly stopped laying, our oldest goat is looking dangerously thin, the grass has turned crispy, and there’s no end in sight.

Bubba trying to keep cool

Still, the kids are growing like weeds.

Walnut’s nearly as big as her mama already (back left) and even little Athena (front) is catching up to the rest of the kids.
Morning glory, another goat favorite

The birds and the bees are still doing their thing while we can’t manage to stay outside past 11 am.

Unfortunately, so are the ants. The leaf-cutters are slowly destroying our young fruit trees. Only the more mature pear is escaping their attack.

Almost ready, fingers crossed!

Plants are simply amazing. The purslane and arugula are growing fine and make a great pesto. The sweet potato vines are a goat favorite, the okra’s just coming in, the peppers and watermelons are still hanging in there.

The zucchini hasn’t given up either, and somehow we still have broccoli that’s not bitter.

Just as the old cucumbers got bitter, the new volunteer is producing like crazy. Not too shabby! 😁

Homestead Happenings

Time to wine!

It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s miserable. Every day we enter the garden and the orchard knowing we’ll find something else dead.

First it was the tomatoes, then the salad cucumbers and cantaloupe, now it looks like even the tomatillos are giving up before ever producing well. The squashes are all struggling and the peppers and figs are mostly stalled.

I wish that meant it was time to rest on our laurels and have some long, slow and sweet indoor days of movie marathons and Kombucha cocktails.

But no such luck, because it’s time for making wine!

Our painstakingly cultivated Muscadine grapes are not doing well, we expect a minimal harvest, at best.

But, the native Mustang grapes are a lot tougher, apparently.

So, fortunately! We’re still able to make some wine and jam.

Did I mention it’s really F’ing HOT? And dry?

I’d whine a lot more, except I keep going back to the miracle of all the critters and plants who can take it so much better than we can. Though, I know they are struggling too, and are just less whiney than I am.

And just for those keeping track, the ‘chemtrails’ have not abated.

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee hodgepodge of happy snaps and some light commentary for today.

Our preserving efforts have been at fever pitch with bushels of cucumbers and melons coming in. The Noirs des Carmes cantaloupe that was my main prize experiment for this summer has been a success, for the most part. We’ve gotten loads of melons, way too many to count, and the majority of them have been good.

But many of them have ‘exploded’— and that’s not just split, but within a day, before even being fully ripe, they’ve blown open completely. Some are tasteless even though fully ripe. Some are softening while still small and unripe.

The pigs have been the great beneficiaries of these rejects. I do understand why this melon is not commercially available and is not a favorite at farmer’s markets either, even though when they’re good, they’re delicious. Though some of these issues could certainly be the extreme heat and drought, they do not last long once they are ripe. They must ripen on the vine, and once ripe they last only a few days before rotting.

For us they’ve been prolific and very tasty even under stressful conditions, so they will be a keeper. Needless to say, we’ve been eating A LOT of melon! Melon for breakfast, snacks, aqua fresca, desserts, juice, syrup, jam and smoothies.

A small fraction of our harvest, preparing to make preserves.

We’re trying to take advantage of the heat by trying out a recent gift, a sun oven!

Our place is so small and we love cooking, but it’s hardly economical heating up the whole house every afternoon, when it’s blazing hot outside, and while inside the air conditioning is blasting away.

The kids are growing so fast! I’m slowly, gently trying to ween them. In this heat I don’t dare take too much milk for us, just enough for our morning coffee. But the daily training is still essential, for us all.

Around 5:00 am I separate mamas and kids for about 5 hours. The kids are eating grains and forage already, but they don’t like to be long off those teets, that’s for sure! By 9:00 they are wailing and it’s hard to listen to them while we’re working away outside, but it must be tolerated.

I train them on the milk stand and bring them a wheelbarrow full of sweet potato vines, which they devour.

A few baffling successes have been carrots and broccoli that are still producing in this heat! This is a first for us. I guess I got the timing and variety just right, for once. They are both under shade cloth and not totally productive or tasty, but good enough for us and a very nice surprise.

I’ve started some seed trays of tomatoes and lettuce indoors for the fall garden. Fingers crossed, I’ve never had successful fall tomatoes so far, but you never know, considering those carrots and broccoli!

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