A Summer to Remember
It feels like an understatement to say it's been an unusual summer. There were some fun things we had planned that just didn't happen. I had been planning to leave the farm for longer than I have in the last ten years and take a vacation overseas. This summer we would have hosted our tenth annual farm barbecue and camp-out that we look forward to every summer. Where I work like crazy the first part of August to get everything at the farm looking ship shape, and then we enjoy having old friends over that we don't see very often anymore because the hour drive between the farm and the city is more of a barrier to socializing than you'd think it should be. But when you look at the big picture, those are small sacrifices that I don't mind making. We are fortunate that we have our good health and a reliable income. I've been working from home for my non-farm consulting business for many years since we moved to the farm, and I am very grateful that has been relatively unaffected by Covid-19. The main thing we miss is not seeing friends and family as often as we're used to, although the hermit part of me is pretty well suited to this isolationist lifestyle that we find ourselves living these days.
But there were also some really good things about this different kind of summer. We usually hatch a few turkeys or chickens on the farm each summer, although I try to refrain from adding more new ones to the farm than we need, because as fun as it is to hatch babies, there are inevitably logistical problems that result from having multiple age groups in the flock, not to mention the additional roosters that result. This summer I spoiled myself a bit, and in addition to letting our silkie hen in the back deck bantam coop hatch babies in April (Silkie Sweetness) and our annual turkey hatch in May (From Egg to Lap Turkey), I also decided to let one of the chickens in our main chicken coop hatch a few chicks in June. One of the new breeds I added to the flock last year was Buff Orpingtons. They are big fluffy golden girls that are renowned as the teddy bears of the backyard chicken world. One of our new buff ladies went broody, and on a whim I gave her a few eggs. In my defense I did have a good reason ;) which is that I realized that Brown Rooster, who looks after our main chicken flock, is seven years old and that's pretty old for a rooster. Should we find ourselves needing a replacement this winter, I thought it was a good idea to be pro-active and hatch out a few offspring, hoping we'd get lucky and get some of Ramon's good genes (Ramon was Brown's father) to carry on the line. The buff momma turned out to be really mellow which was a lot of fun because she allowed me to get close to her chicks without the usual protective momma hen freak-outs! The chicks are teenagers now, and it looks like we ended up with two hens and two roosters, which is better than my usual rooster ratio so I'm happy with that.
There were lots of successes in the garden this year, and for once I managed to keep up with eating and preserving the garden bounty better than I ever have before. The silver lining of not going out to dinner and visiting friends in town as much was that I had more time to spend in the kitchen. We had good harvests of greens, garlic and potatoes, all of which are in the pantry for enjoying this fall and winter. Our tomatoes were a flop this year, but thankfully a friend of mine started up an heirloom tomato farm this summer, and I enjoyed his beautiful bounty of tomatoes. I experimented with a few new varieties of vegetables this year including a purple bush bean and sweet corn which was grown from seeds from a friend in Sweden. One of the things I love about gardening is how it brings people together through the sharing of seeds and experiences. I finally succeeded in growing pumpkins this year, thanks to my new hugelkultur raised bed that I started last fall. I kept up pretty well with our berry and pear harvests this year, and I've got strawberry, blueberry and raspberry jam in the pantry, and sliced pears in the freezer using an easy sugar pack method. There are several big batches of sliced zucchini in the freezer for making curried zucchini soup this winter, along with ready made zucchini bread, roasted tomatoes, pesto, and berries and rhubarb for winter desserts. Marinara sauce is in the pantry as well. I grew another giant Hubbard squash this year, and that will be making its way into the oven for roasting soon and then into the freezer for enjoying in soups this winter. I'm just about to pick the glass gem popcorn and the Good Mother Stallard beans (a soup bean) from my three sisters garden after a few more sunny days to let them finish drying. This year I grew more cutting flowers in the garden and a few less veggies, and I really loved the added pop of color the extra flowers added to the garden.
My tendency is usually to work from dawn to dusk, but I tried to be better this summer about making more time for relaxing and enjoying the simple pleasures. One of the turkeys that I helped hatch this year, Peppy, is all grown up now and she continues to be the sweetest lap turkey a girl could wish for. I've been getting in lots of snuggles this summer, always overseen by a jealous Ringo! Another thing I decided to do to treat myself this summer was to order a subscription bouquet service from the farm stand a few miles down the road. Even though I have flowers here for making my own bouquets, it's an extra special treat having a big beautiful bouquet delivered right to your door, and I also enjoy supporting local businesses. We put in a new garden bed next to the greenhouse which gave me more room for growing sunflowers, and who doesn't need more sunflowers! We had the sweetest little house guest for a few days, a wild quail chick we named Micro, that we found separated from its family. Sadly it didn't survive the attempted integration with one of our broody chickens, but all you can do is your best, and sometimes it just doesn't work out in the end. Even though it's been an odd summer, it's been a mostly happy one and I can't complain. I'm thankful to have a beautiful and peaceful place to call home, and I know we will all be looking forward to what's to come in 2021.