Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mysteries at the Homestead

So far its been Sherlock Holmes mystery month here at the homestead.  July came in rainy, and humid, making the garden grow in leaps and bounds, the sunflowers standing tall, guarding the youngsters at their feet, including the unwanted visitors that were not invited.    These tall guardians of the garden were not planted by human hand, but came up from the seeds of their ancestors of last year.  Each year, I routinely plant sunflowers in rows, only to have them wither and die, while the wild ones come up to taunt me in the rows, outside the rows, daring to be pulled. Some lose their bet, others I leave in the rows to reach out to the sky, and play with the clouds.

Tomatoes are ripening faster than I can count, earlier then ever before, corn has tasseled, peppers have peppered, and the vines of squash, pumpkin, gourds have hidden the fence on the pasture lane, mixing in abandonment with each other, leaving the bees to wonder whose flowers belong to whom.  The potato beetles have given up the battle, and herbs have been drying.  First mystery, everything is so early, weeks early, my farmer neighbor down the road can't keep up with the ripening oats, multitude of hay, and the corn 6 foot high by the 4th of July. Everything has become almost too fertile for the fields, including this homestead.

Lynn down at the other end of Scotts Lane always comes every year for a few dozen eggs to set for new laying hens.  This year however , she came early, as a family of raccoons went out on the town and stopped by her chicken pen and dined on her hens.   So I gave her three dozen, usually out of this about a dozen chicks or less hatch out.......THIS TIME...32 hatched out..SURPRISE...And back here on our homestead....a biddy hen walked out from somewhere with one chick.....never missed her while she was sitting for a few weeks. Meanwhile Avi, our bloodhound husky, kept trying to dig under the old shed, even tho I kept putting pallets on the ground to discourage her.  Upon listening carefully, I heard peeping coming from inside the shed......low and behold there was another chick, sitting inside a barrel of alpaca fiber all by it self....chirping for someone, anyone, to come and rescue him.  Now how he got in that barrel at two days old is mystery number two .  Picking him up and placing him with the "one chick" hen mom, they all went happily about their business of pecking the ground for food.  But the story doesn't end there, message came thru......".do  you want some of the chicks?, we have way too many for us here".....Lynn  asked.  This was to be the year, I wasn't going to raise any little down we went and came back with 15 cheeping, noisy black little dots, depositing them into the greenhouse, went back into our own pen, located now "2 Chick" Mama hen, put her with the 15 new arrivals, providing her with a proper and full family of 17 black dots, running around pecking at everything she shows them.  They are happy, quiet, and content even tho they can not all fit under her wing at night and must take turns riding on her back,  learning the trade of the chicken world. They will stay there, exploring the lawn around the greenhouse, the wild flower garden, and the wood line, till they have feathered completely out, and no longer need the older hen to show them the way....and then all will be moved into the fenced alpaca yard, along with the older generations of hens and roosters that was the start of it all.  Circle will be complete.

Earlier in the month, while out separating the weeds from the earth in the garden, a loud, humming, buzzing  noise got my attention fast. Looking out across the yard in one of the tall oaks there was a spiral commotion of  activity flying fast and free, and with one find the queen.  It was a sight to behold, a swarm of bees, hanging from one of the trees, at least two feet or more in length, swirling, circling, black cloud, finally settling slowly on each other in the quest for ....the queen mother.  We thought that maybe one of our hives had swarmed, but they were fine, cept for the few drones that were now leaving to join the party.  Mystery No. 3...and a few days later, I heard the same music coming from the woods in back of the garden, tho could see nothing.   Within a couple of hours another swarm flew in and took their place in one of the apple trees in the yard.  This one much smaller, but just as noisy, and dramatic, even the dogs kept their distance.  By the morning all were before......where they  came from, what their destination was, we will never know......but it was definitely a first for this homestead.  Meanwhile , our own hives are doing a good business as more rooms were added to both hives, and the honey is rolling in....minus a few drones.

The wood line across the hay field has become a stage for the proud peacock strut of a huge buck, still in velvet, as he prances across the field in search of a tidbit of clover growing again after the first cut.  Behind him two more bucks come into my line of vision, smaller, more timid, but holding their heads high, cautious, frantically trying to keep up with the leader, all the while snipping a leaf or two here and there.  This is the first time in five years we have seen any bucks come across the treeline into the fields, usually its the does and their fawns playing in the sunlight, but they have been absent this summer or the hay had grown too tall for them to be seen.  The Sandhill cranes couple, have emulated into three couples this year, as they come back to the same nesting place along the tree line between the two fields.  These  majestic birds take their time looking for food in the cut hayfield, gracefully placing one long foot in front of the other,  marching in tune to the rustling oak leaves, lead by the swallows gliding on the sails of the wind, and the hummers swinging from one flower to another, while the loons call from the lake across the ravine.  Its cool early in the morning, the only time to search for food or garden before the sun sends its hot rays to chase in all but the most brave by noon.

Well, the rhubarb/strawberry and raspberry jam has been made, ready for gift giving in December, the peas, and cauliflower have taken their place in the freezer, along with the broccoli and kale.  Potatoes must be dug, and onions will be ready in a couple of weeks to pull and dry. This doesn't usually happen till mid August. The pole beans have hidden their supports, and the honey bees have taken permanent residence on all the flowers now in full bloom.  The rain clouds keep a comin, and the moist heat hastens the delivery of produce beyond my control. Tomatoes will be canned, cucumbers pickled, all in July, along with the corn, beans, and herbs.  The Organic Gardner says that by the end of this century, New Hampshire is predicted to have summers similar to what we currently see in Virginia or North Carolina.

 Mystery No. what happens to the summers in the southern states....will they have hot sandy deserts, or will they have fallen into the oceans?  We of course will never know....but it definitely leaves much to the imagination of this homesteader.

1 comment:

  1. Good to see my little black dots are doing well. Your garden is beautiful, wish I had your green thumb and your way with words.