Friday, August 31, 2018

Graybeard the Great!

Feared by humans, revered by the other roos all over the farmyard. Even the cats make a wide swath to avoid his path, and you, too, would be wise to do the same - to spare yourself a pummeling like no other, from those incredibly strong chicken legs.

Excuse me, where did this chicken come from?

A stray little pullet chicken to the little barn, over 4 years ago, mistaken for a hen in his younger days, became our most fierce and protective rooster at the farm. More fierce than I've ever seen. Ever. And I've mothered dozens of roos here! 

He quickly showed dominance, as what I thought was a lead hen - standing guard as other hens laid eggs in the horse troughs. It was around then I began to notice, my, my, how large your feet are becoming, for a hen...... 

It wasn't long after that then, that the rest of Graybeard's features began to form. And he became one of the most strikingly beautiful of the otherwise ordinary Barred Rock breed. And that crow! Oh you never heard such a loud rooster. He was housed over 200 ft from the main house, yet his crow was heard inside during the early morning hours as he awoke the residents of his coop.

Tragically, Graybeard, by way of one of his exceptionally long talons, became tangled in some nylon fencing during the heat of the afternoon. No doubt, chasing after something like he did. He struggled hard to free himself, as was apparent by the mark on his little (well, not so little, really) "ankle".

Seeing him only a few hours earlier at the barn, careful to avoid his ambush, I now reached him at feeding time near his coop and he was tired, hot, and dehydrated. 
Untangling him, I hurried over to a cool water bath and stroked his bright red comb with water and slowly immersed his trunk in the water trying to cool him down. Never before would he let me handle him like this. 
Always so angry was Graybeard. Quick to peck, often breaking the skin, upside down by his giant feet was the best, and safest for me, position in which to hold him while checking the coop for eggs.
Not so yesterday afternoon. He let me nurse him. Helplessness in his eyes.

As I gently tried to reassure him, I continued to cool his body down slowly, putting water up into his under-wing area, where they normally let the breeze in. I angled his head so water could trickle into his beak so he could drink.  He made attempts to do so. but he was very tired and weak. I feared the worst as I gently tucked him into his coop with his ladies for the night.

Sadly, Graybeard met his match with the late August, Texas summer heat, some time late over night on August 30th, 2018, four years to the month in which he became a member of this farm.
It wasn't a very long life. But he lived it fully and fiercely! 
I shall miss my sparring partner. (Although, feeding and cleaning the coop will certainly be much less of a challenge now that I don't have to keep a stick handy to swat him away. And we shall have another roll of electric poultry netting to use elsewhere, now the children visitors don't need to be protected from him.) 

He was renowned the farm over - and over into the neighbors' yards, for his the loudest crow of all. Oh how I shall miss that crazy loud, raspy crow. 
He'd see you coming, or me, and give out a crow - which would alert Smoke, our ewe, who would then follow with a bleat of her own - and then, finally
Oh, is someone here?
then, the dogs would rub their sleepy eyes and come out from their nap to see who or what was getting so much attention. 

Rest in peace Graybeard. You shall be missed. 
Graybeard the Great    8/2014-8/2018
Replaced, but missed.
(A young roo is in the wings and shall learn the ropes from his dad, Foghorn "Foggy" Leghorn. Spared now from the neighbor's stew pot due to overpopulation.) 
 And that, my friends, is just another day, down on the urban farm, up the street, under the old oak trees. 

 Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Walking on the Wild Side

On the suggestion of a friend, I watched a wonderful film on Netflix called Dare to be Wild. Captivated isn’t an understatement for how the film made me feel. 

I grew up in my grandmother’s 2 flat, with a backyard that was entirely concreted in. Fence to fence, save a 3’ wide strip about 20’ long where my mother put a vegetable garden. My grandmother kept hybrid roses along the gravel alley side of the house, and our neighbor’s side yard, which was only the width of a 2’ sidewalk from our house, was planted in Lily of the Valley. It was a delight to my senses each spring when they began to bloom. Up in my bedroom which faced the side yard full of these heaven-scented flowers, I could catch their scent if the wind blew just right. 

My saving grace from the concrete jungle that our town was becoming; camp! 

Many times a year, I got to escape to camp, thanks to Girl Scouts and two enthusiastic parents who co-led our troop with the parents of my best friend all through grade school. 

I loved wandering the woods of St. Charles, IL, in all of the seasons, at that camp. Camp Wildrose it was called. In the very cold weather, we’d hunker down in one of the big cabin-like buildings with a huge fireplace on air mattresses covering the huge open floor space. In the warmer weather, we’d camp out in platform tents on cots covered in mosquito netting – sides rolled up so the breeze would keep the damp, cold air from settling inside overnight. A phenomenon I awed at. But it allowed one to witness the sunrise as it sparkled through the trees' canopy every morning we were there. 

“People travel the world over to visit untouched places of natural beauty yet modern gardens pay little heed to the simplicity and beauty of these environments.  ….those special places we must preserve and protect, each in his own way before they are lost forever.
Mary Reynolds on her application to the Chelsea Flower Show in 2002.

 At least once a year, I got to attend a 2 week camp up in Wisconsin. Home of the giant mosquito. But a little oil of citronella (yes, even back then we used essential oils to combat the pests), and I could hike for hours. I never tired of the woods and the prairies and cried whenever it was time to leave for the city. 

Perhaps this imprint on me as such a young girl is what brought me back to where I am today. In love with the land I am lucky enough to have stumbled upon and purchased over a decade ago. While I bought it for very different reasons than I now use it for today, it didn’t take long for the magic of the place to begin placing its hold on me. 

While watching Dare to be Wild, I couldn’t hide my emotions as Mary, the main character upon whom this docudrama is based, revealed her reason for wanting to submit her wilds-cape garden design into the prestigious competition in England. I knew just how she must have felt about preserving places and protecting them from destruction, and restoring those that had been destroyed. 

Permaculture is much the same philosophy. Working with Nature, what is native, what is low maintenance, and what fills us with a special feeling of being connected.

At one time I used to install small commercial landscape flower beds. Talk about boring. Seasonal color change out is a money maker, for sure, but that’s about it. 

Nature doesn’t grow in a monoculture, she is a watercolor artist with a full pallet with which to paint. The photograph on my cell phone’s screen saver is proof positive of that. Yellow, brown, pink, and all shades within, green, of course, and splashes of white and more, create such a beautiful scene a landscape designer could likely not recreate. 

But I try. Each spring I push the first cutting of the front “lawn” back a little further to encourage more of the wildflowers to go to seed. One of these days, I just may not have to mow all summer. That’s my hope anyway. 

And re-planting trees where surely they once lived is something I do a little of each year. I plant native trees and fruit-trees for our edible forest, too. And I rarely cut down the saplings that pop up around the place. Trees don’t live forever, and something has to be growing to take the place of the majestic Post Oaks, native pear and juniper trees, and even the sprawling mesquite, when their final days come. More oaks are taking root this year than ever before – and I wonder if the squirrels got lazy, or if the trees know something I do not. 

At any rate, this film left me even more inspired to do my best to restore what has been lost and preserve what remains.  Even though I am not a garden designer in the caliber of Mary Reynolds, I only wish I could draw what is in my head, I have a painting or two in the house that remind me of times gone by to follow as examples.  A big part of my heart is to share with others the love for wild places before they are all cemented or black topped over.
We can’t necessarily change the whole world ourselves, but we can make changes in our own back yard. 
It would seem Mary and I have more than a love for wild spaces in common....

“I’ve come to think that the only solution to sustainable gardening and landscaping is for everyone to grow their own food, especially in urban areas,” she says. “It’s the most reasonable and healthy way of working with land.”

To cultivate a garden that can feed a family of four, Reynolds explains, takes about 10 years of work.

“That’s a daunting number of years, but to repair the damage between people and the earth, we need to interact with soil on an individual basis. That means going back to growing food sustainably and creating a sustainable flow of natural energy,” she says. “If we are to take back the land from industrial farming and agribusiness, that’s what we need to do.” Read more of the interview here….


Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Combating Things Untried

As a first gen farmer w/o anyone nearby to turn to, I have found that I sometimes hesitate to try new things around here because my nature is to err on the side of caution, or I spend so much time on the ol' learning curve, it feels faster to just keep on, keeping on.

I have some great mentors, but I hate to bug them every time I have a question, and I know you can look up just about anything on line - and I do my share of that as well.

As ladies, I think we sometimes may not tackle things we've not experience with, or things we haven't seen done, by other women.At least, that's what I've been told by some women.

I dove in this year to use some weed barrier on long term crops. Something I've not done in the past. I hesitated to use plastic or any kind of synthetic mulch, for biological reasons. I thought maybe I'd kill all of the soil microbes I've so painstakingly cultivated.

But even Certified Organic growers use plastic mulch. It needs to be removed after the season, and I add some native microbes back into the soil as I water using compost tea that is made in part from my soil in undisturbed parts of my farm, anyway, so I think my fears are unfounded.

Then there's the fact that I don't have a mulch layer. Well, I tackled that one, too. (I do have a more complete video of laying out regular mulch, (this first one is paper mulch).)

I'm talking about crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions, garlic, and leeks, for instance. These plants don't make a lot of shade and the weeds can still thrive underneath them. Especially if you fight Bermuda grass like I do here at Eden's. If you've followed me long, you know this is a horse pasture turned farm. There's still a LOT of pasture surrounding the 2 acre fenced in garden area, so it will never go away.

So to do my part to help someone coming up behind me, and because everyone keeps saying we need more lady farmers posting things on line, I'm posting a few short videos of things I'm doing, some as I learn how to do them.

I hope you find them helpful - or, at the very least, entertaining for some of you veterans - who will probably blow up the comment field with "why don't you do it "THIS" way instead?" comments.

And that's fine, too, b/c hey, we all need to learn new things all of the time and I've not been at this since I was knee high to a grasshopper like some of you folks. And, I'm just not an engineer-minded kinda gal.

So offer those tips! Just be nice.

I learn from watching and doing, and notes help, too. Maybe I'm a little slow? It doesn't matter. I figure most things out - eventually! I even figured out how to tighten what was loose on my bucket controller the other day when it wasn't acting right. If farming on my own has done one thing for me, and it's done several, trust me, it's made me more daring and brave - and forced me out of the comfort zone many a time to try new things.

So here's the latest of several how to videos I've uploaded. This one demonstrates how to burn holes into the weed barrier using a torch - without burning the place down! I found (the hard way) that just cutting holes doesn't work well because the wind will tend to blow up under the plastic and when it comes down, it can, and often does, comes down on top of your little transplant. :(

I've burnt holes using a small plumbers torch - kept going out. So, I stepped up my game, got a big girl torch and I've not looked back since. Safety first - I have done it out in the field, but I am much less nervous doing this in the driveway - closer to a source of running water. And I'd not ever use it out in the field if it was very dry. Not without a fire extinguisher or a hose with running water nearby.

But I have used artificial mulch on my onion crop already, and even though I lost some due to the hole cutting, instead of burning, they are so much happier this year - and so is my BACK! It's worth the investment, a very small one, and if you're careful, you can do this, too. 

You may have seen some of the other videos on my You Tube channel already - or if not, now's your chance!

I'm not an expert, nor do I play one on TV. I'm just scratching out a living playin in the dirt and enjoying it more than anything I've done for a living in the past.


Farmer Marie
Eden's Organic Garden Center/Eden's Garden CSA Farm

214-348-EDEN (3336)
Home of Eden's Market Day
Real Food, Grown with Integrity
1st & 3rd Saturdays 9-noon
Director, Region 4

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life, which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
--Henry David Thoreau