Saturday, May 28, 2016

Make hay while the sun shines!

So we went from 50's and cool and rainy to hot and sunny and in the high 80's. I find my body is struggling to adjust to the quick shift. But as I sit typing with a sleeping baby in my arms under the cool breeze of our bedroom ceiling fan, I feel mostly gratitude. Thinking of those in India right now dealing with temperatures well over 100 degrees on a daily basis alongside severe water shortages and of the farmers that are driven to suicide by the conditions puts my minor adjustment challenges in perspective!  We have plenty of cold, fresh water, shade trees, a house that stays reasonably cool even on hot days, and the recent rains have the ground charged with water so the gardens are booming with growth. There is so much to be thankful for. I'll name just a few additional things here!

Wonderful help! Never in my life has the phrase "many hands make light work" felt more real.  Recently a group from Allegheny Mountain Institute (where we did a chicken workshop last year and took some of Jason's chickens for them to raise) joined us for the morning. With their help we made some serious headway towards getting our potatoes hilled. What didn't get done that morning was knocked out soon after with Kali's consistent presence helping Jason on all things garden related; Alida joined in as much as she felt inclined to do so. Right now we are also enjoying a week with my folks around and both mom and dad have a way of chipping in and lightening the load in many ways. Dad even wanted to do the chicken and pig chores on his birthday today!
Special friendships! We enjoyed getting to know some friends of friends recently when they used the in-law quarters during my parents' absence in May.  I mentioned previously Alida enjoying having a playmate around, but we all enjoyed their company! It was hard to see them leave, but having mom and dad show up the same morning they departed eased the transition for all of us, especially Alida! We'll have to see if a Goshen trip is realistic sometime in our not too distant future. The baby needs to get a little more grown up and tolerant of long car rides!  Now this week we are enjoying having Adam around for a wedding, trying to soak up our precious minutes together and reconnecting with our "tower demolition crew." The times together have flown by and it will feel like just a drop in the bucket towards catching up. Jason and I enjoyed our first evening out last night,since Terah was born, for some pre-wedding festivities while our three gals hung out with Grandma and Grandpa. The report was that Terah was starting to get harder to please, but for the most part had a fun evening. Her newest game seems to be playing ball which she did a fair amount of while we were gone.

Amazing kiddos! They are all growing up so fast (have I mentioned this before?)!  Alida is wiggling her loose tooth now with her tongue and Terah now has four teeth and is getting up on her hands and knees and rocking back and forth (in warning: "watch out, I'm about to get mobile"). She continues to show an affinity towards music and rhythm. Here's two favorite videos from recent days - she loves to go "tap tap" and she has discovered that she can play the xylophone by biting on the stick. It's too funny! She also obviously knows now the idea of a camera and seems to also understand that I tend to get it out when she is doing something particularly cute. This little gal doesn't miss much.

Her older sisters continue to be a prime source of entertainment. And we might have to take back that Alida can make her laugh more than anyone else. The other night I heard Terah's deep belly laugh in the bathroom. It seems that nighttimes can be the time for the most extreme emotions in our household  - whether they be happy or sad.  We all are a tad more "on the edge" as the day comes to an end and we are tired out from all the fun and hard work that accompanies our days.  If the parents in the household can keep their wits about them and be creative and funny the nighttime routine can go amazingly well. That's a big if sometimes...

New animals! You've met the pigs but let me just say again how glad we are that we snatched up that opportunity when it was presented to us. Yes it is adding work to Jason's morning chore routines. But my how nice it is to have a place to go with food scraps and to have them be so appreciated. Those little guys are growing and seem to be thriving on their diet of local fruit and veggie and grain scraps and then gobs of fresh local milk. They are also doing a decent job of eating grass, and rooting around where we place them. So at this point I'd say that they fit nicely into the overall Tangly Woods mission and it's hard to imagine we aren't going to have pigs around an awful lot in the future.

Pigs aren't the newest addition though. After tending the incubator meticulously for four weeks, Kali got to welcome four new ducklings. Not a good hatch rate at all (started with 20 eggs), but let's focus on the improvement - her last hatch was Duckie alone, so this hatch was 4x better!  And the four that have hatched are cute!  I'm interested in her purchasing some new ducklings of a good egg laying and/or broody breed.  We'll see if I can convince her. She seems rather taken with the four we have so maybe we'll keep things simple for this year! That certainly wouldn't be a bad idea.
Well, I hear the girls getting back from soccer.  I haven't gotten to many games this season but did get to the first of Kali's last weekend. Due to all the rain, games were moved to the EMU turf field. It wan fun to see both girls in action.  Alida's game was rather comical, as the fields for the younger ages are so small that on the turf field it felt like most of the game was kicking it out of bounds over and over again. It didn't seem to impact the enjoyment for the kids much, though a few of them seemed more fascinated at trying to figure out the turf field (Jason sometimes had to break up the little group sitting along the sidelines playing with the artificial grass to get one of them to come out and play).  

Let me end with one more note of gratitude: Incredible hubby!

Last evening I was in awe of him again - this seems to happen to me rather often these days. We've had multiple opportunities lately to talk about what we are doing here at Tangly Woods and why we are doing it. I'm pleased to be contributing more to those conversations by the year, but I still feel like such a novice (I know that Jason would say the same and we both feel like students of the land, but compared to most of us, he's got a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion to share). I love listening to Jason and I learn something new every time, but even more I like to watch him come alive as he talks about soil health and seed saving and how we can be a benefit to the land. That, combined with seeing him out there working so hard to get the gardens up and going for another season, has me rather head over heels. :) I know I may not be your typical gal, but I'm not sure there is a site much more attractive than the one pictured here! We live in a beautiful place and I live with beautiful people. I hope we keep finding ways to share the beauty and expand it!

Monday, May 23, 2016

A long time in coming

It had been 21 years since I (Jason writing this time) had set foot on Polyface Farm's excellently stewarded soil.  Things have changed...there was a lot more manure this time!

Also, it was under somewhat different auspices.  Last time it was on a field trip with Agroecology class at EMU.  Hands down, this was my favorite class in all of my educational history, and the Polyface visit was perhaps the most vivid two-hour (or so) stretch of the whole thing.  I had always had a fascination with agriculture, particularly animal husbandry, but had never gone whole hog (pardon) for the version of animal husbandry that says, "Play it feed in a sack and keep them from touching anything you didn't have to buy, because if you didn't buy it it wasn't regulated and if it wasn't regulated it might not be safe.  Trust us.  We have studied this, and we promise that this is the best way.  With any luck, you will not even realize there is any other way.  If it's not profitable, don't blame us...economies of scale, you know.  Invisible hands.  Things like that."

Sorry if that got a little too snarky and/or obscure; I couldn't resist.  It amazes me that we have, as westerners, so forfeited our relationships with our sources of sustenance and allowed corporations to mediate them (actually the history has not been as voluntary as that sounds) that we have even succumbed to the notion that the domesticated animals on which we have depended for sustenance for millennia--without pre-balanced feed from a sack, thank you very much--have no capacity for engaging what Wes Jackson might call "a primary relationship with the universe" on which we might capitalize, but rather function more like independent industrial product-makers: supply the correct raw materials to one end of the process, and if the apparatus functions properly you may expect a series or flow of product at the other end (and see if you can make someone else deal with the waste).

Egg-laying hens are the perfect example of this, of course, since the product is so ready-made, and since hen keeping supplies are readily available (and their purchase and use is always encouraged by the feed company, farm store, or "biosecurity" pamphlet) that make it perfectly possible to raise and keep a reasonably sound flock of chickens without their feet or beaks or digestive tracts ever encountering any real soil.  It is often said that they have got it 'down to a science.'  Which science, I wonder?  It sure isn't ecology.

The science of ecology is the study of roles and relationships in self-organizing systems, particularly biological systems.  The prefix 'eco', as I understand it, has its roots in the Greek word 'oikos', meaning 'home'.  It is related to the word 'economy'.  An ecologist is someone who has taken on the task of trying to understand how each functionary in a given 'ecosystem' acts within their 'niche' (which is to say their role, position, function, or home) in the system.  For example, is an animal carnivorous, parasitic, omnivorous, or herbivorous?  Or is a plant good at competing in a crowded fertile soil, or is it better at making use of poor soils that other plants can't, and therefore has the sunshine all to itself?  I could go on and on...there is no seeming end to the examples, and the complexity of the relationships between and among individual actors in even a fairly simple system boggles the mind.

Applied to agricultural systems, the study becomes 'agroecology'.  Let me state right off the bat why you should care:  because you, in every bite you ever take, depend utterly on the stability of some agroecosystem, and because the corporation now calling the shots for that agroecosystem is probably undermining that stability with every dollar you give them for their cheap yet surprisingly palatable food, whether they know it or not.

I think this is happening because of the boggled mind thing I referred to two paragraphs above.  Ecology is a little paradoxical (as is much of what we call science) in that the attempt is being made to comprehend a seeming mystery, or to follow the thread of curiosity into a fabric of greater understanding, only to realize the utter fallacy of the ambition.  In even the most limited ecosystems my impression is that a person can devote their life to pursuing knowledge of the working of the system only to fall painfully short of the goal, understanding only a small percentage of the interactions and dynamics.  It is perhaps the most confounding, wondering branch of science.

'Fine, but what's that good for?', industry asks.  'Give me something I can make something from.'  Well, there are now many people interested in taking that question seriously in many industries and pursuits, and I assume they will have results of the most stunning nature.  But historically industry has been unable to track confounded wonder on its balance sheet, and has therefore felt a strong drive to simplify the whole mess.  'Give me something I can make something from' has a sister demand: 'Give me something I can understand.'

So instead of a laying hen being:

a wonder of nature that spent the vast majority of its presence on this planet as an adaptable and resourceful pheasant in various habitats in southeast Asia which survives by applying to its environment the instinctual blueprint that is its birthright, with learned modifications as necessary, and which only within the past several thousand generations has entered into a mutually beneficial relationship with Homo Sapiens that has exploded its population and flooded nearly every habitable land surface on the globe with its presence,

it has become to the industrial mind:

an organism with specific needs and potential yields which, if properly managed and manipulated, can generate more units of product for less units of input than almost any other animal.

If you were an accountant, which version would appeal more to you?

Joel Salatin of Polyface farm has, over the past three decades or so, been one of the most colorful and successful proponents of a version of farming that remembers what chickens and other farm organisms really are, and for that matter how much we need them to be that.  He often refers to "the chickenness of the the chicken and the pigness of the pig" as things we should respect, and as things we would be well served to learn the value of.  Maybe the way to say it clearly is that we dearly need, for the sake of those who will come after us, to remember and humbly bear in mind the ultimately mysterious, incomprehensible nature of living systems as we make our plans for gaining our sustenance from them.  By allowing organisms in our agroecosystems to form and live out their own relationships without us intervening overmuch, we allow for the integrity and stability of the agroecosystem to continue, and we shield our selves and our descendants from the law of unintended consequences.

Mr. Salatin, in 1995, put it more succinctly, "Don't bring the food to the animal, bring the animal to the food."  For example, if you keep a cow in a barn and feed it hay, which is cut and dried grass, then you have to carry its manure away to fertilize the grass so it will grow more and you can make more hay from it.  If, however, that cow is on the pasture, which is where it wants to be, then you don't have to carry grass to it, and it puts the manure right on the grass immediately.  This is the simplest version of the vision of a domesticated animal returned to its 'niche' in the agroecosystem.  The disturbing thing is how little you have to buy at the farm store to make this kind of thing work.  Isn't spending too much money at Tractor Supply what farming is all about?

So why was I at Polyface this time?  Well, it's because of a little snag in the vision of returning farm organisms to their rightful niches.  Genetics.  That instinctual blueprint I referred to earlier: genetic.  The ability to digest appropriate foodstuffs:  mostly genetic (some microbiological).  Appropriate physiological response to climate: genetic.  Etc, etc, etc.  And genetics tends to be an alarmingly fast-acting use-it-or-lose-it proposition.  I think this is probably especially true for prey species (such as chickens) which depend genetically on heavy selection by predators to keep the gene pool on its toes.

It doesn't take much thinking on the topic to realize that it won't take long, once an evolving organism is removed from its niche, for that organism to begin to adapt to its new circumstances and degrade with regard to its ability to relate in its former role.  New circumstances create, in essence, a new animal, whether this is intended or not.

Things ancestral, pre-industrial chickens did not have that today's chickens do:  Balanced chicken feed, fencing, pine shaving litter on a solid floor, artificial lighting, antibiotics, coccidiostats, breeders in white lab coats.  Things they did have that modern chicken typically do not:  Lice, predators, whole kernel grains, insects, living plants, kitchen refuse, dirty water, dust for dust bathing, access to soil, clean air, sunshine free for the taking.

Put an ancient chicken in a modern coop on modern feed, and it may do o.k. or it may quail (pardon) quickly.  Put a modern chicken out to pasture and it may do o.k. or it may watch the hawks for fun and not know how to chase a grasshopper.

The second dynamic is a frustrating one for the producer of eggs and/or meat fowl who is reaching for that ecological vision: the other dance partner has also forgotten the dance.  I have written before about my various chicken breeding projects, so for some of you this may ring a distant bell.  This problem has stirred my mind for a few years now, and has become the focus of my efforts at breeding chickens.  I seek to select genetic expressions in the domestic chicken that promote the fulfillment of its niche in contemporary, ecologically oriented agricultural systems.  I believe some breeds exist that can meet these needs in some places and situations, but I also see the need for new breeds and strains, since some of the contemporary systems are novel in certain ways.  At the least, it should be recognized that within most if not all the established breeds of chicken some selection has taken place under circumstances that have little to do with integrated agroecosystems,  As such, a variety of strains of a particular breed of chicken which all look the same may in reality perform very differently from each other when put to the test in nitty-gritty circumstances, but the producer trying to acquire dependable stock has a dickens of a time knowing which they are getting, and the temptation is always there to shop price, especially when the sellers are so silent on the question of genetic quality for ecological performance (why would they care when most buyers don't?).  Hence the need, as I see it, for breeds developed in the circumstances they are needed for and defined by their performance in those circumstances.

One of my projects has been to initiate breeding for open-country birds that are intended as agroecological partners with rotationally grazed cattle.  I unabashedly admit that Polyface Farm's "Salad Bar Beef" and "Eggmobile" models stood clearly in my mind as I crafted the population over a few seasons.  Therefore, when I felt the time had come to make the project big and relevant or let it die a decent death, I thought the place to start networking was with the Salatins themselves.  A friend happened to have email addresses for some of the relevant persons, so I introduced my project to them over email.  We had a brief correspondence by email, the upshot of which was that a) they have been feeling the frustration of poor genetics themselves, as producers, b) they have initiated their own breeding program to solve that problem and are pleased with preliminary results, c) they could be open to either friendly collaboration or friendly competition in the endeavor, and d) they were open to meeting to discuss it.

As it turned out, Joel ended up wanting me to come at a time when their interns would be around for the season, such that they could be in on things also.  They invited our whole family to join their whole family and work crew for dinner, and to do a little show and tell (I brought chickens) afterwards to introduce them to what I have been doing with chicken breeding and why, and then to open it up for questions.  It was fun to finally be talking chickens, breeding, and genetics in a place where people could nod their heads in comprehension and I had deep confidence in those nods.  It was more of a presentation than a conversation, I suppose, but the brief conversations at the edges were warm and rewarding, and the questions were good ones.  Janelle is having fun quoting Joel when he said I was making his head explode with the genetic stuff.  For my part, I felt I did bring something to the table, so to speak, in terms of a more thorough understanding of some of the finer points of breeding and genetics (I feel I still lack so much on those points though), but I resonated deeply with another thing he said, which was that they have their gifts and we have ours.  I know I can never hope to be nearly the visionary entrepreneur and market transformer that the Salatins have been over time.  What I think is possible, however, is that my particular creativity and gifts may have relevance in enabling and enhancing the work of folks like them.  It is work that is so badly needed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

We are homeowners...for real!

Since I'm the one more often pinned down with a sleeping baby, I get to be the main blogger these days! This would likely be a much more interesting post if Jason were to author it but the list of things for him to write about is growing and this is worth noting before it is old news!

Sunday, May 15th marked 17 years since Jason and I were married - it was the best decision I have ever made, particularly not knowing at all what I was getting in for. So grateful for the five homes we have shared (if you count our two one month stints the summer we got married - I do!), the many plants and animals we have tended and most importantly the four daughters we have birthed! We made sure to give each other at least 17 kisses throughout the day - this might not sound like much but it was a rather major undertaking for us at the particular stage of life we find ourselves in. I'm trying to keep it up in the days since our anniversary but I'm afraid it is about 5 p.m. and I think we are at two pecks for the day thus far! Better get on it this evening...

So I'm hoping we'll cook up a good celebration (alone!) come year 20.  However, we did do one major thing to celebrate: over a morning cup of coffee and a Wendell Berry Sabbath poem we wrote our last mortgage payment check for our Fruit Farm Lane property! Terah was mostly interested in the coffee...So for the first time in our married life we are really homeowners. And what a home in the making it is and continues to be for us... I still feel very committed to being worthy of having been chosen by Pam to be entrusted with this precious piece of earth. I sure hope our living on it only improves it!
On the evening of our anniversary, after enjoying dinner with friends, it was all about getting every tomato and pepper plant on the property covered by nightfall.  While the low temperature predicted was only 37, there was a frost advisory.  And upon consulting our neighbor, he recommended covering (if it calls for anything below 40!). So crates and flower pots were covered with pieces of row cover or a feed sack and placed over dozens of plants scattered in five different gardens.  Was it all for nothing?  What a relief to know they were safe when Jason came in the next morning to report a solid covering of frost in the main garden!
And a few other quick things to end on:

My other anniversary commitment to Jason was that I want us to try to name one thing going well for every thing we comment being behind on. So we celebrated our plants surviving the frost. We aren't sure how much of our onion crop is going to make it - too many things against them this year (seed that wasn't great, ordered seed arriving later than desired planting time, getting sets that had dried out to fill in blank areas, weed pressure and rain, rain, rain, rain...).  Time will tell - basically we aren't counting our onions until they are pulled! Here's Jason attempting to lower the weed pressure after the soil dried enough to get in there (that was yesterday - and now today was another rainy day).
We like having pigs! And they seem to be adjusting nicely to Tangly Woods... They have already rooted up the ground they were on and so Jason is out moving them to a fresh area - they are earning their keep thus far!
And, finally, Kali made a lovely pot of chili for her Monday meal this week to go over polenta crisps. We took advantage of some sunshine and enjoyed a fun picnic! 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Rain, rain, rain...and pigs!

Ok, so let's just start with the big news: we are pig owners! We allow ourselves up to one new animal a year (and children count). We had yet to acquire anything new in 2016...until today! Yes, we are crazy and overwhelmed and have too much on our plates. This is precisely why my beloved parents are finding out that we have pigs through this blog post, and not by me seeking their counsel as to whether we should or should not do it.  It seemed only wise to seek counsel if we were open to taking it...  And all the stars were aligning for us to do it; it seemed the universe was affirming our step into pig ownership. So here we they are!  They arrived this afternoon just as the rain set in, followed soon after by neighbor friends who came to castrate them. Hardly a warm and friendly welcome to Tangly Woods, but I hope they soon find it to their liking.

So why now, why these pigs? Recently, at a neighborhood kite fly and potluck, we learned that a friend was raising American Guinea Hogs (the breed Jason was interested in us raising some day). We expressed our interest in doing something similar someday, learned a bit about his experience and that was that.  Well that same friend and his wife are expecting their second child soon and in an attempt to simplify they butchered the two sows and were looking to sell the two male piglets they had. To sweeten the deal, he was willing to loan us all his pig equipment (shelter, electric fencing, waterer) and bring that and the pigs to us (not to mention arrange for them to be castrated).  We went to visit them (always dangerous) and decided to put out some feelers (also dangerous when you put out feelers to other pig lovers or to people who were enthusiastic about us getting them). I was not eager to raise pigs on feed - if we could keep costs low by feeding them mostly what was growing fresh where we had them stationed, and extra food we could acquire that felt positive. But I didn't want to just feed them any food. I wanted to feed them things we could be ok eating ourselves (since we plan to eat them).  What ensued was some great community connections, and our first installment of mostly locally and organically sourced restaurant scraps is here and we'll soon be getting extra milk from a local farmer.  Between that and knowing we can get in on a major hog butchering neighborhood event in February where we can learn to do this ourselves, it was just too good to pass up.  Mom and Dad, we hope you like the new additions to the community. :)

I cannot end this blogging marathon without mentioning the rain - I noted that at the beginning of May I noted what a rainy time we were having. It has continued to date... I'm so not used to hanging laundry out to dry that I forgot about it in the excitement of the pigs arriving - it was dry from a morning of sun and is now drenched so it will just remain there in eager anticipation for tomorrow's sun! Everything is lush and we are grateful that no huge damage has been sustained by the wet weather. There is much to be grateful for. I'm not inclined to complain about having an abundance of water.  It has just factored heavily into the arrangement of our schedules the last number of weeks and has contributed to us feeling more than a tad behind.

The rain helps plants grow - those we want to grow and those we don't consider useful in particular locations. I feel like we are marking off one task for every 3-4 we add (which reminds me that I need to add "hill potatoes" to the list).  We are in danger of losing a significant percentage of our onion crop if the ground doesn't dry off for Jason to get in there to weed (and the job is getting larger and more complicated by the day).  And the plants on the porch are getting bigger and eager to spread their roots into the soil!

It reminds me of when we were at the orphanage in Bolivia and we talked about how "the emergencies had to get in line." Everything felt urgent and timely, and we somehow had to choose what to work on first.  Right now mowing/mulching the peas and weeding onions/putting on compost/mulching are both in desperate need of being done - and both are big jobs which together will take several days of work. We haven't had a full dry day on a work day for Jason in weeks...

So I'm getting a lot of practice at attempting to let go. My how bad at that I am!

We did get most of our tomatoes and peppers in (since it was too wet for putting in seeds but we needed to move on something). We did it after the 10 day looked free of potential frost. We should know better.  Jason will be scurrying to get electric fencing up for the pigs before dark and all the tomatoes and peppers covered as tonight and/or tomorrow night we might get a frost.

Well, the baby is stirring so I'm going to leave some updates for Jason - stay tuned to hear about our trip to Polyface Farm. Also, Jason is ahead of schedule and will be working on his May book report soon, which will appear here when done!

Kali update, featuring life's many lessons!

At one time I had a lot of uncertainties, or at least insecurities, about whether we were doing the "right" thing having Kali schooling at home.  I no longer think there is the same "right" schooling choice for every child (not sure I ever did really), but I feel confident that unschooling is right for Kali. She's thriving and I am encouraged watching her on a daily basis. I'm thrilled that our almost teenager daughter is so full of life, so focused on the present moment, so in tune with herself, so content in her body, so eager to be part of our family and farm, so tender and loving and helpful with her younger siblings, so healthy and vibrant and creative and fun.

I've completely stopped playing the mental games that were common as Kali got to school age: "What are other kids her age doing?" "What things are they testing for at her age?" "Will she ever be a good speller?" "Should we be doing more structured things?"

No doubt there are areas in which Kali is lagging behind her peers. I don't know for sure what those areas are and I'm not concerned about it. She can catch up on spelling (if she ever really needs to be a good speller) or any other academic subject area she finds herself in need of improving upon.  That will take a fraction of the time to learn as it does to learn the things I feel are being instilled and nurtured in her on a daily basis here: responsibility, empathy, mediation skills with her younger sister, time management, growing her own food and learning to understand what plants and animals need to thrive, observation skills, dealing with loss, etc...

Her maturity amazes me sometimes.  Recently we had a big scare - Kali's pet Ducky survived a predator attack (we presume a young fox).  He was injured but with some tender loving care and lots of checking up on him, he's back to his feisty self (I was so happy to see him chasing Kali to dabble her the other day).  However, three of her other ducks were not so lucky in recent days.  Kali noted two flocks with missing ducks one day and went out to investigate. To this day we have no information on what happened - no feathers anywhere and no signs of an attack. But it is quite clear that they probably went to feed a den of fox kits in our neighbor's brush pile.  Just yesterday Jason went to investigate some chicken ruckus and followed a trail of feathers to a dead hen (maybe he scared the fox off by going to check on the noise), still warm and now in our fridge to eat.  So the fox didn't get that one, but after the three ducks went missing Kali hasn't been free ranging.  It's a hard balance - giving the animals in our care the freedom to roam and enjoy not being in a cage and figuring out what level of risk we are willing to take given predator pressure at various times of year.  I know Kali was sad and she has been extra cautious about letting ducks out to play.  But she also seemed to take it in stride - knowing it was something that might happen.

I will say we all have high hopes for the duck eggs in the incubator. She did the second candling last evening and there are 14 eggs that are developing nicely.  She should have a good hatch if regular monitoring and tending of the incubator has anything to do with it. She is monitoring temperature and humidity and faithfully spraying the eggs nightly. She references her duck raising book as needed.  It's so fun seeing her get into it, and she is also starting to pay more attention to making the whole enterprise sustainable - keeping track of feed and other expenses and in how many eggs we are getting and she will often tell me how close the ducks are to "paying for themselves" if we value their eggs at $5/dozen.

As I type this she is back out (the afternoon rain has finally let up) chopping and mulching the peas with comfrey. She continues to want to be part of every farm venture (she even turned down a weekend trip so as to not miss gardening - I know, what a kid!). I had to convince Kali and Alida to let Jason and I plant four pepper plants last evening at nightfall without their help. I love that they both like to be involved and in Kali's case she is quite helpful (not as much when she and Alida argue about who is going to pull out a particular weed - of all the things to fight over, let's not fight over weeds - there's enough for everyone!).

She is getting so competent at caring for Terah.  The other day she even managed to take care of Terah AND fold laundry - the baby is in that stack (see Terah's post for the picture of her with laundry surrounding her - she was having a grand time in there).  Kali puts up her yanking her hair or stealing her hat and doesn't seem too bothered by her squawks. She seems to take her various moods in stride - once again she's the example for me, not the other way around. Right now I'd say if anyone is the "teacher" around here, it's Kali!

She continues to cook for us weekly - one week alone and one week with Alida (on the off weeks Alida gets to help me with a meal). We haven't had to grocery shop for anything, as Kali is an expert at finding things we have in abundance and using them up. She has come up with some winners because she is willing to experiment and has an open mind about various combinations. This past week the girls made tomato soup with all dried tomatoes. They sauteed garlic and onion and then put dried tomatoes and fresh oregano in chicken broth and simmered until soft.  They pureed and added milk and salt. We had it alongside cornpones and soybeans.  Her meals are usually simple but delicious. Normally about this time in the week she starts thinking about what she might like to make, exploring cookbooks or the pantry to see what we have a lot of.  Yes, I look forward to Monday evenings!

It's about time to segway to a post with some non-kiddo updates, if the little one in my arms allows it. We'll see...