Saturday, June 20, 2009

In which there's a party at the Farm tomorrow--and you're invited!

You don't have to be a Pirate to come to the party tomorrow at Haiku Farm....

but if you ARE a Pirate, then you shouldn't miss this rumbustification!

We'll supply hot dogs, marshmallows, and the bonfire to cook them.

You bring your own beverages and a potluck dish to share, plus as many friends and family members as you can stuff into the hold of your ship (or your minivan or whatever). Come and feed the chickens, pet the horses, and relax and tell stories around the fire.

Send me a note if you need directions through the Swamp.

For those in the blogosphere who are unable to join us tomorrow, why not make a *virtual* potluck dish and put THAT in the comments? That way, we can have a party on-line, which is better than no party at all!

Friday, June 19, 2009

In which I tell a story that you've probably never heard before

The strawberries are ripe at last!

Off I went to Biringer Farm to stock up on strawberries. I picked strawberries as a kid -- that's how we all earned money for school clothes in middle school -- so I didn't have any romantic notions about the process.

Picking berries for myself is a lot cheaper than buying them already picked AND I can get them into the freezer when they're only an hour off the vine AND I can eat as many berries in the field as I want while I'm picking. Yep, I ate berries until I broke out in a "strawberry rash." Totally worth it.

The people watching was the best part, though. There were a lot of city folks out looking for an authentic agricultural experience. (eye roll) I was not going to be the person who told them that real migrant farm workers don't ride to the field in a trolley decorated with festive flags and driven by a friendly farmer, and that real farm workers don't stop harvesting after 30 minutes, and most especially that real farm workers don't wear designer flip-flops to the fields, nor do they normally carry cameras.

Nope, I wasn't going to say any of that, and I didn't. I was there to get my berries, and I definitely got them!

Then, I went to the radio station and recorded a story about berries, because it seemed to me that people might want to hear it around this time of year. I hope the link to the recording works!" />","autoPlay":false}],"clip":{"autoPlay":true},"canvas":{"backgroundColor":"0x000000","backgroundGradient":"none"},"plugins":{"audio":{"url":""},"controls":{"playlist":false,"fullscreen":false,"gloss":"high","backgroundColor":"0x000000","backgroundGradient":"medium","sliderColor":"0x777777","progressColor":"0x777777","timeColor":"0xeeeeee","durationColor":"0x01DAFF","buttonColor":"0x333333","buttonOverColor":"0x505050"}},"contextMenu":[{"Item TheFirstBerries at":"function()"},"-","Flowplayer 3.0.5"]}' />
If the embedded link (above) doesn't work, you can listen to the recording by going HERE.

Incidently, the radio station is having a fundraiser right now, selling t-shirts and stuff. If you're in the Greater Swampland Listening Area and want to tune into a great station, the call numbers are KSER, available at 90.7fm locally and streaming online at My show airs on Sunday mornings, 9 to 11am, but I won't be hosting for the next three weeks, it will be my air-partner Mary instead. She does a good show, too, though!

Here's some notes about the story:

In 1993, when I was a fledgeling storyteller, I found a terrific book written by an Abenaki man who is a storyteller, poet, musician and author.
Joe Bruchac has released several recordings of his work (I especially love his collection of Gluscabi stories!) as well as the book that caught my eye: The First Strawberries, a Cherokee Story.

I had difficulty learning the story, however. The narrative was easy, but the order of things didn't work for me. In Bruchac's story, the sun creates stuff to slow the woman down when she gets mad and stomps away. The first thing to be created was raspberries, and then blueberries, and then blackberries, and then (finally) strawberries.

Well, maybe that's the way the Cherokees tell the story, but if all that stuff had happened here in the Swamplands, the story would have happened very differently!

When I tell the story, I start with the berries that ripen early in the spring, and progress through the berries as they ripen through the summer. It just makes more sense to me to tell it that way. I also add in details about how those plants grow here, so that people who hear the story will actually learn something and maybe head out to the woods to find stuff in the right places.

Here's even more info about the berries:

The berries that we Swamplanders call "red huckleberries" are really a variety of blueberry, vaccinium parvifolium. They ripen in April and May, and grow on top of cedar stumps. My horses have always enjoyed eating the entire plant, not just the berries.

Wild strawberries (fragaria vesca) grow low to the ground beside paths and roads, and have a wonderfully sweet aroma. Watch the birds--they know where all the strawberry plants are, and if you're lucky, they will leave a few berries for you. Fiddle isn't very thrilled with these, although she will certainly eat them if nothing else is within reach.

Wild blueberries ripen in July and August here (depending on your elevation--I've found ripening blueberries in September while hiking in the mountains). These plants have sturdy, colorful foliage in the fall, and will grow all the way across established trails. Watch for bears when harvesting blueberries. Ask me how I know.

Himalayan Blackberries (rubus armeniacus) were imported to the Pacific Northwest from India in 1885 by the well-intentioned plant breeder Luther Burbank. Nowadays it is considered a noxious and invasive plant.
My views on blackberry vines are well known; however, even I will admit that the divine taste of blackberries is worth the blood spilled to harvest them.


Life is good.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In which I imply that my horse is large, Scottish, and mysterious

I'm not sayin' that Fiddle is related
to the Loch Ness Monster.

I'm just sayin' ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

In which a sort of average day is described in vivid detail

This is the first thing I see, most mornings. Puzzle is big on telepathy. He believes that he can force me to get up and feed him, purely by staring at me.

It works pretty well, actually. He is always the first family member to get some breakfast. Hmmmm.

The first person to leave the bed is *always* supplanted by a Sheltie. Usually Jim gets up earlier than me, but today he got to sleep in a little later. When it's me left behind in the bed, there are usually TWO Shelties there when I wake the cat, of course.

I grab a cup of tea on my way to the door, and head out to feed....


The Minerva Louises are always happy to see me.

First I refill the water tank, and then

move their tractor a few feet to the side. You can see the rectangle where the tractor was yesterday. In a day or two, the grass will spring back Very Greenly from all the nitrogen (aka chicken poop) that the hens have left on the ground.

Then, I dump food into the cage, and there are many clucks and feathers grabbing up every morsel of the corn scratch and kitchen scraps.

Next stop: horses.

There's no rushing around or whinnying as they urge me to hurry-the-heck-up and let them out into the field, but Hana does fling her head around to make me hurry. Hurry! HURRY!

And Fiddle always digs a little hole to make me hurry-hurry-hurry.

These strategies are EXACTLY as effective as pressing the elevator button repeatedly works to make the elevator move faster. But hey, it gives them something to do while they wait for me.

Finally, they are out in the pasture, and ready to settle in for some serious all-day eating.

It cracks me up to clean the two paddocks every morning, because for almost 12 years, I've been cleaning 12 or 13 stalls a few times a week, which could take 2-3 hours (not including the time spent driving to the barn and driving home) each time.

Here, I can usually feed all the animals AND clean the paddocks before my first cup of tea gets cold. >giggle< href="">

After breakfast, Puzzle plays a game. His favorite is "red bug" with the laser pointer...

...but he also likes to practice WWF moves on Luna. These two will play together for hours.

Today we tried something new with the horses: a little bit of separation.

At their old barn, each horse was assigned a "day in", when they would be kept in the stall and not put out in the pasture. They'd be given an extra ration of hay, and just generally given a day of quietness. That made it really easy when a horse had to be kept in for the farrier, or a lesson...or if one was sick or injured and had to be kept off of the pasture. They get so they accept being left behind when everyone else went outside, clearly thinking "this must be my day in," so it was not a traumatic change of routine for them.

Jim and I have always liked this concept, so we decided to try it. Today was Hana's first "day in" at the new farm.

She doesn't have a stall here (yet), just a paddock, where she has a clear view of our pasture, and also most of the neighbor's pasture with her three horses.

We didn't count on Fiddle's brattiness!

Fiddle decided that it was wonderful fun to tease Hana by going into the woods. Then, when Hana was in full-voice (never truly panicked, but clearly angry with Fiddle for "disappearing") ...

...Fee would jump out of the woods to say, "here I am!

did you miss me?"

Sigh. Other girls have normal pets....

My task today was painting the bathroom.

You can see why: the before picture shows the ugly industrial-white paint and shabby patches in the drywall.

Fashion: clearly not a priority on painting days.

The after photo, showing the pretty walls and also some flower paintings done by my mom!

I just want to say that saddle racks work really nicely as towel racks. Just in case somebody ever asks.

Jim and Willy made ice cream.

I could only have a little bit (I have to avoid sugar) but I had a big bowl of strawberries so I didn't feel left out.

Willy got to lick the beaters. We didn't tell him for several minutes that he had a blop of ice cream on his nose. Hee hee.

In the evening, it's feeding time again.

The dogs must wait for the "release" word before they can have their food. They are eager to hear the word! Now? Please now?

Horses get a small bucket of beetpulp at night, mostly to wash down their vitamins. The grass in the pasture is so good that I don't dare feed them much right now--they'll explode from fatness! (They've both gained weight since they moved home, eek).

Chickens get another "tractor move" and another scoop of scratch. They are always happy to see me, because I feed them!

It's been unseasonably warm this year so far--so I water the garden almost every evening. Usually in June we Swamplanders are still wearing mud boots, or at least a jacket, but this year has been warm and dry! (I'm not complaining, either).

Last of all, we all take a walk with the dogs in the pasture.

Life is good.