Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In the Land of Poo

It's February Vacation (I believe this is a special New England Holiday, sort of a President's day/let's-not-bust-the-school-budget-on-heating-oil thing) and the kids and I have been keeping busy.

We have been to the library, done wood crafts, sand art, baking, Ice Skating and a Museum. And we have watched a few DVDs. (I try to limit the kids' "screen time", but this is increasingly like trying to hold back the ocean with a spatula.)

One of the DVDs we watched was Nanny McPhee Returns. In it, a pair of "sophisticated" city cousins are dropped off to stay with their poor, dirty, farming kin.

The cousins' car pulls into the farmyard, which is a typical, if somewhat exaggerated slop of mud and um, waste, and the boy grimaces, turns to his sister and says:

"We are in the land of poo. Duck poo, cow poo, goat poo..."


Well we here on Maggie's farm got a kick out of that.

Farming is inextricably tied to "poo". Poo in infinite variety, Poo that seems barely possible. Poo that has poo.

I often wonder what our suburban and urban visitors think of the free-ranging chicken#**&! strewn about the yard and the barn and (often) the porch

the sheep "fertilizing" away in the fields

the gummy newborn lamb butts that often need wiping (don't ask...). The three dogs alone create quite a stink (well, yes, the pun WAS intended).

I imagine we might indeed seem to be living in the Land of Poo.

But, then, poo is one of the inevitabilities of life. It happens. And on a farm, as I've said, it happens a lot.

I know from experience that you can shield yourself from from much of this poo if you live in cleaner, less animal prone places--especially if you don't have pets or young children. But perhaps moving to the country helped us come to terms with poo as much as it did with meat-eating and winter. We simply had no choice.

Whatever the case, my kids have been quoting Nanny McPhee with glee:

One will say: "Greetings, O covered-in-poo people. Do you speak English? "
And another will add "Yes, poo-man, we have come from far away, from the land of soap and indoor toilets!"

And then, stepping out into the poo-strewn snow of Maggie's farm, they will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Impending Doom in the Orchard?

This is our orchard in deep winter snow:

It breaks my heart, this orchard. It's beautiful and needy and slightly rundown. We can't take care of it the way we should. Blame a lack of equipment, know-how, and will. Yet it hasn't quit on us. Every year, the apples are a little less lovely, but they come.

It used to be that we had a bargain with a large, local orchard. They'd care for the trees and take all the apples we didn't use. But their methods were highly conventional. We here at Maggie's farm are flexible, pragmatic even, but we could not abide by herbicide. Or, frequent drenchings of pesticides. We grit our teeth and allowed the fungicide in the spring and that seemed a fair trade off.

But as our flock of Icelandic Sheep grew, we began to use the orchard as pasture. The sheep nibbled the lower branches. But they kept the grass low without herbicides. We were fine with that, but the fencing made it hard for the orchard folks to work and they got sick of all the limitations and just stopped coming.

That was two years ago. Our noble little orchard continues on, apples scabby and small, but still good.

This year, though, feels like a last gasp. How long before the trees give out altogether?

We've tried to find someone to care for the orchard. But we are just a little too remote, and the care is just a little too intensive, I guess.

Spring is coming (Hard to believe in a snowy month like this one).

Any ideas? What would you do?