Full Life Farm Ethnographic Diary Week Ending 21 March 2014

While the rest of the University of West Georgia is on a Spring Break, I am boarding on a farm, and work continues as well as the learning and teaching.  House building was to have begun this week, but the weather was ether too wet or too overcast to dry out to begin.  I have not planted many seedbeds at this point, but I learned from Paul’s observations after taking what I thought was an excessive amount of time. Sometimes things that you do, do not need to be perfect.  When I have my own piece of land or a shared piece of land and few extra hands and much work to do, sometimes close enough is good enough.  In this case it was the spacing between the pea pods.  Paul had additional work to do Friday afternoon so there was little time to linger.

On Monday the rain came down pretty steady for an hour or two, sometimes hard, even during the work that needed to be done on the chicken hoop house.   The chicken hoop house plastic was at least two or more years old, possibly five and has received quite a few pecks from the chickens, which is what they naturally do.  The plastic also deters predator animals as well so there may have been some scars from a few of those encounters.  Prior to the removal, given that the rain had made some of the ground a little muddy, Paul asked me to collect and liberally spread wood chips around the hoop house where Paul, Terra, and I would be working (Unfortunately, I missed one muddy corner, but then there were bigger concerns that day.).  Given the trees that were cut down a few months ago were chipped inside the yard, there were still piles left in the chicken yard that the chickens had generously and unknowingly spread around.  After the worn out and weathered wood strips that secured the plastic to the hoop house were removed and thrown on one of the wood piles, the plastic was finally removed and folded up to be reused elsewhere later.  The hoop house was now ready for a new covering, new wood strips, and reused screws.  The new plastic covering purchased for this purpose is a mesh netting plastic that protects against the rain and is chicken peck resistant as well as raccoon resistant.  There were two pieces so both needed to be secured on all sides to efficiently use the new mesh and keep the chickens securely inside and the predators out.  Between the rain and the assembly, it was after 12 noon when that was finished.

While some things remain constant on the farm, there are things that change, as needed, which is good to practice patience as well as the ability to adapt daily.  Given that the eggs have a tendency to pile up by the end of the week, Paul and Terra decided that washing eggs twice a week, including their mid-week on Mondays, would make the work a little more manageable.  So I washed eggs on Monday.

On Wednesday, the day that I had hoped to “break ground,” for me, on the house (given that Paul and Terra have actually already broken ground), it was still overcast, moist and not very dry outside, so no house building could logically happen.  But ground could be broken, or prepped, for a new and extensive chicken-grazing yard.  Stray posts were found near the garden and small chicken coop as well as three sections of unused roll fencing (or at least fencing that was no longer being used which is more likely).  Everything was moved near the larger chicken hoop house and barn to create a border fence and a gate for human access.  This is to be a very larger grazing area where overgrowth and underbrush/brambles (including the ever-present wild, thorny berry that rarely yields fruit) are abundant, which bother humans but not chickens.  They will immensely enjoy the space, according to Paul.  He described the fence as the equivalent of a Great Wall with nothing surrounding anything and probably continuing for what seems to be a chicken’s view of eternity.  I rarely get a lesson in animal evolution, but Paul explained that chickens do not stray far from the coop or the other chickens.  They like the familiar and the safe, and if one does wander off, it will be killed. That explanation made me doubt that the chickens will ever wander off or get lost after thousands of years of domestication, evolution and learning to stay close to the familiar and far from threats.    Part of the fence was assembled, but there are still trees to be moved so fence was attached in only one section from the top.

If you remember, there was a discussion of utilizing part of my time making and baking bread.  Towards that end 448 grams of wheat berries were weighed out to be ground by hand for bread.  This is local wheat from a farm down the road.  It is a few years old but it stores nicely.  These were hard winter wheat berries, I believe but I have not had a chance to ask Paul or Terra if they are interested in growing wheat berries.  I had planned on grinding two pounds of wheat berries for two small loaves, but we were not quite finished with the fence for the day, and the hand grinding took longer than I anticipated.  Next time, I just may bring the berries to the Haven to grind with a little electricity. On Thursday, I prepped a starter build for bread from the rye starter that is already on hand, 100 grams of ground wheat berry flower and 60 grams of filtered water.

Friday at the farm began later at 10 since Paul is still chasing a little of a lingering cold or minor flu.   Paul, Terra, Zeina (their almost six-month old daughter), and I drove to one of the other gardens a few miles away from Harrison Road to do some more planting of Dwarf shelling peas, sugar snap peas and some of the remaining Red Pontiac Potatoes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato#Varieties).  At the Haven there has been some trouble with birds eating two previous plantings of peas so this pea planting was one month late.  Late or not, if those and other peas had been left alone, there would be more of an abundant harvest in Late June or a little later. While the beds were cleared of plant-bed weeds to prep the beds for planting or to clear already used beds from weeds, the discussion turned to children’s books and movies as it sometimes does with me.  Terra mentioned the abundant Chickweed that was growing near and at the farm.  The Henbit, while edible, is not very tasty.  Chickweed is also in moderate abundance and tastes much better.  Here, it is close to what I would consider choice.  I would certainly consider eating it in a salad.  It also has some herbal medicinal uses.  For more information, here is the Wikipedia page, which is a good place to start:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chickweed

For me, Life is about sharing what I have, what is needed if others need, and if I have no need, then there is no use for me to keep holding on to things.  I have had medicinal herbs setting in one kitchen or another since 2010 when I moved to Atlanta.  At this point, these herbs are of little need to me, and there is more turmeric (my mainstay) on the way.  As a result, I decided that Paul could use the remainder of the turmeric, boneset, peppermint, yarrow, elderflower, ginger, and some cayenne (130,000 HU).  The elderflower and yarrow required a little grinding. I determined that it might be simpler to combine each powered herb into a large one.  Other than the necessity of taking a teaspoon of turmeric, and very small portions of cayenne, the rest could be taken a tablespoon at a time in the combined form that it now is in. In order to do what they are supposed to do, they must be taken every two or three hours or less.  With patience, time, and the luck in catching an illness in time, whatever it is that is lingering should be gone in a few days.

Every day is different on this farm and I am grateful for that.  I learn, and I feed my curiosity. And this diary is serving as a place to include much of what I learn, even if I am getting accustomed to the farm and some repletion in what I am doing.  This knowledge I can pass to others.

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