“Winter’s Coming” For those of you who may watch or have heard of the HBO series based on the book Game of Thrones, this is the motto of the House Stark. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Stark Family are the lords of the North, Winterfell, and strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter, which hits their lands the hardest.
A deeper, metaphorical sense can be found in the motto. According to the author George R.R. Martin, it more generally expresses the sentiment that there are always dark periods in each of our lives, and even if things are good now (“summer”), we must always be ready for a dark period when events turn against us (“winter”). In this sense “winter” parallels Richard of the House of York’s opening line in Shakespeare’s Richard III, “Now is the Winter of our Discontent/ Made glorious by this sun of York…”
In this sense it is loosely matched by the Latin phrase “memento mori” (“remember you have to die”), which was whispered into the ear of victorious Roman generals during their parade of triumph, to remind them that all earthly success if fleeting. (parts of these paragraphs came from the website Wikia.com)
I started reading the book series a couple of years before the TV series came out and I immediately connected with the Stark Family and their view on life. Having a garden center, landscape and now farm business, which is not just a business but way of life, we know better than anyone what this means. I worry about winter coming all year and this year was no different. In fact, I kept saying that I had a feeling this winter was going to be a bad one. I was unfortunately right, and little did I know how bad.
I’m not one to normally do selfies but I had to laugh at the ice in my beard, a la Ned Stark
As a child, I used to love winter and the beauty, adventure and fun it can possess. The child in me still feels that way; however, the adult in me worries ad nauseam about all of the things that can go wrong. We Louisvillians have been spoiled for years with mild winters, but this winter is different, this is hardcore and playing for keeps. I have not seen anything like it in my lifetime.
Usually, we have a snow or ice event and it is gone the next day, or even that afternoon. We have had Polar Vortex #1 roll through here, then Polar Vortex #2 and now this. We close the retail garden center in the fall and our landscape jobs are the only source of income and cash flow that we have all winter long. First trick is to sell the jobs, second is to execute them. We are used to having to work around the winter, but this is just something different. This week alone we had snow on Monday, temperatures have kept it from melting, then snow, rain, sleet and ice on top of it. With forecasted continuing below freezing temps, there is no way we are going to be able to work this week at all. (Yes, this is a year that we should be doing snow removal as we don’t, but that is a discussion for another time)
Since we have started this whole homesteading farm and petting zoo thing, many of our friends, say to us with a little envy “we could never do what you guys do.” “We really admire what you do and it’s wonderful that you do it, however, we could never do it.” We always say, “Of course you could do it, it is just a matter of doing it.” We would have never thought that we were the ones who would do this if you asked us 5 years ago. But this is the winter where I say to many of our friends, “you know what, you might be right, you might not be able to do this.” I say that because this is the winter where I wonder if I can continue to do this!
It was bad enough to have winter affect our landscape business but now we take on this farm venture which adds even more winter stress. We must be masochists or something! And now, as if to add insult to injury, we get ice and lots of damage to our trees on the property, just relentless!
I am not writing this to complain, as I would not trade it. I write it more to reflect how interesting and different your outlook is on life when you are so connected to the natural world. We as humans have done a very good job of shielding ourselves from the problems of winter and adverse weather. Of course, our family has these modern conveniences as well, but for us the weather is everything. It literally dictates how the whole day is going to be dealt with and things change on the fly because of the weather all of the time. Just as it has been for millennia for farmers and people who work the land.
There is a sense of accomplishment every morning and afternoon, when I have completed the chores of feeding and watering, that I have done something real and honest. A sense that I am part of God’s creation and fully involved in the process, instead of just going through the motions, allowing technology to rule everything.
I can also guarantee you that there will be a sense of accomplishment, when this Spring I am reflecting back on the how we survived the worst winter we have ever experienced and are better and stronger because of it. After all, Spring is Coming!!!
I felt the need to do a quick update on Violet, since many of you have asked about her and what is going on. I really appreciate that you guys are actually reading and asking for updates! I promise you, I will keep you posted but nothing has happened yet. We must have totally misread her signs, but she is stable and nothing has changed. She is outside with the other girls and doing fine. We have had babies for the past two years but are still new to this and many of you have offered great tips which we appreciate. Adding to the confusion of her delivery date is the fact that we didn’t know when the “deed” occured if you know what I mean, so we have not been able to accurately track her pregnancy. Now with Daisy we have a better idea and there is also a possibility that Pansy and Rosie are preggos too. I will keep you guys posted. Thanks!
On Monday night after taking the kids to Piano Lessons and Boy Scouts, I came home and Hope and I are discussing little Violet, who is one of our younger goats and is pregnant. We have been watching her over the past few months grow and grow after our Veterinarian Dr. Slone was out and confirmed she was indeed pregnant and the ultrasound showed two goat fetuses. Yes, they have portable ultrasounds for this kind of thing. It is not unusual for Hope to ask me while she is at work in Frankfort (she took a winter position with the General Assembly just during session) how is Violet? I know what this means, I say no change, she hasn’t bagged up and her “Who Who” isn’t doing anything. “Who Who” is a term for a female’s private parts that our daughter uses and we use with her. Hope being the proper Central KY Girl she is, likes these more cordial, delicate terms for reproductive anatomy. Bagged up is referring to her udder and whether she has come into milk and checking her “Who Who” is a daily thing for us goat farmers while they are preganant as they will show various signs of approaching labor.
I don’t know how graphic you want me to get, but it involves discharge and swollen vulva which means she is dilating, to just give you a preview. Well, I guess that was pretty graphic. I can guarantee you that I never thought I would be looking at a goat’s “Who Who” on a daily basis when I graduated from the Horticulture Program at the University of Kentucky. I am supposed to be a plant guy, what happened here.
Violet in Pregnancy Wing of Boone Gardiner
I noticed early that day that indeed these signs were starting to show, and Hope called our good friend Joy who is a long time goat breeder and has been a wealth of knowledge for us. Joy said she would stop by and check her out and she confirmed that she was indeed dilated but not in labor yet, as there were no contractions, but it wouldn’t be long.
So back to our dinner conversation about Violet, and what to do with her. We both felt with the returning Polar Vortex that it would be best to move her in. If she has the kids in this kind of cold, they will certainly get hypothermia and freeze. So after thinking I was finished for the night having fed and watered all of our menagerie earlier before piano lessons and boy scouts, I put on my Carharts and ventured back outside.
At 8:00 it was 13 degrees with a wind chill of 0. I couldn’t just move her into the garage. I had to build a pin of some sort as there are all kinds of organic fertilizers, among other things, that she doesn’t need to be getting into. So with my trusty light, a Christmas present from my brother Chris, which I was truly excited about. Yes, these are the kinds of things I get excited about. A light that I can use outside while doing these sort of crazy farm chores in the pitch dark and freezing cold. Hope reminded me that there were some extra cattle panels that I could use in the goat pin. For those of you who do not know, a cattle panel is a strong wired fence panel, that is extremely tough and versatile. I had to cut down 2 -16′ cattle panels where I had them wired up on a wall. Then I proceeded to cut the 16′ section in half (with bolt cutters, these are thick wire) and bring those inside to create an 8′ x 8′ pin that she could safely be inside of. It backs up to our John Deere Gator, which served as a good stabilizer.
I then had to get a water bowl, something for food and then hiked out to our barn (former coal house for heating old greenhouses) to get some hay for her to eat and use as bedding. I set up a heat lamp and even ran a space heater for a little while when I was in there. I didn’t run it all night, I know what a fire hazard these are, especially around some hay! Finally, I got a lead line and went out to fetch Violet. Great thing about Violet is that she is such a sweet goat and loves people, so she was easy to get on the lead line and bring out of the goat yard. Once we started getting close to the garage, she started wondering what I was doing with her but didn’t put up too much of a fight. I got her in and settled and I have to say it was quite a nice little area. Unfortunately, as soon as I left the garage, she starts her crying out ” Bahh, Bahh, Bahh!!” She is just like one of our children who wants us to sleep with her. She makes you feel horrible for leaving her, but eventually she calms down. I called Hope on the phone and she suggested I turn on the radio for her to keep her company. So I plugged in the radio and turned it on to WFPL, our local NPR affiliate. After listening to this all night, Violet would be up on world affairs and be able to discuss politics at length. Hope came over and sat with her for awhile and eventually snuck out. I think we both knew she probably wouldn’t give birth that night, which she didn’t, but it made us feel better having her in there.
The Trusty Light
So now, flash ahead to today, Friday 31st and she has still not gone into labor. Yesterday afternoon I was feeling bad about her being by herself and since it was warmer I moved her outside. She spent the night out there with the other goats and seems to be a lot happier. I went out in the middle of the night to check on her, but still no change. I will keep you posted.
Today is one of those days in the landscaping business that is always so difficult to decide whether to work or not. We have been working all winter long and will continue to, but I felt bad today to have the guys drive all the way into work today only to send them back home. It didn’t start snowing today until about 6:40 and once it did, it kept on coming down to the tune of 2-3″ in Crestwood. Like anyone who works outside, the weather is so important to us and trying to predict or make decisions based on it is always tricky. We have more technology than ever at our fingertips, with weather apps on our phone and the weather people on tv, but no one ever gets it right. The only real way to get it right is to go outside and see what is going on for yourself.
While feeding the animals on the farm on days like this takes longer, it can also be rewarding. I was able to take my time feeding and making the farm rounds while not rushing through the task. On a normal work morning, when I am busy trying to get Boone Gardiner work done, I speed through the farm chores, completing them in about a half an hour. Enjoying the quite solitude that only a fresh snow can provide and not having any employees nor jobs to worry about for the day, allowed me a peaceful start and time to reflect.
Which brings me to the reason for this post. I have said for years that I need to blog more. Which I have done intermittently at best for Boone Gardiner and lately about Acorn Lane Farm. Now I want to take it a step further and actually start blogging on a regular basis, from a more personal point of view of what our crazy but very fulfilling life is like here at Acorn Lane Farm at Boone Gardiner. I have been actually been working on a book that I started last year about just this topic, while also writing other ideas, short stories and poems. Now it is time to get serious and start sharing (at least a little). Hopefully you will find my ramblings to be entertaining, informative and inspiring. I will continue to post about landscaping, gardening, plants, sustainability while adding farming, homesteading, personal stories, reflections and more.
Finding time. Today is the day that I find the time, the time to do what I want to do, Write. Which is what this whole great experiment that Hope and I have created is all about. Finding the time to live life fully, richly in the moment, authentically.
Stop by today and pick up some fresh veggies grown on site by Boone Gardiner. We have a nice selection of veggies, harvested when you want them. Just come out and if you see something you like, we cut and harvest it right there for you. Right now we have Kale, Mustard Greens, Leaf Lettuce, Radishes, Cauliflower available for dinner tonight. Don’t forget our farm fresh eggs from our happy hens and our local honey.
Cabbage and Kale
So once again our friend Karl Klein (son of Theodore Klein of Yew Dell) came by with a little surprise for us the other day last week, 5 Wild Turkey Chicks! Karl was out mowing on his farm and flushed a Wild Turkey Hen off of her nest. He didn’t hurt her, but she ran off and from his experience once a hen leaves her nest like that she won’t come back to her eggs. So he collected the eggs and took them inside to his incubator and hatched the chicks (actually Poults). He brought us 5 of these little guys at 2 days old and they have been living in our house (in a box !!) It’s funny, I thought we finally had the animals, other than the dog and the kids, out of the house and here we go again. We got Captain Black Boots, the baby Lamb that Karl brought us and Hope bottled fed and the 9 rabbits we rescued from animal control out and now I have Turkeys!! For more info on Wild Turkeys check out the link below.