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Spotted Dog Farm Blog

Summer Recap

As is usual for me in the summer, I didn't keep up with the blog so well.  It's not that nothing was happening - it's more like too much was happening, and I was having fun living it, without wanting to stop and document it.  That actually seems like a pretty good philosophy - keep moving forward with the fun - so instead of wishing I had kept a more complete accounting, I'll just move on with the highlights.

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It's A Wild One

This winter has been a wild one so far.  For the last few years we had these mild, easy winters - usually punctuated with one or two snows, but for the most part no big deal.  It was equal parts delicious and anticlimactic.  This winter, on the other hand, has been a different beast.  January has been cold.  Like COLD. 

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The Seasons

The ferns are going nuts on the farm these days, reminding me that it's the season of growth.  I've been spending more time on farm work than jewelry work here lately, which is pretty much the beauty of the seasons.  I remember when I was a lawyer I'd think "am I supposed to do the exact same thing every day for the rest of my life???"  That seemed... unlikely.  I'm not really wired like that.  

I can definitely report that that is no longer an issue.  In the last few days we've cleaned out the gutters on the outbuildings, emailed the humane society to see if we can adopt some working cats for the mouse problem in the flower building (our last farm cat died of old age a few months ago), dug a giant drainage ditch around the run-in shed, changed the belt on one of the big mowers, moved a ton of mulching material into the beds for next year's garden, had the truck die while sitting in said garden, gotten the truck towed out of the garden and off to be fixed, hoed a ton of weeds out of this year's mini-garden, poked a bunch of holes in a soaker hose that was no longer soaking - thus turning it into drip irrigation, mowed and mowed and mowed, and weed-eated weed-eated weed-eated, had a guy with a track hoe come fix the drainage on our pond so it is now filling back up (yay!!!), hauled many many loads of rocks up to fix an issue where our driveway was washing, played a lot of badminton, re-seeded a section of the bank where the track hoe dug into it for the new drain pipe, started training the goats to go out on a picnic to whatever patch of invasives I'm trying to get rid of that day, fed hundreds of baseballs into the pitching machine for Sam, and done a lot of hot yoga.  What I haven't done is make much jewelry.  Which I think is fine - I'm a big fan of the seasons - both in nature and in life.  

This season is always one where I feel like the farm is growing up around me faster than I can stay on top of it, and everything needed to stay on top of it is breaking at the same time.  But in reality I love having all of these projects going on at once, and feeling like I really *have* to be outside all day.  Because in the cold months I'm all about the studio, and responsible work projects.  Which makes it all the more delicious that in the summer we're more focused on things that are growing.  Fortunately I also tend to stockpile a lot of jewelry in the winter, so this pretty much works out. ;) 

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Weekly Roundup

Lots of things rolling along as we get closer to spring.  Not water in our pond - nope, that's still empty, but we have hope for the repairs to happen in the next week or two, and then we'll be back in action.  That's the thing about good dirt guys - ("dirt guys" being my nickname for guys who move dirt.  For obvious reasons.) - anyway, the thing about good dirt guys is that they're in high demand and completely at the mercy of the weather.  Which means you can never tell exactly when they're going to get to you.  Like many things with a farm, having earth moving work done is a real test of your equanimity.  Mine's still hanging in there for the time being.

Other things that require equanimity - farm trucks.  The brakes on ours completely went out this week (which sounds like a problem you'd have in 1965 rather than 2017), and so Clifford had to take a ride to the mechanic.  Bummer.

I did make some good progress on my knitted dress this week - kitting and baseball go together like peanut butter and jelly. 

Steve's first birthday party was a hit.  Sam made him a combination of his favorite foods - an apple stuffed with peanut butter and bacon, served with a side of dog biscuits.  Steve knows how to party.

Afterwards Steve had to sleep it off.  And just like lots of little kids, he was full of energy right until he fell asleep for his nap.  In this case, while chewing on his bone.

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Steve's First Birthday

Today's the day - Steve turns one!  His first year is pretty well documented, but this before and after makes me laugh the most.  A Maremoodlian can grow quite a bit in one year.  (And what's a Maredmoodlian you may ask?  Simple:  A half Maremma, half Anatolian Shepherd who has been raised by our Standard Poodles.  Steve's pretty sure he's going to turn into a curly haired happy poodle when he grows up.)

 

 

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Save the Carp!

The day that Clark finally got the drain open on the pond was pretty exciting.  After days of hammering holes in a rusty galvanized pipe to encourage it to keep draining, we finally had an actual plan.  Unfortunately it was also a day of grisly fish death, since there are a ton of fish in the pond, and without water there are no fish.  But just as the water was getting low we had a brainstorm about the giant carp we put in last year to clear the grass from the bottom of the pond.  Namely, we remembered that our neighbor also has a pond, and might like some carp, and it would be awfully nice to save a few of them.  Of course we could have remembered this days in advance, but instead we figured it out about 45 minutes before the water was completely gone.  And so the phone call went something like this:  "Hey this is Sumner our pond is draining like right now and I just realized that you might like some of these grass-eating carp since they would keep your pond clean and also that would save their lives but you need to decide in the next 45 minutes or so or really more like right now because we need to go catch them and put them in giant tubs to drive over to you and doesn't that sound awesome?"  Fortunately my neighbor is rather chill, and also did like the idea of saving the carp, and so a rescue mission was launched.  A very, very muddy rescue mission, and one in which I laughed until I almost wet myself, because carrying giant fish up out of a mud bog is ripe for some slapstick comedy.

 

 

In the end, though, we did save several of them. And Sam's friend from school who was visiting got dirtier than I think the kid had probably ever been in his whole life.  And in the world of boys, that's a win.

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At War with the Invasive Beast (or, a Day to Reconnect with the Farm)

I've been feeling a little like I'm in a winter rut lately.  Wake up, work, go to yoga, work.  With a few other fun things thrown in - family, dogs, cranky old horse, weird wild goats.  This isn't a bad rut, but it left me feeling a little disconnected from the farm itself.  Admittedly winter isn't prime farm time - the land kind of goes to sleep, and aside from a little more animal care (anyone want to haul hot water to the barn?) things tend to come inside during the winter.  But still I've been doing way more computer work (new wholesale website? check!) and way less farm work than usual over this winter, and it's making me antsy.

So on Sunday I grabbed my loppers and headed out.  My arch-nemesis is an invasive bramble called multi-flora rose.  It's a beast - very aggressive with giant thorns that takes over everything in its path - and there aren't too many effective plans to combat it.  Goats are a notable exception - they do a good job, but there are lots of places here where we don't let the goats run (because I need a better temporary fence solution - once they're out of their regular pasture goats tend to focus more on things you don't want them to eat - hello flowers - and less on things you got them to eat.  Also, my particular herd of goats is kind of wild and not easily relocated.  Not ideal.)  So aside from goats, the options are herbicides - which I don't use, and actually aren't very good with multi-flora rose anyway- and cutting it.  So that leaves me and the loppers. 

Cutting the stuff is actually strangely satisfying -  instant gratification.  Sam says I have a problem - once I start I can't seem to stop.  So for a couple of hours Sunday morning I wandered around wreaking havoc on the brambles.  The dogs' particular favorite spot - the swamp behind a couple of the outbuildings.  There's hardly anything a farm dog likes more than a swamp - unless it's their person down in the swamp with them.  So everyone was pretty satisfied.

Also - bonus discovery - one of our apple trees that I had given up as dead has buds on it! This tree was uprooted during the giant culvert replacement of 2016, and looked completely dead thereafter.  In fact the only reason it's still in the yard is because I was too lazy to dig it up.  But now it has signs of life.  Laziness pays off.

 

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Starting to Plan the Flowers

Spring is coming!  And I have verifiable proof, thanks to this picture I just took of buds on the maple tree.  

All of this spring-like behavior means we need to get serious about figuring out where the flower beds are going this year.  Last year was like our starter year - we moved in January, and then slowly moved IN over the next several months, all while figuring out how to care for the farm on our own, and that meant the planting beds fell pretty far down the list.  Our efforts at figuring out my dad's multiple old mowers and their idiosyncrasies led Clark to make the very apt observation that we were like missionaries who had just been dropped in Africa.  Well intentioned but surviving mainly by the grace of God.

This year, though, we're figuring out the flower beds.  I should admit here that my dreams of reviving the giant vegetable garden are going to have to wait one more year.  No doubt we'll still grow tomatoes and a few other easy things - it would just be crazy not to grow tomatoes.  But for the heavy lifting on the vegetable side I just signed up for a CSA from Flying Cloud Farm.  Support local farmers, feel virtuous, avoid weeding giant vegetable garden?  For this year I'll take it.

When we grew flowers for market we had two main fields - one in the main yard, and one up at the barn.  Both worked well since they had ready sources of water - we used the lake and a pump in the yard, and I've got a giant water container under the downspout at the barn. Also both are flat to sort-of flat, which is the most you can hope for in these mountains.  

 

But this year, since we're not growing for production, I don't need full fields of flowers.  More just happy beds that let us grown our favorite varieties.  I'm thinking the best spot is going to end up being what used to be my larkspur and day lily beds - possibly  extending it to a long zig-zag series of beds.  In my ideal world we're going to turn these into fancy raised beds - both because this particular spot doesn't drain all that well, and also because it might help keep the dogs out of them.  

I'll report back on our progress - growing is a process, and one that's more fun when it's shared with friends.  And speaking of friends - if you've got any tips/tricks/questions/commiserations on your growing process I'd love to hear from you. xoxo

 

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Back to the Picnic Deck

You guys!  It is February 12 and it is 70 degrees in Asheville.  And that means I am back to basking on my picnic deck for journaling and reading random New York Times stories and getting some work done (unfortunately in that order).  If there is a better way to work than outside listening to the birds chirp I definitely don't know what it is.

You'll notice that my "overlooking the pond" vista is currently an "overlooking world's largest mud puddle" vista.  Which, strangely enough, indicates progress.  That's right, we got the pond drained (finally!) and are now awaiting the arrival of the big equipment.  I'm fully aware that the problem of "my pond needs repair work" is about the most first world problem imaginable, and thus it won't exactly be a catastrophe if takes a while.  But still... fingers crossed this thing has water back in it by summer.

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