Summer Bounty

OK, so I know I tell you guys about my farmer’s market outings all the time, but I just can’t help sharing one more.  There is so much color and vibrance in the produce – and the people – and I simply love to photograph the goings on.  Now, in the height of the growing season here in Georgia, there is so much variety in the produce that it makes for a lovely sight.  Enjoy!

Also, if you’ve joined me on Instagram, you know that I have an overabundance of blueberries… Suggestions?

Cotton Mill Farmer’s Market

 

Hooray for Farmer’s Markets!  Last year my parents joined the Cotton Mill Farmer’s Market in Carrollton, Ga as a way to get their products out to more people, and I must say that I love going out to say hello so I can browse all the lovely (local!) produce.  It’s not a huge Market, but all the major food groups are represented: meats, dairy, fruits and veggies, and greens.  There are some great people involved who really love their crafts, and it makes for a fun shopping experience when the farmer is clearly dying to tell you all about their products and methods.  Buying local isn’t something that’s for everyone – sometimes it’s just not practical.  The prices are higher than most conventional grocery stores; most Markets are open only one or two days a week, limiting your ability to get groceries at the drop of a hat; selection is limited to what’s in season, and there aren’t many exotic items (tahini in Georgia? I think not). But there are many advantages, chief of which is that the quality of the products is generally much higher.  Because the produce isn’t being hauled from the other side of the continent, it’s usually perfectly ripe and ready to eat – and usually naturally grown or organic.  Also, buying from local farmers and artisans is a great way to put money back into your community.  I’ll be honest here – I buy the majority of my groceries from Publix, but during the spring and summer I try to get as much of my produce as I can from the local producers.  I like knowing that my food was grown less than an hour from where I live, and I like that it’s been grown by folks who have a love for farming.  Because more people are becoming concerned about the quality of the food we eat, more and more Farmer’s Markets are popping up in cities and towns all across the country, and if you’ve never been to one, I encourage you to check one out.  If nothing else, you’ll probably find a friendly farmer ready to talk your ear off about something.

Home Improvements

 

Check it out, dear readers: we got a (little) tractor!  The closer we’ve been getting to gardening (and grass growing) season, the more we’ve been trying to figure out the best way to go about our new yard obligations.  Our home is on 3 acres that is mostly yard, minus the quarter-acre garden plot that brings it’s own challenge…I don’t know about you but I’m not keen on trying to hoe a quarter-acre garden by hand.  We started looking at zero turn lawn mowers, and tillers, then pull-behind tillers for a riding mower, and then we thought we might need something we could pull a broadcaster behind for seeding the lawn, and a sprayer for weed control…and you see where this is going right?   We ended up looking at  a compact tractor that was small enough to not tear up our lawn while we were mowing it, but strong enough to handle some future landscaping projects and our heavier garden chores.  We found this one at our local SunSouth dealer, in Carrollton, and it was such a great deal that we snapped it right up and hauled it home.  After much shopping around we realized that what was going to cost us the most was the implements we wanted: a tiller, mowing deck, and loader to start.   The tractors themselves were very reasonably priced, but adding implements quickly got expensive.  We chose this one because it was so lightly used that it was basically new, and came as a package deal with the three implements we needed the most.   We’ve already put it to good use removing an unwanted pine tree, cutting the grass, and some light landscaping. 

That’s our 80’s model John Deere riding mower – it was given to us by my Daddy.  It wasn’t running so he gave it to Jacob to repair…it’s not very quick or agile, and the mowing deck needs to be replaced so we use it for hauling mostly.   It’s been very useful when we’ve needed to haul dirt, or rock, or mulch, but sometimes we have less practical uses for it, such as when we need to haul the Bassett Hound across the yard, or something 🙂

Despite our murky, windy, rainy weather we were able to get quite a few things done this weekend.  The previous tenants were very enthusiastic gardeners, but it doesn’t seem like they were overly concerned with aesthetics.  You can see my little greenhouse above, and Jacob has a shop building off to the left of that photo with the aspalt pad in between.  They seemed to be concerned with functionality more than looks, because the buildings were just placed there on the edge of the yard with no landscaping or anything to make them attractive.  I appreciate the functionality, but I really want it to all look pretty as well…I’m thinking a low wall made of paving stones from the shop to the greenhouse (in front of that sweet gum tree) with a little flower bed in it, and then another paving stone “planter” built along the length of the greenhouse to hide the legs of that cabinet and make it look a little neater. 

We’ve already done a lot to clean it up just by clearing away a lot of brush and junk from around the shop area, and I know the rest will come together in time.  Hopefully spring will be upon us full force in another couple of weeks and we can get down to business in the garden. 

Did I mention how much fun the tractor is?  It’s pretty cool actually.  I might actually volunteer to help with the lawn mowing…

I hope you all are having very happy and productive springtimes, wherever you are, and that all of your projects are going just the way you want them to. Happy Spring!

 

The Farm Family

Feb2013-1

This is where I grew up…in fact, I cleared that pasture when it was all blackberries and brambles, and you couldn’t walk through it without the fear of sticking your foot in a hole that you couldn’t see or stubbing your toe on a giant rock half-buried in the ground.  When my parents bought this place in 2000, there were no pastures at all – there had once been, but they had been let go, and had grown up until they were impassable with any sort of motorized vehicle.  I’m not kidding – you’d have needed the mars rover to get through it.  We cleared the land by hand – my mama, my stepdad, my sister and I.  And now it’s covered with grass (mostly.  When it rains anyway.) for most of the year, and populated with Red Angus cattle, Katahdin sheep, and Tamworth pigs.  My parents raise all natural, grass-fed animals with no antibiotics, no hormones, no bad-for-you additives.  They get grass and hay; even the pigs graze, although being natural omnivores, they do receive a supplemental pig feed in carefully measured amounts, as well as whey, a natural by-product of the cheese making process that they love and is full of nutrients.

Feb2013-3

Farm-1

 

Mostly, they just roam around chowing down on all that grass and providing me with endless entertainment and photo opportunities.  You can see that they’d much rather cool off in their drinking water than use it for it’s intended purpose. They are all well-fed, well-cared for, and well-loved – they’re not very shy, and will usually come up to investigate when we visit their domain.

Feb2013-4

 

That little cutie is the first lamb of 2013, although judging by the size of the lady on the left, he will (very!) soon be joined by twins or even triplets.  My parents lost their ram last year – the stud of the flock – and it’s possible that this little guy will be stepping up to fill his hooves.  He’s anxiously awaiting his name – it’s taking a while to come up with something suitably impressive.

Feb2013-5

 

I really miss being on the farm every day – when I was kid it just seemed like work, work, and more work, but now I can see how valuable our experiences there were.  We learned how to work hard – pasture clearing, see above; we learned skills most people have no concept of – for instance, can you deworm and vaccinate horses, sheep, cattle, pigs, dogs, and cats? or shoe them, or trim their feet or toenails? or clean 18 stalls before 10 am?; and we got to experience some of the coolest things ever – like a half-hour old lamb/calf/horse try to stand up and find it’s mama for the first time.   It’s work like you wouldn’t believe.  Folks aren’t joking when they say “up with sun” – I had to be at the barn to feed at 7am everyday, including holidays, and we didn’t go in the house until everyone was fed and watered at night, and that might be 6pm or 10pm depending on how your day went.  I’ve hauled 400 bales of hay in from the field, off the trailer, into the barn, then into the stalls in an afternoon – but I’ve also ridden through the Talladega National Forest in the springtime when everything is blooming and the horses are frisky.  All of the work is balanced out by some miraculous event, or birth, or experience that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.   I learned so much, and gained so much appreciation for the land, the animals, the seasons, that I wouldn’t change it for the world.