Tuesday, August 17, 2010

city mouse goes visiting

Welcome to Marengo, Ohio.
Approximately 15 minutes from the middle of nowhere, this is where my BFF has set up her family homestead: Cackleberry Hollow.
Down a county route, off of another county route and up a long drive is the lovely, little white farmhouse with a wrought iron trellis by the front door.
Of course, no one ever uses the front door.
Like all good country houses, everyone comes and goes through the back door, past the gate in the picket fence.
Rea and her husband had both described the house as small so i was expecting a tiny, little cottage or something. Maybe it is small for a farm house, but this place is no shack: laundry room, bathroom, powder room, eat-in kitchen, dining room (converted to an office/computer room), living room, foyer, 2 bedrooms, homeschool/craft room and both front and back stairs.
Everything is hardwood and there are some lovely details, like the turned supports and the carving on the banister.
Though the most awesome design element of the house, in my opinion, is the central wood burning stove, backed with a fieldstone pillar chimney.
I felt like i was on a movie set.
The house and family are guarded by a pair of Eskies:
Danny, who just joined the family and though almost full grown is still very puppyish, and Krystl who is the eldest canine member of the family and has been around long enough to know that on a hot day the best thing to do is lay on top of the floor register (look at her fur flying; it was hilarious in person). Krystl is pretty much a house dog while Danny likes to be outside during the day and inside at night. They both, however, want to be the center of human attention and are convinced that they are lap dogs despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.
There is also good natured Great Pyranees guard dog named Iona who lives in the biggest barn. I'm not sure "good natured" and "guard dog" should go together, but she really was both. I wish i had a good picture of Iona to share -she's beautiful in a rough-and-tumble sort of way and so big that on her hind legs she's taller than me- but whenever i went close enough to take a picture, Danny would show up and start wrestling with her.
I don't think that he realizes that she could just crush his skull in her jaws if she wanted to; luckily, she seems to enjoy playing with the little punk.
After touring the house and getting the approval of the dogs (Krystl was the only one who knows me) Rea took me on a tour of the farm.
Picturesque, no?
Weeds had overtaken much of the garden, but there was still a lot of viable veggies. So many, in fact, that there is a marmet/groundhog/woodchuck/gopher who has turned it into his/her very own salad bar. Rea was excited that there was a rutabaga ready to come out of the ground that hadn't been munched so that she could show it to me.
regardless, i still maintain that there is no such thing as rutabaga
I have no question about the existence of sunflowers, though and you can just see the corn past me. I wanted to pick and eat it immediately, having never done that before, but alas, Rea informed me that it needed at least another week before harvesting.
After the garden it was animal time.
This is the big yard next to the coop where the laying hens and the ducks live. They definitely recognize that human voices equal food and so they come when called.
Hilarious to us city folk.
You can see that there are all types of chickens; i won't embarrass myself by trying to name them, though i do know that the tawny chicken all the way at the back of the picture is a Buff Orpington. I also know that this is the rooster.
He wanted to make sure that i was aware of just how special he was and that he meant business;
check out the strut:
Who's the man? I'm the man. That's right.
The meat chickens live in two chicken tractors that are moved all around the farm so that they have a constantly fresh supply of worms and bugs and such, while fertilizing the ground for next year's crops, though they do get supplemental grain feed every night as well.
You might notice a few non-meat birds in the tractors as well. Apparently there are some birds that like to hang out here instead of being in the coop, as well as a few layers that are still too young to be put in the yard with the full grown birds.
Plus you might have spotted the wee, little turkey who always looked nervous to me. I don't know if it is because i've never seen a juvenile turkey before and they all look that apprehensive or if it is because he knows the family refers to him as Thanksgiving. Inside the barn there was a box with baby guineas -who when full grown will free range, gobbling up all those bothersome ticks- and Rea's beloved silkies I'm not sure what their purpose is, besides being pretty, but i know they must have one because nobody gets a free ride on the farm.
There are rabbits of both the meat and pet variety
as well as bees who pollinate and make honey and wax.
Even my nephew can be found working, though i think that at nine, he thinks driving the mower is still pretty fun and not just work.
The farm is now also the location of the family business
since there was an outbuilding large enough for Scott to set up his woodworking shop.
This summer Rea set a canning goal for herself and i think she is doing very well on it. In fact, one day when there was nothing ready to be picked she looked at the weeds that had taken over one part of the yard and decided to find out if any of it was edible. With a little help from the internet (living in the sticks doesn't mean living in the past, people) she found a recipe and made Queen Anne's Lace jelly.
  It was... interesting.
Firstly, i don't understand why it was pale pink when the flowers are white. There was an undertone of... i can't explain it... maybe grassy would be the right word. You could tell it wasn't made from a fruit, but it was still tasty. I liked it. [BTW, Rea has put these pretty blue flowers - i think they are bachelor buttons- on notice that they are next for jellification ]
Yes, everyone and everything on the farm has to earn their keep; there will be no lollygagging about...
ummmm... why is that duck just walking around?
Why isn't it in the penned yard? Why is it just waddling about?
Hello? Okay, maybe it isn't all work, work, work every second on the farm. As evening comes on slowly and the temperature falls there is a peace, a quietness that seemed to descend. There is time for a little rest in the hammock
or perhaps to sit together on the wee bench under the pear tree.
I've never even seen a pear tree before -
look at how adorable they are!
As the hubbub of farm life was winding down and Rea started dinner there was still one last chore left to do, the one i had been waiting all day to do : collecting eggs!
Oh yes, this city mouse was going to go collecting eggs all by herself and i hoped beyond hope that there was an actual wicker egg basket for the collecting. When i asked, Rea laughed and said that they often just put the eggs in a plastic bucket, but when she saw my quivering lip and my dreams being dashed on the kitchen floor she added that there was a basket they sometimes used.
Most of the chickens were in the coop for the night,
roosting on various perches
but there was one in the brooding box.
Apparently she likes it better and who am i to argue?
She didn't even blink when i walked up to the box and started picking up the eggs that were in most of the boxes. In fact, she didn't move at all. I did all of the boxes around her, but finally I had to reach under her to check for eggs. Talk about doing something new; i'm not sure i've ever been in the same room with a live chicken, much less touched one, much less rooted around under one to take the eggs she worked so hard to make. She was unfazed by the whole interaction.
I was gleeful.
  Look at my colorful, eggey bounty.
In an egg basket, no less!
I was so overjoyed that i almost put the basket over my arm to skip back to the house; luckily, i remembered that they were raw eggs so mayhaps that might not be the best idea ever. Visiting Rea's was so fun. Of course, that is because i was visiting and didn't have to do all of the hardwork every day. I'm not sure i am cut out for that. But my coz sure is -
  that is one happy, proud country mouse.


Rea said...

Thank you!!! What a wonderful post about the farm! It makes me want to live there....wait...visit..um I guess I better go chore! My egg collector went back to the city.

Douglas said...

your anecdotes are witty and entertaining as always

Mike said...

Wow....I am tired from reading about all the things going on. I have many farming relatives, but they don't seem to have nearly as much going on. Mostly they just grow crops and cows.Thanks for all of the pictures -- it was the most farmlike part of Ohio that I've seen.

Niki said...

Soooooo, after i had the whole thing written and published i talked to Rea and she reminded me that the turkey's name is actually Thanksgiving.
They had 2 turkeys - Christmans and Thanksgiving- but one didn't make it. I thought Thanksgiving was gone and Christmas remained, but it was the other way around.
I changed it in the post.