Friday, July 31, 2009

"Sumer Is Icumen In"

That tree again
"Summer is a coming in," as the old English round has it, and an English summer at that! Well it must be, because we have had copious amounts of rain in June and July. However: the offsetting temperatures (and, of course, the humidity) have been much higher than we are used to in the UK. There, it crept into the 90's a couple of times this year and the whole nation went into shock!

Life at Triskelion Farm usually has that seasonal rhythm of farms everywhere. Gray and brown turn to green, and then to the pinks, purples and reds of the summer plants and trees. This year has been a little different. Normally by now, our metabolically-challenged horses can be let out without their muzzles as the grass begins to die back and lose some of its carbs. This year the paddocks and fields are still bright green and, much to their occupants disgust, muzzles are still de rigeur. Our first hay cutting was a good one, and with a half decent second cut we will have our year's supply. With El Nino arriving, we might even get a small third cut.

On the vegetable front, the consistent rainfall has resulted in an unusually good year, though we have had some early blight in the tomatoes and the Squash bugs marched through the zucchini like an invading army. Now,we have the anticipated surplus when everything ripens at once and our evenings are spent boiling jars and chopping veggies. The small amount of working surface in our miniscule kitchen is covered in tomatoes, beans, squash and the best looking egg plants (aubergines) I have seen anywhere. Jorg makes a mean meal chopping them into thin slices, salting them, soaking in beaten egg and frying them. Yummy, and extremely moreish!

We did some experimenting this year with new veggies and learned a few things. What did really well: white squash, kale, kohlrabi, beets, eggplants - both ichiban and black beauty, peppers, black-eyed peas, cow peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes. More trouble than they were worth: radishes, onions, zucchini (succumbed to marauding insects). Jury still out: parsnips, turnips. Things we'll try this fall: spinach, cabbage, more beets (these were better than we thought they would be).

Elvis and "Auntie" Bessie
Elvis is now 3 months old and has grown into a good looking, if very macho, young man. His debudding went well, he is hale and hearty and so is about to be weaned. This will, of course, entail much plaintive bellowing and crying (and that's just Jorg and I) until Priscilla realizes she is no longer a milk-giving punchbag for a rough calf and settles down to my gentle ministrations on the daily milking. This year, Priscilla has given us our first case of mastitis and a real doozie, at that. We tried the natural methods like Masto-blast and Mint Cream without much success so we went to a more aggressive treatment, a penicillin infusion. I don't know how many of you have contemplated shoving a plastic nozzle up a cow's teat, but I can tell you I wasn't looking forward to it. Any male who has had a urological examination will understand the problem. Luckily for me the treatment is actually a painless procedure and easily accomplished, especially with a patient cow like Priscilla. For all her sensitivity to activities around her head, she is patience personified when it comes to milking. We pleased to report that the mastitis has finally cleared and her udder has returned its normal shape.

Bessie and Rosebud are officially pregnant and will freshen in November. Somewhere in Ohio, a bull is stocking up on cigars. But that means we will not get a break from milking until we dry them out next year, during the last two months of their next pregnancies when their bodies need a break before nursing another calf. We intend to get all three girls on the same cycle in order to give us a vacation during this period and a chance to get some time away.

Our new White Bird web site is finally up and running (thank you, Jones!) with its own blog, so expect to see rescue news over there, we will continue to post highlights on here.

Picture courtesy of GETTY IMAGES
A final note, under the "proud to be Manx" heading. As early readers of the blog know we chose the name of the farm and our logo, Triskelion, for my Manx heritage. For all you cyclists out there, the winner of the last stage of the Tour de France, in Paris (and his 6th stage win of the Tour) was Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man. Not bad for an island of 81,000 inhabitants. Urrmagh ries Mark.