Brian Boucheron

Cooking & brewing & growing & nerding &ct.

Transitional Species

Guinea Fowl, Two Weeks

Well. I find myself missing the above pictured critters, as well as the goats, oxen, yaks, and farm folk. I left the farm mid-August, in order to get home and take care of some pressing matters. I guess things were getting pretty routine by that point anyway, and it made me itch to get home and start doing something… finding some land, developing some freelance work, learning some newly-important life skills, working on some different farms. I’m not sure what I’ll have to blabber about on the blog now, but you should be warned that some of it will probably be 1000% more nerdy than before. We’ll see.

Right after I got home, Rachel and I zipped off to Maine to laze about for a week at her parents’ place. That certainly delayed my settling-in phase here in Rochester, but made for a great transition between two very different worlds. I still get up fairly early, but I am creeping later and later each day, and I stay up too late. I’ll have to work on that, as I enjoy getting up at six and having the quiet morning to myself. Also, it is odd to have too much free time and too little hard labor. I’ve contacted some local farms and hopefully will find a place I can visit and work at between my job and freelance and other pursuits… the garden just doesn’t cut it.

Birthday Cake Fire

We happened to be in Maine on my birthday, and Rachel & her sister made me a yummy farm-themed cake. They managed to cover all the important animals from the farm, except the yaks. There was even a team of appropriately colored oxen, munching on the coconut and frosting “grass”. I managed to milk the birthday event for almost a full week… eating too much, drinking vast quantities of yummy beer, and lazing about reading books and taking naps. Whee!

Birthday Brace Balloon

But now it’s back to reality-land. First on the to-do list was to set up an office here at Rachel’s place, which I guess is now “our place”. Having done that I am now ready to dive into some freelance work, and have indeed already talked to the bike shop and started some materials for next year’s Tour de New York (the first, I suppose). Soon I will return to my prior job part-time as well, and also try to work in some internships, with any luck. So maybe there will soon be more variety here, instead of all these tiresome pictures of farm animals! Who knows!

Garlic Harvest

Visitor, From Another Planet

I had visitors last weekend. Somehow only one of them managed to get photographed. Rachel drove to Rome, and hitched a ride the rest of the way with my parents, who were on their way to Vermont to meet up with other Volkswagen Bus weirdos. So they got in fairly early on Friday, and we put her to work rather quickly after the folks left. For some reason we were a little behind in the harvest. Oh yeah… because a goat had a broken leg and there were vet visits and such to worry about. So Rachel and I harvested together whilst everybody else was off at the vet. We bunched up kale, beets, carrots, and lots of herbs. Probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten about as well. (Oh yeah! Two kinds of cucumbers and three squashies.)

So, it was nice to see her, and even though we couldn’t manage to chit-chat while harvesting and counting bunches and such, it was a nice plump weekend of activities. Too much walking to town and back though… I was getting more tired on my days off than during the week.

Shelburne Falls Potholes

We took a short ride to Shelburne Falls, and wandered around there like touristy folk. There is a bridge of flowers that we walked along, with Rachel telling me what they all were and me forgetting them promptly. It was quite lovely, and I managed to take zero pictures. We got a frozen hot chocolate at a cafe, and it was delicious and not at all like a chocolate milkshake thank you.

The parents came back Sunday evening, and we went out to dinner at a local bar, of which I didn’t get the impression of “fine eatery”… but it was really quite good. I made everybody eat some mussels. And the desserts were fantastic looking, so we were all fatty-fats and pigged out. Then we came back and drank some beer and played pitch.

Garlic Buggie

And then, everybody left me on Monday. Poo. Then it was back to the same old. Wednesday was a little different though… we harvested all the garlic. Not sure how much, we never did end up counting bulbs. It was about fifty pounds of seed garlic though. So we pulled it all up, laid it out, filled up a cart, dragged it to the barn, bunched it up, and hung it on strings. It was kindof my first blister-causing activity. My hands are a mess, which made it hard to weed and trellis tomatoes today.

Garlic Pile

Garlic Harvest

It smells rather delicious walking through the barn now… and of course I’m making some hilarious vampire jokes.

Guinea Fowl, One Week

The wee Guinea Fowl are one week closer to ugliness. Look at that elongating neck! They’ve been moved inside with their surrogate mother. Now they reside in an old playpen, and thankfully still make only cute chick sounds. I anticipate they’ll be out and about before they learn how to be more obnoxious. I wonder, will they act somewhat more chickenish then the other Guineas? Will they all get along? Probably not… they’re known for finding at least one of their own to pick on and excommunicate. Heartless poultry. I think I shall eat one of you after all.

Baby Noisemakers

Spring is long gone, yet we have some new babies on the farm, as of yesterday. We’ve had some guinea fowl eggs stuck underneath a broody hen (chicken) for what seems like months now (probably four weeks really)… so I decided to poke around underneath her and see if there was any activity. There was!

Guinea Hatch

As you may be able to see, I discovered a guinea chick peeping around underneath the hen. Broody Hen (that’s what we’ve taken to calling her) quickly got used to everybody poking around underneath her to get a look, and now doesn’t even peck at you as you root around under her warm blobby broody body. The chicks are up and about today, pecking at some mash and getting wee baby drinks of water.

Guinea Daylings

Guinea Daylings

So that’s what passes for excitement around here. Entertainment, really. I realize I may have spoken poorly of the guineas in the past, but they’ve really grown on me this summer. They eat a lot of ticks, and don’t eat the vegetables in the garden. They run much faster and more elegantly than the fat chickens, have some level of personality (mostly “stupid”), and roam far and wide on the property, often stopping traffic in the road and exploring the neighbor’s yards. Plus, they can actually fly a little bit, yet choose to stick around and roost in our half-dead apple tree. How sweet. So in summary, I’m happy we’re growing up two more, and I hope they make it and I probably wont even try to slaughter them and bring them back to Rochester in freezer bags.

In other news, we’re catching up with our weeding, sortof. It was a long day in the tomato patch today, and my grab, twist, and pull muscles are tired. I reserved enough strength to do the evening milking, and now I get a rest. I suspect tomorrow will involve some weeding of the melon beds. And the winter squash. And the corn. And the pumpkins. Blah. It is rather hot and humid here, and today I considered becoming one of those people who complains about the weather (a retiree?)… but, anything under ninety and I refuse to change out of my work pants and into shorts… so no bellyaching. There was a nice breeze today, but apparently not at ground level. The trees whooshed and swooshed, yet there was stillness down in the weeds. Hot days make me wear sunscreen. Obviously that’s stupid, as the quantity of solar radiation apparently has no bearing on my application, just warmth. I guess it correlates pretty well. I’m rather tanned, but still feel I could get pinky after a long day in the sun.

I’m babbling. It is time to shut in the chickens and chicks, and then head to bed. Much visitor preparation is needed tomorrow, along with weeding and laundry and on and on.

Status Report

Misty Night

I suppose a little bit has happened since our last chat. There have been a lot of harvests, a lot of markets, and a lot of weeding. Blech. We’ve finally moved on from just greens, with some beets and carrots and squash now showing up on our market tables. That feels nice. I’m not sick of salads, but will enjoy the added variety nonetheless.

We’ve also blown through all of our garlic scapes in the past few weeks. What a lovely product. Waste product is more like it, as we would cut them off even if nobody were willing to buy them. But people do, and as they should because it’s quite the nice delicate garlic taste right when everybody’s garlic braids are running out from the previous season. Soon we will start harvesting fresh garlic for the CSA, and then I’ll get to see how we harvest and dry the rest, and perhaps even try my hand at making some braids.

I had visitors, many weeks ago. My parents came out for a few days in their Vanagon… and they dragged Rachel along for the ride. In fact, they will be doing the very same thing next weekend on their way to Vermont for some crazy Volkswagen meet-up they seem to be attending yearly.

Grain Mill

Stout Fermentation

Bottling

We went on a tour of the Berkshire Brewing Company while they were in town. It was quite the nice tour, with an ample amount of free tastings and an entertaining tour guide… rather in depth and fun.

I think the folks had a good time here at the farm. They brought plenty of beer and crackers and cheese and Rachel and I helped them consume it whilst playing Pitch around the wee table in their camper. Mom hopefully got enough pampering in, bringing fixings for dinner and breakfast and also some cookies and the like.

Experimental Casks

Tasting Room

We also went out to a flea market, which was not quite a bust, but close. We showed up late due to poor directions, and it was a semi-cloudy-rainy day anyways, so people were packing up and heading home. I got a good camera tripod though, so that’s good. And afterwards there happened to be a good brewpub on the way home, so we stopped there for a late lunch. You can perhaps see a theme developing here.

Northeastern Permaculture Convergence, Summer 2008

Northeastern Permaculture Convergence, Summer 2008

Northeastern Permaculture Convergence, Summer 2008

Northeastern Permaculture Convergence, Summer 2008

This past weekend I went to the Northeastern Permaculture Convergence in Holyoke. I haven’t got the brain capacity right now to explain what permaculture is… perhaps someday. But it’s somewhat involved in designing agricultural systems, if you will. Anyways, it was an interesting weekend, and I’m still processing things in my head. I met Dave from Rochester there, who has a blog I’ve been reading for a while now. So that made it pretty worthwhile. We didn’t talk a ton, but he seemed great and will no doubt be a valuable resource upon my return. He has some connections within organizations I’m interested in, and also is tinkering with his own permaculture garden/yard which I hope to view someday.

I guess there were around 100 other people at the convergence. I didn’t talk to many of them. I’m antisocial, and suck at events such as this. But I did meet a lot of nice folks, and picked a few brains. Mainly I enjoyed touring some farms, gardens, and nurseries. Of course I didn’t write down the scores of cool plants I saw, but I feel like I’m not at that stage yet, and have the names of some books to obtain that should point out the highlights at least.

Northeastern Permaculture Convergence, Summer 2008

Northeastern Permaculture Convergence, Summer 2008

Northeastern Permaculture Convergence, Summer 2008

So, it feels good to be back at the farm. Things were a little weird when I got back, with the oxen getting out of their pasture once again, apparently a problem all weekend. That’s pretty frustrating. And there are many animals that need moving in the morning, which I don’t entirely look forward to. But. Being away made me appreciate many more things about this place, so I shall not complain.

Misty Morning

Good Morning Farm

It has been rather warm and moist here lately. I woke up today (Sunday, my “day off”) at around five, with the sun peeking in the hayloft doors (which are now permanently open to ventilate the goat butt barn scent). I’m not sure what compelled me to bound out of bed and take pictures. Perhaps my lack of doing so for the past two weeks. Or perhaps because the sun had a particular hazy, diffuse quality that I knew would be gone pretty quickly.

So off I went. It was my first t-shirt-only morning… plus muck boots, dress pants, suspenders, and my camera bag. I guess I got some ok shots.

Anyways, the point of all this was that it is rather pretty here, I’ve found. Yesterday after the market I took some detours on my bike ride back. Various dirt roads deep into dark dark woods smelling slightly acidic and decayed. Some were shortcuts between more civilized roads. Some went beyond my means of locomotion, with steep descents that I didn’t feel like tackling in the opposite direction.

There were lots of hills.

It was all quiet and beautiful, with woods and cows and barns and fields and streams and gardens and an old round brick schoolhouse and a beehive on somebody’s porch roof (bearproofing, I suppose) and hills and valleys and misty bits and clotheslines and nice views and nice smells. I will have to do more exploring, at more photogenic times of day and with my camera on board.

Good Morning Farm

All this mist and haze is, unfortunately, because it is durn hot here. Only low nineties really, but it doesn’t feel nice. We went from steady rain and a flood warning Thursday night and Friday morning (when I got soaked through my “rain suit” while moving the sheep) to the nineties on Saturday, and through the next few days it seems. Last night was quite interesting, clear skies overhead and clouds with silent lightning off in the distance (I guess you may call it heat lightning, but it’s really just a normal storm you can’t hear due to distance or refraction of sound waves (says the internets), so let us just call it lightning, ok?).

In wildlife news, I saw a black bear a few nights ago, with two cubs close behind. They were basically at the tree line you can see in the pictures above… which is rather too close to where we have the boy sheep currently. They freaked out a bit. Doggie inspection revealed no bears in the woods shortly after I spotted them, so maybe they were just passing through for a dip in the stream (something that has crossed my mind recently).

Derek found the guinea hen’s nest, with something like twenty eggs piled up in there. A few were placed underneath the broody chicken hen in the coop, so we’ll see if anything hatches. I guess most people will remove the eggs and store them until the hen is ready to sit for a while… because they don’t start sitting until they’ve got them all out. I guess that makes sense. I’ve taken to liking the guineas, even though they’re obnoxiously loud. They don’t eat the crops and keep me from getting ticks. They can stay for now.