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Look what a chicken carcass got us!

He may look cute and innocent but believe me…raccoons are ruthless killers.

He has been relocated. YAY!

We’ll continue to bait the trap, though, just in case he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I doubt that’s the case though.

 

not a good week

Sometimes amidst the beauty, wonder and entertainment factor of this farm, up pops frustration and misery…the kind that makes you put off the walk out to the barn in the morning for fear of what you’ll find. The kind that can make you dissolve into a weeping lump followed by primal rage. That’s the kind of week it’s been.

Bad Chicken – not afraid of the snow!

Handsome Mr Bad Chicken

Our long standing and beloved group of free ranging chickens have been completely picked off by a predator. Amongst them our oldest gal, Bad Chicken, who we had begun to think of as indestructible. And her man, Mr Bad Chicken. Clara the Wonder Chicken succumbed to her injuries last night…poor baby. In all, five hens and their rooster…gone after several years together.

Clara the Wonder Chicken – a beautiful Buckeye

 

Ameraucana members of the TDU.

We tried to keep them safe once we realized what was going on, but this was a hard group to corral. They existed because they’d “flown the coop” and they lived the good life of total freedom…choosing where they’d go…sometimes even visiting our neighbors’ bird feeders…and roosting where they wanted to at the end of the day. Our efforts weren’t very successful.

There’s a very different feel here now. No greeters when we walk out the door. The voice of Mr Bad Chicken is missing. They were a terrific Tick Removal Unit and they entertained us with the occasional egg hunt.

All very sad, but we have to be thankful for the memories.

Moving on, we turn our attention to the remaining chickens behind the electric fencing and making sure those fences are ramped up. It’s not unusual for predators to surface at this time of year as they get ready for migration or turning in for it the winter. I’m just saying, not excusing. We’ll be watching…

 

seeing red…

…and orange…and a little green. Oh! and even some purpley black. I’m talking about tomatoes!

CSA tomatoes waiting for tasting

They’re everywhere right now. The end of our very short growing season is closing in fast. Everything that remotely looks as though it will be etible is being watched and then snatched from the plant at just the right moment.

Our CSA farm — Bluebird Hill Farm in Jefferson, ME — hosted a Tomato Tasting/Garden Tour along with a pot luck supper a few weeks ago. Can you imagine a better evening?! There were almost 30 different varieties of tomatoes to taste. In the end, the most unusual tomato had a licorice aftertaste!

When it comes to tomatoes, what I love most about this time of year is the smell of cooked tomatoes in the morning. I’m a lazy preserver so I let the crock pot do the work. That and the handy machine that separates the skins and seeds from the pulp and juice. It’s so easy…

The most excellent tomato machine at work

 

The tomatoes are roughly cut up and get put through the “Italian tomato machine” (it has a name that even my Italian friend can’t pronounce). They’re cooked overnight in an uncovered crockpot, and in the morning…tomato puree! The smell is amazing!

This year, I processed 40 pounds from our CSA. That should keep us in tomatoes for awhile!

They’ll be a breath of freshness and a reminder of summer in the dark days of winter. Yum!

 

Canoe Re-do

Jim’s Grandfather bought a brand new Old Town canoe in 1926 and for many years it was stored in the barn of the family homestead. Neither of us remembers exactly when it came to live with Jim’s Mother but when she was downsizing, it was given to us for safe keeping. It was in pretty sad shape, so we found someone who would fix it up properly…wood and canvas…and it was brought back to life. It was a thing of beauty and was well loved. We did a lot of paddling, and our boys enjoyed the adventures we had on the lake near our home and the rivers we travelled to. We would just pop the canoe onto the roof of the car and off we’d go! When we moved here about 20 years ago, we used the canoe a handful of times and the boys did as well, but as the demands of farm life kicked in and the boys moved away, it went into the barn on a pair of saw horses and there it stayed.

the tip of the iceburg?

Last Fall, I got a bee in my bonnet about pulling it out and having a look at it. All of a sudden, it was so much heavier than we remembered! How could that be? We could barely move it! Twenty years makes a difference…and all those bales of hay and buckets of water apparently didn’t build much muscle. What a disappointment! We would never be able to get this canoe onto the roof of the car or carry it to the pond that abuts the farm. Maybe this is how canoes get passed from generation to generation. Once you’re too old to pick it up, you pass it on. Hmmm…

Russ & Jim take a good look

Well, we weren’t ready to give it up so we called our local canoe expert, Russ Guibord of Cane & Canvas, right here in Bristol. We had seen what he’d done with an Old Town of the same vintage that friends had picked up at an auction…very impressive! After a consult which revealed a couple of possible trouble spots Russ took it away last month. An invitation to come see it at his shop, all stripped down, confirmed those trouble spots but not much else. It’s really in pretty good condition…yay!…and he will work on it during the winter. The best news is that we will probably be able to pick it up when it’s done. He’s going to cover it with Dacron which weighs a whole lot less than canvas and is also very durable. With any luck, this will be the last time the canoe needs restoration. And when we can no longer pick it up, we’ll pass it on…

on the road to recovery

 

rams get a mention

We do a lot of talking about the girls…ewes…moms — especially as we get into lambing season.  But not much is said about the boys. Let’s face it…there wouldn’t be any lambs without them. Well, there’s always artificial insemination but that’s not happening around here just now.  So I thought it would be nice to give some time and space to the very important but not often mentioned rams.  Just before they were sheared I actually thought to take some photos of them.  One young ram, Hatchtown Dickens, just couldn’t be captured on film so you’ll have to meet him another day. But here are the bigger boys…all Coopworths and handsome devils!

I know…there seems to be disproportionate number of rams to ewes here at Hatchtown Farm.  That’s because I adore rams.  Can’t help myself.  I can justify my addiction because with this many rams, we can switch the ewes around at breeding time each year and get lots of years out of the two groups.  Besides, I think they’re sweet — at least ours are — and they make so few demands.  They just hang out and eat (ok – a little more than ewes) make gorgeous lambs and grow a delicious, humongous fleece every year.

This year’s lambs were sired by Cole and Bartok.  Hoping for lots of natural colored lambs.