Sunday Dec 21, 2008

Plowing to Pink Floyd

Hit by two good sized winter storms in 2 days, I've had to snowplow 4 times, totalling over 6 hours in the truck and many miles, nearly half of which were in reverse.   And, while the snow has finally stopped and the stars are now shining, gale force winds are whipping, creating all sorts of havoc which I'll have to repair in the morning.

You see, snowplowing is my job on the farm.   Georg is in charge of snowblowing.   And while I probably spend more time doing it, I know I have the more "luxurious" of the two jobs.   For starters, mine is done "indoors".

With Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", Anky van Grunsven's Kur Music, and Queen's "Made in Heaven" neatly packed into my Apple iPod Shuffle, I can plow... and sometime do... for hours.

The music and the warmth of the cab of our Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 work together to help keep the absurdity of plowing in perspective.   All the while, Mother Nature throws New England another curveball with a chilly 15 degrees outside, hours of snowfall, another foot or more of new white stuff, and increasingly strong winds that promise to whip everything into artistic but bothersome snowdrifts.

Plowing, like sweeping, can probably be done by anyone.   But doing it well is an learned skill that requires both shortterm & longterm strategic planning, methodic execution, coordination of motor skills, oneness with the equipment, and infinite patience.   For starters, how one approaches the first plowing event can define how successful snow management will be for the whole winter season.   The location of initial snowbanks is critical.   Once seeded, snowbanks take root and grow throughout the winter, requiring heavy equipment (and $$$$) when you need to relocate them.

Boss Snow Plow provides some great online plowing tips.   But my own Top Tip is simple.   If you're gonna spend a few hours driving back and forth at low speeds in challenging conditions, make sure you bring great music.

Friday Sep 26, 2008

Preparing for Holiday Feasts

Each year, there are a few things we say will not do again, since we had already done them, just for the experience.   You know.   Been there.   Done that.   Got the T-shirt.

Making our own maple syrup is one of those things.   A cool novel thing to try.   Hard work, but fun.   We have now done it 3 years running.

The other is raising our own turkeys for food.   It is work.   Not hard work, but still work.   And it is definitely not cost effective.

But at the beginning of July, we did it again.   We took ownership of some newborn turkey poults.   And with it, responsibity for the quality of their short scheduled lives.

Raising five poultry with the full intent of keeping them only for only five months and then serving them up with cranberry sauce may seem harsh and cruel to many.   In fact, I lean towards being one who would be a vegetarian if not for the fact that I really enjoy meat.   My problem is that I also like the animals.

Watching the turkeys grow is fun.   They can grow from mere ounces to 60 pounds in 6 months!   In fact, we buy our poults later than some people just so that we don't end up with oversized birds like we did our first year.   20 to 30 pounders is what we expect this year.

This year's group were born around the 4th of July.   At 5 weeks old, they were fluffy, relatively inquisitive (turkeys are not the brightest animals in the farmyard), friendly, and already about the size of our chickens.

Like their native cousins, the wild turkey, our turkey enjoy roosting.   Unlike wild turkeys, however, our turkeys can not fly.   They can walk and run well, but they just don't fly.   I suspect they are not lean enough, to put it politely!   So, when they roost, they do so on stonewalls, on water troughs, under the truck, under bushes, and on the lawn.

The critters are now approaching 3 months of age.   And it is becoming apparent we may have 3 Toms and 2 Hens.   Not an ideal situation at all.   The Toms will soon start arguing and sorting out their hierarchy.   It's not pretty.

This past weekend, we had a nice warm afternoon and an impressive sunset.   When I went looking to round up the turkeys to put them back into the barn, I found all five them basking in the last bits of sunshine.   They truly looked to be quite content, sharing the sunshine together peacefully.

When it comes time, we do not "do the deed" ourselves.   We use a local USDA inspected & approved operation for that.   We book a date, pack the critters into individual dog crates and drive them over on that morning, and pick them up later that evening.   It is fast, safe, clean, and less traumatic for us.   However, I always get sad and teary-eyed as they leave the farm.   And why not?   I raised them from babies, took them for walks, and tended to them everyday.

But, THAT day is still weeks away.

In the meantime, as we keep an eye on the calendar and await the first big holiday at which one of these fine creatures will be the main event, the turkeys continue enjoy to run free of the property all day long.

This includes wandering out into the pastures with the horses, some of whom herd them and chase them, others of whom will graze peacefully side by side with the white feathered birds.   (This photo is from a pasture webcam.)

Each night, the turkeys go back into the barn, into their own shavings-bedded stable, where they eat, sleep, drink, and roost, safe from the fishercats, coyotes, and foxes that would love to have their own Thanksgiving feast.

And, so it goes.   Another year raising turkeys.   Probably not our last.

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

Art of Sweeping

We have a barn.   One aisle of that barn is 180 feet long.   Yes, it is a rather large barn.   And along that main aisle are many horse stalls which are filled at night with fuzzy 1000+ pound equines who eat & drink, sleep, and recycle whatever goes in, creating natural fertiliser.   :-)

The aisle is the first thing people notice when they enter our barn.   It is the pathway that allows them to walk from one end to the other.   And accordingly, it is something that we sweep...   several times per day.

Sweeping.   Grab a broom.   Use it to push things from one place to another.   Pretty simply concept.   People have been doing it for centuries.   And yet, sweeping is a skill which eludes many people.   Those who practice the skill and take pride in their sweeping ultimately do a great job of it.

Developing code.   Managing.   Sculpting.   Riding a bike.   Folding laundry.   Teaching.   It dawns on me that there are so many things in life that "anyone can do".   Doing it well, however, with style, and excellent results....   That's when it becomes an art.

I love a well swept barn aisle.   It is a simple thing of beauty and pride in an environment where many expect less.

Sunday Mar 16, 2008

Sugaring Seaon is Here!

Another winter draws to a close.   But as Old Man Winter continues to hang on, bringing a few additional snowfalls and frozen nights, Spring is starting to barge her way in, bringing longer hours of sunlight, warmer days, melting snow, threats of floods, and the promise of colors to come....   Buds, leaves, spring flowers, grasses & meadows, and flowering shrubs & trees.

To some, this simply means Spring is Coming.   However, for many across Canada and the North East, this transition period means "Sugaring Season" is here!


(Click to enter the NH Maple Producers website)

On our farm, the taps / spouts are in place.   Buckets hang from the spouts.   And as the trees warm up in the sunlight, a very pleasing drip... drip... drip sound can be heard as the sugar maple sap drips into the buckets.

The tap and a drop of sap about to fall. Georg collecting sap.

Snowshoeing from tree to tree, we collect the sap, filter out any little bits of debris, boil it down for hours, filter it again, and bottle.   Throughout the season, local fellow sugarers visit each other, checking out how things are progressing, and sharing advice & sugaring wisdom.   Georg, a relative newcomer to maple sugaring, enjoys these impromtu meetings and gatherings.

Yes, Spring is coming.   But for now, it's Sugaring Season!   Next weekend, maple sugar houses all over New Hampshire will be hosting open houses to invite the public to learn more and sample the freshest maple syrup possible.

While Kearsarge Meadows is not listed on the NH Maple Producers' March 29 - 30 Events Website, we too will be welcoming friends and family to enjoy the fun of maple sugaring while we wait for Spring to finally arrive.

Friday Feb 29, 2008

Morning Calisthenics

Tons of snow,   literally!,   on New Hampshire rooftops is turning out to be one of the big challenges to manage this winter for residents & businesses.

For some, snow removal has to be done manually.   Really hard work.   For others, coping with the snow that SLIDES off the roofs is where the big challenge lies.

We have a big barn.   I mean Really BIG.   About 180x90 feet in size.   It has a medal roof designed to not hold on to snow well.   That's a good thing...

However, instead of having to clear the roof, we get treated to some big "avalanches"...   Snow which slides off the roof, sometimes at impressive speeds, and deposits itself at the base of the barn and into the driveway that goes by the barn.

Some of these avalanches go right up to the windows...   The bigger ones completely cover the windows, significantly reducing the natural light in the barn while pressing snow against the window screens.

Another snowstorm.   Another roof slide.   Another digging out exercise.

Ayup.   New Hampshire style Morning Calisthenics.   :-)

Thursday Feb 28, 2008

Bring on SPRING !

Ah....   Spring.

Even just the word itself sounds wonderful, but too much like a whispered promise that will never be kept.

This winter in New Hampshire started with record breaking snowfalls in December.

January brought some needed thaws and, of course, more snow.

And February brought more snow.   11 inches of it in this week alone.

Local schools have had SEVERAL "snow days".   Local businesses, too.   Of course, working from home, Georg and I have only missed a few hours of work (not days) due to snowstorms....

So far this season, we have had 18 "plowing events".   That's a snow storm that results in everyone getting out their plows.   And following some of those events, a few extra "tidy up" plowing hours were also required.

The snow banks have continued to grow.   Impressively tall snow piles have accumulated.   Thanks to the warm spells followed by hard freezes, many of these have frozen solid and are now like cement!

Snow sliding off the bigger roofs have created several snow removal challenges.   And the thaws & freezes have created icy roads and driveways over and over again.   Salt & sand have had to be applied each time.

We have put in many hours maneuving our plow up and down the driveways and around the barns.   And, like many in town, we've also paid various professionals & friends with bigger tractors, front loaders, and plows who have also put in several hours plowing, sanding, moving snow piles around our property, and helping improve accessibility.

Lovely as it is, and believe me it is Absolutely Stunningly Beautiful ! this winter has been down right expensive!   And, that's just in terms of driveway maintenance!

Across New Hampshire, this winter is considered a record breaker.   Season snowfall accumulation statistics are expected to exceed the 100 inch mark.   Very impressive!

However, with that, the costs of this winter are also likely to be record breaking for the people of New Hampshire!   A lot of resources ---- Time & $$$$ ---- go into "coping" with the record snowfalls...

And, I understand another snow storm is coming Saturday....   Oh joy.

Time to hook up the plow again and bring in more firewood!

Monday Jan 14, 2008

Plowing Related Injuries

In the winter, one of the "joys" of living on a New Hampshire property with long driveways is that snowplowing is a necessity.   While we could pay one of several local guys to take care of this chore, we usually do it ourselves.   Actually, \*I\* do it.   I am in charge of plowing.

Today, we got another dose of the white stuff.   I measured 9 new inches in some places, 10 in others.

The first plowing run was done at 7am this morning, allowing the trash collector to roll in without trouble as well as our morning barn staff.   The second plowing run was late this afternoon after the storm finally died down.

The morning session was uneventful.   I covered my usual areas --- driveway, parking lot, road around the indoor arena, area in front of the little barn out back, and paths to the pastures.

However, the afternoon session came to a quick stopping point when my truck slide sideways, in painfully slow motion, down into a ditch next to a typical New England stone wall that runs parallel to our driveway.

Not wanting to mess about on my own and possibly get into a worse predicament, I quickly collected Georg.   Meanwhile, a neighbor happened by, saw the truck in the ditch, tried to stop, slid on the slick packed snow road for a ways, then came in to offer assistance.

Of course the truck was pulled out without too much trouble.   But meanwhile, I took a good hard spill on the snow, giving my shoulders and neck a good jolt.   But more than anything, the only injury suffered was to my pride.

Maybe he wants to make me feel better, maybe not, but I won't argue.   Georg likes to say that there are only two kinds of really serious snowplowers out there.   Those who will tell you that they've have gotten stuck while plowing and those who won't admit it.

:-)

Wednesday Oct 24, 2007

As Thanksgiving Approaches...

Thanksgiving, the famed American feasting holiday, is only four weeks away.   For most of us, that's nothing to get excited about.   Not yet anyway.

But for our tom turkey and 3 hen turkeys, all of whom are happily oblivious to the upcoming holiday, the passing of time is rather relevant.

In the meantime, while they enjoy their lives as family pets, they continue to grow on chicken feed, lawn grasses, bugs they find while grazing on the property, and of course, the occasion treat of handfed bread.

Some people think it's cruel that we plan to eat our "pets".   But I can only wonder in return....   What is the average supermarket turkey that will be gracing most American tables on Thanksgiving doing today?   Our turkeys are enjoying their five month long lives to the fullest, with freedom to roam on our farm, occasional encounters with wild turkeys, and a warm safe stable at nighttime.   I'm happy with that.

Cheers to the turkeys!   (And, thank you in advance.)

Friday Jun 22, 2007

Our First Black Bear

Until this morning, I did not know how one should behave should one encounter a Black Bear.   It wasn't something I felt I would need to know, nor something I had even wondered about.   That was until this morning...

....At 2:45 am, one of our property alarms kicked off.   Waking but quite groggy, I debated whether to investigate.   It was probably just a coyote, some deer, or maybe a porcupine wandering past.   But soon after, the dog started growling.   Something was up.

Rolling out of bed, I went to a window to investigate.   There, only a few yards from the house, was a Black Bear.   It was very black against the lawn, dimly lit only by a distant street light, and looked big & round.   It moved slowly, but with ease and suppleness, across the lawn, over the stone wall, and out into the southeast pasture.

I was glad I did not go OUTSIDE to investigate this time.   Armed or not, I would not have wanted to come face to face with this hefty animal.   But had I, would I have known what to do?   Not really.   So, I read up on it....

The following is straight from the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department FAQ about Black Bears.


What should I do if I encounter a bear?

If you see a bear, keep your distance.   Make it aware of your presence by clapping, talking, singing or making other sounds.   If you get too close to a bear, it may slap the ground, huff, blow and chomp its teeth or rush you (this is referred to as "bluff charge") in an attempt to get you to move a more comfortable distance away.   If this occurs, maintain eye contact with the bear, speak in a soft, calm voice and slowly back away from the bear.   These actions will help appease the bear and show that you are not weak, but, at the same time, not a threat to the bear.   Do not run, avert your eyes or turn your back to the bear.   The bear may perceive weakness and enforce dominance.   The bear's bluff charge and chomping of teeth are a defense mechanism to establish the bear's dominance in an encounter with humans or a more dominant animal in the wild.   Bears can outrun, out-swim and out-climb you.   If you are attacked by a black bear, you should fight back rather than "play dead."


Aside from making noise, this advice is all completely new news to me!   So much for looking away, turning away, running away, and playing dead if he catches up with me!

I had been contemplating camping out on the front lawn later this summer, especially during the meteor showers.   Now, I'm not so sure....   Not unless I have a bazooka by my side.

Friday Jun 01, 2007

Wedding Anniversaries & Dewormers

3rd wedding anniversary.   Lobster for 2.   Champagne for 2.   Ivermectin for 11.

Okay.   Not your usual menu for a wedding anniversary.   But when you own a horse farm and are responsible for the well-being of 11 horses, including several boarded horses, the horse care schedule does not get altered by our lives.

We have 4 really great employees who are responsible for the daily care of the horses on our farm, but Georg and I personally tend to the important task of regular deworming of the horses.   Something we include, every 8 weeks, into our nightly 10 pm night stables check.   And so, as per our schedule, despite our anniversary...   tonight was the night to tend to this aspect of equine health care.

A common anniversary, Georg!?   Neigh.

Sunday Dec 31, 2006

Taxes

New Year's Eve and 2007 are now only hours away.   While many people around the world are getting ready to party away, ringing in the new year, I'm already contemplating taxes.

Maybe being a fairly new business owner, I am being overzealous in my desire to get the IRS paperwork filed sooner than later.   Maybe my level of respect... and fear... of the IRS is a strong motivator.

Maybe, as an employee of someone else's company, I understand how important timely receipt of my W-2 form from my employer is to me...   Allowing me to file my personal taxes on time.

Whatever the case, I am now getting ready to complete and file W-2's for all of my 2006 employees.

Problem is, I don't have any W-2 forms.

Much to my surprise, I found that the IRS Website once again has proven easy to use and helpful!

I learned that I can order the forms I need as a small business owner right on the Internet.   So, I put in my order for several Form W-2 - Wage and Tax Statements, the Form W-3 - Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, and Instructions for both.   And the cost of this service?   No charge!

The IRS does not charge for these forms.   Now that's a nice surprise which softens the blow of having to file employer payroll tax forms.

Thursday Nov 30, 2006

Its A Bird Eat Bird World

Georg and I weren't alone in eating turkey dinner this past week.

Obviously, our hound got some.

However, what may surprise some people is that parrots also like turkey (and chicken) and especially enjoy the marrow from the bones!

Our own parrot, Ian Grey, (not to be confused with Iain Gray, RedHat's VP of Global Enterprise Services) also enjoyed a bit of feasting....

Ian also likes cooked egg whites as well as cooked egg shells.

Yes, forget the dogs.   It's a Bird Eat Bird world.

Friday Nov 17, 2006

Hot

"Don't like the weather?   Wait 30 minutes..."   New England weather is famous (infamous?) for being highly variable.

It's the middle of November.   The US holiday of "Thanksgiving" is only days away.   And yet, we've had temperatures in the 60's Fahrenheit (upper teens Celcius) on and off for the past couple weeks!   What is that about?

In October, we have had several hard frosts.   We came quite close to putting blankets on our wooly horses, but refrained.   All of our vegetables, corn, courgettes / zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, squashes,....   died.   We harvested as much as we could.

Now this.   Georg's strawberries are BLOOMING!   We have baby strawberries!   Geez!

Last year this time, we were ready for snow.   After teasing us with the scent of snow every night for a week or so, it arrived.   Thanksgiving 2005, we had 6 inches of the white stuff gently touch down.   Georg, our Bangalore based friend & Sun colleague, Joe, and my Dad, took turns plowing the first real snow of the year.

Apparently, we are doomed.   According to our local newstation, the last time New England had such a warm November, it got slammed with record snows during the winter.   We'll see...   In the meantime, it's difficult to resist reading email with the wireless Ferrari, outside, in the sunshine.   For this, of course, all WebCams will be pointed...   elsewhere.

Wednesday Nov 08, 2006

It's Official

Now it's official.   Deval Patrick will be Massachusetts' next Governor.   Read more about it in the Boston Herald or the Boston Globe online editions.

Wonder how long it will be before the new guy on the block comes to visit Sun's big Burlington Massachusetts campus.....

Monday Oct 30, 2006

Jack O' Lanterns Galore

Halloween is here again and in New England, this means pumpkin displays...   Some of which are down right impressive!

The Courser Farm Pumpkin Carving Festival & Display in Warner, NH is one of the highly anticipated local annual events in this area of New Hampshire.   Georg and I didn't catch this event last year, but this year we made it a point to attend.   And, wow, what a sight!

Now, the Coursers aren't threatening to give Keene's Pumpkin Festival any serious competition just yet.   They'll leave that fight to the city folk of Boston, Massachusetts.   (Boston beat Keene NH's world record just last week, a record which had stood since 2003.)   But the Courser Pumpkin Festival & Display is undoubtably tops in the eyes of the multitude of pumpkin carvers who make their way to the Courser Farm every year and the several hundred visitors who walk and drive by the roadside field decorated with hundreds of lit pumpkins.

Curious, I asked one of the Coursers what becomes of all of this fabulous handiwork after the Halloween festivities pass?   The answer was simple.   The Courser's bulls get turned out into the field to feast on freshly carved pumpkin!

Happy Halloween!

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Kimberley

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