Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Partial List of What I've Learned This Year

How to slaughter and eviscerate chickens, how to water a greenhouse, how to plow the driveway with the tractor bucket, how to sharpen a knife, how to build a hot bed with horse manure, straw bales, and plastic, how to prune raspberries, blueberries and grapes, how to tie a sheet-bend and a bowline, how to rearrange a poorly positioned lamb inside the ewe, how to pick a horse's hooves, how to ear tag, administer a subcutaneous injection, and dock and castrate lambs with an elastrater, how to take an animal's temperature, how to hand milk a cow, how to harness, hitch, and unhitch a team of draft horses, how to make butter in a mason jar, how to make mozzarella cheese, how to trim sheep hooves, how to fell, buck and limb trees, how to seed peas and spinach with a tractor, how to attach and detach tractor implements with the three-point hitch, how to approach animals without scaring them, how to make lacto-fermented sodas, how to read a soil test, how to sharpen a shovel.

The difference between first, second and third cut hay, what cation exchange capacity is, the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in a healthy compost pile (30:1), what to do if you wake up in the middle of the night and one of your ewes is dead, the ideal pH for growing most vegetables (between 6.2 and 6.8), that even after spending a month in Italy, I still think New England is the most beautiful place on earth, why you sometimes find brown, rotted-out spots in the center of otherwise healthy-looking broccoli (due to a boron deficiency), that goats can escape from almost any fencing set-up, and how to get them back (spend an hour at least chasing them, calling them, and attempting to lure them toward you with grain), why no-till and limited-till systems are good for your soil (less compaction), that insulated muck boots are worth every penny of the $70 I paid for them, what a hoggit is (a yearling sheep that hasn't been bred before), what it means when a farmer says a cow is about to freshen (give birth), that it is not easy to age Camembert cheese in a Tupperware container in your basement (but worth trying), that raw milk is 100 times more delicious than pasteurized milk (it actually has flavor!), why it is so important that a mama ewe licks her baby immediately after it is born (not only to warm it up and dry it off, but because the licking actually stimulates the lamb's instinct to suckle), the proper depth for planting seeds (twice the width of the seed), how important it is to sweep the kitchen floor daily, and that my favorite hours of the day are between five and seven in the morning.

To be continued.

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