Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thanks for fans on a rainy day

Atlanta set a record for rainfall today--more rain on a May 4 than the city has ever recorded, more than two inches and the day isn't quite over yet. It's Saturday, and that means Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Outside, in the cold and wet. And you know what? Folks still came out to buy cheese.
We wanted to say thanks to all the folks who have made us a part of their lives, and especially those who overcame the adverse conditions today. Yes, it was chilly and damp, setting up our display, and waiting n customers. But you know it is the love that keeps us going, and we really felt it today.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New, Again

     You get used to a farm.  There's the barn, a little muddy these days.  There's the tractor, with the disintegrating seat cushion, the balky transmission and--as of yesterday, finally--a recent oil change.  There's the path that takes you down to the creek, right about where the water rushes through the narrow place between the boulders.  Feed the goats, do the milking, greet the chickens, pet Igor the barn cat, feed the dogs . . . .
     Sure, there are wonderful misty mornings and misty late evenings when there's magic in the air.  And there's the first time you see the (bleeping) red foxes that have been driving your dogs crazy, and the times when the hawks or the owls announce that they are reclaiming your airspace after they've been gone awhile.
     Now have a field trip of three- to five- year olds come spilling out across the old, familiar place.  Everything is new and amazing!  The grass is so green, and the pastures are so huge.  The barn is a towering edifice of mystery.  The goats!  The baby goats, they're so cute!  The shiny black kitty (Igor never misses a field trip)!  The inscrutable chickens!  The eggs!  Footprints/hoofprints in the mud--ooh, what made those?
     Questions.  "Where is the farmer man?"  Answer:  I'm the farmer, my husband is a teacher.  "Do you have a tractor?"  Answer:  Yes, let's go see it.  OK!!  Everybody gets a turn getting their picture taken sitting on a REAL TRACTOR.
     Down to the creek!  While you've been worrying about whether there will be fresh heron tracks to make things interesting, they're thinking, IT'S A CREEK!!  It's amazing!  Turn over a rock--it's a salamander.  Wow!
     Snack time, then it's time to go. Awww.  Regretfully herded back to the cars.  Later, there will be a phone call:  a teacher thanks you again, and tells you how the kids couldn't stop talking about their fabulous adventure.  Can we come back next year?  Of course.
     When they've gone, you tick through your list of chores, in case something got skipped in preparing for your visitors.  Nope, you're good.  Up to the house for some lunch.
     Take stock.  Ask yourself one more time if it's worth it.  Field trips take a lot of time, not only while they're here, but also while you are planning and preparing.  What do you have to show?  Yes, there's a few dollars from the school.  Fine, Uncle Sam gratefully accepts.
     But the kids have left you with more than that.  You have an AMAZING farm, a COOL tractor, an INCREDIBLE creek, FANTASTIC goats and chickens.  Where you live there's a WOW around every corner.  Your old farm is brand new.
     And next week, when the next field trip comes, it will happen again.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

George T. Good

     George snuck up on us.  Yes, there were warning signs.  Days before, George's mother-to-be had been grunting (" unnhh, unnhh")--noises that point to a delivery in the next couple of weeks.  And the very afternoon, the does had been acting a little strange, staying out of the barn when they are usually ready to pile in and settle down.  Still, it came down to a "What's that over there?" moment--and there he was.  Some deliveries are rough, and the mother needs help and calls out desperately.  But some happen between one moment and the next.  The mother cleans off the new arrival(s) and then either defends their space or just walks away.  Sometimes it falls to Monty the Great Pyrenees guard dog to look after babies born out in a pasture, until someone with hands comes along.  George appeared quietly in the barn, leaving us to wonder whether the does' strange behavior was caused by his arrival (and his mother's space-defending) or if it was just goats being weird.
     George's birth was weeks after the last other birth here, so the other kids (about ten others right now) were a little too big for George to play with--we thought.  So the other kids got their meals from the nipple bucket--a kitty litter bucket that Mary fitted with six nipples and hoses--while George got his from the baby bottle, with the special extra-wide opening to prevent baby goat frustration.
     That lasted maybe a week.  One day George was wandering around the barn when Mary was feeding four of the older kids with the nipple bucket.  Understand, we stopped our controversial "breeding for intelligence" program years ago, as the unintended consequences began to accumulate.  "Smart" and "goat" can be a really bad combination--not quite as bad as the bio-engineered sharks in that deep sea movie, but still pretty bad.  And it can be amusing, in a "years later, walking again, insurance company acknowledges that this sort of thing really is covered by the umbrella policy" sort of way.
     Still, while George was slow to catch on to the baby bottle idea, he figured out the nipple bucket in two shakes, and he started hanging with the other kids, even though he looked to be only half their size.  And after that, it was a trial for him to be separated from his buds, so he joined the smaller group for eating and sleeping, and that was that.  He still makes way for those hulking monsters (the older kids), but he keeps right up.
     Kid goats need space to run and things to climb on.  They seem to grow faster  when they can run and jump.  When they have to be inside, a bag full of pine shavings launches a game of King of the Mountain.  With the weather so mild here lately, there is no reason not to have them all out and about--up on a pile of wood chips, along the fallen tree, chasing around the curved driveway up to the barn, up and down the ramps outside the milking parlor, jumping sideways just because they can.
     Of course George has been making the celebrity rounds.  He's been to two farmers markets--East Atlanta Village and Peachtree Road--so far.  Market strollers with children and/or dogs can't avoid stopping by for a sniff and a pat.  Mary had promised the folks at our bank that she would bring a little goat by, and George didn't mind being carried through the lobby, being petted and photographed.
     George is still the smallest kid, but he won't be for very much longer.  We have other does due, so eventually he will have little cousins to boss around just a little.  He still hasn't gotten to know Igor the barn cat, who appreciates a good snuzzle and who isn't above a just-pretend head-butting contest.  And he hasn't yet taken the opportunity to check out the chickens as they scratch in the barn.  Hey, chickens are a pretty freaky concept, not to mention being absurdly huge right now, and there are only so many hours in a day.
     Welcome, George T. Good, to Decimal Place Farm.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Crop Mob Atlanta!!

     Wow!  We had been looking forward to a visit from Crop Mob Atlanta, a group of folks who come together for a day and get their farm on, doing whatever needs doing.  We had scheduled a visit last Saturday, but that weekend was frigid, so we rescheduled for yesterday, February 18.  The nicest, most hardworking bunch of folks rolled up, and moved Decimal Place Farm forward on so many fronts.  One group of folks planted blueberry, blackberry and raspberry bushes, while other folks planted pear and paw-paw.  Another group of really dedicated folks extracted the last remains of an old shed from the ground, pulling ancient t-posts out of ground that was still pretty hard.  Other folks tackled the thankless task of beating back the bamboo growing alongside the driveway.  Then there were folks in the north pasture collecting rocks from the freshly tilled strips, and then overseeding with forage and cover crops.  Then these folks helped Mary string some fresh wire and they put a line of fenceposts in the ground, which will eventually allow us to better manage grazing there.  Then the volunteer caterer showed up and served a very nice lunch, including a great salad and a truly tasty veggie pizza.
     We hustled all morning just keeping up with these folks.  Yes, the early arrivers got a chance to milk, and the does were very tolerant of all the strangers in the dairy parlor.  There was a bit of a tour of the cheese parlor, answering lots of questions.  And there was time to talk, about what we are doing, and about what they are up to.  We really felt the power of community--the amazing things that people can accomplish when they come together.  It also has to make you think about how sad it is when we are denied that power--when we all live isolated lives, each of us tackling life's challenges all by ourselves.  Yes, of course you can, and sometimes you must, but how much higher can we aim, and how much more can we accomplish, when we enable the power of community.
     Crop Mob Atlanta really made an impact on Decimal Place Farm.  We are officially giant fans, and wish these folks all the best.  We hope that they were enriched in some similar measure by their visit to Decimal Place Farm.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

     An amazing 2011 comes to a close, and a promising new year opens.  The sunny, mild weather here is wonderful, even if it isn't of the season.  It's been a wet December, thank goodness, but just now it's almost shirtsleeve weather in the sunshine, even if the breeze is cool.  We were out in the garden this afternoon, lifting a volunteer turnip out of the rich black soil.  This old fellow carried a whole bush of beautiful greens, that will go with a pot of black-eved peas for our New Year's dinner.  Stress relief, food with no question marks, and volunteer turnips--you find all kinds of things in your own garden.
     An amazing year.  Starting with just a dream 15 years ago, Mary built up a great Saanen herd and then steered through the maze of regulations to get the dairy plant up an running.  Finally she got the kinks worked out and all the paperwork filed, and Decimal Place Farm joined the ranks of Georgia's certified commercial goat dairies.  We agree with Josh Levs: "determined people who chase the 'impossible' can prove the naysayers wrong and bring change beyond what nearly everyone imagined."  We had quite a celebration when Mary's dill cheddar earned a first place in its class in the commercial division of a national cheese competition.
     The response has just been terrific.  People know great cheese when they taste it.  It's been fun sharing those "oo-oo-ooh" moments with folks at farmer's markets in Buckhead, East Atlanta and Grant Park.  (Remember, when it's not farmer's market season, you can still find Decimal Place Farm cheese at Rainbow Natural Foods at Clairmont and North Decatur.)  We've also been gratified with the response from our friends in the restaurant community--Miller Union, Farmburger, Murphy's, and other spots . . . we're proud that our product is part of the exceptional experiences that they deliver.
     Now we are looking forward to the new year.  Kidding season approaches.  Does are "smuggling watermelons," but they aren't grunting yet.  When you hear that "unh unh unh" as they relax in the barn, then you know it's time to spruce up the birthing stalls and check the supplies.  Kidding season can bring some tense moments, for sure, but it also brings you in touch with the magic of our natural world.  And then there are the new kids--slipping between the fence panels, and dancing and twirling for the fun of it.
     We're hoping for a new cycle outside the barn, too.  Many of our visitors this spring saw (or at least heard) the owl mother and fledgling that took up residence in a hollow high up in a tree just beside the barn.  Well, there's someone out in the night who is making "owl noises" but who doesn't quite have the tune down.  Maybe we will be favored again this year.  We and the goats will look forward to spring in the pastures.  We'll keep an eye out together for new shoots of privet and kudzu (yummy!) and for new green grass.
     May you all be blessed in 2012.  May you find yourself out in the garden, or out in the woods, more often than you expected.  We will look for you in the spring, when farmer's market season opens once again.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Green and Grade A!!!

     The seasons have changed, indeed.  No, don't put your tomato plants out yet--there's another cold night or two still to come.  But it's Spring!  Just a hint last week and for-sure-certain this week.  The grass is already lush in the pastures.  The loafing goats look comfortable and satisfied lying in the sun on a green cushion.  We imagine them telling each other, "Now this is what I remember!"
     And speaking of green, Decimal Place got the green light from the state Department of Agriculture--we're Grade A again, once more legal to sell cheese in Georgia.  The word is spreading fast, and dibs are being called on major quantities of cheese-to-be.  Fortunately, almost all of the does have kidded, so we have a good supply of milk for cheese-making.
     Mary didn't take the big prize at the Flavor of Georgia competition in downtown Atlanta, a couple weeks back, but a bunch of folks were able to sample her cheese, and tasting is believing.  Following up that event with the news that Decimal Place is Grade A again, plus the springtime weather this week . . . the farm is just buzzing.
     I said, hold off on the tomatoes, but Mary and crew have been busy enough in the garden.  Last fall's onions and cabbages arev looking great.  Now the other beds have been turned over, and we have spinach and more planted.  Playing in the dirt makes Mary very happy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Breath of Spring

Outside my window (where I wish I was) it's 60 degrees Fahrepeepers in teh creek nheit.  The goats, including a swarm of little kids, are basking in the sunshine, after months of huddling against the cold.  Yesterday most of the kids collected on a fallen tree, and it looked like the tree had sprouted a coat of fuzzy white moss.  The peepers in the creekbanks are singing, and they'll keep it up until late into the night.  In recent days, we have watched flocks of sandhill cranes in their long V formations pumping their way northward.  The pasture grass isn't green yet, but our wishes find slight tints here and there.  With all the rain we've had, we know the plant life is just waiting to explode, once Winter finally gives it up.
And the dairy itself has received its share of hopeful signs.  The 2010 Flavor of Georgia food product competition chose Decimal Place Feta as a finalist in the dairy category.  Mary will be at the Freight Depot in downtown Atlanta on Mar. 15-16, competing for the top prize in the category and overall.
Tomorrow, the state inspectors come back to Decimal Place to take samples and hopefully get us back on the way to Grade A certification.  Mary's been working with agricultural researchers at UGa, enriching her understanding of the problems, and broadening her sense of alternatives.
All around the farm, it feels like Spring.  We know that Winter can still return--and there probably will be chilly snaps heer and there--but we're looking forward to a season of renewal.