“A day in the country is worth a month in town”Christina Rossetti

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Working Sheep

Sharing information laden with a touch of humor today. 

Lancaster Farming had this post on Facebook.

Solar power installations make row crop production challenging, if not mostly impossible. But a lot of grass — pasture — can grow under those panels. A Penn State webinar that aired during the
Pennsylvania Farm Show
explored the ways solar and ag can coexist. One way is to let livestock graze the land between panels. But not goats, because they climb all over everything, and not cattle because they knock stuff over. But sheep — they pretty much just want to eat.
A report on the webinar Solar Energy and Agriculture: New Opportunities will appear in our Jan. 16 edition.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Working Goats

 I hope there will come a time when using sheep or goats for landscaping our home lawns and woods is a norm. Those of you who followed On the Pond Farm eight years ago and more, know how effectively the goats could cut a straight line in the field or on the pond hill.

The fear for people who haven't had the up close experience, including one of my old neighbors, is smell. At least for goats, unless you have a breeding age buck (intact mature male), the smell you will find is in a dirty barn. Grazing and "fertilizing" on pasture, or in my suggested case, on a lawn, spreads the wealth and there is little to no smell. You don't believe me? That's okay, but when your neighbors decide to give goat landscaping a try, wait to judge. 

This week an old Ligonier friend posted this WSJ article and I'm glad to see the positive comments within the article. But best of all the good news to one neighborhood in California.

Well-Employed in Pandemic Times: Landscaping Goats - WSJ

"And they leave no cut grass behind. He credits their appetite with saving his neighborhood from a 2018 blaze called the Woolsey fire, which destroyed more than 1,500 buildings on 97,000 acres and took several lives. Mr. Gerstel said the flames reached the edge of the area the goats had grazed on, then stopped."

Sheep grazed on the White House lawn in 1919.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seed Libraries - A Win In Pennsylavnia For All Of Us

Such good news has to be shared.
I first saw the announcement this morning on The Small Farmers Journal site that I'm not even sure how I got to. I'm so glad I did.
Yesterday one of my favorite organizations,  PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture), along with Grow PittsburghThe Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, and The Public Interest Law Centerreleased a statement with this heading:

Seed Libraries in Pennsylvania Allowed to  Engage in Free Seed Exchange
PA Department of Agriculture
Clarifies that Seed Act of 2004
Does Not Apply to Non-commercial Seed Libraries

"In providing this clarification, Pennsylvania sets a precedent to protect and encourage seed libraries throughout the commonwealth."...

"The Act was originally applied to a seed library at the Joseph T. Simpson Library in Mechanicsburg, PA, which severely limited its operations as a result."...

"PASA Executive Director Brian Snyder issued the following statement: “We need regulation in the seed industry to protect farmers and other, more casual consumers. But we also need communities working together to make our food systems more accessible to all people. Seeds are a basic element of human life and wellbeing. Without this kind of informal cooperation among neighbors, that wellbeing is very much at risk.”"

This Simpson Library story was a frustrating one, so it is wonderful to see a fairly quick and sensible resolution from the PA Department of Agriculture. Lets call it a win for the "little people", the home gardener and the heritage seed savers of the past 10,000 years of seed saving. Woah!  That's huge!
Last year's lupine seedlings from a neighbor's seeds.
Many states have seed libraries within libraries and other community places. If you want to learn more, you can start at the Seed Library site and see all the ways you can get involved.

I'm also attaching the links below so that you can read the related articles to their fullest and be thankful of the work the mentioned organizations accomplished.
P.S. Plant your peas tomorrow for St. Patrick's Day. No "two feet of snow" excuse this year for us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A New Kid - Owen Riley

December is a big month for our family, as it may be yours, with all the holiday madness. In the past few years its gotten even bigger and busier here, with grandson Jacob's birthday on the 4th, mine on the 11th and between the two of us now is Jacob's baby brother Owen Riley, born December 9th. With the hereditary lack of promptness, Owen was able to spend his extra time growing to 21 inches and weighing in at 8lbs. 3 ounces at 8:27AM when he was delivered by Cesarean section.

Once again the labor and delivery area was a madhouse, and the nursery short staffed for the flurry of activity that morning. I was lucky to be waiting in the visitor's room when Owen was rolled up the hall for a visit before he went to the nursery for his "bath".  Because of the lack of staff to prepare and supervise the rooms, I felt like I was at the airport with three peoples worth of "carry-on", sitting there with bags and cameras and reading materials.
Jacob holding his brother for the first time.
My daughter Kristin and son-in-law Andrew were able to bring Owen safely home during one of the warmest December days in history. All the grandparents and Auntie Jess have taken a turn at burping and changing, with some cooking and big brother entertaining on the side.

Now that I have these two December birthdays around me, I am planning my future getaways with my boys. Oh! What fun we will have!
(And I am dreaming of the next little goat farm for the future 4-H duo!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jock - The Border Collie: A Wonderful Life. A Wonderful Experience.

Jock at two soon after we first adopted him -2004

Its been six weeks.

I knew I had to write this blog, but it always seemed too soon.

I know how many fans Jock had, and he was the last part of On the Pond Farm that we had with us. I saw the immediate reaction from a Facebook post, and that just made things harder.
I posted the night he died when the whole thing hadn't hit me yet, and I think I said it then best, so I think I'll just paste that post here.

Almost a dozen years ago we acquired a hand me down pure bred Border Collie, knowing nothing about working dogs except they needed a lot of exercise.
Well tomorrow, we don't know how we will get our exercise, as our best training partner died from what appears to be a seizure or stroke, possibly from a brain tumor.
Our favorite park near our Connecticut home - October 2014
Jock took a long walk as usual this morning and still looked amazing for a 13 1/2 year old dog.
We learned so much with Jock, and he was my companion and work mate at the farm and at home, always quiet and watchful.
The sadness hasn't set in yet. We expected a couple more good years, even though he was slowing down in his "retirement". I know he made many friends with you my friends, so I hate to pass on this news, but there it is. I hope you enjoy the album of his pictures over the years.
Sylvester and Jock learning to get along in the early days
Snickers with her buddy.
Dressed for the Ando Walk to raise money for the K-9 program

The "retirement" years in Connecticut.
Teaching Jacob how to walk Jock
Jock being gentle taking his bone
In the woods at River Bend

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Toughest People - Farmers

I just don't know how we did it.
Working in this weather. Outdoors. All hours.
We were one of those tough ones, in our own small way. Our animals were guided in and out of the barn every day, even with temperatures in the teens and ridiculous wind chills.  If the snow was too deep, we had to first make a path with our own bodies to get them out there.
Manure would be chipped away into the wheelbarrow and slogged out through two feet of snow and ice.
Just about every goat was pregnant or lactating, so keeping their condition up took plenty of feed. Twice as much hay and grain would be distributed to keep the animals calories ahead of the cold.
This was kidding season. Singles, twins and triplets were birthed in this weather, dried and cleaned and cuddled in that big ole 1800's, drafty, Pennsylvania bank barn. There was always that dumb twin that had to be held under its mamma's udder till he caught on to suck that teet - for hours! Meanwhile our fingers are splitting from the milk and the cold. Or a nanny with mastitis would have to be milked, usually with a fight, sending us on our cold but well padded behinds on to frozen manure, all in this weather. And we just did it every day, no matter what. And when I was down and out with a blown knee, or we had to be away for a day or a week, our fantastic neighbors Karen or Allison did it. It had to be done everyday, no matter the weather.

You and others have asked if we miss the farm. Of course we do. It was a fantastic ten years. The lessons learned with the goats just make me shake my head to myself. A lot of you that followed the blog back then, know the stories. Stories I couldn't have imagined ten years before and truthfully, did my best to avoid by buying the easiest, mellow goat breed I could find. Nice try!

Who could imagine our "first born" dying in this weather and stupid me trying to use the loader to bury Uno when the ground was frozen solid. I did it though, even though the grave was a bit shallow after two hours of scraping and digging.
Who can forget all those wonderful births and the kids(human) and friends and neighbors that came to share the experience.
But do I miss going out on a day like today where the weather was so cold and windy that Jock doesn't even want to go out to do his business? Heck no! But Jock also is a dog in his fourteenth year and living his retirement as a house pet. He has an excuse. And he hates dog clothes! Me. I'm back to being "soft".
Remember this? So cold the eggs split.
At the same time I find it difficult to complain about the cold as most people seem to be in the Northeast. Sure, all this snow has become tedious, if not a nuisance. However, most of us get to be indoors for our daily lives and just run to a car that usually warms up on our way to the next warm place we are running into to. We don't live in the cold or work in the cold and if we have to be out in the cold, we just have to do what the farmer does - dress for it appropriately.

Last month the power company scheduled some maintenance work which turned out to be a pretty darned cold day, and the sight of all that tan Car-hart fabric brought back so many memories of the Farm Fashion blogs. Memories of those ridiculously cold days where dressing and undressing was a chore of its own. And we did it every winter day because there were animals to care for. No days off or going home early. And at the time, I really think we loved the challenge.

Today I just want to thank all the tough working farmers out there for doing the job they do in this weather, and every day, for you and me.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pay It Forward

I think I did my pay it forward thing tonight.

This older (based on her voice) woman has been calling me on my cell for the past month.  I think the first time I missed the call and called back. 

When I said, "Hello! You called me?” she said, "I don't know you", and that was that!

Then about once a week she continued to call. I picked up and she said "Mary?". The first couple of times I just said, "No Mary here. You must have the wrong number", and she would apologize and hang up.

Just a few days ago I was getting a bit annoyed and said, "It will always be me at this number. Maybe you need to send Mary a note to get a new number.” She agreed and I thought that is it.


Tonight Jean called yet again.

I give her this. She is persistent.

So, being in a charitable mood (!!) I said "Perhaps I need to help you find the correct number."

Jean was SO thrilled.

So as I went through a few searches for Mary, Jean opens up to her new best friend and tells me how she was/is in the hospital in East Hartford after suffering a blood clot (I translate "stroke"). She feels she hasn't forgotten much, but maybe a few things. Hmm!

After five attempts I find a site that shows a land line, although Jean says Mary no longer has one and is only mobile. But the name and address and age are a match and so I CALL Mary at that number that is ONE NUMERAL different than mine.

It rings.

Jean audibly giggles.

Well it isn't a totally happy ending yet.

And rings!

I have my land line on speaker and the cell phone on speaker when the answering machine picks up.

And so I leave this very loud and clear message with names and phone numbers and how Jean is really looking forward to hearing from Mary, and I hang up.

Jean is just so relieved that you can hear her smile.

She promises to let me know what happens and that she really owes me.

I wonder if she will remember!


I started this as a Face Book post and it just got so long that I decided to finally get back to the blog.

Some of my past year has been staying with my mom who had a revision (replacement) of one of her hip replacements one year ago this week. It’s been a rough, rough year, especially for her. Because she is far away, I count on the staff at her place to help her a lot. I thought about Jean after I hung up and perhaps her frustration of trying to find her friend. My mother has not been able to handle the phone as well as she used to, and I know she’d like to talk to her friends more, but it’s just not that easy anymore, and I know she also gets frustrated.

I didn't think this far ahead as it was happening, but I hope what I did for Jean works out and that we all do something for a stranger once in a while just because we can. No pay back - or forward!