THE PRICE OF FOOD, THE COST OF STAYING ALIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

This post started out as a comment to Rich’s piece, but it reminded me of all those years when the Fishery Department in New England begged the fisher-folks to hold back on fishing out the spawning areas. St. George’s banks — which is technically both U.S. and Canadian waters — I think the line runs right through the area. George’s Banks are closed, both by Canadian and American authorities because of overfishing.

If they didn’t close them, there wouldn’t be any fish in the future. Almost all our fish these days is imported. Salmon from Canada where it is farmed, and the rest from Asia.

Our food has more than doubled in price. We could buy a week’s food for the three of us for around $150 before the quarantine. Now it costs MORE than $300. We do have some locally grown food just beginning to show up in the markets and ironically, our farms which have been doing poorly are suddenly a very big deal. We can get (easily) eggs, milk, honey, and strawberries. We have tons of blackberries growing in our own back 40, but it’s even more lethal than our rose bushes and before we can get them, the birds eat all of it.
Squash is coming into season. Also cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and with a little luck, we’ll have a good year for peaches. Soon (I hope!) we will also have fresh corn. We don’t grow mountains of corn because we have so little flat land, but what we do grow is delicious.

Everything is organic. Not because we are such believes in organic produce, but because we have such a high water level, fertilizer seeps into the aquifer, and if we kill the aquifer, we are all in big, permanent trouble.

We have no slaughterhouses. I’m sure that the individual farms raise a few pigs and beef cattle for personal use, but it doesn’t go to the stores. There is a huge chicken farm nearby. They have a big restaurant (no open right now, of course), but they also sell it in their shop. It costs twice the imported prices but it is very good and their chickens roam free.

Shooting through a wire fence, these are impressionist chickens. Need eggs?

Anyone with a back that works grows acorn squash (by November I’ve overdosed on squash), tomatoes, and onions. Also round, red potatoes. Some people have started growing jalapenos, too. In this limited rural area, summer is the only time you can get fresh local fruits and vegetables. After September and October (apple season — we have gigantic orchards for apples and they are great apples … and the farmers keep cross-breeding new varieties, albeit our local apples are much more expensive than the imported ones. Probably not THIS year!

The cows in the meadow

Not much fish except via Canada where they farm salmon. We used to have wonderful fish, but they overfished the region and it’ll be decades before we can get fish from the ocean again. Our rivers are good for trout — if you like trout and none of us do — and while down on the Cape they are farming lobster, there aren’t enough of them for more than their immediate areas.

New England had the biggest and best fishing fleets in the world. All gone. The fleets are gone and the areas are now filled with private boats. Which is fine, but they don’t bring in fish.

The fisherfolk were warned yearly to NOT go to George’s Banks because that was where they spawned. Garry covered those stories and he always came back shaking his head at the thick-headedness of the fleets. Yes, they’d need to raise prices and wouldn’t be able to bring in the volume of fish they had before, but if they didn’t stop harvesting the fisheries, there would be no more fish at all.

Eventually, when no one cooperated, they closed down the areas about five years ago (maybe it was longer — has swept by so quickly — before there were no more fish to breed. The coast guard patrols the area and there are all these little wars at sea. If we don’t poison the waters, fish will come back — and that’s if we manage to keep the Canadians and Japanese from trawling the areas.

Seafood, the delight of New England is gone. We do get great eggs and butter, though. The milk is great, but we have a lot of people here who have inspected cows, so they don’t homogenize the milk. Garry loves the cream on the top. I stopped buying it.

After Garry steals the cream, even the dogs won’t drink it.

SUNFLOWERS BY FARM, ROAD, AND RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Sunflowers by the Farm-September 29, 2019

Apparently, the original owners of our favorite farm have sold to a new owner. He’s not a new owner in the sense of being young and looking to make a splash in the local farming world.

He is also Native American and I’m guessing the only Native in town. I wasn’t comfortable enough with him to ask him about tribe and affiliation … but he looked like a classic painting and he had long wavey white hair. Handsome man. Maybe a bit young for me and anyway, what would Garry say? Of course at our age, Garry is most likely to ask when the next corn cutting is coming. We are no longer hot to trot.

I think he is in his early sixties though he might be older, just in very good physical shape. Friendly, too. I was grateful. There’s no guarantee that new owners will be as friendly and glad to have visitors as previous owners.

I’m assuming the original owners retired. For one thing, their house is huge and now that I’m pretty sure the kids have left, that’s 18 rooms plust at least two full levels of stairs. Way too much to try and care for. And the house is more than 100 years old, so figure there’s a lot to be done.

Farming is hard, even if you aren’t trying to prove anything. I’m glad he sold to someone who wants to keep the farm as a farm and not turn it into condominiums along the Blackstone. Uxbridge is underpopulated and that’s the way I like it. I know it’s hard to find work and if we had more people, we might get something better resembling a “government.” But who needs a government anyway?

When all my other flowers die, this is what takes over.

As it is, we don’t have a mayor — or anyone who wants to be one. No one wants to be anything. It’s a “head’s down and you’ll keep out of trouble” sort of place.

The next farm down the road has a herd of dappled Tennessee Walkers. I think all Walkers are dappled and their colors change from year to year. Mostly, they are gray, ranging from nearly white, to medium gray. If I were still riding, what a discovery this would be!

Garry with chickens

Even though it has been more than 20 years since I rode, I still get excited at the smell of horse. Non-horse folks wrinkle their noses, but the smell of a well-worn set of leather chaps is like perfume to me. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind that my house smells like dogs who urgently need a bath.

FOUND ON THE FARM – Marilyn Armstrong

Things Found on a Farm

It had been a lovely morning and early afternoon, but by the time we go our gear together, the sun was playing peek-a-boo. We went anyway. We were just going around the block to the farm along the river.

There are two or three farms along the Blackstone. Maybe four. The first one, where we usually go, is a dairy farm. Corn, eggs, fresh milk, butter are sold on-site. We never get any of the corn because we show up too late. By then, the corn is gone except for the hulls that would be good for squirrels or cattle, but not for people. They did have apples, but I still have a bunch of Galas at home.

You definitely need some cows on a dairy farm!

I had a fair number of pictures from the farms already, but they weren’t “things.” More like animals and products, so this time, I tried to get pictures of implements. We got done just in time before the (not predicted) rain started to fall.

Ignore the chickens!

Corn and apples for sale

Not sure if this is a tiller or just a groundbreaker. I may live in farm country, but I ain’t no farmer!

The guy who owns the other farm came by and invited us to come on over and take pictures of his new horses. He has quite a lovely heard of Tennessee Walkers, known as the most comfortable horse to sit on if you are going to be on a horse for a whole day. The guy, who wasn’t much younger than me, still rides all day long. He only uses his truck when he goes into town.

Farming implements, including a John Deere — the Rolls Royce of farming equipment.

More farm equipment, but I couldn’t name it for you. Sorry!

I was impressed. But he never took a bad fall, either. It’s not the riding that’s the problem. It’s the falling off. Next time!

And just a few more cows

I used a filter called “opalescent” to give some very soft color to a couple of pictures. They are almost color, but almost not. Regardless, very pretty.

Cee's Black-White

ROOTS, ROCKS, AND STONES – Marilyn Armstrong

New England was one of the first place in North America that Europeans set down roots. I’ve always wondered why. Especially in New England.

Those people were farmers and if there’s one thing you can say about this area is that it’s not great farm country. Not only is the weather awful, but there is no topsoil in most places. It’s not a bad place for orchards and dairy cattle, but everything else? It’s pretty hard to find a large, flat area with good earth.

Up the driveway, stone fence holds up the garden. Owen hauled those boulders from the middle of the woods

Between the hills, mountains, boulders, and trees, there’s almost no earth you can plow without moving a lot of rocks first. That’s from where all our stone fences emerged. They were not created to divide areas of land. The farmers just needed a place to put all the rocks.

This is also why you find rock walls in the middle of nowhere. The middle of the woods. Where the stone fences were put didn’t really have a lot to do with location, just how far they could haul that rock before they said: “Okay, this is as far as I am going!” The horses always agreed.

Eventually, someone got the bright idea to dig up the rocks and pound them into gravel. It turns out that you can never have too much gravel and sand in this world. We also have a lot of big holes in the ground that have filled up with water because no one is using them anymore.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Is there a child who, one hot summer’s day, won’t take the plunge into an old quarry? This doesn’t always work out well. Over the past few decades, cities throughout the region have been trying to fill in those holes. Too many kids diving in, hitting unexpected rocks and drowning. It would also seem that diving into a quarry is the easy part. Getting out can be fraught with challenges.

Last night, my son pointed out this his house is actually built on an old gravel pit. That probably explains why they have such a nice, flat piece of ground … but also explains why the backyard is about 12 feet lower than the front yard.

New England has quarries. Lots of them. In use, out of use, full of water. That’s what you do in a land full of rocks and roots. Dig!

CHICKENS, COOPS, CRAZY TURKEYS AND ONE OLD FARMER

Daily Prompt: Good Fences?
by Ben Huberman on February 8, 2014

Who are your neighbors? Are you friends with them, barely say hi, or avoid them altogether? Tell us a story — real or invented — about the people on the other side of your wall (or street, or farm, or… you get the point). Photographers, artists, poets: show us NEXT DOOR.

Around the block is a farm (Ee-i-ee-i-oh!)

Dairy cattle, chickens, fresh milk, eggs, and honey … and friendly farmers.

I love the chickens. They are not all regular chickens. Many are fancy with gorgeous plumage. They are all like pets — friendly. They used to range free, but foxes and coyotes were making inroads so reluctantly, the farmer moved the coops and put up wire enclosures. The chickens have a lot of freedom, but not unlimited range.

Wild Turkeys

The local wild turkeys hang around because the farmer feeds them. They are a pugnacious group. Wild turkeys used to be rare, but in recent years, they strut all over the place without any sign of fear, or for that matter, common sense.

No one hunts them. Unless they get eaten by a coyote, their biggest danger is getting run over by a car or truck. They tie up traffic and refuse to hurry.

Yelling at them to move faster makes them angry and they will challenge your car to a duel. They cross roads with no concern for traffic. If you annoy them further (or even they are in a particularly feisty mood), they will attack your car. They are apparently unconcerned whether or not the car is the likely winner of the dispute.

Although they are good flyers — unlike swans, loons and other large water fowl, they don’t need a long runway to achieve liftoff — it never occurs to them to fly. They prefer to stroll. Strut. It’s hard to rouse them to flight, or even to walk or run faster.

When confronted by overwhelming odds — large motor vehicles or people with shotguns — they cop an attitude:  “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me?” This has given real meaning to the expression “What a turkey!”

As the old farmer said, “You know, it just takes one tire!” Except, of course, he’s the one who feeds them.

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At the Farm

It was a beautiful day and the first time the calves had been let our of their cribs into the corral. Everyone was busy on the farm. Spring through autumn, there’s plenty of work for everyone. I petted the calves who were friendly, if a bit skittish, meeting strangers. I could feel the bumps on their head where their horns were beginning to come in. A warm, bright spring day on the farm. A good day.