After a strange summer – cool and very wet, followed by hot and very dry – fall has arrived on the farm. I love this time of year. The nights are much cooler and the days, while still warm, have a brisk edge to them especially in the morning. It’s much easier to sleep at night and the hoards of mosquitos, chiggers and ticks appear to have decided to move south or begin hibernation. The garden is done, except for a volunteer cherry tomato plant that grew out of the compost. The extra rich soil seems to have given it a second wind and the little tomatoes glow like rubies against the dried grasses and potato peels.
The baby chicks have all grown up and our flock is back up to 9 – one rooster and eight hens. The seven young hens should start laying this winter. They have settled into the makeshift chicken coop I constructed over the summer and I’m hoping they will be safer in it than the poor chicks in our last coop!
The hay is up – the neighbor’s baler broke part way through the process so we brought in some of it the old fashioned way – raking it! Not having a horse and hay wagon, after raking it we piled it onto a tarp and pulled it to the barn where we pitched it into a hay stack. I think we brought in 4 or 5 loads this way. Square bales are easier to handle but hay is hay and any hay we don’t have to buy is a good thing as all of our does are expecting kids this winter. We will still need to purchase some hay although if we get the mild winter that’s been forecast (by some – naturally others are saying it will be colder and snowy) we won’t need too much more.
So are we ready for winter? I wish I could answer affirmatively but, no we aren’t. Although I tried to save a little money each month last year it was quickly spent as we had to replace our old van, pay ongoing medical bills and send my oldest off to college. And while not finding a summer job meant more time to spend with my children it also meant we haven’t been able to put aside the money we need to fill the propane tank. My salary is exactly the same as last year but I bring home $59 less each paycheck due to increased costs of benefits. Expenses, on the other hand continue to pile up. The car insurance went up by a third and now constitutes 12% of my take home pay. The kids have all outgrown last year’s winter clothes and boots. The used SUV we bought, like most used cars, has had some issues, the most recent of which was the demise of the air conditioning unit in the dog days of summer. We sweltered through that thinking to postpone any repairs until next summer but because the fan has gone out as well it will need to be fixed before the heater and defroster is required.
I’d thought to resume plasma donation to add to our coffers but was turned away – at least until mid-November when a year will have passed since I spent the night in the hospital due to out of control high blood pressure. So yesterday I picked up an application for the job of night attendant at a local hotel. It’s a combination of patrolling the buildings and looking out for doors propped open and deadbeats sleeping in the alleyway along with some light cleaning and running loads of laundry. The ad said 3 nights a week from 11 pm to 6 am but when I picked up the paperwork the lady at the desk said it was from 11 to 8 am. I don’t think they’ve had many applicants because when I said I could only work till 6 (that would just give me enough time to get to school by 7 am) she assured me they could be flexible. I will also apply as a dishwasher/busboy at a restaurant in Bloomington – more nights but fewer hours as it’s from about 10 pm to 4 am. I hope a couple months will get us on track, pay for propane and car repairs and allow me to build up a bit of a safety net because that will probably be all I can manage!
But for now – it’s fall break and I intend to enjoy the beautiful weather, try to get a few things done around the house/farm, and commune with nature! If all goes well it may be awhile before I have the opportunity again!