Saturday, July 24, 2010

Staycation day

Charlie the fence-sitter cat overlooks the herb garden.

I'd spent most of the week dismantling a fairly large and hefty wind turbine tower with students, and humping the 150 pound tower sections around in the heat had made me stiff and sore all over. I was ready for a break.

It came in the form of a wet Saturday morning. Most of the farm systems are on autopilot, no great problems to fix. I started out with fairly low ambitions for the day, and surpassed all my expectations.

The only things I did, really, apart from routine feeding and fence shifting, were to make a batch of scones, and do a couple minor jobs for Aimee in the workshop. Most of the rest of the day was spent on the couch with a trashy spy novel, alternately reading and sleeping-off my dog-tiredness.

This kind of day happens every so often, most often around the changing seasons. I think you get used to doing one kind of seasonal round, and as the year moves along, you need to regroup every once in a while. We're moving from growing to harvest season. The firewood is in, the garden is producing masses of veggies for very little work, the pigs, chicks and lambs are all on auto-pilot, the cars and truck are more or less ready for the winter driving season, no big house project this year.

Next up comes canning and pickling and butchering, not to mention the start of fall term.

So we'll be busy enough soon enough. And, durnit, I deserve a break!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Heat engines

Driving over the Mount Harris "pass" from Dixmont to Jackson yesterday I had an all-too brief flash of cosmic understanding.

This saddle between hills is 900 feet above sea level, while Jackson spreads out several hundred feet lower. On a good day you can see all the way to Acadia National Park, where the First Family is currently on vacation.

But what I saw yesterday wasn't the President and family, or even Air Force One which must have flown overhead at some time or other, but photosynthesis, on a grand scale. The Maine woods are in full leaf, and Jackson, indeed all of northern Waldo County, is of course just one big broad leaf forest, with a light scattering of dwellings and hayfields here and there.

A hazy, green, abundant, massively productive forest countryside. A New World Sherwood.

Yeah, Robin.

Under the shade of the trees, this time of year, it's much cooler than it is in the sunlight. Buggy, but cooler.

So, an obvious science geek question is, where does all this abundant solar energy go to if it's not reaching the ground under the trees? At this time of year more than a kilowatt of energy is hitting every square meter every hour the sun shines. That's like having a two-bar electric toaster oven in each square meter.

This of course makes for a lot of heat anywhere the sun's light hits the ground.

Sunshine energy is primarily ultraviolet light: invisible moving photons. Some of this light energy is reflected back to space as visible light in that part of the spectrum that humans experience as green.

Very green, in this case. The whole of Maine seems green, this time of year.

Some of the energy heats the air, which moves the energy around a bit. The more humid the air, the more energy the air can hold, the more energy the air moves around. This is why shade doesn't work as well, and why thunderstorms are more frequent, on humid days.

But an awful lot of energy is being absorbed by the leaves of the trees and used to combine carbon dioxide with water to make sugars and cellulose. I'm not sure how much, but enough to help make it feel much cooler under the trees.

A square meter of solar panels properly positioned on a day like this will capture about 15% of this energy in the form of electricity.

But I wouldn't cut down trees to put up solar panels. That would be a waste. Trees are probably much more efficient at collecting sunlight and reducing carbon levels than solar panels are. That doesn't mean to say I wouldn't cut down trees, though.

Here's our Womerlippi Farm woodpile, about four cords, 70% white or gray ash. At 24 million BTUs per cord, and 3.4 million BTUs per MWH, that's 7 MWH per cord, or 28 MWH total.

These four cords were harvested from an area less than 20 meters square. That's only 400 square meters. And, although the cutting was heavy, big trees were still standing on that 400 square meters when I was done cutting. No tree cut was older than 15 years, and most were around 10 years old.

28 MHW divided by 400 square meters is 700 kilowatts per square meter for the whole time period the trees were growing.

700 kilowatts per meter divided by ten years is 70 kilowatts per square meter per year.

Our square meter of solar panels, by comparison, will collect 200 watts per hour, average 4.5 hours per day, 365 days per year, or 328 kilowatts per meter per year.

So solar panels are more efficient, right?

But that doesn't count the energy taken to make the panels, while the trees grow without this help.

Nor does it count the energy in leaves, which in this case were cycled through sheep, although in the fall the remaining energy in the leaves of the trees still standing will cycle through the soil.

So this is all very philosophical, isn't it. What do I think about all this?

I think I'm glad to have my firewood cut, split, covered and drying for winter.

And I'm glad to live in a beautiful Maine forest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Farm work on hold, tomatoes, no-see-ums, and hoping for fall

I have a moderately ambitious wind research summer field season scheduled out, working with a crew of current and former students who are interested in climate management and renewable energy, putting up and servicing anemometers all around the central part of Maine. The results will enable me to tell the authorities, municipal and state, where community-owned turbines might reasonably go. They'll also help in mapping the winds in our area.

But it means a big work week one week in two. I decided on the week-on/week-off schedule since it gives me the best chance to both do the work and also enjoy the growing season. That was before my father died, and now I'm somewhat behind with my field work. So we're going to do a two week blitz and finish a bunch of sites and then call it quits for the summer. Administrative work demands are beginning to appear, and I have a big dossier to write. And before we know it students will be arriving back and I'll have classes to teach, and the Common Ground Fair, and the harvest, canning time, putting up food, slaughtering time, and on and on.

Fall is our busiest time of year. And fall arrives fast in Maine and lasts a long time.

Fall also means tomatoes. Oh, tomatoes...

Every day I go walk around our Womerlippi tomato rows looking hard for ripening berries. There's a few turning yellow, so any day now we'll have our first fruits. I am a great lover of fresh tomatoes, and am always just a little sad to walk away empty-handed.

Poor bear! But soon.

Fall also means no bugs. Surprise: you can get tired of bugs in Maine. I'm just starting to feel the pinch of my least favorite Maine biting bug, the no-see-um, a kind of flatlander's midge not unlike the Highland one with which some readers will be all too familiar. I can handle the dreaded blackfly, "the Maine state bird", no worries. They drive some folks nuts, even some native Mainers, but these days I rarely notice them. Mosquitoes bother me some, but they're relatively easy to avoid. Biting flies, the various horseflies or clegs are rampant this year in comparison to others but still only found here and there in the countryside.

But little no-see-ums come through your bug screens and into your house and get you while you sleep, little Nazis that they are. And their bite is nasty. Painful and long-lasting. I have red welts all up and down my ankles.

There are two ways to remove the threat of these little buggers. One is to leave all your windows closed, which with our current sultry weather is not an option. The other is to spray the screens with a deterrent.

Every year I say I'm not going to do it this year, but the sleepless nights build up, and I go pull out the spray. It's a pyrethrin-based product and supposedly harmless to humans and animals, although toxic to fish. It's the same stuff I use to keep the carpenter ants out of our house's sills.

Although a MOFGA member, I'm not a die-hard organic farmer. I use a few mild chemicals carefully. Penicillin, for instance, is a great help to unhappy sheep. And marigold juice, pyrethrins, are good bug deterrents.

There's a third way, which is to replace your standard screens with a smaller mesh. But apparently this reduces the air flow considerably. And we need that airflow right now.

But not for long. Fall will arrive in a few short weeks and with it this moist air will vanish back to Iowa where it belongs, taking the heat and humidity and noo-see-ums, giving us that perfect 70 degree day, 40 degree night, crisp, clear weather in its place. The first dry Canadian air mass is not yet in sight on the weather map, but I can smell it. It's out there somewhere.

Usually by the second week of August we've had our first taste of fall.

I'll let you know.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ecology lessons

The subtitle of this collection might be "something for everyone."

Photos of farm productivity in some detail.

First are the baby chicks, no longer quite so young. They're picking the bugs out of the trailer, bugs that came from a dead elm I cut to slow the spread of Dutch elm disease, and to use for firewood. The bugs are not the actual cause of the tree's death, so it doesn't hurt to cut and move the trees around. It's the fungus that weakens the tree bark and lets the bugs in that is the real cause, and that is spread on the wind. The chicks are welcome to the bugs. Proper "free range" poultry should be ranging around a farmyard, where their job is to clean up slugs and ticks and eat leaves and waste feed and turn it into eggs for us to eat.

Haggis got a bath. This was the day before yesterday, when he was in our good books. He enjoyed the cool water.

Yesterday we were pretty mad at him. He cornered two baby chicks that wandered onto the porch through the open door and worried them badly. In the past he and/or Mary have killed chickens this way, so worrying chicks that wander onto the porch is about the worst thing a Haggis can do. He got yelled at.

We definitely need a more sensible sheepdog that can do a sheepdog's real job, but that particular farm improvement will have to wait until we have a dog death and thus a dog vacancy.

Here's this year's pork and bacon at age about 10 weeks. I moved the piglets from the little pig sty to the big one, which has an open-air run. These girls have never had so much fun before, with real dirt to root in and all kinds of piggy treats thrown over from the garden. The pigs will get all the waste from the garden from here on out, lots and lots of green stuff, weeds and plants that we're done with. It's very thrifty to keep pigs next to a kitchen garden. They will eat all of that waste happily and turn it into meat for us to eat.

They'll also help prepare the compost we need to raise the veggies. Our garden is exceptionally fertile, thanks to these pigs. You can see a lot of old hay in the picture. I cleaned out the old pig sty, which earlier was the lambing pen and full of soiled hay for bedding, and moved all that bedding into the pig's open air run, where with rain and time it will become compost. Not, of course, until after the pigs have given it another going over and mixed in some dung and urine for good measure. Pigs make the best compost out of sheep bedding.

Another part of the farm ecology is sheep eating trees. Most people don't think that sheep will eat trees, but they just need a little help. If you're getting firewood, and leave the branches on the ground temporarily, and can let sheep into the place where you've been cutting, they will thriftily clean up all the leaves. Leaves are very good for sheep feed. The branches are then much easier to handle and can be moved out of the way and piled up tidily. There's a balance to strike with this. You can cut more wood, and eventually you'll get more sheep pasture and open land for farming that way, or you can cut less wood, and keep the land in growing trees for firewood and feed.

Either, way, the sheep get to eat.

We're trying to make a parkland, which is a combination of woodland and grassland. We like the partly open feel of the parkland, and we're trying to conserve the elm trees and some heirloom apples. The elms need distance from each other to reduce the threat of the fungus. The apples need to see daylight to grow fruit, and they also need pruned back into health, and so the competing trees must be cut away. I am also leaving the young conifers, the pines, spruces and tamaracks, to make saw logs in ten or fifteen years. They're between twenty and forty feet tall right now. When they're sixty feet tall and a couple feet around, we'll get a sawyer in with a bandsaw mill, take some of these trees for lumber and use them to make furniture and repair building. We'll make sure to plant other trees in their place, most likely fruit trees.

For years to come, we'll have grass, leaves, firewood, lumber, and fruit from our orchard/elm/conifer parkland. Meat, heat, furniture, buildings and food.

I expect back in the day most European peasants knew all these tricks pretty well and practiced them assiduously. Aimee and I are of course both descended from long lineages of peasantry and were in fact trained pretty well in the modern American and English versions of peasant gardening and food preservation as kids.

But this whole farm approach is more advanced stuff we didn't learn from our parents and grandparents. We're learning as we go. Sometimes we make mistakes. Haggis is one such mistake, I tend to think, the miserable chick-worrying git that he is. But for the most part we seem to be extracting food and energy from our small plot fairly efficiently, and using the activities to move it in the direction of further productivity gains.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dusty doings and sorry service

I've been harvesting a few new potatoes. This is a bit of a waste, since left to their own devices they would almost certainly double in size between now and fall's regular potato harvesting time, but it's so nice to eat our own perfectly sweet spuds. I used absolutely no salt or any other kind of seasoning on this plate. It needed none.

Our peas and last year's lamb sausage too. The corn is from someone else's farm, though. We don't grow corn. We don't have the space, and it's easy enough to buy in the farmer's markets and farm stores around here.

Our neighbors grow some corn and we can trade with them a bit too, ham and pork for corn.

I've been using the energy provided by all these fresh veggies to put up firewood. It's a bit of a slog because the heat is extreme right now, but there's only a little more than a cord left to do -- two days more work at the most. Yesterday, to beat the 90 degree F heat forecast for the afternoon, I started at 6.30 am and cut, hauled, split and stacked wood until noon, and that worked out well except that I was pretty well asleep on the couch at 8.30 pm, and had to nap twice during the heat of the day. I had thoroughly drenched myself in sweat by 9am, and drank about four quarts of water to keep hydrated during the day, only to get a pretty good headache this morning all the same.

This morning I'm stiff and sore and looking for excuses to delay. Aimee's going to do the weekly shopping in Bangor today and the thought of a couple of pleasant sweat-free hours puttering in air-conditioned stores seems rather nice, but I'd better get to it and finish the firewood chore for the year.

Once it's done, it's done for the year. That's a powerful motivation..

The heat and lack of rain for over a week was starting to burn up the garden by yesterday afternoon, so between naps I had to hustle some, once I realized the threat. I was picking my usual daily harvest of forty to fifty potato bug larvae when I noticed some curling leaves. Looking around, I realized that several cabbages and some of the potatoes and tomatoes were just beginning to wilt. This was around 3pm yesterday, with another three hours of plus 90 F heat to go before it cooled down any.

Garden alert! After all that work, we can't be slow or stupid enough to lose our crop to the heat.

I got busy with hose and sprinklers, getting myself nicely soaked in the process. It took a while to sort. The level of water in our well gets significantly lower each summer and water pressure at the end of the hose has dropped a bit as a result. Both our reciprocating sprinklers failed to run right with the low pressure, so I went to the hardware store to get an oscillating type. I was going to chance a different reciprocating type, but our local store, previously excellent and just three miles away, a five minute pick-em-up truck ride, has been taken over by a couple of numpties who are running it into the ground and they had only a couple of choices, both of which were types I'd tried and I knew they wouldn't work.

The crappy way these folks are running this store is a minor personal disaster for me and it's all I can do to be civil to them. I've been going there for nearly a decade for just about anything I needed at short notice, and I really liked the previous owners and all the sales assistants. The place was a real gem: a real properly stocked hardware store in the middle of nowhere in Maine. Too good to last, I suppose. Now the original owners have retired, and these numpties are in charge, a couple of city guys who, frankly, don't seem to know hardly anything about hardware, and there are bare shelves all around the store and they don't have any choice, nor do they actually even have what you need over half the time, it seems.

Another six months of this and I'll have to go to Newport or Belfast just to get a nut or bolt. That's either twenty or fifteen miles respectively, one way. But Hobson's choice.

The pointlessness of this is driving me nuts, too. All the sensible practical people that live in this neck of the Maine woods: Do they think we all can't see what they're doing to our store? They must have lost forty percent of their customers already, and the rest probably feel much the way I do and are waiting to see what will happen next.

The new sprinkler worked fine, though, especially once elevated above potato height by a big log (the one Aimee couldn't split). It needed a bit of adjustment, which I enjoyed despite my chagrin at the new hardware store owners. It was sort of fun to get doused by the cooling spray, and I probably took longer than needed to get the adjustment just right. I peeled of my overalls and left them to dry on the firewood stack.

This morning I ran the sprinkler again for an hour, but then we got a very nice summer rain shower, not a moment too soon, and I was able to turn the thing off.

Rain. About a quarter inch or perhaps more. Hallelujah! And the sun isn't out yet, so it will have chance to soak in nicely.

So Haggis and I are sitting in the den listening to the very comforting sound of rain falling in the leaves of the ash. My overalls, still on the firewood stack, are freshly soaked.

I guess I can't cut wood now, can I? Not with wet pants.

Except I have another pair, perfectly dry. Plus it's cooler with the moisture, so best get it done now while the going is good.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Predatory poultry and wood-whacking wives

The new chicks, a combination of Golden Comets and Araucanas , are now big enough to be let out of their chicken tractor to forage. They're quite entertaining to watch as they run around the dooryard in one giant pack looking for bugs and succulent greens.

The additional benefit of course is that their consumption of grain has decreased to less than a quarter of what it previously was.

Free range chickens are a helpful part of the farm ecology. We don't get very many garden slugs, for instance, because the chickens have access to a patrol area all around and right up to the garden fence. They also clean up wood ticks, which helps keep us from getting Lyme disease.

But we don't allow them actually in the garden, where they attack our plants. We have a poultry-proof fence around it. And when our neighbors decided to plant a garden close to our property line, we opted, with their permission, to put a fence around that patch too, with a gate, so the chickens could continue to range free.

In a different department of Womerlippi Farm Enterprises, the firewood pile is growing quite nicely, despite the current hot temperatures.

Yesterday, looking for easy gains perhaps, I logged a large, around 15 inch DBH ash, which then got hung up in a similarly sized dead elm, a real widow maker. The elm had to come down, since it would spread the Dutch Elm fungus, but I'd been avoiding it until it snagged the ash.

This situation sent me back to the shop for my hard hat, and made me wish Aimee hadn't gone to work. They call these dead trees in the woods "widow makers" for a reason, and I should know. Once, years ago, I was hit on the head by an 80 pound hickory branch falling forty feet from the top of a dead tree. As the tree was being cut, as it began to move, the dead branch snapped off and hit me really hard on the head. Luckily I was wearing my helmet, but I still was so dazed I couldn't walk, only crawl to the farmhouse, and was seeing stars as I called the ambulance. I'm sure without the hard hat I would have been killed.

I didn't have any broken bones -- the hard hat saw to that. But I had whiplash pains for several months.

In this case, there was no choice but to cut it without benefit of a safety person. I was careful, and fairly circumspect, not rushing the job and keeping a sharp eye on the elm's movements. But it came down safely enough, bringing the ash with it. The weight of the ash actually helped bring the elm down nicely. Elm and ash together made for three or four trailer loads, of which two were bucked up and brought up right away and split despite the heat. Ash needs to be split the day you cut it if you want an easy job. I got the split logs stacked nicely and covered, then let the sheep into the woodlot area to clean up the ash leaves and help me see where the smaller pieces could be cut out.

Later this week I'll go back for the smaller ash branches and the elm logs, which I'll buck up in very short lengths to give me an even chance to split them. Elm is very hard to split.

I'm fairly fussy about how I cover my firewood these days. You want see-through material on top -- that lets the sun in but keeps out the rain -- and you want space between the rows and open sides so air can circulate. It makes all the difference to the speed and quality of seasoning to do it right.

I left one knotty ash log for Aimee, who since she's been working out regularly has begun to enjoy such things. But she wouldn't let me watch her split it, let alone take a photo, so this sly shot out of the porch window will have to do.

And yes, that thermometer does read 95 degrees. That was in the sun. the high yesterday at the Bangor airport was 91, which probably translates to 89 here three hundred feet higher. With 70 percent humidity, this is as hot as it gets around here.

Plenty hot enough, believe me.

No break in the heat and humidity is forecast until a cold front is expected Friday.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Logo logic, sales sorrows, and capitalist conversions

After I got done with the new flatbed for the pick-'em-up truck, I suggested to Aimee that she put the official Womerlippi Farm logo on it. She agreed to do so, made a stencil out of copy paper taped together, copied the logo from the screen she uses to make our T-shirts, got to work with her paint pots and brushes, and now we have a very cool liveried truck.

I do think it's rather smart, actually. Pretty chuffed with the outcome, actually.

Yesterday Haggis and I took the newly liveried truck down to town for gas and got caught up in the Independence Day parade traffic. I think a lot of people thought we were in the parade.

(He is rather a handsome dog.)

Not that we need the advertisement. Our products seem to sell themselves. We always seem to clean out of eggs and pigs and lambs with little difficulty. Probably because the price is right. We charge competitive prices. Eggs are $1.50 and our pigs last year went averaged $1.71 dressed. Fat lambs at weaning go for $50.

These prices are probably just over our break-even points, counting labor. When I calculated the pigs' costs I put in the labor at minimum wage.

Aimee also sometimes gives eggs away, and plant starts, and surplus veggies in season, usually to coworkers at Unity College. This is another family tradition. Before we started selling the pigs we gave away pork chops too. It was fun for us to grow the food, so we didn't much care about the money.

Our old joke used to be, when people wanted to pay us for the food we were giving away, that we aimed to "destabilize the capitalist system" and so couldn't possibly take any money.

What was funny was how some people couldn't see the joke, which is really a wry Zen koan, in that. I think some more conservative, or unimaginative, types were really worried that we had found a way to destabilize capitalism.

By giving away free food!

These days we do try to get a fair price for most things and we no longer give away pork chops.

Fleece is another matter, though. I could give that away, no worries. We have a lot of raw fleece right now and no obvious market. I expect we'll finish up taking it to the mill again and part-exchanging it for yarn.

The yarn we can sell. But it costs us about $4 a skein to get even in part exchange (we can sell it for $7 easily enough), and we don't have that kind of spare moolah right now, not with my mum still being sick and an expensive air-fare away. We would probably need to buy a hundred or more skeins in one go, given the amount of raw fleece we have to trade. That's about a third of a short-notice transatlantic air fare.

That sales project will have to wait, this year. We'll concentrate on the pigs and eggs. We only had two lambs to sell, and they're already gone.

Maybe giving away free food was catching or something, but we now have several acres of fresh veggies growing for the local food pantry through the new Veggies for All program at our college.

Destabilizing the capitalist system where it really hurts: feeding hungry people.

Very proud of this program, am I.

Sometimes I wonder about all the so-called Christian folks in this country who would rather see some people go hungry, in order to keep alive their idea of what a capitalist country looks like.

Have they ever really read the New Testament?

Here's our idea of what a productive land use system looks like. And yes, those tomato plants are four feet high already, and just starting to bear fruit. Last year, with the late blight, tomatoes were fairly scarce. This is a great improvement.

Looks like I will be canning again this year.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Piston broke...

Actually, it was worn rings. But I couldn't resist the old pun, which accurately describes my status a good deal of the time from age 17 to about 21 or 22.

The smaller of our two lawn-mowing devices had started blowing smoke. This was a problem for us, since there is one small stretch of lawn in front of the house which we like to keep neatly trimmed. Aimee likes to play with the dogs, and I like to sit in the lawn chair and drink a cold soda or beer after work there.

Most of the rest of the time we use our sheep to keep the grass short. Even that hadn't worked for us that well earlier this summer, since the weather up until recently was perfect for grass growing and all of our paddocks and lawns had gotten away from us. So earlier I dismantled, refitted and reassembled the old Bolen's lawn tractor mowing deck, and made it work a good deal better although it still tends to hit dirt from time to time.

But while I was working on that problem, the little mower started to blow smoke pretty badly. I priced up new ones, and also looked around for a second-hand one, and didn't much like the prices I saw. Piston broke may not be quite the correct moniker for the Womerlippis these days, but with all these last minute air tickets to the UK for family emergencies, one item of the couplet is at least close to the truth.

So on a whim I tore down the mower one afternoon, to discover that the primary visible wear was on the piston rings. Bearings, valve train, and piston and cylinder seemed fine. The price for new rings from Briggsy Stratton was $25 including shipping, which was a good deal cheaper than the $180 required for a new 4-horse mower, or the $50-100 required to take over someone else's, probably worn-out, secondhand mower.

Remembering my earlier adage, "read my lips: no new equipment," which will surely haunt me the rest of my days as I keep rebuilding and rebuilding all these sorry machines until I die, I opted to try a new set of rings.

This was almost purely recreational engineering, I have to say. As engines go, lawn mowers are light and easy and require little in the way of special tools. I had to drill out one bolt that attached the engine to the mower deck, and I needed to adapt a 4-inch hose clamp for use as a piston ring compressor, but other than that it came apart and went back together quite nicely.

Other people do jigsaw puzzles.

What was funny was what Brian at the hardware store said as I bought the quart of clean oil that was needed to refill the sump:

"I didn't know anyone still rebuilt those things."

But some folks do. Mostly old men in their garages, I notice, here in Maine. I can tell you of two or three small lawn mower businesses within thirty miles of here where an older, probably retired, guy tinkers with lawn machines for a business.

I must be getting old.

Anyway, it didn't quite start on the first pull, and it ran too fast for a minute until I adjusted the carb, and now it needs a new spark plug wire end because the old one falls off, but it runs and doesn't blow smoke.

Funny too, how much better the blade cuts when it's on the right way around! I can't remember if I ever removed that blade, or if it hadn't been touched since we got the machine second hand from a co-worker at the college who was retiring and moving into an apartment, but it sure was on backwards.

Since we bought the mower for $25 and I replaced the pull cord once for about $5 and the piston rings cost $25, we're now $55 into this thing.

I'm cheap enough to say I think I need at least a couple more summers out of it now.

But we'll get the new spark plug wire end. I'm not that cheap.

Aime now has names for the piglets. According to the WIC/names (ex RAF types will immediately guess what this acronym stands for), they're now titled after the three Roman fates.

Here's your obligatory wikipedia link so you can see what they are. Of course, no one save Aimee can tell them apart right now, so I wouldn't bother if I were you.

As I mentioned to sister Carol earlier, I'm not sure what it says about the Womerlippis that you need a wikipedia reference to understand the names we give our piglets.

Since WIC/names was working on triplets in literature and mythology, I had offered up "Faith, Hope and Charity," but the authorities demurred, on the obvious grounds that the ultimate and inevitable end would be that Mick slaughtered and ate Faith, Hope, and Charity.

Which is worse, being piston broke or killing faith, hope and charity?