Sunday, July 26, 2009
Isn't it pretty? Makes my farmhouse kitchen feel complete, and I can't wait to cook on it this fall and winter.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
We lost our first goat this spring as well. Poor little Cocoa, on top of the truck cap in the photo, was down one morning when Jim went out to feed everyone. Her pupils were fixed and dilated and she was having convulsions. I was positive she'd been poisoned somehow, because it was so sudden, but I just couldn't figure out how. I scoured the area they'd been and couldn't find any sign of diarrhea or vomiting, which would've been likely with some of the known problem plants. But nothing, and this was fast.
The other day, I think I found my answer in the potato patch. Loco jimsonweed. I could be wrong, but the symptoms certainly fit. Goats are usually really good about not eating things that are poisonous to them as long as they have plenty of other browse and grass. I'm not sure how or why she ate it, as they'd been rotated to a fresh paddock. It was young when she ate it, but she was tiny, so it wouldn't have taken much.
I don't think I would have identified it without the telltale flower, and the plants in the pasture never mature enough to flower before being mowed. I knew we had some horse nettle and some other nightshade, which is what I thought this was, I'm sure, but there's a distinct difference in the flower. After doing some research, I found that supposedly the drought we had a couple years back brought this plant back into prominence regionally. One more weed id under my belt, but at what a cost.
At any rate, losing animals is the down side of farming, and I really hate this part.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
My day started around 5:45 am with coffee, morning news reading, email and facebook play. Before going out to milk I got 3 pounds of butter made and kneaded bread dough for its first rise. I even got the kitchen mostly cleaned up. Then I went out to milk and feed the animals. Came back in to process the milk.
The rest of the day was spent trying to catch up on garden work that's been put off because of all the rain we were having. The ground finally dried out enough this weekend to get a tiller in the gardens and take care of some of the weeds and prep the soil for new plantings where I ripped out old.
Knowing the rain was coming again, I was a planting fool! We have another week of rain in the forecast, so I got as much in as possible. I planted the Amish paste tomatoes that had been languishing in seed flats. I don't know how they'll do at this point, but they've gotta be happier in the ground than in the seed tray. Here's the final tally:
- around 75 Amish paste tomatoes
- around 15 or so nasturtium plants
- half a row each of parsley, basil, and dill seedlings
- seeded half a row of cilantro
- 2 rows of edamame
- 3rd and final planting of sweet corn
- several rows of dent corn
- ~40 lbs of seed potatoes, the last yukon golds
- scattered amaranth seeds
- scattered insectary herb seeds
- 1 row of moon and stars watermelon
- 1 row of strawberry watermelon
- 1 row of Hale's best muskmelon
- 1 row of edisto muskmelon
- half a row of calendula
- half row of sunflowers
- oh, and the sweet potato slips—forgot those
Along with planting, I got most of the garden weeded. (We won't speak of the onions and carrots.) I was out there in my bathing suit, trying to get rid of this silly farmer's tan I'm sporting at the moment where I have tan stripes on my legs between the tops of my tall boots and bottoms of my shorts, belting out songs from my i-pod shuffle. It was the perfect day for working. Overcast, not too hot or muggy. Once I really started weeding and working up a sweat, the bugs were irritating, but that kinda goes without saying around here in the growing season.
I was too busy to take pictures, but I'll try to get some today if I can. Right now, I'm pleased as punch watching the rain come down and water all that in. A week of rain right now with moderate temperatures seems like a blessing for the garden and all the remaining lettuces. There was, of course, still more to be done before I collapsed in the shower at around 7:30 last night, but there's always more to be done. All work and no play makes Danielle a very cranky girl.
Friday, June 12, 2009
and to the weeds...
The onions are in there somewhere. Yes, I'm whingeing about the weather. We've had so much rain that the ground is completely saturated and unworkable. I can't plant, cultivate, till or weed. I have a cover crop that I wanted to till in before it went to seed, but that's looking like it may not happen. I have loads of stuff that needs to go in the ground and more stuff that I really need to direct seed. I have a late planting of potatoes that desperately needs planting. Not to mention the incredibly favorable conditions for disease. Ugh. With dry one can at least irrigate; with rain, there's nothing to be done but float away.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
She doesn't look happy, does she? But see how those front hooves are starting to touch? That's not good for her feet.
Last year we had the trimmer out sometime in the summer, and I was worried the whole time that she'd miscarry from the stress. Neal said he didn't think she'd ever had her feet trimmed, so this was all new to her. This year, I knew I wanted to have her hooves trimmed before I tried to get her artificially inseminated (AIed). The fact that she doesn't walk on concrete here means that her hooves grow really fast.
She handled it better this year than last, perhaps because it was familiar to her. I kept telling her how lucky she was to be going in for a pedicure since I've never had one.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Direct seeded: 4 varieties of bush beans (provider, rocdor, royal purple, contender) and 2 rows of red core chantenay carrots down in the market garden.
Transplanted: ~ 300 tomato plants to the market garden (green zebra, Cherokee purple, striped German, Brandywine, sungold, sweet olive and gold nugget); Egyptian walking onions, shallots, thyme, citrus thyme, rhubarb, horseradish, and black raspberries to the front garden. Set in plants from Edible Landscaping—4 hops vines, 3 filbert trees, and 20 asparagus crowns.
Seeded in flats: calendula, evening primrose, pennyroyal, saltwort, fennel, lovage, peppermint, hyssop, arnica, marshmallow, paprika chili, Thai chili, and chamomile.
Spinach, lamb's quarters, kale, broccoli raab, lettuces, carrots, radishes, thyme, citrus thyme, oregano, tarragon, chives, rosemary, sorrel, horseradish, cilantro, parsley, eggs, milk.
Still eating down reserves. Made and froze butter.
With some volunteer help, we got one of the high tunnels cleaned out and ready for cover cropping, which I'll hopefully get done this weekend. Meanwhile I'm trying to stay on top of the weeds in the market garden with all this rain and dealing with flea beetles. Grrrrrr.
Continuing managed intensive grazing—this is primarily Jim's thing, and he gets total credit for staying on top of the frequent moves.
Our silver fox rabbit doe, Jewel, gave birth to 7 kits the other day. While she did all the work, it does bode well for the beginnings of our breeding program. Silver Fox are meat rabbits listed on Slow Food's Ark of Taste list. They will be both human and pet food, letting us reduce our dependence on commercial pet food even further, which should be healthier for both the dogs and the cats and lighter on the earth besides. I know some people will have a problem with that, but I can guarantee that these rabbits will have a better, healthier life than anything that goes into the commercial foods.
Set up three bee hives in the hopes of maintaining at least two hives on our property.
Continued working on our "insectary" around the gardens to encourage beneficial insects. ATTRA has a great pdf publication on "farmscaping" for beneficial insects for those who'd like to read more about this idea.
Our cookstove arrived this week, so we'll be working on the install over the next few months to have it up and running for fall burning season.
Added more bread flour, as we really blow through it quickly here. I still have my hi-gluten bulk flour, but it's twice as much as the King Arthur brand I use on a regular basis, so I try to stock up on K.A. whenever it's on sale.
CSA delivery to four families: eggs, mixed baby greens, lamb's quarters, head lettuce, broccoli raab, radishes, carrots, spring garlic, horseradish greens, oregano, sage, parsley, cilantro, rosemary.
I found a bag of roasted red peppers in the bottom of the freezer, so I made some roasted red pepper cous-cous to go with an herb roasted chicken and sauteed lamb's quarters seasoned with sea salt and spring garlic. Quite tasty.
Julia and I learned more about rabbits and "kindling" (what it's called when rabbits give birth). Did you know that baby rabbits only nurse about 5 minutes a day and that mama doesn't sit on them or near them for warmth? Neither did I, but we do now.
I'm hopeful that our first time mama knows what she's doing. She's pulled off some fur for the nest, but not a ton. The babies seem to have nice, rounded bellies from what I can see, so that's a good sign. I'll continue to monitor them over the next couple of weeks.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
This is Jules's first rabbit of the season; she's quite a good shot.
Last year she got one while wearing a bikini:
And here's one of my favorite photos—target shooting in a leopard suit:
Julia plans to sit for her hunting license this year and head out deer hunting on kids' day. Jim has modified a deer rifle for her (or some such thing). I really don't know what I'm talking about, but since he's not posting these days....
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
There were a couple other things I could have done, too. First, knowing that one hive was weaker than the other, I could've combined the two hives and their honey stores going into winter, and there's a good chance that I would have had one strong overwintered hive this spring. Second, although my mentor suggested that I could leave the screened bottom boards all winter, I could have put the IPM board in to reduce drafts, especially considering the way the wind whips across the pasture up there. Third, we could have parked our mobile coop on the west side of the hives for the winter, creating a bit of a windbreak for them. Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, and the only way I know of gaining experience is by, well, gaining experience, sometimes the hard way.
The good news is that my bee inspector checked both hives and declared them free of disease, which means that I now have all that stored honey (probably 70 lbs or so, all without any artificial feeds or treatments) to help establish the new packages I installed last weekend, eliminating the need for any artificial feeding again this year. So, all is not lost, though the nucs I got last year were a much better start than packaged bees, and I'm sad to have lost them.
The packages I installed have a couple of things going for them, however, even if I do need to be on the lookout for mite and beetle problems. First, the bees themselves supposedly came from a bee yard that hasn't been treated in 7 years—I'm not sure exactly where, but I'll post once I find out. Second, the queens I installed come from hygienic queen stock from Bee Happy Apiary in Vacaville, California, which will hopefully give the hives a leg up against mites. (For a list of hygienic queen dealers click here.) I'm considering requeening either later this year or definitely next year if they overwinter with a local source of hygienic queens: VP Queen Bees, who raises without treatments and, I think, using small cell, which I use as well.
Installing the package:
I installed three packages last weekend using a place and wait technique that's a bit gentler on the bees than shaking them into the hives. Basically as you can see, you remove five of the frames in a deep box and place the package directly inside, place your queen cage between two of the center frames, open the package, and close up the hive. Come back in the late afternoon/ early evening and most of the bees will have moved out of the package and into the frames on their own. Remove the package and set it in front of the hive overnight if there are any remaining bees, replace the remaining frames, close up the hive, and you're done. Easy on bees and beekeeper alike.
Installing the queen cage:
Opening the package:
Closing up the hive:
Finishing touch, a brick on top:
We use an old piece of carpeting to set our hives on for weed suppression; it makes maintenance and mowing easier. When I came back that evening, I installed five frames of new small cell foundation. The five frames that were in the hive when I installed the package included both open brood comb, pollen, and plenty of capped honey. Between the queen and the frames of honey, I'm hopeful that the bees will want to stick around. I'll be checking on them today to be sure that they've freed the queen from her cage.
**UPDATE: Only one of the hives had released the queen, so I released the other two into their respective hives and closed up. I'll be checking on them in a week or so, depending on the weather, to look for signs that the queens are accepted and laying.
Also, by way of clarification, it was the queens who came from a yard not treated for the past 7 years, so all those good genetics will be passed on to my hives.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
It's been two weeks since I last posted an update, and we've gotten lots accomplished. And many more things have been left undone due to rain, illness, and just lack of time! We had a quick cold, which knocked me out of commission for a couple of days, not to mention a week of 90° + days. Though I gave it a valiant effort, working in 90° weather with a fever of 102° just didn't cut it. I gave up and sat on the couch watching Battlestar Galactica, my new favorite netflix get.
I also managed to travel up to Lebanon, New Jersey, to give a talk at an unschooling conference, which was loads of fun. I got to talk farming with folks from New York state and a woman from Trinidad y Tobago. Very cool. Hopefully we'll have lots of farm visitors over the next few months. I learned about qigong and even had a brief healing massage. Yet again I discovered the truth of the notion that we are always exactly where we need to be. I got home in time to harvest for my CSA and transplant some more herbs to my new front garden before the rain set in. Whew! It's been a full two weeks!
Transplanted: chives, sage, thyme, salad burnet, yarrow, heartsease, echinacea, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries to the front garden. Set in roses that arrived and some rhubarb that I bought on the spur of the moment at the feed store. Divided and dispersed wormwood, bee balm, lemon balm, horehound, feverfew, and mullein in the front from last year's plantings. I had more stuff planted, but unfortunately Jim, in his overzealous desire to try out his new tiller, tilled it under in the kids' garden where I'd healed them in last year. *sigh*
Seeded in flats: Amish paste tomatoes, basil, dill, parsley, borage (both white and blue), calendula, lemon grass, nasturtium, asclepius, winter savory.
Asparagus, lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, kale, carrots, radishes, turnips, endive, tarragon, sage, cilantro, thyme, sorrel, chives, eggs, milk.
Still using down stores. Kids found some frozen strawberries, which were a great treat as we impatiently watch the blossoms turn to tiny green berries. Made butter.
Continued to work on front herb/ edible garden, spreading ~5 yards of topsoil/ compost mix to ammend the soil and mixing peat moss where the blueberries and cranberries will grow. Ordered 2 varieties of cranberries, 3 varieties of filbert, 20 asparagus crowns, weeping mulberry, and 4 hops vines from Edible Landscaping in Afton, Virginia. My patio peach was out of stock, unfortunately. They're a great little company that I've been ordering from for about 6 or 7 years now, and they've always made good on their plants.
Potted up about 150-200 tomato plants and have about 100 more to go, but I ran out of yogurt cups.
Found the market garden again, which is being taken over by chenopodium seedlings. Guess what CSA will be getting this week? Also sprayed and covered crops to combat those damn flea beetles.
The first of our asparagus has come in, and we've been loving every bit of it! In fact, I loved it so much that I added 20 crowns to my order for the front garden. The ferns are so pretty, and one can never have too much asparagus!
We had chicken, asparagus, chevre sandwiches on homemade bread—all zero mile. The chips are store bought, as we've run out of our storage potatoes and the store bought potatoes just don't fry up well for chips. Or anything much for that matter. Yuk. I'm always reminded how easy it is to eat seasonally when you're used to fresh food.
CSA delivery to four families: mixed greens, spinach, chard, head lettuce, radishes, carrots, turnips, spring garlic, chives, thyme, tarragon, cilantro.
Shared bedding plants and berries with neighbors.
Learned about qigong, an Eastern meditation through movement practice that focuses on energy flow in the body.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
California is dealing with serious drought conditions. If it continues to worsen, food availability across the nation may be affected, considering that California supplies about half of the nation's produce. The governor declared a state of emergency in February, as three years of low rain and snow fall have produced one of the state's most severe droughts on record. 600,000 acres have been taken out of production in Orange Cove, California, alone, where the unemployment rate is at 25%. In the Westlands Water District that includes Fresno and Kings County officials estimate that 300,000 acres of lettuce, tomatoes and other crops will not be planted this year due to drought. Some experts predict that the total acreage left unplanted this year may go even higher than 850,000.
A recent release of federal water supply to ease drought conditions has brought the area water allowance up to around 30% of its typical allowed water usage under existing contracts, up from the 10% it was getting before federal intervention. Still too little, too late to help most farms in the region, which could seriously affect pricing and availability of produce and other products like orange juice or wine.
To read more, check out California's Department of Water Resources and this article in the New York Times. I'll be following this story closely. Seems Great Depression 2.0 also has a ready-made Dust Bowl 2.0 in the making.
It's not too late to start a garden for those who haven't gotten around to ordering and starting seeds. Buying vegetable seedlings from the nearest garden center is a great way to go, especially when just starting out, as it frees you from starting those seeds in the depths of winter when few folks are thinking about gardening at all. Most of the garden centers around here are watching their vegetable starts fly off shelves, as more people turn to gardening as a way of easing grocery bills. Turns out, the summer garden may be a good plan in terms of availability as well.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Jim brought the tiller around to break up the bigger areas, but the spiral paths require quite a bit of hand work. We tilled several bales of peat moss into the bed closest to the porch to lower the ph for the blueberries and cranberries. I planted five blueberry bushes there this weekend that I purchased locally—Sunshine blue and Bluehaven, varieties that will stay more compact than most, topping out at around 4 feet. We already have six bushes that I planted along our property line when we moved, so hopefully we'll have plenty of blueberries! I've also started to transplant strawberries for ground cover, and I have four hop vines on order for training up the patio pillars. Up towards the house in between the Hollywood juniper and mugo pine, I planted two ground cherries, pretty flowering shrubs that produce a profusion of sour cherries.
In the bed toward the street, I divided and transplanted several lavender plants, and I ordered some rosa rugosas to fill the area between them. I miss my roses from the old house, and I'm so excited to have some again. I ordered one "new dawn" climber for against the house; two gallicas—"apothecary's rose" and "rosa mundi"; and three "jens munk" rugosas.
We transplanted three of our grapevines that weren't performing well in the kitchen garden out to the front and set in some oregano for ground cover. We'll also be transplanting lots of raspberries and blackberries to create a hedge along the property line. The center of the spirals will feature a sage bush, and I have several starts from last year that I can transplant once I get the soil conditioned. I'll also be spending most of today and tomorrow seeding flats for out front. Tree-wise, I planted a witch hazel this weekend, and I have a weeping mulberry and a dwarf patio peach on order, as well as three varieties of filbert to anchor the front left corner of the yard.
Should keep me busy this year, huh?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Madeline wrote: "I get an apron?! I had forgotten that beautiful offer. :) Listen, as someone who hates her sewing machine more than you, you are off the hook (or tension:) if you want. Play with all those animals instead."
Well, my dear, it's too late. They're already done, or nearly so. I still need to get ribbon or some such to make the tie.
For those outside the loop, Madeline had this beautiful skirt that she picked up somewhere but was not happy with, so she wanted to pass it along to me. I also thought the skirt was lovely but knew from many fitting room experiences that these style skirts always look much better on the hanger than they do on me. But I took it anyway because I thought it would make a beautiful apron, and I liked the idea of sister-aprons on two unschoolin' farmin' mamas.
When I got home, I picked out the stitches along the side seams of the skirt to create two apron bottoms. I chose some vintage chenille fabric that I salvaged from an old bedspread. We don't know where it originally came from, but we found the spread in Jim's grandfather's old boarding house at the beach just before he sold it. I worked parts of it into Julia's baby quilt and the quilt square we made for Hannah Jenner's quilt.
The lace was hand-
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Homesteading means a never-ending list of tasks that need doing. My to-do list never gets shorter—the moment I cross off one item, at least two more are added. Some things, like getting to the post office to mail out several packages that I owe folks, seems nigh on impossible because it means leaving the farm and all the things that need doing here. And, of course, why go when I still haven't finished that one thing that I need to mail out—might as well wait and mail everything at one time. I'm getting there, plugging away, and Madeline's pretty Easter apron has re-motivated me to finish the apron I'm making for her.
The rainy spring days are helping as well. Although I admit to secretly hating to sew. Well, not so much hating to sew as hating my machine that always bunches up because the tension isn't right or some such issue. The minutiae and the attention to detail drive me batty. But rest assured, I will be seated at the sewing machine over the next week, trying to complete all the projects I've been putting off because what else is one to do on rainy days while waiting for the plants (and weeds!) to grow?
More direct seeding in the market garden: leeks (which I accidentally dug up and planted over because they didn't get written on my garden plan. grrrrrr.), batvian endive, red Russian kale, Swiss chard, rouge d'hiver lettuce, salad bowl lettuce, drunken woman lettuce.
Jim got ~ 75-100lbs of potatoes, Yukon golds and red nordlands, in the ground with some help from the kids.
I transplanted ~ 500 seedlings to the market garden: napa, savoy, early Jersey Wakefield and red acre cabbages; windsor and de cicco broccoli; radicchio; red giant mustard; black seeded simpson, winter density, red salad bowl, red lollo, and speckled bibb lettuces.
Red Russian and vates kale, lettuce, spinach, endive (batvian and frisee), escarole, swiss chard, cherry belle radishes, turnip greens, green onions, spring garlic, carrots, arugula, thyme, citrus thyme, tarragon, oregano, sage, cilantro, parsley, chives, early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, milk, eggs, last 2 geese.
Here I am during evening milking. We use a milk machine and milk twice a day, approximately 11-11.5 hours apart.
Mostly still working at using down our stores, but I preserved a couple pounds of butter.
Not much on this front. Mostly, we're in the process of pulling together some orders for the farm, so I should have more to report on the next update.
We've been without our second fridge for a couple months now, and that's going surprisingly well. Our inside fridge is packed, and it can be annoying trying to find things, but the stuff outside in our big cooler is doing quite well. The frozen juice containers keep things nice and cool; the trick is remembering to swap them out. Of course, the garage still stays pretty cool because the nighttime temps are low. I'll let you know how things go in the summer.
Our first round of turkey poults will arrive later this week, so I'll be prepping the brooding equipment for them.
As you know, I've sheared the sheep, and we've taken down the high tunnel plastic.
Big Boy and Maya, our tamworth pigs, are out on their first pasture paddock, which they'll till up over the next month or so. They're so good at rooting and plowing that we use them for tilling new garden beds and for rennovating our pasture. We put them in places that are overrun by weeds or generally not doing well. They till, and then we replant with a pasture mix.
We've also moved Bella and the goaties out on pasture, though Bella is still splitting her time between there and the barnyard, depending how wet the pastures are and how quickly the paddocks recover. The sheep and chickens will go out this weekend, I hope.
No good photos this update. I'll try to be better about it!
CSA delivery to four families: eggs, spring salad mix, escarole, spinach, kale, carrots, radishes, thyme, citrus thyme, tarragon, oregano, chives, green onions, spring garlic, baby cabbage, sorrel.
Julia and I have been learning about breeding bunnies, and we put her Silver Fox rabbits together for the first time on Easter. With any luck we'll have our first litter in about a month.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Monday, April 06, 2009
Okay, now I'm starting to work up a sweat! Time to shed some layers. Esther's not very happy about shedding her extra layers right now, but she will be soon enough.
You can see Esther's neck and head behind my leg. Her fleece is very nearly off by this point, as I work on her last leg:
Two shorn sheep back in with babies and feeling much happier:
And then, there was Candace, who flat out refused to cooperate for a second year in a row. She stayed on her rump about long enough for me to trim her hooves, and then it was a friggin' free for all!
It took both of us some serious wrestling to get her shorn, and I ended up shearing quite a bit with her standing up.
We did finally get her shorn and back out on the winter pasture as we wait to see whether she will lamb or not. She didn't look terribly pregnant to me, but she has another month or so within the realm of possibility.