Monday, May 29, 2006

Helping hooves...

...or how can you do anything without Chappelle?

Here's the completed barn, part 1. It's all set up as Lassie's maternity ward and for storage. Next spring, or this fall even, we'll build another half, mirror-image style, making a big square.

The baby garden is coming along. So far we've picked some greens, but everything else is way too little to even think of eating. There are beets, carrots, bush and pole beans, peas, chard, spinach, onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, zucchini, acorn squash, pumpkins, lettuce, potatoes and corn. We need to make little warm hats (cloches made from milk jugs with the bottoms cut off) for the peppers and the smaller tomoatoes. Spring started off warm, but we've had lots of rain and chill and they could use a little help warming up again.

Here's a rather grumpy household member...the kitty, not the human...enjoying the rainy weather.

Now it's finally clearing up for a bit, and we got a 2nd coat of stain on the barn & mowed some of the yard. I can't imagine mowing the entire place like our neighbors do. What a waste of good grass!

The blackberry patch looks to be setting a million flower buds. Hopefully each one will ripen into a tasty berry, and we'll pick and use them all. Jam, pie, cobbler, and wine.

The ancient apple is taking the year off from producing fruit after the big pruning last fall. But we should be able to pick some of the neighbor's apples and get some from Bellewood Acres orchard. It's funny to look at all these little plant starts and baby trees, and see into the future when they are producing wonderful things for us to eat...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Still life, with tequila...

Since we were out of limes, and we just got a free sample of "True Lime" lime substitute, we thought we'd see if it was a product worth adding to our pantry. It's basically powdered lime oil and citric acid, and it's touted as great for adding to water for flavor and vitamin C.

But it works pretty dang well sprinkled on the back of my hand, with salt, for tequila shots. There is a lemon version too, and I think we'll look for both at the store next shopping trip.

So here we are with a 3 day weekend, and it's raining. It's been pouring most of the week, so we're down to the final barn-building push, rain or shine. We're also waiting for the feed store to deliver a pile of fencing and a gate soon. If not for that, I think we'd run to town for shopping and assorted errands. Oh well...that means 2 or 3 hours working in the rain, then going to town a bit soggy. Fingers crossed for more sun tomorrow...

Monday, May 22, 2006


Our run-in/mini-barn is slowly coming along as you can see for yourself. One of the intrepid builders quafs on a well-deserved break from siding in this photo.
It's about 1/2 stained and we still need to hang trim, and stain that as well. At any rate, there will be a fair amount more quaffing before we can say a final fini!

We are seeing further signs of the various clovers we planted here and there around the place. This luscious patch of Crimson Clover is slowly gaining ground in the home paddock.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


We actually have more siding on than these pics show. Only two more sheets to go...Tomorrow we put on the last bits, and add the trim on the corners and joints and stain it with preservative to match the shed. Then we partition off part of it, one bay for hay and one for Lassie's maternity ward. We'll leave a corner for Chappelle to use while Lassie is "indisposed". Then we fence off a bit of the paddock behind it for Lassie & her babies, so we can keep close eye on them and add chicken wire to the cattle panels so no babies squeeze out the openings.

We also decided to order our baby chickies for June 2nd delivery. Not much time to prep, but

we'll most likely use the goat hut to brood them in. We have a good part of the new coop pre-

built (in sections in the shed) and have all the waterers, feeders, heat lights, etc. ready to go. There's only so long you can wait to have fluffy little day old chicks around...

Oh yeah - we tapped into the nettle beer. Nearly a month old, and not much carbonation, which is odd. We're trying to learn more about herbal brewing and this book, Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers has information and recipes about fermented plant beverages from all kinds of cultures. That's where we got the nettle beer idea. It's bascially an adapted braggot - honey, malt, hops, nettles, yeast and water. Even though the brew is still immature (maybe another 3 weeks in the bottle) we noticed a warm, slightly flushed feeling, and an altered sensation, like colors being sharper and more vivid. Also a bit more energized feeling. Supposedly, the act of fermenting a plant brings it's medicinal qualities out even further, and honey has it's own package of benefits to add. After doing some research into historical brews, we found out that before hops ( a new world plant) were added to beers, hundreds of various herbs were used to add bitter flavors, preservative qualities, or even psychotropic effects. And we also found out that some of the herbs used are common garden weeds, like nettles and ground ivy. Lots of interesting inspiration for future brews, and additions to the herb garden!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Busy signal...

Newt at dusk. On what we had the tree trimmer guy leave of an old native willow that didn't survive one of our many windstorms. The tree had a split trunk, and one half went down in a storm last year. It made a soft landing on the neighbor's apple tree, and was cut up for firewood with no ill effects. We figured the remaining half would come down on the new shed sooner or later, so we called Precision Crane to take it out. They also drastically trimmed our ancient apple tree that looked to have been neglected since the stone age, and trimmed back a fir tree that hung over the driveway. He brought his dad as an assistant, and a huge crane with a lift platform. It was fun to watch everyone do a double take at the goings on that day. Jeff, the tree guy, was us on the lift with a chainsaw, trimming trees, and his dad was on the ground with another saw, making smaller bits. We stacked all the salvageable wood and piled the rest to burn. We saved the apple wood in hopes of having meat to smoke with it later (we're researching heritage pig breeds now). The apple tree set leaves a plenty, and a fair amount of blossoms, but the blossoms didn't take. Hopefully the tree is just catching up from it's drastic trim and will set fruit next year. Either way, the tree was in such bad shape we had to risk it. Kind of a bummer that we'll have to buy apples or use the neighbor's to make cider this fall, but our baby fruit trees will be ready to go soon.

Tomorrow is barn siding day. we brought home 4 x 8 sheets of heavy T1-11 siding on the top of Pearl, the 99 Outback farm wagon. That car has hauled everything from 12 foot lumber to goats to horse manure to hay. What a trooper!

We're also experimenting with mowing the front paddock with a grass scythe. Amazingly satisfying and hopefully a source of loose hay for the critters. We'll post more on scything later, but it's just really cool to be out mowing like our ancestors, no noisy engines, no chemicals, just a blade and some lovely hay for the goaties. We're also learning a lot about making hay without modern technology, all the way from what seed to plant to how to make haystacks. When you only have a tiny pasture to work with, you can concentrate a lot of effort learning how to get the best from it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The roof and shingles...

Here's the roof of our small barn partially shingled this past Thursday eve.

We had mom's day early yesterday, spent it with one mum and a sister in Everett. Before we left in the AM though, I the finished shingling. Except where my OCD-self might want a few more nails on the final row. At this point though, she's water and wind tight!

My partner in all things farmy, finished digging one of our two corn patches, also before we left, breaking sod all by hand and turning soil until fluffy. Sure we could get a tiller and do it in 5 minutes, but it's nice to break a sweat as well as get up close and personal to land and soil.

Next on the barn is the siding, then painting, and last is some stall setup before the goats get access. We need a kidding area for lassie who is more pregnant looking by the minute. Obviously she took and we'll be expecting babies in early to mid-June. And we need to ensure security of our hay and grains, which we will also be storing in the mini-barn. Goats are both clever AND persistent when they want something. Miscreants!

We've been discussing how to best collect and store rain water for our garden. Right now we use some collected water in small barrels, but we're not storing near enough yet for it to really last a rain free spell. We'll be picking up, "Water Storage Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds", from the library for further research. Underground cistern, or above? And how best to devise a filter system. Some very clever ideas out there. Be lovely to water completely with rain water some day. I am sure the aquifer here abouts would appreciate that.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Busy days

Here we have the face that launched just one barn. Lassie is very pregnant and due anytime from June 8th on. So that is our deadline to finish part one of our little pole barn.

You can see the roof is up, and has tar paper on. The shingling starts today, then the siding goes up. A coat of stain and some interior partitioning, and it's good to go. Hay will go one one side, critters on the other.

Next spring we'll build another half, kind of a mirror image, so it's a 16 x 16ft square. But for the two goats, it's a palace. The hens have been enjoying it in the meantime though. And averaging 2 eggs a day! Once in a while they take a day off, but we all need a break some time.

Planting has been going like crazy too. In fact, the only thing left to get in the ground is corn. We'll add a few more punkins around the corn patch, and then start digging a space for herbs. The ones in the greenhouse are mad, cramped roots in those little starter flats, and too warm in there now. So instead of potting them up for later, hopefully we can just move them to their permanent place next week. We planted 2 nice elderberries, and the hops are starting to hop as well.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Next up on Seven Trees' wish list...

This photo is from Silver Maple Dexters

These cows are an ancient Irish breed, and the smallest cow aside from miniatures recently "created" from cows carrying dwarfism genes. They are still hefty critters, with cows averaging 750lbs. But they stand about 42" and are easier on pasture. They can be milked or used for meat or draft, but we're hoping to find a female that we can have artificially inseminated to a mini-Jersey bull. The mini-Jerseys are really lovely, but very expensive and rare. No one is selling their female calves, but AI is a cheaper alternative and the mixed breed babies are in almost as much demand as the purebreds.

In any case, now that we're hooked on fresh raw cows milk, having our own source would be nice.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Beltane Eve 2006

Here we are, celebrating what many cultures considered the first day of summer. More about Beltane here-

We also had a big pile of apple and fir branches left over from trimming last fall that needed to be burned. We spent the day working on the critter barn, you can see in the background, and spent the evening burning stuff and drinking homebrew. Fergus the Wonder Corgi loves to chase sparks, but doesn't like getting his mouth burned when he catches them. We had a blast just eating hotdogs and chips & salsa and waving to all the neighbors going by. The next morning, there was still a huge log that flamed up when the breeze picked up.

We got a pile of free roof sheathing from a neighbor who tore down a shed. Another neighor acutally carted it all back to his place because we were too busy to go glean the pickings. So we walked over, loaded his truck, and he brought enough over to roof the barn, and probably do the inside walss of the chicken coop. Naturally we paid in neighborhood barter tokens (beer & conversation).

The past few days have been all about gardening. Planting, weeding, fertilizing...And keeping the dogs out of the freshly fish-fertilized areas! If we had to rely on our bitty raised beds for food, we'd have had to shoot the dogs for sustenance after their trampling raid on the beds.