Saturday, April 29, 2006

Just kidding!

This afternoon we got rained out of our barn building, so we headed out to to get our fix of raw cows milk. When we walked up to the office door, a sign said "I'm in the kidding barn", so that's where we went. Just so happens a doe had babies shortly before we got there, and they were still being dried off & settled. While we stood there watching, another doe kidded, and we were drafted to help. One of us got the doe baby and the other got the buckling, and we sat them in our laps and started drying them off so they could go in the baby pen under the heat lamp. They still had their umbilical cords hanging on, and couldn't stand yet. Mom's colostrum got milked out so they could be bottle fed, and mom returned to the milking herd. Then we got our milk and learned a whole lot about why milk is pasteurized (poopy, crowded, indoor-only, cheap industrial daires). Well worth $3.99 a quart for creamy fresh milk from happy pastured cows.

It was still raining buckets when we got home, but the neighbor's trailer was still parked under our trees, waiting for us to unload the pile of mill ends he brought over for us to use as kindling. So we got soaked and covered in sawdust, but now we've got nice hot wood to burn, and the trailer is cleared out to go back across the road.

Naturally it's starting to dry up a bit, but we've declared it beer:30 so more chores will wait til tomorrow. And the next day...and the next day....

Friday, April 28, 2006

Before & during...

The top photo is from the original realtor's listing site. The bottom one was taken last week. You can click on it to enlarge it.

We're getting can see the greenhouse, fencing, coop, goat hut, and so on. Also the lack of invasive locust trees is a happy sight. And you can see the 7 huge douglas fir trees that inspired the name of our place. They would have been immensely taller but for the Columbus Day storm of 1962, that knocked the tops off them, and many other trees in the area. The regrowth is pretty impressive, but not as strong as we'd like, given the windstorms that blow through.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Mark - The Evil Parrot

Here's Mark, the nearly 15 year old Quaker parrot. He's been a family member since he was about a year old, and gets crankier with every birthday. He enjoyed watching the Parrots of Telegraph Hill with us the other night. We put him on his little travel stand with a snack, and he hung out and groomed his feathers while he watched.

Earlier, after I made sure his wings were trimmed so he couldn't get spooked and fly off, he went out to enjoy some sun. He loves climbing around in trees, as long as a human is close by. There are plenty of hawks and kitties that would like to make a snack out of Mark. In the top picture, he's waving to the camera. What a ham!

I took him over to say hi to Chappelle, but as you can see, he's not too thrilled with goats.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Well if you look carefully, you can see 3 morel mushrooms that popped up in the front yard, on the edge of the berry patch. They must have been there a while, since they're too dry to eat, and they've been nibbled on. But that bodes well for more next season, or maybe just across the road in the woods.

And you can see our poultry solar collectors - the hens lay as flat as they can on the ground, spread a wing out, and soak up the sun. They are great job site inspectors too! Always checking each shovel of dirt for tasty bugs and worms.

The "barn" is coming along nicely. It's actually what's called a run-in shelter, but next spring we'll put another half on it, and it will look like a garage or large shed. Not a barn in the sense of having a barn-type roof, but in that it's a building for keeping critters and hay out of the weather. Then the goat hut can go into semi-retirement as a dog house.

Lovely weather today...seeds are sprouting all over, and the hop rhizomes just went in the ground.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Real Raw Milk

We have a new vice. It's raw cows milk that comes from Grace Harbor Farms, on Birch Bay Lynden Road, not too far from us in a small town called Custer. In the picture is one of their girls "Rainbow", and you can read more about her, a Guernsey cow as well as how she came to Grace Harbor HERE

Grace Harbor is already renowned for their raw goat milk, goat cheese and natural soaps, lotions and skin care products, but this past November they have, much to our delight, added raw cow milk.

Not to go on another food related tangent, but raw milk is silky cream on the pallet with a hint of sweetness. Delightful! In addition to being an outstanding source of nutrients including beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidolphilus, vitamins and enzmes, and one the finest source of calcium available; it just tastes lovely!

If you get the opportunity to buy some at their dairy or a local Bellingham store, like the coop downtown, do so, and I bet that you'll keep coming back for more just like we did. However, if you make time to go to the dairy direct during business hours, you'll likely see their now three, Guernsey cows, peacefully grazing in the pasture, happy and healthy.

Everyday I thank providence for bringing us to such a bountiful place as Bellingham. It truly is the land of milk and honey!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thar she blows!

This batch of brew woke up about 5 minutes after pitching the yeast. Some time in the night it decided step out for a little fresh air. It is still geysering foam at a steady rate this morning.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Big brew-ha-ha

Tonight we're cooking up a batch of nettle braggot. Water, malted barley, malt extract, hops, honey, and a pile of nettles picked yesterday. Hopefully we'll end up with a tasty, medicinal beverage in about 6 weeks. It's cooling now, getting ready to be strained into the carboy so we can add the yeast (Wyeast British Ale). Then it sits and bubbles for a few days and we transfer it into another carboy to leave most of the sediment behind. About a week after that, we add a little priming sugar (so it ferments enough in the bottles to carbonate it) and then we bottle. Hopefully we can refrain from drinking so many tasters that we end up with none left by the time it's just right....

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Next up: Project #187 of 589,934

Late-breaking update.....

So much for adding pictures. For some reason, the camera only kept one of this morning's pictures. Hopefully it was because the batteries were low, not from me dropping it a few days ago!

So the pic is of the goat hut moved forward, after we worked a bit harder than planned to detach the patio. You can see Lassie's ass as she looks inside to see if we finally installed hot & cold running water. You can also see the huge mound of hay that accumulated in it over the winter. The idea with letting it stack up in a small area is that the bottom layers start to compost and generate heat for the critters laying on top. If you keep freshening it with more bedding when you notice it getting a little funky, it really doesn't smell bad. Mostly like hay. But once we broke up the pile to rake it out of the way...hoo mama!! The temp fencing is up and the big red hens were holding a grudge about not being able to lay in the hut. But by the time we went to town for groceries (and the best Mexican food north of Mexico), they had laid 2 eggs in their nest boxes.

We pounded in some stakes about where the barn will go, and tomorrow it's time to get mathematical on it, with string and square and level and such. A little more planting too, and nettle picking. We got the ingredients for nettle braggot, and brought the brew store guy the next-to-the-last bottle of plain braggot. I can't wait to get another carboy bubbling!


Well.....yesterday was a complete downpour, so no outside work at all. Today dawned (if you can call it that) dank, gray, and threatening rain. But as I peeled my not-quite-hungover eyes open, it looked brighter than usual. Also conspicuous was the lack of raindrops hitting the window. SO much for sleeping in and goofing off. Of course the cat-trample wake-up-and-feed-me-breakfast from Newt didn't help either.

So....we're booting up, the old fashioned way, with rubber knee-highs, and heading out to the home paddock. First we'll walk the goat hut forward out of the way of the building site. That will involve crawling inside with a screw gun to detach the patio roof. Then we'll fence off a good part of it with cattle panel so the naughty little pests (goats) can't do surprise site insepctions while the posts and such are setting up. We also need to run the panels so the chickens can't go where the goat hut is. They've taken to laying in it, and Chappelle has discovered that eggs are fun to play with. We've lost 4 to his antics so far.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Feeling a bit Nettled...

Sunday after my work, we had visitors from points south, then dinner out at a delicious Thai restaurant "Pad Thai", known for using many fresh, locally produced ingredients. I had a scrumptious 3 star Pad Thai with chicken, and everyone else seemed equally satisfied. Our friends were just passing through as it were, so it was a short visit, but fun none the less. Thanks again for dinner you two. Payback means steak, so don't forget!

Afterwards we had some daylight left as well as a break in the rain, so we hurried home to get a little work done on the cross paddock fence.
As you can see all the T-posts are slammed-in and I am doing the last fence attachment at dusk. Lassie and Chapelle happily tested the new fodder, raced up and down a few times, and seemed to really enjoy the added space for frolicking!

Did some experimenting with how the bracing on these fence runs are put together . They gave a smidge, nothing terrible, but I am definitely keeping my eye on them. That OCB of mine just won't let me do otherwise.

We also found a few minutes to harvest some more Nettles for eating and drying. They come up abundantly in several spots on our place.

This picture is of some just picked plants layed out to dry.

Nettles are rich in chlorophyll and young nettle shoots before flowering, once cooked, are not only edible but are an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and minerals, especially silica. The plant is also very high in iron and a full 10 percent protein. Nettles have been in use since the bronze age as a spring tonic and restorative. The dried leaves can be added to tea and are helpful as an expectorant, hay-fever cure, respiratory aid, and improve skin complextion and make your hair brighter. Truly amazing!

In this picture the plants are now washed and tied up in bunches by the wood stove for further drying.

We like the fresh plants steamed and then tossed with butter, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add a sprinkle of apple cider vinegar on top of mine as well. The dried form is great crumbled in soups or stews or add it to a cup of herbal tea.

Be sure to wear gloves when harvesting or you'll discover first hand why the are called "Stinging" Nettles!

More on Stinging Nettles HERE

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cross-fencing extravaganza!

Here's some lovely shots of fencing in progress. About 1/2 the place is pasture, and the idea is to fence it down into 5 paddocks. This way, we can let goats (and maybe a Dexter cow next spring) into them to control the growth rate and keep areas ready for grazing longer. Most critters left on a big pasture will pick & choose their favorite plants, trample and poop/pee on the rest until nothing is fit for eating. Then you have a whole season with useless pasture and hungry critters. And you have to buy more hay. With rotational (or management-intensive) grazing, you put just enough critters in just enough space, that they have to eat what's on their plate. Then when the grass is down to 3-4 inches, you move them to the next paddock. If you can figure out the right combination, you have nice grazing for most of the year, and only need to mow a couple times to clean up. The animals spread their own fertilizer too. And letting the chickens graze with them helps keeps the parasite problems down.

We seeded 2 kinds of hybrid clover in with the exisiting timothy and other grasses. Hopefully they will pull nitrogen up to refresh the grasses, as well as provide protein for the critters, and be good for hay if we keep the goats out of a paddock until cutting time.

Lots of experimenting, but if we're lucky, we can keep a few grazers happy with less expense and better nutrition. And that means milk, fiber, meat, eggs, etc. all for the price and labor of fencing.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

If only people got along so well...

A shot of domestic bliss this AM. Luna the dog and Crichton the kitty hanging out together on the back deck.

Luna showed up scared, skinny and smelling of skunk at my old place in Eastern Washington back in 1999. Initially I thought she might belong to someone else and gone wandering, so I did not feed her or encourage her to stay. After a call of surrounding neighbors though it was obvious that someone had dumped or abandoned Luna. I ended up letting her stay, despite my initial reservations about adopting a stray dog of dubious origins. She is probably about 8 years old at this point, and doing quite well for her age, despite some back issues owing to her large size. Luna excels at finding smelly things to roll in, and hiding from the scary UPS driver!

This other curled-up hard case is Crichton, or “Commander John Crichton” as he was so loftily named going on 5 years ago now. (Back when I was a big Farscape fan. Poor cat.) Crichton was found as a kitten, all skin and bones and close to death on the edge of Swiss Valley Road by my mom as she was driving home one day. Mom dropped him off with me, and with some good food, vet care, and TLC, he perked right up... never looked back. Neither have I as he has become a lovely feline, albeit a bit wary of strangers, preferring to hide from anyone he doesn’t know. From a young age he’s been a primo slayer of the gophers at our stead as well as a wonderful companion outdoors. No matter what the task, he follows along and flops down, generally wherever he best interferes with whatever chore I am at. Crichton also has me trained to feed him on demand (fancy feast in only small fine porcelain serving dishes), let him in or out whenever requested to by meows or ankle swipes (despite a cat door he chooses to ignore), and to generally fret about him neurotically whenever I am not sure where he is. It's all good.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

So close......

One of our nice neighbors called to see if we liked, duh!!! So she gave me a big bag they had picked across the street in the woods. They looked a bit different, but smelled yummy. Visions of fritatta (with fresh eggs from the gals) were dancing in our heads....

As the butter was heating in the pan, I decided to double check the mushrooms' provenance online. Lo and behold! if we didn't have a fat juicy bag of false morels. Poisonous unless cooked, and even then, some folks have a bad reaction. Not sure if the neighbors have been picking these all along & just not sensitive to them. Or maybe there are true morels in those woods too. In which case, we'd best hightail it over there while the picking is good.

On the home front....peas are sprouting, crossfencing is well underway (goats should have a new paddock Saturday), and I think we have a workable design for our herb beds up front.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mad dog!

Here's Fergus the mad Corgi, demonstrating his boxing skills and foot fetish. He actually "talks" to feet while he's enjoying them. Definitely a dog with amazing powers of concentration, as long as it's a ball or human foot involved. He's learned to back up on command, which is funny to watch, since he kind of does a reverse otter-type maneuver. Fergus also knows some hand signals for sit, down, wait, possum (rolling over onto his back), and go get the ball. We're working on getting him to remember to look at us for direction, since sometimes he gets caught up watching the ball and forgets to look & see what we're signalling him to do. I can really see how Corgis would be good herding dogs, with good training.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

To market, to market, jigetty jig!

A lovely Cascadia kind of day for the big farmer's market opener. The rain wasn't keeping people from showing up, but it did seem to take longer to get going. It's fun to go in mid-season when all the vendors are there, and booths are full of produce and crafts and plants. It's fun to go back after a winter hiatus and see familiar faces, buy yummies we've been looking forward to for months. Today we got some dark fireweed honey that will go into my latest brewing experiment, and a bunch of fresh-picked nettles we'll steam tonight and top with butter, salt & pepper. Also some beautiful green onions, some dog cookies from our former landlords' bakery, and a big bag of kettle corn.

We also scoped out the outdoor furniture set we need for under the firs. This nice older guy makes really attractive stuff from recycled wood. Last year we got a storage bench from him made from old fenceboards. He planes the wood and gives it a light finish and it's just well-made and nice to look at. The set we saw today is new cedar fenceboards, made into a modified Adirondack style. There is a settee, coffee table, 2 arm chairs and a side table, all for $250! He also makes pieces out of salvaged hardwood pallets. He said lots of shipments come in on mahogany, oak and other hardwoods that just need some TLC before looking like furniture-grade wood. There goes the bank account!

Too rainy for outdoor work today, but that didn't stop one of the hens from laying another nice egg in the coop. I can't wait to build them new nest boxes that they like well enough to use. Right now they lay on the coop floor, in the goat hut, and a nest box.

The hummingbirds are in full pig out mode. I put a 2nd feeder up front, but it wasn't very popular last year. Maybe they don't like the big flowers painted on it, or maybe the east side of the house just isn't the "cool" place to hang out....oh well.