Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring is springing!

Newt says: "This darn pink monkey can't even properly trim the grass without me constantly riding her ass! With a workload like this, is it any wonder I sleep 19 hours a day?!"

Now for something completely different - apples! We finally spotted some early produce cheap enough to give the dehydrator a trial run. These granny smiths were soaked in an ascorbic acid & water solution for a few minutes to prevent browning. I think they should soak a bit longer next time, since they did turn color a bit. But that's why we're experimenting before we bet a whole season's harvest on this one gadget.

Today we seeded paddock two and used our fancy one-ma'am harrow to rake the seeds in (a rake). We decided to toss in some leftover veggie and sprouting seeds. The mix included - Alice White & Cinnamon Red clovers, 7-way pasture mix (from the feed store), barley, broccoli & alfala & radish sprouting seeds, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, beans, zucchini, pumpkin, tomato, peppers & carrots rounded out the veggie selection. Most of these won't make it to maturity. In fact, we'll have to chop the squashes before they flower to keep them from crossing with our garden choices. It will be fun to see what comes up and who eats what.

More big news - looks like Lassie & Berry are going to new homes next week. We decided we really need to work with Stella and it's nearly impossible with the goats around. So they're going to a home with people who want more fleece goats.

Speaking of Stella - she's got a date lined up June 1st with a handsome lad named Bob. He's going to come up here for a 45-day visit, hopefully leaving Stella....with child! Bob's owner has also mentioned another, younger, bull possibly for sale, so we're going to see how Bob works out and decide if we can handle 24/7 bull at Seven Trees.

Here's Bob as a baby. He's actually 10 days older than Stella and comes from excellent milking lines as well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another rainy day!

Here are a few pics of Seven Trees' goings-on, or lack thereof. We're still on the garden-prep trip. Lots of digging, compost mixing, seeding, watering. Except for today. It finally rained.
Here's the crew on a grazing field trip, courtesy of the new ElectroNet fencing. It's a mesh with little stick-in fiberglass posts that is connected to the main hotwire. This way we can let them get to areas that aren't perimeter fenced yet. When I went in to close it up for the night they all had gigantic grass-bellies!

A wonderful new tool for the mead-making part of our "brewery" - a floor corker. There is a doohickey that compresses the corks right as another doohickey pokes the cork into the bottle. With this we can use a better quality cork, which is important for meads which are usually cellared for a long time. Oh yeah...that's heather mead getting corked. A really sweet mead, with a gallon of honey in a 5 gallon carboy. I added dried heather flowers and plant tips for a historical recipe with medicinal qualities.

And Crichton the sleeping wonder cat! According to our calculations, he manages about 19 hours of sleep indoors, with an unknown amount outside. It's a hard life!

Friday, April 20, 2007

April frost brings....?

Mark is demonstrating his poise and elegance - sitting and politely clasping talons, with nary a naughty nip.

Here's the garden so far. There are a few teeny starts that don't show up well...lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes. And lots & lots of seeds just starting to peek up from the dirt. The big bare patch in the foreground is the future home of potatoes, corn, cukes, beans & amaranth, but it's not quite time to plant them yet.

We had a frost this morning. Nothing too terrible, but a reminder that it's not quite summer yet. I was so tempted to plant the beans this week, but I guess Nature (and common sense) would rather I wait til the traditional May 1st - Beltaine - planting date. Oh well...

We've been getting good results from our electro-net moveable fencing. It lets the critters graze areas that aren't permanently fenced yet, and allows us to limit them to certain areas of the pastures so they don't eat down to bare dirt. But there are still places where we don't want them free-ranging, so we're using "green chop". This means we cut taller grass and brush with the scythe and tote it to the barnyard with the wheelbarrow. They treat it like a salad bar and seem to enjoy the delivery service. It's a cool way to keep the field edges looking nice and the critters fed, all at once.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stella goes camping

We decided it was very silly to mow a rapidly overgrowing dog paddock when we have a perfectly good cow on the place. And Princess Stubborn is getting better about being handled. So we manage to clip a lead to her collar and lure her into the paddock (with liberal applications of treats of course).

Naturally, when it was time for one of us to leave for work, catching her again was impossible. So Stella is spending the night in the dog run.

She seems a bit bored with the whole thing now, and wants back in to her barn. But I can't handle her alone, so she's SOL. I did manage to clip the lead back on, and she ran around throwing a hissy fit about it. Unfortunately, I can't leave it on her, because she could get her feet or horns caught up in it and really hurt herself. So once she calmed down and started snacking on hay, I started doling out apple slices. She let me grab her collar and unclip the lead without too many histrionics, which bodes well for our recapture attempt tomorrow. I'm also hoping she is so thoroughly bored, and tired of not having a barn to rest in, that she'll get with the program and let us lead her back to the barnyard in a jiffy.

It was hilarious to see her drink out of the dog's water bowl (which I missed getting a picture of) but I drew the line at her snuffling around the hooves and beef rib they left behind. I took them out and she made the "smell face" like critters do.

Now she's alternating between checking the gate, lying down, and staring at the goats & the house. She has such a grass belly! Hopefully she'll just sleep when it gets dark and not set up a hollering commotion. And hopefully it doesn't rain on her, though maybe it would help get the point across that she should let the annoying pink monkeys lead her around sometimes...

Monday, April 16, 2007

How long are you chicks in for?

Maximum security chicken prison. Time in the "yard".
If you can't do the time, then don't do the crime. Hard-cases, everyone of 'em.
Here are the little buggers, FINALLY venturing outside, even though you pretty much have to poke them with sticks to get them out of their comfy, heated digs. They are feathering out nicely and starting to resemble grown-up chickens. Soon the electricity gets cut off.

Stella actually got in the way and mugged while I took pictures of the chicks, until she got her picture taken. I guess she was going for that hill-billy, old timey grass stem in the mouth look, and wanted it noted for posterity.

You may, or may not recall the Speckled Sussex chickens that took the long ride to the butchers, and came home dressed out and frozen. But here's some home canned stock made with one of the more decent sized birds... probably one of the roosters. It's got to be some of the best stock we've made or tasted. While the birds aren't exactly broilers, they sure make some good soup!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

River walk - North Fork Nooksack

This sounds rather ominous!

It turned out to be an unexpectedly warm day, and who could resist exploring such lovely scenery?

During attempted stick-retrieval, Stewart demonstrates outstanding amateur cannonball technique while Fergus watches in amazement.

After sinking to the bottom of the swimming hole, Stew manages to bob up and dog-paddle to shore for a good soggy shake-dry.

We drove just under 2 miles past the Glacier ranger station, and parked at the trailhead for Horseshoe Bend, on the North Fork Nooksack river. It's a great hike for any weather, but really stunning on a sunny day. We stopped on the way back to pick up growler (aka a 1/2 gallon 'take out' jug) of tasty, fresh-brewed IPA from the North Fork Brewery . They also have great food in a unique setting, but the dogs were pooped, so we headed home. Another wonderful day in Whatcom County!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Flying the coop!

The little peepers now have outside access. They love it when the weather is nice, but a rainy day keeps them parked at the coop door, peeking out. They even figured out how to get themselves back in at night without help!

I was so busy watching the chickies, I didn't notice Stella sneaking up to say howdy. She managed to lick my cheek with a nice grassy tongue before backing away to peek at the chickies too.

Here's the nosy heifer! She loved looking at the babies while they were in the coop, peeking over our shoulders while we fed them. Now she can chew her cud and enjoy the peep show all day.

We bottled our pale ale today, and had the first steamed nettles of the season. We also ran the electro net fencing so the critters could access so fresh grass. Still plenty of gardening going on, plus ever more projects being dreamed up for later this year.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Shear madness!

Here's the wonder goat boy, posing as usual for the camera. Little did he know we had found a shearer near by...

Poor baby! You can just make out his head at the far right, in a headlock. Lassie was sheared first and set up an impressive caterwauling. Berry, being more spoiled, just yelled for "Maaaaa! Maaaaa!"

Here they are trying to prove their identities with no hair and no dignity. Lassie & Berry spent most of the day chasing each other around, fighting and sniffing.

And here's the fleece. Lassie's isn't very good, but we'll see if we can process it into something spinnable. But Berry's feels like a warm cloud. It is almost weightless and with hardly any guard hairs. Now we send a sample off to the Pygora registry and they do a micron test to assign it a category based on fineness. Then he'll be fully registered. If he is a class C fleece, it is legally saleable as cashmere. Pretty special for such a demon child.

Lots more pics and news to come. We tilled more garden, let the baby chickies out, and Stella licked my cheek! Stay tuned for updates...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Weather permitting" is our springtime motto!

We just bottled the Irish Red. By bottling time, a 5 gallon recipe yields just over 4 gallons. But it tastes great so far. Now we wait 4 weeks to let it carbonate. We also moved the pale ale to a secondary carboy. It's modelled after Sierra Nevada pale ale and has a great hoppy bite to it. Should be a refreshing summer beer.

Here's Mark, doing the wave. Amazingly enough, there are no bite wounds on his human 'perch'!.

The usual Seven Trees dogpile, with Stew performing a double-twist with drool manuever. Such talent!

Here are a couple of beers we taste-tested recently. One is German and the other Czech. The German beer had a person riding a bull or cow on the label, so we knew it would be good - fruity, lighter than our usual fare, but nice. The other beer, a Baltika lager, was bold with a lot of body and residual sweetness. It packed a wallop with 8% alcohol. Baltika makes a number of beers, number being the key word - each one has a big number on the label. As you can see, we tried Lager #9. Another interesting taste, but neither one is a replacement for our favorites.

In the garden so far - the experiment with starting seeds in coir pots and tenting them with clear plastic in the greenhouse hasn't yielded much yet. Tomatoes and peppers should be just germinating, but maybe the colder weather has slowed them down. I planted another round today, in potting soil in 6" pots for insurance. The main garden in coming along. We've got carrots, lettuce and beets in the ground so far, and spinach, onions, kale & chard will go in as we get the soil worked. The weather has been so mixed, it's hard to decide when to work up the seed beds. We're succession planting, so in a week or so, I'll plant more of everything. Hopefully we'll have a longer harvest season this way. The seed potatoes and asparagus crowns arrive this month, so there's more garden space that needs working ASAP. Good workouts though...