Saturday, May 26, 2007

Three-day weekend

One rafter girt up. Another one will go on the backside of the posts after the rafters are fastened down.
Here are most of the rafters up, but still needing their lower ends tied down with the metal hurricane ties.

The garden is coming along nicely. Except for the amaranth. So far, not one seed has sprouted, so it looks like we'll try our mangel beets here later this summer. We've been able to harvest lettuce and spinach and some beet thinnings.

And of course, Newt being cute. She just had to jump on top of the barrow full of Stella's green chop.

Stella is learning to back up on voice and hand command. Next up is learning to walk forward on command, which is easier to teach with copious treats. Toshi is taking to his role as man of the flock quite well. He scouts out choice bits of grain and bugs for the ladies and calls them over to partake. He also makes sure everyone gets to bed on time. His occasional attempts at mating have so far not met with success, but he's still young.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Japanese Bantam

This black chicken is "Toshiro"our new rooster. Some folks in Bellingham had a few too many roosters for town, and he needed a new home. He is named after Toshiro Mifune one of my favorite Japanese actors, and is a Japanese Bantam chicken. Bantam's are a miniature chicken breed, so we are hoping the smaller size means he will be less rough on our hens. The old Speckled Sussex roosters were plain mean to them!

Can you see the resemblence to the actor?

As soon as I turned him in with them, the older hens ran over, and they've all been getting acquainted. He's been sweetly pecking out tiny morsles of feed for the gals and offering them to the hens, between flapping displays and feather fluffing. They keep crowding around him like it's the prom... I think he's a hit!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Barn-up, part 2

After setting batter boards and making sure everything was nice & square, it's time to dig the 3ft deep post holes.

Naturally, one post needed to go next to a giant old black locust stump. Lots of roots to chop through to get to the bottom.

Cleaning up the jobsite for the day. Three posts set and waiting for the concrete to dry before backfilling with dirt. Check out the handy dandy livestock-exclusion fence. Critters are very helpful with dumping out nails, chewing hammers, and general inspection work. The next step will be the rafter girts, that support the rafters. Since the slope on this side will be a bit less than the other, we're doing 12" centers. The upper ends will tie into the existing rafter girt with hurricane-strength joist hangers. We get snow and wind here, so we need to build everything heavy duty as possible.

Last, but far from least, Newt decided to be cute in the lawn furniture I stacked in hte drive so I could mow. A perfect vantage for spying on Crichton and lording over the canines.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Now & then - chickie style

Here's Peeps and PoopButt when they lived in the bathroom. Peeps was doing poorly and we brought Poops in to keep her company. They got fed gatorade and yogurt along with chick starter.

Here they are now, 2 months later. Peeps is the one on the left, Poops on the right. She's as big as everyone else, and twice as scrappy. They are both nice little pullets, and they work hard everyday looking for bugs and taking dust baths.

So how big is Stewart anyway? We tried holding the yardstick up to measure, but apparently that is classified information! He got to meet a very nice lady Newfoundland today, and what did our big brave boy do? He hid. Very very scary to encounter another dog bigger than oneself. They had fun & shared a rawhide bone, played in the yard, etc. But in the end, Stew is more comfortable hanging out with Fergus, the easily dominated dwarf. Oh well...

We've reached the conclusion that Seven Trees can't really support 2 grazing critters. As nice as our grass is, it just isn't enough acreage. Stella could probably do fine until the rainy season, but Stella and Bob the bull, or Stella and her weaned calf, will need a good amount of hay put up for the year. Good thing we're building more storage space for hay, and learning how to manage the grazing we do have. We're thinking to try overseeding with timothy grass next. It was already growing here when we moved in, and seems to do better every year, with a little attention.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Racehorse Falls!

We took a quick trip to Racehorse Falls yesterday, after reading about it in our Whatcom County hiking book. The trailhead is about 20 minutes from here, but the trail itself takes some scrambling. A few trees have come down near the falls that were a bit of a challenge, and the dogs couldn't get to the swimming hole with us.

Where's Fergus?? The short-legged little gnome does pretty good finding his way over and under the various obstacles.

Both boys, taking a break from the hard slog. They had a blast being off-leash and jumping in mud while running back & forth to check on us.

Looking back from the falls. Check out the downed-tree debris!

Here's Stew the water-dog. He couldn't jump in the swimming hole at the falls, so he found a spot lower down to practice his deep-water stick-fetching skills.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...We're starting to get the itch for building, so stay tuned for barn-building updates this month. The pole beans and corn are starting to peek up. No sign of potatoes yet, except for the ones Newt digs up while looking for a nice potty spot! We picked out the colors for the house exterior, and will probably paint the barn first to see how it looks. The baby chickies have finally been approved for barnyard access, but still end up spending most of their time in the coop. We've also been looking ahead to fall when we can plant more trees & shrubs. The plan is to continue with the modified permaculture plan - edible, low-maintenance plants that will also look nice and add some screening & cooling to the house/yard.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lassie & Berry have a new home

Here they are, meeting & greeting their new pals.

28 llamas are little intimidating, but lots of pygora friends to play with. They are on a farm on Whidbey Island where they will join the fiber-production business.
Meanwhile, at Seven Trees, the battle has begun - keeping Newt & Crichton from using the tater patch as a toilet. Ugh!!!
Nettle season is just about over. We didn't get as many as last year, probably due to all the changes we've made to the micro-climate. Next season we'll probably harvest some from the woods across the road. Garden activity has changed over from planting to watering & weeding, and a few lettuce plants are getting close to pickability. The ancient apple tree we cut back so hard has a ton of blossoms, but it's too early to tell how many of them are setting fruit. And we need to get a couple of pear trees before it's too late to plant them.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Chickies moving day!

Here's a charming little bungalow - complete with mowable roof! What a lovely example of a northwest microclimate.

The babies huddled under the coop, after being moved to the big house.

Not so scary after all. They seem to all be getting along fine. The older hens hassle them just enough to stay on top of the pecking order.

Check out this mutant dandelion!!! That entire cluster is all one plant. A giant stem & flower at the center, and a whole bunch of separate flowers, from a single giant root. I don't think Roundup is 'ready' for this one.

Lassie & Berry went to new homes today with a nice couple who have other pygoras and 28 llamas. We realize if Stella is going to be our milk cow, we need to be able to work with her without the goats 'butting in'. It's amazing how much calmer the vibe is already. Stella didn't like seeing her goats bundled off in a minivan, but once I opened a fresh paddock for grazing, she settled down to serious eating.

The garden is just about all seeded. A few more carrots and kale to plant later this season for fall/winter harvest. And I ordered seeds for a fodder beet called red mangel -
The famous Red Mangel French Heirloom also known as "Mangel Wurzel" in Germany
and Northern Europe. Known in the U.S. at times as a forage beet for cattle and
sheep, but has an excellant flavor if picked smaller and young. Can grow as
large as 15-20 lbs. Cooked, the texture is that of tender beets, but the flavor
is more potato-like, with a delightful touch of sweetness. If you find ordinary
beets too strong, try this kind.

I even found a recipe for mangel beer!

Mangel-wurzel beer. For a ten-gallon cask, boil in fourteen gallons of water sixty pounds of mangel-wurzel, which has been well washed and sliced across, putting some kind of weight on the roots to keep them under water; having boiled an hour and a half, they may be taken out, well broken, and all the liquor pressed from the roots; put it, and that in which they were boiled, on again to boil, with four ounces of hops; let them boil about an hour and a half, then cool the liquor, as quickly as possible, to 70 degrees Farenheit; strain it through a thick cloth laid over a sieve or drainer; put it into the vat with about six ounces of yeast, stir it well, cover it, and let it stand twenty four hours; if the yeast has then well-risen, skim it off, and barrel the beer, keeping back the thick sediment. While the fermentation goes on in the cask, it may be filled up with the beer left over, or any other kind at hand; when the fermentation ceases, which may be in two or three days, the cask must be bunged up, and in a few days more, the beer may be used from the cask, or bottled. The smaller proportions are here given to suit the convenience of the humblest labourer; but the beer will be better made in larger quantities; and its strength may be increased by adding a larger proportion of mangel-wurzel. By this receipt, good table-beer will be obtained.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gardening marathon has begun

Name the object?
I found this convex metal disk in the garden dirt. Around the rim it says "DRIVERS PERMIT" "Bellingham, Wash." In the center is a number 3. The back looks like it could possibly have had something soldered to it, maybe a pin clasp.

Potatoes! These are Reddales, a productive long storing red tater. We planted 2 rows of these and 4 rows of a high-protein russet named Butte. While I was digging in last year's potato patch I found 4 Ozette fingerlings, buries too deep to sprout. We roasted them with salt, pepper & olive oil and they tasted wonderful!

Raw materials - hay that makes manure (notice the diligent stablema'am) and the manure makes food. A nice little system. We ran short of hay and got tired of running to the feed store every few days, so we bit the bullet and had 15 bales of 2006 hay delivered. That and our greening-up pasture should see us through til this year's hay comes in. We need to have the 2nd barn half built by then so we can bring in a couple of tons this summer.