Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hope springs eternal...

We've taken part in that annual leap of faith known as a garden, yet again. In the left foreground are tomatoes, 3 rows of potatoes near center, and onions, mangel beets & cukes to the left. In the left background are mixed rows of shallots, carrots, radishes, beets, kohlrabi, 3 kinds of lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage. There's corn near the fenceline and to the right are green beans (including 2 kinds right out of a Bosnian garden, thanks to a coworker) and onions.
Here's the squash pit. It was a giant heap of manure & straw that we cleaned out of Stella's stall last summer. After a good going over with a tiller, it was perfect for planting our butternut, buttercup & delicata squash. I had planned to grow Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash this year, but somehow left it out of my seed order. We'll try it next year. We're already planning for next year's squash pit, and planning to dump this year's stall clean-out in paddock 2 to mature into another squash pit.

It's been so green and lush lately that even 3 cows can't keep up. So we need to scythe down the weeds and seedheads once in a while. Look at Doug peeking out from behind mom.

Fergus got a new swim jacket. He always gets tired while swimming at Birch Bay, and this helps him stay above water. He got the hang of it very quickly, but the water was still so cold he didn't swim long. Stew tore off a toenail in his rush to bolt out the back door the other night, and we though a saltwater swim might help. It didn't, but he looks to be healing up anyway.

Here's Maggie, demonstrating just how tense his life is. Or is he catatonic?

And Fergus, either doing his impression of Magnus, or maybe a roadkill possum.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You are what you eat - sugar

This spring, commercial sugar beet farmers in the western U.S. will begin planting Roundup Ready sugar beets, which are genetically engineered to survive multiple direct applications of the weed killer, Roundup. At the request of Monsanto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increased the allowable amount of glyphosate residues on sugar beetroots by a whopping 5,000% -- glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Sugar is extracted from the beet's root and the inevitable result is more glyphosate in our sugar. GE sugar beets are wind pollinated, and there is a strong possibility that pollen from Roundup Ready sugar beets could contaminate non-GE sugar beets and important food crops such as chard, and red and yellow beets (or "table beets"). Such biological contamination would also be devastating to organic farmers, who face debilitating market losses if their crops are contaminated by a GE variety. Contamination also reduces the ability of conventional farmers to decide what to grow, and limits consumer choice of natural foods.
The sugar produced will be mixed in with other types of sugar, unlabeled and untraceable. You couldn't avoid sugar from Roundup Ready beets even if you tried.
But David Berg, president of American Crystal Sugar Co., the country’s largest beet sugar manufacturer, is confident that food processors will accept GM sugar. “We have not run into resistance...”

What can you do about it? Nothing. Roundup Ready sugarbeets will be available in 2008, saving farmers a whopping $80 per acre, and the hassles of hiring questionable laborers to hand weed their fields.
For more info:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Of vacation, good neighbors, and bull...

We both took a few days off of varying lengths in order to catch up a bit on spring chores. Didn't really go any where, but we had a few fun evenings watching DVD's and got some things done.

We went ahead with the purchase of two cord of wood from our regular wood guy Neal. With the price of oil going up, up, and up; it seemed the prudent course. We had at least a cord left and some other we scrounged. Add it up and it is more than enough for next winter. We intend to hook up with a neighbor for further wood scrounging though, as he knows where there are a few folk that'll let you have it for the getting rid of some down trees. Sweet. We just have to stack it the wood now... in our spare time!

As you can see above RdoubleD Nash Rambler arrived. It took Stella about 20 minutes of sniffing before she was out licking and bathing him. I guess you could say she's easy, but it's been a long time since she's had "company".

We managed to make some delicious meals as well when we were off. One is this Hemlock Highlands, sirloin tip roast beef baked with a fresh herb rub, ceasar salad, and roasted vegtables. It was simply put, divine.

And this is our long awaited steamed pumpkin pudding! Thanks to a friend we now have a pudding steamer, so we gave it a try and it turned out wonderful. J made a vanilla custard sauce as topping... magnifique!

Our neighbor Chad owns Brisky Built, Inc., and as you can see from above, they do remodels, but also specialize in restoration. Being as our house was born in 1920, we have some areas that can be challenging to fix up to us lay-carpenter types. We wanted a new front door, but there was too much dry rot around the old one for us to feel comfortable doing ourselves, so we called Chad. This is what he does best!

Here he is tweaking the door so it fits just right. This is after he rehabbed the door frame, which he made look quite easy. It was a challenge though as while surrounding areas had been fixed previously, around the door had been left to grow worse and worse. He essentially removed all the rotten wood, and rehabed a part of the house wall as well as door frame.

Here it is shut as the job got closer to completion. When we get the trim painted, we'll post a final shot of the exterior with hardware and new trim on.

And here it is on the inside now with new hardware, also easily handled by Chad. He had to chisel out an area and do a couple other adjustments so the hardware we'd chosen would fit correctly. One of those things that would have taken us several hours that he did in less than one. If you live in Whatcom county or vacinity and need any remodeling/restoration work done, Brisky Built is absolutely the one to call!

While Chad easily handled the door, I set fence posts for the last bit of perimeter fencing that remained to be finished. The job is about done now, but again you'll have to stay tuned for those shots. One blog post can only reveal so much. While I fenced, J mowed the grass, which seems to grow about 6 inches a day owing to the rain.

And while on any vacation a certain amount of time must be spent bonding with Magnus, our cat who thinks he's a person, to include sitting like one. Here he is mirroring me. Pardon my cheesy smile... the cat is the real star. We don't call him "Ham Cat" for nothing!

J has managed two successful milkings since bully-boy arrived, keeping us in plenty milk. one was 1.5 quarts, the other this AM gave us 2 quarts. Although Stella spends the duration trying to peek over the half stall wall at her beau, like some moon-eyed teenager the duration. Ain't love grand!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Raining like kittens & cats!

The weather is not cooperating much with our outdoor plans & projects. The cats, on the other hand, don't seem to mind a bit as long as there is a comfy place to hang out.
Here's Mercia multitasking, grooming between naps, or maybe it's the other way around...
And Magnus, casual as ever in the face of paparazzi.
And finally, Master Crichton himself, giving his new cat tree a test run. Only the finest Whatcom County orchardgrass hay for this feline connaisseur!

If the weather ever catches up with the calendar, we'll continue setting fence posts on the last unfenced corner, finishing the garden prep, and getting ready for Nash's arrival on Monday. Doug did fine with the vet Friday. He's no longer a bull, and everyone is up to date on vaccinations. Stella has learned the exciting trick of holding back her milk for Doug, so we've been working with her to unlearn it, or at least loosen up a bit. It is fairly common for a first calf heifer to be really focused on the calf, and not interested in sharing with people.

News flash!
In the middle of a rain storm, at bedtime, Magnus has figured out the cat door. These kittens have previously shown no interest in going outside, even though they're nearly a year old! Now they'll probably be up all night running in & out, practicing their new skill.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thank you Stella!

I was rummaging around the fridge for pastitso-makings, and realized just how much Stella provides. Here's a literal snapshot of what's in our fridge/freezer right now, thanks to Stella...The row of jars on the far left, with the little one on top, is today's milking. There is a glass bowl of fresh feta, with the 3 quarts of whey behind it, that the chickens love. Rolls of frozen butter in the left foreground, what's left of the sour cream, and the start of this week's cream jar are front right. And jars & jars of milk We also have a little frozen colostrum, but I left that in the freezer.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Stella's new beau...

This top picture is RdoubleD Nash Rambler who we are renting this year to be Stella's baby daddy. If you click on his name you'll find his pedigree at the American Dexter Cattle Association (ADCA) site. He's a large handsome fellow as you can see!

And this wee fellow is Ryder, a Dexter Bull calf we are pondering the purchase of. He was born the same month as our Doug.

As you can see from the side he's also very pretty, and well built with some nice red highlights in his color. General consensus is that we are going for it, but we'll update everyone when the contract is signed and the decision final.