Monday, April 30, 2012

Harvest Monday : Soup of Spring

We have been feasting on farm food the past few days.  Saturday we made stinging nettle pesto with pasta. Rog steamed it lightly to remove the sting before  blending it with olive oil, toasted almonds, garlic, lemon and parmesan to make the pesto. Amazingly tasty and so nutritious!

Last night we  roasted one of our chickens with homegrown garlic and herbs on a bed of farm-grown sweet potatoes, beets and leeks, served with spinach salad with pansies and the first purple radishes of the year.  

Today, I  made stock from the chicken carcass.  We went for a walk after work and gathered up ingredients from the prairie, garden and greenhouse for soup: lacinato kale, radishes, asparagus, chives, leeks, thyme, chioggia beets and scallions. Not shown are the wild parsnips Rog pulled during our walk- a problem invasive, but very tasty to eat.
(We have  devoured the last of our greenhouse carrots,  I just planted remaining  fingerling potatoes we wintered over, and no tomatoes yet, so those ingredients were store-bought.)  

We  ended up with a pretty and delicious springtime soup.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Web-Footed Office Mates

The Gosling is much happier now that he has some buddies. The five new ducklings are a Swedish Black, two Swedish Blue and  two Khaki Campbell. They are currently living in a big tub in my office. The seed-starting mat is under one end of the tub to keep them warm.

They get very excited when I give them a fresh bowl of water (several times a day.)  Between drinking and splashing, this bowl will be empty in about ten minutes

Friday, April 27, 2012

Irresistible Calves for Sale

I  realized I haven't posted photos of the bovines lately - and I better before it is too late. We have decided to sell Jitterbug and Lindy.
Jitter is the petite black Dexter heifer. She used to be very timid but she has come out of her shell. She is curious and approaches new people easily now. She likes attention and if Lindy is getting it, she will butt in for her share.

Lindy has always been a very easygoing and friendly little steer.  He allows me to drape myself over him.  He comes ambling over (deliberately, never running) when I call him. I think he would have a great temperament for an ox.
We will keep Lariat (the brown Dexter cow) and LaFonda (our spotted Jersey- mix milk cow.)  Both are due to calve in July and are bred to the same sires as fathered Jitter and Lindy. So if we are lucky, we will end up with two very similar calves to Jitter and Lindy.
I would love to keep the whole herd, but we simply do not have enough pasture for 6  head of cattle, nor can we afford to feed such a large herd as pets.
Probably the main impetus for selling the calves now is that we need to dry up  LaFonda and Lariat in preparation for their impending calves in July, to give their bodies a rest and allow them to  produce colostrum, which is vital for newborn calves.

It's a bit ridiculous, these two big one-year-old babies are still nursing!  We don't have a good way to separate the calves from the cows, so if we don't sell them, we will have to  insert weaner rings in their noses.  The weaners I purchased are bright orange plastic plates that don't allow the calf to reach the teat. They have short plastic spikes that are uncomfortable for the cow so she won't let the calf  nurse. They don't hurt the calves but I dread trying to insert them! And they look ugly.
A family is interested in Jitter and Lindy for their two young girls who are in 4-H.  These calves would be awesome 4H projects!
I get a bit verklempft every time I think about them leaving
but it would be such a relief for them to go to a home that will tend them with lots of love and  pampering
and wonderful if they can stay together--they are good buddies.

The Best Nest

Feeding the chickens last night I could hear a tiny peeping but I could not locate the peeper. It was worried a chick had somehow fallen behind the wall, altho we have it  blocked off.

Rog came out  to help me find it.  He lifted up some dusty chicken coop art set up high on the wall (we have very cultured chickens) and discovered
a rather messy but luxurious nest constructed from chicken and guinea feathers
containing three hungry, peeping baby sparrows.  I guess we technically have a chicken-guinea-duck-sparrow coop.

It probably isn't desirable to have sparrows in your coop, but we  carefully replaced the art and the  mother sparrow returned shortly. Maybe after they grow up we will find a way to evict them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Return of the Raccoon

If you have been reading this blog recently, then you probably know about our new chicks: one hen hatched out two chicks in a 5-gallon bucket and another hen hatched 17(!) of which 14 survived. Well, sad to say, both hens and all but one orphan chick have disappeared over the past few nights. I found one body, a hen with her head eaten off. I would have suspected owls, except that the chickens were closed in the barn.

So, I suspected a raccoon. There is enough space beneath a couple of the barn doors for a raccoon to squeeze under and the hens were vulnerable, still nesting on the ground with their chicks. Last night we let Nutmeg stay outside all night, and this morning, she was patiently waiting beneath the tree next to the chicken coop, having treed a raccoon. Circumstantial evidence suggested he was the culprit.
Nutmeg must have been getting a crick in her neck from keeping guard all night.

I bet it is the very same raccoon that I took such an endearing photo of with Nutmeg a month ago.

First, I called a couple neighbors to see if they had a live trap we could borrow; then I called the DNR to find out where they recommended to let the raccoon go when we caught it. They said it is a nuisance animal and recommended that I shoot it.  I realize that is what any self-respecting farmer would do - it is your responsibility as a farmer to protect your  livestock. (Plus, you can't really afford to let them be devoured!)  But the only kind of gun I have ever shot is a BB gun when I was a kid.

Our neighbor's daughter, Hannah, arrived with a shotgun to dispatch the raccoon,  which Nutmeg still had conveniently treed. Hannah offered me ear protection (because of course I had my camera to  photograph her in action) and in the one minute it took us to get the ear protection out of the car, Nutmeg got distracted and came over, and when we turned around, the clever raccoon had disappeared without a trace!

Drats!  But I am certain he will be back. We will have to let Nutmeg keep watch outside at night until we get him.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

An Infusion of Youthful Energy and Muscles

We had a Farm Mob on Saturday!  Ten students from RCTC and their sociology professor, Lynn Guenette,  arrived at noon and spent the afternoon getting dirt under their fingernails and helping us accomplish all sorts of farm projects.   The students had a broad range if experience and inexperience - from this young woman from New York City (she commented that she felt like she was on a movie set) to another student whose family milks over 3,000 head of dairy cattle.

Many hands make light work, and with all these hands in just 4 hours we accomplished a 40-hour work week! Sugar snap peas and Walla Wall onions got planted.
Compost piles got turned
and finished compost spread upon the garden.
A team helped Rog check and repair the fence around the pasture.
It was a workout
and  the potato bed got tilled.
A big  pile of leaf mulch got moved.
Two cherry trees got planted
and two pear trees got planted.
Stray young raspberry plants were dug up for transplanting into a new bed.
The winter's accumulation of empty feed sacks were slit open, soaked and laid down between the rows of raspberries to smother the weeds, then covered with straw.

Not to mention, the greenhouse got weeded and a big pile of brush burned!
Huge thanks to Professor Guenette for encouraging her students to farm for a day!
It was hard work, and the weather was getting cold and rainy at the end, but I think everybody had some fun.

Afterward, we made wood-fired pizza.  I don't know how those young, strong, energetic students fared, but Rog and I were totally pooped-- we took a nap after everyone left!

Thanks again. We are so appreciative of your help.  Come back any time!!

Pocket Poultry

Our neighbor Don just brought us a present - a  newly-hatched gosling that had gotten separated from its family. One of their Great Pyrenees dogs was carrying it around in its mouth. I had mentioned I would like to raise one gosling this year, so they brought him to me.

He was peeping and shivering, probably scared and chilled, so I tucked him in my sweatshirt pocket.
He seemed to like that and settled in for a nap.

I hope I can be a good goose mom and teach him to be  nice to people.  We had 3 beautiful, entertaining Toulouse geese for a couple years but found them a new home when they became too obnoxious and we had to plan all of our farmwork around avoiding them.

However, I now have a great resource if we have goose behavior issues - my Facebook friend Botan at Mystic Prairie Eco-Farm is a goose-whisperer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Over Easter, we took our first trip together since moving to the farm. We went to Oregon to visit Rog's mom, Ruth.  After spending a few days in Eugene, we all drove to Yachats and rented a little cottage with a fantastic view of the waves and tides.  We got there just in time for  a beautiful sunset over the Pacific.
Early morning tide-pooling.
Starfish scattered about.
Some tidepools are exuberant gardens of starfish and sea urchins.
The wind  made veils of  mist spray from the waves.
Couldn't get enough of watching  the waves.
Lunch at Cafe Mundo in Newport.
Fuzzy bike parked in Cafe Mundo courtyard.
The Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport has rooms decorated to represent  famous authors.
The John Steinbeck Room. (The  reading lights are the headlights of the truck.)
Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
Rocks at Yaquina Head.
Common Murres on island at Yaquina Head.
I love how the Murres come in for a landing.
Low tide from our cottage.
Tide rising at evening.
Sunsets so beautiful, if they were a painting they would be "bad art."
I am so grateful we got to visit the Oregon coast with my wonderful mom-in-law!
I missed my farm critters, but made friends with some seagulls,