Monday, May 28, 2012

The Silo Foundation Becomes a Pond

What we did this weekend!

This was  the foundation of a silo that was built in about 1920 but burned down soon after.  A silver maple sprouted inside the circular foundation  and it grew to be humongous.  We had to cut the tree down when we installed the solar PV system on the barn so it wouldn't shade the panels.

Then we got the crazy idea to transform the silo foundation into an aquaponics pond, a symbiotic fish and plant growing system.
So, this spring Rog chainsawed out the remaining tree stump (no small feat) and repaired and leveled the concrete of the foundation. He  purchased a load of foam insulation via Craigslist, which was dropped off yesterday. He cut the insulation into panels to fit around the perimeter and on the bottom of the pond, beneath the pond liner. We had hoped to find a large piece of roofing  material to recycle as the pond liner, but ended up purchasing a 20 x 20 foot sheet new from Sargents.  It  was a bit costly, but this way there was no seaming to do and we know it will be fish-safe.
Rog, figuring to how to pleat the excess liner around the circular silo wall. It is important not to have deep folds in the liner where a fish can become trapped, die and decompose,  messing up the chemistry of the aquaponics system.
We started filling the pond with water. It holds 2400 gallons, so it took hours to fill.
Since it was going to be a while, I suggested we take a walk to a farm  half a mile down the road where we had noticed an old wire corncrib.  We would like to enclose our pond in a corn crib, which will be the structure for the growing beds and can be a covered with plastic like a greenhouse in winter. Aesthetically, it will fit the character of our farm.

We had fun meeting our neighbor, Marie, the owner of the farm with corn crib (this  photo is the  approach to her beautiful farm.)  Marie is an artist! Unfortunately, she doesn't want to sell the corn crib. We'll keep looking...
The walk home---what a spectacular day.
When we got back the pond was about half full.   It was  rather magical walking around the corner of the barn and seeing a reflective pool where a decrepit concrete hole had been.
I realize it is rushing things, but I couldn't resist getting a few goldfish and a couple of aquatic plants to make it a real, living pond. I floated the bag of fish for a long time, gradually adding small amounts of pond water to the fish water to accustom the fish to the new water and colder temperature.
Finally the fish swam free in the pond. They are fairly large goldfish, but ridiculously small in this big pool of water.  We sat on the foundation edge and dangled our feet in --it was cold. Hope these three little fish are tough.

Eventually, we will raise fish for food in this pond. We haven't decided for sure what species yet. Yellow perch? Catfish? Tilapia?
Rog already began constructing the walkways that will span the pond.
Stay tuned for further Adventures in Aquaponics.  Hopefully the next  chapter will include a corn crib!

A Little Sheepish

May is lambing month for our neighbors, Betsy and Don.  I wanted to see the lambs before before they grew into sheep, so I stopped at their pretty farm this evening.
There were babies everywhere.
When they saw Betsy, a bunch of lambs came leaping over and surrounded her. I take it these are the bottle-fed lambs.
They are so heart-meltingly adorable.
Newborn twins.
Several geese were  nesting amongst the sheep - and hissed at me not to come any closer.
View of a goose's tonsils.
I could be persuaded to take one of these guys home...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chicken and Coon Tales

On Monday afternoon I was surprised to see a hen with some newly-hatched chicks in the yard.  What a sneaky mom!  Where in the heck had she hidden that nest? By the time I got my camera the family had disappeared and I could not find them.
Yesterday I figured out that the nest was somewhere within the big circle of pampas grass in the front yard and that the hen has four chicks. She must have  been scared away from the barn by the raccoon episode and chosen a safer place for her nest, even if it was outdoors.

Last night as Rog and I were working  into the evening, he noticed a raccoon cross the road into the woods along our pasture. Oh great - we just got rid of one raccoon and now we will have another!
Then, when we were eating our supper (at 9:30 p.m.)  out on the patio, the dogs started going bonkers barking at the barn. I had a hunch the raccoon had gotten into the barn. Rog walked over and opened the door and sure enough,  the coon stared down at him from the hayloft.

It was too late to phone anyone, but I went to Facebook and saw that our friend and neighbor Betsy happened to be online so I sent her a message telling her the raccoon was in the barn and asking if we could borrow a shotgun. She  responded " Don is on his way - you  just made his whole day."  Long story short, at 11 p.m. Don and Rog tracked the raccoon through the barn and shot him (and an innocent bystanding wool rug.)  I feel sad about killing the raccoon, but it was either him or our chickens, We had just lost 4 hens and 15 chicks to a raccoon, possibly  THIS raccoon.
Rog had laid the raccoon by the woodpile but I didn't have time to deal with it right away this morning.  Curiously, Nutmeg stretched out next to the body and lay there all morning. Hard to fathom - was she guarding it? Maybe she was sad that her raccoon hunting adventures were over.

After examining it, I am sure it is the same raccoon we trapped a couple weeks ago. I called Mark and he confirmed that the trapped raccoon had gotten away, so it was likely him.
It is a relief to have that coon gone. Our vulnerable baby chicks, the young duckings and gosling, and the turkey poults and broiler chicks that will arrive in a couple weeks will all have a chance to grow up now.

Thanks, Don, for coming to our rescue so late at night!  What kind of farmers don't own a shotgun? Perhaps Rog will get one for Father's Day.

Our First CSA Day

The kitchen was overflowing with green today as I packed veggies for our first CSA delivery.  We  decided to launch a mini summer Community Supported Agriculture project  - six subscriptions of 1/2 bushel boxes with an optional egg share.  We had so many requests we could have easily doubled the memberships without  even advertising it, but this is our first effort, our garden is not huge, I am the only grower and  we  don't want to overextend ourselves. Plus, we want some veggies left for our own  eating and preserving!
Mojito mint and baby leeks from the  high tunnel.
Scallions from the high tunnel and sweet, spicy purple radishes from the new garden.
Tuscan kale and eggs.
Heritage  lettuce mix, bagged, with Swiss chard and spinach in the background.  I was aiming to harvest all the  high tunnel veggies so I can  pull out the winter crops and reseed with new veggies. They have just been so darn prolific and long-producing!
The finished half-bushel box. It took me6 hours to harvest, clean and pack the veggies for 6 boxes. I hope I get faster!
Chris was our first CSA member to pick up his box. I can't wait to hear  how everyone used their veggies.

Monday, May 21, 2012


This morning got off to a sweet start.  Um, yes, I ate that piece of cake for breakfast.
It was leftover from the farewell cake we had at a little celebration yesterday for Julio, the percussionist in The Nodding Wild Onions.  Julio played with the band for the last time Sunday afternoon at the farm. He and his family are moving to Arizona. They will be missed!
Got milk? We sure do.  About 15 gallons at this moment. After I ate my breakfast cake, I tried to make space in the refrigerator for two more gallons of milk I had just collected from LaFonda.  In the process of shifting things around, a quart of cream leapt off the shelf and somehow managed to spill in every compartment of the fridge, including inside the veggie drawers, as well as all over the floor and under the  fridge. Aargh! Oh well, that  refrigerator was overdue for a good cleaning.
Today a few peonies were beginning to bloom!  I wish the Internet had a fragrance app so you could get a whiff of that wonderful peony aroma.
The ducks are getting so big and duck-shaped.  Our old female runner duck is starting to hang out with the ducklings sometimes now.
The gosling is starting to get feathers on his her/his wings. They are gray -- maybe s/he is a Toulouse.
The baby robins in the nest in my future garden shed are getting pretty crowded.  I don't mean to rush them, but I am very eager to get that shed finished.
The raspberry patch is loaded with blossoms and all the bushes are humming with a cloud of bees.  Mostly they are my honey bees, but there are also bumble bees and wild black bees that I think must be  carpenter bees.
I dragged the hose over to water the berry patches and was delighted to discover an abundance of strawberries already coming!  I have never had much luck with strawberries before, but this looks like it could be a successful crop. I better get some netting over them before they turn red so the birds don't get them all.

Totally Eclipse

Although I don't know how to take those amazing eclipse photos,  we had some fun watching the eclipse last night. Rog had the wacky idea to use a CD as a pinhole camera. He held it up to the sunset-facing window
and it worked, projecting the image of the moonshadow over the sun on the wall. It was a bit blurry because the "pinhole" was so big
so he tried the tea infuser, which has many small holes
and created many small eclipses on the wall.
Then we realized the entire living room was a disco-ball swirl of eclipses, floor, walls and ceiling, reflected from two mosaic glass candle holders on the table in the sun!