Monday, October 13, 2014

WWOOFers of the Week

We have been blessed with ten of the most delightful, hardworking, fun WWOOFers the past  five months.  We are so grateful for their willingness and good humor - not to mention sharing their considerable culinary talents.

Today, Sarah (left) and Elizabeth (right) planted garlic and weeded the raspberries while Gordita (center) supervised.
I dare say this is the timeliest planting we have ever managed to get garlic in the ground. Tomorrow, tulip bulbs are on the agenda - and it isn’t even Halloween or snowing yet!  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Few Fall Tidbits

It has been such a glorious fall, giving us plenty of opportunities to cross accomplishments off the bottomless project list. Nevertheless, I always feel a bit sad his time of year; the beautiful days are tinged with bittersweet inevitability of impending winter, and daylight hours are slipping away.
Two of this year’s additions to the laying flock, a silver-laced wyandotte and a gold-laced wyandotte.
A few weeks ago I purchased 4 half-grown guinea keets from a farmer with an abundance of young guineas. Two disappeared into the woods the first day they were let free to roam, but these two latched onto the blue cochin hen as their mentor/protector/mother figure. This trio is always together.
In other inter-species farm critter news, Zinnie and Splotch remain playmates even though Splotch  is now much bigger than Zin.
When they play tag, Zinnie now leaves a bit more distance between her and Splotch so she does not get trampled. He must be close to 300  pounds now and she is about 40.
The new pond continues to slowly fill with water. I poked a stick into the mud at water’s edge yesterday morning, and this morning the water was an inch deeper.
Steam rose from the recently disturbed ground near the septic mound in the brisk morning air.
Our awesome WWOOFer of the week, Sarah, is cleaning up a portion of garden  and planting garlic today.  While scouting our planting strategy, we discovered a perfect, huge, delicious watermelon hiding at the garden’s edge that was missed during melon harvest.
There’s not much left in the outside garden now but kale, Swiss chard and a few stray little pumpkins.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Extreme Landscaping Projects

This week our farm has been invaded by many massive earth-moving machines constructing our new mound septic system, which is required for the commercial kitchen.

We knew this project was going to tear  things up a bit so we postponed starting it until after our big fall events the past three weekends (the wedding, the  Farm Fair and Cow Puja, and the Solar Tour.)  That was a very good idea - our back yard is now a flattened, grassless roadway and there is a whole lot of bare earth and gigantic piles of brush.
The mound was constructed on the west edge of the windrow of large trees where we almost won’t see it. First a huge area was bulldozed clear of trees and brush  (both for the mound and for access) and a mountain of sand was brought in -see Zinnie in photo for sense of scale.
Then topsoil was dug from other areas of the farm to cover the sand so grasses can be planted.  Here is how it looked this afternoon, roughly smoothed into shape. The mound is huge, and about 6 feet in height.  It doesn’t really fit into the landscape, but maybe we can pretend it is an Indian burial mound. It will be covered with  prairie grasses and I plan to plant a small orchard of fruit and nut trees around the outside.
Some of the covering for the mound and came from a huge old hill of compost next to the loafing shed, but that was not nearly enough soil.  They wanted to get topsoil from somewhere near the mound and we  suggested the grassy area by the big rock. We have always dreamed of building a pond there someday and that way we could get a hole dug for no extra charge. As soon as Art  dug the hole, water began seeping in.  Last evening, about 6 hours later, there was a big puddle the bottom. Early this morning (this photo - with the big rock on the right) the deepest part of the hole was covered by water. There were a few sets of tracks indicating deer ha  discovered it and had climbed down to the water to drink.
Here is Zinnie on top of the bermed edge for scale. You can actually see the water rippling the surface where it is seeping in. I don’t know how full it will get naturally, but the hole is pretty deep. The earth is heavy clay, so may hold the water well.  The contractor set three  large boulders at one end - they may a great place to sit at the edge of the future pond, depending upon how far up the water comes. When I went out to take this photo, a flock of robins was poking around along the waters’ edge.  A frog was already sighted in the water! This pond promises to be a wonderful wildlife magnet.

Here is the pond tonight,  a day and a half after being dug.  I ordered a bag of Pollinator mix seeds to spread around the top and banks of the pond, containing grasses and prairie flowers native to this region of Minnesota and Iowa. It will be a tough challenge for them to compete with seedbank already in the disturbed soil.
More huge holes and trenches being dug through the yard, from the mound toward the barn, for septic tanks and pipes. (This used to be grass, where the tire swing was.)
Big shovel.
As long as they were excavating around the loafing shed for the  soil for the mound, we decided to have them  do some drainage work in the cow yard. This ground between the loafing shed and barn is also heavy clay and in spring becomes a mucky mess mixed with manure and waste hay from the feeders that takes forever to dry out, then becomes hard like cement when it finally does dry. The past two springs have been exceedingly rainy and our poor cows have had to slog through through deep muck, sometimes sinking to their armpits.
First a landscape cloth barrier was rolled out in a wide path from the gate, past the cow fountain, between the two buildings and down to the gate to the upper and lower pastures.
Splotch checked it out, then romped up and down the carpeted runway.
LaFonda was curious, but walked along the outside edge. (Jitterbug is always suspicious of changes and just bellowed crabbily.)
Several huge dump truckloads of gravel were brought in: 3-inch minus for the base, topped by finer gravel.This truck barely fit between the buildings.
Spreading the gravel down the slope and across to the  entrance of the barn and loafing shed.
Flattening and smoothing the fine gravel. Rainwater and snowmelt will soak through the gravel and fabric into the ground, but the barrier fabric will prevent the rock from just sinking into the clay and disappearing.  They also created a slight swale in the pasture to direct water away, in the direction of the pond.
We are forecast to get rain on Sunday--now I am eager to see what happens with the drainage and the pond level.