Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Most Spectacular Barn Bathrooom Window Ever!

Last fall at the Cow Puja,  I mentioned to Darin of Rochester Stained Glass that someday I would love to commission a stained glass art piece to go in the tall skinny window next to the bathroom door  in our barn, I was envisioning a tall sunflower, with bees buzzing around and a chicken at the bottom. He said, "I can see it!" and he set to work on a design.

Today, Darin and Laurel delivered the finished glass window and installed it in the bathroom!
The top....

going down...
further down...
through the buzzing bees...
to the hen on the ground.
Viewed from inside, the colors are even more saturated and the jeweled seeds in the sunflower sparkle.
After the window was safely installed we had a little celebratory toast.

Thank you Darin and Laurel - this window is going to be such a wonderful surprise to anyone who uses this restroom and will bring delight to everyone! I am glad you convinced us that our barn bathroom was deserving of such incredible art.

Just, wow.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mystery and Danger on the Farm

Last night when we went to bed the  dogs were agitated and barking because the great -horned owls were calling. (Or rather, the herding dogs were upset; Moji, the rat terrier was oblivious to this potential danger.

So, when the dogs had a couple of intense barking fits during the night, I got up to make sure the cows hadn't gotten out, didn't see anything out the window, and attributed the frantic barking to owls coming closer.

This morning when I went out to do chores, the cans of feed were tipped over, uncovered and spilled. We keep them tightly covered to deter rodents--this was not the work of a mouse or rat! Must be raccoons!! No wonder the dogs had been barking so fiercely. I went back out to check for raccoon tracks in the fresh snow.
What!? Hoof prints! It was a cow!
But both of my cows were safely inside the fence and the gate and barn doors were still securely latched. Could one of the Kuhlmann's dairy cows gotten loose and come over to explore? (I am so naive! I actually thought this.)
I gave the cows some hay, then looked around inside the pasture for  signs of escape. Aha!  A large, dead branch had fallen across the electric fence (strung inside our pathetic chain link fence - replacement is on the To Do list for spring.)
Some cow or cows had just stepped over the fallen wire, scrunched the  chain link fence down, climbed over and helped themselves to a midnight snack, then returned  home.
I  removed the branch, fixed the  wire, then hauled the branch up to the gate and threw it over into the yard - nice, dry wood that will be great for starting today's bread-baking fire.
I  now noticed the guilty look and the  burrs on LaFonda's face- evidence she had gotten out.
Jitterbug was also covered in burrs and looked quite guilty (or is that a tummy-ache look?) They must have  collaborated in this scheme. I did not give them a bucket of feed, their usual morning treat--only hay.They had had enough treats.

After throwing the branch over the  gate, I started back between the barns and WHOMP!! My feet went out from under me and I landed flat in my back on the ice, hitting my head hard.

I am ok, but so sore and have a splitting headache. My throat is raw from the wail I let out involuntarily when I fell - I bet it could be heard for half a mile. (I think the last time I wailed like that I was giving birth.)  I am just happy I did not break anything, did not see stars (so I don't think I have a concussion) and my camera (which was hanging around my neck) seems to be ok and did not flip up and  break my glasses or my teeth. As I lay on the ice in agony LaFonda just stood there and looked at me like, "See what we have to navigate all day?"

Fresh snow on top of ice,with warming temps and wearing muck boots is a treacherous combination.
I think I will go spread some ashes in that area now for better traction for farmers and cows.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Beeing There

Last week, I was focused on Bees and  Honey.  It was a glorious springlike week at UC-Davis, where I was attending an intensive mead-making and meadery course. (Mead is wine made with honey.)

Over the course of three days we tasted the sugar and acid components of honey separately and in the honey We tasted more than 30 kinds of honey (including specialty honeys like Cilantro, FoamFlower, and Thyme) and mead made from many of them. 
We learned about   mead contaminants and tasted them (not the most pleasant part) so we could recognize why a mead did not taste delicious, and figured out what happened in the process to make it that way. We tasted mead that ranged from exquisite to some that smelled so horrible I could barely make myself put it to my lips. We tasted the same recipe of mead made with different yeasts and fermented at different temperatures, with amazingly different results. (Sometimes my eyes glazed over from all the chemistry.) The chief apiarist from University of California extension updated us on current bee issues, which are myriad. We toured the meadmaking lab of  the Mondavi Wine research  building at UC-Davis (an amazing  LEED platinum building that is carbon neutral and uses captured rainwater ten times) and the warehouse of a honey broker. We heard case studies from a meadery start-up on the Olympic peninsula and a very successful meadery in New Hampshire. We had a mead judging session with the founder of  the Mazer Cup, an international mead competition. I met  some wonderful mead-loving folks whom I expect will be long-term friends and colleagues.

So why did I attend this mead course?  Rog has been making delicious meads and melomels (mead made with fruit) for a few years now, and I just started making it this winter.   It seems like mead would be the perfect complement to our wood-fired pizza and bread, especially since we raise a few honeybee hives.  After taking this course I am excited to pursue it, but knocked down to earth enough to realize that if we do undertake it, it will take at least a year  of  further research, experimentation and preparation. Stay tuned.
Although I did not bring my camera to the mead class, I took quite a few photos of the educational Honey Bee Garden on campus, sponsored by Haagen Dazs.  The garden has  several hives and wild bee habitats,  and is full of the plants bees prefer for nectar and pollen.
There are many fabulous mosaic sculptures that portray the life cycle and work of bees.
At the bottom of this cylindrical planter are relief images of bees transforming from egg to larva to young bee.
An adult bee feeding a newly hatched bee. The adult regurgitates food via its mandibles to the  outstretched tongue of the young bee. After a few days of being fed this way, the young bee will take its first flight - and poop its first poop, then begin its work as an adult member of the bee community.

The handmade tiles and mosaics in the bee park are exquisite!  When you first  walk into the park you are bowled over by the delicious fragrance of honey from the hives.
 Davis is the hometown of Mandy, one of our awesome WWOOFers from last summer. I was so  delighted that Mandy came home from attending college at Berkeley to adventure around Davis with me! We had breakfast at her favorite crepes restaurant and spent a fun day exploring the city by bicycle.
Thsi cow was my favorite ride, of course,  in the people-powered (by bicycle) carousel at a downtown park.
A draft-horse-drawn wagon on the bike path on campus. You can't get to class on most campuses this way!
 Prickly pear cactus at the arboretum.
Another beautiful mosaic featuring oak habitat on a restroom in the arboretum.
Our bike ride wound through an acacia grove blooming vivid yellow along the creek, studded with egrets and turtles.
Fun public art is everywhere-this sculpture is in front of Whole Foods.

What a great week in beautiful California, staying at a  lovely Air BnB,  biking to my classes every day on the  extensive Davis bike path system, learning so much about mead and honey, dining with fellow classmates every night.
I must admit, I felt a bit guilty being in 70-degree sunshine when it was below zero back home. Thank you Rog and Ruth, for taking such good care of the critters while I was gone.  It was wonderful, but I am happy to be home.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Best Snowstorm of the Winter So Far!

We are s several hours into a blizzard. Well, I am not sure I would really call it a blizzard because it is not bitter cold and blasting wind here (yet) but so far at least 6 inches  of snow has fallen and driving is tough. I ventured out earlier today, mopstly  to rent a couple movies and get a rutabaga for the beef stew I am making, but as soon as I complete the chores and Rog gets home from work, we will hunker down and enjoy being snowed in.
 Everyone got extra feed and water and fresh bedding this morning.Only the ducks were playing outside in the snow.
At noon I went out to check on the cows and when I opened the barn door LaFonda was waiting for me. Either the cows had chowed down all their hay or it was covered too deeply in snow; in any case they wanted more.
 I humored them with a lunch snack. Pampered beasts.
Snow blasting the barn white.
Yesterday I went into the greenhouse and it was quite warm. My tubs of chard and spinach are looking great!
The dogs and I  tramped through the snow to check out the pond (just beyond those snow-blanketed rocks)
and the big rock. So pretty.
I love winter when it is truly wintery (and when spring is around the corner.)
Our trio of snow removal tools (shovel, wovel, and snowblower) is ready for action. After a delicious supper of beef stew.