Sunday, July 27, 2008

Picking up hay

We buy hay from a close neighbor and we get a discount if we go pick it up out of the field ourselves. Picking up hay often turns into a family affair, and it's something that most of us really enjoy. If the weather is nice, it's just intoxicating to be out in a field of freshly cut and baled alfalfa. The smell is like perfume! The kids love running around the field and watching the equipment. Scott and Maria enjoy the work as well--on this day they didn't want me to spell them as they stacked hay, so I decided to get out the camera. Only Chris dislikes this job--probably because of his allergies. That's why he gets to drive the tractor!

Here they are getting the loader hooked up to the trailer.

Our hay loader sometimes won't pick up bales that are on their sides, so the kids get the job of running ahead of the tractor to flip the bales. They were a huge help that day and they did their job with much enthusiasm.
This can be done with just two people, but it's nicer to have a second hand on the trailer to grab the bales as they come off the loader. Chris and I did it alone the other day and I really had to hustle to get them stacked before the next one came!
You get a break to rest when the tractor turns around for the next row.
The kids finally pooped out and took a break. This is why I always laugh when the kids want to go on hayrides at fairs, etc. because they do it all the time at home!
The last couple of bales. We picked up 86 bales that day, a lovely morning's work. The only bad part is unloading them later.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

All I can say is that it's a good thing we had a lot of rain !

July storms

Nearly every day this month we have had clouds, thunderstorms, and either a bit or a lot of rain. It makes me laugh to imagine what a plant must think of living in this crazy climate! The dry, hot, cold, windy spring has given way to a humid, hot, cool, rainy summer. Some of my carrots and parsley, which are supposed to be biennials, have gone from seed to bolting in just 5 months! And the last three weeks of rain have caused an explosion in the fly population as well as a massive growth of weeds. But the crops seem to like it too, and I haven't used lip balm for a long time (a good thing too, since the last tube I had got used to decorate some of Eliza's plastic animals).

Anyhow, the monsoons bring some beautiful, cool evenings when the sun starts to peek back through as it sets.

Irrigation day

We live in a river valley in a desert. For centuries there has been agriculture here, but it is very different from most agricultural areas. During dry periods from late March through late October we irrigate our pastures, orchards, and some field crops by flooding with river water. The water is delivered to us through a system of ditches, or acequias.

On irrigation day most of the animals get locked up. The hoofstock must be corralled and fed hay so they don't damage the soaked fields, and most of the poultry get locked into pens and moved onto dry ground. But there are some farm residents for whom irrigation day is the best day ever!!!!

Oh yes, it's good to be a goose or a duck on a special day every two weeks.

New baby girl

At the end of June we had a new calf born! She was born out on the pasture in the early afternoon and two hours later we had a huge storm come through and dump an inch of rain and hail on us. Since then we've been having rain nearly every day and the humidity has increased considerably.

Here she is, just hours old. Her name is Moxie.

Everyone in the herd was very curious, especially the boys. From left to right we have Tallulah, a red angus heifer who is visiting for stud service, Fin the mini jersey bull, Moxie and her mom Lola, who is a hereford, and New York, a holstein/jersey steer that belongs to a friend.

Here are the boys. I am completely in love with my bull Fin, who is snotty and grouchy but also really sweet and loving towards me. Chris often suggests that Fin and I "get a room" when I am out there loving on him. He's just jealous. Just look at Fin's scrunched-up mischievous nose! And NY is a sweetheart too.

Our amazing friends

I just had to laugh when I saw our friend Ian sitting on the kids' bed playing his DS with a chicken perched on his foot and a rat crawling up his leg. It didn't phase him a bit! We do find that our lifestyle tends to weed out those who are squeamish and afraid to get dirty. The result is that we are surrounded by amazing friends!

Sweet clover honey

My first harvest of wax and honey from my top-bar hives. This yielded 2.5 pints of honey that was produced during the peak of our clover bloom. Soooo tasty!!!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The *real* first day of summer

Actually this year it coincidentally happened on the solstice--my first ripe tomato! This is a big deal for me, because I have become so spoiled by home grown tomatoes that I just don't eat fresh tomatoes for over half the year. I had my fresh mozzarella in the refrigerator and my basil in the herb garden and every day I went out and checked the status of this year's first tomato. It came a full three weeks earlier than last year because I made an impulse buy at Home Depot. Yes, I had several flats of heirloom tomatoes growing on the windowsills but when I saw that foot tall Early Girl hybrid tomato at the store with flowers already blooming I couldn't resist. I brought it home in April and planted it in my cold frame to see if I could get earlier tomatoes this year. It worked!

Do you see it peeking out among the broccoli and lettuce that I am growing for seed?

She's no heirloom, but I'll take her!!!


The quacks and the honks

These were taken several weeks ago before the geese and ducks were in their permanent movable night roost (they free-range during the day, which has lately been not so good for my bean plants, but that's another story.....)

Every morning we loaded them into Scotty's wagon and brought them out to eat clover in the irrigation channel. It was such a cute sight!

Some days a lucky few were chosen to go for a swim in our small cistern. They dive really deep, even as little ducklings/goslings. So entertaining for the humans! Now they're too hard to catch so they don't get to go swimming as often.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wool processing workshop

A month ago we held a wool processing workshop here at the farm. Chris' stepmom had met a gal who is quite skilled at processing and spinning wool and she arranged to have her come to the farm for a day-long, hands-on demonstration. Gwen was younger than I had expected and full of enthusiasm for her craft. About a dozen people came down for the day.

It's a good thing that we are learning how to process fleeces, because we have quite a pile of wool from this year's shearing!

The first thing we learned was called "willowing" which is simply hitting the fleece with a wire rug beater or the equivalent to knock out much of the dirt and debris.

Next she showed us how to wash the fleece. We had a warm water wash and a cool rinse, and she demonstrated how careful you need to be to avoid felting the wool. She commented on how clean our fleeces are, which amazed me because they sure seemed dirty to me!

After washing the fleece is laid out on screens to dry and get a final picking over.

Then, with already washed fleece that she had brought with her, Gwen showed us how to card the wool. This was a very satisfying step in the process, although we were surprised at how much waste there is. The waste wool can be used for some things though, like quilt batting or even garden mulch.

Everyone tried their hand at carding and we all worked on making enough wool to practice spinning. The kids really liked this part.

Here is a rolag, which is the bit of wool you get after carding. At this point it is ready to spin.

Eliza really liked combing the wool.

Then after a wonderful pot-luck lunch it was time to spin! First we tried the drop spindle, which is pretty intuitive to use but not terribly easy. It's really a challenge to keep the spindle turning and get an even yarn. But we didn't do too badly for our first try!

Using the wheel was more satisfying when it actually worked, but was definitely a challenge. It's one of those things where three of your four limbs need to be doing something different at the same time, so much coordination is required. Gwen was very patient and helped each one of us give it a go. I'm definitely interested in learning more about how to use the wheel.

I'll bet you already guessed what Scotty's favorite part of the day was!

We had a wonderful time and we were thrilled to be able to give Gwen a venue for her workshop as well as an audience. She did a great job and we are looking forward to having her here again to show us how to dye the wool!