Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring is here. The recently barren forests are lush, the dogwood trees have bloomed, morel ("woodfish" to the locals) season has come and gone, and our plants are growing like crazy. So much has happened over the last month we won't be able to show you it all but here's some of the big stuff.

Kelsey, our chicken whisperer, socializing the chicks
Early in April Meredith Skelton, our patron saint, came for an amazing three day visit. It was incredible to see her excitement and we were once again energized and assured by her support. A perfect way to start our second month.

We've added 10 baby chicks and 3 laying hens to the bird flock. Socializing the chicks has been a priority and they seem to be getting quite comfortable with us. They grow larger everyday and will be joining the free ranging older hens in only a few weeks.

Ken and Mary, a couple of dairy farmers down the road, run a cow share program. We purchased three shares in a cow, getting us three gallons of fresh, raw, delicious milk every week. Taking the cream off the top we regularly make a pound of butter and occasionally boil up some farmers cheese or whip together some ice cream. We have set up a work share so that we pay for our milk by working 8 hours per month. As an added bonus they have a huge mound of composted cow manure and we grab a load every time we get milk.

Morels. Butter. Enough said.
Spring is "Woodfish" season. The Morel mushroom grows throughout the forest on the property and in the surrounding hills. A few hours of searching is well worth a pan of these tasty fungi sauteed in homemade butter.

We have a little irrigation system now running off a small 12 volt pump. We use a deep cell marine battery to run it and are considering purchasing a solar panel. We can easily move 300 gallons of water per day the necessary 100 yards and 35 vertical feet from our spring to 6 barrels above the garden beds for storage.
Jacob, master of all that is bamboo sweating
Alan and Jeff building the deer fence
Almost every person we talk to mentions the importance of deer protection and we have now completed our fence around 1/4 of an acre encompassing the main vegetable gardens. Hollow fiberglass poles dug 3 feet into the ground hold 12 foot bamboo posts that have been roasted in a  fire ("sweated") to increase their strength and weather resistance by polymerizing the sugars in the bamboo and bringing the waxes to the surface. The vertical posts are joined by 20 foot horizontal bamboo poles and the bottom is sealed with chicken wire. We have plans to strengthen the fence and either grow plants up it (HOPS!) or weave something into it to make it appear more solid.

Planting our summer crop of potatoes!

One of the main focuses has been building and preparing all the garden space we would need for the 150 different varieties of plants we will be growing. This has been an ongoing project since we arrived and has now reached completion! In total we have about 3000 square feet (about 1/15 of an acre) of fertile sheet mulched growing space. We are extremely excited that this year's garden building season has come to a close.

Blue Ridge Mountain heirloom tomato seedling
All this preparation was in anticipation for the bountiful harvest we are planting for this year. 
Already we have transplanted the brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kolhrabi) and lettuce, and have direct seeded carrots, beets, radishes, arugula, mustard, orach, chard, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, and peas.  Sprouts are up and growing fast!

In addition to the new hens and chicks we added two very important members to the farm family, Miss Calloway and Mr. Bear. On the 14th of April, Fran brought home a German Shepherd/Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) mixed puppy who now goes by Calloway.
  She is 5 months old, quick to learn, and full of energy, greeting us each day with enthusiasm to "herd" the chickens and excitement over the chicks.  She also loves getting loved, especially a good belly scratch. 
Two best friends napping in the Bear Cave
Last weekend, Alan and Kelsey brought home a Great Pyrenees they have named Bear.  He is 11 weeks old, and a big boy at 35 pounds. He is extremely curious, sniffing and exploring the property and occasionally finding himself a nice little snack of chicken excrement.  Not our favorite habit he has picked up, but hard to control now that the lady hens are free range chickens roaming all over the property leaving countless presents for Bear.

The next few weeks are promising sheep, guinea hen babies (keets), more planting, and some early harvesting of spring greens.
Fran planting some everbearing strawberries

We hope that the sun starts shining for those of you on the west coast and that you all are happy and healthy.


Kelsey, Fran, Jacob and Alan


  1. So great. We consider ourselves a branch outlet, though our Seattle Chicken Project involves no excrement-eating hounds at this point. We might need to take a page from the bamboo fence to keep friends away from the coop when the eggs start appearing.

  2. Hey loves!

    I have good news, Mack and I are working on a care package! We've been infusing our own spirits, and have some nice alcohol to send you (hopefully that's legal?). So far we have to send you:

    -Pasilla, Anahein, Jalapeno and habenero vodka (for bloody mary's! or muddle it with lime and a little sugar to make some shot that kim makes at her bar).
    -Blueberry and sage gin
    -Strawberry and lime tequila
    -pineapple, tarragon, and serrano pepper silver tequila

    We also got a dog toy for the pups but judging by the pictures they're bigger dogs than we though. perhaps the toy is too small.. maybe it can be a chicken toy? lolz. they look adorable.

    The rest of the package is going to be a surprise (everyone's tossing stuff in for you! we miss you guys). Can one of you send me or mack your address?