Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunny days and heat waves

Here on the mountain, spring has been feeling a lot more like summer for a group of Washington transplants. The sun seems to be shining constantly, and we've already had a few hot days climb above 90 degrees! The property is looking amazing; the blackberries are coming on, the pasture grass is tall but getting cut this week (Alan is learning to bush hog), and the wildlife is blossoming - turtles, lizards, turkeys, frogs, toads, etc.!

A lot has happened on the farm since our last blog post - we'll do our best to bring everyone up to speed:

Our chicks have been officially introduced to our adult hens, and coop is now a delightfully noisy madhouse! We lost one of our layers, Margaret, in a tragic farm accident. Let's just say Calloway got a bit overexcited while chasing around what she believed to be one of her feathered squeaky toys... Pups will be pups, but she is now kept under closer supervision with the birds and fortunately hasn't had a problem since. On the plus side, we got the chance to learn how to butcher poultry! We thank Marge for her delicious eggs and meat that we have enjoyed and nourished our bodies with.

Fran's first attempt at gutting a chicken

The garden is growing like crazy. Little green Italian heirloom tomatoes are bursting from crooked branches, sunflower seedlings are following the sun's arc, and the starts we got from the Roanoke Farmer's Market back in March have made many dinners but are on their way out just in time for our own from-seed veggies to take over. We eat homegrown salads twice a day, and soon there will be more than we can eat. In May we planted a number of flower and herb beds and eagerly anticipate the beautiful colors and aromas that they will soon bring to the garden. Some interesting new additions to our year one vegetable garden include grain corn and popcorn, red heirloom okra, edamame, and sweet potatoes. So excited about the prospect of homegrown sweet potatoes in particular, we went ahead and planted over a hundred vines of four different varieties. Excessive? Maybe, but we welcome the potential excess of our collective favorite root vegetable!

Overlooking the garden from the top of the hill

We've had some wonderful visits from friends and family the past few months. Our friends Aaron and Rob spent two weeks with us, diving right into our daily work schedule, and adding the extra hands and enthusiasm to help us get a lot of great work accomplished. While they were here we began the much anticipated earthen oven project. Special thanks to Aaron for planning out our rocket mass/double-chambered oven design, the creative fusion of two approaches for optimizing burn efficiency. The cob oven is now close to complete, and we should be firing some pizza soon! Kelsey's parents, Tim and Vicky, joined us for a wonderful mother's day weekend on the farm. They spoiled us with luxury items such as organic ketchup and killer homemade baked goods; it was really great to all celebrate at least one of our incredible mothers on her special day.

Cob stomping dance party!
 Our most recent guests were Mark (our original connection to Meredith) and Josh (Alan's brother-in-law), more friends and family from Seattle. Hard work, great food, cold mint juleps, and awesome sittin' porch conversation sum up their short weekend visit. Thank you all for making your way out to see us, we had a blast sharing this place with each of you.

Mark and Alan repairing the chicken run

We now have sheep! A rampaging herd of two Olde English Babydolls, Penny Lane and "One-eyed" Elanor Rigby. Yes, Elle is indeed missing her left eye. The sheep are impossibly cute, as you can see from the clip, but they are proving to be a bit more work than we imagined and not exactly effective lawn mowers, that being our original reason for purchasing them. We are learning a lot about sheep and see the potential for what a full flock could do, but we aren't sure about their immediate future. For now, they provide entertainment for the pups, and a reason for us to hop on the ATV every now and then to search the forest when they decide to escape their sheep tractor...

As we establish our roots in the community, we have begun to build the relationships that make this place feel more and more like home. We are so excited to have found some cool fellow sustainable farmers in our area - Holly of Island Creek Farm, and Lucy and Doug from Idlewild Farm. They have all been extremely encouraging, supportive and helpful, becoming informal mentors to us. We have been volunteering our spare time to help them out on their farms a few times a week in exchange for garden wisdom, local knowledge, and tasty farm offerings including eggs, pastured pork, veggies, and even homegrown hops!

Kelsey and Calloway watering in the bamboo forest we call our garden

We are finding that farm chores and maintenance demand an increasing portion of our time and are shaping our work schedule. The daily needs of our livestock and garden combined with rapidly rising daytime temperatures have pushed back the start of our mornings earlier and earlier. Our new schedule has the pups walked, the plants watered, animals fed and in their appropriate spaces, and us feeling energized and fulfilled by breakfast at 7 a.m. A quick morning meeting, and we're off to try and get as much work done as we can before the heat become incapacitating. We give in to enjoy a leisurely lunch and a refreshing iced beverage on the porch and spend the rest of the afternoon researching, planning, resting, etc. When it cools off enough in the evening, we get back outside to put in a few more work hours before calling it a day. We are getting used to this new and different schedule and in fact, really enjoy it.

The puppies are good; Bear weighs 60 lbs now! Life is GREAT all around.

The pups love bamboo!

We want to thank Jacob for his time with us on the farm the past three month. We have truly appreciated his hard work, enthusiasm and intellect in the earliest stages of this project. He is currently on his way back to Seattle to pursue other exciting opportunities. We all look forward to our paths crossing again in the future. While we are no longer farmers four in number, we remain farmer for, that is, farmers for the earth - farmers for freedom - farmers for peace.

Much love to all, more frequent blog posts to come, but no promises!

Kelsey, Fran and Alan

A cattle hay feeder reinvented as the perfect afternoon nap spot

1 comment:

  1. Wow farmers...I admire your dedication and positive outlook! The description of your experiences are incredibly beautiful and invoke stunning imagery.

    Love to you all and all of your ventures!