Thursday, January 19, 2012


Ethan found this little snake sunning himself on our rock pile the other day....

Not too much else going on.  Well, actually, there's a lot of planning for this year going on, just not much to photograph.  The tomatoes and eggplants have sprouted, I'm just starting the peppers now.  We got our seeds from Seed Saver's Exchange and are talking about garden plans.  We're trying to arrange to keep a bull (who knew it was so hard to find a trailer for rent?) for a short time to get the girls bred for this year.  We tried AI on Isla, with no apparent success, which was really disappointing because I had my heart set on Bruno from Holt Creek Jerseys, but we are thinking that for her first calf it will be easier to use an actual bull.  We'll try AI next year.

Also, we are wanting to do another batch of meat chickens, in case anyone would like to pre-order, and we're getting together a list of people that want to get pigs from us next spring.  Since we had the last few good freezes, the last of the grass is brown, the garden is ugly and the landscape is boring.  Last year, this was the time when a bunch of people came out to see the farm and it was so heartbreaking to have to show it to them when everything was dead.  And they were people who have beautiful gardens and keep everything beautifully landscaped.  It was like, here are are ugly molting chickens, here's the field where the garden froze back, here's the compost pile, and look!  You can really see all the blackberries and cactus now because everything else is dead....
Very discouraging.  If they could have come out just a few months later, it would have been so different!   January is always the time I look at the pastures and feel like we're doing something wrong.  But this year we are going to take this time to do some soil correcting.  Next week we're going to throw some lime over the pastures (100lbs per acre).  We are planning to wait a bit until the grass is green and growing to apply the mag-po-sul as recommended, but the lime should help a lot.  And I'm dying to see how the grass will grow this next season since we fed hay along the grazing lines last year and we're finally doing the soil correcting.

I had an idea for how to get winter forages to grow on the pastures for next year.  We have a hard time getting winter forages to grow, not having a tractor or equipment to drill winter rye.  Previously it had consisted of me buying seed, scattering it and having nothing to show for it except some very weak rye seedlings here and there that eventually died from cold or drought.  Looking at the chicken tractors, where a patch of oats grows everywhere the feed is spilled, I thought I should just seed behind the chicken coops, because maybe it wasn't fertile enough.  But no.  Finally I've learned that the seeds really need to be buried to germinate well, and the reason they grew behind the chickens was because the chickens had scratched them into the dirt.
Anyway, this year when we got the piglets we had them in the garden for a short time in a little movable pen  made from a hog panel until they outgrew it and we slaughtered Fred, freeing up the permanent fence pig paddock where they can be trained to electric wire.  Everywhere the pigs spent time there is a lush, green patch of oats and wheat growing very happily.  They had rooted it up enough and rooted seeds under so they could grow.  So, my plan is to move the pigs along the lines in small paddocks to give them the opportunity to have the same effect.  Either it will ruin the pastures or everything will end up looking like the little green patches in the garden....

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We've been getting the most beautiful eggs lately.  The Araucauna layers have started laying their beautiful green eggs, and we've even gotten a few turkey eggs (the beautiful speckled one at the top).

The new California White layers are still too young to lay, but I am hoping they will be laying well for Easter, because everyone like the white eggs for dyeing.

The only other exciting things around here have been that we put a weaning ring on Butch, our steer from Matilda and put him out a few weeks ago.  He was supposed to be in his own paddock, but he quickly escaped and is in with Matilda and the rest of the herd now.  It was fine for a while, but he figured a way around the weaning ring, so we haven't had any milk.  There's just no way we can catch him right now, either, short of one of those nifty stun-rifle things they use for tagging wildlife.

The problem should be short-lived, because this weekend we are hoping to bring Dennis Stolzfoos's Devon bull from Full Circle Farm here, and we will be keeping him in our only permanent-fence paddock with Matilda, Geranium, Chestnut and Isla and a bale of hay, so Butch's milk-drinking spree is soon to be at an end.
What do most people do for weaning calves?  I'm hoping it will be easier once we have more calves and they can keep each other company, but I could be really, really wrong about that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Some winter garden musings

I didn't try to make this the year of the monster turnip, and yet that's what it's become.  I guess it's better than last year when everything froze before we got more than a few radishes.  They got so large so fast, and once that had begun they were too intimidating to eat.  I tried giving them away, but alas.  This one was all corky inside.

We did get a handful of luscious golden peas before the last cold snap, which killed everything--sigh.  I think I'm just a better summer gardener.  Well, maybe I shouldn't say that yet.

This is merely to remind myself how lovely the Japanese Red Mustard was before it got frozen.  It's still alive and is slowly growing back, but it looks like compost.  I guess I'm feeling pessimistic today.  The tomato seedlings for the summer garden are just starting to sprout, so I don't really have any right to complain.