Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Summer to Fall in one Day

Today was a rather blustery day, the first of it's kind so far this season. Between the abruptly gloomy weather blowing in and school starting next week - glory, hallelujah! - Fall is definitely on it's way. :)

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the window-pounding rainstorms, hot apple cider and lazy afternoons spent reading and knitting in front of the fire. Yes, ma'am, I'm ready for it!

But then there are the chores. ALWAYS THE CHORES. I'm in complete denial of exactly how much leaf raking there'll be. Most of our trees are deciduous, the neighbors' trees are deciduous and the wind through our little hollow is strong, which I suspect will mean that our yard and pasture will be the area's leaf repository. On the upside, it makes lovely compost fodder. Try to focus on the positive, that's my motto. Or it should be.

I picked a few of the ripe plums today. Grandma J says that they might be the Damson variety. All I know is that they are tasty. :) I also picked up a few apples knocked down by the wind. I thought I'd gotten them all until I saw a black-tailed doe and her fawn munching away under my apple trees - and on my rhododendrons. We watched them, and they, us, from about 20 feet away. They were beautiful and quiet enough to almost seem surreal. I'm sure that the thrill of their nearness will be gone once they've had one of my roses for lunch, but seeing them today was pretty wonderful.

The chickens are well. Strawberry is still not laying, or if she is, not where we can find them! I think she may be starting a molt, though, as her feathers are looking a little on the sad side lately. Hard to tell when she's windblown and soaked to the bone, though, as we all were today.

Today's (and yesterdays - oops!) totals-
6 eggs
2 pounds windfall apples (varieties unknown - saved for critter food)
3 plums (about 4 oz total)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lazy Sunday

We didn't get a whole lot done today, nor did we get much from the critters, just two eggs. Strawberry has been slacking off big time. In fact, I'm wondering if the move has thrown her off her game, or if she's just squirreling her eggs away somewhere in yet another fruitless attempt at hatching chicks. Hmmm...

The banty hens (of which we think we have 8 or 9) could start laying as early as mid-October, right when they hit the 5-month mark. Once they hit their stride, we'll hopefully be getting around a dozen eggs per day, with the help of the "big girls". A few of our bantams (at least 3, maybe 4 or 5) appear to be roosters. Two of them attempted what I'm assuming was supposed to be a crow the other day. It sounded exactly like when you pinch flat the neck of a balloon and let the air out slowly- sort of a warbling honk. Utterly pathetic!

For those of you keeping track of the babies, there have been a few name changes along the way, as their genders have become apparent-
Scout (hen?)
Daisy (definitely a rooster, needs a new name)
Sunny (Sultan, possibly a rooster)
Sky (Sultan hen)
Snowflake (Sultan, rooster - should we change the name?)
Ruthie (definitely a rooster, now goes by Mr. Jeffries)
Rocky (hen, now called Eglantine after a character in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series)
Wilbur (Americauna/Aracauna hen, now named Molly)
Charlotte (hen)

All are doing well and are getting their "big kid" plumage. Their hobbies include getting chewed out by the big hens, escaping from the chicken yard into my yard, flinging beauty bark out of the flower beds onto the sidewalk, and doing their pre-pubescent version cock fighting (basically they just jump around and fluff their neck feathers up. Real badasses, they are.) God save me from hormonal teenagers of all species!

For the record, today's take-
2 eggs

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Building our Orchard

Since most of the items that I eventually want to grow/raise must wait until Spring to be bought, planted or born, I'm focusing my energy on the few things that do best when begun in the Fall, which around here means primarily, trees.

My sister-in-law turned me on to a very cool nursery out of Molalla, Oregon, called One Green World. They offer a pretty diverse selection of fruit & nut trees, native plants, berry bushes and more, all acclimated to the weather of the Pacific Northwest. Here's what I ordered-

*2 Montmorency Cherry trees (These are the classic sour "pie" cherry, which are impossible to find in any store.)
*1 Autumn Rose Peach
*1 Arbequina Olive tree
*1 Himrod (green grape) vine
*1 Heavenly Blue (blue/purple grape) vine
*1 Highbush Cranberry
*1 Bigtop horseradish

An olive tree! Can you believe it? In western Washington?!? I can't wait to see if this pans out for us. How cool would it be to be able to make my own olive oil? :)

The four new trees will bring our "orchard" up to a whopping 10 trees! We currently have some nice old apple, pear and plum trees which are presently fairly heavy with fruit, with the exception of the pear. I think that they would all benefit from an expert pruning, so I guess that I'd better start saving my pennies.

As for the grapes, these particular varieties are intended mainly for eating fresh, drying for raisins or cooking down for jelly. That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that I won't be trying to eek some wine out of them. ;) The other big benefit to having a grape vine or two is of course, the leaves. They are not only delicious in dolmades, but can be used in place of most any cooked greens. My rabbits also adore them!

I'm so looking forward to getting these in the ground. I don't know if they will be established enough to bear fruit for us this coming spring, but as long as they thrive, I can be patient - if I have to.

Today's Take-
2 eggs (Strawberry and Amelia seem to have taken the day off.)
1 plum - YUM!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Life on the Farm, day 7

We've still not completely settled into this place, but still, it already has the feeling of home. We have so much work to do to get this place ready to roll for next spring that I don't know where to begin!

On the short/urgent honey-do list:
-Add smaller-gauge fencing to the south side of the chicken yard, to keep the banties off of my lawn.
-Mow the grass of the lawn that will become the garden.
-Borrow a goat to eat the pasture down a bit.
-Weed, weed, weed
-Harvest plums
-Start building a second chicken coop
-Make a garden plan/start building raised beds

This is going to be one jam-packed Fall and Winter, in terms of chores, at least. I'm looking forward to the rewards of running a farm, but have to admit that I'm a little daunted by the work that it is going to take to get things rolling. Here's the thing about our little farm - it's just 3.5 acres, but there is nothing besides a few fruit trees and little bit of fencing that is farm-ready about this place. We have no barn (or even a garage!), the fence is in poor shape, the pastures are way overgrown, and there is no garden at all. Getting this farm established is going to take a lot of hard work just getting the infrastructure in place. Not to mention, schooling myself in the fine art of animal husbandry. Right now, we're taking a hard look at dairy goats, pigs, turkeys, angora bunnies and possibly Dexter cattle. It's a good thing that we have a long, cold winter coming up - I'm going to need a little Winter's rest before the madness of Spring descends.

In the mean time, just for my own notes, I will try to post daily what we've harvested from our not-quite-yet farm. ;)

For today -
3 eggs
1 lb, 4 oz of blackberries