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forward into spring


Early season projects….


new hoophouse!

We skinned that cat, and now snug on the inside is a seed starting extravaganza-complete with heat mats, tables, a propagation sweatbox, a seeding table, and early garden beds out of the weather.  Spring break for farmers-it was 80 degrees in here the other day…..


it is all fun and games until the field voles find you….

Waiting for a break in the weather to fire up the new BCS-like all tools it is a little oversized for a 5′ 4″ woman and will take some getting used to-but I’ll get that tiger by the tail.

Daffodils are blooming, raab is raabing, bunnies are…. looking very pregnant.


Looking forward to the upcoming season-hoping to get some water catchment in place before the summer dry spell hits-El Nino will perhaps give us a little extra time on that one.  We have some big tanks in place, waiting for the smaller catch tanks to arrive before we set it all up.  Otherwise the seed trays and greenhouse are filling up quickly while we wait for the next break in the weather.  Rain or shine, we are still having fun.  Even if that means applying greenhouse plastic when you would rather be eating dinner.


wiggle wire anyone?


When I start freaking out about politics or global climate change or what the heck I am doing farming….I just stare into the heart of this Romanesco, and all is well.  It is like a vegetable tuning fork for the mind.  Or I would, if I hadn’t eaten it last week.  I am in the universe, and the universe is in me.  For the record, the universe is delicious.


Clearly it is time to go outside, rain or no rain.  Cheers everyone!



It’s raining, it’s pouring-time for a blog post.

Well, I guess it has been a while-but we have been busy busy busy!

The bees and the bunnies have been neglected this year-but we are making progress on the gardens and the orchard.  The CSA went well, the farmers market was a learning experience, time marches on, I look up and it is November!  How the heck did that happen?

Here are some pics from late summer and fall:

orchard terrace triumph

orchard terrace triumph

With no real frost in sight I still have peppers and tomatoes in the fields (although the ripe tomatoes have all exploded-a job for next week is to clear those rows).  My fall mustards are bolting-no idea if this is normal in November but it seems odd.  Lots of alliums (slugs like those), and greens and the beet beds just keep beeting away.  Delicious parsnips are in too-so good.  All of my potatoes went to the CSA- I won’t be making that mistake again!  And lots of other lessons learned-a topic for a later post.

hot peppers

hot peppers

The pullets are now in lay.  The ducks….out of seven ducklings I ended up with 5 drakes and two hens.  Needless to say four of the boys are headed for the freezer. Neither of the girls has laid an egg yet so I am not expecting much until after the winter solstice.  Unlike the hens the ducks are not on 14 hours of light-once I am down to a breeding trio I am hoping to move them in with the hens-or get them their own light system.

hen egg, pullet egg

hen egg, pullet egg

Looking forward to some introspection and rest-for a first year it has been a pretty good one, crazy weather notwithstanding.  I did get out and have a little fun-including taking Osprey on her very first big road trip to the coast.  She was super brave and did great!  Even loaded in the trailer without too much fuss.  Such a good girl.

good pony

Winter projects include a new woodstove for the house (we pulled the old furnace out of the basement and installed some mini splits),  a real prop house, major barn repair, more fencing and some water catchment…no lack of things to keep us busy.  And I will spend the dark months exploring mysteries like how to get the husk fly out of my walnut and how to keep the aphids out of my cabbage….lots to learn.

More soon!



Osprey has landed!

Sorry for the lack of posting-we are super busy and without internets out in the country.  But not only do we have owls in the woods and swifts in the chimney (no more bees in the closet-hooray!), we have an Osprey in the barn.  Here she is:

 alfalfa for breakfast

alfalfa for breakfast

So far she is adjusting well, doing a great job of mowing down my waist high pastures.  She loves the trail rides, and is very tolerant of the dogs, who are turning into stellar farm dogs, as long as the chickens stay in their yard and coop……we are about to tear into the house for rewiring and replumbing, I have to head back out there to pull nails out of all the trim I removed this week.  Cheers!

Good news!


We heard yesterday that the county has conditionally approved the lot line adjustment.  Now we just have to wait for a new septic system to go in and we should be able to close!  We are beside ourselves….still some waiting to do but suddenly we are very, very close.  Wish us luck!

A long walk in Caledonia, chapter 2

After our lovely stay in Fortingall (did I mention I had a very hot bath, after a very long day of walking and sightseeing?  And the cheese plate at dinner?  I love cheese.  Wallace and Gromit ain’t in it.) we headed up over a pass to the base of Schiehallon, the Fairy Mountain, one of the larger mountains in Perthshire.  We did not see any fairies, but once we got up above treeline the weather was appropriately misty and spooky.

the climb out of Fortingall, with Loch Tay in the distance.

the climb out of Fortingall, with Loch Tay in the distance.

tramping in Scottish Fairy Mist

tramping in Scottish Fairy Mist…photo credit Kate

Once over the pass we dropped into a high valley where we found a large bothy (not sure the literal translation…a sort of unoccupied warming hut/hunting lodge).  It was open, so we stopped there and had lunch.  There was graffiti in the entrance, the oldest (a very polite thankyou) from 1927, written in beautiful script.

a commodius bothy

a most commodious bothy

our lunchtime view of schiehallon and the fairies

our lunchtime view of schiehallon and the fairies

From here we hiked down this high valley, crossed a small river and then hiked up a burn that flowed in from the north below Schiehallon, to another bothy.  This one was much smaller, but had plenty of character.  I am under the impression that Scotland experiences high wind on occasion….this hut was built into the side of the hill, and it’s flat roof was thoroughly wired to its foundation.  This was our first experience of moor and heath, it is lovely in its own way.  Hard to imagine this landscape supporting anything but sheep (of which there were several), but apparently it was common practice to bring all the livestock up to the highlands in summer to keep them out of the crops in the valleys.  We saw lots of ruined schielings, which were the low stonewalled summer houses of the families tending the animals.

the wee bothy

the wee bothy

From the bothy we headed over the shoulder of Schiehallon and down into Kinloch Rannoch.  Funnily enough, as soon as we turned our backs on the Fairy mountain, the sun came out and the mist lifted.

Day 3 we hiked along Loch Rannoch and through one of the few remaining patches of Caledonian forest…a forest of old growth Scotch Pine.  It was lovely, and we saw some magnificent old trees, including Gunnar’s tree, named in honor of one of the people responsible for saving this patch of forest.

transcontinental treehugging:  photo credit Kate

transcontinental treehugging: photo credit Kate

We were now hiking in the lands of the MacDonalds, Robertsons, MacDougals and Stewarts.  The MacDougals had a wee castle built out on the loch, on of course, a former Crannog site.  Supposedly there was a stone causeway out to the wee tower, but it was a few feet under water and a crooked path, so only those who knew the route could get to the tower without taking a swim.

fine scottish summer weather for swimming...

fine scottish summer weather for swimming…

That night we spent in a very nice guesthouse in the town of Bridge of Gaur.  We hiked past Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood home along the way, although we didn’t find that out until later….  (At the end of the trip I bought a copy of Kidnapped, which is all set in the highlands and the Hebrides, and a very swashbuckling read).  Looming ahead of us from Bridge of Gaur was our big mileage day, 18 miles across Rannoch Moor to Kingshouse, which was one of our favorite stops on the trip.  More to come soon….


So in the name of all things summery, here in my last summer of Not Farming I am hoping to take full advantage of all fun-hog opportunities that come my way.  My sister and I leave for Scotland next week, so I apologize in advance for the radio silence, but promise to come home with some stories of our travels!  We are hiking across the Highlands from Aberfeldy to Fort William, and then taking a couple of days to explore Skye.  Very very excited.

In hopes of other summer adventures, and because she needed it badly, I have refinished my wooden sea kayak that I built 15 or so years ago.  I used offsets from Pygmy kayaks, it is their oldest hull design I think, and meant for long journeys….the Queen Charlotte Standard.  I can easily pack 200lbs of gear plus myself in it, though I would say overall the boat is too big for me and is hard for me to handle in a stiff wind, as the big nose causes it to weathercock pretty hard especially when it is empty, and my short stature and lighter weight and short arms (and, lets be honest these days, lack of upper body strength) make it hard for me to control and turn quickly in rough conditions.  That said, I have had it out in some big swell, and though I couldn’t turn it when I wanted to, quartering into the wind this boat shouldered off anything the lower Columbia threw at it that day.  I’d love to build another one sometime, that was a better fit for me and a little lower profile (and maybe with a skeg).  Boy is it nice to have a big heated covered shop to work in! One of the benefits of the students being gone for the summer.  With any luck, the husband and I will take our boats up to the west coast of Vancouver Island some time in August for a little trip….

roof racks....such a fan

roof racks….such a fan

shiny varnish

shiny varnish

kayak camping at our favorite spot...the 'shack place'

kayak camping at our favorite spot…the ‘shack place’

Hope everyone out there in blog land has a great summer!

Seed Season

So the glossy color seed catalogs are arriving, lists are being made, dreams are being dreamed…who needs Christmas?  Every January I go through my seed stock and take inventory, and make a list of seeds I need to purchase for the upcoming year.  This year I am trying to write up a garden plan for a 1/2 acre, just in case we do land the farm (still waiting there, I promise I will update as soon as I hear something positive!  Local governments do not move quickly).  In my poking around I did find this useful blog post regarding varieties that are owned by Monsanto and Seminis….and the seed companies that may or may not sell them.  Apparently one of big Ag’s goals is to own the patents on 
ALL vegetable varieties sold.  It is so Big Brothery it is almost surreal, and more than a little frightening.  I know F1’s are reliable and consistent but the more I learn about the seed industry the more I find myself turning to the older, weirder open pollinated varieties.  And breeding locally adapted seed of course makes just as much sense as breeding locally adapted honeybees or other livestock.  We will see how it all shakes out once I am growing for a living and not just for pleasure.  My revelation of 2012?  I was able to grow fabulous, scrumptious, 2 foot long parsnips in my raised beds.  I am the person with a clay brick for a back yard….this is epic.  The variety I am most excited to try in 2013?  Beaver Dam pepper. 

I have a spread sheet that I update every year, and having that history over time I have found to be extremely valuable.  I know which varieties produce consistently in my garden, and more importantly, am finding out which seed companies I like best.  Top of the list right now?  Adaptive Seeds.  They have a lot of regionally adapted varieties and some very unique things I haven’t been able to find anywhere else, like Sweet Magnolia snap peas (they are a glorious purple, the flowers are beautiful, and hardier and more productive than Super Sugar Snaps), and the 24 inch parsnips.

The greenhouse has been cleaned out, the list is made, now I just have to order seeds and planting medium….February will be here soon!Image