Category Archives: wild foods

Hi Everybody!

Remember me?  I had this blog, and then I bought this farm, and then, and then and then….well, I am back. Let’s just say I am glad 2016 is in the rear view mirror.

 

So much has happened in the last year, including a big life reality check that put a hitch in all of my giddyups, including this blog.  But we survived, and all is well for now. And boy am I grateful for every sweet farmy day.  I need to go pot up peppers, but here’s a quick overview of what is happening on the farm, headed into year 3!

I went morel hunting, and finding!  This really is an R rated mushroom. But delicious-we made morel/nettle/bacon pizza.

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On the farm I started experimenting with occultation a la Jean Martin Fortier, a la french intensive gardening.  Very happy with the results so far, including being able to work up some beds in spite of the relentless, never ending, ceaseless, continual rain.  Is it raining right now?  Yes, yes it is.  Heck, people on the East side of the Cascades are complaining about the lack of sun.  Like they even know…..

IMG_0607.JPGLeft to right-prepped and planted terrace, terrace with amendments but no compost (it is there at the end of the bed), terrace whose tarp has just been removed and then rotoharrowed, then a terrace that has just been mowed and covered with the tarp.  This process seems to take about a month to 5 weeks in winter, I expect that to shorten down to two or three weeks in summer, when soil biology is more active.  I have high hopes this will reduce weed pressure significantly.

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I am also hoping this tarp process will help me incorporate cover cropping into my rotations-here is a bed I seeded this spring with the intent to let it bloom and grow all summer and then prep using the tarps for fall crops.

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As my soil improves I can plant more intensively so I can actually take some terraces and beds out of production for a while-and I am changing my methods away from row cropping and more towards intensive planting.  Growing things with a shorter turn around time also helps me keep ahead of the gophers, though I am seriously considering introducing some gopher snakes to the farm. I had to replant almost all of my garlic, and I built a screened bottom bed just for that purpose.  But it isn’t big enough-I should have at least twice as much garlic as this.  IMG_0625.jpgSigh.  Moving on….the greenhouse is awesome.  So awesome I went nuts and planted a bunch of stuff that has matured 3 weeks early.  Oops!  Well, consider this research into season extension and a possible future Shoulder Season CSA.   Call me if you want lettuce.

P4097916.JPGIMG_0632.jpgHope everyone out there in blog land is healthy and happy!  If you want to know more about the farm and what we are up to-head over to the farm website:

 

cheers!

 

Putting the cart before the horse, take 2

So, last night all my river guidin’, horseback ridin’, western cowgirl farmer wannabee big truck fantasies came true.  We found a rig to tow the Dingo (and other things)!  Sorry for the low quality pic, but she is a beaut.  And my husband even got me the old school Pacific Wonderland plates, sweet man.

She's big, she's white, she's 4WD....

Every girl needs one, and a good man is useful too….

In other news, we had an above average backyard honey harvest, the latest batch of baby bunnies are adorable, and they have cut the trees in the last section of the parcel behind the farm we expect to close on in November.  Looks like a natural disaster back there, but also feels oddly like forward progress.  And of course we wanted them to finish logging before we bought, as that will be easier for everybody.  There was a beautiful doe looking for apples under the apple tree…..which looks like it might be a Gravenstein!  And there should be a fantastic walnut crop, if the squirrels don’t get them all.

cheers!

Bee Season

The grass is growing, the bees are flying, the trees are budding, the spring chinook are in the river, and that all spells one thing to this beekeeper.  Swarm season!  I plan to stash a couple of swarm traps out at the little farm-to-be this week (which is late!  I should have them up already!).  The earliest swarm I have heard of around here was on Easter Sunday, and that is next weekend!

For those of you new to beekeeping, swarm catching is a great way to expand your apiary.  It is also good to know how to catch your own bees if/when they swarm.  If you have never done it before, go with an experienced beekeeper once or twice to see how it is done.  I often teach a swarm catching class this time of year, but thought I would post for the world at large my swarm kit and some good basic recommendations for the would bee swarm catcher.  All of this is common sense information, but good to refer to when bee fever is in full swing.  A few good questions at the start can save you a lot of time and gas money.bees closeup

BE AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE BEES

  1. Be courteous, calm, confident, and prepared to answer a lot of questions about bees.
  2. Don’t get in over your head.
  3. Don’t commit to removing the bees unless you are absolutely sure you can, and don’t feel obligated to put yourself in unnecessary danger.  You are a volunteer, not a superhero. Tell people you will do your best, but make sure they know that you can’t fly, for example, and that those bees 40 feet up in a tree really pose no threat to anyone.  Use phrases like “I will check it out and remove them if I can” instead of “I will take care of those bees for you”.
  4. Save yourself a lot of unnecessary driving around by asking a lot of questions before you go (see below).  Ask the property owner to call you if the bees leave before you arrive.
  5. Make sure the relationship is clear.  There are some kooks out there that want to charge You for removing their bees for them.  If people offer money I often suggest they make a donation to Zenger Farm  or the Xerces Society if they want to help bees.  Or you can accept it to cover some of your costs….
  6. Carry some printed information to hand out to people if they want it.  Make sure your contact info is on there, as other swarms may occur in the same area (or you might have left something behind!).

SWARM KIT

 

  1. Ventilated cardboard box or spare hive body.  Make sure it has a bottom, lid, and an entrance/exit that you can seal up for transport!  I use #8 (1/8th inch) hardware cloth and duct tape to seal the entrance….make sure the bees get plenty of air!
  2. Protective clothing:  I use a Tyvek suit tucked into boots, gloves, and veil.
  3. 1/1 sugar syrup spray in a spray bottle.  Mine usually has a few drops of lemongrass and mint essential oil.
  4. Ladder
  5. White sheet (lay this under the swarm and the swarm box to prevent bees from getting lost in the grass and stepped on)
  6. Time.  The process can take an hour or two, not including travel.
  7. Bee Brush, dust pan, sheetrock knife (this is less annoying to the bees than a brush if used gently).
  8. Duct tape (for sealing up box/hive body for transport).

    Swarm in my apple tree

    Swarm in my apple tree

Non essentials that are nice to have:

9.  Benadryl and Epinephrine just in case….

10. Loppers/pruners/pruning saw.

11. Long handled broom.

12. Bait for the box:  lemongrass essential oil, old brood comb.

13. Assistant (if possible).

14. Referral Cards and Information handouts, these bees may swarm again!

15. Cell phone.

16. Bee Vac/extension pole with bucket or net/other tricky high swarm gear

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU GO

  1. Sure they are honeybees?  (not wasps, not bumblebees?)
  2. Sure they are swarming? (in a clump in a tree or on a fence etc, not an established colony in some cavity).
  3. How large is the swarm clump?  (if they are the size of a lemon, it may not be worth your time, if they are the size of a soccer ball then…Bonanza!).
  4. How far off the ground?  (people are terrible at judging this, but if it sounds like you need wings then don’t go unless they have a cherry picker to loan you).
  5. How long have they been there?  Minutes?  Hours? Days?  (This question will often sort out the swarms from the structural removals and established colonies in bee trees)
  6. Location:  Street address, contact person’s phone number, description of exact location (“in the apple tree in the front yard right at eye level”) if the property owner cannot meet you there.

Don’t forget to ask that they call you back if the bees leave before you get there!

This information is only partial, I would take a class or at least have a good handle on bee behavior and the biology behind swarming, and go with someone who has experience a few times if possible.  I am currently reading the book Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley, which I would say is a must read for anyone wanting to set up swarm traps or bait hives.  Here is another excellent reference on catching swarms (and I think Matt has now caught more than anyone I know!) from the Beethinking Website.

And finally, of course, you must be fashionable when catching swarms.  Diamonds are perhaps a bit much, but pearls (and cowgirl boots!) go with any occasion.

bee fashionistas

In other news:  the cart is finished, it turned out great and is currently being tested out at Square Peg Farm.  I will post about that soon…like when I relocate my camera.  Also, we got our first batch of baby bunnies last week!  So far I have counted seven, but they should be out and hopping about in a few days.  Happy bee chasing!

Heartbreak, and updates.

Wow, I really thought we had found the farm and was hoping this would be The Post…..then the deal started getting weird and then it fell through.  Looking for property is  just like dating.  You are initially attracted, and see the potential.  You get a little closer and see the flaws, and second guess.  Then at some point you either don’t call back or you start to fall in love and jump in.  If you do jump in and get rebuffed….Ouch!  Most likely we dodged a bullet, the sellers were suddenly in a big hurry to sell the place, so who knows if there were outstanding liens, or the house was about to fall down (didn’t look like it to me, and I used to carpenter), or a LNG line is aimed down the driveway, or they just got a better offer and handled it poorly.  Anyway, we are back in the hunt.  It definitely feels like the market is warming up, which is not reducing my desire to find it any, but the good news is that means it will be easier to sell the house in town. I learned quite a bit in a short time about what it might take to transfer Points of Diversion (ie get the irrigation right applied to the well on property from the well off property), finding well logs, and what to expect and what the pitfalls might be if the seller offers to carry the note on a property, and who I might use as a real estate lawyer/pump service/well driller if I might need one.  Mainly, it was a good reminder not to panic if things start to go south or the deal starts to smell rotten.  With any transaction, you have to be able to walk away.   It will be interesting to see if the property comes back on the market, or actually sells.  Kudos to my husband, who is as disappointed as I am, for helping me keep my head and being willing to talk things through on short notice in the middle of a busy work day.  Ugh.  I do hate Drama.

 

On to happier stuff:  The garden is mostly put to bed and cover crops are in, though I am waiting for a frost to dig up the Dahlia bulbs.  I also need to put the cloches on the beds of greens and radishes.  The rains have come at last, but possibly too late for much of any mushroom hunting.  Fall break was last week and that is my usual Chanterelle picking window, and I spent it chasing farm rainbows and talking to county Watermasters.  We will have to check the Bolete patch, see if anything is doing there.  Davey went salmon fishing for the weekend in Tillamook, landed a gorgeous 16 pound hen and 12 giant Dungeness Crab (!!).  We have been pretty crabby the last few days, with Crab for dinner on Sunday, Salmon with Crab hors d’oevres on Monday to celebrate our farm joy when we thought we had an accepted offer, and Crabbit deluxe last night to soothe our farm woes.  Dungeness may be replacing Rock Lobster in my heart as Preferred Crustacean (sorry Mom!  But when in Rome….).

On the Bunny front, Momma had her last batch of kits for the year, 5 adorable fuzzballs. 2 black, 2 spotty, and one Blanc de Hotot.  The black ones have adorable little white stars on their foreheads.  She is a good producer, this makes 20 kits for the year!

Snacks was also (finally!) mated for the last time, and should be due in about 3 weeks.  I have converted a pet carrier into the Dating Cage, and it works great.  She hopped right in, I left her in the Buck’s cage in her carrier for a few hours to get reacquainted, and then let her out for about 10 minutes.  The bunnies had their fun, then I brought back the carrier, she hopped right in, and back to the home cage she went, no muss, no fuss.  And no scratches on my arms, either.  I didn’t really want to wait this long to breed her again but she was pretty thin after the last big batch of kits….so I fed her up for a couple of additional weeks to get her back in condition.  We will see if she kindles, and if so how many.  She is the nicer rabbit, but this year so far has only produced 10 kits.  She typically cranks out 8 or 10 per kindle in high season (late spring and summer), she may take another break with a small batch this fall, we will see how she compares with Momma when all the chips are in.  Cute and sweet as Snacks is, I may have to use Momma’s offspring for future breeders over hers if we do ever expand the bunny operation.  Although really I should also weigh all the fryers before I make any final judgements.
I can tell winter is really on its way, the gas fire place is the first place I go to warm up when I get home and I have a new gallon carboy bubbling away on top of the fridge.  This time it is fermenting hard cider from the home tree.  Happy almost Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Fish

The Celilo Indians hold their Salmon celebration this weekend up on the Columbia.  My salmon fever wracked husband caught the first fish in our household today, not long after he dropped me off at the dock so I could go to work.  Always nice to know we have some in the freezer, especially this time of year when the protein supply is getting low. Funny how spring salmon and bee swarm season align……  We will be giving thanks tonight, and firing up the grill.  Thank you Chinook, for your generosity to our household.

(this fish must have had a tag, which is why most of its head is missing)

Happy Spring!

Meat Rabbits reviewed

So I have been mentally reviewing the backyard bunny project, and here is how we did this year:

momma buns

We mated both does twice in 2011.  Momma bunny (who is a somewhat unwilling breeder and not very fond of Poppa bunny generally, but a good mom) had two litters of kits.  The first litter was 7 baby bunnies, the second litter was 8, for a total of 15 baby bunnies.  This was her second year of raising babies.

snacks looking for snacks

Snacks was new to the game, but was a champ and a great mom. She rather likes Poppa bunny.

poppa bunny munching raspberry canes

Her first litter ever was 11 kits, three of which she either killed or were still born, but she raised up 8 in the first batch and 10 in the second batch, for a total of 18 kits.  We gave away two kits to our niece, and butchered the rest, so produced for ourselves 31 meat rabbits.  We figured that for organic bunny kibble it costs about 7.50$ a rabbit (half a bag of bunny pellets per kit), plus maybe another dollar’s worth of hay to raise a kit from newborn to 10 weeks, which is when we typically butcher.  At somewhere around 3# a processed bunny, that is pretty cheap organic meat.  The bunnies also produce great fertilizer, which we compost for 3-6 months and then use in the garden.  Labor is not included in these costs, but it takes about 15 minutes a day to feed and water three bunny pens, and it is the same whether we have kits or not.  The bunnies also get fruit and greens from the garden, grass, apple trimmings and berry canes as a food supplement.  Commercial rabbitries will have does produce up to 5 litters a year, but my sense is that is a lot to ask of a bunny doe year in year out.  You can literally mate a doe the day after she gives birth, but that doesn’t mean I think I should.

snacks' first batch of kits

The one thing about the bunnies that I have yet to work out is that I would really like to have a larger communal play space that they can use when they are not breeding, so the does at least can keep each other company, and everyone can get more exercise.  The bunnies have big pens, but I still feel like their quality of life is less than that of the chickens, who at least get to get out and run around in the yard for a few hours.  There is an interesting article on bunny quality of life issues in the lab here.  I think these approaches could be incorporated into a meat rabbit setting without too much extra work.  Joel Salatin’s movable fryer pens are another approach to this issue of letting rabbits be rabbits, but I don’t know if the breeding adults also get to get out on grass or if it is just the young stock.  Being able to raise the young bunnies on grass would also probably reduce our overall feed costs, though it would increase the labor somewhat.  Our urban yard is currently too small for a pastured meat operation….but there may be room for a bunny play pen.

For those of you who have never eaten rabbit, well, you should.  They are delicious.  If you are like me and prefer the dark meat on a chicken or a turkey, then I guarantee you will love rabbit.  We basically cook them all the same ways we would cook a chicken.  They are excellent brined and roasted, fried in batter, or our favorite current rabbit recipe, braised with mushrooms and tomato sauce.  Here is the recipe for ‘Rabbit Marengo’, a chicken recipe adapted from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

1 young rabbit cut into pieces

one onion, diced small

1/4 cup white wine

mushrooms (about a cup or so?  we eyeball it)

tomato sauce (we usually use somewhere between a pint and a quart)

flour

olive oil

salt and pepper

Cut the rabbit up into pieces and dredge in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper.  In a saucepan heat olive oil and then brown the floured pieces of rabbit on both sides.  Set aside.  Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the diced onion until translucent, and then add the mushrooms and cook until browned.  Add the white wine and reduce for a few minutes.  In a braising pan (we use a Le Crueset braising pan but a heavy cast iron pan wit an ovenproof lid will work too) place the rabbit pieces in first and then coat with the wine/onion/mushroom mixture, and cover with tomato sauce.  Cover and braise in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes.

rabbit marengo

We usually serve this with homemade bread, a big green salad, and a nice local pinot noir.  My husband came home this week with a backpack full of porcini mushrooms, so I look forward to making this with some wildcrafted queen boletes soon.

Champion of the world

Ok, so it has been a pretty tough spring Chinook season.  However, my husband finally landed a fish the other day.  I just happened to find a lost piece of Coho in the back of the freezer the night before that we ate immediately which seems to have lifted the curse! The best part of my husband landing a salmon is it puts him in a fabulous mood for about a week.  Then salmon fever sets back in in earnest.  We are going out on the Willamette this weekend, perhaps fortune will smile on us again.  As always, we shared this first fish with some good friends, with homemade hooch someone had given us, bread and a side of braised stinging nettle, a native ditch side weed that is more delicious than any spinach.  Sorry for the gore, this photo was take just after Huz had cut the gill to bleed the fish out.

11 pounds of deliciousness, fresh from the sea

We had a great weekend at the Yamhill Heritage Center plowing competition, Clare and the boys did the best plowing job yet.  And Clare’s mentor Duane Van Dyke won ‘Supreme plowman’, which made him feel like the Champion of the World as well.

Turnout was amazing, over 1400 folks came out from what I heard.  Unfortunately, none of us brought a camera, but here is a link to Kathleen’s Good Stuff Northwest blog, where there is a good video of Duane and Nick and Nellie.