Monday, May 28, 2012

Morning's Gift

Walking down to feed and water the animals this morning, we discovered a beautiful swarm on the coyote brush.  The bees must really love this spot because this is the second swarm that has landed here.  It's a wonderful joy for a beekeeper to stumble upon a swarm.  Such a magnificent sight, definitely one of nature's miracles.   Since we recently did a huge honey harvest, we had several frames left over for the bees to clean.  We put the swarm into their new hive with the sticky frames and they seem to be quite happy to busily eat up all the left overs.  Our population of hives has decreased over the past year so we are super happy to add this new one to the farm.  Good morning bees!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Weeds To The Rescue

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. " 

This season has been particularly uncomfortable for allergies.  I, for one, had a couple of weeks of severe symptoms.  I don't suffer from traditional hay fever, but I do occasionally get random allergic reactions to unknown food triggers.  I had not experienced these symptoms in years but recently I had an awful flare up and found myself desperate for relief.  As I lay in bed one morning with my eye lids almost swollen shut, I remembered my friend Cleavers.  After years of experience, I now have a strong tendency to listen to myself. That inner voice in all of us that is so often ignored can be a guiding force of wisdom.  

Cleavers climbing next to the compost bins

So I grabbed a basket and went looking for some fresh specimens of this sticky weed.  Well, it is the perfect time of year around here and I didn't have to look far.  There is a profuse amount of this plant growing all over our property.  Cleavers (Gallium Aparine) is known by different common names; Goosegrass, Stickyweed, and Bedstraw are just a few.  But the way most people know Cleavers is by the way it persistently sticks to your clothing.  My son likes to surprise me by throwing it on my shirt or hair.  

This wonderful weed strengthens lymphatic activity, reduces allergic reactions, eases tender swollen breasts, PMS symptoms, and mild lymph edema.  To harvest, cut the top two-thirds of each plant while it is in flower or setting seeds (the seeds look like burrs).  You can then make a tincture, tea, or my preferred method, fresh green juice. 

To make the fresh juice I gathered a basket full of leafy tops, brought them inside and rinsed them lightly.  At first I attempted to put them through my juicer, but since I do not have a Vita mix, that attempt failed.  Cleavers is way too fibrous for my wimpy machine so out came the Cuisinart blender.  

I added a little water to the plants, enough to get them to turn over and blended until I had a nice even green juice.  Then I strained the mixture and added a couple of juiced apples.  Delicious and very cooling.  I think I drank 2-3 pitchers full.  I just kept making more as it was very calming to my inflamed system.  

So all you gardeners, foragers, and hikers out there, don't think of Cleavers as a nuisance. Harvest some when in season, use it as a spring tonic, and reap the health benefits.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Wonder Of It All

You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

As I stop and observe the outside world around me, I have been acutely aware that my experience is a bit unconventional.  For the last few weeks I have been eating, breathing, and sleeping GOATS.  This was our first year breeding livestock, with four successful litters born on our farm, nine new kids total.  They are so precious it makes all the effort worth while. 

I know what your are thinking...nine babies!  Sounds overwhelming, and some days it has been, but oh every birth was so exciting and exhilarating.  A little bit of chaos is tolerable when you know it is temporary!  It still amazes me how the births were all staggered a few days apart.  This week we witnessed the last two of our does give birth.  

It is extraordinary when you develop a relationship with an animal over time and you become close enough to be able to communicate.  The trust they had in me and the closeness I felt was beyond words.  So perfect that they all came at times when I happened to be working at home.  

We are enjoying the kids for only a few days, as they are all going to new homes.  It has been a priority to keep our goat families intact and not separate Mamas from their young.  We have been very fortunate to find some wonderful people who want to incorporate them into their homesteads. 

Rosemary and her kids
This evening we said goodbye to Bella and her two strapping boys, who are headed up to Napa to live a life of luxury, eating pasture galore.  It was hard to see Bella go since she was our first goat and has been here with us from the beginning of our adventures. 

I decided to keep our lovely doe May Daisy and her beautiful triplet girls.  There is something quite special about the Sable Sanaan/Oberhasli cross and I am looking forward to bonding with her gorgeous kids.  May Daisy is a super milk producer with great teat formation, and a gentle, affectionate temperament, all you could want in a dairy goat.  

Tuppens and her kids
After this weekend I can exhale and focus some attention on the family cow.  I think we all fell in love with the sight and feeling of having a real herd.  There is just something enchanting about seeing them all together, the dance of their hierarchy, their affection and frolicking, their beauty.  I will miss it until next year.  And until then...there is the MILK.  

Select photos by Lori Eanes 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In Favor of Buckwheat

This spring we are doing some more experimenting with small scale grain growing.  After doing some research on buckwheat, it really seems to be a wonder crop.  It is easy to grow, germinating in only 3-5 days and grows well in dry climates, giving up to 3-4 crops per year. Not only do the bees love it, buckwheat provides one of the highest honey yields per acre.  Bees working the buckwheat flowers make a dark sweet honey with a robust flavor that is high in antioxidants.

Used as a cover crop it will break up highly compacted soil while used as a green manure, it can be plowed into the soil after only three weeks.  It is a great mulch for overwintering beds.  (An amazing soil building combo would be buckwheat, crimson clover, borage, and vetch.)  Sowing buckwheat around your fruit trees creates a living mulch and it gathers nutrients on a deeper soil depth than the tree roots.  
tester bed about two weeks after planting, covered with young buckwheat leaves
It's edible blooms attracts beneficial insects as it also lures harmful insects like aphids away from other garden vegetables.  Buckwheat is gluten free.  It also has a feed value similar to oats so can be used for the homestead animals mixed with other grains.  Sounds like it's worth trying, we sure hope it lives up to it's reputation.  If so, we may be planting a whole lot more in the future.

Oh, and we can't forget buckwheat pancakes!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Work Party Co-op

"What is success?  
I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing 
that you are doing; knowing that is not enough, that you 
have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose."
-Margaret Thatcher

In April we hosted our first local work party co-op meeting.  Our goal is to keep it simple and to be consistent.  Six households are participating, all of us live within an approximate 5 mile radius of one another.  We plan to meet one Sunday every month at a different person's home.  For three hours we all work together on whatever project the host has ready for us.  

hilling potatoes
Our first meeting...weeding and preparing beds for planting.  (A huge task, covering our overgrown hillside.)  Wow, it was surprising how much ten people could get done in a few hours.  

We successfully cleared ALL the beds, mulched pathways, cleared all the seed flats and planted the starts, mulched the planted beds with straw, hilled potatoes, harvested beets, and had a delicious potluck lunch.

I'm telling ya folks, if you have lingering projects that you want help with this is the way to do it.  Great company, interesting conversation, creating community.  This is what it's all about.  

Thanks everyone who pitched in.  We are grateful and ready to get our hands dirty again in a few more weeks.

Photos by Lori Eanes

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Keepin' Me On My Toes

Yesterday we welcomed three more beautiful kids.  After participating in Bella's birth it was easier for me to see what the early signs of labor are.  So I brought May Daisy, one of our Sable Saanen does, up into her birthing stall late in the morning.  She was looking good and ready.  

I gave her a bit of grain and within a couple of hours she went into labor (about 10 minutes before I had to leave to pick up my son...great timing!).  I had just enough time to watch her birth the first kid (back feet first), dry off the face, and call my neighbor, who once again graciously rushed over. 

When I got back home 40 minutes later, two more healthy kids awaited us.  Three girls!  Way to go May Daisy!  Within an hour she pushed all three out just like that.  Birth is so amazing.  

With no help from us she licked them all dry, chewed off the cords, and ate her placenta while the little ones found her teats.  What a great mamma she is.  Aren't they cute how they are up on their feet, ready to explore the world, only a day old.  

This morning when I went to check on May Daisy she had an engorged udder.  It seems the kids were having a hard time latching on to such full teats.  Once I milked her, the kids were able to nurse easily.   (I also gave her some Ibuprofen to help with the inflammation.)  We will milk her several times a day until her swelling goes down and feed the nutrient rich colostrum to the kids.   

This little one below is a tad smaller than the others so she will get some special attention and extra manual feedings.

Whew, this farming business sure does keep you busy.  Looking forward to fresh raw milk once again.  And CHEESE!!!