assessing the damage, a miracle, and baby chicks

As usual, I started this post over a week ago so some is old news. Updates will be in bold again. It all probably reads like someone with multiple personalities conversing amongst themselves.

As snow and ice begins to melt, more and more storm damage is coming to light. Heartbreaking and devistating are both huge under statements. The landscape has been forever changed, at least for our lifetimes. It’s overwhelming and hurts my heart to see so many damaged and fallen trees (I like a lot of trees more than a lot of humans). We were originally thinking around 50. Now it’s appearing to be at least 100. We used to live in a beautiful, private oasis. Now it feels more field than forest that offers significantly less privacy, though still beautiful. Before we could hear but not see the highway from the courtyard near the cabins. Now we can see passing cars up the driveway (and they can possibly see us). Guess that’ll make outdoor bathing a little more interesting this summer if they can, eh? I’ll be replanting that area first and think it’ll only take five or six trees once grown in, and maybe a couple of shrubs.

Although 95% of the greenhouse contents had been lost, a couple things survived — 7 cauliflower seedlings. And the greenhouse damages are infinitely less severe than I thought so I can fix it without having to ask anyone for help. A bit of UV plastic and some greenhouse tape and it’ll be good to go, needing only a new door but we’ll get to it when we do. In the meantime there is a UV plastic flap door.

Update: I’ve been planting like a crazy lady, both in the greenhouse and in the garden. Let’s see if I can remember it all: 64 heirloom tomatoes, 36 strawberries, 48 broccoli and cauliflower each of several varieties, more radishes, carrots and peas (those three love being planted together and thrive as companions), cabbage, poppies, calendula, lavender, dill, coriander, mint, thyme, sage, turnips, beets, onions, green onions… There’s more but I don’t have my garden journal with me and I’ve not had enough coffee yet.

The garden holds a great deal of death. A dozen dead four year old blueberry bushes. A dozen dead raspberries. Our two potted/need to be planted blackberries will likely return, plus all of our delicious wild blackberries. It looks like our garlic is safe and most of the radishes remain. I would rather have blueberry and raspberry bushes than radishes, but someday we can buy more berry bushes. Plus we have 8 more to plant so our annual blueberry cravings will be satiated in a couple of years. There’s frog life in the garden too, and frogs are a symbol of luck and abundance. I’ll tale that!

Update: Raspberries are resilient plants. This one above is our golden raspberry which sprouted these leaves in under a week. Now most of the others are sprouting. It looks like we only lost two heirloom raspberry plants but I’m still hopeful. I’ve grown huge raspberry bushes out of tiny little pieces of raspberry roots so I’ll work my magic and see what happens. (Tip: if you have raspberry loving pest, plant some onions and calendula around them.)

So far only four orchard trees are lost: a wine crisp apple (ouch!), our only apricot (also ouch!), a peach and a nectarine. We’ll have to watch the rest and see. Fruit trees can only tolerate only so much ice and frost before the decide to just give up. I’m trying not to be the same. I’m trying to force on my fighting gloves and kick ass on everything. At least the free stuff to fix, like replanting seeds that we already have.

Update: The wine crisp may be saved. It was laying flat on the ground due to other things falling on it but I replanted it. Plums and cherries are starting to blossom.

The the chicken house was so new I never even finished painting it. It has trees on it. The roof is smashed. The sheathing under the roofing is smashed. Support beams are smashed. Once it rains, it may leak and that’s no place to keep chickens. But fixing it can’t happen until we fix the cabin first. I would hate to rehome all of my girls to have to start over again later so I’m not even going to think about that. It’s not raining right now so that’s good. I would put that big tarp over the roof instead of their enclosure (that I was planning on covering in suntuf next month) but it’s now riddled in holes. Clearly my husband is an amazing builder though. The force of the trees and branches falling on the coop jarred the nesting boxes off the walls. But the whole building remained. He’s awesome! But now, the girls are so traumatized today aren’t laying eggs in the coop. I went from an average of 18 to 23 eggs a day all winter and now I’m getting 3 or 4. Spending $50-60 a week to feed chickens to only get three or four eggs a day is not my cuppa tea either, haha.

The chicken house damage hasn’t effected the mama hens Juniper and Olga. Both hatched 5 babies and all are thriving.

Update: A massive oak tree had fallen on part of the chicken Nursery yard fence and apparently that gave any access to the neighbor cat. It ate one of the babies. 😦 That’s fixed now. Out of 10 babies there were only two black ones, fathered by my barnevelder that I rehomed and that cute little black and white one in the front was one of them. That’s the one that got eaten. Farm life.

Update: We also have 7 eggs in the incubator and 100% fertility rate. I candled them all again last night and five were moving so we will have at least five more babies soon. And the Coastal Farm store has a few kinds of day old baby chicks I’m also going to add into the mix. I’ve been selling lots of babies and pullets to keep my flock rotated so am rewarding myself with some blue egg laying Ameraucanas. This baby above is the only one I’m keeping, except for the roosters to put in the freezer, out of the first two batches. She, if she’s a girl, is half Partridge Cochin, half Welsummer. Feathered feet! I call her Hild.

Easiest part of everything is all the fencing. It’s fairly cheap and easy to run. The duck area, the chicken area, the garden area, all need fencing replaced. We should be able to get that done in the next couple of months. And hopefully I can just do it myself without having to harass the husb who already works six days a week and has a million other things on his plate.

Paul has been kicking ass on chainsaw work (thankfully we had 2 offers to borrow one as we don’t currently own one). We’re going to have many years of firewood. Just need to build a wood storage shelter.

The cabin is the biggy, but also the biggest question mark as we haven’t totally gotten to assess damages yet. This is the cabin we took down to studs and have been working on rebuilding the past year-and-a-half. The cabin we were going to be moving into in about two weeks. The cabin that was finally soon to be insured because everything was redone so amazingly well. It could be infinitely worse. In fact, it’s kind of miraculous that it’s not. So on that note, we are so lucky.

The brand new metal roof has damages. The back covered deck is kindling. The front porch awning was ripped off on one side and is being propped up by a peeler core (log). I’m not sure if it needs to be replaced or if we can salvage it. Redoing it eventually was on the To Do List anyway, along with gutters and well filtration. The already problematic septic system has been completely jacked by a tree going roots-up. We hoped we could just have it pumped. Now we have to replace the whole thing. That in itself is bare minimum of $8,000 we dont have but I’ll figure it out. I’ve been looking for cheap leftover building materials on Craigslist that they would like hauled off. Then we can have an awesomely mismatched hodgepodge of recycled material goodness to live in. With the wood stove! That will be so amazing, warmth.

Update: Holy crap! As it turns out, the book of the weight of the oak tree that fell on the cabin is resting on the now shattered deck and roof. A branch is propping it up both from the ground and the deck rubble. If you look closely in the photo above you will see that the oak isn’t even actually touching the roof. A couple of branches are and it appears that they did not pierce through. It looks like it might not even be dented. That means we don’t have to replace any roof panels, only a couple of pieces of flashing. Less than fifty bucks, I’m guessing but a crap load of work. Trees are magical and wise. I asked them to please not fall and if they had to to do as little damage as possible. If it fell even a few inches towards the north, the entire roof structure could have been crushed.

I haven’t even gone to the creek again yet via the multiple trails after the first attempt. I’m kind of terrified to do so. The loss in itself is painful to me, as dramatic as that sounds. But there are also about 10,000 widow-makers, some as long as 10 or 12+ feet. It’s dangerous now, our once safe and beautiful forest. Is no longer a place of solitude or peace but a war zone where shit can fall on your head at any given second. We’ll find a way to fix it all, replant a couple of hundred trees and bring new/different life back to the forest. Same spot, before and after, on my favorite path:

Advertisements

chickens and gardens. wait. nevermind.

This is the blog post I started a day or two before our storm. Updates are in bold.

Though it’s still winter, our gardens and crops are already well underway. The recent frosts have set things back a tiny bit, but I’m confident that I’ll catch back up with my original plans and intentions within the next week or so.

garlic, heirloom garlic, homestead, garlic farm

About a dozen chickens and all three ducks had a recent garden party and unmulched all of the garlic I so carefully mulched in November. I had planned to cover it again but it’s doing so well. I decided that I’ll only do it if we have more freezing spells (garlic likes a little freezing, fyi). We’ve never had garlic this big at this time of year. So lush!

Sheep sorrel

I was pretty upset with the feathered ones at first but now we have an abundance of sheep sorrel growing where the mulch was which is an awesome addition to salads and stirfrys. Their leaves are a great source of vitamins C and E, and lots of cartenoids and beta-carotene in the seeds (seeds come way later in spring and summer). New studies show that it also is a great cancer fighter. Definitely a good “weed” to welcome to your garden. (This photo is from last year. It’s still quite tiny right now.)

Radishes sprouting in the garden

I recently planted 325 radishes and a crap load of carrots which are now coming up (two of which are too close but they’ll work it out). I need to put some more carrots in between and add some peas. The three are a wonderful companion plant trilogy or permaculture guild. I also have started an abundance of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in the greenhouse and plan to start tomatoes in there today or tomorrow — I’ll have to check my calendar as I’m doing things on a 100% biodynamic agriculture schedule. Oh yeah, and planted more herbs and a crapload of greens. And a million other things. If you’re not planting yet, you’re missing out! I have probably 300 starts going in the greenhouse already. UPDATE: The weight of the snow imploded most of the greenhouse and surely all starts are dead due to freezing. Guess I get to start over and kick some butt once this snow finally melts. Hopefully everything in the garden is safe but seeing as how it’s been sitting under a foot or more of snow for over a week, I kind of think not. As long as our garlic survives, I will be happy. I’m most concerned about our Orchard since the trees are still so young. That was over a $3,000 investment last year. But I’m going to be positive and say all will survive because being hopeful is good.

Organic kale, heirloom, heirloom kale, in my garden

I want to add another 100 kale or so in the garden (this is from last month’s frost). I could eat kale every single day so I will just plant a bunch (maybe not really a hundred, but a lot) and reseed every month or so along with peas and radishes. And spinach. You can never have too many greens or fresh veggies.

On another note, chickens. This one you see here, right above? Her name is Myrtle. She’s on my shit list. She’s a baby killer. She went broody just over a month ago and I gave her some eggs to sit on. I candled them after a week and all were viable but one. I candled them just over 2 weeks and I could see all of them moving, outlines of little feet and all kinds of cute and magical goodness. We were about to have 9 babies! Then, that night, she pushed the four brown eggs out from under her and pecked a hole in one of them. All four died. The very next night (which happened to be 20° f) she decided to leave the brooder and go to the nesting box for the whole night, leaving all of my second generation Olive Egger babies to die. I removed all the eggs and she continued to sit on fake eggs. I caved a couple of days later and gave her nine more eggs. She sat wonderfully for a week and then decided to move and sit elsewhere again. What the hell!? She is a defective chicken and I think she killed babies again. I candles last night and 1 looks alive, 4 look possible and the rest look dead. Long story short, she is either going to be rehomed or… soup. That would be a dozen dead chicks due to her malfunctioning brain. Not cool! I had 10 of the chicks pre-sold. UPDATE: unless she malfunctions again, there are at least two or possibly three chicks due to hatch on Thursday. In 2 days! That’s far less than nine but much better than zero.

Thankfully I caved and bought an incubator, starting nine more eggs the same day as Myrtle. I candled those last night also and 6 are 100% viable and the other three are too dark to tell but look good. Sometimes it’s really hard to candle dark brown or green eggs. These babies are 2 Golden Cuckoo Marans and Welsummer mix, a Black Copper Marans and Welsummer, 5 Olive Eggers and Welsummer or Barnevelder, a blue Easter Egger under Welsummer and a total mystery just for fun. Mom could be a Partridge Laced Cochin, Buff Orpington or something else entirely, and dad could be a Welsummer or Barnevelder or Swedish Flower Hen. Or Swedish Flower Cock as we call him. UPDATE: With the power outage, all babies died. It hurts my heart.

Speaking of roosters, remember my Swedish Flower Hen and Lavender Ameraucana that I was so excited we’re both girls? I lied. Mr. Jasper Florington (previously named Flora) is a boy. Lumin, the Lavender Ameraucana may be a boy now too. She has a boy tail and a super red comb for her age of Ameraucana but despite everyone telling me she’s a boy, I’m not fully sold. I only have one other blue egg-layer and twice now I’ve had two blue eggs in a day. I’ve never seen her anywhere near the nesting box though. And she did mount someone yesterday, but one of my Rhode Island Red girls used to do that too. She’s never crowed. I just got rid of a sweet, sweet rooster because I didn’t need three and now I may have three again. Soon to have probably 10 with the babies, haha. Two are sold, but the rest will become my chicken processing practice. We need another freezer.

Oh yeah, in addition to the 18 eggs in the incubator and under Myrtle, I have another Broody sitting on 7. That was not my plan but you know how things go sometimes. I have no clue what Olga the Black Copper Marans is sitting on other than some crazy mixes with Olive Egger, Easter Egger, Barnevelder, Welsummer and I think Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock mamas. Basically she hijacked those eggs from the nesting box one day and I just let her go with it. Barnyard mixes can be so fun! And like I said, I have 10 chickens pre-sold. 2 boys and 8 to 9 girls. I’ll keep a couple girls, sell the others, and eat or sell the roosters. I have 100% of the supplies necessary for chicken processing now so need to make that next step. UPDATE: somehow her 7 egg clutch turned to 17. She doesn’t get up much so I didn’t notice in time. I think this means we will start getting hatchlings from her on Monday and then a couple of day for about a week after that? I have no clue but… yeah. That’s a lot! I will candle them again tonight but there are at least two that I think are not viable.

Anyone else need some baby chicks or started pullets or cockerels? So far no one wants day old babies but I have no problem keeping them to 4 or 8 weeks and selling them for a bit more money. The above picture is my first batch of 28 I got last April, 17 of which were sold and 1 died at a couple of days old.

My next breeding endeavors are going to be much more controlled with Easter Eggers, second generation Olive Eggers, pure Welsummers and pure Swedish Flower Hens, with a few mixes thrown in because tinkering can be fun. I really want a Swedish Flower Hen and Buff Orpington cross and a Partridge Cochin and Welsummer Cross. I also thought about getting a few Lavender Orpington girls and crossing them with my Lavender Ameraucana for a pale blue egg laying lavender bird… if the feather color would breed true. I know Lavender Orpingtons breed true but beyond that, I know nothing. I need a couple more chicken coops! Material donations accepted, or I’ll trade for eggs and future babies. ♡ Update: probably not going to be able to build a second coop this year. But next year for sure! After the storm, the ducks moved in with the chickens and really seem to be enjoying themselves. As soon as I can get some materials together I’m going to build a little stall for them in there and clean out their old house to make it a chick nursery. With all the babies coming I should do it now but there are only eight million things on the list.

I’m going to do a full post on everything here in the coming days or weeks. All of the good, bad and ugly. The amount of trees that have fallen is absolutely devastating. It seriously looks like someone took a bulldozer through our property. But good things can be birthed of bad things sometimes. The second strip of snow beyond the trees in the above photo is the property across the creek. We’ve never been able to see it and they’ve never been able to see us. That is a tiny glimpse at how many trees we’ve lost.

Oh, and here is Jasper Florington:

ducks, ducklings, and a waterfowl oasis

Last year we we so excited (and a tad nervous) to get our three ducks but they have been the most amazing and fun (absolutely hysterical) addition to our ever-growing farm and homestead. Our first three are a Saxony named Stella (below), a Black Swedish named Frida (above) and a Chocolate Runner.

None of these crazy quackers have laid a single egg yet, but we love them none the less. They’re just about to hit 7 months old. Tip: don’t buy ducklings in June because it will be too dark by the time they’re ready to start laying.

We (Paul) built them the most precious house with a shady veranda… and apparently I never got a completed/painted photo of it so I’ll work on that once the torrential rains die down for a minute.

This year we decided to add three more ducklings which quickly morphed into five. In about a month an a half, we’ll have a Cayuga, a White Layer (because I’ve wanted a “Jemima Puddleduck” since I was little), a Khaki Campbell and two Welsh Harlequins (a boy and a girl).

Their current house will become the chick and mama hen(s) nursery and the duckies’ new house is in the works — we just have to add a couple of laying boxes on the back, a little footer at the base of the front door opening so teeny littles don’t escape and a roost bar or two. It’ll be fantastic, and totally separate from the other “big chickens”.

Because there isn’t a huge amount of shade in their new homeland, we got a bunch of fast growing shade trees to plant around the area to create a duck (and potential future goose) waterfowl oasis.

I planned on digging a big pond for them and to serve as irrigation for garden watering but upon sharing my idea with the neighbor, I found out that due to the proximity of our property to the creek, we’re not allowed to create any permanent water feature. I looked it up and they were right! Good thing I found that out before rather than after. Instead, we are buying a huge stock tank and burying it, putting river rock around the edges. It’ll definitely beat their little kiddy pool but we’ll probably leave that for them as well.

They’ll still be allowed to free range with their chicken siblings, but these duckies will have such a lovely new home, especially as the trees start growing in. I’m still working on planting them.

Stay tuned for baby duckling photos in mid-February!

****************************

I see I wrote and never posted a blog post again. And now it’s mid-February. And of course we just got a call from the breeder that our Welsh Harlequin ducklings are not available for our hatch date and our preferred types won’t be available in unison until June. What a bummer!

But in good news we have duck eggs!! They started laying Sunday before last, starting with a pretty green egg, presumably from Frida, and laying one single egg every single day since. It’s the weirdest thing. All the new ones have been white so it seems like maybe Frida started and now Brunhild and Stella are taking turns? Or she just wanted to practice with a green egg and is now laying white? I have no idea. But we get one duck egg a day and it’s pretty awesome. Paul prefers duck eggs to chicken eggs so I have deemed them all his but will sell a half-dozen here and there to anyone interested.

the farmer, the grave digger, and plans of sustainability

We learned *a lot* about our land and different climate this past first summer. I didn’t realize garden zone 9 and garden zone 8b were as different as they are. When we first moved here we made a One-Year Plan… which was pretty lofty and, in retrospect, extremely comical. Now we have a Five-Year Plan based upon realistic goals and desired outcomes.

We never wanted to be “just a farm” but a homestead. Finally, we are well on our way to that level of self-sufficientcy. In the first year, we have completely stopped buying garlic, berries, a lot of fruit, jam, fruit butter, syrup, eggs, chicken meat, peas and most herbs (my cilantro didn’t grow so we bought some once). These are all things we now produce ourselves on our land and every little bit helps. We’ve hugely cut down on buying summer and winter squash, greens, onions, apples and other fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds which we consume *a lot* of, potatoes, beans. Plus I make our own crackers, cookies and baked goods, much of our bread and “snacks” like gluten free apple cinnamon corn bread:

There are a few things we’ll never produce ourselves but this means tiny, infrequent shopping trips (some we could grow, we just don’t really want to… at least not yet):

Things have shifted a bit though. We were both going to be farmers once we got here. But oddly, that was never the original plan but only developed once we were here. I was just going to be the farmer and Paul was going to do whatever he wanted to do (music, bow making and woodworking, car stuff…). But as universe would have it, we’re back to the original plan of me being the sole lady farmer and him doing something else. In this case, that something else is a grave digger. We needed money for the aforementioned coffee, chocolate and dish soap so he stepped up. And I’ve got the animal tending, homestead garden and farm growing, meal planning and cooking, etc. When I need help with heavy lifting, he’s on it, and all the remodeling and rebuilding is his too (though I help with taping and mudding, do the painting and design things like the kitchen). We’re an awesome team.

As far as crop selling, we’re starting small and sticking to selling herloom garlic and herbs, heirloom tomatoes and excess fruit to start, plus having a small seasonal farm stand with excess veggies, fruit, berries, herbs, garlic, eggs and such. We have a prospective buyer for our fresh culinary herbs and garlic already too, which kicks much ass, as well as a small handful of weekly egg customers in the works. (Soon we’ll have enough egg customers to coverall all chicken and duck feeding, bedding and supplimental costs with enough left over to go on a hot date each month. Heck yeah!)

Within the next five years, the plan is to never have to buy any of these things again:

Yup, that means we’re getting goats. And sheep, and meat rabbits. Plus I’ll raise 3 to 5 turkeys a year to put on the table. We’ll eat our “extra” chickens (boys and mean girls) and do a batch or two of meat birds per year. But this is all over time. This year probably will only include meat and extra chickens, and two goats. Five more ducks come in February (hatching on my birthday — imagine all the impending Pisces goodness around here!!) It’ll be a year-and-a-half before we have goat milk because “we” (which in this case actually means I) want babies. Two Nigerian Dwarf doelings to be precise. They are the best for milk, butter and cheese. Not all goat’s milk is good for drinking. These girls will taste more like cow milk than anything else. No thank you on super gamey goat milk. Been there, done that. Though really a mama already in milk and tw babies would be ideal.

Maybe in 2020 we’ll add a couple of sheep (the fella above was Gabe from our friend’s farm down the street — we loved and ate him) and some meat rabbits, then in 2021, honey bees and a miniature cow (see how I snuck that one in?). Pacing ourselves is good. Lamb is good too.

It’s amazing how much things have changed in only one year (plus 4 months) on the farm. Our love for this place and gratitude overflow more and more with every passing day. I’m so glad we spent the bulk of the first year focussing on our orchard because we won’t have as long to wait for apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, persimmons, apricot, yuzu citrus, almonds, and walnuts. We also planted 18 blueberries, 3 blackberries (not as if we didn’t have enough already), 8 red raspberries and a golden raspberry. This year we’ll be adding a couple of figs, elderberries, mulberries and if we’re super lucky, a couple of Meyer’s lemons. Next year: cranberries and currants gallore!

Another part of our dream/vision is making this into a small off-grid farm community. Building a tiny house for another family or couple to live in, adding a loft dwelling above the future workshop for one of our manfriends to make his own. Sharing of the work and bounty and weekend feasts. We have that with our neighbors already, our next door family, and are thrilled to be able to expand that love one of these years.

We’ll also be potentially offering retreats and workshops for natural building (cob, earth bag, etc.), permaculture and vermiculture, homesteading, chicken and duck and goat keeping, bow making and archery, art, music and shamanic retreats, wild edible and foraging classes, etc. It would be fantastic if that could fund our solar. Let me rephrase: It *will* be fantastic when we’ve earned enough to fund our solar endeavors. How long could it possibly take to save up $30k? 😘

planting and growing 

Everything is growing like crazy now in this crazy beautiful April weather of alternating (heavy) rains with 65-78 degree sunny days, at least for here. The peas and raddishes, kale, lettuce and chard, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs are having a race to see who can get the biggest and tallest fastest, and so far the peas are winning. (I actually started this post almost two weeks ago and it originally said radishes, but the peas are kicking their butt now).

Our curvy personal garden (see last post) is pretty much fully planted plus a new bed, and the rest of the land is getting worked and planted with food guilds and companion plants that will one day create our food forest oasis. To clarify, we’re 100% done with our personal homestead gardens — everything is either planted in the ground or started in the greenhouse. We wanted to make sure we got that done straight away so we could focus on our farm next, and an actual much needed income.  

The fall garlic is monstrously huge and we recently planted a spring crop, but it’s not doing as hot so I’ve decided to stick solely with fall garlic planting. That being said, I reserve the right to change my mind, of course (I’m not the most patient person so could be speaking too soon). See the bottom leaves with a bits of yellow? We pull those off and sautee the green parts and compost the yellow. Yum! The bed behind it is all early cabbage, greens, nasturtium, marigolds, purple broccoli, onions, a rainbow of carrots and soon-to-be-planted cucumbers, dill and basil. (It’s probably 20′ long.)

Knowing full well that beans “should not” be planted in our zone until mid May, I decided to test fate and plant a few beans early. Like five weeks early. And here you go, beans! (Heirloom/organic blue lake bush beans to be precise.) That part wasn’t a lack of patience but rather an “I have a gut feeling our last frost this year is actually early April and not May 1st”. Rebel farmer? Yeah, probably. Gut truster? Always.

Lots of sprouting babies. I feel like a proud mother of millions right now. Trees, veggie, herb and berry starts, and our impending chicks. More on the baby girls next week though. (Or sooner since I’ve failed to publish this and they have arrived.)

We received some awesome seed potatoes from our friends and because we have lots of gophers and moles and such, we decided to do them above ground in big pots this year. This is a crap photo but they’re actually peeking out to say hello.

The greenhouse is blissfully thriving. Cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, a variety of peppers (a lavender bell pepper was the first to sprout!), various types of basil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme, asparagus, etc… all happy and growing. There’s a bit of a wasp situation in the greenhouse too, but let’s just not even talk about that right now.

One of our first permaculture guilds will have this lovely crimson autum olive in the center. It’s a great nitrogen fixer and the guys love the berries (they kind of make my tongue itch). Autumn Olives, or silverberries can be extremely invasive in some areas but not Oregon. We have an amber one too.

The Apple trees are now blooming. I love mother nature! First the apricots, pears and plums, then the peaches, almond and nectarines, then the cherries, and now the apples. Well, all but the honeycrisp… those are more of a late season apple. 

I could seriously take photos of apple blossoms all day. 

I planted a nasturtium under each of our apple trees and made an interesting observation yesterday — three are growing so far, and only under the three honeycrisps. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation but I don’t know it… I just noticed things.

The whole east side of the gardens are planted with various lavender types and rosemary as deer hate them. So far, no deer in the gardens but I don’t want to speak too soon or curse or jinx us. My dream is fence free gardens, and although 99.7% of people seem us crazy, I’m hopeful it will work.

The strawberries are blooming too. We only have four this year (for personal consumption) but next year we’ll have at least 100.

planting a homestead, growing a farm

I couldn’t possibly tell you how many things we’ve started in the gardens and greenhouse, but it’s a lot. We’re starting with a more “homestead approach” and planting all we know we’ll eat, and adding to that to branch out into full fledged farm over the next year or couple. I guess currently we could be considered tomato, pea and garlic farmers as that’s what we have enough of started to sell, so far. And orchardist offerings, of course. 

The first meandering bed is growing, nicely lined with fallen logs and limbs, and more gifted from the creek. The paths will eventually be lined with wood chips (oh how we dream of owning a wood chipper!!) and access is easy on each side. In the wider spots I’ve put stepping stones for ease of harvesting so I don’t have to step in the soil or squish things. I say “I” only because there will be no lack of ease for my tall fellas — little ladies tend to have short arms, and I’m not even 5’2″. It may not be the best utilization of garden space but I love it!! Next year we’ll add another heap of organic compost and another log to raise them up a bit more, holding them together with an earthen mixture such as is used in cob or strawbale construction. This is 75% planted already with lettuce, a few varieties of kale, peas, raddishes, carrots, onions and spring garlic, plus borage, dill (next to a blank spot for future cucumbers), marigolds and soon, nasturtiums, etc. It’s still funny to me how tall these look in person and how shallow in photos, but you’ll see… it’ll be great!

Lots of things are sprouting and growing… peas, kale, chamomile, onions, thyme, tarragon, basil and tomatoes. I only just planted cucumbers and dill so those will be soon, and the rest to follow. Hopefully our eight dozen peppers sprout soon — I have big plans for those babies. I’ll take photos when I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to do so. In the meantime, here’s one of our massive pears in bloom. We’ll have a good 872 pounds of Bartlett. We trimmed all the dead junk out of both (And the old apples) and are all so very happy. 

Things outside of the food gardens are blossoming like crazy too. We had one visible bud on this tree a couple of days ago and now it’s covered in big pink blossoms. It’s a Camellia Japonica and it sure is pretty! I dont think the flowers fall off immediately like our other Camellia. It’s funny… I keep talking about making a space inspired by The Secret Garden but it’s starting to become that all on its own. I can’t wait to have the cabin done so we can rebuild the main house into a woodsy faerie house. It’s already in the perfect setting for it. ♡

Part of our inspiration comes from this Jacob Witzling pacific northwest tiny house… or really his building style in general. He’s amazing!! We don’t really have the funds to do the whole house in such stunning wood, but we’ll be thrilled to at least have the front and garage look similar upon approach. I don’t care if the rest is ten different kinds of recycled siding painted a lovely hue of “wood”.

I spent the evening at the creek last night as the sun was starting to set and it lit the trees ablaze with brilliant light. It’s a wonder we get anything done around here with so much stunning beauty to get lost in at all times.

On the way back up to the house, what did I spy but a Fairy Slipper Orchid! And then I noticed they’re actually everywhere along the path. These are and have always been one of my very favorite flowers, along with trilliums. We apparent have those too, but I haven’t yet happened upon any. Regardless, I’m buying and planting some one of these days.

The orchard is almost officially complete. We received a few more trees and have only two apples and a persimmon to plant this week, then the orchard is done… until we get two fig trees and four meyer lemons. The above photo is of a Sweetheart Cherry. Isn’t she beautiful! 

I’ve been juggling between planting several varieties of lavender and rosemary around the periphery of the garden, sowing seeds in the garden and planting a kazillion things in the greenhouse while the husb has been working on the cabin. I’m refraining from posting pictures so we can do a full unveiling but the kitchen has been 100% gutted (drywall, insulation, cabinets, sink and all), sill plate replaced, some structural bits replaced, and new concrete floors ground and ready to seal once the living room floor is done. He rocks!

More lovely blossoms of the week. I am over the moon with all of the spring beauty. It’s like christmas every day, waking up and rushing outside to see what’s new. I found out that a large portion of our muster bulbs are Lucifer flowers. They’re gorgeous. Devilishly beautiful? I have no idea why they’re called that. We also have an abundance of uncommon daffodils, hyacinth, regular irises and bearded iris. Or so we shall see.

Another project underway is the chicken house rebuild. This is a screenshot of the Eco Paint colors I narrowed it down to because my girls need a pretty house. The interior and trim will be egg blue and the exterior will either be wood nymph or glass bottle. Really, I’d like to incorporate all colors (and more) but this zero voc, no chip, eco and pet friendly paint is not cheap ($73/gallon!). So I may just have to get Lowe’s zero voc exterior paint and color match (~$30/gallon). We are 100% ready for the girls’ arrival in three weeks except for their house and I couldn’t be more excited. Well, and except for their massive outdoor area too, though they’ll be free range ladies much of the time. And they’ll be inside babies so we have plenty of time.

We also got a load of 8′ peeler cores (and helped our neighbors pick up three more loads). I want to use them as fence posts for the massive chicken run because that would be much lovlier than ugly metal t-posts. Yes, I know they will need to be replaced and aren’t the most efficient option, but… in this particular case I don’t care. 

We’ve done and experienced a lot more than that this past week but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m chicken distracted (that’s a real affliction). Our little rainbow flock is starting out with three each of the following: Black Australorp, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington and Delaware. I’ll still need to get (3 each) Amaricauna, Cream Legbar and Oliver Eggers but that’s a secret (husb “authorized” me to get 12 to start). I got the 1 and the 2 confused — it’s called chicken math. Oh, and a couple of roos. ♡ Shhh.

a slower week

We really haven’t done a lot in the past week and a half because the sun has been shining and we’ve really just wanted to bask in it. We even had a 69 degree day this week!! It’s been total t-shirt weather in February (except now it’s getting cold again and the rains are returning). That and I had an abundance of clients so didn’t have a lot of planting time.

Instead of my usual kick butt and plant at least three or four trees per day in addition to having clients and doing everything else, I’ve been reduced to a tree a day the past few days. I planted a moonglow pear (the white stone will remind me that it’s a moonglow)…

Then I planted the last nectarine. I was completely unaware that that area used to have a lovely meandering stone pathway so had to dig through about 6 inches of rock in order to reach soil. Once I was done sorting all the rock out and planting, I was done with tree planting for the day.

I did, however, get my purple tulips in the ground though last week, finally. They were already sprouting in a vase of water (they where an awesome mother’s day gift last year, a vase with living bulbs and flowering tulips). 

I was grateful I was able to save them to regrow this year. They’re going to look gorgeous next to the to heather plants I put in that area, under the western red cedar by my healing space.

This color! I’m pleased I still have photos of them.

Paul kicked butt as usual and got the whole front of the cabin done (meaning ready for new siding and trim in a couple of months). The whole thing was painted (because the sun hadn’t arrived yet) and later covered in tyvek. These colors remind me of the old house. I kind of want to do cedar shingles on the front only, and regular old style wood siding on the rest, painted green (or a milky coffee/new bark color?). Would that look dumb? We plan to get back in gear this week to get the rest of the floors done. Maybe. Our compost is coming early in the week and we need to start getting things planted, too. We’ll see how everything pans out but now that we’re past the super cold phase of the year, but getting the cabin done isn’t the highest priority anymore.

The yuzu, another apple and the strawberry tree got planted too, as well as an osage orange and a pear which I apparently didn’t photograph. (I’m probably one of very few people that really want to see pictures of every single tree but I know you get the picture. We are almost done though!)

The flowers are starting to bloom everywhere. Crocuses, daffodils, a magnolia tree I didn’t know we had, and the hellebores.

We pretty much took most of the day off yesterday and went to the creek. The part we now call Crystal Beach. Someone, once upon a time, planted daffodils all along the path there.

Along the way we met the most beautiful tree that I can’t believe we’ve never noticed before! It’s the most perfect climbing tree! See cammo Paul climbing down? It has a wonderful view of the farther waterfalls at Crystal Beach.

Those vines make the perfect footholds for getting up and down and I could sit on that branch for hours. (I’d probably have to because I’m much better at climbing up than down.)

Father down the path I found the most stunning crystal, complete with sparkly druzy, laying right on top of the leaves like a generous offering.

I love how they shimmer in the sunlight when wet.

And plenty of smaller beauties. Probably 50 in all, but I only take the ones that allow me to take them. I found so many more than that.

Carnelian, jasper, thompsonite, agate, zeolites, quartz… an abundance of loveliness. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, this entire stone area was under water, as was half the beach.

The sun came out right when we were about to leave, so we changed our minds and stayed awhile longer. It was blissful. 

Off to plant more trees and make another batch of homemade seedy flax crackers. I’m obsessed (with both).

a lesson in *not* planning… and other stories

Farm lesson #1: learn your land before you make too many plans. ♡ I totally mapped out everything I wanted to do here before we even arrived in September. It’s pretty funny really (in a cute and naive sort of way). 

This area was going to be part of the orchard but we’ve discovered it has a very high water table at this time of the year. So… yeah, not a good orchard spot. Thankfully I only “planned” on putting 6 of 28 trees there. Eventually we will be doing some berms (Sepp Holzer style raised beds) and small river rock trenches to directing the water to a pond, but we’re not there yet. 

Pretty much since the first week we moved here I planned to plant a garden in memory of the woman who previously owned this property before passing away in 2016. She had tons of garden book some things bookmarked, mostly bulbs, flowers and herbs. I wanted to put those under the mimosa trees and around this gorgeous garden area in the courtyard. I planned to plant a ton of bulbs, all from her books. I went over there today to get started on the tulips and someone already had the idea of planting a million bulbs there. ♡ 

Clearly it was her. I can’t tell what a lot of it is but I’m pretty sure there are irises and daylilies. There may be daffodils and tulips as well but it’s a hard to tell at this juncture. Now I’ll be planting the tulips around my art studio/healing space instead.

Remember these “ask and you shall receive” theme we have going on here where everything we say we want just “mysteriously appears”? Well I was saying the other day, before these bulbs started sprouting, that I wish I had more bulbs than just my tulips to plant as I’ve never lived anywhere long enough to really want to do bulbs. Today I happened upon several gallon sized pots of abandoned bulbs full of last year’s decaying leaves and dozens of new shoots. I’ll be cleaning them up and separating them out to plant this week too. I have no clue what they are but they’ll undoubtedly be gorgeous around the courtyard and in my secret garden.

The same thing happened with my desire to have hellebores. Correct me if I’m wrong but these are hellebores, right? There are three patches in the courtyard. I think they were one of my grandma’s favorite flowers (along with calla lillies) so I’ve always wanted to have some in my garden. She had the most stunning flower gardens in the world and will be a huge inspiration to me as I work in the pretty flower gardens around the cabins over the years.

The whole rotten front of the first cabin is almost fully replaced (remember, siding isn’t happening until spring). Paul is freaking amazing! During the time it took me to plant four trees, he did all of this. Once this is complete, which should be today or tomorrow, we can start completion of the living room and kitchen. All they need is electrical work, drywall and insulation, texture and paint, and then kitchen counters, cabinets and sink and such. Oh and the floors. 

Okay, so I blinked, and he was done. Like I said, he’s freaking amazing. We’ll be painting it to keep it safe and sound until siding happens.

Clearly we’ve stopped having a strict cabin completion schedule and are totally comfortable with things happening when they happen. With views like this, how can you blame us? Living in such a magical place, your outlook on life totally shifts. Originally it was rush, rush, hurry, hurry, get the cabin done. Now it’s hey, we’re never leaving here so it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Plus we have plenty to do in the gardens and orchard.

Usually it takes a couple/few days to do a post and I have now planted even more trees. Above is one of our two peaches.

This is a liberty apple that overlooks the chicken yard. Good eventual snacks and shade for the girls.

And this is one of the nectarines. It probably takes me infinitely longer than your average human to plant trees due to my need to add rocks and unearth bits of the surrounding moss so it pokes through. 

When we first moved here our sweet neighbor lady commented about all of the faery energy on our property and all the gnome energy on theirs. She was totally right but my first thought was “phew, she’s awesome and surely won’t think I’m crazy as she gets to know us!” I love them both so much (as I mention frequently).

It really is a fairyland indeed.

erection of the greenhouse (and more planting)

What a hugely productive weekend! We finally got the greenhouse frame started.

Here all are of the pieces, organized and ready to go. Spot picked, and everything measured out. This area gets morning, afternoon and evening sun so it’s the perfect spot.

Let the erection begin. Hoops built and staked into the ground. This baby isn’t going anywhere! 

Side and top supports added. We’ll do the cross bars tomorrow, probably, but the cover doesn’t arrive until the 31st so we’ll have a few days at least before it’s fully done. And then we’ll still have doors to do but I’m not thinking about those until I have to.

Today was so sunny and warm it was work in t-shirt weather for me and shirtless working for the husb. Absolutely divine! It’s seriously like May in January here.

Several more trees got planted, as did the last of the rosemary. 

And then our amazing neighbor brough over even more trees because he had an overabundance. I freaking love him and his sweet and beautiful wife!! These are four Osage Orange trees (which will go along the driveway at our main entrance), a Bosc Pear, a Winecrisp Apple which I’m over the moon excited about, an Akane (one of the best early season apples in the US), a Winter Banana (another apple variety, very hardy and sweet), and a Puget Gold Apricot! I see many gluten-free pies and cobblers, preserves, and gallons of hard cider in our future. And quite possibly a side-of-the-road fruit stand for Finn to make some cash from.

Oh, and this Yuzu Ichandrin. It’s a citrus tree, prized in Japan for flavoring, juice and preserves. This variety bears abundant, easy-to-peel, 3″ diameter fruit with tasty, lemon-lime flavor. Yuzu is reportedly hardy to 0°F so grows quite well here we’re told. Even the leaves are tasty, fyi. The thorns on it are crazy beautiful! (I love thorny trees.) 

Osage Orange trees are also quite thorny and resemresemble hawthorn seedlings in their youth. Apparently they lose their thorns, but I love them anyway. I’m planting these alternated with black hawthorn trees for a beautiful hedge along the front entrance, as mentioned (the husb thinks they’re too big, but I still want to put at least two there). Osage Orange is dioecious, forming male and female flowers on separate trees, which I didn’t know, but what I do know is that the wood is amazing! It’s strong and flexible and perfect for making bows (which is a one of Paul’s passions), and is a phenomenally gorgeous natural dye (one of my passions). The seeds are edible and taste like sunflower seeds (but don’t eat the fruit — it’s apparently quite gross).

Most of my day was of this view… digging, digging, digging…. It was great!

I love the balance we already have going on here with fruit and berries ready for harvest during each season of the year.

We also received the gift of three tea bush seeds! This type is Camellia Sinensis and produces oolong, black, green and white teas. They’ll be started in pots this week and available for delectable sipping in two to three years. Come on over for a cuppa!