Saturday, October 30, 2010

Collecting seeds, organic feed, and time for Halloween

Bucket o' seeds

While Richard worked on moving the guinea/chicken house planter into a sunny location, I watered some plants and collected marigold seeds. I have enough seeds now to plant a field of marigolds.  It was a remarkably nice day. Very warm. The kids ran amok in the grass, playing on their little fort, screaming and yelling and being wild children. Nothing beats a warm Fall day.

We went into town for a minute to get chicken food from one of our local feed stores that now stocks organic feed. Hurray for organic feed!!! We ordered grains for the goats and llamas, food for the cats, for the dogs, and for the chickens. Unfortunately it is expensive, but I think if we can, we should buy it, sending the message to organic producers that we are interested and to all the rest that we aren't going to buy their poison laden feed for our animals any more.

The Cottonwood trees down by the river are turning gold. Against the backdrop of the mountains and the dark water flowing in the Arkansas river, it is a beautiful sight. The farmhouses all have pumpkins on their porches, kids are running through corn mazes, and the smell of woodsmoke fills the chilly evening air. The leaves are starting to collect on the ground and soon it will be time for us to cruise the neighborhoods, collecting bags of unwanted leaves from suburban yards to make into compost for our gardens.

Something about Fall makes me feel all warm and cozy, like finally coming home. I'm not sure how a season could make me feel so at peace or like I completely belong, but the Autumn does that to me, no matter where I am. All of a sudden, I want to make cookies and watch movies and snuggle with my kids. I get urges to run through leaves and take walks along the river, and sip hot cocoa in the company of a good friend while we share our dreams for the next year.

Tomorrow is Halloween. We are planning on taking the kids to a party one of the Canon City Co-op members is having, and then into town for merchant trick-or-treating. It'll be our first celebrated Halloween in this small farming community and I can't wait to see how it goes. We found costumes for the little ones at the Goodwill--a cow and an elephant--just their sizes, and quite a bargain for the quality. I love thrift stores.

Box o' cans
This week, Richard thought of using our tin cans, the ones we get canned food in, as planters for our vegetable starts next Spring. Great idea! Recycle and re-use.Sometimes we have an aha moment, when a brilliant idea seems to float into our heads, and then are astounded that so many people are already doing what we just thought of.

Last year we bought hundreds of plastic disposable cups, which we saved, of course, but many have just broken down from the sun and from age, I guess. The plastic seed starter "pots" are hard to work with,  fall apart over time, and are too expensive for this farmer. Tin cans will last until they rust, but the positive is that we will be recycling the cans, which we normally do anyway, taking them to the recycle bin in town, but when you can really re-use something that would otherwise be trash, it is a wonderful feeling indeed. I also think they will look adorable with little baby tomato and pepper plants in them.

I did look online to try to find out if the tin would be hazardous to the plants, but I can't find anything at all about tin cans (aluminum will leach) and many people use a variety of small and large cans, some with memorable labels, to make interesting container gardens. What a great idea. I am just so excited by this concept. I could paint the cans if I had a moment of creative inspiration, and some people even use the tin can planter idea as a craft project for kids. I wonder if my little ones would like to decorate some cans? Painting the cans will extend their lives against rust, but then you do have to be careful with the paint and/or sealers...what do they leach into the soil?

Happy Halloween everyone! May your Fall days be filled with inspiration and love, hot cocoa, or better yet, organic herbal tea, good company and good ideas for the coming months ahead.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Greenhouse plastic and a chicken coop planter

greenhouse plastic goes on
We've had a pretty strong, constant wind for about four days, which makes our greenhouse project more interesting, but with the colder temps, it has to be done, sooner rather than later. Richard and I began putting the recently ordered and quickly received real greenhouse plastic on our tiny greenhouse yesterday. In spite of our efforts to cover the few plants inside the structure, last night the freezing temperatures proved too much for our drop cloth and blanket freeze protector, and I'm afraid we lost most of the pepper plants that were hanging on. The leeks may be okay.

Inadequate plant protection

Also working on placing the little chicken coop in some spot in the yard where we can create a guinea and eventual chicken run. The idea here is to build a base for the little house that will become a raised planter in a season or so. We cover the floor of the house (which is really bare earth) with wood shavings and the birds cover it with poop. We continue to refill litter as needed, building a deep litter bed that will compost in place and become next year's garden plot. How about that? And then we move the chicken coop and run to another prepared "bed" and do it again, rotating our birds through the garden, one vegetable bed at a time.

Planter bed chicken coop. The boards at bottom of house form vegetable planter, and the foundation of the coop, which keeps the wooden house out of the snow and rain, prolonging the life of the wood that much longer.

We bought our "chicken barn" from an online retailer and had it shipped. It was pretty pricey. I don't see why a guy, or a gal, couldn't build a simpler model to do the same thing. This way the wastes from the birds become fertilizer for the garden in a few less steps, saving the farmer time and money. I love it. Eco-farming at work.

Unfortunately the first place we built a bed turned out to be constantly in shade, which for the winter and live critters, is a downright bad idea. I was hoping to protect the coop and the yard from the horrid wind we get in the fall, which, nestled in among the junipers, it is indeed hidden from the noxious wind, but without solar gain, I'm afraid my little birds will freeze to death. Tomorrow we are going to get some more boards to build another planter for the coop---in the sun.

Injured guinea is doing well. He has a healthy appetite and is still healing. His buddy is still in the room with him, and his constant chirping and singing to his sick friend makes me smile. Also in the bird infirmary is egg bound hen (who is no longer egg bound), who never transitioned back to the flock well, so I brought her back in. She's not eating enough for me to notice, or be confident with, but I did open my office this afternoon to find she'd dislodged her grill covering and hopped out of her "bed" and was standing under my desk, looking like a chicken who belonged there. What a site. The Red Star chicks are unruly and try to fly out of their playpen every time I change the food and water. Also healthy guinea made a break for it yesterday and ran across the room, looking so proud of himself, but when I herded him back to his kennel, he reluctantly entered, as there was no other place to go. Injured guinea, who is still hanging in the air, just watches in silence at the antics of his roommates and caregiver. Silent Bob.

Life on the farm.

We are still trying to come up with a farm name that fits and will stick; a name that isn't being used in some way by someone else. One Little Farm is being used, although not in Colorado. Thinking of other names, so don't be surprised if the title of this blog changes again. We'd like to happily rest upon a great name and start building our business around it, including a web site.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It was terribly cold last night (low 20's), and yesterday was blustery and chilly, and I swear I even saw a few snowflakes fall around dinner time. Was our fall so short that now we've progressed directly into winter. I won't have it.

Injured guinea is doing remarkably well. I can't help but wonder if there is another lesson in this. We thought for sure he was going to die...with a huge hole in his side showing his entrails, how could he not? But not having the heart to kill him, we did the only thing we could, we bandaged him up and tried to make him as comfortable as possible, making sure his food and water needs are met several times a day. Every now and then we bring in his guinea buddy to keep him company because I read that the best thing for recovery is a friend. The healthy guinea sings or purrs to the injured guinea when I put his kennel next to his sick buddy. The injured guinea seems to perk right up, eating and drinking a little more when his partner is near him. Guineas mate for life. I know these two are males, but their relationship seems to be built around a very strong bond. Maybe they are heterosexual life partners (like Jay and Silent Bob---would those be good names for the guineas?), or bff's, or whatever. The reality is that the company seems to make a positive impact, along with the body's natural ability to heal itself. The injured guinea's wound is visibly shrinking. And that's a miracle in process.

When did we, as a people (and not all people have---many indigenous cultures continue to practice centuries old tribal, and natural, healing practices) give up our power to heal ourselves? When did we start to believe that the best advice for our bodies came from the doctors who didn't even know us and certainly could hardly know our bodies in their ten minute examinations. When did we stop listening to our own bodies?

As I watch the animals on my farm, who live only in the present moment, I learn. The guineas don't expect someone else to heal them, nor do any of the other animals. They either heal themselves, or they don't, giving up the ghost and moving on to greener pastures.

If we humans could forget for a minute how helpless and dependent on others we are, for everything, it seems, maybe we could take some initiative and responsibility for our own little selves. What do we need to do to heal ourselves? And certainly we have moved beyond the primitive thinking of a pea brained guinea, but maybe that's the problem, we over think and allow our decisions to be influenced by so called "experts." How can anyone know me like I know me? I live in this body twenty four seven, so I better listen to what it has to say to me. Right now it's telling me to get healthy, to lose the accumulated weight from pregnancies and inactivity, to eat right and stop poisoning myself with processed and hormone injected foods.

I hear the whispers of a voice telling me that my lifestyle and what I choose to put in my body has a direct correlation with how healthy and maybe even how happy I am. Can we know for sure if the myriad of chemicals we have been injecting and ingesting are not related to mental disorders and malfunctions? What about autism and ADD, which have been on a steady increase along with the increase in poisons in our air and foods. Are they related? I bet they are. I bet almost all of our diseases and ailments can be traced back to something in our environment. Even if it's a genetic mutation, I bet even that is a dysfunction due to some weird chemical imbalance somewhere.

Isn't it time we took back our health along with our food choices? Take back our health. Take back our food. Take back ourselves. Take responsibility for the choices you make. I choose to eat the Twinkie that has a shelf life of forever. Why would I do that? Have I been brainwashed by a commercial laden culture that tells me to eat this and wear is sooooo good. What about the fine print that tells me that this product may cause chronic, irreversible damage to my life system. Where is the disclaimer? Oh, it's not there, except on some so called "medicines" that have so many negative side effects, you have to wonder, who in their right mind would take such "medicines."

It is time to wake up. Our culture doesn't care. As a whole, "they" are not interested in the health and well-being of the people. "They" are interested in the bottom line. It doesn't matter that the people are dying, that the earth is dying, "they" will tell you it isn't so and to keep on spending. Look around.

We need to wake up, stand up, man up and save ourselves and our planet. Every little thing you can do will help. It does matter. Recycle. Re-use. Buy local. Buy organic. Support and be active in your community.

Those little guineas don't care. They live in the NOW, eating, drinking, yelling, and healing. They live local and they certainly eat local, given the choice. It is what they do. They are in balance with nature and with themselves. They can go a long way toward healing themselves. No one ever told them they couldn't.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Giving up guineas...hard lessons learned

Today I sold my four lavender guineas to a lady who answered an ad I posted on craigslist yesterday.

The last few days have been crazy with the birds.

For a couple of days, we tried putting injured guinea in the chicken run with his uninjured guinea buddy. We would kennel the hurt one at night, but the other one would fly out of the chicken netted run and perch on the roof. Okay. We were keeping them separate from the chickens and other guineas, but then, somehow the chickens ended up in with the two guineas, but everything appeared to be okay. Until it wasn't.

I went down to catch injured guinea and put him in his kennel for the night, and noticed he had blood on his back. I took him into the house and yelled for Richard, who happened to be on his work break from his telecommuter job. With his help, we examined the bird and were horrified to discover he had been pecked so extremely that he had a bloody hole in his back. Richard immediately thought we should kill the bird, put it out of its misery. But there was no time...he had to go back to work and I had no idea where my camp hatchet was, and we didn't own an ax. Plus I still had two little kids to take care of and get ready for bed.

We bandaged up the bird with makeshift items, took off his splint (the poor thing was probably going to die anyway, one way or another) and stuck him in his kennel in my office. I gave him food and water as usual.

In addition to injured guinea, I had another hen who was acting "funny." We had brought her in the house earlier in the day and cleaned her dirty rump to find she had an egg stuck. Great. What do you do with that? Well, give the chicken a warm water bath, which Richard did, holding her hind end under the bathtub faucet. After she dried a bit, we put her back in the coop with the other hens. I noticed she had some plucked feathers too.

I suspected the lavender guineas, especially the two males, who ruthlessly attacked our poor rooster Charlie, on more than one occasion. I had seen the mean birds attacking some of the hens and even one of their own females. But the injury to the already hurt guinea was more than I could take.

That night, I grabbed my broom when I went to put the chickens to bed. When I closed up the coop for the night, I chased every one of those guineas out,  leaving them to fend for themselves until I could figure out what to do the next day. I knew they'd find a roost in one of the trees and be back in the morning. They were.

The next day, we bathed the egg stuck hen and I added her to the bird infirmary that was formally my office. And, that morning, the injured guinea looked at me with perky eyes, seemingly oblivious to his horrible injury.

This was when we decided to get rid of the guineas, for the safety of our chickens, who also had signs of being  plucked and pecked. Now that the game birds had the taste for blood, would they continue to terrorize the hens and rooster until they killed them? Not a chance we wanted to take. With a heavy heart, I put an ad on craigslist, knowing my dream of having wandering guineas to amuse me was all but over.

I found an old tank top I could turn into a bird sling and stitched the bottom closed and we went to find bandages. We talked to the guy at the feed store who said to put ointment on the wound and the bird would probably be alright. I was more interested in buying first aid than in buying an ax, and decided to give the poor bird a chance.

We bandaged the guinea (this guy needs a name), cut holes for his legs in my "chicken sling" and stuck him in, hanging the sling from a two by four balanced across the old baby corral. The idea is to keep him off of his injured foot, which I think is a broken foot and leg, by the swelling, and keep him from pecking at his wound.I put some food and water on a box in front of him, and he started to drink the electrolyte boosted water like crazy. Then he knocked it over.

When I went to put the chickens to bed, the other guinea was hiding in a corner. One of the hens went over and started  pecking at his back, where the feathers look like they have been worked on for a while. Crazy. I caught that guinea and took him inside too. The two female lavender guineas managed to work their way back into the chicken run by flying onto the bird netting until they fell through. I let them stay. The males were wandering back and forth outside the fence.

Later when I was reading the kids stories before bed, I heard the unmistakable sounds of unhappy guineas, and it sounded like it was coming from right outside the living room windows. I flipped on the porch light, and sure enough, one male guinea was standing there, looking so forlorn, squawking at me. "Mama, let me go in the house, " he said. The other guinea was "roosting" on the front step. They were so cute. Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I should keep them. Someone was coming to get the four of them in the morning.

After I got the kids settled into bed, it was back to the hen with the hang up. I took the chicken into the bathroom, filled the tub with warm water and held her, making sure the water was covering her abdomen and egg vent. This was some advice I had found online. Keep her there for an hour, they said. Really? Who has that kind of time? I tried, massaging her vent and splashing water on her rear. She'd push so hard, letting out wails...just like a woman in birth, and I knew Richard and maybe his clients on the phone could her her in the room next door. It turns out she had a broken egg stuck in her and I had to help her get it out. After that, she went right to sleep back in the bird infirmary.

The next morning, we redressed the injured guinea, cleaned his bed and moved the healthy guinea into his own outdoor bird run, until we can figure out what to do with him. After much hullabaloo, we caught the four lavenders and put them in a kennel, where they waited until their new mama came to pick them up. I hope they can find happiness in their new home. There aren't any chickens on that farm, but they do have goats. I will miss the idea of them more than I will miss them.

I learned that you can't keep guineas with llamas (uncastrated males) or chickens, and that injured creatures must always be separated from the rest of the flock or herd or whatever.

These have been hard lessons this week and I'm not happy with any of the outcomes of this mess. I hope injured guinea gets better (he's eating seed today), but I'm not sure what his life will be like if he's crippled. Will his buddy pick on him too because he's the weak one? Do I now have a guinea as a house pet? I wonder if he'd get along with Luna, my Amazon parrot. They could live in the same room--in separate cages-- and yell at each other. Guineas kind of sound like parrots screaming.

I have to address my fear of killing the animals if they are suffering. If I'm going to be a real farmer with livestock, I'm going to have to face these situations, and be prepared for them. I have to find my ax. A responsible farmer would take care of the matter in the best way to ease the suffering. But I can't really tell if the guinea is suffering. You'd think he would be. But he's perky, alert, eating and just hanging out. Is it possible that his little pea brain has somehow disengaged from the pain? I know animals live purely in the present moment, regardless of what has occurred before. I can only hope the little guy is not in too much pain and that in a short time he will be back out raising trouble with his buddy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Taco Salad

Taco salad
taco salad with sauce

Who says that organic, vegetarian food has to be boring? Tonight we had a taco salad for dinner. The onions and tomatoes came from our garden. The leaf lettuce, scarlet mustard greens, kale, icicle and globe radishes, and the sweet red pepper came from a friend's organic farm. The tortilla chips were made in the store at the Latino market. I made the enchilada/taco sauce from peppers from our garden. Pretty local food.

Taco Salad

Put 1/2 cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) in bowl and add 1 cup water. Let it hydrate. Put olive oil in a skillet, add hydrated TVP and taco seasoning powder. You may need more water to make a sauce like consistency. OR you can use a ground meat of your choice for your taco meat. Brown meat, add taco seasoning, according to directions. Simmer 10 minutes or so.

Fill two large meal size bowls with lettuce, and or greens (leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, mustard greens).

Sprinkle taco "meat" onto salads.
Add a handful of beans (black beans, pinto beans) to each bowl.
Slice radishes and add to bowls.
Chop onions and add some to each bowl.
Line edge of bowls with tortilla chips.
Add grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese to salads.
Slice and add tomatoes and olives to salads.
Top with a salsa.
Enjoy your healthy meal (minus the red meat of course).

I use a variety of vegetables that I have on hand to fill my salads. Carrots, corn...whatever.

Pumpkin Bread

 Pumpkin Bread

Oven 350 degrees

Combine wet ingredients in very large bowl.
3 cups pumpkin (heirloom, organic varieties are the best, but one large can of pumpkin is 3 cups)
3 and 3/4 cups sugar (cane sugar is less pesticide laden than beet sugar)
5 eggs (organic, free range)
1 and 1/8 cups oil (extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil is the best for you) without nuts, 1 and 1/3 cups oil with nuts

Mix dry ingredients in separate large bowl
 3and 3/4 cups flour (unbleached wheat flour makes batter thicker)
1 and 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/4 teaspoons powdered cloves
1 and 1/2 teaspoons powdered cinnamon

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Add 2 cups of nuts now if desired. Mix well.
Makes 3 loaves, 10 mini loaves or 3 and 1/2 dozen muffins
Grease and flour bread pans.
Bake breads for 1 hour in 350 degree oven.
Bake muffins 20 minutes.
Bake mini loaves 20 or so minutes

Adjusted High Altitude (above 5000 feet) recipe

Oven 370 degrees

Mix wet ingredients
3 cups pumpkin
3 and 1/4 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup oil

Mix dry ingredients
3 and 3/4 cups flour
1 and 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/4 teaspoons cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix in nuts (2 cups) now, if desired.
Mix well.

Makes 3 loaves, 10 mini loaves, 3 and 1/2 dozen muffins or one bundt cake
Grease and flour pans.

370 degree oven
Bake standard breads 50-60 minutes 
Bake cake 40 minutes

Muffins: check doneness at 15 minutes

 Check doneness with toothpick, which should come out clean when inserted into middle of bread.

Baby chicks and CSAs

Making pumpkin bread on a warm fall day. It's a wonderful thing. I appreciate the fresh, organic pumpkin, the free range eggs and the birds singing today.

A few days ago we drove up the the Springs to meet a lady to buy six Red Star chicks. I found her ad on Craigslist. I love Craigslist. Now the chicks are in my office with a heat lamp on them. They are about four weeks old. I didn't want to raise babies in the winter, but I want to be sure we have enough eggs in the spring and summer to add eggs to our CSA program when we start it.

Four week old Red Star chicks
When we were in the city, we ran our errands which included going by a couple of grocery stores we don't have in our little town, including a Mexican or Latino market, which had the greastest prices on produce and carried a few hard to find spices. But, in both of the food stores we went to, and the two we went to last week (all chain stores) I was disappointed by the unavailablity of organic foods, and the few items that one store carried were horribly expensive--four dollars plus change for an average sized zuchini. Crazy. And, me on my newest health kick to only buy organic, couldn't find any organic foods I could afford. I tried to go organic about twelve years ago and ran into the same problem. It seems time has not brought down the prices of organic produce.
Well. that realization really made me angry. I should be able to get organic food if that's what I want, right? I have the choice to not be poisoned by pesticide laden, hormone injected vegetables and meats, right? I should have access to these real, safe foods even if I don't have a large bank account, right? Food is a right, like air and water, right? Oh, that's right, not on this planet. We pay for water, while wasting access to millions of gallons of rainwater. We flush our drinking water down the toilet. Crazy. And food is only for those who can afford it, kind of like medical care. The more money you have, the better food or medical care you can get. I'm talking about organic food and natural healing hospitals here--I don't buy into and try not to support big agribusiness or big medical industry.

So how can I get food that is not going to give me cancer if it is not available? I can't afford mail order or even the organic food chains. How can I make a statement that I'm not going to support an agricultural industry that is more worried about profit than about peoples health, when the only places I can shop carry only the foods I wish to avoid. How can I feed my family? Where do we turn?

CSA memberships, that's where. And while I have been struggling with how expensive CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) are, and how we could make our farm CSA doable for more people, I realized that our membership at $325 per season (thirteen weeks) is pretty cheap for organic food, but even better, we are going beyond organic to naturally grown, here at our farm.  And one dozen free range eggs per week included. That breaks down to $25 per week or $3.25 per day for healthy, safe vegetables and eggs. Pretty cool really. And by growing our own food, we can say no to agribusiness and their poisons. We are taking back our food!

This is what tipped me into the home stretch of starting the CSA. We are going to do it. For the summer season of 2011 we will offer a very limited number of memberships into our farm. We are calling it the "One Little CSA" program and will sell five (5) farm shares to the first responders, taking a deposit to hold a spot. This will give us capital now to invest in more seeds, greenhouse and garden supplies. I'm excited. Richard is on board, and we look forward to the opportunity to grow real food for ourselves, sharing the bounty with others who want naturally and locally grown food.

I think everyone should join a local CSA program. Become part of the solution to the craziness of poisoned, unclean agribusiness food. If you can't afford to join a CSA, (like me) then grow your own food. Anyone can do it. I'd like to include some learning experiences here at our farm for those who want to learn how to start a backyard garden. Or a container garden. As Richard likes to say "If you only grow one tomato off of one plant, that's one tomato that's clean and healthy, one tomato you didn't have to buy from big agribusiness."

But if gardening is not for you, let the farmer down the road have a chance to grow your local food. Make sure it's organic. Some CSAs have working shares where you can buy a share at a reduced cost and work so many hours at the farm to make up the difference. I'm thinking about doing that too. I never seem to have enough time to water and weed the gardens...a little help would be nice. And with a CSA, it's kind of like your farm too. It feels good to participate in growing your own food.

"Be the change...."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Digging potatoes, picking tomatoes

Busy days. Today we dug potatoes out of the lower garden, but decided to leave the carrots and onions. the forecast doesn't quite call for freezing temps, but I don't want to lose everything, if it does freeze. We have been preparing all day for the low night time temperatures of the next few days. I'm afraid Fall is here to stay now, sneaking in when we weren't watching.

I pulled all of the tomatoes, even the green ones, and cut all of the pumpkins from their dying vines.

Last night we canned tomatoes to get ready for the tomatoes we brought in today. Richard is thinking of making a green tomato relish, and we will most certainly have enough for another batch of fried green tomatoes.

The squashes and pumpkins have to come in or find a home, so Rrichard built a makeshift root cellar (got the idea out of Mother Earth News---some guy stores carrots in a bucket underground--so we thought we could try that on a bigger scale). Eventually we'd like to build an Earthbag root cellar into the berm behind our house, but for now , a trashcan it is, in a big hole. We will put the squashes in the can, surrounded by straw (recycling the scarecrow). This way the squashes never touch and they are insulated by the straw. After the can is full, the lid goes on and it is covered with a couple of bales of straw layed across the top. Sounds like it might work. We'll give it a try.

We went to pick up Hank the billy goat and his little friend Lily today in our old Lucky horse trailer. Now we have seven goats in a teeny tiny pen that Richard is trying desperately to enlarge, but between trips to town and Co-op meetings and hurt guineas, it is impossible to finish anything, it seems. Now the ladies have a man and hopefully will get the deed done quickly, before anyone notices the billy in our covenanted land.

And the of the Pearls from up the hill, in the goat and llama pen, apparently got stepped on by a llama while the two rambunctious young llama boys were in the midst of one of their wrestling matches. So, I had to catch said injured bird (ever try to catch a guinea? It's worse than trying to catch a llama.), without the llamas stepping on him again. I did it with a clothes basket, a large plastic container lid, a long stick and a few cuss words. I got the limping fowl into a small pet carrier and took him into the house for examination, upon which I decided that his foot was either broken or very badly injured. So, with Richard's ingenuity at making a splint out of rolled up cardboard, we taped the leg to the makeshift splint, caught his buddy guinea to keep him company, and settled the two of them into my office in their individual kennels for the night.

While I picked tomatoes this morning, Richard put bird netting over the new chicken pen off the chicken coop. We put the two pearl guineas  together in that yard, hoping the injured guy will heal. Now the guineas, the four lavenders and the one standing pearl, run back and forth along the chicken wire between the two yards, yelling at each other.

Guineas are hilarious. I'm going to miss watching the two guineas with the llamas and goats, but I can't have them getting hurt. They were raised with the goats, and for a while they practiced being goats, the two birds following the goats and eating hay when they did, right out of the big feed dish. Then, the two guinea fowl discovered they could get over the fence into the llama yard and they pretended they were llamas for a while, even charging each other, slamming chests, when the llamas wrestled. They stood on the llama hay and rode on the backs of the goats. Fun days...I'm going to miss.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Billy and Lily and planting strawberries

It sure has felt like not only has Fall arrived, but Winter is well on her way in. I think we got our first light frost last night, which killed the morning glory living under my clothesline, but most of the tomatoes are still hanging in there.

Richard has been crazy busy with the new yard for the chicken coop, the corral in the llama pen, planting some fall crops in the greenhouse and meeting with the Canon Co-op  about their greenhouse. It is a busy Fall indeed. Richard spent Tuesday at the Javernick Family Farm CSA food pick up, trying to sell goat cheese, and procured the use of Beki's young Billy to breed to our female dairy goats. Wonderful! But with Billy comes Lily, his female goat companion, who he can't mate with because they are too closely related. It will be a fun-filled few weeks with more goats and the bonus of trying to separate one female, and keep the billy out of sight from the neighborhood covenant police (whomever they are). Can't wait.

The battle with the deer continues. Richard and I strung a piece of fence in the biggest opening between the trees to try to keep the cute little guys out of next year's garden space. This is the east side of our property, just north of our llama pasture and south of our driveway. We'd like to build a permanent Earthship style greenhouse in this area, and we have been working on laying out where the garden will sit around the mythical greenhouse. Richard built a wonderfully big raised bed and the deer have been using it as a running takeoff strip to launch themselves over the two strand electric fence we put up to keep them out. It's all part of the intricately designed wildlife obstacle course we are creating to amuse the neighbors.

I planted some strawberry starts in the flower bed in front of the house today. It is on the north side of the house, protected from the harsh desert, summer sun. I think if the strawberries make it, it will be a great place for them, mixed among the lilies, echinaceas, and irises. It's all part of that Permaculture idea of building guilds of plants to support each other. The strawberries will act as a living mulch for the flowers and bushes, but best of all, this planting also incorporates the idea of an edible landscape, where the whole yard becomes part of the farm. Wonderful stuff.

I can't help but believe that our little farm, this one little farm, can be artful and creative, a haven for the enlightened and the wildlife, a meditation garden in its entirety, a food producing and profitable oasis that helps restore and preserve the environment, and an example of how fun and attractive it can be to grow your own vegies along with those heirloom roses. Let's feed ourselves and take back our food!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I think Fall is here. Today I feel the chill in the air, and want to stay inside where it is cozy and warm, but there are still so many things to be done to get this little farm ready for winter, to put her to bed.

Everyday we pick tomatoes, hoping to get as many as we can before the first frost. But now we have to get them before the deer get them. For several mornings in a row now, I have awakened to find deer standing in our tomato field. Today it was three does, but more than once it has been the young buck I have caught eating my pumpkins too. Sometimes I can chase them off, and my two Chihuahuas are great for this task, and being behind a fence, the dogs never get close enough to get hurt, but the commotion they cause with their barking and tearing back and forth along the fence scare whole herds of deer away.

My usual experience is to run outside waving my arms in the air and shouting, but this guy just looks at me as he munches. I threw a piece of wood mulch at him, but I missed by a mile and he continued to chew.   As I approached him, asking him nicely to please stop eating my pumpkins, I eyed his antlers, and wondered how close he would allow me before he just decided to charge me instead. Would he do that? Was this battle over a green pumpkin, that probably wouldn't even reach maturity before the frost came, worth it? I shouted at him one last time, ready to run and was happy to see him trot away from the pumpkin patch.

The deer left me the top of the jack-o-lantern

The fish wind spinners my Aunt Sylvia let me borrow are not working against the deer either. Two mornings now I have found one of the nylon fish crumpled on the ground, it's fluttery tail several feet away. Is this the work of the deer? Are they trying to eat the fish too? Are they laughing at me in the night as they dismantle my deer obstacle course and chime haunted field?

I'm tired of yelling at deer. Let them have it, I say. Until we get the property fenced adequately, it is a losing battle. And, I can't help but think, when the deer come, the coyotes start coming too.

Fall is here.

Today was cool enough for me to make a chicken soup (mock chicken with broth and no chicken), and as I stood in the kitchen peeling potatoes and making biscuits, I was happily entertained by the birds singing outside the back door. I remember when we moved to this house a little over a year ago, there were no birds. I remember thinking, how odd, how horribly still it seems without birdsong. And Richard told me, "Don't worry, the birds will come." Sure enough, the birds have come to live in the junipers and eat bugs out of our gardens. What a wonderful thing.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, followed by Spring, and as the leaves turn and the birds sing, we wind down from our hectic harvest and garden schedule to a more relaxed state of mind. There is still urgency--get the greenhouse covered and get the goat barn situated for winter, get the goats bred and start thinking about Christmas.

Welcome to Fall.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A day of farm tours and hay

Wonderfully fun day! We toured A Wren's Nest Farm
in Pueblo, and it was educational and great fun. Thank you Paul and Tammy. We got to see their chickens, turkeys and pigs, sheep and garden spaces, hear about their plans and ideas and two gals showed up to join the CSA while we were there. We had a great time and I think our two little ones had a blast too, pulling the garden cart around the farm. I am inspired!

And then we were in search of hay for our goats and llamas. A deal is not a deal. Found a number on Craigslist for hay out in Pueblo, near where we were, so we agreed to meet a lady there to pick some up. The hay was sitting in a dirt field, barely covered and definitely yellowed and weathered. No thanks. And she was offended. Hmmm. If you want to be in the business of selling hay, then cut it dry and keep it dry. I'm not interested in my animals getting sick off of rotten hay. We have the right to be choosy. As a new farmer, I have gotten into guilt trips about buying hay, but never again. More than once I have gotten home with hay that was moldy in the middle. Now, I'm not to afraid to ask questions, and even break open a bale. I've found that being up front and demanding quality hay, I get it. Otherwise, I'll take my money and walk away.

We did find good quality hay, stored in a barn, from a guy we occasionally buy from in Penrose. I spent several minutes talking to his wife while Richard loaded the hay in the back of the truck. She told me the story of the two little kittens that were running around at her feet, and how they were born in the barn, but orphaned when mama disappeared. I also learned about how they farm the hay they sell, on their own land and farming pastures that others in the community don't have the time or interest to deal with. They also sell seed at their cute little farm...seed to grow pasture crops, like alfalfa or winter wheat. I'm definitely interested in turning our animal "pastures" into graze-able land.

I love visiting farms. I learn something new everyday from people who know how to do it. And the people are so friendly. What a fabulous day it was. Nothing beats this country life.

Now back to fixing the chicken pen, canning tomatoes and researching our own CSA start up.