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Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category

Gophermania

At first I really didn’t think they would be much of an issue.  I mean, they have to live somewhere, don’t they?  A few mounds of dirt here and there… nothing much to worry about.  Until the day I realized that mowing the weeds in the orchard was just a few steps short of starting my own private Dust Bowl!  And to make matters worse, my sweet little Corgi has figured out that there are critters living below the surface so walking through the orchard was like walking through a minefield.  A gopher mound here, a doggie hole there… you get the picture?

And then there was the morning I woke up to find a trail of dirt mounds on my garden lawn… and it became all out war.  I started my gopher research and found that the most effective thing to use was a rather frightening little piece of hardware called a Macabee trap that looks like it was invented by none other than the Marquis de Sade himself!  Fortunately, a sweet young clerk was willing to teach me the tricks of setting the thing without losing half of my hand.  After heading back to the front lines, I set the trap, tied it to a string, tied the other end to a metal stake, and made a mental note to put Caddyshack on my Netflix list.

Next morning I peek out the back door to see if my trap had any action during the night.  Success!  Yes (the Macabee did the trick) and No (the rodent was alive).  When reasoning fails, I defer to my gut reaction:  stick a flower pot over its head and wait for it to die.  Next morning, it’s still breathing and flies are starting to gather.  And that’s when the metal stake became a lethal weapon.

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Where Does the Time Go?

What a month it’s been!  Self-created deadlines depleted my ability to create words with meaning.  My perfectionist tendencies kept me from writing for the sake of writing in order to fulfill my promise to chronicle this first year.  But the deadlines have come and gone and now time has become fluid again.

Three months have been spent getting my house in order… literally and figuratively.  Doors became windows, ceiling fans replaced outdated light fixtures, wallpaper was stripped and rooms became brighter, the office took on a new glow, and oh how the garden did grow!  Plants turned lush overnight… a waterfall of wisteria cascaded over the fig tree, fragrant lilacs replaced the vacant branches outside my kitchen window, grape vines, Virginia creeper, honeysuckle and jasmine sent out their exploring tendrils… this land became so much more than a farm.  And I became its grateful steward.

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Up With the Chickens

I feel like the neighbor’s rooster this morning… up before the sunrise.  It’s going to be a busy day on the farm today.

April 15th is a thing of the past and now I can focus on Springtime tasks.  Like using my brand new self-propelled power mower!  Of course I had to call my trusty farmhand, Ken, to give me a lesson in how to use the thing.

It amazes me that I can become so intimidated by equipment I’ve never used before.  Take the well for example:  I look at the filtration system and come completely unglued!  Panic sets in, I begin to sweat and start wondering about the remedies for E. coli.  Me… someone who installs computer systems, sets up wireless networks, installs drip systems… worrying about which lever to turn first.  And then the feeling of being foolish sets in once I see how simple things are to operate.  Push this button, open this valve, close this lever… uh huh, OK, sure.

Now I’m waiting for the politically-correct time of day when I can fire up the mower, plug in the weedeater, and go to town on the grasses that never seem to stop growing.  Can’ t wait for the day when the sheep arrive!

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Friday on the Farm

Well, it’s almost sunset on a Friday evening and I’m sitting on the front porch sipping a lovely glass of wine thinking about the contrast between 2010 and the history of this area.

My neighbor recently gave me a copy of an 1854 diary of a gold miner who lived very close to “my” land.  And here I am typing this entry on a laptop in luxury when once there was someone who followed his dream of making his fortune in an element as elusive as the spring butterflies.  History and Nature never fail to amaze me!

I’ve laid out the hen yard this week.  The posts are in place & all that remains is the chicken wire and the hens themselves.

The weather forecast is for Spring storms next week and my organic non-GMO seeds arrived in today’s mail.  The threat of frost has past so tomorrow will be planting day for carrots, radishes & beets.  I’ll get them in the ground so that they can take advantage of the liquid nitrogen from the sky.

I never thought I would be in love with an acre of land but I am at peace with this place.

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Pasture-izing

The work on the perimeter of the pasture fence is just about finished!  My friends, Mark and Paul, stopped by a few days ago to give me some advice on how and where to lay out the hen yard as well as an abundance of their research material.  Rather than ordering young chicks, I’ve learned of a person at the local ranch supply store who sells full grown hens that are ready to lay.  The idea of having little peepers running through the yard sounds quite appealing.  Then I think of the child’s book, “Are You My Mother?” and imagine myself driving down the driveway with a line of chicks following my car!  Not exactly what I have in mind…

I was relieved to learn that someone now makes an automatic closing door for hen houses that is photo-sensitive.  Sun rises, door opens… sun sets, door closes.  Let’s hope that it’s not affected by lightning storms at night.

Investigating the possibility of a bee hive in the orchard.  More on that soon.

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And Away We Go

It’s happening… it’s really happening!  Today the orchard expanded with the planting of six new fruit trees.  The summer & fall bounty will consist of almonds, peaches, nectarines, Blenheim apricots, apples, pomegranates, black cherries, Bing cherries, pears, blackberries and two kinds of grapes.  I am not certain if the new trees will produce anything this year but they will get their roots settled and be ready for the 2011 harvest.

A dozen lavender plants were ordered today from Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Washington State (www.purplehazelavender.com).  Great name, don’t you think?   And seeds for the late Spring/early Summer vegetable garden are on their way from High Mowing Seed Company (www.highmowingseeds.com).  It’s been a long time since I’ve grown vegetables from seed so this will be an adventure of its own.  All of the seeds are non-GMO, of course… so sorry Monsanto!

Tomorrow I’ll be ordering some organic structured compost from Diestel Turkey Ranch (www.diestelturkey.com/compost.html).  Everyone who uses their compost swears by it so it’s a must-try this first year.

Exciting stuff going on this week!  It’s been so inspiring to have such great weather for a few days.

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And so it begins…

My new life, my new home, my new adventure.  All that I have waited for, asked for, dreamed of.  A home with a view, a garden, an orchard, a barn.  My own Enchanted April.  This is how I’ve asked to spend the third third of my life… beginning today:  Moving Day.

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OK, so here’s the deal.  I’ve got a small pasture and a whole lot of greenery both in and out of the fenced area and I need something other than a lawnmower to manage the growth.  I went to the Department of Agriculture’s website to see what they had to say about grazing farm animals and here were their selections:  Bison, Emus, Ostriches, Rheas, Llamas, Alpacas, Rabbits, Sheep and Goats.   For starters, let me say this about that… bison are definitely not what I had in mind!  And I’ve never heard of a rhea but I’m guessing that it’s in the family of two-legged, feathered birds like an emu or an ostrich.  Something about them sounds appealing… but then so does a llama.  Sheep and goats are rather commonplace and rabbits are tops on the list of the epicurean coyote.

So I’m off to do some research.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and discover that those four-legged predators don’t really like getting a mouthful of feathers!

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Fruits and Nuts

Last week, I walked around the farm with my handyman inspecting the barn, checking fences and laying out future projects.  Imagine this… he once owned a farm (Former Farmers of America?), understands sustainable living, and thus far has identified two almond trees, a fig tree, a plum tree, an abundant quantity of blackberry bushes and two different grapevines, all of which require some serious attention.  And none of these were in the orchard.

Five more days until I take up residence.  I see a pair of Muck Boots in my future!

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De Lays and El Nino

I learned today that my farming endeavors may not begin as early as planned.  Escrow was scheduled to close next week but has, once again, been delayed due to the conflict between  El Nino and an “engineered” septic system.  California is experiencing a January with rains heavier than usual which is causing the delay in getting the system completed.  Last month, the delay was caused by the inability to get a permit while the county took a furlough during the holidays; this month, it’s a new ballgame.

I can’t help wonder if the utility companies will think I’m crazy when I call them to postpone installation once again.  I suppose the silver lining is that it’s happening during the winter months and not at a time when my plantings will be delayed.  My only regret is that there aren’t any rain barrels collecting all of this nitrogen-laden liquid for Springtime watering.

However, if I’m going to learn to live in accordance with Mother Nature’s time clock, what better time to start than now.

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