December 17, 2011

Old Friends

Now that they're getting older, the two Berkshire hogs spend most of their time lazing around waiting for their next meal, but they do like to get out now and then to check up on the other animals around the farm.  No one seems to pay them much attention except for this one young steer who, for some unfathomable bovine reason, does not like pigs.  He bellows and snorts and chases them around the pasture while the rest of the herd look at him like he's crazy.  For their part, the pigs pay him no mind, but seem to enjoy staying just close enough to tease him.

December 3, 2011

In the Cold, Cold Night

With temperatures dropping and the calendar turning over to December, we've recently put the horses on their winter schedule.  They spend the days out in the loafing yard, soaking up what sunshine there might be,  and come into their snug barn in the evenings.  We're also feeding the cattle in the waterfall pasture, as well as Blossom and her calf, so we're starting to make a little bit of a dent in all the hay we put up this past summer.
Here we have Sven and Ole getting ready for a long winter's night in their stall.

November 10, 2011

A Foggy Day

Clark and Strawberry make their way in from the pasture for the morning grain ration. 

October 23, 2011


Tom seems to take great pride in knowing that despite the recent arrivals to the turkey pen, he's still the best looking bird on the farm.

October 12, 2011

Mending Fences

We're replacing the wire fence that surrounds the winter loafing yard with split cedar. The horses crumple and crush the wire while they're rubbing and scratching, so hopefully the wooden rails will hold up a little better.  Here's Terry pulling one of the seemingly endless of fencing staples that held the old wire to the posts.

October 10, 2011

Cattle Call

Blossom is getting ready to calve soon, so we moved everyone down to the barn this morning which makes it easier to separate her from Big John and the rest of the girls. This was our first major move without the late, great Princess leading the herd, but we didn't encounter any problems going up and down the hill...except fort poor old Annie (the black Lab in the photo) who could hardly move after her day's work.

September 17, 2011

Where Corn Don't Grow

If Jenny looks a little glum, it could be because she is contemplating this season's somewhat meager corn crop. Of everything that we grew in the garden this "summer," the corn probably suffered the most from the cool temperatures and lack of sunshine (conversely, the potatoes, cabbage and salad greens all had banner years).  As you can see in the photo, each stalk has struggled to produce (on average) a single, small ear of corn.  But for what it lacks it size, it makes up in delicious sweetness. 

August 14, 2011

In the Still of the Night

We finished the hay last night with the final load going into the barn just after the sun had set. There's always a lot of satisfaction (and relief) knowing that the job is finished for another season.  Despite the adverse weather and some minor equipment break-downs (along various and sundry other breakdowns), we now have a loft full of hay that will easily last through the winter. But we're not going to think about winter just now....

August 7, 2011

Cruel Summer

Here it is - a full week into August - and we're only now getting serious about loading the hay into the barn. During the entire month of July we put only four wagon-loads into the loft...which is pretty pathetic when you consider that we can do five loads in a single good day. Obviously, we haven't shared in the record hot summer the rest of the country has been having, with only one day above 80 degrees so far. But we did get a lot of work done in the last week, and the weatherman claims that we should have abundant sunshine for at least another week as well.
Here's a shot of Ryan on top of the wagon after setting the double harpoons into the stack. After he jumps down, a team of two Fjords will pull the hay up into the loft, and I'll release the harpoons with a trip-rope. The double harpoons are an idea Ryan came up with that allows us to lift more hay in each load - saving both time and work. Climbing up on the stack and driving the harpoons into the hay is a bit of a chore, and it's nice to be able to do it half as often.

July 20, 2011

A Bold Young Farmer

We've had a lot of help with haying so far this's too bad the weather hasn't cooperated. 

July 7, 2011

Cool Drink of Water

The chicks that have been inside for the last few weeks are almost ready to make the move out into the pasture and the chicken tractor that Ryan finished today.  The nights are warm enough, and the chicks are just starting to develop true feathers.  It's amazing how much food and water twenty-five baby chickens go through on a daily basis, and I'm sure they'll be much happier on a diet of fresh grass, clover and bugs.

July 5, 2011


The calendar may have noted the turning of the seasons a couple of weeks ago, but here on the farm summer doesn't officially start until the first hay is cut.  We've had a stretch of beautiful weather, and (as you can see) the hay is ready.  Ryan took Fred and Clark out for a few trips around the upper pasture in the morning, and then used two of the Fjords to finish things up in the afternoon.  To make things easier for the smaller horses, Ryan has modified a No. 4 mower with a shorter cutting bar which doesn't take as much power to cut through the tall grass. 

May 13, 2011

In the Garden

"You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another.  There is nothing free except the grace of God."

I've thought about those words now and then while pulling seemingly endless strands of quack grass from the garden.  Weeding is the unavoidable price for fresh and healthy organic produce, and sometimes I think that the western Washington climate forces us to pay a bit of a premium.  Along with the hated quack grass, we get burdock, chick weed and buttercup popping up almost as soon as the ground is turned over in the spring.  Once the weather and the soil start to warm up, the lamb's quarters, shepherd's purse and those spindly things I don't know the name of (but there are lots of 'em) take over.  And there are always the stray blackberries and volunteer crops from the previous season to deal with.

The horse-drawn cultivator and the wheel hoe (in the picture) keep the rows clear, although you still have to go back a rake out the roots that have been turned over.  Anything that isn't completely removed from the garden will take root with the next rain.  For the beds, we have a wide variety of hoes of all shapes and sizes, but inevitably it comes down to getting on your knees and pulling out the really stubborn weeds by hand.  Sometimes while I'm down there, I do some praying that we would get a little less rain.

May 9, 2011

Before the Deluge

With some dry weather this afternoon, Ryan hooked up the three Fjords and took the spring-tooth harrow down to the winter loafing yard to get it ready to plant with oats.  By the time spring finally rolls around, the horses have stripped the loafing yard clean of anything even vaguely edible, and have left it bare and muddy.  The oats, in addition to holding the soil in place, give the horses something to eat when we go back to the winter schedule.
 After dragging the yard with the harrow, I walked along broadcasting seed while Ryan followed with the disc.

April 14, 2011

Let it Grow

We finally got a break in the weather last weekend that lasted long enough to do some planting.  We planted eight long rows of mangels (since they proved to be such great feed for almost all the animals), as well as a few rows of carrots - for both the animals and the people.

All this is being done in the "new" part of the garden, which is the field directly adjacent to the fenced-in "old" garden.  The additional space comes at a bit of a cost though: part of the field has a fierce quack grass infestation that will have do be dealt with (by hand) right away.  Fortunately, the plowing and harrowing have left the rhizomes laying on top of the soil where they can easily be pulled out.  Next to the "new" garden we're planting fields of oats and wheat.  With the seed drill, which has a six foot span, it takes Ryan less than a day to plant it all.  When the ground warms up a little, we'll plant the rest of the garden, and move everything that's now in the greenhouses outdoors.

April 6, 2011

Milkcow's Calf Blues

We separate Lilac and her little steer calf every night so that there is milk in the mornings.  He was a bit upset about the situation for a few nights, but has adjusted to the routine and is happy now as long as he has some grain and hay.  He also gets a little milk in the mornings since Lilac holds back some unless she knows he's getting his fair share.

March 31, 2011

Around and Around

Here's Ryan out in the rain spreading manure with Fred and Clark. We'll cut hay in this pasture sometime during July so that we have feed for the horses over the winter.  The horses will then make more manure for us to spread in the same pasture next spring.

Ryan says we're making hay. I claim it's a manure production operation. Fred and Clark call it working for their supper.

March 29, 2011

Time Changes Everything

After a long winter in the barn, we changed the horses over to their summer schedule last night.  That means days inside, and nights out in the pasture feasting on the new grass that is coming on strong.  Here are Sven and Ole who've just come into the barn and still expect their mangers to be filled with hay.  I would guess that we used about two-thirds of the hay we put up last summer, which is a pleasant surplus after running dangerously low last winter.  And now that all the animals are out of the barn for the summer, I have enough time for that second cup of coffee in the mornings...

March 25, 2011

Follow the Plow

I can probably count on one hand the number of sunny days we've had since the beginning of the year. OK...maybe I'm exaggerating a bit...but I'd only have to take off one shoe to get the right number. On those few and far-between dry days, Ryan and I have been trying to get things ready for a spring that has to arrive eventually, even if it's in July.

We started tomatoes and onions inside a couple of weeks ago, and last week I planted the Walla Walla onions and shallots in the garden.  The garlic is looking good, and is already in need of its' second weeding of the season (weeds don't care about the weather).  Next to the garden, Ryan has been preparing fields for the oats, wheat and mangels.  Fred and Clark pull the plow, and the three Fjords usually follow up with the lighter work.

The old land sales pitch was "Rain Follows the Plow."  We're hoping it's the other way around this spring.

February 17, 2011

Pig in a Pen

The cute little Berkshire weaner pigs we got last August are now full-grown eating machines.  They've had a steady diet of grain, hay, mangels and, of course, table scraps for the last six months, and now are somewhere in the 200-225 pound range.  Ryan and I have both commented on how different they are from the other pigs we've raised, both in appearance and disposition.  We've had pigs that leave huge craters in the ground and general destruction in their wake, but these Berkshires are much more sedate, if that word can be applied to pigs.  They seem content to wander around the barnyard without tearing up fences or gates, and hardly ever dig more than a couple of inches deep while rooting.  

January 23, 2011

Wild Horses

One of the oldest and purest breeds, Norwegian Fjords were first domesticated in Europe around 4,000 years ago.  They are still very similar to the last true wild horse, Przewalski's Horse, with small yet strong confirmations, and primitive markings with faint stripes.  But as far as farm animals are concerned, horses were brought under human husbandry rather late in the history of agriculture, with sheep, goats, pigs and cattle all being domesticated more than 6,000 years earlier.
Of course, given the general temperament of  horses, it is easy to understand why it took so long for humans to tame them.  The animals have inherited a strong fight-or-flight instinct, with natural selection clearly favoring the latter. As Ryan likes to note, even our big Suffolk draft horses still see themselves as being only three feet tall in a world full of saber-toothed tigers.  But despite their close ties to the past (or, perhaps, because of them), the Norwegian Fjords are some the the most gentle and helpful workhorses to be found anywhere, even if they share a certain willfulness with their ancient ancestors.  
On the left are three horses drawn by a Paleolithic artist on a rock wall in the Chauvet cave in France.  On the right are Sven, Josie and Ole getting ready to do some harrowing.  In between are almost 30,000 years.  Apparently, when it comes to horse breeding, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

January 18, 2011

Clear Blue Skies, Eight(teen) Inches of Rain

According to the folks at the National Weather Service, we've had eight inches of rain in the last two weeks, but it sure feels like a lot more than that.  We've been wading through standing water and mud since the last of the snow melted, and there's been some form of precipitation every day (and usually more at night).  The Stillaguamish has been under a daily Flood Watch or Flood Warning, but it hasn't spilled it's banks and run into the pastures (yet).  Which doesn't make much of a difference since the pastures all have full-fledged streams of their own simply from the rain water making its' way down to the river.

Stangely enough, the forecast calls for clear skies tomorrow...for one day...followed by more rain.  

January 12, 2011

Master of the Barn

Depending on the season, we may keep horses, cows, pigs and a goat in the barn, but the the only year-round nightly resident is the orange tom cat who (as far as I know) doesn't really have a name other than the "Barn Kitty." We got him as a kitten from a garage sale a couple of years ago along with an identical brother. Unfortunately, the brother disappeared after about six months...probably something to do with curiosity, cats and coyotes...but the Barn Kitty has become the nimble and ferocious master of his domain.
Before his arrival, we had quite a few rats in the barn, especially burrowed under the pen where we usually keep pigs. Now the barn is pretty much rodent-free, and Barn Kitty has to make due with chasing the stray bird that wanders in.  He eats and sleeps in the loft, and is waiting at the top of the stairs every morning knowing that he will get a scratch behind the ears as we come by to toss down the hay.

January 2, 2011

Breaking the Ice

With more icy cold weather hitting just after Christmas, water, which is usually more than abundant around the farm, has become a scarce commodity.  While most of the faucets at the barn are frost-proof, the automatic watering for the pigs and the chickens does freeze when temperatures stay cold for more than a day or two.  Fortunately, the outdoor water sources for the horses and cows had only a thin layer of ice that they were easily able to break through to get a drink.  Here are the horses in the loafing yard, just after being let out of the barn in the morning, heading for the small stream and pool that supplies their water during the winter months.