Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Life

Sometimes, there are moments in your life which you know will be remembered for the rest of your life. Weddings, the birth of a child, graduating from college. These things are the milestones by which we gauge the passage of time. I recently had one of these experiences, when on an otherwise nondescript evening at the end of an otherwise nondescript day, I held between my fingers a tiny reminder that God loves us and wants us to be happy, that spring and new life are coming. Yes, loyal readers, the avocado tree has a flower bud. You can see the difference between the leaf bud and the flower bud, which is white and has a bulbous head. If things go well, this will eventually turn into 'El Oro Verde'.

Monday, January 10, 2011

arbor vitae

Hello Blog Readers...

It's been a while since I made a post, and I've been quite busy with the holidays, visiting family and friends, and with several garden projects.

We've been enjoying a steady influx of delicious carrots over the past few weeks, just in time for visitors to come and share in the bounty! What luck! I've also been harvesting lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, mustard greens and radishes. Although Sarah is not a fan of radish, it is nice to have the added variety in the winter salad. But, I have to admit, they have a tendency to give me smelly burps. The goats and chickens love the carrot and radish tops, as well as the leaves from the rape (actual name of the plants from which we get canola's basically kale...and unfortunately named) that I planted in the fall as a forage crop.

A sampling of this week's harvest:

The goats' lives have gotten a bit more exciting lately as I have started feeding them on their milking stanchion, in the hopes of training them to it. They are amazingly fast learners. It took just two feedings before I could just open the gate and let Mabel run out, with PJ waiting more or less patiently for her turn. Mabel will run over to the stanchion and start eating. I can then lock her head in place and brush her, rub her belly, etc while she eats. When she's done I put her on a lead and take her back to the pen. I let PJ out and put Mabel in, while PJ runs over to eat her share. It's a great system because I can monitor how much food each goat eats, and add things like sunflower seeds or oats if I think they need it. Mabel has dandruff, which the Internet has informed me can be remedied by feeding sunflower seeds. So far so good. Incidentally, we found out today that both goats are pregnant. Very exciting.

Here is Mabel on the stand.

In addition to the aforementioned harvest, there are onions, garlic, leeks, beets, chard, brussels sprouts, turnips, peas, artichokes, california poppy, calendula, and OUR NEW FRUIT TREES!!!
Yay! We bought a Gala Apple, Granny Smith Apple and a peach tree, three more blackberries (total 5) and a grape vine. So, when you consider that we already have a fig, pomegranate and three mandarin trees, our backyard orchard is really expanding. The alfalfa planting is still quite tiny, and I turned under a bed of 'pasture' mix to plant more carrots and beets in the garden. The older flax planting is about to bloom, kind of nice for the bees on those randomly warm January days.

Here are some spinach babies coming up between onion babies. Lots of babies.

The chickens are still laying pretty well, though production has decreased from 6 per day to 4 or 5 per day (from 6 chickens). That's actually really good for January. In fact, I am hoping they will stop and molt soon so that they can be in peak form come spring. They need a break from laying to recover from the demands of creating eggs.

Oh, and, I built a grape arbor. yeah, it's pretty cool.

Here's what I did:
1) cut down a bunch of juniper trees from the wooded area near my neighborhood
2) haul them back on my shoulders
3)strip the bark with a machete
4) set the four posts in concrete footings around the porch
5) put all the top parts on
6) take some advil

All in all, it represents a lot of work, and a lot of fun.
I have planted a 'Black Spanish' grape at the corner. Black Spanish is a native grape used for fresh eating, wine making and preserves. Being a native, it is resistant to many diseases, but it is much more palatable than that other native, the mustang grape.

all for now,