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First Fire

September 30, 2014
That time of year

That time of year

I was trying to hold out until October to light a fire, but you know, it was chilly and damp.  It’s time to get used to the usual sounds of the fire.  The hot water coils heating up and making the familiar clunk and the fire itself crackling a bit, and then the wood falling down.  My favorite though, is the sound of the poker being hung back on the nail.  Good iron has a ring to it, and this a hand wrought poker made by my blacksmith grandfather back in the day before crappy metal was the norm, is some good stuff.  Fire mojo for sure.

I have yet to figure out how to handle the firewood less…our normal is make up the wood, stack it in the woodshed for drying and storage until we need it.  We store a fair amount in the basement, but that runs out fairly quickly, and the work of wood and heating solely with wood necessitates that we store the firewood under cover here in the Pacific Northwest.  Maybe east of the mountains you could leave it outside under a tarp or some tin, but ugh, dry, cured wood pulls that humidity right back in like a sponge.  Nothing worse than starting a fire with damp wood, you get less heat, and the chimney is none too happy either.

First fire sometimes signifies the change in the kitchen too, somehow holding onto tomatoes and cucumbers on a drizzly day seems out of whack.  Dinner last night came from the woods, the pasture, the garden and dairy.  Rib eye steak slathered with romanesco, a mess of Chanterelles cooked in ghee, and some tasty roasted green cauliflower.  I even made an apple crisp with some windfall Northern Spies, oatmeal and brown sugar not from here.  Yep, it feels like fall, trading garden chores for fire chores seems like a fair trade.

Did I Tell You That I Like Food?

September 27, 2014

Fall colors for sure…

Those pullets are doing it again!

Those pullets are doing it again!

If there ever was a reason to eat your greens, this is it.  The pullets are dining on brussels sprout tops, spent cauliflower plants, and some tough kale leaves.  The double yolks are just because they’re pullets.  But man!  That color!

Okay, I think this is the last of the tomatoes.  The peppers are still going strong, these are for salsa.


Today's haul

Today’s haul

A little corn for the freezer.  Cut off the cob and frozen in cup size jars…perfect for soup or … and no freezer taste from plastic.

It’s tough being a corn snob, we don’t eat much corn on the cob really, once it gets slightly starchy, that’s it.  But it’s surprising what a good ingredient for winter cooking frozen corn is.  Still a little goes a long way even in a big pot of stew.  So that was my day in the garden.  What’s going on in your garden?





Jane Update

September 25, 2014

Seven weeks in and the milking routine is just that, a routine.

Corn monitor

Corn monitor

Jane is giving about 7.5 gallons of milk a day, which seems like a lot, but we find a good use for all of it.  She bumped up to 8 gallons for a bit and now is dropping down a bit with the grass waning.  I expect her to come into season any time in the next few days.  It will be her third heat since she calved.  The artificial inseminator checked her last time and suggested waiting.  Breeding at 35 days is possible, but probably not the best for her.  I have to weigh my wants (earlier calving) with her needs (health) so maybe this time…

Wake up call

Wake up call

She’s feeding these two, or rather we’re feeding them via nipple bucket.  I’m fudging on them a bit and feeding them skim milk for lunch, but morning and night they get milk warm from the cow.  They get first crack at four gallons a day, and the rest goes to the house for butter making, after I get the cream they get their lunch milk out of that.  So the calves are basically getting 6 gallons per day, not top notch with the skim thrown in, but they are doing good.  Beyond that, I make chicken cheese for the hens, and fertilize the garden and orchard with the whey.  Not a drop goes to waste between calves, kitties, dogs, chickens, humans and the garden.

The morning starts out by catching these two and tying them up.

See my botched dehorning job?

See my botched dehorning job?

After the calves are corralled I fetch Jane from the pasture.  She stays out, and the calves stay in at night.

After milking and feeding, the calves go out to pasture for the day.

They are growing fast.  It’s sometimes surprising to see how big they are.


I put Jane’s supplemental hay outside and take her back to the pasture.

Rumen fill - always on the left side

Rumen fill – always on the left side

I had the camera so I documented her condition for her records.

Checking her backbone for boniness.

Right side

Right side

Here I’m looking for fat cover on her short ribs and shoulders.  She’s lost some weight since calving, but that is normal in the first three months, after that time if she doesn’t put on weight, I’ll need to up her feed intake.



Jane's tack.  Homemade halter, lead rope and a persuasion stick

Jane’s tack. Homemade halter, lead rope and a persuasion stick

Halters, lead ropes, put away and the milk goes to the house.  Yesterday with the geese flying south overhead at a furious clip I decided to start my fall milking schedule and go for afternoon milking instead of evening.  In the afternoon this whole procedure repeats in reverse order.

Flying south

Flying south


Almost There

September 24, 2014
Amish Paste - Kapuler, Costoluto Genovese

Amish Paste – Kapuler, Costoluto Genovese

Unless I’ve missed something, preserving season is starting to wind down.  These tomatoes are roasting while the pressure canner is going with the last of the grape juice.  I’ve got about one more picking of tomatoes and peppers of different varieties.  The tomatoes will most likely become juice.  Easy on the preserver, and having a handy quart of tomato juice for soups and stews is a good thing.  The peppers will go in the freezer if I can find the space.  Prunes are done!  Finally.  Cover crops are in.  Waiting for squash and apples to ripen.  Then it’s just “coasting” until time to dig dahlias and plant garlic.

The list is ticking off fast in the preserving department.


September 23, 2014

Besides flinging and raking cover crop seed today and gathering seeds from the garden, I need to make up some grape juice with the grapes we picked yesterday before the rain.

The variety?  I have no idea…White Concord?  It’s Concord-like, greenish yellow and delicious.  We call it simply “The Grape” and bow to it’s antiquity and pay the 130 year old “wild” vine homage by enjoying the fruits of it’s labor.

I plan on doing some with the stainless steel steam juicer and also canning some jars of juice with the grapes in. Cathy at Fullcircle Farm has a great grape juice canning tutorial on her site if you want to try that method.

A Drop in the Bucket

September 23, 2014

We have been treated to a free airshow for the duration of the wildfire that is still burning to the south of us.  Super Scoopers have been flying at treetop level over the farm for days on their treks back and forth from the Columbia River to the Estacada Pit 36 forest fire.

With the trees so tall surrounding the fields and farm, they sneak up on you.  Next thing you know they’re overhead and it’s too late to get a good photo.

We took a short break Sunday and headed down to the viewpoint to see if we could see them filling up.  The air was filled with smoke and short of going down to the river, we settled for the long view from above.

You can barely make the plane out, it’s heading out to the river from the Latourell Creek canyon.

Seeing this view, thinking of the massive fire and these tiny planes, makes you really feel insignificant.  A drop in the bucket of life.

Trying to navigate the tourists in the water.

Scooping up a load.
Taking off.

Gaining some altitude.

Up and out of the gorge, and onto the fire.

The first of the fall rains are supposed to arrive tonight, I hope it’s significant.

Daddy’s Here

September 21, 2014
Finch (LoFat)

Finch, also known as LoFat, or Spotsen

The bull arrived last week without much fanfare.  After last year’s two-bull breeding season, we are meeting in the middle on the calendar between the two sets of calves, in an effort to get back to the correct calving time for us.

Browinie Hornsen

Brownie Hornsen

Joey the second bull from last year is here, we have two nice looking calves, Finch and Brownie, on the ground from him, and he’s a gentle guy.

Joey, upper left corner

Joey, upper left corner

He’s not in your pocket, but he’s quiet, but I now have to keep my wits about me while working with the cows.  He is a bull.  And, so it goes for six weeks, watching for signs of breeding and marking the date and cow’s name on the calendar.

September stockpile

September stockpile

We’re still working through the stockpiled forage on schedule.  We’ve got some green for the cows to eat, and some nice carbon to trample for winter grass food.

Reese 6 1/2 weeks

Reese Milksen 6 1/2 weeks

And I’m loving this little delicate guy to death.  There is something about calves that are tame and in your life.  Hard to put that into words.


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