Saturday, July 30, 2011

Birds, Butterflies and Blueberries

All those California Quail that hung around here last winter getting a handout seem to have paired up and produced more little mouths to feed. We have at least two and probably many more quail families... mostly in the driveway. They seem to love to dust bathe and peck at who-knows-what in the gravel. I gave Johnny and grandson Ian, when he visited, the job of creating a sign to put at the head of our driveway to make sure visitors drive slowly and watch for the wee birds. I think it has helped. At least, I haven't seen any squished quail.

These little guys are about twice as big as when I first saw them. But they are also fewer. The original fourteen fluff balls in one group and eleven in another are now, apparently, nine and six, all feathered.

A pair of Eurasian-collared Doves, those invaders from across the Atlantic that are increasing rapidly and have reached the west coast... and our farm, have taken up residence in the barnyard and seem very tame. A pair of Mourning Doves hang around, too, but are not nearly so fearless. Yesterday, only one EC Dove appeared in front of the barn for the daily grain handout... and it was followed, literally, all over the lawn, by one Mourning Dove... an odd couple indeed. Note the size difference. The Eurasian Collared Dove has a black collar. The trailing Mourning Dove has a longer, pointed tail and black spots on the wings.

Today a pair of EC Doves came without the Mourning Dove. Maybe one of these days we'll have baby doves, of one kind or another... or both, joining the throng in front of the barn each morning.

Besides birds, we have butterflies. This one landed on a daylily today while I was mowing, giving me an excuse to stop and grab the camera.

I had another mowing break that was not planned. My mower grabbed the netting I have over a blueberry plant to keep birds and deer away. Alas, the blueberries came flying off with the netting. Other than losing nearly all its blueberries, ripe and otherwise, the plant survived without much damage. In the spirit of making lemonade out of a lemon, I ate all the ripe blueberries that had been ripped off. Delicious. I don't suppose the unripe ones will ripen off the bush, but I brought them into the house just in case they do.

Maybe I should have Johnny make a sign to put in the blueberry patch: Caution! Netting on Blueberry Plants!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July on the Farm

I always forget how busy summers are. In my head I imagine the long, lazy days of my childhood summers... riding horses, waterskiing, swimming, fishing, going camping. At least, that's what I remember. My mother would probably remember those days as filled with gardening, washing lots of filthy clothes, fixing meals and trying to find a few minutes to take it easy. Those are things I've been doing, along with milking goats, cleaning barns, mowing and weeding.

Summers also invariably include company. Our 9-year-old grandson visited last week. My work was happily interrupted by riding horses, canoeing and hiking the beach with him. Johnny enjoyed time spent with Ian, too. Together they canoed, plumbed the new goat barn, watched videos, and played in the sand at the beach while I looked for Black Oystercatchers ( my continuing once a week activity).

We returned Ian to his parents at the big Dressage at Devonwood horse show last weekend. For three days we enjoyed friends and family and beautiful horses... between morning and evening chores. The weather at the show was lovely, particularly the first two days when it was clear but pleasantly cool. The grounds at Devonwood Equestrian Center are spectacular. Here is Jessica's horse Rudi with his trainer Nicki Grandia in the warm-up ring, Mt. Hood in the background.

And here is one of Nicki's clients, Katie Newbury, on her beautiful Friesian gelding Joe, being escorted by some of the Traumhof team and their supporters, including Kevin and Ian and Johnny (Jessica and her sister Sarah are hidden behind the big black horse). Joe was high point Friesian at the show. The Newbury family along with all the other members of the Traumhof team were very supportive of each other and a lot of fun to be around.

The downside to the show was Kevin's chest pains that scared us all but turned out not to be a heart attack, but muscle spasms from some yet-to-be-diagnosed problem with his esophagus. Here's hoping it's easily and quickly fixed.

Now I'm back to watering, weeding, hoeing, mowing, washing lots of filthy clothes, and today: picking and freezing peas. Strange to be harvesting peas at the end of July but that's the strange sort of weather year it is. The rest of the garden is still waiting for the heat of summer to hit. And I'm still waiting for those long, lazy days of summer. But I stole a few minutes to take it easy and write this blog post so that, in the future, I can revisit what I actually did this summer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Hay is In the Barn!

The hay is in the barn and also under the llama loafing shed, being inspected by a llama. Some of it is still in the field, after the baler broke down. But the goats can eat it out of the field, once the fences are goat-proofed.

It was fun to watch hay being cut off our fields again. It's been many years. We did it ourselves in the past, but no longer have access to hay equipment. And Johnny, although recovering very well from his back surgery, is not supposed to be fighting with hay equipment or lifting bales. Our neighbor Paul cut, raked and baled the hay for us. He does small patches for neighbors. Some of his equipment was around when we were helping his dad put up hay 20 years ago. Here is the first field being cut, raked and baled.

Our lotus (bird's foot trefoil) hay did not turn out as planned. I'd forgotten that lotus, like alfalfa, is fragile once dried, so needs to be baled at night. I'd also forgotten that we always bought second cutting, because first cutting has more grass than lotus. After the field is cut once, the lotus comes back faster than the grass. Maybe we'll get a second cutting: it's supposed to rain a bit this week. Meanwhile the goats are picking through the bales of the first cutting to find what lotus didn't fall out.

Oh how pretty and satisfying to see all those bales in our field. This Red-tailed Hawk liked them, too. He used a bale perch to hunt for rodents we uncovered.

Best of all is having the hay all in the barn (and llama shed), thanks to good help. I only had to help today, on the last field, when Johnny's regular hired helper was late getting off his real job. A couple friends of Johnny's from church pitched in today, too. Johnny drove the tractor pulling the hay wagon. He would have loved to have been handling the bales as he always enjoyed haying. But he behaved himself for the most part.

Oh happy day! Our hay is in the barn! Let it rain!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another...

It seemed like a good idea at the time. "$100 worth of quality plants for just $20!" Or was it $25? Whatever, it was too good a deal to pass up. Although I don't need any more plants to take care of. And they didn't say what the plants were. "Garden Grab Bag! While they last!" So I ordered them.

Busy days passed and I forgot about my bargain plants. They arrived weeks later rather inconveniently as we were trying to get ready for the neighbor to cut hay off our fields, which meant mowing strips around each field to keep him from running into irrigation pipe, leaning fences, stumps, and other impediments. I also had to mow the horse electric fence line to keep it from shorting out. Plus clean goat pens so I could move more barkdust off the hay trailer that needed to be empty when the hay was baled. (The renewed barkdust path from barn to house to shop had used up maybe half of the huge load.)

The plants were, I suppose, quite a bargain: 6 bareroot Pink Freedom hedge roses (big and well-rooted), 3 Mammoth Red Raspberries (sticks with roots), 2 geraniums (possibly alive), 2 daylilies (definitely alive), and 6 purple coneflowers (of which only a couple were recognizable as plants but maybe they'll surprise me).

It's always fun to figure out where to plant things. I elected to plant the hedge roses behind the carriage house, against the gray metal. That area had only smoke bushes in it that were obliterated by grass. I would have to mow first. That's good because I wanted to mow and liberate the smoke bushes but other things had taken precedence. Even better, in mowing I discovered a smoke bush I didn't know was there... buried in the grass. I also found some enormous holes that needed filling. That was good, too, because I needed to clean a goat pen to get it ready for barkdust. I could put the pen cleanings in the holes, which I did.

The roses were to go behind the smoke bushes and newly filled holes but the hard-packed clay dirt proved impossible to dig. That was okay because I have lots of compost behind the barn. I hauled that in and made mounds, planted a rose in each mound and watered. They'll be more visible that way when they bloom behind the smoke bushes. They're not too impressive right now, mounded behind the manure and straw filled holes, and without any leaves yet, but here's hoping. When you look at this photo, try to imagine beautiful green rose bushes covered with pink flowers. There will be neatly mown grass around purplish smoke bushes in the foreground. I know, it's hard. We must have faith.

After all that work to plant 6 roses, I was not thrilled about finding a home for the Mammoth Red Raspberries, especially since I had recently gone to a great deal of trouble to dig out the herb bed, give it all new compost on top of Weed Block black fabric, and plant 6 raspberries. The instructions had said to plant them at least 500 feet from wild blackberries. There is no place on our farm, except maybe in the middle of a hay field, that is 500 feet from wild blackberries. The old herb bed was as close as I could come. Today I added barkdust to the herb-bed-turned- raspberry-row. That took a few more wheelbarrow loads off the hay trailer.

The bargain Mammoth Red Raspberries are now planted in the Fruits and Nuts section of my arboretum. I had to dig out wild blackberries to plant them... in gopher holes since that was the only place the dirt was soft enough to dig. I backfilled with more gopher dirt. But they needed to be mulched or they would expire of the heat if they survived the gophers and whatever bad thing wild blackberries might give them. That was good because I needed to clean another goat pen to make room for more barkdust. The hay trailer was still mounded high.

Before I could mulch the newly planted Mammoth Red Raspberries (the only thing mammoth about them so far is their name), I had to mow the Fruits and Nuts section of the arboretum. That was good because in so doing I discovered a peach tree that I thought was dead. It has come back from the roots so who knows what it is now. But I mulched it along with newly liberated mulberries and nut trees and the Mammoth Red Raspberry sticks.

The other bargain plants have been thrown in around the flower beds here and there, each with a covering of bark dust. Every little bit helps. But there was still a great deal of the stuff on the hay trailer so I barkdusted the front path. But before I could do that, I had to pull the grass and weeds and overgrown ornamentals I probably should not have planted there in the first place. That was good because the delivery people were going to either have to start carrying machetes to bring packages to our front door or leave their deliveries at the driveway.

The last of the barkdust is now off the hay trailer, as of this morning, having been used in the goat pen I cleaned to get mulch for the Mammoth Red Raspberries. The last half a wheelbarrow load went into the rose bed where I had not intended to barkdust but now that I have, I need to do the rest of that area or it will look odd. Luckily Johnny reminded me that we still have 8 sacks of barkdust from last year that we didn't know what to do with. That's good. However, the rest of the rose bed needs weeding before I spread any more barkdust. One thing inevitably leads to another...

But, hallelujah, the hay trailer is empty and the bargain plants all have homes, sort of. Let the haying begin!