Monday, June 29, 2015

Tomorrow's Eggs Might Taste Like Arugula

Sometimes I'm all set to do a blog post, and then I seem to have too much to say, and it seems like just too big of a deal to actually get the post done.  So I took a few pictures this evening, thinking this could just be a simple and quick post.

We have been enjoying Summer for two months.  Now it is getting a little old.  Hate to complain about the sunshine, but we desperately need rain.  This is just not what we are used to.  The grass is turning brown, it looks more like mid August than the end of June.  Some of the vegetables are protesting and are going to seed sooner than usual.  I'm having to water a lot.  The arugula is one of those 'going to seed' vegetables.  There are still leaves there, and I was cutting the stems and picking the little leaves off, but that makes for a pretty labour intensive $1 bag of arugula.  Time for it to go, and make room for the tomato plants that have been languishing in too small pots for too long.

It's handy having one of the chicken fields right next to the garden.  A lot of the weeds and old veggies just go over the fence to the hens, and they are happy to get them.
Today was arugula day.

And this is what hens do in the heat.  Kind of like me, holding my arms out a bit to keep air flowing in the 'pits'

Now I would have ended this post here. short and sweet.  But....while I was pulling out the last of the arugula, there is some cackling coming from the other chicken field.  Kind of the 'I've laid an egg' type cackling, not the 'help, the coyote is after me' kind of squawking, but still, since Luna was barking at the fence I thought I'd better go and have a look.  So I let Jake and Luna into the field, and Luna right away gets distracted by the sheep.  Jake is out there wandering around, and then I notice he is down along the fence by the road, and his tail is up high.  I go down to look and find a hole dug under the fence, and feathers near by. So I go and get Larry and we fill in the hole with a huge rock and check for other spots and put down more big rocks and blocks and big chunks of rotting lumber and whatever we could find.  The ground is so dry and light and easy to dig in.  Jake found a partial chicken carcass and munched on that.   Now that one was not fresh, and I'm guess that was a hawk kill, as a coyote would have taken the hen with it.   There was a hawk hanging around for a long time on Saturday afternoon, and who knows what might have been going on there for the 3 1/2 days we were away last week.  Only saw the hawk once or twice, most of the time it was in the trees, the crows were giving it hell and the robins were shrieking 'hawk, hawk'!  The hens were all in hiding, and then on Sunday morning they didn't even want to come out of the coop.  Anyway, hopefully we have deterred the coyotes for a bit, and the hawk didn't seem to be around today.  I did a head count tonight on the hens, and we may be down 2 or 3, which was better than what I was imagining, considering that egg production has dropped off in that coop, but that is probably more a factor of their age and the heat.
Never a dull moment.

Sheep Shearing

Not sure how many of you are aware that we still have one sheep.  A few years ago we were down to three. Two of them were quite old, and a couple of years ago we had them put down, as they had got to the point of no longer being able to get around.  I figured that the last sheep would be quite upset being on her own, and we would have to do something about that.  Oddly enough, she didn't seem bothered at all.  Didn't baa at all after her last buddy left.  She just carried on as usual.  I think it is because she has a flock of chickens in the field with her, and those are her companions, or that's my best guess at least.  So she's still here, on her own.  She baas at us morning and evening, because she gets an apple when we go to let the chickens out in the morning, or shut them in the evening, but other than that she does her own thing.  At least she helps to keep some of the grass under control.

I'm embarrassed to admit that she didn't get sheared last year, and the year before she only was partially sheared before the shears got too dull.  I had planned on finishing her somehow, but, well you know how that goes.  Anyway, I could ramble on here, but being the 'frugal' person I am, basically I didn't want to pay for the shearer to come for one sheep, as he had a pretty hefty charge for coming to the farm, and then a per sheep charge after that.  So it had been weighing on me quite a bit lately with this hot weather, that this was a job that NEEDED TO BE DONE!

I did make an attempt to sharpen the electric shears, and then one day last week I walked out there with an apple and a halter and lead rope.  I figured she would be all over me like usual, wanting that apple, but not a chance.  Maybe it was the rope, although she wouldn't even know what that was, maybe she could sense my intentions, but she was having nothing to do with me.  I gave up quickly, as there was not even a small space to try to herd her into, and she certainly didn't need to get stressed out in that heat.

Late Saturday afternoon I was out in the field with her, had taken some bolting lettuce out for her and the hens.  I was saying to Larry that maybe we should start feeding her the apple in a white bowl, so she would connect the bowl with food and it might be easier to lead her where we wanted her with that.  The ewe was stood right next to me.  I reached down and grabbed her neck and was able to hold on.  I yelled for Larry to grab the halter which was on the table on the patio right next to him. We got the rope around her neck and then he went back to get the scissors because I had to trim the wool off her head to get the halter on.  And then I just started with the scissors and basically kept going.  Now there is a technique to shearing sheep.  The idea is to hold them in certain positions to pull all the skin tight so that there are no wrinkles where you are shearing.  This is really crucial when using electric shears or hand shears (which we also have...somewhere), but not so critical when using scissors.  It was slow going, but other than spots were the wool was really felted or matted, it wasn't 'hard'. once I got a spot opened up I just slid the scissors in an inch and then cut along parallel to my last cut.  The fleece rolled off, slowly:)  You learn quickly not to pull on the wool.  That pulls the skin up and you will nick the sheep.  She got a few small nicks but nothing major.  Meredith showed up half way through the process.  She of course had her phone, so took the pictures. It was a stinking hot day, and the mosquitoes were biting by this point. I don't know why we even have mosquitoes, it has been so dry dry dry that there is no standing water.  Anyway, I was telling Larry  or Meredith to swat the one on my left shoulder, lower back, etc.  I'm pretty bumpy and itchy now.

 Meredith also took over from Larry, it was harder on his back than mine, straining to keep that ewe still. She was pretty good most of the time, but did make the occasional break for freedom.  I did have her down on her side at one point, and then sitting between my legs at another. But really, it went quite well, although slowly. 

 I figured it was close to a couple of hours before we were totally finished, and the wool was bagged up.  It will probably just be garbaged because the outer part was such a mess.  I had forgotten that the ewe had white legs, as the fleece was hanging so low you couldn't see them.  I felt great when the job was done, and hopefully she did too.  In fact she should have been bounding around that field like a lamb, she had so much weight removed from her.

 I'm not sure my scissors will be quite the same.  They got a good oiling I guess, but will need a good wash, as did I.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Month's Worth

Here's a bit of a garden tour.  I was looking at pictures on Friday night, and realized that they were taken a month prior.  So on Saturday I went out and took some photos to show what some of the veggies looked like a month down the road.  It's pretty amazing!

This was a patch of overwintered kale that was flowering and just about finished.  You can see the little chard in the bottom right corner.

A month later we have not one (made out of the old fuel tank stand) but two bean towers.  And look at the size of that chard now.  The tallest tower is 10 feet high and both are covered with some of our old electric sheep netting (fence).

The beans are up!  There is a squash in the center of each tower.  It's yet to be seen whether that was a good idea or not:)

See those tiny little lettuces planted about 6" apart, just above the center of the picture?

Look at them now (that's mizuna in the foreground).  I've picked and sold about 40 lettuces out of there already.

Here's the cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage section. The peas are under that narrow strip of mesh in the upper left corner.

What a difference!  Look at those weeds, Cathy you need to come back and weed it again!

The Kale behind the basil hoops is doing great.  The basil is not doing so great, the only failure so far this year.

And those peas, I saw the first flowers on them yesterday.  Loves me some snap peas!

The red cabbage

Softball sized cabbages forming!

The plot that used to be gladiolus, and then turned into an overgrown mess.  I got it cleaned out and here are furrows to plant potatoes in.

And now the potatoes are planted, and up!

 This picture is a little older, May 8

But look at those turnip greens now!  The only thing is that no one seems interested in them.  I'm going to have to make a fact sheet to put up at the market.  They are very high in Vitamin K.

This last Sunday most of this was for sale at the market.  We had lettuce, salad greens, kale, chard, turnip greens, spinach, arugula, garlic scapes and a few herbs. In a week or two there should be broccoli (if we don't eat it all) zucchini, cabbage, peas, fennel, and maybe carrots too.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Boys go on Holiday

When my sister was planning to come out to visit, I told Larry that we were going to go to Oliver for a couple of days.  I guess he was feeling a bit left out (of the Oliver part) so he said that well he was going to go up there by himself.  After his endothelial cell transplant eye surgery scheduled for the end of May was cancelled due to lack of donor tissue, I said well on the upside, you can still drive yourself to Oliver.  I encouraged him to take a dog for company, with Jake being the obvious choice.  So they set off this past Tuesday on a hot day.  The hot day got hotter as they approached the Okanagan, so they stopped at a rest stop that came with a lake, and Jake got to swim.  Despite me having sent a camera along, (just turn it on, point and focus), pictures were kind of limited.  

While in Oliver, Jake got a couple of good walks down the dyke.

The sky was kind of interesting one day.  Maybe that was Thursday morning.  Larry had decided to come back on Thursday, I tried to convince him to stay another day, but he said he was restless and had decided he was missing me.  Awww!

We walk this dyke a lot.  Basically flat so it is easy for Calli, and wide open so I get good notice of other people and dogs that we are going to run into.  I like to be prepared with Luna.  It follows the Okanagan River, which has been channelled.  Along the way are what they call VDS or Vertical Drop Systems, and what we call weirs.  There is a pedestrian bridge at each one, which makes for some nice loop walks.  The Hike and Bike trail is paved for a good length close to town, but if you cross to the east side, the dyke is unpaved and more 'wild'.  Just recently, the powers that be have decided at a couple of weirs to make ramps directly from the dyke to the bridge. Before, you had to scramble down the dyke slope, up the concrete steps, and then do it in the opposite order at the other end.  A bit awkward for bikes and dogs in carts, and impossible for people in wheelchairs.   One of the ramps is at a weir we cross often, so that's kind of handy.  Jake is the first of our dogs to test it out.

You might be impressed, but I'm not

Oh, oh, I'm a brave boy, I'm a brave boy, almost there, almost there.......

Oh my gawd, I have to cross one of these scary things again at the other side....

Larry said the river was really running high and fast.  You can see how the water is roaring after it has come over the weir, on the right side of the bridge.

Back at the cottage, the squash along the fence are coming along just fine.  Larry had to ease the branches back through the fence that were heading into next doors.  
Larry didn't see anything of those neighbours, and neither did Cathy and I when we were there.  

 I planted a few in the vegetable garden.  This is the only one he seemed to notice, which has grown hugely.  I can't imagine that the others have croaked in the two weeks since I've last been there, so hopefully there are a few more in there still.  The weeds are coming up too.  He said he thought about weeding , but didn't. (Phew, let's out a sigh of relief).  He didn't notice the three pepper plants in there, although he did seem to notice the sunflowers that had come up.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was quite looking forward to a few days on my own. It was all good, until late Tuesday afternoon.  I was making jam, I started to feel not so well.  I got the jam finished barely, before a terrible case of food poisoning hit. (My best guess, but no idea what from)  I was either in the bathroom or on the couch all evening.  Luna was shut in the basement with Calli (because I was making jam) and I could not get down there to feed them or let them out.  I was getting worried, as there were chickens to shut in and eggs still to collect.  I considered taking my chances and getting out there early in the morning for the eggs, and just hoping that that wasn't the night that any predators decided to wander by.  After 10, I had to stagger to the bathroom, and knew I'd  feel a bit of relief after that, so grabbed that opportunity to feed the dogs and head outside to the chicken coops.  By the time I was collecting the eggs in the second coop, (maybe it was all that bending over?) I thought I was going to pass out.  I left a large deposit out there, which made me feel better again, so I managed to get the chicken/eggs finished and the dogs toileted.  After that, other than some pain about 3 am, I was okay, and the next day was fine, other than feeling a bit washed out and low energy.

This was the longest Luna and Jake have been apart.  It was kind of interesting at my end. Even though only one dog was gone, it seemed like more.  Makes me realize Jake makes most of the noise, and is the better farm 'watchdog'.  Luna would hear the chickens cackle a lot, give one woof, go to the back door, I'd open it for her and she'd just stand there looking because her buddy Jake wasn't out there on high alert, barking at the fence.  When he got back, she was happy to see him.  When she is the one that has been away for a few hours, she can be bitchy to him when he fusses us around her, giving her the 'where have you been' smell over.

And then on Thursday Larry said he was coming back, which I was a bit disappointed about because I'd lost half of my 'alone time' being sick.  Anyway, it all worked out for the best, as I was informed by a reminder phone call that he had an appointment for a barium xray at the hospital at 7:30am on Friday.  The day before I had got a message to say to phone about an appointment, but no mention of there actually being one.  After I dropped him at the hospital I went grocery shopping and there ran into Granny Marigold and her husband.  We chatted a bit and she mentioned me not blogging much lately, I said I'd been planning on posting something for the last week and a half, but she was the little kick in the butt that I needed, so you can thank her for this post!