Monday, December 29, 2014
Here is a terrible picture of my four goats and the cow attacking a christmas tree. Most people don't think about ruminants eating evergreens, but they do. Just try to plant one in their pasture and you'll see! This time of year, they are subsisting solely on hay, except for every once in a while when the sun comes out I can bring the goats out for a nibble of whatever they can find around the yard. I'm sure this tree was a nice change of pace for them, something fresh and interesting.
It's not my Christmas tree, though. As always, we bought a live tree and it is still up, covered with decorations, in our living room. It's high time to get it outside, but I probably won't get around to that for another few days. Our property is still severely lacking in trees, despite the four Christmas trees and dozen or so fruit trees we have planted. I have a master plan to create a mini-forest of ex-Christmas trees over by my husband's shop, but that will take a good many Christmases yet.
No, this tree is the result of a post I put on my Facebook Farmer's group saying I would happily pick up your Christmas tree if it were outside and not too big to fit in a Eurovan. I got two trees yesterday and I will probably pick up a few more this week. I'm thinking that after the goats turn them into skeletons, I may stuff them into the chicken coop to provide some natural roosting areas.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
|Christmas 2012 in Abuelita's house|
Christmas in Oaxaca begins on December 16th. For the nine days leading up to Christmas, there are Posadas, a celebration, a reenactment of the journey of Mary and Joseph before Christ's birth that moves from house to house and involves pinatas, singing, and food. Although parish-based, Posadas truly are open to everyone, including random tourists who are brave enough to accept a waved invitation.
Aside from the posadas, there is a nearly endless string of parties and visits. Everyone wants to entertain at Christmastime, and pretty much everyone does. On Christmas eve, the neighborhood Posada finishes its nine-day journey at the local church; there is a big street festival and mass is spoken, and then everyone heads home for a big, late dinner. And then that's it; that's Christmas. Christmas morning is for nursing hangovers and - eventually - cleaning up. Gifts are reserved for Epiphany, on January 6th, and are pretty much just tokens.
In many ways, Christmas in Oaxaca is a lot less stressful, not to mention expensive. The holiday is much more about events - parties, mass, going downtown to look at the decorations, visiting family - and much less about spending money and gifts. Of course, it is still expensive and stressful to entertain visiting family. The average American family might be totally aghast at the thought of hosting three or four different families, sequentially or simultaneously, and feeding them all and being gracious for weeks on end. Or at the thought of throwing six to eight parties during the Christmas season instead of one. Personally I'm thankful to not be hosting any parties at all.
I am, though, doing Christmas eve dinner. Just here at home, and the only invited guest is P., Rowan's ex-boyfriend, who is leaving Christmas day on a greyhound to go back to the mid-west from whence he came. We love P. and will miss him, and are glad to have him with us. So I'm only cooking for six, which is fewer than the number of people cooked for every single day last year, when P. and the cousins Alehida and Shidezi were living with us. But of course it has to be special.
I asked Homero what he wanted for Christmas eve dinner, and he said "Roast chicken, but not like you make it. I want it like my grandma makes it. And also the noodles she makes. And the potato salad."
If there's one thing I think all us wives can agree we don't like to hear about our cooking, it's that "it's not like Grandma used to make." Especially if Grandma happens to come from an entirely different country with different, unavailable ingredients. At least I have the advantage of having eaten Grandma's Christmas eve roast chicken. It is, indeed, delicious. I think I can come up with a pretty good approximation. Also it is true that Grandma herself showed me how to make her guajillo salsa, which is, as Homero says, "good enough to make you eat the tablecloth where it spilled."
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Last week there was a major windstorm. They were building it up in the media for a week ahead of time - "likely the biggest windstorm since the great storm of '06," that kind of thing. The Pacific Northwest in general is not known for it's extreme weather - quite the opposite, in fact. Steady, gentle rain is pretty much our speed. We seldom have thunderstorms, and whenever there's more than three inches of snow everybody gets all in a dither. Major storms are relatively rare events.
However, we, here on our little ridge above the water, do get quite a bit of strong wind. It's quite ordinary for us to get steady strong wind for days at a time, and gusts that feel close to violent are commonplace all through the winter. We've been approached by a local wind energy group about putting a major tower on our property, one that would power fifty to eighty homes. That ought to give you some idea of the kind of wind we reliably experience (that won't happen, by the way. We were seriously considering it, but then our shortsighted county slapped a moratorium on all windmills larger than those required to power a single home).
Since we have lived here, there have been - oh, I'm going to say three major windstorms. One of them, back in '07, picked up our heavy duty trampoline - Rainbow's finest model, probably weighs 250 pounds - and threw it against our roof, knocking a fair sized dent in it. Another windstorm picked up our calf hutch and sent it sailing over the state highway and into our neighbor's field. Since then there's been only minor damage to shingles on the barn.
Last week's windstorm shredded the extra-thick corrugated plastic roof of the field shelter and chicken coop. I'm not sure if you know what this stuff is - it looks like corrugated tin that shacks are roofed with in Oaxaca and Hoovervilles in Depression-era musicals and other poverty-stricken areas, but it's made of clear plastic. It's quite thick and strong, and expensive, too, at about $20 per 4'x16' sheet. We screwed it down onto the rafters of the field shelter and chicken coop, and it works pretty well. Until there's a major windstorm.
The wind just peeled it off in little pieces. There's still a strip of it screwed down to each rafter, but the rest of the sheets are torn into tiny particles which are strewn all over hell and gone. Not only do we have to re-roof the sheds, but we have to hike all over the property and roadside picking up seven hundred little pieces of plastic. If I can find any, I'm going to reroof with corrugated tin. What the hell, we already look like a third world country around here.
HURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2009
Posted by Aimee at 3:32 PM
Thursday, December 11, 2014
When I was a child, there were a few special packages we always waited for at Christmastime. Several of my relatives sent good gifts every year, but the packages I remember best are the ones from my stepsisters' grandma and the one from my mother's friend April. When they arrived, we would all gather around to unpack them reverently.
Grandma sent canned goods from her own garden and kitchen. What I remember best are her dilly beans, spicy and garlicky and beautiful in the tall quilted-glass jar. They always had a place on the Christmas table. April sent canned goods, too - beautiful jewel-toned jams and - most wonderful of all - tiny bottles of fruit flavored liqueurs from her raspberry and blackberry patches. Mom used to let us taste the liqueurs by pouring a little into a teaspoon. We thought they were magically delicious.
Ever since I moved up here and began learning to can and tending a garden, I have entertained fantasies of sending out packages at Christmas, packages that my friends and family would exclaim over. For seven years in a row, I have failed to do so. Not because I don't have canned goods - I usually do, though it is true that there are never as many jars in the cabinet come December as you imagine there will be, when you are bent over a hot stove in August. I am already out of salsa, if you can believe that. No, I have not sent out my packages out of sheer laziness and disorganization. Good intentions, it turns out, won't get you to the post office.
This year I was determined to overcome my natural sloth and fully intended to send out canned goods. I set aside little jars of cajeta (New To Farm Life: Cajeta is Love), lemon curd, and dilly beans. The beans were pilfered by my daughter Hope, who has a passion for all things pickled, and there are none left. The cajeta didn't turn out well; for some reason it turned out not like caramel sauce but sort of like milk-fudge. It's not bad in coffee, but it's not of a quality that I would give as a gift. That left lemon curd, but only three half-pint jars, and I have six people on my package list.
Luckily, we had an abundance of salmon this year. Not only did I buy a few fish, as I always do, but just recently a customer of Homero's who works at some sort of fishery gave him a tip consisting of two gigantic sides of Alaskan King. We ate some fresh, and it was the best salmon I've had in ages - rich and buttery and deliciously fat. I told Homero "whatever you do, keep that guy happy!"
I started smoking the salmon just as a way to preserve it. A couple years ago I canned some king salmon, with the help of friends who loaned me their pressure canner, and it was good, but not as good as smoked salmon. It occurred to me that smoked salmon is not only a universally appreciated gift, but also considerably less bulky and expensive to send than food in glass jars. Not to mention that, as much as we all enjoy smoked salmon, we are unlikely to eat ten pounds of it in a year.
My "little chief" smoker is missing a rack, so it took me three sessions to smoke all the fish. Two sides, cut into generous filets, made twelve good sized packages. Last week I got myself together, hunted down addresses (in some cases calling and asking) and sent out five bubble-wrap lined manila envelopes with salmon inside. I'm so proud of myself. I finally did it. I know my friends and family were happy because they all called to tell me so. No promises, but I think I may make smoked salmon my signature gift. It's hard to let go of the image of multiple, tiny, jewel-toned jars, but salmon is easier.
Since I don't have a vacuum sealer (I should probably get one if I plan to make this a yearly tradition), I borrowed one from a neighbor and gave her a package of salmon in trade. That leaves six packages in my fridge. I'm sure a few of those will be taken as hostess gifts to parties and gatherings this year, and I know my sister is getting one under her tree (sorry, Jen, for ruining the surprise), but that still leaves us with plenty of delicious smoked salmon to keep us going until next summer.
Posted by Aimee at 2:22 PM
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Posted by Aimee at 6:52 PM
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Recent developments -
- The turkeys are processed and ready for pickup. In light of the way they were getting picked off (Predator Problems (Facebook Farmers)), I decided they would be safer in the freezer than in the barnyard. Last year, there was a local guy who processed them for $10 a bird, but he has gone out of business and nobody has replaced him. Luckily, a neighbor of mine belongs to a co-op that rents out the equipment, and she was kind enough to host a processing party. Homero and Rowan went (I was in Seattle with the girls at a gymnastics meet) and the turkeys look great. We haven't weighed them yet but my arm says about 15-18 pounds each. They are all sold already at $4/lb, so that makes back our expenses even without thew two the coyotes ate. A success.
- All animals are in the sacrifice area. A little late in the year, but finally all the hooves are off the big pasture. I was worried about whether or not the ponies would share their shelter with the heifer, but it looks like they have grudgingly decided to do so. The goats - only 4 of them right now - sleep in the calf hutch.
- Breeding season is in full swing. I think my ladies are all pregnant - probably including Ba,bi, the bevy - but I'm not sure. Haboob the buck has been in with them for the last six weeks and I've seen him doing his duty - or trying to. The does don't seem to like him much (probably because he is so small) and he spends a lot of time chasing them and taking flying leaps. But I definitely saw him close the deal with Iris. Last week we sent him off to a neighbor's farm in exchange for a lovely basket of farm produce. Here's hoping her does like him better than mine do.
- The work in the crawlspace (It Never Rains But it Pours (When is Enough Enough?)) is just about done. Homero, with Rowan's help, did about half the actual work, saving us lots of money. However, in the course of events, about half the ductwork got removed and needed to be replaced and we had spent literally our last dollar paying the workmen. We had to wait for payday to buy new ducts, not to mention propane, and in the meantime the weather took a turn for the seriously cold. For about 10 days we had to huddle in one room at night with the space heater. But all's well that ends well - now I can be relatively certain that my house isn't going to sink into the ground or go sliding down the hill anytime soon.
More later - getting dinner on the table.
Posted by Aimee at 4:54 PM
Friday, November 7, 2014
Mr. Joosten > > this letter is inform you that we have filed a complaint with the > Whatcom Sheriff regarding the threats you made to my husband on the > phone yesterday. You are on record. Frankly we are both shocked by > your bigoted, offensive, and bullying behavior. The idea that you > would "sic immigration" on a client whom you believe to be > vulnerable and without recourse rather than address that person's > complaints speaks volumes both to your business integrity and to > your personal character. I invite you to reflect on your actions. > > I still willing to talk with you about how we can come to an > agreement regarding the damage done by your poor work. Please feel > free to call me directly at 206-xxx-xxxx (I doubt my husband is > interested in speaking with you). However, don't call if you want to > shout at me or insult me or otherwise harass me: only to calmly > discuss resolving the professional issue. > > If you do not choose to resolve this privately in a very short time > frame, we will relunctantly be forced to contact our attorney. Be > aware that if we do so, your racially charged language will become > part of a racial discrimination suit. If that is the case, we will > also be contacting all relevant offices that regulate fair business > practices in Washington, such as the department of licensing and the > Attorney General's office. > > Sincerely, > > E.D.
Posted by Aimee at 1:49 PM
Thursday, October 30, 2014
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2008
Posted by Aimee at 1:26 PM
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Last year, we had good luck with turkeys. We never intended to raise turkeys, but a trade came our way (Turkey Trade) and we acquired four half-grown turkeys in exchange for one goat. We ate one, sold two, and donated one to the food bank. I decided pastured turkeys were a great return on investment - and also extremely delicious - so this past spring we upped our investment by 50% and bought six Standard Bronze poults.
All went well until just a few weeks ago - the turkeys all grew quickly and turned into handsome animals of about fifteen or eighteen pounds. I think they were all hens, although I wouldn't swear to that on a stack of bibles. Through Craigslist and Facebook, I had already sold four of them. But then one of them disappeared. There was no sign of "fowl play" (ha ha) - no feathers or blood. There was simply one less turkey.
My Facebook Farmer's group informed me that turkeys are known to wander. In fact, our turkeys had wandered over to the neighbor's a couple of times and had to be retrieved. But they had wandered as a group. Turkeys, at least mine, tend to stay in a pretty tight formation, and I thought it was unlikely that a single turkey had decided to strike out on his/her own.
Then, two weeks later, boom - another disappearance. Same modus operendi - simple vanishing, without a trace of violence. Once again, I went back to my Facebook Farmers. I suggested a coyote, as being the only local predator I knew of capable of carrying off a twenty-pound animal. Plenty of people responded, but with varying opinions - some people agreed that coyotes were a likely culprit, but others said that they would leave a big mess of feathers and blood. Somebody suggested bald eagles, which I discounted not because I think an eagle incapable, but because the turkeys disappeared at night. Again I heard that turkeys wander and I ought to check with the neighbors. And, as always, several people voiced the opinion that humans were stealing my turkeys.
Every time that someone in the group posts that anything has gone missing - apples off a tree, baby chicks, tame rabbits, pumpkins off a porch - the assertion surfaces that it was stolen by people. Personally, I find the idea that hordes of my neighbors are prowling through the dark looking for vulnerable apple trees or sneaking into unsecured barns to steal chickens patently absurd. It's been my experience that my neighbors are far more likely to bring me produce or game meat than they are to take it away. As a matter of fact, in my entire lifetime, I think I have been the victim of burglary twice or maybe three times, whereas I have been the recipient of totally unsolicited generosity hundreds of times.
So, I've learned a couple of things about my Facebook Farmer's group. Although a valuable resource for those who are willing to sift and verify, there is a lot of suspicion and ignorance. I could learn a lot more about the telltale signs of various predators from five minutes on the internet ( http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/18670/poultry-predator-identification, http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/What_killed_my_chicken__63__/) than by asking for advice form a random collection of farmers. Some of them are probably well-informed and right, but how could I tell which ones?
As it turns out, my initial suspicion about coyotes was almost certainly correct. Not only does my google search confirm that coyotes and foxes often carry off birds and leave little trace behind, returning again and again to the same place as long as birds remain vulnerable, but my neighbor (he of the hotel-sized-house, or the HSH) called me night before last to tell me that he had seen two big coyotes in my field, and has shot at them, but missed. Furthermore, when I decided, yesterday, to walk the pasture in a grid pattern looking for evidence, I found one fresh, well shredded leg bone and a small neat pile of guts.
Clearly, my flock is not well protected. I never know exactly how many chickens I have at any given time, but today I made a point of counting, and there are fewer than there ought to be. And the ones that remain are looking thin and harassed. I think I have a pack of coyotes who have decided that my farm is their snack bar.
Normally, the poultry is locked in a coop at night, but lately I have been leaving them to roost in the open main barn instead. This is because the weather has been unrelentingly awful, raining like mad for a couple of weeks on end. The chicken coop, which is just the space between my two barns fenced off and roofed, has terrible drainage and right now it is just a sea of liquid mud. The chickens would be utterly miserable in there. There is not even any land dry enough to feed them on. They have roosts, of course, but they can't stay on them all day. In this weather it would be inhumane to keep them in the coop. Ducks, maybe.
But something needs to be done, clearly. If I do nothing, the coyotes will likely eat my entire flock this winter. As far as the turkeys go, I think I will probably just butcher them immediately - they are full sized - and keep them in the freezer instead of the barnyard. But I need to finger out how to secure the coop and make it habitable before I lose the rest of my chickens.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Last weekend we went to the annual wild mushroom show, hosted by the Northwest Mushroomers Association (click the link https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northwest-Mushroomers-Association/189323751142082 for their Facebook page). The last time I went to this show was back in 2008 ( Mud and Mushrooms). It's really a wonderful event. In addition to beautiful displays set up on long tables around the room, they also have areas for more in depth investigation. There is a "touch and smell" table:
|Paloma at the touch and smell table|
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The weather changed about two weeks ago from warm and sunny to warm and wet. Well, of course it has cooled off - enough so that I have broken out the winter blankets - but it is still pretty warm. T-shirt weather for me when I go let the goats out to graze. I'm still drinking my coffee iced; I haven't switched to Americanos yet. There has of yet been no sign of a frost.
Two weeks of rain has turned the barnyard into poo-soup, and when I go out to do the chores in the morning I definitely have to put on galoshes. The dog comes with me, and is banished from the house until her paws dry off. The sky has been low, grey, and glowering, which has an effect on my mood. It hasn't been very pleasant, weather-wise, but neither has it been cold. Today, a friend posted a link to a weather blogon her Facebook page, and it was very enlightening. So far, Pacific Northwest Weather this year HAS been unseasonably warm - record-breakingly warm, in fact. But the record - highest average low temperatures - is not one that people generally pay much attention to. The following is chart heavy, but I found it very interesting.
A note: as much I am unsettled by weird weather, tending to real out and imagine catastrophic climate change on a human time scale, I am nonetheless grateful for this year's odd warmth. We will not be able to use our furnace until all the work is done in the crawlspace. and that isn't projected to be completed until mid-November. So as far as I'm concerned, let the frost stay wherever it is now!
Reposting from Cliff Mass Weather Blog (link below)
****UPDATE****** I don't know why the cut-and-paste job below is cut off on the right margin. I can't seem to adjust it in my editing platform. However, if you click on any of the graphics, they will show up whole and legible in a new window.
Here are the temperatures at Seattle-Tacoma Airport during the past 4 weeks, with the average high (red) and lows (blue) shown. Only ONE day in that entire period has seen the temperature dropping to the average low. For most days, our minimum temperatures have been 5-10 degrees above normal. Our minimum temperatures last night were close to the average maximum for the date!
And this is not Seattle alone, here is the same trace for Bellingham. Same thing. Bellingham cooled to 59F last night!
Now why is this happening? This is an important question because one can expect some folks in the media and advocacy groups to start saying this is a "sign" or "consistent with" global warming due to mankind's emissions of greenhouse gases. There is no reason to think that is true.
There are two main reasons for the warmth and they are both associated with the anomalous atmospheric circulations we are having.
Reason #1: a persistent area of low pressure over the eastern Pacific. The figure below shows the sea level pressure anomaly (difference from normal) for the past month. There is an area west of us with pressures well below normal. Such anomalous low pressure is associated with stronger than normal southerly and southwesterly winds over us that blow in warmer than normal air.
This is probably the major cause. Then there is something else, something I have talked about in previous blog: the warm water BLOB off the coast.
Below is the sea surface temperature anomaly map for the past week. You see the orange and red colors off the coast that indicate temperatures 2-4F above normal? The BLOB still lives. So air passing over the eastern Pacific is exposed to warmer than normal water. Me like BLOB, BLOB is good.
As I noted earlier, the BLOB has little to do with global warming but was produced by anomalous high pressure over the Pacific last winter and year.
So our ridiculously warm temperatures this fall are being produced by an unusual combination of high pressure a year ago that produced the blob and low pressure this fall that is bringing up warm air from the south.
There is no reason to think that these circulation anomalies are caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. And remember that the eastern U.S. has been colder than normal.
Well, time for me to go out to my garden to harvest some more red tomatoes.