"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

State of the Farm Summer Solstice (Drought 2015)

There are still almost two weeks until solstice, but with the weather we've been having, it feels very much like summer. In fact, it feels like midsummer - late July or even early August. It is as though the calendar were turned ahead a month.

The blackberry blossoms opened two weeks ago; now they are nearing the end of bloom time and there are hard little green berries on the terminal buds. White clover is in full bloom, and a few red clover blossoms are opening here and there. Full-summer flowers like oxeye daisy, lupine, and tansy are starting to bloom.

Record breaking heat - high eighties - for several days in a row has brought on the berries early. Strawberry season is in full swing and the commercial raspberries will open for U-pick in another week or so. Lack of rain combined with high temperatures has made the berries smaller than usual, but with an unusually concentrated sweetness.

Drought is a major concern this year - the winter was much warmer than usual and snowpack in the north cascades is one-third normal or less. When I look across the valley to the north at the Canadian Cascades, I see deep blue peaks with only flecks of white here and there - which is how the mountains typically look in September. The grass is already starting to dry up, and all of the neighbors are haying. This year I saw people haying in May, which I have never seen before.
We have only bought one truckload so far - 25 bales - but I would like to buy more than usual at early-season prices because I think we will be feeding hay very early this year as the grass disappears.

Though there will be fewer animals to feed over the winter this year. The cow is nearing the end of days. We will be scheduling a butcher date for early fall. I think she is about as big as she is going to get. We have started feeding her alfalfa pellets and bread from there Gleaner's Pantry in hopes of fattening hear up a bit more. I am frankly shocked at how much grass one stunted dairy calf can eat. The big pasture looks terribly skimpy, because the cow has been vacuuming up all the grass all by herself. In years past, I have had the same number of goats plus two ponies on this pasture and it was more lush. This year, the ponies have stayed in the sacrifice area and we stake them out to graze in the front yard. As far as I can tell, one dairy cow equals two ponies and then some. I only hope she tastes good. People who know have told me that Jerseys make good eating, but not to be alarmed at the yellow fat. 

Today I boosted Paloma up into the hayloft to look for eggs. She found a nest with twenty-two eggs in it. We floated them in the stock tank and they all sank, so it's time to make some quiches and freeze them. And egg salad for sandwiches for the last week of school lunches. And maybe some goat-milk ice cream for these hot days. 

Ordinarily, I don't put Demeter on the alter until midsummer (Lammas), but the grass heads are turning golden and my shoulders are all sunburnt and the tomatoes are in flower and the roses are in bloom. It seemed churlish to stick to an artificial calendar rather than honor the actual fact of the season which has clearly arrived. And it may be a brief season this year, so there's no sense in wasting time. Welcome, generous lady! Welcome, abundance! Welcome, Summer!