Friday, May 29, 2009

Outdoor Chickens

Yesterday, our feathered friends experienced unadulterated sunlight for the first time. Ahhhhh. I think they really like it. They were a little unsure of the journey from the shed to their newly-configured horse trailer-turned-coop in the plastic tub, seven to the wall. But not long after they arrived, they began to venture out the door, exploring the smorgasbord of fresh grass seed, insects crawling in the dirt, and anything else remotely edible. Ella had a great time, talking to them, and offering them freshly pulled grass.

The real test came at dusk, whether they would know to go inside the trailer or not. Only 4 were hiding under the chassis when I went out there to close them up.

I am so excited about our chickens! I'm excited for eggs and meat, and tillers, and compost makers. However, I don't think I'm nearly as excited about them as Acer, our dog is. At last, this little herding dog has a job. She is so committed to it that she is forgetting to eat. Lick the pan from a roasted chicken? NO WAY, man, I gotta herd the chicks!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vermin: Gophers, Earwigs, Symphylans, and Birds

I'm not sure if it's because we have settled in a little and the vermin have had a chance to find us, or if this year is just particularly good for them, but I am having a heck of time succeeding at growing food plants. Our cold frame is infested with never-be-seen earwigs that allow my seeds to germinate and create their seed leaves, and then the following night, the munch them down to the dirt. In some cases, plants have matured much farther than seed leaves, and THEN they decide to pick them off, one by one, until I do something else, or move them.

What makes it out to the big garden has been plagued by the furry digging vermin, the gophers, despite an active trapping campaign. We HAVE caught at least 5 or 6 gophers with the traps, and have utilized the attracting properties of a sheet of plywood lying on the ground to ambush them, but no matter how often I collapse their runs, they continue to do donuts in my one bed that currently has anything in it, creating large voids that roots can't cross. All I could think of today, as I furiously followed their tunnels around each and every beet baby was the song we sang for Cabaret last weekend : "I saw that 'tater shakin', saw it disappear, they're working on my corn now, i won't get one ear, they're diggin my potatoes, they're trampin on my vine. I got a special plan now...restin on my mind."

The birds are manageable, so far, they are only picking off strawberries. This I can remedy with some simple bird netting.

But lastly, symphylans...a long-dreaded, and diligently-avoided pest arrives at our garden at last. These little buggers look like tiny, white centipedes, that crawl around maddeningly fast, and eat the root tips of our lovely garden plants. And they LOVE soil that is loose and well-aerated, coincidentally, just like a garden bed.

I did move my newly sprouted basil out of the cold frame, along with the summer and winter squash. I can't afford any more time setbacks on them. Tomorrow, my friend Dana is coming over to help in my garden, and I will return the favor for her next week. Today, I built the tomato trellis, and brought out the tomatoes to harden them off. And I rescued the lettuce starts, which were suffering the earwig treatment.

Pests are a funny thing. For me, they invite an inquiry into methods and wondering if I'm approaching things the proper way overall. And desperation leads to strange contemplations, such as, should I commune with the gophers, and plant them their own veggie garden, in hopes they will leave mine alone? If my soil was really healthy, would the plants grow so fast gophers couldn't harm them? What about those symphylans? Mostly, at this point I'm grateful that I purchased a CSA share for this season!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not Word Inspired

I haven't been so inspired to write things in particular lately, so I thought I'd post a few of my recent photographs that I like, from around the homestead, our trip to Mendocino last weekend, and etc. Hopefully, words will come again soon, and we will be starting back up on our house, too, so we'll have more interesting updates. Enjoy. P.S. Sadly, I know that there are some serious dust spots on a few of these images, I finally had the camera cleaned when Ella and I went to town last week, so they'll be looking better soon.

Around and Around

Ahhh, childhood...

Just an Early Morning at Home

Ella Checks on our Seedlings

Come into the Garden...

Ella Learns About Dishwashing from the Guru of the Art, my Uncle Jim

The Lovely Nancy Roca

Mr. 89, Phil Schneider

Playing Store


Drew's Sicle Bar Mower

Another Misty Morning at East Mill Creek Ranch

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recent Arrivals

Spring is really on the verge of bursting headlong into summer. We've had a window off the yurt for over a week now, tomatoes are ready to go in the ground, and we are no longer needing to have fires, though a few recent nights have been borderline. It begins to get light between 4:00 and 4:30 AM, and the last light fades from the western sky somewhere around 9:30 or 10:00. It's only fully dark for 7 hours!

I thought I would offer a partial list of the plants that I've noticed blooming recently:
Purple vetch
Himalaya Blackberries
Wild Flax
Scotch Broom (naughty invasive plant!)
Stinging Nettle
Wild Cucumber
Wild Oats
Poison Oak
Crimson Clover
Douglas Iris
Cow Parsnip
Poison Hemlock
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Wild Strawberries

And the birds who have returned, some of my favorites:
Bullock's Oriole
Lazuli Bunting
Western Tanager
Black-Headed Grosbeak
Barn Swallows * They have babies in the nest already! And they chatter lovely songs as the swoop and dive overhead.
Olive-Sided Flycatcher * Just heard it for the first time yesterday, perched on the garden fence, its characteristic voice.
American Goldfinch

Birds who live here year-round, but are more active and happy!
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Black Phoebe
Stellar's Jay
Wood Thrush * Have yet to hear the Swainson's Thrush, my all time favorite bird song.

Also, I solved the hawk mystery, at last, after a few more sightings. The key distinguishing field mark is the white crescents at the end of the wings, visible from below, points to the Red-Shouldered Hawk. This particular morph has been quite confusing, since we aren't supposed to have the light-colored version here in California. But we do, at least here on our place. I also caught sight of the red shoulders one afternoon as it took off out of the deep grass near our driveway and banked right away. It is still flying around and making a lot of noise. When Ella hears it, she panics a little and asks to be held, and says, I don't want to see the hawk, mommy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beltane/May Pole

Our local Pagan High Priestess, Kirsten, once again organized our Mattole annual May Pole event, marking Lunar Beltane and May Day, which this year also fell on Mother's Day. The Pagan celebration of Beltane marks the midpoint between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice, the beginning of summer, and has traditionally been a celebration of fertility and virility, with the phallic symbology of the May Pole, as well as the ancient rites of the bonfire and the meeting of the goddess and the stag. This is much oversimplified, and I am not an expert by any means on this subject. It's definitely something to explore more deeply.

Anyhow, we gathered midday on Sunday at the beach, and a group of men went down the beach to collect the pole that Kirsten had selected. Meanwhile, we dug a hole to place it in, and made garlands of willow and flowers to wear on our heads. We drank May Wine (white wine with flower petals in it!), ate hard boiled eggs, built a fire to welcome the fire element (and to cook hot dogs for the kids...not sure who brought the hot dogs!), and just spent some time being together. The collective community energy has been a little overcome with grief these last few weeks, as we are all still processing Cordelia's death. Her memorial was the day before at her family's home, a beautiful and full experience of grieving and celebrating, as one large family.

At last we put the pole up, and divided up the ribbons, and attempted to do the appropriate weaving dance to create the beautiful basket weave around the pole. It was successful in some sections! Mainly, it was a fun way to come face to face with most of the people at the pole. I couldn't help but feel grateful for the lovely families and individuals who arrived to participate on a windy, overcast day at Mattole beach. To summer....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Loss in a Small Community

It's a fact of life that death is included in the package. But sometimes, it seems, we are tricked into forgetting about life and birth's opposite counterpart, the inevitable place we each return to, at a time not of our choosing. What makes it so excruciating is that here, where we know most of our neighbors, when someone leaves, whether it be "timely" or unfairly early, we know them. We've had many, many small interactions over years. And we know their family. Sometimes, we know the energy and love their parents have devoted to them. We have seen the chronicles of their growing up. We know the burden held by those who love them. And even in not knowing them well, we feel the seismic reverberations of grief rippling through our small community, through all those who know and love them, from the time they were little, until they grew into a vibrant, beating, pulsating energy heart-star.

And as a parent, it is unfathomable to imagine losing one's daughter.

This family that has been visited by the Reaper, they are pillars of our community. They are loved deeply, they are a well of inspiration and hope for many, they are strong, and have persevered through hard and happy times. They are our friends, and they support us over and over again selflessly, and yet, they are given this new reality to grapple with.

I am feeling each of you tonight, wishing I could change what seems so wrong, and hoping to find faith in it being an appropriate event in time and space. I am wishing each of you the ability to find your peace with it all. I love you all.

Rest in Peace, dear Cordelia.