Summer Update

Summer Update

Summer is in full swing and so much is happening all at once. Back in the beginning of June our son came home to save money and go to school to become an EMT with aspirations of becoming a paramedic. Our first goal was to get him set up with his own cabin. Our space is WAY too small for yet another living being. Currently, it’s three adults, one young adult, and three finches all trying to live and let live in the rig. It’s cramped for sure!

Our plans always seem to morph when least expected. I’m cool with it though. We stopped construction on the large chicken coop because we needed to turn all our attention to getting Noah in his own place. He was in the last remaining tent for a while, but it’s ready to collapse and with the monsoons upon us it’s currently flooded with water, scorpions, vinegaroons, ants, and other creepies wanting to stay on a nice warm bed. The photo on the right is of a vinegaroon aka whip scorpion. They’re pretty harmless but look badass, right?!

We brought his bed inside and he’s doing his best to deal with the lack of privacy.

Over the last three weeks, Noah and Dom were able to dig the post holes for the foundation, pour the concrete, set the piers, and get the floor framed out on Noah’s cabin. We’re playing it by ear this weekend. One of Noah’s friends died yesterday and we’re waiting to see when the funeral will be.

If the funeral is this weekend, cabin construction will most likely be put off until next weekend. Trying to work on the cabin during the week when they work all day on other construction projects is a recipe for burnout.

A good portion of our land is a steep slope. It feels more like we’re on the side of a mountain! As I’ve pondered where we want to build our house (we’ve thought of many locations) we settled on using the sloped portions instead of regular flat ground. Noah’s cabin is located about 100 feet from where we will be building our home. The slope is the perfect location for a step up kind of home that moves with the steep incline of the landscape.

They started working on the chicken coop before the cabin. Here are a few photos of that process…

Noah getting sand brought over to the site to make soil-crete.

Dom selecting which trees would be used for the chicken coop structure. There are no straight parts of this coop. Everything is wonky and natural.

Setting posts.

Adding welded wire to the outer walls. The walls will be created with a modified straw light clay infill. We’ll get this coop finished. It will only be a matter of time before we have 175 or more chicks peeping in this area!

The cactus blooms were spectacular this year. I love seeing them right before they open.

In the back of the rig is a large cholla cactus. A Curved-Bill Thrasher came and decided to build her nest. We’ve been watching her and can’t wait to see if her babies make it. They are up against some odds with crows and hawks eyeing up the nest just waiting for the mama to leave so they can steal her eggs. She’s been great at protecting them and by the end of this month, we should have three baby thrasher hatchlings.

It’s not the best photo, but there she is sitting on her eggs. I had to take the photo from pretty far away. Any closer and she would have left her nest.

There is a group of trees that we were planning on using to build Simmi’s treehouse. At the beginning of the month one of the main tree trunks that would have been a support for the treehouse snapped and fell down. Simmi was devastated. But as we become more bonded to the land, I have found that they subtly tell us things if we listen carefully. We had intentions of using the tree as the foundation of a treehouse, the tree told us it wasn’t safe and bent down to explain why.

My girl turned 13 at the beginning of June. She’s been enjoying the summer, listening to music, watching tv, and helping out whenever we’ve asked. She’s pretty motivated these days. We told her that after we get our roastery finished she could have a teacup Yorkie, and so she’s been saving her money and helping out to make even more money. Yorkies, Bichons, and Maltese are dogs she’s not allergic to. We’ll start looking for a breeder next spring. She fell in love with one of Dom’s client’s teacup Yorkie and she was smitten.

In the photo, Simmi is prepping horehound for Dom. He’s making a wildcrafted beer that uses a little horehound in place of hops.

This is Princess Bitchslap. Remember how I said trees tend to speak to us as we become more bonded to the land? Well, this girl right here is no different! She is located in the back of the rig near the roastery. Her branches reached all the way down to the ground and you couldn’t see how beautifully wonky she really was. I want her to grow upwards, not to the ground, so I trimmed her lower branches and gave her a bit of a hair cut.

She didn’t appreciate it very much. With every branch I cut off, I was welcomed with a whack to the back of my head, or my butt. At no time was I not in a battle with this tree. If I was taking care of an upper branch, an adjacent branch would whip me in the face. If I was dragging away a large branch, it felt like the branch was hanging on kicking and screaming like she was being murdered. It was like she had claws digging into the earth refusing to leave the spot.

By the time I was finished pruning her, I had twisted my ankle, received multiple facial scratches, my ass was literally kicked and bruised, and my arms were covered in scratches and bruises.

This is why I call her Princess Bitchslap. She’s lively and gave me a run for my money.

I love her. I think she’s warming up to me too.

We decided that even though we’re passed the time when you can plant potatoes, we would take a bash at it anyway! We ordered some of the best potatoes we’ve ever eaten from Wood Prairie Family Farm. We grew their potatoes when we were farming up in Maine. The potatoes I chose are early potatoes so they only take about 90 days to harvest. We’ve built a potato tower made from welded wire to grow them in. They are just starting to come up now. Once it gets too cold, we’ll wrap the tower in heavy clear plastic to extend the season a bit.

I love how the animals and insects that choose to be here find ways of complementing the landscape. If this dragonfly never moved, I wouldn’t have even seen him! His clear wings are amazing.

In the garden, we have radishes, cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, carrots, arugula, snow peas, beans, mint, basil, dill, and cucumbers growing. Well, maybe not cucumbers! Something came and ate them all. But we did get a bunch of mystery squash come up! The one in the photo above showed up and won’t stop growing. I had to remove this particular one because it was right in the way of the sprinkler. However, we have about four other mystery squash plants coming. I never planted them so we’ll see what they are as they set fruit.

Green beans and mint. They don’t seem to mind each other.

Basil, borage, cilantro, and radishes. Also some weeds and grasses all growing together. I took this photo last week, and it’s just about time for me to do the first pruning of the basil. I have about three different kinds of basil coming up. I’ll be harvesting and drying it today.

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short months this tiny fig tree will be at least four feet tall and wide. It took a while to figure out where the little Chicago figs would be planted. Plants, as I’m discovering have a will and spirit all their own. And if we are patient, they might just reveal to us where they want to be planted. It’s a cooperative act…a trust between two living beings.

I didn’t use to think that way. I just thought plants were plants, without an agenda or will of its own. But I was wrong.

I posed the question in my mind while picturing the figs in my mind, “Where do you want to be planted?” and of course I didn’t get any kind of real answer in an auditory way and didn’t think I would get any answer at all. But I felt this pressing to get them into the ground.

The next morning while waking up a picture came into my mind of where and HOW they wanted to be planted. It felt right too.

They are planted in a ten-foot diameter basin. Small stones covering the base going out, and eventually larger stones as we reach the perimeter. Each fig is to be planted in this way.

I told Dom that the figs explained how they wanted to be planted, thinking he was going to laugh at me. But he didn’t. He smiled wildly and said, “Did you know that if we plant the trees with the stones that way it will create a paramagnetic field that will create fertility in the soil?!” How did he know that? He had just finished reading a book about rock dusts and cosmic energy.

I haven’t read the book. I don’t think the figs read the book either, but to me, that was a confirmation that they know how they want to be planted.

In the same area where the figs are growing, rue will be planted. Behind the figs is a trench where we planted tomatoes last year. That area we populated with asparagus crowns this past spring, but the ground squirrels decided it was like a buffet for them. Every crown was gone! So in its place, behind the trench against the fence, I’ll be planting apricot foxglove, milkweed, and hollyhocks. In the trench itself, cardoon will be planted.

Dom built some wooden flats for me and I’ll be starting all the new perennial flowers and plants today.

This morning in the garden, lots of things are growing. Volunteers like squash and sunflowers, grasses, and weeds. With all the delicate cilantro still coming up, I won’t be pulling the grasses out. They can all grow happily together. Our compost is so jampacked full of goodies that there’s more than enough to go around. This morning I got more radishes and basil harvested.

I’m not sure what squash decided to show up here, but I’ll take it! I guess we’ll see once her fruit shows up what kind of squash she is.

The rain has been glorious and very much appreciated. We went through a blazing hot spell where the average daily temperature for around two weeks was 104 degrees. That’s unusual for this area. Once the monsoon arrived, our temperatures went back to their normal 80 degree days with the highs sometimes in the 90’s. We’re almost to the end of July already but this is when we get our rains so it’s one of the most anticipated times of the year.

The rest of this month I’ll be dreading my hair, getting a new septum piercing, and possibly a chin tattoo. Yep, I’m going full-on feral. I’ve been wanting to get a chin line done for about a year now. I ordered my new septum ring from Norway and it should be here in a few weeks. I am trying to honor my authentic self, and at times that becomes drowned out by my own inner voice saying, “What?! Are you nuts? Why would you want to do that?” They’re passing thoughts that have been a part of my life for as long as I’ve known myself. “What?” That one is the word most used by my inner dialogue, even though I already know the answer.

I’ve spent so much time not paying attention to the things I want for myself that I nearly lost the sound of my own soul crying out. In January 2020 I started seriously listening and doing some very intense soul work, to heal the deeper parts of myself that I allowed to become damaged. We can always blame others, but I’ve found that I’m responsible for how my soul is treated, and because I’ve allowed past abuses to take place, I alone can make it right within me.

So I listen careful to her; my inner beautiful soul’s voice. I respond with gentleness and protection making sure she is always heard and always loved by me. It has become my greatest accomplishment within myself.

Things are changing. I’m glad to see the old fade away and the new get embraced with passion and excitement. Life is so damn good!

That’s about all I have to report for this month. If you’d like to follow me daily I post regularly on Instagram. Click here to follow. 

 

Seasons of Change

Seasons of Change

We’ve been quite busy over the last three and a half months. I had hoped to blog more but with the country’s response (for good and bad) to the current events, we felt the need to speed up our plans and reprioritize what we were doing. It’s amazing how clear we can become if we’re motivated enough.

Dom and I have always been on the path to being more sustainable and self-reliant. Not in the sense, however, of us being an island unto ourselves and living like hermits somewhere out in the wilderness. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have chosen the area we’re living in as a place to set down roots.

We believe in community and helping where we can. We want to be productive and provide products and services that can help stabilize our local economy. As we’ve watched our nation and the world go through extremes, we’ve seen the impact it has on us personally.

Having taken care of animals and grown our food in the past, it has become crystal clear that we need to get our asses in gear now. I believe that hyperinflation is inching closer and that things are about to get extremely ugly (they are already ugly) with regards to food security. One thing is appallingly clear…we are NOT prepared!

I hate to sound like a cliche, but I thought we would have more time. We knew this was going to happen. Well, not that there would be a lockdown and all our rights being taken over 38,000 deaths in the United States, but we knew there was going to be a great shaking. It’s one of the reasons we began growing food and caring for animals in the first place.

It feels surreal to watch everything unfold in the world. Worse yet, we are feeling somewhat powerless, marginalized, and unable to help those who are suffering in any meaningful way.

Our goals were to start getting animals and have a little extra to sell. To have a few large gardens and have some produce to sell. But in this season of change, I’m setting my sights much larger.

It’ll start with the chickens…

Originally we planned on having about 75 chickens which would include Brahmas and Croad Langshans as our meat birds, and Cream Legars, Welsummers, Marans, Faverolles, and a few other egg layers. But I’ve chosen to increase the number to between 175-200 birds. The area we’ve been preparing for them is large enough to handle such a large number of birds.

I will also start a breeding program for each kind of bird. I’ll be crossing the Brahma and Langshans eventually to create a new table meat bird.

Our birds will be raised on organic feed and have one of the most important jobs on the farm…making compost for us. No one can turn a compost pile faster and with more efficiency than a mob of chickens.

This system of animal production will be intensive and highly productive. Each section will be multifaceted. For example, the chicken composting yard will have fruit trees, meat rabbit housing (yellow rectangle) and under the meat rabbits will be worm bins. Behind the rabbit row will be an enclosed area for berry bushes.

The fenced-in chicken composting yard will also have an enclosed turkey run with more berry bushes on three sides, and a round turkey coop (green circle). Why a round turkey coop? Because turkeys LOVE round things. They are fascinated by round objects and love round spaces. At least that’s what we’ve observed in keeping turkeys in the past.

There will be an area for ducks. We won’t have as many ducks as we do chickens, but we’ll have at least 30 for egg production as well as meat. Even though I really wanted to get Dutch Hookbills for this area, we have so much land that I decided that I’ll have them in another area. In the duck area we’ll be adding Cayugas, Silver Apple Yards, Pekins, and a few geese.

In the market garden, there is an overlap between the duck area and the garden. This overlap is because of where the large trees are. We won’t be removing the trees. Instead, the duck housing will be on the market garden side. There is an old large water trough that was for cattle. It will be turned into their pond. A spigot will be added to it, and the duck poop water will be used to water the market garden.

The market garden…

Currently, we have rows dug. They can be seen in the plot below. We don’t have the greatest water pressure coming from our well, and in order to save water, we decided to completely rework the market garden.

We’ll be creating inground wicking beds. The wicking beds will allow us to drain the duck pond water directly under each garden row. Think of it like bottom watering your plants. Freshwater will be used once a week to topwater, but the duck pond water is the real workhorse, nourishing all the plants and fruit trees that will be planted there.

Around the perimeter of the market garden we’ll be adding tall posts and electric to keep out the deer.

Last year we started building our little chicken composting run in the market garden. It’s the little green rectangle. This is intended to be our Silkie chicken nursery. Silkies are good mothers and will happily hatch out eggs. They can also be bullied by other chickens, so they get their very own area. We won’t have more than 10 Silkies. They’ll also be making compost in their area.

The outdoor kitchen and meat processing area (turquoise square)…

Last year we had an overgrown HUGE patch of wild grapevines. I cleared it out and burned the area so that they wouldn’t grow back. We have so many wild grapes on the property, that it wasn’t a big sacrifice. Now that the patch is gone, we can build our outdoor kitchen. We will harvest our small animals in the outdoor kitchen. It will also serve as the farm kitchen when we start holding events.

 

I told you we were busy! Haha

As our plans continue to morph, I will be tucking things into each system. Two things that aren’t on the plans are the post-harvest washing station and the greenhouse. The post-harvest station will be located on the north side of the market garden. In the upper right-hand corner above the market garden is where our tents used to be. That will be the location of our greenhouse.

Everything will be in close proximity to each other. This creates fewer steps. At the center of everything is the water supply. Farms should be run efficiently with as few steps as needed. We’ve worked on farms that weren’t planned out very well. Water that would need to be hauled great distances, needing to walk 10 minutes to a field way out in the middle of nowhere to harvest lettuce, only to turn around and walk another 10 minutes in the opposite direction to collect eggs and yet another 20 minutes to go feed pigs. This is extremely time-consuming. Our systems will not be done that way. There’s no need for it.

To the right of the market garden is the entrance to the pasture. We will be keeping dairy sheep and horses there. More on that another day!

Here are some photos of things that were accomplished from the end of January until this week:

Our little teeny tiny bathroom is nearing completion. Pallet walls are an ingenious way to rooms but if they aren’t sealed up with walls and insulation, animals feel free to make themselves at home in our spaces. That is a big fat NOPE! The walls were finished with drywall and an opening for windows was put in. We found the windows under one of the rigs on the property. They were partially buried in the dirt. I cleaned them up, painted, and reglazed them.

The toilet and bathtub were installed, and we got the cutest little antique Italian Florentine chest of drawers to convert into a sink. We need to purchase a wall-mounted faucet and hopefully, in the next few weeks, the sink will be functional.

We still have shelves, a mirror, and a few other things to add, but it is looking great! It feels glorious to take a long hot bath too.

I love watching him work and get creative. I love how he makes our lives so much better every day!

My girl continues to grow into this stunningly beautiful young woman. She turns 13 next month.

Some cedars and pine were taken out of the chicken compost yard. When completely cleared of dead or dying trees (we had both in that area) fruit trees will be added. The straight branches that were still in good condition will be used to build the chicken coop.

Our supply area is filling up fast. The pallets will be used to build a storage shed for all our things that are currently being stored in the roastery. We have many projects going on all at once. Behind the pallets are a LOT of glass panels. Those are for the greenhouse.

This is the next section of the chicken yard that needs to be cleared. This whole area is one large tree that fell but never died. It is connected at the root by about two feet of tree. It must have fallen at least 5 years ago but refused to die. This is the area where the large chicken coop will go.

We have two entrances to our property. One is on Mineral Creek seen in the photo above, and the other is on a back road when the creek is flowing.

This year we had so much rain that we couldn’t get across. The creek cuts into the banks creating a steep drop off. We need to have heavy equipment come in to fix this each year. What we really need is a bridge!

Once the water subsides the creek bed is a hot mess! We had it leveled on Friday and we can finally cross again.

Much better! There’s only a small amount of water flowing now, and within the next few months, it should be dried up completely until next winter.

The other project I’m currently working on is updating and changing our website. Firelight Farm will still have the blog, but it will be a magazine-style layout and include lots of different sections. Instead of having one blog where I write everything, there will be categories like animal shelters, animal husbandry, growing a garden, building structures, how to lacto-ferment, and more. We want our website to be more informative. I also want to start producing videos again. We started to a few years back, but when we sold our last farm, there was no reason to continue making videos.

My aim is to have the new site launched by the end of May. It’s pretty exciting and it’s all coming together.

This truly is the season of change!

 

 

New Trees Ordered and on the Way

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A large assortment of trees, shrubs and flowers (578 to be exact)  were ordered and are currently on the way to our farm. Here’s a list of what’s coming:

  • 100 Mulberry trees
  • 25 Giant Arboritae
  • 50 Crown vetch plants
  • 50 Day lilies
  • 50 Viburniem American Cranberry
  • 1 American Sycamore
  • 2 Mimosa
  • 100 Siberian peashrub
  • 100 Elderberry (2 varieties)

It looks impressive, but all the different species are just little tiny seedlings. There’s no way we could afford large gorgeous trees! Little babies will suit us fine, and since they are all relatively fast growing trees and shrubs, we’ll have a food forest in just a few short years.

A few very generous donations (not listed on our farm site and wanting to remain anonymous) were graciously given to us to help get our farm off to a great start. Money for playground equipment for visiting children, garden supplies, building materials, a farm truck and so much more. Thank you to everyone who has believed in local small farms, and donated to us. From buckets and simple tools, to large and expensive items we could have never afforded…

Thank you, thank you!

We’re currently in the planning stage for designing the new playground. We found a used swing set that will work for us, and we’re also planning the sandbox area, gathering area and fire pit, and other things that engage a child’s imagination.

Originally we planned to put the playground in the Northeast Quadrant, near where we’ll be keeping the rabbit colony, but we changed our minds last night, instead choosing the area directly behind the courtyard. Below are a few photos of the area:

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This area was chosen because it’s attached to the courtyard, and makes it possible for children to play during potlucks or other gatherings in a safe gated area.

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The 4×4 posts surrounding the tree my daughter Gina painted is the perfect location for a covered sandbox area. All kids love sand, and creating an area that is shaded, with shelves for sandbox toys will be amazing.

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The play area is about 35’x50′ and planted in this area will be:

  • 4- Siberian Peashrub
  • 1 American Sycamore
  • 2 Mimosa
  • Coneflowers
  • Crown vetch
  • 8 Mulberry trees
  • Comfrey

In the future I’ll be planting honeyberry shrubs, after the other trees are established. Edible landscaping that encourages children to eat fresh fruit at their height couldn’t be more heavenly…don’t you think?!

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Although you can’t see it from this angle, the area is on a slight slope. We’ll be renting some heavy equipment to level the area for the swing set. I’m told that the dimensions of this set in an “L” shape are 30′ long x 25′ wide, with two playhouses, a slide, swings, and a long walking plank. Next weekend we’ll be picking up the set, so things will need to be done quickly to prep the area.

After the swing set has been installed, the trees and plants will be planted.

May 1st or 2nd is when our chicks arrive, and we’ve been preparing for that as well. We have a LOT of planting to do in the next two weeks, rounding everything off with our warm season crops going into the ground mid May just after the ducklings, goslings, and turkeys arrive.

We’re in a mad dash to get things finished off because we will be hosting our first potluck and garden tour the end of May. I’ll be living off a constant flow of caffeinated tea, very little sleep, and lots of Motrin to get me through. Planting 500+ trees and shrubs, no matter how small they are takes a toll on the body. Beyond the major tree planting, we need to finish the market garden and Northwest Quadrant garden, and get each of those planted out as well.

It’s so thrilling watching everything come together!