Category Archives: Oregon Weather

Chickens!

Yep, our first two chickens came to live with us about a week ago. We got them from a neighbor who was wanting to thin her flock a little. One very cocky rooster (no pun intended) and a sweet shy little hen. They’re bantams, so smaller than standard-size chickens – her eggs will be about 2/3 the size of a “normal” supermarket egg.

The rooster’s name is Atom, and his job is to protect his flock. He’s very good at his job – crows all morning but barks threateningly and raises a racket if the dog wanders too close to the coop, or one of us makes too fast of a movement while we’re in there. Atom came to us with his name, but our little hen didn’t have one yet, so we got to name her. We’ve decided to call her Molly, short for Molecule (Atom and Molecule, get it?)

For now, the chickens are spending the day fenced in next to their coop. Once they’ve acclimated and know this is their home, we’ll let them out to “free range” during the day. At night, they’ll naturally return to their safe and familiar roost (the coop), where we’ll close them in until morning to protect them from predators.

We may be getting a couple more banty hens from the same neighbor within the next couple of days, bringing our fledgling flock up to four. Once spring arrives, we should hopefully be getting about a dozen eggs a week from the three girls. Eventually, we’ll probably add a few more hens in order to have enough eggs to share with friends or possibly sell.

And on another note, here’s part of why we love Oregon so much: it’s mid-February, and the crocuses are blooming. How crazy is that? In fact, it’s not just the crocuses – today we found some pretty little white flowers (as yet unidentified), and the Iris leaves have sprouted as well.

Even the Indian Plum has buds already.

November photo assortment

peasWell, mostly November. This picture of 2008’s second pea crop is about two months old (the weather changed and the plants became goat food)

greenhouseWith Western Oregon’s mild climate, we will be trying our hands at winter gardening. I’ve replaced the leaky, opaque roof on the greenhouse with “sun-tuff” – corrugated plastic panels – and used some of our old windows to make a cold frame (the 2′ high glassed projection on the front). We hope to grow kale and a few other greens in there, after getting them started indoors and gradually acclimating them to outdoor life.

Outside the greenhouse there’s still plenty to do. Cover crops of clover, cereal ryegrain, faba beans, and vetch have been planted in last year’s beds:
cover crops

garlicHere’s a 40′ double row of garlic, about 1/3 planted. We’ll be doing three different varieties, with different storage life and flavor attributes. In our mild climate, the garlic will (we hope) grow slowly through the winter and burst into life in the spring, with harvest coming in May and June.

goth sunflowersPerhaps inspired by Halloween festivities, these sunflowers have gone goth.

Goats, of course, don’t take a break in the winter as most of the garden does. Stand by for gratuitous cuteness:
aberdeen door

koko aberdeen door

3goatsdoor

goat gateNext year, the goats will enjoy another little pasture area. I’m putting a lot of radish seeds in there, because goats love the greens, which grow early and fast. Here’s the door from their current enclosure to the new pasture. The door is of course made from old shipping pallets.

firepit stepsIn non-farming news, visitors will be happy to see that the deadly mudslide down to our fire pit now has steps.

And finally, the Yamaha saga. I found what seemed like a good deal on a mid-size road bike, and bought it with dreams of 55mpg dancing in my head.yamahaThe wiring and tires were a mess, but I’ve fixed that and a few other things. The title was lost, but the previous owner’s widow filled out all sorts of paperwork that should have helped me get a title.

Finally the day came – I went to the DMV and all my papers were in order, but there is a lien on the bike from the 1980s, and I’m currently navigating a voicemail maze at the finance company in question to determine whether the lien is satisfied. Oh well, it’s raining all the time anyway now, but I hope to get this thing on the road for next spring. For now, it just sits there looking cool (as cool as it can with the ill-fitting Harley seat, slated for replacement with a stock one)

Lots of busybusybusy (just a tease)

I know you come here for the pretty photos, so rest assured there is a big backlog of beautiful plants, animals, recipes, and adventures waiting to be resized and color-corrected, and they will be posted soon.

Apart from working 40+ hours/week at the day job, I’ve just been really busy. Lots of that “busy” is stuff that would be perfect for the blog, but I just haven’t had time to document it in detail.

We’ve been harvesting/canning/fermenting/drying: Oregon Grape, apples, pears, blackberries, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, asian pear, dill, kale, and a bunch of other stuff. Planted arugula and carrots for us, and a whole bunch of perennial rye grass for goats. Started blackberry, Oregon Grape, and blueberry wine, and the new batch of chocolate stout is ready. Got a great deal on oak parquet flooring for the kitchen, and the loft area is just a few days of labor from becoming our winter bedroom. A few cords of wood are waiting in a pile for me to find a deal on a used chainsaw, which needs to happen soon if we’re to be warm this winter.

I learned to “process” chickens from live bird to frozen grocery item. I wondered if it would bother me, taking a life with my own hands, but although my reverence for life has grown throughout the years – all life; we escort even the hideous-looking earwigs and vicious wasps outside to continue their lives – it felt nothing but right. I feel like I have much more of a right to eat chicken than I did when it came from a supermarket all prepared and shrink-wrapped.

Next month I’ll be going on my first wild turkey hunt, which I’m very much looking forward to, and somehow that doesn’t clash with the fact that our property is a no-gunfire-except-in-case-of-emergency refuge where a momma turkey and her five babies visit several times a day to eat seed fallen from our bird feeders and the deer who ravage our raspberry plants and chives will be fenced out rather than shot. As I write this sitting at our outside table, the turkeys are pecking and cooing not more than five feet away from me.

Coyote have been howling their eerie chorus in the hills at night, and the days, which were fifteen-plus hours long just a short time ago, are noticeably shorter. Part of me reflexively tenses at the thought of winter’s approach, until I look back at how green things are in the rainy season and remember that December and January are often perfect for BBQs in Western Oregon.

The man who considered CBGBs a holy place of pilgrimage and mourned the “cleanup” of Times Square is now reluctant to visit “the city” (Eugene, a small but vibrant town of 138,000 about half an hour away) more than once a week. If I’d known how much country life would agree with me, I would probably have left years ago – but then I might not have met Teri, who is my glowing inspiration and the anchor of my life.

What a long strange trip it continues to be!

And I promise you lots of pretty photos very very soon.

Crispy critter (or “curiousity killed the rodent”) (or “electricity killed the squirrel”)

Around 10am, I was working at the computer and heard a loud “POP!” out by our telephone pole, and all the electric went down. The electric co-op got a repairman here very quickly, and he extracted a fried squirrel from the transformer by our house. I’m afraid it’s the one we were getting friendly with, who would steal sunflower seeds from the shed when he thought we weren’t looking. I buried him in the yard, hope it’s not the one we were befriending.

Since our driveway is overgrown a bit, I had to trim a few small branches for the electric guy to get his truck in. The goats were VERY happy about this:
goatseatingbranch

kokomunch

A spring morning walk around the yard

Here’s a slew of pretty pictures, taken during a one-hour morning walk around the yard –

The “lawn” is largely composed of flowers. Some are just pretty:
yellowlawnflowers

…but many are wild strawberries (the real thing is far cheerier than Copy of wildstrawberries

A baby fir-tree cone:
babyfircone

Apple trees are budding:
applebud

Not sure what this tree is, but it’s got pretty flowers:
dewyflower

Never got around to moving this extra horse poo to the compost bin, and now it’s lush with greenery and fungi:
pooshrooms

The woods by the river have a number of Trillium, a somewhat uncommon and delicate plant; it’s illegal to pick any part of it – even taking a leaf may kill the plant, and they can take fifteen years to flower for the first time:
trillium

Also down by the river is the beautiful and malodorous skunk cabbage. The roots are actually edible (after cooking to destroy harmful compounds), and while this still doesn’t sound very appetizing, with all the food craziness going on in the world, the discovery of yet another edible plant on our property is a comforting thing.
skunkcabbage

Oregon grape – fruit is edible, but very sour…used more in jam than fresh:
ogrape

There are a couple of these, which I believe are Salmonberry. They’re isolated, with just a few flowers each, which is too bad because I’ve been wanting to try it. If there are only a few berries, maybe I’ll save them for the seed.
mayberasp

I really want to grow some raspberries here…especially black raspberries, the sweetest, most amazing ones I know of. There’s one small patch at the edge of a clearcut near here from which I picked very lightly last year…I think I’ll try to find out how to propagate it before the $#% timber companies spray defoliant or bulldoze it.

I don’t know what this is, but Teri quite likes it, which has rendered a whole patch of our garden area off-limits to tilling and planting:
mysteryplant

Catnip is pretty common in un-tilled bits of our garden, and here and there all over the property, but for some reason it LOVES the spot where I grew tobacco last year…maybe I’m creating the ultimate feline drug – Tobacnip!
catbacco

Speaking of the garden, here’s the beginnings of this season’s planting, which will be much more extensive than last years, and which should benefit from the soil tests and classes we’ve been taking.

Walla Walla onions:
onions

Shelling peas:
peas

Salad mix:
saladmix

If you’ve got Swede in the family tree (or shop at Ikea), you probably know what Lingonberries are. Delicious and tart, they are made into jams and sauces, and are full of anti-oxidants. Best of all, they grow well in acid soil (ie, all of Western Oregon) and propagate by rhizome as well as seed (they’ll slowly spread out without help from us, and won’t become out-of-control invasives like the Himilayan Blackberries that plague/feed us):
lingonberry

Chives and heirloom tomatoes (Purple Calabash and Brandywine) are under lights in the kitchen waiting for this extended frost season to finally end:
chives
tomato

…and finally, no post these days would be complete without cute goat photos

Drama queen nosing through the nasty old chicken wire someone applied over the field fencing:
hellooooooo

And Cocoa, with the evidence of a messy bottle feeding still on her face:
cocoamilkyface

That’s it for today, but I’m sure tomorrow will bring a whole bunch of new flowers and cute animal shots

An Oregon blizzard

Yes, it’s true, we had an Oregon blizzard last night (half an inch of snow that melts by noon.) This was the scene around 8:30am today:
Snowy goatlandia

The daffodills sagged, but I’ve seen them do that before; they’ll pop right back up tomorrow:
Sagging daffys

This apple is probably getting a bit overripe now:
frozen apple on tree

…but the fir trees don’t mind the weather, they just keep on photosynthesizing all year long –
fir tree needles with snow

What I do, when I’m avoiding studying for finals…

First, I notice that there’s a big pretty bird in our yard, that I’ve never seen before. He’s so distinctive that I have to try to identify him. Thanks to my handy-dandy Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest, I can pretty confidently say that he (along with his partner, who showed up later), is a Northern Flicker, part of the Woodpecker family. Since I’m still avoiding studying, I decide that I would be remiss if were to miss this opportunity to get some photos of the pair of them. (Notice that the male has the red spots on his cheeks – the female’s coloring is similar to the male’s, but she lacks those red spots.)

papa flicker

mama flicker

Next, I remember that Peter had separated the cream from our latest jar of fresh raw cow’s milk (if you missed it, he posted about our first raw milk tasting and the local family farm that’s supplying us here), setting it aside to try our hands at butter-making. Suddenly it becomes quite urgent to get the butter made today – so I pull the mason jar from the fridge and start shaking. And shaking. And shaking. When my arms start feeling like they’re going to fall off, I take a break. By this point, what I have in the jar is whipped cream. So I shake some more. And some more. And some more.

And then, whadda ya know! The curds (the chunky bits that will become the butter) begin to separate from the whey (the liquid). This is what it looks like:

curds-n-whey

This inspires me, so I keep on shakin’. Pretty soon, I’ve got a pretty good chunk of butter in the middle of the whey (the jar is tipped on its side in this photo, to better see the almost-butter):

becoming butter

I drain off the liquid into another jar, and keep shaking for a few more minutes – the shaking is what’s separating the liquids from the solids, and I want to make sure I’ve got all the liquids out. Next, I put the hunk of butter into a bowl, and rinse it with cold water, “massaging” the butter with a spoon to squeeze out the last of the milky liquids. I keep rinsing with fresh water until the water remains clear.

Here’s what we’ve got:

itâ??s butter!

And here’s the finished product put away in a jar, along with our approximately 1/2 cup of buttermilk! (I think I may see buttermilk pancakes in our future…)

finished products

Of course, I now realize that in order to fully appreciate our first-ever batch of homemade butter, we’ll need some fresh hot homemade cinnamon raisin bread, so I move on to bread-making.

And since I’m still avoiding studying for finals, I decide that now would be a good time to tell ya’all about our first-ever batch of homemade ginger ale. I’d found the recipe a few weeks ago, but we hadn’t gotten around to trying it – until Peter got inspired and I came home the other day to a freshly-bottled batch (ignore the labels – we washed, sterilized, and re-used old soda bottles we had saved for this purpose).

a different homebrew

It’s actually pretty easy to make: simmer chopped-up ginger root and sugar in a pot of water for about 30-60 minutes (the longer the simmer, the stronger the flavor), then remove it from the heat and strain out the remaining ginger pulp, add more water and let it cool. After about 15 minutes, add brewer’s yeast and let it sit for a few more minutes, then bottle it up! You just need to keep an eye on it – once it’s carbonated, put it in the fridge to stop the process. **Peter added a bit of cayenne to this batch as well, to give it an extra kick.

One of the best things about the homemade brew? We control the amount of sugar we use – and much of it is eaten up by the yeast. And the waste products of the yeast? B vitamins! With less sugar and actual nutrients, it’s not only tastier – it’s way healthier than the store-bought stuff.

ginger yum!

And, now that I’ve enjoyed a bowl of Peter’s homemade stew (made with locally raised goat meat), a slice of homemade raisin bread with homemade butter and a glass of homemade ginger ale, stacked a large pile of wood as Peter did the splittin’, and written up my quiet country day, I think it really is time to turn my mind to studying.

Goatlandia infrastructure report

The goat house now has a floor, all its walls, and half a roof! It has also been jacked up and set back down on (scavenged, naturally) concrete blocks to prevent the wood beams from rotting in the Oregon moisture. The top 1/2 of 3 walls will be left open for ventilation and light, and shuttered during any cold winter storms.

Investment so far: about $50 for roof beams, screws, tar paper (partial rolls from a local construction materials reclamation facility called Bring Recycling.), and a roof vent (also from Bring).

Goathaus 20080303

Old growth forest near Low Pass, OR

There’s a patch of old growth forest about 4 miles down the road from us, and though most land is green out here, the farms and tree plantations that predominate are nothing like this. It’s a cathedral with a babbling stream as the center aisle and fir trees standing nearly 300 feet tall down either side.

It’s pointless to even think of capturing the sheer amazingosity of this place with a camera, but here are a couple of photos:

Old growth forest near Low Pass, Oregon

Old growth forest near Low Pass, Oregon

Teri in Old growth forest near Low Pass, Oregon

…and here’s one Teri took, apparently of a sasquatch:

Big log