Farm Frustration:    I used to think raccoons were cute, even when they were coming into my Scottsdale house and eating our cat food.  But this morning at about 4 AM, a raccoon penetrated our temporary chicken coop–a chain link fence enclosure covered on all sides and the top with tarp.  It punched a hole through the tarp, then reached through the chain link fence and grabbed two hens by the necks and killed them.  With, I’ll mention, no possibility of getting any of the hen through the chain link and into its mouth.  Nasty creature!  Well, the dog is eating chicken this week.

 

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Turkeys can swim!

News flash!  When a turkey hen takes off from the porch, aiming for the ditch bank by the barn and chokes, she drops into the Mason Ditch and calmly begins to paddle her way to the bank.  Once back on dry land, she shakes off the water and struts off as if nothing at all is amiss…  Who knew?

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First Cheese!

homemade Gouda cheese

I used half my little wheel of Gouda for the hot dish.

Tonight we had hot dish.  For those of you without a Scandinavian background, hot dish is a category of food that appears at church (Lutheran, of course) potluck dinners.  Growing up, hot dish meant leftover vegetables worked into tomato sauced-ground beef.  And, for most of my extended family, hot dish is a favorite, easy weeknight meal.

But tonight’s hot dish was something special for me.  Although my Norwegian grandmother might laugh at me for this, tonight’s hot dish was 100% local and over 50% from our own farm.  The beef, potatoes and onion were local; the Poblano pepper and oregano were from the garden, as was the canned tomato sauce.  But what set tonight’s meal apart was the Gouda.  I made it almost two months ago from Brighty milk.  It got a definite “thumbs-up” from Ed.   In fact, he liked it so much we discussed cheese-aging chambers at dinner.

I made cheese and it was good.  Pardon me, but I’m grinning over here.

In case you want to make “Hot Dish” for yourself, the recipe is pretty darn flexible and easy:

 

  • 1 pd ground beef (locally grown, of course)
  • 2 tbsp of leftover bacon grease or some sort of oil if your ground beef is very lean
  • some onion, chopped (as much as you like)
  • some garlic, chopped (if you like it and as much as you like)
  • 1 tbsp of some fresh herb, such as oregano or marjoram or mexican oregano or
  • 2 cups canned homegrown tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pd of fingerling potatoes
  • sliced or grated cheese to top it, as much as you like

In a large skillet brown the ground beef with the onions in the fat, if you’re using it. Add the chopped garlic and herbs. Once the ground beef is cooked through add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and potatoes. Cover the skillet and simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked. Top with cheese, then cover again and simmer a little longer until the cheese is melted, and serve.

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Farm Funny: “Bump the dog,” I said to the cow, and, with a cow grin on her lips, she bumped the dog. Dog didn’t think it was funny

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Farm Weird: a beep-beep-beep car alarm. All the turkeys freeze, lift their heads & listen not to move again until it ends. Weird!

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Farm Alarm Clock(s)

5:30 in the morning, 6 roosters, no snooze button on a single one of them. Argh!

Well, 5 roosters now.  Something crawled over the 10 foot fence and caught the rooster who refused to go into a coop at about 5.  That’s one less that needs to be slaughtered.  We heard him and whatever it was fighting.  Ed turned on the light and scared it off.  I figure it must have been small enough that it couldn’t carry the rooster with it back over the fence as it departed.  A Coon maybe or a small bobcat.

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#Farm Wisdom: When juicing Prickly Pears you will get spines in your fingers no matter how careful and pink will be everywhere.

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Turkeys in the Trees

turkeys in the pile of wood Oak Creek has left us

They perched on top of that pile for a good long time

Okay, seems pretty expected, right?  Turkeys have wings.  They fly.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t be in the trees, well except I’ve clipped these guys’ wings.

Ah but today’s trees were riverfall–the big pile is what Oak Creek has swept downstream over who knows how many flood seasons.  The pile is taller than I am.

And today I took apart the turkeys’ electric fence while I worked on trying to regrade their pasture.  They decided to go on walkabout.  For a while they stayed near the cow (I promise that entry is coming soon!) then decided to go exploring.  Because they’re Heritage birds, they look like wild turkeys.  All I can say is that they had such a nice day they all went to bed without a hiccup.

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Field Work

From my porch I can see three beautiful tiers of red earth all carefully bermed to hold a flood.  A flood of irrigation water, that is.  Just what we needed to properly grow our veggies!

the pond at our previous house

I still love it even though I now have Oak Creek instead.

It couldn’t have happened without Paul Holdeman of The Pond Gnome.  We’ve been working with Paul since he came to fix a leak in the pond and waterfall at our old house, and instead turned what I’d thought was a great pond into something far more fantastic than I could have imagined.

When we came out here I very quickly realized that although we have plenty of water it’s nearly impossible to get that water to where it will grow healthy plants.  I also want ducks and having ducks requires a duck pond.

We started with some big ideas, like a water retention pond that also served as a trout pond, but ended up scaling back mostly because of money (oh that pesky problem).  What Paul came up with was a simple solution:  re-grade the fields so we can use the big valves Sam Frey installed to flood them.  And using the rise and fall of our landscape, he dug out a three foot deep a duck pond, one that will be aerated by ditch water that rushes in from one side and rushes out the other.  I probably won’t be able to plant water lilies in it, but in a trade off between water lilies and duck eggs, duck eggs will win with me every time.  There’s no better egg for a frittata!

Here’s our before and after photos:

our field, before and after

The old field layout meant whole sections never got watered. Now the H2O spreads from one end to the other with ease.

That big red circle is the duck pond.  Of course it’s not finished yet.  We’ll wait until February and the ditch is shut down to install the gate valves.

Paul also created a beautiful waterfall out of our most distant spring box, where the pipe goes from 12 inches to 10 inches and the water is always overflowing.  Since I can’t have water lilies maybe I’ll try planting columbines and native orchids along our “natural” waterfall.

Thank you Paul and Gary, the backhoe operator who pulled stumps while he was here, and Timmy, who sat in his little tractor looking backwards over his shoulder at his gannon as he drove in reverse for three straight days.  Lord, but that makes my neck hurt to think about it!

”"

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