seasonal change

we’ve had a long wet autumn, to match our wet summer. it’s the most colorful autumn i’ve ever seen here; the extremely slow descent into cooler temperatures really allowed the trees to bring out their reds and oranges all over town. our native cottonwoods, however, did two things: the Rio Grande cottonwoods turned gold for a moment and then rapidly bronzed, and the Mountain cottonwoods that surround the house (a hybrid variety) are still green, though there are yellow leaves falling from invisible places in the canopy every day.

gold for one hot minute:

lots of rain:

some truly spectacular sunsets (taken from off University Blvd, a few miles from our house)

SO much rain

also, we grew a lot of duckweed by accident in the back pond:

rain on tomatoes:

October 30th in the garden. these are tomatoes. they are all, every one, taller than me.

for the first time ever, we grew figs! that is, our fig tree, now about 3 years old, produced a bunch of figs! they were *delicious.*


We didn’t get our first frost until well into November, but then we got a few days of it, and it’s supposed to get down to 19* tonight. the garden is put to bed, everybody is mulched, all the irrigation systems disconnected for the winter. our two excellent November interns, Maia & Sarah, are busy moving chicken compost into the garden, where it can finish curing for the winter in the soil.

frost on the tomatoes:

mysterious yellow leaves, falling from the still-extremely-green canopy, surround my oddly-diagonal sunbathing cat.

this is the blog of apologizing for not making enough blog posts

i aim to post here roughly once a month; apparently I can’t quite manage that this year. too much time goes by and the idea feels larger than it really is, because there is more to catch up on. and of course, there’s other stuff going on, that slows me down. maybe i can make up for it with a couple smaller updates.

so first of all, the wall! we aaaaaaaaalllllmost finished it. as in, to 100% completion. as it stands, we have the east face to complete the final thin finish-coat of plaster on. however, it is entirely stable (and then some! it’s way more done than i originally thought we’d accomplish!) to survive the winter unscathed, and we are very proud of how good it looks and how well it matches the house. this is the best piece of wall we’ve ever built. we learned things! and applied them!

if you want to get in on earthbagging at Sunflower River, next summer might well be your last chance: we will build the final segment of the security wall then.



finishing the interior finish-coat:

we installed some rockin’ gates from Groff Lumber, too.

i don’t know about you, but i sure am proud of us. and pleased to live behind this wall!

Sunflower River’s 7th Annual Harvest Festival

Come one, come all!

We’re turning 8! Therefore, it must be our 7th harvest festival!

Sunflower River will host our annual Harvest Festival on Monday, September 7th — yes, Monday. it’s Labor Day! so, since you (very likely) have the day off, come on down to spend it in good company. Come on down to celebrate the turning of the seasons, enjoy the harvest, and spend a fun afternoon in excellent company at Sunflower River!

Potluck — bring a dish to share!
Pie Contest– Bake a pie and bring it! A highlight of the day! Prizes!
Bobbing for Apples, Horseshoes, etc
Farm Tours
Open Music Jam

Bring your friends and family for this all-ages celebration of the year, the harvest, the cycles of the seasons, of friendship and family and the beauty of the world.

*Pie Contest Details: it’s best to bake pies in a clear glass pie-pan, so that the bottom crust can be seen. Storebought pies, and pies made from mixes, are not eligible for the contest. Contest will be judged promptly at two, so if you want to get in on that, don’t be late!

If you bob for apples, you can get a token to be in line first for pie-eating after the contest!

we’re at 6911 Isleta Blvd SW; please come in through the brand-new gates at that address! contact one of us if you need directions.

a soggy summer is a green summer

it has not stopped raining. this is really pretty remarkable, all things considered. we’ve had over 7″ of rain on the farm so far in 2015, and no indication of the storm season slackening. happily, since the tree fell, we have had no further rain related disasters; just the usual run of weeds and mosquitoes. we need a native toad infusion, stat; there seem to be far fewer spadefoot toads than usual, and i think that there was a die-off over last winter.

there are of course billions of grasshoppers, as well as the mosquitoes. the garden is thriving around them, though some of the elms out back have leaves like tatwork.



an overview of the green

we’re getting more interesting bugs, like this gorgeous mallow beetle.

we also have a family of summer tanagers living in the cottonwoods. this is the female:

and the brilliant male. i had to run for help to identify him; i couldn’t believe i was seeing a cardinal this far west. and sure enough, he’s not.

and here is a fledgling tanager.

incipient pomegranates


a lily in the aquaponics system

the back field grew so tall so fast, and so thick with sunflowers, that we borrowed Robin’s sheep to help tame it. they’re doing a world of good, trampling in the buckwheat seeds and eating most of the weeds (though not quite as many of the sunflowers as i’d like).





meanwhile, the wall project is consuming all of my farm-time, and it’s chugging along quite well. we’ve got a great crew of people reliably coming down to help work on it, and all the available Stewards and interns have been putting their backs to it since we started in May. There are three segments to the wall addition, and two gates (the three bits are between teh gates). The gates are custom wood gates from Groff Lumber, and will be installed in mid-August. we’ve got the first section, which is the longest, fully built, and plan to spend August building the second segment — and helping our frieds at the Hive do repairs and some final construction on their earthbag wall! they’ve been coming down to help us out reliably all summer. My goal is to build the second segment in two workdays in August, and get it plastered by the end of September. we’ll build segment three in 2016; this is enough for one year.

here’s the wall a couple weeks ago, with some bad bags patched with duct tape (that’s the red):

and the wall as of last week, with a full first-coat of plaster done. we’re aiming to complete a second coat this friday, and then will begin building the second segment in August.

and of course, a gratuitous kitty pic. i have it on good authority that the paw is the cutest part of the cat.

fallen giant

so, we’ve had nearly 4 inches of rain since the end of April. that’s half our annual average, and too much for us to receive that fast.

one consequence of the rain, is that one of our old cottonwood trees became waterlogged and collapsed late Sunday night. the trunk folded outwards like a sunflower stalk cracking. nobody was hurt, and it didn’t hit the house or the earthbag wall, so really it didn’t go badly, all things considered.

here’s a glimpse of the whole thing.



the fence took some of it:

but Jenny’s car took most of it.

and after Jeremy got the tree off it:

here is Jeremy disconnecting the fallen trunk.


Jeremy does all our cottonwood tree care, and we highly reccomend him. Gibson Landscaping, 505-315-6969.

Monday he’ll be back down to the farm to test all of the other cottonwood trees for hollowness or soundness, and we’ll decide then what we need to do, going forward. all of us love these trees; we bought this property partially because these great old trees are on it. keep your fingers crossed that the other ones are healthy!

a soggy spring

it’s still spring — that is *highly* unusual behavior for mid-May in these parts. ordinarily, it’d be in the high 80s every day by now, and i’d have pulled out the insulation from the yurt window and propped it permanently open. instead, it’s barely clearing 70 most days, my window is still winter-shut, and i’m being careful to keep a supply of dry firewood inside, because it’s cold enough to need a fire a couple nights a week still.

it’s also raining regularly. *highly* unusual spring behavior. some of the storms are summer monsoon thunderstorms, with crash-bang dramatic downpours and sideways hail. some are slow overnight soakers. in the last four weeks, we’ve had both of those and everything in between.

what with it all, we’ve had some dramatic skies and an awful lot of green stuff growing. some of which is even the stuff we planted. i don’t know that i’ve *ever* seen the weeds quite this epic.

chard & beet greens

peas & dill on a dewey morning


blooming baby bok choy

volunteer corn in the bok choy

by the way, if you’re local and you’d like some bok choy, we’re selling it for $3/bundle. let me know! it’s every bit as delicious as this picture.

pretty weeds in the squash bed (sunflower, lambsquarter & amaranth)

we also re-tilled our field at the end of March. Chris from Ironwood Farm came down with his tractor to help re-level it, since it’s been a few years. we spread about thirty pounds of clover and winter wheat seed on it, and lo! this is our field! seriously.


also i got some new lenses that snap onto my new camera. a fisheye lens that converts to 15x macro, and a wide angle lens that converts to 10x macro. so now i can do things like this. blue flax in the back, both of these.


(you guys, this is our FIELD. this is also NEW MEXICO. i’m blown away every time i walk out there.)


did i mention my new camera? it’s a phone, technically, but really it’s a camera. i’m in love.

flax in the pollinator beds

clear boundaries:


we’re also doing a really awesome job of keeping our back fields irrigated this year. that combines with the rain to give us this:

(more back field photos on our flickr!)

this is the path. what?

and some horsetail reed, which is thick this year, what with the water.

so are the tumbleweeds, but i failed to dignify them with a photograph, electing instead to pull them out by the dozens until my hands itched.

one very tiny cota

and the view from the farthest wayback.

here is Tybalt enjoying the lambsquarter bed. what do you mean, we didn’t plant lambsquarter?


we’re also working on the wall again! i know, we totally finished that last year. but this is Wall v. 3.0! Mahazda wall! it’s an extension of the earthbag wall between us and the highway, along the south property. it’s already going smoother & faster than the last one, what with everything we learned last time. and it’s going to be so satisfying to have a solid boundary between us and the street, across the full width of the property.

oh, and i don’t think any bimonthly blog post would be complete without this guy. follow me @yarrowkat on instgram for #dailypeacock pics! (they’re not really daily. more like a couple times a week. but “dailypeacock” sounds catchier than “periodicpeacock” or “intermittentpeacock.” i think.)
Elliott in the morning. #dailypeacock

spring sprang sprung

it’s been an eventful spring so far. the second hexayurt collapsed a week before the Equinox festival — a combination of weather, wear, and too long between maintenance days. so we spent a work party taking that apart and getting the site cleared up, what with having several dozen people over for Ostara the next weekend.

meanwhile, Jenny & Tristan have gotten all the irrigation up and running and the spring crops planted. we’re earlier than last year, but so is Spring — it’s been in the 60s-70s consistently for weeks now, and while i’m sure it will freeze again, i’m equally sure it’s time to plant the spring crops, and then some. and the summer starts are up and sprouting in the seed greenhouse, thinking about putting out their second sets of leaves. just like that!

Seedhouse Greenlings
Photo by Tristan

Alan, Rev and I spent a day getting the aquaponics system up and running for the spring, and recalibrated so that instead of the water washing the seed away, the water level is just under the gravel level in the grow beds, so hopefully the seeds will sprout and we will have greens from the AP system this year. i planted spinach, kale, lettuce, and a bunch of pollinator-friendly flowering herbs, which i hope to start in the AP system and then move out into various other gardens around the property, while re-seeding the greens as we eat them.

Fish for thought.
Photo by Tristan

lettuce by the water. #nofilter

forsythia and nectarine are in bloom, as are daffodils (almost done, really), hyacinths, and plum. the apricots have already bloomed and gotten frost bit, of course.

springtime. #nofilter


and this post would not be complete without this perfect photo. the peacock was thinking about whether or not he ought to be bothered by the cat. the cat was utterly unbothered by the peacock, and sauntered past him, to dive up into this tree — and discover that the tree is not really large enough to support a large cat. thus, the scene:
note the cat. this might be the best picture I've ever taken.

i love it that Elliott is just watching Tybalt, as if to say, “kitty, you’re doing it wrong. you forgot how to cat.”

and another shot of Elliott, loveliest of all poultry.

more moving!

Thanks to a generous gift from Britta, we made there to be a fireplace in the great room! it looks as if it were original to the house, but it was built (in the course of a week) from scratch.


here’s the room set up for the Solstice. my apologies for the blur!

and the Mahazda kitchen is finished! everything but a microwave. check this out:


being fully shifted into Mahazda has meant we can begin shifting things around in the Cottage. here’s the ongoing library project:


with reading nook:

building a real live library is phenomenally satisfying. every time i walk into the house i start playing in that delicious pile of books.

light is returning

i am woefully behind on posting here. we finished the kiva fireplace! it’s pretty dang awesome! Also, the kitchen cabinetry and the oven arrived, and we got the gas hooked up, so the kitchen is finally complete.

Also, it snowed.


Note Jenny and Gawain on the south side of the garden, following dog & kitty tracks in the snow.


and i don’t think i can have a snow post without a “cute results of snowy weather” corrolary: