a small snow

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I am remiss in posting updates here. Winter is escaping us. It’s mostly been warm and dry, not entirely atypical (“it’s a desert,” right?) but much drier than the norm. Dangerously so, in terms of the absence of mountain snowpack that creates next summer’s river flows.

So we are celebrating last night’s small snow. It’s dry and slight, but it’s something, and anything is better than nothing. Migratory birds were wheeling excitedly all around this morning, clearly pleased with the overcast weather.

Many things on the farm have been moving steadily forward over the winter, one step at a time. the contractor is working on Mahazda now, getting permits and organizing the plumbing and electric and such. we’re starting to make very concrete decisions about various bits of the house, which is exciting. it is about to become quite tangible.

Our winter intern, Barbara, built a fabulous new door for the chicken coop — a daily quality-of-life improvement for anybody doing animal chores here.
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Jenny has been working hard on paths, fences, and the small ritual ground. Soon the front acre will be fenced in, for full containment of dog and child, and the path to the greenbelt will run up the north side of the Mahazda field and along the south fence. Already there is a bridge, a thicket cleared, much deadwood removed, and new gates going in, in all the right places.

Seeds are ordered for this season’s garden, and we’re a month away from the arrival of most of our baby birds. in fact, the plan for this weekend includes tilling the garden, if things aren’t too wet. it doesn’t feel that close, yet, somehow, with the grey sky lowering over the day, and snow on the ground.

and ice monsters in the aquaponics tank. (under ordinary circumstances, these are plants.)
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the aquaponics tank siphon, having a weather experience.
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three wheelbarrows:
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barnyard in snow:
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poultry enjoying the novel weather:
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in the field:
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volunteer broomcorn. i suspect this is growing here because we used broomcorn seed more or less symbolically in an Ostara ritual one year, and since then we’ve had some volunteer patches of it.
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a wider shot of the field:
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the view across the neighbor’s field:
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snow in the playground:
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and Kat’s yurt:
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and making mandalas on tables.
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as always, there are more photos on the Farm Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunflowerriver

Autumn on the Farm

down falls the autumn. today is leaf-fall: i woke to a rain of cottonwood and mulberries leaves, steadily streaming down from a clear blue, and very cold, heaven.

as usual, i’m running a bit behind on photo updates. we’ve put the garden to bed for the winter, and processed the last batch of meat chickens until next summer. turkeys are coming up in just a couple weeks– we still have birds available for reservation for thanksgiving, so if you are interested, please drop me an email!

meanwhile, here’s some autumn on the farm.

virginia creeper on the north fence, in the wayback
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curved cottonwood branch, as the year wanes
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turkeybirds in the barnyard. these are our mama turkeys from last year, who raised up a batch of 7 wholly free-range poults.
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i don’t know what these are, but they’re lovely. i only see them in the autumn in the garden.
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the AP system fish tanks by the pond
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roses overarching the garden path
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and hiding beneath it.
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the garden falling into fall. the corn did not come in very well this year, and stayed short in comparison to other years here. we’re tilling again this winter, and re-doing our irrigation system between now and next march, to change this for next year.
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grapes on the Gate of Possibility.
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there’s a full month out of every year when the simple sight of this tree can knock me over with a breath.
from september:
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to october:
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bam. the Grandfather Cottonwood, a 200-year old Rio Grande Cottonwood near the acequia, is the first to turn gold and the last to turn green, every year.

beneath that canopy, a sweet rain of massed gold.

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this might be what it’s all about, really.
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i spend a little time on the roof of my yurt, most years, doing seasonal repairs. i skipped it last year, since it hadn’t been raining, and this year’s summer rains took me off guard and came down in long streamers onto my stove. so i got myself back up there to mend the tape and pull mulch out of the seams again this year.
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here’s the view:

Alan’s yurt
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tiger on the wall
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the woodpile
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and there’s nothing quite as sexy as a well-stocked woodpile. this year’s firewood is courtesy of the spring’s demolition work in the remodel project, as it generated a lot of non-reuseable scrap.
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the view over the ditch
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Kat: garden update, fall 2013

it looks like i didn’t manage a single photo-post about the garden this summer. i knew i was behind, but i thought maybe there’d been at least one. but this has been how the whole summer went: i was out a lot, travelling, focused on other things. summer was hot hot hot until the end of July when suddenly we got all 8″ of our average annual rainfall in just a few weeks. pow. not really a monsoon, more of a waterfall. fortunately, our land is flat, so it acts mostly as a water battery; we do not have the kind of run-off problems that are endemic during these storms.

what with it all, most of the garden just did not do that well this year. our spring greens experiment in selling excess lettuces was a success, but after that, most of it just sort of went to sunflowers. the guinea hens ate a bunch of stuff when it sprouted. we ate the guinea hens, and replanted some beans, but we didn’t really put much effort into the whole thing. then the irrigation system didn’t really work right, and we didn’t apply ourselves to figuring out why until fairly late in the year. (it’s old t-tape; it’s probably clogged with mineral sediment from our well-water. which has a pH of 8. i like that — it’s delicious, and full of dissolved calcium — but it is hard on plastics. we’ll be replacing the t-tape in the spring. and re-tilling with a tractor, because the soil compaction is also out of hand. yay, valley clay.)

it almost (almost!) froze two nights ago. it’s awfully early for that sort of thing! i have lit fires in the woodstove in my yurt the last two nights. but the garden is pretty done anyway, with the semi-feral turkeys nesting in it. we never successfully bred turkeys before. these ones were fighting with the younger birds, so we kicked them out of the pen and just let them roam, and before we knew it, they had 7 chicks. now there are 5 younguns, and they’re half-grown. we’re keeping them for 2014 thanksgiving harvest. it’s been nice to hear them percolating in the mornings as they browse through the herb garden right outside my bedroom door. the whole flock are genuinely free-range — which means they often bed in the tomatoes. we all just sort of gave up on caring too hard this year. the tomatoes came in pretty well, but they’re basically over now anyway. all we’re really picking right now is chard & basil. and chard will winter over.

so let the frost come. let the garden fall to fall. we have a couple months of firewood laid by, and more on the way. the harvest is as in as its going to get. it might as well get cold and kill all the bugs and bring us some more much-needed moisture.

after this month of intermittent downpours, we are all the way up to the low end of our average annual rainfall! after two years of not even that much, this is a substantial relief. we’re at over 8″ for the year. i’m measuring specifically on the farm; if you look at NOAA’s totals for Abq, they show higher — but we are south of town, and we’re in a rain shadow. our neighbor calls it the “Los Padillas Hole.” he says the Manzano Moutnains get all our rain. be that as it may, it’s not new, but it’s not that awesome, either. they are predicting a cold wet winter, and much as i hate the cold, i hope they are right. we need it.

and it’s time to put this summer to bed. to retreat into winter, into dark and quiet and stillness. to allow space for the turning dark, the velvet dark, the sweet slow unfolding of the nurturing, birth-giving dark.