a small snow


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.

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.)

the aquaponics tank siphon, having a weather experience.

three wheelbarrows:

barnyard in snow:

poultry enjoying the novel weather:

in the field:

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.

a wider shot of the field:

the view across the neighbor’s field:

snow in the playground:

and Kat’s yurt:

and making mandalas on tables.

as always, there are more photos on the Farm Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunflowerriver

turkeys in the snow

every year, we process around forty turkeys for the thanksgiving market (including a few for our own table). these are the cage-free heritage-breed birds that we raise up from hatchlings starting in March. they are beautiful creatures, and get up to around 18 pounds. because they’re raised outside, and they’re heritage birds, and also because we sell them fresh, not frozen, they are juicy and delicious. we all really enjoy eating them.

saturday & sunday we got up early in cold grey weather to process turkeys. both days the energy was high and we got our day’s work done. saturday we got shut down early by freezing wind, which made it impossible to keep the scalder up to temperature. first time we’ve ever had that problem. so we knocked off before noon, and made up the difference the next day. both days we had good volunteer turn-out, though sunday’s was impacted by the snows. several of the people who didn’t want to drive down on icy roads in the morning, did so in the afternoon to pick up their bird, and the rest made arrangements with us to get their birds. i took wednesday off work, and spent most of it selling turkeys. and a lot of people did come down over the weekend, and the day’s energy was fun. I had great conversations with people all day, and heard other fun conversations going on all around me.

sunday while we were working, we got about a half-inch of snow. no rain. because it was snow, the air was very still, and it was actually pretty nice to work in, if muddier than we are used to. we did 18 birds on saturday and 24 birds on sunday, and now the barnyard is quiet for the winter. nobody left but the laying hens and the dog. on sunday we finished with turkeys around noon, including clean-up, since we had an abundance of volunteers to put to the final tasks.

a few photos from the day:

family education and involvement


scalding (you can see our super-professional set up, here — it’s a water trough propped on saw horses over a camp stove, with a tinfoil windscreen. that stick i’m using to push the bird into the water? that stick is THE tool; we’ve used that same one for six years now. it’s got a fork that’s exactly the right angle and size to dunk a bird.


the scalded bird goes into the plucker, without its feet, which jam the plucker.


our whiz-bang poultry plucker in action (thanks to Chad Person for the photograph!)


Thistle really enjoys a good turkey foot. she enjoys all of them, actually, though we usually save them up to dole out as treats over a month or more.


the enthusiastic butcher crew. this is Hannah, enjoying the morning’s work.


most people work the butcher table.


we didn’t need to use ice to keep the birds cool this year. the daytime temp never exceeded that of the interior of a refrigerator.


Alan and Dave wrap some hearts.


i promised i’d publish this. Dave, photobombing the butcher crew with a head. you’re welcome.


sunday’s snowfall (the blood from the butchering goes into the garden, to enrich our iron-poor soil).


working in the snow


in the late morning, the sky cleared, and the work moved fast. Chery and I had a lovely conversation over our work.


and here is the lovely little snowfall:

broomcorn in the field


the garden


the north drive (look at that beautiful wall in the snow)


the front drive




sunflowers, resting after their successful mission of total farm domination this summer



snow dog:


spotted towhee


the rest of the photos are on our flickr page, here:

turkey day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunflowerriver/sets/72157638065392304/
snow: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunflowerriver/sets/72157638064681325/

and we also received this wonderful approbation from Tristan’s mother Britta, after the holiday:

“I will now take this opportunity to tell you how impressed I am that you and your volunteers spent those cold, snowy and windy days slaughtering turkeys so the feast of thanksgiving could be held. The next time one of my geezer friends moans and groans about how irresponsible and lazy young people are today I will whip out my tale of the turkey slaughter held outdoors during a winter storm. I thank you for adding to my store of stories.

“As a final note, I want to share with you what happened on the way home. Someone made a joke about eating in a sardine can. I piped up that next year we should be about to gather in the great room at Mahazda where there will be room to seat 40. Deb observed that when that happens you will invite 50. That perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Sunflower River Farm and the stewards who have created that haven in the South Valley.”

absolutely. we’ve never been accused of an insufficiency of ambition, not even when it comes to hosting a good party.

on that cheerful note: we paid off the mortgage on Sunflower River last month! and closed on the construction loan for Mahazda this week. rolling right on through. we can start construction on the remodel in the next couple weeks!

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

curved cottonwood branch, as the year wanes



turkeybirds in the barnyard. these are our mama turkeys from last year, who raised up a batch of 7 wholly free-range poults.

i don’t know what these are, but they’re lovely. i only see them in the autumn in the garden.

the AP system fish tanks by the pond

roses overarching the garden path

and hiding beneath it.

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.


grapes on the Gate of Possibility.

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:

to october:

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.



this might be what it’s all about, really.




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.

here’s the view:

Alan’s yurt

tiger on the wall

the woodpile

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.



the view over the ditch