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

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.

Kat: wall update. two steps forward, one step back.

i’m looking forward to this saturday’s wall plastering party. at the last one, a couple weeks ago, we made the decision to add portland cement to the earthen plaster mix we’re using on the north wall, with the result that the new mix did not suffer any damage in the ongoing rains we’ve experienced.

we certainly don’t want this much-needed rain to go away, or even to let up. we just want our work to withstand it as it is supposed to.

saturday we are going to tackle the last exposed stretch of new construction. next week, (gods willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say), we have three new interns arriving. they will be able to do the bits of patchwork here and there throughout the whole north wall, where the rains have knocked down last year’s (and some of this year’s) work.

the reason we’re dealing with this many repairs is mainly time. earthen plaster doesn’t happen in a single layer, and the wall is very long. the time it takes us to get a single layer over the bags is substantial, not least because we are doing one or two workdays a month with as many volunteers as we can wrangle — which is sometimes many, and sometimes none. this year, due to an assortment of schedule confluences and the ongoing length of this project, most of our wall days have been just a handful of Sunflower River residents. so that has slowed us down, and we can’t work full-time on it; we have jobs and other responsibilities that prevent us from being able to work full-timeon any one farm project — and this is *far* from the only project going on at the farm! so there’s that. priorities are all over the map, and with good reason.

but the longer the project stretches, the more the rain and sun wear away this base coat of plaster, which is not actually supposed to be the final wall surface. it gets two more coats, then a limewash at the end. between the second and third coat, we’ll add more sculpture to the wall’s interior, as we are doing on the (much more finished) east wall:
(tiger by Eso Robinson & Nina Dubois, art studio MFA students at UNM).

so we’re doing a lot of this kind of patchwork:

and the bit of wall in that photo has bits that need to be redone again, as the weather has gotten at it in just these few weeks. we’re hoping this fall’s interns can help us get all the necessary patchwork filled in with the new cementatious plaster mix.

we got a big rainstorm (3″ in one storm) at the end of July, that did this to the north wall:

this was an area we’d had particular trouble getting plastered last fall. this time, we covered the wall material with chicken wire (most earthbag resources say that this is not necessary, but we are discovering that this is an exaggeration at best; the chicken wire helps a *lot*). then we re-plastered. IMG_5889

that time it stuck, with minimal damage in the less-intense rains that came between work days.

returning to the project a couple weeks later, we used the new mix over that whole end of the wall, with this result:


we got so much done at that work day, that we were able to take time to beautify the apse out front at the day’s end.

that’s right on the corner of our property, and faces Isleta Blvd, so it’s a relief to have it looking so good!

if you’re feeling inspired, or have a need to throw things and would rather do so while also getting soemthing done, come on down to the farm this saturday, or on Sunday, october 6th, for our last two wall parties of 2013! we can use all the help we can get, and the work really is fun (and really is all about throwing mud), and is livened up even more by the good company.

Kat: 2013 Harvest Festival

This past weekend, Sunflower River celebrated our sixth anniversary living together as an intentional community, with our 5th annual Harvest Festival. we have hosted this large outdoor potluck every labor day since our second year.

I didn’t get an actual count this time, but lots of people came:

and had a good time:

and bobbed for apples:
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and enjoyed the ever-popular pie contest:


which our friends Sandy and Debbie judged again this year.
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Harriet presents a winning pie to the audience:

for the second year in a row, our friends from Wildlife Rescue New Mexico came down and did an educational presentation with rescued raptors.

Kristin Madden holding a turkey vulture:

Brian Rassmussen with a red-tailed hawk

barn owl:

we played some music

and some acro-yoga

and some of us had a dirt fight

what do you mean, “not in the eyes”? why not?

a lot of us got to spend time with good friends



and admire Alan’s new haircut
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and swing in the hammock

and enjoy the land.

Harvest Festival, Monday Sept 2nd (yes, Monday. it’s Labor Day.)

Join us for our fifth annual Harvest Festival! Monday, September 2 (Labor Day).

Come 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– Bring a pie! Prizes!
Bobbing for Apples, Horseshoes
Open Acoustic Music Jam — bring your instruments!

Back for a second year! we’ll have a Raptor Presentation from Wildlife Rescue New Mexico!

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.

for directions, please message yarrow at sunflowerriver dot org. comments left here will come to my attention eventually, but in a less timely manner; email is best! thanks!

Plaster & Sculpture Party, this Sunday!

Come get dirty with us!

Plaster party Sunday, August 25th, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Some of the plaster got knocked down by that amazing rain a couple weeks ago — like, a third of the plaster on the north side of the wall– so we have some re-mudding to do (now with extra lime for extra staying power!), and then a base-coat to apply on the north side of the newly-finished bit of wall.

This work consists of mixing up a special mud recipe, and throwing it at the wall. It’s a ton of fun, and you’ll learn a lot about earthen plastering.

We’re also ready to add some more bas-relief plaster sculpture on the east wall. We’re interested in all sorts of plant, animal, and natural-world related artwork — if you’d like to get in on this, come on down!

A hearty vegetarian lunch will magically appear around 2pm. We’ll send all volunteers home with farm goods.

Come on down and get muddy!

Kat: wall update, and less-than-feral cats.

we’re done rebuilding the wall! this has been a long time coming. we had a crew of four interns here for a month this summer, and while they were here, they put in a course of wall every day, until they got it done! it feels amazing to walk out my door and feel the physical presence of that solid boundary right there.

we also got it about 1/4 plastered last weekend. we’ll pick up with plastering as soon as we have a few more interns again — most of our last crew have headed off to various new adventures.

finished! and the plastering well begun.


the sunflowers Rev built, now complete with morning glories:


and today’s gratuitous cute kitty post: look how much progress i’m making on domesticating Furdre! now that she’s discovered that being petted feels good, she’s making up for lost years of touch. everytime i step outside, that cat is right there twining around my ankles — or whacking them if i fail to obey her demands. hah.



Kat: Mahazda Demolition: Done!

first off, here’s the full set of photographs from the Mahazda demolition project. When the rennovation is complete, I’ll do a before-during-after set of each room.

by mid-April, we were all set to finish everything up, but it was just too much to get done in one day with the group that was able to be there. so that workday ended with both substantial progress, and substantial disappointment. with the big Beltane festival coming up, which we were coordinating, we wanted to be able to wrap this stage of the project up before leaving down for the festival. so we pushed things around in the calendar to free up the Sunday before Beltane, and implored our friends to come help. it turns out we have spectacularly awesome friends; three people came out to put in a full afternoon’s work with us, and with three of us also able to jump in, we got the last of everything done!

now we are in the process of negotiating with the contractor about specific details of the rennovation. this will be a very thorough rennovation: new electric, plumbing, insulation, heating/cooling systems, floors. a large kitchen, two bathrooms, new windows and doors. we will do the kitchen cabinetry and the finish work (trim, cabinets, painting) ourselves, to save costs and put our own hands into the work.

we’d like to put in radiant heat, and wrap the house with strawbales for the most effective insulation (and sound-proofing!). initial estimates for the latter come in higher than we like, but it seems like there ought to be a way to do a strawbale wrap for less. if anybody has any leads on that, please let me know! of course we can do some of the work ourselves, but that also slows the project down, possibly substantially, because of the way we have to schedule ourselves; it’s the group process thing. that is one of the options we’re looking at. but you know, if one of our readers has a cousin who is a contractor who has done strawbale wraps on existing structures before, or something, do *please* drop me a note! yarrow at sunflowerriver dot org. thanks!

Kat: and suddenly, it’s almost June

the spring slips away, just like that: it is Summertime. my favorite season. i am made for the desert heat, the solid caress of sun on bare skin, bare feet in the soil, the rich blue skies and long warm evenings.

we can barely keep up with the garden.


this weekend, i took time to finally trellis the honeysuckle up front, which was entwined with the spirea. both of them will do better now, and we like the look of the trellis.

Anactoria, enjoying some afternoon shade:

our newest crop: butterscotch brats. er, cats. (hard to tell the difference, with that one.)

the pond is waking up, and has recently experienced some renovations, which Alan will write about in another entry.

the garden is all fractals.
clary sage:



we’ll get to eat artichokes direct from the garden this year!

the garden critters are as abundant as the greens. insects proliferate, in spite of the poultry grazing on them. here is a mother wolf spider, helping take care of the bug problem by producing a zillion more wolf spiders for us.

squash coming in beneath some volunteer tobacco, which we let grow to discourage grasshoppers, and provide some tobacco for ceremonial uses

mystery flowers:

we let some dill go to seed last year. best decision ever! now we are overrun with delicous dill!

Kat: April in the Garden

A quick photo update, while I run around madly getting everything together for Beltane.

bridal spirea, among my favorite flowering shrubs:



these really are this vivid. they smell like vanilla, too.

greens upon greens


possibly the best photo of lettuce i’ve ever taken.

and no photo update is complete without a kitty. here’s Tybalt, blending in, and heading straight for the camera, predictably.

also, bonus. Aerialist nom-noms. these little guys roam the house and steal things. adorably. now they are learning how to fly on the ceiling fan cords.