spring! and, um, summer. ish.

i have so much to update! spring is charging along at full force, as are the preparations for the summer solstice festival.

the garden is growing beautifully again this spring:
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and so are the grasshoppers:
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After the ravages the grasshoppers visited upon us last year, we were not thrilled to begin seeing thousands of them this year. So we have put down many pounds of organic, grasshopper-specific pesticide called NoloBait. The grasshoppers eat it, and it makes them sterile, so each successive generation is much smaller than the previous one. This should slow down the rate at which they eat every living thing on our farm.

Elliott’s cute, but he just can’t keep up. He spends too much time eating the bok choy, and admiring himself in reflective surfaces such as the french doors, and blue cars. Blue cars are his favorite.
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The field, now in its second year of growing cover crops (wheat and clover) to crowd out the sunflowers and such, is looking pretty spectacular. We decided not to run any chickens on it this year, which will give the plants more of a chance to get established.
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and for the first time, the flood irrigation in the green belt area can fully surround all our little water-starved orchard trees! This has been a long time coming, and has involved many kinds of miscommunications and setbacks, which probably deserves a full post that I don’t have time to write. In any case, I was thrilled to watch the honeysuckle apple tree get four inches deep in water when we flooded last weekend.
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With Summer LongDance moving to Sunflower River, dance ground/ fire circle infrastructure is a major project this month. We made good headway on shaping the space last weekend.

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Though there’s plenty more work to do — if you’re interested in getting in on that, join us on June 4th or 12th for our work parties!

Meanwhile, the tree that fell over last spring is growing new trees from itself:
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It’ll be ready to fall on another car in about 50 years.

and here’s this month’s gratuitous kitty pic: Tybalt inside the wall.
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around the farm

signs of spring:
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one of our new projects this year, is that Jenny is starting a kid’s homeschool/ farm group. they have their own garden bed, to work in from start to finish — all the way from soil to harvest!
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rain-chain
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last year, we selected our annual laying flock from a breed of hens (Black Australorps) that are known for not slowing down over winter. and sure enough, they did not slow down this winter!
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a barred rock hen, asking me why exactly i’m not letting her out to tear up and eat the tender shoots of fresh spring greens just beginning to come up in all the gardens
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turkey tom
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ice monsters in the aquaponics tanks are becoming infrequent, as the nights and days both warm into spring
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the apricots are blooming.

and the kitties, of course, enjoying all this lovely sunshine.
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getting ready for spring, which is already here

We spent the weekend work-partying for Ostara. the project du jour was to rescue the ritual ground from the bunch grasses which had taken over. in the last couple years, we’ve largely left the ritual ground unmaintained, which has had the effect of allowing the big bunch grasses to grow all the way across it. This stuff is easily 3′ tall when full-grown, and grows in tough clumps up to 2-3′ across.

So a whole bunch of really awesome people came over and we dug and dug and dug. and then we put the grass through a post-process — shaking the dirt off it, so we can re-level the ritual ground, breaking off the long stems for straw, and composting the root matter.

the weather was brilliantly cooperative, and we had glorious bright warm sunshine all day, February notwithstanding.

in the beginning
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making progress
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almost there
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Tybalt, helping. he’s a helper.
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done!
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well, done with digging anyway. next, raking!
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and processing the resulting giant pile of dug-up grasses. we’re still working on that one, and could really use some help!
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much gratitude to Sammy, Morgan, Amber & Azreal, Terra, Dharma, Meggie, and everybody else who came out to help! We would not be what we are but for your love and assistance.

we’ve got another Ostara-prep work party on Friday the 18th! We’d love a hand finishing up– we’ve got to finish processing this grass, and rake the ritual gruond level so that nobody breaks an ankle on the uneven ground, and do a bunch of tidying all over the property, and rake leaves. if you can help, please come on down on the 18th! we’ll get started about 10 a.m.

the quickening

and then i didn’t post anything for three months. oops. life has been a little full, here, and not entirely with farm-related matters. i will aim to get a new photo post up soon!

meanwhile the farm has had a quiet, productive winter. we’ve had one excellent intern all winter, and we’ve kept moving steadily on small and medium sized projects, saving the big things for warmer weather. winter was almost as wet as fall, with several snowstorms. only in the last few weeks has it really begun to dry out, and now we are all crackling with static electricity, and i keep hoping it will rain again. back to normal, in other words.

in this warm february thaw, we’re gearing up for spring planting. Sarah has tilled a good layer of finished poultry compost into the whole garden. Jenny and i are organizing lists of garden tasks, balancing the general needs of the natural cycles we engage with, plants and birds, against the needs of our social and spiritual cycles, the quickening from Imbolc to Ostara and our upcoming Ostara festival.

towards that end, we have a couple public work parties coming up, and we could very much use a hand! the first is February 27th, 10-5, and the second is March 18th, also probably 10-5. On February 27th, we’ll be clearing bunchgrass from the large ritual ground, which it has rather taken over, as well as tending to the basins of the orchard trees around the large ritual ground. We’ll also rake all the winter leaves out of the acequia, and move the leaves over to a compost pile. While this is going on, we’ll have a crew running a small chipper, chipping up sticks into mulch to mulch the large ritual ground. Any leftover mulch will go to mulch the fire circle out back, in preparation for our Summer Solstice event later this year.

On the 18th, we’ll finish up any ritual area prep that didn’t get done, as well as setting up the potluck area for the feast, and cleaning the entire property before the guests arrive. this tends to include a lot of raking leaves, picking up trash, cleaning up the trails, and things like that.

If you’re in the area, we’d love to see you there!

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:
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lots of rain:
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some truly spectacular sunsets (taken from off University Blvd, a few miles from our house)
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SO much rain
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also, we grew a lot of duckweed by accident in the back pond:
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rain on tomatoes:
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October 30th in the garden. these are tomatoes. they are all, every one, taller than me.
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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.*
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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:
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mysterious yellow leaves, falling from the still-extremely-green canopy, surround my oddly-diagonal sunbathing cat.
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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.

July:
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November:
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finishing the interior finish-coat:
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we installed some rockin’ gates from Groff Lumber, too.
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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!

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.

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corn.
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an overview of the green
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we’re getting more interesting bugs, like this gorgeous mallow beetle.
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we also have a family of summer tanagers living in the cottonwoods. this is the female:
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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.
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and here is a fledgling tanager.
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incipient pomegranates
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a lily in the aquaponics system
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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).

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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):
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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.
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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.
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the fence took some of it:
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but Jenny’s car took most of it.
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and after Jeremy got the tree off it:
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here is Jeremy disconnecting the fallen trunk.

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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!