Author Archives: yarrow

Spring Projects – Yurt Cover Protection

Another project that needed attending to this spring was the protection of Alan’s yurt cover. The cover was originally made from a reclaimed billboard, sewn into yurt-cover-shape and then painted grey with regular exterior latex house paint. That was in 2009, so it really has lasted a long time, all things considered. Last summer, we observed that the roof material had developed pinprick holes everywhere, and water was getting in. By this past winter, it was possible to see daylight through the roof in the thinner areas.

So we brainstormed solutions, from “buy a new cover” (expensive) down to “repaint it and hope that helps” and settled on repainting it — but with an elastomeric roof coating, the kind of thing used on flat vinyl roofs.

It took three people one entire day — also not bad for a project on this scale.

It is very white now, but we are pleased to report that daylight no longer gets through the roof! As soon as it ever rains again, we’ll know if water can still get in, but I’m betting this worked. It should extend the life of the cover by a few years, hopefully long enough for us to be able to invest in a new one!

spring, sprang, sprung

There’s been so much going on at the farm this spring! Which is usual for springtime on farms, I suppose.

After a number of setbacks (mice, irrigation, wild swings in the weather) the greenhouse is up and running for the year and beginning to produce lovely little seedlings for us.

Meanwhile the peas are climbing, and some other veggies emerging from the garden, and we are looking up at what is going to become a bumper crop of apricots if the weather holds.

(photo taken a few weeks ago — it takes a lot longer to write blog posts than to grow peas, turns out)

The beehives are ready for bees to move in next month:
note the lovely observation window, which should make it a lot easier on us, and the bees, when we observe how they’re doing.

Our intern Shelby and I took apart the old Glass Shed (a shed we used to store glass jars and other canning supplies in, which has since been replaced by the Potting Shed, which is larger, solider, and has many fewer cracks for dust to get in through. the Glass Shed had skunks living under it all summer and we decided it was time for it to go.) So we pulled off the asbestos tiles:

And then took it apart:

And then Rev took the pieces, and made a lot more progress on the Tree House beside the Pirate Fort:

Meanwhile, baby turkeys have arrived:

And we’ve had our first flood-irrigation night of the year. In this intensely dry weather, the floodwaters are both a great relief, and a precious precarious resource. We are praying every day for rain.

a year of tasks, measured in beer-inches

One of the ways we communicate about projects on the farm is that there is a kanban (information board) in the kitchen, with sticky notes on it, that go from Projects to Tasks. When a task gets done, you move it to the Done section, and we celebrate that at house meeting each week, and then put the done notes in a jar. At the end of the yera, we take the whole jar worth of notes to the retreat. Here are the results from the last two years, measured against a standard reatreat-food item. ;)

2016

2017

it looks like we got more things done in 2017– or anyway, were better about keeping track of thte things we got done!

2018 Calendar — updated!

We have so many great events happening this year! The first big one is brand new to us — the Sunflower River Music Festival!

Rev is now running a quarterly music festival, through Mariposa Music. It will have local bands, vendors, live artists, and we will offer farm tours to VIP ticket holders. The first one is April 7th — we’d love to see you there! This event will also run in June, August, and October.

We’ll be doing more Wall Art Days this summer, in June and September. The theme is plants & animals, and Kat can teach you how to engage with the cement bas-relief process if you’re interested in getting involved but unfamiliar with the material.

We’ve also added a couple of brand new workshop offerings to our calendar — July 14th and October 20th we will offer a Chicken Processing workshop. This will be a one-morning workshop that will teach anyone interested how to process chicken, from the live bird to ready-for-the-table. We’ll also offer a workshop on our Retreat Processes in August. We often hear from people that we are exceptionally well organized, and good at doing what we do, and we agree — so we’re offering this class to anybody interested in picking up some of the planning, management or organizational tools that we use, so you can use them in your own home or community organization. To keep informed of details as they arise, watch this space, or sign up for our Events mailing list.

These are all in addition to our usual monthly work parties!

Spring cleaning, continued

Come join Sunflower River for a day in the sunshine! We’ll be tackling a variety of spring cleaning projects — getting the land ready for the Ostara festival (which is on the 17th), cleaning the brooders for baby birds, and tidying up all the ritual grounds. If enough people come, we’ll also take apart a no-longer-needed shed in the barnyard.

A hearty vegetarian lunch will appear around 2pm, and we will send all volunteers home with farm goods! We hope to see you there!

Spring Cleaning

We spent last weekend up to our eyebrows in spring cleaning projects — clearing leaves out of both the acequias, and tilling the garden for an early spring planting!

Our north neighbor Manuel asked us to pitch in on clearing mud and leaves from the concrete acequia this year, so two of us spent the day on that.

Before: waist-deep leaves, with a 2-3″ layer of dry mud caked on the bottom.

After:

That felt good at the end of the day. Though it also felt sore.

Another crew finished clearing leaves from the mud ditch and lowering it a bit.

Meanwhile, a third team tackled the dry, drought-hardened garden soil, which had to be turned in chunks, and then broken up.

We hope to finish that project this week, as well as adding compost to all the rows, setting up the trellising and irrigation for spring, and getting the spring planting done before we leave for our Annual Retreat next weekend. Anybody want to come help out on Friday? Jenny and I will be tackling it again all day! We’d love a hand.

Field Fencing

When we first moved to Sunflower River, in 2007, one of the plans was to get goats some day. It’s still a plan.

Meanwhile, we raised meat chickens in chicken tractors on our pasture field for several years, until one year a dog from next door broke into the tractors and killed or scattered all of the chickens, all in one fatal afternoon.

Since then, we have not attempted to raise chickens in the field, as we cannot risk having to absorb that kind of emotional or financial loss more than once. Finally we have been able to make time to take the next step towards raising chickens out there again: we fenced the field!

First we went around the area we want to fence with string, and marked the line. Then we spent a long day in the winter sunshine pounding T-posts in along the line, and setting hefty wooden posts at the corners and for the gates (two truck-wide gates east and west, so we can get a tractor or a truck in and across if we need to, and one wheelbarrow-wide pedestrian gate for daily access for animal care). Then, a couple weeks later, we came back and used a come-along to string up the wire fencing.

In some areas, we needed to move the field’s irrigation berm, so that it would align with the fence. We fenced on top of the berm on three sides, to increase the height of the fence. We will still need to go along and add a strip of chicken wire to the bottom all around the field, to prevent the fence from being dug under by that dog, or other predators such as skunks and raccoons — a project we hope to ask some of our upcoming crop of spring interns to handle next month.


you can see the recently moved berm

Rev has started to hang the gates, and we will be fixing up the chicken tractors and raising meat birds out there again this year!

We’re also tentatively planning on creating a workshop/class around processing meat chickens, so keep your eyes out for that post if you’re interested!

P.S.: We also found a very small bird nest in the scrub brush at the side of the field.

Acequia & Garden work party

Sunflower River is getting ready for Springtime! And we’d love your help! On Saturday, February 10th, we’ll be tilling the garden, mixing in compost, and clearing out the acequias that bring the water of life to our fields. This is “many hands make light work” — lots of raking and moving leaves, especially from the north-south acequia, as well as moving compost and shovelling in the garden, and pulling weeds and shovelling dirt from the west-east acequia.

Come play in the warm winter sunshine in fabulous company! Bring work gloves if you have them; otherwise we have some you can use. We’ll get started about 10 a.m., and work until sunset or we’re done, whichever comes first.

A hearty lunch will appear around 2pm. All volunteers will be gifted with farm goods, as well as our eternal gratitude!

We hope to see you there!

sticks, redux.

We conquered the stick pile!

First we rented a big landscape chipper. Then we had to get it back to the stick pile. We almost didn’t make it past that part. Plan A had us driving the chipper up the neighbor’s road, and somehow getting this 1800 lb piece of machinery (on wheels) over the ditch. We probably could have done it, with Alan’s bridge plan and enough help, but the timing was really refusing to align, and it became celar that this plan would not manifest. Plan B was to park it in the main ritual ground, which is accessible by truck, and bring the sticks to it. This plan had a major fail-point — bringing that mountain of sticks up would be days and days of work all by itself, not to mention chipping them. It would have been almost certainly unattainable.

Then the day I brought the chipper home, Rev came up with a plan for how to navigate driving through the middle of the property, in spite of lattices, a shade structure, a giant root cellar hole, berming and paths that were not there the last time we did this, in 2008-09. So we got the chipper back to the site, fired it up, and dove into the work! We had 12 hours of run-time on the chipper under our rental contract, and we aimed to use every minute of it to best advantage. We also had help, both that day and the next, and our stalwart crew of volunteers, some of whom had so much fun on the first day that they came back on the second, made our success possible! This was truly a team effort.

here’s our starting condition:

and the team working:

end of the first day

the second day was the official work party day. We all got up with the sun and bundled up, and had the chipper running and teams hauling sticks around by 8 a.m.

That was one long day of noisy machinery, wrestling sticks out of brush piles and into bunches of the right size for the chipper, hauling them over, stuffing branches and sticks and whole small trees into the chipper, getting stuff thrown at us by the chipper, bringing up sunflower stalks from the person-height pile by the compost, wrestling more piles of sticks out of various corners of the property (spoiler: no, we didn’t get them all, but we eliminated more than one gnarly sub-pile completely, and we made really big dents in at least two others). At the beginning, and at various points, someone would grab a wheelbarrow full of mulch and trundle it up to the main ritual ground and bring it back to stick under the outflow chute again, but somewhere alon gthe line we decided to just save that problem for later (haha, this is totally not a perennial pattern for us, of course not…).

By the end of the process, we were dumping barrows full of small stick material, which, as time has shown, does not effectively compost in this climate in less than a geologic era, into the chipper.

and by the time we ran out of time on the chipper, and the sun was beginning to set, we had genuinely succeeded.

As you can see, there are still some sticks available. Since this photo was taken, two truckloads of these larger stumps and logs have found their way to other homes, some to be firewood, some to become a barrel course for our friends at Enchanted Equine Adventures. A couple of friends and several MFA students from the University are coming down in the next few weeks, to pick through the remaining piles and pull out the interesting art logs and stumps that they can make things out of. If you’d like to come down and get some, too, just message me! (email or text is better than leaving a comment here, but that’s an option, too). I’m feeling pretty confident that by planting time, the whole field will be free of large sticks!

sticks!

Sunflower River is going to tackle our epic stick pile this weekend.   And we could really use a hand! We’ve got ourselves an industrial chipper for the weekend, but there’s no way to drive, well, *anything* back to where the sticks are.  So we’re going to park the chipper in the main ritual ground, which needs the mulch anyway, and haul all the sticks up from the wayback to chip them.

And wow is that a “many hands make light work” kind of task.  Our stick-volume is epic.  It’s nearly a decade worth of brush and tree prunings and such, all piled up into one vast fire hazard.  Which we aim to not just mitigate, but if possible, eliminate!

So… got some time this weekend?  Want to come help Sunflower River with an important project?  We’ll be moving sticks Saturday from noon till sundown, and then moving sticks and using the chipper all day on Sunday, 8 a.m. till sundown.  We will feed all volunteers, and send you home with awesome farm food!  And we sure could use the help — and the pleasure of your company!