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!

Pirate Fort Refresh

Another project we’ve been working on this autumn is the Pirate Fort. Jenny has had plans for further developing it, including a treehouse and zip line, but we’ve had a hard time prioritizing the work over other projects. This fall we had a wonderful intern family staying with us, including two kids. Nick, the kids’ dad, is a skilled carpenter, and was interested in tackling the Pirate Fort project. So a lot of things happened in a short period of time!

Nick added a window with shutters, and a ship’s wheel to the main deck of the fort. He and Rev also designed and installed a lid for the sandbox, to keep sand in and dogs, cats, etc out. They came up with a lightweight lid that the kids and lift and latch by themselves, without needing and adult to do it for them.


farm kids are very familiar with that type of latch from a young age.

The next major improvement will be the treehouse portion, which requires us to set some posts, and abbreviate some elm trees. The posts are set:

and the next stage will include cutting down some of those pesky elms, and then building the main part of the tree house. after that, one of the remaining elms becomes one end of the new zip line! we’ll post about that when we get that far… which may take a minute.

North Path Project

Our property has a path, which we created intentionally, that runs around its perimeter, so that we can “walk the loop” as a method of getting places, or as a form of leisure, without disrupting the ecology of the interior parts of the land, particularly out back where it is more wild and therefore also more sensitive. The loop runs from behind each of the two houses, up the long north and south sides of the property, and connects in ashort stretch on the western edge.

Unfortuantely, our North Path has a problem. A couple of problems. The acequia (irrigation ditch) also runs along the north edge of the property. In some areas, the path is up on the edge of the ditch, where it stays nice and dry, but in other areas, the edge was filled with thickets of wild brush, which we let grow to provide habitat for little birds and other wild creatures — we had a nesting pair of roadrunners in there one year. In those areas, the path dives into the property a bit, to circumvent the shrubbery, and this means that whenever we irrigate, the first thing to flood is the path. Which renders it quite un-path-like.

In the last couple years, that thicket has died, creating a fire-hazard. So we decided to remove the thicket and move the path up onto the ditchbank for the entire length of the north edge. No small feat!

The day began like this:

Alan and Jenny taking apart the thicket by hand. This involved six people, a couple pruning shears, and two pruning saws, over the course of the day.

We sawed and yanked and broke pieces of wood out until we had a massive pile of sticks, and then people stuffed these into wheelbarrows and took them back to the Stick Pile, which is a problem we’re hoping to address next month.

Several hours of such work resulted in this:

our wwoofer Becky poses for the camera while Jenny continues thicket-wrangling

progress!

we did a great deal of pruning live elms, as part of making it possible for a person to walk down the new path, as well.

and after all that, towards the end of the day, we were able to move west along the path to the next blocked area — a thicket of Johnson grass. after a day of battling intertwined dead trees and shrubs, it was positively satisfying to stomp on the grass and create a path in mere minutes.

at the end of the day, this view:

had transformed into this!

complete with bonus dog.

this week our formiddable team of amazing interns through wwoof are finishing up the work by bringing many, many, wheelbarrows of clay back onto the new path, raising and levelling it so that it will be nice to walk on, and remain above the floodplain when we resume irrigating next spring.

turkey time!

Thinking about a farm-fresh Thanksgiving turkey this year? Sunflower River has 8 more birds available! Reserve yours today by emailing Kat.

Birds require a $20 deposit, which holds your place in line and is deducted from the final cost of the bird. Birds are $6/pound if you come help process, $7/pound if you don’t. They will range from 6-20 pounds this year. All of our birds this year are Royal Palm turkeys, a heritage breed.

Wall Art Plaster party day!

You are invited to an art-making day on the earthbag wall at Sunflower River! Parts two and three!

Saturday, October 14, 1 – 5 p.m.

and Saturday, Oct 21st 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Come make art on our earthbag wall! The theme is plants & animals, and we invite you to come sculpt a bas-relief plant or animal on the interior of the Sunflower River property wall! Some specific things we are looking for include: dragonflies, flowers and plants, and a roadrunner! We’re also open to suggestions from you, the artists!

The material we’ll use to sculpt is a cementacious plaster mix (contains portland cement, lime, sand and water), so gloves are required. We’ll have a box of nitrile gloves available, as well as sculpting tools (we’ve found that plastic knives are the perfect thing).

Through trial-and-error, we have learned that the best process has been to have a photo of the thing you want to make, and then use the photo as a reference to create a charcoal sketch on the wall (we have charcoal), and then build up the sculpture from there.

We would love, love, love to have some more awesome art up on the wall this year! Come play! We hope to see you there!

10-Year Retrospective Photo Post

Sometime during the first part of our first year, we picked up a book called the Encyclopedia of Country Living. It gave us the sage advice that we would overestimate what we could accomplish in one year — and dramatically underestimate what we could accomplish in ten. We have held to that as a hopeful spar when we were floundering with the unmovable weight of Too Much To Do over the years. And while the last ten years have definitely not gone precisely as our first few ten-year plans would have predicted, we have also definitely accomplished a lot more than we anticipated! Mahazda and the wall are hands-down the two biggest and most noticable infrastructure projects, but we have also accomplished a hundred smaller projects that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives now. Sometimes how far we have come is eclipsed by all we yet mean to do, so it helps to take a moment and reflect back on the changes. And so many people are in our lives now whom we did not know when we began Sunflower River! So take a look through these images and see how much has changed on our little piece of this Earth in just these ten years!

This is a long photo post. I am not sorry.

Garden, field & barn, September 2007

Same view today:

you can just about make out the barn, back there, behind the garden.

the garden, from west looking east to Isleta Blvd, Sept 2007

I’m including this one because it shows the difference in our land SO acutely, but I could not retake this shot, because it was nothing but a solid wall of apricot leaves, beans, and sunflowers. maybe next month, after the sunflowers have come down, and you can see the greenhouse & the earthbag wall from the garden again?

i think this is my very favorite contrast set, in all of these:
Apricot tree, freshly planted, March 2008

Apricot tree, Sept 2017

the cold frames by the Gate of Possibility, with bonus turkeys, 2009

that same spot today, complete with Alan & Rev:

just a wee little bit of intensive change has happened in this particular corner.

The Old Barn, Sept 2007 and Spring 2008

that neighborhood today:

my favorite shot of the Actual Barn from Sept 07.

and that view today, as best i can recreate it:

barn, barnyard, and driveway, Sept 2007

and (from slightly further back) Sept 2017

Barn Interior, 2007

and same corner, 2017

goat pen, sept 07

becomes peacock pen, Sept 17

the barnyard seen from the east side of the goat pen:

same view, i promise:

rabbit house, version 2 (rejected after major dog attack)

has been transformed into a poultry pen

chicken pen, Sept 07

creating the garden, January 08


i’m noticing this theme of “greenery grows large and eats the view.”

Cottage backyard & yurt area, Sept 07

from a slightly different angle, because my yurt is exactly right there now

Grandfather Cottonwood seen from the pasture, Fall 2007

same view right now:

The ritual ground is behind me, in this image:

and now. i couldn’t get the dog to cooperate, so here’s a cat.

another angle on the ritual ground, as it began. for realz.

and now.

front fenceline, Spring 2008

and now:

my beloved VW the AutoKineton, and my yurt in its original skin (also called “why Kat doesn’t try to sew architecture anymore”)

and, from a different angle, Tremaine and the yurt as it presently stands:

herb garden, August 08

Sept 17. it has apparently gotten slightly overgrown.

the original compost bins:

and a complete redo, which Rev is finishing right this minute:

some indoor transformations: The Cottage livingroom the week we bought the place, during the “rip the carpet out and refinish the floors” phase

the same corner of the Cottage livingroom, several remodelling efforts later

more of the Cottage floor situation

and now.

Building the Coyote Fence, 2008, with Tristan & Alan

and now:

and the other side, with Jenny and one of our very first wwoofers, Joanna:

and now.

and this all doesn’t even touch the Mahazda renovation project! that’ll have to be a whole ‘nother post sometime.

and, just for narrative closure today, one last kitty picture.

Sunflower River is turning ten years old!

It’s a little hard to believe how fast the time has flown by. We read a homesteading book our first year, that advised us that we would over-estimate what we could get done in one year, and under-estimate what we could accomplish in ten. There are definitely things we thought we would have gotten to by now (goats? possibly mythical, hypothetical goats?), and also things we have accomplished that were barely on our original ten-year plan (giant earthbag property wall! buying and rennovating an entire ‘nother house!)

A couple things we’ll be doing to mark this anniversary — first, our Harvest Festival this year, on September 4th (yes, Monday of Labor Day!) will be a celebration of our birthiversary. I’m going to go back through the archives on this blog and find the five-year photo retrospective i did a while ago, and take new photos from those same angles, and post a ten-year photo retrospective, documenting the scope of the changes we have enacted on and with our land.

Aside from that — what are your ideas? How should we celebrate this? We’re open to hear suggestions! Especially for things that could be done at the Harvest Fest. Feel free to comment here!

***

We bought the first property that became Sunflower River in September 2007. It was 3.5 acres of weeds and potential, with some slightly-ratty outbuildings and one little house shaded by giant cottonwood trees. Ten years later, it is four acres, two yurts, two houses, a big garden, a few weeds (but not a patch on those first couple years!), two ritual circles, a dance ground, a greenhouse, intern housing, some pretty solid outbuildings (including three that we added), and a pond — all shaded by giant cottonwood trees. and it’s still got a lot of potential. and we’ve still got a lot of plans for it.

so many intentional communities don’t make it this far. I’m very proud of Sunflower River, that we have talked through (and continue to talk through!) our differences, and remained committed to our core vision and our integrity as a group.

Here’s that vision, still just as true as the day we wrote it:

Sunflower River is joyfully creating a sanctuary wherein we embody and promote sustainability, spirituality, adaptability, and safety, within ourselves, our community, our land, and Gaia.

It has held up well to the rigors, trials and triumphs of the years.

here’s to the next ten!

monsoon season

it’s been a long summer already, and hot, but the monsoons finally seem to have arrived! fingers crossed that they stay, now that it is raining. the farm received a good gentle soak last night, adding up to a half inch of rain for July — not exactly a record, but an awful lot better than nothing, and a good start to the season.

rainy garden:

meanwhile, the peacock has shed his tail (feathers still for sale, $2.50 for 3 feathers, please email Kat directly).

this artichoke bloomed and went to seed in the garden:

tomatoes are ripening:

there are toads everywhere (but not quite enough to keep up with the grasshoppers, alas)

hawks adorn the skies
(this one is a young Swainson’s Hawk)

our stalwart crew has canned many many pots of nectarine, apricot and peach jam:

the horse next door had a baby:

monsoon clouds are one of the best things ever:

except maybe for heart-shaped monsoon rainbows:

we have sunflowers with Sun-Flowers:

and my cat is a-door-able.

and i’m not sorry for the puns.

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