a highly productive warm winter

We have been having the warmest winter in many years, here. There were still flies alive in mid-December (fortunately, a hard freeze after that finally killed them all off), and the garden didn’t even slow down until late November. Combined with this, the farm has been blessed by truly spectacular interns all winter, with the end result that a lot of outdoor projects, and some indoor ones, are getting done.

for instance, our turkey coop experienced a number of problematic failures this summer during the rainy season. The coop became very lake-like in the rain, and we had a water-system failure that led to having to use trough watering — always a messy, unsanitary arrangement when it comes to poultry. What with it all, though we mucked as often as possible, with the frequent rains, it was also a mess for months.

So we discussed remodelling it — raising the level of the ground to something above the level of the barnyard, so that it would shed water. Installing a completely new watering system, to avoid having to use troughs, but still get enough water to the birds (which the bucket nipple-waterer system wasn’t doing). Changing the door configuration between the carport-end of the coop and the old corral end.

We thought this might take until the 2017 baby turkeys were big enough to move into the coop — that would be the deadline. mid-May. instead, it has all been finished in the last month!

Raised floor:
See how there’s a step up from the barnyard now, and it slopes away from the barnyard toward the open space to the north?

detail on the slope:

including brand-new turkey playground, also much needed, as the old one had collapsed. this photo also shows the new door between the carport-coop and the old coop, doubled in size so that when we are using the whole space as one pen, the birds better understand it as a opening.

and — our interns Sam & Flora, who completed this entire remodel, used a line-level to gently slope the newly-raised ground to the north — and then they lowered the ground north of the coop, so that it slopes back into the pit that was already there! so if this works, runoff from heavy rains this summer will all slough away from the turkey coop, enabling much faster drying times, and preventing the lake effect.


They also built a new, sturdier, roosting system out of old cottonwood branches:

meanwhile, Rev installed and tested a new watering system:

We’re planning to use a similar system in the brooders this year, so that the baby birds get started on this type of watering system from day one. I have high hopes for the overall dryness and cleanliness that could result if this works!

Rev also installed the new laundry lines, a farm-scale construction behind our community house. These lines should hold 4-5 loads of laundry at a time!
Later this year, I hope to paint the header bar with some kind of artfully interesting and attractive design.

in the process of remodelling the coop, Sam and Flora moved a huge amount of clay and sand out of the Mahazda front yard, so the driveway finally looks like an actual entry way:

The previous intern, Dan, got us caught up on a couple year’s worth of chopping firewood:

Ana and Flora got the (very, very messy) greenhouse completely cleaned out and prepped for spring:

and then yesterday the whole crew teamed up to bring five truckloads of horse manure from our friend Kendra’s riding stable, into the garden. it’s tmie for a major garden reset — details to come later this winter, after our upcoming retreat.

and, because we have to have at least one cute animal picture in these photo updates, here are some of our laying hens enjoying the aquaponics system on a balmy January afternoon.

and here’s Tristan’s new dog, Cora, posing for the camera.

autumn, outside the garden


it’s autumning out in other ways, though, even if the garden is refusing to slow down for the season. the grandfather cottonwood is an enormous burst of golden energy, brilliant, dominating the horizon with his glow.

sunflowers have been blooming everywhere.

and other autumn flowers as well, such as these purple asters on the ditch bank.

and these beautiful seed poofs from the indian hemp plants:

not to mention our very own actual red-leafed maple tree:


meanwhile, we finished plastering the main wall:

and then we plastered the secret outdoor privy wall, tucked into a niche. it is made of plywood, and looked a bit out of place as such. we will do the last coat of plaster on it this saturday.

we had to take out the cottonwood on the east side of the property, as it was both dying and leaning in a way that endangered the wall, the gas meter, and nearby cars. Here’s Gawain being King Tree on the stump: 20160927_182309

one consequence of this was a giant pile of wood chips, left (at my request) by the arborists who took the tree out. it solved a timing issue for us with the fire circle: instead of having to rent a chipper and chip up a bunch of our stick pile out back (still on the eventually-list, but now no longer as urgent) in order to mulch the fire circle, we simply moved that mulch pile back from the remains of our tree. the fire circle looks and feels amazing with this protective coat of woodchips, helping it stay soft and free from weeds. when we intend to do a dance event, we’ll rake the mulch out of the way, and the put it back after, and the mulch will keep the ground from becoming a weedy hardpan the rest of the year.

also in the area, our interns are coming up with creative season-extension devices for camping in (an admittedly warm) November, like this cozy strawbale arrangement:

and the sunsets just keep getting better as the season advances.

autumn in the garden

We haven’t had a frost yet, and here it is the first of November. I think we have to call it fall, for the colours, but it doesn’t really feel like fall until the garden actually slows down, which will take a frost.

We grew a lot of these:


and I reorganized the cottage kitchen to create a drying and storage rack for them. I think this is the best solution we’ve had yet for winter squash storage.

the tomatoes have been yielding pounds of fruit every week. it was desperate enough for a while that we were hard pressed to keep up, in spite of selling them, giving them away, and multiple canning and dehydrating batches every day. now that the temperatures have come down a little, the yield is mellowing out, but it’s far from over. We have an entire pantry full of canned tomato sauce, tomato pickles, dried tomatoes, you name it. Now we’re drying tomato leather to use as tomato paste in sauce recipes later on.

at least the corn, which actually didn’t do very well this year, is done and down.

not that i’m complaining about the abundance. i’m just ready for it all to fold in and let us rest a bit as the winter comes in. which it sounds like it’s not going to do much of this year: predictions are for drier & warmer than average weather all winter.

and i’d love enough of a hard freeze to kill off all of these guys:

before they can decimate yet another year’s worth of plants. at least it wasn’t as bad this year as last year. they hit us hard in the spring, but we had put down several pounds of NoloBait, and this paid off over the summer. we’ll do it again next spring.

Harvest Festival

Hope to see you all at the Harvest Festival on Monday!

yes that’s Monday — it’s labor day! 1-6pm at Sunflower River

Pie contest! bring a pie! sweet or savory, any kind. judging promptly at 2pm. glass or pyrex (clear) pans preferred for the judging.

Potluck! bring a dish to share!

Farm Tours!

Music! bring instruments and your dancing self!

Bobbing for Apples!


Kid friendly — but please leave your dogs at home!

Remember we are a working farm; paths are narrow and uneven, and if it rains, things get very muddy. Please dress appropriately.

see you Monday!

Last of the Wall Days

We’re about to finish building the very last piece of our epic Earthbag Wall — which one of my neighbors refers to as the Great Wall of Los Padillas, we’ve been working on it so long!

the last construction day will be this Saturday, August 13th, from 10-6. come on down! this is your last chance to learn or participate in this satisfying and environmentally friendly construction method at Sunflower River — and we could really use and would greatly appreciate more help for the work day!

we’ll have plaster days, to put 3 coats of stucco on the wall, starting after the Harvest Festival.

if you need directions, email me at yarrow@sunflowerriver.org.

hope to see you saturday!


Harvest Festival!

You are invited to the Sunflower River Harvest Festival

Sunflower River is turning nine years old! Help us celebrate by coming to our Harvest Festival!

Monday, Sept 5th (Labor Day), 1-6pm.

Pie-Baking Contest
Farm tours

Mark your calendars and invite your friends!
Plan to bring a potluck dish, musical instruments, and your most celebratory self!

We’ll send another announcement as the date gets closer. If you need directions, email me at yarrow@sunflowerriver.org. Carpooling is encouraged.

See you there!

Kat, Jenny, Tristan, Rev, Alan & Gawain
Sunflower River

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:
20160509_185147< /img>



and so are the grasshoppers:

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.


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.

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.

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.



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:


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.
cat in wall./></p>
					</div><!-- .entry-content -->
		<footer class= This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

around the farm

signs of spring:

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!


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!

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

turkey tom

ice monsters in the aquaponics tanks are becoming infrequent, as the nights and days both warm into spring

the apricots are blooming.

and the kitties, of course, enjoying all this lovely sunshine.

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

making progress

almost there

Tybalt, helping. he’s a helper.


well, done with digging anyway. next, raking!

and processing the resulting giant pile of dug-up grasses. we’re still working on that one, and could really use some help!

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.