Spence says today is the equinox, which is Latin for “equal night”, when the day and the night are equal in length. I planted oats and barley for our animals to graze on behind the house, and they are coming up nicely among the mallow. Hopefully on Thursday I will plant a small pasture with the same, and some clovers, to try to get a head start on the less palatable stuff that came up last year in the Winter. I really don’t know what I am doing, and I don’t know anyone out here who grazes with much interest in anything besides keeping the tumbleweed down and the cattle standing. But there are other intensive grazers out there in our county, I’ve seen their ranches in the hills.
I ordered a subscription to the Stockman Grass Farmer last week, and Spence and I are looking forward to getting our first copy. We used to read it in Maryland, and it always had fascinating articles and bits of information. And we renewed our Small Farmer’s Journal subscription–that one we first heard about from Kate Stout of North Creek Community Farm in Wisconsin; although, I don’t know how we didn’t hear of it before that, what with our backwards yearnings for simplicity, family-centered life, and satisfying physical labor. When we asked Kate how she had gone from getting an ag degree at UCDavis in her native CA, to running a successfully small, antique tractor and horse powered farm in Wisconsin, she said it all started with a copy of the Small Farmer’s Journal that she read while in college. We were at her farm in 2012, and it was pretty darn close to what we want to do, although we would like to focus on dairy animals and grazing as our centerpiece enterprise, rather than vegetables. But the same goals of community centered production, animals in rotation, mixing new and old technologies, and enjoying our work, tie our ideas together. And in practice, it was quite beautiful. I am sure the work can be frustrating and back-breaking at times, but you sleep well afterwards. Here is the view from Kate’s lovely hay loft:
Fall is coming on and the day temperatures are dropping into the 80’s and 70’s instead of the 100’s. Night time is positively enjoyable, almost chilly. We can sleep with the blankets on again. Today I am baking stuffed pumpkins for lunch–a bit of an overreach that is making the kitchen hotter than hell, but a breeze is moving outside and sending little cooling tendrils of air in through the open windows.
The hens are moved onto a new spot closer to the barn, with no shade but and a little more protected from the wind. They looked quite miserable the first day, but have since found lots of interesting places to explore for bugs and tidbits. They are laying almost 2 dozen eggs a day and we sent our first batch to market with the milk on Saturday in San Diego. Hopefully we will send another batch to the Santa Cruz Wednesday farmer’s market too. The income should pay for the hens feed and the hay for the goats and calf. If we had more acreage to work with and more hens we could pay rent with it–but that may happen one day, who knows!
Today we are going to hang out at the dairy while Spence milks the goats (all 180 of them) and pick raw pistachios from the little pistachio orchard, and watch the young heifers grazing down the dairy owner’s yard. They are the handsomest lawnmowers I’ve seen yet. And Spencer has promised to catch the tarantula that is hanging out at the dairy, to show the girls. Apparently this is the time of year that the tarantulas are on the move (I’m not sure where to), and the rest of the year they are in hiding. Makes sense, because we haven’t seen them since last Fall. Makes jumping in leaf piles sound a little less appealing. . . but they aren’t aggressive spiders, and not very poisonous to people.
Here is one of our broilers. She is a particularly healthy and active bird, and I may keep her instead of eating her and see if I can hatch my own batch of broilers from her eggs next time, instead of buying chicks. It’s coming up on that time soon, and thankfully the cooler weather means it will be a less unpleasant job. Now we just have to find some folks willing to help us pluck them by hand–or to loan us a plucker. That’s the hardest part of the whole deal.
Here are the hubbard squash we grew this summer, and a couple local pumpkins (pre-baking). I must bid you adieu now, and rescue Max from falling off the piece of furniture she has so gleefully ascended.
Happy Equal Night everyone, hope it’s a restful one.