farming / Holiday

The Equal Night

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.


4 thoughts on “The Equal Night

  1. Thank you. A wonderful posting. I wish I could grow hubbard squash like that. Your chickens look so healthy. I have to tell you last night we had shortcake made with your cream and blackberries with more cream. It was and still is luscious. I found this recipe on line that uses cream in the short cake and cream on the short cake. Kind of gilding the lily.

    • That sounds like a perfect recipe!

      Panoche is a great place to grow squash, I wish I had planted more.

      By the way, that stuffed pumpkin recipe we made today was from the Around My French Kitchen cookbook you gave us awhile back. That is our favorite cookbook–thanks again!

  2. Thank you for posting the links to the three magazines that you enjoy. I loved looking over their sites. Did your subscription to the Stockman Grass Farmer finally arrive? Melissa, I am so wowed that you plant oats, barley and clover. You write is as though it is a casual experience. Upon reading about it, I read and re-read the sentence, just visualizing the chore and the hopes connected to its effort. After hearing that Kate ‘s dream and success started with a copy of the Small Farmer’s Journal, I expect I need to order it for myself. Thank you for the tip.

    Your hens look so lovely in their green pen. Does the green stay all year, or does winter take a toll even in California? I’ve never grown Hubbard squash, although my mom-in-law did and I’ve heard stories of her using an axe to split them open. Are they really that hard? My favorite squash has been Butternut, for it’s sweet orange flesh. How does it compare to Hubbard. I think I need to check out your stuffed squash recipe. Wait, I think I just found it.
    Please let me know.

    What does on do with raw pistachios ? I expect the same as with roasted or blanched pistachios.

    I so enjoy your posts. Your photography keeps me browsing through all your old posts.

    • That was the recipe we made. And it was delicious!

      The best thing to do with raw pistachios is. . .eat them. They are sweet and creamy and best eaten quickly or roasted if you want to save them for any length of time.

      Hubbards are pretty hard, but a good sharp kitchen knife works fine, which is good because I don’t think we have an axe. They make a wonderful “pumpkin” pie as well, the flesh is less stringy than most normal pumpkins and sweeter. I like Butternut a lot too, but I think I favor the squashes with drier flesh and Hubbard is drier.

      Winter in CA is the only time of year that the hills and valleys are green naturally. In a good year, rainfall-wise, everything begins to get green in late October, and then by February and March it is getting really lush. By the end of May things are beginning to dry out, wildflowers are blooming, and by the end of June the grasses are dead on the hills and everything is golden brown again. Because of the drought, things were only green for about two months last year. Hopefully more rain will come this season. The chickens are in an area that I watered heavily during the late summer, and that’s the only reason it’s green.

      I enjoy your comments; hope I will have more to post about soon!

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