It has been a very mild winter in our corner of the Pacific Northwest this year. No snow. Rain & wind events, fog that sometimes lingered for the entire day, and glorious revitalizing sun. Always enough variation to keep it interesting. Even in the starkness of a winter landscape there is beauty to be found. This is where we live and what we have been up to this winter of 2015. Enjoy the meanderings…
Every morsel of food you eat, every bite of food you feed to your family was at it’s point of origin, grown, raised, caught or harvested by someone. Most likely this person was a farmer. Farmers are the essential ingredient to our ability to eat. Farms from enormous to micro-sized all play a part in our food system. The vast majority of farmers are extremely hard working, intelligent, dedicated professionals of their trade. Since a vast majority of citizens aren’t able to grow their own food a farmer is pretty essential… well… to life. So it seems farms, farming, farmers are pretty darn important!
When you are purchasing food, say an apple, a head of broccoli, a carton of milk, a steak, or a dozen eggs you are supporting a farmers work. You are not just purchasing something to put into your stomach, you are purchasing nutrients to fuel your body. Preferably not just any nutrients but ones that will fuel your body well. Food filled with quality nutrients has the capacity to bring you good health, well being, greater productivity & a high quality of life. WOW!!!
If this is true, which it is, why is the pervasive reason to choose a certain food item often based on whether it is “cheap” or not. In other products we purchase most of us know that cheap isn’t always, or rarely is, the best value. Value is every bit as much about quality as it is about price.
Often times, not always, a cheap price can be an indicator of quality, or the lack of it. Ask yourself why is the product cheap? Is it old? Does it contain an inferior quality of ingredients; or possibly ingredients from a lab not a farm at all? Are the farms/farmers growing it concerned with the quality of the soil and growing nutrient dense food? How do their farming practices impact the soil, water & air quality? Are the farms that are providing animals or animal products providing a quality habitat/life for those animals? Were the workers on those farms treated well and receive fair wages so they too can take care of their families? There are a lot of important hidden issues involved in price.
Returning to a food system of local farms producing high quality fresh food items for their communities seems essential. Farmers Markets, Food Co-ops, CSA’s and other Direct from Farm programs are growing in popularity. In a system where the farmer can receive a fair price/living wage for their work and the consumer has access to gorgeous, flavorful, high quality nutritious food, everyone wins. Suddenly low price is not the deciding factor, it is quality. Quality of food. Quality of health. Quality of community. Quality of life for all, producer & customer alike.
If you haven’t yet joined the local food movement make this the year you start. Find a market that sources from local farmers, a Farmer’s Market, a CSA or other Farm Program, or buy Direct from a local Farm. Be willing to spend that extra 50 cents on a head of lettuce or extra $1 for a dozen eggs. You will be awakened to the incredible flavor of truly fresh well raised food. If you have already begun to spend your food dollars more locally add something new this year. Try to source some meat or dairy from a local farm, fruit from a local orchard, local flowers too! The extra effort you put into sourcing local food is so worth it!
-Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food-
Unfortunately not everyone has access to good quality food. It is also quite difficult to stretch a thin budget. Both of these are difficult issues with no clear answers. But it does seem to me that access to quality nutritious food should be a priority in our society. What are your thoughts?
On February 3rd 2015 life on our farm took a major turn. The life of my beautiful Morgan mare Mitzi would end this day. Mitzi was 27 years old and had lived here as a member of our family for nearly 20 years. She had a chronic medical condition that for the last 10 years had eroded her health, but never stole her spirit. When I entered the barn at daylight on Tuesday morning something was obviously wrong. Her best buddy Gary, in the adjoining stall, was standing with his nose against the stall divider making little snuffly noises with his nostrils. I could see her blanketed back thru the divider but her head was down out of sight. I went to her stall door, she was on her feet, wobbly and unsteady. Her stall showed signs that she had been down and struggling during the night, with all of the bedding pushed outward against the stall walls. She raised her head slightly and gave me a small nicker of welcome, a nicker I have heard every morning for nearly 20 years. I went inside the stall, stroked her neck, pulled her ears and asked her “Is today your day old girl?” She put her head against my chest and leaned into me, her answer was “yes”, the spirit was gone. After quickly feeding the other barn inhabitants & leaving Gary standing guard over his best friend, I went to the house to call the vet. It was time, the day I knew was coming, the day I had prepared myself for for 2 years, the phone call was made, the vet would be there by noon.
I have had the pleasure to share my life with horses for 45 years, getting my first when I was 12. I was a shy & awkward girl and horses were my best friends, confidantes and listeners to all my young prattle. Many hours were spent on the backs of horses and in the company of them in those years. All of those horses hold a special place in my heart, they did help me grow up after all. Later on, I was a mother with 3 young children, the oldest who was also a horse crazy young girl. We had purchased our daughter an old gray mare named Angel for her to grow up with. A best friend, a confidante, a good listener. But Mitzi was my mid-life crisis horse. I wanted/needed a horse for me. One to take dressage lessons on, to trail ride and horse camp with. In need of the type of friendship you can only find with a fury beast with penetrating brown eyes and a nicker. The first time I saw her I knew she was the one. A beautiful, young, liver chestnut, Morgan mare, well trained, sweet & kind. She was my wedding anniversary present that year. The BEST gift EVER!
Over the years we did many things together. Riding lessons, beach trips, trail rides. And then there were those wonderful family horse camping trips to Central Oregon. Hours and hours spent in the saddle and many more hours spent in the barn. Mitzi learned to curtsy and nod her head to say “Yes”. She was a master with her lips and could open gates and stall doors. Mitzi LOVED being groomed, especially having her mane and tail combed out, she was girlie that way. She also loved trail riding, exploring new places, tackling new challenges. Occasionally silly but mostly steady, she trusted me & I trusted her. As we both aged our life together changed. I was busy with teenagers, then young adult children. She took to her life of semi-retirement reluctantly. I gave beginning lessons to several young girls on her. She loved that job and took care of her young riders. By that time her only gaits were walk and trot. In the last several years she had lost her appetite and with that her weight and body condition declined. She had gone down several times in the past 2 years, but had surprisingly recovered each time. This time there would be no recovery. She told me she was done. It was time to let go.
The tears continue to flow this morning. Why? Not because she is gone, not because there are regrets, not because I feel I made the wrong decision to end her life. But because I loved her. What is it about these animals that gets so much under our skin? I can’t imagine life without them in it. They give so much more than they get from us. For that I owe a huge debt of gratitude.
So in Mitzi’s final hours I took off her blanket, revealing a body thin with age and illness. Stroked her coat, hair still soft but long and faded in color. Gave her a final grooming, her favorite thing, buried my face in her neck & took in that lovely smell one last time. I talked and cried and Gary stood guard in the adjoining stall. The vet came, a kind man with a difficult job. I walked her unsteadily from the barn for the last time. I said goodbye, the injections were given, she dropped to the ground, her breathing stopped. Today the sun is out and Mitzi is being buried on the hill behind the barn. Another very kind man, my husband, digging her grave and carefully placing her in it. Daffodils will be planted on top and the scar on the ground reseeded with pasture grass. You are home my sweet Mitzi. Rest in Peace.
It is early January 2015 and Violet hive has died. It was not a surprise, expected really, as this hive, though strong and active all season, was discombobulated from the beginning. These two hives where like the tortoise and the hare. Yellow was sure and steady, nose to the grind stone and efficient. Violet did everything BIG! Lots of activity, lots of attitude (and stings), lots of brood, lots of drones, lots of pollen stores lots of mites and a flair for the artistic.
Violet may have been robbed, though I never witnessed it or saw any indications of a war having been fought. Going into summer we thought they had lots of honey stored. Maybe even enough to harvest a little. They had turned their top honey super into an artistic canvas of convuluted tunnels of cross comb. This super was VERY heavy. We had left it thinking we would be harvesting that box and leaving all of the rest of their stores for their winter larder. When harvest day came at the end of August there were lots of bees, a shiny fat mahogany colored queen, comb built out on all the frames, lots of pollen but only a minor amount of capped honey and multiple empty frames. Their larder was nearly bare. We did not harvest. The colony was still very busy so we left them to their work.
In early September we consolidated each hive, removing any empty frames and putting both hives into a winter configuration. Yellow hive looked really good, Violet was in trouble. We treated the colonies for Varroa mites with HopGuard II. There was a seasonal nectar dirth so we put feeder jars with 2:1 sugar syrup in the tops of both hives before replacing the roofs. The mites were dropping, the mite board was checked daily. Violet had many times more mites than Yellow. Yellow was eagerly taking the sugar syrup, Violet was only sipping. In October at the last hive check Yellow was packed with capped honey. Violet hadn’t really stored much more. It was time to take off the feeders before frost.
Not wanting to repeat last years hive dieing of starvation in February, we built several candy boards for our hives as an insurance policy in case their winter stores were running low. Emergency food to get them to the first nectar flow in Spring. Shortly after Christmas we slid a candy board onto each hive just above the top super. Both hives were alive at that time. Warm days saw activity at both entrances. But in early January Violet showed no activity, a knock on the boxes produced no roar of bees. Violet had succumbed.
Tearing Violet down, doing an autopsy, we found a hive that smelled good, a baseball sized cluster of dead bees in the top super with their heads buried in honey cells. The two hive bodies had nearly empty combs. There was a fair amount of pollen and small amounts of capped honey in the corners of frames. The screened bottom board was deep in dead bees. There was very little mold in the hive. The new hive stands Bob had built had definitely allowed for much better air circulation than the cinder blocks we had used for stands previously. There was no sign of disease. It appears that the colony died of starvation and cold. To small to keep warm and unable to move to more honey stores just inches away.
The cross combed honey super turned out to have quite a lot of honey left in it. As I was cleaning and preparing the hive for the next inhabitants, cutting the cross combs from the top super frames, capped honey appeared between the folds of comb. Violet has left us with a bowl filled with exquisitely beautiful swirls of honey comb dripping with nectar of the gods. Food for the remaining Yellow hive to get them to Spring. Violet also left a hive filled with frames of comb, a gift to a new package of bees to help them get started come April. As always with honey bees, I am left in awe.
-Thank You Violet for all your wonderful gifts.-
As an addendum- Yellow hive is doing well. Warm sunny afternoons are showing lots of activity, cleaning, flying and pollen gathering.
Up before daylight. The house is quiet except for the patter of raindrops on the roof. Start a warming fire in the wood stove, brew a cup of tea, sweeten it with honey, the day begins new. I truly enjoy the first days of a new year. A time of reflecting back merging into planning forward. The coffee table is covered with plans. Notes from last season, lots of notes. Seed catalogs and seed lists, lots of catalogs, lots of lists. Books for planning, books for pleasure, lots of books. An empty 2015 calendar beckoning to be filled. The raindrops fall, the fire crackles, the tea cools, the heart warms. The joy in stepping into a new year, one foot at a time.
’Twas the week before Christmas,
on FullCircle Farm.
When all about the barn,
nary a critter was stirring,
but possibly a barn mouse.
The star has been hung
on the cupola with care,
In hopes that Winter Solstice,
soon would be there.
The cows are all nestled
in their warm straw beds,
With visions of Spring pastures
dancing in their heads.
With Momma in her Bogs,
and Poppa in his Carhartts,
we have just settled in
for a short winter’s break.
For today is a rebirth,
a new beginning.
As the days begin to lengthen,
I am feeling quite giddy.
Happy Winter Solstice
from all of us at FullCircle Farm!
Autumn/November is a point of transition. A bridge between summer and winter, an occasion of stark contrasts. A time of rest and busyness, low sun and long shadow, harsh rains and soft mists, grayness and brilliant color. The farm and its inhabitants active with both summer cleanup and winter preparation. The first frost is near and winter is not far behind.
Enjoy this photo tour of late November at FullCircle Farm.
A neighbor recently approached us about a custom milling job. When they had recently purchased their property they had inherited a large old Pacific Yew tree that had been cut down and unceremoniously left to rot on the ground. A Rescue of this beautiful old trunk of Taxus Brevifolia was in order. We hauled the log sections home to our milling site a few weeks back and waited for the weather to break. The first weekend of November rewarded us with a dry afternoon… time to mill.
The neighbor arrived, with a huge grin on his face, just as Bob was finishing setting up the mill. The first 23″ diameter, 8′ long, log section was rolled onto the mill bed. After much analyzing of the log, and matching it to the customers plans for furniture making and a prominent fireplace mantlepiece for their living room were discussed, the Wood-Mizer portable sawmill was fired up.
A variety of boards were milled. 3/4″ boards, 1″ boards, 2″ slabs and a beautiful 5″ thick slab for the mantlepiece, all with the undulating live edge intact. Each cut revealed beautiful grain, tortuous, tight and multicolored. Scars from damage many years past, voids where decay had begun. A history line of the trees lifetime was opened to our view. Each cut of the bandsaw blade divulged more beauty. What a thrill! The grins widened further.
After several hours the milling of 2 logs was complete. The customer climbed into his pickup, and with an enormous grin on his face, motored his load of Pacific Yew boards and slabs home to his workshop. To a workshop where items of great beauty will be created for their home, the home that sits on the site where this majestic old tree had lived and died. A fitting tribute to this magnificent old tree that would have otherwise been left to rot on the forest floor.
This is FullCircle Norman. Norman is a 5 month old Dexter bull calf on his way to becoming a steer. He is Dun in color and at 5 months stands 34” tall at the shoulder and tapes @ 300#’s. Norman has been a joy to raise. He is very handsome, smart, friendly, calm and gentle mixed up with a bit of the clown. The other day my husband Bob went out to their turnout at noon to feed the cattle family their hay lunch. Norman was lying down under the hay feeder chewing his cud. The hay was put into the hay rack above him and the other cattle began eating. Norman figured this was a really good gig he had going. He could lay down and the other cows would knock down the best hay for him to eat. Lunch was on the lounge that day! Since Norman is such a fan of National Public Radio, he listens every morning in the barn during morning chores, he has heard numerous stories about the importance of energy conservation. Norman is ALL about energy conservation and helps out whenever he can!
We raise Registered Dexter Cattle on our 18 acre farmstead in NW Oregon, USA. Our small family herd of Dexters spend their days outside on either pasture or in a large turnout area. They are brought into the barn each evening. Every morning begins with the cows. While I am doing barn chores and they begin breakfast, we all listen to NPR together. I have very educated cows that are up to date on the pressing issues of the day! Our farm routine also ends each day with the cows. Us humans always end up sitting on the edge of the cow mangers visiting and catching up on each others day. The cows contentedly munch on their dinner and are happy being the recipients of an ear rub here, a chin scratch there. It is a lovely way to slow down and end the day. The Dexters have been a wonderful addition to our farm. They give us Beef, Dairy products, beautiful Calves, mowing and weed removal services and fertilization, but also hours of fun and a daily laugh at some antic or another!
To enjoy other blog posts about our Dexters follow these links.
To read more about our cattle check out our Dexter Cattle page on our web site page !
Thank You for visiting!