Budding Trees

This one goes out to Nahko and Medicine for the People for their beautiful song “Budding Trees“. What a beautiful season of new beginnings. The grass is growing, the hoof clan is grazing, and we are happy.

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Tulip out grazing with her twin ram lambs

Over the past couple of weeks we have had to fix machinery a number of times. First the ATV, then the backhoe, then the ATV, then the backhoe again… That is what you get with old equipment, but the parts have been cheap (about $10/ fix) so we are thankful it hasn’t been anything severe so far. We found a spring on the other side of the property today which was a great find! We don’t have to haul water from the creek to the greenhouse to water seedlings anymore. The water is only maybe fifty feet away now! It is definitely seasonal, but it is a blessing nonetheless.

In the greenhouse the kale, lettuce, and spinach have sprouted. We purchased some raspberry varieties and a couple of lilac bushes to plant here come May. For now, they are in the greenhouse. We have been transplanting douglas fir saplings in various places on the property from other areas on the property where there are many spaced closely together. It is important just to transplant trees that are overcrowded to allow them space to grow in all directions, but not leave any area without trees. Our goal is to re-forest the entire property. We have now moved twelve saplings and have A LOT more to go! We plan to also spread the ponderosa pine, tamarack, quaking aspens, and birch trees found on the property. Today during our trail maintenance day we took a garden hoe and shovel and cut flat footpaths into the hill. The goal is to create trails all around the property. Well, the wildlife created them, we are just improving them for our own comfort. During our time down in the canyon we identified some plants!

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We are learning the medicinal qualities of the plants found growing on the farm. Quaking aspen are analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent and diuretic. The bark contains a substance that can be extracted and used to treat fever-related illnesses like malaria and tuberculosis. Douglas fir resin can be used as an antiseptic to treat cuts, burns, wounds, and chewed to treat sore throats. Young shoot tips can be added to cooked meals for flavor, made into tea rich in vitamin C or placed in the tips of shoes to keep feet from perspiring and prevent athletes foot! There is more… you can make a mouthwash by soaking the shoots in cold water. Amazing!!! Ponderosa pine is used as an antiseptic for skin ailments as well as for respiratory issues. You can also crush the seeds into flour to make bread.

Scouringrush horsetail and ballhead waterleaf are found in the canyon near the creek where springs emerge from the earth to join cottonwood creek. Scouringrush horsetail can be used as a sandpaper or polishing material. It is a homeopathic diuretic that can be boiled and drank to treat venereal disease. You can cook and eat the ballhead waterleaf greens and roots. Hollyleaved Barberry roots can be used to make yellow dye. The berries can be used to make purple dye, wine or jelly and is used to treat indigestion. Sagebrush buttercups and small bluebells cover the grassy hills along with these tiny flower clusters we have yet to identify. There are wild strawberries we found while transplanting the saplings so we put those in the greenhouse to disperse around the property in the near future. In addition to the native plants, we are mixing our own food forest seed mix of cover crops, perennials, fruit and nut trees. Some of the seeds include pinto beans, mustard, buckwheat, fennel, dill, peanuts, amaranth, black beans, peas, radishes, marigolds, sorghum, carrots, potatoes, and a wildflower mix. Also, we will be planting grapes, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, currants, cherry, pear, and apple trees. The main nut trees will be black walnut, chestnut, pine nut and hazelnut. We are researching seeds to grow specifically for making chicken, rabbit, sheep, goat and dog feed. More on that to come. We are exciting to get to work!

Since there are SO many things we want to do and only so much time in a season we decided to hold off on our large earthship for the time being and instead build a “practice” earthship. The one we are building will be 200 sq. ft., totally off-grid, and located on the hill just east of where we want our future home to be. It will likely end up being the first aquaponics greenhouse on the property, but I’m sure it will see many uses. It seems wiser for us to learn all the principles of building an earthship through this small scale project before we dive into a multi-year building project. We want our home to be perfect, just the way we envision it, and that will take time, practice, and patience to accomplish. We learned as we built the tiny house that everything takes longer than you think it will and building a house is exhausting no matter how TINY it is! We will still share all that we learn as we embark on the tiny earthship build (aka “ET”). So far the hole is dug and three tires have been leveled and pounded with dirt. Hopefully, this project will be completed over the course of this summer and give us a much better idea of how the bigger build will go. This also frees up more time for us to work on developing the garden and food forest. What do you wish you had time to do? As Nahko would say… Wake your dreams into realities. ❤

P.S. Please show love for your Mother Earth tomorrow and everyday there after. She cares for you deeply and would appreciate some respect.

#EarthDayisEveryDay!

Solar Rays and Water Sprays

Hello friends! I hope this message finds you well. Things are moving along here on the farm. Grant finished the greenhouse today! It is 8′ x 12′ and 8′ high in the center. We used a roll of plastic tarp for now, but eventually would prefer glass windows. For now this will do so we can start growing vegetables! We used wood poles we have collected since moving here as the main corner posts. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anything long enough to do the center posts so we purchased 10′ round fence posts, 3- 12′ 2×4’s and about 10- 8′ 2×4’s, along with 7 sheets of 4×8 plywood. In total it cost us about $150 for everything.

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As you can see Grant got creative making hinges and the lock for the door. Nails!? Who thinks of that!  It is located in an area that receives full sun and facing due south. You can tell in the pictures the snow melted first in the location of the greenhouse. We positioned the green house to the north of our future garden/ orchard and south of our future earthship. It is also in a location that will be close to a water source in the future. Since the location is central to our future home and garden it will be easy to transport seedlings outside to where they will be planted. This space will include a small aquaponics system likely next spring.

So what will we grow?

This year, with the earthship build starting, we decided we would keep it simple. We will grow about eight vegetables in simple hugelkultur mounds. The plants we have chosen are lettuce, spinach, carrots, squash, green beans, onion, potatoes, and tomatoes. Seeds will be planted in the next couple of weeks in our tiny house with the exception of the carrots which we will plant straight into the ground in May. Up in our extra loft there is a skylight which doubles as a wonderful growing space for plants because it stays nice and warm and gets great sun exposure. Once we pass our last frost date near the end of May we will transplant them outside.

What else is going on here at Green Journey Farm?

We got hung up starting the Earthship build. We discovered our first step is the required septic system. So, Grant will be researching the requirements for that and begin digging test holes. Once we get the septic plan approved we can get our building permit. In the meantime we are making trips to the nearby tire shop to continue our tire collection. We still need to make about 15 trips probably! We only go currently when we need other things from town so we may have to make a few special trips which I was hoping to avoid. We got held up with the snow since driving up our road with a 2wd truck is not the easiest thing to do.

We are becoming a registered business! I have been working on our business plan, researching business license requirements, budgeting, and forecasting for our five year plan! So exciting! When the earthship build begins we will be inviting volunteers to camp out for a weekend each month for earthship workshops. Food and water will be provided to volunteers. In future years, we plan to start weekend workshops for children and adults to take part in educational classes. Some example lessons would be permaculture, off-grid systems, primitive survival, basic building practices, and wool craft. We hope to see you when the time comes! Reach out if you are interested in attending!

Three East Friesian dairy lambs are joining Green Journey Farm! I’m off today on a seven hour journey to the west coast to pick up the adorable new lambs! Our two ram lambs and Ramazoid are going up for sale since they can’t be bred again in our herd. Unfortunately, in a herd our size only one ram is necessary. The only way we would be able to keep them is by keeping them separated in a way that they would only be able to breed unrelated ewes. There would just be more management involved, more feeders, more work. So the route we will take this year is to switch out our rams that are related to any ewes we have so we do not have to worry about inbred sheep.

We have 25 Cornish Cross chickens and 5 Welsh Harlequin ducks joining the farm April 26th! The Cornish Cross is one of the most common meat birds you can get. They are a test project to see if it is a sustainable way for us to feed our dogs and cats. Obviously chicken isn’t the only thing they would need to eat, but we are testing if “meat birds” will be a consistent source of meat for making home made dog and cat food. My concern is that their quality of life is lower because they were bred to grow really fast and usually end up with health problems. I’ve also heard if you don’t let them free feed they can forage just like other laying chickens, but we will find out for ourselves soon enough. The Welsh Harlequins are a dual purpose duck that averages about four eggs a week and weigh approx. 4.5 to 5.5 lbs. I have been wanting ducks for awhile, but now that we have a water source I am “allowed” to get them. They don’t need to have a lot of water, but they enjoy it so we wanted to make sure we could provide that to them. Once we move to the other side of the property, our ducks will likely choose to live down by the creek so they can splash and play all day. We also have plans of building at least two ponds on the property so the ducks will have a happy life here I’m sure.

The spring is operational! We have accessible, clean spring water on our property! He located the spring site by observing the signs of nature. This spot is the “crack” or draw as we call it between two hill tops so we knew snow and rain would be funneled through this area. There are aspens growing happily in this area so that was another sign there was water in the area. On top of that, back in high school, Grant worked on a spring development crew so he had a summer’s worth of knowledge to back it up. In October last year Grant started work digging. He hit water, but the next day he came back and it had been soaked into the ground. The hole he dug was about five feet deep and a few feet wide around. Then, he dug a trench slowly working his way downhill to let gravity do the work of transferring the water. He laid a 1″ to 1/2″ black vinyl tubing from the original hole and ran it downhill through the trench about 125′. That is where we put our stock tank that you see in the picture below.

20180401_124342-1356236698.jpgFrom there, we added a valve and attachment so we could hook up another 125′ hose to get us to the roadside for easy water refills. This spring all we had to do was install a 55 gallon barrel with a bunch of holes drilled in the side (not at the bottom) for water to filter in through, lay tarp down under the barrel to stop water for soaking down into the ground below the barrel and hopefully directs more water into the barrel. Then we surrounded the barrel with rocks of all sizes and buried the hole back in. Long term plans include building a pond further up the draw at the edge of our property for water retention and then digging swales running across the hill to distribute water to more area for more plants to grow. We also don’t know how long this spring will last. It may be seasonal, but we will have to wait and see! Right now there is a visible stream on the surface of the ground which is definitely not there by fall, but we are happy to know there is water available for our livestock and permaculture needs. Where our earthship is going to be, on the west side of our property across the creek and canyon, we will dig a second spring and retention pond. The next one will likely be year-round as it has a much larger backdrop of mountain to collect water from. For now at least our 10 acre pasture has water and we don’t have to leave our property for tiny house water refills! We just have to drive our 65 gallon transfer tank up to the edge of the draw, put the hose in the tank, and wait about 20 minutes for it to fill. We are so grateful for this water source.

Time for me to go pick up some lambs! Until next time, enjoy your blessed journey.

It’s Time to Begin

Things are picking up now that spring is at our doorstep. Last week was snowy and cold so Grant had the perfect opportunity to work on our earthship plans. He finished drawing the plans in CAD and we will be off to the Planning department for a permit soon! It is time to build our dream home!!! Once the plans are reviewed and approved I will share them for all to see!

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Blossom gave birth to a beautiful ewe lamb last Sunday evening. She hasn’t been allowing Slushie (ewe lamb) to nurse so we have had to go out there every hour to hold her leg so her poor sweet baby can eat! Yes, we know we could have milked Blossom and bottle fed or bottle fed her a milk replacer, but it was just as easy if not easier to just hold her leg for a 5-10 minutes while she eats hay and baby gets to nurse. It is bring Slushie so close to us! She is just the most friendly little thing. Also, Tulip gave birth to two ram lambs yesterday for St. Patrick’s Day. For now, their names are St. Spots and Bandz. At first it seemed like Bandz wasn’t going to make it. He was shivering and not suckling or looking for mama’s teat. Grant squirted some milk into his mouth and now he is nursing all on his own. They are starting to get a hang of walking and are jumping and prancing like happy little critters. We are going to let Blossom and Tulip along with all the lambs back together today. I think they miss each other and Tulip has had over 24 hours to bond with her lambs so we feel it is safe now to let Blossom and Slushie in to play.

Rabbits are coming out to play left and right! We have at least six surviving babies from Nibbles and Carrot’s kit that are exploring further and further from their den. So fun to watch! One of our rabbits likes to chase the dogs. Grant calls him Play Boy. So entertaining! Sometimes it is a bit scary and I am not sure how long it will continue before a dog decides to go chomp chomp. For now it is fun and the rabbit is the instigator so it is his own fault if something happens.

UPDATE: Arrow killed Play Boy after she had been bit one too many times.

The chickens are happy and laying their eggs EVERYWHERE! We found eggs behind the hay bales, eggs in their old coop that is now the rabbit hide out, and eggs in their nest boxes thankfully. The barn yard is alive and we are all so happy spring is here.

It has however brought a little anxiety because there are so many projects! The priority is to get the Angora/ Pygoras sheared. Oh yeah, I picked up two Pygora does on Thursday evening to bring our total goat count to seven! They hadn’t been shorn this past fall so their fiber is matted very badly. We were able to shear Ramazoid yesterday so we only have the goats to go! In addition to finishing shearing we want to dig a spring for a consistent water source, fence the other 30 acres, start building the earthship, plant a couple of hugelkultur mounds for the basics: onions, carrots, squash, corn, beans, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes. I know that isn’t very much, but for our first year and it being in addition to all the other year one projects we want to do it will be enough. One step at a time. Well, I’m sorry I don’t have more to share today. There is just too much to do! I hope everyone gets out and enjoys the beautiful day! We will catch up again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooly Words: March 2018

Yesterday I was sure Tulip couldn’t be any more ready to deliver her baby lamb(s) into this world, but she made me practice my patience. Blossom is definitely nearing as well, but no signs of bedding down and they are still chowing hay. Both of which are signs she is going into labor. We are just baffled the lambs are still in there! It is our first year and we definitely are antsy so of course mother nature is present to teach us we have no control in this situation. They are happy, healthy and definitely due ANYTIME now!

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In addition to Tulip and Blossom’s lambs we are purchasing a few additional lambs in April for more genetic diversity. They will also be East Friesian; one ram lamb; two ewe lambs from a creamery in southwest Washington. More wonderful milk and fiber sheep! I have fallen in love with their calm energy and sweet disposition. They hop right up on the milk stand and love a good scratch on the butt. Sometimes Blossom stares into my eyes like she sees into my soul. hahaha I think I’m officially a crazy sheep lady. 🙂 Anyway…

Shearing Practice

Grant and I started our first shearing lessons this past week. Most definitely a SLOW process. The first day we flipped Tulip on her rump and laid her between Grant’s legs with her head propped. She was breathing heavily and what sounded like short quick breaths so we decided she may have been TOO pregnant to be in these awkward positions. At least we got her stomach done while she was laid down. Then, we moved her to the milk stand and were able to trim her backside at least so she is cleaned up a bit for lambing. This process of only shearing the sheep around her backside is call “crutching” and is helpful for the lambs so they do not struggle to find mama’s utter. It is best to shear sheep 4-6 weeks before lambing and we waited too long. There were quite a few cold days and I guess being that it was our first year we just were hesitant as to when to start. As long as the sheep have somewhere out of the elements after shearing they likely will not get too cold so next year we will make sure to do this in mid-February or whenever 4-6 weeks before their due date is. They keep their lanolin layer anyway so they are not completely down to skin. Likely still warmer than a hair goat or sheep!

The next shearing session was a little better. Grant flipped Blossom and sheared her belly and around the utters. Then, we put her in the milk stand and did her butt and from her front legs to her neck. We put Tulip back on the milk stand too because she was so jealous that Blossom got to go on the milk stand. 🙂 So we sheared her front legs to her neck as well.

They look like the opposite of a lion, mane-less and pretty goofy. We will do the rest in increments working our way around. We have no real reason for why we did the front part second after the belly, but again we are beginners. I know there are shearing patterns out there and have looked at them, but since we are not rolling these big hefty girls around on the ground this late in their pregnancy whatever way works for us is the way we are going to do it. I imagine each session we will be able to handle a little more shearing and hopefully improve our speed at the same time. That is not how we will do it next year, but we are teaching ourselves how to shear here! It is not easy. Technically, we want the fleece in ONE piece for spinning. That means doing the whole sheep all the way around in one sitting. Do not let the shearing videos fool you, it is HARD WORK and isn’t easy to go that fast without cutting your sheep! Our hands and forearms were cramping up after yesterday’s session. We joked about doing shearing exercises over the winter to keep our forearms and hand muscles sharp. So this first spring we are learning some valuable lessons about sheep and shearing which we will implement to become more efficient and sustainable.

Shear in February

For so many reasons I have found online, but to name a few…

  1. You can tell the contours of the ewe’s body for early signs of labor. Their backside goes concave so you can see a dent on each side over the back hip area. Also it will be easier to shear around the utter area before it starts to fill with colostrum.
  2. You cut the fiber before the ewe transfers all her energy to the lamb(s) so you get better quality wool. We learned the hard way with Blossom. She is SOOOO greasy! Cutting with a freshly sharpened pair of shears was still yielding some really tough cuts. Also, the wool starts to get unhealthy and breaks easily later into the pregnancy since all the ewe’s nutrients are going to the lambs, not their wool production.
  3. Ewes get warmer in late gestation and start to get uncomfortable and itchy so taking off that huge wool blanket I imagine would feel like a lot like getting all your hair cut off, well and your clothes… 😛 As long as we continue to provide access to an enclosed shelter and fluffy straw bedding shearing them in February should not be a problem. We just don’t want to do it so early that they have thick wool in July!

Coat Fiber Animals

The wool got so much poo, hay and other vegetable matter in it! The goal is to get as much useable wool possible from our fiber critters for spinning so I believe getting them coats will be an easy way to eliminate some excess junk in the fleece. Meaning less labor skirting the wool later. We can definitely still wash and salvage quite a bit of fleece this year, but between being a first time shearer, shearing them too late, and not coating them this year’s bounty will be small. Each year we will improve and hopefully within a few years be able to spin yarn, weave rugs, and make crafts for resale.

Use a Mobile Feeder in the Winter

In the winter months the sheep and goats pretty much go between the feeder and shelter and nowhere else so having a feeder on wheels or easily mobile would allow the land some time to repair. I would rotate the feeder weekly to reduce the impact on the land. Thankfully they are about to have 10 acres to go graze all summer so their feeder areas should get a decent break while we come up with a new design. As I have mentioned in prior posts, we will be building a barn once we build the earthship so our current set up is only temporary. This side of the property that they are currently grazing will not be their main pasture next winter since we will be fencing the other 30 acres of property this spring/ summer. We will slowly fence the property into paddocks to transfer the sheep and goats through in a sustainable way that works in harmony with the land instead of destroying it.

I am sure I could go on and on with the ways we will improve for next year, but for today I think I’ve reflected enough. It is a beautiful 40 degree day and only getting warmer so time to get some more shearing done! Stay tuned for lambing updates and earthship building permit preparations coming soon!

Always Improving

Since we are stuck waiting for the ground to thaw to begin building the earthship we are taking the opportunity to improve our day to day processes and prepare for our first lambing! We anticipate Tulip and Blossom will lamb by mid-March, potentially sooner so Grant made a milking stand (in a day)! He never ceases to amaze me. Can’t wait to begin milking!

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Backing up a little, we brought home two Angora does last weekend. I’m so excited to learn all there is to about their beautiful soft locks of fiber. They are calm and now taking treats out of our hands, which is great. Cinnamon and Muffin, the Nubian goats, are not very friendly and do not like to share food or space. Ramazoid, the East Friesian ram, needed to be separated from the ewes, because they are giving off hormones that make Ram think they are in heat, when they are already bred. Unfortunately, Ram also can’t be with any of the female goats as he tries to mount them. He is much too large and we are not interested in experimental “geep”. The Angoras and the East Friesians get along thankfully! We figured since the ewes are nearly four months along, and with the restrictions between some of the critters to upgrade the living arrangements. We ended up making four pens all side by side so they can still interact with there neighbors a little. The two Nubian does are together. The Ram and Sputnik, the Nigerian Dwarf buck, are together. The Nora and Rora, the two Angoras are together and that leaves Blossom and Tulip in the last pen.

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Angora does Nora and Rora on the roof

There are many benefits to separating the ram and buck from the does. For one, they don’t need more than a nice grass hay. While the girls, at various times, will need higher protein alfalfa hay when pregnant or nursing/ milking. Another benefit of keeping the males separate is so you can plan their breeding schedule. This is helpful if we want to have milk year-round. I haven’t gone as far as to plan yet for milking, but imagine we will have a better plan for next year to keep the milk flowing consistently. This year, we will just let them breed when they are in heat. At this point if the goats are bred they would kid in the fall. I think the best time to breed goats is in December/ January so they would be born at the beginning of summer. Having it be plenty warm is one less thing to worry about! So everyone seems pretty happy except Ramazoid and Sputnik are testing each other. It hasn’t become harmful to either party yet, but we are keeping an eye on it. I also believe they both are slightly stressed to have been separated from their ladies, but that should calm down with time.

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We added rain gutters made of pvc pipe cut in half because that is what we had on hand. Why not collect this precious water dripping off the roof?! Now there are gutters dripping into three of the four water buckets. Any plan to automate daily tasks is welcomed here! I’m grateful we got animals before building a barn, only because we were able to learn with them on the easiest way to complete chores for them and us. By the time we get to building our barn we will know exactly how to set it up for maximum efficiency. How much we have learned already from and about the “hoof clan”! They are so fun.

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We just got some surprise news today from our rabbits, Nibbles and Carrot, that babies were born! We have now spotted two kits probably around a week old; one black like dad, and the other tan like mom. We are worried either the rest didn’t make it or perhaps they are just slower to come out of hiding. The picture may be too hard to see, but Grant tried to snap a shot of them hiding in the sheep fort.

Happy New Year!

Oh, I do love winter, but I am sure feeling the effects of the shortened days! But, we are on the up and up! We are welcoming 2018 and looking forward to the blessings already on their way! Happy to have spent some much needed quality time with the family over the holidays. It was the most special, memorable Christmas of all. It was the last Christmas I got to spend with my grandpa and I miss him very much, but he will stay with me in spirit and heart.

Grant and I are both back on the homestead and taking our time before making any big moves. We are preparing ourselves for a very busy spring ahead. We have collected over 100 tires so far and we just got a great hookup with a local tire shop that will give us as many tires as we want! It is the closest option by far and I am so grateful! It will be so convenient to just stop by on our way to get groceries every other week with the trailer and fill up. We won’t be making separate out of the way trips to far off lands or wasting countless hours talking to prospective deliveries that fall through. This is perfect. Some plans have to fail so new ones can form. So, we are piling up our tires in three different size groups: small, medium, and large. The largest tires will be the first few rows of the earthship. Working up the walls we will work largest to smallest tires, pounding dirt into each tire along the way.

 

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Grant during our first day stacking tires.

 

The next project we have to tackle is drawing the building plans. We have a general idea of the layout (where the stairs will be, doorways, windows, etc.) but we haven’t drawn with exact measurements to meet County regulations for the building permit. Grant is using an online free drawing tool to develop the plans. I’ll provide more details once we have the plans made.

Yesterday, Grant and I took a snowshoe hike over to the West side of the property, where the earthship will be. Earlier in the fall, we marked out the perimeter with stones. When we went back yesterday Grant marked out the 60′ circle in the snow so we could go visualize from the next hill over.

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Can you see the circle in the snow on the hill above my head?

Now, we collect tires and patiently enjoy what old man winter brings us. In the spring, Grant will dig that area out with the backhoe and the work will begin. Meanwhile, I’ll be planning our first hugelkultur garden beds and layer one of our dream food forest: nut and fruit trees along with berries and other low lying perennials. Many cozy days of reading and enlightening ahead!

 

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Wishing you all the best in 2018! Dream big!

 

Four Months Later…

We have been busy as bees here at Green Journey Farm. We have gotten into a routine with all the animals so that makes for smoother mornings and a better workday for me in the tiny house. The new dogs, Drako, Arrow, and Orca still think the rabbits are here for their entertainment. Every time they are left outside alone you can hear the sound of tin under our house getting scratched and other sounds that indicate a struggle. We are back down to two rabbits because Drako caught one so losing another would mean we have to purchase a couple more breeding does. I don’t understand how the friendliest rabbit, Carrot, who is out sunbathing in front of the dogs regularly doesn’t get eaten or chased, but poor Nibbles is always under attack. We are working on it. The dogs are meant to chase rabbits, it is their livelihood so I have a hard time telling them not to hunt! The rabbits were meant to reproduce enough to feed all four dogs regularly, along with some chickens, so we kind of need these first few to survive long enough to reproduce!  They are puppies so I’m sure it will continue to get better with time. They are learning so many things from Sahara, good and bad. The good, sit and stay, working on shake. The bad, bark at cars and people that come by. They have taken it a step further to actually go out in the road after a car when we aren’t outside! Sahara didn’t teach them that, but I’m terrified they are going to get hit by a car when they are out without me during the day. Needless to say, we are working on training to stay out of the road. We have our hands full, but I can’t complain about getting to snuggle these friendly, furry critters morning and night.

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So after some time doing daily chores Grant and I have come up with some improvements to the current living situation for the critters. Grant made new hay feeders for the goats and sheep. One, they were sharing a feeder and it was causing some anxiety and competition we noticed. The sheep never used to be that noisy or pushy, but since we got the goats the sheep have gotten jealous. Two, it was a small pallet feeder that held about 3 flakes of hay at a time. With six critters that went pretty fast. The pallet feeder, even with a trough or table-like lip on the bottom to catch hay they wasted a lot. They are able to pull out huge mouthfuls with the pallet feeder and then take a step back and drop half of it on the ground. They don’t eat it once it has hit the ground for the most part so we needed a new design. I couldn’t find a picture of the old pallet feeder, but the new model is in the pictures below. It is made of 1×4’s (or 2×4’s) and chicken wire. It could even have been made out of fallen tree limbs, but we had some lumber on hand so it was convenient.

The recently built second structure meant for the goats is currently being used by the sheep because it is open to the big pasture. The big pasture is only fenced with barbed wire on one side so the goats can crawl right under it. They have to stay in a fully fenced sheep wire pen when we aren’t out there. The new structure is about 8’x12′ with lean-to roofs hanging off three sides. On either side there is a new feeder, one in the goat pen and one in the sheep pen. They can’t see each other while they eat so it makes things less stressful for them. Under the third lean-to is where we keep the upcoming bales of hay, some alfalfa, grain, chicken scratch, and sunflower seeds. The rabbits have their own little safe haven next to the sheep pen. It makes it so convenient having the feed right there so we don’t have to haul things from the shed. We just have to take down containers for refills every once in a while. We can not wait for a barn to store everything in! With time, it will happen. Our wheels are turning!

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The chicken coop needed restructuring as well. We moved around the roost bars to maximize space. If bars are crossing at all they will poop on the bar below so other birds won’t want to roost below. The solution is to space the bars in a way that they go up like stairs in parallel lines. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but as long as the bars are spaced and poop can’t get on their neighbors, in their nests, food, or watering dish then you are good to go! Ours still isn’t perfect. There used to be a floor where you see the 1×4’s in the picture. We made more space and less cleaning by taking that middle floor out. While there is still opportunity for them to poop on each other it hasn’t been an issue. We want to adjust the feeding area, but this coop is temporary so we also don’t care to put too much time into it as long as the chickens are happy.  In the past we made boxed in nests (12″x12″ or so). This time I tested out a flat open nest box with a lip. That does NOT work… They will roost on it and poop all over in it. So, that experiment failed. My proof is in the picture above where one of our rooster perches in the old nest box. Grant grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and screwed it to the wall, added hay and a small piece of board to hold in the hay/ nest materials and viola!  We have a floating nest box! There are so many options for how to make nest boxes. I’ve seen ideas for old dressers converted into nesting boxes, milk crates, plywood, whatever you have on hand. I could see even cardboard boxes tipped on their side if you are in a crunch. Chickens aren’t too picky. As long as they can get outside all day to explore, all your coop really needs is a safe, dry, high up roost bar for them to rest on and a nest box for them to lay in, aside from water and food of course!

We improved our own living situation a little more recently as well. We added a bookshelf and a wall to the bedroom loft and stairs in the tiny house. This provides a little more privacy and helps divide the space. It also gave us a spot for more books so that is always good news! I just finished staining everything yesterday. We are going to add one or two shelves to the outside (facing the stove) for added storage. So far it has been great because the dogs aren’t afraid to sleep there now. Whereas, before there was a wall they were afraid to sleep too close to the edge.

Besides the basic improvements, we purchased an old backhoe to aid in all our upcoming digging projects. First, for developing a spring so we have a more steady supply of fresh water on the property. After that it is earthship digging time! Once we finish the earthship we will begin building the barn. We discussed and have a feeling that we may end up alternating projects between building the earthship and barn in case we need a break from one thing we can work on something else. We will see. I think come spring the garden and milking will be taking up the rest of our time. Having this backhoe will make these projects go so much easier! We are so grateful for the modern machine, even though our end goal does not included gas powered vehicles of any type.

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Somehow in between working on all of the above projects, Grant also had time to collect another cord of firewood, pick up another truckload of tires, and set up and test the aquaponics tiny house system! No leaks! Phew! We just need the fish and we can start some seeds. We will grow sprouts to share with the chickens and have fresh greens all winter long. We haven’t decided what else we will test yet. Any ideas for what to grow this winter? Please share!

All Charged Up!

 

Foggy day in a Tree

When the season turned, the clouds rolled in, and the hours of daylight dwindled. We were finding our 2 KW solar system was NOT enough for a fridge, washing machine, and hot water heater, especially on a day with NO sunlight shining through the clouds. There was enough for basic charging of computers, our router, and lights, but not for those large appliances 24/7. I have been programmed already to take hot showers on sunny days. Or, get a raging fire going in the woodstove to warm up after a cold shower! The laundry had to wait or we had to choose one thing per day, but not anymore! As usual, Grant figured it out. He got us a couple more batteries. The four batteries we had weren’t keeping up with the energy generated from the panels. He also hooked up the wind turbine. Between those two improvements we have seen a tremendous difference! We call that a win! Also, against our sustainable mission, but solely as a backup plan, we purchased a 3500 watt gas powered generator for emergency situations. We do not plan to use this unless the situation is dire. The generator may come in handy when we are building the earthship since there is no power on the other side of our property. We do not anticipate using many power tools on the build. For the most part it will be a hammer, a shovel, and a trowel. But, I’m sure we will need it from time to time. One thing we need to figure out is if we need a cement mixer and how much power that would use. I’m hoping we can make an adobe mix that we can mix by hand (or feet). We recently started searching for recycled tires (the main building material for an earthship) and reading the earthship building books to begin preparations. The books we purchased are written by Michael Reynolds and provide detailed instructions and imagery on how to build your own earthship from start to finish! The second volume discusses the systems integrated in the earthship and how the components of a self-sufficient home will come together. We found a tire business in Spokane interested in delivering a trailer load full of tires to us for free! They are begging to get rid of them! FREE WALLS! All we have to do is pack them full with dirt. We have been hoarding bottles for wall spacing materials between the concrete to allow light to shine through similar to stained glass and uses a fraction of the cement since the bottles fill empty space, but still hold the structural integrity. We have a large pile of glass pieces to use for windows on the south side of the earthship, which will make up the greenhouse. We found those free on Craigslist in Spokane a few months ago. Hopefully that will be enough windows for the job! I will probably keep on the look out anyway, because it never hurts to have extra glass for spare projects! Grant built a tiny rough model of the earthship. Pictures are below. The milk jug represents the glass dome facing the southern sky. The area between the glass and the building will be greenhouse and aquaponics grow space. The home will be two stories. On the first floor will be the bathroom, kitchen, and office/ living area. The second floor “loft” will be the bedroom and relaxation area. The loft will have its own view of the valley to the south and the stairs to the loft will be in the greenhouse so they can double for picking fruit off of tall established trees. We have a vision, can you tell?? I just want an avocado tree!

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Things are looking up here on at Green Journey Farm. A lot of fun new projects are starting! Grant is continuing work on the yurt so we have somewhere to store supplies while building the earthship.

We are all settled in for winter. The goats and sheep are getting into a routine and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes our bully new adult Nubian doe, Cinnamon, bites wool out of our sheep, which we are not happy about. She gets jealous if we are feeding the sheep and not her. Muffin the 7 month old Nubian goat doe gives hugs and kisses. She is so sweet.  Sputnik, our Nigerian Dwarf buck, has got to be my favorite, most adorable character on the farm yet. The way he twitches and randomly leaps or skips is just hilarious. Everyday is another gift. We are recharged and excited about our sustainable journey.

Home Sweet Home

Leaving the farm was an interesting adventure. Life is so different here than in a lot of places. It is slower, calmer, and more peaceful. I find my clarity by the water’s edge, feeling the wind against my face or soaking up the sun’s golden rays. I noticed after being in the city for over a week I was overstimulated. I needed uninterrupted time without attention or noise to be with my thoughts. I hadn’t realized that the constant vibrations of city life would be so noticeable to me after only three months of being away. It was nice to get my fill of social time and head back to the hills! Being away afforded me many happy new memories with friends, co-workers, and family along with some sad times as well. My cousin lost her husband last week and my heart is with her and the kids. Also, my grandpa found out he has Myelosplastic Syndrome, which I can’t tell you much about except it is a rare bone marrow illness where the blood cells don’t do their job essentially. This has been a sad time for our family. I took the train to Wisconsin to work for a week in the office and see a Nahko and Medicine for the People show with a couple of friends. I got to spend a week with all my hilarious, fun, and hard working co-workers. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed until I crying. I admit, I snorted once laughing so hard. The concert was a night I’ll never forget and learned a lot from. Their music is my favorite medicine and has helped inspire me to follow my own path. They are partially responsible for us starting Green Journey Farm!

Grant was here at home taking care of business while I was off in Wisconsin. Drako the Dragon is healthy and happier than ever! So, last I shared we thought his illness was related to the decaying meat he ingested, however we found out the next day it was actually Parvovirus. He had it when we got him from the prior owner. The first test they did came back negative, but they just kept seeing all the symptoms of Parvo so they did a blood test. Sure enough, so they ended up going in and cleaning out his intestine. The next day he started eating and improved quickly from there. We are so happy he is home and so is he! The pack enjoys multiple walks a day all across the property. Grant was able to establish a trail that loops around the 10 acre sheep pasture. Besides that, I found so many nice surprises! Little things like the paper towel rack being installed that we had been talking about for months! He got the reverse osmosis faucet installed so we have delicious fresh filtered water on tap! There is new shelving in the shed to use all the vertical wall space and get things off the floor. The chicken coop was revamped to provide more weather proofing. We got 8 more chickens from the neighbor. They are an assortment, but I think there is a white Silkie rooster, a couple Rhode Island Reds, a Black Australorp, and a few others I’m not exactly sure yet what they are. They are staying in a separate coop for now until they get better acquainted with the existing flock. The biggest and most exciting addition since I left is the new windmill Grant installed! He said it isn’t completed just yet, there is some wiring to do. The instructions didn’t come in English so he has to do some deciphering… The list just goes on and on! He is amazing at getting things done! It has been all the little things that we just couldn’t get around to before. Every once in a while you have to stop and tie up loose ends. This place has come a long way from where we began. It is a lot easier to notice after taking some time away from it all. Now, Grant is off on his own adventure to Montana to meet his brand new beautiful baby niece, sister, and parents for a visit! As sure as the seasons change, there are blessings and hardships. We must embrace all the seasons and all of life’s lessons.