Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I'm going all Trogdor over here because I was ALMOST DONE with a long update post but then a piece of spyware which we've been battling with for a few weeks shut everything down and reinstalled itself. In the backgrount it apparently prevented blogger from saving my progress. Going to go to bed and waffle between being extremely pissed, crying, vowing to write it again tomorrow, and giving up on it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


We lost the other two sick boys today. As the rest of the goats began developing symptoms I was increasingly suspicious of a gut parasite infection called coccidiosis. A few hours after wrestling two full size goats and three kids with horns to force feed antibiotics and electrolytes they are already looking better. The infection is also known as "the silent kid killer." Strangely, it does make me feel better since that means I didn't miss signs over several days. This infection can kill in 24 hours.

Full report to come later.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Risks of Animal Husbandry

We've had a very difficult and sad day on the farm. For the first time we lost a kid to illness. One week ago three of the six kids, one from Rosemary named Alpha and two from Chestnut named Mocha and Americano, developed some severe diarrhea. The sort of thing we have seen before when a goat eats a little of a bad thing or too much of a good thing which imbalances their digestive system. We did what we could at the acute phase then waited it out overnight. They were much better the next day and more improved the following day. They were even nursing from the moms again.

Then yesterday Tim noticed (remembering in hindsight) that the moms had more milk than usual. Some variation is normal and it wasn't enough at the time to trigger any special warnings.

This morning when I peeked my head out there to give them vegetable scraps I could tell something was wrong. The two older ones were sluggish and the youngest didn't even stand up to come over. Alpha was dehydrated and surprisingly skinny. If you think you can handle animals on an average day don't forget to take into consideration the very sick days. Water, bottle feeding, and warm mash for three hours was too little too late. As I carried him out of sight of the herd with my .22 ready he breathed his last in my arms. I was even too late to pull the trigger.

We have lost two adult goats to accidental poisoning but to lose a little one to illness feels very different. Things have been crazy around here including spending a lot of time in the garden several blocks away and I just didn't go see the goats regularly. There are standard tasks twice a day, every day, and recently Tim has been doing both instead of just one. I probably would have noticed something was wrong sooner since Tim has no experience with such animals but...

This is not the first time I've dealt with goat illnesses but the first where I missed the signs and intervened too late.

Mocha and Americano are looking the same or slightly better than this morning after a dose of probiotics, three bottle feedings of milk, offerings of fresh alfalfa, water, and baking soda. I am hopeful about them.

Thanks to a co-worker needing to trade shifts I got tomorrow off and instead work on Saturday; a huge blessing since time flew by and I didn't think to call my boss to request tomorrow off until after hours.

I'll definitely update you on the status of the kids tomorrow.

Pic #1: the healthy kids. Very difficult to get a picture of since they're constantly moving and coming up to me.
#2: poor Mocha.
#3: Americano resting after his second forced bottle feeding session.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pickled Beets

Wow! It's already canning and preserving time! So much about this season has jumped up on me like the local strawberries. It only occurred to me to check the picking availability the week after everything died back. Good thing one of the vendors at the Renton Farmer's Market today had beautiful strawberries from Skagit Valley! Blueberries and raspberries have already taken up residence in the chest freezer. Tomorrow I will be processing four half-flats of strawberries. Next week a vendor has agreed to bring an extra box of pickling cukes just for me and later in the season I'm planning to can blackberry jelly, green beans, peaches, and sauerkraut at the very minimum. 

Growing good food is a lot of work and preserving that good food for the rest of the year is also a lot of work. But in our case I'd much rather be doing that than shuttling ourselves back and forth from a hospital for yet another bout with cancer (Shoshana is not the first in my immediate family to deal with cancer and the majority of the last two generations dealt with cancer or died of it). Not that diet is the only cause of such things but when your genetics are already working against you then the extra time and care will probably be worth it.

But back to yesterday. While doing other things mom spotted beautiful red beets at Carpinito Brothers in Kent so we bought twenty pounds and pickled them. 

For those who are interested in the pickling process...


One of the more difficult things about picking and canning is you need to plan ahead so as to have all the equipment hot at the same time. In this case, the beets need to cook first then you just slip the skins off in a sink of cold water.

Next is slicing them into manageable pieces and packing them into jars; I prefer thin slices versus wedges.

Then you fill the jars with the hot prepared picking juice, get the air bubbles out, apply the lids, and process in your hot water bath for 30 min.

Just before going into the hot bath.

A thing of beauty!
(Cooling in a non-drafty place)

 And, for good measure, half of a box of blueberries also from Carpinito Brothers. The other half was already in the freezer before it occurred to me to take a picture.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

More Fruit Tree Pests

The other day I noticed we have aphids proliferating on one apple tree and one pear tree (out of 14 trees). At this point they are only attached to the youngest buds at the end of the main branches. My plan at this early stage is to spray the effected leaves with diluted dish soap in a spray bottle on the sharpest spray. If I hold the leaf while spraying then about half the aphids are knocked off and the other half will have to deal with the surfactants in the soap water and should either suffocate or dehydrate. You should also spray off the soap residue from the plants as it may burn your plants. This is less of a concern with the tougher leaves of fruit trees but certainly an issue for more fragile plants like peas and beans. If the aphid problem is more widespread you may have to consider more aggressive treatment or they will spread everywhere and start sucking the energy from everything so early detection and treatment is key.

Pear tree pre-soap spraying. Both green and black aphids.

Post-soap spraying.

 Apple tree post-spray. I first noticed the aphids because these leaves began to curl.

 Beautiful first flush harvest from the second generation of Oregon Trail Peas. Just ordered some more from Nichols Garden Nursery.

Productive Day

Today was a playing with the girls, making cheese, gardening, cooking for 8 people (including leftovers) kind of a day. Pretty sure I'm going to sleep great tonight!

The portion of the garden that was prepped for the corn didn't end up deep enough so too many sprouts of weeds and grass poked through to be manageable. Tonight I fixed that. Last week I weeded well around the corn itself to make a bit of buffer and tonight was chop down the problem areas, lay newspaper, wet newspaper, spread wood chips 8 inches deep. It is important to not bury your young plants with the wood chips. They don't like that.

Picture #1: In progress. L to R: final stage, paper stage, chopped greens stage.

Picture #2: Beautiful! And so easy to manage as the rest of the garden can testify.

Picture #3: The cheese I made today was actually commissioned by one of Tim's coworkers who is now a repeat customer. One batch makes approximately two pounds. Does anyone want to claim the one pound of garlic chive soft cheese left? It's delicious!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fall Preparation

This is my first year with a significant multi-season harvest so I'm almost in shock that it's already time to start planning for my Winter garden! The squash and pumpkins are leafing out and some are even blooming but planting in the summer is just not something I'm used to.

Using the peat pods from the King County storage shed I planted the first part of my fall garden last night:

Golden beets
Red lettuce

I also made some standard orders to some of my favorite companies including more fall and winter varieties:

Herbal dewormer for the goats from Molly's Herbals.
Hoof planer and milk filters from Caprine Supply.
Favorites and winter seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Apple Pests

Have you noticed that bugs don't want to eat our food anymore? They are poisoned by the soil, sprays, or even the food itself. Unfortunately, these tactics are indiscriminate and are already suspected to be responsible for the widespread "honey bee die off;" but that is a story for another day. Several years ago a man in my neighborhood referred to bug-bitten fruit as "live fruit" and those without marks as "dead fruit." The imaging was so poignant for me that I've never forgotten.

Coddling moth damage.
 (credit: http://www.collierarbor.com)

Apple maggot damage.
(credit: www.maine.gov)

In any case, though I don't intend to poison anything, I still desire to have more than 50% useable area of each piece of fruit. The old apple tree on my property had not been tended for at least 10 years before I moved in and I'm slowly working to revive it. The fruit is so worth it. Small and tart, they make the best apple sauce I've ever had! After several years of heavy trimming, soil amending, and thinning, it is finally worth it to begin focusing on the fruit itself...it is still possible that I will invest in making a cutting and having it grafted onto a dwarf rootstock to restart the species from "seed." In any case, I must deal with the heavy apple maggot damage to have any chance of useable produce so I began researching. There are three main organic methods for protecting fruit from the most common pests with which I am familiar: traps, nylon socks, and kaolin clay spray. Last year I tried using the nylon bags with excellent results. This week I got around to slipping them around my first little orchard produce on the Harris lot (a couple of weeks late so there is already minimal damage).

 In progress on the Braeburn.

Pristine: all dressed up and nowhere to go.

One nylon for each piece of fruit. This could get tedious pretty fast but my crop is small enough to not be a problem. Later I will probably invest in the apple-shaped lures for larger and less time-consuming protection.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Today we celebrated the blessing of experiencing Shoshana in our lives for four whole years! Her birthday was actually three weeks ago but she was in the hospital at that time so we rescheduled for today. It is fun to watch her develop to the stage where she can understand lengths of time like "next week" and "tomorrow". Last night when the night nurse showed up Shoshana happily announced that she would have a birthday tomorrow so she needed to sleep to make it be tomorrow. :)

First thing in the morning we presented her with the gift from us: a lovely find at the twice-yearly consignment sale. Lightly used, with lots of dishes, linens, and velcro veggies.

Shoshana got a new kitchen from Mom & Dad
Before her most recent hospital stay I asked her whether she would like me to bake her a special themed cake. She picked Minnie Mouse. An interesting pick since I'm not sure how much exposure she's had to Minnie at this point. We haven't watched it together except for a few episodes of Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse streaming on a phone during unpleasant procedures. Here is the result:

I'm not a real fan of cake, and neither is anyone else in my family, so I don't have much experience with baking such things. Honestly, though I'm sad we ran out of time to actually make Minnie Mouse bows out of fondant I'm just glad they look somewhat iconic. The fact they also resemble a ladybug doesn't bother me. They are baked, they are cute, and they are yummy! Definitely a hit. Betty Crocker cake mix, buttercream frosting from www.foodnetwork.com, and fondant also from FN. Katherine helped me with the fondant since she had made it once before but our inexperience led to putting in too much powdered sugar which made it too dry and brittle to shape into bows though we easily punched out polka dots with the back end of a cake decorating tip.

I managed the food scene while Tim played with the kids including cousins from both sides and friends from church. They enjoyed the swings, slide, pool, bubbles, and rockets. I tried to keep it simple and free play since most of the kids would be age 5 and under and it seems that people, big and little, enjoyed themselves.

Some of the attendees had never seen my parent's property what with the garden, orchard, chickens, ducks, berries, and multi-generational living situation so I also gave a few tours. My Peruvian brother-in-law was happy to hear that I am attempting to grow quinoa.

Mostly, I've been contemplating the meaning of birthdays a lot since Shoshana's was rescheduled. We are celebrating her life, her growth, her impact on our family. The one day when the focus can really be on her. In this case we are acutely aware that she might not have made it to see her fourth birthday. And I am so glad she did.

(I will upload more pics later but my comp is wigging out and I need to go to bed.)


Photos from the birthday party:

Jessie boots from Toy Story.  Thanks, Chelsea!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fall and Winter Garden

Hard to believe, but it is time to plant the "second season" garden. I'm just barely coming to grips with my spring and summer garden! In any case, I have found this helpful chart by one of my favorite seed companies. If I need to buy something from a larger company rather than my favorite mom-and-pop place in Oregon then I go to Territorial Seed Company. They have lots of educational videos and helpful charts. You may recognize the art from the companion planting guide I've shared on Facebook before.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Showers of Blessing

Through a contact at Seattle University, Sustainable Renton heard of an amazing opportunity. King County is preparing to develop the site on which 10 years of confiscated marijuana growing equipment is currently stored and not used. The intention is for the equipment to go to NGOs and community organizations but so far there has been little to no interest in the equipment. Since I'm with Sustainable Renton, Farm Liaison is my official title, I was also encouraged to take enough for myself as well.

Storage #1

Storage #2

I was giddy. Skipping through the poorly demarcated aisles grinning like a fool and speaking in a excited squeaky voice I haven't heard from my throat in a very long time, giddy. There MUST be gardening in heaven since it was man's first job and brings me and so many others so much pleasure! I so dub this lot in Maple Valley a little piece of heaven.

Ballasts, electrical wiring, timers, light hoods, bulbs, air filters, AC units, CO2 generators and monitors, fans, ducting, bamboo, peat pods, buckets, fertilizer, water pumps, every possible piece of equipment you need for a greenhouse. Hydroponics, specifically, but I don't have the setup or knowhow for that. What matters to me is everything needed for a standard greenhouse is here. And it's FREE!

Sometime soon everything will go in the dump to make way for bigger and better things. We don't actually know when that will be but it's always getting closer.

My first load. Still need the ballasts, at least, but I set a bunch of other things 
aside for a future pick-up, too.

For a little perspective: one artificial light unit requires a ballast, a hood, a bulb, and optionally a timer. Around $250. I got 12 sets. Four for each greenhouse. Not to mention the fans, ducting, air purifying, timers, monitors, wiring, chain, hooks, bamboo... can you say, bounty? And we didn't have time to grab or the room to transport the backup units.

This is yet another example of how things are moving so quickly for Sustainable Renton. We can barely keep up with the demand for plots, the outpouring of equipment and gifts, the specialized volunteers, the potential grant applications, etc. We can't do it! I am so happy to be a part of something that is such a need and a desire in my community but I won't hesitate to say that we need more volunteers!  We need people to maintain the four beds under Sustainable Renton; two for the Renton Food Bank, and two for the Red House restaurant. People to come out in force for work parties; we have a mostly finished pallat board shed and half finished deer fence. People who can write business plans, grant applications, people with expertise and connections. So many people are interested in helping Sustainable Renton grow with information and things but we need right now is more people to help manage those resources.

After these bounties of blessings I relieved Chris Conkling at our booth at the Renton Farmer's Market and spread the word of what we're doing. Many people went home with little planted peat pots thanks to the friendly looting earlier. We filled up two pages of people wanting to be added to our e-mail list and had some very thought provoking discussions. I am really excited to see how those connections grow into something earth-moving. Maybe Renton-moving?... Nah. I'll have to think up something more catchy.

If you are interested in being a part of this organization please e-mail sustainablerenton@gmail.com and/or find us on Facebook.

If you are interested in greenhouse equipment please e-mail Angie Sowell at dread.pirate.angie@gmail.com to arrange a pick-up time.

Thanks to the above and a few donations we are set to build our family farm greenhouses. The first will be an "atrium" style attached to the sunny rear of my house. That will keep the most delicate things more accessible. Once the plants are hardier they can go to the main garden location where sometimes they don't get watered as often as they should or equipment falls and doesn't get noticed for a while. The second will be a free-standing 10x20 on the main garden site.

P.S. check out the new Family Farm member born on Sunday!

Kora Hartt!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Recent Readings

Tips and tricks from my favorite nursery

Roasted chickpeas

Conneticut GMO labeling law


 - Beans and arugula planted

Updated to-do list:
 - weed blueberries
 - weed corn and apply another layer wood chips
 - plant sunflowers among corn rows
 - mound chips around potato sprouts