Saturday, August 23, 2014

Goodness gracious so many chickens

Back from the processor with 100 more broilers in the freezer. We freeze them down in the stand freezers because we can get good air circulation around the birds. Then we move them to bulk storage in one of the chest freezers. So far we are delighted with our new processors. One more batch of birds and we are done for the season!

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summertime soiree

One of the biggest highlights of the year for us is when our friends gather at the ranch. The stars aligned this year and we were able to bring together most everyone (next time Amy!). Coming from three different countries and both coasts, I'm still a little amazed that it worked out.

Yes it was hot and dusty and there were bugs (Nathan even had to leave for a little bit to fight fire) but it was still incredible. We feasted on an unbelievable spread of fancy meats, cheeses, fruits, drinks and sweets. We ate outside under tents on the lawn adorned with twinkly lights. We watched the stars in a truly dark sky. We played fun board games. The toddlers were adorable and charming. The company was lively and entertaining and no matter the distance, these relationships always pick right back up where we left off. Everything was delightful. Both Nathan and I were forced to let go and just relax, to go on vacation as well. To take the time to focus on being fully present felt decadent and indulgent. I loved every minute of it and feel so refreshed and recharged.

I can't wait for next time. And the time after that, and after that, on and on for decades to come.

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The epic picnic feast

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Picking apricots as a group

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After a while the preferred retrieval method involved shaking the tree and collecting the drops on a blanket

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Turning the fruit into farm wine (also known as "swirl" around here). We ended up making about 25 gallons with all the fruit.

Our lovely friends





Thursday, July 31, 2014

Swirling whirling thunderstorm

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We had a thunderstorm move through the other day. The clouds were incredibly cool on the bottom of the cell which swirled around us for several hours. It spit rain on us for five minutes or so and blew a few big gusts, several lightning flashes and a few thunderclaps before moving on. It really didn't seem like much of a storm given the mayhem we later discovered.

It blew the combine seat cushion off the combine and down the bowl of the hill into the pigpen. No biggie. It scattered all the tidy raked hay ready for baling into a perfectly even layer across the whole field. Annoying since Nathan had to re-rake the entire field. The real doozy was that it pushed the east wheel line into the west line, then pretzeled them together over the top of each other then sheared off the west line in two places and broke the chain that drives the motor. Most curiously though the line that got twisted off was the charged line and was full of hundreds of gallons of water, it is very heavy. That empty line sliced right through it though. I wasn't fast enough to get up on the hill to take photos before they had started dis-entwining the lines so I have no photos of that.

It is always something with a summer thunderstorm. Nathan and Lloyd spent the rest of the day cobbling the two lines together into one so we can get water up and running again on the alfalfa for our third cutting.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Smoke

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This photo is from last week. The smoke has since cleared but was pretty dramatic when we were up at the hay patch that evening.


Monday, July 28, 2014

The burn

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Part of the burned area from the Ward Canyon Fire along the Antelope Highway.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fire is out!

Good weather really helped the crews snuff out the last little bit of fire. Now we can back to work! Today's task, finding where our cattle wandered off to when they got tired of waiting for us to move them to a new pasture :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fire season

It's hot and dry and and it feels like there is fire in every direction I look. Much of the week Lloyd and Nathan have been out fighting our closest fire, the Ward Canyon Fire (est 15,000 acres) along the Antelope Highway. There are also several fires out of Ashwood, Shaniko, Clarno, Maupin and on the Res with many more throughout Central Oregon.

It's hot and smoky down here in my little canyon. Here's a smattering of photos from the last few days:

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Ward Canyon Fire starts from dry lightning storm on Sunday July 13th and sends up smoke immediately instead of smoldering until the next afternoon.
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Smoke blowing west and meeting up with smoke from the Res

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A scattered thunderstorm blows through, barely enough rain to settle the dust.

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Next few days are choked with thick smoke, my life has its' own sepia filter

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Ward Canyon burning east towards Indian Creek, the disc is hooked on to the tractor ready to drag more fire trails around our crops and property as needed to supplement our seasonal "just in case" fire lines and back burns.

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Reflection of flaming pink sun in the roof of the upper granary

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Hazy, smokey days

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Changing winds give a little break from the smoke

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Another incredible fire season sunset

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Evening backfiring along HWY 293

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 The glow at night

This particular fire, as with most local fires is still burning away. BLM was out here for an evening then got called to more urgent fires. Just us locals and a rural fire protection district for now trying to keep everything in check. As long as it doesn't jump south of Hwy 293, we aren't in any direct danger. The weather is cooler with higher humidity over the next few days, hopefully this will give everyone a chance to get it knocked down so we can all get back to work. I'll share more photos as I can.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Broilers out in chicken tractors

A short video of our new chicken tractors out on pasture. Of course the birds are all piled up at the front of the structures because we just fed them. It looks crowded but in reality they have lots of space even for full grown birds. We opted for box-shaped tractors a la Joel Salatin instead of hoop houses because the flat sees some pretty aggressive winds and being low to the ground is certainly a plus.

Being the crap-hounds that we are, we were able to recycle/repurpose all of the materials for the pens except for the nipple drinkers and the hardware cloth mesh (stronger than chicken wire which many predators can tear holes in). The tractors have two mesh sides for ventilation and two solid sides for protection from the elements. The roof is solid except for a window and peaked for ventilation. The tractors measure 8.5x12 feet, narrow enough to fit on a trailer and drive through the gates but big enough to give the birds adequate space to stretch out. The feeders and waterers are built in to the tractor along the walls meaning we don't have to remove them prior to moving the pens.

For the first week or so, moving the birds is a two man operation. We hook the ATV to metal rings on the front via chain (the rings are also on all sides so we can tow in any direction) and one person slowly drives the ATV while the other shoos the birds along with a long piece of PVC. After a few days the birds queue up at the front of the tractors to eat, drink and check out the new forage.

The location we selected is a pretty good spot - easy access to water, relatively flat, decent stand of grass and not utilized for much else right now. The concentrated manure application should help the fertility of this strip of grass immensely. The plants will benefit from the added nitrogen and put on more growth. We could hay that added biomass for winter feed or just continue to run chickens on it for a few more years to build the soil.

With this new system we are able cut the amount of daily labor caring for the broilers in half, maybe more especially since we can run double the birds per batch and run fewer batches per year. We can feed, water and move two pens of birds in about 15 minutes twice a day. Not too shabby since we are already at the irrigation twice a day moving the wheel line across the alfalfa.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Watering onions

It's the start of garden season around here and we are spending the weekend outside prepping beds for seeds and plants.
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