Thursday, December 17, 2009


So yesterday we had the visit of a Department of Ecology official. We are in the Samish watershed, and there is a push to decrease contamination of this watershed because of periodic closures of Samish Bay shellfish harvest and increased coliform levels in its rivers and streams. It is all spelled out in the

Samish Bay Watershed

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

Total Maximum Daily Load

Volume 2 – TMDL and Water Quality Implementation Plan

August 2009

Publication No. 09-10-019

So I read this 150 page document, and we are seemingly in compliance with all that is in there. We have our animals fenced away from any streams, and we have gutters on our barn to collect rain water. We do not have stored manure piles. We are (what I thought) was the kind of people Skagit County would like to support. We came into to this very dilapidated property and put in a lot of hard work and money to fix it up. We are involved in agriculture which is what Skagit County is supposedly trying to support. We pay our taxes and do not get in trouble. So I was hoping this visit would go well.

Naturally it did not. He waltzed in here and tells us about all these government officials that can help us with developing our farm plan, help with pasture management, and improved weight gain in our animals. He told us about grant money available to comply with regulations for fencing, pipes, engineered designs. Then he said we had to fence off our animals 35 feet from the front ditch line on the road. He said we could use electric fence, and it could be down during the grazing season but would need to be up by August 15. August 15th!!! That is the driest day of the year. And electric net fencing is not safe in my opinion for horned animals. I lost my first Shetland ram Loki to an electric net fence. He then pointed out that we had dug a trench in one of our 7 fields which drained into the ditch from a pasture where animals are (three small sheep). But we said we could fill in this trench and keep the animals out of this pasture once breeding season is over next week.

At this point I pointed out what I think is our real water pollution issue- the drainage from the development behind our property that floods our fields when there is heavy downpours. We believe this drainage through a culvert onto our property to be illegal because we have the original survey showing no culvert, the ditches designed for the drainage, and that all drainage from the development must be contained. There is not drainage easement for our property, and this is not a natural waterway but a man made one. We have tried to talk to the homeowners association of this development, but the president does not return our calls. We even talked to a lawyer about this. Well, this Department of Ecology official said he cannot regulate clean water drainage, but he does have authority over erosion. This culvert goes out from the road above our place at least 10 feet into the air and then free-falls down onto our land causing a lot of erosion. The bottom is also rotted out so some of the water runs under the culvert undermining it and the road. So this government official started talking about putting a wall in on our property to control the erosion! Not the solution I was looking for.

part of the culvert on our property
"clean" water draining from the culvert on our property

So I do not want a farm plan, I do not want government officials on our land, and I do not want their money. I also do not want to pollute Samish Bay nor do I want to break the law. So we will put up the electric fencing (although I may not turn it on), fill in our trench and in the meantime move the rams to the far back field (where it is a lot harder to care for and protect them). And I really hope this is adequate. Because if this official states we have to put in 50 foot buffers all around our property we are done for. And that will be the end of Schoonover Farm. (and why I am awake at 3 AM)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas trees

So we have two Christmas trees. This first one we saved out of a barn that was about to be demolished. The property belonged to a woman for many decades, and she was being forced out by expansion of the road. We were taking the siding off the barn before it became landfill, and she said we could have whatever we wanted inside. So we took some farm tools, water crocks, etc., but we found a green plastic sack with this tree in it. It is quite funky. Tom was strongly stating that this should be our only tree this year, but I guess I am a traditionalist and want a real tree.
So we did in fact bring the top of the spruce tree that fell on our house inside our house as our Christmas tree this year. It is funky in its own right, but personally I think it makes a good tree. Plus maybe it gets rid of a little of the bad juju this tree gave us last month. What do you think?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beef and cold weather progress

So yesterday after a meeting down south, I picked up the beef from the butcher. I do not know if you can see it in the photo, but my little commuter car is really loaded down and completely stuffed with meat.
We stuffed what we could into our two freezers in the garage and then made an emergency run to Tom's parents to put the rest in their freezer.
Today it continued to be cold. It is taking its toll on some of the critters. Clara is an older goat, and she was shivering today. I briefly brought her in the feed shed and fed her extra grain. Then I put an old sweater on her, and it seems to have helped.
Then Tom and I worked on making a barn door. He says it takes twice as long to do work in the cold, and I think he's right. We only got one door done where I thought we might get both finished.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Baby, It's Still Cold Outside

But I am trying not to complain. There are others out there who have dealt with high winds, much colder temperatures and frozen water pipes so we are doing just great!
Here's the sheep beds from last night. You can see the oval spots without frost and the poop on one end. It always amazes me that the sheep never use their barn at night. The goats, donkeys and chickens definitely do.
Here's our eldest ram Jocko on ice.
Here's our tough frosty ram lambs.
And here's the sunrise at 9 AM, merely 17 hours after sunset. Maybe it will warm above freezing today (unlikely).
INJURY UPDATE: My skin is almost back to normal. The color is good, but it is thickened and has somewhat diminished sensation still. And I wore my snowshoe pants out to do critters this morning.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

The lowest temperature I saw today was 16 degrees, but it sure felt colder. I waited until the afternoon to do critters to give the sun more time to thaw things. My plan did not work. Here's the ice we have been braking out of one of the tubs all week, and the chickens patiently waiting for the liquid kind of water.
Here's the goat's tub of "water".
Here's out hose frozen in what used to be mud/
Here's a bucket of "water" from inside the barn.
Here's a phoenix rooster that Tom may have saved last night. He said he couldn't walk and was found laying outside last evening. Tom put him in this kennel with a heating pad, food and water, and he is walking around now. I was fully expecting to find him dead this morning. He'll stay on the heating pad again tonight.
Here's the goose/duck "swimming" pool.
Here's a gate frozen into what was mud last week.
So all of the above has made our lives more difficult. Where it usually takes 1/2 to 1 hour to do animal chores, now it takes 3 hours. And it is exhausting. I did manage to have almost enough hoses unfrozen to give water to everyone- I did have to bucket for the far two fields. Afterward I used gravity to drain the hoses, put them on fence posts and then blew them out. This usually gets the water out so they can stay open for use.
And here's the sun going down at 3:45 PM. It is going to be a long, cold, dark night.
So I came in after these chores and took a hot shower. The hot water became ice cold by the time it hit my feet. I have never had that happen before. And I think I have early frost bite on my thighs. The skin there is red, swollen and has decreased sensation. I was wearing a thick sweaters, wool socks, thick boots, gloves and a hooded Carhartt coat but only jeans on my thighs. So let this be a lesson to you all- cotton kills- wear your long-johns! I sure will now!

Cool chicken nest boxes

Check out these cool chicken nest boxes at I would like to win one!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Candy Kiss

This is a tribute to Candy Kiss, our oldest goat who died today. I traded for her in 2004 when she was almost 8 years old because I loved her deep red color.
Only eight days later our buck Cody escaped when she was cycling and so 5 months after she arrived she produced triplets for us: Pixy Stix, Tootsie Roll, and Zotz.
She did not kid again until 2008 when she produced twins: Mars and Snickers.
She was then retired. Here she is teasing Cody in her retirement.
Her retirement was shorter than I had hoped, but her decline was brief and appeared painless.
I believe her life here was a good one, and I am glad I knew her.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Butcher Day

Today is Butcher Day. We are butchering our Highland-Dexter cross 1.5 year old bull Jesse and our 2 year old steer Leroy. I moved them into the alley to minimize the distance they have to travel when the slaughter truck gets here.
And we have to butcher Barney too. He is our yearling ram who has ingrowing (and lethal) horns that are right to his skin. He has a beautiful fleece and a nice personality so it is a shame. But he would suffer if we let him live any longer.
So I brought Barney into the barn. And now I am taking off. I am still a wuss at heart.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our turkey is 8 1/2 years old, but he can still strut his stuff!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Last evening we bottled our cider. Here's the filtering/racking station.
Here's the capping station.
Here's the labeling table.
And here's a few bottles of the cider. It will be ready in a few months.
We sampled a little, and carboy #2 is by far the best.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tree on house update

Here's an update on our fallen tree situation. Here are better photos that Tom took the next day while I was at a meeting. This is the tree on the house from the front
and from the back.
Here's where the tree trunk split.
And here's the tree service guys removing the tree from the roof.
So today we spent chipping up the branches from this mess. Here's the before photo of the area of our front yard (from the side of the house) that the second tree fell into.
Here's the view from the front yard of the corner of the house.
Here's the view of the same areas as above after we were done.
My father (and probably a lot of others) feel that when an Evergreen tree is dying, it puts out a lot of cones to propagate itself first. This Norway spruce tree had a lot of cones that really weighed it down. Here's one small branch in the chipper that is just full of cones.
Then we were done! This is Tom and the dogs taking a breather. I am sitting on the ground by this point.
So yesterday in my comments I mentioned that this event provided us with lots of wood chips and firewood for only $1300! Here's the wood chips (with a lot of needles):
But today I realized that I forgot to consider that we also received natural landscaping with removal of weaker plants, mulch, pruning and sweeping. We also have the fresh scent of spruce both outside and inside! We got plenty of exercise in the fresh air today. And we may have acquired a Christmas tree for the top of this spruce.
I am trying REALLY hard to focus on the positives here!

(We are not sure we want our Christmas tree to remind us of that "fateful night".)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tree on house

So we are in the middle of an intense windstorm with wicked gusts. With one gust a tree came down on our house with me in it. It was pretty scary. It looks like no major damage was done, but it is against the chimney, the edge of the roof, and two windows. I worry with ongoing gusts that more damage will be done. Unfortunately my camera was malfunctioning when I took these photos around 4:15 and now it is dark.

These above and below photos are of where the large branch took off the main trunk.

So Tom came home and was checking out the damage when another tree came down and almost hit him. It turned out if was the other main trunk from the same spruce tree.

So now we have a tree service on the way over (they are just down the road). I am not sure what they can do in this intense wind, but we'll see.

Shaun the Sheep "Off the Baa"

Shaun the Sheep clip "Save the Tree"