Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thinking about Blackberries

Today I am thinking about blackberries.  This is because I am doing my annual, mid-winter pruning of the bases of the vines in our yard- trying to keep them at bay.

I am thinking about when I was a kid, and we would pick the berries at my soon-to-be step-father's house- eating a good percentage of them and getting our hands, clothes, and faces purple.

I am thinking about when I would walk back and forth to school and stop to eat blackberries in a vacant lot- not minding too much if I accidentally ate a bug inside- not really understanding why adults did not like them.

Thinking about all the blackberry jelly my grandparents have made from their vine in their yard and how good it tasted.

Thinking about "Still Life with Woodpecker" and how I moved into a house in a ravine completely surrounded by blackberries and feeling a little like the woman in this book.

Thinking about all the time I have spent using a machete and pruners trying to keep them under control.  Thinking about how Tom had a blackberry thorn go through his glove, his skin and into his finger joint, and how his finger swelled, and how he will never have the same ring size on that finger again.

Thinking about how a couple spend significant money hiring us and our goat to eat the blackberries growing on their property where they are hoping to build their home.

Thinking about how much our goats and sheep love to eat the leaves of these plants- how they are like candy to them.  Thinking about how much the bird like the berries too.

Wondering about the native blackberries and if they will survive in competition with the European plants.

Thinking about the amazing blackberry wine aged three years we had at a wine tasting last Friday- how it was one of the best wines I have ever tasted.

Think about drinking blackberry liqueur made from wild blackberries and vodka and given to us by Alta for keeping her ewes extra time during the snowstorms.   Thinking about how I drank it and watched the inauguration balls and got tipsy.

Wondering about if there are others areas of the world where there is such a love/hate relationship with this particular plant.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pruning Accomplished

The pruning is done!  It took us three days, but we really accomplished a lot.  About 9 of the trees in the orchard needed some serious topping, and the rest just simple pruning.  Tom took a class from Skagit Extension regarding caring for your cider orchard and learned some pruning tips.  I hope we did a good job and there will be a lot of fruit this next summer.  Now we have to figure out what we are going to do with all of the fruit tree branches.

Shearing Date for Schoonover Farm

We have our shearing date scheduled for March 11th, a Wednesday.  Tom is insisting that I not shear all 30 of our sheep alone this year.  Last year I injured my back in the process and missed several weeks of paying work.  So this year we are hiring Zander Woofenden.  He is young, well trained, and recommended by local Shetland shepherds.  So anyone who lives in the area (Skagit County) and would like to visit are welcome.  I am offering a 20% discount and first choice on fleeces to those how help with the process.  (I get the CVM fleece this year though).  Let me know via comment or email (donnawh@earthlink.net).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

We woke up and watched the inauguration of our new president this morning.  While they went to their "luncheon", we fed our animals and then planted our Christmas tree on the border of our orchard.  We buried the birds that died with the bad weather next to the tree as a memorial and as nutrients for the tree.

Then I tagged the tree.  I am hoping that as years go by, we can reflect on this day and on the positive changes that occurred since today.
Now we will watch some of the parade before we do some orchard pruning- life will go on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Drying out and goat hoof trimming

I found these photos on my digital camera- leftover from the flooding.  We are drying out now thankfully, but in driving around we are seeing all the damage that was done.  This is our front field where the barns are located:

This is the field where the rams are kept- you can see their tarp shelter completely surrounded by water:

Today the goats were due for their hoof trimming.  Their feet have been wet and muddy with all of the weather we have been having so we cleaned them up as well as trimmed them.  I am imagining their feet feel better now.  This is Brown Sugar, our Nigora wether- don't you just love his fiber!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The end of breeding sheep and flooding

I was going to blog about my least favorite time of the year- removing the ewes from the rams and putting the rams back together again.  We put the two rams into a pen with tires to minimize the velocity.  It seems to be working fairly well.  Jocko, our older ram, seems to be holding his own, and the bleeding is less this year.

We had to remove the ewes first though.  We had three visiting ewes still here because of the snow.  They were not too cooperative when we caught them and "lead" them to the truck for transport back home.  This ewe has perfected the "flop in the mud" technique of sheep resistance.
But now it has rained and rained and rained, and we have flooding!  This is a photo of our front fields:
The water is 10 feet from our hay barn (with 8 tons inside) and 25 feet from the animal barn.  We walked out back to check out the back ditch.  It is overflowing its banks onto the back fields as well.  We moved the cows closer to the barn and gates in case we need to evacuate them and tried to fill the breaches as best we could.  This is a photo from the back of the fields toward the front:
Here's the water flowing out of the ditch toward our field.

Then we dropped off my car to get tires that won't hydroplane as much.  While we were waiting for the tires we found a local church in Allen with sand and bags and filled about 20 of them for the hay barn.  The streets of Allen were covered in water.  There was a rubber duck floating down the middle of the road- Chuckanut Drive- and the local espresso stand had a sign "No Wake Zone".  At least they have  a sense of humor in Allen while they are sandbagging! 

End of sheep breeding and flooding

Shaun the Sheep "Off the Baa"

Shaun the Sheep clip "Save the Tree"