Tag Archives: BLD farm

What is seen

Today was the Farm Tour. 9 or 10 people showed up. With that many people standing around engaging is conversation, it’s tricky to just keep track of who asked what and did I actually just say that out loud and where are we going next. So I lost count. Everyone seemed to have a good time. No one fell. Which is always a concern. Viann got a bit too over stimulated while we were looking at the rocket stove. She was stationed on top of the riser barrel taking all the attention that was coming her way. On the ground among 6 or 8 pairs of legs was a bit too much so she stayed mostly on the barrel head. There is a slim chance that she was really irritated with all the touching. Her horns got swung around a good bit and she did this double gainer half back flip rail grind all the while head banging like back in the day. She caught me across the ribs on an upstroke with her horns. I have seen human children act similarly when a lot of company suddenly invades their space. Especially when a couple of them start paying particular attention to them. They tend to go bug shit crazy after a while. A while being less than 10 minutes. Any amount of time substantially longer than whatever is the norm. She rarely gets more than 10 or 15 seconds of scratching from me as she usually skitters off and back so many times it’s a piece of work to not step on her. Ann ( the mom) will get a few strokes now and again when she is still eating and I’m done milking. That’s a lot for her. It’s gotta be a little stressful being a goat in my space, so I give them plenty of room as long as they don’t cross me. Which they almost always don’t do. They are almost always out of the way. Almost. But today, Viann got herself a little lovin.

I can’t help but wonder, as I have many many times, what do people see on their first encounter with this place? Or any place I’ve inhabited for any serious length of time. They won’t see the stacks of metal billboard panels and downspouts that were just sitting there last week. This place isn’t a museum. I don’t live my life that way. I’m the type of fool that takes occasional great overlarge bites of life, gags for a moment and faster or slower digests that great mouthful into something I can make a bit of sense of. This place is my solutions. My collections of little bits of sanity. It’s like looking at a rack of cops fresh out of the kiln. If I look at each cup as an individual, I will notice the flaws and excellence in each of them, but when I step back and see them as a Set. I can see progress and promise rather than failure and frustration. The farm is the same way for me. Only, y’all can’t see the could have and wanted to. You see the IS, you see what is now. A snap shot of here. A snap of our life.

I would like to extend a thank you to everyone who came. Especially Sandy who makes pies at the farmer’s market. It is a wonder to see child-like revery in people’s eyes when they are faced with a situation that reminds them of their far past youth. There is a sparkle when white haired women talk of their grandmother’s habits. They speak of things lost. Traditions left in the dust. Till now. We are seeking out those Ways. They made sense for centuries before now. Most of them still do.

Rockety Coop ready to roll

coop rocket ready for final layer

I’ve been keeping going back in the barn lately, in amongst all the doings with getting ready for the Farm Tour. With the excuse of having people walking though the barn and not breaking their legs, I figured that I needed to fill the thermal battery as it sits in the doorway connecting the new coop with the rest of the barn. This is, after all, the whole point of where it is sitting. Yesterday before breakfast, it just seemed like the thing to do. It’s funny how hunger comes and goes and the sketchy shaky feeling passes, eventually. coop thermal battery

The pipe in the battery comes out and back with a clean out just after the bend. I don’t think I’ll put the final layer on top of the box until everything gets a whole lot drier. The mix I used to fill the box was 50% unscreened bank sand and 50% unscreened yellow clay. They were both on the moist side from the recent rains so I didn’t add any water. It was only dry mixed and then tamped in around the pipe as the box was filled. Just after the returned pipe rises from the ground, another clean out is added. This will allow a place to get the draft started if their is a problem. coop door stop & chimney

Once the box was filled and tamped, there was still a bit of material left over, so I used it to fill in around the firebox on the other side of the barrel. In order to keep the unmortared bricks from collapsing while I tamed the soil in around them, I simply filled the opening with bricks and a few slivers of wood as a brace. rocket no can filled

It’s pretty neat that there was just exactly enough material to get the box to where it is. In the first image, there is a galvanized can with a lid sitting over the firebox. This will be secured into the floor with it’s bottom removed in order to control the air flow. I don’t have anything like that on the rocket in the Seedhouse and I know that without it the mass will continue to draft and cool. Pretty much defeats the purpose. This way, the lid can be used to either slow or stop the flow completely. The mix that I will use around the large, riser barrel and the smaller can won’t have any lime in it. This way I can get back into it if I need to without it being any harder than it needs to be. This looks to me like a potential drawback to adding the lime into any of the floor, but especially around the stove. Going back into the hardened lime could mean hammer and chisel, instead of just a hose. I’ve got to burry these things far enough into the ground that they can withstand having a goat  (or 3) jump up onto them. I don’t intend to have goats jumping on them. Not at all. But they already do. Viann does anyway. Ann prefers the work deck.

This is all prototype. Every bit of it. Worst case scenario, I can knock the entire rocket riser apart and dig up the firebox and reuse the bricks. It won’t make the barn colder and the chance of it burning down the barn are extremely low already. coop unflat floor

With the floor in this condition, and not having a big new batch of chickens ready to move in, the floor can sit for a while. Or lay. Or whatever a floor does. The walls won’t be doable till fall, or a till the Phrag dies and dries out. Which ever comes first. This will give me a chance to put up the next boxes and such. Perches, exclusion/brooder cages, roof. There is a lot to do before there are chickens sleeping in there at night. There is no door and one of the walls is mostly the remains of a rubber drop tank. It would be nice to have this place livable for birds by winter. This will allow me to clear the main barn for the goats when they won’t want to go out anymore. It might cut down on how often they have chickens standing on them. And pooping on them. Maybe a little.

coop latest hen and chicks

Winter is very much in the air. I know that Montana is Montana, but come on, it’s not even September yet and they are closing roads due to snow?  The front that broke the long ugly heat thing that happened earlier this month smelled of winter. Geese are on the move. Only 1 flock of about 20, not headed south, exactly, but they were moving together. My broodiest hen refuses eggs now. They know that time is short. Fall is coming. As it always does.

Farm Tour 8/27 (tomorrow!)

shroom and rooster

Tomorrow (8/27) we are hosting a Farm Tour sponsored by the Ashtabula Local Food Council  here at the farm. Come by and check out just exactly what this place looks like.  It looks very different than it has for a while (if ever). The chickens sure love it. At the base of the big Red Oaks back by the barn, down among the roots, they have found that the soil is light and fluffy and oh, so perfect for dust bathing. The rocket stove in the barn has progressed by leaps and bounds. It, too, will most likely make another oh, so perfect dust bath. Come on by and check out gardens and the Seedhouse. We’ll be doing a long plant walk as we wander the ring trail. I know the Elder berries are mostly done but the Monkey Flowers and Lobelia are going strong. The schedule says 1:00-3:30 so we’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the day.coop rocket ready for final layer


Fungus season


For whatever reason, this year has seen an explosion of Boletes in the area around the farm. At least 5 or 6 types of them have come up. These look to be Baorangia Bicolor  Bolete.

We haven’t eaten many yet. We ate what we are calling King Bolete the other day. Today we ate a few of these.

crinkled shroom

Xerocomus hortonii (“Corrugated Bolete”)

What I get to feeling when I think about  all these things coming up out of the ground is that they are all expressions of the underground here abouts. These Boletes come in such profusion around North America  that some of them are only identified with certainty under a microscope. (over 400 species) It’s the shape of their spores and the tubes they fall from. Beats me. These things are what they are. They aren’t the spore shape ones. They are certainly delightful to eat.

I’ve had a couple of experiences of eating mushrooms from the woods that have ended poorly. Once by my own hand, once by the hand of another person. the mistake I made was concerned with bitterness levels and a total inexperience identifying Boletes. Upset stomachs were the extent of things. The event by another’s hand was a misidentification of a mushroom that GLOWS IN THE DARK!!!  General rule. Don’t eat things that glow in the dark. We were actually out again today gathering Chanterelles behind the barn. It’s been a good year for fungus.

I am growing to think that the world is a far more subtle place than any of us realize.

Mud floor gets a leg up

coop floor surveyours mark

Tuesday was a big big day. There were 6 people, a dog, 2 goats and most every single chicken at some point helping out. The 4 leggers and the birds mostly just crapped on things and knocked stuff over. Like normal.

My hat in hand, I must thank Stephanie and John from Red Beet Row, Gretchen from Cherry Valley Ecological Farm and Patrick from Octagon Acres. This floor has been staring me in the face for months now. Not doing much of anything but drying out and getting burrowed into by the chickens in their eternal quest for the perfect dust bath. And what have the goats managed to hurl to the floor and smash now? With all these people coming to get the floor done, I no longer had any excuse to put it off, so we did it. Half of the floor the first day any how. It went down quite well. We could mix the cob a bit wetter than I would like to for walls. It didn’t really need to stand up to anything. And this is just the first goat anyways. coop goat prints

With having just finished the first layers on the Syrup Cooker and Mary’s Grotto (later), I’ve found some success with increased durability to the elements by adding a couple of scoops of hydrated mason’s lime, NOT farm lime. This is the same stuff that I used on the outside of the Seedhouse. Only there, the mix with only lime and clean white sand. Here the mix was 50% yellow clay 50% bank sand (both thru a 1/2″ screen) 2 scoops of lime, and a flake of last year’s moldy hay because I don’t have any straw at the moment. I found that not only does the lime harden the clay enough to shed water, the mycelium grows through the clay as it dries, binding everything together in one final explosive embrace. I haven’t actually read too much about what people use in their earthen floors, beyond using elephant dung which is polishable and antiseptic. Who knew? I have lime. So I’m throwing it in everything. I just imagine how the chicken poo will soak into the cob. The smell will be in the floor no matter what. The hope is that the lime will keep the floor together longer with all the shoveling and scraping that will happen in there. It’s not cement. I accept that. I also accept that I can’t grow more lime. The closest mine is in Genoa, Ohio. Closest supplier is in East Cleveland. What will happen in 5 years? Dunno. 50? Beats me. It’s a floor. It’s a dirt floor. In a chicken coop. Whatever happens to it will be WAY worse than anything that will happen to a floor made of the same recipe in my house. I want to see what it does with 50 chickens living on it. Just to see. Same with the Rocket stove. I just want to see what I can do with one in a building that I go into at least twice a day, every day. Or someone does. I got a warning about lighting the stove at -20 F. They apparently hammer out every bit of moisture in them at once and lock the system up after about 30 minutes. It makes sense. 2 different barns. 2 different builders. It’s only set in dirt at this point. coop rocket

As you can see in the above image, I went back out to the barn the next day and finished off the rest of the floor. I had to go back across the street for another load of sand, but by the time I got to the doorway, I had used up all of the clay and sand that we had brought over.coop floor dust box

This is the SW rounded corner of the room. The Phragmites bundles are shown as the basis for future earthen plaster work. I left a corner of the floor exposed to the tamped dirt with a treated 2×4″ frame is set flush with the floor surface so that more dirt can be added as they throw it around all winter. If I hadn’t put this dust box in, I wouldn’t have had enough cob to get the floor as close to the opening as I eventually did. The floor is within 3 or 4 inches of the doorsill, whenever that gets figured out. In addition to filling in the thermal battery and around the firebox on the rocket, I’ll need to go over the entire floor with a finish layer. This will mean I need at least 1 more load of clay and 1 of sand, so I figure there will be enough to get the floor out as far as I need it to be. I figure to set bricks in the cob under the door. Between them and the lime in the clay, I hope to discourage diggers.

Another deterrent to diggers and chicken killers is the mesh that I put up over all 4 barn windows today. This has allowed me to remove the windows from their sashes and allow even more air to move through the barn. There is an actual breeze through the barn now. And I’m content knowing that the varmints can’t get to my birds. And the 6 chicks that hatched 3 days ago. It’s nice having broody hens. She seems to know what she’s doing. There is food and water just out of the frame, and the box has some extremely expensive chopped straw that I paid way too much for at the BIG BOX FARMY STORE. I can make myself feel better by saying that it’s a business expense and I can write it off.


Baby barb in Bubba's Shrine

Here is Mary’s Grotto as it appeared in my Mother’s parent’s front yard in the spring of 1967. The child is not me as I wasn’t born yet. My folks were dating, but weren’t married till later that year. The brown sticks to the left of the image are/were beautiful roses that surrounded the Grotto by the time I came along. I am currently wearing the belt of the man who is taking the picture. He passed away last year. This is my Uncle Mike taking picture of his first child. A little girl, Barb. It’s a good belt.

Mary's Grotto

The intervening 50 years were harder on the grotto than they were on Mary. It was the roses and the rose light filtering down on her all those decades. The bottom of the Grotto crumbled to pieces as I picked up, leaving 2 bent sections of rebar hooked out the bottom of the long cement curve. These I torched and bent straight. The cement chunks are left over from the patio/sidewalk/driveway job. I drilled a hole in each of the 2 front slabs of cement and filled in around the rest of it with lime cob. I made the small bowl out of what was left.

Once everything has a chance to cure a bit, I’ll go back and apply a final coat. Depending on how froggy I get to feeling that is. I just never know what I’ll be doing next. Oh yeah. Just so you don’t think Viann didn’t get in on the action. Here is her contribution.

coop floor no good deed

Never one to let a good turn go unpunished, she must have had a great time once she found the bag sitting there uncovered this morning. She beat that thing into submission. I don’t think all that much got wasted as there was a half a bag there when she found it. When Leah saw it this morning she just asked, “what did you think would happen?” No answer. I knew that she did it because of the white powder coating her horns and powdered down her neck, to her shoulders. Every error, every misstep. Goats, they find them.

Not hot bees

hive hot hot

Leah came and got me yesterday with a note of panic in her voice. “I think the bees are getting ready to swarm!” she cried. Okay, so she wasn’t panicked or crying out. She just sort of said it with some concern. The image is what we found. We sent some messages around and got word back to just chill out, just like they were doing. And to open some doors and windows in order to help ameliorate the situation.

hive hot not

So this morning we did just that. Granted, the first image was taken at the heat of the day (mid to upper 80s ) with almost 90% humidity. This put the day somewhere between what other people define as “Miserable” and “Why do I live here?” The day was a cooker, don’t get me wrong, but for days like that, winter’s -13 degree kiss becomes all the more unbearable. So if you were a bee, wouldn’t you want the doors and windows open too?

Come to find out, the hive was all out of order in the first place. Apparently the “top” is the thin sheet with the oval cut into it. This goes under the “lid,” which is exposed to the weather. This oval holed sheet does not separate the inner boxes. My mistake. Also, we hadn’t removed the “door reducer” from across the bottom lip of the box. That hive had to be screaming hot, with only the one way in and out. Also, I drilled a 7/8″ hole in the upper frame. This will provide a lot more cross ventilation and it will create new travel patterns inside the box. I hope it helps.

Here’s the trick. Part of me thinks I’m a complete idiot for doing this, but the entire time I was drilling and opening and prying and examining the box and it’s parts, both Leah and I were totally unprotected. No mask/safari hat. No hazmat suit. Just open it up and go about the business at hand. We were out there first thing in the morning so everything was cool and calm at the box when we got there. My memory of my Dzeda working the his hives will be forever with me. He didn’t not care if he got stung. He just knew how to not get stung. Don’t upset things any more than necessary. Do what needs doing and be decisive though gentle about it. Much like doing a head to toe, full body assessment on a trauma patient in an ambulance. Thorough, complete, no mucking about. As apposed to getting all weird about it. Be it hesitance and fear, or ill intent and mischief. These critters would know the score. They smell me more than I smell me. If they smelled even a hint of malice or fear, they would have nailed me. I never gave them that. I was just something that was repeatedly getting a little too far into their flight path. This, however, changed once I started manipulating the hive itself. I knew that I was upsetting things when I was working at getting the door spacer out of the way. They had already glued it into place pretty good and I needed more than a little effort to break it free. All the while, the buzzing around my head got louder and louder. I don’t know if everyone came home and were blocked from getting through or as a response to an alarm call. But they were there. Leah, wisely a step or 3 back away from the hive, said that the bees were a cloud around me. From my perspective, just a little less than arms length from the bottom of the box, I saw some extra bees, but traffic didn’t seem to slow down or speed up all that much at the door. As soon as the spacer had been removed, I stood up, and the cloud was gone. PooF! The angry buzz was gone. Everything was just as suddenly “Okay.”

Then we took the boxes apart and moved the ‘top’ to the actual top of the uppermost frame. The “new” frames are all clean up and seem to be getting used, if only a little, so far. Having moved the massive restriction from the box, I’m hoping things will progress at a better rate. Totally for their sake. The honey they are making is all for them. At least at this point. If they make WAY more than they can use, even on a harsh -20 winter, then we might take a frame off once everything is settled. Only time and the season will tell that one though.

This matters?

Roaring Lion FireSummer is a time that is infective in it’s presence. That deliriously exhilarating stench of pervasive fetid fecundity rocks me to me heels. Time stands on still. Some breath of a breeze carries the miasma of life . My lungs fill. My nose absorbs the cloud of bits and pieces of everything alive and breathing. Every Goldenrod Blackberry Sassafras Turk’s Cap Monkey Flower is flinging the very essence of their being into this wind. Hoping, against the odds of seemingly improbable odds, seeking to attract another. Begging yearning shrieking into void. SOME ONE FIND ME.! We’ve gotta git busy. There’s things need doin before the snow blows. The Flicker Groundhog Fox Fly Newt Grosbeak Bear Human make these same pleas to the wind. And there I stand, swimming in the sweltering viscous fug of a hot dry August. While Mantis Borer Mosquito Hornet Honey Bee zip and zoom about their obscure missions to achieve these same ends. Time hangs. The breeze dies away. The black soup mire under the reeds gently lifts and gut wrenching sniff of raw death. The sweat rolling down my nose. Falling to my boot tip with a splat. Not a cloud in a sky as blue as dreams. Helios’ steeds puking smoke and flame as they describe their arc across the heavens. My skin prickles and the sweat plays pachinko with my hair follicles. The hair burned white against my skin. I feel the Earth moving beneath my feet. This is alive. We are alive. We are all in this together. I can be standing in an ally in Baltimore or the field across the street and that same sense of HERE can be felt. Just around the corner from the rattle buzz hustle push of CITY, swimming in the Dumpster leachate, burrowed into the residue of intention is Life. The same life. All a part of The Dream call Today. Standing in a field or deep in the woods atop a mountain allows for a more simplified experience in access only. There is usually nothing to drown out at 8800′ besides the voices clamoring in my head. The alley is awash with every bit of human existence to nudge and drag my eyes from the Chicory blossoms around the telephone pole. Distraction from what is most vital to our existence seems to be the point of City. Of Civilization. The more we live ,closer and closer together, soon in our tiny houses stacked like Lego’s, the easier it will be to not notice. Not that it’s all that hard to not notice now. Breaking News: It’s Unsafe in Them There Hills!! Be afraid of ticks mosquitos rabid raccoons falling Ash trees. Stay in your homes and remain calm. Life is out to kill us all. And it will succeed. The life we live while Life is working at taking the Miracle back, can be spent with these moments of Solitude, strung like pearls along the Timeline of Life, as Oases of Calm amidst the Desert of Consensus reality. Being fully present and in the moment with bated breath allows my heart a chance to catch up to the rest of me. Silently standing in the presence of the Sacred. Humbled by it’s enormity. Forever fleeting. I cherish these times. Their value more than all the gold in the world could offer. To feel the drone of Cicada Katydid Cricket Grasshopper can set my bones to vibrate. These ephemeral instances avalanche through me. Feeding my lust for Being. If I could roar like the Niagara or wail like a Bitterroot gale, I could never express what I hold in those moments. Such simple moments. Snapshots in my mind’s eye of Yesterday’s Yesterday feed my Fire when the frigid wind of mediocrity abrades my cheek and assaults my everything. When the convoluted Societal Pressures meet the crazy-making paradigm of my Now, I have hot summer days like this one to remind me what matters most. Not the chitterlings of naked apes or the bright flashy colors and sounds of the latest latest. Zipper Jackets and Iphonepads offer less than access to anything. It’s the sittings and lookings and feelings and hearings that offer meaning. It’s in these sensations that the Face of God can be discerned. The Voice of the Spirit, in deafening silence and chaotic stillness, this is the food that feeds my soul. In these moments, my own personal ionosphere draws the energy that flows through everything that is and ever was will be. An argument about TrumpClintonPutinSaakashviliDuvalier only draws from that reserve. There is no reward in winning an argument that equals hearing a Pileated Woodpecker burrowing towards ants in a Cherry tree. We squeak and gibber at each other, vainly attempting to discern meaning from the gesticulation and ululations. Oblivious to the song of Phoebe and the creaking of crossed limbs, I am all too guilty of misapreciation and disunderstanding. These are lonely times, hollow of meaning and texture. I defy Confucius’s proclamation that there is no portent in the Bird on the wing or the leaf on the tree. There is meaning in the blade of grass that is all to obscure for a simple mind like mine to grasp. So if I can’t understand a blade of grass, how am I to discern clarity in the onslaught of Modernity?