Spud Man

He was back at it again this year, more successful than ever!

  • Two, fifty-foot rows
  • Nine varieties
  • Five bushels
  • Three-hundred pounds

There are purple and white, red and white, red, magenta, dark purple, white, Russet, and fingerlings of various colors. Some of the purple ones are deep purple all the way through.

David says his favorite is the magenta. Here are a couple photos of the magenta and purple varieties:

Projects and Productivity

We are getting evidence that we succeeded in saving fruit trees, berries and vines last year after the fire and water loss! It’s joyous and comforting to see things producing again. We also have a number of ongoing projects to keep us busy. Here are some of the latest photos:

For that water tank in the pictures, I have to paint that in short stages while wearing a high-quality respirator. There’s no air circulation and the fumes are deadly. Even with the respirator, after painting about 1/2 gallon, my eyes are burning and I have to get out. (There’s a tiny hole to craw out of). It took 3 gallons of primer, so that was six, separate mornings of painting — thankfully we had some cool weather for that! (I can’t remember if I posted a photo of the tank being sandblasted — that was also a hellacious job). So we’ve hired a professional sandblaster and a professional welder to help us get this tank holding water for the long-term. Soon we’ll have water in it.

Moon’s Big Day

Maggie’s Moon went to a new home today.

His new home is in Grass Valley, about 1.5 hours from here. Moon rode the entire way sitting in David’s lap with his little horned head resting on David’s shoulder. It was hard to say goodbye to such a sweet goat, but he’s got a bunch of does in his future.

Note to selves: when traveling with a 2 month-old kid on one’s lap for more than an hour, do stop and give the little guy a potty break. About 15 minutes from our destination, David’s leg got warm and very wet … after we dropped Moon at his new home, we stopped by Tractor Supply to get a clean pair of jeans for David to wear. We stopped out our friends’ house (Dennis and LeRoy) for lunch and we just couldn’t have David smelling like goat piss for such an occasion!

Here on the ranch, Moon’s mother, Maggie, still has her little Star (the doeling we kept). Star definitely misses her Moon, but the two other kids from this Spring (Beaux Beaux and Boon) are keeping her company.

Thirty Years of Friendship

Kristin and Neil – Austin, Texas Community Gardens – 1991

I have a few friendships running 30 years or longer — and I cherish them. These are gemstones we’ve woven into our live’s tapestries. Kristin (pictured above) spent a week with us on the ranch this past week. It was wonderful to live with each other for a short while. Our lives are very different, but our friendship has endured through all differences, and we remain: kindred spirits.

Processing Olives

After a morning of netting blueberries to keep birds off, weed trimming, moving irrigation pipes in the pasture, continued rehab on the 12,000 gallon water tank, and moving last year’s kids to separate pasture to wean them, we processed the olives!

We can olives so that we can use them throughout the year on our Greek-style salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta cheese. We don’t grow the olives, but local friends let us pick after they are finished harvesting in the Fall.

The entire process goes like this:

  • Pick ripe olives in the Fall (ripe is greenish-black) – we usually pick 5 gallons
  • Over a period of time, alternately soak the bucket of olives in salt water and fresh water. The period of time is flexible — these have been brined and rinsed 3 times in the past 6 months, but 3 brine/rinse cycles in 2 months would work, too.
  • Pit the olives
  • Can the olives with herbs and spices – Greek style

Here’s the pitting-to-canning process in photos:

To process these 5 gallons of olives into 16 quarts of canned olives, we used 2 gallons of brine (equal parts red wine vinegar and water, along with salt). The filled, sterile jars are sealed with new canning lids and bathed in boiling water for 10 minutes. Greek salads, here we come!

Thanks to friend Kristin (visiting from Austin, TX) for help with the pitting! And David’s canning prep was beautiful!

Jars ready to add olives and brine

May Sometimes Seemed Almost Normal

With water restored and benefits of more social freedom afforded by widespread COVID-19 vaccinations, May started to feel almost normal. Work priorities shifted to things neglected on the ranch during the last eight months of fire and water recovery.

There have been more visitors, and the big table has been used for meals once again.

One project we recently completed was digging years of sediment out of the old pond. After the fire, and a low-rain year, the old pond went dry. In some places it had 4-5′ of muck and sediment. It was basically a shallow pit of cattails and lily pads, a smorgasbord for fish cranes that cleaned out all the tadpoles and remaining fish. I got the tractor down in there and cleaned it all out over a period of two days — raising and broadening the dam, removing cattails, and making it much deeper. Here’s a photo when I was just getting started:

Foreground: a thick mud flat infested by cattails. It was a little tricky getting the tractor down in there, but it did the job over two days. (More pictures later after we get water back in it).

The goat kids grew rapidly this month, and we didn’t get as many videos of them running and playing as we have in past years. But one of our recent guests was able to share a couple of his photos with us. Here are two of them, first, Cracker looking wistful. Second, little Moon (one of this year’s kids). Moon is about to go to a new farm to be a future sire for a milk herd in Grass Valley.

Sadly, some of our animals are succumbing to the effects of the heavy smoke last year. It was really hard on the smaller animals and birds. The rooster has lost his ability to crow and probably won’t last much longer. Our current breeding buck rabbit declined rapidly this month and we had to put him down.

Buck Bunny on his last day on the ranch. RIP, Buck Bunny

The garden is off to an unusually early start with the warm and early Spring. Garden pictures coming soon.

The chore list is long, but we are glad things seem to be a little more like they were before COVID, before fire. Here’s to more “normal”!

Celebrating Water!!!!

With 700 human hours and over $20,000 in donations from friends, family, friends of friends and other generous souls, we have restored our water aqueduct system! You can see some of the rebuild pictures on our Berry Creek Water Users Facebook page, but here’s a video that shows what it was like sending water through for the first time since the fire:

Crimson Clover and a Little Dog, Too!

David and I got a quick respite for two days to see my mom, dad and sister (first time we’ve seen them in two years). Here’s my sister’s dog playing in crimson clover. Thankfully, what you don’t see is the poor dog had nearly 50 ticks on it after that romp — as did Dalane and David. Missouri has ticks and chiggers in abundance. We did not bring any back with us, thank you.

The Water Situation

Everyone who follows us here knows last Fall’s fire destroyed our source of irrigation water. We are tackling that on three fronts: 1) rebuilding the aqueduct, 2) adding additional storage and a well on the ranch, and 3) getting by on rainfall.

The last of these fronts, rainfall, has kept the creek running since November, but is dwindling rapidly and will likely be inadequate for most irrigation in about ten days or less. This is when our water needs go critical again. Critical means additional sources are needed.

We are about $20,000 dollars and 500 hours into rebuilding the aqueduct. There’s probably another 500 hours of labor needed, and we are going to attempt to re-use and patch many areas that need new pipe because of funding issues. That may or may not work. Here’s our latest post about the aqueduct repair on Facebook:

Here on the ranch, we are still working on additional storage and drilling a second well, but we’ve had very little time for that as we are focused on the aqueduct. The 12,000 gallon steel tank we purchased last year needs some TLC (had about 50 holes to patch-weld and still needs paint and to be placed and plumbed). We are hoping to get the well drilled in May sometime. It is already too dry to trench power to the new well so we will likely power it with a generator until we can hopefully trench power next year.

Water needs are going critical very early this year because this is California’s third driest season on record. Fire weather watches are already going, tomorrow through Tuesday being especially dangerous already.