Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Winter comes to Mulino

Not too long ago I was busy making plans for spring - ordering seed, picking up a bale of plug mix and a case of 4" pots. Getting things ready to set up work benches in the greenhouse I'm going to set up in a month or so. Ah, spring fever, I was deep in its grip and it wasn't even officially winter yet.

Then last week it started to get cold. OK, so I can deal with that, no problem. Batten down the hatches, fill everyone's water troughs up to over flowing, drain the hoses, seal up the underside of the house, you know, the usual stuff.

Things were going along fairly well, I got into a regular routine. First off the feeding, then go out with a hatchet and chop ice off of the water tanks. The primary idea behind topping off the water tanks for everyone, is not so much because they'll drink a lot of water, but that I'll loose a 1-2 inches per day to ice formation. On the 4th day, I had to hook up all the hoses and fill everyone back up, then drain, but no biggie.

Portland was getting snow and ice, but out here, in Mulino, aka the Bananna Belt as we were informed when we first moved out here, it was just frozen water tanks and bare, dry pavement.

Then it started to snow -

And snow -

And snow some more -

Fortunately I have plenty of hay put up in the barn and Harold had a fellow come and help him with the back part of the barn which got completely remodeled -

It is kind of pretty -

This is what the back yard looked like this morning (the blog isn't showing the whole picture, to see it mouse over the image, right click, and select open link in new window or tab) -
If you look close, you can see the path going out to the barn (it runs behind the little red truck), and the path that goes out to the emu compound (to your left) and the arena.

The animals are doing pretty good, the goats have to kind of bound through the snow, and now that there are paths beaten into it, they pretty much use the paths, but they don't seem to mind it much as long as they have plenty of hay and some warm water to drink -

This is Whiskers, she's due to kid in mid January. Hope it's a bit warmer by then....

Red Goat, she's a wooly bear right now.

Neapolitano Deborah - aka Gizmo, who's greatest concern is when dinner's coming....

And Little Flash, who would really like to be in with the mares right now, but who is in the back yard so he can shelter in the barn if he so chooses.

Ah, well. I've had a chance to do a lot of photography, especially of the little wild birds that are coming down to eat now that everything is covered with snow and ice. By the end of the week it's supposed to warm up, they're saying 50, that'll be like a heat wave. This will all eventually melt off and I can get back to planning and building for seed starting season which should start in a month or so.

I'm currently putting my time in the house to good use. I'm designing some really nifty Windows wall paper. A gallery of them will be up on the art website soon. I'll post a notice here when that happens, and you can download one or more if you like.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gardening comes full circle

Over at Food Democracy, there's an interesting article posted on the Burpee seed company.

Burpee seeds have been around for as long as I can remember. According to the article for over 100 years. I remember when I was a little kid my dad buying seeds produced by Brupee. I even thought that the burpless cucumber was called that because it had something to do with the Burpee company, but that's another story...

Burpee had seen a drop over the years in the popularity of it's seeds, which makes sense as gardening had gone out of favor. But now, with fuel and food prices increasing and taking a bigger bite out of the average family's pocket book, gardening is enjoying a resurgence. Burpee's sales are on the rise and hopefully gardening will continue to gain in popularity.

I also have an idea that, in addition to higher fuel and food prices, greater sensitivity to people's 'carbon footprint' (I've never been fond of that phrase), etc., media has something to do with the interest in gardening as well.

With the popularity of Food Network, and shows on cooking broadcast by other networks, I have to believe that people are becoming more interested in cooking with fresh ingredients. Once you find out how easy it is to raise your own produce, and how much better it usually tastes when you pick it fresh off the plant, or dig it fresh out of the ground, if you like food, you'll be hooked for the rest of your life.

Cooking with fresh foods just tastes different, and often times better. It does require some basic cooking skills and these food shows are very good at teaching those skills to people who, perhaps as children and young adults, didn't have the opportunity or inclination to learn them. One of my favorite shows on Food Network is Alton Brown's Good Eats. He makes the process and art of cooking interesting and explains and illustrates cooking techniques and styles in an easy to remember and understand, at least for me, way. He also highlights and demistifies foods from around the country and the world.

Even Iron Chef America, a show that pits professional chefs against one another in culinary battle, offers fodder for the budding cook. Preparing often easily obtained ingredients and presenting them in interesting and innovative ways that make meats, poultry, seafood, vegitables and grains more interesting than your usual fare made from these ingredients. Most of the dishes I've seen prepared on Iron Chef can be easily prepared by the home cook.

For more information on Alton Brown visit his website -

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The New Way Is The Old Way

How about this - a couple of Tennessee farmers have gone back to using mules to farm with. According to this article in The Horse, they've parked the tractor and hitched up the team. With the price of diesel, they claim that the mules, while working slower than the tractor, are less expensive to run. I suppose this makes sense as they are harvesting hay. Be kind of like pumping your own oil and refining your own diesel. They've made some adjustments and converted the hay rake that was used on their tractor so that it can be pulled by the mule team staffed by Molly and Dolly.

They say it's the wave of the future.

Well, what do you know, maybe the Amish and the Mennonites were right after all.....

High Gas Prices Force Farmer To Switch To Mules at

Monday, November 19, 2007

Learning From Pastoralists ~ The League for Pastoral Peoples

Many times in our 'modern and advanced' world, we tend to look down our noses at those who farm and keep animals in more traditional ways. Ways that are hundreds or thousands of years old. One of the groups of people I wasn't aware of untill I started researching intrernational trade issues related to the National Animal ID System (NAIS), are the Pastoralists. What, you might ask, is a pastoralist anyway? Simply put, a pastoralist is someone who depends on their livestock for their survival, their culture is centered around the livestock, and they are generally nomadic, although they can settle.
In everyone's rush to modernize, lots of preasure is being put on pastoralists, through increased use of traditional grazing grounds for fixed agriculture, and also because many grazing grounds are being turned into parks and wild areas. Sometimes the pastoralists are allowed to continue as they have for centuries and are either given the responsibility of looking after or managing the area, sometimes they are evicted from the grazing lands. Irregardless, it appears that pastoralists are a woefully under represented group in the halls of international trade, national agriculture and livestock legislation, etc.
The League for Pastoral Peoples was formed to provide an advocate for pastoralists the world over, as well as providing education regarding the positive things that pastoralists bring to livestock keeping. To learn more about Pastoral people please visit the League for Pastoral Peoples - link in the menu on the right.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Weed Task Force

Last night, Wednesday, 14 November, I attended a meeting put on by the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Molalla. What this meeting was all about is the formation of a noxious weed taskforce.

You might ask yourself what we need with such a thing as a weed taskforce, and I did too. That's why I went to the meeting. What I learned made me want to serve on the taskforce and to help out in any way that I can.

If you have rural property, especially if you have livestock or grow any kind of crop, be it for your own use or for sale, a service such as this could be very valuable for you. Asside from providing information on different types of weeds, the taskforce will probably wind up generating and/or providing information on various ways to control these weeds that can be dangerous to domestic animals, wildlife and wild plants, and often have the effect of being a general pain in the hindquarters, or the back as the case may be.

I'd like to encourage anyone interested in this to contact Ginny Van Loo, Weed Task Force Program Coordinator - 421 High Street, Suite 105, Oregon City, Oregon 97045
Phone (503) 349-8951, email - You can also go to the website -

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Welcome To My World....

I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, but have never liked living in a city - I guess I've always been a country girl at heart. My father has always had a garden and was born on the property he still lives on in SE Portland. When he was a child, his mother gardened, and this will give you an idea of how Portland used to be long ago - but not that long ago - the family also raised chickens and shared a cow with the neighbors. My father's job was to take the cow down to the local field, now a city park, and stake her out to graze every other day. My father has some interesting stories about that cow and one of the roosters his ma had....

In grade school I made friends with a girl who had a horse, and in high school I made friends with other girls who had horses and we spent all of our free time at the barn. It wasn't a fancy show barn, it was what I call a 'common' barn, that is there were people who practiced many different horsemanship disciplines but in general they didn't compete, they just had horses - Western, English, people who did Calf Roping and other Rodeo events, and then there were those of us who learned to ride outside of any particular discipline, taking something from each that suited us.

In 1991, my boyfriend, Harold, and I moved out to Mulino to a small acreage - 6.67 acres - to raise emus. Those birds were all the rage back then, and while we had gotten into it at the tail end of the breeder market, we had decided to continue on in the slaughter market when it developed - which it didn't for a variety of reasons, and I'll probably write an article on that but not today. Harold had grown up on farms, both here in Oregon and on the family homestead in Missouri, which his grandfather had originally homesteaded and on which the family had raised mules for sale to the wagon trains moving over the Oregon Trail, and they also raised other crops and livesotck. Harold has a rich history in hunting, fishing, farming, and living off the land - which his family had to do to survive the Great Depression. So, when the emu market crashed, we decided to stay on the farm and keep the emus for our own use. We also had been improving part of the land with the horses I had bought - I'd had horses off and on over the years but had never had the opportunity to keep them at home. Believe me, if you like horses and can keep them at home, you are truely blessed. We also boarded a couple of ostrich for a friend of ours and I was raising upland game birds which our wolfhybrid Loiosh kept an eye on for us. I have a seperate blog for stories about the animals that you can read if you're interested. It relates directly to this blog as an awful lot of what we do out here is directly related to animal agriculture, although we are always experimenting in plant agriculture too.

Anyhoo, getting back to the farm....

In 2001, I happened into enough money to buy a Lipizzan mare. I had boarded one of the mares I already had at a local stable during the winter to be able to ride during the wet part of the year - not having good footing or a covered area will seriously cut into a person's riding time in winter. At that barn there was a lady who was boarding her young Lipizzan stallion there. I learned from her that Lipizzans, contrary to my thinking, were not out of the realm of a 'regular' person's means, and so in 2001 I asked her to locate a mare that would be suitable to breed to her stallion. That search resulted in my purchase of the mare Melora who was in foal to the Andalusian stallion Regaliz. In the spring of 2002 Melora delivered a superb foal who I named Luna.

My original plan was to breed Melora to this purebred stallion, who carried excelent bloodlines, but my friendship with the stallion's owner fell appart and I decided to keep Melora and Luna and either just enjoy them or find another suitable stallion to breed to. In 2005, I happened on the stallion Neapolitano Debora, a purebred Lipizzan stallion who's sire had stood at the state stud in Hungary at one time, and so had very good bloodlines which aren't too common in the USA and who is just far enough away, genetically, from Melora to make a suitable match for her. I was able to arrange to purchase him, and brought him home to our farm in late 2005. I was now set to run my own Lipizzan breeding farm. Everything was going well, and I was about to realize my lifelong dream of not only working with a wide variety of animals, but some of them were horses, and even better yet, the horses were Lipizzans. As a teenager in Portland, I used to go every year to see the Lipizzaners perform at the Colliseum, it was one of the things I looked foreward to all year long.

Then in February I learned about some regulations that USDA was planing to implement that threatened that dream. I have yet another blog about that and links to my other blogs can be found in the links in the side bar. I began to research this new thing, called the National Animal ID System, and formed the Oregon Small Holders Alliance in order to provide information on agriculture issues that can affect small scale livestock owners and formed a working group to study the implementation of the NAIS in the USA and it's effects on our segment of agriculture.
In my studies - I've racked up almost 1,700 hours of study to date - I've come to realize that small scale agriculture is every bit as important to the health of agriculture in general in the USA, and, in fact, everywhere in the world, as large scale agriculture. However, just as large scale agriculture has it's challenges, so do we, not the least of which are management and financial issues.

I've always been poor, still am in fact. Yet I've always found way to accomplish the things I've set out to do. Quite often I've had to come up with solutions that, at least to me, were somewhat innovative and unconventional, but they do get the job done. And so, with that in mind, I've started this blog in order to share my experiences in small scale farming, in the hope that I can share some of my solutions and perhaps even share information and experience from others. I also hope to educate people who don't farm or garden, and give them a perspective on why I farm small scale and would like to continue to do so. Remember, you don't have to be big to farm, technically if you have a garden, you're farming as far as I'm concerned. And here's an interesting bit of info - according to USDA if you have property that could, not that is, but that could produce $1,000 worth of gross revenues in a year, you're a farm as far as they are concerned. Heck, my dad could do that raising nursery stock instead of having a garden on his city lot in Portland - the same one, by the way, that his ma 'farmed'.

So I suppose, in a way, perhaps I did grow up on a farm, even if it was in a city......

You can read my other farming related blogs by taking any of the links in the side bar up topside -

Not All Of My Friends Are Human - articles on animal behavior and the animals I currently have and those I have had in the past

Oregon Small Holders Alliance - the website and blog I set up to highlight ag issues affecting small scale livestock owners.

OSHA NAIS Working Group - the working group I formed to study the implementation of the National Animal ID System and it's effects on small holders in the USA, its tribes and territories. Anyone interested in our work or in serving on the working group are welcome, there are no restrictions, you don't even have to own any animals or be engaged in agriculture. You do have to join the working group to view posts or have access to files posted to the discussion list. There is no charge for joining and I don't share your information with out your permission to anyone not already on the list - hey they have access on their own in that case.