Tag Archives: farm

Snow Day

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Here’s a rare thing… snow on the Farm! Our little town of Auburn is known for being “above the fog, below the snow”… but, once in a while, Mother Nature ignores our silly human sloganeering and sends a genuinely white Weather Event our way! The very occasional nature of such storms makes them extra-special, as everything familiar is frosted in ice and magically transformed overnight.

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Here’s the Harvest Party field, where we were celebrating on a warm end-of-summer afternoon, barely a couple of months ago! The tipi canvas is packed away for winter, and the chicken coop is snug and warm in the distance.

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And now, to the chicken house, where some of the more adventurous birds are outside — pecking for scratch in the snow and vying for a warmer foothold on the coop’s little ramp.

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This was quite a persimmon year — there are still plenty on the trees, even though we’ve eaten persimmons, dried persimmons, frozen them, given them away… this variety gets sweeter and softer after a frost, and the wild birds are enjoying what’s left on the tree!

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Nobody is home in this bluebird house; it sits under a cozy blanket of snow, waiting for Spring. It was built by Ron Brown, a longtime family friend, and founder of the “Bluebird Chain” — a series of more than 5,000 thousand numbered bluebird boxes that he built and distributed in the area to provide habitat for the Western Bluebird. (There’s a sweet article about Mr. Brown here.)

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The bees are warm and snug, too, in their field…

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…but a closer look reveals minute tracks in the snow in front of the hive: marauding Scrub Jays, who like to stand in front of the entrance, tap on it, and snack on the guard bees that venture out to see what’s going on. You’d think they would find plenty else to eat, what with the juicy persimmons and a whole hillside of glowing red wild Toyon berries… but bees are a nice source of protein, and the hive is such a convenient dispenser! And you do have to admire the birds’ ingenuity… nonetheless, we cover the hive fronts with wire fencing to deter the jays.

And speaking of wildlife… I love the way the snow keeps a record of all the feet that pass by — it’s a reminder of just how many creatures, great and small, call this place home.

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Filed under around the farm, beekeeping, chickens, Winter

Celebrating

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kicking things off with a wander through the orchard

Last-last weekend was our annual Harvest Party — the seventh one, and now a bona-fide tradition here at the Ranch! Each year, after our harvest and market season is over, we round up a bunch of friends for an afternoon of celebration (and potlucking and farm-touring and homebrew-tasting and campfiring and…) We say it every year, but this year’s party really was the best one yet!

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Left: friends Paula, Tony, and Adolfo. Right: Mikail (in his BH Ranch t-shirt!) and Phyllis 

My dear friend Antonio De Lucci  took these gorgeous photos of the festivities, and I’m so glad he did — I never manage to snap enough! He perfectly captured the afternoon, drenched in golden sunlight.

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And look, real honest-to-goodness Polaroids! At left: the tipi presides over the gathering (with a giant woodpile at the ready for campfire time when it gets dark). Right: yes, we really did haul out the gigantic vintage punch bowl for pear-pomegranate punch, made with our own pear juice. Who says you can’t be fancy just because you’re out in the orchard?

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Tom, leading the tour

Punch bowls aside — the orchard, of course, is the real star of the party! Everybody finds a glass of something and heads out for a tour before dinner.  I always feel like the farm just loves having all these people wandering around, admiring the Arkansas Black apples still on the trees, tasting grapes under the arbor, and taking turns to duck into the little wine cellar.

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And then it’s time for dinner — a fabulous potluck! One of the things I love most about this party is that it’s a rare opportunity to bring together all our friends from various spheres… farmers, musicians, beekeepers, radio DJs, artists, teachers, foragers, endurance runners, and homesteaders all sit down together with homemade food and drink, and it’s such fun to see all the unexpected connections and conversations that come up!

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Somehow, no matter how many people show up, there’s always the perfect number of haybales to sit on, and the big table magically expands to fit every last delicious dish.

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 Above: our neighbour Elizabeth brought pear marmalade and pear butter that she made from our fruit!

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Clockwise from left: photographer Antonio De Lucci; heirloom-variety table grapes under the arbor; last rays of sun in the orchard.

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A sweet photo of my dad and me (with an impressive array of home-brewed libations on the table — in addition to the pot-luck, there’s always a hearty brew-luck going on!)

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Come dusk, I did manage to get out my camera and snap a few photos of the campfire. Marshmallows appear, Tom produces a bundle of fresh pear twigs perfect for toasting sticks, and everyone gathers around the crackling flames as the crisp chill of a fall evening settles in.

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It’s been another marvelous season, with great farmer’s market days, wonderful customers and friends, some of the most beautiful fruit we’ve ever grown, and yet another fantastic party to celebrate it all! Thanks to all of you for supporting our “little family farm that could” — we’re so grateful to have you as our community. Wishing you all a bright and beautiful Autumn!

Many thanks to Antonio De Lucci for the photos! Check out more of his work at antoniodelucci.com.

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Filed under around the farm, autumn, foto friday

Happy New Year!

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Wishing you all a bright and bountiful 2013,
from all of us here at the B H Ranch!

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Καλή χρονιά! Happy New Year!

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Filed under around the farm, Winter

Foto Friday: When the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful…

We’ve been waiting and waiting (and waiting and waiting) for some serious stormy weather all winter… but now, finally, a big, drenching, delicious rainstorm has moved in! And with the rain comes a few rituals…

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…like finding your coziest pair of boots and trudging out to stomp in some puddles and see how high the clover has grown…

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….or just to admire the sudden flurry of plum blossoms crowning branches that were bare a few days ago.

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Somehow, the camellias look just as lovely spilled over the grass as they do on their stems.

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No bees out today — fingers crossed that these blossoms will hold on until the weather brightens up! But nothing is too gloomy for this sea of wild mustard…

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And there are petals everywhere, like snow.

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The orchard is especially beautiful this time of year, awash in green and gold. And it’s all connected: those weeds and wildflowers provide food and shelter for beneficial insects, pollen and nectar for our honeybees, and forage for the chickens. There are even tasty edibles for those who know where to look! (I’m always fascinated that so many people find their way to this blog via this post on horta, the greek-style wild greens my grandfather taught me to gather.)

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And one more part of the rainy-day ritual: wander back home, set the soggy shoes and coat to dry, dust off my favourite E.E. Cummings compendium, and turn to this marvelous little rainy-day poem. Just perfect.

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Filed under around the farm, foto friday, spring, Winter

Into the 21st century, bit by bit…

Ooooh, boy. Things have been crazy around here lately! Excavation, heavy machinery, trenches and huge piles of dirt everywhere…

But, after 90-plus years, we’ve finally moved into Modern Times. Well, at least in the irrigation department. Sort of.

That’s the pond, where all our irrigation water comes from. Nothing’s changed there… just the rest of it! We’ve always watered the orchard with a system of open ditches that run down the rows of trees, which is quite lovely and picturesque when it works but a major problem when it doesn’t. Rusty pipes, gopher holes, twigs and grass blocking things up — it’s an all-day project, tending the ditches, cleaning them out and making sure the water is running where it’s supposed to. And every generation of kids to grow up here at the ranch has gotten in trouble for making a barefoot muddy mess of the ditches at least once a summer!

So, this revision has been a long time coming. A couple years back we started the grant-application process with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which funds projects like ours. The new irrigation system will be much more efficient and effective than the old one, but it’s something we probably wouldn’t have taken on without funding and resources.

Not to mention the help of our friends!

Trench-meister Dan!

Mr. D, concrete whiz!

And, finally, the trenches have been filled in, the dirt raked back into place, and it’s possible to walk across the orchard at night without risking life and limb. I did enjoy getting an under-the-ground look at the different types of soil we have here, though — thick red clay in one spot, brittle yellow rock in another, rich blue-gray soil down by the creek. There’s a blog post in the making from all the many, many dirt photos I snapped!

And the ducks just love the new micro-sprinklers in the orchard; apparently that pond water is quite delicious. I will miss the old ditches, though… I’m campaigning to run them at least once a summer, for tradition’s sake. It’s nice to have things back to normal around here, and to kick back and relax (a bit) after all that work — it won’t be long ’til it’s time to harvest honey, then fruit… ah, time for a nap!

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Filed under around the farm, history, orchard, summer