Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Visiting Joshua!

Trip to Utah

I try to put out a blog every other week on Sundays.  This is coming out a couple days late because we were out of town and I did not have time to put everything together until we got home yesterday.

We made a trip to Utah to visit Joshua.  Joshua is currently at a residential treatment center in Utah.  If you are not up to speed, you can read about that HERE.  He left in March and we have not been to see him since.  We have weekly therapy via the telephone but it's not the same as seeing someone in person.

You may have seen this video before because I posted it on the FB and Instagram.  Mark was up early on Thursday morning and just kept saying "airport".  He was really excited to go and see Joshua...

Joshua looked really good and was so happy to see us.  We were all happy to see him.  His hair is getting long.  He always was wanting to grow his hair long but we had kept it cut short.

We got to take him out of the facility for 3 hours on Thursday and Friday.  We could stay with him at the facility as much as we wanted in a small "family" room that had some chairs and TV and DVD player.  Mark wasn't so keen on staying in the small family room so Henry and I would take turns.  We ended up watching a lot of movies.  On Saturday and Sunday, we were allowed to take him out for 5 hours at a time.

On Friday morning, we had our family therapy in person with his therapist.  Then, after that, top priority was a hair cut.  I guess they used to have someone to come in and cut hair at the facility but they quit and they are still trying to get a new person to cut hair.
We also did some shopping and went out to eat.  Joshua wanted to go to Olive Garden and get mushroom ravioli because he had read about it in the Twilight books. 

While Henry was hanging out with Joshua at the facility, Mark and I did some hiking!
Mark taking a break while out on a hike with Denise.
 On Saturday, we went to the Salt Lake City Zoo.  It was really nice!
Joshua standing in front of the spoonbill birds.
Mark really liked watching this duck!  Can't wait to get his ducks!!!
Mark watching a duck take a bath at the zoo.
Joshua liked the polar bear the best.  It's hard to see in this pic but the polar bear was very active swimming around a lot.
Joshua looking at polar bear at the zoo.
 On Sunday, we went to the Great Salt Lake!  It was really stinky!
Mark, Joshua, and Henry at the Great Salt Lake.
 We also went to the aquarium.  Mark really liked the shark tank and penguins at the aquarium but I didn't get any pics of that.
Joshua at aquarium.
Henry and Joshua watching a tortoise eating some lettuce.
Then, Monday morning, we headed back to Idaho.  It was a great little trip but also exhausting.  It is good to be back home and it was SO good to see Joshua.  He is making good progress on his therapy!  Most treatment programs are 15-18 months in length so he has quite a bit to go still.  Please, keep him in your thoughts and prayers!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Early and Ultra Early Tomatoes and Garden Video Tour

In the Garden

In May, my friend Randy gave me some extra special tomatoes.  Randy owns a seed company called Sun Mountain Natives.  
Here is a list of their products and services:

Individual Species:
Sun Mountain Natives is a distributor of hand-collected native seeds.
Supplying seeds from wildflowers, forbs, grasses, wetland species, shrubs, and trees.

Specialty Mixes:
We specialize in supplying seed mixes that meet your project's seeding specifications.
Our specialty is to provide custom seed mixes based on our customer’s needs.

Custom Cleaning:
With our experience and specialized cleaning equipment, we can provide custom cleaning.
We clean berries, small lots of seed, cones, grasses, and most other native plants.

Heritage Products:
We offer the Heritage line of native wildflowers and grasses.
Heritage mixes are designed to be adapted to different eco-regions throughout the western states.

Many years ago, Randy was given some really old tomato seed.  This seed was from the University of Idaho tomato breeding program dating back to the 1970's.  He was able to get some of the seeds to grow and now grows these varieties in his home garden.

Most tomatoes need a long frost-free period to get the fruit to maturity.  In northern states and in areas of high elevation, it can be challenging to have enough frost free days to get a good harvest before it freezes/frosts and kills the plants.  Therefore, it became a priority for some land grant universities to develop tomato varieties that would develop over a shorter growing season.  In 1938 there was some success at North Dakota State University and 14 early season varieties were released.  

Since then, even more breakthroughs have been made in Canada where earliness and ability to set fruit at cooler temperatures is imperative.  In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the sub-artic series of tomatoes were introduced.  These are called "early" tomatoes.  They were small plants with sparse foliage and many small fruits.  

This is a Sub-Artic Maxi tomato that I got from Randy.  It produced really nice sized fruits!

In the 1970's, the University of Idaho introduced 9 "ultra early" tomato varieties.  These ultra early varieties ripen even earlier.  They are not only for cold regions. They can be used to extend the time when ripe tomatoes are available in warmer areas of the country too.  

This is an Ida Gold, obviously a gold (not red) colored tomato.
This is a Gem State...it was REALLY low growing along the ground.  No need for a tomato cage!
This is called "Santa".  They are a little bit bigger than a traditional cherry tomato and nice and sweet!
This one is called Latah (we live in Latah county in Idaho).  It seems to be producing a little bit later than the other varieties that I have but it has a good amount of tomatoes!
Early and ultra early tomato varieties should never be pruned or over fertilized.  We picked our first tomato on August 1st!  My other tomatoes just started turning red this past week (this blog post is being posted on September 1, 2019).  

Randy gave me two publications that talk about these tomatoes and tips for growing them.  Click on them below to read:

Growing Tomatoes in Cool Summer Areas by A. A. Boe and Margaret I. Luckman

"Ultra Early" Tomatoes by A. A. Boe

Here is about a 20 minute video of my garden this year.  I am pretty sure I pointed out the early and ultra early tomatoes in the video at 15 minutes into the video.
The garden was very prolific this year.  The only thing I could not get going was peas and now I have realized that some critter was coming in and digging up and eating the peas after I planted them (4 times!).  I was finally able to get some snap peas to grow and we are enjoying them right now.

Anyway, I have a better idea about how much less I need to grow for next year.  Not complaining...it is a good problem to have...too much food!  I donated some to the food bank last week (see pic below) and will probably be donating some more soon!  Some of the tomatoes in these boxes were the early varieties!
I hope your garden is doing well!  If you have extra, consider donating to your local food pantry!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Meet Cooper and Yeti!!!

Guarding the Farm

Over the past few years, we have been gathering information about successful chicken production.  I have seen SO many "what-ate-my-chicken" blog and Facebook posts.  We want to try and be as proactive as possible about keeping predators away.  Right now, we know our predators at our farm include a large pack of coyotes that live behind our house and hawks and owls.  I am not as worried about the owls because we will be putting the chickens in at night and we plan to use hawk netting over the top of the run and paddocks to keep other flying predators away.  We really need something to keep the coyotes away.

My friend, Dennis, had a livestock guardian dog.  He said the dog was a great deterrent to predators.  In fact, it was a full 2 years after his dog passed before the coyotes even attempted to come back on to his property.  He also said that one day, he watched as his dog had a staring contest with a bald eagle.  The eagle was eyeing up his chickens.  Eventually, the eagle just flew away.

There are many different types of livestock guardian dogs.  Most of them originate from Turkey where the dogs were used with a shepherd to guard sheep when they would graze in the mountains.  The use of guardian dogs is a relatively new concept in the United States.  A true guardian dog is fairly independent and remains with their charge at all times.

I knew we wanted a dog to help deter the coyotes.  A couple of years ago, my brother's family sent me a book about different farm dogs (thanks Dale and Andrea).
It explains the difference between using dogs for guarding, herding or general protection of the farm.  Our chickens will not be free range.  They will have access to pasture any time there is not snow on the ground but they will be safely behind electric fencing.  We do not want our dog to be "in" with the chickens, just around the area so they could keep predators away from our farm.

A couple of years ago, I saw a vlog in which a farmer got a Great Pyrenees from a rescue.  I really liked this idea.  I immediately "liked" several livestock guardian rescue Facebook pages.  I had narrowed down my preference for a dog to a Great Pyrenees or Akbash.  

A couple of months ago, I filled out the paperwork to be considered for adoption of a dog.  I explained that we wanted the dog to stay outside to help fend off coyotes.  Our entire property had to be fenced.  We had worked on that this past spring - check.  The last thing to do was put a gate up.  We got the gate put up (hence, our living in a gated community now).  I was hoping to get the dogs in September and wanted to know if they had any dogs that had been around chickens.  They sent us Cooper and Yeti's information.  We were not expecting to get 2 dogs.  We only have 4 acres so I didn't think we would need 2 dogs but these dogs had been raised together.  They had been with their foster dad for the past 3 months in Montana.  The story is the Yeti was abandoned by her shepherds (in Utah) when she was a pup and someone rescued her and put her with Cooper and they grew up together as pups.  I have a feeling they were on some type of farm for the first 6 years.  Then, the family moved and did not need the dogs so they were given to the Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana. (GRPM)
Hi, I'm Cooper!

I've spent my whole life living on several acres with my buddy, Yeti. We are primarily outdoor pups that sleep in the garage at night. We'd love to find a similar scenario to go to! We don't have to stay together but we sure do get along well.

I'm 6 years old, neutered, and UTD on shots. I'm a friendly guy that does well around chickens, cats, and the majority of dogs. I've also lived around kiddos my whole life, too! My perfect home would have plenty of room for me outdoors, lots of snuggles/pets (I'm a pretty loving guy!), and a nice secure fence.
Meet Yeti!

Yeti is a spayed adult female dog (guesstimate is approx 6 or 7) who is looking for a relaxing home to grow old in! She's currently located in Helena, MT and GPRM will help with her transport to a forever home.

Yeti has lived happily with another male Pyr, watching chickens by day (and roaming her property), and sleeping indoors at night. She loves the outdoors and is friendly to anyone visiting her property. She loves affection and gives the Pyr paw!

This sweet girl would like a relaxing home to call her own (with or without chickens, livestock) and a cozy bed at night.

The GPRM really wanted to get the dogs placed right away so other dogs could be fostered.  On August 4th, Cooper and Yeti were transported from Helena, MT by 3 different sets of volunteers to our home in Moscow, ID.
Volunteers that drove down from Coeur d'Alene with dogs.
Within 30 minutes, they were out patrolling the property and barked at an owl in a tree until it flew away.  We still hear the owls at night so I don't think they have totally left the property.
Henry petting Yeti.
Denise petting Yeti.

They both LOVE to be petted...

Yeti got out the first couple of days.  She could go through where we closed the gate so we had to put some wire in the opening.  Cooper didn't seem interested in leaving.

It got hot the first week that they got to the farm.  Here is Cooper trying to keep cool.  He also likes to hang out in the forsythia bush.  I thought we might have to start another GoFundMe to help pay for the dog food but they actually don't eat as much as you might think.  Because they lay around and watch things most of the time, they are really calm dogs and have a lower metabolism.  Therefore, they don't eat any more than our black lab that we used to have as Mark's service dog.  Don't think that you are going to play fetch with these guys...they are definitely not retrievers. 
The first 3 nights, Yeti barked from like 10:00PM to 3:00AM NONSTOP.  Do you know what nonstop means?  I understand that they bark to keep the predators away but this was a little bit too much.  She was used to sleeping in a garage and she would be quiet if she was in a garage/barn.  However, it defeats the purpose of having a dog to guard the property if she is locked up in a garage.  GPRM suggested that we get a citronella collar.  It sprays a nasty smell when the dog barks.  We got one and it seems to be working.  She will still bark a couple minutes but not a couple hours.  Fingers crossed and prayers that it keeps working.
Cooper hanging out by bird bath (which they think is their water dish).
Yeti likes to hang out in front of the basement door.  I read in another book about Livestock Protection Dogs by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims that Great Pyrenees were often found lying across the doorways of their peasant masters and became known as "mat dogs".  They are both great guard dogs, sleeping most of the day and patrolling the property at night.  There is no way those coyotes are coming near here.
I could go on and on about these amazing,beautiful dogs.  We are so lucky to rescue these guys and have them on our farm.  They will be working as more "farm" dogs than livestock guardian dogs and they seem to be filling that role just fine.  Farm dogs are half pet and half guardian.  As I mentioned earlier, a true livestock guardian dog is left to independently care for the animals that they are protecting.

Our neighbor was out of town when we got the dogs.  We were able to introduce our dogs to their dog.  Luckily, they are friendly with the neighbor dog and know he is their friend.  This was a big concern for me.  I was hoping that everyone would get along.  Yeah!

It is great having dogs and not puppies.  I just don't have the time to devote to training a pup.  I had read that most guardian dogs do not really "guard" until they are about 2 years old.  Having two dogs allows for one to rest while the other one is on patrol.  When one passes, hopefully, we will be able to get a younger rescue and have the older dog train the new recruit.

I am also glad we were pushed to get the dogs early so we have time to spend with them and do some bonding before all the poultry come.  It seems to be working out great!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Kansas visitors and update on Mark's Coop Construction Campaign...

On the Farm

Denise's parents, Dennis and Terry, came to visit last week from Kansas.  Dad worked on the duck pond and used the chainsaw to clear a small tree near the fencing.  Mom helped with processing broccoli, green beans and beets!  It seems that the garden was so slow going and then all of a sudden there are WAY more vegetables than we could ever eat.  I realized pretty quickly that I planted too many beets.  I gave away beets, canned beets, pickled beets, fermented beets, dried beets, stored some in wet sand in our fridge for future use and made beet ketchup and we still have beets in the garden!  A good problem to have...

We also did some fun things!  We went on a jet boat ride down the Snake River through part of Hells Canyon.  It was amazing!  We all really enjoyed it.  Here are some pics of what we saw (please, realize that I am not a professional photographer...these were just taken with my iPhone...)

Wild sheep...this is a heard of females and their babies (they stay separate from the rams)
 Mark seemed to really enjoy the boat ride.
 A bear!!!  We actually saw 2 different bears.
 Mom taking picture of bear on the rocks.
Mountain sheep ram herd.
We also saw white pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, chukars, mule deer, and more!  The boat captain also gave lots of history about the area.  We also saw Native American pictographs (painted) and petroglyphs (etched into stone) symbols.  It is hard to believe we live so close to such a beautiful area.  Who needs the Grand Canyon when you have Hells Canyon?

We went huckleberry picking and through a puzzle escape room.  We did not make it out in time but it was the first time we had ever done anything like that so it took us some time to try and figure it out.  It was still a lot of fun!

We also went bowling and for a walk through the Arboretum at the University of Idaho and for ice cream at Ferdinands at Washington State University.
Terry, Mark and Dennis at arboretum.
And on Saturday, my parents helped me at the Farmer's Market.  It was a busy week!  I am really grateful for all their help!

ReMARKable Eggs Update

I have heard from the contractor that ground breaking for the chicken coops will be some time during the very last week of August!  We have raised over $7500 through the GoFundMe!  We are thankful for all this support!  It will be used to buy the building supplies for the coops.  As it gets closer, we will have lots of updates about the coop construction!

Lastly...we now live in a gated community...more on this to come in 2 weeks...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Comfrey Chop and Drop and Fertilizer

In the Garden

Things have been super busy so this will be a brief post.  I want to grow the sunflowers sustainably.  I am looking for ways to add more natural nutrients/fertilizer for the flowers.  The sunflowers on the end of my row were looking a little scrawny.  I decided to try some chop and drop around the sunflowers to help keep the weeds down and provide a little fertilizer for the flowers.  I cut back this comfrey plant.
Before picture of comfrey plant ready to cut
After picture of comfrey plant that has been cut
Side note: If you don't know about comfrey, there seems to be ALOT of uses for this fast growing perennial from medicinal uses for people and animals to using it as a fertilizer or compost activator in the garden.  Here is a nice little article on 12 Uses for Comfrey Plant in the Garden and Homestead.

Okay, back to the chop and drop...I loaded the comfrey into a wheelbarrow so I could chop it up...
Comfrey in wheelbarrow waiting to be chopped
I used a machete to chop up the comfrey into about 6 inch pieces.

Then, I took it over to the sunflowers and placed it around the base of the plants.

I had a good amount of comfrey plants to chop and drop but I also made some comfrey fertilizer.  I found some good instructions for making and using comfrey fertilizer in this article: 7 Ways to Feritlize the Garden with Comfrey.  Basically, you chop up the comfrey and put it in a 5 gallon bucket.  I used a brick to weigh it down and then filled the bucket with water.  Then, you let it brew for 3 weeks.  Mine is ready to use but I have been SO busy that I haven't gotten back to it!  I did open the bucket to sneak a peek last week.  It smells really bad and I think that is a good sign. 

Although you need to dilute the fertilizer, I think the fertilizer will go a lot further than the chop and drop.  I plan on diluting the fertilizer about 10 parts fertilizer to 1 part water.

I did this chop and drop last month and the comfrey plants have already grown back so I will be able to chop and drop some more!

The bumblebees and butterflies love the comfrey flowers.  This butterfly is hanging upside down on the flower so it can get a drink...
Okay, I am off to pick more raspberries and huckleberries so I can make more jam this week!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Spring recap and new addition to the farm!

On the Farm...

If you have followed the blog or our Facebook site at all, you will know that this past spring has been quite a roller coaster for our family...

Just before the "official" start of spring when Denise took Joshua down to Utah on March 18 to go into a residential treatment program.  This was heart breaking for us to do.  The good news is that he is sounding really good.  He has now earned the privilege of making 5 phone calls a week so we are getting to talk with him more.  We are planning a trip down to Utah to visit him in the fall.  Release date is October 2020 (yes, that is next year and this is only if things keep going well...).  

In April, I (Denise) was pretty much sick the entire month.  It was very strange.  I would get a really intense headache and then I was just completely exhausted most of the time.  Then, the coughing.  On and on it went for about 3 weeks of absolutely no energy.  I coughed so hard that I "hurt" my lung (I think I may have had a viral pneumonia).  It's like the lining of my lung got out of place.  Kind of hard to explain but it is CRAZY painful.  I actually did this twice.  The first time, I thought I had literally pulled a muscle in my back from coughing so hard and it hurt but I could manage it.  A few days later somehow it "corrected" itself and I was completely pain free again.

In May, I had the worst case of allergies I have ever had.  The sneezing and coughing continued and I, again, "hurt" my lung but this time it was completely debilitating and I immediately went to the urgent care.  I was given a shot of an anti-inflammatory and some strong pain medication.  The doctor explained that it was called pleurisy.  It only took about 3-4 days before I was back at full speed.

We enjoyed a nice flush of migrating hummingbirds in May.
Mark went to his Senior Prom!
Our mushroom patch did amazing this spring and we have dried WAY more mushrooms than we will probably even be able to use.  I highly recommend making a mushroom patch in your garden!
The transmission went out on our lawn mower so we had to buy a new one.  This has helped immensely.  I used to have to mow about 1-2 hours a day and I could hardly keep on top of everything.  Now, I can pretty much do the entire property in a couple afternoons.  I did not opt for the bagger and I LOVED collecting the clippings to put in the compost bin, but it is just so much faster when I don't have to stop and unload constantly.  I just make a point to collect a 5 gallon bucket of weeds each day and add it to the compost.  No shortage of weeds here on the farm between the sunflower patch, berry patches, food forest and the garden...

Mark graduated from high school!  
 Somehow amid all the sickness and celebrations, I did manage to get the garden planted!

Mark continues to do well with lowering his blood pressure and weight loss.  His last blood pressure reading was 110/80 and the cardiologist said he did not need to see him anymore (I would say at the highest it was around 135/95 when we started).  We have been working to lower his blood pressure by losing weight.  We have not started any medications.  Mark's weight is down to 237.  He started at 270 last November.  He is probably even lower now.  I really cannot take any credit for the weight loss.  He just doesn't seem to have much of an appetite lately.  In fact, it is actually starting to get to the point that it is concerning me that he is not eating much.  We FINALLY have an appointment with a GI doctor in August.  This should have happened months ago but hopefully, we will start to make some improvements with his constipation issues at that time.

Henry and I took a date night to Spokane to see the movie, The Biggest Little Farm the end of June.  On the way home, we hit a deer with our minivan and this totaled out the vehicle.  I had this van for 13 years and it was definitely showing it's wear.
This gave us a good excuse to get that farm truck.  It came with a towing package!  So, welcome to our new addition to the farm...this is my new ride now.  
Mark seems to really like it too.  He woke up the other day and the first word out of his mouth was "truck" (usually, it is "pancakes" or "cheeseballs").

Hoping the roller coaster is coming to an end...