Friday, September 25, 2009

The Donkalypse...

Donkeys are the type of animal that require a strict routine - and I mean strict! If you are off by even one minute, they will scream and carry on as though they are mere moments away from death and starvation. I love my donkeys! Donkeys are also one of the most thoughtful creatures in the universe. Every now and then, Cappuchino will quietly walk up to the house (our bedroom/bathroom window is roughly 20 feet from their pasture fence) and bray at the top of her lungs around 4:30-5 am. This is to make sure that we get up in time to feed her. She's really just helping us stay on schedule. I really do love my donkeys.

For the past 6 months, we had been feeding the animals every morning at 5:30 am sharp. Then, as winter set back in and the mornings grew darker and colder, I switched to feeding them at 7:30 am on the weekdays. The donkeys do not appreciate this one little bit. This morning, for instance, Cappuchino brayed at 4:30 am, trying to tell us that we should still stick to the old schedule - which worked better, according to her! Frieda was next, doing her demonic scream about 5:45 am. I love her. In any event, it's now 7:26 am - I have managed to hold out - but I need to go feed the donkeys soon before they manage to chew their way through the fence and overtake the hay pile.

It's off to morning chores!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Light at the End of the Tunnel...

I moved 7 (large wheelbarrow) loads of logs & mulch yesterday, and 7 loads of logs today. There are only three large logs left that need to be cut and moved, and then I can begin the task of rebuilding my raised bed! My licorice and saffron want their home back! With all of the mulch created from our recent tree removal, I have been able to mulch the walkways around my raised beds, so everything is beginning to look very nice. Spent last weekend weeding my medicinal herb bed, and may try to weed my culinary bed this weekend (it needs it!). The sunflowers are about ready to be harvested, and I have marshmallow and Empress Tree sprouts coming up in the nursery flats. Going to plant some juniper and bayberry seeds in outside beds soon too. Next big project: disassemble the old goat shelter and begin landscaping that area and the Secret Garden (which was basically massacred during tree removal)...there's always something to do around here.
I am going to be undertaking a large grafting project this winter: grafting 100 heirloom apple trees for our new orchard. I will also be propagating some heirloom roses, fig trees, and honeysuckle from cuttings. And here you thought winter was such a dull time of year!!
Have a pot of stew simmering on the stove right now: local organic beef, barley, and garden onions...can't wait for dinner! - Moving logs all morning is hard work!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hurry! Offer Ends Soon!...

Take advantage of the fabulous $84-per-night rate for the Duchesse de Portland Room! This price includes a private bathroom, delicious 2-course breakfast served on antique china & containing ingredients straight off of our dairy farm & garden, as well as access to our 800+ book library! The offer expires at the end of September, so you'd better hurry!

(And don't forget that the Apothecary Inn boasts 40 original oil paintings, sketches, and watercolors proudly displayed throughout the inn for your viewing pleasure!)

Slowly but surely we are getting all of the logs cleared away from beside the Solarium. It's hard, back-breaking labor, but it needs to be done as quickly as possible! I want to get my third raised bed put back together so that I can (re)plant my madder, saffron bulbs, and licorice (all of which I had to dig up and put into pots for the tree removal last week). I recently planted some juniper and bayberry seeds, and will plant more in the coming weeks. I look forward to someday in the future being able to make my own bayberry candles! During a visit to Horizon Herbs yesterday to purchase some bloodroot rhizomes and more seeds, Ryan fell in fascinated love with a type of tree referred to as an Empress Tree, so we picked up a package of seeds for that as well. I have planted a few to see if I can get some to germinate before winter. Speaking of plants and winter, our contractor finally ordered the replacement parts for my Solarium! Instead of putting glass panels over half of the ceiling (and regular roof on the rest), we are going to make the entire ceiling be composed of glass panels. This will greatly improve my off season growing abilities, though it does mean that the house will tend to be hotter in the summers (but that's what heavy curtains and ceiling fans are for!). I am looking forward to having my Solarium back to normal!

Went to the town-wide Ruch Yard Sale (put on by the local Fire Department). It was an absolute blast, and we got some great deals! I managed to snag two original oil paintings (one is by a local artist of - I am pretty sure - McKee Bridge!), one sketch, and one original watercolor. Ryan picked up numerous tools and parts, and I also got about 100 1-gallon planting pots, which I was in desperate need of for my grafting project later this winter!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Planning For the Future...

I have wanted to put in an orchard on the back portion of our property pretty much ever since we moved here. The problem was that it already had a large shelter for animals, and the three boy llamas seemed to enjoy being over there. Now that we have the barn, I realized that I can move llamas around! We are going to move Dixie and Gloria into the angora pasture, and Marci will go in with Jeriko and Moonie (over by Punkin's pasture). Winchester, George, Judge, and Sweet Pea will go into the new pasture (we finally got the metal shelter set up and reinforced over there) next to the Apothecary Suite deck. Then, we will disassemble and move the old wooden shelter out of the back pasture, cut down the old oak tree (which needs to be removed anyway), and begin planning the orchard! I am going to graft apple and peach trees this winter on a large scale (as well as propagate some fig trees from cuttings!). This means we will have to wait a bit longer for our trees to "take" before planting, but it will be cheaper and SO much more worthwhile (as I will be able to tell people, "Yes, I grafted those trees myself! I remember when they were just pieces of rootstock and scion..." *dramatic sniffle*). I am really excited!! We are going to graft scion from all of our current heirloom apple trees (Cox's
Orange Pippin, Arkansas Black, Winesap, Fireside, Chenango Strawberry, & Cinnamon Spice), and I am also going to purchase some Ashmead's Kernal and White Pearmain. We want to raise exclusively heirloom apples. As I mentioned, we are also going to throw in some peach & fig trees! I honestly can't express how happy I am to begin this endeavor! It will be truly amazing to watch everything grow and take shape!

You Never Know What Will Hit You...

So we've kept on the quiet side (mainly because I think I'm still in a bit of shock!), but last week - during a particularly bad freak windstorm - we had a large (3 foot + diameter) oak tree fall on the living room area of our house...and by living room, I mean above my head (I was sitting on my couch at the time!!). The oak tree that sits between the Solarium and the deck cracked in half during this wind storm, and the top half hit the roof, and then slid down and crashed into the Solarium, almost completely obliterating it. I will never forget how LOUD it was! It sounded like a bomb exploding on the roof! I remember thinking, in the half-second before it hit the house, "Geez, that's probably 50 mile per hour wind! I hope the tree doesn't drop a branch on the roof!" And then WHAM! Some days, I wonder who I've pissed off...this tree incident was preceded by me slicing my finger open with a very sharp serrated kitchen knife (still haven't healed from that), as well as grating off another (tip of my) finger - same hand. Try preparing breakfast for guests when you're down to three working fingers!! Anywho, with the tree, the damage could have been a heck of a lot worse, so we were actually lucky. Because of the structure of our house, our roof is very strong, and the force of this enormous tree only cracked one roof joist (it's a three foot long crack though...pretty impressive!). The metal roof is completely messed up, and we will need to tear the entire roof off of that side of the house...and the Solarium will pretty much be entirely replaced. The tree crashed through the Solarium roof, broke the top windows, and completely bent the metal structure in and back. I'm actually secretly pleased that the Solarium will most likely be replaced...thankfully, we have amazing home insurance, and are completely covered! The remainder of the tree, as well as three others near the house, are going to be removed this Monday & Tuesday. The truly ironic part is that we had been planning to have these trees removed this month!!! I guess the oak just beat me to the punch...har de har har.
Frieda's Big Adventure
(First Published Summer 2008)

I found this the other day, and it brought back some fond memories of my darling donkey and me!...

Frieda wanted to go for a walk, so I put her halter on yesterday morning (while Ryan worked on some farm-related projects), and took her out of the pasture. She stopped at every spot of fallen hay particles to munch, so it took a while to get even a few feet. I let her be her donkey self - after all, neither of us were in a hurry. We hadn't seen each other all week, and I wanted to get in some quality time with my darling donkey. Finally, we started walking past the boutique, and Frieda's reflection freaked her out. The minute she noticed it, she jumped back as though it were about to attack her. Then, she carefully walked up and sniffed it. Finally, deciding it was not (at the moment) dangerous, we continued on. We walked a bit past the garage, wherein she spotted the llamas. In typical donkey fashion, she planted all four feet down, put her ears back, and did the "I do NOT want to have anything to do with those giant death monsters!!" stance. I managed to coax her, after a minute or two, to walk a few more steps. At this point, Gruff and Bartholomew raced up to the fence line to say hello. Frieda immediately bolted in fright, remembering at the last minute that yes, I was attached to the end of her lead rope, and stopped just short of having me fall on my face. She gave me a slightly apologetic, slightly "Can we go HOME now??!!" glance, and I sighed and told her that we could. She practically dragged me back to the donkey pasture, again frightening herself when she saw her reflection in the sliding glass door of the boutique. She was happy to be back in her safe, not-so-scary pasture. And that is my dearest donkey's Big Adventure for the week!

Frieda is also terrified of hawks.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Yes, Jillian, There IS A Santa Claus!

Dear Santa,

I have tried to be very good this year. Please send me an Omega grafting tool and some EMLA 7 Apple Rootstock, as well as a burr grinder (so that I don't have to keep going deaf attempting to use our old Magic Bullet). Ryan would like a cheese press, and please send some tuna for Jugi and some tasty molasses & apple cookies for Frieda. Thanks, Santa!

P.S. - If you could also send some spare elves to help out with the winter farm chores, that would be very much appreciated!!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Another Fabulous Review for the Apothecary Inn!

First, a note on ratings... I rarely give out 5 stars. 4 stars means I am VERY happy with a business, as is the case here, and highly recommend it.

I came across this place from a Craigslist search, and it's a great find. First, I'd suggest checking out their web site for much information about the B&B and what they are about... that will save me some explanation time:

- Property/Location
The property is great. It really is a working farm, with a variety of animals on the property, plus a couple of different gardens including an herb garden where some ingredients for their breakfasts come from. They also raise chickens, so the eggs are farm fresh. The are maybe 20 minutes or so from downtown Jacksonville, an easy drive. They are right in the middle of Applegate Wine Country, with many wineries very close by (including one right next door). There is a river nearby with a very nice swimming hole if you come in the hot summer, and it's a worthwhile diversion. Also nearby is Howling Acres Wolf Sanctuary, though that is maybe 20-25 minutes away.

- Rooms
We stayed in their more expensive room, which includes a hot tub on the deck.. and we used it every night. It was great... we were there in the summer, so it was too hot to get in during the day, but when it cooled off it was terrific. One of their Llamas would watch us from afar in the tub, which was funny. The bed was quite comfortable and the sheets and bedspread were very high quality. It was also furnished beautifully. There is a common room that is a sitting room with a nice library of books plus comfortable chairs to sit in, also furnished very nicely.

If you stay, be sure and look at their before and after photos of the property, they have done a beautiful job with it.

- Breakfast
In a word... great! We were there three mornings to enjoy breakfast, and it was always very good. It always included ingredients from their farm or garden, and it was always something unique and delicious.

- Hosts
Both Ryan and Jillian were warm and easy to be around. They were always busy during the day doing farm chores, and in the morning right after breakfast were very helpful with ideas on interesting things to see/do (the told us about the great swimming hole on the river) and wineries to visit.

If you come during the summer months, be sure and take in a show at the Britt festival in downtown Jacksonville, and/or a play in Ashland (maybe 45 minutes away).

I would stay there again, it was a great experience. Though we were headed to the Oregon coast after our stay and were excited to see the coast, we also were a bit sad to go. Well worth a trip.

See actual review on

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Musings on Future Plans for the Farm...

As the season begins to wind down into autumn and on to winter, it makes my mind turn towards the many projects we have planned both for this winter and next spring. Winter is a fabulous time to sit in front of a warm wood stove with a mellow lap kitty and plan out your projects for the coming spring! We are milking our does once more this month, and then they will be officially "dried off." September will mean breeding five of our does, which is always a bit of a crazy time trying to organize that! I am really looking forward to having 5 does on line next March...every year we get a little bit bigger on production, and a little more organized (imagine that!). Ryan plans to finally break down and get a cheese press this winter, so that he can begin making hard cheeses next year. We had bartered for a cream separator with one of our neighbors earlier in the summer, so I have been able to enjoy fresh cream and butter this year! I am going to miss our goats milk during the cold winter months! Though, I do have to admit that I dread baby season every year...all those nights spent staying up watching the barn camera, praying that there are no complications (I don't care how competent you are at assisting with deliveries - neither Ryan nor I relish having to stick our hands into does not rank high on my list of things I enjoy!)...this year we only had to assist with one goat. We lost two kids, which was terribly sad (one was a twin that was born so small and weak there was no chance of survival, despite our best efforts, and the other baby even the vet couldn't figure out what was wrong) - the other reason I don't look forward to baby season. I love goat babies, but I can't help feeling my stress levels rise at the thought of 5 goats's worth it though, in the end - it always is! This year we will be breeding two first timers: Citrine and Poit (who was our first nigerian dwarf kid born on the farm!).

We extended our small orchard this past spring by planting 12 heirloom apple trees. I told Ryan that I want to start a small fig orchard, so we are planning on putting in at least 5 more fig trees (there are already 4 on the property) next spring. We will also put in a plum tree and two peach trees. Ryan is going to extend his hops garden further out (we'll be removing some diseased fruit trees from the back of the orchard this winter to make space for more hops). And speaking of trees, we are also getting three more trees removed from near the house (those three scary oak trees that are leaning over the Apothecary Suite). We are trying to wait until the end of tourist season, so that we don't have to lose out on a weekend booking to get the trees removed.

We are going to be putting in the final raised bed in our new herb garden as soon as the weather cools down again. Then, we will take down the old baby goat shelter, and landscape that area into a walkway leading to the future trout pond. We will probably begin work on the trout pond next spring. We have plans to expand our garden even further...each year we have more and more ideas about how to best utilize our space for maximum garden production! I have finished transplanting all of my plant babies into the new herb garden, so that they can get their roots established before winter. In about two weeks I will be putting in 24 saffron bulbs as well. I also ordered my fall herb seeds, so I will be planting juniper and bayberry (to name a few) soon. I have had the WORST time tracking down bayberry wax for candles, so I finally decided that I would just grow my own!

Even though the days are still incredibly warm, you can feel the chill in the air at night. It's time to begin thinking about getting a good pile of wood for the fireplace soon. Chopping wood in the snow (which I had to do about every other day last winter) is NEVER fun. I want to make sure that we have enough wood piled up that I don't need to do that! Someday, I would love to put a wood stove insert where the fireplace is located in the living room - then the house would REALLY stay toasty all winter long!

Well, I suppose that's enough musings for coffee is finished and I guess that means back to work for this little farmer!