February Forecasts

February is the month of love at Sunnyslope Family Farm!

    We have bred one of our goats, April, with an Oberhausli buck from Clayton. The owner was so friendly and a world of  knowledge for us amateurs! We are also wondering if there might have been some “fence fornication” going on right here in our pastures! There is a Boer buck next door, and only a chainlink fence separates our girls from him! Our goat, Lucy, has swollen teats and milk is coming from them. This can either be a true pregnancy, which we now read IS possible to happen through fences, OR she is having a false pregnancy. Our third goat, Apricot, is, as far as we can tell, not pregnant. Time will tell with all three!
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Our son-in-law has been a world of help, cutting down trees and fixing up the place. He convinced us to start up our egg business again, so we have 61 chicks arriving the week of  February 18th! He has emptied and cleaned out the animal building. Their rat terrier, Rocko, enjoyed doing what he was named for – and got five rats in two days!
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Our daughter Liz is enjoying watching her 2 year old daughter, (our granddaughter, Jenna) explore the farm. The minute Jenna wakes up, she says, “boots!,” from her crib, and slips them on right over her pj’s, grabs her coat, and is ready to head out and say good morning to all of the animals! She is an absolute joy to have around!
    The greenhouse is starting to come alive again, thanks to our son, Nathan.
We are planning some exciting things in the near future. Stay tuned!
 

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Year End Roundup

The year is winding down and it is time to share what has been going on at Sunnyslope this past couple of months.

Unfortunately, we had to have our longtime companion Chief put to sleep on October 30th. He had been loosing a battle with cancer since May. Our last few months together were particularly close ones. He was a great friend.

Chief!

We haven’t been too active in the gardens this fall. Mainly we have a few root crops such as rutabagas and celery root, as well as some broccoli and cauliflower. Also we continue to have kale, collards and chard.

In mid December I picked all the rest of the two types of persimmons, leaving a few of the pecked ones on the trees for the birds to finish off. I cut 1/8 to 1/4″ slices of the fuyu, which is a crisp variety, to dehydrate.

  

That same day, I also picked the rest of the peppers; Holy Mole, serrano and Jalapeno peppers.

Red serranos and Jalapenos along with the mole peppers and the fuyu persimmons in the background.

I found a pretty good recipe for turning the red serranos and Jalapenos into a hot sauce.

Start with sliced peppers.

Sliced peppers, onions, garlic and oil, ready to saute.

After sauteing for 4 minutes, I added water and cooked for 20 minutes. Then I let it cool and put in a blender with distilled white vinegar. Put in jar and let age a couple of weeks in the refrigerator (if you can wait that long!).

It was pretty darn good!!!

I oven roasted the mole peppers and removed the skins, cleaned out the seeds and membranes and put in the refrigerator.

Our daughter Liz and her husband John and daughter Jenna are staying with us. John has been learning to use the chainsaw and Jenna would like to drive the mower/tractor.

 

The Rooster and the Fox


I fed our ailing golden retriever, Chief, around 6 o’clock yesterday evening. Afterward, Chief went outside and laid down near Nathan’s front door. At around 7:00 I heard a chicken commotion going on outside. I went to the door and looked out and saw a fox with a rooster in its mouth in the oak circle, just across the driveway from the porch. The fox was golden red with about three or four inches of white on its tail. I yelled and started towards it. The fox dragged the rooster and ran towards the back slope. A few feet onto the driveway, it dropped the rooster and I continued to chase the fox along the driveway towards the hen house. It ran north between the hen house and the garage. To my right, Chief was running after it as well. As Chief started to cross the driveway, he fell down (he is very weak from his cancer) and yelped. He is such a brave guy, he is my hero. I stopped chasing the fox and turned my attention to Chief. I knelt down and gave him a hug and told him what a great boy he was.



After making sure that Chief was ok, I went looking for the rooster which was our neighbor’s Wellsummer that has been spending so much time outside our chicken house. I could not find him anywhere around where the attack occurred, but I did find some of his long dark tail feathers by the round pavers just east of the chicken house, as well as tail feathers and body feathers in the oak circle just in across from the front door.
 
Lots of feathers!


While there were lots of feathers scattered around there was no sign of blood.  A bit later I went to feed our wild mustang, Mariah and saw the rooster walking up the driveway. He seemed no worse for wear, but was missing quite a few tail feathers!



Our neighbor, Lloyd was working on his car with two young boys by the fence, so I walked over to the fence and told him about his rooster’s adventure. He said that he had noticed that it was missing some tail feathers and was trying to get back to his side. He was surprised that the fox was out so early, but mentioned that he found some feathers near his green house this morning which he suspected was where a fox killed one of his hens overnight. I was able to herd the rooster over to a place where he could get through the fence and back home.

I guess even roosters are vulnerable to the speed and stealth of a hungry fox, but this rooster was lucky to have been just outside my door when fate came knocking!

The End of Summer Is Approaching

Although here in Northern California, Summer weather will continue for another month or more, there are signs that Fall is approaching. The tomato harvest is in full swing, corn ears are beginning to show, and there are jars of tomato sauce and pickles lining up in the pantry. I am beginning to think about getting the chain saw out and get the firewood ready for colder weather. 

         
Only a small portion of our (so far) almost 500 lbs of harvested tomatoes.

Renee busy harvesting Sun Cherry and Sun Gold tomatoes, with Purple Amaranth in the foreground.

       
The corn was planted late, but should       A volunteer squash growing among the
be ready to harvest by the end of              corn.  Autumn is just around the corner.
September.


Just some of our tomato sauce and pickles. There will be a lot more before harvest is over!

Midsummer Happenings


Hi Everyone!
Well, it has been more than a week since I last posted.
Our granddaughter was in town and frankly, when
she is here, my life revolves around her! What a wonderful time we had!
But alas, time to get back to work, sort of. I am a bit laid up with
something, but it gives me the time to type this letter to you all.
EGG
PRODUCTION

First, we want to thank our CSA egg members for
their cooperation in taking a reduction in eggs. Your patience and
understanding are appreciated!

Our egg production is still down
but getting better. As you know, we lost five hens to a fox. Fixing some
netting seems to keep the egg pecking jays out. Some of the hens are
molting (losing feathers, which happens once a year) and all their
energy goes into
growing new feathers instead of eggs. This is hopefully coming to an
end, which means more eggs. Our nine chicks, which are now three months
old, will be laying in the next two-three months, which means more eggs
and more
color varieties. Can’t wait. BUT – we think two of them are roosters!
They are sexed when you buy them, but it is not 100% accurate. Maybe a
blessing in disguise. We learned that this Wellsummer breed rooster is
none other than the Kellogg rooster!  I have temporarily named him/her
“Kellogg.”  I am hoping the other one, a white Leghorn breed, is a hen.
When our neighbor’s Leghorn rooster came to visit, our Leghorn’s
“cackles” were all up. Hmmmm…. any name suggestions in case it she is a
rooster?

TOMATOES
Finally,
a few cherry tomatoes are ripening. We have tons of green tomatoes just
waiting for hotter weather to ripen. Here we have 175+ tomato plants,
and I have to go to the store to buy some to make our pico de gallo!
Makes me cringe!

OTHER VEGGIES
We have had some
great successes and some not so great. Our CSA plans have been
put on hold for now. We are not sure if we have enough variety at this
time. If you are still interested in getting,
say, a CSA package with  a lot of tomatoes and squash with some green
beans, occasional egg plant, basil, garlic, etc, then let us know. Check
out our CSA info on our website. We will also take bulk orders of tomatoes
for canning,etc, at reduced cost for orders over 10 lbs.

A VISITOR
We
always have animals wandering on our property, from the neighbors dogs,
hens, chicks, a rooster to now, a pregnant miniature horse! She showed
up when our granddaughter was here, so we got a photo op done just
before the owner arrived.(see attached)
TO WRAP IT UP…
All
in all it has been a learning experience, and we are especially pleased
with our tomato crop. Hopefully you will see a few cherry tomatoes this
Sunday. We are currently parking ourselves at the church back porch, as
many like the easy access and – the top is not available due to
electrical work.
 See you Sunday!

HELLO TO SUMMER!



Our son Nathan work on the pole beans

As the summer season starts, it is a pleasure to stroll the garden and see how things are growing. Our squash seems to grows by the minute.The bee attracting wildflowers are just gorgeous, and the green, purple and yellow beans are taking off. This is our first time growing kohlrabi,
from the broccoli family, and it has been very successful. This funny
looking plant is best peeled and sliced and eaten raw with a bit of salt
or put in salads. It has a subtle flavor, much
like the cabbage heart. Rutabagas are wonderful, even in the summer. They are not as sweet as when grown in the winter,
but still delicious. “Easter Egg” radishes are
available, coming in colors from red, purple, pink to white (ping pong
radish). The leaves got nibbled on, but this does not affect the radish
flavor at all.
   
Garlic
has been harvested and is now drying for a few weeks. I made the mistake of leaving them in the ground til all the leaves dried up (like you do for onions). This causes the bulbs to split and they don’t have the leaf sheaves to form the wrappers around the garlic head. They are still good to eat. How will I remember this for next year? G – Green  G – Garlic. Leaves still have to have some green in Garlic. THAT’S how I remember things!

There are 175 tomato and tomatillo plants,
( approx.20+ varieties) are 
thriving in a field that was once an animal pen. With years of manure,
these fields are nutrient rich.  Hopefully they will be ripe in the next
few weeks! We will have tons of tomatoes for canning and eating, from big
to cherry sizes, as well as a variety of colors.The eggplants are thriving, with blossoms just starting. The cukes have just been transplanted, and hopefully soon we will have lots of eating and pickling types. Corn is finally in the ground and growing; a bit of a late start but not too late! The lettuce
is now gone and we SHOULD have had other plants growing by now, but we
sometimes get too busy and that is where taking notes for
next year will help! New seedlings are growing in the greenhouse now.

A
good portion of the squash, peppers and basil
just did not grow, as well as some other crops. It is sometimes a
mystery and trying to figure it out takes education, trial and error, or
success. You learn to not be too disappointed and just move on!

The fox was back this
week, and we have lost another three hens. That makes five total. We
are down to 22 hens and 9 pullets (“teen aged,” not yet laying). We are
now letting them free range in a very large backyard area behind their
coop.We give them lots of veggie scraps as well as their laying food. It
is enclosed with chicken wire and, so far, we have lost no more. Darryl
did see a fox prowling the outside of the coop one morning this week,
but it could not get in.

For our Farmer’s Market people, I have been out of town, again, so I am getting this letter out late. Tomorrow we hope to have available:
green onions
beets
squash
green, purple and yellow beans
rutabagas
kohlrabi
kale
maybe some cilantro and basil

See you then!

Growing Gophers and Other Lovely Things

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Hi All!
    Well, I must say, our 175 tomatoes are taking off! We
have blossoms and soon – 20 plus varieties of
tomatoes! The carrot harvest was the most successful ever, except that
more than half came out “forked,” which means they look like little
creatures. This is usually caused by rocks in the soil. We sold the
perfect ones
last week. The rest we will eat, or give to our goats, hens and horse.
As you know, our dog Chef loves kale, so he might get a few carrots too!
Some squash, beans, and pepper plants are growing well, others more
slowly. It is always
an education to figure out why.
    A few beets, parsnips,
kohlrabi, radishes, and celeriac are in the ground. Darryl’s hops plants
are starting to grow, as well as the grape plants. Potato plants look
healthy. Garlic tops are drying up, so soon we will harvest them. Lots
of them got eaten by gophers, a common problem here. We have to walk the
fields every morning to inspect traps and set new ones. With gophers,
you have to catch the most recent activity or you won’t get them.Tally
for gophers caught in 2012 so far: 22 (probably more info than you
wanted!)
    Cukes, corn and winter squash will be getting a late
start, not yet in the ground but very soon. Our corn this year is a
unique variety called “Country Gentleman.” This heirloom is known as
shoepeg corn in the South. It has an irregular
pattern of creamy white, slender kernels and is widely regarded as one
of the finest roasting varieties available. Master fishermen find it
makes a superior corn bait. Being open pollinated, we can save the seed
for next year, unlike hybrid seeds.
   This week we will have a few items for sale, like kale, kohlrabi, green
onions ( I promise, Jo!), the last of our coffee, and maybe some beets
and parsnips. Much of our lettuce went to Terra Bella Family Farm’s CSA,
but we will try to bring some Sunday.

     Well, this got a little wordy, but that’s what’s going on here! One last piece of GREAT news – STARR KING’S EGG CSA MEMBERS HAVE DONATED OVER 90 DOZEN EGGS TO THE SOUTH HAYWARD PARISH FOOD PANTRY SINCE SEPTEMBER, 2012! These protein sources are much appreciated! Thanks to all of you who donated!

Chicken Stories

The last couple of days have been eventful for some of our hens. We let them out of the chicken yard in the morning and let them wander all over the farm. Up until recently, the only problem we have encountered has been damage to Renee’s sheet mulching. The hens love to tear up the cardboard while they look for grubs and worms to eat. The hens wander back to the chicken coop by twilight and my routine is to go out after dark and shut the chicken yard gates and latch the hen house door.

Tuesday evening I was out in the “stone fruit” orchard and heard some odd noises, I turned around and saw three hens sitting on top of a weed pile. I guess that they couldn’t figure out how to get out of the orchard (all the orchards and gardens are fenced to keep out the deer). Renee and I grabbed them and brought them back to the hen house. We then decided to count them to see if there were any other girls missing. It turns out that we were two short, one Ameraucana and one Delaware were still missing. Since we don’t count them every day, they could have been missing for a day or two and we would not have noticed, but now that we were aware, we started looking for them. Unfortunately, we came up empty.

Late Wednesday morning, after I returned from dropping off some tomato plants at a friend’s house, we were getting the car ready for Renee so that she could drive down to visit her mom. I opened the trunk to make sure that it was empty and to Renee and my surprise, there was the missing Ameraucana! She seemed no worse for wear, but she was glad to get out of the trunk. As Renee was cleaning up the mess left behind, she gave a little laugh and pulled out an egg! When the car stops running, I guess we can use it as a chicken coop.

I kept looking for the missing Delaware, but no luck. Hopefully it has wandered over to a neighbor’s and will come home in a day or so, but something happened last evening that makes me a bit pessimistic. I was sitting on a stump that is located under some oaks outside our front door, and was watching the hens as they were finishing up their foraging.

After a bit, I noticed that the hens were getting louder and more agitated. Suddenly a hen came running out from behind a shed and right behind her was a fox! I immediately stood up and yelled, and the fox made a quick course change to the left. It was gone before I could take more than a step or two, but I was glad that it did not catch the hen. It’s coat was similar in color to our golden retreiver Chief’s. Although Nathan and Renee have both seen foxes on the property, this was the first time I have seen one here. I now wonder if that fox was responsible for our missing Delaware. I would not be surprised.

COFFEE!

   
   
       
         
       Green coffee                  Weighing                    Pouring                           Roasting

         
    
            Checking                             Cooling                         Coffee!
     Last week’s Far
mer’s Market was a big success and lots of fun. Thanks to all who showed up!
     On Monday, Darryl, Nathan, and I had the opportunity to witness my brother Dave giving us a coffee roasting demo. We will have pictures of this next Sunday as well as on our blog. We now know the difference between City, Full City, Vienna, French and Spanish roast, as well as the “sounds and speeds” of the first and second cracking stages of roasting! We also learned a few things that we will try to pass on to you. Sweetmarias.com in Emeryville is where Dave buys his organic, fair trade or farmgate green beans to roast. Check out their website. It is an encyclopedia of amazing information on coffee!
    We will have a bowl of  Java Kopi Sunda Vienna and French Roast beans for you to  “see and sniff!” Smells amazing!  Be sure to come by our booth and taste a sample of the Bolivia Cenaproc Full City roast. 
    Produce wise, we will have tons of red and green leaf lettuce (we sold out last Sunday, so we will be sure to bring more this time!) green onions, fava beans, kale, and more.
Happy Eating!

Farmers Market at Starr King UU Church

This Sunday we had our first “farmers market”. We set up at the top of the hill where the Unitarian House use to be located. We sold three varieties of kale, two types of chard, collards, Merlin, Chiogga (candy striped), and bull’s blood beets, green onions, artichokes, green star and Cherokee lettuce, radishes, fava beans as well as a variety of herbs. In addition we sold coffee and eggs (for our CSA customers) and gave away free tomato plants. Nathan helped out and we all had a great time.