[Jo] (Oh, these amazing New Mexico skies…)
It could have happened to any one of us–but Wink did it, Wink did It! While loading stuff into the barn loft, he inadvertently backed out of the barn, nearly taking down the barn door. It didn’t fall, but it bent pretty good. We mulled it over for a couple of weeks (with the barn wide open), and finally decided to call around for a repair estimate, thinking that replacing the door would cost a thousand or more. The estimate came in at $500, but for a variety of reasons, the contractors weren’t able to do the work. Aly grabbed a hammer (at this point what is there to lose?), and in a couple three hours over two days, we beat that door back into shape, got it back in the tracks (with Eric doing the dangerous stuff), and it’s going up and down just great. Sometimes you just need a success story…
We started working on the greenhouse–the scaffolding is up, holes drilled through the steel (thanks Colt), And the back posts are in. Yay!
We’ve been lucky in our friends–so many are so generous with their help. We couldn’t have gotten this far without them. Jim (below) is not only skilled with tools, he’s knowledgeable as well.
And family, always family–Aly & Israel, the girls, Eric. Gilly’s been coming every day to help (Bel is still here but school’s in and she’s teaching again). Gilly’s getting good on the sawmill, and has been ripping into the loft, unpacking boxes and carving out a sewing room. While Anna can’t contribute as much to the brawn pool, she tries to make sure we have a good dinner after the sweatin’s over, while still riding herd on the kids.
Wink has dispatched over a dozen squirrels, and Eric’s tried popping them with the air gun he got for his birthday, but it seems two more appear for every one that goes into the compost pile (we’re taking all the veggies back–one way or another). We planted a big bed of corn, squash, and beans, and there are NO beans, one half eaten squash, and maybe a dozen corn plants. They actually excavated and ate the seed after eating the emerging seedlings for a few days. Aaahhhhh!!!
But we’ve managed to snag a few meals from the beds that were heavily protected. So far we’ve picked a good bit of yellow squash (which the squirrels don’t seem to like), a few spaghetti squash, some cucumbers (disappointingly bitter–they don’t like these but neither do we), a handful of tomatos–mostly cherry, some potatoes, several meals worth of peas, some red onions. To come (and looking promising)–eggplant, cantaloupes, watermelon, snap beans, and five varieties of pumpkin.
I managed to bag some berries (literally covering each cluster with remay tied with twine), and we’ve sampled the Hull blackberries–delicious–if only there were more. I also covered the grape that set one tiny cluster of fruit, and am hoping to get a taste, if only to see if grapes are viable for us at this altitude.
We seeded some cold weather veggies. Looks like we’ll get a good bit of lettuce, radishes, spinach, and maybe even kale, and cabbage.
Yet more varmints!!! Where will it end?!?! A few cool days (rain at last) meant the house was closed up, and an unbearable odor emerged. Turns out mice have been tunneling in the insulation, hoarding food (dog food–you’d think the dogs would get after them!), evidently raising generations of young judging by the nests, poop, and stench. We ripped the insulation out, sterilized everything, foamed every crevice, and are hoping that does the trick.
We’ve spent the whole last month getting ready for the boy’s birthday bash. The house is clean,
the garden is aglow.
The guys build a roasting pit for the pig (well we opted to just get some really big pieces of pork this year).
Anna & Bel create a truly awesome Wall-E (Bruc-E) cake. We cook for three days. Lots of beer, homemade lemonade, a pinata, Gilly’s new boyfriend (the really big kid scrabbling under the pinata).
For a wonder, it didn’t rain. We had a great turn out, and everyone brought tasty dishes to share. Eric gave a touching speech that left everyone smiling as we cut the cake, then did the tour and had to be hunted down so the kids could whack the pinata.
Brucie was determined to come to the party naked, and after some serious tribulation, he compromised, and agreed to wear his underwear. Imagine our relief. The only consolation is picturing how embarrassed he’s going to be looking at the pics ten years from now. But he had a wildly fabulous time. He was so excited by the pinata that he pried a flagstone out of the path to elevate himself two inches. Still about two feet short.
Bel organized activities for the kids, and Gilly sent Junie soaring…
Our pest problems only seem to worsen as the month advances. In addition to squirrel depredations, we discover gazillions of grubs in the raised beds. They didn’t bother the peas, or the lettuce (what was left of it), but they ate the roots off the red onions–our one promising crop. Never ones to shirk a dirty job, Gilly and Junie dug them out.
Even the chickens couldn’t deal with the sheer quantity.
Gilly’s beau, Colt, invited us for dinner. He’s building an hour north of here, nearer to Santa Fe. He’s doing pretty much what we’ve been attempting. Off-grid, solar, rainwater catchment. Only he’s not using any heavy equipment–hammer, wheelbarrow, lots of sweat. He put up a yurt first, and is now adding on. And everything has been trundled in on a path that’s .2 mil long–up and around the side of a hill! The views are amazing. And he’s a good cook.
Bel and I try to get starts to plant the fall garden. We spent one whole day making soil blocks, and seeding them (a xmas present borrowed back from Aly). Must have planted 25 varieties of cool weather plants, but very disappointing. Suspect grasshoppers are nibbling in the greenhouse (we spread grasshopper bait in the spring, and our fruit trees have done much better.)
We continue to wage war on squirrels, get caning materials to start reseating our grandmothers chairs, continue cutting beams for the building projects, etc, etc, etc.
The kids are growing, the chickens are growing, the garden is growing–good thing this is a farm.
The weather is getting balmier. Still have to protect all the tender starts, either in wall o waters, screen “teepees”, even juice bottles full of water offer protection from the wind and cool nights.
The squirrel wars have accelerated, scalps are being taken–Wink recreated an old Boy Scout project, and built a critter trap–and it works.
But we still are putting up netting, digging out old screens to barricade the beds. After doing some research on ground squirrels we decide to do whatever it takes–they can have family colonies with dozens of members. We find tunnels everywhere when we figure out what to look for. We put hot wire all around the fence. They dig under the gate. Still we harvest a few strawberries to the kids delight.
Eric and Ian are running the sawmill whenever they’re up here. We still hope to have the greenhouse up this year. Plus we’re putting in the barn loft. Bel moves up for the summer, and she and Wink start working on the beams.
We get this project done in record time, and by the end of the month have started moving all the stored stuff that has been jammed into the ground floor of the barn. We take some time to pack and repack, (and throw some stuff away that should never have made the move, or been stored for five years!) But we found a lot of good stuff too. Winks bee stuff. Gilly’s sewing stuff. The 1981 issue of Bon Appetit that has the family pfefferneusse recipe that Anna has been struggling to recreate every xmas. Good stuff. Lots of mice nests…
Wink spends a lot of time trying to get a nap in.
The guys spent a good bit of time working on the adobe block machine. Still don’t have it up and running, but excited by the possibilities–hope to use some adobe in the greenhouse as a trombe wall, and to make the permanent chicken coop, and of course, walls.
We took an afternoon off to visit the Wildlife Park for the World Championship Horse Shoeing Competition. Aly and Israel set up their vermiculture booth, and Gilly, Wink and Jo visited.
The lilies finally bloomed. Wow.
Got the chicks outside into chicken tractors (not yet mobile). The kids loved the transition, and it was good to get them out of the barn. Ever more time spent on planting. Took the MG garden tour at the end of the month and was inspired to ever greater heights. Our battle with the ground squirrels begins. Mushrooms popping up all over–no big deal when something started digging them up, if only it had stopped there.
Eric prepped and planted a huge swath of oil sunflowers–even bought a seeder–hoping to get a good idea whether it would be feasible to grow them at our altitude in sufficient quantity to press for bio diesel. As the seedlings emerged, each little leaf was neatly nipped off. Soon, his pristine planting was a sea of cut off plastic juice bottles, tin cans, plastic netting–to no avail. Eventually we gave up. Eric’s thousands were reduced to a couple of dozen gnawed plants. If only it had stopped there.
Our trees set their first fruit and we were wildly excited–apple, peach, cherry. Knowing we’d thin most, we still hoped to sample one or two bites. Day by day, the tiny green fruits disappeared. Then the melon leaves, the broccoli, the lettuce….