We got 15 acres of oats planted this week. The oats are for the sheep and some horses. We will then cut the stubble for straw. This is excellent bedding material. Farming is like gambling but a lot more work. I am gambling that we get enough rain but not too much rain. We pray to the weather gods for a good harvest!
Every spring the two year old beaver pups get kicked out of the lodge to find a home of their own. Last spring, one not too bright two year old decided to make a new home in our farm steam. He began to build a dam which would flood out the lower farm road. Not only was there not enough young trees to support a lodge in this spot, but also it is a big mistake to try to dam up a quick running stream. Just when I was trying to figure out how to trap that “dam ” fool so he would not flood the road, a huge storm came up. It dumped four inches of rain in a hour! The whole bottom of the farm looked like a raging river. The next day I went down to see how Bucky made out and sure enough he was dead and rather stiff. The only thing I can figure is the raging river of a stream slammed him into a tree trapping him so he drowned. Nature is always a surprise. I had no idea a beaver could drown!
Great news, I got my tractor fixed yesterday with a used spindle I found at the tractor junkyard. Even better news, it is snowing today. I love those April snow storms because I know the snow will melt in a few days. They had so much snow in Anchorage, Alaska this last winter that the big piles in the parking lots will probably not melt all the way before it starts snowing again next winter.
In “Justice at Forty Below” Jake fell through the ice in minus 20 degrees temperatures. This happened to me on a dog team fishing trip on the Koyakutuk River. Using wilderness survival skills, I learned from a Yupik Elder, I wrung out all the water I could from my clothes and then stuffed them with dried grass. This created an insulating barrier between my skin and the freezing wet clothes. Knowing I had to keep moving I walked behind the dog sled for twenty miles back to the village. Although miserable, I made it home with all my parts intact.
UGH Saturday I tried to get the back field plowed. BOOM, the spindle on the right tractor wheel broke. The wheel came flying off, and my heart leaped to my throat. Luckily the tractor did not turn over and I am here to talk about it. Then I jumped on the riding lawn mower to cut some grass and the mower deck came off. The weld that holds the deck on broke!
So, I went back to the field, jacked up the tractor cussing and moaning and took off the broken spindle. Disgusted, I went in the house and had a beer.
Each year we pile the sheep manure and straw bedding in a huge pile. Once a month I take the tractor bucket and stir the golden mixture. In the cold weather you can see the steam rising as the bacteria digests the organic material. By spring the pile is one fifth of it’s original size and ready to spread on the garden. Not only does it provide valuable nitrogen to the garden but it also improves the soil characteristics preventing compaction and improving drainage. Everyone can start a small compost pile using all the vegetable and fruit remains you throw out. Why put it in a landfill something as valuable as compost.
The daylilies are up. These perennial flowers were originally brought to the U.S. as an edible vegetable. In the spring you can eat the green bud shoots like a string bean. The flowers themselves are great stir fried. A common food in China, these flowers make Egg Foo Young, the tasty dish it is. The settlers often planted then around the homestead. If you see daylilies deep in the woods, chances are there was once a homestead there. This is a great place to search for antique bottles, tools or pottery.
The flowers of some species are edible and are used in Chinese cuisine. They are sold (fresh or dried) in Asian markets as gum jum or golden needles (金针 in Chinese; pinyin: jīnzhēn) or yellow flower vegetables (黃花菜 in Chinese; pinyin: huánghuācài). They are used in hot and sour soup, daylily soup (金針花湯), Buddha’s delight, and moo shu pork. The young green leaves and the tubers of some (but not all) species are also edible. The plant has also been used for medicinal purposes. Care must be used as some species of lilies can be toxic.
Did you know that when lost in the woods, with no landmarks to guide them, a right handed person will make a big circle to the right and a left handed person will make a big circle to the left? By sighting on an object behind you and one in the distance you can make sure you follow a straight line to safety. Life is kind of like that. Without points of reference and sighting on a goal ahead of you, it is likely you will just be walking in circles.
While on a winter fishing trip with Vernon Evan, a respected Yupik Eskimo Elder, he taught me to pay attention to ones surroundings. Catalog all the natural resources you pass and remember where you saw them. Notice where the birch is, the dried grasses, the spruce pitch, and all other natural materials as you travel through the wilderness. If you fall trough the ice in twenty below zero you have precious little time to save yourself. Knowing where the dried gasses are so you can stuff your clothes with this insulator and where the spruce pitch and birch bark are, so you can start a fire, will save your life.
After two and a half weeks of record breaking warm weather on the farm, the fruit tree buds broke and the flowers came out. This is a month earlier than I have ever seen. Sure enough, tonight it is going down to sixteen degrees. This will kill the blossoms and we will not get any fruit this year. We really enjoyed the beautiful days but now we will pay for it. I will miss my apples, apricots, plums and grapes this year. UGH