Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Orchard Takes a Hit

You wouldn't know it to look at the garden, but the orchard is really having a hard spring.  

We had a very late, very cold, and prolonged, frost in April.  The orchard trees had all started to blossom, and some were even starting to set fruit.  The frost took care of that.  I lost all the fruit on my apples, pear, cherries, peaches and plums.  My persimmon tree just plain old looks dead; it had just started to leaf out.

Golden Noble apple tree with frost damage

And then, to add insult to injury, one of my baby apple trees developed apple scab and one of the pears is continuing its ongoing fight with fire blight.  Every year I cut out more and more infected areas.  The tree is shrinking instead of growing.

The rest of the garden looks great, thank goodness.  My perennials are blooming -- a bit late -- but blooming as if to say, "full steam ahead!"  

I was going to plant my veggie starts this weekend (Mothers Day is my marker) but there is a late spring storm coming through over the next few days.  We will get rain (good), maybe some snow (what??!!) and frost (NOOOOOOOO).  I'm hoping the frost periods are short, not lasting more than an hour or so in the early mornings.  By Wednesday, it should be safe to plant the veggies outside.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Story of Flash

 Flash was born in 1996 and spent his early years in Kansas (where he was born) and Arkansas where he carried a flag in chuck wagon races.  At six years old, he came to California where our trainer found him at a horse sale.  She thought he would be a good horse for Brett.  She was right; he was perfect for Brett.  They loved to do the same things -- mounted patrol, obstacles, and trail rides.  They both liked to play silly games, although they did get carried away at times.  They were chasing imaginary cows one time in the arena when Flash gave a yee-haw buck and Brett went flying.  He couldn't be mad because he had started the game.  Flash loved hiding Brett's tools -- sometimes dropping them in the water trough.  He was a one person horse, and that one person was Brett.  

We lost him on a beautiful April morning, about a week ago.  He had been gimpy on his right front, consistent with an abscess.  I didn't feel any heat, or swelling, or bounding pulse.  Our farrier came out and pulled his shoe and orthopedic pad so the abscess could come out easier.  The hoof did not test sensitive but it might not if the abscess was deep.  I applied a poultice and wrapped his foot.  He continued to limp around the pasture, sometimes not wanting to put any weight on the leg but jumping three-legged,  

The next morning, we packed the travel trailer and then Brett went inside to change.  I walked down the driveway, past Flash and Pistol's pasture, to get the mail.  Flash was still limping around.  On my way back to the house, I could see that the leg was broken.  It was a clean break, all the way through, and ...well, I won't tell you anymore details because it was just awful.  Flash was frantic, trying to run and half-falling and the leg swinging...  I ran into the house and called for Brett.  It was not my finest hour.  I was hyperventilating and hysterical.  Brett went out, came back in, and called the vet.  Flash finally fell over and laid quietly on the ground.  Our vet was there in 30 minutes so thankfully Flash did not suffer long.  

Here are some of my favorite photos of Flash over the years.  There is more about him in the Flash tab under the header photo, above.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Dogs

 We have three dogs here on the ranch with us.  

Many of you will remember Kersey, our yellow lab. She came to us as a puppy right around the time I started this blog.  She will be 12 this summer.  Kersey has been suffering from severe arthritis for a number of years and is currently maxed out on medications.  She's still a happy dog but she doesn't leave the front porch too often and is starting to show signs of dementia.  

Sage is three years old.  She is very busy, all the time, keeping Acorn in line and hunting squirrels and gophers.  She is the best rodent control we've ever had.  While she loves agility, she also has a nagging soft tissue injury in her front leg.  It doesn't bother her when we do short sessions here at home but she can't tolerate training class which is more intense.  She is very anxious and doesn't like to leave home so my plans were never to compete her.  She would hate it.  So, I've decided to stop with formal training and just work with her here at home.  I've converted the dressage court to an agility course so we can practice there -- which she loves.

Acorn is 16 months old and has been a real challenge.  He is Sage's brother, from a later litter obviously.  He is endlessly devoted to Brett and lives to run errands in the truck.  If Brett leaves, in the truck, without Acorn all hell breaks loose.  Acorn howls like his heart is breaking and runs up and down the driveway frantically.   While Sage is a timid and anxious dog.  Acorn is bold and brave.  He's very affectionate with people but has been aggressive with other dogs, including Kersey.  Working through this behavior has been a huge project.  Kersey was Brett's dog before Acorn came along and so he is very jealous of her.  Brett's done a ton of focus and control work with him and that, combined with Acorn growing up, has made a big difference.  He tries to herd the donkeys and horses but mostly they either ignore him or, if he is really getting on their nerves, they herd him away.  He's been known to dig up all my drip lines, multiple times, and drag them across the property.  He's destroyed patio furniture and rugs.  He's beautiful and is going to be a wonderful dog when he matures.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

In Like A Lamb, Out Like a Lion?

 March started off clear, warm and sunny.  The weather was great for working in the garden and on projects but not so great for our drought.  Fortunately, today it is raining with more to come next weekend.  We are currently about 15 inches behind normal for our ranch and I don't expect we will come close to making that up this month and next -- before the rain completely stops in May.  But anything helps and we will gratefully accept any and all moisture from the clouds.

Our February WWOOFers have moved on to a farm in Oregon as they continue their trek around the country.  We now have a young man from Germany, Ibo, staying with us for a month.  He and Brett have continued the work of cutting up the many trees that fell in our big storm last December.  Additionally, Ibo built a box to cover up the water valves near my fall color grove of trees.  

They have gathered materials to replace the compost bin dividers which were crushed under a falling tree. They moved the compost out of the way and removed the existing dividers before the rain started.  Once it stops, they will start building the new block wall dividers (crush proof).  In the meantime, they are in the barn splitting wood.

Spring is easily my favorite season.  The grass is green and daffodils are blooming everywhere.  

Book Recommendation: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell.  Wow.  Great book.  The premise of the book, which is fiction, is Shakespeare's loss of his son Hamnet (fact) -- Hamlet being a variation of the same name.  I thought it would be a depressing book and it is, of course, sad at times but it is so much more.  

Friday, March 4, 2022

February WWOOFers

 We joined a program called Worldwide Work On Organic Farms (WWOOF) three years ago.  The program offers people the opportunity to work on farms or ranches in exchange for food and lodging.  The program has strict guidelines for both volunteers (WWOOFers) and hosts.  When we joined, we weren't sure how we would feel about having "strangers" stay in our home.  We followed the guidelines and recommendations for screening WWOOFers and have thoroughly enjoyed everyone who has stayed and helped us with the ranch.  Not only do we appreciate the help, we enjoy teaching the WWOOFers about livestock care, gardening and the projects that go along with ranch life (stacking hay, mending fences, splitting wood).

The first year (2019) we had WWOOFers stay for a short time -- no more than a week -- and they mostly came from outside the US.  When COVID hit in 2020, we closed the ranch to WWOOFers.  Last year, we had a few helpers, all local (California) and all fully vaccinated.  This year, we have been flooded with requests -- from Europe, the US and Canada.  

Our first WWOOFers of 2022 left today after a three week stay.  Best friends from Maryland, they are on a gap year trip to explore National Parks and WWOOF.  They have had many adventures along the way which they shared with us over dinner.  During their time here, they helped me in the orchard painting the fruit tree trunks to prevent sunburn, helped build a trellis for my tomatoes and built a support for the raspberries.  We had a number of trees come down in a big storm this past December and Lily helped Brett with that.  He cut the trees up with a chain saw, they loaded the rounds into his tractor bucket, and she drove them to the wood pile and unloaded them.  Lily fed all the animals and cleaned the pastures in the morning; Magnolia took the evening shift.  They groomed the horses.  Lily threw the ball for Sage endlessly and Magnolia baked some wonderful treats.

Magnolia is also a talented artist and offered to paint us a mural on the side of the chicken shed.  

We were really sorry to see them leave.  Our next WWOOFer arrives Monday -- from Germany.