Spraying Weeds

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know we live in a rain forest – we average 96 inches of rain a year – so everything grows pretty well around here including weeds in the gravel driveway. Alex spent a sunny afternoon last week (we do get a few sunny days) spraying weeds.

After Alex sprays and the weeds die in a day or so, Rick pulls his rock rake over the driveway a few times and clears away all the weed residue and the driveway is clean again. No one wants a weedy driveway!

Alex uses a backpack sprayer which is kind of hard to fill when you are wearing it, so Rick is pouring in the weed killer.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot about toxic chemicals, environmental pollution and pesticides, let me show you our weed killer.

Yep – vinegar. Good old vinegar. It takes quite a bit to spray around our whole circle driveway, so I buy it by the gallon in the two pack. Usually we use the plain white vinegar, but this is actually apple cider vinegar I had left over from making chutney so they used that. The apple vinegar did have a lovely scent and either one works really well. Spray one day (it helps if it is warm and sunny) and the weeds and grass are dying the next day.

We follow organic practices here so we don’t put any pesticides or toxic chemicals on our land.  We don’t want the people, animals or land exposed to any toxins. Safe, easy, effective and cheap; vinegar is our kind of weed killer.

Loading Cattle

We have been staying busy here on the ranch. One of the things we’ve been doing is making good use of our new cattle working pens, squeeze and scale. When we built the system we set it up so we can load cattle out of it too.  Here is the view from the side when the stock trailer is set up.

First though, we put three of our steers through the chute and squeeze to weigh them so we can track their weight gain through the summer. The squeeze is actually sitting on the scale. You put an animal through the chute, stop them in the squeeze and weigh them while they stand there.  The steers are about 830 pounds now and are gaining an average of 2.72 pounds per day on summer grass.  Obviously they are doing very well on the pasture!

The next day it was time to put the steers back in the stock trailer, so we set it up to load. Here is the view from inside the trailer looking back at the chute. I try to only take pictures from inside the trailer before the cattle have been in there as they always seem to leave quite a few “deposits” and I didn’t have my muck boots on.

So the steers walk back through the chute, through the now open squeeze and into the stock trailer. Sorry for the not-so-good picture of them loading, but I was also operating the gate and had to take the picture with only one hand.

And the steers are quietly and safely loaded into the stock trailer.

Good for them and for us.  And off they go down the road back to the summer pasture.

And after Rick and Alex off loaded the steers in the field and were driving away the cattle chased them down the road to the gate. I guess they really enjoyed the ride.

Summer on the Ranch Means Hay

It has been a busy, busy time here at the ranch with lots going on.  The summer season around here is pretty short, so everyone tries to make the most of it. Summer time for ranchers means hay season and  Rick and Alex have been hauling trailer loads of it.

A local farmer who grows the best hay in the valley reserves some for us. It is a really rich orchardgrass hay with lots of protein for our cattle in the winter. He puts the hay in eight bale squares, then comes along with a “Farm Hand” to pick all eight bales up.

He carries it with the Farm Hand attachment across the field . . .

. . . and loads it on the trailer or truck and off you go.

They can fit 120 bales on the trailer, which has to be unloaded and stacked quickly so they can make a return trip for more hay.

If only we had a Farm Hand to unload the trailer  – oh wait we do! Alex.

Alex is not really fond of unloading and stacking hay, but I keep telling him what big muscles he’s building.

Gardening Guru

When we first moved here to our property we were so excited about the new gardening possibilities in this new-to-us much cooler climate. I read several gardening books about gardening in a cool climate and at least 2 or 3 offered the same suggestion “Start your perennial beds first as they will take the longest to mature.”  Seems like good advice. The gardening guru’s further suggested “No perennial garden is complete without asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries.”  So, we followed their advice.

Started the perennial beds – which we first dug out the rocks with the backhoe.

We used lots of soil amendments; peat moss, steer manure (this was before we had our own source) crushed fall leaves, and to balance our very acidic soil, a healthy dose of lime.

The beds were as fertile as we could make them so we were ready to plant. I chose three different varieties of strawberries. Two June bearing and one ever bearing. Coming from the valley heat where strawberries are usually done by May, I was curious to see when they would be ready here.

It turns out June bearing here is ready at the end of June or first part of July, depending on the weather.

Asparagus was next. I ordered crowns and carefully planted them in the rich, amended soil according to the directions. Then Amelia happened. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Amelia, she is a chicken who has adventurous ways. They sometimes take her where she is not supposed to be – like in my asparagus. You can read the whole story about her here.  She dug up and I re-planted my asparagus crowns at least twice and it could be three times. In spite of Amelia, the asparagus flourished and I have harvested several nice crops. Mmmm good. I love asparagus. Rick is not much of a fan and that is all the better – more for me!

Next was the rhubarb. I got a little six-pack of rhubarb and set it out at the other end of the bed from the asparagus. It has done very well indeed. It went from small to big to huge.

Now it is completely overgrown and I think it has gone to seed. I have discovered something important. I don’t like rhubarb. Neither does Rick or anyone else in my family. Why on earth did I plant something none of us like??

Now before you tell me that all I need is a good rhubarb recipe, and I will learn to love it, my quilting friends have already done that. In addition to being good quilters they are good cooks and have some wonderful recipes. Andrea’s waffles are to die for – but that is a subject for another time. The point is, they have given me rhubarb suggestions and rhubarb recipes. And I still don’t like rhubarb. I think this fall I’m going to yank it out and plant more asparagus. So, the lesson learned here is no matter what the gardening books have to say, only plant things you actually like to eat.