Friday, December 20, 2013

Seasons Greetings from Fleur Creek Farm

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and several days after that, Christmas. This is a beautiful time of the year full of spirituality and celebration. Its also a special time to reflect on the events of the year, look forward to the coming year, and take comfort in the love of family and friends.

From our home and hearts to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

From Fleur Creek Farm

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Winter Arrives

The calendar may say that the first day of winter is December 21st but for us winter arrived last Thursday night. Snow started falling during the night and continued on and off until Sunday. When it was over we had more than 24" on the ground and everything else for that matter.

I know we parked the car around here somewhere.

It took a bit of work with our old tractor, shovels and our neighbor's plow but we eventually had paths between the buildings and the driveway cleared enough to drive out.

Our flock of wild turkeys found themselves trapped here until the driveway and county road was opened up allowing them to head to less snowy locations. We kept them well fed in the five days they were stuck here and they re-paid us with lots of ongoing turkey chatter and a significant amount of turkey poop so the whole area around the house and old cabin smells like a poultry farm. The turkeys even roosted in the surrounding big cottonwood trees at night so they were ready for an early breakfast.

When the sun finally reappeared Tuesday morning the scenes were spectacular. It's been quite awhile since we have had this much snow from one storm system and it is sure welcome. We can only hope this is the start of a good snowy winter.

 Snow on South Brush Creek

You can followup on our winter from this local webcams - KWMV Westcliffe Radio

And on this day before Thanksgiving, we are reminded about how thankful we are for family, friends, and neighbors. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Watercolors: the Mystical Medium

In a departure from my normal blogging, I wanted to use this issue to highlight a very special upcoming event. If you are in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Saturday, December 14th, be sure to take in the art show, Watercolors: The Mystical Medium.

Santa Fe is internationally known for its art community, but this isn't just any art show. My mom now in her 93rd year is having her first art show in a gallery on Canyon Road, the most famous of the Santa Fe art locations.

The show opening will be held at the Canyon Road Art Brokerage and Gallery at 618 Canyon Road from 1 to 3 in the afternoon. The show runs through December 28th. My mom is donating 10% of the sales proceeds to the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.

Check out her website for more of the artwork that will be at the show - . She's an amazing lady and I am so proud of her!

From Fleur Creek Farm

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sourdough Pancakes

Monday through Friday our mornings start with a nice bowl of hot oatmeal. It’s the best oatmeal ever invented but it is still oatmeal. Come Saturday morning we treat ourselves to sourdough pancakes. In the summer I cook them on a cast iron griddle heated on the grill but this time of year it’s on the wood cookstove. 

The pancake recipe is started the day before by mixing together ¾ cup of whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed, 1 cup of sourdough starter, 4 ounces of almond milk and 2 ounces of water. This concoction sits on the counter to “fester” until Saturday morning when I add a mixture of 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a pinch of salt. The interaction of the sourdough acidity and the baking soda causes the whole thing to grow a couple of inches which is my signal to start cooking on the hot griddle. Then we drown the cakes in real maple syrup and enjoy a great breakfast.

Our sourdough starter has been with us for nearly 20 years so it is more of a family member than just a crock living in the back of the refrigerator. To start your own batch is easy. Soak a ½ cup of organic raisins in 1 cup of warm water for 15 minutes at room temperature. The yeast on the outside of the raisins is the basis of the sourdough.  Strain the water off the raisins and follow these instructions:

Day 1 – Add the cup of raisin water to 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon of malt (Bob’s Red Mill malted barley flour), 1 teaspoon of honey. Stir well and keep at room temperature.
Day 2 – Add to the mixture 1 cup of whole wheat flour, ½ teaspoon of malt, 1 teaspoon of honey, ¾ cup of water. Stir well and keep at room temperature.
Day 3 – Add to the mixture 2 cups of whole wheat flour, ½ teaspoon of malt, 1.5 cups of water. Stir well and keep at room temperature.
Day 4 – Add 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1.5 cups of water to the mix. Stir well and keep at room temperature.
Day 5 – Add 4 cups of flour and 3 cups of water to the mixture. Stir well and keep at room temperature for 4 hours then refrigerate covered. I use plastic wrap secured by a rubber band. 

You may want to keep your crock of sourdough starter in a pan (I use a round cake pan) because it occasionally gets carried away and grows out of the crock.

As you use the starter, you will need to re-feed it. Start by adding 4 parts of flour to 3 parts of water. You’ll get used to using the starter and learn when to feed it and how to adjust the amounts depending on the condition of the starter. Too runny – add more flour; too stiff – add more water.

Of course there are lots more ways to use your starter – biscuits, cakes……… Enjoy!

From Fleur Creek Farm (check out the new website!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Breakfast Guests

The turkey flock was right on time for their breakfast of cracked corn this morning. Several inches of snow greeted them. Once the snow remains on the ground and grows deeper, they will probably head for lower elevations where its easier to get around on those spindlely legs.

Snow is beginning to blanket the high country. It won't be long before we are covered too. We hope for a good snowy winter and help with our three year drought.

From Fleur Creek Farm

Friday, September 27, 2013

Harvest time

The September full moon is known as the Harvest moon and for good reason. Fruit and vegetable gardens are maturing, evening temperatures are dropping, snow is starting to collect on the high peaks, and time is of the essence. Harvest time is underway.

Garlic is the first to ripen so I have already dug, dried and put into storage around three pounds. That will last nearly a year in a cool, dry and dark location which also happens to the wine closet.

Our onion crop began ripening several weeks ago and I dug the onions as their necks became soft and the tops fell over. I hung bunches of onions in the greenhouse to start the drying process then finished them up in the dehydrator. We now have enough bags of dried onions to take us through February or March. I can used the dried onions right from the bag in stews and soups or rehydrate them when fresh onions are called for.

After the heavy (for September anyway) rains in mid-September we dug our potatoes for fear they might rot in the ground. I laid them out on the mesh patio table which we moved into the old cabin. It’s a great place because it is cool, relatively dark and the table affords plenty of circulation around the spuds. I don’t yet have a great long term storage solution for potatoes so we’ll just have to eat a lot of the tubers before it gets below freezing in the cabin. This was the first year in several that I grew potatoes and I used the old horse tank method. In a space of only fourteen square feet, I grew about thirty pounds of Yukon Gold and All Blue spuds. I’m amazed at the production from such a small plot.

This time of year we watch the weather pretty closely and this morning’s weather report predicted a cool, cloudy, breezy day with nighttime temperatures dropping to 29F degrees. That was enough incentive to get us in high gear today to harvest the last of the summer squash and tomatoes and start in on the apple trees. While I wrapped up the tomatoes in newspaper, put them in a box in the closet, and roasted and froze the squash, Don got out the ladder, pulled the bird nets off the Harelred and State Fair apple trees, and picked the fruit. He sliced up the apples with blemishes and started dehydrating them and put the clean apples into storage. Don has one more tree to harvest (Sweet Sixteen) but she’s not quite ready. Hopefully the cold temperatures don’t harm the apples.

Earlier in the week we rounded up the cattle that have spent the summer on our pasture, sent them home and spent the rest of the day cleaning out water tanks, taking down temporary fencing, coiling up hoses and electric cords and cleaning out the barn and corrals. The manure went into the compost pile for use next spring and all the equipment went into winter storage.

We have already had the mountain peaks blanketed by snow twice in the last week and from the looks of things it will happen again tonight. As cold as it is predicted to get, it might even snow at our 8,000 foot elevation. As I write this Don is building a fire in the wood cookstove and we are planning a dinner of burritos smothered in fresh salsa made from our tomatoes, garlic and onions with spicy Pueblo chiles. The fall harvest is nearly complete and we’re ready to enjoy a cozy evening warmed by wood from our farm.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hints of Fall

The calendar may say its early September but Mother Nature is suggesting otherwise. In the last few weeks I've noticed that the choke cherries have ripened, the scrub oak acorns are drying and the leaves are starting to turn color. This week the daytime temperatures are predicted to be in the mid-sixties and the nighttime temps in the mid-forties. By weeks end the precipitation will change to snow above 12,000 feet elevation and as much as eight inches may accumulate.

All these hints of fall have motivated us to finish up our firewood preparation and clean the woodstove. We have one pile of about two cords sitting ready and are working on the second pile which will be in our woodshed.

The change of seasons is not lost on the wildlife either. After several years without an acorn crop, this year’s crop is excellent and everything from Stellar jays to black bears are feasting. We have had three to four different bears visiting the oak clumps on our place and surrounding properties leaving footprints in the mud and scat piles full of acorn hulls.

It won’t be long before the aspen, cottonwood, birch and alder are ablaze in yellow from tree line down to the valley floor. And then suddenly winter will arrive.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nature's solutions

As the earth’s climate changes we will see many changes but none so dramatic as pests and diseases as the global temperatures warm. In just the short time we have been here (20 years) we’ve seen winter become milder, snowpack melt earlier reducing irrigation water, and one of the most insidious of all – the survival of insects once held in check by winter’s cold temperatures.

The ecology of North America’s forests has always included the effects of insects but now, with the warmer winters, we are seeing forest changes on a landscape scale. Where once pine beetles and spruce bud worms came in cycles affecting mostly the weakest trees we now see giant swaths of forest killed by these insects. The winters are no longer cold enough nor long enough to reduce the insect numbers to the point where their effect on the forests is limited. Add to that the drought caused by the reduced snowpack and we have forests that are not healthy enough to resist the insects.

In June I started noticing a new insect infestation on our farm – grasshoppers. Each step I took sent dozens of them sailing away from me. We weren’t alone. Area ranchers resorted to aerial spraying of pesticides in an attempt to save their pastures and hay fields. We had no intention of using conventional pesticides with their detrimental effect on beneficial insects like bees so I spent several days researching natural control methods. I ordered (from M&R Durango) a biological insecticide specific to grasshoppers which was safe to other insects, animals and birds and allowable on organic crops. It arrived just as the monsoon season arrived delaying application for weeks. I was about to throw in the towel on grasshopper control this year when Mother Nature handed me the solution.

For the last several years in early August we are treated to the arrival of a flock of wild turkeys. The flock usually includes a mother hen and six to eight of her young chicks. As soon as we notice them, we put out cracked corn to encourage their presence and survival. This year it wasn’t long before more flocks started arriving drawn to the corn and the grasshoppers, one of the turkey’s favorite foods. Now, at the end of August, the young turkeys are nearly full-sized, the grasshoppers are nearly gone and I am reminded that Nature often provides solutions if you just look.