If you can’t be with the one you love, love the ones you’re with.


Farm Catch Up

The hens and turkeys have been moved out to the coop!  Hooray!  We were only able to leave for 48 hour increments for a few months while they were in the brooder so this feels like freedom to me.  Our flock is tremendously beautiful and diverse.  Our turkeys, too, are beautiful birds.  I never thought I would say this, but I really love those turks.  I’m a turkey girl!  They’re kinda chill but also sort of zealous.  It’s the strangest thing and difficult to describe.  If you’ve raised turkeys you know just what I mean.  We bought three meat birds from our local ranch supply because we didn’t want to order 15 birds from afar, 15 seemed like too many but what we were really after was a mixed bag of heritage turkeys.  Did you know that white and bronze turkeys (your run of the mill meat birds) have been so selectively bred that they cannot reproduce without the aid of artificial insemination and at about a year old, their legs actually give out?  They are not physically equipped to hold themselves aloft!  It’s just the saddest thing.  They have been so tampered with they’re ill equipped for life.  Anyway, Robbie found a local heritage turkey breeder in the Boise area and we managed to score 7 more turkeys for our flock and they are all hybrid heritage breeds.  YES!  I can’t wait to see their adult plumage.  We’ll hold our heritage turks over so they can lay, hatch and rear their own broods in the spring.  All of this is to say, I think it’s great to buy (if you can) a locally raised, organic, heritage, free range turkey for your holiday  meals, additionally, those birds are most likely raised by your local ranchers and famers and since we’re on our way to being a small, niche market farm, I will say thank you in advance for knowing your farmers and supporting your farmers.

Check with your local butcher shop and order up a beautiful turkey when the holiday seasons roll around.  I think they taste better, too.  Whether it’s my soul telling me so or my tastebuds…I’ll never know.

Our place continues to be an amazing oasis for every living critter you can imagine.  But the bird variety, well it takes the cake!  I suspended a pair of hummingbird feeders in front of the studio windows and I feel my friends keep me company all day long while I work or tinker.  You can’t even imagine what I see on a daily basis.  I love to work and create at my benches but more often than not, I feel mildly tortured by the view of the outside world.  I want to be out there all the time, walking, running, hiking, rafting, fishing, exploring.  I want to be nestled by the river edge with the wind in my hair and the scent of wild rose all around me.  But while I work, if I look up and catch a glimpse of a oriole or hummingbird or hear the doves sighing from the pine trees or the yellow-winged blackbirds in the weeping willow at the trout pond…I know I can make one more solder, one more hammer strike.  These small sensory things sustain me as I work and what a gift it is to be able to explore and find treasures in my own yard, or out in the hayfields.  I love it here.  This land of ours gives me so much, every single day.

On a side note, last night while I was running, Tater Tot was sprayed a few times by a skunk.  I could smell him downwind by a quarter mile.  I recalled him to my side and we kept moving together across the landscape.  I suddenly saw the skunk that sprayed him in the distance.  As we gained on her, I noticed her gait looked a little strange.  She was loping down the path ahead of us and suddenly she turned to the side and I could see that she was carrying her skunk-pup in her mouth as she ran.  She was ferocious.  When she saw us at her six, she wheeled around and galloped at us with hellfire in her eyes!  I screamed and hollered at Tater Tot to heel and we booked it out of there.  She chased us for twenty feet before she dove with her baby into a thick clump of sagebrush.  It was magical and darnit that baby stinker was cute!  From now on, when ladies talk about how they are a mama bear regarding the safety of their children, I am going to correct them and let them know they are more like mama skunks.

The kittens continue to be my everliving joy.  I love them so.  I am currently transitioning them into the outdoors.  They are nine weeks old and they lived those first nine weeks of their lives in my studio which is where they were born!  They’re my sweeties.  But the time has come for them to sow their oats and learn to hunt and be in the bigger world.  I’ve shifted them out of the studio and into the garage.  From there, a few days hence, they’ll be moved outdoors full time.  One kitten (the one with the tail) is headed to a fire family in the McCall area and I will keep the two manx kittens — Sausage Patti and Pilgrim.  They’re something else!

Sugar Baby has started bringing home vole kills and mouse kills for the kittens to check out.  She plays with her kills so they can see how to bat, snatch, catch and dispatch a critter and she also teaches them some etiquette…she growls if they come to close to her while she is handling a kill though it’s all for show.  The lesson she is trying to teach is that they can’t approach and take another cat’s kill.  Her teachings are obvious to me and I continue to be fascinated with her mothering skills.  She’s been entirely remarkable.  I’m thankful these kittens have been living so close to us, it’s been tremendous to watch our critters do their thing.

Robbie was home for the weekend and he took an extra two days off because he is headed for the smokejumper satellite base in Silver City, New Mexico!  YEE HAW!  We’ve wanted this detail for years and I’m thrilled he is headed there this year.  He’ll be in that great state we love so well until the monsoons come (probably the end of July) and I hope to travel down and stay with him for a while.  This is all to say we had to do some serious mega work at the farm this week — I’m talking sun up to sun down sweaty, grubby hard work.  We took our first cut of hay on Sunday and the swaths look gorgeous.  In some parts of the fields the hay was as tall as my chin.  It’s glorious to see it all down, smelling sweetly and drying in the sunshine.  We also hired a local boy to be our farm boy — this is answer to prayer for me.  He’ll help us with all the irrigation and cutting schedule this summer as well as checking on livestock when I am away.  I cannot even begin to tell you what a relief it is for me to have his help in Robbie’s absence.  Every time I think about it I feel a tsunami of peace.  We also finally planted the garden over the weekend and we put in a beautiful, classy irrigation system, like we always do…well, like Robert always does.  He’s an irrigation genius.

We were talking last night about how we’ve been married for 13 years and no matter where we have lived — Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Washington — we have never missed a single summer season of gardening.  We’re passionate about it and we’re good at it.  When we lived in the low desert of Arizona, we had two gardens a year, a winter garden and a summer garden.  It’s one of the things that makes a place feel like home to us.  At any rate, the garden space we are using is a total reclamation project.  It hasn’t been tended to for years.  It had a mature elm tree growing in the middle of it (Robbie cut it down).  It also had a gorgeous lasagna of straw, sheep poop, chicken crap, grass clippings and compost so it’s pretty beautiful, rich soil.  Black gold, as some say.  That said, getting that space planted was a full on war with rogue root systems, crab grasses, wavering pitchforks and generally low electrolytes for the human consortium but we got the darn thing planted.  Alleluia.

I always feel lucky that I grew up under the wing of a mom who is a gardener.  She always planted and tended a garden wherever we lived and I know that part of why I grow things is because she led me in this direction by example, as her mom (my grandmother) led her.  Growing things connects me to all my mothers who came before me.  When my mom puts a plant in the ground, she pats the dirt around it and says, “God bless it.”  I think there’s some kind of honest, beautiful magic in that so I do it too.

God bless it all.  And may every root travel deep.

The Birds and the Bees

Our bees arrived!  Robert has been an apiary enthusiast since seventh grade so he is beyond thrilled to finally have a hive going.  We checked on them yesterday and it’s amazing how much work they’ve been able to do in a span of a few short days.  We had to tear out their honeycomb because they were building it perpendicular to the frames — we hoped they would free build their honeycomb (to make for easier harvesting) but they might need a little direction from us with regards to how they hang their sweets.  Hosting them here on our little farm is a dream come true.  And since some of you demanded baby critter photographs, here are a few of those, to boot!  Though, as you can see, everything is growing up pretty quickly around here.

I thought I would include a picture of Tater Tot with the turkey-lurkeys for you.  This is the first time I let them out in the yard to free range and so it was Tater’s first encounter with them.  Some of you have asked about how we deal with bird dogs who come from really strong hunting bloodlines (which is to say they have an immense predator prey drive) and free ranging birds in the yard.  I do have a couple of thoughts to share on the topic.

Tater Tot is now 5 years old. If I didn’t have complete control of him in situations like this it would be a total failure on my part with regards to basic obedience training and establishing general pack order with my dogs.  If you don’t want your dogs to kill your yard birds, if you want them to come when you call, if you want them to abide by the rules you have set for them, you need to have some basic obedience training in place, but to be honest, the more obedience work you are able to do on a regular basis, the better.  Dogs come from wolves!  They thrive on a sense of place within their pack.  Obedience training is one of the best ways to build bonds with your pup as well as give them that sense of place that will help them to feel and behave like secure individuals.

I always say, if you have a dog that is acting up you can almost always solve the issues by exercising it more (go beyond the off-leash, downtown dog park) and working with it more (obedience training).  These things benefit you, too.  My dogs get me outside every single day and engaging with them, asking them to work for me and along side me has made our relationships rich and sacred.

As I said, we’ve had Tater Tot for 5 years but I do yard training with him on a regular basis because he needs it.  He has a very strong and stubborn personality paired with completely insane hunting drive.  He needs a tune up every single day.  To give him a tune up I simply dedicate time every day wherein we get to focus on each other.  If I am running, I heel him while I run (though we run on single track or two track on public lands where he can run free and wild).  While we travel together like that, I practice casting him off, recalling him, woahing him and running past him a full 1/4 mile before releasing him from his woah command, etc.  If he is being rotten to the cats or to the other dogs, instead of trying to reason with him like some folks do with their dogs (???), I take him straight outside and I challenge his mind with some obedience training.  I can turn his attitude around in a couple of minutes by simply refreshing his sense of pack order and pushing his mind a little.

I can’t yet trust him with the turkeys, but soon he’ll ignore them when he’s sharing the yard with them.  In the meanwhile, I sit with him while the turkeys range within his reach, I speak to him and let him know I am watching him.  I request a little self-control from him and he does a great job.  He completely ignores the ducks unless he is with me while I am herding them into their pen in the evening.  Then he’ll actually help me herd them a little bit, with the aid of voice commands from me.  He’s such a smart little pup.

Farley ignores all the new critters while Penelope is curious about them and wants to give them all the flea nibbles…which looks a little like she is tasting them so I have to tell her to be gentle.

As you can see, the duckos have grown amazingly quickly.  They have many of their adult feathers and they discovered the trout pond yesterday and to say they are thrilled with their swimming space would be a total understatement.  They add so much to the immediate yard here.  I am glad for their company.

This week, I’ll be busting my own chops trying to get the gardens in.  Wish me luck!  I’d like to have all my seeds in the ground by the weekend and since it’s still very cool at night, tomatoes, et al, can wait another week…and they have to wait another week, anyway, as I’ll be off on another shoot shortly!  I’m doing my best to roll out of bed at 6AM here, every morning, there’s so much to do.  And when I lay down to sleep at night, I sleep like a rock.  It’s delicious.  And simple.  And I like it.


Open Eyes

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Baby Announcement


Sometime in January, Sugar Baby had an affair with a manx tomcat from a neighboring farm.  Then she ballooned up.  Then she became restless.  Then one morning, Rob walked into the studio and there were four wriggling kittens under a shelf in my studio.  Imagine that!  Four came out — two tabby and two pinto, a manx and long-tail of each coloring.  The tabby long-tail was a fader.  So let’s talk about that first.

I had a choice to simply let nature take its course and let the fittest survive and the less fit die but instead I chose to feed that sick little kitten with a dropper for a 24 hour period before she finally died, it caused some major sleep deprivation and worsened the influenza I picked up while at home in Saskatchewan but I don’t regret putting that kitten on an hourly hand-feeding schedule.  Here’s why:

  1.  I don’t know if there was something wrong with her physically that caused her to be a runt who fed well at first and then dwindled until she died or if her fade-out was because the other tabby kitten who thrived more quickly than the rest continuously pushed her off her nipple while she was feeding thus inducing her fade.  Was she born a runt or was she made a runt by her litter mate?  Who the heck knows?  But she was certainly our little Wilbur.
  2. I think my job as a keeper of animals is to always do my best by them.  If they get sick, I tend to them.  If I need help tending to them, I take them to a vet.  Simply put, I make myself a factor in the survival of my critters.
  3. I never want to regret NOT taking action for my animals when they are unwell.

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The three kittens that remain are healthy, squawking, roly-poly beasts of love.  They’re eyes should open this weekend and then they’ll become trouble.  Precious, darling trouble.  They’re starting to get mobile and it’s remarkable how strong they are.  I watch them scuffle with each other already and sometimes I help them find their way to nurse and the others will kick at my hand and push with surprising force against my fingers.

It’s been fun to watch a mammal transition into motherhood.  Sugar Baby operates fully on instinct.  She had no midwife.  She didn’t read ten books on what to expect while pregnant and get a ton of (unwanted?) advice from all the women in her life (and total strangers at the grocery store).  It’s amazing to me that she gave birth to these guys on her own, chewed through their umbilical cords, consumed her own placenta for what would have been a huge energy boost for her post-delivery (most animals consume their afterbirth), behaves in a protective manner and guards over them fiercely, slips away once they have fallen asleep to go for a quick hunt or bathroom break, cleans up after them (the kitten nest is totally clean, no urine, no poops, she cleans their bottoms as they “go” with her sandpaper tongue)…it’s remarkable to watch her instincts in full bloom.  As these babes become mobile it will be interesting to see how she changes the way she cares for them and monitors them.

Watching her do this motherhood thing has me wondering if women have these same kinds parental instincts?  How many of our parenting habits stem from reading informational books before we give birth, how many stem directly from our instincts?  When did we stop wandering off into the forest to give birth by ourselves, like a cow dropping her calf in a string of aspen on a mountain slope?  I’m not a mother.  I don’t know how these things work.  I just hear moms go on and on about how you haven’t loved until you’ve loved the child you give birth to.  How much of that love and care is purely instinctual, hormonal, written into female DNA so that there’s hardly any way to undo how we care for our offspring.  Plenty of you are mothers (and fathers).  Tell me about it?  Did you feel any degree of instinctual override when your babies came into the world?

We’ll keep one of these kittens (the pinto manx).  The tabby manx is going to friends of ours in Boise.  The long-tail pinto was claimed by a neighbor.  And that’s that!  I tell Robert every day that I want to keep them all, but I know I can’t.  Fortunately, we have a tsunami of critters arriving here over the next few weeks.  Tomorrow we’ll pick up our ducklings from the post office.  Then our chicks will arrive.  Then our turkey-babies will arrive.  And then, we’ll pick up our bees.


A lifelong dream of mine!

Pinch me.  Is all of this real?  Every single day Robbie walks into my studio in the afternoon, runs his fingers through his hair and simply states, “I’m just outside living the dream, living the dream.”  We had our immediate neighbors over for an official we’re finally moved in dinner on Sunday and one of them asked me if I am happy here and I replied, “I am happier than I’ve been in a very long while.”  And while I haven’t been unhappy, I feel like the cat who got the cream on a daily basis.  And that is that.

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[morning in the kitchen]

[new peach trees for the fruit orchard]