December 11, 2006

Major site upgrade in the works...

This website has been fairly quiet over the last half-year or so but that is not for lack of activity at the farm.

We now have all of the needed licenses — State and Federal, we have our building (a pre-fabricated steel structure), the building permit to erect the building and we are ready to roll.

A good friend of ours did an amazing set of logos, typefaces and design elements that we will be using for the web page, the store and our product labels.

The new website should go “live” sometime in February of 2007 — and we should start shipping product a month or two after that.

It has been a long and interesting road and it will be good to finally start production and to be in business!

Posted by DaveH at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Administrivia...

February 11, 2006

testing... testing...

Having some web “issues” — see if this gets online.

Also, we will be getting a lot of Jen's soaps and lotions online in the next few days. She has been developing these for over a year and they are incredible products.

I'll be posting here when they are available for purchase.

Posted by DaveH at 10:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) Category: Administrivia...

January 19, 2006

The Store is online (sorta kinda)

It is now 6:47PM and the store is now online with this caveat.

You cannot buy anything just yet. (ducking thrown objects)

I have started populating the products and will get PayPal configured later tonight but I'm hungry and Jen and I are going out for a quick dinner at a local restaurant.

So welcome aboard, kick the tires and let me know what you think.

The web design is barely out of the box, my priorities are as follows:
  1. Getting the database up and running
  2. Site Security
  3. Connecting to PayPal and Shipping Services
  4. Populating with Products
  5. Getting the rest of the site online (additional information, about us, etc…)
  6. Tweaking the look and feel.

Right now, I am at number two.

I will post updates here as they happen.

Posted by DaveH at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Administrivia...

Store news

Our Internet Service Provider's service is wretched today and I need to re-install some key parts of the store software. I tried taking a CD of the files to our local Library but the computers there are too locked down to be able to move files around.

Sometimes, being rural has its disadvantages with the only broadband option being a satellite dish.

The 6:00pm opening is going to be pushed back a bit.

I will post a notice here when we are live.

Posted by DaveH at 04:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) Category: Administrivia...

January 18, 2006

Whew!

Major things happening here. I'll be posting updates later but the key thing is that we will be offering for sale our Cider and Mead tomorrow (Thursday, January 19th, 2006) at our online store.

Jen will be selling her soap and lotions there; I'll be adding some products in a month or so.

Looking at being open for business at 6:00PM, 01-19-2006

The last four months have been full — I will write about them later now that Winter has settled her quiet mantle about this country and we can take a few steps back from the day to day necessities.

Posted by DaveH at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Administrivia...

September 16, 2005

A great vendor

We received our first order from Azure Standard this afternoon and we are very happy.

They sell bulk and canned foods — mostly Organic, very high quality for very reasonable prices — a lot less than you would pay in a Food Co-Op or Grocery Store.

If you order more than $400, they will use one of their trucks to deliver for free. You can aggregate with your neighbors for the $400 limit so getting canned goods and bulk grains and legumes is very economical.

They serve the Pacific Northwest and California and extend north through Minnesota (for the free delivery offer — see this delivery schedule — 400K PDF File)

Their online store is good, their various catalogs are available as PDF downloads here.

We were turned onto them by one of our neighbors who was placing an order. Poked around their website and liked what we saw. We will be placing orders with them every couple months as their product selection is excellent (they also have farming supplies, cosmetics and nutritional supplements).

Here is their story:

About Azure Standard
Dear friends and valued customers,

THE STORY OF AZURE STANDARD really begins in 1971 when my family made radical changes in the operation of our 2,000-acre dry-land wheat and cattle ranch.

In the 1950's almost all the farmers in America began using chemical fertilizers because the lure of higher yields was just too great to pass up. Not long afterward, the soil deteriorated to the point where the weeds and insects began to attack the crops, so pesticides and herbicides soon followed.

Our family was caught in the cycle like most farmers, until 1971 when we took our farm out of the chemical cycle “cold turkey,” so to speak. In the first year, the chemical-dependent land only produced a small percentage of what it had formerly produced. At this point most farmers would have gone back to chemical use for economic survival. But, sticking to our convictions, we fought ignorance and lack of information in order to keep on without chemical use. As the years went on, the soil slowly regained its natural fertility.

As a result of farming in this manner, both commercially, and on smaller scale in large gardens and orchards for our own use, our family became healthier.

We began selling this healthier food to others who also wanted to reap the benefits of better nutrition. Our newfound customers soon began asking for different natural and organic products which we didn't grow here on our farm, but we scrambled to find those products for them. Thus, in 1987, Azure Standard was born.

Here, we understand that naturally grown foods are instrumental in producing a long and satisfying life. We'd like to see more farmers and home gardeners turn to natural organic growing practices, so we do what we can to not only support the organic farmer, but also provide as many organic products as possible.

Give 'em an order, you will not be unhappy with the service.

Posted by DaveH at 08:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) Category: Other...

September 15, 2005

A load of Hay

Since we have six Sheep and Goats, we have to provide food for them over the winter when the pastures are not producing.

Figuring that we needed about one ton of Hay, we found a local farmer who was selling it (very nice too with lots of Clover — the extra protein will help the Cashmere fur develop!).

At 40 pounds per bale, getting the 50 bales home was a bit of fun:

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We made it home safe and sound, driving at 30 MPH on back-country roads and pulling over whenever there was more than a car or two behind us. Took us just under one hour to get to the Hay, took us over two hours to get home.

Now, we have to find a source for straw for bedding…

Posted by DaveH at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) Category: The Farm

World of Wood Festival

One of the more interesting events as Summer starts to wind down is the World of Wood festival. It is sponsored by the Black Mountain Forestry Center and is held at their wonderful museum a few miles north of where we live.

One of the highlights of the festival is a tour of several working forests. The tour was led by a professional forester and he was exceedingly candid about forest management practices, the environment and regulations.

There was fair food, exhibits and some wonderful music.
Here are some photos:

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Here is the Black Mountain booth.
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The stage — some wonderful music.
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An example of the chain-saw carving
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Here is one of the stops on the Forest Tour
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We went up Black Mountain which is almost 5,000 feet elevation.
Here we are looking out into Canada
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All in all, a very pleasant day!

Posted by DaveH at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Other...

September 13, 2005

An anniversary

Jennifer and I were married three years ago on this date.

Life just keeps getting better and better — one of the best decisions I ever made.

Jen — I love you!

Posted by DaveH at 10:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) Category:

August 23, 2005

Apple Museum in Pennsylvania

Ran into this website: National Apple Museum

Opened in 1990, the museum is housed in a restored pre-Civil War bank barn and is owned and operated by the Biglerville Historical and Preservation Society. The museum mission is to preserve and exhibit the history and attendant artifacts pertaining to the Apple and Tree Fruit Industry's history and contributions to the development and growth of Adams County. Exhibits include early picking, packing, and shipping of fruit, pest management, commercial fruit processing equipment, early orchard photographs and a recreated 1880's farm kitchen and a General Store. The museum also features collections of farming implements, apple peelers and fruit labels and much more apple memorabilia.

Looking through their photo gallery, they have a wonderful collection.
Definitely worth a visit if you are traveling through Pennsylvania.

Posted by DaveH at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Other...

Harvest

It is getting towards the end of the growing season. The days are getting noticeably shorter and the leaves on the trees are thinking about changing color.

Jen went through our garden this morning and harvested the garlic and onions.

One of last years garlic plants had 'escaped' harvest and this summer, all of the individual segments sprouted. Here is the result:

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Posted by DaveH at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: The Farm

August 09, 2005

The $1,000 Duck Egg

We got our first Duck Egg yesterday.
Ducks start laying a lot sooner than Chickens or Guinea Fowl.

Given the cost of all the coops (about $300 materials each) and the feed and initial purchase price, we figure that this one cost us about an even thousand dollars.

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All of the succeeding eggs will, of course, be a lot cheaper but this one really set us back a bit.
It was very tasty! More flavor than any store-bought egg and the yoke was a deep rich orange color.

The nutritional value is not to be sneezed at… Mother Earth News just finished a testing of their free-range flocks and compared the data with the USDA analysis for Supermarket Eggs. Their chart makes the differences very clear:

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Posted by DaveH at 11:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: The Farm

August 01, 2005

Guinea update

Jen left a comment on the previous entry about our Guinea's first day out:

Well, “not the most intelligent of God’s creatures” is an understatement. We're talking about a bunch of critters who wandered around thirsty for 3 days after I put their waterer on a piece of plywood to keep the water clean - I didn't change the physical location of the waterer at all, just elevated it 1/4 inch.

Not a single one of them returned to the snug, safe coop tonight. Hopefully, they've found safe trees to roost in…

Well, we woke to an ungodly racket this morning at sunrise. A number of them had found roosting perches in a large tree near our house. At breakfast, there were about a dozen of them milling around the driveway and while I was working on some computer stuff, I heard them outside my studio. Here is a group of 16 and there were a few others nearby:

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They are eating bugs and grass seeds. Go Guineas!

Our ducks patrol the garden and it has been wonderful this year with very minimal loss to slugs or other insects. Perfect lettuce leaves.

Posted by DaveH at 05:27 PM | Comments (0) Category: The Farm

July 31, 2005

Our Guinea Fowl - Freedom at Last!

One of the birds that we have are Guinea Fowl (here). These live in a coop in the Orchard and will be used for bug patrol. They are not the most intelligent of God's creatures. With the Chickens and the Ducks, you kept them in the coop for about a week, they got to realizing that that was “home” and they always returned to the coop to bed down for the night.

With Guinea Fowl, it takes six weeks.

Jen and I are in their coop twice a day bringing in fresh water and feed and they still run in panic from us.

As I said, not that bright…

Well, today was the end of week six so we decided to set them loose and see what happens — here are the photos:

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We opened the window on the side of their coop to let them out and they just stayed inside. The window is up high to prevent predators from entering. Jen finally went inside to chase them out through the door.

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At last, they make a run for it…

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Only to stand around wondering what this place is and what to do. The eventually scattered — many of them flew into the woods, some of them are hanging out near the buildings. It will be interesting to see how many of them return this evening. As I said, they are not that smart but instinct is a powerful motivator. They have been living in the coop for six weeks and that is where their food and water are.

Posted by DaveH at 01:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) Category: The Farm

July 19, 2005

Chickens and Goats

We have three different kinds of birds at the Farm, Ducks, Guinea Fowl and Chickens. The Ducks are for garden slug patrol (after we sent a few excess Drakes to “Freezer Camp”), the Guineas will be flying around the Orchard dealing with bugs there (they are set to be released from their coop on August First). The Chickens are for eggs and meat and just plain enjoyment. They are fun to watch as they go about their daily routine.

Since they are kept in the same paddock that the Goats and Sheep are housed, the interactions can be a lot of fun. Here are some photographs:

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This is Kiwi hanging out with the Buff Orpingtons in the shade of the Chicken Coop.

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These last three are the goats interacting with the new Chicken Coop.
They are very curious (the best description is to consider the intelligence of a good German Shepherd with the personality of a Cat).

The first is our youngest (four months) goat - Esmeralda happily hanging out inside the coop.
Next, she is joined by her bestest buddy, Oreo.
Finally, Oreo is inside the coop and playing with Newgoat.

Newgoat's story is a bit sad but with a very happy ending.

Some people were hiking up a local logging road and found him. He was starving and very friendly. They didn't really have a way to keep him but they could not leave him there so they took him home and one of their neighbors is a friend of ours and knows that we keep goats. That next day, Daniel dropped Newgoat off.
I did some flyers and we posted them at all of the local restaurants, stores, feed-stores, veterinarians, taverns, etc…
This was a friendly little guy, obviously someone's dear pet.
A week of dead silence. No calls.
We noticed a few things that needed attention. Massive copper deficiency (you can tell from gross examination of the hair), his hooves had not been maintained, an ear tag had been improperly set and was seriously infected. Plus, you could count his ribs.

The one thing that kept returning to our minds is that someone dumped this poor animal on the logging road. A single goat is a very unhappy and neurotic goat. They are herd animals and need a friend to hang with. Newgoat was probably someone's pet but after a few months of obsessive behavior, the parents probably dumped him instead of trying to find a good home. He loves people and will be a good spokes-goat for our farm. He is now happy and healthy and playing with the other goats and sheep and chickens.

Posted by DaveH at 09:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: The Farm

How to deal with a mossy roof...

Here is one solution:

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Heh…

Posted by DaveH at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Other...

The Chicken of Mystery

Anyone able to identify this breed?

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We got 25 Chickens — some Buff Orpingtons and some Wyandottes but this guy slipped into the mix and we cannot identify what he is.

Posted by DaveH at 09:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0) Category: Other...

A busy few weeks...

We have been having a few very busy weeks hence the dearth of new entries here…

Two weekends ago, we went to several of the seasonal fairs in our area. One Saturday, there were four that we visited. Here are some photographs:

First off was the Hills to Mills Festival — this is held at the same venue as the Deming Logging Show. This place also serves as a Logging Museum and has a number of artifacts of early logging technology such as this one:

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Chainsaw Carving was one of the featured exhibits and there was some excellent work. Lots of Bears but this Gryphon caught my eye:

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We then went to the town of Everson for their festival. Not much to photograph there — a bunch of booths with people selling things and a few concession stands. Lots of clusters of people talking so it was definitely a very close community. Small-town America — very cool!

We then drove to the Lumi Island Ferry dock and walked onto this delightful boat:

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After a 20 minute ride, we docked and the shuttle bus took us to this Lavender farm:

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You could pick bundles of Lavender for $5, there were some booths with other craftspeople selling their wares (generally garden stuff, soaps and herbals). A wonderful walk through the lavender fields and the view didn't hurt either…

We went into Bellingham for a bite to eat and then finished off our day with the Sumas Bull-o-Rama. This event raises money for the Sumas Rodeo later in the season. Well attended (several thousand people in the stands) and lots of fun to be had. Very much a family event:

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The main event was Bull Riding:

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The kids got into the act too with Mutton Busting:

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All in all, a wonderful day off.

Posted by DaveH at 08:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: The Farm

June 30, 2005

A moving experience

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I rented a trailer to move some equipment.

I had rented it from the local U-Haul franchise in Bellingham but I had a very bad experience with them and will not be using them again in the future.

While I was returning the trailer yesterday, a wheel bearing on my truck failed. Five miles away from home everything was fine and then something started making noise. I tried limping along at 20 MPH but another couple of miles and it sounded like I was crushing gravel.

I called Jen to give her a heads up on what was happening and then called the U-Haul office to see what they could do.

It turns out that they had a tow truck and would be able to recover the trailer. (I have AAA for the truck but they would not deal with a truck and a trailer — I had to get the trailer off first.)

I asked how much it would be and the guy on the phone didn't know — he would have to figure it out (I was about 20 miles from their store). I asked if it would be more than $50 and was told no — it would not be that much.

About an hour later, the u-Haul truck shows up and then I have AAA tow the truck into a local garage for repair.

Jen comes into town to give me a ride back. We stop into the U-Haul office to make sure that everything is fine and we are told that the towing fee was $70 and that the tow truck driver told me that this was the cost.

Point One: The tow truck driver didn't say anything about the price. He was the same guy I spoke with on the phone who told me that it would be under $50.

Point Two: Had I known in advance that the charge would be $70, I would have had Jen borrow a truck from one of our neighbors. Worst case scenario, I would have had her drive me to Home Depot where I can rent a truck for $20 for four hours — she had to come into town anyway to pick me up.

Point Three: We have the most basic cheapest AAA membership and I had to pay for the truck to be towed into town. The charge for that was only $30

I have rented trailers from that U-Haul several times before for moving milk tanks and other equipment. I will not be renting from them ever again…

Posted by DaveH at 01:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1) Category: Other...

So I was reading the local classified advertisements...

…and I saw a listing for a free riding mower. We are looking for a riding mower for the orchard but as we have two perfectly good walk-behind mowers, there is no immediate justification for spending that money.

I called the number and although the mower had already been claimed, there was some other “farm equipment”. I inquired and was told that it was a complete apple packing line!

Needless to say, I grabbed a tape measure and some tools and was out of the house like a shot. Rented a trailer that following Monday and brought the line over to our farm. Here are some pictures:

Here is the beginning of the line — apples are dumped into one end of this and rows of brushes rotate and scrub off leaves and dirt. There is a pump and spray nozzles that were taken off — simple enough to replace. Obviously, this equipment has been sitting outside for several years and needs some work but all the moving parts turn and it should be a simple matter to sandblast and repaint with food-grade enamel.

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This is the middle of the line — apples come from the scrubber and are placed onto a white conveyor belt for visual sorting.

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Finally, after being sorted, the apples wind up here where the vanes gradually open up letting larger and larger fruit drop through. This machine grades the apples by size and separates them into six different groups.

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As I said, these units will require a good bit of work to refurbish but the price was right (who can argue with FREE!).

Since I will be disassembling them to clean, sand blast and paint, I am also planning to cut them in half lengthwise. The previous owner had blocked off half with pieces of wood but I am planning to actually cut the machines as we do not need the full 48” wide capacity. This will reduce the weight a lot too so I can mount them on casters and store them out of the way when not needed. The final sizer is not needed since we are only going to grind and press our fruit; the mechanical parts match the other two machines though so the sizer will become a parts resource for repairing / maintaining / modifying the other two machines.

Posted by DaveH at 01:00 PM | Comments (0) Category: Cider Equipment

June 13, 2005

All cooped up...

Now that we are officially up here (we started living here full-time June 12th 2004) we have started increasing our stock. Birds in this case…

I have written about our ten ducks before here, here and here. They are doing fine although one of them met up with our Husky and is now walking with a bit of a limp. She has been named George W. — Lame Duck and all… The Husky is being trained with an E-Collar so this should not be a problem in the future.

We have about 25 each of two other types of birds so I have been busy building coops. One is done and is being used by our Guinea Fowl. They are still under a brooding lamp. Our Chickens are still in the downstairs bathroom under a brooding lamp and will move out to their coop after I get a day or two free from rain so I can paint and roof it.

Here are some photos:

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This is the basic coop design — the Duck coop was 6*8, these two are 8*8 since we have more birds. I am building them on four-foot centers so I can use as many uncut sheets of plywood as possible. This design is fairly cheap to build — under $300 for something that will last a good ten years. The foundation is pressure-treated 2*6 on 2' centers, floor is 3/4” ply and everything else is basic 2*4 and 1/2” ply.

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This is the inside view. The walls are six feet tall on one side, eight feet tall on the other. Basic framing. Given good weather, it takes about two days to put one together but we have been having a lot of rain recently so I have been working on this one for about five days…

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This is the finished Guinea Coop. The plywood panels are covering ventilation openings. The Keets (baby Guinea Fowl) are still under the heat lamp so I only have one vent opening open. The one on the left side is actually a landing area. I have some rough-cut cedar planks that form a ledge and after about a month or so, we will be letting them fly out into the orchard. If you keep them in the coop and feed them there, they will learn to come back to the coop at night to rest. During the daytime, they will be our bug patrol in the orchard.

When we were researching various pest management solutions, people with Guinea Fowl said that they worked very well and were a fun (if noisy) bird to have around. Lice, flys, Apple Maggots, ticks — if it flys, creeps or crawls, the Guineas will find them and eat them.

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These are our Keets — very cute and loads of personality.
We have them in their coop but confined to a 4*4 space with a cardboard barricade so they don't stray too far from the heat lamp and get chilled. They should be fine without the heat lamp in about three-four weeks more.
Our chickens are also great fun — they will be moving into their new home as soon as I get two sunny days to paint and roof…

Posted by DaveH at 09:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1) Category: The Farm

June 12, 2005

Deming Logging Show

One of the main industries up here is logging. This is a very rewarding work (more on this later) but it is very dangerous and people can get severely injured. Every year, there is a logging show for the benefit of Busted-Up Loggers. Jen and I went to The Deming Logging Show this year and it was a lot of fun. (Deming, WA is a small town about 15 miles from where we live)
Here are some pictures:

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There were many events — the first one was judging loads of timber when on the truck. These were the three winners.

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The events are based on actual work done in the field. This one is tree climbing. The spars are 95 feet tall — this guy was competing with another person (didn't get the names). What is fun is that these are the fastest two people in the world. The winner in today's event was able to climb to the top of the 95 foot spar and return to the ground in under twenty seconds… These people are in shape.

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It takes these people about 30 seconds (if that) to chop through a 14” log with a broadaxe.

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This event was double-bucking — two people on a crosscut saw.

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Another event is the Iron Man tournament — you need to do several things, set a choker, buck a log, chainsaw through another log. You signal that you are done by taking a nice refreshing dip in the pool.

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The pool is also used for another event — here is the Junior-Class Log Rolling. The guy on the left is not having a good day…

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The last event of the day was my favorite — the Hot Saws.
These are Unlimited Class Chainsaws — the engines for them come from trucks and motorcycles (there were two Harley saws there). The primary rule for this event is that you can bring anything you want, it just has to be hand-carried and operated by two people. Lots of noise, sawdust and fun.

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Of course, Binford Tools was well represented in this category.

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Gitter Done was another contender. They are sawing a 30 inch diameter log and the winner did it in 1.6 SECONDS!

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There were a lot of exhibits as well — gotta have the chainsaw bears!

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A lot of people brought antique equipment that they had restored into working and like-new condition. This is a drag saw — an early automated log bucker.

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This Truck was originally built in 1914 and gorgeously restored.

This is just a small taste of what is available at the show.
We will be back next year.

At the beginning of this post, I said:
This is a very rewarding work (more on this later) but it is very dangerous and people can get severely injured.
What Jen and I noticed was that there were a lot of family members there. In the competitions you would see a Grandfather, Father and Son competing in different events. Wifes and girlfriends were also competing in mixed and womens competitions. It says a lot about a business that a kid grows up seeing what Daddy and Mommy do and likes it so much that they want to do it themselves.
A lot of very good and real people here.
Posted by DaveH at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1) Category: Other...

June 05, 2005

Bellingham Highland Games

Our winters are long and dark and wet. To compensate for this, there are lots of wonderful events during the rest of the year. Yesterday, Jen and I went to the annual Bellingham Highland Games. I have a good bit of Scot blood in me and love the culture.

I brought a camera — here are a few pictures:

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There were several performance running simultaneously through the day so it was impossible to see everything. Lots of dancing.

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There was a huge midway with vendor booths, a food area, a beer garden. There were easily over 200 vendors present. Lots of good stuff, some junk and some high-end sheer artistry. There were about 20 booths from various Clans so people could research their family history and talk to Clan members.

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Someone brought a feral Haggis family. Fortunately, they had the presence of mind to post warning signs — they can be vicious if startled.

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Lots of music — Pipe Bands, Harps, Folk Singing. A feast for the ears.

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Another Pipe Band

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Jen's and my favorite act were these people - Wicked Tinkers. Celtic music played on Highland Pipes, two Drums and a Celtic Didgeridoo. Many people consider the Didgeridoo to be an Australian instrument but it's origins are shrouded in history and…

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One of the Drummers is visiting the audience during a song.

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The event was held at the Hovander Homestead Park. This is a gorgeous setting. It was homesteaded in 1897 and remains a working farm to this day. Two of their draft horses helped shuttle people to and from the parking area.

When we were done with the Highland Games, we drove a few miles to a very small airfield to watch a Model Airplane meet. The Bell-Air Flyers have their own little airport up north near the town of Ferndale. The facility is complete with a small asphalt runway, clubhouse and several stations from which to run the aircraft. Their website BellAirFlyers is down now, probably a server glitch… Here are some of the planes:

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I only had my wide-angle lens with me so I don't have any photos of airplanes in flight but the ones we saw were amazing. Extremely aerobatic. Overall quality of workmanship in the models were very high — these people know what they are doing.

I find the level of technology fascinating — another area where computers and materials science have made huge inroads…

Posted by DaveH at 05:39 PM | Comments (0) Category: Other...

May 27, 2005

Welding Rodeo

Last weekend, Jen and I went to Bellingham Technical College and enjoyed their Welding Rodeo. Teams will sign up to compete, a large pile of metal is available for everyone and each team is allotted eight hours to come up with a piece of art.

There is a judging and then a silent auction at the end.

Here are some photos:

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The pile of raw materials after it had been picked over a good bit.
All sorts of treasures here — steel, aluminum, stainless…
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There were a number of other exhibitors — this guy is a great blacksmith. He was making little charms for keychains here but he also showed people some of the knives he makes as “serious” work. Awesome stuff… They also had some of the major welding supply stores including my favorite Central Welding.
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And of course, what's a Welding Rodeo without a nice cool Ice Sculpture to look at.
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The event was catered by the Bellingham Technical College Culinary Arts Institute. These people know what they are doing… The ribs were awesome, tender with a nice smoke and the sauce had just the right amount of heat. I also had a side of the Sauerkraut they were serving with their homemade wieners. A kiss of heaven. I am going to have to get that recipie…
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Hard at work
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Grinding metal
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Arcs and Sparks
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Here is a wall with finished pieces from previous students work.
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And we discover the secret to all that activity.
KrispyKremes and regular Coke.
Caffeine and Sugar.
Good stuff!

Jen and I went back the next day to look at the finished pieces. I'll write about that soon.

UPDATE: 06-05-2005
Finally got the winners photographs out of the camera (its been busy at the Farm)

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The last was Jen's and my favorite. Fun!

Posted by DaveH at 09:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1) Category: Other...

Weather Station

Our online Weather Station has been offline for two weeks. We had a power failure and crashing the computer caused a database to get corrupted.

It is now back online and the historical data will be back online in the next few weeks. (no data was lost)

The Weather Station is available here
(and ignore the Soil Temperature — Mt. Baker is an active volcano but we are not seeing that much activity. Calibration glitch…)

Posted by DaveH at 09:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Weather

May 11, 2005

Spring had sprung and we are busy!

The spring season has hit and all the tasks we have been putting off because of winter are now clamoring for Jen's and my attention.

Spent today finishing off a nice fence going around our garden. We had a good crop of veggies and berries last year but the dogs enjoyed them as well — this year its ours and ours alone. This will also keep the ducks corralled so they can keep to their job of garden bug patrol.

Yesterday, we were finally able to pick up our new Goat. She is only three months old and the breeder wanted her to remain with her pack to get properly socialized. She is another Cashmere (for fiber) and is a real sweetheart. Named her Esmeralda after the Sea Lion in the Disney adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

It turns out that we are not the only ones to consider her a sweetheart. Our little whether Oreo went into full-on rutting mode when we introduced the two. At first he was just playing a bit but he started scenting himself and acting the way that Billy Goats act when they smell a Doe in heat. Oreo was supposed to be fixed by the breeder but he is headed into the vet tomorrow to see if something was missed…

I'll have some more pictures in a day or two.

Posted by DaveH at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: The Farm

May 04, 2005

Other revenue streams - soap making

Along with selling our Cider and Mead, we will also be offering items for sale online and in our tasting room. One thing that Jen is getting very much interested in is Soap Making. We are now using several soaps that she has made and they are a lot better than most commercial soaps. I have sensitive skin and need to watch that I don't use anything harsh. Some laundry detergents and strong soaps will make it look like I sandpapered my skin. Jen's soaps clean well, rinse cleanly and quickly and do not irritate my skin at all.
I knew there was a reason I married her…

By making our own, we can be perfectly sure that nothing artificial has entered into the ingredient list (same as with our Cider and Mead products).

Jen made a batch of soap this morning and I took some pictures:

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Here she is set up to make a batch. There is a digital scale inside a baggie for weighing the ingredients. The ratio of oil to lye is critical so an accurate scale is a must. If you have to little oil, the soap will be highly alkaline and harsh. If you have too much, it will be gooey and will not set up properly. Jen aims for a super-fatted soap with a few percent more oil than lye. This gives a nice hard bar but also makes for luxurious lather and a gentle cleaning action.

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Here are the primary ingredients for this batch. She is using Lard (rendered pig fat) but this is not an essential ingredient. A soap made from nothing but Olive Oil and Lye is called a Castille soap. Other oils that she is using are Hazelnut Oil, Coconut Oil and Palm Oil. Each oil has its own characteristic and the ratio determines the basic property of the soap.

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Honey and Powdered Oatmeal are being added to this batch. Honey for smoothness and aroma and the Oatmeal for an exfoliant property. The raw oatmeal is processed in a food mill before adding to the soap.

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Jen is measuring out the Olive Oil for this batch.

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Yum — a whole mess 'o Lard… Traditional soaps were made from rendered animal fats and fireplace ashes cooked together. The wood ash had a high concentration of Potassium Hydroxide. Commercial lye is actually Sodium Hydroxide but both work fine for soap.
For those concerned about the use of pig products, we will not be using Lard in all of our soaps and those few that have it will be clearly identified.

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A nice big pot of various oils ready to be turned into soap. Since the Lard doesn't melt that well, we are going to heat it up a bit.

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Here we are around 140 Degrees Fahrenheit. Everything is nicely melted and ready to go.

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Jen is making a Milk soap today. Usually, the Lye is added to water and that mixture is stirred into the oil mixture. Today, she is using milk instead of water. Because adding lye to liquid is exothermic Jen froze the milk first so as not to cook it. Generally, adding lye to water raises the temperature to over 120F. By freezing the milk first, she kept it under 80F.

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Here, the lye and milk has been added to the oils and Jen is blending them together. Using a stick blender, Jen is able to reach “trace” in fifteen minutes or so. This used to take hours and hours of hand stirring. We may be making our own soaps like the pioneers but we are not shunning labor-saving devices…

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A small measure of the soap has been removed and color added to it. Since Jen is looking for a “swirl” pattern through the bar, she is mixing it up a la Jackson Pollack.

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And here we are, an hour or so later with some finished bars in the mold. Later tomorrow, these will be removed from the mold, cut into individual hand bars and set out to air cure. Although 99.9% of the lye has been bound with oil chemically, there are still traces of it that remain for a week or two so the soap has to sit for a while before it can be used safely. Letting it cure also makes the bar harder so it lasts longer.

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And here are a few of her other batches curing.

As I said, this is wonderful stuff. Washes well (and we do come in with dirty hands — Jen from the garden and me with oil and grime from the shop), great lather and it rinses clean.

Posted by DaveH at 08:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1) Category: The Farm

April 26, 2005

Apple Blossoms

It seems that I have been writing about everything except Apples lately. Ducks, Critters, Tanks, Presses, etc…

That is because it has been Winter and Spring is now breaking.

We live close to the Canadian border and between two large mountains aligned North to South. The plus side is that the mountains serve to moderate our weather quite a bit — we do not have the intense winds and storms that people 30 miles away from us have (including a small tornado two years ago). The downside is that our season starts later.

Things have been pushing in the last month but we finally have a good set of blossoms starting to form on our apple trees. Here are a few photos:

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This is one of the trees that were originally on the property — over ten old and no maintenance had been done. Jen went in with a vengeance and pruned earlier this spring. The crop from these trees will be a lot less this year but they will come back healthier next year. This particular one (a Stayman) is really tasty so we will be grafting buds from this tree onto new rootstock.

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Here is one of our one-year old trees. It is a Dabinett (a Cider Variety) on Bud 9 rootstock. We are trying a number of different varieties on different rootstocks to see what grows the best in our area.

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Finally, this is what a fully producing Apple Orchard looks like.
This is what our place will look like in a few years!

Posted by DaveH at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: The Farm

April 23, 2005

A note on the Photography on this site.

I purposely reduce the resolution and compress the images used on this site so that people using dial-up internet don't spend five minutes downloading one photograph.

These photographs were all taken with a high-end digital camera and much higher resolution images are available.

If you would like to get a high-resolution copy of one of our photographs for non-commercial use only, please drop me an email using the 'Contact us' link at the top right of the main page.

Please note that this would be for non-commercial use only and that every photograph on this page is Copyright 2004 and 2005 by Dave Halliday. If you want to use a photograph commercially, please contact me and we can work out something reasonable.

Posted by DaveH at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) Category: Other...

Our Ducks get a new home

Another entry from the Maple Falls Institute for the Study of Advanced Cuteness.

Ducks grow very fast and they outgrew the bathtub about a week ago. We moved them into a large (5' * 2') carton in our garage storage room until such time as I got the duck house built. They moved in yesterday afternoon. Here are some photos:

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This is their new house. I have finished the inside but still need to put roofing (need to get some flashing) and some boards on the corners — these keep out rainwater and help the structure to last for a while. The interior floor has two coats of heavy glossy enamel to aid in cleaning. Jen calls it the Duck-Mahal and thinks that the Lapus Lazuli tiled Jacuzzi and the Swarovski chandeliers are a bit of overkill. I keep telling her that the Ducks specifically asked for these features.

Their home is in our Garden — the ducks job is bug patrol. We are fencing the garden in May and they will be allowed free roam during the day. We will use portable fencing to protect low-lying crops such as lettuce but everything else if fair game. There will also be an electric fence on the outside of the wire fence to keep predators out.

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Here I am with one of our Indian Runner Ducks — he is the smallest one and also the one with the most personality. A few weeks ago, I was rounding them up to take them outside to enjoy some sun and this little character was impossible to catch — he was bouncing off the walls of the brooder so he got the name of Ping-Pong. We believe he is a Drake (male) as his voice is changing. He is fearless.

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The went for a swim today. The temperatures have been steadily getting higher and higher — today it got to 74 degrees F. Ducks have this great little smile to their beaks — as though they were enjoying a subtle joke.

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Anyone who has watched animals grow up (humans included) knows that some parts of the body will spurt ahead and others will play catch-up.
These wings are playing a serious game of catch-up. This is a White Pekin (we have them and Indian Runners). The White Pekins are dinner, the Runners are for cute.

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The ducklings are not producing the oils that adult ducks use to waterproof themselves. This is why the pool wasn't filled all the way (they can stand up if they want) and the lack of oil limited the time they felt comfortable in the water. Even though it was in the 70's, after 45 minutes, they had enough. Jen thought that a ramp would be a good idea. It was and Ping-Pong was the first to give it a try.

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Oooo — that is a long first step.

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Made it!

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All of the ducks except for one made it out over the ramp — this was a success and I'll build a permanent one in the next few days. They spent about 15 minutes grooming themselves, fluffing up their feathers and sunning themselves.

They went back into their new house and took a mid-afternoon siesta. They were rumbling around in their outside pen a few hours later.

At night, we herd them into the house and close and lock the trap door so they are safe from night-time predators.

Posted by DaveH at 08:46 PM | Comments (0) Category: The Farm

April 17, 2005

Jen tends her flock

We had a break in the weather this morning (it's been raining a good bit lately) so Jen and I took our little yellow dictators out for a perambulation around the yard. They aren't so yellow any more — they are molting and their “adult” plumage is starting to come in.

Here is Jen “preaching to the flock”

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Note the rapt attention the flock is giving her…

Actually, she is herding them around, getting them used to being moved from place to place so that we can manage them as adults.

Posted by DaveH at 01:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (9) Category: The Farm

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