Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Equinox!

Equal day length.  After today the daylight minutes will outnumber the dark and continue to gain in dominance until the summer solstice.  Spring is officially here.

To celebrate I joined the California Native Plant Society's wildflower walk along the Independence Trail.  The trail exists in the remains of the Excelsior Ditch, which moved water 25 miles from it's source on the South Yuba to the diggins at Smartsville.  Since the ditches were designed with subtle elevation differences, the old canal beds area smooth and easily accessible, and it was a good first "hike"since recovering from pneumonia.

Meandering is a good word to use to describe the speed one walks when looking at wildflowers.  We stop, gather around a wee flower, consult the book and come up with both scientific and common names.  I took pictures.  Turns out my new camera has a voice memo utility, so after I snap a pic I record the name.  No more notebook!  (This is really cool.  I love technology.  No, I'm not making squeeing sounds, really!)


Some shooting stars.  The fertilized flowers flip over and point up, the unfertilized are still pointing down in their come hither pose.

Hounds tongue, in the forget-me-not family.

A view of the South Yuba just downstream of the 49 crossing.

A California newt.  We put him back where we found him under the giant chain ferns.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daylight Savings Rant

Last fall during the bi-annual time change, a friend of a friend on facebook posted something to the effect that daylight savings time was a relic of farmers and farming practices, and since farmers are a minority of the population, Day Light Savings should be removed.

As a homesteading/farmer type of person, I immediately and vehemently objected to his statement.  After all, he wasn't the one who was now milking goats in the dark because of the sudden time change at, nor any of the other chores that must be done before and after work.  My work hours certainly didn't change just because the time on the clock did, and instead all of our diurnal actions are shifted for this bit of tomfoolery.

So why do we have DST?  DST as a concept was suggested as early as 1794 by Benjamin Franklin, and was adopted in the United States in 1917 by an Act of Congress.  The basis for DST has always been energy savings, the idea being that people will consume less energy if they are maximizing their use of daylight hours. Unfortunately, studies don't bear out this assumption, but countries around the world continue to follow this principle.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
The practice is controversial. Adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours,but causes problems for farming, evening entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun. Traffic fatalities are reduced when there is extra afternoon daylight; its effect on health and crime is less clear. Although an early goal of DST was to reduce evening usage of incandescent lighting, formerly a primary use of electricity, modern heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly, and research about how DST currently affects energy use is limited and often contradictory.

Who really benefits from DST?  Well, the pool and BBQ industry fronted the biggest lobbying checks that got the US Government to add an additional 4 weeks per year of DST, with three weeks in the spring and one week in the fall beginning last year.  Those don't sound like farmers to me!!

So tomorrow morning the sun will not rise until 7:15am and I'm back to milking in the dark in order to get to work on time. 

DST or not, spring is just around the corner, and I have the evidence!

Goats in the sunshine

Flowering quince

The rosemary is beginning to bloom

As is the calendula

And the lilacs are preparing to spring forth!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It's Getting Better All the Time

In this case we're talking about the state of my lungs.  Many of you who saw me at Stitches know that I was suffering from a third round of this bronchitis/cold thing, and let's just say that things got worse before they got better.  So finally giving into common sense, I've been home for several days and broken out the honey-lemon-garlic syrup I should have brewed up weeks ago.

I've used this recipe to good effect many times before, often avoiding or reducing the suffering.
1 cup honey
juice and zest of one organic lemon
3-5 cloves garlic (if they're all big use 3, if small use 5)
1-2 sage leaves

Blend all ingredients together and let sit for 2-4 hours to homogenize.  Strain using a large mesh strainer and put into a small bottle.  Sip 1-2 tsps every 1-2 hours.  If blended right it should taste like a lemon drop.  Soothes throat stuff, coughing and kicks ass against most invaders as raw garlic is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal.  I think this recipe originated from one of Christopher Hobbs' herbals, though it could belong to someone else...

In one of my rare public appearances this week a coworker came by to carpool from my house for a conference in Sacramento.  "Wow, I know you said you lived on the Bear River, but you really do live right on the river!  It's right there!"  Yep, I really do live right on the Bear River, and the most recent rains have finally brought it up to a decent winter level of flow.  I think that both Rollins and Combie Dams have been holding back on the outflow to refill the reservoirs, which is not good for the health of the river, so I'm very glad to see the level up finally.  This is the view of the river from my "backyard".

She also met all of the chickens and goats.  She particularly loved the goats. "They're so friendly and attentive, just like dogs."  Well almost like dogs.  They don't play fetch very well, but they do like being petted and scratched, with a few key differences.  Goats like having their necks, chests and rumps scritched and rubbed, whereas a dog or cat will like their jaws, tops of heads and ears scritched and rubbed.  With goats, scratching of the head is usually a sign of trust as they  don't want their horn area messed with.

That little goat Finn, that was born last June to Dharma?  He's a big goat now, as tall as his mom but still has plenty of room to grow.  He's all leg right now and I expect him to end up about 20% larger than his mom by the time he finishes growing in another year.

Maharani was bred on New Year's Eve to my friend Joanne's buck Glimmercroft Stormfront, a third generation miniature La Mancha.  It's very easy to breed these medium-sized goats.  We watch for the girls to come in heat, snap them onto a lead and have them jump into the large dog crate in the back of the car.  A twenty minute car ride later and they are flirting with the buck of choice.  We stand around and shoot the breeze while the goats do their thing.  Three rounds is considered successful and back home we go.  

You really know you've had success when the doe doesn't come back into heat, as was the case with the little black doeling Pi.  This was Pi's first time, and she didn't have a very strong heat at New Years, so even though the deed was done, it didn't take.  She was very much in heat two weeks ago, so DH ran her over (I being sick) and there's no question about it this time.

Goats have a gestation period of 5 months (150 days), give or take 5 days either way, so we're expecting our first kids of the year at the end of May, and Pi in mid-July.  We haven't bred Dharma just yet, so we'll have some late babies this fall.  Then I'll be posting more pictures like this one of Dharma giving birth to Finn last June.