Great attitude! I understand the hope and disappointment. I have a handful of things that I'm hoping will be ripe and there when I visit my place in a couple weeks. If I wait too long, the bear will get them. if I go too early, they won't be ready. And the dates are on the calendar now so... fingers crossed.
Looking forward to seeing pics of projects for next year.
We're due for our first frost here in a couple of days, which as always means it's the most productive time of the year! The front-yard garden continues to produce tomatoes and the first tomatillos have started breaking through their casings.
Last weekend I had some friends up at the ranch, and I convinced them to harvest elderberries for with me. I ended up with a paper bag completely filled with berries at the end of it. Once they were picked, it was a little over a gallon and a half of berries.
My primary reason was to make elderberry syrup! I love semi-sweet syrups like this with a bit of butter on english muffins in the morning.
With the rest of the berries I'm attempting to make wine! Elderberries grow very well at the ranch if you can protect them from the cows. I hope to get better at making wine in the future, but for now this is a very rough recipe. I used to help my dad making beer eons ago, but since then I really haven't done anything fermented. I'm excited to see how it turns out — worst case, I'll have a bunch of vinegar to make in about a year.
As winter approaches, I've been trying to get better at indoor gardening. This batch of radish microgreens got a little leggy while we were away at the ranch, but I'm finally starting to get the hang of it. Radish, avocado, and seed salads (in this case, some old sliced almonds) are also some of my favorite snacks.
Well, I have been incredibly busy with a lot of work I really don't enjoy: primarily paperwork. Hiring a new caregiver for my parents, getting my estate planning in order, and a lot of financial stuff that I dislike with a passion of a thousand suns, but will be great for future Kyle. I can't really explain why I hate this stuff so much, but it weighs heavily on my soul. But life also continues on. I've filled the parent's woodshed. Got some backpacking in with the girlfriend. And started to winterize the ranch.
The seasons continue to march on. The first ski area opened this weekend (Mt. Rose) and the distant high peaks have a dusting of snow that just won't go away. The aspens are doing their show-off thing again, and it's incredibly beautiful up here in the mountains.
Last weekend, we spent a night at 8,000ft and I can confirm it is getting quite cold. Our sleeping pad deflated half way through the night, but we did get a beautiful sunset. It ended up being so cold we shortened our trip from 3 days to 2 and hiked the remaining 14 miles or so back to the cars to avoid another cold night.
This weekend, I spent my time at the ranch getting everything all happy for winter times. Mostly this involved walking back and forth with something in my hand all day long. We usually get around 5-10ft of standing snow on the ground. Add in water and ice weight, and that means anything that can be crushed shall be if it's not put away (about 300-400psf). While I was doing this, I kept collecting cow shit. You know, for my garlic. Which I managed to plant in October this year! I am experimenting with 30" beds this year in an area of the garden. So I took the first bed and double-dug in about 10gallons of cow shit and planted around 64 garlics — just under 2lbs of seed. I wish I had counted better.
The shitty cows destroyed another apple tree. I guess the wire cages around the trees were too upsetting, so they just bulldozed through the whole thing and snapped the tree and t-posts flat to the ground. Can't wait to get a fence next year. It will be a priority for me. Probably hired out. I don't like building fences.
For all the complaining in this post, I'm super excited for the future. Some super exciting developments are underway for me personally, and even though I am suffering in paperwork much of it is of my own procrastinating doing. I should be done by October and ready to do just about anything I want in the world come November. Plus I am really excited about my garlic. I've never had animals (other than my dog & cats), so I've always had to rely on outside sources for my organic matter. This year, I've got a huge compost pile and about 20gals of raw manure dug into next year's garden beds. I spent the time to break up the ground, dig in organic matter, and only plant the largest cloves. Irrigation is ready for next year too. I have no idea what I would do with 64 heads of garlic, but that seems like a good problem. I celebrated with some green beans and (homegrown) garlic bread on the fire as celebration.
This weekend we spent skiing corn snow, and snowshoeing out to a lake in 50˚ weather over 5-10 feet of snow, which reminded me… spring is coming! It has been one hell of a winter up here in the Sierras. As we speak we're sitting on 200% of historical average worth of SWE (snow water equivalent). We had some of the coldest storms I've ever experienced, and months worth of feet of Colorado-style champagne powder. My little tracking app on my phone says I've ridden over vertical 300,000ft and covered over 250 miles on my snowboard this season. I also got the opportunity to check out a bunch of places I've been dying to see — the highlight being Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. All's that to say that I'm still alive. Just leaning into winter.
My greenhouse out front will need some rethinking. There was about 15ft of snow piled on to (of the top) of the frame, and the bit that's melted thus far concludes what I assumed: it's crushed. I thought the snow might fill in around the frame and keep it in tact. Turns out the snow-eater (snow auger?) beat it. We'll see how the Ranch fares in... June? July? I'm guessing the roads will be open sometime mid/late June at the snowpack we've got out here.
I'm excited for this summer. Life has thrown me a few curve balls since the fall, but this time good ones! The next few years will be a huge transition for me, but for now the increasing sun angles remind me that times marches on regardless of our personal hang-ups. My big goal for the ranch this year is to improve the road so I can get a semi down it (and thus, bulk supplies). After that... well, I've still got some meditating to do on that front. I want to fix up the old cabin — stain it, improve the chinking, replace the wood stove, and building a loft. I want to fence in the garden. I want to completely refurbish the water system and add some rainwater harvesting tanks. I want to start planning out a new cabin to build for myself. I want to start milling my own lumber. I want a larger shelter for tools & equipment. I want to finish my solar shed. But the summer is short, and my list long.
I know many of you are already putting plants in the ground, but for me I've still got another month or two to play in the snow and plan out my summer.
Well, I haven't been good at keeping up with this thread this year. Let's see about catching you all up on the ranch. And maybe call this the year of "sometimes money really does help progress"
Planted a ton of garlic last fall, double dug with wild cow manure. Got irrigation set up by the time summer hit full swing. The plants did great. Cows came along and ripped the garlic out of the ground about a month before it was mature. Still need a fence. I swear I'm not totally procrastinating here... just prioritizing. And it's gonna be have to be a hell of a fence to survive our winters + snowmobiles (snow is usually 5-10ft standing, well above most fences). I've come to appreciate the subtlety in the "just plant!" mentality so common in permies. Just plant! (So long as you live in an urbanized area — yes this includes every farm in America — and have a fence and live at your property full time and have steady rainfall or irrigation and...)
Hired some guys to work on the road this year. They came out here with a dozer, skid-steer, and dump truck. It's looking great! The biggest part of the project was widening and smoothing out our nasty steep curve we had in our road. Since the picture below, there's been about 3 truck-loads of 1" rock dumped along the road. Now that the curve's much wider, the slope much shallower, and rocked, I'm hoping it ends up being a lot more stable. I also had them sand the last 500' of road or so from a borrow pit on the property. It was an interesting experience going from "do you have a borrow pit?" to the guy showing me "yup, you can clearly see the front loader path here". All in all, this has reduced summertime dust by a factor of a billion.
In order to get the road fixed, we needed water, so I finally set up an over-the-ground overflow from the spring-fed water tank to feed into their water truck. Which means I've finally got a prototype of what I want happening with the small garden pond: a continuous flow of water. It only took a week from the pond to go from murky to super clear! Unfortunately now you can see all the rocks I dropped while building the border...
Quick up on the life upgrades end, I bought myself a Nature's Head composting toilet. I'm super impressed with it! It's nice to have a built-in urine diverter and get a break from the ever-filling outhouse built from the previous owners. It's also helped reduce the yuk-factor a lot of guests get from pooping in a hole. Now they can poop in a plastic hole and seem to be much happier. For now, it's just temporarily set up in the bath house, which awaits a full remodel.
The bulk of my time this summer was spent getting the solar rig put together. It took quite a few trips back to civilization to get little electronic parts I forgot, but it's been working great so far. I cannot stress how nice it is to not be firing up the generator to work the power tools. The end result is a 24V 1KW system on a skiddable structure, capable of about 4500W max output (I think 30min threshold?). I learned a ton about wiring and electrical building this, and it'll be fun to use this in the future.
Next up is tackling the bath house remodel. It's got a lot of work to make it critter-proof, and I plan on replacing the old copper and compression fittings piping with PEX to better weather the winters, as well as adding a toilet room and outdoor shower. To better figure this out myself, I've been modeling it in SketchUp (another thing I learned this summer). Which is something I'm pretty stoked about — I've been meaning to sit down and learn SketchUp for years now and it feel great to be able to play with the physical world in the digital.