Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blackberry Fields Forever

There are so many berries in Oregon, and Noonkester Ranch is no exception. Sam and Terry have many large patches of blackberries growing across their acreage, so we made a morning of berry picking.

Their cows like to hang in this barn, and there is lots of manure to prove it.

Check out this totally unscientific discovery I made. Compare the berry picked near the manure (left) vs. a berry from elsewhere in the patch (right).


If you have never tried composted cow manure on your crops, you may want to start!

Later that day we made a large batch of blackberry jam plus this delicious blackberry crumble.


This recipe is great for anyone too lazy to make pie.

Preheat oven to 375F. Crumble up some butter, flour, and sugar in a bowl until you have a nice doughy crumble. But don't make it into a ball. Salt to taste.

Next, fill a pie pan with berries and add sugar to them, whatever amount you think will make it dessert-like. Spread crumble on top. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

Another cool trick I learned a la Terry Noonkester: to freeze berries, put them on a cookie sheet, then put them in the freezer on the sheet.

Once they're frozen, take them off the cookie sheet, put them in freezer bags, then put them back in the freezer. You will have nice whole frozen berries to cook with rather than a frozen berry brick.

Thanks, Terry!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cattle School Dropout

Meet Lily Noonkester!

Lily was supposed to be a cattle herder, but to the dismay of her previous owners she was more intrigued by birds. She flunked out of cattle school and was relegated to Craigslist. 

The wheels of fate began turning. Terry and Sam's crops were getting ransacked by deer and they needed a dog ASAP to run them off. Terry found Lily's ad and the rest is history.

Lily's only been around the ranch a few months and the deer have successfully been deterred. A few nights ago she even barked at a hissing mystery animal outside (thank you!!). 

A+ Lily!

Monday, August 6, 2012

They Work Hard for the Honey

One of the coolest projects Terry and Sam have going on at their ranch is beekeeping for honey. They currently have 6 hives containing tens of thousands of bees.

The white boxes are bee hives.

The mission of bees is to expand into huge colonies. To do this they live in hives and make what are called combs, where they create and store honey.

The reason bees make honey is to feed themselves. But they usually can't eat all they make, meaning there is deliciousness just waiting to be collected...

To keep bees, you build a hive and put some bees in it. If all goes well they will like their home, have baby bees, build combs, and make plenty of honey to go around. 

Terry and Sam wanted to see if there was any honey to be gathered and add a few supplies to the hives. So, we suited up and out we went.

It calms the bees if you blow the smoke of burning burlap and hemp twine into their hives. That is step one of safely entering their home.

After that, we took the lids off the hives and inspected what are called the frames, the wooden slats you see in the hive below. That is where the bees are working away and making honey.

We pulled out one of the frames and inspected it for the goods. Not much to be had today. You can see, the wood looks pretty clean and honey-free. So, we very carefully moved on to the box below.

Thousands of bees are buzzing inside this hive.

Lots of bees, but not enough honey in this one yet either.

No honey on this round unfortunately but we did make an important discovery. Some of the hives contain plastic frames and the bees aren't making honey on them. So, we replaced some of those with the wooden frames, which they seem to like more.

We'll need to replace more this week. And if that means I get to wear this outfit again, you can definitely count me in.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Greetings From Noonkester Ranch

Earlier this week I arrived at Noonkester Ranch, my second WWOOF stop.

The Noonkesters have a very nice, new home on 22 acres

Terry and Sam Noonkester are very nice and interesting people. We've already had some great conversations. 

They began building their ranch in Myrtle Creek, Oregon about 3 years ago with the goal of creating something valuable and productive to pass down to their children. They live in a brand new house they designed themselves with a very nice 1-bedroom guesthouse next door. That's where I'm staying.

They have a great variety of projects going, all with the intent of feeding themselves and selling produce and honey at local markets. Most days, Sam works repairing lumber mill equipment while Terry keeps the farm up. Then Sam returns in the afternoons to join her in farm tasks.

Check it all out.

Vegetable garden with bee hives in the back (the white boxes)

These chickens are called Black Silkies

A White Silky Rooster


Dreamer, another resident

Vermiculture: worms eat kitchen scraps buried under this paper and turn it into great soil
Several blueberry varieties are under cultivation
A young orchard will produce apples, cherries, nectarines, Asian pears, and plums
Mushroom cultivation
My little neighbors!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Very Special Post: The Hammond House

Monday was my last day at Elk Creek Gardens. It broke my heart to say goodbye. The conversations, the laughs, and everything the Hammonds shared with Megan and I were all too wonderful for words. Thank you Sara and Sherman for an epic experience. 

So, for my last post on WWOOFing at Elk Creek, I leave you with a tour of the Hammond home.

They built it themselves over the years with friends, using wood from surrounding forests and other things they acquired along the way. It's given it that special something only human hands and time can achieve.

The boards on side of house are Chinquapin, Chinese chestnut--a local hardwood.

Yew wood posts were hauled out of the woods. Douglas Fir poles complete the fence, and redwood planks form the deck.

Fallen Maple trees were taken from the creek by neighbors to make the sides of the stair well. Each of the steps are hand-hewed (human-carved) Ash wood.

Kitchen was updated recently and has all a family needs.

The breezeway at the back entrance is a great workspace. More Yew Wood tree trunks form the uprights and hold the roof up. Picnic tables were made by a good friend of the Hammonds.

Henry the Elk is on the left. The wall ornament on the right is made of leather strips and was used in the old days on work horses to keep flies off, when the horses couldn't swish their tails because they were tied up.

Oak tree trunks form some of the uprights inside the house.

Remnants of previous residents.

Felicity the cat loves to bring "presents" to Megan, the other WWOOFer, in her bedroom--dead gophers, mice, lizards...

These windows upstairs came from an antique store in Portland, OR.

The upstairs hideout--nice for visiting WWOOFers.

A cozy upstairs deck.

This area over the stairwell that forms the wall of an upstairs bedroom still needs work...perhaps drywall or paint is in its future.

One in the fairly extensive Hammond elk horn collection.

More gathered wood forms the handrail for the stairs.
A wonderful dining room view.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Farm Foodies

Sara is always up for making a great meal. We've created a lot of wonderful meals here at Elk Creek, which I have eaten with enthusiasm. Between fresh organic mint, cilantro, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, berries, green beans, and an occasional fig, the Hammonds have an array of fresh and delicious ingredients to choose from for their meals this time of year.

We are able to get at least one thing if not more from the garden onto everybody's plates for just about every meal. I really enjoy it.

Prepping a salsa

Elk Chili made with an elk Sherman hunted, canned Super Tasty tomatoes from last season, and Elk Creek squash

A Balinese-style fruit arrangement--featuring Elk Creek strawberries

Elk Creek zucchini and egg fritters topped with fresh salsa

Green beans with garlic, carrots, soy sauce, and sesame seeds--lots from the garden in here

Hand-tossed pizza with mixed vegetables

Raspberry jam, a la Elk Creek

Beef and bean tostadas with fresh veggies

A tomato sauce from more canned Super Tasty tomatoes from last season

And a red, white, and blue patriotic dessert for the Olympics opening ceremony!
It's hard to say where the garden work ends and the kitchen work begins. And that how I like to live.