Mountain Pony Farm Update: Winter Solstice 2018

It’s been a couple of months since we updated this site. The time between Samhain (31 October) and the Winter Solstice (around 21 December) is the “fallow” time of year for us. We tend to take a break and reflect on the year past before setting goals for the year to come. Now we’ve moved into the time of growing light and thought we’d update you on the past couple of months. It’s been a busy time in a lot of ways.

We started off by getting a puppy in early October- a chocolate lab that we named Angus. He will be perfect for the farm! He’s courageous, from quality hunting lines, curious, intelligent. And of course, loving. He’s fitting in very well to his new family and learning his “pack manners”. He loves the farm and has explored both forest and fields, learning more than we can teach him through his nose alone! Puppies are like toddlers, though, and on top of having new land to learn, we are new parents and a little bit exhausted. At least they grow more quickly than human children. He’s well on his way to being a teenager by now.

With a brief lapse in farm chores for early puppy days, we’ve put time into harvesting firewood, both from our land and from our neighbor’s. They had a couple of maples go down in their field and don’t need the wood – we’ve been happy to help out! The shop is filled with aging and drying wood, getting us ready for next winter’s cold.

We were thinking of harvesting the sap from the big leaf maples this winter, but put that on hold until we have a little more free time that’s not put into training a puppy! We have plenty to do in simple land prep, like clearing invasive plants and repairing fence, to keep us busy this season. We’re also observing the land, especially the natural water flow, and the weather. It’s wetter down here than in Seattle, a bit colder, and the wind moves through our property often from the south. We’ve had our first few storms with rain and higher winds and so far we’ve come through them well. The view from the front porch continues to offer amazing cloudscapes and sunsets. Some nights, the sky becomes a rainbow – subtle shades of red to purple in sequence. It’s quite amazing.

MPF Fall 2018-5
Just look at those colors! Not the rainbow sunset but a beauty for sure.

We also love watching the wildlife and tracking their signs. We have fewer birds here in the winter but recently were visited by a large flock of grackles, some robins, a junco or two, and flickers. The red tailed hawks have been circling the meadow low and calling out, as have the ravens. The barn kittens are all still here and look quite healthy. One of them has even been brave enough to accept a few pets! We’ve seen several piles of interesting scat around the property – one large pile that was definitely a full sized black bear (lots of fruit), another that had chunks of bone and was large enough to be a grown cougar. The elk are back from wherever they went during hunting season, and our little herd of 14 seem to have all survived the hunt this year. They’ve helped out by polishing off our (rather fermented) apples. There’s definitely a lot going on in these fields, especially after dark.

Our son has come for a visit over our winter break and we’ve been making delicious Polish dishes to celebrate our heritage during his trip. We enjoyed these in particular – check them out (and these sites!) for a delicious new recipe or two:

Adaptations:

  • Because of our dietary restrictions, we made these gluten free by substituting brown rice flour wherever wheat flour was called for, and using sweet rice flour for thickening.
  • Getting traditional farmer’s cheese in our rural area wasn’t really possible and we didn’t make our own. Instead we used small curd cottage cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and chives for the filling in the nalesniki.
  • We made the chicken dish with about 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and about 2 cups of thick mushroom gravy. For mushrooms, we used shiitake mushcrooms instead of button.

Now that we’re in winter’s hold, we’re starting to think about next year’s garden of course! A few seed catalogs are feeding the fantasy of spring growth and delicious, homegrown vegetables. We plan to start our flock of chickens this spring and will be getting ready for that – chicken tractor, here we come! And maybe bees? Who knows! This year will be a busy year, laying the foundation for everything we want to do, and we’ll do our best to write about it from time to time. Season’s greetings from our little farm! Keep warm and dry, y’all.

MPF Fall 2018-8
Meadow path to bone hill where secrets await
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