Friday, February 28, 2014


Mike spent a couple of hours yesterday doing some fruit tree grafting. Many kinds of fruit trees are self-fruitful, which means they are able to pollinate themselves to create fruit. Some however, like certain apples and pluots (pluots are plum/apricot hybrids ex. dinosaur egg plums are actually dapple dandy pluots), require another tree of a similar species to pollinate them. This usually requires having a second tree in the vicinity. If you have a pluot or non self-fruitful apple tree by itself it will live a long happy life but will never produce fruit. We have 70+ fruit trees in the orchard now and have made sure that all of them have proper pollinators near them but with our ongoing ground squirrel and rabbit problems it is smart to have backup. Luckily, most pluots are able to be pollinated by the Santa Rosa plum tree and we have a SRP planted right smack in the middle of our 8 pluot trees. If by chance a devil squirrel or rabbit were to girdle that SRP we might have a problem getting fruit on our pluot trees. Mike's solution... grow a Santa Rosa plum limb on every pluot tree so it always has a pollinator!

Right about now, when the buds are just starting to swell, is the best time for grafting. Grafting (for these purposes) just means taking a cutting from one tree and attaching it to another so that you have two or more species growing from the same trunk. This is how you see all of the 5/1 fruit salad trees in the nurseries. In fact, just about every tree you see in a nursery has come from a graft as they have a big head start over seeds and nurseries are able to use root stocks (trunks and roots) that are disease resistant/soil and water tolerant/dwarf/semi dwarf, etc. and then just graft whatever kind of fruit they want on top. That's why every fruit tree in the nursery has a bend or knot in the trunk at the bottom where it meets the roots. It's just a branch of an already grown tree grafted onto a better-suited trunk and root system. Ah, science!

Of course, you can't just stick any limb on any tree and expect it to grow, they have to be closely related. You can grow pears and apples together, most citrus can pair and many of the stone fruits can be combined. In theory, you could make one tree that could bear almost every kind of peach or apple or cherry or plum or orange. We just want to make sure we get the most out of our trees so grafting a pollinator limb on each one just makes good sense... any it's pretty darn cool too! Pictured is one Mike did about a month ago and you can see the grafted limb is a bit behind but still budding. This limb will produce its own flowers which will pollinate the rest of the tree with a little help from the wind and insects.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


This little group of chicks should start hatching in about a week. We used a black copper maran rooster with black copper hens and olive egger hens and Easter egger hens. The blue eggs should hatch olive eggers, the olive eggs should hatch dark olive eggers and of course the dark chocolates will hatch pure black copper marans. #backyardchickens #farmgenetics #homegrown #matchingthehatch

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Here is a daylight pic of the new lamb and his mama. #stcroixsheep #dorpercross #wishhewasagirl #lambingseason

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New addition

New addition! It's a boy. #lambingseason #stcroixdorpercross #holsteinsheep


Decided to smooth out the upper ranch and plant some nice pasture grass. Graded, tilled, seeded and rolled just in time for this week's rain forecast. #farming #aerialphotography

Monday, February 24, 2014

Winter into Spring

It is difficult to believe it is still February.  Our days are warm and evenings are mild.  We could use a good soaking, and have been promised rain this week.  What we hope now, that our orchard is in full bloom, is that we don't have an overnight frost.  Planting the orchard has been a gift to the bees..and in return, they pollinate our blooms, giving promise for a great crop.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Outside the fence

Indiana Jones and Scout working the goats on an afternoon outing to the back 40. #bordercollies #shelties #dairygoats #herding

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Zsa Zsa is a bit disillusioned with a snoring Harley in the newly built honeymoon suite. #mangalitsa #newlyweds #palletshack

Lucky returns

Lucky (or not), the yak died unexpectedly last year so mike skinned her out and sent her hide off to the tannery. Look what just showed up in the mail. A beautiful leather yak rug! #taxidermy #wastenotwantnot #yak #shelties

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sherlock's Antics

The asparagus have been growing and disappearing at a steady pace around here. They have been wintering in the greenhouse which has been inaccessible to the chickens. Occasionally, I will leave the door to the greenhouse open while I am working in the yard.   Today,  I caught Sherlock in the act...chowing down on our newly sprouted greens. Shame on you Sherkock, shame on you.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Many of our stone fruit trees are blossoming now. This is an Arctic Star nectarine. #backyardorchard  #earlyspring #ranchlife

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sarah and Jessie

Our days have been beautiful this winter week.  Although we pray for rain, it isn't difficult to see that the goats prefer mild weather.  As I sat under the trees on the "goatel" lookout platform, I had many visitors.  Sarah (on the left) and Jessie, had a little sidebar to debate whether they wanted to come and see me.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Belly up to the bar

With our warm afternoons, Harley stays close to the water cooler. #mangalitsa #gourmetpork #ranchlife


Ruckus and Clarice take a break in the shade. #nigeriandwarf #Anatolianshepherds #raisingaruckus

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Look how big Donner has gotten! #stcroixsheep #lambingseason #ruckusphotobomb

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hydrant party

No one loves a hydrant party like a duck, except maybe a goose. #waterfowl #makinitrain

Silent Tuesday

Silent Tuesday... We have a few too many roosters around here. They are starting to squabble with each other and our poor hens are showing the consequences of their vitality. We have been meaning to thin the herd for quite some time and today was the day.

It has always been our intent for this to be a real, self-sustaining farm. The animals grown here are used for their milk, eggs and meat. Today we harvested five roosters for the freezer.

This is a video of Mike's homemade chicken plucker. He made it last summer but hadn't had a chance to use it until today. If you have ever plucked a bird by hand, you will appreciate how efficient this thing is. Just to be very clear, this is not a live chicken! This rooster had previously been humanely dispatched, bled and scalded to loosen the feathers. It's not alive in the video.

We are recording all of our experiences here at the ranch, not just the cute pictures of goats and doggies. We understand this may not be for everyone but every drumstick and hot wing you have ever eaten had gone through this process. These roosters grew up here from chicks, were provided a great free-range life and are now providing us with wholesome food for our table.
 — at Vicarious Ranch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ear tags

Our custom ear tags have arrived for our three 2013 hogs and our first 20 piglets. #mangalitsa #ranchbling

Monday, February 3, 2014


Check out this awesome livestock scale mike made from a sensor kit and an old pallet. Our heaviest critter is Zsa Zsa the mangalitsa gilt @187lbs and our heaviest dog is Nella the anatolian @133lbs (she weighs almost as much as Cotton, Scout and Jones shown here). #repurposed #farmerengineering

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Makin bacon

3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days is what the old timers say and we'll have some cute little wooly piglets running around! #mangalitsa #makinbacon