A diary of the day to day happenings on our homestead.The good days, the bad days and those bordering on total chaos...
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
After tossing some ingredients in the crock pot for supper tonight and doing my few morning house chores, I hurried out to enjoy this glorious day. First on my list was to prune the grape vines. I usually wait a bit later but with the warm weather we are having, I decided now was probably a good time.
I weeded around the base of the vines. I need to mulch them with some pine needles, I had none and I wasn't leaving today, so that was moved to a later list. I also need to fertilize but with all the rabbits gone, I need to find a new fertilizer. I was a bit more aggressive than usual- let's hope not too much!
Then I wandered toward the garden where I pulled huge armloads of chickweed and tossed it to the sheep.
They enjoyed it immensely.
On to the barn. I move the stinky escape back to his pasture. He was VERY unhappy with me.
He wanted to be back with the ladies.
Now that he was out of the doe pasture I could put the young girls out with the older ones. After a bit of "she who reins", hierarchy was once again established and all was quiet.
Feeding chores completed, I checked the crock pot and headed to my sister's to plant more seeds. The greenhouse was so warm only a t-shirt was needed.
Today we planted more peppers, cherry tomatoes and the Turkish (orange)eggplant. We also planted a few flowers for the cutting garden. The tomatoes are doing great and the peppers from last week are jumping out of the ground.
On today's list was moving the bucks and rams back to their own pasture. The first to be moved was my large alpine buck. This is really a long overdue chore and after seeing him chase one of the does due to kid in a few weeks, a necessary one. I snapped a lead on his collar and started leading him up the drive.When I looked down at his feet I realized they were in pretty rough shape and desperate for a trim. I knew I should have done that before breeding season and before he smelled so bad. Yuck. And so we turned around and headed back towards the barn. He was so excited he practically drug me there, at 200 pounds that was a relatively easy task. I tied him up and started trimming, he was not thrilled and it was a struggle with me trying to keep him pinned to the wall of the barn. He was also really intent on rubbing his big stinky head on my leg. My trimmers were dull and I stopped long enough to sharpen and oil them. When I came back he was peeing on the foot I just trimmed. Disgusting. I may never trim that foot again. More wrestling ensued and finally I was done. Not a great job but one that would do for now. I checked his eyes. Nice and pink, so no need to worm him. Once again we headed up the drive to his summer home. He and the rams will be in the pasture with the new hay and equipment barn that is almost finished and far away from the ladies.
Now I smelled exactly like him but still had chores to do. I hoped no one would drop by for a visit!
I finished feeding and started checking the dairy does out. They need hoof trimming as well. I got a couple done and dosed them with some garlic and vitamins. Their eyes though not super pink, looked ok so I decided the give the garlic drench a shot. We'll see what happens.
I wanted to do some picking in the garden but decided I was way too nasty to handle food and instead ended up weeding the strawberries. Unfortunately with all this warm weather, they think spring is here and a few are blooming. The weeds were tossed to the goats, I could stand myself no longer so I headed for the shower.
Shortly after that my husband arrived home from work. He was putting out round bales for the cows and needed help opening gates. He was also going to moving a hay feeder to the buck pasture. While waiting for him to toss down a small bale of hay from the loft I heard a noise and turned to see big stinky buck standing behind me. "Don't you come near me!" I screeched. I did a little dance, herded him in the barn without touching him.
My husband said, " I thought you moved him." I did. Sigh. I went to see where he might gave escaped. A small gate, rarely used had not been latched and of course he found it.
So tomorrow I will move him, again. Right after I prune the grape vines.
I can't believe we are only a month away from kidding. The girls are really beginning to show nice round bellies and a couple are starting to show signs of a filling udder. Next weekend we plan to clean stalls and fill with fresh shavings. The milking parlor will need to be cleaned as well and I need to check on birthing supplies. Yikes!
After feeding today, I headed to the garden. I was shocked at the amount of broccoli raab I harvested. This vegetable is the energizer bunny of the broccoli world! Though the broccoli puts out a few side shoots at the time, this plant is covered in the long slender raab shoots. I have found it keeps better too. We have ordered two different varieties to grow again in the fall. This one is called Apollo.
I visited my sister today and we played among the plants. Seeds are sprouting left and right. Purple cauliflower, early tomatoes and flowers for the cutting garden are up. Chinese cabbage and some early peppers are in the mix as well. Our ordered seeds have been arriving all week and today was another good day to plant (according to the almanac) and so we added a few more goodies to the green house. We have heard that it is possible to grow celery here. I ordered a variety called "Tango". You must soak the seeds overnight and not cover much since light aids germination. The seeds like lots of moisture and even warmth, so that flat went under the lights in her basement. Artichokes were also planted. They like less moisture and cooler temps so they remained outside in the greenhouse.
And our helper of the day, Hope. She planted rocks....
It won't be long until it is time to order our meat birds. We have decided to raise the Cornish rock crosses once again. Just need to decide how many. It will also be time to decide what kind of laying hens to start to replace the older girls that are aging out. I most likely will raise a few black sexlinks but am looking at some black copper morans or cuckoo morans. They lay incredibly dark eggs, almost mahogany and are beautiful. The sexlinks are just plain predictable layers. We have had them off and on for years, rotating them with golden comets.
We have also decided to add another variety of heritage turkey. Our Narragansetts have not proved to be as satisfactory as we had hoped. I am not sure if it is just MY turkeys or the breed but research tells me they are good homestead birds so I am ordering a few more and adding Blue Slates as well.
I really want ducks again but my husband hates ducks. Too messy, he says. True that. So unless I figure out a place for a pen just for the ducks, they will not be joining us.
Thus far, I have only gotten the turkey order secured as they tend to be limited in availability. The are slated to arrive the end of April.
After many days of clouds, cold rain and fog the sun came out today! With the temps reaching 60, it was delightful to be outside. Though still sloppy and wet I took the opportunity to get a few things done. I was able to get in the garden without the help of a canoe or hip waders and picked an abundance of greens and carrots. I had to rinse out water buckets from where the LGD's insist on putting their feet in them. They still could use a good scrubbing. I am still doctoring on the saanan's ear. It still looks pretty nasty but each day is showing improvement. Today I had the benefit of an extra pair of hands and got it really clean. If goats give evil eyes and looks could kill, I would have perished on the spot. I broke up a rooster fight, watched the honey bees work and sat in the sun and ate a salad. These are the days that give a body Spring fever.
We decided to revamp the orchard. Apparently there are some apples that don't do well in our area. Mainly those I have bought from Lowes. Duh. After some research and knowing what we like to eat, we have settled on Pink Lady and Honey Crisp apples along with their pollinators, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.
Today I walked the orchard and measured to see how many trees to order. (Finally I am doing some research and planning instead of flying by the seat of my pants!) The semi dwarf trees need to be 15 feet apart. I was amazed at how many trees we could actually plant. Today I ordered several apples, a pear and a cherry tree. They are due to be shipped towards the end of February. Before they arrive, we will take out the old trees and prune the plums. Better hurry, we only have a month!
This morning greeted us with lots of rain and grey clouds. After baking sourdough for the store I hurried home to get busy making soap. The longest part, or should I say most boring, is lining the molds. I got 8 lined and started weighing and measuring. Today I made Russian Tea, Summer Breeze, a lovely clean scent swirled with blue and Juniper, another light clean scent mixed with oatmeal. Unfortunately I was stopped in my tracks because I ran out of lye. Now because of all the druggies out there, you can't buy lye just anywhere anymore. However, you can order it online all day. Guess they don't have credit cards? Geez. And I was on a roll...
Once I cleaned up my mess, I put on my raincoat and headed to the barn. It was a sloppy mess for sure, the kind that will suck your boots off if not careful. The silly goats stand under the shed peering out, not daring to get wet. Thankfully for them, we had a slight break and I was able to pour grain in their troughs or it would have been a hay day only for those girls. I noticed one of the does had a swollen ear and let her in the barn to check it out. It was a nasty oozing mess. I am sure one of the other "ladies" bit her over the grain dish. On the milking stand she went, to get it cleaned up and antibiotic ointment on it. It was very sore and she was none too pleased with me, so suffice it to say, it turned out to be quite a wrestling match, even with her in a head gate.
She will stay in the barn for a few days where I can keep a close eye on her.
First the doctoring on the cashmere and now this, I felt like yelling at the critters, "Can't we all just get along!"
We tried to show restraint, it was tough but I don't think we were toooo naughty!
Several different kinds of squash were ordered including a camouflage zucchini. This year we are attempting pumpkins, one called Fairytale, a Cinderella type that is not only edible but beautiful. Also, a spaghetti squash, called called Tivoli that is supposed to produce "scads", their words not mine, of squash!. Some other fun and different vegetables include an orange eggplant, a white radish with a red center (called watermelon) and celery. All in all it was around 35 different things. After plundering through last years stash, it was decided we had plenty of tomato, pepper and other eggplant seeds. According to my sis, this weekend is VERY fertile and a good time to get some things started ;o)
After ordering, I headed to the garden and picked a large basket of kale for a casserole tonight. I checked the injured goat from earlier this week and she has healed up nicely. The boys finished the divider fence to keep the animals off the hay pasture, so I called the cashmere goats and sheep up. Two of the babies were a little confused and after a merry chase they finally went in the smaller pasture. They will spend the next few months here until hay season is over. Hay racks and mineral bins were refilled.
I was gifted with a fifty gallon drum of spent grains from a local brewery and several scoops were tossed to the chickens. I will feed those another day or so and put the rest in the garden. Chores were finished and I headed to the house. Time for a fire and supper...
Last year my sister got a small greenhouse, which with my help she has already outgrown. I keep finding seeds for her to start. Today I called to see if we might be able to squeeze a couple of buckets in there to plant some purple potatoes I brought home from the store that had nice sprouts on them. She said sure ;o)
It seems she has a bit more patience than I when it comes to starting and taking care of seedlings. Though I have done it for years, I am handing over the reins since she has found her niche. Together we are probably going to be quite dangerous... which leads me to this. We are ordering seeds tomorrow!
We have a huge pile of catalogs to peruse. So in the morning, we are going to curl up in front of the fireplace with big glasses of tea and have a seed ordering party. I know some purple cayenne peppers have already caught her eye and I am wanting to try some annual artichokes. Then there are all those different types of broccoli and cabbage and squash and tomatoes and peppers and eggplant.. oh my! And what about all those pumpkins and potatoes and herbs. And flowers, beautiful flowers.... maybe I'll plant a cutting garden... Maybe I need to enlarge the garden.....maybe I need therapy!
Tomorrow I will post our orders.....
This morning when I headed to the chicken coop to take then some scraps one of the white cashmere goats had a dark face. Hmmm... not normal. Upon further inspection I realized that it was blood. It looks like one of the guardian dogs snapped at her. Knowing this goat is a non-believer and temps fate over the dog food dish on a regular basis, I can see how it happened. One would think after two years she would just let it go.
Back to the house I went and made a phone call. I needed an extra set of hands and Mom was home. When she arrived I took a bucket of hot salt water down and started cleaning her up. Once most of the blood was washed off I could see the injury. Though pretty scratched up on one side, it will heal up fine. The other side is very swollen and looks like it needs to be drained. I held hot compresses on it and tried to open the scab. I will continue this for another day or so before calling the vet.
On to the barn to check the little ewe with bottle jaw. She looks great, is eating well and going to be fine.
Feeding chores were completed and I refilled all the mineral dishes.
I was excited to finish up sooner than usual and hurried to my studio. I spent the next hour carding a lovely moorit Icelandic lamb fleece. It is so soft and luxurious!
I am almost done and can't wait to spin it up. Once that is done, I can decide on a project for it!
Another short cold snap is upon us. It was cold in the kitchen when I got up early to put the sourdough bread into pans. It let me know just how cold, by taking some extra time to rise.While waiting, I put some white beans in the crock pot for some kale soup tomorrow and made a fresh pitcher of tea. I finally got the bread baked and headed to the store to drop it and some soap off.
Once back home, I thought that I might make soap today. That however, would not come to pass
Saturday mornings my kitchen is always a huge mess from all the bowls and pans it takes to make sourdough, not to mention breakfast dishes. I usually clean up while baking, but this morning I got side tracked and had that chore after delivery. I had no sooner finished getting the kitchen in order when the boys poked their head in the door and asked what was for lunch. Really? I would have loved to say McDonald's. I pulled the deer roast from the fridge, thinly sliced it and put it and some leftover cooked apples in the oven. There was a bit of left over pasta and so I heated that up as well. Sandwiches made, I called them up and got everyone fed. Out the door they went and I turned to survey my kitchen, which was once again, a mess. Sigh, that is life on the homestead. Pots, pans and lots of dishes when you cook from scratch. Round two finally finished, it was too late to start soap so I headed to the barn and garden.
Thankfully I remembered to unhook the hoses yesterday and let them drain, so I didn't have to haul water today. I filled mineral pans and gave one of my older goats some extra liquid vitamins. I was finishing up with hay when I noticed one of my icelandic ewes looked a bit strange. I grabbed her and could not believe it, she had bottle jaw. I wanted to scream. I checked the other girls and all had good pink eyes. I pulled the sick ewe out, gave her some vitamins and wormed her. Unfortunately, I will be culling her. Parasite resistance is a big trait I am working towards in my flock and she is not making the cut. Once she was settled by herself where she had some extra feed and hay, I headed to the garden.
I picked lots of kale, broccoli and carrots. I also picked a large armload of collards that I will serve tomorrow with the chicken we are having.
The boys had been working on a permanent fence line to divide our hay pastures and I went to admire the nice straight line. In years past we have had an electric fence but spent too much time repairing it and finally decided to put up wire. The posts and gates are set and next weekend the wire will go up. I told my husband how nice it looked and he said he knew inspector #13 (me) would be out soon and he didn't want to have to redo anything ;o)) On that note, I headed back to the kitchen to start on supper and dirty the pots and pans once again.
This time of year is usually pretty quiet on the homestead. We have the daily chores, of course, but the garden is manageable and the animals are easy keepers. It has been a very warm winter with the exception of last week's cold snap and I have to say, after the last two winters, I am fine with that! Things will begin livening up here in about 7 weeks. Kidding will begin and shortly after that, lambing. Then the garden and meat birds.....
So, for now I am content with the monotony of routine. Hopefully I will learn to operate my new Christmas toys, finish a few fiber projects and make soap with all the frozen milk in the freezer!
My best Christmas toy was a new grain mill. I had my Whisper Mill for almost 20 years. It had grown a bit tired and wasn't fond of grinding corn and dried beans anymore. Apparently, Luke, my son, had heard me begging it not to die the last time I was making Ezekiel bread and he and his dad had mercy on me. I was blessed with a Nutri Mill. Though I really like it, I do find that it feeds much slower than my other one.
Another gift was a rice cooker. Something I had wanted because we eat large amounts of whole grains and this was something that I could just dump the grains and water in, walk away and a few hours later, ta-da, we eat. It has proved to be a bit more challenging to operate. After a few false starts in which I had steel cut oats at odd times of the day (I was timer challenged!) I have successfully made wonderful rice and quinoa. Those, of course, I could do in regular pots but this machine soaks the grains which allows more nutrients to be released and I don't have to keep a constant watchful eye. The timer allows me to have grains ready for breakfast when we get up or ready for supper after a long day. I am excited about incorporating new and different recipes with the rice cooker using grains and fresh veggies from the garden. Watch for them on my "Eating" blog.
My studio has been in complete disarray for the last few months. When my son created his "man cave" in our spare room that once housed extra yarn and fiber he was kind enough to dump in it the middle of my floor. Granted I had been meaning to get to it but...
In addition to all of my "stuff", I inherited all of my dear friend Sharon's when she passed away and had kinda been putting it off. It was so bad that one evening when I had started going through the bins I became overwhelmed and laid back on the floor. My son came in and turned off the light. Hey! I said. Oh, I didn't see you, was his reply. Ugh! I was truly embarrassed by the mess. So this was THE week. ( I can't believe I have the guts to post this picture!)
I first pulled out the basket that held every scrap of yarn from every project I had ever done.The problem was that my bird dog puppy had gotten into it, dragged it from room to room and tangled it badly. I had been planning to untangle it and wind up the bits and pieces. My bird dog is 6. It went in the trash.
Next I attacked the bins and baskets, donating yarns I knew I wouldn't use. I sorted and categorized and sorted some more. I went through every box, bag and bin. Fiber in one spot, yarns in drawers and baskets. Like types with like and several hours later, I had created some semblance of order. At least I could see the floor! I am by no means finished. It was really just the first go round. I will go through it all again with a much more critical eye and gift extra yarn, needles and fiber to other fiber freaks like myself.
Oh look! The floor! And my spinning wheel! I wondered where that was....
And the yarn all nicely tucked away...
And chairs!!! Wow, I may actually sit in one and work on a project. How lovely.
Oh, my! Winter arrived today with frigid temperatures and high winds. With the temperatures in the low 20's and the wind chill in the single digits, to say it is a shock to our system, would be an understatement. (Sunday was 60*!) Yesterday we tried covering the lettuce with buckets and blankets but the wind wreaked havoc and most of it was frozen. Though I picked quite a bit last night, after it is gone, it looks like it will be spinach and kale salads for a while.
It is a slow week at the grading company so Luke and the guys worked on the new wood shed yesterday. It is mostly finished and already filling slowly with wood. While they were splitting wood they happened to notice a chicken caught in the fly net over the coop. They cut him out and called me. He must of been there a while and the bad rooster from last week took the opportunity to beat the puddin' out of him while tangled up. I moved him to the barn under lights and gave him feed and water. He was a bit bloody and limping but should make a full recovery. When Doug arrived home I told him about the incident. It seems "AJ" is his favorite rooster and bad boy rooster is definitely slated to be dumplings this weekend.
Today the guys are grading for a new hay barn on the hill. We have decided to start baling our second cutting of hay into round bales and need a place to store it. As soon as the horses are placed in new homes we plan to add a few beef cattle to the farm and it is much easier to feed them that way.
I fed early today and filled all the feeders to capacity with hay so the critters would have plenty to eat and keep them warm. Unfortunately, I forgot to drain hoses last night and they were frozen solid. I stretched them out in the sun to thaw but with the high only reaching 37* that was going to take a while and so I ended up hauling water in buckets. With everyone content, I headed back to the house to stoke the fire and start some supper.
In addition to the above we harvested large amounts of herbs, radishes and green onions. It was a bad year for corn and green beans here with only about 6 dozen ears and 11 pounds of green beans.
We also had 47 goat kids and 14 lambs born here on the farm. We baled 1480 bales of hay.
We have already started tracking for this year. I think I will track poundage on all the produce. I would love to know the total amount in pounds from our vegetable garden and orchard.
Either way, 2011 was a good year here on the homestead!