Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Revamping the Herb Garden

Our intern arrived today and together we went to work on the herb bed. It has been an herb/perennial bed combo for the last few years but I want to make it a true kitchen garden. After weeding and cleaning the winter trash from the beds we dug most of the flowers out. (I still have a few to go).Those will be relocated to other beds and the natural areas I am working on. I left the echinacea and comfrey and plan to add a few additional medicinal herbs.
After the beds were cleared we started adding the new plants.
Several cherry type tomatoes went in. All different colors including a "Green Grape" and "Brown Berry".( I can already picture a colorful fresh tomato salad with basil and goat cheese!) A lovely carnival cayenne pepper that produces different colors on one plant went in as well. We also planted a row of "Tango" celery and a variety of lettuces.
In addition to the vegetables planted, many new herb plants were added including a spicy oregano. More of the old standards like parsley and thyme were planted along with a mint that went into a pot, lest it run amuck and take over. Still to go in are spring onions and the malabar spinach that will be transplanted when as it comes up in the bed from last year's seeds. It is not quite finished but well on its way to becoming a fun and somewhat funky little garden!
Once finished, we enjoyed a lunch of lentil soup and fresh goat cheese. We then made our way to the greenhouse where she picked out several plants to create a patio garden at home. Once again, with her help a lot was accomplished!

Monday, March 26, 2012

I Need A Rainy Day

The weekend promised 2 days of clouds and showers. It didn't happen here. Others things that did not "happen" were laundry, running the vacuum cleaner or soap making. The dishes didn't  get washed on a regular basis and my family begged to eat earlier than 8 p.m.
Instead I mucked the barn, weeded the strawberries, cleaned out flower beds and made lamb checks.
Today I promised to catch up in the house....but the sun came up. And it was warm. And the birds were singing and the grass needed mowing. And the laundry is still not done...
However, pots are filled with bright flowers and new flower beds have been created!
I also harvested our first  few asparagus of the season.
And best of all we are finally able to cheat the babies out of some milk... 2 gallons today. I brought it in the house, strained and added the culture right then. Cheese tomorrow!

p.s. Supper was ready at 7:40!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lots of Lambs!

The Icelandic sheep have surprised me with lots of lambs. I really expected lambing to be later. Lots of beautiful colors and patterns this year and finally we are about 50/50 on ewes and rams. Yeah!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Strange Garden

We are having a strange spring and it is in turn creating a strange garden. It feels as though as we have skipped spring altogether and gone straight to summer. It has been downright hot for the last two weeks.This time of year I should be planting cool weather crops and have put a few in. They are struggling in the heat. I plan to put a few more in but will also put in several of our hot weather crops. The plants in the greenhouse are growing by leaps and bounds and need to go in now.
So today I planted cabbage and broccoli along with tomatoes and green beans! A few celery plants went in along with some radishes. I had hoped to plant more but storms were brewing and thunder rolled in the distance. I opted to hold off on a lot of the plants just in case we have some hail tonight. This will be the year of the mish-mosh garden!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Love Your Intern

Today with the help of our new intern, a great amount of work was completed in a short period of time! I may have still been out in the garden if not for her help.
She arrived to the usual chaos in the barnyard. The milking does were not being the most cooperative and the babies were downright unruly. We finished up there, got everyone into their assigned pastures and headed to the garden.
On today's list was to harvest all of the rutabagas and beets. Later this week we will till a few more rows and this one along with the lettuce row will be among those. We pulled up the root crops and hauled them in baskets to top, rinse and bag for the fridge. The tops were fed to the sheep and chickens.
 Once that was done we moved them to the coolness of the garage. We also planted some kenebec potatoes.
Next we started on the blueberry patch. It was an overgrown mess of weeds. Hoeing and weeding our way through it, we got it cleaned up and the bushes were fertilized. Then a thick layer of pine needles were spread over the bed. The end result looked fabulous!
We then enjoyed a farmstead lunch of egg salad and spinach wraps. She had put quite a day and we packed her up a basket full of the fruits of her labors that included beets, rutabagas, spinach, beet greens and fresh eggs. Thanks Alicia!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Baby Chicks

The phone rang early this morning. Our meat birds were here along with the first of our new layers. Once again we ordered the cornish rock crosses for the meat birds. This year I have ordered Araucanas, Black Sexlinks, Cuckoo Marans and Welsummers as our replacement layer flock. The Araucanas and Sexlinks came today and so our chick count today was 62!  The others layers are due in about 4 weeks along with the turkeys and 25 more meat birds.
Once the chicks were settled and the morning milking and feeding chores were done I got busy weeding the perennial beds. Due to the exceptionally warm winter the chickweed has taken over every bed we have. That was a slow and tedious job because other plants are peaking out of the ground and much care had to be taken as to not pull up the wanted along with the unwanted. After several hours, mission accomplished, and the first bed now resembled a flower bed again.
This year we are enlarging the kitchen herb beds and I moved a few plants around. I hope to add more medicinal herbs in addition the greater quantities of culinary herbs.
Then is was back to the barn to feed the starving children...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

Was it just yesterday I said I would like another bee hive? Well I got one.
Here is how it happened....
Doug came home from work and he loaded my truck bed with all the necessary tools and equipment to work with the bees while I fixed him a quick bite of lunch. He told me to go ahead and back to the hives while he fired up the smoker. I started towards the hives and what happened next was truly amazing.
I was right at them when the air filled with bees. Thousands of bees. Buzzing and swarming all around me. I yelled to Doug "We're too late!!!"
 We stood and watched helplessly, hoping they would land where we could reach them. They did. In the top of a magnolia tree about fifty feet from the hive. We gave them a few minutes to cluster and sprang into action. He set the new brood box on the bucket of the bobcat and moved towards them while I ran to the house to mix some sugar water. Next he raised the bucket level to them, clipped the branches they were on and dropped them in the empty box above the brood box. We spritzed the bees with sugar water and doused the bottom board as well. Then we watched. Over the next 45 minutes or so every bee went inside the hive. Like I said it was amazing!
Late this evening after they were all in the hive for the night, we moved them to a different location. We will check them in a couple of days. And so we have hive #3...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Things are in full swing here on the homestead. These are the days that we are so busy they blur into one another. Over the weekend we had our next to the last set of  dairy kids born and our first Icelandic lamb hit the ground. I had not planned on the overlapping but that is the animal way, I guess. This lamb is from one of our new girls brought back from Alabama and is bringing some new genetics into the flock, something we are looking forward to.
Early this morning I called to check on the meat bird order. Due to a miscommunication they won't be here until next week, the same day our layers are coming. That gives me a week to figure that one out...
We checked our bees yesterday and took what we hope to be all of the queen cells out. They are crowded and I am minus a few pieces to add an additional box. So today I made a quick trip to my favorite bee guy and picked up what we needed. We had a nice chat and he cautioned me that due to the warm weather and early spring, bees were swarming a good bit this year. I told him I really wanted a third hive and he said if we weren't careful we may get one. I hurried home with my supplies, knowing we would be building frames tonight!
It was finally dry enough to get the garden tilled and I was finally able to get sweet shelling peas, onions, carrots, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and broccoli raab in.
I also met with a young lady that is going to intern with us this summer. We are both really excited about that and look forward to getting started in the next couple of weeks. With her help and the help of another friend it should be a great spring and summer and we hope to get lots accomplished!
Luke and his girlfriend cooked a divine supper for us tonight and that allowed my husband and I to work late and get the hive bodies ready as well as lay out the rows  for the potatoes that will go in the ground tomorrow.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March Winds and Missing Sheep

March has certainly come in like a lion. The winds have howled for days. I almost feel the need to wear a hard hat while doing chores under the trees. Today was no different and the winds have blown ferociously all day. As I was warming milk for the lunch time feeding of the babies, I noticed the sheep pasture seemed very empty. Yes, it was definitely empty. I finished filling bottles and went to investigate. A very large pine tree had blown down sometime in the last couple of hours and of course the sheep had all discovered it immediately.
 And so like a good shepherdess, I went in search of my missing flock. Upon escaping they had split in two different directions. Half was grazing peacefully in my neighbors meadow and the others had headed toward the reservoir. The ones at my neighbors were the most important to retrieve first lest they find their way to his grape vines or prized bushes. Now normally my sheep are pretty well behaved and when I yell "sheep, sheep" they come running. Today I got blank stares. Maybe the wind was drowning my voice. I yelled louder. No response. And so the now mad shepherdess, climbed back over the fence and went for a bucket of grain. Even that was not as enticing as I had hoped but finally one good girl started following me which led to the others coming along. Around the fence line we went to the opening where they had escaped. The second group saw us and came running, thank goodness. Finally all the sheep were back in the pasture and all that was left to find was one rogue goat.
The sheep were glad to be home after their long journey and in need of provisions, food and water and must have been tired because soon after, were all resting.
 The goat made her way home on her own and I blocked the lower pasture until we can get the tree cut up and the fence repaired.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No Cooperation Today!

If the babies would cooperate my plan for the day was to work on our sales page. I couldn't spend a tremendous amount of time begging for pics because the boys were all home for supper tonight and they were bringing friends. They eat a LOT of food!  My menu plan was stew beef served with garlic and parsley mashed potatoes, butter peas, spinach casserole and deviled eggs. That should fill them up...
The morning feeding and milking done, I went ahead and did a few extra chores including raking the barn once again. Today I would not be doing the rearranging I had hoped. Maybe tomorrow. It was back to the house where I put the beef on to simmer and boil the eggs. The better part of supper done, I headed to the barn to photograph my little subjects or I tried to.
 They were more interested in following me around, hiding in the dark corners or giving nice butt shots.
After a bit I realized today would not be the day for pictures but as usual I enjoyed trying!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I Thought It Was A Good Plan...

After keeping the goats up for the last two days because of weather, the barn was a wreck. I lost count of the number of wheelbarrow loads of poop I raked and hauled out. When I finished, I decided each stall would get two or three girls and the babies would have one to themselves. This involved washing and scrubbing water buckets and a hay tub for each one. Each stall also got a mineral pan. So now at least the hall of the barn would be relatively poop free! My next and most dreaded chore was dis-budding the babies. With Mom's help we got eight done. It looks like I may finally have figured it out and won't have a bunch of strange looking horns and heads this year. At least I hope so...
Back to the house to scrub the goat smell off and out to run a couple of quick errands. I stopped to check the plants at the greenhouse and drop some supplies there. I had some copper for my sister to feed the eggplant that were looking a bit anemic and some trays for transplanting. By the time I returned home it was back to the barn for the evening milking and feeding of the babies. As I milked each doe I paired her with one that I felt would be a compatible stall mate. I had already put the mild mannered sheep in with the equally mild mannered Nubian doe. While feeding the babies total chaos erupted. Not one of the pairs was getting along. Hay buckets were flipped, mineral plans tossed and water tubs were full of debris. It sounded like several wrestling matches were taking place all at once. Fearing they may actually hurt each other, they were all let out to once again have to run of the stalls and hall. One wonders why they can all be together in a pasture, or the barn for that matter, but  put in a 12 x12 stall and are intent on trying to kill one another. Oh well, I thought it was a good plan. In my head it was a great plan! I guess tomorrow after I rake poop again I will have to go to "Plan B". Right now there is no "Plan B" but I am sure it will involve some major rearranging of pastures and critters to make everyone, including me, happy. Yes, I really want all the goats to be happy. Sigh.