Monday, April 30, 2012

Baking and Baling

I taught a bread baking workshop this morning and this afternoon we baled hay~
The morning started early since our class was a bit larger than usual and I needed to bake a few extra loaves. (Part of the class fee includes taking home a loaf of bread.) I also had the morning milking and feeding chores to do before everyone arrived. Thankfully my mom stepped in, together we tagged teamed and all was done by 10. The last thing on my to-do list was to drop a super on one of the hives before everyone arrived. I took a quick shower and headed to the hives. I did not take time to put on my suit as this is something I do on a regular basis. However, I have never done it with wet hair and the bees were most displeased .They let me know it by stinging me on my eyebrow! Lovely way to start my day..
Class lasted about 2 1/2 hours and was great fun. I met a lovely group of ladies (and children). We baked bread and had a farm tour.
Just as class was ending, the boys rolled in and headed to the hay field. I had enough time to clean the kitchen and put my boots on. My job in the field this year was to drive the tractor that pulled the hay wagon and in the barn I transferred the bales from one elevator to the other. A couple of extra hands arrived late. They left to get the last load and I finished up milking. A whopping 520 bales went in the barn today!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Sad Day

A while back we made the decision to place the horses. I don't have time to ride much these days and if I did find a day, I am too old to work the "piss and vinegar" out of one that has been standing in a pasture for several months ( an old saying from my beloved grandfather!). Being that I would most likely get tossed, all I can say is that it hurts more than it used to and an injured homesteader is NOT good.
The day started out in the usual way. Milking and chores. We made some time to practice our shooting at the range since Doug bought me a more compact pistol and I needed to practice with it as well as my shot gun. Back home we checked the bee hives and found (much to our delight) they all needed supers. Luke teddored the hay once more and they spent the late afternoon hooking up the baler and rakes for tomorrow. I finished evening chores and checked the garden. I harvested enough strawberries to make a batch of jam and cut all of the elephant garlic scapes.
Just as we were winding down for the day, my older son appeared with the horse trailer. Though I knew it was coming I wasn't quiet prepared. I was most attached to my little bay mare. I have raised and worked with her since the day she was born here almost 4 years ago. Of course she walked right on the trailer! Now Halle, the bottle filly, was a whole other story. It took over an hour to get her loaded, but finally with a lot of grain, patience and coaxing she went on. As I watched them pull of of the drive, I cried. It is for the best, they will get some much needed attention and I gain a pasture. It has been a long time since our homestead has been "horseless". Our farm is constantly evolving and with this change we will most likely be adding some type of beef cattle this Fall.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Planting Late Potatoes

I still had some seed potatoes left and today we put in a late row. We normally have all the potatoes in by mid-March. Those usually keep us until Christmas. It is my hope this year that we will extend our storage another 6 weeks by planting this late. The early potatoes have already begun to bloom and that means tiny new potatoes are to be enjoyed in the very near future. I also put in squash and cucumber plants that were started in the greenhouse.The tomatoes were staked in the kitchen garden. Now that the garden was showing some semblance of order, I turned my attention to the sheep.
Because of the mild winter I fear we may have a huge parasite problem on our hands this summer. The goats have already struggled a bit and the sheep tend to be worse. However, after checking every one, only two needed a dose of wormer. I will worm everyone once the hay is picked up and they are rotated to the new field. Fingers crossed, maybe the new mineral program they are on is helping?!
The day was pretty cloudy and dreary but the boys teddored the hay anyway in hopes of speeding the drying process. It looks like it will be a good cutting and we would be devastated to loose it to a shower next week.
Doug made his famous stuffed mushrooms with the goat cheese I made yesterday  and we collapsed on the porch to enjoy a fine meal. Life is good!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mowing Hay

For the last few days we have watched 3 or 4 different weather channels in hopes of finding a "window" of no rain so that we can do some mowing. Today seems to be a good as any. Of course, there are never any guarantees, but the hay needs to be mowed. The mowing task was split between my father -in-law and our youngest son. About 6 acres went down today. Good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise, will be picking up on Monday or Tuesday!
While they mowed, I worked the garden with our intern. Today we finished all the weeding and harvested strawberries. I planted another 24 tomatoes, 16 peppers and some more celery. Now all that needs to be done is some cultivating with the tractor and a bit of tilling. Tomorrow!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Turkeys and Chickens

The phone rang at 6 a.m. This is the post office, come get your birds. PLEASE!
I actually had two shipments of birds due this week. The heritage turkeys as well as the Cuckoo Maran and Welsummer chicks were to arrive any day but from different hatcheries. My hope was that they would arrive the same day.
I arrived at the post office at 7 and had to knock on the back door. They presented me with a box of turkeys. Are you sure there is not another box around here? Nope. Okay, I'll see you tomorrow then. I headed home with the babies.
I had their cage cleaned and waiting and when I arrived home all that was left to do was put feed and water in there. I dipped each one's little beak in the water and sprinkled some feed on a  piece of cardboard to get them going. Sadly two did not make it and that left me with eighteen. Nine each of the Narragansetts and Blue Slates.
Once they were settled, I got cleaned up and got the morning milking done. While I was straining the milk the phone rang again. Is this Kelly? Yes. This is your postal carrier. I have a box of chickens for you.You have got to be kidding! No and I think they are thirsty. On my way. I started out and the skies were black with a brewing storm so I swung by the barn to put the goats up and got caught right in the middle of it. I finally arrived at the post office for the second time soaking wet and more than a bit dirty. I heard the peeping when I walked in the door. Those would be mine. Oh, thank goodness you are here. Just be glad they aren't bees, I said, as I headed home, again. So they did arrive the same day, just not at the same time....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weeding Therapy

After the long soaking rain of yesterday it was perfect weeding conditions. I am always amazed at how therapeutic and relaxing weeding can be. I tend to loose track of time and my accomplishments at the end of the day give me a great since of satisfaction!
The onions can now be seen~
And the snow peas~
 The elephant garlic looks fantastic!
In addition to weeding, the potatoes and green beans had to be sprayed. Even though I had been picking off the pesky bugs some larvae still managed to hatch. Our purple potatoes are almost ready to bloom and we harvested our first radishes!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Our Wool Blankets!!

Our wool blankets have finally arrived. I am so excited! Christmas shopping is done. Better pictures are coming, but they are beautiful.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Too Tired For Supper

With the promise of rain tonight and tomorrow we had LOTS on the to do list. Getting the garden in was at the top of the list. While baking, I put some soup bones in the oven to brown for a few hours and after delivering the bread and milking, it was off to the greenhouse to get plants. I came back with tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. Doug had already gotten most of the rows laid out and was cultivating a few more when I arrived with the plants. As I started planting the peppers, he came to make sure that I was planting them straight. I had a childish urge to plant a very crooked row... I never knew there was a garden police, so those unsuspecting pepper planters...beware. (HUG EYE ROLL!!)  In addition to getting the plants in the ground, we also put in two rows of corn and some filet green beans. Next we staked the tomatoes and tied up the ones that were already in the ground. A late lunch and then we were off to the barn. I did the daily cleaning chores and feeding while hubby laid new plywood down the center of the hay loft for the new hay elevator to go on. That done and the evening milking complete we started weeding the kitchen garden. Loosing track of time, it was well after dark when we quit. A long day for sure but a huge amount accomplished. When we finally came in, I put the soup bones in the crock pot to cook during the night for stock and deciding we we too tired to cook, we made a meal of goat cheese, crackers and beer. How's that for a balance meal?!  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Garden Harvests & Freezing Eggs

The rain missed us last night and my plans for weeding today were put on hold. Instead with the help of our intern we got the morning barn chores done and harvested instead of weeding. I finally was able to get most everything fertilized with fish emulsion and seaweed.
The greens are still hanging in there and she was able to pick close to a bushel of spinach and kale. At least a quart of strawberries was picked along with a handful of early garlic scapes. We hauled our harvest for the day to the house and enjoyed a late lunch.
Just after she left the rain finally arrived and I spent the rest of the afternoon indoors. I put a pot of white beans on to cook for a pot of kale soup tonight. I washed the greens and began dealing with the avalanche of eggs that threaten to fall out of the fridge each time I open the door.
Now last fall I couldn't beg an egg from the girls even though the younger ones should have been laying. However, I think they have decided to catch up and I have 22 dozen fresh eggs to prove it! I made a spinach quiche, boiled some for deviled eggs and egg salad and froze 3 dozen. To freeze the eggs I cracked a dozen at a time in a bowl. I beat them with 1 teaspoon of salt and poured into ice cube trays. After they were frozen I put 1 dozen per freezer bag. (To use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.) I am sure they will be welcome this coming winter for baking!
As time allows I will be making more quiches to freeze for quick suppers so stay tuned for some egg-citing recipes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Picking Asparagus In The Dark

Kinda sounds like a sad country song.... or maybe the beginning of a weird poem. But that is what I was doing tonight.
Early this morning after the milking and feeding of the kids, the new owners of the five due to leave today arrived to pick them up. Once they were caught and loaded, I finished the usual routine and shortly afterwards my husband arrived home for lunch. While he was eating, I  made some cucumber sauce and tossed some lamb ribs in the crock pot for supper. Off to the barn to get the steers and lamb loaded that were headed to the butcher. Today it all went very smoothly and soon we were headed to Taylorsville, which is about an hour away. A three hour round trip and we were back home. I finished part of the evening chores and picked spinach for supper. Then it was back to the barn to load my milk cow and a round bale of hay. Once she was settled in her temporary home we were once again headed to ours. By this time it was 7 o'clock and the boys were starving. Most of supper was ready and just needed assembling. I washed the spinach, shredded the lamb and put the gyros on the table. They were delicious!
Supper over, kitchen cleaned and it was dusk dark. I still had milking to do and the dogs to feed. As I traipsed across the orchard I could see the thin outline of the asparagus poking up out of the ground. Tomorrow they would be too large and so I picked asparagus in the dark...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bringing Up The Steers

Tomorrow our two steers are headed off to the butcher. Today we separated them along with my dairy cow who herself will be off to visit a neighbor's bull. No easy feat since they were in a pasture with three horses and two rams! Usually either they all want to go in a small area or no one wants to go there. Today they all went. Ugh. Finally after a bit of chasing and several buckets of grain, everyone was situated for the night. We also had a lamb leaving. He was a much easier catch and put in a stall until tomorrow.
 Flower beds were weeded and more plants moved. This has been taking a bit of time since a lot of the plants are old and established and their root system seems to go clear to China. Little by little though...
Late in the day I went to move the chicken tractor and refill their water trough. I wandered to the garden and found our strawberries were beginning to ripen. There was more that a few to eat and I thought this called a for a celebration! Off to the house to make an angel food cake and chocolate syrup!
The evening milk was brought up, strained and cultures added for a pot of fromage cheese. Tomorrow it will top the lamb gyros that are on the menu. And so another day on the homestead has come and gone....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Month Ahead?

We checked the hay fields today. They are thick and lush and ready to be mowed. We don't usually mow until mid May. This sent the boys scurrying to double check that all the mowing and baling equipment was in top working order. It also meant the tractors needed to be washed. Really? (to their credit they saved that chore for last ;o))
Hay mowing season also means the loft needs to be cleaned out.The small amount of hay left was moved to the front and the floor swept. This year (this week!) we are putting an elevator down the center of the barn to move the bales to the back. This will save 100 feet per bale as we now carry each bale 50 feet back and walk to the front to get another. Those first few rows are killers!
We also moved the meat birds to the orchard and cleaned the brooder for the next round due in Monday. They were most happy to get out on the grass. I figure butchering time in about 5 weeks.
Two more alpine kids left for their new homes. Monday, five more will leave and we will be swimming in milk. Every year I vow to master hard cheeses~ maybe this year?
On to the garden where we pulled dirt around the potatoes. I had started by hand but Doug showed up with the plow and made quick work of that project. I feared I would be out there until midnight since the ground is so hard. We are desperate need of rain and weeding is almost impossible at this point. I had hoped to get more things planted but as usual the day had slipped away and it was now time for evening chores. At this rate we may be a month ahead but  I"LL be a month behind!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Narrow Escape

Here on our homestead it looks like we may have gotten through the night with little or no frost damage. We seem to be a bit more protected since the entire farm is surrounded by trees. A quick check this evening and all looked well in the big garden and new kitchen beds.
Others were not so lucky loosing squash and early cucumbers...
Tonight though in the thirties will not be as cold and hopefully this is the last of the threats. My plan was to finish planting the better part of the large garden this weekend. The green house is quite the jungle and plants are becoming most unhappy. It is time!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


It has been so warm that we have been lulled into a false sense of  safety with the garden and animals. My plan today was to finish planting the tomatoes and move the meat birds to the orchard. However, a frost advisory is out for tonight and all plans were changed this morning. Instead I will be covering what has been planted and moving things in and not out! The good news is that tonight looks to be the only close call for the next week and the weekend promises to be warm.
And so after doing the morning chores, I picked up our huge grain co-op order and got it sorted. I was also able to get a bit of paperwork caught up and lastly I snuck away and fished a bit. I figured if I couldn't plant supper I could maybe catch it! A large catfish was landed and is slated for the supper table in the not to distant future. The filets from this monster weighed two pounds.
Then it was back to the barn for the evening chores and milking. Afterwards I perused the garden to see what might be added to the supper table. I was saddened by the sight of the bolting spinach but know others goodies will be coming along soon. The early garlic is starting to send up scapes and most likely can be harvested sometime next week. I spotted a few ripening strawberries and lettuce is ready to harvest. To everything there is a season...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Almost Done!

With kidding and lambing I mean. Our last dairy doe produced triplets and we have two ewes to go. Lots of lambs were born this last week. Now comes the hard part. Deciding who can stay and who goes on the sales list. At this point I want to keep them all! We have had quite a few badger patterned lambs this year and so today I ordered small tags for their ears. I don't want to put the large scrapie tags in just yet and so many look alike I don't want to loose track of who belongs to who!
I have cut my dairy herd a bit or thought I had until the little black doe above was born. She is staying. I have only opted to keep one other doe this year but since I kept 4 last year that is not saying much! Most of the kids have been sold already and many will be leaving over the weekend. That means next week we will be having lots of extra milk.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Soggy Sheep and Shearing Day

It rained all night. I lay awake all night stewing over the fact that our shearers were to arrive at noon. Not sleeping did not make my sheep dry this morning. As expected they were soaking wet. After calling the sheep up to check, I sent them back out in the pasture hoping the wind and soon to appear sunshine would dry them. Thankfully our shearers agreed to be on call.
In the meantime I baked and delivered bread and arrived home to open the gates for our intern who was to arrive soon after. With her help we fed all the dairy kids. Next on the list was cleaning the barn hall in case the shearers were able to get here. Our final barn chore was to comb the cashmeres, trim hooves and worm. By this time the sheep were dry and I called the shearers. They would arrive around three.
That finished, we had a quick bite of lunch and started on the garden. She weeded the strawberries while I picked our cheese coop order. Once back we worked in the garden until the shearers arrived. She headed home and I headed to the barn.
Unfortunately shearing was not as smooth as I had hope and one of our girls got a pretty nasty gash. She was being a very hard to handle and the shearer could not get his blades turned off. It scared me half to death and I really was afraid she might bleed to death! We finally got the bleeding stopped after about 30 minutes.  They finished up with the others and we finished her standing up. We cleaned the wound, packed it with antibiotic ointment and started her on penicillin. Four hours later we were done. We cleaned up and evening chores were finished. By this time it was almost dark. We were mentally and physically exhausted and called it a day!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Musical Pastures

This time of year pasture space is a bit limited since our front 5 acre field is blocked off for hay. I spend a lot of time moving the sheep and goats around. Today was another huge undertaking because our shearer is due Friday and all the sheep need to be close to the big barn with lots of lights. Most will follow for grain as I lead them down the drive but then there are always the naughties that no matter what, will test a saint's patience. Today was no different and after the first two trips all were relocated except for 3 wild cashmere kids and 5 Icelandic lambs. Even with 3 of us it took quite a bit of time and lots of chasing! Finally all were caught and CARRIED to the barn. Once there, they all had to be divided again. Sheep in large pasture, cashmere's in smaller pasture, young dairy does back to upper pasture and milking girls in the side pasture. Now all that was left was to round up the guardian dogs that had happily escaped. They can be more frustrating than the sheep!
Finally everyone was situated for the time being and hopefully the next big move will be when we open the hay field again.

Other things on our to do list were checking the bees. We were shocked at the new hive. They have already filled a honey super and will need another one this week. Tomorrow I will be off to get more supplies. Fingers crossed we get some honey this year!!
We call them our "Buns and Roses" hive ;o))

I am still moving plants from the kitchen garden and got a bit more moved today. Only two large clumps of rudbeckia left and then I will fill back in with top soil.
At the end of the day we collapsed filthy and tired but thankful. Our meal tonight was BBQ brisket, deviled eggs and salad all from the farm along with homemade mac and cheese.