Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting My Hands Dirty

It was a glorious day today. Almost 70* with a slight breeze. Just a tease of Spring as the weather will be turning colder the end of the week. I was outside early and only stopped long enough for a snack because I did not want to waste one minute in the house.
My main goal was to plant a huge pile of bulbs that I had been gifted. A friend found them at Lowe's a while back when they were clearing out for new arrivals. She bought bags and bags for 1.00 each! Tulips and crocus and hyacinths, oh my! And snowdrops and checkered lily and alliums... About 240 bulbs altogether were put in the ground. I also planted some iris that I had purchased. I had an intense urge to weed and mulch but know it is still way too early for that. Spring will be here soon enough.
After feeding the critters I decided to wander across the pasture to my sister's and see what was happening in the greenhouse. She has started a beautiful array of lettuces. Many, she has put in large pots to eat on relatively soon. Others are still very small and will go in the ground as transplants. While I was there I helped transplant broccoli. We also started some celery. It is the one we grew last year called Tango and it did well in our climate. We did learn that it need lots of water and fertilizer, so I think this year will be even better. If so, I hope to dehydrate some this year. All too soon it was time to head home. Doug was waiting in the drive for me. "I don't see any supper started," he said. "Nope." He said he knew we would be eating leftover soup tonight. He knows me well. Now I'll  just go wash my hands and put it on to warm.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The only damage the storm brought here was from my own doing. It seems that when messing with the frozen faucet yesterday I turned it on and not back off. Ugh.
When I went to the barn this morning I heard the sound of running water. Not good. Sure enough the now unfrozen faucet was running full blast... inside the barn. It looked like it had been doing so for a while. Ugh, ugh. The hallway and first two front stalls were flooded. Thankfully the heavy layer of hay on the floor had absorbed some of the water and the poor critters that stayed in the barn were not in need of life jackets. Of course that meant I would need to do some rearranging. There was no way the animals could stay in that squishy area with wet bedding. I moved all the feed buckets and hay bins to the back side of the barn, closed off some gates and opened others. The yearling goats and ewe lambs quickly forgave me when they were able to bounce around in the small paddock enjoying the sunshine and the balmy 45* day. I had to laugh at their shenanigans.
I hated to confess my sins to Doug.... he really hates its when I leave the water running. But confess I did and that means we will be mucking out the barn in a day or two when things dry up a bit.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Nasty Day

I awoke this morning to the sound of sleet pelting the windows. I didn't think it was going to move in so soon. By 8:30 our road had a nice coating of ice on it so I decided to run my errands and get back to tend critters. I made a quick bank run and stopped to pick up birthdays cards. The local grocery store was a feeding frenzy and I was thankful not to have to deal with that! Back home I bundled up and started caring for the animals. Even though I had drained hoses one had just enough water frozen in it to not be able to fill tubs. That meant hauling water- 15, five gallon buckets of water. Another faucet was frozen solid. That one did have a heat strip so I rounded up a drop cord and plugged it up to get it started thawing. I fed lots of hay to keep the animals warm and busy until the storm passed. It took a couple of hours to get everyone settled. The frozen faucet had still not thawed and I finally decided to haul water for to those buckets as well. I called Mom to tell her not to get on the roads and headed up to tend her goats. By 2:30 the roads had become very slick and the news showed cars sliding everywhere. I  had a large fire burning and a pot of chili simmering. I paced nervously until all of my family was home. When the last one walked through the door I gave a hoop of delight and we settled in to see what the night would bring.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dead Goats and Tree Stumps

It sucks getting older. No, let me rephrase that. Getting older doesn't bother me, in fact, I'll take each and every day with gratitude. What sucks is loosing the faculties I took for granted in my younger years. Like my eyesight, girlish figure and my sanity. I REALLY miss those.
Case in point....
Chores were finished today. A second load of firewood hauled up. It had been a long day. It was cold and windy and I was ready to build a fire, hunker down for a bit until time to finish up supper. Mom stopped by to enjoy the fire. When she got ready to leave,  I hurried to pack her a goody bag of local sausage, eggs and turnips. She had wandered to the kitchen window. "What is that white thing on the hill?" she asked. A rock. It always catches me off guard too, nothing down or dead. No, not that hill, THAT hill. OMG. Well, it looks like Tana,  my first time freshener, due to kid in March. She is taking a nap, I am sure. (well I wasn't sure, but I just fed her an hour ago, I know I did, she WAS standing there). I got out Luke's crappy binoculars. It still looked like Tana. You go on home. I'll go check and see. I pulled on my boots and heavy coat and with fear and trepidation headed to the far side of the pond. Well, it wasn't a rock.. or a goat.. it was a tree cut earlier this year covered with a dusting of frost.
And so this blind, chubby, crazy girl very happily trekked back to the house and her fire, vowing to paint the tree stump black as soon as the weather warmed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Colder Weather

Today was beautiful. However, colder temps are set to move in tonight and be here for the next week or so. Tomorrow night's forecast says it may drop to 19*. I really don't mind and to be quite honest hope it kills a few of the nasty critters that haven't left here since summer. Number one, the aphids on my kale and number two, the parasites that I know will plague the sheep if the cold does not come and stay a while. So, in preparation for the cold, I harvested lots of greens to hold us til the weather stabilizes and the greens perk back up. I also pulled turnips, carrots, rutabagas and harvested what was left of the broccoli side shoots.
On the critter front hay bins were filled to the max. Hoses were drained, water buckets filled to overflowing  and the chicken nesting boxes were topped of with bedding. A large load of wood was gathered up and we are ready for what mother nature has in store!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Dusting Of Snow

Snow was in the forecast last night. 2-4 inches, so they said. I couldn't see how it would stick being that we have had 3 inches of rain this week and water was running like a river down our drive. That being said, I decided I should probably put some extra bedding out for the guardian dogs. After supper I grabbed my flashlight and headed out. It was starting to sleet pretty heavily. I opened the orchard gate to let one of the dogs to a more sheltered area and one that had a barn.... not that he would use it. They tend to stay out no matter the weather. Must be that Bulgarian blood. I was spreading hay in a dog house and under a tree for the other one when he bolted his gate. Captain does not play nice with the chickens and he was now loose in the pastures that housed them. This was not good. I called and called but he and his buddy, Gip, were already swallowed up in the darkness of the 7 acre pasture. LGD's have a mind of their own and only do things to suit their master when they FEEL like. Gip and Captain did not FEEL like obeying at all. Sigh. So off I trudged to lock as many gates as possible to keep Captain from getting near the birds. I was thinking I would just get up before the chickens and track the dogs down. As I started back to the house I saw several of the hens had decided  to roost outside the coop. Fearing Captain may decide to have a snack during the night, I started gathering them up and putting them in the coop. As I picked one up, I slipped and fell. Flat on my back hen held high in the air, I uttered some very unladylike oaths. Next bird, I fell again. The only way to get back up was to roll on my side. Can you picture my clothes? Not pretty....not pretty at all. Dogs were defiantly on my dooky list at this point. Once all the girls were safe and secure, I headed to the house to scrub the mud and other various manures from my body. I asked Doug if he wondered where I was. Not really, he said. I guess at some point he may have looked for me!
I spent a restless night worrying about the pasture situation and finally at 4:30 this morning I went to look for the dogs. Captain was sitting at the gate and happily headed back into his pasture. Now I could sleep!
All that for this..a dusting of snow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rain, Rain

I shouldn't complain...we closed out our year with an 8 inch deficit but in the last couple of weeks mother nature is trying to catch up. Days on end have been gloomy and spitting moisture. This past weekend was glorious only to have the rains arrive again yesterday and promise to stay the week. A person can only do so many inside projects before beginning to feel an intense need to snatch out her hair! Oh, I love a rainy day, even a couple in a row, but days on end tend to test my sanity. Then there are the feeding chores. It must be done rain or shine of course. With this much rain, slogging around the barn is just downright yucky. And just in case you didn't know, chicken poop is slippery. It is slippery on a dry day and like a patch of ice when it has gotten wet. So feeding the chickens has become a very treacherous chore with me slip sliding  into the coop to fill feeders and toss greens to the girls. It would make for a VERY bad day if I were to fall...I shudder to think. I guess one could call this motivation to finish the roof?
I have done  few constructive things while housebound...
English muffins were made...
A new burger bun recipe was tried...
I picked up and divided our coop order..
And I thought about defrosting the freezers, but that was as far as I got. Thinking about it I mean.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Getting My Garden Game On

I ordered seeds today. Out of the 40 or so packages only 4 were not open pollinated. Several new, yet old bean varieties will be tried this year. One is called Bountiful, from the late 1800's. An early bean and good for canning. Another called Black Valentine, pre 1850, is good eaten fresh and also a good variety to dry.
Since we will have another large area tilled in the spring we will be able to separate all the different varieties in order to save seed from the ones we like. My sister has already started broccoli and cauliflower for the early spring garden. Today we plan on starting cabbage. We will also start some peppers since they take as long as twelve weeks to be ready for transplant. Hopefully the other seeds will arrive very soon.
Being that we are planning to save a lot of our open pollinated and heirloom seeds, I have been trying to find a good filing system. I have come up with this one for now.
Old ring binders with sheet protectors to hold the seed packets. For the small seeds and packets I think this is going to work well.
Still pondering larger ones. In the past those seeds were usually kept in  labeled mason jars. All, of course,  will be stored in the barn fridge.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dreams Becoming Reality

After supper last night hubby informed me that we were headed to our Virginia farm in the morning. I asked why, since we hadn't planned to do so. He said someone had told him the gates were down and needed to be fixed.
This morning we left before daylight with tools and packed lunches.Though I always love going up there, I did mutter a bit on the way about this not being on my to do list today. Doug just laughed.
It was a beautiful ride up and I could see snow on the highest peaks. When we turned into the drive I was shocked. It seems that for part of my Christmas he had been busy putting in a long awaited drive. A new fence line was run along side of it with a new gate. I knew he had been working a lot lately and some nights he was pretty late, but had no clue this was going on. Our old drive was not even wide enough get a trailer in and required four wheel drive to get up it. All I could do was cry. It was so beautiful! With this done it means  barns can be built and new fences can be run.
Luke called from school this evening. So? He asked. I cried. I knew you would, he said.
Looking up the drive:
Back down:
Though still some work to be done here, the second set of gates at the top, opening into our fields:
(And yes that is a cow skull.... don't ask I said no the the second one he found!)
The "thinking rock"... where I am sure all this planning was started!
And finally the spring below that will someday be a little pool and waterfall....

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Musical Goats

Being that my dairy goats are not due to kid until March I did some swapping around today. Mom's Nubians all singled this year and have a large surplus of milk. The heaviest milker was brought to my barn today and one of of my girls went up the hill to her barn. We did this by using her golf cart and leading them down the driveway. I am sure my neighbors all stood and shook their heads at our means of transport! It worked and one girl is settled in the barn ready to be put on a schedule. Depending on what she is willing to share I may bring another down next week. I am not ready to bottle feed yet so her little doe will be left with her for now.

Later I wandered through the garden and harvested our veggie tray~
 We have finally had some rain over the last two weeks and I am not having to use a pick ax to dig carrots!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Tangled Turkey

This afternoon when finishing up feeding chores I came upon this:
Seems Mr. Turkey was trying to cross the chicken coop and got tangled in the fly net in the process. He is a rather hefty guy and it took some time to get his feet out. Once he felt loose he spring boarded off my head and landed safely back in his pasture. I would have sworn he ripped my scalp and took some hair but all was well and chores were finished.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year! 2013 Plans

As I have said in the past, I am not big on resolutions. However, I did make up my mind to shed my winter coat this year. It's hard to garden when your jeans are tight! ;o))
As far as homestead plans go we are definitely adding pigs. It has been a few years and the boys miss their pork sausage. Clean and local are becoming harder to find. Beef cattle should probably be here by summer's end. Due to my issues with chickens, we have decided to only raise what we need which will be in the 30-40  bird range. We are planning to enlarge the garden to make space for more corn and melons. My sister and I are still hoping for a large hoop house in order to prolong the garden season and I am still bucking for those ducks! I am planning to hold workshops here at the farm. Bread baking, soap making, dairying 101 and homesteading 101 are a few that are in the works. Some will be held as early as mid February. (email if you are interested!) Seed saving has become quite an interest of ours. We are ordering lots of heirloom and open pollinated vegetables in order to begin our own collection of seeds. Lastly, my husband has decided we should become even more self sufficient and so we have decided to only eat from what we raise, can, dehydrate and freeze, slashing our grocery bill to almost 0. Fine details have not been worked out... I must have coffee! We will continue to order in dry goods, wheat and beans, from our coop.
Oh and I am starting yet another blog. Homestead Preppers. Call me crazy, but I have been bombarded with questions from people wanting to know and learn more about our lifestyle, what we believe and how we do it.We have come through several disastrous acts of mother, the last one wasn't even an inconvenience. We were ready and prepared! This will only be a weekly posting but hopefully be of interest and help.
And there you have it, our plan for the year!