spring is here and so is a lot of work!!

So spring has sprung. After a very long, hard winter we are ready for it. I did pretty much stop blogging. This winter was hard on us all. While I feel that writing about the bad with the good is really important, I just couldn’t do it. It felt way too much like complaining. And really I couldn’t think of anything to write besides, it is cold, everyone is alive. Winner takes on a monotony, or at least it does with me.

Enough about the winter though. We made it through one of the hardest winters we have had so far. I don’t think our hard winters are really going to get much better though. So we are starting early on getting things done. Okay maybe not early but we are moving. I will try to get some pictures of the green house so far. It is really exciting to see all the veggies sprouting. Green is happening. The grass is growing and soon we will be moving the animals out of their winter pasture. Lambs have been born, kids will start soon. Everything is slowly waking up. And what does that mean??????

We want help!!! This year we feel that our life is slightly less chaotic. We decided that we would not have an intern until we could really show them things. We didn’t want slave labor. And the time is now. Please feel free to share this with anyone you feel might be interested. Jack says he will make an official posting later but I know how Jack works. He is out there right now working. By the time he gets in he will be too tired. :)

So do you have interest in learning about gardening? Preserving food? Learning to cook with what is available from the garden? Working with animals? Processing meat?

Then this might be the internship for you. Of course there is a whole lot more that will be happening. We have a few building projects. And life happens. We try to have some fun at least.

Please note that we do live rather ruggedly and decently primitive, or at least compared to main stream culture.

If you are interested in talking to us about what an internship would be like please email me at jnvwalter @gmail. Com.

It’s Starting to feel a bit like Imbolc!!!!

If you don’t know what Imbolc is, well I will explain it a bit.  Imbolc is February 2nd, it is also known as Candlemass or even Groundhog day.  It is kind of the first welcome of spring.  You might see some winter flowers bloom and there is this feel to the air.  Really you can FEEL this sense of hope and growing.  Imbolc actually means, “In the belly”.  A lot of sheep, and in our case goats, are pregnant!! And you can tell now!!  So you  know that soon, oh so soon, there will be babies abound, and MILK!!!  Like I said, it is holiday of hope and the returning of warmth.  Of course, winter is still here, and storms can be severe.  Still, underneath all that, it still feels differently.

So we survived the Arctic Vortex.  It wasn’t fun, but here, this showed up on one of the pages I follow…
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
-Haruki Murakami
I have been through many storms in my life, literal and figuratively.  There really is something about it.  Especially if you KNOW before it starts up that you are about to be tested.  With this storm, there was so much hype.  Really, it seems like the weather has been causing a lot of hype lately.  And not that it shouldn’t, we are seeing a whole lot of crazy things happen.   We live very close to the weather.  I’m not sure if there is a way to describe it other than to say, when you must go outside to check on living things that may die in the weather, you live close to the weather.  When you live in a structure that does not keep the temperature at a regular 70 degrees without you having to do anything but push a button, you live close to the weather.

Anyway, we knew the storm was coming.  We knew it was going to be bad.  We prepared as best we could.  The animals got a lot of hay, we bedded them down with straw and we waited.  Some of us wait better than others.  In fact, everyone waits better than I.  It is mostly funny, I can laugh about it now, that I worry to the point of going without sleep.  Then once it is all over, I find that all that worry and pain, and lack of sleep were not worth it.  As it so happens, this storm was much the same.  We survived, and the animals did well.  In fact, to look out at them throughout the day, you would not believe it was so cold.  They were out, digging in the snow, drinking water and having a gay time.  This is our second year without a real barn.  Last year we saw a pretty mild winter.  This year, it has been quite cold.  However, I am not sure, except for those couple of days of real cold, I would have put them in a barn.  And truly after seeing how they acted, I am not sure they should have been in a barn.  They were fine, more than fine, really.  And they survived, and so did we.  Oh there are still times when I wish we had a barn, but I am starting to feel that our practice of movable shelters is much better since we do not have to worry about breaking pest cycles.  No where in nature do animals sleep in the same place their whole life.  There is reason for it.

So, the cold stopped, and now we have seen almost record breaking cold, and record breaking heat.  We have seen droughts and floods, high winds and oppressive humidity.  We rock.  We survive and carry on.  We come out of the storm tempered, stronger and more sure of our abilities.  We come out not the same person.  As much as I do not like storms, figuratively, I like that we experience them.

What else has been happening???  Well, Conner has been escaping a lot.  This dog!!  He wants to go romping, I understand, but we have no way of keeping him to our land, so it makes it really hard.  When it is snowy, or icy, Natalie has a hard time running with him.  A few days went by and Conner decided to take matters into his own paws.  Once it was the day after the super cold.  It was still very cold.  After a half hour of the girls and I trying to convince Conner to come back inside, we gave up.  It was still dangerous to be outside for a long period of time.  We walked back to the house and Conner followed us, like, “Okay guys, play time is over.  Yeah, let’s go back inside!”  We all almost cried then.  If we had known he would follow us back inside???  We would have went back much sooner.
Another time he went to our neighbors.  Layla was able to tell our neighbor then that their cat has been hanging out at our house.  He informed her that their cat had died.  So now, the cat that we thought was Jack?  Maybe not Jack.  So we will probably try to get him and neuter him.  We changed his name, it was hard to call him Jack and well there is Jack Jack also…  So his name is now Elmer.  Elmer and Esme  sitting in a tree.  Chasing mice and playing in the snow…   Though I do have to say that it is totally freaky if that is not our neighbor’s cat.  I mean, how many black cats with a white spot on their chest do you see?

There has also been not great news on the animal front.  Hattie was doing not well at all before the cold snap, and after we realized she was not going to get better.  So we put her down.  We also took samples from her body and are sending them to the lab.  Though Jack had a hard time trying to get that done yesterday.  Seems the post office doesn’t think you should be able to send those things.  Too bad people do all the time.  He is going to try again today.  I am hoping they let him this time, because well, we need answers.  Given the neurological symptoms we saw I am thinking it was listeria again.  However, just because it looks the same doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been something else.  We want to make sure we know what we are dealing with.  In general, while taking the samples, everything looked right on and healthy, except for her brain which had lesions.

So yeah.  Things are moving along here.  Sometimes they are great, sometimes they are hard.  Such is life.

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da life goes on brah
La la how the life goes on

New Year and HIbernation

I actually can’t remember the last time we stayed up to cheer in the new year.  To me it seems totally backasswards to have the new year now.  It is the freaking dead of winter.  I understand wanting to have parties and have something to celebrate now, but still, dead of winter doesn’t go with a new year for me.  Why isn’t the new year in spring?

 

Anyway, like I said we don’t really celebrate new years.   However, we do celebrate each month.  Okay maybe it is more like we acknowledge each new month.  See, when I was little, okay maybe still also, I was very superstitious.  One of those superstitions is to say “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit” first thing before saying anything else when you wake up on the first day of the month.  I always thought it was for good luck, but after looking it up with the girls, we found that if you do this you will get a present before the month is up.  I actually don’t like that, so we all decided it was just for good luck.  This morning I hopped out of bed and turned off the alarm.  Now on a normal morning I have to call the girls repeatedly before they turn their light on and start getting dressed.  It seems that Jack’s unable to get out of bed in the morning genes are dominant.  This morning though before I could say a peep I hear, “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit”  “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit”  “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit”  Jack joined in also.  I think we could all use some good luck this month.  What could it hurt?

 

Not much is going on.  I guess there is good in that.  Really, nothing “good” can really happen in the winter.  There are no good happenings.  If anything does happen, it is most likely bad.  No news at this point is good news.  Pretty much the only thing I want to hear when the girls come in from chores is that nothing has changed.  Everyone should be bred, of course not the cows though grrrrr.   No one should be birthing until it warms up.  Everyone should be eating, pooping and peeing. That is all I ask for this time of year.  The animals are doing well.  Even with the insane cold we are getting no one is really even in the shelters.  Of course their hay, water and now their alfalfa is all in separate corners of the pasture with their shelters in the middle.  So they have to travel.  We are getting a good manure spread all around the field.  Which means come spring it will be a nice field.  I hope to only maybe mob graze it once mid summer and let it rest until next year.  Of course, if somehow a farm fairy visited and we could put in a new pond complete with water distribution to all our paddocks, then we would be able to graze year round and not have to worry about having them in a winter paddock.  Still, at this moment we do not have that.  Right now I am just glad that we have a frost free waterer that they can drink out of now.  The weather has been crazy cold.  I just kept myself from crying this morning has I saw our expected high on Monday is 0.  Yes, 0.  Our low is -7.  I could deal with that almost if we were going to get above 0, but we aren’t.  This winter has me insanely down.  I am about at my end of dealing with this cold.  

 

Which leads me to hibernation.  Of course this whole post is kind of about that.  Not much happens in winter.  What does happen is usually in those in between days where it might get to almost 32 outside where we all rush outside to get ready for the next storm or cold snap.  Yesterday consisted of getting alfalfa to the stock and pigs.  Jack got some big square bales of alfalfa.  We don’t have a tractor.  So we get to move these things by hand.  You can’t move a big square bale, they are something like 1000 pounds.  So leaf by leaf I handed them to Jack for him to put away nicely. A leaf still is really heavy.  My arms hurt today.  That was yesterdays excitement. Truly that is enough excitement to last me until February. Though I am sure they will all run out of alfalfa before then.  

The only news that is cute, funny, or at least not insanely boring is that a neighbors cat is courting Esme.  His name happens to be Jack.  Jack could almost be Esme’s twin.   He is mostly black, with just a little bit of white at his neck.  He is fluffier and his eyes are more yellow, instead of Esme’s green.  He comes to our door and meows loudly until someone lets Esme out.  Really, a cat comes and asks our cat to come out to play with him.  Then they run off to play at catching mice.  I don’t mind mostly because I know they are both killers and they are doing their best to cut down on the mouse population around here. I feel I should mention that Esme is spayed.  So any courting will not result in a litter of kittens thank the goddess

So I really hate having another blog post that basically says, not much is happening here, but that is what this is.  Nothing is happening and we are all fine with that.  The sun should start giving us more time to get things done, and hopefully one day our highs will start to regularly stay above freezing.  And that is when my mood will start to improve.  I am not cut out for winters like this.  

Happy Yule or Christmas or Festivus!!!

I am going to try and write about what is going on around here before things get crazy.  Oh who am I kidding?  Things are always crazy here!!

So we have been staying warm.  Which is nice.  I am still not happy about the weather, that shouldn’t surprise anyone though.  This time of year always irks me.  I guess you could say that I am a grinch.  I think if the holidays actually were about what they are supposed to be about, then well, it would be great.  It just seems that for the most part my expectations are way too high.  It is part of the problem of being a pollyanna.  Maybe one year I will learn not to expect so much.  

Anyway here we are super low key.  The girls will paint the tree soon.  I will post pictures, hopefully promise.  I will attempt to make some sort of cinnamon roll in the shape of a tree.  And the girls will open their gifts.  Thankfully they do not read this blog and I would hope that no one will tell them but I am going to tell you what they asked for.  Layla wanted a watch.  Natalie wanted socks and Gwendy wanted a small variety of things including a frock and a sled.  They all decided they wanted socks once Natalie said she wanted some.  And these are the things they are getting.  How crazy is that?  No toys, or games or electronics.  Gwendy wanted a stuffed animal but then found my old 86 santa bear and asked if she could have him instead.  So she has made Bob a bed and is totally happy.  We have never done “santa”.  Sometimes I miss that magic that was part of this season.  But truly we have so much magic in our lives and it seems so much more real.  We don’t need pretend magic.  We have sunrises and sunsets.  By the way, I wish I could take pictures of these.  They picture just doesn’t catch it though.  Almost every morning we all watch the sun rise, yesterday was pretty spectacular, the clouds were all purple and orange.  Each morning it is different yet it is the same act every day.  That is magic.  There is wonder and beauty everywhere, we don’t need to create it.  I guess that is part of my high expectations of this time of year.  It makes me sad, but whatever.  

Our pipes defrosted, at least mostly.  Yay!! This time we wasted no time in filling the 55 gallon barrel inside the house.  It was a slightly weird experience this morning as I was pumping water into the bucket for our sink then filling buckets to pour in the barrel.  Just a few days ago I was filling our sink bucket with the water from the barrel.  But now there are 55 no freezable gallons in the house.  And the water is still running.  I think, hope, think that the water will stay unfrozen at least until Monday.  Then our forecasted high is 9 with a low of -10.  sigh  It will be alright though, one day it will get warmer again.  And yes I will say that until it reaches at least the high 80s.

 

The animals are doing well.  We did have one piggie incident. Turns out one of them has a slight rectal prolaspe.  It is something that can correct itself from what we have read.  However, we will not be breeding Pinkie now.  She seems pretty good and doesn’t seem to mind.  

In other news, I finally started to get Gwen’s tattoo.  I know this isn’t farm related but I want to show it off.  All the girls have some sort of flowers on me.  I picked dandelions for my tenacious Gwen. They seem to fit her well.  They will be colored in soon. Our local tattoo artist is pretty amazing, wouldn’t you say?  I am now thinking of getting some of my favorite medicinals tattooed on various body parts.  Wouldn’t that be something?  

Image 

We are planning for our next farm conference pretty fiercely.  The girls right now are pouring over the schedule.  It is still months away yet everyone needs to figure out what they want to see.  Excitement for yule here? moderate.  Excitement for farm conferences??? HIGH!  Through the roof even.  

Okay so I just asked the girls what exciting things are happening on the farm this past week.  They talked about PInkie, the farm conference and how not fun it is outside right now.  We got warm weather(the reason we now have water) but everything is melting and so we have mud.  Lots of mud.  It isn’t fun.  

 

So this is short, but probably expect the blog posts to be short for awhile.  There are only so many daylight hours in the day right now and well, most of them are taken up by school and chores :)  and eating, the girls, they do a lot of eating.

Sometimes it isn’t the busy that keeps me from writing

I try to stay positive.  Really I do.  More than that I try to stay really grateful for what I have.  We have been on a long journey that has seen us through some really tough times.  We still had our family, at least a decent shelter and were never hungry.  There is always a light, things to be thankful for.  Nothing is ever all bad and believe me it could always be worse. 

 

Sometimes though, even when my brain knows these things, my heart I guess has a hard time believing it and I want to wallow for a little bit in feeling horrible.  It is not a pretty thing and I try to not be that way.  Admittedly, the weather has kept me off line for a good part of this fall, that feels much more like winter to me at least.  Still,  I also feel the need to not sugar coat what farm life is like, the good and the bad.  So here I go and hopefully I don’t wallow too much.

 

So, it has been amazingly cold.  It is funny, because sometimes you have to really remind yourself the reality of what is happening.  It was cloudy and almost warm last week.  It has only been deathly cold since last Thursday.  However, it feels like forever right now.  It was hard to keep the house warm when we had no sun.  Even with sun now it is hard to keep the house warm.  I have to laugh sometimes though.  As I sit here with multiple pairs of socks, pants, skirts, two heavy sweaters over a couple of pairs of long sleeve shirts and a hat, Natalie sits across from me wearing a long sleeve shirt, a pair of jeans and a pair of socks.  They, and by they I mean everyone, everyone, but me, handle this type of weather much better than myself.  That in itself is sometimes why I wallow.  Why can’t I not be freezing all the time????  Of course when it is over a hundred I am perfectly fine.  Still, the cold beats at me constantly and sometimes I have a hard time handling that.

 

The animals seem to be doing alright in the cold though.  Jack says that he can tell that nearly everyone is in good body condition because everyone, not just the wooly sheep, have frost on their coats.  This did not happen last year.  Of course I do not think we ever got this cold for this long.  Okay I just looked, again, it is good to actually remember that reality exists.  No, we never approached this kind of cold last year, for this long for the entire cold season.   There were a couple days here and there, but nothing like this.   Technically, it isn’t even winter!!!  

Anyway, back to the animals.  Ruby went into heat again.  Blackie sniffed but didn’t do anything.  Really I think we need a new bull.  The goats are jumping and going through fences again.  They did this last year too.  They rage against the fact we feed them hay when there is good browse out there.  However, the ground is too frozen to move fence and to have access to water, well they need to be where they are right now.  Still, they stay mostly close and I can’t blame them.  I know that one of two things will shortly stop them, they will either be too pregnant to jump OR the snow will be too deep for them to do so.  Conner is not happy about it though.  He may not be a good guard dog in that he likes to be out there with them.  But he does watch from the house and tells me whenever there is an animal where it isn’t supposed to be.  I guess I should be happy in the small ways he is a livestock dog, right?  We did have a death last week.  This one shook me bad.  

The girls came in from doing night chores and told me that Nancy had something hanging from her belly.  A lot of times, many times, when they come up it is nothing.  This time though…I called Jack to see if he was close to home.  He was just leaving work so I told him to come down to stock asap so we could handle it.  I went down to check it out and saw Nancy shivering with her uterus hanging out of her belly.  We tried to get her down, she was still up and walking around, so I could check it better.  It was really hard because all the animals were crowding and the cows were really persistent about wanting to check her out.  The girls still had animals to check and it was getting darker.  So Natalie went around trying to get that done while Layla and Gwendy fought off animals so I could tend to Nancy.  It was bad.  Still, I thought maybe, maybe we could save her.  Though right then, I told the girls that we might have to put her down.  I went and got all the things that we might need to put her back together, needles,  wash, bandages and antibiotics.  By that time Jack had just gotten home.  It was the first night of the cold snap that we are still in.  It was freezing, getting darker and windy.  We needed to get a flashlight so he could see.  And when he saw, he looked up at us and said that there was no way.  The hole in her belly was hard, almost frozen.  She had dirt on her uterus and possibly parts missing since she kept trying to eat it.  So Jack went and got his gun while the four of us loved on Nancy for as long as we could.  We held her and told her how sorry we were.  How this wasn’t fair that she had to die this way.  That we wished we could save her.  Jack shot her and she died pretty quick.  I not only lost an amazing milking goat, but I lost a friend.  Nancy was special.  Oh yes, before she had her baby she was pretty bitchy.  But she turned around quick.  When she got up on the milk stand she would wait every so patiently.  She was always first to be milked.  Then when I was done she would not get off until I scratched her head and she could sniff and nuzzle at me.  I loved Nancy very much and it is extremely sad to me that we lost her.  We think, and we will probably never know, that Jewel gored her.  Jewel has been seen terrorizing goats and sheep before, but never to this.  Still the hole in Nancy’s belly was perfectly round.  None of the goats or sheep have horns that could have gored her like that.  So to prevent this from happening again, we will probably be butchering Jewel soon.  And we probably should have done it sooner.  Given that when we all talked about it as a family we realized that everyone has had issues with Jewel, no one really liked her and she was dangerous.  It wasn’t a hard decision at all to come to.

 

We also went to the Missouri Livestock Symposium this weekend.  It is free and close, so we went.  Really, it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either.  They are coming a long way in having better topics.  This year there was a whole block of classes dedicated to intensive grazing management.  However, I feel I could have given all the talks better.  Again when it came to the talks on how to manage vegetation with goats, or the talk about parasite resistance with goats…none of the talks were really worth going to.  Still, if I were a mainstream farmer, I would have left just some good knowledge to move myself away from bad practices.  Jack and I are constantly disappointed by conferences that we hope to learn from.  

 

And now home…cold.  When the cold snap hit us I had been trying to constantly pump water into the house, just to keep the water moving.  It worked up until Sunday.  Sunday I was pumping and it was getting harder, but still flowing.  When I woke up yesterday I could get any water.  Still, I was hopeful that as the day went on I would be able to get some water.  Little did I know that we wouldn’t actually gain any heat that day. Still, I had hope.  Hope is always needed when it comes to farming.  While my sink was full of potluck dishes from the night before and we had very little dishes to eat on, I had faith that once Jack came home and looked he would find a simple fix.  So we went along our day using as little water as we could.  

Then Jack got home.  The first thing he did was take a flashlight and look at the cistern.  It was frozen.  To give you an idea of how cold it has been.  See, the cistern is buried.  It has a wood shed on top of it.  Now, the floor isn’t finished and we never got around to insulating it like we thought we would.  Still.  We really didn’t think it would freeze.  Now if it had been a winter, I mean a fall, like last year, no we wouldn’t have had any issues.  But it just keeps getting colder.  There really isn’t a warm up in sight.  And that is the kind of thinking that starts to get me in slight hysterics.  Because see, we are tough.  We can handle waking up to a 40 degree house.  I have to heat the water on the stove to do the dishes and then rinse with freezing cold water, but still.  We change the way we eat and live with the seasons.  It isn’t easy.  I mean there is no good season.  Winter is cold and we have to deal with chilblains and trying to get things done in it.  Spring is actually still cold and even worse muddy and flooding half the time.  Then Summer comes with its wicked heat and severe storms.  Just when you think maybe I can catch a break Fall comes with again muddy wet and cold.  Oh give me Hawaii any day.  There have been many times in this past week where I have wanted to say fuck it and move someplace warmer.  Times when I didn’t think I could do this anymore.  And that is why I haven’t written.  

That is why I have tried to stay positive.  I have been trying to.  But today is also a sunny day, hell we might actually see 30 degrees out there.  Not that it would melt our cistern… And I thought, I should write.  I should try at least.  And so here is this blog entry.  Farming does occasionally suck.  Sometimes it sucks really really bad.  And just like parenting, no one can ever really prepare you for it.  No one can say, when it is ten below zero, you still have to go out there, in fact you have to go check on them even more.  No one can tell you what that feels like.  Or having to fill frozen waterers over and over again.  Or coming out to find an animal that you loved hurting and having to realize that there is no saving her.  This is hard.  It is also amazing.  And I wouldn’t stop for anything, deep down I know that.  This is my life and I want and need this life.  However, sometimes it is just hard. 

Tis the season of love

The whole voice of this blog changes depending on when I get to sit down and write.  I had this blog post planned in my head, mostly talked through with my girls(the goaty ones) while milking.  They very much agreed, this is the season of love.  They are sure feeling it.  Khonsu is feeling it.  Blackie, while misdirected into thinking that goats is the way to go instead of his own species(cows) is still feeling it.

It is nice to see when everything is going to sleep rumenants are just getting started. Life is beginning while nature is slowing down.  It is kind of like this tiny seed of hope that spring then summer will return.  And with it lots of babies.  While, as a pagan at least, I celebrate this at Imbolc, this is when it really starts to happen.  There never really is a time when all is dying or lost.  When life is dark. That really meshes with what I believe, there is never total darkness.  I don’t believe in black and white, just shades of gray. While we are entering the dark time of year it makes total sense to see the hope and glimmer of new life.  I do see how most people would not see it though.  Get a bunch of randy goats and sheep and maybe it will help you get through the winter with thoughts of cute little animals in a few months…

That brought up I wanted to tell you all about our tv.  Yes yes, I know.  You didn’t realize that even though we live off grid that we still have tv. Every morning we all get a little screen time.  We watch “All boys are stupid when all they can think about is sex”  I find this show to be highly entertaining and so do all of my daughters.  Of course playing at the same time is “Girls are also stupid when all they can think about is sex”. I think it is very educational.  In case you do not understand my humour, let me describe an episode that played recently.  Imriel, a very small shetland ram decided that he was not fond of Blackie a jersey bull sniffing HIS ladies behinds.  He then proceeded to RAM Blackie senseless.  To which Blackie bulled and pushed Imriel around the pasture until he was panting.  There was also an astounding moment where Imriel was thrown over Blackies shoulders.

This is our entertainment.  It is needed because putting up with some of the crazy things the animals do, well, we all need to laugh sometimes.

They are doing alright though.  Handling the cold and wet like troopers.  We are arranging their winter pasture scene and ordering hay and straw.  I think it will be alright.  We had an interesting evening tonight.  We are trying to move the pigs to a better location.  See, we want pasture pigs.  We want pigs excited to see grass.  We also want pigs that will follow a bucket.   These little pigs aren’t so little anymore.  They are more like 50 pound concentrated squirming little big crazy weights.  All attempts to herd them to their new place went bad.  Well, not bad, just they did not have the results we were looking for.  So Jack, the pig whisperer and insanely fast man, sat quietly next to some feed, in this case apples and deer parts, and waited patiently until he could grab one.  Really.  Then Natalie or I dragged the crazy pig to the new pasture.  I am not sure if words could express how not easy this was.  Nope, there are no words.  One day you should try to wrestle 3 month old pigs.  Yeah, just try that.  We caught all but one.  We are hopeful that tomorrow all eight of the pigs that we did catch are still in their new pasture and that we can catch the last one.  That is our hope.

It has been really cold the past few days.  There hasn’t been much sun and the winter blahs are settling in.  We didn’t have to deal with them much last year, it was pretty sunny throughout.  So far we haven’t been so lucky.  Our house does not heat up well without sunshine.  Oh if the sun is shining we are nice and toasty in here.  But without it we have a hard time getting to 60.  The girls don’t really have much problem with this, they seem to be able to handle it much better than I can.  But me?  it is rough.  We drink hot tea all day.  Inside I am usually wearing three or four sweaters, two pairs of pants, a long wool skirt and two pairs of socks.  Add to that one or two scarfs and my hat.  The benefit of wearing clothes like this is that I can run outside for short bits of time, say to get firewood and not be cold.  The downside, or reality is that it is because it is only about 20 degrees colder outside…

 

So it is a couple of days later.  I have been writing this in bits because we have been so low power.  The pigs have settled nicely.  They share a fence with stock.  It was part of our plans to let them in with stock, you know to learn how to graze…  The little buggers beat us to it!!  They can get through the gate and have been hanging out with all the goats and sheep and cows.  They go and eat hay with them, they go down to the cattle waterer.  So it is going well, so far.

 

We did get a tons of hay, straw and a little alfalfa delivered over the weekend.  The great thing about living in community is that you can put the call out to everyone to see who might need some hay or straw and share delivery costs.  Jack was borrowing someone’s bobcat and he delivered the big round bales to everyone.  It took a good part of the day but we are now more ready for winter and so are our neighbors.  It is a great feeling.

 

I have been hard at work sewing up thermal curtains for our windows.  Given how cold and unsunny it has been I figured I would get to that this year.  I have a little less than half done.  I am hopeful that they will look alright and be mostly functional.  I do not sew well.  These are being hand sewn also.  Oh so special looking but hopefully no one looks too closely.

 

Oh and due to the fact that everyone is being bred I have started to wean the goats.  It makes me sad and leaves my mornings slightly empty, but I knew it was going to happen eventually. It is just a few months away that I will be starting up again.  I hope I don’t totally lose my milking muscles.

 

I was talking to Jack about something and he thinks it is a good idea.  I am not sure how many people will do this challenge, but I am curious.  Remember, I do not like the cold.  I should have had this challenge in the summer also, but dealing with the heat was not hard on me and challenging people to do the same, well it never occurred to me.  SO!

My challenge is this, turn your thermostat down to 56 for three days.  If you are brave turn it down to 40 at night, that is about what it is in here when we wake up.  Or you can just turn it off.  We don’t burn a fire at night at all.  Our wood stove completely sucks and it totally inefficient not to mention being probably too small to heat our space…it is on the list of things to be replaced.  Anyway, pick three days where you are going to be home all day.  We don’t leave, unless it is going outside to do work.  That does warm you by the way, if you are really chilled going outside and doing something or other helps a lot, as long as you don’t work so hard that you start to sweat…  Anyway, so that is my challenge, turn down your heat.  Wear more clothes, you will probably have to.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Will you?  Will you comment and tell me how it went for you?

 

 

Fence Fence Fence

This past week saw me doing a lot of farm wenching.  We will get to that later.  Jack took off work early on Thursday and then took off Friday and Monday.  So that was five full days of getting work done.  He put out a call to our neighboring communities asking for paid labor to put up fence.  He got a couple of responses.  Joan, our neighbor who will be sharing a portion of the fence, and a few friends that were staying with her helped out also.  In all it was five crazy days.  A lot got done, but not all of the fence.  We are that much closer though.  Through all of that I played the farm wench.  I cooked and set out meals and snacks and washed dishes.  It may not seem like a lot, but working with food allergies or preferences and making sure everyone has enough to eat.  It is a lot.  

Friday was also Jack’s birthday.  I am pretty sure that last year for his birthday we were building fence.   Pretty sure this is going to become a tradition.  I did make three cheesecakes.  One for home, one for potluck with our community(I also made a cake) and one for me and the girls.  Oh it was supposed to be a home one, but Jack really cannot  stand gooey cheesecake and I made it in a corningware type pot, I was out of appropriate pans to make cheesecake in.  Because of the thickness, it was gooey.  SO the girls and I saved, yes saved, Jack the horror of eating it.  That is how wonderful and thoughtful we are.  

 

It is also insanely cold right now.  We were having a pretty mild fall.  That stopped.  This past weekend was pretty great for working outside. I even had the windows open for a time.  Then Monday we started to get colder and colder.  We then saw a bit of snow…Yes, we got a dusting.  We got down to 15.  We woke up yesterday morning and this morning to it being about 44 inside.  Not exactly what I like, but then, unless I move to Hawaii…I am going to have to live with the multiple layers and wearing a hat and scarf all day through part of the year.  sigh

 

The animals do well in this weather though.  Last year I was horribly worried about them.  Okay I worry about them a lot anyway.  But really, they are out there all night in this weather!!!  Then I found out that 40 and raining much worse than a dry 15.  As long as they stay dry they are totally fine.  Sheep even more so.  It is something to walk around and see ice and frost on their coats and yet they are totally comfortable.  If you put your hand down into their wool, warm and cozy.  I find ourselves getting better about the weather and the way we live, but unless I start growing wool, I think I will never be as comfortable as my sheep.

 

Conner has been coming inside more.  He is really funny.  Something about being inside on a few nights now makes him completely incapable of being outside at all anymore.  He jumps up into our huge chair and looks at me with long suffering eyes.  Like he is saying, “Oh, I am just a poor 150 pound dog with no way of staying warm  outside even though I have a thick coat and much padding.”  Oddly, having a 150 pound dog, I am totally guessing on the weight, but I am sure I am close,  inside a 480 square foot house/cabin isn’t as horrible as it may sound.  Like I said, he spends most of his time on the chair.  If he isn’t there he is under the table.  He cleans up food on the floor and licks the cats behinds, we are trying to stop him of that…  Anyway, it is alright.

 

The animals are all breeding.  Khonsu is doing really well in this department.  For being as small as he is at least, he is getting the job done.  I am glad because that means I am pretty sure we will have beginning of April babies.  I am hoping that that means no goat sweaters this year.  Imriel is also getting his important work done.  And Blackie is also trying, unfortunately with goats and not cows.  Deep breath.

 

We did move the stock this weekend into their winter pasture.  We didn’t really want to, but felt we had no choice as it was going to get really cold and we didn’t know how to move them and keep them moving for an uncertain amount of time.  So this may mean we go through more hay that we originally thought we would.  We figured on starting hay in December.  They aren’t on hay yet, but we figure we might have to give them a bale in a week or so.  

 

Part of the hard part of moving them where they are now is that the milk shed is in the pasture.  This makes milking interesting.  I love milking goats.  I go out there by myself and it is quiet time for me to think, stare out at the trees and scratch my goats and get little kisses.  Now,  Natalie and Layla have to be down there and chase off any animal who thinks they can get it and get at the sunflower and alfalfa.  So milking has become a fiasco.  I have noticed that my patience is totally off I think because of this.  It is my morning meditation.  Some people like to do yoga, some people need their coffee I need my quality goat time.  I hope that it gets better.  

 

That is about all.  Fence, sex and cold.  That does pretty much sum up this past week.  Add in some cheesecake and lots of hot tea and soup and you know what it has been like here.  This is the time of year where things don’t really slow down, but when you look back on what you did all day it doesn’t seem like much.  Or at least not much to write about.   And truly I am alright with that.  While I am happy when good things happen,  I am just fine with nothing exciting in our lives.