Monthly Archives: August 2013

If they gave Olympic medals for running all night long

I would have won them all until I went pro.

Another Jimmy Buffett song, Last Man Standing.  I got miles of dedication and a natural inclination…
Sometimes I feel that way and then other times I can only see how far I have to go.  Last night I stayed up until 11 canning peaches.  I had a slightly crazy instant while we were shopping yesterday to get a bushel of peaches, not remembering that I was totally behind on canning all the things we are growing.  I have issues, I know.  We are on our second shelf of canned goods.  While I was so proud of that for about five seconds I then realized that it actually isn’t much food.  It really isn’t.  That is over 100 cans of food.  It is nothing.  We are also running out of jars!! AHHH!!!  I remember when we started accumulating all these jars.  I thought there was no way I could fill them all.  And here I am, wanting more.  Some of the little jars I wonder what I am going to fill them with.  I am thinking they are going to be hot pepper relish.  Still, it doesn’t give me much more room for tomatoes and other things that need canning.  I am not even going to get to can meat this year.  That makes me sad because it is a fond memory of our residency year.  I had canned a lot of meat before coming here and it was super quick and easy to open a can of meat, add some rice or beans and a few veggies, cook for a little and eat.  Maybe we will get some more cans and I will be able to fill more shelves.  Actually, that is just silly talk.  We NEED more cans and I NEED to fill more shelves.  Also, while we are at it, I also need to have a bigger garden and I really shouldn’t be writing right now, I should be canning.  

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But I just love you all so much.  Plus the stove is totally in the sun.  It is hard enough to can in 90+ heat, having the sun beat down on you also is just a special kind of torture.  I am starting to think that I should just can at night.

So what else is going on?  The garden is starting to die.  Some of it is lack of rain, can the rain come back?  Just a little, please.  Some of it is bugs.  We almost lost all of our chard.  Frank, who brings the awesome sauce, also brought us a solar dehydrator last week and saved the day.  I started dehydrating kale and all of our chard.  I think if we can get some moisture the chard will be happy again.  So far I have about two gallons of dried greens almost powder type stuff.  There is still a lot of kale out there also.  So along with homeschooling, canning, now I get to add dehydrating to the list.  But I don’t care, because guess what?? It is just more food that we will have this winter!!  

I also went through our row of broccoli a few nights ago.  A lot of it was bolting.  It is kind of crazy that it has lasted this long, no water, hot heat and well, more broccoli than what we could handle for awhile.  But it is all coming back now again.  Just two days after I chopped all the plants down to almost nothing we had good sized heads again.  Our broccoli is surely blessed this year.  So are our tomatoes.  They keep going and going…  Gwendy went out and picked all our ripe tomatillos yesterday morning.  I canned about 12 pints of salsa.  There is so much food, and so little time to make it into food that will last until winter!  I am trying though.  

In animal news, we did have another animal death.  Rest in Peace Joscelin.  He was the sweetest ram ever.  It was parasite load that got him.  We actually ended up using a chemical wormer trying to save him, but it didn’t work.  Of course, in some ways it totally goes against what we are trying to do, build up a stock that is resistant to worms, but we did still try and save him.  This is also a very bad year for worms.  I have seen it all over my message boards and such for livestock.  People are losing animals all over.  So, if this is a bad year, hopefully next year our stock is stronger for it.  

The rest of them seem alright.  I am seeing more worm pressure than I would like.  Also, with this heat, well, in some ways they are sad, but still holding in there.  Our pregnant sows are keeping us guessing.  Every day we go out there expecting to see some little piggies.  They are getting huge.  Also, they are starting to get used to us.  They come, snort and wait patiently for us to feed them.  They used to just lay around all day, but they are much more active now.  I love being able to feed them our food scraps and not be wasting so much.  Not that it was ever really wasted, it was always going to one animal or another, but pigs don’t waste food like other animals can.  They know that they have the very important job of creating bacon.  They take that seriously.  And I appreciate that.  I also appreciate that Natalie went out and took some pictures of them just now for me. Image

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While it is going to be hot for awhile,  there is relief in sight.  Geez, we even have slight chances of rain.  You can bet that the girls and I will be doing rain dances here soon.  It is funny how each season has its own problems and advantages.  Sometimes it is really easy to only see the problems.   And sometimes it is really easy to only see how great a season is.  In many ways I am very glad to live the way I do.  One of the reasons is that we live to closely to the weather.  We are not disconnected from the heat or the cold.  Or the dryness or the insane soggy wet that does happen in the spring.  It is easy to forget about soggy wet when it is this dry out…  We see and live it all.  It is hot right now.  It has been hot for quite a few days now.  There are heat advisories that say that you should stay in an air conditioned room.  Don’t go outside, don’t work outside.  In fact, don’t do anything.  Yet, we go out.  We need to make sure the animals have water, that they aren’t too hot.  There is a lot to get done and it doesn’t stop just because it is a little, hot, or cold or pouring outside.  You suck it up and do it.  Of course, we do try to be smart about it.  We aren’t going to go out there and move fence at the hottest time of the day.  But we still do move fence.  Sometimes there are hard things to do in the heat of the day, that can’t wait.  You still do them.  Our life revolves around the weather, but we also don’t let it get to us.  You accept it and  move on. 

So that is where I leave you for this week.  The stove is finally out of the blaring sun and while there is no wind today to help me stay cool, the canning must be done.  Until next week… maybe I will post another picture of our pantry so you can see my progress…

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School’s out for Summer!!

Okay, obviously, not really.  It is just blowing my mind that school is starting for most people right now.  Sometimes it feels odd doing school year round.  But then again, it also feels so much better doing so.  No, there is no break, but geez, is there a break in life?  In learning?  Because I haven’t found one yet.  One reason we school year round is because I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that life and learning comes with breaks.  A slightly bigger reason we school year round is because I would much rather sit down with them every day for four hours than sit down for 8 hours half the year.  There are days off, snow days, warm days.  That is a part of enjoying life and learning about life.  I find that even on “days off”, they are experimenting and learning.  That is how life should be.   In my very humble opinion.

 

This time of year starts some of the hardest work.  Okay, not hard, but constant.  We have been putting up the harvest.  Tomatoes are being canned.  Veggies fermented.  It is really hard to just put those up on the self.  I so want to eat some fermented green beans!!  But I will patiently wait until we no longer have fresh food to eat.  We had a very amazing friend build us a dehydrator also.  It should be getting here in the next couple of days.  Then the dehydrating of kale and other greens will begin.  There is the plan of many soups with dried greens and fermented squashes for this winter.  Oh and the sauerkraut!!!  I spent a whole day chopping and pounding cabbage last week.  The girls would go out and harvest me a couple heads at a time.  When Jack got home from work he went and got me a couple.  I asked him if he could count how many more heads were left.  He came back in to tell me…26!  At the rate I was going I was fitting one head in a quart jar.  And I got six done that day.  In other words, I have a lot more sauerkraut to get going.  But how can I be upset over abundance, even if it means that there is an abundance of work? 

Just this morning I spent a good hour stretching mozzarella for the girls.  They really like string cheese.  I like mozzarella also, but not like they do.  It is hot work, almost burning your hands.  But how cool is it that they get homemade goat milk string cheese?  I think it is cool, just wish it wasn’t so hot.  

 

I am hoping that one day soon I will have a cheese press.  I would like to start making hard cheese.  Cheese that we can put up and have even when our goats are dry.  It will happen one day.  Next year we may have such an abundance of milk that there will be cheese making every day.  Especially when the cows freshen.  It is kind of amazing to think about the future.  Not that it will get any easier, there will very possibly be more work.  To think though on cheese and meat and butter… Oh I feel like I dream about this often on here.  Ya’ll probably are sick of it.  

 

Maybe I should just be content to be where we are.  We have cheese, and milk and veggies and ferments and meat.  Things are good even when they aren’t so much.  

 

Animal news isn’t super exciting right now.  Jewel went into heat, a very strong heat, about three days early this month.  It was actually slightly frightening.  I was giving a tour to some visitors.  I had no idea that Jewel was in heat when we walked in.  In fact I think I said something like, we wouldn’t go in here if she was in heat.  After pushing Jewel away many times and her finally jumping up on Ruby and pretty much screaming to the world, “I WANT A BULL!!!”  We stepped out of the paddock immediately.  Being around a cow in heat is dangerous.  Really.  Her heat lasted a long time too.  It would have been a good time to try and AI her, but it didn’t happen again this month.  Blackie seemed slightly interested, but as far as we can tell, he didn’t breed her. 

 

We actually didn’t get a whole lot done this weekend either.  Somehow things kept popping up.  I try to let that go and feel that if we didn’t get the work done, there was reason for it.  This weekend doesn’t feel like it is going to be very productive though either.  We will see though.  We are in the last little bit of August.  We don’t have much more time.  Hopefully we get enough done. 

Breathe in, Breathe out, Move on…

If a hurricane doesn’t leave you dead, it will make you strong…

This first part is from 7/31. I did start to try and blog, just my heart wasn’t into it. I am now putting on my big girl panties and will get back to documenting our homestead adventure, good and bad.

If you follow us on facebook you know that we are down in the dumps right now.  Or at least I am.  The biggest problem is that there is no time to grieve.  Bad things happen when you farm, sad things happen, joyous things happen.  In fact I can only compare farming to parenting in the emotional roller coaster department.  It makes me wonder a little about what people would be like today if more people farmed.  Would there be less fighting?  Would people care so much if others did this or that?  Or would we all be so busy that what other people did wouldn’t matter so much?  Would we be all so emotionally invested with our own crap that we wouldn’t feel the need to cause emotional disturbances?  

I really feel that a good bit of what is wrong with the world is that we are all bored.

 

I am very rarely bored these past few years.  Sometimes I feel like being bored.  I feel like I want to pretend that I don’t have anything to do.  I wonder sometimes if the reason why my girls don’t fight as much as I would expect them to is because they work.  They do.  This is not to say that they don’t fight, hit and scream at each other, just this doesn’t happen very often.  They work together well, they love each other and they love to play together.  Even after all these years I look at them and their relationship to each other in amazement.  And then it makes me wonder, what if more people had this in their life?  I am not saying that everyone needs to farm.  I do think that.  Not on our scale, but at least provide some of their own food.  I am saying though, people don’t work with each other very much anymore.  Not day to day.  Not on things that are mundane and regular and not on things that disrupt your emotional stability so much that you ball your eyes out.  

 

Because that is what happened this weekend.  It started with losing the sweet ram lamb.  We had checked everyone, tried to herbally worm as many as we could.  Yet, we lost Ysandre, our ramboillet corridale and Iot, our North Country Cheviot.  Thursday night the girls ran up to the house to tell us that Fiona, my favorite goat was down.  She was up and moving just that afternoon.  I almost panicked right then.  We went down there and saw that she was down, with her neck thrown back.  Immediately I thought of goat polio.  It really isn’t polio, it is a thiamine deficiency.  So the girls ran and got all the vitamins and other things that we could dose her with.  We did what we could that night and then the next day most of the day was spent taking care of Fiona.  It was heartbreaking.  Her left side was paralyzed and she couldn’t shut her eye.  It was clouding over.  Any attempt to move her resulted is spasms.  I called around to vets to see if anyone took in goats.  I knew I was doing the right things, but I wanted someone to tell me that.  Or tell me, nope, do this.  I wanted her better more than anything.  I wanted to know what to do if this happened again.  So after calling around I found a vet who said they knew about goats. 

 

We brought her in.  They weighed her.  They got her in a room.  I should have left as soon as the vet walked in and told me that they could put her down and send her to the university.  She wasn’t there to help me.  In fact she knew nothing of goats at all.  She asked what was wrong with her ears.  Fiona was a lamancha, they have elf ears.  Nothing was wrong with her, it was her breed.  When I saw her temp I asked the vet if she thought it could be milk fever.  The vet told me that only if she was on the other side of milk fever, her temp was too low for it to be milk fever.  Low temperature is a symptom of milk fever in goats.  There is no fever.  I was really upset with how little this vet knew.  And the fact that she wouldn’t admit that she didn’t know anything.  It was frustrating.  

 

Anyway, for as much as this all has been a huge part in my emotions the past few days, farmers don’t get to grieve.  Oh I balled my eyes out for about an hour and then I realized, I can’t.  I have to move, we have to do something.  We got Fiona in the bed of the truck, told the girls to do their chores and called the university.  Then we drove for two and a half hours to get her down there.  They still haven’t gotten back to us on the results of all the tests, but I am hopeful we will hear soon.  Also hopeful that it isn’t something that will affect the whole herd.  I am not sure if I could handle that right now.  

 

In other animal news, the cows are still going into heat.  Blackie has yet to take care of this.  We were supposed to order semen to AI them, but it just hasn’t happened yet.  The three sometimes four bastard ram lambs keep getting out.  We knew that they formed this gang very shortly after they were born.  They are getting out of control now though.  They are rarely in the fence.  Last night we got a call from our neighbor saying that they were going to a party at Dancing Rabbit.  Or at least that is what we are assuming as they all of a sudden started down the road.  We have seen them sneaking in our driveway too, that is no where near our pasture.  This is a problem and they will be eaten asap.  Really.  

 

The barn is going.  I wish I could write more about this but really I don’t understand much of what goes on here.  The drain is in the floor.  It seems like the gravel is mostly level and that we should be ready to have concrete poured sometime soon.  The mudroom addition to the house is going similarly.  The cistern is also getting there.  It is kind of crazy how many projects are being juggled right now.  Sometimes I feel very crazy.  But then I think about how great everything will feel once we get it all done.  I need to have some faith.  It will be nice going into winter with a barn, a cistern, a wood shed and a mudroom.  Things will happen. 

 

We have also been harvesting medicinal herbs and doing tinctures and such.

 

 

8/14

And that is where I stopped. Really, I couldn’t figure out how to be cheerful anymore. It has been a few years, okay a little more than a few years, but awhile ago I decided that it could always be worse. When you go through tough times in your life you come out of it knowing that that saying is all too true. So I tried to get into the habit of focusing on the good things. Bad things eventually go away. Life gets better and it could always be worse. My problem a couple of weeks ago was I didn’t want to think about the good things. I wanted to feel bad. I didn’t want to get on with my life, I wanted to grieve and miss Fiona. I won’t say I dropped everything. I will say I was not putting in my all. And we all suffered for that. I won’t say I feel better. However, I feel like I have had the time to feel sad, now it is time to put it aside and get back to work.

So we got the test results back from Fiona. It was actually what I feared, listeria. From doing some reading on goat forums, listeria has been making its way around the midwest. So at anytime we could just lose animals. That is really hard for me to deal with. Really hard. We are keeping a real close eye on everyone. The nights are getting colder and that is what listeria loves. It is really scary to be going into fall right now. But we have to move on. We have to take the knowledge that we gained from this and apply it. And hope, and pray. And live. There is nothing else to do, because we don’t give up.

There has been a lot of harvesting of local herbs. I was so worried that we wouldn’t have any blue vervain this year. It seemed like a miracle when we found it blooming all over. I may have gone a little overboard. I tinctured a gallon and dried a gallon. Vervain helps my emotional stability so much though. And insomnia. Very much so helps insomnia. So having that much doesn’t seem too crazy. I left a lot of it all around hoping it goes to seed and we have good harvests next year too. I actually harvested magically this year. Conditions seemed right. So on a moonless sunless night I went out there and very presently harvested. I guess that is the only way to really say it. Presently. I was there, with the earth, air, water(boy was it humid!!), and fire(also really hot!). Sweat poured off me, bugs were all over me. I ended up in the pond afterward and it felt good. I wish I had gotten pictures of my harvest. I think partly because of how I feel about vervain, there is no plant that I find more beautiful.

The girls also went out and harvested a good bit of wild bergamot. Also know as bee balm, monarda, wild oregeno… We made a tincture, oil and honey out of this. I feel that them harvesting this in their joyful lighthearted way is that way it should be harvested. I love the colors and smell of bergamot. It is spicy yet looks so cool with the lavender flowers and light green leaves. I am super happy to be expanding our herbal medicines this year.

Next we hope to go and harvest some hops. They are almost ready. We keep checking and checking and waiting… The problem is that most of our hops are down in our wild bottoms. The grass and weeds down there go over my head in places. Want to talk about picking ticks and scrubbing chiggers off of you? Yeah. So great. But I do want to harvest hops this year, so it will be done. Jack wants to try and brew with them and I am hoping to make a few hop pillows. I was talking with a neighbor awhile ago. I told her that it seems weird sometimes how many herbs I have growing wild about me that are good for my specific crazy. Or is it just that those are the only ones I care about and focus on them? It doesn’t really matter but I do so love that I can go pick my medicine.

While it isn’t medicine or wild, I also got our flax harvested. That was also some hot sticky work. Layla started to help me but she had to start cores, so Jack came down and helped me get the last in. I have to say that I was very glad for his help. We had about 70 some pounds of flax to walk back up to the house. It was heavy and awkward. I have no idea how much flax this will make, but I am hopeful to get some piece of clothing out of it. We also will be saving seed to plant next year. It is very exciting for me. I am hopeful that one day we will have lots of homegrown and processed wool and linen clothes. Though it also sounds slightly crazy to me to say that 🙂

The concrete was poured for the barn and the mudroom. The barn is currently on hold, there still needs to be concrete footers poured so we can level it. But soon that will happen and then we will be able to take down the tent!!! If only we could sell the tent!!! Soon, I hope. The mudroom is getting framed currently. There is now a step, a real step, going to our house. This is a longstanding joke around here. If you have ever been to the cabin in the past almost year it has been up, you would know that the “step” to get in will make you sore after awhile. It is joked that that is how I got an ass. Well, that and all the hills around here. At times we had pallets or other odds and ends in front of the door to make it easier to get in, but nothing like a real step. A few times now it has been mentioned that we have a real step by others visiting.

You might be thinking, how have they gotten all this done??? Jack actually took three days off last week. Really, he needs to take like a month off, but that won’t be happening. Or what would be nice would be if he didn’t have to work. I will keep dreaming though. It was so nice having him home. It was nice being able to work with each other without the worry of having so little time.

There has been ferments going on, lots of ferments!! The canning of tomatoes is also starting. I am starting to see our supply of canning jars go down. It is always my crazy to think that if we can fill each jar we will have wonderful food all winter long. I can keep hoping. Truly though I think I need more canning jars. It is amazing how much food we go through.

And while I am sure a whole lot more happened, this is all I can think of for right now. So until next week, breathe in, breathe out, move on…