Monthly Archives: September 2013

MooOOOAAWWWOOOOOOOO

Picture 1413


Just in case you were wondering what a cow in heat sounds like.  They actually sound somewhat like an elephant.  Our neighbor across the street has let his cows out by the road.  It is mostly woods there and you can hear the cows crashing around.  It is almost like a scene from Jurassic Park.  But then there are the elephant noises…

Ruby is in heat also.  Jewel just came out of heat.  They are really getting serious.  They want a man, or bull, and want him now!!!  We keep hoping Blackie will do his duty but so far he seems much more interested in the goats.  Yeah, I don’t get it either.  Not trying either.  I have thought of sitting him down for a long talk about birds, bees and well cows, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I had a very exciting moment this past week moving animals.  Jack went with Phil, his step dad, to return a rental part that we did not get full use out of, more of that later.  I figured,  I have the fence, the animals want to be moved.  I have my minions and Jack’s mom, Judy.  I can do this.  So I got the fence all out.  The problem was that since the last fence was put up in such a way that I couldn’t close the fence just yet.  If you open up one part of the fence usually the animals all pour out.  There isn’t much herding that is needed.  They just go.  They are usually so happy to get fresh green grass.  Usually.  Key word there.  So anyway, I got the fence up as best I could.  Natalie was going to open the fence, Layla was going to gently herd the animals through, Judy and Gwendy were at the fence opening to make sure animals didn’t get out there.  It seemed like a good plan.  And normally this is how it works and it goes smoothly.  Well, sometimes.  Natalie opened the fence, but didn’t lift it.  Why she didn’t I don’t know.  The cows and sheep don’t like walking over the fence, it was off, but they still don’t like it.  The goats went over, they were fine, but I quickly saw that we were in real trouble as no one else was going over.  I told Natalie to lift the fence, but she claimed they wouldn’t go near her.  So I started up the pond dam, it was wet and slick as pig poop.  I started the yelling and the hitting off the various animal butts, they started to go until a few sheep and then the cows starting going down the pond dam.  I ran after them, only to fall face first and slide the rest of the way.  The wind was knocked out of me for a short while.  From the reports of Judy and the girls, it looked really scary.  Judy thought I had broken something.  I got up though and started yelling like a mad woman.  Those animals were going to listen to me!!!  It took about a half hour and finally me lifting the fence like I told Natalie to, before they all went over.  Well almost all.  Natalie ended up pretty much lifting Phedre, our rambouilllet corrideale up.  This sheep has to weight about 100 pounds.  She is huge.  Natalie got her over the fence though.  And then Blackie.  Maybe he felt too much pressure to preform.  He wanted nothing to do with going in with the girls.  It took the four of us to get him in.  But we did it.  I felt great afterwards.  Really.  Okay besides all the scrapes from the rose thorns that were all over.  I ended up in the pond to wash up even though it was freeze your butt off cold.  I have slightly impressive cuts on my arms and thighs.  I wasn’t prepared for how I would end up feeling the next day.  Or today.  I feel like my arms are one big bruise.  It is making it hard to do things, but oh well.  I will live.

The animals seem to be doing alright.  They survived the heat and then the cold, and then the rain.  Because we got RAIN!!!!!  Yes we got rain.  This was very exciting, and still is.  We did end up giving BillyBob Bugerweed to a neighbor for him to service their goats this year.  He was just too closely related to half our herd.  I hope he enjoys his new home.  My hands are adjusting to milking so many goats twice a day.  And making cheese every couple of days.  Today before making cheese I skimmed off the top layer of cream and got almost a half cup.  Not much, but maybe enough to put in my chai our next cold morning.

Some cute pictures of the piggies.  They are actually going back and forth and all playing together.  The only way to tell them apart is that the first litter is just slightly bigger than the younger pigs.  The mommies don’t seem to mind strange piglets nursing off of them.  Sometimes all of them go to one mamma pig and then to the next one.  I think they are all going to be well taken care of.

Picture 1408

Picture 1410

Picture 1412

 

Picture 1411

It is crazy how our weather has been lately.  A week ago it was so hot!!  Really really hot.  Then the rain came and we barely got in the 70s, today and tomorrow though have highs in the 90s.  How does that happen?  It also worries me because these kinds of weather changes can really make the animals sick.  They are actually moved closer to the house right now, which makes me glad.  I can keep a good eye on them.  I am forever thankful for the rain though.  Our kale is bounding back along with our chard.  The broccoli has tons of leaves but not so many flowerettes.  I can hope for some more food from our garden before everything freezes.  Then though we will have the cattle panel greenhouse and the south side greenhouse on the barn this year.  We will probably transplant a lot of our greens and such in there.

Picture 1407

Jack’s parents did come for a long weekend.  A lot of work ended up being done, though things never quite work out the way we plan.  We did get the concrete retaining walls poured.  That was also an adventure.  The first guy who came out has been out here a few times and he works with Jack at the hospital.  He is really nice and helpful.  Unfortunately,  a few of the forms broke and we ran out of concrete.  So we got another truck, and a new driver.  This guy was horrible from the start.  First the concrete was way too dry, it wouldn’t even flow.  The guy ended up adding ten gallons of water to just over a yard of concrete and what came out was like a frosty on a hundred degree days.  I guess I could say curdled milk, but melted frosty sounded slightly more appetizing.  In other words, we were all covered in concrete towards the end.  This guy also dumped concrete on our land, backed up too far, even though we were all screaming stop!!, and put a hole in our barn and in general was horrible.  Horrible.  Still the concrete is done, the forms are off now.  We have started filling in the sides.  The greenhouse side is mostly filled, the barn side still has a way to go.  But soon soon, the barn will be mostly done.

 

Picture 1415

Picture 1416

Picture 1417

By the way, the green things are five hundred strawberries.  We just go them last night with two apricot trees.  They will all get planted out soon and hopefully we will have enough strawberries for some jam next year.  Maybe some apricot jam also 🙂

Picture 1414

We also worked on the cistern.  While Phil and Jack were out there working, I had to open my mouth and ask if there was anyway to put a small root cellar in there.  So two of the tanks didn’t go down, so different reinforcing happened, and there will be a small root cellar/storm shelter.  It makes me feel slightly better knowing that this spring we will have a place to take shelter if needed.  And we will have a place to put some of our storage crops.  But the cistern didn’t get finished, nor did the wood shed on top. Nor did the fence.

Picture 1401

 

Picture 1403

Picture 1402

The fence was happening.  Jack brought the bobcat home and went and rented a auger to drill holes in the ground for the posts.  And then some hydraulic thing broke on the bobcat.  And that was the end of fence building.  There are five posts in the ground though.  We also went to dog and gun this weekend and cleaned out Onion John of most of his t-posts.  We also found a five gallon milk pail.  Sadly, it seems we have not had much time for dog and gun this year though.  Which is sad because we can find a lot of things there.  So we are hoping that this weekend we will be able to get a little more done.  We really need to get a lot done.  September is almost gone and winter is coming!!

 

While Judy was here she mentioned that she didn’t realize how big the mudroom was.  I admit it is a mess, but really what mudroom isn’t?  But I thought I would take a quick picture of it.  Of course it isn’t finished, and it is starting to get muddy, but it is doing an alright job for its current state.

Picture 1404

I also have been meaning to take pictures of the solar dehydrators.  These were made for us by Deep Green Machine.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Deep-Green-Machine/400860190006049  They are awesome and with the return of our greens I am hopeful that we will get a few more gallons of dried food before winter.

Picture 1405

Since I was out I also took a picture of the flax retting.  It seems like it is getting close. Yay for more fiber!

Picture 1406

 

And last but not least, my pantry picture.  I got a good bit canned, though it still doesn’t feel like enough.  It is really hard to juggle everything that needs done.  Still, what we have in our pantry is more than what we had last year.  So I have faith that next year it will be even more.

Picture 1400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All we are in dust in the wind…

That is what it feels like right now.  We are so dry.  I have been battling a massive headache for many days now.  Every time a car goes by a cloud of dust goes up and it spreads across our land raining dust over everything.

As you can imagine that makes everything just a little bit dirty.  With the high winds, scorching sun and dry earth,  everything has a slight crunch to it now.  The past couple of years it seemed that by this time of year the rains had started again, but they haven’t yet.  I am slightly optimistic with what I see on the forecast, but I am also not holding my breath.  At this point in time, it is going to take a lot of rain and healing to make the earth feel better.  

It feels like that is extending to people too.  Everyone seems to be needing a little bit of healing.  A fresh wash of rain to wash away hurts and pain.  I see, being around many others who live close to the earth, that this time of year is extremely stressful.  It doesn’t seem easy to deal with a lot of things while you are getting ready for winter.  Can I say how odd it is to have written that while it is sunny and hot outside?  Anyway, it makes me wonder just slightly about harvest festivals.  This is the time of year for them.  In a couple of weeks it is Mabon.  This has always been my most favorite holiday.  Witch’s Thanksgiving.  This year, as I look at my filling pantry, it seems to have a lot more meaning for me.  Really, this is only the second harvest, Samhain, or halloween as it is most commonly known, is the last harvest.  By Mabon though a lot of the food is in, put up and you can see how much excess you have to have a feast with.   Like I said, I have always felt a very deep connection with this holiday, even though I really don’t like autumn much.  I feel that as I grow as a homesteader, I am starting to see why.  I feel a great fulfillment in meaningful work.  Looking at my cans of food, seeing the lambs that are almost butchering age, milking my goats and making cheese, planning when to let the buck have fun with all the does (I do not want winter babies again!).  These things bring a sense of peace and contentment to me.  They fill my life in a similar way as my family does.  I don’t need anything else.  

Now feels like  a good time to post this weeks pantry…  I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but it has been hot and it is really hard to can while it is in the high 90s. 

Image

On the right side of the pantry there are a lot of jars of green things.  Those are actually dehydrated greens, chard, kale and collards.   I still have an insane amount of tomatoes but I have to choose each day, make cheese or can…I can’t do both.  Now if I had a couple of stoves around I could but I can only fit so many huge pots on my stove.  

Today I am making cheese, five whole pounds of it.  I am waiting for a cheese press to be made.  Then we will be able to start storing cheese, which is exciting for me.  I think I have touched on how exciting that is for me though so I will refrain from waxing on again about it.  

Things are going slightly slow because of the heat.  The barn is almost ready to have the concrete footer poured.  Or the stem wall, or whatever it is that will make it so the whole thing doesn’t collapse under the pressure of dirt.  We are hopeful that we can have it poured tomorrow.  Then leveling out the floor and finishing the walls will happen.  

The mudroom is in a state of unmoving.  Right now it isn’t so much of a priority, though if it starts to rain that might change.  The cistern is moving along slowly.  There really is not much more that needs to be done, but again, when is it going to rain? I think that to an extent, we are hoping that if we don’t do these things we will get insane showers and our rain problem will be over.  We can hope.  

Animals have been doing well.  It does amaze me how well they do.  Our grass is crunchy, it is hot, the leaves are falling from the trees, from drought stress not because of fall.  Still they go on.  I talked about it a little last year, how hard it can be to live outside when it is this hot.  It starts to get to you.  First you start to not want to eat very much.  Then drinking becomes harder.  Why would you want to drink water that is 90 degrees?  You still have to go out and take care of animals, so you drag yourself around, but it really does start to get hard.  It wears on you the same way the cold can.  I do feel though that it is becoming easier for us.  I hope that one day we get to be as strong as our stock, in such that we don’t notice the heat, cold or rain as much.  Okay, the goats REALLY notice the rain…

I have been having some problems milking lately.  My hands, wrists and arms hurt.  I started getting pins and needles feelings and sometimes an odd burning.  This doesn’t make me feel that happy actually.  I am not sure what to do about it besides doing some stretches and trying to get feeling back in some way.  I love milking the goats.  I love how they each run and jump up into the stand, looking at me with an excited face.  Oh yes, I know that a part of it is that they get some alfalfa and sunflower seeds, but I do think they actually like being with me.  We enjoy our walks back to the pasture.  I thank them and tell them how much I appreciate them.  I am curious sometimes if they think I am a very backwards goat who doesn’t know how to nurse properly but hey I give them food, so it is alright.  Gwendy has also been trying to wake up earlier in the morning and trying to get out there to help.  She comes up to the milk stand and asks me to squirt milk into her mouth.  Depending on which doe I am milking sometimes Gwendy ends up with milk all over her.  She laughs and runs away.  These are moments that I never want to forget and I never want to end.  

I have been thinking about making sheep jackets.  The poor sheep have agrimony seeds and other burrs all in their wool.  The goats do too, but for the most part it seems to work itself out.  The sheep though.  We have them for wool, it will not do to have to pull out every burr one at a time.  In ways it seems crazy, but then, I think about how much time I put into cleaning fleeces and if I can cut that by trying to sew something.  Well, that is part of the issue, me, sewing???  Yeah.  But really, how hard could it be?   So that might be part of my winter projects.  I have a list starting in my head right now.  First off I would like to work on making more of this wool into yarn and into winter clothing.  Yep.  Second I would like to make thermal curtains for our windows.  I would also like to make a hot water bottle holder.  The hot water bottles did a whole lot for us last winter.  Going upstairs to a room that is only about 50, well, it doesn’t seem like it should be cold, but it is.  

There is always so much to do.  I don’t think it will ever stop.  In many ways I am glad that it doesn’t.  Again, it fills my life.  My life is filled like a canning jar, sometimes you just aren’t too sure what’s in it 🙂

I beat you!!!

No, it isn’t a song.  I am sure I could find a song about beating something, but really…that is the thought that has been going through my head, “I beat you!!!”

I’m talking about tomatoes.  Not even all of them.  Just the roma row.  It seemed like for a very long time that every time we went out to pick we would only get a few feet before our two three gallon buckets were full.  I know, I know, the problems of abundance.  Yesterday however, after canning 21 quarts of tomatoes and putting some in the freezer to can when I start the next round, we actually got all the ripe romas!  All of them!!  I beat you Romas I beat you!!!!!

Of course there are a ton of green and orange romas out there.  And there is the whole row of slicers…and there is the super abundant tomatillos that are out there.  But none of that matters, at least for 24 hours as I say, “I beat you!!!!”

My life lately feels like it is all revolves around canning, making cheese and drying greens.  Life is hectic.  A lot has happened in the past week.  Isn’t that the way it goes?  

First, we got a new english angora buck. He is all white.  The girls have picked up a little of the Games of Thrones series.  When they saw him, they wanted to name him Jon Snow.  They have heard Jack and I say often, “You know nothing Jon Snow!”  So they have been telling him this a lot lately.  Poor rabbit.  Also, since we are so big on themes here, we decided to rename the other rabbits.  Daenerys  and Rhaegar.  This is Jon Snow, and he knows nothing.  I have a feeling that as the girls get older almost all of our livestock will have literary references.  Well read little farmers they are…

Image

We also had one of the sows, kid, lamb, calf, oh farrow, that is what it is called.  Why can’t they just say give birth?  Anyway, slightly disappointed that she only had four, but she is a good momma.  So it is all good.  It looks like she had two girls and two boys.  We are just waiting on the other sow to farrow.  It is exciting for me to go out there each morning and have that be a surprise.  There are lots of surprises in farming.  Some good, some really not good.  You just never know whatcha going to get.

 Image

 Image

 Image

Since I was out taking pictures of everyone I decided to take some pictures of the rest of my lovies.  The goats were the only ones who really cooperated.  I mean, they come when I call and in general like hanging out with me.  In goat news, we got two new does.  Against my better judgement, they are alpines.  While these girls are noisy, they seem to be much more calm than what our experience with alpines has been.  They both sit really well on the stand and give a good bit of milk.  So since Thursday, when we got them, I have been making cheese every day.  It does make it hard to can, but things happen, and you have to make the most out of your abundance.  So some pictures of my lovies…

Freya with Cora.  Cora is almost as big as Freya now, that is her mom in case you don’t know.  Cora would be about 6 months old right now.  She is a sweety, but she hangs out with our half alpine a lot and is a lot of mischief waiting to happen.

Image

She is also still nursing.  We haven’t taken any steps to wean any of our doelings.  All of our mommas are really great and I trust that they will wean their babies when they are ready.  I want healthy naturally raised goats.  And sheep and well everything.  I feel that a lot of times we have over-managed animals.  So we are working on that… 

 Image

Here is a quick shot of Rapunzel.  She will need to be shorn again soon.  She is still pretty ummm, not friendly.  But every once in awhile she forgets herself and will come up to us only to run away again.  I have hope that one day…one day…

Image

Luna and her babies, or at least two of them.  Luna is the goat who had triplets.  The grey doe is Selene and the white doe is Lucina.  They are both good sized considering that they were triplets.  Again, still nursing.  They are all way sweet.  Love them ❤

Image

Luna is always the first to come to me.  I love her, she loves me.  We like to take long walks around the pasture. Try and lead Luna anywhere and it doesn’t go well, but if you follow her…it is alright.  

Image

And this would be Hattie.  Not too fond of her name, but she runs when you call her, as you can see here.  The cows aren’t chasing her, she just runs when she hears you.  She is a sweet girl and has nice manners on the milk stand.  Like I said, a little loud, but well, she isn’t crazy.  I can deal with loud, if I don’t have to deal with crazy.

Image

This is Juna. She is our other new alpine.  She is like 7 years old, which isn’t exactly young for goats.  Again, sweet, calm, comes to her name.  I actually mostly like her name too, though it is really close to Luna.  We have now over doubled the amount of milk we were getting.  I have changed to milking twice a day now, which isn’t easy, but oh well, we have a lot of milk!

Image

Nancy.  Fancy Nancy.  She was such a pain for us until she kidded.  Now she is another sweet goat.  Sadly, Paddy died a few days ago.  We came home and he was strangled up in rope.  He wasn’t the smartest one.  But he was going to breed Luna and her girls.  Now we aren’t sure what we are going to do.  

Image

Looking down at their current pasture.  They have lots of great shade here with good browse and some grass.  It is time to move them again, but this time I am waiting for Jack to get home.  It is hard to stick the fence in the ground when it is this dry. 

Image

Ruby and Jewel loving on each other.  The sheep are all hiding in the shady grass, see them??

ImageImage

This is to show that Cora actually still nurses A LOT!  I think while I was down there she nursed about every few minutes.  

Image

Playing Queen of the compost hill

ImageImage

My update picture of my canned goods.  It is going slow now that I have to make cheese more often.  BUT, we have cheese.  Last night I made yogurt too.  I am getting some new cultures to make some other things too.  All our dairy needs are being met with the exception of butter and cream.  I do love cream and you just don’t get enough with goats.  But that is why we have cows.  It is nice to see that soon, oh so soon, all of our protein needs will be met.  We rarely buy meat.  I am not sure the last time we bought eggs.  And with all the milk we are getting, as long as I can a cheese press soon, we will be set and maybe never have to buy cheese again either.  This is what I call being self sustaining.  Of course, it isn’t really, not quite.  Once we grow all the food for these animals then we will be.  Closer and closer we are getting though

Image

In other news, we have four of the six containers that will be our cistern in the ground.  Jack needed to buy some more plumbing stuff, but it is coming together.  It is exciting.  The barn is getting there also.  He is building the forms so we can pour more concrete and finish it.  We are also building a new chicken house.  One where we can fit them all together.  It will help chores a lot.  Since it is September it is really good that a lot of these things are getting close.  I’m looking forward to some time in December when we can all rest.  You know for a little while.  Already with the sun going down earlier and raising later we are getting more sleep.  We are heading upstairs a little after 8:30 and waking up at a quarter after six.  May not seem like much, but it feels like sleeping in.  I’m going to enjoy it because well, it will be spring again real soon.