Monthly Archives: November 2013

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?

 

 

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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.  

Strawberry Fields Forever!!

Living is easy with eyes closed

misunderstanding all you see

It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out

A couple days ago Jack and I were out in the garden planting strawberries.  I started singing this song.  I think after you plant 500 some strawberries on a cloudy windy day you need something to brighten it.  The sun is out currently.  Which is nice.  I was worried that once again I wouldn’t be able to write this week.  I am happy for the rain.  Our pond is still insanely low.  The dreary days get to me though.  Luckily our house has been doing well in keeping us warm.  We have only had a couple of fires.  Of course I also think that part of it is that we are acclimating to 60s inside. Jack’s hypothesis is that since we are all getting up and immediately going outside once we get inside it feels warm.  Then the house warms up and it is all good.  In any way, we rarely feel the need to have a fire and I am glad.  Another part of the reason I did not write last week was because I was madly sewing halloween costumes.  One day I will realize that it is not mandatory for me to start costumes ten days before halloween.  One day I will learn this.  One day.

So what has been going on???  We are getting the garden in order.  The girls were mulching like fools the day Jack and I did the strawberries.  Jack went through and measured and marked all the rows.  So hopefully we don’t start go outside and making our rows wider than is manageable.  We still haven’t gotten out our garlic, but I have hope.  Really, I have to have hope.  Jack and I also went through our seeds and figured out what we will have to order this year.  I am just through canning and preserving all of this harvest and already we are thinking to next year.  It makes sense to me sometimes but it is also hard because damn, vacation?  Slow time?  I know better, this life doesn’t have that.  We also got all the chard and some kale and collards into the greenhouse.  Yea for year round greens!!!  At our last potluck someone brought fresh greens really we should still have tons of greens if it weren’t for the chickens.  They tasted so good.  I went back for seconds.

So gardens are going better.  We did catch most of the poultry.  They are in their portable poultry palace.  There was another P in there somewhere but I can’t remember the full name Jack gave it.  They are kind of loving it.  And who wouldn’t?  I have to admit before it housed all of our poultry I was contemplating taking it for myself and as a get away house 🙂

The animals are doing well also.  Well all of them now…  We did take in the two sows and four lambs in to the butcher. Loading the pigs went well.  I so wish I had video of  us cathing the four lambs.  Jack is amazing.  How many times can I say that?  He really is.  The girls and I worked on herding the sheep and Jack would try to hook them with the shepards hook.  Sounds easy.  Hey if you feel like seeing how easy it is come visit and we will try to catch lambs with you 🙂   I will say that never again should we ever let Imriel breed our sheep, or at least no sheep but our shetlands.  All of them were insanely small.  We kept back a bigger ram who isn’t related to anyone but his mother and hopefully he will be busy this year.  Jack is threatening to castrate Imriel.  Which would be sad.  I mean I think he lives for breeding time.  Well, he is a ram, he does live for breeding time.  That is silly of me to think otherwise.  So since we have taken those animals to the butcher we are trying to clean out the freezer.  So I have been canning all the meat that was left over from the last pigs.  I will also can up the roosters in there.  It is just easy to have canned meat around.  Quick easy meals.  We also have to butcher about 7 more roosters.  I am finding that as I empty canning jars I fill them again.  There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it is good.  Just damn it takes so much time!

And time is not something I have.  I have four sheepskins out there for me to tan.  We got them back from the butcher.  Today would be a great day to go out there and flesh them out but I am watching the canner.  I won’t be done canning until the sun goes down either.  Hopefully I can get my act together and get almost everything I need to get done done.

Fence isn’t going so well.  There is a lot of things that need to get done.  I thought I would try and help and get a quote from a local person to put the fence up for us.  Turns out it is about 3 times what we can afford.  Even though a good portion of it is already done.  Crazy that we got pretty much the same quote for the fence as last time, when nothing was done.  Makes me angry.  There is not much to be done about it though.  Well except to build the fence ourselves sometime you know when we aren’t busy anymore…

Hmmm, what else?

Moving animals is going well.  We have planned out winter pasture.  Though we are avoiding using it until we think we will have regular freezing weather/too much snow to move the portable fences.  And I will just make the mention now that our fall so far is much more mild that what it has been.  My weather prediction is holding true.  Oh we have had freezes but not as many as we normally have by this time in the year.  I am slightly hopeful for a winter like two years ago.  There was snow, there was cold but we had a lot of warmth in between.  I can hope but I am not going to hold my breath.

There is exciting news that we will be taking a vacation this winter.  Vacation.  Okay not really.  We will be going to at least one farm conference.  We figure that it is during a time that all the goats should be dry, no one will be due to kid and well, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone to watch the farm for us.  The girls have been excited since we made the decision.  They are already planning what they will need to take.  This is months away yet they are still this excited.  Really they have always loved going to farm conferences.  When I read them the schedule they started planning which talks they wanted to go to and what questions they were going to ask.  It is at times like these that I am so amazingly proud of my daughters.  They are so intelligent and wonderful.  Love them dearly.  Oh don’t get me wrong they are also really excited about indoor hotel pools and the possibility of a shower 🙂

It is the little things that matter to us.  One day we might even have a shower.

We did have some more sadness last week also.  At a family meeting we decided that it would be best to euthanize Huck.  Huck had been with us for over thirteen years.  He really was the best dog ever.  I don’t say that lightly. It was a hard decision to make.  One that I cried about for many weeks.  After it was done though I realized that it really was for the best.  He was in so much pain.  He still had happy moments but I see now that waiting for his life to be all bad moments was not the way to go.  He got some extra special love in his last days.  I am glad that he is in a place where there is no more pain.

I do realize though that the life my daughters are living is so much different from my life.  Yes, we live in the same house and we do the same work.  They have lived this farm life for awhile now.  They are much closer to life and death.  They see it and understand it in a way that I am just beginning to.  Gwendy asked Jack why she wasn’t crying like I was.  He asked her if she was sad.  She said she was but Huck was old and in pain, she saw it as a natural thing for him to die.  These girls in some ways mystify me.

That about sums up the past couple of weeks.  Tomorrow is Jack’s birthday.  He is getting the day off work, supposedly at least.  He plans on building fence.  He built fence on his birthday last year also.  He plans on building fence next year too.  Oh dear.  One day all the fence will be built, the gardens established and I will be canning and making cheese every day.  Sigh, the good farm life.