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.

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What a long strange trip it’s been

I keep waiting for the slow down.  It isn’t happening.  I had one day this past week when I had finished canning my apples and I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself.  I had been juggling so many things that when my biggest ball was gone it didn’t feel like I was doing anything anymore.  It has been so long I am not sure how to start writing again.  So this is going to be picture heavy to maybe make up for three weeks of no words.  

So canning is mostly done.  Or at least the huge bulk of it.  The final count was 260 pints and 143 quarts.  That is a lot.  I would say at least double what I got done last year.  Hopefully next year I double those numbers.  I will be canning some meat in a couple of weeks.  Nice to have some quick meals ready.  But yeah, veggies and fruit are done.

 

Now onto wood shed/cistern/root cellar.  It is mostly done now.  I wish I had some pictures of what it looks like underneath.  Basically we have four 275 gallon tanks down there with a small space that will be a shelter and a place to store some foods.  There is a hatch that goes down there.  Then there is the shed on top.  We hope to fill it halfway with wood, the rest will be used for some tool storage.  The huge overhang on the side will also be for wood storage.  The girls and I moved all that wood last weekend and broke the smaller pieces up.  It was a fun filled, splinter filled day! All that wood is stuff we get from free from a local cabinet maker.  We have a lot of wood that needs to be split too.  Plus our ash down at the bottoms that we need split up also.  I figure with the way we go through wood that is at least a few years worth.  With how well our house does with solar gain, on a sunny day we reach 70 easy.  Not to mention that 60 doesn’t feel so bad for us.  We are accumulating pretty well to the temperatures and not living in a very climate controlled living space.

 

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Next I will tell you about the poultry fiasco.  It was probably almost a month ago.  We were going to work on getting the poultry in with stock, you know to clean up poop and such.  It went alright.  Not really.  The chickens couldn’t figure out that even though the doors were open on their coops they could really get out.  Once they figured that out they also decided to torture themselves by walking repeatedly through the electro net around stock.  Sigh.  You could tell it wasn’t a great experience but still they did it, in and out in and out.  Maybe they did like it.  So all of our poultry was out but it wasn’t a huge deal.  They stayed pretty close, they were laying in their coops.  It was all fine, until it wasn’t.  Then they ate all my chard, kale and broccoli.  Then they started going after the strawberries we just planted and the peppers and tomatoes.  Then they started laying in some mysterious place that even though they never left the farm, I am pretty sure that their eggs are no where on this farm.  We know they are still laying because every so often like three times in the past couple of weeks we will find 6 or so eggs.  They are still laying just not in places we can see.  Still it is cute to go outside and see all the chickens scratching happily.  I just wish they were scratching up all my mulch.  SIgh

 

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The muscovey clan.

And their handsome drake…

 

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I am working my way down our land so this may not make a whole lot of sense to you and may seem jumpy but I am going by the order I took pictures 🙂

The stock is doing well.  We have been grazing them where they have never been grazed before.  No really.  We are grazing our north back hill.  Which is actually really hard.  The thatch on the ground in a foot thick in places even though we have mowed it twice.  The grass/weeds/things come up over my shoulders.  Agrimony is all over down there which means that after each move I spend a good hour picking burrs off my cloths.  This is why my hair is short.  Still they are doing lots of good things down there and seem really happy.  We hope to graze that back hill at least twice a year.  Hopefully with that the thatch will become more manageable. 

This is a picture of where we just took them off of.  You can see that there are still sticks of weeds up all over, but we hope to mow it all down before winter comes.  That and all the poop and such will help get decomposing going on and hopefully we will start to build up a little organic matter.   This is the hill we have been working on replanting/reforesting.  

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This is where we have them now.  They have a lot of space right now.  From the top of the hill to almost the creek.

 

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And yes fall is here.  It was about  a week ago I started to see the trees start to change color.  There was a picture I wanted to take, but never got around to.  My view as I milk each morning and night.  I get to see our woods light up with color twice  a day.  Maybe I will actually remember my camera when I go milk next time.  Maybe.  

Before I got east down our hill let me take you to some exciting news….

 

THE TENT IS DOWN!!!!

Yes truly.  It was taken down two weeks ago?  There is still a huge mess around it as we get rid of or find places for things that were sheltered by it.  But the tent is down.  I find myself just looking out our windows now we have such a nice view…

well once we get rid of all the stuff lying around we will.

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And now I will take you down the hill and make a quick stop to show that even though we have had a light frost the tomatoes and other things that haven’t been eaten to the ground by the poultry are still going strong…

 

 

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Now onto the piggies.  I had a lot of fun taking pictures of them.  See I told you about the poultry fiasco.  There is a slight piggie fiasco also.  I never thought I would say that the goats have been the most well behaved of my animals lately…  Anyway the mommas are doing well.  The little pigs though?  They can get out of their fence.  Actually that is why we took down the dividing wall between the two sows the babies kept going back and forth anyway.  The sows would nurse all the piggies and then the other sow would call them over and nurse them too.  The sows got along well so we just let them go. We thought that since the piggies would always go back to nurse well there wasn’t much harm in letting them go.  They weren’t going far.  And there were many more crisis crazy things going on that needed to get done.  So we never fixed the fence to make it so they couldn’t get out.  Which leads to funny things like piggies daring each other to get close the milk goats that are waiting to be milked.  They sneak up quietly to the goats and the goat will look at them and they all run away.  They have made it all the way up to the driveway.  They are almost weaned and then we will be trying to put them in stock.  The sows have a date with the butcher.  So do four of our lambs.  Then we will have meat in the freezer again!! Yay!!

So onto cute piggie pictures.  By the way these piggies were out of the fence.  They would come up to me sniff me and then run off again.  Super cute they are with their little noses sniffing me.  

 

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Last big news is our poultry containment plan.  We have tried so many coops.  I have yet to be happy with something though.  Hopefully this is the last maybe poultry house we build.  It is modeled after an egg mobile.  I totally hate Joel Salatin he is an ass.  Oh he has good ideas and such but I don’t care for the guy as a person. 

Anyway this is a big house for them on running gear.  It will have to be pulled by the tractor or the truck but oh well right?  I will try to explain some of the features…
The southside which is currently on your left will be many windows.  In the summer it will be able to be open for breeze in the winter they will have light and solar gain.  On the opposite wall there will be nest boxes that will be accessible from the outside and lower to the ground for minions to be able to collect eggs.  The side farthest away is where the rain water collected from the roof will go into 55 gallon barrels that will be stored inside.  There will be a waterer for them on that side.  Also there will be a 55 gallon barrel for feed and a feeder.  There will be a hinged roost so that we can clean out the coop easier.  

Hopefully it gets done soon.  I would like to have eggs again and maybe greens.  We will probably put up some fencing around it so they will stop eating out of our garden soon.  
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So that is all for right now.  It has been crazy and I have probably left out so many things.  But I have to let that go because, well I can’t write about three weeks.  Sorry.  I will try to be better 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MooOOOAAWWWOOOOOOOO

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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. 

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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… 

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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…

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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 ❤

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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.  

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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.

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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!

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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.  

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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. 

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

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

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Playing Queen of the compost hill

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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

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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.  

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…

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.