Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Saving Lives

Adventures abound here on the 'stead.  So do things that keep our hearts full, and minds racing and our hands busy.

Last March, my husband joined forces with a group from the United Methodist Convention connected with an organization called 
Sonje Ayiti that was designing and building a set of composting toilets.  He jumped in with  two feet and helped in the design process as well as the physically going to Haiti and helping to build the structure.  The long term plan is to build these composting toilets/ public bathhouses throughout the country.  Pictured is the pilot phase... and it's going very well.

You see, since the earthquake in 2010, Haiti has been ravaged by cholera, a sickness so severe it can kill a healthy child in less than a day.  People wash, dump waste and drink from the same water source... the only source available.  And so the epidemic continues. 

When the people have a specified location to dump waste and people at that location knows how to safely handle it, the spread of disease can be stopped.

So now, this previously built facility is in full operation, generating a good, safe agricultural amendment to fertilize various crops and further feed the community.  But continued contamination cannot be risked.  As volunteer for Sonje Ayiti, my husband has researched and compiled laboratory equipment so that samples of the finished product can be tested for safety before it is applied to food crops.  The lab equipment alone is expensive, despite the substantial discounts IDEXX gave Sonje Ayiti.  The equipment is currently set up at the City of Deland's Wastewater treatment facility so Randy can familiarize himself with it and calibrate it. 

In November, Randy will travel to Haiti to establish this critical lab at a local university.  He will then provide training for Haitians so that they are independent in its continued use.  It will be a wonderful educational tool while it's saving countless lives and forever altering the future of Haiti and her children.

Would you consider partnering with us to see this come to fruition?  Giving is easy through GoFundMe.  Just click here to make a donation of any amount.  GoFundMe does not allow funds from other sources to be recorded so we will be decreasing the goal amount of $9,000 to reflect other giving.  We are currently about halfway to that goal. 

Thank you for caring for Haiti's children!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Garden Sabbath?

This has been a miserable year in the garden.  We have an average last frost date of February 15.  I usually plant my seeds in January but in pots where they can be protected easily from frost. But by February, its generally safe to plant out.

This year I planted later because the almanac indicated a late frost.  So I waited until February 15.

And it froze February 17.  I had protected with simple covers over my bean plants and lost them all.  My pots were in the shed where the cold drifted in through a vent I neglected to consider.  I lost about half of my zucchini and cucumber plants and a few tomato plants.

By Feb 27 my plants were busting from their pots.  I planted them out only to go through another freeze March 2 and 3.  I dug out the Christmas lights and spent hours setting them out on plants and covering things with pots and buckets.  Again, I lost half of what was in the garden of my watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and canteloup.

Thankfully, I sustained no loss from what was in the shed.  I had enough plants to replace those I lots and promptly did so wiping me out of all cucurbits.  I also planted all my sweet potato starts, tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and more beans

Then March 15th, I woke up to a frozen hose that I did not in any way expect.  I left for the weekend and have yet to assess the damage.  If the damage was significant I've decided to take a sabbath rest from gardening this year.

Why did I keep planting before the cold was over?  I've never seen a freeze in March.  Each freeze was separated by warm weather.  And bugs roll in by June so most of those crops need to get in and out quickly to ever see a harvest.  I gambled with mother nature and lost.

I look forward to enjoying it again next year.

Silver Fox Wins the Gold

I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with these silver fox rabbits!  Jean, the rabbit that was born in early July of 2012 and shown by the farmer girl at the fair, gave birth January 19th to 8 babies that all survived to this day!  For a first time mom of only 6 months old, that's phenomenal!  Then Java, one of our original breeding stock gave birth to a set of 10, however 2 of those passed away over time.

Meanwhile, after 3 births and NO surviving babies, we gave Cream back to the person we got her from.  She was able to get 8 surviving young from her.  I think the kids and the dog and the general state of chaos we call home was just too much for Cream.  Now its time to determine Sugar's fate as well.  She was bred unsuccessfully twice this season.  She was bred again just the past week.  If we encounter another failed breeding, we will get rid of our last Californian/New Zealand cross and raise strictly Silver Foxes.  They seem to handle the heat better, are better mothers, less skiddish, never bite, sometimes cuddle, and are just plain beautiful.  They get the gold in my book.

Poultry- with varying degrees of fertilization

 While the weather was less than spring-y, the poultry still did their thing.  January 8 we found 10 healthy ducklings.  The younger breeding stock are all fully matured now so I can't tell if it was Big Mama who hatched the first successful batch of the year or not.  Whoever it was, she did well.

 Then February 13, we welcomed another batch of 12.  We gave 1 to a friend, one mysteriously died after a few days but the remaining 10 were moved to a dilapidated chicken pen outside once they outgrew the rabbit pen in the porch.
 I secured the pen's sides from escapees, but it had to reliable roof.  I put the top portion of Angel's dog house (that she refuses to use) inside which gave them good shelter and protection.

Once the batch from Jan 8 were big enough to not be trampled by goats, I moved them into the pasture.  They kept slipping through the fence and getting chased by Angel so I left the pen the had vacated empty for a few days so that midnight escapees could be sheltered from the perpetual-herder until she had appropriately trained them to stay in the pasture.

One day I came home to find that a roving goat had eaten the last of our collard greens, baby duck carcasses littering the yard and a completely vacant pen.  It took a while to piece together the events that must have transpired.  What is now assumed is that the ducks discovered  a small hole in the pen.  That hole may have been created by a curious puppy nose as it does dent inward.  The ducks, never missing an opportunity to play follow-the-leader, ALL squeezed through the hole into the wide world they were unprepared for.  Angel then herded them into the pasture... and some over the rainbow bridge.  In the end, 5 babies were dead and 5 were retrieved alive and well from the pasture.

I had high hopes for a nest of 15 that another duck was sitting on.  Then a cold snap came through at the beginning of March.  The next time I checked the nest it was down to 6 eggs.  Mama ducks know if the baby within has died and they remove it from the nest.  A few days later 3 of those eggs were partially hatched, all dead and the mother had moved on.  I think the cold was too much for them, despite their mother's vigilance all the way to the end.  I have found no other nests at this time, but there are ample hiding places out there and they usually do a fabulous job of hiding them from me.

Back in the first week of September a shipment of chicks arrived. Remember the snake attack?  Well those that survived the rat snake all reached maturity and we were anxiously waiting for our first eggs.  Early in the morning of January 18, I was awoken by the most distressing sound- Cock-A-Doodle-DOOOOOO!!!  Out of nowhere.  No pubescent crackles to indicate a rooster had found its way into our pen of carefully sexed pullets.  It was very surprising!  It would not be so distressing if not for the fact that our neighbors are quite close to us.  And we'd like to think that we are NOT the reason that it just so happens that every single house that borders our property line is for sale.  So we had to deal with the rooster promptly.  Now I see that when they give you a "free rare breed chick" with every order, you can most certainly guarantee that bird is a rooster.  Next time I'll say, no thanks to the "free offer".

January 30th the first eggs started coming.  We have 14 Red Stars and 3 Americaunas along with 11 Golden Nuggets that are still cranking enough to keep feeding them.

We have an abundance of eggs right now, but I'm freezing our excess for the lean times of winter.  I beat together about 8 eggs as if they were to be scrambled and pour them into an ice cube tray.  For our size ice cubes, 2 cubes = 1 egg.  The thawed consistency is not quite the same so we don't use them for scrambled eggs, but they work in smoothies, baking or quiche.


 Allow me a moment of confession.  There are times, after the rare occurrence of making it to the end of the day with a 95% crossed-off to-do list, my temper fully intact, the floor visible, and dinner ready, that I feel like I should wear a shiny cape and maybe even a mask.

Then Dulcinea shows me up.

On February 6, she effortlessly birthed 4 remarkably healthy babies for the second year in a row.

And makes enough milk to more than feed them all.

And yes, she does appear as though she's pulled her hair out, but its coming back in now and she moves with as much grace and dignity as ever.
She did choose a rather frigid day to birth these babies though.  Thankfully it was the first day of our "Spring Break #1" and having the morning interrupted with four furry babies in the dining room didn't cause a distraction in our education.

I brought them in as they were born, washed them off in warm water and allowed the girl child to use the blow drier and the boys to rub them down with a towel.  We have a new foster baby who squealed with delight then squealed in frustration at not being able to grab them with her own 2 little hands.  Once they were clean and dry I put them in the kennel and milked Dulci.  Normally we allow the moms to clean them off, but since it was so cold and she had them right in a major sand pit, she would have had to consume a large amount of sand to actually clean 4 babies.  And the temperature of low 40s made me nervous to leave them out for long.
Then came to naming.  True to Copper's record... boys.  ALL boys.  And since we had just finished studying the Renaissance and Farmer Boy 1 has recently discovered the joys of the Ninja Turtles, we named them Leonardo, Michelangelo,  Donatello, and Raphael.  Then they got neckerchiefs that coordinate them with their Ninja Turtle namesake.

The things I do to make a boy smile.  Or outright bellow with a hearty belly laugh.

I'm a sucker for my kids.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Caring for Christmas Cacti- in verse

How to Care for A Christmas Cactus All Year Long
by Homesteading Mommy

I am so beautiful and easy to care.
Just a little attention and well I will fare.
When my flowers are gone and I look so sad
A pruning in February will make me quite glad.
Give me some fertilizer as a nice treat.
And set me outside, a smidge of sun to greet.
But just don’t forget to give me a drink.
I’ll grow a bit bigger and give you a wink!
Give another treat when the weather is hot.
Keep me moist, for dryness right then I care not!
One last treat in September to prepare me to flower.
Cut back on my water and away from the power.
That’s right! No light at night!
Daytime shining is all I want.
A dark corner of earth I’ll happily haunt.
One day you’ll notice my colors of mirth
And know we’ll soon celebrate our Savior’s fine birth.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Just an update that the remaining funds for Tiggy's House was raised all in less than 24 hours.  This sweet little guy's legacy will live on and rescue countless children from the dangers of the streets.  And the Hanleys at Roscommon Acres have a great sweetness to balance their sorrow this season.  Thank you to everyone who shared and blogged and made this possible.