Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

In the midst of Christmas preparations, life happens.  I'm finding this year, that it takes a conscious effort to remember to enjoy it.  Every year I vow to do less.  And every year I do less.  But still, I'm wishing today for a chance to go to a park with my kids and enjoy them.  But I have cooking and cleaning to do to prepare for 3 days of "celebration".  3 days of kids being wired and likely sugared.  What I would give for a quiet Christmas Eve with immediate family only and a laid back Christmas Day at home with my in-laws... what would I give?  Would I hurt my family's feelings?  Would I deny my mother the chance to bestoy her love language on her grandchildren?  Would I neglect the long drive to see good friends for the first time in many months?  What does it take to scale back enough to enjoy Christmas?

Thankfully for me, as the Yeoman Farmer so aptly stated last year, Christmas is 12 days long!  I have 4 more days of chaos, then I will sit back, snuggle with my children in front of the tree.  I will putter in the garden and get us all dirty planting lettuce seedlings.  We will spend evenings with a nice fire and hot chocolate singing carols. 
It's then that I can stop and smell the roses.  Then I'll celebrate more extensively the Gift of Jesus.  Until then... back to work, break is over.

Merry Christmas from all of us on the 'stead!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


We're mourning with the family at Roscommon Acres for their sudden loss of sweet 22-month old "Tiggy".  Please pray earnestly for this family to KNOW the peace of Christ as few people can truly know.  There are 5 other children ranging from 12 to just a few weeks who are saddened along with their parents. 

Thank you, Jesus, that we CELEBRATE Your birth so that this death is not the end!  We continue to rejoice in Your Gift to us through the tears.  I never knew Tiggy, but I miss him still and look forward to meeting him in Glory.

To all of you at Roscommon Acres, you are being upheld in prayer from all around the world, but also from right here.  Prayers for you fill my sleepless hours at night and every time I hold one of my little ones.  You have my deepest sympathy. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sweet Potato Harvest

Cold weather came early and yesterday I went out with FarmBoy1 to dig in the dirt and bring in the sweet potatoes.  I was impressed.  They aren't as plentiful as last year but they are way bigger.  Next time I will plant the starts more densely but fertilize just the same.  Many people say sweet potatoes like sandy soil, no water and zero nutrients.  We've not seen that to be true for us.  We get bigger potatoes by fertilizing and adding compost.  But maybe most people aren't thinking of starting them in beach sand. 

Last year we got 2 baskets full.  Husbandman thinks there are more lurking deeper than I was digging.  I hope so as this wouldn't last us the winter.

Now they need to cure.  We leave them in the basket on the porch for 2 weeks before we start eating them.  Then we just eat from there, never transferring to the fridge and never cleaning them until just before we cook them.  They'll begin sprouting on their own.  When that happens, I save some for next years bed and plant the rest in the pasture to be animal fodder.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mad Dash Blog Post

Forgive me.  I don't have time for this but am doing it anyways as I'm WAY behind in my record-keeping.

 I finally completed my mushroom logs.  I got shiitaki soaked dowels from Fungi Perfecti online, drilled holes in a log completely covering the entire log, pounded the dowels in and sealed them with beeswax.  I melted the beeswax in an old coffee pot/dispenser that I found.  One of those you'd use at a party or office.  It heated the wax perfectly.  I used a paintbrush to dab over the plugs.  I had enough for 1 large log and the beginning of another.  I'll use the coffe pot/beeswax combo again to make dipped candles for Christmas presents.  Perfect size and shape.  May even use the dispenser feature to make some molded candles too.

And husbandman and a friend added the roof to our barn.  The closed off section contains our pump.  The area under the roof doubles our current "barn" space.  We intend for the sides to be removable so its nice and open for hot weather and cozy and snug in the winter.  So far we're dithering between using plywood or a billboard tarp that we'd merely roll up come spring.  We're going to try the billboard tarp first and see if it will work.
And none too soon.  This is our old "barn".  It served us well as a makeshift shelter until we knew what we really wanted.  The next phase of improvement is to add a common area to the pasture, which will include the barn and main gate, that the animals can access no matter which paddock their opened to.  Fencing is never finished.

In other news, we managed to slaughter all our turkeys.  We roasted one on Sunday (Thanksgiving was a bit different this year) and while it tasted good, I don't think I'm the best judge.  I'm very used to our own chickens so frankly I'd have been sadly disappointed if it didn't taste as it did.

We learned lots at the purple cow festival and the county fair... another post for another day.  Suffice to say we've decided to go ahead with honey bees and just be totally and completely dependent on our dog to keep any roaming bears at bay.  I'm also going to start a shaded herb garden.  And we'll begin design and construction on some small-child-friendly rabbit pens sometime next year.  Lots in store for us.  Lots to keep us busy.

Now on to the rest of life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wee Willy Wishing

 Another lesson at the school of hard knocks... rip out ALL lantana that grows ANYWHERE.  Last Sunday night, Willy started screaming.  I got up and tromped outside expecting to find his collar hooked on the chain link of the kennel he shared with the sheep at night.  He was standing free but looking very anxious.  I remembered how earlier that day his ears drooped with what I thought was sadness.  He didn't eat much that day so I figured he was finally with friends again and hungry (the sheep had spent the weekend in the pasture where Willy was too small to he held behind the pasture fencing).  I fed him some beet pulp which he readily gobbled... or so I thought.  Later inspection showed he was only drinking the water out of it.  I left him free to wonder that night so as to not keep him from eating his choice or snuggling with the goats, but he continued to scream.  He finally settled down towards dawn.  Just after dawn I see Angel, the dog, pulling a limp Willy by the leg and nosing him, probably wondering why he's not playing with her.  I ran out to find Willy still alive, but very weak and his body temperature way below normal.  I set him in a laundry basket with a heating pad and towels and tried to get him to take a bottle of milk.  He wanted nothing.  He let out a slight groan here and there.  I gave him a shot of Vitamin B.  I wondered what happened to make him so sick.

Hours later I remembered. The prior Tuesday and Wednesday I had him tethered in an area where I knew there was lantana... but since it wasn't in bloom I had completely forgotten about it.  It was lush with grape vines, his favorite browse, so I never gave the lantana a second thought.  Until it was too late.  I found the plant, a big one, with only a precious few leaves left on it to even let me confirm its identity.  Willy, little tiny Willy, had eaten a LOT of lantana.

I hate to say this but I just waited for him to die.  Oddly enough, Monday afternoon he all of a sudden perked up and gobbled down a bottle of milk and another bottle of water.  I was so excited, so hopeful that I didn't just kill the sweetest goat we'd ever owned.  That hope was premature.  He was tucked into bed that night in the porch right next to our bedroom so I could easily hear him if he needed a midnight snack.  Tuesday he was back to not eating or drinking.  I read that even after symptoms of lantana poisoning go away, the animal still generally dies within 6 weeks because the liver and kidneys shut down.  My husband brought home some activated charcoal which I crammed down his throat.  Then, fearing dehydration from not drinking all day, I used a funnel to force water (with a bit of sea salt for electrolytes) into him.  I tucked him into his bed, that laundry basket with the heating pad.  Wednesday morning he was gone.
And now we remember what a great goat he was.  He often let the farm baby use him as a walker.  And when the baby was in the stroller and Willy was tired from playing, he'd curl up right at the baby's feet... maybe hoping to find a tiny toe to suck on.  He loved to play with the farm boy, especially when he had his bike!  He would jump and play all around it.  Farm boy didn't like it too much because he was often knocked right off.  Willy loved the farm girl the best.  She fed him most days and never seemed to mind him sucking her finger.  They'd dance together all over the driveway.  Those were fun days.  But he's buried in the pasture now.  Just last week I was trying to get him to stay in the pasture.  Now he'll never come out.  This is the one part of homesteading that never gets any easier.

And for your information, in my recent research I've learned that lantana is poisonous to EVERYTHING, not just livestock.  So that plant is definitely getting ripped out.  The berries are by far the most toxic part and my children absolutely delight in picking and eating random things growing around the property.  We have a rule that if its outside the garden, they have to ask first, but this is one rule I'm not going to risk them breaking.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No More Seminoles

 I will never grow Seminole pumpkins again.  Well, never say never, but not when this is so readily available after Halloween.
 To detail the last couple weeks, I posted on facebook that I was scouting for unwanted pumpkins.  A friend who is a receptionist at a local Methodist church responded that I could clean up whatever was left after they closed their pumpkin patch after Halloween.  A few days later I was called to get some that were about to go bad.  I came home with 10-12 pumpkins and immediately processed them into pumpkin butter (which I canned) and puree (which I froze) and a few were only fit for animals.  I questioned how many pumpkins would be usable to human consumption so when another patch closed 2 days sooner than my friend's patch, I went out and filled the car full.  There were all kinds of people there cashing in on free pumpkins and still, the 1 acre field seemed an endless sea of orange.  I had snagged another 20 pumpkins.  15 of which I brought inside and began to process.
 The Monday following Halloween, my friend said I could come and get whatever I wanted, as many trailer loads as I cared to take.  Whoa.  I showed up and was astounded at the number of left over pumpkins.  I could have loaded the car and trailer 4 or 5 times over.  I began to get a little worried because I told my friend I would take everything that was left, never having ANY clue it would be this many.  I also felt really bad because it was a fund raiser for the youth group and I was concerned that they were in the negative on this deal.  As we were loading up... and I say we because the kids were all helping.  The older 2 were pleased as punch to carry over the small "baby pumpkins" and the littlest was happy to climb the biggest ones and wave at passing cars.  So, as we were loading up, the pastor came out and explained that this is a mission project of the United Methodist churches (hence why all 3 pumpkin patches in the area were connected to Methodist churches).  They have a mission with the Navajo Indians raising pumpkins.  The churches then sell the pumpkins for them, returning 75% of the proceeds to the Indians and keeping 25% for the church.  There's no capital needed.  No one's "loosing" by so many pumpkins going unsold.  Its a great system.  And I walked away with LOTS of free pumpkins! 
As you can see, the animals are happy.  I smash open a few each day.  The bigger ones for the sheep and goats and the small ones for the chickens.  Not much gets left behind.  I'm also making lots of pumpkin butter, puree and soup.  In fact, yesterday we were at the Fall Jamboree at the Pioneer Art Settlement and learned about Timucuan Indians.  They would cook stews a such inside the pumpkin.  So we did that for dinner.  We used a big pumpkin and a couple little ones for the kids.

For future reference, the smaller pumpkins work better for such things.  The soup never heated in the big pumpkin, but did great in the small ones.  Its a fun variation on something... well... that could get quite old this winter!

Pumpkin Curry Soup: pumpkin puree, coconut milk, curry powder, salt.  All to taste.  Its a made up recipe and I'm not sure about amounts.

Pumpkin Bisque: pumpkin puree, chicken broth, onion, cumin, salt, cream.  Again, work it to taste.

Pumpkin Butter: Pumpkin puree (or raw pumpkin in chunks), sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Set it cooking in the crock pot until it cooks down and is somewhat thick.  I added some orange juice to acidify it more and further reduce the risk of botulism.  USDA (after hundreds of years of people canning it) has recently decided pumpkin butter should not be canned because its not acidic enough.  Hence the addition of orange juice in my own recipe.

With the frozen puree, have pumpkin soups, breads, muffins, pies etc all you want until next fall.  No pumpkin shortage here!

So what have I done with my lush and blossoming seminole pumpkin plants?  I pulled one and fed it to the sheep and will plant more lettuce and greens in its place.  Pumpkins take up way too much room, are too susceptible to disease and take too long to produce to grow our own when these are going to be available, likely every year.  I could never grow this many pumpkins.  Its nice to know I don't have to.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The promised pictures

I'm really starting to hate blogger.  I've fought with this off an on all morning.  They keep changing how photos upload and make it EXTREMELY difficult to arrange.  I never know what order the pics will be uploaded and I arrange them after uploading and all of a sudden they move on me again.  So forgive the lack of logical flow.  Its blogger that lacks logic, not me.
The Chinese bed in the "orchard garden".  Chinese mustard greens in the bottom right, rest of the right side is Chinese cabbage and left side is bok choy.

The younger tomatoes on each side of a almost dormant peach tree.

Along the back are Seminole pumpkins.  Under the conduit trellis are cucumbers.  Small peppers on the bottom right and turnips at various stages along the left.

The bigger tomatoes in the middle.  Lacinato kale along the left.  Mustard greens along the right.  Some young peppers beside the tomatoes.  I'm considering tenting this section and trying to hold the tomatoes and peppers through the winter.
A small rosita eggplant that we'll eat next week.
The eggplant plants.  Very full.  Have required staking for months now.  They definitely have flushes.  I'll get lots of fruit for about 2 weeks then 2-3 weeks with nothing.
This is celery.  So they say anyway.  I have no idea how celery grows but its certainly pretty.  I would never guess it to look like this though.
Swiss chard.  I'll thin it some next week and transplant the smaller ones into another bed.  Which bed, you ask?  I really need more garden space!

This is the just transplanted swiss chard in the "vineyard garden".  The broken tile is a stepping place to cross walkways.

The logs for mushrooms.  Shitakes!

My seed station.  Using the window boxes works much better for growing transplants.  Most of these boxes are empty as I've transplanted their goods.  I grow a bunch, transplant the biggest, spread out the smaller ones.  A week later I'll transplant the next round of biggest, filling in holes in the beds of transplants that didn't take and again spread the rest out in the box.  I continue as such until all the seedlings are done.  I get much stronger starts and better bed use.
The bottom is the lettuce, arugula, and a few collard greens.  The center bed is all very small collard greens.
The watermelon is still cranking.
The overview of the vineyard garden: lettuce on the bottom, swiss chard on the right, watermelon on the left, collards in the center and the back bed doesn't get enough light in the winter to plant anything.  The grape vines are almost dormant.
My potted onion experiment.
The recent heat wave has really hurt the peas.  They were doing very well before.  I've now lost about half of them but I have plenty of time to re-seed so that's what I'll do.  Sweet potatoes are along the left.

The overview of the orchard garden.  I lay feed bags down as weed barriers but have yet to cover with mulch.  I'll get there.  Esthetics are low on the priority list right now. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Still Going

Recent weeks have been busy.  The kind of busy where I pause momentarily to pray the dinner blessing with my family, wolf a few bites and keep working, the day's work always draping over into tomorrow as well.  I rose bright and early this morning to see Husbandman off to conquer his Professional Engineer licensing exam.  8 hours of testing sandwiched with 2 hours of driving and almost 2 hours of testing protocol and instructions.  He'll be gone for about 14 hours today and come home blitzed.  His dinner request?  Ice cream.  And I just might comply.  :-)

The garden has been doing great.  I get to pick lettuce or greens a few times a week.  Some fruit is set on the tomatoes.  Even have a cucumber on the vine.  I planted an exorbitant amount of collard greens and swiss chard.  Most is still quite small.  I also am trying again on onions, this time in pots.  I put about 8 little seedlings in a 3 gallon pot filled with compost.  I intend to keep them going a long time and hope they bulb out.  Other attempts at onions were thwarted by them taking too long to grow that, come late spring, I had to rip them out to put in something else.  The pots will remedy that hopefully.  I also decided that I flat out need more garden space.  Husbandman and I took a stroll figuring out where it could go.  We decided on a place and I've been watching the winter shade... which is far too encroaching.  It would be fine in the spring but its already almost entirely shaded most of the day and we're 2 months from the solstice. Back to the drawing board.  This is where homesteading gets creative.

Given the previous post, this coming weekend, the one where Husbandman will be wallowing in brain fog, is basically our only chance to work on partition fencing in the pasture.  I desperately want to get some grass seed down during the next rain, but not until we have the pasture split so I can keep the animals off the tender grasses.  We have a long fence down the middle, most of the way down.  We intend to fence a common area that includes the barn, the turkey hutch and the main gate.  Then leave openings to the 2 paddocks with a single gate between them.  Move the gate from one paddock to the other while the herd is feeding in the common area and the move is complete.  I definitely think we can complete it in a day, but Husbandman is desperate for a free moment.  And his back is bothering him.  And the budget is a bit tight to be buying a big roll of fencing.  I don't know how much to press the issue and how much to just sit back and let it get done in January instead.

Today's job is canning, canning and more canning.  I have a friend at a church with a pumpkin patch and I've collected a few that were starting to go bad.  I salvaged much of them and have pumpkin puree in the freezer and pumpkin butter in the crock pot to can.  I also have 40lbs of pears that I purchased to process.  I've been waiting for the promise of cooler weather to steam up my kitchen with the canner.  Today holds that promise.  And if it doesn't deliver, then I get to sweat.  Its got to get done today.  May be getting a lot more pumpkins this weekend and I gotta be ready!

We're still waiting for Dulcinea to show signs of kidding.  I had her due last week and she's not at all bagged up, nor even that big.  So much for using sores on her hips to determine pregnancy.  And we were too slow in doing something with our buck and Helen is now pregnant.  She delivered in January of '10, September of '10 and will again in March of '11.  This is way too hard on her body.  I'm very upset by it but I never expected her to go into heat 4 weeks after delivering when she was still giving almost a gallon of milk a day.  I feel horrible about it.  We've decided to get rid of Copper and hold on to Willy (who we haven't been able to sell despite our attempts).  If Dulci has a buck, we'll keep her's who would have greater genetic diversity from the rest of the herd.  This would buy us some time to get our bachelor pad completed before immediately impregnating Dulci as well.  I just hope we can move Copper without him ending up on a table.

Yesterday, a friend with a tree business dropped off about a dozen HUGE oak logs.  MUSHROOMS!  I'll slice these logs in half, drill holes in the flat sides and pack them with innoculated sawdust (that I have yet to order... add that to the to-do list) and set them in that once-completely-useless shadey section.  What logs we don't use for mushrooms, I'll chop and store for next year's firewood.  It was alive just yesterday so its perfect for mushrooms but not so great for the immediate winter.  Sharpen the axe, I found my new workout regime!

The girl child is up now.  Its just a matter of time before the boys follow.  Then I can really start my day.  My seemingly never-ending day.  At least I'm not taking a never-ending test.  God bless my superhero.  I'll add pictures later.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Goings On

This is a BUSY season.  Fall/winter planting is on-going.  Still milking Helen 3 times a day.  A batch of meat birds is growing well.  Turkeys are learning to cooperate.  The dog ate the best functioning goat nipple (not one attached to a goat, thankfully) and so bottle feeding little Willy takes twice as long.  Its not an issue except when we're late on the evening feeding and we're doing it after the little farm girl is in bed.  She doesn't mind if it takes longer to feed him.  We're also debating over siring issues.  We have Willy listed on Craig's list but have had no calls on him.  We're also thinking about getting rid of Copper... only because he's already trying to mount Helen and we definitely don't want her pregnant right away again.  That's way too hard on her body.  We're expecting Dulci's kid to be a buck and so we'll likely keep him instead.  It would give us plenty of time to construct our "bachelor pad" before unwanted pregnancies would be an issue.  But I also don't want to see Copper go for meat.  Not that I'm opposed to eating animals, but he's such a great buck.  There are plenty of do-do's out there that can be eaten instead.  Who would eat a 5 year old registered blue-eyed dwarf buck with a fabulous temperament?  Someone really hungry I suppose.

Anyway, for anyone who missed the "Here Comes the Sun" energy expo in New Smyrna Beach, you missed a GREAT event!  I was highly impressed!  We came away with a lot of info we knew nothing about previously.  On the specific energy side, 2 things stood out to us- this dohicky thing that recaptures energy generated by a running motor and allows it to be used before tapping into metered electricity.  For high energy users it seems like a great device.  About $400 outlay which they guarantee to pay for itself within 36 months.  The company, KVAR Energy Controller, has been in business 18 years and their units are still going strong all these 18 years.  We were thinking very seriously about planning for this investment but in crunching the numbers, we really don't use enough electricity to make it worth it.  Particularly when considering other plans we have to use even less electricity in the coming years.  But for others, I'd highly recommend it! 

The second highlight is a geothermal AC company, GeoFlow.  They design, sell and install geothermal AC/heat units which use the groundwater (a nice 72 degrees) to heat or cool your home.  It's a genius system!  They estimate that most systems have a payback time of 5 years.  You can also use its residual heat to supplement your hot water heater saving energy in that area as well.  We got dreaming about having it discharge into a tilapia pool, into our banana tree patch or sprayed over the pasture and they said it was all doable... cost effective, maybe not, but we'll see.  We'll have them come out and come up with a plan and we'll start saving to put it in.  I doubt it would be anything that happens in the next couple years or anything.  Something like this is bound to have a big outlay and so will take a good long time to save it up, but we'd at least know what the goal is.

So... are you sorry you missed it???  Well, don't worry.  There are LOTS of other great events coming up.

1) 10/29- Husbandman takes his engineering licensing exam.  Pray for him, please!!!  :->

2) 11/6&7- Fall Jamboree at the Pioneer Art Settlement in Barberville, FL.  I've never gone to this but we're really looking forward to it.  Should be a great time... and little farm girl gets to wear her bonnet!

3) 11/4-14: Volusia County Fair.  We're planning on taking in the rabbit shows and fun events this year.  Every year we enjoy this more and more... and we never go on the rides!  Total nerds like us would rather be learning and looking at plants, animals and other displays.  And I'm planning on shooting for Homemaker of the Year next year.  I was thinking about doing it this year... then I came to my senses.  This homemaker has too much housekeeping to do to have things ready by then.  :-<

4) 11/20- PURPLE COW FESTIVAL!  This is a MUST!  We loved it so much last year and it was only their first time putting it on.  We learned so much and are ready for more! I just hope we can stay the whole time as we did before.  The littlest slept in the sling and the older 2 held out ok.  This year, wee one is much too big and alert to be sleeping in a sling yet still really needs naps.  If you see 2 engrossed parents and 3 screaming kids at the end of a long day... that'd be us.  :->

Time for bed.  And remembering how thankful I am that our dog, Angel, stays on alert and barks away any creatures lurking in the woods.  Especially when she strewed laundry all over the yard last night and ran off with my shoes this morning.  Milking tonight, it was dark and late and she was barking and pacing the edge of the woods... but I felt totally safe.  Not that she would protect me.  No, but she certainly sounds tough.  And that's enough for us here.  Good night, all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Goings On

1) A big event is on the horizon!  Sunday, October 10th there will be an alternative energy expo as the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach.  But its not limited to alternative energy only but anything that will help us on the path toward a more sustainable existence.  And another cool aspect is that the businesses represented are all LOCAL!  If you have or know of a business you'd like to see there, let me know and I can connect you with the organizers.  Anything from bat boxes to builders to landscapers.  Very low vendor fee.  Great opportunities for everyone! 

See you at the Marine Discovery Center, 162 N. Causeway, New Smyrna Beach from 11am to 3pm.

2) Bringing back home, last Sunday, late afternoon, we were all outside.  The family was playing on the swingset, sheep were grazing nearby, turkeys running in the pasture... and the dog went on red alert.  A casual attempt to try to figure out what she was jumpy about sent us into a panic.  I (with my less than perfect vision) thought it was a BIG black wild pig running up our neighbors driveway.  We went running with the kids to the house, Husbandman grabbed the sheep, I herded up the turkeys and wondered if I should grab Dobie, our small, not quite yearling goat.  I called everyone on the street with kids, guts or amo.  Husbandman went out to check over the area with a, um, .22.  He didn't see anything then but the more we got talking about what we saw, its shape, the way it moved and its sheer size, we determined it was more likely a bear, its brown face tricking my near-sighted eyes into looking like tusks.

I started researching and the more I learned the more it must have been a bear.  To sum it up, black bears don't attack people, even little people, unless provoked.  They will eat chickens, turkeys and even small goats and sheep and come back night after night.  The dog may be enough of a deterent that it could pass by and not even come on the property.  But just to be safe, we've decided to hold off another year on starting honey bees just to make sure this cub kicked from the nest isn't making its home near us.  The smell of honey is strong and luring.  We could easily protect the hives  but not everything else that a hungry bear would find delectable!

3) So instead of honey we're thinking of rabbits.  What started out as a conversation of getting the little farm girl her own animal/s to care for, show at the county fair, pet and play with, ended up being a full-fledged rabbit operation.  The more we read, the more we wondered why we're raising chickens.  Now I'm not ready to give up on poultry all together.  We'll always raise egg-layers, but it would be nice if we could, between the turkeys and the rabbits, replace the meat bird operation.  Turkeys and rabbits are all things we plan to breed here where chickens... just not going to do a rooster again.  More thinking and planning to do.  We won't be doing anything until well after Husbandman's exam next month.  And the new barn needs to be finished first.  And we're thinking of creating a "bachelor pad" or breeding pen mostly because Copper has been jumping on Helen since the moment that baby came out.  A farmer's work is never done.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Wee One

Welcome to Wednesday, the most celebrated day of W-week!
Yesterday evening, as I was doing the last check on all the animals, I felt Helens tailbone tendons as I've done twice a day since Friday.  They were so soft they couldn't be felt... meaning birth was just around the corner!

I couldn't sleep.  I wondered if I should wait up.  I checked on her again really late (ok, maybe it was 10 but that's well past our normal bed time!).  She seemed annoyed by me. I didn't try to touch her, I just wanted to watch her to see if she was contracting.  Nothing.  I sadly went to bed.  At midnight I woke up and checked again.  Again, I seemed to be a nuisance.  3am: same thing. 

I gave up on sleep at that point.  I moved to a different room and began reading through our books about goat birth.  Husbandman teased me saying, "Like what?  You haven't done this before?"  Truly, this would make our 10th kid born here, but every goat is different and this being Helen's first on my watch, I was nervous. 

The baby woke up at 5.  I fed him and checked again.  Again, I was disappointed.  I crawled in bed and slept for an hour.  I went outside after a normal morning, making phone calls actually, at 7:30.  Helen didn't come up with the crew wanting breakfast.

I found her in the back, feet already out, laboring silently.  She didn't like me getting close so I watched from a distance.  It was clear she didn't need me so I ran to get the kids.  By the time I made it back to the pasture he was out and she was dutifully cleaning him.  I never would have heard her in the middle of the night.  Contrast that with Fudge, a prior goat who really wasn't so lovey dovey normally but during labor would practically climb into my lap screaming.
He was just starting to nurse when I had things set up to take him away and milk her.  Oddly she really didn't protest when I scooped him up.  I had a little bit of a chase getting her to come with me to the milking stand.  She immediately gave over a half gallon of colostrom.  The little farmer girl helped to bottle feed him.  He ate ok.  I'm somewhat concerned about him as he's panting a lot.  Its a little warm but not that bad.  He's always in the shade and is eating frequently.  Nervous mothering on my part I guess.

As for names, we had named him Willy... for W-week, of course.  But then the neighbor boy came over with a great name- Niblet.  And given that his fate could possibly end up being dinner, that may be better.  We'll try to sell him... blue-eyed mini nubian, son of a fabulous milker... he should be good.  But times being what they are, he may be more valuable as a yearling whether.  Hard to think about that when the cute factor is so high, but perspective is important too.
And this is slightly confirming that our buck only throws bucks.  Not like it matters, we're not keeping any of the babies anyway, but does sure are easier to sell.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gardening Glutton at Work

Big day in the garden today.  It has been a long time since I've worked outside so long as to feel totally tuckered out, but I did it today.  We started the day with normal chores, moving the remaining chicks outside and determining their breed... quite the task when they're still sorta like little puff balls.  When they were all separated into pens and safe from both the rain and the dog, I eagerly started my garden fun.
Husbandman tilled up a patch of a bed that had gotten grossly covered in weeds.  After the worst was done, I shooed him back inside to continue studying for his licensing exam and continued the tilling of 3 more beds.  Then I hauled multiple wheelbarrow loads of compost from the trailer to the tilled beds and hoed it in.  I transplanted my few remaining pumpkin plants, a whole slew of tomato plants and some celery seedlings.

Then I planted seeds.  Technically I'm late for fall, but I'm only doing more seeds of things that I can harvest through winter.  We're trying a lot of new things this season and giving up on the brassicas (broccoli and cabbage family) for now.  We'll try again after our soil is built up better.  Last year we were swimming in Bok Choy and we'd heard oriental greens and cabbages do well here so I planted some more Ching Chang Bok Choy like last year and added Wong Bok Greens, Michihli Cabbage, Large Leaf Tong Ho Greens, and Mizuna Greens (similar to mustard greens).  But is that enough for greens??? NO!  I planted some other things that we've tried and that should do well here but we haven't had tremendous success with yet.  Gailan Chinese Kale, Rainbow Chard, and Flamingo Pink Chard.  I also put in more Georgia Southern Collards.  I've tried all summer to get more started and the heat has killed every transplant so I'm hoping these will do well.  I can never have too many collard green plants! 
And I'm being a tad hopeful but I'm tired of buying lettuce.  Its still a bit warm for lettuce seeds to germinate but maybe with the cooler nights they'll still do ok.  All these are varieties I've grown before with good success.  Sweet Valentine Romaine, Slo-Bolt Looseleaf, Jericho, and Apollo arugula. 

I also did some root veggies which we've never done great with but we'll try again anyway.  White Egg Turnips, Early Scarlet Globe Radishes, and Cosmic Purple Carrots.

And finally I direct seeded some peas into a bed.  Again, I'm a bit early, but its a bed right next to the sweet potatoes so the only thing I can grow there now is something that will go up a trellis and not be swamped by potato vine.  I put in some Little Marvel and Wando.

Earlier in the week I had transplanted a good about of Dinosaur Kale, Curled Southern Mustard Greens, Green Zebra Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, Chocolate Bell Peppers, Emerald Giant Peppers, Edisto Cucumbers,  Seminole Pumpkins, and Candy Roaster Squash.

Then I did just a few things for the pretty patch: Evening Scented Primrose, Nasturtiums, and Petunias. I'm still learning ornamentals and their seasons so everything is an experiment.  I know petunias are a cool season flower but I know nothing about their temperature needs for seed germination. 

The Rosita Eggplant is going strong.  I'm eating Thai Tender Amaranth weeds that are springing up in my now pumpkin bed.  Burmese Okra is just starting to produce (a second planting done about a month ago).  My drip irrigation wasn't watering my first planting of it and I just discovered that.  I'm done with drip irrigation.  Its all hose for me now.

Still waiting for a goat birth.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One Big Happy Family

Everyone's together in the pasture now.  Well, except the chickens.  And they get along very well I might add.  No squabbles other than the you're-smaller-than-me-so-get-your-head-out-of-my-feed-bucket-head-butts between the goats.
Despite the tall grass and my disinclination to mow, Valentino and Esperanza are in the pasture with Button right now.  A couple nights ago we noticed Button doing some interesting acrobatics and being a bit more feisty with the goats than usual.  Tis the season so Valentino got to bunk with her.  And Esperanza HATES being alone.  So unless a little farm girl wanted to spend all day and night petting her, Esperanza was going to have to go where he went.  We're leaving them all in there together for 3 days doing what we can to make sure the "job" is done well.  :->  Please excuse Valentino's appearance.  Hardly acceptable to be courting a lady, but he doesn't like me combing out his wool.  Its all shed, just clumped in there until I brush it out.  I did most of him before I had mercy on his restless soul.

Helen is due to have her kids (presuming there are twins) on the 19th.  She's looking rather robust these days.  Her bag is filling out.  I check her tail tendons everyday for any signs of birth.  Thankfully there have been none as birthing more than a couple days early is really hard on the little ones.  Meanwhile, we are hobbling along with no milk for now.  It will be so nice when she kids as she at one time gave a full gallon a day.

Copper, though a wee little lad in comparison, remains the king of the pasture.  He's fine with his new feathered subjects though.

And here's the turkey's night time abode.  I wrapped it in barb wire to keep the goats from rubbing against it and trashing it.  However, I also have to keep it closed as they love to go inside.  I refuse to barb wire the inside so closed it stays.  I put the turkeys' feed bucket on top of it.  They can fly up and eat but the goats don't bother to try to get into it.  I don't know what I'll do when the birds are too big to fly up there, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

A couple of Blue Slate turkeys.  5 of these remained after the massacre incident and they are really pretty.  One Royal Palm (black and white ones pictured with Copper) is a tom as it has started to strut its stuff.  Three of these guys remain.  I'm hoping we have a tom and 2 hens, perfect for breeding come spring.

 And here's the newly refurbished trailer.  One of our welding friends and Husbandman worked all day one Saturday to get it looking this good.  Its been a year since we've felt like the trailer was up to the challenge of hauling compost so we were in dire need of some.  We lined the expanded metal with a section of a billboard tarp and I shoveled in a load yesterday.  Today I applied almost all of it as I had some cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, mustard greens and kale that all were needing more growing room.  I'll probably get another load next week too. They have plenty and we need it all!
And that's all the updates from this end... Maybe the next post will be announcing a birth!