Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blog Therapy

My to-do list seems insurmountable. Just when I think I'm getting a handle on everything I find a list or remember a whole category of jobs.

And grief wearies me.

I'm thinking of a dear friend who's hurting so much right now. Another friend needs to come up with $40,000 to register her 2nd child in China (where their annual combined income is maybe a quarter of that). And petty family grievances on top of it all.

The watermelons are overtaken with weeds and producing no more fruit. The weed barriers in the garden walkways need to be dug up (from their THICK stand of weeds) and flipped over. Even the cowpeas are so infested with bugs I don't bother to pick them anymore. Everything I try to transplant dies despite 3x daily watering. I'm about to lose my entire herb garden if a good few days of rain doesn't come soon. My garage is plugged up with 2 broken lawn mowers and a broken weed wacker. Snakes are very much active (the farm girl had an extremely close run-in with a water moccasin a couple weeks ago in the middle of a public playground) so we had to buy a 3rd lawn mower because we couldn't risk the tall grass waiting for repairs to be made. We need a good load of compost added to the garden before fall planting but the trailer can't handle it. We have a welder friend working on it in his spare time but it likely won't be ready in time. 2 goats have worms that our dewormer isn't touching. Farmer Boy #1 has completely regressed in any potty-training ground we made. I think I've figured out why I'm still holding on to nearly every bit of baby weight though #3 is now 10 months old... but trying to eat as I need to requires so much time and preparation I'd rather just not eat.

And this feeling of being overwhelmed is completely debilitating. Taking a break doesn't help because I just goofed off all morning with my neighbor and I'm still staring at all my work with dread. I feel like I can't do anything right so why bother doing anything at all.

And this is why Jesus said to cast our burdens... does just dropping them work because I don't have the energy to throw anything?

And this is why He said to take up His yoke... He's not saying to do nothing, but rather do what He's asking of me, when He asks it of me and nothing more.

And this is why He says to think on whatever is good, noble, lovely and of good report and not dwell on the negative.

So... my asparagus beans are pumping. I get to blanch and freeze some soon or give them away if I don't want the work. The sheep are keeping the mowing needs down to every other week rather than every week for most areas. My kids all still take naps. My husband comes home every day saying, "How can I help?" I'm able to pray for my friends and my God is willing and able to provide for their every need, some through me but the rest through Himself and His Body. There have been no devastating storms. I can choose any day of the week to do laundry and know it will all get dried on the line. Our dog has kept all mischeivous vermin at bay and I sleep each night knowing our turkey poults are well guarded. Helen is rounding out well, her due date a bit over a month away. Neither of our pregnant goats have worms so I can use a different dewormer without fear of hurting a fetus. My children all love me and come to hug me when I'm crying. Farmer girl randomly stopped me in the garden this morning and asked if she could give me a hug... and I wasn't even crying. My little one is teething yet you wouldn't know it. Thanks to my neighbor and my mom I have an enormous stash of big boy pants for #2. And I have a neighbor who brews a fresh pot of coffee and treats me like a daughter. And her own daughter ran like mad catching a stray sheep yesterday when the tether broke while I was gone for a bit. We have AWESOME neighbors!

And now I'm going to take up His yoke. That means fold laundry, tidy the house, and get my brain decluttered. And that will probably require brain-numbing, digital entertainment for my kids and a friend's son who I'm watching later today, but praise God for Daniel Boone DVDs available at the local library.

Thanks for the talk. :->

Monday, July 19, 2010


A couple months ago we took in a few chickens from people who didn't want them anymore. Shortly later we met some friends who were wanting to get into chickens. We gave them these. The little farm girl was sad to see the funny-head chickens go, but when I said they were going to a family who didn't have any chickens at all she responded with, "No chickens, Mommy!?!?! They need them really bad!!!" And that was the end of her sorrow.

Well, that family ended up not wanting them too much. They had built a very large and heavy pen and with their property being a touch low, they just didn't have enough dry ground to keep up the fresh grass supply. So they gave the chickens back... with the pen!

This is a HUGE blessing! My wheels immediately started turning thinking of what we could do with this awesome pen. (We gave away the chickens on craigslist) So, it's only natural that I started thinking about TURKEYS!

Our last turkey attempt was 2 years ago with industry-standard double-breasted turkeys. We ordered 4 poults, 2 survived which we named Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving was a big Tom that weighed over 50 pounds at slaughter. He was 37 pounds dressed and I had to haul him into the bathtub for the final cleaning before slaughter. And then who has a roasting pan for a 37 lb bird? We decided then and there to never raise frankenfoods again (all double-breasted birds are artificially inseminated as they are too big breasted to mount and mate naturally). Yet ordering heritage breeds required a much bigger order and cost almost double the standard breeds. So we decided we would wait until we were ready to really do turkeys... as in get a starter batch and keep some for breeding and hatch out our own birds each year. This pen is perfect for that. It's a bit small for a bunch of full-grown turkeys, but it has a side door for day-ranging. We may convert our old goat barn into an overflow turkey night house. We can let them out during the day, round them back up at night, let the hens hatch out a clutch in the spring and slaughter the extras in the fall. The toms aren't nearly as noisy as roosters so it just might work.

But even better, we found a local source (several of them!) for poults and picked up 10 of them the very next day. We have 6 Blue Slates and 4 Royal Palms. They've been here a week and are all doing very well. We aren't day ranging them at this size. We'll wait until they are considerably bigger and start with a small area before we turn them out to the pasture. We'll be just shy of "market weight" by Thanksgiving so we'll probably just slaughter one then and wait until Christmas for a few more. We'll over winter maybe 4 or 5 and see how they do in the spring!

Carpentry 101

Carpentry 101 is a class both my husband and I neglected to take. And it's showing. But not for lack of effort- that's just it. It's taking a LOT of effort to build a simple (ok, maybe it's not simple) pumphouse. Framers should be making 6 figure salaries. Do you know how hard it is to get posts in straight, flat sides flush with another post 12 feet away and also sunk to the same height? Well, that took a day in itself. And it didn't help that we changed the design twice after beginning construction. But anyway, my heroic husband heartily hammered away yesterday and completed (sorta) the first phase of construction. What you see before you is a walled in pump. Next we will put in a few cross beams over the pump, some hardware cloth or metal lath then linoleum which will be the floor to a day-range chicken house. The section beside it with the posts and 2"x4"s is the new livestock barn. It will have a good slanted shade roof and removable sides. Their present barn is a movable shed basically and gets HOT in the summer. I feel so bad for them when it rains in the summer. 4 goats (and some sheep too maybe) cram into that barn for shelter from the rain but practically melt in the process. The removable sides will give them adequate shelter from the elements in the summer but keep adequate air flow and keep them warm and cozy in the winter when they want to curl all up against each other and stay away from drafts. The chicken house will have traditional nest boxes for setting on eggs (should we try that again), a removable side for cleaning, a hinged section for gathering eggs, and a latchable door for night time protection should Copper allow a critter into his territory. I'm really looking forward to giving our animals a nicer home. Construction may be complete in another 2 months though. Just in time to put those sides on the barn.

And this is Doby, our ferocious attack goat. She'll suck every finger you've got.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Seeds of Doubt

There's been 2 distinct times (now 3) when I've seriously questioned if I had the ability to do what I've set out to do. The first is farmer boy #1 and the second is farmer boy #2. Both pregnancies brought with them a wave of fear- "how am I ever going to manage TWO young children?" I finally rested by the multitudes who had gone before. MANY mothers have children far closer together than 20 months. So when the third child was waiting his debut and I was again having those fears, I again remembered the multitudes through history.

Now I'm stuck. This round of fear (which is completely unrelated to pregnancy despite my ferocious case of baby envy) has none that I can find who has gone before. None. I'd be happy for someone to point one out. Please... just one... anyone?

I'm beginning to doubt my ability to school my children well and maintain the homestead. Farmer girl hasn't yet begun kindergarten and I'm floundering getting through 3 days of preschool lessons a week. And I understand that I'm abnormally busy right now, but it has just started me on the hunt for someone who's doing both. Instead I find:
1) Women who have great homesteads but "unschool" their children. Yes, its a valid movement but not at all an option for this family of proud, unswerving nerds.
2) Women who school their children superbly but manage very little real food production.
3) Women who seemingly do it all beautifully yet their husbands are home all or much of the time to "tend the fields".

We practice what we like to call "old fashioned home economics." My husband has a city job and I do what I can to produce as much food whilst caring for the young'uns. But we have a solid stance toward homeschooling. And homeschooling WELL. The multitudes who have gone before had far fewer skills to teach. Then it was arithmetic... I'll be teaching calculus. Then they taught English... I'll be teaching Chinese. I'm determined that our children will have a better education with us being their teachers than they would have in any school system. So, if something has to give to do that, what gives? The garden takes the most time, but also produces the most nutrition. If I can get everything on maintenance mode where I don't need to do all day weeding sessions once a month (which keeps the garden barely recognizable as a garden), and I can convince the bugs to not eat anything but those weeds, and I can always depend on adequate rainfall, oh and I'd also need automatic planting and transplanting... I could probably do it.

Maybe I'm just fretting over nothing. Maybe I'll learn to get up and get the chores done in the pre-dawn hours as they did way back when. Maybe I'll learn to function on 6 hours of sleep. Maybe the kids will learn to stay in bed beyond when they hear my bedroom door open. Maybe the kids will be able to really help in the garden in the near future. Maybe the farmer girl really will be able to milk when she's 5 as I've told her that's when she can help milk (so now she asks everyday when she's going to turn 5). Maybe I'll find ways of streamlining housework. Maybe I will find someone who's doing it all and be able to glean some wonderful tips.

Maybe I should call these "weeds of doubt" instead and just yank them from the root.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Farmer Hub has been enjoying curry as of late. And its a great way to use random veggies so I certainly don't mind obliging. This week's curry had our first eggplant, a handful of okra, some cowpeas, asparagus beans, green onions, and a couple hot peppers with some amaranth and cinnamon basil thrown in right at the end. It was supposed to go with our chicken left-overs, but frankly, I forgot to add the chicken to it. It was served over rice cooked in chicken broth. And other than the amaranth being a bit tough (it's been feeding us for a while now), it was quite good.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July Garden Update

What a strange year. Last year we were swimming in okra. This year not even enough for a meal a week. Eggplant are finally setting fruit but they're very small. The collards, dispite 3x weekly spraying with soapy water, are limping along, still covered in aphids. The lima beans vine is big and glorious... with a whole 5 pods. The asparagus beans are keeping us fed now, barely. They're producing well, I just put in more rattlesnake, contender and mcCaslan beans that the asparagus beans. Learned that lesson. Pumpkin vine wilts in the heat, but is holding its own though with only 2 pumpkins, I wonder if its worth it. The watermelons, oddly enough, are doing well too with no sign of disease. Except the biggest one split yesterday... without having rain for weeks. I don't understand that one. I have several things ready for transplant but I don't dare until rains are coming somewhat frequently. We got a good rain this morning and more expected tomorrow, but I've lost so many transplants to things just being too dry to risk it now. I'm praying for the sweet potatoes I set out in the pasture beyond access to water. They could be a very good source of forage if they can get established.

I'm planting some more butternut and pumpkin seeds later this month. Am also hoping for more collards to germinate. Those were already planted but did precious little germinating. It's been a tough season. Most of that is probably due to me being so busy and out of routine. We used to spend every morning, all morning outside puttering, planting, trellising, mowing, etc. Now I'm lucky to get a day a week without having to run in, clean up and head somewhere else. The end is in sight though. Life will soon be back to normal.

Whatever normal is.


Meet Valentino. He's the ram born to Button's travel mate. The travel-mate herself, Valentine, died suddenly about a month ago. We have several possible culprits, but nothing for sure. But Valentino was sad as the only sheep left in a pasture of goats, his owners were nervous of losing him too and so we were happy to bring him to our place to "take care of" our ladies' reproductive needs. So far he's seen no "action", but given that we aren't sure if they'll actually go into heat before fall we aren't that suprised. But at any rate, he's very happy and we're happy to have him. He tethers well and seems to be a calming factor for Button who remains our most skiddish sheep by far.