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.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Beauty for Ashes...for Christmas

On December 12, just two years ago, a very precious little boy was tragically taken from this world.  A few months later, his family, with the gaping wound on their heart still bleeding, decided to channel their grief into something positive and lasting: a home for rescued children in Nepal.

And so the dream for Tiggy's House was born.

Now, six days from the two year anniversary of his death, this family is mere dollars away from reaching their goal.

Let's bless them with Tiggy's House, ready for construction when they go to face that tragic day.

Donating is easy.  Simply go to Tiny Hands, International and click on "Tiggy's House" in the drop down menu at "Donation Designation".

Most of the money has come in by $10-30 donations.  It doesn't take much to make a real difference.  Please, donate, share this, post on facebook.

No one would ever want to be on the road this family is on.  No one would ever choose to be a child sold into slavery by their own parents.  What do you think they want for Christmas?

It's within reach.  So let's do it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Playing Catch Up

Oh my, does the world spin fast this time of year!  For those of you NOT in Florida, you may be enjoying hot cocoa and toasty fires.  But WE are enjoying beautiful balmy days, cool breezes, and fun outdoor festivals!  And so there has been much goings on, much to tell, much to revisit.

First of all, I must take a moment to let you know that I did actually win Homemaker of the Year!  I also won the "Baker of the Year" award because that best-in-show apple pie was rated best of all of the adult baked goods!  My husband had to pick my jaw up off the floor for me.  Twice.  I also learned that I lead the competition by about 200 points.  But lest that make it sound as though I'm bragging, I got all those points because... well... as I've never tried to hide... I can tend to go a bit overboard sometimes.  Yeah, as far as anyone could remember, no one had ever submitted 42 items.  Whoops.  Let me just cover my face and slink out the back.

Husbandman ran electric to that fancy shmancy new shed.  And we decided it was plenty big enough to milk the critters INSIDE!  I know, crazy huh?  Almost like we're gettin' all hoity toity or summin'.  In all seriousness, we did realize that there was plenty of room.  And being out of the winter wind is certainly more pleasant.  And it can rain and we stay dry.  We likely won't continue this in the summer.  It could be beastly hot in there in July, but for now, we love it.

We also slaughtered Shaun the Sheep two weeks ago.  I say we.  Actually, Husbandman shot him clean and quick.  We both struggled like mad to get him hung then I promptly left with the kids to go and pretend to be a normal middle class suburbanite music teacher while he did the dirty work.  We left Shaun on ice for a couple days then wrapped up roasts and ground a good amount for sausage.  We've had the sausage and it's quite good. Husbandman painstakingly cleaned and prepared the intestines for stuffed sausage, but in the end they kept splitting.  We wrapped up the bulk of it in 1 pound packages and called it a very late night.  I'm relieved to be done with the sheep.  I want to get back to doing better goat-specific minerals, but sheep are subject to copper toxicity.  And Shaun was starting to mount the goats.  After Helen's miscarriage earlier this year, I was really eager to see that enterprise wrapped up.  We tried. It wasn't a good fit for us.  Time to move on.

We've had success and tragedy on the rabbit front as well.  Mocha had another set of beautiful babies on November 9.  Nine were born.  She began to consume one, but the other eight remained very well.  Then we had rain one night a week later. The next morning she was in the nest box and I didn't see need to bother her so just checked on the one I expected to kindle and left for the day.  We came home in late afternoon and went out to do chores.  The girl child ran to me frantic about Mocha's babies.  I found the nest box drenched, 3 babies dead and the others cold and unmoving.  I brought the live ones inside and warmed them on a heating pad and a hair dryer.  I filled the nest box with hay for warmth.  Mocha had pulled so much fur for them she looks pretty sad herself.  Hair was everywhere before it rained.  Then it all just became a thick smotheringly heavy mat.  Husbandman fixed the leak in the roof of the hutch and we hoped the rest could survive.  One more was dead the next morning, but the remaining four appear to be doing ok.  We also decided to get rid of Cream.  She had another litter of babies.  Eight this time.  She didn't pull any fur and they all died off one by one over the next few days.  She's never raised a single baby to weaning.  Hoping it's just that she found our set-up (be it the kids, the dog, the buck down the line) objectionable we gave her back to the person we got her from.  Maybe she can get her to mother well.  As a full grown, good strong rabbit, I'd hate to see her life wasted.

We expect to be seeing a successful end to our first stint as foster parents in the coming days.  Mixed emotions come up.  Relief.  Concern.  Worry that my weaknesses hurt him more than helped him.  Frustration that even with that petunia staring me in the face I can still be so short tempered.  Realization that responding in love to him isn't just about him and me, but its also my best opportunity to model for my children who Jesus is... and how miserably I've failed at that.  But there's Jesus with my petunia telling me to move on and do better tomorrow.  That I will get this unconditional love thing.  That I will learn patience and kindness.  That I will learn to see his hurt as greater than my anger.

That I will learn to let Him work through me and stop expecting it all to come out of my own decrepit self.

Thank you, Lord, for not giving up on me even when I'm ready to just plain give up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fair Frenzy

My life, well at least those precious spare moments of it, has been consumed by preparing for the county fair.  As I stated earlier, I'm attempting to be crowned the Dominatrix of Domesticity, aka Homemaker of the Year.  It's not faring well, no pun intended.

Friday I noticed one of the rabbits we were delighted to be showing had a rather large bald spot on the back of his neck.  If he sits as normal, its undetectable.  If he bends his head to munch a pinecone, his pretty pink skin calls to you.  I opened my e-mail to send a heads up to the lady in charge of the rabbits...

...Only to discover an e-mail from the lady in charge of the baked goods.  Apparently the recipes were due with the entry form, not with the items themselves as I thought.  Whoops.  Thankfully she was gracious and allowed me to submit them via e-mail, noting that I was a complete newby.  She commented that I was rather brave having never submitted anything before and now going for Homemaker of the Year.

That should have been my first clue that I was out of my league.

Yesterday, I checked in all my items.  42 of them to be exact.  I had spent a couple hours at least making up pretty little tags to put on everything, noting what was homegrown, grown from saved seed, an heirloom recipe, homegrown honey, soap ingredients, etc, a couple times mentioning the four kids in hopes of pity points.  But I also had my name on those tags.  So, yep, every single tag got ripped off.  I never thought I couldn't have my name showing.

So, that aside, I'm still glad to be attempting this.  I never did really expect to win.  It would be nice, obviously, but the challenge is the fun of it.  As crazy as this sounds, I need things like this to keep me sane.  When my life spins out of control and advice is fired at me to ditch the goats, mow the garden and for goodness sake, BUY a loaf of bread, most can't fathom that I need these little projects to set my world right again.  Nothing calms me like repotting plants.  My favorite sleepless night activity is prayer-knitting.  I don't pray well sitting still.  I need brainless motion, like knitting or running.  The chaos seems to settle when I hang I newly sewn garment in the closet.

With that said, here's my list of entries and what I personally think of them.  Mostly for my own record keeping purposes... because I most likely will be doing this again next year.

Baked Goods
1.  100% Whole Grain Bread- not very flashy, but any serious breadmaker will know this is a hard thing to do.  Well, hard IF you don't use freshly milled flour.  So, yes, this is great bread, if I do say so, but the rarity of it may not be fully appreciated. Blue Ribbon!
2. Peanut Butter Candy- Really nothing spectacular here.  I did them in turtle and heart molds so they look like fancy Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  And that's about it.  Blue Ribbon!
3.  Carrot Cake- I make very yummy carrot cake.  Two special ingredients make it different: coconut oil in the cake part and homemade soft yogurt cheese in place of cream cheese for the icing.  I decorated this one with crushed walnuts using a pumpkin and a leaf cookie cutters as molds.  It lacked sharpness though.  I should have outlined it with dyed icing, but I neglected to submit that as part of the recipe so couldn't do so.  Blue Ribbon!
4. Apple Pie- An American favorite.  Using Mother Earth News' recipe for pie crust (BEST recipe EVER!) and granny smith apples a friend brought me from Georgia, I made an awesome pie!  I braided some dough and wrapped it around the lattice work for a fancy crust.  Some of the juice oozed over the crust so its not perfect looking, but I guarantee those bits will taste better!  BEST IN SHOW!
5. Chocolate Chip Cookies- No originality here.  Not even a unique recipe.  Only thing going for them is classic goodness.  And coconut oil.  Coconut oil makes everything better. Blue Ribbon!

I won't complain but the results of this makes no sense at all.  The easiest items got blue ribbons yet the by far more complicated pattern and accessory only got a white?  They must weigh originality very high over actual skill.
6. Size 7 girl's nightgown and matching Laura Ingalls dust cap.  This came out pretty good.  No complaints as far as my critique can go. White Ribbon
7. Size 5 boy's pajama pants and matching embellished t-shirt.  Using the same fabric as the nightgown, the pants are classic, EASY pajama pants.  Nothing fancy.  But the shirt, though I didn't sew the t-shirt, it's my own unique idea for embellishing.  Not sure a judge will care though.  It has a rabbit (my son's choice) with a 3D floppy ear and fuzzy tail. Blue Ribbon!
8. Size 3 pajama set- It was supposed to be footed pajamas, but the wee lad didn't want "baby pajamas."  So I made those same super easy pants (out of the same fabric) and put a puppy on the shirt (with 3D ear) and made a set of matching slippers too. Blue Ribbon!

Open Agriculture
These results are about what I expected.  Except for the chives.  I thought those deserved better.  But I didn't expect a best in show either!
9. Borage- grown from seed.  Just starting to bloom, but a few leaves show some insect munching.  I'm not going to suddenly use pesticides to spare a bug a snack, especially when the bees love the borage so much.  Points off for that though. White Ribbon
10. Chives- grown from splits off my established patch.  Not very dense yet but still looks good.  Can't really hurt chives. White Ribbon
11. Mallow- grown from 2nd generation seed.  Was a nice sized plant before a rogue goat munched it down.  Trimmed up and just starting to flower.  Red Ribbon.
12. Roselle- also 2nd generation seed.  Also starting to flower.  Not as big as the mallow.  Has a few leaves with some discoloration.  Probably tired of the pot. Red Ribbon.
13.  Bok choy- looks good.  Will be ready to eat in 2 weeks or so. Completely missing from display!
14. Mint- taken from cuttings of my established plant.  Still recuperating from the summer heat.  Not as full and lush as I'd like, but all my mints tend to be a little long and stringy with small leaves right now.  Not very impressive at all though. White Ribbon
15.  Eggs- I only saved the pretty ones so this should do well for me. BEST IN SHOW!

16. Calendula- grown from seed.  Plant is smaller than I had hoped, but there are a few buds that should open this week.  Once again, a little signs of bug snacking. Red Ribbon.
17. Petunia- you know my petunia story.  It looks healthy.  The purple bloom is gone, but two more should open this week.  Long and thin, but healthy. White Ribbon
18. Sunflower- grown from seed. It didn't branch out (mexican torch, multi-bloom variety), but is flowering, tall and thin.  Hurricane Sandy's winds whipped off the older leaves so its on a tall bare stalk.  Not impressive, but healthy.White Ribbon
19. Zinnia- like the sunflower, these are tall and skinny.  I put 3 in one pot and literally braided the stalks together and tied a ribbon around them.  The blooms are dying so honestly, they look pretty sad.  Oh well.White Ribbon

This section has me completely baffled.  First of all, the soap... why would one bar take a blue ribbon and the others essentially get a "thanks for showing up"?  That's a mighty big swing.  I can only figure its that someone happened to like the fancy mold and didn't even consider what went in to making the soap themselves.  Sad about the state of my wreath and a little disappointed that the cupcake hat didn't do better, but it is a small item and they prefer full baby sets to be entered, not just a single hat.
20. Cupcake baby hat- hand knit.  No complaints from me. White Ribbon
21. Lavender soap in a goat milk mold- couldn't say it was cold process and not some cheater glycerin, melt and pour soap.  Hope they can figure that out. Blue Ribbon!
22- African Rain loofa bar (the oval one in the picture)- Home grown loofa with cold process soap poured around it.  Scent isn't as strong as I would have liked. Honorable Mention
23. Laundry soap- again, not sure anyone will know what they're looking at, but its basically homemade Fels Naptha. Honorable Mention
24. Chamomile Shampoo Soap- This is a soft soap on account of it being so conditioning and good for hair.  So it doesn't mold well.  It got some pock marks in it and is easily marred.  No way to explain why its so soft.  Again, I hope its a soap expert judging. Honorable Mention
25. Cabled Christmas Stocking- my first time doing cables.  It was fun.  I think it came out fine. Red Ribbon.
26. Super Dad Cape- all the kids have capes so Dad should too!  I had a rough sketch to go on for a pattern and unfortunately, it's not totally symmetrical. White Ribbon
27. Grapevine Wreath- all from stuff grown right here on our property.  Decorated with dried flowers.  I love the way it came out.  And then as soon as it left my hands someone dealt roughly with it.  Not sure what it will look like by the time judging comes along. No ribbon- and looking significantly more worn than when I submitted it.

Canning and preserving
I can't tell what jars are what from the distance they're at, and I submitted 15 items and can only locate 14, but of those 14 I have FIVE blue ribbons, EIGHT red ribbons, and ONE white ribbon.
28. Apple Butter- nothing notable good or bad. white
29. Apple sauce- has some black flecks from me catching it just as it was about to burn. red
30. Elderberry syrup- from wild elderberries. blue
31. Muscadine marmalade- best tasting jelly I've ever made.  From home grown muscadines. red
32. Spiced muscadine skins- 100 yr old recipe.  Pretty tasty, but I'm not sure anyone will know what to make of them. red
33. Zucchini pickles- heirloom recipe from homegrown zucchini. blue
34. Watermelon Rind Pickles- I'm not a fan, but they look pretty. red
35.  Watermelon rind jam- Yummy stuff. From a homegrown watermelon I picked too early. red
36. Roselle jam- tricky stuff to make on account you use the pectin in the seed pods to thicken it.  Finally made a good batch.  Very yummy.  Not sure anyone will know what roselle is let alone know what it should taste like. blue
37. Spiced honey- from homegrown honey. Oh boy is this good.  But how can you screw up honey? blue
38. Tarragon vinegar- from homegrown tarragon.  It looks pretty.  Don't know the stuff well enough to be a judge. blue 
39.  Rosemary vinegar- from homegrown herbs except garlic.  It tastes good to me, but again, I don't know much. red
40. Ground rabbit jerky- from homegrown rabbit.  Yummy!  Nice easy snack.  The kids love it.  Had to smack hands away to have enough for the fair. red
41. Dried ginger candies- Husbandman's favorite.  And they are good, if you like ginger. blue
42. Dried rosemary- part of it is from homegrown herbs.  But I ran out and had to buy another rosemary plant to fill the jar.  Nice vivid green even though its dry. red

*I also got a special merit award for canning, but no one could tell me what it was for.  One thought it was for some pickles, but the watermelon pickles only got a red and the zucchini pickles weren't tasted so I don't think I'd get an award for something purely based on looks. 

Today we turn in the rabbits.  We're supposed to turn in 3 but the one is molting so badly (but I did confirm that it is MOLTING and not some problem) that I really can't take him in.  The one that's important is also showing some molting signs, but not nearly so severe.  Farm girl has been practicing with this rabbit and it's so calm and forgiving that it's the only one she could manage in the show ring, I'm sure.  They're not exactly little rabbits and my girl, though 6, is a little peanut.  At 4 months old, its all she can lift.  As well as showmanship, she'll also be competing in the costume contest.  A medieval princess and Sir Hops-a-lot.  The rabbit (though a doe... she'll be a cross-dresser) has a knight costume and the girl has a medieval dress, both homemade.  I did a good trim and file job on the rabbit's claws because the dress is made from flimsy cheap material and can't take much.

I'll update with results as I know them.  Now that the preparation is done, let the fun begin!

The young 4-month old silver fox got a blue ribbon.  Our big, beautiful breeding buck got a red.  I can only figure that they discounted a lot for his fur lacking a lot of silvering and being bleached out by the sun in some spots.  Then the showmanship event was complete chaos.  Suffice to say we ended up sitting around the show ring for SEVEN hours... with pre-school aged three boys.  Very poorly planned and poorly run event.  No one knew what was going on.  Then when the girl was finally able to show her stuff, the rabbit was done.  She bit her twice and was very difficult to control.  The girl did well though.  I'm proud of her.  Now my complaints on the judges: they asked her ridiculous questions like "How many feet does a rabbit have?"  Of course she answered well.  But no questions so that she could really show what she knew- like things about eye infections, ear mites, abscesses, fur condition, conformation for meat production.  Then they ask if she can FLIP the rabbit!  NO!  A little six year old girl CANNOT flip an 8-pound rabbit!  Her trying, worst case scenario, can break the rabbit's back!  She did her best, did not flip, the rabbit was able to get away, but she brought her back and regained control.  This may be our last year with rabbits.  If they can do better than this, we'll go to showing goats and chickens.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Petunia Miracle

Its been a rough few weeks.  I'm unable to give details, but suffice to say parenting isn't for sissies.  I've been short on patience, shorter on grace and often ready with a double-barreled, fully-loaded tongue ready to fire my furious frustrations out at anyone who happens to step in my path.

And all I could think is that I just can't go on like this.  I can't.  I can't do it.  I can't parent this child.  I don't have a clue what to do and everything I do appears to be the wrong thing.  I'm tired.  I'm burned out and I'm ready to just give up.

Now change gears with me.

I'm in the running for an award at the county fair called "Homemaker of the Year."  There are 5 different categories that I must enter something in and points are awarded for each item, depending on their quality.  The contestant with the most points wins.  So, true to my competitive nature, I decide to max out every single category so I have as many opportunities for point accumulation as possible.  Four ornamental plants are permitted for entry so on my entry form (which was due at the end of August, but I submitted in July to be sure my place was secure) I listed petunias.  You must have a plant for 5 months or propagate it yourself to be eligible.  No worries.  I can have petunias from seed by October, right?

I submit my form and THEN check my seed stash.  I know, cart before the horse... story of my life.  I had NO petunia seeds.  So I look in every local seed source for petunias.  Nothing.

I didn't spend much time fretting over it.  I didn't have time.  It was now or nothing and the "nothing" was apparently chosen for me.  Oh well.  That's a few points I'll miss out on.  I don't exactly expect to win anyway.

This morning was a pretty bad morning.  Literally, it was pretty crappy if I may be so crass.  My husband was taking one for the team and allowing me time outside to myself while he wrangled the young-uns.  I began setting aside plants that I'd chosen for the fair: repotting, pruning, selecting, fertilizing, etc.  A few weeks ago I noticed a rogue plant growing among some lettuce.  I didn't pull it out because it didn't look like one of my common weeds.  And the kids help me plant seeds so to have a bok choy among the dill or a calendula among the mustard greens is really no rare thing.  I just let this plant grow and figured soon enough it would show its true colors.

Never did I expect those colors to be those of a deep purple petunia.

So this morning, when I was taking my frustrations out on my weeds, tears streaming down my face, I find this petunia.

Now, travel through time with me.  The last time I planted petunias would have been a year ago.  I recycle the dirt in my seed boxes, but it always gets mixed up, added to, turned around, shuffled here and there.  This dirt must have grown 15-20 different types of seedlings by now and has remained continuously warm and moist.  Petunias don't survive our summers.  Petunia seed should definitely not. Yet, NOW, 10 days before I submit all my entries, I have a blooming petunia.

And then my God, my precious, sweet, always loving, always understanding Father spoke so clearly.

What you thought you didn't have and couldn't find I have always provided for you. Trust me.

If I will look through the weeds, I'll find the seed of patience.  If I'll hold fast, I'll find ever-blooming love.  He doesn't wipe away the problems, He doesn't say it's going to be easy.  He says, "We do hard things.  Its who we are.  But you can do it.  I'm with you.  Now come on.  Let's go love a child."

A year ago, He knew I was going to need a petunia.  And not for the fair.  Right now I don't give two cents for the fair.  If I did, I'd be sewing, not recording this precious memory.  But if it weren't for the fair, I never would have paid much attention to my lack of petunias and the miracle this one is.  He knew, a year ago, that I'd need to know right now that He had traveled this road ahead of me.

And what a beautiful way to communicate it to me.  I do believe the petunia has become my favorite flower. The question is will I ever be able to look at one without crying?

I wonder what seeds He's storing for me this year.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The End of an Era- Redneck Style

We had a time of sentimentality this weekend.  Time passes and it almost is like bidding a dear friend goodbye forever.

When we first moved to this house and started raising food on our single acre, we had no children but the one in my womb.  We also didn't have 2 nickles to rub together.  Money was so tight that if it wasn't redneck and hillbilly, it just wasn't.  

We got goats when I was pregnant with #2.  We put grain in a barrel in the porch (where the chicken grain was stored) and square bales of hay sat on pallets in the garage.  One, maybe 2 bales of hay was all that could be stored at a time or else Husbandman's car (who's was the only one short enough to fit at all in front of the hay) was left outside until the goats worked their way through the hay.

This all changed when we acquired a new shed.  We bought the property with two metal sheds, or shall I say two rust sheds.  One is inside the pasture and cumbersome to get to.  The other stores lawnmowers, the rototiller and other items.  So this new acquisition could be considered our barn.  First of all, its a much higher quality shed and thus has a floor and no rusty holes for mice and rats and snakes to use as private entrances.  Secondly, its spacious.  We had decided to purchase a shed and , for frugality sake, measured how small it could be and still hold all the things we wanted to store in it.  Then friends who were moving sold us their shed, which happened to be double the space for less than we had anticipated spending for the bare minimum.  So the next trip to the feed store was a big trip, with the trailer, buying 6-8 weeks worth of feed.  Previously we hauled out to the feed store every 7 to 10 days.  Its a 25 minute drive one way and I couldn't go and have room for a bale of hay with all 4 kids.  Husbandman couldn't go after work and still bring home the one child who attends preschool as he usually does.  So doing fewer trips with a trailer and storing large quantities is a very welcomed change.

But that meant disassembling the pallet rack we made for the hay.  And sweeping all the hay, for the last time, out of the garage.  And rearranging that whole area to hold bikes and kid toys.  And it was incredibly nostalgic, though you may call me nuts.

I don't think it would have affected me so much if it had only been the final removal of all things livestock from the garage.  But we also made the decision to abandon our small garden.  This was the very first garden we put it.  We had 2 very young children, the youngest just 3 months old.  We were reading a Mother Earth News to each other one May morning and came across an article about laying newspaper down right on top of grass and weeds, compost on top of that and planting straight into the compost.  We had a pile of left over pennysavers from our paper route and we had friends with horses who had offered us all the compost we wanted.  We started that very day.  I still remember the little guy sleeping in his baby bucket in the shade of a tree and our daughter using her shovel to spread compost and handing me papers to lay on the grass.

And since, like I said, we had no room in the budget for actual fencing, but had rabbits and turtles and lots of other creatures who would love to eat this garden, we had to find a fence.  So pallets again.  My husband came home with load after load of pallets from a company next door to his office.  Slowly the pallet fence grew until it stretched the entire perimeter.  But that wasn't the end of the pallets.  They kept coming and soon I had tables for planting seeds.  You see, if I plant seeds directly in the garden, ants and squirrels make off with them.  So I put them in pots which cannot be left on the ground or they suffer the same fate as well as getting poked and dumped by little hands.  My seedlings had to be elevated to have any hope of survival. So beside that garden were my stacks of pallets that acted as seed tables.  And things grew and we ate.  And we wanted more space so the very next year we did the same thing to an area more than double the size.  I kept both going and life was good.

Then this summer happened.  Appointments and busy-ness and a rogue goat wiped out that garden.  Nothing was growing in it but roselle and weeds.  The weeds were so thick I couldn't see the scrap tile pieces I used as my walkways.  I finally decided I needed to mow it.  By this time the pallet fence had fallen down and we had enough money to buy 2' fencing and enough step-in posts to keep the critters out.  So I took down the wire fencing, which was more like pulling it out with how entangled it was with weeds, and went at it with a lawnmower.  I then covered the entire thing with plastic, still planning to use this as a garden in the fall.

And about a year ago my seed tables were replaced by nice stainless steel tables a friend bought from a restaurant going out of business.  She had her husband were going to be slaughtering a few chickens at our house and were less than impressed by our set-up... which was an overturned Rubbermaid tote with a plastic bag taped to it... found these tables and bought them for permanent storage here.  I put my seed pots on them and when we slaughter something, the seed pots get set on the ground, the surface gets scrubbed and we have a beautiful processing area.  Those tables were kept in front of the little garden, right along the drive way.  And had a tendency to get just as weedy as the garden.

It got to be that when I'd drive up to the house and look at it objectively, as I sometimes do to see the biggest eye-sores, these tables with the weeds and the pots and buckets and, well, junk, they really were quite a pimple on the face of our property.  So we moved these tables to alongside the new shed which helped it blend in a little better too.

But this weekend, while looking at the little garden, and thinking about building raised beds around the perimeter as a weed-proof wall, and the 2 pecan trees, 1 citrus tree, 2 pomegranate trees a host of persimmon trees and a loquat tree we'd like to find places for, I simply pulled up the plastic, dug out the tiles and decided to let it go.  The established grapevines are here as well as the roselle which I'm not sure will be a perennial or what so its not like the land is carved from the face of the earth and left as an empty pit.  I'll decide what trees will occupy this site and how, along with pineapples, strawberries and that thorny dragon fruit,but it will no longer hold garden beds.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the neighbors will still have opportunities to groan and our necks will be as red as ever, but for us, for now, it feels like things have really changed.  Having extra income to buy supplies to be able to do something properly has made a huge difference.  I like the difference, don't get me wrong, but the memories are sweet.  So very sweet.  My life is so rich I could live it over and over and over and never grow tired of it.  Rich or poor, enough or in want, we have always had such precious memories.  May this be the case forever.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Snake Attack!

 A couple weeks ago we got these cute little puff balls.  20 red stars, 5 Americanas, and 1 specialty bird (that's probably a rooster we'll have to slaughter).  We got the red stars to replace our layers who just aren't doing too well anymore.  The Americanas were thrown in because 25 was the minimum order.  And McMurray's threw in the special little guy.  They arrived all healthy and doing great.  Not a single death or even one so much as go weak in the bunch.  Very impressive, McMurray!
 Meet the yellow rat snake.  I'd seen him around before.  Here he is in a tree branch over the rabbits early one morning.  It was shortly after a crop of babies were born and I knew that thing had been prowling around trying to get into the rabbit hutch.  Thankfully, it couldn't. 
Then one afternoon I followed the family outside and noticed a dead chick 3 days after they arrived.  Usually I see them go weak before they suddenly die so I was really surprised.  I was looking at that chick trying to figure out what happened when I saw ANOTHER dead chick.  Then I got concerned about mold in the feed or something toxic that would run through all of them.  It wasn't for another minute or so that I actually saw the culprit... that snake was sitting coiled up, half buried in paper shreddings, too fat to slither out the hole it came in.  Husbandman grabbed the snake with a pair of garden clompers and dealt with it savagely while I grabbed chicks for a head count.  It was determined and confirmed that this snake ate 3 chicks and killed 2 more.  And if those 2 had not been laying there dead I may have never looked carefully enough to even see the snake!  We did our best to patch the small hole in the hardware cloth that it came through, but the very next day when I saw a black snake lurking around, I got nervous.  Angel has been spending her days sleeping in the porch lately. I gave her the boot which made her sleep in the garage.  I'm not sure something as silent as a snake would actually rouse her enough to do anything about it, but it was something.  And that black snake has not been around.  It probably is also helpful that I mowed the garden closest to the house.  The one Dulci kept eating so absolutely nothing was growing... yep, had weeds knee high.  It's mowed and covered in clear plastic to kill nematodes and weed seeds so is much less inviting for slithery friends.

Of the birds that were lost, it was 4 red stars and 1 Americana.  Certainly not the ones I would have chosen to dispense with, but I don't supposed I would have made any deal with Mr. Rat Snake if he had asked for a bargain.  What it has done is made us aware of every little hole in that pen.  And the kids are on self-appointed snake duty, running out whenever they get the whim to check for snakes.  I can't blame them.  I'm jumpy too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Any Given Day

There's a reason my house is really never wonderfully kept.  Its called PROJECTS.  My best friend and my worst enemy.  Truth is I love projects.  The newer the better.  I do finish some too, but usually not before I start 3 or 4 more.

So here's a picture of my ironing board.  The ironing got done on Tuesday so it was free to gather a few other projects that got shifted from place to place.

Any given day you can see at least a dozen projects in process.  Today, they happen to be:

1. The fabric is laid out with pattern pieces for the kids' Christmas pajamas waiting for enough time with a big area to spread it out and cut the pieces out.

2. The piano board I just finished drawing yesterday to use for the elementary music class I'm teaching to local homeschool kids.

3.  The bag holds pictures and mementos to be made into a scrapbook for the newest temporary addition.

4. There's a pack of guitar strings waiting to be put on the guitar that has gotten pulled out and dusted off for this music class I'm teaching.  (I should also note that I was only supposed to be the assistant teacher, but the actual teacher stepped down a week before classes started so I'm kinda scrambling to get plans and ideas together!)

5. The papers are blank lesson plan sheets I printed out for our next unit in Tapestry of Grace.  I hope to plan a little of next unit before its suddenly Sunday night the day before unit 2 is to roll out.

(now lets think about what isn't in the picture)

6. I have 2 tubs of flowers drying to decorate a grapevine wreath.

7.  I just finished rendering about 30 pounds of beef tallow in the crock pot which ran day and night for 6 days.  I'd scoop off what had melted and filter it through a cheesecloth and into jars.  The gloppy mess is still on the porch, as well as the smell, waiting for it to cool enough to clean it... but I still probably won't do it until tomorrow.

8. My knitting bag has a Christmas stocking started for that same newest addition.

9. I have no less than 8 cubic feet of mending to do.

10. Soap recipes are pulled out and perused to decide what to make next.  Newly arrived molds, scents and natural dyes are also sitting on the counter itching to be used!

11.  Boxes of bee equipment are waiting for Husbandman to construct frames and fill some of those frames with foundation.  I don't do too much of that so I usually just knit and keep him company while he works on it.

(now for the outside!)

12. The small garden is being solarized and the wire fence is torn down but not yet cut up or evaluated to be salvaged or thrown away.

13.  The big garden has a pile of stones outside of it for constructing part of a garden wall.

14.  Huge pieces of wood and metal roofing as well as long beams and poles are waiting for our milking shelter to be constructed.

15. We built big T's for our new grape arbor.  And the vines are planted.  Now we just need to attach wires from the top beams, diagonally down to the vertical beam for the vines to climb.

16.  Around each vine are cinder blocks, some filled with dirt and holding plants.  I'd like a plant, pretty or herbal, to fill each cell.  About 75% are still empty.

17.  Plans for a treehouse are sitting in the filing cabinet.  We thought we'd have time to build it for Christmas.  Not likely.

18.  A pile of concrete pavers were acquired from friends who moved.  Once the milking shelter is built, we'll lay these pavers underneath.

19.  The new shed which is our new feed storage area needs a gigantic window cut into it and redone out toward the pasture fence where the feed trough will be.

20.  A piece of 3' diameter pipe is cut in half for said feed trough.

21.  An enormous gate was again acquired from those moving friends.  Its waiting for us to do a complete overhaul of the pasture common area and move the gate from where it is now to further down the fence row.

22.  Dulci is pregnant and waiting in Copper's bachelor pad for us to overhaul the fencing all along the back of the pasture where she's able to easily escape multiple times a day.  And for that I'm waiting for cooler weather.

(and on the list but not yet started)

23. A 3rd and final attempt at mushroom logs.

24. Building raised beds around the entire perimeter of each garden.

25. Repair and reinforce chicken pens.

26. Few more things to can and preserve.

27. Begin working with the farm girl on rabbit showmanship.

So there.  If I didn't feel busy before, I do now!   Just understand, I never apologize for the mess, inside or out.  If it were actually a rare occurance I might do such a thing.  But its always like this, and unless a zebra can change its stripes, it always will be.  Just different projects, different stages, different places.  Maybe a good goal would be to have a touch fewer, but if someone would just invent more Saturdays we'd have no problems with that.  Right?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


 One long post about several completely unrelated topics. 

My hero knew about some wild elderberry trees and snagged me a pile of berries.  The girl child and I sat in front of  a movie and tediously picked them off the stems and I made some syrup for eating or for helping any sickies get better this winter.  Yummy stuff!
 Meet my new soap bazookas.  2" PVC with a cap at 1 end.  Little bit difficult to fill with no extra hands around.  (Correction... no extra hands around that would actually hold it still).  My main concern was how I was going to get the soap out.  I planned to make a plunger of some kind, but I ended up not needing to.  First of all, it takes at least a week for soap to set in these things.  So I poured it and left it in a corner for a good long while (I'm good at that).  Then I stuck them in the freezer for a day.  Then I pulled them out, let them thaw some (because of interruptions not because I know its necessary- it may not be) and they literally just slowly slid out.  It was great!  So now I have nice round bars that look a lot nicer than my lopsided cuts from a casserole dish.
 Here are a couple kids picking wild grapes.  We have a whole mess of nice, big, juicy, cultivated grapes to pick and they opted to pick the wild ones.  The next day the other 2 kids (unpictured) decided to shove said grapes up their noses.  I bulb syringe got them out, but not without some kicking and flailing and one boy being quite certain he was not coming out of that situation alive.  Now you can understand why the addition of 1 more toddler boy has completely wiped out every thought of spare time I ever thought I had.
And just a post to say I love my dog.  Angel has been accompanying me on morning runs while its dark and creepy.  She alerted me to a stray dog up ahead where I would have run straight into it before knowing there was something needing to be avoided.  And she's gotten to where she simply trots beside me instead of crossing back and forth in front of me in her drive to explore.  And the really funny part is when she comes home she's too tired to chase the goats to the milking table in the morning.  She just flops and lets them walk.  She's a great dog.

And something that has no picture as of yet, eggplant.  Last year I had big beautiful plants and no fruit.  So this year I tried a few more varieties... meaning I have about a dozen different plants.  And they are all going gangbusters this year!  I can't give away all my eggplant!  I've made eggplant parmesian, eggplant balls, eggplant lasagna, stirfried eggplant, battered and fried eggplant, every eggplant anything I can think of.  There are worse problems to have, but I wish I had okra to through in there too.  But Dulci has figured out how to easily escape the pasture and ate my garden down to nubs.  She's now clad with a cow bell and housed with Copper and his 7' fence.  Its time for her to be bred anyway, but we'll have to do some major fence overhaul before letting her back with the others.

And I think this catches me up on the main goings-on.  We're starting our homeschool year next week so it may be the last post until that somewhat new endeavor finds its groove again too. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rabbit update

Once again, so much to report.  So the last I mentioned was that all of Cream's babies died and we acquired silver foxes.  I bred Maxwell (the silver fox buck) to Sugar and Cream.  Sugar had 8 babies born March 15.  7 survived. Cream  then had 13 babies on March 19.  Unfortunately, they widdled down to 4 in the week that followed.  These have all been slaughtered and eaten or waiting to be eaten by now.

At the end of May I took Mocha, Java and Maxwell to a rabbit show... where Maxwell took 1st, Mocha took 2nd and Java took 3rd.  It was helpful that only 1 other breeder had silver foxes and she had only brought juveniles who hadn't begun to silver yet.  Fur is a major portion of their points. 
We had decided already to risk breeding in the summer so when we returned home, we promptly bred Mocha with Maxwell.  We did this so the girl child would have a silver fox, a smaller silver fox, to show at the fair.  A small girl needs a small bunny.  So we set Mocha up with a pen in the porch with a fan that stayed on her 24-7.  We also knew we needed to breed quickly to catch Maxwell before he went sterile from the summer heat.  So we bred them and 5 weeks later had 6 bunnies.  We figured if none of them survived, we'd just buy a smaller breed bunny for her to show, but we were hopeful.  And they ALL survived!  Compare that with all our previous breeds and bunnies where every baby from the first kit died to silver foxes where she had 6 and all are still doing great!  Very pleased.  Next week we'll wean them and examine them, chosing the one for show, the ones for sale and the ones for eating. 

Just adding a quick picture of our rabbitry.  You can't see the pen all the way on the left much, but there's 5 holes for breeding stock.  When babies are weaned (or if there's too many to stay in the normal hole), they are moved to the large pen on the right.  Nothing fancy, but its on the shadiest, coolest area of the property and no predators have gotten in.  A snake lingered in a tree one morning and a racoon was lurking about another morning, but they have not returned.  Mostly due to Angel, I suspect.

Bye Bye Zuma

  So much has happened that I haven't recorded.  February 23, Zuma had 2 beautiful lambs.  I was out of town, but my wonderful superhero handled things splendidly.  However, the ewe lamb was never very strong and eventually died about a week later.  The ram lamb is thriving, large and named Shaun the Sheep.

And despite Zuma doing exactly what we expected of her, that is giving birth to twins, we made the decision to no longer keep sheep breeding stock.  The main reason was feed costs.  With the rabbits and ducks, we have ample meet so 1 or 2 lambs a year are simply not necessary for our family.  Secondly, I did not want to tether them out to "mow the lawn" unless I would be home all day.  With the addition of our foster son and his crazy number of appointments, that basically never happened.  Meaning we purchased every bit of food they'd eat all year long.  And thirdly, Zuma just didn't compete for food.  The goats, even the littler goats like Doby and Bella, could bully her into giving up her portion of grain or hay.  She withered down, thin and hungry.  Without the separating and special attention I was giving her during pregnancy, Zuma would never thrive well here. 
So I called a few people and found a great new home for Zuma and Valentino.  It was sad to see them go, but  I know its for their good. 

Duck update

Did you think I gave up the blog?  Sorry, still here and still have grand intentions.  Just struggling to find my groove I guess.                                                            So anyway, March 1, I went out to check that nest I mentioned eons ago and found this.  18 little ducklings.  (4 days later we got our 4th child through the foster care system... hence why its been 6 months since I've blogged). Later that day we collected most of them and moved them to a pen.  We let Mama (now known as Big Mama) raise 4, but frankly, the pasture is a dangerous place.  One drowned in their duck bath.  A couple weeks later another was trampled to death in the barn.  We then rescued the remaining 2 and raised them with the others.

And here they are at slaughter size.  Just before we slaughtered the first batch, Big Mama hatched out another clutch of 10.  We raised them basically just like the chickens, but we also provide a big shallow pan of water for bathing in. 

From the 1st batch we saved out 4 females to add to the breeding stock.  We've had many requests to purchase ducks so figured we could always sell off extra ducklings.  We also slaughtered Big Mama's sister who never could even figure out how to lay her eggs together in a safe place.  I know these new ducks are laying now because I find eggs laying about, but Big Mama always lays now in a hollowed out palm tree that's been felled.  I'm hoping the young ones get their acts together and lay well come spring.  Big Mama has a nest of 8 eggs she's sitting on now.  I assume they'll hatch somewhere near the end of September.

As for caring for these breeding stock, we do very little.  We dump them some chicken grain (as some old, leftover grass seed) once a day and keep a bath filled with water.  They do the rest.  And Angel, the dog, is scary enough to keep predators at bay. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

One Hundred and ONE! Nope, only 4.

As stated in the previous post, we were itching for Dulci to have her babies.  She was HUGE and I was certain she had at least twins and possibly triplets in there.  Sunday,  Jan 29, we did chores and I checked her tendons.  They were undetectable indicating birth was imminent.  We went in and got ready for church.  From inside the house I heard Angel do a funny little "yip yip" type of bark.  Not her normal bark at all.  The same bark she did when Doby was giving birth.  I figured something was going on, but I wanted to finish dressing a little man before I went exploring.  Moments later Husbandman called me from the pasture.  "We have feet."  As in, feet were poking out.  By the time I got there the first was out and she was busy cleaning it off.  We stayed outside the barn peeking over the side walls to watch.  After a little bit, I began to wonder if she really did only have 1 baby.  But then she laid down to labor on the 2nd.  That one came out easily and she immediately worked on the third.  I slipped in to clear the nose of #2 as she was too busy on the 3rd to do so.  Then she was back up and cleaning them off.  I went inside to get the iodine and towels.  When I came back out, Husbandman said it seemed like she was still pushing.  I said she must just be working on the placenta, but when I looked, the upper half of a 4th was hanging from her and she had decided she was done.  There it hung, alive and confused.  I assisted just to break the sack and cause it to fall free from her.  We were amazed.  Four babies, all alive, well-formed and mama dutifully attending to them all.  I dipped the umbilical cords and readied, again, for church. 

When we got home, we separated the babies from Dulci.  We need them able to drink from bottles, and we want at least some of that milk.  The kennel was all ready for them and the kids were anxious to play with their new furry friends.
We have 2 does and 2 bucks in the mix.   Though so tempted to name them Eenie, Meanie, Miney, and Moe, we decided it wouldn't be too nice to name a goat "Meanie".  So instead we named them Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.  One doe has long, pointy, nigerian dwarf ears while all the rest have tiny lamancha ears, so she's Flopsy.  One is brown while the rest are white so we named him Peter.  Mopsy and Cottontail look very similar, noted merely by 1 large spot on her right shoulder for Mopsy and 2 smaller spots on the same right shoulder for Cottontail. 
Since then, there's been more to distinguish them.  Like Flopsy and Cottontail will suck ferociously and are vigorous enough eaters that the kids have been feeding them for a week.  Peter and Mopsy don't suck.  They gnaw and swallow as milk dribbles into their mouths.  This means I feed them, and it takes a LONG time.  And both at times have had their turns of making me wonder if they would make it.  But between vitamin B injections, Nutri-drench and a lot of patience, they've each managed to hold their own.  And with nibbles here and there on leaves and grass that the kids pick for them, it may only be a couple more weeks that I have to force every drop of milk down their throats.  They won't be show quality, but they are definitely getting used to human cuddling.

Poor Valentino

We used to call Valentino the One-Horn-Wonder. One of his horns was repeatedly knocked off in his struggle to the top of the pecking order in our barnyard.  It has now stopped growing completely. The other curled tightly to his face.  I've heard horror stories of rams' horns causing enormous facial damage so I was watching the growth of this horn.  I thought it was going to clear his eye...

Then, all of a sudden, we noticed it wasn't.  In fact it was preventing his eye from closing.  We decided to deal with it immediately.  After reading how-to's online, we grabbed some tools and got ready.
This is how it was performed by a vet over at The Yeoman Farmer... or so I thought.  Turns out that muzzle action is a crucial difference.  We just had a poor scared ram choking himself.  
 In the end, the winning combination was a muzzling harness (of which we only have 1) around his head, tieing his back legs up and stretched way back, winding his front legs together with the rope from the harness, me laying on top of him holding him still, Husbandman weilding the hacksaw, thick cardboard protecting his eye, ear and face from the blade  and a WHOLE lot of GRIT.  Horns bleed, hence the blood, but they don't have nerves.  Once the horn was removed, I poured iodine over it to clean it and applied ground cayene pepper as a blood stop, all the time protecting his eye.  He doesn't look good, but I assure you, he looks much better now and certainly better than if his eye had been gouged out with his own horn.

Several places online said not to take them to a vet to do it, that a vet will put them under and surgically remove the horn and prevent any further growth.  Doing so would be a huge expense and more stressful to the animal.  The anestetic would take a good deal of time to recover from not to mention the stress and difficulty of transporting an animal.

Hind sight though... I think we should have considered a vet.  Not so much because of what it was, but rather HOW it had to be done.  Because his horn was curled so closely to his face, it was very scary, more so for us than for him, though he didn't exactly appreciate what we were doing to him either.  It might have been a longer recovery time for him (especially since as soon as he was on his feet and given a bucket of grain, he seemed to forget all about it), but I wouldn't want to take my chances again with a hacksaw so close to an eye with only cardboard and the sound of it cutting to know if he was in imminent danger of blindness.  Instead, Husbandman and I were the ones needing to recover.  We were shaky and on edge.  Husbandman barked at Dulci that she needed to have her babies NOW because he needed a baby to hold.  Something about a sweet baby, of any species, that calms the nerves.
Not to belittle Valentino, but here's an example of a nice set of horns.  Of course they belong to a goat and not a ram so they lack the genetic code to curl.
Here he is a day after.  His fur is still stained with iodine and blood.  But he didn't run from us as I was scared he would.  By now, almost 3 weeks later, he looks totally fine... just like a ram with no horns.

Silver Foxes, cuddly ones

Meet Maxwell.  He's our new silver fox buck. He joined the 'stead at the end of January with 2 does we named Mocha and Java.  Silver fox is a rare breed of rabbit that is quite remarkable.  We decided to get a breeding trio after reading about them in Countryside Magazine.  Once a mainstay of meat rabbit breeders, they fell to the wayside in popularity when people decided all meat animals should be white.  When real-feeling synthetic furs hit the market, they took another nose-dive.  But they're being brought back now.  Good mothers.  Calm disposition.  Better flavor though slightly slower growing. Wonderful hides. Large litters.  All to say, if they are what people say they are, we like 'em.   We hopefully bred Cream and Sugar (our full-grown white does) with Maxwell this week so we'll see what they're like mixed with the Californians too.  :-)

Littlest Beekeeper

Meet the littlest beekeeper.  She's great.  The last two inspections, farmer girl and her superhero daddy have worked together.  Is this a good idea?  Oh yes.  Here's why:

First of all, we wouldn't do this if we thought she was in any real danger of getting bad stings.  She's not.  When the bees are stressed, which they have been off and on over the year that we've had them, they get defensive and a bit more prone to stinging.  But she's equipped and ready.  And if they seem a bit testy, she simply steps back.  No one has suffered a sting since I took one to the face last fall handing equipment to Husbandman over the fence with no gear on.

Secondly, Husbandman can do the inspection alone, but he doesn't like to.  Its good to have another set of eyes, or even squishing fingers when we see wax moth larvae or hive beetles.  I don't feel comfortable being out with him by the hives with the boys napping and our 5 yr old watching a movie with instructions to run out and get us if she needs us.  It's incovenient to stop every few minutes to run in and check on them, battling the 4-leggeds at each gate coming and going, making sure my clothes and veil are free of bees before going into the house, etc.  So, with me passing off my veil to my "miny-me", I get to stay where I can keep instant tabs of potential emergencies and Husbandman gets his 2nd set of eyes and fingers.

And boy does she have eyes.  Sharp ones.  She's still learning bees, but once she knows what she's looking for, my guess is she'll spot the queen every time.  She's way better than me.  I quickly glance at the frame for problems and impatiently ask if I can take a break to check on the kids again.

And finally, there's something about bees and bonding.  There's a daddy who treasures his little girl.  And there's a little girl who adores her daddy.  And working the bees is their special activity that they get to do together.  Almost like the bees are working their propolis, fusing their hearts together.

Duck Sitting Take 2

Look hard.  See that pile of scrub that looks like toppled trees that have sat decomposing for 4 years???  Ok, right at the top edge of the shadow caused by the rare tree that wasn't toppled, there's a tiny speck of white.  Ya see it?  That's a duck.  And under her is a nest.  She's been sitting on that nest for 20 days.  Muscovies take 35 days to hatch.

This has been an interesting progression.  Last fall, the 2 remaining hens laid a nest in the bachelor pad and sat on it for about 2 weeks before abandoning it.  Slowly the abandoned eggs disappeared.  We tried in vain to keep the ducks contained within the bachelor pad where the guardian Angel has patrol of 3 of its sides.  No luck.  We finally gave up and moved them all into the south paddock, where the females insisted on going, so the eggs that were being laid in this nest stood a decent chance of being fertilized.  And I must say its nice to not have to physically inface with the drake twice daily feeding and watering Copper.  He's the meanest thing we have here.  Some people are scared of the dog.  Little do they know the duck would just as soon rip the skin off your ankles.

So, here this nest sits.  And a 2nd nest is being laid and intermittenly sat upon.  Its a bit nerve-racking as if something, like the family of racoons that live in the woods immediately beside our house and pasture, were to get into that paddock, there's absolutely nothing there to protect them.  Angel can't go there.  And the ducks don't make noise so Angel may not even notice a prowler way back there in the dark of night.  Even if she did, by the time we'd wake up, get the flashlight and go through the 2 sets of gates to even get into that paddock, the damage would long be done. 

But we've tried everything else.  Complete lack of invovlement is ironically a last ditch effort.  If we don't get babies from them this spring, we're rehoming them to the retention pond where wild muscovies thrive.  If they do manage to breed something of note, we'll just continue to hope the racoons never realize the limited range of the big, barking dog.