Monday, October 12, 2009

Where have I been?

Cuke and tomato salad with fresh basil and oregano - 100% garden fresh treat!

You-know-what must be freezing I am, to post once again! Can you believe it?

So yes, I've had to take a little time off from posting in this blog. As I mentioned in my last post, things have been nuts at work and it more often than not, spills over into my 'real' life creating havoc. Throw in out of town visitors and trying to get back into shape on top of the typical farm stuff (and fall harvest) and you've got the chaos that is my life these days. Ah...the joy of the small farm.

Let's see - what has happened since my last post?

My parents came to visit at the end of August. We spent 4 days together mostly doing projects around the house but getting in some dinners out and a visit or two to a local winery. As a result, our back deck is now no longer an embarrassment! We also managed to get quite a bit of 'brass' out with the trick of using metal paint (on heat grates, light fixtures, etc). The master bath no longer has any pink in residence (we did this prior to their visit) and we have pictures/artwork on the walls in many places were blankness reigned supreme earlier this year. It was really fun to have them here and they were a great help not only with projects, but also with picking plums, blackberries and zucchini. And the winery visits were a blast too - a quick internet search revealed 119 wineries in our immediate vicinity (seriously - less than a 50 mile radius!)...we visited 2 of the closest ones. 2 down, 117 to go! ;-)

We have since seen our first few frosts, so finally, months after they almost overwhelmed us, the zucchini has been put to rest. Of course, we still have humongous ones that we are slowing feeding to the goats, and a bag of smaller ones in the fridge that we will eat over the next few days. I picked all the remaining cukes last week, the peppers over the weekend and we are still harvesting about a quart of strawberries a week. The blackberries are done. The apples (we only had one tree produce this year) are done. The pears (very small harvest) are also done. I've got small sugar pie pumpkins all over the house (dining room, basement, kitchen, laundry room...) and we should be harvesting the remaining tomatoes this evening (quite a few are green). We still have swiss chard, carrots, parsnips, brussels sprouts, mixed greens and the monster kale still growing in the garden. Oh, and a few straggly broccoli plants as well. I just harvested the rest of the beans yesterday as well. The only thing that was a major dissappointment this year was the corn. We made a few mistakes, but we hope to do better next year.

Next on the list of things to do with the garden is to get the chicken coop on the weeds and get the garlic bed set up and planted. That will hopefuly happen this coming weekend. I'd also like to try doing some lettuce indoors again this year, so we'll see how that goes. We may still have enough daylight to do it in the green house over the next couple of weeks, so if I can get something going in there, it will be worthwhile.

Sass is doing well. She's had her first estrus cycle of the season about a week ago, so we are watching for the second one soon. We've already arranged her 'date' we should be good to go when she is ready. We weren't 100% sure we wanted to breed her again because we aren't really sure what our future holds in terms of goats. I think we may consider going to a smaller breed (Nigerian Dwarfs) since we have so little land, but we love Sass and would have a real difficult time both selling her, or forcing her to 'retire' when that's not what goats want to do (in nature, they keep producing basically until it kills them). We haven't made a decision yet, so until we do, we are going to continue with our original plan. If she has girls, and we decide to change breeds, they will be no problem to sell. In fact, we know a woman locally who is thinking about getting into a better milk producing breed (they need more volume) and Sass is amazing at it. In fact, just last Friday, she gave a full gallon at one milking!

The chickens are hanging in there. A couple of the reds appear to be molting, so the egg production is falling off a bit. This is to be expected this time of year with birds that are over a year old. We expect to have very few eggs this winter (if any)...but we'll see. We did buy a small incubator that we hope to utilize next spring. I'd like to get a couple of heritage breed bird eggs from a hatchery, and then do a couple of our own. The incubator only holds 7 eggs, but since we are a small operation, anything bigger than that would just produce too many chickens. Our plan is to do a few dual-purpose heritage breeds. These are birds that do not grow at the freakish lightning pace of the Cornish X (typical bird used in industrial chicken houses), but they are more natural and healthy. A dual bird means that they bulk good for eating but that they are also good layers. We'll hatch a straight run, butcher the boys at the right age for the freezer and keep the girls for layers. Lather, rinse, repeat. This way, we can provide our own birds over time. I don't know if there is a inbreeding danger with chickens, but we will research this before we get to that point.

Let's see...what else...

Still riding when I can but I haven't done much commuting at all. I did finally find my headlight mount, so I hope to do my first fall commute this week. It's dark until just before I arrive at work in the mornings right now, so good lighting is essential. (damn daylight savings!)

We are doing some research into solar power and water. We are trying to set up some appointments to talk to a few companies. Basically, we know that a barn is our first priority in terms of needs, but with all the incentives for solar out there, getting panels up may be a 'low hanging fruit' for us. Oh if only we would win the powerball! (I guess you need to buy tickets to win, huh?)

The woodshed is completed and stocked full of wood. We have plans to put up cross-fencing and start re-seeding the goat area as soon as the rains start (we need the ground to be a bit softer). We have also planned out the addition of a covered area to the front of the goat shed so that they have a rain-free place to hang out besides just inside the shed. We have also tried to determine when we want to fence in our front side yard. It's a big, wide open space that would make both good goat grazing and good chicken free-ranging, if it weren't so close to the road. The plan is to put up a privacy type fence along the road and then the typical wire/t-post fence on the insides so that we can use the space for more than just fetch with the dogs. Lastly, we have been discussing our chicken housing. We want to alter the current coop a bit, build a new one, and create a temporary one in our existing shed for the meat birds in the orchard.

Oh yeah, and because we don't have enough to do - we purchased a 1971 VW Super Beetle to restore! The good news is that this purchase forced us to get our garage organized and cleaned out. The bad news is that we haven't had much time to do any work on her yet (her name is Betty). I know...we are nuts. Go ahead, say it. I can take it. ;-)


Thom said...

Thanks for the update! I guess my badgering on TE worked. :-)


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that you are back in the saddle again and doing your farm stuff! I hope we helped you and Rick a bit........Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

A 40 year old VW? Can you imagine the hydrocarbons that thing spits out! Not exactly a ULEV.

Cat said...

Actually, she is not spitting out any hydrocarbons right now because she is in pieces in our garage! Our plan is to completely rebuild this car from scavenged and recycled parts so the ultimate footprint is exceedingly small. Sure, we could buy a brand new Prius and drop our emmissions, but what kind of resources were used in the building of a BRAND NEW CAR. That is a completely useless waste when there are plenty of acceptably fuel efficient cars on the roads that just need a little (or a lot) of TLC. Besides, it's backup to a bicycle and you sure can't beat that for low emissions.

And check your math - Betty is still technically in her 30's. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Technically, she is in her 30's. But, the design is from the 1930's.

Should have just kept the Mini.

Cat said...

"Should have just kept the Mini."

No arguments here. But hindsight is always 20/20 isn't it?

Virginia said...

Glad to see you back to blogging. I've really missed your stories and pictures. I have to live the farm life vicariously through you and I was in withdrawal.

Virginia (five one)