Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I'm actually updating the blog! ;-)
No, actually...I mean that we are finally going to have a proper barn! At least 'proper' for our tiny farm and our tiny goats. We have been researching this since we bought the place. We knew what we wanted, but most pre-designed plans and most pole-building places are organized around much larger buildings. Given that our space is limited, we really didn't want to give up too much real estate to a building, no matter how helpful that building will be. Plus, a big honkin' barn in our yard would look decidedly stupid as it would dwarf everything else.
We had basically come to the conclusion that to get exactly what we wanted and within our budget (a key consideration, of course), that we'd have to buy plans, modify them somewhat and then build it ourselves. This is a massive undertaking for two completely untrained carpenters. One look at my addition to our goat shed would quickly convince any doubters as to my lack of carpentry skills. So, to be smart about this, we ordered plans for a small shed and we were going to build that first, as practice. (Then we'd turn our current tool shed into housing for meat chickens...but that's a future endeavor). This shed was supposed to be built last spring - after we moved the compost pile.
The compost pile is still in its original location. The shed is not built. The plans are gathering dust and spiders in the basement. We just don't have time for this type of major project.
So, months later we just happend to walk into a 'Tuff Shed' building at our local HomeDepot. We were just curious. It was a 12x16 space and as we stood there, we realized that we could totally turn this into a workable barn for us and our small goats. We'd have to build some interior walls and figure out a pully system to load hay into the loft, but we could do that!
So we contacted Tuff Shed for a quote. It came out within our budget, but I had a lot of questions about the features we were choosing. Turns out, there is a Tuff Shed showroom not too far away. We took a trip down there last weekend and it was exactly what we should have done a year ago. We worked with the guy, toured all their on site samples, chose our own materials and features and basically created the barn that will suit us perfectly. He drew up the quote and for whatever reason, it was even cheaper than the first one! Top this off with the promise to build it on site next Monday - and we can promise our goats a new residence by Christmas!
This is essentially what it will look like.
We are providing the paint (left over from our house painting - we never used it on the deck) and they will be painting it for us, so ours will be a midnight blue color (coordinates with our slate blue house). The trim will be white. Our window and door configuration is different than the one pictured here, but the basic structure and openings are the same. Inside the enclosed area, we will be creating a clean, sanitary, milking parlor! Both sides will have loft space to store hay and feed bags (we'll create a pully system for this) and we will create a 'birthing stall' area inside the enclosed part so that when Pepper kids in February, the babies won't freeze to death if we don't happen to be in attendence.
And, if this turns out to our liking, we'll start setting aside a little more money to eventually have Tuff Shed build us a new garden/tool shed.
Can you tell how incredibly excited I am???
Thursday, October 7, 2010
As promised - a few more photos of the goat babies! These were all taken a couple of weeks ago. Dollar is now almost twice Daisy's size. He's will become a wether this weekend because we feel that he has probably developed enough due to his large size and fast growth rate. Both goats are growing a shaggy coat that is super cute and very soft. Good thing they both enjoy being petted...they get a lot of attention!
Me, holding Daisy. (please excuse the squinting - that morning sun is BRIGHT!)
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
We've been busy! Harvesting, canning, cleaning, fixing, and playing (mostly with goat babies!).
Since my last post we've named the goat babies (Daisy is the girl and Dollar is the boy), had them disbudded (they both turned out to have horns), and attempted to milk Skylark. Milking has been unsuccessful thus far. First of all, one udder doesn't produce much milk so we are hesitant to take any for fear the babies will suffer. They are eating quite a bit of other food now, so we may try milking her some this weekend. Secondly, she hates it. We ordered a hobble (a velcro strap contraption that will hold her legs motionless while we milk) but we have yet to put it into practice - again, hopefully this weekend. Dollar is growing like a weed. He's easily more than twice Daisy's size now. Both goats are super sweet and very friendly.
Pepper has been bred. We matched her up to a buck with similiar coloring to her and she made friends quickly. She stayed at the buck's place for a couple of weeks but is now safely back with us and tolerating the babies reasonably well. She should be due right around Valentine's Day. I'm anticipating naming at least one of her babies 'cupid'.
The farm bounty has begun! We harvested pears and then I dried and canned as many as I could in one weekend. Lots went to waste though - I am getting better at dealing with this! Then we harvested blackberries - they went into a LOT of jam and quite a few batches of muffins. I have a recipe from my mom that was based on the original Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins (remember back in the day when department stores had restaurants and bakeries? Jordan Marsh in downtown Boston was known for their killer blueberry muffins). I've subbed in blackberries (and whole wheat pastry flour) with much delicious success. I particularly love that they freeze so well! I also freezed a few quarts of blackberries for recipes later in the year. Lastly, I made a pear blackberry pie with cardamom in it and it was DELICIOUS! It was so good that I'm tempted to actually buy more pears to make it again for Thanksgiving. Oh the sin!
Then the harvest moved to apples. I did 16 quarts of applesauce (I still have a couple left from last year!) and then 6 of those went into making apple butter in the crock pot which then turned into 7 pints of apple butter. I also did a couple of dehydrator loads of apple rings for winter use (and hiking food!). Delicious apple bread, apple crisp and baked apples were also made. There are two more apple trees that are just now ripening, so I forsee much more apple products in our near future.
We harvested the garlic which turned out beautifully and is drying in the garage. We harvested TONS (possibly literally, though I didn't weigh them) of onions. One dehydrator load took care of about 20 huge Walla Walla onions (Walla Wallas are similiar to Vidalia onions for you southern readers!) and the rest are stored in the laundry room for general use. Having what feels like a neverending supply of onions is nice...but I can honestly say that I will never buy bottled garlic again. The home grown fresh stuff (we did four varieties) is incredible!
I didn't get many zucchinis this year, but yellow summer squash is taking it's place. I've successfully subbed summer squash for zucchini in my favorite banana zucchini bread recipe, so I will be doing quite a bit of squash shredding for freezing and winter baking. All the winter squash varieties appear to be doing really well, so expect a future post about sweet potato squash, pumpkins, butternut squash and Fujitsu black squash recipe experimentation!
And then there were tomatoes - and more tomatoes...and more tomatoes. Wow. HUGE harvest this year. With a friend's help, we produced 12 quarts of seasoned sauce this past weekend and two pints of salsa. My next project will be to attempt to can tomatoes diced since that's how I use them the most. I'll probably end up doing another batch or two of seasoned sauce as well. I will also chop and freeze and also dehydrate as many as possible to try to tame the hoards.
Then I'll move on to carrots...looks like a bumper crop of some delicious carrots! I think carrots are like tomatoes - the store bought ones just don't compare to what you grow yourself in terms of flavor.
Grapes will be the last to be harvested, I think. The plan is to put a new steam juicer to work so that we can get the most of our grape harvest. Who knows...maybe home made wine is in our future!
Friday, September 3, 2010
On Tuesday, August 31st...one day after the date I predicted, Skylark gave birth to two baby goats. One girl and one boy. The girl is a sweetheart in almost the exact color markings as her mom (the black kid in the photo) and the boy is mostly white with some black markings. Both are very playful and curious. We anticipate that the boy will eventually be a handful as he's already the more adventurous one. The boy is slightly larger and is older by about 20 minutes.
On Monday, I expected that Skylark was going to be delivering soon. I actually hesitated to go to work on Tuesday morning as my H was still out of town until about noon and I had a feeling she was close. Luckily, she held off until the afternoon until after he'd gotten home. I'd cleaned out the goat shed that morning and left him a note to fill it with fresh straw when he got back. He went out to do just that and goat baby number one was already here and being cleaned off my mom! He threw some straw in the shed and called me at work to let me know. A few minutes later, goat baby number two arrived! What a huge difference from the events of this night, huh? As it turns out, Skylark is a great mom, so we had to do very little at all.
So now we have three things that we need to take care of right away. The first is getting them disbudded. Our disbudding iron is for larger goats, so instead of buying a new one immediately, we've located a woman that will do it for us. She also said that she can do these small breed goats with a full sized iron, so I'd like to watch in order to learn. The difficulty is that we don't yet know if either of these goats will have horns! Skylark has had polled babies before when bred to a polled buck ('polled' means that they naturally have no horns) so there is a good chance that one or both of these babies won't have horns at all. That would be AWESOME because disbudding really, really sucks. It's far worse than weathering the boys (castration) as far as I'm concerned. Rick may feel otherwise! ;-) This is partly why we haven't bred Pepper yet. She is polled and you cannot breed a polled goat to another polled goat or you get other potential deformities. The farm where we bought these two had only two bucks. One was polled (the one we bred to Skylark) and the other was Pepper's sire (can't do that combination!).
So now we need to get Pepper bred. Our plan is to get her bred soon so that she'll deliver in the spring and if we keep rotating like this, we'll have milk year round and babies twice a year! I've found a buck for Pepper who is actually colored exactly like her and who is not polled. Once we arrange a date, we'll take her to the bucks residence for a couple of weeks. She's never had babies before, so hopefully it'll go smoothly and she'll be a good mom.
Thirdly, we need to prep for milking. For the first two weeks, the babies get all the milk, but then we'll separate them at night and milk Sky in the morning (until they get weaned). There are two issues with this. First of all, Sky is much smaller than Sass was and this means that her udders are very close to the ground. There is no room underneath her for our old milking pail. It's too tall! I've found a shorter one that might be a good option for us, so we need to get that ordered. Secondly, since Nigerian Dwarf milk is twice as rich as Alpine milk, we'll need a seperator (or I'll never be able to drink it!). Sass' milk was probably about 3% milkfat (whole cows milk is 4%). Nigerian Dwarf milk can be 6 - 7% milkfat! That'll be like drinking half-half! Ick! The seperator we used when we had Sass was 1) too big - we'd have to collect milk for a week before skimming and 2) not working properly. We've found another one that will probably work, but I need to do a little more investigation first. We will certainly have no trouble making butter and cheese with this milk, that's for sure! Oooh, and ice cream too! Yum!
So all of this plus one more triathlon (Sat, Sept 4th) and the need to do some serious harvesting/canning/drying of both our produce and the local peaches that I want to buy and you have a recipe for a very busy holiday weekend.
Friday, August 27, 2010
We started as late as we dared (start time was 6:30 to 8:30 am at our leisure) so that the air could warm up a bit. We headed out of the parking lot in Fort Klamath at about 8 am. We were registered for the century ride, but we had no intention of actually riding 100 miles just to say we rode 100 miles. We wanted to ride to the lake! So we skipped the 18+ mile tour of the valley floor and headed strait up the road that went to the lake. We climbed in the forest and while it didn't look all that steep, it was a pretty good incline. In addition, Ft Klamath was at 4200ft so to us flat-landers, it was a challenge.
Everytime I started thinking 'hmmm, I'm hungry' a rest stop came along. They were remarkably well placed and very well stocked. A handlful of grapes, a homemade cookie, a small subway sandwich, some water and we were on our way again.
There were a couple of spots where I felt pretty discouraged. It was hard to look down at my computer, realize we still had 40 miles to go and then figure that since we were only going 6 mph, that we'd be out there FOREVER. Luckily, there were a few downhills as well. By the time the last descent came our way (about mile 60), I was ready for it. My legs were done, my rear was killing me from the saddle and my shoulders hurt from riding in the drops so much to fight the wind. We FLEW down the mountain and back into Fort Klamath not a moment too soon as far as my rear end was concerned. Total distance: 78+ miles. Total climbing: 7500+ miles Average speed: ~13 mph (better than I expected!).
We enjoyed the provided pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans and then headed back to the hotel for a nice hot shower and a nap. I'm so glad we finally got to do this ride.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
So our hives are huge and full. We have two of them, one of which already has two FULL supers on it (the large box that tops the hive and where the honey gets stored). We pulled a few frames to give the bees more room about a month ago, and we needed to harvest that honey so that we could reuse the frames. We rented an extractor from the local bee place and invited some friends over to watch/help/learn.
First step was to cut the caps off the honey comb. This is done in multiple ways, but we used a hot knife to slice them open on both sides of the frame.
This shows some of the beeswax caught by the filter as the last of the honey comes out of the extractor.
Lastly, we tilted the extractor to help the last of the honey flow out of the spout and into our filter. It was just beautiful as it glowed in the sunlight! And man...nothing beats fresh, raw honey for taste - it's heavenly!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
My husband bought me a netbook for an anniversary present (I think it was just convenient that it was anniversary time as he's been wanting to get me one for awhile so that he could have my desktop for some project). It came with Windows 7 Starter which is so full of limitations that it really sucked. He upgraded it to Windows 7 Home Premium last week and in the process, erased every single digital photo we had taken in the past two years. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I hadn't had a chance to back them up yet as I'd only *just* moved them from my work computer the day before.
When he informed me of this, I seriously thought it was just pulling my leg. He wasn't. Usually when you upgrade, the software will ask if you want to delete old files - that didn't happen this time. We think it's probably because he named my new profile the same as my old one so it just wrote right over it. Because of this, I have no more 'before' photos of anything on the farm or in the house. Not a single photo of Sass (who is now living on a different farm)...and every single photo I've taken with my new camera save the few that are still on it are all gone too. It was all I could do not to burst into tears while fixing dinner that night.
Luckily, because of a recent virus problem on my work computer, I have two profiles on it. I'd deleted all the photos out of the current profile because I wanted the space, but I forgot to delete them from the old profile that still exists on my laptop. I went searching and they were still there! I don't have any photos taken between when that virus struck and when I did the transfer (basically anything taken with my new camera), but it's better than being completely without anything since we moved in. Phew!
So, later that same night, as we are about to sit down to eat, my huband notices cop cars in front of our house. Two of them were out there with lights flashing and it looks like they were blocking off our road. OK, we figure there was an accident at the corner (it's happened before). Then we notice lights at the corner and further back on the other cross-street. Odd. We sit down to eat and not moments later the dogs start going crazy and we notice a cop in our backyard. My H puts on his jacket to go outside and see what is up and when the cop sees him, yells for him to take the dogs inside and stay there. Lovely.
I go to look out the guestroom window and there are now no less than a dozen town, county and state cop cars blocking our road! Flashing lights everywhere!
When I look to my right, I can see one cop standing half-hidden by one of our apple trees with a rifle in his hand. From a different window, I can see another cop squatting down, also with a rifle, using our greenhouse as cover. Holy crap.
Then we notice about 6 more cops with a HUGE black german shephard heading towards our back yard. They are combing the whole space - terrifying the goats. Luckily, by this time, the chickens were already in their coop or they'd be making a hell of a racket. We had to lock our dogs in the bathroom where they had no windows because they were also going ballistic at this point. A different cop finally had the courtesy to ring our bell and let us in on the story. Turns out, some lady reported that her car was shot at from the abandoned school building next door and when the cops went to investigate, someone was there and he ran from them. They were hunting this person down. I heard LOUD shots as I was cooking that evening - we hear them all the time - but I remembered these as odd because they were so loud that I heard them over the TV in the other room. Country living at it's best, right? To this day, we don't really know what ended up happening. By about 9:30 pm, they were all gone and we haven't heard any updates since then. Strange!
So lastly, about the biking. Last weekend we didn't make much farm progress because we spent a lot of time biking. On Saturday we met up with some friends and biked the route that my first triathlon will take in a few weeks. After the ride, those of us doing the tri also ran the race route for the run portion as well. It was my first brick and other than one fleeting desire to just sit down as I started the run, it went well. My plan is to do another one this weekend and then one more next weekend. On Sunday, we did a ride that we enjoy just north of us. We ended up doing just over 33 miles and it was a really great time. The weather was spectacular and we really enjoyed it. My sit bones were screaming at me (they aren't used to this much riding yet!), but it was worth the pain.
The hope is that this weekend we can manage at least some riding AND some farm progress. We've got some transplanting to do and the chicken coop needs to be cleaned. Fun! ;-) We are also working on relocating our compost bins so that we can build a new garden shed on the current bin location. I took some 'before' photos of the move - but they were among the missing so I'll just have to be content with posting 'during' and then 'afters' once we have them.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
So we hatched new baby chicks in February and while we enjoyed watching them grow up, they were getting entirely too big to be in the brooder in the garage. Additionally, they were getting too much dust on our bikes! ;-)
My husband spent a couple of weekends in a row (I only marginally helped) building a new run for them. We purchased the little coop for them off a guy on craigslist who builds them and painted it ourselves. Then, once the run was completed, we butted the new coop up to it, arranged the chicken wire, and let them explore. The base of the run is lined with cedar shavings for now, but we'll probably keep it full of straw or spent hay from the goat shed as time goes on. We figured that cedar shavings were a good bet since that's what the chicks had in the brooder and we wanted it to be somewhat familiar to them.
It's located in the corner of the goat area, so to free range the birds, we can just open the door and not have to worry about the neighbors dogs chasing down our birds.
This was when the new chickies first started to investigate! I think here they are saying to each other "you want me to step over this gaping hole right here? Really? I don't think I want to go outside that bad...".
So far, this arrangement appears to be working out just fine. The chickies have learned that their new coop is 'safe' and they go there when scared. They also put themselves to bed when it gets dark, so all we have to do is close up the coop (lifting that ramp and latching it to the side of the coop).
Now to just wait for the eggs to start....
Monday, April 12, 2010
A few months ago, I decided to try a recipe from Tosca Reno's Clean Eating Cookbook for granola. I'd never made my own granola before, but it seemed simple enough. That first batch was made with our own honey, dried pears from our own trees and mixed rolled grains from Bob's Red Mill Store on the other side of Portland. It was so delicious and so cheap that we decided that we were never buying store bought cereal again! Since then, I've played around with the ingredients using different sweeteners, different dried fruits, different nuts and even an experiment adding orange zest and maple syrup. So far, I've only had one failed batch for over-cooking the syrup. Out of the 10-12 batches I've made, I figure that's pretty good!
The basic recipe calls for 1 cup each of 4 different rolled (flaked) grains. I typically use a combination of oats, wheat, rye and either triticale or barely. For seeds, it uses sunflower and sesame. For nuts, it calls for almonds (I've used both sliced and slivered) and I often add or substitute pecans. The syrup that you toss the ingredients with is a combination of oil (canola or olive), sucanant (I've used date sugar or brown sugar as well), honey (or maple syrup), vanilla extract and a dash of salt. This part gets heated gently and then everything gets stirred in a big bowl and then spread out on a baking sheet with a good lip.
You bake it for 40 minutes at 300F. And you MUST stir the mixture every 10 minutes. The recipe then calls for the addition of the dried fruit at the end just prior to cooling. I added it at the beginning the first time I made it because I didn't read the instructions carefully and I actually liked it better that way. I think the flavors blend better and the fruit is a tad chewier in texture which I enjoy. Now I usually mix it in with 10-20 minutes left to bake as a compromise.
Finished granola! I like to add the dried fruit with 10 or so minutes left to bake as I feel like it better incorporates the fruit.
The two best batches we've made were the first one and the one pictured here. Both were made with local, raw honey. The first one was our own honey, the one pictured here using honey from a friend. Wow, what a difference GOOD honey makes!
Friday, April 9, 2010
The memory stick is only 128M and my photos are too big. That's what I get for not adjusting the settings in my fancy new camera. Super-duper resolution means photos won't fit on old memory sticks.
Ok, no problem. I'll just edit them and shrink them on the netbook first. Ah, no go. Windows 7 Starter does not support Microsoft photo editor and there is no other photo editing software on the netbook. Fine. I search for a simple but free software - download it off my work computer onto said memory stick and then try to run it on the netbook. Software is compatible with Windows 7 Starter, but Google tool bar which is apparently a key component is not. Lovely.
Now I have my computer genius husband researching the possiblity of putting XP on my netbook. It can't run the full version of Windows 7, so that's out. What a pain!
Of course, now that I've typed all this, I just occurred to me that I can take a few photos at time and at least have a few things to share...
So that's what I did:
Charlie running! It's not the clearest photo ever, but looking at it just makes me smile - he is so happy!
Springtime sunset on the farm.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
So, let's see...what has happened? I'm going to start by apologizing for not having any photos to accompany this post. I received a new netbook for an anniversary gift from my wonderful husband, and all my photos have been transferred to it. Unfortunately, this update is coming via my work laptop - and there are no more photos in my photo folder!
So yes, we had our 7th anniversary since I last posted. I can't believe it's been 7 years - it seems like only yesterday that we were putting the wedding together. It's been a wonderful 7 years full of adventure and love.
Speaking of love - Skylark is still off getting hers. We took her to the farm where we bought her to be bred. As of last weekend, she still had not gotten any. She actually wasn't showing signs of estrus, so the herder was going to put a marking harness on her and put her in with the bucks. A marking harness is a contraption used for goats and sheep (and perhaps other animals?) where it leaves a colored mark on the female once she's been bred. This color will correspond to the buck with whom she copulated (at least, that's how I've read it works - we've never used one). So, we are hopeful that we'll get her back to our farm soon. In the meantime, Buddy and Pepper seem to be bonding well enough. Funny thing is, Pepper has gone into estrus twice since we got her, so it's odd that Skylark has not. We are tracking Pepper's cycle on a calendar so when we find another buck, we'll know when to set up her date.
My H finished the new chicken run and we set the coop up outside last weekend. I did take photos - so I'll do a photo 'show and tell' post later. It's a cute little coop for the 5 new birds and the run is in the corner of the goat area. Once they are a little bigger (and once the weather clears), they'll get to free range with the other chickens, safe from the neighbor's dogs.
And the neighbors dogs... they have three. Two pure bred jack russells and a very old lab mix. The lab is like 15 years old now? He's pretty deaf, but he gets around well and seems happy. The two jack russels are a terror. One of them is obsessed with our chickens. She got ahold of one once and did some damage to it (it survived), but since then, she's crazy about them. She's also pregnant. The neighbors didn't get her (or her half brother) fixed soon enough, so there is a litter of jack russels on the way. At least they are purebred - hopeful they'll be able to find homes for them. She offered us one, but with chickens, it would be a disaster. I am looking forward to puppy breath though!
We have been steadily planting, transplanting, pruning and cleaning in prep for the growing season. Our greenhouse is full of tomato and pepper plants, our boxes have lots of spinach, lettuce, peas and onions planted and sprouting. We also put out the brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts & kale) already. And we had one brussels sprouts plant left from last year that is about to flower. I'm thinking that I'll save the seeds since it's the only brassica we have that's flowering - it think that will work. Normally, brassicas all cross-pollinate and need like a mile of separation - but since this lone plant is all that we currently have at that stage, it might work. We'll see. The garlic is doing well and the few onions from last year are now blooming. I'm not sure what to do with them except pull them up. I think a little research is in order.
ALL of our fruit trees are budding like mad! We should have a bumper crop of pears, plums and apples this year. Look for a post about me losing my mind come next fall! ;-) We have added a number of trees to our orchard this year. In fact, I think we are now officially out of room! We have planted a nectarine, a peach, two honey crisp apples, a red d'anjou pear and two new sweet cherry varieties (I forget the specifics) trees. We also have a fig tree and a green/black tea bush to arrive next month to be planted. Lastly, we have purchased some asparagus root stock and will be putting in our first bed very shortly.
In the meantime, between all the planting, building and tending to animals...we are getting in shape. My husband is working on weight lifting and cycling in an effort to drop a few pounds to ride the Crater Lake Century in August, and I'm kind of putzing along on my triathlon training. I'm eating as he is, also hoping to lose weight, but my training is centered on swimming, running, biking and full body/core weight training videos. My first tri is May 8th and I hope to do two others this summer (reserving the right to back out if I end up hating this one!) and the Crater Lake Century as well. Wow, that sounds exhausting, doesn't it? Good thing its FUN! I can't believe I'm about to make this public - but it turns out, I REALLY like swimming. Who knew? Certainly not my swim coach back in 8th grade! :-b
I've got all kinds of photos to post (taken with my new birthday camera!), so I'll come back and do that as soon as I get a chance. Look for photos of the new coop/run (and the new birds!), of garden progress and of things blooming all over the place...
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday after work I stopped at the pool and swam for about 45 minutes. I showered afterward (usually I just rinse and shower at home, but for whatever reason, I decided to do a full shower at the pool this time) and then drove home. As I pulled into the driveway, I could see the candles in the wall sconces in the living room were lit. Is my husband getting all romantic on me? Then I realized that our big overhead light (outdoors) wasn't lit and I could see that the brooder light in the garage was out. I glanced across the street (and across the field) and confirmed that our neighbors were also dark. Power's out.
My first thought was for the chicks. Without power, their brooder will be cold and they are not yet fully feathered and it was unusually cold out, too. Upon opening the door to the house, the first thing I noticed was that the woodstove was lit and that there was a box infront of it. Yep, my husband is one smart cookie! The chicks were soundly sleeping by the warmth of the fire.
My next concern was how I was going to use my Neti pot. I started using one as a way to cleanse the chlorine from my sinuses. I get nasty reactions if I don't use it within a couple of hours of swimming. So I pulled out the tea kettle, filled it with water and set it on the wood stove. Not 3 minutes later and it was already scaldingly hot! I mixed it with some cold water to get the right temp and did my duties. Phew.
Apparently we had a freakish wind storm that afternoon. It actually ripped the front awning off the goat shed and not long after that, knocked out our power. The power company said they'd already received over 800 calls about outages by the time my H contacted them. 800 homes out where we live covers a LOT of territory! This happend at about 4pm, so H hadn't even started dinner. We debated firing up the grill but opted to run out to a not-too-local restaurant (our whole town was dark - we had to go to the next one for food!). On the way back, we could see emergency crews, flood lights and activity on the main road that goes through our town. My guess is that some tree or branch took down the power lines and that was one of the spots. It must have happend in multiple locations because it was so widespread.
When we got back from dinner, we sat around talking by lamplight until it was time for bed. As I was trying to set my cell phone for a wake-up alarm, I noticed a light from under my husband's office door. The power came back! Good thing, I was worried I'd have a hell of a time getting ready for work the next morning with no power.
Anyway, this little incident made us realize a few things. First of all, we are too power dependent. We do conserve pretty well so our bills aren't high, but we still have too many things for which we require power (like laptop computers, clocks and the freezer/fridge). We've got non-electric light and heat covered, but we still need to work on food storage and communications. We also need to do something about the pumps in the basement. Lucky for us, this wind came during a slight dry spell. Had it been raining like the last two days, our basement would have flooded without the sump pumps. That's something else we need to take care of as soon as possible. Secondly, we need to make sure that we have plenty of lamps and candles that are not scented. Nothing is worse that getting stunk out of your own house by too many scented candles all at once! ;-) Lastly, we'll have to make sure to only hatch chicks in the summer so that we won't need a lamp to keep them warm!
Friday, March 5, 2010
This past winter, we signed up for a couple of classes at the bee supply place that we use. They were offering both soap making and candle making as ways of utilizing beeswax. We signed up for both and learned so much!!
The first class was soapmaking. We brought our own 'safety equipment' like goggles, aprons and old towels, but the class provided the lye, the fats, the scents and a basic soap mold. We had so much fun! We opted to make two different batches of soap from our mix. Both had the same oil/fat mix and the same lye, but when we got to 'trace' we split them up and scented them different. To over simplify, when you make soap from lye and fat (and beeswax in our case), you mix them together in very precise quantities (using a digital scale), stir until you get to the 'trace' stage, and then add scents or additives. Then you pour the mixture into a mould of some type and let it dry. You need to keep it warm (the reason for the towels) so that it sets properly and doesn't crack or bubble.
Once set, you slice it up and let it dry further. There is no need to let it sit for months and there is no danger of burning your skin IF you use the correct formulas. In the old days, when lye came from wood ash stirred over a fire, it was a very inprecise science. Soapmakers had to basically guess the strength and estimate the mixing quantities. Today's lye is so pure and regulated that it is very easy to calculate the right mixture and avoid creating soap that takes off more than dirt!
The two types we made are pictured above. The yellow colored soap is scented with zucchini flower and the browner looking one is scented with a mixture of scents including sandalwood and also has cranberry fiber added for a slight exfoliating effect.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
We would like to welcome Skylark and Pepper to the crazy world of our tiny farm! These two half-sisters are Nigerian Dwarf does. Skylark is the one with the blue eyes and she is 3 years old. Pepper is the smaller all black goat and she is only two and has never been bred. Both are super sweet and we are pleased to have them as the founding members of our Nigerian Dwarf herd.
Yes, you read that correctly. We've finally decided that it's time to do what makes the most sense for our land/space and our goals so we are changing our goat herd. We will be keeping Buddy as a companion goat (he's our Pygora wether) but Sass is going to a new home.
We met a couple who operates a CSA a few towns north of us (near where I work, actually) last summer and they have a few goats already. They include the occasional homemade goat cheese in their CSA shares. I forget which breeds they currently keep, but they are not the heavy producer that Sass is, so they are excited to have her join them. She'll have a wonderful home where she will get to breed and where she will have other full sized goats to keep her company. Plus, we can visit her! We are not selling her as this isn't about profit - we just want her to have a good home. We plan to be clear about the fact that if their situation changes and they can no longer keep Sass, then we'll take her back. I think she'll have a great time there, actually!
We are also investigating our Nigerian Dwarf buck options at the moment. We may opt to keep one on site someday, but for now, we just need stud service. Nigerian Dwarfs cycle all year round, so our plan is to try and get Skylard bred at the end of March so that she'll birth in late August. Then we will breed Pepper sometime after that so that she'll kid in the spring. From there, we don't know what our plans are, but we are excited about our new decision.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Tomato seeds 'saved' from the last sauce batch. I let these 'ferment' or 'mold' in the containers, then I rinsed them and then dried them so that they could be used this year.
All of the seeds get started in our basement. We have a little tray that holds these peat inserts that you soak in water prior to planting. The tray then sits on a heating pad set to 'low' until they sprout. Once we see sprouting, we have a grow light on a timer that keeps them green. When we see the first set of 'real' leaves, they get transplanted (peat core and all) into peat pots and moved to the greenhouse. Lucky for us, the sun is still very low in the sky (if it shines at all), so the tiny seedlings can handle it. As we get closer to summer, we have to be more careful not to fry them! So far, everything is looking good. Out of 50 cells, only two did not sprout, so we are well on our way to having a garden again.
We will start more seeds of more types of veggies as we get closer to our last frost date (May 15th). It is still to early for many varieties. I'll also plant some swiss chard, peas and spinach directly in the garden in the next couple of weeks. I would have done this already except that I still haven't planned out what things will go where yet and I need to get that done first.
I can't wait for the first veggies of 2010!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
We've had a couple of spring-like days lately (following an unusually warm winter), so it's forcing us to kind of take stock of where we are and where we plan to go this year. Since my last major update post, we've made some small progress.
We cross-fenced our goat area and moved the goats to the non-muddy side for the winter. Then we reseeded the other side. The warm weather and sun over the past week has finally sprouted the grass and with any luck, it'll keep growing even though winter weather has kind of returned. This new cross fencing basically puts the goat shed on the dividing line between each area, so that when it's time to switch, we just move one cattle panel and the shed will now be accessable from the other side. We also added an overhang to the goat shed. We wanted to do something more permanent, but considering that we are still planning on building a barn, we opted for a quick fix. My husband sunk two 4x4 posts in front of the shed and then we extended a tarp between them and the front of the shed above the door/opening. This gives the goats a little more protection from rain besides just hanging out inside the shed. I'll take pictures this weekend.
Speaking of sheds and a new barn - we've formed a plan. We purchased plans for a saltbox type shed from a book we bought and we are going to build it this spring. This new shed will then house our gardening supplies that are currently in the rundown shed that came with the property. Once we can move everything over, we will shore up the old shed to be housing for meat chickens (assuming we can get all this done in time). This works out really well because the old shed is smack in the middle of our 'orchard' which is great place to range meat birds. Additionally, building this shed from plans by ourselves will give us the practice we need because our ultimate goal is to build our own barn. So far, we haven't found the perfect barn design yet (it needs to be small but versitile), but we have time. We are also talking about how to set up a mini solar PV system (complete with batteries and an inverter) to power the shed/greenhouse and again, as practice so that we can do our own work to power the house one day (or, to at least speak with some experience when we hire someone).
On the animal front: we do plan on raising meat birds eventually. Additionally, we are now raising 5 more laying chickens - any cockrels of which will be meat as well - for eggs. We are painting the new chicken coop (we needed more space) and I will have pictures of that to share this weekend. We are also currently without goat milk. We dried off Sass late this past fall and we did not breed her. When she finally went into estreus when we were around to observe it, we were too late. The local family who had the buck we used last time had already sold him! In some ways, I think this was probably not a bad thing for us. We've been debating switching to a smaller breed (Nigerian Dwarf) goat and this might be our opportunity. I don't know what we'll do with Sass. I know of a couple of local farmers that might be interested in her, so that's a possiblity. We also might just keep her around - we've gotten kind of attached to her. We'll see. It is clear that our property really is better suited to the little goats, particularly if we hope to one day be fully self-sustaining.
Lastly, I received a new camera for my birthday! I'm so excited because I was really getting tired of fighting with my old point and shoot to get even passable photos for this blog. The new one is great - totally automatic or totally manual with tons of options. It's weakness is low light conditions but it does have an on-board flash. It also has a decent video capability, so I will try to capture short clips for the blog when appropriate. I finally got a good sized memory card on order because I'm dying to capture Maggie and Cooper 'fighting' together - it's great fun to watch!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Approximately 21 days later, we heard cheeping in my husband's office. We kept the incubator in there because it's the warmest room in our house (small room, many computers). The first bird born on Valentine's Day was one of the white ones. We named her Una.
We are trying to be sure to handle these birds more often so that they are friendlier to humans than our current birds. We also find it funny that the 4 brown eggs from Rhode Island Red mom birds are all yellow chicks (normally, Rhode Island Red chicks are brown). I guess the White Leghorn rooster is more dominant in terms of coloring? We can tell them from the one 'pure blood' White Leghorn chick because they all have small black spots on their backs. Odd. We are both really curious as to how they'll look once they get their adult feathers.
Anyway, it's fun to have babies on the farm again!
Friday, February 19, 2010
Anyway, quite a bit has happened in this time frame. It'll take me a few posts to get through it all. Let me start with one of our new family members. Meet Cooper:
This is him a few days ago - he's growing like a weed!
Cooper is a shelter kitty. We met him the day after Christmas but had to wait a few days for his surgery. The day we picked him up was the day of our one and only snowstorm this year. For a brief moment, we considered naming him Blizzard or Stormy but opted against it. He was listed as a stray and spent some of the earliest part of his life in a foster home. He must have been well treated because he is a wonderful, loving cat. He's affectionate to humans and much to their discomfort, to dogs. He's smart, he's playful and he happily drinks water out of a bowl and doesn't demand we turn on the faucet for him. So far, he hasn't really ventured outside, but I'm sure that exploring the great outdoors can't be too far into the future as this cat is fearless. It's not really a good trait for a country cat, but we'll keep our fingers crossed.
Cooper and Maggie are great friends. They play all the time. One of these days, I need to take some video of it to share because it's really amusing. Charlie tolerates Cooper, but I don't think he's a big fan. He'll play with him on occasion, but for the most part, just tries to ignore him.
We named him Cooper after one of the characters in our favorite TV comedy. Anyone want to guess which show?