Wednesday, August 31, 2011

And now there are 4...

 Our Pygora goat Buddy (pictured above) has a new home.  He was really bulling our smaller goats making it very hard to keep the smallest goats well fed, so we had to re-home him.  Luckily, we found a nice couple not too far away who had recently lost one of their Pygoras and was hoping for a new one.  They had one left who was very lonely, so Buddy came along at the perfect time for them.

They've kept us abreast of his progress and he is warming up to them.  He gets along well with the other goat, too.  His name is Jerry.  Buddy and Jerry - sounds like the makings of a 50's sitcom!  Anyway, we are pleased that he's happy and actually serving a purpose again.

The remaining 4 goats (Pepper, her baby Penny, Daisy and Dollar) are all doing well.  We are still milking Pepper but having some difficulty keeping her from nursing Penny through the fence.  No matter what we do, they find a way.  Luckily, keeping Penny well fed keeps her from drinking too much milk so we are still getting plenty.  This coming weekend, we are going to look at how we can create a third goat area so that we can rotate them a bit better (to allow the pasture to freshen!).

We also now have two ducks on our farm.  Meet Luna and Butterscotch!  Luna is the black one and this photo does not do her justice - she is glossy black with gorgeous green undertones and a blue stripe on her wing.  Butterscotch actually came with the name Buttercup because she was a yellow duckling, but somehow her name morphed into Butterscotch.  They are currently sharing the same fenced area with our dogs, but they do poop on the deck, so we will have to come up with something else.  We'd be OK with letting them totally free range (they are less destructive than the chickens) but for the neighbors' three jack russells that would love to have duck for lunch.  I think that total property fencing may have just moved up a few notches on our priority list.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aphids Suck

The first two years we had this garden, we grew gorgeous Brussels sprouts but before we had a chance to harvest a single one, aphids found them. They left the other brassicas alone though so we got a good harvest of broccoli and kale, totally aphid free. This year, we opted against the Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, it appears that in the absence of Brussels sprouts, aphids are perfectly happy infesting the broccoli, kale and cabbage that we did grow. I'm most disappointed by the loss of cabbage because we had some BEAUTIFUL heads forming!

We'd tried using non-pesticide type remedies in the past. Companion planting with lavender (which grows very well here) didn't help. The aphids were unaffected. Setting up two little lady-bug homes in our garden to encourage lady bugs didn't help either. I've seen all of one lady bug in our garden in the past 3 years. Chickens would probably eat ahpids, but they'd also eat our garden and I can't take that chance. (Chickens also love slugs by the way, but chickens sleep at night when slugs come out, so they are a terrible option!).

A little online research turned up an easy solution. Apparently tomato leaves (of the nightshade family) are poison to most bugs. You can make a 'tea' of tomato leaves to use as a pesticide. It's safe for humans and pets, but deadly to bugs.  The problem is that it's deadly to ALL bugs, so you'd also lose any beneficial bugs in your garden.  Since we don't have many of those, I figured it was worth a shot.  My plan was to only spray brassicas.

So I pulled off about two packed cups worth of tomato leaves and coarsely chopped them.

Then I added hot water and let the mixture sit overnight (or about 8 hours).

I then strained out all the leaves and poured the liquid into a clean spray bottle we had. I added plain water to fill the bottle (about another cup) and voila - organic tomato pesticide!

I immediately went out to the garden to try and rescue our brassicas. It took almost half the bottle just to spray our two kale plants. Then I tackled the least infested of the cabbages. The cabbages that were the worst, I just pulled from the garden. Same for the broccoli. Actually, it was as I was spraying the broccoli that it occurred to me that we DO have one beneficial bug in our garden...our bees! I totally hadn't thought about the bees, but I was careful to not spray any flower at all, so hopefully it won't affect them. I'd feel awful if I accidentally killed our three hives!

This was two days ago. Tonight will be my first opportunity to investigate the results. I promise to report back. Keep your fingers crossed for me that this worked!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And then there were 5...

On Monday evening, we took Polaris and Skylark on a LONG drive from our place to their new home. We found a couple with a good amount of land that were looking for some goats. They'd just lost one of theirs to coyotes, so they needed new ones to be companions to their lonely wether. As we had decided to not breed Skylark any longer and since we didn't need another wether around our place, the two of them went together. We drove them ourselves so that we could see the conditions of the new place. It's really nice and I think they'll be happy. They'll have a small Alpine wether as a companion and a small female boer-cross as well. Two acres just for them with plenty to eat and places to explore. The couple were very nice and very affectionate with their goats (which Skylark will appreciate) and I think we made a good choice.

While I'll miss her to some degree, I know that she'll be happy there. I really hadn't formed much of a bond with Polaris, but I'm glad that they went together as he's still quite young and seemed to welcome the security of a familiar goat when introduced to the new surroundings.

The remaining goats are doing fine. Pepper is providing us with milk, but she has continued to find a way to nurse Penny (the other little black goat baby!) through the fence that separates them. We've finally decided that we cannot thwart her, so we are going to outsmart her. We ordred an 'udder sling' that kind of works like a bra for goats. It's designed to help goats with low hanging udders from getting injured on the ground, but it can also be used to help discourage sneaky goat babies that should be weaned already! Hopefully this will help as we just don't have the room to put more distance between the two of them without investing in some fence changes that we are not financially ready to tackle just yet.

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 months = many changes

I cannot believe that it has been 5 months since I last posted on this blog. Due to the directional shift that my life has taken lately, I cannot pretend that I'm going to turn over a new leaf and begin posting like a regular blogger going forward. I would sincerely like to, but I must be realistic and I know that I just don't have the time.

That said, I miss the part of my life that this blog was representing. When others ask me when I'm going to update this place, I think not about the camera full of photos that I have not uploaded or the piles of recipes that I've collected to try, or the times I've thought about documenting another aspect of our 'farm life'....I think about how much I miss it.

Before anyone gets all concerned on me, we still have the farm. We still have seven goats (yes, the most recent babies are still with us for the moment!), we are down to only 9 chickens and one rooster, and we are up to now three beehives, one of which my husband captured on our property when a swarm showed up a few weeks ago. We still have a garden, we are now using the new barn and I'm working on the start of an herb garden that has culinary herbs in boxes hanging from our deck railing and medicinal herbs growing in the flower bed in front of our house.

So what has changed? The big whopper is that I have a new job. I am now the College Program Manager for my company and as such, I'm building a college program (we had none!) including an internship program and a solid college recruiting effort. We hire predominantly masters and PhD level graduates, so I will have the opportunity to use my technical background as a way to connect with the hires, with the hiring managers and with the professors at the schools we target. I will be doing a LOT of travel and therein lies the biggest change to our lifestyle. I travel, my husband takes care of the farm and neither of us have time to blog or cook or do half the things we used to do around the place.

We are working on scaling back and considering where our future lies. At this point, we don't see a whole ton of changes in the immediate future as we have no intentions of attempting to sell our place in the current real estate market. We've also got entirely too much that needs doing around the place before we could even list it (like replacing the wood stove and doing some work on the septic system). I think that for now, we are going to just work on scaling back a bit. To that end, we are working on finding a new home for Buddy, Skylark and Polaris (the boy goat baby pictured above). We will keep and eventually breed Penny (the girl goat baby), Daisy and Pepper (again). Dollar will be kept as a companion and because I cannot part with him. He's my 'little guy' who is actually the biggest dwarf goat we own! He's sweet and super easy to manage, so he'll be a good companion goat when we have to separate someone for some reason (like weaning). For the chickens, we are going to rethink how we house them. Each time we build a new coop/run, we learn something new, so eventually we'll get a system going that is virtually 'kink' free. All the remaining girls are still laying, but considering that more than half of them are now three years old, their production has significantly fallen off. This is a good thing for us because the egg load is now manageable.

The fruit harvest is looking good for this year so we've sent out feelers into our local community for anyone wishing to glean our fruit. Basically, we'll harvest what we want for ourselves and then send out a email to a local collection of people who will come and pick the remainder of the fruit for themselves (or for charity). All in all, I think we are making good progress towards getting on top of all we need to do and learning to have fun as well.

Just so no one thinks it's all work and no play at our tiny farm, that's not the case. We have a sea kayaking trip and two hiking trips planned still for this summer and two different people lined up to watch the farm while we are gone. It's all about balance, right? We just have to learn to build up our balance muscles a little.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A source of heat

You may recall the above photo. This was taken in the hotel room we stayed at briefly when we first moved to Oregon (we were waiting on our furniture). For some unknown reason, Kitty felt inclined to share a crate/bed with Chalie - all of his own accord.

Fast-forward 3 years (almost exactly!) and our new cat, Cooper decides that Kitty must have been onto something. I look up from my Kindle and see that Cooper has made himself comfortable on Charlie's dog bed - while Charlie is on it! Charlie awoke when I grabbed my camera, but they were both sleeping peacefully when I first looked up.

Neither Kitty or Cooper ever joined Maggie on her dog bed. Personally, I think it's a heat thing. Charlie radiates heat. He's often cold and shivering in the winter and can function quite well in the high summer temps. And his head is always hot to the touch. I think the cats like this feature!

Maggie is usually cool to the touch. She is naturally well insultated and is always energized and happy on a cold brisk morning. She will almost melt before our eyes in the summer heat.

Funny, but Maggie is just like me. Charlie is just like my husband. Both Kitty and Cooper will chose to cuddle up to my H long before they'll do the same with me. Apparently, it's not that they don't like me, it's that he is a better heat source in the winter! Phew, I feel like less of a pariah now. ;-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Goat babies are here again!

Pepper had her babies on Feb 7, 2011!! She had two tiny babies - both black - one boy and one girl. They both have blue eyes (like their sire). The boy has a little white spot on his forehead that looks like a star, so we've named him Polaris. The little girl is still nameless at this point.

Pepper is turning out to be a good mom. She's still skittish of us, but she's attentive but not overly protective of her babies.

Since our herd is currently at 7 (for now), I thought I'd mention everyone:

Pepper (left) and Skylark (right)

Here is the proud momma, post birth. She and Skylark (the goat with white on her face) are butting heads a bit, but Skylark is definitely cutting the new mom some slack.

Dollar - who is HUGE for a Nigerian Dwarf wether. Dollar loves to be pet and will actualy choose to be scratched over food!

Daisy - our sweet little girl. She's very curious and loves attention. Her favorite past time is following humans around as we do our chores!

Buddy - our first wether and the only Pygora of the bunch. Buddy is kind of a bully to the other goats, but he is definitely entertaining!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spring in January?

Apparently, our chickens think so...

The 'easter egg' birds lay green eggs. We haven't seen a green egg since October. When the days get shorter, most chickens molt and stop laying for awhile. Our 'easter egg' birds (aruacana/americana crosses) follow this pattern.

A few days ago, we got our first green egg of 2011. I guess it's spring. Someone needs to tell mother nature.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gravel, gravel, everywhere....

Pile of gravel awaiting distribution. See that ground to the right/rear of the pile? See how green it is? Yeah, that's driveway. It should not be green.

We have a gravel driveway. At first I was a bit dismayed at this fact because as cyclists, my husband and I would much prefer to ride on pavement. Of course, our driveway is short, so we figured we could live with it and it certainly wasn't a deal breaker when we bought the house.

After almost three years of dealing with it, we had an estimate done to have it paved. Holy moley...that is NOT what we want to spend our money on! Besides the fact that gravel is better for the environment (it doesn't disrupt water flow patterns), it's cheaper. And frankly, in our little country farm world, I think the gravel looks better with our house than a pristine asphalt slab would. Unfortunately, all this indecisiveness has only led to a driveway that gets greener and greener each year (and not in a good way!).

Then we finally have our mini barn built. It has a gravel foundation under the main enclosed part. We are about to pour a concrete slab on the open part where the goats will live (concrete lasts longer than wood and it's cleanable for birthings as necessary). To pour this concrete, we need to add some gravel to level the area out a bit. Last weekend, we had a truckload of gravel delivered from a local shop up the road. $180. Significantly less costly than asphalt and it will do double duty as concrete foundation as well. Score!

Our wonderful small tractor, the handy cart and our new mini barn...

But now we get to distribute it. Yay, not. First we loaded up our handy-dandy new trailer to drag the gravel from the driveway to the back corner of our property where the barn is located. A couple of trailers full, and the space is sufficiently leveled. (This trailer will be 100% necessary to move 36 80lb bags of concrete to the site as well.)

The remaining gravel will need to be spread out on our existing driveway. This will not be fun. This will be back-breaking work. It is a necessity. Not only are the weeds taking over in the summer, but we are finding that the mud is getting a bit too thick in the winter. Gravel, gravel, everywhere... anyone looking for a unique way of getting some exercise this weekend? ;-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter harvest - carrots!

Many pounds of carrots (and parsnips) awaiting their fate...

We planted 4 types of carrots and one type of parsnip (and beets) all in the same 12 inch high box in our garden last year. They grew like crazy! We've been harvesting them as we've needed them for stews or recipes since August, but we've never bothered to dig up the whole box.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to pull out a few and I found that I had to really hack at the ground because the top two inches or so were frozen. I decided then that the next time we had a string of warmer days in a row, I'd harvest the remainder of the carrots. We had that string of days last week - 4 or so of 50+ weather in a row...plenty to soften the box soil.

So on Sunday, I grabbed my old milk crate and set out to harvest the remainder. Uh, yeah. That was a bit ambitious. I had no idea how many carrots we had!! The crate above is only two varieties of carrots and the parsnips. I still have two more varieties of carrots and one of the ones I didn't dig up actually occupies a double space. The above crate was easily 20 lbs in weight and I have no doubt that there is the same amount or more still to be harvested. That's greater than 40 lbs of carrots in a 2' x 4' box! Talk about space utilization!

My plan was to can...but I just couldn't bring myself to pull out the pressure canner and all that goes with it. I'll save that for the next harvest (next weekend?). For the carrots above, I cooked a few pounds to have with meals, I mashed some of them and made a yummy carrot-orange snack cake. I peeled a bunch and put them in the fridge for snacking. I'm going to make some carrot muffins or cake later this week. And lastly, there will be roasting. Lots of roasting. Nothing is yummier than roasted root veggies with garlic and rosemary (both also from our garden). The yellow carrots in the above bin are ok raw, but they are buttery and sweet when cooked - even without butter or sweetener! YUM! Lastly, I've wrapped them up and I'm storing them on the deck railing for now. We have no room in the fridge!

Anyone have any carrot recipes they want to share?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A New Entryway

This is what our house looked like when the old owners first listed it - about a year before we saw it for the first time...

Our front entry into our house was pretty pathetic. It was narrow, partially blocked by the flower bed, ugly and worst of all, slanted towards the house so that when it rained (which happens here a lot), water would eventually run towards the house. If the water sat there long enough, it would soak into the basement walls. Not good.

This slant appeared to be getting worse each year so this year, we decided that it needed fixing. First of all, we had the huge old stump that sat in the flower bed dug out. Before we bought the house, there was a huge pine tree there (see above) but the previous owners removed it. We know it was pretty recent since the original listing showed the tree but it wasn't there when we viewed the house. We thought that the stump/roots were still expanding and therefore lifting the sidewalk. Once the stump grinder people dug it out, we found out that it wasn't the case. Most of it was already rotting. Ok, so the sidewalk might not have been getting just appeared that way. I didn't need that huge stump in the way of what will eventually be an herb garden anyway.
The next step was getting the walkway repaired and resloped. We briefly thought about doing it ourselves but quickly changed our minds when considering how this basically attaches to our foundation. So we got a few estimates and selected a local crew to do the work for us. They were going to pull out all the old cement, relevel it, widen the opening so that it curved towards the driveway more and create a new low wall to better contain the flower bed. They were starting work when I left for work one day and by the time I got home, it was done! Awesome!!
Here are the photos. I don't have great before photos, so these will have to do.

This is the front entryway before we had our siding replaced. Where the chairs are is where the water would collect against the house. You an also see how the dirt from the flower bed would just fall into the walkway.

This was taken as the siding work was underway. Here you can see the whole walkway and how narrow it is at the end by the garage (front door is to the left). The stump is where those flowers are in front of the ladder.

Here is what it looks like today! No stump. Nice wall. Open walkway. And no water collects against the house. Yay!

The next step is to extend the wall around the entire bed and get some herbs planted this spring/summer. Our plan is to finish the wall this winter so that we can plant as soon as it warms up.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Begins

Happy New Year!

New years resolution #1: Blog more.

There, that takes care of this week. ;) Actually, my minimum goal will be at least one blog post a week..and more if I can swing it. Stay tuned!!

In the meantime, here are a couple of photos of our repainted laundry/storage room and our dining room.

The laundry room with a peep at our kitchen through the doorway. In the mirror, you can see the previous color on the partially unfinished wall (yellow).

Slightly closer shot of the shelving. I have green and yellow awning stripe fabric for curtains. Let's see how long it takes for those to get done!

And lastly - our dinning room. The trees in the background are only in residence during the winter - they usually hang out in the greenhouse (dwarf orange and meyer lemon).