Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What's Done and What's Doin.

Sometimes I fantasize about a real vacation - you know, the kind where you put clean clothes in a suitcase, check to make sure you have your airline tickets, then go off without a backwards glance, to someplace where you get clean sheets every day, someone turns down your bed, you can pick up a phone and food is delivered - you get to read all those gazillion books in your 'to-read' stack.  You can get a massage.  Cripers.  Okay, I wouldn't request clean sheets every day, nor new towels (think of all that water, fuel, soap wasted).  I would worry about where that food came from, was it local?  Humanely grown?  Organic?  The book part sounds lovely, though.  Hahahaha, how I've changed.  And for the better.

So, instead of the aforementioned vacation, my actual vacation consisted of checking off as much as possible from the "to-do" list -- in August-like temps.  Seriously, we went from March to August in less than a week.  But, the sheep have been moved to grass a couple of times, the lattice house has been cleaned out, the rabbits moved in, as well as their chicken TV - aka, the meat chicks.  I've cleaned out the shed, with the exception of two rabbit cages which need tending to, and, most importantly, I've planted the garden.  I've still got one bed to go but that is the squash bed and it will be planted this coming weekend, hopefully.

One of the real pluses of being home for (gasp) six days in a row, is that I have been able to spend some quality time with the furred, wooled and feathered folks on the farm.  Lots of dog walks, cat scratching, chicken watching, and lamb squeezes.

The youngster hens are now in the little coop with a screen door for viewing purposes.  They are at that wonderful tweenage stage where every new thing brings them to a stunned standstill.  They are glued to the screen door, watching with obvious fascination the goings-on of the big chickens.  The rooster crows and you can almost see the frisson of a thrill running through the little mob.  If only they knew...

Speaking of the rooster, I will have to try and work out this camera dilemma.  He is one of the most beautiful, stunning roosters I have ever seen.  I had heard lots of good things about the breed - Barnevelder - and they really are wonderful chickens.  Large, lustrous, gentle.  They lay big, dark brown eggs and are calm compared to the rest of the crew.  I can see why bringing them back as a breed is such a worthwhile cause.  By the time the afternoon heat hits us, the only hens out and about are the Blue Andalusians.  The heat doesn't bother them at all.  They remind me of Jack Russell terriers - they are always busy.

The lambs are HUGE.  Except for Juniper, thank goodness, as I still can go out and grab him for my lamb fix.  He is very sweet (like his mother) and lets me snuggle.  He likes to sniff my face and seems to like being toted around.  I do love that lanolin smell.

Which reminds me of something else I have (almost) checked off my list - skirting Flora's fleeces.  I am down to the last two.  I don't recommend skirting a thick, VM-filled, heavily lanolined fleece during 90+ degree, humid weather.  But I couldn't bear to go outside, and I didn't want to do any of the inside chores - so I happily worked on the fleece.  It was hot enough that the cats were pooled on the floor and leaving me alone, which is quite a coup. 

During my six days, I had also found a source for sheep minerals.  This has been a bugaboo, as I have been trying to find a loose mineral mix that doesn't have molasses (as in the blocks) and has no copper.  My vet's husband is a distributor for a manufacturer that I have researched (Vigortone), so I drove up about an hour north to pick up the minerals and mixing salt.  It helps to have someone with which to split the order (50 lb bags of each) - thank you, Mel - and it sure makes mixing easier when you can do it in tenths. 

All the laundry was done and dried on the line, rhubarb was cooked multiple times.  The barn guys got extra baked goods, my grass got mowed, my future yard sale is getting organized, and, all-in-all, it was a productive time 'off''.  The only regret I have is not getting the chicken coop cleaned out.  It was just too darn hot and humid to tackle that.  But it looms in front of me, so maybe this next weekend will be more temperate.  And I could sure use that massage....

Coming up?  Time to sort out the lambs. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

The times, they are a....

weird.  We seemed to have gone from winter to mid-summer.  The high right now, at the very moment I am typing, is 92 in the shade.  Being of Welsh, English, and a wee bit French descent, our folks don't take kindly to the combo of high temperatures and high humidity.  I am laid low.  I can only manage about 20 minutes outside before I am driven in to collapse under the fan.  Needless to say, all to-dos are taking forever.  I am disappointed that I won't get as much done as I had hoped, but things ARE getting done.

My card reader is acting up, so no pics can upload at the moment.  The sheep are wading around in the nice, high green spot I have been saving for them - the hay supply is dangerously low and there is no hay to be found.  It has rained so much, no one has been cutting to bale.  Some farmers have just given up and are chopping it for fresh feed.  It does make you re-think your livestock situation.  I was going to keep three lambs, but it looks like I will only be keeping two.  I think I can comfortably manage to feed six sheep and the fat llama.  More would be too tight on supplies of both money and hay.  Had my land been a bit larger, with more accessible pasture, it would be a different story.  But, as they say, it is what it is.

I am planning on putting the garden in this weekend - I've been reading up on companion planting this year and am going to give it a try.  Melanie and I finished the roof structure on the lattice house and I am working on getting it ready for the meat chickens.  I've put two rabbits on craigslist, so I hope I can find homes for them.  Once Little Sister has recovered from her sore hocks (oh, yes, something else to throw into the works - I wouldn't want to have everyone healthy and not needing daily special care....) she will be the next to go.  They are beautiful red Angoras and will make great fiber rabbits.

We had a humdinger of a thunderstorm last night - the frantic clicking of Bernie's toe nails woke me up around 11:15 and then less than 10 minutes later the wind howled, lightning lit up the sky and then the rains came.  It was fast and furious.  I just laid there listening for large crashing sounds.  There were none, so I went back to sleep.  I was lucky - just lots of leaves and small branches down.  Others lost whole trees.

Back to work.  Hope you are all enjoying your long weekend and managing to have some fun!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Weekend that Wasn't.

I am absolutely amazed that it is Monday.  It seems that I was just sitting at this desk yesterday!  Saturday was a blur - I baked birthday muffins and delivered them with homemade jelly to a friend by 8:30a, so I could race back home, take a shower and then head down to Red Hook, NY for my nephew's graduation.  My parents arrived at my place at 10, we were on the road at 10:15 and didn't pull back into my driveway until 6:20!  A looooong day.  I managed to get all the evening chores done, and then collapsed into bed by 9.

Dad, Mom, Moi and Proud Mom of Graduate

Sunday, I was up at 4:30 (I'm trying to squelch Scrappy's new habit of hurtling out the door barking at 4:30 - I don't believe my neighbor is an early riser), then made a batch of brownies for the barn crew, did chores and a load of laundry, then out the door for Saturday's errands.  Back home a little after noon, I started on a rhubarb pie for my dinner guests.  Just as I was getting ready to assemble it, Kay's husband, Nick arrived to help me put up a short piece of fencing.  I raced back and forth between hayport and kitchen, dealing with the timing and temperatures on the pie.  But I did manage to get the living room and dining room vacuumed, the giant dog crate out on the deck, the table cleared and set and dinner in the oven!  We had a nice, leisurely dinner, after which I pawned off the left over pie and half the smoked turkey on my willing guests.  I did evening chores, cleaned up the kitchen and watched an episode of The Closer on dvd. 

Then it was Monday!  I am taking a few days of vacation this week - weather or not (so to speak, since there is rain forecast for every day except Weds.) - which makes losing my weekend less painful.  I found out last week that I had only taken half of the vacation days I am alloted last year.  Since I can only carry over one week of unused time (I didn't use two weeks), I have vowed to use at least three weeks this year!

Have I mentioned my Vacation List?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pet Peeves

I have saved this subject in honor of seven straight days with rain.  It's made me cranky, so it seemed like the perfect time to let it all out.  So to speak.  I have all the usual pet peeves - people who incessantly talk on their cell phones in public - in lines, in elevators, in restaurants.  I would like to invent a little device that you could aim at the offending blabber and mute the phone.  Litterbugs, or littervermin, as I like to call them.  Take it home and dispose of it properly!  Yeesh.

Some of my more, ahem, personal favorite pet peeves are:  the word "veggie"; the use of "baby" when used with inanimate objects, like baby spinach.  Heaven help the poor slob that uses "baby veggies" within my earshot!  Then there is bad grammar - especially, "me and Vinnie went".  Me went?

What are your pet peeves?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Single Homesteader's Diet and Other Oddities.

It occurred to me, as I was polishing off my breakfast bowl of cold pasta with nettle pesto sauce, washed down with my fourth cup of tepid milky coffee, that the quality of my diet has gone to hell in a hand basket.  I contemplated last night's dinner:  slice of multi-grain bread, slightly stale, with a schmear of cream cheese scraped off its wrapping paper that I just couldn't throw away, topped with a half-inch of snipped chives, topped off with a few shreds of smoked salmon.  Washed down with a half-glass of savignon blanc.  Followed by two Dutch almond cookies.  Followed by a cup of ginger-lemongrass tea.  Followed by a few pages of Willa Cather.  Although I think writing down every last thing you eat and drink is a good idea, I am too scared to do it.

Other oddities:  pulling out a load of laundry to find hypodermics, and lots of unrecognizable vegetation intermingled among my barn clothes.  I did finally discover that the soggy mass of greenish was the remains of the sage I had been drying.  Apparently, it dislodged from its bindings and dropped into the washing machine when my back was turned, sneaky little herb.  It probably was tired of  hanging there, month after month, waiting to be crumbled and put in a jar in the cupboard.

Eyeglasses:  I have many, but I have a favorite pair.  I put these down and forget where on an average of six times a day.  This morning, I found them in the refrigerator.

Are the wrappings coming loose?  Wheels falling off the wagon?  Nah.  I'm just going through Spring.

Happy Wetsday.

"Get out the gum boots, Ma -- I'm going in!!!"

The only good thing I have to say about this weather is that it doesn't rain constantly.  Just most of the time.  There were enough breaks to rassle sheep and give everyone their CDT vacs.  What a difference have four hands can make.  I rassled and held, and Kay gave them their shots.  Wham bang.  All except Cocoa, that is.  I will have to trap her and put her in a full Nelson for her shot.  This was a bad on me -- I usually give vacs, etc. when I have them shorn, but it's very late this year -- after lambing -- ergo, the problem with Hickory.

Hickory is up to 99 percent, and not knuckling at all, that I've observed.  Her appetite is good, she was running around with her brother, and she is sticking very close to her mom.  Of course, her memory of me will always be of the giant with the needles.  An expensive lesson.

Let's see, what else is new...?  Marie Claire has let me down.  When put on the ground with "her" chick, she attacked the little thing.  It is now in a brooder all by its lonesome.  I have hooked up a radio to keep it company, but it will have to wait a bit until it joins its cousins at Aunt Melanie's.  Other than that, Grendal has decided she is giving motherhood another crack.  We will see if Alfie was up to the task.  Otherwise, there will be hell to pay -- Grendal doesn't take kindly to spending a month sitting on a pile of clunkers.

The rain is supposed to ease up later this week.  That will be a nice change as it is really mucky out there.  The weeds continue to thrive, the garlic is growing tall, the peas are not.  I'm getting close to my last spinach harvest, and I'm just itchin' to put the rest of the garden in.  My Meyers lemon tree is loaded with little lemons and would just love to live outside for the summer.  We all must be patient.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The best laid plans...

don't amount to a hill of beans around here!  After losing most of my precious weekend to lamb-assist and parent-assist, I had big plans for yesterday.  Then I walked out to do morning chores and found a very, very sick lamb.  It was Hickory, Cocoa's ewe lamb twin.  The first thing I thought of was bloat - and her belly was pretty tight  - but her legs were out rigid, she was extremely warm and panting rapidly.  So....I called the emergency line for the vet and made arrangements to drive the hour up to the clinic to meet her (she was up to her elbows, literally, in a cow emergency) and then called Melanie to see if she had Banamine.  She didn't, but bravely volunteered to drive down and do my morning chores so I could break the land-speed record.

A hair-raising drive later, Hickory and I pulled into the clinic parking lot moments before the vet.  It turned out to be a neurological problem - not bloat.  Not being sure of the root of the problem (polio, tetanus, white muscle disease) they treated her for everything - Hickory, the ovine pincushion.  Her temp was 106.5!  She had settled down by then (probably glad to be out of the speed-demon's car), but was knuckling in the front when she went to stand.  Sooooo, two hours later, a wobbly, groggy and very expensive lamb and I arrived back home and I settled her into a giant dog crate in the kitchen (lent by Kay).  She then proceeded to stand and bleat at amazingly loud decibels all morning, all afternoon and into the evening.  Seeing that there was no sleep in my future if she stayed in the house, I called the vet again (temp was down to 103.4, thank goodness) who said that she could be let back out with her mother.  Praise all things good.  Hickory had a little bit of a bumpy start with her reunion with mom, but I finally saw her nursing and she seemed to be doing less knuckling.  Did I mention that we've had rain since Saturday afternoon?  It had held off long enough for me to finish my #1 task on my weekend to-do list - clean out the little coop and move the little pullets into it.  I tried not to stay awake all night listening for lambs, rain, coyotes, evil spirits, and was more-or-less able to do so.

Needless to say, no photographs were taken this weekend.  I did also accomplish shoveling a pickup truckload of dirt into my raised beds, finishing just as the first raindrops fell on Saturday.  It wasn't a total loss.  Now I face a week's worth of shots for the little pincushion - assisted mightily by Kay.  I may have to live to be 105 just so I am able to pay them back for all their help and moral support.  And much-needed humor.

Oh, and Marie-Claire has hatched an egg!  I swear I will take pics once the rains stops -- by next weekend.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Last, but not least.

Juno finally had her lamb this morning (with a little assist - she pushed, I pulled).  A beautiful moorit mouflon ram!  Pictures of Juniper to come.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Woman vs. Bird

Gift wrapping Miguel?

Although it may look like I am in the process of gift-wrapping my truck, it is the latest offensive in my ongoing battle with an over-competitive male Cardinal.  So far, I am parking my car at the foot of my driveway.  I refuse to also move my truck.  As far as Mr. Red Bird is concerned, both vehicles present him with rivals at every turn.  He attacks the rear view mirrors with his wings, beak and poopy feet.  It's constant.  It's messy.  It's driving me crazy.  So, I covered the truck's mirrors in the hopes that he will settle down and sit in the trees singing his come-hither lovely song, all the better to attract Mrs. Red Bird (number 4). 

This particular male has not had good luck on the domestic front.  (hmmm, birds of a feather?)  Since I have been aware of him - for about 4 years - he has gone through three partners.  I was witness to the demise of Mrs. No. 1 to a hawk attack.  Mrs. No. 2 had an obsession with my sliding glass door and I think it finally drove her over the edge.  She disappeared.  Mrs. No. 3 didn't stick around long, either.  With his record, no wonder he's worried about real or imagined rivals.  I am thinking of sewing up a couple of mirror 'socks' for my car.

Monday, May 9, 2011

And, the Winner is....

True Random Number Generator: 4

(No matter how hard I try - I cannot get that widget to post!)

Judy at Full Freezer - you Prairie Girl, you!!  Please send me your mailing address at s womersley at g mail dot com.  I am going to continue to weed out my DIY shelves, so stay tuned!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grendal on the Move.

Given that I don't have video capabilities, here is pictorial proof that Grendal climbs - I may try to see if I can figure out how to take a video with my phone and post it.  In the meantime...

She moves fast!

Siting out her landing spot - as far from the rooster as possible.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Something Every Homesteading Girl Should Have.

And it can be yours......

because I am Spring Cleaning - and cheating, because I'm starting with my bookcases.  Those are so (relatively) easy!  This covers everything from making rock candy, to darning a sock, to milking a cow.  A very fun and (lightly) informative read!   I am giving away my pristine copy to one of you already-multi-talented homesteady gals.  Just leave me a comment - and tell me the one skill you would like to have that you don't already.  The give-away ends Sunday night -- the winner will be chosen and announced on Monday.  Bonne chance!

As for me, I think that every homesteading girl should have a matched team of Belgians.  But, that's just me...



I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker this morning.  We were discussing the prior evening's activities and I was bemoaning my decision to make soup for dinner - I had made the stock the weekend before but, by the time I added all the remaining ingredients (garlic, onion, kale, spinach, tomatoes, seitan, pesto, seasonings), it was 9 p.m. before it was ready and therefore too late for me to eat it.  She looked at me and said, "Susan, I know this will come as a complete shock to you, but there are some people who will...well...just open a can."

And, by golly, it was a shock!  I realized that I have not opened a can (except for the cats) since...?  Any "canned" goods I use, I have canned myself.  That entails popping off the flats.  I don't even know where my can opener is!  She asked me what kind of soup I had made and I told her it was what I refer to as a Pantry Soup - I am using up my stockpiles.  The garlic is mine, the onion was dried from last fall, the kale was organic from a farmers market, spinach - mine, tomatoes - mine, seitan from the freezer, pesto - mine.  I guess I am so used to real food and cooking from scratch, that I don't even think that it's not the "normal" way people cook.  After all, most of my friends cook the same way. 

Of course, I was also shocked by what she and her family had for dinner (it involved their car and a drive-thru window).  I don't think that cooking from scratch is all that burdensome.  It does take some organization and thinking ahead (ergo my late soup), but it's also fun and a creative outlet.  I know I am preaching to the choir here, but the more we focus on nourishment and not on a fast-fix, the better we will feel. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Birthday to my Little Sister!

Such a glammy-pie!

Lead singer of the Bush Tetras, back in the day (they still have quite a following...), songwriter, elementary school teacher, mother extraordinaire.  She's the Bomb - and she's 54 today!  An ageless wonder.... xoxo

Mystery solved.

For the past three days, I have been finding a duck egg in one of the nesting boxes in the small coop.  While I had my suspect (Grendal), the coop is completely enclosed by an 8' fence with latching gate.  AND I clipped her wing feathers, since she is a flyer.

This morning, while I watched in amazement, Grendal climbed the fence.  She literally scaled the chicken wire using beak and nails and some lift from her wings.  Not once, but TWICE.  Tomorrow morning, I am going to try and catch her in the act with my camera.  It is a wondrous sight to see.  I let her finish her trip the second time around.  Needless to say, the Barnies were alarmed when she waddled up the ramp.  That is one determined duck!  It will be interesting to see if she can make the reverse trip.  I tell you, these farm animals are no end of entertaining!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Satisfying Day.

After spending the first half of my weekend driving here, there and everywhere, I did manage to stay put on Sunday and got a lot done. 

I visited the barn (black bottom cupcakes) and did a lot of ear scratching on Jasmine and chin scratching on Alice.  I got a truck load of wood mulch - free! - from a pile left by the electric company on my neighbor's farm.  I spread 90% of it on pathways around my raised beds.  Then I planted potatoes and catnip.  I made a raised bed along my front pathway and planted the alpine strawberries that Marianne had given me (and mulched it with wood chips -- will that work, Mama Pea?).  I cleaned out the little coop and all the nesting boxes and put in fresh shavings.  I washed and installed my screens.  I hauled out the hoses, let the sheep out for a quick bite of grass, cleaned their water bucket, gave the dogs a nice long walk, talked with neighbors and hung out laundry.  I only managed to clean one rabbit cage, however, because I was exhausted by then.  I did do some grooming work on Little Sister, one of the red angoras, but she and her brother still need a lot more attention.  I then fed everyone, took a shower and trotted off for my reward for a hard day's work:  dinner at Sylvie's! This morning, before I let loose the chickens, I am going to plant the lovely rhubarb plant that Kay gave me yesterday (so far, the fencing I put around the rhubarb bed has held them at bay). 

Needless to say, I had no trouble sleeping last night.  It felt so good to stretch all those muscles that haven't been used all winter.  It was a beautiful day and, even though much of this week calls for cloudy skies and rain, I think I have absorbed enough natural Vitamin D3 to squeak through to next weekend.