Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Love Trash!

Oh, I love trash! Anything dirty or dingy or dusty; Anything ragged or rotten or
rusty. Yes, I love trash... (Oscar the Grouch)

Well, up to a point, of course. When my husband takes a truckload of stuff to the dump, he looks around for useable, or actually REuseable stuff to bring back to the farm. We have a collection of wire baskets from freezers and I just found the ultimate use for them.

Each birthing stall in the new goat nursery will have its own individual, shiny chrome hay rack!

I'll put up pictures of the progress soon.

I save a lot of glass containers that are reuseable, including wine bottles, which I sterilize and use for homemade brambleberry wine. Plastic bags are reused as much as possible, and I'm thinking of always keeping a bunch in the trunk of my car and taking them into the grocery store and asking the baggers to reuse them for my groceries. There are lots of things I reuse, but I know I can do better.

Here's a good article about post holiday recycling from today's New York Times.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Will Find Me...

Christmas Eve morning found me in the barn, as usual, raking out stalls and moving “wasted” hay into them. The Lessons and Carols from Cambridge soared throughout, thanks to the radio. My barn became a cathedral or symphony hall for the morning while I worked.

I do not listen for the religious content, but rather for the hope that choral music gives. It is awesome to think that humans can cooperate in a group effort to create such majesty.

“Away in a Manger” -- I wonder if city dwellers know what a manger is. Wasted hay is something goat keepers know about. Goats pull hay out of the manger to eat. What falls on the ground and is stepped on, they will not eat. Goats are pretty careful about that. Good thing, too, because they would be ingesting dirt and parasites otherwise. Now cows -- cows are a different story…

I walk back and forth, dumping buckets of the truly dirty hay and manure raked out and returning with forks full of the relatively clean waste hay. I make the stalls cozy for cold nights and the kidding which I anticipate next month.

I think about the other side of the human coin of cooperation and of how humans can cooperate beautifully to do terrible things. Genocide, religious and ethnic cleansing, for example. I wonder what it is in the human psyche that makes so many want to belong to an exclusive group -- even at the risk of losing their humanity in so doing. I think about the willingness of so many to give up individuality and the ability to do just what I am doing -- questioning man’s place in the universe.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Redhen's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Good morning.

It's 16 degrees F. here this morning, with strong wind and snow flurries. It will be a bit trying to do the farm chores this morning. Yesterday, I did anticipate the cold and did some last minute fix-ups in the barns to minimize the drafts. I'm hoping it will be a sedate day despite the extreme cold.

Normally, I just block out the negative things that happen, but the day before yesterday is worth mentioning, if only to "exorcise" it from my consciousness.

On Wednesday morning, the first thing I noticed when walking to the goose house, was that the cattle ball waterer was leaking a LOT from the base, creating a small river. Next, I became aware that there was no water in the hydrants in the greenhouse and chicken house. No water in the old farmhouse -- so no easy way to deliver water to the chickens.

I drove around and checked waterers and hydrants in the outbuildings on other parts of the farm. The water problem was only in one area. I called my husband at work and let him know that something was wrong. He suggested that I turn off the well pump at that area.

I then drove down the hill in my Mule to do that, and saw the entire goat herd walking down the driveway. They had chosen that moment to discover a breach in the electric fencing and were checking out other areas to browse! The Mule's motor just made them panic and I could see that the farm gate, open to the road, was where they were headed!

Anticipating tragedy, I jumped off the Mule and proceeded on foot. The goats turned toward me and I was able to lead them uphill. Just as my breathing became labored from the uphill climb, one of the ringleaders noticed an open gate to one of the large pastures. The goats, followers that they are, all went through that gate and I shut it and hoped for the best.

I went down and shut the main farm gate and then turned off the well pump. I took buckets in the bed of the Mule and went to one of the big barns to haul some water to the chicken house. Mostly, it sloshed out, so that by the time I got there I had only about a gallon of water.

Things just continued to go from bad to worse as the day wore on. I won't bore you with the details. As it turned out, the original water problem was caused not by freezing pipes, but by a worn out float valve. We managed to lure and drive the goats through three pasture gates toward their domain and all was back to normal by the end of the day.

'Just so those of you who crave the rural life know: we get our share of excitement, too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


We chug along in the cold. It's uncomfortable to work outside too long. There are now three propane wall heaters installed in the greenhouse -- one in each section. The sole exception is the long end, which will be kept as a cool room.

I planted some bulbs in pots yesterday and started the clean-up. The Old furnace is out on the grass, waiting to be disposed of. Today, I'll put down new gravel on the floor and work on organizing the potting room a little better.

We bought bamboo flooring for the old house. It was on sale; is environmentally friendly; pre-finished and very attractive. It supposed to be harder than oak flooring and doesn't require adhesive. We'll just nail it in a room at a time, as I complete the painting and trimwork.

Next project plan: a goat nursery in the green dairy barn. Since I've abandoned plans for a dairy, it makes sense to set up "jugs" (little stalls) for kidding during the winter. It will be an annex to the big barn to reduce crowding. Since there is concrete on the floor, it should be easier to keep clean and to heat when the weather is brutal. I'd like to set up a warming crib (perhaps an empty Rubbermaid trough) with a safe heat lamp over it, for emergency warmth for newborns.

Well, it's good to have goals, I suppose. I envision a row of small stalls made with cattle panels and with old carpeting attached to the sides to keep down drafts. Each stall would have a place for a hanging feeder and a water bucket. We already have hay bales in that barn, so the wasted hay could provide soft bedding and extra warmth.

I'll let you know if we actually accomplish this before kidding starts.

Ta ta.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Mamma Sophie has a brand new boy as of today. I knew she was close, because yesterday she lost her mucous plug and her udder is huge. He seems fine. He let me touch him and check to make sure he is all right.

I've been a bit remiss in making birth announcements. Baby Binky is about a month old. He is Dinky's.

I spent the weekend finishing up the painting of the old farmhouse living room. For those of you who like to see "before and after" pictures, here it is all clean and white and waiting for carpeting and furniture:

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Better Mouse Trap?

This will be the last of three beautiful days with temperatures in the seventies. I've been able to work outside without a jacket, or a raincoat, or ten pairs of gloves... But predictions have us back in the reality of late Autumn by tomorrow morning.

We've had a taste of cold weather, but then bounced up and down for a while. It would be a miracle if we don't now settle down for a long winter's nap. The trees are rapidly losing all their lovely bright leaves, although there are still some left.

The plastic "storm windows" are all up in the chicken house. All the hay is cut for this year and most is under cover. We may get a chance to put the new hay elevator together today and get all the square bales up in the lofts.

I've inadvertently managed to discover a simple way to trap mice in the chicken house. Just place an empty five-gallon bucket somewhere near the feed containers. Leave it upright and don't put any feed in it, so you don't catch chickens. The mice are so curious that they climb down into it, but they can't climb back out if the sides are straight. Perfect. I just empty the bucket of dead mice every few days. It's even cheaper than glue boards. Poison is too risky, as the chickens may eat it.

I'm still pulling out the dried weeds in the garden. They are taller than I and I'm building up a huge pile. I dump buckets of goat manure on asparagus beds each day after raking the barn.

I've started a Cow/Calf course given by the Extension Service through VA Tech. It comes through the mail in monthly installments and is accessible online. Perfect for me. This will be ongoing through the winter and is good information to store up in my brain. It covers pasture maintenance as well as practical learning about bovines.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Autumn Color

We are at the height (or just slightly past) of autumn color on the leaves. Wind has blown some trees "naked" already, but the majority of the woods I'm viewing from my desk this morning are in full, glorious reds, oranges, and yellows.

There are black walnuts on the ground. They need to be harvested and put out on the driveway for hull removal when the truck drives over them. I don't know if that will happen to any great extent this year, but I'll work on it a little. If not hulled quickly, little worms invade the hard outer shell and the nuts are ruined.

I haven't seen any shagbark hickories this year. 'Good thing I shelled and froze some last year.

As I looked out the window this morning, I thought my eyes were "seeing things" as the white fog bank between the dark mountains and the bright line of trees was moving fast downward. Careful watching revealed that the fog is actually rolling down the valleys, over the ridges, and into the next valley from North to South, quickly as the sun rises. It rained yesterday and last night, so there must be a lot of moisture that is burning off. It was totally foggy up here on the hill for a few minutes, and then totally clear as the fog migrated down to the lower part of our farm. It must be interesting to observe this from airplanes in the early morning.

Right now, the wind is moving the fog bank from West to East, creating occasional high plumes of cloud. It is like a moving river quickly exiting the valley as morning progresses.

Renovations on the greenhouse are progressing. Glass-paned doors are now installed between greenhouse sections so that we can maintain heat zones. We need to replace the broken furnace this coming week before the colder weather comes in. Slightly below freezing nights have made little impact on the plants inside, but soon we'll need some heat to keep the plants alive through the winter nights.

On today's agenda: continue cleaning out the vegetable garden so that it can be tilled sometime during the winter. Start putting the "storm windows" in the chicken house. We'll have a warmer week coming up but it wouldn't be wise to slack off on winter preparations.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Full Harvest Moon

We didn't get to see the full harvest moon last night. It is gray, cloudy, cold, and rainy. I covered most of the brooder top with plastic and a beach towel, so that the babies are basking in 90 degrees out in the chicken house, despite the fact that it is in the 50s today.

There is one tiny quail chick in with the baby quail and chickens. It hatched out extra early and was the only quail to survive. You'd think it would be trampled by the much larger chicks, but they seem to be pretty considerate and it seems to think it is much bigger than it actually is! They are all beginning to grow feathers, which will help them deal with the cold.

We "wasted" this morning picking up building supplies for the interior of the greenhouse re-vamp and going to the Fall Festival in a nearby town. Carhart clothing, which many farmers around here wear regularly, was on sale at the clothing store in town. Live bluegrass music is a part of this festival. The bands were playing inside the tiny movie theater because of the cold. Normally, they'd be out in the midst of the crowds. We sat down in the last row for a few sets to get out of the wind. Speakers were set up to be heard in the street, where we looked at wares set out by intrepid local vendors.

This is bluegrass music country, for sure. There are so many very good groups, which include young and older musicians. It always amazes me how precise the playing is and how the players seem to enjoy themselves. This is still a unique American art/craft.

Two parties of bow hunters have been out in our woods today, the first day of hunting season.

We have about 500 square bales put up in the barn loft, thank goodness, and will cut more if the weather permits.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


That's "teddering", not tottering, although at my advanced age, you might expect it to be the latter.

A tedder is a whirly-thingy that goes behind the tractor and fluffs up the cut hay.

I learned to drive the new tractor and tedder the hay after my husband cut it. We are hoping that it will be dry enough today to rake and bale it. We only cut a portion of our hay field so that we'd be able to learn without risking the whole supply.

There are entirely too many buttons, levers, gears, and gadgets inside the tractor cab. Although I drive a standard shift truck, I have to think REALLY HARD about what to push, pull, or step on to accomplish whatever it is I'm doing at the time. Hopefully, there are still enough brain cells left and the connections between them that I'll get the hang of it soon. In the meantime, it's a good thing there's air conditioning, because I'm doing a bit of sweating under pressure.

More trees are turning color this week, and the temperatures are cool enough at night that I am slowly taking plants that have summered outdoors down to the greenhouse. I've cleaned up a bit down there, and have plans to replace the ailing furnace and to upgrade some of the interior spaces.

There's a cardboard box brooder full of chicks down in the old house. It's too cool at night to put them out in the chickenhouse brooder until they get some feathers on them.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Summer's End

A few trees have already begun to change color in the back pasture. Cows call like foghorns in the early morning in the pasture as densely gray and misty as the ocean. It is cool morning and evening and the windows can be open in the house.

Goldenrod is blooming and green nuts are visible in the thinning leaves of walnut and hickory trees.

The garden was just totally stunted after prolonged drought and intense heat. Once we turned the corner toward Fall and some rain came, lettuces sprang up and the chard has begun to grow again. The pepper plants did all right in the heat and seem to have a new lease on life now.

What is the farmer doing now? She is tying up loose ends and catching up on apple processing, winemaking, bottle washing, house cleaning, and herb gathering.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

It's Raining!

Yay! It's raining; it's pouring; the old man is snoring...

Well, not yet. Anyway, after the coolness came, the hotness came back along with the humidity. I got the worse flu ever; the garden fizzled from the prolonged drought and I felt like if it didn't rain soon my head would explode.

So, it's raining. The house is getting cleaned and sorted. Wash is being done. Fruit is getting processed.

Tomorrow there is the promise of cooler temperatures. In the meantime, here's a neat story about the Minnesota State Fair and farm kids: for your entertainment.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Coolness Came

Someone turned down the blast furnace and it's cooler. It rained!

The garden and I were both ready to throw in the towel when we turned the corner. Vegetables immediately began to develop again; there are even rosebuds on the poor neglected rose bush. I've been weeding with gusto now that I'm not drenched in sweat after twenty minutes.

My mind turns to chores like cleaning out barns and poultry houses. It can be done now. I can breathe and move. I'm hoping this will last.

I'm picking and selling peaches at the market. I've made two batches of peach chutney, peach pie filling, and peach cake. There are still blackberries to pick -- the thornless variety -- it seems like sissy work. This morning I noticed that there are apricots ready. The cucumbers are abundant and I see some relish in my future.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

July Bugs

Why do they call them June Bugs? The drunken July Bugs are flying into buildings after becoming satiated on blackberry juice. At times, I forget that they are knocking themselves out en masse as they fly into the house. I hear the noise and wonder if it is (miraculously) raining.

They fall onto the porches and after sleeping it off, fly off to do it again.

Sometimes, I find one sleeping right on a berry out in the field. Drunken sots.

We don't see or hear them until July, when the blackberries are ripe. The only other activity I'm aware of is that they mate: scads of them were having an orgy on one part of our lawn yesterday. I guess they must assure the world that there will be more July Bugs next year.

Ah, well, at least they have a jolly life during the month of July! What they do the rest of the year is a mystery to me.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cows and Blackberries

I was engaged in picking wineberries the other evening, when I looked up and found myself surrounded by cows. We have thirty, so if you're thinking that cows are large and noisy, you are wrong. Cows are capable of great stealth and cooperative effort.

I went over to my Kawasaki Mule, and found a note. It said, "Thank you for the thoughtful snack. Next time, don't bother with the buckets, just dump them in the truck bed so we don't have to."

Yes, there had been several buckets of blackberries back there and since I hadn't seen any cows in the vicinity, I didn't think twice about parking the Mule and finishing up.

Oh, well. I wasn't even that mad about it, because the moment was so magical. Cool nights and mornings and berries sweet and plump from the recent rains are allowing for some concentrated picking. The cows are going to have to pick their own from now on, though!

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I don't normally name chickens, unless their personalities or appearance demands it. The big black rooster has been attacking my bare legs ever since it got hot and I've been wearing shorts. What else would you name him?

While he is attacking at approximately knee level, I reach over him and slap him in the back of the head. He's not expecting it because he's thinking I'll hit him from the front. To his credit, he seems to have associated getting a slap to the back of the head with the act of attacking me. For now, he's under control.

We finally got some much needed rain last week. Unfortunately, if you heard the news, we got it a little too fast for the ground to immediately soak it up.

I'm not complaining, you understand, just hoping we'll get more in reasonable installments.

The garden is producing well, even though it's gotten hot and dry in the last three or so days. I even put on the sprinklers today.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Summer is A-comin' in

The full strawberry moon has come and gone. I made iced tea for the first time this season yesterday -- mainly for the hayers. The first cutting is in the barn: too little too late, but evidently palatable. It is hellishly hot and dry.

We are on Spanish time now, with a siesta in the afternoon to ready us for late days and nights in the barn and garden to take advantage of cooler temperatures. The goats have also adopted this timetable. They snooze in the barn during the hottest part of the day then don't want to come in from the pasture until 9 p.m.

A friend called and mentioned that where he lives, in a very populated part of the county, that a fox is bothering his chickens and that a bobcat has been sighted. How odd, as we have been dealing with a family of foxes and are hoping that OUR bobcat will feast on them. I speculate that it has been abducting cats, as they seem to disappear at a rapid rate. Strangely, kittens appear out of nowhere -- or are perhaps dropped off by city dwellers out on a drive to the country. The two I mentioned in an earlier post have been to all the outbuildings on the farm and seem to have settled on the goat barn loft as their refuge.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What's in my Garden?

Here are some pictures I took yesterday in my vegetable garden. Currently, I'm harvesting kale, chard, snow peas, asparagus, beets, red raspberries... There are blooms on squash, beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

All these healthy-looking vegetables are being raised without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Out Standing in My Field

The other day, someone who had read my last post, "Weeding is Fundamental," asked me why I have so many weeds in my garden.

I'd like to answer that question here.

I'm an organic farmer who has spent years building up the soil in the vegetable garden with good composted manure from the goat barn. The soil is so nice and fertile that weeds compete to get into my garden. Naturally, if vegetable seed and seedlings grow well, so do all sorts of plants whch were not planted by me, but by Mother Nature.

Although I occasionally complain a little about the time it takes to weed, I actually enjoy being able to think while quietly removing the unwanted plants that I call weeds.

My garden is like subtractive sculpture. As I remove the weeds, rows of well-developed vegetables emerge, looking nice and neat. Of course, I can't keep the entire garden neat all at one time. There are parts of the garden waiting to be harvested or weeded, and some parts that look picture perfect. The areas change all summer long.

Weeding is just a fact of life for a farmer like me who does not use herbicides or pesticides. It's okay. If bugs emerge and all is in balance in the garden, they are eaten by eager birds looking for a quick lunch. If I were to use pesticides, the birds would get a stomach ache or worse, and the bugs would proliferate. Early on, I am convinced that the weed plants shade and shelter emerging vegetable seedlings, giving them a good start.

I use five-gallon buckets to collect the pulled weeds, load them onto my "Mule" UTV, which holds nine buckets, and drive them up to the chicken yard, where they're dumped. Some days I dump three loads: 27 buckets. They are all gone through and eaten by the chickens, guineas, geese, etc.

To me, that is a sustainable gardening system.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Weeding is Fundamental

I get up about five a.m., out by six. Weed, weed, weed. Take care of animals. Weed some more. Take a break.

Do more work. Weed in the evening between six p.m. and nine p.m. Take a break. Fall into bed.

Well, folks, there's a picture of farm life during the growing season. Beets, kale, chard, snow peas are all ready for harvest and marketing. They look really good, but if I don't keep weeding, we won't be able to see them at all. Soon, the berries will be ready to harvest during the cooler parts of the day and the weeding will not get done. The weeds will win. Oh, well. They'll get theirs when winter comes!

The goats are all fine. When the little ones herd together, they look like Daisy Mae's puppies: all alike (nearly) white kids with brown heads. I finally got around to publishing the list of names, so far, in the right hand margin. We still need some ideas for "V" names.

There's been a new calf: Iris. She's Sally's baby and is black with some white on her belly.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ducky Day

A funny thing happened this week at the Lexington VA Farmer's Market. We participants are usually busy setting up, interacting with customers and keeping records of transactions.

A lady I'd met last week brought me two Pekin drakes to take to my pond, as she had too many and her sole duck was being overmated. They were in an old cage, and I put the two Bobs* in the shade in the adjoining empty parking space while I attended to business.

After a while, someone said, "Take a look at the ducks." I did and was surprised to see a class of preschoolers sitting on the curb to take a close look at the drakes without touching them. It seems that every kid who came to the market with the vendors or shoppers had been over to check them out. I even had several adults come over and ask questions about ducks. If we'd been allowed to sell livestock, I'm sure I could have sold them several times over.

They have now been integrated with my homebase pen of Pekin ducklings at the second pond. This morning, I let them all out with the geese and Runner ducks.

*All the drakes on my farm are named, Bob. That's because they do not quack like the ducks (females). They whisper, "bob bob bob."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mr. Mom

Well, it's definitely Mothers' Day down in the goat barn. Harvey Llama has been babysitting for them. Sometimes he has ten or more babies on his back, sliding down, or jumping off. He is very patient.

There are 48 new babies, therefore it is time to come up with 48 names.

The first thirteen are Hubba Bubba's babies. They will get names that start with the letter "U." I have named three so far. There will be a list in the right hand column to indicate which ones have been named.

The rest will get names that start with the letter, "V." They are Bosephus' babies. I've named two, so far.

I'm "The Decider", but you can suggest good names by leaving a comment. My grandson submitted a long list of names, so I'm sure many will come from that, but often people suggest great names that hadn't occurred to me.

By the way, Happy Mother's Day to all!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


For those of you who are wondering: 47 as of yesterday afternoon. The majority are female.

This may be the end. I'm tired -- been weeding out lamb's quarters. I'll post again when I feel better.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Silence of the Lamb's Quarters, Part II

Yes, they seem harmless enough when small -- even though they are already as large, or larger than the planted seedlings and obscure their presence. After the rain, they'll be gigantic, looming treelike plants: silent, but nevertheless deadly!

It is a horror movie in the making, and they must be stopped!

My friend, Pamela, has sent me the URLs of some sites which claim that lamb's quarters is extremely nutritious, , is one. She says she LOVES lamb's quarters and that it is delicious.

I have invited her and all her friends to come and harvest as much as they want, but I know a sure way to rid the garden of it. As soon as I find a paying market for it, it will surely disappear, never to be seen again.

So, in the meantime the chickens and guineas are getting buckets of the tender delicacy delivered to their yard. I may be wrong, but it seems that even they, who love weeds, are getting a little tired of it.

On the goat front: Old Ethel, the Cashmere goat, managed to have two good sized baby goils yesterday afternoon. That makes 38, folks.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Silence of the Lamb's Quarters

Another two new babies this morning, for a current count of 36. As you can see from the picture at the left, they are looking like a miniature herd -- and that's just just about a third of them!

The land is looking lush and green. Verdant is a good word to describe the landscape. We got a little rain yesterday.

In between barn checks and cleaning, I tried to weed a little in the vegetable garden. Lamb's quarters (the weed) is growing at least as quickly as beets and cabbages. If I don't get it out now, I'll be dealing with tree-sized weeds in a few weeks. I've been picking asparagus on a regular basis. The tulip poplar trees are in bloom and sweet william has joined in.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Somehow we've managed to get up to 34 baby goats. That was when I left the barn last night. Management is tiring, but necessary. Things will even out eventually and I'll feel less fried. More details later.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New Trips

Well, I said I was ready, didn't I? New triplets were born in the barn this morning. They were large and colored differently from the first batch, so I'm pretty sure these are offspring of the large buck, Bosephus. Two females/one male.


It's hard to find a minute to record notes here right now. The work is intense. However, it's worth noting that yesterday:

I picked the first of the asparagus.

In the woods, I found an entire steep hillside of pink trilium - and am so glad that we can preserve such treasures.

Red and green cabbages have been transplanted. Nearly all of the seeds I planted in the vegetable garden are now germinated. Tender plants await transplantation in the greenhouse.

We've established a routine with the first thirteen goat kids and are ready for the next batch to arrive. They will no doubt be the offspring of Bosephus. The small pasture has now been opened up for the babies and mothers for part of sunny, dry days.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Just a Quick Note

Just a quick note as I run out to begin what will no doubt be another very busy day on the farm: Five new babies were born yesterday, so we are up to thirteen kids as of yesterday. There are eight females and five males.

Of course, that may need to be updated again today. Who knows, maybe we'll have a rest today?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Up to Eight

We're up to eight goat babies as of this afternoon -- four female, four male. All are white with brown markings. The first five have already been out of their jugs and playing in the afternoon. They can dance, jump, and run.

Blooming currently: wisteria, apple blossoms, lilacs, althea, dogwood, redbud, tulips.

As I finished the afternoon chores and walked out of the old farmhouse toward my truck, I spied two small fuzzy kittens. Either the feral cat that goes under the shed has had them, or the Spring faeries have just made them from the ether and fog. Oh, well, sure. Why not kittens, too?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Let the Games Begin...

Shelby (pictured here) had twins yesterday. Today, so far, Q-tee had triplets. 'Only one buckling in the bunch so far. All are white with brown and grey markings. These are Hubba Bubba's babies, so have classic Boer looks.

My grandson will name the first two doelings. He submitted a gigantic list of names for this year's babies. We'll start with "U" names and go to "V". If necessary, we'll start into the "W"s, but I'm thinking we might be able to stick to "U" and "V." So, anyone out there with suggestions for baby names, just submit them in the comments section.

I'll be updating frequently from now on and taking short naps in-between.

Friday, April 14, 2006


No little goatlings yet, but from the sound of the moaning and groaning in the barn last night, you'd think there'd be a bunch this morning. I'm posting this because I've received messages asking if we've had any kids yet. The herd wattled out to the pasture this morning to get in some munching before the rain.

The goslings, on the other hand, have begun to hatch early. Two are already cuddling together in a temporary cardboard box brooder in the old farmhouse. They are much too delicate to join the Slobovian ducklings out in the real brooder in the chicken house. Ducklings (or baby dumplings, as I call them) peep excitedly when I come in because they know I'll give them yet another quart of WATER! Yay!

Dumplings guzzle the water and play in it, so I've decided to dole it out during the day. They go through about six quarts a day, and there are only six of them. The result is a slushy mess around the water drinker. One task for today is to get in there with a flat dustbin and scrape it out and add dry wood shavings. I'll give the goslings a couple of days to get oriented to the world before introducing them to wet duck world.

Ducklings have that sly half-smiling look they give you. They are little cynics who love you for what you give them. Goslings, if you are the first being they spy upon hatching, consider you the object of their affection, and whistle and vocalize when they see you, whether you are bringing food and water or not. I'd never "help" chicks or ducklings out of the shell, but goslings are different. Their shells are so hard and the lining so rubbery, that after 24 hours, I often chip away parts of the shell to help them stretch out and get out. I firmly believe that mother geese do the same.
If anyone remembers my ATV shopping and cares: I finally bought a Kawasaki Mule utility vehicle. It is like a tiny truck or a golf cart on steroids. The little bed holds nine 6-gallon buckets. So far, I've used it to drive down, and especially up, the hills to open and close pasture gates; checked out our trails through the woods; haul cuttings to the fields; etc. This morning, while tending to the livestock, I raked up nine buckets of top wasted hay from the goats to the chicken house. Then, I went back with the empty buckets and filled them with manure, which got dumped on new asparagus beds. The nice thing was being able to back right into the barn so that the buckets didn't need to be carried a long distance. That is what tires me out.

I believe I'll be using a lot less gasoline if I use the Mule instead of a full-size pickup for farm work. So far, so good.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April First

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Temperatures in the seventies, windy and sunny. We got a little rain last night and I see the peas emerging from the soil in the vegetable garden. I planted beets and chard this week and cucumber seed today.

The first violets have shown themselves in the fields and pastures. I see that the pulmonaria is also blooming.

On March 30th, each flock (different breeds of geese; different ponds) elected a nest manager who declared eggs off limits to humans. The nest managers are ganders. They escort the geese in a gentlemanly manner to the nest and guard against all who would take eggs. Later on, they will take the geese and shake them by the neck if they want a break from setting. Ducks are chased away.

Early on, I could take eggs with impunity, as geese are even worse at math than I am. I'd take five and leave one and, silly geese would think that was fine. Now, I must make a wide berth when passing by the nests, pretending not to see.

Annabelle had her calf. I spotted it while talking on the phone. Don and I drove down to check it out later. It's a heifer. I think I'll name her Pulmonaria.

'Just fooling around. I think I'll name her Violet.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Watching the Mountains Turn White

From our house, on top of a knoll, we have a 360 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am watching the snow from a snowless vantage point. I can see that the mountains to the South and East are covered and that snow is only just now beginning to develop on some of the ones to the North. In the West, the tops are still green.

This is odd, because precipitation usually comes from the Northwest here.

It's chilly, but not very cold and the wind is picking up. I've noticed just a few snowflakes in the air. We had rain yesterday and some the day before, and it had the effect of setting my mind at ease, as it's been so dry for so long. The grass has greened up just a bit.

The vegetable garden's tilled, with good composted goat manure added. Peas and garlic are planted outside; greens and tomatoes are doing well in the greenhouse. I got an Earthway seeder which I need to assemble. Then I'll plant some beets and cabbage outside. For those of you who don't know, a seeder is a wheeled gadget which has seed plates inside a hopper. You put the seed in the hopper and then walk down the row with the seeder. It places the seed, properly spaced, in the garden row. I've always wanted one, so now will see just how well it works.

Annabelle (the cow) is in labor. Her udder is large and full. I've been watching her for days and hope all will go well.

Yesterday, we moved hay with the big tractor, rearranging the remains of a round bale in the barn so that the reserved kidding stalls all have a fresh supply. The cows also got a new round bale out in the pasture. I've been raking and cleaning out the other stalls in preparation for the expected kids. As I was trimming hooves, I noted the ear tag numbers of the "done" goats on the chalkboard we keep there. When I looked closely, I realized I'd actually put down the date when the buck, Hubba Bubba, came to visit: November 14th. That means we aren't expecting kids until April 13th, give or take...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Fruit Trees in Bloom

Yesterday, in the seventy-something temperatures, several fruit trees and a magnolia burst into bloom. I think they're beautiful enough to memorialize in photos. Now, I will really be worried about untimely frost and freezes. I was also lucky enough to see about twenty wild turkeys trotting and flying through one of the resting pastures. I'm really happy that we're creating a good environment for this type of wildlife on our farm.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Marching on...

The goats have all gotten CDT boosters as of this morning. We're expecting to hear the patter of little feet this month, so that's an important task. I've trimmed the hooves of twelve goats so far. That's 48 hooves. There are a lot more to go.

I've gotten lots of practice on my small Massey Ferguson tractor since yesterday. I'm almost proficient in the use of the bucket to scoop up manure from our huge pile from last year, and placing it on the vegetable garden. It's got a rototiller, too, so I then engage the tiller and till in the manure, preparing for Spring planting. I've got a new asparagus bed readied and will plant that and the seed potatoes this afternoon after a little rest.

It's always to learn a new skill and I'm happy to be able to do this at my advanced age. Speaking of this -- a new friend, who is less than a year younger, gave me a tour of her farm on the back of an Arctic Cat ATV this week. Yikes! She drives fast. Over hills, up and down, over streams and rocks -- we were flying! It was scary and fun, but my back hurt from riding with both legs over (like riding a horse.) The ATV I'll buy will have nice, civilized bucket seats. I've pretty much decided on the one I want and will let you know when I can actually purchase it.

We're at the end of the fencing project. The waterers should be installed early this week.

I've been buried in paperwork, developing spreadsheets to record farm expenses and income and getting it all ready for doing this year's taxes.

In the greenhouse, seedlings are up and I'm already transplanting tomatoes into individual pots.

There are plenty of signs of Spring around the farm now.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

32 Degrees and Overcast

It's 32 degrees F. and overcast as I type this. It's been busy here on the farm. We are inching toward Spring and all the frenzy which is usual in that season.

We've had a little snow since I last wrote, but for the most part, it's been dry and sunny, if a bit cool. The lettuces and cabbages, peppers and tomatoes are up in the greenhouse and looking fine. I noticed that the daylilies in the middle section have sort of perked up and are responding to the direction of the Spring sunlight. It won't be long before they are developing flower buds.

Outside the greenhouse, daffodils and crocus have large buds which will, one day soon, burst open with bloom.

Our little Growers' Group met yesterday to discuss the farmer's markets we'll participate in and plans for marketing produce this year.

Goats are looking pregnant. I've got March 1st marked on my calendar for giving the CDT booster shots which are the annual protection for mothers and passively immunize the babies.

Tiny black calves -- seven -- are cavorting and looking cute out in the front pasture. Soon, we will be able to drive them into the next pasture as the fencing project winds down. They will need the waterers that will be installed in pasture #2 and between #3 and #4 pastures. We've also contracted to have one put in the newly fenced area which has never before been grazed. All the sink holes are fenced out and gates installed, so we're almost finished.

There's a tiny black chicken setting on a "hidden" nest under the flight cage where I've parked three adolescent roosters. She is convinced that no one knows its there and seems determined to hatch out some chicks this year.

Eggs are increasing daily. The peacock is displaying his newly grown tail feathers with great enthusiasm, but the peahens are studiously ignoring him.

I tried giving the guineas pumpernickle bread yesterday, but they still will not touch it! What a bunch.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


It's been coming down steadily all day and the forecast is for blizzard conditions until tomorrow morning. We all knew we couldn't dodge the bullet. It looks nice, anyway.

The netting over the chicken yard will surely bog down again. All my work was for nothing. We'll use new netting later in the season. I think my husband took a knife and cut it where it attached to the fence to avoid pulling the entire fence down.

Speaking of fence, all the cross-fencing is up. There are still gates to be installed and ball waterers. I'm thinking that'll have to wait until the snow melts. It could be a couple of weeks. I'm glad we took advantage of the good weather.

I read "One Woman's Army", by Janis Karpinski. It was worthwhile reading. I have a much better picture of Iraq and of the situation that led to the scandals. If you are interested, I'd encourage you to read it and make up your own mind about things.

'On the last chapter of "Freakonomics", which is also very interesting. If I get stuck in the house because of the storm, I'll definitely finish it and whatever other books I've started. Then, when the decks are cleared, I'll read "The Last Fine Time", by Verlyn Klinkenborg, sent to me by my brother and sister-in-law. Thanks, guys!

Monday, February 06, 2006

First Goose Egg of the Year

Yep. I wasn't really expecting it yet, but the first goose egg showed up in the nest box of the brown Chinese geese today. Spring's on its way. The chicken egg production is up, as well.

Winter has returned. We all knew not to let our guard down, of course. It was very cold today, but sunny. Yesterday, there were snow flurries, but none stayed on the ground.

I'm cleaning chicken coops and we replaced nest box floors in the chicken house. This time, I'm trying scraps of greenhouse plastic cut to size. This stuff is double-walled and thick. Last year, I tried metal flashing material, but they managed to make holes right through it. If you've got chickens you may understand what I'm talking about. We've tried cardboard, metal roofing material, and the flashing but nothing lasts more than a year. I think it's all the moisture built up by the hens' setting.

I also worked on repairing the aviary netting over the chicken yard attached to the chicken house. It's a pain. I wish we could come up with a better system.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Zounds! The Scarlet Pumpernickle!

Guineas are wacky birds. They are also LOUD. The bunch of fourteen, as I like to call them, have matured. They are big and beautiful and LOUD and squawky. They do not act refined, like the chickens they share space with. They are interesting to observe.

Yesterday, I gave them some black bread as a feed supplement. They eyed it cautiously, circling with suspicion. Normally, they dig in to the white or whole wheat bread, but this was obviously different. It must be a trick... someone was trying to poison them or something. The pumpernickle bread just sat there for the whole day, untouched by guinea beaks. I finally gave it to the chickens, who scarfed it down quickly.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chinese New Year Begins

It's the year of the dog. In fifteen days: the lantern festival.

Yesterday, we went ATV shopping. It was fun. I'm looking for a small utility vehicle with four wheel drive and serious tires which can get me up and down the hills and valleys of this farm.

For a couple of years I've been thinking that it would be very helpful to be able to get quickly to the pastures where the cows and goats graze to check on them. Fences need to be checked periodically also and it is very tiring for an old lady to walk the periphery of 120 acres of rolling land.

I don't want one of those things that you have to ride like a motorcycle -- or a horse. I want regular seats. A seatbelt seems like a really good idea when you're being jostled around over rocks -- although I was shocked to find that most of these rugged little vehicles do not have them as standard equipment. Another shock was the prices of these things. It occurs to me that I could buy a used four-wheel drive truck for the same price I'd pay for a new ATV with a small truck bed. I'm thinking I may be able to get an ATV that is perhaps smaller and more agile, however. On the other hand, trucks are enclosed, have windshields and windshield wipers as standard features and, of course, seatbelts. I'm obviously on the fence here.

So far, I drove a Gator, Kawasaki Mule, Yamaha Rhino, and Polaris Ranger. If there are persons out there with experience with these models or other similar utility ATVs, I'd treasure your input.

Some of these vehicles can be purchased with a camouflage surface. It costs extra! I've been musing about this. If I wear an old Army camo jacket (as I do) and drive a camo ATV, would I be invisible? A stealth farmer?

Imagine what I could learn about livestock and wildlife if I zoomed along the pastures and woods unseen!

Hunters, evidently, like the four-seater camouflage ATVs. They even buy matching camo outfits. I can just imagine the deer falling on the ground laughing as the hunters arrive in the loud vehicle with their matching camo outfits -- and bright orange caps and vests.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Rain is in the forecast for today.

The fenceposts were placed yesterday for the new cross fencing project. Since it's been so mild, they were able to drill the holes easily with the auger placed on the tractor's PTO. The posts are then placed in the holes and tamped down with the tractor bucket.

We're moving along on that project. The placement of waterers is decided. Today, we'll take a look at the map and decide on where to place gates, including small "man gates" which we picked up cheap when the feed store was getting rid of excess inventory. It is important to me to have quick access to pastures when an emergency occurs or when a new baby needs to be taken to the barn.

My seed order arrived yesterday -- a big envelope from Fedco. I'll sort the packets into the clear shoeboxes in which I keep Leaf, Root, Squashes, Tomatoes and Peppers, etc. This helps me find what I'm looking for at the appropriate planting times. If time permits, I'll set up some boxes of soil for planting lettuce in the greenhouse.

Yesterday, I managed to move two large boxes of trays from the greenhouse to the shed attic to store. The trays are heavy and it takes many trips to move them in batches, so is pretty labor-intensive. Still, it's worthwhile in terms of making the greenhouse a better workspace.

I'm counting a new calf in the field and think maybe Lulubelle had hers. It's a matter of getting close enough to see Mama's ear tag to be sure, as she's a black Angus and baby is black, too. We think that Annabelle "has a string", so she's also on the baby-watch.

Late breaking news: Today's newborn calf, a heifer, black with white back legs. We're still working on a name.

Well, time to go see what I can accomplish today.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Ta da! The socks are finished.

I'm on to other tasks. The fence posts have been delivered for the cross-fencing project.

We're awaiting the digging of the ditches for the pipes which will take water from the well to the new ball waterers which are going in the pastures.

The temperatures are mild, so I'm planning on taking a look at the asparagus beds today and doing some painting in the old house.

No snow today.

If you are a regular reader of this blog and have come over via the link in today's entry at mountainfarmstead, please bookmark this address. I'm planning on gradually moving my blog here, as I am having trouble with the editing process on the old blog. In the meantime, I'll mirror the writing here with images.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Welcome to My Mountain Farmstead!

I cleaned out the little greenhouse which has been holding junk that was better off placed in the newly floored shed. Now I have a place to harden off seedlings in the Spring. Our "shed complex" is in need of organization and repair, and I'm glad we've made some headway. It seems each time I figure out how to properly store tools and junk and stuff, I gain the ability to better use buildings like greenhouses.

There is now a pull-down ladder which allows me to climb up to the shed complex attic. Slowly all the plastic seeding flats, pots, containers, shade cloth, etc., etc. is going up there and the bigger greenhouse is able to be used for what it was intended for: plant growing.

All that stuff was left here from when this place was a plant nursery somewhere back in time and space.

And so it goes: the toolshed will get organized again as stuff and junk is moved to the newly accessible and useable spaces. Someday, we may actually be able to find what we need without climbing over piles. It's a good feeling and this is the time of the year to do it.

It's been mild weatherwise until last night. I planted pepper seeds in a flat in the greenhouse and placed it on a heated seedling mat. I'm ready to do the tomatoes in a week or so.

Last night the cold came along with the Full Wolf Moon. The wind howled in sympathy all night long. Sleep was elusive.

Cow Patty had her third calf over a week ago. My daughter-in-law named it, Noel.

I am happy to have found Verlyn Klinkenborg's blog, The Rural Life, online: Blog