Monday, December 21, 2009
Hope is restored as we come out of the dark tunnel. Burn a yule log, celebrate Saturnalia, Christmas, or Hanukkah!
We got about two feet of snow over the weekend. This is unusual or "historical" as reported by the media, for this area in December. It was hard going through the snow to get to the chickens and goats.
The first thing I did was to pour four jugs of warm water into the heated buckets in the goat barn. It was gone within five minutes and only a few goats got a drink. I started to collect snow in a bucket to refill the heated bucket. Little lightbulbs appeared over the heads of the goats, as they realized that they could eat snow to quench their thirst.
Some would only eat snow out of buckets. The higher IQ goats made the connection and began to eat the new snow off the ground. They were VERY thirsty and ate snow for a long time.
Monday, December 14, 2009
After yesterday's ice storm, the runnoff got to be a torrent, and the geese and I sailed off down the James River in the wooden goose house.
But only in my fantasy.
Due to the resultant power failure, we had to settle for giving CDT shots and not trimming goat hoofs because there was not enough light in the barn to see what I was doing. We spent the afternoon bundled up in the house reading until the electricity was restored.
This morning, amazingly, there was a small newborn black calf running around happily. I don't know if it was born during or after the ice coated the trees and grass. Can you see why hope is such a tenuous thing and requires signs to keep it alive? I caught a few shooting stars during the night. Shall we call the baby Star? or Meteorite?
Friday, December 11, 2009
We've had some pretty cold temperatures this week and it's slated to get down below 20 degrees F tonight. There was a freaky snowstorm last Saturday. It started snowing at about 7 a.m. and continued steadily for the next twelve hours, leaving several inches on the ground. During the week, it rained a couple of times so that the snow is gone, but the ice is keeping the livestock from drinking freely. I had to haul water from the greenhouse to the chickens this afternoon.
My bulgy eye is hurting and extremely light sensitive, so my husband is buying me an eye patch at the drugstore today.
Oh, boy. Now I can add to my normal winter farmer ensemble of old Army fatigue jacket, possibly purple pants (I have a pair of nice thick fleece ones), wild greying hat hair and AN EYE PATCH!
Arrrgh! I'll be a fierce pirate/soldier/farmer woman navigating the frozen goose pond. Ahoy, geese!
I like it. Who'd have thought I'd end up such a colorful character. Too bad it's not close to Halloween. I'd probably win some sort of contest for original costume.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Of course, it was no such thing. Now that it's light, I see that the moon has maintained its position, although newly formed dark clouds periodically rise to cover it.
The landscape is decidedly December: brown trees and dark grey clouds overlaying a light grey sky.
It's coolish, but not terribly frigid. Yesterday it rained all day, today may be dry.
There is still much work to do inside and outside. I'm on a mission to clip all goat hooves and give booster shots and vitamins. I'm also repairing and washing goat collars, cleaning and sorting spaces and still working on that long job list. I'd better get to it.
Friday, November 06, 2009
We thoroughly pressure washed the maternity barn last weekend. It has a concrete floor which hadn't been washed in a couple of years. It's been swept many, many times, so it was surprising how much dirt came up.
It's stocked with bales of pine shavings and hay, clean old bath towels for catching and cleaning off newborns, vet meds in the refrigerator, and new packs of paper baby collars to keep track of when they are born and who their mothers are are in the cabinets along with a sharpie marker.
Mr. Buck Man has gone back home, so our big barn smells okay now.
Most of the red hot peppers have been dried, frozen, made into apricot/jalapeno jam, or given away to friends. One basket remains on the counter. There are still some hot peppers in the garden, but I'm ignoring them.
The chickens have been feasting on the last of the bell peppers and green squash.
It's getting down in the 30s at night and a coyote pack is howling and roaming at 4 a.m. each morning.
We sold off most of the bull calves on Monday. There are probably a couple of small babies, but they need to stay with their cow mamas. I sold one little one and had to listen to Dinky mourning all Monday night and part of Tuesday. I could hear her even with the windows closed.
She's calmed down now, but I'll never do it again. (I promise, Dinky.)
I hope her little fella is doing all right on his new farm. He went to friends.
I've done a lot of cleaning and sorting in the house. This is the time to do it -- before kidding season.
All the brown, limp squash and tomato vines are pulled out of the garden. There is still chard, kale, lettuce, beets, and turnips growing.
The propane tanks attached to the greenhouse are filled, but I'll try not to use propane until it is very cold.
The very long list on the white board has two major items crossed off. Ten more to go.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
We've had some colder days and some hotter days and a little rain and wind in the last two.
On the farm, clean-up continues in the barns, the chicken house, and around the yards. The lawns are mowed for the last time this season. All the hay has been baled and put under cover. I'm feeding whatever freeze damaged vegetables are in the garden to the chickens.
In the houses, I am cleaning and sorting, too. The freezers are full enough to get us through without having to do a lot of driving in ice and snow this winter. After more than ten years since the last move, I've finally gotten down to the last parts for furniture, like teak book shelves and a corner computer desk which have been leaning up against a wall in the basement. Once these find their places and are put together, I'll be able to do a thorough cleaning and re-organization of the basement. Gee, it feels like I've just completed a giant jigsaw puzzle.
I had the propane tanks for the greenhouse filled to provide emergency heat if it gets too cold for the small electric heaters to keep the temperature above freezing. All the potted plants are tucked in, but there remains clean-up and organization for those days when it's raining or too cold to want to work outdoors.
We also maintain a little propane at the house in case the electricity goes out. For now, electric is cheaper than propane. I finally caught on last year, when we did not need to use propane at all, that the company was routinely charging us for delivery of propane, even when the tank was full. I don't know how many hundreds of dollars -- probably more than a thousand -- were charged for propane not delivered. Although I made a complaint to the Department that regulates utilities in Virginia, nothing could be done because the Propane Industry is unregulated in the State of Virginia!
As you can probably tell, that still burns me up.
At the time I had finally caught on (I'm slow, evidently, and too trusting) there was a series of articles in the Roanoke Times about similar problems that others were having. I think the State Legislature should be doing something about regulation, but am not aware if they are. So, for now I'm monitoring the gauges on the tanks which show only the percentage left inside. There is no system of reporting usage other than the initial ticket saying how many gallons they delivered. You must more or less know the capacity of the tanks and try to extrapolate from there.
So, I'm trying.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Other signs of Autumn: the neighbors are dumping buckets of black walnuts on their driveway to be run over by the pickup truck and hulled.
The local vineyards are picking grapes. I bought some Cabernet Franc yesterday and have already started in on them. The Chardonnay is bubbling along nicely and the Blackberry Wine is almost ready to be bottled.
It's nice and chilly in the mornings and the leaves are just beginning to turn. Yesterday, I watched about twenty five Canada geese fly over the house on their way to somewhere.
Red sweet and hot peppers await processing in the kitchen and the cooler is full of Hubbard squashes and grapes.
I've made some progress in the old house, lugging furniture and accessories out of our basement to furnish it. Windows are getting washed in both houses and we have some plans for improvements on the farm.
I have the impression that we are beginning the preparations for a long, cold winter. Today, I'll begin to clean out the greenhouse and from now until frost, I'll be loading the Mule with plants that have summered on the porches to transport them down the hill to the greenhouse.
Thought for the day: "Be Yourself; everyone else is already taken." Oscar Wilde
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The temperatures have cooled down. We've had cloudy skies for days, but no rain on our farm.
I'm picking mixed salad greens, hot and sweet peppers, tomatoes, a very few summer squashes and amazing winter squashes. A brave watermelon plant decided to begin growing a couple of weeks ago and there are actually watermelons on the vine. The fig tree has recovered from a late frost and little green figs hang on the branches. Will these fruits make it before the first frost? Stay tuned.
There's been a little time to begin cutting down the gigantic weedy poke and brambles that have invaded the lawn areas. The goats have finished their breeding season, as far as I can see. It's time for Mr. Buckman to go back home.
I've already started cleaning out the Maternity Barn and stocking it with hay and pine shavings for the kidding season in the winter. There are ambitious plans for cleaning out all barns and outbuildings before winter. Will we make it? Stay tuned.
There's actually a long list of "to do" jobs on the white board. We'll just chug along and do what we can. That's what September brings.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Some of the cows have gone camping under the large shady trees. They only come up for a drink of water when necessary. There is an army of little calves. They saunter up with their mothers and look at me over their shoulders as they leave.
Still, I have Late Summer Cleaning Syndrome. I guess not everyone gets it. It is a reaction to the things that had to be ignored during the intensive gardening and harvesting/processing of the summer. Now, I'm determined to catch up and the heat is an excuse to work inside the house during the day.
Early, I'll go out and attend to the animals and vegetables and fruit. Yesterday morning, I cleaned out three chicken coops without ever intending to do it. As soon as it cools off a little, I'll get into the flower beds and do some serious weeding.
There are still berries to pick. I've picked and processed the peaches and pears. One tree is full of small white apricots or peaches. I'm not sure which. But they are still hard and unripe. Red raspberries and a few asparagus are coming again.
Zucchini are still producing, as are pole beans. Winter squash are coming on bigtime. Tomatoes are starting to ripen and peppers have just begun to get red. I pulled out the bush beans and fed the plants to the chickens. Beautiful lettuces and other greens are up and looking like they'll provide for nice salads in the month to come. Beets will need pulling.
The drunken July bugs were much decreased this year and only bombed the roof once for a few hours. I find one or two in the blackberries. Large flocks of birds are resident. I don't remember seeing them in the past few summers, so I wonder if there's a connection.
Today, I'll try to get organized with herb collection and processing. 'Time I got started.
*The Dog Star
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
For those skeptics out there who saw the garden in early Spring, you can also see that stuff actually grew! It was looking a little sparse, as I left room for the inevitable expansion of squash plants.
The cucumbers and beans have been producing prodigious amounts. Baskets, bags, and buckets of produce is going out into the kitchen every day to be rinsed and refrigerated. Peppers are on the plants, as are tomatoes. Beets are being pulled weekly. Some Seminole winter squashes are ready to be harvested. I'll take a few to market on Saturday.
I'm still picking wild blackberries. The thornless are also getting ripe. Red raspberries have re-appeared. A big crate of peaches is on the counter in the kitchen waiting for processing and wine is bubbling in the basement. I've threatened to make cucumber wine, but so far have only made jars and jars of bread & butter pickles.
For some reason, I'm having good luck with summer squashes this year. I think its the weather and the rain.
So, if you don't hear from me for several weeks at a time, at least you know I'm too busy to get into much trouble.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Blackberries are producing so I pick early in the morning every other day, picking enough so that I can continue the winemaking on a daily basis. On alternate days, I pick beans, cucumbers, and squash and wash and package them for marketing. Tomatoes and peppers have begun to develop on the plants, as well as winter squashes. I harvested mini blue hubbard squashes already and fed the vines to the chickens.
Of course, the animal chores must be done daily and herbs picked and dried, some attempt at yardwork and maintenance, eggs need to be gathered -- and a little baking for market -- pickling and preserving -- keep the house(s) fairly neat -- buy supplies occasionally -- well, you see how it is. 'Not much time to chat, much less sleep.
But that's the way the seasons go, and Winter will make up for Summer's hustle bustle. I am thankful that we are getting some rain this Summer and that the temperatures are not as high as last year.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Since Saturday, I've had some visits from friends bearing plants. My plan to restrict my pepper planting to two types has been quashed. Last night, I tucked pepper plants into beds until it was too dark to see. There are at least six types of peppers that will grow in the plastic garden this summer.
Nearly all the tomato seedlings have been planted. Squashes are coming up. Beans are flowering, and little cucumbers are formed. I can see the beets have begun forming. Chinese greens are big enough to harvest, as is spinach.
The plastic garden liveth!
In the meantime, red and black raspberries are ripening and need to be picked daily. Plums have begun to ripen.
There's a new batch of tiny chicks under a tiny chicken and a brand new calf in the pasture.
There is not enough time in a day to do everything that needs to be done on the farm.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Setting fowl will bear with heat, cold, rain, lack of food and water in order to incubate those eggs! They also have to fight off wild predators of all kinds which are trying to get their eggs or newly hatched young. I've seen some pretty tough mamas, willing to fight literally to the death to protect their young.
Last night, my husband walked in to just such a scenario in the goose house.
Every evening, we feed the geese and close them up for the night. Yesterday, there was a black cat attacking a setting goose in order to get her goslings. The goose was killed.
Now, when it is a fox you know that it is probably going to feed its kits with the livestock or fowl it kills. I know that cat wasn't particularly hungry, nor was it going to feed its young. It, like skunks and possum, just enjoys killing newly hatched birds and fowl.
Geese are lovely animals with tons of personality. Sure, I know that cats can be lovable pets as well. I don't dislike them. We tolerate neighbors' cats in our barns and fields. However, I sure wish they'd be aware of the destruction cats can do to songbirds and poultry and waterfowl. I wish they'd keep them inside their homes so that they can enjoy their company without endangering our livestock.
I'm not shy to tell dog owners to keep dogs away from our goats. There are clearcut laws regarding the killing of livestock by dogs. Of course, the first thing I hear is that "Fluffy would never hurt a flea" or some such. Every year, goats are run and killed by packs of Fluffies who are just doing what nature dictates.
Is it time to make laws that will impose a financial penalty on cat owners as well?
Sunday, June 07, 2009
All types of black raspberries and blackberries are loaded with blossoms.
Fruit hangs on all but the fig tree. It got zapped by the last surprise late frost.
There is a little spinach and some snow peas which I can pick tomorrow morning. The asparagus continue to bear.
If poke and Virginia creeper were cash crops, I'd be rich today. That stuff grows so fast that you could probably sit and watch it. 'Don't have time.
Beans and cucumbers want to grow right now. The cucumbers have started growing and have flowered and there are tiny fruits on the vines. I forgot how swiftly the plants grow and develop in June. Even an overwintered pepper plant has little fruits developing.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
'Not complaining; just explaining.
I just changed my socks for the second time today. The first time, I actually changed all my clothing, as I'd done the morning rounds on the farm and walked through the tall grass, which is nearly up to my waist.
It was mercifully cool with light rain this morning, so I was able to do a little transplanting in the vegetable garden. If I didn't have to deal with arthritis, I'd have done a lot more. However, every day I plant something and it adds up.
The first daylily bloomed on our farm today. Multiflora rose is blooming, as are blackberries. Wild grapes are loaded with tiny grape clusters. Too bad they are inedible to most humans. It's great asparagus growing weather.
I picked a couple of nice sized "hands" of fennel, which I'll saute in some tasty dish -- perhaps Italian sausage and pasta.
When the humidity is high, I feel sick and can't do much physical labor. We are sliding into summer and this will be a consideration. I'm getting out earlier than in Winter and Spring and doing all I can manage while it's reasonably cool.
A huge snapping turtle greeted me at the goose yard. He turned and headed toward the pond, thankfully. I wouldn't want to tangle with him.
We need the rain, but also need to cut the majority of the hay, which requires about five dry days in a row. Only about a third of the big field got cut and baled this past weekend.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I originally made this movie with a Super 8 movie camera. Recently, I needed to learn to make digital movies for another project. I decided to learn to incorporate live movie footage. These are my sons interacting with our Akita puppies.
They are not just regular puppies, however. They are super duper shoelace-untying puppies -- which make it hard on a kid who had just recently mastered the art... Notice that they work in teams. One puppy distracts the mark and the other attacks the shoelaces, successfully untying them.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I'm exhausted from the Market and whatever farm chores I managed to get done.
Tinkie is back with the herd, having voluntarily walked through a gate held open for her. She's had her annual adventure. It's out of her system and she's back to normal.
Asparagus grew up during the hot day and I picked a good sized bunch this evening. We set up sprinklers in the vegetable garden area. After I rest up tonight, I'll probably feel like doing some outside work, but the grass needs to be cut again already.
The old house is shaping up nicely. Now that the interior plaster is repaired and rooms painted, I can clean and put furniture back. Soon, it will be ready for guests.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Lilacs fill the air with fragrance. The peonies have their little ball buds and amazingly, flag iris are ready to bloom.
It's been cool and rainy. Fine with me. Seedlings are safe and sound in the greenhouse, developing nicely, thank you. I can see peas, beets, and spinach coming up outside. I transplanted some Oriental greens outside and also scattered seeds in small beds
Baby bucklings have all gone to new homes. The goats were stuck inside much of yesterday because they don't like rain and mud. Again the barn needs raking and new shavings in stalls and hallways.
Of course there's a clutch of little chicks with their determined mommie chicken. You can't get through Spring without chicks, whether you want them or not. She tricked me!
On the cow front, Tinkerbelle -- one of the six belles I received in a trade for an old tractor one year -- Lulubelle, Annabelle, Jezebelle, Clarabelle... -- well, anyway, somehow Tinkie, as I call her, got on the other side of the fence. She has access to the pastures the goats are in and is chomping grass with reckless abandon, ignoring her cow buddies who are somewhat concerned about her independent spirit.
Yes, Tinkie was the cow rescued from under a round bale one year when she managed to get into a hay shed. She recovered and hasn't learned any lesson at all from that experience. Evidently, she doesn't have a new calf currently or there'd be a lot of bawling -- as when she managed to get into our fenced woods on one of her other adventures.
Tinkerbelle's girth belies her name, as she is not fairy-like at all, except for the fact that she has magical powers and can, evidently, fly over fences.
Ah, Tinkie, you embody the non-conformist explorer. You are the symbol of independent thought and innovation. May you grow and prosper.
...but I'll get you yet!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I wonder if city folks started coloring Easter Eggs as a result of longing for the country and the time before the identical "factory eggs" they buy in the supermarket? Perhaps they had some memory of Springtime on the farm?
It's certainly easy to understand why eggs became part of the whole Easter celebration. Eggs are a plentiful part of Spring after Winter's decreased production.
The grass needs to be cut already, due to the rain we've had lately. Redbuds and lilac are blooming, as is the blue pulmonaria. Daffodils and narcissus are "over" already, looking shabby and worn. Tulips have created jolly groupings here and there.
Cabbages and oriental greens came up in the greenhouse in a matter of two days. They need to be transferred to multipack containers already. It's a little too cold to plant most things in the garden this year, but these will get out there soon. Rhubarb is doing great outside and I probably should pick some already. I saw the first asparagus tips peeking out of the ground.
Another class of baby goats has graduated from their safe maternity barns. It was time for the mother goats to get out in the pastures to get the nutrition from browse. The babies seem, with the exception of occasional stragglers, to be following the herd. The little ones who miss the "goat boat" cry in vain, as the mothers know they will learn soon from the experience. Mama goats pick up the little ones when the herd comes back down to the barns to get a drink mid-day. The babies are in goat kindergarten, a little disoriented but learning a lot about the world at large and life on the farm.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
We've been through cold weather, hot weather, rainy weather... since. Right now, we are in a period of lovely Spring weather: cool nights and warm days.
As you can see, the fruit trees are in bloom at the top of the hill and the apple trees down below are budding.
Things have calmed down in the goat barns and we are in a routine. The herd is currently divided into three parts (like Gaul?) as the little kids are too small to successfully follow up the hills and down into the valley. I'd have to send out searching parties every evening to make sure they all got back home safely. In the past, I've had to locate small groups of babies who evidently were taking a group nap when the herd began returning to the barn.
The garden still awaits planting, although my tractor has been outfitted with the scoop to get compost from the big two year old pile. I still need the tiller to be put on so that I can get things ready.
It's been hectic. The weekend before last we did ear tagging and castrations. Last weekend we had an impromptu cattle round-up. It took six adults to cut one large Angus heifer out of the herd and down to the barn and into the trailer. Hopefully, Fran's bred and carrying a nice black calf.
When we got to the barn, there were neighbors delivering a trailer load of square bales. Thankfully friends pitched in and helped by arranging the bales in the loft as they came up the elevator. Thanks, Ginger and Rachel.
Thanks also to Lindsey, Maggie, Rose and Nora for all your help with the baby goats in the past month. It is really appreciated.
We are inundated with eggs: chicken, goose, and turkey. So it's a sure thing that Spring is here.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
It will be snowy and colder for the next few days. That's good, because I'm not so worried about getting the garden(s) in order.
We're getting back into routine after 35 new kids and 5 calves have been born in the last two and a half weeks. Goat kids and dams are tucked into every available stall in two barns. We want to keep them dry and safe so they can get a good start in life.
Record keeping has been a chore, but I think it's under control. Barn cleaning is the most pressing problem. Chickens are suddenly producing a lot more eggs, so the Spring rush is right around the corner.
'Guess I'll just keep on keeping on.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
As I said to a friend who came by last week, "They'll start kidding when the weather gets bad again."
Am I a prognosticator of goat behavior or not? It is cold again with some precipitation forecast.
I'm doubling up does in the maternity barn. We could use two.
I should come up for air again sometime soon.
Oh, by the way, daffodils are up and budded.
Friday, February 13, 2009
We had the first two kids of the current "batch" born yesterday morning. I'm guessing the rest will be coming along soon, judging from the number of does who are waddling around the pasture. I'm grabbing one big round doe each time I get a chance and getting them inside the maternity barn. That's so much easier than going up to the pastures and retrieving cold, wet babies and mothers.
The last fourteen, fat little babies "graduated" to the big barn and are staying with the herd. They are almost half the size of the adult goats and looking good!
Friday, February 06, 2009
What a wild ride February can be.
Sophie is a Holstein cow that I was given as a cute little calf. She was raised on goat milk in a bottle and is now the largest cow in our herd. She's had a calf a year, usually in February, since she was three years old. Holsteins are those commercial dairy cows whose offspring are routinely taken away early so that the milk produced can be pooled and sold. Seldom can people appreciate their wonderful mothering instincts and grasp how sad it is to deprive them of the experience of raising their own young. I will give Sophie a big kiss and perhaps take a picture later today.
Other signs of impending Spring: the Embden gander is escorting individual geese to the goose house to start the egg laying season. He sits outside and waits until they re-emerge.
Friday, January 16, 2009
I've knitted a pair of socks (pink) which I'll try out today to keep my feet warm. 'Been writing, reading, sorting, and catching up on little computer- and telephone-related jobs for the Farmers' group. I'll probably also work on lesson plans for the semi-advanced cheesemaking workshop which I'd like to offer in the next couple of months. Some baking is in order. That'll warm up the kitchen.
Anyway, it's come to my attention that there are actually people in this world who care to read about what I'm reading currently. I've just finished John Grisham's, The Innocent Man which I highly recommend. John Grisham's books are books I read in a matter of a few days. I'm sure I could read one in a day if I did not have other responsibilities.
If you read The Innocent Man, you'll probably become aware, quickly, of the widespread injustice in our "justice system." It'll make you mad. That will make you warmer. This is true crime, not fiction.
Right now, I'm reading Frank McCourt's, Teacher Man: A Memoir. This book will warm your heart. There is something so engaging in McCourt's humor and intelligent writing that makes it enjoyable. He manages to inject a bit of pathos while making you smile. Would this be a wry smile, then?
I was a teacher for many years, and I relate to some of the comments about the strange system of American education and the little regard the public has for teachers. It's ironic that good teachers are so little appreciated. Actually, I was surprised that teaching is something I'm good at. I find that I'm learning as I'm teaching. I dream about it sometimes, but would hesitate for a long time before considering taking it on again.
The most hopeful thing I found in this book is that McCourt did not publish his first book Angela's Ashes: A Memoir until he was 66 years old. His second book, 'Tis: A Memoir was published three years later. There's time for me yet!
Well, as I finish writing this, I notice it is up to 8 degrees. Time to suit up and get out to the barn. Today, I think I'll wear one of every color and make sure nothing matches.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The chickens are also laying more eggs.
The baby goats in the maternity are now almost too heavy for me to lift. They seem nice and healthy. That's a good thing, because udders are growing in the big barn and I anticipate another population boom in the next month.
We're expecting some single digit nights starting on Thursday. I'm not looking forward to it. So far, no snow to speak of.
I'm reading, sorting files for taxes, and doing other indoor jobs because it's so uncomfortable outside. We ordered garden seeds on the weekend. I'm taking time each day to learn some new software.
That's all the exciting news for now.