Friday, July 18, 2014

Rainy July and the homestead

We are having the rainiest summer I can remember. Yes it is beautifully lush and green outside. And no, I'm not really complaining. On the plus side the inside of my house is in better shape than most summers. The garden fares o.k., but certainly behind with the cooler weather. The kids started picking carrots this week - small but worthwhile. I pulled the first batch of beets for a salad and am already wishing I'd planted more. I cut the first few ribs of celery stalks this week and have pulled a few scallions and picked two zucchini - unfortunately I tossed about eight to the chickens this morning that were rotting from all the rain. We've eaten one head of Broccoli with lots more to come. I've picked one full size English Cucumber from the greenhouse and I have a lovely lush bed of productive cilantro plants. Otherwise we are eating lots of greens; kale, swiss chard, spinach, lettuce and napa cabbage.

Dustin and I are following a "Clean" Cleanse right now. It is supposed to last two to three weeks and we are on day 11. The basics of the Cleanse are to fast twelve hours overnight, start and end the day with liquid fresh juiced veggies, fruits or vegan smoothies (types of fruits and veggies are limited), and eat a light meal in the middle of the day consisting of easy to digest solids, some meat like fish or chicken allowed. We have been skipping the meat for the most part and sticking with green salads, cherries, nuts and some brown rice, lentil or quinoa salads. For us the goal of the cleanse was to get rid of some toxins and "reset" our bodies. Dustin looks and feels significantly better. I feel about the same, but I wasn't sure how much better I could feel before we started as I already had good energy levels and pretty great. Given that neither of us felt crummy at the get go I'd say that we must not have had too much of a toxic overload. The hardest time is after the kids go to bed, resisting the urge to delve into our night time snacking habit. 

As a result of putting so much time into diet and health, I have been motivated to get better sleep and make some time for myself. Thanks to my mother-in-law who was in town last weekend, I have made it to three yoga classes in seven days. The most recent class I went to was called a SUP yoga class. It was on paddle boards (something that has always appealed to me). So we had an hour instruction on paddle techniques and practice followed by an hour of yoga on the water. As soon as I saw the classes advertised I was somewhat obsessed by the idea of doing yoga on the water, and it was every bit as wonderful as I thought it was going to be. I thought it would take several classes to get comfortable enough to go into inversions or complex poses, but I managed a few partial headstands and managed to not tumble overboard.

Tomorrow is chicken butchering day. We have fifteen Cornish to butcher; which is a nice number for an afternoon. Once they are butchered, there will be three Bourbon Red Turkeys with a lot more room in their moveable hoop-house. The pullets from this year are also scheduled to move into permanent housing this weekend. We have about twenty 2-3 old layers that I'd also like to butcher. I wanted to time it right that we'd butcher previous to a rainy day so that I could spend a rainy day indoors canning chicken. I don't think that will be a problem. Our Augusts are usually cooler and rainier than July. I can only hope that maybe the two months got reversed. We need some warm dry weather otherwise I'm not going to have any tomatoes or winter squash, the strawberries and zucchini are all going to rot... and the mosquitoes are never going to go away.

And now my bed is calling me so I better end my night before I break down and eat the kale chips that are for my afternoon snack tomorrow.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Enjoying July; willow huts, hay and...

This morning I got out of bed at 5:45, not entirely by my own wishes. I have been waking up in time to make Dustin and myself a smoothie before he leaves for work, and this morning was earlier than usual. On the plus side, I finished farm chores by 7, and the kids millet porridge is already cooked and I have time for a quick post before I wake them up. The morning is clear and sunny but there is an unusually cool breeze that reminds me (despite my desire to remain oblivious), that cooler days are not far away. 

Our summer weekends are just a crazy blur. Dustin usually only has Sundays off. And most of those Sundays are booked with either hay getting, chicken butchering, fence mending or animal shifting, shuffling, re-organizing etc. Yesterday we had an ambitious list, of which most things like cleaning out the lower chicken coop so that pullets could get moved into it, cutting down the tree that fell on the fence and re-doing the electric lines so that we could move three pesky bucklings out of the doe pen, did not get down. We did however, sell two very nice doelings to a home I felt very good about, and then we proceeded to spend that money and much more on filling up the hay barn. We've been keeping a close eye on the weather and on the hay farmers and despite several isolated showers managed to bring home around a hundred and fifty bales of brome yesterday that are for the most part, dry, green and leafy. The goats approve. I'm hoping to sell a couple milkers and two more doelings so that this hay lasts longer. We will still need to get another hundred bales or more over the next couple months to get us through until next summer. We had a severe hay shortage here this last winter which had us buying $25 50lb. bales of Alfalfa to mix with our brome, as the brome that was brought in from Canada was the same price as the Alfalfa.

We are trying to balance work and play. I've been thinking of special things to do with the kids to make the summer memorable. They didn't want to go to any of the camps that their friends were going to, but they were envious of the tye die shirts that kids were making at camp. And I was like "psh, you don't have to go to camp to make tye die shirts!" So, now I need to get a move on and go by some white t-shirts and a tye die kit. We've been playing croquet in the garden on Sunday evenings. We built a new fire pit in a much nicer view spot than our old fire pit, and have plans to add some hand made benches. I'm envisioning a couple hot dog on stick and marshmallow roasting nights where the kids are sticky and I get to play my banjo and sing by the fireside.

 On the fourth of July we watched a small parade in Ester with friends and family. It is short and sweet, close to home, and the kids only get a handful or two of candy - which is always a relief to the parents.

 One of my dearest friends just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Juniper. Avery got to hold her for the first time and has said several times since; "I can't believe I got to hold a baby that was just three weeks old!"

 This weekend Avery got to go to a girlie birthday party. I enjoyed just sitting in the sun, visiting with other parents and watching her have girl time. The water balloon tossing was gentle and careful, the pinata hitting; somewhat tentative and no one got bumped or bruised on the trampoline.

 We love taking Dustin's boss's Stake bed truck out on the hay fields. It has an automatic lift, and it fits over a hundred bales easily. 

 The mushrooms are coming on stronger than ever thanks to the mix of rain and shine. Yesterday Noah and I went foraging and came back with a big basket of what we call Birch Boletes, but according to my book are called Quaking Aspen Boletes, as well as King Boletes also known as Porcini. We fried some up in butter. Dried a dehydrator full and have some in a paper bag in the fridge for today...and the woods are still full of them.

I've been wanting to build a live Willow hut for the kids as we don't have much shade in the garden. It is mostly done. It will take a while for the Willow to root and start growing, but it is serving it's purpose and providing shade for the kids when it is hot and sunny out.

 Of course I picked about the hottest sunniest day to build it.

But, I enjoyed sweating freely in the sun.
 Posing in front of the Columbine.

 Every day I give thanks for my strong healthy children. I can't believe my son is eight already. Where does the time go?

 I stretched this novel out as long as I could. I've already got plans to re-read it again and slower.

My favorite place to be on warm summer evenings. This night was the fourth of July and I sat out on the deck drinking the yummiest Strawberry Margaritas that I've ever had and savoring my novel. I didn't come inside until 11:30 and the sun had not yet sunk beneath the hills.

And now I've let the children sleep in too late and they'll not be ready for bed when I am tonight. Happy July to you all!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A summer morning farm chores

I've been waking up before the kids most mornings and milking five does, processing milk, hanging the day before's cheese and starting a new batch of cheese, and starting breakfast before waking the kids up at about eight a.m. This routine has made for smooth peaceful and productive mornings. The other morning I slept in and the kids joined me for a more laid back farm chore routine. It had been rainy the previous few days so by the time we ended up in the garden the kids were actually content to be there and spend some time weeding their gardens and allowing me to get a start on mine.

 My puddle lover.
 Wearing out the puppy is a good job for Noah.

 Young pullets, some that we hatched along with some black sex links from the feed store.

 Denali on the left and her dam, Xanadu on the right.
The mosquitoes have been so mild this year that I have been able to milk with the door open EVERY MORNING!! Which I love to do. I just milk away and stare dreamily out the door at the green Birch trees. 

 The kids enjoy playing and finding safety in the hay feeder along with the goat kids that also enjoy playing and finding safety in the hay feeder.

 Heading up the hill for more chicken feeding and watering.

 Avery helping mix chicken feed. Kira was interested in the process...or at least in trying to get in a few licks of salmon meal.

 Cornish and Bourbon Red Turkeys - as of this weekend they are now on pasture for their last few weeks. I'm looking forward to having the Cornish in the freezer and then the turkeys will enjoy a few more months of pasture before joining them.

 One year old layers that are now in a large pen by the garden.

Noah tending his garden.

We are enjoying our summer immensely. We have had a rainier than usual June and as much as we are thankful for all the rain and the good start the garden is having, we are hoping that we still get the hot sunny weather that we anticipate this time of year. 

On Sunny days we spend almost every moment outside weeding or doing various farm chores. And then the next day when it is rainy I'm so thankful that I didn't take the time to sweep the floor the day before and instead have sun on my skin and a weeded garden to show for it. Today is as rainy a day as it can be. The wood stove is going. I made a red lentil soup, baked a loaf of rustic sourdough bread and then made and experimental gluten free sandwich loaf recipe out of Nourishing Meals. 

Meanwhile the drip irrigation has not needed to be installed - we do have a box of hardware that we ordered as well as a large pile of drip tape ready to be laid out. This weekend we butchered our two roosters that were giving us all grief when we would check for eggs. I have yet to make any medicines but we did pick rose petals and make steam distilled rose water and we have been harvesting and cooking with dandelion greens. 

I have been spending my nights reading Diana Gabaldon's newest novel; Written In My Own Heart's Blood. And that would be why I haven't made a post sinec June 10th at least - actually I pre-ordered it so saved some money but got it late. Anyways, I imagine that several of you are diving into the same world during your late summer evenings. As always I look forward to hearing from you and how your summer is going. Happy Late Summer Solstice! And wishing us all many more green, warm and sunny days yet to come.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June Green

I think that this may be my very favorite time of year; the warm green days of June with the majority of summer, heat and garden bounty to look forward to. The leaves on the Birch trees and the green plants covering the forest floor are my favorite shade of green, lush and bright. We have had three overcast days of scattered showers. When I awoke this morning fog surrounded the house. I love fog. We get it so rarely, that whenever we do it reminds me of vacationing to the Oregon and Maine coasts when I was young. Now the ground is moist and spongy. The air is sweet and clean. The sun is filtering through the trees and shining on the wet glossy Birch leaves.

On Saturday we had our first thunderstorm and good rain of the year. The kids and I were so excited when we heard the first thunder. I have written before of our love of Patricia Polacco's Thundercake, and our desire to make our own Thundercake. Last summer we did not have a single thunderstorm -and we were looking forward to one so that we could make a Thundercake. So going into this summer I promised the kids again that if we heard thunder we would drop everything we were doing and make a Thundercake, and so we did. Of course, our thunderstorms tend to come and go within about fifteen minutes, but we were able to get started while there was thunder, and the afternoon remained stormy. We changed out the recipe and made a gluten free chocolate cake out of Against All Grain that was very good and moist. Unfortunately I attempted to make a Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the frosting, and we lost power before we'd incorporated all the butter. So no matter how much Noah and I attempted to hand whisk the frosting it never had the right texture. Never the less, we enjoyed it thoroughly. We got power back late that night.

With the exception of fierce winds on Saturday, the last couple days of cool rain have been wonderful for the garden. Some years we don't get any cool rainy days until July, so all the tender starts just struggle to stay alive through our hot sunny June months and then take off mid summer. The garden is planted. turnips, peas, carrots, greens and beets are coming up. Brassicas, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and all the other heat loving starts are in. I've got a few blank spots for direct seeding cilantro, basil and another batch of greens. We downsized on garden space this year as we took out a few rows to make a flat grassy play spot for the kids. So I ended up starting more than I had room for. I was planning on tilling an old goat pen and planting corn in the fertile space, but we have two geese in the space right now and I'm not sure if they'll get moved out in time.

We moved the coop of our youngest layers into a moveable hoop house so we could have more nutritious eggs. Now our lower chicken coop is available for the turkeys and Cornish that are in the hallway and desperately need to move out of the house. Over the next couple weeks we'll be shuffling birds into appropriately sized summer homes, and cleaning out the goat barn before it will be time to start weeding daily. Dustin is going to install drip irrigation in the garden which should save me an hour or two daily of watering. I'm looking forward to having more time for my children and for doing fun summer activities together.

Here's to enjoying the lush green days of summer!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Recess (for the goat kids)

 We have been having such a busy spring with all the goat kids, a new puppy, garden work and finishing the official home-school year, that we still have a couple doelings without names. But here they are. I'll bet you can tell who my favorite is, as she tends to be front and center whenever I'm in the goat pen.

 Isnt' she flashy?! That is Zuri's doeling Ember on the left. This is Zuri's third doeling and we have yet to keep one for her - and us. Zuri is my favorite milker. I love the shape and capacity of her udder, the shape of her teats and how easily milk comes out. Her conformation is decent. Her main flaw is that her back is not level and it rises in the back. Supposedly this could make for kidding difficulties. Ironically Zuri is one of my only does that has kidded without much assistance. She is a solid, sturdy doe, and doesn't put all of herself into making milk - she keeps her weight on and I like that about a doe. She has an unusual mothering instinct for a goat - she adopts strays. If another mom is not taking care of her kids well enough, Zuri will work them away from their dam and take over. She is our only doe that does not ram the other goat kids, but watches over them all.

 Above are two of Xanadu's three lovely doelings. I think we are going to call the Chamoisee doeling on the right Eden. I haven't come up with a solid name for either of her brown doelings. Finding E Place names out of Literature is not all that easy. We are tossing around Elysian and calling her Elise.

For triplets they are remarkably similar in size and conformation. The light brown one on the left was first, then the Chamoisee and then the darker brown on the right. I usually think the first kid is the bigger and better conformation but studying these three I just barely detect that she is maybe a bit longer. I want the dark brown doeling to be just as nice as she is the most friendly and curious.

Right now my goat plans for the year are to keep the three bucklings intact. Use them for breeding this fall and butcher them before winter gets too fierce. I am going to try to sell four doelings mid summer. I am also going to sell one or two milkers. Which would leave me with three to four milkers and two doelings going into winter. I guess six seems to be the number I can't get bellow. I just can't resist bonding and keeping doelings each year. I think the buck we used was pretty great. His dam was a very nice doe from Lucky Star Farms in Washington that a friend of mine brought up. She was wide, level and had a great udder and was a high producer. Unfortunately she and her daughter were attacked and killed by dogs this winter. She is the grand dam to Xanadu, Zuri and Dahlia's kids.

I attempted to take a video of the kids a while back. If you can get past the bad filming, it is fun to watch them.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Wild Roots Spring

 Our Spring Tree is outside already. I just realized that I never shared our pretty Spring tree space with the baskets underneath and nests that the kids made in the window behind, so, there it is. I think we brought it in too early. We had a spring tree by early March... that is when I needed it. The tree leafed out quickly and we had to cut the Birch pollen pods off (Actually Noah cut them off and put them in a bag in the freezer for the bees). But then the leaves started to curl up and die... maybe it was the lack of fresh water. Anyhoo, the good news is that there is hardly any snow out that window now.

 Balloon nests we made earlier in the spring.

The chicks started hatching Friday through Saturday. Avery was very excited. She spent at least fifteen minutes reading to them. She actually translated into chick speach and it came out as "peep peep".

Not the best pictures (again). But I wanted to share our current goat barn with you. A month ago the barn was only able to be divided into half. However, we had five goats do to kid. The past few years we've put up a temporary divider (bottom left) into the back stall as well as another temporary wall (above) to make four separate "stalls". I guess we haven't had more than three goats kid at once in a while, as that has been plenty until now. This year Dustin spent an afternoon trying to figure out how to divide one of those pens in half to give us five separate areas, one for each doe. We didn't have room to have a swinging door - and it is so temporary that it didn't make sense to spend a lot of time constructing something. He ended up making the divider in the above picture that connects the solid back wall with the blue panel. Heavy boards just slide down to form a wall that I can pull out and stack along the wall during the day and then slide back in at night when all the does go into their stalls with their kids. 

Xanadu has a kennel in her pen so that her kids can get away from her if they need to. It has taken a week, but I think she is finally willingly nursing and caring for all her kids. Whew! I place the kennel in an awkward spot so that Xanadu doesn't ram her head into the woven mesh panel when she is angry that another goat is looking at her. I don't think she will do it anymore now that her kids are older, but the first couple days after kidding it didn't matter who I put next to her, she didn't want them so close.
Xanadu's three doelings are all about the same size. They are all really pretty with different coloring. The one above was first out, the second had Xan's coloring and the third is like the first but darker. I can't tell right now which is the nicer doeling. They all look so similar.

I've been feeling slightly guilty for bashing Dahlia in my last post. So I thought I'd share a couple pictures of her that show that she's actually a pretty doe. Above you can see that she is fairly level. You can't quite tell her, but she is deeper in the barrel than some of my does, as her dam and granddam were. I think it is connected to milk production, allowing them to eat more at once or digest more or something. 

Not the most flattering pose. But if you look at her udder, it actually is quite pretty for an empty udder and I don't think you can say that about too many empty udders.
 Every morning while I toss hay, refill waters, help kids nurse and move goats around, Avery sits with the kids. In her lap is Ember, and Ember's brother is licking Avery's face. Both siblings are really nice looking.

And there is Noah with Denali's doeling Ester, names after our favorite and closest town and playground.

Well, as you can imagine, life has been pretty hectic here. If I was really eager I could be sowing radishes and hardy greens in some of the garden beds. Instead I'm just trying to get on top of house cleaning, food prep, toothpaste, mouth wash, bug spray making. This week I'm hoping to get the car ready for summer, tire and oil changing etc. I'm starting to harden off some trays of plants. In the past I've lined our back porch with flats. However, this year I've got a puppy that goes after the starts, pulling them out as I remember my children doing as toddlers. So I was thinking a table was in order, but in reality there are just too many trays of starts, so I'm thinking Kira is just going to have to stay off the porch for a month.

I'm trying to get ahead on grain free snacks. I took all the salmon out from last year and I'm smoking it over the next few days. I'm hoping to make some jerky and some nut crackers as well. This week is our annual May Day celebration that I've been anticipating for some time. I'm hoping we can make it, as another cold seems to be working it's way through the house. So far I have remained unscathed but I'm not sure if the kids are going to be ready to socialize in time.

 I have a shipment of bees coming in on Friday. Once again I have a new strategy, which is that I will be setting up the hive at a friend's garden, that is better located for bees than ours is. It is low down and level, so it get's better morning light and hotter temperatures. So Friday; hiving bees, Saturday; possibly start sowing a few beds with hardy seeds, keep hardening off starts and keeping the puppy away from them. It is going to be a fun and work filled month. Yes, I have a lot of work to do, but I feel so blessed to have it!