Friday, August 24, 2012

Autumn Scramble

It is harvest time in the Interior. Low lying areas have had a few light frosts by now, enough that most zucchini, pumpkins and heat loving plants have succumbed - especially if they were not under cover. In the hills we are safe for a couple more weeks, but it is certainly time to begin the harvest, as much as we'd like to let everything just keep on growing. My bush beans, cucumbers and tomatoes were late this year and are just finally getting going. I'm hoping to make a couple batches of pickled dilly beans and pickled cucumbers over the next week or two. The peas have almost come to a complete halt, and so I should probably begin pulling vines and feeding them to the goats. One of my gardening weaknesses is spreading out the harvest. I just want to keep cutting broccoli side shoots and allow the cabbages and squash to grow bigger and bigger. And that is why I never get the compost worked in the fall - because before I know it the plants are frozen into the solid ground - oops.

This past weekend we took a short vacation. My doe who is due any day now is still due, maybe today? When we got back we killed off our bees :( and extracted honey. We had a very warm sticky kitchen and house for a night. Noah did most the cranking. I had to mop the floor the next morning before we even made breakfast, as it was so sticky to walk around. We are the proud owners of three and half gallons of our own honey - not a great yield or even a good yield, but I'll take it. My bees are still working on building their home; building wax onto their new frames - that's my excuse. I made some medicine this week with plants and weeds from the garden, tinctures of Callendula flowers, whole Spilanthes plants in bloom, whole Callifornia poppy plant and whole Plantain. We've been picking Callendula and Chamomile for tea and oil.

Our to do list is oh so long. It is the time of year where I need to harvest or put something up daily. At the top of the harvesting list are twelve very large crowing Cornish Cross (they've been on the list for a few weeks now.) I was planning on picking crab apples at a friend's today, for making applesauce - depending on how our doe is looking. The freezer is filling up, first blueberries, rhubarb and then raspberries. Next chicken followed by vegetables. It is time to make some lists so I don't go around in circles trying to figure out what to do first. The Golden leaves are falling. The Fireweed and ground plants are turning shades of red and brown. Are you guys feeling the autumn scramble?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Final Summer days

I've just come in from morning chores and am savoring the final moments of silence before my children arise. This has been my week to finally begin waking up and milking goats while the kids sleep on. As a result I've had a wonderfully productive week and more serene mornings. The kids have enjoyed playing in the house all morning while I've been busting out in the kitchen. Yesterday the kids and I made strawberry rhubarb pastries with pie crust for breakfast. The morning before that we made zucchini bread following a carrot cake recipe, which I've decided I prefer to regular zucchini bread recipes. I enjoy a moist well spiced bread. I made jerky this week and it was one of my best batches yet. I didn't follow a recipe this time, just my instincts as I poured in soy sauce, grated garlic, salt, fresh ground pepper, brown sugar and red hot chili paste. I fear I didn't make enough to get us through our upcoming road trip, and horrors; I'm out of soy sauce, so I have to visit the store before I can make more.

We are enjoying a sunny week in the seventies and low eighties - most of us are overjoyed for another week of summer after having such crisp cool weather lately. Yesterday the kids and I went raspberry picking for the second time. I picked about five gallons the previous picking and canned eighteen pints of raspberry jam and put three gallon bags of frozen raspberries in the freezer. Afterwards we met with friends for a water play day at the park. The sunlight is not as strong as early summer. I've been outside in full sun daily from noon to five, slathering myself with coconut oil, and I've gotten some color - not nearly enough.

My "TO DO" List is so long. Trying to decide what to do and what to put off seems crucial. We were going to butcher the meat chickens this week so I wouldn't have to buy another bag of feed, but my husband has been out of town unexpectedly. The kids and I have been spending our afternoons around the house herding goats and guarding free ranging chickens. I am keeping on top of the weeds in the garden. Next on my list is medicine making. I have time to pull things but not the time to do things with them so I'm waiting till next week to make some tinctures and glycerites with california poppies, plantain, skullcap, spilanthes, callendula, lovage and catnip.

We are also keeping a close eye on Rose who is at day 141 of her gestation and is due on day 150, but tends to kid on day 146. She is in her own stall with full access to the outdoors. Up until the last couple days she has been getting out for walks with the rest of the herd, but I suspect she is pretty content lounging around now. Her movements are becoming awkward and slower than usual. Two years ago she kidded to three bucklings and last year she kidded to two doelings and a buckling but we lost the first doeling who was the only light red doeling we've gotten. Two doelings would be perfect. Calla Lilly, Calypso, Coriander, Callendula (Cally). Names that don't conform but I like, Candy, Claire, Coral. Rose is a veteran kidder. She has never needed help. After she kids however, I think she can be overwhelmed with three kids to look after and feed.

The woods are patched with yellow. It happened overnight. I comfort myself by feasting on all the green still in sight. Summer is drawing to a close here. Time to begin the scramble to stockpile and put away all that we can while we can still see it, catch it, pick or dig it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer pictures; goats, kids and geese

Rose, due August 24th. Fingers crossed for a nice doeling, preferably white or light red.

Bluebell meet Rosie Goose. The goose always wins.

My kids bonded with the wrong doeling this year, sigh. Looks like she is staying for now. At least she is well handled.

Zinnia and daughter Clary; the doeling I wish the kids had bonded with.

Garden Strawberries.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Our first Goat Show

Where to start? I decided to take three milkers and one yearling. In retrospect I wish I'd taken my two year old milker Avalon. Rose; who I suspect may be my nicest confirmation doe, is due in a couple weeks so she couldn't go, so I took her daughter Zinnia, pictured above and bellow, and her granddaughter Bluebell.

I borrowed a couple different pair of clippers from a friend. Alas, as I've never clipped a goat before, it quickly became apparent that I was doing them no favor by putting swipes through their smooth natural coats, so I gave up on clipping, but have the intent to practice before next year's show comes around.

I've never seen lice on my goats and I have looked. I've never deliced them either. However, they make a really big deal about all your goats being turned away if the vet finds a louse during the vet check. I was certainly concerned that the vet might actually find lice so I purchased some diatomaceous (sp?) earth and brushed it into their coats a couple times over the week before showing. In retrospect it appears that I may have overdone it. I ran a warm soapy wet rag with essential oils over the goats before we went to the show. Yet at the show when I was petting or would pat the goats tufts of diatomaceaous earth would puff up. Oops.

I had concerns about showing Zinnia as she is my nervous ninny. She is really a sweet dear thing, but she get's scared easily. When she gets scared she lashes out with her teeth and nips or bites at whoever is closest. So getting bit in the show ring was definitely a possibility, and eventually a reality. What I did not expect is that she would be so nervous that she wouldn't fill out her udder. She produces about five pounds of milk overnight generally, and come the morning of the show her udder was only about a quarter of the way full. I thought about leaving her at home but I was interested in hearing what the judge had to say about the rest of her confirmation. 

We were showing at an American Dairy Goat Sanctioned Show. There were enough Lamanchas, Nigerian Dwarf and Nubians to each have their own sanctioned shows. Everyone else was in shown in All Other Pure Bred classes. Zuri and Zinnia were in a three year old Lamancha milker class. Zuri took first place and Zinnia took fourth and last place because of her udder.

Xanadu, my well behaved five year old, took first place in her class, Lamancha milkers five years and older. The judge's words are all muddled in my memory now. But I recall she thought her teats were too long in comparison to her udder. She had good things to say about the rest of her.

Xanadu and Zuri, as best of their class, went on to compete in the overall Lamancha milker class, I'm not sure the proper title. Zuri got reserve Grand Champion. She is the black and tan doe I'm trying to position. Her topline is not as level as it should be, and that seemed to be the deciding factor that kept her from doing better. I was very happy with how they both did and looked. These are my two favorite does and I enjoyed hearing the judge have positive things to say about each of them.

(I hope that none of the ladies pictured here with their goats take offense that I'm posting this without their permission. I will take down pictures if asked.)

Bluebell was the only doe shown in any of the Lamancha Junior doe classes. As a result she took Lamancha Junior doe Grand Champion. Despite the lack of competition, the judge had many good things to say about her. She went on to compete against the best junior does from each other catagory. She got second place in the best of Junior doe show. The judge had me bring Blue back and line her up with the recorded grade doe at the end of the line. So, there were a few moments of excitement. The Recorded Grade ended up taking Grand Champion Junior Doe.

Overall, I ended up having a fun time. I am looking forward to showing again next year. I was hoping that showing might help me make some decisions in which goats to keep and which to sell. If I came away with any conclusions it is to keep the my favorite goats and sell those which I haven't bonded with as much. We have five does, two yearlings and two doelings right now. I'm thinking of selling the two yearlings. I'm having a hard time talking my kids into letting me sell the doelings, but I have a strategy; I'm waiting for my next doe to kid, they are suckers for the new babies. I'm also planning on selling one or two milkers this fall. So, hopefully I'll be down to four to six does in the barn this winter.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Still Green

I feel ambiguous. If I had to guess, I'd say my vitamin D levels have yet to be restored to normal. As a result I continue to feel that all is right with my world when the sun is shining and I am in it. However, when the weather is gloomy, I am so low. I am beginning to wonder if something else is amiss with my health. Taking my vitamins regularly would probably be a good place to start. I did go see my hollistic doctor earlier this summer for the first time in a few years. We discovered that I do have an iodine defficiency, so I'm taking kelp now. That I'm still feeling so conflicted and temperamental about life during the sunniest and warmest time of the year, has me slightly concerned about entering another long winter. I remind myself that I still have all of August and September to bare my skin to the sun during the warmest hours of the day.

It is still green out, thankfully. The last couple months have been socially busy for us with play groups, soccer practice and games and farm visits. I mistakenly was thinking that we'd get some slower weeks before the hectic harvest time, but instead I think our summer days are more like a wet snowball rolling down a hill; we are only gaining in momentum. This weekend I am showing goats for the first time. I think it will be entertaining for those watching, as I haven't been handling and setting up my goats at all, oh, then there is my biter, who turns and tries to bite me when she is nervous or scared. I wasn't going to show her, but I'm trying to decide if I'm going to keep her and she is one of my nicest does....

We have a special trip that we've been planning for months now. We are going to a friend's wedding. It is going to be a reunion of sorts, with long time friends coming from all around. I pulled out my due date calculator and realized that I've got a doe due the week before and another one due the week after our planned condo rented weekend vacation. I have soooo much help scheduled to come up and help and keep an eye on the goats. I have a guilty conscious.  I may end up staying. Only time will tell.

The garden is providing. Tonight we had greens soup and fresh pea, onion, zucchini, carrot stir fry. All the vegetables were from the garden. The cream in the soup was courtesy of our outside ladies, and the croutons were from bread made with local wheat. The butter was from far away. We grilled a turkey last week and have been eating from it since. Lots of more than local meals. Meals that come exclusively from our land, with the exception of grain, spices, salt and oils.

One of the few things I've really been excited about lately is planning our homeschooling year. I absolutely love our Christopherus Waldorf curriculum. This year Noah and I are learning to play the pentatonic flute together. We will also be working with wool, spinning and knitting together. I recently ordered several children music cd's, for the first time ever. I have been loving the beautiful folk songs that we've been learning. I also ordered some new story books and fairy tale compilations, along with some quality beeswax crayons and colored pencils. I was reading through our curriculum the other day, and the author was writing about what is most importance of spending time outside, helping in the kitchen, growing and harvesting a garden, and spending time around animals and farms etc. And I thought, CHECK! Got that base covered!

I am resolving once more to begin waking up and accomplishing farm chores before my children wake. I know you've heard this before. I indulged in some late summer nights and have been relishing the warm mornings which make chores with the kids oh so much more easier. However, together it does take us till lunch to finish up. I REALLY want to spend our mornings together, where I'm focused on the kids and doing things together, instead of feeling like I'm dragging them from one chore to the next. It sounds to good to be true, but I'm envisioning a morning where we have breakfast and then either do yoga together or practice our flutes, then go on to do our main lesson of the day, all before I start to do house chores and fix lunch.

I promise some informative goat posts in the near future. Almost time to start planning for fall breeding. When I'm a couple months out from breeding I'm going to start putting one cup of apple cider vinegar per five gallons of water ( I think that is the right ration) Into my does water. Call it an experiment, can you guess why?