So Much Rain! And Sleet! And other Yukkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkky Stuff.

This is supposed to be our last winter storm. They said it will knock our socks off. Personally, I need my socks ON to even TRY and stay warm… Trudging through 4 inches of mud in the pig pasture to bring more bedding hay inside the shed for my sweet 700 pound Priscilla meant that my socks got wet and my feet are stinky. But Miss Prissy is warm and dry….well, dry anyway, and covered in hay…I’m not sure anybody is warm today.

I’m okay with this rain today. By this evening the temps will drop 20 degrees and the rain will turn to sleet and then snow. We might not be able to get out of our driveway tomorrow. Next week’s forecast is calling for sun and higher temperatures, so this rain and cold winter weather is but a bump in the road. I’ve decided to like it.

Hank and Frank...two dumb roosters who wouldn't come out of the freezing rain. They are now inside until they are dry.

Hank and Frank…two dumb roosters who wouldn’t come out of the freezing rain. They are now inside until they are dry. Hank is quite tame, as this is his second foray into the world of climate control after a bout of extreme dumbness and possible brain damage from refusing to come into the coop out of the brutal wind and sub-zero temperatures we had a couple of weeks ago. Hank and Frank both have frostbitten combs. Hank is mostly Rhode Island Red, and Frank is Rhode Island Red with a smidgen of silky somewhere his background. He has really pretty silky red feathers. Both need new homes as my dominate roo does not like either one…although they are his children.

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Our yard. This is the shallow end.

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Jetaime (one of our milkers), and Wedgy (the brown wether with the white face behind her). Eating hay and watching the rain come down. When I walked inside they were all laying down but refused to allow me to take a picture of them like that.

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Most of the herd inside munching hay. Malachai, their guardian is afraid of the camera. Silly dog. He thinks it will steal his soul.

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A pile of wood waiting to go into the woodstove. The only remedy for a cold and miserable day.

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Ahhhh, a nice warm fire.

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Foxy Brown. She reminds me of a wolf dog. She’s the sweetest dog in the world though.

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Happy Dog. Doing his favorite activity besides eating…sleeping.

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Fall Is Here

This is my most beautiful girl (I think).  She has her mothers friendly and outgoing personality.  She is the loudest goat in the herd.  You can set your clock by this girl, who KNOWS when it's time to milk, and is NOT impressed by the time change.

This is my most beautiful girl (I think). She has her mothers friendly and outgoing personality. She is the loudest goat in the herd. You can set your clock by this girl, who KNOWS when it’s time to milk, and is NOT impressed by the time change.

I hope you are all enjoying the cool fall weather as much as I am!  No, I’m not a winter person at all, but with the onset of cooler temperatures, beautiful fall foliage, and the absence of flies and other pesky bugs, it’s always a welcome change from the heat that can sometimes be stifling here in Central Virginia.  The horses are always very happy about the cooler temps and get really frisky.  The goats however, are not similarly impressed.

Everything I read about my breed, the Alpine, says that they are hardy and do excellent in the harsh conditions of the Swiss Alps.  My girls must not be reading the same books as I do because they do not seem to like winter at all.  While the horses are running around kicking up mud clods, the goats are looking at me as if to say, “WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HEAT?”

For dairy goats, who can get thin at the drop of a hat, mine are pretty portly.  The bucks got sold last summer so that there wouldn’t be any craziness this fall with breeding woes.  I chose not to breed this season while I’m working on my degree full time.  With the extra weight they are carrying (due to lower milk production this time of year and only once a day milking) I expected that they would be only too happy to see the cold air.  But, they are not.  They love nothing more than to lay in the summer sun chewing their cud until it gets too hot.  It’s a little harder to do that when the ground is frosty.

Every girl on the farm is in heat right now.  They are noisy and boisterous and complain constantly about the lack of an attractive suitor.  I should have known they would not be happy about no fall romantic escapades.  Hopefully they will forgive me.  Or at least quit cycling.

It’s a rough life out here, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Wishing you all a wonderful fall!

The Three Little Bitties…whose mother sleeps in a tree at night

"chicks must be gathered up in the evening to prevent preditors from eating them

There used to be seven, how we have three.

These are the three little chickies that must be gathered up every night as the sun goes down because their mama flies up into a tree, leaving them prey to the foxes and opossums that have begun to prowl the buck shed and old milker shed since we moved the milkers up closer to the house and their guard dog came with them.  I didn’t realize how many species of sharp-toothed wildlife Malachi was keeping at bay at night with his barking and patrolling the fenceline until we moved him out of that area.  Now he and the milking girls have a much bigger pasture but the poor chickens have been left unguarded.

All the chickens are free range, but at one time I kept them locked in a yard with a shed until the baby goats tore up the chicken wire run.  (Chicken wire and goats do NOT mix!)  The chickens still roost near the old shed, but use the trees now and not the shed and I can’t seem to talk them into roosting in the old milker shed at night…which is nearly predator proof.

So, baby chicks have to start fending for themselves just as soon as they are feathered and their mama’s think they should be able to jump up into the trees with them.  It happens with every clutch of chicks without casualties.  Until now.

So, for a while I get gather them up at around 5:30pm, which is when mama hen jumps into a tree, and bring them up to the house for a safe nights sleep.

Where Has 2012 Gone?

For some reason I decided to look at WordPress today after recieving an email about some new themes.  I haven’t even figured out any of the old themes yet so maybe I’ll hold off on that just now.

I haven’t posted since Jan. of this year, but, amazingly, people are still reading my blog….to the tune of some 16,000 plus people.  What a disappointment it must be to visit a blog that hasn’t been updated in 10 months!

I’ve had to kind of take a different direction with my life, and mentality.  Oh, I’ve been forced into it, don’t get me wrong, these things don’t just come upon a person unbidden.  I’ve kicked and screamed and scratched and fought the whole process the entire way.

Fate just won’t leave me alone though.

I’ve learned that good enough is never good enough when there is more that a person should be doing.  Living like a mole in a hole doesn’t really do anything to help humanity….and most of us were born to help humanity….and animalanity….and earthanity, etc.  Simply by being present on the earth we are foreordained to live to our highest potential.

Our highest potential can never be about “owning the market” or the world.  It can never be about one person making millions while all others in a company make pennies on his dollar.  It’s not about wiping out forests, fields, streams and ponds to build a better business….our business model is flawed in a huge way and it’s time to change all that.

See what I mean?  And that’s not even what I was referring to in my earlier paragraphs.  😦  I’m not a business expert and don’t want to be.  For me, it’s much smaller, but more global.  I’ll give you a hint.  I’ve been reading lots of books by Neale Donald Walsh and Ekhart Tolle.  Ekarts books are much easier to read through large sections at a time.  Neale’s are the kinds of books where you have to read a few pages, take a break, and then get back to it later.  I’ve read them out of order, and I’m now reading Walsh’s “Conversations With God, Book One” and Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, which was his first book.  Kind of hard to see things the same way after reading those books.

Especially with Tolle’s books, they need to sit in a prominent place by the bedside or computer, ready to access at any moment.  Unfortunately I got mine from the library, but luckily Amazon has them used, so I can take the library back their long overdue books…or maybe I’ve bought them by now with the overdue fees?

The farm is doing fine.  We had lots of baby goats, as usual.  I dam-raised 3 of them and still have them, but they are ready to go anytime.  Two girls out of Cherry Blossom are for sale.  We’ve also got one young buck out of Ciara.  We just tested Ciara for CAE and CL and she was negative on both tests.  This is her second time testing negative for CAE with the Elissa test.  This was a different lab too so that’s even better.

The garden was a bust.  It started out great but ended up getting scrunched by the horses three different times, the squash bugs devoured my grandson’s entire pumpkin patch and the ants destroyed every stalk of corn that managed to grow….mostly they ate the seed I planted before it could ever sprout.  The deer finally learned to jump the fence and ate the tops off of all my sweet potatoes and then ate every single beautiful red and green tomato I had on the vine.

The soap business is going great though.  We did the Autumn Potpourri Festival in Callands, Va. this past Sat. and did pretty well.  There was a very large turnout of both craft vendors and festival-goers.  It slowed way down around 2pm though, probably because of the storm clouds gathering directly behind us.  The wind really picked up just as we were starting to put everything away and caught a few canopies.  Luckily ours stayed tied to the ground and we didn’t lose anything.  This coming weekend we will be at Smith Mountain Lake at the new festival there which will include a car show as well as activities for the family and lots of craft and food vendors.  Hope to see you there!

Zen In The Art of Homesteading

Have you ever wanted to get back to the land?

Have you ever attempted to follow the movement, jumped on the bicycle and pedaled straight as an arrow  into the homesteading headlights?

Have you at last  found yourself flat broke, destitute, without a hammer, a nail or a single live chicken?

Did that one last trip to the feed store break your bank and your  back, both at the same time?

Did you give up on the free and easy way of living and run, tail tucked between your legs, back to the city life, content to frequent farmers markets and road side fruit stands, never to complain again about the outrageous prices of non factory-farmed meats?

What a  glorious day I’m imagining that was for you.  No more manure to shovel, no ten thousand waiting mouths to feed morning and night, stuffed between a full time job and twice a day milkings….and who has time to make cheese or separate cream after all the “work’ is done?

After sweating a long month and then some to buy that beautiful saddle, finally, I’m just too tired to ride.

And after spending hours and hours removing label glue from recycled jugs with paint thinner so I can pour my home-made laundry soap into them to sell,  I realize that my profit will be a mere $32 dollars for all my labor, labels, measuring, stirring, mixing, and love.

I decide they are better suited to sit forever on my own laundry shelf.  A nice decoration for an otherwise dreary room.

About that time of an evening, any evening, just before the goats start to call and then impatiently jump the plastic electric fence, knocking it over again, and I find them waiting for me on the front porch for  milking, I realize that I can not find the Zen anywhere at all on my homestead.

It’s lost, and the peaceful, blissful, easily sustainable life I thought I’d found here goes flying out the open barn door.

And I become, for a moment, very sad.  But in the sunshine and country air, sadness does not last like it can in the city.  The dull ache of being surround by a million people who don’t give a whit about you, does not exist on shaded country roads, where your “neighbors” are ten miles away and everyone you meet on the road waves you by.

And all is not lost.  We’re still here, scratching our Zen life out in the dirt, bit by bit.  I’m determined the goats WILL stay in their fences without me having to rush madly to and fro to turn the electric fence box off and on.

And of a morning, any morning, right about the time the first rooster starts to crow,  the Zen I’d lost the night before comes wandering home again.  And the soft shades of a sleepy dawn remind me that I’m in charge of the Zen around here.  And if I say it stays, if I say WE stay, we and it and all of ours will stay right put.

And we will “plant our own garden and water our own soul” and insist on the life we want, and make it so.

Today’s Homesteading Report

You want to know what I think are just the cutest little things in the world?

Baby chicks and their mamas.

We’ve got them hatching out all over.

The hens, not being very bright at all, decided to set on eggs in the second story of the egg-laying boxes.  I didn’t know how they thought they might get their babies down from there,  so I moved them down to the first level where the chicks just have to step over the little front panel that holds the straw and eggs in the box.

Two of the hens are still there, but the one with the chicks that hatched out day before yesterday was gone when I went to check them early this morning.   She had abandoned the rest of the eggs which had not hatched yet, but luckily were taken over by another broody hen….who abandoned HER small clutch in favor of a bigger one whose eggs were pipping already.

I found the lost hen and her chicks in one of the goat yards later this morning, sunning themselves.  Luckily they chose the goat yard with only 2 lazy goats in it and not the yard with the woods pen attached that contains three bratty kids and a mean old doe.

They might have been in a lot of trouble then.

I’m hoping that out of about 400 eggs, I can get at least 20 chicks.  I never seem to have good luck with chicks raised by their mama’s around here.  They tend to drown in water buckets,  or just disappear, although  I can’t remember a single one ever getting stepped on by a goat or horse, even though they like to peck around the horse feet.

I think the horses like the chicks too and try to be careful of them.

I won’t comment on the goats, except to say that the chicks better WATCH OUT for them.

I’ve also got a guinea  setting on a clutch of eggs.  I don’t think that’s going to turn out very well.  She (or he, don’t know which it is)  has been seen inside the truck canopy under the cedar trees where the eggs were laid in a big nest, off and on, and finally she’s now mostly on.  The eggs would get warm, then freeze for awhile, then get warm again.

Plus, they’re  a mixture of guinea and chicken eggs.

Wasn’t a swan accidentally raised by a duck in the story of  “The Ugly Duckling”?  In this case the ugly duckling will be raising the swans.

Maybe it won’t turn out so bad.

The one good thing about it is that instead of roosting in the cedars above our outdoor-stored hay, she’s now setting on the eggs in the canopy all night.  One guinea can create a huge mess by morning, making morning feedings pretty gross sometimes.

I finally got jugs ordered for the laundry detergent I made in March.  It was a new recipe and I decided to let it cure for awhile before trying to use it.  I started using it yesterday and found that it dissolves wonderfully in water and leaves no residue on clothes.

If the jugs get here in the two days promised, I’ll have them available at the Lynchburg Market on Saturday.  I’m not sure of the price yet.  The jugs are just about $2.00 each with shipping.  I’ll be happy to refill your jug in the future with more laundry soap.

I also have powered laundry soap available but need to redo the packaging.  I just wasn’t very happy with it.

I’ve also got some liquid soap made, but it requires a 6-8 month cure time.  It should be ready in October.  Hopefully I can get some more made since the cure time is so long, but it also requires cooking over a low fire on a woodstove for 3 days….much to hot for that right now!

I got new herbs planted.  Basil, lemon balm, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and pennyroyal, plus some more tomatoes in orange, yellow and cherry.  I also moved some clumps of peppermint from the back of the house to the front.  Hopefully the move won’t kill them.

I’ve got tons more peppermint.  If you’d like some plants, let me know and I’ll dig some up for you.  I really have no idea if they are peppermint or spearmint and no clue on variety.  They were here when we moved in and smell wonderful.

There are tons of the stuff  in the goat pasture, but they don’t like them.  Good thing is, bugs don’t like them either and so they grow very well and are very healthy.

I’ve heard it takes a lot to kill peppermint.

And that’s just about it for today.

Happy farming and gardening!

New Quarters For Kids

CG took the day off yesterday to help  build/remodel a “new” kid pen.   (We’re talking about goat kids here. 🙂 )

He said it was time to get them out of the driveway and I agreed.

The temporary pen was in the driveway because that’s where the big dog house was that was too heavy to move…we just put cattle panels around it and it worked great for kids.  It was close to the house, etc.  But, it wasn’t very big and didn’t contain any goat stuff like brush, weeds, climbing toys, etc.

The new pen doesn’t have a fancy, unmovable dog house, but it does have an old pig-sty turned chicken house for shelter, plus several hundred more feet of brush, undergrowth, small trees, poison ivy, etc.  Goat heaven.

We had to chop trails through underbrush so dense we could not see through it.  We put up cattle panels and tied them to trees and t-posts.  We met our friend the black snake as he crossed one of our newly made trails.  I hadn’t seem him stretched out before and didn’t realize he was at least 4 feet long, maybe longer!  I thought about tossing him of couple eggs, but I figured that wasn’t necessary since he already knows where the egg cupboard is and in fact it looked as if he was headed for it.  Next week we’ll have chicks hatching out so hopefully he fills up on eggs before he sees them under their mama’s.

For our labors I got a sore shoulder, a stiff neck, hands and back, plus a number of ticks, one of which I just pulled out of my scalp, and it was dead!  I’m wondering why it died?  Was it the Freedom 45 spot-on I put on the horses the other day?  If so, I guess I’ll have to apply some more to myself when I re-do the horses.  Anything to keep ticks off me!

Today I have a few more tomatoes to plant, plus a huge bag of iris’s a clients neighbor gave me.  They are purple and just beautiful and are sitting in a bag on the front porch.  Mikey only ate half of them…

I also bought a clematis at the garden center the other day and it gets to be planted under the mailbox.  I’ve always wanted one of those, but they are expensive and I have a tendency to kill things…plants anyway, I’m much better with animals.

We spent the later part of the day mowing.  CG does the riding on the hilly spots and I hand mow under the fenceline, around the trees, etc.  I was doing pretty good and thinking how nice the fencline was going to look when I hit something and it killed my mower.  I pulled the grass back and realized I’d hit a big heavy piece of metal and chipped a piece off.  Of course, the mower said “forget it” and refused to start again.  CG said the shaft must be bent.  The pull-cord won’t even pull.  Darn.  I really hate using the weedeater and I’d just vowed to NOT use the horses as weedeaters for awhile so we can get our lawn looking nice without hoofprints and horsey piles.

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