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.

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Washing Machine Complaint

I just realized this morning that I have not complained about my new washing machine in quite some time.  And this machine sooooo deserves ample complaint.  I’ve really slacked.  Today, we do not need MORE goods and appliances, we need BETTER QUALITY goods and appliances.  Spending $600 dollars on a machine that leaves clothes looking worse coming out than going in is hardly what I had in mind when I decided to go with this new “High Efficiency” machine.

The machine in question is a Maytag Centennial High Efficiency machine that is two years old and cleans clothes worse than the broken machine it replaced.  The spin cycle is wonderfully quiet and doesn’t shake the house at all.  But that is the only thing good I can say about the machine.  And looking back, we should have returned it right away, instead of me thinking I just didn’t know how to operate it and trying different solutions and cycles and expensive detergents.  It’s out of warranty now, of course.

Here is a pair of pants I pulled out of the washer this morning.  This is normal.  This is everyday.  This is highly annoying!

Shantara Acres Farm Blog is One Year Old!

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my very first post.

It was actually a year yesterday, the 23rd.  We were busy working outside and I didn’t get time to post it then.

We were working on turning one of those old barns made out of logs with a roof that’s much too big and heavy into a chicken house.  It’s probably about 12 feet wide by 16 feet long, with plenty of room for everything a chicken could need.  We had been using it to store old fence boards and other things we had torn down, but we think it would be better used as a chicken house.

Now we just have to talk the chickens into staying inside at night.  The house has an electrified chicken yard around it, but just before dusk all the chickens started flying the coop and doing what they always do, roosting in trees.

I haven’t given up.

I’ll try again over the weekend.

Right now we’re waiting on a load of 8 round bales to be delivered.  They weigh about 400 pounds each and we go through 2 a week.  Finding someone to deliver them to us was a true blessing, because before that I was having to go get hay every week. Our truck can’t haul a months worth.

Well, gotta get my hat and coat and get outside.  I wish everyone a very merry Christmas!  We’re expecting snow, are you?

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Great Soap Cakes!

Okay, so this first one isn’t so great.  But remember a couple of weeks ago I told you that we were working on a new product that was going to be a surprise?  Well, I did a lot of research, bounced a lot of ideas off CG, looked at a lot of pictures…and then could not find the silicone bundt cake bakeware I needed, so bought a square silicone pan instead…

Our new product, as you’ve probably guessed by now is Soap Cakes.  I’ve got a long, long way to go to get these right, but even though I didn’t have the bundt pan I wanted, nor the colors or scents I wanted for the cake, I went ahead and made my first one, just so I could get started on the learning process.

And here it is, in all it’s ummm, glory.

Straight out of the cake pan. No frosting yet.
soap cake
Here it is after it was "frosted". I don't know why in the world I thought the frosting would be thick enough to not run down the sides of the cake. It was a weight issue I believe. I never could get nice frosting on the sides.

I plan to make the cakes for people to buy for wedding showers, parties, graduations, etc.  I’ll provide a nice clear cake cover and pretty paper wrappers or small bags (with my business info of course) for guests to wrap their soap in and take home.

This particular cake will be cut up into small pieces to be given away at the Danville Va Farmers Market as samples.  The cake scent is coconut lime verbena and the frosting is lime essential oil.  It’s a nice, summery blend…too bad my coloring job went so haywire.

I made enough frosting to cover my cake, plus about 4 other cakes if I’d had them.  So, with the leftover lime-scented frosting, I made soap stars.

Soap Stars in their silicone mold.
Soap Stars...I think this picture is a big blurry.

The “Soap Cake” samples will be available this weekend at the market..and depending on how well my fans speed the cure on them, the soap stars might possibly be available too.  The samples of course will be free.  The stars ill be $3.00. They are just a little over 2 oz. I’m planning to do some more of these stars for gift packs.  They really aren’t the right shape for bathing, but they sure are neat to look at, and smell wonderful too.

I wish you all a happy Wednesday!

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Dog + Cat = Cute

As you can tell, Malachai LOVES the kittens.  He loves the two  grown cats too.  He also loves the goats, the horses, the chickens, and us.  Oh, and he loves his Labrador friend, Onyx, too.

However, he does NOT love the pack of 6 dogs that visits our farm and all the other farms in the neighborhood every single night right before we go to bed.  All by himself he chases off that pack of beagles, toothless hounds, terriers and mutts.

Yep, he keeps us safe.  And all 12 chickens and all the baby goats can sleep peacefully at night, right after Malachai stops barking…which is somewhere around 3am…almost exactly the same time that the roosters begin crowing in earnest.

Yep, sometimes we do get so tired we can sleep through all the nightly ruckus.  It’s work though.

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Foxes, Dumb Chickens, and a GREAT market day!

Red Fox
Image by bbusschots via Flickr

Yesterday I was on my way to the market when CG called and told me I had just missed a lot of excitement!  It seems that a big red fox had been hiding in the woods, and made a go at the chickens as they came down from the trees in the early morning hours!  They whole farm set up quite a ruckus, scaring the pony and the goats and the chickens were sqawking like crazy.

The fox stood right out in the middle of the pasture and looked at CG before running back into the woods.  We still don’t know if he got a chicken or not.

Last Sat. I was milking early, before the market and heard a terrible ruckus out in the woods with the chickens making all sorts of noise.  I figured something had gotten one of them, but the brush is so thick there is no way to see down into the woods or even get through in many places.

So, I guess we know what it is now.  We just have to figure out what to do about it.  We’ve got a live trap and plan to try that first.  Somehow I think we’ll catch more cats than foxes, but we’re going to give it a try.

I think it’s unrealistic to think we can set outside with a gun and wait to see it, let alone hit it without shooting any of our farm animals!

To say chickens are dumb is rather an understatement.  Soon as all the commotion died down, they were right back down in the woods digging around for whatever it is they find to eat out there.  There is plenty of food closer to the house, lots of grain etc.  I guess I better do a hen count.  So far I still have 12 babies, but they sleep pretty close to the house.

Yesterday I had a really good market day.  Lots of people came and looked at my soaps, with lots of people buying too!  I got to meet a lot of really interesting people…found out about a local bee club that I plan to join..yep, bees are next on our list of things to get into.

Besides all that fun stuff, CG dug me a garden!  By hand!  I’m so excited!  It still needs a little fine-tuning, but the rest should be fairly easy now that he’s got the top turned over.  Luckily the ground is still fairly soft.  And he didn’t do it a moment too soon.  I’ve got tons of tomatoes ready to go in the ground.

Hopefully we’ll have our heirloom tomatoes soon.  We’ll be taking them to the market too.  My tables are almost out of space!  Might need another one!

I wish you all a happy Sunday!

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Got the Whipped Shea Butter Done!

Shea butter of L'Occitane
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I finally got around to making my whipped shea I had been planning on making for months.  If there isn’t a better way to do it, that will be one item I’ll never try to do again!

The recipe called for the use of a kitchen aid.  I don’t have a kitchen aid.  But I do have a food processor.

Not the same thing.

Ever try to scoop something out of a food processor with the blade in the way?  And not want to take the blade out of the processor because the whole thing is covered with oil, and you don’t want to mess up your pretty paper labels on the  jars into which you are trying to meticulously scoop exactly 1.5 ounces of whipped shea butter into?

It required the use of lots of utensils.

Each utensil has to be laid out on paper towels….which soon are covered with shea butter…so everything you touch is coated with shea butter, and everything has to be sanitary and you can’t touch the insides of the jars…or touch the shea that will go into the jars.

Betcha haven’t tried it.

Okay, it’s not my favorite thing.

Not yet anyway.

I’m gonna stick to mostly making soap and trimming horse feet.  Now those are fun things to do!

Today I have half a million bars of soap to cut in half so I can have some smaller bars this weekend for my market table.  And I have to re-shrink wrap them and design new labels…the same, only smaller.

I’ve got one label done.  Only sixty billion left to do.

And I’m behind already.  Had to spray the horses down this morning  with some new fly spray I made which works GREAT by the way.  I think I probably posted about it the other day.  I don’t remember.  I can’t remember anything.  Anyway, it contains AVON SOS, white vinegar, eucalyptus globulus, (smells like Vicks) and eucalyptus citradoria (smells like citrus),  litsea and peppermint.  Plus a little lavender.  I would have liked to use tea tree but that’s still on my “to order” list.

Anyway, it smells like chocolate.  And the horse flies hate it.  I spray it on the goats too. They love it.  Being sprayed I mean.  The horses don’t like it, but all of them except Lyrik will put up with it.

Lyrik does this little rearing thing when I come at him with a bottle of fly spray.  Even if I start at the other end, or start with his feet.  No difference.   So, I have to slather it on him by hand.  He deserves it.  He’s beautiful.  CG just calls him “Pretty Boy”.  I think that means he likes him.  Anyway, I love him, well both of them actually, so I’ll just keep greasing myself up to keep the flies off of him.  Off Lyrik.  Flies don’t like CG much, but ticks like us both.  It’s that season again…I love summer but for the bugs.

Can’t have it all.

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What’s New in the Garden and at the Market?

VACAVILLE, CA - APRIL 20:  a worker holds fini...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Not a whole lot is new, but I do have quite a few tomato plants that have come up.  They are the non-hybrid varieties, lots of stripes, purples, etc. Hopefully we can get them in the ground and growing very soon.  The calender says we are done with frost for the year. I hope so.

I’ve been raking the goat yard every day, and puting the waste, which is mixed with hay and shavings, into a new compost bin I built from wire.  I can see that the wire composter will soon outgrow all the waste products we create here, so I’m just going to open-compost most of it, and  use some of it in the wire composters.  My thought is that I can bury kitchen wastes in the center, or at least layer them so the dogs will stay out of my compost.  I compost tea bags, fruit rinds, milk filters, etc. and the dogs love dragging those things all over the yard.  I used tent stakes to hopefully tie the wire composter to the ground, and somewhat carefully layered my old pile and a few wheelbarrows of new goat yard waste into the bin.

The horse pasture could really use a poop-cleaning, but we’re about to renovate that pasture, as soon as I get fencing up in the new pasture, so I decided to leave it be and drag it as soon as we move the horses off it.  It looks a mess!  Five horses and two male goats on about a one acre dry lot?  NOT pretty!  But, I do keep Caritas off of it during the day, he is already in the new pasture…fenced in with yarn and thumbtacks…what a good horse, and the grass in the dry lot is trying really hard to grow.  I can’t wait to apply the raw milk to it, drag it, and apply compost tea if I can ever get all this stuff composted.

Exciting stuff!

I visited my new market this week.  I met with the market managers, gave them samples of my products, talked over all the details, etc. I am so excited!  The market is lovely and INDOORS!  I’ll have 12 feet of space and two tables available to use.  I only have to bring my products and props!  What a difference from the festival I did in the fall where I had to bring tables, canopy, set up on the sidewalk, etc.  Plus I can drive right up to the ramps to unload…now, I just need a wheeled cart that will fit in my car!

The market is the Community Market in Danville, at the Crossing At the Dan.  You can see the website at the following link. Danville, VA – Official Website – Farmers’ Market It’s very historic and the building has lovely 100+ year old floors, varnished to a dazzling shine.  The market is open on both sides for a good flow, but all the big roll up doors can be closed if needed due to weather. The back of the market is in a bit of a mess as they are building a new parking lot.  The market has outgrown it’s current parking and I’ll actually have to take a shuttle to and from my car!   There is plenty of parking in the front of the building though, and also along the sidewalks, so you shouldn’t have a problem with it.  There is also a shuttle that runs continuously from a large parking lot to the market, and there should not be much waiting for it to run.

Opening day is May 1st!  Our booth will be between the crafts and the produce, kind of in the middle section.  There will also be produce vendors set up outside and there will be lots going on to celebrate the opening of the market.  The first 750 people also get a free tomato plant!  So, if you’re going, get there early! Hopefully CG will also be there with me…depends on his work schedule.

Hope to see you at the market some time, we plan to be there on Saturday’s for the duration of the market season.  If you’re a blog reader, let us know!

Danville, VA – Official Website – Farmers’ Market

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Cutting Grass

Here we go again…it’s spring and the grass is growing like crazy!  The ticks like it long, so I try to keep it short!  Looking out the window though, I think it’s got a head of me.

A bit.

Like about 6-8 inches worth.

I’ve been trying to use Caritas as a lawnmower, and he does try really hard, but I can’t get him to graze the yard in 12×12 square patches.

I’ve tried explaining to him the value of grazing down the grass in 12 inch sections before moving onto the next 12 inch section.  I got the idea from the book “Square Foot Gardening”.

Only I changed the concept to “Square Foot Grazing.”

Hasn’t gone over well yet.

And I’ve roped off big sections of really tall grass…and somehow his head just goes right under that rope and before I know it, he’s on my front porch, wondering what all the excitement is about.

So, I show him another section of the book while he’s standing on the porch with me,  but after assuring himself that he’s got me calmed down enough, he continues his haphazard grazing…a bite here, a bite there….

Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to mow.

I have noticed an awful lot of boaters going past the house though lately.  Apparently there is a boat dock right down the road…we drove down that way once, but when we got on the road to the ramp and discovered it was gravel I made CG turn around because I had a bad tire.  So, we didn’t get to see what was actually down there.  Probably something a lot more fun than cutting grass.

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