Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Time for Being Thankful

After raising the pullets, I was just so sad to have only 2 laying,  I had wanted to have a good supply of eggs for the winter.  I wanted to be able to share eggs and have plenty for our kitchen.  I went to feed November 10th and Annabelle came out of the coop singing her song.  I thought is she going to start laying again?  About mid morning Mr. Bootsie comes in from the pasture lot and hands me Annabelle's pretty green egg.  She laid today and she was so pleased.  I hope she continues to lay and our egg count go up.  I knew Annabelle laid a green egg because she was laying before I messed with the feed.  Another hen has begun laying as I am finding a large green egg.  I was so excited to collect a dozen eggs in 4 days.  Maybe my girls did understand how sorry I was for changing their food.

I have been wanting to dehydrate potatoes, I really do not like having them sprout or rot in the pantry.  This has been on my to-do list for a while.  One rainy afternoon was spent preparing potatoes to dry.  I found myself getting quite excited about having this new stable in the pantry.  I thought about so many things I prepare using sliced potatoes, now all I will need to do is rehydrate the sliced potatoes and prepare my meal.

I think dehydrating the harvest must get into your soul.  I have been busy doing apples and pumpkin. I am now finding myself looking for other items to process.  I believe I am really beginning to understand the process and how to use these wonderful additions to my pantry.

With getting things ready to store, all of the heirloom corn was shelled and stored in jars.  I think I have enough red dent for another project.  We do not have a grain mill but I think we can work something out with several of the mills we have.  So,  Mr. Bootsie, there is a new project on your list.

There was not a frost on the farm until after a freeze.  I kept reading and watching the weather, it was said there was not a frost warning for us because we had a killing frost in our area.  I talked with some farmers who had experienced several frosts but the freeze was what took away our crops.  I do not know if I have found a micro-climate or there are just so many trees around the garden.  It was wonderful to have the garden growing until November .............We were harvesting peppers, eggplants and a few butter beans.

We shall be spending time over the next few weeks getting the garden ready for next spring.  Tomato and pepper hills to dig and fill with manure, corn rows to be dug and filled, this year I am going to try and do much more soil improvement during the winter.

I am so Thankful for our little farm. for the knowledge I have and my ability to learn.  This farm has been a gift to me and I cherish being able to spend my days working in the garden, walking in the woods, always on the search for something new.  I always had been taught it was important to grow your food.  I really had no idea what this meant until I returned to the farm and began to provide for my family.  There is a joy when the food you eat comes from your gardens and pasture lot.  I, also, am Thankful for the farmers who are in our area and support each other.  I now have the extended family I remember from Momma and Daddy's farm.  It is so amazing, they seem to appear when there is a problem and they have the knowledge to help.

I am very Thankful for those of you who take the time to read about out farm.  I hope you found something you enjoyed, I believe many of you have much more knowledge than I do.  I will never know the answers but I keep trying and our results are good.  We are feeding ourselves from our farm and sharing with others.  Yes, my quest has been reached and my dream is no longer the "Impossible Dream".  I know the journey has had it's ups and downs but that is how you learn and with all of the hours I have spent learning I now can sit back, put my feet up and enjoy a time to be Thankful.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fall is Upon Us

First things first, you remember how excited I was to have 8 pullets who would be laying for us, well, things have changed.  I have 8 pullets but now only 2 are laying.  They were doing so good, I had eggs, more eggs than I could use and boom, it all stopped.  At this point I am blaming myself, because I changed their feed a bit and I am not sure they were happy with the change.  We have had more cloudy days than we need and maybe that has had an effect on the girls, but whatever, I am not collecting eggs.  One day we get 2 eggs and the next day 1 egg.  I am working hard to get them to laying again but I am not sure it will happen.

We made a change in the feed for all of the pasture crew, we were gifted a bag of new feed and all seemed to like it.  I decided to try using this feed and with my first bag I saw a problem.  When the fermented feed was opened it was very clumpy but I had been told I need to break it up.  The gift bag broke up easily so I knew there was a problem.  I read on the bag and it said it was good for some time, however, this stuff just did not smell like the first bag.  Digging down into the bag of feed I found the problem, there was mold.  I threw the mold clumps into the chicken yard to see what would happen.  After 2.3 inches if rain from the hurricane, Matthew, this stuff was still clumps, and a week later it is still clumps, The chickens have no interest in it and it is heading into the compost pile and I am not sure about that.

Mr. Bootsie filed a complaint with me from the barn crew, I was told they were not eating and trying to pick through their food bowls, decision, we will return to the way we were feeding.  New is not always good.  I was thinking it may be a good time to try something different as we are no longer milking Belle and the little ones are growing but my choice was bad and now I must pay the price by not having eggs as the feed doesn't seem to be of value to my chickens.  I told the person who supplied me with the feed, I could stop feeding layer grain but I knew to keep them laying they need the layer grain.  The new feed may have lowered the ratio too low to keep the girls laying.  Lesson learned and now I must pay the price.  At this time I will be surprised if any of the girls return to laying during to winter but I am hoping a couple of them will.  I know chickens do not like change and I was in question about making this change from the time it was suggested to me.  My mind was telling me no but I have respect for the person advising.  I shall keep you posted on this, as I would not want any of you to make this mistake,  learn from my being influenced by others and not sticking to what I knew I should do.

The last weekend in September we went up to Rappahannock County and did the farm tour.  It was a very interesting day.  We found an orchard which sold the not so perfect apples at a great price reduction.  I came home with a bushel of Grime's Golden Apples for $12.00.  This was a super deal for me.  I simply adore Grime's Golden Apples.  I remember them from my childhood.  There were fried, stewed or baked apples in the kitchen most of the time.  There was a tree of summer apples which was the first we harvested and I would love to find someone growing these summer apples, but I have no idea as to the name of them.  When I saw the Grime's Golden at the orchard I was excited.  Mr. Bootsie sometimes looks at me as if I have fallen out of the trees and this was one of those days.  After a few days I peeled and made stewed apples, no longer does he look at me that way, he picks up his knife and helps me peel the apples.  We have been eating  stewed apples and making apple butter.  Best twelve dollars I have ever spent.  6 pints of apple butter in the pantry, one has been eaten,  so many pots of stewed apples and dehydrated two quarts.  I am so pleased to say the ugly apple tastes as wonderful as the pretty apple.

It seems these past few weeks have been an adventure for me, I am just so excited to have over 4 quarts of lard rendered in my kitchen.   If you missed the blog about "Lard Rendering Day" just click here for the link,  I know I will enjoy making pie pastry with this lard as I feel lard is the best type of shortening to use when making pie crust. I also use lard in the quiche crusts I make. 

We have been working on planting the tunnel for the fall.  The last week in October the cover went over the tunnel, the weather has been so mild, the ends remain to be put in place.  There are turnips, lettuce and leafy greens  planted, I am hoping for a good crop this season.  Planted collards in the garden, did not cover with row cover and someone had dinner.  I had a few to replant and then covered with the row cover.  I am planning to remove the row cover when the plants become large as the winter cold is good for the collards.  

You can tell the night time temperature is starting to drop and with the change in the weather we add the chore of wood for the wood stove to our chore list.  I found a couple of dead large oak trees in our woods and Mr. Bootsie has felled them.  They are being added to our wood racks, with our supply of wood they will have time to dry.  The way our wood rack looks we should have enough wood for the winter.  These oak trees were just a nice addition to our supply.  

The brisk air seems to have a bounce in my step.  Our garlic crop is in the ground and growing.  We are mulching the garlic with wood chips, we have old chips and they are excellent mulch for the garlic.  The walking onions need to be weeded, some replanted where I have harvested,  I will be using a goat manure mixed with chips for the mulch.  This way I will be adding some richness to the soil as well as preventing weeds from growing.  Speaking of weeds, the chickweed is growing, Mr. Bootsie pulls the chickens a bucket full quite often.  I gather some of the chickweed to go into our winter salads, it is so healthy for you and I have plenty to share with all of us.  I will plant a couple of pots for the hard winter and put in the greenhouse.

Fall is in the air, leaves are falling, we went for a look around the property, hearing the crunch of the leaves under our feet was such a nice sound.  I enjoy the woods during this season of the year.  The winter wild flowers are starting to bloom and the woods are calling me.  Running cedar is greening and reminding me of days gone by when Momma would send us out to gather running cedar to decorate for the holidays.

Many chores are on my list and I must be on my way,   Thanks for stopping by our little farm.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lard Rendering Day

Quite often as I walk do the aisle in the grocery store, my mind will go back many years ago, Momma did not buy vegetable or corn oil, nor did she purchase shortening.  I remember where our baking grease came from and it was a timely process.  First the hogs were slaughtered, all of the meat processed and the final task was making the lard.  Of course, when the lard is made you get a reward, the cracklings.  It did not matter how many hogs we processed all of fat was made into lard.  This was a woman's chore and even as a very small child I remember cutting the fat into cubes to be cooked for a very long time.  You would find me snacking on the cracklings as soon as some were strained from the liquid.  Momma would store the lard in tins and placing them in a room which was cool, but you must remember most of our home was cool or just cold during the winter because there was not any central heat.  The lard would keep  for a long time and Momma made everything with her homemade lard, fried chicken, biscuits, pies and cakes.  Those of you who were lucky enough to have a meal at Momma's table will remember her rolls, yes, they were made with her lard.   I can see her putting a spoonful of lard into the pot of green beans aka snaps as she felt she did not have enough meat in them to flavor the beans the way she wanted them to taste.  

I have often thought how I would like to make/render lard.  Having accepted the fact that this would be almost impossible I just do not talk about making lard.  Well, when you get out of bed in the mornings, here on Triple Creek Farm, you may think you know how your day is going to end.  Quite often, things change so quickly, I really can't seem to grasp what is happening so I just go with flow.  Mr. Bootsie and I were down in the pasture lot and we heard voices,  the Farmer and her girls.  We headed back to the kitchen and made some tea and coffee  while everyone is catching up, I saw on Facebook, animals were processed the previous day.  We talked about the processing, knowing the farmer is quite a good butcher, it makes me so happy to see her teaching her daughter the proper way to process meat.  As they were leaving I asked if they processed a hog with a bit of fat, I would really like to make lard.  Well, come on out to the truck, too much fat on this hog and I was not sure what I was going to do with it.  In just a few minutes, I was back in the kitchen with of bowl of pork fat.  I was pass excited to have this treasure and could not wait to start the process.

I cut the fat into cubes, and as I was setting on my stool, my mind drifted to days gone by.  I was a child setting in Momma's kitchen. " You be careful with the knife, cut into even sized cubes, stay away from the stove and do not grab any of the pots on the stove".  How many times I had heard these things said as the lard was processed.  But there was a flash in my mind, standing in front of the wood cook stove was Momma, wearing her apron and opening the stove to add more wood.  "We need to keep the fire going all day to cook down this fat."  "I need someone to go the wood shed and bring in more wood."  This was the one day when I knew there was work to be done and we must work together to get this chore complete.  My sister was off for more wood and I happily continued to cube the fat.  

Time for me to realize, this is today, the kitchen is my kitchen and I am rendering lard.  Things are just so much better today, I have a crock pot filled with pork fat and it is rendering, I can see the clear lard coming up in the pot.  I will strain the lard and store in jars, to keep it cool I shall store in the fridge.  I will be making pies, bread and using my lard in many ways, just hope somewhere in this journey I get a hint of the wonderful memories  which were cooked in Momma's kitchen.

 Bootsie, can you bring me the lard can?  There are some cracklings over by the bread box, bring them because if you do eat all of the cracklings there is going to be crackling corn bread for supper tonight.  

Sorry, I went down memory lane again, the bowl of pork fat which was shared with me, was memories, it was a gift which I will cherish.  So many wonderful things happened in Momma's kitchen and I have forgotten so much, but a bowl of pork fat bought back something so special and wonderful to me.  It is not how much a gift costs or how shiny the gift is...It is a gift that warms the heart, my friends, The Farmer and her daughter just had no idea how special and how many wonderful childhood memories were inside the bowl of pork fat, now lard and soon to be home made biscuits.

How can I ever say "Thank You" for giving me a look back into Momma's kitchen on lard rendering day?  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Welcome Fall

I have been farming all of my life, I helped my parents from the time I was able to move about in the garden learning to pick the red tomatoes and the filled beans but I have never seen a season like this summer.

It started for me in the early spring, there were lots of bedding plants growing and just about ready to plant in the garden.  We had moved a number into the unheated greenhouse and boom, it was cold, so cold the plants were stunted.  Now the largest part of bedding plants were not going to be productive and it was much too late to start over.  My pepper plants were installed and again we took another drop in the temperature.  Peppers, being a tropical, were not going to do well and maybe there would not be a harvest.  I had started the plants and I thought I may as well give them a try.  Some plants dropped off as soon as they were installed in the garden only to be replanted.  Cool nights are not good for the peppers, as the few that did begin to grow also began  to show signs of struggling.  I always say each year brings it's own challenges but this past summer was the most challenging I have ever experienced.

We did mange to can green beans, harvest lots of garlic and finally, the peppers are producing.  I have some nice castor bean plants but I am not sure they are helping with the mole problem as they seem to continue to burrow in the garden.  I did not loose as many onions to the moles this past season but they have taken their toll on my crops.  Green beans plants had their roots eaten, I tried a new way to plant my sweet potatoes at this time I have not dug them because I put the crop in late.  The plants do look good and I am hoping I will at least have a few to start next years crop.  The strawberries have been consumed by the moles and I may not replant them, with some things I am starting to accept defeat.

We have had lots to eat from the garden so this year was not a total waste of my time.  I have cucumber pickles and relishes for the winter,  Lots of winter squash, the  spinach, as always, produced and I have harvested an egg plant which was enjoyed.  I planted dent corn and we harvested enough to save our seeds and I plan to mill enough to make one pan of red dent cornbread.  The winter squash harvest was good and there will be some for the chickens, goats and the humans.
This is a new variety for our farm.  

All in all, even with this being a difficult growing season we were rewarded for the work we put it and will have some veggies to enjoy this winter.   I will be working in the garden next month, time to plant the garlic and plant the tunnel for the winter.

We now have 17 chickens,  sad to have to say this but one of the older girls decided it was time to leave us and she was buried in the garden.  Three of our pullets have moved to a new home and that gets me where I am happy with the number of chickens we shall be wintering.  There are 8 pullets who will be laying all winter along with 2 of the ducks.  The 11 older hens have already gone on vacation and I hope they return from camp beginning in February.

This winter, Belle with her 2 babies will be in the goat barn, the little ones are growing, time had come for the little buck to be banded and that process has just about disappeared.  Today, September 30th, the chimney sweep came and now, if we need to have a fire in the wood stove we know it is clean and ready to keep us warm.  Why it seems only yesterday we were putting in spring crops and now we will be digging our tomato hills, squash hills and opening corn rows from next summer.  They will be filled with manure and covered over with our good earth, mulched and waiting their crops to be planted next spring.

I have seen some of the largest acorns in the woods and the mushrooms are coming up everywhere.  Time for me to head to the woods and learn more about this wonderful place I call home.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Chicken Days of August

August arrived, the heat did not leave with the change on the month.  The heat has began to take its toll on more than me, the garden is slowing down because of the heat.  Cucumber plants are giving up, so there were seeds put in the ground, it is always a gamble this late in the season but for a few cucumbers I will try and if there is success we shall munch the reward of late fruits.

I have been watching the pullets and I am starting to see the color come into their combs.  Bright combs means eggs are not far behind.  August 2, Annabel was not to be found when it was time to come in from free-ranging.  Mr. Bootsie went to check on the goats and there was Annabel under the equipment trailer, he began to coach her to come with him and into the coop she went, dropping her very first egg right inside the coop.  Mr. Bootsie found me, sharing the news of another green egg layer.  Now 6 more to lay their first eggs, I hope we can be as fortunate identifying the others.

In a few days there were new eggs in the laying boxes, we have no idea who is laying but there is a second green egg layer, Mrs. Thing, and the number of tan to light brown eggs has increased.  We should have 11 pullets to carry us through the winter.  The heat has brought all of the older hens into molt and the coop run has quite a large number of feathers laying around in it.  I have been cleaning lots of feathers from the coop as they seem to land in the corners and collect there.  One of the ducks has gone into molt, however, their molt is quite quick.  We should be set for eggs this winter, collecting 2 ducks eggs daily and 5 to 8 hens eggs will give us plenty with some to share.

I started milking the goats and it was time to make cheese.  I do not have a lot of storage room for cheese so the is a quick process for me.  I was making cheese every other night and I knew it was time to make some changes in the goat barn.  I made arrangements to move out Lacie, the farmer who has helped us learn so much was interested in adding alpines to her flock and I knew our Lacie would give her lots of milk.  The alpine milk is rich and there was about three inches of cream on top of a half gallon of milk.  This made some delicious cheese.  Scoot was a smaller alpine and this was her first fresh, I was in question about milking her.  The first morning she was a little afraid of getting on the milking stand, as the older does had never allowed her to mount the stand, we have windows in the barn and they can see out of the barn when standing on the milk stand.  So Scoot was prepared to be pushed from the stand.  Only to realize she was in the milking parlor with me and there were no other goats.  She began to hop on the stand and was ready to be milked.  This little girl was feeding her little boy and giving me quite a bit of milk.  I could honestly advertise her  as a milk goat, quickly found her a new home and she was able to take her little one.  Lacie was able to take her twins to her new home.  Our decision had been to keep Belle and her twins so in less than 2 weeks the goat barn was settled for the winter.  I was in question about our late breeding and arrival of summer babies, but things seemed to work out and I may take this road again if I should breed my girls later.  I have stopped milking as there is no need to keep pushing Belle, she is taking care of her twins and they are getting less and less milk daily.

The garden has been an experience this year.  I have gathered hardly no tomatoes, I have had a few to enjoy but the terrapins, raccoons, and squirrels seemed to think I was growing them for them.  With the long periods of hot weather the blooms did not set and there are now hardly any tomatoes on the vines.  There are blooms if we should have a reduction in the temperature there may hope for very late tomatoes.  The heat just cooked the late cucumbers and there will not be any in the garden, The corn did good, I was able to go the garden and harvest corn for a number of meals.  The pride, the corn gave me, when I came into the kitchen with an arm filled with ears was my personal win for this summer's growing season.  Peppers are starting to come in.  The butter beans have been productive.  Winter onions are coming up and it is time to prepare the tunnel for the winter garden.

 I feel I have learned quite a bit this year.  When the summer bought the heat I seemed to loose touch with the garden.  Some of the plants were suffering and others were excited to be in the hot, humid air.  I cut way back on watering to learn I have added enough natural material to build up the earth so it does hold moisture.  There was a flourish of weeds with our having such a wet season.  I grew turnips, green beans and squash, which if there was any excess,  they went into the goat barn and were a treat for the goats.  I am pleased to
 learn how to share the garden with the pasture crew as they enjoy things from the garden as much as I do.

Yes, this has been the chicken days of  August,  I have really enjoyed the chicks this year.  They are gentle and enjoy being handle by us.  Several come to visit in the goat barn and want to be carried back to the coop.  This is a new for me, the pullets just seem to want to be with us more than our older birds.  We have handled them more and I am sure that has made a difference.   Our collection of pullets are quite interesting, so when it came to names we began to have fun.  There are 4 who are the "First Wive's Club", this year we started naming some of them after the hosts of the cooking shows and, of course there are movie stars along with some leading ladies.

Fresh peaches arrived at the local orchard and we have been busy making and enjoying peach coffee cake and peach bread.  I developed each of the  recipes, they taste wonderful to Mr. Bootsie and me.  He is always asking me to make peach coffee cake as it is so moist and yummy.  Changes for peach under comments.

Sourdough Peach Coffee Cake

As the month of August comes to an end it is time to think fall, plants to move inside, cutting from plants to be made to winter over, bedding for the barn and coops.  We are entering my favorite my time of the year.  Things are just a little more settled here on our little farm, most of winter wood is gathered, the pantry is looking like it is ready for the winter and I am ready for a little time to rest.  You will find me setting in front of the fireplace, with a smile on my face as I know we have made it through another summer and I am dreaming of what will be in the garden next summer.  How many chickens will we raise next summer? I have no idea but I am sure there will be more chickens!!!

Thanks for stopping by, Until next time!!!!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

July, Hot in the Garden, Kitchen and Cool in the Barns, Coops

Some mornings, working in the garden has been a challenge, I go out early before the sun comes up and work until around noon.  I water, weed, tie up tomatoes, pick beans or peas, plant seeds,  hunt squash bugs and beetles.  Return to the garden in the evening to cool off some of the plants, do some transplanting along with picking things I did not have time to pick in the morning.  Mr. Bootsie has been on bug and beetle control, weeding,  picking veggies and blackberries.

The garden is dumping out veggies, the goats are enjoying turnips, green beans, corn shucks, cucumbers and squash.  When it comes to cantaloupe, watermelon and lettuce goats, ducks and chickens are ready for treats.  For us, there has been many meals of corn on the cob, I had corn last year but this year it looks like corn on the cob, nice ears all filled, 9 to 10 inches long, I really feel like a farmer when I come in with a arm full of ears of corn.  Butter beans are just starting, last year I seemed to loose my whole crop to something that ate the blooms off as soon as they appeared. This year we are picking butter beans and I am hoping to be able to put some up for the winter.  I seemed to get things in order a little bit better as we are not throwing out any veggies, Mr. Bootsie's logic has always been if it goes in the compost pile it is okay, but my logic is I have a lot of time invested in the veggies and I really want to see someone or one of our animals enjoy them.

Blackberries mean I turn into the little ole wine maker and cordial infuser.  I did notice the shelf in the pantry is starting to fill up with bottles of blackberry brandy.  I have a couple of new recipes I would like to try this season to see if they should be added to our cabinet in the future.  I want to make several bottles of blackberry syrup and vinegar.

Belle decided to bring her little ones in the world all by herself.  Mr. Bootsie had checked on her, she showed no signs of labor, only her bag had dropped, he thought all was well and left her in with the other goats.  Only to find her a hour later with two little ones.  The first was completely cleaned and the second was quite clean.  She was quick to let us know there was no reason for us to try and help as she had this.  Every time I tried to take pictures she would come and try to get the camera, this thing was going to hurt one of her babies and she was not going to have it in the stall at all.  So no really good baby pictures.

All of the baby goats have been disbudded and they are eating hay, leaves and grain.  They are not babies for very long.  It is time for the decisions to be made who will stay and who will leave.  I am finding I really do not have the ability to milk as well as I did 2 summers ago,  my right hand will go into a cramp and that is all I can do.  I will be making a decision as to why I am milking and if I want to continue to milk.  I do want to have goats and I so enjoy them but milking may just be something that will not happen on our little farm.

The egg count is starting to drop off as the hot weather is having an effect on everything.  The garden has produced a number of cucumbers and I was able to make pickle and sweet relish.  I can see hot weather is going to begin working on the garden along with age of the plants.  I have begun seeding for the fall garden.  There were some record breaking days with the temperature and the heat index, some days we were over 107 degrees so for 2 older folks we paced ourselves very carefully.  We are concerned for the animals having water, there are several trips made to the barn and coop to check on water and all of our babies.

I am hoping there will be a few tomatoes to can and dehydrate, the temperatures have been so high no blooms have set in about 2 weeks, maybe the temperature will go down and blooms will set and I will have a late harvest.  There is plenty of food in the garden for us to harvest and have fresh veggies for quite a while.

I think I need a little loving, so I am going to visit the little goats, we have 3 little boys, 2 little girls and of course, our 3 momma goats.  I know the little ones will be all ready to play when I arrive at the barn.  So I am off to enjoy the babies while I can.

Lacie serving lunch to her twins

Saturday, July 9, 2016

June Did Burst Out

I am often reminded of a song when I think of June, my words would not be the same but June has been busy around here.  The January baby chicks are all now laying, pullet eggs are so cute but we must eat them.  One morning I was blessed with a pullet double yolk egg, it was quite a surprise to see 2 yolks come from the tiny egg,  Most of the big girls came on line this spring, quite different from last year as several never laid any eggs.  With 14 layers in the coop we are collecting 8 to 10 eggs daily plus 2 ducks eggs so there is no shortage of eggs.  The young chicks have blended into the flock, which went well.  There are 7 young pullets who will not be laying for a while.  These 7 plus the 4 early pullets should easily carry us through the winter.  I made it last winter with 1 pullet and 2 ducks.  I am sure there will be some changes in the coop before fall arrives.

The garden with the spring we experienced I really had no idea what to expect, but the garlic harvest was the best I have had here on this farm.

Garlic Braids

The blackberries have bloomed and there are small green ones hanging on the vines, August is when we should pick.  The squash plants are doing well, yellow summer fried with onion and zucchini bisque have been on the table for several meals.  Cucumbers are producing, now that I have had my fill,  pickles will be one of my projects.  We are in the squash bug war and Mr. Bootsie spends a number of hours on his knees trying to protect our plants from these little pests.  Green beans are producing and there are already beans canned for next winter.  We continue to harvest chard and kale.  The climbing spinach is just beginning to climb. All of the pole beans are planted and the tomato plants have lots of tomatoes hanging, it will be a while before I am eating tomato sandwiches.  

I did take a few minutes to plant some flowers this spring.  With everything going on here, I find there is not enough time to do everything so I try to balance and this is something I have never been good with.  I want it all and I should be able to work things out so I can do everything I want to do.  Maybe 30 or 20 years ago but not now, as I age it takes more time to get things completed and so I have to let some of my ideas fall by the wayside.  I have spent some time out looking for wild flowers and this is something I enjoy.  I am looking for mushrooms, some days walking the goats and looking for a plant I have never seen before.  This gives me an opportunity to learn more about our land and visit with the girls.

I knew sometime this month we would be having baby goats and we did, 3 babies have arrived and Belle is due in July.  June 25th, Scoot had her little boy during the early morning hours while we were asleep.  Mr. Bootsie arrived at the barn to find a clean little goat who had already had his first meal.  This was just too easy,  on Monday,  July 27th, we could tell something was about to happen.  Lacie went to one of our run-ins, but it was one she never goes in.  Thankful she decided to move to another run-in which is larger because she gave birth to twins.   So far there are 2 boys and 1  girl.  The Farmer wanted a little girl from Lacie and she did deliver.

Scoot's Little Boy
Lacie is ready.

June did keep Mr. Bootsie and me busy, we do look forward to Belle having a baby or babies in a couple of weeks.  We are trying hard to control the number of pests in the garden by hand picking bugs and eggs.  Green beans and raspberries are picked daily, along with squash and cucumbers.  Weeding is getting in front of us as the rains come.  The garden is lush along with lots of others areas around our property.   As we live in the woods, there is a deer coming to visit with her fawn, so there are babies in the barn and in our woods.  We do enjoy our little farm in the woods.  The month of June is past and now we look forward to what shall happen in July.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

May, Wet and Busy

As the days came and went, so did the rain, not flooding just rain, making this May the wettest May in Virginia since weather data has been recorded.  The water table was on top on of the ground for a few days.  The runs were sprinkled with DE to keep the smell down.  Raised beds in the garden really paid off.  There was run off from the garden going through the pasture and going to the bottom land creek.  We will be working on repairing the damage of the water for a long time.  A wrecker came in to deliver a piece on equipment and it needed help getting back to the roadway after unloading.  This was not a problem as we had a truck which was able to assist with moving the wrecker.  I spent almost every other day going around draining water out of things, thinking I will need to do this tomorrow, why, am I doing this today.

With all the cloudy days, I lost a number of bedding plants, this year the grow lights were taken down early as the temperature was warm and things were growing well in the greenhouse, then we went into the cloudy, damp season for about 15 days and it took it's toll on my bedding plants.  We managed to find enough volunteer plants in the garden to finish planting the early garden.  I have started more plants for the late garden, and maybe the season will improve.  

The goats are all expecting and June should see the delivery of 2 of our does.  I do hope the heat holds back and they do not have deal with super hot days.  The baby chickens which arrived in January have become hens, and 1 of them has laid her first egg.  The young chicks are so active and cute.  Mr. Bootsie did build a new chicken tractor using some PVC from another project.  This has been a good place for the little chicks to stay in during the day when it is not raining.

We have had an number of eggs and I decided to try my hand at dehydrating eggs.  Link to the recipe.  There were duck eggs and hen eggs.  So I did a batch of each.  I have not used my eggs and the recipe says they will keep for up to a year, I may not experience a shortage of eggs for a while, but if I do that will be the time I will pull the dried eggs from the cabinet and see if they were a success or only the chickens will eat them.  I am thinking I can use them to add protein to some of the dishes I make.

Eggs ready to go into the dehydrator
Clover blooms were everywhere, pink and white.  now is the time to make clover jelly.  I picked only the white clover blooms as I was not sure about the pink, still researching pink clover.  We like our jelly soft so we can use it on pancakes and this turned out just the way we wanted, so next year maybe I will make more clover syrup.  White clover jelly recipe, I have been using my time when I could not be outside doing some much need research.

The garden is producing this spring, in fact, it is producing more than we can use.  I do plant somethings for the chickens, ducks and goats.  Lettuce is a winner with all of babies, spinach, chard, turnips and kale go to the pasture crew, also.  Austrian winter peas are producing, these will be pulled up and fed to the goats.  I do pick the peas from these to go into stir-fries.  This is one plant I really do enjoy seeing grow, the blooms are quite pretty in the springtime.

The squash plants are showing promise this spring, this is one plant which only time will tell.  There are several different varieties of squash planted.  I am concerned because I am seeing bush squash plants where they should be climbing plants,  this may be another season of what do we have.  I did buy all new seeds hoping to get true plants this season.

I added several new (to me) varieties of turnips to the garden this spring.  I have really enjoyed watching the
quickness of the  shogoin, which we are harvesting, the golden ball is 60 days to harvest  which will make it a later turnip.  Most of the garden is planted and now with all of the rain our crop of unwanted plants is growing in the garden.  A lot of time will be spent hoeing and weeding around the productive plants.  As for the invaders, many of them will be history.  The tomatoes are blooming and that makes this farmer happy, nothing like the first tomato sandwich.  Well, that is still a while away.  So memories of tomato sandwiches of the past and dreams of baby goats will keep us going for while.  The farm is ever changing and life on the farm is always interesting.

Thank you for stopping by for a visit, Until...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Virginia, Springtime

It is springtime in Virginia.  The garden is producing spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce and spring onions.  I am looking at the green garlic and thinking I need to enjoy some of this also.  Spinach Chowder, is enjoyed as I make a pot weekly.  There are fresh salads using the lettuce and spinach.  This is a welcomed change to the diet we were having just a few weeks ago.  I personally enjoy spring onions as they are a reminder of my life on Momma's and Daddy's farm.  I remember the glass of water on the table which was always filled with spring onions.  We were raised eating onions and my family has always had a desire for onions in the spring time.  It becomes a staple on the springtime table.

The last week of April became rainy, chilly and my spring seemed to disappear.  On Wednesday afternoon I was out in the garden and saw the wild blackberries blooming, BLACKBERRY WINTER.  Now I totally understand what is happening.   I was no longer confused about building a fire in the wood stove as we do have fire every year during blackberry winter.

The malabar spinach is coming up.  I have always enjoyed watching the volunteer plants come up.  It is sign the soil is warm.  They have been as late as June.  I was completely shocked to see the leaves coming out of the ground on April 26th.  This is the earliest I have even seen them come up.  With the spring we have experienced I am almost afraid we may have another freeze and they will be gone.  I do have most of my garden in the ground at this time.  My mind is telling me it is time to move forward but my soul is saying, "Be Careful."

The late frost in April may have taken my wisteria tree.  It was loaded with blooms and I had enjoyed it for 1 day.  That night came with low temperatures and brown blooms.  That was alright but now I do not see any vegetation on the tree.  I have a great need for this plant as I grew up where there was a wisteria tree.  This one I moved from my previous home to the farm.  It will be like loosing part of our family if it doesn't survive. 

The goats are getting fatter and the  baby roosters are starting to make some noise.  The farm is moving forward,  Spring is an exciting time on the farm, in the garden there are changes almost daily.  You do feel as if you have accomplished so much as you see the plants develop.  The weather has been a challenge this spring and of course, the winter was strange.  I question how this will effect our growing season.  Well, as all of us know, only time will tell.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

April, What a Loin this has Been

Cold, freezing temperatures, snow, Mother Nature I question what month we are in.  From the beginning of April there has been a drop in temperatures, we had to pull the cover and close the tunnel and replace all of the row covers.  I know I played the gamble, this spring, and now I am concerned about the weather.  As a child I was told the time to start installing our plants was May 15th, but things have moved back and our final frost date is placed around April 15th and I am ready to go.  Peppers, tomatoes, peas, squash and cucumbers are setting here ready to be put in the good earth.

The cold nights with low temperatures took a toll on the seedlings.  I put row covers over all of the seedlings in the greenhouse and this was not enough.  I lost a number of plants; however, I have enough left to plant my garden and a few to share.  I did save some seeds, for the first time, from the climbing spinach plants, they were in the greenhouse and very tender.  They were covered with row covers, with no damage.  These plants do not come up in the garden until June, so it is always a guessing game as to what can handle the cold and continue to grow.

The tunnel has produced this season, we have had more than our share of spinach, kale and chard.  The onions were first picked from the tunnel.  Now about growing more onions from the roots.  I tried this in the garden as I was harvesting spring onions.  Dug the onions, trimmed the roots to about one inch and cut the bulb about a half of an inch above the roots, replacing the onion to the where it was pulled from.  Now I have my row filled with little onions about 2 inches tall.  I was a gardener who had to see this work to believe it and now I am seeing it work in my garden.


The 12 youngest chicks are growing, the 4 from the January hatching are beautiful chicks, they are going to be very large birds.  As soon as the temperature improved and the little ones had their feathers they were relocated in the coop.  I am from the old school and do not use lights on my chickens.

Egg production has improved with warm weather, some of the girls, who hardly laid last year, are showing improvement this spring.  I have 10 layers and some days I collect 8 eggs, Momma duck is also laying once again, I do not know how long this will last but I am enjoying her eggs while I have them.  I have 2 other ducks who are laying, the switch out worked really well for me.  One of the 3 ducks, switched, turned out to be drake, he may stay or he may return to the farm he came from.  Right now the duck run is quite and peaceful, I need to keep the duck run that way as this is the first stop for my young chickens.  The ducks are so gentle and seem not to care when they are invaded by the chicks, Momma Duck comes to the chicken run every morning to check on her chicks she has helped to raise.  I do enjoy Momma Duck so much.  We are collecting 3 duck eggs most days.


I saw teats on my Belle, the next day Lacy, called the farmer and she stopped by.  The farmer just looked at the ladies and said they were expecting.  I know they are eating us out of barn and home.  They are eating chickweed along with the feathered friends, all of chard stems we are harvesting, apple peelings, winter squash, hay and grain.  Just to add something a little different they forage for about an hour a day.


The damage the cold did to our flowering bushes and trees is very noticeable.  I do think I have never seen so much damage in all of my years.  Blooms were set because of the warm spring very early on so many of my plants and now I am hoping the flowering bushes will recover.  The poplar trees took a real hit and I am concerned for the fruit industry in our area.  My berry bushes are loaded with vegetation so I am hoping for a good harvest of black berries and raspberries.  Each year is a challenge, I learn something each season and try to have it help me with the next year.  I may have learned, this year, planting by the moon and the late cold snaps not to start my seedlings quite so early.  Only time will tell with this thought as I just need to see those little plants popping from the soil.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

March Has Been a Lamb

As I sit here on March 31, wondering how this month will end.  Checking the weather report, there is rain and wind.  I do believe March over all has been a lamb of a month and you will not hear me complain about the outside conditions.

In real time, right now, the back door opens.  I hear someone coming upstairs, there is a voice, Mr. Bootsie. He is saying, "You were right, she is gone."  Off went the computer, I made my way down the stairs.  One of my babies, One who has lived with us for the last 8 years, went to chickie-bird heaven today.  She now has a final resting place in the garden.  There she is with other chickens who have lived on our farm.  The chicken journey began 8 years ago and some of my older girls are just getting tired,  They have had a good life as there is no concern about hawks and wild animals getting into the run or coop.  We try not to run out of food for them.  I chose this responsibility and have made it my mission to take care of my girls.  We are so grateful for the 4 little girls who are now 2 and 1/2 months old.  They have a place on the farm, but most of all  they have a place in my heart.  They made the adjustment from baby chicks to pullets so quickly.  They are in the hen house on the roosting poles at nighttime and in the run during the day.  This was the easiest time I have ever had introducing the chicks to the older girls.  Oh, they get chased a little but the little ones know how to get away.

 Rest in Peace Sweet Girl
Baby chicks are growing and I will moving them into the brooder as soon as the weather improves.  Two lows next week and I am hoping it will be time to move the chicks to the coop.  They will be able to spent the day in the duck yard and be outside, weather permitting.  I think I have learned a lot from watching a mother hen raise her babies, making notes and following her methods.  Yes, I said I learned from a hen, it was quite a lesson in how raise chickens.

I pushed the garden and there are chances of frost or freezing we continue to have covering in place if we need to use it.  Garden is producing onions, spinach and kale.  With the temperatures being so warm, the plants in the garden are growing.  As I wait for the next low on next Wednesday I decided to stop setting out plants.  There were wild violet blossoms picked to make jelly.  More blackberries removed from the freezer to make wine.  I may need to fill a couple of gallon jugs with water to go into the bottom of the freezer, I do this to keep the freezer filled to the top.

The goats seem to be getting along great.  They, so much, want to get outside and graze.  I want to start looking for mushrooms,  I think we can work together, goats walk and graze while Momma walks and searches for srooms.  We are learning about mushrooms, far from an expert.  Just fun for me to have one more reason to spend time in the woods.

I think March was good to us.  A lot of the garden is planted and up.  A number of transplants are waiting for the weather to say okay, it is time for you to go into the soil.  Flowers are blooming the red bud tree is loaded with blooms. Babies are growing all of this makes for happy, happy farmers.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I Think March came in like a Lamb

March, comes in like a lamb or a loin and leaves us like the opposite.  This is a very scary thought.  On March 7th, the temperature was in the 70's and it will improve during the week to the 80's and all of you know there are bedding plants going into my garden.  There are, also, row covers lying on the ground close  by which can be put over the tender babies if there is a need.  The tunnel was opened so there was air flow through the tunnel.  I know it is much too early to think about taking the plastic off the tunnel as we normally do this in early May.

With the warm weather we did see progress, in fact so much progress, Mr. Bootsie and I finished our day knowing we both had worked a bit harder than we should.  I began my day making a hardy breakfast of hash browns with onions, scrambled eggs with ham, onions and peppers, sourdough biscuits and kiwi.  Next was laundry and off course, I hung the laundry on the line.  Mr. Bootsie felled  several small trees and cut to size for fire wood.  Off to the garden for me, I pulled more chickweed from the onions and gave the pasture crew a treat of chickweed.  Worked a bed and installed lettuce plants in the late afternoon.  By this time Mr. Bootsie had everything ready to split the fire wood so off I go to help him.  This will be left on the wagon overnight and unloaded when morning comes.  He came to the garden while I was installing the lettuce and dug one of the new squash hills on the outside of the tunnel.  Now to fill this with manure, compost, sand and some of the original soil, which was red clay, this will be waiting for squash plants when the season is a little warmer.  The temperature of the air is warm but the soil is not and I have not gotten in a number of our cool weather plants because I have been waiting for the soil to dry.

It is time for the baby chicks to move into the outside world, the warm temperature is heating up the coop. March 7, they made their first venture outside, they were not sure about leaving the coop.  I have a small little bamboo stick which I use as a chicken herding stick, I took the stick and encouraged the little chicks outside, I had already tried putting them out, one at a time and they were back in the coop before I was.  Finally, all were outside and not sure why they had to leave their safe place.  I do not close the door to the coop when training baby chicks about the outside world.  The next day, in the early afternoon, it was time, baby chicks came out of the coop and I let them run about in their new world for about 15 minutes, they had explored down the side of the chicken run and letting my older birds know they were free to run about while they were cooped up.  I walked down to the duck run and opened the gate about 6 inches, those curious little chicks made their way into the duck run.  Mission accomplished, the duck run is a safe place for the chickens as the ducks seem to stay away and let them scratch, peck and try to fly as much as they want.  Staying in the duck run until roosting time, it was easy to open the gate, herd them toward the coop, they made their way to the food bowl and they were back into their safe place tired, hungry and ready to settle down for the night.

Moles, I am so angry.  All of the fennel plants plants have been eaten at the surface.  I had 4 beautiful plants last fall, they were started from seed and doing great, I was expecting fennel harvests this year.  Now, I have to reorganize and plant the fennel in large pots.  I was hoping I could start direct planting but the mole population seems not to be going down.  They eat strawberries, kale, cabbage, chard and broccoli off at the surface.  I will continue my planting in pots and planting the pots in my garden.  Last year, I found out they ate the Jerusalem artichokes, I purchased just one pot of artichokes at a plant sale.  I put these in a large pot with bird netting in the bottom, this year I was able to harvest the chokes.  There are ups and downs to what I am doing, downs are the planting time, ups are the fact that all of the chokes are contained in the pot and I am able to harvest all of the chokes.  I had a wonderful choke patch at my previous home and I know how they spread, one little tiny piece and if it had an eye it would be a new plant.  Now this is taken care of.  I am learning how to deal with the moles, just extra work for me.

My farmer friend came by to share more artichoke sets and we made a few plans, there are more baby chicks being hatched, I will have those as she left with all of the roosters from the first hatching.  She will be taking my ducks who lay eggs but the shell is not strong.  The next day, ducks arrived and 12 baby chicks.

The next morning, there was a duck egg in the nest which was strong, baby chicks making that sweet quiet sound in the kitchen as they are much to small to be in the coop.  We have collected a good duck egg each morning and I know we made a good decision about the ducks.  Momma Duck has settled in with the new group of three and is now teaching them the ways on our farm.  The pullets are spending their days with the ducks and everyone is outside together, ducks, chickens and goats,  for about a hour each evening.  When we are putting our feathered friends to bed, almost every evening, we hear the sound of the Canada geese coming over as they leave the pond.  Just the other day, the sky was active, turkey buzzards, one hawk and lots of crows.  

Spring time on the farm, a busy time, we shall return and share what happens in the last days of March.  Lamb or Loin?  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

February Update

February, what a month this has been snow, rain, spring temperatures  snow and more rain.  The land is mud, you must be careful all the time.  With all the rain the coop run is slick and sliding down seems to be more than easy.  I have been moving leaves into the run to help with the moisture and protect myself from falling in the run.

The beginning of the month I could see the baby chicks have been growing, shortly they will have chicken feathers and be showing their true colors.  These babes are barnyard mixes, you are always in for a surprise when the flocks mingle together in the barnyard and this hatching is really exciting.

We did manage to get all 3 goats bred, we hope.  Reggie came over for a play afternoon on three different occasions and I think I read the goats correct.   We are counting off 150 days and hoping that we shall see


baby goats.  This will be Lacy's  and  Belle's second time being a mommie.   Lacy was bred January 28, Scoot, January 29, and Belle, February 19.  We are planning on being busy the last part of June and into July.  I will be milking and making goodies with the goat's milk.

The baby chickens are no longer baby chicks, they have their big bird feathers.  I was planning on moving them into the chicken coop about March 1 but they were getting big and I moved them February 22.  They adjusted to the move into the coop with no problems, I was concerned about them getting cold as the weather has been cold and warm, not sure how they would adjust to being in the cold air.  It never slowed them down.  At night time, I did cover the brooder with a blanket and they would get in the corner which was on the inside of the building.  Each morning I would hear their little voices as I came into the coop, I would find myself wondering if all made it through the night.  One little girl is much smaller than the others.  I found out one evening, before covering them for the night, they put the small chick in the corner on the floor of the brooder and they all get on top of her to keep her warm.

 I love the way Mother Nature takes care of her children.  All seven are growing, showing their true colors and making me think about what color eggs I will be gathering when they begin to lay.  This will be about a 5 month wait.

Lots of seeds are up and we are beginning to up pot.  I am also beginning to install my plants in the tunnel.  The spinach and kale in the tunnel over wintered and it is beautiful.  I know it is time for spring plantings and the fall plants will bolt and make seeds.  We will enjoy the winter plants as long as possible.

The land has been much too wet to begin working the soil, so I feel we are all ready behind.  I need to get new hills dug for my squash outside of the tunnel.  I want to keep lettuces and greens in the tunnel, where they will be protected from the sun by the squash plants.  I would like another great harvest of squash this year as the goats and chickens had lots of squash during the winter.  They are a natural worm preventative for the flocks.  We, also, enjoy having squash on our table so this is a wining crop for us.

As the year flies by, I am thinking of my garden and the wonderful harvest we shall have.  Everything seems to move so quickly this time of the year.  There is so much excitement on the farm.  New varieties of some of the same old crops, I will be making decisions on which variety will be planted in the future after the harvest.  I spent a lot of time in the seed books looking for what I thought would be good additions to our garden.  By harvest time I may know if I made the right decision.  We will be keeping a close eye on the goats to see the progress and await our little babies.  Yes, you know there is never a dull minute, how I enjoy our little farm.  Such a special place!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter Came in Like a Loin

We heard the weather reports, made a feed store run, picked up a couple of items at the grocery store and came home.  It was time to prepare for the storm, all the time we were hoping it would miss our little farm but Mother Nature had other ideas.  There was a fuel run on Thursday morning, all of the vehicles were backed into their parking areas, the truck was plugged into the electric timer to warm it, so starting would be easier.  The goats hay holder was filled, along with the chicken feeder, those ducks what can I do help them.  They spend all of their time eating from the earth and this is just not going to happen.

The snow came in, Friday morning about 10:20. Mr. Bootsie began breaking a tract in the afternoon.  I was raised on farm which broke the track and we continued to run the roads every few hours as the snow fell.  He, also, removed the snow from the tunnel, as we have no heat in the tunnel the weigh from the snow could collapse the tunnel.  The first snow stopped around 7:30 Friday evening and a sleety mix began to fall, this did not last long and we did not have to clear the tunnel during the night.  I got up early Saturday morning to work the fire and check on things.  It was snowing again.  This time the flakes were small so I was once again hoping the 8 to 9 inches on the ground would be all we would be blessed with.

I put my snow plan to work on Friday, the hens were left in the coop, the run was opened up so the ducks could get under the chicken house, where I was able to feed and water them.  There were 3 trips made to the coop and barn each day to replenish the water, which consisted of dumping the ice from the water bowls and filling them with warm water.  You really do not realize how much the chickens eat outside on a daily basis until they are cooped up and only have the food which you give them.  I was feeding squash seeds as a treat to the chickens and the goats.  The duck pond froze and all they had was a water bowl, which was also a bath tub for them.

It snowed all day Saturday and there was several more runs to keep the road open, trips to the tunnel to remove the snow.  There was enough wood at the house with the outside rack right out the door.  The snow was getting deep, and the ducks have very short legs, they were now pushing their way through the snow, and could hardly get about.  I packed a path to their house from the chicken house and they were able to waddle into their house for the night.  We stopped running the road to the pasture lot after the sleet fell and the snow returned, as I was concerned about an ice crust which would have been unsafe for two old farmers to walk on.  This was a good decision.  The snow stopped around 7:30 Saturday evening.  The drifting started and with a cover of 18 inches on the ground there were places the snow was 25 to 30 inches high.

With all the snow, this storm was not as bad as it could have been.  The main road was clean on Sunday and of course, the drive was blocked with the push off the road snow.  This was moved out of the way and we were able to come and go if needed.  With planning and a reserve of food from the garden we did not need to get off the farm.  So  our days were spent visiting with our farm animals and keeping the home fires going.
Monday morning, I cleaned the coop ramp and opened the ramp door, one chicken came to the door and looked out, this being her first snow, I guess she thought someone had taken her run away and she would just go back into the coop until it was returned.  Each morning the ducks make their trip to the chicken run and spent the day there.  The goats are happy being in their parlor, standing on the milking stands, checking to see if their pasture is back to normal and realizing nothing is happening.

The night temperatures were below freezing so for week everything which melted during the day became ice at night time. We could see the snow cap going down so I knew the soil was absorbing the moisture.  This was going to be so good for the summer having this extra moisture in the land.  There are places with run off which each morning was ice puddles.  The temperature started to return to normal on Friday.  I opened the coop to see the girls come and stand on the run look about and return to the coop.  One week and none of the hens have been outside.  The goats were coming out for a bit as a couple of them decided this was the time for them to come into season.  They did find they liked staying in their protected area much better than outside on the snow cap.

Sunday came and the temperature went into the 50's everything is melting and there is land, leaves, grass and lots of mud.  The chickens, well, 4 of them are outside.  By Monday all the chickens were outside and with their working on the snow in the run, it began to disappear.  On Monday, our temperature was in the high 60's, almost a day for summer wear once again.  Monday evening the run was looking good and with over night temperature in the high 40's the melt continued, all night, with us awaking to little to no snow.

The baby chicks had no idea what was going on outside, they just put all of their energy into growing and that they did.  They now have tiny wing feathers. Their combs and tail feathers are showing. They were moved into a larger brooder with plenty of room for a few weeks.  They are eating oatmeal, egg and plenty of chick starter.  They were the bright spot for us during the snow as they were always ready to show how active they could be.

This is always a learning experience and, of course, I record it here in the blog so we can look back next year to see what we need to do when winter weather is coming.  We must always have a good stock of feed for everyone, as there is nothing for anyone to eat outside the barn and coops.  Oh, and by the way, the farmer loaded up Reggie to come over and visit with my ladies, in fact, he came over twice last week.  Maybe, just maybe, there will be an almost white baby goat who may be named Flake.   Many Thanks to our farmer friend who just keeps things so interesting on Triple Creek Farm.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

January update thru the 15th

Mother Nature has been having fun playing with the weather.  I have become so confused, jeans and short sleeved shirt one day and the next a heavy winter coat.  I question if the plants are going to harden and be able to survive the cold of the winter.


I spent one rainy cold day reviewing my seed orders and placed them with the companies.  I already have seeds in hand, less than a week.  I am checking the calendar and thinking I will start planting about the end of January.  I have been reading about the winter sown program and plan to get myself organized to plant some milk jugs with seeds to see if this method works well for me.  I have had real good luck starting my seeds but we are always looking for an easier way to do things.


Wine is still being produced, following the directions for making wine my last batch should have been ready on Christmas Day; however, it was still bubbling and you never bottle while wine is working unless you have lots of time to clean up a real sticky mess.  Since we are making blackberry wine it might color the walls if it spews out of the bottles.  The wine settled down and was bottled on January 9, 2016.  One day later and I have another 8 cups of blackberries and 1 gallon of water working.  There are more blackberries in the freezer and I will keep this project going for a while.


I try to find interesting recipes I can prepare during the summer when we are quite busy.  I am starting to find some recipes which are more of a formula than a recipe.  They just give you the ingredients and you proceed according to your taste.  I am finding these to be interesting but I am making notes as to what we enjoy and I will develop my own recipe to keep in my file.  I have found this helpful, as I am learning more about the paring of vinegar and herbs with other food items and the development of pleasurable taste.  The soup pot was filled with beef vegetable soup, there will be several containers placed in the freezer, quick meals my style.


On January 10th as I was checking for eggs, there it was, a pullet egg.  My little girl born in July has laid her first egg.  On the 12th one of the hens came out of molt.  I am thinking right now, I made it and did not have to purchase any eggs.  The ducks seem to keep laying and I use their eggs in all my baking and mix with hen eggs to make scrambled eggs.

The farmer came by with baby chicks and now I have 7 little ones I am going to be raising.  We had talked, a few days ago, and I think this will be a good venture for us.  The farmer will be reclaiming the roosters and I will be building up my layers.


Reggie came over for meet and greet.  We were hoping he would be able to stay but he can clear the 48 inch fence as it it was not there.  I became afraid of his getting a foot hung in the fence and breaking a leg.  I called the farmer and Reggie went home for the evening.  He is a sweet and gentle goat, he just wants to be with you.  Mr. Bootsie said there would not have been in any issues if he could have come inside and stayed with us.  As soon as he is needed, he will be visiting once again.  It was wonderful seeing him playing in our pasture with the ladies.  They appeared pleased to have a good afternoon playing goats games.  


New life on the farm brings excitement and the thought of baby goats in late May or June makes me very pleased.  The farmer will get her choice as her buck is a milk goat and my girls are milk goats, we should have some good milkers.  

It appears, things are going to be busy around here for a while.  I picked up a new pickle cookbook and  I am reading a lot of recipes.  This book has a section on small batches and this is something I have been looking for.  I have taken some time and have been studying the signs of the moon and when to plant.  I think I am really understanding this for the first time.  I shall be adding a little information as I begin my planting.  Time for me to get some rest.  Tomorrow morning I need to take care of the baby chicks.  So Exciting!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Farm Life, Real Life

Farming has it days, when you are so pleased with everything and then, there are days which you would have been much happier if they would have never happened.  This is the same as it is with life as there are good memories and sad memories.  Having grown up on a farm, I as a child saw both sides of life.  I knew about life and life becoming food for our farm.  I, also, had experienced the loss of farm animals and how it was dealt with.  When we made the decision to add animals to our farm, I seemed to have forgotten this part of life on the farm.  After settling here, we had to put down our faithful friend who had made this journey with us.  She had gotten so old, could not lift her weigh any more and was depending on me to carry her outside when needed.  After a long talk with the vet and all of us getting our heads straight the decision was made.  We loaded her into our van and made one final trip to the vet.  They met us in the parking lot, saying they did not need our help as there were tears flowing all over the parking lot and I know they felt more than helpless in dealing with us. They knew how to deal with our cherished girl.  So my city girl, then farm girl became a memory.  One I still think about to this day, there will never be one who could replace her because she and I became one.  It took me several weeks to remove her bed from her corner, but one day it was time.  I had my heart filled with memories and my kitty was starting to show her age and once again I was dealing with losing another of our city pets.  So in settling here, we had lost all three of the pets who moved to the farm.  It was our strong desire for all of them to make the journey to the farm and enjoy the calm of our farm.

The first critters added to the farm were chickens, then came the goats.  The chickens have been here for eight years and are starting to show their age.  My mind set was for my first girls to live out their life on the farm.  Well, this happened over the Christmas season.  My girl, Ornery, became sick.  We were able to bring her around and things seemed good but with the bitter cold weather, she went down again.  I moved her to our house and took care of her.  I was spoon feeding her and watering the same way.  I was hoping she would recover, but I knew better.   After one day, I knew this was just a waiting game and I would have to let it play out.  Wrapped in a blanket and lying in a basket, she took her final breath.  There is now another grave on our farm.  I am pleased to have had this ornery chicken in my life, she made me smile, she sang a little song for me everyday until I moved her into our house.  I knew she wanted to end her days in the coop with all of her friends (I say this with caution as she kept everyone in line when pecking was called for)  I know she enjoyed being with all of the chickens.

I have other chickens who are also getting older, I have read where some have lived to be in the tens, teens and one who made twenty some years.  I am not sure how old my girls will get but they have a good life.  Warmed oatmeal and scrambled eggs for breakfast, lots of grain and seeds, fresh water and a covered run.  They are protected from the rain if they wish to be and we, the chickens and I, argue about their being out when there is snow on the ground.  I was touched with the loss of a chicken's life here on our farm but I know that is part of farming.  I stood up strong and remembered she was lucky to be here.  They do not have to worry about hawks taking them away and I see their alarm systems begin to work when a hawk is crying from the sky and they do move to their safe place.  There was always food and she never had to do with what we could come up with.

This chicken managed to get into our heart and head just like our big fluffy dog.  I dealt with their deaths and I know I have to move forward for there are others who will be waiting for me to take care of them.  This is one part of farm of life I could say I do not enjoy but this is an important part of farm life.  It teaches you how to let go and move on.  Having seen life and death all of my life, I think I understand how to accept death much better than a lot of folks I know.   Accepting someone is no longer with you leaves a void or a hollow in your soul and /or heart, taking your memories, cherishing them will fill you with overflowing joy.

I was sang a song  and I noticed just a few days ago, another one of my hens is now singing a song at bedtime.  Ornery lives on as she taught someone to sing her song. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Reflections of 2015

Where did it go?  How quickly this year passed away.  As I prepare to put the new calendar on the wall and check the almanac to begin my planning I see the year is 2016.  Now let me think what happened in 2015?

The year came in with a bang,  as I was at the doctor's office January 2, and continued to fight to regain my strength for several months.  Having to make a decision to cut back on a lot of things as my strength never returned to what it was before I became ill was not pleasing to me but I had no choice.   By the end of the year I was able to stand on my feet for most of the day, bend over and pull weeds for a couple of hours at a time but the heat during the summer took it's toll on me.

Spring time on the farm is about new life, and there were not any new little creatures on Triple Creek Farm until July and 2 chicks were hatched from our eggs.  No baby goats or ducks.  It was a sort of sad spring.  The only productive thing was the garden.  All of the seeding did well, for the first year there was not a damping off problem.  I used some logic starting seeds and did not have plants which I would not be able to use setting around  everywhere.  I found without having to maintain a number of plants I would not be using and putting my attention on what I needed kept from overwhelming me.  I started more plant varieties for my garden, this year I had squash plants to transplant, something in the past I had never done or believed in but I learned my lesson.  There was a bumper crop of squash and yes, the squash bug had a wonderful time in the garden but the plants were strong and could handle the damage from the bugs.  So, my trade off was working in the garden and learning about the crops I want to plant, we ate well but I missed my babies.

We ended up the winter with only a small amount of firewood left over.  Toward the end of the winter we were careful and only built fires when they were needed.  Mr. Bootsie spent quite a bit of time cleaning out an area we have always been in question about if there was some really bad weather.  I had always been afraid of these trees hitting the house.  There aee a few more to take out but progress was made.  The wood racks were filled in time for the wood to season and ready in the fall.  Mild fall weather has kept the wood racks looking good as most continue to be filled.

There were blackberries, I was picking blackberries everyday.  There is blackberry wine aging and a few more batches to be make.  I freeze the berries during the summer and continue to make wine during the winter.  I tried peach wine this year, Mr. Bootsie informed me it was not good until one day in December when it had aged and mellowed, I was told I should make more peach wine next summer as it has changed quite a bit.  Funny how the aging process works.

There was canning, freezing and dehydrating going on during the summer.  One of my favorite new friends is skinned, sliced tomatoes dried, I did 1/2 gallon jars of these, I add these to my fresh salads.  No more of those rocks from the grocery store during the winter.  Learned this year to make refrigerator pickles to use in salads, so during winter we make these to add to the salads and do not have to be concerned about cucumbers going bad in the fridge.  I try to always buy English cukes  but I sometimes have to get the waxed ones.  I just peel them and pickle, they are working great for my salads.

I lost my sourdough starter and almost lost my kefir grains when I was not feeling good.  I am so pleased I lost my starter because the new one is so much better.  I worked hard to save my kefir grains.  I cleaned them and added to fresh milk until they started growing once again.  As many as you share when you need gains it seems everyone else has some sort of problem.  I always try to keep a backup in the fridge but my backup had molded.  I was too busy trying to get well so a number  of things went without the attention they needed.

As the summer progressed so did my strength,  Mr. Bootsie was always there to put the canning pot on the stove and handle all of the heavy things.  He filled and opened the pressure canner as I just cannot do this anymore.  He has found he really enjoys working with the canner, taking on the duty of watching the pressure gauge and timing, this does free me to go on to another task or get a little rest.  I think he has become a team player and for man who had worked by himself all of his professional career this was a real challenge.

The things we have been most pleased with this year were NO SNAKES IN THE CHICKEN COOP, well that we saw.  This was a first for us.  There is a bottle of moth balls with a shaker top and the lid is left open in the coop. one of  us tries to shake this on a regular basis, we spread ashes around the chicken run and coop. RACCOON'S  do not like to get ashes on their feet.  Saved my later crops of corn by applying ashes around the plants.  Both of our pest problems seems to be helped by the use of ashes.  We are quite lucky to have a wood stove and ashes to aid with a natural fix for our problems.  I have no idea if these fixes will work next year but they did this year and I feel as I learned something helpful.

Fall came and so did more of my strength.  Tomato hills are ready for next spring, dug with a bucket of manure in each hole to breakdown over the winter.  One corn row is dug down 12 inches filled with manure, edged with ashes. We have stopped because the rains have come and continue, our garden is now to wet to do any additional preparing.   Tunnel is filled with veggies, still learning about tunnel gardening and with the warmth this fall we are harvesting chard, spinach, salad greens and herbs.  There are row covers throughout the garden keeping plants warm.

The one thing 2015 ended with is excitement for our next year.  We are looking forward to a new season in the garden, applying  techniques learned in the past and looking new directions for the future.  We have a filled freezer, canning and dehydrated jars filled and lots of stored winter fruits.  We learned and applied what we learned to help make our little farm productive.  A year of my not having my strength may have one of the best seasons of my gardening life as I had time to study and learn new procedures about what we are trying to do. All I can say is we have been eating some delicious meals,  I know where it was grown and I know what was not applied to the plants.  I use nothing in my garden but the hand picking method of bad bugs from my plants.

Time to close this chapter on our little farm, Time to thank you for sharing our farm and most of all for caring.  Why in no time at all we shall be starting seeds and looking for eggs to hatch.  Spring will be on it's way, that is spring 2016.

Wishing each and everyone  a wonderful New Year!!!