Thursday, February 24, 2011

spring flurry

This is only our second spring here but already we know. Winter slowly ticks by, then BAM! Everything starts happening all at once. This is the path that goes from our barn to the area where the previous owner had his row garden.

Cory spent time with a chainsaw clearing some saplings and large trees to expand the area....

then he drug them out with the tractor. Lots of hard work.

I ordered pasture grass seed, only to then be told by a local farmer that we won't be able to graze our cows on that pasture until next year or it won't establish properly- very disappointing and concerning. We are going to have to do a hodge-podge set up in the other field that they were in last year. It has poor soil and poor grass. We can seed it to try to improve the grass- but whatever we seed there will be in the same jeopardy of uprooting or compacting. So all year we will have a beautiful pasture that they can't graze. Fortunately it will be ready by next spring- just in time for when Buttercup calves and starts giving milk. Another lesson learned: pastures need a year to establish.

We are learning how challenging and expensive it is to do so much from scratch- and we are just doing a family farm right now- essentially just food for ourselves. Is it a worthy investment? Yes. I would still say yes.

The ducklings have begun to hatch so the kids and I have been playing midwives during the day- making sure they have smashed feed, water, etc. This picture was taken right after Quinn discovered there was a peeping sound coming out from under the hayfeeder. The back of the hayfeeder is on the right:

The next day the mama duck and her three new ducklings started venturing out into the world.

I had to wrangle the cows a couple times to keep them from stomping on the poor little things. So, she had 3 ducklings and then Fluffy hatched one a few days later (Yes, Fluffy is the only duck who thus far has a name that has stuck- the other two are known as "the female under the hay feeder" or "the female behind the barn"). Somehow, when we weren't around, this mama duck STOLE FLuffy's duckling! She started taking it out with her and keeping it with her at night. It took us awhile to figure this all out... in the meantime, passive sweet Fluffy finally went and scrapped with this Mama...but couldn't get her baby back....(the one sitting down is Fluffy's, born a day or two later and noticeably smaller than the other three... Cory had to do a custody intervention today. It involved throwing a laundry basket over the thieving Mama Duck to retrieve the duckling in question. I am happy to report, Fluffy and duckling are reunited and happily hanging out in their spa-like setting again: the nest under the heatlamp with food and water within reach. Her baby pops its head up from the wing when you come near, but otherwise it stays under her.

After the day I had to grab Caramel by the halter to keep him from stomping the new ducklings, his whole demeanor changed. I am not making this up- his facial expression is different. I think he finally has had it. He is tired of winter and being cooped up in the fenced area. He is bored. I think he is also tired of so little attention because we have been inside most of the winter and have only come out to give them more hay, water, or fresh bedding. Then we started giving these little ducklings (who are nesting right behind his hayfeeder) lots of attention and he seems to have gotten a bit jealous- call me crazy. In any case, he started acting up- getting really aggressive with Buttercup- pushing her, butting her- extremely hard- not playfully. He also started acting aggressive toward me. I finally had to stand him down the other day when he chased me out. I went back in and stood in front of him. He was trying to push me with his head, and I took his head and pushed it to the side a few times. I guess that's why they say you have to take the bull by the horns. He got the picture and relented. I turned on some music so they have something to listen to- it seems to have helped some. He seems to have calmed down and accepted things as they are right now. He is going to be thrilled when the grass starts growing again and he can graze. Caramel loves Buttercup.

The annoying rooster started messing with the mama duck and her ducklings this week, and that was the last straw. Cory agreed to kill him this weekend. So I tell him to just put on some gloves and grab him when he opens the coop door on Saturday morning. Saturday has turned into my grocery and errand day since we only have one vehicle and sometimes I need to eat because I am out for so many hours (Williamsburg is over 30 minutes from here and that is where I do all of my shopping). So anyway, I am sitting in a restaurant by myself Saturday, busy with my notebook and my to-do list, waiting on my food. My cell phone rings (mind you the people around me were unusually quiet)...

Me: Hello.

Cory: Hey. I opened the coop and the two hens came flying out so fast that I couldn't catch the rooster, only his tail feathers. So if you want him dead before you get home I am going to have to shoot him with my 30/30. Do you want me to shoot him or wait until they roost tonight and chop his head off?

I start laughing uncontrollably, which is what I do every time Bubba-land intersects with rest-of-society world. But since I don't like to draw attention to myself, I do it silently, which involves mild shaking and tears streaming down my face.

How does one say, "yes shoot him in the head;" or "no, you can just slit his throat tonight when he goes to bed" in a restaurant when someone is sitting on either side of you?

Me: Honey, I'm going to have to call you back.

He ended up doing the deed Saturday night and the rooster is no more. Rest in peace rooster.

We bought flats to sprout seeds for the garden this year. Last year we didn't even get our boxes built until May, but this year I wanted to get a jump on some of the things that supposedly grow better if you sprout them indoors and then transplant them. The romaine lettuce popped its sprout up first and then today the boys found sprouts of rosemary, tomatoes and carrots.

So exciting! I hope the garden goes better this year. We planted spinach outside since it is a cold weather crop. I have a lot more plans this year- I am going to attempt potatoes and sweet potatoes along with some onions and garlic in one patch; and I hope to actually get a pumpkin patch set up this year too.

We also are finally going to plant the fruit trees we got last year. I read somewhere to wait until fall because they are dormant. Then fall came and I was so afraid to do it wrong and so unsure of where to put them that I left them potted. We had three: one died early spring, but the other two seem to be okay. I have to move a few things and then get them located in just the right spot. As soon as we have another warm day I am going to hopefully be working on that.

We have a piglet reserved and will be picking him up in two weeks. I am not sure that was the smartest idea with everything else we have going on, but acorns abound here so hopefully it will be a very low cost input project. The pictures look like he is a cute little thing...

...and the people on the Keeping a Family Cow website say that pigs are a it should be another fun thing the boys will get to experience; and one less thing we will have to pay the grocery store for come fall. I love that website- it is an excellent resource for homesteaders. I think the boys will look back on these days fondly. This was them watching the ducklings on one of the nice days we had this week.

Aside from the addition of the piglet and a few additional vegetables, I think we are going to hold tight this year. We would love to do meat chickens and honey bees this spring--- but I think we have our hands PLENTY full as it is. Maybe bees next year- it depends on a lot of things.

I registered my business as an LLC with the state and my business license arrived on Saturday! It's official, I technically have finally opened my own company. It has been a long, long wait, but that is a story for another time. I say technically because I have no product ready to offer yet, but it is in the works. The design is in the final stages. Cory and I worked out some final details last night and he spent a good deal of time this weekend drafting the technical drawings. The man has some serious skills.

We both have high hopes for the farm and the business and we both are working to make them a reality. I am praying that the Lord lights the path each day for where we should step.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love and Raccoons

Welp, since my last series of posts, I have been thinking about love. Pointing out errors in the church brought a magnifying glass to be focused upon mine. I have been guilty of formulas and idols, and selfisheness, and wasted time myself- and each day brings new opportunities to repeat them. It is life breath to me that for the church and for me, His mercies are new every morning. We are all to love one another because love covers over a multitude of sins. Loving people beyond our tiny circles is opposite from the direction our human natures would drive us toward, at least for me. But I want to and I know God will help me.

With a heat lamp and feed, the mallards decided to stay with us through the winter instead of migrating south. We started with six, 2 male and 4 female. One day in December one of the males disappeared. No trace. Then later the other male and a female disappeared for two days; however the male came back. So there are now 3 females and a male.

Two of the females have built their nests and laid eggs. One chose a spot just behind the fence and inside the cow shelter right under the heat lamp (in place to keep the cow's water line from freezing). She has 15 eggs in her nest. The other has built a nest right under the hay feeder. She has barricaded herself so far in you really can't even see her. We predict we will see ducklings in early March. Fortunately the male and female that aren't on a nest have started visiting the creek so we hope the ducklings will be led down there in the spring; otherwise I am going to have WAY too many ducks in my yard.

Last night when Cory got home and began his nightly check on the animals, he found something had gotten into the one nest and stolen an egg or two . All indications point to a raccoon. Caramel (the cow) seemingly did his best to get the raccoon away from the nest as he tore two hole through the fence to shoo away whatever was in there that shouldn't have been. This morning the trash can was knocked over and trash spread through the yard. Definitely a raccoon.

It looks like night vision goggles and camouflage are next. We just laugh and laugh at the things we find ourselves doing.

On the cow front, being castrated has not prevented Caramel from attempting to mate with Buttercup EVERY 2 MINUTES. If Caramel and Buttercup were humans, I feel quite sure she would take a restraining order out on him. Notice how in this picture he is only one step behind her but acting totally casual?

He is one step behind her all day long... just trying and trying. I feel terrible that she has to be fenced in with him. I was worried when we have him butchered that she would be lonely but I think she will be absolutely relieved. We never did dehorn her, which I hope does not prove problematic in the future... but for now I think it helps her when he really gets aggressive.

After one particularly irritating altercation, I convinced Cory we needed to kill the rooster... but we have never gotten around to it:

"Hey, what do you want to do this weekend, honey?" "I don't know, how about spend a whole afternoon with blood, guts, and feathers?"

You can see why it keeps getting put off until later. On particularly cold mornings, more than once, I have opened my door and found the chickens standing right there. This is the view of the rooster through my current (ugly stained glass) door.

He's just out there... waiting for me....waiting for me to not have a stick in my hand- little stalker. Actually I think they get hopeful I will bring out a treat everytime I come out. They have food in their coop but they much prefer it to be sprinkled on the ground so they can scratch for it.

One morning I opened the door and all three chickens were standing there in the front row, with all four ducks right behind them. Just patiently waiting. Who knows how long they were standing there. Some mornings the rooster actually pecks on the door. Bizarre.

In other news, I- who rarely ever gets a cold- have been knocked down with a bug for over a week. The worst only lasted for a few days but it keeps hanging on so I have been resting a lot. The boys have been loving the addition of even more free time. They never run out of things to do. Here is my spice jar being used in some type of battle. I find army men in my shoes, legos in my laundry, horses in the sock drawer and darts on top of everything imaginable. I feel quite sure they are doing some serious college level critical thinking activities when they work out all of these battle I don't feel bad resting when I need to.....

But of course I couldn't just do nothing..... so I have been working on my business- making lots of progress! I am so very excited about that.

I read The Four Hour Work Week a week ago. I LOVED it...gleaned a lot of useful help from it for my business and read a lot I could relate to... very easy read- highly recommended. Not everything in it is for everyone, but there is enough useful information that it would be worthwhile for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit.