Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ducks are Like Old Men

We had an early spring and I am glad I made the decision to enjoy it and get some things done outside (read throttle down on homeschooling) because the cold came back.

Piggy relations (PR) have been coming along. We did the piggy run, but all he did was stay over by the cow pen... he wanted some friends. So, we put him back in the pen. Buttercup still beats up on him a bit
but a pig is very tough skinned and he just rolls with it. We put him back in his own little pen at night so that he can eat well at least in the morning and the evening. While he is in with the cows he has to settle for whatever he digs up and some of their hay.

Caramel has taken a liking to the little fella (yes, that is Caramel's ball so he can make it through the rest of winter without getting bored; but now the pig entertains him):

and I have actually seen them play the head to head game (which is properly played between two cows like this):

but gets even more fun with a pig (though this picture doesn't do it justice because Kosher can hold his own):

It's pretty funny.
Buttercup just tolerates him. Yesterday I tried to give him some food and water while he was in the cow pen, but as always Caramel intruded and was trying to eat it. I chastised Caramel and pulled him away several times; so he turned around and took out his frustrations on the pig- slamming it a few good times....

so then Kosher runs over to snuggle Buttercup for comfort. I think he maybe believes Buttercup is 'base' so he's safe. OR maybe I just have too much time on my hands.

I like this one when he switched to the otherside because you can see him standing on his tippy toes, well tippy hooves. Caramel is doing an aside to the audience, "Does he really think I can't get him from here?"

I know cows can't roll their eyes, but in her mind I am sure Buttercup was- though she just kept chewing her cud.

The third duck started hatching ducklings. She left her nest after four hatched so Cory put the rest in the incubator. It's a good thing too- six more hatched out of that group and all four ducklings she was caring for died. She turned out to be a bad mother- left them all too far behind when it was way too cold for them to handle it. Sad. The six we have in the box are now doing well. We helped the first one hatch, which was a bad idea. He was sickly for awhile but seems to be doing better. The last one that hatched has a crippled foot. We are going to have to do something if it doesn't improve soon. We tried to splint it last night but that didn't go so well. We're going to have to try again.

The best things about chicks and ducklings is how they nod off CONSTANTLY. They could be eating or walking or playing and then it is like someone just hit them with a tranquilizer dart...ZZZZZZZ.

They could be eating, like this one:

Climbing a hill, like this one (you're lucky you're head isn't a bit heavier, ducky):

Preening their stomach, like this one:

Or sometimes it hits them all at once, when they are playing together:

When we had chicks last year, there was a little piece of cardboard they used as a perch and the chicks would nod off til they slowly tilted forward and banged their beak against the wall of the box- startling themselves awake again. HOURS of entertainment.

Sunday Cory pulled out a bit more of the mess in the field and then disked it. He then left to meet a friend and I spread the seed (yes I am wearing Cory's clothes-just ignore that):

and pressed it in.

We found this roller on Craig's list for $50- a great price for what it is. It worked nicely. I had a lot (probably too much) seed left over compared to what I expected so I think I will need to seed some more. I forgot to do what the one guy at the seed company told me- go east and west after you go north and south so you are less likely to have "holes." The sun was going down and I felt a little rushed...going to maybe add some. We are going to have to cut down all 5 of the big pines in the upper field to open up the grass area for pasture. We really only bought enough seed for one pasture but we are going to try to make it work for two- the one in the pictures above I did wasn't as big as what we thought or else I didn't lay the seed thick enough. We need as much pasture as we can get because paying for hay through summer is not what we wanted to do. We will have to be really careful on anything we seed- making sure it is rooted well before we graze it (and that it is not wet so the cows don't compact it). It is likely though we will have to suck it up and feed hay through the warm season this year while this seed gets established. Better some than none.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Plantings and Piglets

Well my seedlings died. Apparently there is a lot more to gardening than sticking things in the dirt and watering well. Have you ever heard the phrase "that's a whole nother animal?" It is referring to how each type of animal requires different care. Cows are different than chickens, etc. Well, it seems that each type of thing you want to grow is a "whole nother animal." Oh boy. Is this why most people don't garden until they are retired? These are things I wonder.

My approach to all of these things, because I have no experience and no wise granny-lady hanging around (though I wish for you every day, wise granny-lady) is to get the basic information and go from there. A brain can only handle so much without just doing what you are reading about anyway; and I am slowly reclaiming all of the storage area in mine that was used up with technical information from my former career. So what I am saying is that I can describe the infrastructure of the entire American voice and data network; but I don't know how to start tomatoes. Fortunately, a lady on the cow forums just explained how, so I am going to try again. I am debating asking her about how to do every other thing I am trying to grow. Each plant has it's own peculiar thing about it! You could truly do only gardening and be busy most of the time. I unfortunately do not have the ability to have such a singular focus so I shall continue in trial, error, read-when-you-can mode.

Sometimes that doesn't work if you haven't planned WAY ahead. We contacted our local cooperative extension and did four soil tests. Apparently soil tests tell you what you should have done last year. Very helpful, but not very timely.

So after holding them in pots for a year, I finally chose locations for my two fruit trees and got them planted: an apple and a cherry.

[I need to get a matching tree for each so they can be pollinated- who knew there were male and female fruit trees?]. You have to consider drainage, light, space, soil, etc. I don't know that we have the ideal conditions anywhere, but I chose what I thought were the best spots based on the information I had. It's odd that you have to cut the tree down to 2 feet when you plant, but that's what you do. It helps stimulate root growth. I still need to mulch them...

You want to talk about a whole science- the orchard book I had (The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto) blew my mind the first time I read it. The second time I skimmed it and it only made me dizzy. The third time I located just the part I needed and was able to do what I needed to do- hopefully effectively. I actually liked the book, but...

It reminded me of that RIDICULOUS book that, for some reason, every woman reads when she is pregnant: What to Expect When You are Expecting. That is the worst pregnancy book on the planet. Hey, now that you are pregnant let me describe every possible disease or affliction you or your baby could possibly develop! Tell me again why that book is popular? My point is that I don't need to read about every possible parasite that the trees can get right now. You have to filter things like that out or you will never try anything.

Landscaping comes a lot easier- maybe because so much was already here and because I have a knack for balance and spacing. The hollyhock bushes had about 40 saplings growing around them so I moved them yesterday. The kids helped. We now have a hollyhock sapling placed in every possible place you could want a bush. The internet site I looked at says they don't transplant well, but it never hurts to try- they weren't gonna grow where they were! If they make it I just added beautiful color all around the house for free!

See, this is what happened to me last year. When it was finally warm enough to do the inside construction projects, we spent all of our time outside.

So I picked Mom up from South Carolina on a quick overnight trip and we spent the week just chatting and piddling with cleaning and dishes. The weather was mostly bad but that was okay. When we picked up the rental car for me to drive down the guy asked if I had a vehicle preference. Cory says out loud, "Get one with a trunk or hatchback because your mom is gonna have a suitcase and several garbage bags with her." If you've ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I think that is how Cory felt when he met my family. He has settled in and gotten used to us and all of our quirky ways and was truly just stating a fact.....but since the two rental car guys were standing right there, I felt the need to explain my dear mother:

"My Mom HAS suitcases- plenty of them. As a matter of fact I think someone gives her a new set every Christmas. She just CHOOSES to put most of her things in garbage bags when she travels. It's easier that way."

I think Mom's favorite part of her visit here was when I told her about Cory and the rental car man, and my emphatic defense of her luggage choices. She laughed so hard she cried. Especially because I was telling her about it while we were loading her garbage bags of stuff into our truck. She even brought an extra one for just in case. These are the reasons I love my mom. Not for the normal reasons most people do... but for garbage bags and sentences like, "I slapped my hair up."

So then pig day arrived.

[If you saw my pictures on facebook, you already know a little about how that went. I assumed only a handful of people read this blog, but then I found the little tool that shows you how many do- WHO ARE ALL OF YOU PEOPLE??? Leave me a comment or something].

Here is a recap and an update:

We meet the sellers for "the drop." That's when two trucks with pens in the back

pull up at a meet point and exchange farm animals:

Anyway, we end up out til late and leave him in his pen until the next day when we introduce the cows to him. First they were curious.

Then scared.

They would run away whenever he came near.
He trotted around with no inhibitions. By the next day Buttercup was butting him with her horned head. I thought maybe they were just establishing who is who and what is what; but when she practically smashed him into the hayfeeder and gored him, I got him out of there and set up a makeshift pen. I used to roll my eyes at people who explained to me what their pet was feeling, but humor me for a second: I imagine Buttercup was thinking, "There is no way I am sharing this pen with a steer that climbs on my back every 5 minutes AND a spastic pig! That's IT! I am drawing the line!!" That was yesterday- Monday. Today Cory bought a harness, the kind used for dogs, and a cable. He set up the cable after dark. Tomorrow's plan is to clip the rope to the harness and the other end to the cable so piggy has a "run."

His name is Kosher. I just naturally call him piggy, though. Tomorrow he should be one happy pig with plenty of things to root for... he makes the best sounds ever. He makes mmm mmm mmm eating sounds 24/7 except when he is sleeping. He is a cute little thing. I am concerned he might be the hardest critter not to get attached to because he is so fun to watch. You know that wonderful feeling you get when you cook for your man and he really likes what you made? Well a pig acts like that if you give him scraps from the table. It's like one continuous bout of bacon making appreciation.

Cory's parents blessed us with some help for our complex plumbing problems and not a moment too soon. The other night I was brushing my teeth in the downstairs bathroom and the ceiling started dripping ON MY HEAD. Apparently, the guy who built this place used electrical tape for the drainpipe in the upstairs bathroom and APPARENTLY YOU DON"T USE ELECTRICAL TAPE FOR PLUMBING !*&(%^$#@. That's okay. The trees and land are really pretty here. We can fix the pipes. Cory is working on it and we have the material now.

In other news, the two ducks have not hatched any additional ducklings and are off their nests- the rest of the eggs were bad. The last mama duck is still sitting on hers- we'll see. The others are having a grand old time as it has been raining a good bit lately.

I have sweet potatoes sitting in water in jars hoping they sprout. After consulting with one of my sisters, tomorrow I am going to get the regular potatoes ready. I have a feeling they will do better than my seedling efforts.

This blog is somewhat of a journal really- as a record for my family and as encouragement for anyone who wants to try things like this but has no experience (like me). As a record of and for our family, it is also inherently an ongoing story of how God reaches out specifically to us, though we are but four people in this vast, vast world......

I had been making a list of all the things I want to do around here, and of course, aesthetics come way lower on the list than things like grass seed, etc. What I really wanted was some type of simple fence to give some structure to the roses and berry areas that are in the front yard. I wanted something that they could grow through and around but that gave them somewhat of a framework to do so. If I haven't told you yet- we have already figured out that fencing can be the financial chokehold of a start up homestead or farm. Cosmetic fencing is, right now, out of the question.

But God knows all these things. On Friday night I was looking at the Keeping a Family Cow website again for ideas on pig fencing. Someone mentioned pallets. I looked on Craig's List and saw there was a place offering free pallets near where we had to go and get tires on Saturday. When we got there, we found the stack out back, behind an ATV store. Not only were there pallets back there, but the crates they ship ATVs in have walls that are perfect for what I wanted, and there was a whole slew of them too.

My husband loaded up the back all around the pig crate and I was so SO happy. They are going to be perfect.