Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another weekend on the farm

I guess I'm meant to keep my name wasn't called for Cash Explosion on Saturday night. Thus I will spend my week days managing an energy efficiency program and mornings/nights/weekends farming :-)
Yesterday day was one more giant leap into bee keeping. The Butler County Beekeeping Association hosted its first annual honey extraction party. Its so good to know that for our $5/year family membership that we have access to, not only a wealth of knowledge, but the ability to use their extractor and heat knife etc. Yesterday was all about us assisting a couple beekeepers extract their honey. It was amazing. The process, while time consuming, was amazing to watch - warm honey oozing from the frames the moment they were uncapped - you cannot even imagine how wonderful the smell was in that room. Each of the beekeepers left with the bounty of approx. 20-30 pounds of honey...from one super! ONE! Imagine that established hives may have several honey supers on top...imagine two hives with several supers on each. Sticky, delicious goodness - in your back yard. Again...I'm sold!
I think the plan is to start with two hives and see how that works for us - depending on the amount of honey we have, for our own needs and to share with others - we may end up selling the remainder. If there is a need and it isn't too much of an investment, we could add another hive or two and make enough money, from the honey sales, to do some projects or pay for livestock feed. We've been leafing through beekeeping catalogs, trying to determine what to buy and how much money we need to have saved. I was told by the leader of the beekeeping association that there will be an entire session on what a new beekeeper needs to get started. We feel so lucky to have become associated with this group.
Today - most just a chill out day. We've been going and going so much, it's nice that it is 4:00PM and I'm still in my pajamas. We slept in a bit, enjoyed coffee on the front porch, sat in the pasture with our animals, made some homemade bread and copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls (delicious). I'm thinking Mark and I are due for a game of scrabble too...we'll see where the day takes us.
So here's what I scored at the Wool Gathering. A shepherd's crook AND an awesome T-shirt...I'm a lucky lady.

My happy pigs, grumpy flower and handsome farmer.

Oh! This is our handsome, young buck. Won't he make beautiful babies with our alpines?

Smile Flora!
Flora is in a snuggle mood. Isn't she sweet.
The inside of the honey extractor.
The kit that the beekeeping association put together to help filter the caps (you can use the wax to make candles later).
The knife heating up in the basket - ready to uncap some honey frames.
This is Shawn/Sean/Shaun(?) the first one to try out harvesting his honey. We are all so jealous of him.
Alex, demonstrating how to uncap the frames.

Imagine the amazing smells that are happening here.
Using a fork to uncap the ones missed by the heated knife.
Alex and Karri adding frame to the extractor
Honey oozing out of the extractor.
Cora and an observation hive. SO AWESOME!!! I think Mark is going to need one of these for his classroom (that hopefully he will get really soon).

How we spent our Sunday on the front porch, watching the fire burn.

This is how I spent my afternoon - copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls.
I'm loving this life. I'm excited about the upcoming projects. Hope all of you had an amazing weekend too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oh yes it's ladies' night...

Oh...what a night!
So we picked up the man-whore, Oberhasli Goat, today. He's so cute - pictures to follow...promise. He was a Spring baby and this is his first trip off his farm. He's making himself at home in the pasture. All the other animals came to greet him with a balance of excitement, concern, mixed with a little panic. I'm hoping this little guy will get the job done for both Mabel and Flora...considering the way he's wagging his tail and licking his lips...I'm thinking he'll figure it out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Community and the Farm

Wow! What a week!! I'm not sure how many people know this, but I came down with a nasty case of vertigo a couple of weeks ago. I've never had this happen before. I woke in the middle of the night and my world was spinning. Not one to go to the emergency room, I told Mark that I thought it was time to go - thinking it was an issue with my heart (my father had heart surgery at age 45...I'm 38)...or perhaps it was a stroke. Glad to hear it was vertigo and is just something that happens. I could still touch my nose, even with my eyes closed. I could still rub my belly and pat my head at the same time ;-) I got a few prescriptions and a pat on my back and was told to follow up with my practitioner (thanks health care in the United States). When I did follow up with my regular doctor, I also mentioned this foot pain I was having. Apparently, I have Plantar Fasciitis AND two bone spurs in my heel (one stretching toward my toes and the other toward my calf) - GREAT! I'm kinda a mess right now. I thought that the vertigo had subsided, but then Sunday and Monday it came back. It's such an unsettling feeling to have. So here I sit on a Tuesday morning, trying to work and stay rested at the same time. Another reason I am thankful to have a flexible job where I work from home. If I need to take a rest, I can do that, as long as I put in the time later tonight and am available for my employees, should they need me.
We also ended up with four baby squirrels - we were able to release three, but one just didn't make it. With all of the animals that come and go around here, I'm amazed that the three were able to be successfully released and although it was sad to have him die, At least he died with a full tummy and knowing that he was safe and loved.
On a happier, more exciting note - things are really falling into place here at the "farm". As I've mentioned before, bees are coming to the farm...soon! This coming Spring, we are hoping to add both chickens and bees to Fresh Egg's Farm. We've been trying to answer the following questions...
How many hives should we start with?
Where should we put the hives on our property?
What if I'm terrified of bees?
Oh, you read that right! I'm so so scared of bees. I've been stung - by wasps, bumble bees and a yellow jacket - never a honey bee. However, I still put them all in the same category. I KNOW the importance of honey bees - because, well, wouldn't it be great to support the honey bee that has been so affected by humans and our use of pesticides (damn you CCD - Colony Collapse Disorder), AND isn't it awesome to have hives filled with pollinators right on our property, AND we get the benefit of sweet, warm, golden honey. So how do I get over my fear of these bees? Well, we attended a beekeeping meeting - they started the meeting IN THE BEE YARD! This yard contains 4 healthy hives - the hives are surrounded by screen panels, so people that feel comfortable with the bees can go behind the screens and be close up to the hives; however, for scaredy cats like me, we can stand behind the screen and try to find our mental happy place while they open the hive for the first time. But wait, it wasn't what I thought. The bees aren't swarming around, trying to sting everyone in sight. Out of the 20 or so people standing there, not one single sting fact, a bee even found its way up the pant leg of the meeting leader and didn't sting! They were too busy to worry about us. I learned that if we all stayed calm, so did the bees. The kids started the class with bee jackets on - but as they got more comfortable (and more hot) the jackets were stripped off and they were standing near the hives, just in plain clothes.
Cora is in the front, looking for mites on that paper. Drake is standing to the left of her. Gage is toward the back/left, with the blue shirt.
*Note how in the photo above, I'm still behind the screen...Go ahead kids - you get stung, Mommy will be wussing it out over here.
Yup - still behind the screen.
Getting brave! I'm pretty close to the bees - look they're even coming out to say Hi!
Taking a frame out of the brooder box to make sure that the queen is doing what she is supposed to be doing. Laying, Laying, Laying.
Finally, I felt comfortable to come around the screen. You know what? It wasn't that scary. It was actually pretty freaking cool. The bees were busy doing their work and didn't really much care about what we were doing.
Drake ended up picking up a drone (no stinger), very gently, with his bare hands! Two others (non-drone) crawled onto his hands and he didn't get stung. If there was any doubt in my mind prior to this meeting, whether we wanted to get bees or not - that is gone. They are a definite addition to this farm. Come spring, we'll be building out our hives (if they aren't built and ready to go already) and getting our bees settled in...and I couldn't be more excited! Pollinators working our land AND free honey - I don't think we could ask for anything better.
Then - what a weekend we had. Saturday was the Wool Gathering, in Yellow Springs (Youngs Dairy) - we had a couple of goals for that event 1) find a contact for a shearer (preferably one that would shear all of animals...but at least the sheep and angoras) 2) to talk to people about Steve and see if they had ideas why we always have issues with his legs and 3) find a master spinner to help us learn to spin. But we found so so so much more!
  • Shearer - the man that comes and does shearing demonstrations each year said that he travels around, down into Kentucky and up into Michigan. He said that he'd be willing to stop into our place and shear our animals for us. In the next couple weeks, we need him to shear just Itty and Frankie - but in the Spring, he'll need to shear all six fiber animals (Itty, Frankie, Steve, Jester, Blossom and Josie). He said his set up fee is $50 and I followed that up with "...and how much per head...and how much for mileage" - his response: NOTHING! The set up fee includes travel and the first 10 heads. He even said "I hate to charge you the full $50 for the angoras, but it's a minimum set up fee" - Um, sir, I would have paid you $50 each animal! So the fact that for $100 a year, I can have my angoras sheared twice a year and my alpacas and sheep done in the Spring - is amazing.
  • Master Spinner - Done! My friend Maegan...duh, of course Maegan! She owns alpacas and spins beautiful stuff. But, until recently, she has lived pretty far away. Now, she lives in Oxford - like 20 minutes away. Master Spinner = Maegan = perfect.
  • Steve - oh Steve, rumor has it, that you might just be a baby...a spoiled rotten little brat. While, I'm not going to give up just yet, but I'm thinking that extra, extra love and attention that you get from your legs being sore? We might be easing away from that. Time to grow some balls my friend. You are ok.
  • Speaking of balls - that is another bonus we got from going to the Wool Gathering - one of Maegan's friends was there and she mentioned that she castrated her sheep using the banding method. They did it themselves and said it was pretty easy. I don't know if our ram boys are too old for this or too...Ahem...large...but it's worth a shot to talk to the new livestock vet at our vet's office and see if it's an option.
  • Also, we might be adding a new animals to the farm - Drake seemed very fascinated by the angora rabbits - as we all are every year. But this year, he came home and made a plan to build a hutch and put together a list of items he'll need. I think he wants to take the earnings from his acorn and butternut squash sales (later this year) and put it toward an angora rabbit. That will give him some time to think about it and make sure it's what he really wants.
  • Finally - I got my shepherdess crook! $15 and it's a beautiful wooden crook, with the perfect curve at the top. LOVE!
  • ...and I got a Wool Gathering t-shirt - Awesome!
Best Wool Gathering EVER!

Then on Sunday - we went to our community Pork Festival. It's always a nice time - it's funny though, you would think the "petting zoo" filled with goats would lose it's luster, considering we have a petting zoo in our back yard...but it doesn't.

In other farm news - we found a local farm that would be be willing to let us borrow one of their bucks to knock up Mabel (and Flora?). They agreed to let us have the buck over here for a month or so and hang out with the ladies. The buck is an Oberhasli breed - which should make a nice cross with our alpines....did I mention that since we are newbie farmers - this farmer is going to let us borrow her buck for free...well for the cost of feeding their buck for a month??? Amazing. The kindness of that what community is all about?

SO last thing...from time to time, we partake in scratch off lottery tickets and I got not one, but TWO entries in the Cash Explosion TV show - Now, they still need to pull one of my tickets out of the hat to see if I appear on the TV show...I'm definitely NOT counting on it - but if everyone can think happy fresh egg's farm thoughts on Saturday it would be MUCH appreciated. Imagine what winning could do for the farm!

I'll let you know!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You know you live in the country when...

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a time we were driving down the road, near our house and helped two teenagers get one of their cows back into their pasture. Our yaris helped block the way and they got the cow back in safe and sound.
Tonight, I had a meeting at work. Before the meeting, I got a call from Cora - she forgot a notebook for school. So I had to drive to her school prior to the meeting. Drove to Dayton (about an hour away), met with my client (great meeting BTW) and on the way home, got stuck behind a terrible accident. It ended up taking me two hours to get home...but I'm thankful that I made it home safely, especially because I don't think one of the people in the accident made it out alive. Careflight came in and took him didn't look good.
So I continue my drive home...exhausted I pull into the driveway. I stop and greet our animals (their pasture runs along our drive) and as I pull closer to the house, I see our neighbor, on our porch with Mark and Cora - all three looking down into a trash can. Hmm...more zucchinis? I thought? corn on the cob? I thought? Nope...three baby squirrels. Squirrels!? What the hell am I going to do with squirrels? So we took our dog's cage outside on the porch - Blue is house trained and we mainly keep the cage up for when our daughter visits with her dog - or if we need to separate animals for any reason - we wrapped the cage in chicken wire, so nothing could work its way through the cage and eat the squirrels - and so the squirrels couldn't get out. We put in hay and some different types of food for them to eat. I'm hoping that they will only be our guests for another week or two, until I know they are big enough to survive.
Well...they are kinda cute though aren't they, filthy rats with fluffy tails, who will one day grow to eat and destroy my gardens...but for now, sweet little babies who like to curl up in little circles and snuggle.

P.S. We are attending a Beekeeping Club meeting on Thursday and guess what!? They are holding the first part of the meeting IN THE BEE YARD!! It costs a whopping $5 for the entire family to become club members. Here we go people!!!!
P.P.S We also went to our local Extension Office and learned that they have these really great resource books that kids typically use for 4H programs and we were able to purchase three books from them: sheep, goat and llama/alpaca - they just arrived and we'll stop by Friday and pick them up!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekend on the Farm

We had quite the busy weekend. Saturday we spent the morning clean the barn out (as usual) - we had a bad rain on Friday night and the barn was a bit of a mess. We put down fresh bedding and filled all their hay bins, put in fresh minerals and cut all their hooves. Whew! That is quite the task. We've never done the alpacas hooves. Honestly, we are scared to do it. Alpacas are the animals that make us nervous. They are the biggest animals, most mysterious, cautious of us too. I mean Blossom loves us, she'll come up for the occasional snuggle and when she's done, away she goes. Josie could care less about us. We are the people that provide her with food and she's even suspicious about that LOL. The last time their hooves were done was back in the Spring, when the shearer did it for us - needless to say, they were a curly, nasty mess. It needed to be done and it was time for us to just bite that bullet. Blossom was in a particularly snugly day. So while she was there getting a pet, I wrapped my arm around her neck, from behind. Picture me facing her hind end and wrapping my arm from behind her neck, around the front - so her head/face (AKA: the spit factory) is facing away from me and Mark. She knew something was up right away. She started to do her warning siren - if you've never heard this sound, it's a high pitch, rolling of the tongue sound...very loud. She is sending out a warning to the other animals that we are getting ready to kill her...Ahem...give her a pedicure. Mark makes his rounds to all of her hooves and gets them clipped and looking good. Wasn't as bad as we thought. Then, it was time to do Josie - the hardest part of that is the catch. She does everything she can to avoid us. We (Mark, Drake and I) try to get her cornered...have you ever tried to corner an animal that is tall enough to look you in the eye and gallops like a a panic? Not fun. I suggested that we fashion some sort of lasso out of rope that we had. Mark says that we aren't the lasso type. After quite a while of us stupidly thinking we could capture Miss Josie - Mark finally goes and gets a rope. He creates a slip knot at the end and with a couple tries, he actually catches Josie around the neck! I guess we ARE lasso people LOL ;-) After she knows that she is caught, she becomes fairly submissive. No sounds, no spitting...just stands still and lets it happen. But you know who DOES have an issue with this? BLOSSOM?! She is sending out the warning call like crazy! She is pacing back and forth! Spitting in our faces! Trying to clean Josie to let her know that everything will be ok. Um, Blossom, it's ok - we aren't going to kill her, we're giving her the same gentle pedicure that we gave you! Let's just say, it got so bad that 8-12 buzzards were flying overhead, thinking they were about to feast on a dying animal. Not today guys! Since we were already in the process...and dirty...we figured that we'd go ahead and get all the animals trimmed up. That's always a rough job - it sneaks up on us - but when it's done, it feels so good.
Later that day, Mark finally had the opportunity to clean out our garage - it was such a mess from working on the and hardware everywhere. It looks so nice now - swept out, open space...he really did a great job.
On Sunday, we decided that we finally needed to commit to putting up our food and prepping some food for the week. We cleaned and cut up four gallons of zucchini, shredded three - 4 cup containers of zucchini (two got put up in the freezer - the third is to make fried zucchini cakes tonight), we made four loaves of zucchini bread (two for the freezer, two to eat this week), we made two loaves of white bread (I just love homemade white bread), we sliced and speared all of the cucumbers that we had picked and canned 7 pint sized jars for the shelf and another for the fridge, we made a delicious cucumber salad for dinner to go with our homemade pizzas (first time making homemade pizza crust) was a yummy, tiring, dirty, productive weekend.
Oh! Last week we took the kids in for hair cuts - they all look ten pounds lighter :-) See pictures below...

Freshly baked white bread - LOVE this recipe. It's pretty easy and our dough actually rose...which is always good when you are making bread :-) I'm hoping to switch over to making all of our own bread...eventually.
We made the two loaves of white bread and four loaves of zucchini bread - two went in the freezer and two were left out for loaf is already gone LOL.
We also made homemade pizza dough and made two of these delicious pizzas!

We canned up seven pint sized jars of pickles (a mix of spears and slices).

YUM! Can't wait to try these babies - they are garlic/dill.
Drake got his hair cut - Handsome!!!
Cora got her hair too! Beautiful!

Her hair was long enough to donate to Locks of Love...again! For the THIRD TIME! So proud of that little girl, giving up that beautiful blond/brown hair to a child that doesn't have any. Who wouldn't want a wig made out of that gorgeous stuff!?

...and my Gage got his cut too...Willingly! Handsome!
Look out Mark! There's a kitten trying to attack you! Hey Lockhart - is Daddy doing that right?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Going on a Pawpaw Hunt

The Pawpaw, also known as the Prairie Banana, the Ohio Banana etc. Around the Fresh Egg's Farm Homestead, we eat a LOT of bananas. We love them. They are so soft and tasty and delicious in a bowl of cereal...and also have a VERY large footprint. To say that we will omit bananas from our diet is just not likely; however, we've heard of a way that we can make that footprint a little smaller with the addition of pawpaws into our diet.
We heard of pawpaws just a couple of years ago, but never had the opportunity to try them. They aren't sold in grocery stores, because they don't have a very long shelf life. There is a Pawpaw Festival in Ohio (about 3 hours from where we live) - but it always falls on the weekend of both the Pork Festival (right here in our own community) and the nearby Wool Festival - and let's face it...fiber and racing pigs trump a long drive for some fruit.
We did plant two pawpaw trees on the property. I know, it's crazy to plant fruit that we've never even tasted - what if we hated them? If we hate them, we'd be happy to donate them to a school or shelter in the area. But, on the bright side - what if we LOVE them? I just wish we could figure out a way to try them out and know what to expect when we get fruit (in several years).
Last year; however, we heard, at another festival called the "Fall Gathering," at our local historical society that they had pawpaw trees right there in the forest area that surrounds the historical society property. At that time, it was past pawpaw season and we missed our window. But this year, I promised myself that I would remember to venture out and check those trees around September to see if we could try those sweet fruits.
Saturday morning, we got the kids ready for a hike and drove about 15-20 minutes from our house to walk through the property of the historical society and see what we could forage for. We walked through a corn field, along the edge of the forest - looking up, as much as we could, without tripping along the trail. We found leaves that looked similar to the leaves we see on our very small pawpaw trees.

This looks like the size and shape of the pawpaw leaves....but no fruit.
Hmmpt...keep walking...don't give up! Along the walk, we did find a few other cool things.
This is the style of door I want to use in the upper level of the barn. They had them on the stalls of their restrooms.
I just love the bark on this tree.

Well hello Caterpillar...don't you look beautiful today.
We saw tons of trees that looked like pawpaws - maybe we were too late again on the fruit...maybe we missed that window and would need to try again in a year. UGH. Disappointment! But then, WHAT is THAT??? We found a tree that had just a few of the little green fruits on some pretty high branches - I'm guessing that animals have taken their pick at the low hanging fruit. We worked to pull the tops of the branches down and reach those fruit. You could feel the excitement from the kids - they were proud that they help spot the fruit and couldn't wait to try it.
My little foragers - Mark, Gage, Drake and Cora.
Cora found some nice pieces of feed corn that were still in the field, after harvest. We also found a black walnut seed, a few other seed pods (Mark collects seed pods for teaching), and this is just three of the 10 pawpaws that we harvested.
The inside of the pawpaw - those brown pieces are pawpaw seeds - you don't eat those or the skin. But that sweet, cream colored flesh around the seeds is what you DO eat and it is DELICIOUS!
I can't wait until our pawpaw trees grow stronger and begin to fruit. I know it will be several years from now, but it will be great when they do. For now, we know where we can go to snag a couple each year and tide us over. They are free, delicious, natural and healthy - the perfect substitute for bananas!!!!