Friday, April 26, 2013

Springtime on the Farm

It's Springtime on the farm. Well, at least that is what the calendar says...and that's what my projects list says, but Mother Nature is still trying to figure out her next move. She seems so fickle lately. Winter is warm, then freezing, then maybe we'll have an early Spring, or maybe a late one. It is currently 61 degrees in the house. I refuse to turn on the heat, even if I did it wouldn't pop on, because we have it set at 60 degrees for the heat (yes, 60 - much higher than that and we'd be oil poor). Today is only supposed to hit somewhere in the 50s (we've had a few frost warnings this week - perfect timing for all my peach blossoms)...but this weekend is back in the mid-60s with rumors of the 70s by Monday...we shall see.
That said, our projects have hit the point where we just cannot wait for Mother Nature to make up her mind. It's definitely "go time" around here - hence the previous "overwhelmed" post. Last year, we had all of these grandiose plans about the farm and many went on the back burner. This year, we are trying to check off all of those boxes...and more. With so much time "doing" around here, I don't have much time for writing. So let me take some time to catch you up.
First, here is a picture of me and my partner in crime. Seems like many of our pictures are like this. Of us in our "comfy clothes" taking a silly picture of ourselves ("selfies").
See, here's another one. I love this picture of us for some reason.

Here's how gangsta we are. LOL

Teaching spinning at Mark's class.
So Mark has spent the past several weeks at two separate long term substitute teaching jobs. The first was for a first grade class, while the teacher was on maternity leave. After Sweet Pea was born, we decided to take her into the class and show the kids a baby angora/olberhasli cross and explain the reasons why we keep goats. Living in a more rural area - I knew that we'd have a lot of kids that had goats and knew why they had them (mostly meat, some for milk), but I didn't realize how many would say that they've never pet a baby goat before. Surprising. See the cat carrier over my shoulder? There's a baby goat in there! I can't believe Sweet Pea was so little that she comfortably fit in there. I brought some fiber with me and the kids watched me spin for a bit and we talked about why spin fiber and what we could make with the yarn. It was a really neat day.
Mark is now subbing for a second grade teacher, who is out for a knee surgery...and apparently retiring after the school year is over. Mark is in the process of interviewing for this (or possibly one of a few other positions that are opening at this school). He has made it to the second round of interviews - at this time he is supposed to prepare a lesson plan and the interviewers (including the principal and a couple existing teachers) will decide if he should be put into the role permanently. He is up against three other people (narrowed down from 600) - this is specifically for two second grade positions - so he has a 50/50 chance. I am SO hoping this works out. This would be the ideal position for him - second grade is a great age, the school is just 10-15 minutes from our house, it's a nice community school.
Since he has been in this class, we've brought in our baby chicks and Ethel (pictured below with Drake) and I've helped him work on his bulletin board (for Earth Day). I'm hoping that this level of attention to his sub-job will help push them on their decision.
Drake getting an Ethel snuggle - she is SUCH a SWEET goat. We just love her.

Here is a picture of Flora cleaning off her son, Herb. I just love this photo. So sweet, what a good mama.

So, we've been working on the compost pile. Since we moved here, we've just been creating this large compost pile (containing our kitchen scraps and barn clean outs) - thus far, it really has just been a big pile of (mostly) poo. Our set up made it difficult turn the pile and it kept sprawling across the yard and generally looked really bad. We are in the process of building large bins to contain the mess and make it easier to turn etc. In the photo above, you see that we have two bins built...the bins are 4 ft. wide, 4 ft. tall and 8 ft. deep. (and completely filled). The stuff on the right will be ready to go for next year's gardens (and even to fill in for this year). The stuff on the left is mostly from our big barn clean out of 2013. It will definitely need to bake for a while to get the waste to break down. What was really cool about the day that we were building and cleaning - we actually saw the smoke coming out of the pile! It's working! What I like about the photo above - if you can see it - I noticed it. But the one on the right, when you look at the bottom 2x4 rectangle in the front, it is definitely darker than the rectangle on the left. COMPOST!
We attended a hive building party at our beekeeper's association. Fortunately, we ended up being the only newbies that brought our hive components. We learned so much from these men. The man on the right, Alex, is a professor at Miami University and an entomologist...this man knows his bees (he's been keeping them since he was like 10 or 12 years old). The man on the left has been a beekeeper forever too.

Cora and Mommy painting hives together.

Cora is getting bored.

Look at those hive supers and brooder boxes - beautiful! I love the color we chose...I believe it is called Ocean Mist, it's very light blue with a slight green tint. We are going to paint grass blades and flowers on the bottom brooder with a "welcome" sign of some sort.
Our bees are scheduled to arrive today!!! So the night before last, we set up their area of the yard. An area just past the pasture, away from where we normally hang out and play. It an area about 7ft by 4 ft - we put down weed block, held down by rocks - eventually we will fill in the area with pea gravel and make it pretty and fancy. That will have to wait until next payday (or the following) - but for now, the bees will have their space and be comfortable and safe (we have concrete blocks out there to keep them off the ground). It will be interesting to watch them and what a great learning experience, for us and the kids...AND the benefit of fresh, extremely local honey. YUM. I'll post more pictures of the apiary area soon.(Hives are locked and loaded in the car - leaving in about an hour and a half)
Cora, Turkey Whisperer.

This kids on turkey watch.
The poultry additions are doing really well. The turkeys are getting big. They are beautiful and getting to be graceful. They coo whenever we are out in the laundry room with them. The 16 chicks are still in a large tote in our parlor. They are definitely outgrowing their space (as are the turkeys)...the meat birds are about three times the size of the layers - it is obvious what their purpose is in life. Now that they are growing so large, it's hard to realize that there is no turning back. I'm not attached to these birds, as I am the layers - they don't have names, but it's difficult to realize that we have "livestock" on our property, in our home that will, very soon, be food. This is new for us. It's a challenge. It's a decision that we know that we cannot go back on (these birds will not have a good end of life if we let them die "naturally" - they will grow so big that their legs will not be able to hold them, they will have heart attacks etc.) - we know that this is the right decision. Raising meat birds is good for our family - it's healthier, it helps our children understand where their food actually comes from...but it isn't an easy task. I'm sure that slaughter day will be difficult...but necessary.
Gage - after he chopped down a tree, using only hand tools. You can see the fallen tree to the right.

Proud lumberjack ;-)

Mark, David, Gage and Drake were making sure that none of the tree found its way into the road.

Herb, realizing that the grass just might be greener on the other side of the fence.

Chicken dog pile!

I love this picture of Moo and one of the other black kitties.
All of the animals are doing well. I'm so happy that we got through birthing season and didn't lose a single animal (mama or baby). On Tuesday night, we went in front of the board to request the temporary land use for our animals - since we are technically not "rural" - as we are the first house as you begin to enter into our tiny village - we have to make sure that it is ok with our neighbors (and the county) that we have the menagerie of animals that we do. This is always a nerve wracking experience for me, because, at any time, the county can vote to remove our animals. Fortunately, we have had zero complaints from our neighbors (in fact, most think it is funny when they drive down the road and see alpacas in our front yard) AND the board members seem to think that it's funny that we essentially are building Noah's Ark...they did caution us to not grow too much (to make sure that we are able to care for all the animals properly) and then approved us for not just a single year, but extended it to two years! Yay - they like us, they REALLY like us :-)
Strawberry plants are starting to grow!

Tulips and daffodils are still blooming!
The gardens and fruit trees are growing well. I feel a little more "on the ball" with this year's garden, than last. Our seedlings are growing strong in the dining room. We have a ton of tomato plants and a variety of others.Our strawberry plants are starting to "take" and growing new dark green leaves (root stock always looks so sad when it arrives). We have about 50 garlic plants growing strong in a short raised bed. Potatoes are growing in another short raised bed in the back yard and we even have artichoke plants growing in large pots (so we can move them into the garage during the winter). Soon we'll be moving the seedlings to the main garden that is already prepared. (Lots of work, but good work) Our fruit trees are doing so well, especially considering that many spent the first couple years of their lives in large pots. Now that they are in the ground, and have been so for more than a year, they have decided to pay us back a bit - there were blossoms all over the pears and peaches and this year, we had plum blossoms (mmm...fresh plums) AND one of APPLE trees has blossoms on it for the very first time. I hope that we get to taste a little bit of everything. I won't get my hopes up too high.
This year is going to be a much better than last.
...and with that, I leave you with a picture of Jester, the sheep...because he makes me laugh. Look at that face and those eyebrows. Love him!


  1. First, i adore that first photo. You look so happy (and you look gorgeous - you do look good in photos. Such full on action. I have my fingers crossed for Mark and i am sure that his (and your) efforts are being noticed. Volunteer for everything - make him indispensible to the school. Cook Outs, Busy Bees, you name it, volunteer. Everything is looking so great and yes, i now know where everything is in my head thanks to the video. All those bees close by are going to ensure a big crop of fruit. Every blossom will be pollinated. Good Move. See Ya.