Thursday, March 28, 2013


Tonight we planted an herb garden...ok, truth be told, they aren't ALL herbs (we threw in a bit of lettuce and spinach)...The shelves we built out of 2x4s, two sets about 6 1/2 feet long and tiered in height - something simple to fill this very underutilized space on our front porch. To give you perspective - in this first picture, if I were to look directly to the right, I'd see the "front door" that actually walks into our bedroom. If I look to the left, I would look out onto the rest of our front porch and the steps that go out into our yard.

We planted an herb garden...

I adore this shelf space...
Kait, David, Gage, Drake, Cora and I took terra cotta pots and decorated them with paint markers. I'm amazed at how cute these turned out to be.
More pots...
...and even more pots.
We have in here...
Lemon Balm

We also have four planters that are on either side of our steps that go from one tier of our land down to another and in two of those we planted Lavender and in the other two Chamomile.
Mark and I sat on the front porch tonight for just a bit before the sun finally set. Being able to have time to do these pots and sit together and feed/hay our animals BEFORE then sun in down is a definite sign that the days are longer...Which I LOVE...and there was sunshine...Which I LOVE...and there was Mark and Shelby time AND family time...Which I LOVE...AND it was Kait and David's turn to make dinner...Which I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!!! We don't have to plan, purchase, prepare or clean up after dinner on nights like this.
It's a good night.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hives and Coffee

We had quite the eventful weekend. We attending our beekeeping school - something that we've both been looking so forward to, for a few reasons. We learned that we know more than we think we know, we learned more of what we didn't know and we feel more comfortable than we ever have about adding bees to the farm...and we picked up our hives! That's right - we picked up two full kits (with tops, inner covers, bases etc.), along with two additional brooder boxes and four honey supers - we should be all set in getting these bees settled in and producing honey. We've heard mixed opinions on a honey harvest - some people have said we can expect a small honey harvest this fall and others say we should leave the honey with the bees...I say, we let the bees guide us. No sense in stripping them of their food, just to spend the winter wondering if they have enough food - but if they go crazy gangbusters and have enough yummy goodness to share with us...then we will gladly take a bit of honey off the top. This past weekend, we were able to build the two main brooder boxes with all the necessary pieces to get our hives up and running - we'll build the additional pieces as we have time.
Drake, Master Carpenter
Hammering in the frame foundation.
Ratta tap tap...
More frame building.
Look at that beautiful completed frame - can't wait until these are covered with bee brood.
Fancy beewear!
Cora modeling my bee jacket lol.
Oh, wow - the living room was quite the mess.
Stuff was all over the place.
Cora is helping hammer a brooder box together.
Building our hives, lid and brooder boxes.
Mark and Drake putting together the boxes.
Proud father and son moment.

Look at that awesome completed hive! We have two just like this and will be adding additional brooder boxes and honey supers.
We are officially ready for our honey bees. We'll be getting two nucs in the middle of April.
In addition to becoming bee hive owners this past weekend, we also were surprised by (yet another) new baby!!! This one is a buck Oberhasli/Angora cross. His name is Coffee and he is Itty Bitty's baby. He is absolutely adorable. He and his Mama have figure out the whole nursing thing, all by theirselves. He is just as sweet as can be.
Mama Itty and Baby Coffee...I love his smirk in this photo.
Time to eat!
Itty and apparently something I'm going to need more of around here...COFFEE!!! LOL
I'm going to knock on wood while I write this, but we've had four mamas give birth to six babies and everyone has done amazing. I'm so proud of all of my girls and their beautiful babies. Soon we'll be milking Mabel and Flora (once we wean the babies) and we'll be able to have milk and cheese (and soap?!) from our backyard. We'll also be shearing the fiber animals in about a month or so - before the hot weather rolls in.
Milk, soap, cheese, honey, fiber...soon chickens will be here for meat and eggs...this grows on ya'

Thursday, March 21, 2013


You know what the day after tomorrow is?????
We are SO excited - we'll be spending an entire day learning about beekeeping AND leave with all of our beehive supplies!  We decided to get unassembled hives for two reasons:
1) Cost
2) To touch every piece and gain a better understanding of how they all work together. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Flora :: A Birth Story

What an amazing experience...I've been present for the birth of my own children (obviously) and watched my best friend deliver her daughter, but I've never been present for the birth of an animal. All the goats have delivered at night or behind my back lol sneaky little ladies. But I had the most fortunate experience of being there for Flora's entire delivery.
Kait and I were in the barn doing a check on Flora - as we've been doing for the past week and a half or so...when Flora squatted down to pee, it appeared that her whoha opened pretty wide. Kait and I looked at eachother and questioned whether it was time. Kait ran to get Cora outside and by the time that they came running out, Flora had coughed out a bubble and a hoof! As soon as Kait got out with my cell phone, I started recording this video (warning :: graphic goat delivery video with a bit of a cliff hanger because my FREAKING CAMERA DIED JUST AS HER WATER BROKE!)!!!

At the end of the video, you see that her water had broken and there were two, quite large hooves sticking out of her. From that point, she was trying to deliver the baby goat and in so much pain. She kept throwing her head back and yelling in pain, pushing as hard as she could to get this baby out.
See the hooves and the little tongue sticking out - it kept wiggling during delivery.
It was obvious that she was getting tired out and was having a really hard time getting the baby out. I am usually hands off when it comes to stuff like this...but it was looking like she needed some intervention. I took a towel and wrapped it around the hooves that were sticking out. As she pushed (and ONLY when she pushed) I would give a GENTLE tug to the legs - helping pull, while she pushed...being cautious not to cause her any harm. Finally (after about 20 minutes of pushing) she pushed that little baby goat out of her. Kait, Cora and I watched the whole thing and David was able to join at about the point that the video ended - so he got to see the actual birth.
Newborn baby goat!!
Closeup on the newborn...
Flora, although exhausted, started cleaning off her baby and using her "Mommy voice" - a lower, very different Baa than her usual voice - SO cute. She kept looking at us like "look what I just did". I was so proud of her - my eyes were tearing up. I was just in amazement of what this goat accomplished. As she was trying to deliver her placenta, she squatted down again - we looked inside her whoha and SURPRISE!! Another baby was on her way out! There was ANOTHER BUBBLE with ANOTHER HOOF! I couldn't believe that little goat had TWO babies inside her. Thinking that it would take another 20 minutes or so to get the baby delivered, we hunkered down and watched. Within two minutes, baby number two was delivered!!! She was smaller than the first baby and I think the first baby made the path, she was just following along. So there was an exhausted Flora (yawning, yawning, yawning) trying to clean of these little (ok, they were actually pretty big) babies - we helped her along, toweling them down a bit. They got onto their very uneasy feet and tried to figure out the whole nursing thing. Flora, even though she's a first time mom, was standing there letting the babies try to figure it out...unlike Frankie who was doing everything in her power to get away from the baby. Maybe she was too tired to put up a fight - maybe she just knew what she was supposed to do from watching Mabel. Either way - Great job Flora!
Flora and her babies - a boy and a girl.
Flora and her babies.
Flora makes really beautiful babies - I'm incredibly proud of my girl. She finally did it - we have more photos and videos on other cameras and cell phones - I'll upload those when I can...but I thought I'd share our amazing experience.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

We've been doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that around here lately. Starting projects, planning, discussing and doing...

Animals ::
We are still waiting for Miss Flora to have her baby (babies?) - she seems to be fully dilated, lost her plug and having contractions - I think I need to call the vet today, just to make sure that all is good. She also seems to be having an issue with her leg (still) - I thought it was pregnancy related, but I worry that it is more.
The three other babies - Blanche, Ethel and Sweet Pea are doing great - they are like three peas in a pod...running around the barn yard like baby goats do. They are so fun to watch. They race up and down the play structure out there. I believe that we are going to keep all three of them (although, depending upon what babies Flora has, we may not be able to keep everyone). Decisions, Decisions.
Everyone else is doing really well - we'll be shearing soon too...I'm excited to see the fiber we pull off these guys and then to spin it and create something from it! YAY!

Garden ::

We've been planting seeds to start in our cellar and get them growing before we can actually get them in the ground outside, since, you know, it's only 28 degrees outside Brrrr...But seeing a few of those artichoke plants reaching up out of the compost is a wonderful thing - the little splash of green that I so desperately need. It's so dreary outside - (Ain't No Sunshine) - everything is gray and wet and muddy...ugh. But in good news...So far, we have planted artichokes, celery, asparagus...
On Sunday, we planted:
42 tomato plants (12 - Beefsteak, 12 - Heinz, 12 - Roma and 6 - Katinka Cherry)
3 - Jalapeno Peppers
6 - California Wonder Pepper
3 - Golden California Wonder Pepper
18 - Broccoli
18 - Cauliflower
18 - Brussels Sprouts
18 - Cabbage
Soon, hopefully in the next few days, we'll be planting the following (in pots) - Basil, Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Cumin, Spearmint, Chives, Chicory, Dill, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, and Lavender.
I'm hoping to have an area on our porch set up for the potted herb garden - just a simple two shelf system. I'd also love to add a few citrus fruits to the mix - Meyer Lemon, Lime and Clementine (I know that our winters are far too cold to have these fruits outside, I'd be willing to find space inside for them to overwinter.
We have peas, potatoes, onions, lettuce, spinach and beets ready to go in the ground now - but it is so cold, it's hard to find the time that we want to be outside...and miserably cold long enough to plant everything. With the first day of Spring tomorrow, I'm officially going to call the groundhog a liar...I took a look at the 10-day forecast and there's not a day where it gets much past the low 40's. 

Bees ::
We went to our beekeeping club this past Thursday - I love going there. A place with like minded people, when it comes to bees - so much knowledge in one room. We handed in the check for our two nucs (we'll be able to pick them up mid-April) BEES BEES BEES! On Friday, we placed our order for all of our supplies! This Saturday, is our official bee-school, in Loveland, Ohio - Mark and I are so excited - we'll be getting all of our goods and learning so much. By the time Saturday is over, we'll be ready. So ready.

Chickens ::
The hatchery where we are getting our chickens is hosting a Keeping Backyard Bees class the first weekend in April. I'm hoping that Mark, the kids and I will be able to do an overnight trip (the hatchery is about 3.5 hours from here) and attend the class, again, then we'd be ready for the chickens. So ready.

Location of bees and chickens ::
We are going to be keeping the chickens in our shed - but it needs a little revamping. On Sunday, Mark and I went to Lowes and picked up some lumber to be able to frame out their space and keep a storage area for feed and a separate area to wall off for chicks. As we have time, we'll be getting the updates made before the chicks arrive.
The bees will be going at the end of the pasture (past the fence to the animals can't get to them) - I'm not sure if we'll need to get concrete blocks to put them on, but I'd like to get something to go under them - pea gravel? So that when we have to mow, we don't have to go right up to the hives.

Compost Bin ::
Thus far, we've been tossing all of our compost items in a pile, in the back of the yard. I really hate the way it looks - not only do I want this to be a working mini-farm, but I want it to be cute too. Compost stretching across a large area like the does the look cute. We bought lumber and fencing to be able to construct an approx. 8ft x 8ft bin. We also bought a hard rake and a pitch fork - we'll be able to flip the top layers of compost into the bin and hopefully most of the bottom layers will be composted and we can put those out on our garden beds.

I know we have a lot of projects - but it's all good stuff, exciting stuff, feeling accomplished type stuff.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Puppy Chow

Jar of golden syrup.

Pancakes and syrup.

Mabel's babies checking out her leftovers :-) She has to eat in the milking stand because otherwise, she'll eat as fast as possible and try to steal Flora's food.
I realized that I never shared a photo of the final product for the syrup - we got a decent amount for the "work" that we had to do. We could have more, if we continued to tap and collect every day. But like I said before, this time was more about the experience and not to have the full blown - collect/boil/store syrup. Hopefully that will be next year.

The night before last, we tried a tasty new "dessert" - David, Kait's boyfriend, suggested something called "Puppy Chow" is was delicious - a little treat (a little goes a LONNNNGGGG way - it's very sweet...but very good. I thought I'd share that here.

Puppy Chow
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
9 cups Crispix cereal (any flavor)
3 cups powdered sugar

Combine peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips in a double boiler (or you can do it in a microwave safe bowl).
Melt the peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips together. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir well.
Place the 9 cups of Crispix cereal in a very large bowl.
Pour the peanut butter-chocolate mixture over the cereal and toss evenly, making sure all the cereal gets a good covering.
Place the powdered sugar in a large zip-lock type plastic bag - we just used a large bowl that has a lid to shake it up.
Add the peanut butter-chocolate cereal mixture to the bag, leaving enough room for the puppy chow to be shaken (you may have to divide the mixture into smaller batches, coating one batch at a time).
Shake the bag vigorously to evenly coat each piece of the puppy chow with powdered sugar.
Once the mixture is fully coated, place in a large serving bowl.
Coat any additional pieces by shaking the mixture in the powdered sugar filled bag.  Add powdered sugar to the bag as needed until all the mixture is coated.

So good!

Barnyard Antics

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ratta Tap Tap

This past weekend, was tapping weekend! We decided that the weather conditions were just right for tapping our "maple tree". We've never tapped before, but I've been looking online to learn how to do it and when to do it. Apparently, it should be cold (preferably below freezing) outside at night and warm up above freezing during the day. The process of freezing and melting helps build up the flow of sap - when the tree is tapped, the sap flows easier. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to tap this year, because the "start up kit" is a little spending and we weren't in a position to purchase anything "extra". However, I put it out there on Facebook that we were looking for some spiles - I assumed that no one of my generation would have spiles - but asked if maybe a parent or grandparent would have spiles that they wouldn't need for this year's tap. My cousin and his wife sent me a box of 25 spiles!! 25!!!!! What an amazing gift!!!! I'm so thankful. We had some water jugs and a stainless bucket to collect the sap and off we go!
A pile of spiles

A single spile - isn't it awesome!?

Tapping Supplies :: Cordless drill, hammer, a handful of spiles, a drill bit - large enough to tap the tree the size of the spile, bucket/water jug sap catchers, and a blade.

Hey, that's me tapping a tree for the first time.

Tapping in the spile (tap).

Drip, drip, drip ... sweet water sap dripping into the bucket.
Collecting sap.

By the time we were done adding the three taps to the tree, we had collected this much sap!

The next morning - we checked the buckets...look how much sap!

Straining out the bark bits.

Not too many particles of bark etc.

More sap!

More sap!

So delicious!

Carrying the bucket of sap into the house.

Mark and Shelby - Maple Tree Tappers

Drake, sneaking a finger full.

What do you think Drake?

It's delicious and sweet!

Boiling down the sap.

Tracking the evaporation.

Our goal is to fill this jar, think we can do it?

Evaporating more! Quicker than we thought!

Going very quickly!

Starting to turn color.

Getting thicker and darker.
The first batch nearly filled the jar - but as we were boiling this down, there was more collecting in the buckets outside and we were able to fill the jar to the top.
This was a great experience, in just a (less than) 24 hour period, we were able to gather enough sap to fill a jar of syrup. The jar was more than enough for us to have a pancake breakfast. Kait brought home pancakes from her job at Hueston Woods - they had an "All You Can Eat Pancake Breakfast" in celebration of their Maple Syrup Festival. Since Kait is a server there - she was able to bring home the leftover pancakes! NICE - free pancakes, free syrup (with just a little roll up your sleeves) and it was a delicious dinner. EXCEPT :: that I don't think it was MAPLE syrup ha ha ha. Maybe I got my tree identification wrong. We looked at the tree last fall, after all the leaves were gone, but thought that (from the bark and buds) that it was a maple, but the taste is definitely different from maple...maybe it is sweet gum? I don't know, we'll have to figure out, once there are leaves on (in just a month or so). The good news is that although it is not as sweet as maple, it is still delicious syrup - more of a nutty flavor...and we have enough taps to tap several trees next year, but we were able to sample the process with a smaller amount (easier to handle) - I'm hoping to get with a few of our neighbors and tap their trees in trade for some syrup. I think this is something we'll be doing for years to come and improving on the process each time.