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!

Friday, April 19, 2013


It's a cold and dreary day here. The kind that make you want to snuggle in bed with the covers over your head. I might just take a pause to do just that. I decided to take a MUCH NEEDED PTO day. I wish Mark was here to snuggle up with, but he had to go to work.

The animals are fed and out in the pasture, while the rain holds off. The kids are home from school today and in various stages of catching up on the computer, watching movies etc.

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. We have so many things to do around here - all take time and money and money and time. I've been asked a number of times "how do you do it all?", and maybe my response should be..."I can't". I want it all, I think it's important to our family to have it all, but I need help. I feel like everything is going crazy - work is insanely busy, home is insanely busy, Mark and I are still working on some of our challenges. Some days, I think it is just too much. But still, I keep moving forward, because I know how important it is.

Last weekend I made a "To Do" list, so I could track, in my own head, the changes and projects that need to happen around here...and to set up the expectations of my family (and because I like hearing the groans, moans and grunts when they see such a long list...joking). But we have so many things being added and "this" has to happen before "that" can.

This weekend we'll be working on checking off a few of the projects. Things I know that I want to complete...CLEAN OUT THAT BARN! Yuck! It's pretty gross in there. Deep with poo and uneaten hay. Before we can do that though, we need to build phase two of the compost bins. The bins are approximately 4 ft. wide and 4 ft. tall and 8 feet deep (from front to back). We are building at least three sections, currently we have one built and it is pretty much full. We pitch forked and shoveled the compost that was just thrown into a pile (and creeping through our back yard) into the big bin. After that and spreading compost over the entire garden, we continue to have a bit of compost on the ground, needing to be turned into the new container. Once the new container is built, we'll be able to start cleaning out the barn. Then, we'll have something to dump all that compostable mess into and "cook" for a bit (readying it for next year's gardens).

The turkeys and chicks are filling in nicely - feathers, test flights, peeping and learning to coo/gobble. Soon, we'll need to make sure that their outside coops are ready to go. The "layers" are absolutely gorgeous birds. I'm so happy with the choices we made.

I think that the coops and the bee area will be projects for next weekend (since the bees have been delayed)...but we do need to get their hives painted and ready for them.

I think I need to just take a project at a time. It will happen. Step by step. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Farm Tour 2013

I'm posting this to honor a special request from my friend Lynda, over at Living in the Land of Oz. She's having a hard time picturing how our property lays out, so I thought I'd take all of you on a video tour of our place.
Here are my disclaimers that I want you to remember while you are JUST turned Springtime around here and we haven't had the opportunity to mow the lawn or clean up the yard area. Also, there are a LOT of projects in the works. Finally, it won't always be so's just a work in progress that needs some love.
To the video!!!!

In addition, a while ago, we put together a layout of our property - it has changed a bit since then, but if you click on the image, you can see the idea of what we are trying to do.
The bees have been delayed for a week or so, meaning that we'll have more time to prepare. This is both good and bad - I want the bees here and working on our property, pollinating our fruit trees etc. (making honey), but it will give us a bit more time to prepare.

Monday, April 8, 2013


So this post is going to be a bit random...because, frankly, my life is pretty random right now. I first want to talk about friends and family. I used to believe that simply because someone was "family", meaning a blood relative, that I was required to have that person in my life, thus giving them permission to affect my life. Several years ago, in 2006, my husband, youngest children and I decided to pack up and move from Ohio to Florida. During that time, we learned to rely on each other a bit stronger and realized that, from that point forward, we'd only allow people to affect our lives if their affects were more positive than negative. We understand that life isn't going to always be wine and roses - people argue, feelings get hurt, people misspeak etc. but then life balances out. However, if your scale is constantly tipped to the anxiety, sadness, frustration, getting spanked in the self esteem side of the scale...I've figured out that it is ok to let that person out of your life. I say it that way...letting the person out...because obviously if they are constantly in a state of WANTING to hurt you, make you feel bad, make you feel less than or not good enough...then they can't be happy in your relationship either. I'm talking about any relationship...this isn't just about a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend...this is about siblings, parents, aunts/uncles whomever is always making your life so challenging. So for those of you reading this, wondering if I'm talking about Mark...I am not. Mark and I do have our challenges - like all other couples; however, I hope that we will continue to grow old together and will be playing SkipBo and scrabble on the front porch, while our grandkids chase baby goats around the pasture :-)
That all being said - since I realized that it's ok to let those negative people out of my life, I also learned that just because someone isn't a blood relative, doesn't mean that they aren't family. There are a few women in my life that we have made the choice to be in eachother's lives for a long time. Some I've been friends with since high school or shortly thereafter and others I may lose touch with for a time and then we come back together and it was like we just saw each other yesterday. I love my friends. There are a couple people in this world that I can say just about anything to and they place no judgement on me. The love me for who I am, they love my children, they support my decisions (even when they don't understand them or wouldn't choose them for their selves)...I am so thankful for this group of women, friends who have become my family. The other day, was a little rough for me...I was having a bad self-esteem day. (for those of you that know me, may or not, know that I have some pretty bad self esteem issues - there are days that I just don't really like myself, don't worry, it'll be ok, it happens). But one of these wonderful women sent me an amazing to my home. Remember, we live out in the boondocks...this took a lot of planning to locate a florist near me that would actually deliver out this far and do such an amazing job. The flowers are still gorgeous and still put a smile on my face when I look at just now, I looked over while typing and smiled. I'm thankful that I there are these awesome women out there that love me as much as I love them.
My lovely flowers
The weather FINALLY broke around here...just like my previous post mentioned - we finally started to get some warmer, sunnier and generally more beautiful weather than we've experienced through this very long, nightmarish winter. Our children have fixed up their bikes and watching them regularly cycle up and down our very long driveway (another thing I love about this house is that driveway - the kids can bike, scooter, do chalk art all around and never have to get close to the road. I love it. Below is Gage basking in the sun. He pulled the legs of his PJ pants all the way up and made shorty shorts out of them...God, I love my kids. They are all so funny.
As I mentioned last post, we had our Backyard Chicken class this past weekend at Meyer Hatchery (the place that is shipping our chicks) - we decided to make the weekend of it. The kids and I picked up Mark at work (he worked Spring Break at a place he worked for several years ago - a two-way radio sales and service make a little extra money), and then we drove a couple more hours to NE Ohio. We stopped to eat at one of Mark's favorite restaurants (a place that we don't have where we live, but it was right down the street from our apt. in Florida), Cheddars - YUM! By the time we go to the hotel, everyone was too tired to swim - we opted to get a good night of sleep and then swim after breakfast. Everyone grabbed a quick shower and off to chicken keeping class we went. I HIGHLY suggest this class. The teacher, Carrie (I don't know if she's a Kerry or Kari...we'll just call her Carrie), was relaxing and funny and extremely informative. She took us for a short tour of the hatchery and everything (BTW - VERY clean building, VERY wonderful and helpful staff, excellent customer service). After the class/tour - we decided to drive just a little bit farther to let the kids experience Amish country. We've been there in the past, but always find it so fascinating. We visited Lehmans and had lunch/dinner at Mrs. Yoders (DELICIOUS). We talked with a young Amish couple and then taught us a bit about Amish travel (horse drawn carriage) - it takes them about an hour and a half to visit her parents, that live just 15 miles away. Definitely a slower pace to life. Here are just a few pictures from our weekend...
Gage and Drake - hotel comfy!

A horse drawn carriage - you can see the horses feet from under the carriage. One thing I have learned is that you should never take a picture of an Amish person's face, it is against their beliefs. There is something so beautiful about the seeing the carriages - sometimes with a beautiful face peeking out at us. Gosh, I just love it.

This gentleman was pushing four horses - I believe he had some sort of farm equipment - the horses were ginormous.

Amish parking lot - near the restaurant that we ate at, they had a special area that the horses could be hitched to, while they ate dinner.

While we we driving through, we came upon a house that was a deer farm - how neat to see about 15 deer wandering through someone's front yard.

We stopped to turn around in a parking lot and this "little" guy peeked over the fence at us. Looking not amused lol.

Oh, did I fail to mention the turkeys. Hmmm...Well - while we were at the hatchery, they had turkeys for sale. Turkeys were not on the list for this year...they were a possibility for next year or the following - but since we were there and they had no minimum purchase, since we weren't shipping them, we decided to pick up four of them. Two blue slate and two red bourbon - they are cute and sweet and will hopefully make a delicious meal. We've decided that if, between the four of them, there is a mating pair, that is nice and we like, that we will keep them and slaughter the other two - then we'll breed the two for more turkeys. I guess holiday dinner is on us?

The Spring flowers are beginning to bloom.
 I thought I'd share a couple pictures of the pasture crew...
Jester and Steve (mostly) and Ethel is climbing up the balance beam.

Jester and Steve chowing down on hay.

Sweet little Fauna, hiding from all the craziness (don't let her fool you, she's a crazy maniac too...she was just needing a little break).

Sweet Pea - hard to believe that this little goofball had such a rough start.

Ahem, Steve REALLY enjoys his hay. LOL


Turkey, turkey, turkey.

They are so cute now - don't get attached! They are dinner!
Happy Spring Everyone!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Strawberry Fields Forever

I wanted to share something with you...Ok, try not to UGHHHHH too loudly when you see that the high/low for today is only 47/27...But skip ahead to the Friday and Saturday...we are eeking into the mid-50's and even the 60's and not a speck of snow is on this entire forecast (...or even the 10-day!)!!!! Dare I say that Spring is Here?!?!?!
Well, at least my plants are starting to believe that it is Spring, and I trust my plants (mostly). Our seedlings that are still inside are popping through and reaching for the sun coming through the windows. Yesterday we got a kick out of turning our cauliflower sprouts away from the sun and coming back and hour or two later and finding that they had turned around and were reaching toward the sun again...smarty pants. I wish my tomatoes were doing better...I'm counting on them for our canning experience this year - so I'm hoping that they germinate and grow strong (last year we didn't grow a single tomato).
Our garlic has sprouted outside, I'm still waiting for any sign of life in the herb garden, but it just went it'll be a little bit. I still have yet to get my potatoes in the ground! I wanted to get that done on St. Patrick's day...but the weather has just not been cooperating with us. I received an email notification yesterday that said our strawberry plants (50 of them) have been shipped and are scheduled to arrive at our house by end of day tomorrow. I guess that means that we have to build their home huh? Last night, we grabbed some wood and pulled out our saw, drill and some screws and made a three level tower for the strawberries. We still need to fill them with dirt (by dirt, I mean, peat, potting soil and...alpaca, goat, sheep and rabbit poo) and stack the tower guess what I'm doing today/tonight. (...and since the kids are on spring break, I'm hoping to convince them to help me shoveling loads of "dirt" in for both the strawberries AND the potatoes...hmmm)
Our neighbor came over the night before last and tilled our garden in the back yard. Yesterday morning he came over and I thanked him profusely - he said he "ain't done yet", he just wanted to get it turned over to help it dry out a bit (from our VERY wet winter, snow and rain) about 2-3 weeks, he'll come back and till it again...which means that we have 2-3 weeks to spread out our compost onto the garden and he'll be able to mix the compost into the garden and give us beautiful, healthy, rich soil to transplant our seedlings and plant our seeds directly in to. LOVE!
Tomorrow night, we go to the beekeepers club for a special meeting about assembling your beehive. We've got our brooder boxes mostly put together (as I posted earlier) - we need to figure out how to make the frames stronger and learn about any tips that they have about the hives, how to keep them sturdy and where to put them. Then, on Friday we are heading toward Amish Country - we'll be staying at a hotel for the night (Mark, the kids and I are going - Kait and David will stay here to take care of the animals). On Saturday morning, we'll attend Backyard Chickens 101, at the hatchery and then we'll go to Lehmans and grab lunch and then head back home. Next week, the chicks will be here - peep peep peep.