Saturday, February 27, 2016

Greenhouse, Goat House, and Fast and Slow Chickens

The hills beyond...

Steve finished insulating the back wall of the greenhouse. We want to make that back wall a thermal collector, so it will be painted black.

We would like to convert this extra building, now just storing stuff, into a goat barn.  Three pens, including a birthing pen, and a milking area will fit just fine in here.

And here is a video showing all our silly chickens chasing Steve who is holding the feed bucket.  All except one.  Well, bless her, we cant all be fast....

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Catching Up

 We have been in winter survival mode, coupled with a frustratingly slow knee rehab.   It has been a low snow winter. We actually got down to bare ground, and maple sugar season started early.  I fired up the evaporator for the first batch of syrup, but it started snowing, so I had to quit early.

The evaporator set up when I started. 
Then winter decided to return 

The farmer man hanging the sap buckets

The newest addition to our little goat herd... Mary.  She is expecting in late April, so we will have babies!  The plan is to milk her, and have our own farm dairy.

The chickens do NOT like snow, so they mostly stay in their small area in the barn.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wish List 2016


There are several things we hope to acquire in 2016.  Here are a few that top my wishlist.
1. A broadfork.  This is a dandy garden tool which aerates the soil, but does not destroy its structure, like a rototiller will do. Thats important, since the number one thing we have to do is build soil.  You can watch some videos and get more info on tje  broadfork here.
Meadow Creature Broadfork

2.  A two person crosscut saw.  Yeah, sounds wild. Why would we want to have to cut down a tree by hand?  My thinking is, this is a good backup tool in case some crisis makes gasoline either unavailable or unaffordable.  Hey,it could happen..

3. Fencing for the horse paddock.  This is a biggie.  We want something like this.
4.  A dairy goat doe, hopefully bred for late spring kidding.  Before we invest in a dairy cow, I decided to start slightly smaller.  I am particular about breed and quality, so this search might take awhile.  And I am not interested in having to feed one all winter anyway, so no hurry.

Those are the first things on our list.   Right now, I have a tiny bit saved up from egg sales towards the Broadfork.  We will need that early spring.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ending the Year as It Began

That pile of wood finally got split.  Better late than never.

We tried to remember exactly what we were doing New Year's Eve last year.  We couldnt recall for sure, but one thing for certain, at least part of the day involved firewood.  Stacking, or splitting, or carrying armloads in for burning, handling wood is a constant on the homestead.  

Getting next year's wood is a ritual, an ever present reality in the ongoing activities of life on the farm.  It occupies our time and energy from summer through the following spring.  There are maybe only those few months of late spring and early summer when we are not daily handling wood.

This year's wood is a non negotiable  necessity. Since the wood has to cure for a season, next year's wood is the job of this year. Next year's wood is almost better than money in the bank... it is an assurance of warmth, of the ability to prepare food, a symbol of comfort and self sufficiency. If everything else fails, we can stay warm.   

So today, we worked on stacking next year's wood, and maybe even some for the year after.  We estimate our little woodshed here will hold about 7 cords.  
So I have no complaints of ending this year the same way it began.  There is a rightness, a pleasing satisfaction in seeing those stacks rise to the ceiling.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

First Snow

Well behind the average first snowfall date, today's snow brought a little of everything... sleet, freezing rain, snow, more sleet... so it is an icy nightmare.  Hard to plow and shovel . Its not a real pretty snow, the kind of fluffy snow that sticks to trees and branches.  This snow is more like a block of concrete.
But, we knew it  was coming, and this was a good chance to see how the new barn and changed foot traffic patterns will work in these winter conditions.
Old and new barn

Looking out past our little orchard to the distant hillsides

Stone wall coated in an icy crust. The small cottage in the background, now abandoned, used to be the caretakers cabin for this farm.

The chickens had to stay inside their pen.  They werent happy about this.

The geese didnt seem to mind too much, but did resort to various methods of keeping their feet warm...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When One of Us Is on the Disabled List.......

...some things just dont get done.  There simply isnt time for one person to do everything that usually takes two people, one of whom works full time at it. Just aint possible.  So, we prioritize.  
The important things MUST get done. No matter what. Animals get fed and watered. Their bedding is kept clean. Food and fuel for us human folk has to be taken care of, even if the food is a bowl of beans and nothing else. The rest of it, well, we just do what we can....and the remainder has to wait.

The back sides of sheds dont get painted. Scrap wood doesnt get sorted and put away.

Next year's firewood doesnt get split. Not ideal, but we have to deal with this winter first.

Leaves dont get raked. Oh well...

Herb gardens dont get mulched for winter.

And forget housekeeping!

It is frustrating, knowing so many tasks need doing, things that would sure be nice to have done.  But it is what it is, as Steve is fond of saying.  Hopefully by spring, I will be back to the point I can pull my own weight.....meanwhile, Steve keeps being superman, and doing way too much. Love that guy...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Eggs-Fact or Fiction?

Do you know these egg facts?

1.  You have to have to have a rooster for your hens to produce eggs.   Fact or fiction?
2.  That little white squiggly thing sometimes seen in the egg means that egg is fertile.  Fact or fiction?
3. Eggs should be refrigerated or they "go bad" Fact or fiction?
4. Brown eggs are better than white eggs. Fact or fiction?
5. Pastured hens produce eggs with less cholesterol than store bought eggs from big warehouses. Fact or fiction?

Washed eggs, drying on the counter. Once they are dry, I will pack them into cartons, label, and we will deliver to the little farm market down the road.  The hens mostly pay for their own feed this way. Organic feed is expensive, almost double the 'regular" stuff, but the whole reason we  raise our own hens is to have cleaner, more nutritious food for ourselves. So we feed the hens well, and they give us the best eggs in return.

Packed up and ready for market!

1. Fiction.  Hens will lay eggs whether there is a rooster or not. 
2. Fiction.  Its just part of the egg. Doesnt mean anything.
3. Fiction.... and Fact.... Eggs are laid with a natural coating called "bloom" which seals the egg and doesnt allow any bacteria to enter. Eggs left alone will keep on your countertop for a LONG time without going bad  However, our "wise" FDA requires eggs in this country to be washed.  Once they are washed, the bloom is removed, and bacteria can enter the egg. So, now they do need to be refrigerated.  They will keep about 5 weeks in your frig.
4. Fiction.  The color of the shell has nothing to do with the quality or freshness of the egg.  Different breeds of chicken lay different color eggs. 
5.Fact.  research has shown that eggs from hens that are raised in a natural environment outdoors will have about half the cholesterol, over 3 times the vitamin A amd vitamin E, three times the Omega 3, and 30%less saturated fat as eggs from warehoused hens.