Sunday, March 30, 2014

to sweeten the day

Its a cold and raw day. The second in a row. Last night we has soup at our neighbors: 3 soups actually, including a wonderful version of my absolute favorite, split pea with ham. So good to catch up and warm up over soup.

Today there is only one bright spot on the farm.

The paper whites are blooming and smelling wonderful.

And then at the not market we have on Sunday, a dear friend brought this.

Rice pudding. Just made. Another of my all time favorites. This, like last nights soup, made from scraps. Great, thoughtful scraps.

Its miserable out but I'm feeling the love. And promise to save some rice pudding for Homer. *maybe.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

if you were a mouse

Its a farm. We have a mix of methods of keeping their numbers in check...a box constructed to hold two snap traps is the best way we have used.

And still. They get to stuff.

Of these two items: Ivory soap and fireside marshmallows, which will the mice eat?

In the fall we will get a couple bags of marshmallows, some graham crackers and chocolate bars. So the roasting marshmallows on a stick over the fire and construction of smores happens. A bag of marshmallows was not opened last season. They are still soft 4 months later.

The Ivory soap? 

The mice chowed down on it.

In more than one spot.

As a kid I had my mouth washed out with soap. For, you know, using words a kid shouldn't use. I still avoid soap in my mouth, as I don't like the taste or texture.

But this extremely unscientific experiment makes me curious. What made the mice select the soap instead of the marshmallows?! I mean yuck. What do they know?!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

dogs life

We had geese for protection first. Until they did not work anymore.

Then we got a big dog. And then a smaller dog and another big dog. The Jack does not count as protection, her 9 pounds will not go outside and chase anything at night. She is too old to remember how to be a dog, so princess status for her.

Jasmine joined us last summer. She continues to be our sweetest, easiest dog. She was tiny when we got her, she probably weighed 8 or 9 pounds.

She singed her back last fall, trying to get warm while we were working. Her coat was already thick enough that her skin was fine, but she carried this funny mark for a bit until it grew out.

She ran off a few times when the gate was open. She did not run crazy, just curious. We found her again within 10 minutes.

There are places on the 12+ acres she can be and some she can't. The garden area, the commercial kitchen and the parking lot are off limits. She good naturedly waits until she can rejoin us when we are in these spots.

Jasmine has gained plenty of weight since joining us. She is no longer a little thing. She remains friendly to everyone, her tail is always wagging and it looks like she is smiling most of the time.

Her only downside? She loves to roll in every funky thing on the farm. She always smells the worst of any of them, usually has a smear of some funky thing on her and brings it right to you with a smile.

So that's the dog a visitor can easily pet. But few have the desire.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

what the newest dog has learned

Some days I've seen our dogs with egg on their heads. The tops of their heads. It makes me wonder how such a thing could happen.

This dog is a pretty smart dog. This egg head thing has never happened before her arrival.

We buy plastic egg cartons for nests. And then add bedding.

As time goes by there is a reduction in bedding. When there is poop in the nest bedding comes out, a little bit every day. 

She has figured out that if she gets a toenail into a hole where the beddingvis low she can crack an egg open.

She then licks the parts of the egg as it drips through the holes. And every so often drips on her head, alerting us to what she has done.

Note to self: keep bedding deep in the nests.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

healing up

The ravages of winter have been revealed as snow has receded. It is snowing again a bit today, but it can't last.

We use our 4 wheel drive truck to transport feed to poultry. And food to the waste that would go to a landfill instead feeds our pigs.

When covered in snow we still drove a bit. We work to load a lot right near the livestock so we don't have to drive daily.

Still we end up with ruts on the property. As the ground thaws and snow melts the earth is soaking wet. 

The weight of the truck puts big imprints on the ground.

And then we move the poultry pens over the ruts. We position the pens over the ruts, but not so birds get out or predators get in. 

The poultry, especially the laying hens, work the earth so intensively that the ruts get all leveled out. There is little evidence of such a deep rut once the girls are done with it.

The short time the birds are on any any one section of the ground changes the entire thing. Our fields reqrow at an amazing rate, and they green up early too. The birds love it, the eggs and chicken taste great and we don't need equipment for repairs.

Monday, March 24, 2014


A couple of years ago we found this chair at the end of a driveway, out for trash pickup. We picked it up and brought it home.

It is such an interesting looking chair, outrageously heavy. For now it sits in an empty, unfinished space in the farm. A bit of drop cloth on it so Sandi can sit on it in the sun from the window.

Our upholsterer has this on his to do list. With new guts, stuffing and fabric it will be fabulous. And the dog will not have access. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

be prepared

Winters are awful here. Not just because of the snow, overcast skies and weeks of frigid temperatures.

Really, it is because our house has no insulation and cinder block walls. Formstone on the outside, drywall inside. The flipper who bought the property added duct work to the attic, and destroyed any insulation value that might have existed.

We are adding insulation. And weather stripping. Another winter of 5-6 weeks of below freezing temperatures might not happen. But it might. 

And it would be best to be ready. October 15 and the need for heat will be here before we know it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

spuds, delayed

Our seed potato order arrived yesterday.

We purchase in bulk, with a bunch of other farmers.

Delivery is a big truck full of 50 pound bags of seed potatoes. Delivery in the loosest sense of the word: unloading is at the hands of the farmers.

Homer was there with the crowd. Original time was 1pm. Then 4pm. Then 7pm. At 9pm he returned to the farm with our spuds, now safe from freezing but not yet in the ground. We let them warm up a bit before planting.

So glad so many showed up to help unload. Many hands make for light work.

Friday, March 21, 2014

a special piece of tape

During one of the all too frequent storms this winter, a hole appeared in our hoophouse. Replacing the entire top is on the to do list, but not while the weather is still cold out. Right now we want every speck of shelter possible, if only from the wind!

Its not the first hole. Things flap, the winter tears through...usually at night...and the sun rises and there we see a gap in the plastic.

With the huge sheet of plastic intact the hoophouse can be very comfortable. Even on days when the the temperature is in the 20's if the sun is shining we can work comfortably inside the hoophouse. And when the sun is at the highest point coats, hats and boots can be removed.

When a split happens it alters the atmosphere inside the hoophouse. Not really warm in there, and not sheltered from wind either.

There is tape made for this specific use. The tape is sold at the same place as the parts for the hoophouse. We put our cover on in December of 2010 and purchased a couple rolls of repair tape at the same time. 

It sticks to the plastic. It is clear like the plastic. It holds the parts together again so the interior is just the way it should be. Dry, wind free, sunny and warm.

This stuff is not available at local least for us. Its an hour if zero traffic happens and that never happens. At least a three hour ride.

This repair used the last bit we had. At this time of year, other supplies in quantity are also needed.

Or maybe we can get it shipped. As much as we hope winter is over it is not and we will certainly need it if we don't have it.

Today its all sealed up again. But it will not stay that way!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

as equipment fails

As growers we use watering cans all the time. When small seeds are just planted the gentle watering from a watering can helps seeds stay where they were placed without shifting location. We plant and grow year round, so watering cans are in use year round.

I've had plastic watering cans and just don't like them. The look, the feel, the fact that they crack into little pieces. I love a metal watering can.

This one still works. I can't remember if it is 4 years old or 15...but it made it through another winter without springing holes.

The rose is rusty.

The handle is not where it is supposed to be...the plastic bits cracked and fell apart.

The bottom is bumped out and really rusty.

But if it sits just right in the dirt it doesn't look too bad right?

Still holds water. A good amount, easy to transport, spread smoothly without doing damage to the growers back, shoulders or neck. Its on the replacement list but not quite yet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

we try again

A couple weeks ago a very quiet box arrived from our chick grower.

Normally we can hear the birds as the postal delivery person arrives. That day not so much.

By the next morning every bird was not moving. They were quite wobbly going into the brooder and did not get better. The night was in single digit temperatures. As the night before had been.

Yesterdays box was noisy and bouncy.

The brooder was full of puffballs running around, eating, drinking, pooping. Such wonderful noises and smells. Go peepers go!

Those extra eggs we thought we would have in August? Now its September.

Monday, March 17, 2014

newest flock begins production

We collected eggs from our youngest flock of hens yesterday. We took shipment on them last fall as they were just a day old. In the brooder and then into field pens over this tough winter, we were surprised to see eggs! Their pens don't even have nest boxes yet!

Some of our older flocks are not yet producing eggs. If that continues, we will have stewing hens available for sale. Lovely stock and chicken salad from those birds!

Dogs are not allowed in the commercial kitchen. Luna does not yet understand this and asks to please let her in!

After this, she got out of the fenced area on the farm and had a bit of a run through neighbors yards. A bit of a treat and she jumped back in the truck and came home with us. Stay with us girl!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jersey double

Cows are a herd animal. Alone they are unhappy and will moo until back with another cow. A friend described an individual steer he tried to raise as "Houdini", as he was constantly escaping the fencing and gates to find other herds of cattle.

Most of our herd went to the butcher in February. We have our Jersey heifer, Sills, who stays with us. We kept back an Angus so that Silla would not be alone.

And then yesterday we took delivery of Sonya, another Jersey who is an aunt of Silla. At first the two we have were a tad wary, but in less than 12 hours they are all hanging out chewing cud and hay together.

Her transport got her a little dirty. We expect her to be clean in a day or two...precipitation from the sky cleans our herd right up.

The Angus will go to the butcher on Wednesday. Sonya is scheduled to give birth at the end of April.

Sonya is now in a state referred to as a dry cow. She is pregnant but not producing milk. The physical demands of producing a healthy calf as well as gallons of milk is just too much for the momma, so the last couple months of pregnancy she is not milked.

Silla will have her first calf about a year from now. Sonya will probably be a little later, so that between the two of them we will have a continuous supply of milk and cream.

We also use our milk cows to nurse young calves as they arrive on the farm. We are awful at botlle feeding calves, while a Jersey will allow calves not their own to nurse. Huge increase in survival for cattle we raise for beef if they have access to fresh milk during the first 3-4 months of life.

We separate the cow from the calves for the night when we need milk. In one milking there are several gallons of milk...more than the two of us need, so the vast majority go to calves.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

birthday girl

Sandi, the mean little Jack Russell, turns 12 today. I've been told that dogs that live to this age usually live longer, that 12 is an age that delineates the dogs that live to old age.

She fights with the other dogs. She attacked me a couple of weeks ago. Maybe being cranky helps a body live longer? If so, she is in for a long life.

She used to always keep her nails trimmed. Sometimes in the middle of the night we would hear her cracking away on her nails. Today they are longer than I have ever seen.

Her face and eyes look different. She does not have cataracts, but more of her face is white and she just looks a little more fragile.

We took delivery of a dry cow today. Due in about 6 weeks, Sandi will get fresh cream on her breakfast. Fresh from the grass fed cow keeps us all in good health. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


It was beautiful. And now it is not.

Chickens were moved from the brooder to the outdoors and were happy to get to grass.

Laying hens had new straw added to their nests, and began the process of winding it into a bowl shape for egg deposits.

The big branches were relocated for the beginning of a bonfire pile for fall.

And spinach with garlic from out back, potatoes and a ham slice were had for dinner.

Then wind kicked up like out of an L. Frank Baum novel. We will see the damage in the morning. From 60 degrees yesterday to 18 tomorrow morning.

And I was getting used to not feeling like I'm freezing. Another day in heavier clothes!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

vegetable shares!

Our vegetable CSA shares begin in 9 weeks!

Planting starts now.

Sunday carrots and beets went in. Hundreds of them. For each of those that germinates there is a one time harvest. One seed in, one carrot out.

Monday was pea day. Bed cleanup. Weed block. String strung. No peas in, but that happens Tuesday. 40 CSA shares, 200 climbing pea vines. Positioned so drip tape hole and seed are in the same location. Harvesting for several weeks. Fresh spring peas. Pea shoots too. Yum.

Watering, watering everywhere. Warm enough in the hoophouse for tee shirts and dripping sweat, sunhats and linen shirts.

Meanwhile the almost birthday girl did this.

And outside we had some of this:

Running water outside the hoophouse! For weeks everything has been so frozen hauling water has had to happen. Life changes when a hose will transport this precious liquid.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

we adopt ducklings in the snowiest winter

In what at best can be described as optimistic and at worst delusional, we adopted ducklings in mid-January. The family who had received these ducks quickly realized the challenges of growing baby animals out during the coldest, darkest days of the year and so offered them up *free! to us.

Of course we said yes! thank you! We love ducks.

And we do. The funny walk, the funny sounds, the massive consumption of mosquitoes and slugs. And confit?! Oh yes to ducks.

Funny thing about ducks. They about double in size every day for the first couple months of life. And these ducks did that.

Typically we can move ducklings onto the field as they grow out real feathers. Because usually we have fields. This year we have glacial type layers. Mixes of snow, ice, sleet, rain, thaw, refreezing are in nice thick layers covering the farm.

Another interesting fact about ducks is they throw up in their water. Every duck. Every day. The duck raising books will tell you that clean, fresh water is needed daily for the ducks to clear their nostrils. In our experience this means the ducks splash around in the water and make a mess. Then they drink scant amounts and regurgitate twice as much back in the water bowl. Now, I have never measured the amounts so maybe it only seems like this.

In way less than 24 hours this container of water had converted to sludge. The snow in their enclosure had been converted to wall to wall (cage to cage?) excrement.

This would be why ducks usually are not caged on our farm. And why we usually get ducklings in April. 

The factor that is unknown is how the dogs will deal with loose ducks. We know for a fact that one loves a breakfast of ducklings. It looks like a few more weeks under protection is likely to be in the best long term interest of the ducks. They need to be bigger and stronger and able to move faster to make it. 

Off to haul clean water.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

note to self

There are a few things we always need on the farm. As we transport things, close things up, hold things together we use a lot of bungees.

Today the bungee that has been holding the garden gate closed ended up in two pieces.

One piece was a dangling section on the fence.

The other piece, the plastic piece, was being guarded by this dog. She loves plastic. I mean she LOVES plastic. And is making clear just how many little bits are made of plastic here on the farm. Many of those things have s few or many hunks out of them now. Here's hoping she has a strong digestive system. 

Today when I was out working on the field, a couple of large birds flew over. Two of the four dogs ran after them, almost as fast as the birds swooped, fast enough the birds didn't land on our property. She was one of them, and the first to see them.

I'm guessing the birds were shopping for dinner and decided to keep moving.

Good dog. 

She is beautiful and busy and sweet. 

And I'm making a note to get more bungees. The ones with metal hooks. And not in a plastic container. No reason to tempt the girl.


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