Goodbye Nora

Nora was the first goat we purchased for our farm in 2013 and she has been the matriarch of our herd since. Nora went off her feed about a month ago and slowly declined from there. We called the vet and she recommended trying an injection of Vitamin B to boost her appetite, an injection of Banamine as an anti-inflammatory/fever reducer, and a probiotic to promote gut health. This treatment did not work so we tried sulfa tablets like we treated Fauna earlier this year. These treatments did not help. Her health went from bad to worse and the day after we returned from a short mini vacation she couldn’t stand on her own. She was able to get up with help and walk about a 100 yards to the barn alright. The next day was a Monday and the vet come out to do a more thorough examination of her. She gave her a few different injections and wormers to try to see if one would help. She also took a fecal sample to do a fecal egg count even though she didn’t think it was a parasite problem because I had just wormed all the goats a few weeks before. She thought she might have some sort of internal bleeding and we could only wait to see if one of the treatments would help. In the meantime I was giving her electrolytes to keep her hydrated and trying to feed her the best hay and grain to get her to eat.

While we waited for results she lost the ability to stand on her own for more than a few brief moments. Using girth straps that I use for saddling the horses we were able to rig up a system so she could “stand” and keep blood flow to her legs. During this time Trenton hurt his back so one of our neighbors and their son came out a few times a day to help me get her up and walking with assistance. On Wednesday we received the test results and the count was 4000 Strongyle per gram! That is astronomically high but knowing the parasite type allowed the vet to treat her in a more targeted manner. She prescribed two different wormers Valbazen and Prohibit (levamisole hydrochloride) Soluble Drench powder and to treat the whole herd with them. We did so right away and over the next few days her appetite increased and she was able to stand for longer on her own and to walk easier with a little less support.

I think a combination of high temperatures and not enough rain has made for a high parasite year. Pasture goats have a tendency towards higher parasite levels and as I learned after our third year of having goats the parasites will also become resistant to the wormer we use. Generally rotating wormers will prevent parasite problems. I rotate Safeguard which has 10%  Fenbendazole, Ivermectin, and pumpkin pulp and seeds as a natural wormer. Our system has worked well for the last several years and we have had no problem with parasites. Apparently not this year!

The increase of parasites this year did not seem to have any effect on the other goats. It could be a combination of age, higher susceptibility, or a different underlying health issue but Nora was hit hard. After treating her we were hopeful that she would get better because she was eating, drinking, trying to get up on her own, and walking under her own power, mostly. The vet recommended giving her a solid week to build her strength and see if she would be able to get up on her own. She was improving all week but after about a week and a half she suddenly took a turn for the worse and her appetite went back down. Overnight she took on a gaunt look and the next day we decided it was time to put her down.

It was an incredibly sad day. She was our lead goat and the other goats are a little lost without her. We had a lot of good memories with her and I’m glad for the time she was here.

Here’s a little poem for Nora. We’re going to miss our leading lady on our little farm.

Nora

The Boss Lady

Lover of chicken feed, apples, and bread.

Mother to all kids, goats or human kind.

Enjoyer of a good head scratch.

Hater of cats.

The Boss Lady

Will be missed.

Nora giving little 2 year old Fiona a goat ride. (No idea why she had a toy plastic hammer in her hand)

Fauna

On our 5 acre hobby farm we have two milking goats, Nora and Fauna. Nora is the first goat we bought and has been our more stable albeit noisier goat. We bought Fauna about a month after Nora and she is our roller coaster goat with far more ups and downs.

She is an 8 year old Nubian/Oberhasli cross that we bought when she was about 4 months old. Over the almost 8 years that she has been on our farm she has had 7 batches of kids. While dying is a part of farm life her kids do have a slightly higher mortality rate than Nora’s do. I took a quick look through the farm records and here is what I found out about Fauna:

  • Has given birth 7 times.
  • 4 sets of twins.
  • 3 sets of triplets.
  • Total of 17 kids.
  • 2 kid deaths.
  • 6 kids that I have had to take into the house to warm up.
  • 1 bottle baby.

Fauna is a great milk producer but temperament wise she is a prickly lady. This spring kidding season has been difficult for her and me. She had triplets again this year, two bucks and one little doe. Fauna was not letting her kids eat at first and we actually had to hold her this year which was a first. She also tried to headbutt me while I held her which has also never happened before. For the first few days we would check on them every few hours and hold Fauna so the kids could eat. After that she started to let them eat just fine. There is usually one kid she semi rejects that I have to bring in the house to warm up whether she has twins or triplets. The doe kid is the one she’s not favoring this year and we had to bring her into the house a few times to warm her up and get some colostrum in her.

Unfortunately when the kids were about a week and a half old we noticed that the little doe was looking bony and dehydrated. My son Lucian and I started to hold one of the bucks so she had an opportunity to eat but that didn’t seem to be enough for her. I had milk left over in the freezer that I thawed out so I could bottle feed her at least twice a day. Fauna didn’t completely reject her but she wasn’t looking out for her either. I used up our store of frozen milk after about three weeks.

Now I have been milk sharing from Nora to feed Fauna’s kid. Milk sharing is when you separate a lactating mother from her kids for a short time so you are able to milk her but her kids are still able to feed from her for the rest of the day. Nora’s kids are only 4 days older than Fauna’s kids but they are almost twice the size. I have been putting Nora into a different pen at night, milking her in the morning then letting her out to pasture with her kids during the day. She makes enough milk to feed the little doe, whom Lucian named Fantasy, about 10 oz. morning and night with a little left over to save for the days I have to work early and don’t have as much time for chores.

I have to say milking then bottle feeding has been a little more labor and time intensive than I would like. Also Fauna’s attitude has been deplorable this spring. Her kids are now 6 weeks old and I am just now starting to be able to let my own kids around her. She has been trying to headbutt them every time they walk by her pen. Penelope is two and for some reason she seems to be the one Fauna aims at the most. She also tried to headbutt at me when we were first getting her kids to nurse which is an attitude I do not appreciate. Her disposition has steadily been declining over the last few years and while we have had her for eight years this is still a working farm and it is time to cull her.

We have come up with a plan that I think will work well for us. We plan to sell all the kids except little Fantasy and one of Fauna’s buck kids. We will also be selling Fauna as soon as we wean her kids. I am a little sad to see her go but she is starting to become a hazard to my children so it is time for her to find a new home. The plan is to use the buck kid to breed Nora one last time in the fall as they are not related in the slightest. Then we will sell him in December before Christmas. Hopefully Nora will have a doe next year because I really want to keep her line going on our little hobby farm.

Easter Kids

Our little farm has two dairy goats that we have had since a few months after we bought our property in May of 2012. We bought Nora a two year old Alpine Oberhasli cross in August of 2012 and Fauna a 3 month old Nubian Oberhasli cross in September of 2012. Before purchasing Nora I had no experience with dairy goats. Dairy cows yes, but goats NO. I soon learned that while the milk comes out the same way they are not the same. Goats require a whole different mindset when it comes to feeding, fencing, and socializing.

Nora is the first goat I have ever had and over the last nine years she has consistently had her kids close to Easter. This year she had her kids on Easter which made a nice Easter present for us. She was acting restless earlier that morning. She would walk to the far end of the pasture paw at the ground for a while before pacing back to the other side of the pasture where the shed is. She did this for a little while before the two yearling goats we wintered here started to bother her. I put her in a different pasture where she immediate found a shady secluded spot to settle in. When I brought her a bucket of water a little while later she had already given birth to one baby. Lucian and I watched her and the new baby for a little while before we gave her some space.

When we checked on her a short time later she had two babies. One was standing and the other was still wet and resting on the ground. I’m glad she picked one of the few days we’ve had where it wasn’t raining, the sun was shining, and the wind wasn’t blowing. I left them out in the sunshine for a few hours before we brought them into the barn. I like to keep the new babies with their mothers in a stall for at least a week so they have bonding time. This ensures they are nursing well before they get outside and start wondering. I have also been keeping a heat lamp on them at night and during cold, wet days. I have started to put them outside when the days are nice, which is rarely. I put them into our buck/weaning pen which is a 10 X 30 foot pen that has pig panel sides. The small squares mostly keep the kids contained. (Baby goats are escape artists!) They really enjoyed playing out in the weaning pen during their first day out. Nora was definitely ready to get outside too!

First day outside for Nora’s kids!

This year Nora had two bucklings again. I was really hoping for a doe from her to continue her bloodline. She isn’t getting any younger and Franky was a great Toggenburg mixed buck. Oh well, hopefully she will throw a doe next year. Nora is a great mother and takes the best care of her kids. I never have to worry about them because I know she’s got it all in hand. Fauna is a different story altogether but she is a story for a different post.

A Sapping We Will Go

The end of February was so cold that the very idea of spring was driven from our minds. Then it began to brighten and warm up during the day and all of a sudden it was time to tap the maple trees. The days were warm and the nights were cold which makes for perfect weather to get the sap flowing in the trees.

I love sapping season. The warmth of spring is finally in the air and the cold chill of winter is working it’s way out. Another great aspect of sapping season is the exercise it takes to traipse around the woods each day carrying buckets of watery sap. Smelling the damp woodsy smell and sloshing through the cold creek on our property with the kids is a great spring past time.

This year we tapped about 20 maple trees and over three weeks of sapping we gathered roughly 160 gallons of sap. We made syrup in three batches this year. It’s a long process to cook down the sap so we decided to have cooking weekends. It worked out pretty well and we were able to keep the sap cool while we waited for our cooking day.

Cooking it Down

For each batch we spent about a day and a half boiling it outside in the sap boiler. Our system is not the most efficient but it works much better than doing it in the house like we did the first two years we decided to make syrup. It is basically a modified wood stove with a giant pan on top. The pan holds 35 gallons. The reason each batch took so long to cook down was that after the sap had boiled down a ways we would add another bucket to it. This cooled the boiling sap down so it had to heat back up. This may not be the best practice when boiling sap but for our first batch we had 65 gallons of sap that needed to be cooked down. Sap will go bad just like anything else and the shorter it sits the better

Each weekend for the last three weeks we boiled sap to make maple syrup. We cooked it outside in the boiler until it was close to the right consistency then we brought it into the house to finish it up. Last year we invested in a hydrometer, which measures the density of a liquid, this measuring tool cut all the guess work out of syrup making. Before buying this tool we would usually have syrup that was too runny or accidently make maple candy which is delicious but not what we are after.

Maple Syrup Yields for 2021:

65 gallons of sap = 14 pints of syrup

45 gallons of sap = 9 pints of syrup

50 gallons of sap = 10 pints of syrup

Total:

160 gallons of sap = 4 gallons and 1 pint of pure Maple Syrup!

We made more maple syrup this year than in previous years. We did notice a definite color variation in our last batch of syrup. This was because we collected later in the season when the maple trees were starting to bud out and the weather was warmer. We have been enjoying the syrup on our pancakes and waffles and we have also been finding different recipes to cook with maple syrup. I recently found a pumpkin/maple muffin recipe with maple frosting that is amazing! There will be plenty of jars of sweet maple syrup to go into Christmas baskets this year.

Our three batches of maple syrup this year. The third and last batch is a much darker color.

It’s Warmer in the Freezer

The weather this past week has been cold, cold, cold. It has been colder than average all over the country but here in Wisconsin its warmer in my freezer than it is outside. The average freezer temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below. The last two mornings have dawned a steady -35 F. Its both interesting and depressing to think that my freezer is 30 to 35 degrees warmer than it is outside right now. Keep in mind that is just the air temperature not including the wind chill factor. With weather this cold we are doing our best to keep inside most of the day except when we have to check on the animals or fill the fire for our outdoor wood boiler system.

In The Barn

Usually I let the goats outside everyday so they can enjoy the sunshine but with it this cold they are staying inside out of the wind. There is no heat in my barn but being out of the wind is crucial to the health of our livestock. The goats have been snuggling with each other to share body heat and I have been giving them extra feed to keep their energy up while their bodies work to keep warm. I also bedded down each stall with fresh straw so they are dry and can cozy down in their bedding.

The horses have a lean-to off the side of the barn that they can go in and out of through two regular sized doors. With the extra cold weather I shut the door facing the field to cut down the drafts through both the lean-to and the barn. While it has been this cold the horses have been getting snow packed hooves. This is when snow and ice build up in their hooves and instead of walking flat on their feet they are walking around on snowballs. This can occur when the snow is extra packy, their hooves are a little long, or it’s so cold that the snow is not melting from the bottom of their feet. Jack and Melody have been walking on snowballs every morning with this cold and every morning I’ve been having to chip ice and snow out of their feet. Not a fun chore when you can’t feel your fingers but it is bad for their feet and ankles to be walking around on snowy points.

The chickens are feeling the cold the most I believe. I had two of my hens die this last week. I believe one was egg bound and I think the other was an older hen that was not handling the harsh weather well. It has been a bit challenging to keep them hydrated when the water has a thin layer of ice over it about 5 minutes after I fill their dish. It is possible that she was moving slower than the other birds and she became dehydrated. It can be hard to tell with chickens sometimes what the problem is especially when I have a few older girls. We have not been getting many eggs lately mainly because by the time we get to them they are frozen and cracked.

The ducks are taking advantage of the heat lamp in their house. They are in their own space so they are the only animals that have extra heat. With only two ducks they would never be able to generate enough body heat to survive this frigid weather. The barn kitties have found the heated well pit and have been cozy in there. I did have to give Yowler a talking to because he was cranky that I had to cover his hole back up a bit. The cats wriggle into the pit through the gap between the pit sides and the lid which is fine until the hoses freeze, then not so fine.

The cold snap is almost over an all the animals in the barn are holding steady. We’re hoping for warmer weather soon because kidding season is just around the corner and it would be dangerous to have baby goats born in this cold.

In The House

Everything breaks when the weather is this cold. Metal becomes brittle and plastic is as fragile as glass. The pump on our woodstove broke during the deep freeze and Trenton had to race to collect a new one. He really had to work fast to get it fixed before the lines froze, the wood boiler overheated, and the house cooled down more than it already had. The house was down to 57 by the time he was able to fix it. I had the kids (who were also sick with a stomach bug) snuggled in our room with a space heater going. He was able to run to Menards, change out the pump, and get everything turned back on in about two hours. Thank goodness for my handy man. The kids have been staying inside while it’s this cold and resting so they feel better by the time it’s warm enough to play in the sun.

A Little Update

The morning started out at -32 at 5:00 am it is now 3 ABOVE at 4:00 pm and it feels amazing.

Wrap-Up 2020

This year has been an interesting year to say the least. Our little farm has been through a few ups and downs over this last year. Although going through a pandemic has made life a little different for us humans for the most part the animals don’t care. It is interesting to look back on the year to see what we have accomplished (or not) and put it into a list.

Farm in General

This year was our year of big improvements. Here is a quick list of our big projects:

Kids

Our kids have grow quite a bit over the last year and although they missed out on a few of our regular activities they have been handling pandemic changes with the grace of children. Lucian is 6 and this year he learned how to milk our goat Nora, improved his reading, learned how to shoot a bow, and is learning how to skate. Fiona is 4 and this year she started pre-K, mastered her colors, and mastered potty-training. Penelope is getting closer to 2 and this year she learned how to walk, run, talk, mastered the word “No”, and learned the joy of coloring. They enjoyed our trip to Washburn to play by Lake Superior and visit their Aunty Jessica while we picked up round bales of hay for the horses.

Horses

This year I was able to ride my horse almost every weekend June-August which was GREAT! I was hardly able to go riding at all last year and I missed it quite a bit. We worked with our new horse, Melody, and learned much more about her personality. We also discovered that Jack, my 24 year old Appaloosa, has developed a heart murmur which makes it hard for him to maintain his weight. (Check out Jackson) In early August we had a hot week and Jack dropped a lot of weight which is why I stopped riding him for a while. He is back up to his normal weight now and I’m looking forward to riding in the spring when it isn’t freezing outside.

Goats

This year between our two does we had a total of 5 goat kids. There were 3 bucks and 2 does. (Check out Almost Easter Kids) All the bucklings were sold when they were between 8-12 weeks old. The two doelings are still here at the farm waiting for their new home. I made a lot of fresh goat cheese which is delicious when spread on crackers. I was having trouble making other types of cheeses this year and will be investing in new cheese making supplies next year. Our son Lucian learned how to milk Nora and was an amazing helper. We decided it was time to sell our buck, Franky, a Toggenburg/Alpine cross. He was still friendly towards us but he was getting very destructive to our barn and fences. After Trenton had to rebuild his house for the second time we decided to sell him in December after we were done breeding. He was Lucian’s goat so he got his first ever pay check from the sale barn (minus trucking costs). Franky was 130 Ibs and he would have sold for $187.50 but he was a handsome fellow so he was bid on and sold for $243.75. It was more than we expected and too much fun money for an almost 7 year old so we put half of it in his savings account and he wants to buy a deer target for shooting his arrows into with the rest.

Poultry

This year we incubated a batch of eggs at home due to the stay-at-home act. (Check out Easter Chicks) I usually hatch eggs at the school I substitute for as a 4th grade science project but things were a little different this year. We started with 37 eggs and I took 7 out that were either infertile or had stopped developing and 22 hatched but 1 died soon after hatching. Out of the 21 chicks 11 of them were roosters which I sold for $1 a chick when they were old enough to spot their combs. This may not have been the best homesteading practice but I didn’t want to butcher chickens this year. This fall our egg production was booming with the new pullets and my sister, who manages a golf clubhouse, sold about 4-6 dozen eggs a week from August-October. We had a few older hens die or were eaten by the fox who hangs around so our flock is holding at about 20 hens and 1 rooster.

We also added two ducks to the farm. We have tried ducks before and found them to be very messy and loud but we think 2 ducks instead of 10 is better. They are Welsh Harlequin ducks and we purchased one hen and one drake. The hen laid almost an egg a day between October and the beginning of December. I like having the duck eggs for baking and I have been baking an awful lot of pumpkin bread lately.

Pigs

We bought two piglets from my dad in March and butchered them in October. We sold one pig to my sister to pay for our processing costs and the other is in our freezer. It is nice to have pigs while we are milking goats because there is no waste from dumped milk or whey from cheesemaking.

Dogs

We lost our old guy Harley this March. He was a Lab/Rottweiler mix of some sort that came to us in 2012. Before that he was an acquaintance’s dog and before that he was in the humane society. He was somewhere between 13-15 years old. His passing was hard for us, especially the kids, and we miss him. Our other dog, Piper, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie/German Shepherd mix, did not handle it well. She was very depressed and was not adjusting well. After about two months of her depression we brought home a puppy. Phoebe is a Lab mix of some sort and just like a Lab puppy she chews on everything. Piper is no longer depressed and back to being her helpful herding self. She is excellent at herding the goats and is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had.

Garden

Our garden was much more productive this year. I experimented with a different garden layout that didn’t necessary work out well. (Check out Jungle Garden) I canned two flats of 1/4 pint jars of tomato jam, which I had never tried to make before. I like it but I think I’m the only one. It was a good use for the cherry tomatoes when they were getting out of hand because I put all types of tomatoes in the blender and cooked them into jam. I also made a few big batches of tomato sauce and roasted tomato ravioli which is a summer favorite of mine. I was looking forward to one more batch of tomato sauce but the goats broke into the garden and demolished the last of it. I was not very happy with goats for a while.

Our pumpkin plants were huge this year and yielded a bumper crop of nice pie pumpkins. We cooked down and froze about 40 cups of pumpkin to be used for pies, bread, and soups this winter. We also cooked down roughly 10 cups of squash and froze about 15 quart size bags of green beans. I also experimented with canning dilly beans and pickled radishes this year. I like the dilly beans but do not like the radishes. I’m going to have to find someone who does. We missed out on apple picking this year so I only made about 6 half pint jars of apple butter.

Maple Syrup

This year was a much better year for syrup for us. (Check out Cooking Sap) Last year Penelope was a newborn and I wasn’t up to hauling her through the woods and Trenton wasn’t feeling too ambitious due to lack of sleep. This year we were able to cook down about 1 1/2 gallons of Maple syrup. It was enough for our family for the year and a little to spare for Christmas baskets. We will be syruping in March again and I look forward to early spring walks to collect sap.

Overall

This year has been a great year because we accomplished so much that we haven’t been able to get to in previous years. I have worked more in schools this year then I ever have. I have taken on three long-term substituting positions this year alone from February to April I taught Kindergarten, from August to October I taught 4K, and from November to March I am teaching middle school English/Language Arts. No matter how busy we are we are glad to have our farm which offers us stability and food for our family.

Improvements On the Farm

This year has been a year of working on home improvement projects that have fallen behind. It feels so good to finally be accomplishing a few goals from previous years that we hadn’t gotten to yet.

House Roof

Two years ago we had a bad ice dam over Fiona’s room which caused damage to the outside wall of her room. Our homeowners insurance covered the repairs to the room but not the roof. The construction company that fixed the room told us we needed a new roof.

We went from shingles to tin.

At the time that was not possible, so every time it snowed Trenton would head up there and shovel the roof off so we didn’t have another ice dam. In northern Wisconsin we get a lot of snow so he would climb the ladder about once a week to shovel. Last year he slipped on an icy spot and almost slipped off the roof. I had to shimmy up there to toss him a rope which I looped off the chimney so he could get off the ice he was on without sliding off the roof. We decided that this year the roof was getting done.

Thankfully interest rates are low right now and we were able to refinance with a lower interest rate. Since we were switching over from shingles to tin we decided that we could do a roof over. The construction company framed over the roof and we also had them build eves over the sections that did not have any overhang previously. The tin came in and they started laying it out while the kids watched their every move. They were completely fascinated by the work going on. It took them about two weeks to finish the roof but it looks great! As a bonus they vented out the attic better so it is now actually usable space. We have been reorganizing the house and I look forward to my new attic office space, the girls will be moving in together soon, and Lucian will have his own room.

Bathroom

Sliding Barn Door

We have been remodeling our bathroom for two years now! I finally made an executive decision to have the same construction company work on our bathroom. Trenton is very handy but we both discovered that bathroom work is over our head. The crew came in and put the sub flooring in, laid vinyl, refitted the toilet, installed the tub and shower surround, put drywall in, taped and mudded, and hung the new door. They also shimmied into the crawl space to find out how the exhaust fan above the shower was vented. Apparently it was vented into the attic space above our room which is very bad. They cut a whole into the roof so they could vent it out properly. That leaves us with paint, putting up wainscoting, and trim. Skills we can handle. We have been sanding and coating poly on trim for the last few days. The walls are primed and painted. It is inching closer to being done and I am so excited to see the room finally progressing.

Barn Roof

Finally!! We have had the tin for this project for four years now. I asked my cousin Jake to come out and help Trenton put the tin on the roof labor day weekend but that didn’t quiet work out. Jake went to help a stray cat out of the road and it sank it’s teeth into his right hand. Cat bites are worse than dog bites and his hand swelled up and turned red. He needed a few weeks healing time which gave Trenton time to put roof jacks up, get ladders set and get all the materials ready to go. Jake came out Friday afternoon and Aunt Candy watched the girls while Lucian and I were at school so they could get it done. Only the top tier of the barn needed to be done so they were able to finish it by dinner time. It was very high up and the new tin was pretty slippery so I am thankful for a cousin who will help out with big projects for the price of fish fry and a few pumpkins.

This year has been great for wrapping up big projects that needed to get done. I’m looking forward to the next big rain so I can watch rain slide off the roofs instead of through them!

Now it’s time to work on pumpkins for the fall!

School In 2020

I know the main conversation topic this year has been COVID-19 and so far I have been swerving away from that topic because of several reasons.

  1. It is controversial- Everyone has a strong opinion and wants it to be heard.
  2. It is the most talked about subject right now and I occasionally want to hear about something else.
  3. There is so much information and misinformation circulating that it is hard to differentiate fact from fiction.

School is one topic that includes COVID-19 talk because it involves small children sharing their germs together. School children have always been good at sharing their germs but this year the germs have morphed into a more serious problem.

Using Lucky Charms to learn about graphing.

This March we suddenly became homeschoolers and it was an interesting experience. Lucian wavered between liking school at home and not. He liked being able to finish most of his work by lunch time which left his afternoons free and clear. He did not like having to do the work to begin with because he wanted home to be home and school to be school. I still worked half the week which left Trenton in charge of 2-3 days of school depending on the week. He discovered he does not have the patience to be a teacher and according to Lucian, “Mommy didn’t give Daddy good enough directions which made him frustrated.”

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems was a big hit this spring.

I liked homeschooling but I only made up half the week. This year our school age children are 3 and 6 which is a completely hands on age group. Also this year I have been getting more requests to teach in school in various capacities so I may not even be able to devote half the week to homeschooling.

This year my sisters and our families got together to discuss our plans for the upcoming school year. We each prepared a list of pros and cons to discuss before we each made our own decisions. Here’s an abbreviated list:

Pros for attending school:

  1. Teacher led instruction may be more effective.
  2. Separation of siblings/grade levels will be less distracting.
  3. Available resources for interventions (math, reading, speech, etc…)
  4. Socializing with peers and other adults.
  5. Parental sanity. (We love our children but a little space is nice.)

Cons for attending school:

  1. Health concerns due to higher risk of exposure.
  2. Safety concerns with identifying parents in masks.
  3. Developing anxiety from constant reminders to: put mask on, wash hands, social distance, etc…..
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These items are just a few on our collective lists. Our discussion went back and forth for and against. Good points, bad, and a whole lot of I don’t really knows. There are no right or wrong answers this year and both the school systems and families are going to have to be flexible.

Out of our three families we ended up with one for school, one for remote learning, and one still undecided.

The Jungle Garden

This year I decided to experiment with optimizing my space in the garden. Rather than having wide rows that our big 26″ rear tine rototiller could fit down I planted my vegetables closer together to maximize our small garden space.

I have two vegetable gardens this year. One is about 4 ft. by 8 ft. and the other is about 5 ft. by 10 ft. and the pumpkin/squash patch is in our big garden this year. My idea was to plant short rows close together and hoe them regularly rather than run the rototiller every time the weeds started to take over. I thought shorter rows would be easier to manage than longer ones and with closer rows I could still plant as many vegetables as I usually do but in a smaller space.

Discoveries I made this year:

The Tomato Jungle
  • Shorter rows are easier to manage.
  • Closer together rows work well for some plants.
    • Radishes, onions, lettuce, peppers, and corn worked well to have the rows closer together. I planted 4 short onion rows and two radish rows about 6″ apart which worked out great because the plants don’t take up much space. I planted my lettuce about 8″ apart and my corn rows about 10″ apart. Having short 4 or 5 foot rows makes it easy to access the plants.
  • Closer rows DO NOT work well for some plants.
    • Mainly my tomatoes. This year seems to be a great year for my tomato plants because I have two sun sugar cherry tomatoes that are almost as tall as my sweet corn. The tomatoes have taken over the whole middle of one of my gardens and I have no idea how I am going to harvest the tomatoes when they ripen. I planted them in short rows about a foot apart and they have turned my garden into a jungle.
  • I inter spaced my corn with snap peas. Every two corn seed I planted a pea seed. The idea was to have my peas climb the corn stalks and use them as support. This would have worked out perfectly except my peas grew faster than my corn. I am planning to keep this planting arrangement next year but the corn needs about two weeks in the ground before I plant peas.

Overall our harvest has been great this year compared to last. I have been picking zucchini, summer squash, lettuce, kale, green beans, and peas. I have been enjoying the best vegetable stir fries from my own garden. My cherry tomatoes are almost ripe and I have peppers coming in. Soon we will have a ton of sweet corn. I’m going to be freezing green beans this weekend and I might even try a recipe to pickle a few.

For the most part I am happy with the garden this year but I am baffled about how I am going to brave my tomato jungle to harvest them. I really want tomato sauce and I have an awesome recipe for spiced tomato jelly from one of my book club ladies. It’s going to be a challenge but I am looking forward to the produce.

Jackson

My horse Jack AKA: Jackson or Jackass depending on the situation, is getting up there in age. He turned 24 in March and for the last two years he has been getting a little touchy with his health. Seeing him struggle a bit has me feeling a little nostalgic so I’m going to share a few memories of my brown eyed handsome man.

Jack, Lucian and I in 2015

My parents own a dairy farm and although all of us girls wanted a horse the right one never came along. Until one day we came home and a colt was waiting for us in the heifer barn. My great uncle John bought him from a horse jockey and dropped him off. Jack was about 9 months to a year old when he came to us. He was a playful colt and liked to pull my sister’s hair, pick the cats up by their tails, and throw his jolly ball around. We couldn’t pasture him in with the cows because Jack hates cows. He would chase them around until they broke through the fences so Jack was by himself.

Jack 2020

Although we loved horses we knew nothing about training one. When he was about 2 1/2 “riding” lessons started. Jack became somewhat of our local bucking bronco for friends and relatives to try their hand at. He had this habit of rearing really high until his rider tumbled backwards. I remember all the rodeos we had in his pasture and shake my head now. It is not how you train a horse but I know better now.

Around the same time a neighbor’s mare showed up and she ended up staying. Thankfully Isabel was trained to ride and she became the first horse I rode on a regular basis but we never really liked each other. We tolerated each other. So one horse turned into two, then three, then four, and soon we had five horses. Jack was turned into a gelding when he was nine and there are many days where he still has the temperament of a stallion.

He was nine when I left for collage in Montana. I met a great couple there who took me under their wing and taught me about horses, their behavior, and how to work with them. A year later we took a road trip and brought Jack to Montana. I boarded him at my friends house for the next three years while they helped me train him. We had a lot of adventures while we were there and Jack turned into a great trail horse (mostly). He rarely spooked even when we kicked up Mule deer and ran across rattle snakes. He would go up and down ditches and step over logs without trying to jump over them. We had a great few years there before we moved back to Wisconsin.

Blaze and Goliath

Back home to the north woods of Wisconsin Jack met back up with his fist love, Miss Isabel. Isabel and two of Jack’s sons, Goliath and Blaze, still lived at my parent’s farm. While I lived there I worked with them on ground work and was able to sell Blaze to a lovely girl. She was one of the flag girls in the Spooner Rodeo a year later and I was so happy to watch them gallop around the arena. Jack and I spent many hours exploring the various logging trails in the area. He impressed me a few times with his ability to gingerly step over various brush and logs that most horses would balk at or freak out about. Not to say he was always good. Half the time I had to fight him for every inch of ground to leave his darling Isabel behind. Jack has a tendency to be stubborn and tries to muscle his way in whichever direction he wants to go.

Jack has been at our hobby farm since 2012 when we bought it. Until last year his only pasture pals have been the goats which he pretends aren’t there. He doesn’t bother them, like cows, but he doesn’t like their company either. I think he has been happier or at least more engaged since we brought Melody home last year. Unfortunately he has been more difficult to work with because she is here and he feels the need to show off for her and act like a 5 year old stallion some days. He’s been getting better now that my sister has been riding with me and it is nice to go out with someone again. Jack and I have only been having solo adventures for the last 10 years now.

His health has been in a slow but steady decline for the last 3 years. It started with a gum problem that made it hard for him to eat. After we were able to heal this problem arthritis in his joints made riding a bit more difficult. His arthritis is easily managed with exercise and bute (phenylbutazone) which is a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory before and sometimes after a ride depending on how far we travel. He has also become increasingly picky with his water which causes him to become dehydrated. For the last two springs he has been getting mites from somewhere which we treat with ultra boss, a pour-on insecticide for livestock. This year during his spring vet check I was told he has developed a heart murmur. Weight retention will be harder and he may start to tire faster. If he starts to tire easily our riding days will be over.

Keeping weight on him this summer has already been a little challenging. I think the hot, hot week we had a while ago was really hard on him and he definitely slimmed down in a short amount of time.

I hope we have several years of riding adventures left but he has always been better with kids than adults and will continue to be a great teacher for my kids.

Jack and I have been together for 23 years. There are many adventures, arguments, happy moments, and pissed off ones (on both sides) in those years. He is a hard animal to get along with but he’s mine and I love him.