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.

Selling Goat Kids

Goat kids are the cutest animals I have come across and I love to snuggle them and watch them play. I would love to keep them all but I can’t. Sometimes this can be a hard concept for the kids and myself on occasion, but it is a reality of farm life. We cannot keep every animal on the farm. Each year we sell the kids from our goats Nora and Fauna.

We sold one of our goat kids this weekend and my son and I had to discuss all the reasons why we sell the baby goats.

  1. We would be overrun with goats if we kept them all.
    • I decided it would be fun to do a little goat math to see exactly how many goats we would have if we kept them all. We have had the 2 does for 7 years and on average they each have 2 babies a year. So 4 babies a year times 7 years equals 28 goat kids. Add the two nannies and the buck and we would have a herd of 31 goats by now!
  2. There is not enough pasture to feed them all.
    • Before the addition of another horse our grass was able to maintain one horse and three goats. That’s it. Our soil is sandy and does not grow thick enough to maintain too many animals. I could feed hay year round but that would be super expensive.
  3. It costs money to buy hay for them.
    • I have to buy hay for the winter. The sale of the goat kids pays for their hay for the year. In order to keep the goats I have to have revenue coming in to pay for them which is where the sale of the kids comes in.
  4. Too Many Goats!
    • I like having goats but when we occasionally decide to keep a doe kid for longer I realize I like having two goats and only two. When we have more they seem to get into trouble and cause havoc to my fences and garden. I’m not sure why one extra goat is a catalyst to trouble making but it is.

I do enjoy having the baby goats but after they are a few months old I am ready to see them go to new homes. Lucian is my sensitive child and he still gets upset when the baby goats leave. Fiona waved goodbye after we loaded the buckling into the buyer’s truck and she was good to go. We still have two bucklings left and I hope they will sell this weekend. Fingers crossed that I find a buyer.

Using Goat Milk

On our small hobby farm we have two milking goats, Nora and Fauna. When we first started our small herd we did not realize how much milk one little goat can produce. Nora is our best milker and in the summer she will produce roughly a gallon of milk a day. If we are milking both goats that is 2 gallons a day which turns out to be about 12-14 gallons of raw milk a week. What in the world do I do with all that milk?

A few ways to use goat milk:

  1. Drink It- If I were a good homesteader I would drink the goat milk but to be honest I don’t like the taste. When I milk hot, sweaty goats I smell hot sweaty goats. Cooling the milk fast helps to mellow the goaty flavor but when I drink the goat milk I taste hot, sweaty goat. No, Thank You!
  2. Bake- Although I do not like to drink the goat milk I bake with it or use it to make creamy soups. The goaty flavor that I taste when I drink the milk does not transfer into other foods when I use it to bake with.
  3. Make Cheese- Making cheese is a great way to use large quantities of milk. There are many different types of goat milk cheeses that are absolutely delicious. My favorite is a spreadable cheese that is delicious on crackers.
  4. Make Soap- I can make a large amount of soap with only a little goat’s milk so making soap does not use up great quantities of goat milk but it is one of the nicest benefits to keeping goats.
  5. Freeze it For Later- There are some days in the summer where it is too hot to make cheese or I’m too tired at the end of the day so I freeze the milk for a later day. The milk will stay good in my freezer for about a year which gives me time to process it or sell it to other soap makers.
  6. Feed it to the Pigs- This may sound wasteful but it really isn’t. The goat milk helps my pigs put on weight faster and saves me a little on the cost of feed. I make sure I raise pigs at the same time I am milking goats because occasionally a goat will put her foot in the bucket and I don’t want to waste the milk. Also the pigs love whey which is a byproduct of making cheese.
Fiona adding dandelions to Nora’s collar

Milk Sharing

Milk sharing is when you separate the goat kids from their mother, usually overnight, and milk once a day while the kids nurse the other portion of the day. Last year Penelope was a newborn and it was the first time I tried milk sharing. I loved having the option to only milk once a day. Usually we wean kids off in the early summer and sell them in June but last year we shared milk with Fauna’s kid and sold her in the fall. I was worried we would get a lower price for her because we were selling her out of season but the price we received for her was competitive with previous years.

This year we are milking more regularly with Nora. She had two bucklings and we are getting ready to sell them so they will need to be fully weaned before they can go to new homes. She is being milked twice a day now and we have a nice amount of milk coming in without it being overwhelming.

Our other nanny had triplets, two does and one buck. We are milk sharing with her because my aunt is planning to buy her doe kids in the fall. Her kids are three weeks younger than Nora’s so we have just begun milk sharing with her. Soon we will wean off her little buckling and continue milk sharing with the two does. Milk sharing will help her kids grow bigger through the summer than they would on just a grass diet and it will bring our influx of milk down to a manageable amount.

Milk, Milk, and More Milk!

I have been milking goats, making cheese, baking, and freezing milk for the last few weeks and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer!

Enjoy a Little Spreadable Cheese

1/2 gallon goat milk warmed to room temperature

1/2 cup lemon juice

Salt

Warm the goat milk to room temperature and add lemon juice. Stir until curd forms and whey starts to turn yellowish. Strain through cheesecloth or butter muslin. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and add salt to taste. If the cheese seems too dry add a bit of goat’s milk until it is the desired consistency. I like to add fresh chopped chives and sweet basil to my cheese spread. Keep refrigerated.

Into the Gardens

The gardens are finally growing nicely and even though our growing season is just getting started we have been busy. This year we have two small vegetable gardens, one pumpkin/squash patch, an herb garden, and a new wildflower patch. The goal for this year is to do better with the gardens. Last year we let the gardens slide a bit but this year we have really been working to keep up with them.

Vegetable Gardens

This year we rotated the majority of our vegetables from our large garden to two smaller, newer gardens. Instead of planting widely spaced rows for the rototiller to go down we planted shorter narrower rows. My goal is to keep the weeds down without having to entirely break the soil up. I was also going to mulch the garden but I’ve been able to keep up with the weeds by just hoeing the rows on a more regular basis. I have found it is easier to manage when the rows are shorter and the gardens are smaller.

The biggest drawback to closer rows is that it is harder for the kids to help in the garden without stepping on plants. The simplest solution I found to this problem was to give the kids the pumpkin patch as their garden. The two small vegetable gardens are mine and the pumpkin patch is theirs. This has been working out great because it is hard to damage a pumpkin plant, they are easily identifiable from the weeds, and there is plenty of room for the kids to work without trampling delicate plants.

Lucian also has a small “garden” of tomatoes that he has been taking care of. We grew our own starter plants this year and ended up with more tomatoes than I had room for. We planted our tomatoes then put some in at my mother-in-law’s and we still had half a dozen plants left over. Lucian wanted to plant them around the outside of his sand pit so he took all the extra plants into his care. I helped him put cages around them so when his cousins visit his tomatoes aren’t squished but other than that he’s been farming his own garden.

We are working to get fences up around the gardens so we can start letting the chickens out again now that our spring fox has moved on. I have three reasons for needing fencing around my small gardens.

Our new Welsh Harlequin ducks.
  1. To keep the goats out! I do not have a deer problem I have a goat problem. Goats love broccoli!
  2. To keep the chickens out. Free range chickens are nice to keep the bugs and ticks down but they will also decimate my garden if they are allowed to get into it.
  3. To keep the ducks in. Ducks will eat the slugs and potato bugs that chickens won’t. If I put the ducks in the garden for an hour or two at a time they will keep the bugs down without destroying the plants.

Herb Garden

Row of Calendula

I have been adding all kinds of plants to my herb garden this year. The new plants that I have finished putting in are calendula, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, oregano, rosemary, and basil. I am also going to move the comfrey out of my herb garden because it gets too big and falls over onto the other plants and crushes them. The bees and butterflies enjoy this plant which is good but it is right next to my deck and I’d rather Penelope not try to grab a buzzing bumble bee through the deck rails. I’m going to put it behind the garage where it will still feed the bees but won’t destroy my other plants.

The biggest challenge of my herb garden is keeping the grass out. I could mulch it which would help but I like to let the chamomile and borage reseed themselves. That way I don’t have to replant it every year I only have to weed around the new plants as they pop up in early spring.

Wildflower Patch

Fiona wanted flowers and so we planted flowers. Trenton tilled one swipe with the rototiller to break ground in the yard in front of our screen porch and Fiona and I spread a few packets of wildflower seeds. We also planted a little of everything else I had lying around. It became a patch of fresh earth to dump all the old flower seeds in. I am very surprised by how well they are growing. I have no idea what all the plants are but there are a lot of them. I weeded out the grass for the first time yesterday and got a look at all the different types. I believe it will be a beautiful flower patch in another month as long as I can keep most of the grass out of it.

First Garden Harvest

Pickled Radishes

The first plants ready to harvest in the garden are always the radishes. Since I always seem to plant more radishes than I can use fresh I decided to pickle a few to see what happens. Last year I planted white icicle radishes and experimented with pickling them. The results were not bad but they were a little weird. This year I planted regular red radishes and tried a different recipe. We’ll see how they taste but they already look much prettier than last year’s experiment.

Spring Updates

Spring is a time of change on the farm and I thought it would be good to write a little update.

Kids (The Human Kind)

Lucian finished school this last week which is nice. As the weather has gotten nicer homeschooling has gotten a little harder. We all wanted to be outside working. Although we did work on school work out on the deck a bit I found it was harder for him to concentrate because he was busy thinking about everything else he would rather be doing. Homeschooling was a fun experience and while I have a few fun enrichment activities for the next few weeks we are ready for summer break.

Fiona is my horse girl and while it makes me happy that she loves the horses, the girl has no fear. I’m afraid I’ll turn my back one day to find my 3 year old riding Jack around the pasture giggling hysterically. My darling Penelope is 15 months old already and the vast majority of my time is spent chasing her around. Since she has started walking her and Fiona have become partners in crime and if you know my eldest daughter you know that’s a scary thought.

Goats

Nora and her kids have been acting funny lately so while the vet was here to check horses I had her check on the goats too. It started with her kids frothing at the mouth and screaming like they were in pain for a few minutes. These episodes would dissipate but then a few days later they would start again. I thought it was only effecting the kids until I saw Nora foaming at the mouth a few days before the vet came out. She was not screaming in pain but she was foaming, coughing, and snorting like she was choking. We did a little research and landed on frothy bloat which the vet confirmed while she was here. She recommended we give them a goat probiotic to help line their gut and help dissipate the bloat. Frothy bloat is caused by many different things but she said it usually happens when they ingest too much clover. This started after we began feeding out new round bales so I’m guessing it was something in the different hay. The only oddity is that the other goats didn’t have a problem too since they were eating the same hay.

The kids (the goat kind) are doing well now. I had a little difficulty with Fauna’s triplets a few weeks ago. I didn’t catch that the little brown one was not getting enough to eat and was starving. I have everyone out on grass now and have been separating the kids so the little one has her own mommy time. She is doing much better and playing and running with her siblings. One of Nora’s kids is limping a little but I’m guessing he twisted something and will be perfectly fit in a few days. I made a video of them playing around in the pasture.

I have been milking every morning and have been making cheese every other day. Right now my favorite cheese is a fresh cheese that uses lemon juice to curdle the milk. It is awesome on crackers.

Chickens

I put the pullets from our Easter hatch-out in with the adult chickens this week. There was a little incident the first day where one chick tried to crawl under the fence and somehow got it’s wing stuck. We were able to wiggle her out without injuring her or cutting the fence. I am still waiting to see if our setting hen will successfully hatch out chicks or if I am going to have to toss out nasty eggs. I think she had one break under her recently because she smells pretty bad. It has been about three weeks so chicks should start hatching any day now. I’m going to give her one more week before I toss the eggs out.

Horses

The horses have been getting a workout this year. My sister Sam and her kids have been coming out at least once a week to work with horses. They are groomed, hooves cleaned, lunged, and ridden on a regular basis now which is great.

Last weekend the kids rotated working with the horses and shoveling out the lean-to. The horses did great! Melody has vastly improved and is getting desensitized from kids. She was ridden around the pasture by a handful of future horsemen and women and she was very attentive to her young riders. I rode double with the younger ones on Jack alongside Melody. My sister, Sam, has been riding out on Melody with me and Jack into the big hay field next to our property. She definitely needs the practice and it’s good for Sam too. Jack however, is getting tired of little rides and is ready to go farther out. I’m hoping by next week we can go for a while because he is getting bored and he was never very patient.

The horses had their once a year vet check last week. Melody has a little arthritis in her front left leg but it will be easily managed with exercise and a little Bute. Jack on the other hand has developed a heart murmur. He is 24 years old now and over the last two years he has started to get a little touchy with his health. The vet assured me that she has known horses to live perfectly well for years with a slight heart murmur but we are now watching him closely. We are still able to ride him but if he starts to tire easily or is lethargic he will become a pasture pony. I’m hoping we have a few more years to get out and about before that happens because I have had him for 23 years and don’t particularly want a new riding horse.

Into Spring

Spring is one of my favorite seasons. It is starting to get warm, the sun is shining more, and the grass is starting to grow again. I see spring as a promise of better things to come. A sunnier outlook if you will. Spring is also a busy time of year. There are additional repairs to be done, new babies being born, seeds to be planted, new animals joining the farm, and yard work to do.

kimg0749Repairs:

  1. The chicken coop needs to be fixed so the chickens will stop escaping. There are a few holes in the fence so the chickens free range. Last year in early spring we had a fox take about a dozen chickens before I was able to scare it off. This year I want the coop fixed so we don’t have hungry fox issues. I plan to let the chickens free range later in the summer for short periods of time but for now they are safer inside.
  2. We are going to change the design of our duck coop to try a pair of ducks. I know I said I didn’t want ducks again but I want to try only having two with a better set-up. The ducks were good at getting rid of potato bugs in the garden and their eggs were nice too.

kimg0714New Babies:

  1. It is almost kidding time! Our goats, Nora and Fauna, are looking pretty wide and are almost ready to have their babies. Having goat kids on the farm is fun and exciting but it also adds a few extra chores to the day. During a kid’s first day of life it is crucial to be sure they are warm and nursing properly. So we are monitoring the does for labor signs and getting ready for new kids. The pens are cleaned out, heat lamps are ready, and Franky has been moved out of the barn. Fiona has been checking for baby goats every morning and can’t wait for when they arrive. She will be soooooo excited!
  2. Chicks will be hatching soon! Due to the school closures I was unable to start our incubator at school with the 4th grade like I usually do but I was able to start it at home with my own children and their cousins. We have been holding Science Saturdays when we do chick related activities and discuss how they are developing. Our last Science Saturday was via Google Hangout but we’re making it work.

Planting Seeds:

  1. We decided to plant our own starter plants this year. We’ve planted our own starters in the past but most of the time we purchase our broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers from local greenhouses. The trend right now is panic buying so we thought we would prepare for that and just plant our own. It will save us money and hopefully they do well.
  2. We are also trying to grow an Avocado tree from a few pits we have saved. This was part of a Science Saturday project so I’m hoping between the 8 cousins we will be able to start one tree.

New Animals:kimg0751

  1. We picked up our spring piglets from my dad’s farm last week and they are settling in nicely. They are still little so they are inside the barn in the farrowing pen Trenton made when we had a bred sow. They will stay inside until we are able to put a load of sand into the pig pen behind the barn. The pen is still a bit mucky from last year’s pigs and it needs to be cleaned out and filled in before we put the new pigs outside. Our niece decided they should be named Despereaux and Wilbur.
  2. Ducklings have been ordered and will be here by May 15th. I am looking forward to having ducks again with our new coop idea for them. I think having fewer ducks in a different area will be better than what we had before.

Yard Work:

  1. Dog poop, enough said. Cleaning the yard from the winter mess is a process.

There are also a few new challenges that were unexpected but we are rolling with them. Predicting to stay at home for the next month wasn’t in my plans but now that it is we’re getting a little inventive as far as work, school, and farm life goes. For example, I will be making video’s for the Kindergarten class I am still teaching as a long-term sub. I will be making calendar time videos three days a week as well as sharing my family’s Science Saturday projects. I made my first video for them last night and even though I had to do it twice and lock everyone else in the basement I think it went well.

I will also be making short “Story Time on the Farm” videos for Northwind Book and Fiber which is the local bookstore I work at. Today I made a clip of me reading in the pasture with Nora and Fauna and next week I think I will make one with the new pigs.

 

 

Change of Pace

Tragic events in one person’s life affect many others in different ways. The unexpected passing of a much loved teacher left Northwood School District of Minong sad and shaken. They really pulled together to comfort their students and staff. There was also a scramble to find long term subs for his class and for one of the Kindergarten teachers meant to go on maternity leave this last week. The school district decided the long-term sub lined up for Kindergarten would be a better fit for the 5th grade class who had lost their teacher so suddenly. She had helped with that class several times over the

person reading a book

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

year and is more familiar with their routines.

I was called on Sunday with a temporary job opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.  For the next ten weeks my family is going to have a drastic change of routine because I am going to be a full time Kindergarten teacher while the regular teacher is out on maternity leave. Do I have much experience teaching Kindergarten? Not really, but I will soon!

kimg0646This will be a bigger change for the girls than it will be for Lucian because he spends most of his weekdays in school while the girls are home with me. The girls will be spending half of their week with their great Aunt Candy and the other half with their Daddy. Lucian will be riding the bus every morning rather than me bringing him to school and Grandma “da” will be picking him up half the week as I will not be home in time to get him off the bus.

In order to get to work by 7:45 (ugh) I’ll need to do prep-work every night.

In the barn:

  • Unravel enough hay from the round bale for the horses so I can just pitch it too them in the dark of the morning.
  • Put hay out in the winter pasture for the goats.
  • Fill chicken bucket with feed.

For kids:

  • Pack diaper bag with diapers, wipes, snacks, extra clothes, sippy cup, and baby food.
  • Pull outfits for Lucian, Fiona, and Penelope.
  • Find snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens for the morning.

For me:

  • Pack my bag.
  • Set coffee pot.
  • Pack lunch.

It is going to be completely different and a lot of work but I am looking forward to it. I am also glad my boss at the bookstore is awesome and is understanding of my need to take a 10 week hiatus from work. As long as I am back in time for her to go to Ireland at the end of April she will be able to fill in the schedule. Thank goodness it is the slow time of year at the bookstore or this wouldn’t work out.

 

Maintaining Over the Winter

The days are getting longer as we enter the hard winter months. I consider January and February as the two months of hard winter. November and December are the months that start winter and March and April are the months that start spring but January and February belong only to winter.

During the hard winter months there is not a lot progressing on the farm, we mostly huddle down and wait. We wait for the weather to warm up, we wait for the days to lengthen, and we work at maintaining our health and the health of the animals.

Hay for Horses

This year was not a good year for haymaking which means hay is in short supply. We bought most of the hay we needed in July before it became really wet and obvious that it would be a bad hay year. I say most because we have an extra horse this year that we hadn’t had before. I calculated how much hay we would need but I forgot that when given free rein on hay horses are really pretty pigs. I figured a 1,000 pound round bale would last two horses about two and a half weeks when apparently they can eat a round bale in a week and a half. This harsh reality burned about a month off my hay supply.

I am feeding small squares now and rationing how much hay they get. They are no longer fat like they were when I let them free range on the round bales but now they are maintaining their proper weight. They are also pissy about their new diet it but last year I bought 50 pound small squares for $3 while right now the price is $7 -$10 for a 50 pound bale. Needless to say they are sticking to their regimented diet for the remainder of the winter.

Goats

There is nothing new with maintaining the goats over the winter. Mainly we bring them in at night, give them hay, break open their water, and make sure they have a good salt and mineral block. The block is important for the does to keep them healthy while they, hopefully, develop healthy babies. Goats need copper and selenium in their diets to stay healthy. We discovered this a few years ago when one of our goat kids was born with a little lump on his throat. It didn’t bother him in anyway but it was a deformity that we wondered about until Trenton’s uncle Kenny told him our goats needed a better mineral block. He had raised goats a few years before and had the same problem until he provided goat specific minerals and then poof no more lumpy babies.

The girls huddle together in the barn at night and Franky, our buck, has also been enjoying time in the barn. The good part about Franky in the barn at night is that he gets handled more when we bring him in and put him outside in the morning. The bad part is that he is not always docile. Right now his behavior is mostly playful but there are times when I can see him think about being more aggressive. He is on my watch list for aggressive behaviors. We have a strict no aggressive males on the farm policy but I would like to get one more breeding season from him at least.

Chickens

I think the chickens dislike the winter the most. They are unhappy about the snow, cold, and darkness of winter. Of my 17ish flock I am getting 1-2 eggs a day. That is enough to keep us mostly in eggs but not enough to sell to anyone. We were able to clean the coop with a mid December thaw and the fresh straw to pick through kept them happy for a few days but now they are back in their winter slump. I’m hoping with the longer days they will start laying soon. We are also trying to decide if we want to incubate chicks at home this year or buy a few chicks to freshen the flock.

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Lucian, Fiona, Penelope and I unloaded a trailer full of firewood on Sunday while it was above freezing. It was nice to have all the kids out working without them crying they were cold within 10 minutes. Penny sat in her sled and watched us work while I hauled the wood and Lucian and Fiona slid it closer to the end of the trailer so I could reach it. Lucian and Fiona have been enjoying going sledding down one of the giant snow banks created when we plowed the driveway. They sled each day when Lucian gets done with school and come in rosy cheeked and wet from rolling in the snow.

Other Projects

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Cable Hat for my dad!

I have been hastily knitting birthday presents for a while  but I think I am done now and can work on more leisurely projects. I’m looking forward to warmer weather. Before long it will be sugar season and we will start tapping the maple trees. The kids love hiking out to collect sap and I do too. Penny is old enough now to go out in the sled so I hope we do better on sap this year. Last year we didn’t tap as many trees as we usually do so we ran out of syrup a long time ago.

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas yesterday and spent time enjoying their families. To me Christmas is a time to rest and spend time with my family. This post is mostly a recap of our Christmas fun.

Before Christmas

Last year we started a new tradition of looking through our toys and giving away a few that are no longer played with. Lucian and Fiona looked through their toys and put a box together to give away. This was a very hard task for our 5 and 3 year old. We had a long discussion about sharing and giving toys to kids who don’t have any. Our box only had a few toys in it to give away but its more about the concept than the amount of toys leaving the house.

Christmas Eve

We spent Christmas Eve at my sister’s house for our family’s Christmas celebration. The kids made ornaments, frosted cookies for Santa, and went sledding before we all had dinner together. The kids played one organized game before opening presents. At Thanksgiving we had each child draw a name for who they would be getting a present for at Christmas. It was our first year of drawing names and it worked quite well. My sisters and I also drew names for what Holidays we would be hosting during this next year. I managed to draw Thanksgiving again. The kids had a great time but were very tired when it was time to go. Spending Christmas Eve with my sisters, parents, grandma, and nieces and nephews is one of the best parts of Christmas for me, that and Alecia’s hot chocolate!

Christmas Day

Our day started later than usual because the kids slept in after too much fun playing with their cousins. When we were all awake we opened our stockings then took turns opening our presents. Lucian is old enough to shop for others now so he was very happy when we unwrapped presents from him. I think it is important for him to learn to

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give gifts and think of what a specific person would like. Lucian received a farm set and Fiona a stable that we set up in our playroom/attic space upstairs where Penelope can’t destroy them and try to eat the small parts. I would say that Fiona’s favorite is a new play-dough set with dough scissors that Lucian picked for her and Lucian’s is a harmonica. He wanted me to play with him so I dug our my Clarinet, which I haven’t played in about 2 years, and Fiona strummed the guitar on the floor while Penelope used it as a drum. We had our own little jam session which was really fun. The kids played with their new toys, we played with each other, everyone took a nice nap, and we had dinner with Grandma “da” so we had a great day.

On The Farm 

Even though it was a holiday chores still had to be done. The weather has been temperate at about 30 to 35 degrees so the goats have been going outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. The chickens are even starting to venture out into the light. They don’t appreciate all the snow and while I should shovel their yard out a bit I have focused on walkways and the porch. So far we have accumulated approximately 2 feet of snow so I’m limiting where I shovel.

Our new horse, Melody, had a bit of a scare yesterday. All the snow whooshed off the lean-to roof and scared her. She went running and squealing so Jack had to run and go check on her. She was still freaked out when I fed them their grain and I had to coax her back into the lean-to. Fiona likes to feed Jack out of her hand so she kept him occupied while I convinced Melody it was safe to come inside.

Not only did we have a relaxing day at home we also worked on hauling a bit of firewood into the shed. Doing firewood is still one of Lucian’s favorite things to do so he was happy as a lark loading wood onto the trailer and watching the wood-splitter split the big logs.

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We had a great Christmas Day spending time with each other while still accomplishing a few necessary tasks and we all took a nap. I hope everyone had a day just as lovely!