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.

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.