Busy Spring Days

It has been some time since my last post and all I can say is that teaching full time is a huge draw on my time and brain power, but I am taking a little time tonight to work on a farm update.

It is finally getting warmer in the north woods. There are more days were the sun was shining, the temperature ranges close to 50 F, and the wind has been blowing most days. I wish I could sit in the sun with a good book but spring days are busy days and I have been enjoying the nice weather in other ways.

Maple Syrup

One of our accomplishments this spring was boiling sap into maple syrup. For about 3-4 weeks in the spring we tap the maple trees on our property and collect the sap. This year we tapped 22 trees and have currently harvested 120 gallons of sap. We have a system where we collect sap during the week and spend Friday and Saturday cooking it down into syrup. We usually complete 3 cook downs before we are ready to be done for the season.

Our sap boiler is basically a square woodstove with a holding tray for a large stainless steel pan that holds 35 gallons and has a spigot welded into it. There is a blower fan built into the woodstove door which keeps the fire hot but also means we have to put wood into it every half hour or so. As the sap reduces we add more to cook off what we had collected for the week which during our second week was roughly 65 gallons. After the sap cooked all day we filled the woodstove and shut off the blower fan so it could simmer through the night. In the morning we added more wood to get the fire back up and cooked it for a few more hours. Then we emptied the pan and brought the almost syrup in to finish it on the stove. With the use of a hydrometer we were able to cook it down to almost 2 gallons of maple syrup.

This year we experimented a little with making cinnamon flavored syrup. It tastes amazing! After funneling hot maple syrup into a jar we added a cinnamon stick to it, closed up the jar, and let it sit for awhile. That’s it, super simple and soooo tasty.

Goats

Our goat herd has fluctuated a bit over the last year. In June we bought a new goat from a large dairy and Fiona, my daughter, named her Lazy Daisy. We bred her to one of Nora’s last kids in the fall along with Britney who is a two year old Nubian/Alpine/Oberhasli cross. Lazy Daisy had triplets on the last day of March. She had two does and one buck and they look exactly like her and are extremely hard to tell apart. Since she had come from a large dairy where the milking goats start milking right away and the kids are bottle fed separate from their mothers we weren’t sure how well she would care for her kids but she is doing wonderfully. She is turning out to be a great mother and I haven’t had to help her with her triplets at all besides putting out a heat lamp for them as it is cold in our area.

Britney had two bucks a week later on a cold, cold day. We put out a heat lamp for her right away and tried to get each kid to suckle. They each struggled but I thought after a while under the heat lamp they would perk up. An hour or so later I brought a bottle with me and milked Britney a little in a bottle to get a little nutrients into them. Britney did really well for never having been milked before and she tried to stay very still when her babies were trying to drink from her.

The first few days were a struggle. Before and after school I tried to get each to drink from Britney if that failed I had them drink from a bottle. A few times I had to bring one into the house to warm up and bottle feed but they are finally doing well on their own. I also had to milk Britney twice because she was making more milk than the two little ones could drink and she was getting overfull and a bit sore.

I think she is turning out to be a pretty good mama. Even though her kids struggled more it was mostly because she had never had kids before and didn’t quite know what to do with them. She kept looking at them and me like she wasn’t sure exactly where they came from and what to do with them. I can relate because I felt the same way when I had my first baby.

Poultry

Trenton built a beautiful new moveable coop for the chickens last fall and they spent a few months in it moving around the pasture. Unfortunately, shortly after we put all the chickens in it we realized we had too many chickens for that sized coop. In November we moved them back into the built in coop in our barn. Today Lucian started cleaning the new coop out so we can put the ducks in it. The ducks have a small coop and run by the barn. There are only two of them so they do not need a ton of space but we haven’t found a good way to clean out their yard yet so they need to move for a while. Their yard is mucky and full of a winter’s worth of duck poop. Their shelter is clean but their yard is filthy so it will be better for them to be moved elsewhere until we can come up with a new plan for them.

Horses

This last fall we lost our Haflinger pony Melody. Our remaining horse, Jack, took it very hard and was depressed for months. He spent most of his time standing in his pasture looking sad and lost. A friend of ours mentioned that they were thinking of selling their Welsh Cross pony, Blaze, because her kids had outgrown him. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a look and see what we thought about him. After looking him over and taking him for a ride we decided to go ahead and buy him for a few different reasons.

  1. Jack needed a friend because he was not doing well on his own.
  2. A smaller sized horse would be more comfortable for the kids to learn how to ride.
  3. He was trained to both ride and drive and has been a kid’s horse his entire life.
  4. We had enough hay for two horses for the winter.

Jack is not as fond of Blaze as he was of Melody but he is appreciative of the company. He is a nice pony who has taken the kids on a quite a few lead “rides” this winter. His only drawback is that he is hard to catch. It will occasionally take about 20 minutes to catch him but other than that he is working out nicely. It’s about time for me to start working the horses this spring and I am really looking forward to it.

Jack’s first meeting with Blaze.

One difficulty over the winter has been that our tractor is not working and to fix it is going to be a big undertaking. This makes it very difficult to put 900 pound round bales out into the horse pasture. Usually we end up tying a strap around one and dragging it into their pen with our truck. It works but it is definitely a pain.

Garden and Orchard

Lucian spent most of the winter chopping small trees out of our future orchard site and it is starting to clear out nicely. Trenton will be going in their soon with the chainsaw to cut the wood into firewood sized chunks. We are also planning to invest in woven goat fencing this year to fence in the orchard space so we can set the goats to clearing it out completely.

The garden is only in the planning phase and is still a distant thought. We did not get around to planting starters this year but we are going to cut out a few kinds of plants that don’t flourish in our soil so we won’t be purchasing as many greenhouse plants anyway.

Sweet Melody

It has been a long time since I posted an update on the happenings of our small farm. At the end of August I started working full time at a local school. The position is funded by a special three year grant and is designed to help close the gap in student learning caused by the pandemic. This change in job status has made it more difficult to find the time to write about what we have been up to on the farm. I would have to say that this year has been a difficult year on our little homestead.

Melody, the Halflinger pony we got two years ago, died at the end of September. I have never seen an animal get so sick so fast as Melody did. The day we lost her I went out to feed them at about 9 o’clock and noticed that she did not come up for her grain. I saw her out in the pasture laying down and called to her again. She got up and came over but didn’t eat. She circled around and laid back down biting at her belly like it hurt. I immediately went on high alert because this is a major colic sign.

A few signs of colic:

  • Frequently laying down or refusal to get up.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Biting or kicking at their belly which is a sign of belly pain.
  • Rolling
  • Sweating

I finished my other morning chores then got her up and walked her around for a few minutes. I then called the vet to see if there was anything else that I could do for her besides walk her around. I also called my sister to come over to help take turns walking Melody and watching the kids. Penelope is two and did not understand why she couldn’t help me with the horses. The vet recommended giving her a dose of Banamine or Bute if I did not have the Banamine to make her more comfortable which would help get her on her feet and moving around more.

I only had enough Banamine on hand to give her half a dose so I measured out a half dose of Bute powder, mixed it in with some water and put it into a syringe. She was laying down at this time so I had the kids keep clear while I laid her head down on the ground and gave her both the Banamine and Bute orally as the vet instructed. Next, I brought them into the barnyard pasture which is closer to the house and yard so I could watch her closer. For the next hour and a half my sister, niece, nephew, and I walked her for 10-15 minutes and gave her a break for 10-15 minutes.

At the end of the last walk she appeared to have green watery stuff dribbling out of her nose. I gave her a break and called the vet right away because green watery stuff coming out of her nose is the horse version of mild vomiting. She came out as soon as she could and sedated her a bit to make her more comfortable and gave her medicine to help relax the smooth muscles of her stomach and intestines. Within a few minutes it became apparent that she was already too far gone and was close to stomach rupture. We put her down at 1 o’clock. Fighting to save her and watching her go was one of the most horrible and saddest events on this farm so far.

Jack, our other horse, was beside himself with grief. While we were walking her he walked behind her and when she was laying down while the vet checked on her he stood at her head nickering to her. He yelled and ran off when she took her last breaths but we wanted him to be there so he could understand why she would be gone. We left her there for a few hours so he would know and so the girls could say goodbye when they woke up from their naps. We moved him back to the farther pasture when it was time to take her away and he ran along the fence line yelling for her. He has been depressed since she has been gone and we’ve been keeping a close eye on him.

The kids miss Melody quite a bit. She was a great little horse with a sweet albeit spooky temperament. We called her our little hobbit mountain pony because of her small stature but giant feet. She was loved and will be missed.

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.

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.

Kids (The human kind)kimg0581

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

kimg0619

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.