Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring? Sure feels like it!

With forecasts showing weather in the 60's for the next ten days, I am boldly marching outside and doing springy things.  

Paisley turned 3 a few days ago and we gave her a set of garden tools for her big day.  So, she and I have been digging in a lot of dirt this week!  She was granted her very own garden bed- best decision ever!  She just LOVES it!  Digs, rakes, makes dirt 'pancakes', plants seeds, digs seeds, catches bugs, plants and replants onion plants.  The fun is endless!

I, on the other hand, am somewhat more orderly.  I have planted peas, onion plants, potatoes, lettuce, beets, and carrots.  The last three in the list will continue to be planted every two weeks in small patches, so an early failure is no real risk.  

I won't do any more planting until mid april, when I do squash, melons, beans, corn, etc and then mothers day is the day for TOMATOES!!!!!!  I'd consider getting a green house JUST for the extended growing season for the 'maters.  Thats what summer is all about.  Fresh tomatoes.  

Speaking of tomatoes, I am almost out of canned tomatoes.  I ran out of my scrumptious tomato sauce a few months ago, but have really really enjoyed the raw packed halved tomatoes.  Easy to can, and delicious to cook with!  I have enough to get us through March.  Then we will be without garden ripe tomato flavor for 3 months!  WAHH!!!  

Other spring preparations include fertilizing and mulching all 18 trees, 4 blueberry bushes, 7 raspberry canes, 6 blackberry brambles, and 4 grape vines.  

I am trying an interesting method that utilizes cow manure.  Which we have a little bit of laying around.  Just a little.  Maybelle plops about 12 times per day.    

First, poke holes in the ground around the plant with a manure fork, sprinkle on appropriate fertilizer, sulpher, etc.  Cover with a thin layer of manure.  Spread out a layer of cardboard for weed suppression. One more layer of manure.  Then finally, a nice thick layer of wood chip mulch.  This will feed the plants all year long, be an attractive mulch, and will also provide a nice place to plant a few annual flowers if we wanted.  

That is quite a bit of work, so I am getting a head start as much as possible.  This weekend we will head to the city's compost and mulch facility with the truck and trailer and haul a few loads of wood chips.  I expect to have all of the fertilizing and mulching done in about two weeks.  

As far as other farm production goes, The hens stopped laying for 8 weeks over the darkest days of winter but are back at full steam laying ~6 eggs a day.  For the fun of it I am trying to keep our net gain down around 4 eggs a day, so Paisley and I have been having eggs over easy on toast for lunch every day!  

We had the roosters processed back in December and we have been so pleased with the results.  The birds are juicy and tender.  Very flavorful!  About 4-4.5lbs each.  The batch we processed ourselves were tough and stringy.  We think it is because our water for scalding was too hot and partly cooked them while we were picking/processing.  I don't mind paying someone else $3/bird to do a MUCH better job than we could do ourselves.  We still have about 2/3 of them left.  I think we will be ready by the end of summer for another batch.  In the future we will use a cornish cross meat bird as opposed to the heritage breeds.  They achieve the same weight in half of the time with half of the feed.  No brainer.  

Maybelle is giving about 4 gallons of milk a day.  I had no idea her production would increase on her second lactation.  So, we give about 1-2 quarts a day to the hens, take about a gallon per day for the house, and give the rest to Spicy Hunan Beef.  Slider is about 7 months away from his expiration date.  I can not wait to have home grown beef in the freezer!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy almost spring!

We are three days away from our one year anniversary of living in the farm house!!!  

This winter has been very cold.  Too many days in the negatives to even count.  Weeks on end below freezing.  There were times where having temps in the teens was a 'warm' spell.  We didn't get as much snow as usual, which is worrisome for spring.  I really hope we have a rainy spring to get caught up on the old precip.  

Things have been uneventful around here.  Maybelle had her calf a few days before xmas.  She was a cute little thing!  Luckily, she was a heifer (girl) and after drinking 2-4 gallons of milk a day for two months, she was worth a bit of cash.  So, we sold her and bought a day old Holstein/Jersey bull for next years freezer beef.  I am considering trying this second calf as a grass fed beefer.  He will have 20 months to mature, and will be able to have 2-3 gallons of milk per day for about 10 months.  He should be delicious!  

Slider only got 1 gallon of milk per day for 3 months and he currently gets 3lbs of high protein pellets per day.  As he gets closer to finishing, we will feed him corn for his last few months.  The advantage of corn feeding is adding a nice layer of fat.  The more fat, the longer the carcass can hang in the locker.  The longer the carcass hangs, the more outer layer you lose to drying.  If that outer layer is fat, it will be trimmed off anyway, so there is less meat lost from a longer aging.  And we all know what a nice long age can do for fine foods!  

It will be fun to compare flavor of grain fed vs grass fed beef.  I think when people hear 'grain fed' they assume that cattle are living their lives in a barn with grain in front of them 24/7.  Bovines are ruminants and MUST have forage.  If your beef is grain fed, it has likely spent the first portion of its life on pasture, with its mama.  The last few months were in a stinking, nasty feedlot where it was fed a TMR (total mixed ration) that includes forage as well as grain and probably antibiotics.  So, yes, grassfed beef has a better quality of life and better feed at the end.  However, home raised, grain fed beef is not the same beast as commercial grain fed beef.  So, there are really three things to compare- commercial beef, home raised grainfed beef, and grassfed beef.  I think that the the latter two categories will outperform commercial beef in taste, but I have doubts that they will be very different from one another.  

A grassfed beefer raised by us will be significantly less expensive than a grain fed.  Because slider got so little milk for such a short time, I felt he needed the high protein feed through winter.  This is about $14/mo.  A spring calf, that has had tons of milk for many months will go into his first winter in very good condition and will be fine on hay alone.  

In other news, I have had my first cheese success!  After about 12 failures, I got a new cheese press and have a cautious optimism about my future cheeses.  The first one we tried was pretty good!  Very nice, dry, firm texture.  I think my main problem was in not pressing at the right weights, thus not getting the cheese dry enough.  Plus, I was using more rennet than I needed which can cause a bitter flavor.  I cut the rennet in half from the recipe and things are still coagulating just fine!  

I am anxiously awaiting spring.  I have a garden to look forward to and I am going to fertilize and mulch all 17 trees and 4 blueberries.  I will  be transplanting 7 raspberries, and planting 6 blackberries and 4 grapes.  

I hope I update again before another 5 months goes by.  :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Calf nuts!

Paisley and I recently had quite a bit of excitement on the farm!  

We started our day with milking Maybelle.  
Headed to the neighbors to pick tomatoes.
Driving home, we saw Slider and Maybelle together.  
That damned steak skipped the fence. 
I get a bucket of grain and stand at the gate trying to figure out what to do and the vet drives up. 
An hour early.  
I start shaking the grain. 
Maybelle and Slider start running up towards me. 
Slider had a halter and rope on to make him easier to catch for the vet. 
Oh, I bet you want to know why the vet was here?  
I'll get to it.
Apparantly the rope flapping behind him had scared him through the fence and was now giving him the run of his life.  
Maybelle shared his excitement.  
She jumped right into the stanchion with great flair. 
That was the only thing that had gone right so far. 
I went to get the calf, he flopped over and about gave up on life.  
The vet, smart man that he is, came out to check on us in the field. 
He was there to check Sliders elastration band.  His nuts hadn't fallen off yet and were looking funny.  
Wanna see?

Vet lifted up Slider's leg, twisted off the ball flap, and tossed it aside. 
Apparently, I was a horse owner for too long. 
Horse people will get that comment.  
In other words, it was fine.  
Stop taking pictures of it and looking at it. 
He proceeded to give Slider two shots. 
Then he gave Maybelle her two shots. 
He also sleeved her.
Which is a nicer way of saying that he went shoulder deep into my cow. 
In good news, she is expecting a christmas calf.
I just wanted to double check before I dry her off.  
Wouldn't that be awful to dry her off, find out she wasn't bred, and be without milk until you rebred her and she calved again?
John rolled his eyes when I asked him that.
Then i threatened him with getting a second cow to fill in the dry period.  
I think he may still be crying under the bed.
So... The vet leaves and Paisley and I run into town to get more canning Jars.
Oh, just before we left, I opened the gates between the pastures and herded Slider into his own pasture doing my best impression of a cow horse. 
In all of this excitement, I forgot to change clothes before we went into town.  
I figure I look fine for walmart.  
Going to walmart almost doesn't count as going out in public.  
I actually was not the only person in there in boots and shorts.  
However, walmart was out of canning jars and I had to go to Home Depot.
Home Depot was our of canning jars.
Bed, Bath, and Beyond DID have canning Jars.  
They did not have any other patrons wearing farm clothes.
So, we head home and start canning salsa. 
Things calmed down for a bit. 
Then, the neighbor pulled up. 
I forgot that he was coming out to look at Maybelle's hooves.
The neighbor is also a farrier, AI tech, and cattleman.
He said her hooves looked ok and didn't need to be trimmed.
What a relief and a good way to end the day!
If any day deserved more pictures, it was this one.  
I had adrenaline pumping from about 9am until 7pm when Paisley went to bed and John and I cracked open a Hamm's!

Long story short- Slider is officially a steer and Maybelle is indeed bred! Woot! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Peter Rabbit

John called me Peter Rabbit this week...  

Our neighbor is out of two for two weeks and asked me to take over her garden while she is gone.  
She has like 20+ tomato plants, beans, peppers, cantaloupe, corn, etc.  Quite a garden!

Here is Paisley with our first haul.  
10 gallons of tomatoes is a lot.  
Paisley loves the little yellow cherry tomatoes! 

Every time Paisley and I come back, we have buckets full of produce!  

So far, I have put up 23 quarts of quartered tomatoes, 9 pints of salsa, 9 pints of BBQ sauce, and 9 pints of tomato sauce.  Plus corn, cucumbers, and cantaloupe for snacking!  Phew!  And think, she has only been gone for 5 days!  I better get more jars...

The tomato sauce takes a long time to cook down, but the concentrated flavor is just divine!!!
This was the second time I made it, so I have about 14 pints in the basement! Yum!

The BBQ sauce is good and has quite a kick to it!

I am just shocked by the number of quartered tomatoes I have done.  
23 quarts.  Wow!  I kept the yellow tomatoes separate and canned them together, I think yellow tomatoes are just cool!

Paisley and I also went to a local orchard last week and picked 10 pounds of Hoshi pears.  They were SO delicious!  I made 4 half pints of Ginger Lime Pear marmalade, and canned the rest in pint jars.

 I thought the blue pint jars were a bit bland with tomatoes in them, 
but the pears looked stellar in blue!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A week in my life...

I thought it might be interesting to give you a peek into my day to day life.  

It seems like people are always asking me what I do all day.  

I started taking pictures of things we did, but that sort of fizzled.  
I did my best to remember what we did, but I should have been blogging as I went.  Maybe I'll try again some other time...  Any way, this was the last week of August.  

6:30 wake up and have breakfast on the screen porch.  Watch the sun rise.  
7:30 everyone is mostly dressed, 
chop zucchini for Maybelle, 
get milking supplies and head out to milk
(no more clocks...)
Milk Maybelle while Paisley plays in the field
Give the calf a half gallon, visually check the 'tiny chickens'
Go inside to filter and chill the milk
Get a snack for Paisley
Mow the front lawn 

 Give the clippings to the 'big chickens'

Go inside for lunch, wash milk supplies

Paisley takes a nap from 12:30-2ish.
I surf the internet or rest.  
 Paisley wakes up 
Check on the big chickens
Paisley carries eggs around while I water the garden and strawberries.  
Paisley drops both eggs she was carrying
She wants to swim in her pool on the deck, but it has lots of bugs in it, so we spend a good chunk of the afternoon scooping the water into buckets and I carry them to the rain barrel.  
We refill the pool, a bug lands in it and she asks to dump and refill again.  I did not indulge her.  Ha!  
Around 3:30-4, I start dinner.  Paisley entertains herself while I cook, for the most part.
5:15 John gets home, we have dinner, then lay on the floor in Paisley's room for family 'huggle' time.  
7pm- Paisley's bedtime.  John does the bed and bath routine while I milk Maybelle.  
I come in from milking, we filter milk and do dishes, and finish picking up the house.  
8-9pm John and I hang out.  
9pm- Bedtime!!!

Most days have the same typical rhythm.  I guess the major morning and afternoon activities change and the chores and routine stay the same.  

Tuesday, our major activity was to mow the large area between the house and pastures.  We used the tractor for that.  

Paisley discovered the 'uppadown'.  AKA- the snowblade.  
Endless entertainment! 

We also watered all of the trees on the property.  That took a solid hour as we have two trees that we have to use the wagon and buckets to carry water to.  This is always a very fun activity!  

Found a ladybug!
Paisley says "don't step in the poop"!

Maybelle tries to foil our plans by attempting to drink our water. 

Baby Pecan

Paisley stops for a drink, too.

After a long morning of watering, we went inside to drink coffee and read RRRalph 599 times.  

UPS man arrived and brought Paisley some new mud boots from Grandpa!
After we rested on the sofa for an hour or more, Paisley took her nap.  I have no idea what happened with the rest of the day until dinnertime!!!

Wednesday, we have switched Slider from a half gallon 2x per day to a full gallon+ in the evening only. 
I felt sorry for him this morning, so Paisley and I gave him some alfalfa pellets.  He didn't know what to do with him, so we got to sit down and hand feed him.  It was fun!

Wednesday afternoon was beautiful and we spent some time on the deck appreciating life. 

Thursday, I made a Gouda and some butter in the morning.  
Making cheese is an all day activity, but the bulk of the work happened between milking and naptime.  
heating the milk for cheese making

curds and whey

butter and butermilk

There is a bit of 'waiting' time while making cheese, so we went out and gave Maybelle a bath!  

brining the gouda

Thursday is also when my mom's group meets.  So, we headed to the library at 3:30 and got home around 5:30.  I had already made dinner and John popped the casserole in the oven when he got home.  

I always love meeting with the ladies from playgroup!  We started the group with the member's of our Bradley Birth class, and invited a few moms from La Leche League, friends, and neighbors.  We have gone from a group of 9 to a group of 5-6 due to moves, etc.  But this group of women is amazing.  I miss the ladies that have moved away and am so happy I have such a great group of mom friends!  

Friday, I made a Colby cheese and more butter.  

 pressing the whey out of the cheese

Paisley did not nap at her usual time.  She usually gets pretty low-key when she is sleepy, so it really isn't a big deal.  She usually drags the dog into her room and lays on the floor for a while.  
Today, she was in our closet (aka- Charley's room) and things were quiet.  You know what they say about quiet toddlers....
Turns out she was scooping Charley's water into his food bowl.
Things overflowed.  


The wet food went to the 'tiny chickens'.  
It was pretty funny.  

I decided that if Paisley wasn't going to nap, I would be productive and mop the floors.  
I can't be sure if the vinegar fumes went to my head or if it was the ridiculous pride from mopping twice in 6 months of living here.  Don't judge me.  

Around 3pm, Paisley had a meltdown.  I scooped her up and put her to bed.  She went down and has been asleep for just over an hour.  The UPS man rang the doorbell (seriously?!?!) and she slept right through it (thankfully!!!).  That brings us to the present moment- quiet time for blogging!!!  

 *I had a really hard time with these video uploads for some reason.  Let me know if they are not working*

Monday, October 7, 2013

Maybelle's new feed box!!

I've been feeding Maybelle from a feed pan on the ground in front of her stanchion.  It isn't ideal as she is on a platform raised 8" off the ground.  So, she did a lot of shuffling and dancing to make sure she could reach all of her grain.  If her bucket would scoot away, she would leeeeaaaaannnnn forward and grab it with her mouth and drag it back closer.  Cute, except for when she would step forward and kick the bucket.  So, I built her a feed box attached to the stanchion.  She now holds stock still while she eats.  Great improvement!  I used scrap lumber and had to make sure the inside was as tight as possible, so the outside is a little rough looking.  I do love carpentry, but for me it is all about function.  Wabi-sabi, ya'll.

I came back later and added two angle braces to make the box sturdy enough to hold a toddler.  
Because, when you have a toddler, you need to worry about those sorts of things.

I think its like 36wx24dx12h

A demonstration.

 She loves Maybelle.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Family pics

Waiting for dada to come home

 Chicken Farmer

 No question as to why she calls it 'lego dada'!!

 She is holding an antler.  
I won't divulge whether or not she licked it.


 We finally planted Paisley's placenta tree.  
We buried her long frozen placenta under this saucer magnolia.  
Saucer magnolias are the first to bloom in the spring here.  
They are quite beautiful!