Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Missing our Luke

Last Thursday night at about 2:30 A.M., I woke to what sounded like a cat fight. I immediately knew it was our almost 5 month old kitten, Luke. I don't know how I knew, but I did. My husband and I ran out the back door with our flashlight (living in the country with animals, you're prepared for these situations) and I began yelling for him. 
We didn't hear him again, not a sound anywhere. After 15-20 minutes of roaming in the dark, we went to bed. Luke's mama has gone and came back several times, so we were hopeful he would be home in the morning. 
Morning came, and Luke did not. All day, I went out to call for him, searching our field and the bean field next door as well as I could. A lot of crying happened that day as I remembered the events of the day before. How he had lapped up milk from the stand as I milked the goat. How I helped him get to a mouse under a pile of hay, and he proudly carried it back to the porch and ate it. How he trots over to the dog, who has always been afraid of cats but isn't anymore, and rubbed on him, giving him noses. How he played with his sister, and slept with her all cuddled up every day. 
Jujubee had just begun calling him "her cat". She finally felt like an animal was hers. Now he is gone, and hearts are broken.  I haven't told the girls about the cat fight the night before. We are holding out hope that he found a girlfriend and will return home to us, one day. But I just can't help but feel in my stomach that it isn't true. 
We miss you, Lukey

Thursday, July 28, 2016

An eleventh birthday

Do you remember what it is like to be eleven?  It seems like such a long time ago, yet not long ago, at all.  My oldest, Jujubee, had her 11th birthday yesterday.  Memories of her birth flooded me, as all moms experience, I’m sure.  And then memories from my own eleventh year came, and I realized how different our lives are, at this age.  

She is a lot like me, my shy, quiet, friendly, brown hair, dark eyed girl who loves to read.  Yet, she is so much different from me at the same time - especially in height!  Her daddy can definitely take credit for that!  Our lives are just so different, me being a public schooled child, and her being homeschooled, and her having 2 sisters.  I’m grateful for this. 

With her birthday being on a Wednesday, and Daddy not being able to be with us, we had a quiet, relaxing, but fun day.  She chose all her favorite foods ahead of time, and I prepared them happily, as they are favorites for most of us.  She spent a lot of time reading Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, even though she said she would wait.  I knew she couldn’t!  She has been waiting for 6 months to read book 3, so she snuck time in whenever she could.  The beach also called to us, so we went to a local lake and had some fun in the sand and water.  Presents and cake, and a phone call to a favorite cousin wrapped up the day.  Overall, it was a lovely day for a lovely girl.  

I’m so lucky to be her momma.  Whenever I need help, she is there without complaint.  In homeschooling, she is so dedicated and smart that she barely needs me.  Something to be proud of, yet sad for at the same time.  Time is slipping by so quickly, and it is hitting me that there are only 7 years between now and her 18th birthday.  The thought scares me a bit.  Will she be ready?  Did I do a good job?  What will her life be like?  What will the world be like?  

But those are thoughts for the future, and right now, I’m just going to enjoy every moment I have with my newly 11 year old daughter, and her little sisters.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Baling hay, and hoping for no rain

Before we moved here, the field had been farmer in either soybeans, or corn, for many years. We knew we didn't want to continue with that for a few reasons, but mainly because we like to do things as chemical free as possible, and aren't big fans of GMO's. Growing a big old crop of Genetically modified corn and beans didn't fit our life goals. We have 2 goats, and goats eat hay, so it made sense to go with hay. 
Normally, people spray roundup before planting. We didn't, and we will probably regret that decision. I'm hoping we don't. 
We planted alfalfa on half the field, and a pasture mix on the other half. 
When you're a hay farmer, you watch the weather closer than you ever have in your life, I think. We need a 4 day window of no rain in order to cut, flip, and bale. In July, you'd think that would be no problem. But of course, there have been rain threats nearly every day. Well, we finally got our chance, so we called up our neighbor and asked him to cut it. They said no rain until Wednesday, so we felt safe. 
You can never feel safe in regards to weather and hay. 
Tuesday was baling day, so I went to pick up the kids from my moms and was planning on heading back in the evening to help bale. But all of a sudden, at 1pm, thunder started and I freaked out. I watched the map, called all the local friends, and made sure it hadn't hit my house yet because I was an hour and a half away. We got so lucky. The neighbor rushed home from work to bale, and hubby rushed home to start stacking. I got the kids in the van as fast as I could and safely drove home. 😉
When I got here, I saw they were almost done baling and had begun collecting. Such a beautiful sight. 
The rain threatened, close. We hustled as fast as we could, stacked it as high as we could, got a tarp on, and hauled it to another neighbors barn. At 8pm we were done, the hay was safe, and we were tired. But we now have over 100 bales of hay, and that's a good feeling when you have livestock. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Goat update

In March, we got our first goats.  2 Lamancha/Nubians, and I was so excited!  Once I started milking, my excitement waned.  It was not good, I posted about our milking woes here, here, and here.  Oh, and here.  And here.  Needless to say, it wasn't easy for me and I had plenty of challenges.

So, how are we doing now that it has been almost 3 months?  I don't want to jinx myself, but it has been better!  Here is Miss Aurora this morning after milking.  She loves her feeding time.  See her standing nicely?  It doesn't always happen this way, but the majority of the time, she is being a good girl.  She still tries to kick her back legs or dance when she is out of feed, or needs to poop...

I give her 1 pound of Dumor pelleted goat feed, and mix in about a half cup of Alfalfa pellets, 1/4 cup whole oats, and 1/4 cup sunflower seeds.  It is making her coat so shiny and she looks great.  I haven't weighed her in a long time, but I need to.  

I swear she looks like she's smiling.  :)  The pic is a little fuzzy because she was moving her head back to her bowl.  


After milking, I release her back to the pasture and let out her baby, Millie.  Millie is huge already!  I need to weigh her as well.  She is still nursing, so I only have to milk in the morning.  They crushed my dog crate that I was using to keep them separated, so I haven't been separating them.  Even so, I've been getting just about a quart a day, sometimes 3/4.  We really can't use more than that at this point.  My friend is going to teach me to make cheese and soap, I can't wait!  She is the goat queen and runs Solstice Sun Farm and keeps all Nubians.  We might be using one of her boys to breed the ladies in the fall, or she may practice with Artificial Insemination.  

Millie is a bit of a stinker.  Her horns, even though they were disbudded 3 times, have come back as scurs.  Thankfully they don't look bad, but she does use them to her advantage.  She also eats holes in the tarp, sticks her head out, tries to headbutt me, and is generally naughty.  I'm hoping this passes when she gets older.  She also loves a good scratch and some occasional bites of grain.  

I won't lie, I tried hard to sell them.  I listed them all over Facebook, because I just couldn't deal with the kicking and small orrifices.  I guess it just wasn't to be, because every interest fell through.  I've accepted that they are staying, and have gotten into a routine.  If she was still kicking as bad as she was, I would reduce the price and try harder to sell, but for now we are doing good.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

So many roosters!

In February, a friend hatched Barred Rock eggs for me.  Out of 24 eggs, 12 hatched.  And out of those 12, 9 were cockerels.  I purchased 3 Easter Egger pullets from a friend, 1 died, and 1 ended up being a cockerel!  Apparently this is the year of the rooster for us.  All said and done, we ended up with 10 cockerels and 4 pullets.  Insanity!

It has now been 17 weeks, and they are crowing.  It is adorable and soothing - maybe some of ya'll wouldn't agree, but I love the crow of a rooster.  (Ask me again in a few months.  ha!)  However, we only have 5 hens - 1 of which is currently broody.  That means, these poor ladies are getting quite annoyed at all the attention, and it is time for the extra roosters to go.

Aren't they handsome?  

I hate doing it, because so many of them grew up to be absolutely gorgeous, they all have a nice crow as well.  But I can't keep 10 roosters, and like I said, we have a broody hen sitting on 11 eggs right now.  *Please* let us have a better pullet ratio!  

A friend is processing her extra chickens Saturday and invited me to bring mine.  I am so nervous!  I have never processed a chicken before.  When we did the cornish cross, we took them to a local Amish family.  I guess it's time to "farm-girl up".  Ugh.  I'll let you know how it goes.  The temporary drop in the feed bill will be nice, and I'll be adding to my freezer supply - so that's good.  My hens won't complain about the break, I'm sure.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

This is why you don't go barefoot into the chicken yard...

I love being barefoot.  It's not always possible around here with all the glass in our field, but the yard is mostly safe.  We recently put the chickens in the yard so they could have shade while Lucy broods. Sometimes I forget, and go barefoot into the chicken yard, and this happens.

They were quite interested in my aqua toes and, let me tell you, they can peck hard!

Strawberry Jam

Is there anything that says summer like strawberries?  I look forward to them every year, but this was our first year making our own, homemade jam.  It was easier than I thought, and more delicious than any store bought jam I've tasted.  The recipe came from one of my favorite blogs, The Pioneer Woman.  It isn't the healthiest recipe (7 cups of sugar!) but it sure was delicious.

I just love canning.  There is something so satisfying about preserving your own food.
 Cooking the strawberries, all supplies prepped and ready.  

Into the water bath for 15 minutes.

Isn't that lovely?  I heard the "pop" of them sealing almost immediately after removing them from the bath.  *swoon*  Of course, our water is crazy hard, so I wiped much of it off, but you can still see where the glass looks a bit frosty.  

Spread on freshly baked sourdough bread.  Mmmmmm.  Look how red!  Only 4 ingredients and zero dye!  Makes you wonder what the heck store strawberry jam and jelly is made of, because this sure doesn't need any dye.  

Do you have a favorite jam recipe?  I'd love to try a healthier version next time.  That may not be until next year though, with strawberry season being pretty much over.