Thursday, December 31, 2009

Easy Bake Oven

Well, Santa gave McKayla an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. For those of you not familiar with an Easy Bake Oven it is an oven for children that cooks using the heat of a 100 watt light bulb. Luckily, Santa also gifted McKayla a from-scratch recipe book so we will never have to purchase the overpriced, chemical filled mixes available for it.

The first thing she and I baked up in it was a carrot cake complete with cream cheese frosting!

Here are the two carrot cakes... only a mear 3 inches across!

Stacked and frosted.... looking good!

The first slice gone... yummy!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Drying Green Peppers

My mom bought me a new food dehydrator for my birthday a few weeks ago. I had been so busy with Christmas stuff I hadn't even gotten it out of the box yet. I rectified that today!

I picked up four organic green peppers while shopping this week.

I diced them up and put them into the dehydrator.

Just before bed they were done. Now I have dried green peppers for my sloppy joe mix that I make again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Donkeys are settling in.

Our two new mini donkey jacks are settling in just fine. The come up eagerly awaiting their apple wafer cookies and head scratches. I still have the two boys in with our alpacas. I think this week I will pull Jerry out and put him in the large pasture with our Jenny, Inora, and the cows.

This is Tom on the right and Jerry on the left.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Donkeys are here!

What a long day!

It started early since we needed to leave by 9am to drive the three hours to T.'s farm with the mini donkeys. I was out doing chores while Neil got Evan and McKayla ready to spend the day at the grandparents. Baby Taylor would be coming with us. The morning went well and we made if off on schedule.

The drive down to Greenville, NC was uneventful and we arrived just after noon. We met T., her sister and brother in law. T. had four mini donkeys left to place out of 27. We were taking only the two called Tom and Jerry.

Tom and Jerry are the two boys in the middle.

All four donks were right within reach when we arrived but they soon figured out that something different was up. They headed out to the large back pasture. It was an hour to get them back in the front pasture and into their shed so we could work with them. It was another 30 minutes catching them up inside the roomy shed, getting halters on and dragging/pushing/lifting them into the trailer. Whew!

The donkey shed.

After the donkeys were loaded I took a walk with T. to see her seven llamas. She hopefully will be placing them into the care of the Southeast Llama Rescue and I had been asked by SLR to take some photos of the llamas since T. was unable to do that herself.

Two of T.'s gelded llamas, Barbwire and Mudslinger.

Back on the road again we needed to stop and eat before heading home. We arrived home about 5:30pm... at last light. Neil backed the trailer up to the gate and we opened the trailer doors. The donkeys made the trip fine. They were curious about the new pasture, goats and alpacas. It was Jerry that took the first brave step off the trailer and Tom quickly followed as not to be left behind. I hung out with them in the pasture while Neil unhooked the trailer.

Everybody seemed to be getting along so we got back in the vehicle and drove to pick up the kids at Neil's parents in Virginia. They had dinner waiting for us. We got home at last about 9pm. I went down to the barn to check on the donks one last time for the night. All was well and Tom and Jerry were visiting with our mini donkey Jenny, Inora, through the fence.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Neil's Dad was over bright and early this morning. He and Neil are salvaging the old French Doors that they removed from our bedroom and using them as transom windows on the back of the garage. Unfortunately, the base of the doors were so rotten that they had to dismantle those ends and mill more wood framing for them. It set them back on their day a bit.

By mid afternoon I had to steal Neil away so we could run up to our friend, and fellow alpaca owner, David's farm in Virgina. We were buying 60 bails of hay off of David and borrowing his livestock trailer for the weekend. Tomorrow is the day we are picking up our two new mini donkeys. Also, David sent along one of his alpaca studs to our farm to see if any of our girls will still be receptive to breeding.

All was going well back here on the farm with the offload... that is until I managed to find the nail in the board with the bottom of my foot! I don't know how it got anywhere near the hay trailer on a path I walk pretty much daily. It was just a small board with a single old nail in it. So small in fact it lifted up with my foot. Which means I couldn't step off of it and couldn't continue to walk to sit down. Neil came to my rescue and pulled the offending nail out. We still had 30 bales of hay to offload and loosing light so I worked until we were done and then went and soaked the foot. This is becoming an annual event... sigh.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday! Family, food, games... I love it all.

We spent the day with Neil's parents. Had a wonderful meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, peas and hard crusty rolls (my contribution to dinner). My MIL and I played Chicken Foot with the kids. Chicken Foot is a domino variation that I learned after joining this family. We stopped for dessert, which was an apple pie that I had made. It was declared the best apple pie I had ever made! Later McKayla and I played the board game "Sorry" but it got too late and we couldn't finish. I was a good day... now sleep.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Final turkey done

Processed the last turkey for a customer today. Glad to be done for another year. Now I can enjoy my favorite holiday tomorrow.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More turkey processing

Most of my afternoon was taken up by the two more turkeys I dressed out today. It didn't help that it was raining all day. These two birds are actually going to a good friend of ours in Durham for her Thanksgiving feast. We will meet up tomorrow and do the exchange.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life and Death

That is what farming is all about. Days like today remind me of that fact...

It was cold this morning, the water in the barn was frozen. I was almost done my morning barn chores. One of the last things I do on my routine is throw hay out to the cows into the circular hay feeder. Riona, our smaller Irish Dexter cow, can climb into the feeder to reach the center hay but often is not motivated to get back out again so I wasn't surprised to find her in the feeder waiting for me to rescue her and put more hay into it. I hefted up the round feeder on one side and let Riona walk under it to get out. As she passed by me I noticed her vulva was wet and bloody. Immediately my head popped up and started scanning the area for a calf. I didn't see one anywhere. I also didn't know how long Riona had been trapped in the hay feeder and separated from her new calf.

I gave the cows their hay then set out to find the calf... hopefully alive. We have seven acres of pasture here and after covering most of it I still couldn't locate the calf. Finally, toward the back of the pasture were it adjoins our neighbor's crop field I spotted a dark pile on the outside of the electric fence. Closer inspection told me it was a calf but it wasn't moving so I still couldn't determine if it was alive of not. Their is no gate here along our neighbor's field so I had to walk back up to the barn. I knew I couldn't carry a calf back all that way so I took the tractor around the outside of the fence to get it. I stopped a bit away from it as if it was alive I didn't want to spook it and have to catch it. Even as I stood over the calf it didn't move. I reached down to touch it and was surprised how warm it was as it lay there in the sun. It's head came up when I touched it and I quickly scooped it up and climbed back up on the tractor.

Driving with one hand with the calf on my lap was slow going. I hadn't said anything to Neil so as I drove up behind the garage where he and his Dad were working he came out to see what I was doing driving the tractor through the wood on that side of the pasture. I could see that he couldn't figure out what I was holding at first. As I shifted the calf on my lap Neil could see what it was but his Dad yelled out, "Is that a dog?" I responded, "No, it's a cow." lol

I drove up the gate near the hay feeder. Before I got down I lifted a leg to check if it was a bull or a heifer... it was a little bull. Neil opened the gate and I carried the little guy into see his mom. It was the first time I saw him on his feet and he eagerly started to nurse. She swung her head around to smell him then returned to her hay. All was well and we have a new calf!

Not sure of his color, he is very dark brown/black right now but that can change. His mom is dun and his sire is red.

Once I was satisfied that the calf was all set I finished up the remainder of my chores. I then had to get started on my next task of the day. I had a customer coming at 3pm to pick up her dressed out turkey for Thanksgiving. I went and got my butchering knife and put a big pot of water on the propane burner to simmer. I picked out one of the tom turkeys from this year and carried him behind the shed were I have my bleeding cones attached to the wall. I dispatched him quickly and once bled out I carried him up to the deck to scaled him and pluck his feathers out. I do most of that job outside to keep the mess out of the house. Once that is done I move into the kitchen where I wash the bird, remove any last feathers, remove the neck and legs, disembowel it, prepare the giblets and finally clean up. From start to finish the process takes a little over an hour. He was cooling in the freezer when the customer arrived to pick him up.

A full day and the beginning of a busy week.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Turkey season has arrived

Well, here it is, the weekend before Thanksgiving. The push to get the remainder of this year's turkeys sold has begun. I had two gentlemen come by the farm this morning to purchase a breeding pair each. Those were my last two hens for sale. I have one hen left that will be retained here on the farm as a breeder since I lost one of our hens this year.

One of the guys ended up also purchasing the four Brown Leghorn chickens that I mistakenly was sold this past spring. They just started laying so he was pleased to get them. I even threw in a Brown Leghorn rooster to boot. One less I have to process here!

Neil and his Dad got the exterior wall to the bedroom sided with cedar siding to match the rest of the house on that end. So, the French door removal project is pretty much done. Then Neil got most of the lawn mowed for the final time this season. Looks nice and tidy now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rabbit hutches

I have been working on the new rabbit hutches when I can and today I got quite a bit done. I attached the last wire end wall, cut two of the three doorways and affixed one of the doors in place. Yeah!

I moved Chamomile and her five kits over and hope to get the rest of the does moved over this week as well.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Time for a weigh in...

It has been a few weeks since I weighed the little doelings to see how they are growing. They are now 7 1/2 months old.

Cheddar (on the left above) is now 19.25 lbs.
Olive (on the right above) is now 20.75 lbs.

I also weighed our little buckling Jeepster. Jeepster is 8 weeks younger then the doelings.

Jeepster came in at 26.5 lbs.

When I sold our doeling Emily a few weeks ago I weighed her before she left. Emily is only four weeks older then Cheddar and Olive.

Emily weighed in at 52 lbs.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Finished the hat!

I finished hat number 2 for my niece's birthday present last night. (Hat number 1 was too small once completed so I had to knit another.) H's birthday was 6 days ago but knitting a second hat put me off schedule.

Here daughter McKayla is modeling the finished hat.

So we went to town to run our errands and mail the hat off to H. Although it was fun to knit, I am happy that project is done.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baby Bunnies

Our American Chinchilla rabbit doe, Chamomile, gave birth to five robust little kits today. They are snuggled in their rabbit fur lined nesting box. I stay pretty hands off with the baby rabbits for the first week. They will be ready to go to new homes about mid December.

I ordered a new mini donkey sized halter for Inora and it arrived yesterday. It fits well but it is out as far as it will go. Now that I have ordered from this company and know how they fit I will get a couple more one size larger. She looks great in it though!

Seeing this picture makes realize how many rocks I still need to get out of the cow pasture... sigh.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New home for Emily

Our last spring 2009 Nigerian Dwarf Goat doeling found herself a new home today.

I wonderful family called about her last week and today they stopped by the farm to meet her. Emily will be one of four young doelings that this family will be purchasing to begin their goat adventures with. Interestingly, when I inquired about the other doelings we discovered that they were also purchasing Emily's twin sister Elizabeth. I sold Elizabeth several months ago to the farm I got our doe Belva from. I was thrilled to know that the sisters would be reunited.

Emily will be staying here for a few more weeks while the family finish preparing their farm. Emily will also be exposed to our young buck Jeepster before she goes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happenings on the farm...

The day started out chilly and raining but it turned into a pleasant Fall day.

Neil took the chainsaw out behind the garage and cut up some deadfall trees for the woodstove. I will bring it up, split it and stack it over the next few days.

Neil and I then started work on the framing for the base of the new rabbit hutches. I am so excited to get started on them. What I am currently using for rabbit hutches where built by the previous owners as poultry breeding pens and were not designed with chewing rabbits in mind. The interior framing is almost gone in some places. Plus, the new location I am moving them too should stay drier. Which means I won't be standing and slipping in 8 inches of mud this winter and spring! Yeah! I still need to get more wire for the hutches and build the wooden nest boxes but I was thrilled to get that project started.

Today I also weighed our two Nigerian Dwarf doelings, Miss Olive and Miss Cheddar, that we got four weeks ago. Miss Olive is up to 19.5 lbs and Miss Cheddar is at 18.75 lbs.

Made a couple of pizzas for lunch; a cheese and a onion and pepperoni. Yummy! Then this evening my mom (who is visiting from Maine) made chocolate chip cookies for the kids.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It has been getting quite chilly for October in North Carolina. We have been piling on extra blankets at night to keep the chill away. So, this morning I decided it was time to get the first fire of the season going and chase the chill out of the house! It didn't take long for the living room to feel warm and toasty again.

My mother is such a help around the place. While I was doing the livestock chores this morning, she took the tractor into the woods and brought up several loads of cut up firewood to the house. McKayla and I split enough for a few days and stacked it up under the deck. Winter will be here soon.

Sold a young tom turkey to a local gentlemen as a mate for a lone hen he has. One more turkey saved from the holiday table. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day in town.

My mom accompanied the kids and I on our trip into town today.

Had to stop at the recycling center, the post office, McDonald's for lunch, Southern States for livestock feed and finally to the grocery store.

For dinner mom and I made a spinach, feta and Swiss cheese quiche. So tasty! Mom also whipped up a pumpkin pie... Evan's favorite.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Chirp, Chirp, Chirp

That's what I heard while in the barn this morning.

I sound I hear a lot of around here... in the spring!

I went to investigate the chirping in the chicken coop and could hear it coming from above the brooders. I called to my seven year son, Evan, to come help. I boosted him up the seven feet to the brooder ceiling to find the babies I could hear. He found them in an old cardboard box; nine little chicks.

He passed them down to me and I put them one of the brooders. Once we started handling the chicks it quickly became apparent which of the chickens had hatched them out as she came flapping over to me protecting her babies. I quickly captured her and deposited her in the brooder with her chicks. She fussed over them making sure they were all there and safe.

Since it was so late in the year and a bit chilly at night I put them into a box with a brooder light over it. The hen is able to come and go from the box at will. It didn't take long for them to settle down.

Funny to have chicks this time of year. But no matter when they come they are always cute!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Pumpkin Custards

I love Fall! The cool days and crisp air inspire me to cook (yes, even more then I already do). And our favorite thing to cook with this time of year is pumpkin! This morning McKayla requested pumpkin custard so the two of us mixed some up and it is baking right now and Mmmm the house smells good!

Pumpkin Custard Recipe

1 12oz can evaporated milk
4 eggs (farm fresh of course)
1/3 cup sugar
16 oz pumpkin puree (homegrown is best)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix all ingredients together and pour into 6-8 ramekins (depending on size) and bake in a water bath at 325F for 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and refrigerate for 2 hours. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Days update.

Well, first off, our rabbit made it through the night! She is tucked in the far corner of the hutch but her ears are up and she seems alert. I will not consider her out of the woods until another day or two and I see her eating and drinking again. But, she looks good for what she went through yesterday!

Neil's Dad came by early this morning so he and Neil could get the last of the four concrete stabilizer footings poured on the garage. Yeah! Now that that is done they can continue work on the end walls and doors to button it up for the winter.

We have two alpacas that are due with crias at the end of this month. One of those is Eloise. While feeding the girls this morning I noticed a large lump by the tail head of Eloise, so large that it actually pushed her tail to one side. I went up and felt the lump and it was firm. I pressed on it and it retracted back! A few minutes later it reappeared... I pushed on it again and it retracted once more. This was the nose of the cria! So, Eloise is now on cria watch.

My birthing stall has had a gate broken on it for some time (the cows share one side and rubbed on it until the wall broke) and since my need for that stall my come sooner than I had thought... Neil removed the half wall that the gate is attached to, rebuilt the framing, covered it with pressboard for strength, reinstalled the wall and then hung the gate again. Now I am all set if I see any signs of impending birth. I will put the two girls in there in another week regardless so that they don't give birth without being separated from our LGDs who are so protective of babies that they keep the dams away too!

Sold the three little ducklings to a neighbor I sold some turkeys to this summer. She called yesterday to see if I had any ducks for sale and was pleased that I had little ones available. Funny how things work out sometimes.

I weighed our two new Nigerian Dwarf goat doelings again today to see if they are growing. They have been here two weeks now. Miss Olive, who weighed in at only 16.75lbs two weeks ago, was up 1.5lbs to 18.25lbs. Miss Cheddar on the other hand remained the same at 17.75lbs. I am sure this is due to the week long bought of diarrhea she went through when she first arrived. She has recovered fully and is doing well now. I will continue to weigh them over the next few weeks to keep my eye on their growth.

Finally, Neil set up the volleyball net for the kids in the side yard so they could play badminton with it. Evan played for a bit but then went off to set "snares" around the farm. McKayla and I played badminton for almost an hour. What a sight we were... playing badminton with a volleyball net and racket ball rackets... but we had a blast!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Sanity day at the races.

Since Neil works long hours off the farm we don't get to spend as much time together as a family as we like. There are times when we just have to look at our never-ending list of projects that need to be done and agree that some family bonding is more important! Today was one of those days!

After chores we packed up the kids and headed north to Clarksville, VA to meet up with Neil's Dad. Clarksville was hosting a weekend of Hydroplane Boat Races which none of us had ever seen in person before.

We had a wonderful day out by the lake watching the races and water skiing show. The kids got sno-cones AND ice cream so they were thrilled! After taking all the walking and sun that we could handle we headed back to the suburban. On the way there we passed by a petting zoo (of which we had all the animals at home, plus more) that was having pony rides. Both the kids got to ride sweet Madeline the pony. Since it was late and they were packing up both kids got a double ride.

It was a good day... until we got home...

This morning while doing chores I discovered that a rabbit hutch door was opened and one of our new quasi-chinchilla rabbits was missing. Neil and I scoured the area around the barn and the woods but found no sign of her. I was disappointed in the possibility of loosing her but knew that she may not go too far and we might catch sight of her over the next few days if we were lucky.

Fast forward to this evening... we returned home from our day, the kids ran out to play and Neil and I headed inside with Taylor. Moments later the kids came running into the house to let me know that Emmie, one of our Anatolian Shepards, had the rabbit and she was "killing it". My heart sank and I ran down to the barn and there was Emmie lying down in the pasture over the rabbit. I feared the worse but walked closer to Emmie to see the condition of the rabbit... she was still breathing.. she was alive!

I knew that I had no chance of getting the rabbit away from Emmie. Once Emmie has something she will fight to keep it. I tried my old trick of trying to lure Emmie away with food but she had no interest in leaving the rabbit. Then the rabbit made a break for it and Emmie was right after it... picking it up over the spine and carrying it around... all the while the poor rabbit was screaming. I just couldn't let Emmie keep her. I used the only weapons I had with me; my voice and the metal food bowl I was still holding. I began hitting Emmie over the head and yelling at her to drop the rabbit. This of course infuriated her and she turned on me (which, in a way, is what I wanted), she dropped the rabbit to attack me... biting at the bowl which I held in front me and then she grazed my right thigh. Meanwhile, the terrified rabbit squeezed through the 4x4" goat fence to safety. I managed to back through a gate and get it closed before Emmie bit at me again.

Neil and I managed to find the poor rabbit hiding behind some sheets of plywood on the far side of the barn behind the milking stanchion. It took some doing to reach her with out risking her bolting again but we got her out and returned her to the rabbit hutch. She was panting pretty hard, her fur was all wet and missing in places but I couldn't see blood anywhere. The stress alone could be enough to kill her. I didn't have much choice but to just let her be for the night and see if she makes it through.

Neil said, "Well, no matter the outcome now, at least you'll know." And he is right, if she had just wondered into the wood and never returned I would never know what happened to her... at least now I will know.

Oh, and my leg will be fine. Two puncture wounds in my jeans and a small abrasion on the skin is all the evidence of Emmie's rage. Emmie, by the way, returned to her placid wonderful self within minutes of the rabbit's escape. She only guards what she feels is hers... if she has nothing to guard her aggression quickly recedes.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ram loose again....

That foolish white ram was out again this morning. This time though he was ready to return to the pasture right away and I didn't have much trouble getting him through the same gate as he went through on Wednesday. I hope this doesn't become a common occurrence.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ram on the loose.

Evan and I went out to do chores this morning and Evan yells out from the deck, "Hey, one of the sheep is out!"

"No, couldn't be.", I thought. I walked over to the chicken coop side of the barn and sure enough there was our new white ram munching on grass across the fence from one of our buck goats. My only thought was that he was trying to reach the falling acorns and after finding himself on the wrong side of the electric fence had no desire to go back through the fence to rejoin the ewes.

Evan, McKayla and I tried to get him to go through one of the open gates but he was too skittish and confused to oblige. He didn't seem like he was interested in wondering too far away from the pasture with the ewes so I just left him alone and continued on with chores. After the chores were done I offered him an open gate again but he didn't go through.

Finally, after being out all day, I went back out at dusk to try again. Just me this time... no kids to get him all flighty. He was agitated and pacing the fence so he wanted to return to the pasture. I opened the gate and stepped away to give him room. He took a few cautious steps forward and then made a mad dash through the gate and across the pasture to his ewes... who had quite forgotten about him by now.

A quick sniff of all three ewes and he settled right in to grazing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yard clean up time.

I managed to get outside this afternoon while Taylor was napping and got about half the lawn mowed and got a good bit of the yard cleaned up and set out by the road for the morning trash pick up.

I love these cooler days we are having and enjoy spending time outside.

Inside, I got a batch of yogurt going for the kids (strawberry).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Last milking of the year.

Today will be the last day that I milk our Dexter cow, Cherry Blossom. She has been giving less and less milk the last few weeks and this morning I only got about 2 cups. I expect her next calf to come in December sometime so I want to dry her off for a few months anyway.

I will miss the fresh milk but it will only be for a few months. After the calf is born I will start up again.

Was surprised this morning to discover three ducklings in the chicken run with one of my dark rippled ducks. I knew she was sitting on eggs in the barn but I thought she had a few more weeks to go. All three are brown frosted over yellow. Not sure what color they will turn out to be. Evan helped me herd them up and put them and mom into one of the brooder pens in the coop. It is getting too cool this time of year for the little ones with no heat lamp.

I moved Fiore, one of our female alpacas, out to the far pasture to keep our stud male Novio company. She wasn't too happy about leaving her pasture mates behind but the lush grass in Novio's pasture seemed to make up for the lose.

Since our neighbors moved away last month we have been meaning to go over and move the two electrical spools and dog house they left behind (we got permission, plus they are actually on our property anyway). The dog house we moved out to the far pasture too. I hope to get that pasture goat proof soon to put our bucks into. The dog house will be shelter for the bucks. The smaller spool will also be used as a goat play structure.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weight check.

I weighed the two little doelings this morning. Miss Olive weighed in at 16 3/4lbs and Miss Cheddar at 17 3/4lbs.

Cheddar is still having diarrhea issues. Otherwise she seems fine. Both doelings are eating some goat pellets, grazing grass, nibbling on hay and drinking water. I think it is just stress induced and I as long as she acts fine and continues to eat and drink I am going to let it run its course.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New goats.

A local and fellow blogger, M., is going through a major life change that is moving her family to my home state of Maine. M. has three Nigerian Dwarf goats that she will not be able to take with her. She emailed me this week to see if I was interested in taking them in.

So, this morning Taylor and I drove the hour south to their home to meet up with her husband and pick up the goats. There was a mature buck, Milky Way, who is a chocolate with white...

And two six month old doelings, Miss Olive, who is a buckskin with blue eyes...

and Miss Cheddar, who is gold with white...

The little doelings are tiny. They are only about half the size of our doeling, Emily, that is only a month older. They are also smaller then our buckling Jeepster that is two months younger then them.

Miss Cheddar in front of Emily.

Cheddar had some diarrhea in the crate on the way home, most likely due to stress but I will be keeping my eye on her.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Clone troopers, bounty hunters and Vader oh my!

Took the kids to an event at the Science Museum today. There were lots of Star Wars characters walking around: Clone troopers, Boba Fett, Darth Vader, R2D2, Princess Leah and more! We had lots of fun!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Neil and I spent the whole day tightening the 6' woven wire fence that encloses our alpacas. We hung this fence in April of 2007 with only one temporary staple at the top of each post so we could move the alpacas to the farm. We fully intended to tighten and attached the fence properly soon after.

Well, two and half years later the task finally made it to the top of our to do list. The wire has been drooping for some time and even curling up at the bottom a bit. It was this bottom curling that hurled this task to the top of our list. Emmie, our LGD,will always find the weakest point in our fencing and get out overnight to wander the neighborhood. Our quick fixes weren't fixing that problem anymore so we knew we had to bite the bullet and do the job properly.

When the day was done we were impressed with how well the fence recovered from it's drooping state and looks nice and tight now. Like we know what we are doing :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

New farm additions...

We now have a small flock of sheep on the farm. Three ewes and a young ram. They were delivered today.

The three black sheep are the ewes. One is pure Black Welsh Mountain Sheep and the other two are Black Welsh/Tunis crosses. The white one is the ram. He is half Black Welsh and half Corriedale (I think, still need to check on that).

We don't intend to grow the flock, just use the lambs for meat or sale each year.

The woman who we got the sheep from also had what she was told were two Giant Chinchilla rabbits that she needed to find new homes for. Even though we have American Chinchilla rabbits I told her we would take her two GC does. I figured we could still cross them with our AC buck for meat rabbits. I was a little surprised when she took them out of the truck as they were almost solid black (but still oddly chinchilla patterned) and not the size or shape of a GC at all.

In fact they were pretty much the size and shape of my AC does as you can somewhat see from this photo. So, am not sure what these rabbits have in them, surely some chinchilla, but there is something else in there too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Milk, Butter, Cheese & Brioche

Milking the cow has been going well still. I now have lots of milk in the fridge I need to do something with.

I have been drawing off about half the cream from each days milking and holding it aside in the fridge. Today I finally had time to make some butter with it. I don't have an old fashion paddle butter churn (although I would love to have one someday) so I made do with what I have. I poured the cream into the blender, replaced the top and turned it on until the cream broke and I could see the buttermilk and butter separate. I poured off the buttermilk into a bowl for another use. The butter I placed into a separate bowl. I now needed to wash the butter to remove the last of the buttermilk trapped within, this allows the butter to last longer. I poured ice water into the butter bowl and smashed the butter against the side of bowl. I drained the water into the sink and repeated several times until the water remained clear and no more buttermilk remained in the butter. I added a bit of salt, mixed it in and then a taste test... yumm!

Once the butter was in the fridge I took a recipe out of my cookbook, "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day", for Brioche dough. I mixed it up using the buttermilk leftover from my butter making in place of the water called for in the recipe. Once mixed up it needed to set out to rise for 2 hours and then into the fridge until later tonight.

Next up, I attempted to make some mozzarella cheese with a gallon and a half of Cherry Blossom's milk. It was the first time I have tried mozzarella and it was an utter disaster! I think it was mostly caused by trying to make such a time/temperature sensitive cheese while also doing the normal "mom" things that still needed to be done. Anyway, the chickens seemed to like the soft mush that resulted. I will try again when I have enough extra milk in the fridge.

The last task this evening was to take the brioche dough from the fridge and make it into sticky buns to bake off in the morning. I rolled them up, sliced them into rounds, placed them into baking dishes and stashed them back in the fridge to slowly rise overnight. 40 minutes in the oven in the morning and we will have fresh sticky buns for breakfast!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Meet the guinea pigs...

This is McKayla holding "Jill".

And here is Evan holding "Bugsy".

Oh, both Jill and Bugsy are boys... just don't tell McKayla that!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pigs on the farm?

The kids and I headed out to our friend S.'s farm this afternoon to pick up some young Muscovy ducks from her. I met S. last year when she came by the farm to buy some Muscovies from me. Now, a year later I find myself needing some back. You see I have sold almost all of my young ducks that hatched out on the farm this spring. I only have a few males and 3-4 females left.

I had a gentlemen contact me wanting a drake and 4-5 females to start his flock. I told him it would take a few days to catch them up and I would call him when they were ready for pickup. After two days I could only get hold of a drake and a one female. The rest of the females free range almost 100% of the time and never come into the chicken coop to eat the pellet food in the mornings so there was no way I could get a hold of them.

I made a quick phone call to S. to ask if she had any females that she needed to sell. In fact she did and would love to help me fill my order. So, off to S.'s farm we went. It was fun looking around her farm seeing all her animals... goats, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, lots of different breeds of ducks, the Embden geese she got from us recently, pot-bellied pigs and Guinea pigs too. After the farm tour, we packed up three Muscovy females to bring home. Then S. offered the kids two Guinea pigs as well. She had several litters of young ones ready to go. The kids each picked one out (and a quick check to confirm they were both the same sex!) and we had two little piggies coming home with us too!

These will be the first "pets" the kid's have had. Obviously, at ages 7 and 5 I will still be the primary caretaker. But as I expect the guinea pigs to be around for several years at some point I hope they can take over the duties themselves.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Milking Cherry Blossom

I haven't mentioned much about my daily milking sessions with our Irish Dexter cow Cherry Blossom as it has been going really well and I didn't want to jinx it. But, since it has been a week and half now and all is well I thought I might be out of the woods.

I have been consistently been getting 2-2 1/2 quarts a day. That is with only one milking in the morning and Cherry Blossom is 7 months into her lactation. Not too bad at all! In fact I am quite happy I am not getting MORE milk. I am not sure what I would do with it all!

The 2 quarts I got this morning were first low heat pasteurized (I am nursing the baby so I am not going raw for now) and then one quart went to making strawberry yogurt and the other quart made a cappuccino chocolate chip ice cream (recipe from an old Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream cookbook I have).

It was Neil's birthday yesterday and since he was at work all day we celebrated this afternoon instead. The ice cream joined some from scratch chocolate brownies, fresh whipped cream and sprinkles in lieu of cake.

While I was in the kitchen working with the milk I also spooned the curds from last nights goat milk cheese making into the six cheese molds to drain. This is the first time I have used the molds instead of hanging the whole batch in butter muslin to drain. I am interested to see what the difference will be.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Honey Cream Goat's Milk Soap

I found some time to mix up a new batch of goat's milk soap while the baby was sleeping today. It used up the last of the frozen goat's milk plus a bit a fresh as well. This batch is a honey cream. It was the most pretty bright yellow when I poured it into the soap mold. But after a few hours of curing the heat generated during the soponification process darkened the milk some. It think it will end up being the lightest in color of the soaps I have made but still not that pretty yellow color when done.

It will be ready to cut into bars after 24-48 hours.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The first milking.

I was very surprised this morning that our Irish Dexter cow, Cherry Blossom, did so well on the milking stanchion. I haven't had her up there to milk in almost a year. But she stood eating her grain and hay while I milked, only lifting her foot a few times to swat at a fly.

I got almost 2 liters from her!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rose and milk soap

The gentleman that purchased our red Irish Dexter heifer, Rose, out of our cow Cherry Blossom came to pick her up today. We didn't have too much trouble getting her loaded in the trailer but both her and her mom were quite upset by the separation. Even still this evening Cherry Blossom was calling for her.

I am looking forward to starting to milk Cherry Blossom now that the calf is gone. We will see how is goes in the morning.

Oh, and the first two batches of my Goat's Milk Soap has finished curing. A local farm produce market has agreed to sell them on consignment for me so tonight I packaged some bars up to take to town with us tomorrow when we go to do errands.

I will also be listing these soaps on our esty site if you are interested in purchasing them!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feta Cheese

So, an update on my Feta Cheese.

After the curds hung over night and drained the resulting firm ball of cheese was cut into large chunks (about 2-3 on each side) and placed into a container and salted heavily with kosher salt. I then covered it with a tea towel and let it set at room temp for two days. Several times each day I drained off the excess whey that formed from the salting and resalted the cheese if it looked as if it needed more to keep the sides covered.

After the two days at room temp I moved the cheese to the refrigerator to finish draining and to dry the surface of the cheese. By this point the cheese was very firm to the touch.

After the cheese "felt" right (firm and crumbly) I taste tested a small piece and it was the perfect saltiness. I cut the large chunks into smaller one inch pieces and packed them into mason jars with a bay leaf, dried chili pepper, chopped garlic, oregano, thyme and basil and topped off the jars with olive oil. These can be left at room temp if desired but I chose to refrigerate mine.

The biggest difference with this batch then the failed batch I made last year was that I dry salt cured it this time instead of salt brining. Last years cheese just got soft and dissolved in the brine... the dry salting worked much better for me and I love the result!

Looking forward to using it on pizza, salad and just for snacking!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dairy Day

The goat's milk has been accumulating in the fridge again so this afternoon was spent in the kitchen. The first thing I did was to pasteurize all the milk and then cool it down to 86F so I could start working with it in several recipes.

I have been hearing lots of good things about goat's milk ice cream and up till now have not made any. I took a liter of milk added a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of real vanilla. The mix then went into the fridge to cool completely and be used later on.

I then needed to decide what to make with the remaining 4 liters of milk. I have been enjoying the Chevre cheese I have been making but I have a small hoard of it in the freezer now so I wanted to make something different. I opted for a Feta cheese.

I have made Feta once in the past and it wasn't really a success. I have been doing some reading and I think I might know were my problems came from so I am game to try again. Into the milk went the culture and then it had to sit for an hour. Then in went the rennet and then sat for another hour. It was now time to cut the curds into 1/2" blocks and let set for 10 minutes. All this time a temp of 86F has been maintained. The curds are then "cooked" at this low temp and gently stirred every ten minutes for 40-50 minutes. Finally, the curds got strained through butter muslin and hung to drain for 3 hours. After the 3 hours I removed the forming cheese and turned it over and hung it back up for the night.

During my three hour wait for the cheese to drain I made the goat's milk ice cream. I happen to have a Krups electric ice cream maker (haven't used it in years though). I got the machine setup and poured in the cold mix I made earlier and the kids and I watched it go round. After about 45 minutes it didn't seem to be getting any thicker so I stopped the machine and scooped the soft ice cream into a bowl and popped it into the freezer. The kids quickly consumed the remnants from the beater, the bowl and the spoon. Evan declared, "This is the best ice cream I have ever eaten!"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dirty job done dirt cheap!

I finally coordinated a time for fellow vet tech and local farmer S. to come to the farm to help me process our rabbits. S. has been raising rabbits since she was a young girl so she is very experienced in processing them. Personally, I have no problem butchering and dressing out the rabbits. What I have a bit of a problem with is the actual act of offing the cute rabbits I have been feeding for 12 weeks. So S. did that part and we both dressed and cleaned them out. We only had seven to do and together we made quick work of it.

I had intended to give her some of the finished rabbits as a "thank you" but S. said she had plenty in her freezer at home. She then spotted our geese out in the pasture and commented on how she was looking for a trio for her farm. Done deal! She couldn't take them today but I will hold them for her until she can come get them.

Trading skills and/or goods is such a fundamental part of homesteading. I just love when it works out so well!

Later this evening as I was locking up the barnyard for the night I went ahead and put our American Chinchilla buck in with our two does. That would put new kits to arrive the end of August and they will be ready to go the end of October.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day of Leisure

Neil has been working hard on his days off for awhile now so we decided to take a sanity day today and spend it up at his parent's house in VA.

We went out for an early morning boat ride on Kerr Lake which was lots of fun.

The kids with Mimi Bensen.

This was Taylor's first boat ride... she seemed to enjoy it!

Then we relaxed on the beach as Evan and McKayla swam in the lake.

Later we took the kids to a local craft fair and got ice creams and hand crafted wooden swords and shields for the kids (under strict orders not to hit anyone with them!).

It was a very relaxing day... wish there were more like this!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Goodbye Chuck

We sold our Dexter bull, Charles Wallace, today. I was very sad to see him go as he was a very handsome and well behaved bull. Unfortunately, since we only keep two cows and his dam is one of them, we really needed to move him to another farm that could benefit from his great genetics and get a bull unrelated to our two cows. We would like to get a polled bull this time around so it might take awhile until we get a new bull.

Chuck did really well loading into the trailer with just a bale of hay and a little encouragement from behind. He is such a good boy!

The gentleman that purchased Chuck was here early this spring with his wife to purchase some of our ducks. While he was here today he purchased nine more ducks to add to their flock. I guess they are enjoying them!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Farm Photos from Today

This is one of four roosters from our Southern States chick purchase this spring. He tried his hand at crowing for the first time this morning. He was supposed to be a Americana hen but instead he is a Single Comb Light Brown Leghorn as are the other three roosters and four matching hens. I may keep one Roo to go with the hens... maybe.

These two hens are also from the spring chick purchase. They are supposed to be two of four Barred Rocks. But two look like the closer hen with bright orange legs, larger comb and more white to the bars. They other two look like the far hen with dull yellow legs with grey on the front and toes, smaller comb and less white on the bars.

Here is our new cria born yesterday. Looking much drier and cleaner today. He is also much more steady on his legs and his knees are pointing in the right direction now!

Gabby is one of my original two Nigerian Dwarf Goat does (along with her sister Pepper). Gabby has turned into a beautiful goat and everyone comments on her when they come to the farm.

She is also very sweet and loves to give kisses. (A rare photo of me. Taken with the camera held at arms length.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Finally, another cria is born!

My favorite alpaca Celtic Woman, aka Celtie, finally delivered her cria this morning. A beige little male out of our stud Novio. He seems to be all legs and knees at the moment.

After stretching his legs for a bit, he had his first meal, and a good roll in the dirt before settling down for a rest.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Movie Night!

We had been promising our son, Evan, that once he turned 7 years old he would be able to start watching the Star Wars movies. Well, he turned 7 the end of May but his sister McKayla has just turned 5 and we don't feel she is ready to watch it yet so we have had to wait for the right time. This afternoon, Grampa Kork picked up McKayla for an overnight at the grandparents house. Evan was so excited!

But before we could get to watching Star Wars I needed to finish up with a new batch of goat's milk soap that I was stirring and stirring waiting for it to trace so I could pour it in the mold. I made an Oatmeal Vanilla soap this time. It was taking so long I enlisted Neil to come and stir so I could start making pizza for our dinner and movie watching.

The pizza came together quickly with the use of my ABin5 dough already in the fridge. I cut up one of the sweet banana peppers from the garden and put it on my half of one of the pizzas and it was so spicy and yummy!

Finally, Neil, Evan and I snuggled together in the living room so Evan could experience Star Wars for the first time. We ended up watching both Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope AND Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Evan was so animated during the movies. Neil and I just kept smiling at each other when Evan would cheer for the Rebel forces!

A good night!