Thursday, May 28, 2009

Well, look what the cat dragged in...

These two boys, Fringe and Jet, are the two cats that we adopted from the Animal Shelter last October. After our last farm cat, Sweet Pea, went missing last summer we needed to get some farm cats to keep our rodent population in check. If you have any size farm that has livestock you are going to have livestock feed. Livestock feed gets spilled and attracts rodents. Cats are the answer.

These two spoiled "barn cats" can come and go from the house at will through a kitty door off the back of the house. This works well... most of the time. I like that they come into the house to eat (it keeps me from feeding the stray cats around), sleep (usually in my bed) and I like being able to see them everyday to make sure they are ok. What is not so great is the trophies that they bring back after a hunt.

I have removed dead mice, voles, squirrels, alive and dead birds, live wild rabbit kits, and recently, numerous lizards. So, it was no shock to me this afternoon when the kids yelled from the bedroom that there was yet another lizard in the house. I yelled back, "is it dead?" and I got a resounding "No!" from the kids. By the time I made it to the bedroom McKayla was holding the lizard and both her and Evan wanted to know if we could keep it as a pet.

My first reaction was to let it loose outside but after enduring the pleading of the kids I relented to keep it for "awhile" before letting it loose again. It just so happens that we have an unoccupied reptile cage setup complete with heat rock so that became its new temporary home.

Meet Izzie:
Izzie is about 7 inches long from nose to tip of tail. A quick search on the Internet told us that Izzie was an Eastern Fence Lizard. Their main diet is spiders (I like this lizard already) and other insects. So, Izzie is going to hang out with us for a bit so the kids can observe its behavior. We will then return it to the woods where hopefully it will avoid the cats in future!

Rhubarb (Refrigerator) Jam

I love rhubarb. It is probably my favorite "fruit" and rhubarb pie (NOT strawberry rhubarb mind you - although I would eat it if forced too) is my favorite fruit pie.

After freezing some of my rhubarb, I managed to have a small amount still left in the fridge. Needing to use it up before it lost that fresh taste I opted to make the most simple preparation possible: Refrigerator Jam.

I had about four cups sliced rhubarb. Put it in a sauce pan.

I added 2 cups sugar and set over medium heat.

No need to add water... it makes it's own juice.

Bring to a boil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes while occasionally stirring the pot.

Place into a clean container, let cool and then refrigerate. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This and That Today

Nothing major to report today just a few little things going on.

The fence on our goat buck pen has been needing some work for a while now as our buck had no qualms going through the five wire electric fence that made up one side of the square pen to get to the does. Somehow the fix for this problem kept getting moved down the list of priorities around the farm. Well, yesterday morning, Neil finally got a line of woven wire strung up about a foot inside the electric fence. I didn't have time to catch the buck yesterday but this morning I snapped a lead on him while he was munching on his breakfast. After a bit of a tug of war to get him away from the sweet feed/grain and the does he found himself back in the buck pen again. He went went right out to the pen and started nibbling on the tall grasses and weeds there. By 7pm tonight he was still in the pen... I wonder if he will still be there in the morning?

Our Nigerian Dwarf Goat buck, Enchanted Hill Gottaway

My pickling cucumbers finally peeked their heads out of the soil after a warm and rainy day here today. Still no sign of the carrots, lettuce and radishes I planted at the same time. Elsewhere in the garden the tomatoes are doing great! I love the smell of tomato plants as I brush against them while weeding... an old factory trigger for what is to come! The summer squashes, watermelon and peppers are looking good too.

Another duckling hatched out overnight. I had a flurry of them at the end of last week but hadn't had anymore hatch for a few days so I was a bit surprised to see it this morning. Ducklings, like puppies, are something I never want to grow up. They are so perfectly cute at this age.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Independence Day Update #4

Happy Memorial Day!

A couple from Danville, VA came and bought some ducks today. They were here in December and purchased three of our Muscovy ducks and an Embden goose. They recently lost their drake and came back to get another. They also ended up getting another mature duck and a month old duckling. They will all have a wonderful new home with this couple as pets on their pond.

Here is my weekly IDC update:

Plant something - Russet potatos, Glaskins Perpetual Rhubarb, Drunken Woman Lettuce, Iceburg Lettuce, Kuroda Long Carrots, Radishes, Bush Pickle Cucumber and Straight 8 Cucumber.

Harvest something - Fresh free range eggs from our chickens. Plantain (the herb/weed) from our yard, wild mint.

Preserve something - Froze fresh mint leaves, dried plantain leaves.

Reduce Waste - Did our usual recycling efforts. Took our once a week trip to town to save on gas. The kitchen scraps went to the chickens and/or the compost bin. Got a Little Tike basketball hoop off of Freecycle for the kids.

Preparation and Storage - Not much on this front this week.

Eat the Food -

Sunday, May 24, 2009

3-2-1 Blast Off!

This afternoon Evan was excited to try out the rocket science kit he received yesterday as one of his birthday presents. It was a pretty basic "kit". It came with a small booklet that did a great job covering how rockets work, included recipes for two types of rocket fuel and ideas to increase the fuels efficiency. The kit also included the plastic rocket, foam protective nose cone and the launching base.

The first rocket fuel recipe was a combination of vinegar and baking soda. Since I had both these items in the pantry this is the fuel we used today. The second fuel included alcaselzer, which is not something I normally have around the house. A small amount of baking soda was placed in the chamber of the launching base. The rocket was turned nose down and 1 tablespoon of vinegar was poured into rocket tube. The rocket was quickly inverted and snugly seated over the launching base.

We quickly took a few steps back and waited, and waited... then finally POP!

The rocket shot straight up into the air so fast it was impossible to keep your eyes on it! We heard the "thud" on the deck boards before we actually knew were it was going to land.

Rinse and repeat... and repeat... and repeat!

This was a whole lot of fun for both Evan and I! I am sure it won't be long before this gets sent flying again!
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Evan's Birthday Celebration

Monday is Evan's 7th birthday but due to several factors it was better to celebrate the occasion today instead. It was a quiet gathering with just us and Mimi and Grampa Bensen. Evan loved the castle cake I made and he got "most" of the gifts that he hoped to get so he was happy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Red Bellied Woodpecker

I was doing dishes this afternoon and noticed a flash of red on the tree out by my garden. It was a beautiful woodpecker. I pointed it out right away to McKayla who was in the kitchen with me. She too spotted it with no problem (which isn't always the case with a four year old).

We watched for a few seconds as it plucked insects from the bark of the tree before I thought to get my camera. He stuck around long enough for me to get a few pictures. Thank goodness for zoom!

Our bird field guide says that it is a Red Bellied Woodpecker. I have not seen one here before... I hope he comes to visit again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Plantain - Weed or Herb?

Plantain (Plantago major) is considered a common weed by some and a miracle plant by others. You can find it all over our farm along with another Plantain, Pantago lanceolata, which has long narrow leaves. Plantago major is edible. The young, tender leaves can be harvested for use in a salad, or steamed and used as a spinach substitute. Plantain is very high in beta carotene (A) and calcium. It also provides ascorbic acid (C), and vitamin K.

One of plantain's most common medicinal uses is as a poultice for stings, bites, scrapes and rashes. The simplest way to harness plantain's healing powers is to crush a few fresh leaves, and apply directly to the affected area. Replace fresh leaves as necessary. The fresh plantain "juice" takes the pain away and seems to work wonders at staunching blood flow and closing wound edges. It's also wonderfully refreshing and soothing to sunburns.

Since I have so much of this growing around the farm I thought I would harvest some today and dry it to use for infusions when needed. I have also read that it makes a great diaper rash cream so I think I will do a bit more research on that and make up a batch soon for Taylor.

Other happenings on the farm include two more ducklings that hatched out overnight. They are now in the brooder. Chamomile, one of our Am Chin rabbit does, had a date with the buck, Sarsaparilla, for the day. She is still with her 9 kits born April 9th but I wanted to rebreed her for a late June kindling. The date seemed to go well. I finally got the 4x8 raised bed planted that I cleaned out last week. Into it went Iceberg Lettuce, Drunken Woman Lettuce, Straight 8 and Bush Pickling Cucumbers, and Carrots. I also moved more of the tires that, in past years, I have been growing my potatoes in to a new place in the garden. I filled four tire beds (each stacked two high) with aged bedding from the barn. Into one tire I planted Rhubarb the other three will be getting Russet Potatoes... hopefully tomorrow.

Evan and McKayla are thoroughly enjoying the pool. They have been in it at least once a day since Friday. McKayla especially loves to swim and is constantly asking if she can go swimming. Which I still find amazing as it is ice cold and they come out blue with their teeth chattering... but they love it! Tonight is was a mere 60F outside and the two of them swam until I had dinner ready. Crazy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Independence Day Update #3

Between yesterday and today there are three new ducklings and two more turkey poults in the brooder. I expect a flush of ducklings in the new few days. Also, yesterday one of the oldest turkey poults that I had left with its mother found its way into the pasture and became a dog toy for our LGDs. When I found it in the barn I wasn't sure if it was still alive or not. It was missing feathers and wet from dog mouth. After I determined it was still breathing I put it with the young birds under the heat lamp in the brooder. In the afternoon it was dry and sitting up a bit. By this morning it was eating, drinking and looking BAR (bright, alert and responsive). It did not want to get up on its feet though... I wonder if it has a broken leg? They are not floppy at all so I have hope it will fully recover with a bit more rest but its days of free ranging with mom are over.

I spent some time in the garden this afternoon. Took the weed whacker around the outside of the raised beds. It looks so much tidier now. I haven't been able to plant in the 4x8 box that I cleaned out earlier this week as I hadn't figured out how to chicken proof it until today. I cut a 16 foot cattle panel in half to give me a 4x8 metal grid to lay on top of the box. Over the grid I will place a bird net for fruit trees. This should keep the birds from scratching up the bed and eating the seeds and disrupting any tender starts. I hope to get some lettuce, radishes, carrots and cukes planted in that box in the next few days.

Here is my update for the IDC this week.

Plant something - Mr. Stripy tomato, sweet yellow pepper, sweet orange pepper, sweet banana pepper, sweet potato.

Harvest something - Fresh free range eggs from our chickens.

Preserve something - Does feeding my sourdough count as something I am preserving? If so, it is something I do at least every other day to keep it alive.

Reduce Waste - Took our once a week trip to town to save on gas. Knitted up a reusable produce bag. No more plastic produce bags for me... YEAH! You can read about it here. Kitchen scraps went to the chickens and/or the compost bin.

Preparation and Storage - I scored a few more great items on the discount table at the local grocery store to have in the pantry. I am continuing to clean out garden beds when I have time and still keep up with the weeds in the boxes I already have planted. I am using newspaper with aged barn floor straw over it as mulch to keep the weeds at bay and the soil moist.

Our two oldest children have life insurance policies through Modern Woodmen of America. One of the many benefits that MWA offers to their policy holders is a free tree every year. This week I remembered to log onto their website and order our two free trees for this year. I don't expect them to come until the Fall for planting but it is something I got done this week! Oh, I ordered a Sugar Maple and a Redbud. The maple for Fall color and the redbud for Spring color!

Eat the Food - Made a Shrimp Scampi from shrimp from the freezer, pasta out of the pantry and served it with a loaf of sourdough bread, also out of the freezer. Brought a pan of Chicken Enchiladas, made with home grown chicken out of the freezer, over to the In-Laws for dinner Saturday night. Made more homemade granola and bagels this weekend for breakfasts.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Farm Photos

Six month old Murdoc... who we discovered was a Rose Grey only after shearing.

Last nights rain clings in the flower garden.

One of last year's hatch of Chocolate Muscovy Ducks.

One of Nigerian Dwarf goat doelings, Elizabeth, from this spring... she is for sale!

The Embden geese with their seven goslings.
The rose bush in front of the house is in full bloom.

Our Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Tate, taking a short break in the shade.

Finally, Daddy and 4 1/2 month old Taylor taking a stroll around the farm together.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's pool time again!

The kids have been looking forward to today all Spring! Today Daddy set up the pool again!

The past two years here at the farm we have had an 18' pool (the kind with the inflatable rim). It was great to have for the kids to cool off with in the hot summer months. Unfortunately, last summer we had to chase and patch leaks constantly and by the end of the season it was determined it just wasn't going to make it through another year. So, this week Neil picked up a new 15' pool and this morning he set it up and started filling it before we had to head into town to do some errands.

When we returned home around 1:30pm the skies turned grey, the thunder boomed and the rain came down. About an hour later the storm moved off and the kids begged to go into the pool.

The post rain sky as seen from the deck.

Now the pool was being filled by the garden hose with water from our deep well... read that as ice cold water. I said "sure" thinking that they would put their toes in and quickly change their minds.

The new pool still filling up with water.

McKayla was the first to "go all in".

Evan took a bit longer to get in but then was all about swimming.

Never underestimate the power of the pool! Brrrr......

Out in the chicken coop I found a turkey poult under one of my broody chickens. The turkey hen that had been setting down in the unused pig house left 8 eggs in the nest when the other nine hatched out last week. When I discovered the eggs they were cold but I gathered them up and put them in a nest box in the coop next to one of the broody hens. I didn't expect anything to come of it but I figured it couldn't hurt. After a week had gone by and no more poults had hatched out I reached in a gave the eggs a gentle shake. Three of them sloshed when shaken so I removed them... for a moment I thought of just removing them all thinking they must all be spoiled by now but I left them in the end. And today there was a poult under the hen! There are still four more eggs so I will wait and see.

Oh, and I also discovered a tiny chicken chick under one of the ducks in the coop as well. Funny, it was marked just like the turkey poults... it must be an Americana chicken cross. Both the chick and the poult got moved into the box under the heat lamp in the brooder.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time to weed the garden!

This is what my 4x8 raised garden beds look like after being neglected last year (Yes there is a garden box under all that!):

And here is what this one looks like now:

Weeded of its Crab Grass and top dressed with newspapers and two tractor bucket fulls of aged straw/manure from the alpaca barn floor. Three beds down and two to go!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Independence Day Update #2

Here is my update for the IDC this week. Not much going on yet...

Plant something - German oregano, sage, thyme, curly parsley and four cherry tomatoes in the boxes on the deck.

Two of the four cherry tomatos in the deck boxes.

Harvest something - Fresh free range eggs from our chickens.

Preserve something - Froze rhubarb for later use.

Reduce Waste - Took our weekly trip to town and stopped at the recycling center. Kitchen scraps went to the chickens.

Preparation and Storage - I cleaned the crab grass out of one of my 4x8 raised beds that went unused last year hope to get it planted next week.

Eat the Food - I don't cook using a meal plan because my family (especially Neil) often decides what they are in the "mood" to eat the day of or, at most, the day before it is to be eaten. What I do instead is to keep a well stocked pantry that allows me to cook pretty much any of our family favorite meals from what we have in stock. This means when I am shopping I am usually replacing or adding to our pantry stores instead of buying for ingredients for that weeks meals (except fresh fruits and veggies but again just replacing what we normally keep in the house). This week for example there was baked chicken with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and green beans; steak, hand cut french fries and salad; ham, mac & cheese and broccoli; sweet & sour meatballs with rice; and stuffed pizza rolls (made from scratch). All of the things were decided on the afternoon of the same meal and all the ingredients pulled from our pantry shelves or freezer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I can't be with my mom today as we live 855 miles apart, her in Maine and me in North Carolina. I treasure the time she is able to spend here on the farm with us once or twice a year. I miss her and love her very much. Happy Mother's Day Mom!

On the home front Neil snuck the two older kids away for an hour or so last night. The kids were giddy with delight at whatever it was they were working on with Daddy and had the hardest time not bursting out the secret of what they were doing.

I was later presented with three concrete stepping stones that the kids helped make and decorate! Each one was imprinted with their names. What a wonderfully thoughtful gift that I can enjoy forever in my garden. Thank you Evan, McKayla, Taylor and Daddy!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Duckling sales

Had a very nice family come to the farm today to see our Muscovy ducklings. They ended up taking 8 of them home.

That leaves us with 8 in the brooder... two of which the kids have requested we keep (the two largest yellow ducklings). We don't really need to add more ducks to the current number of breeders I keep but I think the one McKayla has asked to keep is going to be a drake and I would like to have a non-black drake so if that is the case he can stay here on the farm, and not for the table.

I hope to have plenty more ducklings in the next few weeks as well. I have two ducks on nests in the coop, two chickens on duck eggs in the coop, four ducks on eggs in the barn, one chicken on duck eggs in the barn, and just today I found a hidden duck nest in the goat buck barn as well.

Oh, and yesterday I found the turkey that was nesting in the old pig house out and about with 9 poults scurrying after her. I managed to catch 6 of them and get them in the brooder in the coop. That brings our turkey poult number to 16 in the brooder!

I also noticed that another of the turkey hens has started setting on a nest in the hostas on the front side of the house! I hopefully will have enough turkeys for the holiday orders this year. Last year was a bad year for the turkeys and I did not have enough to satisfy all my customers, which was terrible... I hope all goes well with these as they grow out.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Goslings are here!

When I was out feeding the poultry and rabbits this morning I noticed our gander was being very aggressive. I had a hunch what might be up, that his lady goose hatched out a gosling or two. The ground nest box that she sets in is in the poultry pen but behind the coop so I don't always walk back there every day to check on things... especially with all the rain we have had this week turning the ground to deep mud.

I braved the mud and was happy to see several yellow balls of fluff in the box with the goose. I happened to bring my camera down this morning so I snapped a few shots. Momma goose was not too happy that I was anywhere near and she kept hissing at me.

I was thrilled to see seven little goslings! Last year (which was her first year laying) she sat on six eggs, hatched only two and she crushed one in the nest. The single gosling that survived was doted on by her very protective parents. The seven in the nest this morning look vigorous and strong so I hope that they all make it.

Now, to find some folks that want some Embden geese.

When headed back up to the house I had babies on the brain I guess because I made a detour over to the tree stump that one of our Muscovy ducks has been setting in for weeks now. I moved the tires I had in front of the hole (to keep our dog out but still allow the duck to come and go) and could see that the duck was setting off to the side of where her nest had been. Four year old McKayla was with me and since she is smaller then me I asked her to reach into the opening in the stump and under the duck to see if any ducklings were there. To McKayla's delight she pulled out a little duckling! After she removed three more I told her to leave any more there with the mom (again I hate to take all the babies away from the moms that work so hard to hatch them for me). The four ducklings were taken back down to the coop to join the others in the brooder pen. That brings our duckling count to 16 in the brooder.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Independence Day Update #1

I decided to join in on the Independence Day Challenge over at Casaubon's Book. This is the second year of the challenge. Last year many of the blogs I read regularly participated in this challenge so I was intrigued to try it myself this time around. I hope to post my weekly updates every Monday so keep an eye out for them.

Plant something – Homestead tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, sweet basil and watermelon.

Harvest something – Fresh free-range eggs from our chickens.

Preserve something – Froze extra portions of split pea soup made this week.

Reduce waste – Only one trip to town for errands to save on gas. Leftover kitchen scraps went out to feed the poultry or into the compost. Our county has recycling bins for paper, plastic #1 & 2, glass, aluminum and steel. We do our part here and recycle all we can out of our daily trash. I also use cloth diapers so no diapers were added to landfills.

Preparation and Storage – I scored a good deal at the discount table at my local grocery store this week. Four bags of dried beans w/ seasoning meant for the crock-pot. Just add a meat protein for a complete meal. I also picked up two bottles of a green surface cleaner that were also on the discount table. I added some other items to my stores as well, boxed mac & cheese, tuna, chocolate syrup and salsa.

Build Community Food Systems – nope

Eat the Food – Used dry stores to make granola, granola bars and a large pot of split pea soup (using leftover ham from the freezer).

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Quest for Nano Gold!

The kids and I spent the majority of the day at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC today. We always have fun when we go to this great museum but today the kids got to be involved in a fun program designed by four Duke University students.

The program was called the Quest for Nano Gold. The small group of kids got to be involved with several fun hands on experiments and then they ended the program by making ice cream from liquid nitrogen!

McKayla with one of the Duke students preparing crystals to view under the microscope.

Evan performing litmus tests on liquids to determine if they are acids or bases.

All the kids loved the nitrogen gas spilling out of the ice cream bowl!

The whole group.

After the hour in the museum lab the kids I and hit some of our favorite exhibits: space, the playground, water syphon park, train caboose, Red wolves (a favorite of mine), the marshland boardwalk. We would have done even more outside things but it started to rain on and off and poor baby Taylor was strapped to me in the front carrier and I didn't have a rain hood for it.

One of many bullfrogs seen at the marshland exhibit.

After the museum I took the rare event of being in the big city of Durham to take a trip over to Whole Foods Market. I have been wanting to come for some time but at over an hour away from us it doesn't make for a cost effective grocery trip. I stocked up on some great things I can't find in our small town stores: nori sheets for homemade sushi, fish sauce for Thai dinners, organic grains, and gallon jugs of organic milk (I can only get half gallons in town for about the same price) among many other things. I do wish we where closer to this store so I could come more often.

It was a great day filled with fun but we didn't get home until almost 7pm then had to unload the groceries, feed the kids, nurse the baby... I am ready to sleep!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Poultry update

Just a quick note to report on the poultry.

Found six more ducklings in the barn this morning. That brings the duckling count up to eleven. Then when I was out getting the tractor so I could move some hay up to the barn I noticed a turkey hen on the tree line behind the goat barn. I walked back to get a closer look and it was the mother turkey from Monday and she still had the two little poults under her! Yeah!