december 7th- {begins with s}

D7K_5702S is for Saanen, the breed Miss. Annabelle, our homestead’s only dairy goat, is.

She’s special. More like a pet, less like a farm animal. She already follows us everywhere, including right out of the main pasture the day we turned her out after her short period of quarantine¬†in the barn. She now resides in a little fenced in area, closer to the house, with her new roommate Laverne, one of our Kiko doelings.

When she’s ready, I have big plans for all the milk she will provide, including some kick butt cheese curds (or what we refer to as squeaky cheese) using a mix of Lilac’s milk and hers. Oh, and I absolutely intend to milk her on our deck, right outside our back door- ya know, because I can! ūüėČ

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

shifting…

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I don’t know about you but this year I am looking forward to winter. I am ready to tuck the animals into their winter pastures, tidy up the garden and close up shop until spring. The shorter days and cooler weather are just what I need and I am so ready to move our attention indoors and practice hibernating for a while. I know, I know- feel free to remind me of all of this in February when I am complaining about hauling another bale of hay or unfreezing another hose, all while wading through two feet of snow in below zero temperatures.

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In the vegetable garden we only have the hardy crops left. Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, carrots, celery, beets, a couple of spaghetti squash and a few rows of tubers waiting to be unearthed. We lost our tomatoes (late blight?) but only after processing gallons of paste and dehydrating quarts upon quarts of cherry and pear tomatoes. I hope to harvest a few rows of carrots now and leave the rest in the ground, under cover of straw and mulch throughout winter, so we can pull them as needed. I am also contemplating doing the same with a few rows of beets as an experiment. The rest will be harvested and stored in our garage, layered between sand in metal garbage cans with the greens loped off. The remaining purple cabbage will be pulled out by the roots and hung, upside down, from our fruit cellar’s ceiling. The kale and Brussels sprouts will stay out until a nice hard frost to sweeten up and then brought in- the kale frozen for smoothies or beans and greens while the sprouts will be roasted and devoured immediately.

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As far as berries and fruit go, we are still picking a few ever-bearing strawberries for a quick snack as we run past the patch and the littles continue to eat all the ripe raspberries before any can be picked and brought it into the house. I, myself, am most excited about our much anticipated apple harvest, we have stolen a few here and there as snacks and they are delicious. My Aunt and Uncle were kind enough to supplement our fruit harvest this year while we wait for our little trees, bushes and vines to grow up. They brought me apples from their garden to add to ours for sauce, juice and pies along with a crate full of grapes which I made into juice and canned right away.

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Other than the goats, there won’t be much breeding going on this fall and the last of the pigs have been butchered, a huge relief as they were the hardest to overwinter. Over the next few months we will also be butchering some of the non-breeding sheep for meat, which will help get the herd number down to a more manageable number as we have not been able to sell anymore breeding stock.

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Soon the fall routine will be in full swing, Kevin and Dad will spend more time in the woods as deer season will have begun, apple and pumpkin everything will be consumed, canned, dried and frozen. We will continue with a huge amount of celebrations,¬†one birthday after another, sprinkled with a few anniversaries and, of course, all those autumn holidays yet to come. I hope to occupy myself with a lot of knitting, homemade chia and snuggling on the couch under cozy blanks, possibly in front of the fire, and waiting for winter’s arrival…a welcomed break after a particularly crazy year.

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Are you looking forward to winter? What are your plans and must dos for autumn? 

here a goat, there a goat

Meet our newest additions, our meat goats.

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These ladies and gents are one of the easiest keepers on the farm, maybe even simpler than our little bovine herd. With the exception of the occasional hoof trim and a lovely little incident with goat lice among the last group we brought in ( all I’m going to say is thank the heavens that we quarantine all newcomers and that the louse are species specific. YUCK!) they pretty much take care of themselves.

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We have two breeds in this herd, Boars and Kikos. Some are full bred, others are some cross of the two. The Kikos tend to be a hardy breed and more apt to eat just about anything. The boars seem to convert feed to muscle more efficiently so they should theoretically make the most optimal cross. With two huge ponds, a maple grove, lines and lines of pine trees and brush that is hellbent on devouring our fence line, not to mention the acres and acres of grass that would need to be mowed by one of us, we were in desperate need of a little help. This summer has been hijacked by a massive project which aims to re-grade a ditch that runs the length of our property and has required weeks of Kevin’s attention, as well as a weekend of help from his dad and a good bit of help from a neighbor, ¬†to cut down about 50 trees and clear it out before the heavy machinery can be brought in to complete the job. Needless to say, between this and all the other daily chores and winter preparations, we were in desperate need of some help.

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Our main goal when bringing in goats was to have some sort of livestock that would cleanup and clear out the north part of our property, taking that demand off of us this summer. And, like everything else, it needed to meet our criteria of providing some sort of income and a possible food source for us. Meat goats seem to be the answer, mostly because I do not have the time or energy to milk an entire dairy goat herd right now which was our other option. We decided to bring in two breeds in the hope of encouraging hardiness within our bloodlines, especially since we plan on only producing grass-fed meat and have no intentions of showing them.

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This will probably be one of the last additions to the farm for a while now, excepting births next spring, which will be limited to the goats and probably only a few sheep. With everything that has been going on this past year I missed our small window to get the cows bred in order to time the births in early spring and will now most likely have to wait until next July to schedule a visit from the AI specialist. At this point, we have only sold three of this year’s lambs and will only be butchering two of last year’s wethers for meat, leaving us at a herd total of 27, two more than the high-end of what I had hoped to go into winter with. Unless we sell a whole bunch in the next two months, only a few girls will be headed for a date with Zeke and Fergus this November.

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Now it’s up to Nelson, our Kiko buck, to get down to business this fall and expand our herd. Hang in there buddy, November will be here in no time!

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the july garden

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Our new, improved and smaller garden is in full swing as July comes to a close. We have already harvested and pulled our shelling peas and sugar snap peas to make room for our winter beets. As much as I enjoy pulling peas right out of our backyard, the time, energy and space that they take up is hardly worth it when I can buy peas locally for a nominal price. I think we will most likely forgo planting both types in the future.

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Yellow squash, zucchini and round zucchini are all producing abundantly. PJ has become skilled at identifying when each is ripe and can be trusted to harvest all three on his own. Now if only we could get him to eat them as well!

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Mountain after mountain of green and purple beans have been vacuum sealed and tucked away in the freezer for winter. I also planted a row of wax beans so that we could make my great-grandmother’s cold bean salad for lunches .

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The baby lettuce and Kohlrabi are both doing well and thanks to the small-scale of the garden this year we have been successful in decreasing our garden workload by laying down grass mulch in between the rows. My dad, very kindly, sweeps up the clippings after mowing and makes me a pile which we (usually with the help of PJ) distribute; laying down a nice thick layer after initially weeding each individual space. This year I also think we finally figured out the correct schedule for succession planting of our carrot patch, which should mean we will start harvesting full-grown carrots this fall and continue well in to next year with proper mulching and over-winter care.

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The potato plants have grown lush and green in this year’s steamy weather. I am hopeful that all that beautiful growth above the mound is a sign of things to come at harvest time. Our early season Yukons are beginning to die off, so by next month our potato diggin’ treasure hunt will commence. Next door the corn is also growing tall and green and I have spotted ears on some of our earlier varieties.

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Cherry tomatoes have slowly been ripening and PJ has enjoyed them for a mid-afternoon snack most days. As much as I wish my kidlets would pick up their own messes, I secretly love finding little tomato stems laying about the house; evidence of some nutrients being consumed by the same child that has firmly entered the “all beige” dieting stage.

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The most exciting news coming out of the vegetable garden this year is the presence of cucumbers. With total crop failures the previous two growing seasons, we are finally, once again, swimming in cukes! Granted, I had to buy our starts from a local organic nursery (all of mine died this year) but I’m still going to count this one as a win. We have eaten them fresh at almost every meal but we have also canned dill pickles and sweet pickle relish. Next on the agenda is some bread and butter pickles. As there is no end in sight, I would welcome any and all cucumber recipes that you might be willing to share.

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We are still pulling everbearing strawberries from a few rows in the patch and a handful of raspberries from our tiny plants. The weather here, in our part of the world, has been perfect for fruit growing this year. All around us local berry farms and orchards are have a fantastic year and bumper crops. Happily, we finally found a huge area at the back of our property covered in wild black raspberries that we have been harvesting and freezing and we will soon be gathering wild blackberries from a neighboring spot as well.

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What are you harvesting, foraging, pickling, fermenting, canning and/or freezing this month?

*It’s been one year since I started on the adventure of writing this little blog. I am grateful for the people it has introduced me to and the insight and reflection that it has afforded me. Happy Blogiversary to us and thank you for all the love and support you have shown us over the last year!

Much Love -L ‚̧

taking a detour

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It’s funny how we never really know what’s going on in others’ lives. We are only privy to snippets of what being someone else is like. Especially in the world of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all the other supposed connectedness that the interwebs grant us; we probably know next to nothing about the people we “visit” and “talked” to everyday.

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We can paint a perfect picture to send out into the world or create a soapbox to sound off on, all while safely positioned behind the screen that our dsl cable or our phone plan provides us. All of us have done it, created a pretty little picture of a pretty little life, just edit out the boring parts, take away the nasty bits, eliminate the hard decisions, gloss over the struggles and there- you now have a beautiful portrait to put on display.

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Just like when I take a photo and I actively do my best to crop out the chaos and the things I deem either ugly or unimportant, I have spent the last months presenting you with a portrait that only tells a fraction of our story. I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disease where my body is actively doing its best to kill my thyroid gland (which apparently controls almost every function in your body. Who knew?), mistakenly believing that it is something foreign and will cause my gland to slowly diminish in function, possibly stop all together, over my lifetime. This has caused a year-long bout with hypothyroidism, which I will spare you the, oh so lovely, details of (if you wish, you can read more about it here) and has resulted in my doctor asking me to remove gluten completely from my diet. Apparently, gluten has the same chemical makeup as the cells of your thyroid gland and when you eat that delicious piece of cake or slice of bread your immune systems goes into overdrive, not only attacking the gluten coming in but hitting your thyroid even harder. My diagnosis also means that I must be on some form of thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of my life, something that this chemical free, home-birthing, coconut oil swilling, refusing to clean with anything other than vinegar and my other homemade concoctions woman¬†really struggled with accepting.

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I had originally thought that finding a reason for feeling like I’d aged 50 years over the course of one would have been a huge relief but it has not been quite so black and white and having to remove one of my favorite things from my diet, seemingly over night, has done nothing but add insult to injury. I am Italian after all, so basically I have lost an entire food group here people! My doctor warned that this is not something that can be managed instantaneously and often requires tweaking, especially in the medication department, until continuous control of my hypo symptoms can occur. There could also be times where I will swing into hyperthyroidism and back again, another common occurrence with Hashimoto’s¬†and something that obviously makes calculating the amount of hormones I need to take on a month to month basis even harder. I have had a few symptoms ease over the last month of treatment but honestly my bad days still seem to be more prevalent than the good, so much so, that sometimes I’ll have a fantastic morning then crash and burn by dinner time, other days it can be reversed.

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I have struggled with whether¬†to share our newest obstacles here or to just keep it close. This was never meant to be a personal blog, however, it is written from my point-of-view and about our collective life. I do not want to spend my time, or yours, whining and complaining. What I do hope to accomplish from sharing this is possibly connecting with others who have dealt with similar situations, whether it be some type of thyroiditis (or any chronic illness for that matter), gluten-free living or both. Our first go at gluten-free bread, which called for potato starch, tasted like, well, potatoes…and not in a yummy way! And even though we rarely eat any convenience food, the quick, yet still organic meals that I did use when we were overworked, or just simply ran out of hours in the day, all seem to contain a gluten filled product as their main ingredient. It seems like we are starting from scratch and re-teaching ourselves something that we had just gotten the hang of.

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Truth is, I have times where the food restrictions alone get me down and cause me to wish that I could just go back to bed and sleep through the day. I also struggle with not being able to go, go , go the way I once did. Working in the garden now consists of a few minutes weeding and a few minutes sitting…greatly reducing my productivity. And if I push too hard through a given day, inevitably the following day will be a bad one; a full day out with Kevin and the kids on a Saturday means an entire Sunday lost, trying to recover. All of this causes me to feel like a frail 80-year-old woman, as opposed to, the capable 30-year-old that I should be…which tends to take a toll on my overall morale as well.

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This new path that we are forced to walk now will, unfortunately, be pervasive into every aspect of our homesteading life. Everything from the food we grow and cook, to time management and accomplishment of tasks will have to be reworked. There are some days where I am less than helpful and Kevin has to steer this ship all on his own. Needless to say, he’s been a little extra tired and made a few more trips to the chiropractor than usual, as of late. I am also, yet again, reminded of how much of a saint this man of mine is, the same guy who insisted on eliminating almost all gluten from his diet in order to support me! And while I do not wish to ever be defined by this I do need to learn how to live within the confines it creates, which is something I am bound to struggle with as I have always been a “doer”, often pushing through into the wee hours until a particular goal is reached.

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Even though, I am angry and sad that I have to deal (sometimes fight against) this new reality of mine, I am also grateful, both for the fact that, if controlled, it will likely never be life-threatening and for the lesson that it has already given me. Struggles are quiet little creatures that many carry with them, hidden from us all, tucked away in their pocket or shoved to the bottom of their bag. We have no idea what they could be feeling, what really triggered that seemingly exaggerated emotion to what we view as a benign situation. Someone could have every joint in their body aching and throbbing, regardless of just having got out of bed and after sleeping for 12 hours straight. They are also, probably, not out of shape (they may even exercise on a regular basis) and they are most likely not inherently lazy. They are doing the best they can, with the hand they were dealt on that particular day and are probably harder and more judgmental of themselves than you could ever dream of being.

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Here’s to giving everyone a little leeway, ourselves included.

Do you have an experience to share or any go-to gluten-free recipes that you swear by? 

*To the family members and non-internet friends who are reading: know that if this is the first you are hearing about all of this it is not because I was trying to hide it or didn’t want to share it with you before I broadcasted it over the internet. Recently, our time has been spent assimilating all of this new information and trying to adjust our lifestyle and thought process, well that, and trying to keep the homestead running while most days we end up being one worker short…which you wouldn’t think would be a big deal…but when you are already essentially two able bodies short of an actual farm crew, it really is. I also figured that this post was a way to have the conversation once, rather than 100 times. I welcome any questions or thoughts you all might have.

Love Always, -L

freer ranging chickens

I am fairly certain, over the seemingly short time of this blog’s existence, that it has become quite apparent that I am a recovering Type A personality. I fight the need to have everything “just so” on a daily basis. I tended to spend hours mapping out any given action, as well as all its possible outcomes. Up until becoming the mother of two (because really, let’s be honest, now it’s just about surviving the day) I was notorious for being over prepared. “Oh, it couldn’t have been that bad” you say? Well here’s an example, our wedding had an itinerary, which was broken down by the hour for the entire day, so everyone knew where they were suppose to be and when. Kevin also had a list of all the luggage and other bits he was supposed to deliver to the hotel we would be staying in the night of the wedding. To answer the questions I know you are dying to ask, yes, Kevin’s family still makes fun of me for it and yes, Kevin still forgot a piece of our luggage which we had to drive back and retrieve before leaving for our honeymoon.

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Anyway, I am sure you are wondering what this all has to do with our chickens. Well, you see, when we initially ordered the laying hens Type A me ran through all the scenarios. They mostly consisted of buying 40 hens, them not imprinting on the coop and never coming home the first night and in my mind every coyote, fox and weasel in the area would be stopping by daily for a snack. We bought movable electronet poultry fence, Kevin built a huge chicken coop, which sits two feet off the ground and on wheels with car jacks attached to each corner to aid in stability when parked, allowing us to move it to new grass within our fenced in pastures when needed. We religiously tucked them all in at night, which at the beginning often meant catching one or two with Kevin’s bird catchin’ net, or what most normal people would call a pool skimmer. Nothing could dig into the coop, most likely nothing was going to traverse two layers of electric fencing to have chicken for dinner, however, we also felt like we were constantly moving a gigantic, and what turned out to be cumbersome, chicken tractor and chasing chickens indoors every night.

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Fast forward to this spring and we had a few dozen chickens who had entered winter laying over two dozen eggs a day and were now limping along with only a few eggs daily, even though the daylight hours were increasing (hum, maybe I should refrain from writing posts like this one and unwittingly dooming us.) They had plenty of food and water, a freshly cleaned out and re-bedded house. No one looked sick, there was no predator pressure and our two roosters were doing an excellent job of gathering everyone up at dusk and tucking them into bed for us. There was no reason for them not to be laying dozens of eggs a day and they all looked a little extra ruffled and seemed to be scuffling with each other a little bit more than usual. One day while preparing dinner and looking out our kitchen window, which has a view of our front pastures, I witnessed our one and only Brahma hen running frantically from one end of their fenced in area to the other, worm dangling from her beak and about 25 other chickens chasing after her. What followed was a scuffle, the Brahma frantically swallowing her snack, some random pecking and kicking and a bunch of chickens retreating to either under or into the coop.

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I got to wondering if they were just acting up and fighting with each other because they didn’t have enough space to wander in. They seemed to be acting like siblings who had been stuck inside for too long with too much energy and no way to release it and, in turn, decided to take it out on one another. The worm incident seemed to be that classic fight of “I want what she has and even though there are 20 other toys,¬†I mean worms, on the ground no other than her’s will do!” So despite my concern, and control issues, we decided to take down their fence, trust that the boys would get everyone in at night and let them range as free as it gets.

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Almost immediately egg production steadily started to increase, everyone started to look sleeker and shinier and fighting reverted back to minor squabbles only once in a while. As of today, no one has ventured out of the pasture that the coop happens to be parked in, everyone marches into bed at dusk and we even witnessed our Speckled Sussex rooster, Brewster, calling everyone in when a particularly bad storm was blowing in.* Now we can roll the chicken tractor into a larger pasture and not have to move it within the week. Best of all, we no longer have to tangle with the electronet fencing every few days.

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I am shocked at how happy and content they all seem to be now and even though they have the whole world opened up to them they seem satisfied with taking just a little bit more space then they previously had and have shown no need to wander too far from home. Ah Ha! Another unlikely lesson in parenting learned thanks to farm life, I’ll be sure to file that one away for later. All of this did get me thinking, if my well-loved chickens were unhappy with just a quarter acre of space versus the full acre (and no fences) they have now, what do those poor chickens, who are crammed into hot huts with no windows, not to mention zero access to fresh grass to graze upon, feel like?¬†Well, I suppose there in lies the truth of it all, this is the reason we make the sacrifices we do, to live this back to the land life of ours…we were simply in search of a happy egg.

* This is what happens when the kids are in charge of naming and the oldest is going through a “everything I say must rhyme” stage. Also, our Americauna rooster is named Wooster. Just wait until you find out what they named the new calf.

if it’s not working…

Change it!

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The new garden plot.

Well the last couple weeks have been all about reconfiguring. Reconfiguring our plans, our wants, the things that we truly need and, most of all, our (often times unrealistic) expectations.

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Kevin preparing the soon to be potato patch.

Truth is, things had gotten a little out of hand; stuff on the homestead had seemed to take on a mind of its own. We were trying to do so many different things, in the hopes of being guided toward that which fulfilled us and that we honestly enjoyed. On the contrary, we were each being pulled in so many different directions that we were all suffering. Oh, the perks of restructuring you life and mindset all while in your 30s, raising two kiddlets and completely overhauling one’s living arrangements. We also found ourselves drifting away from some of our original intentions which had, of course, led us to this lifestyle in the first place. We were so busy everyday that Kevin and I found ourselves with little time and, unfortunately, sometimes even less energy and patience to really engage with the kids, what with constant farm chores, three meals a day to prepare (often times from scratch), businesses to attend to and any other general tasks all of us have to do in our daily lives. We also found that we all had little time left to pursue our individual creative endeavors, those things that refill each of our respective cups, allowing us to return to the group refreshed and recharged. The environment that we were unintentionally generating was in direct contrast to how we so badly wanted to live.

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Last year’s garden partially turned back into pasture.

Late this winter while discussing this season’s upcoming pasture rotation schedule we came to realize that the front pasture we used for our garden last year would need to be reseeded¬†and transitioned back into grazeable land. I officially started off spring feeling deflated and firmly planted behind the proverbial eight ball. After all the work and soil amending we had done on the space, with tremendous help from the pigs no less, we faced the 2013 gardening season back at square one.¬†We also sat down and discussed which livestock groups were working here, which we would like to possible add, and those that we would rather transition away from. Taking into consideration ease of keep (especially during the winter months), upfront and subsequent feed costs, resale value and whether or not the products that each inevitably provided could be purchased from other farming friends at a reasonable price, we started laying out slightly adjusted plans for the future.

I hope these guys get to stay!

I hope these guys get to stay!

As is usually the case, the further we move forward with these new plans of ours, the more the resulting benefits become apparent. We have scaled back the vegetable garden, finally convincing my father that we would never be able to make a living from market gardening if Kevin and I were the only two working at it. However, we can save quite a bit of money if we focus our efforts on the produce that we eat all year and put our energy into growing those crops well, then preserving them for winter. The garden is now much closer to the house which makes taking the kids out with me to tend to it much easier and tremendously more productive for me (this girl of ours is a runner, a daredevil and a huge majority of my days seem dedicated to keeping her from mortally wounding herself during one of her stunts). It also seems to be much more enjoyable for the kids, thanks to their play set and other toys soon being moved near by and a new picket fence that is being erected, allowing them to play safely within its confines, without me having to chase after the littlest every two minutes (that two minutes is not an exaggeration, by the way). We have already established various fruit trees and bushes, including a large strawberry patch that Kevin and I planted on the slope of a small hill, near the new garden area. As the new layout and design unfolds before us, my creative heart is happy with the aesthetic we are achieving, as well as the resulting increase in efficiency and more realistic goals we have set for ourselves.

It's a work in progress...

It’s a work in progress…

All of this reconfiguring has also allowed Kevin and I to begin focusing on creative endeavors that before had only received a fraction of our attention while we worked mainstream jobs and before we began cohabiting and pooling all of our respective resources. Our move here was supposed to allow for pockets of time, and interpersonal support for each of us, to rekindle these talents. I am so thankful that we were able to step back, re-evaluate¬†where we wanted to end up, accepting where we currently were and having the courage to say “this is no longer working for us, we need to change it.” Sometimes the choices are tough, other times the decisions are a no brainer, what’s important is that we realize when things are heading in the wrong directions and have the strength and confidence to turn the train around. Granted, admitting that I can’t accomplish everything on my list(s) is certainly not my strongest quality but that is why I have Kevin. He, thankfully, plays the part of my brain (which I dreadfully lack) that tells me when I have reached the reasonable limit of things that can be accomplished, figures out which of my “to dos” really do not matter in the grand scheme of things and identifies those that will need to be left until another day.

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Sunset over the apple orchard down the road from us.

I have a feeling that exciting things are on the horizon and I think we will now have the time and energy to enjoy them.

What’s new with you? Has Spring’s arrival inspired exciting changes in your neck of the woods?

surprise!

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Kevin found this little guy (yes it is another Bull, probably soon to be a steer, someone obviously didn’t get the memo that we were aiming for heifers here) when he went out to water and feed the cattle this morning. He said he looked up from what he was doing, saw Mum who stepped to the side and revealed our newest addition to the farm; according to the breeder, at least two weeks, possibly a month, early. He is initially friendlier than Bert was. He contentedly, laid at our feet in the barn, allowing us to pet him like we would one of the dogs.

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It was also quite interesting to see the difference in an experienced mother cow’s behavior versus, Lilac, who was calving and nursing for the first time last fall with Bert. Mum was immediately more attentive to her new calf and highly irritated when we separated him for only a few moments to check him over and trim and dip his umbilical cord. She is also highly protective of him and has nosed butted Bert away more than once when he got a little too excited near the baby.

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It’s official, spring is here in all her abundance, with the final birth of the season coming just two days after Beltane. I love it when things work out like that!

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For some reason it seems to me that five bovines officially makes a herd. Our Herd.

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Happy weekend!

As a side note, I am woefully behind on my blog reading (and engaging), please forgive me for being a bad virtual friend (if you have missed me that is) and bear with me while I try to catch up. Truth is, I have been too short on time, which is evident by the lack of posts on this blog of mine lately. Also, if I owe you an email, it will find its way to your inbox very soon. I promise I will try to do better in the future! ūüėČ -L

and that’s a wrap

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With the arrival of one last little ewe, we officially ended our 2013 lambing season on Monday. That makes seven ewe lambs and six rams for a total of 13 babies born. Almost an average of two sheep per bred ewe, which I am to understand is a pretty good result with Shetlands, especially considering many of them were first time mothers.

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With the exception of Hope and Catalina, who both lambed the same morning, each ewe gave birth within 48 hours of the previous lambs being born and I dare say you may have been able to set your watch to it. I think Kevin and I agree that it was the most fun we have had in all of our farm duties to this point. The anticipation of each ewe going into labor, combined with the surprise of how many would be delivered and what the new lambs would look like, made it that much more exciting.

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As far as we know (about half of the girls lambed without any of us witnessing the process) there were no birthing issues with the exception of the slight surprise of Catalina’s second twin being born hind legs first. No complications have occurred, no lambs have been rejected and all Moms and babies look healthy and energetic. All of the first timers have taken quite well to their new roles as mothers and milkers and we have been slowly introducing the new additions into the flock with little to no issues.

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We did have a couple of surprises that shocked even us. One of my favorite girls, Hannah, graced us with triplets (two ewes and a ram, no less) which is not only fairly rare in this breed of sheep but even rarer in a Shetland ewe’s first time lambing. The littlest of her lambs weighed in at 3 pounds and took an extra day to fully get her legs under her but she’s a little fighter and seems to be catching up quite nicely to her brother and sister. She has learned how to fight for her time at the udder to be sure that she always gets her fair share. Hope, one of our more experienced ewes, only had a single which I was not expecting but looking back on it now I should have been able to tell from her shape while pregnant. Her lamb turned out to be our only other completely white fleeced baby and was unfortunately a ram. Granted, he was the largest lamb born this year, weighing in at 9 pounds, and seems to have a very cute personality. While I was in the barn checking on everyone this afternoon, I turned around to find him chewing on the hem of my pants while his mother stood by nibbling on some hay.

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Looking back over the entire breeding and lambing process I believe that it was a success. Traveling to buy Zeke and Fergus looks as though it will pay off quite nicely as they have sired large, strong, healthy and interesting colored lambs. All the mothers have taken to their new roles better than I could have hoped for and have seemingly provided us with beautiful additions to our growing flock. I am fairly happy with the breeding pairs that I made and for the most part got the colors and patterns that I had hoped for. We are already looking forward to next fall’s breeding schedule. With a few tweaks, and last year’s ewe lambs being added to the mix, I am hopeful and excited to see what we get in 2014.

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For now it is back to sleeping through the night without going out on barn checks, having more time to write and post on this little blog of ours, as well as catching up and commenting on others, and attending to all our normal spring duties here on the farm. All with a few moments stolen to watch our little lambs bounding and hopping in the sunshine, of course. ūüėČ

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this morning’s arrivals

Here’s a little cuteness to welcome in your weekend.

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Kevin found Dessie with her new twins during our scheduled mid-morning barn check. They were nestled in a corner of the barn that the pregnant ewes have been taking turns resting in. There were no complications (that we know of) and they were both walking and nursing by the time we found them.

They are exactly the color and patterns I had hoped for when I paired Dessie with our white ram, Fergus, and happily, both turned out to be ewes. I am overjoyed by their adorableness and the promise they carry with them for this little farm of ours!

Welcome Addie and Abbie.

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Abbie

Born April 5th, 2013

Sometime between 9am and 11am

7 lbs

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Addie

Born April 5th, 2013

Somewhere between 9am-11am

6 lbs

Please excuse the less than stellar photos. Bad lighting in the barn (plus a very excited me using my iphone) equals not so great pictures. I would also like to give all the credit to PJ for naming the new little ones. We told him that all of this year’s names would have to start with an A and he ran with it from there. Have a happy weekend…we will most likely be spending it, in the barn, cuddling the twins! ūüôā