this weekend

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This weekend we accomplished a couple of homesteading tasks. Of course a tool met its demise at the hands of Kevin, who has left an array of broken implements in his wake over the past few years. Today’s casualty was the push broom we were using to clean out the winter chicken coop. I kid you not, he was simply sweeping and it broke in half, just as the hammer snapped while he worked on the deck and my dad’s shovel splintered in two as he dug out the old hydrant while moving the water lines this past summer. His new farmer muscles seem to be twice as strong as his old, gym-built ones.

I plan to be back later this week to tell you what else we did today.

Here’s hoping your weekend was good and all your tools remained intact.

-L

here

I might not have all my ducks in a row but my eggs are another story.

I may not have all my ducks in a row but my eggs are another story.

I’m not sure if there is anyone left around here to read these words but I think I will type them none the less. A 9 month absence must be enough to kill a blog, especially a little one like mine, but I will write because I need to dump all of these words and thoughts out of my head. I need to keep a record of our days and experiences if for no other reason than that I want my kids to have it. So, I suppose, it doesn’t really matter if there is anyone here reading this as long as someday in the future the kids do.

I know I have said this before but this was meant to be a journal of our homesteading experiences and this year has been real short on the homesteading bit. I mean, we are still here, still chopping firewood and moving sheep, still butchering our own animals for food, still pulling a plant or two out of the ground to grace our dinner table but it all seems far and few between and certainly not noteworthy enough to write a post for. Really, what would that look like anyway?

We woke up this morning and walked the 10 sheep 10 feet from pasture 1 to pasture 2 today.

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We harvested carrots for tonight’s dinner from our one and only row planted this year.

Awe inspiring it is not.

So rather than manufacturing posts and scraping together a few pictures, I just avoided it all together. Spring and Summer around here were spent mostly in doctors’ offices, either for my issues or for pre-op, op, and post-op (which in the end lasted months longer than it should have) on Kevin’s right knee. Our two biggest projects consisted of Kevin digging a new waterline out to our overwinter pastures (which took nary a long weekend) and him rebuilding our back deck, a highly boring job but one that had to be done, lest the whole thing went crashing down sometime this winter, buckling under the weight of two feet of snow.

Of course, we still felt busy because while none of those things look all that impressive individually, string 1000 mundane moments together and they still take up a hell of a lot of time. Add in that half of those 1000 things involve an animal with an instinct, an agenda and a mind of its own you might as well multiply it by a million. On top of it all there are two little kids needing time and attention (Exhibt A: while just typing this I had to field a question from PJ as to what is actually happening when we burn wood in the woodstove. This led into a discussion of atoms, molecules, hydrogen, carbon, waste products, atmospheric gases, incinerators and how it all impacts the environment.) Granted, we got our science lesson for the week (month? next year?) out of the way but you can see how this might all make a mom (and dad for that matter) a little too tired to muster a weekly blog post.

So what else is there to say? I have missed writing and all the cathartic side effects that come along with it. I have struggled with what to write about and how to walk that line of feeling like I have to share and sharing because I want to. I want to connect with other like minded people as well as people that can help me expand my mind. I’m not going to make any broad sweeping statements that I am going to show up here every day, or every week for that matter, but I do know that I want to show up. How that’s all going to play out I have no idea but I do know if anyone wants to come along I sure would enjoy the company.

eggs, eggs, everywhere

I LOVE eggs! My favorite breakfast, of all time, is Eggs Benedict but I will eat them any way I can get them. When I was pregnant with PJ my major craving in the second trimester was scrambled eggs. At first they were the only thing I could keep down as I emerged from the awful period that was the first trimester of my first pregnancy. I ate them every day, sometimes for both breakfast and lunch, until other foods began to sound appetizing again.

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When we first came here the thing I looked forward to the most was getting our laying hens. Being able to walk outside and collect all the eggs we could eat, for only a fraction of the store bought price, was quite exciting. Not to mention, our eggs would be healthier and more nutritious than eggs sourced from conventional or even large organic conglomerate (and supposedly pastured) farms. The day we got our first egg (a brown one) I was excited. The day we got our first Americauna egg, well then, then I was ecstatic. Not only are they tasty and good for us but they are cheery to look at. I will never tire of all the different sizes, shapes, hues and speckles or the unexpected excitement of perusing the nest boxes, gently nudging the lazier hens out of the way, to find what they have to offer us both morning and night.

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Unfortunately, we are having a similar problem to the Great Tomato Influx of 2012…instead this time we are drowning in eggs. Yes, I see a recurring theme of me, getting overly excited about each new venture, dreaming a smidgen too big, over extending us in the process and then having more of a yield then we can reasonably use. Humph! Thanks for passing that characteristic down to me Dad. Originally we had intended to sell eggs but have had a hard time finding a large enough outlet to sell all that the girls can lay, minus what we can use ourselves. Even though we have shut off the lights in the coop, and spring has most definitely not arrived around these parts, we still have dozens of eggs leftover and the girls continue to lay about a dozen every three days, even without their extended daylight conditions. So I have searched the internet for every egg using recipe I can find. We eat egg salad often. Inhale deviled eggs 2 dozen at a time. I make all forms of custard desserts on a fairly regular basis. I’ve become a pusher of scrambled eggs, eggs over easy and poached eggs for breakfast and try to throw in a Quiche or Strata for dinner at least once a week. I am not “egged out” yet (probably never will be) but the rest of the crew seems to be over them. If all else fails, and we don’t get to them before they start to turn, they are destined for the pigs’ slop bucket. Seems like a waste of good eggs to me!

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I need inspiration. I need recipes. I need someone to buy all of these darn eggs!

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What recipes can you share that would use a boatload of eggs? Because a boatload is most certainly what I’ve got.

a winter walk

I fear that farming in winter, especially in Upstate New York, might be a bit repetitive. It mostly consists of running outside, seeing to feedings, de-icing waters, collecting eggs, milking (when Bert kindly leaves any behind for us, which will soon no longer be an issue, but more about that later) and giving everyone a quick once over before running back to the house so we can defrost in front of the fire.

So I thought I would share a couple of photos from a recent walk about the homestead.

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Tractor and cat tracks. We also found rabbit and deer tracks but, of course, I neglected take pictures of those. :-/

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A man, his dog, and their little bit of woods.

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Looks like that one is going to need to come down this year.

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And finally, after a few days of staying in the coop due to high winds and below freezing temps, we let the ladies and, ahem, their two gentlemen out for some fresh air and a much missed sun bath. She led the pack, saw the snow, gave it a peck or two and said…

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“um, no way. You people are crazy!*

Hope you have a happy week filled with sunshine and laughter.

*They did eventually come out. It took them quite a while and they exited one by one, jumping from the top of the ramp down onto the grass under the coop where, as far as I know, they stayed for the remainder of the day. It does beg the question of how the heck they got back in later that night?!?

baby, it’s too cold outside

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We have had quite the cold snap around here as of late. A week with temperatures feeling like they are below zero, or colder. Hence, we have only done the absolutely necessary outside (breaking water in the few unheated waters, delivering daily meals and collecting eggs), you would too if, while milking your cow, the milk was freezing to the side of the pail almost instantaneously! Instead we have been attending to indoor chores (ugh, I’m getting tired of looking at tax paperwork) and doing our best to entertain ourselves while being cooped up for what looks to be a relatively short period of time. I have never been so happy to see a HIGH of 20 in the forecast.

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The sunrise is beautiful but I would rather be curled up inside, in front of the fire, with a hot cup of coffee.

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That 6 degrees on there, it actually felt like -15.

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They have spent a lot of time staring out the windows, wondering why we won’t let them go out to play in the snow.

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When we do venture out we are constantly looking for a quick escape from the frigid temperatures, this day we linger a little longer than usual in the barn wishing that sunlight streaming in actually felt warm.

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Through it all the ladies have kept up their laying and we have been fighting to keep the coop feeling warm for them. We do come out to a few frozen and, consequently, cracked eggs everyday though.

With every challenge there comes opportunity (that’s been my daily mantra as of late after all) and with our extra time inside we have been…

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Making future plans.

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Grabbing a nap when we can.

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Taking time to play games, Trivial Pursuit for the adults, Crazy 8s or Go Fish for the younger set and Scrabble for the bunch of us.

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Cuddling up in front of here whenever possible.

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Taking the time to sit and create when the urge strikes us.

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Being warmed by the sweetness that the kids show us. PJ brought this back to me after a trip out with Nonni. I think he learned that from his daddy. I’m glad he’s been paying attention.

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Been waking up to this in the slow cooker for breakfast, hoping it will help us to warm up on these very cold mornings. Overnight Oatmeal: Steel Cut oats cooked in milk and water, your choice of fruit (in this case Ida Red apples) cinnamon and maple syrup. Yum!

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And when nothing else was able to warm us up we indulged in a glass of this (Rhubarb Tea is on the agenda for spring.) It’s delicious and if you haven’t tried it yet you should grab a bottle, your sweetie and cuddle up under a blanket, preferably by a roaring fire.

Here’s to staying warm. Cheers!

December 18th

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Our Ameraucanas finally started laying in the last few days.

I’m inordinately excited about this newest farm event. After all they are just eggs, and we have been drowning in eggs for a while now. But these eggs, these eggs are green and hopefully, as more of these lovely ladies start laying, there will also be blue and pink ones, in many shades, joining them. I believe that this is my Solstice gift from the farm crew, and the universe.

I couldn’t be happier!

Yes, the one on the right is twice the size it should be, probably a double yoker, which seems to happen when they first start laying and are still working out the kinks. 

Where we’re at

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”  -Laura Ingalls Wilder

The past few weeks have been a blur and the next few promise to be more of the same. It’s a busy time here on the farm, especially since it’s our first Autumn. No big posts are on the horizon but I like checking in and keeping everyone updated, so here is what we have been doing…

>Celebrating not one, not two but three birthdays. PJ, my mama and Kevin are all another year…wiser!

>Preparing for two new arrivals. It is very exciting and extremely nerve-racking, all at the same time.

>Anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first little calf, trying to soak up all the information and knowledge that we can about birthing and milking. All the while, knowing that we won’t truly “know” anything until we are in the thick of it.

>Picking, reorganizing and constantly shifting sheep breeding groups, on paper, in the hopes of getting spring lambs with the characteristics we are looking for.

>Desperately trying to get the girls back to laying after a sudden cold snap that made them stop, overnight!

>Trying to come to terms with the fact that we now have not one but two roosters in residents. Which is quite funny considering we paid extra for sexed chicks. (As long as they continue to behave and be respectful they can stay. If that changes they will quickly become dinner!)

>Working on getting Mum and Poppy to eat out of our hands and to let us give them a good pat or scratch.

>Thinking that the time spent last week carefully monitoring the weather for frost advisories was a complete waste of time. We were trying to strike that balance of soaking up more time to ripen the produce without losing it.

>Feeling fooled when we awoke to a frost, considering the weatherman said it wasn’t supposed to drop below 40 degrees overnight. Our best guess is the windstorm that unexpectedly blew through brought with it a windchill that dropped temperatures below freezing.

>Feeling sad that I lost all of the remaining basil to said frost.

>Feeling irritated that a good amount of squash got compromised by the frost and now, rather than tucking it away to use later in winter, I need to process it immediately.

>Prepping for next year’s sweet potato plot and how we are going to fight what ever it was (rodent?) that gnawed on     almost half of our crop, which rendered that half inedible for those of us of the human persuasion.

>Patting ourselves on the back for buying the pigs because they, my friends, ate all of those previously nibbled sweet potatoes after a careful trimming by us. In the end, we will eat that produce one way or another!

>Processing bushel after bushel of apples from our local apple orchard. Juice, applesauce and apple butter, oh my!

>Watching Kevin’s first go at hard apple cider bubble away upon the kitchen counter…teasing us!

>Searching for a local provider of organically grown pears and striking out.

>Desperate for those pears because I whipped up a delicious dessert this week and I need to tweak it so I can share it here.

>Finding others around us who are striving to live the way we are and feeling comfort in the fact that there are kindred spirits “nearby”.

>Considering adding a breeding flock of heritage breed turkeys to our motley mix of livestock.

>Contemplating other heating sources to use in the house, in order to alleviate our dependence on oil. I personally wish for a woodstove to sit beside and knit (or just create in general) at.

>Composting, plowing up and preparing to plant next springs garlic plot.

>Using the last of the previous years venison just as opening day of bow season arrived.

>Sending the hunters out with high hopes, feeling like it is still too early to expect any venison to be coming back in with them.

>Remembering that we have to stop at the local sugar house (who also happens to be a neighbor) to stock up on maple syrup since we’re almost out.

>Walking around our little bit of woods thinking that we should mark our own sugar maples and try our hand at tapping them this winter, just for fun.

>Savoring the last warm weather days that are sprinkled throughout fall, while also looking forward to the coming winters activities.

>Working hard at re-instituting a family rhythm that allows us to feel connected and grounded during these busy days we are now living.

>Feeling the pull of our quiet, winter routine and looking forward to attending to indoor activities that desperately need to be done. As well as, giving time to each of our individual creative outlets that we have missed so much during this busy summer and fall.

What is new and exciting in your neck of the woods?

Friday confessions

This Friday’s confession is brought to you by our garden, and my apparent lack of creativity, as of late…

This isn’t even the whole lot. I processed a basket full two days ago and gave another basket full away to some neighbors.

I’m beginning to resent my tomato plants, they are producing too much, to quickly and I can’t keep up. So, maybe I actually resent my lack of ability to stay on top of all my to dos. Where did the girl go who could keep up with everything? Oh yeah, that’s right, she had two kids, gave up sleeping at night, vowed to live without certain conveniences (ones that might make things faster but were harmful to both her loved ones and the earth) and took on running a homestead.  I am officially out of creative ways to prepare and preserve these pretty little gems. Actually, I lost some because I let them sit too long while I contemplated what to make with them. Not to worry though, the chickens enjoyed them as an afternoon snack the other day. So I guess we will be eating them one way or another. Eggs anyone?

So if you have any suggestions please send them my way. And hurry! Two days from now the amount of tomatoes will have double. Kevin’s, not so helpful, advice was to have a tomato throwing fight. I said that was wasteful. He said “not if we do it near the chicken coop or in the pigs’ pasture.” His reasoning here is, unfortunately, sound. I really don’t want to participate in his plan, so if you would like to save me from this embarrassment, send me your ideas. As added incentive, next week I promise to share a very tasty recipe in return. 😉

Happy Weekend!

The weekend

The storm rolling in.

Is there really ever a weekend when you live on a farm? Certainly not in the sense of two days off at the end of your work week, but on the other hand, we never suffer from a case of the “Mondays”, so there’s that! The past two days here have been low on productivity with Saturdays highs reaching the mid 90’s and the heat index reaching well into the 100’s (not feasible with two babes that must follow us everywhere.) Sunday brought a, much needed, downpour that chased us all inside. 

The view out of our kitchen window.

We did manage to move the mobile chicken coop to a new swath of pasture, which ended up taking two extra people and two extra hours and ended in us darting for the house before the sky opened up. Because really, who wants to be handling electronet fencing in a thunderstorm? It is all quite hilarious looking back on it now, possibly even post worthy. I also harvested some produce, the most notable being 2 pounds of beans destined for pickling and was able to put up 8 jars of pesto. Outside of those accomplishments, and the usual daily chores, nothing else got done.

Waiting for a trim and pickling.

It has also been hard getting back into the swing of things after being away for 4 days. Upon arriving home, it seemed as if, the only thing that had grown were the weeds and I think we are both struggling with being extremely overwhelmed by how far behind we feel. So in that vein, and to please my Type A personality, here is our “To Do” list for the upcoming week:

  1. Make and can Dilly Beans.
  2. Weed herb garden.
  3. Harvest some lemon balm, parsley, basil, cilantro, sage, thyme, tarragon, and marjoram.
  4. Dry, freeze or otherwise process said herbs.
  5. Weed, weed, and more weeding of vegetable garden. Problem here is, by the time we get done weeding the entire garden the weeds are growing back in where we started.
  6. Create some kind of support for the sweet corn.
  7. Tend slicing and cherry tomatoes – prune, snip, re-tie/support.
  8. Come up with a way to trellis paste tomatoes. These have gotten quite out of hand and we are at a loss for a good way to support them that also allows us to easily harvest the ripe fruit.
  9. Try to train pole beans back onto their respective poles. I have never had a problem with this in the past but this year they just seem to have a mind of their own.
  10. Pick and trim swiss chard.
  11. Freeze what chard we do not use this week.
  12. Pick lettuce, beets, eggplant, peppers, squash, possibly fingerling potatoes.
  13. Weed sweet potatoes.
  14. Plant fall crops. We are kind of late with this but I would like to throw, at least, some peas and spinach in.
  15. Weed asparagus and rhubarb bed.
  16. Fence in pine trees in front pasture and move sheep into said pasture.
  17. Move Lilac out of front pasture, break-up middle pasture and move her into first section.
  18. Move pigs to other end of, what will become, the garlic patch.
  19. Lay down manure to “bake” in sun on the section pigs just rooted.
  20. Muck out chicken coop and lay down new litter for “deep bed method.”
  21. Muck out stalls and big section of barn.
  22. Pick up peaches from local orchard.
  23. Jam, can and freeze peaches.
  24. Pick rest of boysenberries off bush by barn and process.
  25. Name lambs and send in registration for all sheep.
  26. Find a Ram that fits all of our criteria and set up a plan for getting him here by October 1st, to use for breeding in November.
  27. Order hive and have beekeeper relocate the bees that have taken up residence in barn wall.
  28. Place grass-fed beef order for winter. Hopefully this will be the last time and next year we will be running our own steers.
  29. Go over budget and accounting for farm books.
  30. Work out plan for winter food storage.

Well, what do you think? Can we get it all done by next Sunday night? What is on your “To Do” list this week?