Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mowing the Grass

When we go to town or to run errands of some sort, I see all sorts of people out cutting their grass. We saw a man recently that had a very small yard, yet he was out cutting it with a huge zero turn mower. You see people on riding lawn mowers, zero turn mowers and even push mowers. We used to have 2 riding lawn mowers. The engine works on one, but something else has rendered it useless. :) The engine is blown on the other one. We do have a push mower to use in some places, but we like to also use a very special sort of lawn mower. It not only cuts the grass, but it fertilizes it as it goes. How cool is that? As I glance out my front door, you can see our lawn mowers in action. :)

Yes, we do allow the sheep to graze much of our lawn. We have to be choosey about what areas we put them in because they will eat the landscape and some of it might be poisonous to them.

Our friends that were just here over the weekend fell in love with Skye. You have to take several pictures of her to get a good one. She does not like camera. :)

The daughter of our friends sat in a chair and kept snapping pictures of her. She took this one.

I don't think we are going to get very many apples this year and I am not sure why. There were not that many blossoms. I hope we can figure out the problem for next year. I was really hoping on getting plums this year as well and we have not seen the first blossom. We plan on fertilizing them well and see if that helps. Our grapes are doing well.

This year, we used marigolds as row markers in the garden. I keep going out to deadhead them so that they will continue to bloom.

Our cucumbers are doing well so far. We have lots of blooms and a few little cukes coming on. Joshua and Brittany share our garden space. They have gotten several yellow squashes and a nice size pickling cuke so far.

Here is one of the tiny cukes. :)

We mulched around our pepper plants and tomato plants. I hope to get out there and mulch some more. I need to pile up more straw around the potatoes as well.

I planted sunflowers in several places. I think Brittany did as well. Here are some of mine coming up.

We hope to get our cow this weekend. I am so excited. We just finished a round of cheese and have one more left. We make raw milk cheeses so you either have to eat them fresh or age them at least 60 days. We love the fresh cheddar as well as the aged. I really do love to make cheese. I have a sweet friend who is a graphic artist. She designed my store logo and also an ad we placed in a magazine. She is working on a cheese label for me right now. I can't sell my cheese, but I still have to label it. We do give it as gifts though and I LOVE the label she is making.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Am Not Ignoring Your Requests

I have had several suggestions of things to cover in this blog. A couple of you are interested in more traditional methods of cooking, fermenting and preserving foods. I hope to do a lot of fermenting with my garden produce. I will blog about this as it happens and share pictures and recipes with you.

I have also had some requests on bread baking. I hope to start me another sour dough here in the next week or so. I will share that process with you also. I did make some artisan bread and if you are interested in that I will share the process.

Please let me know what you want to hear about. :)

I am so excited we will have our own milk again. We dried Buttercup off before Christmas. I had made lots of cheese and we have 1 1/2 rounds of cheese left. :) We cut it close. We are currently eating some raw jalapeƱo cheddar. It was one of my first attempts at it. The flavor is good, but it needs more zip. :) I will be making butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, kefir. I can't wait!!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monarch George.

Here is a quick update on Monarch George. :) You last saw him here which was just 4 days ago. He has grown a LOT!!! :)

Buttercup's Barnyard Bed & Breakfast

We are blessed to have friends who come to visit and stay with us. My friends around here said we should open a Bed & Breakfast. We do not want to do that, because we don't want to charge friends to come. :) However, we can call it that for our friends who do visit.

We had a family come to visit us this weekend. We have known each other online for about 10 years. The mom was friends in real life with a friend of mine when they lived in another state. This was the first time that Karen and I met in person. She and her family were so sweet. We really enjoyed having them, but the visit was too short.

They might feel that the visit was too long. Right before they came, we discovered that the upstairs toilet was leaking. Joshua came to fix it. It seems that nothing in this house was done in the standard way and it causes many nightmares when we have to fix something. :) This was no exception. It is still not fixed and the valves under the sink also decided to start leaking. So, we told them the only thing they could use in the upstairs bathroom was the shower. They would have to use the one downstairs for everything else. :)

Then Karen and I stayed up talking until 2AM. I kept hearing things in the pantry which was behind me. We have not had any signs of mice in the house so, I was not sure what it was. I figured I would set traps out. Then we heard a trap snap. I thought we had solved the problem and I would dispose of the mouse the next day. We kept hearing noises. I finally got up to go and look. The light switch for the pantry is about 4 feet away from the doorway. I had flip flops on. I was slowly making my way to the light switch while trying to see any movement by my feet. :) I felt the switch and flipped it on. There was a LOUD screaming noise that nearly made me jump out of my skin. A HUGE rat was on a sticky trap. We do NOT have rats in our house and I did not want to start now. The puppy came running to check out the noise, so Karen kept her back. I went and woke up Michael. He saved the day or should I say night by dispatching the rat and removing the body from the house.

Life on the farm.... I hope this doesn't keep more friends away. :)

Count Your Blessings Monday!! (on Tuesday)

Here is an opportunity for all of us to give thanks unto the Lord for a blessing in our lives. If you would like to take part great. If not that is OK too. If you would like to share your blessing, just leave it in the comments. If you want to use the picture above and list a blessing on your own site, then leave a URL to your site in the comments. There is no pressure here. I just know that I am incredibly blessed and I would like to share that and give thanks to Him who all blessing come from. This is a way that we can encourage one another. I know that I am often encouraged when someone shares a blessing with me. I think that many times we forget that it is a blessing to be able to breath, to get out of bed, to hold a baby... Share your blessings with us. We can share so many other things.... special gifts, recipes, let's take the time to share how God has blessed us!!

I am sorry I am a day late again. :) We had out of town guests and lots going on. If you remember from last week, I was waiting to hear from the man with the cows. He was going to send me a picture of them and let me know the exact price. I never heard from him, so I called him on Friday. He told me he had gone ahead and sold all the cows. I had told God that I wanted Him to choose our cow for us. He picked Buttercup out for us and she has been the best cow ever. Very gentle sweet, easy to milk and the best tasting milk ever. I did have my hopes up about getting one of these cows though. When he told me that he had sold them all, something sunk down inside of me. When I got off the phone, I put my head down and cried. I did tell the Lord thank you for an answer, even if it was no and that He must have something better for us, but I have to admit I was disappointed. I got online and started searching again. There is a Christian homeschooling family that had 3 Jersey cows. One, named Lilly had just had her first calf this month. They did not need 3 cows and so were selling her. We called and talked to the man and made a deposit. When I got off the phone I put my head down again and cried. This time it was tears of joy and thankfulness. I thanked the Lord for His faithfulness and asked Him to forgive me for a lack of faith. We hope to pick up Lilly this weekend. How could I have been disappointed when I KNOW that I can trust God? He DID have something better for us. We are so thrilled and will be back in the milking business very soon. Here is a picture of Lilly.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The First George of the Year!

If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I love to get caterpillars and watch them until they turn into butterflies. I name all the caterpillars George. That makes it easy to remember. The Wonderful Neighbor girl brought me a wee George last night. Can you see him on the leaf?
This picture is to give you some perspective on how tiny he is right now.

This is the first one of this year. I will post pictures to show you how quickly they grow. This is a fun and easy thing you can do with your children. This George was on a milkweed plant. He will turn into a Monarch Butterfly. We also get fennel Georges off of our fennel plants. I believe they turn into a Black Swallowtail Butterfly. You just put some leaves in a jar with the caterpillar. Poke some holes in the lid and watch and wait.

Farm News and Stuff

The sheep were safely loaded and taken to the auction. I am hoping the check will come today. I was told that I would be pleasantly surprised at what they bring. I picked a low number and I will hope for that. Anything over that will be a good surprise. :) I felt so bad after they were gone. I had babies crying for their momma and momma's crying for their babies. The next day, the Wonderful Neighbors got 2 calves. Our cows were going nuts because they heard or should I say "herd" the calves bawling. The momma in them came out. Clover, especially was very agitated. I was sitting looking out at the remaining sheep and lambs. I saw them all look up toward the front and start moving that way. They began to carry on. I went out to see what was out there and there was nothing. Then I heard the calves bawl again and the sheep were answering. They were all commiserating together.

I have not heard back from the man with the cow in milk. I am going to try and call him again today. I called on Monday and left a message. I am praying this works out.

I dehydrated 8 lbs. of blueberries this week. If you ever decide to do that, I suggest you do small batches. To have blueberries dehydrate and be like a raisin, you need to either freeze them or dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds. This does something to the skin. Last year I tried dehydrating them without doing this. They just became like these little air balloons. You would bite them and it sounded like you were snapping gum. There was not a lot of substance. This year, I dipped mine in the boiling water using a stainless steel basket from a deep fryer. I then put them in a colander to drain. The weight of all the berries smashed the ones on the bottom and in the middle. Next time I will dip them in the hot water and just hold the basket over the sink. I will put them on a dehydrator tray and then do another small portion. Or, I may end up spreading them out on a cookie sheet and freezing them that way and then dehydrate them. Life is all about learning and trying new things. :)

Our chickens have slowed down a bit in their laying and we are trying to figure out why. We have plenty of customers for our eggs, so I hope they don't go any lower.

I have been wanting to paint for awhile. I don't paint beautiful landscapes or portraits, just simple old country painting, but it satisfies something in me. I had gotten a new compost bucket and started using a different bucket for my chicken scraps. They were empty canvases waiting to be filled. :) My new compost bucket is bamboo. It has a removable plastic liner which I like. I want to carry these in the store. I ordered one to check out the quality.

This is a doo-hickey. :) The WN mama says it is a ladle. The WN girl said it is a little skillet. I am not sure what it is. I bought a pasta pot at a consignment store. This was inside. It would look cute hanging on the wall, so I thought I would decorate it. I am going to give it to someone.

While I was waiting for paint to dry on the above items, I got out my CSA basket. Normally, we get a half bushel basket. This week, they gave us this cardboard box. I had mentioned to the CSA owner that I had thought about painting on my basket, but would not since it was not mine. She said I could paint on them if I wanted to. :)

This is actually a chamber pot with a lid. :) It has never been used for that. I like to give the chickens any scraps that I can. We were using a plastic ice cream bucket for their scraps, but it got gross and was tearing. I dug this out and have been using it.

The garden is growing well. I may go out and take some pictures today. We have had plenty of rain which is a blessing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hard Times and Choices

You order batches of chicks for the year. The mail man brings you these cute little fluff balls that make LOTS of noise. :) They totally depend on you for survival. They need a warm draft free area, clean water and food.

Our son built this brooder many years ago and it has served us well. We have made little changes to it over the year to make it more convenient, but by in large it is the same brooder.
One year something was tunneling up through the dirt and getting our chicks, so we poured a cement foundation. You have to figure out the problem and then fix it. Our first batch of chicks this year got attacked by something. We found some partially eaten bodies. Michael searched around the brooder trying to figure out how it got in. He saw an area where the chicken wire had been pushed out a bit. He fixed that area and shored up around the bottom. We did not realize how many chicks had been affected until we moved them out to the field. They were counted at that point and we had lost a lot. We ran our second batch through the brooder (they are in the field now) without any problems at all. Batch #3 is now in the brooder. Yesterday we found 6 bodies that were partially eaten. I am praying that there is not a lot missing again as we had to add on to this batch to cover our losses. Michael again looked for a point of entry. He really didn't find anything major, but again shored up the whole bottom. We will be getting our turkey poults soon. I hope whatever it is does not come back to visit.

I LOVE my sheep and lambs. My son never liked them. They were too loud for him. Also, we had goats at the time and the goats had so much personality and would come right up to you. The sheep do not do that and there is not a lot of personality shown. I love them anyway. Our sheep are Shetlands. They are a primitive breed that are very hardy. They are good for wool and meat and just general cuteness. For the last 2 years we have bred them to a Katahdin ram. A Katahdin is a hair sheep. They don't have the same sort of wool and it falls off rather than having to be sheared off. The wool is not really much good either.
Using the rams that we have did allow our lambs to be bigger and to grow out faster. I was talking to a local shepherd this week. He said that his lambs are at 110 lbs. at 90 days. He uses a larger breed of sheep, plus he grains them. Our sheep are grass fed only. He can sell his sheep at 3 months old, and we grow ours a year before we sell them.
God has sent abundant rain this year. Our grass is doing well and growing. We have lots of grass, but not lots of fencing or shelters to put sheep in. Our area we can graze them in is very limited. We have too many sheep for that area right now. On Friday my sheep celebrated "Get Out Of The Fence Day". I had to go round up sheep all day. The Wonderful Neighbor Boy came and helped me the one time. The grass was greener on the other side of the fence. We moved them and gave them more grass and they still were getting out. Lambchop was leading the way. I really wanted to keep her and breed her, but I can't have a sheep leading others out of the fence.

Yes, she is cute, but a stinker. :) So, the choice was made that we need to send some sheep to the auction. I always hate that part. They will be going this week. We are keeping enough to meet our orders and some Mommas. On the good side of this, Michael said I can put the money they bring into the cow fund.

Life is making choices and hard decisions. So is farm life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Count Your Blessings Monday!!

Here is an opportunity for all of us to give thanks unto the Lord for a blessing in our lives. If you would like to take part great. If not that is OK too. If you would like to share your blessing, just leave it in the comments. If you want to use the picture above and list a blessing on your own site, then leave a URL to your site in the comments. There is no pressure here. I just know that I am incredibly blessed and I would like to share that and give thanks to Him who all blessing come from. This is a way that we can encourage one another. I know that I am often encouraged when someone shares a blessing with me. I think that many times we forget that it is a blessing to be able to breath, to get out of bed, to hold a baby... Share your blessings with us. We can share so many other things.... special gifts, recipes, let's take the time to share how God has blessed us!!

I am reminded again this week of how blessed I am with family. I got to see my Dad and 2 of my brothers and their families yesterday morning at church. Then we went to see Michael's parents and got to see most of his siblings as well. I look around at people I know and I see just how blessed we are at our age to still have parents around. Our families still like to be together and enjoy the company. Joshua and Britty came over later and spent some time here as well. It is good to have family around that you can spend time with. Most of our family is within driving distance. I have a brother in Florida and Michael has one in Michigan. Remember to make time for family. They are important. :)

What are YOU thankful for?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!!!

I married the most gentle patient man in the world. :) Good thing for me. He has been a wonderful husband and a great dad.

Happy Father's Day to the man I love. God truly gifted me when He brought you into my life!!!

Happy Father's Day to my Dad as well. He has been a good dad and I am so grateful to the Lord that I still have him.

Happy Father's Day to both of you!!! I love you so both so much!!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Love of Jersey Cows!!

This is Buttercup. She is probably my favorite farm animal. She has been THE BEST and SWEETEST cow that I have ever seen. God picked her out for us, because we were clueless when we bought her. This is one of my favorite pictures of her. A friend's son took it. She was still young here.

This is just a month after we got her. She calved and gave us a beautiful little heifer. She picked the only muddy spot there was to calve in. She is the best Mom and always has been. We are not exactly sure how old Buttercup is, but this picture is from December, 1998 and this was at least her second calf. She has to be at least 3 in this picture. That means she has to be at least 16 years old now.

Here is that first little heifer calf all cleaned up. :) We named her Buttermilk.

This is a picture of Buttercup 4 years ago with her calf, Clover... another heifer. They told us they used Jersey semen when they AI (artificially inseminated) her. However, Clover now looks like a small Holstein. She is still brown in this picture, but she is much darker now.

We are not sure how long a Jersey cow lives. We were concerned about breeding her again. Dear friends in another state raise Jersey cows and they have the ultimate vet. The vet that you would love to have near you. She asked him about breeding some of her older cows. He told her that in nature, those cows would have a baby every 12 to 18 mos. until they wouldn't take anymore. He also told her that the most problems he saw in older cows were the ones that people had stopped breeding because they were old.

We are HOPING and PRAYING that Buttercup is pregnant. If she is, she is due in August. Her milk is THE BEST milk I have ever tasted. You may think I am prejudiced, but we have had others say that as well. The cream is so thick it mounds up on the spoon. She is easy to milk and very gentle. She just stands there. You could just go out in the pasture if you wanted and sit down beside her to milk her. Once winter comes though, she is very hard to keep weight on. We were really wanting her to give us a beautiful little honey colored heifer to replace her. Once she no longer gives us calves, she will become a pasture ornament. We will gladly let her hang around until she dies. So, we have been praying about what to do about milk.

I heard about a Guernsey heifer due to calve last week that was for sale. She was in another state, but it would be do-able to go and get her. We told the lady that while we were thinking about it (I think if she had been a honey colored jersey we would have said yes right away - we had not really thought about another breed) if someone else came along to go ahead and sell her. That is what happened, so we took that as she was not the cow that God had for us. The same friend I mentioned above that raises Jerseys has a beautiful little heifer calf we plan on buying. However, we would not get milk from her for at least 2.5 years. I have been saving up for her. I have to save outside our budget as we are on a schedule to get debt free. So, I have been selling things... dishes, books, etc. :) I also use all the checks that come from my affiliate links (in the side bar or down below) to put toward a cow. I have enough for the little heifer and then a bit. We also have another bigger ticket item to sell that would help put money there for a cow in milk.

Yesterday, I have found a Jersey cow that is for sale. She is
in milk and even closer to us than the Guernsey was. They will be emailing me pictures. They are wanting a fair price, but a bit steep for us. We talked at length and they are going to talk about maybe coming down in the price. I truly want God's will here, but I would be lying if I said that I didn't care either way. We are praying!!! She is young and she just freshened, so the milk would be immediate.

Who would have ever thought me, a born city slicker would ever be longing for a cow. :) God has truly changed me from the girl I used to be.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Busy Days On The Farm

I baked the artisan bread the next day. I think the oven was a bit hot and I left it in a bit long. It still tastes great though.

It has a very chewy crust and an open texture inside.

This is the first time I remember seeing these on my Lilac bush. Does everyone's get these pods? I assume they are seed pods.

The first 2 Echinaceas are opening up.

The first orange lilies are blooming as well. Pretty soon they will be every where. They bloom on roadsides, in fields, around houses.

Yes, my chickens still like my front yard. :) If you look close, there is a hummingbird on the right side of the feeder.

I love the coloring on the little ewe lamb on the left. Her name is Lambchop. We may keep her to breed.

Here is one side of her.

Here is the other side.

I need to pull a garlic bulb and see if they are ready. They are not normally ready until July, but they are sure looking done to me.

My peppermint is growing well. I need to go out and cut some and start drying it.

Our last batch of chicks came today. They are all tucked away in the brooder. Skye is not sure what to think about all the peeps in the box. She did lick one little chick I held out for her to see. I was afraid she might try to bite it, but she didn't.

We are ordering our turkey poults early next week. I have been taking orders for them. They are usually ready the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.

We joined a CSA this year. We were just going to do a little tiny garden. :) We forgot to limit ourselves. We have had 2 CSA basket pick ups so far. Last night we got several kinds and colors of radishes, lettuce, spinach, baby greens, snow peas, garlic scapes, onions, and strawberries. There may have been more, but that is all that is coming to mind. :) They arrange the baskets very artfully. They are beautiful. I had some strawberries in a smoothie this morning made with our homemade raw yogurt and stevia.

We now carry both the Great Lake Gelatins and Steviva in our store. We also got in some new books so come and check it out. :)

I sat in on a tele-seminar today on starting a cow share program. We are not sure what we are going to do, but we would like to be able to allow others to share in our bounty that God has given us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farm News

Skye had a birthday. Southern Blu Skye is now one year old. :) She is a good dog. She has a couple of bad habits, but we are working on those.

The garden is in. I would still like to plant some flower seeds, but I can't find the ones I thought I had. :) We also have one more planting of corn. The taller green stuff in front of the sheep shed is my garlic. I need to pull a bulb and check them. The leaves are starting to turn yellow.
The beans are coming up nicely. So are the cukes. I just pray that the cukes do well. We eat lots of pickles and I have had to buy cucumbers the last couple of years to get enough.
This is part of Joshua and Brittany's garden. The have a large L shaped portion of our garden.

I love seeing how green the grass is and how long it is. I pray that we continue to get the sporadic rains to keep it growing.

You can see that the grass is as tall as some of the lambs.

My kitchen often resembles a science lab. I have things growing or brewing. :) Here is my artisan bread dough. I made it yesterday and it sat out over night. I will make it this afternoon.

Here is one of my batches of kombucha. I have been getting really thick nice scobies on it. I have been able to have a starter for others.

I also have some raw peanuts soaking. I will put them in the dehydrator later today.

I also had a batch of yogurt in my Yogotherm. It is already in the fridge though. It might take a bit more time to fix foods the traditional way, but the way we are feeling is WELL WORTH the effort. We both have lost weight and feel wonderful. I have not felt this good in at least 10 years.