Sunday, February 23, 2014

Upcycling ideas for the dream space

James and I like to dream about building a barn/music studio/office in our field.  We'd love to have his piano there instead of at the cabin, which is 4 miles away so he doesn't play it as often as he or I would like.  Like planning a vacation, dreaming about it is half the fun.

The music studio would be a place to have parties, entertain and for James to practice with friends.  This would be the perfect place for these I ideas I saw today.  But where would I find 2 free grand pianos to make into these?
Now this next one we have and I could easily build, but whether James would let me use it is another story.
Here's a place he could store his music.  We have a really cool old wooden ladder in our wood shed that would be perfect for this.
You can't have too much lighting and these would be pretty hanging over the piano, don't you think?

Here's the website I saw these on  There are some other cool ideas on there you may find interesting.  I'll probably still be blogging about this dream space 10 years from now but that's ok.  That's more time to come up with neat ideas....  And change my mind about what I want.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Water water everywhere

We're lucky to be surrounded on three sides by water - Elk Creek to our south and east and the James River to our north.  After 14 inches of snow and then several days in the 60s and some heavy rain we had even more water than usual.  I wish I took pictures of the yard yesterday.  You can see one of the small ponds in the video of Baxter and the donkeys.  Today most of it has sunk into the ground and it's super mushy to walk on.

I really thought the river would be higher than it is.  Today Baxter and I took a few laps around the field and I took some pictures of the river and creek.  Elk Creek was a really pretty green color.
The James River is pretty muddy from all the rain and snow melt but you can't tell in this picture.
This picture is taken of the creek behind the house.  The rock formation on the right is where our farm got it's name, Elk Cliff Farm.  It's not really much of a cliff at all.  There's a nice swimming hole right at the bend but we hardly ever get in it because it's so cold.
This next one is the James River Rd. bridge, looking in the direction of the river.
Baxter got in the creek for the first time.
All these water pictures get me excited for summer when we can play in water again.  Today it was 70 degrees.  I can't stand the thought of going back to 20s and 30s again.  

VERY patient donkeys

Who will tire of this game first?

Chy and Wilson have never disliked dogs.  This makes them horrible guardians but wonderful pets.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A pretty meal

I saw this recipe on Facebook today
So I made it.
I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I was pretty pleased with the results.  I added mushrooms and onions and used chevre in place of the ricotta.  I topped it with toasted sesame seeds.  I highly recommend it.  Thanks Holly.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The stories they could tell

Upon a rise at Elk Cliff Farm she views her grazing herd
They do not know she watches, not goat, nor hog, nor bird.
For what she dreams and what she knows, is hers within to dwell
But now and then she'll spin a yarn.  The truth?  She'll never tell.

He belches up his morning cud, eyelids heavy as he chews
What rambles through a caprine’s mind a soul can only muse.
For what he’s seen and what he knows, this buck whose scent I smell
I’ve asked him once and sometimes twice, alas, he’ll never tell.

She’s wise and brave, the guardian, her loyalties run deep
At dusk and dawn the coyotes howl, she hears them in her sleep.
But what she stalks and what she’s slayed, what’s heard her solemn knell
Only wild things that mean to prey but they’re not here to tell.

Oh rooster with your chest so broad, what pride you do project
You strut and crow, put on a show, your girls you must protect
Our home would be much quieter without your GOOD MORNING yell
But our farm’s not a farm without you, and that I’m here to tell.

She may be large and cause you fright, her size can’t be ignored
Her snout alone can move the earth, but still she is adored
Sometimes I think she’s smiling, her grunts sing "all is well"
But does she ponder death?  That’s hers alone to tell.

Perhaps she feels assaulted as I steal her calf’s sweet fare
Yet she stands without protesting as if she doesn’t care
I squeeze and pull and thank her, this cow who wears a bell
But does she love or hate me, in truth, I cannot tell.

A donkey is misunderstood, a stubborn thing, we say
But safety is her first concern, she will not bolt or stray
Her ears are like antennas,  alert for the warning bell
But what they hear, those long ears, no one can ever tell

Again she stands and watches as the sun rests 'hind the hill
The chickens find their place inside as shadows bring a chill
A wave of calmness claims her as she waves to all farewell
For life is good at Elk Cliff Farm, and that she's glad to tell.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Great Pyrenees and baby goats

Our Great Pyrenees, Keri, will be 3 years old in April.  For the past two kidding seasons I haven't let her get close to the babies for a few days, and only then very closely supervised.  I was afraid she'd get too excited by their smell (afterbirth and all that) and hurt them.  She was just too excitable.  This past year she has grown very attached to the mothers-to-be and I think I'm going to let her watch the births or at least be nearby and meet the babies as soon as the other goats do.  She has formed the bond I'd hoped she would with the goats and I'd like to think she'll understand the babies are part of her herd.  It makes me very happy to see how close she is to the goats and how protective she is of them.

My friend Mollie's pig had babies 2 nights ago.  Her 2 dogs stood watch over them.  I love this picture of them on guard.
This is what I hope to see this March and April.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cats and dogs

Word must have gotten out that we accept strays at our farm.  Last week a little gray kitty showed up here.  It's not unusual to see a cat roaming around but the one we're used to is a white and brown feral cat who is afraid of us.  We assume he's here for the mice.  It would be nice if he'd get rid of the moles and voles who are wreaking havoc on our yard and green house.   This grey kitty, who has no name as of yet (except grey kitty), is a friendly, purring, persistent thing who wants lots of attention.  Often we can hear her from inside the house, meowing at the back door.  It's hard to walk in the driveway without her falling down on her back in front of your feet.  Ignoring her is nearly impossible.  She's everywhere.  Seriously, everywhere.  If I'm in the goat barn, she's there.  This afternoon I opened the truck door and she didn't ask permission to enter.
Baxter thinks she'd be great fun to play with but she hisses at him and stays just out of reach.
Baxter continues to be a delightful little dog.  He's funny and cuddly and has fit in very easily.  He has a flaw though.  Much like the meowing, in-the-way kitty, he does something that can't be ignored, and this is one of the reasons he sleeps in a crate downstairs in the dining room at night, while Lex sleeps on the floor of our bedroom upstairs.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

One month to go

One month from today 3 of my goats are due to kid.  Today I saw this adorable picture and it made me want a little goat running around our house in a diaper and a onesie.
Maybe only for one day.  I had a few bottle babies last year and I can't say I really liked it.  At first it's cute when they follow you around and call you mommy.  After a few days of SCREAMING mommy and wanting to be at my heels all the time it's not as much fun.  Maybe I'll buy a onesie at Goodwill just to dress babies up for pictures.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow plows

We had our first big snow of the winter yesterday.  I measured 14 inches.  I lost sleep the night before, worrying about how I'd get to all the animals the next morning and how the little guys would be able to get around in it.  The chickens didn't.  They stayed in their coop all day yesterday and today.  Well, most of them did.  A few of them are good flyers and I caught sight of them here and there.  The rest took 2 snow days.

The little animals followed in the bigger animals' tracks.  Roxie and Keri make excellent snow plows.  Keri charges through it like it's nothing and Roxie pushes through it steadily.  Her underbelly was really pink and I felt bad about that but what could I do?  She was just as excited about food as ever and didn't act uncomfortable.  The little pigs filed single file everywhere, staying in the tracks, never making their own.

The goats weren't happy about the snow but they were out in it more than I expected.  Mostly they followed in Keri's tracks but I was surprised when they came to see me in the afternoon and Luti led the way being a snow plow herself.  The others followed their leader.  Cato is a tiny thing and stays very close to the others.  He was sopping wet most of the day and I'm sure he was glad when they all curled up together in the shed or trailer.

I don't know how I would have managed without our old 4 wheel drive pickup.  It drove right through the snow so I didn't have to walk around the field with my milking stuff and make many trips back and forth with buckets.  Carrying a 5 gallon bucket of water or food is really hard when the snow is that deep because you have to hold the bucket up so it won't drag through the snow.  I honestly don't think I could have walked that far and back a few times.  There are 7 gates we have to go through to get to all the animals.  We shoveled open 5 of them.  The last 2 I just shoved until I got them open enough to squeeze through.

Lex only ventured outside twice yesterday to take care of business.  At night I heard him crying because he fell down and couldn't get his back end up.  I had to lift him and then he was fine and could make it back up the steps.  I feel so sorry for him because I know he'd love to run and play in the snow like Keri and Baxter.  Baxter was afraid of it at first and it was hard to get him to pee in the morning.  By afternoon he discovered he loved it and didn't want to come back inside.  Today we took him for a lap around the field (3/4 of a mile).  It wore me out but I'm not so sure about him.  He loves to burrow in it.

The mountains look beautiful and with the sun shining today put me in a much better mood to view it all.  Our high temperature today was 53 so the snow is melting fast.
The snow is slipping off all our metal roofs.  This one hit the ground before it broke off.
Until all the snow falls off the roof of our house it's kind of dangerous to walk in that danger area.

It was a happy Valentine's Day.  I hope you all enjoyed it too.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New life at the farm

My mom asked the other day if there was any new life on the farm.  That morning was the first morning I had checked to see if I could feel babies moving in my goats.  Sure enough, I felt kicking in Pessa, Respa and Luti.  Respa is pretty thin so I was wondering if she was really pregnant.  I can't imagine she could have more than one baby in there.   Most of the others are pretty round or at least filled out more.  I think Respa just has a fast metabolism.  Every morning she joins the pigs to eat their food instead of eating with the goats.  She acts like she's starving.  Ok, goats always act like they're starving.  I love this picture of Respa and Roxie sharing breakfast.
The first goat kids aren't due until mid March.  Hopefully it will warm up by then.

As of yesterday we have a new addition to the farm.  As my sister pointed out, this is the first animal in a long time that didn't need a new barn.  Meet Lex's little brother, Baxter.  Baxter, smile for the camera.
I love  his underbite, don't you?  He's a happy little guy whose tail only stops wagging when he's sleeping.  I got him yesterday from our local SPCA.  He'd been there since December and I can't believe no one adopted him sooner.   I was told he was a stray and they knew nothing about him.  He's approximately 3 years old, housebroken, walks great on a leash, isn't anxious, has a beautiful coat and teeth and a wonderful disposition.  He was recently neutered and I hope eventually he'll stop humping Lex.   That's the only fault I can find with him so far.  He absolutely adores Lex.  He follows him everywhere and wants him to play.  I haven't figured out what Lex thinks of him yet but sometimes  he probably views him like this.
One thing Lex does like about him is he bathes Lex.  He will never have dirty ears again.  He even licks Lex's sore back legs.
He's a terrier mix of some kind.  He looks to have Cairn Terrier maybe?  Whatever he is, he's cute and I just love him.  Lex will be 13 in April and I'm hoping he'll be a good trainer for Baxter.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Animal whisperers

Yesterday a friend introduced me to the show The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.  I'd heard of it but never watched it before and now want to watch every episode I can on Netflix.  I've also recently watched documentaries and read books about Buck Brannaman, the horse whisperer, which are equally as amazing and intriguing.

As I watch the Dog Whisperer I find myself getting frustrated with the owners' behaviors, but at the same time, recognize so many things they do that are what I grew up doing with dogs.  My family is the perfect example of loving our dogs so much that we let them rule the household.  It's definitely something that can be passed from generation to generation.  I'm pleased to see though,  my nieces, Adam and Melissa are much better at disciplining their dogs than my parents, sisters and I have ever been.  Maybe it's because they've seen The Dog Whisperer, I don't know.  It's not that we've had horribly behaved dogs, we've been lucky not to have any really aggressive dogs take advantage of our submissive, what-can-I-do-to-please-you behaviors.  Every time I've gotten a puppy I think I'm going to be more authoritative.  Ha!  That doesn't last very long, BUT I have gotten better.

I've seen evidence in working with my donkeys and cow, that being firm and being in control makes a happier, friendlier, more confident, pleasant-to-be-around,  animal.

My standard donkey, Wilson, is now 3 1/2 years old and strong enough to support weight on his back.  He adores me (or maybe I'm projecting again here) and I think he'd be pleased to have a job and give me a ride.  This is my next goal - to ride him.  Stay tuned for progress on this front.

I'll admit I'm a pushover with my animals and there's work to be done in recognizing they don't have human brains and emotions.  They live in the now and don't hold grudges.  They want stability, direction and a strong leader.  I'm going to be that leader.

I hesitate to post this link because people like me and my family who watch these dog rescue videos want to rescue every dog like this and spoil them like we've always done.  They're so sad and touching.  They make you want to rescue any animal that has been neglected or abused.  I can't help but share them though.

As I typed this my very submissive, sweet dog, who makes me look like a good pet owner, sleeps by my side.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Ground hog, be damned.  The last 2 days made me feel like spring is right around the corner, with the thermometer hovering around 60 degrees.  To look at the animals you'd have thought it was 90.  Every time I filled the pig water trough Roxie would either bite and spill it or she'd flop right on top it to have a bath.  I sprayed her with the hose and she was pretty pleased with that.

By mid afternoon the goats and donkeys were hanging out in any shade they could find.  Remember, it was only 60 degrees.   The pigs, with little hair, were sunbathing.

I opened up Raisa's fence so she'd have access to the same pasture as Willo and Jaz (big donkeys).  They've been watching each other over her electric ribbon ever since she got here but I had no idea how they'd get along without that ribbon between them.  They seemed cautious and curious but they all seem to be happy with the arrangement.  This morning when I went out to milk, all 3 of them were grazing together.  Raisa keeps her eye on them when they're nearby but I'm not sure if it's because they make her nervous or because she finds them interesting.  I'm pretty sure Jaz would love to sniff Raisa but she's not quite ready for that.

I'd been wondering if she was lonely being all by herself all the time.  Whenever I visited with her she'd come running and when she realized I had no food for her she wanted a head scratch.  She seems even a little more demanding of attention now that the donkeys are on her turf.  Jealousy, maybe.  I love the way she follows me like the donkeys, goats and pigs do.

To give you an idea how the ground has thawed check out this rooster's feet.

Why can't it last????????  I don't want to go back into my hole.