Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's a small world afterall

Today in the mail I received a new yodeling CD.  I love it.  One of the songs on it is It's a Small World, sung by a 10 year old girl.  She did such a great job and gave me hope that one day I can yodel as well as she.  I've liked that song since I was a child.

How many times in my life, though, have I said those words, "it sure is a small world?"  Many times.  Tonight was one of those nights.  Our son and his friends had dinner with us, most of whom have eaten here several times.  I don't know how it came about but, James asked if one of the girl's dad's name was Owen Young.  You see, when we lived in Salisbury, NC we were friends of the Salisbury Symphony.  Occasionally a guest musician would play with the symphony and would need a place to stay for a night or 2.  We hosted 3 of those musicians, a clarinetist, a pianist and a cellist.  The cellist's name was Owen Young.  He played with the Boston Symphony and he was one of our favorites because he had a great sense of humor.  We also spent quite a bit of time visiting with him.  The young lady told James Owen was not her father but her uncle.  No way!  That's usually what you say under those, It's-a-small-world circumstances.  It never gets old does it?  Why are we surprised when these coincidences happen, when it seems to happen so often? 

Owen Young's neice texted him that she was with us.   I wonder if he'll remember staying in our home.   I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't.  Afterall, the world is a pretty big place.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The stink bug graveyard

That's what James calls our house.  He's right, it's where stink bugs go to die.  They put on a good show before they leave us though.  There's not one room in our house where you can sit and not hear to the buzzing of them or have one smack into you.  Their landings aren't graceful.  Just bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz thwack!  Walking up our stairs you will knock many of them off the railing if you slide your hand along it.  If you visit us you need to be sure to look in or on anything you're going to eat or drink because they love to sit on the edge of a glass. 

The other night I was in bed uncovered because it was a warm night and we don't have air conditioning.  I must have picked 5 or 6 stink bugs off me during the night and threw them on the floor.  Makes you want to visit, doesn't it?  Recently we had some guests and she wanted a fly swatter to kill them.  I told her not to bother because there are probably hundreds or even a thousand in our house and she'd spend her whole weekend here swatting bugs.  Neither James or I think they smell bad.  They're just annoying . 

Like many things in the US, they were imported from China.  The earliest ones were discovered in 1998, so they haven't been around that long.  We also have ladybugs but we can collect them and put them in our green house or garden to help kill unwanted pests off our plants.  I vacuum them up and then dump them and they survive, surprisingly.  Unfortunately stink bugs aren't useful like that.  As a matter-of-fact they could attack our fruit trees.  The primary predator to the stink bug in China is a wasp that we don't have but is being trialed here.  Great, now we'll have Chinese wasps in our house.

For those of you who live out west and haven't been introduced to stink bugs, here, I'll share the experience with you.  Turn your speakers up.  These videos don't even come close to the buzzing I'm hearing now as I type this.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

It doesn't really feel like a typical Easter day.  It's 93 degrees.  Our son is at school so it's just me and James.  Still, I've prepared a pretty big meal which we'll be eating for the next few days.

Since moving to VA we haven't joined a church.  We left one we loved in NC and never found one here that spoke to us so we haven't been going.  This holiday I missed singing Easter hymns so last night I asked James to play some on piano and I sang in my off-key kind of way. 

I spent most of my day today tending to goats and cooking.  James built a new garden bed and planted flowers and some more vegetables.  It was a  good day and, even though it's so hot, it feels new and spring-like. 

It's getting close to time for my little kids to go to their new homes.  One of the new moms-to-be asked if I'd send her some pictures of her boy so she could see how much he's grown so I took a bunch of pictures of all the babies for all the future owners.  I put together a slideshow for them and decided to post it here too for any of you who'd like to see more pictures of baby goats.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Never good enough

I usually find it easy making friends.  I think most people like to be nice and will go out of their way to be kind.  But then there are other people who don't fit that mold.  I have a hard time figuring them out.  There are just a few people I know who I've tried being nice to again and again, even though they've been mean to me in the past.  I make excuses for them like, oh, they've had a hard life, etc.   I keep trying, thinking eventually I'll win them over but I never do.  Don't most people want to please?  I thought they did.

Somehow these people keep appearing in my life and instead of ignoring them or treating them like they treat me, I go out of my way to please them.  I must be stupid or a glutton for punishment.  Someone tell me to stop.


Okay, I feel better now.

Edit:  I had to come back and edit this post because after I published it I saw I had typed the heading as, "Never god enough",   which made me laugh. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Baked Custard

We're getting about 2 1/2 gallons of milk every morning so I'm making cheese 2 or 3 times a week.  We were getting pretty low on hard cheeses after taking a 3 month break from milking the girls.  Yesterday we had 5  gallons of milk that needed to be used.  A neighbor came to get a gallon and a half to bottle feed some of her lambs and a piglet.  I didn't feel like taking the time to make a hard cheese, which takes several hours of my attention, so I decided to make some soft, fresh cheeses.  I made a chevre with chives and parsley and also made some feta since we're eating so many salads these days.  Still, these cheeses only used up 2 gallons of milk.  My sweet tooth got the best of me.  Here's the perfect way to use up some milk and eggs. 

My friend, Liz, served us a baked custard that is delicious.  I love all kinds of puddings and custards but this is one of my favorites now.  She was kind enough to share her recipe with me and gave me permission to share it with you. 

5 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups milk (of course I used whole goat's milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
nutmeg (best to use freshly grated nutmeg but I didn't have any so I used ground)

Preheat oven to 325
Butter a 1 qt. baking dish and place it in a roasting pan which has enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the baking dish.  Place in oven to heat.  Combine eggs and sugar.  Whisk till thick and pale.  Heat the milk to boiling point and slowly add egg mixture, stirring constantly.  Stir in Vanilla.  Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with nutmeg (or add your fresh grated nutmeg when you serve it).  Bake for 45 minutes until set.  custard is set when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Eat all of it in one sitting.  Just kidding.  I could have though.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

U 2 Can Yodel

I can just see you shaking your heads.  Yup, she's gone off the deep end.  I think some of my girlfriends thought that about a month and a half ago when I told them I was "trying" to learn to yodel.  It came about like this.  One day I was singing the song Lonely Goatherd, from The Sound Of Music, to my goats and they stood stock-still staring at me.  Really, they were entranced.  Either that or they thought I was crazy too.  I got on the computer and looked up yodelers.  I'm sure everyone has Googled "Yodeling", but I was serious about this.   I found a CD by Kerry Christensen that would teach me to yodel.  He tells you up front to practice this where no one else can hear you because it will drive people mad and they'll tell you how bad you are.  I'm sure James can attest to that.  Mostly I practice in the car.  No one can hear me there and I can keep singing the same thing again and again at the top of my voice, and not get on anyone's nerves.

The whole trick to yodeling is learning to make your voice break.  It has taken me about a month but I think I can do it no problem now.  I was brave enough to practice in the house the other night where James could hear me.  He didn't run away screaming and even seemed amused that I would do that.  I think it's only fair since I listened to him practice violin early on.  It's very similar to that - listening to someone practice an instrument that's new to them.  It hurts the listener.

Here's a link to the U 2 Can Yodel CD.
Go over to the right side of the page and click on vocal styles and you can hear some yodeling by Kerry Christensen.

My mom told me my grandfather used to yodel.  I wish I could have heard him.  He's 97 now.  Next time I see him I'm going to ask him if he'll do it for me.  Last night James told me his mom used to yodel when she was young.  From what I understand, yodeling was very popular in the 20's through 40's.  Now you hear some country singers, like Jewel, yodel in their songs.

I want to be able to yodel to my goats while I milk them.  I'm having electricity run to the barn soon so I can play them yodeling CD's if I don't get any better.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I should be ashamed of myself

The word "Locavore" is hot right now - eating food that comes from neighboring farms, your own property, somewhere nearby, anyway.  I'm sure you've already figured out James and I are all about that.  We like the idea of knowing where our food comes from. 

Tonight I made a quiche.  Oh, it was so good - made from our own eggs, goat milk, spinach, broccoli, kale, chives, morels from the nearby Jefferson National Forest, sausage from my friend's hog just 17 miles away.  All kinds of local food.

All of this was served in a delicious crust.

Maybe I should be ashamed of putting all of this in a Pillisbury crust but, um, I can't apologize.  I love these crusts.  I know homemade ones are good too but I make so many more pies very quickly thanks to Pillsbury.  I feel like 8 out of 9 ingredients that came from nearby is nothing to be ashamed of.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A week and no blogging

I don't know what's gotten into me.  Lots has gone on here this past week but I didn't think any of it would be very interesting to anyone.  Besides, some of it depressed me so I didn't really like thinking (or blogging) about it till now.

My sweet little Darla is still struggling with the abscess on her neck.  I took her to the vet again this week to have it lanced.  I've been treating her with penicillin (the only treatment for this bacterial infection) for 2 weeks and it doesn't seem to be working.  The vet gave me 3 options.  She said we could do surgery to remove the whole section of her neck where the abscess has grown but that would be expensive and risky since it's so close to her carotid artery.  Second choice is to euthanize her (ouch, not ready for that yet), or lance it again and hope this time it goes away.  She recommended giving it another shot and hope for the best.  That's what we did.  Pray for Darla.

I also took her mom, Luti, to the vet because she just seems so skinny and anemic looking.  Turns out she is slightly anemic and not due to worms like we might have thought.  Bloodwork didn't show much more than her iron was low and her white count a bit high. A culture was sent off for testing also.  So I wait.  Luti seems fine in most ways, still giving 1/2 a gallon of milk in her morning milkings.  She just looks too skinny.  Her 2 boys, on the other hand are thriving and getting huge.  No wonder she's so thin - they're taking all she's got.

And then there's Chy, my mama donkey.  She began limping 3 days ago.  Good golly, what now?  I was beginning to think this farming thing isn't for me.  Something did come to light with her limping though.  Chy now trusts me!!  I put a halter on her.  Actually, James put it on her while I held her.  I tied her to a post and then held my breath as I reached for her leg.  I just knew she was going to kick me because she has never liked her feet touched, as you may recall from a previous video of her with the farrier.  Well was I surprised when I ran my hands down her leg and ever so easily picked up her foot.  Yup, just like that, she let me pick it up and clean it out with a hoof pick.  I didn't see anything unusual, not that I knew what the bottom of a donkey's hoof should look like, but there were no sharp objects or cracks in it.  The farrier came out yesterday and trimmed both hers and Shiloh's hooves.  Today she's walking better, with just a slight limp.

Some good news, I put the 6 chicks in an outside coop with a heat lamp and they seem to be doing really well.  I had to put them outside because I have 20 more eggs in an incubator which are due to hatch tomorrow and they'll need the tub the other 6 were in.

  One of the 20 in the incubator decided to come a day early.  She/he's a feisty little thing, peeping a lot.  I hear more peeping from the other eggs but none have holes in them yet.  I'm fairly certain we're going to have a much more successful hatch this time.  I candled the eggs and all of them look viable.  We'll see.

We've had lots of good rains and some warm sunshine too so our grass is growing like crazy.   Maybe this will be a good hay year.  That's something to be happy about.  James' garden is also thriving.  We've added asparagus to our meals recently - one of my favorite vegetables.  I wish we had even more.  We eat salads most every day because we have lettuce coming out our ears.  Tonight's dinner was salmon (I wish we could raise that) on a bed of wilted (in a good way) spinach and arugula.

Today James and I took the dogs to the field to get some exercise.  It's their 10th birthday and they still run like young dogs.  We sat at the picnic table by the river and watched as it rushed by, carrying all kinds of interesting and uninteresting things.  I wonder how many of those tires will make it to the ocean.  The buttercups and grape hyacynths are in bloom so we picked a few.
Adam and his friends picked something else.
MORELS!  I didn't know it was that time yet.  Now I want to go on a morel search.  Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you

There are so many things about farming that I love but there are also several other things that aren't so much fun.  In the past month I've performed a few tasks or observed others that are on the "not as fun" list.

I'm finding that disbudding, or dehorning my baby goats is getting easier and easier.  I don't stress out near as much as a few years ago.  I still say, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry", the whole time but I don't get as tense as in the past.  A few weeks back a stranger brought her kid here to be disbudded.  Actually, I was supposed to be teaching her to do it but I don't think she even watched.  Her husband had responded to one of my Craigslist ads about 6 months ago and that's how we got to talking about disbudding.  He emailed me months later to ask if I remembered him and if my offer still stood to teach him to do it.  He had to work that day so his wife came.  She was a mess.  She asked if the kid would cry.  I told her yes.  I had no idea the woman would cry also.  Afterward I told her which iron I used so they could get one for next year.  She said she didn't think they'd be able to do it themselves.  I emailed her husband the day after to ask how the baby was doing.  He said she and his wife had both recovered..

Last week I went to Lucas' house to help him burn the little horn buds on his new calf.  I thought baby goats were the cutest baby  but I think calves come in a very close second if not tie.  Oh my gosh, this little guy was adorable.
He was also a lot stronger than a little goat.  We actually had to lie on top of him to do the job and still we were tumbling about.  I found it to be more stressful watching someone else do the burning than doing it myself, though most of the time I couldn't see what was going on because I was doing my best to keep him on the ground.  Here's what he looked like afterward.  I felt so sorry for him.  It's never pretty.  Lucas' wife, Ann, is pregnant so there's no way she could have helped wrestle this calf (not safely anyway).  Also, I have a feeling she might have cried too if she had to watch.  Lucas had also planned to castrate him while we had him down and I was a bit relieved the testicles hadn't dropped yet and we didn't have to do that.
Earlier this week I went to Susans to watch her dock the tails on her new little lambs.  Again, more cute babies to be hurt, though I don't think this even comes close to burning heads or castrating.  I hope no lambs are reading this.  Susan did a good job and I don't think any of them cried out in pain.  The same tool and bands were used that I used for castrating.  Is this little lamb a cutie, or what?
Yesterday I went to see Kirsten and Sophie's new kids.  I'm glad my own kidding season is over but I still love to see other newborns.  I was going to take some pictures of the twins that were born the day before because I may just want to bring this little girl home with me when she's old enough.
Little did I know I'd be watching two other goats giving birth, one of them being a very intense and stressful for all of us.  The first doe, Freida,  kidded pretty easily with 2 adorable doelings.  The second, Geraldine, seemed to be taking her time going into full labor.  Once she did we saw 2 bubbles coming out at the same time.  Not a good sign.  One had a foot in it and the other a head. 
 Geraldine pushed for a good while but didn't progress so Kirsten tried putting the foot back inside, hoping the other baby could come out first.  The two babies were side by side and wanted to come out together no matter what we did.  I have no idea how long this went on because we were getting a little distressed and didn't know what we could do to help.  Finally Kirsten asked me if I wanted to try helping.  I knew how she was feeling.  We both decided we needed to pull a little to move things along.  There were 4 feet and one head sticking out so I pulled on the feet 2 at a time and straightened the legs out so they were in a diving position  and that seemed to make enough room for both of the babies to come out seemingly effortlessly.  Shortly after, a 3rd doeling arrived - triplet girls!  Mama and babies were all fine and the mother seemed no worse for wear.  She was amazing through it all.
All 5 doelings born yesterday were offspring of Cooper, my new buck, so I hope next year he gives me all girls too.  

I know it hurts them more than it hurts me, but it does hurt me to see them hurt.  Does that make sense?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sink Repair

Six years ago when we were rehabbing our house I had an idea of what I wanted the kitchen to look like.  One thing on my list was a big farm sink.  I ended up having to special order the one I wanted.  It was perfect.  I built our concrete countertop to fit this sink.  James and I carried the giant slab in and out of the house at least 3 times until I got the sink to fit in it just right.  The cabinet also had to be built around it. 

Maybe a year and a half later a crock pot was dropped in the sink and the sink cracked.  The crock pot was fine.  The cracks grew and grew over a few days and eventually it leaked if you let water sit in it for any length of time.   I bought some epoxy paint hoping to cover and seal the cracks.  The paint didn't really match the color of the sink just right (do you know how many colors of white there are?).  I did a poor job and the paint pealed off and the crack showed through as time wore on. 

James and I had discussed building a new sink out of concrete but that seemed like too big of a job and I wasn't sure I could get it right anyway.  How would I build the form to be exactly the shape of the old sink?  Also, I think it would have been too heavy for our cabinets to support.  I went back to Lowes to see if there was any other sink with the same dimensions that would fit our countertop and cabinet perfectly.  Of course not.  Even though I didn't want to buy the same sink again because I'd hate to have a repeat performance, I looked in the catalog to see if Kohler still made them.  They did but now the sink was double the price.  No, thank you. 

We've lived with the sink this way for about 3 years now and I mentioned how I wanted it fixed to my sister and her boyfriend.  He suggested I tile it.  Why didn't I think of that?  It seemed like a good idea except for the fact that an enamel/ceramic sink is so smooth I didn't think I could get tile to adhere to it.  It was worth a try. 

Here's the cracked sink before.
I removed the drain and got started.  Of course it took forever to find the right tools.  Any wrench that opened up big enough to remove the nuts on the drain were too long to fit in the space under the sink.  I worked it out.  Next I used my grinder with 2 different wheels and removed the epoxy and then roughed up the sink the best I could.  It still felt pretty smooth to the touch but I'm hoping it's rough enough for the tile thinset to adhere to.
There was dust all over the place and I had made a real mess of the kitchen.  This had better be worth it.
I set the mosaic tiles and had to wait another 27 hours before I could grout it.  I used very thin tiles I was told by the young Lowes employee wouldn't scratch when we cleaned them.  Today I caulked around the top of the tiles and hooked the plumbing back up.  We've been doing dishes in the 1/2 bath or down in our basement kitchen since we couldn't run the dishwasher without the drain hooked up.  We can't fill the sink with water for another 9 days but at least we can run the dishwasher and not worry if someone dumps a glass of water down the drain. 

Here's the finished product.  It's not perfect and there are things I would have done differently, but as a good friend of ours always says, "it's good enough for who it's for".  
I'll let you know if the tile falls off.  Or maybe I won't.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Meet the Boxers

I was cutting the lawn today for the first time and after about an hour I got a flat tire and decided to take a break while waiting to see if the tire held air.  It was a good time to take the kids on a field trip.  They got to explore the yard with their moms.  I wish I had my camera with me when they were down below the orchard because it was so much prettier down there.  I didn't want to go back to the house and leave my dogs, Rosie and Lex, babysitting while I was gone.  I waited till everyone got closer to the house then got the camera.  Rosie and Lex loved the little guys and the kids didn't seem too terribly afraid of them either after a little while.  Poor little Darla would come up to see Rosie and Lex and they'd ignore her like a little sister since they were used to having her around.  Lex did give her a bath though when she persisted trying to get his attention.  He bathes her every morning and she lets him.  Lex got head butted by two of the moms when they didn't want him near.  Mostly they ignored him.

 I was wondering if I'd be able to get 7 adult goats and 13 kids back in the barn when it was time but it was no problem at all.  All I had to do was ask nicely and they followed.  I didn't even have to bribe with food.  I'm sure they'll all sleep well tonight.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Donkeys and Dogs

Donkeys are supposed to hate canines, which is one of the reasons I got my donkeys.  They were supposed to keep coyotes and other predators away from my goats.   I have no idea if a coyote or fox has put Chy and Shiloh to the test but so far we've been lucky.

Lately I've been letting the goats and donkeys out in our lawn (outside their fence) because the grass is much greener and thicker than what's in their pasture.  I've been careful not to let our dogs out while the donkeys were grazing.  That is, until yesterday.  I forgot and let the dogs out.  I held my breath as the dogs got closer and closer, just waiting for the donkeys ears to go back and charge them.  Here's what happened instead.

Maybe I should be worried.  Maybe my donkeys would allow any dog or predator to enter their fence.  For now I'm just glad all "my" animals get along. 

I'm including this next picture just because I like it.