Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Selling real estate

Our tenants moved out of a rental we own so we've decided to sell it.  It's just 4 miles from our house but it's back in the woods.  It borders the Jefferson National Forest and shares the lane with our cabin.  It was built in the 1800's and was originally a log home, possibly a one room building that was added on to a few times.  We think it's cute.  One log wall still remains in the kitchen.
The tenants did a good job of maintaining it but still it needs some work.  It's looking a little tired.  The outside needs pressure washing, as does the side deck.  The front deck needed to be replaced so today I spent my afternoon demolishing it.  It was rotting so I thought it would be easy to rip apart.  It wasn't.  It took so long to remove just 3 boards so I decided my circular saw would make faster work of it. 
Now I'm trying to decide what would be easiest, building a new deck or putting in a sidewalk and landscaping.  It looks pretty plain on this side of the house.  Underneath the deck looks to be the remains of an old brick patio.

The back side of the house looks more like it should be the front.  It has a sun porch that runs the length of the house.

I'd love to have it ready to sell in a few weeks.  If anyone in Rockbridge County knows of anyone looking for a quaint 2 bedroom house, send them our way.

I enjoyed my time there this afternoon.  I forgot how quiet it is.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not breeding season yet

If you saw my goats tonight you'd think they were all in the late stages of pregnancy.  I must not have double locked the door where the food was and Clever Luti opened it and they all got their fill, at least 25 to 30lbs of food, I'd bet.  Even the kids look fat.  I put baking soda out there for them in case they need to ease their tummies.  Goats know to eat this when they need relief.
I'm uncomfortable just looking at them.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Putting animals to bed

I've stopped milking the goats at night because their milk has dropped off to about half what they give at their peak.  So now my nighttime routine is a little more relaxed.  I really like this time with them.  Everyone is calm and wants to be cuddled.  It's much more peaceful than mornings when I'm feeding and milking.  The donkeys are especially affectionate.  I like to sing to them when I'm saying goodnight.  Tonight they were very cuddly as I sang, "they'll be riding 6 grey donkeys when she comes.  They'll be riding 6 grey donkeys when she comes".

I can't remember what I was singing to Foggy, my rooster, as I held him, but whatever it was he let me play with his waddles and comb as I sang to him.  He didn't complain so I think he liked it.  I sang the same to Annette, the hen, who also stayed very still as I rattled on whatever diddy it was that came to mind.

Of course Darla was serenaded with, "oh my Darla, oh my Darla, oh my Darla (and whatever I made up after that)".  My songs are rather silly but the animals don't seem to notice.

Since having electricity installed in the barn I have been loving playing CDs in the morning while I milk but I'm pretty sure the animals like my singing at night the best.

When Adam was a toddler James used to sing to him when he put him to bed.  When he was done Adam would want him to keep singing.  Once when I sang to him he said, "don't sing Mommy".   I might try singing to James tonight when we go to bed.  He's probably too kind to say, "don't sing Karen", but I'm pretty sure I won't get the same response from him I get from the animals.

This is one of my favorites to sing to whoever will listen to me sing at night.  From The Music Man.

Goodnight, my someone,

Goodnight, my love,

Sleep tight, my someone,

Sleep tight, my love,

Our star is shining it's brightest light

For goodnight, my love, for goodnight.

Sweet dreams be yours, dear,

If dreams there be

Sweet dreams to carry you close to me.

I wish they may and I wish they might

Now goodnight, my someone, goodnight

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Flash "mob"?

I'm sure most of you have seen a flash mob video.  There's even a TV show about flash mobs.  In case you've never heard of it here's how Wikipedia describes one.  A flash mob (or flashmob)[1] is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, artistic expression.

Today was my first experience with a flash mob - and I use the term mob very loosely.  I think there were maybe 15 to 20 of us at this location. Today was an occasion for poets all over the world to express themselves.  James and I took part in 100 Thousand Poets For Change.  No, I'm not a poet but I tagged along with my poet husband.  I also kind of liked the whole idea of the event.  It wasn't really about poets, it was about people demonstrating simultaneously (95 countries participating) with other communities around the world expressing their wish for change -  addressing war, racism, global solidarity, human rights and a lot more. 

We gathered at Kroger, a grocery store, at 11:30 AM, when others around the world were also gathering.  We entered the store, pushing around grocery carts like everyone else doing their Saturday morning shopping.  I was the videographer so I wasn't pushing a cart but James was.  The drums began to play and the group gathered at the front of Kroger, by the customer service counter.  They chanted  a poem agreed upon at an earlier date.  A poem written by William Carlos Williams.  The poem goes.

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

In addition to the poets reciting this poem there were people wearing paper mache' chicken heads.   Outside Kroger sat my friend, Colleen, holding her chicken, Betty, beside the red wheel barrow.
 Betty was a real trooper.

I was inside holding someone's phone that sent a live feed to the 100 Thousand Poets For Change site, along with my own camera.  Here's a video of our small group participating.

As we left the store the manager followed us out telling us to move along, but in the end none of us went to jail.  As he coaxed us to leave the parking lot I could see a small grin on his face.  From there we went to the court house and did it again.

I have no idea if events like this can make any difference at all but I like the idea of solidarity, and find it comforting to know that in 95 countries others were joining us today in one expression of peace.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cattle panel gates

Today the subject of cattle panels (fencing) came up on one of my goat forums.  Most everyone that uses them is a fan of them.  I mentioned that I use them for gates and thought I'd pass this along to anyone who has never used them this way.  I don't really like building gates or buying them.  They're expensive.  A cheap answer to building or buying gates is to use a cattle panel.  First I cut them to the length I need by using my grinder with the cutting wheel.  This goes very quickly.  It takes longer to put the cutting wheel on my grinder than it does to cut the panel.  Next I nail the gate to a wooden post or barn using those horseshoe shaped nails I use for nailing fencing to wooden posts.  Don't nail them in all the way so the gate swings freely.
I overlap the gate with the existing fence and use carabiners or other spring latches to hold it closed.  It doesn't get much simpler than this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Give a dog a bone

Every now and then I buy the dogs bones, something chewy that will keep them busy for awhile.  Rosie and Lex work on them till they're gone but sometimes one of them will save it so he or she can tease the other when his or hers is gone. 

Keri treats the treat differently. 

I've probably given her 3 or 4 bones and they disappear very quickly so I knew she couldn't be eating them.  Today I watched her out the window to see what she does with them.  First she carried it under the butterfly bush, walked in a circle, then found her way to the flower bed and buried it.  In the video she's covering it up, nosing the dirt back in the hole.  Later I walked out to the butterfly bush to see if I could find any other bones since she seemed to be interested in it earlier.  I found an egg and I'm pretty sure it's the one I gave her last night before I left her for the night because she didn't eat it right away.  Rosie and Lex would never do that. 

I've read that dogs who bury bones may also bury their master's things.  I wonder if we're missing anything.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another attempt at pawpaw wine

I made pawpaw wine 2 years ago and it turned out pretty tasty, in my opinion.  It definitely had to age longer than some of my others like the wineberry and strawberry wines.  Trust me, young pawpaw wine isn't something you'd serve your guests.  Maybe some of my friends wouldn't even appreciate it aged but some of my less discriminating pals shared it and didn't complain.  I don't know why I didn't make it last year.  Too lazy, I guess.  A friend of ours recently posted pictures of pawpaws on Facebook so I decided it was time for us to get some for ourselves. 

James and I gathered about 40 or 50 lbs of them, most for us and some overly ripe ones for the pigs, who thoroughly enjoyed them, seeds and all.  So did the donkeys.  I only made 5 gallons of wine so far because it took awhile to peel them and some could use another day to ripen.  I'll make 5 more tomorrow.  The recipe calls for you to remove the seeds too but there are so many seeds in each one.  The fruit is in a mesh bag that gets removed from the wine anyway so I figured I'd leave the seeds in and it couldn't hurt anything.  I did remove some of the seeds so we can plant them down by the river and hopefully one day have our own pawpaw trees.  They're a pretty seed.
Here's a shot of the pawpaw before it gets overly ripe.  It doesn't take long for them to turn black like a banana.
You may be wondering if we eat any of the fruits.  Nope, not much.  A few bites is about all we can handle.  It's probably one of the sweetest and richest fruits you can eat.  The first bite is delicious but a little goes a long way.   I'm not sure why that is. 

My wine recipe calls for 2 to 3 lbs of pawpaws per gallon of wine.  I make 5 gallons at a time.  After peeling them I squashed them up and poured boiling water over them and the 10 lbs of sugar.  When it cools I'll add the other ingredients.
Here's the recipe I use.  Ignore the "canned pawpaw cubes" part.  Where does one get canned pawpaw cubes anyway?  Of course I multiply it by 5 since I usually make 5 gallons at a time.  The only ingredient you don't increase is the yeast because one packet of yeast is good for up to 5 gallons.


2 lbs canned pawpaw cubes

2 lbs granulated sugar

7 pts water

1/2 oz citric acid

1 tsp pectic enzyme

1/2 tsp grape tannin

1 tsp yeast nutrient

wine yeast

Put water on to boil. Meanwhile, put fruit in nylon straining bag, tie closed, and place bag in primary. Mash fruit in bag, pour sugar over fruit and, when water boils, pour it over that. Cover primary and set aside to cool. When room temperature, add all ingredients except yeast. Recover and set aside 12 hours. Add yeast. When the must is fermenting vigorously, stir twice daily for 5 days. Drain bag and squeeze gently to extract most juice and flavor, then transfer juice to secondary. Fit airlock and set aside for 2 months. Rack into sterilized secondary, top up and refit airlock. Rack again after 3 months, top up and refit airlock. Check wine for clarity after additional 3 months. If wine has not cleared, fine with gelatin, wait two weeks, and rack into bottles. Age additional 6-12 months. [Adapted from Leo Zanelli's Home Winemaking from A to Z]

I wonder how many people make this wine.  I've never had anyone offer me a glass of pawpaw wine.

Friday, September 16, 2011

John Deere GT235 idler arm tension spring

I know I have all of you on the edge of your seats after reading this title. 

It was beautiful today, highs in the upper 50s.  Perfect for cutting grass in a sweatshirt.  I was actually enjoying cutting the lawn when I heard a pop and the mower stopped moving.  It wouldn't go forward or in reverse.  I assumed a belt broke or something.  I looked underneath hoping the problem was obvious and something I could fix.  Nope, no broken belts.  I read the owner's manual troubleshooting page and under Mower Won't Move it said the parking break was on.  Duh.  No it wasn't but I needed a break.  It was kind of hot to touch so I thought I'd let it cool off while I had lunch.  With a full stomach I was ready to spend a little more time looking.  It didn't take long to discover a small but heavy duty looking spring dangling near the back.  It looked like this.
And this is where it was hanging from.
Here's a shot of it from the back.
James came out to look at it with me and neither of us could figure out where the other end attached so I called my "go to" guy, my dad.  I usually call him when I have lawnmower problems.  Even if he can't help me he can appreciate what I'm going through.  He's had a few different John Deeres and knows lots more about their mechanics than I ever will.  Unfortunately he has a different model and it's hard to fix something when you can't see it.  He's in PA and I'm in VA.  I drove to my neighbor's house and looked at his John Deere which is also a different model but has the hydrostatic drive (I just learned about that) like ours.  His didn't have this spring. 

This is where I hit myself in the forehead and say, "wow, I could've had a V8".  Maybe you know what I mean.  Of course, the answer was obvious.  Google it.  I did.  I typed in John Deere GT235 won't go forward and came to a few forums.  On one of them someone mentioned the idler arm tension spring.  Next I Googled John Deere idler arm tension spring and came upon the answer I was looking for in this link  On this page you could click on the pictures and it showed you the bottom of the mower, which you can't see because of the mower deck on your own.  I went back out to the mower and, sure enough, saw exactly where I needed to hook the other end.  Too bad the spring is so short and thick and it has to stretch 18 inches (Edit: it doesn't have to stretch 18 inches, only about an inch.  I had it in the wrong spot).  All I need now is my sidekick to help me stretch it so I can latch it onto the idler arm. 

I hope this helps someone else who has the same problem and Googles it. 

The things you do for love (the things you do for lu-uh-uhv)

Our son, Adam, has been dating Melissa for 5 months now.  It brings back many memories of James' and my early dating days and it's amusing.  Melissa has a kitten.  I've never known Adam to be a cat person though he's not NOT a cat person either.  This week he kept her kitty at his apartment while her dorm was being worked on.  He came home tonight carrying this little cat carrier and it made me smile.  Melissa loves and rides horses.  Adam says he hates horses.  We made the mistake of taking him riding in New Zealand when he was 10 and had no training.  We think he got scared and ever since has been afraid of them.  We told Melissa tonight that he'll probably come around and like horses one day.  She said she hoped so.  What do older couples do when they talk to younger people?   They tell them stories about the good ol' days.  Poor Melissa.  Adam wasn't home yet and we had her held captive in our kitchen.

The picture blurs and we're taken back to 1987.  I was an immature 24 and James was an oh so handsome, debonaire 34.  He said he loved the opera.  I decided I would try and maybe even love it.  We went to see my first opera, Norma, in Baltimore.  I think I liked it, subtitles and all.  Maybe I loved the whole idea of it more than the opera itself.  It was new and exciting and I wanted to please him.  When we moved to St. Louis we bought tickets to a series of operas, maybe 5 or 6 for the season.  I think it lost it's appeal after 4 of them.  Maybe there was too much too soon.  I did try though.  Maybe I'll try again.

James listened to mostly classical music, I listened to pop and rock.  We both tried each other's music and liked some of it and hated probably more but we really tried, I think.  One thing we learned that we both love is musicals.  It's nice when there's a middle ground.

I grew up with animals.  You may not have guessed this but my family is crazy about animals, maybe even a little stupid about them.  James didn't grow up with inside dogs and certainly couldn't understand how we could accept a big slobbery kiss from one.  He has come to love dogs.  I doubt he likes to be kissed by them but I've seen him hold them in his lap and tell them sweet nothings as he scratches their ears and tummies.  I'm pretty sure he likes the goats too.  He also holds them in his lap.  I don't think he's faking it after 24 years.

It's funny and wonderful how we can mold ourselves, or at least attempt to, into something a bit different than what comes naturally and sometimes it fits like a glove.  Other times it doesn't but it's worth the try and sometimes might even make for a good story to tell your grandchildren.  Probably not your son's girlfriend.  I'm sure we bored Melissa to tears with our stories but it's still fun for me and James to reminisce about what it was like when we were dating. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Better than a Barbie doll

My sisters and I had a Barbie, and then there were her friends Midge and Skipper too.  I do remember having fun playing with them though I don't think we were crazy about dolls like some kids are.  We didn't have a bunch of fancy clothes but it was still fun to put those tiny plastic shoes on their feet which were always pointed like they were ready to be fitted for high heels. 

Today I played dress up with a much larger friend, Wilson.  It was so much more fun than a Barbie.  Yesterday I got up at 4:30 AM so I could milk the goats before going to a parasite workshop at VA Tech Vet school.  On the way home Susan and I stopped at Mike's farm which is worth a blog entry in itself.  Mike bought Shamus and Elton from me this year.  They looked so happy there.  So anyway, remember the yellow horse cart I posted a picture of in my blog?  I bought it, along with a harness to fasten a donkey to.  Mike was nice enough to put a harness on his miniature horse, all the time explaining how to do it.  It looked very confusing.  He hooked a cart to the horse and the two of us took a ride.  I wish I had a camera so Susan could have videoed us.  On the way back to the house he handed me the reins.  What fun.  It was hard for me to find the right tension on the reins to keep him from either going too fast or too slow.  I'm going to love this, I know.

Even though Wilson is too young to pull a cart I still want to train him so he's ready when the time comes.  I was wondering if I was rushing things by trying to put the harness on him today but I couldn't resist.  When he saw me with the harness he came running.  He loves our training sessions with the halter and lead.  I placed the harness on his back and I don't think he even flinched.  I spent a lot of time fastening and unfastening buckles to adjust the fit and he just stood there.  I didn't have him haltered or tied to anything.  He just stood there enjoying the attention.  I couldn't believe it. 
The bridle is a bit too small but I'm going to find a way to adapt it to fit him.  He's never worn a bridle so I was so surprised he took the bit in his mouth like he'd been doing it forever.  Can you tell I'm excited about this?  Chy is old enough to pull a cart but I'm not sure she's ready for all of this.  She's still hesitant on a lead and not nearly as eager to accept change.  Maybe once she sees Wilson cooperating she'll relax and let me hook her up.  I would love to have two dolls to dress.  Maybe they could pull a two donkey cart.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Draft horses

Now don't go shaking your head.  I didn't buy a draft horse.  I bought a whole team of them.  Just kidding.  I went to a draft horse demonstration today at the VA Horse Center.  Those horses are amazing and very intimidating to this non-horse person.  I was in the barn looking at horses and a man let two of his out to get them some water.  Their rumps were about 8 feet from me and, I'm not exaggerating, my heart began to race.   I knew all it would take was one small kick from them and I was a goner.  Their feet are the size of our dinner plates but much more massive.  I watched 2 men harnessing their horses to get ready for dragging logs.  He said they do this every day of the week.

I rode a horse drawn wagon to the grass cutting and plowing demonstrations.  We were followed by the horses pulling the work equipment.  It was an awesome view.
I'm not sure how experienced these guys were at using the equipment they used to cut the grass and plow the field because they sure were slow going and made it look harder than I expected.   I talked to and old woman who said her husband could have plowed the whole field in the time it took these guys to do 2 rows.  They were very disappointed in the display. 

All in all, I thought it was very interesting and I loved seeing those giant animals but I still don't want one.  I want a mammoth donkey.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rabbit wrangling

Yesterday I yelled to James, "NO, don't let the dogs out!"  Keri was already barking and Lex sprinted toward the shed.  I called him back and put him and Rosie back in the house.  All four rabbits were on the loose.  Keri wouldn't touch them but barked for a good while as she followed them into the woods behind their abode.  It's good I don't have a job outside the home because I would have been late, that's for sure.  How do you catch 3 rabbits (one of them ran back into the shed when Lex chased it and was cowering inside) when they have many places to run and hide?  Luckily they're unfamiliar with this territory since they don't leave their shed, so they didn't venture more than 50 yards from the house.  Surprisingly Keri was a big help in herding them back, well kind of.  Sometimes she'd chase them down to the creek which is in the wrong direction.  They didn't really seem all that scared.  One of them stopped to clean its ear so Keri stopped chasing to watch.  I don't know how we'll ever count on her to keep rabbits and groundhogs from our garden and orchard.

To make a long story short, Keri would chase them back toward the shed and they ran in eventually.  Each time one would enter the shed I'd catch it and lock it in a cage so I could leave the shed open for the next one.  I don't know how long this took, maybe an hour.  And so I decided it was time to do this.
Even though James' office is just upstairs we still sometimes email each other.  I sent him this picture with the subject line reading, I did it.  Later he told me it looked like Keri.  WHAT?!  Does he really think I'm that heartless?  Some of you may think that anyway now that you know I killed a lapin (that's rabbit in French).  It sounds better to say lapin than bunny.  The reason I got rabbits was to fill our freezer but I've been procrastinating because it just seemed too, I don't know, heartless.  But to be quite honest, I found it harder to butcher two roosters today than I did the rabbit, I mean lapin.  I find chickens to be more amusing, I guess.  They seem to have jobs to do, eat bugs off our plants, protect the hens, march around in a comical manner, announce when the sun is rising (and every other hour).  Tonight I'm cooking my first rabbit dinner.  I hope it's really delicious.

It was a busy day today, but a productive one.  As I told you earlier I'm working more with my donkeys in hopes of training them to pull a cart or plow or at least let me ride them a little.  Wilson is still way too young but I want to get him used to the idea of something around his stomach and on his back, which led me to buy them their first blanket and surcingle.  Yup, surcingle.  I never heard of one until recently.  I didn't even know how to pronounce it and let the woman at the saddlery tell me what I needed.  For those of you who know as little about equines as I, basically it's a strap that goes around the horse's belly and holds on the blanket or whatever and is used in training or to put reins through when pulling a cart (or something like that).  Chy and Wilson were very good about letting me put it on them.  Unfortunately it's too big and I need to get a smaller one.
Doesn't Chy look pretty in this color?  I'm not sure she really cared.  Saturday I may be going to look at a horse drawn cart a friend wants to sell.
Wouldn't that be cool to be pulled around in a cart by your donkey?  I know!!!  I'm also training Benny to walk on a leash and eventually to pull a goat cart.  He looks so cute in his too-big-halter.  He's getting used to it already.  Today was his second day to wear one. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Burrata: take two, Envy and Updates

I guess it's been more than a week since I've blogged and I don't quite know where to begin so I'll begin with today.  This morning 3 women and one young man came over to milk the goats and attempt making a better burrata cheese than the last time we tried.   I didn't mention the last time because, let's face it, no one wants to blog about failures.  The last burrata wasn't what we hoped and all I can chalk it up to was using city water instead of well water that has no chlorine.  Failure or success, both attempts were a lot of fun.  Maybe failures are a good thing.  It gave us an excuse to get together and try again.  This time was much more successful and I learned a few things also.  Instead of stuffing the mozzarella with tiny pieces of mozzarella and cream we stuffed it with whole milk riccotta with added cream.  Oh yes, this was much better and I will do it again.  We all fixed our plates with our masterpieces of burrata, proscuitto, basil, tomatoes, pears, olive oil and balsamic vinegar washed down with some homemade wineberry wine.
The young couple, Holly and Sam, are in their early 20's and are embarking on an adventure which I wish I would have done when I was their age.  They showed up before cheesemaking today to help milk goats because in less than a month they're driving across the country to work on a dairy goat farm in Washington state.  They're taking a month to get there and plan to camp and explore along the way.  They've commited to working on the farm for 3 months but may stay a year or move on to another farm.  They found this opportunity through WWOOF, world wide opportunities on organic farms.  I've heard of WWOOF a few times in the past month.  It must be coming very popular.  I wonder, if we had the internet when I was their age, if I would have taken advantage of something like this.

Some other friends I'm a bit envious of right now are heading to Italy for 4 months the day after tomorrow.  Ok, I'm more than just a bit envious.  Yes, I love being here and have become a real homebody but I still have that desire to travel.  If only I could take the farm with me.  While they're gone we're kid-sitting for Fiona, a cute little nubian doeling.  They don't want her to be bred along with their adult goats since she's too young so we'll keep her here separated from boys.  In Italy they're spending a month at a goat farm and creamery.  They'll help with the milking chores and learn to make cheese (the right way).  I'm sure their teacher is more experienced than the writer of this blog.  They found the farm they're working at on the website  You get free accomodations in exchange for your work.
Here's Fiona, their little doeling we're sitting for.
I spoke to my sister today and she told me I left you hanging about the skunk.  The skunk hasn't returned, thank goodness. 

What else?  Keri, our puppy is growing like a weed, as are the pigs.  Cooper, our buck who was limping like crazy and looking very pitiful is doing real well since I started treating him with teasel root (an herb often used in treating lyme disease) and solomon's seal (used for treating arthritis and achy joints). 

It's been a busy summer but a really good one.  I can't believe it's September.