Monday, January 30, 2012


I've seen this picture posted on Facebook a few times and every time I see it I think of my friend Sophie.  I've only known her for a year.  She's now 13 so I didn't know her when she was little but I think she would have looked like this little girl at that age.   Even if she didn't this is the joy that she projects at 13.  I've never met a young person who exudes such happiness.  I once asked her mom if she always smiled and she said yes.  That's a rare thing I would think. 

Sophie, I admire you.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eight Keri puppies

My friend's great pyrenees had 8 puppies.   Actually she had 10 but 2 didn't survive.  There are 7 females and 1 male.  She owns both parents, Beau and Stella. 

It's hard to believe they'll be little fluffballs in a few weeks.  Anyone need a livestock guardian dog? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Art class is more fun in your 40's

Today I played the part of home school mom.  My 13 year old friend, Sophie, asked if I'd accompany her to the Frontier Culture Museum (  for a class in painting floor cloths.  Her mom couldn't make it so I filled in.  I had never been to the museum and it was a real treat.   Sophie and I arrived at 10 AM and were greeted by our teacher riding in a golf cart.  We soon discovered all this attention he was giving us was because we were his only two students for the day.  Since it was just the two of us and the class was supposed to be till 4 PM he decided we had time to take a tour of the grounds.  It was divided into different areas - painting a picture of what a melting pot America is and how the Irish, English, Germans, Africans, etc. settled here and made America what it is today, a diverse culture.  First we visited America.  The log cabin we entered was owned by George Bauman who later changed his name to Bowman.  He moved from Germany to Phila., PA but moved to VA because land was cheaper than in Phila.  For those of you who aren't family, my maiden name is Bowman and my family lives outside Phila. so it was pretty cool that we began our tour in George Bowman's house.  I'm sure he was a distant relative of mine.  We visited the different villages and got to explore several of the houses and barns, my favorite being the log cabins and an octagonal barn and viewing some of the farm animals on the premises. 

Finally we got down to work.  Our classroom was an old dairy barn, now turned into classrooms, library and lecture rooms.  Mr. Teacher showed us different styles of floor cloths and two small cloths he had started on his own.  They were very bland pieces in black, gray and white.  Sophie and I were unimpressed.  I think we both had something different in mind.  Maybe brighter colors or stencilling or something more than a black and white tile floor.   He wanted us to choose which one we wanted to copy.  We both reluctantly chose one, different from each other.  Neither of us wanted to hurt the teacher's feelings since he expressed to us that he was nervous about this class.  First he had us tape off the border of the small cloth.  When we put the tape down he made sure to press it down again to be sure we had it secure even though we'd pressed it many times ourselves.  We were told to paint it black so we did.  While it was drying we toured some more.  As the day wore one we discovered Mr. Teacher was a little obsessive compulsive.  He had a very hard time keeping his hands off our work, which really didn't bother either of us but we had a fun time giggling about it at lunch.  Every now and then he had to go "talk to someone or check on something".  When he returned he smelled very stongly of cigarette.  I think we were driving him crazy because we didn't do exactly as he wanted us to.  He was very nice and kept telling us we were doing a great job.  When I free-handed a blue diamond he almost choked and said, "oh, you're not going to do......."   I said, "nope", and he seemed to accept it without having a heart attack.  I think he may have had another cigarette after this.  He came back and tried to straighten out our lines. 

Really, it was an enjoyable day and Mr. Teacher was a very nice man.  Sophie had an interview to be a volunteer at the museum for the summer and it went so well she got the job and that made it an even better day.  When we announced our pieces of art were complete Mr. Teacher couldn't help but ask Sophie if she didn't want to cover up a few of what he appeared to think were imperfections by adding a little paint here and there.  She smiled and did as he wanted.  Here's my cloth.  You can see why Mr. Teacher needed another smoke, can't you?  When I commented to Sophie that my square wasn't exactly square she told me it was "Karen shaped".  Exactly.

Before we were done he asked us if this class was ok and if we thought it was worth the money.  Poor man.  Yes, of course it was worth it.  I didn't tell him it was worthy of a blog entry. 

Our next class is a carpentry class in another week or two.  Guess who the teacher is. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Interview with Cooper

Me:  Good afternoon Cooper.
Cooper:  Mmmmmmeeehhhhmmm
Me:  I was hoping you might share with the good people of Holes In My Jeans what it's like to be a buck living at Elk Cliff Farm.
Cooper:  It's good, bluh bluh bluh bluh, it's good.  (lots of tongue flapping going on)
Me:  What would you say is your favorite thing to do here?
Cooper:  Is this a family blog?
Me:  Yes, it is.
Cooper:  Well, then I guess I should skip to my second favorite thing to do, which is eat.  Um, then I'd say my next favorite thing to do is play.  There's this one giant tall-eared goat, named Wilson.  You know him.
Me:  Mm hmm, I do, but he's not a goat.  He's a donkey.
Cooper:  Whatever.  He's a lot of fun but he has top front teeth that can really hurt me.  You know we goats don't have top front teeth.
Me:  I know.  I wonder why that is. 
Cooper:  Today me 'n him were playin' and he got 'holda my leg and wouldn't let go.  I wouldn't stop pushing him with my head either so I think the match was a draw.  He's a cool goat.
Me:  Donkey.
Cooper:  Whatever.

Cooper:  There's a cute little girl, Tila, that follows me around lots too.  I think she likes me as a father figure though and I'm not interested in that role, if you know what I mean.
Me:  I'm pretty sure I do.  What about Jimmy, is he a good friend of yours?
Cooper:  Yeah, we're tight.  We spend lots of time together when you separate us from the girls for 6 or 7 months.  He's a pretty shy and quiet guy but when me 'n him go head to head we can make a bloody mess.  bluh, bluh, bluh, bluh, it's pretty fun.  We have contests to see who can smell the baddest.  I always win. 

Me:  Is there anything else you'd like to add that we might find interesting about you?
Cooper:  Yeah, I like to drink from hoses.
Me:  Well, I guess that's kind of interesting and unusual. 
Cooper:  Yup.  No one else here does it except that noisy dog.  Sometimes I put the hose in my mouth and can drink the water as fast as it comes out. 
Me:  I know you have things to do so I'll let you go.  Thank you for spending this time with me, even though I could have done without you chasing me. 
Cooper:  You like it.  All the girls do.
Me:  I'm sure you think that.  Take care, Cooper.
Cooper:  Mmmmmehhhmmmmm

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bark, bark, bark. Quiet Keri! Bark, bark, bark

As I sit at my desk our Great Pyrenees carries on with a constant woof, woof, woof....pause.... woof, woof, woof.  And on and on.  I've been bringing her in for an hour or so at night to let her get in a nap on the rug but inevitably she wants to go back out and BARK at intruders.  I feel very safe and sometimes a little tired of noise.

Things are good at Elk Cliff Farm, thanks to Keri and thanks to other things going very smoothly.  All is quiet on the goat front since everyone's pregnant.  The boys get to hang with the girls and donkeys and I'm not milking.  It's a very simple routine. 

I'm not breeding rabbits yet because I want to wait till it's a little warmer yet to introduce naked little bunnies into this world.  The rabbits are getting very friendly and I about trip over them every morning trying to feed and water them.  They're cute, much too cute to be meat rabbits.

The chickens are giving us 3 eggs a day and looking pretty in our lawn.  Isn't that what chickens are for, looking pretty?

And then there are pigs.  I really like these pigs, Velma and Roxie.  Why can't we keep them?  Oh, because they'll reach 700 lbs and not be able to walk, that's why:(  I'm glad I'm not a hog.  In the meantime, they're entertaining me and looking like very happy animals and that makes me happy.

After taking the 3 dogs for 6 laps around our field to wear them out (it's 10PM and Keri is still barking, so I guess we only wore ourselves out) James assisted me in saddling up Willo, the mammoth donkey.  I got a new saddle yesterday and was so excited to try it out, yet a little nervous because Willow is new to the idea of being a saddle donkey.  We tied the other 2 donkeys to a post so they wouldn't irritate Willo while we worked with her.  First James led her with me on her back.  I told him to take the lead off and let me guide her with the reins.  She took to it well and I'm still alive to tell about it.  She let me know when she was done humoring me so I called it quits while I was still somewhat in control - well, kind of.  She bucked a little to tell me she wanted no more of me being bossy.  I'm used to James giving me the same signals so I know when to back off.  I was very proud of her and the other two who stood so well and didn't complain. 

Bedtime.   Maybe when the lights are out Keri will stop barking.  She usually sleeps through the night, thank goodness.  I think I will too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More turkeys? Really?

I know I said we weren't going to raise turkeys again but I lied.  Today I ordered 20 turkeys from McMurray Hatchery.  They'll be shipped May 5th.  It makes no sense that I'm excited about it.  I wrote on Facebook that I ordered turkeys and that I couldn't believe I did it.  My sister-in-law asked why I changed my mind.  Someone else asked, why, what happened last time?  This led me to go back through my old photos from when we had these strange creatures in the summer of 2010.  I probably should have read this blog post from August 2010 before I ordered them.
Oh yes, they're so cute when they're just tiny chicks.  This is what 20 turkey chicks look like when they're a few days old.  Awww, they're so cute.

Their first home is a rubbermaid container with  a heat lamp I keep in the basement until they grow too big. That's when I have to expand they're space to include a huge cardboard box.  When they're too big and too stinky to keep in the basement we move them to an outside space but they still need a heat lamp till they have enough feathers to keep them warm. 

When they become gawky teenagers and they have enough feathers we put them outside.
At this point they're still "kinda" cute but getting more curious by the day and they get into your stuff, like fencepost holes and the dirt you removed from the holes.

Or they try to help you while you're cutting firewood.

After weeks of sleeping outside in their own barn they still didn't know how to get back there each night.  Finding their way around fences and through gates continued to be a challenge for many months.  We threw them back over the fence to their barn every night which got harder and harder as they got heavier and faster.  Just as you were trying to catch the last one all the others would come running out of their barn.  This is kind of a long video but it shows you how much work it can be.

As annoying as they could be they had their funny moments too.  They loved being sprayed by the hose and standing in a tub of water.

I think they would have liked car rides too but they never got the chance.

It got harder and harder to like them when they pecked at my ring every time I tried to open a gate.  Nineteen turkeys felt like 90 when you wanted to get something done without their help.  I know they weren't being mean but it didn't make their pecks hurt any less. 

And then there's this.

The real reason we ordered them is because many of our friends would like to buy locally grown turkeys during the holidays and we thought we might as well be the ones to provide them.   We have 2 turkeys left in our freezer from 2010 but they'll be long gone before these are ready to butcher.

And so it goes.... more turkey blogging to come.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Have you had enough of Keri yet?

Our farm animals are a constant source of entertainment for me so it's hard not to write about whatever's entertaining me the most.  Right now it's a puppy and donkeys. 

While I usually only tell of Keri's destructive antics I should also share that she IS a good guardian, even at her young age.  Last night I was sitting in the den at my computer.  Keri knew I was in here even though I didn't have a light on.  She sat outside staring at the window barking until I came outside.  She led me to the donkey barn where Chy and Wilson had returned after their day roaming freely in the yard.  I closed them in so they'd be with the goats for the night and Keri stopped barking.  I know she wanted me to put them where they belonged for the night.  I feel sure she's keeping other animals from our property too.  When my niece came to visit with her dog Keri could not rest.  She wanted no part of having another canine on our property even though he was about as mellow as a dog can be.  It's just not going to happen while she's on guard.  Great pyrenees have a strong dislike of canines.  Thank goodness we got her as a puppy and she adores our boxers, Rosie and Lex.  It's hard to imagine this sweet, bouncy puppy being agressive with other animals but here's proof she can be agressive.

I took her over to the field today while I fed the pigs and mammoth donkeys.  I was distracted by the pigs so I never saw how she got in there with them.  There's one strand of electric wire around their pen.  The pigs completely ignored her and she ignored them.  She found all kinds of things in there to eat.  I don't even want to think about what it was.
Keri looked small next to Roxie and Velma.  She didn't want to leave their pen when I called so I drove over to the donkeys.  I saw in my rear view mirror Keri duck under the electric fence and she didn't even cringe as her fur and tail hit it.  I guess her coat is too thick to feel the current. 

The mammoth donkeys aren't in love with Keri like I am and they let her know this.

I wish I was in front of them so you could hear how loud their brays really are.  Listen how Chy brays in answer to their call.

Below is a sight we don't see very often.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Playing can sometimes get rough

Keri and Wilson have become buddies and playmates.  They really have.  They take turns instigating.  Sometimes even Chy gets in on it.

 Sometimes they just hang out near each other.
 Other times they chase each other.
 Sometimes they just stare at each other.
Today Keri was just asking for trouble.

Later in the day Wilson played a little harder than she wanted.

Ouch, that had to hurt. 

Besides videoing Keri and Wilson I did lots of other things today.  I built a door to the once chicken coop, now rabbit coop.  I took all the rabbits out of the green house and let the girls run loose in their new space.  The smell in the green house was getting too potent.  The 2 boys have to stay in cages, poor guys.  I think they're all pretty happy.

I've made arrangements for one of my pigs to be bred in about a month so that's exciting.  I can't wait to post pictures of goat kids and piglets.  That will mean spring has arrived.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I'm loving this springlike weather we've been having these past few days.  It makes me want to do things and make plans to do other things.  It's that time of the year - planning time.  Time to look at how 2011 went and what I want to do differently (or the same) in 2012. 

All my goats are bred and dried up so as of tomorrow we'll have no more goat milk to drink:(  We're even running low on cheese.  I hated to do it but I bought a half gallon of cow's milk this week.  We're only getting 2 eggs a day now too because the days are so short and the older chickens aren't laying.  I bought 2 dozen eggs from another friend who has about a hundred chickens.    We're down to 9 goats  and it feels very manageable.  Of course I'm not milking yet so we'll see how manageable it feels come March.  Out of six does we'll probably have about 12 kids.  I plan to sell all those kids but all of you who raise goats know it's easier to say that than to part with them. 

One of my goals for the year is to work harder with all 5 donkeys.  I want to teach all of them to do something new, be it ride, pull a cart or plow or even just cross the road from one side of our farm to the other.  I'm also looking forward to introducing the 3 mammoths to the 2 standard donkeys and the goats.  I hope it goes well.

I'm reading a book about goats that some friends gave me.  They just returned from a 3 month stay in Italy.  For a good part of the time they were there they stayed on a dairy farm and assisted in cheese making.  The man who ran this goat dairy is the author of the book I'm reading.  A lot of the book is  for first time goat owners but my favorite parts of the book are little stories he writes about his own experiences and how he learned from his mistakes.  He's an American who now lives in Italy so the book is written in English.  I know you all thought I was just so smart to read it in Italian but that may have to be a goal for 2022 - to learn Italian.  I just finished reading the part about kidding season and that got me all excited for when our kids arrive.  I know it will be here before I know it.  It's my favorite time of year without a doubt.  This may not get you excited but watching these videos does it for me. 

One of the things the author writes about is an experience all of us goat parents will probably experience at one time or another.  It was an accident but a preventable one I can empathize with.  His goats got into his goat feed and ate so much that they bloated and 3 of them died.  Now my goats have never died from that but I have had a few scares from goats getting into chicken feed.  It's not something you'll ever forget.  It makes you feel horrible.

Where was I going with this blog?  Oh yeah, complacency.

It was so beautiful today and I had little to do so I let the goats out to graze in the yard.  They don't require much attention since there's nothing in bloom that they can destroy so I sat and read my book with them in my periphery.  What a great way to end the day, relaxing, watching goats graze and reading a good book.  After 30 minutes I realized they'd dissapeared from my view.  I worried about them getting into James' garden because one of the gate latches wasn't secured.  As I walked toward the garden I realized it wasn't the garden I needed to be concerned about.  With the author's story of his bloated goats fresh in my mind I hastened my pace toward the garage where I store all my animal's feed.  There they were all piled on top of bags of feed.   It was hard to tell who was in to what.  There's no stopping a goat when it's head is in a bag of yummy feed.  After much wrestling I got a cupful of crushed corn and called the goats to follow me.  Luckily all but one followed me back to their fence where I locked them in.  I quickly ran back to the garage where Cooper, my buck, had his head in the bag of hog feed.  Cooper weighs about the same as I do but I swear he was 10 times stronger than me when I was trying to get his head out of the bag.  It took a good while before I finally got him distracted by a bucket of ground corn and he followed me up the driveway  and in with the rest of the herd.  My chest hurt from all the exertion it took to get everyone back to safety.  Cooper looked none the worse for wear.  Just a little corn in the whiskers.  I hope everyone is feeling ok in the morning.
Time to lock the chickens up.  That's another thing I'd become complacent about.  I hadn't been locking the birds up at night because Keri was out there with them.  Two mornings ago Keri found a headless chicken in the yard.  I guess she can't be everywhere at all times so I need to close their door at nights again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Long ears stick together

Chy and Wilson aren't always generous in sharing their food with the goats or chickens.  They huff at them or pretend they're going to bite them sometimes.  No one ever gets hurt but the donkeys make it very clear who's the boss.  One thing I can't figure out is why they'll share their food with Tila and Fiona, the two little nubians.

Sometimes all the other goats will be in the barn but Tila and Fiona will be grazing alongside the donkeys in the pasture.  It must be a long ear thing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Good day - Interesting day

Lots happened today but it still seemed like I had lots of down time.  I don't know how that happened.  It was a normal morning until I looked over toward our field and saw Roxie, our red hog, running loose outside her electric ribbon but inside the woven wire fence.  She looked to be having a good time.  I wondered what Velma was thinking.  It's amazing how much ground can be tilled in the short time a pig is loose.

Some folks showed up this morning to buy Clarice (now Claire) and Harlie.  These were my last 2 goats to cry over before kidding season begins.  I didn't cry long because I know they are going to a good home and also they had each other for company.  That always helps.  Their new owners have very similar interests in homesteading as James and I so that made it even easier. 

After they left I took food over to the hogs and it didn't take Roxie more than a blink to cross under the electric ribbon when I held it up.  Funny after the way she reacted the other day when I took the fence down to extend their play area.  They sure have become friendly which makes it harder to think about butchering them.

A neighbor of ours is going out of the meat rabbit business so in the past 2 days I've purchased 21 rabbits from him, half we put in the freezer and the other half we're raising till they're big enough to butcher or we'll breed them.  I wonder how many rabbits we'll have next spring.  Many of them are living in the green house. 

Before dinner I took James out to see the new rabbits and then across the street to see what damage the hogs had done.  I wanted to disconnect hoses over there too because it's going to be very cold tonight.  Next we visited the mammoth donkeys.  Sometimes I'm stupid and tonight was one of those times.  I asked James to lift me on to Jaz's back without haltering her or anything.  Ummm, she walked off and I ended up on the ground on my tailbone.  Surprisingly I didn't get hurt.  Ok, I won't do that again, maybe. 

We had snow flurries off and on today.  I'm glad that's all we got.  I'm not ready for this cold weather.  I tucked the goats in with extra hay tonight and closed one  of the doors to keep it a bit warmer in there. 

Is it too soon to start dreaming of spring?