Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014

Thanks to our wonderful farm sitter, Marilyn, who has stayed here just about every Christmas for the past 6 years, we were able to visit my family in PA.  She's trying to convince me Raisa wants to live on her farm, that's how much she enjoys milking her.  She's just going to have to get her own Raisa.

It was great fun going out with my 2 sisters and their boyfriends the first night there.  I don't know if we  3 sisters have ever gone out to dinner together like that as adults.  Weird, huh?  We need to do that more often.

The rest of the visit was spent opening presents, sitting around talking and laughing with my parents, sisters, nieces, their significant others, my uncle and grandfather.

James made me a one-of-a-kind gift that shows just how well he knows me.  We love to play Scrabble and Words With Friends (much like Scrabble).  We always have a game going.  Instead of making me a traditional barn quilt he made me a barn Scrabble board.  I couldn't have asked for a better gift.
It's hung on the barn closest to the house so I can look at it any time I want.
Adam and Melissa were with her family over Christmas but we opened presents with them before and afterwards.  They found the perfect gift for me; an awesome butchering set.
They also gave us a really cool hammock to hang on our boat deck.  Now I'm looking forward to spring so we can spend time lounging in it.

As always, I can't wait to see what the next year brings.  I have a really good feeling about 2015.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Our new guardian

His name is Rex and he's 4 1/2 months old.  He looks so much like Keri did at that age.

I hate to report this but it will explain the need for another guardian.  Petey, the adorable tiny piglet, disappeared this week.  We've looked all over, no body anywhere.  My guess is a hawk got him but it could have been anything.  Yesterday someone on Facebook posted an ad for this little guy.  His two legged father died the night before and they needed to find him a home.  This is exactly how we got Keri.  Her human dad had died too.

Keri seems to be able to handle her 10 acres (fingers crossed) but the pigs are on an adjacent 10 acres and she can't be there with them too.  My plan is for Rex to be guarding the pigs eventually.  For now I want him with Keri so she can train him.  He's been living with goats, chickens, pigs and horses so he knows nothing else but being a farm dog.  He's already had training from his parents and now Keri can continue the lessons.  Her first matter of training was to teach him she's boss.  We introduced them outside the fence, away from the other animals, thinking Keri would be kinder.  Well, she wasn't so kind but at least she didn't hurt him.  He definitely got the message and stayed very close to my leg.

When introduced to the herd he seemed completely at ease with them.  It was just Keri he was afraid of.
We left them alone because we thought they'd do better without us there.  As we left Rex begged us through the fence to take him with us.  Awww.
I went to check on them later in the afternoon and things had improved considerably.  Rex and Keri were sharing barking duty.  They were both looking toward the river, low bark and high bark ringing out.  It was kind of cute.  I wouldn't say they're ready to curl up and sleep side by side but they're hanging out together with the goats and Rex prances behind Keri wagging his tail.  Papa and Raisa have chased him and he's already figured out to stay away from them.  I'm sure he and Raisa will figure each other out like Keri and Raisa have.  He seemed comfortable with the pigs.  Wendell laid down up against the fence and Rex was up against him on the other side.  I'll take him over there with the pigs regularly so he can get to know them better.

I'm really excited about him.  I didn't plan on getting another livestock guardian dog but when I saw the Facebook ad the timing and conditions seemed perfect, so here we are with another addition to the farm.  I'm already in love.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


The Thanksgiving piglets have not had a good beginning.  Their mom doesn't have much milk at all and they didn't appear to be thriving.  One morning the little girl looked very weak in her back end.  She also looked very skinny.  I gave her a bottle that afternoon, which she seemed to like.  The next morning when I went to check on them I found her dead under the bedding.  I don't know if she was too weak to get out of the way and was crushed or what.  Maybe I shouldn't have given her the goat milk, I don't know.

I was torn about what to do with the little boy, Petey.  I felt maybe I should bring him in the house and bottle feed him because he no longer had someone to snuggle up against and keep warm with during the day.  His mom spends most of her time out grazing so he was alone.  I really hated interfering with him because he looked strong enough and wasn't skinny like his sister.  The past few mornings I held my breath as I approached his pen.  Sometimes just a tiny spot of black would be showing because he was burrowed so deep in the bedding.  I was always relieved when I touched him and he'd snort.  This morning I couldn't find him.  I knew it couldn't be good.  I lifted the grass and gently poked here and there.  No Petey.  I walked around the shed looking for his body.  Could something have eaten him?  Could he have wandered off in the cold and frozen to death?  I quit looking and drove around the field to feed the big pigs on on top of the hill, feeling very disappointed in myself for not bringing him indoors.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature piglet amongst 16 pig ears.  I couldn't believe it. Petey had hiked a very long way to graze with the others.  He'll be 2 weeks old tomorrow.

Look how tiny he is next to his family.   That little red shack you see at the end of the video is where he hiked from; all uphill.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cooler weather sparks new projects

Spring, summer and fall keep me busy with outside stuff.  Outside stuff makes me happy (maybe not cutting grass and weed eating). Cooler weather keeps me inside which can be good and bad.  I tend to feel more blue in the winter but it also forces me to find things to do that I might not normally think of; things I'd ignored during the warm days. Lately I've been stepping back and looking at our house and what needs attention.

James and I have talked about taking each room one at a time and giving it the attention it needs.  When we fixed up the house years ago we opened up every fireplace that had been bricked shut. For some reason I never completed the job with the fireplace in our bedroom.  We can use it but I never made it look nice.  I exposed the brick but it's not a finished look that was supposed to be exposed.  It's all uneven and rough.  It was meant to be covered.  Some bricks stick out real far and others are recessed.
I've decided to mortar over them and come up with a nice finish but can't decide what that might be so for now we're looking at a somewhat even mortared surface.  At least it fills the gap between the mantle surround and the brick.  Tile maybe?  I don't know. It may wait another 8 years.
The dimmer switch in our bedroom has been broken for a long time so I finally installed a new one.
Why do we wait so long to do these things?  It only takes minutes to fix. There are some very real hazards to doing this though.  It required scissors to open the dimmer switch package.
I do love a dimly lit chandelier in a bedroom.

I recently experimented with a new cheese, Drunken Goat Cheese.  It wasn't as good as I wanted it to be but it sure looked pretty.  The semi-hard cheese was soaked in a brine and then a wine bath. It had a mild taste but nothing to brag about.
Yesterday I made a bunch of soap and some cheddar cheese, which is still in the press.  The yellow stuff is soap, not cheddar cheese.
Tonight I'm experimenting with the effects of salt and ammonia fumes on copper for some arts and crafts projects.  Growing up my parents gave me an craft present every Christmas (that I can remember) and that was almost always my favorite gift.  I've never outgrown this.  I expect more blue on the copper by tomorrow.
I also continue my fascination with bed springs.  Don't ask me why this is.  I guess I like rusty metal.  I don't know what this will become.  For now I stare at it and imagine possibilities.

I think that's what winter is for, imagining possibilities. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


This is our new bull, Papa. We're hoping he and Raisa become very good friends and produce a nice little heifer for us next year.

Two days before Papa arrived we separated Windsor and Raisa.  This has been very stressful for them and even a little bit for me.  I think their bawling and pacing upsets the other animals too.  Maybe not the pigs.  The first day Raisa wouldn't leave the fence for long so I wasn't able to milk her.  Today I got about 2 gallons.  She had more to give but decided she was done and, while I like to think I'm boss, Raisa makes it very clear she's boss when she's had enough. I think the reason she came to be milked was because she was afraid I'd give the food to the new guy.  Maybe she's a little more relaxed today because Windsor was off grazing.

Papa is probably 100 lbs lighter than Windsor.  He makes Windsor look roly poly.  Boy, can Papa run though.  He and Keri have been trying to establish who's boss.  I'm not sure if it's been settled yet. When Raisa first saw him she charged him with her back arched, screaming.   Keri thought it was her job to protect Raisa for once.

When I was trying to get some pictures of Papa Keri was nervous about me getting close.  So was I just a little.  I saw him charge Keri so I thought it best to give him space.  I made her stay away so I could move toward him without him feeling threatened by her.  She moved herself between him and the goats and kept watch to see if I needed protecting.
It's hard to photograph a black animal and capture his face with an Iphone.  I always have to edit to remove shadows but it's still hard to see more than his silhouette.
He's still very nervous today and seems to be watching the other animals interact.  He's unsure of and curious about the pigs and donkeys on the other side of the fence.  He lived with cattle only at his last farm so it's going to take him some time to get used to the way pigs and goats walk under donkeys and cows, share food and live very comfortably together.
 Here are a few more photos from this week.  Baxter likes to go to the field to explore and Keri likes having a canine playmate.  The goats used to be afraid of Baxter but now they're just bewildered by the quirky bundle of energy.
I was gathering rocks out of the yard and throwing them in the loader of the tractor and moving them to the creek.  Willy wouldn't stay out of Betty's bucket which proved to be dangerous when I accidentally hit her in the head with a rock.  She's fine, but she learned to stay out of the way after that.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Boy, was I wrong

This morning I emailed a friend, "not much excitement here".  As it turned out, I was very wrong.  My black Friday turned out to be very exciting.  When I went out to feed everyone I discovered Black Olive (my large black sow) gave me a nice surprise, better than anything I could fight the crowds for at a department store; two tiny piglets, a boy and a girl.

They took naps in my lap for about 30 minutes while their mom was eating.  So far they're not afraid of me.  Piglets usually squeal like crazy when you hold them but these two seem to like the warmth of my hugs.  The other pigs have welcomed them and are pretty gentle around them.  I saw Roxie gathering more straw to put in their pen to keep everyone warm.  Every now and then I think I shouldn't be keeping a non-productive gigantic hog but then I find many excuses to keep Roxie.  She makes all the nests and takes care of everyone.  This afternoon I went to check on them and all 10 pigs were cuddled up in a 7 1/2 X 7 1/2 foot shelter.  It's adorable the way they pack themselves together to keep warm to sleep.  Look how tiny the piglets are next to Roxie.

 This is 9 pigs.  One is out grazing.  They could probably fit a few more in.
  Tell me, is this not the sweetest thing you've ever seen?

Because my goats are ready to be dried up, it's time to separate Windsor from Raisa so we can continue to have milk.  I've been dreading this but Windsor is almost 8 months old so it's time.  Raisa is in heat today so she'll follow me anywhere.  I coaxed her through a gate where the pigs are, hoping Windsor would follow her.  My plan was to get her to go through first, knowing he wouldn't.  Then tomorrow coax her back through the gate and not let him through.  Well, he didn't want to follow.  Everyone else did.  The donkeys thought they were missing out on something.

Later I let the donkeys through and Windsor followed.  Now they're exploring new territory.  I hope tomorrow I can get Raisa back to the side of the field where I can milk her.  I have no idea how much milk Windsor has been taking.  I'm kind of excited.

The neighbors' horses were interested in the cows and donkeys now that they can see them better.
It was a pretty afternoon.  Ignore the traffic noise and power lines.  You'd think we live in the city from the sounds of it but that was just 2 cars with one obnoxious driver trying to impress someone.

It turned out to be a pretty exciting day afterall.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Little bear

I went down to milk goats this morning and was surprised by 2 things.  We returned last night after a week of vacation.   I stopped milking the goats so the farm sitters wouldn't have to deal with that.  I thought they'd be all dried up this morning but was pleased to find they all still had quite a bit of milk.  It'll be interesting to see how they'll produce now.  Hopefully all of them are bred now.

My second surprise was this.  See the black spot that looks like it's on the bridge?

Here, I'll zoom in so you can see it better.
Keri had been barking most of the time I was milking but it wasn't till I finished I saw why.  The bear is pretty small and he looked very sleepy.  He kept closing his eyes.  So cute.  Bear season is next month.  I hope this little guy stays safe.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Safe from dummies

When we bought this old house the previous owners asked if we wanted the 2 large safes.  One was from a post office and the other a bank.  They're heavy and wouldn't easily be moved out of our basement.  Of course we said yes; mostly because they're cool, not because we have much of value to protect.

James keeps some things in one of them and the other has been sitting there empty. This summer one of our neighbors was robbed so before we went on vacation James suggested I put my jewelry in the safe.  He didn't say which safe so I chose the empty one.  I locked it up tight and off we went.

Later I went to retrieve my jewelry.  I followed the combination instructions to a T (I thought) but at the end of the directions it said to unlock with the key.  The key we had didn't open it.  Both of us took turns messing with it to no avail.  We searched everywhere for the key.  Nothing.  So, for the past 4 or 5 months I've been wearing the same 3 pairs of earrings and 2 necklaces I took with us on vacation this summer.

Finally I called a locksmith.  Apparently not all locksmiths can open old safes like this so we had to  hire one about 45 minutes from here at a cost of $135.00 just to show up and another $100.00 per hour he was here.    Oh well, what choice did we have if I wanted my jewelry back, right?  I should mention, most of my jewelry is costume jewelry. I'm not a girl whose best friends are diamonds.  I wear what matches my outfit or what I like.

The young locksmith arrived this morning.  I had envisioned him trying to pick the lock, and when having no luck, using a cutting torch to open it.  James watched It Takes A Thief as a child and may have had some more interesting scenarios, I don't know.  What happened next was nowhere close to these images.  Mr. Young Locksmith turned the dial a smidgeon, tugged gently on the handle and opened the safe. No key necessary.  I guess we should have been embarrassed, and maybe I was a little, but mostly I was happy he didn't have to use a cutting torch and spend another hour here.  He was too polite to tell us we were idiots and didn't know how to properly use a combination lock.  He told us this happens all the time and shared other stories to help us recover our self-esteem.  Also, to make us feel like we got our moneys'-worth, he lubed the combination dial and interior mechanisms, stating this may have been why we found it hard to open.  He made us both open the safe to be sure we werent' a lost cause, or maybe to prove we were.

As you can see, the safes work best as storage for paint cans.  Maybe we should only use them for this purpose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Boat needs a name

We're going to finish this boat and deck, that's a sure thing.  We're loving the way it's coming along and  spending much more time down by the river these days even though the temperatures are dropping.  James sealed the deck last week so all that needs to be done on it is the railing.  I'm enjoying it without for now.

The boat is making major transformations too. Remember this ugly duckling?

There were so many cracks and leaks in the roof water was wreaking all kinds of havoc inside, not to mention it was super nasty and dirty.

Two pressure washings later, plus lots of fiberglass, caulk and paint and here she is today.
We're loving having stairs.  Until recently we were climbing a wobbly step stool.

The interior looks even worse than that ugly picture above but I look forward to posting a before and after photo of it someday too.  Until then, I think we need to come up with a name for her.  Maybe she'll blossom if she has a name.  Hmmm, maybe Blossom.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014

I think this is the 4th or 5th year the animals begged for Halloween costumes.  It's a big job finding costumes that will fit a small kitty, an 800 lb pig and a mammoth donkey, but ALWAYS it's fun.  I took about 60 pictures and it's hard to narrow them down to the best ones.  I began with the easiest, dressing up Baxter.  He's just like Lex when it comes to costumes; a really good sport.  All I have to say is, "smile for the camera, Baxter", and he does.
 Now that Willy is older she's much more uncooperative.  She ran off with her costume in her mouth and that was that, so I'm posting a picture I took of her about a month ago when she was a sweet, well-behaved kitten who allowed me to abuse her.
Pigs are always a challenge but Roxie has been in many photo shoots and knows how to work it.  She's no size 2 but she can pull off anything........because she's all about that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble (go ahead, you know you want to sing along), She's bringing booty baaaack..
Willo and Jaz loved the attention and let me try on everything I had in my bags.  Piggy back ride, anyone?
 Darla wanted to play that game too.

It was funny how many of them didn't mind glasses on their face.  At one point I went to get a picture of a goat and realized Willo was still wearing sunglasses and didn't seem a bit bothered.  Mickey looks especially chic in her shades.
Unlike his mother, Windsor was fascinated by the glasses.  Seriously, isn't he the most handsome steer you've ever seen?
 And he knows it.
Usually Cooper is the obvious goat for Halloween couture but he stinks to high heaven and I can hardly stand to be near him so poor Lily had to be eaten by the fierce dragon.
And finally, Mr. and Mrs. Elk Cliff farm.  Maybe you can tell what they're trying to be.

We went to a party tonight and not too many people knew what we were.  All of us brought candy and finger foods but when I snapped this next photo it was clear I haven't been feeding James enough.
I, on the other hand, have had my share of treats tonight.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fall colors

We added a little color to the farm this week.  Adam and Melissa came for a few days and helped us get the first coat of paint on Raisa and the goats' barn.  I used to call this Raisa's barn but now she shares it with Windsor, Keri and the goats.
Maybe you can see the red barn way across the field in this next picture.  Our mountains look prettiest at sunset but the colors seem a bit dull this year.  I've seen more color in other parts of the county than here.
Another change we made this week was to move all 4 donkeys to the big field.  Since we merged the big and little donkeys they've become quite close.  I thought perhaps Chy and Wilson would take cues from Willo and Jaz and load into a trailer for the move.  You may wonder why I didn't just walk them over there.  Well, I'm a horrible trainer, I guess, because I've never been able to get them to walk across this tiny boardwalk over the ditch into the road.  I was truly amazed how well they cooperated.  The last time Chy was in a trailer was to come here to live and I understand she wasn't cooperative at all.  Wilson was born here and has never been in a trailer.  It took him about 30 minutes to load and Chy only hesitated briefly.  Black licorice is my secret weapon.

I think they're pretty happy with the move.
Keri deserves a raise because we're always adding to her guarding responsibilities.  Sometimes she takes breaks and finds special treats in the field.  I'm pretty sure she didn't kill this deer.
My mom mentioned this morning she's looking forward to seeing what I dress the animals up as this Halloween.  I better get working on this.  Only 6 more days.