Monday, July 21, 2014

Why do we do it?

Sometimes it's fun to dream of living somewhere else.  James and I have a fantasy of moving to New Zealand (we love New Zealand) or a foreign speaking country to live for a year and learn the language and culture.   On days when I dread weed-eating or cutting grass, or look at all the stuff in our yard that needs attention - On the days when the weeds seem too much for James to attack, or it takes hours to pick and clean peas, beans or blackberries, or his hands are yellow from squeezing mexican bean beetle larvae - When the electric fence needs to be moved or animals escape or predators get our chickens.  These are the days we ask ourselves, why are we doing this?

This weekend James and I went to visit our friends Mike and Laura who live in a gorgeous house on Lake Norman.  I'm envious of their meticulous landscaping and their beautifully decorated and spotless house.  It was a relaxing weekend just hanging out, catching up and having nothing to do but eat, drink and be merry.  Perfect.  We had many conversations about traveling and where we'd like to live.  We always do this with them.  They like change as much as we do.  James and Mike paddled one morning while I pretended to fish and Laura  and Kramer (puppy) kept me company.
Yesterday morning we boated to breakfast.  How spoiled we felt.
Later we floated.
Why don't we do this all the time?  I don't mean stay at Mike and Laura's house.  I think we'd get kicked out eventually.  I mean, why don't we play more?  Why do we think we need to fill our 4 freezers with vegetables, fruit and meat?  No two people need all the food we raise.  We don't need 4 donkeys, 3 dogs, 8 goats, 10 pigs, rabbits, 2 cows, chickens, a parrot and a kitten.  Or do we?

On the way to and from Lake Norman James read to me a book some friends gave us, See You In 100 Years,
In this book a young couple leave their jobs in NYC and move with their 2 year old son to rural  VA and live like it's the year 1900.  What they did made what we do here seem like childs' play.  It's a great book and I highly recommend it to all my homesteading friends.

When we got home last night James spent hours in the garden picking blackberries then making blackberry jam while I visited the animals.  Today I thought of the book as I used my electric milking machine, made butter, spinning the cream in my food processor, butchered 3 roosters and scalded them to remove feathers by heating water on an electric stove then chilling them in ice water.  James picked 5 dozen ears of corn, cutting off the kernels, then microwaving them before freezing.  He also dug up potatoes, picked tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, carrots, etc. (manually, of course.  no electric involved in this).

Our house smells really good right now of roasted chicken, lemon squash, onion, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes.  When we eat this we'll feel satisfied we grew this all ourselves.  I can't describe why this feels so good.  Does it taste better than store-bought food?  I don't know if everyone would say it does.  It's more than that though.   We saw these vegetables grow among the weeds and beetles, we know how this chicken made it to our table.

This morning as I milked Raisa I was entertained by Keri (our livestock guardian dog) and Cato (our young buck).  They've become good buddies as of late and they play together often.  I wonder how Keri will feel when Cato begins trying to breed "her girls" this fall.  The play may turn to something rougher.  This playing makes me smile.

We'll still dream of living elsewhere, maybe on a small plot of land in a European country where we can buy our veggies and meats daily at local markets and butchers like the Europeans do, or maybe in the US in a condo so we can travel wherever the wind blows us, without having to care for gardens and animals.  For now we feel fulfilled and our land, animals, dirty fingernails, aching back and full tummies (getting bigger all the time), ratty clothes, old home, poorly decorated but filled with wonderful dinner aromas, are the life we choose.

It's time for me to head to the field to feed Keri chicken scraps and her food, give the pigs the leftover corn cobs, scratch the mammoth donkeys and lounge on their backs.   I love this time of night.  This is one of the reasons "I do it'".  James is checking on the garden once again.  I doubt he has to do this but I think he wants to.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer sunsets

Summer skies are the best.  Sometimes it's so black out but we can see thousands (maybe millions) of lighting bugs in the field or against the mountains.  It's magical, really.   I've tried taking photos of them but can't capture them on an IPhone.   Lately I've been going out to spend sunset with the animals.

When we visited Key West many years ago I remember going to "sunset".  People gathered on a pier (?) and watched the sun set while street performers and vendors did their things.  Where Adam lives he and friends often gather at a pier on the sound side for "sunset".

We don't have large bodies of water to watch the sun set over but our sunsets can be just as stunning.  These next pictures have been taken over 3 different nights this week.

Hitchhiking on the river

Neither Lex nor Keri will venture far in the river.  They don't like their feet to leave the ground so we can't coax them to swim.  Baxter, on the other hand, swims quite well, though I'm not sure if he's excited about it either.  I really want him to ride my kayak with me so I'm determined to convince him he loves the river.

Yesterday was his first ride.  A few days ago he jumped on my tube with me in it so I thought it would be a no-brainer getting him on the sit-on-top kayak.  Not so.  I kept begging him but he was too interested in other people nearby or exploring the shore.  Finally I drug him aboard and moved away from land quickly so he wouldn't jump off.  I kept him on for about 20 minutes then paddled toward land where he jumped off into deep water and had to swim maybe 10 yards.  I'll be glad when  his life jacket arrives (hopefully Wednesday) so he swims easier and it doesn't look like he's working so hard.  I thought that was good enough for one day.  A little at a time.

What he likes best about the river is rolling in things, chasing ducks, sniffing about, biting leaves in the water and watching/visiting people.   A group of people on tubes floated by and talked to him.  As they were approaching the small rapid just below our property Baxter raced down shore to catch up to them.  This is where I ask you, what happened next?  Take your time.

Yes, he jumped aboard the tube of a woman/girl (I couldn't see her well, just heard her).  I thought she'd throw him ashore but she didn't.  She continued to float down the rapid with him on her lap.  I kept yelling to him to come, and to her to push him off so he could swim to shore.  James paddled to the top of the rapid and finally the woman pushed him off.  I don't know how hard it was for him to swim to the edge but it wasn't too far.  James then coaxed him into his kayak and brought him back.  He said Baxter's heart was beating really fast.  He settled into the ride with James and looked much more relaxed.  I think he was just worn out.

Maybe it's not such a good idea to make him love being on the river.  I need to teach him it's not ok to take rides with strangers.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Learning about electric fences

In the past we've used solar chargers and polywire to move animals around to different locations within their woven wire fences.  This works great with goats and donkeys because they're very sensitive to a small zap.  The pigs though have been testing it more and more this year so I decided to electrify the top wire above our woven wire fence using a fence charger and a car battery.  This way I can tap into that power and move the polywire anywhere within their fencing with just a few clips.  This was working great.   The battery gave the fence a much stronger charge, as James and I can personally attest.  After a month though, the battery lost power.  I was told it would take a long time for the electric fence to run the battery down.  What I hadn't really noticed was that the johnson grass had grown more than 6 feet tall and was touching the wire for more than a hundred yards and was probably sucking the power from the battery.  So today I began weed eating the fence line while James was using hand trimmers to clean up some more fence line on the other side of the field. We have about 2 miles to do.  Not all of it has grass touching it but we need to keep it low.  I have no idea how much line the weed eater used up today.  It seemed like I was forever untangling grass around the head of it or adding more line.  Johnson grass is tough stuff.
After 10 hours of very hard labor and gallons of sweat, (ok, it was probably less than 2 hours and I did get a little warm and itchy) I quit and asked James to join me and the 3 dogs in the river.  I'll get it done eventually.  I charged the battery back up with a trickle charger but for now I have the solar charger keeping the pigs in.   Willo figured out her fence isn't hot and has been leaving it to graze now and then but Jaz is still too afraid to test it.  Maybe I need 2 batteries to keep switching out to keep the fence charged once I get the grass off it.

Is there anyone out there who wants to give me advice about charging a fence with a battery and charger?

I know a blog about electric fences isn't very interesting so I'm including a video of Baxter and Willy to add a little cuteness to this post.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to make a mom worry

As most of you know, Adam is a tour guide at Wild Horse Adventure Tours in Corolla, NC (the Outer Banks).  If you're ever there you should take a tour with him.  He's great and knows just what to say to show you a good time.

As great as he is about knowing just what to say to tourists, he's just as great at knowing what to say to his parents to make them worry.  For those of you with young children who think you want them to tell you everything, well, no you don't. Adam has always been a child who liked to share information with us - good and bad.  Here are some recent texts.

"Someone drown today during one of my tours.  They were looking for the body :/"

"Oh no, that's awful.  How old, do you know?" 

"Don't know yet.   Probably find out tonight.  It was way too rough to swim today."

later on.....
"Boy was only 16."

"I got a new surf board"

"That's great"

"I'm so incredibly sore.  I got my ass kicked by some waves yesterday.  Apparently even if there's a red flag surfers can go out but no one else can swim :)  It was so rough.  I could feel the rip currents pulling me out.  Rip currents are what surfers use to make it easier to paddle out to the waves.  My legs are sore, back, shoulders, abs.  It's crazy."

Today I'm reading about Hurricane Arthur that's approaching the Outer Banks.  I'm sure there's a red flag out at the beach in Corolla.

"Are you working?"  You won't go out in the ocean during the storm right?"

"Yea, I'm working.  Won't go out.  Haha"

And if I'm not worrying about him and Melissa I'm worrying about their dog, Maia.

In a phone call...

"Maia followed us out into the ocean 50 yards.  She has so much muscle her body sinks so just her head sticks out.  We've ordered her a life jacket though."