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.