Friday, March 27, 2015

Our numbers are increasing quickly

It's amazing how quickly we can go from 7 goats to 11.  Luti proved to be her prolific self again this year giving us 3 girls and 1 boy.  She waited for me to arrive at the barn before pushing.  They're adorable, of course.  I hope she can feed all 4 because I prefer not to bottle feed if I can help it.  I'll know by tomorrow if they're all getting fed.  It's not as if Luti doesn't have enough milk.  It's more about who gets to the teats first before she walks away.   Here's a picture of Luti a few days before kidding.  As you can see she could probably raise 6 kids on what she produces if only she had 6 teats.
They're very different looking so it's easy to tell them apart.  I should give Cooper a little credit for these babies too since he's the daddy.

Anyone need a bottle baby?  I can easily put one or 2 on a bottle and send them home with you.  They're cheaper if I don't have to raise them.

I'm glad I moved Rex over to the pigs' side of the field because I'm afraid he'd hurt the baby goats.  As it is he's a little too playful with the piglets but Mickey keeps an eye on him and corrects him if she disapproves.  He loves these little pigs and is almost always near them.

We had another arrival at the farm today.  I got the truck stuck in the mud once again and had to walk back to the house.  On my way back I heard a loud meowing by the side of the road.  A sweet kitty practically begged me to pick her up and take her back to the house for breakfast.  I don't know where she belongs but she has to have been handled because she's way too friendly to be a feral cat.  She's a youngster but not tiny like Willy was when she showed up.  One of her eyes is green and the other blue but we're not sure if the blue is a cataract or a true blue.  We're calling her Willy 2 Eye Of Blue.  It took no time at all for Baxter to adopt her.  She adores him.

More kids to come.  I think Lily is due tomorrow.  Cato is the sire so it will be fun to see what the 2 of them produce.  I'm hoping she'll have a single or twins.  She's the doe who prolapsed after kidding last year and had a trip to the vet to put her back together.   I'm hoping she has an easy time of it this year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What could be sweeter than new piglets and spring?

While I was in PA Mickey had seven adorable piglets - four girls and 3 boys.
 At the end of the video she's snapping at Baxter for getting too close to her face.  I was amazed most of the time she didn't mind him licking and sniffing the babies.

Baxter thought this was the greatest thing ever. I was afraid we weren't going to be able to get him out of there.

These are some sturdy piglets.  Mickey is a great mom.  This is her second litter.

It's beginning to look and feel like spring finally. The daffodils are in bloom and the grass is greening up.
Remember those tiny chicks that arrived a month ago?  They're no longer tiny.  They have enough feathers to keep them warm so I let them outside to hunt for bugs, eat grass and explore the great outdoors.  They were pretty excited about it.
The green house is still pretty empty but James seems to be excited about what has sprouted so far.  It won't be long before all the shelves and planters are overflowing.
 I uncovered the roots of the pomegranates so they could bask in the sunshine and warmth and to see if they survived the bitter temperatures.  It appears they did.  Hopefully one day they'll produce.
The bright green grass you see in the background is wheat.  It's growing really well.  There must be 4 or 5 large beds planted in wheat as a cover crop.  It's way too much for us to harvest so some will just be pulled.  I wish everything grew as well as wheat.
I'm guessing I'll be able to post pictures of baby goats by the weekend.  Udders are developing and ligaments are loosening.  Yay spring!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A portrait of Dad

I love this picture of my dad.  He rarely smiled for photos so I'm glad we were able to capture this one.
This next shot is also a great portrait of the dad I knew and loved.
More often than not though, this is the face he'd show when  a camera appeared on the scene.  He didn't like to show his teeth or be the center of attention.  This is a recent photo of my parents.  A handsome couple, I think, though I may be a bit prejudice.
Here's the younger version with me and my 2 sisters.  I'm the cute one....ok, I'm the one with the extremely short bangs.  My sisters are kind of cute too.  It's nice to see my dad smiling in this picture also.
Dad passed away at 3:00 this morning.  It happened way too fast.  When I saw him at Christmastime he seemed just fine, then 3 months later my family was crying at his hospital bedside.  I imagine that's how it is with most deaths - there's not enough time to comprehend the loss before having to say goodbye.  Dad's heart and kidney had had more than they could take and he needed to rest.

While we shed many tears in that sterile, disturbing and uncomfortable environment, I have to admit our 24 hours spent together in the hospital as a family (parents, children, grandchildren and friends), was an experience I wouldn't trade for anything.

We may have done a lot of crying but I'd like to think we shared stories and laughed even more.  Dad rallied for a while about 12 hours before his final rest.  He became chatty (for Dad) and that comforted us, knowing he wasn't in pain.  I hope he enjoyed the bantering, chiding and silliness going on around him as much as we loved reminiscing and being in each others' presence - in other words,  celebrating family.

His passing was very fitting for a quiet man of few words.  His breaths became more and more shallow, his face peaceful and he left this world just as quietly as he moved about in it.   Quiet, modest and a loved man.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Killer Karen

That's the nickname my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Hunter, gave me.  I don't know where it came from but 5 or 6 of us in his class had nicknames and I felt honored to be one of them.  Bear with me and I'll come back to this.

Today I'm having mixed feelings about my "growth" as a farmer.  It's been 6 years since we got our first chickens and goats - the gateway animals to our homesteading/farming experience.  James began with the first garden beds in 2004 but I feel like we began working toward a more self-sustainable lifestyle in 2009 when we introduced animals to Elk Cliff Farm.  Back then my excuse to raise animals was to provide eggs and milk.  In all honesty,  I just wanted to own goats for pets, but felt I needed to justify them somehow.  That first year I had a mean rooster and I took his life because I couldn't have him attacking people.  I felt a little bad about that but because he was so mean it wasn't as hard as I would have thought.  I've gone back over my blog posts and read one where I said I'd never be able to eat one of my goats.  I think it was only a year or 2 later I wrote that we ate our first goat meat.  Yes, I cried my eyes out as I arrived home after James took them to the butcher (I wanted no part of delivering them to their death) and then again when we picked up their meat.  The next year I helped take them to the butcher.  The woman who handled the order waited very patiently as I sobbed and told her what cuts I wanted.  I still cry when we take goats to the butcher but it has definitely gotten easier because I recognize there's no way to keep all the male goats or find them good homes.  Also, we love goat meat and knowing our meat is raised humanely makes it taste even better.

Turkeys came next, then pigs.  I had no other excuse for raising them than for meat.   I can't remember if I cried over the turkeys but I know I've shed tears over pigs.  Our steer, Windsor, is going to be another emotional trip to the butcher.  I couldn't have asked for a better experience raising our first calf. He's a gentle, adorable boy.

This brings me back to my thoughts on my growth as a farmer and my 5th grade nickname.  Yesterday I did something I wouldn't have thought possible 6 years ago - maybe even 3 years.  Adam and I butchered a pig by ourselves.  I've prepared for this in my mind many times and am pleased to say the whole process went just as well, or maybe even better, than I expected.  Adam did the shooting and I did the cutting for the bleed-out.   The taking of life was quick and I felt good about him never knowing fear or stress.  It couldn't have gone more smoothly.  It's how all meat should come to our table.  After the kill we skinned and gutted him.  I'm hesitant and maybe embarrassed to type this for fear it sounds unfeeling, but we were a bit giddy and excited with how well it all went.  It was also an amazing experience and anatomy lesson.  Today I'm smoking pork we'll put in our freezer for many meals.   I'm even looking forward to butchering another hog for a pig roast this summer.

On a very sad note, this morning I found our cat, Willy, dead in the road.  When I went out to feed the chickens this morning Willy didn't greet me in the driveway.  I just knew she was dead.  We had talked yesterday about cats and dogs being hit by cars so it was already on my mind.  It didn't take long to feel guilt about taking a life and losing a life.  The word karma came to mind.  I know one thing probably had nothing to do with the other but still I can't help but feel I enjoyed the butchering yesterday too much and that was the reason Willy was taken away.
So that's how I'm feeling today.  I wonder what nickname one might give me in 6 more years.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Remembering Pop Pop

Four days ago I lost the last of my grandparents.  I've found it sadder than I expected.  As some of you may remember I blogged about Pop Pop's 100th birthday we celebrated last year.  What an awesome occasion that was.  Lots of smiles and laughter that day.  So how can I be sad when he lived such a full life and died a peaceful death?  I can't explain it.  My grandparents played a big part in my childhood because they lived just a mile from us.  Pop Pop built the house I grew up in - the house my parents still live in.  Perhaps his death makes me feel like part of my childhood is gone.  I'm no longer anyone's grandchild.  I know that sounds silly.  I mean, how many people in their 50s have grandparents?

Mom Mom and Pop Pop raised 10 children.  They had 25 grandchildren.  Pretty incredible, isn't it?  Many of these cousins also grew up spending just as much time at my grandparents' house as my sisters and I.  I keep in touch with some of them on Facebook.  I've enjoyed reading the stories everyone's been sharing about Pop Pop these past 4 days.  What I find most interesting is the stories we all have to share are funny ones.  There's no denying, we had a really funny grandfather.   I have other pictures of him but I think the one above shows the true character that we all knew and loved.

This is the man who would send someone to the hardware store to get him a wood stretcher or a left handed screw driver.  The clerk always knew who sent them.  My aunt reminded me of how he could keep me staring at a painting of a stream in the woods, convinced a deer would come get a drink if I waited long enough.

Every Christmas Eve. family would file in and out of Mom Mom and Pop Pop's house and visit.  No where was Santa more real than there.  I was so sure he'd come down their chimney.  We had no fireplace or chimney at our house but I was certain we heard Santa and the reindeer on their roof. Pop Pop also tortured us by giving us reasons Santa couldn't make it down the chimney.

He was a sweet man who loved his sweets.  Even in his last week of life he was eating marshmallow peeps.  Circus peanuts?  He was a fan.  One of my cousins shared how he ate 2 blueberry ice cream cones and then was up all night vomiting.  If he ate butter pecan ice cream he'd suck the ice cream off the pecans then spit them out.  His children had to hide their Halloween candy because he'd get into it and pick out his favorites.  When he had a box of chocolates you'd know he'd been into them because each one would be smooshed so he could see what was inside.   If you think eating sugar is going to kill you just remember my grandfather and how he lived to 100. 

His daughters should have been as curious as he to look inside things.  It wasn't an odd occurrence for one of them to arrive at school with a rotten apple he'd put in her purse.  Why would he do that?  Because he was a prankster.  We all knew that but still fell for his shenanigans.  Don't all grandfathers put cardboard in his children or grandchildrens' sandwiches?  Or fruit in the hoods of their jackets?

More cousins shared stories I'd never heard.  One was told a small tree would grow faster if she pumped it up.  She stood outside pumping her foot on the ground next to the tree to no avail.  The other was told she should squat down to walk up the steep hills, thus making them twice as hard to get up.  He also pretended his car was stuck in ruts on the side of the road.  Truly, he wanted to entertain his grandchildren.

Sometimes his escapades weren't intended to get a rise out of someone.  He was trying to help, much to someone's dismay.  Mom Mom had a pattern pinned to some fabric.  He "helped" by cutting it out - not on the solid cutting line but on the dotted stitching line.  I can almost hear Mom Mom screaming at him.  He didn't make things easy on her.

My mom told me how she had put her babysitting money in the drawer of her dresser.  When she came home one day he'd stapled the money to the ceiling of her room.  One has to wonder what made him do that.  She also shared how she got a new dress (new to her. Remember she was one of 10.  They didn't get new things often).  It was brown and silky and she must have loved it.  Pop Pop decided to paint her closet.  Apparently he didn't take her dress out and got paint on it.  Ok, so he wasn't always loved every minute of every day :)  Page back up to the top and look again at his face.  Can you see the prankster now?

There must be hundreds more stories to tell.  Like Pop Pop's life, I hate for them to end.

I told one of my cousins, if I'm lucky enough to one day become a grandparent I want my grandchildren to think I'm funny.  I'd be proud to have my grandkids remember me like I remember Pop Pop.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Snow white

Yesterday's snow seemed so much whiter and brighter than the last snow.  I might even call it beautiful if I wasn't so ready for spring.  With the sun shining today sunglasses might be a good idea.  Temperatures will be up in the 50s and 60s over the next 10 days.  I might actually want to sit at the picnic table and watch the river go by.
The James is up this morning with all the rain and snow melt
My white dogs are looking anything but white in contrast to the snow.
Our field is cross fenced with pigs and Windsor on one side and goats, cows, donkeys and dogs on the other.  Rex has decided he needs to patrol both sides and has discovered how to get to the pigs' side.  I don't know how much longer he'll be able to do this. Keri doesn't even try.

When goat kids are due I may block this space so he has to stay on the pig side.  He's a little young to trust with newborn goats when I can't be nearby.  We'll see how it goes.  Keri was a little rough her first year.  Maybe she'll teach him how to behave.

In 3 weeks we should have some of these.  Can't wait.