Sunday, December 30, 2012

This Hit Home Today

"Remember that the way to big acreages is through small acreages. You can trade up and invest up out of the profits generated on the small acreage. If you're frustrated on a small acreage, you'll be more frustrated on a large acreage. Refine and fully develop what you have before looking for something else. And then repeat the same procedure there. By the time you let a larger acreage, you'll have the experience and the know-how to be a good steward. If you get too large an acreage too soon, you'll be a poor steward and that doesn't do anybody and good."

~Joel Salatin, excerpt from 'You Can Farm'

Start small. Small is good. Why can I never remember that? 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

You Just Never Know.

Having a falcon/hawk to hunt with is still on my bucket list.

Birds of prey have always fascinated me. I love their fierceness, and the fact that you can never truly domesticate them. Yet you can still hunt with them. I've had the paperwork for getting a falconry license in my closet for years now... Maybe someday I'll get to fill it out and send it in. For the first 2-3 years, a beginning falconer can only have a Kestrel (hardest falcon to have), or a Red Tailed hawk. After that though, the sky is the limit. This girl wants a Harris hawk. 

My love for hawks and falcons somewhat explains my parallel love of the fighting breeds of chickens. The Hulseys, Shamos, Asils, and Ganois... They have that same fierce look about them. The same wildness and inability to be domesticated. If I can't start out with a hawk, then I'll work my way up, beginning with a chicken. You gotta' start somewhere. 

But perhaps someday I'll have my own leather jesses and a mews with a hawk in it. You just never know.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Under the Weather

The day after Christmas, I woke up feeling terrible. My dear, lovely sister-in-law decided to share her cold with me while she and my brother were here for their visit. Thanks Sis. So since Wednesday I've been talking with only half a voice (I sound like a frog; don't ask to hear me sing), and have been forcing myself to take a spoonful of honey 2--3 times a day. I'm not even sure that this is even a cold, but I don't know what else to call it. I'm just rather lightheaded right now, tired feeling, and wishing I could talk normal. Don't know what you have? Call it a cold. Don't feel good? Say you have a cold. Seems like logic to me anyway. 

Today however, I had two fun things come in the mail that managed to distract me for a couple hours.

One was a most coveted item:

Photo courtesy of

Every December I look forward to my newest seed catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Sometimes I think I might be more excited about this catalog than I am about Christmas. All of my fellow gardening enthusiasts had gotten their copy, meanwhile I had to listen in agony as folks were saying, "I got mine today! It's so beautiful!". Torture, I tell you. Pure torture. I checked the mail every day, waiting for my copy. Days past, weeks past. And then right when I stopped thinking about it, it came!! Now it's MY turn to exclaim over how pretty this year's book is. 

The second piece of mail was a book I impulsively decided to buy myself. I say "impulsively" because I very rarely buy books for myself. I adore books, and the best gift you could possibly get me is a book, but I always feel strangely selfish when I buy a book that is not a gift for someone else. There's always that nagging thought of how the animals need more hay, or I need to buy more milk filters, or the money should be saved for something important (like a nitrogen tank! Someday I'm going to get one of those for the goats!), so I rarely buy anything for myself...

But then I saw a book I wanted. A book I wanted really bad. It was eleven dollars... I argued with myself for three days about buying it, and then during a streak of hotheadedness, I bought it. Yes, I am pathetic. Maybe someday I'll grow out of it. 

The book in question?

I've been reading online about aquaponics for a little over a year now. I'm intrigued by it to say in the least. I'm planning on getting a small hoophouse built as soon as funds allow it (hay prices are astronomical this winter!), and I thought it might be fun to try this whole aquaponic thing out when said hoophouse is finally something more than words and wishes. 

The book itself has been fabulous, and definitely worth the $11 I spent on it. :) Some of the chapters are a bit hard for me to fully grasp right now, in my fuzzy-headed state, so hopefully I'll get over this virus-y bug soon!   I'm so, so ready to be back to my normal self. To be able to sing out in the barn without sounding like a toad on steroids, and to be able to get back to writing on here. There are so many posts I'm dying to write! I have three that are halfway done, but still in draft form. I just feel that I can't focus enough right now to do them justice. Sorry guys. :-/ Maybe I should start taking more honey...

But I have things to share, and that's the truth. I want to show y'all how big the Pumpkin Hulseys have gotten (It looks like I ended up with a stag and a hen!), my new fodder growing system that I got during Thanksgiving week (I know; you're all wondering WHY I haven't shown you sooner... Long story.), and then there's all the other fun stuff like how to winter out your livestock in Salatin-style, a review on a Baker Creek seed collection, the end results on the Freedom Rangers, an update on the pigs, the next chicken breed I want to take on (the blackest bird you've EVER seen)... Sometimes I sit down at the computer and feel so incredibly overwhelmed at what all I need to blog about. And then when you're not feeling good, like this week's state that I've found myself in, it about makes a body want to cry. Okay, full confession: I did cry today. That's how not-good I'm feeling right now. I was so tired this afternoon after reading through my catalog and book, and my brain was saying "you need to blog!!", that I broke down in a most ridiculous manner. So I crawled into bed, not caring that it was 3pm and I should have been doing something constructive. I woke up at 4:50pm, and felt slightly better. I'm at least not crying anymore. I ate some chocolate (makes everything better), and felt perky enough to sit here and ramble about everything that came to mind. Which brings us to the present moment. I think I've run out of things to say.

So that's where I'm at right now. I sound like a frog, I feel like I'm in a fog, and I'm itching to be back to my normal self. Rain, rain go away, come again another day... I should end this post here before I think of something else to say. You never know what might be next...

Monday, December 24, 2012


Traditions are an interesting thing to me. Everyone has some sort of tradition for something. It's different from family to family, culture to culture, and heritage to heritage. Come Christmas time, I always look forward to our family traditions, even though they are a little silly/different in comparison to most everyone else's.

Our first tradition starts on Christmas Eve; we will have made oodles of sugary treats during the day time, and then when dusk settles, we all gather in the living room and watch the Muppet's Christmas Carol and then commence to eating the afore mentioned edible goodies. I adore the Muppets Christmas Carol. Always a Dickens fan, I find it hysterical to see the Muppets doing this Classic tale. If you have yet to see this hilarious Christmas flick, you really should look it up. Take my word for it.

Our next traditions often cause some raised eyebrows from outsiders. On Christmas morning, we have a very special breakfast of - um - canned cinnamon rolls. Yep, you read that right. Those pre-made food items that come in a slender tube found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and have so many ingredients that you can't pronounce, that it fairly gives you a headache when you try. Those ones. Christmas morning is the only day that we have these, and frankly I like this tradition. It's not Christmas without those canned cinnamon rolls.

Our second, slightly horrifying, tradition is that we always have pizza for Christmas dinner. And that has to be store bought too. It can't be homemade, it has to be from the store. No turkey for us; no ham, no stuffing, no cranberry sauce, no nothing. You'll find us throwing a pizza in the oven as the day wanes. Our logic is simple: None of us want to be in the kitchen on Christmas day. We don't want to be fussing with the oven, or washing dishes. We do that every day. On Christmas, we want a break. So that's why we go for the canned cinnamon rolls and store bought pizza. Fast, easy, yummy. Perhaps we're barbaric, perhaps we just don't know how to appreciate the "real" Christmas experience as we throw the turkey out the window for a box of pizza, or perhaps we're slightly nuts. Whatever it is, so be it. It's not Christmas to me without my canned cinnamon rolls, pizza, and my Muppet's Christmas Carol movie.

I'm curious though, what are your Christmas traditions? Am I the only one who likes prepackaged foods and corny movies on Christmas?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ready, Set, Go.

It's good to want things. But how far should we go in our pursuit of something before we have to back off and realize that there's also the need to be content? It's good to have goals, it's good to reach and strive, but how hard should we try? How much should we give? Does it depend on each individual, and each scenario? This question often haunts the back of my mind as I go through daily life. I'm always trying something new; always on the lookout for a new challenge, and always working towards something. It drives some people crazy that I am this way. That I never seem to be "finished". There's always something I'm working on, always something I'm working towards. What is the end goal here? In my mind, the answer is simply that I'm working towards my own farm and I'll do what it takes to get there. Straightforward and clear, right? So I thought... What seems so simple to me, often looks like a haphazard mess to others.

 I have two dairy cows, ten dairy goats, two sheep, two pigs (yes, yes... Two of everything except the humans; I know. LOL), too many chickens to count, I raise turkeys and broilers, I run a herdshare program, I teach lessons, I grow micro greens, I want try aquaponics (oops, y'all aren't supposed to know about that yet...), I will train a team of oxen in the spring, I have rabbits, I adore butchery, I want to take my writing to the next level, I am a hunter with a long bow, I work on a 100 acre organic farm, I want to have a goat-drawn cart... Are you getting tired yet? I read through this list and it all seems so simple to me. To others, it's a nightmare of projects, work, and sleepless nights. 

Am I wanting too much? How far can I push my farming desires before something screams, "Enough!" ? Is it even possible to gauge how much a single person can (or should) do? I write these questions mostly out of curiosity. Personally, I'm happy with my level of activity and all my plans and dreams. But there is still that nagging little question that is forever hovering... Just how far can I go with this? What happens if I get hurt? There's only one of me, after all. How much should I risk to see this dream happen? 

This life I lead is so worth it. It's worth all the sleepless nights worrying about hay, worth dealing with newborn goat kids, with sick animals, with broken fencing, with bad weather, with flooded milk parlors, with mud, with pain, with fear. In the end, it's all worth it. And that's why I continue this. It's why even though people think I'm crazy with my dreams and goals, I still do it. I am a stubborn person, and once I get my teeth into an idea, I hang on with the tenacity of a pit bull. 

How far should you go in following a dream? Dear Heart, only you can decide that. But follow it past the cutting remarks of others, past the pain of following it, past the fear of wondering if you were right to do it in the first place, follow it so far that you can't see the start anymore. And then, once you're past all that, then you can decide how far you should continue on. If you're anything like me, then by the time you've gotten that far, you'll probably feel that you might as well keep going; you've come this far after all. But also know that sometimes while following a dream, we can get lost on the way and find a better one. It's okay to bury one dream for another, better one. 

How much should we risk for something that we truly desire? I wish I could say. My 20-year old logic says to risk what it takes. But I think some wiser heads could answer better than I could. I'm too well-versed in reaching towards the unreachable to be giving advice on when to hold back. 

But I do know one thing for certain: You've got one life to live here. What will you do with it? When I am old, and nearing the end of life's chapters, I want to be able to smile and say, "What a ride this life has been... I have no regrets." 

You have a dream? Follow it. Reaching towards a goal? Do it. Let's all be a little bit crazy and go for the impossible. 

Ready, set, go.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How'd Your Day Go?

Sorry everyone, I got quiet again didn't I? Shame on me... But once Christmas is over I promise I will start behaving again by getting back into the writing groove. But I thought I would at least poke my nose in over here to let y'all know that I must have missed the rapture. Or at least the world hasn't ended (not that I was expecting it to; it's been something of  a standing joke in the household). I'm still here, along with all the animals, and we're still puttering along through the wet winter weather. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Go For Carhartt Coats

While I probably rank as one of the most unromantic people in the world, there is still something of a "girly-girl" in me yet. But it's a farmy kind of girly-girl, if we can stretch things that far... Some girls go for looks when it comes to attractiveness in guys. Some girls swoon over deep voices. I go for Carhartt coats.

So yes, I have to admit that I have a weakness for guys wearing Carhartts. I really can't help myself. It just looks "right" to me. But mind you, it can't just be any Carhartt; no, it has to be faded in color, with the cuffs ragged and rimmed with mud. The collar (because it can't be the kind of coat that has a hood) has to be flimsy from wear and tear, and the buttons will have lost their shine. Perhaps I'm just a tad ridiculous, but a coat like that, on a good looking guy, gets me every time. Just a little inner swoon. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Just A Little Bit

I have a confession to make: I miss Heidi, just a little bit.

I shouldn't miss that goat at all, really. Always getting into trouble, bullying the goats, wrecking fencing and chicken tractors, knocking over goat kids, terrorizing the chickens, escaping, holding her milk back, and just plain being a pest, I really shouldn't miss that goat.

But I think I do. Just a little bit.

With winter here, I've begun settling back into working on my story, 'Led By A Goat'. I had to put it away during the spring and summer due to time limitations, but now that the cold weather has settled, and barn chores only take 30 minutes a day, I'm back to typing away. Watching words become a story. I had posted some excerpts of the story last winter, and some of y'all may remember those, but the story has changed considerably since then. I revamped my writing, re-did the chapters, and it's even better now. I kind of cringe as I reread the little blurbs that I posted on here all those months ago. 

But as I've begun writing the story again, I find myself thinking of Heidi more and more often. Not surprisingly though, seeing as 'Led By A Goat' revolves around Heidi. I've never had such a strong love/hate relationship with any living creature before. Part of me misses her presence, and then part of me doesn't regret selling her. I am a fickle person; one who is trying to balance life between wanting to keep every stray that comes by, and realizing that in order to have a profitable farm, you really can't keep them all. Heidi had to go, and GSF is better for it. But every now and again I kind of miss her. Just a little bit.

Excerpt from 'Led By A Goat':

"Why did her looks of fear and mistrust seem so vaguely familiar? Why did I feel like I had seen it all before? It was so obvious that I somehow missed it until now:

I was seeing a mirror of myself.

Resentment, bitterness, pride, fear, pain… When I looked upon Heidi for the first time, and saw those emotions fleetingly pass through her, I was unconsciously harking back to my own memories of the same feelings. I bought her, wondering why she seemed so familiar to me, and now, in a dumbstruck manner, realized that I was seeing my own reflection in a four-legged animal.

As I sat on the ground that day, watching Heidi pace the pasture’s edge, I saw my own past flash before me. Old memories that I thought I had put behind me began bubbling up without consent. The pain of rejection burned. The remembrance of wanting friendship and acceptance seared me. The fear of being hurt again was crippling. Like a hammer striking an anvil, so the memories pounded my mind. I groaned as I sat there, and put my face in my hands... Had Heidi gone through the same thing? Was she too far gone to change? Moreover, was I too far gone to change?"

Friday, December 14, 2012

I Like These Birds

I went out to do my afternoon barn chores today and found to my surprise that a Freedom Ranger had gotten in the chick brooder and was molesting the little Pumpkin Hulseys.

Or, at least I thought it was molesting the Hulseys...

I watched in surprise as the bigger of the two chicks (which isn't all that big; he's about 3" tall) was pitting himself against the Freedom Ranger and seemed to be winning the battle. The five lb. meat bird had no idea what to think of this pint sized attacker, but did his best to defend himself. Though he had no spurs, the cream colored Hulsey would leap up and slash his legs at his opponents chest and face, before dropping down and attacking the Freedom Ranger's legs. 

I pulled the two birds apart and fished the Freedom Ranger out. You don't belong in there you feather mattress... 

The little Hulsey chick strutted proudly around his brooder; chest puffed out and with the smaller chick close beside him. 

I like these birds. The little guy has no idea how small he is, but his heart and spirit are the size of a lion's. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Here's To The Crazy Ones

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

~Apple Inc.

Way To Go, Daniel!

Daniel Salatin (Joel's son) is a really fun guy, and I am so grateful that I had the chance to meet him last winter. :) 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Inquiring Minds Want To Know

I have a question for y'all that I'm wondering if you could help me with.

Would you be at all interested in a book that told how you could have a successful farm with only ONE acre of land? A book that told how you could have two cows (well, let's say one cow + a calf), goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, 300 - 500 broilers (meat chickens), 100 - 200 turkeys, bees, and a garden? Again, all that on one acre of land. Perhaps this book would even have some detailed how-to's on sprouting and fermenting grain, building a pallet fence, a $60 chicken tractor (that will hold up to pretty much anything except goats), a $100 greenhouse, and would explain intensive, rotational grazing for livestock, winter animal care, and who knows... There might even be a chapter on training and using draft goats. 

Would such a book interest you? And moreover, would you buy a book like that? This inquiring mind would like to know. 

The Bowed Psaltery

 It turned out that I had more free time on my hands today than I had thought I would, so I decided to be brave and record some songs of my bowed psaltery for y'all.
But first, a disclaimer. I am no professional at this. I've only been playing this instrument for a few months now, and my "beginner-ness" shows. There are mistakes in each video, but there's also something akin to a tune, so that's good, right? ;)

This first video has a bit of humor for me... The whole time I was playing, I was looking out the window instead of focusing on my playing. Our dog, and three of our hens were on the road outside and I was fervently hoping that they would all get back onto the property so that I wouldn't have to stop the recording and yell out the window at them. Thankfully all four animals got back where they belonged, but I was left with a not-so-great recording of Just As I Am. But I didn't want to re-do the whole thing, so you get to hear it with all its dog-caused mistakes.

This Didn't Help Matters

I have to confess that I've been fighting a VERY strong urge lately to get back into horses. Namely, back into horse training. It's been about four years since I've ridden or trained, and oh the itch is back to start again. While I was on craigslist this morning I found the prettiest cremello colored, yearling gelding for sale (Honest to goodness, I was not looking at horses on there; he was in the goat section!), and all I could think about was how fun it would be to train the little guy. 

And then I saw this video of Stacey Westfall. And that didn't help matters. My riding instructor from many, many years ago taught me how to ride using Stacey's techniques, and watching this video made me remember just how much fun it is to ride bareback and bridleless. 

I highly doubt I'll be getting an equine any time soon, but I can't deny that the temptation is certainly there...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So Very Important To Me

I walk in the house and as I look at the others, I am suddenly acutely aware of my filthy state. 

I've just come home from work. Eight hours of activity outside in the rain and mud leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to cleanliness afterwards. There is mud spattered on my face, on the collar of my shirt, in my hair even. My pants are wet from the knees down. I look like a mud monster. 

I clean up, have dinner, do chores... Now what? I'm tired, but not exhausted. My mind has words it wants to say, but I know not how to say them. I can write, yes, but when it comes to verbally saying something, I am all too often at a loss. It frustrates me more than I can say... Why am I such a dunce when it comes to communicating and expressing myself? I consider writing, think about sitting at the computer and writing a blog post, but I'm too restless for that right now. I need to do something. Need to say something. Need to silently express myself, which sounds rather impossible. 

At times like this, I turn to music. There is something about music that always fills the void and creates the words I wish I knew how to say. It describes what I'm feeling, what I'm wishing, what I wish I was brave enough to say, to write, to be. Whether I'm listening to music by someone else, or making it myself, there is a sudden feeling of completion. I don't have to speak; the notes will do it for me. This is what I wanted to say... Can you hear it in the notes? Listen closely, for my meaning is often hidden deep in the undertones of the song.

My subconscious knows what I want tonight as I restlessly watch the minutes tick by on the old clock in the living room. My mind has words it wants to say, but my tongue has not yet learned the trick to saying them how it's wanted. I need music; need to move, need to create something with my hands. 

So I find my bowed psaltery. Its walnut finished wood gleams beneath the fluorescent light bulbs in the sewing/music room. My fingers lightly trace over the grain of the wood, following its symmetrical pattern that creates such a lovely character for this rare instrument. I pull the matching horsehair bows out from the box in which they stay and give them a cursory application of rosin. They do not need a lot, but I wanted a sharp edge tonight. I wanted clear, strong notes that would give words to my actions. I start out with my old stand by's and favorites, 'Star of County Down', 'Just As I Am', 'Be Still My Soul'... I play these songs every time I sit down with the psaltery. They are songs I know by heart, songs that my hands can play while my mind is elsewhere, songs that allow me to shape words into their melody. I am no expert musician and that's a fact. But I get by. And it's enough to make me happy. The long, slow, haunting notes of the psaltery never cease to thrill me. As I play, I consider recording a video or two tomorrow so that y'all can hear it too. I make no promises though; I'll have to see how the day goes. 

I move on to other songs. Longer, louder, more emotional songs. This is what I wanted to say. Hear it in my notes. Hear the faults, hear the mistakes, the squeaks... Know that this is how I feel. Like a failure more often than not. Like someone who can't do anything right. But also hear the strong, proud notes. The low ones with their strength, the high ones with their grace. This is also how I feel. Like someone who is beginning to understand. Like someone who is beginning to see. I am learning, I am living, I am laughing. I mask my emotions behind a face that does not want others to see what is hidden there. But I cannot mask the emotions in my music. You may not understand what is behind the notes of my music as I play, but I understand it. As you and I get to know each other, I think you too will start to pick up on this language that I try to speak by using instruments. 

As I play the psaltery, my body moves with the melody; it can't be helped. I am in the moment, watching my bows, looking for the next notes, enjoying the sound. Oh how I love sound... I have shaken my braid out and let my long, thick hair simply drape around my shoulders. It falls halfway over my face as I lean in towards the little instrument during a particularly intense moment of a tune, but I can't do anything about it yet, or I will lose the rhythm of my song. I do not often let my hair down, but I do like it when I do. And after spending the day looking and feeling like something that crawled out of the swamp, I wanted a little reminder that *am* still a lady. Even if I am a lady who has dirt permanently under her finger nails and in the creases of her hands. 

After only ten or fifteen minutes of playing the psaltery, I am satisfied. I said what I wanted to say with the aid of wood and horsehair. I lay the bows and instrument back in the box where they always lay, and leave the room. I had not opened my mouth even once, but I felt like I had just had a heart-to-heart. 

Music is so very important to me. Music and writing. Without them I would be a cold, introverted person indeed... But with them, I am capable of speaking my mind. And that's what matters.

Using it All

I quickly learned to love the videos done by the Farmstead Meatsmith. This guy amazes me to no end with his skill and passion for his work. In today's posted episode, he goes over how to make your own blood sausage, head cheese, and pate from your own pig. Somehow I don't think that there is a huge number of readers here who will watch this, and even fewer who would enjoy the video as I enjoyed it; but to those of you who watch something like this and consider creating the food that is described by the Meatsmith, well, I could hug you for it. :)

On The Anatomy Of Thrift: Harvest Day from farmrun on Vimeo.

I have been thinking a lot lately about using the whole animal after slaughtering. At first, the very idea of blood sausage and head cheese made me grimace and want to stick to happier thoughts, such as bacon. But after awhile, my mind began to change. I have two pigs in the barn now, and they will be slaughtered in the spring. Fine Tamworths are they both, and they are a prized bacon breed. But what will I do with the other parts that aren't as highly prized as bacon? What about the blood? The offal? The head? The feet? As I care for my pair of pigs each day, feeding them, brushing them, and talking to them, I feel a weighty responsibility to do these creatures justice. If I'm going to take their lives for the sake of my stomach, shouldn't I honor that by using everything they have to offer? My conscience tells me I should.

Americans are not used to the idea of eating anything besides cuts of meat. It doesn't help matters that the word "offal" (which derived from the butcher's term of "off fall"; what "fell off" when the carcass was opened) sounds exactly like the word "awful". Oh dear. Nor does it help that we are largely disconnected from our food, and folks let's just say it like it is: the idea of eating feet, blood, or a pig head is not appealing to 99.9% of us. Hmm.

In many third world countries, the liver, heart, blood, and eyeballs were/are the most prized part of a freshly killed animal and the head of the family/tribe always got these parts. And what of the "fancy" meat cuts that we Americans know so well? Guess what; those often went to the dogs.

We're dealing with more than just our palates here, we're dealing with an entire generation that has been removed from the idea of eating more than just muscle. We no longer have mothers and grandmothers who knew how to make a nutritious meal out of a pig heart. How many of us even know what Salumi is? (and no, I'm not talking about salami here!) Granted, I still have a hard time with all this. I still draw the line at eating pickled ram's balls. Even I have my limits. But I want to make the start this next spring to do better about using the whole animal.

Next year I will try blood sausage, and maybe even head cheese. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Old Fangled

This may sound a little silly, but there is an old, old tool which I have wanted to try using for years. I admired its simple elegance, its utilitarian strength, and the fact that it had served humanity without fail for centuries. I had never tried one before though, or even held one for that matter, simply because I didn't have one of my own. 

The name of this old relic of our agricultural past is the 'scythe'; the world's first lawnmower.

Handheld, this cunning little invention was used for making hay, cutting the grain crops, tidying around the cottage, and possibly even the occasional need for fending off unwanted visitors. I don't even remember when or where I first saw/heard about this thing known as a scythe, but I was fascinated. 

I started reading up more on scythes as the seasons fell away into years... I watched Youtubes about them, found yellowed antique books with pictures of farmers with their scythes, and told myself that some day I would have to get one for myself. Even though I really wasn't sure in the end how to even work the contraption. 

And then of course something akin to reality sank in. Why on earth was I so captivated by this tool? Why, of all things, should I be interested in something that cuts grass?? I couldn't answer myself, except for the seemingly irrelevant explanation that I am an "old fangled" person. You hear of "new fangled" contraptions all the time, and that term was once applied to the Tin Lizzie automobile when it was first invented. So if there's a "new fangled" in this world, then does that mean that there can be an "old fangled"? If not, then I am hereby officially creating the term. Your welcome. I coined the term one rainy afternoon while scribbling away at one of my book proposals (that, um, still hasn't been proposed due to a busy schedule and a fear of actually doing it). In the midst of doing long handed notes being crazily jotted down on lined paper, the idea of 'old fangled' came upon me like a spring sunrise. It was just there. I think I was writing about goats, so I'm not sure how the idea for said term was suddenly thought up, but it came anyway. I turned a new sheet of paper and in big, bold letters I wrote, 'Old Fangled'. It would someday be a book title, I hoped and dreamed. And still hope and dream it yet. But for now it's a term that I use for myself. 

Some things just feel right to people (most would call them "convictions") and to this farm girl, doing things the old fashioned way just sits right with me. There's something about returning to the ways of old that feel correct. It's in my blood, I guess. It's a primal and feral thing that only a few select can understand as well. We are strange birds who are happy with wood instead of steel, clay instead of plastic, and the sound of hooves on asphalt instead of rubber tires. We're a happy lot though. 

So when I was informed at work this morning that one of our jobs required using a scythe, my old fangled self did an inner squeal of glee. Seriously?? I get to use a scythe today? For real and truly?? 

I picked up one of the two scythes available and felt a moment of hesitation as I realized that I had NO idea what I was doing with this thing. How hard can this be though? I mean, all we're doing is cutting down vegetation, right? And if you just whack at the plants hard enough then they're bound to get cut, right? My first few swings were clumsy and awkward; like trying to dance a completely new dance with someone whom you don't know very well (or not at all). My hands gripped the old, worn wood; if this was a waltz, then I was confusing the movements with a polka. Then there's always that moment when I have to tell myself to relax and just let the learning come as it pleases. I have this insane fear of not doing something right, right away. Learning curves are not something I consciously allow myself, but know that there's no way around them. The result is feeling like a failure and a dunce before my time. You would think that I would stop doing that to myself seeing as I've identified the problem. Some things can't be changed. Or at least not changed quickly.

My body began warming up, and I found myself getting to know this dance partner known as the scythe. I was having a strange deja vu moment as I caught on to the rhythm required. I think I've done this before... I hadn't though, but the feeling was there, and the feeling is there for others that I've seen as I've taught them other old fangled arts such as milking a goat, spinning yarn, or making cheese. There's something oddly familiar when we return to the heritage of our past and re-learn the secrets of our ancestors. 

My friend, and the day's working partner, went and found a whetstone so that I could sharpen the blades of our scythes. This I did know how to do. Goodness, I have dulled so many knives in the past from using a whetstone improperly that I despaired of ever learning. But this learning curve too, I passed and with flying colors. Moving briskly, my palm sized whetstone made metallic 'shlick, shlick, schlick', noises as I carefully took metal off the long, curved blade. First use the rough side and get a nice burr on the edge; yep, just like that. Now flip over to the fine side of the stone and finish it off. See the gleam? 

Sharpening the scythe made a world of difference. Suddenly the dance steps made sense. I found a sweet rhythm and the methodical movements were made all the more enjoyable by seeing the big windrow of brush that I was creating in my wake. It required no fuel, no oil, and no noise, but here I was working merrily away with an old, old tool. It felt right.  

I put the scythe away with a bit of reluctance. The clock had struck 12 'o' clock for this Cinderella; the magic of the moment was broken and over. I had to come out of the past and back into the present. The memory remained though and I came to a conclusion this afternoon: I need one of these old fangled things for myself. 

I could use a weed eater instead. I could use the lawn mower. I could use some nasty, chemical spray on the weeds. I could use a cow to graze the grass down. I could let it grow and not even deal with it.

But I want to use a scythe because I am an old fangled person. And sometimes you just have to go with a gut instinct on these things. This I know to be true.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Laughed, and Laughed.

'Thank You' to my good friend (you know who you are) for introducing me to Jostie Flicks. :)

Pigs vs. Farm Girl. Who'll Win?

I think I finally have the pigs contained. I think.

Yesterday afternoon, my study work (still plowing through my herbal certification course!) was interrupted by voices shouting, "Caity! The pigs are out! The pigs are out!" I slammed my work book closed and threw it on the bed. I would have to finish studying the differences between alterative herbs, analgesic herbs, and antacid herbs later. I rocketed out of the bedroom and as I looked out the window to the front of the house I saw not only Sausage (the usual troublemaker), but Mike as well. Both calmly trotting past the house to some unknown destination. Darn it. There goes my afternoon. I grabbed a bucket of food scraps from the counter (which was supposed to be their dinner!) and enlisted the closest sibling to help me capture the porkers. I've been working with the pigs as much as I can in the pen, trying to teach them that my presence, and my "pig call" means food. Now was the test. I rattled the bucket of food and called out the oh-so-original call of "Pig, pig!" "Pig, pig!" Mike and Sausage turned around, and wonder of wonders they trotted right up to the bucket. So we made the trek back to their pen with me walking backwards muttering "pig, pig", and one of my sisters following along 10 feet behind to encourage the pigs to keep moving. 

We got back to the pen, and in in karate style I kicked the wall down to their pen so they could get back in. For you see, it's a semi-permanent wall; there's no gate. No nothing. It started out as a corrugated sheet of metal roofing and ended up as a solid wall to keep pigs in a pen. I had no idea how the pigs managed to get out of the pen, but I knew they had to get in somehow. That, and plus it's just fun every now and again to get to kick something as if you are some well trained ninja. Or maybe that's just me...

With the boys back in their designated area, I had to figure out how to KEEP them in there. After some thought, my sister and I pulled out some 4' high woven wire fencing and commenced to hammering the metal weave in the pig pen. If they got out of this then they were Houdinis. Both pigs sat on their haunches like dogs, as they watched us work with our tools. I grinned at their goofiness in between my hammering. Mike eventually got tired of the noise and buried himself beneath a pile of hay. Sausage followed suit shortly after. What a rough life these pigs have.

Having pigs is teaching me how to have a better sense of humor and that's a fact. This was something like the fourth escape I've had, and I always have to tell myself while catching them to just "relax and laugh". I try my best to find the funniness of each situation; it beats getting mad. The pigs make me smile every time I go in the pen and I am loving their quirky personalities. 

But despite the fact that I'm getting better about keeping my temper with escaped bacon, I still have my moments.

Today I was playing my Strumstick and was in the middle of sweeping through 'Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed', when another sister poked her head in the room and said the dreaded words: "Umm, Caity, your pigs are out again." I looked at her, with my right hand suspended on a downward strum and said, "You CAN'T be serious." Turns out she was serious. It still amazes me that this is the second time that the pigs have come up to the house, rather than hightailing it to anywhere else. Yesterday's sequence was repeated: One sister followed 10 feet behind (and in case you're wondering just how many sisters I have, there are 4 of them), while I carried a bucket of food scraps and calling "pig, pig". When we got back to the pig pen, I found the woven wire fencing completely mangled. The pigs apparently tore it down and then jumped over the metal wall. Alright Sausage, I'm impressed with your thinking capabilities. I had no idea what to do now. I couldn't kick the wall down again because the fencing was nailed in place still. I reached down to pick Sausage up, who was dancing at my feet, waiting for food. When my hand touched his body, the chubby little guy surprised me by lunging forward and leaping/scrambling over the metal siding and back into the pen.  Eyebrows raised, I tried it with Mike. Same thing happened. Great, I've got jumping pigs. 

This time, I truly was out of ideas on what to do. And what's more, I was borderline on being down right irate with my escape artist pigs. Can't they just stay put for crying out loud!?!?!? Is this going to become a daily happening??? Maybe suckling pig in the freezer isn't such a bad idea after all?? 

It was time. I needed a hog panel. Sixteen feet long and made of the toughest welded wire at the farm store, I figured it might keep my pigs where they belonged. I had planned on getting this panel BEFORE the pigs ever landed, but it was one of those things that just never happened. Always being put off because of its cumbersome size and the fact that we don't exactly live very close to town. But today was the day. Unless I wanted to be chasing the pigs again tomorrow, we had to do this and we had to do it TODAY. 

At the farm store I made the split second decision to buy a cattle panel instead, which is bigger, but to my dismay I found that you just can't fit a 4.5' tall cattle panel inside a 15-seater van. We tried multiple ways of squishing that fence in there, but it wasn't going. So I went back to plan A, and bought the more expensive hog panel.

When I got back home, I found that the pigs had mangled the fencing yet again, but they were still in their boundary for the moment. I stomped over with my hog panel dragging behind me and told the pigs to move out of the way. I was on a mission. No pigs allowed. 

The panel was up in less than 2 minutes and I shook my head as I wondered why on earth it took me so long to buy this thing. It's taller than the metal siding, and sturdy enough to keep even an ornery heifer at bay. Or a pig with the intelligence of a velociraptor (yes, I've been watching too much Jurassic Park lately...).

My fingers are crossed now that the panel will do the trick. I think I might finally have these pigs contained.

I think.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Case You Didn't Already Know, My Life Isn't Perfect

 There is a common thread that I hear from people whom I meet, and that is that people assume I have this grand and perfect life out here. Folks read this blog and assume I have my battle plan business plan all written tidily out and I'm just out here enjoying this easy life singing with goats and growing food. I was flipping through my draft posts I have in my Blogger files (103 posts that have never been read by the public... Wow.) and found one in particular that made me laugh at myself. The post below was written last March, at a time when I was sorely frustrated with myself and the fact that I was spinning my wheels. I think I decided to leave this post in the draft file because it sounded too much like I was complaining, but I'm posting it now so that not only can y'all laugh at me too, but here's the proof: My life isn't perfect. Far from it in fact. But I try. We all try. And as long as we keep picking ourselves back up and trying doggedly again, we WILL accomplish what we are after. This I know for a fact. 

So in the end, I picked my oars back up and kept rowing. I think I'm getting somewhere now.

"I wanted an ocean liner, and instead I'm given a row boat. Why is life never easy? Shucks, I've put blood, sweat and tears into trying to get this little farm up and running, but why is it that I have to pull myself up by the bootstraps? Sure, I know life isn't easy, and the farming life is especially grueling, but can't I get a leg up just once in awhile? Can't something work out that might make things just a tad easier? I don't ask for much; just a bit to give me some start up. Money makes the world go 'round, and I just can't seem to get any of that stuff. This post isn't a complaint, it's a ponder. It's my thoughts being thought aloud.
 I wanted an ocean liner in life. An easy fix to my problems that would allow me to effortlessly glide through life and have a famously productive farm. Oh yes, I can see it now... The magazine articles, the radio broadcasts, the autographs... A young girl single handedly started her own farm and it all turned out just magnificently. 
 Now we plunk down to reality: I'm on a row boat. Maybe I'll paint the words "Ocean Liner" on the prow to make myself feel better.... I manually heave my little boat forward. My hands are blistered and bloody, my shoulders ache, my legs cramp up, the wind bites me, the water stretches on and on.... The folks on the cruise ship sail by, waving with their free hand; the other one is holding a glass of lemonade. They probably all won free tickets from a contest... I watch them pass and continue my rowing. Work, work, work. Blood, sweat, tears. Yet I never seem to get anywhere. I never seem to gain ground. Why must this be so hard???
 And then I find that the boat has not only not gone forward, but I went in a complete circle and am now right back where I started. Maybe I should try swimming? Para-gliding? Sending a SOS?"

From Joel

It doesn't matter what your background, your socioeconomic status, your age or your current living condition; if you have a yearning in your soul to grow things and minister healthy food to people, to live an agrarian life with your children and grandchildren playing around your feet, then an opportunity exists for you.

Write down your dreams. Write them down often. Speak of them to your relatives and friends. Seek out people who share those dreams; ignore those who do not. Don't spend time with naysayers. As your vision becomes your passion, dreams will give place to reality. My prayer is that together we can help this happen for you.

~Joel Salatin, Excerpt from 'You Can Farm'; page #6.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It Feels Good

There is something terribly satisfying about sitting still on a squishy couch at the end of a long day of work.

Today I butchered a goat, planted celery, and harvested potatoes. The butchering of the goat deserves a blog post of its own, and perhaps I will do that later on in the week. But for now I am completely content to just sit. And rest. 

It feels good.

Friday, November 30, 2012


It is official. Mattie, the Jersey cow, is dry for the winter.

I milked her for the last time yesterday evening, and reveled in knowing that I wouldn't have to do it in the mornings anymore. Not until March...

November was an interesting month with the dairy cow. She was ready to be done. Almost hitting 2 years of steady milking, I can't say that I blame her when it came to wanting to be done, but I needed to stretch her until the end of the month! So stretch her I did. She continued to drop as the weeks wore away, but we both gave it our all to see that there was milk every single day. She went from 2 gallons a day, to 1.5 gallons, to 1 gallon, to 3/4's of a gallon, to 1/2 a gallon, and then finally sputtered to 6 cups a day. It was hard having to turn folks away who have been depending on Mattie each week. It was hard having to give folks jars that weren't all the way full. But yesterday was our last gasp and the ol' girl has finally earned her three month's holiday. And I'm glad for both of us.

Today I cleaned out the milking parlor for the last time until spring. The floor was swept and then mopped, the goats' milk stand was given a final scrub, the vacuum pump was dusted and the power cord was coiled neatly. The milking machine was wrapped carefully and placed on top of an empty feed bin, the feed bucket was overturned. It is clean and quiet in there. We are done Mattie; we've finished for the year.

Mattie's due date is February 21st, but who knows when that calf will actually drop. If it's a heifer, then she'll stay as a future replacement milker. If it's a bull, then I may keep him as a working ox. Either way, I am excited for the first calf here at GSF and am happy knowing that I have a plan for the little tyke. 

Barn chores used to take me 3 hours to do, what with milking the goats and the cow, and then feeding/watering everyone. This morning it took me 30 minutes to take care of all 70 animals. It was nice.

But having dry animals does mean that I'm back to my annual dairy fast. I haven't had any milk since October, and won't have any milk until mid-March. Ouch. But it's the price I have to pay to have the winter off from milking animals in freezing temps and fighting with frozen vacuum lines. Pick your poison, I guess.

Well Mattie dear, you've done well. Now you get to laze around the barn and do absolutely nothing more strenuous than eating hay. What a rough life you've got, girl.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How To Have a Great Day

First, catch a pig in a record winning time of 30 seconds. Make sure that it's raining heavily outside before you do this though, and then be in an area in which the mud comes up to your ankles thanks to the recent flooding you just had.

Secondly, build yourself an automatic fodder growing system out of PVC pipe, and then right when you finish you must find that you put the most important piece on backwards and you can't get it unstuck so as to fix it.

Third, come inside the house and have the whole family tell you that you look like something that the cat dragged in. By this time, your hair will be plastered to your head from the rain, you should have mud on your face, pants, and sweater, as well as having mud smeared liberally on your hands. 

Now, clean your face and hands up, but don't bother to change your pants since you'll just be back outside in an hour anyway to do more barn chores. Go upstairs and pull out your bowed psaltery, and play that little instrument like you'll never get to play it again. Play it so that the glossy wood vibrates in your hand, and the bow takes on a life of its own. Play it like you mean it. 

And know that in your dirty, tired state, that life is beautiful.

This is a cross-post from my Facebook page that I decided to share on here as well. :)

Thirty Seconds Flat

Sausage escaped again today.

I caught him in 30 seconds flat. 

I fixed the problem, so there will hopefully be no more episodes of this.

I was rather pleased with myself afterwards. 

I'm figuring this pig out.

Mystery Crop Revealed

Y'all did an excellent job at trying to guess the latest crop being grown here at GSF! You guys got really close at guessing the answer, but no one *quite* got it. So I'm here to spill the beans and give you a fill-in.

Those little green and purple seedling you saw were mustard sprouts. I let them grow to day #10 of germination and then lopped them off this morning.

The result is what is called Micro Greens. A wildly popular (and wildly expensive!) crop that upscale restaurant chefs are raving over and trying to buy whenever possible.

I had first read about micro greens in my Spring 2012 catalog from Johnny's Seeds. I was intrigued by the idea of the tiny plants, but didn't give it a whole lot of thought at the time. I was preoccupied with getting ready for this year's broilers, turkeys, cows, and goat kids. Cool idea, but it wasn't my time to be sprouting little seedlings. I did however try to stay updated on how the micro green fad was playing out in the food world. To my surprise, the little greens didn't fade away as the seasons passed; instead the interest has grown. Hmmm.

Fast forward to this October/November. My dairy goats are dry and won't start milking until March/April. The cow will be dried up by Sunday. The goats and cow provided the majority of my income and I was facing a 3 or 4 month period with very little cash flow. My mind jumped back to the idea of the micro greens. Why not try it now?

After hours upon hours of more research, I bought a test package of seeds that would make a colorful, spicy blend. I have to admit that they taste as good as they look... I have a hit list of some local restaurants that I would like to start selling my micro greens to, and I'm planning on contacting them soon and seeing what deal we can strike. :) 

I'm also taking this idea and giving it a slightly different twist. I have a batch of wheat sprouts ("fodder" as I usually call it here on the blog) that are almost ready to be eaten, and when that point comes I'm going to contact a local, upscale pet store (it ain't your ordinary shop...) and see about taking them some free samples. If they like the sprouts, then I will see about becoming a regular supplier for them. 

And who knows, maybe I'll see about getting a booth at one of my local farmer's markets and see about selling some micro greens there next year...

So there you have it. Yet another one of my wild ideas. But somehow my ideas manage to work one way or another, so it'll be interesting to see how this one pans out. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Full Day

I woke up at 7:26 this morning so as to turn my alarm off, which would start beeping at 7:30. I was already sleeping in a bit more than usual, but today I wanted to sleep in juuuuuust a wee bit more. I slept until 7:33 before bolting upright as my sub-conscience remembered that I had a doctor appointment at 9:30, and I needed 2.5 hours just to get barn chores finished and make myself presentable. Whoops. So all ideas of sleeping in were thrown out the window as I started scurrying through the beginnings of my Wednesday. Surprisingly enough, I managed to make it out the door just in the nick of time. And yes, I even managed to brush my teeth. I'm good.

Almost three months ago, I lost pretty much all hearing on my right side. I had gone swimming at the beginning of September and came home with an aching case of swimmer's ear. After a week of being a grumpy bear from the painful infection, the swimmer's ear cleared up. But before another week could pass, my hearing faded for no definable cause. We tried everything to treat it... Drops, candles, water, more drops, more candles, more water... Nothing worked. After awhile I got used to being half deaf, but I did miss being able to hear, and was I definitely getting tired of having to ask people to repeat themselves. So today was the day, I was going to the doctor and I wasn't leaving until I could hear!

Shucks, I should have done that sooner... The nurse pulled out a cattle-sized syringe which she admitted to having bought at our local Wilco, and started the oh-so-fun process of irrigating. And wonder of wonders, that did the trick. I can now hear from both sides now! It's taking some getting used to though, how loud everything seems now! Just tapping away at this keyboard has me wondering if the keys have always been this loud... Never take your hearing for granted. It's a wonderful thing.

After regaining my hearing, I had to face the next challenge of the day: Taking my permit test.

Yes, you read that right... I'm 20 years old, I run a small farm, I have an off-farm job, but for all these years I have NOT had even a driver's permit. I tried getting it last year, but failed the test and then was too busy to take it again. But I had to stop running from fear of failure; this was getting ridiculous not being able to drive myself anywhere. So I bit the bullet and did it today. During the whole drive into town (20 minutes), the doctor's appointment, town errands, and up to the very, very, very last minute at the DMV, I had my nose stuck in the driver's manual, trying desperately to finish reading through the darn thing. That book of 113 pages has been the bane of my existence for the last year and a half! I finished reading the very last page right as the lady at the desk pointed me in the direction of where I would be taking the test. Talk about "squeaking by"... After something like ten minutes of agony, I finished the test and PASSED! Whoop, whoop! I am officially a "legal" driver! So now I just have to bite the next bullet and learn to drive a vehicle that has a stick shift. [shudder] It's been five years since I've tried driving something with a stick shift, so I'm hoping that perhaps I've matured since then and will be able to do it. We'll see though. I'm a horrible when it comes to multi-tasking which is what driving anything besides an automatic vehicle seems like to me.

After coming home and helping a farm patron with her weekly goods, I headed out to do what I thought would be normal barn chores. Ha. I'm so naive sometimes.

Upon getting closer to the barn door, I could see what looked like the southern half of one of my pigs poking out from a 5-gallon bucket. Preposterous! Why on earth would my pigs be out? Why such a thing is ridiculous, right? My pigs? Escaped? Well, it turns out that it was indeed a pig that was not in its usual pen. Arms akimbo, I looked down at the grunting marauder who had not yet learned of my presence. I grabbed a hind leg on the trouble maker, intending to bear hug the fellow and put him away. Who knew that pigs could be so slippery!?!? The pig squealed and shot forward, out of my grasp and reach. And of course it just had to be Sausage that was out. The bigger, meaner of my Tamworth weaners. Mike was calmly back in his pen looking innocently smug. It was time to call upon all whatever wit and cunning I had left in me (which amounts to precious little). Now, have you ever tried to catch a 40 lb. pig? There is virtually nothing to grip on those things. Seriously. With a goat or sheep they at least have an upright neck with gives you some leverage. Pigs? Nothin'. They are fast as greased lighting, and they're a perfect torpedo shape which leaves you pretty much nothing to grab except a leg. But how are you going to get close enough to grab that leg if the oinker is going too fast!?!?  My pig books all said things like putting a bucket over the pig's head, putting them in a floorless box and then scooting them where they belonged, putting them in a gunnysack, or luring them with food. Right. Okay, we can do this Caity. I didn't have a gunnysack, so that idea was kaput. Luring him with food? Nope, he wasn't hungry after all the time he had just spent snacking in the barn.  Putting him in a box? Turns out that the ONE box that was big enough was so soggy and damp that Sauasage was able to literally burst right through it. Put a bucket over his head? Are you kidding me? I felt like a cutting horse facing a steer trying to put a bucket over his head. Either that or a hockey player with a grudge. 

That was it. There was only one thing left to do, but I didn't know what that one thing was. So I set out to do it. Yes, I'm genius. I thrust, he dodges, I throw in a parry, and he retaliates with a lunge. This isn't a chase, it's a fencing match of brain power between species. he ducks behind the 2-ton stack of hay and I clamber over it. He wheels into a corner and I just barely miss him. He met his waterloo though in the milking parlor. I had him cornered there. During this whole adventure, Peaches the heifer was bawling her head off for some reason or another. Her moo is fairly tolerable, but when she bawls it makes my skin crawl. Ugh. Feeling downright feral I crouch and lunge as the little porker passes by me. HA! I got you by the hind leg you uncultured swine! Sausage retaliated by jackknifing around with a fierce growl and trying to slice my arm open with his needle-like teeth. The only available option I had at that point was to quickly scurry to the opposite side of him and grab his other leg. Great. Now I've got this pig in wheelbarrow fashion. What now? 

So for the record, while putting a bucket over a pigs head might not work, nor might putting him a box do much good, trundling him around like what kids do in wheelbarrow relay races works *perfectly*. I had my pig, and I sure wasn't about to let go of him, so I applied forward pressure to that haunch of ham and smiled for a quick moment he began moving. After a few more moments, I figured out how to steer my vagabond pig and away we went. The merriment only lasted until we got to the door when Sausage decided that he'd had enough and began to squeal hideously. Ever heard a pig scream? Mothers, your toddler throwing a tantrum doesn't even come close to the pitch of an upset pig. Word of honor on that. But continue to trundle we did, meanwhile I pondered just what it would take before the neighbors called Animal Control on me. Peaches was still bellowing. Chickens were in my way. I was wearing a skirt. Could this get any funnier? I got Sausage over to the pen and with a supernatural heave-ho, I scooped him up and tossed him just barely over the top edge of the pen wall. With the pig screaming and writhing the whole time. All the work at the veggie farm is giving me some really nice upper arm muscles and a strong back, let me tell ya'. Comes in handy when you're trying to toss a pig who doesn't want to be tossed.

After putting Sausage back where he belonged and fixing the pen up, I was hot. And Mad. Peaches was still bawling so I made the split second decision that if she was going to bawl, then she had better have a legitimate reason for doing so. I shooed her into the barn, haltered her, and began the process of halter breaking her. My goat mentor who is also a vet tech, 4-H leader, and retired dairy cow owner, gave me some advice on breaking my mischievous heifer, so I decided that I might as well do the work today. The method? This may seem slightly harsh to some, but I think to those of you who really know large livestock, this is pretty tame. Dear Peachy abhors being haltered, and absolutely does not lead. That's not a good thing when she already weighs 700 lbs. and is still growing like a weed. After getting the halter on Peaches, she was tied to a support beam in the barn. The rope had to be long enough that she could lay down comfortably, but short enough that she wouldn't get tangled. It's a fine line. I asked my goat mentor how long she should stay tied and her advice was four hours. Every twenty minutes you have to check on them, brush them down, work with their feet, and towards the end you try leading them around. As I suspected, Peaches threw a conniption about the whole thing for the first hour and a half. I stayed outside with her for the first hour, making sure that she didn't do something foolish, and teaching Mattie that Peaches was off limits for awhile. After two hours, Peaches figured out that by standing close to the beam, there would be no pressure on her face. After three hours she was chewing cud. By four hours I was able to lead her around. Tomorrow will be the test to see if Peaches remembers her lesson or not. I'm really hoping that this works... 

When all the animals were fed, watered, captured, or trained, my afternoon was plumb gone and I needed to start dinner. We were going to have a simple dish of chicken with some biscuits, but then I decided to throw a bit of pizzazz on what would have otherwise been a rather plain meal. I just finished reading Joshua and Jessica Applestone's book titled, 'The Butcher's Guide To Well-Raised Meats'  and their "secret" chicken rub blend sounded way too tempting to not try tonight. I did leave out the cayenne pepper on my first try since not everyone in the family likes that spice as much as I do. But even without the cayenne, the chicken turned out amazing. Good gracious me, why did it take me so long to find that recipe??? The biscuits were also livened up when a sister decided to add cheese and garlic powder to them. Ha, okay I don't even want to know what my weight is now that dinner is over. But it was worth it. ;) I love food. Growing it, tending it, harvesting it, preparing it, and then eating it; it's all good.

So now I'm tuckered. It's been a full day, and my clock says I need to go milk the cow now. A farmer's work is never done...

Monday, November 26, 2012

New Crop

I've had an idea fermenting away in my head for about a year now, and as of last week I decided to finally take the plunge and see if this idea was solid or not.

But I'm going to be mean and not tell y'all any specifics just yet. Yes, I'm mean; what else is new? ;)

But here are a few pictures of my new, mystery crop. Any guesses as to what it is and what it will be used for? (Hannah C., you can't guess! I think I already told you!!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Watching My Back

Unbeknownst to me, I left a gate unlatched today while doing barn chores. 

And not just any gate, mind you, it was the gate that led straight outside to freedom. Straight into the path of a busy country road. It was the gate that led to grain and hay galore. It was the gate that led to milking parlors and stacked pumpkins. It was the gate that could lead to a loss of $4,000 in livestock if they got loose and couldn't be recaptured.  If there was ever a gate that the animals dreamed of being left unlatched, it was this one. And I left it ajar this morning.

I went out this afternoon to do the routine barn chores of refilling water buckets and hay mangers, feeding pigs, and checking on chicks. Everything seemed normal. I looked ahead at the gate that is ALWAYS latched and found it swung wide open. I gasped in horror and wondered how many animals were gone. 

I had no need to wonder though. Lying down in the entry way of the gate, chewing his cud and looking as calm as a saint was Darcy, my white wether lamb. Peaches tiptoed forward towards the sight of freedom, but Darcy glared her back to her spot at the hay manger. My little sheep kept all fourteen animals exactly where they belonged. I scratched him on the chin and told him he was wonderful before gently scooting him away from the gate. He simply chewed more cud with a stoic expression on his velvety face. 

It's nice knowing that I have a sheep watching my back.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Okay, so this one isn't Christmas music...

But it's still amazing. LOL. I was delighted to see that The Piano Guys had finally done the LOTR music, and  was grinning by the time they got to the finale in doing the Gondor piece. It's amazing what you can do with only two instruments and the layering effect...

Time For Christmas Music!

The Piano Guys are quickly becoming a favorite of mine to listen to. :) They have yet to disappoint me.

Draw, Hold, Release.

The day's chores were done, I had completed the tasks I had set for myself, the animals were cared for... I paced the house testily; like a caged animal facing freedom. The sky outside was gray and angry, moodily shifting from downpours to sullen moments of light mist. The logical side of me said to stay inside where it was warm and dry. The not-so-logical side wanted to be outside doing archery practice. 

I went with the not-so-logical side of myself today.

I pulled the beloved long bow out of the closet and strung it with ease. Stringing my bow used to give me so much frustration. I wasn't strong enough, I thought, to get the string into the rubber grooves on each end of my 5' long, fiberglass bow. But after a few weeks of practice, I can now do this small chore with the ease of tying a shoe. I clipped the black quiver onto the waistband of my skirt and slipped in 6 arrows. Before heading outside, I grabbed my Carhartt, a pair of leather gloves, and my MP3. These three things really are the key to properly using the long bow. 

The rain was withholding as I stepped outside. My appearance was eyebrow raising, with a denim skirt, Carhartt coat, flower-print boots, and a red bow held with comfortable confidence. But I didn't care. I was outside with one goal in mind: to set shaft to bow. To draw, hold, and release.

It took a few more minutes to set my hay bale target up, close gates so as to keep nosey cows away, and set my target distance. Today I would only be shooting 33 yards. I wanted something close.

The first five shots are always warm-ups. I don't try to hit any bulls-eyes. I work on loosening up, matching my arm strength to the target distance, quieting my mind so that I am in the present. Draw, hold, release. Think of nothing save the arrows, the target, the distance. 

When at last I feel ready, I turn my MP3 on and flip over to my Braveheart soundtrack. Though I have never seen that movie, I have been listening to the songs since I was 12 years old. Today's choice was track #8, titled 'Revenge'. The song takes two minutes before it speeds up and gets to the point where I fall into it's comfortable pace that matches my shooting ability.

At last I am ready. I am poised, with the arrow fitted to the notch on my bow. The song hits 3:23 in time and I start. I inhale deeply as I draw the hard, slim string on this lightweight weapon. Inhale, draw, and hold it. I am a nearsighted archer, and can only see about 10 to 15 yards ahead. Though I just got glasses this week, I chose to go without them today. You really don't need the greatest eyesight when you're hunting a hay bale. I hold my feathered shaft in place, my right arm is completely parallel with my right ear, I am facing to the west while my torso is pivoted to the south; facing my target. When I feel that I have a bead on the bulls-eye, I loose the shaft in one quick, heart-stopping motion. The string whizzes forward, propelling my arrow forward at a shocking speed. The arrow hits the ground just touching the bale of hay, while at the same time my bow string finishes it's reverberating movement with a SNAP against my wrist and palm. I am wearing a heavy coat and leather gloves today. If it weren't for them, then the bow string would have left a ragged wound on my exposed skin with bruising on the edges, and blood in the center. This I know from experience. With my heavy duty clothes though, it leaves only a minor bruise. You come to ignore the bruises and the pain of the moment. It is a dull ache as you continue to fire arrow after arrow. But it's just a part of this sport.

There is a certain grace to archery which captivates me to no end. It is not something that can be done with a gun. With my bow and my music I fall into a very methodical rhythm. With my quiver at my side I grab an arrow with my right hand and fit it in the bow with surprising ease, despite the leather gloves. I straighten my spine, and inhale as I draw; A deep breath which causes me to focus with the intensity of a Border Collie. I peer down the camouflage shaft of my arrow, pull back slightly more on the string, feeling every muscle, every nerve that is required for this moment. I pull back and with a grace that has to be learned, I let go of my string. Let go too roughly and you will alter your arrow's path. Too slowly and your arrow with not go it's full length or speed. 

My music hits 5:08 in time and the sudden change in tempo causes me to unconsciously draw back more than I should have on my next arrow. I shoot and watch my arrow fly 50 yards. My target was at 33 yards. 

I loose two more arrows and then finally get what I want: A hit target. I jog-trot up to the bale of hay and check to see where my arrow had landed. Only a half inch away from the bulls-eye, it was deeply embedded in the dried summer grasses. Close but no cigar.

The sky becomes angrier and slowly begins to release it's rain drops. Not enough to cause me to turn back and sheath my arrows, but just enough to give the day a Scottish flair. Where's the kilt when you need it?

After 25 minutes of shooting, I am so focused on my task that I hear nothing, see nothing, acknowledge nothing around me save for the continuous movements of my archery. Fit arrow, draw, hold, release. Fit arrow, draw, hold, release. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

The rain begins to come down a bit harder, so I switch my music over to a last ovation for the day. This time I go for something sunny sounding and choose Julie Fowlis' song 'Touch The Sky'. Still Scottish in flavor, the song helps me to lift my focused mood. As I fit another arrow shaft in my bow, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. I look up and see three young men across the road, whom I had never seen before. Their baggy, black clothes hardly seemed warm enough for this weather, but perhaps the chains helped? (I kid.) They craned their necks to see what I was up to, and as they saw me raise my bow with an arrow on it (aiming at the target! Not the people!), they immediately turned around and hightailed it for safer grounds. Och, mess ye' not wi' a lass who kens how tae use a bow and shaft. 

I shoot three more arrows, and then quit for the day. The appearance of the three strangers has rattled me out of my reverie and my aim is no longer what it was ten minutes before. 

After putting the hay bale back in the barn, I come inside. I am damp, hot, but in a much calmer state of mind than I was earlier in the day. I hang the quiver up, with all the arrows present and accounted for. The bow is unstrung, wiped down, and then put back in the closet where it will remain until next time. I am working on my aim, my skill, my competence in this sport. Next summer I will do this on horseback. There is a group of mounted archers who meet twice a month in Newberg, and I am impatient to number myself in their party. Archery and horseback riding. To me, that is the ultimate challenge in life. To time your arrows to the cadence of hooves; balancing your body with the upward swell of a horse while still keeping your bow still and centered on the target. I have a hard enough time right now hitting a bulls-eye while standing on Terra firma; I can't imagine being at the point where I can successfully do it from the back of a horse who is going 15 to 20 miles an hour and covering 12 feet in every stride. But for now I practice in the rain, standing on my own two feet. It's a good way to spend the day.