Wednesday, September 17, 2014

If One is Good, Two Must be Better...

Kristen kitten, Roamer.
As Sean likes to state, "If one is good, more must be better!" Usually this is employed in response to something ludicris. It was uttered this evening and yet did not change his decision. It brings me great comfort to know that though we each carry a different brand of crazy around in our heads, we both embrace and accept that crazy and move along to the action that it often dictates. Such was the case tonight.

We decided it would save us time tonight to pick up some hay for the goats instead of moving them to the back for grazing. We have tomatoes ripening faster that I can preserve them. Tonight is salsa making time or as we have been referring to it all week: Date Night.
Meg's kitten, Acadian.
So, when we pulled into the driveway and 10 cute little fluff balls escorted us to the hay barn, what else could we do, but bring another one home with us? Honestly, I want to have a good reason for it, but I can't even convince myself; what hope have I to convince you? The sad, but realistic truth is that we are looking at probably losing perhaps three of our working cats within the next few months to a year to old age. And, Kristen has done such a thorough job of taming Roamer that I can barely get anything accomplished without her scaling my leg to settle into my lap for some petting and love. Perhaps a sister kitty would distract her attention from my paints (which she has strewn off my desk and all over the floor), my hair (a favorite chew toy to attack without provocation or adequate notice), or my laptop (her preferred napping spot). Maybe Roamer will lose interest in scaling everything from product laden book cases and drying racks to my precarious stack of receipts and business expenses. I have no basis to believe this, but perhaps kitties are like goats and they do better in pairs.

In line with naming Roamer after one of Grandpa's boats, Meg has named her kitten Acadian, after another of them. The girls are smitten. And, that matters a great deal to us. So, this is how we have come to have two sweet and highly active, purring balls of fur tearing up the house.  It has been a week and I confess, here may have been a flaw in our logic, though for the life of me, I cannot pin down where it was we went wrong. ;)

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to rescue everything on my desk from their attention... and my curtains... and the dove... and remove them from the table... and...

Sonja ♥





Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Changes in the Wind

Nothing last forever. Sometimes, around here, it doesn't seem to even last a week.

We're always on the move, trying to improve and make life easier for all. So, what has changed in the past couple weeks? Well, we added a kitten to the homestead on Friday. Today Kristen renamed her "Roamer" in honor of her favorite boat that belonged to Grandpa David. Suitable since in not-so-many months hence, she will indeed be roaming woods and fields hunting down rodents and the like. We've had to find a different hay supplier because sadly due to some health issues, our kind neighbor, Mr. Clement, won't have enough hay to supply our needs this winter. And, with the generous gifting of a new-to-us refrigerator from our neighbor and friend, Roger B, we've made getting milk, cheese, and eggs easier for our goat rental and CSA share customers. How? Read on...

THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO VEGGIE CSA SHARES. Nothing has changed with that program.

Behold our oh-so-simple plan for providing your farm products to those who have signed up to receive them. Are you ready for this? When you want or need something, go into the white refrigerator (now living in the mudroom) and take what is yours. Y'all know what you have signed up for and I trust you to take your portion as you want it. It is now available for you 24/7; so whatever works best in your schedule, works fine in ours, too. I attached a piece of paper to the freezer and supplied some pens for you to record what you picked up and when you did that. Pretty slick, huh? To prevent other folks from missing out on products that belong to them, please only take products that you have already signed up to receive. Those eggs might look inviting, but at this time of year, we usually only have enough to satisfy those that are already reserved. But, do ask about additional eggs if you need them. If we have extras, we are pleased to share them with you. To date, this is the list of shares and rentals we have planned for:

Goat Rental (Monthly Amounts)
Nancy- 3 cheese, 1 soap, compost
Judy- 3 cheese, 1 soap, compost
Jan- 3 cheese, 1 soap, compost
Roger- 4 gallons milk, 1 soap, compost
Sherri- 2 gallons milk, 4 cheese (unflavored), 2 soap, compost
Dotti- 2 gallons milk, 4 cheese, 2 soap, compost

Egg Shares (Weekly Amounts)
Nancy- 2 dozen eggs
Judy- 1 dozen eggs
Vanessa- 1 dozen eggs
Sue- 1 dozen eggs
Lisa- 1 dozen eggs
Heather- 3 dozen eggs
Jamie- 1 dozen eggs

The final "change" I wanted to share today is more of an inspiration. I have yet to get bored with our farming business because it evolves just so to prevent it. Take our line of eggshell jewelry, for instance. I have always loved my creations. This is not meant to be a vanity, just an admittance that I enjoy what I create. Last winter when I added wire wrapping to accent my pieces, I fell in love again. This past week, there has been another inspiration afoot. I don't know what to call it, precisely, but I would love to share with you some of my latest creations. These are not available on our Etsy shop, but if you see something you want, desire, need or love, please let me know and we can make suitable arrangements to get your special piece to its forever home. :)

But, they all began
with THOSE...
THIS became THAT------------>
Unused Wire Wrapping Mishaps
If you are a facebook fan, you have perhaps seen these images before. But, with the kooky way facebook works, perhaps not. Either way, I hope you will enjoy seeing them. In the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I share this secret with you. For every new design I come up with, what you don't see are the many, Many, MANY pieces that are epic fails; a design that just didn't look right, a piece that crumbled in one of the various steps, wire wrapping that I could not get to cooperate with me. I'll set a few of these aside to maybe use at a later time, but most of them will go into my scrap bag until I collect enough copper or sterling to return for money.

In contrast, here are some that I just LOVE and hope you will enjoy, too:

It feels so good to be back to writing and sharing adventures with you. Tomorrow when I am at the Bucksport Farmer's Market, I think I will try to grab some pictures if the weather cooperates and I stay dry. Y'all might find that interesting and I would love to share some of the new friends I have made this season.

For tonight, it is time for this girl to get some dinner on the table and spend a little time with Sean. Thank you for stopping by today, friends. :)

~Sonja ♥




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hatching Guinea Keets, Missing Ducklings, Surprise Chicks and MORE!

In theory, there was a system. We went over it to make sure everyone understood it. And, yet we were constantly surprised by our hatching chicks and guinea fowl this year.

At the beginning of summer, our 14 year old, Meaghan, took over egg collecting duties in order to earn herself some additional spending money. We agreed that Meg would be responsible to collect the eggs from the various nests, wash off any unwanted debris on them, and sort them into egg cartons for our customers. Conscientiously, Meg looked for eggs a couple times each day in the main coop nest boxes, our breeding chicken coops, and in random nesting spots in and around the barn. She took pride in her work and did a terrific job for us.

This broody Australorp adopted several
chicks to love. ♥
Several of the hens became broody and the time came to set the eggs that we wanted to hatch into chicks under them. Our first attempt to hatch chicks this year was puzzling. We set a group of 10 duck eggs under a chicken. For a while, all was well. It was easy for Meg to distinguish between the duck eggs we wanted to hatch and extra chicken eggs laid in the same nest by determined hens. After two weeks, I trekked out to the nest box with the intention of candling the eggs to see how they were developing. Imagine my shock and horror when I discovered NO DUCK EGGS in the nest. My very first thought was that one of our egg customers had inadvertently been provided duck eggs... developing duck eggs! I talked with Meg to clarify which eggs she'd been taking. Meg was certain that she'd only collected chicken eggs. I talked with our customers and thankfully, no one received the eggs. So, what happened to the nest of duck eggs? No one knows. They just disappeared. I suspect a small rodent might have stolen them and had themselves a feast, but I have no evidence to support that.

It was sad that we did not hatch any new ducklings, but the time had come to set Guinea Fowl eggs and Cochin eggs. And, we did. One nest box was marked for the Cochin eggs and the other was marked for the Guineas. Like clockwork, 21-28 days after putting them in the nest boxes, chicks hatched... just not in the manner we anticipated. The Cochin nest hatched without incident. The Guineas were a little more interesting. Meaghan reported that there were "chirp chirps" coming from the nest. When we explored it, we discovered that the nest of 12 eggs I set had grown to include about a dozen chicken eggs, too; four of which had hatched into chicks! We candled the remaining eggs and discovered that most of the eggs were fertile and maturing, but at differing days of development. In the days that followed single chicks hatched randomly. I do not recommend this process! But, we learned that even marking the nest boxes and setting eggs that I would have thought to be easily identified, it is still necessary to mark the individual eggs in the nest. A little smiley face now adorns any egg we plan to try to hatch a chick from. Lesson learned. :)

We couldn't resist adding a couple new breeds of chickens to the farm this year. These will add some color to the flock and in the eggs in our cartons for our customers. We breed Cochins, Americaunas, and Aracaunas. But, we also are home to Australorps, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Silver Lace Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, and Easter Eggers. We decided to add a couple Silkies and a couple Swedish Flower chicks this spring. They were born the week of June 21st and if they don't start laying this year, will be ready to begin laying eggs for us come spring. They are filling out nicely, but are still at the awkward tween stage. I really love the little poof on their sweet little heads!


We were told these chicks were both Swedish Flowers, but their feathers came in completely different to one another. The little red and brown chick on the left has feathered pale legs. The one on the right has variegated feathers and bright yellow legs without feathers. At some point, I will do some research to see what we have here, but it has not been high on the priority list.

In addition to new chicks and keets born on the farm this year, we have recently become home to a lovely and oh-so-vocal(!) Ring-Necked Dove. Sean found one in need of a home unexpectedly mid-August. Our intention was originally to find him a suitable, forever home, but over the past couple weeks, I have become attached to him. His coos and trills make music in my studio and I enjoy holding him and petting him. So, I think that we'll be searching for a female to keep him company instead.

We call him Love Dove because it is just too precious not to.




Other unexpected visitors to the homestead showed up in our garden beds. Though they look a little like the garden pest, Tomato Hornworm, we went online to do some research and discovered that our guests are Black Swallowtail Caterpillar which will, in time, morph into lovely butterflies. They have been enjoying our dill all summer long and I don't mind a bit.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Image
from Butterfly Fun Facts Site
You can read all about their life cycle here: Butterfly Fun Facts Site.

The rest of our garden is doing wonderfully well this year. We have enjoyed bumper crops of string beans, peas, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and herbs this year. The rest of our veggies are producing, but are growing a little slower than we hoped. Still, we are very pleased with the amount and quality of the heritage vegetables provided to our CSA share customers. Our goal next year is to, once again, increase garden space so that we will be able to preserve more food for our family's needs.

 Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. Your company matters to us.

~Sonja ♥

Monday, September 8, 2014

Izzy Joins the Farm



Much of farming is about looking ahead to the next season and planning for its needs. Whether it is which crops we'll plant, which animals we'll breed, or what building needs construction next, planning, planning, planning. Seriously, we have plans for many projects well into 2016. And, though these may need amending to fit our lives and current needs, the bones need to be sketched and ready. I have been suggesting to Sean for a couple of weeks that we are going to need to look into getting a kitten sooner rather than later. This is a strange need for a homestead. Many farms have their barn cats in place and never need worry about their loss. But, since we spay and neuter ours, they do not reproduce on their own.

The thing is we have six cats. We also NEED six cats. They hunt spring, summer, and fall, living in the barn and eating mainly what they catch in the way of mice, moles, rats, and the occasional weasel supplemented with a limited diet of dry cat food. Come winter, our cat door gets unlocked and they move inside to the luxury of the warmth of the wood stove and full meals. They grow fat and lazy in their winter retirement.

Boogie's latest kill of a foot-long barn rat brought this need to mind for me. (If there is one rat, you know, there are more.) A quick calculation brought me this conclusion: Zoe and Spot are our oldest cats, being between 12-14 years old. Boogie, Machias and Vego turned 6 this year. Tasmanian is our youngest at 5. Looking beyond age, Zoe is definitely showing her years. It saddens me, but in truth, I am dubious that she'll see many more winters. And, since Machias's car accident last summer, he has never fully regained his former health. A broken palate will do that to you. Surgery was not an option- there was just nothing to suture together. Antibiotics were prescribed and pain medicine while his body healed as it would. And, it did- mostly. He is not in pain and remains relatively active for now, but I am afraid that time is not on his side, poor sweet boy. I hope these special cats have many, many more years with us. We also need to prepare for the future. As with everything else around the homestead, balance is wanted. We need some young blood to be ready to take on hunting.

We found Izzy needing a home tonight from a neighbor's farm. She is lovely and will make a fine addition to our farm. Mom is famed to be a great mouser and a hardy barn cat. Izzy will live inside from now until Spring comes, learning to use a litter box and becoming more tamed. By the time our outside crew is ready to repopulate the inside, she'll have been spayed, bonded nicely to us and will find her place within the pride. Then, in the spring, Izzy will join the other cats outdoors protecting our homestead from vermin and predators.

Until the real work begins, there is plenty of time to be coddled. Kristen is more than happy to take on this job and has claimed Izzy as her own. All the humans are pretty smitten with Izzy Kitty. Molly is disappointed that new kitty is not a new chew toy for her pleasure. Introductions were made, but Miss Izzy made it clear with hissing and the deployment of several well aimed smacks to Molly's nose that she was NOT to be chewed on, in any way. Molly is not completely convinced so we watch them closely while they are together.

With summer almost at an end, we are working steadily to prepare for winter around the homestead and for upcoming shows and craft fairs. We've been talking about hosting another fall Open Farm Day. What do you think? Anyone interested in coming for a visit?

Thanks for stopping by today, friends. We're so glad you are here.
~Sonja ♥

Friday, September 5, 2014

Summer Days

Barn Envy! :)
Adventure Day!
Jemima (in front) and
Ethan (in back)
Sean and I were so pleased with the does, Delilah and Cassie that we purchased from our friend, Carla Hamilton of Udderly Blessed Goat Dairy and Homestead in Littleton, Maine. We knew that we wanted to add a registered Lamancha buck to our herd this year from them. We were thrilled when we contacted them and learned that they had the perfect one born this spring for us. A five hour drive (round trip) to pick up a couple goats may seem excessive to some, but Sean and I enjoyed the time together and these goat kids were well worth the added time and effort.


True to their naturally curious nature, Ethan and Jem's help building the additional garden beds (planned to accommodate and add to this year's CSA shares), was under-appreciated by Sean. I admit, I took a little delight in watching the building process in the midst of goat noses knocking over Sean's screws, tools, and materials. Eventually, I took pity on Sean and helped corral our new babies and the rest of the herd into the back yard where they could graze to their hearts' content and get better acquainted with everyone.

Our lad, Amos, is growing slower than the rest of the kids from this spring, but he is making progress and eats his weight in feed each day. Born to Haddie (a year earlier than we would have liked to breed her thanks to Asher), he was our smallest kid.

We've had to treat him for worms several times this summer, which has been a slow and steady process to try to get them under control. It looks like we're gaining ground, but worms have hit us HARD this year and our "go-to" wormer, Ivemectin, is not having its usual results. We've heard from neighbors that they, too, been hit extra hard with worms this year. It scares me that perhaps the worms have adapted and we'll need to switch to another worming choice. As part of our protocol, we're diligent in cleaning stalls regularly and opened new woodlands for them to graze. Moving them entirely to another piece of land for a couple years would be best, but that is not an option for us at this point.

New woodlands mean new trees to browse. Everyone knows the
BEST leaves are the ones highest up!
Opening up new fields and woods has led to lots of interest and speculation for the goats. Everyone is eager to see what is in store for them. I love this image. Please note that the goats are IN a new pasture area with tall grasses and ripe leafy trees. Satisfied? Nope. All the nosy does care about is what their humans are doing to expand their fencing in their old field. The grass may be fresher and taller in their new field, but it seems their old one looks greener to them. Silly goaties!

I enjoyed playing with my camera to take some close ups of the creatures I saw in the field while taking a break from watching Sean and his Dad setting posts for the new fencing.

It is such a treat to have Daddy Dale here for the summer and, as always, he is a tremendous help around the farm. This year, the focus has been on clearing out the alders and cutting down any hardwood trees that we worry won't make it through the winter. If we are to lose the tree, better to cut it and use the firewood to heat our home and the leaves to supplement feed for the goats than to have it rot and waste the wood. This has been a bit of a balancing act. We cut enough for the goats to strip in a day and remove the smaller twig like branches for the bonfire before cutting and stacking the trunks and larger branches to dry. Nothing goes to waste on the farm. Not even leaves. Alders are fantastic trees for us and we are blessed with an abundance of them. Cutting them down exposes the land to more light which encourages thicker grasses to take root while the Alders recover and grow back. And, they do grow back with a vengeance. If done in balance, this cutting, using and regrowth cycle augments our wood supply and our goat's diet nicely.

We leave the hardwoods and pines alone so long as they are healthy. They provide shade and add visual interest to the fields. Clearing the land in this manner gives us an added incentive: predator control. With fox, coyotes, fishers and other predators in the woods our free ranging animals and even the goats can become prey. It is not uncommon for predators to stalk within tall grasses and dense forests where they can hide easily and creep close, unnoticed by their target. Exposure, along with scent marking from other predatory animals (Sean, the dogs, and cats) is an added deterrent to their unwanted visits to our property. 

Not all visitors are unwelcome. We enjoyed a lovely few weeks visiting with Sean's brother, Ryan and his family. One day, this little guy came to spend a few minutes with us.



This Eastern Newt was in its terrestrial, juvenile stage. It was almost completely orange and red. At this stage, it is called a Red Eft. Miss Abigail got her turn to hold this one for a couple minutes before we returned it to it's home in the woods- out the sight of wandering chickens and other fowl.


Abby's Mom, Kimmy got to spend her own day at the homestead. The goats liked her attention fine, especially Jem. Sweet Girl folds up for easy carrying and loved the boost to reach the sweet tender leaves, taller than she could reach on her own. Jem is heavier than she looks and after a few minutes of extra special attention, she was back on her own hooves to browse at will.

Asher. Born to us April 1, 2012 of Ellie. 
I am convinced that goats can teleport. Much of this summer was spent attempting to keep Asher inside the buck stall and fields. Despite our best efforts to contain him, Asher wanders at will. He spends most days trying to accost our vegetable garden or even better, gain access into the does' stall. One day this summer, Asher got out and entered the does' pasture just before Sean had to leave for work. Without the time to discover his latest escape route, Sean tethered him inside an empty, locked, 10x10 stall. Not ideal, but with enough room to stand, move a short distance, or lay down and with fresh water and food available to reach, it would do for a couple hours until Sean's return at lunch. At lunch, Sean walked directly to the stall to see what needed doing. A moment later, our front door opened with a whoosh to Sean's excited exclamation of "Sonja, you have to see this!" I followed Sean to the barn to marvel that Asher had succeeded in- not only unlatching himself from the clip attached to his collar and escaping into the doe field, but tethered in his place was little Jem looking bewildered as to how and why she was attached to the stall. Teleportation, I say. Since this incident, staunching Asher's escape attempts has become a fairly regular game. The image above was captured Monday from my front porch. Instead of being contained, Asher spent the morning eating from the duckweed in the front yard. It is going to be interesting when the does start to go "into season".

Remember this??? Miss Molly has lost all her sweet puppy looks and is growing into a smart and lovely addition to our homestead. At nine months, she has years of training ahead of her, but already knows these commands: sit, stay, lay down, come, off, up, down, touch, crawl, roll over, get it, tug, find it and leave it. With a treat in hand, she is nearly 100% accurate. Without one??? Well... that's a bit harder to judge. If she is in the mood, she'll obey immediately. If she is distracted by new people, insects, random thoughts, her mood or whim, she will look at you and consider what's in it for her. As I said, a work in progress, but give her some more time and attention and we'll have just the dog we want and will have earned. ♥

There have been other additions to the homestead and a couple hard losses, too. We enjoyed the best garden we've ever cared for. So much more to relate to you. I need to leave those for another day. For now, I am so glad that you are all still there with us. I enjoy writing about our adventures here and sharing snippets on our facebook page. Thanks so much for the company, friends. We're very glad you are here.

~Sean & Sonja ♥



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Open Farm Day Images

Y'all are just the very best! I asked you to come to my rescue with images captured from your day at the homestead and you did! Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity in sharing them with us. It was hard to choose my favorites, but Sean and I finally narrowed it down to these... We hope you enjoy this peek at our homestead through the eyes of some of our guests.

Feeding the chickens and checking for eggs was
a big hit with our new friends. 

One of the necessary jobs in keeping goats,
is the routine trimming of their hooves. The goats don't
mind a bit- so long as there is grain available to munch.
Goat horns are actually attached to their skull and perform
an important role in maintaining their temperature and as a
protection from predators. 

"By My Beard!" Jedi has the nicest beard of all the bucks. 


Delilah is a "people" goat. She loves them and considers them a good addition to her herd.

There is never an end to the repairs that are needed. All the goats have taken to using the chicken fencing as very convenient back scratching equipment. Sean is forever reattaching wire. 

Even our smallest guests enjoyed watching (and chasing) the
goats and their kids browsing in the back yard. 
Our newly erected goat playing apparatus was a huge success with the goat does
whether they enjoyed the shade afforded under it or romped about on top.

There is no such thing as "no room" to playing goats!

Zoey and the other farm cats enjoy their taste of goat's milk each day.
Nothing goes to waste on the farm. 

Jasmine enjoyed the day on the front lawn helping us to curb the grasses that
had grown too tall to tackle with my push mower. She did a fine job of making
it much more manageable!

Curious Amos was interested in exploring everything in the back yard- including the compost pile and extra fencing elements. I suspect he is working on a plan to assist with his escapes in days to come.
While we are working on getting a proper pond dug this year, our geese and ducks enjoy a
splash around in the wading pool. 

We hope you enjoyed your peek into our Open Homestead Day. We are hoping our Emu chicks will be hatched this fall in September. Once they have settled, we'll be hosting another day for you to come and visit with us.

Thanks for stopping in tonight, friends. We're sure glad you did.
Sean and Sonja ♥

PS: Remember, if I used one or more of your images, we'd like to say thank you with a little something from us. Be sure to comment on this post how I can contact you if you are interested in receiving your something special. :)