Thursday, October 23, 2014

Crazy Little Thing Called Love...

After the morning's daily chores of milking goats, washing dishes, sweeping the floor, and beginning the school day, I sit down at my desk in my studio to begin my work day. I usually try to check in on this webpage to see if I have any messages first. Then, I scroll through Facebook, checking status updates, comments, and replying to messages. Once that is cared for, I decide what aspect of creating needs my attention the most.

It is about this time, that Thing Number One and Two scale my leg or leap onto my back with their needle-like claws out. Do not be fooled by the balls of purring fluff. They are pointy on five of their six ends and quite unpleasant on the last one. Roamer and Acadian would not dream of my working in solitude or with both of my hands. They curl up onto my lap or into the crook of my arm and hold me hostage. What's that? You scoff? Well, the evidence speaks for itself...

*THIS* is what happens if I move my hand to attempt real work. Acadian does not even need open her eyes to stick her sharp little claws into my hands in warning. It is a wonder I get anything accomplished some mornings. So, late feeding the animals? Blame it on the kittens. No posts for the website? Kittens' fault. Jewelry unfinished and in disarray? Yup... kittens. ;)

It took me three days to get this finished and uploaded, but I wanted to share the goings on around the pastures. Asher is in full bucky rut. He is rolling his lips, blowing raspberries, and sniffing around every doe he can get near. Sean has needed to replace the solid wood doors between the buck and doe stalls again. Asher bashed his way through it last night once more. There is no stopping a buck in rut. *Shakes head* At least the season is short and winter is coming...

Reminder for any Facebook friends. We are hosting an online auction for ten pieces of our mosaic eggshell jewelry tomorrow beginning at 11:00 EST. Bids must be submitted online by commenting on the image. You can join the auction HERE if you are interested.

Thanks for visiting with us this evening, friends. We're very glad for your company.
~Sonja ♥

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

They are in Cohoots!

That's right.

Dogs and Cats living together. Mass Hysteria.

Or at least, an assault on my diminishing bowl of fancy nuts on the kitchen table.

A new game is afoot in the household. The game begins with Roamer or Acadian climbing onto the kitchen table- a "no no" for sure, but a house rule they ignore with zeal. Head down, tail twitching, one or both stealthily stalk up to the wooden bowl of nuts sitting uneaten. A quick bat-bat-bat of a front claw and a nut is freed from the confines of the bowl.

The nut lands either on the table which makes for
an impromptu practice session of pouncing. Or, it skitters to the floor where Buster or Molly impatiently await to steal it away.

Two dogs. One nut. You do the math.

The kittens certainly have. They peer over the edge of the table laying bets on who will come out on top. The faster pooch snaps up their prize and runs to a quiet spot to crack it open with their teeth in order to eat it. The loser circles the table, ready to snatch the next flying treat.

Extra points are awarded for leaving sharp nut shell pieces laying strategically on the floor in the path of the vulnerable soles of my feet. Scattering drying sunflower seeds all over the table does not yield additional points, but that doesn't stop it from happening.

Another day. Another mess to tidy. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Visit to the Common Ground Fair, New Creations, and Ducklings, too!

Where did the weekend week go? I sat down to write to you on Monday morning. I got down a couple lines, uploaded a couple pictures for you and got distracted with other things. Now here it is Friday morning Saturday evening before I am back with some writing. I am hopeful that I will finish before the next distraction comes along. Let's see, shall we?

The girls and I spent Friday morning at the Common Ground Fair with friends. If you haven't been, it is definitely worth the trip and people by the thousands pour in over the weekend to enjoy it. Located in Unity, Maine at the MOFGA grounds, it hosts artisans, farmers, forestry, livestock, organic food, and demonstrations all weekend long. There is no midway of lights, noise, games, or terrifyingly fun rides. In its place are people. People carving wood into spoons, tables, bowls, and other needful things. People, displaying for show or selling to feed their families, their organic harvests of healthy fruits and veggies. People learning how to incorporate how their grandparents did things with new, clean technologies. Very often the artisans hand-spinning angora fiber into lush skeins of brightly plant-dyed yarn can accept credit card payments using their cell phones- a wonderful mash of old and new.

Friday mornings are extra special and busy at the fair to school aged children. The many children's activities through the day include a parade of colorful costumed children bedecked as an array of vegetables, live music, informative classes and sessions are planned. We watched our favorite, the sheep dog demonstration.  In the YEZ (Young Entrepreneur Zone), school-aged children discovered peers running their own small, home-based businesses selling anything from handmade dolls and soaps to wood carvings and jewelry. Many of these young entrepreneurs spend all year honing their skills and creating their crafts. Displays are bright and attractive and the young people behind them know all about their products. I was tempted by an organic chocolate brownie. It was heavenly. My friend, Cherie chose to purchase some home-grown and wildcrafted dry soup mix. We are always impressed with the skills these young people possess.

 Another highlight for me is the large animal area. While I find the horse-pulling demonstrations fascinating, my heart is usually focused on the goats. I enjoy spending a little time talking with their people about practices and experiences, always learning new things to perhaps incorporate into our homestead. No visit is complete for me without checking for some Highland cattle. It made my day when I found this little one. Sean and I are saving our pennies and planning to purchase our Highland Heifer calf in the Spring. We want a family cow for milk and cheese making.

Highlands are a perfect choice for us for several reasons: (1) They are hardy and can withstand the cold temperatures of Maine well. Highlands, bred to thrive in Scotland's landscape, browse pasture land more than they graze- perfect for us. And, they are reputed to give birth easily and have a high live-birth rate. (2) They are on the smaller side, compared to breeds like Holsteins that can average 1,500 pounds. (3) Their milk is high in fat content and is excellent for making butter and cheese. (4) They are just completely lovely to look upon with their fashionably tussled hair.

We are not entering into this venture lightly. We have also factored in that Highlands are more known for their meat quality and are not traditional "dairy" animals. In my admittedly limited experience with cows, I have come to this conclusion. While all cows can be dangerous, diary cows -being handled more frequently- seem to be more docile. Beef cows, on the other hand, seem to know that is what they are and are only too happy to take you out along the way. Highlands are often described as gentle giants and those that I have personally met have lived up to that reputation. It bears keeping in mind, though, that they grow a very large and wicked looking set of horns and when threatened may USE those horns very effectively. Though I do not often encourage "bottle babies' as a matter of course, when we purchase our calf, we'll be looking for one that is only a few weeks old to hand-rear.

Saturday was spent in Searsport at the Searsport Art Market at Silkweeds. This market has quickly become one of my favorite events. It is not the busiest market we attend, but we are building a steady stream of customers who are quickly becoming familiar friends. I love creating; using simple things to make unique and pleasing baubles. I love meeting YOU. Knowing you are out there, following along with us, commenting and taking an interest in our farm and lives means so much to me. Meeting one of you in person after visiting with you online is extra special. I take your comments and "likes" on our facebook page into consideration as I detail new pieces and eagerly await your feedback so I can improve. Learning, all the time.

These are some of my favorite pieces from this week:

 Someone asked me recently if I could paint a Lady Slipper, so I tried it and this is what I ended up with. I am really proud of the result. Originally, I was going to paint matching earrings, but I painted this in the middle of the night. The pendant cooperated nicely. The earrings refused. So, I created these to coordinate instead and I love the end result. The colors are perfectly matched and they feel so feminine to me. The flower bails are sterling silver and it is hung on a sterling snake style chain. This completed set is available for purchase through our facebook page for $60.00.

These woods inspired earrings are small, but the detail is what I am most proud of. I love the play of light on the trunks. Instead of painting the background blue, I chose to set the trees against a light green shade. It reminds me of walking in the deep woods when even the shadows seem to be green and full of life.

These earrings are on sterling silver french hooks and are priced at $24.00 on our facebook page.

 I think these sweet blue drop earrings are perfect for an adult who prefers dainty jewelry or a beginning pair of dangles for a child or tween. They are accented with sterling silver star-shaped charms that remind me of starfish and are set on sterling french hooks. These are available on our facebook page and sell for $15.00.

Lupines are one of my favorite wildflowers. They just make me happy. If I could, I would have fields of them growing here. We can't have lupines on the property because consuming them can cause miscarriages for our goats and I do not trust them one bit to know to stay away from them. Not worth the risk. Instead, I enjoy them along the roadside while we are driving along and now, I can enjoy them in painted form too! I made a few lupine inspired pendants and earrings this week, but this pendant is my very favorite one. I love the colors and the detail of each little lupine petal. This pendant includes a sterling silver rope style chain and the flower bail is sterling, too. It is listed for $40.00 on our facebook page.

We don't see many dragonflies in the fields at this time of the year, but that is not stopping me from using them to embellish these sweet pink-hued drops. The dragonflies and french hook earrings are made of sterling silver. These retail for $18.00 on our facebook page and there is a pair painted violet there, too!

My final favorite for this week is this thistle pendant painted on a stunning blue background. I used Swarovski crystals and sterling silver flowers to accent between the hand-painted diamonds. It is hung on a sterling silver oval link chain. The retail listing price for this one on our facebook page is $50.00.

Sean had work to do around the homestead, so he missed out on the first half of the market. He brought me happy news, when he arrived, though. It seems we have one last (we hope) hatching oddity to relate. Just a few posts ago, I commented that we had not had any success hatching ducklings this year. Well, it seems I spoke too soon. Sean spied this Momma Mallard and nine little fluff balls following along out in the goat pasture. He quickly prepared a pen for them in the barn where they will be safe from predators, but by the time he returned, she had hidden with her clutch and was no where to be found.
Apparently, without warning or notice, she had hidden a clutch of eggs somewhere within the pasture or woods and sat on them faithfully for 28 days without getting caught. Hidden and unauthorized nest have the potential to happen since our birds are allowed to free-range. Though we prefer to decide who and what new critters are being born on our farm, this was a happy surprise- even this late in the year.

On Sunday morning, she was in the backyard, her ducklings in tow. I helped to lure her closer with treats and Sean scooped up all the babies and then collected Momma Mallard, too.

 Momma Mallard and all her ducklings are doing just fine in their safe and secure new home in the barn. In a little while, they will be returned to live with the rest of the ducks.

I will  try for some video of the cute little peepers for you shortly. You know, if the Lord is willing and the creek don't rise. ;)

Thanks for stopping in for a visit this evening friends, I am very glad you are here.

~Sonja ♥

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 ♥