Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Colder by the Day

THAT is frost crystals along the top of the gate to the entrance of the goat pastures. It is now coating everything each daybreak.

Slightly more sinister than the frost covered lawn, cars, and scoops are the several inches of ice frozen across the tops of all the water buckets. Sean breaks through the ice and then scoops the large chunks out of the buckets onto the ground. It is regularly cold enough these days that they do not melt away in the mid-day sun anymore. We were gifted some heated watering buckets, but have not found the time to drive south to procure them. Perhaps, it is time to do that.

(Those are bare fingers tossing out the ice. Brrrrr.)

I am thankful that my jobs-scooping grain and loading the hay mangers allows me to use gloved fingers.

I originally snapped this picture to show the design of the new door Sean and I built in the gloaming hours last night. I attached the 1x6 pine boards around the exterior of the 4x8 OSB sheets. Then, I helped hold them in place using the top of my toes as a guide while Sean attached the hinges. It is hard to see here, but the door sits off the ground a few inches to make it easier to open when the snow arrives this winter.

When we checked the swing, it couldn't have looked any better. Not bad for building in the near dark to the light of a half moon.

These are not the permanent doors to the barn, but they work to keep the cold from whipping up over the pasture and blowing directly into the barn stalls. They cost less than $35 in material to build 2 of them. And, they only took us about an hour to build and install both of them. I'll take it.

I used my sitting log stump to keep the doors propped open- just wide enough to allow the goats to come and go- today. It worked great. The air in the stalls was significantly warmer than the windy air outside when I visited with the goats after work. In the spring, more appealing doors will be built. Sean is thinking he might build some traditional "Dutch" style doors made of solid 1x6's.

Until we have time to install some handles for these doors, I simply move my sitting stump in front of the door to keep the cold (30 degree) night air locked out and the goats locked in.

We only need 4 more sheets of OSB and the entire first floor of the barn will be sheathed both inside and out. Slowly, slowly, but it is getting there.

Four doors down. One more to go.

Thanks for stopping for a visit. We're glad you came.
Sean and Sonja ♥

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And at:
The Chicken Chick

Monday, November 26, 2012

Barn Building Dreams

Winter is time for dreaming and planning. It may seem like I am always thinking about "what's next" before even the current projects are complete. And, I am. While mindful of what must be completed today, I always have an eye on the horizon for the next thing to tackle. After all, if we don't know where we are headed, how will we know when we arrive? And, building the way we do, one piece at a time, requires an endless evaluation of "Okay, what is next?" For example, to put in next year's garden, we need to plan what to buy for seeds, where the garden will grow best, when we'll need to build the raised beds now, etc. (GARDEN PLANS 2013 updated with graph) If we wait until it is time to actually do the planting to consider these things, we'll already be months behind. Or, if we want goat's milk for cheese and soaps in the spring, we need to plan out breeding dates through the late fall and winter months.

As is par for this course, Sean and I made the most of our 4 days off of work together to get some more things accomplished around here. I had ambitiously hoped that we would be able to build and install 5 doors for the barn. We did not. We DID install 2 doors; one for the milk room and one for the tack room. And, the girls and I loaded, moved, and leveled 4 more wagon loads full of dirt for the lower part of the driveway. (That is looking really good. Kristen had to relearn how to work the new lawn mower, but had it running in no time. Sean figures that we will be completely finished with the driveway in another 4-5 loads.) I designed a hay feeder and Sean accommodated me by building it for me despite the cost of a bloodied nail bed on his hand. Sean finished the roof to the duck/goose house, which some of the younger chickens have taken to using each night. And, Sean replaced the useful, but ugly metal fencing between Jasmine and the does' stall with more appealing 2x6 rough cut wooden rails. (I love how it looks!) The remaining 3 doors are designed and living in my head, but remain, as yet, unconstructed.

As I rewatched the movie, I realize that by stabilizing the footage, it makes the captioning go all wonky. Sorry, folks. I will try to fix that as soon as I can. ♥

It was not all work. Kristen and Meaghan spent a night at their Dad's and another at my sister's house. And, they had a sleep over here with friends. Our eldest daughter, Caitlin and her husband, Justin and our friends, the Rivers, visited on Thursday night for lasagna and games. Later in the week, we hosted our friends, the Knights, for dinner and more games. And, Sean and I stole a little time to grab a movie date at the cheap seats.

With the girl's school vacation coming to a close and our regular scheduled work-week to begin, I feel good about where we are. I will feel much better when the barn is completely finished- for as long as it takes to dream up some other project that needs doing. Such is life.

The dimensions to my drawing are not spot on, but they are sufficient to give the gist of what the barn will look like next year. This is the latest revision of it. As the barn sits now, only the lower part has been framed and sheathed. It has one window installed, where the 2 lower ones are shown. I tried to live with that, since Sean had already framed out this window twice, but I... just... CAN'T. I re-designed the barn with 4 windows between the doors, which balanced the look of the barn, but meant purchasing two additional matching windows to compliment the ones gifted us by Ryan and Kimmy. Then, Sean and I reached a compromise; he is willing to re-frame the wall (for the 3rd time) to fit the 2 windows pictured and I am willing to appreciate him and love it. Both these glass doors were installed this weekend. The new windows will wait until spring, but we have all the ones pictured. I have not yet planned the other 3 sides of the barn, but once I do and draft it, I will post them, also.

For now, I leave you with some pictures of our week. Thanks for stopping by. We're glad you came.

Sean & Sonja ♥
Charles (formerly Diana) started crowing this weekend. Though he is lovely and sweet,
his days at the farm are numbered. He'll need a new home and a flock of hens of his own.

I laugh every time I see the goats hop onto my stool. It was Sapphira's turn today.

Sebastian is looking lovely and in good form these days. His tail feathers have
not yet returned from his most recent molt, but they will.

The youngsters liked using the unfinished duck/goose house for a perch- until Sean
put the roof on it. They use the other perches designed for this purpose now.

Brighid did not appreciate being brought back into the house
to winter over, but manages to console herself by lounging in the sun.

My faithful consort and companion. It looks like she was talking to me
when I snapped this shot. In fact, she was begging for more carrot tops.
She usually gains more treats than the others, but who could resist that face?
 This post shared with: Tilly's Nest Blog Hop Check it out for links for recipes, gardening, diy projects, and farm projects.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Seed Picks for Spring 2013

Sean brought home the new FEDCO SEEDS CATALOG a few days ago to create a very happy and excited wife. I love looking forward, planning and lists. I love LISTS. Immediately, we sat down and started reading through the pages to decide which kinds of seeds we would purchase for this year's gardens. With over 150 pages to look through, it was difficult to narrow our choices. Once we stepped back to evaluate the landscape a little, picking which varieties we would grow this season became easier.

Our goal is to eventually maintain our own comprehensive seed bank, for several reasons. First, the seeds we harvest will become acclimated to our particular growing climate over time, leading to a better yield for us. Secondly, it will save us money. It may only be a small expense each year, but every expense eats into any profit we hope to someday realize. And, by selecting and saving seeds from plants which boast the qualities most desirable to us (flavor, fruit yield, disease resistance, etc.), we will have more control over the genetics of the plants we choose to grow.

To do this right, we feel that it is important to mainly purchase seeds that meet these criteria:
1. Heritage Variety: are open- pollinated vegetables varieties that have been grown for 50 years or longer
2. Open-Pollinated: seeds not labeled hybrid, F1, F2, etc. These seeds grow true-to-type.
3. Certified Organic: certified by a USDA approved agency which can be proven with an audit trail.
4. Locally Grown: seeds offered by gardens and farms grown in our climate and geographic area.

It is still strange to think that in this day and age, you can grow your own food in your own backyard, and STILL be eating food that has been genetically engineered. And, you can plant seeds which you yourself have saved, and still not realize a harvest because the seeds planted were sterile. With those thoughts in mind, I appreciate that FEDCO "does not knowingly carry genetically engineered seeds" in their catalog. Not every seed variety listed for sale, is certified organic, though. So, it took us a few hours to narrow our selections for this year's gardens.

We decided to purchase 31 varieties. All of them, except the scarlet runner and the multi-colored pole bean mix met all of our requirements. These two varieties were not certified organic. They were labeled ECO which indicated that they were "grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers in gardens and on farms which maintain an active soil-building program" but had not been through the certification process. That sounds like us. We won't have the money to spend to be certified this year, but we plan to use organic growing practices and we will label our foods "Naturally Grown".

I am excited about this year's garden effort. We hope that we will have enough produce to eat, freeze, and store to feed ourselves through until next year. Additionally, we will be offering fruits and veggies for sale at our farm stand for our neighbor's tables. And, hope of all hopes, it would be just spectacular to produce enough to sell Five CSA Shares beginning in June and running through October.

So, what will we have to offer?

2013 Seed Selections

Yellow Sweet Corn

Bush Green Beans
Pole Beans
Multicolored Pole Bean Mix*
Scarlet Runner*
Red Kidney


Blacktail Mountain

Little Leaf Pickling
Marketmore Slicing

Young's Beauty

Nantes Fancy

Plum Purple

Evergreen Hardy White

New York Early

Freedom Lettuce Mix

Red Russian


Early Wonder Tail Top


King of the North
Purple Beauty
Tangerine Pimento

Hot Peppers
Czech Black
Hidalgo Serrano

Soldaki (Table)
Peacevine (Cherry)
Heinz (Paste)
Amish Paste (Paste)
Hog Heart (Paste)

We already have planted 60 cloves of organic Red Russian garlic. We grow herbs like; dill, basil, sage, thyme, chives, and rosemary all year long indoors. We will offer either cut bunches of herbs or potted herbs as soon as we open this spring. And, through partnerships with local orchards and growers, we may also have available strawberries, blueberries, grapes (grown right here), and apples!

What about you?
Do you grow a garden?
Have you ever purchased a CSA Share from a local farm?

Thanks for stopping in for a visit today!
Sonja ♥

This post also linked to: Hearth Soul Hop. Check them out for some great recipes and growing tips.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our Day of Rest...

Ahhhh... Sunday....

The day of worship. ✔
The day of family. ✔
The day of football  WORKING around the farm. ✔

I have never been big on winter, but I am starting to look forward to days of rest. Oh, don't misunderstand, there will be plenty to do inside this house for the next few months, but it won't be the seemingly endless list of back-aching manual labor that we toil at the rest of the year. I don't much like the cold weather, but I am sooooo looking forward to some slow days ahead to recharge and get ready for Spring.

Today's schedule went something like this:
  • Feed and water dogs, cats, bunny, chickens/ducks/geese, goats, pigs, and horse. The feeding was easy, but the watering entailed chipping ice out of the containers and buckets this morning for Sean.
  • Shower and get ready for our meeting for Worship
  • Attend our meeting for Worship and visit with friends
  • Lunch
  • Spend an hour as a family in our Volunteer Bible Study Ministry
  • Shovel, Haul, and Level 5 loads (each approximately 12 cubic feet) of dirt and rocks to level the driveway
  • Meg mucked Jasmine's stall
  • Kristen cleaned bathroom
  • Sonja mucked chicken coop
  • Sean hauled hay
  • Sean worked on Geese/Duck house
  • Sonja put away lumber scrap (At this point, the sun was setting and I could barely stand.)
  • Evening Animal check & more hay to pigs (for bedding), horse & goats (for eating)
  • Sean washed dishes and swept floor
  • Sonja folded laundry and prepared dinner
  • Dinner
  • Sonja baked cookies (pre-packaged, but I want credit anyway!)
  • Family Bible Study with Meg & Kristen
  • Sonja completed some work for her "real job"
  • Everyone had some "down time" beginning at 7:30 pm...
And, I have the sore muscles to prove it! I am not complaining, but I think it is important to be honest. I really think that in time, there will be slightly less to do around here in terms of large construction projects. After all, once we complete the barn, we are not going to need to continue working on it each day- save some maintenance. Once the driveway is level, we will stop that project. Once the raised garden beds are built and filled, that is done for a while. But, trying to grow a farm means that there is always going to be something else that needs doing. Always.

On the up-side: I sleep like the dead every night.

I took some pictures of our busy day, (of course). And, so I leave you with them. Thanks for stopping in for a visit today, friends. We are sure glad you came!

Sonja ♥

The dirt pile before we started today. I had already loaded a wagon full
yesterday in preparation for today's work.
"By My Beard! I swear the thing is growing each night"
This is what we had left AFTER removing 5 wagon loads.
Meg's main job was to remove large rocks to my pile. I am planning to put
them to use as part of a nice rock wall.  

Kristen is part of the "Leveling Crew". She did a fine job working with Sean,
smoothing out the dirt I hauled with the lawn mover and Sean dumped.

Sean unloading my wagon.

The "Leveling Crew" hard to work. 
With more than 3/4ths of the driveway filled in, we call it quits for the day...
So we can continue working on the goose/duck house and muck the coop. 
Clean Coop... for all of one minute. Immediately, the hens
must check out and scratch in the pine shavings.
We put a few of the ducks in the new duck/geese house
and eventually, both geese- hoping they would like it and stay put.
I even stuck a bowl of feed and carrots in there, but I cannot
yet call it a success. ♥

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Glimpses Around the Homestead

Today, Sean and I are finishing roughing out the duck and geese house. This will be attached to the chicken coop, but will have it's own entrance door. While Sean is cutting lumber for the floor, I stole off to upload this video spliced together from pictures and video taken last week. I don't have long to hide away, though. Sean cuts the 2x4's to size and then, it is my job to screw them in place. I think I will be missed before too much time elapses!

I will snap some pictures of it when it is complete and share them with you later this weekend.

It will be good for the ducks and geese to have their own house. Chickens roost high in the eaves of their coop. Ducks and geese do not. They huddle together in a corner or more usually sleep in the yard. With a house of their own, they won't need to watch for droppings from above when they hazzard to sleep inside chicken coop anymore.

Thanks for stopping in today.
Sonja ♥

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Visit to Wolfe's Neck Farm

Last Tuesday, Sean and I spent a few hours with the good folks at Wolfe's Neck Farm.

Situated on over 600 acres of lush fields for grazing and hay production, managed woodlands and trails, and a variety of cultivated gardens, the farm trust is a virtual wonderland bustling with activity. We could have spent all day wandering- even in the rain, but our main purpose this day was to visit the 200 turkeys being raised for meat and learn about how they are kept, raised, and cared for. With Eric and Kaitlyn as our guides, we were in excellent hands.

Our first stop was the Open Barn. Open to visitors year round and stocked with a sampling of the animals kept at the farm and educational signs galore, the barn proved to be a good beginning point. We were immediately rewarded with the sights, sounds, and scent of turkeys, chickens, goats, and sheep.

The 50 or so full grown broad-breasted/bronze hybrid turkeys living here wandered about their roomy enclosure indoors, which is connected to a large outside pasture area. Today, the turkeys preferred to remain inside instead of facing the threat of rain. Kaitlyn explained that these hybrids were picked up from a local hatchery in June as day old chicks. They are particularly hearty and grow to a decent size in 4-6 months. They are fed a high quality non-medicated, vegetarian, hormone-free feed and are given free range to pasture as they please. Though they do not fly the same as their wild counterparts, they do have limited flight capability. Here at Lally Broch, we are interested in breeding heritage turkeys exclusively, but there is something to be said for hybrid vigor. These turkeys were all healthy specimens- free of damaged feathers, bowed legs, or cloudy eyes. And, they certainly were not afraid of humans which spoke to how well they had been carefully handled through their growing months. I enjoyed listening to them call to each other.

Next, Eric and Kaitlyn took us to the pasture and barn where the rest of the flock live. I was pleased to see these turkeys looked to be as healthy as the first ones we were shown. But, for a minute or two, I was a little alarmed to see all 150 birds standing inside the spacious barn outfitted with an enormous feeding station full of grain. Though there were no cages here, I misunderstood the situation and mistakenly thought that this barn was the only room they had. In fact, I was thinking through how I would broach the subject when the sea of turkeys parted and I could see the floor level exit that lead to their HUGE field. I mean ENORMOUS green pasture set aside exclusively for them to graze in. The protective fencing for the large pasture area is mobile and Kaitlyn is vigilant about rotating the fencing regularly to give the turkeys fresh pasturage. In this way, they always have access to fresh vegetation, bugs, and worms without stripping the land set aside for them. Color me impressed.

The whole operation was outstanding- healthy, happy fowl cared for by caring and capable humans in a clean and inviting living area. These animals may be raised for food, but they are treated humanely and with respect. At the time of our visit, 30 or so were still available to purchase. Wolfe's Neck Farm sells their naturally raised turkeys for $4.50 per pound. The fresh oven-ready turkeys are able to be picked up on Wednesday, November 21st. For more information or to order your own turkey from Wolfe's Neck Farm, visit their LINK HERE.

Blogging about our visit could take many posts since there are so many activities happening at the farm. Some of my favorites were:
  • Recompense Campground features 130 oceanfront, inland and wooded campsites on the shores of Casco Bay.
  • 12 ft x 12 ft Community Garden plot available for a mere $35 each season
  • Workshops that cover everything from Beekeeping and Backyard chickens to Chainsaw safety
  • Teen Agriculture Program that teaches among other lessons, community involvement and caring for neighbors through raising vegetables for local food pantries.
To check out these and other activities, be certain to visit the Wolfe's Neck Farm web page or better yet, go for a visit in person. You won't be disappointed.

Thanks for visiting today, Friends.
Sonja ♥

Posted to: Tilly's Nest Down Home Blog Hop, Fresh Eggs Daily Blog Hop

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Barn Building: Part 5

I am declaring our "stay-cation" a success, regardless of the doors still waiting to be finished, the duck house needing both sheathing and a roof, and the grievous injury to Sean's thumb. The barn roof is completely sheathed and tarped against rain, snow, and ice. The downstairs of the barn is nearly 90% complete- only wanting doors to be framed out and hinged. The garlic bed was tucked in with a nice 3 inch layer of straw to combat the winter cold. The piggie stall has been sheathed, a temporary door attached, and our resident piggies have made the move to the barn. (READ HERE) A new gravity fed chicken feeder was constructed using repurposed material. I made another semi-successful batch of soap (which will be a post of its own in time). Plus!- We were invited to visit Wolfe's Neck Farm; Sean and I spent a lovely few hours there on Tuesday. Whew!

The embedded video addresses many of the projects we completed over the long weekend. I want to focus this post on how we designed and built the new chicken feeder. I like it so much that we are going to duplicate it! Wanting to use items we already had laying around, we designed it using the 30 gallon plastic garbage pail which already held the chicken crumble and a raised garden frame we were not using.

Materials Used:
1- 2 ft x 2 ft raised garden bed frame
1- 30 gallon plastic garbage pail with lid
3- 23" long 2x4 supports
1- 23" x 23" scrap OSB board
2- 3 1/2" wood screws

First, Sean measured and cut 3 supports from some scrap 2x4's. He screwed these 3 inches from the top of the garden bed; 2 on opposing sides and one in the center. Then, he cut the OSB to size and slid it onto the 2x4 supports. We left this floating because it fit so snuggly.
Next, Sean drilled 4 pilot holes in the bottom edge of the black plastic garbage pail, which we currently employ to store our bags of grain, scratch, and cracked corn. These were not large enough to allow enough grain to filter out and fill the box, so Sean began using a sharp knife to expand the holes. The knife slipped and Sean suffered a nasty cut across the base of his left thumb. He should have had a couple stitches, but bravely (read that despite my pestering) Sean soldiered on with only a band aid to control the blood loss until he finished our day's projects and finally allowed me reign to provide first aid.

It wasn't until evening that I coaxed (read that bullied) Sean to sit still long enough for me to wash it thoroughly, apply some antibiotic cream, and butterfly the cut flesh back into alignment. A large bandage across the entire wound to keep germs from getting in and causing an infection, finished my doctoring.

Tonight his thumb is still slightly swollen and a little red, but there is no odor nor other signs of a serious infection brewing. Other than the paint splatters gracing his hand, it looks fairly decent. I will be watching it closely, though!
While Sean was hastily bandaging himself inside, I carefully completed cutting the grain feed holes in the bottom of the garbage pail. (I did not see how badly he cut himself and assumed it was just a small scratch, since he said he didn't need help to put a band aid on it.) On his return, Sean drilled 2 small holes with the intention of through-bolting screws to attach the pail to the wooden base. I turned the pail right side up and placed it in the center of the frame Sean built. In a "happy accident" I set the pail directly over the support in the center. While this made it problematic to through-bolt the separate pieces, it made it very convenient to simply use two- 3 1/2" wood screws to secure the pail to the base. It may not hold permanently, but with Sean out of commission, we decided to try it out as is for now. A washer at the base of the screw head would have distributed the pressure better and I may make that modification in my next one.
The chickens immediately surrounded the new feeder and in a frenzy ate their fill. Seeing the reaction to it, Sean and I worried that our feeder was not going to work as we wanted it to. We feared that the chickens would injure each other scrambling for food at the single station. We were concerned that they would gorge themselves and eat through 100 pounds of food in one day, which would be unhealthy for them and cost us a small fortune.
Our concerns were unnecessary. Though the chickens ate for a little while voraciously, excited at the new food source. It look only a short time before, bored with it, they returned to sunning themselves, scratching in the dirt, or enjoying a dust bath.

As the feeder is designed, it allows for an 8 foot circumfrance- 6 inches wide- of available feeding area. This can comfortably allow 16-18 birds to eat simultaneously. Since we have the material on hand to construct another one, we intend to do so this coming weekend.
I like the overall design, but it is not particularly pretty to look at... yet. I see a warm day, some paint and sealant, and clever stenciling in my future. ♥
Thanks for visiting today. We're glad you came.
Sonja ♥
LOL- in less than an hour, I have received several very nice and thoughtful comments regarding what to do for inclimate weather. So, I thought, I had better address that. ♥
We have plans to build a shelter for the feeder to protect against the rain/snow and solve the problem of spoiled feed, but that will be for another day. In the meanwhile, we will move the feeder inside their house when bad weather threatens. Even full, it only weighs @ 100 pounds, which Sean and I can manage.
Keep those comments coming! ♥

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Piggies New Winter Home

Among the other things that either were or are in the process of being completed over our "stay-cation", our Vietnamese Pot Belly Pigs were moved to their new home in the barn. This move was necessary for several reasons. Their normal quarters are sufficiently draft free and warm from Spring until Fall, but will not stand up to the harsh Winters in Maine. Once the snow really hits, shoveling a path to them each storm, though possible, becomes a less than appealing venture. It is more convenient to have all the critters just across the driveway, snuggled in through the cold months. With all this in mind, it was time to make our semi-yearly trek.

Last time, this move took over an hour to complete. And, in the end, Patches was coaxed onto a blanket. Sean held one end and I the other, and we carried her down the hill, balanced precariously between us amidst squeals of horror- mostly coming from Patches (ocassionally coming from me!). This move was much better executed to the delight of all participants.

I have several more entries in the "edit" phase, which I will finish for you over the next few days including the status of our barn building marathon, an update on Ellie, and a visit to Wolfe's Neck Farm yesterday, where Sean and I were given a tour. Stay tuned, friends!

Thanks for visiting today.
Sonja ♥

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pickled Beets and Natural Soap Dye

A couple of days ago, I was gifted an enormous bag of beets freshly picked from Ararat Farm in Lincolnville, Maine. I like the taste of beets. Sean was willing to try them. And, the goats can eat the parts and pieces we don't, like the peels, tops and bottoms. We hadn't grown any ourselves this year, so I had not already preserved any. These were all persuasive reasons to try to pickle these to see how they would turn out. 

The recipe I found called for the beets to be boiled for about 35-40 minutes until they were easily pierced with a fork. I filled my canning pot with the beets and added water to cover them. I decided to try to boil them using the top of the wood stove, which was putting out heat already. It took about 1 1/2 hours until they were tender, but I was in no hurry and it saved on using our propane stove top.

I drained the water which the beets had leeched a beautiful deep, dark magenta. Seeing the color of the water, I had a thought. I have been trying my hand at making soap with mixed results. I like the idea of creating natural soaps without dyes, but I also want to make the soaps pretty in appearance. Why not reserve the water and freeze it in zip lock bags to use in place of plain tap water in my next batch?  With that in mind, I measured out 12 oz portions and set 14 portions to freeze. I don't know if this will work or not, but I plan to make my next batch of soap next weekend, so I guess I will find out.

I left the beets to cool. The next step was cutting off the tops and bottoms and peeling the cooled beets. It was very messy. Even with gloves, my fingers were a lovely shade of magenta before I finished. This was easily washed off with hand soap and warm water.
I mixed a brine solution by dissolving 1 cup kosher pickling salt and 1/2 cup sugar into 5 cups vinegar and 5 cups water. While the salt and sugar dissolved, I added 3 sprigs of dill, 3/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon garlic into quart canning jars. The recipe called for one large onion, sliced into slivers. I layered the cooled beets and onions slices into each jar, leaving about 1 inch of space at the top. Then, when the brine was ready, I ladled it over the beets and other ingredients in the jars.

I processed these for 25 minutes in my canner. Done. They should be ready to try in 7-10 days.

I took the peelings and left over parts to the goats this morning. Ellie loved them. The other goats were pushy, wanting their share, until they stuck their noses in the bowl to have a taste. No one, save Ellie seemed to like them. Oh well, perhaps, they will like them better raw. Hmmm. Worth a try! And, I will try to offer them again because beets are very high in iron and vitamins, so they make a great treat for the goats.

I am excited that the rain has moved off and it looks to be clear weather for the next few days.  The OSB we needed to complete the sheathing of the barn was delivered today. Sean and I will begin working on it in the morning. I can't wait to have this finished and to be able to check this project off my mental to do list. What a relief that will be!
Thanks for stopping by for a visit.
Sonja ♥

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Our First Snow

We woke this morning to the promised 2-3 inches of snow our local weatherman forecast. Deep Sigh. Normally, I don't mind a "snow day". What is better than a steaming mug of cocoa, a bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds topped with salt and butter, and a nice game of dominoes at the table near the wood stove watching the snow fall from the warmth and safety of home??? The first real snow of the year is usually met with approval by the humans around here- especially if it is wet enough that the girls can build a snowman or two with it. Or, Sean can snowboard in it.

I confess to being unenthusiastic about the snow this morning. The house is not ready for winter yet. The barn is not ready for winter yet. I am not ready for winter yet. I had hoped that by some miracle we would get rain instead of the wet, white stuff... but we did not. It is raining now. As I write this, it is pouring quite hard. The roads are clear of snow and I suspect that as the temperature drops into the 20's again overnight, we can expect them to freeze over. This stormy day does not make ideal conditions for us, but all hope is not lost. This rain is supposed to end sometime tonight and the weather is predicted to climb back into the 40's until Tuesday. Sean and I both requested some time off from work with the intention of finishing our barn for the season. If the weather cooperates, we will have a few good days ahead to get this all done. And, then as far as I am concerned Jack Frost can snow on us to his frozen heart's content.

The snow had slowed to just the tiniest of flurries by this morning at 6 am, but the gray sky threatened more snow or rain to come. I grabbed my camera during this morning's chores. Many of our chickens, two of the ducks, both of the geese, and 3 of the goat kids had never had the pleasure of seeing snow before. I wanted to capture any cute moments to share.

Instead of lining up at the fence, clucking for their breakfast, the chickens were uncharacteristically waiting inside their coop this morning. They did not emerge until the promise of food lured them outside. The ducks and geese called greetings in the yard. It appears that they were unfazed by the snow and spent the night outside, anyway.

Both piggies were safe and dry inside their home. They were willing to brave the cold snow to get to their feed trough, but out of consideration of their lack of fur or feathers, we fed them inside their shelter. They are moving inside an empty stall in the barn this weekend. THAT should be an interesting move! I remember what it entailed to move them down the hill last spring. A Pig in a Blanket Post. I see a video-story of this in my future. ♥

Jasmine loves the snow. Both the field and her coat bore evidence of her having already rolled in it before we greeted her this morning. With her delectables covered, she eagerly met me at the door to unburden me of some of the hay I had intended for the goats. She refused to let me pass unmolested until I finally gave in and piled some hay on the pallet by her door. I had intended on offering her hay, anyway, so it was easier to feed her first than it was to convince her that it was not yet her turn.

All the goats were snug inside the barn this morning when I arrived, but then came out to meet me, in case I should have brought something really desirable. (I hadn't. We hay in the morning, but treats are offered in the afternoon hours.) Sapphira was the most comical to watch. While Ruby ventured outside, Sapphira ran up to the doorway, stopped short, sniffed at the snow and began bleating hysterically for Ruby to come back. Then, Sapphira turned circles, trotted to the wall of the stall, grabbed a mouthful of hay, and trotted back to the doorway- "meh!"-ing and chewing all the while. Abigail followed Ellie outside. Asher wandered outside, too. But, Sapphira refused to walk in it.  The look on her face clearly said, "What the WHAT is THAT stuff????" I was unable to capture a video of it before the batteries of the camera died, but I did snap a couple pictures to share.
The rain is slowing and the temperature has reached nearly 30 degrees. Good. Keep on keeping on, Ms. Weather. I have plans that need doing!

Thanks for stopping by!
Sonja ♥

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Monday, November 5, 2012


As I posted about earlier in the week, it is time for the goats to begin their amorous pursuits- in the hopes of birthing adorable, friendly kids to sell and attain a fresh supply of milk for soaps, yogurts, and cheeses come Spring.

It is hard to explain the goofy and disgusting aspects of goat courtship with words alone and capture it's true nature. For those of you interested in the more graphic aspects of what goat dating entails, I have edited some footage:

Be warned: This Video Graphically Reveals Actual Goat Mating Rituals. It may not be suitable for some viewers. Use discretion.

Thanks for stopping in. See you soon!
Sonja ♥

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Current Critter Count

One: Funny Bunny, Preparing her Escape...

One: Very Muddy Quarter Horse...
(Meaghan has her work cut out for her later today!)

Two: Vietnamese Pot Belly Pigs Rooting in the Mud...

Two: Happy, Honking Buff Chinese Geese Keeping Watch Over Their Flock...

Three: Dogs Displeased With Having Their Picture Taken
(And, One Husband, Ever the Good Sport About These Things.)

Four: Breeding Goats Ready for Their Afternoon Treats...

Five: Delightful Doe Goats Browsing in the Back Yard...
Six: Fluffy Felines Chowing on the Deck...
(Okay, only 5 cats are pictured, but Vego is so rarely spotted, getting him in a picture was near impossible so when Rhode Island Red Hen kindly agreed to take his place, I allowed it.) 

Fourteen: Brightly Colored Ducks Quacking Their Delight...

Fifty Three: Assorted Chickens and Pullets Scratching for Some Feed ...

91 Animals to Make Lally Broch a Farm !