Sunday, December 18, 2016


We are having one of those cold snaps that the ice fishing folks love for building ice on the lakes, but the rest of us could do without.  -29 degrees when we got up this morning, shortly after 6:00 (slept in - thank you dogs!) and we waited a while to go out to do chores - then it was -31!  Milking in the pole barn is actually kind of interesting due to the cloud of vapor that rises from the milk pail. My hands don't get cold until I am done since Vinca is so warm.
You can see that Vinca, along with the other goats, has really gotten furry!

The lads have moved out to their winter bachelor pad.

Our indoor/outdoor dogs are indoors quite a bit these days.  When not being generally underfoot, they do a lot of this.

This week they spent their most of the daytime hours out in the heated shop.  We have a kennel built into the corner with straw bedding so they are pretty comfortable and Rollie stops by to let them run out and take care of business during the day when he has time. 

Lilly is showing no signs that she regrets moving into the house.  I wondered what she would think of the Christmas tree...

She otherwise leaves the tree alone.  Hoover is another story - he is not allowed anywhere near it as he seems to think that ornaments are chew toys.

The pigs are still here - we are waiting on the butcher but the weather hasn't been cooperative for him either I guess. 

I'm still making soap weekly but will be taking a break from that for a bit.  Today I made my 53rd batch of the year - wow!  That's a lot of soap.  Last weekend I made charcoal soap for the first time - can't wait to try it but have to wait a few weeks while it cures.

Is that enough farm news for this week?  I'll be back in a couple of weeks with the next update.  Until then, I wish you all good health and a good holiday with your families.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Be Well!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Settling in for the Winter

Greetings Blog Visitors!  I have been posting weekly since last spring, but the time has come to cut down a bit.  Funny how in the winter when I actually have a little more time for this sort of thing, there just isn't that much to tell you about! 

The last post was all about the big storm we had.  The weather since has been a weird roller-coaster.  It got warm, then it rained, and all the snow but a few snowbanks are gone.  Now we have snow again, but only 2-3 inches or so, and at the moment (7:09 PM no matter what the post time says) the thermometer is reading 33 degrees - so it's melting again.  Later on this week highs in the teens are forecast - I'm  not looking forward to that!

I am still keeping busy with my soapmaking and selling, and woodworking has begun.  Rollie, Kevin, and Kurt were out on Saturday to do some buzz sawing.

Saturday evening we opened up our first aged cheese.  This farmhouse cheddar has been tucked away in the wine fridge for about 6 weeks; we just couldn't wait any longer!

I am please to share that it is really, really delicious!

I don't have any critter photos to share this week.  They are doing fine with the exception of my new rooster Rubio, who wasn't with us very long.  Sometimes chickens just mysteriously fail and go into a decline, and that was the way with him.  Fortunately, he made a stop at another farm before he came to me, so I am hoping to get one of his sons here to keep company with the ladies. 

Dogs, cats, goats and pigs are all good - by the next post the pigs will be at the butcher and Kevin will have less chores to do.  I have stopped milking Echo completely now, but will continue with Vinca one time a day for a while yet. 

So that's about it - thanks for stopping by the blog - check back in a couple of weeks. Until then, don't let the holiday season make you crazy!  Be well all.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Weather Smackdown!

Winter arrived on Friday with a (no exaggeration) blizzard.  I left work early and had (I think - poor memory you know) the worst drive home ever.  Heavy, wet driving snow and blowing hard.  It was so good to get home - and at least I made it home.  Son Kurt ended up in a motel that night.

This post is mainly going to be some winter photos from around the place taken yesterday and today,

The view from the milking stand has changed dramatically.

The garden - not put to bed properly but so be it - is really beautiful with a coating of white.

As you can see in the pictures, it was pretty cloudy and darkish on Saturday - but the sun did come out now and then for a few peeks.
The pigs are fine -they are quite hardy creatures really - and are content with a roof overhead and a pile of hay to burrow into.

Some folks might say that I spoil my chickens - maybe, but they do appreciate their insulated coop and some hay outside so they can go outside don't have to walk the snow.

The goats mainly stay indoors but venture out for short outings.  Ranger took advantage of the snow-laden pine boughs that were low enough for him reach.

So, Thanksgiving this week already and we all have much to be thankful for.  For me, first and foremost my family, then good health, my animals, and whoever invented four wheel drive.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone - BE WELL 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Another Hunting Update

Jobs and farm chores do go on, even in hunting season!  I have just a few random thoughts before Kevin fills you in on Hunting Season, Part II

We've been experiencing unseasonably warm weather here in Minnesota - all over the state.  I have many things to do out in the garden still but haven't taken advantage of the nice temperatures like I really should be on the weekends. Seems like I keep finding indoor things that have to get done too.   I did get out for a little while on Friday and today to putter a bit - pulled some plants, picked the dried black bean pods off their support and took down the other pole bean trellis.  I also found some brocolli so we'll have that to eat this week -  in November!

I just love my rustic re-bar tuteur, I think it looks just great even half covered with dried vegetation 
Sometimes dreams do come true.  Lily has accomplished her life's ambition to become a housecat and is making herself right at home!

Speaking of cats, I let the chickens out to roam on the weekends when I am around -I threw them some squash innards and look who else decided they were tasty!

"One of these things is not like the others...."  Roye is always an opportunist when there is something to dine on.
 Now for Kevin's part

The second weekend of hunting has come to an end.  There were only 6 hunters this weekend and 1 more deer added to the freezer.  We now have 8 deer for a total of 12 hunters.  It was real quiet again this weekend, only a hand full of shots.  Not sure if its the warm weather or are people so busy they only hunt opening weekend any more.  The turkeys were still around, the group of 34 hens have visited everyone in their stands this weekend, plus a group of 6 toms showed up in the sunflower field and wandered around a bit.  Going to have to start turkey hunting!  Did get a picture of the bald eagle that visited me.

And I am going to end tonight with a story of what I deal with every deer season.  This year both Dad (Rollie) and Kori had anterless tags.  The week before deer season Dad kept saying "I'm only shooting a buck opening weekend", then Friday its "well if its a nice doe".  Saturday morning comes and a fawn comes smoking past his stand and can he just let it go, OH no, has to take a shot.  But Dad and his 308 have a love/hate relationship and he missed.  So home he goes, gets the 30-30 with open sites, a gun that is much older than I am, and the next night shoots a buck about 70 yards away with open sites.  I wish I could shoot like that.  It always amazes me. 

I told Kori that opening weekend she could only shoot a doe.  Saturday night comes and boom, she shoots.  Oh the text I got said it for sure had no antlers, but that was all.  Just like her Grandpa, she just can't let them go by, even if they are kind of small.  Grandfather/Granddaughter genes run deep.  And of course, it wasn't an easy shot; today when we came out of the woods, Dad asked where the deer was when Kori shot it and I showed him.  His comment, "that was a long shot".  Yep, they are way too much alike when it comes to deer hunting.

Will let you know next weekend how the entire season ends.  Be well friends.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Firearm Deer Season 2016

Good Evening everyone.  You have Kevin here giving you the 2016 opening weekend deer hunt report.  So here is the disclaimer, there is a picture of a dead deer head in this post so if that is something you don't care to view, its going to be way at the bottom.

November has been really weird with the weather, highs in the 60's and 70's and the lows in the 40's and 50's so we were not sure how that was going to affect the hunt, but it went all right.  This year we have 12 hunters in the party, with one first time 10 year old hunter from the State of Wyoming, two others youth who have been here before, and then a bunch of veterans.  This is the biggest group we have had for many years, so the pressure was on with 4 antler only tags and 5 antlerless and then the youth with whatever they want. 

Most of the group stayed around and hunted on Monday also, so by Monday night we have 7 deer trying to keep cool, 3 bucks and the rest anterless. 

So some of the interesting things from the weekend.  That 10 year old from Wyoming who came for the first time not only shot his first deer Saturday morning, he went on to shoot another deer Sunday evening and then a fork/spike buck Monday night.  One very happy young man and a hunter for life!

Dad (Rollie) shot a buck that decided to make it difficult for us and headed across the swamp.  Normally this swamp is not to deep, but we had a lot of water this year.  Here is a picture of the puddle after emptying out the boots.

We also had a group of 36 turkeys visit us this weekend.  They were very cool to see.

And the last weird thing is, I shot this unicorn buck opening morning.  The deer in our area have a gene pool where the left antler is larger than the right, but this is the first time I have ever seen something like this.  When I first went to look at it, I thought the right antler was broken off, but its not, this is how it grew.  Like I said, a weird year.  I will let you all know how we do next weekend.

So if you do not want to see an icky deer head picture don't scroll down any more and I will tell you here to be well until next week, and all you hunters, be safe.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Skunked Again ... or... More Skunk Drama

The wayward skunk post of three weeks ago should have had a "Chapter 1" designation.  Chapter 2 occurred this past Monday.  I was out early and took the dogs to the shop to give them their breakfast.  They usually romp around a bit in the dark and then join me but that morning Mickey didn't show up right away.  I readied the kibble then went to the door to call him.  He came from down the pole barn - and the ODOR came with him... this had to be the most offensive olfactory assault that I have ever endured.  Words cannot describe how truly awful it was.  I had to go outside for unfouled air, leaving the dogs to dine unattended (the dogs must be supervised while in the shop because there are too many things that they can get into - some potentially harmful, others merely disgusting - like the cats' litter boxes - what is it with dogs and cat poo??? Gross!).

So later that evening after dark, while closing up the winter coop I discovered the striped offender trespassing in the coop-yard.  Since Kevin wasn't home, I called Rollie and he came down to our place.  End of the line for that varmint.  I feel kind of bad about it but we just can't have a skunk taking up residence.

Looks guilty doesn't he?  Both of the dogs had to spend Monday night outside but the smell actually went away pretty quickly.  

Speaking of the winter coop, changes there.  A dozen of my older hens have joined the pullets there - they are the keepers -and the rest of the hens and a couple of young roosters have gone to the freezer.  We reluctantly sent the turkeys with them.  It's really been interesting and fun to raise them, but after all, that is why we had them in the first place. They didn't go without a fuss either; Rollie actually had to go on the roof of the coop with a fishing net to catch one of them, while another flew off into the darkness of the back yard.  It was a bit of a hunt in the dark but Rollie was the one to catch than one too.

Four of the keepers.  Some of them look pretty scruffy but that is because they are molting.  They will be beautiful again soon. It's kind of funny how the older birds go to "bed" earlier than the young ones - just like us people!
Hunting season is almost upon us.  I heard Kevin humming the other day - I am pretty sure it was "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...".  And Ranger certainly thinks so.  He and Forest moved in with the does today.

I am pretty certain that  post next week will be about deer hunting - hopefully no Chapter 3 to the Skunk Saga.   Until then, be well friends.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Great Goat News!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that we experienced some sad and worrisome health issues with the does this summer.  We lost our Daisy, probably to some kind of parasite and when Echo and Vinca began losing weight and then Vinca wasn't eating, it was pretty scary.  Two rides to the vet and several different wormers later, things are better. 

Vinca's last blood test was poor; there was a possibility of permanent liver damage.   She had to put up with another blood draw last Sunday (thank you so much Beth!) and we got a good report back from the vet - her blood counts are much better.  She is healthy and we can go ahead with breeding her this fall.  Happy Dance!  
Beautiful Vinca enjoying some Brussels sprout leaves

In other goat news, there has been another escape by the lads.  We reacted by putting an electric strand between the lad's paddock and the winter coop-yard (this fence apparently is climbable if you are a sufficiently motivated goat) and Forest has moved in with the does. 

Vinca is not thrilled with this arrangement.

The does' milk production continues to decline, which is the normal course of things this time of year.  Pretty much all of the the milk is now going for yogurt, kefir, soap, and cheese. 

Anticipation is growing for deer hunting season - less than two weeks away now I think (Kevin could probably tell you how many hours).  A lot of time this weekend was spent on deer stands and other preparations - not by me - I just stay out of the way.

Anyway, you will be hearing more about that soon.  Until then, be well.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Another busy week of course, but at least no wandering critters!

News from the coop - I haven't introduced our new rooster - meet Rubio!

Rubio is a replacement for Diego who in August lost his good manners and consequently his head. He was due to retire anyway as I needed to bring in some new blood for my breeding plan..  Rubio is a Buckeye and will bring some good qualities to future generations of "Ole Lake Reds". 

The turkeys are continually entertaining us - now the fellows are doing that poofy thing - trying to impress the one hen I guess.  It's interesting how their heads turn blue when they do that, then when they stop, their normal color returns.
 A couple other pictures:
Ranger, still in bachelor quarters for a couple more weeks

A piggy portrait

Hunting readiness report:  Kevin has been spending a lot of the weekend time out in the woods getting ready for what he thinks is the best time of the year.  The logging roads have been cleared and trails trimmed and the stands ready to be put up next weekend. 

This is the view down the road to Rollie's platform stand, which of course is different than his opening day stand.  A person can't have only one stand!

Until next week, be well everyone

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Giant Mole, Wayward Skunk, and Cheese

There is never a dull moment here on the farm!

After last weekend's pig pranks we thought our problems in that department were solved - not so!  We arrived home from work on Monday to this...

Not that we are fastidious groundskeepers - far from it - but this is a bit much.  The culprit was not a giant mole; instead a good sized swine was the culprit.  Farmhands Rollie and Ardis were able to re-pen the pig (yes, only one did all that damage and more!) and put the fence back up.  We theorize that Hoover may have run into and taken down the fence that morning while out on his morning constitutional.  He had come back to the house in a rather subdued mood.  Anyway, whatever it was, there have been no further escapes since.
Safely fenced into the pumpkin patch - yep, just the one strand of eclectic fence effectively prevents them from a new bout of lawn destruction. 

Choretime is pretty early around here and it is quite dark out these days.  The first thing Kevin does is head for the shop with the dogs to get them their breakfast.  They take the opportunity to gallop happily around the farmyard, chase a cat or two and then convene again to have some kibble.  On Friday morning there was a new twist as the powerful and nauseating odor of skunk filled the shop - it was so bad that Kevin had to leave.  We concluded that Hoover must have accosted a skunk before coming in to eat.  All day at work I just dreaded coming home and having to bathe that dog.  Curiously, it wasn't him.  It wasn't Mickey, nor one of the cats, yet the shop still reeked.  This remained a mystery until Saturday morning when I discovered that an unwelcome striped presence was actually IN the shop - perhaps of settling in for the winter.  Kevin did manage to evict the trespasser without further defensive assaults and the shop doors are now kept firmly closed.

And cheese.  Remember that wine fridge the kids gave me for Christmas so that I can make aged cheeses?  It has been gathering dust in the basement.  I have made quite a few batches of chevre and some mozzarella but no aged cheese.  Now that our milk supply is on the decline, I thought I had better get it together and give it a try before it's too late.  There are many steps to this kind of cheese - do this, wait this long, do that, wait some more, etc., which is why it hasn't happened until now.  Our first aged cheese, Farmhouse Cheddar, is under way (or under whey - Ha!).  Presently it is air-drying (2-4 days) then I will wax it and then it will age in the cheese cave (aka wine fridge) for at least a month.  Worth time expense and time?  We will find out.

Be well people.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Not So Great Chicken Escape

So, who hasn't been out this week?

I think I mentioned last week something about us having a little trouble with goat containment - I was so tired on Sunday evening that I just didn't have the energy to tell about it, so that was going to be the subject of the blog this week.  The short version is that Ranger had removed himself from the goat pasture repeatedly and this unfortunate behavior continued on into this past week.  Mostly he was out alone but sometimes he had Forest along as a partner in crime.  No amount of shoring up of the fence would keep him in so the lads are now back to a smaller paddock made of sturdy fence panels.  End of their story for this week.
Kevin uses that tractor to pull a pasture shelter the a new area for the lads
Now I will share a little text conversation between Kevin and me.  I was at work, he had arrived home  on Wednesday afternoon. As an editorial note, I will add that since Kevin has a smartphone, he just types out his texts conversational style.  I have a caveman/flip phone (by choice) so I do abbreviate when in a hurry.

Kevin:  Did you meant to let the chickens out?
Me:  Didnt i?  g00d grf   pleze d0 p00r things!   (So I am thinking I forgot to let them out and they had been shut in all day)
Kevin:  No I mean we have free range chickens all over
Me:  oh dear   which? (meaning which group - the pullets from the winter coop, or the hens in the summer coop).
Kevin:  Both
Me:  No way
Kevin: Yep, and I think they are mixing
Me:  no way i did that
Me:  (in denial at this point) Obviously we have had a prankster...  they didnt let dogs 0r pigs 0r g0ats 0ut? (pretty long text for my caveman phone...)

So apparently I left BOTH of the gates open that morning.  In my own defense, it was 5:00 a.m.

It didn't turn out to be much of a problem anyway.  I keep them fenced in for their own protection and to keep them out of the garden.  The hens have been turned into the garden for the past week anyway.
some of the pullets cleaned up some spilled grain in the pole barn
and these greeted me when I got home
When evening came, they all sorted themselves out and returned to the correct coops. Everyone was accounted for.

The turkeys were out too - but that has become pretty common.
Clothesline helpers on Saturday morning

This has been the most glorious weekend.  Just beautiful weather.  I took this picture of the woods to the south across the new winter wheat field.  We both had plenty to do of course but made time to visit the local orchard today for some really awesome apples (Sweet Tangos -yum!)and to visit with our farmer friends who are vending there.  It was a great day... until the pigs got out...

Enough of that.  Be well

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Harvest Haul

I had originally planned this post to be about goat containment, as we have had some challenges this week keeping the lads where they belong.  Change of plans - I'll get back to that another day...

Monday the scouts were out to harvest the pumpkins.  It was a bit more difficult this year because with only one light frost so far, the vines have not died down.  It is always hard to estimate ahead of time how many pumpkins to expect, although I thought the field was looking good.  Kevin says they picked 400 pumpkins this year - very good!  I really wanted to get pictures but the families packed them into their cars, trucks, vans, and trailers so quickly that I didn't have a chance. 

Our own squash and pumpkins did well this year too.

4 kinds of squash and an ample supply of pie pumpkins
I dug the carrots today, and picked some of the last melons, cauliflower, and tomatoes.  There may be some more, but the garden is mostly done now so I opened up the fence so the hens can go in and glean.  I sure hope they eat all the cherry tomatoes that are on the ground in there or there will be thousands of volunteer plants next year.

I am especially  pleased with the carrots - they don't always do well for me.
Yesterday (Saturday) was the last farmers' market that we plan to vend at this year.  Some of the other farmer folks will continue, but I am ready to be done.  It's gone fairly well for us and has been an interesting experience, but it sure does eat up a lot of time. 

That's about all I have for this week.  Until next time, be well folks. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Feeling Fall

This is one of those evenings when morning sure seems like a long time ago.  Is this what aging is about?

Autumn is happening whether we are ready for it or not.  Kevin is ready I think.  When we go out to do chores in them morning and the air is still and cold and the stars still shining brightly overhead, there is an extra spring to his step.  I know why.  Hunting season is coming.  Another sign of this is that whenever he runs into a like-minded acquaintance, the conversation quickly turns to deer.  Where have they been seen? How many? How big (or small)? What time of day - what they were doing -  what they were eating, what their IQ is... and so on.

Here in the farmyard, the turkeys just keep getting bigger and more beautiful.  The pullets are also very handsome; I couldn't be more pleased with how this years' hatch turned out.  There are more of them than I thought too.  For some reason, I had it in my head that I had 31 chicks hatched.  11 cockerels have gone to the freezer.  Two fellows are left but not for long.  That would leave 18 pullets, right?  Well, we caught them all last evening and gave them identifying ankle bracelets, and there were 20.  I had to go back in the blog to check, and yep, there were 33 chicks, not 31.  So 20 pullets and 13 cockerels. Outstanding!

Enjoying some watermelon rinds

And the turkeys join in on the snacks

Out in the goat area, there is a lot of flirting going on. 

We've had one frost so far, but it was a pretty light one. I was able to harvest a few more tomatoes to add to some I purchased so a little more sauce is going into the freezer tonight. It hasn't been a stellar garden year, but that is how the garden goes.

This week will be the big scout pumpkin harvest.  It looks pretty good out there but won't know for sure until the kids bring them out of the field.  I'll let you know next week.  Until then, be well folks.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Moving into Fall

I did not get around to taking pictures much this week, and wasn't happy with what I got.  So for our farm update this week, I will share some photos that Kevin took yesterday while he shifted the lads' living quarters. 

For those of you who may not have been following the blog for long, "the lads" are Forest and Ranger, collectively known as ForestRanger - our male goats.  They have been moving around the fields surrounding the house since spring.  We have a few portable pasture shelters (built mostly by Rollie - thank you!) and they move from place to place with fence panels to house the lads and the pigs.  This move was a little different as we decided to partition off part of the does' pasture and put the lads in there.  It's a weedy and brushy place - goat paradise, but it seems to be too much area for the does.

To make this move, the does were securely locked in the shed while Kevin moved the lads into the pasture.  Then he started moving the fence panels over to build a sturdy barrier - no fraternizing until November please!  He drove the cub and trailer right in there.  He had fencing tools and supplies in the trailer and also the pigs' messy slop buckets as the trailer does double duty as a slop wagon twice a day.

Well, Ranger just had to lend a hoof. 
Checking out the contents of the trailer
The pig pails smell interesting!
Oh, oh!  Got a little problem here!

Anyway, that was Kevin's Saturday morning while I was at the farmer's market.  Ranger is rutting already, which means he smells really, really bad.  And he likes attention so Kevin got used for a scratching post a few times - so when I got home I discovered that Kevin smelled really, really bad too!

In other farm "news", Kevin reports that the winter wheat is now planted, and the rye will go in next.  In the poultry yard, the pullets are neck and neck in egg production with the older hens.  Half of the hens seem to be molting - not looking very pretty these days.  And we lost one of the turkeys - not sure what the problem was with it.  The other five look good and are so entertaining.  Back to the goats, I am happy to share that Vinca is doing much better these days; she's eating well and seems to have gained some weight back.

There is more, but I think that is enough for this week.  Until next time, be well folks, and never forget.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Gobblers on the Roof

I have to admit that I am quite fascinated by these turkeys.  It's been interesting to observe their turkey behavior and I enjoy listening to their turkey music.  I do worry about them though.  Turkeys do what turkeys want to do.  The turkeys want to be on the roof of the Winter Coop.

 They roost up there too.  Even when it rains.

The turkey people and turkey books firmly state that chickens and turkeys must be housed separately.  Chickens apparently carry nasty diseases that are deadly to turkeys.  I hope not, because like I said, turkeys do what turkeys want to do.  The turkeys want to hang out with the chickens.

In other poultry news, the pullets are laying now.  Eleven of the cockerels have been converted from chickens to chicken.  I think there are only two young gents left, and the other eighteen are the pullets.  A pretty good outcome on the chick numbers, and they are nice looking birds. 

The little patch of wheat behind the house has been harvested (thank you Rollie!) so the pigs have taken up residence there.  They are getting pretty big but have more weight to put on before butchering time.

I don't have any photos, but take my word for it, the garden is pretty shaggy these days.  For highlights, we are really enjoying a good crop of cantaloupe this year and have eaten our first butternut & acorn squashes which were mighty tasty.  Hopefully the deer have left us some pumpkins - they did get the sweet corn.

The season is near the end.  As a gardener, I naturally dread the inevitable frost that is inevitable this month but all of us will be so happy when the mosquitoes are gone!

That's it for this evening I think.  Be well folks.