Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day Sunday

We have survived our first farmers' market. 

Thank you Kori for taking some pictures - I had a camera along and totally forgot!
I can't say really how it went... fine maybe?  I have no experience to compare it to.  It's too soon to tell if this is a good idea for us or not.

The best part really was the people.  Talking to people who are planting their first garden, talking soap, talking goats, saying hello to co-workers and family that stopped by, schmoozing with the other farmers - awesome folks, the lot of them.  The Ole Lake Farm booth was between Righteous Oaks Farm and the Hurd Family Farm and they provided a lot of much needed guidance to us newbies.  

Here on the farm, it's been a rainy week and I am disappointed to admit that the garden STILL is not planted - and not just because of the rain either.  Kevin helped me out a lot today - thank goodness the rain held off -and tomorrow I will definitely get some plants and seeds in the ground.  It will be fine, it always is.

A gardener has to be both patient and an optimist.  We plant a tiny seed and wait months to eat the tomato.  We plant a root and years later get to sit down to a plate of asparagus.  See this lilac?

 If you look closely at the photo you will see one small flower cluster.  Tiny, easy to miss.  I planted this bush TWELVE years ago, and this is the first flower!  There have been circumstances... teenage boy with lawnmower being one... but anyway, this little flower makes me happy.

We sometimes jokingly refer to Ardis and Rollie as "the help", but that is literally the truth.  I have a couple of pictures here of some of Rollie's handiwork:

If you look through the garden gate, you can see Ivory Snow, the hen back in there.  I have the NE bed fenced off with the little Hen Hut installed and two hens are doing some excavating and pest control for me. 

A nice new bed for one of the hay wagons - Rollie even sawed the lumber!

Kevin reports that the wheat is all planted and is up.  He will finish up his planting with corn and some more sunflowers.  More on the grain crops next time (I think).

The little goat kids are just two weeks from weaning time, which also means moving to a new home, and twice a day milking for me.  I had better get more cheese making supplies ordered!
Curious kids are checking out Roye the cat/


Phil is looking a little green... for some reason the ink from his ear tattoos was still smearable. 
And just because I like chickens, I am throwing in this picture of some of my hens enjoying the nice green grass.

A happy weekend to you all.  Whatever your Memorial Day activities are tomorrow, I hope you can take a moment to reflect on why we have this day.  Be well folks.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Farm Reality

It's hard to believe it's May 22nd already; seems like time speeds up in the spring.  I know a lot of folks around here already have their gardens planted since it's been so warm.  I do not.  I'm still working on soil preparation, but not panicking at this point - it's not yet Memorial Day so I figure I am good.  And safe from late frosts.  It's gotten pretty dry out there, but rain is predicted.

Field work progresses too.  The wheat is planted.  The view from my kitchen window has changed quite a bit.  The bee man brought his hives out again this year, so they are in the foreground there.  Then the pigs, which Kevin has moved out further.  Rollie is out there plowing along the road.  There will be sunflowers along the road, and also closer up to the east of the house will be our main crop sweet corn and I think the pumpkin patch too - Kevin will correct me if I have that wrong.

I read an article just this past week about how when we post on facebook or blog about our farms, or even just talk to people, we tend to mostly talk about the good things and paint a pretty bucolic picture.  I do that too.  The thing is, if you've grown up on a farm, or are living this life now, you know better.  It's not all cute chicks, adorable goat kids and piglets.  Crops fail, eggs don't hatch, tractors break down, and animals die.

We lost Daisy this week.  She was a poor dairy goat, cantankerous, and before we removed her horns, a bully.  I milked her for three seasons and she was a problem on the milking stand the entire time, requiring hobbles or she would kick the milk bucket away.  But somehow, despite her character flaws and poor production, somewhere through the years that little goat crept into my heart.  I will miss her for a long time to come.
So kind of a somber ending to the post this week.  But that's the way it is here on the farm, and in life.  And we move along.  Stop by next week, and I'll let you know how our very first Farmers' Market went - even if it wasn't great.

Be well folks.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

May Marching On

So I will begin this week's blog with a few words about Hoover.  He is settling in and we are adapting to having a puppy around.  He's learning some manners, but forgets them sometimes.  He gets in trouble but I forgive him because he doesn't know better - What?  This bowl of soil and plants isn't for digging in?  He loves to play, harasses poor Mickey, and sleeps a lot in between.  The cats loathe him; they have no sense of humor I guess.  He is adapting to being my running buddy but is a little leery of passing cars; he's only taken me down once though, and no permanent scars. Like I said, he doesn't know better.

We have just a few weeks left until it's time for the little lads to be weaned and go to their new homes.  They found their way out of a cleverly disguised hole in the fence this morning; and where does every farm kid love to play?  In the hay shed of course!

The kids are growing and the does are giving more milk accordingly. 

In the photo above, that's Echo's milk on the left in the quart jar, and Vinca's on the right in half gallon jar.  Vinca does have much better production but this is Echo's first year.  She will increase her output as she ages.  That is this morning's milking.  We will not be milking twice a day until the kids are weaned.

The main thing on our minds these days is getting ready for the upcoming Aitkin Farmers Market which begins on May 28th.  There are a lot of things to get done. There is also fencing and garden prep to do, and many, many other spring things.  Keeps us out of trouble I guess - and we never have a hard time falling asleep these days!
I've been working on getting the soap labeled.
That said, I will get back to it.  Be well friends.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Story of the Chicks That Lived... and Other Farm News

I will start this post with a little tale of life and how it is both fragile and strong.

Last week on Friday, April 29 the eggs in the incubator began to hatch, right on schedule.  By Saturday lunchtime, it seemed as though the hatching was done. 17 fluffy little chicks of various colors were  ensconced in the brooder out in the Winter Coop.  Of the remaining eggs, 2 had started hatching and had stopped, and the rest showed no signs of life.  This was not unexpected as Diego the Rooster cannot possibly fertilize all 31of the hens (although he certainly gives it his best try!).  Just in case, I waited until bedtime to unplug the incubator.
Sunday morning around 10:00 or so, I brought the incubator to the kitchen to clean it out and get it ready to return to its owner.  As I removed the “duds”, much to my surprise, I heard faint peeping!  No way! 
One by one I began checking the eggs, holding them to my ear, tapping them, listening again then putting them out on the table.  Pretty soon I had them all spread out and then… there it was again! 

Finally I found an egg with a tiny peck crack on it.  A faint peep from within confirmed that I had the right egg.  I tucked it into my shirt to warm it up, and plugged the incubator back in.  Meanwhile, I put the rest of the eggs into a container for Kevin to take to the woods.  He headed out the door but came back a minute later… “there’s something peeping in here!”.  Another one!  This time, it was one of the eggs that had started to hatch and then stopped – I had thought the chick had died but it had not.  The membrane was all leathery, the chick inside was cold and weak.  It is not recommended to help chicks out of their shells but I felt that this chick was not going to get out by itself.  I basically peeled the chick out of the shell. 
Pretty helpless and unattractive when they are freshly hatched...

We had to leave then for a family gathering, so I put the barely breathing chick and the peeping egg in the makeshift brooder in the bathtub under a heat lamp.  We were gone several hours and when we got back the other chick was about half hatched but seemed to be stalled, so I carefully helped that one out too.  I didn’t have too much hope for these two chicks at first, they were so weak.  The good news is that hour by hour it seemed like they got stronger, and by Tuesday evening, they joined their siblings out in the coop. 
But what a difference a few days later!
  Rollie and Kevin sawed white oak boards on Saturday, after getting stuck with the sawmill in the woods Friday afternoon.  Kevin had hoped not to be stuck at all this spring but it just didn’t work out that way.  The lumber will be used to remake the bed of the hay wagon.  The old bed lasted 15 years: hope this one lasts as long. 
ForestRanger and the pigs are still making crop circles in the field.  They have about a week and a half left in this field before they move to the next field.  Then this one can be plowed up so we can plant our sweet corn and the pumpkins.  Kevin loves this way of fertilizing the soil, he doesn’t have to move manure at all.

I’ll close with  a couple of photos of my Mother’s day gifts from my family.  From Kurt, some awesomely good beans, and Kori a book that was on my wish list… can’t wait to read it but reading time is short supply.   Hard to top good coffee and books!  
Although Kevin and I seldom give each other gifts, he surprised me with a broadfork.  I love quality garden tools and this one will make working the garden this spring a little easier. This bed has a lot of weeds and plant residue from last year so this new tool will really help me clean it up.  Thanks Kevin! 

There is so much to tell about in the spring, but this post is long and I will close before I bore you all.  Stop by next week: I hope to have some new pictures of the pup and maybe some progress on the garden to share.  Until then, be well friends. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy May Day

Welcome to May!

First we have a question for all of you.  Does anyone hang Mayday Baskets anymore?  I know Kevin’s relatives remember doing this well into June with June Boxes.  What fun!  

Ready for a farm update?  

The pigs have made a second move in their portable pen.  Now there are 2 crop circles east of the house. To move them, Kevin hooks onto the their hog hut with the tractor and slowly tows it to it's new location.  The fence is attached and follows along with the piglets inside, with assistance from a couple of us spotters.  As soon as the piglets hit new grass, they want to stop and eat.  Kevin thought they would root up the pen area in about a week and then he would move them again.  It’s more like they are rooting it up in hours, but they sure have fun doing it.  They are very impressive excavators.  There is no way this fence will work once they get bigger so Kevin has his thinking cap on for a new fence design for these guys when they move out to the bigger field. 

This was taken this evening.  They just moved to this location yesterday and have really been digging!
All the oats is up and turning the fields green.  Kevin was a bit worried about the hull-less oats rotting with the wet and cold, but it has come up just great.  Now we are just waiting for the last of the frost days before we go ahead and plant the rest of the crops.  The end of May will be real busy, including our inaugural Saturday at the Aitkin Farmers' Market at the Butler Building.  We hope you locals stop by to see us there.

The little goat lads have really gained weight and size.  Beginning last Monday, they spend the night in a big straw-filled crate.  I milk the does in the morning and the kids get the rest.  Vinca and Echo have plenty of that rich milk for them and for us as well.  I’ve already dusted off the cheese kettle (sadly, that is not a metaphor) and made a batch of mozzarella and another of chevre – that soft spreadable goat cheese. Tasty stuff! 

The view from the milking stand - the woods are just getting touched with green
Vinca’s buckling #1 has a name now.  His new owners visited and decided that he is Phillip.  Since he will be a breeding buck, he will be registered as Flowers Ole Lake Phillip.  His brothers, Stewart and David, have a very different future as pets, so they were banded today and will be wethers. 


Things are happening in the chicken world.  The second batch of eggs in the incubator started hatching Friday afternoon.  This hatch resulted in a few more chicks than the last; 17 little fluff balls are installed in the brooder in the Winter Coop.  There are also 2 stragglers in the house that hatched today.  It’s pretty iffy if they will survive; if they do, they will very lucky little birds and I will share that story next week.
There is a little variety to this bunch
One of my hens has gone broody. I relocated her from the hen room to the chick room where she is sitting on 10 eggs and glaring at the gawky chicks from the first hatch.

At 3 1/2 weeks, chicks are just not all that attractive...
Never a dull moment!  Until next time, be well folks.