Thursday, July 23, 2015

piglets, corn, grapes

Isn't it amazing? We're surrounded by magic. All these little seeds God has blessed our planet with! And they all know how to grow, in just the right season, at just the right moment. We might be secluded away in our homes, eyes glued to a book or screen or doing the mundane tasks of dish washing and floor sweeping... and a certain second passes by unbeknownst to us- a seed germinates. Total magic! Food for humans. Without that magic moment of germination, without the billions and billions of magic moments around the planet every year, humans would be completely wiped out. 

And isn't it awesome that God is so creative, that he enjoys incredible variety in colors, textures, flavors. He could have sent humans one food. Something that grows from one seed around the world and is full of every nutrient we need. We'd all be grateful, because that one humble food would keep us alive. But instead we get to experience unimaginable numbers of foods around the Earth! An amazing array of fruits, meats, vegetables, colors, textures and flavors. And they just grow! We may stick the seeds in a convenient place, and help things along with water and fertilizers, but we do not provide the magic that causes that seed to crack open and send roots down. We can't provide the magic that sends a new piglet, calf or chicken into the world. Only God has that sort of magic. We get to just hang out and watch it all happen. 

Our new piglets have these weird wiggly wagglys dangling from their chins/necks. I wonder what they're for?

How cute is this picture?! It's one of my current favorites. :)

Our corn is incredible this year! Here are Farmgirl and Happy posing amongst the giant plants.

Grapes! Fat juicy ones, too!

We're all full up with wonder and gratitude here on our very humble homestead. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer sweetness, June

We experienced our hottest day yet in Idaho, 106 degrees! If the children seem to be wearing fewer clothes in this post than normal, this explains why.

This mama hen managed to keep all 12 of her babies alive! Usually a hen loses a few, several, or even all of her chicks the first couple weeks (isn't nature mean?). It was so cute to see her pass by with such a big brood of chicks following along behind. 

But for some weird reason, this particular chick couldn't keep up! He was found on his back near the chicken coop. After some tlc and warming him up overnight, we put him back out behind the mama with all his siblings. Apparently one night is all it takes for a chick to forget how to follow around his mother. He'd just stand there and squawk. Mama hen would run to him, cluck at him to try to get him to follow her but he'd just continue squawking until she gave up! We tried several times before giving up and putting him in the brooding area with all the chicks from the incubator.

One morning we found our group of young geese (plus a couple ducklings) had wandered away from the pond area and gotten lost. Here the kids were herding them all back. Fun farm kid adventures. :)

Ranger, standing in the center, was awarded with his Life Scout rank. The next rank up is Eagle!

We managed to find two local piglets for sale. Aren't they cute! There is a shortage of available pigs in our area this year. And the few available ones are 4-5 times the cost of a piglet 3 years ago!

Look how very blue and pretty that egg in the front center is!

Hot summer days require lots of pool time, for children AND dogs!

This grasshopper was safe in the garden. But if it leaves, it had better watch out for hungry chicken beaks! It's so funny to watch the little chicks and the chickens go chasing after jumping grasshoppers. 

Silly Farmgirl with homemade popsicle in hand, Busy, and my husband in the background watering the garden while reading a book. :)

Getting our hay delivered. We are so grateful to our neighbor for selling, and delivering, 3 loads (9 tons) of his hay to us. Because of the drought we are now having, this neighbor tells us that not only did he have to harvest his hay many weeks before normal, but he only was able to get 1/3 - 1/2 as much of his usual harvest! He won't even have enough for his own cattle for the winter, but he was kind enough to sell us what he'd promised us several months back (before we realized we were in a drought year!) I'm worried about this winter.... there may be many farms with a shortage of hay for their livestock this year. 

Grendel: "What?! Something on our homestead that doesn't have my doggy scent on it? I'd better remedy that asap!" (No, I didn't actually want a picture of him peeing on the hay, he just happened to do that the moment to snapped the photo, LOL!) This lovely pile is 3 tons of hay. 

Currants! How pretty are these currants! My dear husband has brought me several bowls of super-amazing-delicious currants and raspberries fresh from our garden for my snacking pleasure. (I love berries. He doesn't. Isn't he a wonderful husband?)

Soo much lettuce has flowed from our garden! We've eaten more salads and meals containing salady things all summer than I can count! This is one patch of salad, plus dill. And grass... ;)

Busy feeding the chicks and ducklings some apple peel. They loved it!

We've never grown corn anything like this before. It is so tall and lush! Apparently corn likes droughts. And being planted where we had the pig tractor (movable pig pen) last year.

School work outside!

When we moved all the sheep to their new pasture, this one little lamby guy couldn't figure out how to follow his flock. The farm kids had to go try to herd him back to his flock. That took awhile and was quite (another) fun farm kid adventure! 

Besides being hot, hot, hot, our summer has been dry, dry, dry. We've had close to no rain since the beginning of May. All these photos are from early June because I've fallen behind, yet again (shock!) in my blog posting and wanted to get caught up. All that green is long gone! It's crackly brown out there. And dust devils swirl around constantly. July 9th marks the day we began feeding our sheep hay due to all the grass being gone. We don't normally begin feeding hay until Sept/Oct! It's crazy out there.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Independence Days

Here is another  installment of our Independence Days Challenge. The Challenge was originally written about in Carla Emery's wonderful book, The Country Living Encyclopedia. Writer Sharon Astyk expounded on the idea and encouraged us all to do what we can to be more self sufficient and to enjoy good, real food. Click here to read Sharon's description of the 7 categories presented in the challenge.

Would you like to join us? You can begin anytime, and don't worry if you haven't accomplished every category. There will certainly be weeks when I only complete a few! Post weekly, or whenever you find the time, and add a link back to here. 

Here are the 7 categories for you to copy and paste to your blog (or to the comments section below this post):

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something:
3. Preserve something:
4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):
6. Build community food systems:
7. Eat the food:

Yikes, I missed last Wednesday's post because we've been so busy! Here is what we accomplished since the last Independence Days post 12 days ago:

1. Plant something:
Well, there's not much planting going on now but there's plenty of growing! Like these currants, blackberry bushes, potatoes and garlic:

2. Harvest something:

Here is Monkey helping me "harvest" milk from the cow. He's been milking the front half of her udder while I milk the rear half! We get the milking done in half the time.

Here is one recent harvest: spinach, chives, tarragon and salad greens. Artist posing with them as he helped with the harvesting and the washing:

And more spinach!

Artist helped me wash it all and bag it up until I had the chance to chop, blanch, and freeze it. 

As I watched the next garlic harvest coming ever closer, I realized I'd better use up last year's garlic! I ground up the last of it, which we had dried in the dehydrator, in our coffee grinder and filled a couple quart jars with garlic powder. I use it near daily all year round. 

I made another batch of pickled eggs. I love pickled eggs! And they are a good way to put excess eggs to use in the spring when the chickens and ducks are laying like crazy. I fit an average of one dozen in each quart jar.

It's too bad they're all plain old white once they're peeled and put in the jars. They're so pretty before!

Little Miss Farmgirl, at 3 years old now, is a terrific egg peeler! She helped me quite a bit. 

I have found that steaming our eggs is the best way to "hard boil" them. I fit around a dozen eggs (chicken or duck) into my steamer basket that has a handle so I can lift them in and out of the pot easily. I get the water boiling, lower the egg-filled steamer basket in and put a lid on. I set the timer for 13 minutes and then take them out and pour them from the steamer basket into a large bowl in the sink. I fill the bowl with cold tap water. Then I peel! Without distractions, say, from a grumpy baby, I can peel one dozen before the next dozen are done steaming. 

I've been able to use this method with very fresh eggs as well and be able to peel them (eggs normally have to be old to peel well which is why eggs from the store can be boiled and peeled so easily!)

4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
We reused a lot of fencing materials in order to move the sheep to a new field. They needed more grass. We reuse egg cartons for collecting and selling eggs in. The cow got our garden scraps from veggies being thinned out. 

 5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):

Lots of eggs in the incubators, lots of chicks being born. Lots of cheese and yogurt being made. Orchard trees were fertilized, along with the garden. More fencing went up for the sheep to be moved to new pasture. 

Here is the view from where we sit at our dining room table. It's so fun to get to watch Sheep TV while having dinner! They are all quite entertaining, especially the lambs.

This mama hen hatched out 10 chicks in our shop yesterday. She's just been sitting there, right next to where we collect straw or grain or hay everyday. 

6. Build community food systems:
Part of what kept us so busy last week was the farmers market. I'd forgotten how much time market prep took! The morning of, I got 4 loaves of whole wheat bread and 4 of white prepared. I also, with much help from all the children (!), got honey-flax seed rolls, popcorn balls, and chocolate chip cookies made. (We also sold eggs and lavender soap made from our own sheep tallow).

The wheat bread baked, the white is rising:

Here's the view from behind the table- Baby is rolling around in the shade of the table! Artist came with me and was a big help. All the children are anxious to take their turns accompanying me. :)

Long time readers might recall a few years ago how I had discovered how many people did not know what our "free-range eggs" sign meant. Some thought it meant our eggs were in fact free and tried walking off with them! So my husband painted "pastured eggs" over the top of the free-range eggs sign. Well, that confused folks even more ("What are pastured eggs??") So, here is the sign I tacked right on top of that. :p

The market was super fun, as always. It is soooo nice to get outside and chat with other grown-ups! :) (Although, funny thing, I spent much of my time chatting with the 19 year old homeschool grad from a family of 10 who was a vendor this year, lol)

7. Eat the food:

Eggs, milk, salad. And things made out of eggs, milk and salad. With a goose thrown in which I butchered yesterday and will be tonight's dinner. With milk and salad of course. 

It is SO hot! My brains are melting. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

happy things

Ranger turned 17. Seventeen! Soon I'll be sitting down to plan out next school year, his last school year! Oh, sigh. Those kids. One day they're drooling little babies, and the next day they're taller than you and have a man's voice. 

Him and his dad:

I made a good attempt at making him cake pop snitches. Ranger had requested a snitch cake since that is what Harry Potter was given on his 17th birthday. ;) A few of them turned out, the wings fell off the rest of them! But, they still tasted super duper yummy.

Ranger and I:

Our silly diaper clad munchkins. Busy is 25 months, Roo is 5 months.

I love my fat baby.

Grendel. I see folks frequently ending up at my blog after Googling "Leonbergers" (his breed). I apologize for never talking about him. LOL He's a great dog. A fantastic family dog. At 4 years old, he still acts like a big, old excited puppy. Very often, when people visit our farm, they announce, "That is the hugest dog I've ever seen in my life!"  He loves everybody. And isn't he handsome.

A bird flew into our house the other day! Monkey found this little swallow scrambling around in a kitchen windowsill trying to get out. It was so neat to see one up close! I'd always thought they were black as I see them zipping around our homestead (hopefully gobbling up mosquitoes). But this little guy was a deep, shiny blue. So pretty! He flew off quickly, seemingly unharmed. 

Roo enjoying Grandma love:

Put on your big sister's rain boots, sit in the dirt and play with bailing twine? Sure, why not!

While some of the littles were in the bath tub today, I stuck some new pretty things into my dreads.

More of my silly children: 

Pretty little miss Farmgirl today:

Monkey is our resident garter snake catcher. He has no fear of them, just snatches them right up!

Those are some of the things making me smile these past few weeks. Today I feel entirely full of smiles and gratitude to God for sending my incredible husband onto my path exactly 11 years ago today. If someone had told me on that night that that super attractive guy I just met was going to buy me a farm in Idaho, have 6 children with me, and we were all going to become Catholic, I would haven't believed one word of it. Not a single one! Funny how life is, don't you think. :)