Ray and Esmeralda

The Simple Things

 

 

It was beautiful outside today. Most of the day was sunny and warm, with some clouds passing through to keep things interesting.

I never know what may happen here, and today was no exception. I started my morning by finding a little mole in the mudroom. He was very cute, so I put him in a cleaned sour cream tub, with some chicken feed, while I decided what to do. Just one mole can dig up a whole pasture. When we see one of the dogs or cats has “eliminated” one it tends to be a good thing. But I couldn’t just kill it. It was REALLY cute!Mole tub

So, I set him free in one of the flower beds we haven’t planted this year. When Charlie got home he said it would have been smarter to take him farther out into the woods to release him, and he’s right, but I didn’t. I thought his mama might be nearby, and I didn’t want him to be afraid, alone in the woods.

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Then, it was time to head to town. I was out of 7-Up, and it was a gorgeous day for a drive.  Between the rain and the sun, everything has been growing like crazy. This means getting caught behind brush cutters on a pretty regular basis. Since I didn’t grow up around these, I always get a kick out of them. There’s a huge mower-type thing off the side of the tractor that cuts down all the green along the side of the road. This is why Washington folks consider double yellow lines a mere suggestion. I have about 4 miles of curvy 2-lane road heading into town. Brush cutters and tractors go about 10 miles an hour. Once you see an opportunity to pass safely, you take it.

Brush cutterWhen I got home Carly, Joe and the kids came up for a little bit. Carly comes to clean the house for me once a week because I don’t like doing it, and she likes the extra money. Besides, somebody has to play with the kids while the housecleaning is happening. Win-win-win.

I decided we needed to move the bird feeders to the other end of the yard. It seems like we’re going to be spending a lot of time under the tree by the trampoline, so I wanted the feeders where we can see them. Both kids were going to help, but Reta Jean decided she could carry all the empty feeders by herself. She did allow Raymond and I to help fill them up. Now, we just have to wait for the birds to find them.

Once we were done with the feeders, Raymond played on the trampoline, Reta Jean played in the dirt, and I got ice cream cones for everybody.

Reta Jean has been keeping her eyes on the raspberries, just waiting for them to be ripe. She couldn’t resist trying one today. They aren’t ripe yet.

Beats and berries

We’ve been seeing rats around the animal yard, and during afternoon chores I found their nest. Now, I’m not a shrieky, sissy-girl, but when you reach for a flake of hay and a dozen rats rush to their escape by running over your hand and around your feet, it’s pretty hard to not let just a little scream slip out. The bad news is they scared the crap out of me, the good news is now I know where they’re living.

I may do what I can to save most little critters that cross my path, but rats don’t fall on my “to save” list. A standard trap really wouldn’t work because rats are smart. As soon as one rat got caught, the others would know to stay away. The cats and dogs, not to mention the chickens and the turkey might try to eat a dead rat, so poison isn’t an option. Farm folk say try a bucket, so I’m going to try a bucket. I set it up against a full bale of hay, next to their nest. My hope is they’ll run across the bale, heading for their nest and, gaaaaaaaaaaa, fall into the bucket. I put a little chicken scratch in the bucket. Once one rat falls in, I want it to tell its friends there’s food in there, not that it’s a trap. I don’t know what I’ll do if I catch any. I may just leave that executive decision to Charlie.

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There was nothing super-special or extra-exciting about today. No art projects or big meals. It was just a day. We were lucky enough to wake up and enjoy a beautiful, peaceful day in the country. Life is good.

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The Great Escape

Autumn is coming, and it’s quickly becoming my favorite season. It gets pretty cold at night, but we still have sunshine during the day, without the heat. There’s still some harvesting and canning to do, but the rush to get the bulk of it done has passed. Everybody else gets to have a lazy summer, we get lazy autumn.

Saturday morning was chilly, and nobody had to be anywhere. The perfect day to stay in bed until it warms up outside. The yard is quiet, except for the rooster, but that’s nothing new. But he sounds awfully close this morning. Nah. I decide he’s just getting his big boy voice and has gotten louder. (In reality, my eyes are closed, my feet are warm, and I don’t want to get up.)

Strangely, after I hear the rooster crowing, I hear something tapping across out patio. I decide it must be Tori heading out to work. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t ever leave by walking past our door, and she’s a lifeguard wo has no reason to wear high heels to work. It also doesn’t matter that I have to get up to use the bathroom, and her car is still in the driveway. (I’m going back to bed to close my eyes and warm up my feet.)

I really have no idea what these noises are, but my bed is so warm and cozy, I don’t give it much thought. Some of the birds get out from time to time. They find a hole under the fence, or manage to flutter high enough to get over the fence. They stay close, and return to the yard when it’s time to eat.

One minute, I’m sleeping soundly and snugly, the next minute Charlie is charging out the back door. “All the turkeys are out!” Oh, that doesn’t sound good. We clipped their wings so they can’t fly, and they’re too big to squeeze through the holes under the fence. “The chickens are out, too!” Crap! Good-bye, snugly bed. “And the ducks!”

The panic is now setting in because the only way everybody could have gotten out is with a major breach of security. Either the fence is down, the gate is open, or a tornado blew through, picked up the birds, and set them down outside the fence. Since we’re not in Kansas, it has to be the fence or gate. This means the alpacas could be out, too. As I said, crap!

Running out the back door, we check the alpacas first. They’re in the yard, even though the gate IS open. Once we know the pacas are safe, Charlie closes the gate and we start to figure out how to return our two-legged critters to the fold. Peanut takes matters into her own hands. Most of the birds are foraging in the woods, so Peanut charges through the group, and sends them scattering. Oh, great.

As it turns out, the solution was as easy as that. Once the birds are flushed out, they immediately head straight to the gate. We open the gate, they all file in, and we can relax. Except for the two or three or four birds that ran the opposite direction. Not to worry. By noon, out last wanderers have returned.

Neither Charlie, nor I, are sure how the gate came to be open. Friday evening, when the kids were visiting, one of the turkeys had gotten over the fence. Charlie thinks he may have opened the gate to get the turkey in, then forgot to close it, when he was able to pick up the turkey and drop it over the fence. Who knows? This is why we hook the latch.

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All’s well that ends well. And I can try to sleep in again, next weekend.

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Birds of a Feather

I’m the first person to admit that I’m, maybe, too easily amused. It’s also no secret that our animals crack me up on a regular basis. Our “old” girls and “new” girls are overlapping a bit, so we currently have about 30 birds. (Charlie can count them, but they move around too much for me to keep track.)

Morning feeding time is my favorite time of day. I have a routine, all the animals know the routine, and yet they’re always hoping I’ll feed first, THEN clean instead of making them wait.

Our male hen – ok, yeah, he’s a rooster – is always the first one to start following me. I don’t mind him following me, but if he starts attacking me, he’s going to become dinner like the last rooster. So far, he’s a pretty nice guy.

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He sends up the alert, and the girls start gathering. And gathering. And gathering.Wherever I go, they’re following. When I look down at the whole flock, surrounding me, it occurs to me it’s a good thing I’m not afraid of chickens. And it’s a good thing they know I feed them. Can you imagine if they all got mad at me at once? That would be like a horror movie. “Pecked to Death.”

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Fortunately, they’re willing to play along while I keep them waiting. Once I do start feeding them, I continue to entertain myself. I’ve learned if I scatter their scratch in patterns, the birds will make shapes for me. They all start with the first straight line, but then spread out as more scratch is put down. This day I was trying for a square.

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They almost got it. Maybe I need to shoot for more rounded sides. I’m also thinking of trying to do the whole alphabet, one letter at a time. It would take several weeks. We’ll see how ambitious I get.

The ducks join in with the chicken scratch, but they know they get fed next. Spike knows they get fed next, too. He knows he’s not supposed to eat the duck food, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He has no shame. He even tries to keep them waiting. Tajo takes full advantage of Spike wanting to be a bird. He gets to eat his grain in peace while everyone else is following me around.

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Eventually Spike backs off and lets me feed the ducks. He’s pretty persistent, though. He acts like he’s given up, until the food is scattered on the ground, then he sneaks in, like maybe I won’t notice he’s not a duck. Or a chicken. I’ve learned to spread the feed thin, so he’s not able to get large amounts.

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People are always shaking their heads at how well our animals get along. They’ve always been like this. Sometimes the ducks and hens gang up on the rooster, but that’s because he’s trying to exhibit his manliness when the hens are trying to eat. Nobody appreciates that. Other than that, they’re like one big, happy family.

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Working the Farm

People kept telling us not to put anything into the ground until Mother’s Day weekend. At first, we thought they were maybe exaggerating a bit, but we’ve learned to listen. This weekend was it! We didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but we did enough that it’s going to hurt for a few days.

We got the beds tilled, with help from the chickens and Peanut, and all the raised beds are planted. The big field is ready to go, as soon as we can bend again. We have onions and garlic growing like crazy, and beets, radishes and strawberries are getting going. Carrots, lettuce, spinach, bush beans, and flowers went into the ground.
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The strawberries in the gutters love their home. We got flowers, which means we’ll be getting berries, and that’s a very good thing! The potatoes are doing great, too.   With Charlie’s PVC cages, the birds aren’t getting to the blueberries, and it looks like we’re going to have a good crop.

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There’s still so much that needs to go into the ground. The good news is, it has started staying light until almost 9, so we have lots of time in the evenings to get things planted.

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We also moved the birds around. The young ducks got moved into the big yard, and the turkeys and bantam chicks got moved into the run. The older chicks are all doing great, and should start laying eggs in 2-3 months.  If you’ve never seen ducks cruising around, they stay together darn near all the time. I’m very easily entertained, so I had to take a little break to follow the ducks around the yard, just so I could watch them move around in formation.

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And then, there’s this guy. Yep, this GUY. We buy day-old chicks, and the sex-checkers are pretty accurate, but it’s not unheard of for a rooster to get into the mix. When Charlie and I got the chicks, we picked out a special one for Raymond because he didn’t get to go with us.  Of course, that’s the rooster. Raymond is terrified of roosters. Maybe this one will be a nice rooster, and Raymond will learn to like it before he figures out it’s not a hen.

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I gave the duck tub a good scrubbing before moving in the young ducks. Spike and Tajo saw the hose and they wanted to play. At first, I kept moving the hose away from them. I wanted to be sure they weren’t afraid of the nozzle. They kept coming after the water, so I had to have Charlie come in and play so I could take pictures. Tajo kept dancing to get his belly cooled off, and Spike drank right from the hose, then wanted his but sprayed. Alpacas get sheared once a year, and ours are scheduled for next week. That means they’re wearing a year’s worth of fleece, and it got to 82 today.  I’m sure the cool water felt fabulous.

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While we worked, the dogs stayed nearby – mostly in the shade.

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While we were working away, this hawk started circling awfully low. Then it started calling its friends over. Charlie went in for the shotgun to scare it off, but it left on its own. Smart hawk.
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Busy day, and I think we’re going to be feeling it. We should have everything in the ground by the end of the week. After another few weeks, we’ll be able to start harvesting. Everything is off to such a good start, I’m really excited to see what we end up with. I see lots of canning, freezing, jams and jellies in the very near future. By the end of summer we should be able to feed ourselves 100% from our own hard work. Very exciting!

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Farm Seasons

Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall are for city folk. I’ve decided the farm seasons are Spinning/Ordering, Planting/Shearing, Harvesting/Preserving and Holidays. There are chores for every season, and we’re getting the hang of the flow of things. We measure the success of our timing by watching the farms that have been around awhile. It’s quite satisfying to spend a day tilling, then head into town and see all the other farms spent the day tilling, too. Old-time holidays like St. Distaff’s Day also help us with our timing.

The Spinning/Ordering season comes at the beginning of the year. It’s too cold and wet to start planting, the harvesting and preserving is done, the holidays are over, and it’s time to gear up and get ready for spring. My fleeces get washed and carded, and I spend my days indoors, in my warm cozy house, spinning my yarn for projects.

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As the winter stretches on, we start heading to the mailbox in anticipation. Seed catalogs! They arrive when we’re tired of being cold and are looking forward to spring arriving. We look over what we had last year, what worked, what didn’t, and what we want to try this year. Different seeds are available at different times, so the seed ordering happens in stages. I think they do that on purpose, so we have something to look forward to throughout the cold days.Homestead Plan

More sunshine means Planting/Shearing season has arrived. I’ve been spreading alpaca and chicken poop over the garden beds all winter. After the first week of sunshine, Charlie was out with the tiller getting the beds ready.  Charlie has already started planting some seeds in the sunroom, and will begin transferring them to the garden around mid-April when the threat of frost has passed – we hope.

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It’s also time to schedule shearing. Alpacas don’t do well in the heat if they’re in full fleece. Imagine wearing a fur coat all summer. Yeah, they don’t like it, either. This is the first year we’ll be responsible for shearing our boys, and it’s been scheduled for May. I’m excited to get Spike’s and Tajo’s fiber directly from them, but I’m also nervous about getting them through the day.  Fortunately, there are professional shearers who come do the tough part for us. We’ll be visiting other farms to help with their shearing as well.

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 Harvesting/Preserving season is definitely the most labor-intensive for me. Charlie does such a great job with the garden, there’s a TON of stuff to bring in. I have to harvest and preserve the fruits and vegetables when they’re ready, not when I get around to it. This can mean days in a row of picking, hauling, cleaning, slicing, chopping, blanching, pickling, jamming and canning. I love doing all of this. This year, I’m getting a pressure canner, so I can can more of the veggies, instead of freezing. I’m also getting a gel mat for the kitchen. Standing on the tile floor for days at a time makes my feet very unhappy. It’s worth the pain in the feet, and very rewarding, when the shelves are full of jars, and the freezer is full of containers of produce to use later.

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Finally, we get the holidays! The garden beds are empty and covered for the winter. Food is stored for the winter. And it’s time for a change of pace. Nature forces us to slow down now by becoming too cold and wet to do anything else. Last year, we tried to do a fully homegrown Thanksgiving, but some things still had to be store-bought. Like the turkey. This year, we’re starting to plan earlier, and expect to pull off Thanksgiving 100% from the farm. That will take up a good portion of November. I made most our holiday gifts last year, and plan to do it again this year. I’ll start some of the long-term projects in October, but most things will be put together in December. There will also be the holiday baking that HAS to happen. This year Raymond and Reta Jean should be able to help out a lot, and I’m really looking forward to that. Even though it’s still a busy time, it’s a slower pace, and time to spend with family.

Over the past year, we’ve learned so much about life on the farm. We’re rested from the winter and ready to get to work. Temperatures are rising and grass is growing.  I’m sure we’ll learn more this year, and make plenty of mistakes. And through it all, we’ll be having a ball and loving life!

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From Farm to Yarn – Where Do Socks Come From?

 

 

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Ever wondered how fiber from an animal ends up as a sweater? I can now do all the steps from home – if my spinning was better, and if I could knit a sweater – so I thought I’d share how it works.

When I first started spinning, I used roving. That’s fiber, all combed into one direction, then formed into strips that make it easy to pass into the spinning wheel. Charlie and I had seen raw fiber, and then roving. The big question was, “How does it get that way?”

The first step is to pick the fiber. Wool is the most commonly used, but there are so many more! My favorite to spin is alpaca, but it tends to need to be blended with something, like wool, to add some body and stretch to the yarn. Llama can also be used, but I haven’t gotten my hands on any yet. Angora rabbits produce angora fiber. Easy enough. Angora goats produce mohair. Seems like they should maybe call them mohair goats, but no. There are also a lot of more “exotic” fiber, like silk, yak, buffalo. All kinds of cool stuff.

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There have recently been articles on the internet about certain celebrities never wearing wool again because of the mistreatment of sheep during shearing. I don’t know what other people have seen, but  I’ve been to a few shearings, and I’ve seen no mistreatment. Of course, I’ve been to small local farms, days grazing in peaceful pastures and being treated more like pets. At The Pines Farm, people could even pick out which sheep they wanted fleece from, and it would be sheared right in front of them.

 

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5 (500x340)Sheep are pretty clean, compared to alpacas. Alpacas love a good dust bath. Either way, the fiber needs to be skirted and cleaned. During skirting, the fiber is spread out on a screen. All the yucky fiber, guard hairs, dirt, and grass/hay is removed. Well, as much as possible. Some people like to spin it right from this point, but I need it to be more organized, and I’m not a fan of my hands getting all sticky from the lanolin on wool.

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(The above two pictures are from 2 different alpacas. The color doesn’t change from washing.)

Once the fiber is skirted, it’s time to wash it. It would be super easy if the fiber could be thrown in the washing machine, but that can’t happen. Too much agitation – which is very little – will cause the fiber to felt, and then there isn’t much that can be done with it. Instead, the fiber is put into nylon laundry bags, and submerged in a tub of hot water, with dish detergent. Allow the fiber to soak long enough for the water all the locks of fiber and break down any dirt. After 30 minutes or so, drain the tub, gently squeeze water from the fiber, and do the whole thing over again. I find that 3 times is usually good. Each time the water will run cleaner. Some people will lay their fiber out at this point to dry. I’m in Washington, and it’s wet and cold right now. I run the fiber through just the spin cycle to remove a lot of the water, otherwise it may not actually get dry until spring.

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When the fiber is dry, it can be carded. Once upon a time, people would use hand cards, brushing the fiber from one brush to the other, until it was fluffy and all facing the same direction. Some people still use hand cards today, but a drum carder makes it so much easier. Charlie just bought one for me as an early Christmas gift, and it’s WONDERFUL. Plug it in, feed the fiber between the drums, and the machine combs it all out. Originally, I really wanted to do the whole process by hand, but my left hand has difficulty with the hand carder, and it takes a really long time.

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The carder can process quite a bit of fiber. When the big drum is full, the fiber can be separated horizontally, and the fiber just lifts off. This is called a batt, or batting. The batt can be used to make felt, spun directly from this point, or pulled into strips to spin.

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Fiber is spun into singles on the bobbin. Using a Lazy Kate to hold individual bobbins, the singles can then be plied into what’s recognized as yarn. I typically use two singles, but some people will use three or four, to make a chunkier yarn, or even ply strands of doubles, then ply those together.

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When the yarn is spun, it’s removed from the bobbin, onto a Niddy Noddy. (Half the fun of the fiber world is the names of some of the equipment.) The Niddy Noddy also serves to help measure how long the yarn is. I’m not at that point yet, so for me it’s just a way to get the yarn off the bobbin in an organized fashion. The yarn is tied in several places to keep it from getting tangled, removed from the Niddy Noddy, then submerged into cold water. This “shocks” the yarn, and sets the twist.

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That’s it! Once the yarn is dry, it’s ready to use. I have the most beautiful brown alpaca fiber (the fiber shown drying, above) that I was planning on sending to a fiber mill. This is my dream yarn, and now I get to do the full process right here. I will have a whole blanket, made from the fiber of animals I’ve actually met. It doesn’t get any cooler than that!

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Frozen Farming

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The other night, Richard Sherman was on the news talking about the weather. He grew up a California kid, but he’s getting used to playing football in “below freezing” temperatures. My first thought was, “Silly football player! It’s not below freezing. It’s 16 degrees outside.” Fortunately, my second thought kicked in with, “Silly desert kid! 16 IS below freezing!” My whole first winter here, that never occurred to me. “Below freezing” sounds a whole lot colder than “really cold.”

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When it started cooling off, and the garden quit producing, I was actually relieved. After the daily rush of picking, processing, canning and freezing, I was looking forward to a slow down. I feel like Captain Obvious here, but, DANG! A frozen farm yard brings on a whole different set of chores.

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Looking outside, from my cozy bed, it’s beautiful. The yard is covered in frost, and the ice makes everything sparkly. Now, I just have to talk myself into going out there.

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Last year, we only had 6 chickens, in a small run, to care for. This year, we’re up to 2 alpacas, 2 ducks, and 16 chickens. Plus the dogs and cats. I still love my morning chores, they’re just a little different now.

I’m a little concerned about the animals in the freezing temperatures, but not too much. They all have shelters they can go into at night. The chickens and ducks will huddle together for body warmth, and the alpacas have their fleece. While their fleece may be cold and wet on the outside, up close to their bodies, it’s still dry and warm.

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The first thing to do is putting on a pot of water to boil. All the water containers are frozen. Yesterday, I stomped my boot through the ice, only to have it all freeze over again within the hour. Today, I’ll be schlepping hot water out throughout the day.

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Trips outside take a little more prep time now. No more shorts and flip flops for me! Layer, layer, layer. Sweat pants, boots, long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, quilted flannel, scarf and gloves. I don’t mind. It gives the water time to boil.

It’s no less beautiful when I’m outside. I think. My glasses keep fogging up. Stomping on the frozen ground is almost as much fun as stomping in puddles. Everything crunches underfoot, and gives the same satisfaction as popping bubble wrap.

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Once I distribute the hot water and feed everyone, it’s on to poop duty. The frost makes the piles a lot easier to see, and frozen paca poop cleans up like marbles. Some of it’s frozen to the ground, so I hammer on it with the side of the rake. Bad idea. I’ve just created poop shrapnel. I won’t do that again.

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Chickens and their poop are not nearly as cooperative. Yesterday, the poop had frozen onto the perches and I had to use my scraper more like a chisel. I think some of the poop will still be there come spring.  Today, the chickens aren’t even coming out of the shelter. Normally, they come running out as soon as I open the door. This morning, I finished my other yard chores, and they were still inside. I guess I’ll have to come back later for poop duty.

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It’s going to be a loooong winter. If I can keep from doing anything really wrong, we should all make it. Let the winter games begin!

Bring On The Calm

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I recently returned from a week at my dad’s. I always enjoy visiting him and my hometown. I got to spend time with Dad and my son PJ, drive by the old house, see old friends, and spend some time in the sun. But California moves at a much different speed than Washington.

Everything on the farm makes me smile and relax. I’ve been home almost a week and I just got my “calm” back this morning. It’s been stormy – rain and wind – since I got home, and today we had sun. Just wandering around the property made me peaceful again.

The storm blew away most of the remaining leaves. Now, we can see neighbors’ homes that have been hidden since spring.

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Spike and Tajo get to dry out and relax in the sunshine.

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The chickens are happily clucking and pecking.

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And the creek is high and burbling away.

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No matter how many pictures I take, or how much I try to describe this life to people, I can never do it justice. We are so lucky to get to wake up to this every single day. We never know when deer are going to wander through the yard, or when coyotes are going to hang out and party at the pond. The finches are gone now, but a new flock of woodpeckers has moved into the yard. I never knew woodpeckers traveled in flocks, and maybe they don’t, but since I keep seeing the same 6 hanging out together, I’m calling them a flock.

As the sun travels throughout the day, it makes different trees and clouds light up and glow. Everybody gets to be a star. Any time of the day, I can go out and see something completely different, even though, technically, everything is the same.

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Not only are there no words, there aren’t even pictures that can do this life justice. It’s where I belong. It’s home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field Trip – The Pines Farm

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Farm folk are a dying breed. They know this. If you ever get the chance to visit a farm, do it. The farm owners know what they do is foreign to most people, and are happy to answer your questions, and teach you about what they do. Charlie and I have visited quite a few farms since venturing into farm life. We meet the nicest people and learn the coolest stuff.

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This week, The Pines Farm hosted their annual Fall Fiber Festival. I picked up the event notice at our last Spinners’ Guild meeting. Because I’m a little slow at putting things together, I missed that this is the farm owned by the family of one of our members. Amy ran most of the “Arts and Crafts” this year, and the supplies we used came from the family farm. I get a kick out of farm visits, but FIBER farm visits are by far my favorite. The Pines Farm has Romney sheep, Angora goats, and all the fun fiber products that come from those.  DID YOU KNOW: Angora goats produce mohair. Only angora rabbits produce angora.

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When we first arrived at the farm, we were greeted by the sounds of a ukulele/guitar singalong. As the rain started coming down heavily they broke into, of course, “Singing in the Rain.” If that doesn’t make you smile, you may just be city-folk, and you really need a farm visit.

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Back at the sheep shearing, people could pick out their own sheep, have it sheared right in front of them, then help skirt the fleece before bagging it up and taking it home. (For fiber people, knowing the animal we get our fiber from really makes us geek out a bit.) To skirt the fleece, it gets laid out on a screen and sorted. Really yucky parts get sorted out, but I’m sure something is actually done with them. The less workable – shorter, coarser – parts get sent to commercial mills, like Pendleton, where their super industrial machines can turn that wool into something usable.  The main body of the fleece is what’s cleaned, processed into batting or roving, spun into yarn, and made into something handmade and beautiful. Very little waste.

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Somebody pointed out that the ewes had coloring on the rear of their backs. Turns out, a dye is placed on the chest of the rams. When the ewes are bred, the dye transfers to their backs. Easy way to identify which females are more likely to be pregnant. I didn’t think to ask, but I wonder if they color-code the males to identify who the daddy is.

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Right next to the ewes was a pen of angora goats. After hearing about the dye on the rams, I got worried about the little goats. The tops of all their heads were green. I had to ask if something had gone wrong with the whole breeding/dye process. Nope. They get alfalfa in their little top knots. Good to know. Angora goats are on my wish list. So cute, and I’m dying to work with their fiber!

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Since my attempt at felting alpaca slippers failed miserably, I visited the farm store, where I bought some wool batting. They also had a table set up with raw fleece. People were weighing out smaller portions to purchase. One woman explained that she had never worked with Romney wool before. She was excited to take smaller amounts to work with, before committing to a larger project.

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If you visit a farm that has a farm store, buy something. Most items in the store will have come directly from that farm. That means you’re supporting that family and the family farm lifestyle. And that keeps the dying breed of farm-folk from becoming extinct.

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Things to Learn

I enjoy every day on our farm, whether it’s chores, crafts, or fun in the kitchen. I’ve read and read and read to learn to do the things I enjoy today. There have been many useful websites that have helped me on my little adventure. When I read what I write about some of these companies and sites, I feel like I sound like a sales person for them. I’m not. If you buy products through my aStore at Amazon I get a very small commission, but other than that I have no financial interest in any of these businesses or products. They are things that have helped me along the way, so I’m sharing them with you to help you get started on your own homesteading adventure. Have fun!

Items I’ve used and written about in my posts, I’ve listed in my Amazon store, so you can find them easily. Please check it out!

http://astore.amazon.com/redmwood-20HUTCH-BOOKSHELVES-KITCHEN

The Ball Canning website has instructions, recipes, product information, and lots of useful tips for successful canning. I refer to them often.

http://www.freshpreserving.com/0915141600

New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has everything you need to start being a cheese maker. I’ve used Ricki’s Mozzarella kit, and her Basic Cheesemaking Kit is next on my wishlist.

http://www.cheesemaking.com/1002141422b

You don’t need to be a full-on homesteader to enjoy different aspects of the lifestyle. The Homesteading Today Forum is full of helpful people, who can offer all kinds of information and support.

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/American Gothic

Mother Earth News magazine is also available online. SO much information about gardening! They even have a garden planner that we used this year.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Homestead Plan

Grit magazine  has lots of fun articles, covering everything you need to know about rural living – and includes blogs and videos!

http://www.grit.com/RJ and pacas

If you want additional information about anything I’ve posted here, let me know!