Friday, July 20, 2012

Eat Or Be Eaten......

I recently posted on my Facebook page about a blue racer that was hopelessly tangled in a mess of netting.  I saved him from certain death and set him free.  I was asked why I would bother, since I seem to be quite blasé about killing critters on our farm.  Let me explain. I believe that all life is important and sacred – I really do.  I believe each of us, from myself to the microbes in the soil, has a purpose on this earth.  When I lovingly (yes, lovingly) raise an animal who will eventually fill our freezer – that is his/her purpose.  I treat them with respect and dignity from birth to death, as every being SHOULD be treated.  With that said, was I going to eat the snake? No.  Was he interfering with creatures or plants that have the purpose of nourishing my family? No.  Was my life or the life of a loved one in mortal danger due to his continued existence? No.  Was he POSTIVELY affecting my life? Yes.   Even without answering the last question, I would have attempted to save him (her?).  This snake had done me no harm, nor was he in a position to harm any of those around me.  He was only in the predicament he was in because of me.  He was just trying to do me a favor (even if he didn’t know it) by killing off the mice in the chicken coop who ARE affecting things around here negatively. (Eating holes in my grain bags, pooping on everything, getting into the feed dishes, etc).   I hope this may help those who don’t understand the thoughts behind respectful farming practices. 

I had a bit of time this morning to do a morning garden harvest.  The garden is really putting out for me lately.  The purple beans are in full swing….I hope I get even ½ as many beans off the pole beans.  It’s a shame they don’t keep their lovely purple color after cooking as they would be gorgeous in a jar.  I thought I would snap a quick picture of my morning “trip to the grocery store” (a.k.a. results of chores).  I have ONE chicken who must be the early bird everybody is always talking about.  Even if I go out at 7 am (about the earliest I might mosey out there) she has one nice large egg waiting for me.   She is my egg eater so she isn’t with the other girls and lays her solitary daily egg in a swimming pool full of hay in my tack room.  Luckily she doesn’t eat her own eggs.  So as of 8am this morning we have: one egg, ½ gallon of milk, 6 yellow squash, one zucchini, a large hand full of purple beans, a small head of cabbage, two carrots and a few springs of basil. 

Spinning….sigh….just NOT getting the hang of it.  My hours of outside-the-home work have increased and will continue to do so for the next couple of weeks.  I have laid down the fiber and pushed the wheel aside until I get a few days to really concentrate on it.  However I’m wondering if I just don’t have the coordination to get a good twist going with just one hand and getting the wheel spinning with the other?  The possibility is pretty high also that I don’t have the confounded thing set up right. 

Soap making has for now, gone the way of the spinning wheel.  Too many hours spent outside the home (and blogging of course) to really have the time to concentrate on it right now.  All my supplies, except I am determined I need to by a small digital scale, are amassed and awaiting my orders!!  However if anybody comes across any interesting and unique items to use as molds, let me know. 

We had some more very hot days here on the farm….blech!!  However I found some clever treats on-line that I made for the chickens and the pigs.  They were a smashing success if you ask the pigs and pretty “ok” if you ask the chickens.  Here is the “recipe” I made.  I took two slightly overgrown yellow squash from the garden and diced them into small cubes.  I also cut a handful of lemon balm and spearmint from the garden.  After mincing up the mints, I used muffin tins and ice cube trays and put a good pinch into each cavity.  I added diced squash to about the top then filled with water.  After freezing I feed these to the pigs and literally got a standing ovation. Okay maybe they were just jumping for the treats, but the piglets WERE on their back legs!!  I finally have won over all the pigs now.  The chickens were just a bit more hesitant and decided they should be smaller for them next time…..or they will just let them thaw a bit first like they did this time.    I think I will try another batch for both the chickens and the pigs and use some goat’s milk just to up the nutritional value some.    I wonder if I could come up with a good recipe for the goats using a treat or food in ice.  Any thoughts?  I know I’m going to have to get some treats for the dogs that won’t turn to mush when wet and make a few in butter dishes for the dogs, I bet they would love them. 

I’m seriously thinking of adding bunnies to the homestead.  I found a great deal on a couple of used cages and since I hate to see wasted (i.e. unused) space I’m thinking of hanging them above my chicken coop.  As usual at Cornerstone Acres, this will fit a dual purpose.  As I haven’t wanted to attempt vermiculture (and probably never will), I will be allowing the chickens to “clean up” the rabbit droppings and any spilled feed.  With a nice cement floor to clean up a few times a year, I am hoping I will have a nicely mulched up bunch of bunny/chicken manure to add to the compost or garden.  I would hang the cages inside and eventually a place will be put off the back of the shed to allow for an outside run. Again this area is just more wasted space that seems to be there only for the amusement of chickens while they tear it up.  I would love to get a pair of Satins.  From what I’ve been reading these are nice dual purpose rabbits (again that phrase – Dual Purpose) producing both meat and hides.  However that means one more project - tanning hides.  But have you SEEN the satin hair?  Oh, so pretty!! I think I would end up having a dozen or more lovely hides hanging in my home, right along with the Jacob lamb, skunk and deer hides I have.  I would also love to have a hat and some gloves that are bunny fur lined….how absolutely divine that sounds. 

Here are the cages I found
Here is where I will hang them. Chickens do NOT normally have access to this area so won't be soiling the rabbits.

Here is where the run (or runs) would come out.  One may share a fence with the chickens.

Well, until next time……….

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pictures of plentiful plants...... (and a couple other things)

After my last post with lots of info on the garden I thought I should back it up with a few pictures. Not much to say today, but a few things to show you.
Brave Bob the Barn Cat, came up on the deck and introduced himself to Seven.

It is all together with a bit of fiber ready to work....just going to try again when I have a bit more time. 
The three sisters in action: Corn, Polebean, and Pumpkin....getting along quite well I might add. 

 Volunteer squash/gourd of some sort.  I have about four others like it.  I also allowed about 7-8 volunteer tomatoes to grow this year as well.  Maybe next year I should treat the volunteers as weeds, but it is so much fun seeing what comes out of these plants.  The gourds and squash may not taste good to me, but the pigs seem to like any I throw in to them.  I had baskets full of decorative gourds last year that after the fall season went to some very happy piggies. 

Note to self:  make aisles between raised beds WIDER!!

First squash and zuke harvest!!

Potatoes doing very well.

Bird house gourd reaching for the heavens....I'm going to have to train it along the fence a bit...horizontal instead of vertical.  That's a hotwire just above it.

THIS is the heirloom squash from H-E- double hockey sticks!! It is about 12 feet long, 6 feet wide and 4 feet high!!  The stem right at the ground is only slightly smaller around than a Folgers coffee can! 

Purple Royalty Beans.  From the SMALL handful I was able to salvage from the Rose Chafers last year I found them to be very tasty.   Baring any catastrophies, I should have a pretty good harvest this year.

A close up of a baby purple bean....

A sea of tomatoes....lots of blossoms and plenty of green tomatoes already.

Not the best angle, but here are my broccoli plants, my brussels sprouts directly behind them and the cabbage are behind that.....and finally against the fence you will see some of my sunflowers.

Another note to self: PLEASE plant rows farther apart as well.  Here we have summer squash on the right. (See the cute little volunteer tomatoe in there?) Purple beans in the center, spaghetti squash on the left and a sunflower in the foreground.

One of my pepper plant rows (eggplant on the very far end).  One of the very few rows that are NOT so big I can't get around it!! 

It may look over grown and unruly (which it IS) but it's all vegetables, Baby!! No weeds this year!! Hard work DOES pay off!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Weeding, feeding, riding, spinning and sharing.........

Well, we survived another HOT day yesterday.  Today is supposed to be the last scorcher for a while so let’s drag our bottoms through this day and hope the weather man is right!  Dyna, our new horse, is absolutely a dream when it comes to bringing out the hose for cool down time.   She’s a mare which means she's smart enough to realize the cold water is a GOOD thing.  Willie takes it for just a moment and Charlie says NO WAY.  Both Reign and Icee are learning that the hose is a good thing (Reign more so than Icee), but both take full advantage of their pools.   The goats have been doing well so far, however I have been keeping a closer eye on Blossom as she seems to be a bit lethargic.  I have three goats that are dehorned, and she happens to be one of them.  Horns help dissipate heat.  The pigs (including the piglets) are in their pool constantly.  When I dump the pool to refresh the water I dump it into their wallow so they have a pool AND a mud bath.    They seem to adore both!

The garden this year is really doing very well compared to last year.  I think that the pigs were an amazing help with the weed control.   I still have LOTS of “Cheeseweed” (a type of Mallow) that is everywhere in the garden.  Luckily the pigs and chickens love to eat it.  I’ve been pretty diligent about weeding this year just so I can feed them to the pigs and chickens!  It’s been much easier as there are no tall grasses (pigs got ALL those roots).   The Cheeseweed and Pigweed pull up very easily so I like that too. The Lamb’s Quarters has been growing VERY well in the garden and although it is a very edible weed I have yet to allow its cultivation (takeover?) within my garden.  However once again, it seems to be a plant that the pigs and chickens relish.   

 I love the raised beds and won’t be without them again. With the raised beds my spinach, radishes and beets have thus far been a SCREAMING success.   I need more beds next year so I can do a bit more succession planting……I am currently waiting for another batch of radishes.   The peas are doing great too, would have been better had I NOT pulled up half a dozen earlier in the year while weeding, I suppose I got a little too zealous.   I am surprised at how well the peas are doing even with this heat.  So far my cabbage and broccoli seems to be doing well also.  The brussel sprouts, perhaps not so well.  The zucchini and summer squash are about as tall as me (okay SLIGHT exaggeration, but they ARE at least to my belly button!!)  I have a few heirloom squash as well that are about the same height.  The cucumbers are beginning their climb up the fence (finally).   Potatoes are doing VERY well, I'm glad I did double the towers this year.  I lost one complete tower to a chicken nesting in it....and I didn't even actualy see her go broody, she just made a nest and laid her eggs.   I am hoping that I get a dehydrator soon, I love to can  - but I REALLY loved having all the dehyrdrated tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, potatoes and apples this winter.  They seem to be a bit more "true" to texture and flavor than canned.   The three sisters are getting along great, although I think something may have eaten quite a bit of Sister Pole bean.   Perhaps she is just a slower growing variety, but she just seems a little “sickly” to me.  Sister Corn definitely could have used her support the other night during the storm as a few were toppled over due to the wind!!   I’ve been doing my best to weed within the Three Sisters patch, but I think that yesterday may have to be my last day.  It’s THICK in there.  The pumpkins are taking off like wildfire and should begin smothering out the weeds more and more each day anyhow.   I think next year I will try a different type of pole bean as I’m not too impressed with these.  Either that or I should have done as instructed and waited another week to plant Sister Squash?   I’m afraid we may not have any pole beans if the pumpkins smother them as well as the weeds.  The herb garden isn’t faring as well as the vegetable garden and the Three Sisters patch.  With the herbs being much shorter than vegetables, it doesn’t take much for the weeds to overpower them.  The bindweed is the worst!  I may have to rethink and/or upgrade my weeding program for the herbs next year unless I prefer eating Cheeseweed to eating spearmint and cilantro. 

Pest control in the garden this year hasn’t been too bad.   Last year the garden was SO full of weeds the Rose Chafers were drawn to the thick thatch and devoured my purple beans.  This year they DID hit the radish tops pretty hard, but left my beans pretty much alone.  There weren’t any tiny apples on the trees so they didn’t have those to munch on.  However they did wipe out my poplar tree again and hit my cherry and peach tree leaves aggressively too.  Strawberries were pretty well wiped out by them.   My large patch of Comfrey up by the house was a pretty big loss, but the one in the flower garden and the long row out by the road were practically unscathed.    Since I plan on drying quite a bit of Comfrey this year to use as a winter feed supplement for the pigs and chickens, I was glad that the majority made it through.   

Some of our hay has been put up for winter….only a SMALL fraction but we are getting there.  My goal this year is to put up 1500 bales of hay in the loft.  We are at 250 (see SMALL fraction).  We still have over 25 acres to hay.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we at least get 1000 bales of hay from those fields.  After that I’m hoping that we get one more field to hay…..we are working on a 10 acre field that MIGHT become available in late August or early September.   However that hay won’t be the best quality being cut so late.  We did a VERY late cutting last year in an overgrown field and just doubled up the amount we fed when using it. It seemed to work well as our horses came through winter in good condition.  Belle was a bit thin, but we had her teeth done the end of May and are pretty sure that was her biggest issue, not hay quality. 

Today I remembered something from my days of heavy trail riding – solid dark horses are a HUGE draw for horse (deer?) flies.   When I had my wonderful awesome Fire I had limited problems with flies.  He was a lovely leopard appaloosa so his profile was broken up unlike a solid colored dark horse.   On the other hand when I rode my Arab, Al, a solid colored dark bay – he and I were eaten alive this time of year. Charlie, the buckskin, gets minimal fly action while Willie seems to be somewhat of a bug magnet, but Dyna?   She is a bug SUPER magnet!!   Poor girl was swarmed by them today.   I gave her first choice of barn space and a bale of hay so she wouldn’t be eaten alive.  At least she stands great for fly spray.  I can’t wait for this heat to break so we can take this sweetheart out on the trails.  How in the world am I going to ride two great horses now?  Hopefully Greg will take her out sometimes.  Even though he has Charlie, it is nice to get on one sometimes that is so well broke to remind you of what you are working towards…..that awesome relaxed ride!!

I let The Boys out to graze with all the girls for just a bit again this morning.  Nitro is getting much more “aware” of the girls.  Spyder just wants to eat.  Demon likes the girls and is curious, but doesn’t have near the libido yet that Nitro is displaying.   Of course no matter how attracted to the girls Nitro is, he is still a momma’s boy!!  A bit of a scare and he runs right back to me with a “save me” look on his face…..big chicken!!  Demon likes to stay by Nitro; they are best buds so far.  Spyder is much more independent and is more than happy to graze on his own.   However once I pick him up for something he melts right in my arms.  I’ve never had a cuddlier goat!!  He just rests his head on my shoulder.   I really can wait to see what these three awesome boys put on the ground next year. 

Speaking of boys, I found out I have THREE silkie roosters and ONE silkie hen.  **sigh**  Anybody interested in one or two silkie roosters? 
I have the use of an old “Great Wheel” or “Walking Wheel" from my uncle-in-law.   I have gotten it all set up and although I have some nice dog hair from Reign to spin, I am going to wait and learn on something easier than dog hair.   I was told that dog hair is a bit harder to learn on as it is slipperier than wool or mohair would be.   I’m getting excited about learning the art of spinning.  I have never learned to knit, but an old friend of mine taught me to crochet YEARS ago.  It’s been awhile, but I bet I still remember how.   Hmmm where is that crochet hook? 

And lastly I want to mention that on July 14th, 2012 from 9am until 1pm we will be hosting a free goat basics seminar.  We will be hauling goats into the Cadillac, MI Tractor Supply Company.   This seminar is free to the public and will run about an hour long.  It will run approximately three times in its entirety.  We are hoping to cover the following topics: 
1) General Feed and nutrition
2) Pasture/fence requirements  
3) Breeds of goats ( the following breeds will be represented either in crosses or purebreds : Kiko, Boer, Myotonic, Angora/Cashmere, Saanen, Lamancha)  No in depth breed discussions at this time just touching base on the pet, meat, fiber and dairy sides of owning goats.
4) Basic health care and maintenance.  We are NOT veterinarians nor do we have the experience or training to diagnose or treat your animals.  We recommend that any time you are unsure of what may be wrong with your animal that you consult your local veterinarian.  However we will cover some common goat illnesses and deficiencies. 
5) Hands on demonstrations involving hoof trimming, administering oral medications, harvesting fiber, milking, and identifying the parts of a goat.  (This may vary in each segment of the demonstration)

We look forward to seeing you there!! 

I suppose I should get going and put the finishing touches on my outline for the seminar.  Today is one of those great days for working on the computer in the AC.

Until next time…….