Thursday, December 6, 2012

I just received a very beautiful 38 Lb cindrella pumpkin from the very prestigious Hendrickson Farm.

 These Hendrickson boys  can recognize a pumpkin winner if there ever was one !!

 These pumpkins are no hollow jack-o-lantrins . They are total meat, thru & thru!
 Grab a meat cleaver, chop into sections & toss into the pressure canner with 2 cups of water in the bottom for about 10 min. on 5 lbs pressure.
Run the softened pumpkin thru a foley grinder (food mill) and can it up.

I rendered 6 Qts from a 38 lb pumpkin.   (:>

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Evening Light,Morning Light and Snowlight

I could not have asked for a lovelier day for hunting on day#1 than Monday.I didn't even need my gloves.It was a pleasant enough day,but I saw nothing.

I stressed over crunching twigs and leaves that I walked upon en route to the stand, but here below is Ed ....en route to his stand , and I heard nothing of his footsteps.This color orange will be caught by your peripheral vision in a split second.I only wish the DOT (Dept of Transportation) in Pennsylvania would exert such wisdom with road workers.
    Years ago, their colors changed from orange to flourescent green. The trouble with that is, it blends into the background greenery of the woods, especially in the spring when the sun shines on trees and shrubs.I have to deliberately search and search for road workers, and usually it is the stop sign I see first.They are well blended into the shadows , camoflaged into the woods background.Many of these road workers & sign holder have been killed by oncoming traffic of drivers who never saw them until it was too late.

On Day #2 I was up before dawn and into the woods by 6:30 AM. I made sure all animals were locked up or tied and then I took off .I had almost arrived at the tree stand when I heard "Meow"  behind me. 'OH NUTS'!!!  It was my jet black cat, Midnight,trotting behind me. She wanted to be carried.She must have gotten out through a hole in the garage.A soft snow was falling and dusted the ground. I crunched through the snow but the crackling of dried leaves and  twigs was at a minimum.Good! The cat wanted my attention but I figured I could lose her once I climbed up into the stand. She would have trouble climbing an aluminum ladder.And so it was.....for about 15 minutes she played then all became quiet down below.I assumed Midnight had trotted back to the garage.

Snow fell softly and light Trees would periodically shed snow from limbs with spoon like snowy boughs. The snowfall formed a glittery curtain . Little chickadees and titmice  played together hopping from branch to branch,periodically shaking jackets of snow from their feathers. In the distance I heard familiar farm sounds and visualized them in my mind . My turkeys were stretching their wings , clucking and belting out 'Kee Kee' calls to one another.The toms gobbled occasionally and I knew they were strutting  with fanned out tail feathers.A small bandy rooster exercised his new found crow in an adolescent hoarse rasp that cracked half way through his morning greeting for other chickens to wake up and get their breakfast. A well seasoned adult rooster let him know WHO was boss and stole his thunder .Somewhere nearby a woodpecker was hammering his beak into a tree, then another and another.I saw movement in the distance and hoped it was a deer stirring in the brush....nope.....a squirrel.Today the woods was livelier despite the snow. I sighed as I listened to the ever present crows.However, today they were not interested in exposing my presence.

Then I felt a rumble behind me.Midnight had climbed , actually clawed her way ,up the tree stand pole.She was dangling in mid air, 12 feet up,hanging on for dear life onto the platform. All I could see was her 2 paws and head, meowing. Her legs were swaying and kicking in mid air beneath her."Come up here, dummy" I said. She began circling me , meowing, purring and begging to be pet. I pet her for awhile but I had other things to attend to. She was becoming a distracting pain in the neck.Finally I got her to nap on my lap ,purring all the while.Of course, as Murphy's Law would dictate, the deer would come now.First I saw a small head behind brush. I didn't know what it was, but hoped it was a deer.Then a second behind that one confirmed  them as deer. They walked a leisurely pace along a well traveled deer path.They were doe, but where doe are, bucks may tag along.I got in position and dropped the cat off my lap to the floor.I got the doe in the crosshair sighting , as practice, and waited for the buck that I hoped would come.I don't shoot doe. I think Midnight must be trying out for a Disney role because she decided at that moment I needed a back and  neck rub.She angled herself behind me and began kneading my neck and upper back, the same stuff they do at night to your head when you're trying to sleep. The first doe stopped and stared in our direction, flicking her right ear back and forth.The other doe seemed oblivious.Apparently , a cat standing on her hind legs in a tree stand was unremarkable to them both.I sat still as an ice sculpture.The deer continued searching the underbrush beneath  and strolled away at a relaxed pace. No buck ever showed himself.  I ignored the cat after that and soon she soundlessly disappeared.She was suddenly just gone.  After hours of no more activity, I determined it was time to go home for a nap and return later in the day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hunter's Eve

Checklist has been  completed. Warm fleece pants which will be worn beneath hunter orange snow pants,jacket, rabbit fur lined hat,alpaca wool socks,tree stand vest .All clothing was washed in a special laundry soap.......SCENT-A-WAY PLUS a FRESH EARTH COVER SCENT.I will be irresistable to my hunting buddy husband.I will have to fight him off  in our 2 man tree stand fort at 5 AM .There we will sit...Peppy LePeu and his lovely Leetle Wild Flower......What ees that fascinating scent you are wearing today ?You smell like a tree stump with rotting leaves,mushrooms and peat moss ! Hmmmm~  my washing machine smells like tree mold.Anyway, boots,rifle,bullets,walkie talkies.....should I wear the vial of deer urine around my ankle that eeks out a few drops on the ground as I walk along? Coffee thermos and turkey sandwiches on toast,flashlight, freshly sharpened knife ..... should I bring a book? Maybe just a small one.The ladder has been secured to the tree against the tree stand. We actually have two~ the fort and another one man seat way up high.That one is located in the best location.......along the deer runway leading to the creek.Hence, the deerstand vest. Just in case I decide to flip a backward tumblesault while shooting. You never know what a day will bring. Guns have been cleaned and sighted in. All over the mountain you can hear guys sighting guns.My neighbor tested his this evening before dark.It made me jump 6 feet.I think he has one of those big blasters that not only kills your deer but turns it into chili with a single shot.
 In the dark of the morning we'll cross the stream and enter our woods.I should blend right in with the woods' scent.Here's what I expect will happen ~ the cats will try to follow us. Later that afternoon ,when we return to the woods after lunch , the turkeys will follow us.I have rarely walked in the woods alone. Always, ALWAYS some animal or farm bird can't stand the curiosity and just HAS to follow me.One time I was sighting in a gobbler strutting next to an enormous deadfall .My cat snuck up behind me under my elbow, purred & wanted to be pet.Imagine my surprise!  Imagine the gobbler's surprise when he realized I was not Lilly Langtree turkey madam!!
So, tell me....WHAT did I forget? There's always something.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Nov 2012

This year's Thanksgiving has brought out the gratitude in a good many of us. Gratitude for heat and electricity, gas for transportation and an intact house. There are a good many of us, especially those in Staten Island, who are still floundering for the basics. I just watched the news tonight where homeless Staten Island residents were evicted from hotels to make room for FEMA employees.(SIGH).........I learned from the Bible, from Abraham, to stay away from cities.....(Genesis ~hence, genes, or beginnings...gives you early warnings about basic human behaviours.  
         While we grow most of our own food,and most on that table is our own, we are still dependent upon the resources of others. We still need to work full time.We are not able to be 100% homesteaders. We might be able to successfully do it if we were vegetarian and had ZERO animals on the farm. No pets.....no chickens.....no poultry....no horses....no sheep...no cats or dogs......in other words, NOT the life I want to be a part of. And so, we keep our jobs. I have a great many things to be thankful for this past year. i have NO DOUBTS WHATSOEVER that the REAL GOD REALLY EXISTS !   HAH!!  He has His hand TIGHT upon my wrist. I smile when I think of this. There are coincidences in life, I know. But the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ in my life is so remarkable.I just sit back and watch! The still small voice is what I watch for...not the whirlwind or the loud earthquake.It's the parking space near the entrance when I'm sick.It's being able to leave from work at 8:30 PM and another nurse can take my place, so I can drive 3.5 hours away to see my grandchild born.It's the multitude of 'COINCIDENCES' that come together at JUST THE RIGHT TIME when we need it most....never an hour too early  (hah   haha)    that God peeks from behind the curtain and says ..."I see youuuuu ! ".     "Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto you" said James in the Bible.    Just grasp the hem of His garment and say," Lord....teach me something about YOU "        (:>

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NOVEMBER

I like November. I was born in November. I cost my parents $250  to bring me into the world ...in the days when insurance was not the issue.My mom spent 10 days in the Maragaret Hague maternity ward post partum. In those days , they made SURE the moms would rest and recuperate. I was brought home on Thanksgiving  and my Nana Lawler had just gotten a new dining room suit that thrilled her.Therefore, November and I slap a high fiver ~~  Indian summer days, leafy camo and a shotgun in Bradford County, Pa   The best of a turkey hunt was out smarting thee gobbler.They are no fools. There you sit at the tree line of the woods in full camo garb .You pull the slate turkey call out of your pocket,making tiny soundless moves.The handle is a corncob on a sawed off arrow.You scratch small loops across the slate circle ....hen calls.The gobbler WAYYYYYYYY   across the field stops and gobbles to you....but he's playing with you.He sent his harem of hens to circle around and sneak up behind you to see what you are!!!  This was was my fetish for 10 years...UNTIL !!!!!    I discovered the FARM!!!!!  

Now I raise my own turkeys and have NO TIME for anything else.(:


They belly up to the bar ,crowd your legs as you try to pass through,peck at your jewelry or anyting else that sparkles and pinch the back of your dungarees with their beaks.They LOVE fresh sparkling water .If you play with them with turkey calls....they will suddenly freeze stock still and listen....they can tell a voice, athe diffenence in a turkey voice, the same as you can identify a human voice. Is it my mother or Calvin Coolidge?? Just think of the number of different human voices you can differentiate between....Obama, Johnny Carson,your spouse, your child......Bruce Willis, Bill O'Reilly,Julia Child...a no brainer for us~ a no brainer for turkeys.You're a newbie and a threat.Sooooo.....they freeze and listen and watch for normal turkey behavior. If they respond and you don't show yourself (as a hot hen would do) you are suspicious.
This gobbler weighed out as 26.5 lbs. The other gobbler was 25.5 lbs.   The hens weighed 17.5-19 lbs   Don't ask what my grain $$$$ bill  was. It was horrendous. (Supermarket turkeys at Thanksgiving are promotional prices to get you into their store to grocery shop for the week. 69 cents/lb is LAUGHABLE!!! NO WAY  !!)  I don't know why I do this year after year.I think next year I will turn my garden into a turkey amusement park. GO HELP YOURSELF!! Cabbages....tomatoes....corn....etc!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I have been hatching out Black Australorpe chicken eggs for a friend who wants good quality brown egg laying chickens.The past 2 days I had a few eggs that were unfertilized, cracked & seeped and had an odor from the bottomless pit (:<........I tried to gently lift these eggs off the egg turner, then gently rock them back & forth.....frustration overtook good sense and..............POW !!!!     BOOM !!!!    MY WHOLE CELLAR & PART OF MY KITCHEN REEKS OF A SMELL THAT RIVALS THE TRENCHES DURING A WW1 MUSTARD GAS ATTACK!!   I should leave well enough alone. I arrive home late from work but check on all the farm animals to make sure all is well & bedded down safe & sound. Last of all I check on the incubators. They had a surprise for me (:>

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Turkeys and chickens

It looks like a wedding processional of turkeys in their pretty white feathers. Actually, they are curiously following me to their coop and yard . I had hopes of moving the meat chickens from the barn to the big general population chicken/turkey yard where they could freely forage .They would also have access to the garden leftovers .

I removed several chickens , showed them where the grain and water is and their roosting house.Turkeys milled about and made little curious sounds.
Well,that idea went over well! Gobblers fanned out their feathers and began strutting and grabbing onto the chickens necks .Bullies!!  Back to the yellow chicken box they went and transferred to the other side of the farm.

Turkeys HATE to share their grain (:<

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sweet Sweet Corn !

The end of August and the beginning of September can be overwhelming for those of us who can & freeze our harvests.However, if you have Bailey the Corn  Plucker and Ed the Corn Shucker,you will be OK.All will turn out well because many hands make the work load light.

This year I planted Bodacious Corn and it was all it's name claims to be.Yum! I can eat it raw by the handful ,cramming every mouthful  between the vegetable chopping blade's strokes down  each side of the cob. Kernels bounce off the counter and spill to the floor but the cats are also lovers of fresh juicy corn and they keep the floor tidy for me.Everyone here loves corn plucking season.As I pick each ear of corn, empty corn stalks get pulled and tossed in piles.Later I carry them to the horses, sheep and goats.YUM!!! They devour the fresh green leafy stalks.I always throw in a few ears of corn for each of the corn fans as they chomp away.At the end of this, I will give you "LEE MILLER'S MOTHER'S CORN PUDDING RECIPE", a recipe I use every Thanksgiving, because it's so GOOD! 

Here is my favorite man,Ed the Corn Shucker.This year our corn ended up being planted a little too close together but NO MATTER ! Gus, the dog,helped us out!! He ran through the corn, happily leaping about and flattening out whole sections, thus allowing sunlight to beam its' warm rays throughout the interior corn plants who before had no hope (:<  "WHAT did I do"  with the downed corn plants ? you ask. Of course I dragged them off to the barn to awaken the senses of the drowsy lazy horses and sheep who were hiding out in the dark stalls of the barn hiding from flies .

August is a hot listless month.Horses hide in dark spots of the barn rhythmically swatting flying intruders with their tails and we with our swatters on the porch. Who the heck feels like canning veggies in a hot steamy kitchen ? Yours truly and a goodly number of others who may have read Proverbs 6:6-8   and Proverbs 31:10-31  in the Bible. Did you know that the OLDEST profession in the world is gardening? Just read the first few chapters of Genesis. Man was created in the field but God placed him in the garden. He became a farmer.Woman was created in the garden. Maybe that's why we love flowers and men yearn for the field where hunting and fishing exist. Isaiah says that in the end of this world, men will beat their swords into plowshares and will not learn WAR anymore.We go back to farming and the contended life of  producing from the earth. God says that men will sit under their own fig tree.The frenzy of city life I hold at arms length.        
LEE MILLER'S MOTHER'S CORN PUDDING  RECIPE

3 eggs  
4 TB flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 c. milk
2 c. kernal corn, drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 stick margarine
pinch of nutmeg (save till last to sprinkle over the surface)

While mixing other ingredients,melt margarine in casserole pot (that you will bake this in).Add other ingredients.Sprinke the pinch of nutmeg over the surface of the pudding mixture.
BAKE 400F  45-60 min.Middle should be firm. Stick knife through middle, to test  for doneness. If it comes out clean, it's done.                                                                                                                               

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dill spears

I have never had any success making keg dill pickles. Therefore, sweet pickles/ Bread and Butter Pickles have always lined the shelves and keg pickles were tossed over the embankment.
    (LONGGGGGGG   SIGH~~~)   I have FINALLY found a yummy, YUMMY dill pickle spear recipe and  years of frustration have come to an end ! I will share these recipes with you. There are more than one.The basic trick is a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar to water , however one recipe below calls for 2 cups water and 1 cup vinegar.. The rest of the recipes are merely spices added. Taste your mixture as it cooks on the stove. If it makes you leap in the air, cough, gag and eyes tear up, then add a little more water.

1..  This is the recipe for the spears you see on the right.Tumeric was added. That's why there is a difference in color.The recipe is from McCormick's recipe site .Specifically

http://www.mccormick.com/Recipes/Gravy-Sauce-Condiment/Dill-Pickle-Spears.aspx

2.Another recipe I used ,I added spices .
 
           4-6 cucumbers (about 1 lb.) sliced lengthwise into spears.
           1 cup white distilled vinegar
           2 cups water
           1/4 c sugar
           3 Tbs coarse Kosher salt (NON-iodized or your pickles will turn brown in the canning process)
           Dill seed & weed cut from a dill plant (a sprig for each jar.) (1 tsp dill seed  1 tsp dill weed )
           5-8 peppercorns
           2 garlic cloves, peeled,smashed & chopped.( Pressing it between 2 spoons releases flavor better than only chopping it)


           A) In a saucepan combine vinegar,water,sugar,salt,dill seed & weed and garlic. Bring to boil stirring until sugar & salt dissolve.
            B) Place cucumber spears in sterilized glass Qt canning jars & pour boiled hot liquid mixture over it. Make sure that all jars have dill seed,weed & garlic & peppercorns.Add more to skimpy jars if you need to.Fill jars leaving 1/2" head space & seal according to Ball or Kerr canning book directions. HOT WATER BATH ONLY!    Do not pressure can. They mush.
         
       
          

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Growing celery a fun way!

I have never had much luck growing celery in the garden.It never made it off the ground. Now I have found this wonderful site on Facebook~ Homesteading/Survivalism  that gave me new hope. yes, I do believe I am at the end of  my celery sorrows. I tried this crazy idea for growing celery and it took off like a rocket.When you are nearly finished with your celery,cut off the base and stick 4 toothpicks,one in each side and suspend it in a jar of water on a window sill. SUDDENLY !!!! You will wake up 2 mornings later and it will be like Christmas !!! CELERY GROWING OUT OF THAT DOGGONE STUMP !! HOO HAH !! 



I thought about this thing and it occurred to me, "How much nutrition is in plain water?"   Not a heck of a lot.So, I added a few drops of plant/veggie food to the water and the growth continued to dark green leafy stems. All within a short period of time.

Eventually,roots began growing and once I had a decent amount of a dangling root system I transplanted it into potting soil.

I shall let you know the outcome. (:>     You can do this with ginger root, scallions and some other things that I forgot, but am too lazy at this moment to look up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alfalfa~ you should be dog meat! But....

     Alfalfa, you should be dog meat. But, understanding person that I am, you are forgiven and may live to see another lambing year.  
      The last week in May , I was feeding the sheep when I saw an opportunity to catch an 8 week old lamb for a sale that night. Of course, it was a sudden poorly thought out move. You NEVER know what a day will bring. That's my motto.On a farm, you need to think out EVERY MOVE and possible repercussions! So, work slow.That lamb howled and bleated and BAAAAA 'd at excruciating decibles. His daddy, the farm ram, stopped eating his hay and charged straight for my chest wall while I was still on my knees. CRASH !!!!*&%$#@   Right into the old chest freezer used as a grain storage bin.So, I spent the next 3 weeks hobbling around, spasming every time I yawned, coughed or sneezed and slept on the couch for the next 5 weeks because I couldn't lie flat. As he started to back up for another charge, I yelled horrible explicatives .Then  he grew bored and came over for a chin scratching and pet on the head. Just havin' fun, he said,Well, that was the beginning of my summer.My spring planting was started but interfered with it's maintenance. It seems like every year at this time, something comes up.
     The sheep were sheered that evening.That sure looked nice! (:>





Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seedlings


These are my cabbages and brussel sprouts for the coming year.I don't eat many of these but my farm animals will .You are looking at $40.00 + worth of seedlings that I would have had to pay for if I did not start these myself.I have plenty more seedlings under lights elsewhere in my basement , especially for  tomatoes ~ Heirloom tomatoes. I can save & re-plant their seeds at the end of the season for next year .Heirloom corn is not so lucky, Tough and tasteless,it looses popularity to the more exciting hybrid crowd .I prefer starter plants because they mark their area so nicely before weeds get a good start.

  You will not see a picture here, but instead~ the pre-dawn cry of a newborn baby lamb for his mother. In the dark wee hours, just prior to the dawn light,little Billy Boy was forced out of his mother's womb,from sleep, into a chilly stall.He lay on the hay bed, head bobbing for control and rested back to sleep.His mama was curious about him and licked his little face clean of birth secretions.It helped him to breathe more freely. She licked his face, then his neck ,then the rest of his white wooley torso.He was tossed about and began to gain control of his legs. Then he was standing, an ataxic stance, but standing! He sniffed at the air and found his mothers udder.Colostrum spilled forth , giving him the immunity he would need for immediate survival.Soon, the wonderful tasting sheep's milk filled his little mouth. His tail wagged at a racing speed, back & forth. His mother was pleased and checked his butt and cleaned him.She found her hay dinner pile. She was hungry now and  nibbled and chewed at the good smelling hay .Then she gave that half smile that sheep always do.

.Little Billy Boy was born on my 40th Wedding Anniversary, on March 25th, 2012. Therefore I shall keep him as a remembrance.
   My sheep always have their lambs just before dawn.Therefore, it's like Christmas or Easter~~ you wake up and there is your surprise!!
 

Monday, March 26, 2012

LITTLE KATIE

BEAUTIFUL MOMMY & HER 2 BABIES   VERY NEWBORN MARCH 10TH.2012 KATIE & JOHNNIE CAKE

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My beautiful baby lambs! How can I stop kissing them? I love, LOVE lamb meat~~  but not from my farm. I cannot butcher my sheep family.Tonight I stopped in the driveway to check on my sheep & baby lambs. All greeted me at the doorway and nuzzled up to my face for a kiss g'night. Take a close look at the mouths of these babes. That's what's referred to as a "Sheepish grin". All sheep have a half smile on their faces at all times.
  My first babes this year were born on March 10th. to my first ewe,Sweetpea.Katie & Johnniecake.  Yesterday, on my 40th wedding anniversary was 1  little boy born to the second ewe,Bella.. I haven't named him yet.She did a fine job this year and is turning out to be a fine mama. Last year she had a 'premie' and didn't quite seem to know what to do. She wasn't quite a year old and her little babe died.Well, this year she is proving herself to be a fine mama! Tails are banded on on first 2. Tomorrow I band the testes on the first & the tail on the new babe.
   I can't believe how quickly these lambs grow! Cheviots are SO hearty & strong!! Mothers are very dedicated and their wool is carpet wool strength. I never had an illness. I am so glad these were my choice to start with. Very cold weather hearty.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sawdust Chickens

That's my Ed up there, building our first chicken coop in 2005. It has since become our nursery coop to allow small chickens grow to size before they join adult chickens and turkeys in the bigger coop on the other side of the farm.

The chicken peeps that were born on Dec 26-28 (see Jan 7th post) have been booted out to the nursery coop.I have to admit, I miss hearing their chatter at the bottom of the cellar stairs while I'm cooking in my kitchen, They have all their feathers now and I'm taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to allow them to adjust to the outdoors.

Their instincts never cease to amaze me! Never in the presence of an adult chicken , the protective mothering instinct immediately kicked in when this little black Barred Rock baby hen saw me walk through the door of the coop. She immediately ran over to the smaller chicks ,who are a cross between Bandy and Aracauna, and spread her wings over them to shield them from the big lady with the big boots. 
I love this coop.It has served me well.Young turkeys will reside  here in June, then  in August white Cornish Rock chickens will play in the sawdust. I prefer wood chips when I can get them.I think I'll take a walk out there now to open the door and allow sunlight to enter through the screen.door.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Door to door chicken delivery

       A few days ago I was doing laundry.The door to the porch was behind me and I heard a ruckus. An Arakauna  laying hen was throwing a hissy fit under the corn shucker .She was tossing junk across the porch  with the fervor of a Polish cleaning woman ,raucous groanings and cacklings with the letting out of periodic ear piecing squawks ! Dried up flower pots with dead stems went rolling across the slate floor.Fishing poles,the cattle prod,rolls of chicken wire and muddy sneakers all went flying! My God, what's got into her? Finally she tossed her tail feathers in a flounce as a queen would arrange her hooped skirts upon a throne and there she sat, on the cold slate porch floor and layed a beautiful aqua blue egg.


     Now I am quick to recognize a gift horse and decided to capitalize on this .I noticed that her rooster fellow and a following of curious pretty hens all watched with a question mark over their hawk~like heads.Therfore, I decided any chicken wanting to play Fuller Brush man and make a house delivery deserves my gratitude.Therefore , I swept the porch & got rid of the junk (taking the hint) and placed a few little boxes of hay beneath the corn shucker. HAH! Just as I thought, other hens decided to lay their eggs there also.Right outside my kitchen door!  Helloo~oooo breakfast !

Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting the soil ready for spring !

      So far the winter has been fairly mild and even though we've had our share of frigid nights, the ground is soft and workable. Usually the manure is frozen and rock hard this time of year but not today.I'm trying to get the stalls ready for lambing time (about 6 weeks away) .Today I filled my husband's shiny new pickup truck with 3 loads of  sheep manure and rejected hay .LOTS of hay , those wasteful little buggers! As they feed on their hay, they toss it about,  pee on it, trounce on it then refuse it. But they LOVE their alfalfa.Not too much waste there.It amazes me how deeply packed this stuff gets.As I get to the bottom of the stalls, black mold throws up a dust cloud attacking me with it's bitter taste.Agghhh ! I'll have to keep the animals out of those stalls until I can deal with the floor.So, I spread the manure over the garden which will be plowed into the soil in 2 months.
       There are those that avoid using manures because of "weeds and seeds" that wind up back in the garden.That's OK in my book.It's more like timothy & rye seeds that get expelled ~ hay seed & grasses.I prefer organics.The hay is mulch to soften the clay soil, the molds and manures carry all sorts of wonderful flora that build the soil and my garden has become a kingdom of earthworms because of it.Earthworms do so much more than just aerate the soil." Their casts are 5 times richer in available nitrogen, 7 times richer in available phosphate, and 11 times richer in available potash, than the upper 6 inches of the soil.Some 25 TONS of fresh worm casts are produced EVERY YEAR on each acre of properly farmed land." (Sir Albert Howard, Letter to the London Sunday Times 2/27/1944.) These castings are neutral colloidal humus, the only form immediately available to plants.Earthworms ventilate and drain the land as well as transform trash to balanced plant food.Top soil swarms with insect and rodent life.The richer the topsoil in organic matter,the larger will be its living population (unless it is drugged or killed with chemical fertilizers , poisonous sprays or dusts) and the more friable for production and use. " (Helen & Scott Nearing, THE GOOD LIFE :SIXTY YEARS OF SELF SUFFICIENT LIVING  p.96) 
     And so, on a warm spring day in June, I will be on my knees digging holes to transplant  my young vegetable plants from their starter  flats to the big garden. This is a fisherman's bait paradise. There is rarely a spot that I dig where an earthworm is not exposed. My chickens know this.Later they follow  behind me as I make fresh furrows with the rototiller . It is the Spring Chicken Parade as they pause , scratch and peck, then resume their walk.One finds an exposed cut worm and everybody pounces .One hen emerges from the brawl with a fat worm and runs off with it far from the scuffle.I cover the night crawlers and red trout worms with cool moist soil so the beaks won't find them.These are my garden friends.Cut worms and several bug species are not, so I allow the chickens to scratch and search. Over the course of the winter, the chickens and turkeys will search through the dumped hay and manure and do a better job of spreading it about in an even manner than I have done today.Discarded sheep wool will be worked into the furrows and will hold moisture for young plant roots. ~ I love symbiosis ! (:>


Friday, January 13, 2012

Christmas Traditions

      Under the eaves of the attic rafters lie a treasure of black and yellow/orange boxes of Rail King O~gauge trains .It is a Christmas tradition as exciting as Christmas trees and cookie making and just plain fun.
      When I was very small I remember following my mother up the creaking attic stairs to gather the dark orange Lionel Train boxes stashed away under eaves of our slanting attic roof.My mother's arms were soon loaded with tracks,box cars and of coarse, the black steam engine (which I still have).
 Now my grandsons are traipsing my own creaky attic stairs , rummaging under the cold drafty eaves, searching for their favorite engine and freight cars. They return to the warmth below, arms loaded with a heavy boxed engine ,cars and track. Now begins the frustration of figuring out which track is a dead non-conductor and which track is the wrong size .

"Can we set up the village too, Nana?" . "Sure, help yourself"...In other words, 'Don't bother me, I'm watching my Christmas movies' . An hour goes by with kids racing up and down the stairs carrying 'who knows what'. I'm oblivious as they brush past me.I'm watching Clarence jump in the icy river as Jimmy Stewart is side tracked from his attempt to end it all.The next thing I know,"Hey Nana!!  Come see this!". A commercial comes on and I go into the next room ,kicking empty boxes out of my path."Watch this!",Brandon says. They hooked up the coaling station with the conveyor carrying beans to the top.Upward and downward it went in a circular motion.."And look at this!!"  Doggone!! They have the street lamps hooked up to a second smaller transformer lighting the track pathway. "Wow Brandon! I didn't know you knew how to do that!" . "I didn't,JOEL did",he said. "Joel!! How did you know how to hook them up?", I was shocked. "I don't know,I just do",he said.Typical 7 year old answer.

But where is Bailey ?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seed Catalogue Time !

    Once again the seed catalogs are arriving in my mailbox. I would  love to have a little greenhouse next to my springhouse to get an early start on veggies & flowers. Hey !!.....a greenhouse next to my springhouse makes a great song or book title !  The lengthy dark hours of winter really get to me. Before I know it, the day is over and outdoor work has to come to a halt. I miss my garden and the warm sunshine on the back of my head and shoulders and the cool moist earth between my toes in freshly plowed soil. So, I'll start redesigning the garden  to section off potatoes, cabbage,string beans, tomatoes, corn,etc. The field we use is dotted with dark mounds of horse & sheep manure which will be spread and plowed into the soil in March or April. I still have to prune the apple trees , rose bushes, raspberry bushes and grapevines. 
    So much to do! Sections of fences need repair.Sheep need to be wormed and feet trimmed.My horse farrier came today to trim the horses' feet and Dolly (my white Q.H.) is losing weight.Beet pulp is now added to their grain and I've added 2 extra bales of hay at night. In the fall I froze 2 bushels of cut up apples in plastic zip lock bags to heat up for them on cold nasty days.I have a 50lb bag of giant carrots on my porch to keep them in fruit & veggies over the winter.The sheep & pheasants have huge cabbage heads to munch on a few times a week.
    God has been good to us all !

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Future Egg Layers.....or nasty roosters.Oh well.

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A Peep Is Born

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Finally the peepers peck themselves free of their shells.Some are lazy peckers and never make it onto this side of the shell. I have learned to minimize intervening and helping them.If they don't peck themselves free,you cannot release them.They die a day or two later anyway.I have never learned why.The most I do is stimulate them awake and maybe moisten exposed inner shell membranes with a few dabs of warm water to keep it from drying out.The surrounding area looks kind of yucky, but the immediate surroundings were pretty yucky when YOU were born too. The difference is, these little guys will clean themselves up nice from wet yolk matted feathers to clean fluffy puffs in a few hours.They will learn on their own how to eat & drink and hunt by pecking about their surroundings foraging through the hay bed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


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Well, here they are~~ the new chicken peepers for July egg layers. It takes 7 months growth for a chick to grow enough to lay an egg.Here's my winter project! (:>