Monday, March 30, 2015

No Explanation

There are some things in life that just don't make sense. Try as you might, there is no explanation. Consider these chickens.

They are out enjoying the spring weather, scratching around, looking for greens, grains, bugs, and other chicken delights. Makes sense. That is what you expect from chickens.

What you may not be able to see in the photo is that they are scratching up a pile of "stuff" that was just shoveled out of the chicken house. 

We use the deep litter method which essentially means we add bedding material (mostly shredded paper in our case) to the house floor. So there are layers of bedding, manure, and feed waste that piles up for awhile until we need to clean out the chicken house to fertilize the garden or the litter has simply just become too deep. 

Today Kellen cleaned out part of the chicken house to prepare for chicks. So  this litter has literally been sitting in the hen house for the entire winter. The hens have been content to walk on it and poop on it, but I have never seen them scratch through it in the hen house. 

But shovel it into a bucket, and pile it near the garden, and suddenly it is a hot spot of hen scratching activity! There is no explanation. 

And just because we all need a little cute in our day, I give you baby rabbits. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

A Beautiful Day

We woke up this morning to beautiful blue skies and sunshine. It really was gorgeous outside. As many in the area commented, it was like a scene from Narnia. 

These pictures were taken with my phone and haven't been edited. The sky really was that blue. 

Sadly this beauty has also been brutal. Many are still without power, and the melting snows from a few weeks ago, and heavy rains before this snow, have caused widespread flooding. I hate to see what may happen when all this snow melts this weekend. I am afraid the messes have just begun. 

I love these snow days with the whole family home. We worked puzzles, played checkers, completed homework, and relaxed. This morning I worked on one of my favorite snow day activities.

The 2015 garden is officially started. It felt good to have my fingers in the dirt again, to browse through the seeds, and imagine the taste of those summer vegetables. There is something deeply satisfying about beginning that process in defiance of winter. Who cares that there is a foot of snow on the ground? I'm going to grow something. Take that winter!

Clicks spring forward this weekend. Spring is coming. I can't wait!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Birthday Snow

Today is Vivian's ninth birthday. Today we are also looking at the most snow we have seen since living here. Over a foot fell over night and it is still coming down. 

Happy Birthday Vivian! No school!

We also woke to no power. Tim said it went out around 2:30 AM. We haven't found a restoration estimate, but others near us have heard 3:00 PM. 

This morning we ventured out to check on animals, clear paths, and pull out the "no electric" supplies. 

Tim got the generator running. It doesn't run the house, but it is enough for the important things like the refrigerator, a crockpot, and the blower on the wood burner. (And those other important things like the coffee pot, the wifi, and the phone charger.)

Vivian was able to celebrate her birthday a little last weekend. She and Mamaw had a girls' day out. Viv got her nails done. 

The next day, she got her ears pierced. 

Our baby is growing up so quickly. If the weather clears she will have a couple friends over this weekend.

For today, we are sitting near the wood burner cuddled up doing homework, reading, and watching the snow fall. We may bundle up and go out and play before the predicted bitter cold comes. At the least we'll be going out to tend animals. 

It looks like we may have a couple days like this. I don't mind the quiet days at home. They'd be nicer with electric, but it could be worse. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quiet Winter Days

A three day weekend has turned into a five day weekend that likely will become a week long break from school. This winter storm has dumped over 8" of snow, and is bringing bitter cold temperatures with it. In many areas of the country this might be an average winter storm, but here it is enough to shut things down for a while.

Normally, I am the first to complain about snow and cold, but right now I am thankful for it and the days off school it has brought. Life in the last months has not been what I planned. It is not what I wanted. Tim is home. The kids and I are going to school each day. This, in fact, is the opposite of what I envisioned our life to be. I'm not bitter about it. In many ways, considering all the circumstances, we couldn't be in a better position. I am grateful, yet sometimes it is hard to not throw myself a pity party about all the things that aren't the way I want them, about all the plans and dreams that have taken detours, and about the big changes we made in our life only to be thrown an even bigger curve ball.

But this extended weekend, life is just as it should be. The entire family is home. There is a warm fire and good food cooking in the kitchen. We've gotten things done, including some pesky nagging projects that have been long neglected. We've worked on puzzles, played games, read books, watched movies, gone to bed late, and slept in until we've felt like getting up. We've worked together to care for animals, keep the house in decent shape, create delicious meals from things we've grown ourselves, and clean up afterward, Yes, this is what I envisioned ten years ago when we began this homesteading and homeschooling adventure.

These days won't last forever. The kids and I will soon enough return to school and our hectic daily schedule. Tim will still be home, and nothing in our situation will have changed. But today (and hopefully tomorrow and the next day) I am going sit here by the fire with my family watching the snow and enjoying this time together. Life may not be as we planned, but we are going to enjoy it anyway.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fermenting Phase

Up until this year my experience with fermenting was limited to making vinegar. I regularly make apple cider vinegar from our apple scraps, and once many years ago, when I had more blackberries than I knew what to do with I made blackberry vinegar.

I'm not sure when, but I'd guess a couple years ago at least, fermented vegetable posts started popping up on blogs I read, Facebook, and Pinterest. I would skim them, and I really wanted to try old fashioned sauerkraut, but that idea was put up on the "someday shelf." I've done quite a bit of pickling with vinegar before, and I guess I really never was motivated to change my ways.

With our recent and ongoing health concerns, we have looked closely at making our diet healthier. Before I would have said we ate pretty healthy. We probably did compared to the average American diet. We mostly ate what we grew. We grow our food without chemicals in what I consider a very healthy way. There were things about our diet we didn't consider the effects of enough, like sugar, and things we really didn't consider at all like alkalinity and probiotics. We are still learning in these areas.

On one of our recent medical trips, I picked up a bottle of kombucha. If you don't know, kombucha is fermented green tea. The first taste was not what I expected. It is tart and fizzy without the sweet. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tim posted something about it on Facebook, and a friend offered us a scoby (starter.) We took one, and made our own kombucha. Then we started reading about how good it is for you. We have been fermenting green tea since. The biggest challenge is keeping enough for all of us. I just split my scoby again, and currently have 4 gallons fermenting on the counter.

It wasn't long before I was pinning other fermented drinks and fermented vegetables too. When the garden started to produce, vegetable fermenting began. Currently beets and hot peppers are fermenting, and cucumbers will be started today. I tasted the beets today. They aren't quite done, they still taste a bit salty, but I love the flavor already. Besides the flavor and the health benefits, I love that fermenting is an easy way to preserve. It can be done in small batches which is perfect for those times that the garden is producing more than you can eat, but not quite enough to run a canner for.

This may be just a phase, or maybe not. It is fun trying new ways to do things though. Especially when they are tasty and healthy. Maybe this fall I'll finally give sauerkraut a try too.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Pigs of all Sizes

In my last post, I mentioned that we have had a steady flow of pigs here on the farm this summer. Meet our newest additions. They are less than 24 hours old here. They were born to Blackie , a first timer, who is about a year old. 

One day old.

You may notice our pig names have become less than creative. Our two newest sows, Blackie here, and her sister Pinkie were named because one had a black nose and one had a pink nose. Kellen suggested we name them Keith and George. I think we need to put one of the other kids in charge of naming the pigs.

If we have two litters that are close together we will let the mommas and the babies interact freely. In this group, there are piglets from two litters. One is about a week old. The other is about two weeks old. 
One and two weeks old.

These little muddy cuties are just about two months old. They are still with momma, but are about ready to be weaned. They can already pound the feed. 

Two months old.

These two are about 4 months old. They are actually a little smaller than they could be. We've been letting them grow slowly on pasture and limited grain to time them right for our needs this year. Standing beside them is the momma of the two month old piglets. She is two years old.

Four months old.
Pigs are amazing. Birth to about 250 lbs (slaughter weight) can happen in a mere 6 months for a pig on full feed. Our pigs on pasture do grow a little slower, but even after raising them all these years, I still can't believe how quickly a pig will grow.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Well Lookie There

It is July. How is it already July?

I really thought I would blog regularly this summer. I miss blogging. Writing for me is a way to document this adventure here in the 100 Acre Woods, but it can be therapeutic to put my thoughts down in words. We knew the summer would fly by, but I feel like after a month we've just found our summer groove.

The month of June was very busy. We had a couple trips to North Carolina. Tim's surgery was fine. The pathology report was not what we hoped. They found several pockets of of cancer cells in the removed tissue. The lower part of the tissue appeared to have been cut through a pocket of cancerous cells which suggests that there was still cells left after the removal.

The only chemo therapy approved for Tim's stage is the interferon that he took the first time around. It is not a treatment you repeat. (Not that we'd want to repeat that anyway.) The doctors at Duke recommended radiation, but have said even with radiation it is probable the cancer will return. We have declined this treatment, and Tim has begun an alternative treatment called Protocel. Now we pray, hope, and wait and see what happens.

Let's talk about happier things.

June was filled with camps. Lydia and Nolan had soccer camp.

Lydia, Nolan and Vivian spent a week at Tim's parents. The next week Lydia and Nolan went to 4-H camp. This week Vivian is going to Cloverbud camp. Kellen went to the  US Marine Corps Society of American Military Engineers Construction Camp
One of the projects they complete was a trebuchet.

We've been busy on the farm too. There is a steady flow of piglets being born, broilers to be processed, and eggs to be gathered. The gardens are coming along nicely. We do have less planted than previous years, but are still planting, mulching, and just beginning to eat some of the fruits of our labor. We are still waiting for goodies from many things. Below the girls are standing in front of our two elderberry bushes. These bushes are amazing to me. Kellen and I planted them just over a year ago by simply cutting branches off a wild bush and sticking them in the ground. The bushes and the flowers are HUGE!

Summer means market season. We stock our farm products all year at The Wild Ramp. In the summer, we are also at The Putnam Farmers Market. A few weeks ago Lydia, Nolan, and Vivian participated in Kids Chopped. I think Vivian's chocolate was a little soft.

It has been busy, and it has gone fast, but I am completely loving summer! It is so good to be home together to work on projects and to play. We are going to enjoy it while we can!