Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I Planted a Garden

It's February - and I planted a garden!  This is the month for starting seeds, right?  With last year's seed starting experiments in mind, I spent some time messing around in the greenhouse during the rainy weather we've been having.  It's nice under that dome of plastic on a drizzly and cloudy day.  

If you remember, I spread all the old hay and straw that the goats had slept on last year over the ground inside the greenhouse.  The goats dedicated much of their time to generously fertilize this this material, so I was careful not to waste all their hard work.  I soaked the bedding a few times in the late winter, just to make sure there was moisture enough for the microbes to do their job of breaking all those organic particles into something recyclable by plants.  We used the greenhouse for chicken plucking too, so the ground is decorated with white chicken feathers.  

There's about three inches of beautiful and dark crumbly stuff, which was fun to rake into a pattern to create a garden of greens. 

I settled on a floral wheel pattern for this first garden attempt.  I walked in a big circle, and reached toward the center with my fork, and pulled furrows in the hay to plant my seeds in.  I'm determined to give myself and my plants more room this year.  I want more room between the plants, and more room for me to navigate.  I want to be able to raise some greens and be able to see each plant so I can better manage the bugs that come with organic gardening.  If I have spend time on my knees squishing bugs, then I want to give myself more room to work.  I think I'll aim for less produce in more space, so I can allow myself the time and room to take better care of them.  It's a theory, anyway. 

I planted something different in each spoke of my wheel - beets, spinach, lettuce, radish, swill chard, and kale.  I didn't take any notes about which spoke has which plant, so I'll have to rely on my plant identification skills. 

Look!  Is this a baby lettuce?!  It's only been a few days, but I think maybe I already have my first garden plant! 

It will be a few months before the outside garden is ready to plant, but to get prepared, I've put the chickens to work clearing out the old garden.  I sprinkle their food inside the garden fence, and leave the gate open.  They scratch and dig looking for their breakfast, so I'm hoping they will clear the ground and prepare a nice seed bed for me before planting time.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Earth Creatures

Are we sure that goats are earth creatures?  Don't you think something about Peaches proportions appears alien?  Maybe I just think that because she tries so hard to communicate with me telepathically.  At least that's what I think she is doing when she stares into my eyes with those odd square pupils.  Why else would I feel so compelled to feed her treats!   

Greetings, earth goats.  

I've noticed that the goats rarely come out of their pen lately, and I think it's because they don't enjoy the near constant rain we've been having, or the resulting mud.  Because they prefer to stay in their hay lined stall, they aren't hard on their pasture, like the donkeys.  The donkeys have churned up their yard to the point that it's a quagmire.  They also have a muddy trail that follows the perimeter of their pasture.  I worry about them having wet feet for so many days in a row.  My horse owning friend doesn't seem worried though.  

It's been six days since we buried Puck under the apple tree, and even with frequent visits with the goats, donkeys, and time spent with Wendigo, our big sweet dog, I feel Puck's absence acutely.  The house feels different, like the lights are dim or the fire isn't as warm.  In the days since he's been gone, we've rearranged some furniture and put down a new rug.  We keep the pantry door closed.  I think we're attempting to change things up with the hope that it will help us notice his absence less.  Time is what it will take, and we know that.  

Little Buck still looks like a baby goat to me.  He's taller now, but he's sort of scrawny.  How do you know if a bony young goat isn't growing fast enough?  He seems healthy, and his eyelids have good color.  He eats, but he just doesn't fatten up.  Hopefully this spring he'll have a growth spurt and finally become a man goat.  I have high hopes for goat milk by next spring.  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Beasts' Confession

An excerpt from The Beasts' Confession by Johnathan Swift

The goat advanc'd with decent pace;
And first excus'd his youthful face;
Forgiveness begg'd that he appear'd
('Twas nature's fault) without a beard.

'Tis true, he was not much inclin'd
To fondness for the female kind;
Not, as his enemies object,
From chance, or natural defect;
Not by his frigid constitution,
But through a pious resolution;
For he had made a holy vow
Of chastity as monks do now;
Which he resolv'd to keep for ever hence,
As strictly too, as doth his Reverence.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Who's Who?

Before we got our second donkey, Hattie, I wondered if I would be able to tell the two donkeys apart once they were all grown up.  It's not a problem.  Brandon is with Rufus in the picture above. 

This is Hattie.   I can tell them apart even when they aren't standing side by side.  Hattie has straight hair and bangs. 

This is Rufus.  Rufus has curly hair and bangs.  Rufus is saying, with his ears, "Give me those treats, lady! Do not give them to my sister!" 

Shaggy Hattie is on the left, wavy Rufus is on the right. 

 Also, Rufus, in the back, is a darker color overall.  When Rufus gets wet, even the hair on his back is curly, so his back stripe is wavy.  Hattie's fur is thick and straight.  Her winter coat looks fuzzy, like she's full of static electricity. 

The donkeys are due for a hoof trimming, so I spent a little extra time with them this week getting them used to being touched again.  It doesn't take many sunflower seeds before they are eating out of my hands and letting me rub their legs and feet.  But if I go for days and days only giving them attention over the fence, because it's cold and dark and we have no time to play, they get really skittish and jumpy, even with me.  I've been told that mini donkeys can be taught to pull a cart.  I can't imagine my donkeys ever keeping their cool enough to pull a cart. Of course, they don't get out much, these donkeys of mine.   

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Journey to Normal

It used to strike me as weird when someone would refer to their food journey.  Or their health journey.  But, when I reflect on this delicious homemade pepperoni pizza, I realize that I could say Brandon and I have been on a journey for our health.  This seems true to me because there is no universally understood route to get to health, and there are so many different directions given for a healthy lifestyle and diet, that it's a journey just to try them all and find one that works.  

This is a pizza crust made with cauliflower!  It's Dr. Berg's recipe, which is two cups of shredded cauliflower, two cups of shredded cheese, and two eggs.  It's pretty good, too!  

Brandon and I have journeyed from the standard american diet and various attempts at weight loss diets, to vegetable smoothies, then to juice fasting, super foods, an elimination diet, gluten and sugar free, low carbohydrate, and now we've stumbled into the realm of the ketogenic diet.  

This pizza turns out even better when cooked on parchment paper on a pizza stone, although we enjoyed scraping it out of a cast iron skillet and eating it with a fork several times before we invested in the right tools for the job.  

I think some of the pathways we took on this journey were not the right destination, ultimately, but they were important steps for us to take.  For instance, I think juice fasting was the thing that made us both realize that we could feel noticeably better by changing how we ate.  Sounds obvious, right?  But until you experience it, it's hard to understand.  It was probably the first time that I stopped eating my old favorites, and didn't have cravings and weakness.  I felt flush with life, and it helped me understand that my body has the potential to feel much better when crammed with vegetable nutrition.  Of course, you can't live on juice forever.  What to eat, then?   

The elimination diet was also a big step in this journey for us.  Not just because we systematically tested different foods, and eliminated foods that triggered uncomfortable feelings in our bodies, but because for two entire months we had to cook all of our own meals from scratch.  If you had asked me before the elimination diet, I would have said we cooked most of our own food, and we weren't eating convenience food very often.  Ha.  We get busy or in a hurry, just like everyone, but during the elimination diet we forced ourselves to plan ahead, and to turn down temptations.  It was good practice, and it's been easier ever since.  

So here we are now, making our own pizza crust with vegetables, scarfing salad by the box, and loading up on saturated fats.  This ketogenic diet approach has us eating unlimited vegetables plus lots of eggs, meat, cheese, avocados, olives, butter, and healthy oils.  We're trying to eat six to ten cups of greens a day!  We're avoiding most carbohydrates, including fruit and alcohol.  

Even though so many people tell me that eating saturated fat is good for me, it's still makes me wonder when I see so many government approved diet plans that say to avoid saturated fat.  But look at the results from my recent physical - I'm normal!  No one ever tells me I'm normal!  Actually, my triglycerides have never been lower, and my good HDL cholesterol has never been higher.  I've also lost nearly twenty pounds since I was at the doctor for my physical last year.  

When I went for an appointment for some new glasses last week (Brandon sat on mine!), they said my blood pressure was text book - 120 over 62.  The doctor bragged about how healthy my eyes were, and when I told him that years ago an eye doctor said there were little bubbles in my eyes that people who get diabetes have, this new doctor scoffed.  He said, "your eyes are perfectly healthy inside and out."  

It's much more fun to visit a doctor and be told I'm normal, text book, and perfectly healthy.  It's encouraging, and it makes me want to continue this journey.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

Growing Into His Ears

When Puck was just a young pup, a friend of ours asked, "Will he ever grow into his ears?"  Ha!  

He never did - his huge ears are one of his best features!  Along with his fuzzy bunny butt, of course.  

Puck is a good dog.  He spent so much time with us, traveling, and visiting, that he has pretty good manners, for a dog.  He pays attention to us, so he learned how to fit himself into our lives very naturally.  When he used to travel with us for work during the summer months, people were always impressed that he could be off the leash at our project sites, and would stay right with us as we hiked and worked.  He loved having adventures and would leap in and out of the truck, always ready to go.  He once followed us across a rushing stream and was washed away.  We watched in fear as he was swept farther and farther away before he finally figured out to swim to shore instead of fighting the current trying to swim back to us.  Smart dog.  

Puck hasn't been feeling well lately.  Last week he had a trip to the vet, and for a moment, we thought he might not be coming home.  Thankfully, his blood work indicated that his organs weren't failing, so the vet sent him home with medication for pain and infection, with the warning that if he isn't feeling much better in four or five days, we may need to think about the quality of his life.  

It's hard not to focus on what the quality of my own life will be, without him as my shadow.  I once met a corgi enthusiast.  She was wearing a sweater with corgi's embroidered on it, she had two corgi's on leashes with her, and told me she was the president of her corgi club.  She asked about Puck and when she heard his age, she gave me a look.  She said she had loved several corgi's in her life, and none of them made it past age thirteen.  If the corgi lady is to be believed, then we have been lucky to get an extra two years of good times together.    

Thursday, January 25, 2018

One Weird Bird

Is it an owl?  A hawk?  A chicken? 

The hatchery didn't say what kind of bird the bonus chick they sent me was...  MJ was just a tiny, dark, and fluffy baby who was raised with giant dodo meat birds.  Now look what she has become! 

She's become a pest! She is constantly under my feet or pecking at my pant legs.  She clucks and coos and makes such a ruckus that Wendigo makes a game of putting a paw on her back so she can hear her squawk.  During the cold spell she was the only bird that didn't find a safe place out of the weather, and her feet were encased in ice one night, and she couldn't grip the perch.  I brought her in to thaw out overnight, but now she has a swollen foot and a limp.  

She's happy for me to pick her up, but she bites my fingers.  I still have to carry her to bed each night because she finds the strangest places to make her bed.   The goats do not enjoy a chicken cuddle!  She's one weird bird.  

Monday, January 22, 2018

Urban Adventures


While Brandon and I were in Louisville this weekend, I snapped a few pictures of the urban landscape, and Brandon said to me, "I think you might need to get off the farm more often." Ha! 

It's true though, especially after a few weeks of real winter weather that kept me home tending the hearth and livestock.  I may have taken city streets and gallery openings for granted before I settled in at the farm, but now the contrast makes it all the more exciting.  Just having city plans for two days in a row seemed like such an adventure!  

On Friday evening we attended a gallery opening with friends, and ate at a swanky restaurant that required a reservation.  The tables were set with nice china and flowers, and a man played the piano while we discussed art and architecture.  I had two cocktails.  I felt very civilized.  

As if that wasn't exciting enough, on Saturday night we met Byron and Shanna in downtown Louisville again, for kebabs and hummus before attending an Avett Brothers concert at the Palace Theater.  

The theater was beautifully ornate, with sconces, columns, and plush carpets. 

All the opulence of the theater may have gone straight to my head if I wasn't humbled by the image on the beer Byron selected for me.  Oh dear!

Our seats were in the balcony, and the band sounded fantastic in this space. 

Of course, the fans were so enthusiastic that they punctuated every song with screams and hoots, but the energy of the crowd was contagious.  The entire audience stood and danced with the band, for over two hours.  The couple standing directly in front of us was so excited to be there, that we were sure they were going to make a baby before the music ended, and we were going to be unwilling witnesses!    

The light show was blowing my mind.  I didn't feel bad taking photos during the performance because everyone else was doing it too.  Actually, the number of people who were on their phone during this musical experience was noticeable.  The girl next to me filmed nearly the whole concert, and I think she watched the performance through her tiny screen.  I bet her blog is way better...

We rode the wave of band induced adrenaline all the way home to our little farm.  I tucked the chickens in to bed, told the donkeys the nights highlights, and commiserated with Brandon about the late hours.  We stayed up past midnight two nights in a row!  We still got it, right?  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter Hay, Eggs, and Water

The hay racks are empty.  The hay pile stored in the pig shed is long gone.  The stack of hand baled hay in the barn is down to the last row.  I purchased hay for the first time in mid December, buying two giant round hay bales, and I officially broke into the last one yesterday.  It will last three weeks or more, but then it will be gone too, and we are months away from green pastures.  Are the animals nervous?  

Nah.  All they care about is getting to eat plenty right now.  I'll buy more hay when the time comes.  Considering this is the second winter with animals, and this is the first time I've had to pay any money for hay, I think we're doing pretty good.  A months worth of hay for four goats and two donkeys cost me fifteen dollars.  Look how adorable those shaggy donkey foreheads are.  Of course they are worth it!  

Brandon built the goats a new hay basket.  He used an old fence panel made from heavy wire, and bent it into a square and hung it on the gate.  I can scratch hay from the nearby bale, and use the pitch fork to fill the basket.  The goats can pull the hay from the holes in the basket with their lips.  They waste some, as they don't like to eat hay once it's been stepped on, but then they sleep on what falls to the floor.  I read that each goat should have three to five pounds of hay per day.  I fill the basket with hay twice a day, and everyone seems to get plenty. 

I counted, and in a single day of being snow bound I took sixteen pictures of sleeping cats.  Cats really know how to enjoy a warm fire and a cozy blanket!

I enjoy looking at my snow covered domain from the second floor window.  I can see the paths we make in the snow during our daily chores.  I can also see the fly on the window!  It's three degrees outside and we have flies in the windows.  It's not fair!  These cluster flies are hardy bugs, for sure.  

See that tiny brown egg?  What's up with that?  The hens are starting to lay more eggs now that the days are longer.  Especially the hens that lay blue eggs.  This morning Brandon made breakfast and bragged about how it was made from only blue eggs.  He thinks that's special because I normally want him to use the blue eggs last, because they look pretty in my basket.  I gave a dozen eggs to a friend once, with one blue egg, and she told me later she was peeved when her husband used the blue egg first.  I know! 

The chickens have spent their snow days closed up in the chicken coop.  They don't like to come out into the snow anyway, so I put some fresh hay on the coop floor and gave them a feeder full of pellets and a bucket of water.  During the previous cold spell, I fed them outside like usual, but they spent most of their time in the barn pooping on everything, so this time I let them stay in their own space.

Nice tail feathers, Cogburn. 

The guineas are sometimes bullies, but even after being locked up together, with three roosters, for several days, I didn't see any evidence of abuse.  I'm hoping this time together will force MJ, the little hen that was raised with the dodos, to become more of a normal chicken.  She's afraid to sleep with the big chickens still, and I find her sleeping on the floor of the coop instead of roosting.  

It's so cold I've been really appreciating my face mask.  Balaclava, not baklava, right? 

How much snow did we get?  I don't know, but it was chest high to a corgi!

I was trying to capture the sparkles in the snow.  Can you see the sparkles?  With the sun at just the right angle, it looked like diamonds spread on the snow. 

The sunset through the greenhouse plastic made it glow.

Some places the snow was smooth or rippling.  Other places were cris-crossed with rabbit tracks and tiny bird feet prints.  When I pull the tarp from the hay bale in the morning, little birds and mice make a run for it. 

I was talking to my horse owning friend about the challenges of providing water to animals in the winter.  He said his ten cows and several horses will empty a hundred gallon water tank every day during this cold weather.  He wrestles hoses every day, trying to keep them drained so they don't freeze.  

I put a bucket under the bathroom faucet and one under the shower and leave them drip through the night so the lines don't freeze.  In the morning, I carry the full buckets outside and fill up the animals heated buckets.  Between the goats, donkeys, chickens, and dog, I carry about four gallons of water a day.  It's really not bad.  I'm glad I don't have any cows!  
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