Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Surprise Baby Goat!

Guess what!?! Our goat, Peaches, had a baby!  I didn't even know she was pregnant, so she was able to surprise me.  I came home from work to find a new tiny baby in the barn.  

As I walked toward the goat stall, I could see Peaches standing quietly by the gate, and I could see dark colored fur beneath her.  I thought, "Why is Little Buck laying under Peaches?"  As I got closer, I could see that it wasn't Little Buck at all, but his very first daughter!  

I was so excited I didn't know what to do.  Oh, Peaches!  Good job! 

The baby was mostly dry, but still had wet legs and tail.  She had about six inches of umbilical cord hanging down from her belly.  Peaches had the afterbirth hanging from her back side.  It looked like a clear water balloon filled with pink fluid.  Peaches was busy licking the baby and the other goats were unperturbed.  

I ran for my goat book to see what I was supposed to do.  I was supposed to be there during the delivery, have Peaches in a stall with privacy, and have a bunch of gear on hand just in case there was a problem and I needed to assist.  Whew - thank goodness Peaches knew what she was doing, because she didn't get any help from me!  

The book also said that baby goats can tolerate low temperatures as long as they are out of the wind.  Brandon and I debated moving Peaches and the baby, or moving all the boys, and finally decided that everyone was getting along and we should leave them as they were.  We did secure a piece of plywood along one side of the pen to make sure the baby was out of the wind and piled a bunch of clean hay in the stall to make sure it was nice and dry.  The afterbirth came out while we were in the stall and Peaches started to eat it.  Gag.  I took it away for burial.    

Peaches licked and nibbled the baby until it was all dry and clean.  The baby wobbles around on her long legs and nurses while Peaches licks her backside.  Her tail wags like crazy while she is nursing. 

The book says to make sure to handle the baby and get her used to being touched, especially if she's to be a milk goat someday.  She's so soft!  Her tiny hooves are rubbery on the bottom.  She doesn't mind being held, and Peaches doesn't mind if we hold her either.  Brandon keeps referring to her as Noob, because she's a Nubian and a newbie.  I haven't accepted that as her name, but I'm afraid it might stick!  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Spring Garden Fever

Can you see our little farm house hidden in the fog?  I stopped my car in the road, on my way to work one early morning, so I could take this picture.  I'm up early in the mornings these days, taking care of my collection of animals and gardens before I head to town to earn my living.  

I keep taking photos of tiny green sprouts because I'm so excited to see them, but when I view them on my computer they hardly seem worthy of sharing.  But, if you too, get excited by earthworms and pea shoots, maybe you can understand my enthusiasm.  My garden is growing! 

I don't think visitors to my greenhouse can see the genius in my garden design.  Actually, some of my visitors may think that the way I use my greenhouse is ridiculous.  I think they think that because they say it!  I was asked, "Why isn't it in a pattern, with rows and walkways?"  What?!  Of course it is in a pattern, with rows and walkways!  It's not a grid pattern, with all straight rows and walkways, but it's not random.  It's organic, and designed around me!  The walkways are in the places I walk, and the plants are in the places I don't walk.  

Within the places I don't walk, are rows of tiny plants, in a pattern.  

We just had a big snow, but before the snowfall, my parents and I made a lot of progress with the garden.  We filled salad boxes with potting soil, and planted two types of tomato seeds.  They are on the ground in the greenhouse, with plastic tented over them.  I worry about their germination because the nights are cold and they aren't heated.

Last years tomato cages were taken down, cleaned up, and neatly stacked so we can use them again this year.  

Old stalks and weeds were pulled from the soft earth and stacked near the compost pile.   

The remainder of an old round hay bale was hauled to the garden, and a large area was covered with rotten hay.  The chickens have been busy spreading this mulch. 

I even spent some time pulling dead plants from the herb spiral and perennial flower beds in the back yard.  We were just getting the yard spring cleaning fever when the snow came and covered everything with inches of pretty white.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Snowy Webs, Cold Salamanders, Sculpin Fish, and a Bear Turd


Jamie and I traveled several hours from our office to one of our most beautiful project sites.  A primordial place, with sandstone cliffs, rhododendron and hemlock forests, and waterfalls and cascades. 

Short lived snow flurries would coat the forest with a fine dusting of snow, but the ground was warm so the snow would last longest on the evergreen leaves and on spider webs.    

We could see thousands of tiny spider webs as we peered into the forests, each holding a fluffy snow ball.  When the clouds would part, and the sun would shine, we could practically see the snow melt before our eyes.  

A frosted forest would melt in minutes only to be frosted again with the next snow shower. 

We spent a day collecting samples of aquatic insects from the streams.  Streams with good water quality and lots of nooks and crannies have a diversity of insects in their aquatic life stages.  We saw the larvae of stonefly, mayfly, caddisfly, blackfly, cranefly, and many others.  I've never sampled streams like these, with so many salamanders that I had to pick them from our insect samples.  The streams were full of these two-lined salamanders (Eurycea bislineata).

Most of the salamanders were tiny, and nearly transparent.  This adult was so cold it moved slow, and let us flip it over so we could see it's yellow underside.  


We inadvertently caught a small mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii).  


It was a sort of cute, like an ugly frog.  

We were hiking down the stream valley, on a search for invasive plants, when we came across this bear turd.  It was so fresh it was practically steaming!  It was a size twelve, at least.  If you remember, this is the project site where we found the wounded deer.  I've convinced myself that the deer had claw marks and a neck bite from an unsuccessful bobcat attack, not a bear.    

This is a photo of the bear turd after it was poked apart with a stick.  It's composed mostly of grass, which doesn't appear to be very digestible, since the leaves and stems were still recognizable.  We kept our eyes open hoping to see the bear, not just it's turd, but never did.  

Monday, March 5, 2018

Weekend Compost Fun

Someone asked me this morning, "Did you do anything fun over the weekend?"  Did I ever!  On Sunday, I recruited Brandon to help me build a compost bin.  I've been watching this guys videos, and getting excited about mulching my garden with compost.  Until now, all my compost making has been rather passive.  I needed a dedicated bin so I can mix and stack my materials, and protect them from the weather and the chickens. 

Brandon and I scavenged around the farm digging up old pallets from their resting places.  Some of the old pallets had been resting on the ground, with hay stacked on them, so they were getting soft in places.  We used them anyway. 

Wendigo was very helpful during our work, thoughtfully bringing us toys and sticks to play with. 

With just a few screws and some heavy lifting, we had a double compost bin structure put together in no time.  While we worked we laughed about the first compost bin we ever built out of pallets, years and years ago.  We had little experience building things back then, and assembling pallets into a square seemed like such a major undertaking.  I'm pretty sure we spent an entire weekend on the job, but I can't remember what took so long.  It's amazing how much difference some experience and a workshop full of tools makes. 

To create a lid for the bins, Brandon used a metal cutting blade on his skill saw, and cut down some old tin roofing pieces to fit the bins. 

He even managed to scrounge up some hinges, so the piece in the front can be flipped back out the way.  The chickens did a thorough inspection and approved the compost bin for use. 

For my first intentional compost making experiment, I cleaned all the chicken dropping from the floor of the mobile chicken coop, and layered them with partially rotten hay.  I put a few inches of old hay, then a sprinkling of chicken manure, then more hay, and alternated layers until all the manure was used up.  I also used the hose, and sprayed down each layer of hay as I went, so the whole stack is damp.  I was hoping for at least three feet of chicken manure and hay, but didn't quite have enough.  I will have to finish my stack with donkey dung and old hay.  I shouldn't have any trouble filling both of these bins as the season progresses.  I hope to have some finished compost ready by summer, so I can mulch my plants, retain the soil moisture, and provide my crops with plenty of nutrition. 

By the end of the day, my whole body was tired from all that scooping, hosing, and layering.  I even got a bit of sunburn!  What a great day.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Eggs to Clouds

The chickens are making up for their winter break, and giving us plenty of eggs.  Thankfully, Brandon is now able to eat eggs without upsetting any of his organs, so the chickens are getting lots of love these days.  Especially now that we are following a mostly ketogenic diet, that has us cutting carbs and embracing fats.  An egg has nearly five grams of fat, but less than a gram of carbohydrates.  

We like to eat eggs in lots of ways, but my newest egg adventure is making cloud bread.  There are lots of folks with cloud bread recipes on the interweb, but I've been using three eggs, a tablespoon of cream cheese, and a teaspoon of cream of tartar.  

I love any recipe that lets me separate egg whites from the yolks.  The whites get whipped with the cream of tartar until they are stiff. 

The cream cheese gets blended with the yolks. 

The yolk mixture gets stirred into the stiff egg whites, and then baked at three hundred degrees four thirty minutes on parchment paper.  Super easy.  

They look like golden meringues, or flat biscuits. 

The texture is a bit eggy, but fluffy enough with all those little air bubbles to make you think you have something bready.  At least it seems bready if you haven't had a real slice of bread in months! 

We like to use them as hamburger buns, or with eggs and salmon for breakfast.  The are so light that I can eat a whole batch without even noticing! 

I even tried adding a few squirts of stevia extract, some vanilla, and a big dash of cinnamon.  I sprinkled raisins and cinnamon on them before I baked them, and they turned out to be pretty good.  Like a cinnamon and raisin meringue biscuit.  A tiny little drizzle of honey makes them perfect.  

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mud Season


It rained, and it rained, and then it rained some more.  The roads flooded, the earth turned to mud, and poor Wendigo got her hair wet. 

I've heard farmers talk about mud season before, but it wasn't until we moved to this clay soil that I really understood the challenges.  As bad as it is when it's so cold the ground freezes, at least during the freeze the mud doesn't suck you down.  Just look at the ground outside our front door!  Even the stones Brandon planted for a walkway are covered in water and mud.  

This weekend, Brandon was so tired of having to change out of his muck boots once he reached his truck, just so his work shoes weren't coated in mud, that he made a trip to town for a load of concrete paving stones.  He really wanted to pave a path with natural stone that we find here at the farm, but the progress was slow, and our feet are getting dirty now.  

In a short time, he had plopped about forty of these pavers into the mud on our pathway, creating stepping stones so we can get to the car or gravel driveway without coating our shoes in mud.  There's something else that's different about our place in the photo too.  Can you see what it is?  

I moved the old dairy sink that we've had by the hydrant.  It was our only sink for years while we worked on the house renovations.  I moved it near the greenhouse, since so much of my work is centered in that area these days.  With the sink gone, and the new paving stones in place, our yard will look even better, especially once the mud dries up and the green grass reclaims it.  

During all that mud making rain, I continued to work in the greenhouse.  In addition to the baby greens that are coming up in the spokes of my wheel, I planted a row of peas, swiss chard, and brussel sprouts with basil.  The greenhouse has a drip line on each side, where the plastic pieces come together.  I've noticed that the soil stays moist most of the time where the rainwater or condensation falls in this line.  I planted the peas in one of the drip lines and the brussel sprouts and basil in the other.  I've never grown brussel sprouts before, and I'm not sure they will do well in the greenhouse, but I'm excited to try them.  

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.  
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