Thursday, December 22, 2016


This is what Peaches was doing last night.  She's standing with her front feet on the gate to the pasture, her head over the gate, and staring into the darkness.  She is quite, and still, but very intent.  She is yearning.  

She's looking for love, I think.  If you remember, there was a possibility that Peaches was pregnant when I got her in October, and if she was, it was rumored that the kids would be born sometime in December.  Well, I think the evidence is pointing toward a lack of pregnancy.  She seems distracted, she lifts her tail when I touch her back, and the River boys are fighting with each other with an intensity that left Light River with a big raw spot on his head and blood in his hair.  I kept the goats put up the other day since it was so cold, and when I got home from work, Light River had pounded the top of his head so much he was pink with blood, and poor Dark River had spots of blood all over his body.  

It didn't take long for me to figure out that the blood on Dark River was from Light River's head as he repeatedly rammed him in the head, and in the ribs.  Light River was gruesome with his bloody forehead, and his tail was held high and the hair on this back was standing straight up.  He's not able to breed Peaches, since he was unmanned at an early age, but obviously he still has some buck-like instincts that respond to Peaches pheromones.  Who could blame him, right?  That's a face worth fighting for!      

The goat lady agreed with my diagnosis, and said Peaches' heat will last three days, so I should give them plenty of space during this time.  She did warn that the cycle will happen every twenty-one days, so I should be prepared.  It's time for me to track down a buck.  I've begun the hunt, but I know that most good breeders aren't going to let Peaches on their farm without documentation that she's healthy, so she needs to visit a vet for some tests too.  The picture above is from the door way on Rufus's side of the barn.  You can see the ceiling and solid walls that Brandon built for the goats, to help them stay warm during this cold weather.  I've been piling hay on the floor too, so they have dry bedding that hopefully will begin to compost, and add some heat.  

This picture is from the goats doorway, looking toward Rufus's side of the barn.  His side has a half wall too, and also had a tarp draped over the opening.  Rufus's floor is dirt on the high side, with hay and straw on the low side.  The dirt is easier to clean his droppings from, and he eats most of his bedding anyway!  

Rufus's wall is made form a piece of plywood that Brandon salvaged from the art building at the university where he works.  It has a funny graffiti-like painting on one side, so it's a good thing Rufus has an appreciation for art.  I kind of think the character with the big smile resembles Rufus when he smiles, don't you? 

 Rufus, show us your smile!  Ew, why do you have dirt in your teeth?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cold on the Outside - Sparkly on the Inside

I took this photo through the windshield of my car as I arrived home from work.  The sky is big and gray, and the grass is frozen and colorless.  Imagine the sound of the ever present wind and the distant rumble of the highway.  Our tiny pale house looks cold and dormant, doesn't it?  Desolate?

Once I park my car, and the dog and flock of chickens and guineas come running to greet me, and the sound of the wind and the highway becomes background music to the cry of the goats and the bray of the donkey, it no longer feels desolate, but alive and hungry.  Feeding the animals and the fire creates movement and energy.   The recent addition of a wreath for the door, and inside holiday decor, bring the the house to life even more.  Even though it's cold and gray out there, there are sparkles in here from the twinkling lights and flickering flame.  

Last weekend, with lots of help from family, the Christmas tree was decorated, a wreath was made, ribbon was wound, and all my little holiday nick-knacks found homes on surfaces around the house.

Even the cactus got in the holiday spirit!

We decorated the mantel with cedar boughs. lights, and glittery pine cones, and hung the stocking with care.

My nieces and nephew get to hang the ornaments on the tree, and we always have fun looking at the school pictures of myself and my brothers on the ornaments made for our great grandmother so many years ago, which have found their way back to me.  

We popped popcorn on the stove top and spent some time in the evening making cranberry and popcorn garland for the tree.   My eldest niece can eat raw sour cranberries without even puckering her lips!  Grandma is the best at making popcorn and cranberry garland, and can make twice as many strands as the rest of us in the same amount of time.  As my youngest niece said, she must have really good hands.  

The day of our holiday tree decorating party, the wind was strong, but it was fairly warm.  Even though we stopped adding wood to the fire, by the time the whole family was in the small house with smoldering embers in the fire and a hot oven from baking cookies, it was uncomfortably hot for those of us with warm blood.  Luckily, it was warm enough outside for the kids and I to strap on our headlamps, and hike the nature trail all the way to the climbing tree and the zip line, in the dark.  My nephew brought the baseball bat and kept Wendigo close, just in case we had any scary encounters with coyotes or ghosts.

Boo!  I mean - Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cat Season

Cat season has begun.  It's too cold outside to hang around in the barn yard or play fetch with the puppy.  With ice and wind outside, it's time to follow the cat's lead, and hang close to the fire.  Luckily, with three house cats, there's usually at least one who wants to be a warm fuzzy lap warmer at all times.  

They pile up and preheat the couch cushions for me.

Max enjoys movie nights, but usually falls asleep before the show really gets started.  I know some other old men who do the same thing.

Newt, you aren't helping.

Ditto is so secretive he's hard to capture in a photo.  He blends into the shadows even when he's right there.  I think he's my prettiest cat, with the silkiest fur and is most svelte.  Unfortunately, he is terrified of people (and all noises), so no one gets to admire him.  The last time my nieces tried to pet him, he squeezed himself into a tiny gap behind the hot water heater trying to escape, and we had to organize a rescue mission.  

If Max is the oldest (eighteen), and Ditto is the prettiest, then Newt is the nicest.  She's also the best mouse hunter, and the only cat who has jumped on to the top of the hot wood stove and burned her toes.  She has fast reflexes though, so she barely touched down before she leaped away.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hay Like Monet

I've been more than a little obsessed with hay recently, so please forgive me if I've been going on about it.  The hay that Brandon and I baled ourselves lasted all through October and November, and the first few weeks of December, but as the stack got smaller and smaller, I noticed a growing sense of urgency in myself that no one around me seemed to feel.  When I would bring the subject up with Brandon, he liked to point out that all my livestock was basically worthless from a farming point of view (cover your ears Rufus, and you spoiled non-milk making goats), and would imply that I was feeding them too much.  What does he know!  If you have to squeeze your nutrition from a bunch of dried grass, you should at least get to eat plenty of it, right?  

My horse owning friend was sympathetic to my hay needs, and helped by directing me to several local folks who sold square bales of hay.  Of course, this would mean I had to spend money and figure out how to get the hay from their farm to my barn.  About the time I was ready to contact someone about picking up a truck load of hay ($4 a bale, oh my), Joe made an arrangement with one of our elderly neighbors to begin mowing a field right next door.  This field had been rather neglected from a hay production point of view, although it is excellent deer habitat as our good neighbor who is a hunter likes to point out.  Joe decided to harvest the weedy and stemy hay, and have it for a backup should his non pregnant or lactating animals need it this winter.  His ultimate goal is to get the field back into good hay production in the next three years.  

Stemy and weedy hay cut late in the year that's good for deer sounds just about right for worthless goats and a donkey.  And it was so close I could see it.  Joe was more than happy to sell me a few giant bales.  The animals and I watched eagerly as the hay was cut, dried, and being baled.  Just hold on goats, the hay is almost ready!  But then Joe's tractor broke.  Joe has important things on his own farm that must be done before he can think about weedy goat hay that he doesn't really need.  Meanwhile, Rain is getting more and more anxious.  My hay is out in the weather!  I can see it, I just can't get to it.  I don't want to be a pest, but I need that hay...  Joe said if I could figure out how to get it, I could have it.  Free hay - even better!  

If the hay had been baled in small squares, I could have loaded up our truck myself, and been happy to do it, but these bales are humongous and heavy.  Too heavy for our little tractor, Joe's tractor which is on site has broken hydraulics, and my horse owning friend's tractor is just far enough away that getting it would be a big hassle, although he was willing if necessary.  They weren't too heavy for our good neighbors tractor, but he didn't have the right attachment to move them.  It didn't stop him though.  He and Brandon pulled a trailer over to the bales and used the tractor bucket to roll the hay bales onto the trailer and then roll them off and onto some pallets near our barn.  Whew!  They picked the nicest most grassy looking bales of the bunch, and now we have three big rolls, and two little ones.  The animals and I are happy, and I'm sure everyone else is happy that I stopped fretting about hay for the winter.  Aren't they pretty?  Like a painting by Monet, right?  

Well, maybe not quite like Monet!  They have more of modern art flair now that they are covered by plastic, straps, and cinder blocks.  I still think they are beautiful.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dear Sally, We Have a New Coop Door

Dear Sally, 

Do you remember the lovely handmade item you made?  The one that we exchanged numerous emails about, that I purchased from you through Etsy, as a gift?  I sent you pictures, we talked about the name that would be painted on it and what color I would like.  I'm sure you do remember, since you just created it from raw material and then took the time to carefully package it and send it to me.  How could you forget really, because by the time we worked out the details, we were on a first name basis, you and I.  It's been great ordering from you.  Very personal, and I appreciated all the work you did before I even got to see the lovely personalized gift that you made.  Made with your own hands.  Crafted, even.  

Well, unfortunately my giant puppy ate your work before I even got to see it.  I came home to find the package strewn in a million tiny pieces in the yard, and the item that you crafted is mostly missing.  It's likely that some of the best pieces were swallowed.  What's left looks very nice though.  Sorry about that.  Could you make it again?  

Happy Holidays! 

Argh!  Wendigo is so bad!  She loves nothing more than grabbing something that she knows I want and playing keep away with me.  And I fall for it every time.  She's tall enough to stick her face in the hot tub when I'm trying to relax and she drinks and drools in the water or licks the back of my neck.  She knows that if she stabs me in the butt with a squeaky toy enough times, the noise and the constant prodding will drive me a little crazy and I will eventually stop what I am doing and pay attention to her.  For some reason this is funnier when she is doing it to Brandon.  Her worst thing is that she eats the chicken food.  She climbs right in the chicken coop and helps herself.  The chickens do not like this.  

It was past time for us to finish the automatic chicken door that we've been planning for anyway.  We bought a retractable car antenna, some laptop cords, and used some rails from some old storm windows, and rigged up a system on a timer.  In the morning, the car antenna retracts, pulling a little door open, and in the evening, the antenna extends, sliding the door shut.  We don't have to rush home in the evenings to make sure the chickens are safe now.  How cool!

The hardest part of connecting everything was drilling a tiny hole in the ball at the end of the antenna so we could wire it to the door.

Once we had the mechanism functioning properly, we had to figure out a way to attach it to the wall of the coop.  We used the tractor to pull the coop out of the garden fence so it would be within an extension cords length of electricity, and while Brandon was building the door, I stapled tarps to the outside of the coop and added a deep layer of hay to the bottom so the coop would be less drafty.  It's not much to look at, but it keeps the chickens safe.  

Once everything was working properly, we stood back to admire our work and watched Wendigo squeeze her giant body through the tiny door and into the coop so she could munch chicken pellets.  Bad dog.  Sigh.  We had to attach some boards to make the hole even smaller.  Finally, a Wendi proof chicken coop!  

Poncho was quick to figure out the new door, and he clucked and called until everyone was safely inside before the door closed.  Good chickens.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Dangerous Machine

Now this is a tractor!  You may remember that Joe was recently cutting hay in a field that is visible from our house when his tractor had a radiator hose problem.  Kaboom!  I assume that the problem has been resolved, but Joe hasn't yet taken his tractor and hay baler back to his farm.  He parked the tractor behind our barn so it would be near electricity if he needs to start it during the cold winter weather.  Apparently, diesel fueled tractors have to be plugged in when it's cold so they can heat up a little first.  Who knew?    

Now that I have vegetarian mammals to care for, I find myself interested in hay in ways I've never been before.  Brandon and I started late in the season, but we managed to cut, rake, and bale a whole stack of our own hay.  All that raking and hand baling has tuned me into the hay making scene that happens on all sides of us during the summer.  I was very interested to watch Joe's giant machine suck up the long rows of hay and spit out giant round bales.  I only got to see it in operation from a distance though, so having it parked at our place gave me an opportunity to examine it closely.  

From what I can tell, these little combs spin on the bottom to shove the cut hay up and into the machine as it's pulled behind the tractor.  

Once inside, it looks like metal rollers crush the hay to pack it tight, and somehow these big flat rubber belts roll it all up into a bale.  I can't figure out how the belts wrap the hay so tightly without getting all tangled together.  None of the many warning stickers on the machine explained how it was done either.  

Although they did make me afraid to touch anything.  Oh my.  That looks like it would sting!

A pole dancer with jazz hands!  Fun.  

Seriously though, this thing has numerous ways that it can hurt you.  It can crush you like this...

or like this...

Or even get you electrocuted!

I hate things that pinch my fingers, and it looks like this thing could pinch them right off your hand.

I can't figure these out, because the one on the top looks like lots of fun, but why is the guy on the bottom trying to lay on a giant flower?  

I think this one means that it's dangerous in 540 directions, so make sure you have your bible.  Maybe?   "Failure to comply could result in death or serious injury."  How do we comply if we don't understand what it means?!  

If you can survive the operation of this killer, you have to watch for rogue hay bales, or they will chase you down and squish you flat!  

There's no denying that Joe's method of hay baling is faster than raking it onto a tarp and stuffing it in a home made baler box, but so far, other than making my shoulders tired, we haven't ripped off any limbs or been attacked  by hay boulders.   I never knew hay makers where taking such risks!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Hat

Technically, it's not even my hat.  It was a funny gift for Brandon, last Christmas, but it soon became the hat I always want to wear around the homestead.  I love it because it's so warm and comfortable and is long enough to cover my ears and contain my ponytail.  The fact that it has Yoda's face and ears is just a bonus.  I usually forget that my hat is so ridiculous until I'm talking to someone and they keep glancing at the top of my head!  Recently, Wendigo followed our fourteen year old neighbor on his walk to the mailbox, and while she was away, she mired herself in the black muck that rings their pond.  From the state of her fur, it appeared that she had some trouble getting herself unstuck, too.  

The neighbor kid was kind enough to bring our filthy dog back home to us, and I laughed with Brandon later because as I thanked him for bringing the dog home, I had the goat on a leash and was wearing muck boots, pink Micky Mouse pajama pants, my ugly green coat, and the yoda hat.  It's fun to be the crazy neighbor lady.  Ha! 

The hat has floppy ears that sway in the wind, so I kind of know how Peaches must feel during a strong weather.  Now that I think about it, Peaches shares some of Yoda's best features, doesn't she?  Long floppy ears, she has.  What know I of ears?

Rufus and I look sort of goofy in the hat.

But as always, Peaches brings a stylish flair that I can't help but envy.
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