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!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It ain't over

Just a quick update....
We thought Tim would have his surgery and be done. We thought he would be coming to Duke this week to get stitches out and for a routine follow up. 

The call came late last week that this occurrence  of melanoma was more serious than we thought. The pathology report on the removed tissue showed quite a bit of melanoma cells. Over the phone, chemo and radiation were mentioned. Today we meet with the surgeon, the medical oncologist and the radiation oncologist.

In our own research, the chemo drug suggested has lots of side effects with a less than stellar success rates. We haven't seen anything that has shown radiation to be effective for melanoma. We will see what the Drs. have to say this morning.

We are continuing to research alternative approaches. There are many out there that appear to have better sucess rates without the serious side effects.There are many decisions ahead of us. 

We have been blessed by the support we have received, in many forms, from our friends, family, church, and co-workers. This is a scary road to walk down. Your love and support has made it easier and taken some of the stress from us during this time. 

Thank you.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Give a Broody Hen a Job

Right now we keep about 100 laying hens. Their main job is to produce eggs, but they have other jobs too. Some of their other jobs include eating bugs and scraps.

We raise chickens for meat in batches of 100. They have one obvious purpose. Getting them to that purpose can sometimes be challenging. When they first arrive on the farm there are challenges with keeping them at the right temperature, with pasty bottoms that need cleaned, and other issues. As they get older, the main issue becomes predators. Our LGD, Stella, has greatly helped keep the fox and raccoon away, but hawk have been a problem the last couple of years also.

Every now and then a few hens will go broody. This is their natural instinct to sit on their nest and hatch eggs. I love when our hens hatch out their own chicks, but we've never had success with hens sitting in the chicken house. The only successful broody hens we've had have always made their nests somewhere hidden outside. So, when a hen is broody in the hen house we try to discourage her by removing the eggs under her daily. They will come out of their broodiness, but while they are broody they are not producing eggs, or going outside to eat bugs. They just sit in their boxes.

Last year we had a hen go broody while we had 100 meat chicks in a brooder box that was in the hen house. She could not get in the pen with the chicks, but she could see them and was determined to be their momma. She would sit next to them clucking to them through the fence. She kept a watchful eye on them. When they were large enough to go outside, we moved them to a different pen for finishing on pasture. That momma hen found her 100 babies. This time she was among them, and able to mother them in a whole new way. One day Kellen was feeding the meat birds, and witnessed momma raising a ruckus and defending her babies. She was chasing off a red tailed hawk.

Currently we have about 6 hens sitting broody in nest boxes in the hen house. On Tuesday, we got 100 new meat chicks. One of those broody hens got a new job. Her job is momma. It was very cute to watch her when we put her in with the chicks. She looked a little overwhelmed at first. Can you blame her? It didn't take long for her to start clucking and calling them. Of course she can't brood them all, but she tucks ten or so of them under her, and keeps a watchful eye on the rest who warm under the heat lamps.

Hen is happy and productive. Chicks are happy. Farmers are happy.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Round Two

The Drs. are calling Tim's second bout with melanoma a transient melanoma. This new lump was very near the original area, and the cancerous cells were likely there before at a microscopic level. The surgeon told us that often when there is a second occurrence the cancer has spread through the body. Thankfully, that is not the case for Tim. His PET scan and MRI are clear.

He had surgery last week to remove a larger area around the lump. That is it this time. They have no other treatments for this stage of melanoma except the interferon chemo he took last time. It is a treatment that is supposed to help boost your immune system against melanoma. Interferon helps some people, but not all. They told us that up front. Obviously, it didn't help Tim.

The surgeon was up front with us about this occurrence. We can hope that this is the last little bit of it, but there really is no way to know. Microscopic melanomas don't show up in the scans. We just wait and watch closely.

Yep, that is it. No treatments for this stage. They have new and exciting (sarcasm) treatments if the melanoma progresses to stage 4, but at this point it is just wait and see. Their only advice for prevention is to use sunscreen. No mention of diet or any other lifestyle changes that might help the body fight this. We can only wait and see if this happens again.

That's not good enough.

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. They are designed to fight off disease. Why not cancer too?

I like our doctors. They are kind. They are doing what they think is best. What I don't like is that our medical profession only teaches doctors to cut and medicate. I can't believe that is the only choice. I can't believe there is nothing more we can do, but wait and see. So, we are reading. There are plenty of books out there, and there are doctors who take a more holistic approach (though they are rare in WV.)

On our trips back and forth to Duke we listened to Whole by T. Colin Campbell. The author was a research scientist for years when he found a link between animal proteins and cancer. He did a lot of studies on this connection and wrote another book, which we are reading too, called The China Study. He studied rural populations of China, with mostly plant based diets, and their incidences of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. In  Whole he gives evidence for why nutrition is so important, why eating a plant based diet is best, and looks at the reasons he believes the studies about nutrition and disease do not reach mainstream popularity. He doesn't hold any punches pointing fingers at politics, professional self interest, pharmacies, media, and more.

I read this book Defeat Cancer Now by Tamara St. John. She was never formally diagnosed with cancer. She had no medical insurance, and did not go to the doctor, but based on lumps, swollen lymph nodes, and other symptoms self diagnosed herself with breast cancer. Her book is about how she put into practice various protocols of natural healing including The Budwig Protocol, elements of the Gerson Therapy, alkaline diet, and others.

Another book in our reading queue is Outsmart Your Cancer: Alternative Non-Toxic Treatments That Work. The author of this book began researching alternative cancer treatments when a family member was diagnosed. She puts the information all together in this book that summarizes the different protocols out there.

There is a lot information to wade through in these books, and many more books out there on the market. Almost all that we've read so far involve a diet change to a diet that includes no sugar or meat, and some call for a diet that includes no animal proteins. We are still reading. We are still sorting through the application of this information in our life. We have already made some changes. We are juicing. Most of our meals have been meatless. We are buying a lot more that is organic, and are thankful that our chemical free garden is starting to produce for us. Tim has been a rock of self control when it comes to sugar. (I wish that I could say the same.) Beyond that, we are still figuring things out.

The diet changes we are incorporating now are not hurtful. Anyone can agree that adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is healthy. We are still looking at other treatments we are reading about. We will also be talking to a nearby holistic doctor who has experience with cancer. Tim is not actively fighting cancer (that can be detected by scans,) but changing nothing, and just waiting around to see if another melanoma pops up is not acceptable. Having another one pop up and removing another chunk of Tim's shoulder is not acceptable. Having it progress to stage four and undergoing chemo with some new drug is not acceptable. We pray. We do what we can to prevent this from happening again, and then we wait and see.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Three in Double Digits

Look who turns ten today! Happy birthday Nolan!

I know it practically un American, but he has never played soccer. In fact, none of the kids have, except Kellen, who played when he was three. This fall, at school, Nolan became enthralled with soccer. Every home game he begged to be ball boy. It did have a little something to do with freebies from the concession stand, but he genuinely enjoyed running up and down the field chasing after the balls.

This spring the brochures came around for the school's summer soccer camp. Nolan jumped on the opportunity, even though it meant parting with a chunk of his own money.

Since signing up, he has been out practicing with his soccer friends after school almost every day. A friend gave him a pair of soccer cleats, and Saturday  Mamaw took him birthday shopping. They came home with soccer gear, all Warrior blue. 

Sunday after church the first thing he did was get all decked out in his new equipment. He hesitated to take the ball out. It rained most of Saturday, and he didn't want to get the ball muddy. After assuring him it was ok to get a ball muddy, he was off and running. I think he might be a little excited! I think there is a lot of bleacher sitting on my future.

I love this kid! Happy birthday to my ten year old boy! 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Joy in the Rain

It has been spring here in the 100 Acre Wood. I mean it really has been spring. It has been cool and rainy and the forest has slowly woken from its winter slumber into a beautiful green canopy. Many years spring is only a quick blip in the weather before we are in summer like conditions, but this year it truly feels like spring.

The rain doesn't stop the kids, especially our youngest, Vivian. After school she is outside enjoying the weather regardless. One day she and Nolan went  waterfall hunting. They went to the runoffs that carry the rain from the ridge deep down through the woods into the creek in our hollow. They took an old phone to take pictures with and were so proud of their discoveries.

On the day this picture was taken, it was raining. The rain was coming down in a nice steady fall, but Vivian was not deterred. She got on her bike and rode back and forth on the driveway multiple times. I missed my photo opportunity to catch her riding in the rain, but as she road, I couldn't help being a bit jealous of her. The rain was all around her. It was hitting her and soaking her clothes, yet she rode on in peace with joy.

As many of you know, our family is in the rain again. A little over a week ago we were told that what we hoped was a cyst Tim had removed, was in fact melanoma, again. Since that time I have felt very little peace and very little joy. Instead I have felt anger and frustration. In my head I know through Christ there is peace and joy that surpasses the circumstances I am in, but my heart is not seeing it.

The beauty of spring reminds me that there is hope. There is life.  There is peace and joy regardless of the storms of this life. They are all found in Christ. Oh, for my heart to see!

We will ride through the rain. Is there a choice? But Lord, may I ride through this like Vivian and her bike, with a heart full of your peace and joy regardless of what is happening around me.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Break - Farm Style

We had big plans and big to do lists prepared for our week of spring break. We spent the week working around the farm, relaxing at home, visiting doctors that we haven't seen for awhile, and even fit in a movie and lunch out. As the weekend approached I felt myself getting a little frustrated at the things on the list that didn't get done. There are always so many things to do, and there were a few things that really should have gotten done that didn't, but we truly did have a wonderful (and productive) week. It is time to look at the glass half full instead of half empty. 

The gardens were one of our main focuses this week. We often struggle to get the spring gardens in because of weather. The weather was lovely this week, save the one freak snow day that happened early on. We were able to do lots of spring work in the gardens! That is exciting to me! 

There are 100 strawberry plants on that hill.

Full of various greens.

Vivian loved pounding in the stakes. 

Setting up a low tunnel
Lydia experimented in the kitchen. Attempting pie, from scratch, for the very first time. She made apple cranberry, peanut butter, and chocolate cream. They were all delicious and pretty. 

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cream

Our first batch of broilers for the season was moved out of the brooder pen to their building. Net fencing was set up to get them started out to pasture. Then the next batch arrived. Nolan's friend was over and got to help give them their first drink of water as they entered their new home.

The break is over. Right now the kids are packing lunches and getting their things ready for school tomorrow. The week went so fast, but it was a great week. The remaining weeks of school are sure to fly by too. There are so many activities, and lots of learning yet to do. It is time to switch gears, and get ready for school!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Never Ending Dreaded Laundry

Laundry and dishes, they never seem to end. As soon as I see the light at the end of the tunnel, a landslide of more work has already begun to pile.

In our homeschooling life, the two oldest did the majority of their own laundry, and I tried to keep up with the rest of it. Since we are all in school now, I end up doing most of the laundry. The kids do animal chores and homework, and that is about all the time they have in an evening.

The new, new since August, rule has been that I will do the laundry, but the kids must bring their laundry to the laundry when they need it washed. It is a simple rule I think. How hard is it? Your basket it is full. You bring it to the laundry room. You wear your last clean uniform shirt. You bring your laundry out to be washed. Maybe you'd even mention that you wore your last uniform shirt so mom might know you needed them. Or maybe, (Would it even be possible?) that you might put a load of your uniforms in the wash on your own.

In all fairness, the oldest does do most of his own laundry, but all of these kids know how to sort clothes and load the washer. So, why is it that on a Sunday evening, after an extra busy weekend, three kids bring out three completely full hampers of laundry, and claim they need it all washed for this week? Really?! You couldn't have brought a basket of laundry out on Friday when you used your last uniform shirt? Saturday morning, when I spent the better part of my morning doing my laundry and the laundry that was already in the laundry room, it never occurred to you to bring out that huge pile of laundry? We've been doing this since August. . .

So, at five o'clock on a Sunday evening, when not one of you, but three of you, brought me completely full hampers of clothing, do not act shocked when I ask you to pick through those hampers to find the uniforms that you need for school next week.

End mommy rant. Now, back to the laundry and to figure out which child has all their homework done and can unload the dishwasher.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

It is that Easy

For years I looked at the one elderberry bush on the farm, thinking of the things I could make. It is at the end of our driveway, at the edge of a thick wood. It appears to be readily accessible. The first year year I tried to pick from it, I found that looks are deceiving.  What looks like a nice round bush just off the bank of the drive way is actually a quite tall bush that begins at the bottom of a steep 5 foot drop.

From the bottom, I couldn't reach the berries. From the top, the deer could reach all the berries that I could. By using a stick, I was able to pull some branches within reach, but that was a lot of work for little fruit.

Last year I decided to try propagating some bushes. The methods I read about seemed entirely too easy to be true, but I figured it was worth a try. Kellen and I went out in early spring when the buds were just beginning to form on the branches.  We cut branches about 6' long. The branches were relatively straight without many smaller branches coming off them.

We brought five branches back in the house. We planted three in a spot behind the house, and the other two next to one of the hog pastures. We literally stuck them in the ground, and then mulched them well with leaves. I did nothing else with them. I didn't even water them, but it was a wet summer, and the spots I planted are relatively moist areas.

Two of the five didn't make it because the dog dug them up. The remaining one behind the house, is hanging on, but I didn't mulch it well enough and the weeds crowded it. The two by the pig pen thrived. Much to my surprise, they bloomed last year (without producing fruit.)  They have grown and spread, and today this is what they look like:

One year ago these were sticks I pushed into the ground. Today they are small bushes whose leaves are just beginning to open up. If that wasn't the easiest propagation ever, I'd like to know what it is!

If all gardening was this easy. . . .

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Breathing In and Breathing Out

What a beautiful day!

The sun was warm and shining. We got home in work with time to go and enjoy it. Tim and I  took a short walk through the woods, and spotted baby ramps peeking through the leaves.

We turned our sow, LuLu out to pasture with her piglets. I think I could watch piglets play for hours. They are so plump and cute.

We took a moment to watch the turkeys high roost routine. One hen hops from bucket to fence to roof before making the final leap to the tree. The other goes from the fence and almost climbs the trunk of the tree to get to her roosting branch. That I have to get on video, maybe tomorrow.

We took deep breaths and enjoyed the beauty of the woods and the animals that surround us. We breathed out the stresses of our busy life. We took a moment to appreciate and to enjoy. We need more moments like this.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Farming is Hard

Farming is hard. We've known that is true for quite some time. Any romanticized visions we ever had of raising a large garden, and a few animals are long gone. There are so many variables, so many things out of your control. There are long hours. There is heavy physical labor. There are things that need done regardless of how you feel, or the plans you originally had. There is a lovely reward and great satisfaction at the end, but the journey is difficult.

The hardest part of farming is losing animals. Yesterday was that kind of day. Second time farrower, LuLu, was due. We watched as the physical signs increasingly showed piglets would be here anytime.We gave her plenty of straw. We got the heat lamp set up for the little ones.

LuLu did beautifully the first time. This picture is from her first litter. She had a large litter, and kept all but one.

June, 2013
Among farmers there are different thoughts about playing midwife to your animals. We tend to let nature take its course. Animals know what to do, and sometimes having us around during birth/labor only seems to aggravate them. The fact that we are all working full time off farm only adds to that mode of operation. 98% of the time all goes well, and we find happy momma and happy piglets. That other 2% is hard.

Yesterday, Tim and I had to work. Mamaw was taking Kellen, Lydia, and Nolan to their Ham, Bacon, and Eggs breakfast. We were all up and moving early. Tim went down to check on LuLu, pretty sure he'd find piglets. What he found was not what we hoped for.

She had twelve piglets, another large litter. Piglets are pretty fragile the first couple days. They do not produce their own body heat, and need to stay warm. Normally after birth, they will go straight to nursing and then all snuggle together in a warm place. For reasons we can't explain those piglets decided not huddle into the straw or to huddle near the heat lamp provided, but to huddle right beside the door. The outside door has to stay open for the sow to access her water. We don't like to provide water in the pens because it makes it hard to keep the pens dry. We have a heavy rubber flap on the door (as you can see in the picture) that helps keep the pen warm, but that night was windy and there was no way those piglets would stay warm where they were.

She lost eight. The other four were happily nursing and playing in the pen. This is the frustrating 2%. Had we been there, we probably could have saved that litter. It is hard not to beat yourself up. There are always "would of, should of, and could of's" that haunt you. This is the frustration of not having enough time or money to all the things you want on the farm.

This is farming, and farming is hard.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Blah, Blah, Blah

We got more snow.

It is cold.

The furnace went out. The kitchen pipes froze.

Blah, blah, blah.

More snow, more cold, more days off school; my mantra this winter. How many days off have we had? So many I've lost count. This I do know. We've had one full week of school since Christmas.

I'm starting to get a little grumpy. I'm not complaining about the days off, but the constant cold (amplified this week by our furnace issue) is wearing on me. The lack of a consistent schedule is wearing on me. I'm ready to say goodbye to this winter that never wants to end. I'm feeling blah. I'm starting to whine.

I need to focus on some positive things.

Our baby girl has a birthday soon! She will be eight tomorrow! Hard to believe.

There are tomato and pepper seedlings growing in my bath tub. Winter can not stay. Even though we woke up to ten degrees this morning, it is supposed to be in the forties and fifties the rest of the week.  Summer will come. There will be sunshine, gardening, and fresh ripe produce to enjoy.

The weather saved me a personal day. I was supposed to be off today anyway. The kids have their Ham, Bacon, and Egg judging this afternoon. Thanks to the weather, I didn't have to get my sub plans together. I didn't have to use a personal day.

The furnace repair is covered under warranty. The furnace is nine years old. The warranty is for ten years. Guess this was a good winter for it to go out. The crazy thing is the problem with it was a piece of insulation The insulation on the door of the unit came off and was sucked into the blower motor.  That is what caused the motor to burn up. I'm also thankful we were home when it happened. We could smell it, and got the unit turned off quickly.

Then of course, there is the truth that none of these things wearing me down are really important. They are all temporary. There is life, peace, and joy regardless of these inconvenient worldly issues. They are temporary the rest is eternal. That knowledge is a light on the gloomiest of days.

Time to enjoy the moment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How did that Happen?

Dear Kellen,

 I recommend removing your overalls before attempting to wash them.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Moving here was a huge change in our life. It was a change in location, and in lifestyle. It was hardly the end of the changes. There have been many big changes since, and I've come to realize that change really is a constant in this life. When we moved here I was pregnant with Vivian. Our second winter here Kellen looked like this:

Kellen Feb. 2007

Today I took this picture of Vivian:

Vivian Jan. 2014
Notice anything? Vivian is now almost the age Kellen was when we moved here. Vivian is wearing the overalls we bought for Kellen that first winter. Two thoughts enter my head: 1) How can the child that I was pregnant with be as big as my big kid? 2) Those overalls were an incredibly good investment!

Changes, they just keep coming. It seems like yesterday Kellen was that little big kid. He is now getting letters from colleges. He is discussing college, career, and life choices. He preparing to enter the adult world. It is just around the corner. 

He'll be shortly followed by Lydia, then Nolan, and then that little baby I was pregnant with will be on her way to adulthood too. The changes keep coming. There is no sense in fighting it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

This is a Winter

Winter is showing its power this year. It has been cold. There has been snow. It feels like I'm living in Northeast Ohio again. It is downright pretty though, even if it causes a lot more work on the farm.

I have to admit I am pretty spoiled. With both of us teaching now, Tim has taken over the animal chores that I used to do while he was at work. He and the kids take care of the animals, while I take care of the kitchen. That lack of outside work and increased kitchen time is starting to show up on my thighs.

This is how Tim bundles up to go out to feed and thaw water twice a day. Maybe I should buy him a ski mask.....

Yesterday we got another 3" or so to add to what was already on the ground. In the morning there was just your typical pretty snowfall. The afternoon brought a thundersnow shower with pink lightning, a white out, and thunder. It was very cool to watch while cuddled up on the couch. Those who were out and about in it though, were not so impressed.

Most of the animals don't seem to mind the cold all that much. The dogs, in fact, seem to be thrilled with the cooler temperatures and all the white fluffy stuff. They go romping and wrestling back and forth all day long.

The pigs are happy to root around in the snow and to head back to their warm building when they are done. They are happy to see Tim coming too because they know that means feed and water. They line up patiently while he thaws the outside nipples.

We had been leaving the poultry penned up in an effort to keep them in constant water. We decided to buy a heated water base so that we could open their door and let them go out. The turkeys were the only ones brave enough to venture into the white stuff. 

The chickens went to the door, poked at the snow a bit at the top of the ladder, and turned right around and went back in. It was if they were saying, "That is interesting, but no thanks."

We stayed home this morning because the back roads are a mess. Today it is supposed to get in the 40s. We will get a little melt. Then it is supposed to rain and snow, and next week be back to below freezing temperatures. It is sure to be an icy mess. Winter may be pretty, but driving in it is not. Come on spring!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What is two more?

We started back to school Monday. It was a makeup day, but no one seemed to mind after all the days off. We were out of schedule. Students were a bit lethargic, but everyone was ready to get back to a more normal routine.

Then it snowed.

Then the temperatures dropped to the single digits again.

Another two days off of school. The main roads aren't too bad, but the back roads are still a mess. What is the temperature when salt on roads loses it's effectiveness? The forecast looks frigid until Friday.

I'm really not complaining about having the days off. The roads were a mess. I love that with our new schedule, we are all home when there is bad weather. It is just a bit challenging to never quite know what we'll be doing the next day, and daily making the plan up as we go. I like a plan. I can be flexible, but I like a plan.

We have gotten a lot of projects done. We've been a little lazy too. There some other projects, like starting my seeds, and canning the remaining tomatoes in my freezer that I would have gotten done if I'd known we'd be off for six days for a water issue, and now two more days for weather. There are projects I should have done like de-clutter and clean the house that I just couldn't find the motivation for.

Today we had frozen pipes for the first time in years. The temperature was really much colder than a few weeks ago, but we are guessing the wind had something to do with it. That and the fact that last week Tim fixed some loose duct work under the house. The fix kept heat going into the house instead of under it. Tim got to go under the house again today for the pipes.

I am thankful that we are home these days when the temperatures do not even approach the freezing mark. It is a challenge to keep fresh water for the animals on these days. It would be even harder if we were leaving early in the morning and not getting home until late afternoon.

We left the poultry inside today. They would be ok outside, but it is almost impossible to keep their water thawed with their door open. We really should get a water heater for them.

The hog house is set up with pig doors that have heavy flaps on them. We also heat the hog house because it is plumbed. The pigs are able to come and go as they please between the house and pasture. About the only time we will confine them inside is for weaning or when there are new piglets and cold temperatures.

Today's high in the low 20s did not deter them from coming out. This pasture was just recently opened up. There are still lots of nuts under those leaves, and it is partially a garden spot that is full of potatoes we chose not to harvest for ourselves.

The feeders are a little shy. They took off running from the fence when I walked up to them. They stopped at the trees. As I talked to them, they looked and started to come back. They know Tim's voice better than mine. I didn't wait for them. They might not mind the cold, but I do.

The two sows in that pasture, on the other hand, know my voice. They were in the opposite corner when I approached the fence. They came running toward me as soon as I started talking. I felt a little guilty I hadn't brought them a treat. Very pregnant, but young, LuLu was the first to arrive. Steady old Charcoal was right behind her. 

Our new schedules have meant Tim tends the animals more, doing the jobs that I used to do when I was home and he was working 50+ hours a week. After school he tends animals, and I tend house chores. I kind of miss going out and talking to the animals and watching them. I'm glad to have him do though when the temperatures are below freezing!

Here we are about 3:00 in the afternoon. Tim ran into town for some feed. He said the back roads are still completely covered, sheets of ice in places. There are now WV school closings, yet, but neighboring counties in KY are closing, one even closing for Friday already. Guess I need to make two plans for tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Extra Farm Time

So cold that they didn't want to go out. 
Slowly, but surely, water is being restored to the areas affected by the chemical spill last week. It looks like we may actually go back to school this week. Starting on our normal routine again is going to be challenging. Our last day of school, before Christmas, was December 20th. Since that day we've had a nice long Christmas break. We didn't go back the first two scheduled days because of the Polar Vortex. The next day we went back with a two hour delay. Then we had one full day. That was the day of the chemical leak into the Elk River. We haven't been back since.

I hate that we are not in school because of the chemical spill. I really hate that our friends in that area have gone without water for almost 5 days now. Don't throw things at me, but I am really enjoying our time at home. Between the cold and the rain, the weather hasn't been super co-operative for getting things done outside, but we have managed a few projects.

This winter we tried something new for our bunnies. We moved them into what was originally intended to be a goat house, but was converted last summer for broilers. We don't raise broilers during the winter. The shed was empty at the end of the summer. Caring for rabbits in the winter, is not that challenging except for water. Keeping them in water was always difficult, and one of the reasons we stopped raising rabbits for a few years.

This year we decided to put the rabbits inside for the winter. We didn't move the hutches inside. We put the does and weaned young ones loose in the pen. We did move one pen inside for the buck. You know what can happen if the buck has free access to girls. Well, we wanted a little control on that. We had to make a couple of adjustments early on because we had a couple of escape artists, but after that the whole system worked well. Instead of the normal rabbit water bottles and hanging feeders, we moved a chicken feeder and waterer in. The only time the water has frozen was during the Polar Vortex when temperature lows were around zero and highs in the teens.

We bred two of the does. They did fine with the kindling. The kits did well until about a week and a half. We lost a few then. I think it was because they were able to get out of the nest and too far away too early. We are going to work on a better set up for that.

They now are about three weeks old. I love the babies at this age. So darn cute!

This one wanted to hide in Kellen's sleeve and pocket.
Nolan is taking rabbits to the fair this year. We used some of our extra time this week to have him work with and sex the rabbits. We definitely have unique rabbit personalities in that barn right now. This doe was a screamer. Rabbits rarely make much noise, but when in pain or scared,  they have a horrible high pitched scream that makes your hair stand on end. I have never heard a rabbit scream like this one. Catching them and holding them is not normally cause for screaming. She screamed from the moment I put my hand on her. I was trying to hold her and calm her, and she just kept screaming. It was torture for us all.

Then she did another crazy thing. Once Tim got her situated and calmed, she played dead. She just laid there on her back perfectly still for the longest time. I've never seen anything like it. She doesn't have a name yet, but Drama Queen may be fitting don't you think?

We culled the extra bucks. We culled some old hens. We've moved hogs, loaded hogs, and switched their pasture. We've did a little organizing, a little canning, and a little cleaning. We've watched a lot of movies, played games, and spent a lot of time together. It really has been super enjoyable, but I am glad people are getting water back. Glad that we may get back into the normal routine soon! Of course, there is snow in the forecast for the next few days. ;)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A little water. A little food.

A year and a half ago there was the Derecho that left some without power for two weeks.

A few months later, Hurricane Sandy, surprised West Virginia with an October snow storm that left us without power again.

Just a week ago, a polar vortex froze the nation.

Strange weather happens. Power goes out. Road and weather conditions sometimes make it unwise to venture out.

Now, the nation is talking about an  industrial accident here in West Virginia. A state of emergency has been
declared, and thousands have been told not to use their water for any purpose except toilet flushing. Thankfully, we are not affected by this ban, but not by much. The red circle is the edge of the affected water systems. We are just on the other side of that line in Cabell County.

Reading people's reaction on websites and social media makes me angry. Yes, I get that water is necessary. Yes, I understand frustration and anger at the situation. What angers me is the finger pointing, the blaming, the demanding, and mostly the expectation that someone (the government) needs to step in and save those affected RIGHT NOW. While there may be fingers to point and blame to place, that needs to happen later. None of this groaning and moaning helps the immediate problem at hand.

Help yourself. Help each other. If you are depending on the government's help in a crisis, you will be waiting. We as individuals can react more quickly, and efficiently.

Derecho, Sandy, Polar Vortex, and Industrial Accidents; They happen. How many times do these things have to happen before we all learn to prepare a little. This isn't doomsday prepping. This isn't apocalyptic thinking. This is reality. Put a little food aside. Put a little water aside. Be prepared for freak weather or industrial accidents. Take care of yourself. Put a little more food and water aside, and help take care of your neighbors.

Don't be among the masses running to the store at every prediction of bad weather. Don't be among those throwing a tantrum like a toddler because they are inconvenienced and can't have what they want now. Be proactive. Be independent. Be prepared.