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.