I'm getting ready for farmers market..Friday mornings are always hectic. It involves getting together any produce I've harvested (this week berries and onions), deciding what to put it in for my tables, whether or not to "bundle" (rubberband) it, getting the eggs packed into iced coolers, labeling milk for deliveries on the way to market, rounding up any floral or herbal baskets I've planted, cutting any flowers blooming (this week PEONIES--they are gorgeous), making sure I have my other herbal products I want to take, checking on literature and signs, table cloths, tables, change...well you get the picture.
Yesterday morning my little sick hen was better, then by days end she was not so good. It rained all day so she kept walking over to the door and getting wet. I dosed her good at nightfall, but I really thought she would be dead this morning.
She's a trooper; she wasn't very perky but alive. I gave her her usual dosage, some ACV water and hoped for the best. I'm worried because I won't be here to dose her every 2-3 hours like I have been.
I finally got my nightshade garden done. I planted bell peppers and those marvelous little sweet cherry peppers. I had dug the holes the day before when I planted tomatoes so I thought it would be easy-breezy to plant the peppers.
I like to work in the garden during a slow-misty rain. Dream on. It was pouring down. And, thundering. And, lightening. Cassie is terrified of storms so she would not stay in ZUZU-our Toyota farm truck. She insisted on staying UNDER me as I planted. My gloves were caked with a good half inch of mud; my boots were like big zombie boots--they had at least 2-3 inches of mud clinging to every step. For some reason in a moment of insanity I opted not to wear a hat so the rain was running down my face and into my eyes. The little rake I was using was also covered with mud and became heavier with each swipe at the ground.
I always try to weed as I plant; two birds with one stone, so to speak. Trouble is when I pulled them up they wouldn't leave my glove as I tried to sling them off. Mud equals glue. What I thought would be an easy item on my to-do list was proving to be troublesome and time consuming.
However: Perserverance wins the day. The peppers are in!
We have a chicken wire fence around our gardens but it is far from chicken proof. Multiple times during the day we send Cassie to "herd" the chickens back over to their side of the fence.
Cassie our #1 Miss Fixit. If anyone says anything in a reprimanding voice to the cats, the chickens, the goats, whatever, Cassie is right there to take matters in hand. She's a miniature Australian Shepherd.
The hen that was sick the other day managed to get through the fence into the gardens. We have a cover crop of rye still standing on one of the gardens that we are waiting to come to a head so we can crimp it for mulch. It is over 5 feet tall and thick as a medieval forest. FarmBoy Gary was busy preparing to put out the water lines to various parts of the farm when he saw the little hen crouched in the rye.
It stormed last night so she was soaked through and through. I took her back to sick bay; she was lethargic and barely opened her eyes. I mixed together another oatstraw concoction I fixed before and also made a molasses liquid tonic I could squirt into her mouth. She was too far out of it to peck at the oatstraw. I dipped her beak into the Apple Cider Vinegar water and she did swallow so that made me hopeful. I gave her the molasses tonic every 2-3 hours all day. I set her in the sun and as soon as she dryed off she moved into the brooder house; I was glad to see her moving around.
This evening she moved further into the straw to sleep so I'm anxious to see how she is in the morning.
I carry my camera with me all day every day; it's like a siamese twin to my phone. Three weeks ago it was MIA. I have looked EVERYWHERE for that camera. It's just a little Kodak but takes very good pics, it's easy to use and stands up to my rough farm treatment. And, I had a bucket-load of photos in it.
I looked in drawers, under beds, in glove boxes, under the sink, in the hay manger, in the feed bins, on the lawn mower, in the mailbox, in the frig (really), behind the trash burn-bin, in the rain barrel. But, as FarmBoy Gary delights in telling me every time I loose something, "you didn't look EVERYWHERE or you would have found it."
This afternoon he came walking across the lawn swinging my little scratched pink camera by its cord handle. "OH MY GOSH YOU FOUND MY CAMERA", I said in my squealing happy voice. We have a little stack of bricks in the center of my circle herb garden waiting with brick-like patience to become the centerpoint; the camera was laying right on top.
"Oh, yeah, THAT'S where I laid it".
We have had multiple rain storms in three weeks. Hmmm. Not lookin' good. I revved up my famous positive attitude and plugged the camera into the charger. Several hours later I turned it on and it made a pathetic little whine, opened its lens partway then closed up and hasn't made a peep since. I left it for Farmboy Gary; he can fix anything.
Day before yesterday I noticed a hen standing alone, feathers all plumped out like a little puff ball. Upon examination she had just a touch of diarrhea and didn't look right in her face. You know how you can tell your child is sick by their expression? It's the same with animals--if you take the time to get to know them.
I put her in sick bay and started a health regime. First I put organic apple cider vinegar in her water. I routinely put it in all the chicken waters--probably once or twice a week. I use approximately a teaspoon per gallon.
Then I fixed her feed. I used a base of oatstraw--the herb kind not the straw kind. I added diatomaceous earth (the computer just tried to change that to semiautomatic earth!), molasses and probiotics. At first she didn't want to eat, but after I got her started she pecked away. I stayed with her to encourage eating for awhile; she also drank some of the ACV water.
I let her have peace, quiet and privacy overnight and this morning she was rearing to get out and hunt for worms so I think she' going to be fine.
Cali Cat's kittens are seven weeks old now so it's time to find homes. We have their mother, (of course) and their grandmother--Katy Scarlet O'Hara. They are the most loving cats we have ever had...it seems to run in the family!
Daisy (left)-- my Queen and primary milker and Button who is fresh now but wasn't in this photo.
I'm having to rearrange my goat quarters. I have two stalls and have been keeping Daisy (the Queen) and Button (her daughter) in them at night. They both have beautiful long horns and can be a bit bully-ish. Plus, Button's baby, Zipper, is 3 months old and it's time for him to share the milk with me. So, I separate Button and Zipper during the night, milk Button in the mornings and let Zipper have it the rest of the day.
This is Polly--what a cutie patootie.
Polly and Becky--two of my Tiny Trio-- are "kidspecting" the last week of June and the first week of July. I want them to have the two stalls for kidding and maternity leave. So, I am gradually moving Daisy and Button out, and Polly and Becky in.
Neither Polly nor Becky have horns (I'll save the pro/con-horn story for another day) and they are very small so are easily intimidated. Betty, the third goat in my Tiny Trio is not pregnant but since the three of them have always been together, I let them all sleep in the stall.
Becky and Betty--BFFs.
It would not be large enough to house them during waking hours, but is plenty big for all of them to sleep. I've seen them sleeping and even when they have wide open spaces they always cuddle up together.
By the time the kids arrive in about 4 weeks I will have Polly in one stall and Becky in the other stall; Daisy and Button will be out in the common areas and Zipper will be in the not-yet-completed MAN quarters. I may let Betty stay in with Becky even when she has her baby. They are so affectionate toward one another. They will lay down with their bodies touching and one will lay her head on the other. They are inseparable. Polly stays pretty close to them, but Becky and Betty seem to be bonded in spirit. I'm thinking that Becky may be less stressed during childbirth if Betty is in with her. I don't know... we'll see.
I am changing the premise of this blog. I’ve had so many folks talk to me about the day to day happenings on the farm, what it requires to actually…well…farm. So I decided to post journal entries. I hope you will come along and experience the joy and the heartache of taking care of animals, the land and yourself as we try to etch out a living.
This morning is the perfect time to begin; it is storming up a blaze outside. That’s ok; we need the rain.
We purchased this “farm” four years ago this fall. It was abandoned, neglected and overgrown with weeds as tall as my 5’1” head. The fields had been in hay for years; making gardens there has proven to take great commitment and resolve.
The house and outbuildings were in such bad shape the appraiser wouldn’t even include them in the appraisal. Good news for our bank account; bad news for housing ourselves and the animals.
When we began searching for a farm we had a list of things we wanted. Flat driveway. Paved road. Trees and rocks and hills good for goats, fields for hay, creek, pond. An old house for my herb doings. A trailer pad for our living quarters. YES, we found it. It had everything on our check list and it was within a few miles of two of our children.
So here we are…four years later. FarmBoy Gary reworked the old house for my herb business and classes. He measured and nailed and caulked the old out buildings into useable chicken houses and implement storage. We purchased a small barn (red, of course) to house and milk the goats.
I have about 80 chickens, 3 roosters among them. Check out my rooster story “Game of Thrones” at www.nanaearth.weebly.com
My small Saanen dairy herd is growing. I have two fresh now –Daisy and Button--and two –Polly and Becky--due to kid the last of June/first of July. One little doe, Betty, is not healthy enough yet to breed. Polly, Becky and Betty were rescue goats I bought from the lady who rescued them. They are small compared to Daisy and Button (mother/daughter) but Polly and Becky snapped right out of it. Betty is still very skinny, too skinny. I continue to treat her with healthy concoctions of my own making. She’ll come along.
I was supposed to have a tour this morning, but as I mentioned it is storming. Normally I do tours on Wednesdays but this is a faithful group who come once a year and also have me speak to their group annually.
I am in the process of cleaning out the barn. Last fall I tried a new system of layering. Instead of taking out the soiled straw daily you put clean straw over the top. This creates an insulating layer that actually creates its own heat during the winter. It worked great. Till spring.
I started with the loft. The 4 ft high loft in its tallest center. The sides slop to—I don’t know—maybe 2 feet high. WHAT A JOB. I hoed and raked and shoveled and sweated—all while bent over in a most uncomfortable position. In my wildest dream I thought I could clean the whole barn in the morning and clean the chicken house (where I practiced the same layering technique) in the afternoon. Dream on.
After pulling and pushing and grunting to get a layer at a time loose I still had to throw it over the railing, get it into the wheelbarrow and push/pull it out the compost area. I worked three hours and was so tired and hot and dizzy I had to quit. The sun glared down on that tin roof merely an inch from my head and proceeded to bake me. I didn’t have a thermometer in there but I figured I was done. And, I didn’t smell too good either.
I worked three days @ three hours each day and I have the loft done and one stall. I still have another stall and the loafing area to do. And, the chicken house. To be continued. But, that compost pile is growing nicely.
The rain is pouring down; good, the gardens need it. It isn’t growing great with hot temps one day and cold the next. Down in this valley it’s much colder; we had a freeze a couple weeks ago and lost every warm weather plant in the garden. The loss of the tomatoes broke my heart but I pressed on and replanted what I had left in my little greenhouse (Sprout). FarmBoy Gary unaware that I had planted new ones came in one day all excited and said, “Elizabeth, your tomatoes came back!”
“Really?” I said. “That’s quite a feat considering I pulled them and threw them in the compost.”