Yesterday we headed to Macon for Janisse’s work. We got to spend the night in a beautiful bed and breakfast. During the night I thought, we in America where private property is a basic right, we no longer if ever had a real privacy. We in America tout to the world how we are better, a lyric of Randy Newman’s “I’m not saying I’m better that you are, but maybe I am” says it well, but are we really? During the night, with very thick curtains and shades, we were still stabbed with swords of light, and the sounds of machines. We were bombarded with radio waves, so we can all stay connected, from our gadgets and devices. We really don’t have a privacy or private property, light, sound, smells, pollution, and electromagnetic waves, all crowd us out and know no boundaries. We are encroached upon inch by inch and don’t even realize what we have lost (even when it is gone). I am happy to be back on the farm, where we have dark nights, very little sound intrusions, our own water (clean I hope), we turn off the waves every night, the smell of flowers and fruits, and even the smell of a cow's breath.
Today I went to our neighbors and cleaned out his grain bin. Our neighbor loves to grow feed crops, he does not have animals, he just loves to grow.
I have bought feed from many places, some that have opposing politics, some that are convenient, and some because they are the only place in town. Since our neighbor informed us that he grows non gmo corn and oats, our chicken and hog main stays, I go to him whenever I can. I built a 4x4x8 plywood box last year so that I could take better advantage of his fresh, local and great priced feed. It takes me about 3 minutes, at 20 mph, to get to his farm. I also bypass all of the packaging by getting bulk feed. If you can work out an arrangement with your local farmer, it works out great for him, yourself and your animals.
There are some things here at the farm that we process that we don’t grow. A few months ago I came across some information on coffee. The study said that wet processed coffee has toxins and blends of coffee are more likely to have these toxins. Most coffee is wet processed (roasted), I don’t know how coffee would be roasted, wet, but the idea of eliminating toxins always appeals to me. I found out about roasting your own coffee, green coffee beans are a few dollars a pound cheaper, in a frying pan. In a frying pan the process is slow and constant stirring is needed. I mentioned coffee roasting to my sister and how much easier it would be with a hot air popcorn popper. Just so happened she was about to give her popcorn popper to goodwill, instead she sent it to me. We bought a small hand grinder, and I was off to the caffeine races. I mostly drink espresso, I only drink coffee for the caffeine, I strongly dislike the taste. I have been told by people that do like the taste, that is is far superior when it is that fresh.
A friend of ours, Al from Alma, taught me much of what I know about raising cows. He taught me by telling me what to do and I learned from him what not to do, after I did it his way, as in bad fence installation. Al started us and sustained us in cows for a while. One of Al’s sayings is “if you are going to mess with bremmers (Brahma cows) then you have to be smarter than a bremmer.”
By now you’re wondering what does this have to do with planting peas. We have not planted peas or much of anything for a while, but when we did the chickens watched the planting very closely. In order to use the garden fences I would plant vertical veggies on the fence, like peas, and tomatoes. When I would plant the peas inches from the fence, the chickens watched and waited. After I left, the chickens would come along and get the peas, I wouldn’t know for a couple weeks, until many of the peas never sprouted. So I had to get smarter than the bremmers/chickens. Our fence is 2” x 4” wire, way big enough for a chicken head, peacock neck, and other assorted fowl to explore through. The I got wise and put up chicken wire along most of the fence, only recently have I completed the entire garden.
Yesterday I soaked the peas, sugar snaps and snow peas, over night. The soaking gets them a few days head start. Today I planted the peas, some of them on the garden interior, inside the tomato,cucumber/squash rings (more on those rings later). My thinking is that by the time we are ready to plant cucumbers there in about 5-6 weeks, the peas will be well underway. The peas will die out before the cucumbers are ready and add nitrogen to the soil to help the cucumbers.
I soaked way more peas than I had space for in the rings, the rest went right into the lions den, the rest were planted on the fence line closest to where the chickens hang out. Sure enough the chickens watched every pea placement. I hope I was smarter than them today. Another one of Al’s sayings is, “I’ve already said more than I know.”
There may not be a free lunch, however sometimes you can get a free snack. This year for the first time in about 3 years we are even or a bit ahead in some areas. Last fall, I must have weeded and prepped beds for growing, only to find myself not planting for weeks, and the beds full of weeds again.
Last week when getting a supply of hay that I hope will finish off the winter, not likely, I asked about spoiled hay or straw from our hay man. He happened to have some spoiled straw, which is better than hay, and I made arrangements to acquire it. I brought in 4-5 bales, mostly full, and laid them down right away. The good thing about round bales, if they are in decent shape, is that you can roll them right down the garden paths. Roll them down as long as your walkways are big enough, which I had planned for when laid out are gardens upon moving to the farm.
Last winter we harvested a pile of wood chips left by tree trimmers, so now the pathways in both gardens were mulched in advance of the weed onslaught. The beds in the picture are about a foot high. I don’t know if a stitch in time saves nine, but I do know mulching in time saves a lot of weeding time. And if you search you can usually find free mulch.
Up before dawn today to take care of our goat Noam. Noam, along with Ingrid were our original Saanen goats that we were given shortly after our stay in Vermont. We found a home for Ingrid about 18 months ago after she got mastitis. The vet said if she got pregnant again it would probably kill her. We could not keep another pet goat. We worked hard to find her a good home where she would not be with any male goats. We were very sad to see her leave the farm. We have her offspring still, Chomsky and Harriet. Chomsky was her first kid, he is now the pet wither goat. We had been doing line breeding with her, we won’t do that anymore. Line breeding is where it is okay for the father to breed with his daughter, but not the granddaughter.
Yesterday, probably while we at the 4H, school show or doing Skye’s math homework, Noam appeared to have suffered a stroke/heart attack/seizure type of thing. I found him last night while doing the evening chores. It was very sad when I found him, already dead. I have spoken about death on the farm before, it does not get any easier. So many animals, so many friends. With Noam being one of the first animals we brought to the farm, it was also a piece of our history leaving.
I was up early to bury Noam, because we try to limit the visual effects of bad things our daughter sees, she suffers from PTSD. I will tell her about Noam soon enough.
Noam is now in the garden, he will become something nourishing. In addition, the garden is fenced so he will not get dug up.
As I thanked him for the many joys and kids he brought us, with my heart grieving, I removed his collar and said goodbye. And shed another tear in writing this thinking of how much he meant to our family.
Today was a fun day of sorts. We went to the 4H, animal show, pig show really, Skye got to see the kids try to walk their pigs around the arena.
In the afternoon we planted potatoes. We cannot eat potatoes at this point, but maybe in about 3 months that may change, so we may sell them or give them away.
I will repeat what I heard someone say a while back “I don’t grow vegetables, I grow healthy soil the sun and rain do the rest.” The beds I used have been resting for a season, it had manure applied last fall and is ready to go. First, I took the broad fork to loosen/aerate the soil, then I added just a bit of lime (our beds needed a bit according to the soil test), made sure the weeds were gone and smoothed out the beds.
I stuck a small shovel in the bed, creating a hole 6-8 inches deep and Skye dropped in a seed potato. Two days ago we took our seed potatoes (we bought at the seed & feed store) cut up the big ones and let the fresh cuts dry over. Normally we would have gotten many more “starts” from these potatoes, but since we can’t eat them yet I decided to not fill up too much space in the garden. We covered them over and sprinkled just a bit of sulfur.
When I have planted potatoes in the past, I have not paid much attention to the depth of planting, anywhere from 4-8 inches. I did a little research and came across a study that said the following. 6-8 inches will give you the most tubers, 4 inches is not much different, but your potatoes will have more sun blisters, 9 inches will give you less tubers than the 6-8 inch range. However the deeper depths give you larger tubers. So according to the study, you need to decide more or bigger tubers.
As the potatoes sprout and get a few inches above the soil, we have in the past kept building the straw mulch higher as the potatoes got higher. The thinking behind this, as I have understood it, is that the tubers will grow more and higher layers as the mulch gets higher. I have never observed the potatoes getting into the straw, so this year I may not keep adding layer after layer of mulch. Having said that, I know of friends that plant their potatoes in nothing more than a tall ring of straw, with success. Whatever works for you is good.
For a week now I have not posted, I thought because of password problems in accessing my website. Turns out it was just my computer browser, more on that later.
Can you guess which egg is ours? Eggs from the store, it does not matter if they are labeled organic, free range, or free organic, do not match up in color, firmness, flavor or nutrients. When our eggs run low, usually November through January, I buy eggs. I have yet to find eggs that are not from chickens that are really allowed the freedom of the pasture/yard to compare in any shape or form.
If I get some new chicks going the beginning of April, I can be assured of eggs through the winter. After many years of pushing the date I start hatching or buying chicks into warmer weather, I have decided it is time to suffer the chore of keeping the chicks warm in March. If the chicks don’t reach the correct age (about 6 months) by about the beginning of October, then they will not lay eggs until the following spring.
If my plan to hatch out a good number of chicks, keats, ducks, and turkeys this spring pans out, we should have plenty of eggs next winter. I won’t have to buy eggs that when they are scrambled they are hardly yellow.
While I am on eggs and comparisons I want to say a word about food studies. I often see where a certain food or a vegetarian diet is good or bad for you. One item I have never seen in these studies, and the most important piece of data, is whether a given food is pasture raised without chemicals or whether it is industrial, chemical food like substance found in most grocery stores.
Back to computers, they sure are helpful when they work, but when they don’t they screw everything up. Heck, our local library will close if the computers don’t work.
The egg on the right is ours.
The Internet is still down, but should be up tomorrow.
We got our first sheep about 6 years ago. By chance, no plan on breeds, we got a Black Belly Barbados and a white hair sheep that lived two weeks from the livestock auction. A month or so later I got another white hair sheep at the auction, he lived two days. I tried one more time and got a ram that lived two hours. After that Janisse said no more animals from the auction without some MEDs to help them, I don’t know what would help.
We finally got a Katahdin ram from a farm. He seemed to be great, our ewe got pregnant. The they both disappeared completely, from the farm, no sign of theft or predation, when the ewe was days from birthing. Fours months later a knock on the door and someone said there was a report of sheep and goats about four miles away at a hunt camp. Turned out it was our hair sheep (no wool so the people thought goat) with a new baby. It took a while but I caught them all.
Year before last, our BBB had her second lamb and it is a ewe. Last year our BBB birthed twins and the year old ewe also had a lamb. We now have four ewes and one wither, the wither will be processed soon, and no ram. I wanted to slow down the growth of the flock, so we will skip this year of lambing and look to have lambs next year.
We chose hair sheep because we don’t need or want the hassle of shearing wool. The Katahdins seem to work out good for us, good meat and the females are gentle. I can’t say our ram was gentle after he turned two years old.
Up and at the farm chores today. I saw some rabbit fur on the ground, and a new tunnel to one of the main warrens. The rabbit fur usually means that a momma rabbit has pulled out some of her fur to make a nest for some new babies. I won’t know for sure for about a month, that is how long it takes for the babies to venture above ground.
Today is our buying club day. We buy organic staples in bulk for better prices and we also sell some of our pasture raised beef.