Spring: the Hair Raising, Aromatic, Pud Kind of Season

 

Spring is on its way, or at least that’s what I’m hoping (insert my little plea to Mother Nature). It’s the time of year when the  weather finally starts to warm up and things begin to thaw. That means it’s time for mud, lots and lots of mud. Well, I call it mud but in truth it’s probably a lovely mix of poop and mud, or as I like to affectionately call it, pud. For my peace of mind as it ends up all over me and everything else I try to think of it as just good old, fashion and clean mud.

This is also the time of year when things begin to stink again. No truly! When everything is frozen manure doesn’t have much of a smell. During the driest part of summer everything is shriveled up like a mummy so there’s also not a lot of smell, but spring……well, it’s downright aromatic. Of course with the return of all the smells we will also have the return of the flies, insects and other creepy crawlies. From now till the return of the first hard frost it’ll be important to keep your mouth closed while working outside if you don’t want to enjoy an unintentional high protein bug snack. I always forget this early in the season but somehow I remember after a few ‘snacks’.

And finally, it’s shedding season. You can’t walk anywhere on the farm without getting covered in someone’s cast off hair. For us winter may mean hatchet season but spring is heart attack season. I’m forever finding clumps of hair on the ground and thinking I’ve come across some dead animal. My heart jumps in my throat as my mind races to identify which animal it is by the hair color and then I realize it’s only  part of that animal. The hair pile left behind is usually rather massive, it’s almost like someone unzipped and took off their outer wear and staged it on the ground for me to find. I swear they do it just to see my reaction. Great, I can see that I’ve become cheap entertainment for my animals.

Hmmmm, when list it all out like this I’m not quite sure why I look forward to the season so much….. but I do. Probably because for me, spring means hope and an awakening of the earth. There is hope for warmer, sunny days, where the air kisses your skin rather than assault it, when there’s the smell of fresh cut grass mingled with windflowers, the sound of fat, lazy bumblebees working hard to pollinate my garden and lots of time to play outside. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face, maybe that’s why I look forward to spring every year. ❤

Her Flame Burned Briefly but Brightly

I really didn’t want to write this blog. In fact I argued with myself and tried to justify why I didn’t need to put all this out there, but in the end, I had to face the fact I promised myself this page would always be honest. I promised to include it all,  the good, the bad and the ugly.

ursa kid 2This year has been a challenging one right off the bat. We didn’t keep good records on our breeding dates for the goats….mostly because we didn’t set up ‘dates’, instead we just put the does in with the buck and let nature take its course, which is not the best idea. This isn’t something we have ever done before and now I know why I usually keep such meticulous records.

So here we are in spring wondering when we should start planning for kidding season. When do we do the pre-kidding vaccinations and supplement injections? When do we set up the kidding area and separate the pregnant doe? And of course when do we try to schedule time off work to be here in case they need us?

We had some idea on dates for one doe and she was the only one to kid so far. Everything went well and we thought we were on our way to a smooth kidding season. These things lull you into a false sense of security, something I won’t fall for again. A few days ago Hubs called me while he was out doing chores (this is never a good thing in case you were wondering. Good news can usually wait till he gets back inside, it’s only bad news that requires an immediate phone call). Anyway, he called to tell me that one of the babies had died. The littlest girl, who we called Cottontail, had crawled into the warming box at some point, went to sleep and didn’t wake up. We were totally baffled since she had been fine earlier in the morning, no signs of any problems so the only thing we can figure is that she had some kind of trauma, possible being head butted or stepped on, went to her favorite place (the warming box) and fell asleep for the last time.

It can be incredibly hard to lose a baby, or an older pet, for that matter. With babies you see the loss of potential, things that they never had a chance to experience, so much life lost; with older animals you’ve had a chance to get to know them and cherish their personalities. Either way just sucks. Life in general isn’t easy, nor is it fair, this is a lesson most of us learn at some point. Life on the farm just gives you a up close and personal look all that life has to offer, both the good and the bad, on a very regular basis.

Rest in peace Cottontail. Your flame only burned briefly, but it burned brightly.

Adventures of LadyButt

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Most of you who follow my Facebook page are familiar with the story of Ladybutt. She’s a feral cat who was adopted from the Humane Society Barn Cat program by a local farm. When that farm closed we took her in. Her name was LadyBug at that time but over the last few years she’s earned her new name. LadyButt is still semi-feral, and some days she is sweet and purrs for attention, some days she attacks without provocation. Her mood depends on the way the wind is blowing, the day of the week and the flip of a coin from what we’ve been able to determine.

Lately, we’ve been having a little problem with LadyButt getting locked in the hay barn. The first time it happened I found her during morning chores and I really gave Hubs some grief about leaving the cat locked in the barn all night. Then he found her in there again that evening and gave me grief for leaving her there after my morning chores. In the marriage game point scale we were tied in a dead heat 1-1 and the pressure was on. The next day we were both super careful  about making sure she was out of the way and no where near the hay area before we closed up the barn, but we still found her inside again. Obviously, the only answer was that she had found a way to magically teleport herself into the barn but couldn’t get back out. Barns are tricky like that. Hubs decided he needed to put in a cat door so that after she did her Houdini trick disappearing into the barn she could just walk out the kitty door in style. Easy peasy, right? Except he hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

Today was the topper. Hubs wasn’t home to do evening chores so I did them when I got home. I was trying to get the horses fed and stuff the hay bags for tomorrow and I heard LadyButt yelling. I yelled back, “the barn door is open, come on out.” but she didn’t. After listening to her yowl in obvious distress I started getting worried that she had fallen in between the bales of hay and gotten wedged in place. I stopped what I was doing and went digging around the hay but couldn’t find her. She was pretty much constantly meowing for help at this time and I was more than concerned. I shut off the farm truck so that I would be able to hear what direction she yelling from. At first it sounded like she was in the woods down below the chicken yard and I started walking that way. As I crossed the driveway I heard her again, but behind me. I turned and looked up and low and behold…..she was on the roof of the barn! She had really outdone herself this time.

Grumbling to myself the whole time about how these things only happen when Hubs isn’t around, I went looking for a ladder. We have a ridiculous number of ladders on the farm but somehow I couldn’t find any of them, save for a rickety old ladder that was in the dump pile. Still grumbling, I climbed the ladder to go rescue the Houdini cat. By the time I got to the second rung from the very top of the ladder it was listing a little bit, causing me to feel like I was trying to balance on a teeter totter. I called out to her and she ran over to see me. She seemed pretty excited to be getting rescued but she was apparently a bit irritated too. As I was trying to figure out how I was going to scoop up and carry a half-wild and more than slightly annoyed cat all the while balancing on a swaying ladder and of course, not fall off, she lost all pretense of patience and took a few swipes at me for keeping her waiting. I jerked back trying to avoid getting scratched and that’s when the ladder gave up even pretending to do the job and started drunkenly swaying side to side, worse than when I try to country line dance. I figure I needed to act quickly (before I could chicken out) so I made a mad grab for the cat and scurried down the ladder before she could freak out and start dismembering me with her razor blade claws. With self preservation high on my priorities, I’m pretty sure we broke the sound barrier in our rush down the ladder. Once on the ground I set her loose…..only to have her to run back into the hay barn and burrow into the hay. So now you know a bit more about LadyButt and can probably understand how she earned her name.  *sigh* Hubs had better get that cat door in ASAP.

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Making a Homesteader

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Lately the thought of homesteading and dreams has been on my mind. I’m part of an online group of homesteaders and one of the questions I see asked most often is “how do you get the money to start a homestead?” followed closely by the second most frequent statement of “I’m giving up, because I will never have the money necessary to start a homestead”. These types of questions and the giving up of dreams has really got me stewing. So, I’m going to share my two cents and I won’t even bill you for it.

fresh-baked-breadThere seems to be some misconception that homesteading is defined as having a huge piece of land, going off grid and being totally self sufficient. Let’s just cut the crap out of that myth! Your homestead is whatever you chose to make it. I’ve seen people do remarkably self sufficient things in an apartment and those that have large pieces of land that do very little. How you chose to define your homestead lifestyle is a personal and unique choice. Plus, there is a lot that can be done before you ever get your land. From making your own clothes, buying food in raw, bulk form and preparing it, grinding your wheat for bread, making cheese and canning your fresh bought produce. Also learning to make wine, soap, candles, spin wool, make salves and even identify native plants and herbs. These skills can all be part of the learning process and will serve you well in your journey to becoming more self sufficient. Yes, we would love to start off with a few hundred acres, a solar powered well and all their outbuildings and fences ready to go. However, most of us don’t get that luxury and like almost all things in life you have to walk before you can run. We accept this constraint in other parts of our life but for some reason we refuse to accept it for the dream of homesteading. Most adults have had enough life experience to know that you have to approach any major task with a series of small steps and goals. Yet when it comes to idea of homesteading there is a misconception that you have to go big or give up, and for too many people they chose the latter. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m going to go out on a limb and state the somewhat obvious….. if you can’t make it through this very first (and relatively easy) hurdle of how to begin homesteading maybe this isn’t the life for you. No offense is intend. Let me explain. As I said earlier, homesteading can have a lot of different definitions and if you look at a hundred homesteaders you would see a hundred different ways to do it. However, one thing ties them all together, an attitude of perseverance. Interestingly, you get a bunch of us in a room together and start talking about any farm or homestead topic and you will see arguments break out all over the place about how best to complete the project. This is a group that can’t seem to agree on much of anything.  The one thing I have seen in common in all of these people is that homesteaders don’t quit. They will face incredible challenges and keep going. To me homesteading is less about what your living accommodations look like and more about your spirit, determination, inner grit or whatever you chose to call it. 

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I get the fact it can be incredibly frustrating and emotionally challenging to want something and to feel each set back is a permanent barrier. However, if you can’t get through these road blocks how will you pick yourself back up when you go down to the chicken coop and found a weasel has wiped out most of your flock? Or when you lose your best doe during kidding complications? Or when your entire year’s garden is lost to weather and pests? Or when you are so physically ill you don’t have the energy to make it to the bathroom down the hall, but have to drag yourself outside to care for your animals? Wanting to get started on a big piece of land and jump into whatever you envision the lifestyle to be is just the beginning of many frustrating homestead tests. You see, there will always be challenges on a homestead, it is the one thing you can count on. Yes, you can cry, scream and rail against the injustice and unfairness of it all and then you have to pick yourself back up and do it again. So when I hear people say they are going to quit their homestead dream, I feel a sadness for the death of their dream but I don’t push them to continue because this lifestyle is not for everyone. You have to have the fortitude to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other despite heartbreak, illness and unimaginable trials if you want to live this lifestyle. You see, homesteaders aren’t born, they are made, painstakingly etched from buckets of their own blood, sweat and tears.

Winter’s hatchet weather

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We’ve had a unusual late fall here in the Pacific NorthWET. We’ve got snow! I’m guessing that someone has been praying just a bit too hard for a white Christmas and overshot their target date. Don’t blame me because 1) my prayers don’t usually have such an immediate and  direct response like this and 2) I hate driving in the slushy, white stuff. We’re not even two weeks into the month of December and we’ve had snow twice already.

The first snow was beautiful…..until it turned to ice. Oddly enough most of the west side of the state didn’t seem to have much snow accumulation or the resulting ice and people thought I was exaggerating until I showed them pictures from our area. While the snow fell for a few hours that day the bone chilling cold lasted for days (*disclaimer: We (meaning, “I”), are total weather wimps out this way and “bone chilling cold” is usually anything in the mid to low 20’s. Yes, I am fully aware this is almost bikini weather for some of our more frozen states……but not for this gal!)

tank-in-snow-120916-editAnyway, I digress, so while I appreciated the beauty of the white stuff, I have to admit I was slightly less than thrilled when it started snowing again late last night. Seriously?! We live in the land of rain and gray skies, this snow stuff doesn’t happen very often and rarely in the fall. More often than not our cold spells result in what I call broomstick weather. I call it that because I can take a broom out to do chores and brush off any frost and then flip over the broom and use the handle to bust up any ice in the water troughs. The last few days we have slipped into hatchet weather. Yup, you guessed it, the ice is so thick in the waterers that it laughs in the face, er….. handle of the broom. No, hardcore weather calls for hardcore tools….time to break out the hatchet! That’s right folks, it’s hatchet weather at the farm. As brutal as that sounds it really just means that I use the hatchet to break up the ice, but it sounds way cooler if I don’t explain it.

Snowy days on the farm can be difficult. It means that chores take a bit longer  to ensure everyone has enough food, that ice is broken up from the troughs and having to run out and check on the animals more frequently. However, it also means roaring fires, baked goods and comfort foods, soap making and maybe even trying my hand at knitting. Stay warm my friends.

Apples, apples, apples everywhere

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It’s apple time here on the farm. It’s one of my favorite fruits to process because the options are endless. And let’s face it apples are easier to pick than the plums. The plums are more delicate requiring some care in gathering them and the tree has inch long, very painful thorns (AKA plum weapons of warfare). I prefer my fruit not to fight back.

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I gathered the first batch of apples as thoughts of sauce, pies and dried chips dance through my head. The dogs even enjoy apple harvesting since they gather up the rejects to snack on. I don’t let them do that with the plums for obvious reasons which have to do with liking my carpet the color it is.

After the fiasco picking plums a few years ago I made it a rule that I wouldn’t climb the trees anymore. For those that don’t remember I hit my head on a branch and then lost my footing and jump/fell out of the tree landing wrong which caused me to hobble around for a month or so as I healed. The lesson learned was that apparently I’m past the tree climbing phase of my life.  Today, however I broke that rule, because what else are rules for if not for breaking? I may no longer be as nimble as a monkey but I’m happy to report that both woman and tree survived. Although I’ve discovered a weird tendency for people to phone me as soon as I’m up a tree. Seriously, as soon as I get up about 10+ feet in the air my phone starts ringing ….. I think Mother Nature is testing my focus.

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Now the kitchen works begins. The first batch of apple slices that have been heavily seasoned with cinnamon and are in the dehydrator. Now to start some apple sauce and maybe some pie filling. *THIS* is when I start really feeling like fall is coming.

Painting a barn

We put new siding up on the barn this year, which means I needed to find some motivation to paint it. This took some serious inspiration searching on my part because I truly hate to paint. There is a very good reason I’m not a professional painter, other than the fact I absolutely suck at it….no wait, maybe that is the reason. DSCN3397.JPG

My dad was a professional painter for about a minute. He used to always tell me painting is 90% prep work. But of course I have zero patience for prep work and prefer to jump right into projects. Painting the barn  was no exception. I taped off the bare minimum and didn’t bother cleaning my work area first……a choice that would come back to haunt me.

I had barely touched the roller to the siding when a gust of wind blew up out of nowhere and pulled half of the tape off the wall. Dang it!! Well, that’s what happens when you put tape down a dirty surface, it doesn’t stick. I pushed it back down and started again only to have another gust come up and this time take all the tape off one wall. Of course when the tape came off the wall it fell into the paint tray and then blew around making an abstract paint design that would have made Picasso proud.

“Really??? Not funny. Not **** funny at all!” (***I might have ‘seasoned’ my statement with a few choice words that are not for the timid)hay

 

Great, I was screaming at the wind. If my new neighbors, who just moved in, had any doubts about how thin my grasp on sanity was (and let’s face it, why wouldn’t they?) I think I confirmed their suspicion in spades. In addition, I cringed as I realized that I had just screamed obscenities that would make most people blush. Did I mention the new neighbors have young children and are Christian? Don’t get me wrong, I’m Christian too, but they strike me as good Christians and I fall more into the ‘struggling Christian’ category. Great, now I was going to Hell for charring their young children’s ears. Could the day get any better?

I don’t know why I even ask these questions? It’s like a challenge to Mother Nature. About this time a huge gust of wind came up and blew the  loose hay and dirt that I had neglected to clean up into the paint tray, on to the wet siding and into the paint can. I stood there just stunned and could practically hear Dad cackling with laughter. His words rang in my ears, “painting is 90% prep work honey.”

“Yes, Dad I KNOW!!!!!”

Great, now I was yelling at my dead father. I’m just thankful at this point that neighbors didn’t call the authorities out to check on me.  My horse trainer has been telling me I talk too much while training my horse and I tell her I don’t. After yelling at the wind, my deceased father and the barn, I’m inclined to think she may be on to something.

Anyway, all this to say if you happen to stop by and notice the freshly painted barn and see the hay painted into the siding…..it’s a new form of barn decor. Totally intentional and trust me, it’ll be all the rage soon.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!