Monday, August 30, 2010

Fine Dining

I’ll never understand why they would rather eat the dried up dead stuff over the lush forage that surrounds them. Part of the reason Daisy, Bo and Luke like it so much is because they were raised on hay and grain before they came to live with us. In fact when we first got them we had a hard time getting them to understand they were supposed to eat the forage. You can see by the size of Bo’s belly, he’s managed to adjust.


They’re starting to do a decent job of keeping their pasture cleared. The tall weeds behind them are what the entire pasture would look like if it were not for them.


They’ve managed to clear enough that we can actually start to see through the trees. But they still would rather have hay if it’s available.




“Oh, hello Rose. How are you?”

“Where is my hay?”


“Um, well the goats are just eating stuff that fell on the ground. They are just cleaning it up for me.”

“But where is MY hay?”


“Well, I don’t really have any hay for you, Rose. You have all kinds of grass in the pasture to eat.”

“Lady, you just drove through here with a truck load of it. WHERE. Is. MY. Hay?”


Um, folks, I’d better go…


Sunday, August 29, 2010

In Our Hay Day

When you homestead it’s not just vegetables you need to put up for the winter. You have to fill the barn with enough hay to keep the animals fed. The Shetland sheep and Dwarf Nigerian goats we raise can sustain themselves on grass hay, the lowest nutritional valued hay, but it’s getting hard to find around here. We don’t have enough pasture to cut our own, so we buy ours from a local farmer. This year we ended up finding an orchard grass/alfalfa mix hay for a reasonable price and were thrilled to also be able to get straw from the same guy. One stop shopping.

I realize that unless you were raised on a farm or have raised animals at some point, you probably don’t even realize there is a difference between straw and hay. Most people don’t. So I’ll show you. Then you can mark that learn-something-every-day task off your list for today.

The yellow bales near the cab of the truck are straw. The green stuff near the back is hay.


Straw is yellow. It is the hollow stalk of wheat that is leftover in the field after the wheat berries have been harvested. It is used for animal bedding or mulch. It could be eaten, but animals don’t really like it much.


Hay is greenish brown and often looks leafy. It can be a combination of different grasses and legumes that are cut, dried, baled and stored as food for winter. Animals love hay. Animals will knock you down and stomp on your face to get to hay. Trust me on that one.


A farmer needs to store hay where the animals can’t get to it and where it can stay dry. If it gets wet it will mold and rot and become inedible. Now that the barn renovations are mostly complete we can keep ours in the new hay lofts in the center section of the barn. The truck fits in there so well it looks like we planned this, eh?


The lofts are located on either side of the truck and bales can be lifted up and put in place directly from the bed of the truck. It helps to have a teenager handy. They’re inherently good at loading hay.


It’s a dirty and dusty job though. Wearing a mask is a good idea to prevent breathing the dust. It also helps to filter the teens whining. ;-)


The goats are going to live in the old sheep shack in the south pasture this winter though, which means some of the hay needs to be stored out there in the old mini barn. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get the truck near there.


So the hay has to be unloaded and hauled to the site on a garden cart.


If you are just planning your homestead keep Hay Day in mind and make sure you have easy access to the hay storage. Otherwise you may end up with men folk who at the end of the day say they don’t care for the goats as much as they used to.

DSC_5860 “Hey now, I’m not the one who built the shack all the way out there.”


The Birth of a Swordsmith

We had the pleasure to attend a Hammer-in (a gathering of blacksmiths) hosted by The Mad Dwarf Workshop on Saturday. I will show you pictures of the event, but you really MUST go visit their website to truly get a feel for how ridiculously talented these two young men really are.


Even if you are not interested in swordsmithing you cannot help but be impressed by their artistic ability. The cast they made for smelting, which would later be destroyed in the process, could not be left unadorned.  I think you’d call this a hothead. :)



The day was long, but good food and bluegrass music were in good supply.


It was an all day event with basic blacksmithing, knife making and swordsmithing demonstrations going on in several different areas. I actually learned a lot and I think I might even be able to forge a knife if I ever feel the need to do so.


But we weren’t there for me. We were there for the kid. This was akin to his utopia. He has wanted to do this for a VERY long time and I think interacting with these young men has really inspired him.  In fact, I was surprised by how many young people were not just there, but truly interested and willing to try it. (I never thought this girl would even be able to lift the hammer, but she was actually pretty good at it.)


I think the guys at Mad Dwarf Workshop are onto something here. In fact, I happen to know for sure they’re going to be a success. There are things happening in their near future I’d like to tell you and show you but cannot because of confidentially agreements. Just know that this will not be the last you hear of The Mad Dwarf Workshop. I’m just glad we’ll be able to look back and say “We knew them then.”  They are fine, upstanding young gentlemen. Meeting  kids like these helps renew my faith in the next generation.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Harvest Report 2010

It seems my kitchen counter has looked like this every day for as long as I can remember. So far, I have canned 33 pints of green beans, seven quarts and seven pints of diced tomatoes, 14 pints of salsa, four pints of salsa juice to use in soups, seven pints of spaghetti sauce, 10 quarts of tomato juice and I have plenty more still waiting for me. I’ve also been dehydrating cherry tomatoes like crazy. The year 2010 will go down as the year of beans and tomatoes for sure.
However, my root crops can only be classified as an epic failure. I put in more seed potatoes than I harvested. The onions are not much bigger than the sets that went in, the carrots are laughable and I can’t even find the garlic.  Luckily, I know it is not me, even the pros are having the same problems. The share I purchased of the CSA farm has been sparse in root crops as well. The soggy wet weather early on just prevented anything from getting a good start. Now it hasn’t rained for a month.  There is just no way to predict what the weather will be like in Indiana. So, while I’d prefer to give up on the beans and tomatoes, I’ll keep canning. Who knows? I may not get any at all next year and have more carrots than I know what to do with.

New Breed of Designer Dogs

They come when they’re called.


They are friendly.


They love to be petted.


They even like to sit in your lap.


But the best part? They’re cute and they don’t bark!


How much do you suppose I can sell them to city slickers for?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Women Over 40 Should Hang Out With Goats


Daisy makes me feel better about my chin hair.


Dear Brother,

I got your message on Facebook.

“Though I remember what happened the last time I said this, Cathy is also saying it are behind on your blog. Something other than tomatoes has to have happened out there. :-)”

I know that you sat there writing me this note in your maintenance-free condo with refrigerator contents that no doubt consist of a few condiments and maybe a slice or two of cheese. I also know by the consistency of your posts on Facebook that you’ve eaten out almost every night this month.

Our lives? They are not parallel.

You see, I’ve been a busy little squirrel packing away nuts for the winter. You? You have no nuts because you’ve been too busy playing. I can’t recall how the parable ends exactly, but I think you starve.

You will also recall from our youth, Mom saying, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”


Do you really want to mess with her? I think not. I shall remain silent on my blog until such point I have something good to say. With the way things have been going lately, it might be awhile. Perhaps you could gather a few nuts while you wait. :)


Friday, August 13, 2010

A Note from Newfoundland

During the flurry of mayhem that has been about this place lately, the engineer ran off and left me. Only to go visit his sister, but still he left me here to fend for myself with all these crazy critters to deal with. How I survived it, I’ll never know. There were a few close calls. But that’s another story for another day.


The important thing is that he was able to visit with Cathy, something that’s not always easy, given that she lives on a remote island 3000 miles away.  He was able to join her on one of her chemo treatments. (Isn’t she cute in her hat? I think she looks like a movie star.)


He was also able to see first hand all the cards and gifts all of you have sent up to her. She is quite the fashionista so she has been having fun trying them all out.


Of course, she wanted to know more about where all these cards and gifts were coming from. So the engineer (he’s a computer engineer by the way), set her up with a fancy new netbook computer complete with a program that will read her email to her.


She wanted to thank everyone but decided learning to type might take her awhile so she sent him home with this note instead.


However, she’s apparently got the hang of it as she now has figured out Facebook and even mentioned that I’ve not been posting on my blog enough lately. :)


So everybody say hello to Cathy. She’s out there lurking. And if you would like to shoot her an e-mail just let me know and I’ll get you her address. I’m still buried under a mountain of tomatoes so if you don’t hear back right away, don’t panic. Life is just wee bit crazy ‘round here.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Roasted Lamb

Holy mackerel is it ever hot? Shirley, with her thick, black wool coat, hasn’t been more than five feet from the watering hole in days.


Laverne walks around, but with her tail up trying to catch a breeze.


Blanche keeps begging me to “Make it stop.”



And Rose  keeps making me feel her forehead. She’s just sure she’s having a stroke.DSC_5775

Hope you’re managing to keep cool in your neck of the woods.


Monday, August 9, 2010

They Greeted Me With Open Arms

DSC_5773“And just where have you been? The coop needs cleaning and we’re running out of oyster shells. Do really think you should be lolly-gagging around on a floaty in a lake? I don’t think so. Get back to work, Missy, or we’re going on strike. These eggs don’t make themselves you know.”

“Yes, Ma’am!”