Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

Christmas Eve 2011, originally uploaded by Sue_Solberg.

The tree has been decorated for some two weeks, courtesy of a certain fairy, who might otherwise be known as the Spawn. Now there are even presents under the tree. Darned near froze my toes wrapping 'em out in the garage too. But there will be happiness on the morrow for us all three. And rain. I wish as much to everyone, except for the rain.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not for the faint of heart...

but pig skulls make some truly wonderful broth! I actually thought about posting a photo, but decided that perhaps posterity didn't really need that image. At any rate, if you take a pig skull, the usual veggies, a bit of salt and pepper, and maybe some thyme, cover it with water in a Very Large Pot, and let it simmer and simmer and simmer. Well, in a word, yum! The stuff can hold up a spoon when it's been chilled too. I'm quite happy we'll have three of the things (from our own pigs) to play with soon. It turns out you can also make things (other than head cheese) with the other parts of a pig's head. Who knew?

So yes, the farm proceedeth in a farmly way. Which is to say, exceptionally frustrating at times. The garden, after we finally got things planted, has suffered from slugs, now under control, and moles, now content to go dig up my rutabaga seedlings in the winter garden. The field mice now, they are a problem. I've read that mice find chocolate delicious but poisonous and have just scattered a bag of chocolate chips in strategic places around the garden. Places such as the broccoli plants they haven't finished devouring yet. It's too late for the sweet potatoes. Those were probably a lost cause anyway though, given the extreme cabbage yearness of it all. The Irish potatoes seem to be doing fine, after a rocky start. Slugs again.

Current livestock count--still one llama, three young sheep (soon to become meat), three extremely large pigs (also soon to become meat, after we sell the last one), seven hens and one rooster (Jersey Giant and a sorry specimen at the moment), five turkeys, and twenty-two Ancona ducks. The ducks are my personal favourite. I mean to say, they eat slugs, what's not to like? But they're also much more enjoyable to deal with than chickens. We had, for two days, twenty-five blue-foot chicks. Then some small predator had them. The shed has been hardened and we'll try again once the Better Half is back from his hike. Not blue-foots (blue-feet?) though.

The state and county finally got their heads into position and the soil remediation is actually in process. In other words, they've dug an enormous hole in the front pasture (allowing me to see lots of cool soil stuff), removed the contaminated soil and spread it all over such of the pasture not occupied by hole. Then there's the pile of clean dirt, which was a wonderful but temporary playground for the Spawn. Also a largish pile of horse manure, to be mixed into the dirty dirt. Nitrogen apparently speeds the breakdown of petrol. Plus the dirty dirt is subsoil from two to four meters down. It's going to end up being our new pasture topsoil and needs all the help it can get.

Erm. There more, I'm sure, but the hour advances and I have to be up in time to open the gate for the excavators tomorrow. And, of course, since I'm solo parenting and solo farming this week, I'm fighting a bug of some sort. Murphy.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ah, that weather....

La Nina (how DO you do a tilde on here, anyhow?) is a right one, she is. She dumps rain where we have plenty and withholds it where it's needed. Or so it seems to me, being here in the middle of "we have plenty, thank you very much."

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Last night we heard sheep noises of various sorts. This morning...two small and quite cute lambs. I've decided we can call them Mouth One and Mouth Two. The Better Half was suggesting Eenie and Meenie, but the Spawn broke the deadlock by preferring my name choices. She has good taste. She probably would even have gone for Lamb Chops and Crown Roast.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Meet Pooh!

Pooh has changed, no? The Spawn likes to pretend our woods are the Hundred-Acre Wood. She usually presents me with some leaf or twig or some such and declares that it's Pooh (or Owl, get the idea). Today I happened to find this fine piece of steel peeking out of the mud near some of the most impressively fallen trees. She immediately declared that it was Pooh and Pooh it remained for the next hour and a half outdoors. It should be noted that Pooh is useful for breaking up sticks and for digging in the mud. A multi-purpose Pooh, in fact.

Oh, and I planted some strawberry spinach and some corn salad. Yesterday it was magenta spreen. Can you tell I'm on an alternative greens kick?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I have to say...

I always rather wondered about Lord Emsworth and the Empress of Blandings. Well, pigs really are quite soothing, it seems. At least, ours are. They're still young enough to be somewhat playful (though given that they've at least doubled in size since we got them, they only play with each other). And they are so contentedly single-minded about the search for food. They grunt and nose around and then grunt and nose around again. They are so joyful when receiving the kitchen scraps. I'm actually rather surprised at how well the whole pig experiment has gone so far. It will be interesting to see if they've actually torn up the ground enough for us to get grass growing in the back forty.

In other's raining. Surprise, surprise, surprise. We've had almost double the "normal" amount of rainfall for March. This puts us well over the year-to-date average rainfall too. Our puddles have puddles. We have come to the conclusion that this winter we HAVE to get the ground covered. The crimson clover we planted last fall was planted too late to do the job well. Had the weather last year been more usual, it would have been fine. But it wasn't. So this winter we're going to try non-green ground cover and should actually get some knock-down cold frames built too. Just more to add to the monumental to-do list.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

And now...pigs!

We just got these three little castrati today. Mighty cute, in a piggy way, though they can scream like tormented demons when they want to. We'll see how it goes. They're an experiment for this year and look set to be extraordinarily useful.

They're Tamworth pigs and few and far between in these parts. They're supposed to have nice dark, tasty meat. I hope that's so.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Those ducks, those cold, cold ducks.

Finally got around to getting a photo of the ducks and it would be on a snow day. But I figured I should post this before we have our next additions to the farm.

The white one is a Crested Pekin. He rather reminds me of a comic drunken colonel in a British novel. The dark one is a Cayuga. He's lovely and he's the boss of the ducks. I don't like him though. He'll be nice and meaty, at least. The one in back is a domestic Mallard. He's the smartest of the three and would probably fly away if he could. The hen is a Light Brahma and she'd better start laying soon if she knows what's good for her.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What to do...?

Just for fun, here's the task list for the Better Half. This is for anyone who thinks country living is all fun and relaxation. I'm sure there must be a few people somewhere who still believe that.

* clear out herb garden--this just got finished today and I'm really looking forward to getting that all planted
* fix trailer on tractor, either with flat fixer or replace tire/wheel
* remove apple tree branches--this is from some SERIOUS pruning
* prune and fence grape vine--partially done and should be finished this weekend
* nesting boxes--I have a clever idea on this, which I shall document if it works

* make protective squirrel fencing for sunroom garden--we're planting peas there and squirrels love pea seeds!

* fix tractor so as to be able to mow--it apparently needs a new spring, of all things
* collect soil samples from garden extension and potato patch--I need to figure out what soil amendments we need
* clear downed trees from garden extension so that pigs can start doing their thing
* make pig shelter--might be able to use doghouse to start
* acquire hog panels
* make duck shelter
* prepare mudroom for presence of ducklings--we're planning to get 25 ancona ducklings, hoping to get enough hens to have a laying flock
* fence thimbleberries--only if AJ (the llama) is going to continue to have the run of that part of the woods, which may not be the case
* get grass bagger attached to mower

* clear and fence potato patch--going to have 400-600 square feet of pototoes, gardened dry
* clear and fence pasture north of garden extension (need to keep ahead of the pigs for clearing, fence and sow grass behind)

* get chicken tractor operational--ahead of time!
* fence garden extension--this will double the size of the irrigated garden and will be just beans and squash
* fence walnut--may need to be fenced earlier, but they don't leaf out until pretty late even in normal weather years

* this is chicken/turkey(?) time if the weather cooperates

Uncertain priority
* repair barbed wire
* extend fencing so that AJ can control blackberry--possibly corridor along east property line, with gates
* make AJ shelter
* install actual gates
* install additional lights/wiring/outlets in garage

My task list isn't as impressive, and involves a lot more paperwork. The Spawn and I will be doing a lot in the garden this year though. Or, at the least, I will and she'll be having fun in the pasture.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Yes, we now have ducks. Three drakes, who are busy out in the garden eating slugs. The chickens are out there eating and scratching the winter grass. Saves on adding nitrogen to the garden too!

We are actually planning on having a laying flock of Ancona ducks, but will be starting from ducklings late next month. The Spawn is mightily pleased at the thought of having ducks, I must say. I find them (so far) more entertaining than chickens too. They're amusing to watch as they dabble in the grass and they seem generally less descended-from-carnivorous-dinosaurs than chickens do. I have, on some camera or another, got pictures of the ducks. I may even get them off the camera onto the computer one of these days.

In the meantime, we're probably going to be planting three times as much space this year as last. And getting pigs, who will hopefully help dig up at least one of the other garden areas. As long as we're going to have 'em, we might as well get all the use we can out of 'em

The sheep are probably going to go. None of us much like them and we have a limited amount of usable pasture. We'd much rather have goats, if we're going to do ruminants. The hope with all this, by the way, is to discover what animals we DO want to raise before we buy our own property. What we raise will determine how much land we need in addition to a heap of garden space. Just in case anyone though we had some sort of homesteading ADD going on here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Deus ex liber

Collaborative storytelling can be so much fun! The Better Half was making up a story for the Spawn at lunch today. He was attempting to do a version of the lion and the mouse involving a chicken and a grasshopper. Unfortunately for the story, the Spawn insisted on rescuing the chicken from every possible peril. Thus the story ended with the chicken being annoyed at having passed up a nice juicy grasshopper since said grasshopper never did follow through on its promise.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I've learned a lot in the last...almost four years. Ye gods, time flies. With the Spawn's birthday being a mere month and two days away, I've been mulling over some of the lessons I've learned.

When going to the park, always wear something with pockets. This allows for the easier transport of random stuff. Today it was peanut shells and acorn caps.

Always have a spare change of clothes, including shoes, in the car for everyone.

Who says you can't have waffles for dinner? Or pie for breakfast, for that matter.

Cornstarch is a very cost effective toy. It also results in cleaner kitchen floors.

Sleep is still overrated.

If you don't like a wet seat, always wear rain pants into the woods. You never know when it will be time for a picnic with Pooh and Piglet.

Trees are a lot bigger when you're only a bit over a meter in height. So are dogs.

A hole in the ground is a very cost effective toy too.

It is important to have lots of paper in the house. Also lots of crayons, markers (Sharpies, please), etcetera.

Never, ever run out of either bananas or yogurt.

It is possible to draw recognizable animals of all kinds, even if you think you can't. Then cut them out and make them talk.

Never underestimate the ability of a young person to remember things. Long neglected and boxed up toys, for instance.

And now it's bedtime, or so I have been informed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the...Indifferent

Life just keeps chugging along around here (and elsewhere, I presume). This would definitely fall under the "good" category. We'd had only a few and relatively small trees fall since the big windstorm last month. Finally got a good soil sample out of the garden. It's in the oven to dry even now and should be on its way to the lab soon. The Spawn seems to have decided to become a storyteller. That's great fun, even when she wants to tell her stories as she goes to bed at night. I guess there's nothing wrong with providing your own bedtime stories! Today we decided on a spot for a small herb garden. I don't know that it will provide all our herb needs, but it will be a pleasant place to be, I think. These are all good things.

On the bad side, the Better Half has been dealing with horrendous allergies here. The current theory is that there were dogs in the house when it was being remodeled, so until that dander has lots its oomph, it's going to be difficult. Lots of expensive but effective drugs later, things are starting to get better. Me, I'm just so tired of being tired. That too is slowly getting better. There are fewer days when it's all I can do to cope with a wonderful, active child, let alone keep the house running and the finances in order and keep up with e-mail. I think I've let a lot of stuff go that I'd rather not have done. And no one really seems to feel that tired is any excuse. So phooey and hopefully things will continue to improve. The real estate market is still a mess, but things are showing up that aren't totally impossible. Maybe we WILL find our "forever house" when our lease here is up at the end of the year.

I've been able to get a bit more reading done lately, which has pleased me enormously. I just finished _The Unorthodox Engineers_ by Colin Kapp, thanks to interlibrary loan. I do love me some classic sci-fi. I recently finished _The Resilient Gardener_, which has given me some interesting ideas for the garden. We need more space! Currently working on _The Ideal Soil_. I need to finish it before we get our soil sample results back. Good stuff though. And so forth. I find I've not got a lot of patience for frivolous books any more, which is a bit sad. There are just so many things I want to KNOW that I have a hard time taking a break for fun reading. Ah well, at least I get to read frivolous stuff with the Spawn.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My husband!

I'm so glad I married a man who can dig out ditches (whilst the water is running high) and still have the energy to push over a tree afterward. That's all.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

So far, so good

Yay for me and all that. I've been gluten free (mostly grain free since it seems to be easier) for...six months now, I think. It really has helped. The first two months were not fun. Think withdrawal symptoms, I guess. Now though, I've been having far fewer headaches than I've had at any time in my adult life. It would seem I was having problems all this time and never knew it. That actually makes me a bit mad. If I'd known it might be a problem sooner, I might have lost more headaches. Better late than never.

The whole household has been gluten free for two months. The Better Half's doctor recommended it for him, at least as a trial. Given my history and the fact that both my mother and grandmother seem to have gluten issues to some degree, we figured it might be good to do a trial for the Spawn as well. It's a lot cheaper than most of the available and reliable tests. Ain't it great to be "underinsured"? I think it's helped with one of her issues too. Maybe not. It's harder to tell with a kiddo. If we get less underinsured, we might do some testing.

In the meanwhile, I've devised a recipe for gluten free German pancakes--one of her favourite breakfast dishes. I've found an acceptable recipe for gluten free bread. It ain't sourdough, but she'll eat it happily and the Better Half will eat it because he has no other option. And there's rice. And quinoa. Millet isn't so popular. Fermented buckwheat things. I'm going to try my hand at real enjira (however that's spelled) one of these days. It turns out that you can make a lovely chocolate cake with coconut flour too. Things could be worse.

Aside from the health benefits, it saves money on eating out too. We avoid places that focus on pasta, of course, as well as any place that serves pancakes all day (the Spawn loooooves pancakes from Elmer's *sigh*). We did have some lovely Lebanese food recently, minus the bread and spinach pie. It was very, very good. Then again, maybe we've just been deprived!