Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Day

I love the Homestead every day but its nothing like the love I feel for this place when everything is in order.

Nothing beats a clean barn!

And my heart fills with joy when I enter a freshly swept chicken coop. I have simple pleasures. *Shrug* What can I say!?

O and the weeds have been cut down around the camp site. Its so nice to relax by the camp fire.

I exhale a peaceful sigh as the goat pasture has now been mowed...

BUT wait! Is that a dead tree!? And o Lordy I forgot about painting that white door!!!

*Deep Calming Breaths*... Counting backwards from 10....


Maybe I should start at 20?


Now put it in a bubble and blow it away...

Awe, yes much better now. Lets continue, shall we?

So what if there is some stuff left to do. Its alright because at least the bottoms of the living trees have been pruned! Now I wont get wacked in the face when I mow! Yippy!
The buildings have a fresh coat of stain... and again a peaceful sigh....

....... WHAT!?

Where did you come from? I took deep calming breaths! I counted backwards! I blew you away!?

Why are you taunting me!?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How Purdy got her name...

"You don't know what you have until its gone"

A little after noon I went down to the chicken coop to collect eggs. Broody hen was setting on her nest of Marans eggs and there were two little Orpington eggs in the box next to her. Egg production has slightly dropped but I'm sure its from a combination of heat, molting and of course one of which is broody. So no worries egg drop is of natural causes. :)

Before I walked back up to the house I did a chicken count as I always do. They were free ranging in the field, scratching for insects and finding bare spots for a good old fashion dust bath. All were accounted for. I felt reassured as I walked back to the house in the blistering heat.

Lee and I had left the homestead for a bit late in the afternoon. By the time we returned to the house the evening sky had further dimmed. We had yet to tuck the critters in so we drove down the the barn. All the chickens were setting on the roost, ready for the door to be shut until morning. I once again did a head count. My heart sank as I realized one was missing. Not just any chicken, but my only Marans hen.

I was sick to my stomach. I had hoped that she and Hijeevey would build a new flock of pure bred Marans, and we could get rid of the others. My heart sank at the thought of starting over. But not only was I saddened for my own selfish reasons but also that the great love of Hijeevey's life was gone!!! How horrible!?

I looked into Hijeevey's big chicken eyes, as his head hung low. I knew that he felt sad and alone. Poor Jeeves! Hijeevey and Marans hen are always side by side. Rarely ever separated! Who would fill the void? Certainly not the Barred Rockington. Her feathers didn't sparkle in the sun light. She would always run from Jeeves, she showed no respect. Certainly it wouldn't be her! No hen would he find the same comforts with as he did the Marans hen. I know he loved her. I could tell by the way he looked at her. The way he walked when she was around... He walked like roo in love! (Her ruffled feathers was also a sure fire sign that she was his favorite)

Lee and I start scanning the field and tree line looking for any signs of a struggle. I started calculating how long it had been since I had seen her last and questioning any peculiar behavior from the dogs, or abnormal clucking from the coop that I may have just shrugged off. Nothing came to mind other than at noon there was not a Marans egg in the box but at 8:45pm, when I noticed she was missing, there was a Marans egg in the box. Well,Dear Watson, that tells me that she went missing between the hours of 12'ish pm and 8:45pm. But wait! She usually takes about and hour+ in the nesting box when she lays an egg. So that changes the time to 1'ish pm and 8:45pm. Assuming she nested right after I collected the eggs. That gives us nearly 8 hours that she wasn't accounted for. That didn't give us much to go on. I so dearly wanted the mystery to be solved.

My heart sank even farther as I knew most predators wouldn't grab a chicken in broad daylight. I started to feel like the loss of our little Marans hen was all our fault. We should have tucked them in earlier. Just a little earlier and she would have been safe.

Lee and I had lost hope. I hated shutting the coop door as I knew that once I did she wouldn't have a fighting chance, but I had to protect the others. The slam from the door echoed in my head as I felt like I was sealing the little Hens fate.

I hated to leave not knowing. I procrastinated a minute longer as I leaned down to pick up a tipped over water dish. "Eak!", I screamed. What an unexpected surprise! It was our Marans hen!

Well just let me tell you buddy, when I saw that little Marans hen sitting contently underneath that dish I thought it was the purdiest sight that I had ever seen!

My heart sang with joy as Lee scooped her up and I gave her a loving pat on the noggin. I didn't realize how much I liked little Marans hen until I thought she was gone. And so that my friends, is how Purdy got her name. ;)


Oh, I almost forgot to tell you.... Hijeevey and Purdy lived happily ever after!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Making Some Dust

In my last post I mentioned that I mourned for the work shop. I missed my late evenings hearing the humming of the sander, the buzzing of the Dremel and the thumping of the mallet against the chisel.

This evening a cool breeze swept across the tree tops calling me out of the house and into the shop. After dinner Sissy and I wandered outside. She road her bike a bit while examined a walking stick made from a old tobacco stick that I started several months ago. I tossed it in my hand for a while, rubbing along the already sanded grain. I could smell wood setting in the shop as my mind drifted back to about this same time last year when I started dabbling in wood working once again with the mentoring of my father.

Like the changes of the grain in a piece of wood my mind started to weave in and out of the various possibilities for my walking stick. I had already started a set of deer tracks at the top which were Bas relief... but I didn't like that look as we all know that tracks are imprints. So I chiseled out the tracks. I'm not happy with them but God only knows how old this tobacco stick is, and I had an issue with the wood grain, worm holes and flaking. It is what it is... I then traced out a few of Maple leaves going in various directions... for leaves rustling in the wind look.

After the pattern was drawn, I used a light weight Dremel tool with and narrow engraving tip to cut out my outline, then I used a 1/8 inch silicone carbide grinding stone to remove the outer edge for the bas relief. I still wasn't satisfied so a used various files and sanding to clean up my work... after staining the leaves some of the detail work still wouldn't show clear. So I then traced the maple veins and did a little shading with a fine tip wood burner.

Sissy stopped riding her bike to examine what I was working so intently on. She said "mommy, can I use that thing too". After a little deliberation I decided that it would be alright. She grabbed a light weight piece of pine that Memaw had given her and she began to trace out her design. I watched in amazement as she very carefully ran the fine tip Dremel over her out line with a steady hand. I was proud to see the family tradition carries on.

I may never become an excellent wood craft'er but for me, wood working is a family tradition. I recalled in a previous post about my days as a child watching my father tinker in the wood shop. Those memories are by far some of my favorite. My dad is an excellent craftsman and a great teacher. He has produced many mantels, statues and other trinkets for various friends and family.
These are just a few of his pieces....

Thanks for reading.


I started another piece and I can already see an improvement... I assure though it isn't by skill. Just figuring out what tools work best for me. I'm going to start another stick tomorrow but with this one I'm going to attempt to use the same tools but do shading with the wood burner. Eventually I would like to attempt to do leaves blowing in the wind starting from the top of the grip to the tip of the walking stick... To the Wood Craft'ers out there advice or reference sites are always appreciated.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This Years Failures=Preparation for Next Years Successes

I have a watermelon!!!! O Yes I do! Its eleven rows down from the fungi infested beans and that would be eight rows down from the rotten tomatoes! The chickens sure have enjoyed them...


Six rows down from the mutated corn, three rows down from the potato's that are covered in bugs of biblical proportions. ...

The watermelon vines are just a row over from where the squash once was... ya know, the squash plants that use to be in the garden before they withered and died.

Yes!!!! That watermelon.

I also have peppers but they are in hiding right now....

Our Garden seriously sucks this year. Mother nature pinned the odds against us early on in the season, and then various distractions kept us from tending to the issues before they spiraled out of control. Finally we said the hell with it and cut our losses.

This weekend we pulled the tomatoes, beans, onions, corn, and dug up the rest of the potato's. We harvested/salvaged as much as we could, but it was important to cut some of our losses now. We still have Peppers, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Cucumbers in the large garden and healthy tomato plants in the raised beds by the house.

I was so relieved when we started to dismantle the garden. It was such an eye sore, a constant reminder of our failure and a reminder of a ton of work that had yet to be done. Now that there is less on my plate, I feel as though I can reorganize, get a few things accomplished, and actually enjoy what I am doing in the process.

Although this year was one of the most disappointing seasons yet,
I will harvest something just as valuable as a bountiful crop, "The lessons from experience"...

1. Run poles for the beans the day they are planted... Waiting until the plants are sprawling across the ground is just asking for problems. In fact, I learned that we should stake everything that needs stakes the day we put the plants or seeds in the ground. This avoids cutting the root system of a mature plant, and also from having to deal with a long gangly mess later.

2. I HATE Cherokee Purple Tomatoes.
- In case my seedlings don't make it, always buy a few "back up" plants from the Amish by the first of April. They sell out of Brandy Wine tomatoes (My favorite) with in the first week of April... I don't want to be stuck with Cherokee Purples again.

3. We do not eat enough corn to justify planting it every year.

4. For us, spinach and peas do better in the fall verses early spring.

The annual garden teaches us valuable lessons in which we try to implement the following season. So although we had a lot of losses this gardening season we did actually have a few first time successes. Carrots for example. This was our third season in attempt to grow carrots. The first season we planted carrots in the large garden between the tomato plants. We planted the seeds too close together when we pulled the carrots they looked like little voodoo dolls with arms and legs. The next season we planted them in the fall... Out of all the seeds... we had two small carrots develop. This season we planted carrots in one of our raised beds which produced large easy to pull carrots! It was a great victory.

The next success has been the garlic. I had planted garlic for 5 seasons. This year is the first year we have ever had more than one head of garlic. Each year that we have planted garlic, I either planted it in a season that doesn't suit us, (I have never been able to produced garlic from a fall garden) or I harvested our spring garlic too late in the fall and it became buggy and had started to rot.

This year we planted the garlic in a raise bed that receives direct sunlight. The bed is a little low on Nitrogen so I loaded it down with left over coffee and coffee grounds throughout the season. The garlic produced several nice healthy heads this year. It was a first and another great victory after years of defeat!

Probably one of the greatest lessons I learned this season, "Biting off only what I can chew". I felt that this season my attention was being pulled in so many different directions that I couldn't give anything 100%. This is the first year that I had to balance the animals, the kids, the house, the blog and the garden all at once. Beside just giving everything the bare necessities to life, I have children to entertain and nurture, animals that need attention just as much as they need to be fed watered and have clean bedding, and a home that needs more than a lick and a promise on cleaning day. All the while I have to make sure the homestead maintains a certain aesthetic appearance, (because I do have neighbors). Its a lot to do.

While balancing all these obligations I had to give up some simple interest. I have yet to work out in the shop on my carvings. I think about the carvings often and would even go as far as to say I mourn my late night evenings in the shop. Lee and I were hoping to start rebuilding Linda, our 1948 Ferguson tractor this spring. Lee bought new front wheels and tires and I found a replacement muffler one day while browsing the isles at TSC, that's as far as we are on Old Linda's Restoration.(More on Linda coming soon)I haven't cleaned the gourds that have been drying out in the barn loft, therefore the bird house gourds were not hung across the garden this year. I have only been on one nature walk this year. The kids and I are really hoping to explore soon! And last but not least I was hoping to take a trip back home to West Virginia in August but that has been postponed (maybe until October, maybe indefinitely) but we are taking the children to the Mountains (where I hope we can do some major exploring) for a short weekend trip in two weeks. I am hoping that this fall we can unwind a bit by following up on some old interest, but moderation is the key.

Speaking of moderation, I have noticed that in the past I tend to want to plant every seed that I have that season. So if it takes seven more rows to finish out my watermelon packet... then I plant seven more rows, even if I cant give them a way... I plant anyways! This is crazy! This has been one of my biggest gardening down falls. Yes, you see I have made this mistake repeatedly in the past but this year I have felt the consequences worse than ever.

After much discussion, we have decided that we will not plant in the big garden next year. We are going to focus our efforts by building up the nutrients in the soil and we will still have veggies in the raised beds by the house. I hope that I will be milking Jasmine next summer and we have other projects that will need our undivided attention as well. (I will elaborate on the other projects at a later date) I am thinking that if we alternate our garden size, planting a lot one season then canning, drying, and storing enough of the harvest so that the next season we can plant small. Having the big garden next year is more than I can or even want to take on. See, I am finding moderation, its just at a very slow but moderate pace! ;)

I guess you could say I am stepping back a few feet in order to see the complete picture, in order to prioritize and make adjustments We all have to make adjustments and critiques in our lives. Sometimes we have to paint the canvas white and start again. That's just a part of life. Not that I am starting from scratch, but do I have few things that I plan on tinkering with once this season begins to slow.

Stay tuned.... ;)

Team Work


It does my heart well to see the kids working together... ;)


Monday, July 12, 2010

The Confession

I will speak of the unspeakable. I will admit to the things that everyone thinks but no one says it because its socially unacceptable. I am saying it, now! I will not be a prisoner to societal rules! O no sirree I WONT!

This has weighed on my conscience for some time now. I figured it would be best if I confessed, possibly shedding the filthy guilt that I feel with in this teeny tiny frigid cold heart of mine...

My Confession:

I like one of my kids more than the other. There, I said it! UGH, I feel just awful about it too!!!

In the beginning I even worried that I would favor Jessica more than Jasmine because she was this cute little well mannered kid. Jasmine was an ornery wild stinker that made my life hell for those first few days. Jasmine made me work really hard for her affections. So how did this happen? Why cant I love my goat kids equally?

I try to pet them equally and give them the same amount of snacks but deep down inside I KNOW! I'm always afraid that Jessica will figure it out... ya know... that I like Jasmine more. Its not like how I love my own kids. You know, equally but differently. No its not like that at all because I know I could never choose between my own two children but now with my goat kids... I could choose, and without much thought to it. I feel horrible about it but "You can not give the heart what the heart doesn't want"!

In order to put perspective to the situation I have tried to imagine the several "what if" scenarios, such as in the movies "Alive" Or "Vertical Limit". I don't know why we would be flying to Antarctica or why(or even how for that matter) that the three of us would be dangling off of a cliff somewhere, but my point... I thought that by visualizing these extreme scenarios, it would put things in a positive light. I could reflect and then be like, "OK I couldn't choose", But my revelation is far to grim for even a non-conformist like myself to say out loud! Lets just say I could choose! (How horrible, right!?)

I don't know why I love Jaz more. Perhaps its because all the time we spent together in the beginning. I am sure that my great love is from the hell we went through in the beginning. It brought us closer. I am proud that those first few weeks didn't break us. Perhaps its because of our success together. It was like fighting a war together, we saw a lot of horrible things but in the end we walked off the battle field together and as friends! Lord knows those first few days there was blood shed.

Either way my favoritism weighs on my conscience... Jasmine is just so funny and corky... And look at her sweet little smile! Her smile is enough to brighten any ones day. Jasmine is a great break dancer!<-Just click here to see some of her moves!

O and the way her ears fly out when she runs... HELLO, ITS ADORABLE!

She is just one hell of goat. That can not be denied. Who wouldn't love such a cool kid!?

I'm actually feeling a little better now. You know, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Now maybe I will be able to work on my relationship with Jessica. Perhaps I will take her for a stroll later, just the two of us. Yeah that's what I will do or maybe split cookie together or something.

I'm going work really really hard to get to know her better. How horrible would it if she were to have a complex or even carry some sort of animosity towards Jasmine!?

I mean, she is pretty sweet and after all she is sort of cute too...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I wish I could be a hugger...

I'm just not a hugger. Typically I'm not a crier either (at least not in front of people). My emotions arrive in a confusing pattern such as this; When I love I'm happy, when I'm sad I am angry, when I'm angry I am quiet. Its like God got my wiring crossed during manufacturing. It drives the people closest to me nuts. Silently, it annoys the shit out of me too...

Today my father in law was involved in an accident at work that could have very easily taken his life. When my husband called to tell me about his fathers accident I was obviously deeply concerned, I asked several questions and made plans to visit him. I was calm cool and collected on the outside but inside, I was scared by what would or could happen next. I was terrified that the glue of the family wouldn't be here anymore. We all depend on him... We depend on his humor to make us laugh, his optimistic nature to push us forward and his faith to keep us strong. He is the foundation that ties the entire family together.

After my father in law arrived home from the hospital the children and I went over to visit him. I stood by his bedside and we talked a bit. He joked around like he always does. We laughed like we always do, (Although he was bit more cheerful due to the heavy pain medication). All in all he seemed to be doing very well.

Before I left I really wanted to hug him tight and tell him how worried I had been, how much we all need him to always be here, that he just cant do the same things he did twenty years ago. I wanted to tell him that the idea of losing him made my eyes swell with tears... Instead, I squeezed his arm and told him I was glad he was ok.

On the way home I kept thinking about all the times I wished I would have said something or done something but didn't because of that uncomfortable wave of emotion that sweeps over me. I don't want to ever look back and wonder if he knew that I loved him. I don't want him to wonder if he ever affected someones' life because I know that he has.

Sometimes loving with more than words is best. Sometimes loving with words is better But a hug... a hug is always easier and some days, I wish more than anything that I could just be a hugger...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When He Doesn't Speak...

"Have you ever walked outside and just listen to the sounds? Try to determine what each sound is; a dog barking down the road, birds calling out in the distance, faint sounds of crickets, leaves blowing from the wind or the sounds of creatures slyly moving across the forest floor. Listen hard for the sounds that aren't so easy to determine. Each sound is like a sheet of data coming in to be processed. The sounds around us are often more important than our vision. Vision tells just half of the story, and I am sure that we all know that there can be dangerous repercussion from such missing details. Listening takes practice, and often enough, if we don't use it we lose it."

Our goats and chickens are not always in the direct line of sight. We have come to depend on our sense of hearing. Being familiar with the normal sounds of our animals verses their abnormal calls or behavior during moments of danger. Although I do rely on many of my own senses to eradicate problems on the farm, I have come to depend on our beloved dog(s) to locate them.

Sammy, taught me that the silence often speaks louder than words. A few years ago Sam sat down at the back door and wouldn't budge other than when I would let him out. But then he would just turn around and sit at the door wanting back in. This behavior continued throughout the day and into the nights. If we sat down on the couch he would sit at our feet and intently stare. If we were sleeping he would sit by the bed occasionally pawing at our covers until we would wake. When we would finally get up he would trot to the back door. We would let him back out and again he would turn around and sit on the steps to be let back into the house. He never barked. Sam drove Lee and I absolutely mad by his confusing but persistent behavior.

Two days later, Lee and Sam took a stroll around the yard. Sammy walked over to the the edge of the fence at the corner of the house. He sat down. Lee called to him but he wouldn't budge. Upon Lee's investigation, he found a litter of puppies and their momma hunkered down by the corner of the air unit. Sam never barked but he used his silence to communicate with us. From that day forward we always investigate Sam's hunches. His body language speaks a thousand words.

This morning Toby and Hannah (the rat terrorist) barked continually at the southeast corner of the fence. I walked out onto the back deck to investigate the ruckus. I knew it wasn't a false alarm when I saw Sam sitting quietly in the middle of the chaos with his ears erect. He was studying the woods line towards the front of the house.

I hooked my good ole' boy to a lead and we went to investigate. He walked me all the way down the hill to the edge of the woods line that met up to the old country road. Sam stood proud with his ears erect. I stood beside him studying the woods and fields across the road. The cool breeze blew by chilling my bare arms and tickling my nose with the scent of freshly cut hay. I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. Horses stood in the field, cows grazing on the adjoining pasture, in the dead oak tree on the far side of our gravel drive was a murder of crows. Everything seemed normal... peaceful... tranquil.

"Sam, are your ears failing you," I questioned. Sam looked back over his shoulder to acknowledge my voice. Excitedly he pounded his front paws at the ground. I read into his persistent body language. "Ok boy, lets just listen a minute".

My eyes gazed across the distance as I scanned the sounds around me. I heard dogs barking in the distance, song birds singing, crows crowing, snorts from the quarter horse in the neighbors meadow. I then heard something else but it took a minute for the oddity of the sound to register... I listened for the sound to repeat. Twice now, like a large stone thumping the ground. I walked as my senses took the lead. Focused as my sight and hearing came together as a symphony of one. It was then that I caught a sly movement out of the corner of my eye. I almost missed the trespassing dogs quietly moving up the creek bank to the far right side of the woods line.

"GET OUT OF HERE, GO HOME," I screamed.

Sam became anxious at my tone. He bounced left right and then lunged forward at the trespassers. The dogs quickly ran, sliding in gravel as they reach the edge of the road, looking back only once to make sure they weren't being pursued. I calmed Sam with rub behind the ears and soft spoken words, "Lets get home, boy". We walked back to the house where I again praised him, "Good job Sam. You saved the chickens (for now at least)".

I walked back into the house, grabbed my second cup of coffee. I gazed out of the window into the back yard to see that Sam had found his favorite sunny spot in the yard to rest. I felt reassured that the danger had passed.

I returned to my chair that sat in front of my dusty computer. Thoughtfully my fingers began to tap out praises of this amazing dog that once again saved the day.....