And the award for the most inconsistent blogger is… me! Fortunately, I’m not brimming with readership and to date no one has complained for lack of postings.
So, what’s new on the prairie? I’m told there are several critical worldwide events taking place (World Cup, a controversial Taliban prisoner swap, and something called Kimye), but my days have been awash in things far simpler. Here’s a rundown:
The Chicks – In 2014, I became the mother of two teenagers. Two female teenagers. After immediately apologizing to my mother, we embarked on the balancing act of letting them spread their wings and holding on for dear life. It’s balanced out by our little man and the mischievous, Cheshire-grinning little girls.
“Sumatra,” the oldest, is now 15 and has no interest in boys, driving, or make-up instead opting for reading, riding, and desperately wanting a job baling hay, helping train horses, or having a surgical internship at a vet office. (Insert sigh of relief)
“Dominique,” 13, is still the mother-hen of the brood and is teetering on rough and tumble farm girl and confident, young woman. She’s put a lot of time into crafting and gardening and is often found reading or bizarrely sounding a lot like her mother.
“Barnevelder” is now seven and is one part Rooster, two parts Jedi, a dash of Lego, and a heap of the only boy in the flock, deprived of brotherly support. He begs us for a brother to play hammers, climb trees, and build machines with. We’ve been told that it doesn’t matter if we adopt three boys his age or have a new baby boy. What matters is him getting backup against the league of sisters. Thankfully, he’s taken his younger sisters on as apprentices and is teaching them all things boy.
“Chantecler,” 4, is the little lady. Still wispy and squeaky-voiced, she’s confident, snuggly, and very much into sparkles and poofy things. The apple of almost everyone’s eye, she’s only recently learned how to put up resistance, but can normally be swayed into cheerfulness by the swing set or asking for her help with cooking.
“Sebright,” the baby, is now 21-months old. Either we’re way more tired this time around or she’s giving us a run for our money. She’s the first of five to attempt and carry out crib escapes, stripping off her clothes, unlocking and opening doors, toilet/toilet paper-related shenanigans, stairs, and getting past baby-proofing. 95% of the time she’s utterly delightful, grinning from ear to ear, passing out bear hugs, putting on and changing shoes, and showing you her belly. The other 5% of the time, she keeps us on guard wondering what she’s thinking.
School’s Out – We finally gave up having homeschool lessons year-round, instead relying on “life skills” classes beginning in late April. We’ll head back to the schoolroom the third week in July with a rousing activity called, “Standardized Testing.” It’s the bomb, yo. Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe I just typed that! Lying is just not my thing. Testing is about as fun as having the stomach flu while on a roller coaster, but it’s apparently a necessity in life, despite the kids testing out as college equivalent by grade 4. No, I’m not disenchanted at all. Thankfully, when it comes to actual learning, the chicks are proverbial sponges, drawing in as much as they can. In a word, they are thriving.
Gardens, Gardens, Gardens – We expanded our growing room this spring past the 100×25′ vegetable garden, the eight 4×4 raised kids’ beds, and the sunflower/bean house. We’re now the proud, frenzied weed-pulling caretakers of an additional 20×4′ pea/spinach garden, a 100×25′ Three Sisters’ Garden (sweet corn, pole beans, and pumpkin), a 40×40 squash/melon patch, a 30′ bed of asparagus, and several miscellaneous supplements of veggies planted around the house foundation among shrubs and perennials. Yes, we’re crazy. Thanks for checking.
The Orchard – Last fall, we planted three new apple trees along the north lawn and two plum trees just north of the garage, adding to our two existing apple trees in the yard. This spring, we finally got around to purchasing a fair amount of fruiting plants and trees adding six blueberries, four cherries, ten raspberries, six currants, and 72 strawberry transplants in new beds to the also existing 14 rhubarb plants and 10×10 strawberry raised bed.
So Fowl – While we haven’t added Guineas, ducks, and quail back into the mix yet this year, we’ve still got plenty of poultry appreciation going on. After selling off a few of the ladies, 6 Dominiques, 4 Minorcas, 2 Lakenvelders, 3 Silver Leghorn, and 3 “Hamrock” hens make up the laying flock. 10 Speckled Sussex, 14 New Hampshire, and 4 black Java, and 1 white Java are in the up-and-comer flock and a bantam rooster and hen round out the group. We’ve incubated four sets of eggs, and #3 has just hatched, while #4 is due to hatch July 6. We successfully brought 19 of 24 heritage Bourbon Red turkeys through early incubation, but none actually hatched, much to our chagrin. Guess we’ll be buying turkey poults again this year!
Goatapalooza – We successfully bred seven of the eight Nubian does, including four yearlings to our new buck. January through April blessed us with 13 kids (eight doelings and five bucklings), despite winter’s icy grip on Minnesota. Fencing off the south part of the property, a steep, protected woodlot, we sent the herd to do what goats do best, browsing on several species of plants including several invasive species. This left the pasture paddocks for the buck and his wether companion to graze.
Oh, Alpaca! – Remember how I never wanted fiber animals? I love me some alpacas. Seriously, the giraffe-necked, communal pooping (a greater feature than it sounds), soft-trodden, gentle grass clipping animals might be the greatest thing to roam our land. Having had them only six months, it’s been a learning curve, but we managed to get them sheared successfully in May and have already found several interested buyers for the prized fleeces. Of course, I did have ambitions of carding, spinning, and knitting it all myself, but then I learned I’m completely delusional. Even so, at the going rate, my alpacas can pay for the feed for the rest of the farm critters, therefore they stay.
Cultured European Farming – Sometime around May, winter finally beat a hasty retreat and I was able to cut the need for feeding hay to the multiple herds. The cattle, a steer and blind heifer we’d received for free in the fall of 2012 and a calf we’d purchased for next to nothing in late 2013 have slowly been pressing their luck with me since then as I try my best to keep them rotating enough to give paddock grasses enough time to recover from grazing. On 200′ of sand, our pastures are definitely lackluster and at some point, we couldn’t keep up. Rather than continually pump them full of feed, we (and by we I mean Rooster) had the genius idea to move the cattle to the lush stands of grass in the roadside ditches. Grazing them like this as the Europeans do, we tried to pass ourselves off as cultured. The neighbors likely laughed at this notion and saw our cattle, tethered to the tractor via halter ropes, as perhaps slightly more than redneck. The next plan (which I hope to share as a Tuesday Tutorial in early July) is to cut, rake, and then hand bale the ditch grass on the steeper portions. The goal is to send the steer and heifer off for butchering by August.
Horsing Around – Horses. Somewhere deep down, beyond the excessive eating of grass and hay, I enjoy them. Unfortunately, I get horse amnesia a lot and all I can think is, “Three purposes. Everything has to have three purposes.” While the three oldest of my chicks ride the 7-year old sorrel Quarter horse and 19-year old gray POA every walking moment, I still really struggle with horses. Pros: Leisure time spent riding, showing in 4H, the pony and his adorable little cart, animal husbandry, training and experience for the oldest who wants to pursue a large animal/equine vet degree. Cons: Equipment, hoof trimming, worming, vaccinations, Coggins tests, and all that grass and hay. It’s a wash. Then, in a weak moment, Dominique conned me into bringing the neighbor’s 10-year old bucksin Quarter horse mare onto the property because she’d outgrown the pony. After word got out that I’d gone soft, the elder chick convinced me to lease a 2-year old taffy-colored Apaloosa for the 4H Horse Training program. Four. That makes four horses on the eight acres available. Needless to say, we’ve been grazing them anywhere we can put up a fence. Word has it, we’ll be fencing off Papa’s place soon or selling a kidney or two to pay for the upkeep.
Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho – Rooster is still very much enjoying his three days a week at work as a pressman. The environment is incredibly clean and organized, which has been great for his health and wish to “5-S” everything into order. Working three, 12-hour shifts, he’s free to spend the rest of his time inventing amazing gadgets for the farm and home,
playing working on the tractor for my cousins mowing, discing, or whatever needs doing, playing with chainsaws, and lighting things on fire. He has been too busy so far this spring to enjoy many campfires, fishing, or other outdoor pursuits, but we’re formulating a plan to invite his entire crazy-wonderful family down for a week of fun. We get frequent visits from his sister and her family, whose inspiration always gets his mind turning on new projects he can do.
Write, Right? – I’ve been fortunate in picking up three more regular articles per month for the county paper, bringing my workload to six a month, plus occasional extra feature stories. The company and staff are amazing, which always makes work more pleasant, and the meetings run the gamut from mundane to soap opera which keeps me on my toes. I like to think that my writing makes a difference to at least three people in the county… my neighbor, who says she always reads my articles, my BFF (do 30-somethings get to call them that?) who will occasionally bring herself to open the paper if she sees my name, and my clever grandma, who is up on all the news and always knows more than I do, before I do. Someday, I’m going to write a novel, preferably not about council and board meetings.
To Market, To Market – Still reeling after a decision to get a farmers’ market off the ground in the community, I find myself putting in anywhere from 10-30 hours a week in our second season with planning, insurance, calling vendors and presenters, managing a Facebook page and website, advertising, writing press releases, and eventually making products to sell. It’s often tiring, but hearing how happy it’s made people, being out and about and seeing their neighbors, it’s completely worth it. Pinterest and I, however? Oh, we are through. Too many good market ideas!
Now, that I’ve written a novella about where I’ve been the last two months, what’s new with you?