Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Here's the Proof!


Well, there she is...!  And we're good to go.  I even milked my side this evening, and we got almost a gallon of Marigold's lovely white milk.

I'll be late with tomorrow's post, so don't look for me until evening.

Red-Letter Day

It’s an old phrase that came about as a result of calendar holidays being marked in red ink. So, a red-letter day was a good thing!

Out here, JOTOLR, we had a red-letter day yesterday. We have IGNITION! MM was able to milk Marigold.

At this point, I don’t have pictures, but by this evening I will be able to get a few shots in between keeping Marigold amused with goodies and collecting the milk, and getting her used to me, now that MM is accepted. We have milked her twice, now. I say “we”…but MM is the milker to start with. I will be milking “my side” eventually, but one at a time for now is easier for Marigold to accept.

It’s been a struggle. She is a flighty little thing, not at all sure what this is about and what we’ve wanted. We have followed the book, taking all suggestions, tried them out—with varying degrees of success or not—including her being tied to a post overnight (an old-timey farmer’s suggestion that was very useful in finally bringing the errant and arrogant young cow to being more tractable, even leadable)--and now, three months after she calved, we are ready to put an end to the calf’s getting the milk. He is sleek and fat!  In the intervening months since drying up our other cow, Johni, I've gotten my BMI (body mass index) down to a respectable 22.  Now, I must be on guard against re-over-indulgence!!

Early today, we added to the milk store; we’re up to having only one pint shy of a full gallon between last night and this morning in the fridge. 

Mind you, she doesn’t have as much milk with this calving as she will next time. But it’s time for us to get it rather than the calf. So, we will have a good deal of noisy complaining from the calf for awhile until he realizes he has grown up. We played cowboy/cowgirl—roping the calf late yesterday afternoon so we could get him separated and unable to accost Marigold as she came in the gate. When we managed to get him tied to the post--installed especially for the purpose-- we only had to wait for mom to return and be directed into her into milking stall sans calf.

Training a new milk cow calls for the utmost patience. At times, it’s been very discouraging. She’s been really ugly. Then, at times, I guess she could say WE’VE been really ugly! But occasionally it seemed that no matter what kindness was offered she remained wary and aloof. Finally, with the continuing temptation of molasses-coated dairy pellets, she caved in and submitted to confinement.

Thankfully, Marigold is not a kicker. She never offers to raise her foot defensively. But she does not like enclosures. She feels…well….trapped. And she IS trapped! Trapped and tied. Having milked outside in all weathers for the past three years, we were determined to put our new milking station under cover beginning with this new milk cow. Right from the start we pledged to work with her until we had it right.

But, it’s been a test of wills getting Marigold to come into the milking stall. She does not like walls. As I said, MM has been very patient with her, though, and gradually narrowing her options daily, she made it quietly into the stall last night without any fuss and MM set about milking her. And, the same thing this morning.

We probably got a quart last night. Maybe. But it was a start. The milking was continuous, rather than grab and go. That’s a landmark. The pipe gate was shut and she wasn’t stressed. She simply munched the dairy feed she’s come to love, and ignored MM as he drained the tank, so to speak. He left a little for the calf, but not much. This morning, it went even more smoothly, with less suspicion on Marigold’s part. She went right to eating her dairy feed, and not even the pinging of her milk into the bucket caused more than a curious look from her at the first musical note.

Marigold has horns, so we have to be very careful working around her. Not that she would intend to hurt someone. She’s not mean. It’s just that she wouldn’t know that she was hurting someone. Cows—even heifers—are large animals. They don’t see the same way humans do, either. So swinging a horn happens without the cow's being aware of what she is wielding.

Well we’re onto a schedule again. Vacation's over.  It’s twice a day no matter what. Early and late…but the rewards are great! A cow gives voice to the term “self-sufficiency.” She gives lots and turns grass into milk products including cheddar, cottage cheese, Mozzarella, ice cream, butter, yogurt, cream cheese and...milk! And the products vary in flavor and availability throughout the year. Marigold, if everything goes right, could be with us as a milk cow for the next dozen years.

BTW, the photo above was last night's unbelievably breathtaking sunset.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hay Day!

First, my apologies for my scrambled blog yesterday.  I'll attribute whatever alchemy conspired to produce the disaster to a heat-addled brain.  Thank you to everyone who--without comment--forged through and gave comments, to boot.  How I love you all!  I re-scrambled it a couple of times last evening and I believe it's taken on its originally intended form!  Again, apologies!  Now on to other things!

There's hey-day and then there's hay-day.  Yesterday was both for us out here JOTOLR.  Fortunately, it wasn't MM and me out there this time, "throwing" (more like hiking up!) square bales onto a hay wagon.  Some previous buyers of our hay dropped by the other day and asked if they could put it up on shares.  We were elated!  Here's how it went:

They cut the hay on Sunday--or as some say, it was "laid down" and left to dry throughout much of Monday. 

Then, it was on to baling, late afternoon on Monday, the critical part where one prays hard and holds up the sky so it doesn't leak!  Water before harvest is the friend of hay.  Water DURING harvest is the enemy.  We hope for balance!  The sky looks ominous...the hay, vulnerable...

First, after cutting, comes the raking.......

Then the baling...or in this case, the rolling

Cow food for the coming safe and sound in the roll...

Finished.....Just in time.......!

Starting the cycle all over again....

Monday, June 28, 2010

What is it?...and other Short Takes...

What is it?

 This is the “what-is-it?” season. All sorts of things emerge, which if my recollection doesn’t deceive me, I’ve never seen before. Now, this item pictured above, (I confess), we unearthed several years ago when we were plowing a field. Nonetheless, its purpose and its origin remain a mystery. It seems to be an intentionally crafted stone ball. Was it made by a Native American?  If so, how was it crafted?  Was it for a game? Perhaps a hunting tool? Or a weapon? Any ideas?

And here’s another “what-is-it?” MM found this cute little fellow on the railing, and as always when he finds something noteworthy, he calls to me to get my camera. The only thing I had with me for size relationship was my four-inch pocket knife. So…what is it? Obviously a member of the pre-butterfly or pre-moth clan….Any ideas?

A thank you...

...for all your great suggestions on garden insect-management.  I've had great success with Insecticial Soap, and Conserve's Naturalyte.  Garden is doing VERY well this year. Best we have had in several years.  Yesterday we put up a dozen quarts of lovely beets!  Not a pre-chewed beet to be found thanks to all of you gardeners!  Yea!!

              It looks as though some COOOOOOLER weather is on the way.  Let's hope so!

Sounds I welcome….

I love the sound of a train whistle. Why, I cannot explain. And, I’m so glad the Wood Thrush is back with its serenade at dusk rippling through the woods. I love the sounds of hay being made—the chunk-clunk of the baler as it eats its way through the field. I love the sound of thunder….but only AFTER the hay is made!

A sound I miss…

What would I give to hear a whippoorwill again!? A lot! Perhaps we need some divine intervention to bring back some of the things that have given us so much pleasure in the past that seem to have "moved on."  Some habitat restoration, perhaps? Do any of you have the pleasure of hearing a whipporwill anymore?

Friday, June 25, 2010


You are looking at what I call an absolute necessity. This household cannot possibly entertain the thought of living without GARLIC!

In terms of the gardening season, it’s a bit of an odd-man-out. We planted this member of the allium family last October. It winters over and usually harvests sometime in late June or early July. A little earlier this year due to hot weather in June.

It was once thought to have magical powers against evil and was widely used in charms and spells. The poet Homer’s Odysseus used it to keep the sorceress Circe from turning him into a pig. And many legends surrounding garlic have to do with strength, speed, and endurance, according to Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.

It’s an onion with a compound bulb made up of 4-15 cloves.  It has many uses, both culinary and medicinal—some medicinals work, some don’t. More study is ongoing.

Recent indicators suggest that garlic has the ability to lower blood pressure. The Chinese use garlic in this way—treating all manner of respiratory ailments. Garlic tea, Garlic cough syrup, Garlic smelling salt—whew!!! Definitely would wake you up! Ear ache remedy, getting rid of worms and other parasites; as treatment against whooping cough (currently making a comeback--note the recent outbreak of Whooping cough in this country in California) which consists of making a chest rubdown of garlic and lard.

Some herbalists recommend putting a garlic clove in the patient’s shoes, believing that the healthful aspects of garlic could be absorbed through the soles of the feet. (the People’s Pharmacy suggested Vicks on the soles of feet, but I believe I’d prefer garlic. Again, according to Rodale’s it is possible that the irritating quality of garlic’s volatile oils may help open the lungs and bronchial tubes because the oils are readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Perhaps a shortcut would be to take a teaspoon of garlic syrup to relieve congestions.

Investigators in China are also looking at the role garlic may play in preventing gastric cancer. They compared the counties with the lowest and highest rates of stomach cancer deaths and found that the residents of the healthiest country regularly ate up to 20 grams a day of garlic.

Of course the culinary aspects of garlic are what we traditionally endorse. Garlic enhances almost every savory dish one can imagine from soups to stews, to steaks and you-name-it!

 We planted four varieties last fall: Bogatyr, Georgian Fire, Inchellium, and Siberian. They are HUGE. (That’s why the quarter beside it in the photo) We obtained our bulbs from Seed Saver's Exchange  Now, with all of it harvested there’s a drying period where all the plants are laid out on the porch as they expire. Then, they’ll be hung in a cool, moderately dry, dark place for the winter with lots of airspace.

That's is for this week lovely friends.  The heat seems to be letting up a bit for the moment, anyway.  MM tells me there is to be a lunar eclipse this weekend and it should be a good one.  He says to Google "NASA Eclipse" for more information.  So, get your cameras ready!
Happy Weekend!  See you Monday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Taking a Breather Today

I asked Fred First over at Fragments from Floyd blog to help me identify this lovely flower.  He graciously did, called it Monkey Flower, but remarked that he had not seen the blue edges, thinking, I know, that I had Photoshopped it to death.  Not so.  I admit to racheting up the saturation a teeny tiny bit....but the whole reason I took the shot was because of the blue margins on the leaves.  Isn't it spectacular?  These kinds of finds are simple gifts.

BTW, if you've not visited Fred's blog...DO!  He had a magnificent post (IMHO) a couple of days ago on Quietude.  Shall I say it "rang a bell" with me?  It definitely is worth a read as are his posts always.  So, hop over and have a look!

I'm taking a breather today.  Have a full agenda and need to regroup a bit.

Wishing everyone a lovely afternoon!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Unmentionables in the garden!

First, thank you all for your kind words and condolences with respect to our loss of Torre.  So kind and dear of you to send words of comfort. 
And now...on to other things!

So, what in the world does this (notice the missing feet....)

Have to do with this?

Panty hose makes the BEST tomato ties!!  It's stretchy,offers cushion to tomato stems, it's strong....and it's cheap or even free.  Of course, as a just-before-the-baby-boomers retiree, I have scads of panty hose left over from those "career days" and am happy to find a use for them, aside from straining paint!  But, if we were to run out, it's a lot cheaper to buy panty hose (the knee-highs are best) than tomato cages!  With respect to those cages, we are trying out a new method of staking this year using what we have around the farm.  We're using Re-bar and wooden stakes horizontally tied with baling twine.  Like this:

We had so many tomato plants this year that buying cages was simply out of the question...even if they worked!  Which in our experience, they don't.
I'll keep you posted on our success or lack thereof!  Experiments are always dicey!

Yesterday marked the beginning of the "canning season."  As hot as it was throughout the day, it made me wish we'd planned for a summer kitchen--the kind old-timers used to (sensibly) have when woodstoves and coal stoves provided the only source of cooking heat.  On the other hand, with MM having designed and built our house, our naturally cooled interior was a tolerable 73 degrees (without air conditioning), while outside it was 93 degrees in the shade.  We finished the day with fourteen quarts of a greens combo of Swiss Chard and Beet Greens which will be so tasty this coming winter.  Today, we'll add to that number and then tomorrow will be the day we can (bottle) beets which are all about 2.5 inches in diameter right now--perfect for preserving!

Sunset last night was a welcome relief after a steamy kitchen all day. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fare Thee Well, Farm Friend...

We suffered a loss yesterday out here JOTOLR.  And we've been trying to piece the puzzle together as to what actually happened.

We believe this is the answer:  two titans were felled in the same incident:  a huge ancient Maple tree in our front yard decided to topple over in the middle of the night --the same night the bat got in--and our five-year-old Great Pyrenees, Torre, must have come to investigate the noises being generated by the tree's process of collapse.  

The tree fell on Torre and broke his back.  He managed to crawl back to the barn --his house.  He died yesterday afternoon and there was nothing we could do for him.  We spent last evening digging his grave in hardpan, out in the field he guarded so vigorously. 

So, my other photos, today, are posted simply in memory of him, as a tribute to his power (he was soooooo big!), his love for us, and his unmeasured adoration for MM --which in Torre's mind, stood for Main Man.  Goodbye, Torre...  We'll miss you, gentle polar bear.

If anyone knows of a young Great Pyrenees male not too far from Southern West Virginia that needs a home, please let me know.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Wet 'n Cool

Summer!  It's here!  We thought it would never arrive, didn't we!  Well, as the old saying goes, "Don't wish for anything too hard or you'll probably get it." 

Things are HOT ...really hot out here JOTOLR!  We are in the process of staking tomatoes.  Poor things.  At first they look as if they've been thrashed.  But they recover overnight.  Now, early as it is, heat is already radiating off the dark garden soil.  It shimmers above the green grass.  Late afternoon showers visit us with a hot rain that bursts out of fat clouds, more like a tantrum than a gift.

But our Great Pyrenees knows how to cool things down...

The soaker hose is doing its work, gently, almost invisibly...

The frogs are in their element...

Think cool, enjoy....remember last winter?


                                                       It won't be long...!

P. S.  --  We had a bat in the house last night.  That was interesting.  Just before we turned in, something swooped over my head.  And then again.  I was glad to see the bat, but not as glad to have it IN the house!  So, MM decided to leave all the doors open, in order to let the poor bat out.  That did nothing to ease my mind as (instead of sheep) I began to count the myriad groups of animals that would have access to the house all night long....snakes, possums, skunks, dogs, frogs.....  Count Dracula and a phalanx of vampire bats spent the night cruising through my dreams....Needless to say, it was a restless rest.  And I was up EARLY!  So far, no bat, but I haven't checked all the available corners, either!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicks 101

Good morning, everyone, 

I shouldn't promise what I can't control!  The Internet was so slow last night!  It took forever to upload photos.  I'm one of those still on the antiquated dial-up, so it's especially trying when traffic increases...Nonetheless, here is a picture of our "chick mobile."

So far, we've lost one laying hen chick and one turkey chick.  We do expect to lose a few, regardless of how careful we are, but it's always disappointing.  The turkey chicks are especially vulnerable.  One hatchery person told me that they "learn" to eat the starter feed by watching the regular chicks.  So, you always need to have at least a few regular chickens to teach the turkey chicks what to do.  The turkeys also need 24% protein starter feed (available at Tractor Supply).  To give them regular (21%) chick grower/feed, ensures loss.  They develop what many farmers call "the droops" and simply keel over, dead.  And it happens with rapidity.   Our first year of raising turkeys we didn't know this and lost over half.  There's no choice about letting them "tough it out on natural feed" either.  We add "natural feed" by virtue of the chick mobile to start with.

The chick mobile is on wheels and has an open floor, meaning the chicks can graze on clover and grass in the confined area of the chick mobile.  As the area becomes soiled, we scoot the chicks up into the box, shut the drop-down door on them,wheel the mobile to a clean area and re-open the door.  They have water and feed, plus we leave the brooder lamps on inside the box and the chicks can come and go as they choose.

I love watching them as they whiz around and test out their new world!

A good brooder lamp is essential. 

And at night, everything gets a going-over to make sure there are no holes in the box for snakes, and the electric fence is turned on as extra insurance to discourage all predators.  The fence looks "saggy" but it's hot, and no snake would venture across without getting a serious lesson in avoidance.

This morning, all is well.  It's still foggy out, so I won't turn the chickies out until it's sunny.  We're still in the most critical time in terms of potential loss, so we hold our breath for the next few days and hope for the best! 

When the chicks outgrow the confines of the chick mobile, we will move them to "greener pastures." 

This is buckwheat, which will give them both food and shelter from raptors. (Yes, much as I love hawks and owls, they pose a danger to poultry.)
And....millet (canary food) which will mature in the next few weeks in time for the chickens to graze on as well.  They eat both the seed heads as well as the grass blades.  Interspersed with all the planted grains, is red clover and white Dutch clover.  We continue to supplement with whatever food they may want, be it ground corn or chick "grower."  And finally.....BUGS.  Ranging chickens consume copious amounts of bugs and it's such a delight knowing they are eating the food they prefer, naturally, and all the while, helping us to keep a handle on the pest population as they turn bugs into meat, eggs, and a little hard cash.

The buckwheat and millet fields are encircled with the electric fence, so the chickens don't get out and the predators don't get in.  The fence is effective in keeping possums, foxes, dogs, cats, rabbits, skunks, etc. at bay.  And it is easily moved once the ground has been used.  Another great thing is that the chicken manure goes straight to the ground.  The millet and buckwheat remnants will be tilled in and since we rotate our gardens over a three-year period, we are able to fallow two garden spots for upcoming years, as we use one of the three each year.  It's a win-win situation.  The investment in the woven wire fencing is pricey, but the fencing is effective even for calves, as well as poultry, and we mentally amortize the cost over several years to justify the intial expense.  We consider it a necessary expense for the farm and use it for many different arrangements.  It's quick to install and can be set up with just one person, in less than ten minutes for the short runs.  An hour at most for bigger enclosures.

If anyone has a question, give me a shout!  There is more than one way to raise a chicken!  We've finally arrived at a method that works for us.  Chime in with your methods.  We are always looking for ways to improve.
Hope you have an absolutely wonderful weekend!  It's supposed to be HOT!!  Take care everyone!  Thank you so much for visiting with me this past week.  I am slow to answer everyone, but I'll be working on that over the weekend.  I adore your comments and love to respond.  This time of year, though, I get behind so easily! 
My apologies as I attempt to balance the outside with the inside! 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Garden

It's the center of our lives right now!  Keeping ahead of the weeds, worrying when a weather forecast mentions "penny-sized hail" (oh, nooooo!), breathing with a sigh of relief when it doesn't materialize...and on the verge of putting the first crop of vitamins and sunshine into the jars, moving them to the cellar into the dark, where, next winter...we will dine in style!

Here are a few "grab-and-go" images ...

Bright Lights Swiss chard is just about ready for first harvest

Know what this is? (below)

Here's a clue:  it is enjoyed during football season....POPCORN!  Oh, so much better than Orvil's or --God forbid--microwave!

Here are several of my all-time favorite garden essentials.....

And this?  An heirloom Trumpet Vine that must be close to 100 years old, which lives in the top of our old pear tree

Check back for another post later today when I'll share Chick-Raising 101.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chick Day

I'm running a bit late today.  We were without power for awhile, and to add to the confusion, this was chick day.  For those who have never ordered from a hatchery, this is how they arrive...through the mail. All the way from Ohio to West Virginia. 

The ones on the right are turkeys. 
The ones on the left are New Hampshire Red laying hens.

Here's a little better image of the Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys.  Cute!

and the New Hampshire Red Laying hens...Very Cute!

They shipped on Monday and arrived today, Wednesday. Now they've had water, they're eating and drinking and sleeping...

There is only one thing we and they have to worry about....this 75-inch fellow is
not far was on the front porch a couple of days ago when I took this picture, and though we haven't seen it since, we know it's not far away...the sounds of peeping, the smell of baby chicks.....irresistible attractions for a Black Snake.
But we'll be keeping an electric woven wire fence around the chick mobile at night, which should give any snake a real wake-up call.