Is It Spring Yet?

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Slowly the days are growing warmer. A patch of grass is emerging high on the hill. Although, to get to it, you’ll have to cross a field still covered in a good 2 feet of snow. Some days we still get occasional flurries and brisk winds but they are starting to be outnumbered by “warm” (around 45F) sunny days.

The list of Spring chores grows: daily milking has begun, chicken and goat pens need a deep cleaning, hooves need a trim, and soon there will be a garden to cultivate -once the snow melts.

And some fences need mending….

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Despite the growing workload and the general muddy mess spring brings we’re just happy to be spending a little more time outdoors.

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And just because she’s cute….

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Hunker Down

Snow is on the way! Time to haul in some extra wood and locate all the snow shovels, sleds and dropped mittens. Not an easy task given how far and wide the boys roam. The goats won’t mind the extra snow; they like to jump the fence and play king of the mountain on the snow bank.

DSCN5720We’ll be hunkering down, wood stove ablazing – likely with the dutch oven on top, slow roasting a chunk of meat into tender perfection. With a new quilt and a stack of library books to see us through I think we’ll weather the storm just fine.

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Winter Around the Homestead

It’s been a while since we last had an “around the homestead” update. Freezing temperatures and snow is here to stay. The piles of winter coats, boots and drying mittens are growing. As is my collection of empty milk jugs to tote water out to the animals.

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The goats never seem to enjoy the snow. Already their tracks are mainly confined to a path between their shelter and the waterer. Manson has been taking his job very seriously so we should be expecting a new kid or two in the coming months. Nonetheless he still chases all the does around- just to be sure.

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Now that the snow is sticking the chickens are glad to stay in their camper. A week or two ago I gave the camper one last good mucking out and a deep bed of new shavings. As long as the cold temps are here the deep bedding shouldn’t get too gross and it acts as a layer of insulation. I stir it around every few days and add additional shavings when needed. The camper has a handy hatch in the back that makes mucking out the old shaving that much easier.

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Sad news- my bees have already succumbed to the harshness of winter. I checked on them a while back while I was prepping the hive for winter and they had already devoured their store of honey. I didn’t have my camera with me but they were positioned headfirst in their comb, in what my resources say is a classic starvation position. They had plenty of natural food around them and I had been supplementally feeding them. I didn’t take any honey nor is there another hive nearby (that I know of anyways) that could have robbed them. My thought is that perhaps our warm season is too short for a package of bees to really have time to get established and really produce enough for our long cold winters. If I can convince struggling_along I think our best bet would be to purchase a nuc, or two. Of course with bees there are no guarantees.

On a happier note: PUPPIES!

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They are all doing well and growing plump. They’re quite fun to have around but… 9 dogs! The very thought makes me glad the puppies are being spoken for left and right. Still for now we can take advantage of all the puppy snuggle time we can get, right?!

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Parker & Dexter

A few days ago Ms. Ellie delivered her kids! Meet Parker (in the front of the photo with Ishmael) and Dexter (laying down in the back of the photo below) named after the man who first built the barn which is now coming down.

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This finally gives me an opportunity to try out the goat sweater I knit a while back.  It’s a tad big for a newborn goat and absolutely huge on Dexter, who is quite small, but it does seem to help keep their cores warm. I’m going to knit a few more in smaller sizes to have on hand for future newborn goats.

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Parker has been doing quite well from the start. Dexter was weak and unable to stand but thanks to struggling_along jumping in I believe he’s going to make it. He’s up and about now and is getting stronger everyday. In fact we’re off to check on them right now.

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Les Chèvres

A window was knocked out in the goat barn. Really it was only a matter of time; goat hooves and glass windows don’t mix well. Coincidently the rest of the windows in the goat barn were already covered over with plywood when we brought the place. Hmmm. Luckily it’s a little too high for anyone to leap out to freedom. Although it was the frequency and number of heads poking out that caught my eye.

I quickly took a few photos, taking advantage of the rare lighting, before fixing the window. If you are wondering why the title says The Goats in French that’s because, even though I don’t actually know French, I like to talk to the goats in a mixture of English and “pretend” French. It just seems fitting. The goats with the horns are our bucks –  or Monsieur Manson and Monsieur Lenin.  The girls are Ellie and Rita (mother of Lenin). Ellie should be kidding this spring.

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Winter Around the Homestead

Snow, snow and more snow! This is what it’s looking like around here:

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I believe Manson’s expression sums up!

DSCN9190On the bright side the huge snow banks provide plenty of fun for the little guys. All that climbing, digging, sliding down. And taking a hike is quite the undertaking. Only Struggling_along, Noah and Megan have made it up into the woods – and that required snowshoes. They reported back that there’s easily 3 feet deep of snow back there.

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This isn’t Ishi’s first winter but this year he’s old enough to explore what this winter season and snow is all about.

DSCN9171He’s been quite the helper; joining me everyday (well except for those -10 below days) to go and feed and water the animals. I believe the chickens are his favorite. Likely because they’re not very bright birds and we have no roosters right now so they’ll squat there and they’re easy to pick up (or if you’re a pig – eat. And that’s why we have 6 chickens left).

DSCN8626The chickens are back to laying well though – 5 or 6 eggs a day.

DSCN9084The pigs (Mercedes and Lexus) have taken up camper remodeling and have thus far striped a large part of their section; after all that hard work they enjoy a fresh chicken. Chevy hangs out in his dog shed full of hay but readily comes out for a scratch and some scraps.

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DSCN8731I make many trips like this. Ah the days of hoses, grass and not spending a half hour putting on layers will soon be here (relatively speaking).

DSCN9071I’m thinking more and more that Manson did his job and Ellie will be kidding this spring! Milk again! Rita isn’t pregnant as Lenin has continued to nurse. He’s getting quite big and has beautiful colors as Rita is 3/4 Oberhasli and has color variations too.

I have to feed Manson separately or he’ll just ram everyone else away and eat it all himself.

DSCN9059Since the goats can be a little pushy before they get their grain I have Ishmael wait a second before we water and hay the goats. He just loves this part because he gets to sit and pretend to steer.

DSCN9199Winter around the homestead also means a lot of snow removal. Thank goodness for Struggling_along! He works the snow plow and shovels bits by hand.

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We’re Here!

We’re here! On our new farm!

Ah Vermont, I had forgotten how much I love your green mountains!

View from the back porch

So what’s going on now that we’re here? Well if you pulled into our driveway (you can’t miss it just look for the HUGE old barn) you’d likely be greeted by a child (or two or three) and a dog coming to see if you’ve got anything good. The goats are ever hopeful too.

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The boys will excitedly tell you (after showing you how fast they can run/ far they can jump etc.) that we have a new baby goat. Our new farm’s first birth! So, of course we’ll have to show you just how cute he his and give them all a few handfuls of freshly picked grass to munch on.

One day old.

Then the boys will want you to admire the Freds. They certainly have grown a lot. All of our chickens, despite the fact they are ALL hens, are named Fred. The older two boys will likely catch a Fred (or at least chase the Freds around) which take us back out toward the hayfield.

The hayfield will lead a)to an invitation to play soccer, b)an invitation to check out the chicken campa, c) an invitation to make the rounds and check on all the apple trees and pick some blackberries and/or d) let’s chase some turkeys.

It’s sure to be a long busy day but at the end of it – it’s good to be home.

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Making Soap Without Lye

On Plastic Pumpkin Farm we have a herd of Oberhasli goats. Their breeding season starts at the end of August and runs through January. During this time our bucks get well…bucky. Which means, among other things, they smell quite pungent. This scent transfers easily and lingers through most hand washing soaps. My solution- make Buck Off Soap.

Someday I’d like to try making soap with lye.  In the meantime a store brought soap base with added essential oils is fast and easy and it actually gets rid of strong scents- I also use it after handling onions, garlic, etc.

Here’s what you need to make soap:

This is what I use. (Plus a bottom pot)

A bain marie. I highly recommend you dedicate a bain marie (aka double boiler) for non food purposes only. Once the base melts it gets into every crevice and you don’t want your food tasting like soap. Check out yard sales and thrift stores and save yourself some cash.

Soap base. I’ve used the goat milk base available from my local hardware/general store.

A knife or grater to cut base into small pieces to melt. You’ll also need a knife  to cut a large brick into smaller bars.

Essential oil of your choosing. I used Lavender but any will do, be sure it is an essential oil and not an extract or flavoring.

Soap molds. You can buy bar molds or make some out of a carton (i.e. milk, oj) or some plastic PVC pipe cut to length with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band on the end.  have these ready BEFORE you start melting the soap base.

Plastic prefab soap molds.

Optional additions: I added lavender buds to several bars. You can add anything you want-dried flowers, oatmeal, ground almonds, even a small toy for a child.

A freezer helps to loosen bars from the mold but you can also use  petroleum jelly. And don’t forget the stove!

Once you have the soap base grated and melting your almost done. It’s actually a very fast process.

If you are interested in soap made with lye check out this post  at  Homemade Alaska

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