Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Late April Pictures

The Honeybees Have Arrived!
Yesterday I installed a package of honeybees that came in over the weekend.  They arrived just in time to pollinate the apple blossoms over the next couple of weeks.  Right now they're feasting on dandelion pollen, see how they're legs have pollen sac's that are full.

I've been keeping bees for about 7 years now and they're just part of my garden routine.  They're tireless little workers that are fun to watch.

Grazing in the Sunshine and Dandelions
For years I dreamed of having dairy goats.  I wanted to have our own raw goats milk to drink, as well as enough to make cheese, yogurt and ice cream.   Three years ago I bought my first dairy goat and I have loved them ever since.  Now, I think I will always have goats in my life.  

On the right side you can see the gate to enter our 10 acre property, we live at the end of a dirt road in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.   The barn was built by my husband many years ago when he was learning to timberframe.  It is built from the trees off this land. We have giant Douglas Fir, Cedar, and Hemlock trees.  

Our Mini Lamancha doeling greeting me at the gate.

Biscuits and Gravy
My husband was just fixing to take his first bite of  breakfast, when I said, "Wait, let me take a picture first". So, I quickly got my camera and snapped a shot with him holding up the plate. 

Homemade biscuits and gravy is a family favorite that I grew up with, and have many fond memories of watching my Grandma make them.  She was from the South and grew up eating biscuits and gravy.  We always had scrambled eggs, and bacon, along with several types of fruit.  The gravy was always made out of the bacon drippings.  I still love to make them when I have a little extra time.

ps. a note after the picture.  Sure wish I had added a sprig of parsley from the garden to spruce up the color a bit. Oh well, impromptu.

The definition of  Preen  -  1. To smooth or clean feathers with the bill.   2. To groom oneself with elaborate care or vanity.   3. To take pride or satisfaction in oneself.  
My chickens like to be clean, they take dust baths daily, and make sure there's plenty of time for preening to look their best.  

William's Pride Apple Blossom
William's Pride is our first apple tree of the year to bloom.  It is also the first of the year to ripen, around late August.  "The best of the early season apples", Raintree catalog says.  They are delicious fresh, but are not very good keepers.  The later season apples are the good keepers.  The virtue of a William's Pride apple is that it is first to ripen in my orchard, and after a long spell with no fresh apples they are eagerly anticipated.

Rhododendron Blossom in the Rain
From my kitchen window I can watch this giant old rhododendron blooming.  

*All the pictures above and what I wrote for each caption came from the 365 Project I'm working on.
 My address for the 365 Project is here, http://365project.org/jewelofapplegarth/365  I started on March 5th and am uploading a picture a day with a short description.  It's been fun to look back and see what is happening with our family, the animals or what's blooming on a particular day.  I'm enjoying seeing so many amazing photo's from around the world and connecting with people all over, it's been a great place to learn about photography.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Early April in Pictures

April began quietly with the Spring daffodils and Methley plum blooming, then along came the Salmonberries and currants.  Now, we're in the middle of the month, and just two weeks later, everything has begun to burst forth, growing at top speed.  I think the rhubarb grows a foot a week, it's ready for a bigger harvest than just pies, so, I'll be making my first preserves of the season soon.  The orchard has new blossoms happening daily, and the vegetable garden is beginning to grow.  The cold frame is full and the first beds of peas, greens, and herbs have been planted. The warm season crops are sitting inside under lights with heat from below, full of natural sunlight from a window, they're all toasty and will be ready to go out in another month.  

With the moon now waning, I'll be focusing on planting below ground crops for the next couple of weeks, planting seeds of  carrots, beets, and radishes, onions starts, and seed potatoes.  The onions I started from seed back in Feb. along with the celeriac and cruciferous vegetables (all sitting comfortably in the cold frame).  I'll begin to plant out the broccoli's, cabbages and cauliflower out over the next couple of weeks. April is the month I really begin to focus on the garden and orchard. 

The following pictures are all from the last couple of weeks.

The Trumpet of Spring

 Soup for breakfast
I love eating soup or stew for breakfast on a cold rainy morning. 
 This is goat and vegetable curry soup, 
it's one of my husbands favorites to take to work for lunch.

Methley Plum
The Methley plum starts our season of blossom in the orchard.  
For the last 8 years I've been planting about 5 new fruit trees every year. 

My grandson Roman saying Hi to one of the mini Nubian goat kids. 

Salmonberry Blossom
The border of our property is edged naturally with Salmonberry bushes.  This time of year they are filled with beautiful fuchsia colored blossoms.  Salmonberries are the first berry of the year to ripen.

Eye See You
Sierra is our beautiful Great Pyrenees.   
She was laying under an Asian Pear tree in the orchard,
 just relaxing in the sun watching me.  

 Ruby Red Rhubarb

 Rhubarb Pie
The season of rhubarb pie and ice cream is upon us!  
I made this for dessert right after harvesting it. 

Part of our morning ritual is Kalua joining us in front of the fire while we have our coffee. 
 She's purring and content on Dad's lap this morning.

Spring Break Sleep Over
My daughter Kaley on the right and her friend Hannah camping in the back yard.  We couldn't find the tent poles, and the girls worked so hard gathering sticks from the forest to set it up somehow.  After watching them, my husband joined in to help make it sturdy enough, he used a tall ladder to hold it up in the middle and sticks tied to support the sides.  Where there's a will, there's a way!  They had fun and were lucky it didn't rain.

Glowing Onion Starts
The vegetable garden is well on it's way, with baby seedlings everywhere.  The cold frame is filled with cool season seeds and the seed starting rack inside is full of warm season seedlings.

April 14, Seed Sowing
This white butterfly hung out with me while I was planting seeds a couple days ago.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Late March in Pictures

Little Eli
Snowdrop's little buckling Eli has lot's of spunk,
 he likes to jump off the highest rocks and run the fastest.

First Day Outside
Our beautiful Lamancha goat Zolena gave birth to triplets a few nights ago, 2 bucklings and a doeling. Our kidding season is now complete.  I've been having fun this March with 8 goat babies running around jumping, leaping and playing.  Spring smiles!

Kisses Say, "I Love You"
Our little Golden Retriever puppy giving kisses to Dad.

Good Morning Alarm Clock
We  have 2 roosters born and raised here, they have 25 hens between them and each has their own faithful harem following.  They're the early morning alarm clock around here, and when I say early, I'm talking around 4:30, the first crows happen slowly, then increase as the sun rises.  Luckily we enjoy our roosters and their crowing.  It helps that they're not too close to the house, so the sound is nice and lets us know the sun will be up soon.

"The Redheads"
Our family has beautiful redhead girls, daughter Tessa and our little girl dog Summer.

Playing in the Spring Sun
I'm enjoying life with all the goat kids this Spring.  
This little Nigerian  Doeling is adorable and loves to crawl in my lap for pets, I'm thinking of the name Elsie for her.  I'm trying to have them all named with E names, since that's the letter for the year for the ADGA, the American Dairy Goat Association.  

Last night on my way home from town, I paused to admire the 
evening painting in the sky and the beautiful silhouettes.

Ruby Red Rhubarb

Rhubarb pie baking season has officially arrived

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This Morning

I took my camera out this morning to capture a little of my daily routine.  I am bottle feeding the 5 little doelings that are in the bottom right corner. They get fed first in the morning, I sit on a stool with them clamoring about with 2 bottles.  They have to take turns, and that's easier said than done.  As I'm feeding them, I watch the sun rise through the meadow.  It lights up the house, highlighting the smoke coming from the chimney, then it lands on the goat feeder, which is where Jersey and Dahlia are laying and waiting for breakfast and milking.  

I feed the babies first, then the goats and chickens, next I milk the three does.  After that I feed the rabbits, the feeding order goes by who is the loudest and the goats win.  Mornings are busy with roosters crowing, goats calling to be fed or milked, and kids jumping about playing all the while.  The rabbits are quiet and always fun to say "hi" to when I feed them in the morning. After I got back inside this morning, I decided to sit down and put together a photo collage for my 365 project that I'm working on.  I'll tell you more about that in another post.     

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Our new cat Kalua came home from work with my husband as a kitten this last Fall.  He had watched the mom raise her litter of kittens, and as they got older, he decided this beautiful, and extra friendly one, would be just perfect to join our animal family here at Applegarth.  He was right, she purrs and hops up in our lap for pets, and she loves to hang out with me in the garden on sunny mornings, just like Dutchess used to do.  Our oldest cat Dutchess passed away last Summer, she was almost 20 years old and we found her under the comfrey plants looking peaceful and asleep, her spirit had passed away... being comforted I imagine under the comfrey.  I missed her so much, she was a daily part of my life since my oldest daughter was only four years old when we got her as a kitten.  Now, I have another cat to love, both her wonderful spirit and her captivating blue eyes. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Farm Fresh Eggs

The girls are really beginning to lay well again by this time of the year.  We're gathering around 18 eggs per day, now that we're in the middle of March.  The meadow grass is beginning to grow, along with the dandelions.  The chickens love to eat them, Spring eggs are extra special if the chickens can eat fresh greens.

Spring Goat Kids

Our little Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat Snowdrop had beautiful triplets one week ago.  The next day was sunny and 60 degrees, so in the afternoon I brought them all outside for about 15 minutes to enjoy the sun, meet the other goats and take a few pic's, then I hurried them all back into their cozy nest in the barn.  Snowdrop had twin doelings pictured above, and all three kids pictured below with the dark handsome buck on the left, we may keep him for the Fall breeding season.  I love all of the colors and markings each kid this year. 

Our Nubian Jersey and I were up all night this past Thursday night as she delivered twin doelings pictured below, they are melt your heart cute, and are miniature replica's of Jersey. She was bred to a Nigerian, so these are miniature Nubians.  We are lucky this year to have 4 doelings so far, now just our Lamancha Zolena is left and she's due this Friday, I hope she has at least one doeling too.

    We've been loving all the Spring babies and new life everywhere we look! 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

American Chinchilla and Cinnamon Rabbits

We added a beautiful breeding pair of Cinnamon rabbits to our herd over the winter, they are the "spice" of the rabbit world and we are excited to have them join our rabbit family. Cinnamon's are a true American Heritage breed of rabbit, created in Montana in 1972. They're a  larger breed and grow to between 9 and 11 pounds.  With their unique coloring and wonderful temperament these rabbits are very attractive and useful as meat, fur, show, and pet.  The Cinnamon coloring is a gorgeous dusty tan with a bright orange undercolor, dark shaded tips to the guard hair, with the shading gradually increasing down the sides and extremities of the rabbit until the belly of the rabbit is a stormy gray with pearl undercolor.

The mother of the doe in the bottom left picture is the National Champion Best of Breed Cinnamon Rabbit and the buck above and below on the right comes from the same breeder.  I like to start with the best genetics I can find locally, and in this case we have a top breeder in the next town East towards the mountains. By the end of Summer when these rabbits are around 8 months old, they'll be ready for breeding.

A little history about the Cinnamon Rabbit breed.
During the Easter season of 1962 2 kids by the name of Belle and Fred Houseman of Missoula, Montana were given a young Chinchilla doe. Later they received a New Zealand buck. They crossbred these two for babies that their father, Ellis, believed should be used for meat, but young Belle begged her father to let her keep one of the crossbred bucks as a family pet. The children joined the 4-h group and used their crossbred meat rabbits as their project. They were then given an unwanted Checkered Giant and a crossed Californian doe which they mated with Belle’s pet buck and in this litter was a russet shaded 

They again bred the Checkered to the same buck and another rusty colored rabbit appeared, then one day their doe produced two russet colored rabbits. Ellis Houseman told his kids that they needed to be keeping only purebred rabbits to show, but this time Fred, with tears in his eyes, begged his father to let him keep the pair of brownish rabbits from the last litter. Ellis agreed.They mated the pair together and 70 percent of the litter was this russet shaded color, which they began calling Cinnamon.

Dad then began taking notice of these unusual shaded colored rabbits, and also noticed the sheen in the coats. Ellis showed these experimental rabbits to J. Cyril Lowett, Oregon Judge and ARBA board member. He felt they had possibilities and said there was not another breed like them in the U.S.  In 1972 the breed was approved.  Cinnamon's are on the rare breeds rabbit list for the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy).  

Pictured below is a portion of our rabbitry, with another 3 smaller hutches not visible, we have 8 holes currently and are adding another 7, we plan to stay at 15 holes.  Starting the season we have 5 American Chinchilla's for breeding, 3 does and 2 bucks, along with the Cinnamon breeding pair.  We have found that by having breeding stock of both bucks and does out of non related stock we can double our sales, and often sell 2 or 3 rabbits at a time, rather than just one at a time.

A young American Chinchilla doe I kept from a breeding last year out of Zelpha and Melvin, her name is Diamond and she was just bred to a young buck I kept from last year.  Serendipity below was my first American Chinchilla and is my foundation doe, she has been a wonderful rabbit, and her son Sterling is the mate for the doe Diamond above.

American Chinchilla's are an especially nice breed of rabbit to raise, they are one of the few breeds of rabbit that originated in the United States. Credit for developing this breed cannot be given to one breeder. Several American breeders wanted to produce a larger bodied rabbit than the Standard Chinchilla for larger pelts and more meat. Development began in the 1920’s and was originally known as the Heavyweight Chinchilla. In 1924 the breed was accepted by the ARBA and the name was changed to the American Chinchilla.

The American Chinchilla rabbits are large and hardy but  gentle. Mature bucks weigh 9 to 11 lbs and mature does weigh 10 to 12 lbs. the does are known for producing large litters, averaging 7 to 10 kits per litter. They are known for having good mothering instincts and the kits reach market weight quickly. When you first see this rabbit it appears salt and peppered colored, but when the fur is blown into 4 distinct bands of color appears. They attract a lot of attention at shows because of their large size and their fur is so soft and beautiful.
One reason I raise this breed, aside from the fact that they're beautiful and productive, is that by raising them we're helping bring back a heritage breed that is on the critical list with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and on the “Rare Breed Rabbits” list.  


A breeding trio I sold over the winter, 2 does and one buck, they're all so beautiful, aren't they?  Below is Zelpha and one of her albino daughters.  The first kindling Zelpha ever had last year I went out to peek in the nest box and was shocked to find an all pink kit, I was just thrilled, and ran inside to tell everyone what I found in the nest box! After researching it some more I realized that in the American Chinchilla breed if both the buck and doe that breed have the c- gene they will throw albino kits.  Now, this is not ideal for some, but for me I was excited to know we could consistently get some white rabbits for their fur. She had one albino kit her first litter, 3 the second, and 4 albino kits the 3rd kindling.  I have a buck now with the c+ gene and the two of them will not throw albino kits.  For Spring and Summer kits that I want to sell, I'll breed those two and for the Fall and Winter kits that we  mostly raise for meat and fur I'll breed her with Melvin for a few white ones.

American Chinchilla doe, Zelpha pictured above and below.

My husband is building a new set of hutches for me, now with the addition of the Cinnamon's we need more room.  We're doing an entirely different design, rather than wood that is difficult to clean and sanitize, we're building it out of galvanized metal and wire with a strong roof and removable wood panels for siding.  This is so we can pressure wash and clean thoroughly several times per year.  We're also planning to fence the entire rabbitry to keep the dogs out, and allow the rabbits a nice big exercise paddock. 

Melvin our senior buck above is a total sweetheart and loves attention, he will always give a good greeting and is a pleasure to tend to everyday, well, actually all of my rabbits bring me enjoyment, some are just more personable than others.  If you're wondering what happened to our Champagne d' Argent rabbits, I sold them all to one lady last Summer.  I decided I only needed one breed of silver and gray rabbit, rather than two breeds of the same color. The rabbits have truly been one of my favorite parts of homesteading, they're the perfect small scale permaculture farm animal.  They've provided our family with a fun hobby, along with delicious meat, luxurious furs to make things with, and the best compost for our garden.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Goat Herd

The grass  is beginning to grow again, the robins are singing, and Spring kids are just around the corner!  Jersey our Nubian, Zolena our Lamancha, and Snowdrop our little white Nigerian Dwarf are all pregnant and due to kid in 2-3 weeks.  I milked up until the first of January and since then the goats and I have taken a nice break.  We sure do miss the fresh milk though, and will be happy to start milking again in several weeks.  We have an all girl herd now since we sold our buck Cowboy back in January.  He went to be a herdsire at another farm with some nice Nigerian Dwarf does.  We also sold Joon last Summer to a nice family who were just getting into goats for their family milk supply.   The two young cute little Nigerian Dwarf does are from Snowdrop and Cowboy last year, their names are Destiny on the front right and Dahlia behind her.