Sunday, May 29, 2011

fireside chat

I've been wanting to write and catch you up on all that's been going on around here.  We've had some big changes, and I even have a new place to be on the computer, right by the fire.  I took this picture before sitting down this evening. After the coals died down a bit, Kaley roasted me a couple of marshmallows, she's good at getting them just right.  We're all adjusting to going to sleep in new rooms, and waking up to new routines.  Moves are both exciting and nerve wracking.

This last week has been a whirlwind of activity getting moved from the barn to the big house.  It's all for the good, but is still a ton of work.  I can't believe how much stuff I had gathered and stashed away, just like a pack rat.  Well, now I'm going through it all, and either keeping and storing it, giving it away, or throwing it away.  I only want to move in just what we need to be cozy and comfortable. 

J has been getting the sink all set up and running, so I don't have to wash dishes in the bath tub anymore.  We still have a hose coming through the window, but the sink drains.  The new stove still needs a psi regulator, whatever that is, so I haven't been making bread... I know I said not long ago  that I wanted to make all our own bread, well now I'm letting the move take over for a few weeks until all settles back down, and I can get back into a good cooking routine.  Then I'll resume making bread again, there needs to be a certain peace in the home for bread baking.

We needed to make a reason to get the big house finished, and by moving in, it created the motivation to begin at a faster pace getting it all up and running.   Patience is a good thing, then when you've been patient long enough, bold action seems to do the trick.  We  have been gathering supplies to finish it , as items were found, or there was extra money to buy them, we did. 

We have the stone tiles to lay the floor, and the metal tubing to lay under the stone tiles, the floor will be heated.  We have a new Wolff range that has 2 ovens.  I am working on bringing the salvage sink back from years of a rusty leaking faucet that stained the enamel, bought at a salvage yard in Seattle.  Yesterday J spent an entire day sanding down and cleaning a butcher block table that I'm using as a center island, it was black and now looks like new, he also spent a long time scrubbing the metal base and drawers.  We have gathered wood for laying the wood floors, and granite counters for someday finishing the tops of the counters and cabinets.

For now I'm just happy everyday to see the sun and even on cloudy days the light coming through the windows, I can look out on my garden from the minute I wake in the morning.  There are big plans to finish taping the walls, and to get ready for painting.  I bought a couple gallons of paint, a butternut color, then got it home, and found it was too dark, I went back down to Lowes and bought a gallon of white paint to lighten it some.

In the farm news, Henrietta should be hatching out her clutch of baby chicks, there are twelve eggs, I put all of one days eggs under her, so hopefully they all hatch out in one day.  I sat near her today listening, and could hear the baby chicks peeping, still in their shells under her, pecking their way out.  I'll take some pics tomorrow if they begin to hatch.  Then 4 days later the cuckoo maran should hatch out, she has a dozen eggs under her too.  What will we do with that many chickens?   We'll raise the young roosters up until they're butcher weight, or if their nice enough looking we will try to find a good home for them with somebody who wants a nice rooster.  The hens will be for next years layers, as they lay the best in their first 2 years of life, so replenishing some every year is wise to do. 

Regarding the goats, I spoke with Kristi the owner of the goats I've been planning to get mine from, we talked about a month ago.  Her first planned breeding's didn't take, she was disappointed, and said she'd have a couple that may be kidding the beginning of May.  I still haven't heard from her, and will email tomorrow.  I wonder if any of her breeding's worked, she said something about re breeding.  I have been looking for nigerian dwarfs on Craigslist now, and also have the names and numbers of several known breeders in our area. 

The 2 pregnant mini rex rabbit does kindled several weeks ago, and the babies are already running all over with their eyes open.  I plan to sell them all when the babies are old enough at 9 or 10 weeks old.  The future plans are to change breeds to Silver Fox, and Champagne D'argents.

In the garden, I've been working on weeding, and getting beds ready for planting.  The cold frame J made several weeks ago has been wonderful for protecting plants.  This coming week is the time for me to get most of the garden seeds in the ground and planted.  Warm season stuff will stay in the cold frame for several more weeks, until the weather warms enough.  We've been having a spring like last year, very cold and things much later than normal.  The moon is still waning, so tomorrow I'll be planting root crops, carrots, beets, radishes, parsnips, and onions. 

I spent time today looking at my garden designs over the last few years.  Just double checking my notes, to see how to rotate crops and take advantage of rotational planting.  I have 6 large garden plots, 4 are for rotational crops, and I have each bed labeled A, B, C, D.  The other 2 beds are for perennial vegetable, grapes, strawberries, herbs and flowers.  There's another big new bed, I'm working on, it's where I'm currently building my mountain of compost.  Weeds, chicken/ rabbit manure, old straw, grass clippings, and leaves make up a large part of my compost.  I will be planting the new big bed with corn, pumpkins, sunflowers and green beens.

I hope you're enjoying this spring, and getting outside.
Happy Gardening to you!  Jewel

a sad farewell to the kittens

 Last Thursday was the day I took the kittens in to Purrfect Pals, a non-profit cat organization that was having a shortage of kittens for this time of year.  They have adoptive families waiting for kittens, willing to pay $150.  I figure if someone is willing to pay that much, they will take good care of their new baby.  It was hard giving them up, we loved watching their playful antics, wrestling matches, races and especially their sweetness towards their mothers and us.  They have been a delight to have around.

We kept the kittens until they were 11 weeks old, so they had plenty of time to play in the woods and learn from their mothers.  We found homes for 4 of the kittens, and took the other 7 in to be adopted.  In exchange for bringing them the kittens, they spayed both of my mother cats, and the little one we're keeping.  So we won't be having kittens in our life for many years.  This was a fun experience we will all remember with fond memories of them, and the miracle of their birth, the mothers faithfulness in raising them, and the tenderness we witnessed, watching them with their babies.

 The little one we ended up keeping below turned out to be a girl, we are still narrowing down our name choices for her.  She is sweet and friendly, and is lucky to stay here, and have both mom's to nurse from and be with. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

finally home

Last week we spontaneously moved into our big house that has been unfinished for years, we are building it slowly with cash and the time to work on it.  If you read my post called waterlogged and sun starved, you'll understand why I finally made the decision to just do it.  I really have been sun starved and living in the barn, and the cabin we had most of our comfort and functional needs met, but the biggest drawback was the dark, windows were up high, and rooms were dark. 

So now our plan is to work on the big house while we live in it.  It's finished to the sheet rock stage, however, we do have a finished bathroom, a laundry room, electricity and just installed a wood stove.  There are windows that look out over my garden, and from our upstairs bedroom it's like a lighthouse looking over the entire property, North, South, East and West.  We've moved most of the furniture, and all the beds, and have set up home.  This week we'll be working on getting the sink and counters put in, and the stove all hooked up.  The other day I spent hours cleaning an old porcelain salvage sink that is deep on both sides, it must have been set up in a commercial kitchen, but it is cleaning up beautifully.  A good sink is very important, and is of utmost priority, the last couple of days I've been doing the dishes in the bathtub. 

I've been having fun nesting in my new home.  We'll be painting, laying stone and wood floors, finishing the wood trim around windows, taping, texturing and painting the walls, and mostly getting it all functional to start with.  At the same time I'm also going through everything we've had stashed away in the barn, and cleaning and organizing all the stuff that gets accumulated over years of raising children and having a business.  There will be many trips to get rid of stuff at Goodwill, and maybe save some stuff for a barn sale this summer.  In any event, it's a new chapter in our lives, one that will be filled with many happy work filled days.

Monday, May 16, 2011

harvesting dandelion pollen

One of my worker honey bees gathering the dandelion harvest of pollen.  There are thousands of bees gathering pollen this time of year, dandelion pollen is a favorite.  They feed it to their young to help them grow from babies to adults.  Can you see the pollen she's gathered on her sides, she's getting full and will then carry it back to the hive to unload and go out again.  Honeybees are tireless workers when the weather's nice, they are wonderful to have and watch through the different seasons.

broody hens

One of last years Cuckoo Maran chicks we raised is now a young hen, she just started sitting on eggs for the first time 2 days ago, I placed all of that day's eggs under her.  She made a huge ruckus when I did, sitting hens don't like you to lift them even a little, they are moody and broody.

Henrietta went broody twice last year in the Spring and Fall, she is a wonderful mother to her chicks, it is valuable to have a good mother hen.  The other hen last year that had chicks was an Americana hen, she just kind of quite taking care of her chicks when they were very young, she wasn't a very good mother.  I hope the young Cuckoo Maran hen is a better mother.  I only have one brooder/chick area, and will have to set up another one in the chicken coop soon.

Henrietta is below, she's been sitting on a dozen eggs for 6 days now.  It takes 21 days of a hen sitting on the eggs for them to hatch out.  So she will hatch in around 15 days, or May 30th.  cuckoo maranwill hatch out around June 3rd, she's also sitting on around a dozen eggs.  The hens will get up off the eggs at least once a day for 10 or 15 minutes to go to the bathroom, eat, drink water, and stretch their legs, then they hurry back to the nest to resume sitting and patiently waiting.

I know this sounds like a lot of chicks, but they don't usually all hatch, and some may not make it.  I'll be happy if I get 7 or 8 chicks from each hen.  Then when they're day old, if I want to add any other chicks I pick up from the feed store, similar in age and size of the new chicks you can put them under the hen at night, and by morning she will accept and raise the new ones right along with hers.  I want to add a couple banties and a couple more Silver laced wyandottes, and my husband wants another white silkie.  We had a banty named Olga and a white silkie named Starbird, and we lost both of them, they were favorites of ours.  I want to put them under Henrietta to raise.

sunshine and dandelions

The sun finally came out for 3 days in a row, we all got out and followed it just like the dandelions.  I worked in the garden and let the chickens loose to enjoy the warmth of the sun.
Sierra, our great pyrenees is on her zip line doing chicken duty, she's on one side, and Summer, our golden retriever is on the other side of the meadow tied out.  Several days a week they work at guarding for 2 or 3 hours.  We like to let the chickens out to graze, for their overall health and the best quality eggs.  I notice a big difference in the color of the yolks when they are back on healthy pasture, rich golden orange yolks when on pasture, and the whites are a breeze to whip up.  I always whip the egg whites for omelette's, waffles and pancakes.
Rodney and the girls grazing, eating good bugs under the logs, they always find where the pickins are the tastiest.  The sunny weather makes me want to let the chickens and rabbits out to play in the sun too.  I learned valuable lessons my first years of letting animals loose, it draws in coyotes, neighbor dogs, and hawks.  The dogs have been our best defense, and of course a predator proof chicken coop and run. 

The dandelions in all their glory! Looking from the entrance of the chicken coop toward the big house.  This is a living meadow that has never had one ounce of chemicals put on it.  We mow several times per year, and have 3 meadows, we try to let the dandelions go as long as possible for the honeybees, and yet not too long they all go to seed.  Factor in a couple dry days to mow, either before the bees are out in the morning or mow after they have gone to bed.  During the height of the dandelion season, I can go to the beehives and watch the honeybees bringing in loads of dandelion pollen, and when you walk through the meadows, you see worker bees everywhere gathering nectar and pollen.  I watch many different types of insects go to the dandelion for food as well.  The rabbits and chickens also adore dandelion greens this time of year.  I enjoy them for their beauty and health giving qualities, how lucky we are to be so abundantly blessed!

Friday, May 13, 2011

waterlogged and sun-starved

Last evening as I walked through the garden, I couldn't help but notice how saturated the ground was.  Not just a little water, this latest round of rain yesterday will need sun and dry day's to make the soil workable again.  Have you tried to pull weeds in soil that is too wet, with roots clinging to the soil, impossible to shake off?  The reality is we are sun starved here in the NW, we've had 4 and a half days of blue sky in the last 2 months.  I know because I've been counting them, 3 of those days happened to fall on the weekend when I was at work, which was nice because I work outdoors, but I also longed to be in my garden in the sun. 

This is the second spring in a row being this wet and cold, the spring of 2009 I remember was beautiful.  The temperature now is around 42 degrees at night and warms up to around 51 during the day, this has gone on for months with grey clouds and rain.  I know I shouldn't complain, we don't have tornadoes, we haven't gone through an earthquake, and we're not experiencing a flood or a drought.  I am thankful for many things about the Northwest, and know our best months July, Aug, Sept, and Oct are coming up.  I am using this blog as kind of a garden journal, so I wanted to make notes to myself for future years, not to get too excited about planting anything too early.  Most things need to wait until mid May to plant, or they'll just sit and linger.

On a positive note, last week we were given a nice big frame for a greenhouse from the owner of the nursery where I work.  It came with the property when she bought it 12 years ago, and has just been sitting, because it's so huge and takes someone who knows how to set it all up.  Well my husband happens to know how to figure these kinds of dilemmas out, he'll just pour a concrete form and set the steel in place, frame up the ends and we'll get plastic to cover it, voila', a greenhouse.  I'm exaggerating, it's not quite that simple.   I am so excited to get it all set up for this winter.  Not sure what the measurements are but he said it was huge. I will be able to garden year round, can you imagine that?

After gardening here in the Northwest for 21 years, a greenhouse is what every gardener dreams of.   I am going to set it up with a patio and a table and chairs, so we can enjoy the warmth it will bring during cool Springs.  This will also enable me to grow the warmer season crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  We're all looking forward to a Meyer lemon tree planted at one end too, and will fill the rest throughout the winter months with fresh greens, broccoli, carrots, beets, etc.  Who knows it may also double as a place to raise chicks in the early spring too.

Yesterday I went to the 3rd track meet of the season for my daughter Tessa, every single one has been cold and rainy.  We're due for some sun!!  I heard the weather this morning and they're calling for sun mixed with rain today, and they say "SUN" for Friday and Saturday.  If it's out today or tomorrow, I'm going to take at least an hour and just go lay on the trampoline and soak up some vitamin D.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's day to all the mother's out there, who mother children, animals, and all who are in your care.  There is a mothering spirit that is stronger than anything else in this world, it is the heartbeat of a true mother.  She wants to create a loving home, full of memories with her children, she wants to make good food to nourish them, give them Love and understanding to grow, make forgiveness and acceptance a priority throughout their lives.  Most importantly she wants to impart a Godly Spirit, and the knowledge of how to hear the voice of Wisdom, to help them make good choices in their lives.

I am so thankful God gave me the Mother He did, I have been blessed my entire life to have a Mother that has loved me and my children unconditionally through all the mistakes, she still believed in me.  She gave me a foundation of Faith that has carried over into her grandchildren, and will carry over through the generations to come I believe.  My Mom has  always given me a hug and a smile, and good conversation. 

My parents will be up here soon, they live on the Oregon Coast, and like to come stay at their home away from home, that is not too far away from us.  We'll hopefully have a month or two with them in town.  We like to go to garage sales, and run around, we cook and eat together and generally get to spend time enjoying each other.  I wish I could be with my Mom today on Mother's Day, but we'll have a special Mother's Day lunch when she gets here. 

To all the mother's out there, enjoy your day today with your children and family.  For all that you give and do, you deserve to give yourself a special treat, buy yourself something nice, or do something nice just your yourself, today or this coming week :)  I'll let you know later this week what I did nice for myself.

Friday, May 6, 2011

the rabbitry

Future plans for the rabbitry are to phase out of Mini Rex's and buy a breeding pair of Silver Fox rabbits, and a breeding pair of Champagne D'argent rabbits.  I've been in contact with a breeder close by, and also placed a wanted ad for both breeds on Craigslist.  I'll be waiting to sell my 2 pregnant Mini Rex does until their babies are 8 or 9 weeks old.  Currently I have a 1 year old doe and 2 year old buck for sale. 

Silver Fox rabbits weigh around 9-12 lbs. Their fur is unique as it's longer and courser than other rabbits, they're named after the silver fox because of the similarity in their coats.  This is a breed that was near extinction not too long ago, and are still on the road to recovery as a heritage breed.

 This is a Champagne D'argent rabbit, a breed that is over 400 years old, 
they're from the Champagne region of France.

It's been a lot of fun raising Mini Rex rabbits, however with changing times and the economy come more practicality.  The old saying, When time's are good rabbits are for pets, when times are lean rabbits are for meat.  Thus my decision to totally change my breed of rabbit from a pet breed to a meat breed.  Silver Fox and Champagne D'argent's are meat and fur rabbits.  My plan is to raise them not only for our own meat, but to also focus on selling breeding pairs.  A good quality purebred breeding pair is approximately $80, or $40 each for bucks or does.  I will  hopefully be going to look at a Silver Fox buck this week to check out more about this breed.

I've researched many of the meat breeds of rabbits, and have looked into California's, New Zealand's, American's, Dutch and Florida rabbits.  I keep coming back to these old breeds of rabbits.  I like the idea of raising heritage breeds too.  My thinking is that more people may be buying meat rabbits in the days ahead rather than pet rabbits.  The kids have been in charge of the rabbitry over the last 4 years yet I have been taking care of them more as they've gotten older and are more involved with friends and sports.  The Mini Rex's were great for all those years, and kept the kids in spending money throughout the late Spring and Summer months.  For any parents with small kids that want sweet small rabbits, I would highly recommend Mini Rex's.

We also have an Angora rabbit named Peppermint, who we just clipped a couple of days ago, we will be selling her as well, when her fur grows back thick in a couple months.  The main reason for selling her is cage space.  Then I'll have access to 4 large cages to house the other 2 breeds.  We're also planning to make a chicken/rabbit tractor, that I will rotate with each other on different days so they can all have access to fresh grass and greens.

A note about feeding rabbits.  This is what I feed: rabbit pellets, alfalfa, corn or scratch grains ( a small amount of whatever I'm giving the chickens) alfalfa every other day, grass, clover and dandelion greens are the most important part everyday.  It only takes a few minutes to gather for them and they love it.  They will always eat this before anything else, otherwise if I don't add fresh greens the next priority they'll eat are the corn.  I also make sure I always have a salt and mineral lick for them.  They get kitchen and garden treats like apple and carrot peelings, lettuce, and other vegetable ends.  I like to give them a variety of things and usually rotate days with corn and alfalfa.  The rabbit pellets form the base and everything else fills in the nutritional needs.  Fresh water everyday is critical, and needs to be checked twice a day. 

I feed all the animals in the morning, so the rabbits are in the feeding routine, they like it and can count on me seeing them and feeding them every morning.  You know I'm really looking forward to a change in our rabbitry, and will have fun getting it all set up and running.  I'd like to double my cage space, and create a pasture area surrounding the bunny barn, so they can have a yard to run around in. 

Part of the plan for our farm is to make sure every animal has a purpose and can pay for their own feed.  While this is not possible in the beginning stages of getting set up with your breeding stock, there comes a point where you want each group of animals to be self sustaining.  I want to keep a ledger and better track of all my farm receipts, to know how much it costs for the chickens, rabbits and honey bees, and soon to be goats. 

Do you have a favorite breed of rabbit or know of another meat breed of rabbit that I haven't mentioned?  What do you feed your rabbits?.