Saturday, August 27, 2011

late summer; kids, gardens, the fair, and goats

We've been having the most incredibly beautiful, warm, sunny, summertime, weather.  I've been outside as much as I can soaking it all up.  Can you believe I even ate a ripe tomato off of one of my plants that I started by seed, a big deal for me, since it's the first one in 2 years.  Last year none of my tomatoes ripened it was so cold. Every few days I've been watering, and my squashes will be ready to begin picking any day, I have Sunburst patty pan, Zuccini, Rhonde de nice, and Delicata squashes I planted, the pickles are ripening and the basil is growing.

Today I was outside picking the last of the black currents and gooseberries, I've been freezing most of the berries I pick, and when the kids go back to school, I'll make the preserves and jams.  I also harvested 5 large cabbages today and will make the first batch of sauerkraut, I still have many more to harvest, and will turn most of it into sauerkraut and kimchee.  I like fresh cabbage this time of year to make coleslaw, and to put in soups and salads, and we've been eating lots of broccoli, kohlrabi and kale.  This is our most abundant time of year,  we have been eating from the garden almost everyday for most of the summer, but now more than ever, plus we'll have many things that will go all the way to late October.

It's that time of year again, that we've been school shopping for the kids and getting them all ready to go back to school.  They've been having fun this summer just hanging out being kids, and now it's almost time to get back into the school routine.  We're planning to go to the river a couple times in the next week to swim and pick blackberries, by the end of August the river slows down and is safe for the kids to swim and play in it.  This time of year they're all wondering who their teachers will be and who will be in their classes. 

We went to the Evergreen State Fair on Thursday, which lucky for us is right in our own town.  This is truly a country fair, with lots of horse events, logging, rides, and local judging of jams, baking, produce, artisan brews, quilts, paintings, photos and lots more.  It was fun to walk around and see all the animals, crafts and booths that were set up, the local granges set up the most amazing displays of garden produce and canning that you can imagine.  Of course I had to go look at the goats, and rabbits, and I thought our goats were more beautiful than any I saw there, not that I'm prejudice or anything.  We also watched a couple of the 4h goat shows. Then Tessa and Jarin watched the bubble gum blowing contest while Kaley and I ran around looking at the baked goods on display and some of the booths.  We found her a beautiful aquamarine ring that fit her little finger, it will be a nice ring for her to remember summer and the fair, as she looks at it during school hours.

The goats have a happy routine they seem to like.  Milking is going well and we have settled into a comfortable rhythm.  I love that every time I go out to visit the goats or chickens, I'm bringing back armloads of the freshest milk and eggs.  I have been drinking more milk than ever, I think we all have, it's that good! The yogurt is also delicious, it's light, tart and tangy, and with a little honey is just right.  The goats have won over the hearts of everyone, they are so lovable and call out for attention.  We also try to give them one or two walks with us everyday, and they run as fast as they can and leap and play.  It puts a smile on my face to watch their exuberance and happiness.

We've been discussing plans for the new goat barn, what it will need, a milking room with power and hot water, a feed room to store hay and grain, and 4 stalls... might as well put the dream out there.  We are planning to go look at a couple goat farms that have had goats for 20 to 30 years, and we'll see how they're set up after living with goats for so many years.  They are the farms where Jersey and Zolena came from, both are farms with many years of raising goats. 

The chickens are all thriving, we have Henrietta and the Cuckoo Maran sitting broody again, this will be their Fall chicks, they began sitting about 10 days ago.  The older pullets are getting big and looking like small chickens, I still can't tell which will turn into roosters yet.  The smalls chicks are growing and their mom is back on the perch and is letting her chicks sleep by Henrietta since she's sitting broody, she even lets them come sit near her at night.  In rabbit news, I also picked up my Champagne d' argent buck last week, he's only 8 weeks old, and is so cute an cuddly, he has one ear that flops to the side that gives him some personality. 

Anyway that's the current update for what's going on around here.  Hope everyone is safe on the East coast with the hurricane beginning to touch down there, I was glad to read the winds have slowed a little.   Good luck, stay safe!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Golden Retrievers ~ Breeding Notes

Timing and patience were required for our first amateur breeding of two young Golden Retrievers. We were both new, the stud owner and myself, and the dogs were new to all this fun courting stuff.  And court they did, Summer was flagging and doing all the things that a brazen flirt would do to attract a males attention.  We spent the first week watching and nothing happened but the courting routine.  We wondered what was wrong.  Ace's owner contacted her breeder and got an encouraging email, he told the method he used, mainly patience and timing.  Later in the heat cycle is better, getting them together with the male from the 12th through 20th day, the last week of their heat cycle.  We persisted, and in the end, they tied on the 14th day of her heat cycle after 6 days together.

We met the owners of the stud we chose Ace about 8 months ago, and in our conversation we talked about our dogs, and found out that she had a gorgeous male golden.  We all went, along with Summer to meet Ace a couple months ago.  We also looked seriously at one other male in our area, and I talked with 5 or 6 breeders in the Seattle area.  In the end we chose him, Ace is a 4 year old blond Golden, the breeder didn't fix Ace because he was too nice of a dog, and he is.  He's handsome and smart, calm and easy going, plus he's well put together and a real gentlemen.   He adored Summer and enjoyed every minute of their 6 days together.  
Dogs are pregnant for 63 days, so the day they bred was last Tuesday August 16th, her due date (if she is pregnant) will be October 18th.  The owners of Ace will get to have pick of the litter for the stud fee, and their neighbor wants to buy one.  We may keep a blond female, but will see when the time comes.

As a young girl we had beautiful English Springer Spaniels, my parents had our female bred twice, it was so much fun to help out with the puppies and watch them grow.  That is my only experience with having new born puppies, so it will be a fun learning experience for all of us this Fall.  Puppies are ready at 8 weeks old, so they'll be ready for new homes around  the middle of December, we'll have Christmas puppies!!  I am going to love taking some fun holiday pictures with them and our family this year. 
Thanks Ace!

Friday, August 5, 2011

vegetable garden

I start my day walking out the door, over the stepping stone rocks, and looking at the entrance to my vegetable garden, on sunny mornings, the sun shines as early as 6am on the garden, and it's a wonderful time to work or walk around looking at all the new growth of each plant.  The garden is fenced with concrete pillars for posts, to add a natural touch of art, there are drilled holes in rocks and placed onto the posts that have a bolt coming out the top.  We have rocks incorporated into many projects, and it's a theme in our architecture.  There are still wooden gates and arbors to be built in the garden, but for now it's safe from the deer, and for that I am grateful.

Once I enter the garden, this is the center path, with strawberries and flowers on the left, the concrete bed is on the right.  Straight ahead on the right are the young fruit tree rootstocks, on the left is the rhubarb, more strawberries, a grape arbor, with 3 grape vines, raspberries, wildflowers, herbs and asparagus.
This is taking a right in the garden after you go around the concrete bed.  There are turnips, raspberries a large elderberry tree and more strawberries.  I've also got some carrots, onions, potatoes and elephant garlic planted.
Kale, garlic, and lettuce
We'll  have plenty of cabbage for fresh eating, both the purple and green variety, 
and lots of danish ballhead cabbage for sauerkraut.
Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kohlrabi, all of these love our cool rainy weather.

Purple Kohlrabi is delicious, and does well here.
This is my warm season crops, like cucumber, basil, lichi tomatoes, zuccini, sunburst pattypan squash, and delicata squash.  They are so late this year, I wonder if I'll even get a crop, the warm season stuff goes quite late around here often in October.  More motivation to get my greenhouse set up before next Spring.

My garden is a work in progress, each year I've spent making one big bed, by composting a small mountain right in the middle, and spreading it all over.  I bring in wheelbarrow loads of rabbit and chicken manure from cleanings, also weeds, kitchen scraps, wood ashes, straw, leaves, and coffee grounds.  Compost can just be made that easily, be sure to watch your brown and green ratio, and let sun, rain, and time do the rest.
Once the big beds were made, I then create a small path down the middle, and have square or rectangular beds, that are set up permanently so they are never walked on, and can be reached to maintain. 

Currently the first of August, I've just planted more greens, and will also plant more carrots, radishes, and kale.  Weeding is always a job that needs to be done, and some paths still need shade cloth and wood chips spread on them, I need to spread compost on more of the beds, and harvest some root crops, then there's successive sowing of greens and radishes, I always have a long to do list for the garden during the growing season.  Then there comes a point, usually in the early Fall, when everything seems perfect and the harvest is at it's peak, I will take a break working on the outside, and really go into high gear putting food away for the winter through canning, freezing and drying. 

We're in the middle of our summer, and this last week was our first solid week of sun we've had almost all season.  We've had so much rain and cool weather, the sun felt so good to all of us.  I hope you're enjoying your summer as much as we are. 

milking goats

Kaley loves to help me with the goats, she milks Joon our little Nigerian Dwarf, and I milk Zolena our Lamancha.  New routines have been established since the goats arrived, feeding, milking and tending to them takes time in the morning and evening.   Sometimes it means milking a little earlier or later than my ideal 7am, and 7pm milking times.  Goats like routine, with regular feeding and milking schedules, it takes me 45 minutes to an hour in the morning and evening to milk and feed everyone. 
I am so  thankful for the goats, and am happy every time I get to milk them, it has been a dream of mine for many years to have dairy goats.  Finally, I'm at a stage in my life where I can truly appreciate all the home made dairy products and their value and nutrition for our family.  Now, in the early mornings and evenings as I walk across our field toward their barn and paddock area and hear them calling to me, it takes me back in time, to a farm wife, and a part time dairy maid, where there were few cares in the world other than the closest people and animals of home.  I feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be in life. 
 Zolena is our main milker, she's a Lamancha dairy goat and she gives almost a gallon of milk per day. Plus she's super sweet, and lucky for me the milk stand and all her milk supplies came with her. 
The first day my Lamancha doe came here, I christened her new name to be Zolena, she was called Ace.  I didn't want to call her Ace, so named her from a character in the Jean Auel Mother Earth Series, the head Zelandonii's name was Zolena, she represented the Earth Mother.  So in the end after much thinking about different names, the original name Zolena it is.

I have 3 stainless steel buckets and a strainer I carry out to the milking, along with a towel and tupperware full of hot sanitary water.  The biggest bucket has ice water in the bottom third, the second smaller bucket sits inside the biggest bucket, and the strainer sits on top.  I milk into the smallest bucket and pour 5 or 6 times throughout milking in through the strainer and into the chilled bucket.  By the time I carry it into the house a half hour later, the milk is cold, I then pour it through another filter one more time and pour into jars to put in the freezer for a couple hours, once it's real chilled, I refrigerate it.  It is so fresh and delicious, I never used to drink as much milk from the store because I knew it wasn't so good for me, now we're all drinking a glass everyday.
All the goats like to watch the milking ritual, and see if there are any goodies in it for them.
The reason we do it all, fresh goats milk...the best!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

berries in the garden

 The red currents are ready to harvest in my garden, I'll make jelly with both the red and black currents. 
A yearly ritual on our farm is to make some black current juice at harvest time, it's a delicacy that only happens once a year, and is a highly nutritious energy drink.
We are in our abundant time of harvest, so many berries are ripening and need to be picked and processed.
Hinnomaki Red gooseberry bush, ready to harvest, I have 3 varieties of gooseberry, and love the taste of them all.  The skin is tart and the inside sweet. We're still getting a smallish harvest and may just eat out of hand this year. They are delicious cut up in salads too.

Above is an Autumn Brilliance service berry, there won't be enough berries this year to do very much with, so I'll most likely use them in a small pint of juice.

I have 2 different types of strawberry bushes, Benton is a June bearing strawberry, that starts getting ripe around mid July.  With Benton, we have have 3 to 4 weeks of strawberry abundance, not a day goes by that we're not out there picking.   The other variety I have is Tri-Star, an everberring type, that will go on after the July harvest, and then produce the rest of the way through summer and Fall and to the first frost.

We have many bushes of raspberries that I've been spreading throughout the garden over the years.  They are finally getting big enough for a great harvest.  The blueberries won't be ripe until the end of the month, we're higher up than the valley, so most things ripen two or three weeks later.  We usually have blueberries in late August, September and October. We have 15 blueberry bushes, 9 of the bushes are very old, that I  have spent 5 years bringing back into good production.  Some are early, mid and late blueberries, so we have them all the way to the first frost.
I'm also growing a few other berries, Aronia, Pinapple strawberry, and several more varieties of gooseberries and service berry bushes.  I took cuttings in the Spring, and will multiply the berry bushes through propagation, that way we'll have more plants to get a good harvest from each berry variety. 

Berry bushes take a couple years to get into great production, but they will still produce a little even the first year, more the second year, and the third year on you will have a good harvest.  They should be one of the first fruits planted on a new homestead.  Be sure to add some compost every year, and  protect them from the deer, and you will have years of fresh organic fruit to eat, can and freeze.