Archive for the ‘earthkeeping’ Category

we awoke with the sun….except there was no sun, just lots of clouds and a steady, heavy rain. the sheep arrived at 10:15 this morning, during the heaviest of downpours and we’ve been captivated ever since.

we stand inside and outside the fence, watching them frolic, graze and sit down in their abundant shade. my dad’s been having fun all day coming up with clever sheep-related bible verses. he’s cracking himself up. :)

daisy and violet joined us today as the first two livestock on our little hobby farm. although they aren’t technically even related, we’ve named them after daisy and voilet hilton, conjoined twins who toured the “Freak show” circuit about 100 years ago.

when kenny and i started dating, he was doing the music for Side Show. we both fell in love with the music and have always wanted to name our daughters daisy and violet one day. three sons later, we’ve decided to use the names for the beginning of our wooly flock instead.

daisy is the white border leicester and violet is the dark brown romney.

when we all left them alone around 5:30 for dinner, they both stood at the gate and bleated. they missed us. rowan thought that was so sweet.

they love the pasture. the farmer who dropped them up (and raised their parents) said it was good pasture, and we could get away with a few more. we’ll see….

the boys want so badly to feed them from their hands, but they’re still learning to trust us. here’s sawyer trying hard to be patient…

he also gave my mom some of his spun wool last week and she gifted him with his own pair of wooly (scratchy!) socks. these are all natural, not dyed wool socks. they’re incredibly scratchy, if you ask me. :) i’m probably the only one in the world who loves sheep, loves knitting and spinning, but doesn’t wear wool, or eat lamb.

it’s dark now. they won’t go into their shed. i’m a little afraid, but they’re doing what’s natural for them: sleeping under the stars.


the simple life

   Posted by: admin

we are enjoying a very busy week this week what with two birthdays and a wedding, parties, rehearsals and perhaps a new car!

but our patch of life…our living garden, our chickens and bees, our time to sit and enjoy the homestead we’re building has been a bit neglected as we run from place to place, party to rehearsal, meeting to credit score check. and we’ve been running at this speed since summer started.

we have had a few moments to sit and reflect…this morning kenny and i drank our coffee on the deck while we watched a coyote “play” with a very sneaky and fast cat down by our row of pine trees. while we watched this, we remembered one of the big reasons we moved up here, to work the land and raise animals not usually “raised” within city limits, was to slow down. way down.  but we haven’t figured out how to.

i have a feeling that by adding more “simplicity” to our family homestead, we’ll be able to slow down more. sure, we’ll have more work, but it won’t be work that makes us sit in rush hour traffic. we won’t have to pile in the car and eat even more gas (that just keeps going up in price). it will force us to be home more (something i will WELCOME!), force us to travel “into town” much less, and force us to be home to use up all that extra milk (making butter one morning, yogurt the next, cheese another time). it will allow us time to sit and watch our animals graze, teach our children that our milk comes from cows, not the refrigerator aisle at the grocery store. it will allow us to be more hospitable to friends and family (something close to my heart!)

maybe this makes me sound pretentious. if it does, then i’m willing to sound pretentious.  i am a full believer that God put animals on this earth as gifts for humans to take care of. they aren’t to be protected from death, they are to be raised and used for food, for clothes, and for companionship. they are not to be abused; we are to be thankful (to God) for the gifts they are to us. they are not our equals, they are our gifts. and i don’t know one person who would take advantage of or abuse a precious gift. i want to be able to teach our boys how to be stewards of the gifts God gives us. all the different types of gifts we’re given, not just our talents or spiritual gifts…but the physical things we have been given.

i’m ready to work more ground, dig our heels in deeper, stay close to home for a while as we raise our family. i’m ready to slow down. way, way down.


memorial day: memories of may

   Posted by: admin

we’ve been outdoors more often than in. the majority of the garden is in (with the exception of the tomato and pepper plants that were eaten by a vole last weekend). we’ve had a long stretch of hot weather and no rain, so we’ve been watering the newly planted garden and flower seedlings every night as the sun sets. it’s one of my favorite times of day – warm and heavy light from the western sky sun.  color is returning to the yard and so is my desire to redo the front of the house. we’ve already torn out 6 yew bushes (or evergreens) at the front of the house, and we dream of a big country front porch someday…but that someday is long off, and for now, i will make the front as lovely and welcoming as i possibly can. this year, we’ll be planting some flowers on a newly dug flower bed that lines the front bushes:

here’s a closer look. at the front left corner is a patch of day lilies and towards the porch is a big bushy plant of lavender. there is a smaller lavender plant on the other side of the porch and then pure dirt in which to plant more prettiness. one reason i don’t like these yew bushes is that they house hornets nests each summer. and we like to use the front door quite a bit. we don’t like being greeted by several hornets, however.

before moving here, i knew only about hostas and impatiens. i had no clue that there were amazing plants with gorgeous flowers that grew back EVERY spring and summer! yes, i was oblivious to perennials. and i was unaware at how many gorgeous ones there were. it’s not a good idea to have a novice flower gardener buy a house with large perennial gardens. because to me, this plant looks like a giant man-eating weed.

but really, it’s a gorgeous delicate poppy plant. those round bulbs at the top will bloom in the next few days with incredible red and orange colors.

another lesson i learned this year is that potatoes actually grow leaves….and beautiful ones as well! we have 1/2 a row of these lovelies, ready to pick by fall:

and this past weekend, we finally sealed our deck. it’s been two years since we built it (and again, by “we” i mean kenny), and we hadn’t sealed it yet. we got an early start planning that project this year and dad and i rolled our deck, and his front porch and back deck (across the street) this weekend. while i was rolling on the sealant, the boys decided they wanted to paint, so kenny set them up in the yard with an easel.

when we do yard work, they hang out with us. normally they play on their bikes, or with sidewalk chalk, or run down behind the house to the jungle gym, so they’re pretty tired and hungry by lunch on the days we work outside. today, rowan really did stay outside with kenny the entire time and helped him a great deal with the digging and pulling out grass and carrying soil to the new bed. it was fun for me to watch. at the end of their work, kenny let rowan “drive” (steer) the tractor around the yard. i think he was inspired by the 12-year-old boy driving the vintage john deere at the memorial day parade this morning. ahhhh… country-living. soon enough, prom day will be here and rowan will be driving his date to prom in our newly painted vintage john deere tractor.

and at the end of the day, this is what we look like. please tell me that others’ kids look just as “rode hard and put away wet” as ours do right before bedtime (or in the case of the warmer months, right before showers and then bed)? they’re dirty, wet, sweaty, ripe, but most importantly, worn out and tired.

ahhh…spring and summer. longer days, more energy, beauty, room to run, and happy boys (and a very happy mama!)


state bird

   Posted by: admin

do you know what your state bird is? if it’s a cardinal or a robin, you are one of the fortunate to actually see your state bird on a daily basis.

last saturday morning, i was on my way to the gym at dawn. the sky was beginning to lighten, but you couldn’t see the road unless, of course, you had your headlights on. as i was nearing the end of a hill, something appeared in my headlights, LOOKED UP AT ME, and then…well, it was history.

if you’ve ever run over something, you know that sinking feeling you get just after that maybe it was someone’s pet. the only thing that made me think it wasn’t a dog or a cat was that i was sure i saw feathers. it was too small to be a chicken (at least one of our chickens, although i was close enough to home that i half-wondered if it was one of ours…), and too big to be a mourning dove, but i kept wondering if it was a kitten.

on the way home, i approached the “crash scene” slowly looking at the carnage. lots of brown and white feathers (whew! not a cat!), but still bigger than a typical bird. then it dawned on me: i killed the state bird. the ruffed grouse is the pennsylvania state bird, and although i’ve never actually seen one, it’s totally possible that we’ve got our fair share of them out here in these parts.

why can’t our state bird be something like the eastern bluebird or american robin? at least they get out of the way when a car approaches!


our sabbath evening craziness

   Posted by: admin

after a very easy sunday evening meal (rotisserie chicken from giant eagle with mashed potatoes and fresh tomatoes and pickles, both from the garden!), we headed outside before the threat of a thunderstorm. kenny and i were able to throw the aerobie around for about half an hour while the kids ran circles around us and their jungle gym.

half an hour of frisbee is quite enough for me, especially after an afternoon of bike-riding, so we decided to sit and watch the boys run circles around us. within seconds of sitting, kenny spotted something that looked like a bee’s nest hanging from one of the fruit trees just passed his hives. it turned out it wasn’t a nest, but a ball of bees, or a bee swarm. and unfortunately, they were our honeybees. a swarm can happen at any time to any hive, and there are theories on why it happens, and you can try to keep your hive from becoming a hive that swarms, but sometimes they just happen and you can’t stop it. fortunately, we were able to spot it before they flew off somewhere else to create another colony. kenny has a few empty bee boxes stored in our barn…we are learning that this is essential for any bee-keeper since emergencies such as bear-attacks and bee swarms can happen at any time, and you need to “save” the bees somehow. so he ran to get one immediately, stopping off at the house to get the cameras, a ladder, and his bee suit (just his veil and gloves).

i kept the boys at a safe-enough distance (apparently the bees don’t want to fly too far away from their precious queen, so they were safe about 30 feet from the tree) while i filmed and snapped some pictures.

we have no idea if the hive will survive, but at least they’re safe inside a bee box, inside our electric fence, with plenty of room to roam and waggle-dance and keep their queen happy. if this survives, then we’ve just added to our bee colonies, and hopefully this will produce more honey in a year or two (so far, we’re not sure if we’ll be getting any honey this year since we may need to keep what they’ve produced in the hive for their winter survival).

here’s a video of our evening adventure, complete with me hollering “be careful!” every 3.4 seconds, and the boys playing and singing in the background. and kenny getting stung only 3 or 4 times!


one local summer, week 2

   Posted by: admin

i missed week one because i couldn’t pull together a meal with strawberries and asparagus – the only two things in season right now! week two will be published at farm to philly. stay tuned for more delicious meal ideas!

so i did more searching and purchasing this week. i splurged and went with local meat sold at a local family farm. i’m also leaning on their strawberries this week as we’ll probably be picking and freezing some from another local u-pick farm later in the week for our fall and winter months.

i’m turning this meal into a lunch as this is so up the boys’ alley for lunchtime goodness.

eggs (from our chickens) – fried. hopefully i’ll be makingsome local butter later in the summer
local smoked sausage with locally made horseradish cheese (3 miles to the farm where we bought it, 10 miles from the farm that processed them)
strawberries, grown 3 miles away.

i’m having trouble finding locally grown grains. i called a place that sells locally milled grains to ask if they also grew it and they said they get it shipped in form the midwest. and that defeats the purpose of this whole challenge, right? i’d like to make a quiche with our eggs soon, but it might have to be a frittata.


sunday evening update

   Posted by: admin

we’ve had several days in the 90s. i’m LOVING it.

the first really hot day was thursday, and i basked in the warmth. by the second day (friday), i finally let kenny put the air conditioning on (i think it was the kids yelling over the monitor when i put them down for bed on thursday saying, “mommy, i’m sweaty!” a thousand times that did it for me).

we broke out a new wading pool (a frog!), kenny bought a new slip and slide, and by last night, the slip and slide fed into the wading pool. it’s rowan and sawyer’s new favorite thing to do.

our garden is popping up all over the place. all the beans popped, so far we have an 85% percent corn sproutings, and the other plants haven’t burned up in all the heat. when the plants get a little bigger, i’ll get a pictrure posted. now it just looks like black mounds and hay (similar to last year’s garden, minus the chickens and the groundhog troubles, plus a big fence that kenny and my brothers put up last week).

and today, kenny purchased this book. are we crazy yet? :)


springtime madness

   Posted by: admin

despite it being a frigid 50 this past week, we’ve had little outside work to do as nothing is blooming or growing. not even the weeds. fortunately so, as we’ve had our hands tied up with the wildlife.

this is what a perfectly good, never-before-used bee frame looks like. this is what you put into a hive box when you start a bee colony:


this is what happens when those dirty rotten black bear scoundrels get their dirty little paws on them:

and here’s a close-up:
edited to add….kenny said i should show you the frame as it had been when the bear actually ATE it…and you can see the frame with lots of bee-made comb and brood (and LOTS of bees, of course). all that busy-bee-work in the belly of a bear. such tragedy:


i’ll save you the gory details on how a black bear just traipsed into our yard at 9:20 one night and within seconds ruined a perfectly good bee colony. and how kenny ran to try to save the honeybees all the while the black bear stood 100 feet away, licking his chops. and how i was freaking out yelling at kenny to “get the $^%# inside the house!” but he’s a beekeeper now. and you grow a certain affection for the little bee critters when they’re your responsibility.

we’re not sure about the future of our first hive. it was pretty torn up (as you can see from the photo above). fortunately, we had just set up our second hive last week, and it’s fairly untouched.

and we’re pretty bear-proofed at the moment. dad and kenny spent a good part of the weekend putting up an electric fence for around the hives. we also have a live bear trap set up in the yard that is so far keeping the raccoons and feral cats well-fed. we’re at least hopeful. last night, kenny and i were awakened by a very odd crying/howling that sounded like the last link on this page.

i mean no disrespect to the black bear. i realize it was US who invaded THEIR natural habitat. and i really don’t think they’re rotten. or scoundrels. okay, maybe they’re scoundrels. but only when they walk around my yard where my three babies play daily.


one local summer 2008

   Posted by: admin

we’re thisclose to getting the plans for our summer garden in. we’ve extended it by several feet this year and we’re still planning which plants and seeds go where.

it’s also that time of year to sign up for a very cool summer challenge – one local summer. so all you foodies and gardeners out there…go sign yourselves up and start planning! i’m already thinking of the local farm stands i’ll visit and the recipes we’ll be making with our own garden produce.

we recently cheated and bought strawberries at the grocery store…but the boys were in dire need of something other than apples and pears – our winter fruits of choice. i’m eager to get to the local berry farm and pick all the berries we can eat. we got a little sick of strawberries last year with the amount that we picked that i still haven’t used the ones that we froze! there is just something so perfect about a warm, sweet freshly picked strawberry that one frozen 10 months ago can’t match.


the mail came early today!

   Posted by: admin

at 7:19 a.m. this morning the phone rang. it was the post office in our small little town (since the general store closed down last summer, the post office and the methodist church are the only thing in town next to several houses).

10,000 honeybees were waiting for us and i don’t think they wanted to wait until our normal 3:30 pm delivery time to get them out of their office. kenny and rowan hopped in the car and went to pick them up.

spraying the screen with sugar water. it makes the bees quiet momentarily and then they goes nuts with their buzzing and walking/dancing around.

more later…we’re busy watching and listening to all the buzz!