Archive for the ‘farm’ Category

8
Apr

scenery

   Posted by: liz

at dinner tonight, one of the boys asked, “remember that farm when we’d go to get milk in a jar?”

it’s been a while since we’d bought raw milk. soccer was canceled (because of the rain, and bad field conditions), and kenny had rehearsal for the musical he’s working on with another company.  so the boys and i dug out our old half gallon mason jars, cleaned them out and headed towards Slate Lick to the farm we used to frequent for raw milk when the boys were much younger.

it rained the whole drive there, but towards the end of the drive, there is a summit that is always so gorgeous. tonight, it was especially beautiful with low-hanging clouds horizontally slicing the far mountains in half (click to enlarge for detail):

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the entire 26-minute drive isn’t all this idyllic. in fact, parts of it are downright frightening. there’s the steep hill that reminds me of an episode of Twin Peaks:

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and then not a mile away, i swear i’ve stumbled onto the set of The Walking Dead:

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These scenes are especially eerie with the cloudy dark skies surrounding them. The country around us can go from gorgeous to strangely desserted-looking quickly.  I guess that’s what you get out in big land country.

 

 

27
Jun

CSA basket #2: eating local for dinner

   Posted by: liz

For the first time in our 7 years here, we decided to forego the big summer garden. We knew that with putting up a show this summer (more on that in a future post) we wouldn’t have the time or the energy to get get our 20×40 foot garden in this year.

So I chose to join my mom in a local CSA. We only got a half share (one every-other-week pick up) and this photo shows our 2nd basket (photo taken by my mom).

Last night, we ate almost completely from our CSA basket for dinner.

I cleaned the lettuce and made a balsamic and feta salad for our first course. Next, we steamed the sugar-snap peas and had those with some sliced sharp cheddar and leftover brats in cherry spiced mustard. It was just enough food for all of us (of course, the boys had their signature PB&J right before bed, which has become tradition for them these days).

I plan to use the zucchini in loaves of regular and gluten-free chocolate zucchini bread. I’ve never been a fan of actually eating zucchini: our first week’s zucchini still sits in our fridge waiting to be shredded for future loaves of bread.

If the strawberries last through this morning, I’ll make a pie with some of it and I’d like to try a jar of balsamic strawberry jam.

Eventually, we want to join a local meat CSA and we’ll add local pork and beef to our dinner plates.

What was in your CSA basket this week?

2
Jun

blogging

   Posted by: liz

it’s been so long since last i blogged that i actually forgot my login password. january was my last post, and it’s been the longest time between posts, ever. i’m always thinking of blog posts, always churning ideas around in my head, but never sitting down to write.

this was a particularly long and tiring winter. this spring has been unusually wet and cold. memorial day weekend marked the beginning of the longest stretch of warm weather, and it started out with a cold frost. i guess i could fill you in on the last 3 months, but i don’t want to bog you down with a depressing post. instead, i’ll give you a highlight reel of current things in our family:

- i continue to be so amazed at how the boys and i grow in our relationships with each other. we are together all day long, every single day. there are DEFINITELY some tense and frustrating moments in that. we get on each other’s nerves. we need our space from each other. but for the most part, our conversations and our time spent WITH each other are rewarding, fun, and always growing. even though they are around their mom every single day of their lives, the older two boys are beginning to spread their wings and be more independent. i’m all for this, and i’m glad it’s happening, slowly, but surely. i don’t know what this would look like had we chosen traditional schooling – would they have been much more independent by now? probably. i’m okay with it taking it’s time. i’m REALLY okay that they’re still young boys who are innocent in so much. there is still so much time for them to grow up. slowly.

- that said, there are some stretches of exhausting times when we are together as a family all the time. the bickering and the whining about school work and farm chores and…the list goes on. i get tired of being their teacher and their mother every single day of their lives. it’s hard. it’s hard having them with me on all my weekly errands. it’s hard not having time to myself until evenings (although our evenings are all full these days). it’s just plain hard.
but we did end our school year two weeks ago and have been enjoying the warming weather, and hanging out with friends. both rowan and sawyer had evaluations this year and both of them “passed” with rave reviews from their evaluator. during that time, i realized that adam was reading a book that sawyer was reading previously. sawyer is reading so well these days, but adam has taken off with his reading. he doesn’t sound out words any more, he reads for comprehension, which is earlier than the other two boys ever did. for all the struggles of teaching your kids that you may encounter, there are some pretty great discoveries along the way!

- so i’m running again. i really need to not take the winters off (but how i HATE indoor running, and it’s harder and not at all comfortable to run outside in the winter). i’m signed up for my first 5K of the season. i’m ready! because once i start to run, i can take on the world and all it throws at us again.

- this past week, kenny was rockstar dad and husband again as i took three days in a row to teach a geography and art camp for the co-op that we are a part of. i was out the door well before the boys woke up, and he tended to them and their needs while i taught forty-one 6 to 8 year-olds for three solid days. i came home to dinner already cooked before turning around and heading back out to rehearsal the first two nights, and on the last night, i came home to a beach chair sitting next to the pool, a bottle of my favorite chardonnay already uncorked, and a lovely grilled tilapia, chicken, green beans, and coconut rice dinner, al fresco (with friends joining us at table!). a great way to end those crazy exhausting three days.

- we are three weeks away from opening night of our second production, The Tempest. the rehearsals have been going so well, the cast is amazing and the sets and costumes are going to be stunning on that stage. i can’t wait for Butler to see that Shakespeare is interesting and fun and not stuffy and boring. we’ve been really busy every single evening and weekend putting this show together. some moments are tense and overwhelming, but for the most part, i’ve really loved the creative process in this production. from the conversations with the actors about their characters, to the evenings i spend at the sewing machine while kenny composes music for the show, it’s been a fun and exciting production.

- our farm is on hold for the moment. at least the sheep, their guard donkey, and our two chickens are happy and healthy. we just haven’t added to to our flock this year, and our honeybees did not make it through the winter. we’ve also decided to container garden on our deck instead of plant our massive yard garden again this year. i’m okay with this. sometimes you just need to take a year off of the hobbies that may consume you.

- we are so blessed. there is nothing hard about our life. we are a healthy, busy, a bit nutty family who has absolutely nothing to complain about.
except the winter weather.

23
May

we’ve got babies!! (update: and bear)

   Posted by: liz

a week and a half after finding themselves traveling from Georgia to the western hills of PA, our bees have settled into their new homes and are already busy making babies.

we opened the hives this evening and pulled out two of the busiest frames from each hive (the ones covered with the most bees).  after observing them closely, we found evidence of eggs (little white “commas” in each cell) AND some larvae already (little white “worms” that would normally send me squealing in gross-out, but these are exciting because that means the bees are growing!). see examples of both in the above picture.

they’re also making lots of honey, and the honeysuckle bush behind them (next to our old barn) is in full bloom. i’m hoping they’re using the sugar water i give them to build comb, and the pollen from the honeysuckle to make honey – how heavenly would honeysuckle honey be?

checking the hives in the heat of the day isn’t easy. as soon as i have my hat/netting secure and my gloves on, my face automatically gets an itch. then my hair falls out of any pony tail and starts to cover my face and by the time we’ve spent only five minutes in the hives, said hair is plastered on my face from all the sweat. i must really love those little bees to allow myself to get into this much of a hot mess over them!

since one of the packages we got a few weeks ago was badly damaged, the apiary is sending us another package of bees in case they don’t become strong enough to survive. so far, the hives both seem to be at equal strength, but we’re due to get the third package this week. we have lots of work to do to get three active hives filled over the next few months. i’m hoping all the hard work that we (and the bees!) get done yield a huge harvest!

and of course, happy, content bees that are strong enough to survive over the winter and start the spring strong!

**UPDATE **

i wrote this blog post last night, planning to publish it first thing this morning.  soon after we turned the lights out in the house, kenny heard some outside noise near the garage. “oh my goodness…it’s a big black bear in the recycling bin.” i ran to the window in time to see it waddle away with the flashlight on him (i only ever get to see the back side of a running bear. kenny always sees them up close because he has no fear of them like i do). he was running towards the hives, so kenny grabbed the flashlight and ran outside.

i stayed on the front porch yelling things like, “do you see him?” and ” get back inside!” and “does he see you?”  and then all i could hear from the other side of the garage is tree branches rustling and snapping. of course, in my mind i see a black bear tackling my husband. then i was assured by kenny’s unfrightened voice, “he’s up the tree now.” he ran inside to get a firearm to scare the bear away.

kenny tells me to get into his car and shine the headlights onto the tree where the bear is. i look at him like he’s nuts because that would require me to STEP OFF THE FRONT PORCH and into the infested black bear territory. he needs the lights because he can’t shoot and hold his flashlight at the same time. he keeps telling me i’m safe as i reluctantly walk towards the car (which is inches away from the bear. okay, i’m exaggerating a little…) muttering things like, “you OWE me!” and “you don’t know how scared i am right now” like a baby and slam the door shut behind me as i turn on the headlights.

he shoots into the air (a shotgun, the loudest shot of all). no branches breaking or bear thumping to the ground to run away. just echo and silence.

kenny then walks over to the tree and shines the light up. and the bear is sitting on a branch, about 10 feet up, backside facing, head turned toward him. he snaps a picture while i yell things like, “you’re NUTS!” “GET OVER HERE NOW!” as though he is a toddler. this picture reminds me of the “proof that bigfoot exists!” photos. you just can’t really see the bear, but he’s there. the dark area to the bottom, right of center is his backside sitting on a branch. his eye and snout are turned toward the camera, just below the flash.

i went out this morning and found lots of broken branches underneath “his” tree, and a gift he left for us.

we camped out on the deck watching for when he’d come down himself so that we would make sure he didn’t go toward the hives. i forgot to mention that the tree he was in was right next to the hives. he either smelled the bacon-baited electric fence, or the bees/honey/comb. if he went for the bacon, he probably got a hefty shock, so hopefully he won’t be returning soon. i’m happy to say the hives are safe and sound right now. i’m so thankful we put the fence up right away this time!

he finally dropped down and left around 12:30. i’m hoping this doesn’t happen again, but that’s the adventure of farm-living, i guess.

and i wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

 

10
May

honeybees, take 2

   Posted by: liz

our two packages of honeybees arrive at the post office this morning. at 6:35 a.m. the post office called to tell us they were in. i had been up for an hour already, and suspected we’d be hearing from them this morning.

the boys finally woke up around 8:15, and by 9:00 we were in the car, on our way to pick them up. when we arrive at the post office, the postal worker warned me that one of the packages looked a little “bad.”  this meant that there was a lot more dead bees on the bottom of that package than the other one. you can tell the difference in the two pictures above – the bottom photo is the stronger hive (less dead bees).

the boys and i sprayed the cages with sugar water every 45 minutes or so. the buzz would “hush” when they were sprayed and after 10 minutes or so, the buzzing would be loud again. our beekeeping book says, “Listen well. The humming will subside and your bees will sound more contented as they feed. Volume will change with hive conditions, but the sweet and low tone of that contented sound is a delight to the beekeeper’s ears. Try to memorize it.”

when kenny got home from work, we got our hives ready. the frames we put in already have old “drawn comb” on them (from our previous beekeeping days), and the new bees will clean them up  and open them up so the queen can lay eggs in them, the workers will feed the larvae and the hives will grow more and more bees.

the apiary from which we ordered the bees will be sending a replacement hive (we just have to pay shipping) in a few weeks. so we’ll know whether or not we have to merge it into the weaker one, or just start a whole new hive. in two weeks, we should begin to see active growth.

now, our busy work begins. i’m off to Sam’s in the morning to get a 50 lb. bag of white sugar. we’ll be making sugar syrup (one part sugar to one part water) to help the bees in their building. they’ll begin to find pollen sources, but this time of year, the beekeeper has to help the bee out. wintered bees will be busy carrying out dead bees and all of their winter excrement, and new bees (like ours) will be busy building comb and tending to the queen.

so excited to see these hives get higher and busy…and looking forward to a full harvest!

 

 

5
Apr

a lamb before the slaughter…

   Posted by: liz

a year ago, two lambs were born to our two suffolk ewes. two female lambs, and we made a promise to the boys that females would be kept for more breeding.

a month ago, kenny and i started talking about butchering one of them any way. if we continue to keep the female sheep born to the meat sheep (suffolks are bred for their meat), we will have more animals than we can handle. then we’ll just become “that stinky farm that has more poop than animals,” we’ll end up on the local news as animal hoarders and we won’t be keeping to our original farming plans…our “Constitution” as it were: to grow our own meat.

we ran our idea past the boys and it was unanimous: Poppy would be be the sacrificial lamb this year (normally we wouldn’t name the animals that are planned for future butchering…or normally they’re names are “chops” or “dinner” or “shank”, etc).

a butcher (meat processor?) who lives a mere 1.5 miles from us picked up Poppy this morning. i felt a mixture of sadness (because we were there when she was born) and relief (we are fulfilling her purpose). the boys wanted to be awake to see her go. they watched from their bedroom window.

it’s traditional to have a leg of lamb for Passover supper. we’ll have our roasted leg of lamb on Easter Sunday. because the ultimate sacrifical Lamb conquered death forever. for all of us.

so now…i will have a freezer full of chops, ground lamb, and another leg. i don’t like lamb meat. i like spinning their wool.

24
Mar

a country drive

   Posted by: liz

what a great weekend to have no plans!  we’ve been running constantly since christmas break with every single weekend being full of plans. this weekend has been open on the calendar and i’ve been fiercely protecting it so that it wouldn’t fill up with plans. last night, as we were all falling asleep kenny and i noted how nice it was going to be to have TWO FULL DAYS of no plans.

so this morning, we all slept in (yep, until 7:15!!!) and made pancakes and (turkey) bacon and eggs. then we all sat around and read, played the piano. around 9:30 kenny and i decided to take my spinning wheel to a local woodworker who specializes in antique spinning wheels. it was going to be a nice country drive, so we packed some snacks and headed out around 10:30.

on the way up north, we saw the most spectacular thing in a spring-budding tree. a bald eagle, perched directly over the road. we turned around to let the boys see it and to snap a few photos. it didn’t like us sitting right under him, so he took off right in front of us – a HUGE, lovely bird (click to enlarge).

we arrived in mercer at Nashannock Woods a few minutes later and were greeted by the friendliest, sweetest puppy-dog (and we aren’t dog people!) and a very kind woodworker named Chris. we brought in our wheel and were entertained by josie the dog while chris examined the wheel. his wood working shop was filled with antique wood – tables, chairs, spinning wheels, bowls, hutches.

after only 5 minutes of looking at the wheel he told us it was 150 years old, made in canada. it doesn’t need that much work – just a new bobbin and an adjustment to the “mother-of-all” and the pedal. spinning wheels are his specialty and his shop is full of different ones.

i’m so excited to pick it up in a few weeks and start practicing on some roving i’ve been saving up for when the wheel is fixed.

we hope to have the sheep shorn in the next few weeks and i’m getting the wool fleeces professionally cleaned (because…ewww!). i’ll card and rove them and then put the old spinning wheel to the test.

stay tuned for some more daisy-and-violet handspun skein.

11
Jan

family resolutions, farm resolutions

   Posted by: liz

 

we got rid of our television before christmas.

well, okay – we have a television in our basement but it’s only hooked up to netflix and the boys’ video games. our rule is weekend-only videos/video games, and even the weekend time is limited. i have issues with artificial entertainment, and i’m one of those prudes who sees video games and reality television as just that. artificial, fake, unworthy of our precious time.

but that’s not our family resolution. in fact,we kind of fell into this new no-tv living space accidentally (that’s a whole ‘nother post). so…since christmas, my “spare time” has been filled with so much more conversations, reading, planning, and learning. and that television in the basement?  SUCH an after-thought.

family resolution
our family resolution this year is to actively pray to make us “mindful of the needs of others.” it’s a phrase from our family grace and one night at dinner, we discussed what it meant in greater detail. it’s always been the phrase that stuck out in my head, but it’s so fun to see it now making its impression on the boys hearts and minds. we are daily, looking for ways to understand and do what others need from us.

this was humbly acted out for us when i was sick at christmas. our neighbors showed up at our door with a huge vat of homemade chicken soup when they saw that i was sick the day before.  it was humbling, and touching, and our boys noticed.  so it’s our family resolution to seek out where we can be helpful, useful, and loving to everyone else. we can put our own needs aside, because they will be met, especially if our eyes are open to the needs of others.

 

farm resolution
my farm resolution is to do more. i feel as though the farm part of our life hasn’t been the joy it once was, for me at least. this is purely my fault. but january always gives me a sense of excitement as we already begin to plan for the busy spring and fall ahead.

my first order of business is to study up on honeybees. kenny’s already an expert, and when we had bees a few years ago, he did all the handling of the bees/honey, etc. i want in this year. in fact, i told him i’ll do the majority of the work – and from what i’m reading, they are a lot of work in the spring (you have to feed them), not a whole lot of work in the summer, but work returns in the fall with the honey harvest.

honeybees are one of the most fascinating living creatures. the waggle dance, the way worker bees communicate to the hive where a food source is, is amazing.  this short, 55-second video, describes what the waggle moves mean.

i hope to keep good records this year so that our honey harvest will be great. my plans are to have a pantry full of our own honey, make soap with some of this honey, and extract all the beeswax to make candles.  of course, this all depends on the health of the hive, the weather, and.,.whether or not we can protect the hives from black bear again!

our first order of business is to clean out our old Langstroth hives, and to order two packages of bees. this will be done by end of january. and then i have to patiently wait for the bees to arrive in late spring.

have you ever smelled beeswax, or tasted honey straight from the hive?  once you do, you’ll be making your own backyard apiary plans!

related:  kenny catching a swarm

30
Dec

the daisy and violet scarf

   Posted by: liz

daisy, our blue-faced leicester (white) and violet, our romney sheep (brown) have been shorn twice. last spring, my mom had their fleeces sent to a local fiber artist to clean and spin. after waiting 8 months, we finally received the spun wool!

mom gave me a skein of each, so i decided to make a scarf for kenny, who does the majority of the farm work around here, and who also doesn’t mind wearing wool.

the sheep are always relieved once their heavy winter coats are gone, and they are able to deal with the warming temperatures. this is daisy and violet a few hours after their shearing last spring (same day the first picture was taken!).

this past month, i spent a lot of time taking care of sick children and of myself, so i was able to pull this scarf together in no time at all for kenny. following a very basic pattern (CO 22. *K2, knit into back of next stitch, P1 *repeat until last 2 stitches, K2) this is The Daisy and Violet Scarf (click on photo to enlarge):

although i’m not a fan of wearing wool, i like to work with it. i can’t wait to see what future projects will come from our farm. one of my new year’s resolutions is to do more with the farm, do more making and creating and gifting. can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!  thank you, daisy and violet, for your fleeces!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19
Apr

farm update

   Posted by: liz

the lambs are growing so fast…as they always do. i am finding it harder to catch and lift them like it was so easy to do those first few days. in a few short weeks (even less!), i will no longer be able to lift them up and feel their soft little noses. they will be teenagers, bounding about the pasture without a care in the world.

it’s so fun having more than one lamb in the pasture this year (we only had one last year) as we constantly find the two lambs chasing each other, hanging out together, playing and walking together. they always find their mamas after several minutes of playing together, and then they are exhausted and settle into some straw for a quick nap.

i love that last photo: rosie is totally smiling, isn’t she?

we are still feeding all the animals hay to allow our main pasture to grow lush before putting them out on it. hopefully in the next few weeks, we will have our secondary pasture (below the pine trees that line our property) built and we’ll have a better pasture management system in place for this year and coming years. we’ve spent more money than we ever wanted to on hay this year (normally, they would be pure pasture-fed by now) and we want them out on the pasture much sooner next spring.

soon we will get our garden started. it’s been such a cold, wet, dark spring that we haven’t done much of anything out in the yard (except pick up a trillion sticks from those winter winds). i’m so eager to plant and organize the yard again.

with the heat of the sun on my back.

mom and i skirted two of our fleeces over the weekend. skirting is the gross work: picking off poop and stuck-on hay in preparation for washing. we’re taking the two fleeces to a local processing farm this year. hopefully they’ll be able to spin daisy and violet into some gorgeous yarn for my mom to work with soon! (above is violet’s fleece. she is a romney sheep).