Monday, July 31, 2006

Heat wave

Very quick post tonight because I need to get to bed. We have been getting up at 5 a.m. in an attempt to get our morning chores done before the temperatures climb too horribly high. It's around 72 when we wake up, but it's into the mid-80s by 8 a.m. when we get inside. No, we don't normally have three hours of chores to do first thing in the morning. We don't actually make it outside until about 6 a.m., then we've been trying to do stuff that would normally be done through the day, such as weeding the garden. Today, most of our time was spent cleaning the barn, so we could get garbage out. Still we somehow managed to miss some old eggs. They apparently busted during the day, and it stinks in there! Temperatures in the barn exceeded 100 the past few days. All the animals are outside except for the baby chicks, who are surviving in the heat. They are certainly NOT huddling together, so I don't have to worry about them suffocating each other! I make sure they have plenty of water. Of course, we have to make sure all the animals have plenty of water in this heat, or they could die. Outside temperatures are staying in the 90s until about an hour before sunset, which makes evening chores problematic.

Yesterday, we picked peaches in the morning also. Then in the afternoon, we canned peach preserves and peach butter. I've never had peach butter before, but it is delicious! We barely made a dent in the peaches, so we plan to make more peach butter tomorrow. This afternoon, my indoor job was making cheese.

Still no tomatoes, but we are getting quite a few banana peppers. I'll have enough of those to can soon. I have no idea what happened to my zucchini. It was doing so beautifully, and then the leaves started to turn brown, and it's dieing.

Time to get to bed now!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Goldfinch in my backyard

Prior to moving out here, I had never seen an American goldfinch, even though they live all over Illinois. But after doing the slightest bit of research on the beautiful bird, I quickly realized why I'd never seen one -- we didn't provide the necessary habitat. There is a thistle growing tall outside the dining room window. I complained silently to myself about the invasive, problematic plant (deposits burrs in the sheeps' wool) until I saw a beautiful yellow and black bird landing on the spent flowers and grabbing the white fluffy stuff. A quick look in our "Birds of Illinois" book, and we discovered the American goldfinch builds its nest in late July, early August, using thistle down! We were entertained by both the male and female (male pictured) coming back to the plant repeatedly throughout the day, grabbing more of the thistle down for their nest!

We appear to be winning the battle against the Japanese beetles. We think we are having such good luck because we are capturing them without the use of lures -- which attracts them. We are simply waiting with our little sandwich baggies, and when they land on the peach trees, we tap them gently, causing them to fall into the bag. Also, I am not removing the damaged fruit (contrary to the gospel that all spoiled fruit should be removed, lest it attract more bugs). I figure it makes it easier for me to find the new beetles, and I'm really hoping they go for a fruit that is already damaged, rather than starting to nibble on an uninjured peach. The baggie has fewer and fewer bugs in it every day!

Monday, July 24, 2006


I can't believe I haven't posted in two weeks! Where has the time gone?

Our biggest news is that we have begun the battle with the Japanese beetles. Two days ago we noticed they were on our peach trees. When we went berry picking in the woods two weeks ago, we saw them on some of the wild rose bushes. I had hoped they would stay in the woods, but I guess the scent of ripening peaches was just too tempting. Luckily I went out to the peach trees two days ago to see if they were ripe. They are looking so big and red! We picked half the peaches, hoping they'd continue to ripen in the kitchen. The other half are still on the tree, and we're hoping the beetles won't get them all.

In the first battle of the war, we pulled the beetles off the trees and killed them. Yuck! Then we realized they were very slow flyers, and they usually fall down rather than fly away. Sometimes in mid-fall, they'll start to fly, but they almost never fly off the peach or the leaf when you disturb them. So, in the second phase of the battle, we are taking plastic baggies out there, holding the bag open under the beetle, and tapping the beetle so it falls into the bag! Works wonderfully, but it's time consuming.

Trying to do things organically doesn't leave us a lot of options. Because all the stores around here are sold out of beetle traps, we bought a replacement lure and put it into a yellow jacket trap. We were hoping it would work the same way. What we discovered is that the beetles swarmed around the bottle but didn't go into it hardly at all. After seeing hundreds of them on the jar and the picnic table where we sat the jar (didn't want it near the peach trees!), I decided to go put the jar next to the turkey pen yesterday afternoon. The turkeys feasted on Japanese beetles as the bugs swarmed around them. I started to worry that they'd explode! But it's a cheap form of protein, and the turkeys sure looked happy.

Last night, I was so excited to find only a few beetles on the peach trees. I decided to go check the apple trees, and as I started to walk across the front lawn, I realized the beetles had invaded the hedge out front! I took my plastic baggie and started catching them. Can you imagine a sandwich bag half full of beetles? That's how many I had! (Oh, yeah, I should also mention that they can't seem to fly out of the bag either. I think they have trouble flying straight up.) Luckily, there are no beetles on the pear trees, but there are signs of beetle damage to the very tops of the apple trees. So far, the apples are untouched. I think I need to get some of this kaolin clay that someone told me about. Supposedly makes the fruit unpalatable for the beetles.

This morning, I only found five beetles on the peach trees, so I am hopeful that our current battle plan is working!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Baby picture!

Finally! Here is a picture of our newest, sweetest baby girl!

This is Odette's baby, born June 28. We've decided to name her after the ballet Giselle. Like her mama and her Grandma Dancy, she is the friendliest goat imaginable. She runs up to us whenever she sees us, and if we're holding her, she couldn't be happier. If we're out in the pasture, she even follows us sometimes instead of her mother -- not that we encourage such behavior, but it just shows you how friendly she is. She definitely got her grandma's personality!

I'm keeping busy with daily gardening chores, cheesemaking, cleaning (house and barn), and contemplating what to do with mean rabbits.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Gooseberry picking, goat selling and sheep milking

We spent this morning with a potential goat buyer. She is just now starting her herd. She is from Virginia and arrived early enough to watch the morning milking and try her hands at it. Then we introduced her to all the goats, and she told us which ones she'd like to buy if we decide to sell them in the future -- or alternatively, which ones she'd like to have a kid from. Then we came inside, and I showed her how to make yogurt from sheep milk and queso blanco cheese from goat milk. (Yes, that means we milked our Shetland sheep! More on that later.) Then we made pasta and sauteed queso blanco, a main dish I created.

After lunch, she left to visit a nearby alpaca farm, and Mike and I went into the woods for gooseberry picking. We have a 5-cup bucket about 4/5 full. Tomorrow, we'll be having gooseberry muffins for breakfast. They are delicious -- somewhere between the taste of raspberry and blueberry. The wild raspberries aren't quite ready yet, but we nibbled on a few early ones as we made our way through the woods. We also discovered an unusual tree in the woods, and Mike's research online showed us that it is a cucumbertree! I didn't know such a tree existed, but the pictures match up.

Now, about the sheep milking ... A few days ago I got the bright idea that we could milk our Shetland sheep. I noticed one of the sheep had a very impressive looking udder -- at least as good as some of our goats. So, I convinced Margaret to milk her. Since catching sheep is not easy, we decided to put her in a smaller pen, but then she got lonely, so I decided she needed a friend, whom we could also milk (since her babies are two months old already). Well, now I know why no one milks their Shetland sheep. It took us four days to get a quart of milk from the two of them! Margaret said she loves milking them because they have very soft, easily milked udders, but the quantity is quite small. Now I also understand why their babies don't nurse as long as the goats. Some people say the ewes wean their lambs, but now I think the lambs just give up around two to three months of age. It's just easier to drink water and eat grass than to chase down the mama for a sip of milk -- and I do mean a "sip" because that's all the sheep have at this point. So, Shetland sheep are not dairy animals. I am hoping the Icelandic ewe proves to be more productive when she freshens next spring.

The top picture for today is Carmen, the goat who won grand in the show two weekends ago. I had posted a picture of her in the show ring and a picture of her as a baby, but then I realized I didn't have any pictures of her beautiful, sweet face. Katherine took this picture for me a few days ago.

The goose is one of the goslings that arrived on Antiquity Oaks slightly more than three months ago. I can't believe how fast they grow!

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Wonderfully busy

Sorry I didn't get those pictures posted! I've been wonderfully busy. Yesterday, I don't think I hardly sat down at all. I worked on cleaning out the barn, which (like house cleaning) is a never-ending task. I think it gets dirtier faster than the house though!

We did well at the show this past weekend. Our senior doe, Scandal, won grand champion in both rings, and our buck, John Adams, won grand in both rings. Our junior does, however, were almost always at the end of the line-up (meaning last places).

Now, there must be something wrong with Blogger, because I've tried five or six different pictures and different ways to post pictures, and it's not letting me do it! Grrr ... will try again later!

Sunday, July 2, 2006

We survived

Yes, we survived hosting our first goat show. We were all exhausted by the end of yesterday, but we all survived. We also coordinated a 4-H goat workshop in the morning. The goat show was in the afternoon. I did paperwork and other miscellaneous tasks during the show, while the girls showed all of our goats. Our friend from Chicago was the ring steward, meaning that he kept track of who was placed first, second, etc. Once the show was over, we had to clean out all the stalls.

When we got home, we discovered a turkey hen had hatched eight poults. They are now running around the farm and are adorable. I'm hoping the mama turkey can keep track of them all.

I'll try to get some pictures up later today ... goats, baby turkeys, etc.


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