Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday flowers: more irises

We have a lot of flowers around here in the summer, and I'd love to be sharing them with you every day, but alas, this is not a flower blog. Showing the first iris of 2009 was a lark last Sunday, but it seemed like a great post for a "lazy" Sunday. So, here are a few more iris pictures.

And yes, I do love purple.

I just realized that this is probably one of the last pictures that will be taken of the front yard without the new picket fence that Mike is building. The fence is being built between these flower beds and the hedge. Will probably have a post about that in a few more days!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Goats at work & greener lawns

Our buck goats are still hard at work eating the grass in our side yard. When I first blogged about this, I mentioned that Google and several other corporations had started using goats as a "green" replacement for lawn mowers and other heavy equipment.

Now the government is getting into the act. The state of Maryland is using goats to eat the grass in a wetland that will soon have a highway next to it, because lawn mowers would kill the endangered bog turtles that live in the area. Goats, of course, are vegetarians who will ignore the turtles.
The goats are reducing the state's carbon footprint and protecting the area's bog turtles, listed as threatened. In addition, he said, the animals are much cheaper than a mowing program: State costs are about $10,000 for two years, most of that for delivery and veterinary services.
For more on the program, you can check out the complete CNN story and the Baltimore Sun's story and video. CNN reports officials in New York and Colorado have started similar programs. The Sun said that Maryland got the idea from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which have used goats as lawn mowers and weed wackers to save endangered turtles in their states. I was happy to see that the Sun reporter did ask the goats for comment, although they declined to say anything.

Greener lawns

When looking for info on goats mowing, I also came across this great post about keeping a "greener" lawn in the city. Apparently, "one gas mower running for an hour emits as many pollutants as eight new cars driving at 55 mph for the same amount of time." So, that answered my question about whether it was really environmentally friendlier for Google to truck in a bunch of goats, rather than mow. Sadly, manufacturers of small engines, such as mowers and chain saws, have managed to avoid the strict pollution controls that have been mandated for automobiles. So, what's an earth-loving, non-goat-owning suburbanite to do?

There are lots of options! Like Justin and Danielle in St. Louis, you can create an edible landscape. You can also rip up your lawn and replace it with drought-resistant plants. Or if you must keep your lawn, you can start using a manual reel mower or an electric mower. We have used a reel mower in the past and can attest to the necessity of using it regularly, because if the grass gets too tall, the reel mower is useless. The electric mower is not something I'd ever considered, because I assumed you had to have a really long extension cord. Doh! Someone please tell me that they haven't been available with batteries for a terribly long time. Since there are some spaces in our yard where a scythe would be overkill and little grass shears would be hours of torture, an electric mower might be just what we need to complete our greener landscaping equipment collection.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Old-fashioned haying

The neighbors probably think we've lost our minds. Of course, they probably think that a lot more than I realize. A lawn mower has not touched our lawn this spring. The grass on our front yard is knee-high now, so Mike has started using his scythe to cut it. The girls and I then pick it up and use it for the goat's night-time feed while they're in the barn. When we have extra, we roll it up and tie it in a bundle (using old baling twine) to save for winter feed. This works quite well with long blades of grass. Probably wouldn't work so well if you were trying to do alfalfa.

I was using a child's plastic sled to take the hay to the barn initially, but I quickly realized that its small size meant a lot of trips between the yard and the barn. Last week, I bought a "garden cart." When I saw it, with its wire bottom and side, I immediately saw the potential for a little hay wagon. I brought it home, and after Mike assembled it, he bent some welded wire into a rectangle and put it inside the cart so that we could put about 3-4 times as much hay into it before having to make a trip to the barn.

Behind the cart in this picture, you can see the grass on the left has been cut and is ready to be picked up.

In case you didn't notice my Twitter update a couple days ago, I also must issue this warning -- a scythe is VERY sharp, and it is quite possible to cut yourself. Mike sliced off the tip of his middle finger a few days ago when sharpening the blade on his scythe. "And you thought non-motorized toys would be safer," he said with a smile.

For more on why we're trying to get hay from every corner of our property, check out this post from last year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chocolate truffles

Katherine has been using our chevre (goat cheese) to make a lot of chocolate truffles lately. You won't believe how easy they are to make!

Simply mix together the following ingredients:

8 oz. goat cheese
8 oz. melted semi-sweet baker's chocolate
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Put it in the frig for a couple hours to firm.

Use a little scooper to make little truffle balls. If you want to dip them in chocolate, you need to stick them back in the frig to firm up some more, then dip them in melted chocolate. Katherine also drizzled melted white chocolate over the truffle in the photo.

Warning: Side effects may include moaning, gasping, eyes rolling back in the head, and/or declaration of undying love for the maker of the truffles. These side effects are only temporary.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Give-Away Day!

A couple weeks ago, I discovered this great idea on the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog. Today, all over the Blogosphere, people are giving away something to their readers. I love giving things to people, so I immediately decided to participate. I've thought a lot about what to offer . . . wool roving, but not everyone spins; yarn, but not everyone knits or crochets; food provides shipping challenges. But everyone uses soap, right? So, I'm giving away three bars of my goat milk soap, your choice of fragrance (or not). Retail value, including shipping is about $20, and yes, I am willing to ship internationally. You can learn more about my soap here.

So, if you'd like to be considered, post a comment here between today and midnight central time May 31, and on June 1, I'll pick the winner. How will I pick the winner? Just tell me why you'd like to try my goat milk soap, and I'll pick the most interesting comment. In the case of a tie, the winner will be randomly chosen by one of my goats.

Monday, May 25, 2009

To sell or to eat?

I don't normally sell sheep. We keep the ewes as replacements, and we castrate the rams and butcher them at a year. However, this little guy is just too cute. I can't really use him myself since he is third generation Antiquity Oaks, which means he is related to two of my rams, which means he is a half brother, cousin, nephew, or uncle to most of my ewes. (I started with only three ewes. The rest were all born here.) But I have no idea how to go about selling sheep. I know it took several years for my goat sales to take off, so what are the odds that I could sell this little guy? especially in this economy?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

First iris

It's Sunday, and while it is certainly not a day of rest for us, I'm short on time to write, so I'll just offer you this lovely picture of the first iris that bloomed on Antiquity Oaks this spring. It surprised me with its gorgeous purple glory on Thursday morning as I was walking out to the garden.

(Note: the grass behind it was scythed by Mike two days earlier, so we can use it for hay.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Greenhouse finally up

We bought this greenhouse on sale last fall, and we finally were able to get it into the garden without sinking up to our ankles in mud, so we are now greenhouse owners. Unfortunately, it's probably too late for many of our seedlings, which should have been out there a month ago. My 64 tomato seedlings are still a couple inches tall and looking kind of purple, rather than green. Most of the other seedlings are short and wimpy. I think the greenhouse looks pretty wimpy too, so I hope it holds up against our strong northern winds.

I went to a local nursery a few days ago and bought some large tomato and pepper plants, so we will have at least enough home-grown tomatoes and peppers for our own family's needs. We were hoping to sell at a farmer's market this year. I am still holding out hope that the eggplant will grow big enough to put into the garden at some point. One year -- the only year we were successful with eggplant -- was when they went into the garden at the end of June. Every other year, the bugs eat them up.

That bushy green flat of plants you see in front of the greenhouse came from the local nursery. Those black trays in the greenhouse are my seedlings. Sad, isn't it?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Turkey surprise

No, it's not a recipe. It's nine turkey poults hatched by a very smart slate mama turkey who decided to hide her nest in the barn. It's been years since one of our turkeys did this, which is why we decided to try hatching eggs in the incubator this year. Usually they make nests all over the woods and pasture, and they wind up being eaten by coyotes. But this smart mama made her nest in the barn. We never saw it until yesterday when Mike discovered the mama and her babies. They look like all purebred slates and lavenders, which is even more exciting because they're a rare breed. The slate mama and the lavender tom live in the chicken house, but they're perfectly free to fly over the fence and mate with the turkeys that live in the middle pasture.

What's a slate and lavender? A lavender has two blue genes, and a slate has a blue gene and a black gene. The mama is a slate because she has black spots. Our tom has no black spots. If you breed two slates, you will get 25% solid black (2 black genes), 25% lavender (2 blue genes), and 50% slate (1 black and 1 blue gene). You can imagine my surprise when we hatched our first slate turkeys and saw black poults popping out of the eggs! So, if you don't want any black turkeys, you need to have a lavender tom, since he has no black genes to pass on to the babies. Half of these will be slate and half will be lavender, since the hen can pass on a black or blue gene, but the gobbler can only pass on a blue gene. (Note: some people call the lavenders "self-blue," so you may also see this term when referring to a turkey with two blue genes.)

When we ordered slate turkeys from hatcheries, the lavender ones didn't seem to be the healthiest, so it will be interesting to see if these are healthier since they have not had the added stress of being shipped at a day old. Typically, we have 100% survival of home-hatched poults.

Our five incubator poults are doing great. They're chirping in their box behind me. We need to get a stall cleaned out in the barn, so we can move them out there, where they'll live under a heat lamp until they're feathered out and can go outside.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Introducing Katydid the new llama

With so much happening around here, it's taken me a while to formally introduce Katydid to everyone. She is the big brown llama in the picture. She's four years old and will be Dolce's girlfriend. (He's the brown and white one.) The Amish say that horses are better than tractors because they can replace themselves. Well, we are completely sold on llamas as guard animals. We just wish we had more of them since we have multiple pastures that need guarding. So, we decided to get a female llama to help us out with that.

Katydid has had three cria in the past, and we're hoping she'll have five or six here. We could easily use eight llamas, since I like them to work in pairs. And Merlin and Sterling are 12 and 14, so they won't be around forever since llamas tend to live about 15 to 20 years. A llama pregnancy lasts 11 months, and they usually just have a single baby.

So, our grand plan for Katydid was that we would breed her to Dolce in June, so she'd have her baby next May when it was warm outside. We put Katydid in a pasture next to Dolce and Tuscany, so she'd have company. Well, she wasn't happy about being left here by her breeders. She stood at the gate for days looking out at the driveway. She wouldn't even go into the shelter when it was raining. Then after five days, I looked out the window one morning, and she was in the pasture with the boys. She must have jumped the fence since it was completely unharmed. So, I guess we'll be having our first cria next April.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Growing your own pineapple

A couple years ago, I started a pineapple in the spring, but I forgot it outside when we had our first freeze, so it was killed. I'm a stubborn one though, and I'm not going to let one little mistake stop me from trying again. So, a few months ago, I twisted the top off a store-bought pineapple and put it in a large mug with water. I placed it in my kitchen window, and there it sat . . . and sat . . . and sat . . . until I started to think that it was just going to rot. I waited for roots to grow, but day after day, there were no roots. I couldn't remember how long it took last time, but I figured there wasn't any harm in just letting it continue to sit. The lower leaves even got kind of icky, and I easily pulled them off.

Just when I was about to give up on it, I lifted it out of the water one day and found roots! Once it has roots, you can supposedly put it in a pot with potting mix, but being the busy person that I am, I haven't had time, so it continued to sit in the water. I worried that it might still rot, but it didn't. The roots just continued to grow longer.

So, yesterday I finally found a few minutes to run out to the shed to get potting mix and a pot. Isn't it funny how you think that you don't have time for something, then when you finally do it, you wonder what took you so long to get around to it? Well, that's how it was with my new pineapple. It took about 10 or 15 minutes to actually get it done.

So, now it's sitting on my south-facing deck. And I noticed new leaves growing in the middle, so I guess all those months of sitting in the water didn't hurt it. I will remember to bring it into the house before our first freeze this fall. I put it in a fairly large pot because from what I've read, it will get to be 2-3 feet in diameter and height before it starts to make little pineapples, which will take a few years. If you've ever had fresh pineapple though, you know it's worth the wait.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't count 'em before they hatch

Just last week Mike was asking what we were going to do with "all these turkeys." At the moment, we didn't have turkeys, just a lot of eggs in two incubators. About 30 eggs were due to hatch last Saturday. Four poults pipped their eggs in the morning, and by night, not a single poult had made any progess. Typically that means there is not enough humidity in the incubator. The bird has to spin around inside the egg, to continue pipping all the way around, so they can basically pop their top.

Everything written about hatching eggs will tell you not to intervene, but I knew from experience that they could very well die in the eggs at this point. I'd seen it happen before. "They" say that the babies need the experience of pecking their way out. It supposedly builds up some kind of muscles or perseverance or something that is necessary for life. "They" also say that if the baby bird can't make it out of the egg, it isn't strong enough to survive. I am perfectly content to let nature takes its course in a natural situation, but an incubator is far from natural. So, after 12 hours, we made the decision to help the poults. We picked off about half of the egg shells from the point that each one was pipped. The poults still needed to kick themselves out of the egg and learn to stand, walk, and be a turkey.

When we went to bed Saturday night, one poult was out of the egg. The other three were laying there looking exhausted. When we got up Sunday morning, there were five poults in the incubator hopping around. One more hatched Sunday when we were gone, but it died.

So, we have five little poults now. The next batch is due to hatch in about three weeks. I think there were probably several problems with this last batch. They were the first eggs laid by the turkeys, so perhaps not all of them were fertile. We probably should have candled the eggs earlier, so we would have had a more realistic expectation of hatch. Second, it was quite cold when they were laid, so some may have been chilled to the point that it destroyed the embryo. And finally, the humidity was definitely a problem. After we picked up the incubator to take it outside and clean it, we discovered it had been leaking, which is why the humidity inside was too low, even though we kept adding water.

Now, I just love this picture! The one little guy in the lower left looks like he has some deep thoughts about the little mess that someone made. And the one on the right looks like he has something important to say. So, what do you think they're saying?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Garfield Farm Rare Breed Show

We spent today at Garfield Farm Museum's Annual Rare Breed Show. In the past we've taken sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. This year, we took our two lovely heifers, Molly and Bridget. As suspected, they were a huge hit because of their charming personalities and adorable faces. We heard, "How can you eat them?" more than once. And people were quite relieved when we told them that Molly and Bridget were going to be our milk cows. A few people did, however, say, "Well, aren't they a beef breed?" So, I explained that the definition of a milk cow in this country is a bit absurd. All cows give milk, and these little girls will give a gallon or two a day, which is plenty for most families. What family would want a cow that gives seven or eight gallons per milking?

We were in the 1842 barn, and in addition to showing off the girls, we also sold our goat milk soap. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hit the hay myself, because I'm exhausted, and tomorrow is another busy day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mike's first cheddar

Mike started making cheddar a couple months ago, which means the first batch is aged enough to eat. Last week, we decided that whenever we ran out of store-bought cheddar, we'd break into his first round. Although we actually finished off the commercial cheddar on Wednesday, the kids and I decided that Mike should get the honor of opening his first cheddar, so we waited until he was home today to break into it.

He coated it with red wax for aging. The red wax did not thrill me, but at the time, I couldn't find any wax that wasn't colored. I have since found some uncolored wax from The Dairy Connection and purchased it, so we'll be using it as soon as we use up the red wax. However, you can re-use wax, so we'll have some red wax around the homestead for a while.

But enough about the technicalities. The cheese is delicious! It really does taste like cheddar. Our only complaint is that it is on the dry side, which Mike expected. For some reason that he no longer remembers, he didn't get it waxed until three weeks, which gave it too much time to dry.

After tasting the cheese by itself, we decided to see how it melted, so we made a plate of nachos. They were also delicious. It didn't melt extremely well, but again, that's due to it being too dry. We expect future batches to be much better in that department.

It is so exciting to have our very own cheddar, since it's the cheese we eat the most. We easily go through a couple pounds a week, so we are saving a lot of money by making our own cheddar, especially since our milk isn't filled with icky hormones and antibiotics and other things that are found in non-organic, store-bought cheese.

Tonight, in addition to making two Italian pizzas with Mike's mozzarella, we are also making a Mexican pizza with the cheddar. I am practically drooling just thinking about it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dream a little dream

A year ago, I read this article in the NY Times about how people with mental illness who worked on a farm with animals "reported a statistically significant improvement in self-efficacy and coping skills compared to those who had not spent time working with animals." At the time, I commented about how it didn't surprise me at all, and I shared a dream I had:
About a year ago, when the land across the road was for sale, I thought about how great it would be to buy it and create a homestead for women and their children who had been in abusive relationships. I think it would be so healing for them to be out in the country, working with the goats and chickens, breathing fresh air, running through pastures. One of these days, I hope to figure out how to make that happen.

Yes, it was a big dream -- a million-dollar dream -- and how could I ever hope to make something like that happen? But it was not something that just popped into my head when I read that article. It's something that I've been thinking about ever since I heard about Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, (which I still haven't read) and started asking myself what am I uniquely qualified to do? What special gifts do I have that fit together perfectly to create something that the world needs?

I love my life out here, but I don't think that I will ever be remembered for saving a rare breed of livestock from extinction. I will never make millions selling organic food. I think I did a good job raising my children, but they're almost grown, so they don't require all the hours they did 10 years ago. There is a part of my life that I tend to forget or ignore, but then Someone comes along and seems to say, "Did you forget where you came from?"

I was sexually abused for my entire childhood and had an abusive boyfriend in high school. I "ran away" 2,000 miles to college and rarely looked back. I was a statistic, but I was one of the "lucky" ones -- with the love of a good husband and the help of a few good therapists (and good insurance), I was able to overcome a past that could have destined me for a life of self destruction.

Every now and then as I am happily living my middle-class life with all its many blessings, someone comes along and makes me think about how far I've come. That's exactly what's happened these past few days and why you haven't heard from me since Sunday. That's when I met a woman who is a victim of domestic abuse, and I invited her to come stay with us. Over the past couple days, we listened to her, walked with her in the pastures, and introduced her to all the animals. She laughed when four goats piled on top of her as she sat down in the grass and Coco the goat learned to unzip her jacket pocket. When Mike got home last night, he told me she looked a lot happier and more relaxed than when she arrived. I agreed.

Today it was time to take her back to a world of court rooms, restraining orders, and police reports. She smiled and laughed as she told others about the goat unzipping her jacket pocket, a stark contrast to her demeanor when talking about her own life. She thanked me for letting her stay with us, and she offered to help with the animals whenever we might need it. I gave her an escape plan in case her ex ignores the order of protection again. She said she'd follow it.

Ever since I started thinking about my personal gifts and all the things I love -- talking and listening to people, living out here with the animals, being understanding and passionate about abuse survivors -- I didn't think I could do anything because I didn't have the budget to create something big like the homestead I mentioned in my NY Times comment. Then it occurred to me that I don't have to do something big. I can do something small. I can help one single woman. So, my million-dollar dream has been downsized. But my little dream is something I can accomplish. Just because I can't help 20 or 30 women today does not mean that I shouldn't do what I can to help one. And then I can help another . . . and another.

I don't have a concrete plan yet, but amazingly enough, people are coming into my life to help with this. Someone emailed me recently after reading my NY Times comment from last year, asking if I was doing anything and how she could help. And today I walked into my church just to kill some time, and several women were watching a video lecture on domestic violence. It's almost a little scary the way all these things are falling together, but I'm starting to understand why I'm here and what I should be doing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Natural lawn care

With 32 acres, there is no reason we should be spending so much money on hay. And each year, we learn a little more about how to be more efficient in feeding our animals year round. Last year, we bought a scythe and two more sections of movable electric fencing. So, right now, the bucks are mowing the lawn for us. I'm embarrassed to say that for the past six summers, we've been mowing this grass with a gas-powered mower. Not every section of our yard is goat-mowable, because of our young fruit trees, but we are committed to eliminating the use of gas-powered equipment as much as possible.

In that same vein, I am working on halter-training Hercules, which is the first step in teaching him to be a draft animal. Hercules is the biggest goat in the photo. He's a la mancha and was brought here as the boyfriend of our first la mancha doe. However, after he kept jumping fences last fall when the Nigerian does were in heat, I decided it was too risky to have him around as a buck. He is now a wether and sweet as can be -- no longer stinky either. After he learns to pull, we can use him to plow and cultivate the garden, pull a cart of firewood from the woods, and even pull us in a cart to go visit the neighbors.

But I digress -- back to the lawn -- Once the boys have sufficiently shortened this grass, we'll move the fence to another area. We have a solar charger for it, so it can be moved anywhere on our property. The big challenge with our 32 acres is that because of our creek, most of our land is not accessible to modern haying equipment. So, once again, necessity is the mother of invention. If we could get hay equipment back there, we might not have started to think about how to harvest all that grass in a more sustainable manner.

And as for the other area where most Americans pour petrochemicals into the environment to create a green lawn -- fertilizer -- the boys are naturally fertilizing the lawn for us, as well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What went wrong?

People frequently ask me if I'm worried about doing something wrong when making cheese, mayonnaise, or other foods that modern people don't make. Usually I just say that it's pretty obvious when something goes wrong. You'll know it's bad when you see it -- or smell it. So, for those of you who have never made yogurt before, how many of you would eat this?

Yes, this was supposed to be yogurt. I woke up this morning and knew something was wrong when I saw foam oozing out from under the lid of my yogurt maker. "Oh, this is not good," I said to Mike. He lifted the lid, and this is what we saw.

Then I took a spoon and tried to move aside the frothy-looking substance and realized that the milk had separated into curds and whey -- and not yummy curds and whey. They had separated into wrinkle-your-nose curds and whey. So, somewhere along the line, some unwelcome bacteria must have gotten into this batch of yogurt. I should have known something was wrong last night. That's when it was supposed to be "yogurt," but it was still just liquid milk. It didn't look or taste like yogurt, so I said, "Just let it stay overnight." Bad idea.

See, this isn't so hard. One bad batch of yogurt in seven years is a pretty good record. And it's so obviously bad that any novice yogurt maker could have figured it out. Actually, I think most four year olds could tell you that this isn't yogurt.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Creamy Southwest Corn Chowder

'Tis the season for milk and eggs. With Mike and I gone for three days, the milk filled up the frig, so now we're being creative and trying to figure out how to use it all. I looked in the freezer last night and saw corn, so Creamy Southwest Corn Chowder was born!

1/4 pound butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup of flour
quart goat milk (can substitute whole milk from store)
1 pound corn
2 cups shredded potatoes (fresh or frozen)
1 cup salsa
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. salt

Melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour. Let bubble a minute or so while whisking and add milk. Continue stirring over medium heat. When it starts to thicken and bubble, add remaining ingredients, turn heat to low and let simmer 10 minutes. Serve with crushed tortilla chips on top as garnish, if desired.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Visiting an urban homestead

Bloom where you are planted.
Last Saturday, Mike and I delivered goats to three different families in and around St. Louis -- and yes, I really do mean in St. Louis. As I was navigating and giving Mike directions for finding the second delivery location, we commented on how we seemed to be in the middle of the city, yet we only had a couple miles left before we arrived at our destination. As we made turn after turn, we finally realized that these two goats would be living in St. Louis.

After we found the house, we started to walk up to the front door and noticed corn growing in the front yard, rather than a lawn. After meeting Danielle and Justin, they invited us into their backyard and their urban homestead. Mike and I were incredibly impressed with everything they are doing on their tiny city lot. I've been saying for years that you don't need 32 acres like us to grow a good portion of your food, and this couple is proving it. They've dug up all their lawn and replaced it with a very impressive garden. They also have chickens, and now, goats. Did you notice the bee hives on their roof in the top photo? The goats will be living in a small fenced-in area at the back of their yard and will eventually provide them with milk.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A lamb is born

On Friday, as I was getting ready for our big trip to Missouri, I realized why we never know when the ewes are lambing. They are quiet!

I noticed Minerva laying alone under a tree. She would stretch her neck up to the sky, then stand up, walk in a circle, lay down, and start over again. Looked a lot like a goat in labor, I thought to myself. I continued doing chores and keeping an eye on her from a distance. If I would get too close, it seemed like her labor would stop. She would just stare at me. Obviously, I decided I should keep my distance. After about half an hour, I came into the house and grabbed my camera. I had hoped to get the video camera, but I couldn't find it. I only had time to watch the first lamb be born, but I was impressed at how easy Minerva made it look. Then I had to get back to chores. Later I noticed a second lamb.

They did give me a scare this morning when I couldn't find them. Sovalye had been barking a lot last night, so I was starting to worry that a coyote had somehow grabbed them. I was so relieved when I found them sleeping next to a log. Now, at five days of age, they're usually bouncing around the pasture like the older lambs. And they've been joined by White Feather's black, ewe-ram twins. We're up to 11 lambs now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Have you hugged your cow today?

Bridget and Molly, the new Irish dexter heifers, are just as sweet as I had hoped they would be. I went out to the barn several times today to visit with them. They are not skittish at all, and they let me pet them all over. As their breeder said, they love alfalfa cubes, and I think I may have already spoiled them! Now that they realize I have alfalfa cubes, they start to moo when they hear me come into the barn, and they quieten down immediately when I give them some cubes. Since the girls will be completely grass fed, the cubes are their special treat.

If you don't know my history with cows, you might be wondering why I'm so over-the-top excited about these lovely heifers. Well, the last time we had cows here, I thought one of them killed Jonathan. We had worked with her for months trying to get her tame, and the day that I saw my son's limp body being dragged across the pasture was the day I decided that was a cow that needed to leave the gene pool. I didn't care how rare the breed was at that moment. I felt confident that our ancestors would have never tolerated a personality like that, so she became hamburger.

Even though our first experience with cows was such a dismal failure, I kept thinking that someday I wanted cows. I thought about dexters again, and I thought about Scottish highlands and milking Devons. I wanted triple purpose cattle that could be used for milk, meat, and draft, and all of those old breeds fit the bill. But unless you're willing to buy completely untrained cows, most people were charging more than we could afford. Finally, a couple of months ago, I came across a listing for a breeder in Missouri that had calves. I was so excited when Marian at Five Ponds Farm told me how naturally sweet they were, because that's exactly what I wanted. I know Marian also spends a lot of time with them, so they know that people are their friends. Of course, there was a skeptical side of me that wondered if the heifers could really be so sweet -- mostly because we'd had such a terrible experience last time. More than once, I told myself I should just forget this crazy idea about cows. Who needs cows? We have goats for milk, sheep and poultry for meat, and this summer, I'm teaching Hercules the goat to be a draft animal. But cows were a dream that just would not go away.

Now they're here, and I'm reminded of how much I love the sound and the scent of cows. They're such bulky, muscular animals, yet these girls are so calm and even-tempered. I know I'm still in the honeymoon stage, and there is a lot of work ahead before they'll become productive members of the homestead, but it's a challenge that I am eagerly anticipating.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Introducing Molly & Bridget!

We're just north of St. Louis, and the girls are doing fine in the trailer. Can't wait to get them home! (Mobile blogging didn't work, but thank goodness for Panera's free WiFi!)

Bringing home our newest additions to the homestead

We're off this morning to pick up the two newest additions to our homestead, Bridget and Molly, two Irish dexter heifers. We attempted cows when we first arrived on Antiquity Oaks in 2002, but we wound up with two wild cows that were too challenging for us.

Bridget and Molly were born in November and December of 2008, so they're still young ladies, and they are supposedly quite friendly. We delivered goats to people in S. Illinois and Missouri on Saturday, then spent Sunday shopping for halters and new waterproof boots. The halters are for Bridget and Molly; the boots are for Mike and me, because most of our pastures back home are flooded due to all the rain we've been having.

I'll be making my first attempt at mobile blogging later today when we pick up the girls. I'm going to attempt to take pictures of them and post. Hope it works! When I get home, I'll have a lot to catch up on. I want to tell you all about the fabulous urban homestead in St. Louis where we delivered a couple of goats, and I still need to tell you about Katydid, our new female llama.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Food documentary coming in June

For those of you who don't have the time or inclination to read Michael Pollan's books on the current state of the U.S. food system, there is a documentary coming to theaters on June 12. Looks like it will be very informative.


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