Posts Tagged ‘baby’

Whew, it’s been a busy summer…and fall!  Between gardens, goats, chickens, baby, and business, we’ve been living at a dead run since about May!

The pile of squash leaves after the frost (and one wheelbarrow of harvested squash)

The pile of squash leaves after the frost (and one wheelbarrow of harvested squash)

As a quick update, Hubby’s garden turned out great – moving it up close to the barn was a wonderful idea – it got a lot more attention when we were walking past it twice a day, and most everything thrived, including the squash, which went wild and started taking over the lawn, and the mangel beets, which we’ve never had any success with before, but managed this year to grow one nearly as tall as toddler M:

Finally a success with mangel beets!

Finally a success with mangel beets!

The goats loved those beets, too!  Too bad we only grew a few test plants.  Perhaps next year…


One drawback to having the garden so near the livestock was discovering just how much damage chickens can (and will) do to developing squash.  While it didn’t cause us too many issues in the end (we pulled in two wheelbarrows of pumpkins and spaghetti squash, plus a bit!), it was disappointing to see at the time:

What free-range chickens will do to the pumpkin patch...

What free-range chickens will do to the pumpkin patch…


We had planted a couple of garden beds to flowers, just to keep the grass and weeds from taking over, as we wanted to reduce our garden workload as much as possible.  I was pretty happy to be picking myself a bouquet of glads for my birthday – an unplanned bonus.  Hubby may be digging me more flower beds when we get serious about the garden again!


These guys grew with a surprisingly minimal amount of fuss and attention

These guys grew with a surprisingly minimal amount of fuss and attention


Fortunately, Baby J has turned out to be quite a laid back baby, and we’re doing much better in the sleep and getting-stuff-done departments than we were with toddler M at a similar age.  This is not to say we’re accomplishing a whole lot, but rather, our extensive baby preparations have allowed us to more-or-less keep up with the basic work, rather than falling terribly behind!


Baby J

Baby J


Hopefully now that winter’s finally here (it’s been hovering between -25 and -30 for close to a week!) I will be able to get to some of the stuff that’s been on the back burner during our busy seasons…including blogging!  I don’t promise to get back to weekly posts just yet, but you will be hearing more from me than in the recent past.


Now, off to figure out the breeding roster for the goats!

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Well, things continue to be hectic around our place, with garden harvest and the rush to finish outdoor projects before the snow comes (our first frost will probably be next week already).  It’s hard to type while holding a baby, and it seems that if I am not pulling onions or cooking dinner or trimming goat feet, I am pretty much always holding a baby!  So, instead of a rambling blog post, here are a few pictures of the things that are keeping us busy:


squash harvest 2014


squash is taking over the garden!

squash is taking over the garden!

random hens


Grapes in Saskatchewan?  You bet!

Grapes in Saskatchewan? You bet!


so cute!

so cute!

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In general, homesteaders tend to drive toward self sufficiency, limiting their need for and use of mainstream / commercial ‘stuff’.  We are not at all hardcore about it, and we buy plenty of things, but we do try to only buy what we actually need, or things that will measurably improve our quality of life, like amazing art.  We also tend toward the non-brand-name and the second-hand.  Even with all of that, many homesteaders would probably look down on us a bit because we don’t always grow all of our own potatoes or make our own butter.  That’s fine…it’s something to strive for.


However, there are limits to how self-sufficient I really want to be.  Our little guy got a nasty infection this week, and we’ve been in and out of doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, and I have to say…I really value modern medicine.  And, for that matter, Canadian health care.  We took him to the doctor Monday afternoon, got in without an appointment, and were sent on to the emergency department at the hospital, where the pediatrician met with us in what I would call record time, for an emergency department.  He saw us again twice more in five days, to follow up and make sure the antibiotics were working.


Have I mentioned that antibiotics, when truly necessary, are nothing short of miraculous?


While it’s fun to play at self-sufficiency and primitive living, to a point, there are things about modern life that are truly incredible, and I, for one, am not interested in avoiding them at all costs or giving them up.  Had it been 1840, my little boy could have died.  In 2014, he had a rough week and some not-so-tasty medicine.  I know where I would rather be.



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Happy Birthday, Baby M

That year went fast!   Now we have a little boy who just won’t slow down!


Baby M 12 months

Happy Birthday, Baby M!

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In the admin statistics for this blog, I have a record of search terms that led people here.  There are the expected searches, like things relating to goats, or root cellars.  Some are a little surprising.  The top terms that bring people to Rural Dreams are searches for a recipe for rose petal jelly, and searches relating to dogs eating tampons.


Then there are the ones that make you wonder.  “Pictures of chickens when defecating”?  Really?  Or “chicken with raggedy bum feathers”?  “Do sun city palm desert garages have rebarb”? Huh?  “Porn”?  When I read that last one out to Hubby, he laughed out loud, and said my blog must have been the very last click on a totally epic night.  How many pages in would you have to be in on google to find this blog with that search?!?


Some of the search terms make me wonder if the seekers found what they were looking for.  I even have good answers for some off them, but I don’t know if they’re really typed out, here on the blog.  It’s been bugging me, here are some of the questions, and my answers.


How long can you keep unwashed eggs in a root cellar?


We’ve kept them in the root cellar for several months, even in the summer.  It does depend to an extent on how cool your root cellar is, but even if it is a cool-ish room temperature, you’ll have a couple of months at minimum, as long as the eggs were fresh from the chicken when you put them down there.  In the UK (and possibly other parts of Europe, though I wasn’t paying enough attention in other countries), they don’t refrigerate eggs at the store or in homes – they are often kept on a basket on the counter.  Of course, the UK doesn’t experience the same sorts of summer temperatures as, say, Texas, so your location does play a role.  However, most root cellars will keep a reasonably stable cool temperature right through the summer, so you should be fine.


Also of note, if you have any question about whether your eggs might be good, drop them in a glass that is three- quarters full of water.  If they float, discard them.  If they sink, they’re probably fine.


How to melt winter snow quickly for toilet flush?


Well, first, don’t flush the toilet if it’s only pee.  That’s a waste of good water.  It takes a few gallons for a satisfactory flush, and it takes something like eight or ten gallons of snow to get one gallon of water.


We found the most effective way to melt snow was in large pots on the stove.  One trick, though, is to melt one pot full by continuing to add snow as things melt and compact, then let it get quite warm.  Pour that into a five-gallon bucket of snow (if you have one), and the heat from the water will melt a lot of snow very quickly.


If you suspect you will need to flush a number of times, it is efficient to scoop up pots and buckets of snow in the evening and bring them in the house to melt overnight.  Then you can heat the resulting water to melt a bigger bucket-full for flushing.


What to do with 20 pounds of cherries?


I recommend eating as many as you can.  I am happy to eat both sweet and sour cherries out of hand, but I am odd that way.  They are a pain in the neck to pit.  If you have a cherry pitter, it is a little more manageable, but it is still an awful lot of work.


If you are still determined to preserve them, the best way of doing so depends on whether you have sweet cherries or pie (sour) cherries.  Sweet cherries freeze fairly well, especially if you have a vacuum sealer.  Sour cherries are best canned, in my opinion.  I have tried making jam from sweet cherries, and found it fairly bland; pie cherries make a delightful pie filling or jam.  You could also make them into pies, and freeze them that way.


Can homemade ice tea stay out on the counter?


Yes, but not for more than a couple of days if it is sweetened, especially if it is hot out.  It will, in fact, go off.  Even if it is unsweetened, molds can grow in plain black tea, though unsweetened iced tea would probably last longer than the sweet stuff.  If in doubt, give it a sniff, and you’ll know.   However, to me, the whole point of iced tea is to have a refreshing cold drink, so we normally keep it in the fridge.


How long will my infant goat live without food?


It depends on the age of the goat kid, but if it is still exclusively nursing, then you probably have hours, not days.   The baby goat gets its liquids from the milk, as well as its nutrition, so the main issue here would be dehydration.  By the time a goat kid is a couple of weeks old, it will start experimenting with nibbling hay and grain, but it may or may not be drinking from a bucket.  If you are desperate, dip your finger into some water, then drip it in the goat’s mouth, or give it some in a baby bottle with the nipple sliced a bit to make the hole bigger.  This will buy you a little time to figure out what to feed it.  If it is a brand-new newborn, however, it needs colostrum right away, which gives it some antibodies to keep it from getting sick.  Without that colostrum, it does not have a very good chance of surviving.


Pics of dreaming cute baby?


Yup.  We can do sleeping:


cute sleeping baby


Or waking up:


cute baby waking up





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Other kids get a play pen.  Actually, Baby M has two of those.  One for inside in the living room (which he mostly only sleeps in now), and one for the barn (which got taken over by baby goats, and stinks).  However, they don’t suffice.


You see, doing barn chores, or yard work, or really anything at all with an eleven-month-old in tow is basically impossible.  He wants to be held.  If he isn’t being held, he wants to explore.  He “helps”.  Baby M throws down anything you pick up.  He scatters piles.  He screams and scares the goats.  He pinches.  He puts things in his mouth that are not strictly edible.  Or that are just disgusting.  His clothes get filthy.  And so forth.


However, the work does not stop just because there’s a baby on the farm.  We managed for the first ten months by trading off – I would supervise Baby M while Hubby shoveled, for instance, then Hubby would parent while I did evening chores.  That was mostly functional for the day-to-day stuff, and my Dad and Step-Mom would occasionally come out and help for the two (or more) person jobs that we couldn’t manage anymore, like vaccination and tattooing.  Occasionally frustrating, but the necessary stuff got accomplished.


Then I went back to work.


And yard work season hit; spring finally arrived.


Now, we still trade off for chores, and for evening-and-weekend stuff like mowing grass and pruning trees.  However, there’s a lot to be done that just won’t fit into my before-and-after-work hours.  And somebody has to do it, baby or no baby.  So we built the Hay Pen.


Hay Pen 1


The Hay Pen is sort of like a play pen…but completely different.  We made a perimeter of hay bales around a relatively clean bit of ground in the barn, out of the way, but still in sight of the places we would tend to be when we were, say, milking goats or feeding bottle kids.  This has the added advantage of freeing up two adults for dealing with worming, vaccinations, disbudding, and such.  Luckily, Baby M seems to like the Hay Pen, especially when Molly Underfoot the barn cat comes to play.  Baby M does not, however, like the baby goats, who jump on the bales and nip M’s ears.


There may eventually be hay pens all over the yard.  There needs to be one behind the barn, where Hubby will be putting the squash this year, and one in the big garden.  Hubby is contemplating one in the back yard, too, so he can prune trees, rake grass, and pick strawberries without having to pay too much attention to Baby M.   We have a big garden wagon hat Baby M could hang out in, but he always wants to stand up, but the sides are too low for that to be safe.  With all the thistles and nettles in the grass, a blanket on the ground isn’t really ideal, either.   In the Hay Pen, Baby M can pull himself up on the hay bales, and cruise around quite quickly; he’s beginning to walk, too, so he’ll have a safe space to practice that as well.  Being made of old bales, we can make the pens as large as we like; even two or three bales to a side, if that’s how much space M needs to be happy.  Meanwhile, Molly Underfoot always seems to gravitate to where the baby is, and seems very tolerant of M’s less-than-gentle attentions, so she will provide hours and hours of entertainment, I’m sure…


Hay Pen 2





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Last Saturday, Hubby went out to do chores, and found our buck laying dead in the barn.  Just…dead.  There was no sign of illness or injury; no blood, pus, mucous, cud, diarrhea, lumps, bumps, bruises…nothing.  He was found laying on his side in the straw, but there was no sign that he’d had convulsions or anything.  No indication at all of what might have happened.  The buck was a little on the skinny side, but had been eating and drinking normally as of the night before, perky and being a nuisance when the boys were being fed.


I immediately called our breeder to ask if he had any ideas.  He asked us about our worming program.  I had postponed worming, because I picked up the dewormer after the does had been bred; the directions on the package indicated it wasn’t to be used in pregnant cattle (there are never instructions for goats, alas), and I couldn’t find any information about whether or not it might be safe in goats.  He also asked about supplementation.  We give a bit of fortified goat ration, and a blue cobalt salt block, but the breeder informed me that this probably isn’t sufficient – our area is deficient in selenium, and the goats probably also need more copper and maybe calcium than the ration would contain.  Between those things and the extreme cold (it was -35 that night), the breeder indicated he might have just died due to poor condition.  Of course, he could be fine on all counts and just have dropped dead of a heart attack or aneurysm, too, and there’s no way to know for sure, short of a post-mortem, which I’m not willing to pay for at this point – we’ll need that money to buy a new buck.


I have this nagging feeling like we might have killed our awesome boy through ignorance and neglect, though, and we’re both pretty cut up about it.   He was such a docile and friendly buck, and we’re breeding for attitude, so he was perfect in that regard.  He’d really become a pet, as we knew we planned to keep him more or less forever.   We’d gotten completely attached.


On Saturday, I finally sucked it up and tried eating goat cheese.  With Baby M having such a violent and extended allergic reaction when I eat any cow products, I had been too chicken to try any alternatives.  I have been working up my courage since before Christmas.  So I made up a pizza on a gluten-free crust with home-made goat ricotta, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, and peppers.  It was absolutely divine, after six months without a bite of cheese.


Baby M did not react at all.  I would have been dancing a happy dance if not for the black cloud hanging over our heads with the loss of the buck.


I’ve been finding a way to work cheese into pretty much every meal since…


Tuesday, while I was out doing chores in the girls’ yard, I got this creepy feeling like I was being watched.  I glanced around at the girls, who should have all had their heads in their grain buckets; the three older does were all looking to the north, ignoring their grain entirely.  I looked around, too, and didn’t see anything…until it moved.  A huge coyote, slinking out of a derelict building that is not at all far from the girls’ pen.   I’m certain it was a coyote and not a wolf, but it was a seriously large coyote.  And bold!  It sat down in front of the building and just watched us.  I charged that general direction, yelling and flapping my arms; the coyote moved a few steps and sat down again.  I grabbed a chunk of snow and threw it…if my aim had been better, I might have had better effect – but the coyote just moved a few more steps before sitting down again.   Eventually, it wandered off, but the girls and I were all spooked.


After chores, I got the dogs, and went exploring around the area.  The coyote had been into the compost pile; Hubby knew something had been digging in there, but had blamed Poppy, or thought maybe it was a skunk.  There were pretty well-established trails in and out of the bush, suggesting this critter has been hanging around for a while.  I am not sure what our next course of action should be.  We could try to trap or shoot the coyote, but I don’t know if it’s worth the hassle.  There are still all the foxes, plus plenty of other coyotes, waiting to take this one’s place.  I am not so worried about the goats, especially since they go in the barn at night, but the cats are at risk, and the chickens are pretty vulnerable.  The snow has effectively reduced my five foot fences to about three feet – even the non-drifted areas are up well past my knees, and the snow around the goat and chicken yards is packed fairly solidly from us and the critters walking on it.  My biggest worry is when the goat kids come.  The goat yard is easily approached from the bush, and a kid would be pretty tempting for a hungry coyote.  I haven’t seen the coyote since that day, but we know it’s still hanging around.


There has been so much piling up that it’s almost hard to tackle writing a blog post about it.  However, in short, it’s been a rollercoaster of a week – we’ve been down (way down) about the loss of our buck, up about the possibility of me being able to eat cheese again, and worried about that stupid coyote.  Bleh.  I’d rather things were boring…


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Breastfeeding Update

About six months ago, I posted about all the struggles I was having with nursing Baby M.


Well, we’ve been at this over seven months, now, and things have, indeed, improved.


I still don’t love breastfeeding, though.  It’s convenient; especially when we’re out and about.  It’s portable, and simple; I never have to worry if things are the right temperature, or if baby is eating too much.  I can forget the diaper bag, but lunch is always with us, which is good, considering the number of things I forget when I am trying to rush out the door with an uncooperative kid.


There are a lot of ways that it still sucks, however (pun intended).  My body is not mine.  I can’t eat what I want – no wheat, dairy, beef, soy, or nuts for me.  There is no such thing as a restaurant meal anymore, with a diet like that.  I can never be very far from Baby M; in fact, he was over six months old before I was ever any further from him than from the house to the barn.   Even now, I am on a three-hour tether.  When the round-trip to town is around an hour and a half, that doesn’t make it worth trying to go shopping alone, so I haven’t.  My clothes are still designed solely around easy access and spit-up concealment, rather than being able to wear something nice.   It might be nice to dress up sometime, except that none of my nice shirts fit, anyhow, with these monster breasts.


Nursing is still much like diaper changing.  It needs to be done.  I do it.  It’s not something I particularly enjoy, especially now that baby has sprouted a couple of teeth.  However, it is good for him, with the added benefits of being cheap and easy, so we will continue, at least until I go back to work.


I do still object to the propaganda that makes breastfeeding out to be some earth-mother nirvana.  For me, it was not.  It was (is) work.  Hard work.  I was not prepared for how difficult it would be.  It wasn’t just the pain, though that didn’t help.  It was the total loss of autonomy.  The loss of most of my identity, all at once, with no warning, and no preparation.  I went from being a well-respected career woman, with an important role at work, as well as being an equal at home, to being a pair of boobs for a very demanding little guy.  My whole existence was reduced to feeding the baby.  This was not a chore I could share with my (awesome) husband, either, as much as we might both wish we could split the load.  It was my duty, and mine alone.  I wish that had not come as such a shock.  I wish someone had told me that.


People say that only the positive aspects of breastfeeding should be discussed, because if women knew how hard it was, nobody would ever even try.




I’m pretty sure my marathon-running friends knew they weren’t signing up for a stroll in the park.  I backpacked alone in North Africa, and I knew in advance that there would be challenges.   I know many very strong women, who have voluntarily done many very difficult and amazing things, and they generally made the decision knowing exactly how hard it was going to be.   I don’t think many women expect motherhood to be easy, either.  I just wish there was more public information about the parts of breastfeeding that are challenging, or painful, or just plain hard.  That way, there wouldn’t be the ‘nasty surprise’ aspect to contend with, on top of the sleep deprivation, steep learning curve, and all of the other issues that you face as a new parent.   I think more women are likely to quit because they were misinformed, than are likely to quit if they commit, in advance, to doing something that is difficult, but which improves the health of their babies.


Give us some credit.

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Baby Food

I bought a food processor not long after Baby M was born, in order to make avocado pudding – a chocolate dessert that my mother-in-law had suggested to me – one that contains no dairy.  The food processor made the avocados very smooth, so when we decided to start Baby on “people food”, I just used that to whiz up some avocado (sans cocoa and sugar, mind you) for him.  Then we moved on to sweet potatoes, green peas, and the like.  Worked like a charm, and most of what he was getting was either organic or home-grown, which is fine with me.


At Baby’s 6 month checkup, the doctor said baby M was doing well, but strongly suggested we start baby on fortified rice cereal, to keep his iron levels up.  Now, I have felt the need to take an iron supplement myself, lately, so that made a certain amount of sense.  However, baby got a funny welt-y rash on his cheeks after a few days of rice cereal (even the organic stuff has a lengthy list of additives), so we stopped that and decided to try chicken, instead.


The food processor did not do nearly as good a job on the chicken as it had done on the avocado.   Baby M was not impressed at all, though I wasn’t sure if it was the taste of our strongly-flavored farm chicken, or the somewhat stringy texture.  I thought maybe we could try some organic commercial baby food, just to get some iron into his diet.


At the store, I was not impressed.  Even the organic baby foods seem to have additives of one kind or another – sugar in the blueberries (as if blueberries need sweetening), and applesauce in the “chicken and sweet potato” combination.  Really?  Applesauce?  Whatever for?  In addition, I couldn’t find plain organic chicken – only combos – and the non-organic chicken baby food was pink.  Pink!  Seriously!


We’ve given up on the idea of buying baby food for little M.  I can’t imagine licking off a pink-chicken spoon the way I happily lick off a home-stewed-prunes spoon when I’m heating M’s dinner.  In fact, the idea completely disgusts me.  I can’t imagine feeding any of that guck to my baby, period.   Processed adult food is nasty enough, but I think commercial baby food may, in fact, be even more gross.


Back to the drawing board…

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As we were changing the baby after the latest before-coffee diaper blowout (a two-man affair, as he tends to stick his hands in everything), I turned to Hubby and teasingly asked if he knew that marrying me would bring so much shit into his life.


When we met, he was a single guy with no pets; with my cat and dog, I soon introduced him to the joys of litterbox scooping and the big spring doggie doo yard round-up.  We added a couple more of each, and he learned about indoor doggie ‘accidents’ and litterbox misses, not to mention the occasional (and sometimes not-so-occasional) blood and vomit that pet ownership typically brings.


Now, Hubby is also acquainted with the joys of mucking out goat stalls and alpaca enclosures.  Chicken coops don’t phase him, either.   He’s dealt with afterbirth and pus.  He doesn’t even blink at puke on the floor, regardless of species.  Regarding critter poop, he’s come around from his original stance of “Ewwwww” to “how much of this can I put on the garden?” – quite a turnaround, if you ask me.


As he was scrubbing stinky, sticky baby poo out of the latest casualty of a sleeper, he assured me that, while it’s true that I’ve brought quite a lot of shit into his life, “it’s the good shit”.

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