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Posts Tagged ‘country life’

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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We had a bunch of running around to do in town yesterday, including a vet appointment for one of the dogs.  We are desperately trying to wrap up projects, including getting the laminate flooring finished, the barn cleaned, and the house in some semblance of order.  Anything ‘big’ we want done needs to be finished before I go back to work full time on Monday, as it will be near-impossible for Hubby to accomplish much with a clingy 10 month old hanging off his leg, and no ability to do anything noisy during nap time.  Unfinished projects had been piling up, and we realized that we were never going to be able to do the eavestroughing ourselves before work starts – between the late spring and all the other half-finished things in the house, we decided to admit defeat and hire someone else to do it for us.  I was really reluctant to spend the money, but, a couple of weeks later, it is melting, and we have no icicles or large and growing puddles by the basement walls, which is completely worth it.  Maybe the basement will even stay dry this year.

 

I had ordered a truck load of water, so that I could run several extra loads of laundry over the weekend – I want to wash the spare-bedroom bedding, as well as all my packed-away work clothes, just so that they’re fresh.   I mentioned to the business owner that our driveway is fairly slushy right now, but that it is still freezing up at night, so would be okay as long as he came first thing in the morning.

 

The driver showed up at 1pm.

 

He made it about halfway up the drive.

 

Now, I like the water guys – both the business owner and this particular driver have been very good to us.  However, I was pretty frustrated with them yesterday afternoon.  You see, the driver, having gotten quite stuck, decided to try to get out, and wouldn’t hear of us calling a neighbor to bring a tractor over.  So, instead of a ten-minute tow job, we ended up with an hour and a half of diesel fumes, spinning tires, back-up beepers, shoveling, and general frustration.  While buddy did get out in the end, about a quarter of our driveway is now a huge mud pit with foot-deep dug-out ruts, and we missed our vet appointment and had to re-schedule.  We were late getting to town, late for dinner and chores, and very late getting to bed, despite having to be up early this morning to go on our annual book sale date.

 

Now, admitting defeat really isn’t my forte, but sometimes, even I recognize it’s better to just stop digging bigger holes and go ask for help…

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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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Hubby and I were invited to a birthday party yesterday, for a neighbor who lives down the road, and who is really the only neighbor we know very well – the fellow who tends to drop by and not leave – I wrote about him a while back.  He is forty-something, and we were the only non-family members who came for his pizza-and-cake party.

 

We were dreading going, a little.  They are a really nice family, but once we’ve exhausted the weather and the price of wheat, there aren’t too many things to talk about, and visits tend to stretch into long, uncomfortable silences.  They don’t really play board games or cards, so there aren’t too many non-talking diversions available.  However, we do like them as people, and certainly did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we packed up a jar of pickled carrots (the birthday boy’s favorites) went anyhow.

 

There were a couple of cousins and an aunt and uncle, who all turned out to be really quite cool.  The aunt (80) and uncle (90) still farm and keep a big garden, and she cans quite a lot, still.  Also, they have traveled extensively, including backpacking Australia not all that long ago.  And they’re talkers, which took the pressure off us.  Auntie and I got to talking about different types of squash which grow well in the area, swapping canning recipes (I must get her recipe for canned chicken; everyone in the room was reminiscing fondly about that one), and discussing how best to store onions so they won’t rot.  Uncle was regaling us with stories from the Depression.  Auntie got onto talking about back when they kept livestock, and when Uncle sold her last milk cow on her, ten years ago.  One of the cousins used to work at the office I’m at now, so there was a certain amount of shop talk, as well.

 

When we lived in town in Alberta, I felt like the only person who wanted to have a garden and make my own salsa.  The idea of wanting to keep chickens and goats were shocking to our neighbors out there, who just could not comprehend why we would want to be tied down with livestock when eggs and milk and meat are so cheap at the store.

 
Out here, we fit right in.  The old folks (and that’s most of the neighbors, really) nod approvingly when we talk about growing real food in a big garden, and having enough to eat even if there’s not much money in the budget.  Everybody cans, at least a couple pints of jam and a jar or two of pickles, and nobody questions why one would plant a few apple trees and some raspberries.  It’s just what’s done here.   Not weird, or unusual, or even “hippy”; just how things should be.  That’s such a relief, after explaining ourselves over and over to people who are just puzzled about why we’d be so crazy as to want to put all that effort in.

 

We have been very bad about getting out to meet the neighbors.  We’re both quite shy when it comes to cold-calling, and we’ve been worried about being pegged as ‘those hippies up the road’.  I don’t think we have all that much to worry about, though, if the folks we’ve met so far are any indication.  Now, we just have to find a better way to introduce ourselves to the folks we have not met yet…

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It has been a busy week, and one full of people, which is very unusual for us.

 

When we bought this place, there were a number of granaries on the land.  Some were designated to stay,  but two belonged to someone else, and were not sold with the land.  These granaries have been a bit of a curse – what is now the Goat Mahal started out holding several tons of canola, which we had to wait for the owners to remove.  Likewise, the strip of grass that was supposed to be buck pasture also happened to be the only access for emptying and removing the two granaries that were not staying on the property.  Unfortunately, they were not removed in time to fence the pasture for this year, but oh, well.

 

The three brothers who own the granaries grew up within five miles of here, and live and farm just a couple miles up the road.  They seem to be good folks – bluff fellows who have a real get-‘er-done sort of attitude. I have chatted a fair bit with the middle brother, and get a kick out of him.  He seems to understand how difficult it is to move into a community where everyone grew up with everyone else.

 

At any rate, the brothers were moving the granaries this week, which entailed three separate visits – they had to mow around them, then clean and partly dismantle them, then finally come with a crane to lift them onto trailers to move them out.    You just can’t not go out and say ‘hi’, though, so much time was spent in chatting on the front lawn, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, instead of cleaning and canning and building fences and such.  Oh, well, at least we’re getting to know those neighbors better.

 

Then, Hubby’s parents came for a weekend visit.  They drove I-don’t-know-how-many hours to stay for a day, which I think was crazy, but it sure was great to see them.  I miss my Alberta family.

 

Yesterday, the former owner of our place stopped by.  He has a habit of randomly showing up at about lunchtime, then staying until we pointedly ask him to leave.  He is not creepy or malicious or anything…I think he is lonely, mostly.  He is around our age, and most of the folks around our age either grew up and left, or have kids and such, so are not much into random drop-ins, I suspect.   He is single, and lives with his parents just up the road.  He is also a bit slow, I think, and does not always ‘get’ the more subtle social niceties.  He seems very kind, though, and I would not mind the visits so much, if they did not completely destroy whatever we had planned for the day he shows up.  Yesterday, it meant the beans and chokecherries did not get picked, nor did the buck yard get worked on.

 

In fact, we also skipped supper and showers, as the neighbor did not actually leave until it was pretty much bedtime.  I suggested that he should go at about 7, but he told me he would just finish up the coffee in the pot, first, as he poured himself another cup.  At 8, I told him point-blank that he had to leave.  By 8:30, he finally did.  Ugh.

 

Today, he showed up, unannounced, just as we were putting lunch on the table.   Hubby had to drop his fork and go help him unload a trailer – he had brought by more than a dozen bushels of wheat, flax, and barley that he had cleaned out of the harvesting equipment, and samples from testing last year’s crop that he had no further use for.  So, basically, our chicken feed should be covered for the foreseeable future.  Considering it costs $13 for a bushel-bag at the Co-op, that is a pretty significant savings for us.  Luckily (from our perspective, anyhow), he did not plant a garden this year, and we have extras of several things, so we’ll be paying that one back in bags of potatoes and onions, and later, when the chickens start laying, with some eggs, too.  At least we finally have something to give back to people.   We do really appreciate the generosity.  However, we also did not offer to make any coffee today…

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Hubby met these two in the front yard this morning…

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We woke up this morning to a sunny blue sky, and the drip-drip-drip of snow melting off the roof.  Cooked up a big ole feed of bacon and scrambled eggs, with toast and home-made jam.   Sat on the front step sipping coffee, and taking in the sun.  It was 5 degrees in the shade, sweater weather at this time of year.

 

In honor of the actual spring weather, this afternoon I sat out on the step and sowed a ton of seeds in seed-starting flats.  Hubby supervised the dogs playing in the snow, and had himself a beer and a cigar (left over from our trip to Cuba last November).  I brewed up a fancy coffee from fresh-ground beans, and used it to wash down a couple of brownies that Hubby baked earlier this week.  We put a Cuban CD in the stereo, and kicked back in lawn chairs on the bit of lawn that has melted through the snow.  It was fabulous!  I’m loving our acreage, today.

 

I have now started peppers (sweet and hot), tomatoes, squash, cukes, celery, melons, broccoli, cabbage, a bunch of herbs, and a few tobacco plants, just for fun.   Over 100 little peat containers of potential are now sitting on my kitchen counter, waiting to sprout!  Planting time is usually the last week of May or first week of June, so probably 6-8 weeks from now.   I may be getting a little ahead of myself, considering we don’t even know where the garden will go, but hey…a little optimism seems warranted, today.  We’re going to try to keep detailed gardening records, so that we can figure out which varieties work best in our climate, and what keeps well.  It’s exciting to finally get started…

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