Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry And Bright

I've already looked back, but it's not yet time to look ahead.
So I think I'll take a couple of days to just be.
No worrying over the future.
No planning.
Just enjoying.
I hope you all do the same.
The happiest of holidays to all of you.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

And So This is Christmas, and What Have You Done?....3!

It's that time again! 

Yep, time to look back and remember what was accomplished this year.  Time to say "Hey, that worked!" or, "Hey, that didn't work at all!".  You know, that sort of thing.  I know that this year was still very full, even though a lot of the beginning establishment work is done.  There are still some big projects to do, but most of what's left is tweaking the systems in place.  Actually, that's one of my favorite things to do--working on a system to get it to work better.  So, I'm a happy camper! 

But enough about what's ahead.  Let's look behind, shall we?


Dulci was bred the month before, and this was the month I discovered that it did not take.  But Minerva was bred at the beginning of this month, and it took.  Then I went wild and bred Lilly (not personally...just thought I'd clarify).  That one took, too. 

I brought home Stewart, and thus began my adventures in caring for the other sex.  You know, the smelly one?  But he's a good man, he really is.  All 150 pounds of him. 

I lost my Ginger, and now no one around here yells at the pool.  I still miss her.  She was a good girl.

Daphne popped out a litter of 6, 3 of which survived and still live here.  Pickle, Roy and Colette are doing very well.


Winter (the goat arrived), and my winter (the season) was very busy.

Daphne turned out to be a bad momma, and I wound up hand feeding the three babies that were left.  It was not horrible.  :)

Winter got renamed Cleo and was bred to Stewart, but she wasn't fitting in.

I brought home a couple of silkies and moved the Little Red Coopette to the front yard for them.  They were the start of my broody coop. 

Camille gave birth to 9 babies, all of which died. 

The trees were tapped with all 29 taps, and the syrup making began!


The Little Red Coopette, which had 4 inhabitants, got two more teeny, tiny ones.  Chickens are cool, and these guys are all awesome.

I thought all of my girls were pregnant.  Ha!  Leave it to them to prove me wrong!

Lots of seeds planted and lots of snow.  Also trying to get some fancy chickens to hatch.

Sap season ended, and we wound up with 6 solid quarts of syrup.  I'm happy to say that as of this point in the year I still have a full quart and a half left over.  So, that's the number I need to shoot for, it seems.

Cleo miscarried.

This month was a tough one.  My son got very, very sick, and in the middle of it, his cat died.  It was terrible.  But....Max also came home this month, and Cynthia came home too.  They lived in the house.  And my son really liked Cynthia, and she likes him, so it helped a little bit.


Spring sprang!  I got very, very busy with putting in a new garden or two, and upped the growing space to 3000+ square feet.  I love to work in the dirt!

Camille popped out 10 babies, all of which died.  Truly horrible, and I had to really think about keeping Camille. 

I did a lot of home work, painting the back deck and the railroad ties all over the place here. 


Saracat popped out a litter of kittens, only one of which looks (and acts) eerily like the cat my son lost back in March.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.

It rained like crazy, and I lost a whole heap of young chickens.  Actually, this was a bad year, chicken-wise. 

We lost a bunch of ducks to an outside predator, as well as more chickens.  Something was hungry.  We brought home some Muscovies to help bolster the duck population.

I installed two packages of bees for the last time EVER.

I got ready for milking the goats. Yep, I was very nervous.


Minerva made babies!!!

...then she got mastitis, and has CAE udder.  I can't win.  Minerva will not be bred again, but her girls are wonderful and have always been bottle babies, so I have high hopes for them.

There was so much rain that the garden just popped.  But it was also cool, so some things were slow.  Can't win!

Max got very sick, and Lilly was past her due date.

Lilly FINALLY gave birth----in the dirt.

I made some hard decisions about who would stay and who would go.


The rabbits were relocated from the garage to the chicken coop, with some living in the back in the hutches that used to belong to the "pet" rabbits, who were going to be moved out.

I finished the kids' treehouse.  They played in it for 2 days, then a spider moved into it, and they never stepped foot in it again.  SIGH!!!

I got the goats' copper levels back up.  Thank goodness!


Due to the weird weather, the garden started to look done early in the year.  Very disappointing.  I am happy to say, though, that it still produced a nice amount of food, but all at once.  Very odd.

Lots of canning, lots of freezing, lots of milking too!


Tried to find our routine for the school year, and tried to get Dulci bred. 

A bear attacked the bee hives for the first time.

Louise hatched a silkie chick like a champ, and I made a lot of cheese.


The bear revisited and finished off the bees.  I decided then that I was done with bees as well, since I am allergic, and I have had no success otherwise.  What a huge failure, but I feel vaguely better because I tried. 


I was working full time, on top of working full time, and figuring out how to juggle it all.  I may have gotten the hang of it. 


 Cynthia was at the age to be bred, but nowhere near the weight.  Upon looking into it, I figured out that she's probably a "MiniMancha", or a Pygmy/LaMancha cross.  I may never breed her, because she'll always be small and need to be bred to a small male, which I don't have.  Plus, I'm not sure I'll want to milk a tiny thing.  I'm still thinking about it, though.

Celebrated a couple of birthdays, and decided to seriously work on some outstanding projects that are hanging around, as I just feel like it's such a waste to keep them without finishing them or giving them away, or something. 

Cleaned up the bee mess, and rendered some cheese wax in the process. 


Finished some of those projects I was planning to finish and got ready for the holidays.

Nicest development of the year?  My family really started to help out.  For a very long time, I did it all myself, and it's a lot.  But this year everyone started to help me, and it has made a huge, huge difference.  I like that we're all "in this" together, and now everyone chips in to make it all work.  It's so important, and has been so wonderful.  I am very thankful.

Whew!   Yesterday there was snow on the ground, but  a warm wind blowing, and the fog was as thick as pea soup. When it cleared up, it had taken the snow with it.  The snow had made everything so pretty, so now it's all back to being grey and brown and ick.  Oh well.  Today it  is raining, so another day working inside for me!  I am glad to have this time to look back and see what happened this year--it was another busy one.  Next step?  Planning for next year!

But I think I'll take a little break first.  Take care, everyone!

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Slowing Down--Sorta

I was scheduled to work all this week, but with the weather being whatever it is, the schools have been closed.  This causes me not to have to work, but also to have two VERY bored children in the house.  They have hit the ages of "We don't want to play together", and so now come to me individually to complain that there's nothing to do.  When I suggest that they play together, the suggestion is met with derision.  Forget mentioning things like cleaning out their closets or toyboxes no one plays with anymore.  HA!  So....I give up.  Instead, yesterday I did what any good mom would do--hid in the kitchen and made chicken stock.  Oh, and a cake.  Don't forget the cake.

This, my friends, is the ULTIMATE gingerbread cake.  Dark and chewy and spicy goodness.  Not for the faint of heart.  The house smelled amazing while it was baking.

Yep, it seems my little cherubs have hit the "difficult" stage.  Joy and happiness.  On Sunday we went to cut down our Christmas tree, like we do every year, only to have both children cry about it at one point or another as they could not agree on a tree.  My husband and I finally had to declare that this year my son would choose, as my daughter chose last year, and that we would alternate year to year.  This made my son happy, but not my daughter, who cried and cried and cried.  It made for a difficult day, and I declared more than once I was just going to go down to the Agway next year and pull one off the lot, instead of having everyone upset.

Yep, I handled THAT masterfully.

Oh well.  We brought the tree home, and put it in the stand, and then I proceeded to upset the whole turnip cart, because this year I put on clear lights.

Dum dum daDUM!!

We were a colored lights family, my friends--for years.  And I always liked them.  But a few years ago, I looked at the tree and thought "I betcha I would really like that tree with clear lights".  And then every year thereafter I thought the same thing, but did nothing about it.  This year I finally went for it. 

And the kids complained like it was going out of style.

.....At first.

I asked them to wait and see.  I was thinking if they really hated it, I could just unlight the dang thing and start all over again with the colored lights if necessary.  But then the ornaments started to be put on.  And all of a sudden, it was "Oh! The tree is glowing!" and "I can see all the ornaments!"  and "It's so pretty!" and "I'm glad you changed them, I like the clear lights better".  And mommy-o here did an inner smirk and passed out the glass balls.

And it is, indeed, pretty.

The tree was the last piece to be put on.  The rest of the decorating was done last week, and I have to say this for a small house: it may be very difficult to find places to put things, but it is much easier to decorate.

In our last house, which was considerably larger, decorating was a three day affair.  Here?  Ha!  One day, if that. 
A couple of surfaces....

Put some things in the open bookshelves....


And it looks pretty.  The other nice thing about coming from a larger house is that I have SO many decorations, I can pick and choose what I want to use (heh, that rhymed).  It can be overwhelming, but it means I don't have to add anything, and it looks full nonetheless.  Yeay!!

Other than the decorating and work, things have been pretty slow.  The animals are all on "maintenance" right now, as it's too cold or crappy to do much, so it's been the routine of feeding, watering, milking, putting in, taking out, that sort of thing.  Most of my time is spent indoors, thinking of what to do.  I'll be honest--I'm not good at "slow".  Though I can sit with a cuppa and relax to some music (John Denver and the Muppets, anyone?  We are HUGE fans here), eventually I just want to do SOMETHING.  I'd rather be insanely busy than sitting around, that's the truth of it.  But it's the time of the year when we're meant to slow down--look at any cat, and you'll see this is the time of year to just do nothing.
Exhibit A--Phynn.
The incidence of cat "deaths" this time of year is particularly high.  Very sad.  :(
Exhibit B--Icky

I wish I could take a leaf from a cat's book and just do what they do, as I need to slow down, if only to recuperate for next year.  But UGH!  I'm not going quietly, that's for dang sure.  This year I am having a tough time.  I am trying to find things to keep myself busy, even if it's only a little busy, but it's not really working.  Last year I got so bored, I painted the kitchen cabinets.  This year there are no cabinets to paint.  This will not be an easy winter, I think.

But enough complaining.  While I've been trying to keep occupied, I have whittled away at my project list.  Coming in at number 5, I have that snowman pillow that you saw the beginning of here.  I admit, this one was a softball, compared to that cross stitch.  I simply sat one day for about an hour and did it.  Here he is, sitting with a friend:

This is a pattern from the Better Homes and Gardens magazine that comes out yearly, Holiday Crafts.  This one (I think) was from 2010.  I had seemingly cut out the snowman's head, nose, earmuffs, and part of the scarf, and then put it away, thinking I'd remember what the pieces were for.  Ha!  I gave myself too much credit.  I found the bits last month and had no idea what they were--that'll show me.  Only after digging through the magazines I have did I figure it out.  Since I am not leaving any projects hanging around this year, I put him together and here he is!  I've done a lot of those pillows from that magazine.  They are all designed by Bird Brain Designs, which I really like.  This is the first that she's done that's not on a light blue background, and I just love that.  It really pops the snowman, I think. 

Coming in at project number 6, another cross stitch piece:

And before you think that I'm a really fast cross-stitcher, let me just say that I had half finished this piece before I put it away, which is why it took me so little time to finish it.  I had stopped at the blue Santa line, so I had very little left to do.  When I found this buried in my closet, I wondered why I did not finish it.  But let's just say I remembered very quickly why when I started on it again.  What a pain in the rear this project was!  Not only is the linen very difficult to work on because of the color changes and thread blending in it, but the pattern itself was full of fiddly little bits of colors that were like putting three squares of color here, three squares of color there, and so on.  Super fiddly.  I did get through it, but I also cheated because the last line under the wreaths was supposed to be pine cones, and I just wasn't going to do it.  I put some stars in there instead and called it good.  Enough is enough is enough and I just wasn't enjoying myself. 

How old is that project?  Well.....I looked at the chart and the date on it is 2002.  I don't think that I got it then, I think it was a couple of years later.  Either way, this one has been sitting a while.  Oh...and if you love fiddly cross stitch and would like the chart to this, you can have it.  Just shoot me an email and I'll mail it to you.  It's in very good shape and there's no reason to not pass it along.

And last, but not least, project number 7, which was unplanned, but worked out ok anyway.

This one was not unfinished, so it probably should be 6A or something instead of project 7, but oh well.  The little choir ladies were a pattern from this year's Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Crafts magazine.  I liked their little gnome outfits, but didn't want to make just little random people without a setting.  If the cats ever wake up, they'd steal them for sure.  So I dug through my stash and pulled out all these little wood pieces-the base, the house, the birdhouse, the lights, and put it all together.  I think it's cute, and happily it used up many wood pieces that I have been hanging onto for YEARS.  How many years?  Back before I got my first "adult" job in a bank, I worked retail, and one of those jobs was at a craft store called Creativity (now defunct).  They had the best wood department, hands down--I've never seen any other store have anything even remotely like it.  Just amazing little wooden shapes.  That's where this all came from, I just finally took it out of the box I had it stored in, painted it up, and put it together.  So...I want to say 15+ years or so, that's how long I've had those bits.  Not too bad, right?  HA!

Onto the next!  I hope you are all staying safe and warm and will talk to you all again soon!

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Sunday, December 1, 2013


And just under the wire, too.

On to the next.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Post-Thanksgiving Wishes

I'm going to overlook the horrible things I've read people have done yesterday and today all in the name of a "good deal" (but SHAME on all of you) and just say I hope your Thanksgiving was...
.....filled with people you are close to and love

 .....comfortable and cozy

......and truly made you happy.
See you in December, my friends!

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cleaning up the Mess

Last week I said goodbye to the bees for the last time, in that I cleaned up the havoc the bear had wrought. 

The picture above is after the first time the bear visited and brought destruction.  I set the hives to rights afterward, got stung twice, (which took 2 weeks to go down) and left the bees alone.  When the bear came back, the scene was much worse and the bees were done for.  Total destruction.  Between that, and the fact that I've become quite allergic, it was time to give it up with the bees.  Disappointing?  Yes.  But necessary.  Twice I have tried, and twice I have failed.  I can take a hint--this is not for me.

So I cleaned up.  I picked up all the pieces that were widely scattered about and thought about any way at all to make the situation turn out to the positive.  There was no honey.  The bear had seen to that.  But there was wax, and I use the wax to wax my cheese with.  Hmmmm....if I could harvest that, I wouldn't have to buy wax, and then I could use it and the bees would not be a TOTAL loss (just mostly a loss).  So I spent several hours scraping the frames that were not completely shattered into a pot like so:

This is a messy, sticky job
And piled all the "cleaned" equipment neatly.

Definitely better than pieces strewn all over the yard, no?

I have rendered beeswax once before, and I remember nothing about how to do it.  What I do remember is what I will tell you here:  Never use anything in rendering beeswax that you want to either keep clean or use for something else.  Beeswax is so sticky, you're pretty much guaranteed to ruin anything you put it in.  That I knew.  But the rest?  I made up as I went along. 

First I put the bits in a pot that I will never use for anything else ever again.  Unfortunately, it was a small pot, so this all had to be done in many stages.  But I put the wax mess in the pot and added water.  Then I heated it up.

Why add water?  Wax burns, baby.  On top of that, there are so many disgusting things in the wax from a hive that you don't want in the wax from your hive, and all of it makes the wax stickier and then it won't separate out.  When the water is in there it will keep the dirt, and the the wax will be clean (presumably) and float on top of all the muckiness.  So it's a helpful thing.  Basically, you take this yucky mixture and heat it up to boiling and then let it boil for a while.


This smells pretty bad.  It's all full of dead bee bodies and icky bee stuff and probably larva and icky stuff like that, and it smells like beeswax (which is nice) and hot dirt (which is not).  But you can see that the wax is starting to separate here and cling to the spoon that I'll never use again for anything else ever.  Eventually, when you see a lot of yellow wax sort of floating in the mess, you pour it into your separator.

This is a highly technical tool, consisting of a piece of old window screen alligator clipped to a disposable turkey roasting pan.  Neither thing which can ever be used ever again for anything other than beeswax harvesting--trust me.

Anyway, you pour your smelly, messy goop into this, and the screen catches all the bee bodies and dirt and cooked larva bits, and the wax and dirty water go through.  Then you wait until the wax hardens on top of the water, and you scoop it out.

This wax is mostly clean, but still has some icky dirty things sticking to it's underside, so it's necessary to warm it all up and filter it again.

This time, don't use water.  Just break up the wax sheets and put them either in a double boiler, or just use a low, low heat.  Melt the wax and then filter it through here:

 This fine piece of craftsmanship is a plastic container from something someone ate once, with a nylon stocking over it.  It is very fancy.  The wax will drain through, like so:

And it will leave the mess on the top, like so:

 But through the stocking, all the nice beeswax will drip, and then you will have, after you have waited impatiently and stuck your finger in it a number of times, a nice cake of beeswax.  Taa daa!!

And that's how it works.  This a long process, and I can see why beeswax is so expensive to buy when I do this.  But I am happy that I did, because now I have more cheese wax, and the hives were not a TOTAL loss--just MOSTLY a loss.  It's so much better. 

The only thing I cannot tell you is why beeswax that I've rendered is so much yellower than anything I've ever bought.  It's probably got something to do with pollen in there or something, but I have no idea.  Either way, it's super yellow and smells nice, so that's alright with me. 

And there you go!  Now you know how to do it, so go on out and render some beeswax today!

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And PS--I finished a little table runner yesterday.  It was a kit given to me by a friend, which sat unopened for 3 years.  I finally opened it, and all told, it took me about an hour to make.  3 projects down!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Challenge For Myself

Every year I say the same thing: "This winter, I'm going to get some projects done." 

And every year it never happens. 

The projects I'm talking about are the kind of things like quilts and sewing projects that have been waiting for a long, long, long time.  I need to go back a little to tell the story, so if you'd indulge me for a moment, here it is.

Back when I was a suburban stay at home mom with two small children, I lived in my sewing room.  Every day I turned on my sewing machine, and I completed one quilt after another after another.  I spent the whole day in that room many times, because, other than taking care of my children (who were in school and preschool), gardening outside a bit on a small patch, and cleaning the house, I had nothing else to do.  It kept me busy, so it was good.  It was like my job, and I really enjoyed it.  I bought a lot of fabric, I tried a lot of new things, I was very creative. 

Fast forward a whole bunch of years and a lot of upheaval, and here I am, on a large patch of land with a lot of animals and a gigantic garden, and I spend no time in my sewing room.  There's no time to spend!  Between working, taking care of the animals and working the land, ha!  Sewing doesn't get done.

But there are many projects that I started long ago that moved with me and now hang out in the corner of this room, taunting me.  They have for years.  In fact, I figured it out last week, and the newest project of my unfinished project pile is 4 years old.  Others I don't even want to know how old they are--many, many moons.  It bothers me that they are there, incomplete.  And every year I decide I'm going to whittle down that pile, and every year I don't.  So this year, I am issuing a challenge to myself:  I WILL get that pile down!

So from time to time, expect a picture or two of a project that has been finished.  And yes, I will admit how long it's been sitting.  I'm going to start myself off here, and show you a couple I finished this past month, when things started to "slow down" for me.  Ready?

This one I started last year, so it's a young'un!
Nice, crooked picture.  :) 

Embroidery patterns were freebies from Red Brolly.  The rest I made up.

This one is 3 years old, and was waiting for embroidery and quilting.  I'm happy I got it done when it's still Autumn!!!

And now for a work in progress.  I should tell you that I can't just sit.  I have to have something to do with my hands, so usually I crochet or stitch.  I have been cross stitching since I was 11 or 12, so that's usually my fallback.  I don't do it too much anymore because there is never enough time when the days are long for me to sit and get into a large project--or there are just too many other things to do.  When I do do a cross stitch project, it's usually a small one.  However, this one I have wanted to do for maybe 6 or 7 years.  Finally I started it, and I am going to finish it by December 2nd, because I have a framing coupon I want to use on it.  If I miss that deadline, then this project is going to go with the many others that have been finished and will never be framed.  That's a sad place to be, so I'm trying to get it done.  Anyway, I started 2 weeks ago, and this is where it is now:

I will get it done!  Or die trying.  :)

And that's it.  Definitely not my normal post, but if you see a picture of a finished something on here from time to time this winter (and you will!), you'll know why!
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking Back to Move Ahead

Today I get older. 

Ok, ok, we all get older every day, I know.  But today it's "official", as it's my birthday.

I usually spend the day (or part of it) thinking about what I've done this year, how many things I've accomplished, what went wrong, what went right.  And then I'd share it with you.  But I'll be repeating myself on New Year's, most likely, so I think instead of giving you a long, long list of highlights and lowlights, I think I will:
  • Have more coffee
  • Listen to Christmas carols in the car (because I'm not allowed to in the house--YET)
  • Clean the house a bit
  • Bake some chocolate chip cookie bars (before my children and husband eat ALL the chocolate chips)
  • Go outside and sit with my goats (It's my birthday--just pretend I don't do that every day, ok?) 
  • Work on a little quilt that's been waiting
  • Scritch a purring kitty or two
  • Look back and be proud
  • Look around and be thankful
  • Look ahead and be hopeful
And I think that'll about cover it.  I hope you all have a wonderful day as well!

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Putting My Ducks in a Row


My long-ish term sub assignment ended on Wednesday in a flurry of activity.  The job was always very complex, but Wednesday was super busy on top of all that.  This is pretty typical for me, and I think anytime I've ever been leaving something or ending something, I will have lots and lots of quiet days UNTIL the last day, which will be completely insane.  I never seem to go out quietly.  :)

 Anywho, the job I did was complicated, and except for a little previous experience when I had subbed for the same woman here and there, I had no idea what I was doing, and made it up as I went along--and I asked a lot of questions.  As time went on, I figured it out, and then I wasn't as lost as I was in the beginning, and then the job got fun, and the people warmed up to me, and I to them, and it got to be a really nice place to work.  And in the end, I was sorry to go.  Most surprisingly, they were sorry to see me go, and my last day I came in to find that I had flowers and a lovely card waiting for me on my desk.  I got hugs from everyone.  I was beyond touched, and yes, I cried a couple of times.  They grew on me, that group.  They really, really did.  I miss them already.  Luckily, I will be back there from time to time, and we'll see where it goes from there!

So yesterday I was back home.  I decided to take yesterday and today off, since Monday is a holiday, and take the 5 days to catch up.  Yesterday I ran some errands and moved furniture.  Actually, that's not the truth.  My husband moved the furniture because he "felt like it", and I just cleaned it up and worked on a project that needed working on--the hooks we use to have our kids hang their school stuff from.  Despite heavy duty wall-anchors, the hooks ripped right out of the wall, making a hell of a mess.  I have repaired the tears, and am working on getting the hooks mounted to wood, drilled right into the studs of the wall, so it doesn't happen again.  I'm about done, and will finish today, I think.

 In addition, I made some cheese--pepper jack!  I dehydrated a few jalapenos from the garden, a small bell pepper, and some cayenne that I had hanging in the dining room (doesn't EVERYONE have cayenne peppers hanging in their dining rooms?) and cut them up to teeny pieces and put them in the curds before pressing.  It looks gorgeous, albeit a bit lumpy, because monterey jack tends to settle fast, under small amounts of weight.  With the fancy brick method I use (ie: putting bricks on top of the mold to act as weights--it's very technical), I usually wind up with a somewhat lopsided monterey jack, as the bricks sit more on one spot than on the other, and the curds are very soft and can settle unevenly.  But it's my birthday next week, and a little bird has told me that there may be a cheese press in my future.  That would certainly solve that problem!

.....And my son was just reading this over my shoulder and said "It's your birthday next week???".  Aaaaaaahhh, I feel SO loved.

OH boy.

Today I will finish that hook project and then go outside to clean out the coops, because the chicken coop is about a month overdue for it's heavy duty fall cleaning and NEEDS it.  I also need to get to the ducks and geese and their houses as well.  So I'll be busy again, but it'll be good busy, as always.

In other news, Cynthia hits the big 8 month mark on Wednesday, which would mean time for breeding.  However, Cynthia, my little free goat who was given to me as "payment" for work I did for someone, has not grown ONE iota over the summer and is nowhere near the 80 pound mark that I use as a yardstick for breeding readiness.  (All right, maybe she's grown 1/2 an iota.  But she's still nowhere near the right size).

Old picture, but she's not much bigger than this now
Cynthia has grown a bit, but at 8 months, she is smaller than the three "Nupines" born this June--even the bottle fed girls, who are always smaller than a dam nursed baby, like Tallulah.  So methinks I have a "Minimancha" on my hands.  Cynthia was one of two, and first born.  It makes her unlikely to be a runt.  Cynthia's mom was small, and her dad seemed very small to me, especially knowing the size of other bucks.  Dulcinea, who is also a LaMancha, is not as big as Minerva and Lilly, who are Alpines.  However, she was never this small.  Either Cynthia is going to have a HUGE growth spurt over the winter, or daddy had some pygmy in him (which is what I thought when I saw him), and it came out in little Cynthia.  My bet is on the latter.  Either way, if Cynthia doesn't surprise me by growing a huge amount in a short time, I'll have to start looking into finding her a male her size.  My boys are too big for her, and that won't go well.  If she never gets big, though, I will always have a lap-sized goat to cuddle.  And let me tell you, that's not a bad thing.  I love my Min, but 110 pounds of goat on one's lap is no pleasure.  Mostly she's all front knees when she tries.  But having a little 50 pound dumpling sit with you, that's a sweet thing.  She's like a REALLY big cat.

And speaking of....  

Thank you for all your kind words about Icky.  He did come in, and it was the right decision.  Icky's natural state of being is "purr".  He can be picked up and hugged and the motor runs right away.  You can stop and pet him, and the motor starts going.  He always wants to see where we are going and usually will either follow, or wait for us.  He has stopped fighting with everyone, except for when they all feel like fighting, which cats sometimes do.  He's not singling anyone out, though, and honestly has blended in like he's been here forever. 

And it feels like he has.  It's funny, but I do think that cat knew that this was going to be the way it was.  When you call his name he turns and looks at you, and he will hold your gaze while you talk to him.  He's a special one, that's for sure.  I feel very lucky I came upon him in the road that day.

And I think that's about it.  I'm off to finish one job and start another.  Have a great day, my friends!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013


The Ickmeister
Cat-I-Found-by-the-Side-of-the Road
Yup, this'd be he.
The Ick himself (well, Ich would be more correct, but it looks wrong--unless you speak German) learned his name by day two and comes when you call.  Odd, because what are the chances his name was anything like Ichabod before we got him?

When you pick him up he purrs non-stop, and then sits in your lap like he meant to all along.  Ick has tried very hard to convince me that he's really an indoor cat.  He loves to chase chickens, but you know....really....he's just meant to be inside.  And he shows us all the time by throwing himself at the door and meowing.

And so we've let him in (after a really good flea bath).  Since then he's eaten a 1/8 of a loaf of fresh baked bread and gnawed the top of a monterey jack cheese I was letting dry.  So we've learned to hide food, and he's leaned not to climb on the counters and table--maybe.  And though he fights with Phynn and Charlotte a bit, we're going to let them work it out.  We're hoping the fighting will cease after Phynn and Charlotte are neutered/spayed on Wednesday.  Then, of course, it'll be Icky's turn. 

And hopefully peace and harmony will reign.

But I will still have to hide the cheese.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Oh, Oh, Oh, Who's that Kid with the Oreo Cookie???

I have no idea why that's stuck in my head.  None.  But don't you find it weird that they "discovered" that Oreo cookies are as addictive as cocaine?  Not sure why they did a study on that, to be honest with you.  That was kind of the most interesting part about it.  Hmmmmm........anyway......

Let's get down to it, shall we?  Things have been hopping here, as always.  First, there are the kids.  We are up to the whole "What are you going to be for Halloween?" thing again.  My son knew pretty much right away.  He is a GIANT fan of Minecraft, and wants to be an enderman, which is this thing:

I have no idea what the heck that's supposed to be.  The entire game looks like bad Atari to me, but he loves it, and has bizarrely learned some interesting things from it (like what an ingot is).  It's a building game, it seems, and he loves Legos, so it just works for him.  So he's easy, as all he needs is black clothing and a box for his head.  Love it!  Done.

My daughter, on the other hand, had a hard time.  She always wants to pick what she thinks others would find "cool", but then she's never happy with it.  She 's been happiest when she's chosen something that she would like to be, just because SHE would like to be it, which is really the point in the first place.  So after a lot of deliberation and flip-flopping back and forth, she has decided to be Sam Sparks from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs


THAT one I can get behind.  So we're going with it.  I'm proud of her for picking something (someone?) she wanted to be, not what or who she thought others would want her to be.  Good for her!

In other news, a couple of weeks ago that bear came back again and finished the job.  The bees are D-O-N-E.  I had put them back together, gotten stung, put up a number of "bear preventing" measures, and none of it worked.  The bear guy (or girl) came back and tore both hives apart--there's just no coming back for them.  I am very disappointed, but slightly relieved, only because I had become so allergic it was getting dangerous.  I have begun the cleanup and will salvage any wax possible and then sell the equipment piece by piece.  I guess I'm sticking to maple syrup.  I hope that others will have better success than I did and will keep the bee population up, as it has become so endangered in recent years.  It certainly does not seem that I can help out on that front.

Further on the food front, I have harvested quite a bit of peas from my fall planting--in fact, more, I think, than I got from my spring planting.  I set my son at shelling the last batch I harvested (peeling them, he called it), and it took him over an hour to do it--with help from me and my daughter.
Pea peeling boy

Though I can see that the vines are getting tired and thinking about being done, I am hoping that we'll get another nice batch beforehand.  I am happiest that I seemed to have discovered the variety that works best for me here.  I'm hoping it will perform as well in the spring, and then I'll have a winner.  I have been trying to choose varieties that perform fantastically here, and then stick with them year after year.  This is a complete opposite from what I normally like to do, which is try a little of everything to see how it goes.  But, I have come to the time where I'd like to be able to have one or two varieties of a crop that produces very well and that we like to eat so that I'll have more food to put by, instead of lots of little "experimental" crops.  Ahh....the evolution of the homesteader. 

On the cheese making front, things are chugging along.  Can I just stop here for a minute and tell you how MUCH I love making cheese?  I have no idea if I'm any good at it at all, since most of what I've made lately still has a month to age before testing, but OH!  I love making cheese. 

Beautiful curds

Oh my goodness.  I just do.  It's like magic, you know?  Big pot of milk becomes beautiful chunk of cheese. 

“Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.”
―Clifton Paul Fadiman
Sage Derby, before the final pressing

Magic!  It's funny, because I do so many things that are so "old", in a way.  I grow food from seed.  I bake bread.  I make soap.  Etc, etc.  Many transformations from one thing to a totally different thing, and many techniques that are old techniques (of course, somewhat revised for today).  But there are very few things that I do that have the ability to transport me back in time the way cheesemaking does.  Working with raw fiber does the same thing for me--sends me right back in time.  Cheesemaking....well, it's just special.

I have decided on a cheese press, I think.  Despite the fact that I really like stacking 50 pounds of bricks up on top of a homemade mold, it's gotten stupid.  Just ask the couple of coffee mug casualties and the flower vase that have bit it since I started with this.  Playing the "when's that going to fall over" game is getting old.  So, though it will have to wait a couple of weeks, I think I have decided to purchase a Dutch cheese press. 


This one, I believe.  I really wanted one of those spring ones, because they are more compact.  However, when I really looked into it, I discovered that the tension doesn't stay the same all the time.  As the cheese compresses, the spring relaxes a bit, and then the weight is off and you're not pressing at a consistent pressure.  Therefore, the spring would have to be adjusted fairly often to maintain the correct pressure on the cheese.  I press my cheeses overnight.  I don't want to get up every few hours to turn the pressure up on my cheese.  Dutch presses are apparently a "set it and forget it" kinda deal.  So yes, they are bigger and kinda oddly shaped, but I think it's the way to go.

Speaking of raw fiber (which we weren't), I am going to the Wool and Fiber Festival tomorrow in Rhinebeck!  Squeeeeee!!!!!  A day to myself!  Just me, no kids, no husband.  I will miss them, but I need a day to myself.  I think one a year is fair, no?  Just me and some sheep and hairy goats and lots of stuff to touch and see!  If you remember, I went last year, had a wonderful time talking to myself all day and just looking, and brought home a bunch of rabbits.  This year?  Still planning on the wonderful time, still planning on talking to myself (can't help that one), but no rabbits.  I love my fluffy bunnies, but I have plenty.  This year I am going to look at yarn and spinning wheels and touch everything, and that's how that's going to go.  I will take pictures.  Stay tuned!

And in closing....

Well, I should tell you that the cat population has increased by one this week, and in an odd way.  Here's the story, which is so odd, it could only happen to me, because odd things happen to me all the time.  I was at work on Wednesday, and was heading home during my lunch break to check on things at the house.  I had 1/2 an hour left, and figured I'd just swing by, make a quick check, and then go back to work.  Ha!  As I was going over a bridge, I saw a cat carrier in the shoulder of the road--a busy-ish road, mind you.  The carrier had the word "free" on it on a card.  I thought "Woo hoo!  A carrier!  I should go get that!".  People chuck out stuff all the time.  A lot of it is junk, but sometimes there's something good.  No, I'm not above picking up someone else's junk, especially if it's usable un-junk.  We could use a second carrier, and this one looked nice.  I pulled over where I could and walked back to it. 

As I got closer, I could swear I heard meowing.  I thought that was odd, but as there are some grasses and stuff around there that are tall, and some houses near, it could have been coming from anywhere.  It was hard to tell through the car noises.  However, I got closer, and through the noise of the traffic, I could hear the meowing was coming from inside the carrier.

Yes, friends, someone had put a cat IN the carrier and left it on the side of the road with the word "free" on it.  Oddly enough, behind it, in the tall grass was a litterbox, a scooper, and a single can of cat food.  I know I'm a sucker. But I'm not going to leave a cat to die on the side of the road in a carrier.  It was only a matter of time before someone sideswiped that carrier and killed the little one inside.

I didn't really think and I had no idea what to do next with the cat.  I picked it up, took a look at the little one, and popped him in the back of the car. When I got to a side street, I pulled over and took a look at him (as I discovered, he is a he).  He's young, under a year old, I'd say, and black as pitch.  That is, except for the little white spot on his tummy. His eyes are pumpkin colored.  He is supremely cool, and seemed to realize I was there to help because he curled up in my lap like we'd known each other forever, and purred like a maniac. 

I eventually got him home and set him up in a very nice, spacious crate in the garage barn, so he would feel safe and not have to compete with the other cats.  He's afraid of all the other cats, but follows people around like "Hey!  Where're we going?  I'm coming with you, ok?".  Like he's known us forever.  Because he's black with pumpkin eyes, and it's near Halloween, his name is Ichabod.  We've been calling him Icky.

Time will tell as to whether he'll hang with us, but I'm hoping so.  Dang boy seems to be magical, because though the crate he's in is wire and fairly open, I don't think he can fit through the bars.  However, I'll see him in there, he'll stay in there for a long time, and then I'll turn my back and he'll be out and behind me.  Realizing he can't be "caged", I opened the door for him, but left the crate as a safe haven.  It is not unusual to see him in one place, however, and then look down suddenly and he's right beside me.  He's very sneaky.

And there you go.  Funny enough, I was thinking a couple of months ago that it was too bad we only have one black cat (a big boy named Percival), when I like them so much.  Then Sarahcat gave birth to a second black cat, and now we have Icky.  Very interesting.  Possibly I should muse on the fact that it's funny that I've never won the lottery?

'Till next time!

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