Goat Poop is Not Raisins

I turned around just in time to see the Little Boy slide out of the wheel barrow, barefoot on the gravel driveway. The wheel barrow was clean according the wheel barrow standards; it hadn’t carried manure in a few months and had been used elsewhere in the meantime. His jeans would need to be removed before he goes into the house, mud dried between his fingers and dirt from ear to ear. “Thank God we are able to raise our children out here.” I thought as I turned back to the Little Miss who was sitting on the tractor. She’s all about cows, tractors and baby dolls right now. There she was clothes speckled with dried mud from the duck pen, sand in her ponytail that was already falling apart (again) and a face that was looks like she was eating dirt not too long ago.

I know it’s crazy to be thankful for dirt behind the ears but we are. Did you know that most people forget to wash behind their ears? Not at our house! Our kids are very involved with our outdoor work. It starts with the baby carrier in the stroller and once they can walk they are on our heels… or somewhere close by. They are always encouraged to help even when their helping is not so helpful. I’m already talking up how much fun it is to stack square bales on the hay wagon in July. They are so excited to be big enough to help with that! Yes!! They really do enjoy helping with any task at hand. Especially tasks that require a hose and/or water, the ones that can get really messy. The trick is to keep them busy allowing them to explore but not too much (if that’s possible).

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Lining Up the Ducks

Really?! Ducks?! -Clyde

My last attempt to ready a spot for wintering the ducks. I spent my time this weekend installing a duck fence around the bottom of the goat pen. This summer the ducks made a sloppy mess of the south chicken run, the rain was no help in the matter either. Unfortunately their water loving habits don’t let up just because it snows and I won’t have then ruin the floor of the coop this winter.

As much as I like eating duck I was really hoping for eggs from these guys and don’t want to eat the birds. I was going to keep Henrietta and Lucky and let the rest go. I put them up for sale or free online. One found a new home and the gal who said she wanted the rest was a no-call/no-show. This seems to be the way a lot of online deals go. A little common courtesy would be nice. That’s ok though, I didn’t really want to give them up.

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Tales of the Pregnant Farmer: Nesting Theory

When asked when I’m due my usual response is “sometime between now and the county fair.” This is sometimes taken as sarcasm, unfortunately I’m serious. This time around I was given four due dates depending on who I talked to. An average “safe delivery” time can be two weeks before or after the due date, which means I have/had about eight weeks of “any day now”. So the no “real” due date answer seems to shock and/or annoy the person asking when. Hmm. How about Mama? Think about how annoying it is to politely answer that for eight weeks or longer?! Not to mention the weeks of comments of “how big you’re getting!” (that’s not a compliment no matter how you try.) The only acceptable thing to say about a pregnant ladies size is “you look great!” FYI.

All that complaining aside, life doesn’t stop because of it. I still mow the lawn each week and do what I can to help with yard work, gardening and so on. It takes a lot longer to get anything done, but it does get done. In an attempt to get this baby out I thought I’d give “nesting” a try. Pretty sure I didn’t do much for nesting with the other two. I didn’t really have time, nor did I slow down as much as I have this time. I washed the baby clothes the last time I had everything dug out of the kid’s closet to put away the out grown and get the next box of hand-me-downs. The house is picked up… I wouldn’t say clean, but picked up. Wash the floors during nap and by the next snack time they’re sticky.

Nesting it is. It was worth a try anyways.

The ducks really only need enough water to dunk their heads but they make such a mess splashing and end up wasting all their drinking water doing so. I had put a rubber feed dish in the run to give them something a little more to splash in. It worked… kinda. They emptied that and the drinking water. The days are warming up considerably and if I want this year’s chicks (who live with the ducks right now) to have water the ducks needed something more again. I think.

When they were in the house we had them in a small kiddie pool. The kids loved it. It was fun but it didn’t take long for them to outgrow the space and make the house smell like a chicken coop. It was time for them to move out. After the flock was in the coop the pool went outside to be stored until the next batch of chicks would grace the kitchen.

Well, my “nesting mother duck” came out and those ducks needed a pond of sorts. I dug out the pool, hauled it to the outside run and scrubbed it out quite nicely… I’m not sure why. It stayed clean about as long as a freshly washed kitchen floor. A short piece of fence post scrap was set by the edge in case someone needed a step in and I began filling the “pond”. While I was watching my handy work fill, Mike brought over the four-wheeler and wagon so I could get the coop cleaned too. I’m not sure what he thought when he saw my project but he didn’t object at least.

Happy Ducks
Happy Ducks

“I’m going to go up to Erica Lane and meet Uncle Greg in a bit. I’ll be back in after while.” Mike headed out of the run. By that time I had just about finished cleaning the mud out of the waterer. As I went to leave the pen and shut off the water I had a little bit of an issue… He locked me in.

Yep.

Stuck.

The hook and eye lock on the outside was too low for me to reach over and unhook. I’d like to think I could still fit through the turkey door in the other pen but once again that wouldn’t do much good because their door was closed with a hook and eye inside the feed room. The idea of trying to climb over the fence…well even I knew that wasn’t going to happen today. The landing might have knocked the baby loose which would’ve been helpful I guess. Luck was on my side this time. I remembered I had my phone with me because I didn’t want to miss my Uncle’s call.

“Hello?”

“Hi. I promise I won’t leave the yard if you let me out of the duck pen!”

“What?”

“Please? You locked me in when you left.”

(Short silence. Then laughter.) “I’ll be right over.”

Only on our farm would mama get locked in the duck pen on the 4th of July.

Once allowed out, I got the whole coop cleaned quite nicely. The ducks were swimming in the new pond. The Ladies were happy with their fresh bedding and watermelon rinds. The nesting boxes are all cleaned and ready for fresh eggs. Baby’s still not here… So much for the “nesting” theory.

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Living with Passion

I’ve often wished I had the passion for something the way some people do. They live to cook or hunt or something with cars or sports or whatever. They tunnel into this certain passion full steam ahead and that is what they do. There is no question about it. If they aren’t making a living at it, they spend as much time as possible outside of work pursuing such activities. I don’t doubt that I would be easier to handle for my husband and my family as well if I would just focus solely on one thing.

I’m going to be a chicken farmer or vegetable gardener or tack maker or train milking Dexter cows.

See I can’t even pick one example! That’s when I realized I don’t have a tunnel. Ok, I knew I didn’t have one because I can’t focus on just one thing. I really don’t have one. I have passion alright. I have a wide open never ending passion. An all-encompassing passion. You could say I have a passion for living, not the staying alive living but really living. Using every talent I may (or may not) have to the absolute fullest extent. Exploring every new possibility and living life like every day has potential to be a great adventure. It’s exhausting really.

I have been working towards milking Lucy. It’s been a journey alright. I make five steps forward, and then take eight steps back. I’ve had her walking with me on a lead rope for a daily routine. It was going great. Then I got too pregnant, had a baby and had to take a break. When I was able to get started working with her again, we were gaining ground and then shipped her down the road to be bred. She’s wild again and I’m pregnant again! Some days I think the stars are lined up against me. It’s going to work out at some point. I built the stanchion last fall and if it’s not Lucy in there it will be someone else. I’ve thought about getting a heifer calf. Raising her and breading her and then she will be stanchion ready. For how friendly G.W. is just from being raised with us since the very beginning, it seems like that would be the route to take with a heifer.

Either way, Lucy or new heifer, the end result of a daily cow milking hasn’t been a smooth path. There’s been plenty of work along the way- fencing, haying, getting water in the barn, daily training sessions (who’s training who is not always obvious) and the journey is still not complete. That’s just one time consuming passion.

I don’t want to just make a great loaf of bread. I want to plow the soil, plant the wheat, harvest the grain, grind the grain, make the sour dough starter, cut the wood to start the fire, to bake the great loaf of bread!

The pieces are in place for the bread dream. I have a plot of land to work and the seed catalogue to get some heirloom wheat seed. The sourdough starter is bubbling on the counter; I just need to keep it alive until next fall. There will be a perfect deadfall tree that I can chop for kindling and the old fashioned wood fire cook stove is in place and ready for use in the living room. Yes, I have a stove in our living room. I really, really wanted to cook on it and placing it in the kitchen will require a remodel that is years away. So we (my husband and our neighbor) took out the potbelly stove and put in the cook stove, this way I have a working chimney and can bake away!

Just those couple examples explain why I think my family would prefer me to have one passion. I have simple goals with a complicated road which usually requires help along the way; a lot of heavy lifting and construction. The complicated road makes for a great story. It’s a constant chance to learn something new and hey, it brings the family together! Everyone loves to come butcher chickens! (Slightly sarcastic) It does get everyone together which is really important. As our lives get busier my little adventures give us a chance to make time to get together between yearly Christmas dinners.

Everything is possible when it is viewed as a challenge and not hard. Hard equates to whiney difficult which is the end of the road for some. Just by changing that one word, the view of the situation changes and with any luck an attitude change too. The feeling of defeat is changed to a willingness to try.

Have I mentioned we are going to raise ducks this spring?!

Crazy? Maybe sometimes. Passionate? Almost always. Need a nap? Yes.

 

 

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Well S#!*

Because I picked up a Saturday shift I was given a day off during the week. If the kids aren’t going to daycare for a reason other than being sick, I like to give her as much notice as possible, as this directly affects her income as well. I completely dropped the ball on letting her know the change in plans, so I guiltily dropped the kids off at daycare on my day off. In an effort to rid myself of some of the guilt I decided I was going to get as much done at home as absolutely possible.

I started my day with an appointment with our Midwife. That went well. Then I painted the wall in the laundry room in preparation for the new cupboards my husband was planning to install that night. While the paint was drying I suited up, grabbed a freshly sharpened filet knife and headed for the coop. I haven’t been out there cleaning weekly as I should have been and it was past time to do so. It was a balmy 30 degrees out, snowing giant flakes and windy as ever. But in the coop none of that mattered.

There was nothing unusual about the cleaning other than it was embarrassing how long I let it go. After the “morning sickness phase” had passed my priorities turned to keeping the house tidy (a losing battle) and spending every spare minute with the kids. I should have taken an hour during naptime and taken care of the coop. Lesson learned. As usual I had the door to the coop opened for extra air flow; in the summer it can get rather dusty when cleaning, in the winter, it’s just nice to get some fresh air.

It was blowing and snowing and I was happily taking my wheel-barrow loads of “coop cleanings” to the pile. After a few loads, the old was out and fresh shavings were down. As I was cleaning out the laying boxes I heard something hit the wheel-barrow. My first thought was a shovel blew over. I cleaned another box and realized I didn’t have any shovels outside at the time and if I did they would have still been too far away to reach the wheel-barrow. I peered out the door and with a bewildered look said “well, shit… hmm” and went back to cleaning the last few boxes.

Do I call Mike at work and let him know what happened or do I wait until he gets home…

Of all the times I remember my phone when I leave the house, today I had it, so I gave him a call on my way to the barn. No answer.

The other spot on the farm that has really been missing my attention is the cow’s pen in the barn. Again, I blame it on the “morning sickness phase”. When I was feeling my worst was when the cows were starting to spend more time in the barn and when I should have started daily barn cleanings again. As luck would have it, I didn’t start and well let’s just say the “work” has been piling up. I grabbed my new pitch fork (Mike got me one for Christmas this year!) and made a path from the gate to the door so I could maneuver the manure outside without tipping the wheel-barrow. A few loads in and my phone rings.

“Hi”

“Hi. You called?”

“Yes. It’s pretty windy out.”

“I know.”

“So I cleaned the chicken coop and the laying boxes. Martha didn’t take her place on the roost so she’s still out there.” (Martha is going to go sooner than later, hence the filet knife.)

“Ok. That’s good”

“You know how I’ve been having trouble getting the coop door open when it swells and freezes? Well, you can fix the door length a little easier now… It’s not attached to the coop anymore.”

“What?! How did that happen?”

“Umm, it’s windy out. One minute it was there, the next it was flipped over in the yard. I gotta go the boys are going to tip over my wheel-barrow again.”

I don’t know what it is about a full wheel-barrow but the cows love to come scratch on it and almost always tip it over. It can get rather frustrating. I was able to push them out of the way and get out the door without spilling the load this time around. A few loads later my phone rang again (probably why I don’t usually bring it with me). It was time to be done anyway; my back had had enough. The gate was open and I just got the wheel-barrow through when I answer and continue the conversation from earlier. Now there I am, standing between the open gate and the cracked corn storage, on the phone and the cows are lining up. Elvis, my sweet steer, G.W., the friendliest little bull and the girls behind them. The boys love to have their heads scratched and to eat corn. Elvis was after both and made his way out the gate, G.W., glued to his side, Wheezy pushing and Lucy bringing up the rear.

Try backing that train up!

“The cows are out. I gotta go again!”

Oh my! What a parade!

I got the girls backed up just by trying to scratch their heads. The boys I started pushing with no measureable progress. So I caved for a bit and gave them both a scratching. That seemed to be enough to get them to follow me back into their side of the fence. It’s going to be a sad day when Elvis goes, for me and G.W.. I’m sure I say that too often. I think it’s my way on reminding myself that “yes, he’s sweet, but he’s destined for red meat.” I’d say that’s probably why Old McDonald didn’t name his animals, but with a “herd” our size it wouldn’t matter if they have names. With that I closed things up…except the coop, and headed back to the house.

By the time I finished the second coat of paint in the laundry room and got supper going the family was home. It was a good day, not completely guilt free, but not wasted.

Coop Door

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