Friday, January 9, 2015

This evening at the farm...

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We've had a couple of cold days and have accumulated a layer of ice over the snow, a lot like last winter but with not nearly as much ice, or snow. As I mentioned in my last post, our deer herd has changed dramatically this winter and even some of the deer we had in past couple of weeks have left. We have a handful however, whom are staying at the house for food and safety, and also seven Wild turkey Toms whom are roosting above my chicken coop at night and spending the day in the yard and around the house.

The deer bed down across a small creek from our house. We can see them well from our bedroom. It's the hill behind where this Doe is standing.

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I was watching her nibbling the trees when her fawn appeared... 

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He rubbed his head on her, and nudged her... 

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Then stood behind her while they figured out if it was safe to stay. Kevin & Jim were on the back porch of the house loading more wood into our firewood storage and the deer could both hear, and see them.

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They decided they were not worried about it, and went back to nibbling on this tasty tree...

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Then the baby decided to start heading for the yard...

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But it was awfully slippery, as you can see the ice on top of the snow. Sometimes he broke through when he took a step and other times...

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There was a lot of sliding going on... it's really hard for the to walk on, and easy for them to hurt themselves on right now...

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It was kind of like being on ice skates... 

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I was kind of holding my breath through some of the slides... 

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The last slide got him off the ice and onto the snow, but he slid quite a ways. I wish I had the video camera on.

We have one doe and fawn, an orphan fawn, and one buck. The orphan fawn as usually happens has taken to traveling with the buck, which will help him get through the winter alive having someone for guidance and safety.

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Kevin pushed snow out of the way for the little dogs to have a bigger area to pee, which they appreciated...

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But they already know to get it done fast and then RUN home!

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It sure is beautiful. It's also warmed up. We did get to -17 degrees F the night before last, which was our coldest yet. It's warmed up to 17 degrees above right now and it's been snowing this evening.

Everyone is tucked away, warm and safe. The wood stove is roaring in the house and it's over 75 degrees F in here which is how the little dogs, Kakarikis birds, and I like it. Plus I have an enchilada chicken casserole in the oven I made with hot green chili sauce which is no doubt going to warm us up further. My efforts to cool it with sour cream didn't work very well. So we'll be warm, inside and out! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Saying goodbye to December and 2014

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It has been a super busy month for a number of reasons, off trip farms, farm work, wood gathering, and my butt being kicked by medication hasn't helped. 

It's also been the strangest December I remember in a while. We had no snow for Christmas - NONE. And we've had temperatures in the 40s F, close to 50! It's been completely insane. We did have a little snow earlier in the month, by Christmas it was raining and the snow was gone. We have a slight dusting right now, but it barely covers the ground AND the ground hasn't even been frozen! 

I remember Decembers with no snow, but not one with so much mud.

As of last night the cold is starting though. I don't mind it, it's been nice for working outside but I am a little worried since the animals actually started to SHED. The goats shedding really worried me, Hopefully the cold comes and slowly builds so they can remember it is still winter. 

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Dahlia says what? It's not really April?

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas with the people they love. We enjoyed a really nice celebration for the Winter Solstice...

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Our meal for Yule: sun bread, vegetables and pork en croute.

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It was actually very reflective and relaxing.

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As for Christmas I made us a prime rib with all the fixings and our favorite egg nog pie.

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As we kept checking the temperature in case we were imagining it.

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And I even found some elves!! Puffin makes the perfect elf...

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And Peter, he wasn't sure he wanted to be an elf at all... but he tried it.

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Even Rollie tolerated a little Christmas cheer. He's not big on dress up although he does fully approve of eggnog.

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Of course he also approves of cookies too, which I made a whole lot of! This is the first year I did not send out Christmas cards mainly because I just didn't have the energy this year, but also because of cost. I did mail cookies though, and was surprised they held up well on their way to their destinations.

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Otherwise there has been a lot of resting going on around here...

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And still lots of knitting...

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I'm doing chores when I can. No two days are the same for me still energy wise but I'm so grateful for all I can do and am doing. I'm just continuing to take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

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Now I'm going to share some pictures from the past couple of weeks, most of the time when we did have our snow!

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Lavender growing like a weed...

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Flavious very happy. Winter is his favorite time of year.

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Rollie racing home after a walk...

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Santa Rollie visiting Jackson

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My happy boy coming to greet me on my way to the barn for evening chores.

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Everyone more than ready to call it a night and go inside to bed...

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This is one of my favorite pictures from December, walking home after evening chores, following my goat path towards the house lit up with Christmas lights.

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Someone decided to slack off during the holidays and gave us a mini egg. It was still delicious though, so it was O.K. It was the holidays after all!

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Here is Aurora and Brie the other day, with the snow gone.... Just before Christmas we made a five hour trek to pick up a milking stand I bought from a 7 year old boy who builds them with his dad. He was trying to save some money to buy toys. I used the money I had made selling some of my fingerless knit gloves to buy the stand from him, and he used the money to go to Toys R us. Everyone was happy with that deal! :)

This will be the first time I'll be milking Brie if all goes well, and it's going to be an adventure. I haven't started working with a new milking goat since 2009. I did not need a stand with Biscuit, but I know I will with Brie and Bea, my other two dairy girls, and it will be easier on me probably as well.

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It was a long drive to get the milking stand but it was worth it. It was a great family selling the stand and a great kid - he handled all the dealings with the sale and I was impressed at the lessons his parents are teaching him. I don't even like kids - but this guy won me over.

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Before we left, he came back from the house and gifted us with a pack of smoked sausages from their own pig for Christmas. They were super delicious. I called his mom to let her know I appreciated it and also to commend her for raising such good kids. She told me she appreciated it because it's very difficult and trying and I have no doubt. I couldn't do it, but I haven't seen a kid of that age be as polite and motivated in a very long time.

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Our deer situation continues to be nothing like it has been the 10 years I've lived here. Most of our herd is gone. It's actually quite heartbreaking. For 10 years we've had the same deer come back - and over the years we loose some but we've always had regulars. Our faithful friend Torn Ear we did not expect back considering he was 11 or 12 years old and had so many injuries the past few years, with loosing his eye and being torn up the past two years. But our Deer Norman showed up only briefly with his antlers all broken off, and all of our does are gone.

Only one of our bucks, Leo, made it through hunting season and visits us, and we also have a couple does with fawns and one orphan fawn. We always have at least one orphan fawn show up after hunting season to hang around here for safety and food. It's reassuring they are not ALL gone but their behavior has changed dramatically too.

Every year they sleep around the house, they do not run from us, and they feel safe here. This year they are terrified of everything - and I mean everything. They are in a constant state of fear and ready to run. Last winter between the ice, wolves, and this hunting season sure took it's toll. I hope some day things will return to the peace we had here before and in the meantime I'm grateful some of our friends have returned. But we are still shocked at how dramatic the change has been in their behavior and patterns.

We spoke to our local game warden after hunting season and he acknowledged the deer population has dropped dramatically and the rules need to be changed again to support more conservation, but so far the Government hasn't done it. That's not be anti hunting - although we do not hunt, but we know this area well and the populations and what they have been through - and the deer need a break so that we do not loose the population entirely. Hopefully people will realize that before it's too late.

So far it has been an easy winter on them though, so that will help.

I do not believe in New Years resolutions. But I am grateful to be starting a new Year, and I am hopeful and looking forward to everything it brings. It's been a hell of a year. Lots of painful things have happened on our farm, just like everywhere else. But also plenty of beautiful, breathtaking, moments that remind us what life is all about and what is really important. Both carry lessons, so both are gifts in the long run.

To be honest, it's been so hard to get back into writing. I want to write, it's in me to write, but it's been so long since anything was routine or "normal" for me. And since I'm still so tired all of the time, and things are so up and down, it's hard to find a flow, and to find my voice. When I was writing steadily and not as sick, it was so much easier blogging, sharing my life and thoughts with all of you because it just flowed so easily for me.

There is no flow yet. There are sparks of creativity, of excitement, of normalcy, but it's not consistent. It's so easy for me to start something and not be able to finish it - including my train of thought, which is why writing has been hard for me. The way back for me, will be writing at the very moment things happen and maybe writing less at a time, which was what I used to do. Now I wait, and time goes by, and feelings change, memories become faded or distorted. I cannot tell you how many emails I have started in the past months, simple emails that were just basic, nothing stressful, and I cannot even finish them. The fatigue is sometimes so consuming I forget what I was even doing at certain times, simple times, like in the middle of cooking dinner.

But I'll get there, I'll get back to myself, writing will become easier, and things will flow again, I know they will. It will take time and I appreciate your patience with me and support as I go through this journey. I always ask Kevin to check my posts and the past few posts I've questioned posting. I want to at least share pictures and updates but It's a struggle for me and I hate that my voice and my writing just isn't "right." It always amazes me when I've had readers who have become friends through blogging tell me, they could tell something was wrong with me or off just simply because of my writing... that has touched my heart very deeply to know that people can know me in that way, that they pay that much attention, or care that much.

Kevin said, no, this isn't like your usual writing, but it's an update, and also he said, if I do not share this part of my journey with you all, I'd be going against my own purpose of having a blog. I wouldn't be being honest if I saved only my best writing to share with you. And he's right. So for a while, my posts might be different, my voice might be a little quieter or it might crack once and a while...

But I hope eventually, or rather, I know eventually, it will come back loud and clear.

Cheers to each one of you, thank you for your support and I look forward to starting a New Year with you! :) 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hello December!

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This morning I woke up to find just a sprinkle of snow dusting the ground. We did get snow in late November but then it quickly all went away again. It's been a busy couple of weeks and I've been taking each day as it comes and trying to remember to take each day for what it is, and nothing more. And just be grateful for it.

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It was cold today, but the sun was shining. So far our weather has been very reminiscent of the year Braveheart (Lambie) our blind ram was born. On the 5th he'll be eight years old! I can hardly believe it. That winter we had no snow until the end of January and even then, only a tiny bit. The ground was bare all of December and I remember taking Lambie outside on Christmas day to visit the "animals" at the barn which freaked him out since all he knew was the house, his play pen, and dogs.

After chores, me and the small boys went for a walk to take advantage of the nice day...

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We walked through the thick bush a bit as I was hoping to stumble upon some deer antlers. But I had overdressed and it was hard to walk with my heavy coveralls on, so we worked our way back out to the trail where the walking was a lot easier.

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Rollie was not thrilled as you can see, when I asked him to sit for a photo. He loves running so it's hard to get a picture of him outside that's not a blur. What a look I got!

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In the maples I decided to sit down and take a break and just enjoy the crisp air and sunshine.

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It was perfect... except I could barely get up because of my layers. I was dressed for snow even though we don't have any. But Norman enjoyed using me as a comfortable bed for a while anyway.

This weather is perfect for walking, cold but sunny and with the ground nice and firm...

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The boys LOVE their walks.

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Last week we walked in an area I had not been to in a long time. Last summer the dam went out so it was interesting to see the new much bigger dam that the beavers have built quite a way back from the dam that got busted.

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That red grass Rollie is running in used to all be under water and part of the pond, and the dam was where that black spot is behind Rollie, one part of the dam on the right side remains, the rest of it got pushed out. It took out a lot of trees as the water rushed down the creek. We are not sure what caused it to go since it happened in August when we were in Texas.

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I haven't walked along the creek in ages and I wasn't planning a big walk, but we ended up walking for a few hours. It was a BIG walk and it was rough on my body but it felt so good to be out in my forest, hiking, and it's really the only time I feel completely content and peaceful.

My mind rarely shuts up, but in the forest I naturally meditate without even trying. The only thing I focus on with my eyes and mind is the world around me.

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That day there was a thin layer of ice over the pond and I had to keep yelling at Rollie to stay off it since he didn't know better. He wanted to get out there and run so bad.

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It's hard to believe a week ago it looked like this...

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We didn't have a ton of snow and it was nice walking snow, fluffy but firm enough it was great for getting around in.

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The goats were not thrilled about it however...

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Even though the weather was still beautiful they didn't really see any reason to be outside.

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Bedtime is always a favorite time of day but especially this time of year!

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Mostly I think it's got to do with the treats though...

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I thought for sure the snow would be here to stay, but it left almost as quickly as it came.

After we came home from our walk today, I put some beef and barley stew on and made a batch of cookies for the guys. They spent the afternoon out hauling in rounds of wood they had cut from the forest to the wood yard. I make cookies for them pretty much every day they work outside. I wish I could be helping with wood, I tried to talk Kevin into cutting smaller rounds so I could lift them but we both know that's not a good idea for me to be doing yet. Well it's not just a bad idea, I can't physically do it. But a girl can dream. Someday I'll be back at it.

I have been knitting up a storm still and have knit several scarves, some for gifts, some I'm hoping to sell...

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But I needed a break from that and I wanted to accomplish something new today, so I took the plunge and pulled out all my tools and made a batch of soap. I have had everything I needed for a while now, and I've been freezing goats milk and keeping it aside for soap making. I haven't been able to tackle it because my health has been so unreliable I was worried that I'd start a process I couldn't stop and not be able to continue because of pain or fatigue. Well today I went through all my basic notes (I've researched a ton, but sometimes you need to not over load yourself with information and just get to the facts.) I've made lots of lotions, bars, candles, etc, the only thing I haven't done is work with lye. 

The weather was great so I did the lye work outside with my frozen goats milk ice cubes and everything went fine. I had all my protective gear on, I had no splashes, no spills, the lye did not jump up out of the pot and grab a hold of my throat or burn the house down.

So at that point I already felt accomplished.

It's funny how lye is so terrifying to us now when how many homesteading women used it every single day without any protective gear at all? The main thing with using lye is just common sense, protect your skin, and eyes, but also, just don't be stupid. It's that simple really. 

I used coconut, olive, and pumpkin seed oil in my soap and added some honey and oatmeal. I wanted to keep it basic as I figure out what the heck I'm doing. But learning is in doing, not just reading or thinking about it.

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I started teaching myself to knit years ago. And just in the past two years did I really start properly understanding the foundations of why you do things in knitting, how the patterns are formed, and how to build things. I figured this out not because of all the books I've read or videos I've watched (which of course were the foundations and very useful) but I learned this from just doing it. You actually start to understand the process better, why you are doing certain things and what those certain steps will lead to. 

After blending my soap with a hand blender, I put it in some milk cartons I had saved for this purpose and set it aside. I wasn't going for looks with this batch, I just want it to work. In 24 hours if it sets up as it's supposed to, I can take it out of the mold, slice it, and then let it cure. We'll see what happens. Maybe it worked. Maybe it didn't. But the point is, I did it

Finally I felt that sense of accomplishment that I have not felt in so long. Sure I cook A LOT almost everyday. I've been finishing knitting projects like a crazy person. But today I felt like I actually really accomplished something, and that made me feel great. I know I'll rest well tonight and I can't wait to hopefully cut the bars of soap tomorrow so I can let them cure!

I'm amazed December is already here, it seems like it arrived so quickly. But I'm grateful for it, and despite things I'm still dealing with, I'm a lot happier and stronger this December, and I can see how far I've come. I am also looking forward to how far I can go - and that is something I hadn't been doing for a couple of Decembers now.

This year, I welcome December with an open heart, a ton of knit clothing, and maybe some good moisturizing soap!  
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