Monday, 27 December 2010

To-Do update 2011

Apparently I never made an official 2010 to do list, but there was enough left over from 2009 that I'll start with that.

The last 'to do' update is here, and I'm updating from that -

The chickens have a heater on the water which has made chores there much easier. I got a heated bowl for the dogs at the same time - this saves lots of trips with buckets.

The porch will be rebuilt this year, but we havn't touched it since the repair in 2009.

Gutters I'm still on the fence about - there are two cisterns near the house to fill in first, and I don't think gutters will be needed for most of the house once those are fixed because of the eaves and ground slope.

Painting is mostly done but we have a few hard to get to places to finish - we'll finish this spring some time.

Weatherization we could do more of, but we've done some. The house this year is far, far warmer since we have the stove working finally. We haven't had nearly the issues with pipes freezing either, which makes for much more sleep at night.

Firewood - Geez. I didn't have nearly enough wood cut. We finally have the chimney lined and the kitchen queen stove running 24x7. That takes a LOT of wood. I'm buying most of it, which still saves money, but I plan to cut a lot more for next year.

We did not get a milk cow, nor a steer, but we did get sheep! We're excited about it. We'll have lambs in the spring and we have all sorts of plans for this. It's been a lot of work, but we're set up for a cow now as soon as we decide we are ready.

We didn't rock the driveway - I've pretty much decided against it this year as well, that money is better spent on other stuff.

We've burned a lot of brush, but the folks I called to clean up the junk never came back. I'll call them again in the spring to see if they are interested in the scrap. If not, we'll start doing it a little at a time. Every time I look at that junk pile that was left on the property I get irritated at the 10+ years of laziness that created it.

Bees we're well into - Danelle has been tending three hives for BlueGate farm and we plan to get a few hives of our own started this year.

The basement bulkhead and garage wall is still pending repair, but it's holding nicely. The new tractor will make clearing out some of the cement for that much easier, this will probably be put off another year.

Some of the major accomplishments this year -

Expanding to 18 pigs and bringing them all to market successfully. We plan to raise between 30 and 40 this year, and I hope to acquire our first breeding animals as well. This was a lot of work, every day. We've got some new feeders and strategies for feeding/watering that should make this easier now though.

We're shepherds now as I mentioned above - 14 sheep and a llama. We'll be selling the fleece for hand spinning and some lambs for meat.

Bees! Danelle did the apprenticeship and she'll continue that and we'll get our own hives soon.

We've got 20ish fruit trees planted. Step 2: Wait 5 years. sigh.

The stove being installed was a huge deal for us - that project sapped tons of vacation time, energy and money trying to get completed, but it's done. The house is now warm, and if the power goes out it will stay that way - this is a huge relief, and we're glad to move on.

Starting with late last year, we've had an enormous amount of vehicle trouble. Probably around $7500+ this year went for repairs, parts, tires, etc. My truck is still not back from getting a new transmission. It's frustrating to think of what we could have gotten done if that stuff hadn't happened. But it's all done now right? Right?

We attended our first farm auction and purchased a trailer for a good price - we've used it a LOT. Enough that I've considered selling it and upgrading, but that probably won't happen for a while.

We purged most of the one-off chicken breeds from the laying flock and have selected buff orpingtons and barred rocks as our go forward layers. We also hatched our own clutch of chickens on farm (that was really fun).

Our garden flopped from inattention - I'll be fixing that this year by scaling back a lot. We did have lots of success harvesting the mulberries, mint, and strawberries that came with the farm. Plenty was put up for the rest of the year.

Lot's of 'almost done' repairs on the south side house siding - one more section to finish.

We did some 'sample sundays' with Prairie Land Herbs which helped prepare us being on the farm crawl at Reicharts Dairy-aire. This was a ton of work and forced us to spend time and money on promotional materials that have been very helpful.

Baby Isaac was born in November - he's a quiet one so far. Having mama be able to be up and around again is nice - this was a hard pregnancy for her.

As I said last year, I'll try to put out an actual 'to do' later.

Monday, 20 December 2010

6 Week Update

I am cleared to go driving and lifting all I want. Whoo hoo!

Baby Zap now weighs 6 lbs 13 ounces. I am only 10 away from pre-pregnancy weight as well. So, in that respect, all is good.

I have less frequent headaches, and I suspect that it was from sleep deprivation. I have discovered that a bit of caffination helps and confirmed with the doc that a sip of coffee now and then won't hurt if it helps the headache. If it doesn't a bit of advil does the trick. I think sleep and rest post semester will help more than any of that. Oh, and a long hot bath soaking in yummy bath salts my friend Maggie sent me. That's on the menu for tonight.

Some of you may know that I suffered a bit of depression recently. Adjusting to three wee ones was not the hard part, but dealing with the early delivery and dissappointment in my last chance at a normal birth not working out (ie almost dying) with the addition of the financial stress of not having sold the Des Moines House going into another winter were hard on me. Add a pinch of family drama (on my side of the family, like usual), my brother being overseas, and the isolation of the farm and I was really in need of a helping hand.

And that's what I got. A handful of friends kept the encouragement coming via facebook and blogger and the ladies a church threw a baby shower for me and brought meals. One mama friend chatted with me in the wee hours and the next week brought me tea. I needed this, I prayed for help, and my prayers were answered in many ways, some unexpected.

Chad has been super busy with work and even busier with the farm and livestock. I am sure things would be better if he were at home more, and I keep praying for blizzards and snowpocolypes until I remember....that weather makes him want to go to Walmart or the mall. The rest of the year, he's a homebody but someones says the highways are closing and Chad wants to hop in the truck and go. He's a midwesterner through and through.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Don't Turn Down Help When Offered

Yesterday Lil'Bug came to me and asked if there was something she could clean and mop. Why yes! I gave her the three tasks of the downstairs bathroom: spray and wipe down the shower stall with vinegar mix, scrub the fingerpaint and toothpaste off the sink, and sweep and mop the floors. 30 minutes later she had done all three tasks and done them pretty well. Not perfect (still blue and green on the sink and the shower was only done as high as she could reach) BUT there was no way I was going to touch what she did.

It might have crushed her if I had finished them up, saying by my actions that she had not done a good enough job. Instead, I praised her and gushed over how much her help made ME feel appreciated. She tried to get Blueberry Girl to help, but that little ninja didn't think the task was naughty enough to sound fun. She's more into the mess making side of things right now. She tried to recreate the flour incident with a small box of baking soda. I still can't believe that the picture we sent to SMKR didn't make the daily posts? Oh well.

I will add that I HATE this bathroom. It needs so much work. There is no working light or outlet, the window falls in when I try to open it, and a panel of wall next to the toilet is out right now to better keep the pipes from freezing.

And still, it is nice to have a working shower (especially when working pigs) and a second bathroom and a bathroom on the main floor for guests and potty training ninja babies. Once our Des Moines house sells, this bathroom will get a nice spa treatment with a mudmask and makeover. It will be lovely.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Pictures of Ewe.....

From left to right, Buttercup, three lambs, and the famous Marshmallow! I know, I can actually count. There are actually two brown lambs, one is hiding behind Mama Buttercup. Welcome to our little piece of Iowa heaven dears!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Pictures of You.....

The Smells of the Holidays

There's no way to sweeten the ideal, we are pig farmers and have three rough and tumble kids under 7. That means I do a LOT of laundry and deal with a lot of really bad smells. Those of you with kids and or pigs probably know that the majority of these smells come from the kids!

But there is a catch, everyone in our house is allergic to commercial chemicals, deoderizers, and fragrances and it is a range of reactions, from severe skin blistering to headaches to sinus irritation. It is easy enough to switch to hyper allergenic clothes washing, pure soaps, and natural cleaners but what about getting smells out of unconventional places and what about pleasant scents?

My first step is always to clean, but that's not always enough.

To start with, white vinager is a great deoderizer. Works the same way that Febreeze does, it pickles the stink and kills the bacteria. I used to demonstrate Febreeze and had to study the product before hand. Basically the same idea. I add a little peppermint oil to the bottle so when it dries it smells minty fresh! My oldest daughter calls this Peppermint Pickle spray. I works as a first aid spray too (all be it a painful one) and a quick hand sanitizer. I use a mix of this as a rinse in my clothes washer too.

Then to make the house fragrant if company is coming I collect the orange/clementine peels and mostly eaten apples that are abundant this time of year at my house. Through the day the girls add them to a stove pot, I cover with water and add a cinnamon stick or two and simmer; add water as needed. Ta da! It adds humidity we need right now and smells amazing with no allergic reactions. I have also done this with just mint, but it is not as strong.

How do you combat stink at your house?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Happy Happy Farm Day for Farmer Chad


Frugal Fruit

When Julia asked me to take part in her frugal blog tour, I struggled to think of a topic.  Then it came to me....fruit!

Who doesn't love fruit? Or rather who does in my house....the answer is everybody including our livestock. What is not to love? It is healthy and sweet and full of good nutrients. It can also be expensive but it doesn't have to be.

In fact, most of the fruit brought home to our farm last summer was free. Even when we lived in the city I managed to "score" hundreds of pounds of fresh, ripe, organic fruit for free. How? I paid attention and I asked.

The first year I brought home the apples it was because a nursing home posted online that they had trees that needed picking. When the facility was built, various fruit trees were planted and now they were basically neglected and so heavy with fruit the branches were breaking. Organic by neglect and only a short drive from home, we brought our own picker and had at it. Every year I go back (with the grounds keeper's permission) with buckets in hand and a few friends and we bring home more than enough apples and pears to fill my pantry and freezer for the year.

This year I brought extra buckets and cleaned up all the windfall too (the grounds keeper was thrilled!). The hogs and chickens we raise could not get enough. That go me thinking about how to get them I asked around. Anyone I know have an apple tree that was bothering them? Ha! Surprisingly, four or five friends did have an apple tree problem. Perfect, lovely apples that were just going to waste were suddenly put to very good use with a very small effort on my part. I brought home about 4000 lbs of apples this year to feed 18 Berkshire pigs that we pasture.

When we lived cityside I would also see neglected trees while walking my kids and dog around the neighborhood. Peaches, apricots, cherries, and mulberries that no one bothered to pick. A quick knock on a door or a note left in the screen would not only yield my pantry but also expand my community.

I also added wild crafting to my fruit gathering repertoire. I found red and black raspberries wild in my own backyard. Then I found wild plum, mulberries, boysenberries, elderberries, an blackberries.  I gathered and froze or canned and much as I could. Then I started to notice these berries everywhere we went, public parks and ditches were overflowing with food! (Note: most ditches in Iowa are sprayed with pesticide and they manage road runoff so not the best place for harvest, IMO).

Not all my fruit needs were satisfied this way though. My kids are HUGE peach fans and no one who had peaches were giving those up for free. Ha! A local family owned store near us had 50 lb crates of Missouri peaches for $13 dollars this summer. I bought 5 over the course of two months and canned 2 of them. The the rest my kids ate out of hand and any spoilage went to our chickens. This same store had apricots and blueberries for a similar price too. I asked the storekeeper about spoilage and a few times they called me and sold me crates of bruised fruit for 3$ at the end of the week. CRATES! That all went to the pigs. Pigs like bruised fruit.  It doesn't hurt to ask.

We also cultivated our own garden fruit too. A small patch (10 ft by 15 ft) of strawberries yielded 135 lbs of fruit for us this year. We froze about 90lbs, ate until we were red in the face, and shared with friends too. We planted raspberry canes and watermelons too.

When my kids chomp through the fruit basket for the week I don't cringe at the expense. I know the ingredient list and I know who picked it for the most part. My freezer is brimming with the summer bounty and I will relish the taste of local sunshine in pies, smoothies, and fruit Popsicles all winter.