Saturday, 19 February 2011

Farm Work Day: Lovely Childhood

I somehow captured this smile while documenting the vet in the pasture. Blueberry Girl ran up beside me and said, "Here I is! Smile!" I love, love, love the moments of sheer windblown happiness on the farm. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Blizzard 2011 Feburary First

So this month, I got to sit and read everyone enjoying the snow days with a heavy heart. Sure, we were at times curled up with a roaring fire in the wood stove, venison roast slow cooking, and homemade cherry sodas and hot cocoa....but the rest of the time Chad was outside doing regular chores in 40mph gusting (-60 windchills) winds, ice dagger snow, below zero temps and even colder wind chills.

So here are my neglected blizzard/winter updates.

Pipes freezing. Last year I couldn't leave the house if it was in the teens or below because the water had to be run every hour to keep pipes from freezing. This year Chad insulated the pipes going upstairs, set a timer on the basement faucet to run the water automatically every so many hours, and changed some stuff around. We've had outside temperatures in the NEGATIVE twenties and teens and been ok. Only a few times did the upstairs and laundry room cold water pipes freeze and once the wind froze the hot water heater (a tankless). Just once. Mostly I can leave the house without worrying about it, but with the baby it is not likely that I will leave the house when it is that cold anyway. You know?

Keeping the wood stove going is easy during the day. At night Chad gets up every 3 hours and tends it. The way he does it burns more wood than the way I manage it during the day, but that's mostly so he can sleep. We grossly underestimated the amount of wood needed, but even since purchasing the wood, we have saved money in heating PLUS we are actually comfortable and can heat the downstairs to 70 degrees. Last year it was a good day if we could keep it at 60 and the girls and I spent a lot of time upstairs where the furnace actually worked, which was ok since I had to constantly do laundry to keep water going through the pipes so they wouldn't freeze. This winter I have only needed to do laundry once a week. :)

Our chickens stop laying in the winter. We don't give them supplemental light. I know its not efficient and our customers really want our eggs, but I like the idea of giving the ladies a seasonal break. They have started laying again now that the days are getting longer. They fared the cold well, we also don't have supplemental heat in their coop, but we use deep bedding. They do get heated water though.

When the blizzard and dangerous cold hit our farm we still had two sheep in the "med shed".  Basically Chad rigged up a livestock trailer with deep bedding for them to be close to the house. Paddington was still healing from the amazingly gory and horrific wound from the dog attack. He was doing well and was about to be renamed Rasputin since we'd seen him come back from the brink of death so many times. Suddenly he was comatose and two days later he died at the vet's. We also lost our ram, who was perfectly healthy. We had post mortem done on both and showed that they were eating well and had few parasites and good muscle tone and healthy organs.  The official cause of death was "severe cold". The idea has been put out that maybe our hay quality did not match up with our mineral supplements. So we are crash course learning about soil/grass deficiencies and sheep nutrition. We had a couple ewes start showing signs of lethargy like the ram did and so we were proactive and gave them vitamin shots. So far, so good. Lucky for us that we planned our lambing to be late Spring and we have lots of time to figure this out. Our next batch of hay will be tested and we can match the supplements with its deficiencies for a more exact nutrition. Good can come of bad.....

Our dogs are outside dogs. Even in the cold. We tried to, and did, bring in Lucy when the winds were bad, but she hated it. Coming in to the super warm house isn't actually good for her. We had sure she had unfrozen water to drink and deep bedded shelter and she was fine and happy. I also fed her fatty meats. The high fat content helps her keep her body warm. Hobbit is old and comes inside gladly.

The kids love the snow and hated the sub zero weather because mean old mama kept them inside in the dangerous temperatures. They survived it by climbing the walls, jumping on everything and everyone, I let them trace out the foliage mural on their room wall, and when things got mean I made them do chores. Ha. Actually, the floors are quite clean as a result.

Some things I never thought I'd have to do as a farmer. This week I had to explain to the grocery clerk that yes, I was loading my groceries on to my two year and six year old's laps because the bags of chicken food were taking up the empty seats and floor space in my full size pick up....and they were there because the vet did the post mortem in the truck bed and the dead sheep were still back there (we were just driving home from that and it's not like I could unload them anyway....).....and the grocery clerk wasn't even phased. Farm life. You know? Also, in the last month I have learned a lot more about livestock vet science then I thought about previously.

So, that's how we have weathered this last round of weather. About 30 minutes prior to writing this post I was Googling Iowa Girls Basketball Tournament dates. Why? Because the last big blizzard of the season is always that week in March. Always. Then it snows again in April at least once randomly. So, this years tourney storm? First week in March. Looking that up was a turning point. I think I am officially, after living here for 16 years, an Iowan. Right?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Clementine Betrayal

So following the last post, I feel inclined to disclose the Clementine incident.

So, background....if I buy 1 bag of Clementines they all get eaten the first and second day. If I buy two bags of them, then they all get eat the first and second day. Now, I love Clementines, so I understand. So this last time I squirreled away about 10 for myself. I thought I would stealthily indulge on afternoon.....

and I was caught. The look was one of shock. Followed by silence. Then...

"Mom, what is that?"

me: "A Clementine."


me: "Hey. Yes. I do."


me: "Yes, you ate yours. These are mine."


me: "No?"


me: "Yes. And you didn't share with me. So I set these aside."



More silence.

Ever since I have not gone alone into the kitchen. They are quick footed. When we replenished supply, the new pattern is that they get out 3 at a time, one for each of them and one for me, which is nice.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Someone recently asked me what we do for snacks around here. We do snacks at will, as in the kids have full access to have them at any time they feel hungry, even 10 minutes right before dinner (though I discourage that by getting them busy helping me with dinner preparations.)

Why? I regulate my own hunger and eat at will. Most adults do, so in raising them to be adults I want to create healthy habits. If healthy snacks are available and they learn to regulate their own hunger, they form good habits. They also take pride in creating pretty presentations and preparing the food for each other. They know they can ask for help at any time too. I also encourage them to drink water, because sometimes thirst pretends it is hunger.

Dried fruit
popcorn (in lard or coconut oil)
cookies (rare)
frozen fruit
yogurt (Greek)
beef jerky
peanut or sunflower seed butter sandwiches
hard boiled eggs
fresh fruit
carrots and celery
chips and salsa

In the summer, full access means they might eat 10 peaches each in a day. You know what? It's peaches, not soda pop, chips, and candy. In the winter, I keep a bucket of apples in the kitchen and they eat at those. Again, it's fruit not junk.

They recently realized that many breakfast foods are included in the snacks so they make their own breakfast too. Later they often ask for a second breakfast (the little Hobbits). Sometimes elevensies. ;)

For car trips, apples and crackers. Easy to pass out and eat and clean up. We will stop and get food while out too. Smoothies are a favourite.

We don't do dessert except for holidays or special occasions. We have blood sugar issues and there tends to be less problems at night if we avoid the idea of dessert after dinner. It also eliminates the child urge to "save room" and not eat dinner. Ha!

Here's the thing. We ALWAYS have ice cream in the freezer. I love ice cream. There is no limit on that treat either. They girls still choose yogurt and fruit and cheese. They also don't feel pressured to "finish" what is on their plate, even dessert items. I wish I could get that kind of control for myself!

Also, I found that if I buy fruit snacks....that's what gets eaten. So I buy the healthy foods. I don't buy the junk if I can help it. I only go to the store every other week so when they run out of something, like clementines, they are gone until next time. At the end, snack time gets creative- that's a good thing!