Dogs, Chickens, Goats and more

First let me say please forgive my absence from the blogging world. I just haven’t felt it lately and I will tell you why. In my last post I told you all how we were a year mourning our precious Sara Lee. We finally decided it was time to get a pup because Hemi was so lonely. We ended up rescuing two of them. They are adorable German Shepherd and black lab mix.

 

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Phoenix and Onyx napping while we plant potatoes!
Phoenix and Onyx napping while we plant potatoes!

 

Sweet pups
Sweet pups

 

 

 

 

Hemi learned to love them and they were getting along so well and then the unthinkable happened. We got a call…Hemi had been hit by a car. A year and a couple of weeks after Sara Lee. Oh how our hearts hurt. I know you must be wondering so I’ll go ahead and say it..We live at least a 1/4 mile off the road. Hemi did not go to the road. She had no reason to with all the fun here. Last year we determined that she and Sara Lee ran across the road chasing deer.  This time no deer, no reason to be there. Trees around us were cut and it is more noisy out here. We are hearing cars and seeing neighbors lights that we’ve never heard and seen before. Our best guess is that she heard something she thought needed investigating. The person who hit her was kind and apologetic and that helps but our son is still aching for his sweet Hemi.

We got our goats finally late January. They are boers and we are totally in love with them. Buddy, Daisy and Butter Cup bring us a lot of joy. Hemi had been totally fascinated with them. I imagined that she was thinking “What kind of dog is this? She stayed beside them for weeks.

 

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Peek-a-boo

Since Hemi’s passing we are focusing on each other, the pups, the goats and chickens, ducks, and the garden. There is always so much work to be done. Life is still good out here on the farm despite the losses we have faced. I know all of you understand. Sometime life is just tough. However, we are taking things one day at a time and counting our blessings and not our sorrows.

Can I drive this thing?
Can I drive this thing?

It’s 2016! Welcome to our little farm.

Few days old

When Farmer Cheese and I started raising chickens 4 years ago this March, I don’t think either of us envisioned nearly 90 of them! The funny thing is we are adding more. We can’t keep up with the demand for eggs and we are so infatuated with our little feathered friends. Since our humble beginnings we have learned a lot. We have suffered losses, watched new life hatch and can truly say this is what we really want to do now. In addition to the chickens this January we will be adding boer goats. We have been busy as little beavers getting the fencing ready. Milk goats are still in our future plans but yard goats are coming first. We are so very excited. We also garden to fill our freezer with fresh veggies. You will also find me in the kitchen canning and making jams and jellies in the spring and summer time. In Dec 2014 we processed a deer for the freezer so we still have plenty of meat for the upcoming year. We made sausage, steaks, roasts, and ground some for hamburger. We feel an accomplishment at having done this ourselves. (We have not been as lucky this year. The clear cutting of land all around us has scared all the animals away)
We are not nearly as self-sufficient as we’d like but we are working on it. Each day that we can spend less time and money in the grocery store is a step in the right direction.  We also plan on getting honey bees in the next year or so. We are working as hard as we can to prepare a homesteading life to enjoy when we retire. Some days it feels like we take a step or two backward for each step forward! Hopefully in a few more years we can both quit “working” and spend our time here on the farm. Thanks for joining us on our journey.

The old days- I want them back

Every fall when we go to the mountains I am reminded of how simple life used to be and how complex we have made things now. As we hiked the old wagon trails I can’t help but wonder how it must have felt to get up with the sun and work and hunt the land for provisions. And of course after a long hard day off to bed at dark.

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No television, computers, cell phones, etc. for mindless distractions just family spending time working together, cooking together, and chilling around the fireplace in the evenings.

Sure the modern advances in medicine are a plus. It is heartbreaking to visit the old cemeteries and see rocks and pieces of slate with names of babies and young children carved in them that died of diseases we can heal so simply now.

The modern farming equipment is so very helpful too. And of course without technology I wouldn’t be writing this nor would you be reading it.  Somewhere along the way though we lost sight of the fact that working is beneficial for our mind, bodies, and soul. And that families cant help but grow closer when they work together for their very survival.

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How did we come to rely so heavily on something and someone to do everything for us? I can remember just a few years ago when I was a child (ok maybe more than a few) at my grandmothers picking peas and other vegetables and watching all the women canning and freezing them. It was just what they did.

I also remember a time when everyone seemed to stop all that because the grocery stores made it all so convenient. Convenience took the place of healthy, homemade, gathering in the gardens and in the kitchens. And right about this time more and more women went to work outside the home. There is not a lot of time for home and family and a full-time job.   It became hard to make ends meet without a two income family.

Now we as a society have begun to realize that we are killing ourselves with our unhealthy habits. People are beginning to garden again even if it’s in pots on the porch. Young people are learning about home canning. Restaurants, even fast food chains, are beginning to offer healthier choices. It is all a step in the right direction. We as a country still have so far to go. I long for a day when more people can step out their doors and have all the food they need right there. And those who can’t grow their own will realize how important it is to buy fresh from those who do. In two years I will be able to retire from the worldly rat race. I hope I can bring back some more old ways into our lives.

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Squash

Homesteading state of mind

Here in the South we have an expression “the north 40” meaning we have a lot of land and we’ve got to go way over yonder to plant, water, feed, or fix something! I’m sure everyone dreams of a homestead like that, me included. But is it necessary to garden, home some animals, and  live like a homesteader? Absolutely not. Homesteading is about becoming more self-sufficient, making wiser choices. It’s about eating healthier food that we grow ourselves and that our animals provide for us. It’s about making things simpler. Are we completely there? I wish. We still have a long way to go, but as long as we are moving forward toward self-sufficiency then I feel good about our progress. We do have some acreage around us. We also have a lot of planted pines so we use every space available. We use planter boxes for herbs and pots for cherry tomatoes. Planting my pot tomatoes is on my list of things to do very soon! We have actually had our best success with them on the deck in pots.  Each spring we do plant a pretty large garden area with potatoes, green beans, peas, peppers, okra, tomatoes, and some other foods we enjoy. But I also know of people who grow the same in their square foot gardens!

We live in the country so our chickens roam around wherever they please.  That would be difficult on an urban homestead but animals are possible. Just make sure you check all your local ordinances first!

Got a porch or deck? A yard or a window sill? Get a pot and some soil and plant something. Then enjoy the fruits of your harvest because you have taken steps toward becoming a homesteader.

Middles enjoying their cool treat
Middles enjoying a cool treat
Herbs
Herbs
Kale
Kale

The dirty dozen!

Have you ever heard of “The dirty dozen”. No, not the 1967 movie, but the dirty little fruits and veggies in your grocery store! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled a list of foods that are conventionally grown that  allow pesticides to stick to them more so than others do. Those 12+are known as the dirty dozen and for your health’s sake and that of your family, unless you like eating a whole slew of chemicals, should be bought organically. Is there a farmers market near you? I’m sure they have a lot of fresh produce as well as other goodies. Or if you can, growing them yourself is a fun option. Just a little side note, the EWG and your mama want you to eat your fruits and veggies so if you have to buy conventional scrub the dickens out of the little boogers. And try not to buy the ones conventionally you can’t scrub. 😉 Here is a list of those dirty little rascals.

 Dirty Dozen

Apples
Peaches
Nectarines
Strawberries
Celery
celery
Spinach
Sweet bell peppers
Cucumbers
Cherry tomatoes
Imported Snap peas
Potatoes
Hot peppers
Kale and collard greens.

Kale
Kale

There are conventional fruits and veggies that are considered cleaner and safer. The best option of course, a local farmers market or growing them yourself.

Clean Fifteen

Some of the yummy clean 15! Photo credit: Everydayhealth.com
Some of the yummy clean 15! Photo credit: Everydayhealth.com

Avocados
Sweet corn
Pineapples
Cabbage
Frozen Sweet peas
Onions
Asparagus
Mangos
Papayas
Kiwi
Eggplant
Grapefruit
Cantaloupe
Cauliflower
Sweet potatoes

It’s a New Year: Meet Farmer and Mrs. Cheese!

Few days oldWhen Farmer Cheese and I started raising chickens 3 years ago this March, I don’t think either of us envisioned nearly 70 of them! The funny thing is we are adding more. We can’t keep up with the demand for eggs and we are so infatuated with our little feathered friends. Since our humble beginnings we have learned a lot. We have suffered losses, watched new life hatch and can truly say this is what we really want to do now. In addition to the chickens we garden to fill our freezer with fresh veggies. You will also find me in the kitchen canning and making jams and jellies in the spring and summer time. Earlier in December and last week we processed a deer for the freezer so we should have plenty of meat through the upcoming year. We made sausage, steaks, roasts, and ground some for hamburger. We feel an accomplishment at having done this ourselves. We are not nearly as self-sufficient as we’d like but we are working on it. Each day that we can spend less time and money in the grocery store is a step in the right direction.  We would like to have milk goats and honey bees in the future. We are working as hard as we can to prepare a homesteading life to enjoy when we retire. Hopefully in a few more years we can both quit “working” and spend our time here on the farm.

Drying and storing herbs at home

I have just finished storing my first dried herbs from my garden. What an accomplishment! I wasn’t sure how much to dry so I cut what I thought was a lot. There are some herbs I may do more of next time. But I think I have plenty to last until the outdoor growing season gets here. I used the leftovers and the scraps from all the mess I made to make nesting box herbs for the hens. No waste here. Since this was my first experience with this I used the advice of Mother Earth News. Here’s the link to the site I used.
http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/drying-herbs-zm0z13fmzmat.aspx

Naturally I had to add my own touches. I cut my herbs and hung them upside down using a clothes hanger, clothes pins and a rubber band to secure to bundles.
When they were completely brittle I took them down and began the storing process. I used my small wood block and wooden spoon to help crush the leaves since I didn’t have a mortar and pestle. It worked fine, but I will be ordering one for next time.
(Amazon has several choices)

Fresh herbs ready to dry
Fresh herbs ready to dry
Crushing herbs to store
Crushing herbs to store
Finished products!
Finished products!