Sunday, November 7, 2010

Piggy Sandwich?

Pork Burger?

Maybe a PIG in a blanket? No, it's Lucy snuggled in a pile of fluffy dog beds! Yesterday, I swept off the front porch before the rain started, piling these three dog beds in the corner. Clever Lucy is always thinking of her personal comfort, and decided to try something new.  Well, she liked it so much she was there most of the day :)

"These may have been comfortable if they were velvet." 


Monday, November 1, 2010

Missing hen?

Tonight, I ran out to close the hen house between innings of the World Series
(which my Giants won! YEAH!!!)
I have developed the habit of counting heads. On occasion, one or two hens may not make it back into the yard for one reason or another and we have racoons, fox, opossums, mountain lions, AND coyotes, all of which relish a fresh chicken dinner.  You don't want be out exposed at night if you are born a chicken.
"One big, black rooster, two silver cochins, three barred rocks, one red hen, one, two, three black cochins....THREE!?"  One black cochin was missing!  I ran back into the house for a big flashlight.  I checked outside the back fence, no chickens there.  I checked in the doe barn--no chicken. I opened the buck barn and looked under every straw--NOPE.  I looked all around the perimeter of the garden--NO CHICKEN!  "OK, don't panic. THINK. Where was the chicken the last time you saw her?  In the hen house?"  OK, I went back to the hen house with my big, powerful flashlight and counted heads again."One rooster, two silver cochins, three barred rocks, one red hen, one, two, three black cochins....THERE!"
Just as my light found the last hen, the missing hen's head poked out as if to say "HEY, we're trying to rest here!" Two black hens were stuffed into one nest box!

Tonight all is well at FiddleSong Farm....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Howdy, happy October!

The 2010 FiddleSong Scarecrow

Ten Goat Challenge

Admittedly, I don’t have a perfect set up yet for my does. My barn design needs some work. I have four good sized stalls that have doors, and I usually allow everyone to comingle. But sometimes, there are issues with the critters. Here is a good example of this problem:
Monday evening I arrived home after a HECK-ISH day at work around 6:00. It was already getting dark, and Rick had already had his dinner, so I decided to feed my stock before eating my meal. I turned on the big yard light, and the lights came on inside the barn.

I have seven does and three kids and one wether in this barn. (Yes, I know, I can count too, and that equals eleven. I’ll get to that.) I had put a can full of grain into a bucket up by the hay barn, so the three kids could “help” me feed. I let them out of their barn and they will follow me around until they get to the bucket, then all three are wrestling each other for the grain. This usually keeps them busy for a few minutes, but this Monday HAD to be different. I was tired and cranky, my head hurt, and I was hungry so I had very little patience.
Mistake one --I tried to carry two flakes of hay at once. When I pushed open the door to the barn, Whimsy dove under my second flake of hay and escaped. Crap. OK, it’s just Whimsy, I thought, she is easy to catch. So I entered the barn, dumping my armloads of hay into the feeders.
Mistake two—never trust a sneaky kid. Those three kids have learned how to push open the barn door from the outside to follow me into the barn. MONDAY, the littlest kid, Angel, ran up and pushed open the barn door and held it open for the other goats to escape.
Mistake three—I left the sneaky kid out, while I attempted to force the does back into the barn. Every time I would catch and drag two does into the barn, SNEAKY (I am changing her name) would open the door again and let them out. I really think she thought it was funny! By the time I caught on I was tired and cranky, my head hurt, and I was hungry so I had very little patience AND exhausted—BUT I was laughing so hard that they were all gathered around me looking at me like “SEE don’t you feel better?”

That is when I looked around and saw that Cooper, the yearling wether, was the ONLY good goat in the herd. There he was calmly munching on his hay, oblivious to the antics happening just outside the barn. I started laughing again!  When I came to my senses, I propped the barn door open, walked in with the cookie jar and politely fed Cooper cookies until EVERYONE was inside the barn begging for a cookie :)

"HA! I am smarter than TEN goats!"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Buck Poor...

I am buck poor. How many bucks make you “buck poor”, you ask? Four, which are three too many.

My favorite by far, Fiddler is the father of all kids born on this farm and is such a sweet and happy little guy. He is so lovable, he likes to snuggle. He never complains, he has a soft voice, no HORNS, but his three sons are quite a different story.

Nutty is the “singer” of the group. His love songs can be heard to Calaveras County. “WAAAAA, waaaaa, waaaa, WWWWWAAAAAA, waaa!!!!! He is quite melodious and has looooong curvy horns! He has never poked me on purpose, but he sometimes forgets that his horns stick out like RV mirrors.

Chocolate Brownie is quite a hunk—he thinks. His long, silky brown coat has touches of red in it. Brownie was a bottle fed baby, so he is gentle and friendly. BIG horns.

FiddleSong Cowboy is Brownie’s full brother. He is mostly black with a brown saddle. He looks like Mariposa, his maternal grandmother, who is an award winning member of the Rosasharn herd. Cowboy is very sweet, and when he was small he would stand up on his hind legs and wiggle his lips for me to give him a kiss. I don’t let him do that anymore, he pees on his own face. BIG horns. He is a nice looking little guy.

About HORNS-We don't want them, we don't like them. The goats learn quickly to use them to get their way. But there is a learning curve to disbudding. We are learning, but have not done it right yet. On the positive side, we have mountain lions in our woods, and coyotes. So good luck trying to make a meal of one of these tough little guys! The horns also make convenient handles :)

ALL of these bucks want to be THE HERD SIRE. They don’t care what kinds of does they are. They love to eat brush, but enjoy alfalfa and a handful of “incentive” goat chow in the morning.(Incentive~moves them where I want them to be without the application of the herding broom to their respective butts.) They don’t mind having their hooves trimmed, or being wormed, or even getting their shots. They would make good weedeaters, too.
Need a buck?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The new hay barn

Hay Barn with Chicken Annex
OK, I have to boast about my husband again.  Rick is smart and funny AND has "EBS"~ extra-ordinary building skills. Today he completed the "hay barn with chicken annex." The windows are covered with screening, so they may be left open in warm weather, but they have shutters, that close up when it gets cool or wet. It has cool, recycled galvanized metal siding, and the chicken entrance has an engineered hardware locking mechanism that can be used from the inside or outside.
View from inside Chicken annex
This view shows the chicken door and the wooden shutter that lifts up and covers the screened window.
"Say goodbye to the big blue tarp,"  he said. He worked so hard on that little building! Tomorrow I will put the nesting box and perches in, so the flock can move in :)

Yesterday was vet day for Sheila and Tilly. I got up early, brushed them both well (I should have brushed their teeth :/ ) borrowed a couple of goat collars from Whimsy and Hummingbird, loaded them up and took them into Jackson. This was their first visit to our new vet, so I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be. The last time we visited the old vet, they were scared to death. 
They are farm dogs, you know, they don't know what town manners are.
They were both perfect dog angels, I couldn't believe it! They liked the vet, they ignored the other dogs, were friendly to the people, didn't pull me or have to be dragged. They behaved themselves. The vet is a young man and they liked him. He gave them treats before they got their shots. A cute moment was when Sheila was finished getting her exam and it was Tilly's turn.  She stood right in front of her and gave her a little lick of reassurance.  AWWWW! I was SO proud. (I would have paid extra for that.) After the visit, we went through the McDonald's drive through and got a large order of fries. We all enjoyed them on our way home!

Tilly loves the cushions! Before she relaxes, she has to "Scruff Around" to get comfortable.

"Good, GOOD dogs!"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Finding the Balance


It would be interesting to take a poll to see how many of those small 'farmers' out there have to hold down a full time job to pay the mortgage. I do. I am a creative and hard working 50+ year old woman. My job pays well and includes excellent benefits. I work 40-45 hours a week. Add another 8 hours for commute time, semi-weekly trips to The Feed Barn, before or after work, or on weekends if the weather is not cooperative. I get up around 6 am. I have one cup of coffee, feed the cats, prepare formula and feed my kids, milk a doe or two, feed them, and send them to their appropriate places for the day. Loose the chickens after their night of confinement. SOMETIMES I have time for a ½ hour of exercise before my shower and preparations for work. Breakfast? I take that to the office to eat. I arrive home around 6 pm. That leaves just enough time in the evenings to prepare a healthy meal for Rick and me, clean up (maybe), and head to the barn. I have to bottle feed kids, milk one or two does, give the does hay and fresh water and separate them for the night. The bucks need to be brought in from the wooded hill, separated, given hay and fresh water, and locked up in their barn for the night. I have a "herding broom."  It is an old corn broom with a sturdy handle that is used very effectively as a tool to herd goats. They don't like the broom, so on occasion, they try to eat the straw at the end. It is about half eaten now, but it still works :) I also have to round up the chickens, making sure they are all accounted for. Bribery helps, here. If I am lucky (and organized) it is now around 7:30 pm. Just enough time to feed Lucy the Pig, the three dogs, the barn cats, and oh no, do some watering! Our summers are hot and dry here, so watering is essential. We intend to install an automatic watering system to help us with this chore, but it is pretty far down the list of “Things To Do.” Sometimes I am watering until darkness falls. GOD FORBID we should have an illness or injury to address. Weekends are for catch up chores~ weeding the veggie garden, cleaning the barn, CLEANING THE HOUSE, trimming hooves~we do those when time allows.

So how do I find balance in this chaos? How do I find time to prune the roses, say nothing about smelling them? I have learned to love my routine. I enjoy relaxing while holding formula bottles for two hungry kids. Their hungry cries of greeting “MAAAA!” make me smile instead of aggravating me. Goats are sociable creatures, not too demanding, and will tolerate some deviation from their routine. When I am busy at work, I can’t think about the farm. As soon as I am in my truck, I stop thinking about work, it’s all about the farm then. When I am rounding up those crazy chickens for the night, it is certainly comical, and I laugh while chasing down Houdini the Rooster. He is the Rooster. In his chicken mind, he should wait until all the hens have returned to their hen house before he enters. However, he is not able to count, so he doesn’t know that the last barred rock has already entered, or that Red Hen was the first to arrive. So when I have counted beaks, it is TIME for him to come in. He requires persuading. I think he enjoys the ritual as much as I do.  He is a sweet rooster, and never gives me any trouble, never flogs me or acts aggressively in any way.  He has three inch spurs.

"Don't make me get the broom..."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Whimsy milk...


Milking a doe can be a huge commitment of time and energy. I have been letting Zipporah nurse her doeling, since I am spending quite a bit of time feeding her other two kids for her, but it is time to begin weaning them. I am going to start weaning Friday, and will be milking Zipporah. But Whimsy’s story is a little different.

Whimsy delivered her two kids in spring of 2009. Her daughter, Peanut, is 18 months old now. Normally a doe will wean her own kids naturally and dry off. Not Whimsy, she has to be unique. Special, you might say. An overachiever. Peanut is TWICE her size and extremely chubby, because Whimsy is still feeding her. I did not realize she was still carrying milk until I noticed that Peanut seemed to be on the OBESE side. Whimsy seemed too scrawny to me, and just didn’t look very healthy. Whimsy has always been on the thin side and tends to have chronic skin problems. She also has a pretty thick coat, which hides some problems. A few weeks ago, while I had her on the milk stand trimming her little hooves, I gave her a good examination. “What is this”, I say to her, “Whimsy, you still have milk?” AH HA! Then the obese daughter makes TOTAL sense. I treated her skin with some of my herbal eucalyptus oil, and it worked like a charm. I separated Whimsy from her daughter and started milking her, to try to dry her off. Whimsy HATES being milked. She detests it. It is inappropriate touching, and she KICKS! I have a sign on my office wall that says “I am more patient than a goat is stubborn.” I have to be to milk this little tiger. I thought, "OK, the more I milk her, the more she will get used to it, the less she will kick, struggle, try to climb out of her milk stand, put her foot in the milk bucket"….NO. I can’t get her to accept milking. I have other does that do not object to milking, and I KNOW I am gentle, not hurting her.

Here’s the terrible part: Whimsy has the creamiest, most delicious milk! For a tiny doe, she puts out a quart a day IF you can get her to stand still for it. I will not give up!

“I am more patient than a goat is stubborn.”

Monday, May 31, 2010

Birthday gifts

May 29th, 2010. Inspirations Zipporah presented me with three fine new kids~

The first one is a sweet doeling who looks just like Mama~
The second is the white buckling, and the third is a tiny black doeling with a white angel on her brow~

This is their story~

This weekend I spend some quality time in the barn. On Saturday morning, I noticed my doe Zipporah was more talkative than usual and seemed to want to follow me around. I knew she was getting close to kidding, so I decided I had better keep a close eye on her. I passed the morning cleaning up her stall, so that we would have a clean, comfy place to have her babies. It was a big job, but I had plenty of clean fresh straw to lay down when it was finally clean. The sun was bright and warm, and I checked on her every half hour during the day, while I weeded and puttered in the garden.
The trick to watching a doe who is getting ready to kid, is to be able to check on her without her realizing it. It isn't too hard to fool a goat, you just have to pretend you are doing something else. The reason for this insincere behavior is simple: some does can and WILL postpone their delivery until you are not watching. Since Zip's first kidding resulted in a dead kid, I needed to be on hand this time in case she had trouble. (I am still relatively new to this business of raising dairy goats. I don't like to leave too much to chance.)
By 9 pm, I was certain Zip was going to deliver during the night ahead, so I began to assemble my goat labor supplies. I put on my warmest grubs, got my flashlight, put my hair up, put my book in one pocket, a bottle of water in another, got my goat delivery bucket and headed to the barn. With our nice clean straw and the other does locked away, we settled down to wait. It was just me, waiting for a treasured animal to give birth. I was willing to do anything to help her, and she trusted me.
She started to push. She got up and down countless times and paced back and forth. At about 10:30, something shifted and we got down to business! When the first kid started coming, Zip began to scream! THAT was a little unnerving. The kid was very large and the right leg was folded back, making the shoulders awkward to pass through the birth canal. The left leg and head were coming through, so I had something to grasp. With a little pulling from me, the big kid was finally delivered, and Zip's screams turned to little bleats of delight. Goats love their kids, too. Talk, talk, lick, lick, lick, she cleaned and encouraged that baby. The kid seemed healthy and vigorous, and looked just like Zip. I grabbed the first towel and began wiping her down. After about a minute, Zip said "unh" and another kid popped right out! Zip didn't seem to notice and kept cleaning her first kid, so I grabbed towel number two and started cleaning up the second kid. BOY! I was going to name him "Slimy." I noticed right away that he was a buckling, and he looked just like his daddy. Mostly white with black accents, he was about half the size of kid one. I hadn't had time to look at the sex of the first kid, so just as I was turning it over to peek, "Splat!" out popped kid three! WOW! Now I was hopping! I put the buckling under Zip's nose, so she could finish cleaning him. I had to sure kid three was breathing. It was a perfect tiny doeling, coal black with marshmallow swirls. She was very small and weak, so I had to really work with her to make sure she was OK. Kid two seemed to be fine, although he too, was much smaller than kid one. I looked over and kid one was already standing up looking for her first meal!
I took the tiny doeling into the house to blow her dry and warm her up. I warmed some colostrum from the freezer, put it in a tiny baby bottle, and fed her a few teaspoons of the warm liquid. Then I took her back to bond with her mother. She seemed to be perking up and getting stronger, so I knew I could head in and get some sleep. It was 2 am. and I was thrilled--Jenna would have been proud!
My herd is growing:)

More SUMMER fun...

The garden is looking lovely! I found a shady place to put a favorite chair under my Pink Lady apple. I can relax and survey my domain. OH NO! I can see the weeds growing!

"We" have made EXCELLENT progress on the new buck barn. I am SO lucky to have such a wonderful HANDY husband. He has designed the perfect barn for goats! Above the wall panels there will be welded wire inserts, creating a shady, breezy goat environment. Then "shutters" will come down on cold nights for protection from cold and damp.
LUCKY, lucky goats.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Divide and Multiply with perennials...

This is a daylily ~~an excellent perennial for propagating...
Yes, it is a wild, unruly mess, but I LOVE it :)

My garden was never meticulously planned. It has evolved. I was not even sure what would survive in our soil and elevation. I started with several kinds of hardy basic perennials. I built a bed alongside my main pathway and filled it with daylilies. (LuLu, remember when we dreamed of having a daylily farm? I get it now :) They thrived. I started a few sweet violets here and there. They EXPLODED! I planted a cat mint and it has become a wonderful self sower. Same goes for the rudbeckia. Lambs ears--one plant has become twenty in one year. Echinacea is very good, several forms of sage perform well, and penstemon is very showy. ALL the lavenders are excellent, but I especially love "Buena Vista" with it's compact form and long clusters of dark purple flowers. I dig in a few six-packs of allysum and I get two years worth of seedlings. The wallflower was sickly at first, then became a solid purple, bumble-bee magnet.
Now that I have a good handle on the perennials that do best in our soil, climate and weather conditions, I am multiplying! Most perennials can be propagated, and I LOVE to do it :)

I use three main methods:
  • I divide some by digging up a large one and "dividing" it into smaller plants. This works best with daylilies, rudbeckia and lambs ears.

  • I start some new plants with tip cuttings. I take tip cuttings of the lavenders, cat mint, and wallflowers.

  • Still others such as rudebeckia, sage, and echinacea give generous amounts of seedlings, which I am happy to dig up and rearrange with excellent success.

The problem with multiplying plants, is that as they soon fill out and become ready to plant, then you have to decide where to plant them.

Time to build more beds!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hollyhocks, First Salad, new barn project

These are "My Favorite" lilacs and Lady Banks roses, excellent companions! It looks like I will also have some hollyhocks this summer. My grandma, Esther Sullivan loved her hollyhocks, so I try to include some in my gardens. She sent seeds from her plants back to her sisters in Wisconsin, and my great-aunts still grow them there. The family connection remains strong, and I think of them often :)

We had our first salad of the year from the garden. The lettuce is crisp and mild, and I added fresh parsley, some beet greens, swiss chard, and some tangy chives. Outstanding! Rick said it was pretty good~for lettuce ;)

Saturday was nice and sunny with just a small breeze. Rick got a start on the new buck barn. We have a pretty hilly property, and our options for level building places are limited. However, phase one is going smoothly. He is smart and patient, and has a pretty good helper (me!) ~~of course his idea of me helping is me standing out of the way and keeping the animals off him. AND calling him in when lunch is ready. (In other words, he doesn't like me to play with his tools, but I am an adequate cook.... )

The next day was Mother's day and we spent some time with my Mom and Dad in Pine Grove. We enjoyed a delicious, decadent dinner. On Monday, the clouds came rolling in and with it a big rain and hail storm. Californians do experience an occasional hail storm, with nice, pea sized hail, for a couple of minutes here and there, but this one lasted twenty five minutes! All together on Monday I measured two inches of rain and an INCH of hail! I should have run out and pulled my truck out of the garage, it could have used a good scouring :)
In spite of the freezing night temps, the hail and all the unexpected rain, my garden thrives.
All is well....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Earthbound Birds

It was lovely spring day! Sunny and warm, with enough breeze to keep things fresh. My dog, Tilly found this incredible nest this morning. It is snuggled up under the edge of a big rock, and is crafted with tiny twigs, pine needles, and dry grasses and lined with goat hair! Inside the nest are two tiny, speckled eggs about the size of the end of my little finger. This is the first time I have seen a ground nest like this, but it belongs to a tiny bird that looks like a bush tit. I didn't get a close look at her, but she is the right size and color.

A little while later I watched as a robin flew into the window, knocking herself silly. She seemed OK, but she was staggering a little. I watched her for about an hour while working in my garden. She walked around the whole area, avoiding me, but not too worried. She must have had one whopper of a headache. Finally, she just hung her little head and seemed to give up. I walked over and caught her in my hands. She seemed to be intact and started to squawk and struggle. Soon she relaxed a little, I opened my hands and she FLEW up over the fence and into the top of the tallest pine! (Nothing like a little adrenaline rush to get your feathers ruffled!)

On Saturday, Rachel brought our granddaughters Madison, Allison, and Taylor up for a visit. We met at the fairgrounds to see the local goat show, then drove up and had lunch at FiddleSong Farm. We always enjoy their visits so much, their antics keep us smiling for days. The weather was especially nice this weekend, so we all spent quite a bit of time visiting in the garden while Madison and Allison dug for worms :) They are SO easy to entertain. Little Taylor helped Grandma find the eggs in the chicken coop, and carried the heavy bucket around until her bucket muscles were sore. (I now see that we need some chairs out there, so I will work on that.) We had sandwiches and fruit for lunch. It was Rachel's birthday last Wednesday, so we had an excuse for cake! I hope Rachel stripped those girls before letting them into her house, they all carried a little "farm" home on their clothes...

It was the best weekend that I can remember, but finished all too soon....

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chickens LOVE lettuce!

Rain and sun showers

It was a GOOD day to stay in and snuggle in the straw. It is dark and cloudy and the rain is sheeting down. Chickens don’t like this kind of rain, nor goats, nor PIGGIES! My flowers like it, though, and I almost have a creek….I saw something unexpected on my drive to work. I have a neighbor up the hill a couple of miles who likes to walk his dog in the morning. This morning with the rain POURING down, I rounded the corner by his property and there he was with his dog~~and they were wearing matching raincoats!! You just don’t see dogs wearing clothes in Fiddletown…

Have you ever seen a sun shower? It is what I call that special, clear moment when there is a break in the clouds and the sun comes streaming through, (Shaun calls it a Sucker Hole:) but there is still rain falling. So if you are standing in just the right place it looks like it is raining drops of sunlight. The fresh scent of the woods when it rains is something I would love to capture in paint.

The robins come out this time of evening. They sing cheerful tunes. They love a big storm because the earthworms are crawling their slimy lengths out of the saturated soil moving to hopefully drier high ground. "A feast! A feeeeeast!," they sing.

Dearest Mother, I am so grateful for these gifts of Nature.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Emus and gardens

Last Saturday, Madison came to spend the night at the farm. On our way, we saw two of these amazing creatures! They were tall like Madi, but they weren't ostriches. They were definitely birds, but weren't turkeys or peacocks. When we got to the farm we asked Grandpa what he thought they were, he said they sounded like Emus. We looked them up on the computer and sure enough, they were Emus! We had a GREAT weekend!

Happy Wednesday friends, are you feeling well today? I am! I have been working in my veggie garden for the last couple of weeks. WOW! That is great exercise! I have planted several things that grow best in cooler weather, and am planning and preparing for the big Spring rush. Thinking about planting a garden for the first time? Here are some FAQ for rookies:

Why should I grow vegetables when I can buy them at Safeway? HELLO! Economy, freshness, flavor, FUN! In many cases those “fresh” grocery store veggies are shipped in from all over the world. They cost fuel and pollution to get here. They are rated by their color, shininess, and keeping qualities rather than flavor. You want to eat the good stuff! AND it is better for the world. It is also a GREAT activity for children. Just ask my oldest Granddaughter Madison :)
How do I start? First you need a space with long hours of sun. You may plant right in the soil, or raised beds or even in large containers. You need access to water. Start small! Protect your veggie plot from critters. (My biggest challenge is keeping the hens from using my garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet.) As your interest grows, so can your garden.
How do I know what to plant? Make a list of the veggies you regularly buy. Do they include lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, radishes, squash, carrots, potatoes? You can grow all of those and more in your garden. Some things are best started from plants-- like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. (It is a little too early to plant these favorites yet…) Squash, radishes beets, and carrots all do best from seed. Right now, you can also find seed potatoes in the nurseries (I planted mine last night after work….)
Won’t I get bugs? Sure! That’s part of the fun. But you won’t catch me recommending adding chemicals to your garden to get rid of a few bugs. There are too many other creative ways to control them that are healthier.
What about my soil? You can buy a few sacks of organic planting mix or compost to mix in with your soil. (Rule of thumb-one 2 cubic foot bag will cover about 12 square feet of soil at about four inches deep. Mix it in.) If you prefer to plant in pots, stick to a potting soil, it will hold more moisture.
How much do I water? The simple answer is “enough.” Ideally, your plants should not be allowed to go completely dry before you give them a good soaking. Don’t keep them soggy, they rot.
Where can I learn more? The local master nurserymen are a GREAT source of information for gardeners of all levels. They even offer free classes to the public. There is a great selection of garden books out there, but my favorite is called “Square Foot Gardening,” and the local nurseries and garden centers are also very helpful….And check out my website at to see where my FAVORITE compost originates.

It has taken several years to develop my garden and there is plenty more work to do, but when you love a thing, it is more like play :) My soul is sunshine in the garden!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Swanky Swine Abode...

Rick worked for several weekends on this project. It turned out fantastic! We needed a more secure place for Lucy to reside, a dog-free place of her own and a place where she could not "snout" the front door at four a.m! This is where she lives now, in this comfortable 4' x 4" house, complete with heat, insulation, carpeting and even a light fixture (for those late nights reading, I suppose) a covered deck, and her own fenced yard (NO dogs allowed!) This pampered Piggy has hit the Mother Lode.

It has been rainy and cool here, but no snow for awhile. The hills are a lush, veridian green, and the deer and wild turkeys are abundant. Although we have gotten quite a bit of rain, "Pig Squeak Creek" remains empty. I am so disappointed! It has such a happy sound when it gurgles past our back deck. There is still time for it to fill, it is only the first week in February....

If you have fruit trees, now is the time to prune them and to spray them (if you do that ;) with dormant oil or fungicides. Clean up any old leaves and debris from under the trees, they harbor overwintering pests and some harmful fungi. Then, lay down some fresh mulch of pine needles or compost, keeping it well away from the trunks.

I have trimmed back my day lilies and other perennials. I go easy on my lavender and penstemons, they don't do well here with hard pruning, so I just prune out any broken or ugly branches. The roses get a hard prune every other year, and I have to treat the cut ends with a waxy seal, because we have voracious cane borers up here! My new potted bulbs are just starting out of the soil now, and the established daffy-dils out in the yard are about six inches tall already. I am gathering goat-berry compost from the piles now, and spreading it out over the beds. The worms LOVE the stuff, and the perennials and veggies don't complain. The soil continues to improve every year. I am looking forward to my bleeding hearts blooming soon, along with my sweet violets. These are the things that lift my spirits and encourage me to nurture my garden, logging long hours on my knees with my trowel in hand. I am anxious to develop a new bed or two in the front yard, with more of the new ever-blooming hydrangeas. I have mostly shade out there and the hydrangeas thrive!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Swiss Chard from my garden....

YUM! Look at the color in this luscious red swiss chard that I grew in my garden last summer. Now is the time to order those seed catalogs, so you can begin planning your spring garden! Here at FiddleSong Farm, we are able to grow many cool weather veggies like cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts, carrots, onions and lettuce. My garden beds are cleaned up and ready for a nice, thick layer of goatberry compost. I LOVE the winter, but my soul sings in the spring!

Warm winter days and chicken scratchings....

While snow storms blanket the Midwest and East Coast with harsh temperatures below freezing, FiddleSong Farm is enjoying some warm sunny days. We are at about 2700 feet in elevation, which lifts us above the valley fog. We do get snow, but it rarely lasts more than a few days. Kirkwood Resort is about 40 minutes up Hwy 88, if you are into skiing :)

Sunday, I spent the afternoon hours working in the garden in a t-shirt! I raked pine needles and transplanted a couple of shrubs. I weeded and cleaned up some veggie beds, and replanted (for the fifth time) a small cabbage transplant plant that Red Hen insists on scratching out of the ground. She loves to help in the garden, often staging herself under my left elbow, watching carefully for any unearthed edibles. She LOVES the fat nightcrawlers that are plentiful during the winter and spring. They grow fairly large, and it is really comical to watch her grasp one in her beak and then BAAAAACK up until she finally drags it out of it's hole! She chuckles and clucks to me the whole time we are working, making my time in the sunshine and fresh air so much more enjoyable. It's funny that she has become so special to me. I didn't raise her, she was given to me by a friend, but I take a LOT of extra time to make sure she is comfortable and safe. She loves to be handled and pampered, and has a wonderful personality :)

I have three young roosters, on the other hand, that are freezer bound. I have promised myself that I am going to "process" them as soon as I have room in the freezer. I raised these three birds from chicks, and they were hatched by one of my own hens last spring. This is a HUGE challenge for me to take that next (logical) step and begin actually "using" my extra roosters for meat. They have had a kind, abundant and peaceful life here on the farm. I have tried to think of that being their purpose from their beginning. They have never been named, or snuggled or rescued from danger. They are "just chickens".

WOW! I think I have made a breakthrough!