Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kid in the Kitchen

My 11 year old is an avid artist.  She loves to paint, draw, craft, etc.  Last year she face-painted at our local farmers market.  She has to be constantly creating.  Her newest love is baking.  She's teaching herself to decorate cakes.  I suppose I should send her to a cake decorating class this summer.  It's hard to keep up with the interests of four polar opposite children. 

If you have a highly creative kid, my best advice is to stay out of their way.  I find the more I try to involve myself in their creations, the less creative the project becomes.  I am analytical, perfectionist, and a bit critical.  (I hate to admit it, but it's true) So, I find when I give my kids the tools and simply step back, they surprise me with the most amazing things.  Miriam's three layer chocolate cake is no exception.  She can make the most out of nothing of anyone I've ever seen.  Eh, hmm. proud Mama here.  :-)


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A spring project for the kids

Here's a great craft for the kids this spring.  Just buy a terra cotta pot, some acrylic paints and let them get creative!  Begonias and geraniums make good indoor bloomers.  Just make sure they go in a brightly lit window.  Succulents round out the look and give it a more professional appearance.

Billy Baaaab

Welcome Billy Bob to the farm.  He is a full Kathadin ram we added this week to begin the process of breeding our three ewes - Maggie, Georgia and Chloe. 

My husband has the mindset that things should be left pretty much natural, so he threw Billy Bob in with the ewes and our pony, Cheyenne right away, much to my horror.  I just knew there was going to be blood.  There was a little head butting, but they evened out and looks like they are content together.  Billy Bob is a little more spry than the girls, so Cheyenne finally got a running partner. 

Hoping for a few buns in the oven for the fall.

Turkeys in the oven

The heritage turkeys were a huge success.  I'm not sure my girls would agree as each of them have been spurred by a tom almost their own size!  Once mating season began, those Toms were a little too frisky.  However, we did put multiple turkeys in the oven to roast, and it was literally the best meat I have ever eaten.  (Well, with the exception of the grass fed ground beef we got from a friend of ours which we lovingly called 'the chocolate cow' - they made one entire cow into ground meat instead of taking steak and roast cuttings first.  Try it sometime, you won't believe the difference!)

The Narragansett turkeys don't get too big to breed like the white broad breasted.  They are just right for your oven, and they are still viable.  Our ladies started laying the end of march, and we have collected 17 eggs to try incubation.  They sat outside a while as we hoped one of the hens would get broody.  Since that never happened, we decided to give it a shot on our own.  At $15 per chick, 17 eggs would be worth $255 to us.  Not only that, but we could get them in earlier than last year as they were on backorder until July.

This breed is truly striking, and I am very glad we added them to the farm.  I refer to them each as Poof, because of the silly poofing sound they make when they raise their feathers in defense of the hens.  The 'poof' along with the spontaneous 'gobble, gobble' have lightened my heart and made me laugh all season.

The Greenhouse Dream

It's a given in the Pacific Northwest that you will need a greenhouse to have any chance of bringing in oodles of ripe tomatoes and various other warmer weather crops.  The seedlings need to be growing well before the last frost date in order to give you an abundant harvest. 

My husband has always dreamed of having a greenhouse worthy of his insatiable green thumb appetite.  For as long as I can remember he's been swerving to the side of the road at first sight of plants in bloom and taking a cutting or a pod of seeds for rooting or planting.  We collected unmarked seeds for years until we finally settled here and were able to pull them out and give them a shot at growing.  Some of them have actually come up.  Amazing!

Last year he bent 3/4" pipe, and this year he bought wiggle wire and heavy duty greenhouse plastic.  As is customary, he framed his own doors.  The plan is to eventually put glass panels in the front and back to give it a more polished appearance.  The house is 30'x36'.  Temperatures range 15-20 degrees warmer inside than the outside.  So, now we have even some of the hardy heritage tomato seedlings up and growing.  Can't wait to try out the new varieties. (More on that later).

Earning your way

It must be known if you have tried to follow my blog that I took a sabbatical to earn a little money for the farm.  Don't expect to fund from an empty bank account.  We have still been plodding along at the place, so progress is definitely being made.  I have been working retail since last October, and the one thing I've learned is that a steady paycheck is just an excuse to spend more money (on work clothes, eating out more often, gas, new car, entertainment because you feel guilty for leaving the family for such long periods of time, etc. etc.)  So, just as soon as the cards are paid in full and extra money is socked aside for the upcoming summer, I will gladly say goodbye to selling other people's stuff and focus again on the farm, the family, and the writing and photography I love. 

Since I have a little time this afternoon, I want to try to catch you up.  Don't be shocked by the multiple blog posts!  We've been really busy around here.  :-)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Heritage Turkeys and Sheep, Oh My!

We bought horses early on in our farming adventure.  This was a bad move, not because they didn't do their duty making good compost and keeping the back pasture down, but because they were quite useless in the food department.  We were all too nervous and inexperienced to ride them, and they just weren't what this farm needed.

If you are going to have a farm, make sure that every animal and plant is multipurpose, and most of all, that you can EAT them!  So, we sold our two beautiful quarter horses for a song to some kids who knew how to ride and knew the value of these animals, and we waited as the pasture caught back up to its formal glory.  We kept one of our minis, Cheyenne, as she was quite a fixture on the farm.  She was lonely, however, so we bought sheep.  We looked a long time before we even found the kind we wanted.  Katahdin sheep are a hair variety that do not need shearing.  That's good as we are quite lazy (urban converts generally are), and we have no desire to learn yet another new skill.  These animals are bred specifically for their mild meat, and I've been told that they are also good milkers if ever I get into a mood for sheep cheese.  The butter fat content is quite high and makes for amazing artisan cheese, which I've tried at farmers market and quite like i.

We bought three ewes.  One, Maggie, is three years old and with her comes her baby (whom is yet to be named).  The third is also a young ewe lamb named Georgia.  She looks an awful lot like the Georgia clay that turns the rivers red.  I think she is quite striking and look forward to seeing her as a full grown lady.  The intent here is to breed them in the spring and butcher any males born and sell any females live for breeders.  Three sheep are plenty for our 3 acres of pasture.  My hubby has made it his mission in life to tame them, so he spends time coaxing them into the stall with grain.  They came from a much larger herd, so they are still skiddish of people.  They are warming up, and I have a feeling they will make a wonderful addition to the farm.  Cheyenne seems to really be pleased with her new companions.  She stuck her head through the bars when they were sectioned off in the stall.  Now she barely leaves their side in the pasture.  Such a fun little pony!

Also new on the farm are our Narragansett turkeys.  This breed of turkey was the last commercial variety before they started breeding for such heavy weights.  The new commercial variety must be butchered by about 6 months because they get so large that they are prone to heart attacks.  Narragansett turkeys are known to be good mothers and will hatch out and nurture their young.  We intend to breed and sell them to local folks who just can't get them in our area  We also want a few to put in our freezer as turkey is highly nutritious and delicious. We are starting with 14.

The interesting thing about turkeys that I didn't know is that they are highly social and caring for one another.  One of the chicks had crushed legs when he arrived in the box.  We hoped he would recover, but he still hobbles around on his knuckles.  He is half the size of the others, but he is still alive.  The other turkeys don't pick on him like the chickens would have.  They, in fact, protect him.  When all the others roost for the evening, two or three stay down on the ground with Baby.  They corral him into the pen at night and keep an eye on him during the day.  They take shifts Babysitting.  It's amazing to watch, and I am instantly in love with these animals.  I don't expect Baby to survive for a long life, but he is certainly loved and cared for by his brothers and sisters.  I can't wait to see the mothers in action next spring.

Farming is such a learning experience for life.