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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dreams Come True for Little Cowboys

As you may know, Kiddo2 loves cowboys.  He loves being a cowboy, he loves watching cowboys, he loves loudly pointing out anyone with a cowboy hat on in public.  He rides his stickhorse every day to "go move the cows".  He may not wear pants, but he won't leave the house without his boots.

Last weekend, our godson turned 3.  His parents live on a ranch and his grandma and aunt have horses.  (I need to make it clear that his dad does NOT have horses, he just makes the hay and feeds the horses.)  

Kiddo2 knows that his "uncle" has horses on his ranch and asked him ever-so-sweetly if he could ride one when he came to the party.  And every day of those two weeks, Kiddo2 would tell me how he was going to ride a big, BIG horse at Uncle D's house.

And Uncle D did not disappoint!  He asked his mom and sister if they had a horse that Kiddo2 could ride.  And they, being the wonderful ladies that they are, made sure it would happen.

Kiddo2 got to ride by himself first.  He wasn't too sure what he should be doing, but he couldn't hide his smile at riding a big, BIG horse!

Kiddo1 joined him.

And then our godson got in on the fun!

Even after the horse went "night-night", the kids played on the saddle and blanket.

It was a VERY memorable day for the older kids, one pint-sized cowboy in particular.
A big THANK YOU to Uncle D, Auntie M, and Grandma S!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tiny Buns

I make bread for our family at least once a week, sometimes it's in the form of loaves and other times buns.  This day I made buns.  Kiddo1 always likes to help make buns and usually makes her own and puts them on the pan with mine.  (And, yes, you can tell the difference, but they are just as tasty!)

But this day, she asked for the rolling pin.  I told her she could get it out of the bottom drawer.  Along with the pin, she found a metal cake decorating tip.  She rolled out her piece of dough and then cut out tiny little buns with the big end of the tip.

I gave her no advice or help.  She did this all on her own!

We ate them that evening for supper with Cheddar Chicken Soup and they were great!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit

It's spring/summer here on the farm and we spend a lot of time outside.

Kiddo2 and Kiddo3 shared some time in the teeter totter/picnic table.  And actually played nicely together!

Back in the house, we had to take a silly picture and stick out our tongues!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Pigs Are Here! Wait...they WERE here.

Who likes bacon?  Raise your hand.  

Yup, me too.  I like pork... a lot.

I like pigs too!  Very intelligent, fun to watch, very clean...and did I mention tasty?

Last year we had several requests from customers as to where they could get pastured pork.  We didn't know of anyone who had pork available so we figured that was pretty good incentive for us to get into the pastured pork business!  When I was in high school, I convinced my dad that getting a bred sow and farrowing her out in our pole barn was a sound investment.  And it was!  I got 10 pigs from her and made a fair amount of money.

I'm a participant in a leadership program and at our inaugural meeting, I was reunited with a man who I had grown up with in 4-H and FFA.  He's done some great and innovative things in the livestock industry and was still raising pigs.  He was my connection for our feeder pigs.  In January, I knew I was going to talk to him about pigs but wasn't sure of the number.  I thought, "Hmmmm, I want 25.  Hubby would probably want 4.  So 10 is a good compromise."

I came home and told Hubby that I reserved 10 pigs for us and he flipped out.  "10!!!  I was thinking 4!!"  Sorry honey, 10 it is.

On Thursday I had a meeting in Bismarck at the Ag Department and arranged to meet our feeder pigs that afternoon.  I pulled up to our state's capitol in our diesel pickup with over half a million miles on it and a stockrack in the back.  I thought it was only fitting!!!

When I arrived home, the kids were pretty excited to see the pigs.  They'd never seen a pig in real life!

I don't think the pigs had ever seen a small boy!

They look pretty harmless, don't they?  Only 75 pounds, 15 inches high...how much damage could they do?

That's what is left of the electric pig fence after we had unloaded 7 of the 10 of them.  One of them hit the fence and got a shock.  Instead of backing up, like all the other animals in the natural world, the pigs ran through it.  Wore that fence like a scarf as they raced away.

You have to understand that Hubby has never been around livestock.  And my eternal optimism only goes so far when the pigs are headed over the hill.  He was ready to post an ad online that said "free pigs, come and catch them".  

I have to admit, I was just a little worried.

But, I'm nothing if not an idiot persistent.  So we high-tailed it (just like our pigs) back to the yard (Oh, did I forget to mention we were a 1/4 mile from our house?) to get 4 cattle panels, some wire and T-posts.  We were building a stockade!

We got the fence erected and went in search of the pigs.  The two older kids were still up (Little One had gone to bed) and were tagging along on the pig-finding mission.  And we found them!  In one of my gardens.  Thankfully, no rooting had taken place.

We quietly and slowly moved them along, placing our children at strategic locations to steer them back the 1/4 mile to the stockade.  I have to say that my husband, who has never been around pigs and my children, who have never been around pigs were AWESOME!  Really, I think I married a pig-whisperer and gave birth to his pig-whispering children.

Without much action, we got them into the pen and then added the other three and bolted the door!  

Here they are on pasture, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine...from their stockade.

(Hindsight being 20/20...we should have (and we will) trained them to electric fence with the stockade behind it so that when the ran through it, they would hit the fence and HAVE TO go backwards.)  
But that's what learning is all about!  We'll know better next time...

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Prodigal Patterns

Some of you might remember when I lost my mind and my patterns back in October.  (If you don't, you can relive the magic HERE)

The prodigal patterns have returned!!

On our last rain day, I tackled the storage room in our basement to free myself of STUFF.  The kind that you wonder why you ever moved it down here five years ago.  THAT STUFF.  

As I was cleaning and organizing and making Hubby haul load after load after load to give away, I happened to work through a large basket that I used for "kid things" at family picnics and such.  I had piled things in there that needed to go downstairs.  And in it is was {insert drumroll here}, the patterns!!!

Now, I need to decide which ones to make and then buy some fabric in preparation for my next rain day.  Which will not be spent sweating in my storage room, but at my beloved sewing machine.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I heard a strange noise

As I was preparing supper the other night, I heard the three voices of my children.  But they weren't talking to each other.

As I listened closer, I heard one talking about Poppleton and Cherry Sue.  Cowboy talking about some new kittens.  And the Little One was squealing.

Then I peeked my head around the corner of the kitchen and saw this:

I think Grandma W might be just a little bit proud...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

And the work goes on

I lie to myself every spring.

I say, "I won't have so much housework because we'll be outside so much."  Which, is true, in part.  The kids haven't touched their inside toys in at least a week, even on the rain day.

But when we do come inside, we usually bring "stuff" with us.  Stuff that requires sweeping up.

Little One loves to run the broom, even though it's twice her size.  I have another that has an adjustable handle that I ratchet down to its lowest setting and she's as happy as a gopher in soft dirt, almost literally.

In other farm news, planting of the gardens continues.  I recruited Hubby and Cowboy (minus his trusty hat) to help plant onions.  
 Planting onions is a GREAT way to get kids started in the garden.  They are big, there's a definite up and down and they can see the result of their work right away.  I started my niece and nephew with onions and now my own kids.  
These onions happen to be a variety called "Big Daddy" that is excellent for storage.  I'm hoping to keep a lot of these 1500 onions for use all winter long!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit

Kiddo1 has been on a mission to catch a butterfly.  It has consumed her and allowed her to "use her big muscles" a lot in the past weeks.  

All to no avail.  She has not been able to accomplish this task.  It would seem that recently-four-year-old fingers are not swift nor deft enough.

As we returned from outside work to our kitchen, Kiddo1 suddenly screamed, "Mama!  A butterfly came to us!"  Sure enough, there was a butterfly (yes, I know it's technically a moth) right on our window.

And that night, Kiddo1 prayed, "Thank you God, for the butterfly that came to us."

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Little One

There are many bright spots in my life, but one I'm most thankful for today is this one:

We no longer have a baby (for the first time in four years), we have a little girl.

One who runs and jumps and plays...but doesn't say a word.

One who is jealous of anyone else using her mama's lap.

And loves to hold on to just one finger.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Let's Play!

Kiddo1 has to make her bed in the morning.  We help her, but she can pull up her covers herself and does a good job.  And then she tucks in her soft toys with their own blanket and opens a book for them to read while she is gone.  (Sister and Trixie alternate with who gets to come play and who has to stay in bed and take a nap.)

Then the hard core playing starts.  Kiddo2 is a big, BIG fan of cowboys so that is a popular playtime.  They each pick a cowboy to be (I am often assigned the role of "Cowboy Mommy".)  The each have a stick horse and they usually run through the house at least once a day to "move the cows".

One of their favorite toys is actually MY dad's from when he was a boy.  This truck has seen a lot of imaginative play!!

On this day, the cowboy in the cab was hunting for coyotes and all the other horses and cowboys came along to ride in the back.

Do you have a family-favorite toy??

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pullets and Turkeys are Out on Pasture

The time has come for the pullets and turkeys to move out onto the pasture.  We usually move them between three and four weeks of age (or when the turkeys start escaping the brooder).  We brood them together because turkeys need chicken teachers.  And once they've been taught, they are pretty indestructible.  We've never lost a turkey due to sickness, just one to our dog and one got rolled under the pen and was badly injured.

Turkeys are VERY socialable!  Lots of popping and whistling sounds greet us.  The toms are already strutting with their half feathered out juvenile bodies, and the hens could care less...kind of reminds me of my 9th grade teaching days. :)  

These 25 turkeys are in this pen for about three weeks, until they are big enough to stay in the electric poultry net.  Then they'll be in a much bigger area, ranging around.  Did you know turkeys will take up to 50% of their diet in forage?  It really is amazing to watch them stride and eat, stride and eat.

We also moved 124 pullets (young hens) to a separate pen for the next three weeks or so.  They will be joining the big hens and we want them to also stay in the poultry net AND be able to hold their own with the big girls.

Even though the forage is bigger than they are, they gobble it right up!

We have 50 Barred Rocks, 50 Silver Laced Wyandottes and 25 Ameracaunas (they lay the green/blue eggs).

This one is watching a bug...and then she ate him right up!  Yumm, protein!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our sheep!

I grew up with livestock on our farm, all kinds of livestock.  For me, that's what made farm life worth living.  Hubby did not, his farm was strictly grains.  I've told him, "Oh Honey, that wasn't a real farm!"  

In high school, my life goal was to be a veterinarian.  I loved animals, especially large animals, and I loved working with them every day.  

Hubby and I haven't gotten large animals until this point because we had three children in three years and that was enough to manage at that time.  But this is the first year we haven't had a baby, so it was time to get livestock!

I talked about our goat-getting HERE.  Hubby and I let the kids have a morning of fun at Grandma's while we went to pick-up the first batch of sheep.  

They are Katahdins which are hair sheep bred for meat and to thrive on grass which is exactly what we want!  These five wethers (castrated males) are going to graze and grow and will be processed in October for our customers.  Their hair is amazingly soft!  (They are drinking water here.)

These lambs were being fed some grain and were not on green grass, so to balance their diet and to prevent their little tummies from getting upset we are giving them some hay as dry matter to balance the lush green grass they are enjoying.  

The kiddos worked together to bring the lambs their hay!

 Our other sheep are Icelandics.  They were delivered by fellow grass farmers who wanted to see our chicken operation, so in exchange for a farm tour they brought us our sheep.  (I really wish the ewes were shorn, but I'm working on a way to relieve them of their very large fleeces.)

We have two mature ewes, one has twin ram lambs and the other a ewelamb.  

We also have a yearling ewelamb who was sold to us as "open", meaning she was not bred.  On Sunday we went to church and came home to a fantastic sight:  A brand new baby!!  He was about an hour old when we saw him.  When I was growing up, our ewelambs were difficult mothers.  They were scared, didn't realize they had a lamb, didn't know what to do with it.  We would put them into small pens so they could bond with their babies.

This little guy couldn't have a better mother!  She is so attentive to him and fawns over him, knickering and grunting with him, licking and nuzzling him.  With her heavy wool coat, I was keeping a careful eye to make sure he was nursing and knew what was wool and what was "dinner".  She did an excellent job of keeping him in the right place so that he could feed.

This is the only picture we have of him because she always puts herself between us and her baby!

This is our only ewelamb.  We have given her to our niece for her 16th birthday this month.  She will be an investment where our niece can keep or sell her lambs and fiber.  I must admit, she's a beautiful animal, with wonderful confirmation and a gorgeous fleece, I'm kinda sad that she's not ours.

Lots of people ask why we have animals.  Yes, they are very tasty, but we have them for a much bigger reason...soil health!  The impact of animals on a grass landscape is wonderful and necessary.  Here is a picture of the paddock the Icelandics are in just after they moved.

And here's what it looks like when they move out, just 24 hours later!
 The sheep eat about half of the grass and weeds and trample the other half.  That trampled vegetation feeds the soil microbes, shades the soil, reduces water loss and increases water retention (I could go on and on), plus the sheep leave excellent fertilizer!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Tidbits

Kiddo1 is a bit of a boss-er.  She did something (I don't even remember what it was) that earned her a trip to sit in front of the dishwasher.  The most boring place in the house and the site of our "time-out" place.  (We don't call it that, we just say "Go sit in front of the dishwasher.")

As she was sitting there, she shouted instructions to her younger siblings and they came with a book and she told them to sit down.  Kiddo1 "read" the book and the other two looked on in rapt attention.  Which this Mama loved:  she was removed from whatever earned her the trip and she had the other two sitting and quiet!

Monday, May 14, 2012

I don't do cute

Kiddo1 had a birthday recently.  I've heard of moms who have theme birthdays for their kids with coordinating food, decorations, favors, clothes, what-have-you.  I am not one of those people.

I don't have birthday parties for my kids so that they can have fun.  I have birthday parties for my kids so that our friends (who just happen to have some really nice kids) can get together and visit.

I've tried to do cute food, but it never turns out as cute as the picture.  See the Great Deranged Easter Bunny Fiasco of 2010 HERE

Perhaps the fact that they ended up like this has jaded me a bit in the area of "cute" food.

I leave the birthday cakes to one very talented and creative Grandma who made me a piano cake for my birthday.  Kiddo1 requested a Hello Kitty cake.
I wish I could do that.  My version would probably look like the Michelin man....

I did attempt one "cute" food for her party, CHICKS!  It's just deviled eggs cut the other way with black olive eyes and a carrot nose.  If you close one eye and turn your head to the side, they might possibly be chicks.  But Kiddo1 helped and thought they were great.
(Note the dark yellow color.  That's all natural, no mustard to make that hue.  Just good old pastured egg yolks!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Skunks: Can't live with 'em!

There's a couple things we don't tolerate here on the farm and one of them is skunks.  

No siree!  Smell is just one of the reasons.  The others include:  rabies, they eat eggs and chickens, small children who might want to pet the black and white "kitty", you get the picture.

In the five years I've been here we've only had one skunk and that was three years ago.  This year we've had two!  They are most active in the spring as they are traveling to seek out a summer home.  

How do we know there's a skunk?  

Duke never barks, ever, unless there's a varmint in the yard.  Raccoons, skunks, coyotes, etc. are all on his radar and he sounds the alarm loudly.  So pretty much whenever Duke barks, Hubby grabs the shotgun.  Something has invaded and is posing a threat.

(Yes, that's my man in brown duck shoulder britches.  Stand back ladies, he's all mine!)

And Kiddo2 grabs a baseball bat.  He's the back-up...or so he thinks.  

Duke signals that the intruding skunk is under the garden shed.  About 200 feet from the house.  Which is WAY to close for comfort.  And it's the middle of the day.  That fact indicates possible rabies as skunks are nocturnal and if they aren't following their natural patterns...well, something is wrong.

Hubby and Duke took care of the skunk under my shed.  Kiddo2 watched with me and the girls from a safe distance away.  But he was poised to help if needed!

Kiddo3 might have wondered what all the fuss was about.

But when it comes to skunks on the farm, we don't take any chances.  Or prisoners.