Saturday, December 31, 2011

The State of the Farm, 2011

Here we are, the last of the last!  It just doesn't seem possible. 

A year ago tonight we were covered in deep snow here at Calamity Acres, and Keith and I were wearing ourselves out carrying warm water to the henhouses, and to the llamas.  Thank heavens we now have the pump at the henhouse, and so far this winter, it has worked like a charm. 

(This obviously isn't the deep snow... but an example of the hordes of starlings)

Then, in February, we got it.
The deck.

But February snow led to March and April garden planning.

And Abby was glad to help!

I got a bunch of new chicks from Heartland Hatchery at our feed store... Welsummers, Wyandottes, Old English Gamebirds, Mille Fleur d'Uccles, and a lone Seabright.
And this guy got about half of them:

Until Rocky the Rooster fought him to a standstill and we took the hawk to Operation Wildlife.

We had some unfinished projects that we need to get back to next year:

 The west side deck.

The Henspa

 This summer was particularly hard, as it got terribly hot for weeks, after flooding in Missouri and Kansas that changed the lives of thousands of people.  Keith spent a good part of the summer going back and forth to Northern Kansas to the small towns of Elwood and Atchison because of their flooding concerns. 

At home, the llamas learned how to cool themselves off:

And so did Ranger

Eventually, the heat began to dissipate.  With the vegetables we grew in our garden, we made this

Jars and jars, in fact.

I made my first chevre, and have made several batches since.  I am not making it this dry, it "scoops" on the crackers better, and is sooooo good!

In May, we lost Jenny, the apple of Keith's eye, to feline parvo after literally months and months of vet visits.  Two days later, we lost Josie out the front door, never to be found.  I am catless for the first time in thirty years, as we cannot bring a cat into the infected-with-parvo house for many months to come.

But in August, Keith's daughter Andrea and her beau Nick were married in Mexico, and Keith was able to attend:

and in September came Baby Jace, to Amber, Keith's younger daughter, and her husband Jesse

And Keith turned into "Papaw" right before our very eyes! 

As the heat dissipated, we had lots of visits from children, grandchildren, and their friends.

And then summer turned into fall

The last of the tomatos were canned into preserves.

And leaves fell as the farm prepared for winter.

The holidays came

(A quiet Thanksgiving with just the two of us and the thrift store curtains)

and went:

Our party on the 17th, notice what Keith PAPAW is doing.

And here it is the end of the year already.

We have had several long talks about next year this week while I have been on vacation. 

In 32 weeks, I will be retired, God willing, to stay home and take care of our place here and the animals and gardens.  Keith will continue working a few more years.

In the coming months, we are going to finish the side deck and the big new henhouse.  After those are finished, some very needed repairs will be made to the big henhouse.  We will build a small 4 sided barn - a simple pole barn, so that we can have two ponies again after I retire.  Likewise, we are going to get two wethered goats for brush control in the pasture, as I discovered last week that there is a large patch becoming overgrown with weeds and blackberry canes down there. 

Another thing we did this year was run water to the new henhouse /garden area, and activated the pump at the door of the big henhouse.  These two things saved us hours of heavy hose-dragging in the heat of the summer, and ARE saving hours of bucket carrying from the house to the outer waterers right now.

The year after next, we are going to build an "outdoor kitchen" near the deck, which will actually be an enclosed, stand alone building.  It will hold an extra refrigerator and stove, and we will move the big freezer from the workshop to this building.  It will have a portable sink, and hold the barbecue supplies and those things that we have no storage for in the house... things that we use only once or twice a year.  This is something Keith has wanted for a while, so he is keeping busy planning it. 

We WON'T be planting pickling cukes this year, as I am going to have to give away half of what we canned this year!  We ARE going to learn to dehydrate, and make better use of our garden produce. 

Chris and I will finish the garden bed we started in the heat of last summer.  I won't be planting cypress vine next year, as it ate up a butterfly bush.  Likewise the hyacinth beans that have done so well... I'll find a different place to put them than the arbor.

Keith will be planting lots of red potatos, they performed so very well.

Spinach, too, which I have learned to love.

Tomorrow begins a new year, and my third full year of blogging.  I have made so many wonderful new blog friends, I have bought your products and listened to your advice.  I enjoy reading all of your blogs, and have learned so very much from doing so.  I hope we can all do this again in the years to come, and pray that everyone has a safe New Year, and a good start to 2012! God has been very good to us this year, and though we have a humble home, He has blessed us over and over.  We hope He does the same to you in the coming year, and that we see you here often!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Almost the End of the Year

Yes, tomorrow will be the last post of the year... it seems like it just started and now here we are, at the end.  Tomorrow morning I'll take down the Christmas decorations and put them away until next year, God willing.   We have so enjoyed seeing the house all dressed up this year, and even Keith was loath to take them down early.

Here's a shot of the "main" tree this morning... my prim tree was decorated, and a small two foot prim tree on the chest in the bathroom was decorated, too.

As you can see, it was sunny out again.  Two years ago today, here is what we had:

There is Lilly horse, and Beau is to her left after the Great Blizzard of Christmas Eve, 2009. They would NOT go in their shed.
And last year:

Looking south down our road, last year this week.

We are so grateful the weather has been milder this year.  It got up to sixty yesterday, and in the fifties today.  Though it will only reach the forties the next few days, at least it has not been in the  single digits so far this winter. 

I know you can barely see it, but this is water rushing out of our well house about 3 hours ago, today.

As you can see, there was quite a bit of it, and it shows how high the water table is now, after our dry summer.  The sump pump has been pumping water out daily.

What a difference a year makes!

I got some sad news yesterday, that I did not write about last night.

Mama's Little Doll, my little Hannah, must have her bad eye out on Monday.  I wish I had been told this at the beginning of this week, while I was home.  She will spend a night at the vet's, and then Keith will bring her home on Tuesday.  I am very worried about her making it through the anesthetic, and then going through the surgery itself. 

Here she is four years ago, the day we brought her home when we adopted her.  We did not realize then how blind she already was, but she still could see a little.

Our dear little Addie Mae knew, and adopted Hannah immediately, becoming her eyes and ears.

And after Addie Mae was gone, Abby and Gertie have taken care of her.

Oddly enough, Ranger does not like Hannah, and does not like to be near her.  He will get up and move if she comes near him, and growl at her if she stumbles into him.  That is one reason we crate her, to protect her.  He is old and arthritic, too.

I am praying this weekend that we do not lose our good little girl yet, who wants only to be loved and be near us.

End of the Year lessons learned tomorrow.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Okay, here's a good one.  I sat here yesterday (I'm on vacation this week) catching up on what everyone did for Christmas on your blogs... and having a wonderful read.  I read, and read, and read... and then totally forgot to do my own post!  Keith got home from work, I baked a chicken... fixed the rest of the dinner... and then sat down with the pugs to watch a little tv and completely forgot about the post!

I don't think I talk about the things Keith has done around here enough.  He spends a lot of his spare time playing golf and listening to ball games on the radio... but the rest of the time he is working, working, working to make our place a better one.  Granted, sometimes his visions are over our budget, but he usually refines them.  When we moved here, this is what it looked like:

 Notice the open pasture.

Within weeks, Keith had made the first chickenyard...

To the left is the first henyard.... and of course, I jumped the gun and as SOON as we signed for the place, I went to an auction and bought six chickens.  They boarded at a friend's house for six weeks.

Keith learned from that first project... and went on to cross-fence the pasture when the first words "Mini horses" came out of my mouth. (by himself)

He built a duck house for our ducks and geese, which they used during the last intense winters.

A corral and a barn for the mini horses, which is now the llama yard.

Not to mention the wonderful garden beds and whole garden area... though grandson Chris has done a lot of the grunt work.

A third henhouse, to be finished in the spring, and which will be truly a henspa.

And the wonderful deck built two years ago, which has provided so much pleasure already. 

Around here, we have the A, the B, and the C lists. 
The A list, of course, are things that need to be done ASAP.  Keith took care of one of those on Monday, when he sealed the eaves holes where starlings were going in and out of the henhouse at will.

The B list are things we would like to do, but are not in a tearing hurry.... put a new deck in the boat... for instance

The C List are those things that would be nice to do, but not necessary, like build on a new bedroom and deck to the back of the house. 

Whatever needs to be done, I know this guy can do it!

And now he has a new little helper to help him!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Christmas Post

Did you have a great Christmas?   We did!

There are some out there for whom the holidays are depressing... my own dear mother was one of them.  She left the picking out of the Christmas tree (for they were all real in those days) and the decorating of it to my dad and my sister and me.  Sometimes, if they happened to be home, the "boys", my brothers, would hang an ornament or two, or throw some tinsel on it.  I was of the "thowing" kind of tinsel-decorating, and my sister, of the "hang one on each branch" kind.  Our house was decorated as only two little girls can decorate, so maybe that's why I always decorated as well as I could when my own kids were bitty things. 

On Christmas Day after church (and after we had opened Santa's gifts) we went to my grandmother's farm.  My grandma was widowed, and lived with her unmarried son and daughter, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Marcus.  There, along with my dad's brother John and his wife and only child, Petey, and my dad's youngest brother Frank, his wife and three kids, we would all gather for Christmas Dinner.  This tradition has gone out of our family now, as we have begun meeting for a get-together the week before Christmas, so that the various families can meet with spouses's families at Christmas.  At the farm were Big Pete (my brother) and Big Mike (my brother) and Little Pete (my cousin) and Little Mike, (my cousin's friend, who had lost both parents) and every year there were presents for all.  My cousin Petey had a BB gun, and often shot birds with it, making me cry.  I was a softie even then.  My sister and I played with my cousins Charlene, John and Tim, until it was time to eat and open gifts.  Sadly, we have very few pictures of these happy times, because no one used cameras regularly back then.  I can still see them in my mind, though, in the huge living room of the house, where there was  always a good fire going on the big hearth.  The hearth had a wall around it, just the right size for little kids to sit on and warm up after playing out in the snow!

Keith also remembers many, many Christmases spent with his grandparents at the farm in Southeast Iowa, playing with his cousins and eating big dinners.  How we miss those days!

It's funny, because looking back at them with my mother, she told my sister and me how she and my aunt dreaded it, as they had to use the outhouse in the cold, and had to go outside to smoke.  My sister, too, dreaded the outhouse, and was petrified of the Holsteins, while I ran among them and begged to be allowed to go get them when it was time for milking.  I have to admit I appreciate our indoor plumbing the older I get!

Here are some scenes from around Calamity Acres in the last two days... Christmas Day was fine, though chilly, compared to the last two under a foot or two of snow!

Yesterday, the hawk we often see at Spehar's Ponds was sitting there, looking for a meal.  Don't look up the pasture, Mr. Hawk!

 This is the lone survivor of all the chicks born in the Little Henhouse last spring.  We will give the setting ladies some privacy this spring, so they can hatch their chicks without fear of their being killed by the other hens.  This is the pullet I thought for a while was a cockerel, but I am confident she is a pullet, now.  Note Flora, next to her... they are both silkie crosses, and I think their coloring is very nice.   We are currently getting 8 or 9 eggs a day on many days, so are able to take three or four dozen to the food kitchen weekly, which is a blessing for us.


and Bitsy, the two Naughty Girls, are looking good.  They are going to be made into a breeding trio with this guy in the Spring... Big Boots

I am currently thinking of what we are going to do about egg layers in the spring.  This year we started 22 chicks in early March, the 12th.  We are going to wait a month this year, till weather is a little more temperate.  I may actually order from a hatchery, too, though I like picking out my chicks from the chick man at the feed store (he brings hundreds).  We'll use the water troughs to brood again, they work so well, but one will be in the new henhouse, we hope, by then.  I know that I want some more Welsummers, they lay the nicest big brown eggs, and I am very happy with their docile natures, as well as their pretty selves!

Here are two of the Welsummer hens, and Brutus, the Welsummer rooster yesterday.  The other hen is the Wyandotte girl, she also lays a nice egg.

More later, I have to go to the dentist, you know, the week you take off to RELAX is always spent on the go!

I close with a gratuitous shot of pug cuteness!

Revolting, aren't they?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

And So It Came to Pass...

In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. ...and Joseph also went up from Galille, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, the city of David, which is called Bethlehem. ... to be registered with Mary, his betrothed...and while they were there the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

(picture from the web)


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

What a wonderful Christmas Eve we are having here at Little Calamity Acres.  Keith has gone to put tires on his truck... he waited one week too long, suffered a blowout, and took my car this morning to get that tire mounted.  I have baked and cleaned and baked some more, for treats for son Jeff and his roommate tomorrow.

This is a familiar scene around here lately.   I think I have baked more this Christmas than any other in years.

This morning it was very cold out.  I carried out some warm water to the birds in the little henhouse, as they do not have a heater for their waterer.  They were so grateful to get it. 
Then I came back in and got some more warm water for the outdoor fortexes.  The wild birds EMPTIED these yesterday!

The birds in the big henhouse were lined up ready to go outside when I went in.

The nasty marks on the drywall are from starlings.
I read an article in Bowtie Inc's latest copy of "Chickens" magazine last night from someone with a backyard coop, who advised insulating and drywalling it to protect your birds in the winter.  Well... let me explain what we have found out.  See the mounted nest boxes for the bantams on the wall just under the roost?  See the holes above them?  That's what rats and mice do to drywall.... and then the snakes go in and out.  Nope... next year, when we remodel this building and rebuild the eaves of it.... the drywall is coming OUT.  When the rodents have nowhere to hide,they won't be so ready to come in and be at home. (and chew through the wires to four of the five outlets!)

One of the two remaining ameracaunas is gone.  I have no idea... maybe she has actually been gone since the last day before we captured the hawk... or maybe we have been hit again.  I looked everywhere for her this morning, and she is gone.   They had never even started laying.

Here is my beautiful April, who has finally started laying!

The llamas dug into the hay buffet... ooops... something has ticked off Inca.
Lil was on guard against something she saw down at Spehars.

And on the deck, there is a promise of spring waiting...

Way down at the bottom of the huge mum plant I got during the farm tour this fall, the mum is alive and waiting!  It was so good to see the green when I watered it this morning.  In a few more weeks, I'll cut those long dead stalks and then we'll transplant it into the garden. 

I'm going to take a break from posting and run in to see my little sister Kathleen and her husband, and take them some treats.  I have to come home and make stew and bake some more, so will set out right now.

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!