Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Projects

Another project we have been working on is composting, and improving our garden beds.  This spring our neighbor Troy was kind enough to drive his tractor over and plow our garden plot.  Then, several weeks later, he came over and went back and forth over it with his rear-tine tiller.  He left a great bed for us to plant in, and then it rained.  And rained.  The yard was squelching.  We did not get the plants in until mid-April, and did not have a bounty of peas, but we DID have a productive garden.  However, we are planning even more improvements for next year.  Because of the success of this bed....
we have changed the way we garden.  Keith has been studying Lasagna Bed gardening, where many layers are put on the ground without tilling or breaking it.  This is basically what we did with this flower bed, laying straw from the horseshed full of manure... dirt from bagged dirt (the hard and expensive way to go), grass clippings, and more straw.  Then we covered it with wood chips (also expensive).  We planted the perennials in this deep bed, and they ran riot all summer and fall.  The three boxes of wood you see above are the three original beds.  And by early summer, it looked like this....

So now, Keith has spent considerable time the last few weekends working on the compost bins.  Thanks to a friend at work, we have bags and bags of leaves and yard cleaning composting.  He was kind enough to give them to us in paper sacks, and we put them inside plastic bags to cause them to compost in the bags.  We'll add these to our beds in the spring, because now we have four more beds! Keith also strengthened and repaired our original compost bins.

The bags are some of the leaf bags... we have more laying in the vegetable garden.

This is a new bin that Keith bought and set up, it is full of layers of dirt and leaves and other things (chicken house cleanings)

And this will be set up for kitchen garbage, and all the other refuse that goes to make good clean compost. 
(llama poop)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tired Tonight

Tired tonight, maybe just the start of a new week after a four day weekend.  Both Keith and I have sore throats, and are dragging. 

We found out tonight that we will probably be adopting a third pug girl... I was approached a week ago about her, but did not hear anything else, and assumed the people had decided to keep her or had found another home.  She had only been with them a month.  My heart hurts for pets treated this way.  She is young, only two, like Abby.... but her first family was unable to keep her when they had to move in with relatives.  These folks took her but did so only because their kids agreed to "do the dog chores", and this did not work out.  So the poor little dog must go to a new home again.  I think once she is here, she will have found her forever home.  She was called Gertie originally I think, but has been called Molly for the past month.  We like both.  Right now my son has her in Independence (Mo.), because he works at the same place as her current owner.  I got an email from him tonight asking if I wanted to pick her up Saturday, which rocked me off my chair because I had heard nothing further about the dog.  We have decided to make room on the bed for a third, though... but pretty soon Keith and I will have to move to the spare room and let the pugs take over.

I had planned to do a story tonight about the wonderful compost bins Keith has re-formed in the garden, but that must wait for another time when I feel better up to sitting here at the tube.  Right now, I'm off to bed after gargling with salt water.... TMI!!! 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Project Time

Winter time is project time on the farm, even the hobby farm.  It's the time we get caught up on all the things that get put off during summer, when there is grass to cut, more chores to do, and  gardening to keep up.  Winter is the time that extra things are started and finished.

For five years, I have wanted Christmas lights... and this long weekend, Keith installed them with his first-ever lighting project.  On Thanksgiving Day while I cooked, he worked out in the cold, taking down an old porch fan, and wiring up a plug to run not only Christmas lights but also a tree for the porch. 

The result was....

In between working on the side deck....and the wiring...

He found time to make us a nifty llama feeder....

So now we won't waste as much hay!

Personal Seal of Approval... Tony Llama

Thanks, HONEY!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It was a Beautiful Day....

It was cold enough to break ice again this morning, and I had to bring the little henhouse waterers in to thaw them.... but it was so pretty out for late November. 

The chickens were all happy to be out in the brisk air.... big and little.... and I cut our Halloween/Thanksgiving pumpkin for them to have a treat.

The llamas were enjoying the crisp air...

Tony wandered over to see what I was doing...

Inca wanted to see what I was doing, but Aztec wanted to see what the chickens were doing in the pasture...

But he's still little enough that where Mom goes, he goes too...

We are still not sure what color Aztec is really going to be...maybe gray?  He has one tiny dot of white on his chest in the middle.

The "Little" chicks in the little henhouse are 3 months old now, though still small.  They are healthy and well, but don't go outside yet.  There is a light shining in there day and night, so they can get under it for warmth.  That's a slice of pumpkin behind them in the doorway, but they were not interested in it.  Several are frizzles, meaning their feathers are curly. The gray chick with his back to you is a cockerel.

A better view of some of the chicks... the grey with his little beak and the white on the right are cockerels.... and the others, pullets (girls).  The little black is the spitting image of what surely is her mama, my black cochin Lady. I have no idea what I am going to do with two more cockerels.

Farmdog Abby wore herself out...

As did Lilly Ann...

Along with Keith and Jenny...

All in all, a good day here at Calamity Acres.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yoder, Kansas

Today we took a day trip to Yoder, Kansas.  It was kind of joke... our name is Yoder. 

We had teased about going there for months, so planned to go on Black Friday, while everyone was shopping.  We took the long way around, and took about 4 1/2 hours to drive there on a chilly Friday morning. Once there, we ate at a big restaurant, the Carriage Crossing, and then stopped in a few of the other shops to buy "authentic" Amish goods. 

We stocked up on things for our Christmas baskets for Keith's family, and I bought some great summer sausage at the meat company which had wonderful meats of every kind in their cases and freezers.  We realize that we made jelly that looked just as good as the ones we saw for sale, so we are giving ours in the baskets!

We came back a shorter way, that only took about 3 1/2 hours.  The Little Girls were overjoyed to see us, and the henhouses quickly shut up, pets fed, and pajamas put on (for me).  I am going to spend the rest of the holiday weekend putting away the fall decorations, cleaning, and getting Christmas decorating started.  We have a surprise to show you this coming week, courtesy of Keith!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Day for Thanks

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Night Before

Or... The Calm Before the Storm...

It won't be four and twenty blackbirds in a pie, either... but a good spiral-sliced ham, potato casserole, and various sides along with a traditional pumpkin pie and cookies.  We are expecting a plunge into single digits tonight, and did not get the trough heater connected today, so that means carrying hot water in the morning to break ice for the llamas, and digging out the waterer-heaters for the two chicken houses.  Ugh... winter is back, or almost back.

Grandsons Chris and Nathan will be joining us for dinner, and brother Pete and sister in law Mary Beth will be joining us in sprit.  I saw them this afternoon in their cozy little house when I dropped off a few treats for their feast.  Now plans are to get up in the morning, care for the animals, and then start cooking.  I'll listen and catch glimpses of the Macy's parade, and set the table with my good Spode dishes that Mother gave me.  We'll thank God for all the many blessings we have had this year, and for those that will come in the future. 

Outside the wind is howling, but tonight, Calamity Acres is warm and dry, and almost ready for the holiday season to start.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Windmill

And thanks for a bright, sunny day

Monday, November 22, 2010

Old Cemetaries

I love old cemetaries. For some years, I belonged to the Civil War Roundtable of Western Missouri, and in fact, studying Civil War History is what brought Keith and myself together.  I like to stop while driving to investigate old cemetaries, and Keith does, too.  Before we married, I traveled very little... I was always too busy working several jobs.  However, ten years ago I treated myself to a trip to Gettysburg, and the following year, treated myself again!  I had a wonderful time, and since I was still riding regularly then, I rented a horse and rode on the battlefield.  It gave me chills to ride where the greats and the heros rode and marched and fought and fell.  I was the only one in the ride not listening to headphones, and brought up the rear that day.  It was misty, and difficult to see very far, and I swear to you that I heard the sounds of battle in the distance. 

In Wyandotte County where I grew up, we had numerous small cemetaries and there were many Civil War veterans buried in them.  When I asked at the roundtable meetings why there were so many, I discovered that many veterans "went west" after the war, and got their 40 acres that the government promised Union veterans.  Now they lie in forgotten cemetaries across our land.

Close to us here lies the little Missouri River town of Weston.  It is filled with wonderful old homes and a lot of history.  It was also a tobacco hub, and there was a large auction house there, the Weston Burley house.  Tobacco formed a lot of income for many small farmers in Platte County.  Now it is a town of antique and specialty shops, and good restaurants, and a fun day trip.

In Weston there is a beautiful old municipal cemetary, and one autumn day Keith and I drove up there just to see the color, and remember those who had gone before us in this month of remembering. 
The cemetary sits on rolling hills

"A Free Spirit"
I know there is a story there.

Great Grandson of someone I admire

In the Civil War Roundtable, we had a wonderful president who knew what every fold of cloth on a monument meant.... all things I have forgotten now, but fascinating.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Little Bunch's Progress

In the little henhouse, we have eleven chicks, born in September.  Their mamas were Rosewitha, Flicka and Silka.  Silka is a purebred silkie.... Rosewith, a cross bred here four years ago from my original Japanese bantams and one of our larger hens.  Flicka is a cross between a silkie and a frizzle cochin, with particularly beautiful feathers.  She was born on Super Bowl Sunday.

The three little hens all sat the fourteen eggs faithfully, in a corner of the henhouse.  We had had a big hatch earlier in the summer, and all those chicks were given away, but for one rooster.  Yes, I kept another rooster!  We had a purebred frizzle cochin, Curley... who couldn't have weighed two pounds dripping wet.  One night a snake suffocated him in the big henhouse.  He left, however, a legacy of frizzle coated chicks.

 One, Ratchett, we kept, yet another rooster.  Ratchett is the one we kept in the Big Henhouse for a week in the rabbit hutch, because he had been beaten up by the bigger roosters.  In the rabbit hutch during that week we found not one but TWO eggs.  We have always referred to Ratchett since as "The Hooster", since we were not sure if he was hen or rooster!  I have actually read of hermaphroditism in cochins.  Ratchett appears to be the father of some of the chicks, as they have frizzle coats.  So far, I have counted two cockerels, and the rest appear to be pullets, or young girls.  They are eight weeks old now, and doing fine, strong and healthy.  Silka, in fact, has left the mothering to Rosewitha and Flicka, and is now going outside with the other June hatch survivors, and laying eggs in the old duckhouse. 
The duckhouse was formerly used by the geese as their living quarters, especially through the severe winter last year.  It's bedding is still the mix of straw, hay, sticks and rocks they dragged in for their bedding.  Silka does not know I have seen her slipping in there to lay.  Yes, that is blood on one of the eggs... sometimes hens pass a small amount when they lay, easily washed off.

The new brood looked like this six weeks ago:

And today, they look like this:

The black chick is in front of Rosewitha... it's a pullet.
The gray chick is, too. (not in this picture)
There are at least two frizzle-feathered chicks, they are taller and have brown feathers.  They are in the center, back.
There is a cockerel in the front!  There may be one more behind him.

Definitely a cockerel!
(hear me scream)
Could this be his daddy?

One and Nanny, two of my Japanese white/blacktail bantams mixes left. 
And finally, Ratchett the Hooster:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Tree is Lit

One tree is lit, anyway.  Today was the Tongie Tree-Lighting Ceremony.  They held it early this year, and on a weekend, since the weeknight ceremonies weren't well-attended.  Preceding it was a scavenger hunt through downtown merchants, and carol-singing, and cameraderie.  Grandson Nathan and I got in for the last hour of it, after I met his mom to pick him up.  We waited in the rapidly-descending temps while the crowd grew and a singer came out and serenaded us.  It was fun, and treats were being sold so it made it even MORE fun. 

Before the ceremony.

Homemade Moon Pies, YUMMMM

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived by horse-drawn wagon.

Nathan wanted to pet Santa's horse with jingle bells on.

Of course, by the time the lights came on, so many people were in front of us, I couldn't get a good picture of the tree.  I'll go back down during the season and get a better one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another Week Finished

Another week finished, and another week closer to retirement.  Not that I'm counting or anything.

Why is it that when autumn comes and it gets dark earlier, we get tired earlier?  It is 9 PM and I am ready to get into bed, where Keith has already been for an hour.

We went out to dinner tonight, to Bichelmeyer's Restaurant in Tongie, where we each had a light dinner.  We had hurried through chores, and I'll do water in the morning when the weather is supposed to be nice.  We are expecting cold to descend on us before next weekend, maybe before the holiday.

Roxanne at Screamin' Oaks Goat Dairy has called to say she has managed to make another batch of soft cheese, since her girls are all drying up.  I am going down the road in the morning to get some, I bought some dip mixes to mix in it, and want to see how they taste.  We also are going this weekend to a large farmer's market Christmas open house in Lawrence.  Plans to go on Saturday changed when we realized it was a game day, so we'll go Sunday or risk coming to a standstill in town trying to negotiate the streets.

Keith will be finishing his gate project... he has re-built the gate to our place, because we had to stop on the road, get out, open the gates, and then pull in.  He has reconstructed it so that we will be able to pull IN off the road, get out, open the gates.  We are hoping it deters Ranger from running up and down the fenceline so much.  He has torn his rear hips up and we are worried about the continued stress on them.  When it cools down for good, he will be in the house daily while we work, and that will help him.  He is getting older, though, so the stress is taking more out of him.

Keith had help from both
Brandon and Chris with the post-hole digging, but he will be putting the last cattle panel up tomorrow and moving the gate, then the project will have only the fence-stretching left to do on the main fence along the road.  Then, on to MORE projects here where they never end!

Faithful Ranger always leads us down the driveway.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful for a Home to Come Home To

Be it ever so humble.... it's our home and we love it.  I know there are many people who love to wander near and far, and love their RVs..  As for us, we love it here at Calamity Acres.  Tonight we're tired and
it's cold out, and the coyotes have already been howling.  It's good to be inside where it's warm, and where I can have a marshmallow in a cup of hot chocolate in front of the tv. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Lllamas?

Someone commented recently... "Why llamas... cute... but what good are they".

One word answer:  "Coyotes".

We live in Northeastern Kansas, and believe me, it's not flat here.  Almost two years ago now, we had some African cross geese we had raised from little goslings.  Coyotes got over the 5 foot livestock fence in the pasture and got the male, Timmy.  We had already had several call ducks disappear mysteriously, but that was aggravating, to lose a fine young gander. 

We called friends who had raised llamas for many years in northwestern Missouri, and a few days later at the weekend, Mama and Tony arrived while we were out doing errands.  Beau the Pony and Lacey the mini were not a bit afaid of them, and placidly accepted their presence in the pasture and the horseyard.

Samantha, a particularly calm and affectionate goose, became best friends with Beau, the dear old pony.

They were often found together, pony and goose.
Then, Tim disappeared, and after a day or so, Keith walked around in the pasture, and found his body against the bottom fenceline.  It could have been a raccoon, but we believed coyotes, as we heard them all around.  The chickens were shut up at night, but the ducks and geese stayed out.  The coyotes grew bold enough to come in the pasture.
So... along came Mama, and her year old cria, Tony. 
Best coyote control ever. 
Llamas will stomp a coyote to death if they can. 
We did not lose any more birds to coyotes, though the beauteous Samantha ran afoul of what we thought was probably a possum, as she got a terrible scratch across her breast that became infected.
We lost her.
Thus started our llama keeping, with the wise and wonderful Big Mama Llama.

Tony stuck close to Mama that first summer, and was lonely for someone to play with. He grew fat and sassy, though, and the second year, she presented us with a beautiful little cria with tight crimped wool and a gorgeous cinnamon color.... Yankee.
Then, we bought Inca a year ago, and brought her home, where she was promptly bred by Tony.
In all this time, we never lost another bird to coyotes.  The only time they came in the pasture, we heard them in time and ran at them.. and the llamas were butt to butt in defense. 

We get lovely wool from them, and next spring it will be cleaned and sent to be spun into thread with a cotton blend, and my sister will make me an afghan from the wool of our own llamas.

Far more than this, they provide us with hours of pleasure watching them play in the pasture. 

After we had Tony and Yankee gelded and lost Yankee, Tony was lonely for a playmate.  He has one now in our new little cria, who still has no name.
And that is how we got our llamas!