Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Feed and feed stores.

"To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves" - Mahatma Ghandi

Yesterday, I went to the feed stores in Waynesburg, the ones I can walk to from the office anyway.I like going to the feed stores. I like the smell. I like the people who work there (the kids prefer the one near their school with the cats even little EM can hold).

[photos from May 2013 on the farm. Boys Easter 2014]


We have our sheep. 2 anyway. Kable picked them up on Friday using a dog crate in the back of the Subaru. This may seem a little crazy but we don't have a trailer or a truck. The sheep traveled fairly well but escaped soon after we got them home. It was an exhausting chase around the farm but we got them back safely.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Water II

Then Israel sang this song; "Spring up, O well and sing it's praises"  Numbers 21:17

This weekend we managed to clean out the 3 working spring fed watering troughs. It was very messy work. During attempts to siphon water out of one I managed to get a mouthful of the filth from the bottom and promptly vomited up my breakfast.

There was about a foot of silt and sediment and accumulated detritus in the bottom of each trough and it required a lot of work to get it out. I did manage to save some of this black gunk to spread on the garden. I have heard mix reports about its effects positive and negative on gardens. We will see. 

I also visited the spring above crab-apple pond. It too seems to be silted up and filled with detritus. I know that Bob and Aunt Sandy have both worked to keep this spring clean but I am thinking that it too may need an overhaul and thorough cleaning. I have a soft spot for this little spring because if has a fairy tale quality about it. It is set off the trail 12 metres or so and is formed from a cutting set back into the hill. I can easily imagine the princess Sabra collecting water to bath George's wounds received from fighting the dragon.

There is another spring on the farm which has a similar quality about it on the other side of the ravine near the driveway. The water comes out of an old pipe set into the rock and is collected in a small stone cistern before over flowing down into the ravine. We cleaned this out a bit in the winter and we hope to make it a summer picnic spot. We can move the most freely around the farm in the early spring, before the hay gets high. But we can get to this spot via the road and woods.

Water is precious and an important part of farm life. We hope to be good stewards.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Growing up in Australia I think I have a better appreciation of the importance of water than many who grew up in wetter and greener climes. Water was also very important to Louis who had live for a while in Arizona. There are three working ponds on the farm and 5 in need of repair. There are two wells that are covered and not currently in use.

The repair of the ponds is a long term project. One project in the near future is to get pumps put in the wells so we can use the water. Getting water to the animals over the winter was a frustrating chore as most of the time we had to fill buckets in the bathroom and carry them to the barn. This is not sustainable in the long term and was barely adequate this year.

For the last week I have been getting water from the 'twin' watering troughs below Snake Pond. Aunt Sandy has been keeping the algae cleared off the top but leaf matter has built up a lot from the bottom. These troughs are closest to the house and barns and we hope to keep the lambs near them rotationally grazing. I thought I'd just use a metal rake to scope out the muck. Good theory. But it is very difficult to scope out and the water quality has deteriorated quite a bit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Today began with a steady drizzle and one of the boys home sick.

We sorted the middle boys' summer clothes. I am feeling blessed as it looks like the kids and I are good for clothes for the year. After two years of crazy clothes years - me being pregnant and then finding out we were having a girl(!) of all things, and not having quite enough for our oldest guy. Now it looks like we've hit a it of a sweet spot. Hoping to finish drawing up my yard sale wish list and put all the winter and unwanted (this season) clothes away. Tomorrow. Before the mess is the spare room overwhelms us.

We had an exciting afternoon letting the chicks and ducklings enjoy some sunshine. It has been a bit complicated as our rooster wants to kill the baby chicks. So today, we tried to lock him up, but he evaded us. Our next thought was to put the chicks in our makeshift hog panel enclosure in the veggie garden. This sort of worked. The chicks can squeeze out though. We wanted the ducks to free range, but they wanted to stay in their springhouse/coop. They finally were removed and the springhouse got mucked out before the baby birds went back to bed.

We got a call from a friend that we could check out lambs today for the boys' projects. We've only had poultry & feeder hogs so far. After an early dinner and gumboots put on all around, we went. The sheep are suffolks. We enjoyed seeing some gorgeous week-old twin lambs. Everyone had lots of questions for the shepherd. We looked at the bigger lambs which are almost two months old. We agreed on a manly looking whether  for IW and a sweet looking ewe lamb for EJ. Paid for now and we'll pick them up 'slick-shorn' in time for weighing-in at a local show. We are all excited for lambs to join the crew and nervous about testing out our ideals against the old-standard methods in our area. Thankfully we have dear friend who owns or manages over 1000 sheep in Australia who is consulting with us via skype and facebook and two good mentors here who know the showing drill and have been great resources.

Now the peepers are peeping and the kids are all asleep.

Monday, February 24, 2014


So, we have an evaporator at last. Now we need sap.

Friday, we bought a half pint evaporator by Leader from an Amish distributor a few counties away. We spent the weekend putting it together - lining the arch (I'd call it a firebox) with brick and putting in a brick wall, and getting the stove pipe up and some valves in.

We have almost 40 taps in but we've only collected about 10 gallons of sap so far despite almost a week of below freezing nights and above freezing days. A friend has a theory that the ground temperature has to be warmer, not just the air temperature and that the Farmers Almanac predicts March 10. I guess we'll see.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


The other day I was lucky enough to get to reload the 243 shells I had fired over the last few years.

Most of these round were spent on controlling our groundhog population. Groundhogs may seem harmless to most people but their holes can really damage the haymaking equipment and have undermined the driveway and threaten the stability of the pond wall.

I mention this because when we first moved to the farm I had hoped to use the rifle mostly to hunt deer to provide meat for the family but I found that I spent most of the rounds killing groundhogs. These rounds, 100 grain full metal jacket, were not ideal for hunting small game. Providentially,we had to switched the bullet to a 85 grain hollow-point because they were really the only ones available. These will be much better for knocking down groundhogs. Actually, we did 20 100 grain solid rounds and 25  85 grain hollow point.

We are really lucky to have friends who have the reloading equipment set up and have a small stockpile of powder so I certainly saved some money thanks to their generosity. I was thinking about the sustainability of firearms. The only reusable part of the round is the casing. The used shell has to be cleaned, lubricated, ground down a little and a bevel added to prepare it to receive the slug or bullet. The old primer is removed and a new one added. Powder is weighed out and added to the casing (this is a delicate procedure). The slug is then pressed into the end.

So I am not sure if it would have a smaller carbon footprint than buying them factory made but it "felt good". That maybe a rather weak argument for doing something that took up most of my morning but I will definitely do it again.


Monday, January 27, 2014

January Cold

 It has been amazingly cold this year. So far we have had 3 "polar vortexes". The nights have been bitter. It has caused us as a family to stamp our fossil fuel feet to drive away the chill leaving big dirty carbon footprints. We have managed to burn a lot of gas in the furnace. The ductless heat pumps have struggled to create warmth.

My hope and prayer is that the cold is killing some of the emerald ash borers that have been killing the ash trees. That it might have knocked some other pests too.

The frozen ponds ave allowed me to chop down some of the European Alders around the pond. They are weeds in many parts of North America and in New Zealand. They are weeds here on the farm. They are very useful trees though. To understand them better I read about them and found that in Europe they had many traditional uses. They have great herbal properties, their leaves can be used to catch fleas and flies, used as fodder for all types of livestock, the wood was used for smoking food and making charcoal. The wood was also used for forms and foundations in Venice. I hope to find time experiment with some of these uses over the next year.

I felled these trees with an ax and have developed a small passion for ax work. There is something very satisfying about it. Exploring the idea of doing some more "traditional" forestry work.