Winter Solstice

Shortest day.
Longest night.
Tonight we hold Vigil for the beginning of this year’s Journey back into the lightโ€ฆ
.
Blessed Solstice.
๐Ÿ–ค
.
.
When I think about the return to Summer, this image always comes to mind.
The epitome of the warmth and beauty of Summertime, with the bestest horse.
๐Ÿ–ค

December Update

Yeehaw, it’s December.

We’re alive and kicking…the cold is here, and everyone is staying warm.

Still no computer fix, but, it’s fine. I haven’t been interested in picking up my camera anyway. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

Last week our truck was dropped off to get new-to-us tires installed…
Today we got it back to the tune ๐ŸŽถ of $2500(ish).
Our mechanic noticed play in the ball joints, and the cv axle we had replaced in February was broken.
He pulled it all apart to discover the intermediate axle needed to be replaced…that’s what caused the cv axle to break again.
We now have all new ball joints, new cv axle and intermediate, new rear sway bars, spark plugs, front end alignment, and he tossed an oil change in too…
And the tires, of course.
Merry Yule to us.
๐Ÿ˜‚ ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ
if any one wants to give us Yule presents ๐ŸŽ send cash๐Ÿ’ฐand whiskey ๐Ÿฅƒ
please
๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคญ

Hope everyone is doing well and ready for the upcoming holidays. ๐Ÿ–ค

Planning Next Year’s Garden

As I’m finishing up this year’s garden, I’m taking stock of what we have as left overs from last year’s season.
Like, I discovered we still have 19 pints of carrots on the shelf from 2019…in 2019 there was a killer sale on 10lb bags of carrots, we bought 4 of them, I canned 42 pints and 5 quarts.
Now in 2022, I still have 19 pints.
So clearly, I don’t have to plant (or can) as much carrots, because we’re not going through them very fast.
And, if I get them on sale big time at the mega mart, it’s not a big deal to not have as many growing in the garden.

Same with beets.
Now, pickled beets fly outta here like mad.
Between us and my Uncle, beets are a hot commodity.
So a couple rows of them is still a good idea.
Problem with them this year, is the voles had a damn good time eating the beets.
And the cats and chickens ate a lot of voles.
๐Ÿ˜‰
Nature happens, right?
But dang if I want to be planting tons of beets for the damn voles.
I have found tho, that in the local gardening groups *tons* of people have had vole problems this year.
It really does seem to be a bad year for them.
We’ll see what happens next year.

What we do need more of is tomatoes.
And green/purple/yellow beans.
Neither one of those produced enough for our yearly needs.
Oh, they produced very, very well.
I just didn’t have *enough* plants of them.

Onions are off the list too…it’s easier for us to hit the local potato farm and buy a 50lb bag.
Same with potatoes.

Ah, but peppers, that’s a different story.
I have a poblano plant growing inside that will provide seeds so that we can have a lot of poblanos growing in the garden next year.
And also shepherd peppers (which are a sweet red pepper) to grow as well.

I’m also looking at more perennial plants, because I’m old and tired.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
Okay, I’m not that old, but I am getting tired.
Especially with the butchering too.
So raspberries, more apples, a big patch of asparagus, more grapes, and black currants too.
And, of course, the perennial medicinal plants too…

I think that’s why I felt like I had to take a good hard look at what we use frequently, and what we don’t.
And decide what we really need to grow and what we can skate by on buying local.
I have all that season I don’t want to name to think about it.

End of September

Here’s where we’re at…

2 turkeys went to Freezer Camp…Dingus and an auburn Narragansett.
Still have the rest of the whites to do, and another tom.
2 muscovy drakes joined them.
They were dicks and needed to be culled from the flock…leaving us 3 drakes to over winter with the hens and younglings.
1 pekin drake has been done.
We ordered 10 pekin ducklings and in a very odd twist, it seems like we got 2 drakes and 8 hens. That’s wild, because normally you get more boys than girls.
So we have to narrow down the last of the pekin hens we’re keeping and butcher the rest.
3 geese are in the freezer too.
Leaving us our breeding pair.

Garden is starting to clear out.
All but 4 tomato plants are stripped and pulled.
Beans are done (except for my blue lake pole beans and my rattlesnake beans, which I’m leaving as long as possible for seeds).
I’m working on pulling carrots, beets and onions.
Then I’ll mow the entire thing and cover with straw.
I moved a few rhubarb plants to new spaces, and I’m working on an asparagus bed.

I have the chance to get some horseradish plants later on this fall, so I have to get my 1/2 whiskey barrel planters situated where I want that.
I love horseradish and love the idea of growing it, but it can take over fast, so it must be contained.
The barrels moved out here with us from the city house and have sat empty of plants since.
It’s time for them to be filled.

Our load of duck eggs in the incubator produced 4 ducklings.
2 strong ones (so far, knock on wood), 2 that needed help to emerge and ended up passing.
The incubator has a difficult time keeping humidity levels high enough for ducks (I really hate styrofoam incubators…like really, really hate them), so sadly, it ends up shrink wrapping the poor little dudes into the membrane within the shell and suffocating them.
So eff that crap.
I’m on the hunt for a better incubator for doing ducks.
Something that can hold humidity better.
I fear I may have to make a bigger investment than I want too…
But
As far as sustainability goes, it would be a good investment, because of course, there are other birds here to incubate as well as ducks, so it’s not like it won’t get used. Often.

We moved the little chickens (10 each lavender orpingtons and jersey giants) into the main chicken coop.
It’s only been 1 night, and they’re confused af about not being able to get back into their former house (that’s where the 2 ducklings are), but after a night or two of being carried back to the right coop, they’ll get it.
We have at least 7 roosters between the 2 breeds, so I have good pick for who gets to stay and who gets to be fajitas.
Then next spring we’ll be able to hatch chickens out again.
EmmaBird the turkey and her 8 kids got a yard added to their brooder…with a lid so she can’t screw off on them and the chickens can’t get in to steal the kids’ foods.
Littles get a high protein feed that the regular chickens just don’t need…but everyone loves like it’s candy. And I ain’t payin’ $30/55lbs to feed it to laying hens when they have their own feed to eat!

And of course, we’re still cleaning up the yard and getting ready for the next season.
I’ll tell ya, that spring flooding kicked the crap out of our back yard.
It’s so overgrown with horrible weeds that I can’t use the regular lawn mower on, Hubby has to use the tractor mower, but with all the stupid little chickens hiding in there, it hasn’t happened yet (and because we have other things that have taken precedence over mowing…). Hopefully soon.
I really would love to see *grass* growing next year, but I fear I’ll have to sow some seed for that to happen.
*sigh*
I guess I’ll worry about it next spring, after we see what this winter has planned for us.
:/

Mid-September

And things are rolling right along.
The green/duck house walls are up, the metal floor is in.
Next week we pick up the OSB sheathing for the walls, then insulate, roof, door and move the little feathered arses in…
We’ll paint once they’re moved in.

Garden is still producing.
I’ve been growing out San Marzano tomatoes for the Northern Seed Library.
The tomatoes are finally starting to get a blush on them…so I’ll give them this next week of nice weather/heat and then pick them before the damn stink bugs get them.
Soon I’ll be pulling carrots and beets and canning those.
Beans are done. Ready to have the lawn mower run over them and be covered in a layer of straw.
Rhubarb has been transplanted.
Now I have 8 plants.
Harvested enough off the 2 main plants this year to have enough to share with my Uncle and make a small batch of wine.
Getting ready to start an asparagus patch.
A big one.
Not just a few plants in a raised bed, but more like a 5′ x 10′ space.
We like asparagus and perennial food plants are awesome.
Plus, since I have aaaaaallllllll these boxes and so many coops to clean, might as well put that cardboard and shit laden straw to good use as the foundation of a new gardening space.
Tomorrow (was gonna be today but that asshole named “migraine” has shown his shitty face) I’ll pick the apples off the 3 trees.
Still have the hawthorn berries to harvest (hopefully it’s not too late for them), stinging nettle seeds, and mullein too…then I think I might be done with herbals for this year…I think.

And then, we’re looking towards butchering…
There’s the turkeys, a few chickens, 3 geese, 5 pekins, and 2 muscovy to do this year.
Not too much, thankfully.
Though next month our pig should be ready.
That’ll be a slog.
I appreciate not having to raise it (a nearby farmer does it for us) and I hate paying to send them out to be butchered…so we do it. Which means a week of work for me, between the initial pick up day, put down, skin and breakdown into primals, then retail cuts, bone broth and canning…yup, takes me about a week.
And then I fall over from exhaustion for a day or two.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
Just in time for hunting season to start (for us)…

Oh, and there’s 29 muscovy eggs in the incubator.
All of which are showing excellent growth.
This is an experiment based on advice I was given to hatch muscovy in the incubator.
Typically, they’re more difficult to hatch than chickens or turkeys, so I haven’t had any luck previously.
So far, though, so good.
I expect they all oughta hatch because I’m not sure where to put 29 ducklings this close to winter…
That would be my luck.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
But this is also the best time of year to experiment, because we’re not letting hens sit, but they’re laying eggs. Spring eggs are for babies that we leave the hens to hatch.
But it sure wold be nice if I could grab a bunch and set ’em in the incubator *then* let the hens do as they please…
So we’ll see what happens.

And then there’s the other myriad of things that need doing before the dreaded snow falls…
1. get the snowblower looked at (already in talks with my brother on that)
2. put up the snow fencing…and extra of it.
3. move brooders so they aren’t buried under the snow drifts again
4. get hay home for The Merry Mares
5. get straw for coops and horses home
6. find winter boots for The Kid and I
7. find ski pants for The Kid…she wore hers right the fuck out last winter…

I’m sure I’m missing things…I’m always missing *something*.
And through this all, we’re still dealing with Hubby’s random vertigo attacks that fuck things up for days at a time. But we’ll muddle through, as always, because that’s what we do.
๐Ÿ™‚

Have a helluva week folks!

So This is Happening…

Remember I said we’re building a new coop for the ducks?
Lies.
All lies.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

What we’re doing is *better*.
Check this out:

That’s my greenhouse going up…and it’s gonna do double duty.
See, we needed something with a bigger floorplan for the ducks, and I need a greenhouse for 3 seasons of the year…do why let it sit empty in winter when…we can shove ducks in there!!

So that’s the plan.
Duck house in winter, by the time it’s time to put plants in there to prep them for the garden, out go the ducks to their normal spring/summer/fall coop.
And because our fat butted ducks don’t like to fly to perch, I might be able to get away with starting a few seeds in there…we’ll see.
It’ll be worth playing with and testing.
It night work, it might not.
I won’t know ’til I try it.
Either way, greenhouse is up, and finishing work continues…

Almost September

I’m not ready for Fall.
Not even remotely.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

There’s still so much to do before that nasty “w” season hits.
This weekend we’re working on a duck coop…part of our problem last year was the coop we have just didn’t keep everyone warm enough. Even with heat.
And, if you remember, it got buried after we were hammered repeatedly by blizzard after blizzard after blizzard.
So we’re building something else. Bigger foot print, taller for ease of entry for humans, better insulated for ducky health. Not that I really want to build something, but, in order to keep the flock healthy, we need to.
So we will.

Meanwhile, the garden is rolling along.
Huge, growing like crazy, starting to produce…at least, that which the grass hoppers haven’t eaten.
I’ll have enough tomatoes to make a batch of wine.
There’s a ton of carrots and beets…
Well here’s pictures:

There is so much food in there…I just have to wade in and bring it out.
And put as much as I can into jars for winter.
Also in the pictures, where I’ve been cutting the grass short to work on the ever expanding garden.
I need to prep a bed for raspberry canes, to put a couple rhubarb plants, an area for asparagus, and figure out where to put a half barrel for horseradish.
I also have 4 grape cutting growing like mad that I want to plant this weekend.
And, if I have a chance to harvest any grapes (there’s tons of bunches, but will the grasshoppers get them? We’ll have to see…) that’ll be awesome. I’m also going to grab a couple dozen more cuttings to get rooted and growing over winter.

And then there’s the meat birds to get into the freezer.
Coops to clean (which goes hand in hand with that garden expansion very nicely…) and after coops are cleaned out and the bedding piled into the spots, I’ll get Hubby to spend a day or so bringing me bucket after bucket of rotten horse crap to top the chicken bedding/crap. Then that can all cook down over winter to become plantable in the spring.

On top of all that, we’re on our 3rd day in a row of Loop pickup.
That’s the food waste from grocery stores reduction program we’re a part of.
Feeding food waste to farm animals.
Welp, we were offered a coverage pickup Sunday.
We said yes.
We were offered another coverage pickup Monday.
We said yes.
Today is our regular bi-weekly pickup.
So 3 days in a row…
I am not complaining.
Not even a little bit!
It’s a lot of work to sort and process and feed out, but damn, it’s a huuuuuuge help on the feed bill.
Especially with the pekins, white turkeys, and geese.
These birds…I tell ya, they could eat a farmer out of house and home!
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
But they love the produce, the bakery stuff, the dairy…every one is growing beautifully and is super healthy.
And, we’ve been offered a weekly pickup at one of the stores we typically do random coverage pickups on…so YAY for that!

Going into winter, we’re looking at 5 pekins staying (for breeding next year), a pair of geese (for the same reason) and the muscovies. We have 2 drakes that are leaving the breeding program. Neither one have desirable traits to continue in the program, so they’re gonna go camping. Freezer camping. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Of the 3 ducklings we had hatch (another reason to have a 2nd duck coop, to have a bachelor pen come broody season…hard for hens to successfully hatch when the boys are being pains int he butt), we know we have 1 hen and 1 drake for sure. The 3rd, little Potato (yep, a duckling named Potato), we’re not sure yet…leaning towards drake, but it’ll be a few weeks before we know for sure.
Then come spring we’ll do some cross fencing in the duck yard so we can pair off certain hens with the best drakes and so we can extend the lives of our current drakes…by that I mean, some of the boys, once they have fathered too many ducklings, go onto freezer camp. But if we rotate them though hens, tracking which keeper hens are parented by whom, we can cycle them through the drakes with very little inbreeding.

And then…
Just for even more fun.
Our local mega mart has gotten in their cases of roma tomatoes.
Look, I *want* to say that I’ve 1000% figured out our micro climate and am rolling in the tomatoes so much so that I have more than I can put up…but I’d be lying.
So I watch the local canning groups for reports of the 1/2 bushels arriving, and when that happens, I send the Hubby off to get me some.
If I wait beyond the first week craziness, the prices tend to drop and I can get 3-400lbs of tomatoes for a really good price.
Then comes the canning.
And the crying.
And the reminding myself that there’s no crying in canning!!
Oh yeah, and the insane loopiness.
Which is alleviated with a nice cold drink at the end of the day.

Ah well, soon enough the summer/fall work will be done, and we’ll transition seasons.
As always, the wheel continues to turn…

August

Not sure how it’s gotten to be August already, but I’m not ready for it to be August already.
Not like anyone asks me if I’m ready, or anything…
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Today was “take away all the duck eggs from the broody duck hens” day.
Which was not really fun, because 9 broody duck hens all trying to lob off broody duck hen shit at you for stealing their babies is really, really disgusting.
And, those bitches can aim.
Which is why you *never* pick up a broody duck hen.
Rubber boots must be worn, and you kinda scoot ’em along out of the coop, while a 2nd person makes sure they don’t dash right back in.

I candled all the eggs.
59 of them.
Gave 11 that look like they might be within a week or so of hatching to the broody chicken hens on the deck.
The rest were either not developing (too fresh) or really, really rotten.
Listen, when a black egg sloshes, you hold that veeeeerrry carefully while you dash to the fire pit where you’re gonna toss ’em.
You never want to have a rotten egg burst in your hand.
Ever.
๐Ÿคข๐Ÿคฎ

So that’s that.
From here on out, we collect duck eggs daily to try to break the hens of their broodiness.
Then the girls can just enjoy the rest of the summer being ducks, instead of sitting nests and chirping.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stupid turkeys were out this morning.
The whites are getting bigger and bigger, and they keep following the grasshoppers all over the place.
Unfortunately, one place they follow them to is the road in front of our property…and I can’t have my dumbass birds out on the municipal road. They’re too stupid to move for vehicles, and I don’t want anyone getting hurt because my birds are stupid.
So we have built them a yard (which does need to be expanded), with a top on it…but we don’t worry about keeping the top on when they’re locked in their coop at night…well, I guess I forget to latch their door properly, and the jerks pushed their way out this morning.
The whites were easy to catch…
They see me, The Food Lady, and come running…
So I scooped them up and dropped them back into their yard, except for the few who dashed off into the tall weeds hooting “fuck you Lady, you’ll never catch us!!”
Except I will come supper time for sure because their turkey bellies will cry for foods and there’s none out anywhere for them to steal from other birds…eat bugs and weeds or go without…and eventually they’ll come back for the easy to eat stuff…and I I just might give everyone who was a good bird and stayed in their pen some hard boiled eggs today…that will show ’em to stay the fuck home.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dingus the Narragansett is out of the garage now.
Took a bit longer than I wanted…truth be told, I was just going to butcher him, but I have no freezer space right now.
So he’s in a brooder with his own yard.
It’s not a huge space, but it’s infinitely better than being in the garage long-term, and he gets to get outside now…so he’ll spend the rest of summer strutting and dancing, trying to convince any bird that comes near him how amazingly handsome he is, and then in the Fall, he’ll go to Freezer Camp.

Emma, one of my Narragansett hens, has gone off on walkabout.
I’m 98% certain I know where she is, and even more certain she’s sitting a nest.
In the former pig/duck yard, the weeds have grown to 6 feet in height (I really should find some herbivore to put in there to eat them, but time and money have been short) and I’m pretty sure she’s in there…she’s been seen going in and out of the hutch in there, but she’s not sitting in there.
And, I’m not motivated enough to wander through the weeds to see if I can find her…
She’ll either return in 25ish days (she’s been gone solid for 3 days) with some poults or she won’t return…and if she doesn’t return, I’ll assume a coyote got her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Garden is growing well.
Pulled out all the pea plants and harvested those.
Now I’m replanting for a Fall crop.
Still working on weeding and mulching…that’s gonna happen until everything is pulled out.
Beans are flowering gangbusters.
Same with San Marzano tomatoes.
Other tomatoes are a bit behind, but, we’ll see what happens.
My stinging nettles are ready for their next harvest…I’ll be cutting them severely to harvest for teas, tinctures, and fertilizer.
They’re tough as hell plants, so I don’t worry about them coming back next year.
Once I do that, I can open the gate for The Merry Mares to go back into the front pasture.

Mullein is ready for harvest too.
I ran the still for my tincture base, so I’m ready to get that going.
I feel like the mullein tincture is going to be an important one this winter.
That and the elderberry syrup…and hyssop cough syrup…
Not interested in getting into any political/world debates, just feel like I need to do everything I can to take care of mine.
No one else in this world is going to, I sure the hell am.

Haying is rolling along too…
There’s a lot of grass out there to get cut still.
The feed she dis filling nicely with hay bales.
The stuff that got rained on too many times has entertained the ducks and geese immensely.
We used it as bedding for them once it finally dried.
It was too dusty for the Mares, but perfect for a bunch of crazy birds to dig through and poop in.

Fall is coming.
So is winter.
It’s getting busier, with us trying to get everything done we need to get done, plus anything extra.
I hope that winter will be less of an asshole to us this year.
Fingers crossed.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Borage and Other Garden Stuff

I had winter sown some borage seeds.
I waited a long time to finally see the wee teeny seedling come up.
And then I forgot about it in the container for a while.
Finally, I got around to putting it into the garden…not in any particular spot, just in a “oh, there’s a space, let’s plant something there!” spot.
I had no real expectation of it doing much of anything…

Until this morning when this greeted me:

So, now I’ll let this plant self seed for next year.
One of the things about winter sowing is that the plants that *do* come up and produce are best to save seeds from (or let self seed) because they’re acclimatized to your micro climate.
Since my micro climate can be incredibly harsh (even though we’re zone3 over all, my micro climate can oft times be zone2) anything that acclimatizes here (that we can use) will be encouraged.

Other goings on include:

Volunteer tomatoes coming up all over the place.
There’s easily 6 of them, maybe more in the weeds….shhhhh, we won’t talk about the fact that I’m behind on weeding…
These are from composted tomatoes from Loop.
Who knows what kinda tomatoes we’ll get from these plants, but if they’re tasty, I’ll save seeds from them and give them another shot next year.
There’s also a whole lot of ground cherries coming up…I was warned that growing them once typically means having them forever…that’s fine with me!
Ground cherries are delicious!
So having a whole bunch of volunteers come up is awesome.
I hope to have enough to make a batch of wine with them.
I think they’d make a very tasty wine.

And the mullein (and a few other of the medicinals) are growing beautifully.
They’ve been getting a weekly application of the stinging nettle tea, so they’re just about ready for a small harvest…enough that thins them out nicely and gives me enough for winter tinctures.

Plus, the stinging nettles, that some lovely horse ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ decided to munch the beautiful tops off of, are ready for another harvest, and to made into a tincture. As well as more dried for winter teas.
And the bonus is, the stems will be chopped and fermented into fertilizer.

Slowly but surely, we’re getting things done.
๐Ÿ™‚

Good Morning

Been a busy time.
Okay, we’re always busy here.
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Hubby took a few days off work (yay for having holiday days again!) so we could get somewhere closer to caught up…so much work has been done.
All the turkey babies are living in the same space now, with daily outside time.
They’re growing like crazy and well on track for October processing.
The Narragansett babies are predominantly auburns this year…Oscar has made his mark for sure!
Dingus is still living in the garage, because I don’t have freezer space for him yet.
We’ve been working hard at eating down the freezers so that, come fall, we have space for the animals we’ve grown this year, but it’s been slow.
I have to get the cure(s) for bacon because I’ve got several packages of pork bellies just waiting to go into the smoker…the joys of country living is you *can* grow things to smoke, but, sometimes when you run out of the necessities to smoke the meats, it’s a bit of a pain.

I’ve weeded the garden a million times and still have more to do.
The great thing is I haven’t had to water by hand…at least, not the main garden.
Anything in pots gets a bit of water a day.
My micro dwarf tomatoes are up in the house and growing beautifully.
I restarted the poblanos to keep as a house plant over winter. Those are doing pretty well too…
And I did cuttings off the grape vine.
So far it looks like 2 are rooting.

We’ve had several massive bonfires.
Just trying to catch up on all the brush bits (we had 4 trees that had to come down last year) and wood that needs to be taken care of. Plus, I can trhow on armloads of pasture sage so that it smokes for The Merry Mares. Helps them deal with the crazy amount of mosquitoes this year.
Oh, the joys of regular rains!
๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

In between weeding and mulching the garden, there’s the growing of the garden spaces. Boxes from the food waste recovery program broken down, laid out and covered in bedding from brooders and coops.
The big compost pile of horse manure needs to grow ~ I haven’t had the time yet to deep clean the horse shelter from winter, tho it’s composted well in there, and the extra bedding and shit made it so that it didn’t flood for them this past spring.
But before winter hits again (I know, right? It’s July and I’m already thinking winter again. FML) it needs to be deep cleaned and bedded.
And the giant horse shit pile is our base for the shooting berm…because ya gotta have a place to shoot. ๐Ÿ˜‰

All of this is why there’s been light posting.
We’re just plugging away until harvest time hits.
Thankfully, there’s nothing exciting happening…well, unless you consider a batch of turkeys destroying heads of lettuce in seconds exciting. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Because *that* happens a lot here…same with ducks and watermelon. I’ve got to video that to share with y’all because ducks and watermelon is hilarious.

That’s us for right now.
Have a great week all!
โค