Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Taking two weeks off line

Just stopping in here to say that starting this weekend I will be off line. The computers may be up and running come May 4th.  Things have been really out of control over here.  With all that we've been doing on the homestead, trying to do *all* our schooling, regular chores, appointments, horse lessons/work, choir, church, fellowship.....well, let's just say we are in serious need of a family tune up!!! 

So if you don't see me around, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, I'm just knee deep in some serious training, loving, serving, working, playing, etc....with my family :-) 

God bless!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Hair cut

Isabella asked me to cut her hair the other night.  I was very tired, but I agreed earlier that day to do so.  I get a bit nervous cutting the kids hair as they get older.  When they are 5?  Who cares if you mess up!  They won't even know if  you did.  But at 15?  Oh my.  That is a different story.  Not that I have messed up, but still.  Isabella prefers her hair short.  I don't mind, it's her hair :-)  The only issue is that her hair has some curl to it, and you can never quite tell how it is going to respond.  We were outside today so I thought I would get a few pictures of her.  The first one is a 'before' picture.

Changing up the goats

The other day was some kind of "eyes open" day.  I sat on the couch, across from the window that Moira had just passed the goat milk through.  We use our family room window as a way to pass things that either need to go in or out of the house.  Otherwise you need to unlock the dog gate, and open the back door, and open a baby gate before you can do what you needed doing.  And since I have no intention of pulling a wagon or cooler through all that to do the goat milking, we use our family room window.  Unconventional, yes. 

So as I sat there and a big thought came to me.  Not sure why now, but it did.  Moira and I have been sharing the milking duty.  Jeremiah and I also feed the goats each evening.  With our females in milk, they need a lot of feed.  And here was where my thoughts lay:

We have two goats that are great producers.  They give us each more than a quart of milk, per milking.  Currently we are only milking once a day, since the babies are too young to sell just yet.  They each get fed 4 to 5 cups of food twice a day.  This is to be expected.  However we also have another full sized goat who's milk can not be drunk, but still needs this same amount of food.  And then the reality of the dwarf goats and their feed to milk ratio.  The awesome thing about dwarf goat milk is that it is higher in fat.  The bad thing about their milk is that they are getting (need) about 3 cups of food twice a day, but they only produce 2 cups of milk each!  So they are eating a bit more than half of what our full sized goats are eating, but only giving us 1/3 the amount of milk.  This is not a good return on our investment.  Not to mention they are our escape artists.  We are constantly trying to fortify the fencing to keep them in.  So far they are winning.  With our new fruit trees, that cost a large chunk of money, being planted out front, it may be only a matter of time before they find them.  And, yes, they will strip the bark off of them, killing the trees.

So I realized some hard decisions were going to have to be made.  Surprisingly the girls were totally on board with it all!  I was expecting a small revolt at least :-)  This is the plan as it stands for now:

We will be selling/re-homing the dwarf females, the dwarf male, and our yucky tasting milker...Pippi.  Pippi is the sweetest goat!  But her milk is totally undrinkable!  And feed costs money, quite a bit of money!  We don't have the land available to let them 'free range'.  We plan on keeping two of the current female babies, and purchasing an alpine male from a friend of ours.  Buying a new male is significantly cheaper than buying a female.  But we need two males for two reasons.  One, they will keep each other company, as goats are herd animals and can get stressed when alone.  You can not house males and females together for multiple reasons.  So our male needed a companion.  If we just got a new male and sold both of our current ones, he would still need someone in there with him.  So it made sense to keep our proven breeder, who's given us mostly girls, and have his companion breed with the two female babies we are keeping.  This keeps our upfront costs down. 

We really only need to have one more female, for a total of three.  However, our great producers, Lilly and Honey are now 5 years old.  Goats really only produce for about 10 years.  This gives us only 5 years left, possibly.  So we are keeping two, just in case, giving us four females total.  This will give us a possibility of up to 3 gallons a milk a day, at least for a couple of years.  I am assuming we will see Lilly and Honey's production decline in a couple of years.  This extra milk will be made into cheese, or frozen.  Though currently I am making all of our milk into yogurt of kefir and it is gone lickety split!  We are getting a full gallon a day of milk and it is gone in the blink of an eye. 

This will give us a total of 6 goats, as opposed to the 7 we have now (I'm not counting the babies).  That may not seem like a big difference, but it will end up being more cost effective in the long run.  I mean maybe we only keep one baby now, and take another baby next year, or the year after that.  But this will give us more milk for our money.  It will be sad to see these goats go, but every time I've been buying the feed, or seeing a new bale of hay (they go through two huge round bales a month!) rolled in, as I mix up their feed, and scoop it out into their dishes, AND see how much milk we are getting in return....well, all I can say is, money doesn't seem to grow on trees over here :-)

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Gardening, fencing, and potty training

We had a very busy weekend!  Last weekend I knew that I wanted to tackle the boys' potty training this weekend.  I started on Thursday by giving them multiple vitamin C tablets.  That may seem like an odd way to start potty training, but I had my reasons!  We had two boys with "issues".  Jedidiah has been number 1 trained for some time now, but number 2 freaked the poor boy out.  Jonah insisted he was terrified of the potty and would scream bloody murder if we tried to get him to wear underwear or sit on the toilet.  Sigh.  So all week we talked about how their diaper days were coming to an end on the weekend. 
Well things went pretty much like I thought they would.  Jonah was fine about the underwear...for about 20 minutes!  Then he went bonkers when he realized that he couldn't have a diaper on.  He screamed, and cried, and screamed and cried.  I had to put the diapers up high, out of his reach.  Oy.  BUT that being said, he only had two accidents for the whole day.  On top of that he stayed dry both nights!  Which is weird because during the day he was running to the toilet every 5 to 10 minutes, but could hold it all night.  Jed on the other hand could hold it for hours during the day, but can't make it through the night.  Either way, both boys are going potty all day long!  Yay!! They got a ton of stickers and fun tatoos for their efforts.  Even Aubrey has taken interest in trying to go on the potty again.  He had the unfortunate incident of coming down with a bladder infection the day after he decided he wanted to be a big boy and wear undies, and the pain freaked him out and he has been scared of the potty since.  But he wasn't about to miss out on all the sticker fun!  He still has a long ways to go, but I'm just glad that he is taking interest in it again.

This past week Saoirse took to making a list of all the foods she wants to try to dehydrate.  Her first attempt was an apple and some bananas.  She set right to work, and is checking off her foods as she accomplishes dehydrating them.  Too cute.

Saoirse, cutting up the bananas.  A really good choice to begin with as it is easy to cut.

I was able to get the flexible sheets for my Nesco, this has opened up another avenue to dehydrating.  It has been very, very handy to have saved the Nesco.  I was going to get rid of it, pass it on to someone else.  But with these sheets it is now being used...a lot!

Saoirse's little set up.  She is sitting on a booster chair, set on the ground.  She is using a plastic lid to cut the banana on, which is set on the boy's plastic tool bench :-)  She put the dehydrator try behind her.  Her only problem, which was a very serious one....her siblings kept sneaking in and eating the food!!  She was not happy about that.  Dehydrated fruit doesn't stand a chance lasting more than a couple of hours in our house!

We  accomplished a lot over the weekend outside.  Jeremiah put up the fencing for the boy goats. It's not ready for them to move into quite yet, but it should be by next weekend.  I can't wait!  Our milk tastes great the first day, but by day two there is an off taste.  This has never happened with our goat's milk before.  We are suspecting that it is due to the females and males being housed together in close proximity.  They are separated by a fence, but that is all.  The boy goats will eventually be moved to the other side of our house, giving enough distance to not interfere with the taste of the milk.  For now, since we can't have raw milk anyways, I'm heating up the milk to 180* before turning it into yogurt.  I would prefer to make raw milk yogurt, but I don't want that taste in our yogurt!

Above you can see my very special veggie markers.  Um, yeah.  This is called, wait till the last minute to plant your seeds and write out the veggie names with marker and run the paper through the laminator.  I had tried to paint rocks, but that wasn't working.  Currently the rocks are holding down the above marker in place at the beginning of each row.

Flannery wanted to paint the veggie names on wood.  This was a great idea, and you can see she did a cute job. The only problem?  We only had one piece of wood! 

Flannery and Saoirse joined me to do half the planting in the warm afternoon sun.  Later on we finished the job with Moira and Aubrey joining us.  The girls decided that each seed spot needed to be marked with a stick.  So now we have all these small sticks sticking up out of the ground!

Saoirse moving the mulch out of the way.  You can see some her sticks behind her hands.

Now I have to say I was plenty impressed with how dedicated Saoirse was to getting these seeds planted. She isn't exactly known over here for following through and finishing the work she is supposed to be doing.  But she planted many rows of veggies all on her own.

I suppose we won't be winning the "Most Organized Gardener" award anytime soon :-)

Above you can see my 'shovel'.  Yup, that green stick!  Somehow small trowels go missing whenever you need one.

Speaking of sticks...some may remember that I had a stick, from the mulch above, stab me in the foot about 9 months ago.  The doctors who saw my foot insisted that nothing was left inside.  Um, yeah, tell that to my foot!  About 2 months ago I noticed that the area, which has remained raised since the accident, was now pink/red. Then it started to itch, and get a bit painful every once in the while.  Not two weeks or so ago it began to blister!  There is something in there...trying to get out!!!  I think I will head to the doctors as it still seems to be lodged, but clearly my body is trying to get rid of it. Isn't the human body amazing?!

My rock/laminated paper veggie markers layed out in the order that I planned to put them.

We all got a bit of sun today, with pink cheeks and for some, pink shoulders.  It was finally warm!  Not the warm because the sun is shining, but still cool/cold air, but really and truly warm.  Ahhhh, it felt so good to be out there soaking up the sun and digging in the dirt!

See?  Springtime bliss :-)

These are our naughty chickens.  The two younger girls and the two older boys had just spread this straw out over the herb garden.  There was one small area on the right where the straw bale sat, and so there was a bit of straw on the ground.  But these naughty girls were digging through it, looking for goodies, and you can see all the straw outside of the rock border!

Flannery suggested I take this picture...a *hands full* of dirt....a play on my blog name. 

Our new mantra...."Grow, garden, grow!"  Ha, ha!  It will be interesting to see if I find any of the girls talking to the plants or our baby trees. They thought Jeremiah was silly for telling them that talking to plants help them to grow.  But he insisted it was true.  We'll see if they believe him :-)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A decent outdoor day

Can someone tell me where spring is?  I'm afraid we will skip right over spring and jump right into summer.  I don't like when that happens.  It is more difficult to adjust to the high temps.  For now, there are no high temps...brrrr (for spring mind you).

Two little boys hanging out.  I was thinking how long it took for us to get Jonah to wear long sleeves and long pants as we headed into fall/winter.  We've only had one day that short sleeves were wearable, and Jonah freaked out.  So I suppose it will be the opposite, he'll be wearing long sleeves and pants when it is 95* out, until he gets used to the idea of short sleeves/pants.  Silly boy. 

Please excuse Aubrey's bloody head, he had just banged his head, opening his wound up.  So much for getting him stitches!

Although Jonah won't wear summer clothing he will wear his new sandals, provided he is also wearing socks.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Aubrey on the other hand is obsessed with these winter boots.  He's not too keen on his new sandals, which match Jonah's.

Checking on the baby trees.  Jonah has the nurturing spirit in him.  He is very intrigued by the trees and wants to take care of them.

Getting a closer look.  We Jeremiah was able to finish off the fencing in the front yard.  This should keep the goats out, and stop them from eating the garden.  But I worry a bit for these baby trees as some are literally only a large stick size, making them vulnerable to little boys :-)

 Here Jeremiah is 'fixing' a snapped branch.

We took advantage of the nice weather to get some painting in.  I had painted some arrows on some rocks for their treasure hunt and all the kiddos wanted in on the painting action.

Aubrey painted the longest.  Jed and Jonah painted for a bit, but went off running after each other.  Aubrey painted the afternoon away.

So cute.

It was neat to see how focused he was, and how he really was trying to carefully paint the top of the rock.  He wasn't just slopping on paint.  Though he had difficulty in keeping the colors from mixing.

Thoughtful artist.

.At At some point Saoirse joined us and she brought along a few more things to the 'table'.

Thankfully the messes stayed outside!  I must remember this for future painting time.

Saoirse at work on something.  I wasn't sure what she was doing at first.  But she came up with a cute idea:


See all that mucky mess!  How wonderful that it is *outside*.  Yes, I am repeating myself, but that is only because the following day the boys found the paints and decided to have a painting day inside....along with the mess that follows.  Oy.


Here is a wee sign of spring. Maybe, as these are on one of our apple trees, and these started coming out when they were inside...our warm house.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A wonderful Easter

Before I get into the details, I ask you all to lift up a friend's sister.  While at our house, our friend received a phone call telling her that her sister had tried committing suicide.  I ask you to lift up this woman, that she would recover fully.  Please pray for peace for their whole family as they deal with this heartbreaking situation.

Yesterday I was very busy with making food, cleaning and putting together the treasure hunt.  We were blessed to have three families join us in our Easter celebration.  One family had just moved back to the area the night before!  It was neat as they are a family who eats Paleo.  So it wasn't weird having to explain why we eat the way we do! 

I had two mostly GAPS legal desserts planned.  One, an almond cookie, didn't come out as I imagined.  The review on it was that no one would know this was a GAPS cookie.  I would beg to differ!  Of course, it could be I didn't make it correctly. It's not one I want to jump in and try again right away.  The other was semi GAPS as it was a brownie made with sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are kind of a fence rider when it comes to GAPS compatibility.  But, for the holiday, I thought we would indulge.  Now, I've made a black bean brownie recipe a couple of times in the past with bad outcomes each time.  Again, the reviews about these type of brownies was all thumbs up.  So I was a bit apprehensive to give these a go.  But boy where we VERY pleasantly surprised!!!  They were terrific!!  A definite "We have to make this again, soon!" kind of terrific. 

I got the recipe from HERE.  I  must go write a review for them :-) 

I didn't have enough time to make the two treasure hunts I had planned.  I had planned on making one for the older kids and one for the younger kiddos.  Time was running out so I just made one for everyone.  They all had fun.  We finished up just in time for some of our guests to leave.  I had them going all over the place, hoping to wear them out ;-)  Not sure if it worked, as my kids were up pretty late.  Hmmm. 

Today, I am hoping to get on the ball to get us back on track with all that needs doing.  That task seems very daunting right now. 
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