Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring in full swing

This week on the homestead...

...I hardened off the plants I started from seeds weeks ago, nurtured first in front of the wood stove, and then in the greenhouse.  Many of you have been asking me about transplanting my onions.  I will film and publish part 4 of my "How to grow killer onions" movie very soon.  Stay tuned!

...I transplanted peas and direct-sowed carrots, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, kale and collards.  Of course, as soon as I did this, the weather turned very cold, and the poor seeds are probably freezing their butts off.

... I've been harvesting lots of Asparagus, then steam it for dinner and drench it in butter.

...Between milking goats, making cheese, planting a garden, homeschooling, and writing a book, I've managed to take the kids to our favorite local, wild creek for a swim.  Yes, they are swimming in a glacier-fed creek in April.  Yes, they are crazy.

Luke takes the plunge.
Kai takes the plunge, and you can see from his expression how cold the water is!
...I've arranged many playdates for the kids.  There was a week when I hardly saw my boys because they spent so much time at the neighbors' house when their grandkids visited for spring break.  This left Eva missing her brothers, so she got so spend time with her best friend.  I also put them to work sweeping the barn and playing with the goats, which is not work at all, really. 

...Since we are talking of goats: I was the midwife for yet another goat mama this week.  My friends bought some of my goats last year, and one of them was pregnant (the goats, not my friend). When I got a semi-hysterical call from her twelve-year-old daughter telling me her goat was in labor, I jumped in the car and drove to her place wayyyyy too fast (usually 30 minutes away, but not this time, ahem).  I got there in time to know I should help the goat who wasn't making much progress, so I pulled the babies.  They were both healthy: one girl, one boy.  My friend's daughters wept openly when the babies emerged.  It was such a joy to be part of this experience!

Brand new baby girl with her mama in the background

These girls have since moved into the goat barn. 
Three happy midwifes!
...I'm also finding time to sit and knit by the river, so I can replenish my kids' and husband's socks!

A little butterfly landed on my finger while I knitted.

I will leave you with this picture, taken when I walked into the kitchen the other day.  My kids picked flowers for me and left a note.  It's good to know my kids still like me, even though I've been so busy that I have neglected them.  Am I the luckiest Mom?  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

We have ten thousand new pets (the fuzzy, buzzing kind)!

To bee or not to bee—that has been the question on our homestead for years.  Both Steve and I were always fascinated by honeybees.  We know how important bees are for humanity, since without them there would be no pollinators, and thus no food.  No bees, no food, no humans.

This week, we jumped in and got bees!  We added ten thousand pets to our collection of goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, cat and dog!  The man who looks like Santa Claus is Jerry, our neighbor and very helpful Bee Guru.

We are so fortunate to have neighbors who are addicted to bee-keeping and very eager to share their skills with us newbies.  We stopped by their place to watch how they transferred the bees they had bought into their hive.  They didn't wear bee suits or any kind of protection because if handled calmly, these bees are very docile.  One landed in my son Kai's hair, and he stayed calm and thought it was sooooo cool that the bee wanted to hang out with him.  

Steve built a Russian hive, which is different than the common Langstroth box.  I won't go into details here because, frankly, I don't know very much about bee-keeping yet, but mostly we like the Russian style because the bees build their own honeycomb.  There also seems to be less disease in these top bar hives.

Here are some pictures of the transfer of the bees at our neighbors' place.  They are further along than us: their bees have a palace, with a roof over their little heads.

That's the Queen in her little cage

The next day, our neighbors came over to help us transfer the box of bees we bought.  I felt pretty emotional introducing our new pets to their home.  While the bees buzzed on the outside, I buzzed on the inside.  I find it a little nerve-wracking to have these insects fly around me.  My first-ever memory is being stung by a bee.  Hopefully our bee-keeping adventure will cure me of this traumatic memory!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Our ducklings hatched!

After a month of waiting, and after checking the incubator every five minutes for the past two days, our ducklings have hatched!  They were late, since ducks are supposed to take 28 days to hatch, but they finally made it.

This is the guy (or girl) we woke up to in the morning.  Fresh out of the egg, kind of confused looking, and certainly tired.  Hatching is incredibly hard work.  These little guys have to break through a very hard shell, and although they are aided by their egg tooth (made just for that purpose), it's a full-body workout.  They push with their feet and their wings, until they can wriggle out of their shell.

Hanging out inside the incubator to rest and dry off a little.
Let's just take a little nap for a while, shall we?
The boys were at a sleepover at the neighbors' house because their grand kids are visiting for spring break, and they have been great friends since they were little.  After a phone call with the good duck news, five kids watched the spectacle unfold, spellbound.

I admit, I can't keep my hands off these ducklings.  I keep walking into the bathroom where their brooder is set up, gently scooping one up and baby talking to it.  As soon as the little ones feel the heat of my palms, they fall asleep.

These are Ancona ducks, an endangered species.  We've had a mating pair for about three years, and we love them!  They are gorgeous, fun to watch, and best of all, connoisseurs of slugs.

Other news of the week: We planted potatoes.  Four different varieties, including Austrian Crescent Fingerlings, Yukon Gold, Russet and Red Pontiac.  Good thing I have some strong boys (and a strong girl, of course) to help me, since my shoulder is still messed up.

Let me leave you with images from a walk to the river.  I love this wild, magical place we live in.  My good friend Lindsay, a song writer, once wrote a beautiful song about the "Magic Skagit", which she calls her "moss covered stomping grounds". 

What are you grateful for this week?