Friday, April 26, 2013

Our piglets are here!


Our piglets are here! Yesterday afternoon, Steve picked them up down valley after work. He took pet carriers to contain them safely in the cab of his truck, and when he called me on the way home to give me an ETA, he kept saying, “Man, these guys stink!!!” Well. No reason to insult the little babies, because that's all they are. We got three five week old porkers. They did reek a tad bit, but once we released them into their fresh green pasture, things seemed to ease up a little on the olfactory side. The poor things were pretty freaked out and scared, especially since they kept getting shocked on the electric fence.  Every time one of them got shocked and yelped, neighbor Anne jumped in the air yelping with the pig, covering her ears.  She's an empathetic woman, that one!  Eva got a kick out of it!

I feed them nice goat milk, so they are already getting spoiled. They've mostly slept all day today, but whenever they are awake, they do what pigs are supposed to do: root through the soil with their snouts, dig holes with their feet, and oink and snort a whole lot.
We are delighted to raise pigs for the first time ever! Somehow, I now feel like a real farmer!  They are awfully cute right now, and their eyes are eerily human-looking.  However, we (including the kids) understand completely what these animals will become.  Bacon, pork chops and hams, raised on beautiful lush pasture with a mountain view, organic grain and lots of milk and whey.  They will have a good life. 

Why, you may ask, is Eva wearing a tutu fairy dress as a member of the piggy welcome committee? Well, it's because I can't get the darn dress off her, ever since our friends gave it to her. And why should she take it off? She IS like a fairy - frolics through the yard with her fairy dress, collects edible plants and flowers, crawls through the grass, pretends to fly while jumping on the trampoline with her dress swirling around her like a cloud. Boy, am I happy to have a little girl!

This week has been intense – lots of milk flowing to be dealt with, lots of weeding to be done, lots of little vegetable starts needing to be nurtured, lots of seeds needing to be planted, home schooling to be accomplished. And then the dreaded yearly visit to Seattle Children's hospital. Lukas needs a yearly check up for his heart, to monitor a heart aneurysm he got from contracting Kawaski disease. He gets a yearly echo cardiogram, and this year the doctors added a stress test to determine a baseline. This meant that Lukas got to ride on an exercise machine while being hooked up to various machines and breathing through a mask to measure different values. He did absolutely great, and the doctors and technicians were stunned by his high level of fitness. We'll go to the hospital again in a couple of weeks to do the routine echo cardiogram and to talk about the stress test results.

Fortunately, we have wonderful friends who took care of Eva and Kai all day, and then had us over for dinner the same day.  Thanks, Auburn and John!  Their youngest daughter wanted me to show her how I knit the European way, so we ended the day with a knitting lesson, while another friend's daughter watched.  Start 'em young, I say.  There's nothing like creating little knitting addicts as soon as possible!

With all the business of this week, we were able to enjoy a little R and R as well.  I took the kids up to Bellingham, where I lived for ten years in a previous lifetime, and where I still have lots of friends.  Nothing like a hit of culture, bakeries, and friends to lift one's spirits!

And to end this post, I want to share the exciting news that Kai now mows the lawn.  It's a job I love, I really do, but he wants to help so badly.  He literally begged me to let him mow the grass!  And who am I to turn down help when dinner needs be cooked, and the lawn is screaming at me to be cut?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ducklings anyone? Ancona ducks for sale!

If you have read my blog for a while, you know how much I love my Ancona ducks.  Not only are they incredibly cute, waddling around the yard and garden all day, but they are also superb slug killers.  I usually detect hundreds of slugs in my yard this time of year, but this year?  Not a single one!
The ducks also give us three eggs a day - that's one egg every day from every single female.

I got these ducks from my friend Loren last year, and she has more for sale right now.  Loren does an amazing job raising her animals.  You think I baby my animals?  You should see Loren, with baby ducks stuck down her shirt to keep them warm, hand feeding them, training them to follow her like a mother duck.  Here is the info:

Ancona Ducklings - $10 (Rockport)

Straight Run.  Hatching by the moment...  
These heritage ducklings are from Holderread's original breeding stock 
at Boondockers Farm in Oregon. 

Bond with your ducklings as soon as they hatch. No shipping shock.  
Pre-hatch imprinting to whistle and voice. 
If raised properly, they will follow you and sit with you.  
They may have brown, silver or black patches on white. 

Great sluggers, hearty in colder climates and... they love the rain! 
Excellent for meat, eggs or pets.  

For more information about this rare heritage breed go to this link:  

Now taking orders... Please call 360-853-7432  

Friday, April 19, 2013


In the midst of all the crazy business of spring, it's rare to get time to myself.  In the past, especially as a new mother, I didn't make alone time a habit.  But now?  If I don't get that time, it's not only me who suffers.  It's the whole family.  Ask Steve.
So this week, I walked the magical, mossy fairy land I call my backyard, and this is what restored peace to my soul:

I knew that upon returning, plenty of children or critters would require my newfound peace and energy.  The pesky goats especially.  I bought a new goat called Quasar so I would have enough milk for cheese making.  After loading her into my minivan and schlepping her home, I had to protect her from the other two goats, who beat the #@%^ out of her. It's customary for goats to do this in order to establish pecking order, but Oh!  Ouch!  It's hard to watch the head butting and biting and bossing around.  And on top of that, my goat Gracie got sick, and I had to give her antibiotics for the first time ever.  Boy, do I ever stress out about sick animals and sick children...
On a positive note, I sold all my baby goats, and although the boys miss them, I am happy about not having to go out and bottle feed them four times a day!

We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of our new piglets, but it won't happen til next week.  Steve and neighbor Rich built a pig tractor, in which the porkers will live and be moved to new pasture regularly.  They will have an incredible life with us!  Here are Eva and her friend playing at the pond, with the pig tractor in the background.  It's fun to have little visitors and show them all the animals.

This week has been busy with farming, goat husbandry, cheese making, home schooling and spinning.  I usually hand paint my own roving for my yarn, but at the Vogue knitting convention in Seattle last week, I fell in love with a hand painted merino and silk roving, which I promptly purchased and spun up at home.  It turned out gorgeous, and I might just have to knit myself a hat with it!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Knitting in Seattle, goat torture and depression, and planting our garden

Didn't I just say last week that life is never boring around here?  Life proved me right again. Let me start on a non-farm related subject, just to reveal a side of me that you may not know. This side is my non-country-bumpkin-part, the sophisticated European fashionable woman part. There! I said it.

I know, I know. You know me as the manure or dirt streaked farmer, the woman covered in bodily fluids while assisting goat babies into the world, the chick without make up. But I assure you, deep inside, hidden from most people and often form myself, is a woman who loves glamor and fashion. I allow it to come out in one part of my life, and in one part only: Knitting.
So when I saw that Vogue Knitting (the magazine of fashionable knitting design) held a convention in Seattle last weekend, I came up with a scheme to convince Steve that I really, really needed to go. Earlier that week, we had found much sought after barrels for storing pig food on craigslist, and they were located in Puyallup, South of Seattle. I reasoned that the barrels needed to be picked up before anyone else snatched them up, and I would LOVE to do this, and since I already would be down south, I might perhaps swing by the knitting convention, which would involve a night at a hotel room. The scheme worked, and Steve didn't need any convincing at all. I love that man. I packed up the pickup truck and headed to Seattle. To keep with the whole fashion theme, I also got a haircut on the way, to be ready for the city.

I know it's a grainy picture, but the chique hair stylist insisted on taking the picture, and I let him, so I could show off the haircut.  It will never again look this good, because I never style it and blow dry it. 
I picked up the pig barrels that night in Seattle, which took me three additional hours in the pouring rain, and involved dealing with the seller by myself, an old guy who liked to touch me a lot while he talked and helped me secure the barrels to the truck. Tieing on the barrels in the pouring rain messed up my fancy hair, of course, but I was just glad to get out of there alive.
I think I am the only person who showed up at the Bellevue Meydenbauer Convention Center the next day with a dirty old pick up truck loaded with barrels. But I do declare, and I don't know how to say this without seeming to brag, but... the sweater I wore to Vogue Knitting was one of their own designs I had knitted several years ago, and I got compliments on it almost every five minutes. There were thousands of people there (literally!), and I must have been stopped by a hundred people to admire the sweater. The Vogue Knitting people took a picture of me and put it on their page, which is a huge honor. (Here it is.)  So can you imagine how big my Ego is right now?
Going to this convention is like porn for women, I swear. There were dozens and dozens of booths filled with yarns and people who love to knit. There were lectures and classes and colors and textures and fashion shows with real models in high heels.  There even was an angora bunny whose fur was being sold at $7 an ounce.  I felt like I connected with my tribe.

I wish I had an extra thousand dollars lying around to buy pounds of angora yarn.
When I got back Saturday evening, all the glory and relaxation evaporated when I entered my noisy, messy house to greet my wonderful and missed family, and when I found out that my mama goat Gracie had not let her babies nurse for two days. She suddenly rejected them. I went to the barn to milk out the hugely engorged mama and fed the milk to the babies, who were starving, shivering and very, very confused about the monster that used to be their loving mother.
Now, I have to milk the mama twice a day and bottle feed the babies four times a day. This is extra work I had not planned on, but with the help of my human kids, the goat kids are thriving. Learning to bottle feed is hard at first, for both the givers and the receivers, since all of us end up covered in sticky milk.  Look who is glamorous and relaxed looking now...

That's better!  Now he's getting a hang of the nursing thing, and so am I!
Human kids and goat kids are made for each other!  It's never ending entertainment for all of them!

The week before all this drama happened, and before my fabulous trip to the city, we readied the garden for planting when the weather felt almost summer-y.  We got it weeded, roto tilled, and Kai helped to transplant peas we had started in the greenhouse six weeks earlier.  We The boys also planted potatoes.  It is so satisfying to finally get some work out of these lads, after putting so much work into them!  After all the hard work, there are rewards: trips to the river, knitting by the river, or bike rides.

Kai helps ready the pea fence.
Lukas spreads wood ashes and then plants the taters.

And after all the hard work, a picnic at the river.
I get to knit as my reward.

This post is already so long, but if HAVE to tell you about disbudding.  It's a terrible chore for a goat shepardess, because it involves burning off the babies' horn buds, which feels like torture.  They hate it, my helper Rich hates it, I hate it, and it smells terrible.  But it has to be done.  Horns on a goat are dangerous for other goats and for people.  It is unacceptable to have goats with horns around kids.  So I do what has to be done, and am grateful for various friends and neighbors who help out with this dreaded chore.

First, I shave their head so that the hair doesn't burn and smoke like crazy.
Then the burning commences.  The baby will start screaming pretty soon.
And this is what it looks like when it's done.  Believe me, this is important for the goat's future happiness...
I leave you with images of what's going on at my windowsill right now.  May the sun return soon, may the goat mama snap out of her manic depressiveness and may you, and all beings, be happy!

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