Winter is not my favorite season.

Except for Christmas, winter is not my favorite season. I think we must be on day 427 in a row of rain and gray skies. The back pasture has flooded at least twice. The pig sty looks like,well, a pig sty.  The damp coolness plays and pokes at my joints and muscles, and my hair is in constant need of a hat. Winter and I do not get along.

When you don’t get along with something you can either live in misery and complain about the situation, which admittedly I do from time to time, or you can look for the good. the old making lemonade out of lemons idea.

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Snow on Baldwin Acres

This winter scene is pretty. Snow makes the scenery a little more beautiful. This is our raised garden and small orchard area. This doesn’t fit into my winter blah scenario because it is lovely, lasts only a while, and allows a little respite in activity.

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This is a close up one of the garlic beds. The white stuff is not snow. They are ice spikes. We had so many days of freezing cold and rain, that these ice spikes adorned all our vegetation.

DSC_0009Here is a picture that sort of shows the mess I’m referring to in the back pastures. The tractors have stopped work for a while, because the ground is boggy. The area is spotted with puddles and little streams of water. To the left of the barn is the pig sty, in the barn is our supply of alfalfa and our livestock nursery. Currently Pork is housed in there, waiting to give birth to little piglets. To the right of the barn is the feeding area. There’s a tub for grain and an alfalfa feeder on the wall. We recently spread a ton of rocks in this area because the continual traffic of the  livestock (Jacob sheep and kinder/Nubian goats)  really has churned up the mud. A person (me) could (has) get stuck in that muck.

When it rains, if you’re not out in it, not mucking out poop, or tending to animals, but maybe just observing the landscape, it can take your breath away. Or at least let you appreciate God’s creation.

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These beautiful water fowl (ducks) take advantage of the winter pond. This area completely dries up in the spring and summer. But, it’s a nice treat to see wild birds taking a little rest here.

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Baldwin Acres

And, finally, I will appreciate the wet, mucky, season because without it there would be no spring. There would be no dormant time for the earth to recover, and the seeds to die, so when the spring sun warms the soil and dries the seasonal puddles and streams, we can grow healthy non- pesticide laden food and new livestock will be born. There is great contentment in the weariness at the end of a long homestead labored day.

The Bible attests to the need for seasons. Seasons not just for our homestead schedules, but also for our lives. Ecclesiastes 3:

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.(The Message)

I’m trying my best to live in each season. Because in the season is where we find life, purpose and hope.

Fall at Baldwin Acres (and what we’ve learned)

Anyone who follows this blog might think from the title that I meant I physically fell again…but nope…talking about the season this time!

Didn’t the end of summer came too quickly? While I was able to put up a few pints of tomato sauce (which look like tomato soup, but taste like tomato sauce) I didn’t get half of the canning done that I did last year. Most of the pear and plum harvests went to just eating and then to live stock. As did most of the apples. I did manage to bake a couple pastries and cookies but no jam, or apple pie fillings or pear slices like last year.

Harvest pasteries

Harvest pastries

One of the biggest stories of our summer was the return of Pork 1 (now named Ollie) who had gone missing the day after we got her. Her story is elsewhere on this blog, but suffice to say, she’s back and happy with her siblings.

the swine of Baldwin Acres

the swine of Baldwin Acres

the majority of our raised beds are  harvested. The fall garden is sparse. We were able to gather enough Scotch Bonnet, Habanera, and Jalapeño peppers to take to two local fire departments for their kitchens. We used our spaghetti squash on a family getaway, and we have a few big pumpkins and small squash  for October. The volunteer tomatillos came back but I’ve yet to figure out what to do with them. This year we’re also trying our hand at saving seeds. Did you know that you cannot save just any seeds? Well, you can, but unless they are open pollinating and non-hybrid seeds they won’t grow. (Lesson learned!)

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Lessons…. we are continually learning something…animal husbandry, pasture management, and growing our own grains are just some of them. If we are not learning something, then we’re planning. For example, the garden has done much better this year so next year we will expand it. I’d like to utilize better the fruits from the orchard and the eggs from the chickens. It’s good that we didn’t waste any but I still would like to have some in the pantry.

Lance was able to get another tractor at an auction. This one has a back hoe and a shovel. It will be great help and alleviate some of the physical work he tackles on his own. I do help, but honestly, I’m not much help. He fenced our property, built the barn, and the livestock shelters pretty much on his own. Not to mention the gorgeous gazebo over the hot tub. (Life on the homestead is good).

Our venture with turkey’s showed us to do better research. We initially wanted an heirloom breed like we’ve done with our Kune-Kune/AGH pigs, our Jacob sheep and our goats. But, the local store had only BBW’s (Broad Breasted Whites). So we bought them. BBW’s have been so overly genetically mutated for their breast meat they cannot naturally breed. (In more ways than one we have managed to ruin God’s once perfect creatures). They are beautiful, but because they will suffer when their hearts rupture or their lungs collapse, their life span is short.

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The first photo shows the Breasted white turkeys. The second shows the heirloom breed Royal Palms, drinking from the livestock water. All the animals seem to think the other animals have better water. Maybe they have fizzy water, or an energy shot? The livestock constantly tried to get in the turkey pen to drink their water, and when the turkeys come down to the lower pasture, they drink heavily from the livestock tank. None of them can get into the pig pen but when we fill the pool or their water dish, there is a gathering at the pig fence. You can almost see the drool.

We have tasted one turkey. Turns out turkeys aren’t very smart. We had just loaded a ton of hay up in the barn and I was driving the truck through the pastures while Lance walked ahead and opened and closed gates and kept animals where they belonged. When I momentarily parked, one of the turkeys sat under the trailer and when I pulled forward, I ran over her.

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We had read that when you eat homegrown anything, it will taste like a foreign food, but our turkey tasted like turkey. Maybe if we had a regular antibiotic hormone riddled turkey right by our homegrown girl we would taste the difference, but she tasted like turkey.

On the list for fall farm chores: trimming livestock hooves, vaccinating the barn cats, deworming livestock, and filling in the pasture that gets flooded in the winter. I will plant garlic and oats for our winter crops and start planning for spring.

I like the seasonal changes in the homestead. Each one has both a beginning and an end, life and death. I am so happy the Lord set us up here. Life is challenging, but always good

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The Chase is On

We’ve been trying to allow the girls (our Chooks) to spend free ranging time outside the coop/run. Unlike our son’s boxer, Max, who appreciates chicken sushi, our boxer, Remus, is (so far) gently curious. The girls fly under him, strut under his nose, peck his paws when they’re getting grub and Remus does nothing but watch. And he sometimes quivers. But, for the most the chickens, have so far, been safe with him. They don’t venture too far from him. Until today.

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Today, three of the girls, Nancy (named by me), Pretty Hawk (grandchild named) and Spot (me again), slipped under the garden fence into the pasture.

We have recently expanded the grazing area for these guys.

IMG_8088and these two :

IMG_8045 IMG_8054because they do a great job of keeping the grass trim and honestly? I love to watch them roam, and romp, and butt heads and really, they do frolic. Who can resist watching great frolicking? So, when the chickens Thelma and Louise’d it to the other side, I was a little worried. Not only were they now in the presence of four livestock creatures who could break out in frolic at any moment, but there was mucky winter ‘pond’ land and on the other side of that mess, the blackberry forest. I have a cool looking pair of slogger shoes to muck around it, but had serious misgivings about that blackberry forest. I opened the half pasture gate behind the chicken coop and ran, (well as much as I can run) after the chickens who raced from me. Either dashing because their first taste of freedom was exhilarating or because I was ‘running’ after them. Scary sight I’m sure.

One grandson arrived on the scene. He chased Spot while I was after Nancy. Pretty Hawk didn’t head for the blackberry forest preferring the grass of the pasture instead. As grandson one and I were each trying to coax our perspective chickens outta the forest because, really, no one wants to venture in. I heard, “The Goats are free!” AH! No! ! I’d left the gate open. I quickly deduced two lost chickens was a sad loss but not as sad as the livestock. Grandson one and I lumbered/ran and in his case sprinted, to the garden.

In the garden were all four of our four-legged animals. At some point I had bellowed into the house and called for my husband who was trying to work, for help. He appeared as did grandson number 2. We developed a plan while we ran, flapped our arms and tried to keep the creatures from eating anything. Just past our vegetable garden are the front gardens full of everything poisonous to them..hydrangeas, rhodies, ivy, peonies, daisies, etc. So at all costs, we didn’t want them to reach that area.

I was close to panic mode, worried about Nancy and Spot and PrettyHawk, fretting about the four in the garden. Suffice to say there was much yelling, and stomping and body gyrations. My brilliant husband got the sheep/goat food and a grand child grabbed the metal bowl. As soon as the four heard the clinking of food in the bowl, they stopped and started for my husband. He began to lead them to the garden pasture gate, while I went to close the  one by the chicken coop. And, then Remus arrived on the scene.

IMG_8042Remus, apparently unhindered with various farm critters, likes to pause, and point, from time to time he’ll give a chase, but he never engages. But, the critters aren’t as sure as Remus. As we coaxed the sheep and goats, the grandkids tried to wrangle the chickens, but one remained elusive. Spot. And, Spot didn’t want to run anywhere Remus was.  With PrettyHawk and Nancy safe in the coop; they’d merely sauntered back the way they’d come, Spot was the only one left. Remus stood in the path of the open coop.

The sheep and goats ran from Remus too, even though he only stood in one spot. While the sheep and goats were led back to the pasture by the clanging of food in a metal bowl, it took throwing chicken food at Spot to direct her home.

After a good 30 minutes of combined solo and tag-team efforts all animals were finally back in their correct homes.

Chasing is good exercise. The panic level of anxiety was good for the heart I’m sure. But, hoof prints in the garden beds..maybe not so

 

 

Sheep Shearing

Life on Baldwin Acres has been busy. Two weeks ago we hired a professional sheep shearer to come give Edmund and Lucy their yearly shearing. She also trimmed their hoofs and gave us valuable information about the sheep and their needs. Some folks think it’s cruel to shear the sheep, but from what I’ve read it is to the sheep’s benefit to get sheared. They will be cooler in the hot summer and in the winter, the wool has returned. I should have snapped ‘before pictures’. But here, you can see Lucy getting sheared Imagethere’s a fair amount of lovely dusky white and black wool. (Just like tigers, their markings go all the way to their skin). Elizabeth was a super calm, fast worker so Lucy was up and about in a matter of minutes. Then, she looked like this. ImageHello gorgeous girl! I think they are adorable and resemble, maybe, a sheep bobble head. At the end of each one’s shearing Elizabeth laid out the fleece for me and showed me how to roll it until I am ready to use it. Here’s what the fleece looks like off of Lucy’s lovely lamb body. ImageWhat I am going to do with it is what I’ve read: wash it, and then try to spin it…with a drop spindle. Which arrived in the mail yesterday and looks really simple and complicated at the same time.

Edmund got sheared too. He had a ‘pocket’ on his hoof, which I wouldn’t have noted to possible trouble, but Elizabeth did, and she cleaned it up nicely so he won’t have future hoof troubles. Image Then they were back in the pasture. When they got to the pasture, there was much bleating and banging of heads. Seems the sheep do not recognize each other when they get shorn, so they have to do the whole priority establishment again. It didn’t last long before they were settled down and chomping at the pasture grass.

Edmund and Lucy’s former family came to visit. They said after the shearing the sheep look like the little lambs they first brought home.  I offered them one of the fleeces which they happily accepted.

Sheep. Sometimes I’m just living the life and reflect on what I’ve done during the day. These days it usually involves dirt, sheep ‘berries’, chickens and a visit from a grandchildren or two. I do live a blessed life.