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 Return of The Pig

Meet the swine of Baldwin Acres.

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Porky, female pig number two.

Beans

Beans. The only male swine at Baldwin Acres. He’s pretty happy to have two women keeping him company.

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Ollie. She went missing at Easter. Although the person who found her had seen our plea for our lost pig, she decided to keep her. At the time they named her Oliver and then found out she is a girl. We call her Ollie.

It was Easter Day 2015 as we introduced our two  Kune-Kune/AGH piglets to our grandchildren, when the female pig bolted out of the pen into the blackberry bushes. We immediately set live animal traps and sent lost pig posts out on social media, but to no avail. A few days later someone posted on our town’s Facebook  page that a little black pig had been seen over by the local Cemetery. My husband and I jumped in the car and headed to the graveyard. We rattled the slop pail and called for her, but she alluded us, or had already been snagged by a woman who decided she could just keep our little pig because she liked her. Disappointed we headed for home. Before she ran off, we had named the two piglets Pork and Beans. Reluctantly, we bought another black piglet one from the same litter and named her Pork 2.

We didn’t hear anything more about our little pig, and because  the homestead is busy and life and death is a reality, we thought maybe Pork 1 had become dinner to some coyote or bear or cougar. No way did we suspect a nieghbor had found her, seen our lost pigs posts and simply decided to ignore them.

Until July 4th.

On July 4th I got a notice via Facebook that a little black pig had been found and kept at a horse ranch on the same road as us. Could it be? Pork 1? We called the ranch and were told that yes, they had found a pig, and yes, she was a black female. They had found her over by the cemetery, but they really liked her. So, yes we could come see her but she would not be coming back to us.

Further notification from the lady who had initially  informed me revealed that the pig was being allowed to wander and riders were concerned she may be cougar prey. A flurry of events happened in a short amount of time. My son jumped on the ranch’s Facebook page and said he was so happy they had found his parents pig and he would be happy to come and get her. A few more of the ranch’s riders contacted me and said the pig had been there since the end of April/beginning of May and also that the owner had seen our posts (although she told some of them that she had not seen the lost pig posts). I tried to find out information about the ranch via our town Facebook page and then was banned from the page. (The moderator actually said, “how dare you try to use us to solve your legal problems). What?!?!

Small town drama ensued. People were very angry that the little pig had been kept from her rightful owners. Even the police officer, yes, the police were involved because the lady who by now I considered a pig thief, called the police on my son because she said she felt threatened. (Because he said he would come and get his parents pig).

Because it was a long weekend, and my birthday, we opted to file a police report online and then left for my birthday fishing trip. The online report was rejected because we had a suspect. I was directed to call the police. The Port Orchard police department was, for the most part, very helpful.  Although the hint of disbelief in the deputy’s voice that we were willing to go to small claims court over this was a little insulting. The thief offered $150.00 to replace the pig, while insisting , ‘it’s not your pig.”….she told the police that we were going to eat the pig. Remember she had no idea who were are (and we have never eaten any of our livestock, but, if we did,. that would be our business). We rejected the $150.00 offer. By now, we were standing on the principal of this nieghbor stealing our property and not owning it.. Finally, we told the police officer who was acting as the moderator, that we would pay for a DNA test. He presented that to the thief adding that he thought it was a fair and just way to go,  and her whole demeanor changed. She became angry and told him , “If they want the pig, they can come and get the pig.” So our son and his wife went to get the pig because we were three hours away. The thief demanded the police be there  because, she said we were ‘unreasonable.” Yes. WE were the unreasonable ones. ?!

I wasn’t there for the attempted capture of the pig, but from the description given, the woman was callous and mocking,  video taping  my son and daughter in law’s failed attempts at getting the pig, while occasionally calling the pig over to her. She said more than once, ‘want to catch a pig? Here’s how you catch a pig,” and then the pig would run off. (She seemed to take delight in the fact that the pig had ‘bonded’ to her and not my family, however, if she had done the right thing and answered our lost pig ads when she found the pig, the pig would not respond to her anymore than she did to my kids.)

Hearing  how our children were treated we  changed our plans and headed back. Our son and daughter in law felt like they had let us down because they couldn’t catch the pig, but we were glad that they left instead of subjecting themselves to the woman’s abuse.

When we got back home, we called on our son-in-law, our son, and I was going to accompany them, to get the pig. Communications and timing was off and I never did make it there. I think, though God may have kept me away. I’m not known for self control when my family is being abused. My son-in-law also brought five of our grandsons but made them stay in the car for safety.From what the men tell me, they got to the ranch and the woman was ready with her phone to video tape it all. She kept saying, “All I did was find a pig and take care of it.” SERIOUSLY? that’s the problem right there. We don’t live in a finders keepers world. You found the pig, then you ignored lost pig posts and decided you liked the pig and you kept the pig knowing the entire time it wasn’t yours.

What can be seen as a sort of unique justice, my son-in-law cornered the pig, my husband herded her into the dog kennel and closed the door. She shot out the side door and my son tackled her. He wheezed our, “I’ve got the pig.” YES!

My husband helped  her back into the kennel, all the while soothing her, and comforting her and telling her it certainly didn’t have to be this way. it could  have been solved a whole lot easier. The actions of this women are rather disconcerting, not only did she keep livestock that she never paid for and didn’t try to return it to it’s owners, although she had our information, she found out who had told me about the pig and kicked her and her horses off the property. This woman had worked with the ranch owner for a couple of years and was disheartened that she got booted out, but was also happy she had done the right thing in telling us where our pig was.

Ollie ( they had initially called her Oliver until they discovered she was a female, we call her Ollie)  obviously has been grossly overfed but we can fix that. We were concerned that she might not get along well with her sister and brother, but it was only a matter of minutes, before they were all romping and running around the pen.

Ollie returned to us with a red dog collar on, so we bought Beans a green one and Porky a pink one. Today, on a rather hot day, they took turns soaking in the wading pool and rooting out weeds. Before finally snoozing together in the shade.

I believe the swine at Baldwin Acres will be just fine.

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New critters at Baldwin Acres. First, meet our Mountain Beavers.

As our weather turns a bit warmer and a little more dry, we delight in spending more time outside. In addition to the farm chores – which, by the way are much more enjoyable doing dry than to tackle them while rain soaked, we also opened the pool, turned up the heater and had our first swim. The pool area bumps up against a piece of our property that is forested. On this particular day, the Man said he saw something furry scurry from the under brush. We had noticed the rabbits have returned, so we initially agreed that he probably did see something furry and it was, no doubt, a rabbit. Then, the little critter scampered out again. He was no bunny.

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At first, we couldn’t figure out what the critter was. Not a bunny? No. A wild guinea pig? Is there such a thing? He certainly wasn’t a mole, or a groundhog. I grabbed my camera and took a few steps to the field where he gathered the weeds and waited for him to come.

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He or she, would race out and never stopping tug mouthfuls of weeds before running back into the brush. They don’t have pocket cheeks like chipmunks do, so they simply carry as much as they can and head back to the burrow. The burrows are incredible. They are so profuse they fell young trees because of root system disturbance. They can fell people too.When our little pig Pork escaped into the brush, we went searching for her. She was in the thick of the wild blackberries. As we walked on a patchy path, trying to see her little all black body in the shadows, my right leg sunk up to my knee into a hole. Startled, I ‘umphed’ and my son, who had been in front of me, turned and helped me out. The only thing that stopped me from going further was not that my foot touched the bottom, but that my leg got thicker than
the hole! Those tunnels go deep.

Although research tells me that the Mountain Beaver is as elusive as Jack-a-lopes, Bigfoot and Snipes, ours were not afraid of us at all. They took turns gathering weeds and taking them back to their tunnels. I moved positions several times and each time, they took no mind.

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The Mountain Beaver is thought to be one of the most primitive rodents. So primitive they are the only ones from their species – Aplodontia rufa. They only have two to four young when they breed. And, of course, they aren’t beavers, and we don’t live in the mountains, but they do gnaw tree roots, bark etc. thus they’re named after Canada’s national animal. They are only found around the coast of Southern British Columbia, through Washington, Oregon into California.

We won’t be doing much with these guys. They won’t need their hooves trimmed, or their fur combed for fleas – although, interesting fact, the largest flea in the world, Hystrichopsylla schefferi, at 1/4 of inch resides only on the little guys. Our pasture is in sad repair some (because we had no idea what we were doing and now, a year into the venture, we know a bit more), so we’re happy to let them feast away on the banquet of weeds

“And, God said, ” Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds-livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And, it was so. And, God mad the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1 ESV

We do have a few new ‘real’ farm critters to introduce. Bob, our beautiful Nubian buckling, Pork (2) and Beans our Kune Kune/American Guinea Hog pigs, 6 white Broad Breasted turkeys, 5 Royal Palm Heritage Turkeys, and Mic and Mac two adorable kittens who will be our mousers. Oh, we also have Roo. He’s a beautiful colorful rooster, but seems, perhaps, he doesn’t know what to do. Until next time….enjoy life, don’t let the turkeys get you down.