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.

IMG_7816

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.

DSC_0292

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.

DSC_0001_1

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.

InstagramCapture_44c36732-3499-4199-9711-70a3a4c86645 1

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.

So much POOP. What about Fleas? Diatomaceous earth. Part One.

I started this blog post writing about all the poop on the homestead and how we manage it. But I was life busy long enough to now be able to address another issue that’s come up- fleas. The good news is I have two natural options to help with both. (Introducing fleas into the mix has left me in a quandary. Should I address both issues together or separately? I think to keep my own mind clear  and not confuse you, I will break it down to two posts. Poop first. Fleas second.)

Poop is disgusting. No one wants to mess with poop. But poop can be a great indicator of our and our animals health. So checking poop is a necessary part of animal husbandry. Ick. Initially I was going to post photos of the poop we daily encounter. But, the stark reality of poop pictures might prove to be too much for sensitive types. I’ve been scolded for posting photo’s of what some consider gruesome subjects : like Lance’s finger when he sliced the tip off, and Lance’s finger when he shot a nail into the end, and my nose when I broke it, and my nose after surgery to set it,  so I get that not everyone thinks the raw things of life are interesting. So no glossies of poop. But, if there were photos, they would include: pig poop, goat poop, sheep poop, turkey poop, chicken poop, dog and cat poop.

There’s a book called, “Everybody Poops”.  This book is not a work of fiction.

Poop is a problem because it’s the carrier of things that do not belong inside our bodies. And, sometimes parasites and worms will invade to live in the warmth and ick that is poop.

There are good worms. Helpful worms. In the spring I added Red Wigglers to my raised garden beds to help irrigate and nourish my soil. Night crawlers  lure fish onto hooks so we can eat them. But mostly there are are gross worms.  These are the, ‘why did you create these things, God?’, parasites that live in the guts of living beings. There are heartworm, pole worms, tapeworms, whipworms, and pinworms to name a few, When the animals poop worm pieces or the whole worm, will be in the feces. Then they are on the soil. When the animals graze that area, they ingest more parasites/worms.

Parasites are not the only problem with poop. Poop attracts flies which then breed. This gives us creepy maggots and then more flies. Flies are nothing more than poop transporters. They alight on poop and then alight on garbage and then alight on poop and then alight on your wall, at which time you smack it and splat all the fly’s souvenirs.

Let’s just say it: poop is nasty. Although, if we didn’t poop, well that would be much nastier.

When we developed our homestead or hobby farm plan, we knew right off we would engage in natural and organic practices. One of the reasons we raise chickens is to have eggs that have not been pushed through a hormone antibiotic laden hen. We use no pesticides on our vegetables or fruit trees. So, using chemicals to kill ground pests, no matter how foul they are, would be counter to what we believe. This is where Diatomaceous Earth or DE comes in super handy.

Diatomaceous earth,  is a brand new product to us. DE is a finely ground exoskeleton of a fossil sea creature which when ground up leaves  microscopic jagged pieces. We are too big to be harmed by this, but the little parasites don’t handle it well. They crawl over it and cut their bodies causing them to leak and dry out. To help control parasites and worms, we spread DE

Use caution when  using DE. Use only FOOD grade DE and NOT POOL grade.  DE is similar in consistency to a dusting powder. DE can irritate eyes, noses and lungs. We make sure the animals are not around when we spread it, because any wind or breeze can easily carry it to them. we don’t want to subject them to any discomfort if possible. Chickens have fragile respiratory systems, so if you choose to use it in their coop as I do because it helps keep lice, flea, mosquito fly and mite populations down, use it after you’ve cleaned out the coop, and spread new bedding. Do not use it when the chickens are IN the coop.

DE is also useful for parasites and pests on livestock. When we trim hooves, we liberally apply DE to the sheep and goats hides. Behind the ears, around the rear, and down the backs. It helps get rid of  what might be there, and repel intruders.

We like to use the DE product from Red earth. http://www.redlakeearth.com/red-lake-diatomaceous-earth-us.html  We mix our own feed and use DE as a top dressing for natural deworming. Some folks also leave it as a free choice for their animals. I did read where a woman lost her chickens after spreading DE in their coop, but she spread it when they were in there, and she didn’t indicate whether it was FOOD grade or POOL grade. So be careful when you use it.

Red Earth DE

Red Earth DE

DE can also be used for flea control. We brought three flea infested barn kittens home. Kittens are so delicate and small you can’t really use any typical chemical laden flea control products on them. Initially we bathed them in Dawn dish soap and used flea combs. We spread DE in their litter box, and their bedding and around the pool house where their food and beds are. We add DE to our cats food, too. This site has dosage recommendations and more information about worming our domestic pets with DE.

https://www.vetinfo.com/using-diatomaceous-earth-to-worm-pets.html

I’ve always believed that God put on earth everything we need to live and be healthy. I don’t understand some of the things he created, like fleas and muzzles and flies, but He knows what’s He’s doing. I started researching natural remedies back in the 80s We’ve planted herbs that we can use for cooking, but also we put fresh cut and dried herbs in the coop, where they turkeys are and in the livestock area. This includes mint, thyme, sage, peppermint, and lavender. Smells good and helps repel pests. If you can do a natural God given remedy, why not??

Using this life viewpoint, I’ve extensively researched the use of natural remedies, herbs, essential oils etch,  and the news is good and fascinating. I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a huge endorsement for DE, but it did. The second part will address the use of Essential Oils at Baldwin Acres.

Thanks for reading. Have a beautiful day.

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.

FPImage(7)

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.

 

 

Productive day = exhaustion, achy bodies and satisfaction.

Unlike real farmers/ranchers we didn’t get up at the crack of dawn and we retired before the sunset (but to be fair, our sunset was at 8:15pm) but we did manage to get so much squeezed in those hours we were out there. Between everyday chores, gardening, too many trips to Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wilcox stores, it was a very fulfilling day. Thought I would share some of it with you.

We were happy to see the sheep, Lucy and Edmund, were awake and making small talk with our boxer, Remus, as they waited for us to take them to the pasture paddock. We had breakfast and took some of the Grands out to meet the sheep. Lucy and Edmund are a little shy and give us crazy eyes from time to time, but they are not aggressive or sketchy with the kids. Lance had to hold Edmund, the smaller of the two, so the kids could touch them, but the sheep are so foreign to the kids the petting was a fleeting action. After they got out to their paddock, E & L proceeded to do some yard maintenance. and we moved on with our very full day.

Image

Lance tilled the garden beds. I planted a ‘salad’ bed with tomatoes, three different kinds of lettuces, and radishes. Yellow onions and Walla Walla sweet onions went in next. Cauliflower was next and then cucumbers into little dirt hills. Squashes – zucchini, acorn and delicate were next. One of the beds is now a dedicated strawberry bed, another will be for corn, and then pumpkins for October. One of the smaller bed will be for the herbs. The challenge of all this gardening is to not get down on my arthritic knees and at the same time, not wrench my back. Challenging, yes, but, ta-da, doable.

Image

Today was also chicken coop cleaning day. Since last I posted we have lost one chick. She never seemed to grow, didn’t get any feathers and one day she was listless, the next day, dead. It was very sad, but it is the way God has made the creature world to work. in the picture below you can see how big her sibling is, the big white one in the forefront. Little one never got half as big.

ImageWhile I want to make a nice soft warm bed of pine shavings for the girls, they continually kick it out until it’s almost just bare board. See the shavings in their water?  This water had just been changed 10 minutes before I took this picture. They’ve also taken to sitting on their feed. Not sure why. There are two who often roost on the stick, but the others? Maybe there is not enough room? Or they’re only brave enough to be as high as the feeder. Maybe there is something to calling someone a ‘chicken’ when they’re fearful?

Setting up Baldwin Acres has been a costly venture. We have spent more money on the animals, their ‘stuff’ and their shelters then we have on previous sun drenched vacations. So far, it has been worth every cent. As I sit here typing (using nine fingers because I got one caught in the door while rushing to the sheep and it’s painfully swollen), my knees ache from kneeling only once, I’m exhausted, and my body protests when I get up off the couch,  I can honestly say, love every aspect of it.

Before we led Lucy and Edmund to their bedroom (a nice roomy fenced dog run with a shelter) for the evening, I got one photo of them which I sign off with for you tonight, too. Peace.

 

Image