Friday, April 29, 2011

Sorry Kate

Today's newspapers in the the library are abuzz with local excitement over the royal wedding.  The Peoria Journal Star had articles on how local English people were celebrating with Pajama Parties for the 4 am live viewing of the event.  The McDonough County Voice chronicled a woman in Macomb who has been waiting anxiously since Diana and Charles' wedding for the next royal event.  The article explains, "'I've been waiting to do this for 30 years,' said Kassie Wednesday afternoon, while making preparations for her party, which kicks off at 3 a.m. Friday, when most television coverage of the royal wedding starts.  "I got goosebumps when William got engaged.'"  Seriously?


After reading all about the local celebrations in the papers, I had to get online and check out some of the photos for myself.  The only thing I was really interested to see was Kate's dress because it's design had been kept a secret.  I was a little disappointed.  I liked the lace sleeves, they were very elegant, but I hated the V-neckline.  Sorry Kate, but I like my wedding dress better.  I really liked her maid of honor (or should I say honour,) sister Pippa's dress.  And her name, too!  Some people thought it was a little scandalous that the maid of honor also wore white, but really, what did you expect from a commoner?  Sorry Kate, now you can only be known as Katherine, never play Monopoly with the royal family (it was banned in 2008 after a particularly nasty game,)  and unless she eats fast, she won't ever finish her meal in the presence of the queen. Once the queen finishes eating and puts down her fork, so must everyone in the room.  Well good luck to ya, Waity-Katie, best wishes to the happy couple from a newlywed on the other side of the pond!





Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I couldn't even tell you how many days it has rained here in the last 2 weeks.  It seems like every day is grayer and rainier than the next, with no end in sight.  The fields are pure mud, the grass in our yard is growing in weird patches because it's too wet to mow, and the lambs are going to have to learn how to swim if it keeps up like this any longer.  The poor sheep.  We shouldn't have plowed the field last year, because the grass is barely growing back.  The pasture that Dodge is in is starting to look greener, as is the half of the pasture that is cut off from the ewes with an electric fence.  But the part of the field that the ewes and the lambs can go in is thick, squelchy, pull-off-your-boots-when-you-step mud.  And the inside of the barn isn't much better.  It's just full of wet straw and mud.  And the worst part is that our neighbor's pasture is lush with tall green grass.  I guess sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hungry


Patrick, our first-born is quite the trouble-maker these days.  When he's not climbing into the hay trough and sticking his head between the bars that hold the hay, he's bursting through the electric fence to the other side of the pasture.  But we love him anyway.  

Surprise!

Sometimes surprises are very nice.  When I got home last night from being away for the weekend, Joey surprised me with a freshly tilled garden!  A friend had been going by the house with a tractor that had a rototiller on it and Joey asked if he could turn my garden over.  And he did, for free, even.  So now I can't wait for it to stop raining so I can put some seeds in the ground.  And I have come to a decision about gardening in the ground versus containers.  For the last few weeks as I have been collecting seed packets and checking out books from the library on gardening, I have been debating about what to do about the garden in case we end up moving this summer.  I was worried that our house may sell and we would have to move before my vegetables were ready to harvest.  I didn't want to leave my vegetables behind for someone else to eat.  
ready for vegetables



To tell you the truth, I was being a little selfish about my tomatoes!  But this past weekend I was reminded that sharing plants as well as the harvest is what gardening is all about.  I have been growing tomato seeds in my dining room window for a couple weeks now and they are getting too big for the little seed-starting tray.  So I started to transplant them into larger biodegradable plastic cups.  I brought home 7 seedlings to share with my family this weekend.  I brought 3 little tomato plants to my aunt's house for Easter and shared them with my Grandma and Grandpa who grow tomatoes in hand-made upside down containers and my aunt and uncle who have a garden that grows bigger every year.  The remaining 4 will hopefully produce lots of tomatoes for my mom, dad, and sister in their backyard garden.  

As I swapped chicken raising stories with my uncle and listened to my Grandma say she was so sad when she saw lamb for sale in the grocery store, it reminded me that gardening, raising livestock, and being a homesteader, whether you live in the country or the city, wouldn't work without sharing; whether it's seedlings, homemade bread, stories and advice or time and labor.  And the same goes with this blog.  I am so happy to share my experiences with everyone who reads this blog, the good, the bad, and the ugly (like that nasty bruise on my behind!)  So I am going to start some seeds in the ground, as well as some in containers.  And if I have to leave my garden behind, I hope whoever inherits it enjoys my tomatoes.  It will be my house-warming gift to them.  

Oh yeah, as I said earlier, some surprises are good.  And some are not-so-good, but a little funny.  With a long weekend off of school, the kids in the town where I work got a little creative and decided to change the sign outside the library.  There isn't a cover or a lock to protect the movable letters and you don't need a ladder to reach them.  So when I got to work this morning, I found the letters on both sides of our sign a little out-of-whack.  Some of the letter tiles were even stacked next to the front door.  Apparently, the new message was a little offensive so a kind citizen removed parts of it.  They came into the library this afternoon to make sure I found the letters they took down.  I'll never know what it said, but I'll tell you, it's not the first time it's happened!  I know some people in town were probably a little off-put by these shenanigans but it kind of makes me laugh.  It's just one of those things I imagined would happen in a small town in the country where the kids don't have much to do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mr. Fox

Often, if you come by my house at 9:20 in the morning you can find me in my backyard doing things many would consider out of the ordinary.  Take for example the time when the rooster escaped and attacked me, causing me to fall backwards in the dewy grass, heels above my head, kicking and screaming.  My neighbors probably got a chuckle out of me fighting for my life, kicking the rooster with my red rubber boots.  Just a few weeks ago, I was trying to wrangle a head-butting ram into the barn and wincing in pain from the giant bruise that was forming on my rear end.  All this excitement before I even get the chance to eat my Cheerios.


Well this morning had me running around the yard banging pots and pans together.  


Why you ask?  Well, as I was moving around the kitchen at a slow speed, per usual to my morning routine, I happened to glance out the window at the sheep pasture and notice another creature in the field with the ram.  A fox.  A FOX!  It took a second for me to realize that it was the foxy loxy that had been seen in our field and the neighbor's the last month or so, hanging around since lambing started.  Our neighbor has tried to shoot it multiple times.  But, just like Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox, he always managed to sneak away.  I yelled for Daisy to get off the couch and do her duty as a dog and scare the creature away from our precious lambs.  On went the red boots (they really make me invincible) and out the door we went, off to defend our land and our livestock.  Well, Daisy was completely uninterested.  I don't think she even noticed the fox, and Dodge didn't pay it any attention either.  It just stood there.  I yelled at Daisy, "Scare it away!"  She barely looked up from whatever she was sniffing.  I thought to myself, "what am I going to do?!"  I thought of my options:  I couldn't shoot one of Joey's guns, I've never even held a gun before.  And I couldn't shoot his bow, I'm probably not even strong even to pull back on the string, and what if I accidentally shot Dodge with an  arrow? 


So I did what any good farmer's wife would do.  I ran into the house and got my trusty old Revereware.  Yes, these were weapons I was more familiar with: two saucepans.  So that's what I did, I knocked together two pans and made a racket.  And it ran away.  And it was probably laughing at me. 


When Joey got home from work he fed and watered the sheep and then a couple minutes later came inside with a big smile on his face.  Mr. Fox had come back.  And he shot it with his bow.  I was grossed out, but relieved that the fox couldn't hurt our baby sheep.  Joey was triumphant.  He outsmarted the fox that had gotten away so many times.  


When I used one of the pots to make dinner tonight (Grandma Pinky's Mac n' Cheese) I noticed that I had actually dented it a little.  Whoops.  Now it has two stories: I bought it an an estate sale for a dollar and it saved the day and scared a fox away.  Not too bad for a weapon that can also heat up dinner.  (And by dinner I don't mean fox.  This is the country, but we have to draw the line somewhere.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Showers

Well, it's cold and rainy and windy outside today.  I had to turn the heat on in the house for the first time in weeks.  So Daisy and I are all snuggled up inside.  She's dog-napping on her favorite couch and I'm waiting for Joey to get home from work.  Since it's so blustery outside I thought I would give you a peek at my inside vegetable garden.  On March 18th I planted tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds in a seed-starting tray.  The eggplants are Black Beauty, peppers are California Wonder, and the tomatoes are Baxter's Bush Cherry, German Pink, and Rutgers.  They are coming up well.  


I will have to transplant the tomatoes to bigger containers soon.  I have been trying to learn about container gardening because I am afraid to plant a garden if we have to move.  I don't want to have to leave my tomatoes behind!  So I got a book through inter-library loan called Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail.  The author writes about growing food in cities and in houses without backyards. It's a pretty cool book because it basically says you can grow food anywhere, even with very little space. I am going to try to grow some of my veggies in containers this year and then if we move this summer, I may still have time to plant some things in the ground as well.  Last year, I moved to this house in June and didn't get my garden started until almost July and I still had a couple crops of green beans, lots of cucumbers, a few eggplants and green peppers, cherry tomatoes from a transplant, and lots of basil.  


I also planted some herbs in pots I got from Walmart for $2.50 a piece.  I planted Basil, Dill, and Cilantro.  I hope to use the basil with my tomatoes for sandwiches and sauces, the cilantro and peppers and tomatoes for salsa, and the dill to turn cucumbers into pickles.  

Here is a list of some of my favorite gardening books for those of you thinking about starting a garden this year:

The Dirt Cheap Green Thumb by Rhonda Massingham Hart
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
The Moosewood Kitchen Garden by David Hirsch
The New Self-Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour

All of these books have great ideas and illustrations.  Grow Great Grub has great color photos.  Mother Earth News Magazine is also one of my favorite resources for gardening and homesteading ideas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No buts about it...

My butt hurts.  I have a big blue bruise thanks to Dodge's big thick head.


In other butt-related news, all of the lambs' tails have fallen off.  Don't freak out.  They're supposed to do that.  We put a small, elastic band on the top of their tails, close to their bodies, the day after they were born.  It hurts them for a couple minutes and then the blood stops flowing and they can't feel anything.  The tail then falls off on its own in a few weeks.  Kinda like that clampy-thing they put on babies' bellybuttons and then that crusty umbilical cord bit falls off after a while (at least that's what I kinda remember from when my sister was born.)  I think my nine year old self actually wanted to keep that crusty bellybutton thing as kind of a big sister souvenir. Gross.


Sorry this post is so graphic and somewhat disgusting.  I guess that's the life of a shepherd.  Lots of poop, a little blood, occasional bruises, and little woolly tails left behind in the barnyard.
Look Ma, no tail!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Escape!

It always seems like the animals pick the time right before I leave for work in the morning to cause mischief.  This morning, I looked out the window at the sheep pasture and saw the ewes and the lambs in one pasture and Dodge in the other...with a lamb!  Little Clive (Susan's lamb) wanted to visit his dad.  I ran out there and got into the pasture with Dodge and the lamb.  Clive and Susan were on opposite sides of the fence crying out to one another.  I went into the barn to try and figure out how the lamb had slipped over to the other side of the fence when WHAM!!! Dodge head-butted me, well, in the butt.  It hurt so bad I screamed and turned around in time to see him back up and came barreling back at me, head down, ready to clash again.  I stuck my boot out at him again and again until I could escape the pasture, creeping along the fence and not daring to turn my back.  When I got out, I was almost in tears from the pain and also because Dodge had never acted like such a ram before.  His strength and sheer bulk, not to mention those horns, freaked me out a little.  The fat sheep I hand fed slices of white bread to was replaced by a charging hunk of wool.  How was I going to get Clive back to his mom?  I went and got some hay to lure Dodge into the barn from the other side of the fence and locked him in so he couldn't attack again.  Then I had to catch Clive.  The lambs have grown a lot in the last few weeks and they move very fast now.  They are almost impossible to catch in a wide open field.  We can barely catch them inside the barn now.  But considering Clive was a little freaked out and desperate to get back to his momma, he did the only thing that made sense-try to jump through the fence.  Which actually worked to my advantage because his head got stuck.  All I had to do was grab him and pull his head out of the fence and then carry him out and around to the girl's side of the pasture.  And man, is he getting heavy!  He was happily reunited with his mom and his friends and in a couple minute's time probably forgot it even happened.  


But how did he manage his sheep shenanigans?  I walked the entire length of the dividing fence and at the very back corner I found 2 gaps: one between the bottom of the fence and the ground that he could have slipped under and one where the fence meets the back fence where he might have walked through.  As I was already running late for work, I covered both holes with piles of branches and brush that were on the ground back there.  Hopefully my baby-proofing worked and no one squeezed through while I was at work.  So, once again, there's never a dull moment at my house.


Oh yeah, for all you Modern Family fans out there, the lamb who escaped today is named Clive Bixby.  Complements of Joey.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Never a Dull Moment

Hey all you men out there who read this blog, want to test your marriage?  First, go outside and light the backyard on fire.  Then, give your wife (who is sitting on the couch inside, completely oblivious to the flames outside) a phone call from outside telling her to get out to the backyard NOW!  Sound frightening?  This is what happened to me yesterday.


It all started because we have about an acre and a half of land that we grew sweet corn on last year that Joey wants to grow hay on this year.  Well, all the corn stalks are still up but Joey doesn't have the kind of tractor implement he needs to go out and cut it all down.  So, he thought he could do a controlled brush fire and burn it all away.  Note the imperative word: controlled brush fire.  Well, let's just say that things got a little out of control.  I was on the phone with my friend who lives in California when I received 3 calls from Joey.  I said to her, "Hold on a second, I have to figure out why Joey is calling me, I thought he just went outside...Oh my gosh!  Kar, can I call you back, our field is on fire!"  The part he wanted to burn was doing fine, but it had started to spread under the fence into the pasture that the ram is in.  He wanted me to help him stop the fire from encroaching onto the pasture.  So I ran and got a hoe and we fought it from spreading.  I got the hose and sprayed it to prevent it from starting again.  Then Joey went to the back of the field where our property backs up to another property at a line of pine trees and brush.  I thought everything was under control, so I took the dog inside so she wouldn't step on the burnt grasses.


When I stepped inside, I heard Joey's firefighter radio going off, calling Vermont volunteer firefighters...to my address!  I ran back outside and Joey was way in the back along our property line.  He had called 911 because he thought the fire was getting out of control.  The fire had spread to our neighbor's property and was heading straight for the pine trees!  I grabbed a bucket and started to fill it with water from the hose.  Joey was screaming at me, "Get back here! Bring the bucket!  I couldn't run with the bucket full of water, so he yelled to me, "Dump it out!"  I ran back as fast as I could.  There is a pond on the other side of the pine trees and Joey ran down there to fill up his bucket with water and got stuck!  He couldn't get up the bank of the pond until I pulled him out!  He dumped his bucket on the fire and I filled up mine at a spot on the shore with a rock to stand on and then ran up the slope to drown the fire.  We made a two person bucket brigade, filling two buckets in the pond and running up the hill to the spreading fire.  We almost had it out when the fire department came roaring back through our field in a four-wheel drive truck with a tank of water on the back.  The big fire engine roared up the street and waited in front of the house. It had only been a couple minutes but I was completely out of breath, from my cold, the smoke and from hauling buckets.  I was glad to see them arrive.  They got out and started to stop what was left with a rubber shovel that they used to stomp it out and then sprayed a little water on it.     It was out in less than a minute.  


Joey was a little embarrassed since he is on the volunteer fire department himself.  He told the guys, "I was the first one on scene!"  They laughed and said, that was it?  I guess with a couple more bucketfuls Joey and I probably could have put it out ourselves, but he wanted to be safe.  The guys on the fire department are going to give him crap for a while but at least we didn't burn our neighbor's trees down.  Or the sheep pasture.  When we went back into the house we were covered in soot and smoke.  I wasn't prepared for a controlled burn, so I was wearing regular clothes.  The firefighters probably took one look at me in my white top and my red flowered rain boots I had thrown on and soot on my face and probably thought, who the heck is this girl?  Well, I'm just the girl who pulls on her red rubber boots, pulls her husband out of a pond, and throws buckets of water on a grass fire, that's who.  I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder trying to put out a prairie fire.  


So, we gave the neighbors something to talk about.  I feel like there's always something crazy going on around here.  But Joey learned his lesson, with a little embarrassment from his fellow firefighters.  This was his first fire, ironic it was at his own house.  And now we know how quickly the volunteer fire department responds.


We had a little excitement, but we're all OK.  I still have a miserable cold.  I spent the rest of the weekend on the couch, basking in my disgustingness and surrounded by wads of used kleenex.  This morning, I stumbled into the kitchen a couple minutes after waking up, looking like the Crypt Keeper, and our friend Josh was at the back door to return a pie pan.  I'm sure he regrets that.  He'll probably never be able to look at me the same way again after he saw me this morning.  And that's my weekend in a nutshell.  How was your weekend?
Don't worry Dad, we moved the grain binder.  It didn't get burned.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Darn

I caught Joey's cold.  All week I have been thinking to myself, "Oh I have such a good immune system!"  And because I actually said it out loud to my book club last night, I woke up with a painful sore throat and a sinus head ache.  That'll teach me to brag about eating gummy vitamins every day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

House Update

Yesterday our realtor called me at work around 2:30 pm and told me that some more people would like to look at our house.  That day.  At 4:30.  All I could think about was how disgusting the state of my home was when I left for work that morning.  And I mean bad.  After two weeks of guests and Joey having a cold which rendered him "too sick" to help me clean, the house was pretty much a disaster.  I really wanted more people to see the house so I told the realtor OK.  Luckily, Barb was working with me at the library so I could run home and try to pick up a little before they got there and then go back to work.  (I have missed so much work lately it's not even funny.)  So I dashed home, hid the laundry under the bed, washed a couple dishes and stored the rest under the sink (an old trick), swept the 1,001 ladybug carcasses off the floor upstairs, and then pretty much ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get things into order.  You know how it gets, stuff just starts to pile up everywhere and then the stuff reproduces and multiplies and somehow the piles of paper, dishes, and laundry and balls of dog fur rolling around are completely invisible to your husband...It's very strange how these things know how to camouflage themselves from the male species.


Today, the realtor called me again and said the people who went through it yesterday liked it.  Although she doesn't know how much because she didn't show it, someone from Century 21 did.  And she said the the old-renter girl called her and agreed to the extra $1,000 they've been thinking about for the last week.  If you want a house that badly, why should $1,000 make the difference between getting it or not?  Anywho...we are signing something with the realtor tonight but the sale is not pending, the house is still on the market, and we are still accepting other offers.  We hope there are other offers out there.  First because these people have to sell their house and get a loan before they can actually buy our house.  And second, because we don't really like the idea of them living in our house.  Not only have we already seen how she lived in it before, but our neighbor and friend will be upset to be her neighbor again.  But at the end of the day, we have to sell our house before we can buy another one and we have to buy another one so Joey can be closer to his job.  So I guess we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Checking it off.

Well, we accomplished a lot this last weekend: 

1. I went to Target in Springfield and bought the ottoman I've been eyeing for a while.  The reasons for wanting the ottoman were two-fold: first to store all of our DVDs and second, so that Joey would sit next to me on the couch.  He doesn't think that the couch is big enough for the two of us to stretch out.  Well problem solved Mister!  Put your feet up!


2. We looked at the house in Bluffs again.  Remember the one with 9 acres and a pond and a 60's style house?  The realtor met us there to unlock it for us so that we could go in without trespassing this time and take pictures.  We had a picnic on the back porch and walked down by the stream.  It was a beautiful day and we started to get a little more excited about the place.  It needs some work (just like our first house) but as Joey explained to me, we are young and crazy so we can handle it. 

3.  Joey got a new lawn mower.  Yes, it's a John Deere.  I knew it was only a matter of time before he came home with something from work.

4. I beat Joey in a game of bowling.

5. Our friends brought their son and nephew over who are 7 and 6 to see our lambs.  Joey was in the middle of shearing Margaret in the front lawn when they stopped by.  (You know you live in the country when you shear sheep in your front yard.)  They loved the lambs but did not love the sheep poop.  You should have seen them trying to tip-toe around every little poop pellet on the ground.  Too funny.  I brought the bunny outside for them to see too.  I spilled some of her poop pellets on the floor as I was carrying her cage outside and the boys were totally grossed out.  I said, "We sure do have a lot of poop at our house don't we?"

So that was our weekend in a nutshell.  Oh, and Joey caught his sister's cold.  Thanks Marta.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Peace

Well, we have some sad news.  We lost one of our lambs this weekend.  We had been worried about this little lamb for a few days and were so disappointed that we couldn't do anything for her.  She was the girl twin we called Maggie and she wasn't growing like her twin brother.  We tried to bottle feed her a few times without luck, she just wouldn't take a bottle so we assumed she was getting enough milk from her mom.  We saw both lambs feeding from Margaret, so we thought she just wasn't getting as much as her brother.  We brought her over to our neighbor's for advice a couple days ago but he said that sometimes twins didn't grow at the same rate, sometimes one gets more than the other but they do OK.  We brought her in the house a few times to try to get her to eat, but she just wouldn't take.  We don't know exactly what happened but we are glad she is at peace.  She never seemed sick, or cried loudly, just looked tiny compared to her growing brother.  She always had energy, wasn't ever lethargic.  We are thankful that we don't have to worry about her now and we learned a little bit as shepherds.  Next time we have twins we will be extra concerned that both are eating and that the ewe has enough milk.  And we know that life on the farm revolves around new life as well as the end of life.  We are thankful that all 5 of the other lambs are growing and thriving.  They are all doing really well.  Yesterday they were all playing together, running and leaping.  And sometimes they jump straight up in the air like they have springs on their feet.  This morning before leaving for work I looked in on the sheep.  It is cold and windy so the moms brought the babies up into the barn.  Phyllis was lying down and all the babies were snuggled up around her while some of the other moms ate.  They really do know what they are doing and are very good mothers.  Sometimes, one just can't be saved.  When I looked in again, Molly's baby Grace was climbing all over Phyllis' back like it was a woolly jungle gym.  We feel bad that we lost little Maggie but it is hard to be so sad when you watch all the other lambs as they frolic and grow without abandon.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

Weekend To-Do List

Whew, I think our long list of visitors has finally wrapped up...for a while at least.  These days, it seems you never know who's going to stop by our little house in the boondocks.  And the invitation is always open, we love to entertain our family and friends.  It's kinda funny though, how our house has become a little getaway destination.  Get away from it all, breathe in the fresh country air, sleep on an air mattress, wash our dishes...all this and more at Third Street Farm Bread and Breakfast.  Heck, I would have visitors every night of the week if it meant someone else did the dishes.  Just ask my college roommates how much I love washing dishes.  And somehow Joey and I have found a soulmate in each other, brought together by our mutual talents for letting the dirty dishes pile up.  We both wrote in our wedding vows to each other that we would try to do the dishes.  What were we thinking?  We should have vowed to buy a dishwasher.


But anyway...it is the weekend, time to catch-up.  To Do:
1. Finish the last 5 thank-you notes and make Joey sign all the ones I already wrote
2. Drive 1.5 hours to Springfield to go to Target (that's right people! can you believe I actually moved somewhere that far away from a Target?!) and use my 10% coupon and gift cards to buy an ottoman to go with the couch
3. Plant my herb seeds and strawberry plants in containers
4. Catch up on sleep
5. Check out the house we put a bid on again and take pictures of the inside
6. Email sheep photos
7. Do the dishes...just kidding, Joey sister did them before she left!


Who wants to visit next?  I promise you won't have to fix our vacuum cleaner after you wash the dishes, Steve fixed it for us during his stay last weekend!


He even vacuumed the rug!