Tag Archives: chores

Gimpy Farmer

Q:  What happens when a farmer with a bad knee chases pigs through the garden?

A:  A farmer with a torn ACL!

Now, if this were a real joke the punchline would be funny rather than painful!!  Why was I chasing the pigs through the garden?  Because they were out of the pen and having a joyful, if short-lived piggy frolic through the fall plantings!!

Last Wednesday reminded me of several things…the importance of latching the gates, how much damage livestock can do in a relatively short period of time, how quickly hogs can move when motivated, that pride cometh before the fall, and the fine and perilous line between health and injury.

On Tuesday I took some pictures of the garden to share with friends because while it was a bit weedy it was producing like gang-busters.  Tomatoes, potatoes, beets, onions, corn, basil, cucumbers, peppers…the list goes on and on!  I was putting up pickles like crazy, making pesto with the basil, freezing gallons of green beans – and in one quick trip through the garden the cows and the hogs took care of all that.

Cucumber patch
Morning harvest
My laying flock – and the Rooster!
The flea-bitten, bad-smelling, egg-sucking farm dog in the penalty box after running through the garden…yet again!
Green beans (foreground), lettuce, cabbage, beets, basil, onions, peppers and celery (bit of random planting toward the end!)
Broccoli and corn

What?  Cows too??

Yes.  When I got up early Wednesday morning the cows were standing in the front of the house having spent an hour or so trampling things down and mowing through most of the beets, green beans and corn.  With a little cajoling and bribing with grain the girls went back in their pasture, I got the chores done and went on with my day.  THEN, right before dinner and in the aftermath of the bovine invasion, hubby looked out and said, “Are the hogs supposed to be in the chicken pen??”  The answer of course is “NO!” We dashed out and herded the hogs back to their pen.  A couple thoughts about big hogs: capable of short bursts of high speed, they are short on stamina and quickly get hot and tired.  Pretty soon they just want to go back to their wallow and cool off!  Before they get there they can make you dodge and run a bit – which is when the torn ACL happened.  The hogs zigged, I zagged, and my knee didn’t so I ended up hobbling back to the house for an ice pack.

Convalescing helps with the pain but my mobility is still pretty compromised and I will find out on Monday if surgery is in my future.  In the mean time teenager #3 is doing most of the chores, including milking and feeding the chickens, in addition to her own chores. Regretfully, this solution isn’t sustainable as she starts OC next week and won’t have time to milk in the morning before school.  To deal with my limitations we are working on getting rid of the hogs a couple weeks early (okay – tomorrow!) the flea-infested, egg-sucking farm dog is going to the groomer tomorrow so I don’t have to wrestle her into the tub and I am working on finding a temporary home for one of the cows.  I can milk but it takes forever because I move very slowly!  Snail’s pace!

As I make calls and get offers of help with milking and chores from other farmer friends I am very touched by the out-pouring of compassion and concern. I have also spent lots of time thinking about what would happen if I was farming full-time.  I have several other off-farm jobs, including my gig at WSU Extension, most of which can be done sitting down.  And, more importantly, we have one full-time off-farm income with good benefits and health insurance.  As a full-time farmer I would be hard pressed to take time to recover properly.  Cows need to be milked and hay needs to be cut.  By way of illustration, one of our hay growers took a fall off a horse last summer and broke his pelvis and one leg.  His neighbors cut and stacked his second cutting hay and his father-in-law did all his irrigation for the remainder of the season.  We saw him in October and he was still limping badly but he could get up on a tractor and do his own farming again.  It was a significant challenge for his family and they are still digging out from the medical bills – and his wife works for the local school district s they actually had medical benefits.

A frequent comment about farming in Kitsap is that it is “Part-time” and while that is a valid observation – this isn’t solely a Kitsap phenomenon.  Nationally, 85-95% of farms have off-farm income.  Kitsap merely mirrors the trend nationally.  Reasons for off-farm income are varied – but many farmers I know rely upon off-farm jobs for health insurance.  Given that farming is one of the most dangerous industries,  the importance of medical coverage can’t be understated.  As more and more young people enter agriculture (which is great given that 60% of farmers in the US is over 55) the trend of relying upon off-farm income is going to continue.

The next time you are thanking a farmer for feeding you, wish them good health as well.  They can use it!!


Grocery Shopping

GroceriesI went grocery shopping the other day.  And, I spent more than $100.  That isn’t a big deal – it is just that I don’ t do it very often.   My grocery bill is typically $30-50 a month for food – and another $50 or so for other essentials like TP and shampoo.  That isn’t much considering that the “average” family spends between $150 – $290 a WEEK according to the USDA.  Why is our bill so much lower than the national average?  Mostly because we plant and grow our own veggies, raise meat and eggs, preserve our bounty, process in the home dairy and cook at home.   Simply put, we produce more than we consume.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my feed bill is not inconsequential.  I spent $240 at the feed store last month and I do get the hay pretty cheap ($195 last month) but that still puts our food costs at about 25-50% of the cost of the average family.

Which begs the question — is there really that much savings in fermenting your own pickles??

I guess so.  I mean, we do ferment our own pickles (there are 2 gallons of cucs in brine sitting on the counter right now and if the kitchen wasn’t such a mess I would snap a picture for the blog!), preserve jams, jellies, green beans, salsa, tomatoes, grape and apple juice, apple sauce, and pickles, and make our own yogurt, butter and cheese…which is a bit more “Pioneer Woman” than most folks.  But we don’t make EVERYTHING.  This should be pretty obvious since there are s’more fixin’s and potato chips on my receipt!  I am thrifty, but not insanely DIY enough to make my own marshmallows no matter how easy that America’s Test Kitchen says it is.  You will also notice that there are potato chips (You MUST have potato chips for a BBQ!) and a couple loaves of bread on there – because I haven’t had time to bake bread lately.  Like I said, we are thrifty – but not Amish!

So what is the single thing that saves us the most $$$ on our food budget?  I cook at home and I make most meals from scratch.  Snacks are homemade (chocolate zucchini bread anyone??) and ingredients are fresh, local or homegrown, and unprocessed.  Simple.  But time consuming at times because we are more scratch than most.  Take my lasagna for example  The cow is days away from calving so we are a little light on milk right now, but I love to make lasagna because is uses 5 gallons of milk!   The mozzarella cheese takes three gallons and with the left-over whey and two more gallons of whole milk I make the ricotta.  Then, a pound of hamburger and a pound of ground pork (from our own beef and hogs), canned tomatoes (from the garden), garlic, onion (ditto!) in the sauce and the only store bought input at this point is the lasagna noodles.  My recipe makes two 9×13 pans of lasagna – which should be at least  four meals unless I am feeding the hay crew dinner.  Pop one pan into the freezer for another day and I have  a couple of cheap, quick meals for busy nights down the road.

The real cost of this kind of cooking and lifestyle?  My time.

One can feel just a bit like the “Little Red Hen” (I milked the cow, I made the cheese, I assembled the lasagna…) because it is time and labor intensive.  Is this the most efficient use of my time?  Perhaps not when one looks at the cost of a pan of frozen lasagna in the grocery store or Costco.  Is my time really worth only $9.99 for a whole day’s work?  Depends upon your perspective.  At the same time I am making the lasagna I am building relationships with my children who work with me, passing on skills that many have forgotten or never learned, and making a conscious decision about the value of producing rather than consuming.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” ~ Albert Einstein


Martha Stewart doesn’t live here

Shannon was gracious and outed us about farm decor.  In the interest of full disclosure, the inside of my house is tidier than my back porch.  Even if I do have a latex IV set-up hanging from the suncatcher over my kitchen sink.  (It needed to dry completely after it was last used!)  This was taken last year (the BBQ is gone!) and it is much tidier (sort of) now.  We built this house and I had the idea that we would enjoy the porch on warm summer evenings.

Instead we have to battle for space with boots, recycling and camping gear.  The garage where most of this will go hasn’t gotten built and so rather than clutter up the (unfinished) basement further it lives on the porch.  The little freezer on the porch has 200# of veal in it, and during the summer it is handy for chilling fryers.  There are two more freezers in the basement…along with the canning pantry.  The garbage can isn’t full of garbage – it just happens to be convenient to store the chicken feed in a garbage pan near the porch because the layers live in a coop not far from the porch.  And, unlike Martha Stewart’s architecturally designed coop at Turkey Hill, mine is covered with a blue tarp.  Did you honestly expect anything else?


Seems lately that most of the things I do happen by moonlight (or Moooo-nlight as the cows would say!)  As summer comes to and end and the days get shorter there just doesn’t seem to be enough daylight for me to accomplish all the things on the list.  Milking by moonlight has become a common affair, as well as doing the rest of the chores.  At our house evening chores consist of putting the chickens to bed, including rounding up the few that feel the need to roost on the apple trees in the orchard rather than in the safety of the coop.  Then, we milk and feed the cows, give the calf some milk and tend to the hogs.   Milking is fairly straight forward, taking about 5-7 minutes per cow on a good day, but it doesn’t take much to upset the girls and slow things down.  Cows are really creatures of habit; they thrive on constancy and change upsets them.  Elinor gets milked first, followed by Alexis.  They greedily race out of the field and into the milking shed in anticipation of the grain in the feeder – unless I have forgotten to toss the grain in, or if someone is visiting and decides to watch me milking, or if there is a wayward chicken in the feeder, or if a truck is running in the hay barn…and the list goes on.  Any of the aforementioned things can throw the cows into a tizzy resulting in them ducking out of the milking shed and ending up in the middle of the barnyard, sans lead rope and halter, while I frantically try to entice them back with a bucket of grain.  As you can imagine, this is much easier in the daylight.  Fewer shadows to spook the cows, and they are easier to see in the daylight as they run around the yard!  Fortunately, we have never had to chase them back from the road, and they are pretty easily coaxed back by their fundamental greed for grain.  After one of these merry chases, they will fuss and squirm during washing up and milking, taking forever to let milk down and dancing around during the process as well.  After all, they don’t get out much and a gallop around in the moonlight tends to get one all worked up – even if you are a cow!  After we are done milking we feed Frank(enfurter) the bucket calf and give the remaining milk to the hogs.  Frank was supposed to be grafted on to Alexis so I would only have to milk one cow, but apparently she has NO interest in being a foster parent, and after two weeks of trying to overcome her homicidal (bovicidal?) tendencies while he nursed, I gave up and he now drinks from the bucket.  This isn’t to say that he doesn’t persist in trying to nurse on the girls when he is out in the field with him, but they treat him like a very large, black and white spotted fly; they kick and swat at him until he goes away.  I don’t let him out with them very often because he is so annoying that they end up exhausted from running away from him.

Other late night activities at our house?  Snapping and blanching green beans, making freezer jam, canning pickles, processing peaches and tomatoes, and making salsa.  Seems that by the time you spend all day picking beans, berries and cucs and working on the farm, the only time left to preserve and process is after the sun goes down!  So, after all the outside chores are done, we clear off the kitchen table, dump a 5-gallon bucket of beans on it, turn on a good movie and the entire family snaps beans.  It is something I remember doing as a child, and I am sure my kids will have similar memories.   In talking to Shannon, apparently having a “family snap” wasn’t unique, though she remembers doing it while watching sports on TV!  Involving your kids in food preservation is a good way to start them off right eating seasonally and locally.

If you want to learn more about food preservation by moonlight (or even by daylight!) check out our newest series of classes.  We are partnering with the Kitsap YMCA to offer a fall canning series.  Follow this link for registration information.  If you want to learn more about sustainable farming (mostly during daylight hours!) WSU Kitsap Small Farms team is offering the Sustainable Farming and Ranching Class beginning on September 29th.  Information on this class is on the web at http://county.wsu.edu/kitsap/Documents/2011_Small%20Acreage%20Flier%20and%20Registration-%20Silverdale.pdf.  Learn what it takes to have a sustainable small acreage farm or ranch and take a realistic look at goals, resources needed and opportunities available. Guest farmers speak to the class and field trips are taken to local farms. Open to academic students and community members for continuing education units.


The Little Washing Machine that Could!

The picture says it all!  My new washing machine is definitely the farm model!  Twenty years ago when the kids were little and the laundry pile was big the washing machine portion of the stackable washer and dryer combo in our little waterfront house on Erland’s Point gave up the ghost.  With two in cloth diapers and an unsympathetic landlord that wasn’t interested in fixing the washer (What was he thinking???) we were desperate.  Hubby put a bit of farm ingenuity to work, disassembled the two parts of the machine and bolted the dryer portion to the wall in the tiny little cubby hole in the hall where the machine lived.  The house was built in the 30s, had limited closet space and I imagine that it had been installed there when the couple in the house got older.  When we moved in there was still the skeleton of the wringer washer in the basement.  There was also a hole in the basement floor next to a big concrete sink and in the day the wash water ran down the hole and out into Dyes Inlet.  That would explain why you don’t eat shellfish there – but water quality issues is a post for another day.

As a child I remember our neighbor Colleen doing wash in the rough basement of their overcrowded home in a wringer washer.  With a farm, four kids and a husband working construction every day was wash day!  I am sure she wondered why all the kids were interested in the washing machine, but the wringer made life interesting.   My parents had a newer machine complete with spin cycle, which wasn’t nearly interactive as the wringer washer!  It was wash day – with a risk!   Colleen would put the clothes in the machine, add hot water, washing soda and grate homemade bar soap into the water as it agitated.  Then, the washer would drain onto the floor, disappearing into one of those mysterious holes going who knows where!  She would add more water and let it agitate to rinse the clothes, and she would turn on the wringer.  We were constantly admonished to keep our fingers clear and “…leave the damned thing alone!”  Then, she would feed the wet, clean clothing through the spinning rollers.  It was fun to fold the half-dry, flat clothes coming out of the wringer accordion-style into the basket below the wringer.  Once the basket was full she would start another load and head out to hang the first load on the line.  This continued all morning until the piles of laundry were neatly waving in the breeze…unless it was winter and rainy, in which case they would be strung on lines in the kitchen near the wood cook stove.   As a child I was fascinated by the process.  As an adult, just thinking about it is exhausting.  And, lest you think that I am REALLY old, this was in the early 70’s.

But, I digress!  After hubby was done mounting the dryer on the wall and making sure it worked we went in search of a washer that would fit in the 24″ space.  Let me tell you, there aren’t many machines that size (one to be exact!) and it certainly wasn’t a large capacity machine!   We consoled ourselves with the idea that it was such a cheap model that it wouldn’t last long, we would be in a larger home soon and would just replace the washing machine then.

Fast forward 20 years, the kids are almost gone (along with their huge piles of laundry!), we have moved three times and until Friday that tiny, cheap machine hadn’t missed a load.  Over the years it washed a diverse assortment of nasty things from manure caked jeans to greasy coveralls to stinky truck tie-down straps without complaint but last week it began to grumble a little bit during the spin cycle and by the time the weekend it was in full scale gripe and moan.  Then it STOPPED. I should be grateful that we didn’t end up with a flood but it seemed a rather ignominious end for such a valiant little machine.

On Wednesday we made a trip to Nilsen’s Appliance in Silverdale and picked out a replacement.  “Commercial Heavy Duty ~ Large Capacity PLUS(!) ~ 2 Speed ~ Stainless Steel.”  Sounds like it should be parked out by the tractors rather than in my laundry room!  This is definitely the farmer model washing machine!  The irony is that now that the children are almost gone, taking with them piles of wet, muddy, smelly snow pants, jeans, camping gear and all the other detritus of childhood we now have a large capacity washing machine capable of handling it all in one load!   I guess should I get too wistful all I need to do is think about that wringer washer in Colleen’s basement and all those kids!

Thursday is cleaning…

….but the weather was too good so I did laundry!

I am grooving on the towels but I don’t have the time or patience to do the Red Work.  Perhaps it would be a good winter project!

Today the sun was shining and I couldn’t resist – did the sheets and put them on the line and aired the quilts on the deck rail.  I can’t wait to go to bed tonight.  They try and bottle that smell – but it can’t compare with the real thing!

Farm Diary – June 6th

Before we start the Farm Diary a bit of explanation about tomorrow.  Tuesday is P-day for the chickens – as in processing day!  Seven weeks from hatch to fry pan.  We raise broiler chickens in “tractors” on the lawn in a method popularized by Joel Salatin in his book “Pastured Poultry Profits”.  Far be it from me to suggest that Mr. Salatin may be making as much on his books as he does on his farm, but chicken tractors make it easy to raise chickens.  Ours are smaller than his – 4x8x2 feet tall with a hinged cover on one end.   They typically house about 40 three-week old chicks or 15 mature broilers, have a hanging feeder and water and are moved daily.

6:00 – Up but not really at ’em.  I burned the midnight oil getting a grant application submitted.  WSU Kitsap Extension is working to find money to do some research on raising chickens on pasture.  We got to the final round last year – perhaps we will make it all the way this year so think happy chicken thoughts.  Kiddo #3 has an early dental appointment this morning so I need to be up early and get chores done.  Wake up the kiddos.

6:30 – Gorgeous morning to be out and about.  Head into the barn and have a surprise – there is a dead barn owl on the floor.  Probably came in the load of hay that arrived last night but it is still sad.  They are beautiful birds with soft, tawny feathers and distinctive feathering around the eyes.  Reassured to hear our resident barn owl hooting in the trees I get back to chores.  Milking goes smoothly, give the extra milk to the happy hogs this morning as the fridge is full of milk and a gallon (!) of draining yogurt.  Alexis the Princess Cow is in heat again.  Depressing that she isn’t in calf.  Feed the chickens, stick my head inside and holler at the kiddos to wake up again.

7:00 – Show everyone the owl and daughter puts it in a bag to take to the science teacher at the school.  Kids out the door.  It is nice having a teenager driving at times like this!  Grab some nice fresh Greek-style yogurt topped with strawberry jam for breakfast.

7:30 – Clean up, check email and get the ‘puter loaded up and head into town.  Pick up the kiddo at the orthodontist, commiserate about the pain and suffering associated with braces, sympathize about her father’s crooked teeth genes and drop her at school with the barn owl.

8:00 – Work.

3:00 – Home.  Fill waterers for the chickens and move the tractors.  On hot days they drink A LOT!  Shannon let’s me know that the plucker and scalder can be picked up today!  This is very good news!

3:30 – Put dinner in the crock pot.  Italian meat gravy with a couple leftover pork chops, some bacon (lacking pancetta), a bunch of hot Italian sausage and the left-over pesto from dinner the other night.

4:00 – Hay delivery out.  Start getting things ready for tomorrow.  Gather up a couple of hoses, set up the tables and locate extra 5 gallon buckets for the inedible bits.  Looks like we also need propane to run the scalder.  Convo with Shannon to make sure we aren’t forgetting anything for tomorrow.  We probably will anyhow!  Take the sad, collapsed loaves of bread from the other day and cut them up and make bread pudding.  Bread, eggs, half-and-half, sugar, cinnamon.  Who knew that such simple ingredients would yield such a yummy dish.  The kids will eat it for breakfast tomorrow – if it lasts that long.

5:00 – Dinner.  Spaghetti or polenta with meat gravy.  Time to go grocery shopping as we are out of frozen veggies from last year and the garden is late this year.  Three stalks of asparagus won’t cut it.  Clean up – send crew off with another hay delivery and kiddos off to band practice.  Tomorrow is the end of year concert.  It is a favorite of mine because the 6th graders come up to the high school and participate in a mass band.  About 200 kids grades 6-12 playing “Louie Louie!”  Then the marching band does their schtick and we turn in uniforms for the summer.  The end of the school year is bittersweet as we wrap up activities and get ready for summer fun.

6:00 – Head into town to get the plucker and scalder.  Have to stop and get propane.  Yes, the tank probably needs to be replaced but please fill it anyhow. Thanks!  Stop at Home Depot and buy some tie-down straps.  Apparently the last person to borrow the pick-up decided we didn’t need the old ones any more.  Pick up the plucker and scalder at Stuart and Michele’s.  He is president of the Kitsap Poultry Growers Cooperative and they raise turkeys and broiler chickens and sell eggs at the Poulsbo Farmers Market.  Because farmers can’t really just pick up stuff and run we have a nice visit.

7:00 – Home to milk and do the rest of chores.  Ellie Belle convinces me that she REALLY needs to eat some of the grass in the yard so I follow her around a bit until the mosquitoes get too bad.  Fed the pigs, watered the chickens and removed the feeders from the broiler pens.  We want the birds to have a chance to digest all of the feed before morning. If they are full of feed while we are processing them it increases the chance of contaminating the carcasses.  Mow the lawn and feed clippings to the cows.

8:00 – Clean up after milking, wash and sanitize the bucket, load the dishwasher, wash some eggs and get them ready for sale tomorrow.  Sit down to blog about the day.

Farm life is busy, eventful, interesting and always entertaining.  Hopefully chicken processing will go smoothly – I have been telling everyone “Rain or Shine” and there is a threat of showers in the forecast but here’s hoping that they hold off until we are done with the chickens!  When things don’t go as planned and farm life gets “busy” (cursing malfunctioning equipment), “eventful” (chasing escaped chickens) and “entertaining” (butchering in the rain) it loses its charm and might not be appropriate to blog for a family paper!  I am sure it will be fine as experienced helpers Donna and Cindy are coming to help Shannon and I.  Our novice, Beth, will catch on quickly enough and it will be done in no time.

Check back tomorrow and read all about it!

Farm Diary – June 4th

Okay, so people ask me “What do you do all day on the farm!?”

Farm and Ranch Living Magazine invites a farm family to keep a diary every month so you can get a taste of farm life through their experiences.  There are also a plethora of blogs out there chronicling life on the farm – if you look off to the right side of the page you can see our blogroll and check out what we read!  I have decided to give it a shot as well because then when people ask I can just sent them to Farm to Fork!

We have a small farm with chickens, hogs and a couple of cows. The cows (mainly Ellie Belle) dictate much of the chore schedule because milking is a twice a day, EVERY day activity! This morning went something like this:

7:45 ish – Assemble the milk bucket from bits washed last night in the dishwasher and grab the extra milk for the hogs, fill the wash bucket and head out. Hubby is already outside fixing the pull cord on the mower. It came off last night when I was mowing the lawn to feed clippings to the cows.

8:00 – Radio on, cow in the stanction eating grain, milking machine chuffing away nicely, getting grain ready for the hogs and Ellie kicks of the milker. Investigate a bit and find a sort spot on the end of one teat. I guess I would kick a bit too!

8:15 – Toss hay to the cows and head back inside to strain the milk and make more yogurt.  Think a gallon will be enough?  Hay customer was here early, thinking that we started at 8:00 rather than 9:00. We are early risers but there is lots to do before opening the doors!  Arnold had started on breakfast but went out to load hay so I finished making it.  We do a big farm breakfast on Saturdays because we typically don’t get done with hay until 2:00 or later.  On the menu this morning:  Fried red potatoes, fried eggs, toast with a choice of peach or strawberry jam, and milk.

8:45 – Doors to the shop open, lawnmower bits assembled and put away, kids feeding the hogs, I move the chicken tractors and fill the feeders and waterers.  Cindy comes for hay, visit for a minute, she offers to come and help butcher chickens on Tuesday!  Awesome!  We can use the help, she knows what she is doing and she will bring her knives!

9:00 – Go back inside and start a batch of bread.

9:15 – Outside, cows see the lawn mower and start bawling.  Mow for half an hour in the orchard and around the berries to make them happy.  Memo to self – pick rocks more carefully!

Quick story here – we always give grass clippings to the cattle.  They have a small pasture but it never has enough grass to keep them happy.  We have set up electric fence to give them more pasture (see the “Lawn Moo-ers” post) in the past but I have a “disrespectful” member of the herd right now that makes that a challenge.  He seems to think that fence posts are for scratching on so rather than staying inside the electric fence he requires something a bit sturdier.  Once he goes on to “greener pastures” we will be able to do that.  One day I could hear the cows bawling and wondered what was the matter.  In the past, if one was out or something was wrong the other cow would usually bawl and fret so I was concerned that we had a breach of security or similar.  I looked out and there was nothing the matter – they were just standing at the corner of the pasture looking expectant.  I couldn’t figure what was the matter until the neighbor’s lawn mower started back up!  I realized they could hear the mower from next door – behind the trees you couldn’t see it! – and figured it was dinner time!  I had to laugh.

10:30 – Run one of the kids into Silverdale.  I need to go to town today but I am not ready so I will have to make another trip!  So much for doubling up to save gas!  Before I leave I think – ooohh.  I needed to take care of the bread about now….

11:30 – Home – bread has risen nicely but it got left a bit too long and when I put the loaves in the oven they deflate a bit.  Bummer!  It will taste fine but it isn’t a picture perfect loaf.  Visit with Alice and Lori about raising chickens, the price of feed, protein content of broiler feed, chicken tractors, butchering chickens, 4-H projects, and trying to share the road with the Kitsap Tri-Babes during the summer!  They train at the local lake and bike on Holly Road most weekends beginning now.  Prepare for some slow downs on Saturday mornings by leaving a bit early!

12:00 – Bread out, and yes, it deflated.

1:00 – Hay crew in for lunch.  Leftover pesto chicken and pasta with green salad and deflated bread.  They don’t seem to care that it is ugly and eat half a loaf while it is still warm.  Need to bring up more jam from the downstairs canning pantry now!

2:00 – Post the blog, check the chicken water since it is so warm, move the tractors (too many chickens, not enough tractors, problem solved on Tuesday!) Then, run errands in town, get a few more bulb onions to finish the row, run to the church to photocopy something for tomorrow.

Tonight finds me doing chores again, prepping a Sunday School lesson, and maybe going on a date with hubby!

Don’t know about you but just thinking about all this has me worn out!  See you on Tuesday for a recap of the chicken processing and more of the Farm Diary!

Kids Need This

My nephew recently spent some quality time on the farm with Aunt Diane thanks to the earthquake and tsumani.  He is a first grader – which in my opinion is the PERFECT age for a kid!  They are capable of putting on and taking off and putting on and taking off boots and shoes as many times a day as it takes.  They can put on their own seatbelt, and remind you when you forget yours.  They are big enough to pack a bucket of grain to the hogs, gather eggs, wrangle chickens, give farm tours, climb the hay stack, stomp in puddles and ride a bike!  As adults we get totally caught up in the things that we “need to do” and tend to forget that tasks like hunting for eggs laid in the raspberries by the “sneaky chicken” or pausing in a sunny spot on a dewy morning are opportunities to experience joy and to be relished.  It seems to me that no one relishes the day quite like a child – with a chicken!

A few days ago a friend came over to get a load of manure for his garden and brought his three boys along to “help”.  Knowing they were coming I saved up some of the chores and they fed the pigs and gathered eggs while dad loaded up the moo poo.   After some oohs and ahs over the number of red wiggler worms they got bored and my nephew took them on the  farm tour (complete with instructions on petting the cat and cautions about him being “scratchy when he acts like that!”)   Dad and I spent a few minutes chatting while they climbed all over our mechanical jungle gym (the bulldozer and tractors) and I noticed one of the boys had something in his hand.  It was a red wiggler worm, looking like it had seen better days.  He informed me he was taking it home to show his mom (she will be thrilled I’m sure!)   After washing off their boots (twice) and loading and reloading into the car a couple times they were ready to leave.  As he got in the car my friend looked around and said, “Kids need this.”

Reflecting on my experiences as a child filled with long hours of exploring the woods, swimming in the river, working on the farm, picking green beans and turning golden in the sun I know that while we were always financially strapped we lead a rich life and my childhood was a gift.  My husband also grew up on a farm and we agreed it was important to offer our kids the same gift. There are times when they are doing chores they don’t necessarily feel quite as blessed – yet.  But watching my nephew galloping around the farm for the last couple weeks I would agree with my friend, kids do need this!

Rain, rain, go away!

Tonight was one of those nights when I have to wonder if I am crazy to be doing this!  It poured rain all afternoon, and when I could put it off no longer, I dug out my raincoat and boots and went out to do chores.  This time of year evening chores include milking, feeding the calf and the hogs, checking for eggs and topping off the chickens’ feed and water.  I went out to the barn, put out the cow’s feed, started the milking machine and went to get the cow.  Happy and dry under her shelter, Alexis (aka “The Princess Cow”) had limited interest in making the 50-foot trek to the covered milking area tonight and her normally greedy nature didn’t outweigh her dislike of the rain.  I opened the gate and called to her and she just looked at me.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Milking time ‘Lexie!” 

Princess Cow: “I don’t suppose that you have noticed that it is raining?”

Me: “Come on girl, there is grain!”

PCs: “I don’t like to get wet!”

Me: “You’re a cow – last time I checked they were water-proof!”

PC: “The least you could have done was brought an umbrella!”

At this point she headed out into the rain, dropping her head and turning her nose to the side as if she were traipsing through a blinding snow storm.  She actually shook her feet off after walking through the puddle on the way.  What a drama queen!


Hubby started calling Alexis “The Princess Cow” soon after she arrived last spring and proved to be a notoriously picky eater.  Cows typically eat just about anything – but not Alexis!  A five-year-old Jersey cow, her full, registered name is “Sambo’s Dazzling Alexis” and she came from Gilman’s herd in Port Orchard.  Her slightly pretentious name and Princess attitude aside, she gives us about 40 gallons of wonderful, creamy, delicious milk every week and has a gentle and winsome nature. 

Just don’t ask her to go out in the rain!