Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I planted artichokes in the raised beds of the Three Sisters Garden in 2012. They produced well. I picked the blooms and ate artichokes until I got tired of them and let their flowers run their course.

Artichokes are related to the thistle plant. If you let them go to seed, they make spectacular purple flowers that eventually dry out. This triggers the plant to go dormant and die back.

They are perennials, which means they will return year after year, sprouting back up like a Phoenix rising from its ashes.

My artichokes have been very low maintenance. I've even stopped watering them altogether. They are growing in a raised bed fertilized with composted cow manure and shaded by Canary Island date palms and wild amaranth when in season.

I went through last week and cut all the dead from the plants, discovering new growth beneath. All of the plants had flowers still attached and I sat and picked out the seeds, pictured below. Come spring, I'll drop them in the soil and hopefully have many more artichoke plants in the future.

Barren Space

There are spaces on the ranch that are fairly barren. They might grow a scant amount of short, scrubby grass that withers and dies with the first blasts of summer heat. Mostly it's because there are no trees shading these spots and the ground is flat.

Here is a section of this barren land behind the cow corral that I have decided to experiment with. Old fashioned furrows of earth, dug up with a hoe and layered with compost and mulch were slowly added over the course of a week. (The cows were fascinated.)

After they were built, I planted mangel seeds and sprinkled the rows with a pasture seed mix appropriate for our climate. I watered once and decided to let nature take over from there. This spot is far from the reach of the hose and I had to connect three hoses together to get to it.

It took a few weeks of waiting. And even though it's winter here, we did get some rains. I also noticed that the dew forming in the mornings was watering these little furrows daily.

Some days the dew forms frost on the rows and is melted down into the earth once the sun comes up, watering naturally.

I was skeptical that it would work, but my doubts were soon laid to rest...
The pasture grass has started to come up all over the rows but most heavily in the dips where the most water would naturally pool and soak in. No signs of the mangels yet. Mangels are a giant beets used for fodder for livestock.

Sustainability has always been my goal, and the more food I can grow for my livestock, the better. When the weather warms up, I plan to drop in organic, non GMO fodder corn seeds and transplant some mesquite trees to help nurture this once barren space.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cow Butts

Left: Beef, Right: Dairy

Fleece Drying Table

This handy dandy table was made from scraps around the ranch: 4 thick beams, two long pine boards, two short ones, and a couple of pieces of old fencing. The top is covered with plastic bird netting. Mom and I built it in about thirty minutes and it has made the washing and drying of fleece much easier.

Big Rattler

There is construction going on to the west and east of the ranch. That always stirs up wildlife and gets them on the move to new places. Unfortunately for this big guy, taking up residence underneath my camper where my dog naps was not a good choice:

He was 5 feet 2 inches long without his head and he was pretty scary. Max let us know he was there and knew enough not to get bitten. I have never seen a rattlesnake this big in my life and to have it right beneath where I work every day was unsettling to say the least.

Pallet Privacy Screen on a Budget

In recent months my neighbors have not been as friendly as when we first took ownership of the property. They like to watch me. A lot. And talk about what they see to each other--not in a nice way. (Since this post, one has moved and the other has been evicted. Another has their property up for sale. I suspect their displeasure has more to do with the failing economy and how it has affected them. A a man of authority told me not long ago that when the economy goes bad, many neighbors look for a scapegoat to blame their troubles on or to commiserate about. Lucky me.)

One of our ramadas is used to host private barbecues and gatherings from time to time and since I don't enjoy people staring at me or my guests, I decided there needed to be a privacy screen installed. I'm always on a budget and I have a lot of leftover pallets around that came in with hay deliveries over the years, so rather than take them to the trash, Mom and I repurposed them into a country style privacy screen for the party spot.

This screen was created using 8 pallets, some leftover wood to fill in any gaps, and a few fence boards to cover the seam. I was going to leave the screen plain, but Mom suggested a false door. That made me think it ought to look like something of importance that would give the curious neighbors more to ponder and discuss. (Perhaps that would take their mind off their own troubles.) So I set up a General Store for all your old fashioned necessary sundries.

How to Hot Compost on a Budget

Poop management is a daily job here at the ranch. One of the best ways I've come up with to keep on top of this beneficial chore is to hot compost all the animal waste that my critters make for me.

Dark brown, crumbly compost is an excellent growing medium for your garden. If you have farmy critters that make you fresh pies and beans in the form of their doodoo, try this easy method to get that stuff transformed into soil--fast.

What You Need:
35 gallon plastic/rubber trash can (preferably black) with lid
Drill and large drill bit
Animal Poop and/or hay/straw/plant waste
Sunny Spot

Directions: Drill vent holes on the bottom and sides of your trash can. Fill with poo and plant waste, place lid on top, set in the sun to cook down. This process goes fast here in the desert heat. The manure will cook down to half its size within a week. You can build raised beds with it, add to existing beds or mix with soil. I've been using it to build up my experimental hugelkutur beds in the Three Sisters Garden and it's making pretty fast work of covering up a lot of wood real estate.

Monday, September 22, 2014

September Already?

It's still too hot to be September in my opinion, but Mother Nature doesn't care what I think. Nevertheless, chores need doing and get done despite the toasty days.

I have a lot of fleece that needs to be washed and processed so it can be spun. I have a lot of trash cans turned compost bins cooking up some black gold in anticipation of planting time. And I have a lot of empty garden beds because summer killed everything.

On the bright side, there was this big, beautiful, orange dragonfly sunning itself this morning. That makes everything better, right?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Flaming Rope

This THING is a sheep. No really, it or rather she, is a sheepie who missed a shearing. The man who recently bought her and her companions asked me over to shear for him as I wanted the wool and he wanted bald sheep. It worked out.

Unfortunately, this poor girl had to wait two weeks after her buddies were sheared because I did something stupid. If you don't ever have to lasso anything, count yourself lucky. If you do ever have to lasso and you don't know what you're doing, remember rule number one. ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES. It seems simple really. Common sense even. But sometimes you might get really excited because you've got the rope and the sheep is like RIGHT THERE. And you know you can just wham bam lasso that sheep on the very first toss.

But trust me, a rope burn hurts. It can rip off your skin and leave you with blisters and pain for two weeks straight. You'll be real embarrassed about how stupid you were for tossing that lasso even if you did catch the sheep on the first try...

And if you have to shear four sheep after you've burned your hand with a rope and super-glued the fingers over to prevent further pain, you'll soon discover that no amount of dips in a bucket of ice water will stop the throbbing ache and soreness. You'll have to stop hand shearing at sheep number three.

And leave poor sheep number four for the day when your hand heals all up and you can actually use it again for regular day-to-day stuff like grasping a pen, typing on a keyboard, milking your goat or cow--or holding on to the steering wheel of your truck. Let's not even talk about sewing or handshakes. Ew handshakes with a rope-burned zombie apocalypse hand. Gross!

So two weeks later, sheepie number four was quite happy to see me. I think she remembered that I gave out free haircuts. She stood right there, still and eyeing me when I (with my gloves on) gently dropped the lasso around her neck. She didn't even move when I tied the other end to the post. She was a good girl the whole time and it only took me about 20 minutes to baldify her and return her back to her buddies.

In case you forget rule number one, I will be only so happy to remind you via the last picture I leave you with. I couldn't sleep the first night after I received this grievous wound. I had to take pain meds. I had to pop the blisters because it felt like my hand was going to explode. The blisters were ever so much worse than the picture I'll post, because the picture is already a week after the injury.

And I highly recommend keeping superglue handy as an instant bandage. It helped me so much. I wouldn't have been able to shear a single sheepie that day if I hadn't glued the heck out of myself that morning.

RULE #1 of Lassoing: Always wear your gloves.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thunder in July

Karma's first calf, a little bull the kids named Thunder, was born right on schedule on the 4th of July amidst early fireworks and gentle rainstorms. We were not present when he arrived, but had apparently just missed it as evidenced by the afterbirth. He is reddish brown, is very healthy and playful. He particularly enjoys the dog, Max. Each on one side of the corral, they play chase.

Since Karma had never been milked before, she has been going through some training to get over her anxiety. She and her little Thunder are in "milk jail" a method that worked for me in the past with goats. I put in a temporary small corral where both are kept beside the milking stall. Karma has never liked the stall and stanchion as she has had to undergo medical treatment in there, shots, tags, tattooing and she associates it with bad things. I tried to coax her into the milk stall with food and even sweet feed would not change her mind. As a last resort, I dropped a lasso around her neck that first time and heaved her in. Instead of closing the stanchion, I tied the lasso to a post and went to work milking. Thankfully, she doesn't dance around like her mother often did and her kicks thus far, are in slow motion and extremely gentle.

Thunder nursed soon after his birth and is a good eater. He is half mini and because Jerseys are bred to make more milk than one calf can take, it's easy to share the milking with him. He takes whatever he needs and I take whatever I need. Karma gets a massive bin of alfalfa, Bermuda and a bit of sweet feed and everyone seems content so far.

I feel as though I am relearning a new skill since every animal is different when it comes to milking. Karma has good front teats and Thunder prefers them, so he's used them and stretched them out a bit. The back teats are harder to milk out, so my guess is that he doesn't favor them as much. I figure he gets the front and I get the back until he can catch up some more.

Thunder is much more curious than Karma was as a calf. He will come right up to us and sniff us, checking out what's going on. Like any baby, he eats, sleeps, and poops a lot. Milking works best when he joins his mama in the stall as she is calmer having him where she can keep an eye on him.

It took a few days for Karma to get the milk routine down. Now she knows what the schedule is and I often find her waiting in the stall for me.

I don't use the stanchion because I think it frightens her. I come in from the front and gently loop the lasso over her horns and fasten it to the post as she eats. This keeps her in place and lets her move her head quite a bit but doesn't allow for her to leave.

She does have a little edema (swelling) in her navel. This began before the birth. I read several articles and it seems to be normal and should go away in a couple of weeks. It doesn't seem to bother her.

Having her in the stall each day has given me the opportunity to try the Dremel on her hooves. When she was a calf, I could easily lift her feet up and trim her hooves like a farrier would a horse. But now that she's full grown, she can simply kick her leg free of my hold and I am not strong enough to hold on. I have to say, the cordless Dremel is a little slower than the nippers, but it works well enough and is much more precise.

It's nice to have fresh cow milk again. I've made butter, pudding, cheese and smoothies. It's so delicious and rich--hard to describe to anyone who has not tried it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Karma Update

Cookie eyeing me as I snap a pic of her buddy's udder.
It takes nine months of gestation before a calf is born. By my calculations, Karma is due July 4th. I've been doing an udder watch each morning and her milk maker is getting bigger each day. It's interesting to me because her mother's udder was damaged and hung so much lower and lopsided. Karma's is close up to her body and more oval shaped. I suppose a person who doesn't enjoy milking can't appreciate my fascination with udders and teats.

Karma has taken her pregnancy well. She is ever the rascal and I don't think I'll come to completely trust her since she has horns and knows how to use them. She's whacked me with them a few times. As long as I carry a big stick/rake/shovel she seems to avoid me. I use the tools as a shield should she decide I need a good impaling. It should be interesting to see how I'm going to convince her that she needs to share some milk with me...

Since she was a calf, I have rubbed her sides and touched her udder and teats to get her used to the whole concept. She's not bothered by it. She'll occasionally look back at me and then continue eating. As long as I don't try to make her go anywhere or attempt to trim her hooves, she tolerates me.

Karma has a nice womanly figure and looks ready to pop at any moment. In the mornings, she tends to be lazing in the sun in the sandy part of her corral, chewing her cud. She's considerably wider and mellower. She allows me to pet on her more often than she did pre-pregnancy.

Her face is darkening which reminds me of her mother. In fact, if not for the horns, she would look a lot more like Gucci.

I hope I can be there when she gives borth since I missed her birth. Some animals seem to wait until I'm there as if they appreciate a helping hand if need be. Some are sneaky about it, and go .covert, hiding out and silently handling everything on their own. Here's hoping for a girl...

Three Sisters Garden, Summer 2014

I imagine summer in Tucson is like winter in states that get snow. It's oppressive, wearing away at a person until he or she wants to give up fighting and let nature do what it's going to do. In the garden I've had some success with the Three Sisters section. It's really only half a garden since only 5 rows are in use. 3 rows aren't done and one was just build and needs to set a while before it can be planted. The corn has done so well this year in height. In the years past the corn only grew 2 or 3 feet then died. There was poor pollination resulting in less than ten (really deliscious) kernels on each cob. IN the past I was planting hybrid corn. I can't say if that was the problem, or if the soil just wasn't right.

This year I'm hopeful for good corn. I walk the rows and pollinate by hand to give those kernels a kickstart. I planted every week, so that the crop might come in succession rather than all at once. Watering was done with mostly buries soaker hoses. The Three Sisters garden is only about 3 years old. It was originally going to be a pasture, but it never took hold.

This year's corn is all heirloom. It is 7 feet tall in some places and keeps going. I love to stand between the rows when the wind blows and listen to the whispering leaves. It's like a little hideout. No one can see me in there. It's shady and peaceful. It reminds me of my parents' garden in Phoenix when I was child.

Winter crops are still growing in the Three Sisters garden: brocolli, kale, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower. I don't know why! You'd think the heat would have offed them all by now. We like to make kale chips in the over with olive oil and parmesan. Tasty and healthy.

The zucchini is coming in. It's always amazing to me how you can turn your back on the zukes for a day and end up with gigantic monster squash. They too, remind me of the garden in Phoenix. My mom would slice the giant zukes thinly, batter and fry them. Mmmm. I think I'll do that with the one I picked today!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Shearing and Spinning

So there's this man who has sheep not far from my hobby farm, and he's neighbors with the owner of the petting zoo where some of my goats and sheep are. He raises his sheep for meat and doesn't know what breed they are. Last year when he had his sheep sheared, he tossed the wool, having no use for it. So it was suggested that I go on over there this year and shear his sheep in exchange for the wool.

He has seven sheep and a baby lamb--likely more on the way. I managed to get three sheared in a few hours. That time included the lassoing (done by the owner) and herding (done by both of us and a reluctant dog) as well. It was a pleasant morning, with a nice breeze coming in from the west. I got to be in pasture under nice shady trees.

I'm not a fast shearer. The only experience I have is with my dearly departed Muffy and her daughter, Ginger. (Ginger lives at the petting zoo now.) I shear by hand with no electricity. Prior to having sheep, I swore I'd never have wool sheep because it seemed like such a pain in the behind. Now I find shearing very fun. There's a certain challenge to it, and the best part is, these are not my sheep so I get to take the wool and go.

Here are the fleeces set to dry after being soaked in Kookabura scour:

Here are a couple of close-ups of the fleeces:

Here is a basket of fleece pulled by hand into roving:

I don't know what kind of sheep his sheep are either, but their fleece is pretty nice for spinning. I have a lot of learning to do when it comes to this hobby, so it's nice to have some fleece to practice with.

For now, when people ask me what I make with all this, my answer is still yarn:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014 4-H Poultry Projects

The kids all did 4-H this year. They stuck with poultry, which in my opinion, is a nice animal project because the birds are portable as opposed to steer or horse project which require trailering.

Christian's showbird from last year died unexpectedly on her nest box and Gabe's showbird was killed by some sort of feline--I suspect it was a bobcat but I have no proof. It could have been a feral cat, judging by the little footprints left in the frost.

Those deaths really put a damper on going forward with poultry.

Nevertheless, Christian decided to purchase a Creme Splash Dutch Cockerel from a breeder. Gabe was determined to show the standard birds we already had. He later found out that he had to do showmanship in order to do breed, so he purchased two bantam chicks from the feedstore. He was also given "Gertrude" an old buff Sebright, from the petting zoo we sometimes help out at. Gertrude was older and mellower, so she became his showmanship bird. The chicks became breed show birds.

Kyri bought a pair of Self-Blue Belgian d'Uccles from the same breeder Christian visited.

And so another year of 4H has come and gone. The kids love their leader, Irish, and she does a great job schooling them on breeds and what's needed to raise chickens. Here are the pictures of the boys and their birds from the Pima County Fair shows:

Farmer G with his Dark Cornish Rooster "Lil Devil" aka "Glare Jr"

Farmer C with his Dutch Rooster "Shimmer"

Farmer K with his rooster "Zeus"

Farmer G showing off his Showmanship ribbons he won with "Gertrude"

A Snake of Another Sort


I like snakes. I have always admired them. We often have a kingsnake that visits the farm and also some smaller ones that I like to think are her babies. I had hoped I would never encounter a rattlesnake on our property...

But a couple weekends ago, my youngest son and I were camping and Max the dog allerted us to this. Even though I could hear the rattle, I kept hoping it wasn't so. I got closer and shined my flashlight on it. Yeah, diamondback rattler. If the dog wasn't as smart as he is, he'd have been struck. Thankfully, Max the dog lives to show off whatever he has cornered on the property. He circles and barks until his humans arrive. This dog just has the guardian instinct built in.

Maybe a braver person would have caught the snake and set it free elsewhere, but to me, this was a dangerous situation. Young child. Dog roaming the property. Livestock. I did not want this particular snake loose on the property. The risks were too many. I would have been putting myself at risk by attempting to capture it. I didn't have the proper equipment to do so safely.

So I had to make a decision that wasn't easy for me.

I don't watch a lot of TV, but my family does watch Survivorman and Dual Survivor. I've seen the people on those shows kill snakes many times. I've watched them skin them and cook them. And I feel that if a life is going to be taken, then it should not be wasted. I had an axe and I did my best to be quick.

So, I skinned the snake. I taught my son about the inner workings of it, pointing out the intestines and lungs. I gutted it. I washed the meat and...

I grilled it over mesquite and we even ate some. Nothing went to waste. I even salted the skin and brought it home to later cure with glycerin and rubbing alcohol.

I still can't believe I did this. I hope that through all of it, my son learned that it is not an easy thing to take a life, but sometimes it might have to happen. It should be done with reverence and respect. I didn't want to do it, but I truly believe that my dog would have come upon this snake another time...or one of my kids.

If you're curious, it did sort of taste like chicken. I seasoned the meat with season salt and garlic powder because that's what I had onhand in the camper. The meat was chewier than chicken, but it was good.

Easter Babies

I got these babies on April 16, 2014.
The label on their cage said March 25, 2014, so I am guessing that was their hatch date.
The are a naked neck, Blue Andalusian, and a Cuckoo Maran.
I really wanted the Maran since they lay dark chocolate colored eggs.
I wanted the naked neck because...it's got a naked neck.
The blue was just because three is a good number of chicks.

Our hens are getting older and we've had losses over the years due to age, predation, and heat (in the larger breeds) so I guess these girls will fill in for the ones that are no longer with us.
They're growing like weeds. Literally, visibly bigger each morning than the one before.


And More Soap

I've been making soap again. For a while I had such a large stockpile that I didn't need to be the mad scientist. But my supply is dwindling. I've decided to focus on the large bars which sell for $4 each and are less time consuming than the individually cast smaller bars. I can make two batches and that fills the three trays I have. It's not mass-produced and I find it interesting that every batch acts a little differently coming to trace.

I decided to order some new scents. Be on the lookout for Apple, Honey, Sandalwood, Rose and Citrus Energy. I hope they all work. For now there are shelves of soaps curing away. 

Yarn Balls

My baskets of yarn balls are getting a little heavier. I have taken my little learner hand spindle with a bag of fleece to events where I would otherwise be sitting idle and listening: bus trip to Anaheim while chaperoning my son's junior high band, various 4-H meetings, and even for that long waiting period between poultry breed shows at the fair.

At the fair, a man passing by my table stopped and was happy to tell me that he teaches drop spindle class. How cool is that? I felt like I wasn't so alone. If anything, I suppose I was entertaining those around me and the passersby who would stop and ask if what I messing with was wool. (It was alpaca.)

The spinning wheel is faster once a person gets the hang of it. I think I finally have the basics down. I did find this great video that helped me gain more confidence with the spinning wheel.

Part One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWiE8QOvynA

Part Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFksR5kG0EE

I highly recommend watching those if you're starting out with a spinning wheel and need some basic knowledge and a sense of courage to try the methods and fibers presented.

In other news, a man not too far from my little farm has a small flock of sheep that need shearing. I don't think he knows what breed they are as I was told his answer was, "the kind that taste good." Neverthless, I have agreed to shear them in exchange for their wool which looks pretty nice to me.

I'm not a fast spinner, and I don't make much more than yarn balls yet, but someday I'll have enough balls to crochet something warm and soft...like a blanket. After a long day's work at the farm and more work publishing and the endless work helping my kids with homework, I will gladly curl up under a blanket I made myself from the shearing to the spinning to the crocheting.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Corn, Trees, a Cat, Soap and Pies

It's been a little while since I blogged. Like many hobby farmers, I have a 'day job' that supports my 'habit' and also helps pay the bills for living expenses. I have been busy with that. Also with my children's many goings on: 4H meetings and duties, chaperoning a band trip, shuttling to and from school and soccer practice. Whew.

So if you're wondering what's happening at the ranch, here's a little rundown...

Today I planted heirloom sweet corn. If it's successful, expect a harvest in 76-80 days. If it's not successful, expect the cows to be eating some dried-up, failed corn stalks. I filled in the first two rows in the Three Sisters Garden. I may do more in the other rows soon. That garden is meant to be low maintenance and has some experiments going on to try to conserve water and still get a good harvest.

My husband expressed the opinion that there were not enough trees near where we want to build our house (someday--who knows when that will be?). That's true. That section of our property is fairly barren. It's supposed to be the part that's riparian, but it looks like a parched, sad, overheated desert. In general when there is a wind coming through, it comes from west to east and it can be strong enough to knock things over. Since that section of the property is so barren, it can also stir up a vast amount of dust.

The poplar cuttings I ordered from Frank Gomez (http://hybridpoplars.com) are doing so well, and are fast growing trees which (when strategically placed) can be used as a windbreak, so I ordered more. Behold, 100 hybrid poplar trees only about three inches long:

If all goes well tomorrow morning after chores, I'll dip them in rooting hormone, stick them in soil and watch them grow like the magical things that they are. As far as I know, we have plenty of time to grow some windbreak trees to have around our house that isn't there and may not be there for years. Time: waste not, want not.
In other news, although we have had no more farm animal deaths by predation, we did manage to capture a FERAL cat. This little guy/girl went off to Pima Animal Care this morning. Just a friendly reminder to spay or neuter your cats so they don't make more and more and more. If you can keep them indoors, do so. It's safer for them than letting them roam where coyotes and bobcats can get to them. Also, it keeps the odds in favor of small farm animals surviving, and limits losses to the native wildlife. Every year we seem to get an influx of feral cats in our area. I'm sure it's new litters born from those clever parent cats that manage to not get picked off by the packs of coyotes. And every year we see the evidence of their carnage on the quail, woodpeckers, doves, and whatever else used to wear all those feathers left in piles here and there. They kill lizards, snakes and many rodents as well. They are survivors.

If you've never encountered a feral cat before, you should be aware that they are not in any way shape or form like the kitties raised with a trust of humans. Feral cats can and will bite you or scratch you. They will do so with all the malice and intent of a wild animal that feels threatened and wants to get away from you. Don't reach down and pick up a feral kitten. It will bite right through your finger. True story. 

I wished the kitty good luck on his/her journey, but it probably will not be a happily ever after. This cat was older and did not like people at all.
I made some lavender soap. I was experimenting with a different kind of oil. It came to trace faster and hardened faster than what I usually use. I waited too long to cut it and was sad that much of it broke apart.  It's still going to be good soap but won't be as easy to sell since it's not in uniform shapes/weights.

I have been ever diligent about my manure maintenance plan and have discovered new ways to make the process easier. I may write a whole separate article about the process I use to get poo turned into black gold when I have more time. In the meantime, there are daily sweep and shovel parties as well as pie hunts in the cow corral:

Thus, I shall leave you with the above happy picture. 
Remember, if life gives you poo, make compost and grow flowers.
Chase your dreams and work hard. At least you will lead a full life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Invasive at Last!

Since the beginning of the garden, there has been mint. It would not survive the winter and often would not live through the scorching Arizona summer. I kept replanting each spring. So many articles I read about this herb stated that it was invasive, but I never had that happen with mine. Until now.

For those that followed the prior post about this experimental raised bed, it works. Here is the one downside so far. Mint can sneak through the slats. For me, this is a happy moment. This mint survived the winter, took over this whole raised bed, and is reaching past that to invade elsewhere.

Go mint, go!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Greenhouse and Critter Update

Some plants have moved out into the garden. Some are still waiting, tapping their roots and rolling their buds at me when I don't choose them to move out. Most are ready to go. Some are still too small and delicate.

Here are some pictures of what's happening in there.

These little sticks have been fascinating to watch. They seem to grow right before my eyes. They came from Frank Gomez who runs http://www.hybridpoplars.com/ and have, so far, lived up to the claims about them.

This tray contains starts of marigold, African daisy (none have germinated), green beans, and corn. I like these Jiffy peat pellet greenhouse trays as I tend to have success with germination. I don't like to plant a bunch of seeds and have to thin out plants. The pellets can be reused if a seed didn't germinate in them.

Last year I sowed zucchini seeds directly in the plots. Some grew, some didn't. I wanted to try starts this year to be sure that all areas were evenly covered. Here you can see half success on germination.

The most difficult to germinate are the bell peppers. I'm really not sure why. They are new seeds and out of 72 it looks like about 12 have started. Very dissappointing.

For those that check this blog for animal updates, the critters are doing fine. I'm still milking my Alpine and my Nigerain goat, although I'm drying off the Nigerian. I don't think the Alpine will dry up easily as she has not slowed at all in her production. She's a good girl and loves to be milked. Now that she is the biggest goat in the pen, she has claimed the matriarch position. She is not good with human children, so it would have been difficult to sell her to a family who wanted a milker. Most people wanted to eat her when they saw her, which to me, seemed a huge waste for such a prolific milker.

My pregnant cow is developing a lovely rounded bag. I am a little frightened since her mother, who only had three good teats, was a prolific milker. Four good teats is well...gonna mean more milk. Since her calf will be half mini, I wonder how much milk it will take. Jerseys have been bred to make more milk than a calf needs and my cow will need milking twice a day. She's a feisty girl and always has been. But today, she let me rub her all over and even touch her udder. She will need milk training and that will likely start soon. The cow corral was moved some time ago and it's not in the best location relevant to the cow milking area. My cows are not halter trained and not good at taking directions unless they are very hungry and feed is in my hand. Even then, I do not completely trust my Jersey. She has horns and she knows how to use them on anyone who isn't doing what she wants. It's never a good idea to piss off an animal that can squash you.

The alpacas are fine as well. Quiet, peaceful, not a bother. They need a nail trim soon which will require a child to hold the halter while I wrestle with making the alpaca realize I'm not going to hurt them. My goal is to get their fleeces from last year spun before I sheer them this year. It may or may not happen. Some fleeces are dirtier than others. They were sheared in May last year before they came to us. I had contemplated hand shearing but I'm not that good at it and the fiber is so freakin' awesome that I would hate to lose length by doing a bad job. I will likely have the same shearer come out to get things done as she was very efficient. My one alpaca with the face wound has cleared up for the present. He wears a fly mask to protect him from the nasty buggers which as yet, have not been too bad. I do think he'll be needing his front teeth trimmed this coming year as they are quite bucky, more so than any of the others. That is another thing I will need help with.