Sunday, November 20, 2005


So, now we have five calves (here are three of them):

And a few weeks ago these two mama hens hatched out five chicks:

But the biggest news of all is that at the end of June, there will be another little person around here who might look like this:

We're all excited that I'm pregnant!

And yes, we have been teased about living on "Fertile Farm".

Monday, October 17, 2005

A vacation destination!

Look! We're becoming a vacation destination!

A hypothetical, apocolyptic, science fiction vacation that is. ;-)

Ben is a dear friend from my university days at Brown. He's morphed from a brilliant tender-hearted long-haired computer programming theologizing kid, to a brilliant tender-hearted short-haired computer programming theologizing husband, father, and internationally known science fiction writer.

Ben, our friend Ila, and I were housemates in 1990/91 while we were students at Brown. Our house was a happy place to be, filled with the yummy smells of creative vegetarian cooking. We decorated with fourth-hand furniture, books and papers galore, a goofy black lab puppy named Lucy, and chore charts in which we rotated turns at being characters from the TV show Twin Peaks. You can see that Ben's experience creating alternate universes began early.

Ben has awed me by his decision to return to writing. He has been very dedicated and intentional about it: he prioritizes writing and regularly makes time for it in his schedule. After all, the guy has a full time programming job and a busy family with two young children. Yet he finds time to write well enough to be published all over the place and earn nominations for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Of course, if he is helping build a stockade on our farm (see the "vacation" itinerary referenced in the above interview), heavens only knows in what state we might end up. Will we find ourselves "falling straight into the beam of the strange pulsar Yoruba-7, into its great burst, not only of electromagnetic radiation, but also of chronons, the quantum particles of time" like the peaceful folk of Ylla's Choice? Or will he succumb to a mixture of my Christian mysticism and Stephen's pragmatic environmentalism and join us in praying over the zombies as we stand on a wall of recycled aluminum cans?

Either way I know we'll all laugh a lot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Carla Emery

An icon of the modern homesteading movement died last night.

Carla Emery Delong was a passionate advocate of sustainability and self-sufficency. Her "Encyclopedia of Country Living" had 9 editions, many of which were put together by hand by Carla in the early days.

Her book was the first homesteading book I owned. This summer I drove an hour and a half to hear her talk, and worked up the courage at the end to ask her to sign that book. I'm so glad I drove, so glad I asked.

Carla Emery's legacy would be difficult to quantify... but I know it is rich and wide. She has influenced countless adults over several generations. Adults who have tried to put her ideas into practice and pass them on to their children. Each person who has made changes to live more gently due to her words, has contributed to her gift to the community of humans on this earth.

Rest in peace, Carla.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Cool Breezes

Our record high this year was 108 degrees Fahrenheit. That was on September 25. It's about all the effect we got from Hurricane Rita, besides mild wind, gas and grocery shortages, and tens of thousands of evacuees.

This morning we woke up to 57 degrees. We had gone to sleep with the windows open, so I padded around at 6:30am closing them and pulling more blankets on the kids. It felt GREAT! I had on shorts and a thin long sleeve shirt. Stephen put on his usual t-shirt and shorts.

Then the Texans woke up. Born and raised Texans, our kids are the offspring of Yankees. We're people who swam in 57 degree water in the Atlantic. Sure it was cold, but that was the point, right? Cooling off!

This morning the Texans (our kids) put on pants and long sleeved shirts. Then jackets. Then knit hats (one put on a ski mask). Then mittens. I checked the indoor thermometer. It was 66.

We giggled at them, and I recalled one early summer in Rhode Island, when I was about 10. My brother and I desperately wanted to play with our new slip-and-slide. We begged my mom, who, after much pestering, finally agreed that we could play with it when the temperature hit 70. So we stood around in our bathing suits, peering at the thermometer and hoping for it to inch up just a bit.

All depends on your perspective, eh?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Poem by Farmer Boy (age 8)

God is With You

Do not worry, do not fear,
God is with you right here.
If you worry if you fear,
say this poem through the year.
God is here, God is there,
God is with you everywhere.

Friday, August 19, 2005

First calf of 2005

Look what I discovered this evening as I fed the goats!!!

Here he is with his Mama:

He is very young, a day or less I'd guess. Still a little wobbly. He is soooooo cute!

We're a bit (!) behind the rest of the cow breeding world, to whom common sense has dictated that the best month to birth calves in Texas is NOT August, often the hottest and driest month of the year. Our scientific method of breeding our girls consists of letting them live with a bull, and, uh, well, that's it. This clever method does afford happy little surprises, like the cutie above. It is also extremely easy (at least for the humans).

And there are definitely more on the way! There were some heavily laden and hungry girls out there tonight. Mooooo!

A Real Life

Back at the beginning of the summer, a childhood friend of mine read the blog for the first time. We now live 2000 miles away from each other, so she e-mailed me and asked me what I meant in my blog subtitle by "a real life". This spurred a good month of really thinking about the question.

Unfortunately, I think I offended her. I never meant the title to imply that someone not living on a farm is not living a real life! I still think that "learning to live a real life" captures very much what we are trying to do here. But let me say to all of you... we each are on our own journey home and living it as fully as possible is living a real life, in my opinion. That long walk will be as different for each of us as we are from one another.

Here's what it means to me:

I want to be more connected with the people in my life. I want to fully enjoy the beauty of creation. I want to know where my food comes from and I want it to taste delicious. I want to take risks and I want to make mistakes. I want to experience getting hurt then healing, and finding greater strength for it.

I don't want to watch life on TV, I want to be there. I want it to happen to me, and I want to be scared and overjoyed. I don't want to take things for granted. I want to touch my bread before it is baked. I want to really know my kids. I want to struggle with my husband over little things and big things, and learn how to sacrifice for him, and ask for forgiveness, and grow in humility. And throw my arms around him because he is my husband and I love him.

I don't want to be in an emotional place where at the end of the day I feel I have to turn on the TV or a movie to escape from my life. I want to dig in and live it, right through the conflicts, the cactus thorns in my hand, the sunsets, the kisses, the accidents, the downy baby chicks, the stinky chicken litter, the goats getting out, the wasps in the house, the warm snuggles from a 3 year old in the middle of the night.

I want to be here. Right now.

That's my idea of a real life.

I don't think you have to live on a farm to take that in and try it. Be there. Listen to those people you love with all of yourself. Make something from scratch. Pick flowers for no reason. Bring a little beauty into someone else's life by giving them the gift of YOU. Stop being so scared.

It's all about the love, baby...

Full Summer

Missed the entire month of July, and I'm coming close to missing August, so it's time to post!

My absence from the blog was mostly due to my absence from the computer. The summer has been a busy one of house guests (including an extended visit from the Horse Whisperer, our niece from New York), and trying to get organized. We have put some new systems in place that seem to be working, and while I doubt I will ever feel like I am actually on top of things (there's ALWAYS something more to be done), I no longer feel like everything is completely out of control!

New animals to the farm include Joe, a 2 year old palomino apaloosa:

The HW has been working with him, hoping to train him and resell him as a started horse. He is showing promise as a cutting horse. He is fast and can turn quickly.

We also got 50 broiler chicks in early June:

Who now are 25 big fat chickens:

The other 25 are dead, most of them by our hands last Saturday (murderers!). We're getting better at the whole slaughtering process, better in the sense of faster and more efficient. Slaughter remains the least pleasant of all the farm duties. I confess I still have not done the actual killing myself, although I am in charge of the other end. I am now the resident evisceration queen. Yuck.

Three of the horses who have been part of our farm life, who were also horses with whom the HW has been working, were sold last Saturday. Hank, Chester and Cherokee left us, we pray to happy homes.




Saturday was an emotional day... horses moving away, chickens dying.

As for the humans, by far the most complex and high maintenance animals on the farm, we are all well. The HW is here with us from mid-May to early Sept, so her stay is coming to a close. Today we took her to Cavender's Boot City, but she was unable to find boots or a hat for suitable Texan souvenirs.

Farmer Boy has spent most of his summer shirtless and muddy. A fine summer for an 8 year old! His best friend, who now lives in PA, visited for 12 days this summer, along with his parents and 4 siblings. It was a wonderful reunion for all of us, lots of laughter and kids and food.

The Princess is settling into her role and has rejected from her wardrobe all items of clothing that are not pink, purple, red or yellow. She finds she must change outfits at least twice a day in order to insure that she is suitably clean, and that the social requirements of the moment are met. She mostly prefers to wear her Sunday dresses and her fairy dress. We've had to set some rules about what can be worn to play outside! Despite her ladylike dress code, she can hold her own with the animals, as well as her brother, although I overheard a very funny conversation this afternoon at the park:

FB's 7 year old friend: "Princess! Come on up here and play with us!"
The Princess: "No, you're too wild."
Friend: "Pshaw! That's how boys are supposed to be!"

I am not making this up. She really said "too wild" and he really said "pshaw".

Stephen keeps busy planning farm projects and running into virtually insurmountable obstacles. If it wouldn't exhaust me I'd try to write down the details. Suffice to say, that I have reopened the discussion of naming the place "Snafu Farm." He manages to squeeze this into a 40+ hour week at his off farm job.

And I have directed most of my extra energy toward getting a Mama stress reduction system in place. I've had some health concerns this summer and have given up caffeine as a result. Lo and behold, I can no longer get by on 5 hours of sleep. So I have had to figure out how to find time for at least 7, as well as a 10 minute nap in the afternoon. In addition, I needed some way to keep on top of the housework and farm chores so that I did not feel like I was living in constant chaos. It's not a perfect system that we've got, but it is better than before. We start school on Aug.29, so we shall see how the system holds up as we shift gears back to our school schedule. I can't believe FB is going into 3rd grade... our fourth official year of home schooling.

No real animal news. Snowy the doe was not pregnant. So no goat milk. But in a way it is good. We really are not properly set up for it, and we have agreed not to get any more goats until we have a better location for them and a new shelter (part of which will be the milking area).

In general Stephen and I are both weary of regularly dealing with animal management problems due to poor facilities. None of the animals (expect the cows) are currently living where we'd ultimately like them to be. We are trying to sort out the basic framework of our vision, so we can break it down into attainable tasks. Until that time, we really don't want to add any more animals.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Come and have breakfast

I spent the past two days at an area home schooling conference. The hotel I stayed in offered free breakfast. After my first bite of the eggs I had to resist the urge to stand up and say to my fellow diners (strangers all), "Come to me, all you who are weary of tasteless eggs and burdened by chemically smoked sausage, and I will give you real food."

I hate to waste food, but I just could not finish it. It was making me feel sick.

I really just wanted to gather all those people up like little chicks and whip up a huge delicious breakfast for them. It truly is amazing what we are used to eating.

Stephen recently had a business dinner with some foreign visitors. During a discussion about what the visitors liked and disliked about America, a woman from Macedonia told the group that "All the people here are fat and the food tastes like plastic." Perhaps a connection there?

(With nods to Matthew 11:28-29, and meaning no disrespect whatsoever to my very favorite person ever, the gentleman who was quoted by Matthew. After all, we're talking about a dude who arose from the dead and cooked breakfast on the beach for his buds. And I quote: "Come and have breakfast." John 21:12)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A very full day

Oh my goodness have things been happening around here. Take Wednesday...

5:00 Wake up despite forgetting to set the alarm (thank you Lord!); take shower, clean out drawer in bathroom

5:30 Start laundry, begin planning day. Tops on list: call PO about chicks being delivered tomorrow, get brooder cleaned out and ready for chicks, babyproof house for company coming at 8:00am, remind the Horse Whisperer (our niece who is back with us for the summer) to call the lady from whom we're buying a horse.

6:00 Head to dining room for a few quiet minutes with my bible. Before I sit down the phone rings. It's the PO. Chicks are here already. Uh oh.

6:15 Move truck and trailer (aka the brooder) to front of house. Remove everything, sweep, splash vinegar all around, sweep again, trickle water to rinse vinegar mud, sweep again. Leave open to dry.

6:45 Go in to get keys for other truck to go to PO. Farmer Boy is awake, tell him to get dressed and clear a space under the carport for the brooder trailer. Go to PO.

7:00 Home again with a box of 50 baby chicks. Leave in dining room. Figure since they were supposed to be in transit for 2 days but arrived a day early, it won't be the end of the world if they stay in the box for a few more hours.

7:05 Alternate between cleaning house and carport, trying to simultaneously prepare for chickens and company, and make breakfast for kids.

8:00 Get call from friend that she will be late. Phew! Continue to hyper-multi-task.

8:30 Horse Whisperer awake. "Don't forget to call the lady about the horse". "Oh I talked to her last night, she's coming at 6:30 to deliver the horse." Deep breath, mental note, add to list of things to do: figure out what needs to be done before this horse arrives.

9:00 Friend arrives. I take her three year old in the house to play with the Princess for a few minutes, she takes Farmer Boy in her van and they go up the road to go blueberry picking

9:15 I get the two little girls in the truck and we go up too. Not many berries left since we are late arriving (best to start at 7:00!), but enough for everyone to have fun, and pick enough to enjoy at home.

11:00 My friend's 8 year old gets stung by a wasp at the blueberry farm.

11:15 After ice and meat tenderizer and benadryl and some menthol based ointment, I take the 8 yr old girl, plus the two 3 yr olds, back to my house for a homeopathic remedy.

11:20 I keep my friend's daughter company on the couch while her hand lays under a ziploc baggie filled with frozen corn, and we wait for her mom to come.

11:45 My friend arrives and I begin to make lunches

12:00 The phone rings. It is the Horse Lady needing directions. Our niece talks with her first, then asks me to give her directions. After we hang up I realize I didn't confirm the 6:30 time. I ask the HW, who is watching a movie, what time again? Ummm... 1:30. Aaack! As calmly as I can, I ask her what needs to be done to prepare for her new horse. Oh boy, we have our work cut out for us.

12:15 We are out in the courtyard between the four barns, where the goats live. The HW has decided to put her new horse in here for the first day so he is more contained. We haul stuff that she is worried he might hurt himself on, and use the pieces of a round bale ring to block access to an area that she is concerned about. We hammer up a cattle panel in a not especially effective attempt at preventing access to an old pile of wood and pipes under the loafing shed. Once again I am reminded of how much work there is still to do to get this falling down old farm truly safe and functional. On my way back to the house, I pick up garbage that the dogs had strewn the night before when they got into a few garbage bags that were left on a flat bed trailer.

1:20 Back in the house, splashing my hot face with water, I look up and see a lobster staring back at me. I am scared because I have never seen my face so red, even from sunburn, so I hop into a cool shower immediately, clothes and all. I get out, quickly dress and drink a few glasses of water. I have just finished brushing my hair when...

1:30 A truck and trailer drive in the yard. He's here! Everyone rushes to put on their shoes to see the new horse. He's GORGEOUS! A 2 year old Palomino Apaloosa. Wow! The HW is very happy.

1:45 Goats are out, oh well... they will stay around the yard until all the chicken feed is gone, and that will give the new horse time to settle in. I'm feeling shaky so I eat a little food, then sit down to finally enjoy my friend, who has been patiently waiting in the house, overseeing 6 children and lunch.

4:30 My friend and her four kids leave, and I sit down to do some meal planning for out of town company arriving on Saturday. The next day is my big shopping day in the city so I need to be sure to have a good list in hand.

5:15 About to head out to do more work on the brooder then realize the time and that I need to get dinner going. I work on dinner and cleaning the kitchen simultaneously.

6:15 Dinner is ready, we all sit down and eat.

7:00 Time to get back to work. The kids climb in the trailer/brooder and I drive down behind the barns to where we have a round bale that still has some decent hay deep inside. I peel aside moldy hay to find the good stuff, and with the help of the three young 'uns, we get the trailer bed covered in a nice clean hay blanket. The goats have followed us and are busy running around being silly and eating any yummy tidbit they find.

7:15 We gather some browse for the goats to eat in the pen, chase away the cows, and drive back into the courtyard, bringing the goats with us. We love on the horses a bit (the new boy has Hank in with him to keep him company), and feed the goats. I check on Mama Hen and her three babies who are almost teenagers now. I feed the goats their daily grain ration, and load a bag of lime onto the truck from the barn.

7:30 Stopping by the workshop to get the manure shovel, we drive back to the house and I carefully back the trailer under the carport. I scoop out all the chicken poop that has gathered under the carport. Since some of the chickens have decided to roost there, it has become a poopy place in some spots. We are beginning to have a problem with flies, and I don't want the chicks to have to deal with that. After putting the manure on the compost, I sweep, sprinkle ag lime, sweep that around, and cover it all with hay just in case anyone's paws or claws are sensitive to lime.

8:30 Thoroughly clean out a waterer, fill with fresh water, and a splash of apple cider vinegar and molasses. With some difficulty I get the roof on the brooder trailer. It is made of plywood which has warped since the last time we used the trailer for this purpose. I run an extension cord from the mudroom out the window to the carport, and hook up the brooder lamp. Yay! The bulb still works! I stuff a towel into the open crack of the house window where the extension cord goes out, and patch a hole low on one of the walls of the brooder where a knot fell out. I don't want chicks tumbling out!

9:30 The Princess, Farmer Boy and the Horse Whisperer climb into the brooder with the box of chicks. One by one the kids take the chicks out and dip their beaks in the fortified water. They love on them and coo to them and let them run all over their bodies. One chick is discovered who can't walk. Everyone wants to spend the night in the brooder. I veto that idea. The HW asks if she can keep the hurt chick in her room. Sure I say. Finally the Princess has had enough and climbs out and takes a shower.

10:30 Get the Princess out of the shower and manage to pry the HW and Farmer Boy out of the brooder. I close it up for the night.

10:35 Kids start eating the long promised dessert (good thing it's summer vacation... this is the day that refuses to end!). The Princess is just too exhausted and has a meltdown; I cart her off to bed telling her we'll save it for her tomorrow. There are tears but they are short-lived as she falls into a deep sleep while I rub her back.

10:45 Get Farmer Boy going on his bedtime routine; he is excited about the chicks and the horse and his friend visiting. It is hard to relax, but a shower helps.

11:30 Both little people FINALLY asleep!! Clean chick feeder, fill with chick starter (unmedicated!), put it in the brooder and watch for a while to see if they will catch on. Sure enough they slowly start to discover the food and eat. Head inside to clean up. Find a box for the HW's chick, and line with an old rag.

12:15 One last check on chicks. Temperature is good, they are happily eating.

12:30 While getting ready for bed, I hear a scurrying noise, look down and see a mammoth scorpion. A well aimed and firm smack with a book yields a disgusting smooshy sticky mess with a tail. Turns out scorpions are very easy to kill. My experience with killing bugs has not alway gone this smoothly, so I am always VERY firm and fast with anyone I'm hunting. A little overkill (pun intended) for this one, it turns out.

12:45 Check on sleeping kids... the HW is still up with a peeping chick in her hands. I spend some time with her in her room watching poor gimpy chick trying to stand and walk. The prospects are dim for this little guy.

1:00 Lights out! I don't think I even dreamed I was so exhausted! :-)

Monday, June 06, 2005


The other day we were up the road chatting with our neighbor, who casually mentioned seeing a bobcat on the road near our house last fall. Our current list of predators and generally dangerous critters that have actually been seen or heard on or near our farm includes:

copperhead snake
wild hog

In addition we likely have Black Widow spiders, Brown Recluse spiders, rattlesnakes, and Water Moccasins.


Some are dangerous to humans, but mostly my concern is for our animals. Generally speaking these predators avoid humans.

Oddly enough, hearing about the bobcat didn't really bother me. Isn't it interesting how we fear the unknown more than the known? When we first moved out here I was petrified of predators. Now I am cautious and attentive (and avoid the unlit barns after dark), but have better perspective on it all.

Being stung by a wasp the other day wasn't fun, but it was a gentle (if somewhat annoying) reminder that what we fear is often far more dramatic in our minds than in reality. The wasp sting burned like crazy... no fun, but it went away pretty quickly, and two days later I was swatting down a wasp's nest and killing wasps in the air with my shoe. Kind of like playing badminton. I knew the worst they could give to me, and I knew I'd survive it.

Which is not to say that I won't have a pounding heart if I look out to see a bobcat after one of my chickens!

Amusingly, the afternoon of the day my neighbor told me about the bobcat, Luke started acting weird and nervous. Here's what was scaring him:

On her way to see what Luke was after, Molly froze and growled at this:

And that night, as I was turning off lights to go to bed, I let the cat in, who stalked this:

Apparently humans aren't the only ones with irrational fears!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Happy Family

The hen finally adopted four chicks. We discovered one dead chick in the doghouse (possibly smothered by the dog's blanket) and the other five were probably eaten by something. Here's the happy family:

The new mother has the run of the barn. As you can see in this picture, we spared no expense in decorating the nursery. Finest barbed wire bales we could find.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More broody hens

The ladies are really thinking babies right now. We had TWO girls trying to hatch eggs in the stroller, often at the same time.

Here's one of them:

It was hysterical to see them in there, one on top of the other. One time, one had her wing over the other, like they were sisters, in this motherhood thing together. :-)

Unfortunately, hatching chicks in a stroller is not so great for chicks... nowhere to go to catch a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the fact that these hens weren't the most attentive moms and would hop off only to come back to an empty stroller thanks to the egg-stealing dogs. At last we took the hens out and folded up the stroller. This was not enough of a deterrence, as you can see:

The stroller is now in the barn and the hens are looking for other places to brood. There's one girl in the hen house that seems to have decided to send roots into the floor, so I suspect she's got babies on the mind.

I can understand the feeling; spring does make one long for something soft and little, doesn't it?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Chicks in the Barn

Yesterday morning all 10 chicks were still alive, but Mama Hen was pecking at them so they were keeping their distance most of the time. Here they all are in the dog house:

You can see one little cutie peeking out from under Mama's wing... that was not by choice, she was put there as an experiment. Eventually Mama pecked at her too, so she ran away.

My hope was that by today Mama would have accepted the babies as her own. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to have, but the babies are doing fairly well nevertheless. We may have lost two, because this morning's count was 8. Most of them were out of the dog house running around the barn, so the lost two may have been hiding, or may have wandered out of the barn and been eaten. :-(

They are 2 weeks old and have enough feathers that they can fly short distances. They are so cute!

Stephen said, "I can just see it now. They get to be 4 weeks old (teenaged chickens), and they're gonna be saying 'You can't tell me what to do. You're not my REAL mother.' And the hen will say, 'Your REAL mother was just a hatchery egg laying tramp!'".

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Chick Saga

The chick who hatched died. Disappeared. Without a trace. So did all the eggs under the hen. We suspect the dogs.

The hen kept sitting, despite her lack of eggs and chicks, so today I went and bought 10 Araucana type chicks.

Remember how I said "No more livestock in the house"? Well....

Yup, back in the tub. Bit of a softie here.

Stephen moved the dog house the hen was nesting in into a dog-proof barn during the day, and after dark we went down there to slide the chicks under the hen. To our surprise she was gone. She had returned to the carport, under which (in that dog house, mind you) she had been hunkered down for a good month. So we plucked her sleepy hen self off the roost she'd not slept on for ages, brought her, and the 10 chicks, down to the barn, and tucked them in in the dog house.

During the walk in the big Rubbermaid tub she had already gathered 4 of them under her wings by the time we got to the barn, so I am hopeful.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Duck Update

The ducks are fully feathered out and quite pretty. We keep trying to get them to live at the pond, but they make their way back up to the house. So we are herding them down in the morning when we go to see the goats, and using the opportunity to have the goats eat away at the poison ivy around the pond. It's fun, actually. Never thought of myself as a duck herder, but I actually enjoy it!

Here they are the very first time they swam in the pond...

Thinking about it ("That's the biggest bowl of water I've ever seen!"):

Fully in and eating weeds ("Yum! Yum! Hey! My feet aren't touching ground! Hey! This is fun!"):

They have done a nice job cleaning up the weeds around the edge of the pond. This kind (Pekin) does not eat fish. Between the ducks and goats the pond is really tidying up. Now I've decided I want some sheep so I don't have to spend three evenings just to mow the area we currently consider our "yard"!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Baby Chick

One of the hens hatched out a chick today in the dog house. Very exciting for all of us!

Unfortunately the pictures came out really blurry:

Monday, May 16, 2005

Remembering Fred

Old Fred, my parents' elderly dog who came to live out his golden years on the farm, has left us. We believe he has died, but we are not completely sure. He disappeared two weeks and two days ago. We have seen no sign of him, and we have not found him in "doggie jail".

Fred came into my parents' life in dramatic fashion some 10 years ago. We were living with them as we transitioned from RI to TX, and with us had come our first baby, our lab mutt Lucy. Lucy was 4 at the time, and as I recall it happening, one weekend afternoon my father was sitting out on the porch reading the paper when Lucy started barking at the porch. Suddenly out from under the porch burst big fluffy Fred.

Fred hung around, despite being discouraged (especially by my dad), and eventually managed to worm his way into even Dad's dog-opposing heart. The vet figured he was quite a bit older than Lucy, that he had been well cared for at some point in his life, and that he had probably been abandoned. My parents' search for his owner was unsuccessful, and he became part of the family. He was named "Fred" at the suggestion of my parents' dear friends visiting from England. Apparently "Fred" is like the British equivalent of "Rover": a generic name for a dog.

Fred and Lucy fell in love. They were miserable when separated, which they usually were since not long after Fred appeared we moved 2 hours west of my parents. Eventually we decided that we'd all be happiest if Fred and Lucy lived together, so they began a nomadic life of visits with us and visits with my parents.

Fred had his share of adventure. We have no idea what kind of stories he'd have told of his life before my parents, but while in their care he was hit in their driveway by a visiting teenager backing a car out in the dark (broken leg) as well as attacked by something, the vets believe a cougar, that left him quite torn up. He had a lengthy recovery from both.

Lucy died a year and a half ago, at close to 14, and Fred was miserable. By then we owned some of our land but not the house, so we brought her body up here to bury in the pines. We brought Fred with us; it just seemed like the right thing to do. He didn't seem too affected by her body; he was almost disinterested. But when we got back to my parents' he fell into a long depression. He hardly ate anything for the first week. He would lie around and whimper; it was heartbreaking.

Fred was an old old dog. We don't know how old, but if he was even the same age as Lucy (and the vet thought he was older) he would have been 15 now. He had gone from jet black to quite grey in the face, had hip trouble and was a, well, very audible breather. When he came here in December, Molly was in heat and just about killed Fred with her constant demands for his attentions. He did his best, and in fact almost seemed to drop a few years thanks to Molly's birth by fire into the rigors of farm life. A lot is demanded of a farm dog... one must be fit, you know.

While he lived here he spent most of his time lying in the dirt or barking at cows. When he could get up from the dirt he would make his way to the pond for a swim sometimes, but mostly he liked to bark at cows. He was not the smartest dog, nor the sweetest smelling (in fact Fred had an odor problem that defied even my parents' local pet spa). But he was loyal and constant... the giver and receiver of much love over the years.

Thank you Fred. You were a good dog.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Singing the ineffable

It is impossible for me to convey the emotions I feel as I walk through our fields of flowers, picking deep black ripe dewberries while our goats and dogs run and roll and leap circles round me.

I have moments when the feelings are so overwhelming I have to stand still, then find myself gasping as my body realizes I haven't been breathing. Other times I catch myself staring at the animals with a goofy grin on my face. And tears, yes, tears.

Along with the now usual gift of an evening walk with the goats to pick dewberries, tonight I discovered a huge squash plant growing out of our compost (a "volunteer"). It is so big I can't imagine why I didn't notice it before. Tonight I saw it in an orange glow, as the sun set behind me... a glorious backdrop to grazing horses. A short while later, while cleaning out the truck (how is that small children can destroy order in any space so quickly?), I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye, and turning, I saw it again... my first firefly sighting on our farm.

What I realize is that it truly is impossible to convey the force of these emotions that surge so tangibly that I feel as if my chest is going to burst. The closest word I can come up with is joy. It is pure, completely without pretence. I can't paint a picture of how I feel, I can't tell you with mere words. Perhaps singing is the only way I can find to put it out there.

I find it interesting that I feel compelled to even TRY to put it out there. It feels like it doesn't belong to me, this exquisite experience. I feel as if I am in the presence of God, every second I walk on our land. I know I am in the presence of God all the time, why is it so much more obvious to me when I am out in our fields?

What would I sing? Would I sing of the changing colors of the flower blanket in our fields? Last week red and white, this week pink and yellow and fuschia. Each flower perfect, all the flowers together glorious...

Would I sing of my reluctant releasing of my desire to plant food for us this season, as I realized that learning to care for all these animals was already enough for this year... only to find unexpected bounty at every turn... berries, squash, wild onions, grapes...

Would I sing of how I always wanted to be a mother, and now in the middle of living it I am awed by the life that screams out of our two beautiful curly haired children; life that I helped bring forth but that is so far beyond me, so decidedly other, so forward moving, so precious...

Would it be about the ever changing sunset? The sound of hundreds of tree frogs wishing each other good night? The feel of warm eggs in my palm? The smell of the cat as I kiss her before sending her off with the advice "Go catch a mouse!"?

I don't know, I just don't. The list would go on and on... my dream of raising goats coming true; finding out that true love really exists, and finding it with the man I married; being able to give my friends fresh eggs and bouquets of wildflowers to take home after feeding them home-cooked food...

But those are all about me, and that's not my point.

I guess in the end, it would be a song of worship. And in a language I don't speak all that well yet, but I think I am being taught.

"Store Wars"

The folks who brought us The Meatrix have a new movie out! Store Wars is brilliant! Check it out and send it to all your friends.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Thirty Six... and More

36 chickens (and more) running around our house
36 eggs (and more) each week to eat and share
36 dewberries (and way more) ripe each day on our land
36 acres (plus 4) to wander through and marvel at
36 cow patties (and more) to weave around walking to the corral
36 splashes of water (and more) from happy happy ducks
36 hours a day (and more) of love needed by the dog
36 hugs a day (and more) from wild and muddy kids
36 close misses (and more) as the goats race to catch up with me
36 faster beats of my heart (and more) when I hear the pound of horse hooves gleefully galloping by in play
36 holes in boxes (and more) where Miss Kitty has chewed
36 kinds of wildflowers (and more) decorating the farm
36 kisses from my beloved (and more) soothe my heart

36 years of a joyful life behind me... and more to come...

I am 36 years old today, and it looks like this year is going to be the best yet!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wonderful goats

The goats have slipped into our lives seamlessly. I was nervous on Sunday because Snowy's digestive system was clearly off, but her "issues" resolved quickly. In their previous home they were in a very small yard and all their food was brought to them. Here they have access to a lot of browse and weeds, that they are really enjoying. Snowy's tummies just needed some time to adjust to her new diet. I limited their time out of the pen for the first few days to make it easier on everyone, but now they are free to roam within a large fenced area.

The family from whom we bought the goats is a sweet and quiet family. The goats seem to have been infused with these characteristics. They are lovely.

This evening the children and I went for a walk around the pond to see if any of the dewberries (wild blackberries) are ripe. We did find a few, which means a trip to Dewberry Hill, on the other side of our property, is in order! Yum!

On a whim, I decided to bring the goats with us. They follow us everywhere and I wasn't really concerned they would run off. Happily, I was right.

Here they are, with their first look at the pond (for Sylvester, likely the first time in his life he has seen a body of water larger than a bucket):

I hade read that goats eat, and enjoy, poison ivy! Proof positive:

Finally a non-chemical method that does not entail long hours of me at the end of a shovel!

I love our goats.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Today we got goats..."

This blog post was a family effort, that took several days. We actually got the goats on Saturday the 23rd....

Farmer Boy (age 8):
Today we got goats. They're pretty scary. They bolt at you real fast and jump as if they were going to jump right on top of you and kill you. Cows aren't very scary to me. Horses aren't very scary to me. Goats: too scary for me. The goats chase the dogs! Except for one: Fred the stupidest of all of them.

The Princess (age 3):
Today we got goats.

Stephen (age 38):
Today we got goats. I wonder if we'll get to eat them.

(general response of rest of family: bulging eyes, gaping mouths then cacophony of horror)

Patti (age 35):
Today we got goats. When we went to pick them up I felt like the first time mother being sent home with a newborn, feeling undeserving, unworthy, and underprepared. :-) The long drive home meant I couldn't check on them for over an hour, and I was quite sure they'd be dead by the time we got home. Of course they weren't.

When we let them out of the trailer, the dogs were very curious and annoying and made the goats nervous. They stayed by my side, or ran to me if they had moved off and were startled. I couldn't believe it! They were sweet and gentle and clearly very attached to humans.

Snowy and Sylvester are both a year old. Sylvester is a wether, purchased for company for Snowy. Here he is:

I am thinking about trying to train him to pull a cart, but I am not rushing into anything. He is very sweet, and more cautious than Snowy.

Snowy may be bred, but is still not showing signs of it. She was exposed to two different bucks about a month apart. She could birth as late as the end of June. In that case she wouldn't show clear signs of being pregnant for another month. As a (hopefully) first freshener, it is not surprising that she is not showing, even if she is bred. Also, she was bred kind of young, so she is likely to only carry one kid this time. Here's Snowy:

Already I like having goats even more than I thought I would (and if you have spent any time with me, you know I was a little over the top about wanting to get them!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This is my life

When I was a college student, I was mesmerized by a photo that captured the kiss of a walking couple. What I loved about it was that it highlighted to me that our lives are in many ways a series of moments, ever moving from one to the next.

A "photojournal" of 24 hours in my life...

We get home from a long day away in the big city visiting friends. I hear a strange noise. I realize it is coming from behind our barn, and is likely on the neighbor's property. I dismiss it as the neighbor digging holes for fences. Farmer Boy, however, leaps into action. He adamantly inists that it is aliens, who are disguised as dogs. The only way I can convince him to turn around and come in for dinner is by entrusting Molly the real dog with the responsibility of taking Fred and Luke (the other real dogs) with her to conquer the aliens. To my amazement, after my solemn commission, she trots away from me in the direction of the sound.

As we walk back to the house I simultaneously hear:

Farmer Boy: "I've GOT IT! They're alien echo-ologists!"
The Princess: "And then the butterfly in the pink net flew away."

Many alternate universes here on the farm.


I try for 15 minutes to figure out where the cat peed only to discover that the smell was from the irises I cut from the yard, that are sitting on the table.


Walking through the mud room, I find a yellow plastic toy firefighter's hat upside down on a chair, with 7 eggs in it. A creative egg collecting basket.


I hear from the front, "I found Trill! I found Trill!!". I open the door to be presented with a chicken, sure enough, our long lost Trill!! She was our first injured animal on the farm, and she had seemed to vanish one day. I had not seen her for 3 months. But there she was.

You may wonder how this could be... so do I. We still have so many chickens it is hard to see them all at once, or distinguish them from each other. But there she was, with a little limp, and a strange crusty thigh, neatly hidden with feathers. It was definitely Trill.

I have no idea what makes me more or less attached to an animal. The chickens are on my nerves right now because of the poop that is everywhere, and because I can't plant anything until we build a garden fence (they eat everything, except for the irises... ohhhh, maybe I know why they leave THEM). But I spent 10 minutes watching Trill and taking pictures of her. In the laundry room. And she actually didn't poop (miracle!). It made my day to find her healthy and whole.

Injured baby Trill being offered some molasses water:

Trill in my laundry room yesterday:


I have to wait to turn off the car when we get to the park for our homeschool group, because the Princess and I are jamming to the beat of "Water for the Elephants" by Dan Zanes.


I open the trunk of the SUV at the library to put our huge bag of books in, and have to squeeze the books between empty recycling crates with a violin in them, and two 50 lb bags of goat feed.


[WARNING: If you don't have a farm this may gross you out; if you do have a farm, you're crazy]

With herculean effort, I manage to heave a plastic sheet filled with soggy nasty pine shavings out of the tub, into a big plastic container, and drag it to the compost outside. For "fun" I weigh myself holding the thing. No wonder it's next to impossible... I'm leaning over the edge of a huge tub and lifting out 75 gloopy stinky pounds of pine shavings on a wiggly plastic sheet. Back trauma, here I come.

You know that separation of church and state thing? This one has put me over the edge: time for a more firm separation of house and farm. No more livestock in the house. UGH!


I complete my day with a fine bedtime reading of "The Good Little Bad Little Pig", who is also a dirty little clean little pig. Hmmm, that rings true for me.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Super Hero Husband

I am married to a wonderful man. He just finished a week of vacation; a much deserved vacation. The man does not take vacation. He has so many vacation hours accrued for his off-farm job, they are no longer accruing.

So what did he do on his vacation? Go to Hawaii? Go skiing? Nope, he built fences. He built a lot of fences, and did it all by himself, and with no prior experience. They look AWESOME!

And now we can get goats! A week from today, on my mom's 62nd birthday, *I* get the present... two new goats!

Here are some pictures of my hero...

You can get very colorful when you have a three year old daughter:

You can also be a fierce dragon:

Working on the shed roof (don't fall!):

Hard at work on a conference call with colleagues (honest!):

One of my all time favorites, I call this "Mesmerized":

I love you, Stephen Brown! Thank you!!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Happy 70th Birthday Dad!

My awesome father, Bob Duce, is turning 70 today.

"Awesome?" you say. "Tell me more!"

Okay. He is in Australia right now, with my equally awesome mother, embarking on a four month driving adventure. Yup. 7-0 today. Heading to the Australian outback.

Rock on Dad!! "And many morrrrrrrre....!"

Whacky birth story

Totally off farm topic here...

You may have heard of this but it was news to me:

A woman in Romania gave birth to twins from two different uteruses 59 days apart. Wow!

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Seems there are many creatures destined to be our teachers. Each new family of animal that comes into our lives begins with a fearless band of warriors ready to train us in how to care for them. At their expense.

The ducklings were a bit of an impromptu purchase. We had planned to eventually get ducks, but hadn't really talked about WHEN, until the Saturday before Easter. The conversation went something like this:

"Shall we get ducklings to surprise the kids?"

"Yeah, if the store is still open when I'm done with this I'll go down and get some."

You'd think we were buying ice cream, not five living creatures.

So they come home in a little box, with instructions for baby chicks. Box says on it "Chicks and Ducklings." The feed bag says "Chicks and Ducklings." Great, we know how to take care of baby chicks. No problem.


Ducks are messy. I mean REALLY messy. They need water mixed with their food in order to swallow, which means that when they drink, they have food in their mouth, and the backwash pretty quickly "nastifies" the water. They also like to walk in the water. And dunk their heads in the water. And their poop is very, um wet. And squirts. MESSY.

They also grow really fast (at least this breed does). So they've outgrown their Rubbermaid tub already. They would have even earlier if not for the unfortunate early demise of one, at the hands of that menace to all waterfowl, that poultricidal three year old, The Princess.

Overheard talking to her grandmother:

"Well, I squeezed its neck a little too tight and it quacked really loudly and wouldn't stop, so I threw it on the ground a little too not gently and it died."

You know that thing I said about the fearless band of warriors? Exception here. Ducks are not fearless. Not at all. One is almost tempted to offer them valium they are so highstrung. I suppose given the aforementioned incident one can hardly blame them.

And while I joke about it here, I was really upset about it, which was compounded by the fact that the dead duckling was left outside alone for all of three minutes, and when I went out to bury it was already gone (dog undoubtedly). Despite the fact that chickens die at our hands on a regular basis, this was different and I'd really wanted to bury it. I also blame myself for not supervising the children with the ducklings. In one of those common farm drama coincidences, as I was cleaning the duck tub and the kids were taking care of them, our back fence neighbor came and told us our cattle were on his property, so I walked to the back with Stephen to look for them. I returned minutes later to a dead duckling and four VERY stressed live ducklings.

I have looked up duckling information, and even on the web, it has been scanty. I still have not found definitive advice for when to let them live at the pond, although I have surmised. I did find a good general site early on that the children enjoyed, called All About Ducks for Kids.

Last night I finally found this quite useful site on duckling care, and realized it was time to let them have a daily swim.

Here are the first two swimmers:

They were so happy. Absolutely delightful to watch. They are in a big rubbermaid tub (their former home), and the green stuff floating around is little pieces of lettuce. They love to "dabble". These little birds, who had never swum before, took to it like a duck to water. OH! ;-)

We sifted threw a number of ideas for places for them to live for the next few weeks (they still need some temperature control and protection from predators until they are bigger). In the end we settled on the bathtub. The lovely big jacuzzi tub that doesn't work. I lined it with plastic left from moving mattresses, poured pine shavings in, and voila! Our new and improved Chez Duckling:

Note that the water is already murky, the food is knocked over, and the pine shavings are rather "soiled". This set up was pristine four hours before this picture was taken. They don't waste much time.

I am enjoying them greatly, extensive poop cleaning chores notwithstanding.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves!

We have been killing roosters. As I've mentioned before, we have a lot of them. A week ago Saturday, Stephen killed 8, then last weekend, 10 more. We still have plenty to go.

Some of them are mean. Mean to each other, mean to us, and really mean to the hens. One scratched The Princess pretty badly the other day. I am ready to turn them all into stew. >:-(

One of the interesting things that happened after the first 8 were killed was that the pecking order was confused. A large portion of the hens had taken to congregating under some bushes a field away from the chicken house. A few roosters would hang out with them, but most of the roosters prowled around the chicken house and the back yard. After the first 8 were killed, the hens stopped going to that bush, and split into two big groups, one by the chicken house and one in the front yard. After the next ten roosters were killed, the split was solidified.

The chicken house girls learned a very clever way to keep themselves safe from the incessant attention of the roosters:

They mostly go up the ladder and fly down to the ground, but they sometimes go in and out the window. These girls mostly lay in the house, either in the nest boxes or in a corner. There is one rooster up on the scaffolding in this picture, but that is a pretty rare sight.

The other group is in the front. Remember Queen Suzanne, the Cornish Rock hen with a long history of barely escaping death? As I wrote a few weeks ago, Molly the Australian Shepherd is her self-appointed guardian, chasing off roosters, and even licking her wounds in the early days. For weeks Suzanne spent much of her time under the carport in a dog crate with hay for bedding and food and water, just to keep her safe from roosters and give her a chance to heal. Eventually she was well enough, Molly was vigilant enough, and perhaps the roosters were reduced enough that she wasn't being jumped on constantly, so we stopped putting her in the crate. She had become accustomed to the front by then, and roosted under the carport at night.

Molly expanded her sense of duty to include the hens who started hanging around Suzanne. At first we noticed one faithful RI Red Hen who would show up every day. Lady Robert. Soon the Lady stayed with Suzanne at night under the carport instead of returning to the hen house in back. One day I realized that there were a lot of hens staying in the front, and Molly was defending them so well that only a few roosters ever spent much time out there. These boys continue to visit the front and are about as gentlemanly as roosters can be. The rabble stays in the back, squawking and fighting and strutting about.

It is pretty fascinating to me that Molly and the hens have bonded against the roosters. I suppose I am anthropomorphising here, but the little feminist who lives in the dungeon of my past pipes up: "You go girls!" :-D

In reality, Molly adores me (undeserving though I am), and is very intelligent, so undoubtedly grasped the point when I spent days chasing roosters away from Suzanne at the beginning when I'd let her out to peck around in the grass. Still, it is cool that these critters have figured out how to survive, and more interestingly, how to help each other survive.

The split in the hens has led to some interesting egg laying spots. The scaffolding girls lay in the hen house, as I mentioned. The dog house remains a favorite for the carport girls, an occasional egg is found in a recycling box or straight on the ground, the jogging stroller sees at least two new eggs a day, and the most startling find was a solid 13 eggs on a feed bag! I actually watched a hen lay an egg there, and was shocked when she stood up!! I was careful with that find, smelling each egg before cooking, and had to toss three, so I think we had somehow overlooked this spot for a few days.

Today we broke our previous daily egg record... 23! We have to figure out something... I have 9 dozen eggs in my fridge! Time to start finding customers.

Want some eggs?

Inspiration in the dirt and on my shoes and on the mud room floor and...

A wee poem
from my heart to yours
inspired today
by my morning chores:

Poop here,
poop there,

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

New Additions

We have some new faces around the farm.

The youngster we bought to replace our old bull:

These sweeties were a surprise for the kids on Easter. Our first feed store critter purchase. :-) We're pretty sure they're Pekins.

And... drum roll please... Farmer Brown is so proud to present his newest toy...

He has already used it to move round bales, pull our neighbor's horse trailer out of the mud and shred a badly overgrown pasture. In addition to this work, he found out they sold him the wrong drive shaft, had it replaced, broke the right drive shaft and bought a new one. Oh, and on the way home one tire blew out on the trailer. I mean blew... treads completely stripped. The tire was replaced for free. All this and more in a mere three days! Very industrious. ;-)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Secret Getaway

I kidnapped Stephen on Saturday afternoon. My mom came out to watch the kids, and I whisked him away from his fencing work (much to his surprise) to a bed and breakfast, dinner at a nice restaurant, then live Latin jazz at The Bugle Boy in La Grange, TX. It was a fabulous get away!

First time we have been away alone in four years. We were only gone for 20 hours, but every minute of it was lovely.

It sure is cool to be married to your sweetheart.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Lots of updates on the critters

Boy, this is going to be long. Three and a half weeks is a long time on a farm. Lots has happened.

Here we are, middle of March, and we've already had days of putting sunscreen on and using AC in the car come afternoon. Still feels weird to this Yankee.

After rain and rain and rain (6 straight weekends of rain), we finally have gotten break and have been celebrating glorious SPRING! The wildflowers are going nuts after such a wet winter, and now insanely blue skies and warm sun. The front yard is getting scraggly, and I was going to mow, but after watching one of the horses having a treat and kids picking widlflowers, I decided our old-fashioned style of mowing suits me just fine right now. :-) So I am going to bring a horse out each morning and afternoon to work on the lawn.

Our lovely niece, from upstate New York, visited for three weeks. She is a horse girl (woman! she's 20 now), has been riding since she was 9 and is very gifted with horses. She wants to be a horse trainer. She did awesome things with the horses while she was here, gaining compliments not only from Stephen and me (who are impressed with just about anything) but also from people who actually know and work horses. She was great with the kids, and a few times the three of them made treats for the horses.

Feeding the horses home-made horse cookies:

For us, it has been so helpful to get to know the horses better. We have ridden them, spent a lot more time with them, learned how to saddle them, and just generally feel more comfortable around them. To the extent that one of them has an abcess under his tail that requires twice-daily spraying for three weeks, and I am feeling fairly confident about doing this (yes, standing behind a horse, lifting up his tail and squirting his buns!)

The Horse Whisperer (our niece) left us on Tuesday. We were all very sad to see her go and hope she will come back soon.

The roosters are huge and loud and generally boorish. They have a sex drive that is insane. The whole reproductive thing for chickens is a pretty hit-or-miss affair, so the roosters compensate by doing it A LOT. Unfortunately for the hens, we bought a straight run, meaning we have roughly 30 roosters and 30 hens. These are very bad odds for the hens. We need max 1 rooster per 15 hens. So the roosters need to go. I can't believe it, but I am actually seriously considering killing a few myself, just to get started. There are so many of them, and it is really hard for us to coordinate it with Stephen's work schedule.

You may remember that when we processed the last batch of cornish-rocks, Stephen left one behind because she had a cold. Well she got better and integrated pretty quickly with the other birds. But for some reason the boys find her irresistable. A few weeks ago Stephen discovered her horribly pecked and practically dead. We nursed her inside for a while, but it seems that no matter what she is going to be attacked by the roosters. She now lives a weird life outside under the car port in a dog cage, let out only when there are people around to fend off the roosters who keep jumping on this hen hotty and ripping her scabs off her neck. Farmer Boy has named her Queen Suzanne. If she were not the one he had claimed as his special pet, she would no longer be with us. She has a sweet friend who has been named Lady Robert. Lady Robert is a RI Red hen on the smallish side, who is quite tame. The Princess carries her around for long periods every day. Molly the dog also has taken a liking to Queen Suzanne, and considers it her personal mission to run off all the roosters that approach QS... unless Molly is distracted by something else. So we do not let QS loose unless there is a human around. Here are Molly and Queen Suzanne sharing a meal:

The black stuff on Suzanne's neck is pine tar. Poor baby, it's like she has a target on her neck. Even the pine tar doesn't keep them off her.

The hens have started laying! Yippee! Since they are free range, I am positive there are lots of eggs somewhere that we are missing. I won't be surprised to some day see a mama hen waddle out with a bunch of babies. We have 30 hens, have had eggs for about 7 days, and only 9 eggs so far. I made some really slapped together nest boxes that someone has laid in once. I need to make better ones, and once the roosters are gone, close the girls in at night and let them out after sun up so that they have to start using the nest boxes. More incentive. Right now these birds are totally free range, and most eggs we find are in the dog house and in an open bag of pine shavings! If they wanted to they could all fly away in the middle of the night, but for the fact that some weird trance comes over them between 6:00pm and 4:15am. Note that this starts before dark and ends before sun up. Pretty wacky.

Here's an egg we got recently, so tiny! Next to a store-bought egg for comparison:

You know how roosters are loud? They're really loud. Under your bedroom window. At 4:15am. In stereo. Thirty of 'em. Time for chicken soup.

Um, what other critters... cattle! We hired some cowboys (really) to come and round up our cattle for us, load some to take to auction, and teach us how to worm them. Being newbies and working with poorly managed pastures which we have not had the time or money to fix, these girls have definitely gotten worms. As we move into a greater understanding of organic management practices we'd like to move away from the wormers. The stuff we chose actually is acceptable under the USDA organic beef regulations but it is still a drug.

So we sold 6 bull calves and a cow with a broken leg. We now have 6 cows, a heifer calf and a bull. I am pretty sure one of the mamas is pregnant, but they are all in rough shape due to the worms and having REALLY big calves nursing. I watched a 15 month old calf nursing off one cow a few weeks ago. In managed herds the calves are weaned at 6 months. We have zero cross fencing on the range they use, so there is zero management. After we finish the goat fencing, the next project is a cattle corral so we can begin to manage these animals better.

Here is one of the calves last November, right after a good milking session. Look at all that cream on his face!

Wednesday the guys came back and tried to load the old bull who was sick and dying. They barely got him in the trailer and then he couldn't get up again. They won't take him at auction like that. So we had to make the hard decision to kill him. :-(

There sure are some hard edges to this real life we are learning to live.

We bought a new young bull who is just a beauty. He is younger than some of the calves we sold. His youth will help keep him close and allow us to work with him to keep him gentle.

So on to goats! We have made definite progress in our strivings toard goat ownership recently. The rain has done dastardly things to our plans. Since Stephen has to keep working at his off farm job, most major farm work has to happen on the weekend, and it has rained for 6 weekends in a row. We also picked a most frightful place to put one side of the fence. Well, at least from the perspective of what is under the soil.... rocks!! Very very hard to get t-posts into a bed of rocks and clay. Stephen has been banging these 5 foot t-posts in manually. Actually, they are longer than that out of the gorund... they are 5' when they are installed. I tried to do it, and couldn't even lift the post driver over my head, on a stool. But he prevailed and as of today we have almost all the posts in that need to go in, so the hardest part is done. Now we just need to attach the wire, which should be do-able this weekend. A few days ago we visited Snowy and Sylvester, the two goats we are buying. They sure are funny looking! LaManchas are pretty unusual in appearance. And sweet as can be!

Dogs: There seems to be some inexplicable attraction of the doghouse to our daughter. A few weeks ago I was searching everywhere for her and finally found her standing on the dog house, barefoot. Yesterday I was looking for her and asked Farmer Boy where she was. "In the dog house. " Silly me.

Luke, Fred and Molly have found their peace with one another. Molly came back into heat, but Fred is just too ancient and exhausted to do anything. He must be Alpha Male, because Molly shows no interest in Luke. Since Fred is not willing to coooperate with Molly, Molly just hops on Fred and gets out her frustration.

Hank the horse stepped on Molly's paw a few days ago. She bled pretty badly at first but it didn't break. She limps every once in a while and favors it, but she can still run with the boys.

While the Horse Whisperer and I were attending to Molly's paw, I saw something odd out the kitchen window and did a double take. Here's what I saw:

Yup, that's a rooster swimming in the pool. Big oops! I like to think it went something like this:

"Ooh, maybe there's something delicious up there." Flap flap flap... "WHOAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!" Splash! "Hey, what the... help! Get me out of here! Heyyyyyyy!!!"

He was cold and wet so we wrapped him up in a towel, and put him in the nice heated bathroom to dry off.

And Miss Kitty...

I didn't write about this because I didn't want to face it... our cat didn't come home. She didn't come home after she followed the kids and Stephen on a long walk to the other side of the property . That night there was a big rainstorm. Well, she didn't come home for a long time. I finally realized she was gone for good. Two weeks after we lost her, Stephen and the kids went for a walk up the road. They came to a neighbor's whom we haven't met. Somehow during the conversation S mentioned we'd lost a cat. "Is this it?" the guy asked... and there she was! She had gotten lost way up on the other side of our property, and his tom cat had found her and brought her home. The back of their land abutts ours at one place. So Snugglebug is home. :-)

Here she is at 8 weeks old:

And now:

I adore this cat!

If you've made it this far, you must be one weary traveler. If you were here I'd boil some water for a cup of spicy Good Earth tea, and we'd sit on the couch and drink tea and eat chocolate chip cookies (assuming my family has left some in the cookie jar). Since you're not, I'll just say "Cheers!" from here, and imagine you making yourself a cuppa. :-) Happy day to you!

Monday, February 21, 2005

It's a nice day here in Texas; in the seventies, and we have our windows open.

About an hour ago, I was in the office, and I heard a strange noise out front. The kids are out with Stephen, so I knew it couldn't be them (the usual source of strange noises). I look out the dining room window and see:

Yes, that is a rooster eating dog food.

And where are the dogs?

Watching him.

Guess I need to buy a different brand of dog food.

Mr. Teen Roo apparently went off to the back and had this chat with his buddies:

"Guess what I did?"
"I went to the front."
"The FRONT!?" Young hens start to look him up and down appreciatively.
"And I ate the dogs' food!"
"They didn't chase you?"
"Nah, I'm too much rooster for them. They were too scared to bother me. Farmer lady looked out the window too, and she made a funny cackling noise, then there were lots of clicks, but she was too amazed by me to shoo me away."
"What's it like?"
"The front?"
"No, the dog food!"
"Aw, man, you should taste it... it's smoooooth."
"Come on let's do it!"
"No, you, do it!"
"Well, let's go TOGETHER!"

And so they did...