Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Creative hens

Our free range chickens missed the orientation in which we gave tours of the nest boxes in the chicken house. They prefer more interesting locations to lay their eggs:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Farm Dog vs. Lap Dog

When I was a kid, our beagle had puppies. This was a highly monitored event. My mom got a big box and lined it with clean blankets and put it in the kitchen. When the dog started giving birth late in the night, we got up to watch, and got up several times throughout the night. We made sure they were free of their sacks, and that their mom licked them and that they nursed. Those puppies were adored! When they got older, my mom put an old playpen in the living room and we put them in there to romp. We loved taking them outside and rolling around with them.

Fast forward to today. Molly and Luke do not come in the house, unless it is really cold or stormy, and then only in the laundry room. They swim in the pond and roll in the dirt (and in Molly's case other more fragrant brown patches). We have not had Molly fixed because we thought someday we might breed her. She is a full-blood Australian Shepherd, which are extremely smart animals, and very helpful as farm dogs.

I am an advocate of spaying and neutering in general. When we first got a cat on the farm, Farmer Boy and I did a little math project in which we determined how many cats would born from our female over 10 years if she had five kittens a year, and each of them had five each year. It was astounding (if I remember correctly it was over a million). We spayed the cat, and Luke came to us neutered. It is much easier to control a female farm dog's reproductive life than a male's.

Nevertheless, this time we had a surprise, albeit a welcome one. We had been discussing getting a livestock guardian dog for the goats, and now Molly has seen fit to birth two! We will have to see if they end up with stronger herding or guarding instincts. I am hoping for the latter as I'd like to put one with the dairy goats (we have five now, and babies due in the next month), and have one to put with the meat goats we will be getting in the near future.

Thinking back to those days of squeaky clean beagle puppies, I have to laugh. It took a great deal of convincing to get Molly to come out of the dog house so I could put a clean blanket in there AFTER she gave birth (you would not believe the condition of the one she actually birthed on). Later I went out and she had moved it aside so the babies were on the bare dirty floor. Even with more clean blankets she is tracking loads of dirt in every time she goes out and returns. We did not see either baby born, nor did we ensure she licked them or nursed them or any other good veterinary suggestion. She just did it.

It's not that we don't love our animals, we just have a very different relationship. In some ways it may be healthier for all of us.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I did not expect to be blogging about this so soon.

Introducing Molly's new babies...

Back in December, Molly was clearly in heat. Luke is fixed, so can't become a daddy. But this cycle, for the first time, a Great Pyrenees from up the road showed up. Molly and Luke kept chasing him off, but he managed to get Molly to let him mate... both Farmer Boy and I saw it. I watched her and she didn't seem like she was pregnant, until Monday, my first chance to really love on her since we got back from our trip. I noiced that her nipples were quite engorged and deduced she'd be having babies soon. I didn't realize HOW soon!

Tuesday, when Farmer Boy came in from his chores, I asked him if he'd noticed how swollen her "breasts" were. He said, "I didn't see her." That struck me as odd, until {oh!} "Put your boots back on and find her... check the dog houses; she may be having puppies already!"

Shortly thereafter, the children's squeals of delight from the front told me that she had indeed been busy! :-) Molly had one BIG baby girl (you can tell her daddy is a big boy) by 9:45 Tuesday morning. I could tell she had more coming throughout the day, but she never seemed really agitated. By nightfall she still had only one. I was a little bit worried until I googled it and learned that dogs can go up to 24 hours between birthing puppies. Sure enough, Wednesday morning we had another puppy, a little boy this time. This morning, Thursday, we're still at 2, so I think she's done. They are quite big for a dog her size, so I suspect she only was able to carry two of them.

We are greatly enjoying having new babies around again!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Morning view

This is what I saw as I stood at my kitchen sink this morning to begin breakfast preparations...

The fog hovering in the valley, the calf nursing, the knowledge that I am looking at our own trees on the horizon, the rainbow painted in bold horizontal swaths... I am so undeserving of this view, and the intricate and precious blessings that surround me at every moment.

One of the many gifts of this farm is how present we are to the miracle of life. There is less to distract us, and the boldness and beauty of God's creation is more in our face every moment. We are also aware of the constancy of change. That view is gone now, but in that fleeting moment of its gift, I was called to stop and be fully present to the moment.

Stop today. Breathe in the fullness of the life that you have been given. Open your eyes to see the beauty right in front of you. Engage fully with someone you love. Today is all we have. Worship the Lord with your full presence in His world.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Blogging break

You may have noticed that I have not been keeping up with my 10 minutes a day of writing. That's because the kids and I went away for a vacation to balmy Pennsylvania (where 37 was the highest temperature during our visit). I took a break from everything, even e-mail, and it was HEAVENLY!

We visited dear friends for the week... it was so refreshing, both physically and spiritually. I have some great pictures of the baby in a snowsuit. SO cute! I'll post them when I get the camera dock hooked back up to the computer.

While we were gone Stephen was a busy boy, not only working his full-time off-farm job, but making some major progress on some of our big projects. I'll have pictures of those too.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Room with a view

This morning I was standing in the kitchen drinking my tea, looking out the window at this happy domestic scene:

On the right you can see cattle circled around some food. There are chickens smattered across the center. On the far left are Joe the horse, Ruth the mule and Dominic the donkey. Stephen is standing holding the baby, with The Princess right next to him. The dogs are to the right of Stephen.

I realize at this small scale things are hard to see, but I think you can get a sense of how peaceful and happy this view was for me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sick horse

Poor Joe got colic today. Stephen found him lying on the ground partially entangled in some fencing.

Sad, sick Joe then had to be walked for hours until he felt himself again. Seems his tummy just couldn't handle the fresh rye grass growing in the pasture he was moved to last night.

But now, according to Stephen, "He's fine. Walking around. So you can say that your superhero husband saved a horse's life."

The man thrives on emergency.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Non sequitur

Driving from ballet to gymnastics today, the van was quiet when this conversation sprung up...

Princess: "I always try to be nice to Farmer Boy. Non sequitur."
Mama: "What?!"
Princess: "I always try to be nice to Farmer Boy. Non sequitur."
Mama: "Non sequitur?"
Princess: "Yes."
Mama: "Where did you learn non sequitur?"
Princess: "From you."
Mama: "What does it mean?"
Princess: (thinks for a moment) "Well, you know, if we were driving along and talking about ballet and I suddenly said 'I like going to bible study on Thursdays', well, that would be a non sequitur."
Mama: "Yes, it would. Yes, it would."

She's five. Look out world!

Inspiring Quote

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." (Scott Adams)

The Princess (age 5) on Organized Sports

"I really like being a goalie for baseball."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Farmer Boy is 10

My baby has hit the double digits!

Farmer Boy turned 10 today. His party theme was "Whacky Games". The kids played Crazy Auto Race, Coconut Bowling (coconut for a ball and milk jugs for pins), 3-legged Race, Noodle Baseball (pool noodle for a bat and beach ball), Balloon Soccer, and Stuff the Shirt (in one minute stuff as many balloons as possible up a big shirt you are wearing).

3-Legged race:

Noodle Baseball:

Stuff the Shirt:

The cake was a joint Mama/Farmer Boy creation:

He conceived the castle and implemented it himself (those are candy legos). All I did was bake the cakes and make the grass, moat, bridge and road. He also laid out the figures, put "crocodiles" in the moat, and created the jousting ring and dragon jail.

Stephen observed that it was the first interactive cake he had experienced. With each slice of cake, new drama unfolded on the scene. Falling walls received the most enthusiastic "audience" response. Observe how the dragon has broken free from its jail cell and wrought havok...

Happy birthday, sweet son. We are so proud of you, in so many ways!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Egg Faceoff

Today I made fried eggs for everyone for breakfast. I had only one farm egg for Stephen so I also used one store bought egg I had. What a difference just to look at! Our egg was so pretty; the store-bought egg was pale and icky looking. I noticed that even the white was tinted yellow, which indicates that what little color WAS in the yolk was helped artificially. It is a sadly common practice to add colorants to a factory farm hen's diet.

Here was Stephen's culinary assessment:

"The yolks have a distinctive difference... there's a taste I've never noticed before, and it's in the store bought egg, and it's not a good taste. The whites have the same taste - nothing - but the consistency of ours is much better. The store bought one is kinda more synthetic rubbery. Perhaps comparable to bubble wrap."

I didn't know he'd eaten bubble wrap before.