Farm News Round-up

Wow!  So, I blinked and it has been most of a month since I wrote anything here!  A lot has happened in that time, although I personally have been mainly nursing a growing baby, and doing school with Liam.  In fact, I got Ewan to sleep so I could write this, and got as far as the word "personally" before he woke up - he's been ravenous recently, and just falls asleep long enough to trick me into putting him down, then wakes up and eats again.  He's now asleep again, on my chest, while I type over/around him on my wonderful wireless keyboard (what a lifesaver!).  He's around 15 pounds now, at 7 1/2 weeks, so he's a healthy eater :)  Liam has been doing well with his home-schooling, I'm starting off simple with just first grade math (which I think he may complete by Christmas), writing, and ASL with both him and Malachi.   He's also reading really well now (he just read "distinguished" with no help), so I count that as all the rest of school.  He's discovered the Magic Treehouse series, and can finish one in about a day - and they are fairly accurate overviews of subjects like dinosaurs, mummies, and knights, all kinds of things really, all educational in my opinion.  He's also pretty good about reading to Malachi, which is both reading practice, and really helpful to me :)

Back to the farm side of things - we have finally had some help in the last few weeks.  We had a pair of WWOOFers for about a week and a half, and they got a lot done.  They pretty thoroughly weeded the garden and the hoophouse, which had gotten a little out of hand with me unable to work.  The woman is a spinner, so we were able to get into some fiber, skirting a fleece, carding another, and making some dryer balls (I'm planning to post separately in a few days, with a fiber update, so look for more details then).  Then, immediately after they left, we got another WWOOFer, who is still here and is hopefully staying for a couple of months.  He's also been very helpful, he previously worked on a goat farm that milked and made cheese and soap on a relatively large scale, so he's the first WWOOFer I've had that could truly milk a goat.  We've had several that said they'd milked before, but it turned out to be more accurate to say they'd pulled on a goat teat before :)  Or they'd worked at a goat dairy, but it was fully mechanized and they'd never actually hand-milked.

Caleb had to go back to work two weeks ago, which was disappointing to all involved - except of course his co-workers - but we're adjusting pretty well.  I'm fully healed, and even back to wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes, so it's all pretty normal around here again.  In the last week of Caleb's vacation, though, we had a visit from his uncle and family who generously lent 8 helping hands on the farm for a day.  The guys got most of the lumber planed for the siding on the newest addition (and rode in the firetruck!), and us women worked on fleece, shelling dried beans, holding a baby, and a few other things.  That week, Caleb and the first WWOOFers got the boards of the board-and-batten installed on the addition, and hopefully the current WWOOFer can help him get the battens cut and nailed up this next weekend (this weekend is looking to be mostly stacking hay in the barn as it is delivered, 130 bales takes a while to put in place).

I am very happy to report good news in the alpaca world here over the last several weeks.  As I mentioned, we've been weighing the crias to monitor their weight gains, and it's paying off, both for their health and for my curiosity.  Loretta, the beautiful little black one, has been gaining impressively on her mother alone, averaging between 5 and 8 ounces a day.  Kenny, the white deaf one that started out gaining too slowly, is continuing to gain well with supplementation.  This past week we didn't give him a bottle for three days, then weighed him, and his gain had dropped from 4.5 oz a day to only 2, so we know for sure that he needs the extra milk, and went back to giving him a morning bottle.  Bonnie, the oldest red cria, is also doing really well, her weigh-in this morning showed a 9 oz/day gain over the last 3 days, and 10 oz when averaged over the last week!  She's actually started drinking more than she had been, she's finally figuring out that being caught and having something shoved in her mouth is a good thing, and isn't quite as rebellious about it as she had been.

We have good and bad news about the cows - we had two calves born about 2 days apart, but infuriatingly, the first one was killed by the steer (or whoever is doing it) that killed the goat kids earlier this summer.  The calf was a beautiful gray little boy, although he wasn't real vigorous when Caleb found him, and by the afternoon he had a broken neck :(  It's especially frustrating because this was Madeline's first calf, and she was doing great, especially for her first time, and she got so unfairly robbed of her baby.  I'd been looking forward to Madeline's calf to see what color it was, since she's a striking chocolate-black with red tipping, and I was right - she made a gorgeous little one :(  The second calf has fared much better, never leaving Darcy's side, and is thriving and apparently not a target anymore.  That steer is getting butchered this coming Thursday, so hopefully that will fix the problem - although the only way to actually verify this is negatively, with another loss.  

Thursday, Jacob (the WWOOFer) and I experimented with something I'd been curious about ever since reading about it last year - we made okra-seed coffee.  It's non-caffeinated, of course, which I actually prefer, and doesn't exactly taste like coffee, but it's a good drink.  I think that, with more experience roasting the seeds, it could be made to taste much more like coffee - the trial batch definitely had the flavor of burnt popcorn kernels, but was still good and got a "better than chicory" rating from Jacob.  I think next year, I'll grow a patch of okra just for going to seed - I grew a new variety (Buck's Big, or something like that) this year that is very fat, but gets tough quickly, and has to be harvested at about 3" or less for eating.  If left to go to seed, though, they get huge and would yield more than my long skinny Red Burgundy.  

The garden is finishing up - we're basically harvesting okra, watermelon, a few winter squash (all volunteer this year) and the occasional cantaloupe at this point.  The Hopi Blue corn is doing well, but won't be dry for a while.  The plants are starting to brown on the leaf tips, so I'm confident it'll all be mature and dried before frost.  With WWOOFer help, the garden has been weeded, and Caleb and Jacob have been spreading black plastic on the beds that seem to be the worst seed banks for weeds, to solarize them (cook everything dead!).  We still need to either mulch or cover crop anything that will be left open for the winter - which I think will be most of it this year.  With a new baby and homeschooling, I just don't think it's wise to try to do too much, and the garden is very demanding at the beginning.  Things have to be planted on a timetable, and then watered and watered, and if it's not done at the right time everything can be lost.  That's very difficult to accomplish with 3 demanding little (to medium) ones around!  I'll still try to put in some things in the hoophouse - a bit of spinach and kale for us, at the very least - and get back into the swing of things this spring...

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