News Roundup

Well, I did it again, it;s been a month and more since I posted.  It turns out a new baby, starting homeschool, and all the regular farm business don't allow much time for anything else, especially something as "frivolous" as writing!  So - Ewan's nursing, looks to be in it for the long haul, so I'll give this a shot...

I'll try to sum up the last month in one post.  I'd like to say I'll come back soon and expound on something or another, but to be honest, I doubt that, so I'll do what I can now.

Let's see - in no particular order:

I've been knitting, spinning, and carding, coming into the fall and winter, for both personal and commission projects.

We had our fall goat roundup, sorting out mamas, boys for sale, and non-breeding girls, and doing maintenance healthcare on them all.

We put the ewes back in the pasture with the ram, so we should have lambs in another 5 months.

School has been going well for Liam (and Malachi - he loves the solo time when Liam's not bossing him around), as has Ewan's growing.

The gardens are largely in shape for the winter, and the hoophouse is still producing nicely.

We still have our intern, Jacob, and I think he's planning to stay until about the end of the month.  

We butchered a steer and sold a yearling heifer calf, and have a total of 4 of this year's calves now, with one more still expected.  

I'm giving a soap-making workshop tomorrow (with pony rides!) for a local homeschool group.

We still have all 3 alpaca cria, and are continuing to track their growth - so far so good.

As of this last week, we finally finished milking Katydid the goat.

Caleb and Jacob got the siding on the house addition completed, right down to the clear finish!

We had a nice visit with Grandma and Grandpa in mid-October, which facilitated getting the house cleaner than it's been in a long time!

We got our winter's supply of hay laid up, and because of the drought have already started feeding it - but many around us have been feeding hay for months so our mob-grazing is paying off.  

It is a good Autumn Olive year, so Thursday I got 10 pints of jam canned.

Oh yeah - and we picked up 3 stray kittens, all sweet little boys, solid black. The kids love playing with and just watching them :)

Wow!  Once I lay it all out, I realize why I've been a little frazzled recently.  It has been a lifesaver having Jacob here, he's keeping the day-to-day things caught up, and helping with larger projects on the weekends.  I feel like I'm getting barely anything done compared to even when I was almost disablingly pregnant, but then I realize just how much of my time is spent nursing  (Ewan was 16+ lbs at his 3 month checkup), doing laundry, helping with schoolwork, and cooking/cleaning the kitchen.  I always try to cook really well when we have interns, since (aside from the education received, of course) that's how we pay them for their generous work.  With Jacob here, we were actually able to pick a big batch of Autumn Olive berries, and I got 10 pints canned, with another 1.5 leftover for immediate use in the fridge.  I've learned, after years of getting this wrong, that you should always have a jar's-worth left over - otherwise as soon as you finish canning those 7 or 10 jars that came out just exactly right, you want to try it, and have to open a just-painstakingly-canned-and-sealed jar of jam!  I'm especially excited about this jam, because the birds and deer just love the berries, and they fall off the trees when nice and ripe, so the last few years the trees have been absolutely bare when I finally go to pick some.  And, they have a distinct tannin content, so many years even when the berries are there, they are quite bitter (think unripe persimmon), and that even comes through in the jam (trust me, it doesn't cook out!).  I'm hoping to get one more round picked and jammed (I'd like to try using chia seeds and honey this time, like I did with strawberries this spring, rather than pectin and loads of sugar) before it's too late.  Another good year might not come around for a while...

It's also that time of year when we have abundances of things finishing in the garden - pumpkins, greens, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, etc - so I've been making pumpkin granola bars, cookies, pies, puddings, sweet potato biscuits, etc.  (Hopefully we don't all turn orange...)  Oh yeah - and cakes!  Every Wednesday for 3 weeks!  My birthday was Oct. 12, and on a whim I decided to make myself a real birthday cake (mostly because I had a brilliant idea for one suited to me - a pumpkin-spice yarn cake, I'll put a picture of all of these in the newly added "Family" photo gallery since my phone won't size them down for the blog) for our Wednesday potluck.  Then, Malachi's birthday was a week later, on the 20th, so I made him a cake (a construction zone dirt cake) as well as hosting the potluck as his birthday party.  (Malachi didn't see me grind up the Oreo cookies first, so as I starting spreading the first layer of very realistic "dirt" on the pudding, he said, in an I'm-not-questioning-you-but... way, "So... people... can... eat dirt?") Then, the next week's potluck was Halloween-themed, so I spent the day making costumes and yet another cake, a graveyard this time (a pumpkin pudding dirt cake with Milano cookies stuck in on end) and used Q-tips (mini-marshmallows on toothpicks dipped in peanut butter) and used Band-Aids (Those rectangular waffle-print sugar wafers, with a smear of cream cheese and a little dollop of pomegranate jelly in the center).  Disgustingly perfect :)  This past Wednesday it was such a relief to just cook up a big batch of beet greens!

  When I'm not cooking, cleaning, nursing, or making cakes, I've been carding wool, spinning yarn, or knitting.  Actually, I'm usually knitting even when I'm nursing :)  I've had a couple of commissions (felted sheep, puppy ears for Halloween), and in early October the farmers market set up on the Sewanee campus on Parents' Weekend, and I sold around $300 in knitted things, so I've been restocking from that.  I also got a deer hat complete with ears and antlers made for Ewan (old photo of one in the knitting gallery), and even though he'd said no when asked previously, as soon as Malachi saw it he wanted one himself, so that's now on my to-knit list.  I'm also working on a little newscap for Ewan, and starting the first of hopefully a set of Christmas gift surprises for the boys (assuming I like how this first one turns out, and I have the time).  I also keep forgetting I need to make Ewan a Christmas stocking before the end of December...

Last weekend Caleb and Jacob got the sheep moved back into the pasture with Hatchet the ram, so they can get their business done and make us some more sheep this spring.  He's very glad to see them - we separated him from the ewes and goats in early July, not so much to avoid breeding the sheep since they are very seasonal and don't come into heat until late fall, but to avoid breeding the goats.  While it's extremely uncommon but possible to get a "geep", it's much more likely that the ram will breed the goat does, who will then abort the usually-unviable baby (they have differing numbers of chromosomes), and end up not being bred for the year.  We wouldn't know until spring, when some goat mamas could potentially not kid as expected.  So, poor Hatchet has spent the summer with only Fiona the mini-horse as company.  They actually are quite companionable - one day Fiona was standing around whinnying over and over, and we finally realized she couldn't find Hatchet.  She started trotting around the pasture, found him, and settled down to hang out with her buddy :)

In mid-October, we had a steer butchered, the one that was killing the goats and that one calf.  We got the right one, once he went off to freezer camp we combined the cow and goat herds, and there hasn't been a death since.  I'm really glad it was him and not the new bull!  Last weekend we sold Anne, a yearling heifer.  We've noticed over the last year that she'd been staying very small, even for a Highland.  She was probably half the size of the other yearlings, and we didn't want to let her breed with a full-size bull and possibly have trouble with calving if she doesn't grow much more.  We sold her as a mini-Highland, to a really nice homesteading, homeschooling family that will use her for a dairy cow.  Highlands are supposed to make wonderful milk, so I hope they enjoy her!

Speaking of milk, we finally dried off Katydid right at the end of the month.  I've been very impressed with her milking - she milked longer and more productively than any of my other goats, and without babies to keep up her supply by demanding more all day long, and with us trying (half-heartedly, because the milk sure is nice to have) to dry her off for the last 3 months.  She finally was down to 3 cups every 2 days, then 3 days, then 5, and yesterday she didn't feel full after 5 days so I think she's good to go.

Yesterday was our annual fall goat roundup, where we sort out the last of the boys for sale, as well as any cull does (just one this time, we sold the other 8 in May and July).  We also separate the spring girls, so they won't breed their first year - we have less infant losses and health/general condition issues, as well as higher rates of twins rather than single babies, if they don't kid until they are 2 years old.  As we do this sorting, we also trim hooves, check eyelids for anemia, check fur condition as a sign of overall health, give copper supplements, give all the yearlings that will be breeding for the first time a vaccine against chlamydia psittaci (that killed 40 of our 60 babies in 2013), and take detailed notes on all of this for future use.  We had a friend from Sewanee come help, so between her and Jacob and Caleb, it went lightyears faster than without the help - I had to wear Ewan so I wasn't good for much more than scribe/medicine prepper/gate handler/child "helper" coordinator :)

Also with Jacob's help, we've gotten the gardens fixed up a lot.  We planted one bed in the hoophouse with kale, carrots, spinach and radishes (I'm keeping it very small in anticipation of a winter without help, and with an infant), and he's kept it watered, the garden weeded, and is doing most of the harvesting.  We have carrots still coming in from this summer, a new bed planted in September about to mature, sweet potatoes ready (the largest so far is 6 lbs 12 oz, check out the photo in the Family gallery), beets just sizing up nicely, the okra is still going amazingly well for November!, and there's even the occasional watermelon still!  The hoophouse has been really helpful this fall - with the mild weather (it was 80* last week!) we've had a couple of nights with frost in the pastures, but not enough to hurt anything in the hoophouse.  The figs are wonderful this year, we've been harvesting a few at a time for a couple of months now, and last week we had enough for me to make a goat cheese, caramelized fig, and rosemary tart that was amazing!  We took some cuttings from the figs to propagate some more, I'd love a whole row of them down the hoophouse, enough to make some jam or pies, or even dry!  I've also been periodically roasting, pureeing and freezing any pumpkins that show signs of not storing well (bug damage, etc), and as I said using the puree prolifically.  

All in all, we've been pretty busy, but between Caleb's time off for my C-section, and having a good long-term intern, I feel like we've been getting to do things we often don't because we're always trapped by "have-to" things, and don't have time to even get to "should" things, much less "want-to's"!  Also, we've had the manpower to do things better (like weighing the alpaca crias - consistently - or taking fig cuttings, or foraging berries for jam or sumac for "lemonade", or watering well, or weeding consistently...)  We've actually gotten a year-end herb harvest dried, the dried corn is getting shucked and shelled and stored now rather than mid-winter, the strawberry beds are getting redone, and my garlic planting should go much faster than the last time I tried with an infant (when Malachi was a baby, it took me from early October until dusk on December 31st in a 40* drizzle - I was determined to finish before the new year!)  So, even though I feel pretty close to overwhelmed, it's because we've been able to do more than usual this summer/fall, and as Ewan gets older and Liam gets more used to the school routine, it should only get easier :)  




Yes, seeing all this written down is pretty amazing. How wonderful to see some of it up close and personal. Miss you all.

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