Saturday, July 30, 2011

Corn, Heat & Mishaps

The kitchen is in major production mode now. The first wave of corn has arrived. This is a new variety for us called Bodacious. Honestly, these ears are the surprise of the season. The stalks looked spindly and malnourished, despite our efforts to keep the weeds down and keep everything watered. But low and behold, we will actually have some to freeze. And that has to happen very quickly after they are picked.
Another surprise was a few cantelopes. These aren't very big but are sweet and edible. This is our first success with cantelope. Previous years have been a bust.
The heat has been tough on everyone. The girls enjoy their pool on occasion. They can't have it all of the time or they'll rot the hair off their legs.
The boys were fighting and dumped the trashcan in the barn. Gabriel ended up with a cat food can stuck to his foot. He didn't get cut or anything, just stressed out because of the can and the heat. Got the can off his foot and hosed him down. The heat is really tough on the animals, even with 10 buckets of water and 7 fans going.
That's the latest news from the ranch...Here's a video from a typical lazy afternoon.

Ya know, you can stop by. Just give us a call.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Goings On

The chickens have been growing and enjoying life. We still have the original 12 chicks from May. Everyone wants to know when the eggs will come. The internet says either September or October. In the meantime, they are enjoying a free-range diet, eating fruit and veggie leavings, pellet chicken feed, oyster shell scratch, and whatever they find in the garden.
A few hawks from the treeline have been cruising the area the past few days, but the headcount has remained the same. At night the birds go back into their condo, which is sealed on all sides by either wire or wood and roost for the night, safe from raccoons.
During the day, the birds seem to like hanging out under the protection of the sunflowers.
The birdhouse gourds are doing just fine. Do we know how to make birdhouses out of these things? No. They are pretty cool though.
This morning brought more pickles. That's celebrity chef Rocco on the salt box. Rocco didn't come help with the pickle making this morning. I have 6 jars so far this season and am hoping to get at least 12. These are bread and butter pickles. Last year I slaved over several varieties and ended up throwing out a bunch because they were awful. This recipe is a keeper (from the Ball Blue Book...the preserving Bible).
Oh Food Processor...How I do love thee. How did I manage with my box grater last year? Then the "Christmas of Appliances" came in 2010, where the Farmer went crazy and bought me a food processor, a Magic Bullet, an Immersion Blender and a dehydrator. I processed a bunch of zuch into 2 Cup bags in 10 minutes with this baby.
On the alpaca front, Woody (foreground) is banished from the girls' side of the barn because he thinks he is Mr. Studmuffin and is causing problems. Chief (rear) is whipping him into shape.
So that is our version of crazy for now. If you're in the 'hood please stop by and see the babies. They're growing fast!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My How We've Grown

It only seems like it was two weeks ago because it was. Mother's Day weekend we came back from the PAOBA show in York to greet our new baby chickens, only a few days old. You can check out our "Peep Show" at the link below.

They certainly went from little puff balls to minature chickens in a hurry. We had to split them up because they got big in a hurry. It wasn't long before they decided to start roosting...sitting right on top of their feeder, relieving themselves at will. So down to the barn I went to find materials for roosting bars. 1/2" PVC pipe and a couple of triangle stands was just the ticket.

Jo found out today that they're doing serious flight training already. She took one of wire tops off the container to change their water. Coming back she found one perched on the top looking around. It was about 2 feet off the floor. Note to self...keep the cages on.

Well, it looks like we have about 6 more weeks of brooding before we can transfer them to their chicken condo,made ready by the farmer weeks before they arrived. Stay tuned for more chicken drama...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The garden experiment continues with a late but earnest attempt to grow potatoes in tires. Last year's misadventure ended with a total of 3 potatoes being harvested. They were delicious, but not the motherload we had hoped for.

We are trying a new spot with hopefully better drainage this year. We laid down some landscape fabric, deposited the tires, filled halfway with dirt/compost, and placed 4-5 cut spud eye hunks (eye side up) in the dirt and cover. This is what the "internet" says to do. And of course, if the internet says it, then it must be so.

Once the leaves get 2-3 inches tall, you add a tire and some more dirt. We're hoping that August will bring more starch than you can shake a stick at.

Meanwhile, the brooder is complete and will be delivered to our chick picker-upper, Gary, this Saturday. With all of the drama and rendezvous-ing of a spy thriller, Gary will pick up our chick order from Albright's Feed Mill in Kempton, bring them to his house in Mohrsville, and I will pick them up on May 6. We have 3 Rhode Island Reds, 3 Barred Rocks, 3 Araucanas, and 3 Buff Orpingtons. All are brown egg layers, except the Araucanas which lay green/blue eggs.

I have no experience in fowl. Len has no experience in fowl except for KFC. The internet says that keeping the chicks clean and warm are the most important things at their tender age. And if the internet says it, it must be true. I hope they live, but the reason we got 12 chicks is that there may be some casualties. The casualties are the reason I have not agreed to chickens up to this point. We have 4 hawks that live in the treeline nearby, racoons and I'm sure other nasty varmints I don't even know about. Once they get feathers, the chickens will be housed in the chicken tractor that will be towed about the property so that they get fresh stuff chickens like to eat, don't trash out one area, and stay safe.

Most of the alpacas are enjoying their summer haircuts. Leah and Woody (center) look cool and comfortable. Flirtation and Sonya (white ones on the right) are expecting babies in June. The vet felt it was not a good idea to shear them so close to their due dates. So we're waiting until the babies come and will have the shearer come back to finish. The show animals (Jewel...the white one in the back and can just see her butt) will be shorn at the State show in York on Mother's Day.

It's a busy time here. Lots to do...which means job security.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Farmer's Desk

(Warning: Post contains vivid descriptions of a weekend of bodily fluids) My desk. Antibiotics on the right for me. Anti-diarrheal on the left for her...We arrived at the Mid-Atlantic Alpaca Show in Harrisburg last Thursday for a 3-day show. Three alpacas from our farm along with our buddies from Almosta Ranch, The Alpaca Cottage, and Sunrose Alpacas. They had sod on the floors of the stalls and we reckon that between her eating the sod and nerves from being away from home, it wrecked havoc on her digestive system. Alpaca "poo" is commonly described as "beans"--looking very much like the name suggests. Anything other than the bean presentation is not normal and suggests something is awry. Poor Jewel went through so many stages of stomach unrest in 48 hours, finally ending with a full blown tidal wave. Fortunately, she had already garnered a red ribbon and was not being shown anymore when that happened. After using various remedies after a call to the vet, a cow doctor (and alpaca farmer who was at the show from Quarryville) came to our rescue with Diarsanyl--a kind of Pepto-Bismal for dogs, foals and calves...and alpacas. It stopped the flow and all was well. During all of this, I got a particularly bad case of bronchitis and ended up at the doc myself. What a weekend.
"Nothing's wrong with our poo," says Leah and her baby Woody.

Over 80 bales...that's what we went through since late August, 2010. We were down to a mere 8 bales, which certainly won't get ya through until second cutting (the good stuff) in June. Enter Alan the hay farmer. Alan grows the good stuff that gets us through the months when the pastures are no more. He's one of the good guys, taking pity on my illness and delivering a measly 20 bales to get us through.I waited for Alan by the coldframe which is surrounded by straw bales in contractors garbage bags. We surrounded the frames with them, which kept things nice and toasty for little plants. The bales also double as a farmer's chaise lounge. I figured that it looked like a good thing to do. Sit and wait for Alan, drink my water, and get some sun. It also invited Stella...a great barn cat who also doubles as a great "people" cat.

Muck boots and cat feet.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's Day 2011

Now who'da thunk we'd wake up to this..

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Second String

This is our son Max. A college student at Millersville. Musician. Historian. Farmer. He even wove this scarf for his girlie.

The elder Farmer and I are the second string gardeners whilst Max is at school. He created a calendar marked with the dates of when all of the various garden varieties must be planted. We get our instructions on a weekly basis. This week, it was cucumbers, eggplant and beets. After consulting with Max, we decided to hold off on the beets for another week due to threat of continued cold weather. My aging body was grateful for this decision.
We did however start onions (that was a decision by his younger brother and I while grocery shopping and seeing a basket of red onion sets). We've never grown onions before, and after some consultation on the internet it seems that onions from sets don't hold up that well over time. So these (if they actually grow) will be consumed or dehydrated. Ended up getting one row and a few extras, marked with part of a plastic milk jug and a Sharpie.
Then the eggplants and slicing cucumbers went into the little coldframe made with salvaged windows, wood, and lined with silver insulation. It is surrounded by straw bales sealed in contractor's garbage bags for added warmth. I was pleasantly surprised how warm it was in there. Hopefully these will grow too.

Okay, we hedged our bet a little. Here are the pickling cucumbers in the house under the grow light. That's the celery next to it. I discovered that celery takes 5 months to grow. It's kind of spindly and needs to be transplanted to the next size pot. I dunno. This is an experiment.

In other news, work on the chicken house continues. It will be under roof by tomorrow.

And some things grow without our help at all. Here are some lettuce shoots reappearing from last year's seeds. Awesome. We found that growing lettuce on the deck in pots is the way to go. You can use up one pot while the next one is growing. Works much better than mass plantings in the bigger garden.

And fortunately daffodils don't need any help at all.

The lavender survived the winter. We're really liking lavender. It needs little care other than minimal pruning and harvesting, looks nice and does well in our nasty clay soil.

And never letting us down...chives given to us by our fellow alpaca farmer friend, Jodi Dominick of Sunrose Alpacas. Ever faithful chives.

The "second string gardeners" await our next instructions. Enough for one day...