Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."


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Treats and surprises of all shapes and sizes

Biggest news first—we have goat babies! Ella had been moaning and groaning since last Friday and so we’d kept them all in the stall and had been watching and listening to her via goat cam (otherwise known as a video baby monitor), but not much else was going on besides noisy goat-ness. This Friday I woke up after a hard night with Joseph and was told that both Daddy and Isaiah thought she was going to have her babies that day, but Isaiah was upstairs and everyone else was eating breakfast and no one was out with Ella. I couldn’t see or hear her on the monitor, so I pulled on some jeans and a sweater and slipped my bare feet into my shoes for a quick check. As I walked out the other goats were milling about and seemed agitated, but I assumed they were just tired of being in the stall. I saw Ella resting in the shelter and then, as I came closer, I saw something behind her. Then I recognized that it was a baby, completely enclosed in its amniotic sac and not moving as Ella sat there clueless. I ran in and yelled to the kids through the monitor to come quickly and to bring the birth kit. I broke open the sac and pulled out a skinny and entirely floppy black and white kid. I cleared its mouth and nose off as well as I could, held it upside down by its back legs and then started rubbing its neck and chest and talking to it “c’mon baby, you’re ok baby, breathe baby” again and again and again, praying and rubbing and talking and rubbing and talking. At some point I thought to bring it around to momma goat so she could help out, and she did, licking and licking and I rubbed and talked. I don’t have any idea how long it was, those odd adrenalin-saturated minutes, it may have been a couple of minutes, maybe more like fifteen…eternal…then, maybe a gurgle? maybe a front leg moved? More rubbing and talking, checking its mouth again for missed membrane. Ok, yes, a definite gurgle, a splutter, “good baby, good baby!” another prayer, more rubbing, now baby’s starting to move its head to the side, its eyes are open, good grief my legs are jelly! I laid the baby down and kept rubbing and talking until it was looking sufficiently resilient that I felt I could leave for a moment, then dashed back to the house to call the children (who were still not monitoring the monitor!) and to grab the birth kit. The children came out just as Ella was starting to yawn and strain to birth the next kid. A good-sized bubble appeared and I burst it with a piece of straw (an un-burst bag of waters had been my enemy just a moment before) and immediately regretted it in case the next kid needed the water to be able to reposition, but all was well and the second birth went smoothly—a quick clearing and right over to momma who now had the whole licking thing down pat. Excellent! We checked genders—the first was a girl and the second was a boy. Fantastic! And then she yawned again…Ella only had twins last year and I was looking forward to only having two this year as well. Surprise! Another girl!

With the exception of Angel, who was all white, the goats on the Acres have all been brown, so this little black and white girl was remarkable. Elijah kept trying to come up with a name that would emphasize her zebra-like coloring, but I happened to look down as he was suggesting and I saw this in her white belt instead:skunk

“or a skunk” I said. Everyone laughed. “We could call her Flower.” Everyone liked it. At some point we decided on Blossom for little sister and Elijah offered Bud for the boy. Perfect.

Flower

Flower, still getting a back rub as she was a little shaky and weak

Flower2 And for the sake of record-keeping:

Ella was due 5/23/2015, kidded 5/23/2015:

Flower, 6.5 lbs, abt 8:40

Bud, 7.5 lbs, abt 9:00

Blossom, 7 lbs, abt 9:10

Bud

Bud

Bud and Blossom

Bud and Blossom looking for milk

Spectators

Spectators and assistants in the maternity ward

Flower in her sweater

From left to right: Penny waiting to be milked, Jordan growing her new front teeth, Bethel caught mid-blink, Flower in her sweater (she finally stopped shivering) and Isaiah swatting flies double-fisted.

One more goat birth down and two more little girls…do we keep? do we sell? Time to get registered with the ADGA and learn to tattoo ears one way or the other!

Not to take too long a babymoon, my husband went out yesterday and bought about 175 lbs of cherries. We gave some away to friends and neighbors who have shared and helped us out, or who we thought might enjoy some cherries, but the kids and I processed close to 30 lbs yesterday and we must tackle the others over the next couple of days. All Saturday’s went into the freezer, but we also need to make some cherry butter/preserves and I think I’m going to try drying some as well. I don’t think that it’s physically possible for us to have so many cherries that we won’t blow through them well before next May arrives.

Other kitchen projects include a batch of Kimchi bubbling away in a very lively fashion in the cupboard and a batch of sauerkraut as well. The last batch of sauerkraut was awful…I didn’t monitor the brine well and, although the heremes jar prevented mold from forming, it didn’t prevent the cabbage from drying out and wrecking the batch. I also made rhubarb butter. Note for the future: ½ cup sugar+2 Tablespoons of SteviaPlus is too sweet for 1 ½ lbs of rhubarb and overwhelms the distinctive rhubarb tang. I cut the sweet down substantially (it called for 2 ¾ cups of sugar!) but it needs to be still less.

Also, I have declared the sourdough starter I stuck in the fridge a month ago, officially dead from neglect. My kitchen has little masking tape reminders all over the cabinets where my ferments live—currently, Kimchi, sauerkraut and sourdough. Apparently, I need to put masking tape on my fridge as well when I start another batch hibernating there. I’m teaching a sourdough class at some point in the future and so I’ve got to figure this whole hibernation thing out as, apparently, not everyone eats an entire loaf of bread every day. I know, shocking!

Things are going well in the garden. Most of the potatoes came up beautifully, the beets and peas are close to harvest and the squash are coming along. We’ve got something going on with some of the melons. I’ve finally figured out the Mittleider weekly feed, finally, so we’ll try that first. Also, The Intelligent Gardener suggests doing a foliar feed when you suspect a deficiency. In his experience, within a week the foliage will either show improvement (yes, you have a deficiency of that nutrient) or no change (no deficiency or not that nutrient). That will be step two. I also set out most of the sweet potatoes this week. They didn’t fill as much of the bed as I had expected, so we should have room for a bit of corn after all. Also, Isaiah finished the second 18” bed, so I’ve got to buy and plant a bunch more tomatoes. It will be nice to have the beds done and to be able to start our own seeds next year.

And the chicks arrive by Friday! Ack!

Lately, there are a couple of scriptures that I rehearse in my head as I go about my days. The first is not to be weary in well-doing. I think of this on bleary mornings and energy-crash evenings when I really don’t want to be reading picture books, or preparing another meal, or sorting socks for the billionth time, or re-training kids on chores again, or working through potty-training issues, or cleaning banana out of Joseph’s ears and eyebrows. This is my work and I need to do it as well and energetically as I can. Also, I think that the Savior’s direction to forgive even seventy times seven applies extremely well to parenting. It reminds me to keep from labeling a child who struggles repeatedly with certain mistakes, to be soft on these young, developing characters.

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Catching up

I keep on having my weekends evaporate before I get to recording the week’s progress. I’ve got to get it down now before it all becomes even more unwieldy in my head.

Garden report: The potatoes went in the week before last and are starting to make an appearance. Yay! We had some potatoes back in OR that were so good that they didn’t need any butter or salt—this is my dream for these spuds…that and that I will successfully cure, store and grow new ones next year from our seed. Aim high!

The first round of tomatoes went into the first 18” bed today. I miscalculated or mismeasured and I have room for three more plants. They were a little dried out going in, but I buried them deep and watered them well. I need to read up on pruning and managing determinates vs indeterminates again. Hopefully, once I’ve done it I’ll stop forgetting…

I pulled out the last of the radishes today. Wow!   I did not know that radishes could get so enormous! We had a black variety that came in a mixed packet that grew bulbs larger than my fist and greens longer than my arm, and spicy as all get out. Those will go into the kimchi in place of daikons. The greens went into the goats and they quite liked them.

The spinach that actually grew is getting big and needs to be eaten. I need to see whether I can harvest just the outer leaves. I transplanted a couple of last fall’s chard from the old bed and they have taken hold and are growing again. I’ll move the rest over and then I’ll just have the lonely garlic and a single pea plant that is still hanging on over there.

Despite the brilliance and simplicity of the idea that pea plants can just be planted in two rows 6” apart and then hold onto eachother as they grow skyward, the peas, apparently, think otherwise. Pea supports are needed. Is it because of our wind?

The beets are looking fantastic. At some point I need to poke around and see what the roots look like.

The squashes and pumpkins are growing enormous leaves, sending out tendrils, blossoming and growing little jellybean-sized fruit. The yellow summer squashes are a bit ahead of the game at 4”. I am beginning to dream of sautéed squash with butter and salt.

The melons have blossomed and we are awaiting the appearance of jellybean-sized melons.

Orchard/berry report: Isaiah spent about 20 minutes and got the blueberries on drip irrigation. He’s got the rest of the orchard and berries all figured out and we are now awaiting parts. I am always grateful for the way his brain works and don’t mind his impetuosity at all when he takes on projects that overwhelm me.

The new trees are now looking loads better after two rounds of orchard spraying. The Bartlett pear is also looking much improved. Unfortunately, another of our fig trees is looking poorly. Elijah is researching to see if he can figure out what’s going on and how to save it. I just remember the nursery folks telling us how easy and trouble-free fig trees were here…oh well…

We ate our one and only surviving peach. It was wonderful. Some day I hope we’ll get more than one per annum. We also got a very few blueberries. Considering the fact that they were transplanted while they were blossoming, I am pretty pleased.

All our grapes are alive! We had a couple that I thought were dead, but we’ve got new growth this week! What a blessing and wonderful surprise.

Kitchen report: Pineapples were dried, canned and gorged upon and strawberries were frozen and combined with the last of the apples for more strawberry-apple butter. With the apples gone I am ready to welcome in cherry season.

Animals report: We’ve got to get rid of some of these chickens. The plan is to sell Rudy and his flock. The new meat birds arrive in a little more than a week.

We are on goat watch. Ella is due on Saturday, but has been moaning and groaning and showing various other signs of impending kidding. I was just thinking that this will be our third kidding this year and we still don’t know what to expect because we’ve never been through kidding with this particular goat. Three births, three different goats! Here’s hoping for a daylight delivery, straightforward presentations, a calm momma goat, TWO healthy babies who are good nursers and girls would be nice so I don’t have to deal with castration…

Other: The goldenseal is looking ok, but I’m wondering if it needs a better mulch. My understanding is that it is a forest floor dweller in nature. The motherwort and marshmallow are pretending that it is winter in damp peat in the fridge for a couple of months. As their planter was empty, I bought some non-medicinal lobelia (all they had) and some impatiens. They are not very useful, but they are very pretty and look nice in the blue planters flanking the green door.

I think I need to shift my thinking about the seasons here. Growing up in New England, winter was always the time for inside projects, sewing, etc. Here, winter is about six weeks long and only two of those are post-Christmas. This is not nearly long enough for all the inside stuff I need to get done. And so…perhaps summer needs to be the new winter. It lasts about as long as a NE winter, slows down the garden and is miserable to go out in. I’ll see if I can make it work.


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The State of the Chickens and Other Stuff

My mom thought that the State of the Chickens at Consecration Acres was funny as I described it to her on the phone this week—so y’all are going to get it. Grab the popcorn…or cracked corn if it feels more appropriate.

First, we have the mystery flock. You long-time readers will remember that my husband was wooed by the siren call of feed store chicks last year and picked up a dozen birds of unknown parentage. About half appear to be White Leghorns, the other half are some type of Red. One of the Reds is a rooster, the boys named him “Rudy” and he is partly rumpless. While most roosters are known for their gorgeous, flowing tailfeathers, Rudy has 3 or 4 feathers that are about that many inches long. That said, he is an excellent rooster. He and his ladies are in the original coop and run area and many of the girls flap out (volunteer free-range) during the day to go eat grass and bugs, and scratch through the goat manure, etc but Rudy always stays in the run and whenever he senses danger (hawks, cats or me) he lets out a particular squawk and suddenly chickens come running. He’ll gather them in and hide them all under the coop until the danger passes.

Second, we have the Delaware flock. This flock is headed my Long-Neck Louie who is enormous, gorgeous and a slightly less clued-in on the protection side of things, but he does typically let his ladies eat first, which is mighty gentlemanly of him. His flock consists of 6 or 7 Delaware hens and a couple Golden Comets. They spend their nights (for now) in the old ducks’ grazing pen surrounded by electric poultry net. The grazing pen is roofed with plastic aviary netting and half of that is tarped to give them a more weatherproof area. These hens have decided that the perfect place to lay eggs is between the plastic netting and the tarp, where they are all but impossible to collect. They are also all but impossible to sit on for any period of time, which is a problem as we were hoping to breed this bunch. Chickens…

Dec 2014-Feb 2015 178

Long Neck Louie back in December before his tail feathers were fully in. We really need one of him crowing up on the edge of the grazing pen to show off all his fine fellow-ness.

 

Thirdly, we have the rooster that adopted us, Massasoit. He is a little bantam with feathered feet who wandered onto the property from who-knows-where and who resists all attempts at containment, yet merrily forages for his breakfast, lunch and supper and continues to survive our abundance of natural predators without nighttime protection. He has also somehow convinced two Golden Comets to live the life with him and they range all over the property together. His two girls are constantly changing their nesting area making egg collection exciting and new. I bought the Golden Comets because they are supposed to be unbeatable egg layers. Based on the size of the caches when we finally find them, they do seem to be pretty amazing. Massasoit seems completely unaware of how little he is. He has, more than once, jumped into the electronet area and challenged Long Neck Louie. Louie is roughly 4x his size. I have to say, though, he has managed to get some good pretty good swipes at him before we’ve broken them up.

And that is the State of the Chickens. It is fair to say that they rule the, uh….roost.

All right. The garden is bubbling along. The melons, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos and basil are all in. The squash are growing madly and justifying their 4’ spacing, which looked so ridiculous a couple of weeks ago. All the other stuff looks great as well, except the leeks (which look decidedly dribbly) and the spinach (which is a word that defies punning). The front porch herbs are also doing pretty well. I’m a little worried about the goldenseal. I think the sudden heat (two 90F days this week—bleagh) and the delay in planting were not a good combo. I’ll order some more in the Fall if it doesn’t make it, but I hate to lose a whole six months of growth as it is two years till harvest.

The kids are doing a bunch of planting of various things. The girls planted a bunch of seeds that they found in the garage and Elijah has been experimenting with avocado, mango and pineapples, inspired by a book on plant propagation. He also has a massive chia plant growing in a cracked crock pot base.

Now that it is May I am feeling the usual impending-babies trepidation. We’ll likely have 52 babies by the start of June!

The little girls’ radishes are getting enormous. I read this week that one can use them in place of daikon radish in Kimchi! I was shocked and disappointed that my favorite little grocery store had no chinese cabbage, otherwise I’d have a batch going already. It is really weird, but both Elijah and are craving kimchi despite never having had it. We shall (eventually) see whether or not it hits the spot.

The grass has gone from green to white this week. The local farmers had their mowing and baling scheduled right at the eleventh hour—the last baling was done this Tuesday. Stepping out into our orchard feels like stepping into another world. The glow of the grass makes it hard to see the trees or where you are stepping. Definitely past its prime for goats, but the chickens are enjoying the seeds. I will be happy with reduced feed costs where I can take them.