Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Several weeks ago on a night that was slow in the ICU,I began to peruse the web for bulbs. Yes, glorious, colorful, diverse bulbs. All shapes, colors and varieties. It was late and I was delusional. What was I thinking ordering 1,000 bulbs. Yes folks, it was not a typo, I said 1,000 bulbs. Weeks later after I had gotten sleep and promptly forgot about my purchase this big box arrived filled with those glorious bulbs. All 1,000 of them. I repeat, what was I thinking? Since the weather has cooled it is now time to bury those bulbs so they can catch a few ZZZ's before breaking out in the spring. We got all the requisite tools out.

One of the "tools" was the tractor. Ted scraped an area 6'x25' to make the planting easier. We removed the sod, dug down and planted a mixture of tulips. I turned into a giant mud ball. Make that a cold giant mud ball.

For all that work it sure looks bland. I have dreams of the spring and all those tulips popping up to greet the sun.

Now, trimming off all of the peony's. At this time I only have herbaceous peony's so they die back every year. We also planted 9 alliums. It will be so excited in spring.

Everything slows down in late fall. The leaves are done, the garden trimmed back. It seems like we are just waiting. Waiting for the first good snowfall. I am always amazed at the quiet in late fall and winter. Most of the birds have headed south. Their chirps and squeaks just a memory.

Then things like this little fellow remind us that it is only a few months and spring will return. This year we will have guineas to take care of you mr grasshopper. Mmmm........

Some things just show up. We don't know how they got there, where they came from. Now please keep in mind that in our yard you can dig just about anything up. We actually dug up a complete rusty old bicycle while planting the cherry trees this past year.

The breeze swings this chime sending soft sounds through the afternoon air. Such a soothing sound.

The flag snaps in the breeze......

The pug snorts and snuffles....

and the cat just is....

and a farm just wouldn't be a farm without chickens. This is my granddaughter Jasmine when she was about 2. Yes, I sent my granddaughter out into the world dressed as a chicken. I love that costume. I think it is one of my best ever.

Best wishes for a safe and Happy Halloween. Much love and prayers from Mainely Ewes Farm.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Working on the List

We have been working steady on that darn list. Little by little we have been able to whittle it down to just a few projects left. Ted gave both pastures a quick mow to get rid of the taller weeds. The sheep loved being able to get down to the last little bit of green grass left.

They followed behind the tractor. Hopefully next spring the weeds will not take over the pasture. I was out pulling thistle up by hand. Not a pleasant task. Those darn stickers are able to penetrate leather gloves.

While Ted was mowing we took a walk in the woods behind the pasture and this is what we found. A big tree stand. We had a good idea that it belonged to a friend we had given permission to hunt last fall. We now have animals and don't allow hunting on the land. After a phone call he came and removed the stand. Thanks Chris.
Work inside the barn is overseen by our resident critics. Everyone is enjoying the afternoon sunshine. The littles are still betting bossed around by Isabella and Corina (the bigs).

We were able to complete two milking stands. One full size for the bigs and one smaller for the littles. Amazing so, the littles are still a bit to small for this milking stand. We have to put blocks in the front for them to stand on to reach their food. Like a booster seat for the kids in the car.

We planned on using stall mats for the base to prevent slips. Blue Seal was out of mats so we took two old commercial rugs, flipped them over so the rubbery side was up and secured them with deck screws. We saved money with that adjustment.

Isabella is working on her portfolio. She wants to know if this is her best side.....

or is this her best side? I think she loves the camera. She is very photogenic.

Corina doesn't trust the camera yet. She is still a bit camera shy. But boy can she give good goat milk! Just look at those kissy lips.

All of the dirt has been spread in the back of the house. Ted is a fast learner. He has been working with the tractor and has become a pro at spreading dirt. No way to get grass seed to grow in this cool weather. Soon snow and ice will cover the dirt till spring. Then we can plant some grass seed.

Finally, we are able to get this old telephone pole down. Fair Point is the communication provider for our area. Anyone not familiar with this company you are fortunate. They took over for Verizon and went downhill like a snowball from a much warmer climate. They are filing for bankruptcy at this time. We had a new pole placed last fall. The previous pole was in really sad shape. I called Fair Point to let them know that the phone lines could be moved before we had a storm that could tear them down. According to the customer service assistant, we would have to pay $65 for a service call, $65 for 15 minute increments. Wow! However, if the line or pole just fell they would come out and change it over for free. Now that makes sense....... That is a high priced industry and a rip off. In a few, not quite so nice words, I told them it would be a cold day in a warmer climate before I would pay that. The whole thing would have to fall first. Well, this past week the line fell and we were without phone service. The Fair Point repairman came out and kindly, and for free, changed the line over to the new pole. It took him about 45 minutes. That was the nicest $260 that I didn't have to spend. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him work. Ted was able to use the tractor to push the old pole down.

Like a kid in a candy store. You get to drive big equipment and tear things up at the same time. Woo...Hoo........

Down came the pole with a mighty crash..... It was so old he was able to cut it into lengths to use in the wood stove. It was pre-creosote and safe to use.

All of our wood has finally arrived. What a beautiful site. Stacking can come a bit later, not too long. Otherwise, it will be covered with snow.
What a nice cozy feeling. Plenty of fire wood, a pot of coffee going on a cool fall day. Home. What a wonderful word.

We hope everyone is well and having luck finishing their list. Hopefully, ours will be finished soon. Much love and prayers from Mainely Ewes Farm.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Moving Around on the Farm

It won't be long till snow covers the ground and limits the animals travel about the farm. It has been getting cooler over the last week. We have made some animal moves. The guineas went in with the hens to make room for the turkeys in the barn. It took a couple of days but the guineas finally made it outside. They were very excited about taking their first dust bath. They made it out ok, but had to have a little help getting back in at night.

The hens took it all in stride.

The goats took time out of their busy schedule to check out what was going on.

We cleaned the shavings and put up new green mesh between the turkeys and the hens. They can see each other but share completely different sections. So far no eggs. When do turkeys lay?

We opened their door and.......

out came a pug. No, Ivy was just there helping out. She thinks all of the animals are her babies. She never chases anything. She checks them all out to make sure they are okay. She still can't understand why we won't let her into the pasture to see the sheep. We truly don't know what Fuzzy the llama would do.

We finally know what our rooster Hawk is. He was a freebie with our last order of Cornish Rock X from Murray Mc Murray Hatchery. He is a Silver Laced Wyandott. At first we actually thought he was a she and named her Ladyhawk. Then Ladyhawk began to get friendly with the other hens and crow. Now, this is Hawk. Lord of the chicken yard. He has dethroned Samson our Partridge Plymouth Rock rooster.

We have had to work the last 2 nights so we have accomplished nothing besides milking and feeding animals. There is that sleep factor that gets in the way. We will have 6 nights off and plan to finish up alot of the last chores on our to do list. The weather is cooler, winter is near and time seems to slow a bit. Work on pastures and fences will halt till spring arrives. We will pay more attention to things like weather reports. Occasionally we get a weather report that will make us laugh out loud. Tell me where but Maine will you get the following from your local weatherman: "Well, it has been warmer than it's been". I love Maine. Much love and prayers from Mainely Ewes Farm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

UPS, No Stoney Knolls Farm Delivery Truck!

It's always exciting when a delivery truck arrives. I'm like a kid running outside when the UPS or Fed Ex trucks pull into the driveway. I must take time to apologize to the delivery men. Sometimes I have on Muck Boots sometimes just slippers. I just love boxes. They hold all kinds of fun things. New clothes, shoes, presents, goats. Did I say goats? Yes the delivery truck came from Stony Knolls Farm with a special package. Isabella and Carina. We fell in love with the two girls while at Goat School last week. Janice and Ken Spaulding were kind enough to deliver both girls after they were bred. Isabella is a registered Nubian and Carina is a registered Alpine.

This is not the greatest picture of Carina's bum but you can see Isabella peeking out. I apologize for the lack of pictures when the girls arrived. I just plain forgot. We were so busy trying to make sure that they were happy and comfortable I forgot to take more pictures. I love taking pictures and end up taking about 300 a month. Sometimes, my brain shuts off when I see goats.

Later in the evening everyone settled down to sleep and I did take out the camera. I don't think that either goat was that impressed. The littles- Bella, Edward and Sophie are used to me coming out at all times of the night to check on them. Even with camera in hand they make soothing mmmmm goatie noises.

We had to work the two previous nights so we got a late start on making the milking stand. We needed it in the morning for milking Carina. Isabella has dried up and completely stopped milking. Alex was able to find plans for a milking stand on the internet. Let me rephrase that. The plans were evidently designed for the small body of a pygmy goat. Not the full bodied physique of a dairy goat. With a few adjustments she was able to re size it for the girls. Talented woman!

The base was 36" long. Heck, our goats are that long. Thank goodness for extra wood laying around from previous jobs. Some adjustments had to be made for height too. It was about 10:30 when we finally went in from the barn.

We got up early for our first day of milking. Oh, yes I have only milked a goat while at Goat School. Poor Carina. We placed an order with Hoegger Supply Co. but our milking supplies would not arrive till Wednesday afternoon. After a frantic email to Janice she brought a can of Fight Bac with her. Fight Bac is a wonderful invention. It helps prevent mastitis in cows and goats. It is cold and when sprayed onto the teat causes a constriction of the milk duct preventing bacteria from taking a free ride up into the udder.

I did have my handy dandy unscented baby wipes to clean the teats prior to milking.

Carina hopped up onto the milk stand like a pro. I took matters into my own hands and pretended like I knew what I was doing. Lo and behold milk came out like it was suppose to. I even remembered to strip the first stream into a cup to check for anything out of the ordinary. Nope, it looked like milk to me. Izzy, the cat, thought it tasted great to her too. She cleaned up any left overs for me. I milked into a kitchen pot. It worked and Carina didn't know the difference. There is nothing so sweet as a warm goat to snuggle with while you milk. They actually smell nice.

We even started putting the little girls on the milking stand. It worked out better than I ever expected. They are a bit spoiled. Yep, they have teeny tiny teats. One day!

This is the bounty we received. It amounted to only 2 1/4 cups and I'm sure that part of that is my lack of experience. We will see what tomorrow brings. Corina was nervous with a different home and sounds. The guineas were making a ruckus in the coop and the chickens were getting loud. Soon she will feel at home and sure of herself.

Later in the day I heard that sound that I love. I was laying down trying to catch a nap before I had to go to work. I couldn't stay in bed. I heard that call from the big brown box on the back porch. It was from Hoegger Supply with my milking equipment. Yes, I even took a picture of it. Nice shiny new stainless steel. Easy to clean. Ain't it purdy?

We ordered new collars like Isabella and Carina for the kids. We want them to act like big girls and boys now.

I had a little fun with my camera here. I could just imagine how our farm looked many, many years ago. I love old black and white photos. They really bring out the different shading that is often lost in color pics. This old farm didn't have electricity, they had to bring water in from a well. See the old outhouse, no indoor plumbing. I guess the give away here is the big tarp sheep shed in the pasture. They didn't have Tractor Supply back then. I can do without a bathroom, but give me my Tractor Supply fix.

Happy milking. Much love and prayers from Mainely Ewes Farm. I think we have to look into a name change. Mainely Ewes and a Few Old Goats Farm. Maybe not.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Homemade Goat Milk Soap

For the last year I have been involved in making Goat Milk soap. I found a recipe that really works for me. I can say that I have never lost a batch or had to rebatch. I have had times where certain oils have accelerated the soap and I have had to get it into the mold pronto, but never lost a batch. There are so many recipes on the Internet to choose from. This recipe does not contain lard. The base is formed from a mixture of olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. It leaves the skin smooth and soft. The lather is unbelievable due to the large amount of Olive oil used. There is a soothing effect from 1/2 cup of ground oatmeal. Each batch of soap yields 32 4-5oz bars. It takes me approximately 1 hr of labor for each batch. I think the best thing about making soap is creating something that brings a smile to peoples face and the oohs and ahs you receive. Soap making is relaxing. I guess it is my warm fuzzy. My least favorite job is lining the loaf mold. I recently bought 2 of these 10lb molds from Branbleberry. It was my treat to me. When I first began making soap Alex was kind enough to make me a square mold. It was great but cutting it was a challenge. I have even used a 12" machete to cut soap. Are you getting a mental picture here? It is a bit scary. Funny thing is, no one bothered me with any questions when I was cutting soap. Here is a pic of my new loaf mold.

I order my oils in bulk from Columbus Foods. They carry a great assortment of oils at a really reasonable cost. I get the palm and coconut oils in 5 gallon pails. I found that in winter if you put the pails next to the wood stove, but not too close, they will soften and spoon out very easily.

I weigh everything with a scale for exact measurements. I am compulsive with this step. A ratio exists between the fats and lye to produce the saphonation process. Otherwise soap is not soap.

Using lye can be safe. You must wear goggles for eye protection, gloves and a long sleeve shirt to prevent splashes onto skin. Always and I mean always keep an open bottle of plain white vinegar to neutralize any splashes immediately. I mix my lye into my frozen goat milk outside, even in winter, in a well ventilated area. I respect chemicals of any kind.
Oils and lye must cool down to 110 degrees before combining. I use a wand mixer to make the stirring process much faster. I can reach light trace in about 3 minutes. Otherwise it takes about 30 minutes of hand stirring. I don't mind using modern conveniences at all. Some things are just worth their weight in gold.

This is the new mold filled with soap scented with Black Tea and calendula flower petals. I like to use different ingredients. Calendula is known for it's healing properties. In lavender soap I like to add lavender flowers. I want to try Peppermint scented soap with coffee grounds. The grounds act as a pumice which is great for gardeners hands. I love to come up with different recipes.

I cover the molds with a thin luan cover and wrap them in old quilts for 24 hours. This gives the soap time to heat and then cool. It is just the right hardness that cutting is an easy job. Wait too long and it will become hard to cut. The harder the soap, the longer it lasts.

I have a new toy. It is a soap stamp of a Nubian Dairy Goat. What a way to let out frustrations. Soap hammering!

How about that face. Here you can see the bits of calendula flowers in the soap.

The dark brown fudge looking soap is a wonderful mixture of Dark Chocolate and Peppermint scent. For color I used Alkanet Root Powder. I didn't know how it was going to turn out. At first it looked like someone had chewed up Andes Mints and spit them out. I started sweating at this point and said "this may be my first failed batch". However, the next day it was really brown like fudge and smelled like it too. I have a small bedroom upstairs that was once a library and probably a nursery. We have turned it into a soap room for drying. It makes the whole house smell great. The door has to remain closed or the smell is too strong. I can keep the air circulating with a fan and the soap remains there for at least 4 weeks to cure.

All soap containing lye must cure for at least 4 weeks to be safe. If you purchase any soap and the seller tells you to "let it sit for a couple of weeks before you use it" put it back. That person is not a reputable soap maker. One of my goals this year it to attend and sell soap at The Common Ground Fair in Unity Maine. I'm working on that. I love to learn about different soap making processes. So many variations exist. It is an individual art. No two people have the same recipe or process. How cool is that? Much love and prayers from Mainely Ewes Farm.