Saturday, June 28, 2014


Hey Friends, it's been too long.

You wait for so long for summer to come, it will never come, it really never will, never ever, and suddenly it's hot and green and there are peas and radishes and salad greens and school is out and it's time to get ready for the county fair and all that stuff.

It's the busy time for us, so it's hard to sit down and blog. But I just had the most exciting thing happen!

We've been watching this one hen for a while. Popper. She's broody. That means she sits on eggs, hoping they'll hatch. Most hens these days have not been selected for breeding- or brooding capabilities, so most don't go broody. But you know how the life force is. Must reproduce!

Popper's a regular broody hen, but she kind of sucks at it. Her favorite thing is to take over a popular nesting spot, sit on eggs for a couple weeks, just long enough to mess up all the other hens' laying habits, and then blow the eggs off about half way through and go do something more interesting. She's not the greatest brooder. Twice she's hatched one solitary chick, after sitting on about a dozen eggs for about two months.

This year seemed to be the same. Good ole One Chick Mama Hen.

Until she hatched a second, which seemed like a miracle.

So she has two. Wow, Popper. That's pretty good. A good year for chicks at Honey Hollow Farm, where we already have about 40 chickens, which is about 25 more than we need.

And then today I was  down in the garden and I heard a hen poking around the tomato plants. What? No hens in the garden! I went over to chase her out and heard peeps. What? How did Popper and her two chicks get out of the safe brooder coop they're in?

But it wasn't Popper. It was Baby's Daughter. Baby's a tiny black bantam hen, from the first round of chicks we bought when we first moved up here. Two years ago Baby disappeared for a month and came back with six tiny black chicks. We were literally jumping up and down with joy and astonishment when we saw them.

Now Baby's Daughter has taken after her mama, and hatched.... TWELVE CHICKS! Oh my. That's extremely impressive. I don't even know how she could keep that many eggs safely under her, and still manage to eat and drink, without anyone noticing. Smart lady.

They appear to be living in our tangled raspberry patch inside the garden. I tried to get a picture, but Baby's Daughter got very upset with me. She's a good mom. Hmm, Popper? Are you paying attention?

I don't have another brooder coop, so I guess they can stay in the garden for now. How much damage could 12 baby chicks do?

Here are some other pictures of things we have been doing, from farm chores to soap-making and felty things. Hope you're all having a great summer!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Baby Goats on a Cold Night

My son the goatherder decided to breed one of his goats early this year. That way we could have goat kids in March, in this still-dismal season when you are desperate for anything spring-like at all. 

So about five months ago we bred Remy to Popeye. Popeye is a registered Nubian goat, owned by our friend Erica of Squill Hill Farm. 

Flash forward, past a very long winter, and about a week ago we started looking for signs of labor in Remy. 

She was huge, waddling about with that distinctive pregnant gait, and we had been feeling the kids kicking inside her for a couple of weeks.

Several days ago, my son, who is almost 15, said today was the day. The ligaments by her tail had completely dissolved, and the babies had dropped into position and couldn't be felt anymore.

We kept watch all day, and around 4 pm she started pushing! She was super calm, and walked around the stall, nibbling and sniffing on us, and just acting very experienced and calm. 

Every few minutes she'd push, and each push, we'd see a little more of a round and translucent bubble bulging out from her backend. 

Around this time my daughter, who is 10, came home from school. Our friends who had driven her home (who keep goats as well) knew that Remy was due any minute, so they all ran down to the stable and got to be there to see the whole thing. 

In fact, the whole barn was watching. It was really sweet how interested the horses and goats were. The chickens, not so much. 

Okay so this was all going so well, but the only problem: it was 15 degrees. When we planned a late March birth, we weren't expecting it to be this cold! So as Remy gave a final push and a baby goat, covered in mucous and amniotic fluid tumbled out in a gush of steam, our first order of business was to get it dry and warm. 

Well, first it had to breathe. My son held the tiny kid up by its tiny hind feet, steam billowing off her, and cleared her nose with a towel. Then we began the work that would consume our family of four for the next several hours: getting the kid warm and dry. 

While we rubbed her down, Ruby started pushing again, and within minutes another wet coiled steaming life tumbled out. 

It was so damn cold. 

The little black kid, the second one, couldn't get warm enough. She was shivering so we brought her inside and I held her in a sunny window, cradled inside my winter jacket, continuing to rub her down with a towel. She was still wet in the creases. 

Meanwhile my daughter sat in the goat stall under a heat lamp, with the tiny brown kid on her lap, letting Remy sniff her and lick her. Remy has never nursed her kids. She's from a dairy farm, where babies are taken away from the moms as soon as they are born. This maximizes milk harvesting, since you can wean the babies much earlier. You can also pasteurize the milk before you give it back to the babies, which cuts down the transmission of a diseases endemic to goats, called CAE. It's passed from the mom to the baby through the milk. All of the goats that we have came to us from CAE-free herds, so we have chosen to chance it. We let the moms keep the babies, and we just milk in the morning. 

Anyway, back to our cold night. We spent the next several hours rigging the barn to be as warm as possible, and discussed endlessly if we should take the babies in at night or not. Remy wasn't letting them nurse, choosing instead to obsessively lick them, and sometimes stepping on them. We worried that if we took them away for the night, Remy would not want them back in the morning. But we also worried that if we left them out in what was going to be 11-degree weather, they would not survive. 

In the end, we brought them in at 2 am, and nestled them into a cooler with a towel on top. They slept curled into each other like pretzels. It felt like it was 80-degrees in there when I took the towel off in the morning to carry them down to Remy. She called for them as I walked in, that distinctive, maternal call, edging on panic. Babies?

I set the babies down next to her, and they immediately went under her belly and started nursing. Remy nosed their butts and munched on hay, the picture of contentment. 

All turned out well. 

The kids are beautiful, healthy, and warm and dry. 

And spring is truly on the way. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowy Ponies

The ponies don't care about the snow. They just want their hay. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

WInter Blues

Okay, so I'm tired of the cold.

I love the snow, and I love the pace of winter, and I love indoor winter projects. I love cozy woodstoves, and the flannel duvet I made for my down comforter, and my snuggly pups who are not warm enough unless cuddled in with a human. We have a futon couch in our living room, and for all of this winter, we have just left it out in the bed position, with quilts and pillows and dogs strewn across it.

Plus, with nothing happening outside, we have gotten major projects finished inside, or at least set into motion. The downstairs bathroom -- taped and tiled! The living room walls -- painted! The interior wall overlooking the cellar well -- windowed! Ceiling lights on order, and the ceiling dilemma finally being discussed.

When we first bought this house, we took down the low-hanging sheet rock that ran throughout the downstairs. Sure enough -- several inches of unused ceiling space were unveiled, plus 200-year old wooden beams that ran across the width of the house's original footprint . But... the 200-year old beams were inter-run with 30-year old beams. Ah, the look of the 1986 wooden beam. Perfectly cut and diminutive next to the 1790 handhewn and axe-scarred beams. All these different era-beams at different heights and scales. We have left our LR and kitchen ceilings open, erratic, and uninsulated for the last three years, kind of hoping we could make it work as an open concept. But we couldn't. It looks messy and disheveled. And now, finally we are ready. We are figuring it out. I believe we will have ceiling the finished and insulated before the spring.

So much going on, and I love it, but at the same time... 0° weather just has its limits. I am ready, if not for spring, at least for warmer weather.

Here are some things we've been enjoying, some of it a wool workshop my friend Will and I organized in our efforts to pull together a homeschool group in Hudson. If you are a Hudson-area homeschool, friend us on Facebook or check out Hatch.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tiny Plans

This cold weather is wearing me out, and finally making me think of spring. Not longingly, not obsessively. Just thinking about it, occasionally, for the first time this year. 

Just little thoughts. I've peeked at a few seed catalogs. I organized my seed/garden cabinet. I find myself musing, mildly, as I walk with the dogs past the garden, about what I'll plant, and where. 

Not trying to rush the calendar, mind you. I still have some knitting and other indoor projects to do before the outdoor busy season comes upon us. 

My overall plan for this summer: keep it simple.  

Last year we were overwhelmed, mostly with the daily watering needs of the animals and the three gardens, and with fencing needs. 

This will be the year of the automatic waterers. 

There will be one of these pig waters, always attached to the hose. The pigs press the nozzle to get fresh water, whenever they want it. (Last year we had to freshen the pigs' water at least twice, and in hot weather three times a day. It was grueling.)

And we'll hook up drip irrigation to all our garden beds. A little extra work and expense in the spring, and then we will be free from garden watering in the summer! Just turn on the hose. Yeah

With all the time I'll save not watering gardens and pigs, I will need a fire pit, for relaxing by on the late summer nights. 

And I do look forward to summer cocktails. 

Last summer, after working in hot sun for hours, we'd break at 6 pm, shower, and then sit in the yard that overlooks the pastures, with an icy, herby cocktail. Mint juleps, Mojitos, French 75's, Negronis... Anything icy and herby and seltzery. Just one, and always heavier on the ice and the mint and the seltzer than anything else. Never more than one, or your dinner's ruined, the rest of the day is ruined. 

That part of summer I loved, sitting with a cold drink and tired muscles, chatting with my husband and kids, transitioning from the work day to the evening. I'd make the kids a mint soda if they wanted. We always had homemade mint syrup in the fridge.

That's it. That's my planning for the summer so far. I'm not starting seeds until March. Two more months of indoor projects. For now, it's just planning, and starting to dream. And maybe I'll look up some cocktail recipes... 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cold Snap

This cold snap is challenging us. As I write this, there is a guy is in our basement trying to fix our furnace fan, as the temperature in our house steadily falls. The woodstove can only do so much in a drafty old house like ours.

We have been worrying about the animals too. It's cold out there!

We spend a lot of time in weather like this making sure everyone has
lots of hay to eat, that cracks are sealed, water thawed, and doors shut. 

But for the sheep the cold is not such a big deal. When we bring them hay or water, or check on them, they are all, hi. S'up.

The chickens don't like the cold. They huddle in the stable. Nothing to scratch up in a frozen ground. No fun exploring their boundaries and finding low branches to nap on.

Now that the light is coming back, the chickens have begun laying eggs again. Which is great! Except this week they're all frozen by the time we find them.

The horses and ponies are happy as long as they have lots of hay. Their shaggy winter coats keep them very warm.

The goats are okay, too, except for Ruby, who is thin, and sometimes looks cold. So we made a blanket for her. 

Then we go inside the house and try to stay warm. Sopa de Tortilla, with broth from one of our roosters, avocados, carrots, escarole and quick-pickled jalapenos... that helped last night. I broke with tradition and made a clear broth with lime and salt, and all the fixings. Here's a more traditional, but just as quick, version

By the way, we fried the tortillas in rendered pork fat, which was stunning. Like a tortilla chip with the loft of a pie crust, and not at all greasy. In fact, they barely soaked up any fat. 

Stay warm, everyone! Don't let the pipes freeze!