Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Chores...

http://bartoz.deviantart.com/art/Rain-86092287 (I almost always use my own photos, but this one was borrowed.) While NY and NJ and the like were being hammered by Hurricane Sandy yesterday, we had some gusty winds and a smattering of rain. We got off easy. But today I got a bit more of a taste of the storm. I took all 4 of my dogs to work today so they could get groomed, and I also took the duck for a splint change at the veterinarians. Then a customer called and asked if I could take care of her dog for the night. When I arrived at home it was raining hard. I got all 5 dogs out of the truck and into the house. Dusk was falling fast, and I wanted to get the pigs fed before it got too dark. I shrugged on a rain jacket and headed outside. The back yard was standing water. I've never seen it so wet. I scooped up the pig food and slogged through the mud. It was very, very slippery. The new buck dashed out of the shed to greet me, then changed his mind and dashed back in. Goats do not like rain. The pigs area is awfully wet. It makes me feel bad for them, but their little hut is pretty dry and they were not complaining. By this time I was completely drenched. The rain laughed at my little jacket and rivulets were running down my back and arms. Back up the hill, I tucked the chickens into their snug coop for the night, collecting 11 lovely eggs while I was at it. Then I went to the garage, readied the milking station for a goat, grabbed some hay and headed out to the shed. I had the presence of mind to bring a lead rope. The goats tucked into the hay, I snapped the lead rope onto the first girl goat I came to and hauled her out into the deluge. She was not amused. She planted her little pointed hooves into the dirt and leaned back in her best imitation of a mule. I outweigh her by a bit and kept walking. She finally decided that if she wanted to stay with her head, she should come with me. She cried all the way, as if each rain drop were burning her flesh. After she had her supper and was milked, we repeated the trek through the wet, the water in the yard was noticeably deeper. At the shed I snapped the lead onto the next goat and dragged her, too, out to be milked. Once done, I secured the goats in their cozy shed and readied the injured ducks cage for her. I put in fresh shavings and a layer of fragrant hay. I filled he bowls with fresh food and water, and got her settled in. My hair was dripping,I could barely see out of my glasses, and I realized those new muck boots I splurged on yesterday were an excellent choice. Back inside I peeled the wet clothes off at the door,started a fire, got dinner going and fed the dogs. And took a long moment to be so grateful that rain like this does not happen every day.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Things that have an ODOR...

My two female goats are in the mood for love. In the fall,lady goats have breeding cycles that occur every 18-22 days. If they are bred, and have kids, that will insure a steady supply of milk next year. I have looked into breeding my goats with a local buck. The timing is tricky. I would have to bring the girls to the buck at JUST the right time, and it would cost $50 to $100 per breeding. My friend also has some goats she wanted to find a "husband" for. We hatched the crazy idea that we would find a buck and buy him, let him breed all our girls, then sell him. Our goal was to spend $100. and split the fee. We've been searching the local swap paper for weeks. There are quite a few bucks out there for sale, but many were an awfully long drive from here. I found a very nice buck only 45 minutes from here, but the owner wanted too much money for him. Then she called me today and said, (in a rather frantic tone) "If you can come get him RIGHT NOW you can have him for $100." She is in the middle of a move, has a bunch of little kids and too many goats. Since we love a bargain, we were on the road mere moments after her call.
We don't own a trailer, and didn't want to put the buck in the truck bed, because it wouldn't be safe. So we did what we could and put him the back "seat." Now, buck goats are known to have a rather strong odor, (ever heard the term, "Smells like a goat?") especially during the breeding season. When bucks are in "rut" they advertise their sexual availability by spraying their urine on their faces and front legs. It has a very strong musky odor. I had heard how dreadful the scent is, but I had no real frame of reference. So, today, we met the seller at her lovely barn, buckled a collar around the bucks neck, and with the help of some grain convinced the new boy goat to hop into the back seat of the truck. When I climbed into my seat I said to my husband, "That does not smell too bad...." He looked at me, eyes watering and said, "Are you KIDDING? I feel like I've been maced." About that time the scent hit me. It was so strong it made my head ache. We rode home with the windows down and the heat on. To his credit, the buck was a perfect gentleman. There were no potty problems in my truck, no leaping about, no sound effects.
The girls thought the new guy smelled rather intoxicating! They all are getting along famously. There is a problem, however. The horse, which gets along beautifully with the female goats, thinks the new guy needs to be killed. Right now. There is a lot of running and yelling and upset going on. So, for now, I have the horse and goats separated. I am hoping things will settle down. If not, I am going to have to come up with a "Plan B."
So, today I had a crash course in goat keeping, and a reminder that when dealing with livestock, things never go just exactly as planned. And I became acquainted with a scent that I really could live without. "Smells like a goat." That term is one I will no longer use loosely. It is the sort of scent that crawls into your brain and makes things there hurt.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Broken duck...

This morning one of my two ducks was missing in action. She has a very regular routine, but was nowhere to be seen as I tossed out scratch grains for the birds. I worried and fretted while I did my chores. Just before I had to leave for work I saw her emerging from under the hen house. She laid down, and other than trembling, was motionless. When a chicken tried to chase her, I realized her left leg was badly injured. Five minutes later, with some help from my patient husband, I had her safely ensconced in a cardboard box lined with fragrant hay. She rode quietly next to me on the front seat of the truck as I took her to our wonderful veterinarians office.
The staff at Pen Bay Veterinary probably don't patch up ducks often, but today they handled our little duck with kindness, care and creativity. They explained to me how they made her a little splint out of a Popsicle stick and a piece of cardboard cut to the shape of a duck foot. Then they told me to keep her splinted leg dry. THAT will be a challenge! Ducks and dry are not synonymous, and Muscovy ducks tend to create large, moist (and odoriferous!) poop. I can imagine this cute little ducky splint will not look so tidy by tomorrow. Tonight my broken duck is safely nestled in a cage in the garage, on a deep layer of soft shavings. Dr. Pierce is concerned that there may be nerve damage, and we need to watch to make sure the ducks leg does not become necrotic. I am hoping that she will make a full recovery... she is young, strong and healthy. If I were a "real" farmer I would have put her down this morning, not paid for xrays and and office visit and a special little splint. I guess I am just not that real.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bucket list...

The term "bucket list" refers to things people want to do before they die. For about the last 20 years the biggest thing on my list was to get my child raised to the point where she was a competent adult and could thrive without me. I think I can check that off my list now. And there is something else I can check off my list, thanks to my precious friend Liz Czak.
Today we took our horses to Popham beach and rode through sand and surf. There were other horses there, and "normal" people strolling on this beautiful day. Words cannot really express how perfect it was... my pony excited and happy under me, the wind and sun surrounding me, the scent of sea and sand, and the incredible beauty of the ocean, islands, lighthouses and more. I giggled quite a lot as we splashed and trotted along.
Liz and Peach are a lovely team.
After the ride, we took the saddles and bridles off and walked the horses back to the beach so they could have a good roll in the sand. Chanel, (my pony) is fond of rolling, and she indulged in not one, but TWO good rolls in the deep, soft sand. Then she snacked on hay while I brushed the sweat and sand off her coat. The humans picnicked on cold fried chicken and home made biscuits... with some terrific carrot cake for dessert. It was a magical day. My bucket is emptier, but my heart is full and my memory is rich.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Found "treasure..."

I've been wanting a nice, old kitchen stool like this. I often find myself climbing up on a chair to reach something on a tall shelf, and a sturdy stool would be a handy thing to have. Several of them showed up on my search in junk stores all summer, but most were silly expensive, or a bit wobbly. I found this one on Monday. Only $20 and quite solid. So I brought it home.
A little spray paint and it looks quite a lot better. I need to bring it in from the garage, and clean up the bright work. Then I will have a nice, needed addition to my kitchen. I love a bargain, and a little project. This was both!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkins and scenery...

In the fall I get a lot of pleasure from two things. One is decorating the house with seasonal things like gourds and pumpkins. Especially WHITE pumpkins. They are not always easy to find, and I make a game out of the hunt. The second thing is going for scenic drives to admire the foliage and beauty of the landscape here in Maine. Today Chris and I went for a drive and along the way we passed an old pick up truck with pumpkins displayed for sale. We both noticed the white pumpkins (good husband points!) and he turned the car around.
We noted that there was no one at the truck... no one anywhere to be seen in the whole area. I was a bit distressed for a moment. I wanted to bring home some white pumpkins, how would this work? Then I noticed it.
Reason 8,972 why I LOVE living in Maine. An honor box... pick out your pumpkin and leave your money in the box. One pumpkin that I wanted had no price, so I added a dollar to what I thought it would be worth and brought it home. Now three shapely white pumpkins are decorating my dining room table, and the memory of picking them off the truck by the side of the road and tucking money in the honor box makes me smile. We passed lovely trees in all shades of copper and gold. We passed water views and saw a bald eagle swoop low overhead.
Then it was back home to chores and many things to do. But the respite from the daily routine was a sensory delight.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

With camera in hand...

There was a lot to love about today. Up early the air was crisp and cool. After feeding and watering the critters I set about to tidy up the house after a busy week. The porch windows caught my eye... the condensation in lovely heart shapes. I caught the image, and decided to take lots of pictures today. I kept my camera in hand everywhere I went.
We took our trash to the transfer station, then stopped and got a load of hay at this funky old barn. Our garage has been a hot mess, and we've been nibbling away at cleaning it. We made a big dent in it today, and with 15 or so bales of hay stacked along one wall the air is fragrant and sweet.
I brushed the goats. They LOVE to be brushed, and stand very, very still while I work. I took their collars off to wash them, and put jaunty bandanas on instead. They wear collars because it makes it so handy to grab them if they are getting into mischief or lead them somewhere you want them to be. The top photo is Sanuba, our newest goat. I have the hardest time with the name she came with, and somehow it has morphed into "Super Nova." She comes happily to Nova when I call her. She is a BIG goat, and very sweet. The second shot is of Luna. It is tricky to photograph her because if I am outside she is most always very close to me, leaning against me and begging for some pats. I brushed Chanel, (the horse) too. After a week of rain she was mud-crusted and disreputable looking. She is very good about being groomed, standing still,nudging my pockets to see if there might be a hidden treat.
Chanel and I have a fun new game. At 24 she is getting old, as horses go, but she still has a bit of pep! Sometimes she gets a certain look in her eye, and with the slightest encouragement from me she will buck and race around the pasture, tossing her head in glee. Sometimes she'll run right at me, and I stand very, VERY still, in faith that she will swerve around me. She does, at the last possible second, and I can feel the wind from her racing form as she dusts past. I shriek in glee, and she'll race by then do it again. It is obvious that she finds this fun. I do, too.
This is one of the very pretty hens I added to the flock this year. They are called "Americauna" or "Easter Egg" chickens. Their eggs range in shades from sky blue to green, and are fun to see mixed in with the brown eggs.
Now, as the late afternoon sun slants in, the dogs enjoy its rays while they lounge in front of the wood stove. I will toss another log on for them, then go start evening chores. Yes, there was much lovely about today.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I like to keep some of my favorite herbs growing indoors so I can use fresh rather than dried herbs for cooking even in winter. I got the bright idea that they'd look pretty planted in olive oil cans, and have been working on collecting cans and planting herbs for a while now. I was right. They DO look nice!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Look what I made..!

Ever since we got goats last spring, I have been thinking I needed to learn to make cheese. I found the thought daunting. But today, I got brave.
First I put a quart of fresh goats milk into a saucepan. I had to heat it to 180F. My spiffy new clip on thermometer worked a treat! Once the milk was the correct temperature, I added 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice and one drop of rennet. Stirred a tad and voila! Curds began to form!
Then I poured the milk through several layers of cheesecloth set in a colander. The curds stayed in the cloth, the whey ran through (the pigs loved the whey!)
I left the cheesecloth wrapped curds suspended over the bowl for about an hour. Then I mixed the fresh new cheese with some crushed garlic, salt and basil. Oh... it was quite delicious on crackers. I am so pleased and proud to have made cheese!