Around the Hollow

My husband took these photos while being “goat boy” for the afternoon.

Gracie

Zinnia

Prancer

Rob and his ladies

Ducks on slug patrol

Mr. Woodpecker's house

Volunteer daffodil in the bog

Tulips I planted just for him

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State of the ‘stead

In early February we went to Orlando, courtesy of Mark’s parents. One day was spent here:

For the rest of the photos, go to http://gallery.blackberryhollowfarm.com/p1025614710

When we returned, I had a lot of planting to catch up on. Here’s the list so far:

February 13 – Onions and shallots (Copra, Red Bull, Candy, Bonilla) in greenhouse
February 22 – Broccoli (Fiesta, Thompson), cabbage (Danish Ballhead), and leeks (Giant Musselburgh) in greenhouse
March 3 – Celery (Giant Red) in greenhouse
March 9 – Tomatoes (Beaver Lodge, Cordova, Frazier’s Gem, Gill’s All Purpose, Heinz 2653, Old German, Oregon Spring, Persimmon, Sweet Million), tomatillos (Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry, Mexican Strain), hot peppers (Early Jalapeno, Habanero, Holy Mole, Mulato Isleno, Relleno Chile, Big Jim), and lettuce (Salad Bowl) in greenhouse
March 10 – Peas (Canoe) and two rows of spinach (Spaulding) in a raised bed (had to stop due to downpour)
March 14 – The remaining rows of spinach (Spaulding) in a raised bed

Today I need to pot up the cabbage and broccoli, and snip any onions that are over three inches high.

I’m pretty sure that both Gracie and Zinnia are pregnant. Prancer is just a sweetie. All three goats have been assiduously testing the garden fences and, as a result, have been confined to their enclosure/playground until Mark and I can correct our obvious mistakes. 😉 Not that they mind, what with the weather being so biblical lately. Madeline lets them out to browse and plays with them during the sun breaks.

Two of our ducks went missing at exactly the same time. Either a pair of predators got them, or they’ve gone to the underbrush to be broody. I will know one way or the other by the first week of April.

We bought three lovely Buff Orpington hens from a nearby acquaintance. That brings the hen total to eight. Rob likes his new ladies. 😉

Where has the time gone?

I really admire these homesteaders who can blog so often and in such an engaging way.  My editing gig really sucks up my child-free computer time.  The good news is that the editing gig – which I do as a volunteer – will be on someone else’s plate starting next month.  Maybe then I can update this thing more regularly.

Our homestead is on the path of at least one bald eagle.  Unfortunately, said eagle has enjoyed an uninvited duck and drake dinner here.  On the plus side, the remaining ducks have learned the rooster’s “Danger!” crow and take cover when they hear it.

Looking for supper

Last week my husband took pictures of our two goats playing around – and in – the chicken coop.  I’m especially glad he did, because the smaller of the two, Joyjoy, had an accident two days ago and died.  Ordinarily, as with any beloved pet, we would have waited to get another, but goats are herd animals and can’t live happily alone.  Gracie, the remaining twin, is due to have her first kids next month, but it would have been cruel to make her wait until then for companionship.  Luckily, Gracie and Joyjoy’s breeder still has faith in us, and yesterday we brought home Zenyatta, Gracie’s cousin and old friend.  I’ll post photos of her when my husband takes them.

Joyjoy the Rascal

Joyjoy and her Best Friend Forever

Busy, busy, busy…

Mothering, harvesting, homeschooling, editing, cleaning, building, mending, learning, and just plain living have occupied all of my time since my last entry.  The big news is that we now have milk goats!  Twin doelings Gracie and Joyjoy (from Herron Hill Farm) are 75% La Mancha and 25% Nubian.  We will breed Gracie to one of the Herron Hill Nigerian Dwarfs when she comes into heat.  Joyjoy is still very small, so we will wait to breed her.  They are both very sweet and think my eldest daughter hung the moon.  It’s like having a pet that’s a cross between a dog and a deer.

Joyjoy and Gracie

We’re back up to eight ducks.  We bought a trio of Saxonys from a nice fellow in Kingston.  The female/male ratio is 1 to 1, but that doesn’t make one of the runners happy (we’ve named him Macho), so we’re looking to get two additional girls as soon as we’re a wee bit more flush.  At the moment, the ducks are laying an average of three eggs per day, which is excellent timing because the chickens are molting.

Doin' the duck thing

On the gardening front, I flunked potatoes and corn, due to soil trouble that will not happen again, but I got full marks for strawberries, beans, and greens.  Blackberries were disappointing for us this year due to the unfavorable confluence of rain and ripening; green berries were rotting on the brambles!  Tomatoes are always a gamble around here, but I got a fair amount of red goodness from the outdoor vines before the weather turned too cool.  The greenhouse tomatoes are still producing.  I’ve cover cropped with hairy vetch, fava beans, and New Zealand white clover, and fenced in the beds to keep the chickens away until I need them to dig.  Lettuce and vit are still happy outside (though not for long).  I planted Egyptian Walking and Yellow Multiplier onions a few weeks ago, along with my own garlic.  All the beds either have something edible still in them, or are cover cropped, so I’m hoping for even better results next year.

Now to start taming the house chaos before guests arrive for Thanksgiving this Thursday! 🙂

How do homesteaders blog…

… during growing season?  Maybe they write in their own blogs instead of reading everyone else’s.  Or, they’re more facile than I.

We’re down to five ducks now – two girls and three boys.  We had to go away for part of the weekend and didn’t have anyone to shut the ducks up at night and let them out in the morning, which means they were out and about in the early morning – coyote time around here.  Next trip, I’ll have a contingency pet-minder lined up.  I think I’ll give Holderread Farm a call and query them about proper duck female/male ratio.  They’re all getting along well now, and I’d like to keep it that way.  They’re certainly earning their keep in the slug and mosquito control department – not to mention the cute factor. 😉

Curious, one of our Black Sex Link hens became eggbound last weekend.  We did all the right things for her, but she just couldn’t pass the egg and succumbed. 😦  Given the fact that we feed them proper layer feed, oyster shell, and let them free-range from Noon ’til they put themselves to bed at dusk, I was surprised that any of them would get eggbound.  There was an out-of-the-blue exceedingly loud thunderstorm, though, so my theory is that Curious freaked.  We still have seven hens plus the rooster, and they’re all feeling just fine.  I’m hoping Licorice will go broody again.

I’ve got lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and green beans all ready to harvest every day now, and the herb garden has exploded again.  The ubiquitous blackberries have started to ripen as well.  I made pea pod wine on Tuesday, will make lemon balm wine this week, and blackberry wine next week – once I’ve managed to pick up some pectic enzyme.  Herb butters need to be made too, along with blackberry jam.  I think I’ll freeze the green beans we don’t eat right away.  The ever-bearing strawberries have started up again, but the June-bearing beds need runner control and leaf clipping.  Busy, busy, busy…

Back from the Oregon Coast

My family took a much-needed vacation on the scenic Oregon Coast in early July, but not before I made more strawberry jam – bringing the grand total to 13 pints. 🙂  I also froze 2 quarts to use in the Thanksgiving and Christmas strawberry salads.  We arrived home last Friday to an herb garden explosion, so I’ll be heading out the door soon to tame the sage, parsley, and chives.  I also plan to cut the celery into manageable chunks and freeze it, since my primary use for it is in soups and other cooked dishes.

Two of the seven remaining ducks have turned out to be drakes.  Being rouens, it’s easy to tell now that they have their “nuptial” plumage.  As far as the four black runners and the buff mystery are concerned, I think I’m going to have to wait a few more weeks to see if any of them develop some curled tail feathers.  Oh well, as long as they don’t fight, I’ll be happy to keep all the boys; they are excellent slug patrollers and quite entertaining. 😉