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6/16/2014

If you have dairy goats and plan on getting milk, inevitably you have to deal with difficult kiddings. Most of the time, you walk in the barn and there’s mom and her kids staring at you, all dripping from birth slime. To be honest, that’s how I like it. All I have to do is dry the kids, tie off the umbilical cord, and dip it in iodine.

Not yesterday.

Deliah and Rollo

Next Up: Delilah

I suspected the next doe to give birth would be Delilah. Delilah is a small Alpine. I mean, really small. I got her free because she was undersized as a baby. She isn’t terribly big now, but she’s had a kid from Oreo before, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal.

My husband and I went down to the barn to plow out the horse’s corral when I went to check on the does and bottle feed Ragnar who is doing terrific. Delilah was lying down. I had her get up and saw a nose poking out her back end. The nose was still covered with the placenta, so I cleared it away and the baby goat coughed and snorted a bunch of fluid. At that, I pulled her inside the barn.

Malpresented

I knew something was wrong, so while I screamed for my husband to help me, I assessed the problem. The normal way for baby goats to be born is front feet first, followed by the head and the rest of the body. The only other way that works without an issue is if the back feet and then butt comes out first. The position is called the “diver” and “reverse diver” respectively.

I only saw a head and not the feet. Getting my left hand in there, I tried to feel around for legs. My husband rushed in to hold Delilah while I tried to sort out what I was feeling. Meantime, Delilah and the baby were screaming.

Quest for Goat Toes

Feeling inside a goat is akin to feeling the most slippery substance and trying to hold onto it. The placental sack makes it darn near impossible to get hold of anything. To make matters worse, my hand could barely fit through the pelvic opening and her body was clamping down on my arm in pain. So, I’m in pain, the doe is in pain, and the baby is in pain. Not good.

I finally feel something slimy with an angle. I’m guessing by feel it’s a leg. So I pull and get one foot out. Great. That’s half the battle. So I start looking for the left foot. I get my arm up to my elbow and finally find the other leg. It is in the lower part of her belly. I try to push it upward with my right hand from outside of Delilah. No go.

Success at Last

Finally my hand is so numb and my arm feels like it’s going to explode, I pull out. It jars the kid loose enough and he starts sliding out. Almost by magic, the other leg appears and I grasp both legs and pull.

The kid pulls free as mom screams. I end up sitting on the floor, panting as my arm swells up. My husband goes to get towels to dry the baby off. Delilah starts cleaning the kid. It’s a buckling. He’s big, if skinny. My husband returns with towels, dental floss, and a knife so I can cut the umbilical cord properly. I have iodine ready to dip the end. He can barely stand and would rather sleep. His suckling reflex isn’t good.

Good Mom; Tough Kidding

Delilah’s a good mom and is very conscientious about her new buckling. He isn’t really sure about food, so I grab a milk bottle, squirt some of her colostrum in it, and get it in his mouth. He’s shivering even though the day is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. We dry him off as best we can and let mom and kid bond. He spends most of the day lying down and not moving much. His suckling reflex is still not strong. We give Delilah some sweet feed to get her energy up.

Night Moves

We decided to call Delilah’s kid Rollo after the figure depicted in the show, Vikings. So, we have Ragnar and Rollo, the Viking brothers. Rollo was still weak and with the temperature supposed to plunge into the 30s, we decided to move him into a crate into my office so he could recuperate. He mostly slept and the few times I tried to bottle feed him, he resisted. Oddly, Delilah didn’t seem too concerned about him when I brought him inside, so I got worried that perhaps she would ignore him when I brought him back.

Reunited

I brought Rollo back to Delilah. She was unconcerned by his disappearance and ate the grain I gave her in the pen. At first, she seemed to ignore him, but then she started cleaning him again. Soon Rollo was nursing ravenously on her.

From the monitor, I was able to see Rollo jumping around next to Delilah. A good sign since he had barely had enough energy to stand up at first. We’ll keep them together for two weeks straight until he can hang out with Ragnar. From there, he’ll be with mom and the herd in the daytime and in the kid pen at night so we can milk his mom first thing before putting him back with his mom.


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6/12/2014

Our first project on this summer’s list is begun.  It’s not part of the original season’s plan, but one that we readily embraced when the opportunity presented itself: building a greenhouse.

the greenhouse is to be located behind these garden beds

You see, neighborhood friends recently had a carport blow over in a windstorm. Five of the six rib supports made it through the tumble, but the whole unit was destined for the dump. Luckily for all, another option entered the picture - upcycle the remaining parts!  So thanks to neighbors’ generosity and our thriftiness, we loaded the parts and trucked them to our property’s edge. From there it was quite the carry.

Each rib of 2” piping arches over a 24’ span, making it an unwieldy armful with which to navigate through the woods. But it had to be done, and so it was.  And that was simply the beginning.  We now had a pile of arches and support poles piled amongst brambles, wild strawberries, small saplings, large stumps, and old slash. All told, this tent-turned-greenhouse would measure 16’ x 24’. Though I had been steadily clearing small amounts of land to increase the garden space, this sort of square footage would take some work.  

As to where the greenhouse would stand, and which direction it would be oriented...well, there were a finite number of options before us and Ryan & I came to agreement fairly rapidly. West of the old cellar hole, north of the current compost pile; the young Northern Spy apple that I planted last spring will likely have to be dug and moved come next April.

It seemed like a formidable task in front of us: take this overgrown mess of an area and turn it into something that can grow food.  Not only that, but we set ourselves an ambitious deadline: later this month we’re hosting a gathering of friends, and the opportunity to use the greenhouse as a tent in case of rain quickly became appealing. So ready, set, go: we have just a couple weeks to transform the ground, level the area, and anchor the structure’s skeleton in the ground.

We started with the loppers and took down saplings and brambles, then turned to the fire rake, amassing the slash and debris. Ryan took stumps down to the ground, and bucked up the large pine he had felled to first make the cabin’s clearing a reality. Wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load we dumped all this biomass at the backside of our clearing (a sloped area where we are slowly building berms and terraces from weeds, slash, and the like). From there, the work turned more to digging and pulling, extracting roots and small stumps. Rocks and boulders, too, of course.

creating a clearing that can grow food!

It was dirty, sweaty work, but what else can we say than that it felt good.  With the tangle of shrubbery and slash removed, the ground was more level than we anticipated - and with black dirt beneath us! Our good fortune seems to have held once more - it would appear that the old homestead has left us with yet another site of rich dirt thanks to an unknown past.

Now we look out the window and the bare spot leaps out at us, impressing us with the the work it required and enticing us with the promise of possibilities to come. For this weekend, it will be the work of leveling and pounding anchors that fills our time. From there, raising and framing the structure will be our focus.  After it’s brief stint as a party tent, the push to grow produce will take hold at last - manure will be spread and cover crops seeded.  In the fall, plastic will be rolled on, and cold weather greens planted.  From there, we hope to relay a tale of bounty for seasons to come.

Garden work is my specialty!  Weeding, planting, mulching and pruning services available, plus edible landscapes and garden designs.  Contact Beth via b.a.weick@gmail.com for your annual, perennial, herbal, or ornamental garden needs.



6/12/2014

A few years ago, we added a couple goats to our homestead farm, including an Alpine milkgoat named Avi. I bought Avi already in milk, so the first year I was able to focus on milking without a kid in the mix. When the second year rolled around, the project added a bit more dimension. First, we needed to learn about animal midwifery, to support Avi in birthing on the farm. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about that birthing experience — Goat Midwifery. And second, we needed to make some decisions about how we would raise our little herd. Would we separate newborn kids from their mothers right away, let them nurse a bit then wean them early, or let the mother goats raise ‘em up?

Avi newborns nursing

Most people I knew who were offering up advice about milk goats were folks in the business. They all agreed that people raise milk goats; separating and feeding newborn kids was a job for shepherds, not goats. The reasoning was primarily that separating mothers and babies was the only way to get milk and tame goats. Another loud and clear opinion I received from different sources was that I needed to milk twice a day.

Now, I’m not trying to get out of the work, I really am not. But I’m already taking on more than I should, it’s the nature of the homestead project. I do a little of a lot of things. If it was at all possible to share some of the work with the mother goat, and to milk once a day, I was in. Just take the first step after birthing: bottle-feed newborn kids four times a day and night. I was not excited about bottle feeding four times a day, even for only a couple weeks.  And night … mostly not excited about bottle feeding during the night. This sounded like a whole lot of work, and if nature had a way to excuse me from this task, I was listening.

Sharing Milk With Both Human and Goat Kids

So really … couldn’t the mother goat take care of this? Do I need to choose between my goat feeding her own kids or my kids? Is it possible to share?

A lot of good questions came up. After much thought, I realized that a homestead with only a couple newborn kids would have very different needs from a dairy with a little herd of babes. Our farm is not a milking operation. I am only milking a goat or two for my own family. I considered the options and realized that things might be handled differently on a homestead than in a professional dairy.

On our farm, Avi could be a mother. She could take care of the business of feeding her kids. Yes. And likely do a better job of it than I would. I would definitely be happy to delegate this job back to the one who nature set to the task in the first place. But could she share some of the milk with my family? Yes. And how do I work out this arrangement? Do we have to sign something? An agreement to share and go halvsies? More thinking involved.

Welcome Fiasco Farm’s website. A wealth of information about everything goats. This farm has blessed us with their wisdom about sharing milk. They actually run a dairy where goats raise their kids and share milk with the humans. I think that is very unusual in the dairy business. It certainly makes sense for a homestead operation. It was on the Fiasco Farm website that I learned how.

The mother goat stays with her kids for at least two weeks, and I do not milk during that time. This is vital nursing time for the kids, with the essential first couple days of highly nutritious collostrum and the first couple weeks of heavy nursing for strength and weight gain. I feel so good about giving the mother and the kids the nursing relationship and the healthy food source.

Then after a couple weeks, the kids are separated by just a fence or cattle panel just for nighttime. In the morning, momma is milked and then reunited with the kids for the day. They are barely separated at night, just a cattle panel between them, so they have the comfort of company. But they have to wait til morning to nurse. I found this easier to initiate at three or four weeks old--they can easily handle not eating the whole night by then. And they can have some hay and water by then, if they want. It is my observation through two sets of kids in this setup that this is not a stressful situation for the mother goat or the kids, particularly at three weeks old or older.

Advantages of Sharing Goat's Milk

I found there were perks to sharing with the kid. I get to start milking whichever week I like. If I am too busy to start milking after the kids are a couple weeks old,  I can delay my start to milking routine until I am ready. The kids will keep her in milk until I am ready to start sharing. And I can skip a morning every so often, by keeping the kids with momma overnight that time. Milking once a day works easily when the kids share the milk—but you can milk on a once a day routine with or without sharing with a kid. Just keep it routine. I found that a lot of people think you have to milk twice a day, that it’s cruel to the mother goat otherwise. I knew from nursing my own children that our bodies adjust to the milking schedule. Going off schedule would cause a disruption in milk production that could cause discomfort. But milking once per day by routine is fine.

Avi nursing

I thought it would be hard to separate the babes from momma in the evening. After two days of training, with some scooting of the kids into their penned off area, they got used to it and scooted in there on their own. It’s the frolic of getting kids into the pen with a little feed, and keeping adult goats out of the pen with a little feed. Quickly, they learn where the feed will be and begin to predict it, then everyone is in their place.

Letting goats raise goat babies is natural and easier, for a homestead setting. The greatest pleasure of this setup is witnessing the mother-baby relationship. It is a bond across species, no doubt.

I love watching Avi bond with her kids, patiently nursing them, teaching them the ropes, and keeping them close to her side.  As long as we humans also make sure that we cuddle them and tame them with routine contact, I have found two sets of kids to be loving, friendly goats who are tame and appreciate an ear rub whenever offered.

Read part 1 to this story—Goat Midwifery.

To learn more about natural goat care, consider Fiasco Farm’s informative website. 

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and Blog.HouseInTheWoods.com, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to www.HouseInTheWoods.com



6/11/2014

Old well

In a 1976 MOTHER EARTH NEWS article (Draw Water From Your Well Without Electricity) writer Clifford Gwinn said he was without water, electricity and money when he decided a well bucket would be a simple, temporary solution.

Gwinn asked his well driller about it and was told no one in their area of Pennsylvania used a well bucket anymore to get water since electricity was readily available. Most people do not even know how to use a well bucket, he said. In the days before the Internet, Gwinn also could not find a source for buying a bucket, also known as a bailer or torpedo bucket.

However, with his dad’s help, Gwinn produced a homemade well bucket for less than $5. According to the article, the bucket worked so efficiently that Gwinn scrapped his idea of eventually installing an electric submersible pump on his homestead.

Today, more folks everywhere are making the move to self-reliant living (180,000 off-grid Americans in 2006 according to “Off the Grid or on, Solar and Wind Power Gain,” (USA Today), with more people disconnecting every day. Their reasons for forsaking the power grid vary – from saving money and the environment to self-sufficiency and privacy.

Many of those choosing to transition to an off-grid lifestyle also do not want to rely on alternative energy systems, but prefer to operate their households independent of technology. As Gwinn discovered, a well bucket can meet the water needs of a family temporarily or until a more expensive water-pumping system can be installed.

How to Use a Well Bucket Video

Since most American homes have had access to reliable electricity for more than a generation, many have never used a well bucket. The following instructional video explains how to use a bucket either by hand or with a windlass:  

All About Well Buckets

In hand-dug wells, a traditional well bucket was used. When modern equipment enabled wells to be drilled with a much smaller diameter hole, a long skinny bucket was needed to fit inside the casing. These can still be found in antique stores or as porch ornaments, bringing back memories of bygone days.

Well buckets today are made in a variety of styles and of tin or plastic pipe. Most fill from the bottom and must be poured out from the top. This can be awkward when handling a full bucket. The bucket Gwinn made uses a rubber ball as a check valve and empties by setting the bucket into a container, which pushes up and opens the valve. The simplest (and most sanitary) buckets to use are the original style, those that fill from the bottom and can be emptied from the bottom with a lever at the top.

Before buying or making a well bucket, measure your well casing and determine if there is a liner. Also, determine the static water level with a weighted string to ensure you have enough rope to reach the water. More information can be found on our blog, “How to Measure Your Well and Static Water Level.”

measure a well

Also, the well must be free from obstructions, including an electric submersible pump, before using a well bucket. Do not attempt to measure the static water level with a pump in the well without first turning off the power.  

Before using a bucket, it is helpful to understand well construction. This 1997 Popular Mechanics article, “How It Works: Water Well Pump,” includes illustrations of the inside of a well casing.

Because water is heavy, roughly 8 pounds per gallon, and we generally need more than a few gallons at a time, raising and lowering a bucket is easier with some sort of tripod and pulley or windlass.

Well buckets are ideal for a secondary well without a pump installed. But, no matter what type of system you have now to pump water from your drilled well, a well bucket is inexpensive insurance that you can always get to your water.

Photos and Youtube video by Linda Holliday

Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to producing products for off-grid living. 



6/10/2014
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” - Socrates

chicken tractorWhen I first sat down to actually write this post, I was trying to think of a way to describe my first week as a Polyface summer intern and this quote came to mind. This past week has been very impactful to me: humbling, gratifying, tiring, eye opening and exciting.

What has really struck me, though, is that there is so much to know when it comes to farming, and I really and truly had no idea how much there is to learn. Farming is not simply sprinkling cracked corn to your chickens and watering lettuce while listening to the birds chirp. Challenges are constantly coming up, issues occur and solutions need to be thought up and executed quickly. And I love it.

In my weekly blog posts, I’ll go through day by day and let you know what we did. We do a lot in a day (I keep a daily log or else I’ll forget), so I’ll explain which farm tasks we do, but may not get into specific methodology of what was done until later on when I either have a more detailed lesson on it from farm leadership or when I have pictures to help me explain.

Sunday, June 1st

The Polyface Summer Internship always starts on June 1st. This year, June 1st happened to fall on a Sunday, which is a day of rest at Polyface and is chores only. We interns had arrived a few days earlier to settle in and unpack (I arrived Friday 5/30 at about 5:30pm, having left Massachusetts at 6:30am.) and were asked to meet Daniel Salatin and the farm apprentices at 5:45am on Sunday to shadow them while they did chores. I was able to go with one of the apprentices, and another intern to the turkey shelters. He explained to us how he moved the shelters (all poultry shelters are moved daily), how much feed to give the birds and showed us how to water them (more on that later). We also fed the some of the pullets (young hens not yet of egg laying age), checked on one of the groups of pigs and let one of the herds of cows into a new paddock. I had never seen such happy cows before and it was fun to watch them run to the new grasses. We were then free until 4pm, the next time chores were done, and a welcome dinner after.

I am one of four female interns and we currently live in The Roost, a converted mobile classroom you may have read about in some of Joel Salatin’s books, most recently Fields of Farmers, a book he wrote about he and his family’s experiences having farm interns and the importance of fostering our next generation of farmers. (I picked up a copy before I came to Polyface… I was being impatient and wanted some hints on what this summer would be like.). The Roost has a kitchen/eating area, a bathroom and large bedroom with bunks and storage areas for our clothes and essentials. We are given a lot of freedom with regards to how we set up our living quarters, but are expected to keep everything clean. We are also allowed access to the Polyface larder, which is a big treat. Thus far, we’ve had lots of fresh eggs, meat, vegetables and sometimes other little surprises (my favorite item from the surprise bin thus far has been rolls from a bakery in town).

For evening chores, I shadowed while the rabbit shelters were moved and the broilers (meat chickens) and pullets’ food and water were checked and refilled as necessary. We then went to Daniel and Sheri Salatin’s house for our introductory dinner, where we went over Polyface’s standard operating procedure and their expectations of us. I left feeling very welcomed and excited about the coming week.

Monday, June 2nd

moving tractor

Monday morning was our group lesson on how to move the broiler shelters. When I say broiler shelters, I mean the mobile chicken coops Polyface is famous for, as there are also pullets in some of the broiler shelters. Those of you who are familiar with Joel’s book Pastured Poultry Profits will already know how moving shelters is done, but I will explain it for those of you who don’t. The broiler shelters are portable chicken coops that can be moved easily by one person. (I say this now because I have gotten the hang of it. It wasn’t easy the first few times I tried it.) The shelters are moved daily to give the birds fresh grasses to enjoy and distribute their manure to encourage soil health. At Polyface, not only are they are trying to teach us how to take care of livestock, but they also want us to know how to do so efficiently and ergonomically. (We only have one back people! Gotta take care of it!) As Daniel explained, the first step to moving the shelter is to remove the feeder from inside where the birds are. We then walk it up about three paces and set it down in the grass, which helps give a benchmark as to how far to pull the shelter. Polyface has this handy dolly (as seen in the photo) we use to roll the shelter. It took me a few tries to get the hang of getting the dolly in the proper position, but once it is in, you go to the front of the broiler shelter where there is a handle. You lift the handle, lean back and pull the shelter back keeping your back straight. I like to move the shelters back in short movements for two reasons; one is to make sure the birds inside have enough time to keep up with the shelter and the second is because I am not as strong as I thought I was. (More on that in just a bit.) After the shelters are moved, the birds are fed and their water filled.  We practiced this as a group and were then given time to go to breakfast. When we came back, we were then given a tour of the farm by our apprentice manager, and we got to see all the different fields and farm ponds to help us get our bearings. The rest of the morning was spent doing some of the many miscellaneous small farm jobs that pop up; putting away a delivery of 1 x 6 planks, hitching up trailers to trucks, etc.

hay wagonMonday afternoon one of my roommates and I helped with baling hay. This is the part where I go deeper into that I am not as strong as I thought I was. The hay bales of my youth were light, dry and distributed one flake at a time, so when I was told we were baling hay, I thought I would be a pro. A wagon and a half into it, my roommate and I were practically dying. The bales were especially heavy, about 70 lbs each, and they just kept coming out of the baler. We ended up team lifting them while the apprentice that thankfully was there with us was throwing them around like they were loaves of bread. At some point, our arms seemed to stop working and we had to ask to be subbed out. I climbed up to the top of the stack to position the bales the apprentice was so easily passing up and as I was up there trying to catch my breath while attempting to be helpful, Daniel reminded me of a comment I had made to him earlier that day about how they seemed to be nicely easing us into the hard labor aspect of farming. He certainly has good timing. I will never again complain about the price of hay.

Tuesday, June 3rd

Tuesday morning I was able to help another of the apprentices with feeding the rabbits. My job was to go to a comfrey patch she pointed out, fill two five gallon buckets with plants and feed them to the rabbits. This was a very pleasant way to start the morning, as there were a lot of very cute baby bunnies hopping around. I do have to keep in mind they are for food and to not give them names. After breakfast, three other interns and myself went with Daniel to set up a shade cloth on the turkey roost and set up the electric netting that encompasses their shelter (aka a “feathernet”). Once we rolled it out, we noticed there were holes in some of the nets and Daniel was able to give us a lesson in netting repair, which is a skill I’m excited to have learned.

After lunch, I went with our apprentice manager, another one of the apprentices, and one of my roommates to set up pig fencing at one of the properties Polyface manages. We pounded in stakes, ran electric wire and the apprentice manager mowed where the fencing was to go, as this helps the pigs see where the fence is in the tall grass. Evening chores were feeding and watering the broilers and making sure none of the shelters were broken.

Tuesday night was the first night Joel Salatin was able to eat dinner with us, as he had just returned from the Mother Earth News Fair and it was nice to have him there. We eat as a group after work Monday through Friday, which is a great way to wrap up the day. We can relax, joke around and get the run down of what we’re doing the next day and the food is always delicious.

Wednesday, June 4th

Wednesday morning was our chicken processing lesson. This was another instance where I thought I would be better at the task than I actually was, as I had eviscerated birds prior to coming here. Polyface’s way was different than the way I had learned at the farm I assisted before, mainly because there are more stations at a Polyface processing. I was at the gutting station and was responsible for loosening the crop, which I had never done before and I was woefully slow at (although all things improve with practice, I just like being good at everything immediately, which is rarely the case), and removing the innards, except for the lungs. I was stationed across from Joel, who was teaching us, and was marveling at how quickly he can do this. He reminded us that he has had a lot of practice, but I kept finding myself stopping what I was doing to watch his technique. We also learned how to bag the birds in a way that is not only attractive, but helps the bird keep longer, and learned how Polyface organizes their freezers. I would have liked to take pictures of the interns learning to process, but as I got into it I was concentrating and forgot. I’ll take some in the next few weeks, as we process birds weekly. I am confident we’ll all get the hang of it with the amount of practice we’ll have.

After lunch, I was able to set up a cross fence for one of the herds of cattle with Joel, which is something I had done during my two day checkout back in December. The views from this particular corral were beautiful and it was interesting to listen as Joel pointed out the different parts of the property and his plans for them. After that, I helped two of the apprentices move pigs, which ended up taking much longer than we anticipated because of one especially stubborn sow, but was still really fun and I got covered in mud plucking some piglets out of a wallow. All in all, it was a great day.

chicken tractorThursday, June 5th

Thursday morning, one of my roommates and I were given the opportunity to feed and water the rabbits on our own. I was in charge of feeding the rabbits their greens while my roommate gave them their pellets and filled their water. We also fed the hens in the hoop house where most of the rabbits live and moved the mobile rabbit shelters that are stationed throughout the property. After breakfast, two of the other interns and I split posts for a corral the staff is planning. I split one post, but it took a long time. (I’m not particularly known for my sledgehammering abilities…) I ended up taping in the wedges for the other two guys and using the hatchet to chop apart the pieces of the logs that weren’t coming apart and we were able to get a lot done.

Thursday afternoon, all of the interns shadowed Daniel and the apprentices while they planned how to build a new corral for some of their cattle. They were taking into account how cows prefer to move to the right (something I didn’t know), leaving enough room for a livestock trailer to back up and the topography of the land. It was pretty informative and I’m looking forward to seeing the corral come to fruition. The rest of the day was spent gathering and washing eggs, which I really enjoy doing. It is quiet and methodical work and once you get into the rhythm of it, it is very relaxing. I think it’s the perfect way to finish a day.

Friday, June 5th

Friday morning, I was given the task of moving broiler shelters. I was nervous about it given my awkwardness with learning it on Monday. Like I mentioned before, however, after practice, I got the hang of it and left feeling encouraged knowing I could move them on my own. My roommate and I then went with Daniel while he tested the tentative layout of the corral by bringing the goose-neck trailer to make sure there would be enough room to turn. It was good we went because some of the cows had gotten out and we were able to pretty easily herd them back to where they needed to go. We then stayed and helped set up a new cross fence (which involved my being allowed to drive the ATV) and let the cows into their new field. Let me tell you, watching cows trot happily into a field of tall grasses in the early morning mist is a beautiful thing. After breakfast, I spent the rest of the day around the sales building, helping unload the mineral, salt and kelp delivered for the cows and helping customers with their custom meat order pickups. I spent so much time in sales prior to coming here that it was fun to talk with the people who were picking up and see where they were from and what motivated them to eat the way they do. 

I had this weekend off, although interns generally work at least one weekend a month. As you can see, it was a busy week, and I learned and experienced a lot. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a summer intern here as everyone has been patient and so willing to help and teach. I will work hard to make their efforts worth their while. Be sure to check back next week and I’ll let you know what else has gone on and more of what I have learned. See you next week!



6/6/2014

IMG_0262.JPG

Honey! It’s why I originally became a beekeeper even though that has morphed into so many more other good reasons to keep bees. I’ve been pulling honey for almost a month now and still can’t wait til tomorrow when I go out again, for the last time this season, to harvest this liquid gold.

This year’s honey is very light in color but has a very distinctive taste that I can’t quite identify. The first pull in early May was the most distinctive, and I’m not sure what it came from. Trees? yes, but which ones? the very early blooming shrubs and wildflowers? yes, but which ones? In the 3 successive pulls so far this season, the bees have gone from foraging on trees and shrubs to multiflora rose, honeysuckle, wild blackberries, and now clover. Each pull has become milder in flavor, with it’s own distinctive color and taste. 

Many beekeepers wait until mid or late summer to harvest all their honey at one time. The honey is pulled, blended all together, and so is of one flavor and color. If the beekeeper has integrity, this honey is a wonderful blend of the bees’ nectar gathering and the beekeeper’s season of toil. If the beekeeper values profit over craft, there is no way to know what you are getting. In a bad year, the beekeeper might be tempted to buy honey from elsewhere to mix with a paltry crop. Sad but true.

The reason I pull multiple times in a season and get such variety in my honey is simply because I work alone. As an older woman without the muscle power of a man or of a younger person, I’ve learned to adapt, which means I have to work more slowly and to spread the harvest out over a month or so, little by little. The wonderful upside of this is the terroir of honeys that I harvest. Each is distinctive because of the flowers that happen to be blooming at the time.

Beyond this is the weather conditions. If it has been very rainy, even though a certain flower is in full bloom, the bees are unable to harvest the nectar, being stuck in the hive because of the downpours. If flowers bloom during a particularly windy time, the bees cannot fly in the high winds and do not harvest that nectar.

So, as you can see, each year’s honey will vary in composition and flavor. This is why I anticipate each year’s crop with such excitement! What color will it be? How will it taste? No two years and no two pulls are alike. This time of year is the highlight. I harvest and sell my honey and get feedback from my customers. Neither of us are ever disappointed!



6/6/2014

action scarecrow front

Several years ago, when crows kept stealing the vegetable seedlings from our gardens before they even had a chance to grow, I asked my husband for a simple, no-kill solution. His remedy was centuries old, but just as effective as ever – a scarecrow.

When I heard the racket coming from his shop, however, I knew this bird-scarer would not be a couple of 2x4s hammered together. No, he came out smiling with a man-sized mannequin that would frighten the daylights out of any critter contemplating sprouts for dinner. Now, that’s how to make a scarecrow. Clothed and with his pantyhose head in place, our scarecrow took on a personality, which of course, warranted a name. We called him “Woody.” For years he kept the squirrels, rabbits and crows at bay. If you have never made a scarecrow, you will be surprised at the fun and how well they keep above-ground pests from pilfering your produce.

My inventive husband, always seeking ways to improve perfection, decided to remake Woody recently, adding more motion and sound. We now have “Woody the Action Scarecrow,” who rotates like a weather vane and dangles wind chimes to startle the stealthiest crop robbers.

Not only does Woody stand guard day and night looking ominous, he spins in the wind with a warning sign as a sail. Since we do actually like the furry and feathered creatures that surround us, the sign instructs them to simply stay outside our garden. For the critters that cannot read, owl eyes on the sign backside illustrate the message clearly. Swinging from Woody’s other hand, chimes made of electrical conduit ring like old school bells.

My husband used scrap PVC pipe and elbows, woven wire, plywood and metal pipe to fashion this new action scarecrow. Meanwhile, I assembled Woody’s head of pantyhose, pillow innards, buttons and three-tone yarn. Of course, a scarecrow can be made of any materials on hand. Even something as simple as a plastic bag tied to a stick will work – for a while. My husband’s version, though, has proven to last and keep deer and crows out of the garden for years. It is also lightweight and easy to move around the garden. Plus it’s an awfully cute addition to the backyard.

How To Make a Scarecrow Body

scarecrow frameRoll pieces of 2” x 4” x 3’ woven wire around a 3” piece of PVC pipe to form legs. Cut the wire long enough to leave tabs to tie leg seams. Also cut the leg bottom wire strand off to create tabs which later binding the legs and torso. Tie the edges together with the tabs and wire ties. Remove the PVC pipe.

Cut one piece of woven wire to roll for the body. Ours has a 36” waist so the wire was cut about 38”. Tie the back edge together. Set the torso on scrap 1/2” plywood and trace around it. Cut it out. This forms the bum bottom. Drill four holes in the bum near the edge to later attach the torso.

Set the legs on the underside of the bum to mark where to drill holes for all the wire tabs except two. These two tabs will be bent over the edge of the torso later. Do not attach yet.

On both sides of the torso top, cut the top strand so the shoulders can be rolled over. Bind with wire ties.

Cut one piece of 2” schedule 80 PVC pipe 17” for the shoulder pipe. Drill a 1” hole into the center (not through both sides). Place through the torso, evenly spaced on both ends and with the drilled hole pointing down.

Measure the distance from drilled hole to the torso back. Drill a 2” hole in the bum the same distance as the shoulder pipe hole and evenly spaced from each hip.

Push the bum into the torso bottom. Bend over the tabs. Thread wire through the drilled holes to secure it. Turn the torso upside down and insert the leg tabs into the drilled holes in the bum. Bend over the tabs. Bend over the two remaining tabs on the outside edges by hooking them around the torso wire.

Cut two 20” pieces of 2” PVC pipe for arms. Attach to the shoulder pipe with 2” (22-degree) PVC elbows. Cut two 6” stubs of 1 1/2” PVC to form wrists to slide into the arms. Drill a hole through the arm bottom and wrist to insert a screw. Slide a 1 1/2” (22-degree) elbow onto each wrist to form hands (later hidden by gloves).  

Cut a 40” piece of 12-gauge wire to form the neck and attach it to the back of the torso with tie wire. Attach the head by tying the pantyhose ends (explained below) to the inverted U-shaped wire. Secure with additional wire ties. Bend the neck bottom over the torso wire.

 Cut a 4’ piece of 1/2” rigid pipe for the center rod (backbone). Insert a dowel rod plug into the top of this rod to allow the torso to spin freely. Cut a 4’ piece of 1” rigid pipe to create a telescoping rod. This pipe is pounded into the soil 2’. Attach a U-bolt to adjust height.

How To Make a Scarecrow Head

Cut off three pantyhose legs. Insert the legs into the first to form a triple thickness. Tie a knot 6” from the toe. Stuff with filler. Make the head larger and longer than normal. The face will compress when eyes are added and the high forehead holds a hat in place. After filling, tie off the bottom of the head, leaving the long tail for tying onto the body.

With marker or paint, draw a nose, remembering to keep a high forehead. Attach shiny button eyes by sewing all the way through the head with upholstery thread or fishing line, pulling tight. At the back of the head, tie the thread to a washer or curtain ring. Draw or stitch a mouth. To stitch, pull the thread tightly through the head. Draw on ears. Cut yarn hair and attach to the knot on the head. Attach the head to the body as explained above.

action scarecrow back

Put Your Scarecrow in Your Garden

Insert the center pipe into the larger pipe driven into the soil. Allow enough space for your scarecrow to spin without hitting any plants. Dress your scarecrow as desired.

Finally, stand back and admire your new friend. Be prepared to laugh yourself silly as you welcome your action scarecrow to the family and occasionally startle yourself in the garden.

For more detailed instructions with photos and a video, please see our blog. For more fun scarecrow ideas, check out this Mother Earth News scarecrow contest slideshow from 1989 or this spinning scarecrow from 1980.

Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.









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