Thursday, May 31, 2012

The pecking order

Captain Hook and his favorite hen – both Marans, layers of beautiful chocolate colored eggs, and top of the pecking order in our flock.  He has his group of hens who follow him around and look to him protection. 

Our flock is divided into two groups which have remained separate, with the other group led by Captain Hook’s father  – Peter Pan.  There is no such a thing as respect for your elders in the chicken pecking order.  Captain Hook dethroned his father and pulled all his tail feathers in the process…  Such a meany. 
He now almost looks like… a hen… and hangs out inside the coop with the broodies or in the farther ends of the yard with a couple of his followers, out of Hook’s way.

Laying chickens offer much more than eggs, in the form of daily entertainment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Gaillardia pulchella
Indian Blanketflower is a Florida native wildflower I planted a couple of years ago from seed. It reseeds freely every year and spreads out like a blanket, forming a nice flower bed over time. It’s easy for us to keep it in check as it mows down looking like grass. I have it growing around the bird bath, which provides protection from the cats, making the bird bath less accessible to them.

 The bees and butterflies like its nectar, and the seeds are easy to collect. I once saw it in a flower bed at a place in Brandon that I drive by every week, a rare sight, possibly because it’s not for sale at the big chain garden centers.  It's supposed to grow well near the beach as it tolerates salt somewhat, so it may be more popular out on the coast.

Another nice feature about this flower is that it changes color as it matures, from bright yellow and red to the rusty red seen above.

The bed always shows various shades of yellow and red.  Easy to care for, colorful, and food for the bees - it's a keeper.

I'm linking with Blooming Tuesday, where you can see what flowers people are growing all over the world.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Harvest Monday

The month of May is almost over, hard to believe.  For some reason, May always seem to fly by me.  Perhaps it's because we are so busy this time of year.  The garden is one of those busy places right now.  It has been in full production.  It's the peak time of year for us here in Florida and a race against time, meaning weather and bugs.  As the temperatures and humidity rise, we see more and more damage on plants.  The bugs love and thrive in these conditions.

Cabbages can be left in the ground for a couple of weeks without a problem, unless the worms start chewing them up.  I'm spraying with Bt to give myself time to process the entire bed.  So I only picked a few for making sauerkraut.

The cucumbers are done.  We had a great cucumber harvest this year.  The calabaza squash is our first of the year, so we have a bunch more still on the vine.  It seems to be holding out ok.  Basil was going to flower and seed, so I trimmed it back and made two cups of pesto, yumm!

Carrots!  What a bumper crop of carrots we had.  I planted a whole bed of them back in October.  I neglected to thin them out and discovered that it wasn't a problem at all.  We just started picking the larger ones in January, then the smaller ones began growing bigger, and so it's gone since, with a long stream of production - just wonderful.  These were the Nantes variety.

Aside from the cucumbers, we've are harvesting peppers.  These are just a sampling.  the Poblanos are growing profusely in hydroponic buckets.  Peppers love hydroponics.  We have bells, jalapenos and poblanos growing.  I never know what to do with the huge number of jalapenos that one bush can produce. 

These little cherry tomatoes are called Everglades.  They come from a prolific plant which is a Florida heirloom.  These reseed freely in the garden.  I planted the original plants several years ago, and now they just grow here and there.  We have them for breakfast every day with homemade fresh cheese!

Happy gardening... I'm linking with Harvest Monday, have fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Increasing our herd, not so easy

Michelle likes to come out every morning and help with the farm chores.  She is our early riser, so full of energy in the morning, and always up and ready to go.

When we walk over to the pasture, be it morning or evening, it's like clockwork, we see all the creatures lined up looking over to the path, patiently (or not) waiting for us to show up with thier favorite foods.  They must hear us coming out and setting up in the back.  All, except for Pearl, should have plenty of grazing, but grain is highly favored and a must at milking time.  For some reason, they also love hay.  I don't know why they would prefer it to the fresh grass on the field, but they will rush over for it every time.  I guess we all appreciate a little variety.

Loyal and dedicated, Pearl.  She is also very affectionate and playful.  This is what gets her in trouble sometimes, as Legacy doesn’t really appreciate her puppyhood very much.  I am sometimes surprised at the patience she displays with Pearl.  She is a companion to her at this point, so I’m sure that helps. 

We are waiting on two kid does who were born a few weeks ago up in North Florida at Glades Ridge Goat Dairy.  When we hear the word, we’ll make a trip up to the Florida/Georgia border to pick them up.  We hear that the demand for raw goat milk is on the rise, as people are discovering its health benefits.  Finding does for sale hasn’t been easy.  I also suspect that the urban homesteading movement has finally reached us.  I love to hear about people raising chickens for eggs in their back yards.  I even had a friend who lived in a subdivision with strict restrictions a few years ago who had a flock of chickens in her garage!  She has since moved to her own piece of land out in the country and is as happy as a lark.   
Goats are actually less messy than dogs, in my opinion.  Their droppings are small, dry, odorless, but the greatest surprise for me has been just how sweet Nubian goats are.  Perhaps I should say that Legacy is very sweet…  I know temperament is one of the traits people breed for.  Well, then, Legacy is a keeper. 
So far, Poe has also been a good buck.  I am expecting him to become less gentle as he grows into our herd sire, it’s inevitable.  Those hormones will take over and drive him, so we’ll see.  I did meet his father and grandfather at the farm when I picked him up.  The father was rather shy, actually.  Grandfather was more people friendly.   So, I suppose that goats have different dispositions and personalities – God knows how to make life interesting for us.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Roland - the one on the right.

I thought I'd post a picture of our puppy in South Carolina.  He is only six weeks old and too young yet to come home.  The breeder likes to keep puppies on their farm to make sure they are trained by the older dogs to know how to behave around goats and other farm animals.  She asked me for the puppy's name when she sent this picture, so she could begin using it.  I am very happy about how she is handling everything. 

We are due up in Abbeville, SC in late July.  So, we wait.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Full Circle

We had a busy and fun day today.  It began with a phone call from Verizon, they needed Don to fix a problem which had him stuck to the computer for two hours.  Thankfully, he has trained Michael to fill in for him, so he took care of milking the cow while I fed the dogs and goats, and Michelle and Emily took care of breakfast.  All was well.  By noon, we had finished our inside and outside chores.  After Don's call was over, he and Michael headed out to put the final touches on Poe's future buck pen.  They attached the gate, installed the mineral salt and baking soda dispensers, and put in the pallate on the ground which will serve to keep him dry during summer rains. All we need to do, before he moves in, is add a few inches of pine shavings to the pallate, and we'll be set to go. For now, he stays in the kennel. I would like to keep him there, at least till we get our two new doe kids in a couple of weeks. I want him to grow a little bigger before he is out in this pen, just in case the fox gets any ideas...

While Don tried to fix an ongoing leak problem on our chimney...  I went around taking these pictures.  We always make sure I'm outside, within earshot when he climbs on the roof, just in case.  I foresee having to hire someone to do work on that chimney in the near future.  Last year, the roofers came and patched up the area around it, but during the storm this week, we saw that the problem is still there.

The African lillies are in bloom...

and we have elderflowers
After lunch, we headed out on a trip to town.  We rarely need to go to Tampa, so when we do, we make try to make several stops and do some shopping for things that can't be found nearby. 

View of downtown Tampa
Our first stop was Hancock Fabrics.  I was looking for some trim and ribbon that Joann's didn't have in stock and was glad to find it there.  I saw some really nice fabrics and a lot more selection than at Joann's, which has become a craft store and not so much a sewing store any more.  I am looking forward to going back, without the kids, so that I can take my time looking.

The girls found their fun spot, and this is another reason I need to go back... I just have to buy that blue boa for Emily for her birthday, just to see that smile again! 

One of my favorite trees is still in bloom, the Jacaranda.  I'm sure the storms knocked down many of the flowers.  During the month of May, it is a real treat to drive around Tampa/St. Pete and see these purple trees dotting the landscape.

 At Whole Foods, this sight reminded me of why I planted artichokes in the garden two years ago when I saw the sign for "conventional" artichokes 2 for $6, ouch!  This winter would have yielded nothing, if I had planted them, so I glad I didn't.  We just didn't have enough chill for them.  But, I am adding them to my list for planting again this Fall.

Some expensive artichokes
After Whole Foods, we met our friends Don and Martini who treated us to what is known in some circles as Tampa's best barbecue.  I had the beef brisket, which was really, really good.  We have been in the mood for barbecue for some time, and this Holy Hog really hit the spot.  It was a treat!

We arrived back in Plant City sometime after 8:00, the sun was setting, just in time to go back out and feed the critters one more time, and get them all settled in for the night, while the young ones inside showered and got ready for bed - we'd come full circle.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Calm after the storm

After a night of stormy weather and even tornado warnings, we woke up to a bright and sunny day. Everything was greener and cleaner when we went out to take care of the animals and milk the cow.  I have been enjoying our mornings out since getting our goats.  Taking care of them has pushed forward the beginning of our school day by half an hour, but it's a half hour well spent.  The coolness of the morning breeze is energizing, and I get to spent time with the kids. 

The children had testing - a yearly occurrence and state requirement for homeschoolers in FL. So, after a hearty breakfast, out the door we went - Don down to Wimauma to help a couple from our church with their move, and I to deliver the kids to the church where testing is done. I came back to an empty home, and just took it easy for a few hours.

I listened to my Folks this ain't normal audio book, with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, and worked on Emily's secret birthday sewing project - a dress she picked out as her favorite from a new sewing book - Sewing With Whimsy. We love all the patterns.

I got a lot done in the few hours I had.  I pre-washed the fabric yesterday, so it was ready to go.  After ironing it, I copied the pattern onto some white tissue paper in order to save all the pattern sizes for future use, then pined it and cut all the pieces.  Maybe I'll get some actual sewing done this evening, after the girls go to bed.

I am linking with Farm Girl Friday today.

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the nightstand

I am enjoying listening to the audio version of Folks, this ain't normal, by Joel Salatin.  Joel himself reads the book to you in the audio version, which is a special treat.  You can get a free month trial of audio books and a free audio book here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Your days are counted, prowler...

Fox, spotted again this morning...

...he's after you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chick Slaughter

Some days don’t start out well, and today was one of those.  As soon as I stepped in the kitchen this morning, I was welcomed by the news – the chicks are gone.  The most likely culprit is the fox that prowls around our property looking for the slightest weakness in fencing or a stray chicken.  This is the second group of chicks she’s killed this spring.  We’ve lost many chickens and several goslings to this fox before. The first group of chicks it got were in the back coop, where she dug her way under the coop fence.  Today, it was the group in the chicken tractor, same strategy.  We will be much more careful from now on.  Concrete slabs have been placed around the coop, and the tractor will remain on concrete from now on.  I am seriously thinking of going out tomorrow with the shotgun and waiting for it to come around looking for trouble.  I am sure Michael will be up to it. 

So, we’ve brought out the old chick incubator.  Between yesterday and today, we’ve collected a dozen of the Maran’s eggs and hope to have chicks again in about three weeks.  I also have an order in with McMurray Hatcherydue in June.  We’ve been set back financially and timewise by that fox – two months lost…  Oh, well.
I am looking forward to having adult Great Pyrenees patrolling the place.  As it is, we must keep all goats locked up at night and chickens must be supervised when out on pasture. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Goats & Blueberries

Our Saturday morning routine is much more relaxed than on other days of the week when we have to rush to get things done, then get to work and school. We have more time to enjoy our chores with the animals, as we take the time to watch and listen.  We can stop and pet them; and, yes - talk to them too.

We've been pretty busy here since we brought home our new Nubian kids - Poe and Legacy.  We had some updating to do on our fences - Don and Michael spent many evenings getting that done.  Poe is a little younger than Legacy, he turns eight weeks tomorrow.  Sadly, we had to separate them, because he could actually get her pregnant even this early. It was really sad to hear them cry for each other, they had grown close.  I thought I would have found companions for them by now, but it that hasn't been easy.  A special pen had to be built for him, as when he grows into a mature buck, he'll need to have double-duty posts and strong cattle panels to keep him in place during his seasonal rutts.

Soon, we will bring home a couple of new does, and Legacy will finally have her herd.  In the meantime, she has bonded with Pearl, our Great Pyrenees puppy and Lilly, the cow.  What has been most surprising to me has been to see how Lilly has adopted these two.  She mothers them, she even gives Pearl a bath with her rough, sloppy tongue, and Pearl loves it.  It's good for Pearl to be forming these ties with them, as this is what will kick in her protective instinct and make her into our herd's guard dog.  That's just what we need.

Here she is getting some brushing while the cow is being milked.  She is such a great dog.

I've been learning a lot about goat-keeping, reading up on their health and nutrition needs.  It's always a steep learning curve in the beginning when we start out with a new animal.  I get the impression that goats are more fragile and prone to disease than cows, or dogs for that matter.  I've made a list of things to have on-hand in case of illness, because I'm finding it's almost impossible to find a vet who takes care of goats - I've called all over the place and am getting the same answer everywhere - only dogs and cats.  I'm not ready to give up, but that has been surprising.  I don't want to be in the middle of an emergency and have no one to turn to.

Later this morning, we went blueberry picking at one of the farms nearby.  We do this every year, but this year it was slim pickins.  We had such a warm winter that the bushes just didn't produce hardly at all.  We came home with just twelve pounds, about a third of what we've picked in other years.

U-pickin' with friends and family... a beautiful day.  Good fellowship and memories, what could be better?
Linking with Farm Girls Friday.
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