Sometimes there is so much going on at the farm that the weekly post gets very long and full – this is one of those weeks. So settle in with some coffee or tea – we have some interesting stories.
There really never is a dull moment around here. Life is a constant adventure. And just when we think we might be about to have a dull moment, something happens.
A couple of weeks ago, Mtn Man bought our new strawberry and raspberry plants, and another gooseberry bush. Since we are still pretty far out from planting them outdoors, we set the gooseberry bush in the dining room next to the black currant that I talked about last week. They were both doing well in the sunshine from the glass door. Then one morning (just when I thought we might have a dull moment), I walked by and noticed that there was a big mess all over the floor under the gooseberry bush. It was sitting on a white plastic trash bag, and the bag was covered with what looked like dirt. I moved closer to inspect the issue and was horrified to see that the bush, the pot, and the floor around it was covered with hundreds of little green worms, and the “dirt” I thought I was seeing was their droppings. ~insert horror flick scream~ There were some worms starting to try to climb up on the black currant bush too. And almost all the leaves on the gooseberry were gone – totally destroyed and eaten. It seems the worms had hatched on the gooseberry bush a day or so ago, had eaten until there was nothing left to eat, and pooped all over the place, and they were now jumping ship and heading out to find more food.
I called for the kids and we all immediately jumped into action. Little Miss, who is the most squeamish about these things, decided to help by taking Mr. Smiles to another room to play, since his presence would have been less than helpful – and really, her presence would have been as well as she would have been squirming and squealing every few seconds. Young Man took the plants outside and sprayed them thoroughly with neem oil. Braveheart, Sunshine, and I proceeded to painstakingly clean up every single worm by sweeping and picking them up with tweezers and putting them into a little plastic container.
It was so gross. They were everywhere. They were climbing up the legs of the dining room table and chairs. They were under the hutch, they were all over the floor and in the door jam and every nook and cranny that could be found. We had to take all the dishes out of the hutch and move it so we could get under it. And it seemed the more we cleaned up, the more there were. Some were so tiny you couldn’t barely see them with the naked eye. Others were more obvious. The kids stopped counting after we got to 350. After an hour of cleaning we had gotten the majority of them. We continued to find them randomly here and there for the next few days (eeek, gross!) After we cleaned up we looked online to try to figure out what they were. They were Imported Currant Worms. Our bush came from the store thoroughly infested with them.
Braveheart was pretty happy when were finished, not only because we were finished, but because he was excited to take the container of worms out to feed to his chickens. They got a nice meal from our misery.
Unfortunately, the neem oil did not seem to have any effect. We knew we would have to bring the bushes in before dark or they would freeze outside. But they were still covered with worms. So I decided the best place for them would be in the bathtub. That way, any mess that was made could be washed down, and if any worms came off them, they couldn’t climb the smooth walls. So we brought them back in and checked on them every so often to be sure no worms were “escaping.” Sunshine took it upon herself to battle the worms – every couple hours she would go in and use tweezers to pick the worms off one at a time until she was bored of it. She did an excellent job and by the end of the day none of us could find any more. But we knew there was no way we had gotten them all, so we left them in the tub. After a few days of finding and removing the few stragglers, we moved them back to the dining room.
The once fully-leafed gooseberry is now almost bald from the invasion. It will need a lot of recuperating.
Pansy is about ready to pop. Yesterday was her due date, though her previous owner told us she generally goes late. She dropped significantly Wednesday and has been miserably uncomfortable ever since. I feel ya, girl. I know exactly what that feels like. LOL. By her size I am guessing it has got to be twins. Any day now.
We have an interesting living situation going on right now. Normally, the ram lives in the back pen during the day and the smaller stall at night. The ewes, lambs, chickens, and Anya (the LGD) live in the big barnyard during the day and the large stall and jugs at night. Because the large stall is getting more crowded lately, Anya has been living in the big barnyard with the ewes, lambs, and chickens during the day, but then sleeping in the ram’s stall with him at night. When we have an extra rooster we have one rooster living with the flock in the big barnyard and coop, and then one rooster living in one of chicken pens in the barn. We generally only have two roosters for shorter amounts of time because I don’t like keeping any animals in tight quarters. So I don’t want either rooster stuck in the indoor pen for longer than a few weeks at a time. It is plenty of space, technically, but we like our livestock to have plenty of space, sun, and fresh air.
Right now we are having some rooster issues and need to make decisions. But until we get around to that, Ben has been stuck inside and will be for who-knows-how-long. So Sunshine suggested we try letting him live with the ram: in the back pen during the day, and then in the ram stall at night. We moved him and he seems very happy. The ram seems to like having a companion too. It’s kind of funny – like a “bachelor” pen – ram and rooster. And at night, the two of them, plus Anya in one stall is kind of funny too. They each make their own little “nest” and bed down in the hay near each other. The rooster has the option of sleeping on a roost, but for some reason he prefers to just cuddle down in the bedding.
Twilight has reached the age now where she is closed off from Autumn at night for milk-sharing. That, plus the fact that we are now using an electric milker, have made it so we are getting enough milk from Autumn to start making yogurt.
It has been years since we had sheep’s milk yogurt and we were all very excited to make some. We did it differently than we used to in several ways. First, we used a culture powder from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. We chose the “Sweet” one. Secondly, I was borrowing an Instant Pot from a friend, so we used it to make it instead of a pot on the stove and a cooler (more on that below).
It turned out SO good. So creamy, and just super delicious. We set aside 2T of the fresh yogurt to use to make the next batch. You can take 2T out of each batch and use it to culture the next batch for about 8-10 times before you need to use the powder culture again. I keep it in a small jar in the fridge.
Blizzard and Twilight are both growing like crazy and doing very well. It is so fun to sit by the barnyard on the warm afternoons and watch them play. There are SO many adorable pictures I can’t barely narrow it down of what to share with you all.
We have been busy training Daisy and Blue to the stanchions. Daisy has now earned the name “Lazy Daisy” because she absolutely refuses to jump up on the stanchion, and even once she has been lifted up she lays down. But we are making progress.
Daisy is the next sheep due, and she is due this week. She has quite a belly going. Looking forward to finding out how many are in there. She will be giving birth to the last lambs ever from our favorite ram, Fergus. So this is a pretty important birth for us.
My slow cooker stopped functioning properly. As I was looking to replace it, I remembered that my friend had recently been telling me about multi-cookers and that I should consider getting one. So I started doing some research on them and found that they are supposed to be able to pressure cook, rice cook, slow cook, and make yogurt. We have always had a rice cooker and a slow cooker. I have previously made my yogurt on the stove and fermented it in a pre-heated cooler set in hot water. And while I have a large pressure canner that I use, I have never pressure cooked anything. But I had heard that pressure cooking is a great way to cook a tough old hen or rooster – which we have often around here. So it seemed like the ideal thing to buy to replace what I already had, as well as adding more. And since my slow cooker just broke, it was a good time to do it. But I was reluctant because I was a bit skeptical that it could do all those things well. So my friend let me borrow hers for a few days.
I started with pressure cooking a tough old hen we had in the freezer. It turned out wonderfully! The texture was better than most of the other ways I have cooked them before. Then I put in a pork loin and BBQ sauce and slow cooked it. Again, great results. Then I tried the sheep’s milk yogurt, and as I said above it was much less work for me and turned out great. The next thing I tried was the rice cooker function. The rice turned out less-soft than we prefer, but it seemed to me that the water/grain ratio was the problem. They suggested in the directions a 1:1 ratio, and that was just too dry. So I think the machine would work great for rice cooking once I had the right ratio. The last thing we made in it was a meatloaf on the slow cooker setting. Again, wonderful results.
So I guess I will be getting one of these amazing contraptions!
Mama hen, Cinnamon, is doing well with her chicks. It has been kind of an interesting situation that resembles a crazy math problem. Cinnamon started with 12 eggs, but due to a rooster issue we had at the time only 5 were fertile. 3 hatched, and then we purchased 10 more and gave them to her to raise. She happily accepted them, but due to shipping stress 5 of the purchased ones died, plus one of her original 3 died as well. The store gave us 5 more to replace the ones that died since they knew that they were weak when they sold them to us. Then one of those died. So now she has 11 chicks that are doing well. 12-8=5-2=3+10=13-6=7+5=12-1=11. We are used to infant mortality, having a farm means you have to be used to it. But this has been quite a chick roller-coaster. Hopefully it is done and the rest will survive.
For some reason this batch of chicks really loves being on their mama hen’s back, which is just adorable. But mama’s aggressive protectiveness makes it difficult to get good photos.
Because we are in the early stages of our dairy sheep breeding program, we are currently keeping more sheep than we usually do so that we can select the best ones for our purposes and sell the others. Since we have more sheep than we are used to housing, we needed another feeder in the big stall to help spread out the eating and be sure the sheep lower in the pecking order still get enough food. Mtn Man and Braveheart built it pretty much the same as our last one, just on the other side of the stall.
It turned out great and the sheep were happy to check it out.
Then Anya, since she is part of the flock and might think she is a sheep, had to check it out too. 🙂
I finally grew overwhelmed and bored with my two knitting projects on the needles because they are both so big and so far from done. I desperately needed something new to work on, and something that would give me the satisfaction of finishing something. Mtn Man had requested a simple ribbed hat made from the yarn he made from Autumn’s 2020 fleece. So I whipped that up for him in a couple of days.
I felt better, but still needed something new. So I cast on (and hooked on) two new projects. One is the Windswept Shawl, by Paulina Popeolic, made with some oh-so-soft and drape-y alpaca yarn Mtn Man made me.
And the second is a crocheted sock scrap yarn afghan. I love the afghan I made last year from my sock scraps. But I still have a ton of scrap sock yarn. I decided to go with a wave crochet pattern for this one.
Work continues on the dress for Little Miss, and the Match Play Poncho as well. But I definitely needed a little break from them. The dress is now 418 stitches in one round, and continuing to increase fast, so it takes forever to do one round. And I have a LONG way to go on it because she wants it calf-length.
I finished the front of the Match Play Poncho, and have just barely started the back.