Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How I got The Big Man

Happy Anniversary to us! Today is the day - our wedding anniversary. I always remember it as "the last day of June" but I'm never sure if its the 30th or the 31st. So I guess today is as good as any to tell you how I got The Big Man. So here goes:

Simply put, I've loved him since we were 15... maybe a smidge before. We were in shop class together... and me and my best friend, locked him and his best friend in the tool shed. We girls were In Trouble with the teacher, let me tell you that much. But I think that started it. As a random note, both of the best friends were red heads and they didn't particularly like each other.

So we were high school sweethearts. One of the teachers pulled me aside one day during our senior year and told me that technically he won The Coolest Car and I won The Best Hair but everybody wanted us to The Cutest Couple...but you wouldn't "win" two awards so we were crowned Cutest Couple. We were also on Homecoming Court and Prom Court. My Best Hair was spectacular and we were really something as we cruised up in his Coolest Car.

It was funny because we weren't part of the popular crowd – in fact, you know me, I was already giving the finger to what was popular. So we became the de facto leaders of the regular folks and led a rebellion against the cool kids, such as it was. But all things, including high school, end and so we parted ways. Me, for my college and him for his university. The long distance thing lasted just short of a year and I thought that was it.

Fast forward about 10 years after that – geez that's been about 15 years ago. We call this part "Take Two." I was living my software life on the Left Coast. He was living in New Mexico. Even without Facebook we found each other again and met half way for a kind of reunion. In Vegas. For exactly 14 hours. But what happens in Vegas can't always be left there. So we commuted between the desert and the ocean for about 18 months.

But he was extremely stubborn and refused to move to the city. And there was no way I was going to live way out in the middle of no where cut off from civilization. So we parted ways again.

Life went on. My big life got bigger... and in the course of his own life he eventually left the desert and went back to his family farm in Ohio.

Then one day I was sitting in a dreadfully boring training class for some new fangled techno-whizbang, legal beagle, people finder. I soon glazed over and wandered from the assigned syllabus and started messing around with the people finder. Golly. You can find just about anyone anywhere... say.. I wonder where The Big Man is living... I figured he and his lovely wife and 2.5 kids were still in the desert. But a small town in Ohio kept popping up every time I entered his name. I knew it was him because, being a keeper of useless facts, I remembered part of his social security number. So there he was. And there I sat in that class. And I remembered his old email address... hum....

All y'all know how this goes, right?

So I sent the first email and this is about how it went:

Me: Is that you?
He: Yep.
Me: I'm looking at the farm with this new google map thingy.. I think I can see the farm house.
He: Well, I'd better go get pants on then.

It turned out he wasn't married with 2.5 kids. He never married, and his only fault was that he was a Republican... but I could overlook that even if I was from the bluest state on the map. We corresponded. We caught up. I planned to visit my sister in Ohio and we agreed that maybe he could make the 2 hour drive and meet for lunch?

Instead of the expected happy reunion... for this third time of finding each other.... my family suffered a private tragedy. But he showed up anyway. He helped. He stood in the gap. He was the rock that kept me, and us, from slipping apart. He held my hand. He shouldered the weight for all of us. It was a lot to ask from someone I hadn't seen in 10 years.

During that time I considered buying a house near my sister here in Ohio and since he was in construction I asked if he wanted to go and check it out with me. It was a lovely older Victorian and I probably would have signed the papers right then. 

So you know how everyone hopes for that Hollywood moment? When the story comes together and the music is swelling and he and she are standing there and the sun hits them just right and... and... and...

Me: I LOVE this house – its perfect! Can you think of any reason why I shouldn't just buy it?
He: Because you should come and live on the farm with me.

And that was that. All those long years of being apart were gone in that instant and our fate was sealed.

After that we had our exodus from the city, the move into the old farm house, and then on one perfect summer day in June we got married. We wore shorts and so did our family. The pastor gave us the blessing and pronounced us under the crabapple tree in the back yard that one of the grandmothers had planted. The sun shined, the rooster crowed, the dog barked, and everyone cheered. We had BBQ and cupcakes under a tent in the yard between the corn fields.

The only problem with being married to someone who you grew up with is that you are no longer a mystery. At all. I hate that he has me all figured out. Unlike others, he doesn't flinch when I'm extra scary and trying to get my way – he laughs at me. Try to start an argument? It's no use. Pick a fight? Nope. He doesn't go for that either. Tell him how wrong he is? He just says that he's happy being wrong. Tell him to go sleep on the couch? He says “Great! Its just like camping!”

Its infuriating.

And then there's the matter of how we always have the same thought. At the same time. 
"Have your own thought!" 
"YOU have your own thought!" 
"Stop it!" 
"No you stop it!" 

For heaven's sakes.

And there is no sense in even talking anymore – we just grunt like a couple of old fuddy-duddies. Its easier and faster. We already know what the other is going to say. Especially all his stupid jokes. I know all of them mostly because I come up with the same ones. 

We even had all the same movies so I sold mine at the big garage sale when I sold my house.

So here we are. Two old fuddy-duddies who know the same jokes, have the same movies, and know the same, stupid obscure trivia. We've each taken to taking to the poultry because at least they don't already know all our stories.

And that's how I got The Big Man. Again. I guess the third time is the charm?

But if I think about it.,. there were some funny moments at the wedding.. but that is another story entirely.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good Morning Sunshine!

Good Morning!

 Oh glorious morn!

Oh happy day!

Look who appeared today - the first sunflower!

Ok its summer now. Once the sunflowers start to pop there is no going back. Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pigz = moved!

Wow what a show! We successfully got the pigz moved to their new location yesterday - but only because the Good Neighbor Kids helped us. They were amazing and we could not have done it with out them. More on that later but check out the porkers - happily installed in their new spot:

Pigz lovin' their new place

I'm so glad they are moved! Now they are out of sight and out of smell-range. However, now they are further away so its a hike down there...and we need to get another hose to reach their new Pig-Topia.

The only problem so far is that Kai keeps seeing "something" in the woods and has her woofer on full blast. Then she has to run down there and make sure its really "our" pigz and not something else. There has been a lot of barking.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday and the livin' is easy

At this writing (early Monday  morning) the sun rises on a cool and fabulous morning. The hot weather will be back before we know it - but for now its like heaven outside. And now the dogs and I are headed out for the cool of the garden.

Here are a couple of happy snaps of whats going on out there..

Do you know praying mantis? Is that what this is? A baby one?

These beautiful cone flowers are just.....

... now starting to pop.

And who doesn't love Susan, Black Eyed and all

But the beez love the bee balm the best..

who could blame them? I love them just before they get their silly "hats"

The dogs are ready for action.

And the pigz are getting big!

We are going to try and move the pigs to their new area today. If all y'all don't hear from me by late tomorrow, will someone please call the Good Neighbors and ask them to come and look for our bodies? Zoikes! This is either going to go really well... or not.

Wish us luck and Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Charlie Settin' - Finally

We have this crazy Buckeye hen that has been driving me nuts all spring. She has single handedly laid about 999 eggs since January (ok maybe not that many) - all in a big pile. But right when I think she is going to set the nest... she moves on and starts laying a big pile of eggs somewhere else.

Charlie sets her nest - finally!

And she's nuts. Like flightly, crazy, bat-crap-crazy nuts. She's a loon. We've found that while, structurally, the Buckeyes are in fact perfect for this region.... they've got a kind of madness about them. We had one little Buckeye last summer who's name was Trinity - like from the Matrix. Every morning, and I mean to tell you EVERY morning, when I opened the coop door, she'd fly out at me claws and all like this

The Buckeye breed was developed here in Ohio and is a recognized heritage breed. They have small combs, heavy bodies, clean legs, are good layers, and free range like a pack of wolves. Those hens have a kind of curiosity and stoutness that other chickens just don't have. They are kinda fearless. Unfortunately most of our Buckeyes found out they are not indestructible- and all their wild, free ranging ways led them straight into the waiting jaws of a mean little vixen who vexed me all last summer.

So we only have two Buckeye hens left. Both like to roam around with the turkeys all day and are always the last to come in at night. But finally, FINALLY, this one sat down on her king sized heap of eggs a couple days ago. If she actually sits there the whole time she'll hatch a fleet of Buckeye mixed mutts on or about July 16th.  And she'll get a leg band (a pass from ever seeing The Pot) and will be christened, Charlie.

The only problem is that there are way too many eggs for her to effectively "cover" so we are heating up the incubator and are going to sneak some out from under her. This way the eggs we leave under her will have a better chance of being evenly warmed by her body - and will be more likely to hatch. We'll tuck the incubator chicks under her when they escape their pods... I mean... eggs.  Hopefully she won't know the difference.

In other broody news - our bitchin' chicken, Baby Barnee, did not have a hatch. I'm not sure what happened but she quit her nest. We found her out roaming around one day - her eggs had cooled and for whatever reason - they were all dirty and gross. She may have had an egg break - and it fouled the rest of them. For as silly as they are, those little hens seem to know what they are doing.  So we tend to believe them if they leave a nest, or just keep setting.

Inky is still on her nest (thanks Small Farm Girl for the great name!) and she's got a couple more days to go - we're still hoping that her eggs are OK. We found her out walking around one day and we were not sure if she got locked out of the garage. We found a bad egg, broken, tossed out of the nest the other night. However, she tried to take my arm off when I tried to look under her to check the eggs. So we are going to believe Inky that she can hear her babies and that her eggs are still go for hatching.

That's the broody news here. Are your chickens hatching?

Happy Sunday evening everyone!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hey Look! Chickens!

Thursday was ridiculous. The only thing I have to say is...

Hey Look! Chickens! That's all. Now go and get some ice cream - sure, its a breakfast food. Or appropriate for anytime of day.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Its not weeds - its a TURKEY!

Another reason we don't randomly go around brush hogging everything down.....

.... that isn't a buncha tall grass - its a hiding spot for a turkey hen and her nest!

We've been looking for this gal for days - and she set her nest about 2 feet from the gate I use about 100 times a day. Kai found her. She was hopping and popping around so I dropped my tools to see what the pup had gotten into....and she found this turkey hen! We think its Turkey Momma - our best setting turkey hen. She has about a dozen eggs under her and she is not budging a bit. She even let me look under to see her beautiful nest and she didn't move an inch.

Kai got a pat on the head and instructions to "leave it." I went to go and find some fence. Of course Turkey Momma couldn't set a nest inside a fenced area so I wrapped some field fencing around her spot to protect her from over interested puppies and varmints. Tomorrow I'll do a better assessment of the situation and we'll find a tarp to put over her.

Happy Thursday everyone! Do you know where all your turkey hens are?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

They are not weeds!

Ok maybe they are, technically "weeds" but these weeds actually work for us. But we don't call them weeds we call them "free food." We have a lot of weeds around here - like the cover crops I planted last winter. They do double duty by improving the soil and ripening into snacks for chickens.

The hens went wild for the cover crop of grains. Free food, not weeds.

We had a bit of an incident last week. The Old Man Neighbor (not the Bad Neighbor and certainly not the Good Neighbor) mentioned to me in passing that he felt bad for us because all we had was that (crappy) push mower. He mows his acre lot with a full sized tractor, so he figured he'd help us out and mow down some of those weeds in the front of the property. I really didn't think much of it... until it hit me that he might be talking about the hay I planted! So I ran right out there.

Yep. There it was. Some, but not all, of my hay mowed down. And not just mowed down, brushhogged down. With the tractor. Demolished. He said he didn't like weeds. So he helped us. Ugh.

The only thing that stopped me from becoming completely unglued was that he stopped short of mowing down the comfrey and the clover/sunflower mix I just tilled in. But the expensive pasture mix with alfalfa was done for - not all of it, but enough that would have been several meals for the goats. You'll remember we were cutting it down gradually and feeding it to the goats, then tilling it under and replanting in an attempt to improve the soil.

I have to admit that I was so shocked that I kept walking out there and looking just to make sure I wasn't imagining it. While I feel bad that the Old Man Neighbor doesn't like to see weeds - just across the road from us the farmer has about 100 acres of "weeds", I mean, hay.

So we went to Tractor Supply and got some more fencing materials. We'll be working on driving some of those heavy duty tposts  ...oh... 3 feet into the ground. Good thing we got the survey done last year so we know exactly where the property line is located. And yeah my weeds.. I mean my hay.... is on my side.  

These thistles are at least 6 feet tall. The birds love the seeds from the flowers and the patch is always covered in butterflies. The goats love these weeds - they are good and good for them!

I'm also considering planting a big patch of thistles all along the fence line. Those are really weeds. They are nutritious, improve milking, and help with bad soil because their roots are so deep. Of course, I don't mind of they are invasive because I can feed them to the goats. Since, you know, goats actually eat weeds. And expensive pasture mix. That I intentionally planted and let grow. For heavens sakes.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Now go out and make sure your hay isn't mowed down!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Operation Ham in a Can or "How Jake Saved Our Bacon"

Grandpa GoodNeighbor let me know that I've been posting too much business and not enough hilarity lately. I guess he's right and we've been all be nose to the grindstone. So I decided to talk about one of my favorite topics - and probably one of Grandpa GoodNeighor's also. I'd like to tell you about the youngest Good Neighbor kid, Jake.
Jake could handle this pig for sure.

Jake is one of my favorite people. He's helpful, cheerful, good natured, and unlike a lot of teenish kids - he actually looks at you when you talk. One time he called me Mrs. TheBigMan. I could have hugged him. In a world where a lot of young people would just as soon un-friend you on Facebook then tell you what they did that day, Jake is in a class by himself. He's a darn good kid and we think he is the beez kneez.  So here's my best Jake GoodNeighbor tale.  We call it "Operations Ham In A Can" or "How Jake Saved Our Bacon."  Or maybe Operation Pig in a Blanket. Or maybe it should just be called "The Big Man vs Two Little Pigs." There was much hilarity....its about a misadventure a couple years ago, early in the summer.

I'll never forget the day that The Big Man strode boldly out onto the front porch, surveyed all he was master of, and declared, “Come on, lets go move the pigs.” I couldn't wait to move those stupid pigs. I dropped my garden tools and hurried to catch up with this man on a mission.

Now you know I hate pigs. All pigs. Especially pigs that that I can smell. So I was especially eager to move those pigs. Our pig-gettin' didnt work out that summer as it did other times. We ended up getting VERY young and small pigs - like "small as young cats" small. This was different from previous years when the feeder pigs we got were pretty good sized. 

There we were standin' there in this guy's hog lot looking and these little tiny pigs and regretting all the time we...and when I say 'we' I mean, The Big Man... spent putting up the electric fence in the lower hen yard. Our big idea was to have them down there to hog down all the poison ivy that's been plaguing us. Then next year we'll plant decent pasture for the hens. But these “small as chihuahuas” pigs just weren't gonna get that done until they grew out some.


We really like this pig guy. He has a great set up going and so after we looked at those “small as little kittens” pigs I asked for the big tour of his place.., you know I always like to see other people's farm's. And I really wanted to see his sows. I had a mind to get a female pig, raise her up, then use her for a brood sow so I wouldn't have to buy feeder pigs ever year.


One look at that guy's 700 pound huge red Tamworth sow nearly had me runnin for the truck! That sow was as big as a rhino and the only thing that separated us from certain death was one TINY now-defunct strand of electric wire. So ended my career as a real pig farmer. We paid our $100 for the two mouse sized pigs and tossed them in the back of The Big Man's crappy little truck with the cap on it and away we went.

Since the pigs were so small that a hawk probably could have snatched them up we had to find other accommodations for them. The lower hen yard with its shiny new electric fence was not going to work at all. We came up with all kinds of crazy ideas and settled on a hastily thrown together pen near the turkeys so we could hear if anything tried to kill them up at nite. Problem solved. Right? Right.

Until we realized that we'd have to move them sooner than we thought. They were creating The World's Largest Mud Hole basically right outside our bedroom... and they smelled. Bad. Like real bad.

Finally they were big enough so they couldnt actually walk UNDER the electric wire in the lower hen yard. That's when The Big Man said he wanted to move them...and, well, I was thrilled.

All we had to do was move them to the lower pig yard which sounds easy enough.


Here is something non-farmers don't know about moving pigs - they are very very hard to move to another location. If they are little enough you can just carry them but by the time they are about as big as a medium sized dog - forget it. This is why old farmers have themselves better organized and know better than to pen up a couple of pigs outside their bedroom window.

The problem is that when pigs get all worked up they get overheated and can die. Easily.

So The Big Man and I stood there scratchin' our heads and wondering how we were going to move those stupid pigs clear to the other side of the property, thru a complex series of gates, and down the hill to the lower henyard - henceforth known as PigTopia. We couldn't take them in the back of the truck. We couldnt walk them (that whole Babe the Pig thing is a Disney production I assure you). So somewhere in my back of my mind I recall an old pig farmer saying the easiest way to move a not-so-big-pig was in a wheeled garbage can. Aha! We had a couple of those so we got the garbage can and went in for the pig. How hard could that be?


Any actual hog farmers out there are about bustin' a gut right now thinking about the logistics of grabbing an angry and scared pig out of The World's Largest Mud Hole and foolishly thinking that we could actually get him into a dark and scary trashcan..

There was slippin', and slidin', and a great deal of swearin'... and mocking by the pig that refused to go quietly into the can. He saw our circus coming from a mile off and wasn’t buyin' it for one hot second. Finally either exhaustion or fatigue wore Pig 1 down and we had him trapped in the can, so we flipped it up, and smacked own the lid. Whew! So we set off across the yard at a slow and easy pace.

Which gradually got faster and faster the more we realized that Operation Ham In A Can was only going to work for so long. We had created a nightmare inducing, wheeled, hellish pig jack-in-the-box!  Pig 1 was panicking at the sudden herky-jerky movements of being trundled across the uneven ground. The howling and barking delights of Dog 1 and Dog 2....who thought this was hilarious... wasn't helping either.

As the pork in the box became even more panicked, the jumping and scrambling to get out of the can intensified. This sent the dogs into even wilder howls and barks. We trundled faster, panicking the pig even more. By the time we rounded the corner and started down the hill to the gate we were nearly at full speed. But we made it safely. Once we crossed into PigTopia we tipped the can over on its side and the pig toppled out, looked around at the new surroundings and wondered off quietly rooting up this and that.

Feeling fairly confident about our success we headed back up the hill for Pig 2. Somewhere behind us we heard the sickening squeal of Pig 1 finding the electric fence. We walked on.

Standing there beside The Worlds Largest Mud Hole we realized that Pig 2 was significantly bigger than our first victim. So there was no way we would be able to get a bigger, and much stronger pig into the same can. We'd have to find another way.

So The Big Man decided that what he'd do was get in there, wrassle that pig to the ground, hog tie him, then we'd transport him down to the pig yard in one of the wheelbarrows. I'd like to point out that this was not my idea. But as long as I wasn’t involved in the pig wrasslin' – well, you know, who am I to tell someone that they are wrong?

I cant even begin to describe the scene of my husband laying flat out in the mud, laying half on top of an extremely angry pig. The pig wasn't going quietly. You know all those random movie trivia fact games where you learn that they use pig squeals in horror movies for the sound effects? Who would believe that? I am here to tell you there is no more horrible sound that an angry pig. The noise was awful. I mean, the worst noise you could ever imagine. And loud. Real loud. It sound like..like.. well, a stuck pig. I still get chills.

Since I was being helpful standing there hanging on the fence, not laying on the ground in the mud wrasslin' a pig, I looked around for the sheriff or whoever might show up to find out who we were axe murdering. I nervously fussed with the handle of the garden cart. My job in this big plan was to rush over and hold the garden cart while The Big Man plopped the soon to be hog tied pig into it.

The Big Man and Pig 2 continued their to the death cage match. Somewhere in the battle the pig ripped the gate clean off the hinges. There was no possible way I was going in there to help. At last the pig was down for the count and he was, in an academic way if not effectively, hog tied.

Now it was my turn. The second part of this two pronged pig progress was called Operation Pig In A Blanket. We had an old blanket in the garden cart and the pig was supposed to just lay there quietly, wrapped in it, while we rolled him down to the Pig Pasture. I pushed the cart over to the fence..

Just then, The Big Man threw an enraged pig over the fence and into the garden cart.  We knew then that this just wasn't going to work out the way we hoped. And by the way, the pig screaming wasn't even remotely over. It had gotten worse and as we started across the yard with the flailing screaming thrashing pig. We suspected that things may not end well for Pig 2. Mentally I went thru the list of things I needed to butcher a small pig...well, sure we could probably have a hog roast if the pig really did have a coronary.... I knew where the shovel was to dig the pit and y'all know I'm a pyro so the fire would be no problem.


We bumped and careened across the yard. The squealing writhing pig was fighting for his whole worth and had broken free of the ropes! He started to squirm out of the garden cart! This was it! He was going to get out! We were doomed!!! And just when all hope was lost....

“Hey! Do you guys need help?!?”

I whipped my head around just in time to see our neighbor kid, Jake, come a-runnin around the gate.

Right as the pig was about to flip the garden cart over Jake made it to the careening cart and grabbed ahold of the pig. Being a sturdy kid Jake held him fast and we made our way across the rest of the yard, but even with its eyes rolling into the back of its head and foaming at the mouth, the pig still had some fight in him. We pushed the cart faster, and now that gravity was working with us the garden cart took on momentum of its own. We were hurtling down the hill at great speed!

We crashed thru the henyard gate and down the hill and into PigTopia sending hens scrambling in all directions. Jake had run ahead and opened the gate for the electric fence and just as we crossed into the pig yard, the cart caught on a rock, and toppled over sending Pig 2 tumbling out into a heap. 

Pig 2 lay there like a slug. I turned and looked uphill. The Big Man had also collapsed into a heap. He lay there like a slug. Both were panting and had the same dazed, crazed look on their faces.

“Doin' OK, baby?” I called, hopefully. A grunt was my only response.

Meanwhile Jake and I were trying to catch our breath, both leaned over, hands on knees, holding ourselves up. “Jake!” I cried, “Where did you come from?”

“Well that pig sure was makin' a racket and I figured you needed some help.” He offered.

We both started laughing and I sputtered, “Jake! You saved our bacon! Really!”

I walked him up to the gate thanked him and asked him to tell his mother that he was my hero for sure and that I'd call her later. Jake's house is nearly a half mile away. He had run the whole way to our rescue. I'll never forget the sight of him hard charging over the hill and to our aid. In a day where kids are usually thought to be self-centered, over indulged, and glued to some video game, Jake is in a class by himself. Eager to help, always a smile, and he's darn good in a pig carrying crisis as I now know.

I looked back down the hill. By now the hens had started to gather. Mostly around The Big Man who still laid in a heap. The pig hadn't moved either. I walked down to make sure that both were still breathing. So far so good.

I got the hose.

As The Big Man began to gather himself up, mostly because the hens were starting to peck at him, I hosed down Pig 2, who still hadn't moved.

“He's not dead yet.” I called to The Big Man.

“Neither am I,” He replied, “But the day ain't over either.”

Anxiously we watched to see if we were having roast small pig or if that pig would rally. Eventually the hog started to move about and then settled into the new field. When we were confident he was going to be OK we headed toward the house, passing the goats who were horrified by their new yard mates. Debbie the milker stomped and snorted her disgust. Vita our grand champion milker tried to charge the fence. Little Nibbles, cute but not really useful, refused to come out of the goat shed.

“Good thing that's a one way trip.” Declared The Big Man.

"Um...." I started to say but I bit my tongue. I kinda had planned to move them at mid summer... but after all the brouhaha I figured I should just keep that to myself.

That summer went well with those pigs.  For the most part the hens stayed out of the hog side and the pigs never got out of their side. The goats hated those pigs all summer. But they didn't have to endure the pig-stinky-awfulness for long. Eventually the weather turned cold and our thoughts turned to bacon. Fresh pork. And pork roast. And pork loin. And pork chops..... shortly after Thanksgiving we had our hog harvest and loaded up the freezer.

One snowy day that winter I sat down to a big meal of 'taters fried in lard and a big slice of ham. When I did, I raised a cup to dear Jake, our ham hero who saved our bacon.

And that's what happened.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Go bacon!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pig Pasture Progress

We've been working really hard on the new pig pasture. Bit by bit we are defeating The Impenetrable Forest and getting the fence completed.

Making our way into the thicket.

And just in time - look how big the pigz are getting!

The bacon is getting big!

Most of our property is more like a thicket than anything else. Clearing a way thru the underbrush has been a lot of work but we got the field fence up this weekend.

See how we used a combination of tposts (those metal thingys) and trees to run the fence? This is an easy (and cheap) way to get a fence up.

We use those big hammer-in-staples to tack them up on the trees.

We'll run the electric soon - this is how we ran it on the inside of the current pig area. See that its low on the inside of the field fence. This will keep the pigs from rooting under the fence and going on the lamb.

We'll use a combination of insulators attached to the trees and the plastic poles.

This is the enclosed area - we're calling it Pig-Topia. They'll have great shade, tons to eat, and a huge wallow.

We'll run the electric off the current line that encloses the goat and chicken yard. So we had to run a line of fence across the property. Technically this cuts off the pond from the  main yard - but since Kai likes to take herself swimming.... we think its OK for now. We'll come up with a "goose gate" so OD and the rest of the flippity floppers can get down to the water to practice their naval maneuvers.

The beez are on the other side of the fence, but there will be a gate nearby for easy access.

Gradually we'll mow down the bramble and start planting pasture grass. We'll also be able to easily divide additional sections for smaller lots. For instance, we'll be able to put the turkeys in another lot and let them roam around.

The other good news is that the soil seems to be pretty good down here near the pig pasture. I'd love to get some pumpkins and sunflowers going down here.

That's the progress on the pig pasture. Hope that everyone has a great Monday!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Every body is peeping along!

Caught this cute pix of The Dozen earlier this morning -

 They all swarm in for fresh water. Chicks are excited about everything.

I love it when they are all so excited about fresh water. Everyone bellies up to the bar and takes little sips. See that they have graduated from being on paper towels to having wood shavings as litter. Someone asked me about this.  There are a couple reasons to start them on paper towels. First is that it gives them better footing than say, newspaper, which they could slip on and develop a leg problem (called spraddle leg).

And also they may try and eat the litter instead of their chick food. At first we just put their chick food on the paper towels - this way its easier for them to figure out they are supposed to eat it. Then we put it in a dish or a feeder. Everyone is peeping right along!

Four of The Dozen having a grand morning.

I'm really hoping these two little twin chipmunk striped guys are actually gals and are just like my best younger hen, Sienna. We are working on the "perfect" backyard hen for us - heavy bodied, wedge shaped, rose or short comb, clean legs, a good layer, and who can free range like a maniac.

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lettuce begin....

I mean.. let us begin with... lettuce!

Potted lettuce -its beautiful!

I haven't been able to grow a leaf of lettuce my whole life. It just never works out so you can imagine my surprise when those silly "weeds" that kept popping up in my gravel pathway were.... lettuce! Romaine to be exact. So I let them grow instead of yanking them out.

Malcontents working off their just eaten lettuce lunch. 

Wouldn't you know that just when I got a nice big head of lettuce going..... I walked away from the garden without closing the gate....and the geese scooted in and ate it! For heavens sakes. I'm counting on my 'started in pots' lettuce now. I hope I will one day have a salad.

We got more strawberries the other day and I was jammin' all afternoon. I cleaned another 25 pounds of berries in one fell swoop. And yes yes.. there was more pie.

The last of the season - worth the work for sure!

That's the day in pictures - hope that everyone had a great week! Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Isn't she cute?

isn't she cute!?  Isn't she an angel? That sweet little face?

And see how big she is getting? She's huge!

She's also reached that 'difficult' age, you know all teenager-y. We are calling her Kai The Destroyer.

This is just a small portion of everything she got into and chewed up the other day. Exhausted after a long day of evil-deed-doing she finally fell asleep.  The Big Man and I just stood over her and shook our heads. We've been dreading this phase but its here.

Our solution to this phase (and she's really on par for her development) is to be relentless in our discipline and to work all the wiggles out of her. Last week it was so hot we all spent a lot of time inside during the day - which was a mistake. She had too much energy and nothing to do with it. So we've implemented a new schedule to run all the naughtiness out of her system either by taking her for long swims in the pond or playing fetch with the big dogs a couple times a day.

We also bought a big bag of chews and some more toys for her.  She's one of those "smart" dogs that needs a lot of problems to solve - so we are doing things like giving her a mostly empty peanut butter jar to clean out. She had to figure out how to use her paws to hold it to get the peanut butter. This kept her busy for a while.

Dog#1 was in this phase for about 3 days. Lucky, who came to us in the middle of his naughty phase, required more discipline - and a lot of running. The funniest thing those two nerdnicks did in their naughty phase was one cold day. I was trying to soften some butter to make cookies and left it on the counter. When I came back into the kitchen each of the big dogs had a stick of butter hanging out of their mouth like a big ol' cigar. The "what? this wasnt for us?" look was priceless but they came to understand that we don't "counter surf" and we stay on our Place in the kitchen.

We believe that a tired dog is a good dog. So we bought a lot of tennis balls (the dog kind) and are spending a lot of time running around. Kai doesn't understand the concept of fetch, but she likes that everyone runs. Unfortunately for Titan, Kai likes to imagine he is a big polar bear and its her job to bring him down. He's patient with her - to a point. Then she's just The World's Most Annoying Little Sister and he puts her in her place.

We figure Kai will be in her rambunctious phase for a couple months. It might seem like a long, long time for one of us. Probably me. Unfortunately for her she doesn't know her momma is just as stubborn as she is!

Happy Thursday everyone! Are you getting your wiggles out?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Baby Barnee sets her nest

Or "Bitchin' Chicken"
This is one angry chicken. Why the rage, baby?

You gotta admit - she's got the stink eye down to a science! Look at that hateful glare! And all I ever did was love her. Sheesh!

I really need to make a note that Baby Barnee and A Nameless Black Hen both sat down on nests the same day - on Tuesday the 7th. We should have lots of peeps on or about the 28th.

I'll tell you what - Baby Barnee is screwed down tight on that nest - she won't move at all. And she screams and growls if anyone comes near her. I had to put a little dish of water near her - especially with the heat - because she won't get up! She might sneak off the nest a little in the afternoon when the rest of the flock is doing its Late Afternoon Peck Around. But she hasn't budged at all.

The other hen - and wow do I need  a name for her - is in the most inconvenient place ever. Directly under my 12' compound mitre saw stand. I think its odd that they both sat on the same day - but I'm wondering if the full moon is close to their hatch date. It is the truth - the animals go by the moon and the stars.

Anyway, she's one of the nameless rabble.All I know about her is that she is one of Silver's sisters. Silver was beautiful and perfect and was killed by that stupid fox. This is her less interesting sister. who doesn't have a name - she's all black except for a creamish "collar. Any ideas? Most of my names tend to be descriptive - and I already have a hen named "Blackie." Unless I can come up with something better, she'll get a leg band (showing she gets a pass on butcher day for setting a nest) and be christened, "Not Silver" (which is pretty lame). Thoughts?

They don't tell you in the instructions that YES THEY SLEEP LIKE THAT! Ohmigosh that little one is just stretching her legs. She's fine. Aren't they cute? Funny little fuzz butts.

In other hatching news.... how adorable are these little guys? I moved them from the incubator to the brooder. At this writing (late on tuesday nite) we have 13 new little buddies. I'm not sure if Number 13 is going to make it. His "belly button" hasn't totally absorbed and I'm not sure if its intestine or really where he just connected to the yolk. Here's hoping he makes it for a perfect Bakers Dozen!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


New arrivals! This just in from a few moments ago...

Look who's hatching in our incubator!  I think we have about a dozen new little buddies so far and more on the way. These little guys are getting nice and dry - then I'll move them to a brooder. Having a few troops in the incubator will stimulate the other chicks to bust out of their pods... I mean... eggs.

These babies are just "mutt chicks" from our mix of chickens in the yard. But we've had some good hatchlings and in fact, we are working toward a "custom" chicken for our farm. Several of Floppy's Five from last fall turned out to be spectacular hens. But more on that later - I need to run back downstairs and see if we have any more new arrivals!

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Did anyone else have a hatch recently?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Creepy Meats - YES you can! Interview with Insurgent Chickens

Last nite we had creepy meat fried up in a pan and wow was it good! Every time I get a big plate of home grown chicken I'm totally amazed at the quality - and the quantity. The weather has finally cooled off and we'll be getting to the rest of our meat chickens this week but I just had to give another shout out to J over at Insurgent Chickens. J is a regular guy and he took on the challenge of raising dinner chickens and butchering them himself.

I know some of you might be thinking to yourself, "No way! I could never do that." But I'm here with J to tell you, YES you can! To a person, the folks I know who have done this have said they would definitely do it again. You know how thrilled you are when you get your first ripe tomato? That's the kind of feeling you get when you strap on your boots, march out there, and dress those chickens. And its hard to describe the feeling of satisfaction while standing in front of a freezer full of meat you put there yourself. One of my pals said, "Don't you feel rich!?" Yep.

I first met J a couple months ago when he sent me an email (ohiofarmg a T  gmail _dot com) and asked for some advice about his batch of creepy meats.  Of course I had to check back in when he posted his chicken harvest. They did a great job! I was especially happy to see his kids were involved.

So I asked J to tell me a bit about his experience and his thoughts. Mostly I want to share this with reluctant folks so they can build up their confidence. Remember, there is nothing special and my husband and I - we are regular people who just decided to do this farming thing. If we can do it - and J can do it - so can you.

OFG: J,  Did you have any farming/hunting experience before you did this?
J: I grew up in the city, with a short stint of living on a boat with my dad. However, I ran around with friends that lived on farms. One friend's dad managed a large dairy and we enjoyed hunting coyotes and ducks. My only real farming experience started when my family received a GRuB kitchen garden-three 4 by 8 raised beds. They helped us set up the garden, supplied us with seeds, and set us off. Their gift to us inspired me to think more about my families food and empowered us to just jump in and do it. 
OFG:  Aside from the logistics, what did you learn about about "making your own food?
J:  I was reading a blog where the author stated that only trained professionals should butcher chickens (paraphrased), and it made made me sort of mad. Humans have been gathering and processing their own food from the beginning. What made me upset was how easy it is to think that someone else should be responsible for our food. The process of caring for, tending to, and butchering my own chickens was an act of living. It might sound lofty, but I talked to more of my neighbors, enjoyed more time with my family, and in the end got a freezer full of meat.
OFG: What did the kids think?
J:  The kids did great and they were a huge help in raising them. I asked them for some quotes about the whole process:
Our three year old, "I wanted to eat one. They were so great raising them. I tried to make them happy. I was feeling really sad."
Our seven year old, "Pretty good. It was sad seeing them dead. They were fun creatures. First you have to raise um, then they grow bigger, then you have to kill um, it is really sad. Then you get to eat um, it is really fun. I would do it again."
We continue to talk about the way life needs life to live. 
OFG: What is your best advice for someone who is hesitant to do this?
J: Top three ideas for hesitant pre-chicken raisers
1. Be neighborly (I live in the city and it wasn't exactly legal. Burning bridges is never wise.)
2. Read blogs and watch YouTube videos (I "learned" how to do this by asking a lot of questions and relying on those who are a bit farther down the road)
3. Just do it. (Sorry Nike, but urban farmer folks need to just jump in and figure it out.)

OFG: Thanks J, for sharing and again - you did a great job! I also loved that J had a list of things he'd do differently next time. 

And I think it goes without saying that his seven year old is going to be next intern! What a great kid!

So what do you think, are you ready? One of the great thrills in life is finding out what you can do. Can you make your own meat? YES you can!

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A berry good day!

What an auspicious day! The very first blueberry made its appearance today!

I'm thrilled. I love love love blueberries and I'll be watching very carefully for that hap-hap-happy day when I can make my first pie! One of my favorite people in all of the wide world is The Blueberry Kid. And he has two Blueberry Boys - my happiest day is when they can all come to our little farm and pick blueberries with me. We'll laugh and share a picking bucket - then go inside and make a pie. There will be lots of ham and pie and chasing chickens and snuggling ducks. Yes, siree - that's going to be my happiest day.

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you've got a cool morning, a sunny day, and easy-peasy evening chores!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Over heated meats.

It was bound the happen. Wednesday one of the meats couldn't stand the heat - and he never made it to the kitchen.
This little Meat Ball is just plain creepy

Nothing makes a person as hat-throwin' mad as dead meat from the heat. What a waste! All that time! All that feed - just laying there in a heap. Dead from the extreme heat or from a creepy little meat heart attack. Regardless of the cause it was a total loss. We found our dead meat in the morning but there was no telling how long it had been there ripening in our extra hot sun. He was sent to purgatory, double bagged and in the garbage can, instead of to glory in a pot of noodles. G'bye meat! Sorry we couldn't have you in for dinner.

They try to be chicken-like.. but you know.... they don't quite get there.

While I love the food value of the creepy meats, they just aren't very chicken like. All our laying hens and the same aged chicks took to the heat like ducks to water. In fact, most of my hens sprawled out in the sun and soaked in the heat.  But not the meat chickens. They do badly in temperature extremes - which is why we honestly prefer Freedom Rangers or Red Broilers(a similar breed but from Ideal)  who seem to do a little better at being a chicken.

I would have been kicking myself more for not planning better, but I have a buddy who lost a lot of his birds on Wednesday also. So I think its just one of those things and we are just going to move on. However this also answers the question, "Do we want to do a summer run of meats?"  Answer = no. Last fall our meats did great in the cooler weather and because we could keep them in the turkey house most of the time. We can also take advantage of an end of season sale, if we are lucky.

Standing there, dripping in sweat and looking at the dead meat we knew we had to do something.  Before we knew it we were in the midst of an impromptu chicken harvest. We had planned to do the chicken harvest next week - but those meats were just doing poorly and required quick action before we had any more casualties. There really wasn't anything else we could do for the meats to help them survive the heat. They were outside in the shade and in the breeze - it was just too hot.

At this point I'll feature an adorable picture of our Little Mo, and excuse any tender vittles from the rest of this post. There will be no pictures, but we'll talk about our chicken butchering day. Go ahead and opt out if this "creeps" you out - tune in tomorrow and we talk about something else. Otherwise... onward!

Gaze into the very face of adorable-Mo-ness....feel the gentle calmness that emanates from his eyes.

Ready to talk about chickens and butchering? Are you sure? Do you need another glance at Mo to strengthen you? Ok - read on...

We "dressed" six of the largest creepy meats. Five were from the "first" batch and one was a monster roo from the second batch.  The hens tend to be smaller so we'll save them for next week. However, I checked the first batch of hens and they seemed to be taking the heat again badly today. They are hiding under a bush and panting. Not a great sign - if their combs turn white or blue-ish they are done for - yikes!

The only thing worse then dry plucking chickens is dry plucking chickens on a hot day. We really didn't have a lot of prep time to get a big kettle of water going - and frankly, we were in a hurry so I only plucked one of the birds. The rest were skinned for a quick finish.

Our process, as always, is to select a "volunteer" and tie the feet with a baling twine.  I stand quietly thinking happy thoughts and The Big Man gives the bird the axe. When the smiley part is removed he holds the bird over a bucket filled with straw to allow it to bleed out. Moments later we hose down the carcass, then I get to work on my part - the guts. The best tutorial for how to eviscerate a bird is here by the indomitable Harvey Ussery. Then we use the hose to rise the carcass really well, wrap it up, and off to our coldest fridge to chill for a couple days. And that's it.

I tend to get the same kinds of questions from folks so lets just do a quick Q&A:

Q: How can you DO that!?!? Isn't it gross?
A: Nope. I've seen much worse on network TV. If you've ever cut up a chicken from the grocery store - you can do this. Once the feathers come off you think to yourself, "Hey! There's a chicken!" and that's about all there is to it.

Q: But auauughghhgh how can you do that to a chicken you know?
A: Well, we don't name our meat birds, and even if we did....we don't love them. Like the dead meat we found, all these birds will likely die if we don't hurry it up and butcher them. They are bred to be fast growing and don't last long. And - we know exactly how these birds are raised, what they ate, and how they are treated. Aside from us calling them "Meat Balls" or "Creepy Meats" - they are not abused at all.

Q: Did you cry?
A: Only with joy over how beautiful they dressed out. They were all "dinner plate sized" - they were huge!

Q: What does it taste like?
A: Chicken! While our "normal" chickens are more "chicken-y" our creepy meats are tender and delicious.

Q: I could NEVER do that!
A: Sure you could! Believe me, if I can do it - anyone can do it. Once you start the process its so interesting that you kind of shake off the oogley-boogleys and just get to the task. And you have an overwhelming sense of "Hey, look what I can do!" - which really propels you to do and try new things that you didn't think you could tackle. Remember, we can count on one hand the number of generations to when everyone grew at least some of their food. If they could do it, so can we. So come on, order some creepy meats and give it a go!


I want to give a shout out to J over at Insurgent Chickens who had his first butchering day. He did a great job and I'm really thrilled for him. One of the best things he did was rent a plucker - wow! We haven't been able to find a rental place around here but I'm going to start looking a little harder. Great work, J - that's really the "can do" spirit and you had amazing results!

Happy Friday everyone! Keep your creepy meats cool!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cake. What else would you do with strawberries?

Whatcha having for breakfast? A pop-tart? Maybe some kind of egg-o-muffin thingy? Guess what I'm having?

Cake. It's what's for breakfast.

Cake. White cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting. That's what I'm talkin' about.

Yesterday I was stuck in the house because of the heat. Me, with an empty oven and a few too many strawberries pretty much means "cake." I'm an equal opportunity baker, its not always about pie.

I found the white cake recipe here. See that you use four egg whites - the lack of yolks makes the white cake white. I'll be making a custard with the yolks. This is probably one of the few pastry recipes that I would not automatically reach for a duck egg. Duck eggs have huge yolks - but very little "white" - so instead I used the biggest chicken eggs I could find.

The filling and frosting recipes listed in the cake link were just too weird. I mean, why would you ruin it with canned pineapple?  And I don't have any idea what "envelopes of whipped topping mix" are but that sounds weird.  And fake too. Heck, if you're having cake you should just go with butter and cream and all that.

So I used the recipe for cream cheese frosting that I found here. For the filling I had a little bit of strawberry topping from the pie the other day.  But really all I did was cook the berries down a bit with a little thickener.

So enjoy that dry bagel or cereal bar...I'm having another slice of cake.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Headed to 100* today

Has anyone else cleared 100* yet? Wow we are on our way! Our weather guy said that the real temp will be about 94* but the "heat index" will be at least 100*.  They've already issued an air quality alert and a "Special Weather Statement" about the heat.

The front garden this morning - this volunteer sunflower is headed up!

This morning was really pleasant tho. I got everyone up and out early so they could take advantage of the cool of the morning. I think our plantings will be OK. Yesterday we had a heck of a storm blow thru and dumped about an inch of rain in about 30 minutes.

A baby apple from one of our espaliered bargain basement trees. 

One note of hilarity - the storm came in from a really weird direction and was upon us suddenly. So I had to drop my tools, grab the dogs, and shove the masses into shelter as fast as I could. Unfortunately yesterday was the first day we put the Second Group of creepy meats outside in the duck yard. The Whole Wide World completely befuddled them and they had no way to get into shelter when the wind blew up. So I had to grab two at a time, one under each arm, "football style" and run them into the hen house. Dog #1 was immensely helpful holding his belly and laughing like heck at me trying to get those chubby little meats to safety.

This first dahlia is winkin' its greeting to all.

Stay safe everyone! Remember to get hose fans going in your barns, and give extra water to the flocks today.  Don't be afraid to turn on a sprinkler in your hen yard to keep your poultry cool.

Parsley about to bloom

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Radish flowers and bushwacking

Does anyone have any idea why my radishes went straight to bolt?

I went out to find these lovely flowers and no radishes. All I've wanted since last year is a fresh radish and butter sandwich but alas...no hap-snappy radishes. Luckily I started another patch so hopefully they will be ready soon.

A few other things blooming in the garden.....

Peas are poppin'

Catmint is blooming.

And this is one of my favorite roses - Graham Thomas (a David Austin rose).
In other farm news, we are tackling the project of busting thru The Impenetrable Forest to make the new pig yard. Their current, small, holding yard has been picked clear so they need to move on to a newer space.

My trusty brushhog/mower/weed whacker.
Most of our property is treed - and not just treed, but lots of scrub brush, poison ivy, and the ugliest pine trees you could ever imagine. Its not a good use of the space. And since the forest comes right up to our existing goat, chicken, and turkey yards - it allows any and all predators to have a great seat next to the action (and an easy get away). I'm on a mission to get those son's-o'-golly-whats to leave my poultry alone - so the pigs are gonna help us do some clearing. 
Pigs usually like rooting around and its a great way to do double duty. We use the pig's natural rototilling and brush "hogging" abilities to clear out areas that we can later plant. And with them out there free ranging we save on feed. I'm always amazed at what they will eat - branches, those wild roses, blackberries, small trees - you name it. 
We can have them a bit further away from the house now that they are big enough not to be easily carried off by predators.  And having them in the trees is also a great way to keep them cool. So its a great solution all around.
Unfortunately we have to mow and weed whack down all long the fenceline so we can run the electric. I've been bushwhacking with the mower. Today I had to use a hammer to fix the blade. It worked. Hopefully we can get the field fence up in the next couple of days. We are headed for some hot hot weather and having the pigs in the shade will be good for everyone. 
Stay cool, everyone! And have a great Tuesday!

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