October 11, 2015

Around The Homestead

So what have you all been up to while I've been on blog break? Besides working on Critter Tales, here's my news.

Weather


We've been getting a lot of rain lately: 2 inches during the last week of September, 2.75 inches during the first week of October, and over an inch yesterday. One thing it's done is to give me a chance to evaluate the improvements I did earlier this year to our natural swales.


There's still some runoff down the hill, but not as much as there used to be. The worst of all this rain has been what it's done to our corn.


Unwelcome Guest


One morning, as I went into the goat shed to feed the goats and do the milking, something scampered out of the feed room. Must be one of the cats, I thought. I called, but no cat came forward, so I took a look and saw a raccoon tail. I knew they were around, but so far we'd never seen them. Very cute, but unfortunately they will kill chickens. In fact, the next morning Dan heard a panic in the chicken yard and found the raccoon there. A chicken head count revealed one missing, but without a chicken body it's impossible to guess what happened. Needless to say, I'm going to try out a new recipe or two and Dan would like to try his hand at hide tanning.

Cheese Making


I've just gotten started on this year's hard cheeses. More on that in an upcoming post.

Nuts


Happily, the squirrels didn't get all the pecans after all. We'll have pecans for us and also acorns for the goats and pigs. I'm happy about that because the last two years were poor in the pecan production department.

Winter Numbers


We've been working on getting our livestock numbers down to what we call "winter level." This is our minimum number of each critter type, to make sure we can feed them all properly and house them in bad weather without overcrowding. Next spring we'll see expansion once again with baby chickens, goats, and pigs.

Sneak Peek


This is my current favorite idea for a Critter Tales cover. I'm thinking about updating my five-year-old blog avatar, so that one photo would change. What do you think?

Winter Pasture


The mild, rainy weather has been good for sowing winter pasture. I've been seeding all the spotty areas using a modified Fukuoka method. More on that next time.

And ...


More misadventures in goat breeding. Stay tuned.

So tell me how October has been going for you so far.

42 comments:

  1. someone told me to bait a coon trap with marshmallows. someone kept catching his barn cats when he used other baits.
    a trapper told him coons are wild about marshmallows but cats ignore them.

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    1. I read that too! About the marshmallows. In fact, I set up the live animal trap and baited it with a marshmallow, and put it right by the feed room. The coon never touched it though, and when it came back it went straight for the chicken yard where Dan found it.

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  2. That's a lot of rain, but your swales seem to be coping well. I love to see a swale in action! While I'm sure its a deary, puddle of mess at the moment (terribly for doing outside chores in) I can only think of how great it will be for setting up the soil for next spring. Lots of extra hydration.

    If you're going to swap out the photos in your current header, be sure to keep all those lovely critters. Exchange only the inanimate things, like beans and machinery. Because I love your critters. I like the sound of the blurb on your new writing project. We can all stand to learn from our critters.

    Our garden is chugging along well in the second month of spring (in the Southern Hemisphere) and can't wait to taste all the fruits of our labours. Could stand to have a little more rain though. I was very happy to receive the early spring rains, we so often miss, when it did come.

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    1. Rain: we either get too much or too little! I feel fortunate that our land has a series of natural swales, needing just a little shaping on our part.

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  3. Good to hear your update, Leigh. I like the book cover, it reminds me of your blog header in design. I'm interested in your winter plantings as well.

    We have too many projects ongoing to mention them all, but here is a partial list. The greenhouse is starting to grow things; the outdoor kitchen construction has begun; we'll have the water storage tanks and guttering connected before long; we're going to borrow a buck this fall while we continue looking for a new one; and we'll soon be installing new radio antenna towers. There are a number of small projects that are being completed in between all of this, like a clothes line. It's a good time to get things up an running considering the way the economy and the world are going. I look forward to more information on your activities. I always learn something here.

    Fern

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    1. Fern, that's great news about the greenhouse! And all your other projects as well. Too often I feel like Dan and I are moving at a snail's pace. But it's the economy and other global issues that keep us motivated to do the best we can.

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  4. Raccoon hat. They are nasty and prolific. If you think there is only one, think again. Sorry about the rain, that is why we land stewards adjust and reevaluate. My garden has gone to sleep because the sun is too low behind the trees. Next year I will plant the other side that still enjoys the sun at this time.

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    1. Where's there's one, there's more. So it is with all critters.

      Your mentioning about next year's planting is a good example of that reevaluation you're talking about!

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  5. I agree with Barb. Coons are a pain and I cheer whenever I see one is roadkill.

    I'm shucking beans for next year's garden. :)

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    1. I dreaded seeing that coon in the feed room. Dan came in yesterday and mentioned that something is eating the corn. The first thing I thought of was raccoons!

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  6. I can't just say I agree with everyone else - how boring. So are you wanting to make a coon-skin hat for yourself of hubby:?)
    Good luck (they'll also get chickens.)

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    1. Would you mind clarifying what is boring? Since I also posted a prospective cover of my upcoming book, your comment is a tad disconcerting. Do you mean the raccoon is boring? A lot of folks have seemed to zero in on that coon. A coon-skin hat is of no interest, but protecting the chickens is and Dan hates to waste an animal that has to die. Even in death things can have purpose.

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    2. Perhaps saying that you agree with everyone else is boring? I like the book cover. :) I've heard raccoon can be full of parasites, so research cooking methods carefully if you haven't already. Good luck!

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  7. I saw 2 big raccoons, 1st since we lived here, down the street 2 blocks away. Never seen them around here before. They tend to hang out near the river. Great idea with the swales. I've been a fan of permaculture for years! I learned about Fukuoka method also years ago. Brilliant guy! I loved the way he grew things all mixed together... Can't decide on a photo, but I lean towards the pig face :)

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    1. Nancy, one picture for each critter in the tales. :) And raccoons! You don't want to see them because of your chickens!

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  8. Water looks awful, but guess you're saying it's manageable mayhem, so I'm glad for you. I too love the written sentiment on the book cover, captures my feelings exactly. As far as the graphics, try the shot of you and the llama in the middle. It looks as though you two are in a conversation, which of course works well for this books theme.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! That one of me will probably be replaced with a more recent photo, so we'll see then. I ended up putting the bee in the middle because the marigold is so brightly colored that it kept drawing the eye to wherever it was located.

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  9. Hey there, Leigh - wow, so much rain! We've been having some good outdoor-chore weather here, thank goodness. Fingers crossed we all get more of that!
    Since you are asking for feedback...I like your cover design and have just one suggestion: you might consider a different image of a turkey. Maybe a full-body shot that shows the turkey body shape which I think people would recognize (I could be wrong!) or, if you are trying to stay with a "face" portrait for all the images (I don't know if you are, and you didn't say what your own picture will be replaced with) try to get one with more contrast between bird and background.
    Just my 2 cents, and you can have it for free! ;)

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    1. Quinn, that's a pretty good guess as to the species of that ugly bird. It's a guinea fowl, actually, and my problem with a good photo is that I don't have any. We had guinea fowl long before i thought about writing another book, so all my photos were for the internet. I can uprez most of them for print, but getting a head shot to match the others for the cover isn't possible. Actually, I was hoping that odd looking bird would pique someone's curiosity. Or maybe not!

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  10. Hi Leigh, That seems like a lot of rain and I don't know much about swales but it seems to be working for you. Lucky to have your own pecans! Sorry about the raccoon. My neighbor has the same problem with her chickens. So discouraging! I barter her organic eggs so hoping she figures out a way to keep her chickens safe. Nancy

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    1. I hope your neighbor can keep her chickens safe! I've heard amazing stories of raccoons getting chickens. Now that we've had one show up, we're being quite vigilant to keep the chickens safe. It would be hard to believe that we had only one raccoon in the neighborhood.

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  11. Our homestead development has been slow this year. I'm currently working 82 km from our home, so between that and looking after the littles I don't have a lot of time to work outside! However, I'm hoping to get some lasagne beds started for next spring this and next weekend (it's Thanksgiving here now so we have another day off tomorrow) and we've been tidying up some of the wooded areas where there is a lot of dead fir, opening it up so that we could plant some shade tolerant species and I'm also interested in trying medicinal mushrooms and american ginseng, possibly! My town council still hasn't given me an answer, 7+ months after my application for chickens and goats but I'm getting on waiting lists anyway, and have decided on mini manchas as my breed of choice. :) I'll have to drive about 17+ hours one way to get them, but I want to get very healthy animals from good milking lines so I'm willing to do it. I've been happy to see that all of the fruit and nut bearing trees, shrubs and vines that I planted have survived a summer of neglect and I'm hoping for good things next year.

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    1. You sound like you've been amazingly busy! That's a long wait to hear about the chickens and goats; I so hope you get an affirmative answer. And driving no little distance for quality foundation stock is well worth it.

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  12. Dry here. Dry dry dry. In fact I created a dust storm just tilling up the pumpkin patch yesterday.

    We went from too much rain to none at all as usual.

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    1. October is usually a very dry month for us, so i know how worrisome that can be. Too bad the rainfall didn't balance out around the country.

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  13. Jam-packed update! I grew up with raccoons in the backyard, but we didn't have any animals other than cats, so I have no idea what that's like. Best of luck though!

    It's harvest time! I've been putting up my garden fair and I'm exhausted. We also harvested our honey for the first time last month, we got 60 pounds from the 2 hives, and we only took about a third of what was produced; we have pretty cold winters here and the bees need good stores. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

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    1. That's a great honey harvest! Garden harvest is always busy and always tiring, but always rewarding!

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  14. Been pretty dry here, October is usually a little wetter. Not being patient and able to wait for next year, I planted some fall radish and spinach in my new garden area. I am looking to plant a cover crop after that to help get it through the winter without washing down the hill.

    Also thanks for the laugh, this sentence made me chuckle out loud "Needless to say, I'm going to try out a new recipe or two and Dan would like to try his hand at hide tanning."

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    1. Well, we were caught a little unprepared for dealing with a coon, especially tanning, but it's a learning experience nonetheless. Good idea about a hillside cover crop. I'm working on something similar in our wooded browse areas.

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  15. Coons are always a problem here, too. Mostly we keep the birds buttoned up at night, plant enough sweet corn to share, watch for the ones that are out wandering aimlessly during daylight hours (they usually have a type of brain parasite and need to be dispatched), and make sure anything that might be a favorite snack is locked up and away. That process seems to save me time and those rare .22 rounds, and allows the coons to go back to the woods where I don't really care what they do.

    Bummer about the rain. We went through that early this summer. Glad your swales are doing well. We all love it when a plan comes together, as the saying goes.

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    1. I didn't know that about the brain parasite - yikes! I'm glad our visitor is gone. I have to agree with your method of control. If they basically mind their own business, no problem. It's when they come invading, raiding, and helping themselves that varmints become a problem.

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  16. I've good things about slow-cooked barbecued raccoon. Never tried it myself though, but I wouldn't be adverse.

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    1. Kat, good to hear from you! I'll have to let you know about the raccoon. All sources say it's delicious.

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  17. hope you get all those coons. and can't wait to hear the goat stories. :D

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    1. Where there's goats, there's stories. :)

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  18. I lost a good horse because coons got into their feed and left a parasite. I fed the horses from that feed and one became ill with a brain disease. The horse improved with medication from the vet, but the disease came back with a vengeance and I had to put him down. It was a hard lesson for me to learn, so I hope this comment on my experience may help someone prevent a loss such as mine.
    Mesquite

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    1. Mesquite, what a terrible thing to have happen. You've really put the exclamation point on Mark's comment. Thank you for sharing that. It's helpful to me and will be to other, I know.

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  19. Leigh, I love reading your blog and have learned tons of helpful stuff here. Thank you for sharing it all.

    Regarding the book cover, here's 2-cents from a graphics designer:

    I think you should follow the style you did for your previous book cover "Five Acres & A Dream". Using different size/orientation of photos and with the title separating some of the images.You do this in your blog header, too. Continuity is good. The blue color would make the book distinct in itself. Remember in the animal "portraits", that our eyes don't have to see the entire image to instantly recognize what we are seeing. Like you seeing just the raccoon's tail... and, if someone just isn't sure what they are seeing, it may encourage them to open/buy the book to find out!

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    1. Victoria, thank you for the feedback! I doodled with some other cover ideas, but for the moment like this one the best. I think I went with something a bit different than the first book because I didn't want to give the impression that this is part of a series. I suppose it could be, but I'm not thinking of it that way. Nor am I sure i want to brand myself as "5 Acres & A Dream." Still, your ideas are good things to think about.

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  20. I think hour blog header should include a little of everything. Id like a shot of your pantry with all the preserves. October here is crazy weather wise. We are jumping from mid teens to high 30's (F) from day and day and the plants dont know what to do. I noticed my Brussel Spouts going to seed just as they are starting to crop. Oh dear.

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    1. Wow, your brussel sprouts aren't wasting any time!

      I will have to get a pantry photo into my blog header soon. :) Thanks for the idea (I'm always looking for them).

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  21. Wow thanks for the big update! Jealous of your rain...

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