January 31, 2019

Then Jessie

First Violet delivered twins, then two days later it was Jessie's turn. Triplets! A little buckling came first, followed by two little girls. They arrived in between dinner and dessert.

This is what I mean about getting good photos. Most of the time they're
facing away from me. The little boy is the one at the bottom of the photo.

Buckling several hours old.

Here he is the next morning.

Jessie and her boy

Sisters. The little black was second-born and the white was last.

Last of the triplets, also a doe, was the biggest of the three.

The sweaters are all too long for newborns, so I ended up shortening them.

Sporting shorter sweaters.

Of course, there were onlookers.

Violet and her twins

I'm relieved that's over. Now I can take a break from middle-of-the-night doe checks and catch up on my sleep.

 Then Jessie © January 2019 by Leigh 

January 29, 2019

Violet First!

The other day I looked out into the pasture and counted six goats. There are supposed to be seven. I took a second look to see who was missing. It was Violet. I went to the barn and there she was, standing by herself. Goat gestation is 150 days with kidding commonly taking place between days 145 and 155. For Violet, it was day 147.

Separating from the herd is one of the signs that kidding is close. I put her in the kidding stall and kept an eye on her. A little buckling made an easy appearance at about 4:45 p.m.

Half an hour later his sister arrived.

It's chilly so they each got a baby goat coat.

Violet is an excellent mother.

Everybody was interested in what was going on. Here's a parting shot from the peanut gallery.

Iris and Meowy

It's always a relief when the birth goes well and the kids are healthy and strong. Jessie will be next.

 Violet First! © January 2019 by Leigh 
at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

January 26, 2019

January Garden Projects

January has continued with our exceptionally rainy trend (another 6.8" so far), and up until the full moon, the daytime temps have been mild and pleasant. Since then it's gotten cold and not so much fun to work outdoors. But I took advantage of those nice days and got quite a bit accomplished in the garden.

My flooded hugelkulture swale bed finally drained so I could finish filling the swale and mulch it with leaves.

We will border it when Dan can take
a break from working on the carport.

I had hoped to dig a few more of these beds, but since the ground is still too wet for digging I decided to work on another project I had in mind - the outside edge of the hoophouse.

It's been a weedy mess for a couple of years now. Instead, I'd like to plant something there that could use the hoop house as a trellis. For that, I built a narrow bed.

I didn't dig a swale here, just built it from the ground up. I used random landscape timbers we had laying about and filled the bed with layers of weeds, topsoil, leaves, partially decomposed wood chips, cardboard, hardwood ashes, and compost. I topped it off with a thick layer of leaf mulch.

Ready for something that would appreciate a trellis.

I tucked cardboard under the timbers and topped that with wood chips. Hopefully, this will keep the edges of this bed weed free. I'll finish the other side of the aisle after I do something with last summer's okra bed. That's where I plan to dig my next hugelkultur swale bed.

Future hugelkultur swale bed.

Of course, that will have to wait until the ground isn't saturated like a wet sponge. I don't mind transplanting in the mud, however, and started with the strawberries.

I thought I lost my strawberries during the summer of 2016 because it was so hot and dry. Last fall Dan mentioned seeing several strawberry plants where one of the old strawberry beds used to be. I took a look and sure enough, there were a few survivor strawberry plants there, so I transplanted them into the hoop house. I thought there might be two or three plants but I found nine. We love strawberries so this is a new start!

Nine sleepy strawberry plants nestled in woodchip mulch in the hoop house.

I have also dug up my comfrey and baby garlic plants and moved them under some of our fruit trees.

The other project I had in mind for January is cleaning up the asparagus bed.

I took this photo in December.

It has been a mess! It's hard to see them, but there really are asparagus plants growing within the yellow outline. Like the strawberries, they are survivor plants because asparagus is something else I thought I'd lost. The problem? Wiregrass! Wiregrass is unwanted, unwelcome Bermuda. It's invasive and chokes out everything else. After transplanting my asparagus several times I finally gave up. This past summer I discovered several asparagus plants still hanging in there!

The odd thing about these plants is that they were growing where I didn't plant them. They came up in the downhill berm I made when I dug my first garden swale. The old cardboard you see in the photo above was put down after I finished that project two years ago. The berm was originally planted in clover, but wiregrass, blackberry brambles, and honeysuckle pretty much took over. We do like asparagus so I thought I'd give it another chance.

Rather than level out the berm I decided to terrace it.

Terraced, weeded, and being mulched.
Here's my "done" pic.

The old cardboard is still quite untidy, so I will probably mulch that as well. I'm just happy to have gotten so much accomplished this month.

 January Garden Projects © January 2019

January 23, 2019

The Hayloft Challenge

Thankfully, we haven't had to buy much hay this year. We were able to grow and harvest much of our own, just not a year's worth. So far this winter we've bought two round bales of hay.

In the past, we've just rolled it to wherever we're storing it. But the new barn has a hayloft, which presents the challenge of getting that heavy awkward bale up there!

What you're probably wondering, is why not get smaller square bales? They'd be infinitely easier to handle. The answer is that my Frugal Self won't let me! I can't get past the math.

Small square bales weigh around 45 pounds and sell for $7 - 9 (or more) each, so we're looking at somewhere around 16 - 20¢ per pound of hay. A round 4x5 bale weighs between 600 to 800 pounds and costs $45 - 65, making it 7 - 8¢ per pound. See what I mean? I can get twice the hay if I buy large round bales. That monetary savings, however, comes with a different price - moving it!

The right equipment to get these round bales into a hayloft (or to stack them) is either a hay fork attached to the front of the tractor or a tong-like fork that lets one grab and hoist the bale with a block and tackle. We haven't found this kind of equipment in our price range yet so we've had to improvise. Here's how we got the first round bale into the loft.

This actually worked somewhat okay, until it was time to pull it into the loft. That proved to be a real chore. This time, we decided to try something different.

The first thing was to move the manual hoist from the beam outside the barn doors to the center post in the hayloft.

Then Dan laid a piece of angle iron inside the doors and hooked two ratchet straps to it.

He set two pairs of 2x4s on the trailer and leaned them against the barn wall. The straps ran from the angle iron, down the 2x4s, under the bale, around the back, and back over the top. They were attached to a gambrel which was attached to the hoist chain.

The hoist made it fairly easy to lift the bale.

Because of the length of the hoist chain, we had to stop several times to readjust it. Below it's resting on two more 2x4s as we pulled out the chain and reattached it.

Once we got it to the loft doors, it needed to be adjusted again. But this time we had nothing to rest the bale on while we loosened and adjusted the chain.

So Dan gave it a boost with the tractor boom.

The boom raised it higher but not quite in the door.

From there we both pulled on the top straps and in it came!

Ah, sweet success! What a great feeling. Sometimes we think that maybe one of these days we'll find the proper equipment and the job will be all the easier. On the other hand, maybe one of these days we'll be able to grow a year's worth of hay. That would be even better.

The Hayloft Challenge © January 2019 by

January 20, 2019

Looking for an Interesting Read This Winter?

I've got just the book - Up the Lake: Coastal British Columbia Stories by Wayne J. Lutz. It's nonfiction with something for everybody.

Wayne and Margy Lutz live in Los Angeles but are adventurers at heart. They spend their summers in their Piper Arrow exploring the Canadian Pacific coastal. When they discover the small town of Powell River in British Columbia, they fall in love with the area. That is the beginning of a new life adventure and a new lifestyle.

Home base for this new lifestyle is an off-grid float cabin on Powell Lake. I found the idea and uniqueness of living on a lake to be highly interesting. Float garden, anyone? The adventures include small aircraft, boats, kayaks, motorcycles, and all-terrain vehicles for exploring rivers, lakes, mountains, islands, old logging roads, and the rugged BC coast. They are filled with interesting people and local culture, wild weather, wildlife, and, of course, a well-loved dog. The book is written with a well-crafted blend of humor, suspense, and adventure, all of which make for entertaining reading.

Up The Lake is very well written, has excellent photos, and plenty of maps so that the reader can follow along. In reading it I have gotten a real feel for the flavor of this unique lifestyle in this unique place. I love the author's honesty about his level of knowledge, experience, and limitations. I feel like I'm reading about a real person, a person I can relate to. I have a sense of satisfaction as he tackles challenges head-on and overcomes the learning curves.

Up The Lakes is the first in a thirteen-volume series entitled Coastal British Columbia Stories. I enjoyed this one so much that I'm looking forward to reading more. It's available at Amazon in either Kindle or paperback format. Just click here to go to its Amazon page to "Look Inside" and read customer reviews. Best of all, the Kindle version is currently available for free!

So if you're looking for something interesting to read, look no further, this is the book.

January 17, 2019

What I Bought With My Christmas Money

For Christmas, I received an unexpected and rather generous gift of cash. I pondered what to do with it for a bit and then started a search on Craigslist. For a number of years now, I've wanted to replace my old sewing machine. But I didn't want another electric one, I wanted a treadle machine.

In my back-to-the-land days, I used to use a treadle sewing machine. We didn't have electricity although we didn't refer to it as being off-grid. Solar panels as we know them now were still being developed, so when it came to electricity we simply lived without. That's how living off the land was done back then. So I have some treadle sewing experience under my belt, even though I wasn't going to fool myself into thinking I still have the same dexterity as I did back then! But maybe it will be like riding a bike. (One can hope.)

There were a number of treadle sewing machines on Craigslist with prices ranging from $350 to $600. That was more than I had to spend, so I kept scrolling through the listings until I found one for a White Rotary Treadle sewing machine for $100. The listing was a month old so I didn't expect it to still be available. But I shot off an email inquiry anyway and then started researching this particular machine. From browsing sewing forums and the websites of treadle enthusiasts, I concluded that White had made a sewing machine of excellent quality.

I received no reply so I tried again. Finally, the response came back, "already sold." I wasn't surprised;  I just put on my patience hat and kept looking. I checked Craigslist frequently, but also took a look at a modern treadle machine - the Janome 712T. It was also more than my Christmas funds, but it was tempting since it can do zig-zag and buttonholes; stitches that most antique treadle machines can't. The main obstacle, however, was that it doesn't come with a treadle stand. Treadle cabinets to fit the Janome are available elsewhere for somewhere around $1000. I found an old treadle stand on Craigslist for $65 (most of them seem to be turned into tables), but discussion on sewing forums indicated that not all old treadle cabinets will accommodate the Janome. So the Janome was out.

After several weeks of waiting, a new ad appeared on Craiglist. It was the same machine I first liked, a White Family Rotary It was priced at $150. I shot off an email and waited. A reply soon came back that it was available, and yes, I could make an appointment to see it. Here's the happy ending to my tale...

What was interesting was that the seller told me I wasn't the first one to contact them; there were three others first. They chose me because my email was the most polite!

The treadle belt is okay for now, but if I need to replace it these are readily available.

The contents of the drawers came with it.

The first one contained an assortment of thread, buttons, needles (both hand and for the machine), tape measures, thimbles, old wire screwdriver, and a set of steel knitting needles in the long wooden tube.

Bobbins are in the upper right-hand drawer, along with some 3-In-One Oil purchased by the seller. She used it some but said she decided treadle sewing wasn't her style. The case contains all the attachments.

Once I learn how to use them I'll be able to gather, shirr, hem, sew lace, make tucks, quilt, ruffle, bind, underbraid, and chainstitch. That's more than I expected!

One drawer was empty, but the last one contained the original certificate of warranty.

The certificate is dated August 20, 1913. Between that and the patent date (April 18, 1911) I have an idea of when the machine was made. The original manual was in that drawer too.

It's well worn and the paper is frayed and fragile, so I took it apart and placed the pages in plastic page holders. I'll start a notebook and collect all the information I can find on this machine and treadle sewing.

The seller gave it a good dusting and polished the cabinet but admitted she hadn't used it in a while. I decided I should do some research and give it a good going-over to make sure everything is properly cleaned, oiled, and in good repair. With the help of several YouTube videos, I'll be able to do all that and more! I've definitely got my winter weather project cut out for me.

Continued over at Leigh's Fiber Journal.