Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The passing of the darkest Solstice.

The year is continuing to go on pace, and as of Sunday night the 21st at ~23:00 it was the darkest night of the year. Mix that with the new moon and it was very much a dark night to the darkest day of the year. But that means that the sun is coming.  I figured the use of the piece from the Lady of the House of the Raccoon counting out the time of Earth and Moon made sense for the time oriented post.
Something I was proud of on this darkest night of the year, it was the first time this year that I managed to not only keep the fire going all night to the point it was easy to start in the morning, it was a warm fire all night long. As of this point I've had the fire going non stop since the 21st, even when I've been gone to work for 10+ hours at a time with the fire untended. I thought it was a good progress marker at the darkest day of the year.



Now is the time of the year that we are in the dark, and looking towards the sun. The big difference the 23rd instead of the 20th is that now, we are starting to look to Spring instead of fight with how to make it through winter. We're starting to think about when to breed, when to plant, and what we're going to have time and energy for. It's a symbolic day, but symbols are important, especially when you live as close to the season as we have started to.

Happy Solstice.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rabbit update


I realized I haven't given any updates on the rabbits lately. Mostly the rabbits are doing well, and the teens are still hanging around because I haven't had time to kill and butcher them. I'm fairly certain I'm not going to have time to take care of that any time soon no matter how much it needs to be done so I am going to be asking a friend to do it for me since I am constantly exhausted and busy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Today I have a headache

I'll try to get a post up tomorrow to make up for today, but at the very least I'll have something up Thursday.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seasonal light cycle, effects on chickens, rabbits, and work.

Light has a lot to do with how things go with livestock, and how people feel in general at this time of year, and I figured I would talk about that a bit. Some of the consequences are really obvious in that temperatures are colder, work time is shorter, and a lot of things can't be done outside in the dark and cold. Some of the things are less obvious but just as important when it comes to homesteading in particular, even beyond not having plants in the ground without a greenhouse.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Resource management must be understood to include time, health, and rest.

Today I have no photos, and didn't really have a plan given that I'm a little fatigued and over stretched between everything else. The Lady of the House on our way in this morning recommended something as a topic, and I decided to run with it, and the title's it.

Resource management must be understood to include time, health, and rest.







This is somewhat obvious to some people, but is often ignored even by those that understand it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Critter, and sustainability as we learn to be parents.

Today I'm going to talk a little about having a small person while being involved in this homesteading lifestyle, and thoughts about sustainable living and having an infant. The first thing I'm going to note is that especially as relatively low income working parents, sustainability is frankly going to be the first thing to go out the window if it starts being a problem. Given how we are handling the Critter though I think that won't be a problem. We're doing cloth diapering which I'm finding is actually really easy, partially because cloth diapering isn't the same as it was in the nebulous past. Using cloth diapers is a good first step on being sustainable with an infant. I think though, that the big thing we're doing that is sustainable in terms of critter care is that very little of what we have in terms of clothes, toys, and baby care stuff is new. Most of it is hand me downs, leftovers, and the like. Babies use things for 3 months at the outside before you need a new size, so why would we buy primarily new when there is plenty in excellent to near new condition out there not being used right now. Due to some wonderful friends, and an excellent community we didn't end up having to get much. In our hilltowns area there is an idea I like called the Country Closet that facilitates this. It is a place for folks to leave un-used baby clothes, toys, diapers, and furniture, and others to pick it up when they need it. Sort of a local store of baby things. Our plan is to give what people we directly know need to them, and put the rest in the Country Closet. I think on both a community and sustainability aspect these community resource sharing centers are important.

One of the things that has occurred to me as I've been thinking about sustainability, homesteading, and a baby. Other than the necessary increase in resources for having an infant, just going on as we have been and trying to reduce what we buy and increase what we produce is going to be the way. Obviously we're having to spend more fuel to keep the house warmer than the often debated 50 - 55 I prefer to keep it. We're going to have to have more food, more clothes, do more laundry, use more water. That is the nature of another person, but if we just make the effort to stay conscious of what we are doing and what we are using I think that continuing to make ethical choices won't be any harder than it already has been in our situation. Especially if we continue working with and being part of our local communities. Offering and accepting support in turn as we have to give, and ask when we need.

Another aspect of sustainability is us the parents being able to keep up what we are doing, and I think that sustaining function is probably a challenge for all new parents. The big one for us has been sleeping, and getting anything else other than infant care done. If it weren't for the help we've been receiving from friends and the Hilltowns Families group the house wouldn't be being cleaned, we wouldn't have clean dishes, and we'd still be tired. As it is what we've been able to maintain ourselves is the animal chores since livestock will be deadstock quickly if not, laundry including the every other day baby laundry, keeping the wood stove going, and that's about it honestly. We've been starting to get somewhat on top of cleaning. We've been really supported in terms of house cleaning, dishes, and just sanity checks that we've desperately needed. As with so much in what we're doing out here, we keep coming back to the community. I feel very fortunate that we'd been starting to get involved in the community before we had a child, we hadn't planned it, but having that support structure is what is contributing to our success on the homestead, and as a family with a new child.

Homestead side, next week I'm going to try to remember to talk about the chickens, the rabbits, and light cycles.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A quiet Thanksgiving in the first storm of the season.

Winter has been here for a bit in terms of temperature, but we finally have our first major snow storm of the year. It made for a somewhat interesting Thanksgiving. I'm glad that I didn't expect to be doing a post on Thanksgiving day because we didn't have electricity that day, some of the day before, and some of the day after. Fortunately we had a lot of snow because that also means we didn't have water which got inconvenient fast with a lactating mom in the house.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Break

I'm going to take a break for today and Thursday, and pick back up next Tuesday a little more rested.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Season of darkness and fire, and hutch vices.

The season of the wood stove is in full swing, with all of the benefits and frustrations of the same. Given how much we are relying on it, I am going to be working on getting better at it over this winter, especially as it relates to successfully banking down for the night. At this point I have coals left most mornings, but this morning I didn't which distinctly made my morning tighter in terms of getting everything done and getting out to work on time. Some of that was probably going to bed earlier, but I think that on baby time when the Lady of the House wakes up to feed the Critter I should get up and tend the fire at least once during the night since I'm awake anyhow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cold dawn, and winter concerns.

I'm not a huge fan of waking and getting chores done during pre-dawn twilight, but there are some advantages to it. Really spectacular morning skies like this are certainly part of it, even if I can't quite capture the real colors with my cell phone camera. Came out better than expected once I gave it some editing. Anyhow, winter is here officially for me, though technically I guess it isn't. At the point where we've had snow, and a nice solid sheet of ice I say we have winter. That doesn't mean we haven't been getting the last things done we can. I'd intended to talk about the local farming forum in town today, but yesterday the Lady of the House needed an extra pair of hands with the Critter so I didn't end up being able to go. Hopefully there will be more of those.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Owl visitor, hot water, and slight setbacks








As we continue to be busy we've been trying to get some relaxing time in with each other, and honestly haven't been able to do a lot other than exist. This weekend we got lucky, and I happened to sleep in until almost 9 AM, and got up, and looked out the window, and saw an owl visitor being driven off well post dawn when I usually let the chickens out. The picture above is from last year, but I think it may have been the same owl. Either way, we, and at least one of the chickens got lucky  this weekend due to me having a nice lazy morning. There have been a few other things going on as well, mostly with Gabriel, but also I have managed to, with help, get some things done around the garden as we look to see snow tonight.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chicken covering, mole, and Critter update

There is a fair amount going on in our lives, but thanks to the assistance of my mother and step father coming by and helping out a great deal we have some new things that we can get done that are going to be kind of cool. Oh, and I will get to the Critter at the end.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Some thoughts about those that came before

So, as noted, the Critter has arrived into the world. We're still very much wiped out because things have not gone particularly smoothly. We mentioned that Critter had been tongue tied, and we thought it had been resolved, but it turns out it isn't entirely resolved. We're spending a huge amount of time trying to help keep him fed, specifically the Lady of the House, and it is very wearing.  But as promised, here are photos of the Critter, Left is a photo of him in a great blanket Margot that comments on the blog made for him. The nice thing is that when he isn't desperately trying to feed he sleeps quite well. I know that sleeping like a baby shouldn't be the good thing that some people make it out to be, but when he sleeps, man does he sleep. It's a skill he is very good at, and we're glad of that in the 3 - 4 hour chunks he does sleep in. The thing is, if we were homesteading 100 years ago, he would be dead by now, and any future children we had would die in birth, and/or kill the Lady of the House in process. For him being alive and the opportunity for more children we have to thank modern science.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Critter has been born

As many of you know, and the rest of you probably guessed, the Critter has come into the world. As of now I don't have any great pictures to share so those'll have to wait for Tuesday when a real post comes.

I'd say he came into the world in the usual way, but I don't think 27 hours of back labor without pain medication counts as the usual way. He's 8lbs 9oz, and 19.5" long, or was as of Monday night just before 9 when he was born. We're going to be coming home from the Hospital today, and are looking forward to having Critter at home.


Right now I'm very happy that he's here, and the Lady of the House is amazing to have gotten through all of that the way she did. There's something very interesting to me about the lifestyle we've chosen in homesteading that the day before she went into labor I was splitting and stacking wood with a group of great friends, and the day she went into Labor just as she was beginning labor my hands were covered in blood showing someone how to kill and butcher rabbits. Just over 24 hours later, I was holding my son. At some point when I've had more time to think about how to talk about it here, and the life and death cycle that is implicit in homesteading, but can be really made apparent in moments like this.

I'd like to give special thanks to our friend Annalise for taking care of the animals for us while we were out delivering the Critter. She was kind enough to not only get pictures, but a video of one of Dawn's kits learning how to be a bunny. You can watch it below if I uploaded it properly. If not, I probably won't know for a few days, but I'll try to fix it ASAP. Credit for the photos and the video to Annalise.
video

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More rainy day thoughts: Why we started, how we will continue.

Another day of rain, this time it's a significant down pour. As we call it in this area a Noreaster, in Texas we'd call it a gullywasher. It's not the best sort of weather for a 45 - 50 degree day, but it'll help the water level for the area which is low for a number of the reservoirs. The chickens aren't getting time out wandering and free ranging because I don't want the high winds that have come with it blowing them around the yard and getting them injured or lost, unable to find their way back to get dry and warm. They objected strongly as I left this morning for work, I could even hear their objections in the car.

Since without photos there isn't much to talk about homestead side other than that the Lady of the House still hasn't given birth to the Critter, and we're going to be doing another work day Saturday, I'm going to have another day of thoughts on Homesteading.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Learning about Critter care, and the Monster egg.


 Today is another day pre arrival of the Critter, and we've settled into the routine of being on alert and are trying to just keep ready to go without stressing out. It has actually given us some time to have a lot of good experiences, learn a lot, and for the Lady of the House and I to read a lot about the impending Critter care. For instance we went to the Cloth Diaper Swap & Shop put on by the Simple Diaper & Linen service  which ironically has a longer title than URL. The beautiful pallet arbor bench Above is from the art space near the swap and shop.

We for a very reasonable price managed to get enough more cloth diapers to have a sufficient stock rather than a just barely feasible stock. We also got to observe the Cloth Diapering 101 class which was very comforting and gave us a lot of ideas about what we needed to know that were accentuated and helped by advice from friends who have cloth diapered. We are now a lot more confident in what we're doing, and while that may be an illusion, we'll take it, delusion can be very useful.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rainy day thoughts on homesteading and hobby farming, and which we are.

On this rainy Thursday there is a lot going on, but not a lot to talk about it looks like. It is a good reminder of just how much the weather affects our day to day life, and controls what we can and can't do. Today though, it isn't changing what we were going to be doing. Almost all of what we are doing is preparing for the arrival of the Critter with house cleaning, and baby stuff preparation. Other than doing daily animal chores we haven't been doing anything really "homestead" related. At least, not homestead related beyond the fact that we live there. No photos worth getting from today or yesterday, so it's another old photo post.

Actually, on that note I wanted to think about homesteading and hobby farming. Before going on with the discussion let's set out some definitions.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More wood, green beans, and community

Still no critter, and another late(ish) post. This time it's because it was just a very busy weekend, and I am unused to having my patterns changed. Having Monday off which you'd think would put me in a better place for getting things done did nothing of the kind. Instead I found other ways to fill my time, and didn't have the pre planned preparation time in place, so blog prep didn't get done. Ahh well. A re used picture from last year shows what we're starting to look like, even if the weather tries to fake us out with 70 degree days, the 30 and below degree nights remind us winter is not just coming, it's close.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dawn's kits, and still waiting.

Dawn gave birth Tueseday night, and when I got home I reached in and felt around. I felt a couple moving kits, and Dawn was unhappy with what I was doing so I left her alone, and checked again in the morning. When I checked then I found one cold and dead normal kit, one dead kit with the back of it's head missing and the brain showing, and two normal healthy kits. The rabbit with the part of the skull has anencephaly which means a large part of the brain or skull missing. The Lady of the House promptly did some research, and found that there may be some correlation between tomato blight, and the kinds of birth problems we've been seeing. There is some correlation between feeding alkaline plants and the kind of problems that we've been having so we want to do more research into that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A lost litter, and a distracted life as we wait

Right now I'm not going to beat around the bush, our focus is preparing for Critter's arrival. Trying to organize the house, get a solid inventory of what we have and what we need still in terms of small person care. By the by, if you've never had a small person come into your life before, it's a lot. Especially if you want to minimize the environmental impact you're going to cause with a small person, and try to feed the small person well.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chickens, wood, and babies. Now with pictures.

As promised, today we have photos from around the homestead. We've finally been letting our chickens wander the property and do their thing, and they are quite different in behavior than the chickens we had around before. They don't have to be coaxed to come to garden beds with scratch, they're curious, and they are an unruly bunch that make quite a rapid impact on the grounds.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A very productive weekend

This weekend we got a huge amount done around the house and have a lot to thank people for. Unfortunately in the press of getting things done and the business of everything else at the beginning of this week I don't have any photos to share at the moment for which I apologize. So for now I'm going to list what got done because I'm a bit tired still from this weekend and early week. All of the work from Saturday was done by a group of people that I thank very much for their time and work. Also below the cut, further crazy use of our poor Fit.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chicken wanderings, and night alerts

Did you know that smoke detectors fail to false positives? I was reminded of that last night around 2 in the morning. Just another adventure in day to day life. On the topic of adventures the chickens have progressed from living in their coop, to going out into the run, and last night we gave them their first 30 minutes out of the run free wandering. Good lord can they tear up ground fast. They're also far more interested in putting things in their mouth than figuring out whether they're good to eat.  This is particularly relevant to making sure there's no random plastic around on the ground, they will eat it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Walking through what's left in the garden

Our rabbits are convinced they are abused, ignored, and mistreated. After all, we haven't given them enough pellets to be round in their obesity. Given that it isn't healthy for any creature to be as fat as they want to be they won't be getting every thing they want. Actually in rabbits it's particularly bad because when obese female rabbits won't produce kits beyond other health problems that come with it, thus rabbit weight is something we focus on.

Side note, the Lady of the House is now 36 weeks pregnant, and at any time we may go radio silent for a few days to a few weeks to address, well, having a child born. But for now, we're still here, and focusing on the final stages of the garden and winter prep.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Times of transition, preparation, and change.

Sorry for the late post today, I didn't get things done last night, so I had to wait for having breaks at work to get things done, and the Lady of the House was kind enough to get me some photos to share with you all. Right now is sort of an awkward time as we among other thing wait for the last litters of the year to be born, continue to try to breed Twilight, and the garden dies down. Digressing for a moment, let's talk about Twilight before we get back to everything else

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chickens, rapid blight, and dark mornings.

Meet our new chickens! I know, it's a horrible blown out picture, but it's getting dark in the morning, and I got home after dark last night. So, for the time being photos are going to be fairly meh for the blog since it's camera phone in the dark, but anyhow. Chickens. After the moving of the coop over a week ago Saturday, this past Thursday night we went and got our new hens. We were given 4 Cinnamon Queens for our wedding, and our friends generously held on to them until we could do more to secure the chickens, and another friend gave us a trio of layers that were older and thus leaving her farm one way or the other. Those are a pair of Black Australorps, and a Rhode Island Red. Hopefully when we start letting them out the Lady of the House can get some photos of them that are worth sharing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pensive on a rainy morning: Food ethics and farmers

There are no good photos to share right now due to being busy yesterday and waking up with the speed of a glacier this morning, but that's ok. This is going to ramble a bit because it's a train of thought, so bear with me please. While I obviously am focused on our homestead I've been thinking about food ethics in a broader perspective. One of the critiques of the food movement that I can't really discount is that not everyone has the opportunity to grow their own food, and if you've been around the USA you know there are places you can't get fresh produce. Not you can't get organic, you can't get fresh anything at all. Now the food deserts can change, but there are things that can't change.

Barring a catastrophic rearrangement of the world, people are going to live in cities. As long as people are living in cities there will be a large number of people, perhaps even a majority of people that can't grow their own food in sufficient quantities to survive. This is especially true if we build our cities to discourage car use, and focus on public transportation which I happen to believe is an ethical and practical necessity. The consequence of the existence of cities is that there are going to have to be farmers that are larger scale to produce, and if we want it to be more ethical there are going to have to be ethical farmers.

We think about the ethics of animals, and the ethics of our own food a lot. The thing we need to think about is how to improve the ethics of readily available food, for everyone. The catch is, there are costs to that, and we can't push those costs solely off on the farmers. Farmers are already in a precarious position, and to get changes in the practices of farming there is going to have to be money available to help with the changes (note, there is some), accessible training made available to everyone that wants it, a lot more farmers, and people are going to have to be able to make money doing it.

I suspect many of you have seen this article from the New York Times.  It's not a new article titled "Don't let your children grow up to be farmers". Some of the interesting information comes from this USDA report which points out that most farms have significant off farm income, and this USDA farm income forecast that shows that most farm income is in the negatives, the median, not the mean. Now some of this certainly comes from the increasing number of small farms that as the USDA notes, "barely has enough agricultural activity to meet the requirements to be considered a farm," which includes homestead farms, owning horses, and similar situations. The other thing they noted is that most of the off farm incomes were high, often in management. To me this is part of an increasing divide between the rich and everyone else in terms of food access. I'd link to an article about that, but there's a lot of them to read through and have opinions on. Suffice to say I think that a food gap relating to health, and safety of food rather than luxury food items can't be sustained.

Coming back to the topic at hand, how do we make sure that as we transition to more ethical food, that we don't rely on slave labor to execute. There are a lot of examples. This NPR Article has some basics, this article from Take Part has some interesting information about the prison labor use which I'd call slave labor, and an article from the Guardian about migrants living and working in criminally bad conditions just scratch the surface of the truth of slave labor in our food. That's discounting the issue of a lot of our imported food coming from areas with water shortages, effectively exporting water.

To that end we as a society need to recognize that sufficient, and healthy food is and should be considered a necessity. We should be dedicating public funding to insuring that our farmers are not living in poverty. This needs to come with the recognition that farming is risky both in terms of safety and financially if you have a bad year, or two and can't sell crops. Now, food is one of the most profitable businesses out there, everyone needs it. We just need to figure out how to transition the money from large, monocrop agriculture megafarms to smaller farms without putting the entirety of the burden of paying for the costs of more ethical farming on them.

I do wonder how changing how antitrust laws see farm conglomerates would change things.

I think the short of it is, beyond personal, local support we need large scale government support for ethical, more sustainable farming that's ecologically and personally focused. We also need to stop supporting slave labor practices forcing lower prices on those who do the work themselves. I don't have all of the solution, but in the end, to get ethical food, we can't do it for free. We have to recognize that the costs come from somewhere, and that it can't all come out of the farmers.

P.S. We also need more than 0.1% of our population to be farmers in the USA.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lots getting done thanks to help, also Chickens!

Sorry about the low quality pictures, but we've been keeping busy and I really didn't want to miss another blog post today. Last wee was a consequence of me not understanding just how exhausting first week of college would be from the perspective of being the phone tech support guy. It's still very busy at work, but I am not quite as fried in the evening which is good for actually getting things done. Speaking of getting things done, as you can see Above you see that we've managed to move the chicken coop and run near the house instead of behind the studio barn. That's thanks to a group of friends coming by and helping out Saturday letting us get a lot done!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Delayed post

Things are very busy right now so we are going to have to put up a post later tonight, or tomorrow hopefully. Things are going alright, and we are still doing as well as we were. Update will come as soon as we can! Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reality Check: We need help

So, having done a farm update, it's time to do an update on our lives since we're in transition. Why is this post covered in art rather than homestead photos? A lot of the transition focuses on the Lady of the House. The major information. The Lady of the House is 32 weeks pregnant, getting on towards 33 weeks pregnant. Her layoff from her job of 3 years is today, and no one will hire a 33 week pregnant person. Combine that with me having been laid off from one of my jobs a month ago, and we're in trouble, like take home below mortgage per month, before gas and food. Read below to see how you can help us.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Overdue update

A new day, a new set of baby bunny faces. Well, really right now it's the same set of faces, but as they grow so fast it can feel like a whole new set of faces. Above are three of Twilight's current brood.  Much like their mother they are very engaged with anything involving food. That naturally includes us since we're involved with the appearance of food. I wanted a photo of Twilight hovering over them, but all of them were blurry dark gray mountains that didn't look so good sadly.  Overall, Twilight's kits are growing the crazy rate we expect, and we're happy to see that. Everyone is going to get re bred soon, so they'll only be with their mom for another few weeks for which she will be profoundly grateful, the're eating her food!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Visiting Wheel-View Farm

The Lady of the House and I went to Wheel-View Farm for their open house day, and wanted to share some photos and thoughts about their farm and overall operation. Their site has a lot of good information including about the environmental benefits of grass fed beef farming. They also have a lot of other photos, all of the ones we have up for this post are our own photos taken by the Lady of the House when we visited. I think if you just want a summary it is the idyllic pastoral farm that one imagines, but rarely actually existed if it ever did.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Discussion: Whole Foods rabbit care standards.


I could subtitle this, rabbit production done right on an institutional scale, but out of reach for small operations. Before I get to the rest of this post which is going to be a bit long probably, I want to note that I'm not a fan of a 40 degree morning mid August.

There has been a lot of uproar from some pet rabbit groups about the inclusion of rabbit meat for sale at Whole Foods Market in some places. Right now it is a non universal program based on the local availability of rabbit to those stores. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/department/article/rabbit One of the things you can note in that link is a link to their animal welfare standards. If you haven't clicked through to read it here.

I read through it, and it isn't overly legalese in its presentation. It is in fact a clear document stating the requirements for keeping rabbits for sale to Whole Foods. I'm going to start with the ethical side of the keeping of the animals, and move on to the difficulties to the farm after I have covered the pure ethics and animal welfare side. I'm going to go through in some detail below the cut.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to the normal life, plants, and rabbits.

The Lady of the House is back, and I'm very happy! The rabbits are still very active and hard to get good photos of, but at least I was able to get a couple of the Lady of the House holding onto fast moving babies so I could get photos. The one above is from Sunshine's litter since I still haven't gone after the wasp nest in Dawn's hutch. Below the cut will be more baby photos.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A merry chase

I figured today was a good day for baby bunny photos, unfortunately I forgot that when trying to get photos on a rainy day you A: need to be out of the woods, and B: a corollary, you need a second pair of hands. The Lady of the House is out of town right now since she was selling at Otakon this past weekend. This promptly led to a game of find the blue gray 2 week old rabbit in the tall grass and raspberry bushes. Before doing the cut, I assure those of you who just came for the baby bunny photos, all turned out well, and no babies were harmed, and there will be more (well, one more) photo below the cut.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Late summer garden, a visitor, and new litters of babies!

Kits have been born! These three are Dawn's current set of kits, I'm not sure if she was done fully yet, so I'm hoping to see a few more in her nest.  Twilight also kindled today, but I wasn't going to reach in there and try to get kits out without a second pair of hands, and the Lady of the House is not feeling well today. She's doing ok, just a bit under the weather so I was on my own for kit checking. So, let's talk about what's been going on other than babies being born.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Placeholder

So far yesterday and today have not been my day. I have content for the post, but I just need to find time to get the pictures up and the post written.

Preview:
Bear paw print
Tomatoes going everywhere
Wasps are gone (for now)
Bunny pictures.

I'll try to get this up tonight. Realistically, it may be Thursday. I'm sorry.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quick hit: The Natural Food Label

I generally try to avoid politics in the blog, and I'm sorry to go there today. However I think that this is an important issue in food politics. The article I've linked below explains the situation well, in short, we need to change or disallow entirely the "Natural" and "All Natural" labels. At this point they are totally unregulated, and are intended to be misleading in an already difficult to navigate world for those who don't have access to fresh foods. Please take a read, and act if you are inspired to.

https://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/stop-confusing-consumers-ban-the-natural-label?cmpid=tp-ad-foodinc-fb-actions

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wasps in the grow out hutch, seeking advice.

No photos again today. The main thing on my mind, and a definite plan distraction recently is the wasps that moved into the empty grow out hutch. I'd love to have gotten photos, but they're angry. Last year some wasps lived in the grow out hutch, we co existed peacefully, and I let them live there for the year. Come winter I took the nest and flung it deep into the woods. I don't really mind wasps, they have a purpose, and I suspect they are why we have so few horn worms.

Unfortunately this nest of wasps that has moved in is Angry.

I don't know if any of you have bothered to learn flying critter with a stinger language, but it can be useful. The really relevant one for this particular situation is, if a bee or wasp comes up and headbutts you in the face, it's not actually stupid, drunk, or even aggressive. You're too near its nest, and it's asking you politely to stop so it doesn't have to kill you. Well, it thinks it is going to kill you, when in fact barring allergies it is going to inconvenience you and convince you to kill it and all of its sisters.

Back to the wasps in the hutch. Last year they'd head butt me when I was in close proximity to the nest, and would then back off, and we'd work around each other. The ones in there this year head butt me for opening the door to the hutch. That doesn't work unfortunately. So, they need to go. Unfortunately my best plan so far has involved using a Tupperware container. At night when it's dark so they won't see me, put it over the nest, drag it down the inside of the roof to knock the nest free, then when all of them are settled on the bottom of the box, quickly pull it off and put the lid on.

See the problem here? I sure did after the first try on a smaller nest of 3 wasps. It worked by the way, no stings. Still a bad plan.

Anyone have any suggestions that doesn't involve using neuro toxins in the grow out hutch for the baby rabbits?

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An intentional community concept brainstorm

Things have been a bit hairy since last Thursday to say the least. I don't have photos today of any sort for which I apologize. All I have is a landscape by the Lady of the House.

What I'm going to talk about today is a concept I've been kicking around that the Lady of the House tentatively supports based on finding solutions to some of the glaring problems, and resolution of some details. The idea is of building an intentional community based around ethical living and eating, art, and feminism, without rejecting technology.

That's a mouth full. How can we pare that down?

An intentional community based around food, ethics, and art.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ground running tomatoes, peppers, and a turtle.


Alright, so it's not yogurt. Again. I'm sorry! I didn't have the time to get the photos off the card for that. Last night ended up being sort of a long one, and I ended up with less time than expected. The Lady of the House and I have been considering goats for some time, and some friends due to personal circumstances need help with their goats for a while. So, we're going to be helping out 3 times a week with goat feeding for some Boer goats. We'll see how it goes! Lesson one, don't go head to head with a buck. Also, don't go back of knee to head with a buck. Really, don't go back of knee to anything with any creature, it's a bad plan. But, back at home, we're starting to feed greens we're %100 sure of again. The rabbits are happy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Driveway done (mostly), and poison plants.

Well, we finished the driveway. Of course I don't have photos of any of the work, or the completed result because I forgot to get the completed part, and most of the time working was in the rain, or my hands were shaking too badly to get photos. So instead, here's a bunny.

Well, really it's a couple bunnies but you're most interested in the kit in the foreground. This is the smaller of Dawn's two kits. It's hard to get good scale on it because Dawn's so far from the camera. Anyhow, both of them are doing very well!

As for the driveway, in 2 days of work we moved ~18.5 tons of crush which comes out to about 15 cubic yards into ruts, and spread it across the driveway to crown it. The only tools we have for it are a digging shovel, a short digging shovel, and an iron rake. Appropriate tools for this, transfer shovel (broken fiberglass handle), bobcat, tractor, earth mover. I suspect mule or horse team would also be useful for this. Either way, without those we just did what we could, and for the most part it worked out. I really wish instead of 6, 3 - 4 ton piles the driver had been able to slowly scatter it down the driveway, but we got what we got, and can now use the driveway. It didn't even wash away in the recent hard rains!

Below the cut I'm going to talk more about how the baby bunnies are doing, which has both good, and learning experiences on our part.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Driveway, step one.

Step one of course being, the beginning. And in the beginning, there were trenches.
It may be difficult to tell from that photo, but that's a 100 foot long trench, for most of it it's only a few inches deep. Below the cut I'm going to get to the worse areas, and then Step 2, delivery of raw materials.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A quick overview

 So, as I said last Thursday, we're back!!! I figured I should start off with a quick review of what's going on. Sorry about the photo quality, I didn't have the time to get photos and edit them. So, instead we're going to have meh quality photos. Ahhh well, at least it's a cute young bunny. There are more baby bunny photos below the cut.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

We return, slightly modified.

So, last time I posted here was a little while ago. It was snowy, cold, snowy, and, well, February. We were planning for spring. Since then spring has sprung, and Summer even has shambled in recently. What's been going on since then? Well, lots of things.

Seed starting, planting too many seeds inside, expanding our indoor growing area, doing so again. The seedling swap for the Hilltown Seed Saving Network, bringing more seedlings home than we had space for, digging more space, planting too early, losing some to frost, having enough to recover from the frost, our first litter for the season.

Oh, and the Lady of the House and I finally got married. It was perfect with friends, family, and fun.

And she's pregnant.

We're actually not %100 sure we're ready for this. Scratch that, we know we're not, but we feel very lucky to have a kid on the way. We recently found out the potential salamander is in fact a male human which seems much more what we want than a salamander. We are actually thrilled that we're where we are for having a kid. Not only is there significant support for families in the hills, we can much more keep the kiddo outside, running around, and connected to the land. We've been thinking a lot about what having a kid means, and what we want the kid to learn. Obviously just due to the fact that our life is going to be changing, as this blog continues it is going to include a lot about the kid.

Right now the things that are just getting started on the homestead is, we just started the second round of breeding for the year with Sunshine breeding with our new buck Herbie, and Twilight breeding with Starry Night. Tomorrow will be another pair of does, and the same with Saturday. I promise, next post will be more about the homestead and with pictures, I just really needed to motivate myself to get going again. So, out into the garden we go.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Aftermath of a snow day.

 Well, the promised heavy snow fall arrived, so I decided to include a photo that's from a similar angle to the one from Tuesday. We got about 14" of snow, which is barely more than the valley below us which is unusual. Most of the time we get a crazy amount of snow in relation, so it was nice to have a fairly average amount to deal with. The only wrinkle was that I broke my first shearing pin on the snow blower! I haven't replaced the pin yet because I finished up without it, and actually only noticed due to a friend seeing down the mouth of the monster and seeing it wasn't all spinning.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More snow here, and even more on the way. Spring planning.




After a brief warm up, we've got snow again. More is on the way tomorrow so Thursday we'll be able to show more deep snow beauty instead of the couple inches of making the trees pretty, and the roads terrible that we got yesterday. Even with the snow coming, it feels like spring is on the way. The smell of the air in particular smells different even though the temperatures aren't significantly different. It's something I've been peripherally aware of in the past but am much more aware of now.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Still too cold, and weasel proofing hutches.

Again I have no new photos for you, but for the most part they would be dull. We aren't having the beautiful sort of winter with over-saturated blues and crisp days as from the photo Right from last year. It's just cold, there isn't much snow. It's so cold the snow we have down that's been compacted isn't even really turning into ice. It's blowing away or just sitting there. The rabbits are getting unfriendly and suspicious because I haven't been spending any time petting them, or socializing the babies, or even really doing more than a weekly health check. As a note, they are all doing quite well. Sunshine's babies are starting to take up as much of the hutch as she is. I'm going to be butchering the kits that are with Halley and Comet at the moment, and swapping Sunshine and her kits into the hutch Halley and Comet are in, and putting the soon to be kitless pair into the smaller hutch for now. But, the cold isn't just an inconvenience for me, and making life difficult and not as pretty as last winter.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

No pictures, lots of thinking

So I've been a bit flakey about getting photos lately for which I'm sorry. Right now at least the photos would be too interesting even if we did have them, so at least there is no great loss. The big thing going on in our life at the moment other than day to day work of course, is planning for spring starts. Some of this is obvious enough, we need to bring the shelves we've been using for seed starting up and get them set up first. But before we actually start seeds, we should probably do some garden planning so we have a reasonable expectation of how much we'll be able to plant so we only start 2 - 3 times what we can plant.

The catch of course is that I neglected to get measurements of our garden beds before the snow covered them for the entire winter. Definitely an example of "No really, you can't just wait to do it." We've also never done actual garden planning before. What we're probably going to be doing is doing a fair amount of guestimating on how much space we'll have. This year at least there will be less garden bed digging than there was last year. I am planning on building some new beds this spring though, I just need to not get Too ambitious!

Right now the things we know we want to plant.

Sunchokes otherwise known as Jerusalem Artichokes
Red lumpy squash I can't remember the name of
Cherry Tomatoes of a few varieties
Paste tomatoes of a few varieties
Winter squash
Cucumber
Zuchini
Radishes
Lettuce
Hot peppers (Limon, Scotch Bonnet, Sweet Habenero among them)
Sweet peppers
Kale (though this may not be going in a bed per se)
Eggplant
Pole beans
Amaranth

I think I may have already over run our reasonable space to grow in just with our basic things we definitely want to grow! At least the new garden bed we put together int he fall will be available to plant in. Of the things above, not all of them need to be started inside.

The ones we need to start inside soon are sunchokes and peppers. Maybe also the eggplant. Others to start inside, but not immediately are tomatoes, and maybe others. For the peppers at least we're going to need to try to keep the soil warm enough that they will germinate and grow. We've been considering a few solutions to that other than keeping the house warmer which isn't efficient. We need to do research on how warm the soil needs to be for how much of the day, and what the low temperature can be. If the soil can tolerate being 50 at the lowest, then we'll only have to provide extra heat for part of the day to help growing. There's so much we don't yet know about gardening, and with how much work has been going on I haven't been getting ahead on research! Hopefully we'll be able to share a lot of information as we learn it.

Expect a lot of research going on in the near future, and we'll still be trying to keep updates on the rabbits and chickens as things go on!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First use of the vacuum packer, and new chickens!

Let's start in reverse order of the title, chickens first! No small part of this being that chickens are more photogenic than vacuum packing rabbits! So, these are our two new girls that are with us thanks to the generous help of friends of a friend in the chicken community. Turns out there was a chicken convention not far from us this past weekend! If we'd known we'd have gone, so maybe next year we'll make our way there.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's an interesting life


Life has been interesting lately, and I have a picture of some of it. Today is going to be picture light because there's been too much going on to properly get pictures, and take care of work, and everything else. So. First and foremost, it's been cold, windy, and wet. The windy has had some interesting consequences including making the fire more difficult to light, and trees wandering around. Not like, Ents wandering, falling over mostly. Fortunately for our blue boy here, his hutch was sturdy enough to take a fairly substantial branch falling on it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quick hit: Rabbit apple experiment

There is more going on than just a recipe, but I haven't been able to get photos, or much free time either, so for now, a quick hit with a recipe I tried out last night. As usual, this isn't so much a recipe as an experiment where I slammed ideas together and saw what came out.

Idea 1: Applesauce
Idea 2: Sweet and spicy rabbit
Idea 3: We've got some Salami in the fridge, not sure how long it's been there but it's still good. Let's use that!

Materials:
1 rabbit butchered into sections. Ideally it would probably be boned, but I cut the heck out of myself while sectioning it, so I didn't go all the way.
1 lb carrots chopped medium
1 hard salami cubed small
2 lb (ish) cubed apples. I used random seconds from the farmers market for this.
5 limon peppers
2 sticks cinnamon
small handful cloves
cilantro to taste
small handful basil leaves
small handful rosemary
dash chili powder
other spices to taste

Method:
Brown the rabbit on medium heat. Remove from the pot.

Put 2/3rds of the apples in and put the rabbit back on top. Put all of the spices in. Simmer over low medium heat stirring from time to time for about 45 minutes. Put the rest of the apples in, and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.

Put the salami and the carrots in, and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Let cool a little before eating. Honestly, it's best the day after as with most recipes that involve a lot of spice mixing.

Results:
The rabbit is so tender it's falling off the bone, the spice level is good for us but definitely has a good solid kick with enough sweetness to still stand out. The smokiness of the salami was a fortunate and really good addition to it because the day after the smoky flavor has blended the rest of the flavors very well. Over all it isn't so much like apple sauce as it really is a meal when served with some sort of starch.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

All of the chickens killed by a weasel, and forgetting.

One of the things emphasized in martial arts, the military, and driving is that it only takes a moment of inattention, laziness, or carelessness to get someone killed. In this case it was a quartet of chickens, and it only takes a moment applies just as much to homesteading as anything else I think. The short version of the story is on Sunday the Lady of the House shoveled out the chicken run so they'd have a place to have out time, and on Tuesday let them out during the day. By the time dusk fell she hadn't closed the hatch yet, and given how icy it is she decided to wait for me to come home to have me close it. Reasonable given how treacherous it is right now after an all day rain storm which turned into a 0F night within minutes of it getting dark a couple days ago. When I got home from work at about 11:30 PM I was upset because she hadn't re watered the rabbits, and in us taking care of that, we both forgot to close the coop. Wednesday morning she found the dead bodies killed by a weasel most likely.

Below the cut are photos of dead chickens. If this is disturbing to you or your work would not like it, don't click!