Sunday, September 23, 2012

Horse and Cow are Friends!

From the day we brought Buttercup home to live here at the farm, Lucy and she have been the best of friends.
Seldom did I allow the two of them to be together on the same side of the fence just because a purebred Jersey calf is so small in comparison to a 2,000 lb draft horse. I'd be heartbroken if anything happened to her, so we kept the two of them separate - except on those rare occasions when the cow would sneak in if I'd forgotten to latch the gate.  I probably needn't worry - when they were together they were always very gentle with one another.

This past spring, Buttercup spent several months at another farm to be bred. If you haven't read that blog you can find Part 1 HERE.  It really was a good article. The continuation of the story in Part 2 can be found HERE

We had initially planned to have her artificially inseminated at our farm, but we have no restraining head stall, and because a bovine's heat cycle is so short - only 18 hours, it's too easy to miss.  One indication that a cow is ready to be bred is that they will mount and be mounted by other cows.  We saw that for the first time when we went to the dairy to buy Buttercup. They do not keep a bull on the property but watch their cows for breeding times. When they see herdmates mounting one another it's time to call the vet for insemination.  Because the timing is so delicate and we don't have other cows on our farm a friend invited us to bring Buttercup to stay at his farm and be with other cows to pinpoint her estrus cycle.  His son, who had been schooled  in this field would then artificially inseminate her with Purebred Jersey semen and we would have a calf to register 9 months later.  Well, things went awry and Buttercup apparently spent time with their Limousine Bull. For the next three or four moths she remained on their farm back in the pasture with the other cows but no indication of estrus was again noticed.  By all apperances, I calculate that she should  have a calf sometime in December.
Lucy was so happy to see her when she finally came home!

 Dixie, however, had never met Buttercup before so she was a bit jealous.

 Though it was apparent that she would be willing to share the cow's food... if offered.

This morning Buttercup decided that she wanted to visit her friend Lucy so she found a weak spot in the fence, pushed hard and went through - probably similar to what she did when she went to visit the Limousine bull!

But now, I'm afraid that she might not be pregnant after all!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Planting and Heirloom Seeds

This morning when I walked out the door at 4 am I was greeted with crisp, dry air - a glorious 58 degrees! Almost brr. Almost long sleeve. Almost flannel. Almost.
I know, laugh, those of you living north of Dothan - for you, 58 degrees is closer to hot than cold, but after walking out into balmy 70+ degree heat for months, earlier than the crack of dawn, this felt almost chilly to me. Almost.  My blood runs like Florida water!
Needless to say I was filled with energy and excitement about all the endless possibilities of the things I could do outdoors without sweating buckets today, the most beckoning being, getting my fall seeds planted.

Some of you may remember my Summer Manifesto list found HERE. One of my goals was to "Start fall seeds on time"  .. well, I'm almost on time - I could have begun two or three weeks ago, but this will work - and Fall officially begins this Saturday (which, now that I'm reminded of my summertime goals, I see that there are a few incomplete.  I may have to extend "summer" a little longer,  but that's the good thing about living in Florida - summer lasts much longer than the calendar date! Except that I tend to forget how late it's getting and the holidays generally catch me off guard because I'm still enjoying the warm weather - the temperature can be in the 80's even until December!)

   Confession: I'm intimidated by new things.  I don't know why but it typically takes me a long time to begin a new endeavor. I have to think about it for awhile before I attempt to begin. Even if it's something I want to do and I know that I will love.  When I began scrapbooking I gathered supplies for well over a year before I finally worked up the courage to begin.  I was terrified at the thought of putting scissors to photos and decorating album pages, but once I began I was totally hooked (although now I know better than to cut up pictures, but it was the thing to do 15 years ago - now I just crop and print smaller pics).  I did the same thing with soapmaking - I thought about it and agonized over it for months, too intimidated to begin, but now that I've finally begun it's very easy and enjoyable, and I make soap several times a week.
   My most recent irrational fear factor breakthrough, in which I've finally begun a hobby that I've thought about for years, knowing that one day it will be a vital resource to have learned and become proficient at, is heirloom seeds - all aspects of it: planting, growing, harvesting and saving. I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and ordered several packages of Heirloom fall seeds and planting trays which arrived this week.

Generally, seeds and plants bought at farm and local stores are hybrid which means that they come from two different plants that have been cross-bred to produce plants with specific qualities such as disease resistance, uniform size and production. It is the careful combining of two superior plants with different, specific traits so that the offspring produced exhibits both traits. The problem is that the plants grown from hybrid seeds will not continue to carry those qualities. Subsequent plantings will not reproduce the same characteristics of the parent plant, rather they will typically revert to one or the other of the initial genetically pollinated plants or they may be sterile and not produce fruit at all.  This means that to ensure a recognized crop, new plants / seed packages must be purchased each year.

Non-hybrid plants, also called open-pollinated, heritage or heirloom, are pollinated naturally and allow for a much wider variety of species than hybrid. They have not been genetically modified or combined and therefore the seed remains true to the parent plant and can be saved and replanted year after year with the same product results. Unfortunately these plants may be less disease resistant and produce less fruit, but they are more diverse and oftentimes even more flavorful. Besides, I like the idea of learning to save seed, experiment with multiple varieties and replant each year with seed from my own harvest. From a survivalist's point of view it seems like the smart thing to do.

I'm now preparing my garden houses for fall planting. On the table I have a tray of Broccoli, Red Cabbage, Leaf Lettuce and Romaine Lettuce. Each tray has 50 seeds planted. I aspire one day to become diligent enough to plant in succession so that I will have a continual harvest rather than the typical - sow them all at once and gather all at once. (and, of course, since yesterday, a rogue chcken managed to gain access and dumped an entire tray on the ground spilling everything.  I have decided that any chicken found inside my gardenhouses are fair game for the stew pot! It's time we started eating what we grow! - More wisdom from the survivalist.)

In the square foot boxes I've planted snow peas and spinach, and today, in pots, I'm attempting to grow carrots - this seems like a logical way to grow them. Notice the pans underneath to ensure they get enough water.

This is how I spaced them, with two or three...or 10 seeds in each hole. (They're tiny seeds and sometimes come out faster than I plan - but they're old seeds so maybe there's have a better chance that some will germinate. These were not heirloom seeds - all the others were)

So here goes - another learning experience. I'll keep you updated.

Since beginning this blog, and subsequent plantings in the cool of the morning, the temperature has risen into the high 80's. I think I may now take a break and work on my summer manifesto list... and plan a day at the beach!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rosh Hashanah Apple Cake

Thank goodness Rosh Hashanah is a two day holiday - it's taken me both days to catch up! It began Sunday evening and will conclude tonight at sunset.

On Sunday it took us all day, but we moved the sailboat. I'll tell you all about it soon. By the time we got back to the farm I was exhausted, majorly sunburned and didn't have the energy to do or think about anything! Thankfully I had plopped some chicken breasts (wrapped in bacon), 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup sour cream into the crock pot, and set it on low before leaving the house in the morning! Bob cooked some egg noodles while I finished up the homestead evening chores - not too many: feed the chickens, grain the horses, check the waters and pen up the turkeys (otherwise they roost on the side of the swimming pool and I'm afraid they'll nod their heads and drown!)  In bed by 8:30 but it felt like midnight!

Monday was spent catching up around the farm: dishes, milking, laundry, cleaning and packaging 15 dozen eggs, getting ready for yet more rain, shuffling goats (the does are all beginning to go into heat, and the ones that can jump the fence are giving me a real pain!) and finally, thinking about Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and bemoaning the fact that I hadn't sent my son to school with apples and honey in his lunch. (but see, now I still have another day - gotta love two day holidays!)

I did end the day yesterday trying out a new recipe - an Apple Cake.

Here's how:
  * Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  * Grease and flour a 9X9 pan (or equivalent)
  *Peel and core 4 apples - cut into 12 slices each. Sprinkle with lemon juice to keep apples from turning brown (I didn't and they were fine)
 * Over medium heat warm apples in pan with 2 TBS butter and 1-2 TBS sugar. Cook 10-15 mins until soft

In separate bowl mix:
* 1 cup flour
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 cup oil (I used Canola, but I might substitute half applesauce next time)
* 2 eggs
* 1 tsp vanilla

Stir 1/2 warm apple mix into batter and pour into greased and floured pan and smooth to edges
Arrange remaining apple slices ornately on top
Sprinkle lightly with sugar
Bake 350 for 1 hour

L'Shanah Tovah!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A New Adventure Begins

  My husband grew up on the water. From the moment his family moved to Florida Bob was enamored with boats, swimming, fishing and everything in between. Fortunate to live on the bay, as a young boy he spent hours swimming the canals from one friend's dock to another, playing on anything that floated, dragging up anything that sank, and paddling homemade boats he and his friends built from plywood "borrowed" from new homes being built in the neighborhood. He taught himself to repair boat engines to ensure an honored place on others' vessels that they themselves could not fix. One of his first jobs was working in the shipyard learning to weld and work with fiberglass.  He then spent summers working on the beach, renting umbrellas, jet skis and sailboats. At 19 years of age Bob went offshore as a cook on a supply boat, got his 100 ton captain's lisence shortly thereafter and drove these 165 ft  boats to offshore oil rigs. He fished in lieu of sleeping. He raced Hobie Cats and went to offshore boat races. Later he worked for several years pulling parasail rides from the beach. He lived, breathed and ate salt, sand and seawater. He refered to himself as a pirate and could not imagine a life apart from the water.
Just to show you the hand (and humor) of God... I met my husband on an Organic Farm in Houston.  Life's circumstances had brought him to the big city, and somehow, there, he was introduced to dirt.

Our early married life was spent in the desert of New Mexico learning greenhouse gardening, and later in the boonies of Virginia with plans to raise our family homesteading in the wild, never imagining we would come full circle back to the Gulf waters of Florida and then inland to our present 40 acre farm.  We have the best of both worlds here: gorgeous crystal blue water and pure white sandy beaches, and the peaceful beauty of  the woods, land and livestock. We are blessed.

My youngest son, Joel, turned 17 yesterday.  He has spent most of his years here in Florida and enjoys all the diverse things we dabble in. For the past two years, though, he has been talking about a desire to sail the seven seas with a friend. To explore uncharted waters and discover new lands. Or at least sail to Bermuda.  He wondered if our 16 ft Hobie Cat could make the trip.
Wednesday was his birthday. 
On Tuesday I found this advertisement on Freecycle:  

Freecycle OFFER: 34' sailboat

I am most likely moving soon and need to get rid of my boat. It is a
serious project, that I didn't have much time to work on. If you would
like to have it, you must be willing to get it registered in your name.
It's currently at the marina, so you would need to take over
slip rental or move it.

 Are you familiar with Freecycle? It's a yahoo group that is found almost everywhere in the US to which members post items they want to give away or things they are looking to find. Anything from clothing to housewares to outdoor items to animals.

When I saw this ad I half jokingly called Bob and told him about it.  We both knew that this was unreasonable, and surely outside the realm of possibility, but Joel was in the car at the time and said to my husband, "A dream come true!"  which reminded us both of his earlier pipe dreams to sail to Bermuda. So, with no hope whatsoever that this boat would still be available, I called.  The owner responded and said that there were three people interested ahead of us, but the following day, on Joel's birthday, they met, and the boat was ours.  UNBELIEVABLE!

The sailboat is a 34 ft Windjammer Sloop. It has a flush deck and rear cockpit. The inside has been gutted and it has no sails or inboard engine, but all the hardware is there: the mast, ropes, couples, buckles, anchor and chain.  It does have a brand new outboard motor.  Or should I say "she?"
   I am not a sailor. As a matter of fact, we have a 16 foot Hobie Catamaran that I've been on once or twice, and though I remember that it was fun, I'm just not comfortable sailing. I feel like a beached whale ducking under the boom rolling from one side of the trampoline to the other. I've never been on a sailboat this big - perhaps it will be different, and although it looks very nice from the outside, this is definately a "project boat" with the interior completely gutted and quite the mess! (At least that's what the pictures look like to me - I have yet to see "her" in person.)   
   A major concern I have is, where the heck will we find time to complete this project?!  Upon consideration, this is what I've decided.  Our time with our youngest son is so limited, and this is his dream (right now :)  Though it is not "my thing", God has seen fit to freely give us this boat, so I will willingly, without much complaint, offer farm time for sea time. I will put things on hold and let the men spend hours working together rebuilding this, my son's dream. I will offer support and document the process. I will have no regrets nor bemoan the work not getting done around the Homestead. Those things can wait. This can't. Children grow up too quickly.

Me, on the other hand?  Perhaps I'll spend the time that Bob and Joel are off together working on their boat...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We're Back

Hey, I'm back. I've been dealing with some issues that have kept me down and overwhelmed, but guilt has brought me back.  So much has been happening around here and as long as you're willing to read I'd love to write about it all. Thanks for hanging in there.
Since my last post it rained almost every day for a month. Now, I love a good, dark, dreary rainy day, but this got to be a bit ridiculous and depressing. A few days of sunshine though and my spirits brightened. Of course, as I am writing this, since feeding time this morning it has rained over 4 inches, (really - I checked the rain gauge just a bit ago!) but after a few days of hot, humid Florida weather, I welcome the rain, as do our fruit trees.
Not only did we have daily rain, but during this past hiatus we spent a few days preparing for Hurricane Isaac.  Thankfully it moved off to the west of an earlier projected path which would have brought it close to home. Wasn't that some coincidence - Hurricane Isaac making landfall exactly 7 years to the day AND the day of the week, Wednesday, August 29th AND the same area that Hurricane Katrina did?!

So here is a brief rundown of some of the happenings around the homestead since I last posted. I plan to go into more detail - stories, how to's, and whatnots of  some of these events in the near future.

In the past month WE HAVE...

* Finished the turkey pen
* Started a new school year
* Moved the bunk beds out of the kitchen into the Scrap/Guest/Reloading Room

 * Stumbled upon and captured a Diamondback Rattlesnake in our food storage shed.
 * Tried new recipes: PW's Baked French Toast
                                Cheese and Bacon Potato Rounds
                                Crockpot Chicken Tacos
                                Crockpot Shredded Buffalo Chicken

* Been riding together
* Cleared out the gardenhouse for fall planting
* Built brood and honey boxes

* Hosted a Back-to-School
         Game Night

* Shot skeet

* Celebrated my youngest son's 17th birthday together