Funny story: Jonathan is fourteen now, and he is, rather miraculously, becoming quite the manly man. Meaning he can lift two 50# feed sacks effortlessly and toss them several feet without even trying. His physical attributes are frequently admired at home and abroad. We women, though, we consider ourselves pretty strong, too, in spirit, perhaps, if not necessarily in body, though a 50# sack is no match for us, either. So Megan was watching her brother toss sacks into the trailer, and she thought to herself, “If Jon can do it, so can I.” She grabbed her sack, walked to the trailer, and launched it. Except, instead of sailing through the air and landing on the far side of the trailer, it plopped unceremoniously right in front of her. Perhaps we’ll just leave the tossing to Jonny from now on.
I haven’t written on this blog in quite a long while! Since August, it seems. My bad. In my defense, middle-aged me is happily pregnant with our ninth child, but quite exhausted. Even keeping up with the daily must-do list has been more than I could manage. Thankfully, I’m coming into the second trimester now, and feeling quite a lot better. It also helps that we have sold or butchered all extraneous livestock as we come into the winter season, so there are fewer bodies to tend around here.
If you’ve visited, you’ve probably noticed that all of our chicken crates are empty! The children helped us process them in three pretty easy sessions, and then we were done. We’ve set aside a laying flock of about sixty hens. Around fifteen of them are already laying, and we’re hoping to have a good egg supply for our shareholders through the winter. Our last crew gave up laying in early August, for some reason.
But we have more important news, oh, yes, we do.
On Saturday morning, just after 1AM, our heifer, Sunshine, delivered her fist calf! The birth was uncomplicated, and mother and son are both doing fine. We’ve named him Oliver, and he’ll be in the barn for the rest of the week. He’s very sociable, and he’d love it if you’d say hello when you visit the farm.
Sunshine’s training has paid off and she’s milking relatively well. She’s got a bit of settling down left to do, but her issues have been minor thus far. Her milk should be in by Wednesday, for which the children are very grateful. They’re used to drinking about 30 gallons a week, but we’ve been milking just one cow for a month, and supplies have been tight!
Also, I miss ricotta. A lot. I dream of warm, sweet bowls of cheese…
I noticed the little piglets up by the near fence yesterday, and so I brought the baby over to see. We startled them, and the whole lot of them ran squealing up the opposite bank. That’s when I noticed the mama in the water. She grunted and heaved herself out of the pond to chase after her brood. “Sorry, Mama,” I said, genuinely apologetic. “I know how you feel.”
Today, they have managed to escape their pen, wee rascals that they are, and they’ve been exploring the bank of the pond and a little of the yard. I took pictures. The dog sat patiently waiting for some sort of sign that she should round them up. I have no idea what commands are needed for shepherd dogs, but I think I’d best find out, because it’s what she loves to do!
Later the kids ran to the house, shouting, “The piglets are in the yard! Can we pet them?”
“If you can catch one, you can pet it,” I replied. They never did catch one, but they had fun trying.
Just a reminder, for long-time friends and readers, that all family blogging takes place here, at www.armyof10.com. I think I only mentioned it once, and so if you haven’t checked that out, please do! I’m trying to get back into the habit of regular blogging, and that’s where I post all things personal. See you there!
The ducks are nesting again. Only a few survived from the first round, due to a certain new puppy with an abiding love for eggs. They nest in the barn, some on the storage side, and some in the actual barn space. I try to keep doors closed so the dog can’t get in, but sometimes other people forget. If we can get a good crop born, I’d like to put some into one of our chicken crates for the twelve weeks it takes to harvest them. I really love duckling.
Our chickens, on the other hand, are doing quite well. They’re growing fat and sassy on fresh yogurt, our all purpose grain ration, and damaged tomatoes from the garden. And they eat every green thing growing in their square. They are excellent weeders.
So, the green beans. I planted these back in April with the rest of the garden, and they grew so thick and lush, but with nary a blossom. I thought maybe the soil was too rich for them. Some plants favor leaves over blooms in good soil. Well, whatever their problem was, I’m pleased to say they are entirely over it! Perhaps we’ll get some beans this year after all.
We have all our winter hay in! Alfalfa, round bales and square ones, too, and, God bless Mr. Roberts for even putting most of it in the barn for us. It is extremely comforting to have that taken care of. Now we just need to acquire a supply of split firewood. I’m not sure why David isn’t splitting any this year, but he isn’t.
Funny story: When we dropped off the first cow, I scheduled the date for the second. “We’re pretty booked with all the fairs,” he said. “I can’t get you in until the end of August. Is that okay?”
“That’ll be fine,” I said.
“Okay. Then it’ll be Wednesday, August 29,” he said.
“Perfect,” I replied.
“That’s Wednesday, August 29,” he repeated.
“Okay. I’ll remember,” I said.
“August 29. Now remember that’s going to be a Wednesday,” he stressed.
Perplexed, I replied once more, “Okay. Wednesday, August 29. I’ll write it down as soon as I get home.”
It was the strangest encounter. He does not normally repeat himself like that. All the way home, I pondered his strange behavior.
Because I have a short memory, I went to my planner to write down the date as soon as we got in. And guess what? There is no Wednesday, August 29! It’s a Saturday! Wednesday is the 26. Did I remember the date wrong? No, I don’t think so. It seemed like the July date might fit, so I flipped back a few pages. Yup! July 29 is a Wednesday!
I called the processor back to confirm the date. “No I don’t have you down for August,” he said. “Let me check July. Yes, there you are, July 29. It’s a Wednesday.”
Actually, I’m still finding the whole conversation odd, and I ended up having to change the date because I hadn’t taken him off the green grass, yet.
But at least we have a date. I can’t wait for those ribeyes.
Sorry for posting twice in one day, but this news was too exciting to hold till tomorrow. Miss Piggy had a litter of thirteen last night, and they all seem to be doing well. Dave, our resident pig-tender, is quite proud of his babies. They’re not even a day old, but they’re all walking around, hiding in the tall grass, getting under mama’s feet… You know, just like any toddler.
Click on any picture to enlarge and scroll through!
I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and the closest I ever came to a cow in my youth was petting one through the fence at a neighboring county’s annual agricultural fair. Our people were not farmers. Our people were businessmen who commuted to the city each morning, or teachers, or, well, the sort of people who didn’t get their hands dirty. Manual labor was frowned upon. Our high school education prepared us to go to college, and from there, we were expected to move into business or computer science. What can I say? It was the eighties.
I, personally, was not interested in either of those career paths. I happily married my young soldier and gave up trying to do whatever they expected of me. I settled down to raising our family and helping my man be all he could be. We were happy, and when it came time to retire, Dave fulfilled a life-long dream of mine and bought us a little farm near Fort Knox.
My dad was not pleased. He grew up on a farm with eight brothers and sisters, and he strongly associates farming with poverty. He tried mightily to discourage us, and I must admit he has a point. Any sort of agricultural endeavor is a lot of physical labor, a lot of time spent managing and troubleshooting, and a lot of time spent trying to market your product, with very little cash coming in to make up for it. It’s really helpful to have some other kind of income.
I don’t want to discourage anybody, though. It’s some of the best work a person could choose to do. Although we dabble in many things, our bread-and-butter (well, just butter) is a small-scale dairy. We milk those cows twice a day, every single day, no matter the weather, or the importance of the holiday on the calendar, or even our health. You’d think that would get tedious, but it doesn’t. It’s just part of the routine, like morning coffee, or taking a shower, or changing the baby’s diaper. We just do it, every day, no matter what.
In exchange for our dedication, we’ve gained physical strength and improved overall health, nutritious and relatively inexpensive food, and an excuse to stay home. (I will admit, though, to occasionally longing to travel! The Army life dies hard.)
I thank God every day for this little piece of Earth, for the beautiful cows He so graciously provided at just the right moment, and for the family I live this life for and with. I wouldn’t change a thing.