Preparing a Pelt

October 7, 2011

I bought a lamb from a friend of mine who raises sheep for meat.  She took my sheep to the butcher yesterday to be processed.

Another of our friends who also raises sheep had one of her lamb’s pelts made into a small rug or throw.  It’s beautiful and so soft.

Jan and I decided we wanted one too 🙂

The butcher saved the pelt for me and Jan brought it over last night during Knit and Spin.  We spread it out on the floor in the basement away from the other animals.

Then we put a thick layer of salt all over the pelt.  The salt will absorb the moisture.

This is what it looked like after being salted.  It will stay like this for a while and then I’ll ship it to a company in Penn where they will tan the hide and wash the wool.  It’s not that expensive to do.  One of these days I’ll try to do the whole process myself.

For now, we’re just going to take it a little bit at a time!

And btw- it’s become the newest project in the Knit and Spin group.  Another friend of mine took Edward’s (our cow) hide and she and her husband are doing the whole process themselves!!  Now that’s a major job!  But she says, so far so good 🙂

A Few Kind Words…

October 3, 2011

Last week, a good friend of mine called one morning.

No particular reason except to say I was being thought of at the time.

My friend went on to give me one of the greatest gifts that day… words of encouragement and support for what I do as a mom and with the farm.

It wasn’t a long phone call – a few moments perhaps.  But moments that stayed with me the rest of the day and made me smile.

Those kind words lifted my spirits, gave me strength in decisions that had to be made, and best of all, let me know that I meant something to someone.

And what was the cost to my friend?

The breath to speak those words and the courage to act on what the heart was prompting.

Why is it we’re often afraid to say a few kind words to others?  Those kind words are a gift from the heart, wrapped in love.

And the ripple effect of those words is endless.

I know I spoke more kindly to my children, looked for opportunities to boost someone else’s spirits the way mine had been, and was grateful to have a friend who took the time to share kind words with me.

So unexpected, unpretentious, so heartfelt.

Since my children were small, I have worked with them on finding something good to say to others. We practice in the check out lines at stores.  I’ve told them, even if it’s just that you like their necklace, tell them so and watch…

A smile, eye contact, a kind word, and then – the transformation of the face behind the counter.

It’s fun and it costs us nothing but the breath with which to speak the words.

My mother in-law gave me this advice early on when my children were young…

“Cyndi, you’ll have to say ‘no’ so many times to children that you must constantly be on the look out for the opportunities to say ‘yes’.”

I took this to heart and worked at it, often turning a negative situation into a positive so I could say yes.

I try to take this same approach with others.  Why is it we find it easier to be critical instead of uplifting?  Instead of speaking something that would tear down a person, I try to find something positive to lift them up.

Yeah, it’s a little intimidating and makes me feel vulnerable but I like the results.

And if the kind words are scoffed or ridiculed, I know that person really needed them!

But that rarely happens…instead, there is a softening in the person’s countenance and a genuine smile lights up their face or a thank you is spoken.

All people, no matter the age or status, want to know that they matter…

And a few kind words can fulfill that wanting.

I know because my friend gave me the gift of encouraging, uplifting words and it made my day.

The cost of the gift?  The breath of life and a voice to speak…

What a difference those words made for me.

Thank you, my friend.

Ever Seen One Of These By Your Beehive?

September 15, 2011

I was working my hives the other day and had a visitor…

For some reason there seems to be a greater abundance of these creatures this year.

As with everything else this year, we’ll blame it on the weather.

Better yet, we’ll call him an opportunist!

This the Giant Robber Fly or “Bee Killer” and they feed on honey bees and other insects.

But because the honeybee supply is so abundant and accessible here, they are called “Bee Killers”!

They’re fast when they snatch a bee out of the air and they’re very noisy so it’s easy to know when these insects are around.

However, they have eternal patience while they wait for just the right moment.

Grab and Go meals 🙂

I like the fact that these are predatory insects, just not wild about the fact that around here their prey are my bees.

Here’s some other interesting information about the Giant Robber Fly:

There are over 7,000 species of robber flies world wide; nearly 1,000 in North America.

All robber flies have stout, spiny legs, a dense moustache of bristles on the face (mystax), and 3 simple eyes (ocelli) in a characteristic depression between their two large compound eyes. The mystax helps protect the head and face when the fly encounters prey bent on defense. The antennae are short, 3-segmented, sometimes with a bristle-like structure called an arista.

The short, strong proboscis is used to stab and inject victims with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which paralyze and digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied meal much like we vacuum up an ice cream soda through a straw. Many species have long, tapering abdomens, sometimes with a sword-like ovipositor. Others are fat-bodied bumble bee mimics; the effect is quite convincing.

Candid Corner – It’s So Hard to Switch Tracks

September 14, 2011

I went out last night to check on Marbles, our goat.  She’s been sick for the last couple of days. Not really sure what’s wrong with her – a lot of educated guesses.

By symptoms and signs, the consensus  has been a urinary blockage or stone.  I’ve used all the conventional means:  a shot of antibiotic for fever, pain reliever to give her some comfort, this other stuff to hopefully break down the stone or blockage… and I’m still waiting.

Marbles has had no appetite for the feed we normally give – man made.

Last night, the girls and I attended our weekly Traditional Chinese Medicine class.  Dr. Liang talked about plants and their ability to heal and why.  I’ve known this and have believed it for some time, using almost solely herbs and minerals for the family.

But when it came to my animals, I hadn’t switched my thinking.  My first recourse has always been chemicals or conventional means.

I learned the hard way with my honeybees.  I was told to use a chemical to control mites or they would kill my colonies.  So I used the chemical and instead – it killed my colony.  There may have been some other factors involved but definitely, the chemical was one of the components for their demise.

I was at a loss last night regarding Marbles.  I stood in the pen with her  – it was a beautiful night with a full moon, bright stars, slight breeze.  I started to love on her, touching her, rubbing her ears.  As I ran my hand along her neck, I noticed she was really tight so I started to massage her neck…remembering that massage is often used for healing.  Pretty soon she relaxed and pushed her head into my leg.  I rubbed her face and ears and along her spine and sides.  The look in her eye calmed down.  I talked with her as I continued to rub her neck.  After a 1/2 hour  or so of this, I said goodnight and went in the house.

While I was out there with Marbles, I was thinking about our class and the plants.  I remembered what a FB friend said about dock root.  I determined that in the morning, I would pick plants for Marbles and see what she would do  with those.

This morning I went into her pen and she seemed better, a little perkier.  Rubber her neck some more… offered her some grain and she nibbled but not really interested.  I knew enough though, that she wanted something to eat.

Oh yeah,plants.

I’d been told that with urinary problems, they needed acidic feed.  We’d been giving her apple cider vinegar which she hated.  So I went to get some oak leaves – they’re acidic.  She ate them right away.

I walked around the yard and picked a little of this and that.  I knew some of the medicinal properties of some of the plants.  Found Feverfew and the dock.  It looked like a bouquet when I took it into Marbles!  I offered her the dock and she ate it right away – the most enthusiastic I’d seen her in several days.  I offered her the Feverfew and she ate that right away.  Some of the other plants, not interested.  I figured she knew what she needed.

I guess what I learned this morning is, I’ve been trained under the conventional medicine for animals and I need to explore the natural remedies with them also.  There’s not much info out there for this kind of medical treatment.

I need to remember that I’m not always smarter than the animals when it comes to figuring out what they need.  Marbles is penned up – how could she get what she needs if it’s not available to her?

I don’t have answers, just sharing my musings with you this morning.  It’s difficult to switch my train of thought when it’s always been a certain way and “this is how it’s always done.”

I’ll continue to explore the use of plants and herbs with my animals because I know it can work for humans so why wouldn’t it work for them?

They’re even closer to the earth than I am in what they eat 🙂

Indiana Farm – Combine and Corn Header

September 13, 2011

I had the privilege of going to Boonville, Indiana to look at a commercial farm.  I’d only seen the equipment used for these large farms in magazines.

Before we arrived at our destination, of course, we had to stop at the local Farmers Market just outside of Boonville 🙂

Newburgh is right on the banks of the Ohio River and it’s a quaint little town.

People were very welcome to their market, but not pets 😦

It was unusually hot the Saturday we stopped and it was close to the end of the market so some of the vendors had gone home.

One interesting note.  I talked with a local beekeeper who had a booth.  He was getting $5 a pound for his honey.

He was surprised to find out that the going rate in GA is $8 per pound.

On we drove…

Lots and lots of fields with soybeans.

But more than soy beans…

CORN!!

Whether you looked north or south,

East or west.

Some houses were surrounded by fields of corn making natural walls around the home.

I’d never seen so much corn.

Who eats all this corn?  And why does it look so dry and almost dead?

I thought you were supposed to pick corn to eat while the stalk was still green.

It was here, on the beautiful Cornell farm, that I would find lots of answers to the myriad of questions I had about commercial farming.

The Cornell farm consists of approximately 3,000 acres, most of which is covered in soybean and corn.

The tillable  acres are leased and farmed by the Durchholz brothers.

Generations of farmers and hundreds of stories find their home in these rolling hills.

Al Durchholz stopped by to pick Lynn and me up to go to the barns to look at the equipment they use for all these acres.

First – the combine.

I couldn’t get past the massive tires on this piece of equipment!

The price tag for commercial farming is staggering.  The overhead on the all the equipment we looked at to run this farm is over a million dollars!

Some of the machinery they lease, others they buy.

The cab was amazing – air conditioning, a stereo system, comfy seats…

And a fairly intricate computer system!  I swear you need a Computer Science degree to understand all that this computer does for and with the combine.

In simple terms, when all the settings are input into the computer, and the computer “talks” with the GPS system, it’s like auto-pilot and the farmer doesn’t even touch the steering wheel!  Unless of course there happens to be a big hole or tree that the computer can’t see.  But once that’s avoided, the computer recalculates and puts everything back on track.

Margin of error on rows and distances between each row for thousands of acres?  6 inches!

This is the view from the cab and though you can’t see it very well, there are rows and rows of corn just outside these barn doors.

The inner workings of this incredible machine.

Not only do you need to have a Computer Science degree, you also need to have a Mechanics degree.

The cab, the corn header on the front, and all the rest sit on 6 tires- 2 in the front on each side, and 1 in the back on either side.

Why all the tires?

To lessen the compaction of the soil when a machine this size rolls over the ground.

This part of the combine is called the header.  There are different kinds of headers for different kinds of crops.

Normally all those red points would be facing the ground.  They were up because they were working on the chains that run the machinery underneath.

This particular corn header is 30′ long.

Those points run in between the rows of corn and the stalks are cut.

The stalks are run through the auger right behind the red pieces…

This section is like the throat of the machine.

All the stalks go through here and end up…

In the “stomach” of the combine.  The heads of corn are removed and the corn is taken off the cobs.

The cobs and stalks are spit back out onto the ground where they will be tilled back into the ground later – adding nutrients to the soil.

Al patiently explained how all this works.

The corn kernels are deposited in a hopper at the top of the combine.  The hoppers hold 400 bushels of corn.

The hoppers were not open because there’s not enough room.  The beams you see in this picture hold up the roof.

Once these hoppers are full, the corn goes through this pipe and empties into a grain wagon which holds 1,000 bushels of corn.

Okay – here’s the part for all the math people who like numbers.

This combine is able to harvest 100 acres of corn in a day.

There are approximately 150 bushels of corn per acre.

So, providing all the planets are aligned, the weather is perfect, and nothing happens to the machinery –

They’re able to harvest 15,000 bushels of corn per day.  A bushel of corn weighs 56 lbs which equals 840,000 lbs of corn a day!

This farm has 1500 acres in corn so it would take 3 weeks to harvest all of your corn if you took off weekends.

Oh, did I mention, they harvest the corn when the kernels are at 15% moisture rate?  If it’s over that moisture rate, it will mold in the storage bins and you could lose your whole crop – your whole year’s salary.

Who needs all this corn???

Cows do and most of the beef that’s grown for commercial use.

And you do – it’s amazing how often corn is listed on the ingredient labels.  Even in soda!

An ethanol plant can process 90,000 bushels of corn a day!

The farmers now are receiving about $7 per bushel for corn.

But think about these questions:

How would you like to work really hard all year and only receive a pay check once?

How would it be if you worked really hard all year and the week before you got your paycheck, something out of your control happened and you didn’t get your money?

That’s how it is for these commercial farmers.  They work all year and if Mother Nature is kind, they get a paycheck.  And if not, they take the debt and hope next year is twice as good so they can pay off that debt.

This was a very eye-opening trip for me.  I learned so much and was challenged in some of my thinking.

When you meet the people, eat with them and sleep in their home, who live on and work the land – there’s a deeper understanding of decisions that have to be made.

Here’s some more info on corn and it’s use in America:

http://www.campsilos.org/mod3/students/index.shtml

Varroa Mites and Bees

August 30, 2011

I was running out of time to split my hives.  I wanted to put them in nucs to overwinter.

I love going into the hives and just looking.  You can tell so much about a hive through observation.

In this particular hive, I saw a bee with deformed wings.

Side by side – you can see a healthy wing with the deformed wing.

Also, these are young bees because of the fuzziness on the thorax.

The deformed wings let me know that there are mites present – Varroa mites to be specific.

Now I needed to see how badly this hive was infested.

Another one with deformed wings…

But I wasn’t seeing any mites on the bees.

The mites are parasitic and the eggs are laid in the cells where they hatch and feed on the bee larva.

When the baby bees emerge, the mites have attached themselves to that bee.

Finally, a spotting of a Varroa mite.

And this mite was attached to a bee with deformed wings.

However, sometimes the bees show no outward signs but the mite is still attached.

This Varroa mite is on a very young bee – see how fuzzy they are??

They’re so cute when they’re first born!  But I don’t like the sight of that mite.

That mite is about the size of a pin head.  You can see them with the naked eye if you know what you’re looking for.

Typically I’ve seen mites on the top part of the thorax.

If I was going solely on wing formation, I might not have looked at this bee.

Varroa mites are not particular – they will climb on any bee.

The mite situation in this hive wasn’t severe but I’ll still treat.

I don’t use any kind of chemicals in my hives.  I did when I first started beekeeping.

But after I lost a hive to the chemicals – in my opinion, I stopped using them.  Also, I didn’t like the chemical smell in my wax even after I removed the chemical.

For Varroa mites, I shake powdered sugar throughout the hive.  The bees go into a cleaning frenzy and start cleaning each other.  I’ve put screen bottoms on all but 2 of my hives.  When the bees start cleaning, the mites fall through the screen to the ground and there are all kinds of insects waiting for dinner to fall from “heaven.”

This is a basic overview of the Varroa mite.  For more detailed info, check out these links:

This video is very cool with extensive info and actual footage on the life cycle of a bee and Varroa mite-

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7304562435786960616

Good written overview:

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bees/varroa_mite.htm

Candid Corner: But I just don’t wanna…

August 24, 2011

The prep work is finished, the weather is good, the deadline is closing in, and if I procrastinate any longer – the window of opportunity will be shut.

I know all this…

but I just don’t wanna do the rest of the work today.

Ever have days like this?

I find with farming, I run into these kind of days more often than not.  So much that happens on the farm is season and time sensitive.

Take for instance my dairy goats.  The optimum time for breeding is Sept – Jan.  Five month gestation.  That means, if I want babies to hit the ground in February, I need to have my girls bred in October.  I’m working on the prep work right now because if I miss this window, I won’t have babies in February which means I won’t have does in milk, which means I can’t make cheese, which means I won’t have extra milk to raise a calf, which means in 18 months I won’t have meat for my family.

See what I mean?

My “but I don’t wanna” has far reaching repercussions that go beyond my emotional state at this moment.

Today I need to split my hives.  I’m trying a new theory.  If I don’t split today, my window of opportunity will slam shut and I won’t have bees to sell in the spring.  Nor will I be able to test out my theory until next year – a whole year!

That’s the other nugget of truth I’ve found recently.  Some of the “new” ideas I come up with really aren’t that new.  It’s just sometimes I’m willing to do the work that others didn’t want to do to make the idea a reality.  There’s a lot of really terrific ideas floating around out there – I hear friends talking about them all the time.

The time and work it takes to make an idea a reality – now that’s where the difference is.

In these economic times, some of those ideas could really come in handy – another source of income.  I could use that.

Ahhh – but it requires that I quit talking about it and do it!

…Even when I just don’t wanna.

So thank you for sitting with me while I convinced myself to get off my bum and get outside and do the work.

I know I’ll be glad when the work is complete and that sense of satisfaction supersedes the emotional “dragging of the feet” right now.

And in the spring, when I have nucs to sell, I’ll really be grateful I got the work done today 🙂

Tennessee Rock Trail – Mountain City, GA

August 22, 2011

Thought it would be a good idea to hike the trail we are recommending for the Ladies’ Homestead Retreat.

Yesterday a friend and I drove up to Mountain City, GA to Black Rock Mountain State Park to hike the Tennessee Rock Trail.

2.2 miles long and an ascent of over 1000′

There is a fee for parking and either you can pay it here or at the Visitor’s Center further on up the mountain.

We chose the Visitor’s Center because they have a bathroom…and a nice gift shop 🙂

Little blue square says “more difficult.”

Little black square says “most difficult.”

We chose the blue…and because that “warning” notice said there were yellow jacket nests in the other trail – no thank you!

Sooooo – the first ascent.  A lot of stairs going up!

To buy myself some “catch my breath” time, I was easily distracted by bugs.

Actually, I’d never seen one of these before.  Anyone know what it is?

It was beautiful!

Obviously this is a popular plant – see all the other bugs on it?

Once we went “up” for a little ways, the trail evened out and meandered through the woods.

It really is an enjoyable hike and in the fall, it should be gorgeous with all the fall colors.

After about 2/3 of the way along the trail, the ascent begins again…

But it was so worth the sweat and grunt…

There are a lot of big boulders at this look out and this is where we will stop to have lunch.

You will definitely have earned the rest 🙂

Is it any wonder why they are called the Smokey Mountains?…

After lunch, the climb back down the trail…all down hill!

If you have knee problems, you may want to take this part of the trail into consideration.

The trail begins and ends at this picnic spot so if you get down the mountain before the others, there’s a nice place to wait.

We did the trail in about an hour and a half.  But taking lunch into account, I’m planning on 2 and a 1/2  hours.

If you’re moderately exercising, you should be fine with this trail.  Most of the trail is very doable and it’s so permissible to take frequent stops on the parts that are a little more strenuous!

Another bonus – it’s minutes from the Foxfire Museum.

Looking forward to hiking this trail again with a lot more friends 🙂

Pig Party!!

August 18, 2011

It was a quiet evening at the Lazy B Farm.

That is until someone mentioned all the watermelons in the back of the truck.

Woohooo!!  We’re gonna have a Pig Party!!

“What??  Did someone mention a party??!”

“Wait a melon-pickin’ minute!  Why do those pigs get all the good stuff?”

“Oh yeah….”

And let the party begin!!

I wasn’t sure who enjoyed this event more.  Michael and Megan who had way too much fun launching the watermelons and watching them smash and explode in the pen…

…or the pigs who ran from watermelon to watermelon noisily slurping up the fruity goodness inside!

The biggest objective for the one launching watermelons into the pen…

do NOT hit the pigs!!

Hog heaven!!

Oops – another close call!

A pigs dream becomes a reality!

“Ya know pigs…”

…ya’all are just so disgusting!”

“What??  You want me to try this stuff?”

“Ummm – I think not!”

And the pigs ate and ate until…

Oh yeah – Party Hangover!!

(See that smile on her lips!?  She had a good time :-))

From Seattle to Lake Stevens

August 17, 2011

After our visit in Seattle, it was time to head to Lake Stevens to the north.

But not after one more trip up the Space Needle…

The views from the observation deck are amazing – especially on a clear day.

Mt. Ranier in all her glory.

There aren’t very many days in the year when the mountain is this clear.

We were very fortunate that the weather was so incredible!

A friend of our family flew in to Seattle because we were staying with her friends in Lake Stevens.

I was lucky on this shot.  This float plane was turning right in front of us while we were on the Space Needle.

Landing spot?  Lake Union – a very popular landing place for float planes.

Time to head to Lake Stevens…

But first a stop at a restaurant at the Port of Everett.  Right on the water…

just in time to watch the sun set while we ate our dinner.

Mt. Baker peeks out over the masts of all the boats in the harbor.

So beautiful…

Loved watching the lights get brighter as night drew nigh.

Such a precious sight.  See the seagull at the top of this frame?  She was sitting on her nest.

I will say she had a lovely view from her “room”!

The next morning, we visited the Everett Farmers Market.  This is a Sunday market down at the harbor.

A lot of folks came out to buy at the market.

And of course, while visiting all of these markets, I was looking for ideas to bring home to use in our own market in Statham.

Loved this idea!

Ahhh – more cherries!

Creative idea to solve an unavoidable problem 🙂

Lots and lots of flowers!!

Gorgeous radishes – their growing season was about 7 weeks behind ours.

These snap peas were delicious.

Another creative solution to a sometimes emotionally volatile situation.

A pasta vendor!  This particular pasta can only be purchased at a Farmers Market or direct from the factory.

I bought some of the Lavender just cuz I was so curious about what it would taste like.

This was an orange szechuan pasta.  Yep, bought this one too.

This one was made from citrus – interesting…

And of course I had to talk to the lady with the eggs.  Apparently they are a little more strict than we are and there are a lot more fees.

She had to pay state fees, and another fee for each town she sold in.  You’d have to sell an awful lot of eggs to cover all those fees!

Beautiful display…

Even more beautiful food…

Worms!!  They sold everything a person would need to get started with worm composting – even the worms.

Nice packaging ideas.

These seemed to be fairly popular at the markets we visited…

This set-up was on the back of a trailer or truck bed.

Yum!!

Yep – they sold rabbit meat.

Would love to know all the regulations for getting a label for rabbit 🙂

And I stopped to talk with every vendor who was selling beef.  Prices were about the same and so were the practices for growing out the steers.

And what would a market be without bread??

In all the markets I visited, this was the most clever idea I came upon.

This yard art is created from recycled glassware.

It was absolutely gorgeous!

And yes, I was lamenting the fact that I had no room for one of these in my suitcase.

Another creative way to display soap.  You purchased it by the 1/2″ or inch.  The aroma at this booth was intoxicating.

The advantage of going to a market by the water!

These shrimp were huge and had been caught the night before and steamed.

Couldn’t get much fresher than that unless you did it yourself.

Fresh crab!

Another nice idea to incorporate in our market…

So I brought home my purchases with the agreement from our hostess that she would figure out what to do with these items.

She loves to cook!

And boy am I glad I left the cooking to her!!

This Lavender pasta was really good! I have since ordered more directly from the company located in Colorado.

Fresh veggies from the market….

And all this makes for a feast with wonderful friends on a gorgeous night…

in beautiful Lake Stevens, WA!