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“A Post About Today: February 23rd, 2021”

The upper greenhouse just before the big melt and shed. Here Andy is movings some snow around below it whilst I standby listening for any indication that the snow may break loose and come down.

With daytime high’s in the upper 30’s and 40’s, brisk winds, and bright sunshine, it’s hard to deny spring is here.  Yesterday the upper greenhouse was 51º!   Our 20 inches of fluffy white powder has melted into a semi-crusty “snowball-quality” snow.  I marvel that our language only has a few different words to describe snow, when it can take on so many different consistencies.  

In anticipation of the warming weather, and the potential for more snow on the horizon, it was high time to work on removing snow from roof tops.  While this is a constant job during the snowy season.  For the last 10 days or so, we’ve been accumulating 4 to 6 inches of snow almost every day- so all that hard work removing snow disappears overnight!

 

 

The upper greenhouse after it shed a massive layer of snow, throwing it all the way down to the road and nearly taking out some solar panels with it!

Removing snow from the massive upper greenhouse is the most dangerous affair.  The goal really isn’t to bring the snow down, because that would probably kill you, but to move the snow below it around to make more room for more snow.  Thankfully with heavy snow loads, once several tons of snow starts moving downhill it gains substantial speed, which launches the snow through the air and away from the building.  Unfortunately, one set of solar panels is just downhill from it!  We’ll have to move these panels this summer now that we know just how far that snow will fly!

But snow is old news, right?  When you’re hibernating, hovering on the cusp of spring though, there’s little else to talk about.  When will the road open?  How much more will it snow? What will the weather be like tomorrow?  These things consume a lot of conversation time.

 

The barnyard has been quiet, aside from a rash of dove murdering at the beak and talons of a crafty hawk.  That’s pigeon gore all over its face.  For awhile I couldn’t figure out how it was getting into my aviaries.  Thankfully it’s decided it’s tired of being picked up and moved by humans and has resigned to eating chickens in the open barnyard…  Hawks gotta eat, too!  What can you do?
We are also  now 2 weeks or so away from baby goats, which is always exciting! Ruma looks like she’s got triplets or quads in her, but last time this happened to one of my does, she just had two massive kids, so I don’t have my hopes up.  We’re mostly looking forward to the fresh milk for fresh cheese again!  
Impending goaters aside, the sows are pregnant but we’re still at least 1 month away from more piglets. Dotty’s piglets from October are proving to be true to their papa’s Julianna genetics, weighing in at only 30-40lbs each.  Her last litter from our Kune Kune boar weighed in at nearly 100lbs by this age!  Juliannas really are a fascinating little pig.  The barrows will make excellent spit-roasting sized butcher hogs.  And of course I am intensely curious about those tiny little pig skulls…  Considering she had 10 boys- 10 boys!– we’ll have plenty of barrows to butcher in the spring.  We’ll keep her daughter and play with these tiny-pig genetics a little bit.

 

Otherwise, as you may have noticed, I’ve closed shop for a bit.  Having to hike a mile out to the car 3 times a week through powder up to my knees was getting old.  I don’t like dreading shipping days.  So until we get a little more spring melt (or until the next stimulus check comes out- because sales always spike when things like that happen) I’ll be enjoying a spot of true hibernation; no where to go, nothing pressing to do, no need to even know what day of the week is!  Ahhh.

 

 – Jen

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“A Post About Today: February 6th, 2021”

I’m going to make my first attempt at adding some fun photos to the blog post.  Does that make it a… plog?!  :B  
Edit/update: since it seems to have worked and looks nice, I’ll work on adding photos to more of my previous posts. 

We recently got about 12″ of snow, and there’s still plenty more on the forecast.  At last, the snow has come! We’ve hardly had 3 feet of cumulative snow up to this point, which is very unusual.  

To celebrate, it was time to clean 12″ of fresh powder and 12″ of crusty old melted snow off of some roofs.   

One of the rigorous winter chores is cleaning off vehicle and building roofs.  It’s hard to say how much snow would collapse any given structure or vehicle.  It’s also hard to say how much it might snow over night!  So best not to leave anything to chance.  It’s best to just clean the roofs off when the snow gets 15″ to 20″ deep.  

The dogs break excellent trails through the knee-deep powder.  Windy drift areas along the unpacked trails are sometimes waist deep.  Neoma the Dog took the trail-packing lead with with the help of her abundant puppy energy, albeit her trails zig-zagged from tree to tree in ever-hopeful pursuit of squirrels…

Spring is fast approaching, but it’s not here yet.  As I mentioned in my post about the 2020 Harvest, we still have a few loose ends in the realm of the barnyard.  Today concluded the rooster round-up from the 2020-season.  7 more roosters to butcher and we’ll be done… almost…!  There’s still a few cockerels from late-fall/early-witner hatches that are too young to butcher yet.  But these are the last of the un-needed crowers.

We raise a few different bird breeds.  One is the Marans, a breed that, to my knowledge, originated in France.  I’ve been raising a few different ‘lineages’ of marans for about 8 years.  The breed was developed, I assume intentionally as they are a meat bird, to produce 70-80% male offspring. The boys are much larger than the girls in this breed, so more boys means more chicken meat each year.  This is one reason you don’t commonly find marans available from big-box hatcheries.  Hatcheries always have too many boys to begin with, and trying to reproduce and sell a breed that produces mostly male chicks doesn’t make for good business.  As a hatchery, what would you do with thousands of extra boys?!  They’re already giving their boys away and still have too many!  
Most of my butcher boys each year are pure marans or half-marans crosses.   These last 7 roosters on the whack-list are lavender Ameraucanas crossed with black copper marans.  A handsome group, but alas, “more roosters” is not what the world needs, as is evident by the surplus of “free rooster” ads that have been circulating in our area for months to no avail.  And “more roosters” is certainly not what my barnyard needs- the poor hens are now finally getting a break from the harassment that’s been going on far too long!  I usually keep 3 breeding roosters and a few replacements roos in case something like predation happens in the flock.  That’s enough roosters!

I also raise ayam cemani crosses.  The I have been raising ayam cemani for about 6 years.  I’ve never heard it advertised about the breed, but I’ve bred 2 lineages of cemani and each one has produces the opposite of marans; 70-80% females.  If not more! 

As I have a particular interest in breeding fibro birds with funny colored meat, I love throwing fibromelanosis genes into my meat birds.  Why eat a pink chicken, when you can eat blue, black, purple, and green chickens?!  As it so happens, most of my fibro-crosses end up being girls, alas.  So I don’t get many blue eating birds unless they’re half-marans roosters.  
In 2020 we hatched out about 120 chicks.  Roughly 20 were cockerels, and all but 2 of those were marans-crosses.  This is the usual story each year.  Most of my laying hens are now 50% or more cemani as a result!  I don’t mind, they’re absolutely beautiful birds, they lay wonderfully, and they’ve been excellent broodies.  Which is odd, considering cemani are not known for going broody.

Hope that’s an interesting tidbit!   I intended to talk about the snow, but hey, chickens work, too!

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“A Post About Today: February 1st, 2021”

It’s a bright, sunny Monday morning.  My orders are in the post and I’m now hiding in front of the computer.  The thermometer says it’s 38ºF in the greenhouse.  The top of our greenhouse today will likely reach 50ºF, whilst the draw below the cabin is likely in the teens or single-digits.  It’s a comfy 70ºF inside after a busy morning of frying up sausage, pancakes, and onions.

Why am I indoors in front of the computer?  I fractured my ankle and I’m trying to stay off it.  It’s been a blessing in disguise, considering I got THIS done!  This website!  The thing you’re looking at right now!  I get to busy my time indoors writing posts like this and migrating my inventory into this fancy new shop.  Once I’m up on my feet again I won’t be getting quite as much computer work done.

How did I fracture my ankle?  Walking.  I was walking, then I was on the ground.  I don’t know what happened.  My body glitched and fell down.   I soaked my foot in a series of foot bathes during the first few days.  Featured herbs included horsetail for tendon and ligament healing, comfrey/hound’s tongue for healing the fracture, and birch bark and marshmallow to reduce inflammation.
 It hurt for 2 or 3 days and then I was fine for about a week.  I puffed myself up with pride; “Ha-HA!  Take that fracture!  I heal you instantly with my herbs!”  Then I spent a day mechanicing on the ever-broken vehicles.  My front right brake caliper was seized up completely and I had to take the caliper pins out, strip the grease and rust off, re-grease them, put them back in, and replace the caliper.  We had the car completely blocked and suspended since it’s all wheel drive and we can’t test the steering and wheels with just the front end jacked up.  I was prepared to change a CV axle, but because of the seized brake (which had apparently been seized for some time be we didn’t notice because we’re just crawling up and down the icy mountain roads, not driving around town), the brake pads and ball joint on that side were trash.   So we needed to get the ball joint and new pads before tearing everything apart again and replacing stuff.  May as well do as much as you can in one sitting while you’ve got it in pieces!

Anyway, a few hours of crawling around on cardboard mats on the snow and ice in 25ºF, moving tires and cranking on wrenches, and my ankle was starting to scream at me again.  That day really lit it up with pain.  Now for the last week I’ve been laid up and barely able to walk on it.
I got too cocky and confident!  I stopped my tea bathes when the pain stopped.  Of course fractures aren’t going to heal in 4 days!   So it’s back to soaking in tea bathes and minimizing my walking.

But more about today and recent events!  Well, Andy recently built a bathtub out of wood, that’s super cool.  I mean, I have no qualms bathing in a plastic tote, but I realize not everyone is lucky enough to be so small that they fit in a storage tote.  Sometimes I pity the tall, I really do.  
The bathtub was made out of a single length of 16″ lumber that he milled with a relative’s saw mill.  We’ll likely never see boards like them again. The massive tree they came from was gifted to him, we certainly don’t have trees that large on our farm.  So the tub is roughly 16″ tall, 16″ wide, and 4′ long with a nicely sloped back rest.  He filled with with ultra-fine saw dust from the table saw and then filled it with water; as the water runs out of the seams, it sucks soggy sawdust through it it and clogs all of the leaky joints.  It’s sealed well enough in this way that, if left filled with water, it will only leak about 1″ of water per day.  To empty it we scoop the water out with 5 gallon buckets and water the plants in the greenhouse with it.  Even in winter, they still need water delivered!

He now wants to make bathtubs for everyone he knows with the last of this magically gigantic lumber we have.  So far no one is interested in a wooden bathtub.  I can’t fathom why!  A 100% natural, raw material bathtub with no chemicals, plastics, sealants, or other harmful crap!  What’s not to love?  I mean, yeah, it’s gotta be spritzed with some thyme or other antiseptic teas to keep the mycelium from moving in and eating it.  But hey, maintenance is maintenance, whether it’s wood, metal, plastic, or porcelain!

In other news, only 6 more weeks until baby goats!  And do you know what that means?! 7-8 more weeks we can go back to milking the goats!  😀  I swear I’ve been dreaming about fresh milk and cheese since we stopped milking a few weeks ago.  It’s important to dry a doe off before she kids.  Not only do want her to focus her energy on growing the kids instead of producing large sums of milk to humans, but milking too close to her due date means you could start milking out colostrum that the kids need to develop their immune systems when they’re born!  We’re toying with the idea of selling 1 doe’s kids as bottle babies so we can milk her for us, and letting the other raise her kids.  It will likely depend on the genders they have.  Several of the neighbors are interested in buying the kids, so who knows, they might want every one we get and we’ll end up milking both does!

I’ll leave it at that for today. Thanks for reading 🙂

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“The Season of Snow is Upon Us Once Again”


So… how much snow do you get up there?

The answer depends on the year, but usually between 5 and 10 feet.
I used to say “I never want to live somewhere where the snow is deeper than I am tall“. Ha! I didn’t know what I was missing!
If anything, the snow makes life up here easier. Winter is the time of hibernation. It’s the months without snow that are a frantic scurry of manual labor and stockpiling resources. The first few snows of the season, those first few freezes, are both a stressful and welcome event. Prep time has run out, but hibernation is about to begin.
The hardest part might be acclimating to penguin-like winter getups and daily foot-prison. Boots may be warm and practical in the snow, but anyone who knows me knows naked feet are my only comfort zone. But once I’ve got the bundle-up routine down, plunging out into a fresh load of powder each morning is exciting. With proper clothing you’re as comfortable as the animals of the forest. With every daily outing into the snow we pack new and old trails alike, so we are always traveling on top of the snow (which becomes humorous when come February you realize you’re level with a roof top). We drag our loads around fairly effortlessly in sleds- and occas

Granted it’s not all hibernation all the time. Each day we have to chop about 100 pounds of wood into fine kindling for the finicky little wood cooktop stove, which heats the house, cooks the food, and makes beautiful, wonderful piping-hot water. We have to service and run the generator if the sun isn’t out and the batteries are feeling sad, as they often are. You know, so I can do things like run grow lights for my indoor garden and the computer to maintain Etsy, Ebay, and this website.

Each day we must take a hatchet to a frozen carcass (usually salvaged roadkill deer) and make sure the dogs are fed. We chop the entire deer (minus the skull) from neck to pelvis to hoof into 1 or 2 inch chunks; hair, bone, and all. The dogs consume virtually 100% of the animal, with a little help from the cats, the ravens and jays, and a few other sneaky and opportunistic mountain denizens.
Our friends in the barnyard get deliveries of fresh hot water and kitchen vegetable scraps alongside their usual winter rations of hay and grains. Milking the goat(s) in the morning and evening get me out of the house (sometimes more than I’d like) no matter what the weather or temperature. It’s good discipline, right? Or maybe we just like milk and cheese that much.

Of course we might otherwise get away with not leaving the mountain top all winter long if it weren’t for my online sales. So every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I eat breakfast, pack my orders, one of us milks the goat(s), and we head down the mountain on foot, snowmobile, or vehicle (depending on the snow conditions) in hopes of beating the mail lady to the mailbox (which is almost 10 miles from home).

You know what? I’m not sure I’ve yet had an unpleasant or unwelcome snowmobile ride up or down the mountain. Assuming you’re dressed properly, buzzing down mile after mile of winding mountain road, quiet and largely uninhabited by other humans, is always magical. The snow changes the forest every day, fresh tracks abound, telling me who and what comes and goes. Every ridge and draw looks like a postcard. I’d take more photos but cameras like to not work when it’s below freezing, darn it.