Homestead Happenings

Never a dull moment on the wee homestead. Since our last update we’ve got limping dogs, goat rodeo, weather whiplash, a huge harvest of sweet potatoes, new cheeses and old ferments.

If it’s the cooler temps or longer nights or more critters creeping around, we can’t say, but our dogs have been doing a lot of midnight galavanting. First they got into skunks, and that was bad enough. Now we go out first thing in the morning to find them wet and limping and exhausted. We’ve started taking them for walks during the day trying to tire them out and make sure they get enough gentle exercise, because we’re worried they’re going to get themselves into some real trouble. It’s working out very well for our barn cat, Skittles, who now roams wherever she wants without fear of attack.

Milking just three goats twice a day is proving to be quite the chore considering with the two first-fresheners it’s a constant battle of wills. It seems every day they learn a new trick trying to get free treats. First it was bucking and kicking, then squatting making milking impossible, now one has graduated to full refusal, getting up on the milk stand only to lay down flat. It takes both of us, Hubby to hold legs and supply food, me to grasp the bucket with one hand and milk with one hand, each with our reflexes on full alert to shift, draw, grab in the split second it takes a hoof to swipe, spill, crush. It’s really not fun. At all. I have to remind us both that it takes patience and to stay focused on the rewards.

Cheese!

In garden news we got a very early frost and then the temps shot right back up to the high 80s. It’s cooled down a bit since then again and we got a whole 1/2 inch of rain, woohoo! It hardly made a difference, but maybe my fall seeds have a better chance now of germinating.

We harvested loads of sweet potatoes and still have more to go. The vines can’t handle even a light frost, like the basil, so we got all we could manage beforehand though the tomatoes and peppers survived, so that was a pleasant surprise.

I continue to experiment with fermenting all kinds of veggies and they are coming out so delicious. I moved them from the aging fridge to make room for the cheeses, but they kept great in there all summer. We’ve got all kinds of goodies—cucumbers, basil, peppers, okra, carrots, cabbage—and soon I’ll be tying sweet potatoes.

A whole world of deliciousness I’ve only really embarked on seriously starting this year, and thanks to this excellent book.

P.S. Sorry for all the sideways photos and if you get a crink in your neck trying to view them you can thank WordPress for that. I spent an hour trying to correct them, and it’s not working. My WordPress experience is getting worse and worse, which is why the days of this blog will be over soon as it’s just become too annoying to continue it. It’s gone steadily downhill since they forced the Block Editor on everyone. They continually make changes that only make it harder and more time-consuming to post. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by!

Homestead Happenings

I’ve got some complaining to do today, but there are some rays of sunshine, too, fear not!

Let’s get the crap out of the way first, don’t you think?

In the mornin’, in the evenin’, ain’t we got fun?!

“Climate change”— aka Geoengineering/Weather Modification — continues to haunt us. That is, in droughting us out, mercilessly. I have little hope for the fall garden. I’ve had very poor germination in some crops, none at all in others. That could be the high soil temperature, the still scorching sun and heat even now into October, or perhaps it’s all that crap in the atmosphere.

The pastures are so parched, which means, as I mentioned last time, more sheep than we’d wanted to will go to freezer camp.

The upside is, we are eating very well these days. We’d slowed down on meat consumption over the summer because the freezers were low. The hens had really slowed down laying too in the heat. Now we’ve got meat and egg surplus and we’ve been indulging accordingly.

That also means tallow, which is like white gold to me!

Hubby also pressure canned us some lamb and broth. Yum!

They want a pretty penny for this stuff, which makes sense considering all the costs and effort involved. A basic tallow balm will set you back $15/ounce! I’ve already made one hand balm with rather erotic-scented essential oils that’s got the thumb’s up from my sole customer. 🤗

On to the garden . . .

The purple Czech hot pepper is still my season favorite. It’s still doing beautifully (under shade cloth) and is a lovely little plant I’ll try to over-winter indoors. Hubby is making hot sauce in the fermentation crock that I’m sure will be top-notch.

Pictured: the purple Czechs in the center back, Thai basil to its left, sweet basil upfront—so it is protected from full sun in every direction except from the east.
Even under shade cloth and screening the fall crops are not germinating. Luckily I was able to start a few indoors under grow lights.
Tomatoes also started indoors mid-summer under grow lights, now looking pretty good transplanted outside last month. Fingers crossed it doesn’t frost too early and we’ll get the rare fall harvest of plump red tomatoes. Dare to dream!

We’ve finally fully weened the kids and it’s been a very loud few days! I’ve got enough milk again to make some good cheeses, which is just about my favorite thing to do in the world. Or, I just really missed it all summer and I’m really sick of the garden.

The kids will be fine without their mamas, they just don’t know it yet. 😆

I’ve got to get practicing my cheeses again, because the interest in homesteading has really been growing around here. A nearby group has formed and asked us to share some knowledge, which we are pleased to do. Hubby will be lending a hand in the butchery department and I will be offering my fermentation wisdom— in kombucha, soft cheeses and sourdough—for now, hopefully moving on to more advanced skills if interests persist. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done any teaching and I’m already nervous! But, I’m so pleased folks are really starting to see the value in more self-reliant living.

Whether it’s out of necessity or innate interest, I’m thrilled more folks are choosing a more natural lifestyle.

And . . .I think the more the big shit stinks, the more we should be celebrating the small stuff.

And . . .Just in time for Halloween . . .a visit from a black widow!

Fun With Goats

No, I don’t mean Goat Yoga, that’s just dumb.

Really, yoga’s not enough torture for you, you need hooves to the spine, too?!

We love our goats, but not inside, duh.

New screenplay idea: Goats Who Stare At Men!

Because of the heat and drought the best forage is close to the house, where we are regularly watering. It’s good for the goats, and for us it makes for better entertainment than most TV. There are drawbacks though. Like they eat pretty much all the plants, not just the ones we want them to eat.

And they tend to follow me around, waiting for the extra special treats I bring them from the garden, like their favorite, sweet potato vines and morning glory.

Feeding frenzy

And they want to climb on everything.

Going out on a limb
Just out of reach!
“I’m too sexy for this grass”

Our once somewhat peaceful morning coffee now attracts a team of show-offs. (I don’t think Bubba approves, considering what they do to his bed.) They do giant leaps off the deck, too, that look a lot like the tricks snowboarders do, but not on cue, unfortunately.

Please feel free to enjoy 2 minutes of Chez Kensho programming!

Homestead Happy Snaps

As hot and dry as it still is, we’re still managing to get-r-done. Much has died in the garden, but the weeds and grasses still thrive with irrigation. We used to complain how well we grew grass and weeds, and little else, but we have a different attitude now. It all serves to feed the critters, who in turn feed us, which is a pretty good deal.

The honeybees love the purslane, and we love the honey.

The goats love the morning glory, and we love the goat cheese.

The bumblebees love the luffa flowers, and the pigs love the luffa fruit, and we love the bacon. How fortunate for us this cycle of life!

The volunteer cucumber has shown me we can indeed get fruit in 100 degrees, it just has to be from a fresh plant.

Fence clearing duty, thank you! And who doesn’t love pink zinnias?

Peek-a-boo!

I think we can tell who will be the next herd queen—Bluebonnet, daughter of the current herd queen—go figure.

A fantastic shot from a friend in the northeast US, so amazing, I just had to include it!

Wow! Almost makes me want the new IPhone.

And last but not least, Bubba and Buttercup in their favorite places, which is always, as close to Hubby as possible. 🙂


Thanks for stopping by!

Homestead Happenings

Just posting some happy snaps to distract our attention away from all that’s dying in the garden. And the fact that the hens have mostly stopped laying, our oldest goat is looking dangerously thin, the grass has turned crispy, and there’s no end in sight.

Bubba trying to keep cool

Still, the kids are growing like weeds.

Walnut’s nearly as big as her mama already (back left) and even little Athena (front) is catching up to the rest of the kids.
Morning glory, another goat favorite

The birds and the bees are still doing their thing while we can’t manage to stay outside past 11 am.

Unfortunately, so are the ants. The leaf-cutters are slowly destroying our young fruit trees. Only the more mature pear is escaping their attack.

Almost ready, fingers crossed!

Plants are simply amazing. The purslane and arugula are growing fine and make a great pesto. The sweet potato vines are a goat favorite, the okra’s just coming in, the peppers and watermelons are still hanging in there.

The zucchini hasn’t given up either, and somehow we still have broccoli that’s not bitter.

Just as the old cucumbers got bitter, the new volunteer is producing like crazy. Not too shabby! 😁

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee hodgepodge of happy snaps and some light commentary for today.

Our preserving efforts have been at fever pitch with bushels of cucumbers and melons coming in. The Noirs des Carmes cantaloupe that was my main prize experiment for this summer has been a success, for the most part. We’ve gotten loads of melons, way too many to count, and the majority of them have been good.

But many of them have ‘exploded’— and that’s not just split, but within a day, before even being fully ripe, they’ve blown open completely. Some are tasteless even though fully ripe. Some are softening while still small and unripe.

The pigs have been the great beneficiaries of these rejects. I do understand why this melon is not commercially available and is not a favorite at farmer’s markets either, even though when they’re good, they’re delicious. Though some of these issues could certainly be the extreme heat and drought, they do not last long once they are ripe. They must ripen on the vine, and once ripe they last only a few days before rotting.

For us they’ve been prolific and very tasty even under stressful conditions, so they will be a keeper. Needless to say, we’ve been eating A LOT of melon! Melon for breakfast, snacks, aqua fresca, desserts, juice, syrup, jam and smoothies.

A small fraction of our harvest, preparing to make preserves.

We’re trying to take advantage of the heat by trying out a recent gift, a sun oven!

Our place is so small and we love cooking, but it’s hardly economical heating up the whole house every afternoon, when it’s blazing hot outside, and while inside the air conditioning is blasting away.

The kids are growing so fast! I’m slowly, gently trying to ween them. In this heat I don’t dare take too much milk for us, just enough for our morning coffee. But the daily training is still essential, for us all.

Around 5:00 am I separate mamas and kids for about 5 hours. The kids are eating grains and forage already, but they don’t like to be long off those teets, that’s for sure! By 9:00 they are wailing and it’s hard to listen to them while we’re working away outside, but it must be tolerated.

I train them on the milk stand and bring them a wheelbarrow full of sweet potato vines, which they devour.

A few baffling successes have been carrots and broccoli that are still producing in this heat! This is a first for us. I guess I got the timing and variety just right, for once. They are both under shade cloth and not totally productive or tasty, but good enough for us and a very nice surprise.

I’ve started some seed trays of tomatoes and lettuce indoors for the fall garden. Fingers crossed, I’ve never had successful fall tomatoes so far, but you never know, considering those carrots and broccoli!

Homestead Happy Snaps

I have so very much I could be reporting on from the wee homestead, but I only have the energy to share some photos, a couple short vids and a few brief comments.

We’ve got some really weird weather that has us back in long sleeves and pants after a few weeks of blistering heat. I have no time to get started down that fool’s path at the moment. Moving along.

The bees have finally graced us with their presence in the garden, I was getting a bit worried! They are all over the cucumbers, which we’ve just started harvesting.

They also found the cantaloupe at last, thank goodness, this is my primo experiment for this summer. This is a true heirloom French cantaloupe, Noir des Carmes, which you can’t buy anywhere in these parts. I learned from the seed catalogue that what we call cantaloupe in the U.S. was renamed, these ’muskmelons’ in green or orange (with the ‘netted’ skin) are not the original cantaloupe, which does not ship well, and so was never popularized here.

“Noir des carmes” cantaloupe, named after the Carmelite monks.

Hubby had some surprising success with peas in his ’gorilla garden’ — a new experiment. We were gifted a garbage bag full of seeds, some of them 8 years old, which I thought would be useless. He threw them down in a spot he’d roto-tilled for the purpose, mixed up all the cool-season seeds together and broadcast them, watered them a couple of times, and we actually got a big bowl of peas out of the effort. I so love fresh peas and they are not always a reliable crop around here. He planted them later than advised too, so I was very surprised he got anything at all. He estimates germination at about 20%.

We got a great harvest of onions and canned up a couple of batches of French Onion Soup, mmmm. I have my glove under one in the middle photo to show their nice size. It was our best onion harvest to date, and I think that is owed to all the sheep poop and the mild winter.

I was proudly exclaiming to Hubby some kudos on our team effort with pressure canning the soup when he had to burst my little bubble by explaining how that makes us one teeny-tiny fraction closer to the recommended annual Ball Blue Book chart from 1966.

We have kittens! We just happened upon them in the old tractor barn while gathering dewberries.

The kids are growing SO fast!

They are following mamas into the woods, playing and jumping around and are so fun to watch.

Once again, I did not mean to hit ’slow mo’ on this short vid, but it’s a good thing I did, because you can really see the ‘look’ of triumph in Walnut’s demeanor after she bullied tiny Athena. I guess goats are something of a belligerent species!

And to end, the best part, my new She-shed, thanks to Hubby, which will get an entire post of its own very soon!

Garlic still to be harvested in front of my recycled garden shed—
Oh the joys of being at the top of Hubby’s to-do list!

Kids, Kombucha, Bees & Cheese 

What better day to ponder than Mother’s Day why kids are so darn cute?!

The newest kids, born yesterday, Phoebe’s firsts—Hercules & Zena—notice he is twice the size of her!

We’ve bartered or sold most of our piglets already. We’re not on social media where such information is exchanged, but it certainly does seem the homesteading community in our area is growing rapidly. Yippie!

One family who came by insisted we were under-profiting from our piglets. Their 11-year old daughter offered her mom to pay us $50 more than we were charging, ‘for the cuteness factor’. Aren’t kids precious!

In not-so-cute news, the swelter season has started abruptly. Bye, bye beets and broccoli, before your time, because I think not even the shade cloth can save you now. The last rain that was hyped on about for days, that flooded some areas and caused tornadoes in others, yielded us a whopping 1/4 inch, not even enough to penetrate the mulch layer.

Of course I’m happy we didn’t get hit with another tornado, but I can still be miffed I have to start watering the garden. Half my roses haven’t even bloomed yet, or the zinnias. The parsley and celery have gone to seed before I got a decent harvest from them and the lettuce will soon follow, no doubt.

The bees are feeling it, too. I checked these hives last week and they were just half-full, yet the bees are bearding. Unfortunately, the swarm we got a couple of weeks ago left after only one day, unhappy with the digs I’d offered apparently. Now it’s already too hot for me to do the splits I’d planned. Better luck next spring.

I’m so pleased to be getting any strawberry harvest at all, they’ve never done well before. Then I saw this video and quickly got a reality check.

Hubby tried to make me feel better by saying those were probably grown in California and loaded with pesticides harvested by illegal aliens. He’s mentioned before something is off about this (Fabulous!) channel. It must be CGI, or heavily staged, or something. Never has a country cottage been so clean and picturesque. Where’s the chicken poop on the table and the flower pots dug up by the puppies? Good questions!

By ‘doing well’ I see I need to learn a thing or two about growing strawberries. They are too crowded and between the humidity and the wet mulch they are mostly half-rotted by the time they get ripe. I’m really loving the strawberry kombucha though! As well as the blackberry, and mulberry. I’ve started making the kombucha tea from yaupon, which grows like a weed around here. It’s delicious and sweeter than the store-bought green tea I usually use.

And speaking of mulberries, what a great surprise, Hubby found a full grown, wild mulberry tree in a spot we walk by regularly and never noticed before. What a treasure hidden in plain site!

More mulberries, please!

And this post has reached my attention span limit, so I leave the cheese to the next post. It’s gonna be a good one all on its on, really! Stay tuned!

Instead I exit abruptly, like spring has done in East Texas, with this quick lesson from Bubba in best yoga techniques.

The ’Just Chill’ technique ala Bubba

Romancing the Goat: An Ode to the Redneck

Something is wrong! What have I done?!

The friend who traded us for Summer, our first milking goat, patiently tried to coach me, not nearly as concerned as I was.

“Are you massaging her udder with a warm wash cloth before you milk her?”

Yes I am!

“Are you feeding her her favorite treat before and after milking?”

Yes, again!

Though I did try on the first day to transition her from her animal cracker addiction to fresh cucumbers straight from the garden, thinking of her long term health.

Summer would have none of it.

After 3 days of barely being able to coax a cup from her I thought for sure I’d created some awful affliction, maybe worse than mastitis, yet to be listed in any book, from my sheer incompetence, or maybe that she just didn’t like me, at all.

Her udder was full to the point of bursting, but I was failing miserably at filling my pail. At that point if my friend had advised me to bring scented candles, perhaps some champagne too, to our milking sessions I’d have asked, “Which scent does she prefer?”

But as chance would have it, on the 4th day we had visitors. Friends of this friend wanted one of our young boars for future breeding. These were true farm folk, born and raised. I wasted no time whining about my failure as a blossoming milkmaid.

I played coy for the necessary split second before taking them up on their offer to take a peak at her.

When they saw her udder they had concerns. The dreaded ‘mastitis’ term crossed their lips and I felt even more deflated.

“Oh, no, how do I fix that?” I lamented.

Summer hopped right up on the milk stand for her animal crackers. At least we got that part down. They both examined her udder more closely and concurred it wasn’t particularly hot, so probably not mastitis, followed by my great sigh of relief.

The large man, with a deep country drawl, stepped behind her then and proceeded to pound at her swollen bag with an upward motion and milk burst out both her teets.

“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with this goat!” he confirmed. Then he gave a couple of tugs and strong, steady milk streams came pouring forth.

“How did you do that?” Was my relieved exclamation.

He proceeded to show me how it was all my bad, I was not being nearly rough enough.

“You gotta get way up in there hard and pull that milk down. Give her some good shots with your fist, like this. As long as your not bruising her or using a 2 x 4, she’s fine.”

Summer was completely calm and unfazed by this approach. Apparently I was tickling her more than milking her. We’re already up to a quart with my refined method.

I envy the rednecks and all their learnin’. So little seems to phase them, whereas I still get squeamish around blood and death and dis-ease after a decade of the most typical farm foibles.

Perhaps reading my mind and wishing to make me feel better, the large man shared a story as we stood at the gate before their departure.

“Now, I apologize in advance,” he began, “we just met, but let me tell you . . .”

And he proceeded to tell the story, flush with explicatives, about his recent long haul (he’s a truck driver in addition to a farmer, few make it these days as ‘just’ farmers) when his Bigrig broke down.

“Well I had to get one of them Ubers to take me into town and I ain’t ever been so scared in my life!” He’s a veteran, served overseas in the Middle East, grew up on a farm, been a truck driver for decades, but that Uber driver had him clinging with both hands for dear life, begging to Jesus and swearing to never get in a car with one of them crazy drivers for anything money can buy.

I inquired if he’d gone online to give the driver a poor rating.

“A poor rating?” he questioned. “They don’t go that low!”

He’s probably too nice of a guy to give that driver an ear-full while he had the chance. But I bet I would’ve!

I tried to find an appropriate fun song about goats to finish this post, but the best one was about a Billy.

Milking Mamas, Busy as Bees

Big days on the wee homestead! The cucumbers are coming in by the bushel full, the lambs are dropping like rabbits, the mushrooms are growing like mad and the bees sound exceptionally pleased. I can’t keep up!

Luckily, Handy Hubby is here now every day, thanks to his ‘early retirement’ (that is his layoff six months ago) thanks to The Great Scamdemic. With his steady efforts and attention our place is shaping up beautifully and my stress levels have been reduced by half, even as chaos still reigns. For these are not the only new milking mamas, I’m now officially a milkmaid in training myself!

Welcome, Summer! Two piglets for a goat in milk was our barter with a friend. She’s settling in nicely and Phoebe was the first of the herd to greet her.

Learning to milk in humid and buggy 95 degrees F is every bit as pleasant as it sounds. 😏

Impressive udder and gymnast-like capabilities!

Handy Hubby crafted me a nice milk stand from plans posted by Fias Co Farms, a very good resource for goat newbies.

The chanterelles will surely give up very soon in this heat, so I forced myself to brave the mosquitoes and ticks once more to gather one last big basket full. I came across a new variety while hunting that’s not in any of my books, so I contacted Texas Foraging expert Mark ‘Merriwether’ Vorderbruggen, who identified it and directed me to this excellent site:

https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/hexagonal-pored-polypore

Since our temps went from April-like to August-like overnight, I got stuck in a bit of a bind with the bees. Because I’m trying to work between 3 different hive types (very stupid, do not entertain this folly I would advise) I’m trying to get them to move of their own accord. It is working, but it is quite a slow process. I will eventually have 3 colonies from this one very full nuc without too much destruction or fuss, or at least that’s my plan.

To end I offer a true garden success. I’ve been experimenting a lot with companion planting, sometimes with advice from permaculture books, but sometimes just by my own observations. This year I planted sunflowers very early, before it was warm enough for the cucumbers and melons. My thought was to attract the bees to the garden like a lure down to the still small cucumbers. It’s worked like a charm and the trellises are bursting with activity.

I’m also trying some new tricks with the tomatoes, letting the cherry types go wild, but highly managing the large varieties and interspersing them with various herbs, lots of comfrey, turmeric and ginger. The results are not yet in on those efforts, but I’ll keep y’all posted.

Mmm, grapes, our favorite! Ta Ta for now

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