Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Struggles of Motherhood

This morning I was thinking about what I might blog about tonight. Initially I was unsure what to say about farming etc. as not much has happened over the last couple days except work for me and today was a run around day filled with my kids school activities and then it hit me. Even though it is not about farming it is about family and most of us have one. This has been my internal struggle for years! What is best for your child? Homeschooling/Private School/Public Schools. Both my kids went to Montessori preschools, Country Boy's was not an official "Montessori" school but totally based on the concept and Flower Girl's was an official "Montessori" school that was wonderful but cost us as much a John's nursing degree. That was always the joke as Flower Girl's went to that school while John was in nursing school and the monthly payment for Flower Girl was $500/mo with only 9 hours of after school care/week plus the preschool hours. I agonized for quite some time as to what would be best for the kids until John, the sensible one, finally set me straight. He said "we will start with public school and then if there are problems we will go from there." That simple statement set me with ease and I was over that hurdle. So far the kids have done great in "public school"! Regardless I have always had a great interest in homeschooling families. My in-laws home school and they have amazing children with the first born attending her first year of college at the University of Texas. They are a respectable bunch of cultured individuals and I admire my sister-in-law for all she has done to provide her children! I also work with a couple of homeschooling Mommas and I often pick their brain. Ironically I had a man stop by the house unexpectedly the other night to check out our chicken pen. He lives about 1/4 mile from us and they too are a homeschooling family of 7, 2 are in college and 3 are still home. He was an interesting guy as his family sounded as so. They invited us up to visit and we hope to go up this week. He said his wife just started a new 4H group so I'm excited to meet her and see what may come of this. I also met a lady in the ER the other day that home schooled her 4 girls and all of her 16 of her grandchildren are home schooled, she too has a blog that I checked out.
Although this is an interest of mine I still feel that the public school system works for our children and us. There may come a point in time that it does not but for now they are happy and we are too. I question if I would be patient, dedicated, or smart enough to school my children and I do LOVE my time to shop alone, go to the gym, listen to tunes uniterupted in the car. Not sure if anyone else has this feeling but in the morning when the kids get on the bus I feel this surge of adrenaline through my body screaming freedom for a few hours . Do not get me wrong I look forward to picking the kids up in the afternoon and the weekends as well as vacation time. I love them dearly and only want the best for them!
I will end this note with a video you have to check out! Amy sent it to me tonight and it was perfect to add to this post. I watched it a couple times to catch all that was said, turn up your volume ladies! Thanks for sharing all you Mommas.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Life Time License

We bought Leah her Lifetime hunting, fishing, and archery license. My Dad went half with me on it, it was $400. Money well spent as the kids will never have to purchase one of these licenses. We did the same for Luke just before his 6th birthday.
We are excited that the kids have this lifelong opportunity to enjoy traditional outdoor activities.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tidbits from the weekend

We found these jaw bones among others in the garden over the weekend. I'd say the larger may be a cow? The bottom one could be too but it is smaller and definitely shaped differently. I'd love to get a little history on this place, I have heard at one point it was a dairy farm and also heard sheep...I need to find out the scoop.
John took the kids fishing Friday night and we all went on Saturday morning. I didn't fish, just played with my camera and enjoyed the view.

This week we played veterinarian...something we like to do! We have been doing prior to raising farm animals. I never throw any people medications away because you never know when they'll come in handy! We gave the goats wormer and had their first shots.
CD&T guards against Tetanus & Enterotomema, aka as Overeating disease. I need to give another dose (2cc subcutaneous) in 3-4 weeks then annually.
The next thing I need to learn about is trimming their hooves, I plan to buy some good hoof trimmers this week. I watched a couple videos this week and I may ask my breeder if I can go out and observe her.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wild things

Luke is keeping a snake log, he is up to 6 live catches. There are several snakes found in Maine. For the most
part there are no poisonous snakes in this state although there has been a rare siting of the Timbler Rattler which is poisonous.
The top pictures are a Garder Snake, it had a hold of Luke and drew some blood until he changed his ways of handling this wild little creature.
Below in Luke's hands are two baby Milk Snakes.

Long day at work...Have a great weekend all!

Forgot to mention, John ordered 200 Cornish Rocks! They will be in at the end of next week. We will keep about 20 for ourselves and sell the rest. This will be a first for us, do not look forward to plucking time but they will be good eats I bet.
Also the pool I ordered came in the mail today via UPS. A 24 foot above ground pool in 16 boxes...yikes! John is less then impressed with his endless honey do list...joking he is a sport putting up with my mania! The kids & I will help him get it up and we may be able to rope our neighbors into it as well. We had the same size pool at our old house and it was standing when we left 7 years after we put it up so I have hope for this one lasting a few years. Last year to get us by I bought one of the large blow-up pools. Not this year, I picked up several extra shifts to pay for this one. The kids and I like to stay home most of the time and with the rising costs of EVERYTHING we might as well be having a good time in our own backyard!
Ok goodnight...really this time!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Did I Ever Imagine...

I have been asked this question a few times in the last couple weeks, "Did you ever imagine that you would be a farm girl?"
The answer is no, not to this extent.
I have always been an animal lover and we have grown vegetables throughout the years but I never thought we would be where we are now. John and I always dreamed of owning a large piece of property, and I always wanted a farm house, barn, and ponds but never thought we could possibly afford to get all that we desired. For 12 years we lived in our first house which is only 1 mile from where we now reside. As our family grew our little gambrel home became smaller. I drove past this house for years and actually knew the older couple that lived here from back in my waitressing days. I use to admire their gardens which sprouted way before ours ever did, their lawn was well kept with lots of beautiful daffodils & lilac bushes. The years went by and they eventually both passed away. As I was driving by one day I saw the "for sale" sign and did a little research and the price was rather high so we did not even come down to check it out. I am not sure how much time passed but I saw a "price reduced" sign as I drove by and I immediately looked it up on line and the price was reduced significantly. I was excited and called the broker and we came to see the house and the property. It was discouraging, the place needed to be completely re-done: plumbing, electrical, sheet rock, you name it! There was no way we could afford the house and the essential renovations to make it at least livable. John was in nursing school and money was real tight so we decided to make a low ball offer and see if they would come back with a counter offer. We never received a response so we gave up and within a month or so the house had a new owner. We were distraught having to drive my the house and land daily regretting that we were not in a more financially sound situation at the time. We would always make statements to one another like well if we had the land we could..... It was frustrating and it was driving us nuts. We noticed that the current owner was only there about once a week and we started wondering if maybe he was not able to sell his other home. This went on for about one year! One day on my way to work I spontaneously decided to stop by and talk to the gentleman that currently owned this place and let him know if he ever thought about selling and the price was right we would consider. He said he had not really thought about selling it but said he'd give it some thought. He had a home that he not yet sold (as we suspected). He asked if we were to buy if we would want the house as is or finished. I said as is as I knew we could not afford the house finished and John is handy, actually he can fix anything! (we are very fortunate to be blessed with his talents) The next night he knocked at our door with a proposal and there began our journey. We had 3 months to make it happen. We listed our house, I gave it a month and courageously went and took out a bridge loan to cover both mortgages so that we would not loose this house this time around. John was still in school but the count down was on, he only had 6 months left from the time we closed on the house which was December 2006. We closed just in time for his holiday school break. He had 1 month off to get the house to a livable state. John worked 16 hour days putting up sheet rock, taping, sanding, painting, etc. With the help of my brother who went above and beyond helping us every moment he had and a few friends we made the deadline and were all moved in by the end of January. Around this time is when house sales were dropping, it was no longer a sellers market. We heated 2 homes through the winter of 2007 and I swore if I did not sell by September I was going to rent even though I knew that was the wrong thing to do. Miraculously we sold that house closing on August 21st, 2007 - I will never forget that date when the stress of owning 2 homes was relieved at last. When we bought this place we really had no idea where it would bring us. We were just happy to have a bigger house, a barn, and 93 acres. Starting last fall we started to accumulate some animals and I finally made the decision that I was going to put my schooling on hold so now I had time to focus on this place. Becoming "farmers" was never really a conscious decision it is just kind of evolving. I really wouldn't even consider us true farmers but I'd say were on our way to becoming hobby farmers. This move has forever changed out lives for the better! We can only imagine where what we will be up to in 10 years from now!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another Day on the Farm

Today we started on the goat fence. John won the fencing debate and we went with the chain link fence that we already had. It took us a few hours and a bit of grumbling from John as he loves are goats so but we accomplished getting on side up. Here he stands on the 4 wheeler hammering the posts in. When we were out back working almost the whole family was involved. It was quite entertaining to look around. Both goats were running free nibbling, running, and jumping. Garth our old cat was laying in the bushes camouflaged to the side of us. Annie another cat was nearby letting out an occasional meow and hunting for her next victim. Callie our dog was waiting impatiently in the trail waiting to go for a run out back when she wasn't been chased by Pebbles one of our ducks and finally Luke & Leah helped us a bit but were mostly at the back pond, frogging.
Lastly, the picture of the cute blonde is my sister, Mary. Not really, but close enough. We grew up together. We met when I was 12, when I became her neighbor so that makes us friends for 21 years. We have always been their for one another in both good and bad times. Even though our paths in lives have lead us in different directions we have always remained close at heart and on our cell phones. I am very thankful to have such a special friend!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fencing debate

We were blessed with yet another beautiful weekend. We have accomplished a lot around the house but the list is endless. Our two biggest projects are building outdoor areas/fencing for our animals and the garden. This place came with lots of half falling down barbed wire fencing and rock walls but nothing that will keep the goats and chicken in. This week we were able to get the quail outside in a chicken tractor and last night John completed enough of the chickens pen to get them outside. He still needs to add on a few nesting boxes and we need to buy some more fencing so they have more room to roam once we get them outback. He put wheels on it so we will be able to rotate the areas they forage. Now the debate is on about the fencing for the goats. The plan was that we would install it last weekend then that was postponed until this weekend so I say it's a must this week! Initially I planned on purchasing some welded wire fencing (2x4" squares) and then John mentioned we had some chain link fencing and we should use that. I initially objected then I did a little on-line research and I went along with it. The issue is that it is only four feet tall and I think they'll be jumping it in no time and also I must admit it does not have that "farmy" eye appeal I'm looking for. John is VERY frugal and says we can make it happen for the meantime. Any advice from the goat owners? I'm hoping you'll side with me....joking. I want to hear what works best before I go and dish out any cash if necessary.

As for the garden, we have a few rows of garlic coming up, John took the mulch off today. We will see how the greens fare the cold Spring Maine nights. John also planted some peas and we are hoping to get the onions and potatoes in tomorrow. This is the earliest we have ever planted in the 14 years we have had a garden. The soil here is like gold especially compared to our old house which was all clay. We have some ginormous (Leah's favorite word) tomato plants and we had a bunch of seedlings until they accidentally were fried in a make shift greenhouse (windows leaned against the house with hay bales on both sides) so we are back to square one. I replanted the tomatoes 3 kinds: cherry, romas, and a mix of large tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli. Tomorrow we will replant the rest of our losses. John bought some asparagus roots approximately 40, we are excited to finally be getting a bed in although it will be a few years before we can harvest.
I have basil and cilantro growing as well. This is a first year for herbs, not sure why I never attempted to grow them in the past. I plan on planting some dill and a few others. The great part about them is that you can easily grow them in pots and they can be grown year round.

Last thing I want to mention before calling it an early night. An article I read in a local newspaper over the weekend titled "With start of gardening season, seed suppliers see growth in demand - factors included increased prices for food and fuel" The article is about two local seed suppliers that have seen a big influx in seed purchases this season with many comments from their consumers that the main reason they are attempting to grow their own is to try and offset the costs of everything else. I think it is a great thing, the increased interest in gardening, not the rising fuel costs which are downright scary. There is so much we can all do by producing our own and eating locally. We are not only helping our own pocketbooks but that of our neighbors. I wish I knew what I know now 10 years ago. I sometimes wonder why it took me so long to get headed in this direction in life. I had always been such a career girl until we bought the farm and thankfully it has allowed me to refocus to the important things in life. I still have lots t learn but I am getting there...slowly. We have always grown a decent garden eating fresh produce all summer and giving a huge portion away. Last year I did a little canning - pickles & relish etc but this year I would like to preserve much more.

One of my girls!

The kids made up a sign and put it out by the road with a cooler full of containers stuffed with crawlers with a jar using the honestly method. They sold their first dozen today, they were delighted!

Friday, April 18, 2008

What a Life

It reached a high of 73 degrees at our house today. Here in Maine it went from winter to summer in a two week stretch. No joke, a week ago I had my winter coat on and today I had a tank & shorts on.
John & I went for quite a walk today out back, we were out there for well over an hour. I am trying to understand the boundaries of our property, you see we don't have a clean cut square piece of property and I am geographically challenged.

This is a picture of one of our 3 cats, Annie. She is the Queen Mouser! She was at the pond and after I took the picture I noticed the reflection, isn't that cool.

The kids started school vacation today, YEAH for me and them, I am tired of running and will be happy to have them home. After school we went and picked up a kitty, they named her Smoky.

The kids played out at the pond until dusk, I had to call them in finally. Leah found the first frogs of the season by the pond under a rock. Luke identified them in his book as a Western Chorus Frog although I am not sure that we have them in Maine and we are not West but the description and look seemed to match? It said that they are the first frogs to call in the Spring, even before Spring peepers. Males call for approximately one week before the females come. During "amplexus" (when the male frog grasps a female with his front legs while she lays her eggs. At the same time, he fertilizes them with the fluid containing sperm) the female lays 500 - 1500 eggs.
Interesting facts...sorry about the under line, technical difficulties and it's too late to mess with! I cut & pasted a definition and that messed it up, that'll teach me!
Like Leah's get up, miss match pj 's and lady bug boots on the wrong feet :) that's my girl!

Ducks having been staying in the pond finally after a few chasings from John. I did not mind them coming back to the barn but apparently he did.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Snakes Are Back...

Last night when I arrived home from work Luke said "look what I caught", I just knew, it was his first snake of the season. There will be many more to come! This place is loaded with snakes. After we bought the farm the man who sold it admitted to us that the snakes were one of his main reasons for selling this farm. As time went on I found several decapitated snakes on the property. Now I never have been fond of snakes but I would have never gone as far a killing them. I might have let out a screech when I come across them unexpectedly, but thats about it. However, Luke's passion for snakes has made me ease up a bit. The kids have a large fish
aquarium in the shed that I call their catch and release tank. Spring through fall you are sure to find reptiles and critters even a wounded mouse (inflicted by Annie, our cat) out there. I allow the kids to keep stuff for a couple days and then they must release them so they can return to their mommas. My nature boy identified this critter to be a "Red-Bellied Snake." I just looked it up in Luke's Amphibians & Reptiles of the North Woods book and from the sounds of it, I'd say he is right. The only interesting facts that I found about them was from July to August the mated females give birth to 1-21 young. That is an impressive number! Their diet is snails, slugs, earthworms and other invertebrates.

That is me holding the snake, Yikes!
Luke talked me into it. Like I said I am slowly warming up to these creatures.

Ok enough snake talk for one day! Everyone is holding up after the loss of Mag. We have all had a moment or two but I'd say overall we are coping well. Leah is going to be getting a kitten as I promised her one year ago after her kitten, Chester was hit by a car. I told her after Mag died she could get one and you know it, she never forgot.

On to my final topic before I call it a night. Earlier tonight I was talking to a family member and we had a brief discussion about daycare vs. staying at home with your children. His comment was in a nutshell that John & I could work more hours per week "like 40- 60" and "put our kids in day care but we choose not to." Nothing against day care because it is a must for many families and when our kids were real young they went to daycare a couple days a week. John and I both work part-time as nurses. He is an oncology nurse and has a 24 hour position and I am emergency room nurse and I work per diem, usually 24 hours per week. We both pick up extra time if needed. We raise our children, one of us is available at all times. I really do not know how people do it when both parents work full-time. It seems like there is always a field trip, a kiddo is home sick, someone forget their library books, teacher workshop, I could go on and on. We choose to be part time workers and full time parents! It is probably one of the best choices we've made! John is an awesome Dad and I feel that his presence as a parent is just as important as mine. No we do not drive $20,000 vehicles and we do watch how we spend our money but we are not hurting. We have debt just like most of the world but we a paying it off and we are not sliding backwards. We are all very happy with our lifestyle and would not change a thing. I do not think we will ever look back at these years and wish we had worked more. We will forever cherish every moment we spend with Luke & Leah.
Sorry about the soap box moment...goodnight all!

Monday, April 14, 2008

~In Loving Memory of Maggie~ 1993-2008

Maggie was born October 2nd 1993 along with 8 other pups. She became a part of our family that November. John was 21 years old and I was 18. She was our first child and we were novice dog owners. She was cute as ever but she was a handful as a pup. Mag ate belts, chewed shoes, and loved to rummage through the trash. She went EVERY WHERE'S with us including our honeymoon. John trained her to retrieve ducks and took her out every chance he had, she loved to hunt as much as he did. We were avid snowmobilers before having children and she joined us on many ventures up north. She survived our parting days (along with us) as we went into a new and improved phase of our life, the family years. We were worried as to how she would respond when we brought Luke home from the hospital back in 2000 and she took right to him. She could be found wherever he might be and to this day she was never far behind Luke & Leah. She was very tolerant of the children and of all the animals we have brought home throughout the years. Maggie has been a faithful companion to John & I throughout our relationship and has been right by our side for many landmarks in our life: our first house, marriage, the birth of our children, surviving nursing school (both John & I), and the final landmark being the move to the farm.
Yesterday we made the decision that the time had come to lay her down. We told the kids and they said their goodbyes. We had a tearful dinnertime and all gave thanks to the many special years we have been able to share with Mag. There were few words spoken this morning about the upcoming events for the day. John and I laid her on top of her blankets and and we headed to the Vets, one of the hardest things we have ever had to do. John held her in his arms in the back of the Suburban as we said our goodbyes and Mag was laid to rest. We wrapped her up and brought back to the farm and after picking the kids up from school we had our own little ceremony and buried the old girl.
She will forever be in our hearts and will be missed until we meet again on the other side!
We love ya Mags!

Mag & the kids this past summer - she lived to be 15, last surviving dog in her litter!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Not bad for a rainy day

It was suppose to rain but thankfully it held off. The thermometer said 50 but with the wind and intermittent sunshine it felt 30. Regardless with layers we were still able to enjoy a good part of the day. We decided to do a test run with the ducks to the pond. Leah carried Bam Bam who is bigger than her and I had a hold of Pebbles as we headed to the pond. Just before getting to the pond Bam Bam was accidentally freed after a little chasing we managed to get both into a big puddle just beside the pond. They had a blast. It was refreshing to see them diving into the water that they had not seen since fall. Below is a short clip. After we walked away they proceeded into the pond but within 10 minutes they headed for the barn and jumped into their pen which is quite a distance away. I am afraid they have found great security in the barn and this will probably be a reoccurring theme throughout the summer. We have had them since last summer and I have yet to find any eggs. They have been habitually working at making duckings over the last few weeks. I have read not enough daylight can be an issue. We also have quail and partridge that have not produced any eggs?? Lastly, I want you all to check out Down to Earths blog entry for her 60th birthday, it was a great read. We all can learn a bit form this lovely lady. Check it out
I hope you all had a great weekend...until next time!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mini Van Momma

I swore I would never own one and today we bought one. There is a point in life when you give up on doing things based on looks and ego and you do what is right based on practicality and comfort.
We didn't plan on buying another vehicle until later in the year but the opportunity arouse and the price was right. The vehicle came from a friend of a friend. It was his wife Linda's van but sadly she passed at the young age of 45 from cancer. I was a little reluctant to buy it at first given the circumstance but I knew that he had planned on selling so I thought I might as well be the one to buy it if it is going to be sold. When we were at the house we chatted a bit while 2 of their 3 young boys busied around. Just before we left as we were talking about Linda the 4 year old looked up at me and said, "I really miss my Momma." My heart sank! Shortly thereafter we headed out the door and I got into the van and I suddenly was overwhelmed with emotion. I held it together and drove out of the driveway as Dean and his oldest boy watched me. The moment was surreal. By the time I arrived home just a few miles away the tears were flowing.
It is amazing how many people are affected by the death an individual, even those that do not know you.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. -Martin Luther King Jr.

On a lighter note the kids bought their first four wheeler. Mom fronted them some money so they will being doing lots of chores throughout the Spring and Summer to get caught up. They are still in the negative twenty something from the goats. For the last year or so since they started their chore board I have always owed them money now the tides have turned! I am excited that they have this because they will be able to come out back with me now when I go jogging. Last summer Luke joined me some but really was not able to keep up the pace. This year his sister can give him a ride back if he gets tired and Mom will have no excuses to not get a good work out in.
Below is a picture of a chicken pen that John is creating. I cannot wait to get them all out into the fresh air! We have sold all 200 of our last shipment of chicks except for the 8 I kept, we are still getting tons of calls. Someone drove 1 1/2 hours today to pick up our last 20 chicks.

Some of our Rhode Island Red girls

We did lots of yard work this afternoon. Luke was helping me by moving some rocks. He said "does this count as a chore?"

This is the duck pond, not too long before the ice is out. Bam Bam & Pebbles should be out here before the week is out. Horray for them and us!

They are already catching critters!

The back pond has a ways to go until ice is out!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Garden Fever!

Not much time to blog...working 12 hour shifts. I picked up some oyster shells for the chickens yesterday and this afternoon the kids brought in 4 eggs, yeah! It may be coincidence or just plain luck because I have done some research on-line and many sources say get rid of the egg eaters. They must have overheard me tell John to send them to death row.

Goats are doing great, almost 4 weeks old. We are down to 3 -9 ounce bottles per day. This weekend we are going to work on an outdoor pen, we have decided to make use of some chain link fence we have, it is free and in the way laying on the barn floor. On-line resources say it is a good alternative for goats as they are sneaky little buggers and have a way of finding an out but because of it's high cost it is not always practical.
Check out the new glass bottle I found that fits onto the prichard teets. (nipple esp. for goats) instead of the plastic pepsi bottles. 5 more weeks of bottle feeding with milk replacer. We have been using Sav-A-Kid $32 for a 8lb bag and they are on bag #2, closest supplier is 20 miles away. Costly adventure!

Below is a recipe I wanted to share. I made a few batches of these last year and they were unbelievable!!

Zucchini Pickles

  • 2 lbs. sliced zucchini
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1-2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
Place zucchini in a large pot. Add salt and enough water, cover and let stand for 2 hours then drain well. Combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Have glass jars prepared filled with the zucchini and oils then fill jars with boiled liquid, seal jars and boil jars for 10 minutes.