A Mule and a Harness

I can’t tell you how excited I am that I finally got a harness on Ruth!

When we received her as a free gift over a year ago and she was w-i-l-d… but she has also amazed us constantly!

I have been working with her every morning for a few months; brushing her and talking to her.

After a few weeks I started to hold the harness in my hand while I brushed her.

At first I held it just in my hand…, then on her back…, then near her face.

One day she was curious about it and smelled it.

So the next day I put it on her. She was a little annoyed.

I quickly took it off of her…, which was much more difficult than getting it on…

because she was annoyed ;p

Today I put it on her again and she handled it very well.

She even let me lead her a bit with it!

I am sooo excited!

Today I left it on her….so I could get pictures;P

I figure I can take it off of her later, when she goes in the barn for the night.

Next I will get her feet trimmed!

And then I will be working to get her to let me ride her 🙂

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Harvey Goeth

It is difficult to write a post about our success in the face of such a daunting challenge as Hurricane Harvey, especially when so many are still facing the storm and it’s aftermath. I wish I could say that we all overcame the storm and dodged disaster, but that unfortunately is not the case for so many.

Here at the Whirldworks Farm, as Harvey approached there was some measure of anxiety and we just weren’t sure how to handle all of our responsibilities before, during, and after. Due to a number of heavy storms that we experienced over the past year-and-a-half there was a real possibility of the barn flooding. As I posted earlier, I built up a berm in front of the barn and I’m happy to report that it was very effective. There were a couple of times over the weekend when the water level nearly over-topped the new dam, but it held. We did experience some water intrusion into the barn, but it was restricted to the center walkway and never entered the pens. With our measurement of 12+ inches of rain in two days I call that a victory.

 

The rainfall accumulation began to fall of mid-day on Sunday. I ventured out to check the creek level around our property and found that I couldn’t even get near the creek bed. The creek itself had flown over its banks and was very near the back fence of our pastures. A venture down the road where the creek crosses it made it clear that we wouldn’t be able to leave if we wanted to. There are two ways out of our area and both exits are intersected by this same creek.

By Sunday afternoon, although the rain was still falling and the wind was still blowing, the water began to recede. The worst was over for us. It was interesting to see about a half-dozen “ant islands” floating in our new pond as the water level went down. We kept the animals in the barn an extra day because we simply didn’t know what to expect the weather to do. By evening the sun was out and we let them out for a little fresh grass and exercise. I think they greatly appreciated it. While they were out enjoying fresh air for the first time in 3 days, I went into their dirty, smelly barn and cleaned it up.

We are very thankful for everyone’s prayers, but please continue praying for our neighbors to the South who haven’t yet escaped the storm.

Hurricane Harvey Cometh

Hurricane Harvey Cometh

We’re not ready…not for this kind of storm. Since moving to the farm we’ve identified several areas on our property prone to flooding. Thankfully our house isn’t in one of these areas.

Unfortunately though, our animal barn is. Our property has a gentle slope that runs right to and past the barn. We’ve made improvements that have helped quite a bit, but I don’t think we’re quite ready for 10-20 inches in 2 days.

Thankfully our neighbor let us borrow their rear bucket for the tractor. I’ve been using it to pile dirt into a burm that will hopefully slow down and divert the water around the barn.

Our tractor shed isn’t finished yet, but I’ve reinforced it the best I can. Now it’s time to check the barn for any last minute tweeks and bring the generator up to the house.

Please keep us and everone in the path of this storm in your prayers.

My decision to leave the workplace and stay home

My decision to leave the workplace and stay home…

was a hard one! But it was the plan all along. Ever since we decided we wanted another child, and God answered with our little Liam, we had planned for me to leave the workplace and home school him…as soon as the debts were paid off.

Every single day, from the time he was born…until my final day in the workplace, almost 5 years later, was very difficult!

I missed him. I worried that the other children would pick on him and teach him bad habits. I worried that he would be unkind to other children. I was tired and short tempered and SO excited to see him every day after work. But we only had about 4 or 5 waking hours together on week days…

And for a while 3 of those hours were in the car, because we moved over an hour outside of the city when Liam was 3-1/2.

I was conflicted and unsure if I was making the “right” decision. Even though I am old enough to know that some things are neither right nor wrong in the broadest sense.

I was not sure if I would be a “good enough” mother, if I would have enough patience or if I would get bored being at home. If my child would be better off with less of me, or more of me. If our family would be better off with more money, or more of me. Would we ever…get…all…the…debt…paid…off?!

And then we did, it was all paid off and it was time to go for it, or be at peace with working.

I was not at peace with working.

I felt that I was stretched too thin to give my family my best, as long as I was working- even part time ( I did that for the last few months just to see if that would be a good fit).

So I left the work place, the 9 to 5… and stayed home… full time.

I still loose my temper from time to time. I still get overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities and I still doubt myself. But I don’t regret the time that I have had with this precious little boy.

I love the extra time that I get to ..just..think, to crochet, to clean..my..house…!

I have time to meal plan and scrimp and save,.. and..frett;P

I have time to get all the laundry clean and put away before my husband gets home from his looong commute. And time enough to cook nice meals.

I was just getting used to it.

…and then my husband was given a job offer only 3 miles from our very rural home.

A job that would mean being way beyond frugal…It will mean that we will have to sell things that we make and maybe pick up odd jobs here and there to make ends meet.

And I am scared!

But …I am also excited to spend more time with my husband. This new job will mean 3 hours more time at home for him …per…day!

So ..it’s okay. And I can be excited and scared all at the same time.

 

All great adventures start that way I suppose!

 

The many updates for Spring 2017

I have long admired those busy homesteaders and farmers who are able to manage their time well enough to be able to blog often. There has been so much going on here that I have thought many times, “This would make a great blog post.” Unfortunately I don’t often take time away from the tasks at hand to take pictures or note the details of what is happening. By the time I get beck to the house it’s usually so late or I’m so tired I never make it to the computer. Well my homesteading friends, it now looks like I’ll have quite a bit of downtime for writing.

A Farming Accident

We are expecting a delivery of a dump truck full of sand this week and I decided that using the rear blade on the tractor would help move it around. As luck (or poor planning) would have it, the blade was behind the barn and we have built up fences and gates too small for my tractor, thus trapping it. The blade weighs a little under 200 pounds and I figured I could move it the 20 feet or so to get it through the gate. I made it about half way and the blade was in a rather precarious position just as our dogs decided to start wrestling next to me and bumped me. I lost my grip on the blade and tried to get out of the way, but it landed on the tip of my boot.

The pain was pretty bad, but I figured since I had my boots on that it would probably be a bad bruise. I tried to take a step and almost fell over in pain. I took off my boot and discovered my right big toe was severely severed, hanging on by just a portion of its former self. A visit to the emergency room revealed that the bone was completely broken as well. A few hours later my bone was reset and my toe sown back together. This happened from late Saturday night into early Sunday morning and I am still in a bit of pain, as would be expected. I’m now in “dry dock” until my wound heals enough for me to return to my normal duties.

The Garden

Our garden is flourishing after a few false starts. The spring has been considerably cooler than many I remember in the past and I believe that has been key in our success thus far. The squash plants are already outproducing our ability to consume, the corn is getting tassels, and there are blooms on some of the tomato plants. We’ve eaten one of the beets and are looking forward to the beans, celery, broccoli and other yummy goodies almost ready for harvest. The pocket gophers have left most of the garden alone, that is except for the potatoes. They’ve done quite a bit of damage to our potato crop and I’m not certain we’ll have much of a harvest.

 Tractor

Our Massey Ferguson 205 continued to give us problem after problem and we finally decided to take it to the shop. The resulting repair quote was way more than I paid for the tractor in the first place and more than it would cost to buy another similar, used tractor. Thus we are the proud new owners of a 1984 International Harvester 284 Diesel Tractor. It runs much smoother and quieter than the Massey ever did. There were a couple of times it has stalled out on us, but a quick check of the sediment bowl revealed some dirt and one time a spider. We’ve run it through this was a few times now and the sediment is almost completely gone. Hopefully we’ve reached the end of this issue.

Livestock Additions and Sheep Shearing

As you may have learned from previous posts we added two new male lambs and a male kid to our farm at the end of winter. To our surprise, our other female goat gave birth just a few weeks ago to a female kid. We’re now at 6 sheep, 5 goats, a donkey, two LGDs, and 5 chickens.

We were able to have the sheep sheared a few weeks ago and most of it has been picked over and cleaned. In fact, we sold our first full fleece last week! The wool is amazing stuff I can tell you that. My wife is the resident expert on wool in our household and she is certainly impressed. I may not know much about wool, but I know this, our wool is very soft and fluffy.

Wanda's First Lamb

Wanda’s First Lamb

Winter’s End and the Coming Spring of 2017

Dear readers, we’re very sorry to leave you hanging for so long since our last update, but rest assured, there’s been much going on around the farm.

Plus Three Minus One

We made it through our first lambing/kidding season with three new babies, two lambs and one kid, all boys! It has been entertaining to watch the youngsters bound around the open field and their mommas all have done a great job in raising them so far.

Unfortunately we did suffer the loss of one of our male goats a few weeks ago. We came home late one night and went to bring all the animals in, but Lewis didn’t come home. I got everyone else situated and went looking for him. I found him laying on his side in the pasture in convulsions and not really responsive at all. We put him in a quarantine pen for the night and tried to get him to eat or drink, but except for breathing and a heart beat it seemed there was no hope. The following morning poor Mr. Lewis died.

We assume he suffered from some sort of parasite or worms even though we had the animals on a worming program. His death set us into motion to step up a more aggressive worming plan with the other animals and so far everyone else is still healthy.

Garden

We managed to fence in a 50×30 area for a garden and began planting some over-winter plants. Now that the weather is warming we have begun the process of Spring planting. We’ve planted many different varieties of plants in order to determine what works best in our location. Our current planting list includes:

Artichoke Beans (bush and pole)
Beets Bell Peppers
Blackberry Blueberry
Carrots Cauliflower
Corn Grape
Jalapeno Peppers Kale
Potatoes Raspberry
Squash

We’ve also planted several varieties of flowers to help with pollination, pest control, and ground conditioning. One thing is pretty evident in this experience and that is making this garden work is going to take quite some effort. The ground we’ve been preparing was covered in weeds, Bermuda grass, and other grasses. These ground covers have been so persistent that whether trying to cover the ground with cardboard (in some areas) or completely tilling other areas, the grass comes back almost overnight.

We bought a wood chipper to make use of the vast amount of fallen trees and limbs in our woods. Hopefully soon we’ll have enough mulch to begin to fight the grass into submission throughout our garden.

Equipment

As mentioned, we added a chipper/shredder to our equipment inventory and look forward to the opportunities it represents. Our tractor has died again and we’re considering taking it in to a real mechanic as my engine skills have reached their limit with whatever problem this MF205 might have. We are considering the possibility of even selling this tractor off for scrap, depending upon the cost of repair, and purchasing a better and more reliable workhorse. Either option represents a considerable expense we have been hoping to avoid, but such is the farming life.

A Sunday Afternoon Surprise, Our First Lamb

Not much was getting done around the farm while the temperatures dipped below 20 degrees. On Sunday the thermometer finally pushed upwards and when it hit about 45 I decided it was time to get to work on the garden. With tiller in hand I set to work preparing the bed. Sometime later I heard Ruth the Donkey making a ruckus so I looked in her direction and didn’t see anything spectacular (boy did I miss it!). I figured they may just be low on water and I’d be down there soon to take care of it anyway so I kept on digging.

When I was done I packed up the tiller, filled up the animal dishes and headed for the barn. We went through our usual routine, with one exception. One of the sheep didn’t come running to the barn at feeding time. Strange, but I’d take care of it after everyone was safe and sound.

The time came and I approached said stubborn sheep. Then I noticed something I didn’t quite recognize at first. Suddenly my brain told me what my eyes saw…4 itty bitty legs behind the sheep…she had a lamb!

I turned to our 4 year old and told him to run and get mommy, quick! He looked at me, puzzled, and said, “What?” Okay, so he comes from my bloodline and isn’t very quick to act 🙂  I went to get her and together we gently got momma and baby into a lambing pen and watched.

It looked like momma had done a great job of cleaning up her baby and the lamb seemed in good shape. It was trying to get milk while momma stood there patiently, but couldn’t latch on. I caught momma up in my arms, leaned her back and my wife trimmed some overgrown wool, cleaned everything up and then checked the milk flow. Nothing was coming out, but she tried a few more times and the blockage cleared, nearly spraying me with a nice flow of milk.

We guided the lamb to momma and it took a nice long drink then let momma up again. This time baby lamb was able to latch on and began drinking.

Since then we’ve watched carefully and everything seems to be going well. I administered the CD&T vaccine (not my favorite chore) and we’re keeping momma well fed and watered. An exciting day on the farm welcoming our very first lamb!

Wanda's First Lamb

Wanda’s First Lamb