The reality of farm life: it ain’t all sunshine and roses

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that we are still relatively new at this farming/homesteading thing-only a couple of years.  Most of the time, we are blessed with happy and healthy animals.  But, as with everything else in life, it’s not always that way.

Enter in Wilbur, one of our barrows.  Wilbur was one of the piglets we brought home late last year and raised to full weight.  He was a happy and healthy pig…until he wasn’t.  When we fed the animals on Sunday morning, he wouldn’t get up to eat.  By the time we came home from church on Sunday, he seemed worse and died within minutes of us arriving home.  Maybe he was waiting until we got there to say bye?  Yeah, I’m not quite that sentimental, but it did all happen really fast.  My immediate fear was the PEDv going around, but he didn’t display any clinical symptoms..and frankly, the way we farm and the few people who are invited onto our land mean that we have pretty strict biosecurity procedures naturally.  Upon further research, I found that it’s not terribly uncommon for pigs to die without obvious physical symptoms and the only way to confirm cause of death is with an autopsy.  Seems a little too CSI for us, but I’m sure that makes perfect sense to a “monoculture” farmer with thousands of pigs to protect.  We immediately moved him from their yard and took him a good distance away from all livestock for disposal.  Some have asked why we didn’t just butcher him and sell/eat the meat.  There are so many reasons why we wouldn’t do that.  One is that for a pig to be butchered commercially (ya know-not by your uncle Fred behind the garage), the butcher or his/her agent has to witness the killing.  Two is because we didn’t know or even suspect what killed him, we did not feel good about selling (or even giving) that meat to anyone.  We may not know everything there is to know about raising pigs, but we know our own values and we will never sell meat we wouldn’t feed to our own Blueberry girl, so with his death, it’s a total loss.

As to the future, our remaining gilts/barrows seem to be doing just fine.  They do not love the high heat, but do love the baths I’m giving them every day.  We have made some tentative plans around what we want our future to be with raising pigs and I think it’s the right decision.  We have been thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly!!!) enjoying the hand cured/smoked bacon, amazing chops, delicious steaks, and incredible sausage from these Berkshire piggies, and for that, we are grateful.  If it’s up to us, we will never, ever go back to what we now recognize as inferior quality pork from the local mega mart.

Until next time, happy homesteading Blueberry Acres Fans!

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Ding, Dong, the witch is dead and other assorted things….

…..and by witch, I mean hay!  I know-it was a stretch, but it’s absolutely how I feel.  We finally got the hay in our large pasture cut.  Sheldon finished bucking the many bales last night.  The hay should have been cut close to 2 months ago, but alas, we counted on the word of someone who proved to be a little less than dependable in deed.  However, some very hardworking folks came to our rescue and despite their baler giving out on them multiple times, they were able to finish the vast majority of our field.  Is it the world’s finest hay?  This late in the season, no.  But, the field is cut and the little bit of green left will quickly be finished by the cows and Festus.  We already talked about when they will come out next year and how we hope to double our load of hay at that time with an early cutting.  Sooooo…painful first year lesson to learn about depending on others that you don’t know well-both when they fail and like the folks who cut our hay, when they succeed despite obstacles.

Now, we are prayerful for some rain.  It’s been weeks and weeks since we have had anything fall out of the sky save for bird poop.  The lawn is all but dead (and I’m too stubborn to water it-water is for veggies and animals, not my 2 acres of lawn grass dang it!) and the dirt road is making horrible dust devils all over the place.  I feel like I can’t keep my house dust free for more than 2 minutes and frankly in this heat, I don’t want to even think about cleaning!   So, for this week, Blueberry and I are going to do what we can outside without bursting into flames in the dry heat.  We have swimming fun on tap, the library, going to visit the Grand-Blueberries and studying weather.

This cute little weather tracker from Smart Lab came in one of Blueberry’s Christmas gifts.

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This morning as she was outside with it studying the clouds while the dogs looked expectantly up with her, she learned the difference between the different types of clouds thanks to Mom’s geeky love of weather and this handy little website that not only has great weather pics, but some cool weather activities too.  We’re going to be studying weather all week as we begin that downhill slide to the first day of K for Blueberry.

How are you keeping cool in these hot dog days of summer?

Trying some new things this month: a working parents guide to not medicating with wine

Well, it’s July 1st.  That means that here at Blueberry Acres, we are sliding downhill (fast) into August where our little Blueberry will start her first day of “real” school.  I began to get misty eyed about it as I thought through the month of June and decided to take her out of the part-time preschool that she has been attending.  Seemed like a good plan at the time.

However, that means that now in addition to working from home part-time, taking care of Blueberry Acres full-time and occassionally shaving my legs…I need to find a way to provide care for the squirt 24/7 while working to keep that balance without having to sneak into the kitchen to fortify myself with wine on days that end in a Y.

Enter in quiet time.  We have decided that we will follow the advice of oh-so-many other bloggy moms and dads with structured quiet time.  While I wish my little Blueberry still slept in my arms, the reality is that those days are gone.  However, I still need (crave, depend on, am crazy for) that quiet time in the afternoon where I feel like if I have to answer another question from a 5 going on 23 year old, I will lose what is left of my mind.  As a result…we’re going to a post lunch regimen that involves the kiddo going to her room for exactly one hour each afternoon.  What she does when she gets there doesn’t matter to me as long as no cats are involved, she doesn’t blow the roof off the house and no hour ends with a fun ride in an ambulance.  Beyond that, she can read Dostoyevsky, play with her guys or paint her toenails blue..whatever.

Beyond the solitary confinement quiet time, we’re trying to be a little more loose on bedtime so that she can enjoy more evening farm time.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a more beautiful fireworks display than the one the fireflies put on around here at dusk.  We’re also asking her to be more involved with the evening poultry routine.  What’s that you ask?  Well, often it’s where I stand in the various poultry yards trying to convince everyone to go into their coops while cursing their moms and telling them I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, etc.  It’s not my finest moment.  But, add in some Blueberry, and well things get a lot easier…that kid is the dang chicken whisperer.  She has had an almost magical pull over these birds from day one whether they were chickens or turkeys and she can wrangle them into the coop with limited effort.  It helps reduce my workload and stress…but also gives her a little extra shot of exercise after dinner.  While it means that she goes to bed a little later, it also means that she is sleeping in a little more.  That works nicely for me!  While Sheldon would prefer to be strict with the routine, I’m finding that a little flexibility here is going a long way.

Introducing regular chores of her choice.  We have struggled with this for a while now.  We want to introduce the concept of a weekly allowance, but we don’t want her to think that money will always be handed to her without work.  When we have tried to introduce chores for dollars in the past, it’s fizzled out fairly quickly.  Especially when she gets her piggy bank and tries to pay me to do some of her chores because she doesn’t want to.  Obviously she has mastered the concept…it’s just not of interest.  So, now we are going to one unrewarded chore per day (in addition to picking up after herself) and we’re hoping that by doing so, we’ll continue to get her to invest in how things operate, look, etc around here.  Plus, if she is doing more then we are doing less.

But, I’m curious…for the other bloggy moms/dads out there….what do you to balance your day?

Happy Homesteading!

Do homesteaders make better parents?

The shortest blog post in history: yes!

 

Ok, seriously folks.  In the last 24 hours, I’ve read two things in relation to parenting that gave me pause.  One was a Yahoo article about a teenager who has eaten nothing but Ramen noodles for the last 13 years.  As a result, experts estimate that she has the health of an 80-year-old.  Where the heck are the parents here?  I refuse to accept the fact that a parent has been unable to course correct this eating spiral over 13 years.  I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for these parents, but my goodness.  Where is the accountability?

The other thing I read was not exactly new news, but I saw one of my more conservative FB pals post an excerpt from Bill Cosby’s famous Pound Cake speech.  Much like the Bible, I think people can use this speech and twist it to their own needs, but for me, it’s all about parental accountability.  As a parent, this speech resonates loudly with me.  I don’t see parenting as a uniquely white/black/red/polka dot issue.  It’s hard freaking work being a parent regardless of color.  Add in social inequity, poverty or ignorance and that job just got a whole lot harder.  But parents still have to be accountable.

And then there is my family.  Budding Homesteaders.  Want accountability?  Try Homesteading.  The ultimate accountability.  It’s not just our precious children or grandchildren, but I like to think that whether you are homesteading on your urban rooftop or on your 1000 acres, you have entered into a contract to do things right for your land, your animals, your plants, your family, your friends…all of it.   It’s all about choice and the consequences of those choices.

Now, does this mean that I think all farmers, ranchers, homesteaders are better parents?  Of course not.  The same jerks exist everywhere regardless of lifestyle.  But dang it, I’m sick of hearing about parents buying their children’s love with stuff.  I’m weary of seeing parents convince their children that they are the center of everyone’s universe.  I’m over hearing parents tell their children that bad behavior is a product of bad environment and not bad decisions.  I wish more parents loved enough to be strong.  To be that mean parent.  To realize that our children are capable of making decisions, taking responsibility and feeling accountability.  Making affordable mistakes is all part of learning and certainly something that we do here every single day as homesteaders.  So no, I am not so arrogant to think that homesteaders are better parents.  I think today’s post was more rant than information, but perhaps there is something to this way of life.  Maybe this lifestyle can teach our kids a thing or two about accountability even if we aren’t always perfect parents.  It is certainly my prayer for our future.

 

 

 

Happy 3.14159 day!

Although I guess I should have really wished you a Happy 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679∞ Day if I were to be accurate, right?

 

Picture courtesy of University of Iowa

Picture courtesy of University of Iowa

In honor of Pi Day, I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes for Pie Crust along with one of my favorite filling recipes courtesy of AllRecipes.  While I would love to take pictures of me baking it, that ain’t happenin today, so instead, hopefully you will bake it and deliver it to me.  Wait…that was too bossy.  Bake it and deliver it to me please?  🙂  Seriously-I hope you and your family enjoy some geeky math fun today!

Ideas for teaching kids about pi:

http://www.teachpi.org/

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/exploring-pi

 

And my favorite “Pi” recipe:

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 Cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 Cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 tea salt (mix it into the flour in advance)
  • 1/4 tea to 1/2 tea freshly grated nutmeg (can also substitute cinnamon)
  • 1 Cup ice water

Measure everything out in bowls and then stick EVERYTHING (including your mixing implements-I use a stand mixer with dough attachment for this) in the fridge for an hour.  Get it all nice and cold after you have prepped it.

After it is all chilled, begin to mix the butter into the flour a piece at a time.  Basically, you are looking for your flour to begin to look like clumpy sand.  It doesn’t have to be uniform and the butter doesn’t have to be all broken up, but it should be at least semi evenly distributed.  Try not to work it with your hands-let the butter stay cool so if you can’t use a mixer, use a fork to cut in the butter.  If you see the butter is starting to melt while you are working it, stick the whole thing back in the fridge.

Once the butter is mixed in, start to work in your water 1 TEASPOON AT A TIME!  I can’t stress this enough.  I don’t pay any attention to recipes when it tells me how much water you need because there are so many variables when working with crust.  If you live in South Florida, chances are you are going to need a heck of a lot less water than someone who lives in Tucson.  Humidity, heat, environment, drafts-they all matter, so just get to know your dough.  You can always add more, but honey-I haven’t ever seen a pie crust that can be saved when you add too much, so start slow.  When you start to see your dough come together, slow down on your water.  It should be able to hold together in a ball when you smoosh it with your hand.  If it crumbles still, you need more water.

Once mixed, let it rest in your fridge covered for another hour.  After the hour, you should be able to roll it out (wax paper on both sides of it helps) into crust for 2-3 pies depending on whether they are covered pies and how big your pie plates are.  Again-try to handle with your hot little hands as little as possible.

One of our favorite all time fillings is for Buttermilk Pie.  Allrecipes has some great ones in their collection, including this one.  But, I would love to hear from y’all…what is your favorite pie?  Happy Pi Day!