Monday, December 29, 2014

Last few days to vote!

If you were on our Christmas card list, please vote for your choices of Noels in the sidebar to the left. (No votes after the New Year.) Two have guessed all 3 of the photos inside the card, but for the most part, everyone is perplexed. I am not surprised, as I probably would not have guessed 2 out of 3...

If you want to be on our Christmas card list—contact me.

Looking back on 2014—it has been a good year. We lost a few chickens to some more dog attacks (not our dogs) and to undetermined medical ailments; we gave up some of our unruly poultry (all male of course!) to our Greek friends, and we lost 2 goats to reasons mostly unknown...but overall we have had a good year.

In the large photo, you can see that the apple trees did not produce well this past year. The one tree on the right put out a few apples way up high, but the one on the left put out none. That was pretty much the standard, very few apples, but enough to make some apple butter for us.

The garden faired about as well as the apple trees. We got plenty of plum tomatoes and winter squash, but no corn at all, even after replanting. We planted several other vegetables and sunflowers, but had very little to show for all our work. In the second photo, you can see my new, magical, processing device for all those extra plum tomatoes. No boiling, no peeling, no removing the seeds, just cut them into small chunks and run them through. It does take some muscle power, though! The basil in the pot on the counter did well because it was protected inside.

Final photo is of Bucky Pizzarelli. This young deer was hanging out around the house with his Mama for a long time, and then all by himself after that. He is still around, although the edible plants are not as easily found, so he is wandering more. I didn't even know he was a buck until I enlarged some of these photos. They call them "button bucks" because their horns are just buttons when they are this young.

I hope he sticks around. He is safe here.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Farm animals

Not much to report from up on the farm. All the snow went away, then it came back but just a few inches, and now it's gone again—raining most of the night and morning, and in the 40s°.

Animals are all settling in for the winter. The Husband has stopped milking Lucille, no more goat cheese or yogurt until the spring. Charley may or may not have bred her. She was in heat and now she's not. Rose, her kid, should also be coming into heat soon, and should be bred as well, but since we have boys and girls all living together, there is no way to tell if Charley has succeeded in doing his studly duty.

The all-living-together part is working out well. The goat book, Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, says exactly what everyone else says about housing bucks and does separately, but I still have not discovered the reason why. As long as there is no fighting, I cannot figure out why we can't leave them in together. That, and we have no separate housing for the buck boy anyway.

The photo has Lucille, Rosie and Rico all in the crib, and Jack and Charley in the doorway looking on. One big happy family, don't you think?

I took some chicken photos as well before the really cold weather comes and the ones with big red combs get frostbite. We use the deep litter method, allowing the hay and poo to build up in a thick layer as insulation in the unheated coop. Their feathers do a pretty good job of keeping them warm, but the rooster especially is in danger with that big red comb on his pretty head. Most of the Easter Egger hens, and the 2 remaining Silver Laced Wyandottes have short combs that hold up well through the bitter cold.

Fiona and Richie, the piggies, are hell-bent on finding a way out of their muddy pen, but are otherwise well behaved and still more adorable than obnoxious (that comes later). They come to the fence to greet us and stand on each other's back trying to reach up first for a good head scratch. We haven't had any problems with frostbite on the pigs or goats, both seem able to snuggle up in their bedding and stay warm. Just like the rest of us...all snuggled up for winter...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and we're getting snowed in!

Our tradition of going to the Otesaga for a Thanksgiving feast with B&E has ended. Alas, B&E have turned into snowbirds and will be spending the next few months in sunny Florida. Just as well, since this Thanksgiving would have been a tough travel from NJ to NY—we are getting snowed in!

The prediction was for the snow to start around 7 am, and for us to get 4" to 6" by tomorrow at 7 am. The snow did not start falling until around 10 am, and this is what we have at 3 pm. I think we have already passed the 6" mark and it's still coming down fast and furious!

I already bought the fresh turkey and goodies for us to have here tomorrow, just the 2 of us, so no worries about having to go anywhere. Just saying a little prayer that The Husband gets home from work safely. They are pretty good about clearing the roads up here, but I don't think they have even started plowing yet.

Last photo is of the MonkeyCat growing up quickly, but not losing his monkey business. He has made it his mission to become one with the WoodMan, even though the WoodMan barks like a fool and chases him back up the stairs every time he sees him on the first floor. Monk is playing with the camera-shy Hub on the sofa in the pic...must have been while Woody was sleeping.

Wish I had one of those security cameras to capture the mayhem that goes on while the Hub and I are at work. And Sophie just sleeps through it all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Birthday uncles and suburban turkeys

I took a little trip back to NJ to visit with Little Sister this past weekend, and then we both took a trip to PA to visit with the birthday uncles.

Monsignor B recently turned 75, and Uncle Jack will be 80 in January. Uncle Bob, who lives in FL, celebrated his 75th on Sunday, but we only visited with him by phone. And, I came home to find out that The Husband's sister, who came to see us a week ago, also celebrated a birthday this week.

So Happy Birthday one and all! Hope you all are enjoying the (mostly) beautiful fall weather we've been having.

Also while in NJ, I stopped by to see Brian and Eve. When I pulled up in front of their house, I disturbed this huge turkey who was sunning himself in their driveway. Apparently there are a lot of homeless turkeys who have taken up residence in the local suburbs. Not enough of their original habitat remains, so they are moving into town where all those nice people are feeding them and taking lots of photographs. Don't tell them what holiday we are celebrating next month...

We have plenty of original habitat up here in NY, but the weeds are too tall this time of year for us to see turkeys or just about any other kind of critter roaming the property. But we know they're out there!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For you, Kimberley

We had some family visitors over the weekend, causing me to give the house a quick makeover. Thankfully, I washed the kitchen floor, because I hear that The Husband's sister was sitting on the floor playing the role of Woody Whisperer. His behavior has greatly improved, but he still needs some work—especially when we have guests for dinner.

In the good weather, which is nearing an end, Woody spends a good part of the morning sunning himself in my chair on the back porch. I have seen him sitting up in that chair sound asleep, looking a lot like a human dozing off watching TV. Yes, he snores.

Monk is fitting in very well, other than waking us both up throughout the night being his monkey self. He was just down here a few minutes ago testing out the weather downstairs while Woody was sleeping in the other room. And Woody is getting better about not barking at the cats on the stairs, but Will has not been down lately to notice any improvement.

Goats and pigs are doing well. Chickens are either slowing down their egg production because of the cold, or we are going to find a cache of eggs when the weeds die down.

Good weather is supposed to return for next week (60°s and sunny) but for now it is chilly, rainy, and the woodstove is my friend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another goat boy joins us at Lester's Flat

We added Monk, the new kitten boy last week, and Charlie, the goat boy just today. He is an Oberhasli/Alpine cross, from 2 good dairy breeds. You can see the brown and black OB coloring like little Bart, but Charlie looks like he's going grey, with a lot of white hair mixed in. He is young though, born in April just like Rosie and Tony (who we traded him for).

We saw Tony today, all grown up. Almost didn't recognize him because of the black markings on his face. And I didn't notice until we got home that Rosie is getting some black on her face as well. (in the middle, top photo). Tony and Rose were our first kids born here, and Lucille, the all-black goat is their mom.

Charlie will be the sire of our herd...the only intact male. We had to get a buck who was no relation to the others. Usually people keep the bucks separate from the rest, and only put them together for breeding. We will learn as we go whether or not we can leave them all in our one little goat shed. This may be the reason why The Husband claims we need a new barn...

Poor little Rico (last photo) got banded today. You might be able to figure out what that means in this context... So he is not very interested in the new guy, just sunning himself in the grass. So far they are not picking on Charlie like they did with Bart, and the smart boy is hanging out with Lucille, the true leader of our gang.

If all goes well, Charlie will breed Lucille and Rosie in the next few months and we will have more kids next spring.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Monk has arrived!

Sophie made a trip to the vet's office for some recurring old age issues. There was a fairly long wait because there was a husky having a hard time delivering puppies in the back. You could hear Momma Husky moaning the whole time.

In the waiting area, there is often a large crate with kittens that have been picked up somewhere and need a home. This time there were 3 feral kittens who all were just barely recovered from a bout of conjunctivitis. One was missing an eye, all 3 had sort of weepy misshapen eyes. Two black females, one orange-and-white male.

I called The Husband to kill some time, and asked him to swing by on his way home from work...there was an orange kitty with an excess of personality that he might want to meet. Hub came by, hung out for a bit, and on his way out the door said bring home the orange one.

I did not, but when I did get home he told me he never got my message, he just stopped by because he knew I would be there with Sophie. He didn't even know that I was liking the orange kitty with the weepy eyes.

We talked about it and went back to get kitty the next day. Husband wanted to call him Daniel (as in Daniel and the lion's den). I voted for Monk, short for Monkey because he was such a little lunatic climbing all over the cage and his 2 sisters. Tough decision, we both liked both names, but I think we have settled on Monk.

Will says the jury is still out on whether we should send him back to where he came from. The little monkey is having a party up there chasing Will, and Will chasing him. There is some hissing and growling, but it's been less than 24 hours and I would say they are getting along pretty well, considering.

Jury is definitely still out on whether we will introduce the little monkey to Woody. For the moment, both cats seem happy to stay upstairs. Not sure what we'll do when we both go to work on Monday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More sad news

Having just lost Bart, our little buckling who just never got healthy, on Saturday we lost Helen, one of our first goats. She was the doeling, daughter of Lucille the black goat. She had her first kid this last May, little white Rico who is with her in the photo.

Bart had recurring health issues which caused us to send him back to his owner for a month. He returned to us for about a month and just never seemed to improve. And he never seemed to grow, at all. The Husband found him dead in the barn one morning. It looked like he was sleeping, all curled up.

Helen has been healthy girl all along. She had a difficult labor with Rico (who we were going to name Rita) but she was fine after that, and a good momma. Then, about a week ago, she started looking skinny, and losing some hair. Not too concerning because she was otherwise fine. Then, Saturday morning, The Husband found her on her side in the shed, unable to get up. She got worse within a few hours while we were trying to figure out what to do.

Because it was a weekend, we had to take her to a vet about 40 minutes away. She was thrashing about and moaning the whole way there in the car. The vet said it was probably either listeriosis or meningeal worm, neither of which is easily treated. He also said she was so far along, and so quickly, that the prognosis was not good, so we reluctantly decided to have her put to sleep.

So sad, and so difficult, but still the right thing to do. Poor girl! Little Rico misses his mom, and I think Lucille misses you most of all.

Rest in peace Helen and Bart.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ducks are much bigger, piggies still small

Nice sunny day for taking pics of the new kids: 8 baby ducks still well cared for by mom, and the 2 new piggies quickly destroying all the plants in the pig fence—which we left in there for them to destroy.

We sold the 7 full grown ducks (mom duck's siblings) to a local guy who told us several different stories as to what he was going to do with them. I choose to believe the story about his buying them to keep his lonely Pekin duck company. The other stories didn't have so happy an ending.

And now that the mean male ducks are gone, we have let mom and babies out for a wander. The males were beating up on momma and her babies before, so we locked the kids and momma all up in the pen where we previously had the baby chicks. The boys were also beating up on the 2 new duck girls who are both still hiding out in the chicken coop. We will try to lure them back here sometime soon.

Baby pigs have not grown a bit since yesterday. They are exploring the wild forest in their fenced area—quite different from sharing a mucky stall with their huge momma and 12 other siblings. They play and play and play, and then both pass out and take a nap. Enjoying summer while it's still hanging on! Just like us.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New pigs in town!

Our favorite pig breeder, Tammy in Smyrna, is no longer breeding pigs. This year we found a place in Fly Creek, the B&B Ranch. I did a search for heritage pig breeders, and found this huge ranch—several hundred acres—just a few miles from here. They have a B&B with fresh pork, goat and chicken/eggs raised right on the farm, and also an equestrian center.

The horse in the photo is for the inexperienced rider...

The piglets we got are a mix of Berkshire and not sure what the other breed is, but Berkshires are black and the momma is white/pink. Our little piglets are Fiona the black girl, and Richie the spotted boy. Berkshires are supposed to be the Angus of pork. Not sure if the meat will taste any different from our other cross-breed piggies, but either way, fresh always tastes good!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Goats and goat cheese

The Husband has been doing a wonderful job of milking Lucille twice a day. Helen is not the least bit cooperative, but then Lucille (her mother) wasn't last year either. Second time's a charm?

I am in the process of my fourth attempt at chevre, that soft goat cheese that tastes so much better than what you can buy in the store. For almost as long as we have been coming up here, we have been buying it from Alyssa, of Painted Goat Farm, at the Cooperstown Farmer's Market.

Maybe, just maybe, after years of practice with the chevre, I will be able to recreate the aged cheese that she calls a "Cinderella log" which has ash in the otherwise white rind, but we are a LONG way from that!

For now, I am reading 3 different books and whatever I can find online. My first try was edible, but did not set curds as well as it should have. I lost a lot of it in the whey. You are supposed to be able to use just vinegar or lemon juice (no rennet or starter) but that recipe involved heating the milk and I did not have a dairy thermometer, so possibly it was the wrong temperature. My second attempt (as described in Brad Kessler's book Goat Song) was perfect, but I used some of Painted Goat's goat yogurt as the starter, and have not gotten anymore since then. So the third attempt was not so starter, I used more rennet, and it came out kind of dry and rubbery. I started the fourth attempt today with a tiny bit of Chobani yogurt and less rennet.

When the proper starter (mesophilic) and dairy thermometer arrive in the mail next week, I think most of my problems will be solved. Chevre is supposed to be one of the easiest cheeses to make, but without the right ingredients, and trying to follow 3 (or more) completely different recipes, well I guess you learn as you go!

On a sad note: Our little goat boy, Bart, died kind of unexpectedly on Sunday morning. He was never very healthy to start with, and just never seemed to grow from when we got him in mid-June. We sent him back to June's place, and she nursed him back to health as best she could, but even a month with her intensive care didn't make him that bouncy baby buckling that we thought he would be. We are not sure what happened, only that we miss him.

Rest in peace Little Bart.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Big chicks, big fawn and LITTLE baby ducks

 One of our 3 female ducks disappeared about a month ago. The 5 male ducks are unrelenting in their "abuse" of the poor girls. At first we thought she got tired of the boys and moved on, or maybe she was killed by something, but then she would reappear every so often, coming out for food or water.

Missing for this long, we figured she must be sitting on eggs, but could not find the nest anywhere (good mom!). Just yesterday morning we looked up how long for a duck to hatch eggs—28 days. Right on schedule, she showed up yesterday afternoon with 8 little brown puff balls.

I captured them all a few minutes ago inside the fence where the chicks were. Mom is not happy, but I think they will be safer in there. We have 2 tom cats who have been patrolling the area lately, and those darn male ducks are a little too happy to have their girl return...

Where the chicks were: Chicks are now all big girls, except for the one big boy. We bought a 10-bay nest box at a garage sale this weekend just in time for the young hens to start laying eggs. We started last week to carry them from the fenced area back to the main coop at night. Hoping that they figure it out soon, because it isn't easy escorting 10 of them all the way out front every night. I feel better knowing that the mean roosters aren't in the coop to beat up on my little girls. So far the Buff Roo is a very well mannered young man.

And that little fawn has been hanging around with his mama for the past few weeks. Only recently without his mama. He (or she) is all grown up now too.

Birth—this is the good part about life on the farm.

But I do not know what we are going to do with all those ducks!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Visitors from NJ and FL—and an animal update

Brian and Eve from NJ, and Josh and Lisa with big boy Colin from FL, all came up to stay for a week on the lake. We had a welcome dinner at The Lakehouse on Friday—a perfect evening for dining on the deck while the sun was setting over the lake.

If the weather cooperates, we are headed this afternoon to FlyFest, an outdoor concert in a cornfield in Fly Creek. Thunderstorms are predicted, we are hoping to avoid them...

A lot has been happening here at Lester's Flat. I was going to write a post called the Sex Change Operation, but I was afraid it would put you all in a tizzy.

We found 2 female ducks on Craig's List (2 grey girls in first duck photo) that we bought in order to even out the hormones in our little bevy of ducks. We had 5 males and 3 females, and the poor females have been getting beat up by the bad boys. (4 of the 5 drakes in the brown duck photo)

So we bring home the new girls only to have them beat up and run off by the bad boys. For the first night, the girls hid in the weeds somewhere that we couldn't find them. The next 2 nights, the girls found their way into the duck house, and as far as we know everything was fine. But then bad boys got a little too frisky and chased the new girls away. For now they seem to have settled into the chicken coop. The 2 girls stay on the front of our property, the 8 others stay back here by the house.

And, the same weekend we got the new girls, one of the other females disappeared into the weeds. She has reappeared a few times, so is obviously still alive. I think she is sitting on eggs somewhere.

Now we need 2 separate duck houses and who knows what will happen when the new babies come along.  So much for settling the sexes.

We had almost the same problem with the chickens. Bought what we thought were 4 hens and 1 rooster, ended up with 5 roosters. We lost one to some unknown critter, gave another to a friend who wanted a rooster for her hens, gave another to our Greek friend who wanted a rooster for some stew, and just about 2 weeks ago gave the same Greek friend the last 2 because they were also beating up the girls relentlessly. We found out that 1 of the 10 baby chicks is a rooster, so he is going to have to grow up and take care of all the girls. Right now we are at 18 hens and the handsome, and so far well behaved Buff Orp boy.

We also traded our Tony (baby boy goat) for Bart (more colorful baby boy goat) only to return Bart until his Mama made him healthy again. Bart has returned, but now some of our other goats have come down with the need for Pepto. :)

For now, the girls rule the goat house!

The Husband is saying new pigs by Labor Day, and is threatening to add a dairy cow or 2. Or maybe sheep... Farmer Husband is never satisfied!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Silly Dog, the Sick Goat Boy and Zombie Chickens

Not sure why exactly, but a certain big white hound dog decided to leave the comfort of his favorite chair (seen to the left with the cushion he's been chewing on) and hop onto the table out in the backyard. When I went out to question him about his plans for his next move, he gave me the I-am-guilty look and held his ground. Only when I came back inside did he concede that it really wasn't that comfortable after all.

Little brown goat boy that we named Bart got sent back to his first home for special care. We are going back to get him this weekend, but not sure if we are going to take him or his twin brother. Kid brother was smaller to start, but has been healthy the whole time even though many of the other goats in the barn got the same virus that he had.

Steph, a co-worker of mine, had a dream the other night about coming to my house and seeing "zombie chickens" lined up at our front door each presenting an egg to me. ???

Our non-zombie chicks are almost full grown—grown enough that I can tell at least one of them is a rooster (the Buff Orp in the last pic). The Ameraucanas turned out to be Easter Eggers, meaning they are a mixed breed, a "chicken mutt" that still lays blue or green eggs.

They are really pretty chickens, all different colors, and some of them have the cheek feathers of the Ameraucanas. The one with the white head is the one that was the smallest chick in my earlier photos. She has definitely caught up to the others in size.

They are still not laying eggs, at least not anywhere that we can find them. And the older chickens are doing a fine job of hiding their eggs in all kinds of crazy places: in and under the hay manger in the goat shed, under the car, in the weeds. I also caught one young lady eating the eggs in the nest box. She came out with egg on her face, and the egg in the box had a nice beak-size hole in it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Not for Sissies

We had a beautiful 4th of July weekend here in upstate NY! A few of The Husband's cousins were up from various parts—including Terry and Kimball from FL. Kim and I went to a lady's lunch on the veranda at The Otesaga on Thursday. Friday The Hub and I mostly did some work around the house. Saturday we went to Cousin Greg's for a BBQ with T&K and Brian and Maria. They all went out on the lake to see the fireworks, we came home to shut up some animals.

Then, today we took a ride up the hill to see all the work that T&K have completed on their humble abode in the woods. They live in FL most of the year, and stay up here for about a month in the summer. Terry built this house himself several years ago, and just now the 2 of them are getting around to making it livable. (Thus the need for the lady's lunch on Thursday! Kim tried to get a pedicure in Coop'town, but apparently Coop'town don't do pedicures...)

They celebrated work completed with 2 Coronas today before leaving again for FL on Tuesday.

The Airstream provides all the comforts of home (sort of) until they whip the house into shape.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A few more photos from up on the hill

Went up to Don's yesterday with Woody and Sophie. It was a beautiful day for walking dogs and having a couple of Saranacs. Large photo is looking down to Lester's Flat, but all you can see through the trees is the horse farm across the street, Charlie's brown barn at the end of our driveway, and our little blue garage further back off the road. Second photo is Canadarago Lake. Third is Woody, thirsty for a pale ale. All three were taken from my seat on the bench up on the hill with Don.