Friday, December 25, 2015

And a Merry Christmas from Woody and Cyrus!

I was worried about Cyrus leaving his "mark" on the Christmas tree and the presents underneath. So worried that I pulled up the good rug and hid it in the basement. Turns out Cyrus had no interest in the Christmas tree, but he celebrated his good tree etiquette by sneaking past the baby gate to go upstairs and leave his "mark" (both kinds) in at least 4 different spots, 1 of them my laundry basket full of clothes, another the good rug in the library. Oh well.

Woody on the other hand, found it to be quite a lot of fun to help us unwrap our gifts. Cyrus just sat and watched. Both were exhausted after all the excitement.

Hope you all are having a lovely Christmas with your well behaved family members, human and/or animal. We are happy that the weather has turned at least a tiny bit chillier than the 70° yesterday, but it sure would have been nice to have just a dusting of snow for Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wishing you a Merry Christmas from Lester's Flat!

The Husband went on a photo-taking spree last week trying to capture some of the critters here. The weather has been unseasonably warm, meaning mud season has continued longer than usual. (Poor piggies! And no, they don't actually like mud. They only like it in the summer to stay cool!)

I just finished a book called Mud Season, by Ellen Stimson. A very amusing and fairly accurate description of our existence as well, although her life is definitely more chaotic. Perhaps her having children AND owning a country store made all the difference in the amount of chaos.

This is Cyrus and MonkeyCat's first year with a Christmas tree in the house. We have been blessed with their good behavior thus far. I hope that my last post of the year reports their continued good behavior.

Wishing you all a Happy Holiday of whatever sort you happen to celebrate!

Photos top to bottom:

1) Peter, Paul and Mary praying for the mud to freeze.

2) Lucille, our oldest goat, and her daughter Beatrice, behind her.

3) One of the 2 baby chicks that was born here. Both of them turned out to be roosters, but at least, so far, they are very nice roosters.

4) Again, no luck with the girls: All 3 of our remaining ducks are drakes. The 2 in the front are the ones that were born here.

5) I don't love having photos of myself on here (or anywhere!) but since The Husband was the photographer for the day, and since the boys were posing so nicely with me, I decided I could get over myself and post this. I am able to walk both of them on the leash at the same time. The only difficulty I have is when the boy ducks start quacking and running toward us. Cyrus has still not learned that they are not dinner.

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The disappearing dog

Here are all the innocent-looking characters…don't fall for their innocent looks.

Just in time for hunting season to begin (today) Cyrus decided to take a wander. Earlier in the summer I was walking both dogs off-leash back by the creek until Cyrus found his way out front and killed some chickens. Then I tried with Cyrus on the leash and Woody off, but Woody took to wandering as well, and it was getting too cold to cross the creek.

Next tactic: I take them up to Don's on the Hill where I start with Cyrus on the leash, but then they both get to run free as we are heading back to Don's house. Usually the lure of cookies is enough to get them back there in a hurry. This method has been working well for a few months.

We had our usual run on Wednesday, even though it was cool and rainy. No cookies-and-beer party after because of the rain. Thursday was also cool and rainy and the boys were not cooperating while I was trying to work at home. Our 3 resident deer were hanging right outside the windows getting the boys all worked up.

So I took them back up to Don's only to find 2 deer crossing his driveway, and then 3 more a bit further up. Dogs in a frenzy!

We went in the house for a bit, and then tried our usual walk around the path. Other than falling twice in the mud going down the hill, things went well until the part where I usually let Cyrus off the leash. He wanted to run off and play with Woody, but I wanted to keep him on the leash because of the deer. He whacked my hand so hard while he was rough-housing with the WoodMan that I had to let him go. He stayed on the path for about 20 feet, and then took off into the weeds where the driveway deer had been.

Gone in a flash. I called them back, but only Woody returned. I guess I should be thankful that he didn't run off as well. Missing 1 dog is bad enough, 2 would have been so much worse.

Cyrus ran off in the direction away from our house, so I was pretty sure he wasn't raiding our chicken coop. When it became apparent that he wasn't coming back, I took Woody in the car to search. No sign of the disappearing black dog.

Black dog, 4 pm, now dark, still raining. About 8 pm I drove around again, searching, plenty of deer, no Cyrus.

He finally showed up on the front porch at 9 pm, soaking wet and exhausted. I only noticed he was there because MonkeyCat was sitting staring out the door. I have no idea where he went, or how he found his way back. He would have had to cross the creek in at least 1 or 2 spots, and the creek was running kind of high because of the rain. Maybe he came down the road and crossed the bridge...

I don't know where he went or what he was up to, but I thanked him profusely for coming back before the hunters start shooting—and they did—early this morning.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Indian summer (why do they call it that?)

There have been some really spectacular fall days in the past few weeks. Of course, now that I have my firewood all stacked and ready to burn, it's been nice and warm and sunny. Today I took the dogs up to visit with Don on the Hill and his dog Bandit. According to weather reports it was 70° on this fine November day. I wish I had the camera up there when the leaves were still brilliant, but even now that they are brown, Don has the most beautiful views.

The single dog in the photo is Bandit with Canadarago Lake behind him. The 2 dogs (constantly) begging for cookies are the infamous Woody and Cyrus. If you look just over the back of the Adirondack chair, you can see our house down below. It's a good thing that the dogs have not recognized how close we are to home. They have traveled down the hill as far as the Firemen's Field (BAD dogs!) but have not yet made it all the way back to the house.

The big photo is the best my little Nikon Coolpix can do with a nighttime shot. The moon was so huge and pretty last week, I just had to try. The moon has been huge, and pretty, and bright enough that Cyrus can see all the deer eating the leftover apples at 3 am.

Still working on it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Smashing fruit and veg

In addition to my cheese-making ventures, I have been smashing LOTS of apples and tomatoes. I have a freezer full of quart bags of tomato sauce, at least a dozen pint jars of apple butter, plus a few jars of apple sauce. (Guess what you are all getting for Christmas this year!)

The old apple trees on our property produce probably thousands of apples in a good year, maybe tens in a bad one. About 2 years ago I sold 5 bushels to the Fly Creek Cider Mill for $10 a bushel. This year they were not in the market for "wild apples" so I smashed as many as The Husband could pick and made apple butter, apple sauce, a few apple pancakes and apple/cheddar omelets. We can only eat so many apples, and I haven't even gotten around to making a pie yet!

Cyrus and the WoodMan are uninterested in my apple smashing. They will eat bits and pieces, but most of the bruised parts and skins and seeds go to the pigs. We got 3 pigs earlier than usual this year. It is working out well because they eat all of the garden/apple tree leftovers, and they really like the whey left from the goat cheese.

The WoodMan doesn't care for the apples, but he does LOVE my new blanket from Land's End. (My new blanket, not his, but he doesn't know that yet.) Funny thing is, because it is a kind of velvety fleece, it stays with him when he gets up. He looks like he is wearing a Halloween costume wandering around with his blue blankie attached to his rear end. Very cute!

Happy Halloween to one and all. I hope you all do not have neighbors like my friend Maryellen's. This last photo is from outside her window, across the street. Unfortunately there is sound to accompany the horror...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Frost and firewood—Success!

Not quite in time for the first frost, I FINALLY had some firewood delivered last night. After everyone else bailed on me, I called Craig's List Firewood Person #5 last weekend only to find they could not deliver until this past Saturday. Then when I called Saturday morning they said not until Monday. But then...they surprised me with a delivery last night, just as it was getting dark.

We had lows in the 20°s the past 2 nights. Even though we primarily heat with propane, it sure is nice to have the woodstove going again!

I just purchased an Ecofan to help move that warm air around a bit more. It is 76° in the living room with the woodstove going right now, 69° in the kitchen (next room over), and 65° upstairs. With the open floorplan we have down here, and the woodstove right at the bottom of the stairs, I thought the woodstove would heat the whole house, but I guess the house is too well insulated inside? Sometimes when the stove is really running hot, it gets up to 85° in the living room while it is still cool in the rest of the house.

The fan works just from the heat of the stove, and, from what I have read, it is completely silent.

Finally, wishing you all a happy Fall! Aside from these last 2 cold nights, it has been a really beautiful Fall up here this year. Lots of good leaf color, and a ton of pumpkins (well, not quite a ton). I roasted one of the flat ones, a Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (from Johnny's seed catalog) and made some pumpkin soup last week. This variety of pumpkin is sweeter than the Connecticut Field Pumpkins (seeds from The Farmer's Museum) but both are heritage varieties.

I want to try to make some pumpkin butter, but have been so busy smashing apples for apple butter, and before that, tomatoes for tomato sauce, that I have not had the time to do the pumpkins. Plus, they still look so nice on the porch and scattered around the yard.

Friday, October 16, 2015

My gray hair and Good Craig/Bad Craig

My gray hair

I grew my hair really long this past year with the intent to donate it to Locks of Love. They were having a hair-cutting event in Doubleday Field here in May—donate your hair to make wigs for cancer patients. I was surprised to discover that, not only do they not accept hair that is more than 5% gray, but that they do not actually make wigs for cancer patients. The wigs they do give out are for children with alopecia (permanent hair loss). They sell a lot of the hair that is donated, and I just don't like the sound of that.

I am doing a bit more research. There are other places that do accept donations of gray hair, and even places that will buy it. For the amount of time that it takes to grow my hair long enough to retrieve an 8" to 12" ponytail, I would prefer to donate it, but I have to be sure that the donation actually goes to someone in need, someone in need who is looking for a gray-haired wig. I have never dyed my hair and I do not want to donate it if they are just going to dye it to give to someone else.

Good Craig/Bad Craig (Craig's List)

Good Craig: We've purchased several chickens and all of our ducks on Craig's List, bought our freezer, found a great source of hay, and more that I don't remember. We have also sold the old Thermador cooktop, too many hams from the pigs, and quite a bit from Charlie's barn.

Bad Craig: The deal to trade Beatrice and Rosie for firewood and hay fell through. Apparently they were too busy with their own farm life to make it happen. Now I am on my fourth round of attempts at getting firewood from other Craig's List postings. Every time I think I have someone lined up, they either don't call me back, or they have some reason as to why they can't come out today, or next week looks good but then I can't get them to call me next week. Or I do get them on the phone, another week goes by, and then they don't show up on Saturday to deliver it.

It's the middle of October and I still don't have firewood! At least propane prices are low right now, and I have yet another firewood person scheduled to come out tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pigs and goats, hay and wood

I discovered that the pigs LOVE to be showered on a hot day, and even a not so hot day. I leave the hose running on them and they all gather under it. When I turn off the water, they roll their nice clean bodies in the muddy puddles left behind.

Today I was a dummy and left the water running for about 4 hours. Oops! Lots of mud today!

If everything goes according to plan, we are selling Beatrice (brown and black goat) and her mom Rosie (white goat) this weekend. We put Beatrice, just born in March up on Craig's List, because we want to keep Charlie, her father, as a breeding buck, and don't want him to breed her. The folks who are buying Beatrice were also interested in Rosie, so we decided to let her go as well.

In trade (rather than a sale) we are getting 25 bales of second-cut hay, and 4 face cords of firewood. The wood can't get here soon enough for me. It's been downright chilly here at night, down as low as 42°. I just can't bring myself to turn on the heat in September. I am pretty sure there were a few days in early June where I was begging for some heat as well.

It's been a strange summer. I am hoping that Fall lasts through November this year.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Old Man on the Mountain in Yosemite

Well I only managed a pathetic 2 posts in apologies.

My previous post mentioned the things I am working on, one of them being Cyrus and Woody off-leash down here, not just on the hill at my neighbor's (where they behave beautifully!).

We were doing extremely well, or else they were both just playing me. On the one day when Woody was the best behaved ever, staying right nearby and bouncing through the low water in the creek, Cyrus apparently saw an opportunity to run the 1,000 ft or so back to the chicken coop where he killed 4 chickens and 1 duck. I cannot prove it was him, but the timing and his demeanor say it is so.


Another thing I was working on: I called about the revival of my old iMac and they told me they were too busy with more important projects. Why is everybody else more important? They did revive most of what I needed from the old hard drive, and loaded it on the new hard drive I purchased, but they still have not given me an answer as to whether or not the old hard drive can be replaced and the iMac revived to a better than new working condition. Frank, Connecting Point, New Hartford, NY, get to work on MY project!

Oh well.

Today's photo is the default desktop picture on the new iMac. The operating system is either called "El Capitan" or "Yosemite", I haven't figured out which.

I did a search on Old Man on the Mountain, and only came up with the rock formation profile that has since disintegrated in New Hampshire. I could not find anything in my Google searches that identified a profile of an old man in this photo of Yosemite.

Do you see it?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Working on it...

I am still waiting to see how much has been recovered from my dead computer. At first they told me they would not be able to save the old one, but could save most of the "user" files—meaning documents and photos and such. Then they told me for $150 they could put in a new hard drive in it, although that wouldn't bring back the rest of the files. Now they left a message saying that might not happen either.

At least I was able to get all of my important software running again, and only had to pay for an upgrade to Quark, which needed to be replaced soon anyway.

Since I am still missing most of my photos other than the ones I was able to pull from the OLD, old iMac, I will have to make do with some very new ones. (which means the cheese update is on hold)

Working on it...

Cyrus is making improvements in his obsession with deer. He still watches out the windows constantly hoping to find one, but he is getting better about not barking and has not tried to jump through the windows (that I know of) for several weeks.

Working on it...

He has also made improvements in walking off the leash. He is perfectly well behaved up on the hill at Don's, probably due to the constant lure of treats. And he is making progress on his off-leash walks down at the creek here on our property. He has taken off a few times, but returned after a half-hour of panicked searching and hollering (the first time), and after just a few minutes of hollering (the second). Didn't run off at all yesterday!

Working on it...

Bad news on the peeing in the house though. He did this a few times in the first week or 2 that we had him. I thought it was just him getting used to a new house and marking his territory. Then he didn't do it for a few months. Then he just recently started again, including a few poops in the house as well. I cannot trace the reason, other than maybe we have not been watching him as closely.

Working on it...

And the last update is on baby chicks. The 2 that were born here are getting big, catching up to the ones that we got from a friend. The one still with his surrogate Momma is looking like he could be a rooster, but I am still not sure. His second Momma has all but given up on him, other Momma (red hen with him in the photo) still keeping an eye on the boy. The other 3 babies, including the one rejected by those 2 bad Mommas, are still in a protected space out by the garage.

The 6 Black Australorps are almost full size and have been free-ranging with the others during the day. As soon as we convince them that they need to sleep in the coop with the big girls, we will move the babies into the teenage fenced area. We just started placing them in the coop last night. Could take a few days, or even a few weeks.

Working on it...

Everyone is learning how to be an adult, including me, I guess!

Working on it...

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lots of news plus 3 new pigs!

All kinds of things happening around here including the death of my iMac. Pic above is the MonkeyCat sleeping on what's left of my precious computer. It's in computer hospital right now to see if they can retrieve my files. They are making some progress, but Computer Doc says TP's files were easy to grab, but the near-dead hard drive "doesn't like KP".

I decided it was time to buy a new iMac, although I would have put it off a whole lot longer if the other one hadn't died. Now I am having to upgrade some of my arty farty software, although I was able to pull the ridiculously expensive Creative Suite off the original discs...but not until after I bought a disc drive, because new iMac doesn't come with old-fashioned disc drive. (insert here the photo of me pulling out my hair!)

Still struggling to get everything up and running, but making progress.
Also had B&E visiting for the week. A good time was had by all!

So the good news for today is that we picked up 3 new pigs from B&B Ranch (again). Initial thought is that their names are Peter, Paul and Mary, but that could change when we have had more time to think about it.

They are a Berkshire cross—Momma is a big pink pig (Hampshire cross) and Papa the black Berkshire variety that is supposedly the best pork. We wanted all black ones just because I like pigs of color. I didn't even know until we picked them up today that even the ones that looked all black have orange stripes on their backs. Very arty!

Boy piggies are the spotted one and the chubby black one in the back of the crate. Girl piggy is the black one first to come out and explore.

They were all too afraid at first to come out of the dog crate to have their photos taken. This was only minutes after we introduced them to their new home. They eventually made it outside the crate, but not quite out of the shed. It won't be long before they are tearing around the pig pen ripping out all of the weeds and sunflowers.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cheese and chicks

I am making another wheel of cheddar today, and taking some more detailed photos of the process, just in case you all want to try it some time! But at 4:45 pm, I am still not ready to press it, so I thought instead I would do a post in memory of the little leghorn chick we lost yesterday.

I found her on the floor in the enclosed space where we keep them during the day. At first I thought she was just resting, but when she did not join the others in eating, I realized something was wrong. Some critter had torn up her back end. I stopped at the vet's on the way into work just to get their opinion as to whether she might live. Stacy the vet tech said she had a good chance if it was just external injuries and gave me some antiseptic to clean her up.

So little chick became Office Chicken yesterday. MJ named her Nellie Blye. But Nellie Blye must have had some internal injuries as well. She hung on for most of the day, but struggled and then died in my hands about 6 pm.

I wish I knew what happened so that I could protect her 3 little friends, but there is just no way to know. These pics of them are from today. The 2 darker ones (and Nellie) are Brown Leghorns. The yellow chick is the one that our hens hatched, and then rejected. He or she is half Buff Orpington (from the roo) and half Easter Egger (because we know she hatched from a blue egg). She has fully recovered from her rough start, and the 3 little leghorns accepted her right away. Her brother (or sister) is still being raised by the 2 mamas.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cheese, cheese and more cheese!

Since we began milking the goats last year, I have been making chevre pretty regularly. I mastered that process pretty quickly, so I decided to get more creative and try some cheddar this year. Also, this year we have at least twice the milk. We are milking both Lucille and Rosie. Lucille is a great milker. Rosie is less cooperative but seems to have more milk.

Chevre is very easy to make. I warm it up in a cooler filled with hot tap water, add starter and rennet and let it sit overnight. Then ladle the curd into cheesecloth and hang to drain for another 6 or 7 hours.

Cheddar requires more time (most of a morning and afternoon) more work (heating, cutting, and salting the curd) and a cheese press. The Husband bought me a beautiful cherry wood press from Homesteader's Supply for my birthday in May.

Starting with the first cheddar on May 31, I have made 1 wheel of cheddar per week for a total of 8. It is supposed to be better if aged for at least 60 days—the taste is sharper, and we both like sharp cheddar. But that means I won't know until the end of July whether or not my cheddar is eddarble. (hehe)

If it were up to me alone, I would have sneaked a taste right away, but the man insists on patience, which is something he normally has in short supply. (hehehe)

Conveniently, Brian and Eve are scheduled to come up next Friday, so we can test our first cheddar on them! At least they all look edible.

First small photo is the curd after cutting it in the pot. Whey is the liquid you can see that has already drained from the curd. Second: fresh wheel of cheese from this morning. Third: cheese press (maple version).

Once I find out if my cheddar is any good, I will try some different cheese recipes. For now I will just keep my fingers crossed that I haven't been wasting my time AND all that goat's milk!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Return of the wanderer!

My little escapee returned this morning. Even though I had looked there earlier, The Husband found her inside the fence she had escaped from last night. Safe and sound, but she certainly has not learned her lesson. You can see in the photo they are making their way to the top of the log inside the fence, looking for another chance to be free.

Little yellow chickie has no trouble keeping up with her 3 cellmates. Her injured foot and wing seem to have healed. She is a few days younger (maybe a week) than the others, and has some catching up to do in size, but otherwise seems to be healthy.

The Cayuga ducks were getting to know their new friends inside the fence for a few hours this morning, and then we set them all free. Not sure if they have been enjoying their freedom yet, but their environment even inside the fence is a huge improvement to their previous home. The baby ducks are full size now. The darker one looks almost like her daddy, but with more interesting "penciling" on her feathers. The lighter one looks just like her momma.

If they are indeed 3 females and 1 male, we can expect some truly interesting looking babies from this bunch. Or maybe we will just eat their eggs and enjoy the 4 of them as they are...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

New ducks and new chicken saga, or should I say dilemma

We took a nice hour-long drive on a nice day today to pick up 2 new ducks. Again they were supposed to be Cayugas, a pretty iridescent black and beetle green variety native to NY state, and again they are some sort of mix, but at least these look like half Cayugas, unlike the first bunch we bought.

It was a nice drive on the way there, but on the way back not so much. The poor ducks were being housed in a barn with no access to the outside, and plenty of poo inside. We had to leave the windows open with the air on just to be able to breathe on the way home.

The 2 pretty ducks were thankful for the bath in the bucket, and are now cleaned up and good to go.

It will take a few days to mingle with the 2 babies we raised here, our last remaining ducks from the other purchases. The babies are probably both females, and these older Cayugas are definitely a male and female. These 2 will need a couple of days to learn where they live before being allowed to roam with the babies.

The teenage Black Australorp chickens so far are getting along very well with the adults out front. Tonight I wanted to introduce them to a night in the coop with the others, but was distracted by a runaway chick from the bunch that are still being raised in the garage.

There are 3 that we got as replacements for the too-many roosters last year, plus our one little yellow chickie that was hatched but then rejected by the 2 mamas. I have been putting the 4 of them in a little fence outside on sunny days and bringing them in the garage at night. But tonight, 1 of the Leghorns jumped ship when I tried to put them back in the garage. She is still out there roaming free at 10:30 pm. I left her companions chirping in their crate just inside the garage with the door open, but am going to give up soon if she doesn't come back inside.

Big Mommy can only sit outside with the mosquitoes for so long waiting for the wandering child to come home...

Please come home, little wanderer!