New Additions

It has been crazy busy around here for the past few weeks.  We suffered some loss, two of our goats had new kids, and we added an alpaca to the crew!

Kids

Goat kids are adorable, Nigerian Dwarf goat kids are extraordinarily so.  I knew that we had some expectant mommas, but I goofed on my dates.  I thought that I had another month, but oh no, I didn’t.

I was leaving for a doctors appointment, when B came running up to me, very upset.  Something was wrong with Ashes, she was sick.  Some kind of diarrhea, or her intestines are falling out!  Hurry!  I went running, and wemade it just before a sweet little baby finished his entry into the world.

Welcome to the world, Sweet Flora Farms Oscar Wild!

 

A temporary kidding pen was set up asap.  He was a strong little guy, at almost three pounds, up and nursing right away.  Ashes is kind of a crappy goat mom, but she is doing pretty well with him.  He is a creamy white, with a red roan along his dorsal.  His face looks exactly like his daddy, our very own resident buck, Duagwyn Odin the Allfather.

I checked on my other pregnant doe, Moonflower, as her udder was starting to fill.  She was getting close.  Kidding pen number two was prepared.  Exactly one week later, I woke up to a cold, wet buckling on the ground, and an exhausted doe struggling to deliver her next kid.

I prepared to intervene, when the head and neck were delivered.  Moonflower stopped pushing, and I realized that the kid wasn’t moving.  She was delivered neck first, with her tiny head tucked under.  The force of the delivery broke her neck, and caved in part of her head.  There was nothing I could do, except pull the rest of her out.

Moonflower was exhausted, and wanted nothing to do with her little boy.  It took me a while to get him warmed up, milk his momma, and get him to drink from the bottle.  He weighed under 1 pound.  Please welcome Sweet Flora Farms Apollo Rising.

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Both boys are growing, and doing well.  Both does are healthy, and getting back to normal.  They are both easy on the milk stand, and producing lots of fabulous goat milk.  We use the milk for soap, and for yummy goat cheeses.

Tony Stark

Oh boy, this is exciting stuff!  We have a freaking ALPACA!!  He was rescued from a cattle auction, after being dumped by his owners who were raising him in a city yard.  They were threatened with fines, so they just dropped him at a cattle auction.  And now he lives here!  Can you tell that I’m a little excited about it?  He will provide us with fiber, and be an alarm for any danger near the goats.

We try to have fun with names around here, and I admit that I have a slight comic book super hero obsession.  I talked to the kids, and I explained what an alpaca was.  I was telling them about his fleece, and how it protects him in the winter, and we will shear it off in the spring.  My youngest son, M, said it was like his armor that we can take off.  Ah ha… Tony Stark.  He is the sweetest, softest, most amazing creature.

Tony
Look at that sweet face!!

Cold Weather Prep

Progress has been slower than I would like, but we are getting there.  We are still finishing up some out buildings, which now includes a three sided shelter for Tony.  Dave finished building the new milking stand for the goats, and the new chicken coop is almost finished.  That should be ready for the flock within a week.   I’ve also come up with a new plan to maximize our space, and make things more efficient with the animals.

Horses

This has been a rough one.  Somewhere around the end of July, two of our horses started to lose weight.  My first thought was the hay, we had been using a new supplier.  So we switched.  Still, they lost weight.  I used a new wormer, in case they were building any resistance to the old one, plus increased their grain.  And still, they lost more weight.  The vet came out, ran fecal and blood tests.  They have anaplasmosis from tick bites.

So, they are all on antibiotics, and are finally gaining weight again.  They lost over 100 pounds in two months.  It was the craziest thing I have ever seen.  I’m just so happy that we figured it out, and they are getting better.

Wrapping it up

I have been trying to get soaps ready for the holiday season, so that has kept me busy. (more on that soon)  With five kids at home, going through cold weather clothes is a huge chore too.  I have to make sure that everyone has stuff that fits, and make lists of thing we need to get.  Oh yeah, and Halloween is coming, and Thanksgiving, and J’s birthday, and Christmas, and we homeschool.  Is your head spinning yet?

As you can see,  its been a bit busy.  Sometimes its crazy, but I wouldnt change a thing. ( well, maybe more land)  I am the luckiest woman alive.

Until next time, stay busy my friends.

 

 

 

 

Garden Veggie & Chicken w/ Gnocchi

Our gorgeous rainbow chard was calling my name today, while I was working in the garden.  Hmmm, what to make for dinner tonight?  I only had four chicken thighs in the refrigerator, but did not feel like running to the market.  Inspiration smacked me like finger flick to the cheek.  Oh wait… that was the grasshopper that smacked me in the face when I  was picking the last few small yellow summer squash.

Either way, I was smacked with something, and came up with an idea.  Plus, I would get to use some of those amazing Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes that I made yesterday.  So here you have it:

Garden Veggies and Chicken with Gnocchi

1 small bunch of rainbow chard, stems and leaves separated and chopped.

1 small sweet onion, chopped

2 small yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced (you could totally use zucchini here too)

1 cup of Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes (you can also use store bought sun dried tomatoes in oil… but I can’t promise it will be the same)

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbs concentrated vegetable broth.

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This is the brand I use.  I love this stuff!

1/2 cup water

1 tsp Sweet Flora Dried Mushroom Blend (you could also use fresh mushrooms here)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breast), cut into bite size pieces

1 package of prepared gnocchi

salt and pepper

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Saute onion and chard stems in a skillet for about 4-5 minutes, add the squash and cook about 4 more minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, and season everything with salt and pepper.  Remove from the pan.

Saute the chicken in your choice of oil until almost done.  Sprinkle with chicken with salt, pepper and mushroom blend and cook until done. Stir in the cider vinegar, water and veggie broth.  Add the vegetable mix back to the pan, and toss to heat through.

Meanwhile, prepare gnocchi per package directions.  When they are done, toss with the veggies and chicken.

Enjoy, and relish the full tummy bliss that follows.

Let me know if you try it, and what you think. My family loved it, and devoured the whole thing.  This will be a new favorite for sure.

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Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes

This summer gave us a plethora of cherry tomatoes.  We planted two each of three varieties. Regular red, a slightly larger oblong red, and sun gold (my favorite).

I added rabbit manure and epsom salt to our soil mixture before planting this year.  I’m convinced that this is part of our explosive growth.

We have had them in salads, as snacks, and I even made a delicious sun gold tomato sauce.  I’ll post that recipe soon.

There came a point where everyone was on tomato overload.  So what to do with these? 

 Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes!

These are pretty easy, and ridiculously delicious.  I store them in jars, in olive oil, in the refrigerator.  They don’t last long.  Toss them with hot pasta,  or put in pasta salad.  Put them on a pizza, or snack on them with some fresh mozzarella. (That recipe is coming soon too.)

Preheat The oven to 225 F.  I use convection bake for mine, but you do it with just a regular setting.

Halve your tomatoes,  and toss with olive oil to coat.  This is when you can get creative.  Add salt and pepper, rosemary, basil, garlic… any flavors that you love.  Spread everything cut side up on parchment lined trays.  

Bake them for three to four hours, or until they are mostly dried.  Once cooled, put them in a mason jar(s), and cover with olive oil.  

I’ve never had them last more that two weeks.  Try it, let me know what you think.

Farm Chores

This past week has been a busy one at home.  We are preparing for fall and winter, which means getting the animal shelters up the task, building and repairing.  We are also preparing for hay deliveries, tending to baby animals and dealing with goat mating season.

The new chicken coop is almost done.  It is bigger than the original, and hopefully much more efficient for us and the birds.  We have planned the nesting box opening to be on the outside of the house, so that you can collect eggs without going inside the fence.  I have hosed off more than one child this summer, who has slipped in chicken poo while collecting eggs.

We also planned a new gravity feeder that can be accessed from outside the fence.  The new coop will be at the edge of the goat yard, and will give the chickens much more room to roam.  This should also allow them to pick off any bugs and such from the goat yard, keeping the goats happier too.

The mini horses have one new run in, with another being built before winter.  This should give them plenty of options.  I don’t lock them in a stall at night, because I feel like they deserve to be able to move about if they want.  They are funny, and often stand out in the rain, or go in during sunny days.  It’s their prerogative to be sure.

The goats are currently all together in the front for breeding.  I am thinking about castrating my buck in the spring.  He’s had his fun, and will hopefully make some beautiful babies, but I would much rather have my snuggly boy, than a stinky pee face buck.

We have had two successful rabbit breedings so far this summer, resulting in sevent kits from one momma, and eight from the other.  The babies are precious.  I have already sold four, and any remaining will head to freezer camp before winter.

With help from my future son in law, I built the new rabbitry, Hopper Heaven.  The rabbits all have larger cages, with wire bottoms for optimal health.  Their waste is deposited directly into worm bins, where the composting magic happens.

I added 3,500 composting worms, shredded paper that they love, and some veggie peels to get the action started.  We also add egg shells to the mix.  The worms do the work to the compost the waste and eliminate odor, and our garden will benefit next spring.

Our crazy little flock of Muscovy ducks have been an interesting experiment.  We have one male and three females.  This breed is well know to be excellent parents.  Mine, well, not so much.  So far they have killed every single duckling before it even finishes getting out of the shell.  And then one morning…

M, age 9, was checking for eggs and feeding the birds, when he saw the chickens chasing something.  It was a freshly hatched duckling.  It somehow evaded its cannibalistic parents, escaped into the chicken yard, and was running from my velociraptors.  Chickens, I meant chickens.

We now have a lone duck who is convinced that she is a human.  She loves to cuddle and snuggle under my chin, and follows me around the yard.  I’m not entirely sure what will happen with her.  She is too young to hang with the big ducks, but way too stinky to be a house duck.

As you can see, we have had lots of busy work here.  Next week…school!

Virginia Vacation 2017

Our big trip in the spring of this year, was to Williamsburg, VA.  We spent 8 days exploring Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement and Bush Gardens.


We used Air BNB for the first time ever.  Overall, it was a good experience.  The house was nice, with lots of room to stretch out.  We had couple of strange nights there, but they were pretty harmless.

The owner had told us that he was staying at his girlfriends while we were there.  He showed up the second night and, he said that he would be staying for the remainder of the week in the attached guest apartment.  The next night, we returned for our exploring to find a couple parked in the driveway, peering through the windows of our rental, with their hands up against the glass.  It was more than a little strange.

They were booked to stay in the apartment for the next 3 nights.  The property owner’s car was there, and his dogs were outside, but he wasn’t answering the door or their phone calls.  his dogs stayed outside, barking at our window, until 2am.  I messaged the owner and told him that my kids couldn’t sleep, and then the dogs stopped.

They following day, the other couple showed up again, and still no response to door knocks or phone calls.  This time, the dogs were inside, but his car was still there.  When we woke up int he morning, his car was gone.  We never talked to him during our stay.  It was freaky.

The kids absolutely loved Williamsburg and Jamestown.  They not only enjoyed the property, but also the activities.  They were able to help the brick maker to work clay with their bare feet.  It was mucky and muddy, the loved it.  Another big hit was the lumber area.  We learned about how lumber was milled in colonial times.  The reenactment was amazing.  So much work and pride put into everything that they did. The kids are determined to build a playhouse using colonial techniques.  We shall see how that goes.

I highly recommend purchasing the bounce pass.  We had the spring bounce pass.  It gives you access to both Colonial Williamsburg and Bush Gardens for 7 full days.  We were able to visit both parks on multiple days.  At $99 for adults, and $79 for children, it is very worth the money!

This is definitely a trip that I would take again when the kids are a little older, although maybe next time, we will stay somewhere else.

 

 

Our Last Year of Public School

Just typing that title gave me lots of emotions.

I am crazy excited to get started.  I really feel like this is the best thing for our family.  I’m still nervous, which I think is healthy.

Four of our kids are in the process of taking the NYS Assessments right now.  The amount of pressure put on them is incredible.  They are pushed to make sure that they have enough sleep, and eat a good breakfast.   They have been getting big lectures about the importance of the assessments for months.  They are told that these results will follow them through life.  We all know that that last part is just ludicrous.

I have told them all, do your best like you always do, and don’t worry about it.  Future employers are not going to be standing there with the answer sheet to the third grade ELA assessment in their hands, asking why you answered c instead of b.  They wont have to include copies of their results on college applications someday either.  Our eight year old was so stressed about doing well, that he made himself nauseous.

I will not miss these tests one bit!

The kids are still confused about what home school will look like.  They’ve had lots of questions;  Can we still call you mom?  Will we need a pass for the bathroom?  Who grades our papers?  Will we still get recess?  If you’re the teacher, who will be the room mother?  What about school clothes?  Will we just keep our old clothes?  Do we have to wear uniforms?  If you’re the teacher, who’s the principal?  Where do we go if we get sent to the office? (that one was from my boys)

I have explained it, but I still think that they don’t believe me.  I said, we will have a plan about the things we will learn.  We will have books, papers and projects to help us learn what we planned on.  We may do that at the table, or at a desk.  We may learn thing on the road, while we are taking a trip.  We will figure it out together, and we will have fun learning and exploring the world.  That is how it works.  With raised eyebrows, my 13 year olds says, “whats the catch?”  I think that it will take some time before it really sinks in for them.

Finishing Up

I chose to finish up the regular school year with their public school so that they have a sense of closure in some way.  I also think that starting out fresh with a new academic year just makes more sense.  This way, I hope, it doesn’t seem like they are losing anything, or missing out.  They will simply see it as starting something new.  That is the hope anyway.

For now, I continue putting things together, setting up some sort of plan, and making 8 billion photocopies.

Planning

I’ve been planning.  Planning and planning, and then doing some more planning.  I have lists and post-its everywhere, and my Pinterest might just explode.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to plan things.  I probably love planning even more than doing sometimes.  Research, lists, problem solving, coming up with ideas… ahhh, I love it.  But we are talking MAJOR life change here.  I have to get this right, or at least heading in the right direction.

This is what we have so far.

  • We will start homeschooling this fall.  The kids will finish out this school year in their public school.
  • We will be purchasing a camper so that we can hit the road for learning.
  • We have most of our curriculum for the first couple of years already picked out.
  • I plan on blogging about our experiences.
  • The whole family is excited and nervous, and ready to start.

I closed my hair salon in October so that I could focus on the kids.  We only get one life, I want it to count.  I want them to know that they count. I lost my mother when I was 29, I understand how precious every day is.  I plan on spending my days with those I love, preparing them for life in the best way that I can.  I can do hair anywhere, anytime.

My next step is to scale back our little farm.  Right now we have a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats, chickens, ducks, three miniature horses, one mammoth donkey and a pony with an attitude.  Initially, we will sell the donkey, pony, the ducks and one of the mini horses.  I will also scale back the chickens.

The search for the right camper has started.  We are between a pop-up, which would be light to pull; a small travel trailer or a class c motor home.  We have a large crew, so we need room to sleep and room to move.  I’m leaning towards pop-up, but no decisions have been made yet.

I haven’t sent my letter of intent to the school district yet, but I’m working on it.  I’ll probably wait until the end of the school year.  I want to make sure that I have everything prepared first.  If you are planning on doing this, I recommend checking with your state requirements.   I found great information here.

My hope is that our blog will not only serve as a memory book for our kids, but also as a way to help other families that want to start an epic journey of their own.