The Dark Side

The blood of a thousand blackberries cannot quench my thirst!!! Muwahahaha!

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Where I Admit I’m Not Perfect

So yeah.

The other day Don found this really great sectional on Craigslist for this really great price. Unfortunately, in order to get it we had meet the people at 6pm on a Sunday. Some of you may not know this but 6pm on a Sunday is when those of us on the West Coast can watch the East Coast broadcast of Game of Thrones. AND this particular Sunday was the season premiere. I was inappropriately peeved by this – I limit my t.v. time, not because I believe t.v. is bad for you and sucks away your intellect and generally drives culture down the drain (which I do mostly believe) but because I have to be up at the buttcrack of dawn in order to be at my desk at work by 5:45 a.m. each morning. And no, there is no legitimate reason for me to be a work that early, it’s just a rule, a stupid rule.

Anywhooooo….

Because of my inappropriate peevishness and my desire to return to my comfy couch as soon as possible I might not have secured certain parts of the sectional as well as I should have. “Surely that won’t blow out” were my exact words.

Well…

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This is what the corner piece looked like when we got home. Dammit.

Was all hope lost? The manwife certainly thought so. AND the worst part about the whole thing was he was upset because he upset me. It’s just not fair loving someone because you can’t be a jerk when they’re sorry you’re being a jerk and some such and so on. Long story short, I HAD to make this right. I told him to look and see if he could find a replacement piece online and I would see what I could do with this disaster.

Well, turns out I’m not a total loser. Because…

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I dug through my scrap wood pile, put on my creative cap and FIXED IT! It took me three days of doing nothing else after work but I don’t think there are many sets of three other days in my past that were spent so well. There are things you can gloss over in a marriage and this might’ve been one of them but I think I was skirting pretty close to the line. Did I mention that the amount of peevishness I expressed was inappropriate?

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I was really surprised there was such a small amount of damage to the leather itself because this baby was literally rolling down the highway at 45 miles per hour. Those scuffs you can see plus a few right at the top of the back are all there were. Currently they are hidden pretty well just by putting the whole thing together. We are looking at leather repair kits online to actually fix them. And a good thing we are too because…

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Not only is it real leather and a stunning piece of furniture, when we actually looked at the tag we were kinda flabbergasted. This sofa was made in Italy in 2005 – literally the tag says made in Italy in 2005 – and when we looked up comparable pieces on the manufacturer’s website they ranged from $5k to $10k. We picked it up for $300.

I try not to be too much of a putz because every time I do it just bites me in the ass.

Karma.

There Are Days

There are days like today when I am glad that this little farm is really just a hobby. When I got home from work this afternoon I was just bushed and so I did the bare minimum to keep everyone happy and alive. I put the cow up and got her some hay to go with her evening sweet feed, gathered eggs, hauled manure out to the compost pile, put a load of thistle in the burn pile, and made sure everyone had water.

Sounds like a lot but it really only takes about half an hour – but still, it’s stuff that cannot be put off… or I might’ve put it off.

If this were a “real farm” I would be out yet again working on the baler I recently purchased.

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Ain’t she a beauty? We had such a time finding someone willing to bale our little hay patch that I decided next year we will bale our own. This is an International Harvester 45 baler with a McCormick knotter. Best I can tell, it was manufactured in the early 1950s. It actually does work. I’ve been polishing the bill hook and replacing the knives and trying to get the timing just right. Square balers really are Rube Goldberg machines and I’ve been chasing 1/32 of an inch for days. Yesterday I got one of the knotters just almost perfect and I think a couple more adjustments to the other will complete the job. The best part about this old baler (and really, old implements in general) is that it was designed to run behind a 21 horse tractor or larger so my little 33 horse Kubota runs it no problem.

I also bought a New Holland side delivery rake.

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This piece works just as is and does a pretty good job too. I convinced the guy doing our hay to let me rake it for him.

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It was fun. Those are my first windrows! I think they’re perfect windrows! 😉

We wound up with somewhere between 3 and 4 tons of hay off our little 3.5 acre pasture. Not record-setting but still respectable I think. If I can get this old John Deere No. 5 mower rehabbed over the winter we’ll be able to cut, rake, AND bale. Woo-hoo!

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Ok so enough about my burgeoning hay operation. What else have we been up to since last we spoke?

We managed to catch two swarms of bees! I think one was from our own hives but I believe the other was a wild swarm. I have to admit that shaking bees down out of the trees while you’re standing underneath is a little bit surreal…

But also oddly exciting! Now we have 4 hives going. They all seem to be doing well.

We also (finally!) got the house painted! Yay!

I honestly did not realize how much nicer it would be to come home to. We used an airless paint sprayer and we would’ve been done in one weekend except your’s truly managed to toss out a little, itty-bitty part of the spray nozzle with the wash water. We spent the next week with a half-painted house waiting on the replacement. Still, I would not paint with a roller or brush again, at least on the outside. The sprayer was so easy to learn to use and the speed – heaven, just heaven.

What else, what else? I processed our meat chickens. I say “I” because when we moved out here Don informed me in no uncertain terms that he would not be involved with any slaughtering, hahaha, and so far, I’ve managed to live up to our agreement. We rented this setup from our local conservation district for $20 (less the gorgeous table, that’s my creation) and the job went surprisingly smoothly.

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The plucker is miraculous but I have to tell you, I think the real secret is the scalder. It keeps the water at 146.5 degrees and you can dunk five birds at once.

I was very pleased with our harvest. Each bird weighed about 5.5 pounds and we put 50+ pounds of chicken in the freezer.

And I am happy to confirm that they taste wonderful. Unlike the rabbits, we had no problem eating these.

And that my friends is all… I think. 🙂

Thank you for letting me ramble on in these sporadic posts.

Tilly Update

Tilly was not doing so great when she joined us here on the farm. Part of it was the fact that she was shedding a winter coat but she was also underweight and bald in spots.

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Had I seen her in person before committing to buy her I probably would’ve passed. But that’s what you get when you buy on a Facebook group – shame on me. But I would’ve also missed out on a very lovely, docile cow. We’ve had her just 17 days and I have to say the change so far is just short of phenomenal.

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We gave her a couple doses of pour on pesticide (Ivomec) and the vet gave her a 7 way shot (and said she’s probably twice as old as we were told) but I think the most important thing was a mineral block in her stall. The first week she was here she just attacked that thing. There are chunks missing from it where she chewed on it – cows don’t have upper teeth in the front of their mouths so you can imagine how hard she was working on it.

We also slip her a quart of sweet cob each night when we put her up. 😉

In fairness to the lady we bought her from, she was as honest as she could be about the cow. By that I mean that I choose to believe, and really do believe that she shared what she thought was true about Tilly’s age and was as up front about her condition as she could be based on her knowledge of cows.

She will probably never be a stellar cow but that’s okay. She’s helping me get over my fear of large animals and she’s just right as a house cow. We will eventually see if we can breed her and start milking but even if that doesn’t work we will at least have this experience.

And what price can you put on scenes like this?

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Spring

The sun has finally decided to shine here in the soggy Pacific Northwest and it feels wonderful. I just thought I would share some of the stuff we’ve been up to while I’ve neglected to write.

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We built some raised beds. We planted asparagus in two of them and some potatoes that we had left over from last year in the other two. The asparagus is making a straggling start but the potatoes are going gangbusters. The potatoes were an unplanned exercise in seed-saving. I didn’t even think about it until I was checking plants today but we grew those potatoes last year and now we’re growing a new crop. Awesome!

We also got two new Langstroth hives going. I added another deep box to each one yesterday. They seem to be going strong. The different hives make it much easier to check their progress. So far no signs of Varroa mites. Knock on wood. I also discovered (thank you YouTube) that punk wood makes a most excellent smoker fuel. Punk wood is that spongy, rotten wood you find on the forest floor, the kind you can crumble in your hand. Pick it up, put in the barn somewhere and let it dry. Smolders forever.

We’ve been walking in the woods a little this spring – mostly because it’s been too soppy to do anything else – and it’s always an adventure. The pink flower above and the berry below it are wild raspberry. The mass of golden flowers is Oregon Grape. So far I’ve not been able to beat the wildlife to the ripe fruit but I’m going to keep an eye on them this year and see if I can finally taste them.

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I got a wild hair (hare?) and decided to try carving a goose egg. The only tool I have is a $9 Dremel knockoff from Harbor Freight but it was still fun and a hobby I’m thinking of continuing.

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Speaking of goose eggs, ours are finally starting to hatch. We’ve got three goslings so far. I don’t know how many will actually hatch because the two geese that sat decided to sit on the same nest. If you can get used to the noise I would say that geese are probably the easiest, cheapest livestock we’ve tried so far. The vast majority of their diet is grass and they basically keep themselves. We built them a shelter but they only used it for nesting. They certainly don’t mind being out in the rain. We’ll see how it goes when winter rolls around.

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And finally, this little lady showed up today. This is Tilly the cow. She’s a four year old Jersey. She’s open and dry, meaning she’s not pregnant and not giving milk. That’s okay. I wanted to have her for a while before breeding her.

I can’t believe we have a cow!!

She’s halter trained and also pickets which is good because our fences are still not complete. Next week I will use electric fence to make her a paddock off the barn so she doesn’t have to be tethered all the time. Although, I must say there is something romantic about staking out a small house cow and moving her throughout the day. It’s one of those rosy, probably not too real, romantic images from the past.

Did I say I can’t believe we have a cow?! Well I can’t! 🙂

I think that’s it for now. Waiting for Tilly’s arrival today has just about worn me out.

I hope you are all doing well.

-J

Eggs Must Be Gathered

Despite all the chaos in the world eggs must still be gathered. Seeds must still be planted. Wood must still be cut and joy can still be found.

Even when I can’t find the energy to write in my farm journal the coop must still be cleaned and the grass mown. I still find the pink blooms of wild raspberries on my walks in the woods and I still wait with piquant anticipation on the arrival of goslings.

This weekend will extend the berry bed to enclose the new gooseberry and currant plants. We will buy and install bird netting because birds don’t follow politics.

The elk still appear on my morning drive to work.

I am so thankful for the things that must be done, they pull me up and away from the steady stream of bad news. They don’t replace the needful drumbeat of action but they temper, somehow, the berserker urge – like a large anchor on a small tempest tossed boat.