Why Can’t I Live the Unexamined Life?

Finally killed one of the moles that have been destroying our yard. I feel like such a dick.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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?



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Since Last We Spoke

Where to begin?

Well so far on this farm adventure I’ve traded chickens for rabbits and half a pig for some geese. I’ve got to learn to trade things for cash someday.

After receiving my husband’s permission of course, I sent a note to a Craigslist advertiser and traded the pork for one gander and five geese. They are an awesome addition to our little homestead. They did, however, precipitate quite a struggle to prepare for their arrival. Have I mentioned that it’s been raining ALOT here? 🙂 I know I have.


I can’t think of much that is more frustrating than trying to build a fence in the rain. Except maybe trying to build a fence in the rain in soil that is 90% clay. Jeez what a pain.


And I mean constant rain. And then of course there’s always the adventure of digging in the ground on a place that’s been occupied for almost 100 years.


Because there’s a rule that no matter where you dig, that’s where the waterlines will be. Yay! More water!!


We literally were hanging the gate 30 minutes before the geese arrived. They have been worth it though. They are so pretty to watch. And within an hour of being here they gifted us with our first goose egg.


Don used it to make a pineapple upside-down cake and it was awesome. We’ve gotten three more. From what I’ve read online goose eggs are prized for baking and making pasta. Who knew?

In a total non sequitur, I had a tingly, slightly eery experience while raking rabbit poo from underneath the grow-out pen. I found this:


At first I thought it was a steak knife. When I picked it up I decided it must be a letter opener.


Upon closer inspection though it turned out to be someone’s Athame or magical knife used during Wiccan ceremonies. I am just so curious as to whom among the previous residents of this place was practicing moon magic. It’s by far more interesting than the various car parts that keep working their way out of the soil.


And finally, in a perverse f-u to the traditional farm cycle and rebirth that is spring I processed the rabbits and sent the pigs to freezer camp this weekend. The pigs dressed out at about 200 pounds each and the rabbits at about 2.2 pounds. We should be set for meat for awhile.

It’s been such an interesting experience raising animals for food. I’ve lost a lot of my Beatrix Potter view of them – there’s nothing romantic about chickens and geese mating, and rabbits and pigs can be vicious to each other – but at the same time I feel more connected to the world I am a part of. I don’t have any deep truth to share or even any insight. Mostly I wonder at the cosmic joke of a hairless ape practicing animal husbandry.