Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

I love the time between Christmas and New Years. For me it has always been a kind of quiet, contemplative time.  A time to sit in front of the fire with a much anticipated new book.  A time to reflect on the past year and reevaluate goals for the new one.

Now that the school supplies have been broken in and well used, it's a time to break open a crisp new calendar, planner and journal.  The unmarked pages lie full of hope and promise.  Perhaps a colorful new pen and some stickers and stamps with which to decorate the record of a life.  I know it will be another year where the pages of the calendar turn too quickly, the jobs in the planner will never get all crossed off, and the journal may not be written in as often as I'd like.  But just for these few nights, I will reflect, and plan, and look forward joyfully to a fresh start.

I will try to be more realistic with my goals, flexible with my plans, more disciplined in my work.

I will worry less and pray more.

I will smile until I feel like smiling.

I will try a little harder to see and serve Jesus, especially in those I don't like.

I will sacrifice some of my excess and even, sometimes, some of my necessities, so that someone else may have basic comforts of food, shelter,clothing or education.

I will try to remember to make the best of every situation I find myself in, and if possible, to have fun with it.  Even if others are determined that I should not.

I will play music, and read books, and walk in the woods.

I will share all these things with my children.

I will try to leave my little corner of the world a better place.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


And another new baby!  Here is Grazie the lamb, born on Thanksgiving Day to mama Valentine, the black South Down/Navajo Churro ewe, born on - yup - Valentine's Day.  Well, I refused to name her Thanksgiving, because that would sound too much like her fate would be the freezer, and since she is a she, that fate will be postponed indefinitely for now.  Hence the Italian version. 

I walked out to feed the animals and heard the familiar lamb cry.  After verifying that, yes, we did have a new baby, and it was from the sheep, I ran in to tell everyone and we all came out to gawk.  I have to say, I am very thankful that she is a sheep, because I am culling my entire unproductive herd of goats and starting over.  Which would not have been a problem, except that the goats are already promised away.

Maybe we should rename the Homestead, from Mrs. D's to Holiday Homestead.  Our animals seem to have a preference to those days these last couple years.  Wonder what's in store for Christmas?

For more on baby Grazie, see my Grit Reader Blog:  http://www.grit.com/Homesteading-With-Mrs-D/A-Lamb-to-Be-Thankful-For.aspx

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Cold!

We're experiencing a cold snap here in Northern Arizona.  Last week it was in the 70's during the day, dipping into the high 30's overnight.  This week, though the rain and snow seems to have passed us by on the homestead, the temps are more like 50's daytime and 20's overnight.  So the woodstove is working hard, we are getting in the last of our firewood on our wood permit, and lots of baking and canning can be done any time of day because heating up the house is now a good thing!

The winter garden is in process.  The greens and broccoli we planted last month are doing nothing.  Either too much straw over the top or too little.  The indoor plantings of mint, garlic, onions and leeks are really taking off.  The lentil sprouts are a little slow, with the cooler weather, but still supplying us with fresh green additions to our meals.  Wheat grass is growing like crazy.  Thinking about transferring some of it outside to see if it will "take".  This week's plan is to put in some peas and celery in the greenhouse.

We are working on our gray water project right now.  The bucket system has already cut down on water hauling tremendously.  Using bath water to flush and water the gardens.  Next is connecting up the hoses to divert the laundry and bath water for irrigation (not to mention cutting down on the labor of carrying the buckets outside!).  We'll see the best results from this effort once the weather warms again and we start with the spring and summer gardens, which really soak up the water.

At any rate, the holidays are upon us again, today's task is to get the pies going for Thanksgiving, which will be at the Homestead this year.  Pumpkin and double crust lemon are on the menu.  So time to put on my apron and get back in the kitchen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Precious, My Birthday Present!

Mabel the Marvelous Dancing Jersey Milk Cow endowed me with an early birthday present of soft, cuddly Dexter/Jersey bull calf. Eager to imprint my baby, in hopes of bonding and thus avoiding future confrontation, when he is 900 pounds and I am still only - never mind! I began playing with him and petting him, talking and mooing to him (cooing is for human babies - mooing is for cattle).

It took us a while to name him. My first thought was "My Precious, My Birthday Present", at which Maryruth wrinkled her nose and made gagging noises. Right. Might bode ill for the meat, anyway. If that makes no sense to you, then I can recommend some good reading and/or movies - The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - maybe you'll figure it out. If not, you'll still be seriously entertained and even better educated. Next, I suggested Daxter, at which my son, the Daxter fan, gave me a blank look and asked "Why?" So, okay, for the moment I was stumped. We did end up settling on Daxter the Dexter a few days later.

On day 2 we managed to milk Mabel and got a gallon and a half of colostrum. It didn't make much of a dent in her bag, but she looked much relieved and she sure didn't turn down the extra hay and sweet feed. She did, however, true to form, dance as we milked her. But she missed our feet, and the bucket, so we count that as victory.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Last year Maryruth gave me a bucket of worms for my garden. I planted them in one of the container beds and watered them a few times and proceeded to forget about them. When I finally did remember, I dug down and couldn't find any so I assumed I'd killed them. To my utter amazement and delight, as I was weeding the garden the other day, I unearthed some of the biggest, fattest earthworms I've ever seen (not that I've seen that many). I was so excited, I called up Maryruth and told her "I have worms, I have worms". She recommended large doses of garlic, then I explained that they were in the garden.

I also dug up a bunch of grubs, which I fed to the chickens. Grubs are great for breaking down waste, but not what I want in the garden - they eat everything. Last year I also discovered several nests of mealy worms in the carpet coverings I have on the rabbit cages. Not knowing what wonderful creatures they were, I proceeded to destroy them. Now that I want them for fishing, they haven't reappeared. Between the earthworms and the grub worms, I could still open a bait shop. At least I'll have them when we go fishing.

Earthworms, aka nightcrawlers, are one of the best things you can do for your garden. They break waste (kitchen scraps, hay, manure) down into rich compost, adding their own waste (castings) to it. But be careful though. Chemical wormers have been known to kill the little guys, so if you use them on your animals, don't put the worms in that manure. And don't put that manure on your garden until it has had at least 3-4 years to leach the chemical out of it. Nightcrawlers are economical, too. A tub of about 30-40 costs less than $3 at walmart or most bait shops. That many worms would easily proliferate in any size garden, and then there would be plenty for soil and anglers alike.

Now go get those worms!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Baby Ezra

Our new homestead calf, Ezra, was born on March 10th. Here he is at 1 day old with mama Linda, our half jersey, half dexter dairy cow. Ain't he sweet?

See more pics at my reader blog on Grit.com here: http://tinyurl.com/dl63c7.

Ezzy and Linda are actually up at Maryruth's place. He's got a collar on now and is being "socialized". That's right - he's cute as a button now, but when he gets to be 900 pounds and ready for the butcher (dexters are a miniature cattle breed), we wanna be able to get him into the trailer without us losing essential body parts. So now while he's cute, we start handling him and petting and walking him and hand feeding him so he's not wild later.

Grass raised dexter meat is so tender that even if they don't put on much fat, their sirloin steaks will melt in your mouth...mmm!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hay Girl!

(half what we'd hoped for)

For the last month and a half we've been dealing with hay issues. There's no forage left, and with the cold weather, the critters are eating more, and that means TONS, literally, of hay. So in an effort to continue enjoying luxuries such as hot running water, DSL and phone service, we had to find hay we could afford. We did, 200 miles away. Having put our hay money loyally into the local economy for the last several years, we had to perform some deferred maintenance on truck and trailer. The trailer had big issues - the goats and chickens had been playing hide and seek underneath it, so the wiring was shot. The license plate was lost the last time we loaned it out. The hitch is hideous and heavy and involves hideous, heavy stabilizer bars and chains. So I decided to borrow my neighbor's trailer.

(home sweet home, just over the mountains)

So far, so good, until I got about 10 miles out of town and the trailer bounced off. No injuries, no damage, except to my nerves. Ended up having to deal with all the problems I was trying to avoid, except the license plate thing. Then, we had to remove half the load of hay because the weight of it was pushing the fenders onto the tires. Even then, the fenders did rub a teeny bit, so the going home was very S-L-O-O-O-W. But we did finally get back with our first load of hay, and have been there and back again, with our own trusty trailer fixed, for another FULL load since, sans problems. This is a good thing, because maybe now I can catch up with all those things I've been wanting to blog about here for the last 6 weeks or so.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Meet Betty

Dare I admit it? Okay, with hand over mouth, saying it real fast so maybe you won't hear, "We got another dog". Yes, in spite of all the heartbreak of losing one dog after another the past few years, Betty arrived on Saturday. She is a lovely pit bull, the older sister of Eulalia, our latest puppy who died a few months ago. She is 18 months old, and has an appointment with the docs on Monday to be spayed and get her shots.

Betty is amazing. She responds to the slightest touch of the training lead, is not a barker or a howler, and is extremely loving. We only kept her tied for two days, because we discovered she stays inside her fenced yard area, and is quite content to be running around in there.

She also likes a good roll in the snow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Escape from Alcatraz?

(weaving the panels together with pretty blue baling twine)

I went out to feed the chickens this morning and looked up to find a gaping hole in the chicken wire. After picking my jaw up off the ground, I looked down for tracks but found none. Except my own. And I know I didn't rip a hole in the chicken coop. I counted chickens, all there. No stray feathers to indicate a kill. So something tried to get in, and luckily didn't succeed. Probably a coyote.

(my fancy repair - no more escape hatch)
Let me explain that this is a maximum security chicken coop. The henhouse door is double locked. The yard walls are 8 feet high, surrounded by 2 foot steel panels around the bottom, as a result of dog attacks several years ago. The only thing missing is the poultry netting across the top, and now that an occasional hen flies the coop, that will be next. There are a few spots where the panels of netting were not wired together, but that is done now. Too bad, it was easy access for feeding. Now I'll have to actually open the door and fight back chickens waiting to get out.

(fat, happy chickens)

So apparently a coyote took a running jump and hit the netting at about 6 feet up and ripped it open but didn't make it in. I've heard of such gymnastics, but never experienced it til now. Thanking God that that was the worst of it, and hoping it doesn't get to the point I have to camp out with the rifle to keep them away. Hope they don't start digging underground tunnels next.