Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chickens having seizures :)

The first time I saw our chickens dusting themselves I thought they were suffering from some avian illness that caused seizures. I was sure that we were to lose our entire flock and that the USDA (or some government group that oversees food) would be descending upon our small farm to quarantine us and confiscate our dogs.

Whew! What a relief it was to find out that the chickens were just kicking up the loose soil and wallowing in it to rid their bodies of any tiny mites or insects that might have hitched an unwanted ride in their feathers. It's comical and interesting to watch. And very "not contagious".

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Growth (part 1)

 Last year we had calves on some of our pastures.

Our wonderful home was a rental for years and therefore no one really took care of the pastures. The fields have been hayed year after year but no inputs in the form of fertilizers have been applied. Consequentially, our pastures have been neglected and it shows in the grass growth. Looking across the fields is deceiving because in the spring the grass appears lush. But a closer examination reveals thin course mono-culture of orchard grass and not much else. 

The idea was to improve our pastures with grass fed animals where the animal, in this case cows,  eat the tops of the forming grasses and spread the manure in concentrated areas through paddock rotation. We would also have meat to fill our freezers. Beef calves are very expensive right now. The price of a feeder calf is in the $700-1000 range! But we have a commercial dairy within 3 miles of us. The 3 day old bull calves are very reasonable. And though they don't grow out like a beef calf might, they still produce a respectable amount of meat for the starting price. Last year we had these guys eating and pooping on our pastures all year long!

So yesterday I took a walk-about the property to see if I could detect new growth. It's very early in the season. The snow is really just now melted. And besides, I'm sure any goodness that has come from the calves will be seen in measurements of years, not months. But I couldn't help myself. 

Here's some manure from last year. It's hard to see but there is a little green just starting to show around the edges.

Up close and blurry.

It appears to be mostly grass. No clover or other forbes, yet.
But it's coming.

We will possible put more calves out on the pastures again this year. If we continue to improve our pastures a little at a time with animals, there might come a day when we will have enough thick, lush growth to feed calves in the summer and fall and still have enough pasture left over to supply at least a little hay for the winter too. 

Tiny little tulip babies just poking their heads out in the flower beds.

I know that's asking a lot from just cows and pasture rotation. 
But a girl can dream, can't she?

Next, updates on the fruit trees!

(No, the grass isn't pink. It's the camera. But I'm not going to complain. At least I have a camera!)
I am updating the look of the blog. So be patient with any weird "things" going on while I work out the kinks.

Thank you......


Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's the end of March and as per usual, the wind is blowing. It seems that March sneaks into Montana quietly, sometimes with snow, then blows herself out in blustery westerly winds. 

There's not much snow left on the ground now. And the chickens are happy to march about picking at the left over grasses and scratch at the newly emerging green.

They don't seem at bit bothered by the wind though it blows their feathers every which way. 

They do look like the wind is blowing up their skirts! 

Here's our proud rooster. He's only a year old but he takes his job very seriously. You can see that he's always got his head up watching for danger. Watching over his charges. 

Several months ago the flock was attacked by a dog. The dog, who was really still a puppy, was only playing with the chickens but to this rooster, his girls were at risk. And that is just not allowed. He got in between the dog and the hens until they were all safe. The puppy only managed to pluck off his tail feathers. 

But not one hen was wounded or ruffled or licked.
This guy is a chicken hero.
I don't think the hens even notice his lack of tail feathers.
I know I don't.

PS: I found my camera! Yippee!

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's official. I've "misplaced" my camera. Waaaa! It wasn't the most expensive camera. It was old and starting to take pictures with off color. But it was the only one I had. So the blog will just go on with old pictures from the farm until I can get a new camera. Or until I find the old.
Maybe it's in the chicken coop.....(yuck).

In honor of spring, I'm seeding more flats. I usually wait until the first week of April because if I plant too soon, the little plantlings are spindly and falling over by the time the nights are above freezing and they can be put out in the garden.

Here are some small hot pepper plants seeded in February. Peppers can be finicky so I try to start them a bit early. This way if the first plantings didn't take I have plenty of time to start over.

The sweet little yellow Hungarians haven't even poked their heads out yet. I hope they hurry. Just the thought of spicy Hungarian yellow peppers in vinegar makes my mouth water. I can't wait for planting time!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So it's snowing. 

Yes, it is just March. 

 Yes, this is Montana. 

 The snow is soft and heavy and is coming down fast. 

It's really almost raining. 

It won't stick.

The girls aren't really convinced of that. 

I shouldn't be surprised that it is still snowing. 
We could have much more snow in the coming weeks. 
I was hoping it would be an early spring and we could plant the garden soon. 

I should know better. 
This isn't my first Montana spring. 

 But it does drive me to drink.

Carrot update....Ewwww!

So I (finally) peeked into the All-Natural-Play-Sand bucket where the 10 pounds of sweet carrots were lounging until we were ready to eat them. The plan was to sample them through the winter to determine if storing carrots in sand was a viable option for winter eating. Well, to put it bluntly.....it was a bust.

There are some carrots that are partially crisp but mostly they are just slimy. I don't think there was one whole edible carrot in the entire bucket. I admit that I didn't look at them until yesterday so the bucket might have become so cold that the carrots froze in the sand. But I don't think so. None of the other food we have stored next to the carrot bucket froze and those other items are not protected in sand. For whatever reason this experiment just didn't work for us.

So, going forward, if we want carrots through the winter I will probably just pressure can them in quart jars. I love canning so this isn't a hardship. However, it does take time and resources. I was hoping that we could store the carrots raw. But further research will have to be completed before we can store them raw. Stay tuned. 

(Hmmm. Now what am I going to do with #50 of slimy-carrot-All-Natural-Play-Sand?)

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I love geraniums. Especially red ones. They just scream summer. 

These I've had for a long time. I think I bought the original "mother plant" back in 2012. And each year just before first first hard frost, I dig them out of their summer home and bring them in the house.

They live happily on this south facing window sill for all the winter months.

Then in March, I take cuttings of some of the branches and root them in water.

By May the new cuttings have put out enough roots to go into the soil and become mother plants themselves; a self perpetuating action.

I love geraniums.

They're so Tuscan.

Maybe we live in the Tuscan part of Montana. :) 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Garden with 3 feet of snow. Still.

Hurry spring.
I'm hungry.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Goodnight, Moon

Goodnight moon.......

Goodnight cow jumping over the moon....

Goodnight light....

Goodnight bears.....

Goodnight little house....

Goodnight nobody......

Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight noises everywhere
                        thank you Margaret Wise Brown