the FiddleSong Farm blog

Thanksgiving 2011

Giving Thanks....

What a lovely Thanksgiving celebration we had! Our feast was tasty, the company was fun and cheerful, and we played outside with the animals. We had beautiful clear weather, and the fall colors were GORGEOUS!

We are grateful for our abundant blessings....
 


Thursday, October 27, 2011
LOVELY October!


We are experiencing a wonderful warm October this year! It has been in the high 70’s during the days and down to a misty 45 at night. The air is scented with the smoke of wood fires and burning pine needle piles. The light falls at a steeper angle and the shadows turn purple. It feels like fall.

 

My garden is still doing pretty well and my new bed is ready for the onions, which should be arriving at the nursery in a couple of weeks. I learned from my Farmer’s Market friend Robert that I was not watering them enough, so I am excited to try my hand again. I have some greenhouse lettuces coming on, along with a few that I planted out in the “chicken free” zone. My cabbages are doing great surrounded by their little fence covered with snap peas. My broccoli have been devastated by chicken blight ~ you know, it is that thing that happens to them when you take their cages off to weed the bed and then TURN YOUR BACK for a ½ hour. On the other hand, that hen must be REALLY healthy, because broccoli leaves are filled with lovely vitamins and minerals.

The apples are getting bigger and I can’t wait to sample the Arkansas Blacks. This is the first year for this new little tree to bear and there are only four or five fruits. I fantasize about planting a whole orchard of fruit trees up on the hill. It would be a challenge to keep the critters out of them, but how pretty it could be!

 


All is well at FiddleSong Farm!

 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Meet a real Cowboy Artist....

 

Every summer Ron Scofield and his wife Marie put on weekend barbeques showcasing old-time cowcamp entertainment under the stars at the Red Mule Ranch in Fiddletown, California. Guests enjoy a chuck wagon tri-tip dinner and cowboy music, poetry, and story telling in an 1880's setting.
I was thrilled to meet Cowboy Artist Ron Scofield at the Fiddler's Jam. He had set up his artwork for sale in the Cowboy Church in Fiddletown.  The Cowboy Church is an old saloon, the perfect venue for this interesting gentleman and his wonderful depictions of life in the Old American West. I almost drooled over his pen and ink drawings of mule trains, and cattle drives, and his oils were painterly and lovely. Most of all, I enjoyed comparing the art experience with him. Ron and I seemed to strike a chord when we were chatting about the excitement we felt when a painting or drawing began to take on a life of it's own, and how it feels like God steps in and finishes. I met a kindred spirit, and I am looking forward to seeing him again soon. Perhaps at a Cowboy Campfire at the Red Mule Ranch!
There are prints offered for sale on his website: scofieldscowboycampfire.com

"Art sweeps away from the soul the dust of everyday life"...Pablo Picasso

  
Monday, September 19, 2011


Fiddletown Fiddlers' Jam


Saturday was the 60th Anniversary of the Fiddlers' Jam.  Rick and I moseyed down the hill to have a peek and a listen. It has been a few years since we have last gone, and I won't miss another one!  It was a fun opportunity to visit with neighbors, explore this little Gold Rush town, and listen to some genuine hill country music.


I couldn't help but think "Jenna should be here!!"

 

Extended Roots is an all gal group that demonstrates their passion for the music of America's roots. 
Their beautiful music made my angels sing!!


Here is a sample of the nice crowd that gathered...

 

Sage's Body Care offers an excellent assortment of yummy soaps and lotions!  Wonderful products, nice people :)

Now, I freely admit that I was already a fan of fiddle songs :) I love hearing the old folk songs, hoe downs and waltzes. They just feel like my kind of music. They make my heart swell and tears come to my eyes. As I wandered down the middle of Fiddletown Road, I had a strong sense of belonging that I have not felt before. We have lived in this small community for nine years, and this is the first time it truly felt like home.

....next year there will be a FiddleSong Farm booth :) See you there!?

 

Sunday, September 13, 2011


NO coyotes, but BIG thunderstorms....


I haven't seen a coyote since my last post, so I am starting to relax my vigil. Was it scary me running up the hill yelling with my pack and my brave goat Bella? Or was it the unmistakable "marking of the territory" by Jack?  Or did it just get smart and decide to leave the crazy lady's chickens alone? Unknown.  I love a mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hen proof lettuce bed :)

Last weekend was a good one for gardening. I watered like mad on Sunday, because everything was thirsty.  Then Sunday evening we had a noisy thunderstorm and it rained nearly all night.  It was GREAT! I pruned and chopped weeds and planted some cabbages and peas. I cleaned out my greenhouse and reorganized, then I filled two flats with herb cuttings. I spent five minutes lamenting the failure of my pumpkin plants this cold, wet spring, but vowed to plant EXTRA next year. We are still enjoying our excellent green beans from the first row, and the second row is already trying to bloom!  I have decided to try and save some bean seeds for next spring, I'll let you know how that goes. The tomatoes are EXCELLENT this year.  My favorites are German Queen and Pink Brandywine.  The German Queen is a solid beef steak type with hardly any seeds.
Both have rich, old fashioned flavor.

I am considering expanding my veggie beds.  You  know what that means?  I would be taking out several established beds of ornamentals.  I like to transplant, and usually have good success if I wait until the fall. I will definitely need to fence it with hen proof fencing :) 
I have to figure out a better choice for my garden paths, though.  The gravel is pretty but it requires too much maintenance!  Thinking about a new scarecrow, it is almost that time...

...FiddleSong Farm is anticipating autumn....


Saturday, September 3, 2011


The hens held hostage....day 5...


In order to thwart the hunting efforts of that sneaky coyote, I have been keeping the chickens penned up every day. I was out pretty early watering this morning and by 9 I was feeling hungry for breakfast.  I put down my hose and went inside, and popped an English muffin into the toaster. I heard goats snorting in alarm. I turned and saw that coyote creeping down the hill toward Little Crow, our bantam hen.
Now Little Crow and I have an understanding.  I leave her alone, and she will continue to live at FiddleSong Farm.  She heartily and VOCALLY disapproves of egg stealing, and she gets to pick where she roosts. She can fly like a quail, so she has the run of the farm, and she loves heirloom tomatoes, thank you so much.  There is no controlling Little Crow. But I LOVE that hen.
When I saw that coyote after her, the hair stood up on the back of my neck!  I ran out the front door and yelling for the dogs, ran full speed down the path and burst through the gate. Little Crow ran unharmed into the barn, right betwen the legs of highly alarmed goats. "GET THAT COYOTE!!!!" I yelled to the dogs. We all ran up the hill. "GET HIM, GET HIM, GET HIM!!!" Jack was slow, because he didn't want to leave me, but Sheila saw that varmint and streaked up the hill barking!  Tilly got into it too, although she looked like she was barking at Sheila. The coyote shot under the fence and took off, while Jack ran along and peed on all the fence posts. So helpful :) As I finally arrived at the crest of the hill, I was surrounded by three excited barking Aussies and.....a goat.  Bella, my favorite doe of the day, had left the security of the herd and followed me up that hill as fast as she could.  There she was, standing calmly at my side amid a pack of three jumping, snarling, barking dogs, looking across the road trying to catch a glimpse of the departing coyote.

I have given her an extra helping of grain and a well deserved new title....

 

...Bella the Brave
Posted by Unknown at 9:04 PM No comments:  
Labels: coyote, goats, hens
Friday, September 2, 2011
goat sustainability....


Tonight, I am dreaming of fresh sweet milk, creamy goat cheese and warm snugly newborn kids.  And I am dreading telling Rick that today I placed an ad for "Goats for sale" in the Buy N' Sell. I have been thinking that I need to slim my herd down, to make room in the barns, and to shrink our feed bill.  With hay being $15 and more all summer, it is a necessity. So today, I made a list of who was staying and who was going. :(

When we decided to invest in this herd in the beginning, the whole idea was to make the goats help support themselves and the farm.  In lots of ways, they are already doing that, but now we want to take it to the next level.  Sustainability is about balance and efficiency. It's about making it work. The goats produce rich, creamy milk. The goatberries feed the garden which feeds us and also the chickens. The chickens give us fresh eggs and (maybe someday) meat for the table. To have the milk, you must breed the does.  When the kids come along, they are sold to new homes.  RIGHT!?

OK, I think I have convinced myself. Now if I could just keep myself from adopting any more cats....

 

Posted by Unknown at 9:03 PM 2 comments:  
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Coyotes BEWARE!


This morning just as I was slipping on my sandals, and getting ready to head out on my way to work, I heard a funny noise, turned and saw Rick moving faster than I have ever seen him move. He rushed out the front door yelling for Jack, our big Aussie. I KNEW there was something wrong and I started after him, my brain working in such high gear that everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.
"WHAT IS IT?"  I yelled. 
"Coyote!" he said as he hustled right down the path to the barn. The hair on the back of my neck raised, and I shifted into a higher gear as I chased him down the path! As I burst through the gate leading to the "Back 4", Rick had stopped and was looking up the hill.  I was counting goat heads. "Bella, Hummingbird, Whimsy, Zip, Honey......" my heart was pounding as I expected the worst.
Rick said, "Darn thing got one of your chickens."  I looked up the hill just in time to see a fuzzy pair of ears disappearing over the rise.
"You are sure that was a coyote?" I asked.
"Yup," he said, "I saw it happen."  He turned and looked back at me with a sad look.  He knew how much I treasured my flock. He said "What were you going to do with that?"
I was very surprised to see my wicked sharp pitch fork in my hand. I must have grabbed it as I ran down the path. There I was, wearing my nice work clothes and sandals, with my hair and makeup all done, holding a pitch fork.  I was a little embarrassed.
"Well", I said sheepishly, "I guess I was going to kill the heck out of something."

All of us who have the care of a herd or flock know that feeling of protective instinct.  It is a powerful, primitive feeling, and people have been protecting their livestock for hundreds of years. (Yes, even with pitchforks :) On my drive to work , I thought about my forebears, and how hard they worked to carve their living from the land. My own Granny had a wonderful garden and hens on four acres until she was well into her nineties, and only gave them up after a nasty fall that she never quite recovered from. She had climbed up a ladder to turn on the irrigation water from a standpipe.  She only fell because that rickety old ladder broke. Granny gave me my first mama hen and chicks when I was just 13, and loved to tell me stories from her farm and how the fox or raccoon had gotten a hen or favorite rooster. She lived to be 97. She would have LOVED that I am living such a similar lifestyle.  It was largely her experiences that created in me the drive to live the farm life. Granny would have been very proud of my green beans.
For now, I am considering buying a 22.  Then, look out coyotes, you just might wind up with a bullet in your butt!

...armed and DANGEROUS!!!
Posted by Unknown at 8:29 PM 1 comment:  
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Hot August days

This weekend has turned out surprisingly HOT!  Yesterday, I wilted after watering and collecting eggs, and spent the rest of the day learning how to make zucchini chips in the dehydrator. (Yes, it can be done :) Rick is spending this weekend installing another new window. We are going to have the best lookin' cabin in Fiddletown.
My Black-eyed Susans have never looked better!  They are one of the easiest plants to grow up here, and I let them grow wherever they decide to sprout up...



...one of my other favorites are Purple Cone Flowers.  Not as freely self-sowing as the Susans, but they never fail to bloom, even when they have skimpy sunshine. The bumbles and butterflies love them, too, and they keep producing their gorgeous blooms right into the fall.



Our newest FiddleSong team member is 'SkippyJon Jones'!  Anyone who has read that wonderful children's book will recognize the attitude.  He is a bright, fun loving little guy who just walked to the farm after spending a couple of days alone in the woods, and made himself at home. "Whew" he seemed to say, "glad I finally made it." The dogs LOVE him, the Grandchildren love him, and the other cats tolerate him.


SkippyJon Jones.  Welcome home!
Posted by Unknown at 3:13 PM 1 comment:  
Location: Amador, California, USA
Thursday, August 25, 2011
....tasty, homey, simple....


On Sunday morning, I sanded the pine plank countertop on the kitchen island.  It was feeling kind of sticky and I had been wanting to do it for quite a while. It took 1 hour to finish, and about two more hours to clean up the sawdust mess. But it turned out GREAT!  Now I just need to seal it with a coat of mineral oil....  


...then in the afternoon it was time to attend to my garden chores.  I gave everything a good drink and found that my Baccicia beans needed picking. THESE are the best beans ever!  They are tender and flavorful. Even Rick likes them :)


Now, if I could just keep those pesky hens out of the garden....

....the best things in life are the simple things.
Posted by Unknown at 8:40 PM No comments:  
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Organic pest control!

 


I was hand watering a few plants this morning while it was cool and comfortable.  While admiring a nice potted red bud tree, I looked up and noticed some chewed leaves. "What the heck??" I said. "Something is eating you!"  As I looked a little closer I saw a few plump caterpillers munching away.  When they saw me they froze~ pretending to be twigs. "Yeah, right. If you don't move, I can't see you...." So I went and found a bucket and started picking them off the leaves, one by one. The more I looked, the more I found, and I patiently dropped each one into the bucket.    
      


    I don't ordinarily let insects in the garden bother me. I strongly believe in the natural order of things. They may make a few ragged edges and sometimes they can be bothersome, but for the most part, I leave them alone. In fact I enjoy seeing the balance of nature in progress. But these guys can eat literally EVERY leaf on a small tree like this. So I collected every one that I could find, feeling a little guilty, but determined to save my tree from further damage.
"Well, the hens need protein, don't they?" I said to myself.  I dumped the bucket full of wigglers into the coop and BOY did they love the treat!!


FiddleSong Farm hens LOVE their protein :)

 

Posted by Unknown at 1:40 PM No comments:  
Monday, July 11, 2011
Day Lily days


With all the late spring rains, my garden is exploding with color! I have planted several varieties of day lilies over the years and just LOVE their clusters of huge, bright blooms.  Now, I have to find other places to plant them out in the yard. Problem is, if Lucy has access they will be cool, comfy cushions for her big pig butt.
My next problem to solve is how to cut down on watering waste and time.  Rick says he has enough old hoses to "reach to Fiddletown" so I aim to fashion those old leakies into a sturdy soaker sytem by laying out the hoses and punching holes in the places where I need the water to leak :) THEN Rick will hook them up to the automatic timers and we'll be in the money!
Posted by Unknown at 8:40 PM 2 comments:  
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Madi sighting!

Madison came for a weekend visit, and BOY did we have fun!  We had a delicious BBQ at great Grammy and Grampy's house.  We found lots of treasures to look at, even a Mary Poppins umbrella :)
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Soapy piggy!

Lucy received a nice pig shower on Sunday morning. Madi was the BEST grape applicator. Grandpa Rick said "Amazing!"
Posted by Unknown at 7:47 PM No comments:  
Goat hugs...

Goat friends are good to find!  Ones that hug...priceless!
Posted by Unknown at 7:44 PM No comments:  
Summertime!

Madi digs for worms and makes new friends, Dude the goat and Oscar de la Hoya the rooster. We had SO much fun!
Posted by Unknown at 7:41 PM No comments:  
Saturday, April 16, 2011
...growing, GROWING, GROWING!!!!

I am so thrilled with the new greenhouse!  Look at those veggies GROW! These four large galvanized tubs are filled with rich potting soil, then planted with tomatoes, eggplants, squash, cucumbers and lettuce. I also planted some sweet allysum to encourage some beneficial insect visits as soon as the weather warms enough. The tubs are holding the moisture well so far.

 On the right side, more tomatoes (heirlooms) paired with a variety of peppers, and more lettuce.  The little three inch peat pots are planted with several kinds of seeds including some cilantro, peas, summer squash. They are starting to sprout now, but are still small.

Here is one of my big mixed planters.  I wonder if the squash will require more water than the tomato will, so this is an experiment. I know that eggplants and tomatoes grow well together :)

Tomorrow I will plant my little celery starts.  I tried some last year, but I really neglected them.  This year I will try harder!

It smells rich and sweet inside, it smells like spring!
We are one step closer to self~sufficiency...
Posted by Unknown at 8:08 PM 3 comments:  
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Early morning greenhouse...

The new greenhouse handled the snow beautifully!  My tomato starts, cucumbers and eggplants were snug and warm, and the humidity inside made it downright balmy. Buddy the Barn Cat says, "HEY, I like hanging out in here!"
Posted by Unknown at 8:43 PM 1 comment:  
Snow AGAIN!

On Thursday we received a gift of beautiful fluffy snow!  We had about six inches in places, but it was nice powdery fluff, not much moisture, and it disappeared quickly.  This view shows Lucy's Pig Palace.  Lucy does not like the snow.

Posted by Unknown at 8:39 PM No comments:  
Monday, April 4, 2011
New Greenhouse!
We found this 8'x6' greenhouse at Lowes.  It has a nice sturdy frame and two doors for lots of ventilation. It took about an hour to assemble :)

 


Little Crow gives her approval!  So far I have planted tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and squash. I will add peppers when I can find some.


Here is the garden,  ready to plant :)
Posted by Unknown at 7:41 PM No comments:  
Red Hen says....

"Do I look pretty with my leg up like this?"

The garden was the main focus this weekend.  I planted some lettuce and beets, some swiss chard seeds, some brussels sprouts, bought a new greenhouse....YES!!!

Posted by Unknown at 7:15 PM No comments:  
Friday, April 1, 2011
It's Spring!!

The day Rick proposed to me, he was seated on a garden bench surrounded by yellow buttercups. 
Every time I see the buttercups blossom, I will remember.
Posted by Unknown at 9:41 PM 1 comment:  
Frog Song
All of a sudden, it's spring!  Tonight as I write, the frogs are croaking wildly out in Pig Squeak Creek. They sound much bigger than the little tree frogs I usually hear.  The tree frogs are staying on the other side of the road , and these bigger frogs have taken over FiddleSong Farm territory. These bigger guys are not bull frogs (Shaun would know what they are.) Sudden noises or movements make them quiet, but they seem to love the sound of a Harley.  Go figure :) 
Every morning the birds wake me.  They are getting earlier and more musical every day.  In the evening, the robins sing until dark.  There is no better place to live in the entire world. Will I feed the hummingbird hoard this year?
Posted by Unknown at 9:40 PM No comments:  
Sunday, March 27, 2011
New kitchen window :)

Shhhh, it didn't snow OR rain today.
On Saturday, Rick and I went down to Jackson to Lowes. It rained. We chose and bought a new kitchen window. Then Rick the Super Handy man installed it.

The hens say it is ALMOST spring at FiddleSong Farm.
Posted by Unknown at 4:29 PM No comments:  
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
....more chicken scratches...


It has been rainy for YEARS.
Chickens hate mud.  They detest it.  It sticks to their toes and forms little mud toe balls.  If you are a Cochin, it sticks to your leg feathers.  You cannot take a decent dust bath when it is muddy.


Houdini hardly crows on dreary days, and he takes his hens to roost early.


The two Barred Rock sisters are very aggressive "scratchers", and easily adapt to change, and even they grouse and grumble in rainy weather. "What exactly are we supposed to DO in this stuff?"  NOBODY lays an egg.


I am SO READY for spring.
Posted by Unknown at 7:50 PM 1 comment:  
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Chicken scratches....
Today was the only sunny day we have had for almost 2 weeks.  So you know what that means?  Time to get hay. So I dashed out of the office at five, and headed to Jackson to my favorite place to shop,
The Feed Barn.

  What a great business these folks do! I spend a LOT on feed there, plus they have a good selection of vet supples. They have a very good selection of all animal feeds. They have fencing and feeding equipment and hardware. They offer a nice line of tack and western wear for all ages.  And in the spring they offer several varieties of chicks for sale.  OMG, I know some of you may understand what a challenge it is to go in and buy hay when you REALLY want a box full of new peeps! What is it about those little fluffs that is so exciting to me?  Anyway, today I just bought hay....


...but I had to stop to admire these three lovely hand crafted chicken coops! I said to myself  "I have to take some pics of these for Rachel to see, she'll go wild!"


This was the largest and is about 4' x 8'....MAN, wouldn't this look cute in my yard?
I mean in RACHEL's yard!???  :)


I am fascinated by the workings of such things, I have to look at all the hardware and open and close all the doors...these all have hinged lids for the nest boxes, the wire work is nicely finished and the craftsmanship is very fine. So this time, I came home with four bales of hay. Next week? Who knows? I'll keep you posted!

All is well at FiddleSong Farm...
Posted by Unknown at 8:39 PM 2 comments:  
Sunday, March 20, 2011
...it's Spring?!


"Hey, Rick, this is your neighbor Cecil.  Did you guys know there is a tree across your fence?  Looks like your goats could get out."  The message was left on our voice mail.  Thank heaven for good neighbors :)

We had a surprise snow storm that started Friday and has not let up since. It was a surprise because the weather lady said the snow was going to be "up around the 5000' level."  Uh huh.  (I TOLD you they are just guessing.) We had 6 inches in the first hour ~ just enough to make the roads ugly. Then Saturday it snowed and melted all day, until sundown, then a HOWWWWWLING wind kicked up and lasted until about 4 am Sunday morning  I know, because I was awake listening to it.
I kept thinking, "Boy, it is a good thing I didn't get that greenhouse put up yet...." We rarely get high winds in our area.
The good news is that the tree that took out our fence was from across the road :) The snow had been washed away for the most part by the time I got up.  So then we had squish.  You know mud mixed with slush = squishy, slimy, squelchy slippery. Give me nice firm snow any day.


Pig Squeak Creek (River?)

So Rick and I hauled on our boots and heavy jackets and trekked up the hill to look at THE DAMAGE. Oh good, more fence mending. I found the broken section. As I stood and waited for Rick to return from his inspection of the rest of the property, the snow continued to fall. It is quiet in our woods.  As I rested and waited, the wild birds started to come out of their hiding places and busily began their hunting and exploring.  There was a Towhee, several Juncos and a warbler of some sort. These happy winged people didn't mind that it was snowing and cold.  They busily checked every leaf and twig, their soft chirps and cheerful trills filled up the silence of the snowy forest. Soon, it will be time for nesting and rearing chicks.  Soon, the snow and rain will make way for lush spring growth, green and fragrant. The trees will flower and leaf....soon!
It is snowing again, but Spring is coming, I can't wait!


Pig Squeak Creek (River?)

So Rick and I hauled on our boots and heavy jackets and trekked up the hill to look at THE DAMAGE. Oh good, more fence mending. I found the broken section. As I stood and waited for Rick to return from his inspection of the rest of the property, the snow continued to fall. It is quiet in our woods.  As I rested and waited, the wild birds started to come out of their hiding places and busily began their hunting and exploring.  There was a Towhee, several Juncos and a warbler of some sort. These happy winged people didn't mind that it was snowing and cold.  They busily checked every leaf and twig, their soft chirps and cheerful trills filled up the silence of the snowy forest. Soon, it will be time for nesting and rearing chicks.  Soon, the snow and rain will make way for lush spring growth, green and fragrant. The trees will flower and leaf....soon!
It is snowing again, but Spring is coming, I can'

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me.


Sunday, November 7, 2010
Piggy Sandwich?

Pork Burger?

Maybe a PIG in a blanket? No, it's Lucy snuggled in a pile of fluffy dog beds! Yesterday, I swept off the front porch before the rain started, piling these three dog beds in the corner. Clever Lucy is always thinking of her personal comfort, and decided to try something new.  Well, she liked it so much she was there most of the day :)

"These may have been comfortable if they were velvet." 


 
Posted by Unknown at 1:16 PM 1 comment:  
Monday, November 1, 2010
Missing hen?


Tonight, I ran out to close the hen house between innings of the World Series
(which my Giants won! YEAH!!!)
I have developed the habit of counting heads. On occasion, one or two hens may not make it back into the yard for one reason or another and we have racoons, fox, opossums, mountain lions, AND coyotes, all of which relish a fresh chicken dinner.  You don't want be out exposed at night if you are born a chicken.
"One big, black rooster, two silver cochins, three barred rocks, one red hen, one, two, three black cochins....THREE!?"  One black cochin was missing!  I ran back into the house for a big flashlight.  I checked outside the back fence, no chickens there.  I checked in the doe barn--no chicken. I opened the buck barn and looked under every straw--NOPE.  I looked all around the perimeter of the garden--NO CHICKEN!  "OK, don't panic. THINK. Where was the chicken the last time you saw her?  In the hen house?"  OK, I went back to the hen house with my big, powerful flashlight and counted heads again."One rooster, two silver cochins, three barred rocks, one red hen, one, two, three black cochins....THERE!"
Just as my light found the last hen, the missing hen's head poked out as if to say "HEY, we're trying to rest here!" Two black hens were stuffed into one nest box!

Tonight all is well at FiddleSong Farm....

 

 

Posted by Unknown at 8:43 PM 1 comment:  
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Howdy, happy October!

The 2010 FiddleSong Scarecrow
Posted by Unknown at 9:07 PM 1 comment:  
Ten Goat Challenge
Admittedly, I don’t have a perfect set up yet for my does. My barn design needs some work. I have four good sized stalls that have doors, and I usually allow everyone to comingle. But sometimes, there are issues with the critters. Here is a good example of this problem:
Monday evening I arrived home after a HECK-ISH day at work around 6:00. It was already getting dark, and Rick had already had his dinner, so I decided to feed my stock before eating my meal. I turned on the big yard light, and the lights came on inside the barn.

I have seven does and three kids and one wether in this barn. (Yes, I know, I can count too, and that equals eleven. I’ll get to that.) I had put a can full of grain into a bucket up by the hay barn, so the three kids could “help” me feed. I let them out of their barn and they will follow me around until they get to the bucket, then all three are wrestling each other for the grain. This usually keeps them busy for a few minutes, but this Monday HAD to be different. I was tired and cranky, my head hurt, and I was hungry so I had very little patience.
Mistake one --I tried to carry two flakes of hay at once. When I pushed open the door to the barn, Whimsy dove under my second flake of hay and escaped. Crap. OK, it’s just Whimsy, I thought, she is easy to catch. So I entered the barn, dumping my armloads of hay into the feeders.
Mistake two—never trust a sneaky kid. Those three kids have learned how to push open the barn door from the outside to follow me into the barn. MONDAY, the littlest kid, Angel, ran up and pushed open the barn door and held it open for the other goats to escape.
Mistake three—I left the sneaky kid out, while I attempted to force the does back into the barn. Every time I would catch and drag two does into the barn, SNEAKY (I am changing her name) would open the door again and let them out. I really think she thought it was funny! By the time I caught on I was tired and cranky, my head hurt, and I was hungry so I had very little patience AND exhausted—BUT I was laughing so hard that they were all gathered around me looking at me like “SEE don’t you feel better?”

That is when I looked around and saw that Cooper, the yearling wether, was the ONLY good goat in the herd. There he was calmly munching on his hay, oblivious to the antics happening just outside the barn. I started laughing again!  When I came to my senses, I propped the barn door open, walked in with the cookie jar and politely fed Cooper cookies until EVERYONE was inside the barn begging for a cookie :)

"HA! I am smarter than TEN goats!"
Posted by Unknown at 9:04 PM 3 comments:  
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Buck Poor...


I am buck poor. How many bucks make you “buck poor”, you ask? Four, which are three too many.

My favorite by far, Fiddler is the father of all kids born on this farm and is such a sweet and happy little guy. He is so lovable, he likes to snuggle. He never complains, he has a soft voice, no HORNS, but his three sons are quite a different story.

Nutty is the “singer” of the group. His love songs can be heard to Calaveras County. “WAAAAA, waaaaa, waaaa, WWWWWAAAAAA, waaa!!!!! He is quite melodious and has looooong curvy horns! He has never poked me on purpose, but he sometimes forgets that his horns stick out like RV mirrors.

Chocolate Brownie is quite a hunk—he thinks. His long, silky brown coat has touches of red in it. Brownie was a bottle fed baby, so he is gentle and friendly. BIG horns.

FiddleSong Cowboy is Brownie’s full brother. He is mostly black with a brown saddle. He looks like Mariposa, his maternal grandmother, who is an award winning member of the Rosasharn herd. Cowboy is very sweet, and when he was small he would stand up on his hind legs and wiggle his lips for me to give him a kiss. I don’t let him do that anymore, he pees on his own face. BIG horns. He is a nice looking little guy.

About HORNS-We don't want them, we don't like them. The goats learn quickly to use them to get their way. But there is a learning curve to disbudding. We are learning, but have not done it right yet. On the positive side, we have mountain lions in our woods, and coyotes. So good luck trying to make a meal of one of these tough little guys! The horns also make convenient handles :)

ALL of these bucks want to be THE HERD SIRE. They don’t care what kinds of does they are. They love to eat brush, but enjoy alfalfa and a handful of “incentive” goat chow in the morning.(Incentive~moves them where I want them to be without the application of the herding broom to their respective butts.) They don’t mind having their hooves trimmed, or being wormed, or even getting their shots. They would make good weedeaters, too.
 
Need a buck?
Posted by Unknown at 10:48 PM 2 comments:  
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The new hay barn

Hay Barn with Chicken Annex
OK, I have to boast about my husband again.  Rick is smart and funny AND has "EBS"~ extra-ordinary building skills. Today he completed the "hay barn with chicken annex." The windows are covered with screening, so they may be left open in warm weather, but they have shutters, that close up when it gets cool or wet. It has cool, recycled galvanized metal siding, and the chicken entrance has an engineered hardware locking mechanism that can be used from the inside or outside.

View from inside Chicken annex
This view shows the chicken door and the wooden shutter that lifts up and covers the screened window.
"Say goodbye to the big blue tarp,"  he said. He worked so hard on that little building! Tomorrow I will put the nesting box and perches in, so the flock can move in :)

Yesterday was vet day for Sheila and Tilly. I got up early, brushed them both well (I should have brushed their teeth :/ ) borrowed a couple of goat collars from Whimsy and Hummingbird, loaded them up and took them into Jackson. This was their first visit to our new vet, so I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be. The last time we visited the old vet, they were scared to death. 
They are farm dogs, you know, they don't know what town manners are.
They were both perfect dog angels, I couldn't believe it! They liked the vet, they ignored the other dogs, were friendly to the people, didn't pull me or have to be dragged. They behaved themselves. The vet is a young man and they liked him. He gave them treats before they got their shots. A cute moment was when Sheila was finished getting her exam and it was Tilly's turn.  She stood right in front of her and gave her a little lick of reassurance.  AWWWW! I was SO proud. (I would have paid extra for that.) After the visit, we went through the McDonald's drive through and got a large order of fries. We all enjoyed them on our way home!


Tilly loves the cushions! Before she relaxes, she has to "Scruff Around" to get comfortable.

"Good, GOOD dogs!"

Posted by Unknown at 6:54 PM 2 comments:  
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Finding the Balance

Houdini

It would be interesting to take a poll to see how many of those small 'farmers' out there have to hold down a full time job to pay the mortgage. I do. I am a creative and hard working 50+ year old woman. My job pays well and includes excellent benefits. I work 40-45 hours a week. Add another 8 hours for commute time, semi-weekly trips to The Feed Barn, before or after work, or on weekends if the weather is not cooperative. I get up around 6 am. I have one cup of coffee, feed the cats, prepare formula and feed my kids, milk a doe or two, feed them, and send them to their appropriate places for the day. Loose the chickens after their night of confinement. SOMETIMES I have time for a ½ hour of exercise before my shower and preparations for work. Breakfast? I take that to the office to eat. I arrive home around 6 pm. That leaves just enough time in the evenings to prepare a healthy meal for Rick and me, clean up (maybe), and head to the barn. I have to bottle feed kids, milk one or two does, give the does hay and fresh water and separate them for the night. The bucks need to be brought in from the wooded hill, separated, given hay and fresh water, and locked up in their barn for the night. I have a "herding broom."  It is an old corn broom with a sturdy handle that is used very effectively as a tool to herd goats. They don't like the broom, so on occasion, they try to eat the straw at the end. It is about half eaten now, but it still works :) I also have to round up the chickens, making sure they are all accounted for. Bribery helps, here. If I am lucky (and organized) it is now around 7:30 pm. Just enough time to feed Lucy the Pig, the three dogs, the barn cats, and oh no, do some watering! Our summers are hot and dry here, so watering is essential. We intend to install an automatic watering system to help us with this chore, but it is pretty far down the list of “Things To Do.” Sometimes I am watering until darkness falls. GOD FORBID we should have an illness or injury to address. Weekends are for catch up chores~ weeding the veggie garden, cleaning the barn, CLEANING THE HOUSE, trimming hooves~we do those when time allows.


So how do I find balance in this chaos? How do I find time to prune the roses, say nothing about smelling them? I have learned to love my routine. I enjoy relaxing while holding formula bottles for two hungry kids. Their hungry cries of greeting “MAAAA!” make me smile instead of aggravating me. Goats are sociable creatures, not too demanding, and will tolerate some deviation from their routine. When I am busy at work, I can’t think about the farm. As soon as I am in my truck, I stop thinking about work, it’s all about the farm then. When I am rounding up those crazy chickens for the night, it is certainly comical, and I laugh while chasing down Houdini the Rooster. He is the Rooster. In his chicken mind, he should wait until all the hens have returned to their hen house before he enters. However, he is not able to count, so he doesn’t know that the last barred rock has already entered, or that Red Hen was the first to arrive. So when I have counted beaks, it is TIME for him to come in. He requires persuading. I think he enjoys the ritual as much as I do.  He is a sweet rooster, and never gives me any trouble, never flogs me or acts aggressively in any way.  He has three inch spurs.

"Don't make me get the broom..."

Posted by Unknown at 11:42 AM 3 comments:  
Friday, September 10, 2010
Whimsy milk...
"GRRRR!"

Milking a doe can be a huge commitment of time and energy. I have been letting Zipporah nurse her doeling, since I am spending quite a bit of time feeding her other two kids for her, but it is time to begin weaning them. I am going to start weaning Friday, and will be milking Zipporah. But Whimsy’s story is a little different.

Whimsy delivered her two kids in spring of 2009. Her daughter, Peanut, is 18 months old now. Normally a doe will wean her own kids naturally and dry off. Not Whimsy, she has to be unique. Special, you might say. An overachiever. Peanut is TWICE her size and extremely chubby, because Whimsy is still feeding her. I did not realize she was still carrying milk until I noticed that Peanut seemed to be on the OBESE side. Whimsy seemed too scrawny to me, and just didn’t look very healthy. Whimsy has always been on the thin side and tends to have chronic skin problems. She also has a pretty thick coat, which hides some problems. A few weeks ago, while I had her on the milk stand trimming her little hooves, I gave her a good examination. “What is this”, I say to her, “Whimsy, you still have milk?” AH HA! Then the obese daughter makes TOTAL sense. I treated her skin with some of my herbal eucalyptus oil, and it worked like a charm. I separated Whimsy from her daughter and started milking her, to try to dry her off. Whimsy HATES being milked. She detests it. It is inappropriate touching, and she KICKS! I have a sign on my office wall that says “I am more patient than a goat is stubborn.” I have to be to milk this little tiger. I thought, "OK, the more I milk her, the more she will get used to it, the less she will kick, struggle, try to climb out of her milk stand, put her foot in the milk bucket"….NO. I can’t get her to accept milking. I have other does that do not object to milking, and I KNOW I am gentle, not hurting her.

 

Here’s the terrible part: Whimsy has the creamiest, most delicious milk! For a tiny doe, she puts out a quart a day IF you can get her to stand still for it. I will not give up!

“I am more patient than a goat is stubborn.”

Posted by Unknown at 9:10 AM 3 comments:  
Labels: goatmilk, milking, Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats
Monday, May 31, 2010
Birthday gifts
May 29th, 2010. Inspirations Zipporah presented me with three fine new kids~

The first one is a sweet doeling who looks just like Mama~
The second is the white buckling, and the third is a tiny black doeling with a white angel on her brow~

This is their story~

This weekend I spend some quality time in the barn. On Saturday morning, I noticed my doe Zipporah was more talkative than usual and seemed to want to follow me around. I knew she was getting close to kidding, so I decided I had better keep a close eye on her. I passed the morning cleaning up her stall, so that we would have a clean, comfy place to have her babies. It was a big job, but I had plenty of clean fresh straw to lay down when it was finally clean. The sun was bright and warm, and I checked on her every half hour during the day, while I weeded and puttered in the garden.
The trick to watching a doe who is getting ready to kid, is to be able to check on her without her realizing it. It isn't too hard to fool a goat, you just have to pretend you are doing something else. The reason for this insincere behavior is simple: some does can and WILL postpone their delivery until you are not watching. Since Zip's first kidding resulted in a dead kid, I needed to be on hand this time in case she had trouble. (I am still relatively new to this business of raising dairy goats. I don't like to leave too much to chance.)
By 9 pm, I was certain Zip was going to deliver during the night ahead, so I began to assemble my goat labor supplies. I put on my warmest grubs, got my flashlight, put my hair up, put my book in one pocket, a bottle of water in another, got my goat delivery bucket and headed to the barn. With our nice clean straw and the other does locked away, we settled down to wait. It was just me, waiting for a treasured animal to give birth. I was willing to do anything to help her, and she trusted me.
She started to push. She got up and down countless times and paced back and forth. At about 10:30, something shifted and we got down to business! When the first kid started coming, Zip began to scream! THAT was a little unnerving. The kid was very large and the right leg was folded back, making the shoulders awkward to pass through the birth canal. The left leg and head were coming through, so I had something to grasp. With a little pulling from me, the big kid was finally delivered, and Zip's screams turned to little bleats of delight. Goats love their kids, too. Talk, talk, lick, lick, lick, she cleaned and encouraged that baby. The kid seemed healthy and vigorous, and looked just like Zip. I grabbed the first towel and began wiping her down. After about a minute, Zip said "unh" and another kid popped right out! Zip didn't seem to notice and kept cleaning her first kid, so I grabbed towel number two and started cleaning up the second kid. BOY! I was going to name him "Slimy." I noticed right away that he was a buckling, and he looked just like his daddy. Mostly white with black accents, he was about half the size of kid one. I hadn't had time to look at the sex of the first kid, so just as I was turning it over to peek, "Splat!" out popped kid three! WOW! Now I was hopping! I put the buckling under Zip's nose, so she could finish cleaning him. I had to sure kid three was breathing. It was a perfect tiny doeling, coal black with marshmallow swirls. She was very small and weak, so I had to really work with her to make sure she was OK. Kid two seemed to be fine, although he too, was much smaller than kid one. I looked over and kid one was already standing up looking for her first meal!
I took the tiny doeling into the house to blow her dry and warm her up. I warmed some colostrum from the freezer, put it in a tiny baby bottle, and fed her a few teaspoons of the warm liquid. Then I took her back to bond with her mother. She seemed to be perking up and getting stronger, so I knew I could head in and get some sleep. It was 2 am. and I was thrilled--Jenna would have been proud!
My herd is growing:)
Posted by Unknown at 9:36 PM 3 comments:  
Labels: birthing, Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats
More SUMMER fun...

The garden is looking lovely! I found a shady place to put a favorite chair under my Pink Lady apple. I can relax and survey my domain. OH NO! I can see the weeds growing!

 

 

 

"We" have made EXCELLENT progress on the new buck barn. I am SO lucky to have such a wonderful HANDY husband. He has designed the perfect barn for goats! Above the wall panels there will be welded wire inserts, creating a shady, breezy goat environment. Then "shutters" will come down on cold nights for protection from cold and damp.
LUCKY, lucky goats.

 

 

Posted by Unknown at 9:09 PM 1 comment:  
Labels: goat barn, shady garden spot
Monday, May 17, 2010
Divide and Multiply with perennials...
This is a daylily ~~an excellent perennial for propagating...
Yes, it is a wild, unruly mess, but I LOVE it :)

My garden was never meticulously planned. It has evolved. I was not even sure what would survive in our soil and elevation. I started with several kinds of hardy basic perennials. I built a bed alongside my main pathway and filled it with daylilies. (LuLu, remember when we dreamed of having a daylily farm? I get it now :) They thrived. I started a few sweet violets here and there. They EXPLODED! I planted a cat mint and it has become a wonderful self sower. Same goes for the rudbeckia. Lambs ears--one plant has become twenty in one year. Echinacea is very good, several forms of sage perform well, and penstemon is very showy. ALL the lavenders are excellent, but I especially love "Buena Vista" with it's compact form and long clusters of dark purple flowers. I dig in a few six-packs of allysum and I get two years worth of seedlings. The wallflower was sickly at first, then became a solid purple, bumble-bee magnet.
Now that I have a good handle on the perennials that do best in our soil, climate and weather conditions, I am multiplying! Most perennials can be propagated, and I LOVE to do it :)

I use three main methods:
I divide some by digging up a large one and "dividing" it into smaller plants. This works best with daylilies, rudbeckia and lambs ears.

I start some new plants with tip cuttings. I take tip cuttings of the lavenders, cat mint, and wallflowers.

Still others such as rudebeckia, sage, and echinacea give generous amounts of seedlings, which I am happy to dig up and rearrange with excellent success.
The problem with multiplying plants, is that as they soon fill out and become ready to plant, then you have to decide where to plant them.

Time to build more beds!

Posted by Unknown at 7:46 PM 1 comment:  
Labels: perennials, propagation
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Hollyhocks, First Salad, new barn project
These are "My Favorite" lilacs and Lady Banks roses, excellent companions! It looks like I will also have some hollyhocks this summer. My grandma, Esther Sullivan loved her hollyhocks, so I try to include some in my gardens. She sent seeds from her plants back to her sisters in Wisconsin, and my great-aunts still grow them there. The family connection remains strong, and I think of them often :)

 


We had our first salad of the year from the garden. The lettuce is crisp and mild, and I added fresh parsley, some beet greens, swiss chard, and some tangy chives. Outstanding! Rick said it was pretty good~for lettuce ;)


Saturday was nice and sunny with just a small breeze. Rick got a start on the new buck barn. We have a pretty hilly property, and our options for level building places are limited. However, phase one is going smoothly. He is smart and patient, and has a pretty good helper (me!) ~~of course his idea of me helping is me standing out of the way and keeping the animals off him. AND calling him in when lunch is ready. (In other words, he doesn't like me to play with his tools, but I am an adequate cook.... )

The next day was Mother's day and we spent some time with my Mom and Dad in Pine Grove. We enjoyed a delicious, decadent dinner. On Monday, the clouds came rolling in and with it a big rain and hail storm. Californians do experience an occasional hail storm, with nice, pea sized hail, for a couple of minutes here and there, but this one lasted twenty five minutes! All together on Monday I measured two inches of rain and an INCH of hail! I should have run out and pulled my truck out of the garage, it could have used a good scouring :)
In spite of the freezing night temps, the hail and all the unexpected rain, my garden thrives.
All is well....


Posted by Unknown at 8:45 PM 2 comments:  
Labels: Buck barn, hollyhocks, lettuce, lilacs
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Earthbound Birds
It was lovely spring day! Sunny and warm, with enough breeze to keep things fresh. My dog, Tilly found this incredible nest this morning. It is snuggled up under the edge of a big rock, and is crafted with tiny twigs, pine needles, and dry grasses and lined with goat hair! Inside the nest are two tiny, speckled eggs about the size of the end of my little finger. This is the first time I have seen a ground nest like this, but it belongs to a tiny bird that looks like a bush tit. I didn't get a close look at her, but she is the right size and color.

A little while later I watched as a robin flew into the window, knocking herself silly. She seemed OK, but she was staggering a little. I watched her for about an hour while working in my garden. She walked around the whole area, avoiding me, but not too worried. She must have had one whopper of a headache. Finally, she just hung her little head and seemed to give up. I walked over and caught her in my hands. She seemed to be intact and started to squawk and struggle. Soon she relaxed a little, I opened my hands and she FLEW up over the fence and into the top of the tallest pine! (Nothing like a little adrenaline rush to get your feathers ruffled!)

On Saturday, Rachel brought our granddaughters Madison, Allison, and Taylor up for a visit. We met at the fairgrounds to see the local goat show, then drove up and had lunch at FiddleSong Farm. We always enjoy their visits so much, their antics keep us smiling for days. The weather was especially nice this weekend, so we all spent quite a bit of time visiting in the garden while Madison and Allison dug for worms :) They are SO easy to entertain. Little Taylor helped Grandma find the eggs in the chicken coop, and carried the heavy bucket around until her bucket muscles were sore. (I now see that we need some chairs out there, so I will work on that.) We had sandwiches and fruit for lunch. It was Rachel's birthday last Wednesday, so we had an excuse for cake! I hope Rachel stripped those girls before letting them into her house, they all carried a little "farm" home on their clothes...

It was the best weekend that I can remember, but finished all too soon....

 

 

Posted by Unknown at 7:44 PM 1 comment:  
Labels: birds, nests
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Chickens LOVE lettuce!

 

Posted by Unknown at 7:05 PM 1 comment:  
Rain and sun showers
It was a GOOD day to stay in and snuggle in the straw. It is dark and cloudy and the rain is sheeting down. Chickens don’t like this kind of rain, nor goats, nor PIGGIES! My flowers like it, though, and I almost have a creek….I saw something unexpected on my drive to work. I have a neighbor up the hill a couple of miles who likes to walk his dog in the morning. This morning with the rain POURING down, I rounded the corner by his property and there he was with his dog~~and they were wearing matching raincoats!! You just don’t see dogs wearing clothes in Fiddletown…

Have you ever seen a sun shower? It is what I call that special, clear moment when there is a break in the clouds and the sun comes streaming through, (Shaun calls it a Sucker Hole:) but there is still rain falling. So if you are standing in just the right place it looks like it is raining drops of sunlight. The fresh scent of the woods when it rains is something I would love to capture in paint.

The robins come out this time of evening. They sing cheerful tunes. They love a big storm because the earthworms are crawling their slimy lengths out of the saturated soil moving to hopefully drier high ground. "A feast! A feeeeeast!," they sing.

Dearest Mother, I am so grateful for these gifts of Nature.
Posted by Unknown at 6:45 PM No comments:  
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Emus and gardens

Last Saturday, Madison came to spend the night at the farm. On our way, we saw two of these amazing creatures! They were tall like Madi, but they weren't ostriches. They were definitely birds, but weren't turkeys or peacocks. When we got to the farm we asked Grandpa what he thought they were, he said they sounded like Emus. We looked them up on the computer and sure enough, they were Emus! We had a GREAT weekend!

 

Happy Wednesday friends, are you feeling well today? I am! I have been working in my veggie garden for the last couple of weeks. WOW! That is great exercise! I have planted several things that grow best in cooler weather, and am planning and preparing for the big Spring rush. Thinking about planting a garden for the first time? Here are some FAQ for rookies:

Why should I grow vegetables when I can buy them at Safeway? HELLO! Economy, freshness, flavor, FUN! In many cases those “fresh” grocery store veggies are shipped in from all over the world. They cost fuel and pollution to get here. They are rated by their color, shininess, and keeping qualities rather than flavor. You want to eat the good stuff! AND it is better for the world. It is also a GREAT activity for children. Just ask my oldest Granddaughter Madison :)
How do I start? First you need a space with long hours of sun. You may plant right in the soil, or raised beds or even in large containers. You need access to water. Start small! Protect your veggie plot from critters. (My biggest challenge is keeping the hens from using my garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet.) As your interest grows, so can your garden.
How do I know what to plant? Make a list of the veggies you regularly buy. Do they include lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, radishes, squash, carrots, potatoes? You can grow all of those and more in your garden. Some things are best started from plants-- like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. (It is a little too early to plant these favorites yet…) Squash, radishes beets, and carrots all do best from seed. Right now, you can also find seed potatoes in the nurseries (I planted mine last night after work….)
Won’t I get bugs? Sure! That’s part of the fun. But you won’t catch me recommending adding chemicals to your garden to get rid of a few bugs. There are too many other creative ways to control them that are healthier.
What about my soil? You can buy a few sacks of organic planting mix or compost to mix in with your soil. (Rule of thumb-one 2 cubic foot bag will cover about 12 square feet of soil at about four inches deep. Mix it in.) If you prefer to plant in pots, stick to a potting soil, it will hold more moisture.
How much do I water? The simple answer is “enough.” Ideally, your plants should not be allowed to go completely dry before you give them a good soaking. Don’t keep them soggy, they rot.
Where can I learn more? The local master nurserymen are a GREAT source of information for gardeners of all levels. They even offer free classes to the public. There is a great selection of garden books out there, but my favorite is called “Square Foot Gardening,” and the local nurseries and garden centers are also very helpful….And check out my website at http://www.thenaturalartist.com/garden2.html to see where my FAVORITE compost originates.

It has taken several years to develop my garden and there is plenty more work to do, but when you love a thing, it is more like play :) My soul is sunshine in the garden!

Posted by Unknown at 7:38 PM 1 comment:  
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Swanky Swine Abode...


Rick worked for several weekends on this project. It turned out fantastic! We needed a more secure place for Lucy to reside, a dog-free place of her own and a place where she could not "snout" the front door at four a.m! This is where she lives now, in this comfortable 4' x 4" house, complete with heat, insulation, carpeting and even a light fixture (for those late nights reading, I suppose) a covered deck, and her own fenced yard (NO dogs allowed!) This pampered Piggy has hit the Mother Lode.

It has been rainy and cool here, but no snow for awhile. The hills are a lush, veridian green, and the deer and wild turkeys are abundant. Although we have gotten quite a bit of rain, "Pig Squeak Creek" remains empty. I am so disappointed! It has such a happy sound when it gurgles past our back deck. There is still time for it to fill, it is only the first week in February....

If you have fruit trees, now is the time to prune them and to spray them (if you do that ;) with dormant oil or fungicides. Clean up any old leaves and debris from under the trees, they harbor overwintering pests and some harmful fungi. Then, lay down some fresh mulch of pine needles or compost, keeping it well away from the trunks.

I have trimmed back my day lilies and other perennials. I go easy on my lavender and penstemons, they don't do well here with hard pruning, so I just prune out any broken or ugly branches. The roses get a hard prune every other year, and I have to treat the cut ends with a waxy seal, because we have voracious cane borers up here! My new potted bulbs are just starting out of the soil now, and the established daffy-dils out in the yard are about six inches tall already. I am gathering goat-berry compost from the piles now, and spreading it out over the beds. The worms LOVE the stuff, and the perennials and veggies don't complain. The soil continues to improve every year. I am looking forward to my bleeding hearts blooming soon, along with my sweet violets. These are the things that lift my spirits and encourage me to nurture my garden, logging long hours on my knees with my trowel in hand. I am anxious to develop a new bed or two in the front yard, with more of the new ever-blooming hydrangeas. I have mostly shade out there and the hydrangeas thrive!
Posted by Unknown at 7:27 PM 2 comments:  
Labels: gardening, pig house, Winter fruit trees
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Swiss Chard from my garden....

YUM! Look at the color in this luscious red swiss chard that I grew in my garden last summer. Now is the time to order those seed catalogs, so you can begin planning your spring garden! Here at FiddleSong Farm, we are able to grow many cool weather veggies like cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts, carrots, onions and lettuce. My garden beds are cleaned up and ready for a nice, thick layer of goatberry compost. I LOVE the winter, but my soul sings in the spring!

Posted by Unknown at 8:18 PM 1 comment:  
Warm winter days and chicken scratchings....
While snow storms blanket the Midwest and East Coast with harsh temperatures below freezing, FiddleSong Farm is enjoying some warm sunny days. We are at about 2700 feet in elevation, which lifts us above the valley fog. We do get snow, but it rarely lasts more than a few days. Kirkwood Resort is about 40 minutes up Hwy 88, if you are into skiing :)

Sunday, I spent the afternoon hours working in the garden in a t-shirt! I raked pine needles and transplanted a couple of shrubs. I weeded and cleaned up some veggie beds, and replanted (for the fifth time) a small cabbage transplant plant that Red Hen insists on scratching out of the ground. She loves to help in the garden, often staging herself under my left elbow, watching carefully for any unearthed edibles. She LOVES the fat nightcrawlers that are plentiful during the winter and spring. They grow fairly large, and it is really comical to watch her grasp one in her beak and then BAAAAACK up until she finally drags it out of it's hole! She chuckles and clucks to me the whole time we are working, making my time in the sunshine and fresh air so much more enjoyable. It's funny that she has become so special to me. I didn't raise her, she was given to me by a friend, but I take a LOT of extra time to make sure she is comfortable and safe. She loves to be handled and pampered, and has a wonderful personality :)

I have three young roosters, on the other hand, that are freezer bound. I have promised myself that I am going to "process" them as soon as I have room in the freezer. I raised these three birds from chicks, and they were hatched by one of my own hens last spring. This is a HUGE challenge for me to take that next (logical) step and begin actually "using" my extra roosters for meat. They have had a kind, abundant and peaceful life here on the farm. I have tried to think of that being their purpose from their beginning. They have never been named, or snuggled or rescued from danger. They are "just chickens".

WOW! I think I have made a breakthrough!


Monday, December 28, 2009
Warm up your feet....


Here are Hummingbird and "Young" hen. I think this is a case of "you scratch my back and I'll warm your feet..." I love the way the goats and the chickens get along so well. The goats seem very careful not to step on chicken toes, and they are all very interested in each other. I have one special hen who refuses to roost anywhere but in the barn with her goat friends. I don't deny her that privilege, as she lays the largest eggs!
Posted by Unknown at 7:16 PM No comments:  
New Year's Resolutions
The written word has always been so important to me. The physical act of putting your wishes into words, then writing them, empowers those thoughts--adds a touch of magic. I have seen in my journals many instances where I have written down my goals and dreams, then found these goals have been realized. So it is VERY important to write out my goals for the New Year!
Make healthier meals for my husband and myself. One of my chief complaints about how we eat is that we are so hungry when we get home that we rush to eat whatever we find in front of us! This is a BIG challenge.
Schedule more time for art. I need time to sketch and paint every week. I also want to get my work into more shows and spend more time promoting my art! My friends need to know what I do, and sometimes I am shy about telling them. I am very proud of my work! (See my paintings at www.thenaturalartist.com.)
Find the energy for exercise. Now that I feel more confident about my health, I don't have an excuse NOT to :)
Get Rick out of the house. He loves to travel, I don't. He NEEDS more travel time....
OK, this is a good start! I'll let you know how we do....

Posted by Unknown at 6:52 PM No comments:  
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Snowy days...

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Pampered Piggy

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Merry Christmas!!
We had a foot of LOVELY snow last week. It knocked out our power for two days and caused general chaos in this area. I love the snow, the way a hush falls over the farm while it is falling. I sit in my window and watch. It is good weather for bird watching. The birds are easily seen against the white backdrop. In winter, we get Dark Eyed Juncos, Oak Tit Mice, Finches, Rufous Towhees, and several that just flit through on their way to warmer roosting sites. They still have to fill their tummies, even though their food is covered with a foot of snow, so I make sure their feeders are full of sunflower seeds, or suet, or thistle. I have a woodpecker post that I fill with a peanut butter/corn meal/seed mixture that the nuthatches like. We even have several hummers who have refused to fly south, so I bring in the frozen feeder in the mornings, replacing it with the one that I brought in to thaw the day before. They love me :) Since I can see them so well and they are hanging around the feeders, it is a good time to sketch them. It is not an easy thing to do, to sketch a 'winged person', but with practice I am getting better.
The goats don't like the cold, but they like being WET even less, so they get to have a snuggly snow day in their cozy barn, calmly munching their alfalfa. No power means no indoor plumbing, no hot water (NO WATER, period) no showers, no light, no TV, no computer.... Lucky for us we are mountain people who love to sit by the fire in the wood stove and just breathe. We don't mind heating a can of soup for dinner. But the goats have to have clean WARM water. If they drink it cold they lose body heat. So I had to melt snow on my gas stove to make water for them to drink. One full bucket of snow melts down to about two inches of water in the bottom of that bucket. I was making three to five buckets of water every day just for them. Do the math. Then we needed enough hot water to wash our hair and bathe ourselves. AHHHH! My bucket muscles are still a little sore, but I think it was good exercise :)
Lucy rarely left her place in front of the wood stove. In fact, she was highly insulted when the power came back on and I kicked her pig butt out the front door! (She is like a naughty three year old, into EVERYTHING, and gets bored very easily. If it sits on the floor it is fair game to be tossed or snuffled or rooted over :) The good news is that she can't climb!
Our Aussies LOVE the snow! They RUN around and play and bark, and then lay down and drag their bellies for several feet. They love "snow ball" although they are a little confused when they can't find the "ball" that I have thrown for them. Jack lays down on his side and makes a "snow dog angel"!

When the weather broke, I had to drive back down the hill to go to work. The brilliant sunlight on the snow made the high meadows look like fields of diamonds, and the shadows cast by the trees were deep periwinkle. My spirits SOAR, my angels sing and I just LOVE this beautiful place we live in!
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Saturday, November 28, 2009
Tilly loves treats!

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Thanksgiving 2009

 

AHHHH! I am still full. I truly love Thanksgiving with all of our traditional recipes: Roasted Turkey (a drumstick for me, please :), bread crumb dressing with mushrooms and celery, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, fresh dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and especially our pies! Mom always makes two yummy pumpkin pies, and I usually bring an apple pie and a pecan pie. (If you do the math here, that adds up to four pies for seven people:) We have always made this particular dinner from scratch--no shortcuts for us! REAL gravy made from the turkey drippings, and real potatoes that were peeled and cooked and mashed (I always get this job.) No stuffing from a box, no potato flakes. No canned green beans. No pre-made pie crusts. Maybe it is all the extra love and care that goes into the making of this meal that makes it taste so special!

 


Mom does an excellent job decorating her home for the holidays. The table is set with her beautiful pink and white transferware, and she uses fabric and placemats for added color and texture. She always has the loveliest arrangement for her centerpiece. This year she added a large turkey planter that I have begun to covet. (This was something that she found at the Hospice thrift shop just a few minutes before I came in looking for this EXACT turkey!!) I just happened to stop at Hospice that day and went in for the express purpose of finding a turkey for my Thanksgiving display. I KNEW the minute that I saw him on her table that she bought him there!! (Mom has always had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. CRAP!) I actually did find a small turkey that day that I was perfectly tickled with, until I saw Mom's specimen...

 


All of the animeaux receive a special Thanksgiving treat too. Lucy the Pig got some juicy fresh red-flame grapes, the fowl ate the leftover green salad, the dogs got extra cookie treats and the cats had tuna. The goats love apple treats (for horses,) and they chew, chew, chew them with a little drool and a goatie smile.


All souls were satisfied at FiddleSong Farm.

 

 


Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thyroid cancer update
Today, my surgeon called me to tell me good news. My biosy tests were all negative for cancer cells. (My PET scan showed one tiny spot in my neck, which is what was biopsied.) "Well, I guess we didn't make any money off you this time!" he said with a smile in his voice. I am ecstatic! I could not have received a better gift before Thanksgiving.


For ALL of us cancer warriors, we know how frightening that battery of tests can be. We try to "read" the expressions on the faces of the nuclear medicine techs. We play over and over the questions they asked us before and after our scans. Of course some of us have UBER-imaginations (which normally make our lives a little more interesting) in this case, we imagine every possible horrible scenario. For us thyroid cancer survivors, we have the added pleasure of being taken off our meds for four or more weeks. If you have experienced this, you know why we call it "hypo hell." This time around, I had a few more weapons in my battle to combat Fear:

 

I wrote in my journal EVERY night.

I tried to maintain my routine. Even something as simple as doing dishes made me feel a little more in control. It also really helped to make a list of what I did during the day.

I tried to keep busier, even when my depleted thyroid levels made it harder to do EVERYTHING.

I helped the doctor organize my testing schedule, which kept from dragging things out too long. I also knew which questions to ask this time.

I ate a little healthier and tried to get fresh air and exercise every day.

I made sure that I had a sleep aid on hand to help me rest better.

Music helps.

Prayer helps ;) "Please God, just help me get through the next few hours..."

I have been back on my thyroid supplement for two weeks today. I still have a couple of weeks to climb before I am back to "normal". I have SO MUCH to be thankful for this year :)


HAPPY THANKSGIVING friends....be well.

Pink Ladies! I just brought in my apple crop. OK, even though I knew these were my favorite apple variety before I tasted these, they are BY FAR the BEST apples I have ever eaten. This is the first year my apple tree has produced (she is four years old) and I only got eighteen apples, but they are DELICIOUS! They are sweet and crisp with just the right tang to them, and I ate one cold right out in the garden. The sweet juice was dripping down my chin-- I can't wait to share these with my grandkids!

 

 

I strive for organic produce. My goatberries do a great job fertilizing for me, so as long as I can keep my goats out of my garden, they make a GREAT addition to this way of life. My little dairy goats are way easier on my fences and my back than my big pushy Nubians were--so far so good :)




 

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

FiddleSong...the beginning


When Rick and I found this place in 2002, it was a run down cedar cabin on four acres in the woods. It was meant to become a home with privacy, a haven, an affordable alternative to living in the suburbs of the Bay Area. It was dirty and neglected and the front door didn't lock. It was TWO HOURS away from my girls, WAY too far away. It had good bones, though. And the roof didn't leak. The foundation looked sturdy and there were hardwood floors in the main rooms. I fell in love with the feel of it. The property had a sense of peace about it. It had an air of abandonment-it needed me. Because of the dirt and the remote location, it had been on the market for much too long, so we got it for a SONG.





Let the demo begin! I believe Rick tore out the '70's burnt orange carpet the day before we moved in :) I started cleaning the floors. It took me about two gallons of Pine Sol and several days on my hands and knees before I felt like the floor was clean. Neither one of us had a job at the time, and buying this place was a huge leap of faith, but neither of us has been sorry, even after all of the exhausting work that we have put into it. It has been that "labor of love" that you hear about.





Fiddletown? We had never heard of Fiddletown. As small gold towns go, it is one of the smallest, but it has a rich and interesting history. It was a thriving mining town and Chinese settlement for many years, and it got it's name from the story about a cultured lady who lived on a hill in town in the 1850s who gave violin lessons. It is said that you could hear her play in the evenings as the sound would have traveled far.





The dream...I told myself, I didn't want too many flowers. I didn't want to do too much watering. No vegetable garden, too much work. OK, maybe a few herbs....We got a dog, then another. THEN our friend LuLu gave me two beautiful Pygora goats, "to eat the brush," she said. Then Rick brought home three young Nubian does "to eat the brush," he said. Then we got some chickens. All of a sudden we were a farm! I always wanted a farm! I wanted fresh eggs and sweet, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes. An apple tree would be nice....It is a TON of work, but satisfaction for the soul :)

Check out the website at:
www.thenatualartist.com

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