Monday, February 22, 2010

More Signs of Spring

When Karlie Q stumbled out of bed this morning, I took one look at her swollen, puffy, sad face and thought, "Wow, that sinus stuffiness or whatever it is looks painful!" and said, "Honey, just go back to bed."

While in my room a couple of hours later, which adjoins her bedroom, I heard soft crying accompanying the footsteps approaching the door of her room. "Mom, when I rub my nose it feels like it's stiff. It hurts really bad," she related through sleepy tears.

After determining it wasn't a stuffy nose on the inside that was hurting, Mike and I took a closer look. Right there on the tip of her nose was a red hole - a sure sign that the poor kid had been stung by something.

We've seen 3 wasps, 1 bee, 1 creeping spider and 1 fly in the last week. As further evidenced by the attack on Karlie's snout this morning, the critters are back, they're spoiling for a fight - which means spring is on its way. Who needs that wimpy Phil fella, who's afraid of his own shadow? We've got fresh-from-hibernation creepy crawlies as proof of the change of the season. Oh, how I'll miss the bug-free months of winter.

By the way, I'd have a little more conviction that spring is indeed on its way if it hadn't been snowing for the last 8 hours. Still, waspish wasps aren't to be trifled with.

Oh, and don't worry about Karlie - the swelling's gone down, her grandma bought her a slushie, and she's watching TV with dad. It's all good. (Of course, knowing now that she's a "sweller," we'll be keeping a close eye on her for future dramatic reactions to stings - could be she's developing a scary allergic reaction.)

Now, I better run home and put jackets on the chicks, so they don't catch a chill in all this snow. Then there's Gertie and her baleful eyes - better stash her somewhere warm, too.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Goosing the Goat

Ever see a draft horse (think HUGE) goose a pygmy goat (think short, small and fat)?

Ever see a pygmy goat bolting across a corral, lips peeled back, eyes rolling, fur on end, bleating and huffing her way to freedom?

Ever see a Ford Explorer, an Oldsmobile Achieva, an 18-year-old boy and 40-year-old woman wielding a horse's lead rope participating in "Goats on Parade," to escort said goat home from the neighbor's?

Then you've obviously never gone with us to mend a fence. Join us next time. There's a lot more to it than baling wire and cedar sticks, I promise.

Love from the farm,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gearing Up For Spring

We continue to have fun on the farm, especially as animal antics keep us laughing (or blushing: good grief, it's been a love fest - cats, dogs, poultry... these critters are all about Valentine's Day, I tell you). But, as the days grow longer and we have more and more hours when we can go outside without a coat, winter is easing back to reveal spring just around the corner, and it's going to get busy.

In addition to the animal antics, there's lots of hard work to be had around here. Here's the realities of farm life - both what we're doing on a daily basis, as well as what's on the horizon:

Daily, we:
  • Feed and water: 17 chicks; 1 rooster; 1 hen; 3 cats; 2 horses; 3 dogs; 1 lonely goat; 6 people
  • Gather egg (come July, that will be amended to read "eggs")
  • Wash tomorrow clothes (I haven't mastered laundry yet)
  • Take care of the feeding, cleaning, brushing, gargling, dressing, medicating, transporting, hugging, kissing and homework assisting of 4 kiddos and 2 adults

Every other day, we:

  • Replace the straw in the chicks' brooder box
  • Clean up the poo in the horse corral (the other horse's owners clean the poo on alternating days)

This week we also:

  • Took a (most-likely pregnant) cat in to the vet to have an abscess treated. While Noodle was under sedation, Abbie the Vet also cleaned out her ears and treated for mites
  • Which resulted in the plan to bring the other two cats in to be treated for ear mites, since this is a condition they like to share with one another. We were supposed to drop off the cats at the vet this morning, but for once the usually clingy cats were nowhere to be found. Mike and I roamed the farm for awhile but had to get into town, so the mite extermination will have to wait
  • Made an appointment for Abbie the Vet to come out to sedate Buddy the Horse and take care of some man issues for him next week
  • Will check with the gardening folks in Woodruff to see if they've made their annual community onion order, which we're hoping to get in on this year. Those Woodruff farmers grow the biggest, sweetest onions you ever saw and I've been coveting them for a couple years now. Every so often, I call my Aunt Barbara and say, "Have you ordered the onions yet? Don't forget me." I actually went to bed last night and woke up today worrying I might have missed the onion order. I'll be calling right after finishing this little update.
  • Took a quick trip down to Phoenix in back for doctor appointments and whole food shopping.

These are the quiet, laid back days on the farm.

Here's what's starting this weekend and running into next week:

  • Meet the farrier at the horse barn, for the horses' regular hoof trimming. Gotta keep Buddy's nails trimmed so he stays in sturdy health.
  • Inventory the leftover seed from last year
  • Develop the garden plan for this year; map out new plots of land to be plowed and improved to allow for expansion of the garden
  • Complete the rehab of the new, used rototiller Mike brought home last week. Thanks, Uncle Rich!
  • Determine from which plants we'll want to save seed at the end of the harvest, and research heirloom varieties. (Seeds from hybrid plants will not sprout; you must save seeds from heirloom, or open-pollinated, plant varieties. Growing heirloom varieties allows you to help preserve old strains of seeds. I was moved to tears when my Uncle Rich stopped by to give me a quart jar 1/3 of the way filled with colorful, precious bean seeds from our old family farm in Kentucky. I can't wait to get this little piece of our family's heritage transplanted into our Arizona farm.)
  • Review countless seed catalogs and get new seeds ordered for this year
  • Check on the onion order again
  • Read up on how soon we need to start sprouting potatoes for this year's potato planting
  • Make seed-starter pots from newspaper
  • Plant seeds in the starter pots and begin growing seedlings in the house for eventual transplant into our garden
  • Find out the source of compost you can buy by the truckload somewhere in Snowflake
  • Move the chicks to a larger brooding box; they've outgrown the crib, but aren't quite ready for the coop. Think of this as their toddler bed stage.
  • Fix the neighbor's fence the horses leaned over to get to the munchies on the other side. Apparently, they too believe the grass is always greener over there.
  • Try our hands at making the "mother" for sourdough bread, per dear friend Emily's insistence

When warmer days are firmly upon us, here are the other things we'll be engaging in:

  • Tearing down the rickety old horse corral
  • Finishing the covered chicken run
  • Cleaning out the chicken coop and putting down fresh litter
  • Cleaning the hay off the barn floor at the neighbor's and bringing it over to the farm to use as litter in the chicken run. (Once Adam starts yard work for my Mom and Dad again this spring, we'll bring the clippings home to use as litter, as well. Since we can't let the chickens free range because of aggressive predators, we don't want them scratching around in a barren, depressing, dirty run. We'll refresh the litter in their run often with green clippings, giving them clean, new stuff to munch on and scratch around in. I can't wait until we can afford to properly predator-proof the exterior of our property, thereby allowing us to allow the chickens to roam free again. They're happier, fatter, their feathers are glossier, and they eat more natural, less commercially produced, foods when they free range. Their yolks are darker, too.)
  • Finding a source for new piglets
  • Building a new pig pen, with a dedicated water source
  • Plowing, plowing, plowing, plowing the garden area
  • Planting grass seed in dusty areas surrounding the house, to cut down on the flying dirt
  • Asking our hay farmer friend if we can again relieve him of some of the decaying steer poo on his property, to spread on the garden
  • Bolting the lifting tin strips back onto the barn roof and the back of the storage buildings at the front of the property
  • Renting a huge dumpster to haul all of the scrap metal, extra refrigerators, rolls of carpeting and various other leavings of the previous owners of this nearly 85-year-old homestead
  • Stocking up on straw for the straw bale fencing that Mike will be constructing around the house, marking the start of our property renovation. We just spent hours last week in a Barnes and Noble, poring over courtyard designs, outdoor cooking areas, lighting plans, landscaping - we're overflowing with ideas.
  • Laying the tile in the house
  • Replacing the rest of the windows in the house
  • Starting the kids' egg selling operation
  • Buying and raising additional chicks so the kids will have a decent-sized egg selling operation
  • Planning our Walker Family Summer Road Trip; our big 12-day adventure in July that will be our last hurrah before sending Adam off for two years to some as-yet-undisclosed location, somewhere in the world
  • Tearing out the pantry cupboards and replacing with open shelving
  • Inventorying all of the food stores we have and developing a rotation plan so nothing goes to waste
  • Improving the watering system for the garden
  • Establishing a composting system
  • Developing and planting an orchard area, or at least getting a few fruit trees in the ground
  • Making more laundry soap
  • Reclaiming my bread making prowess
  • Developing the 3/4-acre pasture that we have not yet put into production
  • Spending hours upon hours weeding, coaxing, and relishing the garden
  • ....and oh, so much more.

The lazy winter days are about to give way to some serious work around here. In fact, if you don't hear from me until October, you'll understand why.

Love from the farm,


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Running For It

We had a sojourn to Phoenix Children's Hospital this week for Kidney Check 2010. (Ok, it was just our regular clinic appointment, but it's fun to dress it up every once in awhile. Roll with me.)

While the Children's Hospital was the focus of our visit, it was NOT where all the action was. Nope, the action was a few blocks from there.

See, the boys and I had to stop at the bank before heading to the Chinese Cultural Center for lunch and shopping, and the closest branch in the neighborhood was right around the corner from the Veterans' Hospital.

Imagine our surprise while driving down 7th Street to suddenly see a strawberry-blond, long-haired scraggly bearded guy bolting across the road in front of us. Stockinged feet, 3 hospital wristbands, delighted grin, and all.

He was making a break for it.

I would have been a little ill at ease with the whole thing if it hadn't been for the way he fairly pranced across the road with a you-know-what-eating grin on his face. He was going for it, he was taking a risk, he was gonna be in big trouble, but he was enjoying it while it lasted.

"Uhhhh, do you think we should call someone, Mom?" Tanner asked as we watched him bop through traffic.

Normally, I would have said yes, but this just felt like it was going to be ok.

"No, I have a feeling they'll figure this one out on their own," I replied.

He didn't look furtive, he didn't look nervous. Judging by the pure glee on the guy's face, I suspect he just might have done this before.

Hey, he's a vet. He gave who knows what for our freedom somewhere along the way. I say, let him live a little.

With the let up in the recent rains, it was a beautiful day for a run.

Love from the farm,

Friday, February 5, 2010


This Christmas, among other things, the kids received "lessons" for gifts:
  • Adam: Piano lessons
  • Tanner: Hunting lessons (well, the Game & Fish Hunter Safety Course, along with the promise of an elk hunt with Uncle John and Dad)
  • Macy: Piano lessons
  • Karlie: Roping lessons (actually, she was already taking lessons; we gave her a bright pink rope, a roping dummy calf head and a straw bale to stick it in so she can practice at home)

If we had a 5th child, I predict we would have named her Sara and she would be about 6 years old, and we would have given her banjo lessons for Christmas.

Then, when the kittens that will likely be born in about 9 or 10 weeks come into the world, little gap-toothed Sara could have stood over their basket as they snuggled up next to their momma, and plucked that catchy little tune from "Deliverance."

Because, at some point, surely this perpetual practice of brother cats and sister cats making baby cats is going to start showing in the kittens. This whole barn cat - animal kingdom "love the one you're with" thing has me baffled. As far as we know, these will be 3rd generation "Deliverance" kittens, and so far, each generation has been as beautiful, fluffy and 4-limbed as the last.

We hope our luck holds with this new batch and that lots of people will come forward, looking for barn cats of their own to take home. And, that the disruptive, blatant, right-in-the-front-yard-for-all-the-world-to-see caterwauling of recent days will soon come to an end.

Love from the farm,