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,


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