Playing in the leaves

Last week, the kids wanted to run around and jump in leaves…. OK, sounds good to me!  We don’t get a ton of leaves on the ground in the back yard – but the front yard is a perfect place to play in the leaves.  We have two huge trees with tons of leaves.  First we raked them into a pile… and it ended up being heart shaped! 🙂

I love when they do this!!  It only lasts a second before they start kicking and hitting each other again, but I will probably remember that they were like this a lot when I think of them when I’m old! 🙂
More hearts! 
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Enjoying and preserving some of this summer’s bounty

I have been busy busy busy this summer trying to use as much of our fruits and vegetables.

We have lots of fruit trees on our homestead – apples, pears, plums, a couple of cherry trees, and more apples! 🙂  In our garden, we had zucchini, TONS of cucumbers, green beans, carrots, sugar snap peas, onions, lots of herbs, and tomatoes.  And we have blackberry bushes, too!

 

Apples, Apple Pie Jam (SOOOOOO GOOOOOOD!), cucumbers, zucchini, pears, plums and tomatoes!

I learned how to do some canning last year – I did pears in syrup, and apple pie filling, and some jam.  This year, I borrowed a dehydrator and have been dehydrating the heck out of things like plums and apples and pears, and I dried rosemary and oregano, too.

Plums in the dehydrator – I’ve done a lot of these!!!
I canned these pears in light syrup… can’t wait to eat them!!

 

Plums drying in the dehydrator, canned pears, and PICKLES!!!
I got this cool new apple corer, peeler and slicer… what a time saver!  And I made apple juice out of the cores and peels (or give them to the chickens!!).
Another day, another harvest – Pears, apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and zucchini…  I love summer!
Apple slices with a little cinnamon in the dehydrator – I think there were chunks of pears on the bottom. 
This is what my counter has looked like for much of the late summer!!!
We had some pickling juice left from one pickle batch and Carson thought we should try pickled eggs!  Sure, why not!  I’ve never seen them… Carson said that they’re on the counter in dive bars all over… hmm… I must be a good girl or something!  They sure are pretty!  Can’t wait to try them!
The start of Blackberry Strawberry Jam.  Yum!!!
Isn’t it pretty?!  Blackberry strawberry jam cooking!
Plums dehydrating… again! 🙂
Yet another harvest day!  I love all these colors!  Carrots, red onions, zucchini, cucumber, plums, and tomatoes. 

Every year, it’s my goal to use as much of the fruit and veggies as possible!  I get better every year!

On the right path…

It’s been a busy summer around here, full of learning and adjusting to lots of new things for me!  We planted a huge (for us) garden and have been trying to use all of the stuff, built a fence, got our alpacas and learned (still learning, actually) how to take care of them, got a spinning wheel and had my first lesson on that, taught myself on my drop spindle, learned to pressure can, and am still doing a ton of water bath canning and preparing soooooo many apples and pears for preservation.  Plus I’m homeschooling both kids now, and both kids are doing fall soccer, and I am taking care of my cousin’s beautiful daughters three full days a week and am trying to figure out how to balance all of that stuff.    My kids are also at difficult phases and they are fighting with me and each other a lot.  And is there ever enough sleep for moms?

In the past few days, I realized I’m hitting a wall… my brain is full and I am tired… bone-tired, mama tired, farmer tired.

I usually get a second wind after putting the kids to bed when I head out to do farm chores… I water the garden, take care of any food and water needs the chickens may have, and give the alpacas water and hay or grain and clean up their poop, and sometimes if they don’t need a lot of things, I just visit them.  A couple of nights ago I took my glass of wine with me to say hi.  I said to myself, “Beautiful night? Alpaca wine,” and then I laughed and laughed.

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They left me hanging… but they were so cute doing it, I couldn’t help but smile.

Last night was the greatest recharge, though.  I’ve been feeling like I’m not doing enough to “train” the girls or get them ready for handling.  We haven’t even touched the halters that we got and it’s been almost two months.  I was feeling kind of down on myself about not doing it all… (no one can, I know, but I still think I should and I beat myself up about it).

So I head down to the alpacas and start to fill up one of their waters and they come running… look at their faces! 🙂

And look at this sunset over the garden.  Ahhhhhhhh… I took a deep breath.  It’s gonna be okay.

And then the hose was wound up in the shape of an upside down heart… or a pretzel, but heart is more encouraging!

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Another great view!

 

So I went into the alpaca fence and decided to clean up poop… I had two loads done and while I was emptying the second one, apparently the girls thought they should fill it back up! 🙂  They crack me up!

But THEN, they came right up to me!  Like, so close… first Zoe, who has been trying to be the boss of the alpacas, but is aloof or skittish when we get close.  Last night, though, Zoe was right there next to me.

I was talking to them about halters and how if we can figure out the halter thing we can take walks… and about cleaning up their poop and about how glad I am that they’re here… and about how the grass is drying up but the rains will return and, until then, we have hay!

Seriously… look how close they got!!!!

Then, Midori, the other boss of the alpacas, stepped forward.  This was a little scarier because she is also known as “the spitter”.  She has “sneezed” on a few of us here, and I’ve gotten stuck in the cross fire when she was spitting on Zoe once.  It is not fun.  I was nervous but also honored that she wanted to be that close to me.  It was really special and sweet.

And then… she tapped me with her  nose.  There were hearts and flowers everywhere I looked… she looooooooves me!!!!  No spitting, no sneezing, no running… she tapped me.  And then Zoe came up behind me and tapped me, too!  It was the best farm chore evening ever!!!  

Look at her!!!

I really needed some reassurance about what I’ve taken on.  I needed to know that I was on the right path and that things will be okay.  I got it, and it was amazing!!!

 

❤Moose and Cotter❤

These boys!  Moose is our nearly six-year-old chocolate lab and Cotter is our two-year-old Golden Lab (golden retriever and lab mix).

 

They love to play like this all the time.   They share balls and toys and beds.

They seem to take turns being the boss and being submissive.  After this weekend with our friends’ bull mastiff puppy, though, we all kind of agree that Cotter might be the boss… which is a little scary because he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.  We love him though, and he is really trying to be a good boy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So fun to watch the boys play!

Homestead Campout

Our very good friends came to the homestead for the weekend and we had a “campout”!

Camping breakfast

We have an outdoor Blackstone Griddle and Carson whipped up eggs (from our chickens), bacon and sausage.  I made toast, and plated the store-bought muffins and danishes! 🙂

We went crabbing just off Camano Island.  My kids and I took the car and met everyone else at the beach because space in the boat was limited and we get to go all the time.  Neither kid was super happy about missing it, but they got to do some beach combing and sky watching!

Shaleigh decided to build a nest for the seagulls that were hanging around so that she could lure them over to her to get a closer look.  It was so sweet the way she found things to make the nest… she even served up crab legs that she found on the beach.

 

It wasn’t the greatest weather forecast… they predicted thunder and lightning and rain… It was crazy how the stormy skies were all around us, but there was actually blue sky above the beach we were hanging out on.

Here come the boats with our people!  Braden said he was going to pull them in.  🙂

It was great fun hanging out on the beach.  The kids got so dirty and had a ball digging up clams and shells and rocks and playing together… and the grown ups chatted and people watched.

Our friends have an 8-month old bull mastiff named Lambeau!  He’s huge and so sweet and handsome.  The dogs did a good job of playing together and Lambeau got more playing and running in than he has in his whole life.  I’m sure he was a tired pup when he got home!

The alpacas loved watching the puppies play… they’re supposed to be afraid of dogs, but they are no more afraid of our dogs (and our friends’ dogs) than they are of me! 🙂

The crabbies are cooked, now it’s time to clean!  Braden loves to help with this job.  It cracks me up!

There’s a burn ban in our area because we haven’t had enough rain but we are allowed to have very small contained campfires.  The kids didn’t think it was a camping trip if we didn’t have s’mores, so we had a teeny tiny campfire and each kid and a couple of adults had s’mores… and the grownups had adult beverages!

I’m embarrassed and a little sad to say that this is the first purely recreational camp fire we’ve ever had in this house.  We have had a lot of fires to burn boxes and wrapping paper, yard waste and other scraps, but never purely for fun.  I think it’s safe to say it won’t be the last!  We have a friend who loves to have “campfire chats”, and feels that many things are revealed about a person around a campfire that aren’t revealed otherwise… I think she’s probably right!  More campfire chats needed!! 🙂

 

 

Alpaca Update

Our girls (the alpacas) seem to be adjusting to their new home (our homestead) just fine.  They seem happy and comfortable, and it’s like they’ve always been here.

Moose, our chocolate lab, sometimes forgets they’re here and goes charging out first thing in the morning to bark at them.  They jump at first then rush right up to the fence to see him.  I think they think he’s a little alpaca because he and Midori are the same color.

They seem to really like me, which I love!  If I’m picking berries or watering the garden or getting water for the chickens, all of which happen near the fence, they interrupt whatever they’re doing to come to the fence to check in.  I’m sure it’s partly because I give them grain sometimes, and I spray them down with the hose when it’s really hot… and I clean up their poop… but I think they really do like me and want to know what I’m I’m doing.

They also love the kids.  They are really curious about them.  Shaleigh is still totally freaked out about that, but Braden likes to be in the fence and lets them get close to him to sniff or kiss or whatever.

I asked the kids to take pictures (since they’re not doing the actual poop pick up) – and they captured some really great, flattering moments of my time with the girls! 🙂

We are so happy to have them here!  We all enjoy seeing what they’re doing and introducing them to everyone who comes here!

 

They’re here!

The Girls are here!  Our alpacas arrived on Friday, July 13th!

We scheduled delivery for 1 pm because we had a few “quick” things to do in the morning to be sure we were all ready.  The chains on the gates were not quite long enough and we needed different locks… sometimes you don’t know until you get it on the gate… especially when you’re newbies like us.

And we needed straw for the shelter.  We have gravel on the bottom for drainage but we wanted something cozier for them to lie on.  We had no idea how much straw we’d need.  I’d asked about straw pricing at The Country Store in town, which is generally known to be expensive and they said $12.99 for 70 lbs of straw… when I told my neighbor, he laughed and said he’d find us some straw, which was so nice!  In the end, we decided it was easier to pay for the straw in town than to have to find some at the last minute.   We ended up buying two bales of straw for $10.99 each, which was about 10 times the amount we needed, but our girls will be cozy! 🙂

 

It turned out to be a more stressful and busy morning than we intended and we JUST BARELY got everything done… but we did it!

 

We started waiting for Shirley and The Girls in the driveway about 12:50, eagerly anticipating their arrival.  Shirley said loading went totally fine.  Our girls had sort of separated themselves from her girls a few months ago… they seemed to be two separate herds.  Shirley said that the day before they came here, Zoe and Phoebe (our white girls) each gave her a nose to nose tap when she was cleaning their water bucket.  That had never happened before and she interpreted it as goodbye.  (insert sloppy sobs from me)  When she backed the trailer into the yard, the four alpacas who were staying didn’t seem to care and the three who were coming to me, were all perked up.  They were ready.  This whole thing feels so meant to be.  We are just amazed at how it all came together so seamlessly.

Here they come! Shirley backed the trailer down our driveway and into the alpaca field.
Here is Zoe or Phoebe sticking her head up to see what’s going on. She’s a little nervous, with her ears back, but calm and curious.
The kids are trying to be CAAAAAAAAAAALM like we’ve talked about for hours.
Shirley opened the doors slowly so they could look around before they took off.
There they are! 🙂
I love their little faces peeking out of the trailer. Totally calm, not nervous.
Off they went… running around to see what’s there. I think, at first, they thought they were escaping, but then they started exploring!

 

 

Shirley and Sherry stayed and visited for a bit.  We had some treats and made sure we were all okay – we were!  Especially because this feels so meant to be.  The Girls were totally fine, like they’d always been here.

 

Then it was time to introduce the dogs.  We have three dogs – one little, grumpy old man, and two bigger labs.  We weren’t sure how it would go.  We know that alpacas are generally afraid of dogs (with good reason), and we know our dogs don’t like other animals in their yard (at least not at first). We were prepared for it to be kinda messy.  We had two dogs on leash and one on the zapper collar, just in case, and we headed down.

There were a couple of tense moments where the dogs would run right up to the fence and The Girls would run away, and there was one moment when Moose, our chocolate lab, and one of the white alpacas were nearly nose to nose through the fence before one of them got scared and backed away.

 

They are so funny watching us throw the ball for the dogs and the dogs chasing after it. I love their faces!

I think it will take a few days before the dogs are completely comfortable with the alpacas… they still are agitated in the evening when they can see them down there moving around, but I think it will be okay after that.  They’ll probably just ignore each other… or maybe they’ll be friends!

Later in the evening, The Girls were grazing, drinking water, cushing down to rest, taking dirt baths, and just relaxing in their new home.

We’re so happy they’re here!

AAAAAAAND, Shirley brought me EIGHT BAGS of fiber!

I have so many plans!!  Stay tuned! 🙂

Big Day on the Homestead!

First, we had Carrie from Snohomish County Conservation District over for a farm visit.   I heard about county conservation districts at the Llama Information Day (that was Whatcom Conservation District).  They are nationwide in every county and their goal is to help property owners do what they need to do while protecting natural resources.  They provide farm maps, and help with nearly everything related to the land.   We are such newbies and we just needed a little bit of guidance on our farm and what we need to do next.  I have been particularly worried about the weeds on our property and whether they are toxic to alpacas (nope!), and the creek that runs through our woods.   I’ll write more about the visit and the awesome resources they provide in a few days… it was a great experience and I highly recommend it.

Annnnnnnndddd….

… wait for it….

… the big news….

The ALPACAS COME TOMORROW!

 

We’re so ready and so excited to have them home.  The kids and I did some last minute shopping yesterday (water troughs, chains and locks for the gates) and did some cleaning up in the alpaca area – picking up branches and garbage and dog poop, and cleaning out the building in their field to make sure we got all the old wood and nails and that it’s all ready.

Carson needs to put the final touches on their shelter and finalize a couple of details.  Our neighbor is helping us out with straw for their bedding, and we’re ready!!!  They should arrive tomorrow around 1 pm!

This little heart-shaped patch of dry grass in the alpaca field helps me know that this is right!

 

Shaleigh made a welcome sign to hang in the shelter. 🙂 Welcome Phoebe, Midori and Zoe. (We’ll work on her spelling later! 🙂

 

 

 

Crabbing

There are so many amazingly wonderful things about where we live, and several of them will be covered in this post.

First, we have wonderful neighbors who have taken us into their circle and made us part of it.  Jim and Randi have lived in Stanwood and the surrounding areas for their whole lives and have watched their small town become a bigger town and I’m sure there was some eye-rolling when they heard that we moved here from Seattle (the big city), but they never let us see it.  They have helped us with every single thing we’ve done here and they are always patient with our questions and helpful with suggestions and tips.  I don’t know where we’d be without them.

They’ve also introduced us to the river and boating on the sounds – and our very favorite summer pastime – CRABBING!  They’ve helped us get tooled up and showed us the ropes for the specific areas off Camano Island.

Opening day was Saturday and we planned to leave the house at 4 am… all of us!  My kids are early risers – around 5 usually, so getting up at 3:30 wasn’t as bad as it might have been for some kids.  Plus, they love crabbing as much as the rest of us so they were excited to get up and head out.

Farm Chores with our Scaredy-Cat (aka Chicken Kitty)

Last night, after I got the kids to sleep, I headed out for my nightly chores… I remembered to bring my fancy camera!  I always start with watering… then I realize I should have harvested first… tomorrow, I say… every day!   Things are really growing (even the weeds! – again, tomorrow!).  Look how pretty the lettuce is!!

 

I think I’ve mentioned before that our kitty, Buster, is a city kitty, king of the neighborhood and quite the hunter when we lived in Seattle.  He’s become quite the scaredy cat since we moved to the country, and doesn’t venture far from the deck and his favorite pooping spots.  This spring, he started coming with me to water the garden. He acts all relaxed and cocky, and gets into his ol’ hunting stances with the bunnies and birds, but then doesn’t do anything about it.

Our tomatoes really struggled this year!  They hardly grew for the whole first month… and they looked really sad.  Our neighbor recommended that we get lime – she said that it totally turned her tomatoes around a few years ago.  I went to the Country Store in town and asked about lime and they only had a 25 lb bag – way too much for my 9 plants!  They recommended a few different fertilizers and the one I ended up buying didn’t even have lime in it, but it had a bunch of other things.  The company is called FoxFarms and the product is Grow Big!  I added it to my tomatoes every other day as recommended and within five days, there was a night and day difference!  And now, two weeks later, there are tomatoes on a few of the plants! WOOOOOOHOOOOO!

There’s kitty again!

I had to take a few shots of the alpaca fence on my way down to check on the chickens!  Isn’t it awesome?  Looks so farmy around here now!

Kitty followed me down to the lower part of the yard.  He’s a little hesitant but as long as I’m going, he’s going.  It’s been a fun part of the evening to see him branching out!

We’re (Carson is!) building the alpaca shelter off of this cool old building on our property and, in that process, we’re going to shore up the old building so that we can store hay and other things in it.  Another day, another project! 🙂

The chickies were running low on food, and Carson made a new setup for them so we don’t have to reach way into the coop part to grab the food bucket.  I like it… we’ll see how it is in the winter – we’re hoping the food stays dry.

This is Buffarina, the broody hen.  She rarely – if ever – leaves the nesting box.  And last night, she had a feather stuck to her beak… hmmm, I wonder if she was pecking one of her sisters?

Nolan the Rooster needed food and water, too, but he came over to pose for some pictures!  He’s such a nice boy.  We have heard about roosters not being so nice and we were worried that he would be a meany, but he’s such a love!  It took him awhile to feel safe around us, but now he comes right out to greet us and he’ll let us know if something’s wrong with the girls.  If they are out of food, he’s crowing a lot more and then he’ll run back and forth from the gate to the girls to alert us!  It’s been so fun to have him around.

Kitty has discovered the chickens and I hope he doesn’t figure out how to get over that fence.  The hens are all protected from above with chicken wire, but Nolan’s enclosure is open on top.  Buster was definitely scanning to see if he could get up there.  Then when I went back to the hen side, he laid right down and was flicking his tail.

Luckily, when I headed back to the house, he was very close behind me!  Chicken kitty! 🙂

Our apple trees have little baby apples on them!  TONS OF LITTLE BABY APPLES!  Summer is here!

I got back to the house, then remembered I forgot to get the eggs from the hens… back down I went.  I was a little nervous about my shoe choice – I usually boot up – both to avoid the poop on my feet, and so that they don’t peck me… exposed skin plus red toenails?  Not the smartest!  Luckily, it was easy and the hens didn’t seem to notice! Phew!