Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pigs, Part 2

So I went out this morning to check on our little piggers. They were alive, so we got them past that first night. They were cold; silly things didn't go inside for the night, even though they had a shed and a Dogloo in which to sleep. Hmmmm...I thought pigs were supposed to be the smartest farm animals?

We have found pigs to be very entertaining. Later in the summer I'll post about bathing them. No, I don't go out with soap and bubbles, but they do like being hosed down in hot weather. They run and play in the spray, and shake like dogs. Happy pigs--and pigs on Pine Ridge Farm are always happy--run and play together when they get the chance.

Although we raise them on the ground, John does not allow them to be fully pastured. They have a pen to play in and dig in, but he doesn't want to be chasing pigs through the pastures. We have done that; it wasn't pretty. Watching them dig and root for bugs and roots can be a relaxing way to while away an hour or so on a hot day.

But that digging makes them well-suited for other purposes, too. Pigs are nature's rototillers. Many people talk of putting their pigs in their gardens in the fall, to dig out the bugs and larvae, to turn compost over and till it in, and to leave a little extra fertilizer while they do that. I don't get to use them that way...until this year.

Last year, we raised 4 sheep. We meant to raise them on grass, but, somehow, their pasture didn't get fenced, and they spent the summer in a pen. They were very wasteful of their hay, and we ended up with a mound of trashed hay, about 3' thick, right under their hayrack.



I hinted, and ask, and, finally, offered money, to get anyone of my family to dig out that hay and put it on the compost. There it still sits. (Even money didn't motivate them! Not that I blame them; it's nasty work.) So when I came home with the pigs yesterday, I just popped them into that pen. An hour later, they had already made quite a dent.



In addition, they dug along the fenceline.


And their shed.



In fact, they hadn't touched their food this morning. I think they found enough old hay, sheep feed, worms and grubs in that pile that they didn't get hungry! I'm sure that will change. But they're better than the horses, in that they're grateful to be fed. Horses look at you like, "Yeah, it's about time, pinhead." Pigs say, "WOO HOO! Feeding time!" Makes them a lot of fun to be around!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pigs



As my faithful stalkers know, every year here at Pine Ridge Farm, we welcome some little pigs. We feed them over the summer, turning them into big pigs. In the fall, we take them to Eickman's, where they are turned into little white packages. I know, I know, it seems cruel. But the pork...Oh, the pork...You cannot understand when I describe the flavor and texture of home-raised pork unless you've had some. If you have, lucky you.

We usually buy our feeder pigs (that's what they're called, folks) from a family we know through church and 4H. Sadly, this year they had a bad farrowing (the process of piglets being born is called farrowing) and had no extra pigs to sell to us. So my friend Mike called around yesterday and found us pigs. He called me last night, and I agreed to go pick them up today.

I tried to leave home by 8:30. Those who know me know that that didn't happen. But I did leave by 8:50; not too shabby for me, especially in the morning hours. My first stop was Mike's house, where I picked up his son, Jason. Then I stopped at Tractor Supply for shavings (I did not want pig...stuff...in the back of my truck without wood shavings; they make it easier to clean.) Then we (myself, Jason and Miss Mary) were off.

Riding along with two teenagers is always interesting. Riding through the country to pick up pigs added another layer of interesting. These two have handled pigs for years before this, and, even for my daughter, there's no "Ick" factor. They surprised me with one comment, though. "Man," Jason said, "These people are out in the middle of nowhere!" I laughed out loud. "Jason," I said, "Firstly, where do you think we would go to get baby pigs? Certainly not suburbia!" He could only agree that such a trip would involve wide open spaces and rural routes. "And secondly," I continued, "it might surprise you both to learn that, for lots of people, WE live in the middle of nowhere!"

"Oh, yeah," they both said, mystified.

Then there was the...fragrance. We noticed it as soon as we returned to the truck after loading the sweeties. Eau de Pig. It was expected, but they both made comments like, "Well, you did make us do all the handling," and "Hey, we can't help it." Jason may also have commented that he saved his morning shower for after the trip. While we stood in Culver's, waiting to order, he did say, "Man, I stink!" I did notice something unexpected when, after we had lunch, I was checking on the pigs. I noticed that the smell in the back of the pickup, where the pigs were, was not as intense as the smell in the cab, where the people were! I guess those wood shavings really did the job! We should have had some in the cab!

Eventually, we made it home, the pigs were delivered to pens at both houses, and Mary cleaned up. I headed out a little bit ago to see how they had settled in. More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yet Another Sunny Spring Day

It's been lovely here. I spent it cleaning out flowerbeds, pruning shrubbery and generally getting things ready to pop up and bloom. The peonies are up, along with the chives and daffodils. Some of you are saying, "Yeah? And?" But I live further north than you! Tomorrow I'll tackle the big flowerbed between the house and the chicken coop, which is going to become a shrubbery bed this year. Except for a few annuals and some easy care perennials, I am switching over to shrubs so I'm not spending hours and hours playing with perennials. See, I already spend hours and hours playing with my food; you know, the veggie portion of the garden.

Then I ended the day with porterhouse steak, good wine, chocolate mousse and "The Social Network." Good day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Farm Report

Today was a gorgeous day, if cold. We had 22 degrees last night, about 35 today, and we're expecting 23 tonight. It's cold, but beautifully sunny. We got the housework done this week, so we had today--almost--to ourselves. (By "ourselves," I mean Mary and me. John was working at the library today.)

We headed out mid-morning to pick up some dress patterns. They were on sale today for $1.99. Regular price? One was $17.95, the other, $18.95. Who pays those prices? Seriously, I'd like to know. Doesn't everyone wait until Hancock or JoAnn's has them on sale for $1.99? We also picked up some fabric for two dresses, both for Mary. One will be a sundress, with a red bandanna theme. The other is likely her Easter dress; a flippy, pretty skirt and fitted bodice made from a peach/orange/green floral.

We came home and I headed out to garden. Two of my raised beds are now covered with plastic, which I am counting on to help the soil warm. In about 2 weeks, I'm planning on putting out broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, so let's hope it works!



My pretty pony has been looking pretty nasty these days, mudbug that she is.



I swear, this horse could find the only spot of mud in the Sahara, and, regardless of size, she'd roll in it and cover herself with the stuff. She's starting to shed, too, so I took a brush to her. Not much improvement, but it was more to get in touch with her again and move some muscles on myself that I did it, anyway.



Then I came in and did some sewing for me. I cut out a top to wear on our trip,



and finished the hem on a black skirt. I'll do that tonight, while I watch The X Files. We're almost done...

Tonight was pork schnitzel, red cabbage, spaetzle, fried pickles, broccoli and wine. Getting in training for that Europe trip, y'know?!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sure Signs of Spring

This came to the door today.



What, you ask, was in it? Certainly NOT penguins!



The first of our seed potatoes!

I saw these today. It was 22 last night, was 35 today, and is predicted to be 22 again tonight. These babies are cold!



I made a trip to Farm and Fleet today. Spring was bustin' out all over there! And here's the evidence.



These little darlings followed me home. In a box. On my daughter's lap. But they followed me home. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!



5 months to fresh eggs. Lord willing and the creek don't rise!



Only about 6 weeks to cauliflower, cabbages and pak choi. Sadly, I didn't figure properly when I planted them. When they are ready to eat, I'll be in
Austria. Or Germany. Ah, well. John can eat them, at least until he gets on the plane to meet us in England.

Spring, spring, spring!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Getting Closer...

Today I marked, on my calendar, on the date April 17, the words TWO WEEKS. I marked, on my calendar, on the date April 24, the words ONE WEEK. Those mark those milestones before we leave to spend the month of May IN ITALY, AUSTRIA, GERMANY AND ENGLAND. No, I'm not excited. Why do you ask?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Family Time

Back in 2007, Grandma came to live with us. My mom wanted to see her regularly, and Grandma would head to my mom's, about 50 minutes away, on Saturdays. I'm not sure how it came about, but my mom also started coming out to my house on Wednesdays. Grandma, my two kids still at home, my mom and I would meet my aunt, cousin, and, sometimes, her daughter, for lunch. Not long after this started, my sister and brother-in-law, who live about 10 minutes north of me, started joining us also. We called it "Grandma's field trip." We would often eat at Culver's, which is near WalMart, so, of course, we'd all head over to Wally World when lunch was over. Grandma would get one of those little electric carts, and we'd head off to shop.

As time went on, and my mom's health got more frail, she would also grab one of those carts. It got so that the greeters knew us, and knew that my daughter or sister and I would come into the store, grab two carts, and run them out to the car to help my mom and grandmother get into the store. Afterward, we'd tie up traffic in front of the store as we helped them into their cars with their purchases before we returned the carts and we all drove away.

It got to the point, also, that the Culver's people knew us well. Two of my kids worked at this particular restaurant; one before we started all of this, and one after. I remember one day the manager said, "OK, I knew you were Ethan's mom, but now he tells me you're Matt's, too?" (Why it would be so odd for two brothers to work at the same fast food restaurant in a small-town area is beyond me...)

Today is Wednesday. Grandma and Mom are gone. Only one of my kids is still around to go to lunch with us. Today my dad came out, and my sister was there, and my aunt, uncle, cousin, and her daughter. Oh, and one of my kids showed up again: Jay, Kris, and her son, Sean, came by for lunch. We ate at Joe's, our local pizza place (where Matthew had his second job in fast food.) It was a fun time, sharing jokes and news and sarcastic comments with family. We've been doing this now for close to 4 years. I hope it continues for a long time to come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Grassa

Statistically, those who lose weight will gain it all back within 5 years' time. Well, your blogger has become part of the statistic, regaining 30 of the 42 pounds I lost through Weight Watchers'. Things really aren't fitting me, and I don't like it, so I am back on the wagon again.

I dropped out of WW in the fall of 2009, because that debit from my checking account every month was relentless and became a problem. With the economy like it is, every little bit helps, and, between John and myself, "that little bit" was $85 a month. Just too much for us right now. But we would be OK. We knew we could handle ourselves properly now, having been trained in healthy eating, portion control and willpower.

Wrong.

Turns out that willpower was intimately tied to stepping on a scale week after week with someone else recording the number. Initially, one of us became the someone else for the other. But we're too forgiving of each other, and that gradually fell away. Then came the hectic time of my mom's final illnesses, eating hospital foods and treating ourselves to Starbuck's treats "because things are stressful." After that, 8 weeks on the sofa recovering my feet, and, WALLAH! 30 pounds back on, lickety splicket.

Not really. It took a little over a year of extra bites, licks and tastes to bring myself back almost to where I was. I suspect it'll take about that long to get back down there. I would have liked to have lost a chunk before we go to Europe, because I have a feeling I'll lose some ground in the lands of gelato, schnitzel and ale. John and I joined a local TOPS group recently, which has helped take off about 5 pounds. But it's slow going.

TOPS, for those not aware, is a weight-loss support program that meets all over the world, helping people lose weight sensibly. We have a place to go again where someone else writes down that report from the scale, and other people having the same love/hate relationship we have with food and exercise. The only drawback to TOPS seems to be what drew us to it; it's cheap. $26 per year for membership in the system, plus $1 week for membership in our local chapter, plus 10cents per tenth of a pound when we gain. So far, neither of us has gained, and John was even paid once for being the "biggest loser." So it's cheap. But that may explain why there are members of our chapter who have been members for 20 years and are still obese. No, I am not judging them, I am just saying that TOPS may not "hurt" enough to be beneficial. We shall see.

TOPS does not endorse any specific weight loss plan. Although they don't encourage binge dieting, and do offer (free) an exchange diet plan for you to use, there is no food to buy and the general idea is, "Get the weight off. Just get it off." Appeals to me, and to John.

So I'll be letting you know, from time to time, how things are going. If I can just keep my mouth shut and quit engaging in recreational baking.....

Monday, March 21, 2011

-whew-

When I disappear from Blogland like I just did, it's often not because I just don't wanna be here. Sometimes, I just had too doggone much life to live, and visiting with you guys just didn't hit the radar...


St. Patrick's Day is also our daughter-in-law, Keri's, birthday. This birthday for her was really bad, as her grandmother had a stroke that day and has since gone on the Heaven. She and Matthew are out in California now, gathering with family and handling all of those things that need to be done at a time like this. Her Granny had a huge part in raising her from a pup, so this is going to be a tough time for her.

That night, also, Mary was nursing a fever, and we had spent a day or two helping her work through that. She spent this weekend in Springfield, at a Youth and Government gathering. I was worried about sending her after an illness, but she handled it well. They worked on two bills, had a good time, and you can read more about it at her blog, The Shurt'ugal's Post.

I spent the weekend doing some yard work and working on the England leg of our trip to Europe. Yesterday's weather helped; thunderstorms, torrential rains slowing down to constant drizzles, kept me out of the garden and on the sofa with my computer, researching B&Bs and train tickets. Fun times! I'm getting ready to launch a new blog, which will be sort of a travel journal for this trip. At the end of it, I should have a nice diary, complete with pictures, of our time overseas. And, at the end of it, I'll be back here. You know, in case you want to read about this crazy thing I call my life!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The More Things Change...

The more they remain the same. The Religion of Peace is at it again.

Find out what I'm talking about here (page down a bit, below the information about the Japanese tsunami.) Also here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Farm Report

I'm reporting off the farm today. Mary and I are attending a Regional Horse Bowl competition. Our group is small; about 7 girls, compared to the group next to us, which is more than 20. All the girls are busy cramming their heads with horsey facts. "A gene characteristic that produces only one kind of gamete is called?" "What are the two mounted riders called in a cutting competition that hold the herd behind the cutter after the cutter has selected the cow to cut?" "Where are warts usually found on young horses?" "What is the benefit of using a bowline knot?" "How many bones compose the forearm of the horse and what are their names?"

How would YOU do?

The prize for the winners today is representing our region at the State competition next month.

In other farm news, two garden beds are covered with tarps, warming for planting next month. Baby broccoli, Chinese cabbage, just plain cabbage and cauliflower are sprouting inside. Potatoes and a cherry tree are ordered. And, as always, compost is cooking!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Busy Week

It's been a week for the books. Seems like last weekend was only 2 days ago!

This has been a birthday week. Last Sunday we became parents of a 28 year-old. You gotta wonder how that happens. After all, I don't feel a day over 40! And I sure didn't give birth at 12!

This



was the aftermath. But a good time was had by all.

Two days later, his daughter, Cindy Lou Who, had a birthday. Jannah turned 9. She opened presents,



sometimes having to search for them.



A week of partying takes its toll. But these kinds of parties are a blessing. They remind us of the gifts God gives us to enjoy during our lives. Children and grandchildren are among the very best of them, and we are very grateful.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Bit of a Rant

An e-mail list I belong to has been percolating this week. One of the women posted about something that was done at her church. It involved music, in fact, music that some of the others didn't like, and they told her so. Her feelings were understandably hurt. We've continued to discuss, and that discussion has broken off into a couple of tangents.

One tangent involved the role of music in society. One of the women commented that, back in the day, families would gather in their homes to play and sing music together. She laments the loss of that kind of musical literacy. I ranted back that some of that literacy is lost to my family because of the attitude of some of my kids' music instructors, who let us all believe that we weren't really cut out to be musicians.

I've been simmering about that for about an hour, and I want to continue my rant a bit. I've come to the epiphany/revelation that we, as a society, worry too much about being perfect. About "making the grade." About success. It isn't enough to learn about something; we have to master it, compete with others to display our excellence in the area, and, most especially, make gobs and gobs of money utilizing the skill.

One of my kids wanted to compose music, but was told that a 7-8 year gap in his musical education spelled the end of his musical career. Another loves to ride, but will never gain the respect of some of her peers (note I did not say friends) because we're just not in a position, financially or geographically, to provide her the advanced training she would need. Yet another cannot prove his excellence because he can't work using that skill because he hasn't proven his excellence.

What happened to the enjoyment of plunking at the piano or tootling with a horn? What happened to a girl and her dog heading out to hike? Now she gets asked, "Will you be showing her?" Why can't we just have interests and hobbies, and just enjoy them?

And don't get me started about being over 50 and having interests that society doesn't think you "should have at your age..."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Fun, Haiku Edition

I have decided that what separates the good bloggers from the truly great ones is the use of haiku. This is merely an observation: do not take it as gospel.

In an effort to attain greatness, I offer the following.

The mud has begun.
Coming Spring is often gross.
Melting manure here.

And:

Jip, you are trouble.
Without probiotic, vile.
We must buy some more.

See a trend here? March is that way. Very...earthy. (Bwahahahaha! I kill me!)

OK. Try again.

Mary's birthday vase.
Slimy, odoriferous.
Buy some new flowers.

Yeah. I'll keep working on it.