Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.


Posted on | October 18, 2012 | 1 Comment

For the last few days I have been nesting.

No, not that kind of nesting.  Really, how could you assume such horrible things about me?

This is the kind of nesting that comes after a short burst of cold weather.  Because, like any good ant knows, cold nights and chilly mornings means time is running out to get your stuff together.  Sunny days will soon be replaced by frigid temperatures and snowy fields.  Well, not for me, but for you suckers up north it will.  But the critters and I will still have to deal with 30 degree nights and a brisk wind chill.  On occasion.  In like January.  So it never hurts to be prepared.

It all started with the duck stock.  Since all the duck stock in the freezer was depleted, it was time to make some more.  We make duck stock out of duck carcasses once the breast meat is removed.  Then we use that stock during the year in any recipe calling for broth.  It also makes a rich, healthy, rejuvenating soup whenever someone is sick.  Too bad I was the first one to get sick this year.  And there was no duck stock.  Ask yourself:  who makes the duck stock for the sick person when the person who makes the duck stock is sick?  Answer: No one.  A good ant makes her own duck stock before she runs out.  Otherwise, she’s just a sick cricket with no rich, healthy, rejuvenating soup.  Aesop was a wise, wise man.  Probably a woman publishing under a man’s name actually.  No one really knows.

Once the duck stock was on the stove, I was trapped in the house for the next 3-4 hours as it simmered.

And the first thing that caught my eye was the wood stove.  Everyone knows the wood stove should be prepped and ready to go for cold temperatures.  Too bad it was being used as a storage closet.

I’d like to blame all that clutter on The Other Half.  However, there appears to be a heat lamp clamped onto the side from the last chicks we rescued in August and a big Rubbermaid tub of my summer clothes.  My size 10 summer clothes that I was going to fit into after I finished my diet.  Too bad my diet ended after only 3 days and the size 10’s have been sitting there neglected ever since.  Maybe next summer, my pretties, maybe next summer.  Or not.  Whatever.

But I don’t feel too bad.  Because even Luna was getting in on the clutter action.  That’s the tail to her stuffed raccoon.

She ate the rest of the raccoon.  But she has kept the tail for years.  And carries it around like…well, a talisman.  Or perhaps as a warning.  To other stuffed raccoons.  Either way, it has been missing for weeks and it was adding to the wood stove clutter collection.

Ah, there you are my warm and cozy friend.

Speaking of cozy, in addition to changing the sheets on the kids’ beds, I washed and dried all their comforters.  Just to restore their fresh, insulating fluffiness.  Of course, I had to wash Little’s sheets separately from everything else.   Because when I took them off his bed, there was a Little-shaped dirt stain on the mattress cover.  Jeez.  How many times do you have to explain to a 7 year old that you have to use the soap when you are in the shower??  The spray of water alone just doesn’t cut the grease and grime.

Which is alarming because I’m pretty sure The Other Half just had a discussion with him last week about not wearing his socks out in the yard to play basketball and then putting their dirty nastiness right into his sneakers.  So that his shoes smell so bad that they can’t even be kept in the mudroom with the other shoes.  I may have to change his moniker from “Little” to “Pig Pen” in honor of the Charles Schulz character that walked around in his own personal dirt cloud.  I guess if you have enough kids, one of them will be the dirty one.

Which I don’t understand.  I mean, how comfortable can it be to lay around in your own filth?

Well, for most of us anyway.

I decided to wash Pretty’s collection of stuffed animals that she sleeps with and her special blankie, too, while I was in her room.

She’s had that blankie since she looked like this and carried it with her everywhere she went:

Just thinking about a teeny Pretty and her “key” as she called it, gave me the warm fuzzies.

Until I realized I had to shake Pretty’s sheets out on the deck before they went into the washer.  Since I found guinea pig turds in them.  I’m sure she and I have already had multiple discussions about Riccio hanging out under the bedclothes.  I went over the rules with Riccio again while I was in there.  He had no comment on the issue.

I like to think my family is reasonably normal.  But it is things like this that make me wonder.

While the washer and dryer was running, I moved on to the bathrooms.  I tried a new cleaner from OxiClean that sprayed on blue but turned white when it was done cleaning.  I don’t think it works.  Sure, the bath smells clean.  But that foam turned white in only 2 seconds.  I don’t believe it could clean all of my family’s dirt in that short period of time.  No way.  And, of course, it didn’t do anything for this:

The floor in our shower is always heavily stained.  It only happens in our bathroom, not the kids’ bathrooms.  Almost as if someone comes in from the garden and the barn so filthy that the dirt just can’t be washed away.  It can only be transferred from the person to the shower floor.  Until eventually I get out the heavy duty specialty cleaner.  The specialty cleaner that I buy from a commercial cleaning supply store.  The cleaner that is clearly labeled NOT FOR HOME USE.  Which is fine, because this is for FARM use.  And if you apply it immediately after your usual cleaner, whether that be bleach or OxiClean, it does a great job.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not advocating the combination of 2 toxic cleaners.  That would be dangerous.  And stupid.  I’m just saying that if you apply the specialty cleaner (as quickly as possible) after you (mostly) rinse away the first cleaner, you get an extra cleaning boost.  Also, the resulting fumes can singe off any unsightly nose hairs and thin your eyebrows a bit.  Bonus.  Plus, in the end, you get this:

Ah, shiny!  At least until the next time I come back in from the garden.

After the shower episode I figured it was time for some fresh air.  So I gave the stock a good stirring, switched the loads of laundry, and headed outside.  The boys had been assigned the job of removing the last of the tomato and cucumber cages in the garden last week.  Which they did willingly.  If by “willingly” you mean they grumbled, complained, pretended not to be strong enough, took multiple water breaks, and then begged for cash for participating.  Luckily I had borrowed a tiller and was using it to till the beds as they worked.  It was loud enough that I could continually shake my head, looking confused, when they started carrying on and mouth, “Sorry, I can’t hear you.”  Or maybe it was, “Get back to work before I beat you and take away your Wii.”  Either way, they eventually got it done.

I don’t usually till my raised beds but I have expanded the garden so much that I don’t have enough compost to make the beds deep enough for fall root crops without some tilling.  Plus, I let grass grow between the rows this year.  I like the grass better than mulch but it crept into the beds and the spade just wasn’t getting the edges back.  So I borrowed a friend’s hand held tiller that was just strong enough to get the job done without destroying everything in it’s path.  Most of my worms survived unscathed and all the toads had time to hop away to safety under the blackberries until I was done.  It even gently turned over some potatoes and garlic that must have been hidden during my last harvest.  Garlic mashed potatoes for dinner, anyone?

So, in any case, now that I was in the mood for nesting, the garden was ready to be nested in.  And I scurried up and down the rows, like a good ant, seeding and planting through the dreary drizzle until the rows were filled.

Plus, I mulched the potatoes that look awesome because they were actually planted on time.  Instead of 3 weeks late in the season like everything else.  Mostly they were on time because they planted themselves.  Or at least grew from the tiny spuds I left behind when I harvested.  Which is pretty much the same thing as planting themselves.  Good job, potatoes!

I don’t have too worry too much about planting late, though, because I have floating row covers for when the temperatures begin to drop.  I keep them carefully folded and stored in the garden so they’re ready for use.  Kind of.

They’re effective and easy to use.  Especially since, in addition to growing vegetables, my garden grows rocks that are perfect for holding down the row covers when the time comes.  I keep them also neatly stored.  Kind of.

“Neatly stored” is a flexible term when it comes to gardening.  I did put in some lettuce transplants to get a jump start on things and keep the garden from looking entirely naked.

Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and collards are always put in as transplants.  But you can’t see them.  Because the the frost cover also works an an insect barrier.  All brassicas have to be covered immediately upon planting here or else the cabbage moths set in and we’d end up eating cabbage worms in addition to our cruciferous vegetables.  Ugh.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the only place where worms were an issue.  I checked the greenhouse on my way up from the garden and found my tomato plants were loaded with nice green tomatoes.  And tons of horn worms!  I have no idea where they came from as all those plants were grown here from seed and we have never had horn worms.  But I removed the worms and gave the plants a good pruning.  I had to prune them because I removed the worms by cutting off any branch they were on.  I suppose I could have picked them off but, in case you don’t know, horn worms are armed with a very vicious-looking spike.

I’m pretty sure that thing is loaded with poison.  And I’ve heard somewhere that they can swing it around and stab you with it before you can pluck them off and fling them into the mouth of a waiting chicken.  I think I heard that from the little voice in my head that screamed “AGGHHHHH, a spike!  Better clip that whole branch off because if you don’t that worm will swing it around and stab you with it before you can pluck him off and fling him into the mouth of a waiting chicken.”  That voice is not always reliable.  Because it’s been known to tell me I can eat 3 pieces of chocolate cake and not regret it later.  But I still trust it.  Since one time it yelled, “STOP!  Do NOT cut your own bangs with the kitchen scissors!”  And, boy, was the voice right about that.

Anyway, a good pruning inspired me to implement a little trick I saw at last spring’s farm tour.  One farm we visited had their greenhouse tomatoes climbing up nice little string trellises.  So the plants stayed off the ground and the tomatoes were easy to harvest.  It seemed like an excellent idea.

And my adaptation came out just as nice.  That’s one of the things I love about farming.  When someone has a good idea, you can steal it and use it for yourself.  Without even having to worry about that whole plagiarism or copyright thing.  I think.  I hope.  If not, then you never saw this:

With the garden under control, I headed out to the buck pen.  With all the hoopla of the breeding season, the bucks have been pushing each other around so much that they pushed out of the sides of their pallet house.  So that the roof slanted in such a way that water was running into it.  Which left them standing in the mud or fighting over the few dry spots on these cold rainy days.

So I pushed the sides back up, restoring the slant of the roof, and then secured the sides with T-posts.  Then I laid down some pallets inside the house.  The slats are close enough together that the boys can walk or lay down on them easily and that I can toss some hay in there for them to cuddle on.  But they are far enough apart that most of the goat berries and urine will pass through.

This should keep them warm and dry and off the cold ground throughout the winter months.  As long as the posturing ends.  The posturing must end if the bucks wish to preserve their quarters.  It doesn’t matter how badly you want to impress the girls, standing on the roof is a violation of housing preservation laws.  Do you hear me, TS?

Honestly.  I spent a lot of time and absolutely no money building a buck house out of discarded pallets and leftover tarps (it doesn’t matter if a tarp has holes if it’s big enough to fold over 5 or 6 times) and you would think it was trash.  Well,….useless trash.  It’s trash that still has lots of life left in it.  Just because the girls have a stick built barn and a real roof is no reason for complaining.  I make 74 cents for every dollar a man makes, buddies.  Regardless of the fact that I’m the one who cleans out all the crud left in the microwave in the break room.  Gender inequality is a bi**h, isn’t it?

Thank goodness that by the time the buck pen was done, the duck stock was finally done, too.  As it cooled, I had just enough time to put up the bats and ghosts….

scare up the entryway….

hang the spiders….

and set the table.

With my nest fully clean and feathered, the garden and greenhouse prepared for new crops, and the critters warm and dry, Luna and I made like good ants.  And took a nap.

God bless the anthill.


One Response to “Nesting.”

  1. Lisa D
    October 20th, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

    I remember the key!! And Alexis still sleeps with hers most nights :)(Unless there is someone watching.)

    Another satisfying day for you. I put up a couple lights and called it a day. But of course I am not an ant.

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