Monday, November 23, 2015

Still Here
Hello friends! Yes, we're still alive here at Vine Living. Hard to believe it's been 9 months since I've seen you(and let's face it, since moving here, I haven't been great at updates either)! We've been rockin' and rollin' on the farm with lots happening. As I glossed over the photos from the past year, thinking about what to start with as far as catching up goes, I got overwhelmed and thought that I'd better just chose a few, throw them out there and declare that I'm blogging again or it may not happen.

Some of the first things we have done since getting settled into our little abode have been getting our land running and working for us. That included 5 acres of fencing, a fence around the garden to keep critters out and cutting trees, trees and more trees for pasture for our beloved cows. We have planted and toiled, sweated and bled. We have cried and laughed, cursed and kicked things.

We have celebrated birthdays and holidays. We have made friends with some amazing people that we feel like we've known forever, started a homesteader's group in our small town and gotten settled with homeschooling.

We have time to just hang out with our children and enjoy our property and lifestyle. For so long, it seemed as though every weekend was filled with chores and projects. Turning a 5 acre dense forest into a farm is NOT for sissies (although sometimes I secretly felt like one!).  It doesn't leave a lot of time for being lazy, but let's face it. I'm the type that likes to stay busy. Yes, I'm a dreamer and a visionary. My husband lovingly stares into my eyes and says that I keep his life "interesting". I know that I do and although this past year has definitely been busy, we couldn't be more in love. We love our new town. The freedoms that we have with country living bring such joy and peace. Tranquility and stillness. Nature and a sense of awe.

We have been taking classes at Morning Star Fishermen, enjoying learning about solar energy for our future here on our farm, the power of Moringa (which we are now growing from seed in abundance), greenhouse building and more.

We have been enjoying learning what grows in our area, getting to know our local farmers and what they produce. Very friendly people up here. Even driving is a different experience I must say. People drive slower and aren't always in a hurry. I recently cultivated some elderberry cuttings and planted them into the garden. Can't wait for blossoms and berries.

(Almost a 1/2 gallon of colostrum...cancer fighting at it's best. Great for smoothies.)
Molly had her second calf almost 2 months ago. A little heifer, but she didn't make it. It was a very stressful delivery with free-ranging chickens surrounding us and 2 dogs wanting to chase them. Then, 3 pigs got out of their pen and 5 children were asking questions all while Rob and I were trying to talk on the phone with a farmer friend who was walking us through the delivery. Yep, that was one of those moments where I wanted to kick something and curse the ground. A little heifer.

We named her "Angel" and she got buried under an oak tree by the cow pasture. We were concerned for Molly's health, but after monitoring her temperature for a few days, some herbs, lots of attention and care, she was fine. She mooed when she saw her baby, but I think she knew something was wrong. She nuzzled her little, lifeless body for a brief moment and walked away as if to say goodbye. I was crying, the kids were crying and Rob tried his darndest to hold it all together for the rest of us.
We had worked so hard.
There's something about failure thought that pushes the human heart to keep going. To try again. And we did. We will continue on. Mabel is due to freshen in 5 weeks so we are excited about that. We are enjoying fresh milk from Molly  now and it is so sweet! 2 gallons a day. We are looking to the calendar to hopefully get Molly bred again in the next month or so, staggering her with Mabel so that we always have milk when the other cow is dried up. What a blessing to have two girls giving us milk.

Oh, yeah, not sure if I mentioned we got a new puppy. This photo is terrible, but no judgement please. Remember I said I just picked a few fast to get this blog a 'rollin again? "Ruby" has been a wonderful addition to the family and is getting quite big. Lord-willing, puppies will be in our future.

The pigs. Ahh, the pigs. Poor Wilbur just up and died one morning and Fern moped around looking for her buddy the rest of the week. She continued getting out of her pen and became more like a family dog just roaming the property, eating acorns and happy as a clam. Then she got into my flower bed and that was the end of that! Sorry Fern. We replaced Wilbur with two more Duroc cross piglets and they are growing fast. Our carefully weaved, old fashioned pig pen was replaced with pallets and we haven't had the pigs escape yet (except when we let them out to roam and eat acorns, as we guard the flower bed of coarse). This winter should allow for some good ham, sausage and bacon.

We've enjoyed having hummingbirds in our flower bed as well as other birds and visitors. I LONG to start a beehive, but am really on the fence as it takes so many flowers to maintain what they need for food supply to make honey and survive. We don't live within a few miles of an orange grove, although our town is full of them. Not close enough for bees. There are vineyards of grapes and blueberry crops everywhere, but not within a walking distance or a few miles. I am carefully researching how to maintain enough flowers for them without having to rely on soy patties for their food. No GMOs welcome here! Shew! Go away!

Our homeschool style has definitely relaxed since moving. There are just times and seasons in which we aren't doing full-out school and that's okay. I think that on days where I'm making cheese or putting in spinach starts or churning compost that somehow my kids aren't leaning. Gulp. Those are some of the MOST important things TO learn! "That's why we moved out here", homeschooling mother reminds herself. {grin}
Our kids have learned so much about life, death, breeding and reproduction (yep, reproduction). They have learned how to pollinate plants when there aren't enough bees and what garden plants to grow at certain seasons. They are learning to hunt. They have learned how to butcher heritage breed turkeys (yes, we did two last weekend and they look mighty fine for eatin'!). They have learned that mommies aren't perfect, houses aren't supposed to look perfect (they won't be when you're outside all the time, then coming in and tracking dirt everywhere) and shoveling manure can earn you a few extra bucks if you do it well. They have learned how to drive tractors, haul things, fix things, build things and make due with what you have in the barn. They are learning how to APPLY what they are learning in math instead of just doing worksheets. They are learning.

Our adoption is taking longer than we anticipated, but we have much that keeps us busy as we wait. The Lord's timing is perfect. We press on and think of a sweet, precious life that we will be nurturing and loving as the Lord brings him or her to us in His timing.
Well, so much more to write. Too much to tell. However, I have two cows bellowing at me waiting to be fed and milked. I have eggs to collect, turkeys, pigs and ducks to feed, a garden to water and some broccoli starts to get in before the sun goes down.
So much to do and so little time, but I'm so glad to say hello again friends! I have missed you, but look forward to catching up.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pigs on the Homestead..Meet "Fern" and "Wilbur"
So, I just spent an hour creating this post and then Blogger decided to erase all my efforts and thus, I am giving this post one more try. (Remaining composure and trying not to throw laptop at the wall. Ah-hem.)
That's right. We decided to jump in feet first and get pigs this spring. Meet Fern and Wilbur. They are 8-week-old Yorkshire/Hampshire cross piglets and are the only 2 from a sow's litter. The owner's are friends from church and are't these 2 little guys just stinkin' cute?!

When we got the call that they were ready for pick up, the oldest 4 kids and I jumped into the car (after loading it with a cage and nets) and were on our way. We hung out and chatted, admiring their herd of beef cattle as we prepared to catch the piglets. Lots of spring calves!

Here's Mama Pig and she wasn't happy about us taking her babies. For sure!

Lincoln, admiring one of our friend's mama cows

"B" was a great help and demonstrated his pig-catching skills quite well I should say. We dressed in boots and play clothes ready to help, but this lad knew what he was doing and after about 20 minutes, and then a little chatting as we loaded up, we were on our way home.

They did very well on the car ride home. I was surprised.

Rob met us at the car and helped carry them to the pen. He estimated them weighing in around 20 lbs. each, but we haven't found a way to weigh them just yet.

They took a few minutes, but then warmed up to their new home and came out, exploring.

The next morning, Ranger decided to jump the pig pen fence and round them up for us (You're such a great help Ranger!). It was off to Rural King for some chicken wire and thanks to Lincoln, he took initiative and a hand staple gun and after about 2 hours, had the entire pen enclosed with chicken wire. We really didn't want to use wire, keeping the authentic weaved wood look, but we also didn't want the dog jumping in and out, nor the little rascals escaping. Chicken wire it was.

Their first mud bath was really fun to watch. Snouts poking in and out of the warm earth. Just as God intended. Makes me sad thinking about all the pigs in feed lots on cement who never see the light of day. We feel so honored to give these pigs a great life up until the very end.

You really haven't lived until you sit in a chair in the warm sun, watching baby piglets burrow in the mud. It's fascinating!

Lincoln has taken a special liking to these pigs. They trust him the most out of all the kids, probably because he spends the most time with them, putting in the most care. They really are clean and intelligent animals, despite what people may think. No odors coming from the pen and they are very easy to train.
We decided not to get them wormed nor cut their teeth. I'll be using a natural tonic of rosemary herbs, fresh garlic and good old Diotemaceous Earth for worming. They won't be on fresh grass (for now anyways, until we get our pastures set up) so we're not too worried about worms. I found THIS website very helpful and have been using THIS book for the past year and I wouldn't farm without it! Really.
The plan for these pigs...well, Fern will remain on the farm here with us for as long as possible and Wilbur, well, he'll be fall bacon. Yep. I don't think I'll do well emotionally on that one, but you never can tell. Maybe he'll escape one too many times and I'll be happy to see the guy go.
Anyway, pigs naturally begin reproducing around 9 months of age and although Fern and Wilbur are brother and sister, with pigs, they can interbreed and supposedly, it doesn't effect their offspring. They're one of the few animals that you can do this with. So, after Wilbur "does his thang", he'll be bacon and Fern will produce a litter of piglets later on for us to sell and keep one or two for more butchering.
We're excited to learn about a new animal that we've never had before. Chickens, they're old news. Cows, we're ALWAYS learning something new about them (my personal favorite!), dogs, cats and ducklings, been there, done that. But pigs! We're reading a ton and the kids and I are learning so much.
So, here's to pigs! {smile}

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March at Vine Living Farm

Life is crazy busy around here and "spring has sprung". We love it though. It's LIVING. It's messy, busy, loud, hectic at times, serene at other times, breezy, still cool at night, clear evenings, less bonfires, but more water play. Shady, hammock book reading, lunches on the picnic tables and lots and lots of BABIES (including the approval of our adoption paperwork and on the waiting list for our home study...ya-hoo!).

We gave in and bought 5 ducklings at Rural King. They seem to have taken on names from Beatrix Potter...Jemima Puddle Duck, Rebecca Puddle Duck, etc. {grin...because we're huge Beatrix Potter fans!}

My laundry room has become a duckling and turkey nursery lately, but I don't mind, thanks to THIS...

my essential oils diffuser. I'm really in love. No really! Who doesn't love a fresh-smelling house especially when adorable, little ducklings and turkeys must invade your laundry room. This has been fabulous to have and we take it everywhere we go, yes, even camping!

Our new kitty. We now own two cats and although we've never been cat fans before, we're so thankful for them as they've been on "mouse duty" in the barn.

Titus is pretty taken with his kitties.

We've had lots of baby rabbits born (12 to be exact) to two mothers within 24 hours of each other. Two didn't make it so 10 little bunnies remain.

Anyone wanting a spring bunny?

Finished a new quilt. Just a scrap pinwheel quilt, but it did turn out nicely.

Some fabrics were vintage sheets and some just left over fabrics from other sewing projects. I am a new fan of using sheets as my backing instead of buying expensive fabric. Just picked up a queen sheet at Goodwill for $3.00 and "bam!", instant backing. SO much softer too!

Bunnies, getting bigger. Our girls are in love I tell ya'. This is one litter...

and this is the other.

Then, let's just throw everybody together for a group shot.

Everybody smile!

This is our buck, Peter. Happy Papa! He was grinning from whisker to whisker the day the babies were born. He's such a sweet boy and the kids just love him.

Mopsy, one of the mothers.

Rob's car had to be taken into the shop, so this is the rental they gave him. Poor guy!

Our biddies. So happy to have eggs again.

There's nothing like a fresh egg. Nothing. Golden, orange yolks fresh from the hen house. We found a great feed store here in town that sells Kay Organics. Non-GMO feed for all of our animals. Score!

Our Americana rooster

We have a total of 3 roosters

Just taking a swim on this spring morning. Tis the life of a duckling.

I was finally able to get Echinacea growing. So excited about this tray of starts. I do grow all of our own starts and this one especially make me smile. Time to transplant!!

Tractor Supply  had a bunch of fruit trees in last month so we caved and bought a few...cherry, 2 apples, Navel orange, lime, lemon and a weeping willow. This peach is one from a tree I have been waiting to transplant for about 4 years. The Saturday we actually put them into the ground, I had to pinch myself again that we're actually here. (I have to pinch  myself from time to time...still.)

I've been having laundry line withdrawls, so Rob put this up for me a few weekends ago.

A go cart a neighbor gave to us to work on. Needs a new brake system. Lincoln and Titus are helping.

Some campfire cooking

What our afternoons are like (with some neighbor boys)

Isaac on our hay

Roses blooming

Lincoln's strength never ceases to amaze me...he's still just 7 and can lift things that I can't. My "man child"...tee hee

We didn't have bluebirds in the city where we used to live, but we have them here and they are such a delight! A family of bluebirds moved into the bird house Rob and the kids bought me for my birthday last year. We've had fun observing them.

Garden Phlox are in full bloom here in our little town and they're so beautiful along the roadsides. The kids tease me that I pick too many wildflowers, but I can't help myself. One of my favorite things to do.

Molly-Moo is a few months pregnant now and Mabel is currently undergoing some AI this week and next. She'll calve in early January. Four cows (Lord-willing) by next year! We'd better finish our pasture!!!

More laundry line drying.
Stay tuned for pictures of our latest little additions...they go by the name of "Fern" and "Wilbur". Betcha' can't guess what we've added to our little homestead?