Assuming spring comes at
least close to on schedule, it looks like this will be the first year
ever when we didn't have to ration firewood toward the end of the
winter. In fact, we're still burning wood marked for January and will
likely continue to do so for another week. In other words --- there's
quite a bit more fuel waiting in the shed.
of my original plans for this winter was to build another woodshed so
we could sock away the next year's firewood while burning the previous
year's stores, allowing us to get a full twelve-plus month drying period
in. But we've only been filling our shed about halfway
full in the past, meaning we could actually keep two years' worth of
wood under our existing roof if we rearranged the opening. So our new
plan is to block off the current open side and open up one of the long
sides, then divide the shed in two. Hopefully the result will be two
stacking areas with very little extra expenditure of materials.
The only downside? We
need to entirely empty this shed out before we can start refilling it
since we'll be stacking wood in the opposite direction. Better start
moving that extra wood to the back porch so we can clear our canvas and
start reinvisioning our new shed.
These porch steps only lasted 3.5 years before one of the four screws holding the boards in place snapped.
I added a piece of lumber under each side of the step as a brace. Hopefully that fix will last another third of a decade.
While we dream about Artemesia's possible kids (and future milking habits), I'm slowly thawing out some of the cheese from Abigail's 2015 excess. The ricotta that I wasn't so sure would be interesting was quite a hit within a chicken parmesan recipe. And her mozzarella
melts beautifully on top of homemade tomato soup. Thank you, Abigail!
It's wonderful to have a little summer to brighten this winter day.
Artemesia is most gentle when she
jumps on you wanting a treat.
It seems like sacrilege
to have such a cute, adorable goat and to waste a whole post looking at
her hind end. So here's a starter photo of Artemesia cleaning up a
fenceline for me. And now, on to the butts....
During Abigail's pregnancy last year, I tried a lot of home tests to figure out if she was pregnant. The only one that seemed at all diagnostic was peering at her vulva at intervals.
The bottom photo in this series shows the marked change that occurred
in Abigail's butt geography as she moved from her second to her fourth
month of pregnancy. Notice how the wrinkles fled as the vulva widened in
preparation for pushing a kid out a very small hole.
Looks diagnostic, right?
Now peer at the first pair of photos to the right. Those pictures were
taken in 2015 when I thought Artemesia might have been pregnant with
Abigail's grandchild. The obvious change, though, turned out to be due
to some combination of Artemesia maturing into her full sexuality (her
first birthday was in June) and perhaps changes to her vulva as she went
into heat. She wasn't pregnant after all.
Okay, now look at the
middle photos. These are the ones I'm currently scratching my head over.
We hope Artemesia is 2.5 months into her first pregnancy, assuming her post-Thanksgiving driveway date
stuck. As a certified nervous nellie, I change my mind about whether
Monte did the job every time our mini-Nubian (a cheerful, chatty girl)
calls a hello to me from her pasture or wags her tail in greeting when I
bring her breakfast. I haven't seen any mucous on her vulva since
D-day, but wagging and talking can both be signs of heat...which would
mean our first freshener hadn't freshened after all. And since we put
all of our eggs (milk bottles?) in one basket this year, that would mean
no homegrown dairy products in 2016.
Unfortunately, based on
this series of butt shots, I have to conclude that I can't actually
conclude anything for another month. A trip to the vet to utilize his
ultrasound looks better and better, but I'll probably keep biting my
fingernails and tough it out. After all, if we really wanted a summer
kidding, the difference between a July and an August birth wouldn't be
that great. Maybe I shouldn't have named Artemesia's hypothetical unborn
daughter Aurora after all?
Mark's in school today, which means you're supposed to not get an evening post. But I couldn't resist sharing this link to a piece I recently wrote for Mother Earth News about using a wood stove.
I'd be curious to hear what those of you well-versed in wood heat would
add to the list. You can comment here, of course, but I'd love to see a
few comments on the Mother Earth News post itself. Maybe if it gets
enough traffic, they'll put it in the print magazine!
(And, no, the photo of Abigail has nothing to do with wood heat. But doesn't she look sweet against the snow?)
What's a gardener to do when on a bitter February day? Plant seeds, of course!
ran out of storebought potting soil to mix with my stump dirt, so I'm
trying a flat straight and hoping the cubes hold together. Worst-case
scenario, the soil cubes disintegrate
and fuse into a flat of intermingled roots. Since I'm sprouting pea
seeds with the hope of getting seedlings out in the garden in two weeks
or less, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.
The real issue is that, ever time a flat germinates and comes off the heating mats,
I think of something else to fill a new tray with. Why not start some
kale seeds to replace the plants that are pretty much dead in the garden
for very early greens? And maybe some extra-early broccoli to set out
under quick hoops? I'm going to run out of space fast at this rate....
Daffodil leaves poking out of the
During a warm winter,
I'll start lettuce under quick hoops on February first and peas in the
open on Valentine's Day. During a frigid winter like last year, I might
not get anything out into the ground until the middle of March.
This year will likely fall somewhere in between with the determining factor being how much this week's cold snap chills the soil. I'm looking for soil temperatures that are at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit first thing in the morning to prevent seedlings from rotting in the ground. And to that end I'm preheating my pea/lettuce bed in three different ways.
Treatment one, in the foreground above, includes some solarization
plastic from last summer weighed down with this and that. Treatment
two, in the middle-ground, consists of solarization plastic under a
quick hoop. And treatment three is the quick hoop alone. I'll check soil
temperatures in a couple of weeks and see which, if any, area hit that
critical 40-degree mark.
In the meantime, I'm starting more and more seeds inside.
My first onion seedlings are already up, and I plan to play with
broccoli and peas in soil blocks today. Maybe when the outdoor garden is
warm enough, I'll have some starts ready to go and will end up with a
harvest just as early as during warm winters in the past. Only time will
I think property taxes
are one of the most-overlooked items that should be considered before
buying new land. I read all the time about homesteaders who settle in
wealthy areas and end up paying a thousand bucks or more per month in
property taxes. If quitting your job is on your homesteading agenda,
that kind of tax burden will make it exceedingly difficult to simplify
your life enough to become self-sufficient financially.
I have to admit I didn't
think about property taxes when I bought our land either. Luckily, I
couldn't afford much, and ugly-duckling properties with junked singlewides
on them command very little value on the open market. Which is a good
thing! It means that even after our most recent tax reassessment, our
property taxes are likely to stay below $35 per month. Now that's a tax
burden we can afford.
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