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Late Spring Progress

Thank goodness school is out so I can catch up on outside chores now.  Steve even took a three day weekend over Memorial Day and managed to accomplish an amazing amount of things, most notably butchering.

We’ve thinned down excess birds and may have to do another couple of dozen.  Our laying-age chickens have either stopped laying again or have started eating every single one of their eggs.  Not happy.  Frankly, at this point, we’re just about ready to butcher them all.  Stupid chickens.  We do have that new batch of Buff Orpingtons up & coming, along with a couple of Icelandics and maybe  another dozen or two dark eggers in the incubators.  Maybe we’ll have better luck with this fresh batch.

The garden is coming along well.  The no till, deep mulch method is finally showing some results here.  Where we’ve done well with good mulching, it’s fairly easy to pull the occasional weeds out by hand and moisture is moderated by the chips.  When it’s too soggy out, the chips absorb the excess.  When it’s dry out, the chips release some moisture.  It’s a good thing.  Each year, we expand the well-chipped area a bit more and, eventually, we’ll have the entire main garden done up nicely.

I planted cucumbers out this morning and, yesterday, planted muskmelon and watermelon in the boys’ front beds.  The goats found a new way out of the fence three days in a row.  I think we’ve finally fixed that but not before they ate down all of the blackberries and strawberries in the boys’ beds.  At least they didn’t touch the tomatoes up there or anything in the back gardens.

Speaking of goats, Steve finally got a chance to redo the goat fence on the driveway side.  It had always been there as  a “temporary” thing but you know how that goes.  Times gets away from you and it’s still there a year later…  Anyway, he got up the smaller, tighter version of it around the shed so we can use that for separating babies from the mamas in order to milk.  Cody and I will work on taking down the rest of the leftover temporary fence this week.  Then we can get back to piling wood chips there and parking the trailer, etc, in that spot.  The driveway has been pretty crowded lately!

Maisy & Missy have still not kidded.  Dorks.  I know they’re pregnant but, dang, how long can a goat be pregnant for?  We got Susie’s bucklings disbudded the other day.  And, by “we”, I mean Steve.  I was out there “helping” by holding their heads still while Steve took the disbudding iron to them but it didn’t take long for him to tell me to just go in the house.  Apparently, my “helping” wasn’t terribly helpful.  Might have had something to do with the fact that I was turning green and looking like I was going to have a nervous breakdown any second.

Strawberries!  We harvested the first strawberries and, man, are they good!  We picked nearly a gallon last night but only half of them made it into the house.  This morning, the girls went out and picked another (almost) half gallon.  Of course, their standards for ripeness are a bit lower than mine.

The bees are doing well.  I caught a tiny swarm a while back (did I already mention that?) but it didn’t make it.  Do you know that I’ve never, ever had a swarm stay and/or make it?  Ever.  Except that package last year that tried to leave and we caught it in our yard but that’s not really a swarm.  That’s just absconding.  Anyway, the packaged bees are doing well and have their second brood boxes on.  The overwintered hive that we split into two are both doing well.  And that nuc I was supposed to pick up from Bernie?  It’s the best thing ever!  I need to get out there and check all of the hives again but, dang, this stupid weather just isn’t cooperating.  I’m hoping after this next round of storms passes, I’ll have  clear day or two to get out there and do some digging.  I won’t dig through the splits until it’s been over a month, though.  That’ll be another couple of weeks.

Speaking of bees, the old bee club website at mvbeekeepers.com is stuck in limbo so we’ve started up a new one.  It’s now at MVbees.com if you’d like to take a look.  It’s only a couple of days old and not yet prettied up.  We also now have a Facebook page for the MVBA.  Holler if you have any suggestions for it, anything from design to content to helpful links.  (If you’re an MVBA-er and would like to be a contributer, shoot me an email and I’ll set you up.)

And did I mention Nellie having the Best Birthday Ever?  Grandma came out one weekend and a giant pile of friends came out the next weekend so she had two parties!  She got a pink, sparkly bike as her gift and has been riding it practically nonstop since.  Well, as nonstop as you can get with all of the stinking rain we’ve had lately.

Okay, that’s it for today.  I’ve missed a bunch of happenings I wanted to note here because I keep waiting for the “perfect time” to sit down to type it out.  Unfortunately, too much life happens in between the perfect times for me to keep up.  Doh.  I need to accept the imperfect, as disjointed as the results may be.  <— Life lesson for today.  And every day.


The Twelve Days of Spring

Twelve days since the last post and so much has happened, I’m sure I’ll forget the majority of it.  I should have been making little journal entries each day.  You’d think I’d learn this lesson already, as many times as I do this but no…

Most exciting is that Susie, one of our Kinder does, had quads!!  They’re all bucklings which kind of stinks but I think we should be able to find homes for them.  We are allowing Nellie to keep one as a wether since it’s her first batch of babies.  The others will be sold as either bucklings or wethers, depending on the interest.  I’ll get some pics of each one and post them on a for-sale page in the next few days.  One of them is much bigger than the others and came out ready to take on the world.  Two were born with good strength.  Those three are all nursing well on Susie.  The fourth was the runt and weak.  Nellie has named him “Band” because of a white band around his belly.  We are having to bottle feed him but he’s doing pretty well.  I think Band is the one she’ll end up keeping since he’ll be so attached to her from the bottle feeding.

Those dozen Icelandic chicken eggs I got in the mail and put in the incubator?  Only two hatched out.  The lady I bought them from packaged them very, very well so it’s not her fault.  The box was labeled “handle carefully”, “fragile”, and “live embryos”.  I’m imagining some disgruntled postal employee taking out his frustrations on my eggs and scrambling them.

In the incubator now are a couple dozen guinea eggs, seven Red Bourbon turkeyssssss eggs, and 17-ish chicken eggs.   There are a couple of pretty green ones but the rest are a beautiful deep brown.  We have one chicken — and we still don’t know which one it is — that started laying this year, the dark egg pictured below.  It’s such a gorgeous color, I’m hatching some out to see if I can get some more dark-laying girls.  Of course, most probably won’t lay that color but I’ll see if I can keep a couple of them going.


The garden…  Oh, boy.  I got all of those wonderful tomato and sweet pepper seedlings from my friends over at Terripin Farms.  After studying the forecast, I decided it was time to plant out the tomatoes.  Ha.  The night before last, May 11/12th, we got a nice, thick coat of frost.  It’s not pretty.  I’m giving them a few days to see how many of them can shake it off and regrow but then I’ll have to start hitting up the farm stores to buy replacements and replanting.  Yay.

The pepper plants were brought inside as I know better than to plant them out that early but, last night, temps got down to 39-ish and they were not brought inside.  I was getting kids in bed and asked Cody to bring them in for me.  Well, he forgot and I just assumed he did it.  Crap.  They’re alive but peppers exposed to temps that cold are generally not very productive, ever.  I don’t yet know what I’m going to do about the peppers.  Maybe I’ll just plant them anyway and treasure what I do get out of them.

Other than that, the lettuces are doing well and we should be overrun with it in a few short weeks.  Neighbors, beware!  I’ll be hanging bags of lettuce on doorknobs every other day.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the fruit trees this year.  We’ve had a couple of frosts after they’d blossomed and/or set fruit.  I guess it’s another wait & see deal.  At least our trees are still young and we were not expecting a whole lot out of them yet.  I have progressed further along my “Holistic Orchard” road, planting (clearanced cheap!) daffodils, lambs ears, and that sort of thing in the mulch around the trees.  I’m going to work on planting some comfrey and walking onions under them this week, along with some (also clearanced cheap!) hostas I snagged from the frostbite damaged table at the farm store a few days ago.

Bees!  Last week, Tracy (a friend of mine and new beekeeper) and I went over to Janet’s (a fellow beekeeper at the same level as me) house.  Janet has three hives — three very strong hives that overwintered.  We went through them all, trying to decide which one to split because she only had enough extra equipment for one more.  One hive was huge and had lots of queen cells.  The smallest hive was looking good but still had a few frames to fill and was perfect for putting supers on.  The middle one looked, to me, textbook ready for a split.  So that’s what we did.  We did an even split, dealt like a deck of cards, ala Michael Bush.  I really think they’ll do well but only time will tell.

Then, this week, the gals came over to my house.  Friday, we went through my hives.  The packages are looking good with brood and stores in each but were not yet ready for a second box.  One of them might be ready this week so I’ll be sure to check them soon.  We did notice supersedure cells on both of the packaged bees so I take it they didn’t like their queens.  I’ve read that it’s fairly common in packaged bees.  We spotted the queen in one of them — a big, beautiful girl!  And we saw some bees with droplets of nectar on a back leg, transporting it somewhere.  That was pretty cool to see but I’ll have to do some reading to find out what’s behind that particular activity.

Charlie’s overwintered hive, while not as crazily huge as Janet’s, was doing well so we decided to do a split on it.  We did the same even split as we did at Janet’s, except ours are in mediums only, whereas hers are in deeps.  We split the bottom box evenly and the top box evenly so that we now have two hives, two levels deep.   One will have the old queen and the other will raise a new queen.  We hope…

I have trouble spotting eggs.  As in, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen eggs in my own hives.  That’s pretty bad.  I know there are eggs because there’s brood every time.  I just can’t see the suckers.  If I can get to where I can spot eggs, I’d like to make some nuc boxes up and then start making nucs myself next year.  Anyone know the secret to spotting eggs??

Oh, I ordered a nuc!  We’re pretty excited about it since we’ve only had packaged bees, swarms, and cutouts before.  We should be picking up any day, I think.  This will put us up to five hives if that split takes.  That gives us some much-needed buffer for losses.  That reminds me:  We saw no mites whatsoever on my hives.  Very cool!  I know they’re still there but at least the levels aren’t so high that they are easily seen, as we did at Janet’s.  I was looking pretty hard at the drone comb and saw nary a one.  I think I’ll get out there and do an alcohol wash once the splits have had a chance to get going and see what the mite count is.


I composed this post on Tuesday but, apparently, I hit “save draft” instead of “publish” so it never got sent out.  Oops.  Thanks to Duke for pointing it out to me (and reading over my shoulder when I’m typing even though he knows it drives me crazy!).

‘Tis the crazy season.  On the bright side, that means it’s spring!  And, good gravy, has it really been three weeks since I last posted??  I don’t even know where to start.  I have a buttload backup of pics to upload for you but I think, for today, I’ll just do a quick catch up on what’s been going on and then work on putting up pics bit by bit over this week.

In the garden, not much has been happening.  It’s been cold and wet and, well, nothing much has been done.  I still haven’t planted out the onions that arrived back in March.  I’m not even sure they’d do anything at this point.  They’re probably mostly dead.  I’m a bad onion mommy this year!  I did get a bed of lettuce planted, however, and it should be up by now but I’ve not been back that way to look for a few days.  Also, a friend, Patty, let me come over and dig up a giant load of her thornless blackberries.  Yay!  We already had a few but they met with some misfortune not long after planting and haven’t done terribly well.  The new ones have been planted in front yard beds where I can keep an eye on them and dig up starts to plant elsewhere and/or share each year.  While planting the lettuce, I did notice the raspberries are coming up with new starts like crazy.  I’m very excited about that!  We love berries very, very much.

The birds are all doing well.  We’ve started getting turkey eggs and, after giving the mailman a few to try (we have the greatest mailman in the world!), we’re saving them up for hatching.  Maybe I won’t kill them all off this year, huh?  Heh.  The tractors are serving their purpose well.  Nothing in tractors been killed but I think a few of the still-loose chickens have been offed.  (Besides the usual suspects, we now have a bobcat on the scene.  It was over in the treeline a few nights back, snarling like a demon.)  The chickens and ducks are all starting to lay full speed ahead now.  We’ll soon be buried in eggs.  Oh, and I have 15 Icelandic hatching eggs in the incubator!  I’m so excited about the Icies and can’t wait to see how they do for us!  They’re due to hatch the second week of May.

We’re now entering our big kidding season.  ShowTime, our beautiful black Kinder, kidded one very beautifully colored doeling a few days ago.  She had a defect in her eye and was terribly weak.  ShowTime rejected her so we brought the doeling, named Redeye, in the house to warm up and feed.  Unfortunately, she died that evening.  I’m now milking ShowTime three or so times each day.  She’s a first freshener so I’m training her to the milkstand and working with little itty bitty teats.  Fun.  I got a couple of ice cube trays of colostrum put back in the freezer for my trouble in case we need it down the road.  And now her milk has come in, she’s putting out quite a bit of milk considering.  I think next year, she’ll be a great milker.  Other than the tiny, first-timer teats and being impatient on the milkstand as she trains, she milks out very easily.  We still have three does left to pop — Susie (who is HUGE!), Maisy, and Missy, all Kinders.  Susie is an experienced mom but Maisy and Missy are both first fresheners.  Hopefully, we’ll have no more troubles.

I got to go a sheep & goat class offered by the local adult ag program.  This was a month or two back and was nothing earth-shattering but I learned quite a bit.  The main thing that struck me is what the fella said about timing kidding in relationship to worm loads.  In a nutshell, kids who are born early (in winter), stand a much better chance at parasite resistance.  They are born before worm loads are high and get exposed to them very gradually, building up resistance and, by the time worm loads are high, in summer, they stand a good chance against them.  On the other hand, kids born in spring and summer never get that same chance to gradually build up that same resistance.  They are born when parasite loads are at their highest (or soon before).  It’s like being born in the middle of a very active battlefield.  They are never as healthy, for the rest of their lives, as the early born kids.  Very interesting, don’t you think?  I’d never thought of it from that angle, only from the “Brrr, it’s too cold in winter to mess with kidding!” angle.

And bees!  We picked up our two packages of bees the first week of April.  The install went smoothly and, miracle of miracles, they’re still there!  I inspected the hives again yesterday and saw plenty of brood, larvae, pollen, and nectar.  They look like happy bees.  This year, due to just using what was handiest to grab, both packages went into deep bodies with already drawn out foundation.  I’ll work on switching them to foundationless mediums as I can.  The old hive that overwintered is also doing well.  It’s currently in two medium boxes with a mix of foundation and foundationless.  I’m really, really hoping to be able to do a split from them at some point this spring.

Th-th-that’s all, folks.  At least as far as a quickie overview.  We’ve been hit with two separate varieties of crud over the past month and Josie is still sick.  The poor thing climbed up on my lap after I started typing so this will have to suffice for now.  :-)

Dreaming of Spring

The monthly meeting of the MVBA last night was huge.  HUGE!  It was wonderful to see so many new faces there, getting started in beekeeping.  There were lots of great questions and we had a nice presentation on how to set up new hives & install packaged bees.  Our bees are due to be delivered April 5th and I’m betting that there will be a last–minute frenzy of questions.  I’m going to work on getting a few links together that explain the basics and post them here in the next couple of days.  That first year, in those last few days before your first bees arrive, is a time of information overload and panic for many — or was that just me?  Heh.

Speaking of bees, Charlie & I checked our two remaining hives a few days ago.  One, the swarm we caught in our yard, is doing great.  We do need to switch the brood boxes around and we would have done that then but we couldn’t find out smoker.  Doh.  I’ll make that one of today’s priorities — finding the stupid smoker.  And, yes, it is stupid.  I call it much worse names in person but, since this is a family blog, I’ll refrain from sharing those.  We went ahead and fed the bees while we were out there because, well, they needed it.  I fed them ala Michael Bush and just dumped a bag of granulated cane sugar on top of some newspaper and spritzed it with some water, inside an empty super.  The other hive?  Gone.  Well, not gone.  Dead.  I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure I can take the blame for this one — it looked like starvation.  We just didn’t get out there soon enough to check on them.  I’d knocked on the hives not long ago and, hearing a buzz in response, knew they were alive.  But I didn’t crack the lid and look in.  We’ve been so pressed for time lately, too many things have been overlooked.  *sigh*

So we’re down to one hive to start off the 2013 season.  We ordered two packages of bees with the club so that’ll put us up to three.  This year, I’m determined to see some increases in the bee yard.  I’ll have those three, plus I hope to catch swarms whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Finally, I’m going to do splits.  I don’t care if I don’t get any honey this year.  I want to go into the winter with plenty of extra hives.  I’ve had a couple of years now to get accustomed to being a beekeeper.  I’ve become comfortable with them, made lots of mistakes, and done a freakishly large amount of reading on the subject.  So I’m bumping up my game from Holy Crap, I Have Bees! *Twitch*Twitch*   to  I May Or May Not Know What I’m Doing But I’m Going To Do It Anyway.  While I want to stick to my 100% natural dreams, I have decided to allow myself to feed these hives as needed while getting them all established, strong enough to make an attempt at wintering.  If I end up with enough hives from this, I’ll go back to the not feeding except in emergencies next year.  Hopefully one year soon, I’ll actually get a decent harvest of honey and can save some of that back for the bees.  Dreams are good, right?

Did I tell you we now have Muscovy ducks?  We bought two breeding pairs a week or two ago and have them in tractors in the front yard.  Also in tractors now are the turkey breeding pair, and some white silkies.  We’ve decided, for now, to put all (most?) of the birds in tractors and then fence the entire yard to let the dog run patrol around them.  After losing the majority of our flock to predators last summer, we’re in lcok-down mode.  After we give a bunch of birds to a friend, we’re going to try to stick with mainly Muscovy & Ancona ducks and Icelandic chickens, maybe keeping a few random dual-purpose chickens as well.  And a few White Silkies just because.  But, really, you should see our front yard.  It’s starting to look like some sort of zoo with all of the tractors and pens.  Once you look into the side & back yards?  Your suspicions are confirmed.

Other than that, same ol’ thing.  My onion plants did arrive but the garden is currently snowy soup so they’ll have to sit for a bit.  How are everyone else’s gardens?

An Ugly Start to March

Everything is brown and tan and mucky and muddy.  There’s no grass left in the backyard.  There are piles of gray, gravelly snow scattered here and there.  There are previously-lost tools and toys popping up in random spots in the yard as the snow melts away.  Stacks upon stacks of scavenged scrap treasure line the driveway, awaiting the soggy ground to firm enough to transport them to more socially acceptable storage.

It’s been an ugly start to March.  Blech.

Today, I managed to dump every last drop of the morning’s milking.  Argh.  I had just dropped off milk for customers the night before but, luckily, I had enough reserved in the fridge to cover Downey’s breakfast.  Let’s just pretend I’m really, really smart and had that whole reserve-in-case-of-accident thing planned out, shall we?

Then I dug the kimchi out of the back of the fridge.  It’s been fermenting for months!  It spent several weeks at room temp and then another several weeks in the fridge.  I was afraid.  I’d tried “kimchi” before and never liked it… but I don’t think it was real kimchi, know what I mean.  Just like most “foods” today aren’t real, aren’t prepared in the traditional ways.  They’re fake.  Now I like some fake foods as well as the next person but not fake kimchi.  Ew.  Anyway, I gingerly tried a bite of my real kimchi.  WOOOWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!  Holy crap, I am a convert!!  I need to start more immediately!  I just checked and I had started the kimchi in November.  This is definitely not an instant gratification thing.  I’d better not run out because I’m addicted after just one bite.

Next?  I smelled spring in the air this afternoon!!  Yes!!  So it seems March is going to at least have some good points to balance out the ugly.  :-)

In other news, I’ve farmed out most of my seed starting this year.  I’ve raised my own seedlings for so long now, it’s pretty strange but I know it’ll end well.  I was lucky enough to be stationed next to the coolest veggie farmers ever at the market last year.  You guys think I plant a lot?  Ha.  You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen Brad & Jessica!  Once I realized that I didn’t have time or space (safe from all of the animals) to raise seedlings this y ear, I begged Brad & Jessica to start some for me.  And they said yes!  The best part?  I know they’ll be great, healthy seedlings and I could just tell them to plant whatever cultivars because they have very similar tastes to me.  How lucky am I?!

So that takes care of my tomato and sweet pepper seedlings for this crazy busy year.  Whew.  We still have chiles in the freezer from last year so I’ll just pick up a few random jalapeno plants at the farm store if I think I need to plant a few more.  Everything else can either be direct seeded or they’re quick starts, like cole crops and that sort of thing that I can definitely fit into my time and protect from the critter hordes for the short term.

Now if we could just get everything else done…  More fencing up, animal shelters to build, winter’s piles of stuff moved to their permanent homes, babies born, hooves trimmed, hives readied for new bees, and on and on and on.  And new grass seeded in the backyard.  *eyeroll*


We’re back!

After much kerfluffle, we have internet once again.  We had to switch providers, from HughesNet to WildBlue.  They both suck but, as of right now, WB sucks less that HN.  The HN we had would be a better deal except that it just would not work anymore.  At least WB’s customer service mostly speaks English so that’s a step up.  I think WB must calculate data used much differently than HN because we’re blowing through the same amount of data in half a day that would have taken us two days with HN.  I just don’t understand that.  Isn’t data data??

I did our taxes a few days ago… only to find out I can’t actually file them until January 30th, when the IRS opens up their e-file system.  I could always sent in hard copies but I bet that’d take even longer than waiting for e-file to open.  Remember how slowly tax returns were processed when everything was hard copy?  And now that they’re used to (and pushing everyone to) electronic filing, I betcha hard copies via snail mail take twice as long.  But who knows?  I’ll just wait for the 30th.  And here I was so proud of myself for getting them done the day after we got Steve’s W2, beating the rush!

We lost a goat this past week.  Maggie, the free pygmy, most likely got into something she shouldn’t have.  She was very, very clever — always managing to find a way to break into the back room (where the feed is stored).  In that same room are various other not-so-good things that she could have eaten.  Long story short, she’s gone and buried now.  She was a jerk of a goat and none of us really liked her much but it was still sad to see her go.

And chickens?  Holy cow, they’re dropping left & right.  It must be some sort of disease, maybe flu, who knows?  We’ve lost about half of the flock so far.  No signs or symptoms, just fall-over dead.  It’s not affecting anything but the chickens.  There’s definitely something not right going on with them.  They haven’t laid a single egg in at least a couple of months.  Birds slow way, way down in the winter, true, but there are always a few eggs laid here and there.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s best they weed themselves out so we can start anew in the spring.  I’ve been reading up on various breeds and am really leaning towards hatching out some of the Icelandic landrace.  They’re a very hardy breed, aren’t phased by heat or cold, and are great foragers.  Honestly, we’re not big fans of chicken meat so we don’t mind a skinnier bird such as the Icelandic, as long as we get a nice supply of eggs and they are willing to work hard to forage their own food for a good portion of the year.  We will gladly use the culls — pulling off the breasts & offal for a freezer stash and using the rest for broth.  It will be a relief from the seemingly endless whole chickens in the freezer, actually.

The Great Garden Fencing Project continues.  Steve’s got about half of it done now and hopes to have the rest completed within a couple of weeks.  It’s slow going when he works so many hours.  It’s definitely a race to get the goats & birds into the garden before it’s time to plant!  With any luck, they’ll double team the horribly overgrown garden weeds into oblivion in no time.  Then we have yet another looming deadline to get another pen built before planting time.  We can turn them back out into the backyard pen but it’s been through the sloppy trauma of winter and would really appreciate a break in the spring to grow back.  Once we have at least three large fence areas done, we can better rotate them through as needed.

We’ll eventually get everything coordinated… I hope.  Chickens, waterfowl, goats, garden, orchard, permaculture, pasture/grain for feed…  It all takes a lot of figuring and refiguring and tweaking along the way to get everything integrated into one, big, seamless operation of yumminess.  Oy.

I’d better get this posted before it’s delayed any further.  I’ve already had this drafted & adding to it for three or four days, never getting a chance to finish.  Just like life around here — never finished!

Happy 2013!

The new modem arrived and I got it installed.  And… we still don’t have reliable internet.  It’s up.  It’s down.  It’s up.  It’s down.  This morning, it’s actually been up for a few hours — mostly.  But, I have no doubt that it’ll go back to more down than up before too long, as it always does.  I’m not sure what we’re going to do.  We might upgrade to the new HughesNet Gen4, dunno.  We could switch to WildBlue but I hate their guts even more than I hate HughesNet.  There’s always mobile data but I’m hesitant to do that due to living in the boonies and in the middle of a giant hole of “extended data” in every friggin’ company’s coverage.  That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.  HughesNet has the best deal for us out of all of the options so we’ll probably stick with them — if they can fix this frustrating problem.  In the meantime, if I go several days without posting, you know why and don’t have to worry.  I’ll be back when the internet cooperates.

GAPS re-Intro is going well.  I guess.  If you don’t count the Pizza Hut that night that Steve, Sr. came over to celebrate Christmas last week.  Ahem.

Cody and I restarted intro the 26th, the day after Christmas.  We’re spending five days on each stage, for a total of 30 days on intro.  We may end up going longer on some stages, if we feel we need to do so, but I don’t think there will be much of a need since we’re customizing a bit as we go anyway.  We’re trying to avoid foods we have allergies/sensitivities to, in order to not further cheese off our systems.  I figure as long as there are other, nourishing & unoffending foods to eat, we’ll stick with those longer so that we have more time to heal.  One size never fits all.

We’re now halfway through Stage 2.  Stages 1 through 3 are pretty boring.  Okay, really boring.  I can’t wait to move onto Stage 4.

So about that Pizza Hut thing…  I’d been feeling pretty crappy for a few days, down with a bad cold/mild flu/who cares it sucks.  Steve’s dad was due to come over for dinner to celebrate a slightly delayed Christmas and I didn’t have the energy to fix anything.  It was my worst day of the illness and I gave in to Steve offering to bring home pizza.  We’d been on GAPS since Thanksgiving and hadn’t cheated so it’s not like we were serial cheaters or anything, you know?  And no food we had on hand appealed to me whatsoever.  And you know what?  That pizza, while it tasted good, did not set off some sort of crazed feeding frenzy.  It had no ill effects on me at all.  And, I started feeling better.  By the next morning, I was feeling better than I had in a week.  I wasn’t carb deprived or anything like that as I’ve been very, very careful to keep lots & lots of good carbs in our diet so we don’t bonk.  But my body, in that instance, was greatly boosted by whatever combination of salt – fat – refined carbs – protein was in there.  No ill effects, no rebound, nothing negative whatsoever, and I was back to being on GAPS Intro the next day, right where I’d left off.

I just read Matt Stone’s Eat for Heat ebook.  It was on sale for 99 cents the other day so I nabbed it.  (For those not yet familiar with Matt Stone, check out his 180 Degree Health blog.)  He brings up some good points and I’m going to keep them in mind as I go through GAPS.  Again, I always try to remember that one size never fits all.  Forever tweaking — that’s me.  I love being my own guinea pig.  I love reading nutrition books from all sorts of sources, all different viewpoints, and seeing if I can fit it all together and try to come up with a big picture.  It’s like a giant jigaw puzzle to health.  It’s fun and, if I end up with improvements to my health along the way, it’s just that much cooler.

Speaking of that:  I’m hoping, with some personal tweaks and much, much attention paid to how my body reacts and manages healing, that I can avoid doing that whole two years on GAPS thing.  As the doctor who came up with the program wrote, it’s all very individualistic so don’t be afraid to change things up to suit your own health.  I’m hoping I can be off of GAPS in a year, rather than two, but I won’t know until I get there.  Maybe it’ll be sooner, maybe later.  I certainly think Charlie and Duke will be able to ease off of it rather quickly since youngsters bounce back rather quickly from most things and they were only a little “off” to begin with.  (Remember, they asked if they could go on GAPS.  I didn’t tell them to.)  Cody, I don’t know.  I’m not seeing any changes in his behavior at all.  He’s most assuredly not one of those glowing “massive & speedy recovery” from autism cases.  He’s exactly the same.  I have, however, noted that his frequent complaints of stomachaches have greatly lessened so there is, at least, that.

Okay, enough of nutrition crap.

Steve got a new milk stand built last week.  (We had to leave our old one behind on the move.)  It’s beautiful!  And a new hay feeder!  Also gorgeous!  He’s now started working on the garden fence so that we can get the goats & birds moved in to clear the overgrown, nasty, horribly weedy mess of a garden by spring planting time.  Oh, I can’t wait!!  I didn’t really get much gardening done last year because of the farmer’s market so I’m really, really crazed with pent-up gardening right now!

Yesterday, I finally made it through my seed stash and got everything reorganized.  I also updated my spreadsheet with the current seeds.  I simplified a few seeds into “mixes” because I just don’t care much what types as long as they give me something edible, like carrots.  My overall goal is to get most of these seeds used up so I can renew the stash with fresh seeds.  I’ll only “need” to order a few seeds this year as long as I keep that in mind.  Heh.  I am completely out of cucumber seeds, for example, so those are a need, rather than a want.  I’ve also decided that I’m going to renew my squash growing efforts.  I get so sick of losing to the squash bugs before getting but one or two fruit, that I gave up year before last.  This year, I’m going to grow squash, both summer and winter.  I’m going to plant them in oddball places, all willy-nilly in random spots in the garden, intermixed with other veggies and fruit.  I’m hoping that at least some of them will make it.

I’ll try to get my seed inventory page here updated today and/or tomorrow so those folks who trade with me can take a look-see.  I guess I’d better get a move on and do that.  It helps me finalize — in my mind — what I’ll need to order and I really need to get that done soon.  It’s already time to start wintersowing!  Yay!!

I meant to talk about New Year’s resolutions, a.k.a. Goals for 2013 around the homestead here, but I got distracted.  I swear, you put a shiny plant in my radar and my mind is gone.  Poof!

It’s out to get me and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Remember the Christmas Crack house?  I was driving by it last night and, from a mile or more away, I could see that it was no longer blinking, just constant lights.  It doesn’t look half bad like that, thought I.  The blinky crackhead timers must have blown themselves out, I mused.  Until I got closer.  As I passed directly in front of it, not daring to take my eyes off of it in case it should be mere trickery, it blinked.  For three whole seconds.  No one else on the road but me.  And it blinked.  Deliberately.  At me.  After I passed, the lights all came back on, nice & steadily glowing in a menacing manner.  It knows.  And it is letting me know that it will make me pay.  It’s personal now.

Speaking of things trying to kill me, holy Super Smelly Grandmas!  Geez.  I don’t know if this is a common thing on GAPS but I’ve become a bloodhound.  My nose now has super powers.  I’m picking up odors from all sorts of places — and I don’t even want to think about where half of them are coming from.  So we’re sitting at the season’s first basketball practice the other night and in walks Super Smelly Grandma.  Of course, she has to sit right next to me.  I swear the woman had bathed in perfume five minutes before practice.  And, of course, I’m allergic to perfumes and sprout an immediate & massive headache and feel like barfing all over the freshly-buffed gym floor.  But she’s so nice and I don’t want to hurt her feelings so there I remain, getting sicker and sicker, my eyes actually started to tear from the intense smell.  I couldn’t think through my pounding head, couldn’t figure out a solution.  I was frozen in place and simply could not move.   Finally, Nellie came over and saved me by asking me to take her to the bathroom.  Whew.  I picked up all of our things and, once done with bathroom duties, we nonchalantly resettled far away.  I’m used to walking past people with perfumes and air fresheners, dryer-sheet-clothed folks, and that sort of thing but this one just took the cake as the most miserable experience my poor nose has ever had.  I’d have been sick without the GAPS-super-powered nose anyway but that just made it even more intolerable.

GAPS Day 17:  Well, we’re not actually on Intro any longer.  Yesterday, we moved on to full GAPS.  Just a smidge over two weeks on the pretty darned restrictive GAPS Intro is a great accomplishment for Charlie and Duke, I’d say!  I’m very proud of them!  (Cody and I will go back and re-do the GAPS Intro at a much slower pace after we give ourselves a break, sticking with full GAPS in the meantime.)  Even more impressive?  We had four holiday dinners to attend during Intro and they didn’t slip up at all.  :-D  I need to print out a full-GAPS list of allowed foods for them — there are several out there but I especially love this one from Well Fed Homestead for its simplicity and thoroughness:  What can you eat on the GAPS Intro Diet?

While there’s nothing exciting going on in the garden right now, we are building up our wood chip reserve for next year.  The electric company has been doing quite a bit of tree trimming recently.  Steve & Cody have been able to go get a few truck/trailer loads of wood chips in the last couple of weeks.  I know the neighbors must think we’re nuts to have such a huge, long pile of them in the back yard (and a smaller one in the front yard).

(Is anyone else procrastinating on Christmas gifts?  I’ve made a few things but I’ve not yet started on the bulk of it.  Of course, it doesn’t help that my fabric stash is buried in basement piles of crap.)

Ghee, dirty goats, and prudish poultry.

Gaps Intro Day 3:  I think we’re over the hump?  At least the first hump.  Everyone seems to be a bit spunkier today.  Charlie hit a low spot yesterday, I think and Duke hit his a few hours before that.  They’re both significantly peppier today and laughing & smiling like usual.  I’ve made sure to push the (veggie) carbs, plus ginger tea with honey, to keep up everyone’s energy.  We did the yogurt sensitivity test last night and we all passed.  So, today, we’ve added in a half cup of yogurt each.  None of us are big yogurt people but it’s certainly a treat.  (We do love yogurt as a base for our smoothies but we can’t have fruits yet.)  I fermented the yogurt in the Pickl-It and it’s noticeably tastier.

Besides adding in yogurt today, we’ve also added in raw egg yolks, stirred into broth… except the stupid birds aren’t laying for crap so we don’t have many.  I’ll have to buy eggs tomorrow.  The gingered carrot ferment was done so I moved those two jars into the fridge.  We each had a spoonful of the probiotic-rich brine this morning and will see how we do with it.  If all goes well, we’ll soon be able to introduce the fermented veggies themselves.  Personally, I’m very much looking forward to that!  Starting today, we also get to add in ghee so I made about 2 1/2 pints earlier today.

Oatmeal is settling in nicely.  This morning, we moved Susie and Maggie in with him.  He and Maggie got right down to business.  Again and again and again.  Right outside my window.  Have they no sense of decency?  Sheesh.  Susie wants nothing to do with him.  I picked her and Maggie because they were both the hottest-t0-trot when there was a fence between them.  Maggie is no tease but Susie seems to have changed her morals once faced with the goods.  We may end up trading in another more receptive doe tonight.

The poultry have started weirding out.  All of a sudden, there are a gazillion ducks and chickens roaming about freely in the yard and garden — outside their fence.  We’ve changed nothing with their fencing so I guess they’ve suddenly decided the grass is greener over there.  Either that or they’re too embarrased by the goat hanky panky right in their faces and have fled for pruder pastures.  Can’t say I really blame them.

I picked what will likely be the last of the parsley and celery to add to the birds in the roaster this morning.  I think that’s the very, very end of this year’s garden.  *sigh*  Time to turn my sites to seeds for 2013!

Happy 19th Birthday, Cody!

Cody turned 19 yesterday. Wow.

Thanksgiving was fun.  We had a small gathering here on Friday and then another dinner with some of my relatives in Bloomington on Saturday.  Sunday, I took Isaac down to Mizzou for a NaNoWriMo write-in.  All weekend long, it was one bad food choice after another.  That’s why I’ve waited to start the GAPS diet until today.  Being on the road during intro would just flat-out suck!

Today is GAPS Intro Day 1.  So far, so good.  The food is yummy.  We’ve had variations on broth + veggies + meat — it’s amazing how many different looks/tastes/textures you can get out of the same stuff.  Of course, it’s only noon…  I tossed a turkey in the 18-quart roaster last night, along with some celery, onions, garlic, and salt & pepper.  We’ve not yet dug into the turkey meat itself but the broth is starting to get yummy.  I also have a 6-quart crockpot full of already-finished turkey broth.  (I keep gobs of turkey and beef broth in the freezer so I can just pull out a quart or two when needed.)  I boiled up five pounds of ground venison this morning as well, kept in the fridge so we can add it to our meals throughout the day.  Onions, garlic, winter squash, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots are all well-stocked so we can add handfuls to everything we cook.  Gotta keep the (veggie) carbs up so we don’t bonk.  We will do a sensitivity test for yogurt tonight at bedtime and, if all is well, we’ll add that in tomorrow.  Starting this morning, I’ll be culturing our yogurt in the Pickl-Its jars.  A few days/weeks down the road, we’ll do the same for kefir.

I finally made it out to the garden to cut what greens remained.  I probably ended up with about three or four gallons of various kales, mustards, collards, and chards.  They’re all getting dehydrated and will get added to soups & stews throughout the winter.  Once dehydrated, it’s easy to crumble them up and sneak them into just about anything — without anyone but the cook knowing.  ;-)

I fermented some cranberries with ginger over the weekend.  Man, they’re good!!!  Just a little bit will do ya and a drizzle of honey is needed but, oh, man.  Great stuff.  I also started some ginger carrots and kimchi.  The carrots will be done this week but the kimchi will take a few weeks.  I also meant to start sauerkraut but Steve ended up needing all of the cabbage we had for egg rolls.  I’ll buy some more cabbage next shopping day and get the sauerkraut started next weekend.  That also takes a few weeks to ferment.

Good grief, I’m hungry and tired.  Must be the combination of the weekend’s crap food extravaganza and the new diet.  I’ve been eating constantly today so it’s not a lack of food.  Heh.

I think I’ll just let this go as the Most Boring Blog Post Ever.  I’ve got no oomph today.

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