Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Eve" Lambs



We bought our most recent ewes about 4.5 months ago in August, which brought our flock up to 12 ewes. We also got a ram a couple of months ago and put him in with the ewes at the end of November. Well, it turns out the gestation period of sheep is about 145 days, which comes out to a little over 4.5 months. So surprise surprise we have lambs! We are up to three now. We had a little ewe lamb surprise the heck out of Ryan on Christmas Eve and today (New Year's Eve) we have two more little ram lambs. The ewe looks like she was sired by the previous owner's Barbados ram, which is good because Ryan did want more of that breed's blood in our little flock. She's the cream colored lamb with brown and black spots around her edges.
The two ram lambs look like they take more after their mother, so perhaps they were sired by a Katahdin ram? We really don't know! I guess the word to the wise here is that if you buy new ewes, they could already be knocked up....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas gifts & California

Well, our neighbors are taking care of the farm for a few days while we are visiting my dad in California. I have to say it's nice to get a couple of days away from heavy snow and difficult driving. Ryan flies back tomorrow so I hope he doesn't have too much trouble with the forecast, which currently promises to be dismal. The joys of living in Iowa.
I finished some Christmas gifts, which are the first thing I quilted since August. I hope I can pick quilting up again a little better, I have really fallen off the horse there. These were for my grandmothers, it is always so hard to shop for them and I think they like getting something I make. 'Tis the season for homemade gifts! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and that no one gets stuck in a snow-filled ditch!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hiatus over & egg carton extravaganza


First, I have to apologize for my long hiatus. I'm so sorry! I have been absent because I'm now about 5 months pregnant and have discovered I am NOT one of those lucky women who feel like a million bucks when they're expecting (they're out there, I know a few!). So instead I have been a huge lump for the last few months and Ryan has been picking up the pieces. On a related note, Ryan HAS kept his blog up very well; it can be found here: http://beginningiowafarmer.blogspot.com/

Now, on to farm business. The growing season is done for us, but the egg layers have really kicked it into high gear recently! We are practically drowning in eggs; although we are continuing to find people who want to buy them. So we ran out of egg cartons and had to order some more. If you ever wanted to know what $150 in egg cartons looks like, this is it. I came home to this ginormous box in my living room and had to share the way the egg cartons seem to come in "columns" within it!

Anyway, it is not my intention to become one of those non-blogging bloggers, so I am hoping to get back to something resembling my bi-monthly-ish update frequency. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mother Nature Network 40 farmers under 40

Sorry about the hiatus, although this will be a short post. We were chosen for the second round of Mother Nature Network's "40 farmers under 40". We're number 32 and 33, but that's ok. :-)

Click here for article

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Excelsior & Green Beans



Green bean season (and wax bean season, that's the yellow ones) is in full swing, and Ryan's love of planting them has really led to a lot of them! I've frozen about 6 or 7 quart-sized ziploc bags of them, and of course we've eaten some. I haven't canned any because I haven't gotten over the whole pressure-canner hump. Mine needs a new gasket and a new gauge and I just haven't gotten to doing that. I need to though....

My heritage lilies continue to amaze me, this one is Excelsior. It's like a stargazer on steroids and smells awesome! I think it's my new favorite lily. The weather this year continues to be beautiful, we just finished a record cool July with an average temp of 68 degrees or so. Makes the Iowa summer that much more pleasant!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dust Bath and Citronella Lily


Well, I promised I would post a picture of "Citronella," my beautiful heritage lily and here it is. It is absolutely catalog perfect and I'm so grateful to Old House Gardens for growing it for me!

On farm news, it is a simply beautiful day. Fluffy white clouds, deep blue sky, soft green leaves, it's like a postcard out here. The chickens are running around, thrilled Ryan has weeded the rhubarb patch. They are happily digging through the freshly turned dirt for all the tasty little bugs in it. One of our turkey hens found a patch of dirt and took herself a little dirt bath in the sun (See video). I pointed it out to Ryan and he said, "I was trying to grow grass there...." as he watched her forlornly! I told him she looked happy as she made little cooing noises.
video

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Baby shower quilt


I finished another quilt, this one for my sister-in-law's baby shower. I quilted like a fiend this week, trying to get the hand quilting in the center done. I got it done, but I didn't quite get the binding done by the time of the baby shower this afternoon. Ah well, I guess that means I'll get to take the quilt to my guild meeting in a couple weeks and then it will go to my first niece. It is about 50" by 60", so it should be useable as a crib quilt if she so chooses.

I also made some gifts for the shower prize winners, which are some table mats. They seemed to go over well, but the strong preference was for "the blue ones". Future note to self: just make blue ones!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Doing things "The old-fashioned way"

We went to a farm auction yesterday (7 hours in the sun, Ryan's a little crispy) and I was struck at how many things we were trying to buy for their original intended purchase while bidding against people trying to buy them for home decorating or other purposes. The example that sticks in my mind is that Ryan was bidding on an egg scale (that tells you what grade/size they are) and lost it at $25. He asked the guy who won it why he bought it and the guy said, "for the novelty of the thing." I think that's kind of sad. So I'm posting a picture of our clothesline and compost pile because it got me thinking about how many things we do "the old-fashioned way" around here. If you think about it, hypertension and diabetes weren't the kind of problems they are now when we used to eat the old-fashioned way and maybe we are starting to realize that.

On a lighter note, it's now lily season!! Anyone who knows me knows that lilies are my absolute favorite flower and this is the first year we've started getting them into the garden. So I am awaiting each one in eager anticipation as it buds and I get to discover its color (since I have, of course, completely forgotten which lily we planted where). We don't buy very many lilies and instead spend the money on a few quality lilies, which we get from Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com). I highly recommend them, we always get a personal note written on our order and they also sell heritage tulips, daffodils, cannas, hyacinth, iris, peonies, and other bulbs! We love them. Although last fall we did cheat and put a few cheap lilies in the garden just so we can have some time to establish the better ones. So I'm not actually sure where this one came from. My "citronella" lily from OHG is going to bloom soon, though, so I'll try to remember to post you a picture!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Note to self

Note to self: 185 chickens fit in our livestock trailer. Not any more than that....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer cactus & baby turkeys

It's high summer now for sure, and very hot and humid out today. Our prickly-pear cactus is going just crazy right now! Perhaps this year will be the year I actually make something from the fruit. I've been intimidated that it has thousands of tiny invisible spines (the visible ones you can deal with) and so last year I just went out to look at the fruit but didn't pick it. Everything online says you should use tongs, wear oven mitts, blah blah blah etc. But in the meantime we have this crazy beautiful cactus in the yard! Ryan says they are actually a native plant in Iowa--who knew?

We got our first batch of turkeys last Thursday, of course they are adorable. So they are 3 days old and love shiny objects (hence the video). They are also very active in the brooder and it's just amazing how different their personalities are from the chickens.
video
Ryan has been working his tail off, the chickens go in to be processed on Monday. He's also been selling everything that's not nailed down on Craig's List to pretty good effect to try to pump money into the business. It's amazing how much random stuff there is around here! It's almost equally amazing that people will pay for it....

Well, we're definitely in the height of "food" season. We have strawberries (although most got eaten by the layer chickens), mulberries, lettuce, herbs, and the garden is starting to come into its own. It's a good time of year when we can watch everything grow!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Strawberry season & the pond

Summer is in full swing now, it's downright hot today. I learned how to use my new ice cream maker (Christmas present) and have been really happy with it! (It's a KitchenAid and is all electric, with the freezable insert) Way better than the whole ice and salt combo in the hand churn bucket. Those kind of suck. Our strawberries have been producing already, I almost have too many to know what to do with (but not quite!!). And our blueberries have little blueberries on them now! I think we'll get a total of about a dozen berries on them this year, but it's encouraging nonetheless.

We're putting test hours on one of Vermeer's skid loader prototypes this weekend, it's quite a handy little machine. So Ryan built us a "pond" at the end of all of our water drain line, which he keeps calling a scrape. Considering the thing's about 4-5 ft deep at the water line, I'm not calling it a scrape. It gets to be a pond. I was pretty impressed he built it so well and so quickly! It already is forming an ecosystem, 2 days later. We have dragonflies and other little critters in the process of moving in. We're really hoping this will help us with our water management issues, because with all of our sand and sloped hills we have water problems like crazy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sage Drying and Spectral Mountains

Ahhh, I love national holidays. They rock. So I'm making the most of mine. A little while back I finished another quilt and didn't post it. It is the 2007 block of the month from Creekside Quilting in Des Moines, and I rearranged it to an all over pattern. The pattern is Delectable Mountains, and so I named mine Spectral Mountains. Of course, now I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. Perhaps keep it for a toddler's bed? I did the machine quilting myself and I think the spiral quilting pattern worked well even though you can't see it well in this picture.

There are lots of flowers blooming in my garden right now, and the lilies-of-the-valley are downright intoxicating. I think I'm getting a little high just sitting here breathing their scent. Ryan is working on planning our fences in this picture, he's trying to figure out what we're going to put in and how we're going to get it in this year. Fences will be a big deal for us and will make life a lot easier.

Challenge question: what is the pretty little purple flower in the arrangement? Hint one: It's not a plant we grow for the flower. Hint two: It has to do with my other activity today...

My sage plant in the garden survived the winter (I had no idea it was a perinnial!) and is now happily going nuts. So I harvested a bunch of it and am starting to dry it. All of it you see on the towels are drying a little before I hang them because I washed all of them off. Anyone want some dried sage...?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Layers & Irises

It's now well into spring, thank goodness! We got some more laying hens, and they are so very cute! The layers are always so much more alert and interested in their world than the broilers. We got Wyandotte, black sex-linked, and red sex-linked. The sex-linked are interesting because that means that the male and female chicks are different colors so you can tell the day they are born.

Our irises are also just starting to bloom! Here is one of our first that isn't just a basic yellow. The previous owners of our house really loved irises and so we have them in
almost every color of the rainbow. I maybe would have gone for lilacs, but I admit that I love the irises and they make a great cut flower.

My favorite garden news is that our blueberries are blooming! Not only did they survive the winter, but they are blooming!! It's hard to see in the picture, but the blooms are small and white and kind of balloon-shaped. I'm so excited. I really didn't know if they would even make it through the winter and here they are blooming. We're still a long way from edible blueberries, but my fingers are crossed!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Morels & Sign Hanging

It's May in Iowa, which means Morel mushroom season! I hadn't actually eaten one before yesterday, but now we know we have them on our land. Not very many (not enough to sell or anything), but gratifying nonetheless. They're pretty good, kind of creamy. I breaded them in flour and fried them in butter, which will make almost anything worth eating. 
Incidentally, Morel season coincides with tick season.... I'm up to two so far, even with bug spray. 
We also got our sign hung up today! I painted it last summer, but now we finally got it mounted to our shop building. Ryan has been making great progress on cleaning buildings, etc., and is doing a really bang-up job of turning this farm around. It's hard to believe we've been here only a year. Ryan also decided to start his own blog, found here: http://www.beginningiowafarmer.blogspot.com/
He wants to update it more frequently than I do mine, and he will probably succeed at that. So go check it out!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ditch burning & new sheep


Ditch burning actually appears to be a very common thing in South Central Iowa. So this is a more intentional burn we did in our ditch, and is more like what it is supposed to look like! It has been just astounding how much burning people do down here, there was never so much up by Ames. It seems like every ditch and pasture down here gets a fresh burn. It's nice though, because burning can be very good for the native grasses. 
We also got three new ewes, who are between 5 and 8 years old. Ryan was really worried that the 5 younger, stronger ewes (shown in the foreground) would take over all of the older ewes' feed. Instead, the older ewes push the younger ones around! We are weaning them off of the winter ration (hay and a little cracked corn) as our grass greens up. We will start moving them around the pasture soon, I can't wait! We are also supposed to get chickens this week, we hope they come Wednesday instead of tomorrow. We're just not ready for them yet!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Winter's last hurrah (we hope!)

After the prairie burn, the grass was coming back so nicely. All green and rich and beautiful. But I didn't get a good picture, and now it's under 2" of snow or so. Sigh. So we're very much hoping this is it. 
 In quilting news, I had a super productive week. I got one of my quilts that I've had for a very long time back from my machine quilter (Kelly VanVliet), this is the first quilt I've had quilted by someone else. I just didn't want to hand quilt all the seams, and it's just a little big to quilt on my machine. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Unintended Prairie Burn and Crocus

This past Tuesday, Ryan decided he was going to burn one of our brush piles out in the pasture. A few hours and 3 fire trucks later, we now have a freshly burned pasture. Really, most of that is that Ryan didn't call them right away because we actually did want to burn off the pasture (it's good for the prairie grasses) and for a while he had it contained. Once the fire department got there, it was out in 20 minutes. No one was hurt, no buildings burnt, no livestock was injured. But it was an exciting day, and I didn't even know about it until it was over!


 On a more cheerful note, spring is starting finally! It's a beautiful day today, and this is a picture of our crocus. It's about time to split them, I think. We've also started a few garden plants indoors, we'll have to see how that goes. So far we haven't really hit the whole "garden" thing out of the park, but we'll keep trying...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Roosters, updated website, another quilt


Well, I got our website updated, so now it has the correct and working order form for our 2009 season (with dates)! So go check it out to order for our upcoming season. 

Our roosters (we had three) have been getting cabin fever, just like everyone else. They've been fighting a lot, so we had to get rid of one. I'd put up a picture for this, but it would be gruesome, so I'm going to continue the quilt picture trend. 

This is a quilt I made for me, called "Swallowtails in the sun." Ryan doesn't like it, never has. But ah well; perhaps it will go in my quilting room. Ryan has nicknamed my quilting room/the guest room "the girl cave" which really is a fitting name for it. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Conference Season

Well, it's conference season for the sustainable ag community! I like conference season because it's a chance to see what other people are doing, talk about your ideas, and learn and network. The PFI (Practical Farmers of Iowa) conference was in early January, and the INCA (Iowa Network for Community Agriculture) conference was last weekend. (www.practicalfarmers.org and www.growinca.org) Based on talking to people at these conferences, I think we're going to try to do a few things for our business and our customers. We're going to try to make our currently annual newsletter reflect more about our beliefs and goals as well as what we're selling. I think we'll also try to make it a little more frequent. We've decided not to do pork this year, but it's still on the horizon. We did also join the Iowa Food Cooperative which has pickups monthly in Des Moines, and I think that will be good for expanding our customer base. 
 On another note, I finished a little quilt for my friend, Aubrey Ewalt, who is due soon. It's not very big (about 30" square), and it's the first quilt I've machine quilted; which was interesting and kind of fun. I usually hand quilt my work. I've decided to start posting quilts I finish on this blog, with the exception of those that are for other people who haven't seen them yet! (Kate Pickett, I'm talking to you.... I have one done for your currently nonexistant wedding!)  :-)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Eggs!

On Christmas day, our hens gave us the gift of our very first egg! I would have posted this exciting news earlier, but I could not locate our camera cable to get a picture to this post. So we now have over a dozen eggs, and the picture is of our first six. They are all different sizes and shades of light brown, and they are wonderful. Now that the hens have made it inside to the cozy area Ryan made for them in the lean to, they can lay to their heart's content. We're not quite ready to sell the eggs yet because they are mostly small, but we will be soon. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! Those of you in Iowa, it's now time for the long haul until March...