Adventures in mini-micro-tiny farming

Baby Makes Three!

Posted on August 29, 2015

There’s nothing like the adjustment of having a new baby (human baby) to reasses what it means to have ‘spare time’, even by our standards! We’ve increased our family by one- with a little boy- Charlie. He was born last December (for anyone reading who doesn’t know us personally)…hence the LONG delay in our blog posts. Now that we’re into the swing of things I’ve been meaning to get another post up about all the progress and happenings over the last year! The biggest occurrence being that of our newborn calf- Norman!! To back track a little, for those interested in the whole process, lets travel back to last October, when I was 8 months pregnant…

Realizing we needed to prepare and adjust to having a newborn baby, due to arrive December 2014, we downsized a bit and rushed to finish a few projects. We no longer have the goats, ducks, or geese, and we finished the headgate for the cows as to prepare for having some calves this year.

As we mentioned in an earlier progress post about the headgate system we designed/built- it had to be custom to accommodate our unique cow’s large horns. While the traditional steel systems might work- Highlands have to turn their heads to pass through. More importantly, however, we were too tight on extra money to spend a few thousand dollars on a traditional metal chute-enter farmer ingenuity (read:frugality by necessity)! We used some lumber we had laying around and purchased 3 gates to construct our new chute/ gate system. Eventually we will run a roof from the barn out to the tall posts for a covered manger. I’m not sure if that will get done before winter, but I’m still hopeful!


The biggest difference in our system is the pivoting arms at the front which are held in place by a guillotine that slides up and down with ropes at the top.

AI juniperHead gate in-action:Junper being artificially inseminated last fall.

With a few tweaks to the spacing of the front arms…it worked!! We were even able to lure Juniper in, put a halter on, and lead her around afterwards!! This is a cow that was 2 years old and had never had a halter on her since we’d owned her at 6 months- a very exciting progression for us🙂 Most importantly we were able to inseminate both cows last fall, which meant late summer calves this year…Which brings us to the present….

Meet Norman, the Japanese Wagyu-Highland cross!

norman headshotnorman juniperNorman!Just over 1 week old and full of spunk!

We chose to cross one of our purebred Highlands with a Wagyu (pronounced WAG-yoo) for a couple of reasons, including wanting to experiment with genetic diversity (hybrid vigor/ beef quality/flavor etc) and calving ease.

Wagyu beef has a genetically natural, heavily marbled and tender quality that is very desirable (and expensive) in Japan. This type of cow also has a low birth weight (as do Highlands) resulting in reduced birth complications-perfect for our first time heifers. A higher percentage of complications usually occur with the first calf. While a low birth weight calf might contradict the conventional beef industry’s practices of bigger-faster growing calves and breeds- the risk of crossing our cows with a large continental breed weren’t worth it to us. Being a small hobby farm, conventional doesn’t apply to us anyway- obvious to anyone who is interested in Highlands for a beef breed. We couldn’t be happier with the result of our experiment!  A bull calf born in about an hour just over a week ago- success!!

You’ll have to stay tuned for the resulting beef quality/taste review as that is going to take another couple of years…did I mention raising beef is a LONG process?!!…Not all our efforts were successful, either.

In order to be sure your heifer/cow is impregnated successfully during the AI process, I’ve learned you should either keep an open cow in your herd (not possible in our small situation) or have them checked with a blood test or vet check to be sure. While Laurel showed no signs of being open all year, she turned out to not be pregnant😦 So we’ve missed an opportunity and spent money feeding a cow for a year with no resulting offspring (read: lost money). Live and learn. While disappointed, we’ve chalked this up to a learning experience and know better for next time…which will be within the next month for both cows.

laurel normanLaurel wasn’t sure what to think of Norman for the first few days. She’s now adjusted to her usual, bossy self, pushing him out of the way if there’s food involved.

In other news…we were able to have a large garden this year and thank goodness we did- it’s been a record-breaking hot year in Washington! Our corn was 4-5′ tall by early July- unheard of in this state!

raised bedsWe raised the raspberries (see back of photo) to increase winter drainage. Hopefully they will perform better next year, as they didn’t do much the first year.

setting sunPotatoes going on the left, onions and garlic on the right.

potato flower grass mulch

Some practices we tried this year to save time were mulching heavily with grass clippings and increasing our raised timber beds- both of which successfully saved weeding ease and time. We had a much better success with the onions this year than last- they didn’t bolt and go to seed prematurely this year.

drying garlic onions

digging oniongardening with babyGetting some evening gardening in with Charlie. Row covers not only help protect seeds from frost- they give them a bit of a break from the baking sun while germinating.


Basil (grown in under row cover) crop!

squash corn

Squash and corn harvest. The round squash is an heirloom ‘Eight Ball’ and tasted delicious stuffed with Italian pork sausage and Parmesan cheese.

The only thing left to harvest this season are the root crops- carrots and potatoes. We’re waiting for some cool weather so as they don’t spoil in our steel bins in the barn since we don’t have a root cellar.

We’re also still doing pigs- which should be ready in late October. We figured with the increased cost of childcare in our budget we’d only be able to afford 2, but when offered the runt for less than half price- we ended up with 3. Our tentative plan is to save the runt for a whole-hog pig roast.

winter rye clover covercropCrimson clover and winter rye cover crop in the pig pen pre-pigs this year.

pigWaste not, want not- eating some excess garden produce. I’m missing the huge apple crop we supplemented them with last year- the food budget is getting expensive!

All in all, I’m proud we’ve stuck with most things post-baby, and continue to learn and experiment with new ideas. Up on the agenda for next year/ winter project: HONEY BEES!!


We had a swarm of honey bees in the garden for a day this June. We’re looking into making a top bar style hive this winter.

sleeping norman

Norman naps in the shade of some rush in the hot afternoon sun.

I will try not to take a year long haitus from the next post…but I’m not promising anything🙂 Thanks for reading.

The Dog Days of Summer

Posted on August 15, 2014

All year we look forward to summer- when we can start harvesting some of our hard work in the garden during the long days and plentiful sunshine! July-August are referred to as the ‘dog days of summer’ from the Roman’s due to the position of the ‘dog star’ Sirius in the constellation Canis Major. These months typically have the least amount of rainfall each year…which I can attest to because every day after work we spend hours dragging the hoses around to water the garden and the animals in the pasture. Those long, dry days also make for getting lots of additional things done- namely this year- installing 500′ of new water lines! Yay- no more hose dragging! While I’ve been plugging away with what I can do while 5-6 months pregnant (not much in the hard work department) Berry has been working hard on his days off. So hard in fact, that a few weeks ago, while working on the squeeze gate for the cows, he suffered a concussion from the T-post pounder (a weighted steel pipe with handles) and had to take it easy for the rest of the week. He had already requested some time off in advance for this last weekend so we could install water lines this year. Luckily the timing was enough of a break after his concussion that we were able to stick with the plan and get most of it done last weekend.

Between Berry, my dad and my brother Robert, they were able to get 500′ of new water lines and 5 new faucets run to the pasture in 3 days! Water lines need to be 2′ deep (below the freeze line) so we rented a trackhoe for the digging because the bucket is narrower than the backhoe we already have, and the maneuverability in tight spaces is better. After spending a ton of money on parts and the trackhoe rental (~$1,300) and about 10 trips to the hardware store to do so…a lot of trenches were dug:

water line to street

Connection from the street to the house through the backyard.

robert trackhoe

Robert helping dig the matrix of lines through the driveway, to the woodshop, though the pasture gate, and through the woodpile.

water to pigs

Water and electrical (for a future light/ water heater) to the pig pen.

water to garden

Water behind the barn to the corner of the garden.

berry trackhoe
Berry filling in the ditch through the driveway.

While most of the trenches have been filled, we still have to fill the 100′ to the pig pen with the backhoe, and rake all the rocks off of the covered areas so grass seed can be seeded this fall. We also need a better rake to do all the raking…there’s always something to run to the store for and something else to spend money on… Maybe in 10 years we’ll have caught up on all the projects and purchased every last tool we’ll need… In the meantime I’m happy if we don’t accomplish any other major tasks because we have accessible water in every corner of the pasture and garden now!!! No more hose dragging across the driveway, leaky spots from driving over the hose because I’m too lazy to wind it up every time… hauling hoses in and out of the barn in the freezing weather…NO MORE!!


All of this sun and water have resulted in boatloads of zuchinni, beans, and pickling cucumbers recently! I love August….

pole beans

The pole beans, even planted WAY late this year have filled their tee-pees…

pole beans2

winston beans

My bean picking companion….


The pickles have really hit their prime and Berry’s making 5-7 quarts of pickles every 1-2 weeks now…


The corn is coming on over the last few weeks, and although we’ve had some suspicious bushy growth on the plants (multiple canes at each plant at the base) it doesn’t seem to be hindering the production thus far…we’re getting 2-3 ears per plant starting to mature. Apart from the abundance of weeds and produce, the garden is flanked by a row of dahlias in the front, and sunflowers in the back that have burst into color these last few weeks. We’ve been sharing our bounty of flowers with friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. Nothing celebrates the peak of summer like a fresh bouquet of dahlias in my opinion🙂

corn and dahlias


Bringing up the back of the garden is our happy row of sunflowers. Berry was surprised when I mentioned I had no interest in the actual seeds they would form this fall…I only wanted to enjoy them for their flowers during the summer! I’m sure we’ll have enough seeds to share some with the birds over the winter as well…

Now that the water lines are done and Berry is recovered from his concussion…we’ll have to resume finishing the squeeze gate for the cows in the coming weeks. Fritz has been separated from the 2 heifers so we can finish him on grain for the next 3 months. He’s still grazing (just in the neighbor’s pasture) but we’re also feeding him ~2% of his body weight in grain per day (14% protein) to add some marbling to the meat. While we could raise 100% grass fed beef, I personally prefer the flavor and cooking qualities fat tends to lend beef so we chose to grain finish. Come October, the pigs, Fritz, and our 3 remaining turkeys are scheduled to be butchered. Hopefully by then we’ll be winding down all the work before winter hits…and the baby arrives!


Pigs enjoy the windfall apples.

juniper sun

Juniper basking in the summer evening light- my favorite part of the day🙂


Make Hay While the Sun Shines!

Posted on July 15, 2014

While we have no hay to make…we have a LOT of work to do and the sun has been shining…so we’re making the most of it! The weeds still seem to have the upper hand in parts of our garden, but no matter, as we’re starting to harvest some of the fruits of our labor- weeds or no weeds!

onions2 onions1

We’ve picked half the onions and are going to finish harvesting the rest later this week. After the tops flop over we pulled them up and are letting them harden off for storage on an old door under our carport. The two varieties we planted this spring have done great- Red Zepplin and Spanish White. I was rather disappointed in the onion sets I’ve had in the garden since last fall, however.  They’re quite small (about 2-3″ across). Not what I’ve anticipated after 9-10 months of waiting…we won’t be repeating those varieties this fall. We’ve also totally harvested our broccoli and cauliflower as of last week. The broccoli wasn’t as prolific as the cauliflower but lent itself to some wonderful fresh stirfrys for a few dinners. The cauliflower on the other hand- we’ve got about 8 lbs blanched and frozen to continue enjoying into the winter!


I’m not sure of the variety we planted but it turned out with a purple undertone!

We (I should be honest it was all Berry’s work but ‘we’ sounds better😉 soaked them and sprayed quite a few aphids off (this was the most time-consuming part) then blanched them in some boiling water for 3 minutes before cooling in ice water and freezing. The blanched purple cauliflower turned a normal white color and tastes very good🙂

cauliflower scale

We finished up with about 10 lbs of cauliflower from one row of plants. Once we finished harvesting the broccoli and cauliflower we fed the rest of the plant (the leafy parts and roots) to the pigs. They LOVED it.

Apart from the onions we planted last fall, I’ve also just dug up the garlic tonight. I wasn’t even sure when to dig it up as some people recommend mid-late July, and others used seasonal signs such as the foliage dying back. I got tired of looking at the weedy beds they were in and decided, it’s mid-July I’m digging them! Some varieties were larger than others- ironically the variety I picked up at the local hardware store did the best.

California garlic

I may or may not experiment with new varieties this fall, we’ll have to see how they taste before I can decide whether or not to try again with some of the varieties that didn’t do as well (Polish White, Red Toch, and Chesnok Red)

In other parts of the garden we’re noticing some rapid progress with all this hot weather- namely from the corn and sunflowers.

cornWe’ve learned some lessons from last years corn- namely corn is a HEAVY feeder, and benefits from regular fertilization. Our stalks last year didn’t finish at their full height potential and were fairly thin when compared to this years crop. With all the compost it’s growing in from the farm animals waste, as well as some purchased mushroom compost, and multiple fertilization with a well balanced organic fertilizer (we used Dr Earth) and some bloodmeal for added nitrogen- the corn has turned a nice dark green color within the last few weeks and is growing at a steady rate with all the sun we’ve had.


Our sunflowers have also jumped up in height in the last few weeks and I’m less nervous now about them getting tall enough to be seen across the garden. They’re planted at the back of the garden, with a row of dahlias in the front. I cannot wait for the flowers to form in late summer on the sunflowers, and the dahlias have already started to pop, making me more anxious for everything to come into flower!


Our first dahlia of the season! After all of them rotted last year, we’ve made some changes this year and planted them in a raised bed bordering the driveway in the front of the garden so they have better drainage and frame the garden beautifully🙂

beans potatoes 

The beans and potatoes are doing wonderfully as well, with the beans just starting to come on. We grew pencil pod wax and blue lake pole beans last year, as well as this year, but we’ve also added some new varieties including Flambo, which has a beautiful mottled pod and can be used in soups or even fresh hummus!

Flambo beans

While the garden has been flourishing in the heat the cows were struggling to find enough shade in the neighbors pasture when the temperatures climbed into the 90’s so we moved them back over to our side for a while.




While the cows appreciate the shade of the trees…and the cooler temperatures in the evenings, the pigs cool down with fresh water each morning…which quickly turns to mud.

pig water

There is not a more happy sight on a farm than a pig with water on a hot day🙂

Pig mud hole

Clean water or dirty water…doesn’t matter🙂




Oh Baby!

Posted on June 29, 2014

Well that was a LONG blogging break but I’ve got a good excuse-we’re having a baby! Getting through that first trimester was a lot of feeling nauseous, getting sick, sleeping, and more nausea…but I made it! I’m not due until December 3rd, so we’re hoping the rest of the pregnancy I can help enough to stay active through the summer. We thought about cutting back but I really enjoy the garden so what did we do this year-plant 2-3 times as many crops as last year!!! At least we’ll have a nice break when the baby comes in the winter where we’re not spending all day outside weeding, mowing, and working in the garden. (I say ‘break’ like taking care of a newborn is easy…I’m a little nervous about this but we’re going to do our best to continue with this lifestyle and include the baby next year as well- we’ll keep everyone updated on how this works out😉

Thankfully I have a wonderful, hardworking husband who has kept things running around here without much (if any some days) help from me. Now that we’re through spring and into the beginning of summer we’ve got everything planted in the garden and have even begun to harvest some things- peas, broccoli and onions- and just need to keep on top of the weeding!


A look at our progress by the end of June. There is also a long row of dahlias bordering the front of the garden, and sunflowers at the back.


Berry planting the sunflowers starts a few weeks back. I used 5 kinds of seeds of varying color and heights so we’ll see what works out.



The broccoli and cauliflower planted in May worked out better than the plants we tried last fall. Even though the packages say 60-65 days…I learned this actually refers to total heat units (days above a certain temperature) that a crop needs to be productive….very interesting…and often disappointing in our state. We also chose 6 different varieties of corn this year (started from seed in our greenhouse) and planted them in blocks of 3-half rows instead of individual rows. I’m sure next year we’ll narrow this down to 2-3 varieties because we’ve also seen some varieties of seed germinated more reliably and grew faster than others (Strong Start and Quickie did very well. Precocious has grown well once planted in the ground. Buttergold F-1 and Frosty F-1 germinated poorly, and Luscious did just ok.) We’ve also learned a lot about what peas we’ll plant next year and when we’ll plant them.

We tried a few varieties from starts (started in the barn) but those did so poorly I don’t think I will attempt that again. We planted them early March- and had record rainfall that month!! Almost 10 inches! That’s just over 25% of what we usually get ALL YEAR. Its amazing all of the starts didn’t drown.


We sowed Dakota and Alaska (shown above) shelling peas directly into the garden in April and those have produced much better than any other variety. I also think we’ll stick with taller, vining varieties as the bush peas tend to flop over, which makes weeding difficult, and are less productive. Apart from all the gardening work- we’ve also gotten pigs and turkeys going!

We took about a 4-5 month break from the last set of pigs and had a heck of a time finding some for sale locally- it’s hard to find piglets close to Tacoma lol- but I eventually contacted a woman via an ad on Craigslist about some Yorkshire-Hampshire-Duroc cross piglets who turned out to be affiliated with Seattle Tilth! For anyone not familiar with their programs I recommend looking them up. They offer education and assistance to farmers and gardeners, as well as a CSA program. The Auburn location hosts small farm business training and support to low income and immigrant farmers in South King County. Karla, who raised these pigs organically at the Auburn farm, had taken several classes from WSU in organic farming and was very concerned about the health and welfare of the piglets- as I was too. It was great working with her and I would definitely do it again as these have been the most active, healthy piglets we’ve had!


Pigs at 8 weeks/day one home.


Pigs 4 weeks later (12 weeks/3 months old). They love their mud wallow🙂


While we’d also love to raise our piglets organically- the cost of feed is double- sometimes MORE than double…which makes it difficult to do on a small-scale/limited income. We’ve just started feeding them Patriot Farms Max grow feed, which is made by a small local company ( out of southwestern Washington. While they aren’t certified organic, they strive to limit the amount of pesticides or herbicides they do use, and also offer some non GMO feeds (chicken) for consumers. Until we can afford to go organic- this is a good middle ground for us, and the cost is the same as the commercial (Purina) feed we’d previously used last year.

Speaking of feed, we’ve been worried about sustaining our 3 cows on the 2 acres of grass we currently rotate them on. We’ve supplemented them with a few bales of hay earlier in the year, but financially, this can start to add up! About a month ago, our neighbor to the east came over to the fence as we were working in the garden nearby, and asked us if we’d like to let our cows graze some of their pasture so he didn’t have to mow it! They’d previously had a horse, which had passed away to old age, and he didn’t want to get any other animals to replace it. How serendipitous for us!!! We’ve come to the mutual agreement to pay them $50/month so this is a win-win for both of us🙂


While Laurel and Juniper come when you call their names- Fritz needs some motivation in the form of grain to go anywhere…


The grass over here is taller than he is!



Basking in the afternoon sun.

In the mean-time over in our pasture Berry’s begun building the squeeze gate/ corral for our cows in order to trim their feet and have them artificially inseminated. We thought about purchasing a metal squeeze chute system but these run anywhere from $3000 used to $5000 new so we thought we’d try the more economical route- build our own. I had to come up with a plan on my own as when I researched it online I couldn’t come up with anything that suited the (small) scale of our farm and few animals. We’ll never have more than 2-3 cows at a time. It’s basically a corral and a fence with a system of gates that work the cow down to the end where they are wedged between two gates. We’ll likely put a head gate at the end as well, but this might not be necessary…While some of the dimensions have changed from this plan (the depth is now 13′ instead of 9′ etc)….the concept remains the same.


We should have this done in the next couple weeks so crossing our fingers that it works as the cows desperately need their hooves trimmed as well as to be inseminated for spring calves next year. While we’ve done a lot more than this post suggests, and we’ve got more on the horizon, I think I’ll leave some for the next post…which should be less than 3 months from now!! So until next time…here’s a picture of Winston helping me pick peas (ie waiting for me to feed him some):

winston peas



Release the Cows!

Posted on March 24, 2014

Saturday I was working in the garden as we’ve had a stint of nice weather that actually fell on the weekend this week. I stopped what I was doing to look out at the pasture and notice the cows, staring in envy at the goats who were grazing in the pasture on the other side of the fence. We’ve had them in a winter confinement area as it minimized the mess created (ie mud) from them tromping around in the wettest months of the year. Once the grass begins to grow we practice rotational grazing, by which we partition off the pasture into 2-3 sections and rotate the cows in each for 2-3 weeks. Otherwise they manage to mow all the grass down until they stunt it’s growth from overgrazing. Once the stem is chewed below the first node of growth, it’s growth rate is delayed. Cattle farmers are actually grass farmers, didn’t you know? Anyway, I digress. The goats, seeing as how they don’t mind our 2-strand electric fence system, have been grazing outside on the nice days instead of being cooped up in the barn. We’re almost in to April, the grass should be starting to grow more as the temperatures climb into the 60’s (I’m optimistic about Spring😉 ) The reed canary grass must do better in cooler temperatures than the regular pasture grasses as it’s already reached 8″ from the ground. That, along with Laurel’s jealous stare-down of the goats…prompted me to let them to graze this weekend. And what a wonderful weekend for it! First off, I had to get them to walk across the fence line.  Where as the goats have no comprehension of electricity (or at least don’t feel it through their thick coats), the cows respect fences. I thought by turning off the fence and dropping the lines to the ground they would walk over it….


I pulled the line back so they could cross…and viola! That did the trick! All day and into the night they happily grazed the new shoots of grass…


Meanwhile, I spread 90% of the heap of compost that I’d started on last weekend…it is the never ending task.


It’s hard to tell from this picture but I’ve managed to raise this corner 8-10″ and although this will continue to break down over time, with the addition of some imported soil over the top, should help us slowly raise the garden to above the water table for spring planting. Last year we attempted to grow dahlias in this spot, and although it was dry enough to plant them, a few rainstorms later and the water table had risen enough to rot the bulbs😦 We also have heavy clay soil and this organic matter should help drainage over time as well.

We did carve out enough space with the rototiller in the garden for the peas these last couple weekends! You can’t really tell it’s our garden plot because it’s so overtaken with grass and weeds…but trust me…it’s a battle I’m planning on winning this year since we’re getting an early start!



Winston provided moral support…and cuteness. Gardening is easier with cute animals nearby.



Our starts only filled up a couple feet of each row, the rest we sowed with seeds of the same varieties. We planted Oregon Sugar Pod II (sugar snap, obviously), Green Arrow (bush shelling), and Sugar Sprint (snap) last weekend. This weekend I planted Alaska which is a taller growing snap pea. We splurged for a more rigid trellis system this year and sprung for a 16’x34″ galvanized hog panel instead of using our flimsy wire fencing.


This wasn’t cheap! At $38 for ONE panel we better get some good use out of it over the next several years!

We still have 2 more shelling varieties to sow (Dakota and Canoe), but as the weather hasn’t reliably warmed up I’m going to wait another week or two. Just after planing the first three varieties last weekend it rained about and inch and a half this week and the temperatures dropped into the low 30’s at night. If they don’t drown or freeze (I read they’ll do ok down to 28 degrees without damage to the plant) we’ll have a LOT OF PEAS! We only planted 2 sparse rows last year, and not until late may/ early June, so they didn’t do as well as they could have. I also should add that I watered these in with an inoculant. I also didn’t do this last year, so we’ll see if it makes a difference in crop health and vigor. Since the weather was nice, and I was working in the garden to keep an eye on them, I let the D’Uccles out of their pen to scratch around.

d'uccles garden compost pile


This little rooster may seem sweet, since he’s so small, but boy is he awnry. Get to close to his hens and he attacks!

They enjoyed scratching around, and I enjoyed watching them until Sunday night, when they began to dig around in my newly planted peas. I had planted them in some compost, which they like to scratch around in, so I promptly had to lock them back up. Next weekend I’ll let them back out and hopefully they’ll leave my crops alone!


Cows enjoying the warm southern sun.


laurel scratching

Laurel likes these trees as they provide ample scratching posts….


She might be a little spoiled because she had to come over and see if my phone/camera was food…Note the goat photobomb in the background.


Fritz enjoying the sun, and the company of the other cows.


What ever you do, these two stick to you like glue! Which is why when I was trying to lure the ducks up the ramp into the new coop so they could eat (without the goats getting into their food)….this happened:


Here ducky ducky….


Crap. I don’t know if this is going to work out. Apart from the fence jumping/escaping, duck food stealing, and feet problems the goats are getting more strikes against them than points. I’ve talked about it with Berry this weekend, but unfortunately, they aren’t working out as good as we’d hoped. We still might give the electric netting a go, but they tend to get easily tangled in the blackberries with their long coats, so maybe Angora goats weren’t the best choice for blackberry control😦 In the mean time, we still enjoy their comical company, and appreciate the weeds they do graze down, until we figure out a solution for them, or sell them to someone with pasture more suited to their needs, and feet.


Look at this face. Berry wants to keep them and he might change my mind….


Posted on March 15, 2014

We’ve had a few days of sunshine here and there this week and I don’t know about anyone else but I feel like I’m coming out of a coma of seasonal depression into a sun-induced state of bliss! We’ve had a couple productive days around the farm and have made more progress on the new coop and garden. I’ve even gotten in some weeding in AFTER work due to daylight savings… who would have thunk I would have looked forward to weeding after work…. Last weekend I tackled building the divider by the coop by myself as Berry works most weekends and my dad is still recovering from shoulder surgery. My conclusion after completing this task… thank God I don’t build anything for a living because am I ever slow at it….and I am so out of shape! Swinging a hammer and hauling tools around from the garage kicked my butt! Hopefully after a few weekends of manual labor it will be less of an adjustment the day after.


Progress pic.


Completed with inhabitants!

I found an old screen door at a salvage yard by our house a couple weeks ago- it worked out perfectly for a divider door for a total cost of $20. And not even 2 days after I wrote the last blog post about the geese likely being male as I hadn’t noticed eggs we noticed the geese hanging around the cows manger….nesting!


As I was doing the morning chores I noticed one of the geese was agitated that I was feeding the cows…which I thought was weird. They usually only make noise when someone new visits the house- they recognize Berry and me and don’t make much of a fuss when we’re around them. This change in behavior happened a day or two before I noticed this goose laying on a clutch of eggs (covered by hay when they weren’t setting) in the corner next to the manger! The day after I noticed the eggs…a raccoon got into them and ate them😦 Berry promptly chased it out of the pasture with a pitch fork….and I was devastated that they would stop laying, as I’d read geese only lay eggs in the late winter/early spring instead of year-round like ducks or chickens. Luckily that was not the case- they just decided to lay more UNDER the manger instead of next to it. Here’s what a goose sounds like when you get too close to their nest!


I scooped out the eggs that they had laid under the manger and we moved them into the back of the coop once the divider was finished. We caught the geese later that night and put them in with the eggs and they started reconstructing their nest!

goose eggs

Now, the only hurdle is to train them to walk up the long ramp into the coop on their own. We’re going to widen the ramp this weekend and see if that helps, because once they got out, they haven’t gone back in. Training chickens to walk up a ramp took some time, so I imagine this will too. In the next couple weeks we’ll also be getting a male gosling, some turkey poults, and some new chicks (broilers and layers) which we’ll raise in the front portion of the new coop. I’m assuming the lack of sitting, and the quantity of eggs laid in the last couple weeks (over 20) means we have 2 females. At least now we can name them since we know what sex they are! Apart from nesting and baby animals…spring is upon our garden!

I’ve been so anxious to start the garden that this week I quickly drew a layout plan on a break at work. Even though we’re making use of more space this year than last I BARELY had room for everything we’re hoping to grow this year!

farmhouse GARDEN OPTION1 (2)

Some crops worked out great last year and we’ve been happy with the amount and variety (1 row radishes, 5×8 area of pickles, 2 rows beets etc) while other crops we wished we’d grown more (corn, potatoes, onions, raspberries). Each year the weather will be different, and every crop never works out perfectly but it sure is fun to try! We’re hoping to move the pea starts outside this weekend, and plant the additional bare root raspberries, onions, and asparagus I recently bought. We have yet to determine where the asparagus is going to go as that is a perennial crop that needs good drainage (which we don’t have over the winter in the garden).

gardenTook off the row covers- onions and garlic are doing GREAT!

polish garlicWhile the California garlic took off early and strong, eventually the other varieties have caught up.

onionsI planted one ‘red’ and one ‘white’ set of onions in the fall. I also got 3 bunches of bare root Ringmaster White Spanish, and 3 bunches of Red Zepplin onions recently. Just to clarify, one ‘bunch’ of bare root onion starts is about 3-4 dozen starts. I don’t know what I was thinking but this is an INSANE amount of onions. I’m sure I will be giving away some of the White Spanish and Red Zepplin so if anyone would like some- please let me know🙂

d'uccles gardenThe D’Uccles have been rotating around the garden- the nitrogen from their manure will help amend the garden soil along with the other compost from the cows.

goats eating brushGoats got out of the barn and got to tackling the weedy mess that is the front corner of our pasture.

goose pondGeese and ducks have enjoyed some quality time on the pond. I recently got some black pussy willow shrubs to plant around the perimeter and plan on getting a weeping willow in the spring as well to plant along the bank.


Franklin sleeping in the hay in the barn. I’m hoping he keeps the rat/mouse population down in there but I suspect he just hangs out in the comfiest spot sleeping most of the day🙂

runner duck compost

The ducks squeeze under the gates in the pasture and wander through the yard as they please…including climbing onto the compost pile. In search of worms and slugs I suppose….This is also the mountain of compost and old hay that we’re going to spread over the garden this weekend. Although the peas, broccoli, onions, and cauliflower are going in now in a couple weeks, the majority of the rest of the garden won’t be planted until mid May.

In closing, I was considering the origin of the children’s game of Duck, Duck Goose. I was searching the internet for answers when I ran across this hilarious post on Buzzfeed. Although I have a soft spot in my heart for my geese, this post pretty much sums up the rest of the world’s opinion of the matter of each, and the possible origins of the children’s game. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tut Tut…Looks Like Rain.

Posted on February 23, 2014

Well here we are in the end of February….slogging through the muck and mud waiting to come out on the other side of winter into spring. All the rain we didn’t get in December and January seems to have dumped out of the sky all at once last week, leaving the place looking like a muddy pig wallow….minus the pigs. We’ve been working on projects here and there in spite of the weather in our spare time between rain storms, one of which has been finding a more permanent location for the compost pile. Currently the bulk of our compost is piled on a dry spot of grass adjacent to the new coop we’ve been building. It’s near the garden, which will make it easy to spread out this spring, but it also makes for a pretty unattractive focal point from the back yard.


The new location is just behind this pile. There is a little bit of a change in grade from this grassy spot off the driveway stepping down into the pasture about 24″. We’ve been cleaning that area up, as there was a lot of rotting wood and junk lying around from before we moved in, so that we can move the compost pile to a better location. Being as it steps down, the compost will be hidden from view from the back yard, and we’ll make use of a previously unusable space. While we were cleaning up the junk last weekend, Winston came out to help. He found a rodent hole at the back of the compost pile and spent the better part of an hour digging it out and searching for it’s occupant (of which I’m not sure he’d know what to do with anyway).


For those of you that don’t know- Winston is our 6 year old child…I mean Yorkshire Terrier. For as much attention on the blog I give all the other animals, Winston is our daily center of attention. While we got him when we lived in Seattle being as he’s a little dog, and requires less of a backyard than a larger breed, he sure has taken to farm life!

Apart from the uninspiring task of moving poop from one place to another, we’ve also started some seeds a couple weeks ago in hopes that it will dry out enough to plant them in our garden next month! Last year we got the garden going late (late May-early June) as we had so much to do just to get the grass down and the area tilled. We did attempt to grow some snow peas, but being as they prefer the cooler spring weather, the crop didn’t do as well as it should have if planted at the right time. This year we’re going to attempt to do everything on-time! We’ve scoured catalogs and seed racks at the local nurseries and hardware stores in preparation for some early spring crops! So far we’ve planted 4 kinds of peas, and a couple varieties of broccoli and cauliflower in some seed trays in a spare room in the barn.
seed setup
We’ve made use of some brooder lamps (we’ve replaced the heat bulbs with high wattage, compact flourescent bulbs) and an inexpensive rack with a plastic cover my mom salvaged from a neighbor that recently moved. While unattractive and probably a fire hazard considering the tangle of extension cords and the shotty barn wiring- it’s working!!!

The Alaska peas have gone a little crazy and have grown 3 times as fast as the other 2 varieties we’ve started from seed. I might try and experiment with sowing some directly in the soil outside in a few weeks and compare both methods. Most of the seed packages recommend sowing directly in the ground rather than starting from seed…but Washington’s notoriously wet and cold spring weather has left me covering my bases with experimenting otherwise.

In the garden we’ve been rotating our A-Frame chicken tractor to help us keep up with all the weeds and grass overtaking the space.

chicken tractorWhile both eating down the grass and weeds, the banty chickens have also been fertilizing the soil with their manure….

The only animals that seem to be enjoying the wet weather are the ducks and geese. In every corner of the pasture there has been puddles forming both big and small. If so little as a half inch of water accumulates on the ground- they have to play in it. Whenever I see them it puts a smile on my face. While I’m decked out in muddy boots, and a rain coat, they’re swimming in circles from one puddle to the next! At least SOMEONE is enjoying all this rain😉

geese puddle2 geese puddle

goose hay

We originally started out with 3 geese, but sadly we had to put one down due to a severe leg deformity it developed early on in life. I was hoping to have one girl and one boy goose so we could enjoy some little goslings this spring, but I’m guessing we’ve ended up with 2 ganders as there hasn’t been any egg laying happening as far as I’m aware. I’m afraid I’ve grown a little too attached to these geese to eat them (everyone said they’d be so mean!) so maybe we’ll get a baby female goose to accompany them later this spring. In the mean time they forage for so much of their own food so I don’t think having them is cost prohibitive, even without any golden eggs!

goose and fritz