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Howdy from Homeland Farm

The Week That Was ...

Howdy from Homeland FarmWhat a weird winter we have had in Maine this year. We typically get several snowstorms in the winter, with snowfall amounts ranging from a few inches to a foot or more. That is a typical winter in Maine. This year, however, we have had a strange winter by New England standards.

We got our first snowfall right after Christmas, and it was a doozy. We got 27 inches here in the so-called foothills of Western Maine. Lots of tractor snow-moving and truck-plowing to get all the chores done. My daughter runs a large animal rescue and usually has 12 to 15 horses, donkeys, and mules. We also have alpacas and a pot-bellied pig, along with many laying hens. With that much snowfall, we needed to clean out all our gates, shovel the stall ramps, and even clean spots in the pastures for the horses to get their round bale delivery. Then, of course, we had the house and house-barn shoveling that includes all the doors and barn entryway. After all was cleaned up here, my sons went next door and started all over again at my parents’ house. Ahh ... it’s great to be young! Rather, it's great to have young sons!

After that big storm, we slipped into January and, except for a couple small snowfalls of an inch or three, we had a quiet month. Truthfully, our January thaw — which usually lasts a week or so — ended up going on for almost three weeks. Above-normal temperatures and much melting had the snow almost gone, with many bare spots showing in the fields.

Then came ... the week that was ...

On February 7th, we got our first storm — which got the kids an early release from school — and our first 6 inches of snow. There was no school on the 8th because the snow had ended by turning to an icy coating.

The 9th started out clear, but there was already a no school announcement as the next storm was rolling in and started at around 8 a.m. It snowed hard all day and ended up giving us another 11 inches on top of the 6 we just got.

On the 11th, it started again. A "Yankee Clipper" came through and dropped another 8 inches of snow. By now we are used to it and managed to get all the chores done without too much trouble. My daughter had a chance to shake off the horse's blankets and change out the wet ones for nice, dry ones.

A brief break overnight, and then the "the big one" was on our doorstep. According to weathermen, we were supposed to get 20 or so inches of snow. February 12th dawned gray, per usual, and by mid afternoon it had started. Lots of accidents and crashes as the banks got so high it was hard to see into the road until you pulled your car way out.

The morning of the 13th dawned snowy and windy, with most of the lower part of the state shut down. It snowed all day, and we ended up with over 20 fresh inches of the fluffy white stuff that I personally love at Christmas, but have no use for the rest of the year. Much shoveling and clearing later, and we were hopefully done!

February 14th was a blue sky and a lovely, warm Valentine’s Day. Melting ensued, but what was that I heard? You guessed it, another storm for tomorrow.

I woke up on the 15th, and it was snowing hard. The kids had school, as the district was trying hard to make it so the kids didn't have school into July. It snowed hard all day, but they managed to get in a half-day so they won''t have to make that day up. By later afternoon, it was a full-on snowstorm. We had to do some necessary traveling in the afternoon, and by the time we came home it was terrible. The roads weren't plowed, the visibility was zero, and it was a long, hard drive home.

The 16th dawned cloudy, with a few more snow flurries but another 16 inches of fresh snow. I am 54 and don't remember snow banks as high as they were at the end of that week. We went from bare spots to 10-foot banks, having received over 50 inches of snow in just over a week's time.

So, here it's March 12th, and we have just had a great period of nice weather. Oh sure, the last couple days had wind chill of 30 below zero, but hey — no snow to speak of since the 16th.

Spring is in the air! Horses have started shedding, the snow has settled back to allow bare spots in the field, and they say we are going to have warmer temperatures next week. I bet the grass is going to start turning green where we can see the ground. I am even pleased to see the mud in the driveway. Yep, I think flowers are just around the corner ...

Wait, what? A snowstorm, you say? A genuine nor'easter, you say? We are in the 20-inch zone, they are telling us? Great. Kids, polish up those snow shovels, drag out those snow pants, and get the gloves at the ready. Winter of '17 isn't done with us yet, I guess.

Boys, how do you feel about school ... in July?

Red barn in snow
Photo by By Ximeg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Futility of Floor Washing in Winter

Howdy from Homeland FarmThe other day I had the crazy idea to wash my floors. I have been watching as a thick layer of mud, muck, and mire has started to build up in my laundry room. Now, I am not a slack housekeeper, but I have so much to do that housecleaning — and especially floor washing — seems to get put on the back burner. My daily schedule leaves very little time for the mop. Take a look at my daily agenda:

• 7:00 AM: Get up.
• 7:30 AM: Feed dogs. Feed cats. Make coffee.
• 8:00 AM: Drink coffee. Put dogs out.
• 8:30 AM: Get dogs in. Drink more coffee.
• 9:00 AM - 4 PM: Think about housecleaning.
• 4:30 PM: Decide it is too late now to clean.

So, as you can see, I am far to busy to be able to clean house and wash floors. Yet, from time to time, it becomes painfully obvious that drastic measures must take place. This happened to me just this week.

mudroom 

Living on a 6th-generation family farm in Maine, I am very used to pails in the laundry room. Often they are thawing, or sometimes they hold a mash or soaked grain for some variety of animal. These pails often accompany a frozen hose or two and a never-ending supply of muck boots, shoes, gloves, hats, and mittens.

The problem for me is that it takes an hour's worth of work just to get ready to mop the floor. I have to lug said pails back out in the barn. I have to wrangle that frozen hose like a cobra trainer and muscle it out the door. I have to handle the 12 pairs of cruddy, nasty, muck boots and take them all out and place them on the boot trays outside the house. Then, of course, I have to pick up the boot trays inside the house and carefully chuck the cruddy tray out into the snowbank.

Feed room

Then ... it is sweep-the-floor time. Hay, manure, dirt, mud, and unknown "stuff" gets swept out of every corner and cubbyhole and into a huge pile in the middle of the floor. I think to myself, as I always do, that I really need a broom designated for that room only. I make a mental note to buy one, then promptly forget to do so until it is time to clean again.

I sweep it all into the dustpan (if only it was ever really used for dust ...), and toss the foul mixture out into the trashcan in the barn. Now at last, floor-washing time. I dig out my floor pail and mop from behind the door on the back porch, dust off the cobwebs, and place it in the sink. Out comes my good old friend, Mr. Bleach, and with a little squirt of soap, we are ready.

I lug the mop and pail to laundry room and commence washing floors like I'm a swabbing a pirate ship's deck. I slop the water on and start mopping. The smell of bleach permeates the air, and I plunge and wring, plunge and wring. I even go crazy and move the box of winter squash on the floor, getting behind and under it. I am a mopping machine, only pausing to let the dogs out ... then back in. Oh, I had a swig of my lukewarm coffee as well.

group of dogs at window 

At last. The floor is spotless. It smells like a hospital it is so clean. I consider eating supper off it that night, but decide once I get down, I might not get back up. Mopping isn't easy, ya know. So I drag my now-filthy pail of water out to back porch and dump it off the steps. A few minutes later, I am sitting back at the kitchen table with a fresh cup of coffee, the smell of bleach on my hands overpowering every time I raise the cup to my mouth. However, the sense of accomplishment is worth it. My floors are pristine. I sit there drinking coffee and ponder maybe even busting out the vacuum, until I come to my senses. Might as well spread all the cleaning fun out over the rest of the week. Don't need to go crazy or anything.

Suddenly, the laundry room door bursts open and in comes the farmer, dropping his boots by the door. Shortly after him my daughter comes in, lugging a chicken that has a frozen comb and needs to be inside for the night because it is going to be negative 10 degrees. The hen is quickly set up in a cage with food and water. Oh, and shavings. Shavings and hay. Shavings and hay that are soon everywhere but in the cage, as the hen — who is mighty tickled to be inside — starts to flutter around, flapping her wings in joy. Oh joy.

buckets of feed

Four pails are then plunked on the floor: mash, apples, and warm water soaking to make a tasty treat for the animals in the cold morning. I stand and look at the once-pristine laundry room. In the background, I hear something about an alpaca that isn't well, and something else about setting up a pen for her on the back porch. I decide coffee isn't nearly strong enough. Go looking for stronger stuff. Vow to wait until spring to wash floors again. Oh, and put the dogs out.

Baby Goats Are Born

Howdy from Homeland FarmBaby goat, baby goat
you were born so very small
Baby goat, baby goat
you are no bigger then a doll.

Your momma didn't want you,
but thankfully we did
you girls are just plain lucky,
and precious baby kids.

Baby goat, baby goat
bottle feeding can be a pain,
Baby goat, baby goat
but it is worth it to see you gain.

You hop and leap,
so very cute
watching you play
is such a hoot.

Baby goat, baby goat
you are just so darn adorable,
Baby goat, baby goat
giving you away would be just horrible.

You have brought us joy,
and made us happy,
but oh no, baby goat,
time to wear a nappy!

Baby goats just dried off and fed for the first time. 

Baby goats just dried off and fed for the first time.

Hello from the nursery at Homeland Farm. In case you couldn't tell, we had two babies born this week. Their momma was a Nigerian dwarf cross that my daughter Brogan rescued from an auction. Buttercup, their momma, is just a young goat herself, and had no interest in her two doelings at all. So, into the house they came.

It is a lot of work for the two surrogate "moms" who now have to bottle feed several times a day. It really is like having twin, human babies. They need to be fed, cleaned and entertained each and every day. About the only difference is that we don't need to worry about setting up a college fund for these little girls.

The biggest doe was born first, and her mom had a very hard time pushing her out. She ended up being stuck in the birth canal for over an hour, and when she was finally born, she ended up having a slightly odd shaped head. They named her Quasimodo, and the smaller, second doeling is named Esmerelda. They are both eating and doing well, and yes, are living in my house.

Momma goat struggling to give birth.

Momma goat struggling to give birth.

We enjoyed some very nice temperatures this week. One day it made it all the way to 50 degrees, and it was wonderful. It made us feel like we really need to write up our spring "to-do" list, because spring is finally on the way.

We are going to have to do a lot of fence repairing and replacing this year. My daughter has several rescue horses, and between them and the heavy snow, our fences are in trouble. I can see many post holes needing to be dug this spring, once all that snow is gone.

Cliff, my sweetie, and Cass, a young man who lives with us, have been busy planning and building outdoor chicken houses. We want to raise a couple batches of meat birds this spring. One is for our own freezer, and one batch we will sell at our farm stand. We have always had good luck selling extra broilers in the past, and with the new interest in eating locally raised food, I am sure we will sell all we can produce.

My oldest son, Cameron, who also lives at home, has been working with student volunteers who have come to the farm to work through a school program. They handle watering all the animals, and do lots of manure shoveling. They have also cleaned alpaca fleece, and carded fiber rabbit fur. We try and vary their jobs for a more interesting farm experience. All shoveling all the time makes Jack a dull boy, as they say.

My other son Liam helps do various farm jobs as well. He helps round up alpacas and horses, should they escape, and is a big help during haying. At almost 15, he is getting older, and more mature, and is able to handle more responsibility.

Jenny on the porch holding a loose sheep. 

Jenny on the porch holding a loose sheep.

We also have a farm manager named Jenny who lives here. She is Brogan's right-hand gal. She does chores when Brogan is working, and helps with the rescue work. So, as you can see, there is a lot going on here every day, and a lot of people doing it.

Everyone also helps with the firewood hauling and stacking, yard work, barn cleaning, gardening and all the other various jobs that are part of farm living.

Cliffy cooking bacon on the campfire. 

Cliffy cooking bacon on the campfire.

Life is very busy at Homeland Farm, but life is very fulfilling as well. We do take time to enjoy the "little things" in life. We enjoy S'mores in the summertime, cooking out in the backyard, and enjoy a cool, refreshing swim in the lake after a hot day of haying. Life does not always run smoothly on a farm, and we do have our ups and downs like everyone else. But for my family, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Cameron and one of our pet pigs at a cookout. 

Cameron and one of our pet pigs at a cookout.

Hello From the Frozen North

Howdy from Homeland FarmHello to fellow Grit Lovers! Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I hope you enjoy it, and stop by often. This is as close as we can come to a visit on the old front porch swing.

Looking at the house from the road.

We have been having such a long, snowy and very cold winter here in Maine. The first part of the winter was not bad, but once February started, so did winter, and with a vengeance. We almost always can look forward to heavy snows, and cold, but we had more then our share this year. The local weatherman recently announced that this was the coldest February since they started keeping records. I believe it. We have seen temperatures most mornings well below zero, and we had one night where wind chills were minus 40 degrees. Not good weather to farm in, but we do it anyway. This is a fifth-generation family farm, and while we sometimes wish our kinfolk had settled in more temperate areas, we love this farm and being in Maine.

Like many folks in snowbound, rural country, we have passed our time the last couple months looking over seed catalogs and country magazines. That is of course when not thawing pails or chiseling manure off the barn floor. Spring will eventually get here, and when it does, we have a lot to do.

Last spring with one of our pot bellied pigs saying hello.

We have a bunch of fencing that needs replacing this year, as well as the usual spring jobs. Raking, cleaning, planting and mowing. All the usual -ing jobs that means we are going to be mighty busy.

I don't do as much of the outside jobs as I used to, but I am plenty busy inside. I do as much canning and jam making as I am able to do, which means I will be busy in the hot, steamy kitchen at the height of summer, as usual.

We are looking forward to baby rabbits, and getting both laying hen and meat bird chicks this summer. We are raising a batch of turkeys again this year, and hope we have much better luck then we did last time we raised them. We had a huge predator problem, and I was battling foxes and coyotes steady for two summers. We ended up losing several layers, and our biggest turkey (of course) to the darn, pesky varmints. Did I just sound like Elmer Fudd? I'm pretty sure I did.

We have a Nigerian Dwarf momma-to-be that is due to have her kids soon, and my daughter Brogan rescued a horse, that as it turns out, is pregnant and will be having a foal too. So, with spring comes new life.

Cliffy and one of the horses.

So, for now I will wrap this up, and post a few photos of our snowy tundra. Thanks for stopping by, and if you would like to check out more of the happenings here on the farm, please check out my personal blog. Thanks for reading, and stop by again!

You can hardly see the barn from the backyard 

More winter coldness.

Hay Season at Homeland Farm

CarmenHello from Homeland Farm. It is proving to be an interesting summer here at the old place.

We just watched our farms history played out on national television. We were taped last February for the show My Ghost Story, which is on the Biography channel, and last Saturday night we made our TV debut. The segment was only about 8 minutes long but it was so interesting. This farm has been in our family for 5 generations, and we have always felt a few of those now gone relatives continue to visit us on occasion. We have a family cemetery in the corner of our hay field where many of our kinfolk are buried, and that was featured on the show as well. It was alot of fun, and thankfully I looked fairly intelligent as the narrator! It should be able to be viewed soon on Bio.com, look for my face in the playlist box. I think it will probably be listed on episode 8, although I am not sure about that. Hollywood hasn't come knocking since the show aired however, so the farm work continues!

Daughter Brogan tilling garden

Our garden has really kicked into high gear with the long stretch of hot weather and ample rain supply we have had this summer. We have gorgeous plants, and are starting to get an abundance of cukes. That of course means pickles of every variety. I have made bread and butter pickles and ripe cucumber pickles. Today I finish a batch of kosher dills as well. We have plenty more cukes coming on, so I think I will be able to try several other varieties. I have made three batches of strawberry jam and a couple batches of raspberry as well.

PLUS, I have made two batches of homemade root beer ... Oh my! It is so good. I love root beer, and the homemade, while not as sweet as commerically made rootbeer, is the best you can drink. It is made with yeast, and that makes it extra potent, so caution must be used once it gets fizzy. It can, and WILL blow up! How many of you out there can recall homemade root beer shattering glass bottles? I bet more then one! We  now use plastic soda bottles that I wash out, which makes it easier to tell when the soda is ready, as the  plastic sides start to bulge when it is ready to drink. Ya might want to open it very slowly, and over a sink ... just in case.

Cliff on tractor raking hay

We have been very busy haying as well. We cut over 40 acres of hay, mostly to feed our own horses, but this year it looks like we will have some to sell as well. Gas and diesel is a bit cheaper this year, so that helps.

Son Cameron in hayloft

Now if we could figure out how to get our grain cheaper, we would be very happy. That was a big part of why we decided to forgo turkeys and meat birds this year. A 50 pound bag of meatbird crumbles here in Maine is over $15.00 a bag, and anyone that raises them knows how many bags they eat in their short life. I don't even dare to look at the organic grain, which is undoubtedly over 20 dollars a bag. It shouldn't cost that much to raise your own meat. Does anyone else find the cost of grain prohibitive in their area?

Azura, one of the thoroughbreds we saved from slaughter

The horses don't need grain in summer, and they all look wonderfully fat and shiny.

My children have been very helpful this summer, as they are all getting older and pitch in more then ever with the work.

Son Liam watering flowers

Cliff and I like that, as we are getting older as well! Nice to see the younger generations pitching in to get the work done here at Homeland Farm. Thanks for reading ... See ya next time!

Summer in Maine Off to a Great Start

CarmenHi. Welcome to the Homeland Farm blog. It is shaping up to be a great summer here in Maine.

We had beautiful weather during May, which has jumped our hay quite a bit. We currently have 4 horses, and end up haying about 40 acres of mixed hay, mostly Timothy. Cliff has been busy since he returned from Nevada, hardly stopping to rest.

We have managed to get the garden all planted, and the flowers set out. Cliff has repaired the haying equipment, and we all just had a hand in painting the baler and hay rake. They look pretty spiffy with a new coat of paint.

New paint on the machinery

I have just finished my spring housecleaning in time for a MASSIVE influx of Pine tree pollen … oh yay. My entire house has a nice green layer of greenish-yellow pollen on every surface. Time to get started cleaning again (insert heavy sigh here). We still need to do a lot of fencing and need to restack last years remaining hay in the back of the barn to use first in the fall. My daughter is moving home from Florida for the summer, and I feel certain this is a job she would NOT want to miss out on, so we will anxiously await her arrival next week.

Getting the garden in

The hens are laying great, for 2 year old birds. They took the winter off entirely, so they should be very well rested. I know you can use lights in the winter to increase pro-duction, but we don't. As the old saying goes, what’s a hen’s time worth anyway?

Chickens

The garden is in and looks great. Let’s see if we can keep ahead of the weeds … always a challenge. Every year I can tomatoes, pickles (if the cukes do anything), and make jams and jelly. We make homemade rootbeer, and need to get that first batch underway. Ever had a homemade rootbeer? Ice cold? Oh myyyy … it is So much better then anything you can buy. Have to get on that soon. I know my daughter doesn’t want to miss out on that either … better wait for her. (I know what you’re thinking – she is gonna be one busy gal – and you’re raight!) We have four horses that need attention. She sent me a note on Facebook saying that "everyone needs worming when she gets home." I said I would hold Cliff by the tail while she does it!

Horses in the corral

We are still awaiting the date for our segment on My Ghost Stories to be sent to us. They said they will email it to us before the date so we will be sure to watch. I did a blogradio show the other night about our adventures here at the farm, paranormally speaking, and the host asked me if any activity had ever occurred in the kitchen. I said none that I was aware of. Two days later, we woke up and every cupboard door in the kitchen was WIDE OPEN … all of them. We didn’t do it. Question is …who did??

The farm on a summer day

That’s it from Homeland Farm today. Got some serious dusting to do. Have a great week!

Spring Projects at Homeland Farm

CarmenHello from Homeland Farm. This week brings a change in pace for us. Cliff is going to fly to Nevada for a few days to visit his son, daughter-in-law and their baby girl, so I will be head honcho here for the rest of the week. I look around and see a lot that needs to be done this spring.

The horses have stepped on a lot of wire to push it down so they can lean over it more conveniently, they like their comfort don’t ya know! We have 4 horses now – two Spotted Saddle Horse mares, and two Thoroughbred race horses we saved from an unpleasant future. We recently had a tremendous loss: We had to put down our old Belgian draft horse "Bill" to sleep after 5 years. We bought him from people that hadn't fed him in weeks ... skin and bones. They said he was 15 – turned out to be 35ish – but he was a great fella. I will put some videos of him on at a later date. We will miss him.

Horses in pasture

We also have 65 layers, and two guinea hens: Mr. and Mrs. Guinea. They are hot tickets and keep us amused with their travels. We have Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, Buff Orpingtons, New Hampshire Reds and Barred Rocks, and one 5-year-old Araucana rooster, Mr. Rooster Cogburn.

We also have 2 dogs, Lacey the cheesedoodle poodle and Duchess a Golden Retriever, and we have 4 cats, Muffinhead, Stewbeef, Stink E Lewis, and Slippery Sue. We are going to be getting some turkey poults in June, for a very tasty Thanksgiving. We have plans to get our garden under way once Cliff gets back from Nevada, and of course lots of haying coming up this summer.

House lilacs

We have a big "thing" happening in July. This old house has had 5 generations of our family born here, living their lives here and also dying here. We have a family cemetery in the back hayfield and have come to realize over the years that we have some friendly "folks" that still hang out at the farm even though they have passed away. We are being featured on an upcoming series My Ghost Story which premiers in July. We had a Hollywood producer come visit and take footage and everything. It is very exciting and very big happenings for this small town and certainly this family. More about that in the future. Thanks for stopping by! I hope to hear from some of you in the future!