Too Close

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When I planted my ground cherries earlier in the spring, I put them in their own little box.  I added a good thick layer of rabbit droppings to the box and put it outside of what we call “the middle pen”.  At the time we were not using that pen for goats.

Greg warned me, “You’re putting that box too close to the fence.”

“No, I’m not. See, it’s not touching the fence.”

The goats are gonna get whatever you put in there.

“There aren’t any goats in this pen and even if we do move them in here they won’t reach the box.”

Okay.”

He didn’t argue any further. He would let me learn…..and I did.
My rabbit-fertilized ground cherries grew beautifully. I had lots of little cherries dangling in their papery husks and I waited for them to drop to the ground so I could collect them and eat them share them with my children.

Well, I never got the chance. We ended up needing to utilize the middle pen for the goats. At first they didn’t even notice them, but then one day my yummy little ground cherries caught the eye of one of the goats. The box they grew in was set back from the fence, but with a little determination and a lot of neck stretching they managed to eat my ground cherries. Every. Single. One.

I did plant two ground cherries at the back of the carrot garden, but these little plants didn’t get any bunny fertilizer and they only got about two inches tall….so far no fruit.

I have learned my lesson. Next time I will listen to Greg. Well, at least when it comes to the placement of my ground cherries.

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The House

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Our house is an older house that has had some updates, but could certainly use some more.  When it was originally built it was a dog-run style house.  At some point in time an addition was added on the back of the house and the inside was changed considerably.

We knew we would need to do some work on the exterior of the house and some cosmetic changes inside…or so we thought.  It seems as though the list of things to be done keeps growing.  It’s becoming quite a long list, so I won’t even bother with writing it out right now.  Instead, I’d rather make a list of what has been done on the inside.

1.  We added a second toilet!
This was really a necessity with 9 people in the house.  A row of toilets in stalls would have been even better, but we didn’t have the room, so I settled for a single one.

2.  A new counter top and 2 new sinks in the bathroom.
This was a necessity as well because the sink that the previous owners installed sat on top of the counter (instead of down in the counter like a normal sink). That was all well and good. The sink bowl itself was quite lovely, however, the faucet they installed to go with the sink was not the proper height and shortly after moving in it broke. Instead of just getting a new faucet we went with double sinks and ditched the above counter bowl.

3. We added a new ceiling fan in the dining room.
Ok, so maybe this isn’t a big change, but it made the dining room look much better. The old ceiling fan just didn’t look right and we needed one for the boy’s room anyway so we put the old dining room ceiling fan in their room.

That’s about it as far as the interior goes. It seems as though most of our work has been done on fencing/goat pens, gardens and other outdoor projects.

We plan on many more projects over the years and each room will slowly (very slowly) get worked on.

Resurrection Fern

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On our property we have a few oak trees, but there is one that truly stands out.  It’s a giant and a beauty.  It provides ample shade for our animals, and when we had the guineas they would roost high in its branches.

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All along the branches grows a pretty little fern called Resurrection Fern.

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Most of the time this fern stays curled up, but after a rain the leaves unfurl to soak in all the moisture.

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I read that the Resurrection Fern can lay in a dormant state for around 70 years with no water, but at the moment of rain they will spring back to life.

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This spring we have had an abundance of rain and I’ve enjoyed the almost magical setting that the Resurrection Fern has created around the oak tree.  I know that soon its leave will curl up until another rain, but for now I’m enjoying its beauty.

The Orphans

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A few weeks ago we brought home two little goat babies.  One is a buck that we named Samson, and the other is a doe that we call Echo.  A few months ago we had already made arrangements to get Echo, even though she wasn’t born.  We were hoping that her dam would have a doeling and not only bucklings.  Thankfully, she did.  It was quite sad, though, that shortly after kidding, the dam died unexpectantly leaving behind Echo and Samson.

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Since we already have Noah, we weren’t planning on getting another buck yet, but the breeder preferred to keep the babies together so we ended up getting both of them.

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Hope and Blossom had just kidded a few days before we got them and they had abundance of milk to share with our new babies.

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With multiple bottle feedings each day, Samson and Echo get lots of attention and love.  Lucky little goats!

Paper Dolls

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Over the last few weeks we received quite a bit of rain. In fact it rained almost every single day. During that time we were able to go to two library books sales and stock up on some new (well, new to us) reading material.  I think we ended up bringing home close to 75 new books.

The kids love to read and while I wasn’t much of a reader in my younger years, I thoroughly enjoy reading now.  However, even with all the new books, the kids were getting a little antsy and I knew that they needed something to do with their hands.  The big boys whittled, the little ones played with toys, but Ellie needed a craft.

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After a quick search on the internet I found a website with lots of links for free printable paper dolls.  You can find the links here at Too Much Time On My Hands.  All that afternoon, Ellie carefully cut out her dolls and their accessories.  She and Natalie have been busy playing with them ever since.  The only problem is that paper dolls don’t last that long even when a little 3 year old is being as gentle as possible.

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Perhaps next time I’ll print them on some magnet paper so they are a little more sturdy and won’t have tabs to break off.

The Little Shepherdess

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I don’t remember what we were doing, but these two little gals were getting in the way.  We asked who wanted to take them out in the pasture while we finished up and Natalie volunteered.   She was so cute running around with them and before I could get my camera out she was actually laying on the ground with Belle on top of her.

She kept them well occupied…….she’s turning into quite the little shepherdess.

Fruit

A little while ago I wrote about all the things we’ve planted here.  I remembered the veggies, but I forgot the fruit!

“She considereth a field, and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.”  Proverbs 31:16

Grapes:  I haven’t planted a whole vineyard, but I do have two grapevines planted.  Growing up we had a few grape vines on our property.  If my memory is correct (and it probably isn’t) we had two vines of white grapes and two of purple (or red?).  I couldn’t begin to tell you what variety they were, but it really didn’t matter because eating grapes fresh off the vine is a real treat no matter the variety.

Grapes were something I always wanted to plant and Greg listened to me talk of this quite often.  We began to research grape varieties for our region and we decided on muscadines.  They are native to our area and can be found growing in the wild.  We actually have some growing in our pasture, but they grow high in a pine tree and I can only reach a few.  Muscadine grapes love acidic soil (which we have) and they are disease resistant which is really good for our humid summers.

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Citrus Fruits:  Our neighbor blessed us with several bags of grapefruit this year.  At first I wondered what on earth I would do with them all, because I didn’t remember liking grapefruit the one time I ate it many years ago.  These grapefruit were so delicious (being ripened on the tree) that I ended up having to ration them out, because the kids would have eaten them all the very first day we got them.  So when we were at Lowes and saw some grapefruit trees on sale for 50% off, we knew we had to get some.  We ended up getting some tangelos while we there as well.

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Plum Trees:  Our local feed store sets out fruit trees at the first sign of spring.  It is quite tempting to load up our vehicle with some every time we go by there.  There were already two pear trees and two apple trees on the property when we moved here so we didn’t plan on buying any of those.  The pear trees are old and only produced three pears between the two trees last year.  This year I did some heavy pruning since they were covered in vines and looked like they hadn’t been pruned….ever.  Hopefully we will get some more pears this year.  The apple trees were young, and an escaped goat broke one while bending it over to eat the leaves on the top.  I’m not sure if we will ever get any apples off of that one lonely tree.  Peach trees are a lot of trouble and I had never eaten a kumquat so we ruled out those types of trees.  I would love to grow some lemons and limes, but I decided this wasn’t the year for those, so that left us with the plum trees.  Everyone in the family loves plums so this was a perfect fit for us.  The variety we are growing is Santa Rosa.  We hope to add some more plum trees of a different variety.

Ground Cherries:  Last year I planted ground cherries and only one plant survived, but that one plant made me want more.  I love the fact that I can plant seeds and get fruit the same year, unlike fruit trees where you have to wait awhile.  This year I started more from seed and they are doing quite well.  I have around 15 plants that made it (one of the kids mistook my ground cherries as weeds and we lost a few).

Blueberries:  To say that I love blueberries would be an understatement.  Almost every year for the last 7 or 8 years we have gone to a local farm to pick blueberries.  The first year we only picked a couple pounds.  Over the next few years we picked more each year so that we could freeze them and use them year round.  As our family continued to grow, we needed more berries and over the last three years we picked between 75 and 100 pounds each trip.  Yes, we really picked that many.

With our love (or is it my love?) for blueberries, it seemed fitting to plant some blueberry bushes.  I’m not sure if Greg was trying to send me a message that he didn’t want to go picking anymore or not, but he ended up buying 14 blueberry bushes!  Some were very young, and some were more mature and are already producing berries.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get 100 pounds of off them, so he still has some blueberry picking trips to make.

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The Unknown Fruit:  There are two trees in my pasture that blossomed earlier in the spring and the blossoms led me to believe that they were mayhaws, but now I’m not so sure.  I read that they are ripe at the end of April into the middle of May.  Well, here we are in May and they are nowhere near being ripe.  So, I’ll have to do a little more research and find out what they are.

A Time To Be Born (Part 2)

Right in the midst of all our baby goats being born, our guineas began to hatch.  In 3 days we had 10 little guineas born.

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Our incubator doesn’t have an automatic turner so we have to mark all our eggs with “x‘s” and “o’s”.  This makes it easier when turning the eggs because you can keep track of which ones have already been turned.

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Two of the hatchlings were white and the rest were “normal” guinea colors.  The girls were hoping for some lavender colored guineas like Earl, but that didn’t happen this time.

This is only the second time we have used our incubator.  Before we had the incubator we always ordered our chicks from online hatcheries or from the feed store (they get their chicks from the hatcheries as well).  One big difference we have noticed between chicks (or keets in the case of guineas) hatched at home and ones that come from the hatchery, is that the ones out of our incubator rarely make a peep.  They are the most content chicks and keets ever.  They eat, drink, and snuggle with each other.  On the other hand, any chicks we’ve ever gotten from a hatchery seemed to make noise all the time. We are enjoying our quiet little keets!

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A Time To Be Born (Part 1)

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born,…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2a 

We have been patiently waiting for our baby goats to arrive for the last five months and they are finally here!  Well, most of them.  Last week 3 of our 4 does kidded.

We had baby goats born Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.  We also picked up two little orphans on Saturday, but I’ll get to that later.  Blossom was the first on the farm to kid.

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She had this beautiful little baby last Wednesday.  It is a little buckling.

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Next up was Hope.  We went out at 5 a.m. on Friday and she had already given birth and was cleaning up the baby.  I was hoping for a little goat with the same glossy black coat that she has, but this kid came out looking just like his sire.

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Hope’s kid is also a buckling.

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Then on Sunday afternoon Ginger had her baby.  Any idea what it was?  You guessed it, another buckling!  We were really hoping for a doeling.  Fortunately, we have one more doe left to kid and I’m hoping she will have one.

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I love this little buck’s colors.

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Bear and Daisy love the new babies.  They bonded instantly.   It was so neat to watch them come in and help clean the bucklings once the mamas were done.

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Even Freckles, our other dog, wanted to watch over the new herd members.

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It Only Took 13 Years!

Thirteen years.  Thirteen long years.  That’s how long my husband had to wait for me to be able to make a good buttermilk pie.  Before I moved to Texas I had never eaten or even heard of a buttermilk pie (or brisket, jambalaya, gumbo & a bunch of other things).  I never knew what I was missing.  Buttermilk pie is wonderful, that is, if you can make one.  For some reason I could not make one worth eating.

The first time I made a buttermilk pie I couldn’t wait for Greg to take a bite.  He was gracious, but I could tell that the pie wasn’t a winner.  So I tried again and failed again.  I don’t know how many different recipes I tried, it felt like hundreds, but still no winner.  One night I made an applesauce custard and after trying it Greg began to laugh.  I wasn’t sure if I should be offended that he was laughing.  When he finally gained his composure he informed me that my applesauce custard tasted more like a buttermilk pie than any attempt I had ever made.  After that I decided that buttermilk pie was just one of those things I would never master.  I stopped trying to make them all together.  If Greg wanted a buttermilk pie he could eat one at the family Thanksgiving  dinner.

That was several years ago.  I don’t know what changed, but a few weeks ago I felt like taking up the challenge again.  I love to cook and bake and I decided I wasn’t going to let this pie get the best of me.  A few different recipes later and I struck gold!  For the first time in thirteen years I made a buttermilk pie worth eating!

I combined my sister-in-law’s pie recipe (with a little less sugar) and a pie crust recipe a dear friend gave me years ago.  The great thing about this crust recipe is that you make it in the pan you are going to bake your pie in.

Pat in the Pan Pie Crust

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. oil (I use coconut, but you can use veggie oil if you prefer)
3 Tbsp. milk

In your pie pan combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Then pour in your melted coconut oil and milk; mix well.

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Pat the crust up the sides of the pan and press flat in the bottom.  For this recipe we don’t need to prebake the pie crust, but if you need it for a recipe that calls for a prebaked crust, it does well at 375º for about 10 minutes.

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Buttermilk Pie

1 stick butter (softened)         1 tsp. vanilla                                                                                                     1 1/2 c. sugar                            5 eggs                                                                                                                 3 Tbsp. flour                             1 c. buttermilk

Preheat 325º.  Mix the butter and sugar until well combined.

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Add flour, vanilla, and eggs; mix well.  You can add the eggs one at a time, but I usually just do them all at the same time.  Finally stir in the buttermilk.  Your mixture will not be thick.

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Pour into your pie crust/shell and bake at 325º for 45 min, or until firm.  The top should look golden brown and the center shouldn’t be jiggly [yes, that is a technical kitchen term 😉 ]

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Let the pie cool completely, this is the hard part.  We actually enjoy our pies even more once they’ve sat in the refrigerator overnight, but they rarely make it that long.

This recipe will make two regular pies or one deep dish.  You will have to bake longer for a deep dish.  I used to have about 6 pie plates but somehow over the years my number has been drastically reduced to 0.  So, I just use what I have.  The shape of your dish won’t change the taste.

Now go get in the kitchen and bake a pie!

Bean Teepees

I would love to say that I had the idea to do bean teepees all along, but I didn’t.  In fact, it was a last minute effort to conserve space.  My garden was full and we had already tilled up every available space we could.  Trellising was not so much fun on our long rows last year, so these teepees were exactly what we needed.

We had an old mimosa tree that was crowding our pear tree and had to come down.  We then used the limbs from the mimosa tree to make the teepees.  I am so happy with how they turned out and can’t wait until the vines start filling them in.

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We started with these mimosa limbs.  The kids put them in piles based on their length and diameter.  While we only built two teepees, we actually have enough to do a couple more, but just haven’t had the time to construct them.  Not that they are hard to build.  They actually go up pretty quick, but we have been quite busy with trying to weed all 5 gardens and mulch and take care of the animals and finish up our homeschool year.

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We started by sinking four of the largest limbs into the ground and tying them together at the top.  Then we filled in the gaps with the smaller limbs, leaving an opening for the kids to be able to go in and out.

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 The tops got tied together and then Greg added some tie wire for extra reinforcement.

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Then we got busy hoeing the grass away from the posts so we could start planting.  Looking back, we probably should have gotten rid of the grass in the center of the teepee too.

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We planted the Rattlesnake Pole Beans that grew so well last year.  I’m hoping they do well on our teepees.  The kids can play in the shade (hopefully no snakes will try to call them home) and eat the beans right off the vine.

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It didn’t take long for the beans to sprout and they are getting bigger everyday.  I’ll be sure to update with more pictures.

Just a Few Words

It has been a busy week.  We’ve been doing lots of weeding, tilling (between the rows), mulching, mowing and more!  There is a lot going on here at the little farm. Earlier in the week we caught an Inca Dove in one of our chicken pens.  We released him (or her), but not without getting a few pictures first.  The bunnies born a few weeks ago are really getting big.  Flowers are in bloom everywhere.  So while I may not have a lot to say, I have a lot of pictures to share.

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A bird's nest dangling in the cedar tree.
A bird’s nest dangling in the cedar tree.

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So Many Seeds

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We have planted a lot.  That picture above…that’s not all of it.  That’s just what we ordered from Baker Creek.  We also bought seeds and potatoes from our local Lowes and had some seeds given to us by friends.  All of our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant got an early start in the cutest little greenhouse that my hubby bought me, because he’s sweet like that.

Honestly I could easily have ordered more seeds.  There are so many options to choose from, it was really hard to narrow down our options to the ones we ordered.  I could sit for hours and pour over seed catalogs.  If I ordered everything that caught my eye I would end up needing a few hundred acres.  But since we don’t have a few hundred acres I had to limit myself.  Below is a run down of the veggies we are growing this year.

*I want to thank the folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. for the following pictures they so graciously allowed me to use here.

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Tomatoes:   Pink Brandywine, Black Brandywine, Black Cherry, Chadwick Cherry, Minibel, Amish Paste, Omar’s Lebanese, & Porters.  (I know, that’s a lot)

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Peppers:   Purple Jalapeño, Tam Jalapeño, Poblano, Horizon BellPurple Beauty,             Topepo Rosso, & Sweet Banana Peppers.

Japanese White Egg

Eggplant: Rosa Bianca & Japanese White Egg

Jing Orange okra web

Okra: Jing Orange, Clemson Spineless, & Emerald

Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber

CucumbersDar & Mexican Sour Gherkin

Bull's Blood Beet

Beets: Bull’s Blood & Mammoth Red Mangel

Haricot Rouge Du Burkina Faso Cowpea

Cowpeas: Whippoorwill, Red Bisbee, Haricot Rouge Du Burkina Faso, Black Crowder, & Blackeye Pea.

Rattlesnake Pole Bean

Beans: Rattlesnake Pole Bean, Blue Lake Bush, & Mountaineer Half Runner

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Lima BeanDixie Speckled Butterpea Lima Bean

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SquashLemon, Golden Zucchini, & Cream of the Crop

Red Creole Onion web

Onion: Red Creole

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Carrots: Danvers & Amarillo

Ground Cherry

Along with all of the vegetables we ordered, I also ordered ground cherries, herbs, flowers, and some cover crops.  Everything is in the ground and making progress, even the beans we planted around our “bean teepees”.   I’ll share more about those later.

If you haven’t planted your garden yet, I encourage you to check out                                           Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.  They have a wonderful variety and all of their seeds are heirloom and non-GMO!

Learning Experience

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I love gardening!  That does not mean that it is easy.  We have had a lot to learn and it involves a lot of work…but we enjoy it and we are grateful to be able to grow as many of our own vegetables as we can.

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Last year we had high hopes for our garden.  Our return wasn’t as good as we expected, but it was our first “real” garden and we were not prepared for all the battles that were ahead of us.  To start, we had no tiller, no tractor, and no mule and plow.  We borrowed a tiller to get the ground turned over, but after that all the work was done with hoes and rakes.  The weeds were a bit overwhelming.  No matter how much time we spent hoeing every day, they still seemed to get the best of us.

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Then there were the bugs.  Squash bugs, fire ants, cucumber beetles, cutworms……you name it and I’m sure it came to visit our garden.  We also had “blossom end rot” on our tomatoes…well, on the ones that survived.  We originally transplanted 70 tomatoes and lost all but about 20 to damping off.  But all of the weeds, bugs and problems prompted me to start reading and my knowledge of gardening has grown tremendously.

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Our gardening experience last year wasn’t all bad.  We grew rattlesnake pole beans and they were wonderful.  The kids enjoyed them fresh off the vine.  We also grew a summer squash called lemon squash and it did so well that we declared it a garden staple.  My husband had to have cowpeas and the five varieties we tried grew in abundance.

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This year we were better equipped with our deeper knowledge (and a tiller) and when planting time came we were ready to go…sort of.  We may have gotten a little excited when ordering our seeds.  We ordered a lot.  Turns out the area we had for our big garden was not big enough for all the seeds we purchased.  So Greg tilled up four additional areas and our garden is now huge. With seven kids running around however, I’m sure it will be consumed quickly!

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I hope to write about all we have planted and the progress of the garden, but for now I must go weeding!

Goodbye Guineas.

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Today we said goodbye to the guineas.

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We didn’t get rid of them because they are ugly, because they aren’t.  They are cute…in that so-ugly-its-cute kinda way.

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We didn’t get rid of them because of all the noise they make.  Guineas do make a lot of noise and while many people are bothered by their constant chattering, we enjoyed it.  Their vocalizations are actually the easiest way to tell a male from a female.

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We love our guineas, but it became obvious that we weren’t going to be able to keep them when we lost around 50 pepper and tomato transplants because of them.  Their daily dust-baths in our garden were not so good.  They never ate our plants, but their scratching, rolling, dusting, etc.  caused us to have to put even more transplants in the ground.  After replanting for three days in a row we knew we had to do something.

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Dust baths are good for guineas…

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…but bad for gardens.

Putting up a fence wouldn’t help because guineas are pretty good at getting up, over, and around things.  They are great flyers and would roost high in our oak tree.  There was always the option of shutting them up, but guineas are free rangers and they need room to roam.  So, for now, they had to go.  I am hoping that we will be able to find a way to have guineas and not lose half the garden.

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Two of the guineas belonged to our oldest daughter.  She was so happy when she got them as keets, just a few days old.  She always comes up with interesting names for our critters.  The pearl colored guinea she named Pearl and the lavender guinea was Earl.  It was months after bringing the guineas home before they matured enough to be able to tell what they were.  It turns out that Pearl was a boy and Earl was a girl.  She tried changing their names to Paul and Earlene, but after calling them Pearl and Earl for six months no one could remember the new names.

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Maybe we will try again once the garden is more than just sprouts.  Maybe we won’t have long to wait.  Maybe someone put guinea eggs in the incubator.

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New life on the farm

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year.  Last year I didn’t fully appreciate it because I was still in the midst of unpacking, organizing and trying to get back into some sort of homeschooling routine.  This year, however, I have been able to enjoy spring on the farm.

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Wild muscadine vines

Everything comes to life in the spring.  The trees get their leaves and flowers begin to bloom.  The birds are happily singing and gathering uneaten hay to build their nests.  The bees are buzzing around looking for pollen and the little hummingbirds are visiting the grapefruit trees.

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 Just a couple of weeks ago we had two rabbits give birth and their babies are already hopping around and eating grass.  They grow so quickly.  In just a week they go from little furless babies to cute fuzzy bunnies and soon after that their eyes are open and they are exploring their surroundings.

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A little bantam hen hatched out these cute little babies over the weekend.

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The goats enjoy spring too.  The nice weather makes them frisky; they run and play enjoying the sunshine, fresh spring air and all the new things to eat.  It won’t be long before they have their kids, bringing even more new life to the farm.

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