Joy and Disappointment

Joy and Disappointment

Yesterday I was excited to find out that one of our hens we thought had been victim to a predator was actually alive. Not only alive, but she’d been hiding a nest in the barn loft and had hatched 6 chicks!

So entertaining. She chased the sheep out of the barn and took over their space. The look and body language they had was priceless. Pure confusion and annoyance, with a touch of fear.

The black and white one (Appy) gets that same look when there is a cougar prowling around. Hahaha

We’ve wanted to have a hen “go broody”, but when we’ve had them, it’s really just a hen that hoards eggs and ends up aggressively sitting on a small tower (like 20 eggs). None hatch, they just spoil. One refused to leave the coop last year and ended up falling victim to the elements, starvation, and dehydration. If you forced her out, she’d run back in. It was crazy.

So this was a delight!

However, my joy has turned to frustration and disappointment.

Last night Mama Hen bedded down in the open outside. We’ve had a predator raiding the barn and surrounding area, plus there was a storm coming in. We forced her & her chicks into the barn last night. We discussed the predator (really not sure what it is, but it eats eggs, raccoon?), and a best nesting place for her. We decided on a little hay cove that had been getting used by the bummer lambs. It was open since the lambs have been let out with the rest of the herd. We tucked them where we thought they would have the best protection. Given we’re not sure what the animal is that has been raiding the barn, we did our best.

Our best wasn’t good enough. Hubby checked this morning and there are two healthy chicks and one sickly. Our fierce Mama Hen didn’t make it.

This is the part of farm life I hate. The part where you feel good about protecting your charges and you choose wrong, or if you chose right, it still wasn’t enough.

Hubby is setting traps, but that won’t bring back Mama Hen.

I’m not really up on the different predators in this area. The Columbia Basin really only had coyotes and skunks. I’ve literally been googling this now, but I also have to google if those animals are in our area. Bluh! Its like looking something up in the dictionary to then look it up in a children’s dictionary. hahha

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This gave me ideas, but do we have weasels? According this “Mammals of Washington”  article – yes. Wolverines! That’s really a thing in the PNW? WTF! And I love the comment “except in the Columbia Basin” when I looked up weasels. haha Yes Kelley, you used to live in a desert wasteland where almost nothing lived without you forcing it. You’re not in the desert anymore.  Welcome to the land of bears, cougars, wolves, opossums, weasels, and apparently a chance of wolverines.

 

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Children at the border – What do you suggest?

Children at the border – What do you suggest?

I’ve seen A LOT lately about the immigration issues at the Mexican border. I hear what people are saying, and there is one thing playing over and over in my head on this. What IS the right way? Now, I will make my side clear right now. I am of the camp: SEE A NEED, FILL A NEED.

I get frustrated with all the news, social media blasts, and general conversation around this because I haven’t heard anyone give an alternative, just negativity. So, this is my call to action. No complaints, he’s evils, the country is doomed etc. I’m even willing to do the leg work on a write up, petition, whatever.

Let’s look at the basic outline of the underlying issue. Thousands of people cross the border every month without “checking in”. What do we want as a people? Honestly, I feel for our elected officials, people are screaming from all corners, and maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but I haven’t heard any suggestions on what an alternative way would be. I hear a lot of “doing it wrong”, “this is horrible”, “inhumane”, etc, but what is the alternative?

Check out this video, without judgement, look at the number of people.

https://media.krem.com/embeds/mobile/video/65-8163099/amp#amp=1

Questions I see: Do we, as a people, agree that we should have steps in place to enter the country, or are we okay with open borders? Should our country border be like crossing a state border? Do we want to know who has entered? Do we want a say in who enters?

If we say, we are not okay with open borders and we want any oversight on entrance, how do we go about doing that?

It seems to me, part of what may cause a lot of the divide on this is that we all have different experiences to pull from. I feel blessed to have had some great experiences, but I’ve also seen the horrible side of humans. This perfectly describes my experience with the migrant population. Most I have met, worked with, gotten to know, are great people. The drive they have is inspiring. I love to hear their stories. But, I’ve also been on the side dealing with police reports for executions carried out by people in the same group. It can be horrifying.

Now, I have stories on both sides and can go on. But I can tell those of naturally born citizens as well. What’s the difference?   I’m not real sure. Some may say traceability.

Now, with these two sides pulling on me, I think of the children we hear so much about right now. I think of the stories migrants have told me, of young boys crossing alone, of couples bringing their son and someone else’s kids. I think about the stories I’ve heard from migrant workers, some came here in trunks of cars, some ran on foot, some tunnels, some semi-trucks with 50 others. I remember stories from friends and family in the SouthEast and their stories about making sure to leave doors unlocked on their ranch bunk houses so they are not broken into and destroyed. They say if you leave them unlocked, they are taken care of, even the garbage will be taken out. But if you lock them, the windows will be broken and dirty dishes left.

I think of our local police stations, sheriff’s offices, and substations, how could they (in general) handle a van of people (8) they needed to process? I think about how one car accident having a full load in a minivan could instantly have to be treated as a mass casualty incident because staffing issues made it so there weren’t enough ambulances nearby.

Call for action anyone? What suggestions can we come up with for how to take in and process large groups at one time? Let’s try to keep in mind the language barrier that will exist. Even translators on site may run into problems with dialects that slow the process. Also, we will need to keep in mind the fear these people will be experiencing, I’m not sure how many will be willing to stay inside an office/building if they have direct line of sight and ability to run out the door.  Time will also need to be factored in, and I will leave out money. If we suggest building a giant facility, maybe also recommend something while its under construction.

As I said originally, see a need fill a need. I’m not opposed to writing representatives, senators, even the President. Phone calls, emails, requesting meetings, you name it depending on how strong I feel. But, I do require having a plan of action rather than a complaint. One thing Corporate America has taught me, do not go to a head office with a problem and not have at least a suggestion for a solution. I recommend providing 1 well researched solution option, or 3 great suggestions that are not. In this case, a slew of signatures on a proposal would also be recommended.

Personally, I have no idea what the “right” thing is, but I’m happy to help those who do.

CBN has an article that indicates President Trump may be taking matters into his own hands:

http://go.cbn.com/25939

And here is a video of the Presidents comments on it:

 

Here is a great link for a fairly unbiased article about the situation:

https://www.krem.com/amp/article?section=news&subsection=local&topic=verify&headline=verify-fact-from-fiction-regarding-families-being-separated-at-border&contentId=293-565736613&__twitter_impression=true

Any words of wisdom for solutions?

I DID THAT YOUTUBE!!!! F-ing Jam!

I DID THAT YOUTUBE!!!! F-ing Jam!

Oh how my frustration level is at its peak! My jam won’t set. I’ve tried all kinds of things. Cook it down, add pectin, give it more time to cool, don’t boil so long, do the ripple test, do the spoon test, and on and on. Hubby has invested a bit too, so he is getting frustrated, and as much as I get it, I also have this urge to fight over who gets to be frustrated. Hahhaha It’s a jam version of colic baby fights.

I mean, I’m not quite “Brittney Spears shaving her head” level,

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but, I’m definitely approaching this mom’s level:

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I really, really, just want to drag my butt to Grandma’s with my head down and say “please help me fix this all knowing one”.

Trying to learn from the internet and books is not so easy with jam. I mean, when I couldn’t figure out why my headlights flashed for no reason, I googled it, was told to change this plug-in piece. I YouTube’d that, and bam, all done!

With jam, I’ve checked YouTube, I’ve checked blogs, I’m around 7 batches in and still they all look the same. The 1st batch set. I don’t know why. I don’t think I did anything different……

I found a blog that says to add not just pectin, but water and lemon juice too. I think I’m just going to start completely over, I’ll ditch the KitchenAid mixer, I’ll deal with the seeds, and no multitasking.

Wish me luck.

The Bee Charmer

The Bee Charmer

I’ve been wanting to write about hubby’s adventures in bee keeping (apiculture) for a while now. I don’t know anything about bees except that they don’t seem to have any interest in me. As far as I know, I’ve never been stung before, which I find a little odd. I’ve been bit by a wasp a couple times. I know it’s a bite because I puff up bad enough to see a mouth mark, it’s pretty crazy. I watched a fairly dumb movie a few years back called Jupiter Ascending. I won’t go into too much detail, but the idea is that the main character woman is a queen so bees won’t sting her because they can tell (the bee part is actually only a tiny clipit). My take – clearly, I’m a queen and they recognize it. HA, take that!

Anyway, back on topic. Hubby bought 3 hives from a local apiculturist. No background in bees, no mentor, just books, internet, and YouTube. Apparently, this was abnormal and the apiculturist seemed surprised and told hubby good luck.

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About a week later Hubby’s crew was working at a job and wanted to shut down because of a swarm. Mr jump in with both feet, decides this is AWESOME, and clearly, he should go collect said swarm and re-home them at our place. Did you catch that part about being a beekeeper one week?????

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He told me his plan, and he has our toddler home sick that day. I was out of town, so I ask him to at least make sure he has someone there that can call 911 in the disaster. He reaches out to a friend I work with and had him come over. Our friend is basically an extra adopted grandpa to the kids, and shares this infatuation with my husband.

Our friend was nice enough to video this insanity. I must say, the first video is the one that gets me. It’s pretty rough because it was texted to me, but watching this, you would think it was sometime prior to 1990. I love the “if it gets hairy” part.

I’m interested in having the honey. I’ve read a lot about the health benefits of home honey for allergies. Mine are awful, so I’m hopeful that this may help. I’m not sure yet where this bee thing will take us, but we now have 4 hives going successfully. After Hubby called the apiculturist that he initially bought the bees from to see if he had a box hubby could buy for his captured swarm, the apiculturist put him down as someone he can send out for swarm collection when he gets calls.

I must give him credit, he’s a natural bee charmer. They seem to have zero concern with him bugging them, and they are all still alive and thriving.

Here are the other videos, same quality:

Chicken Fun

Chicken Fun

I haven’t always been a fan of chickens, but for our little farmstead, they’re fun. I started out with an out of site out of mind approach. Hubby wanted them, I had no interest. He is such a smooth talker though, and you could sell me snow in the winter, it’s really a ridiculous match up. Needless to say, the first time we had chickens I was slow to agree and honestly regretted it. You can read about my zombie chicken experience here. I’m still in the camp of anti-butcher chickens. We DO NOT have time for that.

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Our chickens are free range, they have a coop they for the most part nest in at night, though several just seem to roost in the barn with the sheep. We bought this awesome brood box, but they seem to prefer the hay stack more. The box really is cool. It has great reviews, and when they use it is amazing for having clean eggs. Our problem is the olds have their habits and like a grumpy old farmer, don’t like to change their ways. I love the roll back box because it really saves on cleaning eggs, so I’m still working on ideas to get them to use it more.

 

 

With having free range chickens and a borderline mountain farm, we make sure we have a steady rotation of new chicks. We deal with the standard farm needs for aging hen rotation, but we add in the rotation of cougars that like to live in our bordering tree line, passing thru dogs (maybe wolves), and Grandpa’s occasional visit with untrained bird dogs. Read here if you missed the wolf/coyote fiasco. This year we also added the young chickens’ affinity to drown themselves. Seriously. 5 or more. I thought turkeys were bad.

Were trying out only letting them out in the evenings. It seems to help with getting them to lay in the box, and predator protection. Some still fly the coop though, and they still lay in the loft.

 

The idea this year was to raise several fall hens so they would be ready by spring rather than the normal spring chickens that just start laying and then go into the less productive season. However, most of these guys just didn’t seem to think life was what they signed up for. I want to say we hatched 14 or 15 and have maybe 1 or 2 of those.

Hubby built this great nesting box for raising chicks, and he included the ability to divide off sections for different ages. He also included stands for hanging and adjusting heat lamp height. The system is great, and I haven’t had any complaints. The fall chicks were past this stage with they gave up – so I’m at a loss on that.

The box is 3’x9’x3′. The base is made up of a basic 2×2 frame with plywood sides and bottom. The top was made using 1×2’s and 1/2” grid wire fence. The heat lamp hanger is made up of 2 pieces of PVC pipe 1.5” and 1.75” so the height can adjust and allow the cord could run through the pipe and not be in the way. He drilled holes in the pipe and used a coupler safety pin to hold the lamp at the desired height.

 

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Before relocating to wine country, I decided to try my hand at jam making. However, I had a couple obstacles: 1. Doesn’t mom or grandma or someone normally pass this skill down? I missed my lesson. Missed actually being skipped out on. 2. I only like strawberry jam and I don’t like seeds. How do you get the seeds out? 3. Two little ones, one doesn’t want anything to do with it except eat, and the other wants my attention.

One day after work the kids and I met up with hubby at a u-pick strawberry patch a couple towns over. We were a little late to the party, so it was slim pickings, but we still had a great time.  I still remember the feeling from having baby in a front carry pack. It was quite the workout, 3 days later my legs were still killing me. I was basically out there doing squats with a 30 lb pack that moved & hits. I remember thinking I wasn’t sure about the hitting thing, it really made me nervous that the little man was going to be a handful. My older son never hit, or at least never out of anger or annoyance. That day the youngest was basically going – won’t let me down? Bam! take that lady. Should we go again?

Image may contain: 2 people, including Kelley Wolther

I swear this baby/ now toddler, has been Gods way of teaching me not to judge.

Me with baby 1: “oh I would never let my baby sleep in my bed, that is soooo bad”

Me with baby 2: F* this colic he has to be touching me 24/7 – baby slept in my bed for about 2 months.

Me with baby 1: “blankets are so bad for babies, only sleep sacks”

Me with baby 2: me to Dr over screaming baby – “there has to be something wrong he wont stop screaming!, my other had colic, this is not the same.” Dr – “give him a blanket to cuddle with, it will be more like sleeping with you”. Me “nooooo”. Next night – here’s a mini blanket (in fairness it was one of those little monkey/blanket lovie things).

Anyway, back to the point. The next morning I pulled up a blog from my favorite cook/pioneer woman Ree Drumond and sure enough she tells how to make strawberry jam. I took her recipe and adapted it a bit. I wanted something low sugar, and though that didn’t work out, her ratio was still a bit high (7 cups sugar to 5 cups berries). I made two batches the first I did and even split 5 to 5, then the 2nd I tried 3 cups sugar to 5 cups berries. The full adapted recipe is below. The 5 to 5 worked great.

Like I said I don’t like seeds in my jam or fruit leather, so I bought a fine mesh strainer and strained out the seeds after I pureed the berries as smooth as possible. It’s a bit time consuming, but seems well worth it. I found if you mix it in the strainer and scrape the bottom with a spoon it seems to go fairly quickly.

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This time around, I have our garden, and after picking a mid full big bowl (that holds 32 cups) of strawberries yesterday evening I couldn’t wait to try jam making again. This time with my KitchenAid – hubby bought me an accessory that is for sauces!

I should have taken pics, but I was preoccupied. This is basically the look, only not tomatoes.

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Last time my jars with less sugar didn’t set, and I didn’t measure this batch exact, so I became a bit paranoid that it was going to be a flop. I found a good youtube video with a grandma lady that explained how to tell if your jam will set. I tried others, and apparently its not my thing, because I wasn’t sure where mine fell. This test worked.

As the kids get older (not me haha), things like jam making bring back memories that make me smile. When I was their age and my family would gather for harvesting or jam making, there would be kids running and playing everywhere. Adults would be yelling for us “get out of the kitchen”, or “don’t slam the door!” They used all the standards we use now as parents.  To this day, my favorite sound is actually a slamming wood screen door followed by kids laughing. That is my happy sound.

**** June 14th, 2018 – Update : TRY AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!! MY JAM REFUSES TO SET USING MY KITCHENAID MIXER MIX —–ARGH!!!

Recipe:

5 cups Strawberry base (either puree or hulled mashed strawberries)

5 cups sugar (have pre-measured & pour all at once)

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 pack 49 gram pectin

Directions:

  1. Pour berries into large pot (I use a spaghetti pot), mix in lemon juice, and fruit pectin.
  2. Bring to a boil and pour in sugar
  3. Bring back to a violent boil the kind that keeps boiling while you stir. Boil and stir for 1 min 15 seconds
  4. Turn off heat, Spoon off foam
  5. Fill jars to ¼ in from top & can using water bath canning technique.
What a Bummer + Wiley Coyote?

What a Bummer + Wiley Coyote?

Our track record this year for lambing has been taking some rough hits. We had one ewe lamb in mid-January that we were expecting to have issues with. As expected, she ditched one of her lambs. You can read that bummer lamb story here. Two more lambs were born in January and then we had a break in lambing. We were starting to think the other ewes were just all fat. Hahaha

Mother’s Day brought a new wave of lambs. Freckles had two males, and the next morning Appy started lambing. I woke up that morning after Mother’s Day half expecting more lambs as Appy had been acting weird the entire time Freckles was lambing. I peeked out our window to see a large predator I’ll call it. There was some neighborhood debate on if it was a wolf or coyote. Now, I will admit, I’ve never really seen a wolf but maybe twice, and once was at a zoo. I did have a friend that had a pet wolf/dog, and it was HUGE. So to me, I mainly pulled from desert experience and yelled to Hubby that there was a large coyote in the yard trying to get into the lambs. It was like some bad game show as I’m sitting on our bed upstairs at a huge picture window with a clear view and Hubby is downstairs (boots and underwear mind you hahaha) view blocked by trees and garden areas, trying to get a clear shot of said coyote while I describe where it is. We assumed it was a female, so I will now refer to it as her/she.  She had been busy as she managed to take out 5 chickens and still thought she should grab a lamb. Not sure if she brought a back pack or what, but she didn’t seem to be too concerned with how she was going to transport her loot.

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Needless to say, we managed to chase her off. Hubby thought he wounded her, but she came around for a couple more days after so we’re not real sure. The chicken loss was frustrating, but we figured it was an acceptable sacrifice as it delayed her grabbing lambs. The really irritating part was that Appy had started lambing while she was on her killing spree. We’re not sure if Appy’s first lamb was a still born or if it died essentially from lack of attention upon birth. It appeared Appy basically dropped and ran. Her mother skills are a bit lacking. Either way, we lost the lamb and it was female. We need to cull a couple ewes so a female loss interferes with that a bit, plus Appy is a first-time mom, and that usually means one lamb. Yet, Appy had another lamb about 30 minutes later, a male. What happened next shocked us a bit, lamb 3 followed, a girl.

So, with two new first-time moms running around, I realized that the sheep playground parenting is a lot like the human playground parenting. You have your new mom that is obsessed with where her kid(s) are, the mom that can’t seem to figure it out and is always missing one, and the judgy mom with her dirty looks. It was HELARIOUS!

Just like on the human playground, the big kids teach the littles bad habits. The picture below is out escape artists. The original bummer lamb, we now call Sir Lambs a lot, has now taught 3 others to escape.

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That wore off fairly quickly though, like teen mom’s you never know what you’re going to get. So, mom who was always losing a kid finally figured it out and keeps pretty good track of them now, but mom who was paranoid with where her babies were got sore boobs and said “F-it, give ‘em a bottle!” We tried locking her in the barn pen, giving her antibiotics for the mastitis, and holding her a few times a day to force nursing. It didn’t work. We lost the female and it was going down-hill for the boy too.

Our final ewe, Page, lambed this past weekend, however, like things go on our funny farm, she had issues. The first one, AKA Goliath, was born the same size as the ones from two weeks earlier, the second lamb came hours later and we suspect possibly not until the following early morning. Needless to say, Miss Page is convinced that #2 is NOT her baby.

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It was time to build a bummer feeder. I think I’ll paint it and update the sign on top to say “What a Bummer”.

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It actually works AWESOME. The older lamb figured it out right away, the newborn picked it up fairly easy. However, bummer lambs tend to struggle with bloating from bottle feeding. We try to help with this by adding a bit of oil to the bottle. One of the lambs is struggling with this now (female of course) so were watching to see how she does.

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Any suggestions on bummer lambs?