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


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.




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,

Image result for britney spears shaved head

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

Image result for mom losing her mind

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.


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?????


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.


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.


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.

Image result for kitchenaid sauce maker

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.



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


  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.

Image result for wolf vs coyote

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.


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.


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”.


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.


Any suggestions on bummer lambs?

Shearing is not as easy as YouTube makes it look

Shearing is not as easy as YouTube makes it look

This was goat sheering weekend and by the almost end, we were all bleeding. One goat is wrapped in vet wrap, another looks pretty good, the 3rd is ½ done, and I have 5 stitches.

So, it turns out that those crazy looking electric shears really are crazy. I’m used to the horse ones that are basically a supped-up version of people clippers. Wool shears look like a syfy cutting machine. They look like this.

Image result for wool shears

They worked fine, but it made a bit of a mess of the mohair, it all became a jumbled mess. We were not planning on keeping this shearing. We hadn’t found a good way to keep them clean yet, so they were a bit matted, had hay and other feed tangled in their hair, and had gotten generally dirty. Had we wanted to keep it, I think I would have been extra frustrated trying to keep it manageable.

When we went to do the underbelly of the first, it became extra difficult. Their skin is a pale pink, and their hair is thick white. Seeing what is hair and what is flesh is actually quite hard. She started moving around so I tried to help by holding her leg, because of this Hubby accidentally clipped her flesh under arm. It was pretty bad. We called the vet and got an after hours number, that vet didn’t do large animals and basically said “good luck” and left it at that.


Now, my vet first aid skills lack a bit for smaller animals like this, so I did some brainstorming. I ran into the house and grabbed gauze, however I only had 2×2 squares and only 3. I was thinking that given the wound style, I didn’t want to use anything that would stick and cause more issues. Sooooo, you know what works great for blood and not sticking? Always, without wings. Ahahaha. I grabbed that too. So, yes, to start I put a pad on my goat. However, as I was getting her wrapped up, I wasn’t sure how to secure the pad and not have it stick to me, so I left the backing on. That made it slippery and it fell out. I put the gauze in and wrapped her up. That seemed to work. However, a few minutes later, the vet wrap had all shifted and the gauze was on the ground. We wrapped her up with more vet wrap to keep it clean, and let her go. Oddly, she doesn’t seem to notice that she has a wound. No limping, she’s not messing with it, just looks normal, other than being purple and pink.


The next day, I volunteered to shear manually. This actually worked great, except I did catch my husband’s finger a little – just a scratch though. Lady (the goat) looked pretty good, if I do say so. It left a little hair behind to help with sun protection, but it was still very short. I could see this being a great way to manage mohair fiber collection. Their hair is a lot like dreadlocks, so you can cut a few locks at a time and separate them out.


Goat #3, is our more skittish lady. At this point she’s already seen what has happened to her friends and knows why we were there. She wasn’t falling for the grain trick. I actually felt bad trying to catch her, she ran to flee and turned jumping right into the field fence, I thought she was going to catch a leg and we’d have another issue, but she just bounced off and ran.

Shortly after getting her up on the stanchion, some friends stopped by and hubby took the kids and went down to the shop to visit so I could shear without worrying about anyone or having the extra distraction. I was doing pretty good too! I had her about half sheared, but was starting to have issues because I hadn’t gotten enough off from around her neck and face. I got a fair amount around her neck cleaned off, and started working around her face. Gina (goat 3) gets a little testy and headbutted me as I was making a cut. Well, with how thick the hair is and trying to use my fingers for guides so I wouldn’t accidentally cut her, my fingers were a bit close and that headbutt was all that was needed to trim a finger too. Now here I am bleeding all over, a goat half sheared, and no one around to give me a hand. I took a quick peak to double check if it was as bad as I thought I saw. Sure enough, I had essentially stuck my finger in, nail first, to the scissor style shears and cut the side far enough in that I cut part of my finger nail. Damn.

Thinking this is actually way better than say the 90s, we all have cell phones, I called my husband so he could come take care of the goat. It went to voicemail. Humf. I stepped out of the barn, looked toward the shop, and gave my best “come here dog” whistle. He waved at me so I waved back thinking dang, I’m going to have to walk over there, but I can’t leave the goat. Luckily, my husband actually did see that I wanted him to come back, and walked back to me (its aound 100 yrds or so). I’ve already bled all over the floor, so I grab the vet kit, grab some blue shop towels to help stop the bleeding and wrapped it a bit with vet wrap. I’m not a great communicator in situations like this, so hubby is totally unaware, and asks “what’s up?” As I’m holding this wadded mess to my hand, I apparently had a short conversation in my head and only actually verbalized, “I need you to take care of the goat for me”.

Hubby: “huh? What do you want me to do with her?”

Me: “I dunno, just clean her up enough we can put her back, and then put her back”

Hubby: “soooo, what, like want me to use the clippers or what here?”

Me: “I don’t know! Sure, yes, do that”

Me: After thinking another minute “actually, I can just take this in myself if you want to stay with the kids, its not like I can’t drive”.

Hubby: Confused “what?”

Me: “well, I mean, I’m pretty sure I need to get this stitched up”.

Hubby: “you cut yourself?”

Me: Dumb look on my face “ya, what? That’s why I’m holding this. What?”

Visitors: general questions of how bad, need me to stay for the kids, etc.

Hubby: “ok, well let me clean this up, I’ll put her back, and then I’ll look at it and we can see if you need to go in”.

Once I took the cover off, he agreed we needed to go in, so we made a family trip of it. We seem to be there at least once a month lately. We should get a frequent flyer card.


Needless to say, 5 stitches later, I have a big fluffy cover on my finger and my toddler wants to constantly play with it. At one point, he grabbed fairly hard and twisted. I let out a slight scream which scared him. His reaction cracks me up, he jumps a little, pulls his little fist up to his mouth and points at me saying “shhhh, you don’t do that!”. My reaction: “I don’t, you don’t! that hurt mister.”


Side note, I made 3 sheets to keep the goats clean. I went to put one on the first and what fit perfect with her wool, now drags on the ground and looks like a little kid playing dress up in mom’s clothes. HAHAHA. Now what?

Who knew this would be such a disaster. But hey, next time should be good.

The good Goat:


The Bad Goat:


The Ugly Goat: