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Monday, September 15, 2014

State of the Homestead

I can't say that everything is running smoothly yet, but I feel better knowing that Maggie has healed nicely. Even the vet was impressed with her recovery.

Still, I'm not out of the woods. I have one more family member keeping me on edge.

Today, my mom is having surgery to replace one of her knees. She's elderly, so I'm naturally worried for someone her age to be anesthetized. The whole family is on a call tree so we can get the latest updates. I won't know until later today how she fared.

I called her yesterday just to touch base and to let her know she's in my thoughts.

State of the Homestead

Garden: The spring garden was only so-so, but it came back to life a couple of weeks ago when the grasshoppers made their exit. I'm a little concerned for the watermelon patch because I'm not sure there are enough warm weather months to see them all the way through, but I think we can make up a tent for them and keep them warm.

I've planted a fall garden of winter squash, beets, carrots, bok choy, kale, garlic, onion, and Brussels sprouts, along with the existing tomato and pepper plants that are still blooming.

Heidi doing what she does best: Eating
Goats: Everyone is doing great. I probably won't try to breed them for a few more months. I'd like Pandora (the youngest) a little older before she mates. This next season will tell whether we keep these girls or trade them in for pure dairy goats. Only Heidi has been amenable to letting me milk her, but that could be due more to my inexperience than the goats. As a rule, boer goats are not great milkers and I'd really like to make cheese.

Chickens: Oh, those girls! The Marans have been a pain. They have a bad habit of eating their eggs. Despite my efforts, I might have to start over with new chicks and put these girls in the pot. We can't have egg-eaters in the coop. It's a bad habit, one they can teach to new chickens.

The black Astralorps give me no trouble, and they lay like clockwork.
Living indoors

Rabbits: I'm at a loss to find the right male for these girls. They are quickly becoming pets which is kind of a no-no for a farmstead. They've been living in my house for the last two months to spare them the brutal summer heat, but it's cool enough now to allow them back outside.

Reality: We eat meat. The dogs eat meat. So I don't make any apologies for raising my farm animals for food. It's part of daily life here. Although I don't discuss it much, some of you have emailed me asking how we dispatch the animals. Since this isn't a full time homesteading blog, I don't think it's necessary to go into detail, but if you're interested in the process (especially if it's research for a book) feel free to write me and I'll answer as best I can.

Conservation: We live in a drier climate than our home in southeast Texas so we've taken steps to tighten our water consumption. This includes rain water storage and drip irrigation directly at the base of the plants. It's a work in progress but this should save many, many gallons of water. I'm awed by Greg's engineering skills to get this done.

Happiness is a (mostly) full hay shed.
Last year I ran short of hay for the goats and I had to buy it for twice the price from a feed store. I usually buy it direct from the farmer. 

This year I was able to calculate more accurately how much hay I need to make it until the next hay cutting season. It's critical that goats get good hay and I take their nutrition seriously. 

Goats don't need high quality hay (like horses do) but they do need clean hay that's not full of weeds and dust. I was very angry at one farmer who sold me hay that was full of thorny burs. Never again.

Iko never gives me trouble.
Da dogs: Aside from the calamity Nana caused, all is well. Tank is still hanging on. His hips and hocks are fragile and I almost always have to help him up. He's such a big dog, I worry that I might not be able to lift him one day, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. For now we're keeping him comfortable.

If I can get my mom back on her feet and we can finish this year without any more incidents, I'll be happy. After that, my only goal is to sell Greg's house and get him up here as soon as possible.

2014 has been a struggle, but I still have hope that it'll all work out in the end.

How has the year panned out for you? Easy or hard?


Marian Perera said...

I had no idea hens eat eggs. Their own eggs or those of other hens?

Look at Iko. I remember when he was a cute little puppy and you had that picture of him behind bars with the caption "Bad Dog".

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

It's been a stressful year for us with the kids being so far away as they pursue their dreams. I grew up on a farm so I understand the livestock versus pet issue. It's a lot of work with great rewards.

Mason Canyon said...

Keeping your Mom in my thoughts and prayers today and give Tank a hug for me.

LD Masterson said...

I smiled when I read the "rabbits becoming pets" problem. That's why I would never make a good homesteader. I can't keep from turning everything into a pet. I'll say a pray for your mom. (I owe you an email. Still trying to find my new normal. )

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: Yup. Hens will eat their own eggs once they realize how good they taste. Usually it happens by accident. An egg is laid and cracks when it drops on the ground. Chickens being curious creatures will inspect it. Once they realize it's tasty, all bets for future progeny are off. It's a bad habit.

Re: Iko
I know! Once he got out of his house-eating stage, he turned into a nice BIG dog who just wants some loving a few minutes each day.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I think it's a protective human instinct. When our "pack" is dispersed, we worry for them. Eventually we regain our security, but the need to protect never goes away.

Maria Zannini said...

Mason: Thank you. Mom is in her 80s. She's spry but has a bit of a heart condition so I worry.

She told me last night that if things look bad, she signed a 'do not resuscitate' form. She watched her brother die slowly with all those tubes in his body and she didn't want that happening to her.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Take your time, hon. It's hard finding normal after the death of family.

I'm here if you need me.

Anne Gallagher said...

I'm so glad everything is working out now. I wish I could say the same for me. This year has not been what I thought it might be, but apart from the floors, (wallpaper, paint, kitchen cabinets) I'm good.

Working on the last book of the series to be out for Christmas, and having a blast with it.

Sandra Almazan said...

I hope your mother's surgery goes well!

Your fall garden sounds great! I start off every spring eager to start a garden, but by mid-summer I get caught up in other things and neglect it.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Positive thoughts for an event-free surgery for your mom. :hugs:

Sounds like time for chicken fricassee and a new batch of chicks. Good luck with the goat milking and the rabbit mating and the gardens.

So far the year's been good here. I mean, it's had it's ups and downs, but nothing crucial or tragic, so I count that as a good year.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Hope everything turns out well for your mom. Sending out positive vibes!

So far my year has been good. No complaints, anyway! **knock on wood** :)

Angela Brown said...

The hen thing is something new to me. But then again, I learn something new all the time from visiting your blog.

Iko looks like a darling Tank Jr. All smiles and happy-joy-joy. I'm glad you're making Tank as comfortable as possilbe. He's got a special place as my own guard-dog-of-my-heart :-)

Sending prayers for a successful surgery and speedy recovery for your mother.

And as for myself, it's going along. I just got back from Indie Romance Con 2014 held in Lebanon, TN. Now I must recover b/c we had tons of fun...a bit too much fun lol!

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: If I look back at all my years, they had never turned out the way I expected--or planned.

I guess that's what makes life interesting.

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: Mom's surgery is early this afternoon. Poor thing has to go hungry until tonight.

Maria Zannini said...

BE: I'm with you. As long as nothing tragic happens, I count that as a good year. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: I think you've had a very good year. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I'll make you a farmer yet. LOL!

Re: mom
This is the first time she's ever mentioned a DNR. I guess when you reach a certain age, you face the hard facts more readily. Makes me a little uneasy knowing she's okay with checking out if necessary.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

My mom, 85, had knee replacement last year. She is a patient woman, did amazingly well. She doesn't play basketball, but goes for her daily walk, forgetting her cane. "You go, Mom."

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: That gives me hope. My mom's in her 80s too. She's been suffering a long time with that knee. I hope this surgery helps.

Gwen Gardner said...

So glad Maggie's okay. Praying everything goes well for your mom, too. My mom just had an agiogram (it came back good) after having a pacemaker put in last year. It's hard when they live far away, but my sister was able to go be with her and my daughter's there as well.

I didn't know some chickens ate their own eggs! You're one busy lady, Maria. Love hearing about the homestead <3

Darke Conteur said...

Glad to hear you and the girls are doing okay.

Our year so far has been tight. The company my husband works for has not been very busy, and he's had to do side jobs to pay the bills. Good thing he has a good reputation, but they all come at once and he hasn't been home at a decent time in months. :( Needless to say, we're not buying presents for each other this year and just giving Sithboy money. I really don't want anything and neither does he, and I always find money is better for a teenager anyway.

Catpack is good. LittleCat is getting fixed in the new year so he needs to be caught up on his shots, and as I said he could stay, I have to pay for it. I need to get more books out. :P

Maria Zannini said...

Gwen: I guess that's why it's so stressful. I live so far away from everyone and I'm always the last to know what's going on with family.

She's in surgery now.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: Yup. I can see the promo now. A picture of LittleCat with the ad copy that says: Buy my mom's books so I can stay.

A little coercion never hurt anyone. :)

Dru said...

Sending good thoughts to you and your mom.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: Thanks, Dru. No word yet so I guess she's still in surgery.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

I do hope your Mother is much better and has a speedy recovery Maria.

As for the homestead, it's going well, but I'm still in the hope game. :)

I shouldn't complain though. There are no bombs going off around me, and so far Australia is not at war with anyone. Well, that's on the border line, I have just learned. Yikes.

I have food, shelter and clothing and a man that loves me for me. God bless him.

All in all, I'm still alive. :)

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Oh, just looked at all the beautiful covers you have created. My. They are wonderful. You should be proud with what you do. Awesome. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Suzanne: Thanks for the compliment. :)

Mom is resting. We won't know more until the doctor sees her later this morning.

Mike Keyton said...

I hope your mum makes a good recovery, Maria. I trust in the power of prayer though not how it works.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Thanks Mike. She's a trooper.

Michelle H. said...

Sounds like a productive year for you and I hope your mother gets back up on her feet in good health.

We raised cows, pigs and chickens as people always assumed the animals are "pets." No, we eat them and is one reason why we never gave them names. and it always seemed strange to see people wince about how we killed/ate the animals but they don't think twice about chowing down on a hamburger. Go figure.

Maria Zannini said...

Michelle: I try to be sensitive to people's feelings but I also feel they should be aware that if they eat meat, an animal has to die.

I give my animals the best life possible. Death is quick and clean and I thank them for their sacrifice.

I'll bet you have some great stories growing up on a farm. :)

Barbara Ann Wright said...

This year has flown by! I remember thinking in the spring that it was slow, but now that summer is just about gone... Where did it go!?!?

I hope your mom does okay and that Tank keeps on keepin on.

About the farm, the book I'm writing now has some people gardening and whatnot, but at the moment, I'm trying to be as vague about it as I can. Like, they fed the goats. They picked some apples. Now on to the fighting!

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Fighting is usually more entertaining than picking apples. Though I've had quite a few fights with BBQ, the goat. I lost twice, but he paid for it at the end.

If you ever write a fight scene with a goat, I'm your source!

Jenny Schwartz said...

Maria, I hope your mum's recovering well from surgery now.

2014 has been the year from hell - I vote we send it back to the devil ;)

PS your animals all look incredibly healthy & happy

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: You too, huh?

Hard years give us character.
I could use a little less character. Ha!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I hope your mom is ok!

2014 has been one of extremes. There has been some really really good times, but on the whole I would have to say, it's been a hellish year for me too. :(

Maria Zannini said...

Re: extremes
I'll agree with you on that! It's been a bumpy ride.

Mom starts PT tomorrow for six whole weeks. I hope this new knee works for her. She's been in so much pain.

Rebekah Loper said...

I'm so behind on reading blogs!

I hope your mother pulled through surgery well and is far along into the recovery phase now!

I had to explain to a friend recently HOW hens would eat eggs. Because when I mentioned that I think one of mine is eating hers... well, my friend thought the hen would be eating it WHOLE. 'Twas quite amusing.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: LOL. That would be a pretty good trick to eat them whole.