Yesterday we brought a pumpkin in to carve. I will admit, it is hard to get in the Halloween spirit up here on our high hill because honestly, no one would want to venture walking up our driveway to get a piece of candy. Honestly, I don't think we could get trick-or-treaters up here if we were handing out money, that's how difficult the driveway is. But our oldest is getting more into the spirit seeing everyone's decorations and I decided it would be a good time to give a whirl at carving a pumpkin. I had him draw an outline of his jack-o-lantern face first so I knew if I could handle this task. An artist I am not...I am actually probably as far away from an artist as one can get.
Now onto the next task, cleaning out the pumpkin. Now I am not one to touch anything gooey, and I passed this gene onto my oldest obviously, because when I told him to scrape out the pumpkin he responded, "I am not putting my hand in there!" So he tried his hardest to use a spoon the whole time. As you can see from the captions below, I was able to convince him one more time so mommy could take a picture, and he told me all about it (see below).
On our home page, you can see the final result. I honestly couldn't figure out how to do the mouth correctly, but one of the best things about being excited about the pumpkin carving process, and being so young and loving mommy is that he really couldn't care it wasn't perfect. He was just excited to get the candle in the pumpkin.
So for the most part, all of our animals live together in harmony. The chickens follow the cows around in the same pasture scratching through everything and eating bugs and it's never been an issue. Our pigs have their own separate pastures which our guineas and chickens do frequent sometimes, but our pigs don't mingle with the cows due to the damage they can cause a pasture. We would never want to take a chance of a cow breaking a leg due to our pigs using their unbelievably powerful noses to dig up the ground in search of treasure. So while their pastures are next to each other, they don't usually cross paths. Though when the piglets were smaller, they would escape and get into the cow pasture, and it was a sight to see the cows running up to the piglets looking curious and pretty confused.
But our chickens have always been with our cows in the pasture and we do put a net up (which is moved daily) around the area so the cows don't eat the chicken feed and for predator protection for the chickens. Those chickens have more room than they could ever use or explore each day as we hook together multiple fences for optimum range. However, the other day, Dave drove up to the pasture to find a tense situation as a stand-off ensued. The fence for the chickens was knocked down (probably from nosy calves) and the chickens of course wandered out. A big deal? Nope, not at all, it's happened plenty of times. However, this time it was during the same week in which a couple of our cows had just had calves. So while the chickens were aimlessly wandering around the field without a care in the world, they neglected to notice that some protective mommas weighing about 800 pounds were pacing and charging at them. Those mommas were going crazy mooing and causing a ruckus while charging at any chicken that came too close to their calves. One overprotective mother actually had one chicken pinned to the ground with her nose when Dave got there. Mind you, we could walk up to the calves with no problem and even pick one up, but one of those chickens better not get too close again or it might be over next time. Lesson learned for the chickens?? Probably not!
So looking at our children, our oldest definitely looks like his father's side, and while it's obvious the two boys are brothers even to complete strangers because they have a lot of the same looks, most say our youngest looks more like me. I think both boys get their good looks from their mother (*wink, wink), but David's personality is definitely mine, whereas, I have no idea where my youngest's disposition comes from. Dave and I are pretty straight-laced and regimented, which suits David just fine, but Ethan just bulldozes through life, literally and figuratively and there's no stopping the child. It's like trying to redirect a tornado with a box fan. But he still loves cuddling with mommy, whereas with David those moments are all too quickly (and sadly) slipping out of my grip.
However, there is one thing that my little boy gets from me as I have posted about before, window-licking. Now, I am well past my window and mirror-licking days, but for Ethan, it is getting progressively worse. I used to have dog smudges on the windows and doors, now I just have tongue streaks. It's full out, nose squished against the window, tongue hanging WAY out, back and forth. If you call his name, he freezes in that position, waits to hear what you have to say, then resumes. If you tell him to stop, he laughs (still with his tongue on the window). He has even licked MY FLOOR! While I like to think of myself as a very clean person and am picky about having a clean house, my floors definitely are not to the level of which they can be licked! There's no medical condition causing this issue, as I have made sure to look at this from every angle. I am thinking an intervention is necessary, but I think that will just drive the behavior further. Ignoring doesn't change anything, addressing the situation just leads to his ornery look he gives me...it's no use. So I just hope he will outgrow this year-and-a-half long interest/obsession and I can have clean windows and doors again. If not, let me just apologize already to his future wife, she sure will have a challenge trying to tame our wild man.
**After writing this 2 days ago and saving the post, Dave took the boys to his basketball practice. Upon returning, I instructed both boys to wash their hands and Dave informed me we might want to wash Ethan's tongue as well...he licked everything in sight! UGH!**
Okay, so I don't recall if I have mentioned this before, but I am a warm-weathered girl. Literally two weeks prior to being asked on a date by Dave, I was making arrangements with my cousin to move down to Florida. She already lived there and was helping me find a place to stay. I was noting all of the steps I needed to take to teach in Florida and I was going to finish out my school year in Maryland, then move on down. Well, then two weeks later, Dave threw a monkey-wrench into that whole plan as he had most of the school year to win me over and did so rather easily in a short amount of time.
He brought me to Tidioute when the weather was wonderful and everything was blooming. The blueness of the sky still after almost 10 years amazes me and makes me smile. I didn't realize the sky shouldn't have a gray haze to the blue. I don't think that is one thing I will ever take for granted coming from the city, though our beautiful sky will be the norm for my kids.
Being as though I thought all cows were black and white spotted (Holstein), I was in awe at seeing the animals and due to my constant curiosity about farm life, Dave knew it wouldn't take long before I fell in love with it all. Shovel manure - no problem, what's the big deal? Spider webs, bugs, etc. - eh, not scared anymore! Pulling weeds - I can do it for hours on end, Dave just had to teach me what the vegetable plant looked like first! I was a new person; even my family couldn't believe it when I told them of our adventures and they visited us and saw us in action. And my first gift from Dave when we were dating was a Carhartt jacket, to which I was excited to receive!
My first goal as a new "farm woman" was to domesticate the animals. I didn't like how they were terrified of people. I would question why they wouldn't let us near them and how could we help if there was something wrong or we needed to check a calf. Not enough interaction with them (due to Dave living far away in Maryland) caused them to be wary of people. So after going over the benefits with Dave of having friendly/non-wild cattle, I talked him into getting them used to us RIGHT AWAY. No, I didn't want to wait until the weather was nice. I had never been so close to a cow, and well, wanted to get even closer, never mind the fact they were 1200-1600 pounds, and I knew nothing about them.
So in the bitter cold, Dave and I stood in the barn, in the manure and talked to each other occasionally, but mostly I talked to the cows, held out my hand occasionally and tried to get them used to me. Thankfully the mammoth cows gave off enough heat in the barn, the cold air was bearable. The cows, they remained huddled together as tightly as possible on the other side. We did this for 10 minutes at a time at first, then worked our way up longer. After some time, they wouldn't run as far away from us and after a couple of weeks, I was able to coax one over with an ear of corn. But only one! Little by little another cow would take the lead of the first cow and finally I was able to quickly rub the nose with just my fingertips of one old cow, number 7. Eventually, they would allow me to sit in the manger as they ate their silage around me and not be scared and finally came the day with the ultimate test. Number 7, the first cow to allow me to pet her had a calf. At this point she was very trusting of us and even didn't mind us getting in the barn with her and petting her. But we didn't know how she would act with a calf. Very carefully with our escape route planned out and close by, we climbed down into the barn from the raised manger. She quickly walked over and sniffed her calf while it was resting and step by step we moved closer to it, keeping an eye on momma looking for any sense of distress. When we were within a couple of feet of the calf, she gave us the sign we needed, she took a couple of steps back from her baby bull (we later found out). It was then that I knew we gained her trust and for the first time, I was able to pet a brand new calf. It didn't take very long after that for the rest of the herd to come around.
I remember those moments so vividly as my experience and exposure to farm life didn't come until my mid-20's. I remember the beauty in those moments, the amazing milestones as we had to do the same thing with our first litter of piglets (only that time it was David, 2 at the time, and I standing on one side while the piglets stood on the other). Dave was amazed that I caught onto farm life so quickly and was so in love with it...I am sure at one point he had to think it was too good to be true! Eventually he got more than he bargained for as I loved it all so much, I was able to talk him first into piglets, then into laying hens, then broilers. Needless to say, his "beef farm" dreams now had chickens and pigs running all around in the pasture (and in our back and front yard, and knocking on our kitchen door). It's a beautiful sight, all of it, even when things aren't going right, taking a step back and confidently knowing you are doing good things for the land and our animals...it's just beautiful. We never take any of the land or animals for granted and understand our blessings that has been laid out for us on this journey as a family.
The post was supposed to be short, just a little narrative about the beauty of the fall, even if that means winter is on its way and so are the frigid temperatures. I was supposed to talk about how my two boys fuss and whine because now they have to wear coats and I have packed away the shorts (guess they get their warm-weather love from their mother). And lastly, I was just going to post this picture (shown below) and explain how the sight of it all really just made me stop, watch the world go 'round, and just take in the amazing beauty that surrounds me. But this post became more than that...it was a reminder FOR ME of the beauty of my life, both the hard and easy times, the blessings I have every time I look at my family and the life we have built (both the successes and failures), and the excitement for what the future holds and each milestone we cross. Whether the days/times are sunny or rainy, it's all beautiful, and I hope my family and I never forget to stop, take a minute, really observe the amazing world/life we are immersed in, and get lost in the moment...that is until we get nudged in the shoulder by a cow hoping for a special treat. They can't help it, we all know they are spoiled.
The cows and laying hens (you can see their mobile coops behind the cows) are in the same pasture...now living in harmony (more on that story later), with a beautiful scene in the background. If you notice, the cows are all walking single file towards the left side of the pasture. They knew we were coming and got excited to see if we had anything.
With the beginning of the school year things get really busy around here! We still move cows and chickens every day, wash 24 dozen eggs, and keep the hogs happy. But that all has to happen before 7am now. So, time to type is not very available. But, here is what is happening. We have one calf left to come. In the last 3 weeks we have had 12 lovely looking calves. They are full of energy and growing well already. We are on our last pasture rotation for the year, but have stockpiled a lot of grass. We will easily make mid to late November before moving to the barn and opening the silo for the winter.
The broiler chickens are all gone. We had another great year with the help of our spectacular staff. Without our chicken processing crew, we would not be able to provide our healthy, pasture raised chickens to you.
The layers are still on pasture where they will remain until the snow flies and the grass is gone. I hate to clean the coop out and they like the freedom. They are producing very well still. We should be able to carry production throughout the winter.
The hogs are growing like crazy! The weaned hogs are ready to go out to pasture and finish on the leftover corn and grasses. The sows are moving to a new pasture we built for them in the woods. The nuts and apples are plentiful. They should be excited! The boar is still in the bachelor pad until January so we will not get any cold weather piglets.
We just poured 7 yards of concrete on the kill floor of the butcher shop. We will be roofing off the room in preparation of this years harvest.
Next spring we plan on installing a new water system that will provide fresh drinking water to our cattle on the entire farm from a gravity fed system. We will also be creating 15 acres of new grass and pasture on the north side of the farm. The project is shaping up nicely and will be ready to go when the snow leaves.