New Site!

So, what do you think? I’m still working on getting data into the pages, but would love to hear from you! Do they need more contact forms? Less? Allow for comments on all the pages? Sidebars? I’ve currently left all pages except the blog here very blank to allow for a “cleaner” look at our site.

The rabbitry and fowl pages will be updated in the coming days as I am able to get pictures of our animals and update it with some great info about the breeds we raise and the state of things here. It’s hard to do with a broken camera lens!

Well, if you haven’t seen yet, we’ve expanded a bit. In the last few months I have added American Blues and French Angoras to the herd. But the surprising move was the purchase of an entire rabbitry. We doubled the number of rabbits here in a matter of two days, from being told I was the “lucky buyer” to getting them delivered and setup on the property. The herd of 16 rabbits (American Chinchilla and Silver Fox) are settling in nicely, and we are deciding which stock we will be keeping and getting rid of, and which are past their prime breeding age. Many of the rabbits are also going through quarantine–keeping three herds of rabbits going and quarantined from each other is a challenge I’ve never considered before.

More details on the goings-on around here later, from goats to bees to chicks and poultry testing, and all the way to boxes full of kits and a late seed start. For now, I have work to do.

Morgan Farms’ Most Wanted

Name: Shell Stomper
Variety: Ancona
Weight: Approx. 4.5 pounds
Charges: Unknown counts of egg eating; conspiring to ruin breakfast
Cellblock: 7-Day Chicken Coop
Sentence: Chicken Dinner

Name: Mrs. Flighty
Variety: Maran
Weight: Approx. 6 pounds
Charges: At least 2 counts of egg eating
Cellblock: 7-Day Chicken Coop
Sentence: Chicken Dinner

Continue reading

Chilling Cold

No pics this time; I don’t think you will want to see them.

As many of you may be experiencing, we’re getting a lot of blasts of arctic cold, and a lot of unseasonably cold weather. It was 3 degrees when I woke up this morning, which is usually unheard of in this area–at least not multiple times a year. Our highs rarely get above 30. A 40 degree day is downright toasty. In a normal year, 40 would be a healthy daytime average.

But, well, this wasn’t a normal year!

And, of course, rather than kindling on those warm 30-degree nights last week, my new American doe (Cissy), kindled on the coldest night this week. So when I got up this morning and rushed down to water the rabbits before anyone else, this first time rabbit momma’s heart sunk as she looked into her first time momma’s cage.

Even if it had been a 20-degree night last night, or possibly even a 40-degree night last night, it wouldn’t have saved these kits. This first time, she kindled straight on the wire. No fur in her nest, no fur on the wire, no nothing–even though she’d tamped down her nest.

I have heard of many people who have had successful litters in cold that’s colder than this. What happened was a risk for many or most first-time rabbit moms. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I am waiting on my Silver Fox doe to see what she does. If she kindles and they survive, it will add a little light to this day.

New Facebook Page!

To start the year off, we’ve gotten a new Facebook page. So if that’s your thing, feel free to head on over!

This blog is still my primary focus to talk it all out, update on what’s going on and to post about our projects, but I think the Facebook page will allow us to access more people and connect with more friends (new and established alike).

I will likely also use it to link to articles or recipes I find interesting.

Morgan Farms at Acre Hill Homestead

An update coming soon as I try to learn how to palpate my does! Yes, that’s does with an “s.” A picture of our new bunnies will come with that post too.

Mountains of Food

As the holiday season comes to a close, we have piles of food all over the house that we simply can’t eat as fast as it needs to be eaten–two turkeys, one an over-cooked failure suitable for chili and the other perfect sandwich material; a bushel of apples needing to be canned; scalloped potatoes and mashed potatoes and potato soup; leftover venison; the last heads of cabbage and kale at the local market. Dried chillies from the summer. Continue reading

Christmas is Sneaking Up!

I know, mum is the word lately from our side of the world. I’ve been trying to get a handle again on my health. Not that there’s anything too seriously wrong with it, just a lot of mismanagement in the last year. And I’m paying for it dearly.

So, while I go back to a sugar-free lifestyle, a drink-lite lifestyle, and one day soon a more active lifestyle, I’m getting ready for that lovely day called Christmas.

And it’s coming up FAST!

As we get deeper into the holiday season, I get more and more frustrated. It’s my favorite holiday. More discussion on why and why you shouldn’t balk at that (it’s more a sentiment/spirit-of-the-season thing than a commercial thing) in another post.

As you saw with my last post, this year’s big present project is crochet. It’s my first year actually finishing crochet projects and I’m learning a lot. I’ve finished four hat and scarf sets and two neck-warmer type pieces, plus a scarf for Mike in a brown scratchy wool. And with only 15 days left until Christmas, I had a plan.

You see, a little over 5 years ago, I was going back for my last semester in college in September of ’08, and I told myself I was going to make Mike a blanket for Christmas. A John Deere blanket. I don’t think it ever got more than 4 inches wide, and I told Mike it was a bust after the holidays.

He’s never let me live it down since.

So, to make up for it, I have this big vision. A John Deere blanket by Christmas. Me being me, I like to have a plan, preferably one with an unrealistic deadline.

Remember–I’m learning. So every time I feel close, like it might happen, it gets further and further away. First, I’m at perhaps 11 inches wide with 2 days’ worth of work (approx. 8 hours total). I’m aiming for a 60-inch wide blanket, and by that count I need to get at least 2 hours in every night before Christmas morning.

That’s just for a blank green blanket with two yellow stripes. I admit, I don’t know how to crochet designs in a blanket as I go, so I was going to do a surface stitch. Then I learned more about that, too, and realized it will leave an ugly backing, even if a pretty front.

So I will need to sew a back to the blanket to make up for it. Have I mentioned it took me an hour to get my sewing machine up and running last week?

Let’s just say, Mike may get his plain blanket for Christmas, with a printout picture of the final dream. Because for now? I’m in way over my head.

But, below you can see the start of what I have done and the pattern I created for myself to try and center the surface stitching properly on the blanket when I get there (I needed it to know how many rows I needed).

Tips are appreciated!

I did this manually in Excel before I realized that there is software that will do this for you.

Oh, and did I mention that in addition to the blanket, I’m making pajamas and still need to make bags (trying to go green-er this year!) for presents under the tree? WAY over my head!

Weekend Wrap-Up: Crochet Binge

Well, I did it. I finished my first crochet pieces! You see, this is a big deal. I’ve been trying to finish my first crochet piece for almost 20 years. Yes, you read that right–20 years.

Twenty years ago my grandmother (the one who reminds me of frogs and soil and azaleas and drawing trees outside the bedroom window) was still alive, and I wanted to do everything she could do. She taught me to crochet and latch hook and all sorts of other crafts when I was a kid. She died when I was 11, and that year we started a project together. She was teaching me to crochet a pair of mittens in a soft white fabric with silver threads throughout.

We almost finished the first mitten together, and then she was gone. I could never finish it.

So these projects are for my grandmother. They’re for me, they’re for my family, they’re for my sanity (I was very stressed), but really–they’re for her. And so will be every thing I crochet throughout my life, which will hopefully be many more.

I put pictures of the pieces (me trying to be artistic and failing!) and some notes on each piece behind the cut. I didn’t count for these, so the notes are relatively sparse. Continue reading

An Unexpected Friday

Last Thursday some pretty strong winds came through. At night, we could hear the flag hitting against the house and trees in the area snapping. But we had long ago taken out the pines that could have taken out our house. We didn’t think much had been affected.

Then, Friday morning. I went outside to an awful sight.

Everyone who knows me knows I am notoriously awful at noticing things. Back when Mike and I first started dating and I lived in Pittsburgh, he came to visit me one weekend. I remember thinking, “He looks different.” Five hours later, he finally asked: “Have you noticed anything?” I paused–something was different, I knew. “You cut your hair?”

Not only had he cut his hair, but he had shaved off his entire beard and mustache. And I hadn’t even noticed.

But I suppose that I have gotten pretty used to the way things look around here. Not on a conscious level, as I don’t look at the beehives every day–at least not in a way that I ever took note of. Apparently, I can be more attentive than I thought, because when I went to let the younger chicks out, I stilled. Something was off, and I immediately knew what.

The garden hasn’t been dismantled yet.

There wasn’t much I could do myself in the morning and Mike was already at work (it being 8am). Mind you, I’m still a bit terrified of our bees, but I didn’t want them to die. So I slipped the outer covers over each hive, and at least saw a happy sight: Even though the blue hive had been completely flipped upside down and the frames were falling out, the hive was alive. And that one box that didn’t get filled all season (we need to replace our queen) was overtaking the entire box. Not only were they surviving in the cold and the wind, but the hive was thriving.

Well, I covered them up and when Mike came home we had to take care of the rest. I have no pictures of our later work because it was cold and getting dark and, really, I didn’t want to spend more time with the bees than needed.

Mike managed to work on the platform for the beehives, to make it more stable. The stand legs are now screwed to a piece of plywood and the boxes ratchet-strapped to the stands. The yellow hive (which fell straight down) was easy for him to work on himself.

Getting the blue hive right-side up was more difficult. Remember, I have a terrified respect for the bees. Luckily, in this weather, I was able to wear my winter work bibs (unfortunately a nasty dark brown) and stay warm and doubly protected.

With a bit of ingenuity, we were able to get the frames of the blue hive inside by putting a piece of plywood underneath. Then the very careful, very slow flipping of the box before Mike picked it up and put it back on its stand.

Hopefully we will not have this problem again. And, surprisingly, the blue hive we didn’t think would make it to winter, let alone through it, looks to be the strongest. And our yellow hive–the hive that survived against all odds multiple times–may be abandoned. We didn’t see any bees, and getting as close as I could in a beekeeping hat, I couldn’t hear any buzzing. The hive may be empty or extremely weak or perhaps just very down deep.

However, after flipping hives upside down, with wind and 40-50 degree weather, and having dead bees all over our jackets and pants, we weren’t about to find out the status of the yellow hive on Friday. I suppose that will be our next adventure when swapping out sugar syrup.

There’s never a dull moment around here!

Handing the Garden Over

I’m giving in. I have handed the garden over to the chickens.

These past few weeks, I haven’t been giving the garden the attention it needs, or that it deserved. I’ve put at least 1 bushel of tomatoes in the compost, likely more. I’ve let at least another half bushel or bushel go bad on the vine, all because of the simple fact that I got married. Continue reading