Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Last Two Weeks of the Year

Because I'm never satisfied with the order (or complete chaos) of the Back 40, we're always moving fences and performing general construction. Two or three days before Christmas you would have found the kids, with the assistance of Miss Lilly Ann, and myself pulling up fencing and driving new posts. Good times! I think I'm happy with the new layout, for now. Whahhhahwhahhaa
I realize I'm posting a bunch of photos this go 'round, but there's just so many wonderful things to see about now! To the left here, you'll see a photo of Jack Thomas. Isn't he just stunning??!? This photo was taken when Jack clocked in at just 5 hours old. And already a looker! Born into a wonderful family with great hopes for the person he'll grow to be.
So down to the nitty gritty... Christmas. The kids hauled and got everything they've ever wanted and more, thanks in part to our wonderful community. Thank you Sasa and Aaron, thank you Grandma and Grandpa, thank you everyone that worked to make this holiday into a wonderful memory for Joshua, Jason and Stella. And what did we as parents get, you may ask. Nik got books, a fireplace poker set, shirts, underwear, alcohol, lots of good stuff. And me? I got 27 laundry baskets and a box of laundry soap. Sounds pretty chinsey, eh? Oh but no, it was the best present I've ever gotten! The kids and Nik did every stitch of laundry in our house, including boxes of old clothing shoved in the back of the closet that needed to be cleaned in order to pass them down the line. They spent one whole day at the laundromat (why the laundromat, you may ask. Read on my friends, all will be explained), washing, drying and folding laundry. Yay family! Although Santa and Mrs. Santa remembered all of the animals at Christmas by filling each of their stockings with alfalfa pellets and whatnot, we wanted to sweeten their Christmas experience and so cruised the tree lots the day after Christmas and grabbed all the trees we could find. I think we must have gathered over 30 trees for their enjoyment. The goats promptly built a fort out of the deciduous fodder. No joke. I think bears must like the smell of evergreen foliage because just the other night, a terrifying bear broke in our front door! Really broke up the door and door jam too, that horrible bear did. Thank you, Ike, for running to our aid like a man in tights and cape!
So, now on to the laundromat explanation. Our washing machine has been on the fritz for awhile now and we've been doing laundry in the shower. I've often marveled at folks that take advantage of their shower water by cleaning their clothes at the same time, but have been too enabled by my plug in, easy as pie washing machine to conserve water by washing by hand. The trouble with the machine now has forced me to put my words into action. We've been doing laundry almost every day in the shower now. Each person does his or her own laundry, which means the kids clean their own. They've done an amazing job! And it's been a fun experience. It also really makes you look over each piece of clothing and make sure it's really dirty before going through all the effort that is required to clean it!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Hanukkah, Welcome Kwanzaa, Solstice Greetings, Merry Christmas and Yay Winter!

Greetings Y'all! What a busy month we've had! It seems like babies are poppin' out of our ears and we're having parties every night. They're not and we're not, but there sure is an abundance of both this holiday season! One of our dearest friends welcomed a baby boy December 22nd. Welcome Baby Jack!
Although it's been a little tough this time of year, keepin' our little world atop our shoulders, it's been worth it! We're in the process of planning a change in the pasture, expanding the garden plot and designing the rabbit coops. Nestled somewhere in that mess is Christmas. Despite the fact that we're so busy doing whatever it is that we do (homeschooling and homesteading and playing and practicing and and and) Christmas is almost made better because of all the work. This season has been just wonderful! I think it might be that we just thrive off chaos around here. The chickens are starting to lay again, which is always a wonderful sign for the coming year. Billy the kid has yet to "get it on" with Arwen and Maybelle, but he's at least warming up to the herd, or rather, the herd is warming up to him. And we're about to end one unit on Constructive Reuse and begin another on State Politics. Yay! I love the hope brought on by a new unit session. Love and Peace all!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Tidings from around the Homestead

This Thursday is Thanksgiving. As usual, this holiday means a ton of work for me and mine. We'll probably abandon any premise of schooling this week and focus on our preparations and meditate on traditions. This year Thanksgiving means something more then the usual feast. This year, we actually worked for this day. This year, everything that will grace our table has been cared for, grown and harvested by us on our land. Aside from a few ingredients including and not limited to Bob's Red Mill organic flour, sea salt harvested in California and butter churned by the Rogue Creamery, each ingredient - vegetable, herb or flesh - has seen our administrations.
In addition to our joy concerning the menu, I'm pleased to report that Gretchen is doing just fine, now out back with her flock. It took about a week for Gretchen to become fully mobile again and the last test of her strength was a float in the tub. She did swimmingly! Jason also had a dentist appointment this week and although I try to never post such mundane things as dentist and doctor appointments (like trips to the store... necessary and completely boring), I couldn't help but post this photo. What pimp shit!
Yesterday, Saturday November 20th, we had butchered (by Harrington's in Boring) one turkey, 6 quail and one pheasant. The size difference between Limpy the turk and this tiny quail was spectacular. I wanted to butcher Limpy myself but was left in the dark when Nik told me that he wouldn't help me in my ventures. I've read so much about how to process a bird and I really wish I'd stuck to my guns and done it myself. Either way, she'll provide a wonderful meal for my family and I'm extremely thankful for her. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On how big massive is...

Until recently I was under the belief that my 85 lb. love, Wyatt, was a big dog. I now know that to be a little less then the truth. I'd like to share some photos exhibiting DaVinci's massive size. Is he a lion? A bear? Oh no, he's our new dog.
And yes, our home is this messy. We work outside a lot folks! Do you know how hard it is to clean up after a million kids and animals?!?!?!!? Okay then!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blue Moon Kitchen... or the Animal Hospital

What a day! When the kids and I went out to feed the ducks this morning, we noticed that Gretchen was unable to walk. After inspecting her, we couldn't find the reason for her disability. She's just unable to walk. Her little webbed feet push on my arm when I hold her and there are no signs of a raccoon attack. Needless to say I'm driven crazy with worry. So into the kitchen, ummm, I mean to our Animal Hospital she goes. She's been eating really well and drinking and quacking up a storm, but no solo traveling for our beloved Gretchen yet.
Sharing her space is an unlikely roommate. D.O.G. came to us yesterday. D.O.G. (name soon to be changed to DaVinci) is a 150lb Newfoundland/Burmese Mountain dog mix. He came covered in dreaded mats. In some areas the mats were 9 inches thick. He sat still for over 4 hours yesterday as I carefully cut the majority of them off of him. Near his rear the mats were so thick that he was unable to move his tail completely as his tail was matted to his bottom. Despite this painful condition, he's been nothing but a complete gentleman and wonderful companion. I am just stunned that he'd let me, a complete stranger, handle and groom him with the utmost patience. He's really a peaceful soul. Although he's spent most every night of his life outside, this evening he hung out with me while I made dinner and administered to Gretchen. He spent the time as pictured here, at my feet. He eventually got comfortable enough to stay still and let me walk around him, instead of him trying to follow me everywhere. He's so big that when he ambled around the kitchen, his wagging tail knocked down a glass on the counter and caused the bowl of apples to wobble dangerously on the table. Can't wait to see what this next week brings!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mushrooms and Green Tomatoes and a bit of Free Geek

What a busy week! A friend brought over 5 lbs. of chanterelle mushrooms that he had picked at the coast. We traded a medium sized frozen chicken and a dozen duck eggs for the 'shrooms. Good deal as we've all decided that we love the chantrelles! They're in the dryer now. We'll seal the dried mushrooms into pint sized jars and freeze for 2 days to kill anything that might still be alive after the drying process. I'm keepin' my fingers crossed!
I've been told over and over again to include some computer based learning in to our curriculum. I've been told that to know the zen of the computer is to know the path of the future. Well fine. After rebelling against technology for years (except for this fine blog! I don't even have a Facebook page) I decided to include some technology based lessons into our studies by volunteering at Free Geek. If y'all don't know what Free Geek is, find out! It's so super duper cool and we so love all the Geeks working and volunteering there. Here's a link to their website, research! We spent 4 hours dismantling disk drives and recycling the different bits and pieces, learning what each part looked like and what each piece did. We're doing the Adoption program at Free Geek; volunteer for 24 hours and earn a computer. Simple eh? And fun! Stella and I don't need a computer but Joshua and Jason are super stoked to be able to earn themselves a computer that they'll be able to use all by themselves a couple of hours a week. See, I'm progressive!
Until super recently, we were able to draw out the growing season and were eating pretty much every day from the garden. Though the last few days have been nothing but deluge and downpour, I'm afraid to take a photo of what it looks like now. This picture was taken just a week ago and look how healthy we are! How happy! I feel like I could write a book about all I've learned this year with the garden and the animals and although I didn't achieve what I sought to achieve, I did learn a lot. I feel we're on the right path and I wouldn't have traded all these ups and downs for a million dollars. Every death, I carry with me and every triumph, I wear on my sleeve. All in all, a good harvest season.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Of Motorcycles and Master Recyclers

Today, after much debate and fearful consternation, Joshua rode on the back of a Victory motorcycle with my dad, Dan. I don't think I've ever seen my son so thrilled in his life. His confidence so ripe, I could smell it. My dad (a line I'm still so thrilled to utter as I only just began this relationship with him a year ago) took Josh up to his favorite leather shop in Vancouver and purchased him a rad leather coat. He then took Josh on a spin around the neighborhood. Oh My Goodness! The anxiety I felt those 10 little minutes! It felt like each of those minutes was an hour. Josh wouldn't take the jacket off until it was coerced from him at bedtime. Both joyous and a little sad, tonight was my last Master Recycler class. Every Wednesday from 6:30 to 9:30, for the last 8 weeks, I immersed myself in waste management theories and climate change graphs and anti-consumption conversation. It was heaven! One of the last speakers this evening wondered at the attendance of this course; he questioned why 30 people would give up their prime time hours in order to sit and listen to trash experts espouse bio-plastics. Little did he know that Wednesday evenings had quickly become the highlight of my week. I almost felt selfish at this indulgence. And I got a name tag! It even says my name, not just Volunteer but Rebekah Vincent... Volunteer. Oh to the heights we rise!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ghetto Composter and Jerry-Rigged Wheelbarrow

Today was a beautiful, sunny day and darn it if we didn't deserve it! After a rainy and cold summer, my Summer To-Do list is but half it's original length. I'd have preferred it to be completed, but such is life. We did however, utilize the day in all it's splendor; we finally built the Habitat Composter!
Although we have an Earth Machine composter and a compost tumbler, we really needed something larger that could be turned easily as well as be centrally located. So out of pallets Joshua, Stella and I built two compost boxes. Eventually I hope to expand it to three. It's so totally ghetto that it's cool; we named it the "O", in honor of a metal letter O that we found at Scrap last year.
And can you believe it, we haven't had a working wheelbarrow ever?!?!?! We had bits and pieces of one that Jason and I surgeried together today. A few bolts here, an over sized metal rod there and voila! A working, if not slightly shaky, wheelbarrow. It works like it should and that's what matters most. Yay for usin' what ya' got!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meet Gus and Victoria (or Shari and Trooper or Starbright and Sunshine or whatever)

In keeping with the urban homesteading momentum we've got goin' on around here, we just got us some pigs. American Guinea Hogs to be exact. We found the perfect breeding pair at Cascade Meadows Farm, out past Sandy. They've also provided the Oregon Zoo with a mama and baby American Guinea Hog. Kirk and Jason were just about the nicest farmers, folks, I've ever met. When we arrived on Saturday at the Farm, it was shearing time for the Icelandic Sheep. Despite what I'm sure was a hectic day, Kirk and Jason spent almost two hours with us. They showed us around the farm and introduced us to their herds of Dexter cattle, Icelandic sheep, Americana chickens and of course, American Guinea Hogs.
We brought home a female and a male hog. I decided I liked the names Gus and Victoria; Josh and Jason agreed. Stella demanded they be named Starbright and Sunshine, which I guess is cool because they do kinda look like My Little Ponies. And of course, Nik, always the joker, wanted the names Trooper and Shari. Shari being short for Sheriff and Trooper short for State Trooper. I refuse to explain his idiosyncrasies.

Despite Nik's juvenile tendencies, we're all really excited to breed and harvest our own meat. We've eaten the chickens and turkeys we've raised and we're ready to take it a step further with a larger animal. This breed of hog was our first choice for this, our venture into true Homesteading. The American Guinea Hog stays small and is a true forager, making the meat more tasty and healthy. They eat everything edible, including meats and dairy and veggies and fruits and just about anything a human could eat. They turn our waste into delicious meat. The consummate recyclers!
In addition to great tasting meat and a healthier waste system for us, their humans, there's only 200 Guinea Pigs left in the United States. They're listed as critical on the Conservation Priority list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. I've added some resources at the end of this page because I'd like to urge you to look into them as they're amazing animals.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


It's recently been brought to my attention that there's no photo's of me here, on the blog. Which of course is completely logical because my eye is usually glued to the little eye peeky hole in the camera. Regardless, to prove my existence and waylay any naysayers to my authenticity, I've decided to post a photo of myself along with Nik, Stella, Josh and Jason taken this past February at the Charcoal Kilns in Death Vally National Park.
On a side note, just yesterday we counted our eggs and came up with a whooping 101 eggs! First time ever that we've tallied that many!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sailing and our first week of schooling

We began school this week, just like public schoolers. We got off to a great start! The kids have all new curriculum this year and we've already begun our unit for the fall; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Since I began the Master Recyclers program at the beginning of September, we all though it'd be great to bring the kids along on my journey to know more about waste, consumption and recycling. We'll also be discussing global warming, climate change and the greenhouse effect. So far, the kids are extremely intrigued and really excited about some of the field trips we're planning for this unit.
On Monday the kids, Nik and I went sailing with our friend Ike. Unbeknownst to me, it was not only a wonderful ride, it was a great way to open the conversation on waste. We put in at Meldrum Bar and traversed our way to Ross Island. Along the way we encountered floating beer cans, plastic bottles and bags as well as some pretty foul smelling river banks. The rape of Ross Island was enough to make quiet any argument the boys may have had about steering the boat. Unfortunately there was little wind and we ended up puttering up and down powered by the little gas motor. All in all, a wonderful first week of school!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finally, our new Goat Tractor!!!

After two years of desire, a year of failures and then another six months of planning, Penelope, Arwen, Big Mama and Maybelle finally have a comfortable new home! Sunday morning found us up early and shopping for lumber at the local lumber store. I'd much rather have scavenged construction materials from Craigslist, Freecycle or local construction sights, but my wonderful Mom offered to purchase all the materials new. And since we were unexpectedly scheduled to have the Tractor done before the first of September, we were left with few options.
That said, we began the actual building of the Tractor after hours of debate and price checking, in wonderful spirits and under the direction of the Lord of Construction, Aaron Reick. In addition to being an engineering student and a building guru, Aaron also happens to be the kids' Godfather. Despite personal constraints, Aaron not only designed and spearheaded our project, he worked and directed us for 12 hours on Sunday. What a guy!
I love this photo of Aaron, to the right. He spent much of Sunday in this pose. Kindly listening to our uniformed advice before respectfully teaching us how things are really done. Such patience! In addition to Aaron's assistance, Luke Russel and Mike Bird also lent their strong backs and nimble hands to our project. Without each of them, we'd never have been able to finish this project. Hero's I tell ya!
Mike and Jenny are our neighbors to the East and their kids Bryson and Carson also threw in their effort. Jason, Josh, Bryson and Carson nailed together the header over the doorway as well as offered us hours of entertainment.

At this point the Tractor is structurally finished. We're planning on painting this weekend and I'd like to find some corrugated metal roofing and a gutter on Craigslist to finish the roof. Then we'll pack bark chips and straw on the ground as a floor for the goats. After it's all finished we will re-fence the East side of the Habitat and fix up the coop. Then we'll be done for the year! I just can't wait to head back to the Habitat and see everyone happy and safe and warm in their specific homes. I'm thinking we'll try to plan a "Habitat Warming Party" sometime in September, so mark your calenders!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Clackamas County Fair!

Yesterday, Sunday August 22nd, we visited one of my favorite places in the whole wide world... the Clackamas County Fair! Every August for the past 30 years, give or take a year or two, I've attended the Clackamas County Fair. Every year my grandparents would take me to the fair and indulge me with animals, sugar and rides. This year was no different, except that I only rode one ride and couldn't find the deep fried Snickers guy.

As always, visiting with the sheep, goats and Brahma cows was the highlight of my trip. I think the kids really enjoyed the Brahma's as well. This year there was a new addition to, in my knowledge, the fairgrounds. They had an exotic animal display. It was heartbreaking for me to walk along the isle and pass cage after cage of endangered animals.

There was a bobcat, a seval, a Bengal tiger, a caracal, an ocelot, a large tortoise, a Barbary lion, two tiger cubs and a leopard cub. To see them in their small enclosures, these amazingly powerful animals reduced to, at largest, a 10 x 10 cage, scrounging for ice cubes, I was overwhelmed with sadness for their plight. I understand that the most "impressive" of these animals are not only endangered but as with the Barbary lion, cease to exist in the wild; I have to believe that there's a better conservation tactic for them then to traverse the County Fair circuit.

Then off to the goats and sheep we went! Jason made great friends with nearly every goat we met along the way. There were some beauties! I kept trying to talk Nik into letting me bring this one or that one home; though luckily he didn't listen to me. I can't handle any more! There always seems to be a piggy mama and her brood and this year I was not disappointed. They were so adorable! Even the mama seemed to be smiling to me. Nik and I talked about the possibility of purchasing one next fair time, contingent of course upon the building of the barn.

Speaking of barns, we'll be rebuilding the fence and creating new areas for the flock and the herd to reside if anyone would like to throw in their hammer or shovel to assist. One years' supply of eggs your effort!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tidings from around the homestead!

It's been such a busy month! The wildflowers have given way to the sunflowers and the chicks are getting so much bigger. We've also got some new additions to our duck flock.
I'm in the process of planning the Habitat barn and fenced areas. I'm so lost! I found a wonderful book called How To Build Animal Housing and I'm trying to decide which barn to build, how to build it, what materials I can salvage and how I'd like to see the Habitat divided. Ahhhh! I'd really appreciate any assistance anyone out there could offer with regard to my barn issue.

The Three Sisters Garden is growing wonderfully! Because we had such a funky start to our summer, the corn isn't as far along as I'd like, though I'm encouraged by the growth we've witnessed this last month.
And the Spiral Garden is growing wonders! The ducks have fresh grown lettuce in their ponds every day and we have never ending dinner salads. Unfortunately, the peas were a no-show (thanks, in part, to a certain gourmet chicken) and the artichoke has only yielded two tasty buds. All in all, I find myself really proud of our hard won garden.
We've also picked up 4 White Breasted turkeys. Although I realize they're primarily used for meat production, I'd like to see if we can extend their lifetimes and offer our dinner table a healthier alternative to traditionally raised turkeys. So far, these little guys are voracious, so we've taken to adding garden greens and fruit and vegetable table scraps to their meal regiment.
In addition to the new turkeys, we've also picked up 5 new duckies. Two Khaki Campbell's, two Runners and one Peking. They're maturing beautifully in a brooder in Nana's yard, right alongside Calvin, Cooper, Mrs. Quackers and Gretchen. At the time this photo was taken, Wanda had decided to raid the chickens meal and had abandoned her duck and goose buddies for a short time.
Wanda and Daily were the two little duckies that were found at a local school and have grown into beautiful female mallards. Like her brethren, Daily took flight and joined a flock of passing wild ducks and we've not seen her since. Wanda, on the other hand, has decided to remain as part of our family. But oh, how we miss our Daily!