We are going to have baby goats! Both of our female goats, Pancha and Elaina, have had blood tests to confirm their pregnancies.

This second picture shows Pancha getting much bigger.

Carolyn has begun feeding them grain in their milking stand to prepare them for milking and to get them used to the stand. The milking stand is a handy way to have the goat stay where you want it. If you feed them grain at the same time, it becomes a very pleasant experience for both involved.

If all goes well we will have baby goats by the end of May. How many goats? We have read that most goats have 1 to 3 kids with a high concentration of them centering on two kids. Not long after they kid we will begin milking small amounts for our use and progressively increasing this until the new goat kids are done needing milk.

Then we will have fresh milk again every day!  A real pleasure.

We recently were running out of hay and built a fenced paddock for the goats and sheep to get them on fresh grass.

The sheep stay out there now as they’re comfortable. The goats have been slow to warm up to the new surroundings so they get their nights’ rest in the barn and Carolyn walks them out each morning.

 

We built a new kitchen garden this spring that we’re really excited about.

The purpose, of course, is to have certain plants close by to use in the kitchen. It will be mainly herbs, onions and shallots, carrots and a few flowers for fun.

Here is the finished product.

You’ll notice the kitchen garden does not have a fence. We’re trying to decide between a white picket fence (one of my long time dreams for our front yard), or a living willow fence.

Until we decide, I’ve been taking willow cuttings from my neighbor.

At the time of this picture…

…they have been 7 days in a pail of water on our heated floor and you can see the roots just beginning to poke out. I cut off all the branches and almost all of the leaves so all the energy goes into roots first. The perfect temperature is about 80-85 degrees to get the rooting going.

I’ve also been working on propagating some weeping willow cuttings for our yard.

These are close to being ready to plant directly into the ground. It is my third round of these weeping willow cuttings. I made the mistake of using very thin branches. They rooted beautifully but could not continue on to make leaves as they didn’t have enough energy. These are 2-3 times as thick. About as thick as a fat pencil a child would use.

 

I lost a few grapevines over the winter. I’ve been working on my propagating techniques and I think I finally figured it out. I bought a simple heat mat and that has made all the difference. For the grape vines, I took dormant cuttings about March 1 from a grape variety that I wanted to replace. I wrapped the cuttings in moist towels and put that in a plastic bag. I put this on the heat mat and experimented with different options until I could get the inside of the bag to 85 degrees. One month later, I had grape cuttings that had callused.

The callus is the point at which the roots will come out. Roots will form quickly from a callus, but slow from a cutting that hasn’t been callused. With many cuttings, the problem is getting roots to start before the cutting begins to leaf out, looking for moisture and food. If there aren’t enough roots, the plant will starve and die. A cutting that has been callused will be able to root quickly before it leafs out and the new roots can begin feeding the leaves.

Here is a grapevine cutting that is showing its roots and will be ready to plant around our last frost date.

I have extra King of the North vines that have rooted. Please let me know if you are interested in some free grape vines. 🙂

 

We continue to love food. As of this writing, we are beginning morel mushroom season. We LOVE morels! We haven’t found any yet this year, but hope that soon we will be fortunate.

We always find ramps.

A ramp is a wild onion that is an April/May delicacy for a short 3-4 weeks. They cook like a mild onion with a slight garlic flavor. We have a mudroom sink full of them that we just picked. Our intention is to pickle them.

Here is a picture of our last chicken stock evening…

Every week or two we boil a chicken from last summer with carrots, celery and a bay leaf or two. We make a meal with the chicken that evening, but save and freeze the stock.

 

Last fall, I plowed up 5 acres of our land as we intended to plant hay. I had to borrow my neighbor’s three bottom plow, with several large bags of bread from the bakery in return.

This spring, I used my rototiller, which is behind my tractor, and tilled up the plowed ground. I was having a problem with my tiller and stopped to unclog the clay soil that had built up. I felt like I was sitting on my iPhone in my pocket, so I took it out and set it aside, sure I’d remember it later when I got back up on the tractor.

Oops!

It took some time and tenacity, but I did manage to get a replacement. Funny, “death by rototiller” isn’t in the iPhone warranty…

I did manage to get my field planted despite the phone drama, with the help of a different neighbor who lent me his planter. I was able to put in alfalfa, a mixture of orchard grasses and a nurse crop of oats. The oats will come up quickly and we will cut them in late June for hay and then let the rest of the field go for the summer to establish the perennial grasses so we can cut for hay next summer. People tell me you can cut hay for about 4-5 years before you have to plant again.

Here is the field after about a month…

 

We think most of our trees made it through the early spring and subsequent frosts. Already we are dealing with pests such as the tent caterpillar.

These caterpillars eat the leaves off of fruit trees during the day and then hole up in their “tent” at night.  Our solution is to go out at dusk with a propane torch when they are in their tent and burn them with the torch.

Here is a picture of a plum tree…

…if you look carefully I’ve pulled off the spent part of the flower and underneath is the beginning of a plum!

 

My grapes have begun to leaf out. Here is an amazing picture of a recent bud burst…

If you look carefully you will see 3 leaves and the beginning of the grape cluster. All of this was packed inside the bud in miniature form ready to go before bud break.

I must say I continue to find all of this magical.

 

Garlic continues to look great!

We love our garlic. If you remember, I planted 10 varieties last fall. Some will have huge cloves, some will be spicy hot and some will have a mellow flavor.

I can’t wait.

 

Here is a cover crop of mustard…

A cover crop can smother other weeds while you are waiting for the right time to plant. And when you till the mustard under, it provides organic material for the soil!

 

I moved all of my currant bushes far far away from the barn so no loose animals can eat them.

Hopefully they will thrive in their new location.

 

And last, a second beehive arrived today.

Carolyn took a beekeeping class this spring and decided to get a second hive this year. Two packages of bees will arrive in the next few weeks.

 

The middle of May will be busy as we will finish planting the annual vegetable garden, increase our strawberry patch, add to our raspberry batch and get in some chicks for meat (broilers) and for laying (hens).

Time to get out and enjoy this weather.

Until next time…

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