Continuous brew

I’ve been making Kombucha for years. Not always religiously. One of the biggest challenges was when it is time to bottle and mix a new batch. The crock I ferment it in is VERY heavy. The tea has to steep for a long while. Then cool for a long while. The scoby has to be somewhere while I prep the next batch. IMG_5573Solution?? Continuous brew Kombucha! I’m brewing in a jar with a spigot, so that I can extract finished kombucha, without disturbing the scoby. Then I can simply add sweetened tea to the jar and it begins fermenting again. And because I always leave at least 1/3 of the jar full of finished product the new tea ferments more quickly. I can bottle finished product every 7 days usually, instead of waiting the normal 10 days that it took previously. IMG_5574When there are 7 people clamoring for it, that’s a huge benefit! And I was awestruck, literally, when I saw the size and health of the new scoby that grew on top of the brew. Don’t know the benefits of this fermented, fizzy drink??!! Google it and be astounded!  IMG_5577

Show season 2017

IMG_5657The girls’ show season has started early this spring. Katie and Charlotte have picked out lambs from the Arnold’s and Crabtree’s respectively. Mia bought a goat from the Harper’s. IMG_5654They are all young yet but they are on target to hit their prime in August for our county fair. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be shown in every other show possible until then! We won’t be traipsing all across the country in search of the best county fair, but we do have a list of nearby shows that we hope to enter.IMG_5660 This last weekend was a clinic where the girls learned more about the health and care of show animals, state law and showmanship skills. It was great to have these young animals out in the ring, giving them experience. It is always helpful to get feedback about technique, feed routine, health practices and vet care from other people in the lamb/goat world.IMG_5668 It’s even more fun when it’s a day spent with friends and their animals!IMG_5646

Six mile loop

IMG_20170506_192022647Long family bike rides! These long, cool spring evenings have been so great for bike riding! We get the whole gang on board and off we go! We’ve visited friends that live 11 miles away. The kids have ridden with Jeremie over 13 miles. Today we just did the 6 mile loop. This takes us along a back country road. Over a deep culvert, up some steep hills and through bendy twists and turns. IMG_20170506_193347167_HDRTime spent with family is so important. This is the time of relationship building. This is the time of showing what’s really important, what our priorities are. This is the time of enjoying God’s creation and reveling in his blessings and goodness in allowing us to live in the country. We are literally living our dream. HIs goodness knows no bounds!

Garden update

Here’s how things are growing as of May 17, 2017.IMG_5618 The cabbages are just about ready to harvest. We will roast one for lunch tomorrow! IMG_5612The beans and peas have something nibbling at them.IMG_5608 The tomatoes are tiny still, as are the peppers. IMG_5611This hillside was planted in snake gourds and water dipper gourds! IMG_5609A Beautiful garden box filled with lettuces of all different maturity.IMG_5616 Lush carrots with cucumbers starting to climb the trellis. IMG_5614Larger tomatoes weaved into the trellis.IMG_5615 Beets under, hoping to enjoy the shade the tomatoes will provide. IMG_5628Onions with red lettuce planted under a trellis that has purple hull peas planted alongside. IMG_5627Peas, still producing!!! IMG_5623Lacinato dinosaur kale, a favorite!IMG_5619

When life gives you lemons..

Our beloved Jersey milk cow Clover died this past weekend. She was pregnant with her second calf, due to deliver next month. We noticed her laying down in the pasture for quite some time, which is not normal. Especially in the hot sun. After repeatedly trying to help her up, we decided to call the vet because a Jersey cow is fragile, not hardy at all. We had to call the emergency vet on call because, of course, this happened after hours on a Saturday evening. IMG_5460When he got to the farm, he put a tube down her throat to relieve any gas. A cow is prone to bloat, excessive gas in their rumen. Some pressure released (very stinky) but she still wouldn’t get up. The vet determined that Clover had late pregnancy toxemia, which is similar to pre-ecalmpsia in humans. This simply means that the pre-born calf was sucking too many nutrients from the mama cow and she couldn’t keep healthy. We are glad that the vet noted Clover’s body condition was good, and that we were feeding her the right things. He said that Jersey’s are so docile, which makes them good family milk cows, but they just don’t possess a great will to live. He joked that he had seen some give up and die from a mere fly bite.IMG_5465 After injecting Clover with a bottle of glucose, for energy, and calcium/magnesium for strength, the vet left. He did leave us with a bottle of something to give her if, after 24 hours, she didn’t get up. In that case, he said, she won’t survive and it would be best to try to induce labor, hoping to, at least, save the baby calf. And in rare cases, delivering the baby, enables the mama to get up without all that extra weight. Well, Clover did not get up within the time frame, so we gave her the shot to induce labor. However, sadly she didn’t deliver the calf, but died the next morning. I loved that cow. She was born here on the farm. I feel positive that we did all we could in trying to save both her and the baby.IMG_5488 Death is a reality here on the farm. And my kids are not unfamiliar with animal losses. Now, they have taken Clover’s hide and are tanning it. That is what homesteading is all about. Doing your best. Accepting your losses. Taking what you can away from the situation. Moving on, wiser and more experienced. IMG_5491

A little late

Watching a plant grow from a tiny little seed is nothing short of witnessing a miracle. That’s why I was so sad that my tomato seeds never came up. What happened? I ordered a tomato growing kit from Old Time Tomatoes because I had a coupon to get it free. It came with a solution to soak the seeds in to ensure quick germination. But after planting those seeds, nothing came up. It also came with a peat pot tray that I used to plant peppers in. Again, nothing came up. At first I thought perhaps I burned my seeds. We had a really warm spring and the greenhouse got over 100 degrees on quite a few days. So I re-soaked and replanted the seeds. Again, nothing came up. I’ve grown my own tomato plants for years, so I know what I’m doing. But I can’t figure out what went wrong. I talked to many other people who ordered that same kit and there seedlings are doing fine. But in my mind, I thought, that’s the only variable.IMG_5362 So I tried yet a third time. This time I did not soak my seeds. And they all came up. My peppers came up too. I planted them in my normal seed trays. Now I have healthy looking, albeit small, seedlings. But I am so behind schedule. After waiting a couple weeks for each batch of seedlings to come up in vain, I lost over a month. I know that Tennessee has such long, hot summers, I’ll still get a bumper crop of tomatoes. But I’m anxious to get them in the ground to enjoy all this spring rain we’ve been enjoying! IMG_5363

Fruits and berries

We have some raspberry plants shooting up in the orchard. IMG_5354And the blueberry plants are getting so big! IMG_5355Look at all those tiny berries!IMG_5356 Apple tree. IMG_5357Strawberries in raised boxes, transplanted last fall and mulched with pine straw. IMG_5359