Monday, May 26, 2008

Garden update

The tomatoes are planted, and safely under cloches. It's warm one day and cold the next, so it was a little questionable as to if I should plant them or not, but they were getting rootbound in the little containers, so I decided to go for it. The stem on my main season tomato snapped while planting it, so I went and found a replacement at the garden center. It's a 'Willamette'. So from right to left, I have one of each variety - ultra early, extra early, early, main season, and cherry tomato. The rest of the extra tomatoes are in pots on the patio.

The slugs have been winning the battle, so I resorted to putting down slug bait. I hated to do it, but the stuff says it's safe for pets and wildlife (none of which should be in my garden anyway). This picture shows my carrots - they're in those empty squares. The slugs have been gobbling up the greens as soon as they appear. I planted them the same time as the chard in the squares above them. I don't know if the carrots can recover.

Then I planted my peppers and put homemade cloches over them. The peppers are mini red bell peppers. We use a lot of bell peppers so I hope I can get those two plants to produce well. There's also a third plant in a pot on the patio.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Scenes of spring


Marian and Indy



Marian and Indy



Mama Sheep and lambs

Friday, May 23, 2008

Alki and Barclay update

Barclay is about an inch taller than Alki right now. Unfortunately he's all brawn and no brains! Maybe that's good for Alki though, because she is smarter and faster. But he has a sweet innocence about him. They're quite a pair!

What's for dinner? How about Hot Dish?

I don't usually post recipes, but I made a particularly good hot dish last night, and I don't want to forget the recipe, since it's a mix of recipes I've been trying for a while. It's nothing fancy, it's just plain old good food like Grandma used to make.

1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium onion
1 small can of mushrooms, drained
1 small can of corn, drained
a little butter and olive oil
crispy crown frozen tater tots
cream of mushroom soup
half a soup can of milk

Slice up the onions and saute them in a little butter and olive oil until they are soft and browned. Add the mushrooms, and cook until they start to brown, then the corn, and cook until the corn is browned. Move them into a bowl.

Brown the ground beef, adding a little chipotle tabasco sauce as it cooks. Drain off fat if necessary. Add onion mixture back to pan and heat through.

In a separate bowl mix soup and milk.

In a 9x12 glass baking dish put down a layer of tater tots on the bottom. Put ground beef mixture over it, smoothing it out. Now pour on the soup, spread it out a bit to get it even, then give the pan a few little shakes and jiggles to make it sink down into the meat. Put another layer of tater tots on top.

Cook for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Take it out and let it set for 5 minutes on the counter.

This is delicious! Browning the ingredients first adds a lot of flavor, as does the little hit of chipotle. Yum! You end up with a nice strata of browned potatoes on top, meat, onion, mushrooms and corn, and broken up potatoes on the bottom, all connected by the soupy goodness. So Good! It also reheats well for lunch the next day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Maternity Ward

The vet suggested we set up a temporary stall so the lambs wouldn't run around too much and mess up the splint. Also they won't get stepped on again. Thanks to the flexibility of the new shelter, it wasn't hard to do. I mounted the big gate to swing both ways, so instead of using it on the catch pen on the end of the shelter, I swung it the other way and it closes against the next post over under the covered area. Then we put up a length of wire fencing and tah-dah - maternity ward!

Gimpy Lamb!

Well, the vet came out and had a look at the new lambs, and the one with the gimpy leg seems to have broken it. She thinks maybe a llama stepped on him. So now he has a splint. It seems to help though, because already he's getting around more. It must have really hurt before.

The lambs are a boy and a girl, and the boy has the splint. The boy is black and the girl is dark brown. I think we'll name them Indy and Marian, since the Indy movie is opening tonight. Luke and Leia would be appropriate too. We'll have to think about it.

While the vet was here we did 'herd health day' and everyone got their shots. I have to say I was very happy with the vet, and this was our first experience with a farm vet. We got Dr Betsy from Amazia in Brush Prairie. She was very nice and explained everything and had no problem answering all our stupid questions, since we're new to having livestock. We had to catch everyone one by one for shots, even Houdini, and it all went much better than expected. It was easy to catch everyone in the pen, and no one fought too much. Even Houdini just stood there and didn't kick or anything. So now everyone is up to date on their vet care.

Surprise lambs!

When we took in the sheep and goats and Houdini the 'guard llama', Annaliese warned us the ewe might be pregnant because of the ram that was with them (we didn't take the ram, she found him another home). Well, sure enough, we went out this morning and found two new additions to our flock. When we spotted them Mom just had one lamb by her side, and we walked out to the pasture to investigate and found a bigger lamb in the grass nearby. We thought he was dead, but saw he was breathing. One of his legs looked funny. Mom was headbutting the other animals that got too close, so we picked up the lambs and mom followed us over to the shelter, and we shut them in and shut everyone else out (except for little Gracie the goat, who can go through the gap under the gate).

After a few minutes the gimpy lamb stood up and took some milk from mom. Last I checked she had made a little nest in the straw and everyone was resting comfortably.

Funny how the other animals, especially the llamas, are so curious to watch what's going on.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Garden update

We had our first fresh radishes out of the garden this week. Unfortunately, the slugs did too!

I have read that slugs won't cross copper. So I got some old copper pipes and beat them flat and put them around the edge of the garden bed. Since I have been pulling out the slugs I find inside, hopefully this will prevent more from coming in.

Otherwise the garden is looking pretty healthy. Beets and carrots are starting to come up. I've planted a second group of radishes so I can keep those continuously producing, and I'll do the same with carrots and beets and lettuce. Meanwhile the tomatoes inside the house are getting tired of being cooped up, and they enjoyed their little weekend outside while the weather was nice, but it's turned cold again the last couple days. I might plant them in pots and let them stretch out their roots a bit then move them out in the next week or so.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Well, welcome home to the newest member of our extended family - Patrone the llama! He is a handsome young man with a brown butt and a blue eye!

Patrone came from the Raley's Rockin R Llama farm. I've met his mom and dad, and they are both beautiful too. Patrone is the first livestock animal I have actually bought because I wanted him, as opposed to the sheep, goats, and Houdini the llama, who were all rescued from a friends pasture to save them from the coyotes, and once they settled in it just seemed like they should stay.

Today Patrone is getting used to Scoops and Houdini, and the sheep and goats, and noisy barking Eskimos - lots to get used to!

He is a young llama, and I'm hoping that he will enjoy going for hikes and seeing new things. He's probably going to get some experience with 4H this year, if one of the new kids in our llama club needs a llama to use. I'd like him to eventually be a pack llama. He has a bit of growing to do yet, but it's a great time for him to start learning.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Turn up the AC

We're having a little heat wave, and poor little Barclay has been feeling hot anyway, which is why he likes sleeping on the cold bathroom floor, snuggled up to the toilet, or lays in the bathtub with a little water in it. I remember Alki going through the same thing when she was a puppy. So today for the first time we had to turn on the AC, and Barclay parked himself over the vent to take a nap! Ah cool air, right on his little tum tum!

Alki gets attention too

Just so you don't think that Barclay is the only one getting attention around here. Alki gets some lap time too! She loves getting her tummy rubbed :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dave and Barclay

Guess who lost his first baby tooth today - hint: it wasn't Dave :)

Garden update

Time for a garden update. Tomorrow is the average last frost date for the area. The plants inside are growing like gangbusters!

I did a little experiment. I took two of the Ultra Early tomatoes and when I planted them in the little peat pots, I put one in a small bucket. The tomatoes in the pots have been in the front window on the south side of the house, while the bucket has been in the kitchen on the west side. I would have expected the one on the west side to not do as well, though I thought the bigger container might make a difference. It made a big difference! Look how big the leaves are on the one in the bucket, and the stalk is three times as thick!

Outside the cold-weather plants have been growing well, despite the occasional nibble from bugs. The peas have gotten a growth spurt in the nice weather, and I set up a little chicken wire fence for them to climb on because they were starting to flop over.

And finally, I built an 8 cubic foot compost box for redworm composting. We'll see how that works. I've never had much luck composting, but I thought if it's small and contained I might be able to keep after it. And if nothing else I can steal a few worms and go fishing!


Finished! There is a gate so I can walk from the yard into the pen. On the other end of the pen there are three gates. When they are all open the animals can walk from the pasture into the pen, and there are two gateways to walk through so no one can play the bully and block out the other animals. But when two of them are closed, they form a stall on the end of the shelter. This is to isolate anyone I might want to deal with alone, or in most cases, to pen the sheep and goats away from the llamas, so they don't steal the llamas food!

Then if I close the other little gate, the llamas are contained in the pen eating, and I can open the gate on the stall and the sheep and goats can go back out in the pasture.

The only design problem is that the wire fencing I bought is too lightweight, and the goats are rubbing on it and breaking the wire. I need to replace it with stronger wire, or build a wood fence the rest of the way around.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Darn near done

We worked all day putting up rafters and putting the metal roof on. It was pretty easy, but it was a stretch even for Dave to reach across and get it screwed down. Everything is done except the stall on the end of the shelter is not completely enclosed yet. We bought 8 ft boards when we needed 10s! So tomorrow one more trip to HD should do the trick.

Still, it was done enough to invite everyone in for dinner.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Catch pen is finished

The shelter and feeding area is entirely enclosed, the idea being it will make a nice catch pen, and the animals will be comfortable going in there. We worked until sunset to finish enclosing it so we could leave our tools out there tonight, and tomorrow we will have everything ready for the final push to finish the roof.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Progress on the shelter

We got the first crossbeams up today. The roof looks flat, but there is a slope to it. It is just an illusion because the land is sloped there as well. We spent a bit of time with levels trying to get the roof up as high as possible, and still have a slope to it for runoff. Unfortunately the land slopes to the left, and away from the camera, so we had to deal with leveling it in two directions, and the posts at the far end are not as tall as I'd like. That's what I get for using the posts we had on hand, instead of buying ones that were as long as we needed. I think it will be ok, and Houdini looks like there's still room for him in there. There's more headroom for llamas at the other end.

We've all been there...

Oh, the regrets after a hard night of partying!

Posts for the llama shelter are in

We've got all the posts set this week, and they've finally dried, now we're ready to start working on the roof.

We also added a tall post with a row of four birdhouses (the crucifix looking post on the right in the picture above) . This is for the purple swallows who flit around over the pasture eating bugs all summer. Last winter the big four-hole birdhouse they lived in blew down and busted, and when they came back in the spring there was no birdhouse, so they moved on! So this spring when they arrived I got right to work and set this up for them. I see they are already checking it out. I hope they move in and stay all summer. They eat lots of bugs!