Puppy Update: 1 year

The “puppies” turned one this week! Here are some of the highlights of their first year:

Both collies participated in a Herding Instinct Test in April and performed very well. While we have not had a chance to get any more formal training, we brought home two new lambs that weren’t keen on going to the barn at night, so we started letting the collies help us get the sheep into the barn. Both dogs were eager to help, and were quick to pick up on what we were asking them to do. Unfortunately, their eagerness means they often over-run the sheep. Both dogs in the pen at the same time seems a recipe for disaster, but even having the not-working dog outside the pen seems to increase the energy level too much for my comfort, so we’re going with one at a time for now.

Kep & Findlay have shown a great interest in “helping” with the chickens as well. They do not seem inclined to harm the birds, but their energy can get out of control and has, on more than one occasion, led to the “rolling” of a hen. I have deliberately asked each dog for help with the chickens from inside the pen one time. For a while few of our birds insisted on “roosting” under the chicken house instead of inside it and since we needed to move the house the following morning, I needed all the birds inside. I was able to get three of the four inside by myself, and Kep helped me catch up the straggler. He was definitely excited but really seemed to be listening to me. On a second occasion, after a chicken refused to cooperate following a chicken-house-move, I took Finn by the collar and walked with him behind her, saying “Easy, easy..” His presence alone was enough to gently encourage the wayward hen to return to the flock.

After losing a few chickens late last summer, presumably to airborne predators, we have not lost another since the boys have been on full-time duty. We did have an accidental chicken death in the fall when one of our younger hens left the pen and ran into the barn. All the dogs chased her and she got squeezed between some old barn boards and the stone wall. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it was our 12-year-old dog, Hickory, who had the last contact with her. After getting Hickory out, I was able to send Finn into the tight space and encouraged him to “get the chicken.” He brought her out just far enough so I could grab her and I asked him to give her to me. He dropped her at my feet. While Kep & Finn are probably too old to be considered for full-time chicken guardian duty, they have done an exceptional job keeping our chickens safe from outside the pen.

The collies have separately or as a team, killed, retrieved, scared off or otherwise annoyed: 5+ moles, 1 groundhog, 1 squirrel, skunks, coyote {twice}, deer, hawks, crows, vultures, bears {suspected}, owls {much to my chagrin} and 1 tom cat. They have proven to be useless against mice, so far. 😦

Kep & Findlay have been wonderful with our dogs and our children. They are still a little too interested in our two outside cats, but don’t bother the indoor cats at all. Finn is the more sensitive one, reacting like his feelings are hurt when I’ve reprimanded him. He also doesn’t like to be touched from behind. He’ll ask for space and hasn’t shown any true aggression, but he really, really doesn’t like to be brushed or have his nails trimmed. In fact, he’ll put his mouth around my hand {or the comb I’m using} to dissuade me from grooming him. Unfortunately, his very, very thick coat tends to get matted and is constantly full of burrs so we’re working on it a little at a time, trying to make it a positive experience for him… Kep, on the other hand, lets me comb his entire body and trim his nails. Finn’s coat is also much thicker than Kep’s, and I do prefer Kep’s easier-to-maintain coat.

Kep is more biddable, probably because he has bonded more closely to me. Findlay is not nearly as willing and in fact can be a bit of a bad influence – he is much harder to recall and tends to run off {a bad habit he learned from our older dog, I am sure}. While I know focused training could help with some things, Finn often looks right at me when he’s disobeying, as though daring me to get angry. He just doesn’t have the instinct to “help” that Kep has. Fortunately, we have a lot of space, so when Finn runs off he’s usually still on the farm, but he does chase the car off the farm {I have to put him in his kennel now when we leave} and has recently started going next door to bark at my neighbor’s penned hunting dogs. Kep chased us for a while – I could tell he wanted to stay put but was persuaded by his brother to disobey – but seems to have grown out of it. Kep almost never misbehaves if Finn is not around.

Findlay is an absolute love when you’re not messing with his fur or feet. He “hugs” and is an incredibly gentle “kisser,” just barely touching you with his nose, and always with a closed mouth {unlike Kep who is an exuberant and toothy kisser}. Finn has never met a stranger, which makes him a great greeter on the farm. In fact, one of our biggest challenges has been keeping him away from our rental cottage – he keeps an eye on the doors and makes a beeline whenever he sees someone step outside. Finn will run up and waggle all over the guests while his brother is barking his head off. It’s a bizarre scene to be sure…

Bottom Line: We have decided to neuter Findlay and leave Kep intact. It was always our plan to choose one of the pups to breed, and I think Kep is a more complete package – at least for what I’m looking for in a farm collie.

Our plan for the next year: 1) Get more sheepherding training and practice and 2) Find a female to start a family with 😉 We’ll definitely have our hands full!

{OvO}

Two pups on one rock

Two pups on one rock

Kep {2 Months} and C

Kep {2 Months} and C

Puppies {2 months } and Hickory

Puppies {2 months } and Hickory

Two Puppies at the Bonfire {3 Months}

Two Puppies at the Bonfire {3 Months}

Finn {4 Months} and O

Finn {4 Months} and O

Kep {7 Months}

Kep {7 Months}

Kep & Findlay {8 Months}

Kep & Findlay {8 Months}

Finally sewing again…

It’s been about a week, but I was so proud of the dress I made for O’s birthday this year, I just had to share it. For her 5th birthday, she wanted a new birthday dress. I don’t know, maybe the last one I made is getting a little small…?

O's Birthday Dress (2yrs)

O’s First Birthday Dress (2 yrs)

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Still going strong 3 years later…

Anyway, I was happy to oblige. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Amanda Blake Soule and her blog, SouleMama. Trust me when I tell you: a craftier, more thoughtful-gift-giving mama you will never find. In need of the perfect crafty gift for my little one, I headed straight over for a bit of inspiration. I was drawn to a pattern very similar to the one I made in 2012: Geranium by Made by Rae. I like that the pattern comes in 18 months all the way to size 12 and has a few variations {sleeve options, gathers or pleats, etc.} which means I can essentially sew the same dress for the next 6 or 7 years! I’d say it was totally worth the price.

I stopped in at The Stitchin’ Post to inquire about where to find the best fabrics for sewing such a dress, and the proprietress, Erin, directed me to The Quiltery in nearby Fairfield, VA. The Quiltery is fully-stocked with so much fabric your jaw will drop. They have a huge selection of Civil War reprints, at least 100 different batiks, plus doo-dads and what-nots enough to sew anything your heart desires. They have sewing clubs and quilting competitions and all kinds of great things happening all the time. After about an hour, I picked out a few options, coming back again and again to the 1930s reprints in the back room, and finally settling on the very first fabric I’d picked up.

You know a dress was meant to be when you get home and, realizing you need four matching buttons, you reach for your grandma’s old jar of {almost completely white and ivory} buttons and find FOUR vintage purple buttons that are a) just the right size and b) exactly the right shade of lavender. Good looking out, Gurn. 🙂

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Now, Amanda has, at least once, made two of these dresses {TWO} in one day {in ONE day}, but it took me two and a half days – I cut everything out during the kids rests on Day One, and sewed it all together on Day Two then re-vistited The Stichin’ Post for a quick tutorial in button-hole-making and sewed on the buttons on Day Three. In my defense – the dress was meant to be a surprise so I could only work on it during kid-free {read: sleeping} time. I was up very, very late the night before O’s big day, but I think it was well worth it. Don’t you?

The birthday girl!

The birthday girl!

PS – waiting a week to post this means I can tell you that she did in fact wear the dress for 4 days straight. ❤

{OvO}

Event Update :: Blue Moon Bonfire

We are really looking forward to our Blue Moon Bonfire on Friday, July 31! With just under 2 weeks to go, we are putting the final touches on the “plan” for the day. If you’re going to be in the area and would like to attend we would love to have you! Call, email, or click here to RSVP.

We are planning to have some live music and will be encouraging audience participation, so be prepared to play and/or sing along! 🙂

We hope you’ll join us for a great time on the farm!

Guests are encouraged to bring:

A dish to share
{dinner, side or dessert}

A comfy chair
{or blanket}

A tent
{if you want to spend the night}

Friends and family

Guitar, Mandolin, Harmonica, Banjo, Ukulele,
Pennywhistle, Spoons, Bones, Saw, Washboard, Voice…

Moonshine
{for a little tasting}

Please do not bring:

Your dog

Cigarettes

Rain!

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Recipe: Zucchini Muffins

‘Tis the season of the Zucchini….. Here’s a great recipe we made this week as a special birthday treat. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! And here’s a quick link to another of our favorite zucchini recipes…in case you’re as covered up as we are.

Don’t forget: If your garden is growing faster than you can eat it, consider donating some items to your local food pantry or community kitchen! I’m taking some zucchini to The Community Table this week!

Zucchini Muffins :: A great birthday breakfast!

Zucchini Muffins :: A great birthday breakfast!

Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients
3 C. grated fresh zucchini
2/3 C. coconut oil
1-1/3 C. coconut sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
3 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl combine the coconut oil, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. {Optional: Add 1 cup of nuts and/or 1 cup of raisins or cranberries for a little umph!}
  3. Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or coconut oil. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough among the cups, filling them completely.
  4. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press them; about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick or bamboo skewer to make sure the centers are done.
  5. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from muffin pan and allow to cool another 20 minutes.

*Note: If you are adding walnuts or dried fruit you are likely to have more batter than what is needed for 12 muffins.

Ladies Homestead Gathering THIS WEEK!

The Rockbridge County Chapter of the National Ladies Homestead Gathering is getting together THIS WEEK at OUR FARM to discuss water bath and pressure canning! The group will be preparing some canned peaches to take home, so if you plan to join us, make sure you bring a 16oz Ball brand canning jar with a NEW lid and a ring. The chapter will provide the peaches, the canners, etc.

Please come whether you have canning experience or not! We’d love to have you!

Thursday, July 16
Meet & Greet at 6:30pm

Discussion and Canning Demo 7pm

Come early for a tour of the farm!

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Red Wing Roots Music Festival 2015

RedWingLogo3The kids and I had an amazing time at Red Wing Roots Music Festival this weekend. It got off to a rather rocky start but improved dramatically once we were finally settled in at our campsite.

The morning of our planned departure I received no fewer than 14 yellow jacket stings. At 6:45 am. It was awful. One of our Old-Time Scotch Collies, Kep, alerted me to something near the sheep/chicken pen, so I put on my boots and went with him to check it out. I never got my eyes on anything when suddenly I felt as though I’d been shocked by the electric netting around the sheep/chickens. It seemed like a plausible explanation because I was standing only a foot or so away in very dewey grass. I concluded that my fence was in perfect working order when, instead of finding relief by walking away, I continued to receive sting after sting. I have no idea where they came from, but they got me and Kep multiple times. Apparently, the only downside of Bogs Boots is that they trap bees. And while farming in a skirt offers great climate control {and is super cute}, the rollover waistband of the particular skirt I was wearing that morning trapped a bee inside which stung me on my hip. Ouch. Oh, and one got caught in my bra. Not awesome. I took some Advil and Zyrtec and felt “better.”

Sweet Kaya Girl

Sweet Kaya Girl

Unfortunately, the day did not improve. We had an appointment for our 13-year-old Golden Retriever, Kaya, for 8:30am for some routine-ish blood work. She had been a little “off” for a day or two, and we thought we’d take a quick peek to see if anything stood out. The veterinarian did a full physical on her, and of course the technician weighed her. The tech said she was 70 lbs. Since I had spent 1-2 hours brushing her just two days before and noticed how bony she was, I was instantly concerned. My girl has had her bouts with….fluffiness…but this was different. Farmer Tripp reminded me to ask for a urinalysis to go along with the bloodwork, and when the doctor returned to the room with the ultrasound machine in-hand, I knew something was wrong. On the screen was a 5-6 centimeter mass on my girl’s spleen. You can’t tell much else from the U/S, so he recommended going to Roanoke for a more in-depth U/S, an aspirate {where they suck up a little bit of the icky tissue to see what kind of mass it is} and radiographs. Our quick morning visit had already stretched to over an hour, but we hopped in the car and headed south. We got to the VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine Roanoke Referral Clinic around 11 am and dropped her off for an hour or so. The doctor there was in constant communication with me and with Farmer Tripp {a veterinarian as well}, and before we finished lunch our worst fears were confirmed. Kaya had cancer in her spleen, her liver, and her lungs. Suffice it to say the prognosis for a 13-yo Golden Retriever with cancer in three organs is nil. We left hoping we would have “days to weeks” with our girl. I was in shock. I was terrified. I was heartbroken. And, to make things 10 times more awkward, I had 2 full-weekend passes and a 3-day camping pass to the Red Wing Roots Music Festival. Not going meant giving up over $300 in ticket costs, not to mention letting the kids down. I thought about just staying home, but knowing we’d only be about an hour away, Farmer Tripp encouraged me to take the kids, and said he’d let me know if anything changed.

So we went. We came home and packed the truck and headed out. We were, of course, about 5 hours later than I’d hoped to be, but I figured it would be easier to get there in the dark than get the kids motivated early enough in the morning to get there before the music started at 1pm. Turns out I was right, but still….

The directions on the festival’s website were incorrect, so I lost about 30 minutes backtracking around the beautiful countryside before arriving at the gate at 9:00pm. The lovely gate attendant told me that they had stopped checking people in at 8pm. I told her I figured there would be a cutoff but since I found nothing about a cutoff on the website, had forged ahead anyway. She apologized for the “confusion” and said we could camp in the parking lot. Um, sorry, hun, but I have my two kids in this truck and we’re going to camp in the spot we paid for. “Let me see what I can do…” Fortunately, the powers that be finally decided to shine a little light down on us and we were granted entry to the park.

Setting up went about as well as setting up a tent in the pitch black with no one to help you can be, but I managed. We finally got in bed around 11pm.

We woke up bright and early and after breakfast and a few campground neighborhood introductions, made our way to the festival. For the next 3 days we enjoyed music and food and made lots of friends – even some from our hometown. The festival takes place at Natural Chimneys Park in Mt. Solon, Virginia, and aside from the amazing beauty of said natural chimneys, there’s a bold, beautiful river running through the campground that the kids {and I} got to enjoy. It was crazy, crazy hot and humid the entire time, and it rained a lot, especially overnight Friday. I didn’t think I’d mind the rain, but since I broke the tent while setting up Thursday {d’oh!}, there was a big section of not-quite-taut tent wall that collected rainwater and the floor {and sleeping bags, and pillows, and clothes} inside were soaked in the morning. I was surprised to find I was okay with that – after hanging my sleeping bag to dry under our EZ-Up shade – and kept rolling. The kids complained of the heat, and complained of being bored. In fact, I thought I would have to send them home Saturday. They wished for more toys/activities/games/whatever. Thankfully, they made some friends and ended up having a blast. They even cried when it was time to come home Sunday evening {in the rain, of course}.

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Our first show of the weekend…Mandolin Orange ❤

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The best way to beat the heat at Red Wing

Two kids having a sweet drink on a hot day. <3

Two kids having a sweet drink on a hot day. ❤

Some kind of super hero...

Some kind of super hero…

My little fashionista...

My little fashionista…

Hula Girl

Hula Girl

ENO Hammocks saved our weekend....

ENO Hammocks saved our weekend….

Momma, O, Sara, Sarah, Aoife

Momma, O, Sara, Aoife, Sarah

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“You mean I can keep it??” 🙂

My favorite performances: Mandolin Orange, Sara, Sarah & Aiofe, Punch Brothers, and The Wood Brothers.

We met folks who drove from Wisconsin {17+ hours}, Canada {14+ hours}, and Chattanooga, TN {7+ hours} for the weekend. And we met folks who lived in the town of Mt. Solon and got to go home every night to a clean bed and a shower…

Having been to only one other music festival previously, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Red Wing. There were some things that definitely bugged me {bad directions, camping in a farmer’s corn field full of thistle and poison ivy, super-tight performance schedule, no musician’s workshops} and some things I really appreciated {lots and lots of families, amazing line-up, fantastic food vendors}. I heard the “premium” camping sold out in 10 minutes, so I’ll definitely try to get a site next year, but will probably settle for Z-Lot again, and see how the 2nd time goes. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for a pickup truck camper, travel trailer, pop-up or camper van so we can stay a little drier…maybe.

{OvO}