Friday, December 9, 2011


I am sitting here on my first day of being 37, thinking about where my life is and comparing that to my dreams and expectations from 20 years ago. I can't believe that I can refer to "20 years ago." At 17 I was still in the midst of teen angst and boyfriends and insecurity and driving and trying to stand out. I did not know what my future held, nor did I really have any goals. I just knew that it was expected that I go to college. So I did. But at that age, no one really knows what they want to do for the rest of their lives and I ended up with a degree in theater. Once I graduated, that was pretty much the end of my theater career. I still did not know what to do with my life so I got a job in a Dr's office. From then on out,  I made smart career choices, which finally led me to the job I have now at a fantastic company. I could never have predicted that I would not work in theater but would instead be an administrative assistant/office manager. It is not the most challenging job in the world and I feel like I am overpaid, but the people I work with appreciate me and I do not dread each day.

20 years ago I did not know that I would pass through a marriage and come out the side relatively unscarred (I attribute that to my ability to dodge bullets), have one child and the most amazing birth experience possible, find my soul mate (something I always thought was a myth), buy a house (all by myself ) with acreage to realize my dream of a mini-farm and be utterly content.

I could have made different choices and ended up somewhere completely different. Or I could have made different choices and still ended up here. Life really is a choose your own adventure. As much as I fear nearing the end of my 30's which has been the best decade of my life, I see that the possibilities are endless. There are so many things that I still have time to do. Out of the last 20 years, I spent over a decade not living the life that I wanted to. I had adventures and experiences, yes, but they were not of my choosing. Now I can live MY life, with a partner who stands beside me and is so much my equal that I never doubt that he has the same wants/desires/goals that I do.

Instead of seeing my life as a glass half full, I am going to see it as a glass half empty and I plan to fill it to the brim!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

So much to do, so little light

Wow, has it really been over a month since we last posted? There is just so much to do and the light is fading so fast. I get home from work and if I'm lucky have a couple hours of daylight to pack outdoor chores into.

The last month has seen the yard transform from a jumble of clutter to a tidy yard. We brought all the plants over from the old place, which entailed LOTS of digging. P spent most of his week long vacation digging up plants. Most of them are now in the ground, except for berries (which we need to find a space for) and dahlias (which need to overwinter in the barn) and a few odds and ends.

We got our heat pump fixed, so we finally have heat. No longer do we need to wear coats in the house.

We got two new kittens. There are plenty of mice for them to catch, but they seem to be happy to be house cats. They go outside for a while but are very happy to be inside, which is more than I can say for the other two cats who whine and complain if they don't get to go outside whenever they want.

Still waiting for the goats to go into heat. I'm starting to wonder if they are planning on taking a year off. If they do I will NOT be pleased and may have to buy MORE goats so I have milk in the spring. I'll cross that bridge if I come to it.

Things are starting to slow down for winter, something I am really looking forward to.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why do we do this?

That is the burning question. It isn't easy. In fact it is HARD WORK! Up at 6:30, feed kids, feed animals, milk goats, off to work, slog through traffic there and back, feed kids again, do laundry, feed animals, milk goats, collect eggs, pasteurize milk, wash eggs, make bread, collapse in to bed at 10:30 which is way past bedtime.

So I it worth it? It certainly doesn't make life any easier and it definitely isn't saving us any money.  But the thought of giving it up is out of the question. Having fresh goat milk = fresh feta, yogurt, chevre. Fresh eggs = lots of yummy breakfasts and no last minute trips to the store because I forgot eggs for the cake I am baking. Dog = joy for the kids (when she's not chewing up her toys). Cats = something to cuddle with when P is working late (I can forget the occasional puke on the floor). Kids = life and energy and imagination and fun (when they aren't whining or fighting). 

We have to make sacrifices. No cable TV - mainly because we don't have time and don't want the expense, but also because it is too easy to get sucked in to hours on the couch being unproductive. Hardly any time for reading. No spontaneous trips. Have to arrange our evening outings around the milking schedule.

I think it is especially hard right now because we are still in the aftermath of moving. And since we are working opposing schedules we are on our own for organizing and repairing. It is always so much easier doing those things with help and at the very least, company.

In the end though, it is worth it. We get to be more self sufficient than most people. And we get the sense of accomplishment that goes along with making and raising our own food. Hopefully we are healthier by eating off our land as much as possible and avoiding processed foods. And the kids have amazing imaginations because they use their minds instead of sitting in front of the tv eating after school.

Though sometimes at the end of the day when I collapse in to bed sore and tired I question why. The answer always is the same - because it's the way I want to live my life. So I drift off to sleep planning out the new garden in my head....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cows, take 2

There is nothing quite as hilarious as waking up at 2:30am by the sound of a cow mooing right outside the bedroom window. Add the thundering and thudding of hooves and the snorting sounds and you have the perfect recipe for a fit of giggles. I looked out the window and the entire yard was dotted with cows. They were just hanging out - scratching on a tree, laying down chewing cud, mooing. All the usual cow things, but in our FRONT YARD! Another break in the fence, but this time in the other pasture. In the morning the kids were wowed that the cows were right there. And my 7 year old son took off immediately after breakfast with the dog and started herding them back to their field. Amazing to me that such a large beast can be herded by a 7 year old and a 7 month old puppy!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


When buying a house there are always things that need to be fixed.

That's especially true when buying a house that has been foreclosed on. For instance, if you buy a house that was foreclosed, odds are that the power was turned off at some point. When winter comes there will be water in the pipes and that water will freeze causing many leaks.

That's exactly what happened in our mother-in-law. Every pipe had a leak or split. Some had pushed the pipes apart where they had been sweated together. Just in case you don't know, sweating is the term for putting pipes and pop fittings together when using solder. It is by far the cheapest way to go. If you haven't ever done it you should try. There are a ton of videos on YouTube that explain it very well.

Another obstacle is electrical. Things like to be used. My uncle was a mechanic and he always told me that an unused car breaks down faster than a car that is driven every day. The same applies to electrical. The fan that is in the main bathroom stops working randomly and then starts again later. I've seen this happen before when there is corrosion on the contacts. It wasn't used and that spot on the motor has a speck of rust. When the fan just happens to slow down and stop on that spot electricity cannot pass. Luckily a house has wind from doors closing and such to blow the fan a little and get it off of that spot. With time it may stop as the corrosion is worn down. Right now there are bigger problems.

The last unseen hurdle I'll go into today is the barn. The whole thing was not used for a long time and then the bank used drywall screws to close all the doors instead of buying padlocks. One door opens correctly. There are a lot of doors. Both animal exit doors needed the latches to be rehung. One needed to be rehung altogether. Most of the rest need a latch a hinge secured or something similar.

There is a lot to be done still. Next on my list is to find the water turn on for the mobile on the property, fix the fence around the west field, and clear away all the wood and other outside stuff that is piled everywhere there is room outside. Oh! I almost forgot that before all that I need to put in the new insulation, new drywall, and tape/putty the mother-in-law bathroom. If you need me you know where I'll be.

And if you're reading this
Please send help!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cow eyes and muskrat love

I was busily hanging a potted plant on the patio when I felt as if I was being watched. I turned around, and much to my surprise, there was a cow watching me over the fence. That, by itself, is nothing new. However the location was not the usual. The cow was in MY field. My first thought was "I know we've been talking about getting a calf to raise for meat, but did P go get us a full grown cow from somewhere?" Then I realized that was silly and there must be a hole in the fence, which would mean it was the neighbor's cow. There went my dream of barebqued steak dinners.

So I set out to find the hole in the fence. It was an 80 degree day (rare to be so warm this summer) and I had to don socks, boots and long pants to go bush-whacking. Off I go, the goats following me in curiosity. Or maybe they were scared of the cow and thought I would protect them. The cow really wanted nothing to do with me or the goats so it walked away from me, in what I hoped was the direction of the hole. Next thing I knew, the cow was on the other side of the fence with all her cow friends. I knew the hole had to be close by, and yes, there it was. Someone had cut the wire fence and the barbed wire a long time ago and the cow had just figured it out. Well, it would have to wait until P got home to help.

In the couple of hours between the discovery of the hole and P arriving home, the cow had brought 5 of her closest friends over and there were 6 cows in my field lounging around the chicken coop. The goats were not thrilled and neither were the chickens. My son asked me "why doesn't the rooster attack the cow?" Well the cow is an awful lot bigger than the rooster and he knows better than to mess with her. The cows went home, the fence got fixed and all was quiet....until I walked in the house.

The stench was horrible. Like a cross between fish fertilizer and dead carcass. I'd smelled that before. "Opal!" I called. Dog came running happily from the living room. Stench got stronger. "You smell like death! Get out of the house!" I kicked her out and went to tell P the dog had gotten into something again. He tells me to walk to the ditch and see if it smells like that. I do and run away as quickly as I can saying "That's the smell!" He informs me that is muskrat. Muskrat? We have those here? I've never even seen a muskrat. Now I understand the name. Apparently any place they hang out smells like death.  But how did the dog get into it since it was outside the fence? So we went inside and watched. Sure enough, she comes trotting out a few minutes later. Once we saw which direction she came from it was easy to find the hole. A huge gaping one. It would need to be repaired but we opted to deal with that the next day since it was dusk, kids needed to be put to bed and dog needed a bath.

Dog was NOT happy to have a cold bath in the hose in the dark. I was not happy to be administering said bath. Muskrat stench doesn't just wash out, you know. It takes several shampooings. So a quarter of a bottle of my favorite shampoo later (dog shampoo isn't strong enough for some reason) the stench became faint enough that I was willing to let her in the house. She shook, as dogs do, and then headed for the open door. "Nooooooo!" I cried, knowing that dogs shake more than once after a bath. And sure enough, she went straight to the kitchen and shook, spraying water all over the kitchen floor and counters. At least it only smelled faintly of muskrat.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Moving pains

After what seemed like an interminable wait, we are finally moving into the new house. Got the keys just over a week ago but P and I have completely different work schedules so are pretty much moving things on our own. A great example....I woke up to the chickens scratching around in the pasture. When I went to sleep, they were still at the old place. So in the dead of night after work P managed to load the coop (with the chickens still inside) on the trailer and drive the 5 miles to the new house.  Then, in the dark early morning hours he unloaded it and got it ready for morning. Apparently the hens came out of the coop first and were happily scratching. The rooster came out and did a double take, realizing that this was a far cry from the small dirt enclosure they had been living in, and quickly herded all the hens back to the coop. I wish I'd been there to see it, but after only getting 5 hours of sleep for the 3 previous nights it is probably best that I didn't.

P also handled getting the goats to the new place on his own, while handling three children at the same time. The goats finally have a real barn. They are a little confused and still trying to get into a routine. But they seem happy to have lots of pasture to be ranging in. And I sure love having a huge barn to do the milking in!

Homeownership comes with a lot of work. So far P has been chasing down a leak in the Mother-In-Law apartment. Going to require lots of new pipe and drywall. He figured out why there was no water pressure in the kitchen sink - not a leaky pipe as the inspector thought, but merely a bad part in the faucet. So a call to the manufacturer showed that it has a lifetime warranty so for the price of shipping we got the new part and, once again, while I was sleeping last night P fixed it.

Do you get the idea that P is doing a ton of work? Makes me feel slightly inadequate as I have had work functions several nights this week and haven't had the chance to do as much as I'd like. I did put up blinds in one room. And put together the beds. And put stuff away in the house. So I guess we are just doing different tasks. He has way more knowledge of electrical and plumbing than I do, plus the brawn to manhandle chicken coops. I, on the other hand, am a great organizer. It drives me crazy to  have a house in complete dissarray so I am working towards emptying boxes.

Overall, things have gone smoothly. P and I haven't been at each others throats (though that could just be because we haven't actually seen each other much). Last night I packed up some stuff from the freezer that we could have for dinner. Independently of me, P did the same thing. And chose the same things that I did. No wonder we aren't at each other't throats. It would be like fighting with oneself!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crossed peas

The peas are growing like crazy. Beautiful pea pods are dangling from them, tantalizing us with their potential goodness. Grab a snow pea (which I didn't think I'd planted), take a bite and.....YUCK! The snow peas must have crossed with the shell peas. The result is something that looks like a snow pea with all the flavor of a shell pea pod. And anyone who has inadvertently eaten a shell pea pod knows they have no flavor and are quite stringy. Even the peas inside the snow pea pods are flavorless. Guess I'll be pulling them out and feeding them to the goats, who seem to love them by the way. At least the sugar snap peas seem to have retained their flavor.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A break from the Bummer Summer

We took a couple days and went to Orcas Island. Generally the sun shines through the trees and glistens off of the water in July. This year, the year of the Bummer Summer, is an exception to the rule. The clouds were spitting at us off and on, limiting our activities to things like tourist shopping and exploring the island via car. We came home late Sunday night and, of course on Monday morning, we awoke to sun.

Oh sun, how we've missed you and appreciate your return, no matter how brief. The rain made all of the weeds grow like crazy over the last week, so the return of the sun allowed me to get a handle on the worst of them. The peas, which are not weeds unless you don't like to eat peas, are growing like weeds and are now around 7 feet tall. I have never seen peas so tall.  And finally, mid-July, I am harvesting my first peas. They are at least 6 weeks behind.

As the sun shone down on me, I marveled at how quickly the brassicas are growing. Won't be long before I see broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, even if the sun only appears occasionally. The mystery squash are taking over large areas in the garden. Turns out that if you toss your squash and pumpkin seeds in the compost and it doesn't get up to the right temp during the decomposition process, you end up with viable seeds that will end up in the garden when you spread the compost. There is a pretty fierce competition going between them and the beans - they are both growing up the trellis just as fast as they can. Squash look amazing when grown on a trellis. I don't know why more people don't grow them that way.

The sun dried out all the grass and we finally got to mow.  We tag teamed it. I did half the lawn and P did the other half. But he also mowed around the roses which were being buried alive by grass and weeds. It was hours of work. But looks so good now and the roses can breathe! We have been putting the grass clippings around the tomatoes in the garden for weed suppression. It is working beautifully and I even lined part of the garden with it to keep weeds from snaking their way in.

We ended our day by roasting hot dogs over a fire with the kids. Then they put on a talent show for us on the swingset. And then we had root beer floats for dessert. The kids get to sleep in the tent since the weather is finally nice. P and I get to curl up in bed and watch a movie. What a great break from the Bummer Summer. I wish for more, but if there is none on the horizon, at least we made great use of a beautiful day.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bees and Beer

   There aren't many things I like more than beer, or fear more than bees. SO I ask myself why those two things rise to the top as my hobbies. Well, truthfully beer gets you drunk - legally! Especially if I brew it at home and drink it at home. The beauty is that I'm not going to go to jail for drunk driving or have the feds come down on me like it's a grow operation. As for bees, it is more a fear thing. While I often am literally paralyzed by my own fears, I also often face them head-on. When I was a child I was attacked by 'bees' and found out I am allergic to them. It's an irrational fear, much like my fear of dogs, so it is up to me to break it. The thrill of having them crawl on my bare skin without being harmed in any way is somewhere between skydiving and a religious experience.
   So last week it was time to brew beer. I was running low again. In a future post I'll outline the basics if anyone would like, but for now just know that if you are able to can jam you can brew a wicked beer. Anyway, I was brewing beer from an all grain recipe and there are a few points where you have to wait for a while as water is heating and such, so I decided to check on the bees. Great news! The colony that was trying to swarm incessantly has calmed down. The measures I took seem to have worked. For those Beeks out there I cut cells and added another deep, Checkerboarded, and finally removed the swarm cells into a nuc and made a false swarm. They fell for it. Phew! So now I have two colonies. If you would have asked me if I would have bees right after my first disastrous try I'm sure that I would have looked at you like you had blue hair.
   When I got the hives back together it was time to check on the beer. Yup, it was up to temp. Now was time for the sparge. As simple as rinsing sounds, it is always the hardest part for me. This day was the exception. Not only did I hit the expected efficiency, but I hit it dead on. That was a first! There are few joys in life as great as when you strive to learn something and after much effort you finally taste success.
   All that I wish for anyone is to know that feeling... How sweet it is. Like your own honey.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Suprising twist in the house hunt

I had given up on the house I offered on. Practially forgotten about it, even. Two days can do wonders at changing one's attitude. Ended up having a fantastic July 4 weekend. Sun was finally shining down on Western WA, elevating everyone's spirits. So you can imagine my suprise when I rolled out of bed at 9:30 on Tuesday morning (sun, fireworks and beer for the grownups make for late mornings) to find an email AND a voicemail from my real estate agent saying that the seller (aka Fannie Mae) countered MY offer, even though mine was 2nd. Turns out the agent was right, my large down payment made for a strong offer. Only catch was that I had to match the highest offer. It was a little high for my liking, but still within range. So after taking a few hours and discussing it with P, I decided to go for it!

At this point the inspection has been completed and it needs a new roof (no surprise there) and there are a few minor problems but nothing that can't be fixed or that are deal breakers. We are going to try and get the bank to pony up for a new roof since I am paying quite a bit over the list price. Next up, getting the financing in order - I won't bore you with the details of that.

It seems that I am actually buying a house! 3 years ago when I was contemplating a divorce and the time since that I have been a "single" parent (on paper at least) have been so full of change for me. I never thought that 3 years post divorce I would be in such a good place in my life. Even if something were to happen and this house fell through (again) I will still be greatful that I have come this far all on my own. And having the support of a GOOD man who supports me in every way makes a huge difference.

P is looking at maps and planning and plotting where to put things. It is hard not to catch his enthusiasm but I don't want to be completely crushed if it falls through. But I might as well join him in obsessing and planning, since that is the way I usually roll anyhow! I'm still hesistant to start boxing things up, although he has brought home some fantastic boxes from work.

Starting to get excited butterflies in my tummy!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

A glass half empty kind of day

Got an email from my real estate agent yesterday saying that a THIRD offer was submitted on the house I wanted. And that one of the offers was higher than mine. That was the last house out there that met my minimum criteria....3 bedrooms (although that is negotiable depending on the price of the property), animal property, in the right location. So now I wait until something else gets listed that is within my range and meets my criteria. Right now I just feel like giving up - that as much as I want to do this on my own, I am just too limited by my price range. I think "If only I made more money."  But I am not trying to live above my means in any way. And I don't NEED more money. I have everything I need. I can pay my rent, food, utilities, car payment and still have money left over. I am NOT a spender. But it just kills me that I have a hefty down payment and can't even use it. I am really about to just give up on my dream. But then again, in a day or so I will probably be feeling better - P says that blowing things up on the 4th will help, and he might be right. Right now though, I feel like Eeyore.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Roller coaster ride of home buying

I wasn't planning on blogging about this, but I need an outlet.

All by my lonesome, I was approved for a home loan. So I am trying to purchase a property that fits in with our lifestyle. Needs to have at least 3 bedrooms because of the kids. Must have the right kind of acreage for animals. Pretty much everything else is negotiable.

Not many houses in my price range in the area we want to live.

Went out with the real estate agent, whose driving was TERRIFYING. I think I was more anxious about that than dropping a large sum of money on a house. Even with her earpiece in she was swerving all over the road and missing turns. We vowed to do the driving next time.

On that first trip, we saw two houses that were stick built and a few manufactured homes. The bank will not fund manufactured homes so those were out. Out of the two stick built homes, one was scary. The carpet had been removed, exposing the animal urine stains on the plywood below. And there were at least 10 air fresheners around the house trying to cover the stench. It was slightly out of my price range and required too much work, including gutting the kitchen. The other house needed quite a bit of work but was on a BEAUTIFUL five acres. I decided to make an offer. I went in a little less than the asking price and asked the seller to pay for half of the repairs. Gave him two dayes to respond. At the end of day two, the sellers agent was not feeling confident but asked for another day for the seller to do a walk through with the contractor. Realizing that was probably a lost cause, I checked to see if there were any other properties listed that might be worth another look.

Found two. One was on a funny shaped 2.6 acres and I had not put it on my list because of the shape and it's vicinity to a major highway. We don't want to live somewhere that is noisy. Plus it has a large swath of land behind it that is a proposed highway that was bought in the 70's and nothing has happened since. But when we looked at it the house was really nice, no real work needed and it had a lovely red barn plus the price had dropped 10k just that afternoon. Oh, and it had a mother-in-law unit which could be used to help offset the mortgage! The 2nd house was on 1.43 acres and backed to a river. Had a lot of charm since it was built in 1903. The property was pretty well parked out with large trees, a grass field out back and several fruit trees. Needed some cosmetic work but was livable. However it had only one bathroom which is a major negative, especially since out of the 5 of us, 3 are girls and all of us vying for one bathroom when they become teens would NOT be good. I should have LOVED it. But it didn't capture me the way that the house on 2.6 acres did. After sleeping on it, I told my agent to put in an offer on the first one and make it pending a neighborhood review, so that I had time to do research about the proposed highway.

I spend hours on the phone and internet that day trying to figure out if there was any plan to do something with the proposed highway. Pretty much all anyone could say was that it might happen someday but there is no funding and it would be the 3rd phase of a 3 phase project which hasn't even had the first phase planned. And it would have to compete with other state projects for funding. I felt much better about possibly living there if there were no plans to develop it in the next 10-20 years.

I seem to have a pretty good sense of what will sell at what price. When I saw the place and the price, I knew it would go fast. And I was right. When I put in my offer there was already one. The seller's agent said that the seller was probably going to counter, which meant we still had time. So I signed an offer for the 2nd time in a week. This morning my agent called and said that the seller was asking for a multiple offer form. Basically they want me to up my offer, keep it the same or withdraw. So after much hemming and hawing I decided to up my offer by 3k. Now I wait....

The worst thing about this roller coaster is that today is the Friday before a 3 day weekend. Which means if the other buyer doesn't submit their paperwork in a timely manner and the seller doesn't respond quickly, I am looking at not knowing until next week.  That is 4 days of anxiously waiting and trying not to get my hopes up. However if I don't get this house, there will be another one, but that's not to say I won't be disappointed and maybe shed a few tears. Someday I WILL realized my dream of having a mini-farm. Maybe not now, but it will happen.


Monday, June 27, 2011

A bad day to be a chick

This weekend was not so good for chicks around our place. The 4 banty chicks that I got from the feed store that died a couple weeks ago....well they obviously passed something on to my welsummer chicks. Out of 7 chicks there are only 3 left. Luckily one of them is a hen. But there's nothing quite as sad as finding dead chicks every time you go out to the coop. And there really is nothing I can do. To top it off, one of the turkey poults flew out of the brooder and got caught in a rat trap and broke it's leg. So I had to put it out of it's misery. Not a fun job. I just hope the sick chicks didn't pass their illness on to the laying hens. They pretty much stayed away from each other so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Life with livestock definitely has a dark side.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Early mornings....

The one drawback to working full time and owning animals, is that there are chores to do in the morning. So instead of stumbling out of bed, hopping in the shower and running off to work in the space of 45 minutes, one needs to build in time to do chores. And on days when we both have to be to work early, that means getting up earlier than we'd like.

Case in point: This morning, I had to be to work by 7:15. That means leaving the house by 6:30 to drop the kids at the grandparents so they can catch the school bus there instead of at our house. So if I need an hour to get myself ready and 30 minutes to get the goats milked, I need to get up at 5:00. But that just seems too early. So I set my alarm for 5:30. Not quite enough time. I got the goats milked and I think I let the chickens out but am not 100% positive on that one. P got the kids breakfast in between the two of us battling for space in our tiny bathroom trying to get ready. Seriously, the bathroom is so small that a tall man could hit his knees on the vanity while sitting on the toilet. I plugged my hair dryer in the bathroom but had to stand outside it while drying my hair so P could get in to shave, brush teeth, etc. P took the puppy out to potty and when she came in she decided she couldn't resist tormenting the cats. So I had to blockade the bathroom which now has the cat box in it so that the puppy couldn't get in to eat the cat poop and the cats could use it without her tormenting them. So there went my time to eat breakfast. Lucky for me I had a ton of catering arriving at work. But it was a challenge getting it all set up on an empty stomach!

Sometimes I wonder why we put ourselves through this. It would be so much easier to buy veggies, milk, eggs and cheese at the store and purchase processed/packaged foods. But then I remember all the nasty things in processed foods and think about the quality of life of the animals that we are getting dairy and eggs from. Yes it's more work,  we have to get up at the butt crack of dawn to do chores and we are up late doing the same thing. Not a lot of leisure time. But it's totally worth it knowing where our dairy, eggs and veggies are coming from. I wish I could do more but I'd have to not work full time. And in order to support the animals and pay rent, I have to work full time. So early mornings it is.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicken addicts anonymous

Anyone who has ever had chickens probably learned quickly that chickens are addictive. Or maybe we are just sick and have a chicken addiction. We started out with 2 hens and a rooster. We now have 12 hens, one rooster, 7 pullets, one banty rooster, 7 welsummer chicks in the brooder in the garage (looks like 5 of them are roosters so will be chicken soup or coq au vin) and 4 new banty chicks.

Here's the story....
October of 2009: Move into house on acreage. Decide to get chickens. Buy 2 hens and a rooster.
November of 2009: Get some hens from a person on freecycle who lives just down the road. Then P goes a little crazy and orders eggs on ebay. We only ended up with 4 or so hens and 5 roosters out of 48 eggs. Lesson learned - hatching eggs in November doesn't work out so well
December of 2009: I receive a dozen welsummer eggs as a christmas present. Hatch out a few hens and one rooster.
March 2010: Purchase chicks from the feed store because we were being practical and wanted more green egg layers. Only ended up with TWO of the five hens laying green eggs. Planned to sell the others but haven't.
Summer 2010: Welsummer hen goes broody. She only manages to hatch out one chick. Neighbors dog breaks into her pen and kills her. Chick survived. Though I think it ended up dying later for some unkown reason when it was almost full grown.

Ok now I'm losing track. We managed to go 6 months or so without any new chickens.

The many roosters were ready for the chopping block in the spring of 2010. So we got grandma to come down and help us with the butchering. P chopped off the heads and grandma grabbed on and tossed it into the pot of boiling water. Grabbed it out with her bare hands and started pulling off the feathers, giving us tips on how to go about it. Next she grabbed a knife and started in on the chicken. Showed us how to best cut into it and avoid the intestinal tract. And did you know you have to reach WAY up inside to get the lungs out? I would NEVER have found them if she hadn't told me where to look. Turns out butchering a chicken isn't all that hard. And amazingly, the kids were excited to be eating our chicken. Not at all sad that the chicks they'd played with were now dinner.

So back to the I said, we managed to go about 6 months without any new chickens. But then spring of 2011 came. First thing that made us fall off the wagon was going to the feed store. It's easy enough to resist the standard chicks. Americaunas, barred rocks, buff orpingtons, we have them. But we made the  mistake of going to Monroe Farm and Feed. I know there are a lot of people who boycott hatchery chicks. And I totally understand why. But honestly, you have to start somewhere, and it isn't always easy to find someone locally who is breeding the chicks you want. So we walk in and they have at least 30 different breeds of chicks - this is the place to go for poultry of any kind! They have chicks, ducklings, turkeys, guineas, pheasants, etc. Some they do hatch themselves, but most are hatchery chicks. But the variety is not equaled anywhere in the county. Trying to be practical, we get two Jersey Giants (the one that we have is SUPER nice), one Delaware, one Brown Leghorn, one Australorp, two Black Copper Marans. The non-practical purchase were two Silver Seabright banty's.

Second time off the wagon....We kept the one Welsummer rooster that hatched in Dec 2009. He was now full grown. And mean. He chased the kids around the yard, treed at least one of them, drew blood from me. After fighting him with the metal lid of the trash can that contains the chicken food, I'd had it. A few direct hits from that lid barely slowed him down. Then he started fighting with our good rooster. The bastard managed to take out the good rooster's eye and now we have a one-eyed cock. So we quarantined him. that he was quarantined, I could put a couple Welsummer hens in with him and breed them to get MORE Welsummer hens. Because 12 hens is not enough. So in they went. Had to wait 10 days before collecting eggs for the incubator because the one-eyed cock obviously had his way with the ladies. Have to make the hens monogamous for a while or you end up with mutts. So 21 days after the first eggs go in the incubator, we end up with MORE chicks. This time it looks like 2 hens and 5 roosters. If any of them turn out nice they will get to stay and replace the mean rooster who went to a new home. Otherwise, DINNER!

So our March 2011 chicks are now big enough to go in with the big hens. and the welsummer chicks are getting close to the right size.

Off the wagon a third time....Now, you may remember that we got a puppy. Our chicken coop is very secure. She cannot get to them even though she really wants to. However we let the chickens out to free range sometimes. This is where things go wrong. I wasn't home at the time but apparently someone let her out and she took out the Silver Seabright banty hen. This was P's favorite. And I admit, she was awfully cute. So to console P, I took a trip back to Monroe Farm and Feed. They were all out of Silver Seabrights. I could have come home with ONE new banty chick. But there was no way to know the sex. So I had to get two. And since I couldn't decide which kind to get, I got two each of two different breeds. Well, the Golden Seabrights are doing great. No bigger than a ping pong ball. The Mille Fleur d'Uccles (cute little spotted things with feathers on their feet) didn't fare so well. One died on the 2nd day after purchase and the other on the 3rd. So I called the feed store and asked if they'd been having any problems with them. And sure enough, they'd had sick and dying ones. They said they would replace them. So I sent P out to get a couple replacements. He chose two white silkie bantys. And added two turkey poults. Officially, the chicken addiction has become a poultry addiction since he crossed the line and got turkeys. Can't wait for Thanksgiving!!!!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Work = Entertainment

Living where we do it's easy to forget that there is an area less than 10 minutes away that is opposite in every way possible. And I work there.
The area where I work is a high poverty area. It is a high drug area. It is a high prostitution area. I work in retail grocery so it's all around.
One way that you can tell if a person is going to be a problem is to look at how many layers of clothing they are wearing on a warm day. If they are sporting a knit hat, scarf, three coats, many layers of pants and have a beard just to top things off, then it's best not to start a conversation with them. But that's my job. They come up to me, I say something, and they have their 'in'. Poor souls are just plain attention starved.
The best of the lot are the ones that come up behind you and say something totally normal. You never see it coming. Tonight was a great example. A guy approached me wearing a puffy jacket and one of the circular scarves that skiers wear, on a day that was 70 degrees. Out of nowhere he says
'There are two kinds of great apes that are bigger than gorillas.'
Sure. Sounds reasonable. What do I know?
'One is only a meat eater. It eats only meat.'
Ok... Any poop in that diet? I'm thinking, and he is thinking he had me now so he lays it all out.
'The second largest, the one just bigger than a gorilla is nicknamed a Bigfoot.'
'Wow' I say, 'Is it named after the Bigfoot people see around here sometimes?'
Totally ignoring me he says 'It eats anything that looks good. It eats plants and meat'
I act like I saw something and start walking away. He follows.
'The bigger great ape, and the most dangerous only eats meat. It will eat any meat it sees. That's why people don't say they saw one ever. It's called an Abominable.'
'Like the snowman!?!' I say as I look for another living person to save me or maybe to pawn him off on. But crap - no one in sight.
'Abominables are really big. They eat you. They are the most rare. I saw it last night on tv. It was on a show on Sci-Fi. They said they are just hard to find, but then they eat you.'
Just then his caretaker finds him.
Yay! I'm free. Just in time to get called to check and listen to a lady that looked older than my 80 year old grandma tell everyone that she just turned 50 and to celebrate she is going home take some of her invalid boyfriend's medicine and then tomorrow she's going to quit heroin! Good for her. Now, the customers behind her thought that was more than they needed to know. It was obvious in their faces. Especially the 10 year old. Guess the parents will think twice about bringing a child out after dark in this area.


Thursday, June 9, 2011


   A short title doesn't always mean that there is little to say. This is my first year as a beekeeper so it's almost like I can't be called a beekeeper yet, but the fact remains that I have bees, and I take care of them, so I must be a beekeeper.
   My first foray into beekeeping ended in disaster. I should have seen it coming. There are some things that a person should just avoid. Beekeeping is one of those things for me. I am allergic to bees. Before I had bees it had been years since I had been stung, and who knows how long since I was stung by a honey bee. Add to that my propensity to kill anything living. Somehow my kids are still alive, but they are the first thing in my care to live and apparently thrive.
   So this year in a moment of what another person would call craziness, I purchased a package of bees. Yes, you can buy a 3 pound package of bees. You can have it shipped to a person - imagine their surprise to open a box to find 3 pounds of bees staring back at them. I had stopped by a local beekeeping supply store to buy the essential gloves and veil because a few days before I had asked a friend that is a professional beekeeper to show me how to handle bees. It just so happened that that was the day that the store received their shipment of bee packages, and they had a few extra. I quickly phoned my friend and asked if I could borrow some old equipment from him until I could assemble my own. He said yes. Skip to present and those bees are gone - maybe I'll elaborate on that some other time, but suffice it to say that it was my fault. Luckily for me there was another chance to get bees this year. There was an ad on Craigslist for bees for sale, and now that I know a fair amount about what to look for I went and purchased a new hive. These had been a package this year and were currently pollinating blueberries in a fairly urban location. The really great thing was that the guy let me come in the day on a sunny day and look at the hives, and come back that night to pick it up. This hive is a winner. Almost all of the 10 frames were full of brood and honey. Seeing it next to the other hives made it apparent how much stronger it really is.
   When I was setting up the new hive at home the next morning and expanding it by adding a new deep on top, T was here to help. It is such a pleasure to do things with the person you love, and shares your interests, that sometimes it's easy to overstep. As she was running around doing chores I'd shout out that I needed something and she would bring it to me. After a few times of this I was about done and she was 15 or so feet from the hive. One of the bees in the air happened to get stuck in her hair. We all have heard that when a bee is on you it's best not to panic, but that's exactly what T did. This is the woman that I have never seen wince. She seems dainty to look at, and can be seen as quiet, and is actually the strongest person I know, but on this occasion she was LOUD! Think of those old movies where the woman shrinks into a corner screaming from the monster that is moving at 2 mph at her and there is a door right next to her. T flipped her head upside down and started some variation of the pee-pee dance. I came running like an idiot in full gear, covered in bees to save her. Big mistake. The bee I was after moved away from my less than delicate gloved hand and into her hair farther. Not to mention that with me came a few hundred of it's closest friends. T ran for the house. I ran after stripping off gear. When she went through the door as I was taking off my veil, I saw my reflection in the glass only to realize that I was pulling off my veil and there were quite a few bees at the back of my neck that had just been granted easy access. Change of plans - time for me to run screaming across the yard.
   T did end up getting stung. I thankfully did not. I have been stung numerous times since and am unsure of when exactly to expect a reaction. So far it seems that if it is a spot that is below my heart I should expect swelling and itching, but that's it. Yay! T had far less of a reaction. Just the usual pain and bump that faded over a day.
   The real takeaway for me here is that T is really a girl at heart. It's hard to see that in such a strong woman sometimes, so strong that she has redefined what a woman is to me, but a tiny bit of her is still that little girl that is afraid of bugs getting stuck in her hair. That and that she is determined. Even after that obviously frightening event she is still interested in learning and working with bees. That kind of spirit can never be conquered. I'm a lucky man.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

New puppy! New puppy! New puppy!

As if we don't have enough to do already, we got a puppy. We both were thinking we'd like a dog that was under three but preferably under two years old. We did NOT intend to get a puppy. The day started out around 10:30. Had to stop at the brew store for butter muslin and stuff for P to brew beer for his cousin's birthday. Headed to the co-op to get some organic greens for dinner. Stopped at the bank and had lunch at a yummy bakery in town. The ciabatta was to die for - turkey, carmelized onions and brie, grilled to perfection. And to top it off, a sour cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. Now we are really ready for looking at dogs!

Went to the city animal shelter and didn't see any that were the right age or size. I didn't want a HUGE dog and P didn't want a TINY dog. So it had to be somewhere in the middle. We took with us the youngest kid who is the most nervous around dogs. So if she got along well with it, that would make it a contender!

We decided to move on to another animal shelter about 20 minutes north. There we saw several dogs that were possibilities. One was a doberman/hound mix and was a sweet dog but the kiddo was a little nervous, as was the dog. The next was a white shepherd mix who was shedding so bad it made me write her off immediately. Cat hair is bad enough. I don't want to have to deal with long white dog hair! Plus she was a crotch sniffer. Couldn't seem to keep her nose out of other's "business". Oh, and she was mouthy, biting our hands. Kiddo was ok with her but the dog had 3 strikes against her.

The last dog we saw was a 4 month old lab/shar pei mix named Opal. The kiddo took to her right away. And unlike most puppies I've met, she came calmly over and wagged her tail and sniffed us. No barking, jumping, whining, hand gnawing or licking. I wasn't sure if P was ok with a puppy, and I could tell he was wondering the same about me. We kept giving each other funny looks, trying to assess what the other was thinking. Finally the woman showing us the dogs gave us a few mintues to talk about it. We both felt that her personality was worth putting the energy into training a puppy. So we took the plunge and got a puppy together. I guess that means we are stuck with each other now that we've committed to 15 years with a dog!

Now the thing about Opal that made it a harder decision was the fact that she was itchy. Oh so itchy. Can barely stop itching long enough to play. They had tested her for both kinds of mange and parasites and all came back negative. She'd been bathed and tried on two different medications. So not only are we committing to spending a good chunk of our lives with a dog, we are also potentially looking at medical expenses trying to determine why she is itchy. However, a little internet research shows that shar pei's often have food allergies. So we switched her to a grain free food and now we just wait and see. We have made a vet appointment for her so we can get some more expert advice if it turns out not to be an allergy.

I have wanted a dog for years. When I was pregnant with my son, and my ex-husband was 300 miles away at school, I was seriously considering fostering dogs. That didn't happen because being pregnant just takes a lot out of a woman. Once my son hit 3 years old and discovered dogs, he's been asking for one ever since. I seriously considered it again after my divorce. I was out on my own and could make my own decisions and my son would have benefitted from it. However the landlord (who shared the property with us at the time) had a dog, that my son spent lots of time with. So I tabled the idea.

Here I am, 2 1/2 years later, with a dog. Funny thing about it is that we got goats, chickens and another cat before getting a dog. For some reason I was thinking that a dog just requires too much work. However, when I look at all the time we put into the goats, a dog pales in comparison. Plus, a dog we can take with us and is much easier to find someone to care for when it's time to take a vacation. Have you ever tried to find a goat sitter? Especially someone who actually has to MILK the goats?

The best things about getting Opal so far are:
1. Realizing that I am with a man who actually LIKES dogs.
2. The kids LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE her (and my son can finally stop begging for a dog).
3. She has not barked once in the 48 hours she's been home.


Friday, May 27, 2011

More Pests!

Having animals, any kind of animals, comes with a pretty steep learning curve. Most people know about pests that come with cats or dogs, and are familiar with fleas, or at most worms. When you have larger animals there are larger pests involved. Enter rats. I see now why people have barn cats that they feed very little and expect them to hunt for the remainder of their food. Sadly our cats won't take on anything larger than a shrew.
When we first got goats we put their food in the garage thinking it would be safe. The rats found it right away. It took me a week to find the rats. They were coming in from multiple areas including under the garage door through a small gap, and actually digging in under cement for at least twenty feet just to come up through the one foot square dirt hole where the plumbing came in. I had no idea they were so smart! Having had a pet rat at one time I should have seen it coming.
Just over a week ago we moved some hens and a rooster we had separated for breeding purposes back into the fold. The feeder was still in the pen for a few days without a rooster to protect it and the rats found it. T saw the rats running along the back fence to eat and then run back. We thought it was a rat that we had seen sporadically throughout the winter. Today I saw one in the garage eating the chick food when I opened the door fast. I set a trap then went to milk the goats. While milking I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. There was a younger rat looking at me from the doorway. It took off when it saw me.
This meant we had a problem. Next it was to the garage for the pellet gun. I wish there was a humane way to deal with this pest, but I haven't found one. I sat by the back of the chicken run and waited. The rat kept looking out at me and the goats and ducking back into the hole under the fence before I could get a shot off. One thing I have learned is that rats learn fast. No way was I going to take that shot unless I had a clear shot. While waiting there was a snap from down in the goat barn. The barn is actually the half underground cement cellar of a former chicken coop. Anything that is down there can't get out except through a three foot tall window, or through the door. So of course I investigated. The trap was set off, but it was empty. I closed the door and secured the hole under it that they like to use with a brick and wet hay. While I was at it there was a repeating grunting sound from under the hay pallet where the trap had been. It seems that a scarred rat grunts! After looking for any other areas it could run and blocking them with wet hay I lifted the pallet slowly.
This is where it gets crazy. Think clowns and a circus. Think Three Stooges. That rat shot out right past me. I grabbed my weapon of choice; a shovel that happened to be near, and pursued. It went straight under a pallet I thought was blocked. I pulled that pallet up and set it against a wall and off we went again. It jumped the two foot wall between stalls in one leap and went back to the hay pallet only to see that I had lifted it already. Then it made for the door and stanchion. Running after it I came as it realized that there was no escape, so it reversed course. I was standing on plywood and as I tried to reverse too my feet went out from under me. I saw my rubber boots hit the water bucket that was just filled this morning. As I swore loudly the bucket did a full flip in the air and landed on it's bottom in between my legs! Of course half the water landed between my legs. Well, actually in my lap! As my head nearly connected with the ground I looked left to see the rat scurry past my face within inches. At this point my lap was soaking wet, I could feel the damp goat crap water from the floor soaking into my tidy whities, and the rat was untouched.
It was time to outsmart it. I set a piece of the pallet from the hay out from the wall at the bottom, grabbed the pellet gun, turned off the safety and went to scare it out again. I found it under the stanchion where there was a little hay hiding. I managed to get what I thought was a perfect shot off into it's gut. It ran. And ran. And ran. Fifteen minutes it ran. And I kept rooting it out. Finally it stopped in my spot behind the pallet. Back there I had a clear shot from against the wall. Perfect shot. I took it. Right between the eyes. Finally. This is how it's supposed to be. Fast.
There are more, but they can eat my grain for a few more days.

- P

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Here is a short list of things that make me squeamish: earwigs, leeches, cockroaches and maggots.
Nothing will  make me scream like a girl like finding an earwig crawling on the flowers I just picked. Most of the other things on my list I have not seen in person. Except maggots, and encounters with them are few and far between.  I'll get back to this in a moment.

I have spent the last two weeks trying to make 2 types of cheeses I have not made before. One is a moldy chevre called valencay and the other is gruyere (which requires "washing" with brine every two days). Both seemed fairly straightforward until I put them in the "cheese cave" which started out as a cooler and switched a mini fridge set to 52 degrees.  Because the mini fridge has a mini freezer in it, the humidity is an issue. The humidity in the cooler wasn't so bad, but bugs kept flying in. So, I moved them to the mini fridge but I could not keep the humidity down. I found the ice tray was still in the mini freezer, which obviously wasn't helping! So I took it out and wiped out all the water. But my gruyere was still sticky/slimy. So I did tons of research online and find that as I suspected, the humidity was probably too high but it doesn't seem that all is lost. The valencay grew some lovely white fluffy mold, as it was supposed to, but then the cheese inside started shrinking. So after the requisite 2 weeks, I take the valencay out of the cheese cave to wrap it up for storing in the house fridge.

This brings us back to the maggots. I look closely and that is exactly what I see.  I very nearly screamed and then I started to cry. All that work and milk wasted. Maggots. There is NO way I am going to try and save the cheese after finding maggots!!! The only positive thing I can find is that the mold on the outside was exactly the right texture. So I check the gruyere and I see only 2 maggots. But they are still MAGGOTS! ON MY CHEESE!  So I curse and cry and take all that hard work out to the compost pile. P comforts me the best he can and the next day takes my spoiled cheeses to the chickens. At least they'll enjoy it. I think for now I'll stick to the easy ones - chevre, feta, cheddar.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Dreaming of land....

When we get old, we plan to live in the city. But for now we're dreaming of land and all the possibilities. At last count, we have 15 chicks, in addition to our 12 laying hens. So when they grow up that will be WAY to many chickens for the area we have for them. We live on 4.5 acres, which was completely available to us when we moved in. But then the guy renting the shop decided to live there. And next the landlord decided to build a "shop" way out back.  So we basically have an acre for our goats, chickens, gardens and kids.

Chickens are rather destructive. If you let them out to free range, they scratch up the gardens and eat the seedlings. So for now they have to stay in their chicken run. The goats I can take on walks on the property, but after an 8 hour day there are kids to feed and get in bed so the walking doesn't happen as often as it should. There is so much for them to forage right now! If only we could fence off the back half of the property we would save oodles on feed. Hay is not cheap. Now that we only have two goats, it is more reasonable and a bale of hay, which costs $13+, will last at least a week. But I'm dreaming of them being able to feed on fresh grass all spring and summer and then feed hay in the winter. Would make goat keeping much more cost effective. Same with the chickens, however there are a few people who buy eggs from us so it pays for about 3/4 of their feed - a 50 lb bag of layer pellets is going for around $18 right now. So I have to sell 6 dozen eggs to pay for their feed. Comes out ok during the laying months but once October hits and they stop laying as much, more of our hard earned money goes for feed.

It is not cheaper to keep animals, but I feel so much better about it than buying from a grocery chain. Even though we do not feed organic food to them, we know where the animals have been and how they have been treated. That is worth the extra money.

Someday we will have the land to be able to provide more of our own food to them and more room to roam. And as a result they will be able to provide us with cheaper food for us in the form of milk, eggs and meat (though I will never be able to eat goat, I could get a couple of sheep for that purpose).


Thursday, May 19, 2011

High heels and midnight gardening

The sun was out yesterday - for the 2nd day in a row! This is quite a feat since Western Washington has had a record cold, wet spring. As soon as I got home I threw my heels and slacks in the closet and put on my (fake) crocs and work pants and started planting. Finished the corn, got the tomatoes in and planted the hanging baskets. Finished my chores before 9pm (early) and snuggled into bed in my pjs to watch Grey's Anatomy (finally).  At 10:30pm, I realized that I had not put the row cover over the tomatoes. You see, tomatoes need 50 degree temps at night, and even though it's mid-May, temps are still in the low to mid 40's at night. Crap. I was preparing myself to change back into work clothes and find a flashlight, when P, the wonderful man that he is, texted me that he would do it after work (which means midnight). So I avoided the midnight gardening. Whew. Though I wish I'd been awake to snap a picture of him in his shirt and tie gardening in the dark.

But while on the topic of forgetfulness, I forgot to let the chickens out after I did my milking this morning. I was ready to go to work, complete with my capris and cute high heels. So what do I do? I go let the chickens out while wearing  my heels. This involves me opening up the coop and carefully tip toeing through to open the door to their run, as well as trying to avoid the chickens who are flying off their perches thinking I'm going to let them out into MY yard - I managed to avoid the flying hens but may have a feather or two in my hair, I haven't had time to check yet. You see, when you are as busy as I am, corners must be cut. I have, after all, been known to feed baby goats while wearing a dress. But I have yet to be found midnight gardening in high heels....but given enough time I'm sure it will happen.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

After work plans go sideways....

My plan for the day....get up at 6am. Leave for work at 6:55am. Pick up kids at grandparents at 5pm. Stay for dinner. Go home. Plant corn which I pre-sprouted and is now 2 inches tall (should have been done last weekend but the rain got in the way). Get kids in bed. Milk goat. Clean up kitchen. Sit down and watch Grey's Anatomy on hulu.

Actual day...went as planned except that I stopped at home before picking up kids to check on my doe whose udder, it was reported to me by P, was very full. I find her laying in the barn with goo coming out of her hind end, which means she is going to give birth soon. Call grandparents and have them get kids here asap so they can watch. Wait in barn as goat takes her own sweet time having her baby. Kids get bored and wander off. Goat finally has baby. We wait for her to have more. None show. Grandparents bring dinner over since we missed having dinner at their house. Get kids fed. 30 minutes past their bedtime notice they need to fold and put their laundry away. Kids put away laundry and finally get in bed an hour after their bedtime. Milk goat. Doe still has only one baby - how is that possible when she's as big as a house? Give up on doe. Get half the corn planted.  Clean up half of kitchen because there is only so much room in a dishwasher. Think about sitting down then realize I have to brine two different kinds of cheeses, make bread and pasteurize milk. Look at the's 30 minutes past my bedtime. Decide to ask P to put the chickens away when he gets home because I am too tired and to go outside again. Instead of watching Grey's Anatomy, I'm blogging.

Darn goat made my relaxing evening turn into complete and utter chaos. But her baby is so cute it's worth it.



Who are we? We are a couple experiencing the modern renaissance. 30-something adults finding that balance between modern day conveniences and that sensibility that our grandparents grew up surrounded by. Interests include, but are in no way limited to: cheese making, goat milking, soap making, chickens, beekeeping, brewing beer, and whatever else strikes our fancy at the time.

Not to mention that we both work full-time (or more) corporate jobs and between the two of us have three kids. Our household includes two dairy goats, 20+ chickens, two rabbits (whose purpose we are unsure of), two cats (whose purpose seems to be to make it impossible to roll over in bed at night), and a few fish. All this only seven minutes from a city with a population of 100,000+.