With just 3.5 weeks left to move day, things are getting busier all the time!  We have our last formal military event coming up this weekend, followed by a last visit with R’s birth family .  I’ve told S he has to find someplace to take me once a year so I can use the formal dresses I have collected over the years for these events.  I have a doctor appointment to update all my prescriptions, and one or two vet appointments to get all the paperwork lined up.  I have begun cooking in batches both to use up food and to prepare frozen dishes for move week. Our closing on the house is scheduled for next week (YAY!!!!), S and I have our final driving class (to learn to drive draft horses), Latte is due to deliver in 2 weeks, I have to pick up my 4th doe who has yet to kid, we have a half-a-ton of grain being delivered which will be divided into our fifty-five gallon drums, and plenty of other tasks I’m sure I’m forgetting right now.  I am still plugging along on the packing, we had a big yard sale this weekend so are living a little creatively right now.  We are down to just 2 kids’ beds, so kids are sharing beds and using pallets on the floor.  They love it, as they feel like they are camping.  We also sold our dining set, and are making do with a folding table and some folding chairs we borrowed.  We sold off our last litter of rabbits, and the cage-building equipment should arrive this weekend so we can build our transport/new cages for Red Gate.

I have been trying to wean my milking doe, Joy, to a twice a day milking schedule, but she turned out to be an incredible producer, and I’m still forced to milk 3 times a day right now.  She is currently producing 12 cups a day–thats about 3/4 gallon.  She is only a first freshener, and with the early issues we had, I am really trying to stretch her udder gradually.  I have her going 11 hours at night right now, but can’t seem to get beyond 9 hours in the day time.  Otherwise, she begins squirting milk everywhere and her hair gets all sticky.  ICK!  She is coming along nicely, though, and I think I’ll be able to get her to twice a day by move day (which will mean one less milking at a rest stop–maybe).

The kids will wrap up their school this week (another YAY!!!).  As soon as we have the check from closing, we have a LOT of items to order and have shipped to the farm for the projects we still have to work on there.  All this is so bittersweet–the time has come and yet, we are once again leaving another chapter that includes friends and memories.

What free time I do still have is spent spending time with the kiddos and making contacts for our next 4-legged additions to the farm after we get moved.  I have been in touch with Donna and Keith at South Pork Ranch in central IL, where we plan to purchase a couple of heritage Red Wattle pigs.  The plan is to pick them up when we finish installing the final section of fence for our pasture next month, and rotate the pigs and goats through to clear all the brush currently there.  Then, this winter, the hogs will be used for some hams, chops, and bacon, deliciously flavored by all the forage, acorns, and dairy products we will be feeding them.  While it isn’t the Large Black I still hope to try one day, we are excited to try the Red Wattle.  Not only will we be helping an endangered breed of heritage hog, but we will be supporting a local small farm operation who has worked hard to develop a good, hardy hog that thrives on pasture and forage, which still have their tails and ears, and that aren’t loaded up with antibiotics, chemicals, and junk foods.  These pigs get to grow up with all the “pigginess” (in Joel Salatin terms) that God intended them to have.

A Red Wattle hog; Source: Internet stock photo of a red wattle farm

A Red Wattle hog;
Source: Internet stock photo of a red wattle farm

For the record, we are raising two, and only need one.  If any of my readers are around the Illinois area and would like to reserve the other as a whole or half, just let me know. We are happy to split with you as well, as I can always use bacon around here with 5 farm kiddos around!!

I have also been working with a new friend who has been supplying us with our raw milk when we vacation at Red Gate.  She also “happens” to be probably the best contact I could ask for when it comes to getting in the draft horse loop there.  She is going to be setting me up with her neighbor who raises good, solid Clydesdales that actually do real farm work rather than just shows.  At this point, we are still just trying to decide if we want to buy a single or a team.  In addition, she works with an Amish farmer and together, they have developed a breeding program for high-quality miniature jersey cattle.  My former contact may not work out afterall.  All her mini-jerseys wound up having the bovine disease BLV, which I don’t want to pass on.  She wound up selling off her herd to try to work towards a BLV-free herd, but it kinda ruined my plans to buy her minis.  The fact that my new friend lives only a few miles down the road (OK, more like 20) is huge bonus!  At this point, it looks like we may be getting a heifer calf rather than a cow, but seeing as how I may be swimming in milk anyway with 4 goats, a calf may not be a bad thing.  Good thing we’re getting hogs to help consume all that milk!!

Winter has turned Asha into a spoiled brat of a yearling donkey, so I have been working with her a lot more lately to teach her some trust and some manners.  The weather is not cooperating at all, snowing again even as I type, but at least I have her used to loading in the trailer and improving in the other areas.   I have decided that if the right buyer came along, I would sell her, just to reduce my load a bit.  She won’t be very useful to us as a riding for the kids for several years yet, so I wouldn’t be opposed to selling her.  I won’t give her away though, so if she doesn’t sell, she’ll move with us as planned.

One other task I may have to do is to shave the dogs’ bellies.  None of the animals have lost any of their winter coats, as our highs are still in the 30’s most of the time.  Red Gate, on the other hand, is having highs in the 70’s already.  Another 3 weeks from now, and the sudden change from cold to hot may add too much stress to the girls, so I am considering shaving their bellies to buy them some time to acclimate, while still being able to make some belly-contact to the cool grass and earth at the farm.

Sorry the posts are likely going to be sparse for the next few weeks, but I will do my best.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell you when this is all over with though!