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Home sweet home. It’s fun to travel but sure is nice to come home too!

The trip to California was amazing, as always. The drive is so different every time, particularly in winter which can make for last minute changes in travel plans. We try to vary our route so we see something different each time and leaving later than we had originally planned due to weather here in Kansas on Saturday left few options than a more direct path to be there in time for Christmas.

The pup traveled really well and had more training walking on a leash along the way. He was delivered to a delighted friend on our way down the hill to Lincoln. He was sure great to travel with even in the hotel rooms which are so much different than a barn. It takes a lot of reassurance along the way to keep them mentally healthy and keeping the cab cooler to keep them psychically healthy does not always make for a warm and comfortable ride for the humans.

We visited with company and neighbors and friends and took drives to some of our old “stomping grounds”. I miss it in some ways but there’s much about Kansas I like too. The grass is greening up back in Ca. and the spring bulbs are starting to poke their heads out of the ground! We came home to snow and semi-bitter temps.

My Mom and I exchanged some veggie seeds and I am just about all set for spring planting here which with the green house can start in about a month! I have a few large windows too that I will be making into cold frames. I dug up a bunch of first year blackberry vines to transplant here in Ks. Super excited to get them in the ground. We mulched their roots down well with damp sawdust and wrapped them in a bag, just like they would come from the nursery. These would have cost me a fortune to buy them in the spring so I am thankful these were free and they came from “home”.

We will need to replace a couple of the fruit trees in a month or so when the new stock is in. That late ice storm in April 2013 really deadened some wood on some of the young trees enough that a few couldn’t recover. They came with a warranty thankfully which I originally thought was kind of silly to offer but not so much so when they need to be replaced =)!

The weather fluctuated in Kansas a lot while we were gone and I think most of the snow melted on the days it was warm and sunny but I don’t think there were many of those days. It snowed again the night before we pulled in and there are places that are a bit icy. All of the animals look fantastic and we’re so thankful to have great neighbors who feed and care while we are gone.

The pigs apparently made an escape and helped themselves to a few barrels of food in the barn. I moved their electric fence before we left and either the somewhat deep snow shorted it or they were rooting around one of the posts a lot and a post fell over (taking the wire to the ground and shorting it). Either way, my fault. They don’t normally get so close to the fence but one of the new areas that was opened up was a rooting heaven from the looks of it.  I should have known better. Jeremiah and I spent a couple of hours yesterday re-installing a lag bolt for the gate they lifted off its hinges. We use the cheapy poly-wire electric wire within a pasture to rotate them within it and keep their access smaller than the 1/2 an acre pasture. They didn’t have access to the walk through and drive through gate into the barnyard being behind the poly-wire and we don’t install the gates correctly technically, we install them for ease of removal (by just lifting them off if we need to). The upper lag bolt on the post is supposed to point down and the portion on the gate that receives the pin from the bolt slides up, this keeps animals from lifting the gate off. The goats don’t lift the gates off their hinges. Once the pigs went over/through the poly-wire electric, the gate was fair game. The other 3 sides of their pasture is 5 strand high-tensile electric. Lifting gates off their hinges is apparently easier to deal with.  It’s never dull around here!

The electric fence wire was partially salvageable but I am not going to reinstall it until spring. How on earth it got so tangled is beyond me! The ground is frozen anyway and I cannot get the posts in so they’ll get the run of that whole pasture and I’ll install insulators along the paneled portion between the pasture and barnyard so they don’t root along the fence line. They sure looked pleased to have such a big area!

Speaking of the pigs though, it’s amazing how different things look when you don’t see your animals for 12 days! Ann pig is looking quite rotund, she’s scheduled to farrow Feb. 14 and our first does due are looking ginormous. Emmy will be 4 in February 2014, this will be her 4th kidding. After 3 years of nothin’ but bucks, we’re really hoping for a doe this year!Most of the does are bred to kid later when it’s warmer.

I’ve taken a break from milking for about 4 weeks. I hemmed and hawed about milking the yearlings who kidded in June through Christmas but decided to dry them off too. I like the little break before the routine starts all over.

We have plans to expand the garden a bit and put corn and melons in another location and I think we’re going to just go ahead and buy several lengths of electric poultry netting to contain and rotate the layers. Fencing the corn and melon plants at that point may not be necessary though there may be issues with rabbits and racoons once the melons start to ripen, so we’ll have to see about that.

The melons were hit and miss last summer taste-wise. I am hoping a little different location and a change of water routine  will change that. I don’t think we have plans to travel this summer so I am really looking forward to a big garden. After going across country 3 times in the past year (Ca. twice each Christmas and WV) over the summer, I am kind of traveled out. We have a lot of projects we’re working on/planning and after all is said and done with Jeremiah’s school schedule, he doesn’t get but 5- 6 (staggered) weeks off.

Brome fertilization is fast approaching. Every year that we keep up with it, the fewer weeds the grass has t to contend with and the better the pastures look. Not that I think weeds are bad, some are more nutritious than the hay available but we’re trying to get more of what they’ll eat and less of what they won’t.  I don’t know that we’ll be able to bale this year just yet. We’re still looking for a decent sickle bar mower but the pastures looked better last year than we’ve ever seen. Course, the rain helped that but over-seeding in brome was a good choice.

Our milk barn has been started by the building construction class at the high school. The floor and the outer walls are up. We’ll take care of putting on the metal siding and probably the roofing although the corrugated rubber composite stuff like we put on the chicken coop is really nice and has held up well. We may stick with that, I am not sure yet.

The Sept. chicks look more and more like young pullets now than chicks!It’s amazing not seeing them for 12 days. With any luck, they’ll be laying in the next month or two. I still think we’ll incubate a hatch or two and I am eager to see how the crosses that came about from the Sept. home- hatch turn out. Two greys have lacing and are just so so pretty! No idea what cross they were but my best guess is blue laced red wyandotte with one of the other wyandottes, for young pullets they have such a nice plump hen shape! The 6 broiler pullets we kept and didn’t butcher are laying now too, going on 6 months old, still getting around and foraging well. We’ll probably butcher them come spring time when the pullets are laying well but for now it’s nice to have “meat” chickens who are layers! They lay a really pretty dark brown speckled egg.

We’re in for some cold temps Sunday, Sunday night and Monday so we made a quick trip out yesterday for more straw for the pigs.  I was down to half a bale. Because they don’t have a lot of hair to keep them warm, they snuggle underneath their bedding and it acts like a blanket and they also munch on it as well.  Looking forward to new baby goats and new piglets and seed starting. Spring is a ways off but it’s nice to plan for it!

Time to end for now. Have a great weekend.

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