Tuesday, February 28, 2023

How many cows?

In response to a post I put up a couple weeks ago on how our neighbor's cows just had calves, a reader asked: "Is there a general rule of how much acreage a heifer would take? We're thinking of getting one next year, but not sure we have enough. We have about 10 acres, but most of it is wooded, so we would have to supplement the 2 - 3 acres of pasture with hay."

There's no cut-and-dried one-size-fits-all requirement for how much land a cow needs, because it depends on whether you're planning on grazing your animals year-round, confining your animals to a paddock, or something in between. It also depends on whether you live in the lush croplands of Virginia or the dry Mohave Desert.

Yet another variable is whether you must feed during the winter, or if your winters are mild enough that the animals can graze year round. If you live in Tennessee, your pasture and available forage will be far different than if you live in North Dakota.

Obviously there's no easy answer to how much land a cow requires. The important thing is not to obtain more animals than your land can comfortably support. Work with what you have, and be prepared to supplement with purchased hay as needed.

Remember, a cow's "job" – what she does for twelve hours a day – is to eat. It is surprising how quickly a cow or two can eat down a small pasture.  But just because you only have a one-acre field shouldn't preclude you from getting cows. However, you will need to purchase hay to feed them, because one acre is not enough land to support anything bovine.

Cows can indeed be kept on small plots – an acre or two – but they must be fed. We used to own a home with a two-acre pasture on which we kept three bovines (cow/calf and yearling steer). We needed to supplement their feed about nine months out of the year.

Additionally, the reader mentioned he/she was getting ONE heifer. Please don't. Get two. Consider getting a steer or another heifer as a companion. Cows are herd animals, and a solitary cow suffers from loneliness and may act out with behavioral issues as a result.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Old business, new owner

Older Daughter, as you may recall, is taking over our woodcraft business.

These last couple of months have been very busy for her. Ever since moving back in, she's been working part-time at a nearby store until such time as the tankard business was off the ground with enough volume to support her.

The trouble is, working retail four days a week doesn't leave a lot of time (or energy) left over to put into the woodcraft business. In January, she was slamming to get an enormous production run (150+ pieces) to a customer by the end of the month, while still juggling her hours at the store. That's when Don and I stepped in to lend a hand.

Now that the sales season for wholesalers is ramping up, she's been contacting some of our old wholesalers and inquiring about their tankard needs. And wham, she got slammed with orders! Orders coming out her ears!

So she happily gave two weeks' notice at her store job and is now fully immersed in the shop on a full-time basis, filling orders. I don't think I've ever seen her as happy. Her hours are her own, and if she wants to knock off early or take a day hike, she can.

Even better, she's making money – far more than she earned at the store.

She bought a large year-at-a-glance wall calendar and is writing what we call "drop-dead ship dates" on it, to plan out her year. She's working at a steady-but-not-insane pace and is quite pleased with her output so far.

Don is still helping her in the shop for a few things (showing her how to change the band-saw blade, how to pin the lids on lidded tankards, etc.), but otherwise it's her gig. We're so proud of her!

UPDATE: Just a note, this is a wholesale-only business, with a minimum order of 30 pieces. She may have individual sales in the future, but she isn't set up for that now.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

These are a few of my favorite things

Sorry for the silence, dear readers, it's been a loopy couple of weeks.

Rather than go into everything else, I wanted to post some photos of the gifts I received during our belated Christmas gift exchange. If you recall, we were hoping Younger Daughter would make it home for a late Christmas, but she had to report straight to her stateside naval base for some training. She's planning on coming to see us in May.

So, in her absence, we finally exchanged our gifts. Here are my favorites.

Don knows I admire Jackie Clay, homesteader extraordinaire, so he obtained one of her books...

...signed by her! I was thrilled. (It's an excellent book. Highly recommended.)

Earlier, Older Daughter had asked me to keep track of all the books I read over the course of 2022, then provide her with a list. From this, she made the most clever craft imaginable: an ornament with the books "miniaturized" down.

It's entrancing, seriously so. The "book" part is folded-up bits of paper, with color copies of the front cover on both the front and back sides of each book.

Honestly, it's riveting to turn the ornament around like a kaleidoscope.

I liked it so well I hung it at eye level by my computer.

Younger Daughter sent a box of gifts for us, some of which were purchased in Japan. My special gift, however, was an oil painting of her parrot Lihn.

It's beautifully executed in oils on wood, rendered from a photograph I sent her of Lihn taking a bath in a bowl of water.

She admitted it was cheeky to send me a painting of HER bird that I'M taking care of while she's in the Navy, but it's just a beautiful painting.

And those, dear readers, are a few of my favorite things.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Could you do this at three years old?

Y'know, some of us don't discover our passions or natural gifts until relatively late in life. We've all heard stories of the grandfather who never knew he was a sculptor until he took a class, them wham!

Others, however, discover their talents at a very young age. Consider the following video in which the child is three years old. Let me repeat that: Three years old.

Watch and smile:


Friday, February 17, 2023

Don's man cave

A wise neighbor once told us, "It takes three years to move." What she meant is, after officially moving into a new home, it takes three years to figure out its "flow," its idiosyncrasies, how best to store and organize things, to build up the necessary infrastructure to suit one's lifestyle, and other considerations.

All this is a long-winded explanation of why the barn is still a hot mess and Don didn't have a proper shop.

The barn, if you recall from when we moved in, was a large empty space, full of promise.

The barn actually has a larger footprint (1800 sq. ft.) than the house (1400 sq. ft.). This structure was actually integral to our decision to purchase the property, since it had so much potential to be modified into what we wanted: shop space, hay storage, cattle infrastructure, etc.

For obvious reasons, one of the first things Don did was build a shop, a building-within-a-building. In this space, he put his big tools (table saw, compound-miter saw, belt sander, etc.) that we've used for years on our woodcraft business. In the above photo, he boxed in the left-hand corner for that purpose.

Then Older Daughter took over the woodcraft business, which meant Don effectively lost his shop space. No problem, we have plenty of room in the barn. He decided to build his own shop in the right-hand corner of the above space. If you peer closely at the photo, the previous owners had a workbench already in place. Don decided to incorporate that structure.

And see, that's an advantage to this "three years to move in" rule of thumb. It allows for changing dynamics (such as Older Daughter taking over the woodcraft business) and gives us a better understanding of what kind of spaces we need.

What Don wanted to do was build an area that would allow him to organize and store his vast array of smaller tools, while still having a "central aisle" in the barn for parking the tractor. He also wanted a sturdy loft above, where we could store things we seldom need but want to keep handy (such as Christmas decorations).

Last summer, he constructed the second shop, making it extremely sturdy.

But about the time he finished the second shop building was about the time our litany of plumbing woes began, and his attention was distracted elsewhere.

Bottom line, it took him until late winter to finish the infrastructure for his own personal shop (building a second workbench, shelving, hanging peg boards, etc.). And even then, because we always seem to operate on a crisis mode with multiple projects, he just shoved his tools willy-nilly into the space in hopes of sorting things out later. This was frustrating because he knew he had such-and-such a tool in his shop, but no clue where it might be.

So, over the last couple of weeks, he's been organizing his shop. And oh my, I don't think I've ever seen him so happy. He felt like I felt when I finally opened and shelved our books that had been packed away for two years – it was like greeting old friends. He was able to find a home for every tool, edit duplicates, and discover missing items ("Hey guess what, I found the box of packing slips at last!").

Organizing the shop took at least two weeks, working at a leisurely pace. Each evening Don would come into the house and happily report on his progress, the items he was able to find, and the space he created for each category of  tools.

A couple days ago, he finished (more or less; it's always a work in progress) and called me out to take photos. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is Don's man cave.

Every detail is as organized as he can make it. While he knows it's unlikely to stay this neat – his tools are in constant use – it's nice to start with something close to ideal.

With duplicate tools he uses frequently, he's building a tool bag for when he needs to do work around the farm.

He's got things divvied into stations. Here's the battery-charging station.

He put up peg boards to organize and categorize the smaller tools...

...as well as some of the larger ones. At the center-top is the wooden-handled hammer he inherited from his father, who passed away when Don was a young man in the Navy. He cherishes that hammer.

Do you know how often he couldn't find needle-nosed pliers when he needed them? Now all his pliers and nippers have a home.

Don later joked that the only thing left to do to turn this space into the Ultimate Man Cave is a keg of beer, some 50s pinup girlie calendars, and radio reception.

He has none of those things (including radio reception), but sure seems like a happy dude for what he has.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Book stuff

A few loose odds and ends on the writing front. First of all, my latest Amish inspirational, The Mysterious Amish Nanny, reached #5 on the Publisher's Weekly best-seller list! In fact, the book spent two weeks on the best-seller list.

Surprisingly, these results were picked up by a couple of news outlets

ABC News

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

This is largely due to you, dear readers. Thank you!

Then I was asked to be a contributor to a blog post on the Harlequin website called "Are You An Aspiring Writer? Three Harlequin Authors Share Their Research Tips!"

(I had a very narrow word-count limitation, so it was a challenge to write anything coherent.)

Finally, I was interviewed by a very nice journalist named Elise Cooper on the book. A write-up can be found at a website called Avonna Loves Genres.

Thank you all for your support!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Aww, calves

We have some new neighbors who bought an old (and sadly uninhabitable) farmhouse a short distance away. They're slowly tearing down the farmhouse, salvaging some of the venerable lumber with which it was built, and eventually plan to build a new home on the original structure's footprint. Meanwhile, they're living in a nearby town.

But they have livestock at their farm: two horses, two cows, and a flock of chickens. They come in daily to care for them.

Don and I were walking Mr. Darcy a couple days ago, and we glanced at the cows and saw ... calves!

I talked to the neighbor today, and he says one is a little heifer, and the other a little bull calf. Even more interesting, he doesn't plan to steer the bull calf, but instead plans to raise him as a bull. How convenient is that???

Don and I hope we'll have all the infrastructure in place to get a couple of Jerseys by early fall (maybe sooner). Although we hope to purchase pregnant cows, or cow/calf pairs, we don't know what will on the market at the time we're looking. And even if we're lucky enough to get pregnant cows, we'll certainly need breeding services at some point in the future. Having a young bull so close by will certainly be handy.

Sigh. I miss calves. It will be good to have some of our own again.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Super Bowl? Yawn

Actual conversation as it just happened:

Me: "Oh, is it Super Bowl Sunday tomorrow?"

Older Daughter: "Yes. The only reason I know is because there's a show I like watching on Sunday, and they moved it to Friday for this week only."

Don: "Who's playing?"

Older Daughter: "No idea."

Me: "Don't know, don't care."

Don: "It will be interesting to see how many people are in church tomorrow."

Older Daughter: "Or how rapidly the church service progresses."

Don, looking up who's playing on the computer: "Oh, it's the Chiefs vs. the Eagles. Whoever they are. All I can think of is 1970s rock bands."

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how we celebrate Super Bowl Sunday.

True story: Back in 1989 when Don and I were dating, he lived around the corner from me in a college town where bicycles were more common than cars. One day I hopped on my bike and rode around the corner to see him. I found him on his front lawn, his bicycle upended in front of him, doing some repairs on it.

"Why aren't you in watching the game?" I asked. "Today is Super Bowl Sunday."

"Well..." He looked up from his bike. "I'm not really that into football."

"Hmmmmm," I distinctly remember thinking. "This is someone I could get serious about."

The rest is history.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Social media. Grunt.

I hate social media, I really do.

A few years ago, when my literary agent first accepted me as a client, I had to put together a marketing proposal which included, among much else, my "platform." For many modern influencers, this includes having a social media presence on every platform under the sun.

Because I was trying to write fiction under a pseudonym at the time, the initial difficulty was trying to create a platform where none existed. I had no clue how to navigate Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, or whatever else is out there. Oh, and more crucially, I had no interest in learning.

Fortunately wiser heads (my husband and my agent) prevailed when it came to the marketing plan, with both urging me to simply write under my real name rather than trying to create a new platform using a pseudonym. That way I could incorporate this blog and all you wonderful readers.

Anyway, that's a long explanation for why I still don't have (and still don't want) a social media presence anywhere else.

That said, I do have a Facebook page, mostly for the purpose of communicating with Younger Daughter (who is in the Navy) when she's overseas. A generic Facebook page is also a good landing page for new readers trying to find me. I have a notice on the page that I'm not active on Facebook, and invite them to come here to the blog.

However I keep getting "friend" requests on that page, and frankly I'm tired of it. Why? Because these "friends" keep turning out to be creeps.

No sooner do I "friend" someone than I start getting icky messages. Samples:

• "hello beautiful lady, you got me crazy with your photos i wish we can becoming friend have been trying to send you a friend request but is not working please send me a friend request"

• "You are cute. Gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous!"

• "Hello beautiful woman how are you doing today I hope you are having a great day today. How's the weather conditions over there now?" (and another message later) "I believe you are feeling skeptical speaking to strangers..."

(And yes, I "unfriend" people as needed.)

I've had perfect strangers try to Direct Message me (I don't reply to Direct Messages unless it's absolutely someone I know.) One woman even tried to phone me on Facebook! I made the mistake of answering at first, thinking it was Younger Daughter, then hung up instantly when I realized my mistake. She then spent several minutes lambasting me via Direct Message before unfriending me (to my relief).

Am I the only one who finds this stuff creepy? 

What baffles me is why perfect strangers would do this, especially the men. Look, guys, I'm a happily married woman who is not cute, beautiful, or gorgeous except in the eyes of the man I love, which is all I care about. I'm also old enough to be a grandmother. Quit with the ick, okay?

And apparently I'm not alone. I'm part of a forum for Love Inspired authors, and one woman posted this as a warning:

"Hi ladies,

Just a quick warning about a woman who contacted me earlier on my author page. She's a new follower and aspiring writer. She message me asking if I would like to buy her unpublished works and retweak them 🙄🙄 I politely said no that I create my own works and she persisted saying she needed the money and that she was willing to send me the copyright at a low price. I again told her no and that it would be unethical. I ended up blocking her. Her name is [redacted]. Quote from this lady: 'I follow your page. I was thinking you could retweet [sic] them to suit your own style. I have an emergency so wish u can consider the offer. I'm not selling them for much. I also see the type of books you publish. This is reason why I reach out as my style of writing is also similar.'"
This author concludes, "Seriously, is there a full moon tonight?"

So apparently this is pretty common.

Therefore I've decided, no more. I'll keep my Facebook page simply because it's the easiest way to communicate with Younger Daughter, but I'm never "friending" anyone ever again. Nor will I open accounts on any other site. I'm not familiar enough with social media to navigate its shoals without going aground on dangerous reefs, so I'll avoid those treacherous waters altogether.

Okay, rant over.

Well, sorta over. I'm curious. How many of you have had icky creepy experiences on social media?

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Nature's spy balloon

Don and I were out walking Mr. Darcy late on Sunday afternoon when we saw a beautiful sight:

"Look, it's a spy balloon!" Don exclaimed.

We chuckled all the way home.

Monday, February 6, 2023

The "difficulties" of cash

As many of you know, we adopted an all-cash lifestyle about ten years ago. It's helped us stay within our budget and not overspend. We've never regretted the decision, and frankly don't give it much thought anymore. It's just second nature.

But many consider an all-cash lifestyle to be backwards and primitive, akin to navigating a city with a paper map (which, since we don't have smart phones, we still do). "Gosh, you use cash? Why? Isn't that inconvenient when compared to a credit card?"

That's why I chuckled when I came across an article entitled "Is it Possible to Live Without Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Cash Apps?"

Possible, this article asks? Oh please.

The article starts out listing the benefits of using cash, up to and including times when the regional power grid is knocked out (such as the aftermath of hurricanes or other natural disasters). But then it delves into the difficulties of paying for housing (rent or mortgage), utilities, transportation, hotels, and airline tickets with cash. "The world has become increasingly organized around cards, chips, and payment apps," the article states. "Can you actually live cash-only in today’s world?"

To an extent, this article is correct. When I say we live an "all-cash" lifestyle, that isn't entirely accurate. We pay certain bills through the mail with checks (local utilities are paid in cash). We seldom fly or stay in hotels, but on the rare occasions we do, we use our credit card.

But for everyday transactions, it's cash all the way. Cash is anonymous. It doesn't leave little cyber-trails everywhere we go, like a credit or debit card or a "cash app" (whatever that is).

Why is cash considered controversial? It's not that hard. Yet over and over again, an all-cash lifestyle is looked upon as shocking and difficult. Most money-management articles downright discourage it.

In fact, the "discouragement" part is interesting. It's almost like a digital lifestyle is not just actively encouraged, but many times transactions using cash are made difficult or impossible. Why?

The answer, I believe, is we're being groomed to adopt a digital currency at some point. Cyber-money, we are told, is the currency of the future, a solution to problems we never knew we had. Digital currency is being touted as far more efficient, easy, environmentally beneficial, and even more sanitary than fiat currency. What's not to love? (/sarc/)

Of course, digital currency would be vulnerable to hacking, technological glitches, and power outages. Any hiccup in the system would mean your funds are not available "at this time." But hey, what's a little inconvenience when compared to all the benefits?

As for that primitive all-cash lifestyle, the article concludes: "Final verdict: You sure can live a cash-only life. But it comes with some serious downsides you’ll have to take into consideration."

Yeah, no. After ten years of a (mostly) all-cash lifestyle, I can testify the benefits far outweigh any potential detriments.

So until digital currency becomes mandatory, it's all cash for us.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Drama on the African plains

Drama on the African plains. A baby elephant was stuck in the mud. This is a crazy video.

 Your heart will pound!


Fortunately it has a happy ending.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

For the love of eggs...

With the current shortage and price spike of eggs, the memes have started. Here are a few:

(Is it just me, or does this look like a rooster to you?)

Or, as one headline put it, "Americans may need to reprioritize what is attractive in a good partner: Does he or she have chickens?"

We have neighbors with chickens. They sell eggs periodically. They had a sign by their driveway last summer that eggs were available for $3/dozen. The sign came down after a couple weeks. Last week the sign was back, this time advertising eggs for $4/dozen. The sign came down after a couple of days. I have a feeling they're being besieged with demand, especially at those prices, and their hens can't keep up.