Monthly Archives: November 2011

Buff Ducks – An Aspendale Farm Color Trend?

Metzer Farms Buff Ducks

I’ve been talking about adding ducks to our home livestock program here at Aspendale Farm since last summer.  This week I’ve finally gotten down to brass tacks and started looking at individual breeds to determine which breed will best fit our needs this spring.

What I’ve noticed though, is that I’m willing to compromise a little – on ducks or any other farm animal, to get an animal whose looks I find pleasing.  My first dog, Rio, was a yellow lab I got when I was fourteen.  After that I had a long-haired orange cat.  In college I had a short-haired orange tabby.  Our long-time housecat George Bailey died last Thanksgiving.  He was orange and white.  My favorite color horse is … buckskin.  Do ya notice a trend here?  I’ve had “raise turkeys” on my wish-list for several years – always entranced by the … Red Bourbon turkeys.  And now, yes, I’m seriously considering Buff Ducks.  All these names are just variations on red/orange/tan animals.  I would never say that I love red/orange/tan – but obviously, if it wears fur or feathers, I do.

Of course, if the Buff Ducks were aggressive or nervous, or laid eggs too prolifically, or were poor foragers, or were exceptionally noisy, I wouldn’t consider them.  But though there are other breeds who lay fewer eggs or whose disposition is even more rock-solid calm, I choose my breed on the amount of pleasure I get from watching them, and that, my friends, is why I will probably end up with Buff Ducks!


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Tickles , Turkey, and A Terrific Time

First Annual Family Turkey Trot (3 miles/5k or 9 miles/15k)

Nerf Gun Wars

Turkey Noodle Soup

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie (Yeah!!!)

Tickle Fight!

Matching Pajamas

Pie, pie and more pie!

Silly hats

Man Cave Radio Football Commentator Ty Daniels (go Ty!)

It started out pretty shaky with my littlest girl Betsy in bed with the flu.  We weren’t sure if the family would make it up or not.  We’d hate for the two little girl cousins to get sick (or anyone, really).  But the family showed up on our doorstep wearing joke exam gloves and facemasks!  All in all a great visit.  The bulk of us agreed that Thanksgiving is the second best holiday of the year, with all the fun we usually have when we get together.  From movies, to fun food (lots of it, of course), to cuddling my nieces Cozy and Dagny, to interviewing my football fanatic brother-in-law Ty about the Ohio State – Michigan game this weekend for Jesse’s Man Cave Radio show, it’s been a blast.  We ended with eggnog and the annual nerf gun war – adults and children.  (I think we’re all, really, just big children at Thanksgiving time.)  Truly a lot to thank God for!

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Last week on Small Home Farm Radio we talked about using small vehicles to pull farm implements.  At Aspendale Farm we use a 1984 Yamaha quad ATV to pull a 4-foot section of rotary disc to disc manure into our trails – one solution to managing excess farm manure.  We use a 1968 John Deere 111 Lawn Tractor to haul firewood, lumber, or just about anything that needs hauling.  And of course, we use it for mowing.  We can use either vehicle to spread manure.  In addition to our gasoline-powered vehicles, we also have two (hay-powered!) horses that drive.

This week on Small Home Farm Radio I’ll discuss using horsepower to tend your small home farm.  How much can you do with horses?  What kind of horses (or equines) should you use?  And what are the pros and cons of using real horsepower!

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Tack Swap in Review

Well a lot of work went into running our own little booth at the Tack Swap.  I didn’t make a million bucks (I never do!) but I got rid of a lot of the stuff I’d hauled down there.  I still have my fabulous Big Horn Trail Saddle with the gorgeous basketweave tooling on it to sell, so I suppose I’ll list it on ebay and hope someone finds it an irresistible Christmas gift.  And I still have my haflinger driving harness, which I may just list on ebay as well.

The place was hopping from before opening until around 2 pm when the flow of buyers trickled to a very thin stream, then died altogether around 5.  But that’s often the way it is with sales.  People tend to want to shop first thing and have the best selection.

My goal was not to make a lot of money.  I knew going into it that it was unlikely.  I just wanted to find new homes for my extra stuff and make enough cash to pay my expenses and have some spending money at the Tack Swap myself.  And I did.  I brought home Christmas and birthday presents for my girls, two cute tail bags, a nice, black, wool saddle pad with tooled wear leathers (which I totally didn’t need but have been drooling over for close to two years – and it was only $20!), some size 7 boots for Danny to grow into next summer, and something to put into our extended family’s White Elephant gift exchange at the holidays.  I felt good about my haul.  Fun stuff, but not excessive.  Except maybe the saddle pad which I really didn’t need.  LOL!

The highlights were a beautifully restored antique sleigh (darn!  I wish I’d gotten a photo!) and having a booth next to NRHA Reserve Champion Leslie Gillespie-Darrow, who said she could consider running a weekend-long beginner’s reining clinic for me since it’s too far for me to drive for weekly lessons.  Don’t know if I will, but I’ll probably at least see how much it costs!

I’m glad it’s done with.  Now to clean up and unpack and figure out what to do with the box of leftovers!

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Turning Toward Winter

It’s been snowing lightly off and on here this morning. The air has finally just burst into a frenzy of flakes covering every rooftop and rail.  They jostle and bounce and swirl in a mad rush to usher winter in here at Aspendale Farm.

The old saying goes: Ice in November, mud in December.  So I hope this is a temporary snow that will melt away, giving us time for a good, hard freeze to settle the ground before the snow comes to stay.  It can be quite difficult to get about, particularly when hauling anything such as manure or firewood, when there is muck under the snow.

But for all that, it is beautiful, and puts me in the mood for enjoying hot cocoa by a crackling fire, under a blanket with a good book.  And it encourages me to look forward in anticipation to having a good layer of snow on the ground and enough cold to make a good bed for cross-country skiing.

During the winter of 2006 we had the privilege of living on Chub Lake south of Gaylord.  The lake was tucked far back off the main road and gas pipeline roads criss-crossed the state land that surrounded the lake, giving us miles and miles of trails to ski right from our front door.  It was heaven on skis!  Here, though, we must load up our skis and head out to the groomed ski trails.  It seems the trails in our own woods, besides not being very long, are usually slushy and sluggish to ski on, and the gravel on our two-track road scrapes our skis and stops us in our tracks.  Still and all, jumping in the car to ski is alright, and we do have a neighbor nearby with 140 acres who’s agreed to let us use his trails for horseback riding and trail running, and I suspect he’ll be just fine with skiing, too.

Here’s to another winter full of snowy fun, crisp, clean air, and plenty of good, hot food!

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You Say Potato, I Say “Go for It!”

Just this afternoon, Danny picked the potatoes up off the sheet on the sunporch where they have been laying, covered lightly, to “cure” since they were harvested last week.  Technically you only need to cure them a couple of days, but life gets in the way of neatly putting them away in a timely manner.  Potatoes have to be my absolute favorite plant in the garden.  I know they are, because I have more  potato plants than just about any other, and since they’re so cheap to buy at the grocery, it is absolutely uneconomical to have two partial rows of potatoes out of just three rows altogether!

But who can argue with love?  And why are they so fun to grow?  There’s not a pat answer for that one.  Experience the belly-laugh-evoking sensation of unearthing a pile of palm-sized potatoes from under the mulch and you’ll know. In the spring, there was but one tiny little seed potato sitting there and now there’s a whole passel of big’uns!  The kids and I race each other to see who gets to be the one to dig up the most potatoes (i.e. who has the most fun?!!)

This year, however, I kept putting off the harvest because I was frantically busy with the Tack Room renovation and a myriad of other things until I feared we were as late as we could possibly get.  So I let the kids dig up the potatoes themselves.  The winner (whomever that was – I can’t remember) had a garbage bag full of potatoes, compared to the grocery-store sacks the other two kids had filled.  Someone outdid themselves in the speed and diligence department this year.  In hindsight, we could have let it slide another week and I’d have been out there this afternoon digging potatoes, too.  But gardening is a bit of a gamble sometimes, and we make the most well-educated guesses we can and just go for it.

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Unveiling the Tack Room!

Well! I am so excited to share with you photos from the completely finished Tack Room in the horse barn here at Aspendale Farm!  This has been a really fun, very gratifying project to work on!  I have loved planning every detail, from looks to function.  And I’ve loved the challenge of figuring out how to do this on my own.

I hired a professional to hang and finish the drywall, knowing he’d do a much quicker, and better job than I would have. But all the framing, the insulation, the paneling installation and the finish carpentry were done by me, with a good amount of help from the children!  Danny and Betsy installed all of the insulation.  Cecily installed cripples in all the walls, helped with the insulation, and painted the finished drywall.  JJ helped frame in one of the walls and he ran errands for me so I could keep working!  And all the children picked up the slack, helping out extra around the house, with the cooking, laundry, and animal chores so I could get it done while the weather was still holding for me!  I surely wouldn’t be done yet if I hadn’t had such great workers helping out!

Enjoy the before and after shots:

"Before" construction began.

This is the same corner of the Tack Room as seen above, "after" construction was complete.

This was taken immediately before construction, and I'd already lugged this big cabinet down and stuck it into the Tack Room, awaiting de- and re-construction!

The window wall still houses the saddles, and the cabinet has been permanently installed, but what a difference!


You can see right through the studs of this wall into the adjacent feed room. Notice the thick layer of dust on the precariously balanced harness that's all lumped together on that makeshift holder. That barn dust was everywhere, covering everything! It's not good for the tack, and it made using the space and the equipment an unpleasant task. The following picture shows what a difference shutting out the barn dirt and having the appropriate hardware to hang your tack can make!


It's so nice to have the harness hooks installed to hold the driving harness. It's been a very awkward piece of equipment to store up to now.

One of the coolest parts of doing this construction myself has been in not being held back in what I wanted to do.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and a bit of a visionary, I think.  And I come up with these fantastic ideas that will, undoubtedly take a little extra work to pull off.  I knew that if I even mentioned wanting to do wood paneling below and drywall on the top portion of the walls, my husband would have given a thumbs-down on my idea, telling me it was too complicated, and to stick with something simpler, like paneling up to the ceiling. But that wasn’t what I wanted.  I’ve given in to that line of reasoning time and again, and the proof is in the pudding here.  I’ve never been so thrilled with the way a project turned out as I am with this one.  It is exactly the way I planned it, and exactly the way I wanted it.  Not only is it fully functional, but it’s a beautiful, serene place to retreat to and maybe clean some leather goods (a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon, actually – the smell of saddle soap and leather conditioner smell so good, and it’s a nice, soothing activity.  I guess probably the way some women find solace in ironing or polishing Grandma’s silver…) Fortunately, this was my baby, so I didn’t have to mention my idea to anybody.  I just did it.  LOL!

So that wraps up a pretty intense, but hugely gratifying three weeks here at Aspendale Farm.  Thanks so much for checking out the fun with me.  It’s been satisfying to rely so completely on myself for such a big challenge.  That’s one of the joys of Small Home Farming… pushing myself and seeing what I’m capable of, what I enjoy, and what needs I can meet on my own!

If you’d like to hear me talk a little about the construction, as well as some other Home Farming-related business, check out my latest podcast episodes at Small Home Farm Radio!


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