Friday, December 30, 2016

Snow!

We got some snow yesterday.


Thane approves.  He "helped" me shovel the back deck.


Yeah, thanks, bud.  Couldn't do it without you.  


My truck.  I keep forgetting to roll the tonneau cover back before it snows, so the bed is full of snow.  When I get my own place, I'll have to decide whether I want to put a plow on this truck, or get some old, beat-up truck just for plowing.  Or hire someone else to plow for me.  :P  Lol, I need to start making a comprehensive list of all these sorts of decisions I'll have to make...and try to estimate some of the associated costs of each option.
  

Whenever I go out and shovel snow now, I've found myself thinking, "In a couple more years, I might be shoveling a path to my barn so I can feed my animals."  


I'm still disappointed that I can't have any livestock on my current property.  I would have liked to get just a couple goats to milk and start working on a formula for goats' milk soap.  Maybe I can find a local source of goats' milk this spring.  Or maybe I can learn to make regular soap first to get the technique down pat, and then transition into goats' milk soap later.


2017 should be an interesting year, in any case!!  :)  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Butterscotch Candy Recipe - Attempt #1

So that was a first for me - as far as I can recall, I've never tried making candy before!  It was a nice easy recipe to get started with, and it came out pretty good, although not exactly what I was thinking.  
I don't intend for this blog to become all about recipes, but I'll definitely share some of the butterscotch recipes, just for fun.

I'm posting today's recipe below, but if you want a much more detailed description (and a printable version of the recipe), click here.  

It's really simple...you just need sugar, butter, molasses and salt.


Melt the butter (all of it!!!) over medium-low heat.

That's a LOT of butter!!
Stir in your other ingredients (1 lb. sugar, 4 oz. molasses, 2 teaspoons fine sea salt).


Bring the temperature up to medium or medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Use a candy thermometer, and once the candy reaches 250 F, pour it into an 8 or 9 inch pan lined with greased foil.


Let it cool for a while, then put it in the fridge to finish cooling.  Then you can take it out and slice it up - it's actually quite soft.  


It's yummy, although again, not entirely what I had expected.  It's buttery, and you can definitely taste the molasses...the texture reminds me of a soft, melty caramel.  (We'll see if it firms up a bit more in the fridge overnight.)  

You can cook it longer for a harder candy - or shorter for a butterscotch sauce to pour over ice cream (yum!).  I may come back to this recipe in the future and experiment with cooking it to different temperatures.

So.,,attempt number one...this is exciting stuff here!!  :D

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Researching Goat's Milk Soap and Zoning and Yarn-Making Thingies

I got excited today - for a minute, I thought that I might be able to have some farm animals on my current property.  I was reading my town's zoning laws and discovered that my family's house is in the "Village Commercial District," and that even though we're practically in the center of town, some Domestic Farm Animals are allowed - with restrictions.

So I read a bit more and learned that the "restriction" is that the property needs to be at least one acre.  Our lot is only .61 of an acre, according to the tax map.

*Sigh.*

So that means no goats or chickens yet.  (Don't worry, Mom and Dad - I would NOT have tried to bring cows or pigs onto this little bitty piece of land!)

The house looks secluded in this photo, but the neighbor's house is to my left, and a busy road runs past the house just to my right.  
Related to goats, however, I've been wondering how many goats I would need if goats' milk soap was my primary source of income.  I'm still figuring this one out, but I picked away at a few numbers today.

The first recipe I looked at calls for 13 ounces of goat's milk (along with some other ingredients); this will produce four 4-oz bars of soap.  

One person's record of her Nigerian Dwarf Goat's milk production came to roughly four cups of milk a day - which would equal roughly twelve bars of soap a day.  

The goat produced milk for over a year...twelve bars of soap a day for one year = 4380 bars of soap. 

Wow!

I'm skeptical that it's as cut-and-dried as that - for example, how much of that is consumed by the kid(s) until they are weaned? - but I'm happy to at least have the start of some numbers to think about.  It sounds like I wouldn't need to have very many goats in order to run a thriving goats' milk soap company, and that a nice small breed like the Nigerian Dwarf might work out very well for me.

There's even a breed called the Nigora that you can get both milk and fiber from...I've never been particularly interested in knitting or crocheting, but I have to admit that making my own yarn sounds mildly intriguing...

I forget what this thing is called, but it has something to do with making yarn...
Oh, and back to the zoning stuff...on a happier note, I did find out that apparently all the land in our area that is not zoned as just commercial or residential is considered Residential Agricultural, and if my understanding of what I read is correct, then there are no restrictions against owning farm animals on that type of land.  I need to stop by Town Hall sometime to confirm this hypothesis and to see if they have a better map than the PDF file I was looking at.

Okay, I looked it up...it's a yarn winder.  I believe that the bell would ring to help count how many revolutions the arms had made so you could get a consistent amount of yarn in each skein.
Tomorrow I'm going to pick up ingredients to try making Butterscotch candy - can't have a name like Butterscotch Farm and not be able to back it up with some real Butterscotch!

We'll see how it goes...I've never tried making hard candy before...

Worst case, I'll settle for cookies with Butterscotch chips.  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Little "Umph"

I turned 29 today - eek!!  So old!  

Okay, maybe not SUPER old...but, wow, where has the time gone?  Wasn't I just ten...or fourteen...or eighteen...or...well, you get the idea.  :P  

Actually, I do still feel rather like a teenager a lot of the time, and while some of that is because I still live in my parents' home, most of the blame falls on me.  I'm one of those people who doesn't HAVE to be moving every minute of every day.  While I do take satisfaction in a job well done, and while I typically enjoy a task once I start it, I've definitely sunk into the bad habit of going straight to my computer whenever I have down time.  This leads to a teenager-ish messy room and a host of unfinished projects - which then stresses me out.

We sell bottled tea and juice at work that comes with an inspirational quote inside every bottle.  Most of them are just fluffy nonsense, but I found one a while ago that I really like: "The difference between try and triumph is a little 'umph.'" (Anonymous)

I've been thinking about that lately.  Now that I'm seriously saving for my own place, and especially now that I'm beginning to research farming and learning just what a crazy amount of work it will be to fulfill my dream, I'm realizing that I need a whole lot more "umph" in my life!

So today I really took that to heart.  I got off work a little early (because it's my birthday!!  :D ), and instead of plunking down on my couch and scrolling mindlessly through my favorite webpages (even though most of them right now are farming-related), I took the dog on a walk.  Then I sorted the intimidating paper pile on my desk and threw out a bunch of old papers.  After that, I still had some time before supper, so I sorted and reorganized my clothing so that I could fit all my bulky winter sweaters into my "closet."  

And...guess what?  I feel good now.  There's plenty more organizing that I could do, and I still have unfinished projects on my desk, but I have a definite feeling of satisfaction in what I accomplished today.  (I don't know if I'm applying this correctly, but it makes me think of what God says to Cain in Genesis 4:6 - "Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry?  And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?")

So from this birthday on, I'm going to try to live my life with a whole lot more "umph!"  I'm starting by organizing my room, but I'm hoping that the impact will be far reaching and long lasting, and that maybe over time, everything in my life from general organization, to my dreams of farming, to my spiritual walk, will gradually shift from "try" to "triumph!"

P.S. - This photo is old.  I didn't quite make it this far in my organization today, lol.  

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thane

As I wrote in my last post, I finally have a dog in my life again, after more than ten years.  

Meet Thane, my Old-Time Scotch Collie In Training:

8.5 Weeks Old
Anyone who has read the old books by Albert Payson Terhune understands what the breeders of these old-fashioned Collies are trying to capture - a dog that doesn't just possess beauty, but also brains, a solid work ethic, and above all, loyalty to their families.  

9.5 Weeks Old
I read about the OTSC (Old-Time Scotch Collie) movement this past summer, and I became very excited.  I was even more excited when I learned that there was a litter of puppies available in Maine - and then I was over the moon when my parents graciously agreed to allow me to purchase a puppy.  (I felt like a teenager again - "I promise I'll walk him, and clean up after him, and train him...")

10.5 Weeks Old
On September 17th, 2016, a friend and I drove a couple hours to meet the breeder.  I met Thane, snapped a leash onto his collar, and chatted with the breeder for a little while.  Then she left, and suddenly I had an adorable, mischievous little fluffball on the end of the leash, and somewhat less knowledge of what to do with him than I had thought I possessed.  

11.5 Weeks Old
I will come right out and say that the first few weeks, while they had their fun moments, were very, very challenging, and I had plenty of days when I was extremely discouraged.  Thane would play nicely for a while, but then he would get "the crazies" and go after my hands, my ankles, my clothes...anything he could reach.  I spent a lot of time online researching how to handle this (stopping play and turning my back on him seemed to have the best results), but I really just couldn't wait for him to be past puppyhood and reach perfect adulthood.  :P  

12.5 Weeks Old
Time both flew and dragged as I waited for my Thane to become the wonderful Old-Time Scotch Collie I had read so much about.  I took him to obedience class and brought him into busy local shops often for socialization.  I took him on walks.  He LOVES people, and he is a very confident puppy.  His fun, curious personality began to show through more and more.

13.5 Weeks Old.  This Frisbee is now utterly demolished.
He began to show more affection toward members of the household.  In true Collie fashion, he puts his ears back against his head when he's happy, and it's fun to talk to him and watch his ears go up and down.  Speaking of the ears, I never know on a day-to-day basis whether they'll be sticking straight up or flopped over.  Often it's one of each.

14.5 Weeks Old
Slowly...very slowly...I've begun to see more and more of a difference in his behavior.  A lot of that, actually is ME learning how to act around him, how to correct misbehavior - or, even better, how to redirect him when I see that he's about to do something wrong.  So much of dog training is actually people training!

15.5 Weeks Old
We went adventuring.  I think that Thane will be a good hiking buddy - unlike my Irish Setter many years ago, who was always casting around for scents, Thane likes to stick close to me.  I think that's probably a Collie trait - he's more about his people than about his nose.

16.5 Weeks Old
He's getting bigger all the time, and his adult coat is starting to come in.  A trademark of the OTSC is a moderate coat...meaning that Thane should have far less coat than the typical AKC-type Collie.  So far it's looking promising.  

17.5 Weeks Old
Lately I've been encouraged.  I feel that Thane is really getting past some of the worst of the puppy craziness and settling into a calmer, more affectionate personality.  I think to myself more and more often, I really think he's going to be a great dog, instead of I hope he turns out okay...

18 Weeks Old...Zoomies in the Snow!
My current plan is to enroll in more obedience classes and just keep reinforcing the training that he already has.  I spoke with a professional trainer, and she recommends that I also work on his impulse control, which will help with some occasional continued mouthing of my hands and nipping at ankles, etc.  Basically, he needs to sit and look at me before he gets anything - food, treats, attention, play time.

19 Weeks Old
My main goals for the next month or so:
-No more mouthing/nipping
-Better leash manners
-Get him comfortable with having his nails clipped
These will require patience and consistency on my part - both things that are not necessarily strong points for me, so that's another puppy learning curve!  I really want to raise Thane the right way, though, and the window of opportunity is narrow.

5 Months Old!!
My cute little fluffball is not so little any more...he's actually five months old today!  He's earned more freedom in the house lately, and so far has done very well spending loosely supervised time outside his pen.  (Another typical Collie trait is easy housebreaking, and this is definitely true of Thane!)  

I guess the moral of this story is this: all puppies are hard work.  I was expecting Thane to be easy just because he's a Scotch Collie, but in a way I'm glad he's been such a challenge - I've learned SO much the past three months, and I'm looking forward to learning plenty more as Thane continues to grow and mature.  I'm confident now that he's going to be a wonderful dog, and I'm excited to see him become all that he can be.

Someday, if his temperament continues to improve and he passes some health checks, he may become the foundation of Butterscotch Farm Scotch Collies!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Dogs in My Life

I've always loved dogs.  I blame it on books, because I really had little to no interaction with dogs until I was in my teens.

But I grew up reading books by Jim Kjelgaard and Albert Payson Terhune, and I dreamed of someday having an Irish Setter of my own, just like Big Red...or a Collie like Lad of Sunnybank.  

When I was probably around 13 years old, my parents let me get a puppy from the shelter.  I named her Jewel, but called her Jewlie.  She was a Husky/German Shepherd mix.  Sadly, fictional books don't really prepare one for training a high energy puppy, and I returned Jewlie to the shelter within a couple months because she had begun to grow aggressive.  Looking back on it, I think that her aggression was probably due to boredom - we did take her on long daily walks, but I don't recall interacting much with her beyond that.  I still feel sad when I think of what a poor start I gave that little dog, but I've come to see the experience as a lesson - namely, that I need to have some idea of what I'm getting myself into when I take charge of an animal's life!  

I still wanted a dog.  Each of us kids was allotted a half hour of internet time a day back then, and if I recall correctly, I spent a lot of that time sighing dreamily over the available dogs in an Irish Setter rescue group.  

I think I was fourteen when I got into contact with a rescue coordinator in Maine who had three available dogs - an older male and female, and a male who was only 3 years old...perfect.  Dad and Mom graciously allowed me to give dog ownership another try.

This time it clicked.  


He came with the name "Wrinkles," and he weighed around 100 pounds - and he wasn't chubby!  He was a huge, goofy dog who produced long strings of drool and would steal food off the countertops...but I loved him.

I still didn't know much about training, but his easygoing, bumbling manner worked out okay in our family, and we did all right for four years.  He had a few behavior problems, but nothing I couldn't handle...the only problem was that I was the only one who really could handle those problems - and the time came for me to go to college.  

I didn't mind having a 100-pound dog that pulled on the leash - it gave me great biceps! - but it would be too dangerous for my Mom to walk him with her bad knees.  

I didn't mind giving Wrinkles a bath and clipping the fluffy fur on his back - but no one else wanted to do that job.  

I didn't mind taking Wrinkles on walks in the woods and letting him run off leash - but I hated to dump that responsibility onto my young siblings.


So, with a heavy heart, I contacted the rescue organization that had placed Wrinkles with me and told them that I believed it was in everyone's best interest to find him a new home that could give him the time and attention he deserved.

I don't feel guilty about rehoming Wrinkles - I believe that it was God's will, because all the details fell into place wonderfully.  For example, there was a lady in our area - with whom I was acquainted - who was looking for an Irish Setter.  She had another Setter to be Wrinkles' friend, she had long experience with the breed, and she had a fenced-in back yard.  She had the time and money to take good care of Wrinkles and really give him the wonderful senior years that he deserved.

So I didn't feel guilty...but I do admit to feeling more than a bit empty inside when Wrinkles climbed willingly into the back seat of Nancy's SUV and I watched the vehicle drive away.

That was over ten years ago.

I still live at home (working on that!!), and the deal was no more dogs until I had my own place...but then this past summer I talked to Dad and Mom (and other family members still at home) and told them that I'd found an amazing breed...smart...great with kids...loyal...eager to learn - the Old Time Scotch Collie.  These were the kinds of dogs Albert Payson Terhune wrote about!

And guess what?  

There was a breeder just a few hours away with a litter of puppies!


The end result of that conversation: on September 17, 2016, this little furball came into my life.  

And wow, I am so glad I didn't get this puppy when I was younger!  As I've worked with Thane, I've needed every bit (and more!!) of canine experience and knowledge that I've accumulated the past fifteen years.

Actually, when I started this post, I intended for it to be all about Thane, but I think I'll save his story for another post.

We'll let this post stand as it is, a memorial to a long-ago puppy who I hope went on to be a great dog despite my shortcomings, and to a Big, Goofy, Red Dog who was my friend.  



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oops, Forgot a Couple Things...

I forgot something in last night's post - maple syrup!  I knew I had something for every season!

Other things I forgot:

I would consider housing honey bees, although I'd have to plan that one carefully, or my sisters would probably never come to visit me.  :P  

I have no idea if this is actually a honey bee...look!  Flowers!

I'd also think about producing and selling baked goods on my Veggie Delivery Route.

Mmmmmm...jam tarts...

And finally, considering my farm's name, I probably ought to learn to make butterscotch candy.  (Or at least butterscotch cookies, or something!)  

The above suggestions would go along with the "BIG Dream" mentioned in yesterday's post, although of course they might fit into my other dreams on a smaller scale.  

Lol, so far farming sounds like a lot of work...I might need to find a husband!!  :P

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Tale of Three Dreams

One of the biggest decisions I'll have to make at some point is whether Butterscotch Farm will be merely for my own pleasure (thus requiring me to have at least a part-time job outside the home), or whether it will be an actual business.  

A personal "farm" would probably mean that I could get by with quite a bit less acreage - I'd just need enough space to grow a decent-sized garden and raise a few animals for meat and eggs.  This would certainly be the simplest option.  (This is my "Small Dream.")

But I really like the idea of working from home, especially now that I've seen how much work goes into raising a puppy.  If I plan to breed Scotch Collies eventually (even though it would only probably be a litter every year or two), I'd like to have the option to stay home and keep an eye on the puppies.

See the mischief in those eyes?  Puppies are SO much work!!
Ultimately, I'd like to become virtually self-sustaining...but I know I'll need money for things like vet bills, groceries I can't grow, Internet, etc., etc., etc.!

My "Medium Dream" is to have a few acres.  I'd grow/raise a lot of my own food, have my dogs, and my income would probably be a combination of selling goat milk soap (or other handmade products) and maybe working a part-time job outside the home.

And here's my "BIG Dream":

Get a pretty decent chunk of land - probably 20+ acres.

Grow self-pick berries; also sell the berries at a farm stand/farmers' market.  Get into canning and sell jams and jellies.


 Grow an apple orchard, and offer self-picking in the fall, as well as selling some picked fruit at the farmers' market.  Maybe have cider and apple-sauce making events.


I might try growing some nut trees (need to research what does well in New Hampshire).  Long-term, this could potentially provide valuable lumber to sell as well.

Grow lots of veggies to sell at the farmers' market; possibly do a veggie delivery service (customers would select their veggies and delivery days online; they could also order other products such as my jams and jellies, canned applesauce, eggs, etc.).

Raise chickens, sell eggs at the farm stand, farmers' market, and include in the veggie delivery service. 


Raise cattle and pigs for meat.

Raise goats for milk and/or for fiber (yarn).  (Did you know that there's a breed that does both?  It's called the Nigora.)  Use the goats' milk to make goats' milk soap.  

If I need more milk than the Nigora can produce for my soap (haven't gotten that far in my research yet...), I could raise a pure dairy goat, and raise sheep for their fiber instead of goats.  


Grow a Christmas tree farm, and get DRAFT HORSES (!!!) to give people sleigh/wagon rides to pick out their trees.  (Have a nice cozy stand with lots of my products for people to buy while they're there.)


And with all this livestock around, it might be beneficial to have a Livestock Guardian Dog or two, although the Scotch Collies may be able to fill that role, as I'd be surprised if we have predators in this part of NH that would bother anything bigger than a chicken. 

So...the next couple of years will be a time of much researching, of deciding where my passions truly lie, and of saving money.  I'm definitely more of a dreamer than a doer, so to achieve any of these goals is going to take a lot of gumption on my part!  But I'm excited, and I'm learning, so that's a good start, in my humble opinion.  :)  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Welcome to My New Blog!!

Hi!!  Welcome to Butterscotch Farm!

Okay, so Butterscotch Farm is currently a web page and a bunch of ethereal ideas and concepts floating around in my head...but the hope is that someday it will be a real place...

...a real place, with my own house and land.

...a real place, with its own mailbox and its own yard to mow and maybe a functioning bathtub.

...a real place, with real animals - cows, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, dogs and cats.

So far I have one dog.

That's a start, right?

And, okay, maybe I won't end up with all of those animals.  Or maybe I will!  That's one reason for this blog - it will probably end up being a sounding board as I research and plan and pray about exactly what I want Butterscotch Farm to entail.

Maybe I'll grow Christmas trees.

Maybe I'll grow an orchard.

Maybe I'll grow pick-your-own berries.

Maybe I'll raise heritage breeds of farm animals.

Maybe I'll make goat-milk soap.

It's fun to dream, anyway,..and it'll be an adventurous journey, no matter the outcome!!