Monthly Archives: April 2012


This weekend we said goodbye to Proeun’s grandfather (“Tha” in Cambodian).

He was a wonderful man who went through some very tough times, like famine, war, genocide, refugee camps and learning to live in a new country all while supporting a wife and 5 daughters. I sadly did not know him well.

Three years ago when he was 87 he began to experience heart problems. The doctors recommended open heart surgery but for a man already aged in years the family asked what the alternatives were and the doctors said with proper medication he would probably live another 3 years. He did and he made it to 90 years old. He became a Christian in 1981 and devoted himself to his new religion. In the end he wasn’t worried and he passed away surrounded by family.

Always a death reminds me that time is the most important thing we have. It reminds me that I am so thankful to be home with my children, that we go through great efforts to stay together as a family when Proeun is home and that try to visit extended family often. I really wish I would have known Tha better. My excuse is time and language barrier but you know in the end I missed out on an amazing opportunity to know and amazing man. I am somewhat comforted to know that he was watching our work getting the farm with interest and felt that we were headed in the right direction. Unfortunately he became ill the day before he and his family was to come for a visit.

He will be missed but I know he wasn’t worried and he shouldn’t be either. Just remember–Time and use it well.

Beekeeping begins

This week the children came running to the house as excited as could be to tell us, “The bees are in the tree!”

This tree to be exact. And they were so excited because we are first time bee keepers. We started this year with 2 packages of bees and two hives. It’s a little nerve racking to be quite honest, not because they are dangerous but because they see so delicate. I am mean lets face it, we have all heard the rumors and facts–bees are in trouble. And they are in trouble on many fronts. One of course is the environmental affects they no one seems to be quite able to pinpoint but there is also the problem of perception.

Many many Americans have little to no connection to the outdoors and anything related to it is scary. Bugs are one very scary element of the outdoors and ones that have the potential to sting even more so. Let me illustrate, we were at a family gathering and I was telling one of the aunts about our new hives. She said, “aren’t you worried about the children?” I am worried about the children I am worried they will grow up in a world without bees to be quite honest. 

When we were still residents of St. Paul we discovered that you could legally keep bees inside the city limits. But after going through all the paperwork for our chicken permit (which included going door to door to ask our neighbors permission to keep chickens) we knew it was very unlikely we would actually be able to get bees. So we are learning about them now.

I admit I was one of those bug haters. Then one day I was working weeding the vegetables and I heard the familiar buzzing that used to bring fear, but now I understood without those bees I wouldn’t have tomatoes or cucumbers, or eggplant or you name it. That doesn’t even get into a world without honey.

Still Proeun is the beekeeper in the family, though Two is begging for a suit and I would actually like one as well, or at least the hat and gloves like Proeun is wearing. Here he checks the entrance to the hive to make sure it is clear while some bees hitch a ride. I told him, make sure you take your hat off before you go inside.

Here he feeds the bees sugar water since not too many of the plants are flowering yet. They have already started producing beautiful creamy white wax, the likes of which I have never seen. Yes I am thinking I am really going to enjoy this.

Frolicking with the Goats

So one great thing about bottle-fed goats is how comfortable they are with people. We have gotten in the habit of taking our 3 babies out for play time with the children. The goats and children all have their favorites and luckily they line up just fine. The little goats follow their children around and call for them when they can’t see them. Avril has really gotten good at calling for her baby Margaret. Here are some photos from one day this week.

Thoughts on Goats

This weekend we did one of those crazy things we are getting known for–like farming. Yes at 8:00 in the morning we loaded all our children, 4 and counting in the suburban and drove to Little Canada to pick-up the 2 colonies of bees we had ordered. We were not sure the exact day they would come in so we had planned to also pick up 3 more goats that day. No big deal right?

So we loaded to 2 metal wire containers in the back and were serenaded by a pleasant buzzing for the next 2.5 hours as we continued driving to southern Minnesota’s Wren Hill Farm where we picked up Margaret, Pearl and Kojo (sorry I couldn’t link directly to their individual page but you can look at them under “Kid’s and Kidding.”

It was such a joy to visit this farm. The owner Allan Weinand really has a passion for goats and in a few years has gotten quite the herd going.

Then we drove home 3.5 hours and arrived just in time for bottles for the kids (goats) and bed. There are 2 ways that you can raise your goats–dam raising meaning they stay with their mother until they wean about 8 weeks and then you milk or bottle raising where they are removed from their mothers and raised by humans on bottles from the beginning. There are goods and bads for both. One good for bottle raising is disease prevention that can be passed from mother to kids.

So when you buy goats it depends on what the farm you are buying from does. Some will dam raise and wean at 8 weeks and then you can pick up your goats. Some will sell mother and kids together as in the case with our Ginger and some will sell bottle babies.

So now for a mom that has never mixed a bottle I am mixing 3 bottles 2 times a day for 3 baby goats.

Luckily I have lots of help. Two with Kojo (our new B* buck I am so excited about) and Mavis and grandma with Pearl.

And Avril with Margaret (my favorite little lady).

They are such a joy. At first I didn’t think I would bottle raise any but I am realizing I may not have any choice. Allan was telling me about a goat he had that had 6 babies in one litter a few years back. Even with help only 4 surrived but without the human help I am sure that number would have been lower. Ginger had triplets but could only handle twins so one was taken off and put on a bottle. So at least now I am learning the ins and outs of bottle feeding before we are in an emergency situation where we may loose a goat.

In May Raven, our adult female is set to kid, now I know how to bottle feed should the need arise. The hardest thing I think about bottle feeding is the goats get really attached to you which is good but when you leave them they cry something fierce. And I really believe nature made the cries of babies so that mother’s physically could not ignore it. Even though I am not the same species I am finding the crying really difficult to deal with. Hopefully in a couple days it will get better. At least we have 3 of them so they have each other and are kept together.

Plans for next year I will hopefully have 5 plus goats milking and maybe 10 plus babies running around. I really need to get my goat page up and running but honestly the goats are shedding winter coats right now and not very pretty. Soon I’ll get my own pictures to share.

Busy Days

These days are oh so busy. But it doesn’t seem so bad when you are working right along side people you love. This morning Proeun and I were working on the chicken tractor (moveable chicken housing) for the chicken pasture. It’s Friday and it’s been a long week and I was thinking, “what am I going to blog about?” and then I looked up and saw this,

kids making a house out of a tree, kids present and able to help when we are framing and need an extra hand, kids telling parents stories while they work, laughing together and taking breaks for hugs and kisses. Yes I guess busy isn’t so bad, not when it is the right kind of busy with the right people.

Easter Confessions

I have a confession to make. I am not so good at the celebrating. I am not sure why that is. Maybe because I am uncomfortable with the American penchant for excess, maybe I am too lazy or simply have too much stuff going on. So on Friday I realized, “wait, Easter is in 2 days and we have done nothing.” As a homeschooler I should be taking advantage of all these holidays as learning opportunities. Oh well. I quick boiled some eggs and we dyed them using some food coloring I had on hand. But Sunday we were building a greenhouse. Yes a greenhouse. I wish we weren’t but we are behind on this project and it must get done even if it is not the best time to do it. Luckily good company and a homemade meal of bread and soup made it feel like a celebration. Thanks Joci, Jim and dads!

So today the children are like, “when are we going to hide the eggs?” and “where’s our candy?”

I really really want to get better at celebrating, though I definitely want to lean more towards the ritual than the material.

Luckily I think this place will lend itself to that. Next year Proeun and I will be celebrating 10 years of wedded bliss so I better figure out how to celebrate by then. How do you like to celebrate?

Building Week Projects

In my last post I wrote that this past week was “building week.” Proeun intended to request off in May but a “mistake” ended up being really valuable for us since we have so so many building projects right now and soon our time will be devoted to the fields. So here are just a few of our projects.

A horse barn came with the property and while Avril would be thrilled to have horses, mommy decided on goats.  You have already met Ginger but now we have added 2 more goats. These are Nigerians which is a smalled dairy breed. Here is a secret, we are gearing up to offer a dairy CSA next year of goat milk and cheese. Anyway I would like to introduce

Raven. We bought her from Babel Brook Acres up in Embarrass. She has a great pedigree and show history and is due to kid on May 12th! So we will have babies born here on the farm soon.

We will also be milking this summer and so here is the milking stand Proeun built for me, not quite finished but I love it none the less. The design was from Homestead Revival and Fias Co Farm

We also had to build buck housing. Kristin of Babel Brook had a friend who was selling a buck also with a very good pedigree, she simply didn’t have anymore does not related to him to breed him to. So Proeun designed this little house for him and we built it was mostly scrap lumber lying around. The kids loved painting it! I am so proud of Proeun.

Here is a close up of Shere Country Caleb.

Next year we will have alot of babies running around thanks to this guy.

We also started our greenhouse. I am so excited for this. I can’t wait till next year, when the snow is on the ground, having this great place of refugee. We have started our seeds outside but hopefully next weekend, this project will be completed.

Last but not least a little fun. We were so tired this last week we didn’t get to use it much but it is ready and waiting.

We also built a utility cart that has been a great back saver when hauling feed, hay and water around to our growing group of animals. We didn’t get to the chicken tractor yet but that is next on our list, they are really anxious to be moved out of the winter coop. I know they will love free ranging in the field. So a busy but very productive week. There is something really great about a sense of accomplishment.