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Root Farm Arlee

Bringing in Babies From the Cold

Valerie RootWe bought a bottle baby this last winter. So tiny and cute but the cold without his mommy would be deadly. So what did we do? We put diapers on him and let him run around the house until he could go outside. 

Spike in Diaper

Spike in Diaper again

I learned this from my dad and his wife. Improvising in time of need and so cute can't stop taking pictures. Spike was like a little puppy in the house

Once we were able to take him outside and leave him in the barn we did.

Here is Ben feeding him and a couple of other babies.

Ben feeding lambs

helping with the chores

Helping with the chores. SWEET!

You all have a great day.


The Reason God Made Hawthorne Bushes

Hawthorne Bush

Valerie RootThis! This is the reason God made Hawthorn Bushes. I forget all year that there might be a good thing about these horrible, thorny and obnoxious weed bushes. When I see this scene in the winter I remember something good about Hawthorn Bushes.

This makes me forget the thorns tips broken and stinging in my arms after running into the bush after a lamb or calf. Having the thorns gouge me in the eyes trying to rescue a runaway critter. Tangling in my hair until Russ has come and get me out of the thorny patch. They have a poisonous property somehow because if we get too many cuts or pricks then we swell up and those spots hurt for days.

But most of all, I hate how many of my favorite shirts these things have stolen from me. They snag worse then nylons. I am repairing holes in all my clothes from these powerful needles. We cut, burn, saw, and they come back faster then not.

Here is a picture of one branch of the terrible spines that a Hawthorne Bush carries. I lose every time I have a fight with one.

Hawthorne spines

These are choke cherry bushes that we cut down to clear the driveway.

Choke Cherry Bushes

This reminds me of sticks of rock candy. Doesn’t it you?


The fog had set in and really made everything white. A slight ray of sun is peeking through the clouds. I can drive down this and feel the peace and a relaxation come over me. I really do have neighbors all around me, but you can hardly see any of them from here.

Each plant becomes a sculpture in its own right. The little puzzle pieces of frost that are connected to each blade of grass, branch, even on the leaves building on each other are simply remarkable.

Another picture of our road.


It is about 10 degrees outside with the sun shining, and I know this will soon be gone but I love the look and feel of this every time I see it. The next thing will be to see it laden with snow, and the road snow packed and crunchy. We live on a wildlife migratory route, and we see a lot of deer and bear crossing here. We see deer passing every week or so, and bear every spring and fall. We have a sow who has a couple of cubs every year, and she hangs out in our creek every fall.

Right where the shadow is of me taking the picture is about where the creek is and this is the migratory route.

Last spring Ben was stringing woven wire fence for the sheep when he heard some unusual grunts and splashing in the creek. A little nervous, he looked up over a bush between him and the creek. Nothing showed so he went back to tightening the woven wire. He heard it again, only a lot louder this time. He felt the hair rise up on the back of his neck. and hair follicles (skin of a chicken as they say in Spain) traveled up from his ankles to the top of his head. He slowly stood up again really watching everything to see if anything moved or was out of place. The color left his face and his eyes grew big as he watched first the nose then the face of that mommy sow peering at him over the bush he was standing by. She opened her mouth and bellered at him a good one. His heart started to pound in his ears and his thinking went something like this. "That is the sow and the only thing between her and me is this partially strung fence, that little bush and as fast as I can run." He said he dropped the stretchers and fencing pliers, turned around and ran so fast that he cleared that six-strand barb wire fence without breaking stride. He arrived in the house white-faced, excited and happy to have made it in all in one piece. He said, “I was afraid to look back just in case it slowed me down some and she nab me.” Then he said, "Well, I decided to take a little break from fencing until that sow leaves the area."

I was thankful he didn’t pass out at the creek or bring the bear in the house with him.

This started off as a story of our gorgeous landscape, but turned into the adventure of a bear.

It was the photograph of that part of the road where they cross that did it. Couldn’t have been me.

Here are some more pictures of the beauty of nature.

More landscape pictures

Grass and bushes

Isn’t this astonishing? Some of it is tall grass and behind it is a bush. Not Hawthorn, thank heavens. I enjoy this every winter. God's own painting.

Grasses, bushes and trees

This is more of the tall grass and bushes with trees in the background. The wind that blows out of one of the canyons makes the foliage lean to the left.

I am so thankful that we have the views from the photographs above because they could have been burnt up in this. This is a picture of the fire by my place this summer. I took it out my front door. I don’t remember how long it took to get this big but about 5 hours I think.

We were never in any danger that I could see but a lot of our neighbors were in a very dangerous position.

While fire is part of nature as well it just doesn’t leave such nice sculptures behind.


The Fog

Valerie RootGood Morning,

It started off as a great day. I was behind as usual, but a great day. I ran to town and did my errands, meetings, dropped off Lily then came home. Had sun in town. I am sure the birds were singing. I can't be sure as I had my music on and listening to it but if I had had my window down I am sure that I would have heard them singing in the sun. I climbed the pass and it was sunny the entire way.

I had driven through the pass and just as I came over the top I thought there was a fire somewhere close by. There was a literal horizontal line from the white pristine clouds and sun to the dense, dark, black and dreary fog.

Winter is here, and I guess I was just so disappointed to see it come in like that. No nice clean look. I am going to get into the habit of carrying a camera so I can take some pictures to show you. Maybe this time will be OK because it was just depressing to see such a radical change from one side of the mountain then the other. Of course my side had to be the one with the view of the black fog.

My day is still a great day even with the weather.

Just wanted to share the surprise of such a difference in weather.

You all have a wonderful day.


Roots and Sprouts

Llama Alert

Valerie RootLlama Alert!

We came home late one night and Russ spotted Sally but not Suzie. He backs up and pulls in toward the gate and shines the head lights into the pasture. No Suzie. He backs up and shines them another direction. Oops there she is. Just black as night and impossible to see except for her ears, reflecting the lights. Her halter is too big for her and hangs around her neck. 

So Ben is going to tighten up her halter. He jumps the fence and grabs her lead rope. Suzie came up off the ground like a rocket. As her feet touch the ground she is flat out running. Her sorrowful bellers are so sad. He scared her so bad. She is dragging Ben behind her. He is about 6 feet and 4 feet is legs. She had him stretched out and struggling to stay afoot. I never knew he could almost do the splits. He finally gets both legs in front of him and wraps the rope around one haunch and puts the skids on. He looks like he is water skiing only in a precarious postition. She stops running and whips around and hocks a loogie at him. Her neck is stretched clean out, ears flat against the back of her head. 

While he is dodging a spit wad, she takes off at a dead run, turns a quick right and cracks that lead rope, and Ben goes flying. His long legs look like a windmill on a cartoon. While he is catching his balance, she hocks another loogie at him. I start screaming, "If she hits you, you are walking home. I am not letting you in the car." Then I am hollering, "Talk to her, you scared her to death. Let her know who you are."

It didn't work. She hocked another loogie at him. He starts to walk up the lead rope hand over fist. As he reaches her head she rares back and hocks but no loogie this time. She would have gotten him right in the face if she would have spit on him. That smells sooo bad and lingers quite some time before it dissipates. She finally let him work on the halter, and he calmed her down but I felt so bad for her. She was just so frightened. He gave her grain the next day to help her settle down some more.

Sally just watched and never said a thing. Funny how you think they would have ganged up on him but Suzie had to fight her own battles and Sally just watched. In Sally's defense though, she did see Ben come over the fence and so she knew who it was.

Did you notice how I spelled loogie. I finally got smart and asked Google how to because I was becoming quite creative in my spelling efforts to get it right.

Thank you all for listening.

Have a great day,


The Roots and Sprouts

Chickens in The Pig Pen

Valerie RootI was explaining some of the problems I was having with my pigs to my daddy. I was stressing and fidgeting, going into great detail about problems. Dad figured I needed to loosen up a little, so when I got done venting, he told me the story of his chickens with the pig.

I laughed until I cried.

First I have to tell you a little of my grandfather. Born in 1906, he grew up in the era of hard times and little money. Your yes meant yes and your no meant no. Your word was backed up with a handshake, and you lived by it. He lived during the last of the gunfighters and Charlie Russell (his dad rode with Charlie Russell, another time maybe), depression, and traveling on horse back.  So when they got an animal, any animal, it would be given the utmost care and tended to properly. He stood about 6' when he recovered from the tree falling on his head. However tall he was, he didn't quite make 6'5 with his boots on. He weighed in about 230-235. He was big enough to scare everyone, my dad included. He would walk down the street and kids would say wow is your dad big.

So Grampa was a strict man and did not put up with a thing. He put the fear of God into everyone he came across. He was quick tempered and had the muscles and power to back it up. He was honest, hardworking but he didn't have a lot of give in him. Didn't back down to anyone. His dad was teaching him to be a gunfighter. He wrestled cows, calves, bulls and horses everyday.

They ran a few head of sheep, mostly cows and a sow she was half wild and just meaner then a snake, and some chickens. Every animal was expected to pay its keep. Well, the eggs kept Gramma going in the kitchen. The sow usually had 10 babies and helped keep the family in meat for the winter.

One day Gramma started to complain about her chickens missing. Every week one of her laying hens would turn up gone. Well with 7 kids, losing an egg a day is bad enough, but an average of 5 a week was terrible. Gramma told Grampa that she had set Dad (the only boy of 7) to watching. See what was killing her chickens. Grampa figured Dad was killing Grammas chickens so he gave him a good talking to. Told him if he (Grampa) heard of any more dead chickens, Dad was going to get a switchin. The day lights were scared out of Dad. All times day and night, whenever there was a commotion around the chicken yard, Dad was sneaking past to see what was after the chickens.

One day there was quite the ruckus at the barnyard, and Dad ran fast as lightning to the pen. He climbed up on that big ol' wood fence. What he saw made his jaw fall open and eyes grow big. He saw Grampas prize sow chasing that chicken around and around her pen. He figured no way. If she killed that chicken Grampa was going to give him a switchin. His backside was going to be the one to pay. He started screaming and hollering, waving his arms. That sow paid no mind. Finally Dad grabbed a rock and bounced it off her. She noticed but didn't stop. He got a nice big rock. He was about 8 at the time, so not sure how big is big, but he lopped that rock at the sow when she quit looking. Dad threw that rock so hard hit her right between the eyes. Her eyes turned back into her head and she weebled and wabbled a few times then crashed to the ground. Dad was panic stricken. He was so scared. Now he was going to have to tell Grampa that he saved the chicken but killed his prized sow. He said, "I sat there dancing on the fence praying and just a singing, trying to figure out what to do."

Pretty soon that ol' sow came around and got up. She didn't really just get up; she was laid out flat, then jumped up and landed flat footed on all fours. Her eyes real big and mouth hung open. Looking frantically around to see what hit her. She took one look at that chicken and started to squeal and back away. The chicken got frightened and took off toward the pig. The pig backed up and squealed harder, back tracking to get away from the chicken. Pretty soon that chicken was just a chasing that sow in a circle around and around the pen. Both of them just a runnin'. The pig just squealin' and the chicken cluckin'. There was so much noise but no dead pig or chicken.

Dad was so happy he was laughing and so excited that he no longer had to tell Grampa about a dead chicken or a dead sow. Then he started to laugh and laugh when he realized that that ol' pig thought that the chicken is the one that hit her between the eyes and knocked her out. From that day on, Gramma never lost another chicken.

What a story. I can just see my dad on that fence jiggin' and hoppin', trying to figure out what to tell Grampa. Then that ol' sow jumped up off the ground and landed flat footed and scared to death of a chicken.

A secret I learned that day was that not only can pigs be afraid of chickens, but their manure is wonderful for tomatoes. I always wondered how Gramma could get a hundred quarts of tomatoes off 5 or 6 tomato plants. That was with everyone eating them along the way. Dad shared that with me. It was long before miracle grow or some such. This year I planted my toms in the old pig patch. WOW did I ever get the tomatoes. We planted 6 toms of all different kinds. My largest tomato was .78lb and my largest cherry tomato was .4 and the size around as a .50 cent piece. My little grape toms hit the size of a normal cherry tomato. It was a great year. 

Add some of my Garden Gourmet to your plot and see what grows for you.

Photo by Fotolia/jodie777

Everyone have a great day.
The Roots and Sprouts
Valerie Root Farm


Valerie RootMy hubby was getting some bulk potatoes and asked the owner if he happened to have a truck load we could buy. When he found out we were selling 4 H piglets he said, "Here, take these as a thanks for encouraging our youngsters to do agricultural activities." We told him thanks so much and ran home to start our new feeding program. A couple of shovels full of raw potatoes were fed and poof happy pigs. After 3 days the pigs started to show signs of being full (or so we thought) and so we slowed down on the potatoes.

We stored the potatoes in the birthing shed. It was going to be a poor choice as we would find out. We alternated potatoes with our regular feed. It did not take us long to feed up a ton of potatoes. Russ went back up and bought a trailer load of them for the winter. We were so excited. Inexpensive feed, tons of work but it sure kept the cost down. There was too much for the birthing shed. (The last load started to pull the floor away from the walls). Youch.

We cleaned out an entire corner of the shop and built small side walls to keep the pile a bit more uniform. We were almost set for the winter.

We were talking to a friend who used to raise pigs and he said, "Oh well, you cannot feed them raw potatoes. Pigs are not able to digest them very well." How can you feed them then? We just brought home about 4 or 5 ton of the things. "Cook them first, then they should be fine." I felt my heart fall clean through my stomach.

My visions of the largest of my cooking pots cooking on the stove for 16 hours of the day, every day in order to feed tons of potatoes to our pigs, almost sent me to my room from a fainting spell.

I told Russ I just can't do that. I will never get out of the kitchen for the winter. So we ended up deciding to cook them outside. We took the tractor and dug a nice little pit. We left the sides and back steep and only made the front low enough to hold the fire and drum. After we got that fixed to our liking, we put the tire rims into the pit to set the barrel on. Suddenly every 55 gallon drum in the area was taken. It had to have a lid so we could cut from top to bottom. You know the story. So after a week we finally found a drum to cut in half. We started collecting every piece of wood we could find to cook these wonderful potatoes with. 

We would haul 5 gallon buckets full of potatoes to the pit, dump them into the drum, and fill with water. Russ would begin to tend fire. When the fire was hot enough to start to cook potatoes, Russ would stack the logs on for burning all night. The next morning the potatoes were done and just hot enough to give the animals a warm breakfast on a freezing day.

We never knew we would grow to hate potatoes.

That very large pile of potatoes lasted right up into the spring. We ran out about 3 weeks before we started to farrow. That was nice as that load of work stopped just in time to let everyone rest a bit before the all-nighters began.

Farrowing is a fun time as we watch all the babies be born. We don't usually get to see the first one be born, but we do catch the rest.

This is where the real problems began (not that the floor out of the birthing shed or gasing our pigs to death wasn't a problem). The first sow, Polly, took a while to get started but soon babies were coming about 20 minutes. Her first 2 babies were dead when we found them. The membrane hadn't broke enough for them to get out of them. Lily found them and ran and got Russ. He stood guard from then on. Out of the 12 babies born, 6 were born dead and 3 of them had too strong of a membrane; it wouldn't break. Even though Russ broke the bag of waters the babies didn't live long. We ended up with 3 live babies.

This was the scenario for all nine sows. We were so stressed by the time we were done farrowing. I think there wasn't a day where there wasn't fear. After we were done and 108 babies later, we ended up with 21 live babies and so much heart break. After we recovered from the shock and could start to think we realized the huge financial loss and what a wasted year. We did chalk it up to a learning experience and will not ever do that again.

We called our vet and told him that we think our pigs may have some kind of disease and gave him their symptoms. We were going to breed the sows again but needed to know if we needed to do something different. We don't give hormones or antibiotics to our animals, so this was a worry for us.

In our conversation we told him that we had no idea what to do the next time around. This is what we did and these were the results. 

What did we do? We fed too many potatoes to the pigs. All kinds of problems result from feeding too much. How much is too much we asked. I wasn't pleased with the answer at all. 

Here is what the vet said.

Pigs can't digest potatoes very well. (I was confused by this as their constitution is similar to a humans.)

1. Never more then 25% of their diet can be potatoes and this is even more different for lactating (nursing) sows.

2. Only ever feed cooked potatoes to your pigs.

3. When you are feeding potatoes, if you have any question feed less.

4. For a lactating (nursing) sow ~ The maximum you feed is 4 potatoes. Watch the piglets very closely. If they show the slightest sign of diarrhea, you either drop down to one potato or no potatoes.

We have chosen to not feed them to our pigs. I have finally gotten smart enough to call the vet on any change of diet. Man am I so glad I did. The story of feeding rye could have been terrifying.

We have snow now so it is off to work I go. You all enjoy the beginnings of winter.

I would love to hear any stories you have to share. I am always looking for ways to improve.

May you have a great day!

Root Farm

Valerie Root

What, Another Skunk?!

Valerie RootMorning: There is always a lot going on at the farm ...

Wow! Am I accident-prone! I tell you these wildlife creatures are going to be the death of me.

At 3:00 this morning, the smell of skunk woke me out of a sound sleep. I reach over to wake up Russ. He says, "Let's go find it before it gets any of the chickens!." It is very dark outside, no moon or yard light. We jump up and off we go. He is way ahead of me, and so I follow along and fall off the deck, sprain my ankle (which is now a cankle) and moan and groan my way off the ground. I see Russ coming out of the chicken yard and take off around the shop. He is hot on the trail. I run toward him with one leg dragging behind me. He gets ahead of the skunk and cuts him off from going home. The skunk turns around and heads straight toward me. I take an instant 90 degrees to the left and run smack dab into a roll of fencing, and now am in possession of three long curved scratches just under my knee. Painful as all get out. I holler as I snag my leg on the wire, and the skunk turns toward the shop and I high tail it behind the tractor.

I have been limping along all day with this throbbing wounded knee and gimping along on an ankle that doesn't work properly. Poor Russ has had to do most everything today. I come along for the ride. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow will bring. Peace maybe? I vote for that anyway.

We seem to have skunks under every pile and building. This one had moved in under the birthing shed. I am not sure if the one under the chicken coop is gone or if we just haven't had much trouble with him. I am sure they just wait until my back is turned and find something else to move into.

We have been losing a considerable amount of chickens and ducks to skunks this year. At least once a week we have issues with a wild critter, skunks in particular.

Does anyone else seem to have more then their fair share of skunks? Well at least it seems like it.

Just another day on the farm.

Thanks for reading,

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