Thursday, October 19, 2017

October 19, 2017

Not having enough rain necessitated running the cattle around the yard.  At first we just made a path from the front pasture to the back so they could get to the growing area.  It still delayed rain except for a few sprinkles here and there, and the cattle had soon eaten up the forage in that area.  Then we extended the electric fence into the backyard and other garden (aka, the chicken garden used for growing chicken food) so they could find more to eat.  I learned that cattle like to eat mums.  Who knew?  While they were out of the front pasture, I finished painting the logo on the horse trailer and sanded and painted the rust spots out so it will last for us for a while.  Now it is all ready to train our steer to eat in the back of it, getting ready for his appointment at the processor.  Additionally, I finally got around to painting the plywood on the back of the chicken tractor to make it last longer.

When the cattle finished eating what there was to eat and it was time to move them back to the front pasture, I was very proud of myself for getting them all to the front pasture together.  They do have a mind of their own and they do not always hang out together, so I had to gather them from two different places and hop electric wires to avoid getting jostled.

After getting them back into the front pasture, I removed the temporary electric fence that my husband had put up and fixed it for storage.  He told me that the wires get tangled when I just loop them, so he asked me to please wind them around something when I picked them up.  I looked around and found a small piece of wire shelving that was not in use and looked like the perfect instrument to wind up three different wires.  It was wide enough to allow me to wind two wires separately while I was headed down the fence line, and the last wire in the middle, so it was perfect.

Another project I had been wanting to do was to use some partial deck rails to finish up the deck by the barn loft.  I had already taken them apart.  When they were laying in a pile, they were just junk, but when put to use in a good way they are now useful.  My husband has been such a good teacher when it comes to building projects that while I am used to doing them with him and him usually taking the lead, when I was doing this by myself, his voice was with me every step of the way reminding me how to do it.

Last but not least, we have been making progress on installing our wood stove and can't wait until we get to see the fire burning in it.  So far we have installed the box in the ceiling and leveled the stove pipe.  We had to move it over about 3 inches in order to line up with the opening left by the placement of the ceiling joists and keep the stove pipe level, but it wasn't bad.  I will have to live with it not being in the exact center. . .

Monday, October 9, 2017

October 9, 2017

Moving on in my chores, but still painting.  Since finishing the plumbing shed, I have moved on to the barn and have finished getting the paint on the lower half of the barn and priming the trim.  I need to figure out how to paint the top of the barn.  We are looking at some scaffolding, but I wish we could figure it out without having to spend money. . .As you can see, while I am working on covering the trim, I am also working on making all the buildings up around the house to match the house and each other.

While my husband and I are trying to figure out how to paint the top of the barn, I am spending my time working on the rusty spots on the horse trailer as well as trying to get our logo on it.  It is a work in progress.

Another work in progress is the install of the wood stove to try to get it ready for this winter.  Here is my husband working on it, after cutting the hole in the ceiling to run the stove pipe out of the roof.  We discovered while working on it that we are missing some parts, so had to take time out to order them.  Hopefully, they will be in by next weekend and we can make more progress.

After transferring the cattle to the back pasture, we discovered that they were really enjoying our sweet potatoes.  At first, we thought them eating the plant was going to be a huge advantage since we normally have to cut the vine before we harvest.  Then we discovered that they were kicking up the sweet potatoes and eating them, so we had to take some time out to harvest them.  Many of them were damaged, so we are trying an experiment by cutting off the damaged part, laying them spaced apart so they won't touch each other to dry the cut portion, and crossing our fingers that they won't rot. Wish us luck!  Some of the sweet potatoes were so large that I took a sweet potato casserole to a neighborhood potluck and the whole thing was made with one potato.

We also harvested 5 gallons and one quart of peppers, some basil and some cayenne peppers that are drying in the greenhouse with the sweet potatoes.

Oh, and I want to give a shout out to our new friends at Providence Farm.  They are getting into providing educational programs at their farm, and we got to enjoy a conference on rotational grazing called "Growing and Grazing" from speaker Steven Moize.  It was excellent!  If you get a chance to join the Cobbs on one of their events, you will enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 4, 2017

Oh my goodness.  Farm maintenance never ends, does it?  So I have been concentrating on farm maintenance since my husband went back to work and I am now job free.  In many cases, it may also include those finishing touches that we never got around to, but are necessary to help our farm buildings last.  For example, last post, I published the new stained calf barn.  In addition to getting the red and white barn we always wanted, the two coats of stain seals the wood (and we all know that moisture ruins wood quickly) to make the calf barn last a lot longer and honor that time and energy we expended to build it in the first place.  The same goes for our plumbing shed.  We had only ever gotten around to putting a coat of primer on the shed which did not seal it very well, so I discovered this time it had to be pressure washed, scraped and sanded before I could re-prime, paint and trim it again to finally be sealed, as well as look the way it always looked in my head only.

Over the summer, my husband had devised a way to get rid of the Japanese beetles that he hated and feed the chickens at the same time, and I don't think we have given you a picture of it before, so here it is.  It simply involves a Japanese beetle trap and a tin pie plate filled with water.

We processed the rest of the Freedom rangers, this time freezing them as cut up chickens after discovering that our grown kids really don't know what to do with a whole chicken (we will have to do some re-teaching).  We decided to keep 8 of them because we need for them to scratch the cow pies in the pasture.  Truth be told, it is also because one of the remaining chickens is one with a leg deformity that we call "Gimpy" and we have grown too fond of him.  So, since we were going to have them at an older age, we decided to add a roosting pole and two nesting boxes to the chicken tractor.  The roosting pole is being modeled by Gimpy who kept me company while I was installing it.  The leftover bamboo pole made a perfect roosting post when secured by two screws so it won't roll or get kicked off. I created a new tab that includes the making of the chicken tractor.

I repainted our farm sign at the mailbox.  The wood had split so it needed to be put back together, which necessitated that it be totally repainted.  I used my favorite appliance epoxy paint as a base with simply acrylic paint for the logo and sprayed a clear coat on top for protection.  I think I must be getting better at painting, as I was much happier than the first time I painted it.  No matter that I am an amateur painter, it works!  As a friend said, I put out the bids for getting it done and I won!

I tried making this comfrey salve from a recipe I got HERE from the Prairie Homestead.  We had comfrey growing, I just gathered some broadleaf plantain that God had graciously provided, (I had dried and shredded the comfrey and broadleaf plantain) and picked some rosemary to just throw in the crockpot with it.  I tried it out on a Monday putting some on my left arm that had been in a lot of pain (I was wondering whether I had cracked a bone as it had been hurting for a couple of weeks).  By Wednesday morning my arm felt significantly better, and I assure you, it wasn't from resting the arm.  I had been drawn to it after reading that it helped sciatica and I was actually wanting to make it for my neighbor, so we got together and made some.  The rest, as they say, is history.

We got smarter and moved our electric fence so we can move our cattle from the front pasture to the back without having to herd them to keep them out of the flower bed.  Those darn steer sure have a mind of their own!  At least we learned that they like to eat daylillies and perennial collards.  They have been out of the front pasture for a few days and it works like a charm.  The grass was tall in the back, so we will give the front pasture some resting time.  We are hoping for rain soon to help the front pasture grow.

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 10, 2017

When I was coming up, I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase "a place for everything, and everything in it's place."  I don't think at that time it really registered with me just what that meant.  After I had my second child and decided to stay home full time, I was sinking fast in that direction until I wrote myself a job description, picked up all the books I could at the library to "sharpen my saw", and was lucky enough to come across the book "Sidetracked Home Executives".  This book taught me organizational skill and how to be clean and uncluttered.  I don't know if you have noticed, but homesteading requires a lot of "stuff".  For every different set of animals on our farm, there is more "stuff".  When you move onto your homestead, it is a great idea to live there for at least a year to figure out what you are going to use and where you are going to use it before you decide to try to get organized.  Of course, it is also best to find out if an item deserves to have their own place, even before you bother.  Sometimes you get what you thought was going to be essential and it just gathers dust. . .

Closet before with air intake LARGE
Then there is the fact that you have been brain washed your whole life to think a certain way is just the way it is done, and since everyone else is doing it, it must be the best idea.  One case in point is putting your clothes in a dresser.  Well, if you are the one that puts away the laundry, you might notice that when your hands are full of laundry, you have to wrangle with all of these drawers, one after the other, many heavy with clothes.  My son decided a long time ago that he didn't like dressers, and now I can see why.  Shelves are ever so much easier to use and you don't have to open and close them when your hands are full.  When you can put them in a closet so you don't have to see the clothes laying out, all the better.  We finally re-did our closet, took out the dresser and built some shelves.  I absolutely love how much easier this is making my life.  We also cut down an oversized air intake that was taking a large portion of our closet (after consulting an HVAC guy).  Here is a VIDEO of our made over closet.  The boxes at the top of the closet are made out of some cardboard copy paper boxes covered in fabric with a see thru pocket for labeling.  With the leftover clear vinyl, I made door flaps for the dog house to prepare our dogs for the winter and to keep me from having to wash and dry a lot of dog blankets.  I believe that if something is sitting around and not being used, it is junk, and if it is used, then it becomes useful
instead of junk.

Processing Station
In other news around the farm, we processed 20 chickens, and put two coats of Cabot stain in Fireside Cherry on our calf barn and trimmed it in white.  Now we have the red and white barn that
we have always dreamed of.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August 25, 2017

Yay!!  We have finally got the chicken plucker together and it works!  We used about $76 worth of materials including a used washing machine, chicken plucker fingers and parts such as two pulleys, bearings, washer, collar, and drive shaft.  We are hoping that it will work next weekend when processing chickens, but cross your fingers for us!  Here's a video of it working:

Stay tuned for full instructions in a tab if it works for us next weekend!

So glad my husband is good with electrical stuff!  I am so proud of him.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 25, 2017

Remember those basil plants and cayenne peppers that I was drying in the greenhouse?  They were done in record time.  After crunching off the dried basil leaves into a large pot and putting them through the blender, I have enough basil for the next year or two.  Additionally, since we cut the plants down to about 8" tall, we expect another crop before frost!  It is the best basil you will ever taste.  Same for the cayenne peppers that were dried in the dental floss wreaths.  Just separate the caps from the rest of the plant, run it through the blender and let it settle before you open it, then pour it into a container.  Oila!  These are my two staple spices.

Just for fun, I had a young guest over and one of our tasks was to show her how to cook fried okra.  I wanted to start with the picking of the okra.  If you have ever picked okra, you know how much it can itch your arms.  So we started with some old long athletic socks of my husbands, cut out finger holes and put that on our arms, then we added some gloves, collected our pruning shears and our buckets and we were ready to go.

My husband is a science teacher and thankfully, he teaches Environmental Science, Earth Science and Physical Science which happens to fit right in to what we are trying to do here on the farm.  Sometimes, that means we are able to pass on some of the things we have learned that are near and dear to our hearts.  I do an annual bulletin board for him, and this one fits right in with our farm.  "Help Yourself and the Earth - Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle."

Finally, we are getting one step further toward our goal of sustainability, and we just got our new wood stove and finished tiling the hearth and back wall.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

August 9, 2017

Homesteading does take a lot of time.  Some people claim they make too much money at work to spend their time doing this, but do they really know their hourly rate?  Even if they made $150 per hour, they would have to take into consideration what they are doing in their off time.  Many hours they would be in the negative due to spending and not making.  Try calculating your hourly rate.  Take into account everything you spend in a day, as well as what you make.  You might be depressed.  I learned from Amy Dacyzyn's Tightwad Gazette (yes, it seems like the dark ages) that you should make sure to develop hobbies that actually save you money, not cost you money.  Everything having to do with homesteading falls into that category.

For example, to increase the value of our homestead and last us for the next 50 years, we put in our own wood floors this summer.  What else would we do with our "spare" time?  Watch TV?  Spend our money at a gym?  We also painted our own pictures.

While we were doing this, we also
managed to put up 90 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 5 quarts of beets, 54 quarts of corn in the freezer, nine pints of corn relish, 11 quarts and one pint of pumpkin, and are now working on okra.  As my husband says, "Waste not, want not."  Even when the only time you have to pick okra is at night with your headlamp.  Don't worry, we are still having fun!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017

Homesteading, when you are doing it there are so many places you can drop the ball, especially with garden produce.  Not only do you need to find good seed, you need to germinate it, plant it, weed it, water it, pick it, preserve it and eat it.  If you drop the ball at any one of those places, you have wasted your time.  That's a lot of places to miss out.  Sometimes you have a tremendous crop and need to put away enough for two years in case the next year ends up with a place where you have dropped the ball or something unforeseen happens.  This year's crop of tomatoes is phenomenal.  So far we have canned 90 quarts of spaghetti sauce, a few quarts of catsup, and made lots of salsa for eating fresh.  We use it for soup bases, chili, pizza sauce, and pasta sauce.  We grew the bell peppers, oregano, basil, cayenne peppers, tomatoes, and garlic.  We did not grow the onions or salt.

Our Asian Pear tree finally put out some fruit this year ( 5 years old), but only enough for fresh eating.  So far we have picked from two varieties.  The one on the right is very sweet, and the one on the left is a little less sweet and more firm.  We tried the last one cut up into pieces and put into chicken salad.  It was yummy and added just the right amount of sweetness and texture.

We are using our greenhouse as a solar dehydrator and will let you
know how that goes.  We pruned the basil plants and left some for them to grow back and produce more basil leaves, and we picked the cayenne peppers and strung them on unflavored dental floss.  I have been drying the cayenne, running it through the blender (and being careful not to breathe in when I open the lid away from me after it has been stopped for a minute), and using it in the place of black pepper in all of our dishes.  It is much better, I think, and I like knowing how it was grown.  We also sprinkle the cayenne liberally in the dogs food (even making their treats with it.)  This keeps them flea free.  It does not, however, seem to work on ticks.  I do the same with basil, drying it and running it through the blender, then putting it in a sprinkle container.  I love using the basil on almost anything.  The flavor is SO much better than what you can buy in the store!  I especially like using it on eggs.  Did you know it is said to have a calming effect? I can use all of that I can get. . .

Lastly, I wanted to remind everyone to be sure to learn safety on their new power tools, as some things are not obvious.  For example, we got a new compound miter saw and I was using it to cut out the trim for the new floor we are putting down on the main floor.  While I was very respectful of the power of the blade and made sure I kept my hands out of the way, I did not know the power of the kickback of the saw on wood that is not resting on the fence.  Sometimes tuition comes in the form of stitches. . .Be safe!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13, 2017

Sharing the Wealth.  Harvest time is a time of feasting for everyone
on the farm.  Today, we are harvesting corn.  So we have a system going.  It starts with my husband picking and me shucking enough for the first pot.  Then I set up the pot and bring the water to a boil.  While waiting for it to boil, I am cutting the bad parts off the corn (my husband is still picking), getting the gas cooker set up, and washing out the bath tub.  (Garden Tub - that big receptacle that is put to use when you have to cool a lot of vegetables from the garden after blanching.)  Then the first pot is put on.  While that is going on, my husband finishes picking and finds a shady spot to shuck.  I go get the next batch and it starts all over again.

The parts that we don't use, don't get wasted.  The shucks are enjoyed by the cattle.  The parts that are cut off of the cobs go to the chickens.  I love it when it works out like this so there is little waste!

The last two days we were harvesting tomatoes, beets, peppers, squash, basil, oregano, garlic and a couple cucumbers.  We put up 44 quarts of spaghetti sauce, and 5 quarts of beets (we had done 6, but one broke in the canner - sad day.)  They look really nice on our new pantry shelving that we built.  Six jars deep. . .now we need to fill them up.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June 30 - July 4, 2017

Wow, today is an ending and a new beginning.  Today is the last day of my full time job, and marks more time for projects on the farm.  I am so looking forward to it!  I am torn between homesteading and farming, and hope that I venture forward slowly enough so whatever needs to take place, happens naturally and doesn't put too much stress on anybody.  I am also looking forward to helping my husband on summer projects full time (as he is a science teacher.)  This summer we are working on taking up the clay stained carpet and putting down hardwood floors.  Of course this has also led to other projects along the way, like finally getting to the pantry shelves, the home theater wiring (while taking up the old osb and putting down plywood subfloors), and who knows what else will pop up before we are through.  We are trying to fit in the last of the big projects before we work more slowly with less income.  Of course more time will lead to being able to do more money saving activities, so there will be compensation.  Life is an adventure!

Projects we have done since the last post include the wiring for the
lights in the barn.  We have taken them off of the current photovoltaics and made them independent, using 12 vdc led light bulbs, a battery, and a trickle charger (which means we don't have to invest in a charge controller.)  Also, my husband is thrilled that he finally got around to wiring a light switch for both entrances of the barn. They are for our newly organized workshop that seems to be so important for all the diy projects we do here on the farm.  We could never live in a tiny house, as doing all of this diy stuff requires tools and materials, and you need somewhere to store them.  The first time you do a project, it pays for the tools and equipment, so everything else you do with the tools is free.  That is hard to ignore.

Tomato Jungle
Mashed Potatoes
While all the chaos of the floors is going on, it is still the middle of the summer and we are harvesting peppers, tomatoes, and we just finished the potato harvest.  Our potatoes did not do well this year.  We are blaming it on the new variety of russets we were forced to get as the Burbanks we did the year before and did really well was not available.  Anyway, to maximize the crop we went in with the tiller after the potato digger to churn up any potatoes that were left in the ground.  Of course, this turns up cut potatoes that need to be processed right away, so I made mashed potatoes for the freezer which included homegrown dried cayenne peppers and some cut up chives we grew right here on the farm.  It also included butter and salt which we didn't grow - maybe butter is in our future.

Okra interspersed with sweet potatoes
Sunflowers and Corn
It is also about time to harvest our sunflowers as I can see the yellow finches are coming in.  We use this for our chickens, as they love them.  I will leave you with a few pictures of our garden.  Got to get back to work.  By the way, as you can see by the range of time, it took me a while to figure out how to download the pictures from our new camera, and figure out where the computer was saving them to, as well as figure out that we had not set the date on our camera so it was telling the computer that the pictures were from May of 2015!!

Also, on a homestead, it really helps to have more than one person in case the unplanned happens (and it will), such as the cattle getting in the wrong paddock.  In this case, one got in with the chickens, which probably wouldn't be a problem, except it was intent on eating the young oak tree that we had planted to one day provide shade and acorns for livestock.  It took one person to guard the oak tree, and one to get a bucket of feed to lure him out of there.