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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

May 26, 2017

Oh my goodness!  My camera died so I couldn't take any pictures.  Then I had to wait for Mother's Day to see what I got, then the camera  I got took blurry pictures, so last night we went and bought a Kodak Pixpro FZ53 so I could continue on.  Anyway, so much has happened.  First of all, we decided that a well running woodshop is essential to our farm, so the hay had to come out of the barn.  In order for that to happen, it needed somewhere to go.  Since it was always our intention to put it in the calf barn, we had to hurry up and created a stall to put it in, so the cattle would not eat it, even though they had plenty of fresh pasture to eat, as we leave the barn open for them in case of heat or inclement weather.  So, we bought some cattle panels and some 2 x 4's and had a stall created in no time on a Saturday.  It turned out pretty well.

Next, we decided we needed to move the cattle feed out there (which we have pretty much quit giving the cattle since they have great pasture right now.)  So we moved it out with half of it being in a trash can.  We decided we need rodent control out there, and one of our neighbor's cats had kittens with the dad being a feral cat, so we felt they would be good mousers.  So we collected a pair of kittens (brother and sister to be spayed and neutered).  So far, they haven't moved out of our house (they are too little and cute).  Meet Arthur and Guinevere.  We are trying to figure out the right timing to move them out.  We got a pair because we didn't want them to be lonesome out there away from the house.  Someone recently told us we have already spoiled them from staying out at the barn, but my husband thinks they will stay there if they get used to being fed there, so we will see.
Work bench with shelves and shelf for hand power tools

Then there were organizing pieces to be made for the workshop.  I was trying to design the pieces based on materials we already had.  Since we had our daughter's wedding here and had made tables for the reception and a dance floor, we had plenty of materials.  After seeing how my husband likes to store things, and knowing for me that I wanted the workshop to be more organized as well as have each thing have a place to live so it's easy to put back, I designed spaces for the hand power tools, the screws and nails, the hanging things (like electrical wiring), and some deep shelves for some of the larger things.  Since I like to build and have more time at home, I think I am actually using the workshop more than he is.  I designed it, cut out most of the pieces, and my husband helped put it together and cut out the larger pieces with the Skilsaw.  (Why I am fine with using the nailgun and not the Skilsaw, I don't know, especially when I am fine using the radial arm saw.  Maybe it's that non-stationary blade?)
Peg board, racks for hanging items, nail and screw shelves

The nail and screw racks were made of 2 x 4's with plenty of small scraps, the hanging racks are mostly 2 x 4's with hooks, and the peg board was doubled to two pieces.  We did have to buy the hooks for the hanging things and one piece of peg board.  Luckily, we had all the pegboard pieces as years ago I bought a whole box of them for $2 at a yard sale.  The screws and nails are housed in clear plastic peanut butter jars we have been saving and plan to organize them by length.  It is still a work in progress.  During the middle of the project, we hired my son's girlfriend, Angela, to come and help us organize some things, which was great.  It had the added bonus of a neutral party to get my husband to part with some old nails, screws and other rusty stuff that he has been hauling from house to house (for our entire marriage of 36 years) because they used to belong to his grandfather.  We still have some of his grandfather's things as we kept the useful stuff, of course.

The workshop is still a work in progress, as I have not finished putting everything away, as you can see by all the stuff on the workbench.  We made some shelving in the corner using scrap boards for cleats and plywood for shelves.  We still will be making a lumber rack for the other wall as well.  The lighting has been decided on to be 12vdc using a battery and a solar trickel charger for the power, since it has worked so well in the calf barn and so we won't further tax our photovoltaic system.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, our meat birds have been growing and doing fine.  After 2.5 weeks, we removed the brooder, and today we decided to open the door during the day.  We are probably playing with fire due to not having a chicken door so they can escape daytime predators.  I will work on that today.  We found that even moving the chicken tractor daily (John pulls with a rope and I push from behind which makes it easy to move on the skids), it is too soiled by the end of the day.  Since he is not here during the day, we are hoping letting them out in the pasture will do the trick and clear more cow pies so the cattle will more fully utilize the pasture.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017

Chicks By Mail!!  This is the first time we have gotten chicks by mail and did not know quite what to expect.  So here is how it went.  This morning I got a phone call from the post office about 7:50 am when they told me that my chicks had arrived and I needed to come and pick them up.  I told them I should be able to make it in the next 30 minutes.  I was surprised when I got to the post office and the postal worker brought me a small box of about 12 x 20.  I had ordered 50 Freedom Ranger chicks.  When I brought them home, I went and got their temporary housing ready.  We are hoping their chicken tractor is only a day or so away from being finished.  I had hauled in an old horse trough whose bottom had rusted out a long time ago before it was given to us, and sat it on a piece of cardboard opened up  from a large box.  I turned the horse trough upside down so there would only be smooth edges towards the chicks.  I then added hay, set up the heat lamp and food and water dishes that my husband had helped me round up earlier, and was ready to add the chicks.

I opened the box top to see if they were all healthy, and they were all living, so I picked them up one at a time, dipped their beak in the water, and counted them as I went along.  There are 51 chicks.  They seem to be happy in their new home.  I then invited in our two border collies to introduce them to their new charges.  They were very interested in them.  Phoenix was shaking.  I am trying to train them that chickens are for taking care of, not for eating.  We try to keep our chickens separate from our dogs, but occasionally a chicken will fly over the fence into dog territory, then the dogs think they are something that can be chased and defeathered, which reminds me of a song from a video that our children watched over and over, Friends for Dinner.

The new chicken tractor is almost ready.  Soon I will post a new tab with directions for making it.  This is to keep our chickens safe at night in the pasture.  As soon as they are old enough, we will open the door to let them free range in the pasture, and send them back to their chicken tractor at night.  Here are some progress photos.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017

Love these weeks where we both have off from our daily jobs and can work on the farm full time.  Our big project for the week was to make separate paddocks for rotational grazing.  We finished three of them including the gates.  The cattle are a bit antsy with the changes.  We configured the fence so we can share a stock tank between two paddocks.

I have been working on the front porch trying to get all the functions in, and make them look nice.  I finished the cushion covers to our little table on the front porch in a green leaf vine pattern.  Also, we used two cement planters that we had with a square of marble on top so we can have a place to store the handtools I needed for my herb garden.  I bought two buckets and painted them the same purple as I used earlier on the oil lanterns on the other side of the porch.  I then took my old hand tools and painted the handles in the same green paint as the metal wall hanging.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017

Permaculture field trip with Harvey Harman
Oh my goodness, life is so busy!  One of the things we have been working on is a class that we are taking on Permaculture Fundamentals with Harvey Harman.  We have enjoyed it so much!  Lots of examples of how everything is connected and making your life more efficient such as moving all the things close to you that you do more often, and making sure that everything has many uses.  I would strongly recommend a Permaculture class to everyone!

As a result of the class, we moved our herb garden to combine it with our front flower bed so I can run out the front door (near the kitchen) and pick herbs to go along with our dinner.  What a pleasure that will be!

Our chicks are growing up!  After doing some reading about how long to keep them under a heat lamp, I started weaning them off of the heat lamp at about a week and a half old (easy to do since they were inside only.)  At about 2 weeks, we moved them outside where a mama chicken adopted them.  We added them to the broody hen at night and she didn't seem to have a problem with accepting them.  We put them in a separate space from the rest of the chickens in a mini coop with it's own yard.

We are putting in our paddocks for multi-species rotational grazing.  Today we got about half of the posts in for phase 1 (two paddocks).  The cows were so curious.  I was surprised to see them tasting the dirt that we raised out of the ground with our auger after we drilled holes.  I went and checked their minerals and added to them just in case.

Oil lanterns painted purple with green medallion
In addition to all this, we have been working on home maintenance, such as replacing our countertops and backsplash, painting, and sprucing up around the porch.
Green coleus with purple impatiens

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16, 2017

On a cold winter day, what does one think about?  Me, I'm thinking that there's got to be a way to better utilize all that heat sitting in the attached greenhouse.  Sure, some of it was coming through the open windows, but not fast enough.  The thermometer was reading over a hundred (of course, it is also sitting in the sun), even though it is 44 degrees outside.  In the house, it was 66 degrees even though I had been using the heater (but I do have a tendency to set it on 65. . .)  So as I went to sit in the greenhouse to warm up, I looked down and spied the box that was holding the ventilation fan that we had not yet installed.  Eureka!  I knew what to do.  I took the window screen out of the window, opened it enough to insert the ventilation fan in the top, cut a piece of 2 x 4 to brace the window that was holding it up, and cut a slice of 1 x to snug it up at the top.  Then I fished the cord into the bottom of the window and turned it on.  Oila!  Hot air pouring into the house!  Happy Dance! Yay!

Our border collies don't like dog food, so we have been buying cheap chicken leg quarters and large bags of rice to serve as the foundation of their dinner (along with leftovers).  This usually leaves us with lots of chicken bones that I was sure we could use for something.  Sure enough, I found that ground bone meal is excellent for the garden.  So I dried them out in the oven until they were brittle per instructions I found on the internet, and once they had cooled, put them in my ordinary blender in small batches which pulverized them with no trouble at all.  Next time, I am going to try drying them in the greenhouse so I can save on electricity.

We have a hen that is sitting on some eggs that I don't think were fertilized by our rooster.  As I felt sorry for her, I am planning to sneak some chicks under her.  Unfortunately, it got really cold out right after we got the chicks.  Lows around 19 and 20.  I am hoping that this will be gone in a week and we can continue on with that plan.  In the meantime, the chicks sure are cute!  This time we got some Silver Wyandottes and some Isa Browns.  We are working on a separate brooding house made from our old mini coop, and will show you that when it is finished.

Since we have a pasture with very little shade, we had built a shade structure on skids.  We found out that the steer could push the top and make it lean forward, so we spent some time adding some braces from leftover chain link fence poles.  One one side, we made it in a diagonal in one direction, and used the opposite diagonal on the other side.  We also hammered the ends a bit flatter on the braces so we could use the shorter screws we had on hand.

The sweet potato slips are finally starting to grow.  I also tried my hand at making some spray-on deodorant out of oregano infused alcohol.  It works well.  Additionally, I have been using it as a "first-aid solution" for our animals, as oregano is very good for that.  Seems to work well.  I picked some of our oregano and let it sit in the alcohol for a couple of weeks, then filtered it out and put it in the bottle.