Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October 31, 2017

Always stuff to do.  We have been working on installing the wood stove, had finished the interior work and were planning to do the exterior work.  After cutting the hole in the roof, we found we did not have the right adapter for a 12/12 pitch roof and no amount of finagling could alter the one we had without us worrying about leakage, so we had to stop and order the right piece, and will have to put it off for another week.  A construction garbage bag served as a temporary method of stopping leaks from happening.

I tried my hand at freezing eggs.  Thanks to the ladies at Off Grid and Homesteading Ladies Facebook page, I learned that I needed to scramble the yolks.  I froze them in muffin tins so I would be able to get out 1 egg at a time once I switched them to a freezer bag.  The picture shows them just before I took a fork and scrambled the yolks.  Often during the winter when there is less light and the chickens are molting, our egg production slows down or stops.

I designed and painted a barn quilt for our barn.  None of the traditional ones seem to fit us, so I made our heart and grape design in a geometric pattern.  Here's an in-progress look at it.  I still need to frame it and put it up on the barn.  It's 3 feet by 3 feet.

We are finished with painting the body of the barn and priming the trim.  I was able to do most of it, but when I got to the very high parts, my courageous husband took over on the extension ladder to help finish it.  Now I have got to finish the trim in a semi gloss, but I'm taking a break due to the fact that going up and down the ladders seems to have made my knees really sore.

We got together with our Dinner for Eight friends and had a great time at the Dunbars where their home really is their castle.  Here is a picture of their dungeon.  Since the dinner was Halloween themed, I volunteered to bring ice cream Sundaes with chocolate mice on top (made from long stemmed maraschino cherries dipped in chocolate, Hershey kisses, sliced almond ears, and frosting eyes.)

We took our Black Angus steer to the processor in our horse trailer.  He was not happy to be in there and busted out both of our windows (or perhaps it would have been smarter of us to open them first.)  Thankfully they were plastic so they didn't hurt him.  We were concerned at one point that he would push the window trim right off and the whole thing would land on someone behind us.  Thankfully, that did not happen.  The trailer was a mess when we brought it home and had to be cleaned.  The pressure washer makes quick work of that.  If you have any billiard skills, that would also come in handy, because if you can calculate where the water is going to land when you spray it and it ricochets off the sides, you might end up with a lot less muck on you.  I never was very good at that.

Being the fall, it is a great time to plant trees.  We have planted eight of them this past weekend:  magnolia (part of our winter windbreak plan), a hybrid chestnut, a Blackyork Cherry, a Blackgold Cherry, an Oracle Almond, a Hardy Giant Pecan, and two Surecrop Pecans.  The Magnolia we got from my mom and the hybrid chestnut we bought on clearance when it was dead looking for a few dollars and brought them home to put in the shade under our deck where we had easy access to water and my husband watered them during their first summer.  The rest we got at a local Southern States that had some very large trees.  We have found that the more mature they are, the less likely they will die and we will have to replant them.

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.