Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 8, 2018

I am so proud of us for all of the preserved harvest this year!  Our pantry looks lovely with all the fresh, chemical free food that we have to last us until next year, and to think it is not even over!  Our favorite tools this year have been: 1) Again, the fish fryer on the front porch for canning with the propane tank to keep the heat out of the house.  2) a little food chopper we found at Aldi's for $9.99 to add tomatoes with green chilis to our food repertoire.  It lowered our time from hours of chopping tomatoes to minutes!  What a joy!  3) our Victorio apple peeler to peel the asian pears for canning in a very short time (Just move the corer/slicer out of the way)

 4)  Learning to use emptied spice containers for saving seeds from this harvest 5) Using our greenhouse again for dehydrating large amounts of spices  (It is one goal to have all the spices that are in my cabinet be home grown)  6) Our improved chicken plucker with more rubber fingers and using Cornish Cross with less feathers and cutting them while processing to make the chicken more useable.  Life is good!

As we had finished the extension on our calf barn, we had to find a way to keep the door closed in a way that the cattle would not push it open.  We are hoping this way will work.

We finished our summer project to get an automatic cow waterer set up in the center pasture by the barn, set up a hydrant and sink within the barn (for things like bottle washing, and perhaps washing up a future dairy animal), and getting a hydrant out to the growing area for watering the garden!  Yay!!  That was a lot of trenching, laying pipe and covering it back up.  We can now truly let our cattle graze in a rotational pattern, now that their water in centrally locate
We have really enjoyed my husband's experimentation with high/low growing.  We partnered up the okra and sweet potatoes again this year.  We also added growing the Roma bush beans in between the rows of tomatoes.  You just have much more room to move around in and are much less itchy when picking.  

I finally found a catsup recipe that tastes like catsup!  I got the recipe from The Up-With-Wholesome, Down-With-Store-Bought book of Recipes and Household Formulas.  We put up 8 quarts of it!  Our Asian pears turned out lovely also.  

Lastly, we have a very tiny chimney sweep that has been visiting our wood stove.  This is the third time this year he has come down our stove pipe.  We were able to catch him with some tulle leftover from our daughter's wedding in order to take him outside for release.  As he has such an attitude, like the world's tiniest bully, we have named him "Biff" from Back to The Future.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

July 22, 2018

Life is so good and busy here on the farm in our busy season.  Almost to busy to get to the blog. . .

Farm Maintenance continues.  We finished painting the flat bed trailer and wiring it for new lights!  Yay!  This is the first time it has had working lights since we got it.  We were using some temporary ones that attach by magnets from Harbor Freight in the meantime.  Funny how long temporary is sometimes. . .

After finishing the trailer, we knew we needed to take care of the rust spots on the tractor to keep it in good stead for a long time to come.  We sanded the rust spots and taped off the 1920 New Holland sticker and sanded off the ones that would not be easy to paint around.  We found a brand of paint called Majic at the Tractor Supply store that was in the blue color for older Ford tractors.  It worked great!  I used some black appliance epoxy I had on hand for the grilles.  For the side one, I took it out to spray it, and for the front one, I put a piece of brown Kraft paper on the inside and taped it off.  It turned out well.

It was time to process the Cornish Cross chickens, so we set everything up and were able to process the 20 chickens in about 6 hours, which included cutting them up for use.  We found that we are able to use it better this way and it does not take up so much space in the freezer.  We let it rest for more than 24 hours in the cooler before freezing.  We have had the opportunity to have some, and it is great!  We will definitely be raising Cornish Cross again.  My husband says that now his chores are about 20 minutes shorter per day, without having to take them food, water, and moving the chicken tractor twice per day.

Our old greenhouse plastic has fallen into disrepair.  The only thing we have used it for the last two years is for lumber storage.  This did not bother our bull, however, as he just let himself into the new back door to see what was in there.

We have almost finished our calf barn extension.  At this point we are waiting 30 days for the treated lumber to dry out a bit so we can stain it to match the old section.  We really needed some space for hay storage, so the new section is two feet taller with a wider and taller door to get the tractor into.  We used some clear corrugated roofing to put a window in for the connection of the new section's roof to the old roof.

We did a little experiment on harvesting.  I used a shovel to harvest two rows of beets, and my husband used the tractor to harvest 5 rows of potatoes.  In the same amount of time I harvested two bushel baskets of beets and separated some of the smaller plants to replant, while he did not even get a bushel basket of potatoes.  This is the first time we have tried replanting the beets at this time of year.  Sadly, we had a potato crop failure.  Funny how no matter how many potatoes you get, it doesn't seem to be less work.  You still have to dig even if you haven't found them.

We used solar distillation to harvest some mint essential oil for a new batch of soap.  It involved using a large bowl for the mint, putting a small bowl on top, wrapping it in plastic wrap and putting a rock on top, then placing it in the sun.  I went back in and added more mint for a second day to get more essential oil.  It takes a lot of plant material to get a small amount of oil, but we had plenty and it did not take much time.

This year we experimented with some new items for the freezer.  Pesto sauce due to a bumper crop of basil, and garlic buds jarred with oil.  Last year I tried just drying the garlic, but many cloves dried away to nothing, so I am going to see if I like this better.  Thanks to the Anders family for the spare baby food jars!

This year we experienced a bumper crop of beets and got 28 quarts for the pantry!  Two of the fingers that I was using to skin the beets felt like they had arthritis the next day. . .I love canning as a team sport with my husband, as it is not as pleasant with just one person.  We make a great team!  Another new thing for us is we have had a pear crop!  Finally our fruit trees had a good enough production for canning at about 7 years old.  We found out from a youtube video that is is better to pick them and let them sit for a couple of days to sweeten up.  We will be canning pears this week.  Currently they are laying out single file on a table in the basement so they can get some air and not rot while we are waiting to can them.  We have three varieties of asian pears along with some moon glow pears.

Our neighbors shared a melon with us that is new to us.  It was delicious!  Thanks to the Ramzan family!  Through research, we think we have pinpointed it as a Charentais Melon (aka French Canteloupe).  As we liked it so much, of course we are saving the seeds. . .

In other news, I have discovered yet another use for the velcro cord ties - a belt loop to hold the end of my belt down when I don't have a belt loop!  Yay!  Those things are so versatile - I've used them to tie cords, to sew curtain tie backs, to fix a curtain rod inside our car for car camping, and now a belt loop.

As far as bits and bobs, I made soap today, my husband bottled beer today, and we have both sliced and chopped cucumbers waiting to be processed into relish and pickles.  Until next time. . .

Friday, June 29, 2018

June 29, 2018

Busy times.  The garden is in full swing.  We have already picked and processed some Roma beans.  Of course the planting has continued with the okra and sweet potatoes being the last additions.  Cucumbers are coming in, and tomatoes will be coming shortly.  We have picked blueberries both our at our place and at our neighbors (Thanks Don and Carol!)  Fruit is continuing to ripen on the trees, and it looks like it will be a banner year for food production.  I can't wait to see a picture of the pantry and freezer at the end of harvest season!

This year has been another good year for hops production.  My husband harvested the Chinook hops cones (which he already experimented with in Brown Ale, and it made the best beer ever!)  He put the cones to work right away in a new batch of beer.  The picture is of the Columbus hops which are a little behind the Chinook.  One comment he has gotten was.  "This is just what you always hope to find in a beer, but haven't."  The chickens and cows love the leftover grain.

The maintenance around the house and farm continues.  Our latest project is the maintenance on the flat bed trailer.  We are getting to know our newest tool, the angle grinder, with both wire brushes and clean and strip disks.  That trailer needed work badly.  It was in need of work when it was given to us (what a blessing), but we put it off until now.  We are planning to paint the trailer a light gray to blend in with the rest of the equipment when sitting around here at the farm.Now that I mention that, it has got me started thinking about painting our tractor the same color, as it is starting to get some rust on it.  I could never understand this "shabby chic" phase, as to me, it means you have not done the maintenance required to make things last. . .

We are having some problems with our Cornish Cross chickens.   This is the first time we have tried them and they are apparently having some problems with heat exhaustion.  My husband came up with the idea of moving the cattle shade structure over the chicken tractor (since the cattle are not using it much as they have a metal carport to get under until we finish closing it in for hay storage).  We have also gathered ideas and used them from other people such as given them electrolytes from Jill at Prairie Homestead, putting containers of frozen water in their water, etc.  It seems to have slowed down the loss until we can process them in a week.

Inside the house, I needed a couple of extra seats in the living room, and fortuitously, our youngest daughter has found an apartment that has enough space that she has asked for her piano.  I had in my head some rolling stools that look like they are from the Hollywood Regency period and bought two vintage office chairs to created them.  As I was removing the seat so I could use the chrome bases to create the stools, I noticed that they were made in the old fashioned way - easy to reupholster and replace parts.  As we had an old bonded leather office chair upstairs that was coming apart, it became our newest office chair.  The base to the old office chair did not fit exactly, but my genius husband just added some new holes in the base so it would connect to the metal strips in the bottom of the chair.

We have also tried car camping recently and hiking.  The idea was we wanted our beds to be off of the ground, and not have to worry about rainy weather, as well as not having to worry about towing anything so we could use our Toyota Rav4 and save money on gas.  We constructed a few things to add to our comfort, such as a screen for the back and one side window (basically made out of some leftover window screen).  These worked quite well.  We also constructed a chuck wagon for our kitchen out of a thrift store cabinet that we bought for $2 and a broken piano bench we bought for $.50, and used a cutting board for the door that will double as a cutting board, a tray for eating inside the car in case of rain, and a door for the chuck wagon.  Love it!  Everything worked well except we are going to have to tweak the mattress part for more comfortable sleeping.  Our current cot mattresses did not do the job.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

June 10, 2018

I was determined to have a Japanese lantern by the frog pond near our gardens, but would not spend the hundreds of dollars it would cost, so with a lot of sweat equity and about $8, I have my lantern. I have a rock pillar for it to go on that was dug out from the basement project. I used the book Creating with Concrete by Sherri Warner Hunter (you can find it here), then watched some videos, used some leftover pots, and a bowl and platter I bought from the thrift store, and a $6 bag of mortar mix with some leftover fence parts (for inside strength) and some leftover foam insulation.I am having too much fun!  I finished it up with a rasp to smooth out the edges.  This one was from John's grandfather.

My idea of a "hybrid" lunch. One night we ate out at a seafood restaurant (as chief cook, I need a break sometimes), so the next day, my husband's lunch was a fish sandwich made with homemade bread and homemade thousand island dressing, and some butterfly cookies I had made for the children's sermon on Sunday. He took some homemade pumpkin muffins for his "on the go" breakfast (made with pumpkins we canned from the garden), and some coffee in his cup. Do you start your daily meal planning with leftovers?

Sherri Powell's photo.Sherri Powell's photo.
My big jobs lately have been maintenance, finish sanding and painting porch furniture and lanterns in preparation for an annual gathering at our house.

I worked on a mini project l to make hair combs that match my jewelry so I can wear them to church. While I was doing that, I used some leftover crystals to "save" some of my favorite shoes. All the metal decorations were falling off, so I figured if I randomly placed some crystals, the random metal decorations that were still left would look more like they were designed that way.

I redid the front kitchen garden, getting rid of excess volunteer plants, rearranging some, and got some additions to add some well placed color to look nice.  I did some "shopping" around the yard with my shovel, moving up some Stella D'oro daylillies, and some Stokesia from another bed.

Now you see it
Now you don't
I needed place to put my phone book (near the phone), the church directory, and various seed catalogs that come in the mail that someone hates to part with and they don't really look good stacked on my end table. This is a magazine rack for a bathroom that was a little over $17. I wanted it to look good in case it showed. In case you are wondering, that is the surround sound speaker above it.

Today is my day to provide flowers for the church. The Lord and my yard provided. . .