Wednesday, April 18, 2018

April 18, 2018

Making progress on the farm.  We added another metal carport to build a section of the barn without animals for hay storage and a sink area.  We will add sides soon to keep out the rain, but may leave the end open for ease in moving hay in and out with the tractor.  We got 8 foot sides on this one for that purpose.

As my husband is a school teacher, we use spring break for larger projects.  This year, we finished up our last two paddocks for our rotational grazing plan.  We designed four paddocks around the perimeter to open one at a time for grazing and have a central location for the barn and water.  All we have left to do is put in the water for this plan to be functional.  One step at a time.  We are planning to rent a mini excavator this summer, when my husband has time, to add an automatic waterer and put a small sink area in the new extended barn, as well as use the excavator to add irrigation to the growing area.

Having a farm usually means you have a lot of stuff.  As I like for things to be organized and clean looking, I struggle with this daily and try to find ways to "decorate it in".  Growing the sweet potato slips beautifully has been one of those things.  This year, some friends gave us a purple pot which fit beautifully on top of a candle stand and works great for the sweet potato slips.  They are so pretty anyway, aren't they?

We decided we are finally ready to try bees again (last time they flew away in the spring).  This time we are joining a bee club for added support.  My husband is our bee keeper.  As I am slightly allergic, I am just doing cross training in case for some reason he is not available.  We went to pick up a 3 pound package this past weekend which my husband installed.  I was filming without a bee suit and had to quit when the bees got highly populated in my area.

During this time, I also was privileged to be able to help with some of  the props for Eastern Randolph High School's upcoming performance of Les Miserable (April 20th and 21st).  My husband helped cut out and install the handle of the cane.  Here are photos of some candlesticks, pocketwatch, cane, and a faux boulder.  Thank goodness for youtube videos on making faux rocks.  The students and teachers are so talented at this school!  I would highly recommend adding all of their performances to your calendar.

Saving the most important news for last, we are planning a purple and gold barbecue reception for our youngest child's college graduation.  Congratulations Leah!!  We are so proud of you!  Now all three of our children will have graduated from college!  Woo hoo!  

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March 18, 2018

Beets, spinach, carrots
Sunflower seeds and potatoes
Life is normally good, but this weekend it has been over the top good!!  Oh my goodness, I just love having a bright sunshiny St. Patrick's Day when we plant our potatoes and cool season crops!  So this weekend we planted 5 rows of potatoes and Black Oil Sunflowers in our chicken garden (close to the chicken coop and the sunflowers are for the chickens).  The potatoes were:  one row of Corolla potatoes from last year's leftovers, 2 rows of Organic Rio Grande Russetts, and 2 rows of Organic Sage Russetts.  The russett potato varieties are new this year.  Before we planted the potatoes, we spread the ash that we have been saving from the wood stove to try to keep the wire worms away, and to add potassium to the soil.  Can't wait to see if this is successful.  We would have preferred the Burbank Russetts (as we have been very successful with these) , but we could not get them from our local store this year or last.  We planted in our main garden two rows of Detroit Dark Red Beets, one row of Red Core Chantenay carrots (new to us this year), and one row of spinach.

We planted 4 rows of Silver Queen corn.  This will be the second year of planting seed that we saved from last year's crop.  At first we were worried that this corn was a hybrid.  However, often a variety that was created by being mixed with another variety will normalize over time, and since this has been available for a long time, we thought we would take our chances.  So far it has been very tasty.  I know, these pictures all look alike except for the background.  I guess you have to be someone who looks forward to planting to share the excitement.  We planted a new hazelnut tree in an empty spot among our pecan grove in the front of our property.  Since we have power lines up there, we planted the shorter hazelnut trees where the power lines cross our planting area so we won't have trouble in the future with them growing into the power lines. 

Mushroom stems in pot of compost and manure
Making spore prints
I started the "Great Mushroom Experiment" where I am trying to grow some mushroom from some store bought mushrooms.  The mushroom mycelium has just gotten outrageously expensive (especially for the Portabella mushrooms that we really like.)  So I found this youtube video that explained the process.  I found another suggestion (if I could remember where, I would give them credit) that you would be more successful cutting up the stems into 1/4" pieces and planting them, so I am trying both.  So far I have put in the Portabellas (my first priority), but will work with the button mushrooms once I get them finished.  Of course, my husband helped me (as in almost all projects), particularly this time with the gathering of the compost and manure.  My husband is such a good sport with all of my harebrained ideas.  Thanks honey!

It was time to set up our sweet potatoes (from last year) in their jars to make sweet potato slips.   Additionally, the plants have been progressing to the point that I really need to plant them in their own cups.  The only plants that were not successful this year were the cumin (I think one came up - unless that is really a weed) and the Manitoba tomatoes (maybe old seed).  However, the only cumin seeds I could find were in the Hispanic spice section of the grocery store.  It was worth a try, though.  We have been carrying all the plants outside most days to get the natural sunlight directly as well as the wind the make the stems stronger.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 28, 2018

Winter.  So full of cold weather, getting caught up on rest, tweaking things that are not working correctly, and maintenance of the farm and ourselves.  One of the things we wanted to accomplish was to find a way to bring more water to our drainage pond.  This last year we were in drought conditions and the pond was beginning to look like a deep mud puddle.  We were worried about our fish and the health of our pond.  We devised a way to bring a pipe to the road from the pipe under the driveway that drained into the pond.  Much work was done, the pipe covered and the grass planted with the replacement of our daffodils.  We are so glad we have a friend and neighbor with all the right equipment to help us out with these kinds of projects.  His dump truck and skid loader and his skillful operation of said equipment was invaluable.

We wanted a way to put an alarm on our driveway so we would know when someone was coming up, if only so we could have time to put on our shoes to meet the delivery people at the gate.  We bought a driveway alarm and devised a way to put it inside a birdhouse so it would not look bad.  We have found, however, that our dogs usually bark before the alarm goes off,  the alarm does not go off every time, especially after the rain, and we have problems somewhat with the birds setting it off.  We will try to tweak it further, but it may be a failed experiment. . .

It was time once again to plant our garden plants, which we have done inside, and buy our seed potatoes.  So far everything is coming up except for the cumin which is a new addition this year.  Fingers Crossed!

It was also a good time for my husband to have some time to make some of his favorite Brown Ale!  Winter is a great time to slow down and get done some stuff that is not quite necessary, but an awful lot of fun.  We must have these kinds of times!

Last, but certainly not least, it has also been a time for me to slow down and actually do some care of myself.  Through fasting and intermittent fasting, I have been able to shed about 34 pounds since January 15th.  I am at least halfway to my goal of getting into some jeans that are the same size I was wearing before I got married.  Unfortunately, fasting also means that you do a great deal of resting, which is perfect for this off season time of year.  I am hoping to reach my goal by our anniversary on May 23rd.  Wish me luck!  I am so thankful to have found all the information put out on youtube by Dr. Jason Fung, as just regular dieting that once worked for me, did not budge my weight after menopause.  I am strongly hoping that the healing that fasting creates will heal my body's hormonal imbalance.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

January 20, 2018

Winter is upon us!  7 inches of snow!  Unheard of in these parts.  Beautiful!  We are nice and cozy in front of the fire though.  Love that warm heat.  The day after this was taken, our wood stove started smoking really bad and we have had to troubleshoot the problem.  Thanks to our buddies at the Homesteads and Sustainability Facebook group page HERE, we narrowed it down to the vent cap being blocked. My husband cleaned that up and we were back to no smoke.  Yay!!  It does make us feel a little guilty that we are on the inside looking out though.  Don't worry, in below freezing temps they get to spend the night in the basement.

Bean sprout and corn relish salad
Our fresh vegetable for the winter (other than the russet and sweet potatoes in the basement) is usually mung bean sprouts.  So far we have made about three batches using one batch for venison chop suey, one for a salad with corn relish and cheese with ranch dressing, and one for a salad bar we took to a late extended family Christmas celebration.  We are using the high tech method of a quart jar with a cheesecloth top put on by a rubber band.  We add the bean sprouts and put them in enough water to soak them overnight the first night, dump it out the next day and rinse them morning and night until they are ready about the fourth day.

We have been having trouble with our pond getting too low this year, so we have been taking this time to put in a pipe to divert water from another low spot to the pond.  We are hoping this will work.  Our pond has been looking sad and we have been worried about the health of the fish.

Be sure to check out the new tab I added called "Our Homestead" for pictures of our place in the snow!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January 3, 2018

Happy New Year from Powell Acres!  We are starting off the new year right with our goals for the new year encompassing their own Pinterest board so we can try to stay on track.  You can see them HERE.    A small list at this time which I am sure will grow.

The first thing we had to do this year was insure that our cattle had enough to eat.  We wanted to find hay that was grown without chemicals, so we bought some organic hay from the Cohen Farm.  We were unsure of our ability to handle the large round bales, as we don't have the equipment.  However, we managed to move them by doing some rolling, then by putting a tie down band around one and moving it the last little bit into place in the calf barn by pulling it with the truck.  We had to unscrew one side of the stall to get the hay bales in there, then screw it back.  We placed it next to the stall side (cattle panel) and removed the mesh so the cattle could eat it from there.  In this way, we were able to avoid buying a hay ring, and able to keep it inside out of the elements.  We were only able to buy two bales as this was as much as we could transport and store.  They weigh about 1200 pounds each and are 4' x 6'.

Another thing we accomplished in the new year, was a new pirate sweatshirt for my husband.  I had bought a Pirate sweatshirt some years ago for $.50 at a yard sale and between the collar coming apart and the tractor oil on the sleeve, it was time for it to go.  So I bought a new sweatshirt ($5.64) and cut out the old "Pirates" logo from the other shirt and appliqued it to the new one.   I used fusible webbing to hold it into place while I did the sewing.

It has been really cold here and we have learned new tricks in how to deal with it this year.  The first one is using to heat lamp that we use for chicks to heat up the pipes at the well to thaw out the frozen spots when we lose water.  We have also put in pink foam insulation around the base of the water pump to keep it from freezing in the first place.

Another thing we have learned in dealing with the cold is now that we have a woodstove with a tea kettle full of hot water on it all the time, one good use for it is using it on the stock tank to thaw out the ice so the cattle have somewhere to drink.  Works like a charm.  We also like to use it to put in our percolator for quick coffee in the mornings, and for a quick cup of tea during the day.