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. . .

Saturday, May 26, 2018

May 26, 2018

We have a renegade steer we call Houdini.  He keeps popping the staples on the fence and jumping on it to escape the fence.  Of course, the first place he goes is my flower bed/kitchen garden.  This time I marked him with some purple paint to secure locating him again when it is time to take a steer to the stockyard.    There is only so much bad habit one can take.

Black snakes at their new location

We have split the egg layers from the meat birds since it is time for them to come out of the brooder.  The egg layers went over to our mini coop to get ready to go in with our other egg layers.  This way the others can get used to them while they are growing.  However, our dogs started barking to alert us that something was up.  My husband looked into the window of the the mini coop and could see a black snake inside.  He went to get equipment to deal with the snake and turned over the mini coop to get to it.  When he got in, he discovered that there was also a second black snake in there.  One had already consumed a chick.  He got a bucket with a lid while I ran for the hoe, and we prepared them to be re-homed a few miles down the road to a non-chick location.

Finally got around to finishing the
insulatory curtains for our passive solar great room.  I used black out lining to not only add extra r value and moisture barrier, but to darken the room should we want to watch a movie during the day time (when will we have time for that?)  I made them from floor to ceiling so it will provide a layer of still air between the curtains and the window for even more r value.  They were a big job that I had a mental block about for months.  So happy they are complete.

For the holdbacks, I discovered that I could buy some holdbacks, remove the ends, and replace them with some crystal knobs I had left over from an upcycled furniture project.  I love the new look.

Whether you need some light that is off grid, or you just don't want to run electrical,  tiki type lights are often a solution.  This year, the Dollar Tree had some tiki torches in my colors (purple and green), so I got some for our deck.  My husband helped me install them with some EMT brackets in 3/4" size.  In order to keep water out of the lamp oil should it rain, I discovered yet another use for wide mouth jars in pint size.  They are heavy enough not to blow away (so far).  I am also experimenting with plastic peanut butter jars.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

May 17, 2018

Man.  Life is moving fast.  My youngest daughter got through graduation and within a week accepted her first after college position!  Woo hoo!  Next thing you know we are driving down to her place to pack her and her husband up.  Horse trailers sure do come in handy!  And we don't even have a horse. . .

This week we have had a little visitor.  My son went on vacation and asked us to do some dog sitting.  Venus is an Alaskan Klee Kai.  Small, but smart and full of energy!  She has been a constant reminder of stopping to smell the roses, and the honeysuckles, and the clover.  Wait!  What's that brown pile?. . .While she is in, she is wishing she is out.  She is just fascinated by the cows, the chicks, the dogs, the chickens, and did I mention the chickens?  So we have been taking lots of walks on the leash, as she is so small that she can fit through all of the fences.  The best thing I did was put a large carabiner clip on her leash so when I am in the workshop, the clip is fastened tightly in the vice grip.  When I am picking asparagus and strawberries, she is clipped to my jeans belt loop, and when I am weeding the raspberries, she is clipped to the fence.  Enough room to roam, not enough to get under the cows.

On a homestead you want everything to do at least two things.  A case in point is my front flower bed that is no longer a flower bed, but a kitchen garden to be conveniently located to the front door.  it is in a constant state of flux as the seasons change.  Here is a video tour:

I have redone the solar fountain in the middle of our drive turn around.  The plastic barrel look pots cracked over the winter.  This time, I am trying galvanized tubs.  I braced in the solar panel with brackets left over from old blinds.  Here is some fountain action:

Another thing we have been working on is a corn hole game for a large event we are having soon.  As it is large and it uses resources, we wanted it to do dual duty, and we needed a way to store it.  We figured out that if we put it together and painted it, it could serve as the chicken coop sign when we are not using it, bringing color to that part of the farm.  I painted it to honor our cantakerous rooster "Sheriff Roy" who served our hens well and protected them for five years.  RIP Roy.  Again, the green and purple.  The purple doesn't show well in the picture, but the black Australorp rooster looked purple when the sun was streaming in.  The holes in the corn hole boards were made removable by screwing a paint stick to the hole cover and screwing the paint stick to the back of the board.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

May 3, 2018

New chicks arrived today at the post office.  We got Cornish Cross to try this time, along with some black Australorps to replenish our egg layers.  To keep the chicks from getting out of the chicken tractor, we had to block the front and back sides at the bottom with cardboard.  We love our 4 x 4 brooder.  It does take a lot of storage space though.  We usually hang it.

Tomorrow is my daughter's graduation and we are doing a barbecue reception afterwards, so I have been working on decorations.  I needed a banner that would be long enough to tie across a picnic shelter.  In the picture, you can see that I used clothespins to help it stay together while the glue dried.

I have been making myself some jewelry and replenishing my clothes so I will have some that fit me now that I have lost weight.  The black set I made out of a thrift store necklace that only cost seventy-five cents.  The blue and white set was also from some vintage necklaces I picked up at the thrift store.  The red set was made from some glass beads I picked up at Hobby Lobby for $2.99 (with a 40% off coupon) along with some crystals I already had.  I even made my husband a new tie tack!  This is so much fun!  I also made a rack for my necklaces and bracelets using some leftover wood, some half staples (that my husband ground down the tips on - thanks honey!) and an olive jar.  I love creative projects!

Since we got some new bees, I have been worried about them drowning in the frog pond.  It has steep sides and it has happened before, so I wanted something to float in the middle of the pond.  I went to the dollar tree and bought a pot with a large lip on it and a pool noodle that I cut to fit the sides and strung it together with string.  It floats!  I hope it will do the trick for the bees as well as be pretty.  I planted some portulaca in it so it will hopefully grow and drape over the sides.  I also chose portulaca as it can remain dry longer and I didn't know how often it would get watered (there is no hole in the bottom of the pot).

The Asian pears and
Moonglow pears have quite a bit of fruit on them finally!  Yay!  After 7 years of having fruit trees planted, we are finally getting abundant fruit!  We got a few Asian pears last year, but only enough to eat and not preserve. I hope to get some in jars or dried this year.

The Liberty apple tree looks full of apples, and we even have a few peaches from the Leah peach tree (my daughter planted a peach pit and it grew into this tree and survived a move from our last home.)

Good things come to those who wait.  The irises have been beautiful this year.  Life is good. . .

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.