Friday, August 31, 2018

August 31, 2018

We are continuing to prepare for getting pigs this fall.  My latest project was a pig waterer.  This was made out of a barrel, two bulkhead fittings and two pig nipples, with some teflon tape thrown in.  I am so thankful my husband showed me the right way to wind the teflon tape so when you screw it in, it does not just unravel.  I still need to build the skids it will be sitting on so we can rotate it when we rotate the pigs to new pasture.

Tomatoes are still coming in, and since we already have 57 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 20 quarts of tomatoes with green chilies, and 15 quarts of ketchup, we have decided to dehydrate the rest.  I did an experiment between dehydrating them in our Excalibur dehydrator and the greenhouse.  The Excalibur took from 12 - 24 hours to dehydrate them (but uses electricity).  The greenhouse took a day and a half (of course there is no heat during the night, but it uses no electricity).  We sliced them thin with the food processor and laid them out in trays.  I learned to be careful to turn the end pieces of the tomato up as I dried all of these Juliet tomatoes with the skins on.  They taste like candy and I can't wait to throw them in salads in the fall and spring when we have lettuce, but no tomatoes.  One five gallon bucket ends up drying into two one gallon freezer bags, and I put them in the freezer to make sure no bugs could get in.

Okra is coming in steadily now and We already have about 13 gallon bags of cut up okra in the freezer.  I just cut them up and put them in the bag with no blanching.  When we are making fried okra, I just batter them while they are still frozen so they will hold their shape.  Works great!  We also use it for soups and a great okra tomato dish from a recipe a friend shared (Thanks Jeanne!)

A big project was getting the new barn extension stained so we could put in the windows and painting the trim.  Done!  Thank goodness.  I got tired of ending every day with a bath with some vegetable oil in it that did a nice job of removing the stain from me.  Why do I make such a mess when I do things?  Must be half of the fun!  My husband and I make such a great team.  He is tall and I am not, so if I can't reach something on my 6 foot ladder (my comfort zone), he pitches in and gets the rest.  So glad to be married to a hard worker who is such a handy guy!

This is the time of year, as we harvest, that we are picking our best produce to save seeds.  I am doing a much better job this year, as I have adopted the practice of using empty spice containers and labeling them with a picture of the item.  I also learned to put the seeds with lots of stuff around them (pumpkin and watermelon seeds for example) in a large bowl and massage them out of their stuff.  The seeds fall to the bottom and I scoop out the "stuff" with a tea strainer.  Then I pour the seeds in water in a colander, and oila!, clean seeds for saving!  Also, some fellow homesteaders taught me to dry them on wax paper.  After I think they are dry, I put them in the spice containers and watch them for a few days.  If you see a fog forming or water droplets, immediately dump them back out on wax paper and let them dry some more or mold will form.  I also air out the containers during this time.

We are getting closer and closer to retirement and hopefully making a little money on the side with our freed up time.  I am always looking for new things to add the possibility of income to our farm.  This year I planted 30 bulbs of Crocus Sativus for the spice saffron which is very expensive.  I am hoping it will multiply greatly in the next three years.  I also used an old horse trough to plant some turmeric on one side and ginger on the other.  In our zone, it is said that you can plant it outside as long as you mulch it in the fall.  The horse trough will not only protect it from too much sun and the lawn mower, but give us a way to keep in the mulch.

Life is so good here on the farm!  Always something interesting to do!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

August 22, 2018

I love the creativity in small farms/homesteads!  I just finished building this pig hut.  Please see the new tab I have created with the name Pig Equipment.  I will be working on the waterer next.  The tab includes instructions, additional picture in progress, as well as where you can find the idea I got from Living The Dream farm.

My husband found a way to keep the watermelon from wasting!  Why does it all seem to ripen at once?  He said he had been contemplating watermelon wine for some time.  I had been dying for an opportunity to use the Squeezo I had purchased off of Ebay!  We both love it!  While we were using it, it not only got the juice we needed for the wine, it also spit out the fiber and seeds in another bowl.  I put it in a bowl of water, massaged out the seeds until the fell to the bottom, used a tea strainer to get the stuff off the top, and poured it into a colander to get my clean seeds for saving, then spread them out on wax paper to dry.  We used the two varieties of watermelon that we grew, Crimson Sweet and Mountain Sweet Yellow.

My husband is a science teacher at a high school teaching Earth Science, AP Environmental Science, and Physical Science.  I created this bulletin board for him which includes examples straight from our farm.  Love it that he is living what he is teaching!  He is setting such a great example.   While I was there, I noticed he did not have a flag holder for his flag and put this adjustable one together from scraps - a piece of pvc pipe, a wing nut, and an L bracket.

My husband was having a hard time getting his boots off without getting mud on his hands until he built these boot jacks out of scrap wood.  I added a little paint to the one for the front porch.  Works great by standing on it with one foot and putting the boot in the slot to remove it!

Temporary fix
Permanent Fix
While we were running the trencher to put in our automatic waterer, my husband cut the phone and internet line.  He has now done a great job on the permanent repair, both soldering the connections and using marine heat shrink covers for the wire ends to keep it solid when in contact with water.  It is now covered in the trench.

As you can see on the bottom of this pantry picture, we have canned 25 quarts of pumpkin to add to this years' collection.

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.