Friday, May 31, 2019

May 31, 2019

We are gearing up for a workshop to be held here on the farm.  David House is coming here on June 15th to present a workshop on biogas digesters.  The first part will be on a less expensive plastic bag digester, then on the Cube digester.  We are excited and anxious as we have not done a workshop here before.  There are still a few spots left, and you can learn more about it here.

Garlic Chives
I am still working at Edge of the World Farm, and have learned many things about herbs and their uses, and still more about weeding.  I wonder if any going into herbs or farms have thought about what percentage of their day would be spent on weeding?  I have learned a whole new level of weeding.  Because there are so many medicinal herbs that volunteer in odd places or wild medicinals, I have learned to only pull weeds that I have been told to pull and if anything looks different, ask first.  This, of course, makes weeding a much longer job, but precious plants are saved.  Henrietta and Erin are very precise in their care of the plants, as well as the medicinals they make.  Careful cleaning, weighing, harvesting, glassware washing etc.  has impressed me so much, they have probably made me into a fan for life.  I have personally enjoyed their tinctures.  I enjoy purslane on almost a daily basis to help face the heat of the day, and eleuthero for energy, as well as in the adrenal support tincture.  I highly recommend their products as they are constantly striving to put out the best tinctures possible for their customers.  My personal garden has also grown since I have been working there.  My kitchen garden now has some garlic chives that were extra, and our regular garden now has some hibiscus that I can use to make tea.  They have inspired me to dry some of my own fennel for teas, as well as lemon balm for a calming tea, which was something I kept saying I was going to get around to, but didn't before now.  I have brought away so many positive things and one negative item.  By the time I get back to our farm, I am a bit tired of weeding. . .

Progress in the Garden
Our garden is in progress.  My russett potato experiment did not work though.  Not a single potato came up.  However, the sweet potatoes I bought from the grocery store are finally producing slips.  It has been so hot and dry this last couple of weeks, we are now back to wishing for rain.  Can you believe it?  My husband is doing such a good job of tilling in between the rows and we are both trying to get to the remaining weeds.  The one plant that seemed to germinate well from the seeds we purchased was beets.  Looks like it is going to be a bumper crop this year.

Front of House
Back of House
We are looking forward to another huge summer project this year.  We are buying a small fixer upper house to get into shape for our daughter and her husband.  They will buy it back from us as soon as it is in good enough shape that the bank will actually make a loan on it.  It will be quite a challenge, but we are excited about it and the fact that they will be living not too far away so we will be able to enjoy our coming first grandchild, who will be a boy:  Elijah Matthew Turner.  Can't wait!  This is one of the few ways we could help them find affordable housing in a good neighborhood.

The Incredible Serenity View
Manning the Grill
We had a new experience this year.  For our 38th wedding anniversary, we celebrated by renting a yurt for the night.  It was in a very peaceful area and the view from the back deck was worth it alone.  We found it on Airbnb.  The Yurt at Frog Pond Farm.  My husband did a great job getting us packed and cooking dinner for us.  Not only did I enjoy it, but also one of their dogs named Gerret enjoyed the scraps from the steaks.  He was a quiet but personable fellow and companion.  When he was done with us, he quietly got up and walked into the back door of the yurt and out of the front to go to his other home.  LOL.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019

Friends sometimes come in seemingly strange packages.  For example, the black cat we adopted, Merlin, thinks he is a dog, and our dogs are letting him. . .Especially Phoenix, one of our border collies.  Our other border collie, Hercules, takes this too with the same air of complacency that he handles much of everything else, except intruders.

What's left of the leaf pile
Tilled into our potato row
Speaking of friends, it is so nice to have friends that have different equipment than you do.  Thanks so much to our friend Bill with the front end loader who moved a dump truck full of leaves to the garden for our potatoes.  Bill sometimes borrows our tiller, and he loves an occasional taste of my husband's beer.  It is so nice to have such good neighbors.

As far as the garden is concerned, it has rained so much here, we have only managed to find a small window so far to plant the potatoes, beets and corn.  The beets are coming up already.  The potatoes we ordered never arrived, so this year we tried cutting the potatoes from the grocery store.  Wish us luck!  The sweet potatoes are from the grocery store as well.  We are trying to make slips and have them in our usual containers with water.  We have roots that have formed so far, so fingers crossed . .

After buying a new golf cart, we fixed up our old one to get it ready to sell.  We found out one battery was bad and replaced it.  We also reupholstered the seats to make it look nice.  We advertised it on Craigslist, but to be honest, we are not trying all that hard to sell it.  No time to work on that at the moment.

One of the reasons I have less time is I have started working at Edge of the World herb farm.  I have always wanted to learn about the medicinal property of herbs, and now is my chance, thanks to Henrietta and Erin Cummings.  They are great to work for and I am learning alot about plants, some that I used to just think were weeds. . .It is on the account of weeding that I developed my new set of overalls.  They were made out of a pair of scrub pants and coordinating shirt that I bought at the thrift store for $3.50.  I padded the knees with an old towel.  Funnily enough, the first place I wore them was to church to do the Palm Sunday children's moment.  You see, it was all about the donkey.  I gave out cookies that looked like chicks.

Last, but certainly not least, I am so proud of my son-in-law for getting a job recently as a security officer to support his growing family.  Congratulations Leah and Jacob!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March 20, 2019

Today was quite a day in the life of homesteading.  It started with retrieving a blue bird from our wood stove pipe.  The tulle leftover from my daughter's wedding has been used to catch birds three times.  Before, a bird would get completely down to the firebox.  This time, we had to raise the flue, as he had kicked down dust and creosote that blocked his way into the firebox.  He was quite happy to fly away once I carried him outside.

Of course there were usual chores such as making sure my husband had a lunch and to go breakfast, dishes, laundry, and mopping the floors along with all the extra dishes from rendering the pig fat.  I rendered the leaf fat inside and the back fat outside.  I don't think the heat was low enough on the fish fryer, even though I turned the propane as low as possible.  To lessen the time/electricity used/propane used, I first cut the fat into strips, then ran it through the food processor.  It only took about an hour to render.  It wasn't the best way if you really want cracklins, but we didn't care, so I gave all the little left over pieces to the chickens.  I got about two pints of rendered leaf fat (for cooking), and enough rendered back fat for about a batch and a half of soap, so I was happy.  Then there was the continuation of the work on the smokehouse for smoking the bacon and hams once they are finished with the salting process.

Today I dug out and poured the concrete base for the fire pit.  That was quite the adventure.  Once I finished digging and leveling the area I wanted to pour the concrete, I mixed one 80 pound bag of concrete at the time.  With the first one, when I started stirring the concrete mix with water, the axle came out of the wheel on the wheelbarrow.  I had to haul it to the hole to dump it in (without a working wheel) before I frantically had to fix the wheelbarrow before the concrete set up.  I ended up needing only two bags of concrete for this space.

Once I finished that, I went to put up the wrenches in the tool kit, and I made the mistake of closing the wrong side, so all the sockets rolled out and went behind the workbench.  Then I had to crawl on my belly and use the broom to try to get them recovered.  I somehow tore my jeans in the process.

The two pigs that we grew (Red and Freckles) grew well.  One was 406 pounds at processing time, and one was 377 pounds.  Our freezer is overflowing with the beef and pork, and we ended up borrowing freezer space from a neighbor.  I wish I could pull out some pictures, but my computer crashed.  We didn't have any trouble getting them to go into the horsetrailer for transport.  We just started feeding them several days ahead in the horse trailer.

Still, life is good.

March 18, 2019

So this last six weeks, I had volunteered to help someone re-design a 23 foot rv as a temporary living space.  I came up with lots of new ideas and used some old ones from Pinterest.  I learned alot, stretched a lot, and figured out that while I might want to redesign another RV, I would prefer to do it on my own.  I may want to buy one, redesign it, and then sell it.  That way, there are no misunderstandings about who is to do what when, and no waiting time when someone else's schedule get's busy and they can't do the part that your part is dependent on.

At any rate, a flaw for living in an RV, is that they are really not designed to be lived in, they are designed to stack as many sleeping spaces in as possible.  When you are planning a living space, you want to go back in and take out the extra sleeping spaces and other spaces that are not needed, and put back in those that are desperately needed.  In this RV, we took out some partial walls in a very tight bedroom space, a dinette that jutted way out into the middle space, a huge closet, the water tank, and a bunk area.  We added a table/bar, a huge storage area, a pantry, a new closet, and added about 10 inches to the bathroom.  While the RV is not quite finished at this point, much of the design part is complete.

First the storage wall was placed to take advantage of an oddly angled wall, and the outside storage was made into inside storage.  It is just behind the futon that will serve as a couch and a bed, that has storage drawers below it (not visible in the picture.  The storage wall will serve as a table for your coffee cup or whatever, and also has a hinged lid.  Trash cans will fit in it nicely to categorize the storage.

Secondly, the dinette table that took up too much space and was too short to be a bed for adults, really, was taken out and replaced with a bar top table which folds down into a longer single bed (using the old dinette cushions the long way end to end, which are stored inside.)  As you can see, it has not been painted (white at the bottom), nor the table top stained and polyurethaned.  Final decisions are still pending about the light.

Thirdly, a pantry area was put in over the wheel well which will house the fuse box at the bottom.  At this point, the edge trim has not been added, nor has it been painted white.  At 16" deep, there will be plenty of storage for food, or whatever else needs storing.  You can also see in this picture the book shelf that has been secured over the bar table.

The only place to hang a picture was the bathroom door, and since the color scheme was peacock accent colors, I painted a picture of a peacock on an old canvas that I bought for .99

10 inches was added to the bathroom, because when you walked in before, you would run into the toilet.  enough space was added to scoot back the composting toilet and a sink cabinet was re-designed and will have a sink made from a stainless steel bowl.  At this time, the sink is waiting for the plumbing to be installed so it can be completed.  I used the old plastic medicine cabinet mirror to make a new medicine cabinet that even comes with a shelf to store extra toilet paper.  A bucket was hung on the wall made from a laundry detergent bucket with marble contact paper.  This will house composting medium.  A matching bucket will be placed on the floor for bathroom trash.  Also, as you can see in the mirror, a metal wall basket was painted and installed as a towel storage space.

Lastly, a new closet space was added in with hanging bar, baskets, and it will have two shelves, one of which will be over the new hot water heater.

The kitchen area, was left as it was, with just a coat of white paint to open out the space.

What is left is a much more functional space for temporary living.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

February 20, 2019

Gosh.  Seems like life is so busy, I forgot to blog.

We have cut down our cattle number from six to three.  We found that we really only need one per year to serve our beef needs, so now we have a dairy cow, one brown Swiss for next year's beef ration, and one calf for the year after that.  We just sold two (per the last blog), and recently took another one to freezer camp.

Our pigs are getting huge and we need to make arrangements for them as well.  How do we fit all of this in the freezer?  It will be interesting figuring this out.  We have decided this time that we will take them to someone who will partially process them and give them back to us in quarters.  A smokehouse is in the project list.

Currently, we are helping a friend redesign and repair a 23 ft. RV for a temporary living quarters.  So far, we have repaired some wall and floor damage, and have taken out the "bedroom", dinette, and closet and two bunk beds to eak out some space for living.  We were able to take out the water tank, as he is going to have a rain water collection system with the tank outside of the camper.  We will be able to remove the black tank, as he will have a composting toilet.  Here is the composting toilet I built out of scrap plywood and some hinges ready for painting as well as hooking up the urine diverter.  I have some creative plans in place to add back storage once the floors are put in.  Stay tuned.

In order to fit some decorating pieces to add a little color to the RV, I have been planning carefully to mostly work on things that are useful, but will also do something else (like painting a large metal basket the right color when it will solve the problem of where to store towels).  However, I did find room in my design for one painting.  I searched thrift stores for a painting of a peacock, since those are his favorite colors.  I did not find one.  However, I did find a painting on canvas the right size at the Goodwill store for $.99, so I bought it, primed it with house primer, and painted a peacock.  Youtube came to the rescue again with instructions on how to paint a peacock.  With the walls and cabinets painted white, these colors will really add some cheer.

I got tired of the pantry having holes in the walls due to my husband having put in photovoltaics (and it being an "ongoing" project), so I got smart and closed up the wall as much as I could, and painted a large painting to go over the remaining "necessary" hole for continuing work when he gets to it.  I painted the pantry while I was at it, covered some boxes with fabric in a similar way to my closet project, and my husband and I took out the wire shelf and put in a more usable wood shelf, moving it down so that it is reachable and making it deep enough to hold copy paper boxes.

I needed a display shelf for the swords in our library, so I used two pieces of 1 x 12 boards, rabbited out the places for the swords with the radial arm saw, put it together, painted it white and added the Powell Coat of Arms to the front.  I had a time figuring out how to hang it so that we could remove the swords without knocking the display off the wall.  I ended up making a two sided french cleat.  Works like a charm.  Had to make sure that the screw heads were inset for it to work right (thanks honey!).  Right after I painted it, I went over it with water based polycrylic which was a mistake and made the acrylic paint run with the brush strokes of the paint brush.  So sad.  I then ran the sander over it and had to repaint.    What a lesson in what not to do!

Another thing I did was finish making the last corner of my kitchen usable.  I needed a place to hang my recipe box and some aprons.  I sanded and painted my recipe box and added a knob that we had in a drawer that came by "mistake" with some clear crystal knobs I had bought earlier to put on some night stands.    I also found a thrift store metal tray with grapes on it that I added two other leftover silver knobs to make it a place to hang my aprons.  Obviously I have a grape theme going on. . .Thanks to my husband for putting the hook on the wall for me.

Monday, January 21, 2019

January 21, 2019

Busy start to a new year.  One of the things we (I) like to do for the new year is to set farm goals.  I have found that since I am a very visual person, that setting these up on Pinterest has been helpful for me.  If you have a pinterest account, you can see our farm goals for 2019 here If you don't have a pinterest account, I can tell you that so far our goals are:  1) have 2019 be the first year to have a calf born live on our farm  2) Milk our jersey cow  3) Learn how to make cheese and other dairy products 4) Naturalize some oyster mushrooms here on the farm for convenient picking  5)  Grow more of our own animal feed  6) Experiment with growing corn with live mulch (we are thinking clover) 7) Reduce our cattle so we have one cow, and one calf added to the farm per year for our own beef and quit feeding extras unnecessarily  8) Consume pork grown on our farm for the first time  9) Rebuild hops trellis mostly with materials we have on hand 9) Have our first workshop on the farm for building a Biogas Digester with David House  10) add a wood stove to our workshop to increase the comfort level in the winter 11)  Use said wood stove to smoke our pork by altering the path of the pipe to a new smokehouse on wheels 12) Live even more sustainable by season and add foraging.  Lots of little goals this year to make us more sustainable.

We have started off with a bang, having sold two steers to get our cattle numbers back down, and we have a date with the processor in February for a third.  Then we will be left with one for next year, and a bull calf for 2021.  Sage (our dairy cow) is expecting, so we will find out soon if it is male or female.  If female, we may choose to keep the heifer for future milking, but we will see.  Some things we learned, is that it is great to have a stock trailer that is low to the ground for the cattle stepping up and has a door up front so you can have an escape door.  We also learned that our alleyway is excellent to have to load cattle on a trailer.  We got them in it with a bucket of grain, then were able to put in boards behind them to keep them from going backwards.  The trailer parked on the other side of the alleyway worked excellently.

This year, was a special year for John's dad, as we celebrated his 90th birthday.  John, his brother and sister did an excellent job of planning the party and I helped by cooking the food (we were planning for 200).  This gave me a very busy couple of weeks.  It was great to have my youngest daughter's help on this as well ( and as always, I love knowing that she knows how to do these things)
.  Homemade cheese danishes, spinach and broccoli mini quiches, dip with crackers, ham biscuits, sausage biscuits, cheese biscuits, vegan biscuits with vegan sausage, fruit bowl, fudge, dessert spirals, hot dogs sections with barbecue sauce, hash browns with onions and peppers, and of course John's' dad's signature crackers with a cake and cake squares made by John's sister.  It was great to see family and friends gather around on such a special occasion!

Monday, January 7, 2019

January 7, 2019

The holidays have made the time seem to run away with a blink.  There was the moving of our daughter, the gatherings of family, preparing Christmas presents (not much this year) and our Christmas adventure.  This year we chose to pay for everyone to go to a fun park and participate in skating, go cart riding, a maze and miniature golf instead of presents.  Additionally I made everyone a ninja hat in case it was cold when we went, and well, my nose always gets cold when going to the pasture, so John and I needed a hat for just in case.    We had a great time with the adventure, however, my husband who is 62, and myself (57), have decided to remove roller skating from our bucket list. . . The ramifications of a few spills from those fast moving skates made an impression on us.  LOL

During this time, we also got snow several times, and way more rain than we needed.  For the year of 2018, we were supposed to get around 42 inches of rain, and instead we got over 64 inches of rain.  This made for some rainy conditions we had not been familiar with.  Let's see, we might need more feed if drought occurs, we need more feed and extra straw if too much rain occurs, and we need more feed if snow occurs.  This makes it rather hard to stick to a budget. . . .

This year's Christmas postcard was made from a collage of meaningful pictures during the year, as well as labels to explain the content of said pictures.  In 2018 we got a record snow, we brought pigs to the farm for the first time, we got a dairy cow and calf for the first time, and we built an extension on the calf barn.