Saturday, April 24, 2021

Finally, Spring!!

Finally getting out of my winter funk.  So nice to have some warm weather again!  Today, I harvested broccoli and had enough to put in the freezer for the first time, so my husband and I put up 10 quarts of broccoli!  So exciting! 

 The inspector came to our farm, and I made him a frog nap mat.  Here he is with a cookie in one hand and a daffodil in the other.  All the comforts of home! 

We got a pig processed and got to use the smokehouse for the first time!  Lots of firsts.  I think our helper was waiting for a handout.  

 Our steer was so big we were turned away from a processor and had to take him home.  They thought he might weigh 2000 pounds.  When we found one that could handle him, their was a lot of beef that came home.  

 Our new Blue Australorp chicks were inspected and approved (kind of, he wasn't sure of that):  

 And thanks to the help of our neighbor, Walter, we finally were able to pour the cement for the floor of the new shed on a weekend that was both warm enough and dry enough!  Life is good!

Winter Farm Duties

Life goes on in the winter.  Our pigs needed a new hut, so I took a shortcut and made one out of an ibc tote.  In one day, it was ready for them.  They had knocked holes in the old hut and colder temps were coming.    

The smokehouse was given a coat of gray stain to keep it preserved from the weather.


I got some Blue oyster mushroom mycelium and some white oyster mushroom mycelium for Christmas.  I want to naturalize them on the farm so I put the blue oyster mycelium in a bottomless horse trough with mulch, leaves and coffee grounds.  I also got some white oyster mushrooms that I made a bed for with some old hay.  Note  to self:  Don't let the cows into the yard right after you make a mushroom bed that looks like food.  Luckily, I was able to save it.  The blue oyster mushrooms are actually coming up!  I am so excited.  As I put these in before the white, I am not surprised they came in first.

On a final note:  I can't wait to show you what we are making out of a $10 non-working front loading washing machine and a cattle shade structure that we have chosen to redesign.   

Homemade Christmas

Busy and frustrating times, why do we have to work so hard to find the truth these days?  but I digress. . .

Christmas was wonderful and saw lots of fun times and some homemade gifts.  One such gift was a homemade sewing basket and pin cushion for my daughter.  Made from a jelly jar and a basket.   

There was a rice filled snowman to peak out of my grandson's stocking.  

Then there was a bag made out of a shirt to house my grandson's new farm collection.  (of course, lol).

And last, leave it to me to create a winter sweatshirt for everyone one that is Lord of the Rings,which contains a message I hope everyone will remember in these times.    


Upcycling for me is to repurpose what you have or what you can find with limited resources and turn it in to something you need/want.  This month has been so full of repairs and upcycling. For example, since Halloween was in this month, I wanted to work on some costumes for our grandson and family.  Being big Star Wars fans, we did Han Solo, Princess Leia, and an Ewok for my one year old grandson.  I was hoping to find something easy for the Ewok costume like a brown sleeper or hoodie to start, but apparently the color brown is not in this year and I was empty handed in my thrift store shopping for those items.  However, I did find a brown, fuzzy ladies jacket, and used the zipper in place to make the teddy bear costume that went under the orange head piece for the Ewok.   The other costumes did not require much sewing, however, a Princess Leia costume for someone who is 5 months pregnant was interesting.  I ended up using two fitted sheets that were laying around with no purpose using the elastic from the side of the sheet at the waist band to snip and rip a long skirt that took minimal time/resources.  I will use this trick again.   

 Our greenhouse door had rotted out and I chose to rebuild it with real wood.  Not using osb or plywood left a rectangle in the bottom of the door that needed filling.  When my husband and I went shopping at the thrift store, I was looking for 100% cotton items for some petroleum free clothing for myself (allergies), and I gave him the measurement of the rectangle I needed to cover and asked him to find something.  He found a plastic tray that was close.  Interesting - at least it was waterproof.  So we bought it for a dollar and brought it home.  I adjust the size of the hole in the door using some scrap wood and my kreg jig, and the try fit perfectly.  It even added a little interest to the door.  Love it!     

While we were shopping, I also found a couple of men's t-shirts to make me some all cotton pajamas using no elastic.  I used the long sleeved t-shirt to make the pants, using the sleeves as the bottom of the pants.  I used some clothing articles that fit as a pattern, and used drawstrings in place of elastic.  Love the result for $2 and 100% cotton (getting increasingly hard to find).   

Our microwave had fallen into disrepair as the plastic handle broke off.  Yes, I could have bought a new plastic handle for $40, but spending that much money on the same handle really got on my nerves.  I wanted something that would feel sturdier and might last a little longer.  I went out to the workshop and found a dowel that I painted black and screwed to the door.  Worked!      

Wearing these required masks seem to make it hard to breathe for me, so I was looking for a way to keep it from collapsing in on me when I breathe in.  I found someone who had made a plastic insert that did the trick without making the mask look like a muzzle.  It didn't fit my Olsen masks, so I altered the pattern to fit my masks.  It slides on the inside nicely.  This was made out of a vinegar bottle (free and direct recycle).  The thickness and flexibility of the plastic worked great. 


Farm maintenance/Fall Garden

Funny how one set of animals is just fine with your creations for them, and the next set just tears it up.  Our current pair of pigs are very rough on things.  We really liked having the pig hut created with just plastic corrugated roofing on the top, as it made it lighter to move.  However, this set decided the roof could just be pushed out of the way to create new doors.  As it rained, I felt sorry for them for the mess they created and wanted them to have a dry place to sleep, so changes had to be made.  As I was contemplated what could be done and looking around at what materials we had, I ran across a sheet of T1-11 siding.  I decided to just remove the bottom roofing panel on each side of the pig hut and put a half sheet (cut the long way) of T1-11 on each side.  As it was the roof, I also gave it a good coat of white enamel paint, hoping to make it last through this set of pigs and future pigs.  It did make the hut a bit heavier, but my husband and I can still handle it for the move to the next paddock. 

 I finished repairing and painting the arbor, and my husband helped me put the new finials on the top.  It is so nice to have a tall, handy and hardworking husband!  

Another thing I have been working on is replacing the rotten trim on the barn door.  This time my husband wanted to be sure we picked up some treated wood for the trim.  The barn door is heavy, so my husband helped me take it down, I replaced the trim, and then he helped me put it back up.  There are still a few things to do including strategic caulking, some trimming and painting, but we are both pleased with the results.  The remainder of the project will be easy in comparison. 

Our summer garden is winding down, but I still found about 10 gallons of peppers that needed to be harvested.  I strung two small wreaths of cayenne, my husband chopped some jalapenos for the freezer, and we both worked on preparing the 7 gallons of bell peppers on our rainy weekend.  

My husband also brewed a batch of a new recipe of pumpkin beer.  We are doing our best to use up all the rest of our pumpkins.    

 We planted a small fall garden this year:  sugar pod peas, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets, acorn squash, and did I mention broccoli?  Somehow we ended up with 3 rows of broccoli, but it is our favorite.  This year we got smarter with pea trellises and put them in BEFORE we planted the peas, so now they are actually conveniently located to the trellises.  Sometimes it's the simple things - lol.         

Of course, the Japanese garden will probably be continued for the unforeseeable future.  As you can see, the rock mulch is waiting.

beer - Maxim

Japanese Garden


I am making progress on the Japanese garden.  I have added pea gravel to the dog ramp (which they are not using - yet), poured concrete and added a few plantings, as well as received 4 tons of gravel to use for mulch. I needed a column to put the Japanese lantern on.  To make it, I used a cardboard sonotube with some old corrugated roofing that the cows tore off of the barn windows.  I sprayed the roofing with oven spray and dropped it into the sonotube, and around the rebar pounded into the ground for support.  Then I mixed the concrete in my wheelbarrow and dropped it in by the shovel full, tapping the outside to release air bubbles, and making sure it was level.  The column is 36" tall and used 4 eighty pound bags of Sakrete.  It turned out great! Next, my husband and I created the forms from plywood for the bases of the bench.  I decided on two feet that were large (24 x 12) instead of four of them.  It was a little tricky to get them aligned, level and level with each other, but doable.  One foot was down slope, but I used gravel to raise it for level.  Here they are, ready for my neighbor and his skid loader. 

Next, I tried my hand at using part of a Rosemary bush to create a ball topiary.  I looked for a section of the Rosemary that had a strong central truck or two, dug it out away from the rest of the plant, and started chopping to reveal the stem.  Then I printed out a circle and placed it in the top to follow the shape, taking it out and replacing as I worked around the bush.  I was inspired by a video on youtube that I thought was Linda Vater, but of course I can't find it now.  In it, she picks some shrubs on sale and turns them into ball topiaries, first picking out a central stem or two and chopping off the extra branches until she got up to the ball portion, them trimming it up, which is what I did.  The bonuses were that the remainder of the rosemary plant is still surviving and looks less bushy, as well as all the limbs I removed came into the house to dry for use as a spice.  I will pulverize it in the blender once dry, as I don't like the texture of dried rosemary in my food. Once I planted the rosemary, I then planted some elephant ears a friend recently gave me, and a blue hydrangea.  Can't wait to see this area done and what it will look like when mature.

Time and the Past Coming Together

I am working on two landscaping projects in our backyard.  The first one is maintenance and reparation of our 16 year old arbor that my husband built for our oldest daughter's wedding and we moved with us when we bought the farm/homestead.  It was also used in our youngest daughter's Lord of the Rings wedding in 2016 (link in menu).  So far the vine has been cut down and some of the painting has been done.  

Another unusual sentimental item we brought was a peach tree our youngest had planted from a pit.  We dug it up, cut the tap root and moved it.  It has survived, but we still haven't gotten any peaches from it.  This year I used the leaves to dry for tea. . .        

 The other landscaping on the farm that I am currently doing (mostly while waiting for the air to warm and dry the arbor), is finally creating the zen garden I have wanted around the frog pond that we built in 2015 to draw in the frogs for eating the pests on the gardens.  So far, I learned how to use the string trimmer to weed around it (yes, I know, almost 60 and have never run one before now - my husband has taken care of me.) I have outlined the area I want to include with spray paint and dug a ramp.  Why a ramp?  Perhaps you have been following me long enough to have seen the "soaking in the frog pond" song?  If not, you can see it here:  Yep, over time we realized that our dogs were going to cool off in the pond no matter what, so I may as well find a way to fix it so they won't get so muddy.  Pea gravel is coming.       

 Also to be used is a a rock that was dug out of our basement area during the basement creation.  This will be used as the top of a bench.  As you can see, it has been waiting for a while.     

The other thing that has been waiting for a while is the Japanese lantern I made out of concrete.  You may have seen it in this blog post.  The next plan is to pour a column for the lantern, and four concrete feet for the stone bench. 

 More stuff we have done here on the farm is pick the first crop of pears from our Kieffer pear tree.  Dig up our sweet potatoes, and finish using our small jars to make more fig preserves.  You can tell by the variety of the jars that I had to scramble. for jars.  The vacuum lid on the  yeast container actually worked very well.  

Lastly, I decorated the front porch for Halloween.  In purple and green, of course.       

Fall Farm Shenanigans

So many things to do in the fall, and some of them are just for fun.  Weather predicting with persimmons is one thing I have been introduced to recently by Patara with Appalachia's Homestead.  Apparently if there are spoons (or shovels), it means there will be a lot of snow.  So I cut open a persimmon, and surprisingly got two spoons.  When I asked what that meant, Carl Belcher (one of our friends) said we would be expecting aliens, lol. Pumpkins are such a big factor for fall.  The pumpkins we grow, Cucurbita Moschata, that are resistant to the squash vine borer, have a wonderful taste.  This year we have canned pumpkins, made pumpkin butter, made peanut butter and pumpkin dog treats, and made pumpkin pies for the freezer.  I discovered that if I just scoop out the seeds, cut it up, put it in a big pot, bring it to a boil and turn it off for about ten minutes, then the peelings slice off very easily and it is ready to be puree with help from the food processor.  So much easier to do that than to try to peel it uncooked. This year I was also inspired to make pumpkins out of some $1 thrift store sweaters for a table decoration.  I got the know-how from an email by Confessions of a Serial Do-It-Yourselfer, Christy James.  Of course when I went to make them, I couldn't find our jute twine, but I did find some suede lacing, I didn't find a long needle, but a cross stitch needle worked (but not well, so instead of sewing all the ribs I wound the thread around the pumpkin), and I didn't have crochet twine, so I used some clear stretch cord from jewelry making.  I also added some leaves that I cut from some bling wrap, as I like a little bling.  Of course, my pumpkins are green and purple to match my decor, but the orange one in the middle is from the garden.
Garden fresh dinners are scrumptious. Fried okra, scalloped tomatoes and baked sweet potatoes.
I want to give a shout out for Wolf Moon Farm.  Sam and Zack are amazing with their animals.  They recently helped us with a cow of ours.  When we went to get her, they had her cut out from the herd and loaded in our trailer within 45 minutes.  That was phenomenal!  Between Sam's peaceful demeanor and Zack's know-how, it was quite obvious they are learning their trade well.  Their animals obviously trusted them and were used to their presence.  We were in a field with cows, and sheep.  Went through a field with their pigs and dog.  All of which they earned a quiet respect from.  If you want an animal that is well taken care of, loved and respected, and is used to people, this is the place.  They have for sale St. Croix sheep and Kunekune pigs if you are interested.