January 31, 2011
The sun is showing it’s face today and the snow that is still on the ground is packed hard and difficult to walk on. Seeing some warm sunlight definitely cheers the soul and drags it out from the shadows of the winter doldrums even if the temperature is 20 degrees.
Sonny has told you about the new tractor and the guineas but he hasn’t given you all the story so thought I would give you my side. He called me from work on Thursday and said that he was going to stop by the Kobota dealership and pick up some brochures on his way home from work. I’ve been married to him long enough to know that that was code for “I’m buying a tractor today.” Sure enough he came home and told me all about the Halloween orange Kobuta tractor, what it could do for us and was excited about the deal he had gotten along with a bush hog. He didn’t have to sell me on it. We needed a work horse and this one will do the job and then some.
Friday he and John went to pick it up. John’s truck had trouble pulling the load up the icy hill as soon as it hit our dirt road, so they unloaded it and Sonny would have to drive it the few miles home. The dealer said he would fill it with fuel but apparently forgot, so Sonny had to drive to the country store to fill it up. I am sure our neighbors thought he was daft riding this tractor in the frigid temperatures past their houses looking like an Eskimo riding high in the seat. More than likely he had a smile frozen on his face and not because it was cold. It was a man with a child’s heart playing with his new toy and that’s the way it should be. I enjoy seeing him happy. The cold didn’t affect him at all because he didn’t get off of it when he got home. He immediately put it into plow mode and scraped the driveway of snow.
Saturday we took it up the hill behind the house to cut firewood from some of the fallen trees that were left behind from the select cut three years ago. I sat beside Sonny and hung onto the handle used to pull yourself up into the seat. It’s a steep grade up the hill and there are somewhat shallow drainage ditches across the logging road leading up. He put the Kobuta into four wheel drive and I was a little apprehensive as we jerked side to side dipping down into the gullies and up again. The tractor performed beautifully and Sonny is a pro at controlling it.
We were able to cut wood, stack it in the bucket and drive straight to the porch to unload. This tractor is worth every penny and will make so many jobs easier. I am looking forward to Sonny teaching me how to drive it and work all the attachments.
Our guineas are doing great. We let them out of their coop on Saturday. At first I thought we had lost them but sure enough they returned in the evening. Just not to their coop. They seem to like the pole barn and have been roosting under the roof near the attached garage. The chickens are not going to be happy because their dust bathing area is directly underneath and is now filled with guinea poop. The chickens haven’t met their cousins yet. It has been too cold to let them out, but I’m sure we might have a rumble on our hands as soon as they come across each other. I suspect that the guineas like the pole barn because it is sheltered and they can roost up higher than in their coop.
The guineas are getting used to me. They are an odd looking bird. Their lavender gray and white spotted feathers are pretty but as you look up the body toward the head you kind of go, eeewww. Their heads look like clownish vulture heads on skinny necks attached to hump backed bodies. The sound they make reminds me of a set of squealing brake shoes as you press down on the pedal. I try to make the same sounds and they come strolling out of the pole barn to say hello. They are still a little leery but are warming up to my presence as they realize that I am the food lady. As soon as the ground thaws and the bugs come out they will have a job to do.
I feel like we are now well on the way to becoming a real farm. A small one but just the right size.
3 Comments | Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by Sonny
January 29, 2011
The temperature was in the high 30’s today with the sun peaking through ever once in a while. Earlier this week Linda mentioned it was time to get the chicken coop cleaned out so today was as good as any.
We used the bucket on the tractor to dump the poop and straw on the garden. This should help us out when growing season starts.
2 Comments | Alternative Energy, Chickens, Farming, Gardening, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by Sonny
January 28, 2011
Well after waiting a year and a half, we finally decided to get a tractor for our fledgling farm.
We have been needing a tractor with a bucket for a while now. So yesterday on my way home I stopped by Parcs Kubota outside of Salem to figure out which one I wanted. The L series is a little bigger and looks more like a tractor then the smaller B series even though they have similar options. We wanted to be able to bush hog our back 40 and still be able to use it for large jobs as they come along.
I decided on the L2800 30hp Diesel 4×4 with a front end loader. At the last minute I decided to also get a bush hog while I was at it. I called John and told him about it last night and asked if we could use his F-250 and his trailer to pick it up Friday morning. Lucky for me, he agreed.
We got it loaded and chained down and headed up the road towards my place with no problems until we turned off the 2 lane onto the 8 mile long dirt road. We went about 1/8 mile and ran into trouble. Even his 4WD began slipping as we headed up the first icy hill. We just couldn’t make it pulling the trailer. After we slid down the hill and John was able to keep the trailer from jack-knifing we got the tractor unloaded.
I drove it the rest of the way home. That also gave me a chance to spend some learning time on it without anyone watching if I goof up. When I got to Pot Hole Farm I immediately got going clearing the snow off the driveway. Tomorrow we will need to get more firewood cut up and the buck will come in very hand for chunking the cut logs into.
8 Comments | Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by Sonny
January 23, 2011
The other day Linda and I found a local farm that had Guineas for sale. After several emails and phone calls we headed just north or our place to find Two Lynns Farm in Shirley, WV.
There we met Sandi and Lynn Hopper. They had moved from the West Coast about 8 years ago and got their local Organic farm up and running. They gave us a tour of their place. Chickens, Ducks, Guineas, Cows (beef or milk) and even got a overview of their Maple Syrup processing. We talked for hours and quickly realized they were good down to earth people.
We picked up three guinea hens and one rooster. On the way home it dawned on us that we really didn’t have anywhere to put them. We could not put them in with the chickens because we needed to keep them locked up for a few days to help them figure out they had a new home. So we keep them in the dog cage (a big one) in the back of the Jeep overnight while we figured out what we were going to do.
The next morning it was a cool 20 degrees but we decided to get started. We put on our winter gear and went to the barn to gather all the scrap metal, left over 2×4’s and a old pallet. After about 5 hours we got it completed. We decided to use a tarp for the door until we can got to Lowe’s for more supplies.
Guinea Coop in the Garden
5 Comments | Barn, Farming, Garden, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 17, 2011
It may be January with snow on the ground and more to come, but it is already time to start thinking about what to plant in the garden this spring. Our garden did pretty well last year considering it was our first one. We learned a lot of lessons and I’m sure still have many more to learn.
As soon as the weather begins to warm we plan to get a load of donkey manure from my cousin’s farm and spread it on the garden. We probably should have done it in the fall but we ran out of time with other projects that seemed to run together. We still need to get a rototiller and it has moved up on the list of must haves. A nice load of nutrient rich manure mixed into the soil should be a good boost of fertilizer to grow all those scrumptious veggies.
This past weekend we ordered our seeds from Heirloom Organics (http://www.heirloom-organics.com). We wanted to try growing plants that we could gather the seed from after harvest to dry and use in the coming years. I don’t believe you can do that with hybrids seeds or maybe its that you can only save them a few times.
We don’t plan to grow any pumpkins this year. I was able to can up enough from last years harvest to last a few years. Sweet potatoes and white potatoes are off the list too. Ours just didn’t seem to do well.
We also hope to get a few guineas to help keep the bug population down. I have heard that they are also good watch dogs and alert you to anyone who enters the property. Ruby does a pretty good job at that already.
Time flies and before you know it, the days will become longer, the birds will sing and the temperatures will be just right for the crocus and daffodils to break through the crusty soil. The hum of lawnmowers will sing along with the bees and the sweet perfume of wild flowers will send our senses reeling. Ah…warm days are coming along with sunshine to melt the ice from our shoulders, and it will be time to brush the cobwebs from the porch swing. Are you ready?
4 Comments | Garden, Gardening, Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 16, 2011
Yesterday afternoon when Sonny and I went to check on the chickens in the coop we heard something we have not heard since last summer. Coyote’s. We went out a little earlier than usual at about 4:00 and surprised to hear them. Dusk or later is a more apt time to hear them.
In the not so far distance, we heard 2-3 giving a howl type barking sound. It was a creepy sound that sent chills up and down my spine. The ghastly howls echoed around our mountain soup bowl, but we figured they were just on the other side of the hill behind the chicken coop.
We listened for a few minutes thinking they might move on, but they continued. Sonny went into the house and brought back his 2o gauge squirrel shot gun. He handed it to me and showed me how to chamber a round which I quickly did and shot it out toward the woods. The howling barks stopped immediately, but I shot another one for good measure.
We don’t want the coyotes feeling comfortable coming too close to the farm. They can keep their distance. As disturbing as the coyote howls are it is a mixed feeling of that’s creepy and that’s cool.
Sonny did one more honey do job this afternoon. He crawled under the house and wrapped some of the water pipes that we had missed with insulation. We are expecting the temperature to get down to 14 degrees tonight. Don’t feel too sorry for him having to go under there because he had hot out of the oven chocolate chips cookies and coffee waiting for him when he came in.
5 Comments | Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 15, 2011
When I went to take care of the chickens this morning I was surprised at how warm it felt outside. Although it wasn’t bathing suit weather, 35 degrees felt practically balmy after the many snowy and below freezing days we have had. The sun even peeked out for a while to help ease some of the winter doldrums supply sone sunlight to the solar panels to charge the batteries.
Sonny also got the kitchen sink plumbing repaired. He replaced the whole piping system, trap and all. Last week was a doozy. The temperatures dropped down to the single digits at night and I thought I had the sinks dripping enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Apparently not. I had to call my cousin John to come over and he had a small heater to place under the house and the problem was temporally fixed. Sonny still needs to get the water pipes insulated.
Well, I made sure that night that I had the drips on the sink set well. We have had a problem with the kitchen drain pipe leaking a very small amount all summer and I would just put a bucket under there to catch the water. But, the next morning I stepped on a kitchen rug and heard a very distinct squish. There was water all under the vinyl floor. Our cabinets are raised sightly so they weren’t wet inside but all underneath. I had to pull out the stove and get the piece of vinyl flooring up. It was a scrap piece from when we did the floor in the mudroom, but was big enough that it was a pain to lift out. A mop, a bucket and my back, got the flooded mess cleaned up.
The other issue from this week was our wood stove. It seemed that every time that I opened the door to put wood in smoke would billow out. Well that would indicate that there is a draft problem. Sonny had to go borrow a tall ladder, ( on the list of must haves yet to be bought) from cousin John. Sonny had to sweep away the four inches of snow and an inch of ice from the roof before he was able to climb on it. He then removed the cap from the chimney pipe and there was the problem. The screen around the cap was clogged with ash and creosote. John ripped out the screen and if any birds happen to get in there then I guess we will have squab for dinner. Now the problem is fixed and we have a good draft. The house is warm again.
Last week the log tongs that Sonny ordered came in the mail, so he and John just had to try to them out.
When they select cut the timber on this property before we bought it they created a pile of log butts. It is well seasoned wood, but a log tong was a tool we didn’t have until now. Sonny clipped the tongs onto a large log and then connected a chain to John’s flatbed 4×4 truck Festus. Festus tried to do the job but the wheels did more spinning than pulling even with four wheel drive on the snow. The logs were frozen together in the pile. They managed to pull out two logs but we’ll have to use the tractor when the snow melts. Even so, they made short work of the big log butts by using the chain saw and log splitter. The logs are now neatly split and stacked in the woodshed.
These types of things can be frustrating when they happen, but when you own an off grid house way, way back in the holler you learn how to deal with it and come to expect it.
I know that I have slipped in keeping up with the blog but I have been spending my time editing and fine tuning a novel that I wrote a few years ago. A best seller? I won’t hold my breath but hopefully it will be entertaining to those who read it. Keep in mind that this is my first book and hopefully my writing skills will improve as I go along. I have a few other novels started and will attempt to finish them.
4 Comments | Battery Bank, Farming, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Solar, Solar-Powered, Woodstove | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 10, 2011
I know it has been too long between blog entries. Linda and I have been busy with many things. We have had several rounds with the phone company but now after 5 months we now have voice mail up and working.
We have started running below my comfort zone with our firewood. So the last couple of weekends we have been cutting up trees that we downed several months ago. I ordered a pair or wood “tongs” that will be used to pull a bunch of “log butts” that were left over from when the place was timbered a couple of years ago. The logger made a pile of left-over ends and it will add up to at least 5-6 cords of wood. We plan to use the tongs, a chain and my Jeep to try to pull them into an open area to let me cut them up and then I can hit them with the splitter.
Last night at about 0400 the water froze. Linda tried the hot and cold faucets but nothing. At around 8:00 she called John and he and Carol came over with an electric heater. Now remember that our solar-powered house and electric heaters are not really compatible due to the power consumption. So we fired up our spare gasoline powered generator and put the electric heater under the house. Several hours later we thawed the pipes out and were back in business. This weekend I will get on my insulated coveralls and get those pipes insulated to the max.
Oh, and the good news. I found a publisher to publish Linda’s book. It will go to Amazon and iBooks first in ebook format first. When I told her I needed it smoothed she went into panic mode and has been combing over it for the last week 12 hrs a day. She is nearly finished so I can get it uploaded. After she gets back to normal when will get back on track with her current project that she is about half way finished.
We have had about 10 inches of snow over the last week. Tomorrow we expect to be hit with several days of snow but we are ready for it. The food we canned last summer is still stock piled, Winter is here.
7 Comments | Homesteading, Off-Grid, Solar-Powered, Woodstove | Permalink
Posted by Sonny