It was hotter than the hinges of hell today but my cucumbers would not wait another day to be canned up into bread and butter pickles. I picked a few more this morning to add to my stockpile and also went ahead and pulled up the white onions. They would be great added to the pickles mixture along with vinegar and seasonings.
The cucumbers and onions had to sit in ice water for three hours so I was not able to start canning until after noon. The kitchen was on the warm side with the hot water canner boiling and steam puffing out from under the lid. The fans in the house kept things under control and it only takes 10 minutes to process the jars.
What a feeling to make a product from vegetables grown in our own garden. They will look nice sitting on the root cellar shelves and taste even better on a cold frosty day in winter. A little reminder of summer on a drab day. Yum.
We had been using a small underpowered 3500kw Champion generator as the backup generator for the last two years. We always had plans to replace it with a bigger one but just never got around to it until this weekend. The Primary generator is a 8kw propane Guardian and it takes care of all our charging needs for those long dark rainy weeks.
You see, nothing is the same living out in the boonies and living off the power grid. We have solar panels for electricity, a primary generator but also a backup generator. Everything has to have a Plan-B to go with it. Our heat is from out wood stove but we also have propane backup. We have 4 wheel drive cars, and a backup 4 wheel drive tractor just in case the snow is too much. We have lights but have oil lanterns, Gas stove to cook on but we can also cook on the wood stove. We have Internet, Satellite TV and Satellite radio to know the weather. We even have multiple stove-top coffee peculators. We even have a great refrigerator but we still built a root cellar.
It is just our way out here. And to be honest, continue to learn lessons every day on PHF.
At seven a.m. there’s coffee perking on the stove and a toasted bagel waiting to be topped with peanut butter and a sprinkling of raisins. Sounds like a citified breakfast but its what this country farm girl likes to eat on weekday mornings. Its eggs and bacon or biscuits and gravy on the weekend.
I rub the sleep from my eyes and shuffle over to the door to let Ruby out for her morning tinkle. She’ll expect her breakfast to be ready and waiting when she comes back, so I throw a scoop of kibble into her green dog bowl with paw prints painted on the sides. What…a farm dog can’t have a spiffy bowl? Believe me, Ruby is all farm dog and she has the ode de stink to prove it.
Moby crawls out of his bed on the porch and stretches as Ruby gives him a good morning nudge before bounding off to the yard. He wants his breakfast too as does Sampson who patiently sits in his favorite spot near the root cellar. I grab a soup cans worth of kitty feed from the bin and split it between two cat bowls. Old soup cans are great for scoopers.
The coffee isn’t quite done perking yet. Time enough to strip the beds and throw a load of sheets in the washer. Got to take advantage of that old sun. The smell of the coffee and toasted bagel is making my mouth water.
Ahhhh…finally the precious black gold flows out from the coffee spout into my favorite yellow cup. A swirl of steam is sent up like the wispy smoke of incense and I breath in the delicious scent trying to awaken my senses. A little sugar, a little cream, and then that first sip. Heavenly.
I sit down at the table and enjoy a few moments of solitude and to savor my small but adequate breakfast. After my usual morning phone call with my Mom and a few emails sent its time to head out and take care of the frat boys. The guineas have been up for hours and they squawk at me as I open the garage door to get the pig feed.
Of course the boys were all excited to see the orange Kubota. It carries the food goddess you know. They have remodeled the frat house into the more modern style of pig sty. The new feed trough fits in well with the decor and doesn’t clash at all with the mud bath they just put in right outside of the sleeping quarters. I’m not too fond of their choice of air freshner though.
Next stop, chicken coop. I see my rebellious henny penny that stayed out all night meandering her way up to the coop. I let the chickens out into the fenced pen and they aren’t too happy about it. The two male guineas stood outside the fence looking in at their cousins squawking as usual as if to say “whats going on! Why are you locked up? What did you do? What did you do? Squawk, squawk, squawk!” Nervous nellies.
I corralled the henny penny and put her into the pen. They don’t know it yet but they will all be spending a few days fenced in. The freedom of free range is forfeited until all henny pennies and roosters alike are in the coop by curfew every night. I got four eggs today instead of the usual three I have been getting these past few weeks. The eggs are to feed us and friends, not raccoons and snakes and whatever else lurks out in the brush. I don’t know whats gotten into the henny pennies wanting to stay out all night. Its been two different girls. It must be those darned wild turkeys again. They brought moonshine to the frat boys, now their keeping my girls out all night doing who knows what.
My next task is to check on the garden. A few cucumbers and of course squash and zucchini are ready to be picked. I hurry back to the house. Time is wasting and the day is getting hotter. I wash up the squash and get prepared to can them up. In between I hang sheets on the line and throw in another load into washer.
By lunchtime I have seven pints of squash canned and three loads of laundry on the line. A quick lunch and walk back to make sure the chickens still have plenty of water. Its hot out there today. A water refill and another sweep of the perimeter just in case a baby guinea shows up. No luck.
I do my kitchen chores and clean up the mess from canning. Annie’s litter box needs a good scrubbing and so I empty it and take it outside where I can wash it out with the hose. Might as well give the garden a little water too.
I have realized I don’t care for flowers that grow on long stems and need to be tied up. Its time for the holly hocks to go. They are planted next to the house and need a good pruning. I cut them all off and then trimmed up the irises that are finished blooming next to them. It looks much better now without alien holly hocks grabbing at you as you walk by.
The garden looks like a jungle. Grass and weeds have just about taken it over. Its cooled down a little this evening so I started to work in the area of the string beans. Its hot and humid and I’m dripping with sweat. No whining the job needs to be done and it will be hotter out tomorrow. I noticed that we have some string beans coming on. Hope they do well because I would like to can up enough jars to last the winter.
The sheets have dried in the little breeze thats been blowing. I take the sheets from the line and inhale their fresh scent. I’ll put them back on the beds and look forward to falling asleep on their cool crispness, the smell of the outdoors clinging to their threads.
Its been a long day. More chores were done than mentioned here but thats the highlights. The chickens are tucked in and the door has been closed. Are you tired. I am. Its time for me to close my door now and say good night. Tomorrow is another day. Farm life is a good life.
It was almost dark last night when I went out to close up the baby guinea and chicken coops. I couldn’t see into the guinea coop and I didn’t hear them chirping, but thought they must be clumped up into a corner as usual. This morning when I went back to let everyone out there were no guineas in the coop. I looked to see if an intruder could have come into the coop and attacked them but saw no sign of it.
I searched for areas the guineas could have wiggled through but saw none. Sonny and I thought we had the coop and fencing secure enough but apparently there must be a space big enough for the little ones to jump through. I saw no signs of an attack. Not a feather, not a wing, or half eaten bird. It is as though someone came in and scooped them all up closing the fence gate behind them.
I have walked the perimeter of the property numerous times today trying to listen for frightened peeps. Unfortunately there are so many birds twittering in the trees and brush along with Roo Roo’s crowing and the adult guineas sounding off that it is hard to pick out any specific tweets.
I thought maybe a snake might have gotten into the coop, but it would have had to be either an anaconda or an over stuffed snake to eat seven birds. If they were attacked by a raccoon or something I think some of them would have survived. Even though they walk together in a cluster like ducks some of them would have scattered.
I believe they found a small escape route and once outside were either eaten or succumbed to the elements. I left the fence gate and coop door open all day hoping some of them might find their way home, but no luck yet. I’ll keep it open tonight too. You just never know…there could be a few survivors.
Happy fourth of July to everyone. Hope your holiday was an enjoyable one filled with parades and fireworks and stomachs full to bursting from family BBQs. Its been a busy two weeks around here and the blog has been thrown to the wayside again, but I’ll update you on all the goins on around here.
We spent a great week with my parents and another with my sister. So much has happened that my head is in a whirlwind, but I’ll try to give you a few highlights.
My sister brought her dog Holly along on her vacation. Notice, she likes to vacation at PHF. Holly is a seven month old Border Collie/Lab mix that is just chock full of energy. Her attention span is comparable to a gnat, but she’s a real sweetie. Ruby started her on farm dog training the moment the pads of her feet stepped onto PHF soil. She had lessons in not chasing the chickens and guineas, barking at odd sounds and intruders, swimming in the creek 101 and the proper way to play tug of war. There were adventures in the woods and trails of wild animals to sniff out not to mention lots and lots of wrestling. Slobbery neck fur was all the rage.
Needless to say that like any child, Holly was worn completely out and was the first to crawl into bed every night. Thankfully she didn’t have any nightmares about the frat boys. There first introduction was a scary one.
Of course Holly followed all of us down to the frat boys crib at feeding time. She looked at them and they looked at her. She sniffed the air, then immediately turned around, tail tucked, back hair raised, and sped back to the house like she was on fire. Sounds of whimpering echoed down the pasture. I didn’t notice, but I’m pretty sure her eyes were bugged out with the whites showing. I wish we would have had a video camera. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog run that fast. I take it she doesn’t think the pigs are cute either.
We have done a lot of berry picking over the past few days. My sister and I canned up twelve jelly jars of black raspberry jam while she was here and I just canned up eight more today. The garden is starting to produce squash, zucchini and cucumbers now. I’ve canned up about nine quarts of squash. They will be good in casseroles and stews this winter. I would like to try my hand at making some squash soup sometime too.
The guineas are growing by leaps and bounds. It was finally time to move them from the small box in my bathroom to a larger own coop of their own. I had a screen across the top of the box to keep them from escaping. Every time I removed it to clean or feed them it turned into a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie the birds.
Sonny used the Kubota tractor to move the old guinea coop from the front yard to over by the fenced chicken pen. The top of the fenced pen is open so we put up bird netting. It isn’t pretty, but it will do the job. Even at four or five weeks old these guineas are able to fly higher the the four foot fencing. We are still wondering when the magic ugly stick will appear to paint their heads red white and blue. Right now they still have cute fuzzy brown striped noggins.
The frat boys are growing too. Besides getting big ol hams on their behinds their eyes are getting more squinty and their snouts bigger. Feeding time was becoming a shoving match because they had outgrown their feed bin so John built a nice long wood trough to replace it. Sonny and I fed them this morning and watched them as they still pushed and shoved each other. There is more than enough space for them to get in and eat. I think they are just like any other brothers and prefer to make every meal into a fighting match.
John was also nice enough to come over yesterday to help Sonny finally finish the addition on the back of the wood shed. Sonny had started it just before he injured his shoulder. Any type of reaching up is still painful. The doctor said he tore a muscle and would need surgery to repair it, but he can wait until later this fall to have it done. He will have quite a few months of re-coop time.
Yesterday was hot and humid and you could break a sweat just walking to the spigot to get a drink of water. The heat made Sonny and John’s work even harder but they completed the job. It’s nice to have another project finally finished.
There is always work to be done around a farm, but we still had time to have a little fun these past few weeks and enjoy time with family. Now we are looking forward to a visit from my son and his family now that they live a few hours away. Thats it for now. I’ll try to be more diligent in keeping up the blog, but sometimes my day ends too quickly and so does my brain energy. Life is good!