December 30, 2011
I may carry a pocket knife, but I’m still a lady. I had told Sonny that I fancied a pocket knife and how handy it would be to have one. Being the good husband that he is, he presented one to me as a Christmas gift. Its just the right size and is made by the Case company. They have been making all types of knives since 1889 and I also like the fact that they are still produced in the good ol’ USA.
My trusty pocket knife.
When you think about what a lady might carry in her pocket you wouldn’t think of a knife as being one of those objects. Chapstick or lipstick maybe but not a knife. Since moving out here I’ve encountered numerous occasions that a pocket knife would’ve come in handy. I don’t how many times I have been working outside and needed to cut the string from a bale of straw, twine to tie up the tomatoes, or cut open a bag of grain. Whatever the job I’m doing I have to stop and run up to the house to retrieve a knife or pair of scissors, because naturally I forgot to grab one before I started. It will also be a convenient tool this spring when I come across a thatch of wildflowers I might want to cut or a vine of briar thorns that grab hold of my shirt.
I have already put this pocket knife to use many times and I have come to the conclusion that I would be lost without one now. It has become a down right necessity. Every morning when I get dressed I automatically shove it down into my pocket where it nestles perfectly….right next to a tube of chap stick.
As I write this John and Sonny are busy working on the solar hot water heater. They have all the pipes hooked up to the solar panels on the roof and are in the process of connecting them up to the hot water heater. Sonny will give you an update soon. And of course if you have any questions he will be happy to answer them.
December 27, 2011
Sonny and I spent Christmas afternoon over at John and Carol’s house. Carol made a non-traditional Christmas dinner which was certainly fine with us. Holiday dinners always seem to consist of turkey or ham and all the usual trimmings. Its fun to have something a little different and Carol outdid herself.
We enjoyed shrimp soaked in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger and brown sugar. It was then wrapped in bacon, returned to the sauce and baked in the oven. The mixture of flavors were so superb that I think my taste buds did a dance across my tongue with every bite. John cooked seasoned steaks on the grill and there was an array of complimentary side dishes placed on the table. A tray of sliced cranberry/orange bread topped off the meal. Delicious!
I know you are all wondering what donkey poo has to do with Christmas dinner and rightly so. In reality these two things shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence as far civil conversation goes, but we are farmers here. Our lives are intertwined with weather patterns, garden soil, and livestock. Sometimes you have to take opportunity when it arises.
The weather for the past few days, no weeks, has been mild. Rainy off and on, but mild. Sonny and I have been discussing our garden plans for this spring. We want to extend our existing garden so we can grow a few melons. We have also discussed putting some raised beds near the front of the house for onions and mixed greens. The ground has not been plowed in those areas, but we thought it would be a good idea to spread some donkey manure across them and let it sit over winter.
John’s donkey manure has been sitting a while and is pretty well composted. It looks like nutritious black top soil. We spread manure on the garden last year and it really made a difference in the quality of our soil and vegetables.
Since the weather was forecasted to nasty this week we thought it a good idea to get a truck load and spread it out. This might be our last chance to do it, and it was a good thing we did too. Today we have heavy rain, that will turn into snow by tonight. The farmer’s almanac says we will have a mild winter this year, but either way the covering of manure will sit and slowly absorb into the soil.
So maybe Christmas dinner and donkey manure can be put in the same sentence. Imagine that.
A bucket full.
Loading the truck.
December 24, 2011
SEASONS GREETINGS FROM POT HOLE FARM!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a New Year that brings you much happiness and health. For all of you out there dreaming of living off grid or just living a more sustainable life we hope that our blog will be of help to you in the coming year. Sonny will be giving more updates on the solar hot water heater installation and you can still refer back to previous blogs on our solar panel installation and other learning experiences we have had with starting a farm. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of humor in our future as well. There always is no matter what we are doing. So enjoy life, keep things simple, love and take care of your family and be prepared for whatever the future might sling our way.
December 22, 2011
Well today with the help of John we started phase 1 of the Solar Hot Water project. A couple of months ago I ordered everything for the project from the Alt-E Store and have just been waiting for the time to get started. We finally have enough firewood to get us through the winter so now it was time to get moving on the other projects.
Lucky for us each of the two hot water panels weighed only about 100 pounds each. We were able to move the Kubota RTV up near the mud room roof and get each panel in the bed, leaned up on the rain gutter. We then climbed on the roof and lifted each up. Next we secured four mounts per panel and used roofing tar to ensure no leaking from the roof.
Soon we will get started on Phase 2. This will be fitting the 3/4 copper pipe from the panels to the holding tank and on the the existing gas hot water heater.
December 20, 2011
Last night I roasted one of the free range chickens we bought last week from Sycamore Creek Farm. I brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled on some lemon pepper, then placed it on a bed of sliced onions and added a little water to the pan. Put it into a 375 oven and baked it until the meat fell away from the bone. I had always heard that free range chickens are tough if not pressure cooked or put into a slow cooker.
This chicken turned out to be anything but tough. The skin came out crisp and browned and the inside was moist, even the white meat. As for taste…lots of fresh flavor.
The nice thing is that we know where this chicken came from and helped support a local farm. This chicken enjoyed a free life roaming the farm snacking on bugs of her choice, and relaxing in a dust bath. She soaked up the warm sunshine on her shoulders and cooled off with a breeze that ruffled her feathers. Her life may have been short but it was a free life unlike the Big-ag chickens who live in an over crowded building and never see daylight.
Years ago Sonny and I never thought of that aspect of our food, but having seen how animals are treated in industrial food processing it is becoming hard to swallow. We can’t always eat only free range farm animals, but we are getting farther and farther from industrial food everyday. We are lucky that we are in the position to this, but also understand that not everyone has that option.
Chicken dinner with sliced tomatoes and squash casserole.
December 18, 2011
Friday, Sonny and I spent a great day together. First he took me out for a nice lunch and then we went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie staring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. We don’t go to the movie theater very often, but sometimes its nice to just get out and go on a date. We spent a wonderful afternoon together and then he surprised me with another gift.
Now I am not a shiny diamond type of girl, and I don’t get excited about expensive clothes and perfume (unless I get them on an outstanding sale). A batch of new chickens or a new garden tool makes me happy, but there is one thing I have wanted for quite a few years. A mountain dulcimer. Its an instrument that I have always wanted to learn to play, that or a hammered dulcimer. Although the hammered dulcimer has a beautiful sound I think I would have a hard time keeping all those strings in tune. I played the guitar years ago, but as I get older I find it harder for my fingers to play the chords. A dulcimer can be played in multiple positions and makes it easier for my crooked fingers to get around.
Sonny’s early Christmas gift to me was a scroll neck mountain dulcimer that was handmade by the McSpadden company of Arkansas. My heart did flip flops in my chest when I saw it and would have sang a song if a heart could. My dream had finally come true. My eyes swept over the beautiful craftmanship, the curve of the scroll and the luster of the walnut wood. I strummed the four strings and the resonance of the sound was exceptional. It even came with a nice hard case to carry it in.
I already love playing this new instrument and in two days I have almost mastered the song “Down in the Valley.” Hopefully by this time next year I will be proficient in many songs. I’ll never be a professional, but I will thoroughly enjoy playing for myself and family. I do believe this is the best gift Sonny has ever bought for me and will always be a memorable one. Thanks Honey!
*NOTE TO MY SISTER: Take down that dulcimer you have hanging on your wall and get new strings so you can play with me. Between the two of us we can drive everybody nuts.
My new baby. Isn't she beautiful?
Dulcimer and case
December 16, 2011
I watched a show on TV one time where a person went to visit Martha Stewart’s farm. I sat there in awe as they walked through the horse barn. It was immaculate and the spokes person raved that it smelled of lemons. I would love for my chicken coop to smell of lemons when I open the door in the morning. Unfortunately it smells like chicken poop and if I stand too close to the door as the hens hustle out I just might get a little poop/mud cocktail flung in my direction.
I keep the hen house clean but I doubt that it would pass Martha’s inspection. We live in real life. Farming is dirty and smelly. It is blisters, sweat, and dirt caked under your nails. It is nights of soar muscles, with a glass of water and two tylenol for a nightcap.
Whenever John and Carol go out of town I take care of their donkeys, two goats, dog and abundant barn cats. Their barn doesn’t smell of lemons and it isn’t immaculate. It smells of hay and donkey sweat with a hint of manure. I love how it all feels. The vibrancy and excitement of the animals anticipating their feed, then the quiet and calm as all are fed. Its a soothing balm for the soul, that grinding chewing pastoral chant and occasional snort from the donkeys.
As far as the garden goes, it lies dormant in winters sleep with a covering of donkey manure. Life here has slowed down a bit too, but the animals still need daily care. Maybe next year we will have a few goats or meat rabbits to add to our twenty-one roaming chickens, three cats and dog.
We may not have a Martha Stewart farm set in perfection, but I can tell you that when I step out and look across our little farmstead, my heart grows two sizes. My feet are growing roots right along with the blackberry bushes and grapes. No offense Martha, but you can keep your farmisneyland, we’ll keep reality.