A BLOG READER COMES TO VISIT PHF

May 17, 2012

Thursday

Linda

We had a wonderful visit today with one of our readers, Luann Barbagallo, who stopped by to pick up two pints of syrup and to see just what PHF was all about.

Luann and her family are starting their own homestead in a nearby county. I’m not sure what pearls of wisdom we had to offer as Luann has twenty years of gardening, canning and raising milk goats under her belt. That experience will go a long way in starting a homestead. I hope to keep in touch Luann, you never know, we may need some milk goat advice when we finally get to that stage.

We showed her how the off grid system worked and then took a tour of the farm, stopping by to see the princess piggies. The girls were on their best behavior and allowed Luann to view the pig palace set up. She was interested to see what methods we use to raise our pigs since she and her husband will be purchasing their own feeder pigs in just a few days.

We showed her the smoke house where we smoked eight hams last fall, because if your going to raise pigs you have to have a smoke house. She whole heartedly agreed.

In the past few years we have come to know several homesteading families and one of the nice things about it is that we all share ideas. Everyone has abilities that can help another. We are all folks who choose to live a simpler lifestyle, who choose to leave the whirlwind world of consumerism and depend on our own ingenuity to provide for ourselves.

It was a great experience to meet someone from our blog family of readers. Luann, thank you so much for stopping by, we thoroughly enjoyed your visit. Wish you lived a little bit closer. You and your husband are always welcome.


LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE

August 30, 2011

Tuesday

Linda

While hurricane Irene hurled her wrath up the East Coast last weekend, the weather at PHF was beautiful.  We attempted to work on some long overdue projects in between making phone calls to check on family members who were caught in her angry grasp. Prayers were answered and we are relieved that they all fared well.

On Friday John and Sonny worked on step three of building the smoker. It is beginning to take on shape, even though at this stage it looks more like a hunters blind or a kids play house. You are able to see now how the doors will fit across the front and where the grates will sit at the base of the enclosure.

Step three completed.

Also on Friday our solar hot water heater and panels were delivered. As of yet we are not sure when we will install it. Sonny plans to place the panels on the mudroom roof. At this point I am not sure how it will all work. That is a blog for him to write. The delivery service unloaded everything right there on the driveway. Sonny used the Kubota to move it over near the woodshed. He drove the Kubota and I held onto the box to keep it from banging into the tractor and possibly doing some damage to the panels. They are pretty tough though. It appears the Kubota tractor has come through for us again. I don’t know what we would do without it. It has become such a staple here on PHF.

Keep it steady.

Sonny and Harold have begun to bush hog the pasture that sits on the right side of our property. Its the same area as the infamous tree that got caught in the crook of another. Harold obtained some good experience using the bush hog and I believe is now an expert. They didn’t get it finished, but it is amazing to see how much bigger the pasture is than we had imagined. They still have to remove a few tree logs before finishing.

I haven’t complained much on the blog about how the shower Sonny and I installed in the bathroom has been a thorn in my side. All I can say is that it has been a real festering wound for me. Here’s a little advice for all of you that are planning to install a new shower. Do not purchase one that has umptine pieces and parts that have to be sealed together and get one that has a sturdy base. Ours leaked continuously and we were unable to successfully troubleshoot the area that the water was oozing out from.

Well our son and his wife came to Mama’s rescue and have offered to help us put in a new one. We have picked a fiberglass style that is much sturdier than what we had put in originally. We wanted one that was all one piece, but had to settle for one that is two pieces so that we can get it through the door. Harold is also going to install Roma Stone flooring like he installed in his house in Texas before they sold it. Thank goodness he has experience.

Saturday Sonny and Harold removed the old shower and flooring while Clarissa and I went to pick up feed. They had it completely gutted by the time we returned home. The floor was wet under the vinyl flooring and we finally found where the leak was coming from. It was coming from the area of the drain pipe. Now, this is another reason to get a shower with a sturdy base. I think the shower base we had was flexing when we stood on it allowing water to leak underneath. I have had fans blowing on the floor to dry it out before the men start to work on it this weekend.

Sunday and yesterday were down days for me as I had a little intestinal virus. I was able to lay on the couch all day (between bathroom visits) and watch episodes of my current favorite show that Sonny orders from Net Flicks. I figured rest was the best remedy. Today I feel pretty good and have started to can up the bazillion organic carrots that my bargain hunter daughter-in-law brought me. Thats ok this winter we will be glad to have them and I have no doubt in my mind that we will have some jars left for next winter. We have not been successful at growing carrots in our own garden.

Must be a sick day for Moby too. Oh wait, I think thats just a lazy kitty.

Sunday Sonny was able to go to Two Lynne’s farm and help them put up hay. He got some OJT on running the square baler and fixing it. No, he didn’t break it. It’s pretty common for the strings that tie the bales together to break or become jammed. A lot of these balers are well used but still have a lot life left in them. He enjoyed having a chance to get some baler experience and help our neighbors at the same time. Between my cousin John and Carol and Two Lynne’s Farm we might become decent homesteaders. Hopefully someday we will be able to pass on our experience to someone else. That’s how it works.

This coming weekend will be the Labor Day weekend. Here at PHF  we will definitely be laboring. So much to do…such little time. Life is good!


PHF PICKLES

July 10, 2011

Sunday

Linda

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.

Eight pints of bread and butter pickles.


ONIONS, GARDEN HATS AND CHICKS

May 11, 2011

Wednesday

Linda

Yesterday when I went to town I looked for some onion sets to buy. Of course I am always a day late and missed the rush on onions ( I can just picture frenzied gardeners with shopping carts pushing each other like a roller derby match toward the onion set display). I did manage to find a mixed bag of onion sets hidden in a corner containing twenty each of red, yellow and white bulbs. It must have been bumped out when two carts clashed during the onion derby and rolled to a corner to seek safety. Our victory. We may as well have an assortment of onions. The red onions are great for grilled shish ke-bobs.

My first order of business this morning was to get the onions planted. I also planted my yellow straight necked squash plants I picked up yesterday from Lowes. Since the greenhouse catastrophe nixed starting any zucchini plants early I went ahead and made three hills and put four seeds in each.

Walking through Tractor Supply yesterday I found a nice straw garden hat that fit just right. The straw is woven in a pretty pattern on the crown to give my hot head some ventilation and it has a string tie so it doesn’t blow off in a strong breeze. The brim is big enough to keep the sun off my neck, but not so big like some hats that can shade the person next to you too. I wore it today while I was working in the garden and I have to say I give it an A+ for comfort.

Ready for work and stylish too.

The little chicks are starting to become more comfortable in their surroundings. Today they ventured out into the coop pen for the first time. It started off with one brave barred rock that tentatively peeked out of the open hatch and then stepped out onto the ramp. She cautiously put one dainty foot in front of the other and went slightly further out until she caught sight of a bug and threw caution to the wind to catch it. The rest of the teenybopper flock soon followed and the bug games began. Soon they will take an even bigger step and blend in with the older flock off to explore the wonders of PHF.

Get ready, get set, GO!

Whose There? Where did it go?


MAY GOINGS ON

May 8, 2011

Sunday

Linda

Wow, it’s hard to believe that we are already in the month of May and even harder to realize how long its been since my last blog entry. I have no excuses. Since the rain for the past weeks has put a damper on doing outside projects I have been spending my time doing a little Spring cleaning in the house. The walls and cabinets have been scrubbed clean of the winter wood stove residue and the glass of the inside windows is now gleaming. I washed the sofa slip covers and hung up Springtime fresh curtains. Now that those chores are completed I can spend most of my time outdoors where I really want to be.

There are so many projects that need attention here at PHF that sometimes its overwhelming. Sonny and I sat down and made a list of everything trying to organize it by priority. Not an easy task because it all seems to be a priority but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Sonny took a weeks vacation this past week so that we could finish up the drain ditches, the wood shed addition, work on the garden, finish up the hog pen fence and about a thousand other things. Of course it rained the first part of the week and then he had a little mishap.

We had taken Festus, (Johns Truck) to Southern States Supply to get a couple of propane bottles filled. The tanks were filled and Sonny started to climb off the back of the truck when his heel got caught on the edge of the tow hitch. He fell like a sack of potatoes onto the asphalt and injured his right shoulder. I took him to the Urgent Care and the X-rays didn’t show any fractures, but his shoulder is still extremely painful if he tries to lift his arm too high. He will get a follow up done this week.

Sonny tried to get some things done, but trying to use a shovel or put the metal roof on the wood shed extension was out of the question, so was putting the green house back together. I am just grateful he didn’t break his neck.

We have four new additions to PHF. Yesterday we went to Two Lynnes Farm and came home with three Barred Rock hens and an Americana/ Cochin mixed hen. They are about eight weeks old and as cute as be. I can’t wait to see them tootling behind the rest of the flock but that will have to wait a few weeks. I promise to post pictures later. We also came home with some cabbage and brussels sprouts seedlings and two pint jars of Two Lynnes Farm Maple syrup. Can’t wait to try that!

My day has been a busy one. It seems as though it has taken me forever to put up the chicken wire around the bottom of the garden fence. The chickens weren’t free ranging last year but now they hop in and out of the large square openings of the cattle fencing like its a hop scotch game.

My fingers are soar from wire tying the chicken wire to the existing fence and let me tell you those raw, sharp ends of the fence can poke too. Wearing gloves just gets in the way so I will suffer the consequences of not wearing them. Now that the chickens can’t get into the garden I went ahead and planted the cabbage plants and two rows of Strike beans. Our friend Gary gave us some potato starts and I cut them in half so I can plant them tomorrow.

My fingers are soar and my hands are scratched, my back aches and my muscles scream but I feel good. I finally finished a job that needed to be done and the garden has its first plantings. We have four more beautiful hens that will give us eggs in a few months and it is a good feeling to know that we can feed ourselves. Well as long as the garden grows.


GREENHOUSE

February 1, 2011

Tuesday

Sonny

UPS delivered our RION EcoGrow Greenhouse kit the other day. This 6×10 honey should take care of our early gardening needs with no problems.

Now all we have to do is wait the snow to melt.


LIVESTOCK AUCTION

December 19, 2010

Sunday

Linda

At 6:00 a.m. yesterday morning the alarm clock screamed at us, its blaring bell cutting through our dreams like a sharp sword. Sonny and I arose and with wisps of sleep still clinging to our brains managed to make coffee and get morning chores done. We left the house by eight o’clock or so to have breakfast at John and Carols and then headed over to Weston to attend a livestock auction.

Our intention was to buy a good sized hog, have it slaughtered and split the meat between us. None of us has ever done this before and weren’t really sure what to expect. When we arrived at the market we walked through the stock area. Actually you walk on wooden passage ways that are raised above the paddock area. From there you have a view of all the stalls. There were a few calves, a pregnant cow and a goat but, no pigs.

We decided to go the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. There were still livestock trailers pulling into the snowy parking lot and the auction didn’t start until 1:30 anyway. There was still plenty of time for a some hogs to show up.

The cafeteria was crowded with groups of men dressed in coveralls, Carhart coats and work boots. Their faces had the look of seasoned bidders or sellers of livestock as they talked amongst themselves. Fathers had brought along young sons and daughters to teach them the ropes and there were a few women as well, but it definitely looked more like a mans world.

We took another look at the paddock area and saw that about five hogs had arrived while we were in the cafeteria. Round paper stickers with numbers were stuck to their backs and we all agreed on a hog that we wanted to bid on.

The auction arena had rows of cement bleachers placed in a semicircle around a small show ring with doors that opened out to the stockade. Above the ring was a balcony where the auctioneer would sit. I have to say those benches were the coldest seats I had ever sat on. It was like something out of the Flintstones except there weren’t any animal skins to keep your bum warm. Luckily the hogs were the first to come out to be bid on.

None of us were sure how this all worked and we agreed that my cousin John would do the bidding. It was a good thing, because neither Sonny nor I could understand a word the auctioneer said. One other man bid against John on the hog we had chosen but we won out. It all went very quickly.

We had picked a 195 lb. hog and paid 62 cents per pound which comes to 120.90 total. Not bad. Apparently you don’t want to get a hog that is overly heavy because then you are getting a lot of fat and less lean. We went to the office and paid our bill then off to the butcher next door to set up to have the hog processed. I believe it will cost 55 cents per pound. Still cheaper than what you would pay at the grocery store.

It was definitely a new experience and when you think about it we have just purchased a hog from a local farmer that had a decent life. It did not live in over crowded conditions or was over stuffed on corn. These animals tend to come from small farms like our own and are well treated. There is something to be said about choosing your own food source. The hog looked clean and healthy and of course they are all USDA inspected.

Sorry there are no pictures. Sonny and I both forgot to take our iPhones with us. Hopefully I have given you a good enough description to imagine what the auction was like. Next year we may raise our own hog and have it slaughtered in Fall.


DAY OF INJURIES

November 8, 2010

Monday
Linda

This morning started out like most mornings. The thermometer read 20 degrees this morning, so the first chore of the day was to stoke up the fire. We have been leaving the chickens in the coop until about ten o’clock so they will lay their eggs in the nesting boxes. All six of our hens are laying now.

My cousin is out of town for a few days so I had to go over to his farm and feed up the donkeys, goats, and barn cats.  I can’t forget Sandy their fat Lab. She will be waiting impatiently for her breakfast. I always take Ruby with me so they can have a visit and a little playtime.

Nothing else was on the agenda today, so I thought I would can up one of those Cushaw pumpkins Vickie gave us. I got all my canning supplies ready and sharpened my knives. Apparently I sharpened them too well because I ended up slicing my thumb. I got the bleeding under control and put a bandaid on. Tough to do one handed.  It still wanted to bleed, probably because I have to take an aspirin a day and it thins the blood. My pumpkin lay there on the table cut open with seeds spilling out. I had to finish the job or it would spoil and go to waste.  The best thing I could think of to do was put on a plastic glove and finish canning the pumpkin.  It worked great.

I canned ten pints.  I’m usually very careful, but today was just one of those days. I went to take a lid off of a pot, without pot holders ( idiot) and the steam burned my fingers on my right hand. So, now both hands are bunged up. I hurried up and cut a leaf from my aloe plant to put on my burning fingers. It immediately soothed them. They burned most of the afternoon, but I kept applying the aloe and now they feel fine.

Later on I noticed one of my hens was not hanging with the rest of the flock. Went to check her out and noticed that she was limping and had a tear in the skin on her back near her wing.  A chickens skin is very thin.  I’m not sure what caused it, but I suspect it could be from the Roosters jumping on her back.  The poor thing looked pitiful.

I was able to catch her by throwing a towel over her. It was hard to tell the extent of the injury while trying to hold her covered in a towel. Mind you my hands were not in good working order, but I was able to clean the wound with warm soapy water and peroxide. She will have to be separated from the flock or they will begin to peck at her if she shows illness. I put straw in our large dog crate and gave her some water. That’s the best I can do for her. I will be surprised if she makes it. Chickens are susceptible to shock and infection.  Most injuries are fatal. We can only hope that she will recover.

It’s painful to see my animals hurt, but that’s part of farm life.  Injuries are bound to happen and out here and you have to be able to take care of them yourself.  After the events of today, hopefully I make it to bed without stubbing my toe or having to bandage a bloody dog paw.


FRESH PORK SAUSAGE

October 29, 2010

Friday

Linda

Tuesday I got a call from Vicki asking if I wanted some freshly ground pork sausage.  She and Ronald had a hog slaughtered for their winter store of pork and there was more than enough sausage to go around.  They usually sell the excess to their friends for $2.00 a pound and it is already seasoned with spices.  Of course I wanted in on that deal and headed right over to get some.

Vickie greeted me at the door with a metal spatula in her hand. The smell of frying sausage filled the small kitchen and she quickly bustled back over to the stove where sausage patties were frying in two large iron skillets. Rows of pint canning jars sat next to the stove, some already filled with cooked patties.  I watched the master at work as she flipped the patties until they were perfectly browned and then placed them into the jars.  She poured grease into the jars about a third of the way giving me instructions as she went along.  Canning meat was new to me and I knew this was something I wanted to try.

 

Winter Sausage

 

She gave me a sample of a sausage patty to make sure it was to my liking.  When I took a  bite I could taste the freshness and the flavor was mild.  This was definitely good and I knew Sonny would like it too.  I left with eight pounds of sausage and of course a jar of elderberry jelly that she made this Spring and a jar of sausage patties.  You rarely leave Vickie’s empty handed and its hard to give anything back because there isn’t a thing they need.  But I will figure out something.

The rest of the day I canned sausage patties, but since I didn’t have a lot of fat I added a few cups of water to the drippings and boiled them.  Then I poured it in the jars to about a third. Next you pressure cook them for 75 minutes at 10psi.  I followed Vickie’s instructions, but I also followed some of the instructions I got from the internet. I made eight pints, but unfortunately two jars did not seal.  I put them in the fridge and we will eat them this weekend.  The lids were new and I followed the canning instructions so I think they may have been a couple of bad lids.  Sometimes that happens. You just have to make sure to refrigerate those jars and use them within a week.

The root cellar is starting to look like a root cellar with all the pretty jars on the shelves.  When my sister visited I asked her to bring me some more apples.  Sonny likes the apple sauce we canned on her first visit, so we canned up some more.

 

Pre-Apple Sauce

 

This time I made it slightly chunky instead of smooth.  We haven’t tried it yet so we’ll see which one he likes better.


PEAR PEELING PARTY

October 19, 2010

TUESDAY

Linda

Carol called me Sunday morning and asked if I wanted any pears.  I gave her an emphatic affirmative. Are you kidding?  Pears!  In this neck of the woods you don’t pass up anything that can be put up in your pantry. Ronald and Vicki had picked pears at a friends farm and had a load of them. She worked up (canned) all that she needed and asked if Carol and I wanted what was left.  So Carol and I rode over to Vickie’s to pick them up. She had two or more five gallon buckets filled to the brim with golden pears. They were ripening up pretty fast since they were picked the week before.

 

Watch those fingers

 

Vickie also had two large Cushaw pumpkins for me. She said she had enough canned to last them for two years and didn’t care if she saw any more pumpkins until then.  I was glad to take them off her hands and appreciate being able to put more pumpkin in our root cellar.

Carol and I decided to work up our pears yesterday and Vickie said she would be glad to help. With that many pears to peel and cut up an extra pair of hands are always welcome. We didn’t get started on them until afternoon because I had to take the forty pound propane tank for the generator to be exchanged in town. Of course a trip to town takes all morning, but I hurried as fast as I could.

 

Cooking them down

 

We girls had a great time while we peeled and cut. Vicki kept us entertained with conversation.  John went to visit his friend Gary who lives down the road a piece.  I guess he wanted to get away from the cackling hens. Carol has a nice area in her basement with everything needed to do canning. It helps to have an extra stove and all the large pots.  We worked at my grandmother’s old aqua colored Formica table from the early 1950’s.  I have many fond memories of sitting at that old kitchen table with my grandparents.

 

Future Pear Sauce

 

We decided to make pear sauce (which is like apple sauce) because the pears were so ripe. We had three pots of pears cooking down on the stove. I think we added a bit more water than needed and it took longer than expected to boil them down. We actually strained out some of the liquid to save time.  The sauce was pretty tart so we added some sugar to sweeten it. We put up about sixteen pints of sauce and Carol made pear butter (something like apple butter) from the liquid we strained off.

Nothing from the pears was wasted. The chickens enjoyed a pan of scraps and the rest went into the compost.  When I open a jar of pear sauce, I’ll have warm memories of time spent with good friends.  As I open the lid the sound of tinkling voices, laughter and the sight of smiling faces as our hands busily worked will come to mind. That’s something you can’t get from a factory packed tin can.

 

Pear sauce and Pear Butter

 


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