January 21, 2013
Maple syrup may be the top event going on here at Pot Hole Farm, but its not the only one. We still have daily chores to attend to that include gathering firewood, taking care of the guineas, chickens, turkeys and cats and dogs. Because we have had few days of sunshine the generator needs to be fed as well and that means going down to the Country Store to fill up gas cans. Gray cloudy days do not make enough energy for the solar panels to charge the batteries.
January is also the month we start to plan for spring projects and one of those projects is the garden. Today we took a trip over to John and Carols where a nice pile of composting donkey manure was waiting behind the barn. John used the bucket of his dependable 1970’s Ford tractor to dump four large scoops of manure into the bed of our old farm truck.
We were almost home when it began to snow. Large fluffy flakes floated on the wind and landed on the frozen ground. We used pitch forks to spread the manure over about a third of the garden while snow flakes swirled around us creating a scene fit for a snow globe. The manure was black and rich with pink earthworms playing hide and seek in the clumps. It will lay atop the garden for the rest of winter where it will continue to decompose and feed the soil. We still need to get three or four more loads to finish covering the garden.
The snow is continuing to come down and the temperature is dropping. Time to curl up with a cup of coffee and a seed catalog.
4 Comments | Battery Bank, Cats, Chickens, Dogs, Farming, Firewood, Garden, Generator, Guineas, Maple syrup, Off-Grid, Solar | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
December 29, 2012
We awoke this morning to a farm wrapped in a blanket of fluffy snow. Gray tree limbs dressed in white highlights stood out against the darkened woods. Sounds were muffled as walked back to the chicken coop.
The guineas are usually the first to drop from their roosts in the morning, making a daily pilgrimage to our porch railings to beg for breakfast. The turkeys trot close behind them. On the African plains they would be tall giraffes that follow a herd of zebras. Not so this morning. We caught the guineas still lounging up on the pole barn rafters while the turkeys milled below searching for scraps of cracked corn on the ground.
What’s all this white stuff out here? My toes are cold.
Guineas on the rafters.
The bird netting on the twinny pennies coop yard was blotched in snow and the ground was covered. We shoveled out a path so they could get to their feed station. Of course we couldn’t leave out the chickens from the coop next door and shoveled a path for them as well to the feed station in the pole barn.
Its a day to stay under cover and watch the snowflakes fall. None of the fowl will venture far from their shelters this day, the barn cats are snug in their beds, and Ruby is stretched out by the wood stove. All is quiet…peaceful. Shhhhh. The farm is at rest….for now.
2 Comments | Barn, Chickens, Guineas, Homesteading, Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
December 3, 2012
During the summer one of my barred rock hens was beaten up by the rooster. She had a few gashes in her head and along her back. I found her by the strawberry patch and thought she may not make it, but she surprised me by stepping in front of me, looking as if to say, “Will you help me?” I nursed her back to health, her comb is now bright red and her feathers are thick. She is completely recovered other than being blind now in one eye. Anytime danger comes her way she runs to me and I will pick her up. Long story short I separated her and her twin sister who is also disliked by the rooster Captain Jack and put them in their own coop.
When the turkeys came along we tried to put them in with the two henny pennys, but the girls were not happy with their new house guests. Unfortunately it was the only coop with a fence to keep the turkeys confined until they became accustomed to their new surroundings. Since the hens were less than gracious hosts they had to be put back in the main coop until we could build another. Everyday the one eyed henny would stand outside the fence and look wistfully at her old home, wondering why these long legged birds had displaced her.
A few nights ago as evening fell we went to close up the coops and found that the back of the now turkey coop had been opened. The turkeys had escaped and decided to roost on top of the pole barn. We have no idea how the back hatch opened up, but the turkeys have never returned and choose to roost with the guineas or chickens.
Today I put the blind hen back in her home. She strutted around the pen, taking a bite of food and a sip of water before entering the house. She perused the inside with her one good eye then fluffed her feathers as if to say, “this place needs a good cleaning.” Of course I cleaned it for her, scraping and sweeping out the old turkey poop and putting down fresh hay. Later we brought her sister in to keep her company.
Sonny built them a new feeding station with a roof to keep their food dry and clean. I don’t think there could be two happier henny pennys and I’m almost sure I heard a sigh of grateful satisfaction as we closed the hatch tonight. All is right with the world for these two girls tonight. Content once again in their home sweet home.
New feeding station.
5 Comments | Chickens, Farming, Hay, Homesteading, Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
November 14, 2012
In between trips to town and putting up sap lines we managed to get a chance to go to Two Lynn’s Farm to pick up our two turkeys. No, these guys are not for Thanksgiving dinner. We were supposed to pick them up weeks ago, but never managed to make it there. Sandy raised an assortment of poults. We had her set aside a pair of blue slate/bourbon mix who are now about four months old.
They are still adjusting to their new environment, and are unsure about their housing. The first night we carried them inside the turkey coop and they were sitting on the roost in the morning when we opened it up. Last night they did not want to go in at all. So we will see how they feel about it tonight. We may have to carry them in for a few more nights. Food did not coax them in. I have seen them walk in and out of it during the day, so I imagine it will just take a little time for them get used to new surroundings.
Hopefully this pair will do well. Pot Hole Farm now has some new voices to mix with the chorus of rooster, hen, guinea, barking dogs and meowing cats. Oh, and yea the occasional call for Sonny to come in for dinner!
Blue Slate/Bourbon Red mixed Turkeys.
2 Comments | Cats, Chickens, Dogs, Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
May 17, 2012
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.
8 Comments | Alternative Energy, Canning, Chickens, Farming, Garden, Gardening, Greenhouse, Guineas, Homesteading, Maple syrup, Off-Grid, Pigs, Root Cellar, Self-Sufficiency, Solar Hot Water, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
April 24, 2012
Last night as we closed the chicken coop up for the night we left five guineas resting comfortably in a tree just behind the pole barn. This morning we had three milling around the yard and two were MIA. The raccoons had attacked us with yet another midnight raid, but we were ready.
The night before last we put out a catch cage filled with savory delights to lure in a hungry raccoon, consisting of a can of sardines and a bowl of dog kibble drizzled with fish oil. That should make any raccoons mouth water. Unfortunately he was smart enough to figure out how to get the scrumptious delicacies out without tripping the cage door. I think he just stuck his paws in and pulled out what he wanted through the bars. It must have filled him up and probably his family members too cause they left the guineas alone that night.
Last night we reset the traps, putting out a marshmallow trail to entice the greedy little bugger inside. We also covered the back of the cage with a feed bag and pushed it against the wall. We only have the one cage right now.
This morning we found a prisoner locked inside. That was great, but we still lost two guinea casualties and the raccoons are up on us by seven. This guy had to have had a troop of raccoons with him to be able to kill two more guineas. There is absolutely no sign of the two. So tonight we will set the cage up again and try to place it in a little different location. We really need to get a few more cages. If things keep going this way we will have no guineas left.
6 Comments | Chickens, Farming, Guineas, Homesteading, Self-Sufficiency | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 22, 2012
Its been another beautiful day back here in the holler. There was snow on the ground but the sun soon melted most of it away. A little sunshine sure makes a body feel alive especially when the January temps hit a balmy forty degrees. Mother Nature has duped us into believing its spring instead of the dead of winter. The sap in our limbs has warmed a bit and the golden rays of sunshine has prompted us to leave the den for some much needed fresh air.
This was a perfect day to use the solar oven. Sonny carried it out of the root cellar where its stored and placed it in a position where it would get the most sun. We put a couple of sweet potatoes inside to bake. They along with a salad would make a tasty lunch.
While our sweet potatoes were baked by sun power we took a little walk down the road that leads to our house. Our best mates Ruby and Moby came along too. Even they get weary of confinement and lack of exercise.
We started on our leisurely stroll with Ruby and Moby leading the way of course and reminisced about the blackberries we picked last spring along this very road. The bushes are dormant now in winters sleep, the vines withered and dry.
With the leaves gone from the brush we could see a leaning stack of old white bee boxes near an out building of the ghost farm. Ancient apple trees with their unpruned twisted limbs stood watch. The old farmhouse with its peeling white clapboards and rotting porch looked tired, but I can just imagine what it might have been in its heyday. A flurry of activity. The bee boxes would have been in use collecting the yellow gold of honey. The scent of lilacs and apple blossoms would ride on the breeze that blew across the laundry hanging from lines strung on the front and back porches.
The lowing of cows could have been heard by the lady of the house as she baked bread. Her husband would have been busy fixing a tractor tire in the barn or setting up his gear to make hay while the children swung from the tire swing that still hangs from an old sycamore tree.
Gas was used to run the lights and the refrigerator, not electricity, and surely a wringer washer is still waiting for the next load. The family is gone now. Only a tired run down farm remains along with rusted farm machinery, broken bee boxes and the clothes line still strung on the front and back porches. Its a sad sight, because it could still be renewed for a another family, but I believe that its time is winding down.
We past the ghost farm and strolled down the hill until we came to the old school house. Its another reminder of past generations who raised their families in this holler. Its cut stone foundation leans and the tin of the roof is rolled back in spots. Its a reminder that time marches on and makes one wonder what will become of our farm when we are gone. Will the PV arrays still stand? Will the house become broken down, the porch swing idly swaying in a breeze? Even so, the signs of life will still be here. The sounds of contented hens, Ruby snoring under the walnut tree and the hum of a dulcimer will forever echo in these hills.
Sweet Potatoes in the solar cooker.
Moby by the trickling water.
Leave a Comment » | Cats, Chickens, Dogs, Farming, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar Hot Water, Sun Oven | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
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.
1 Comment | Chickens, Farming, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Sustainability | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
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.
Leave a Comment » | Barn, Cats, Chickens, Dogs, Farming, Gardening, Hay, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
December 10, 2011
Sonny and I should have been catching up on outside chores today, but instead we went to Sycamore Creek Farm to pick up five meat chickens for the freezer. Al and Julie Bolin raise and process their chickens then freeze and sell them. These are free range chickens that will have a bit different flavor than your grocery store roasters. They will be closer to what our grandparents and great grandparents would have tasted on the farm. Al said the dark meat will be darker the white meat whiter with much more flavor.
Al showed us around his farm. We walked on frozen mud as winter cold wind clawed at us. Chickens meandered around the grounds looking at us sideways as if to say “who are these people and what do they want?” The Bolins have a small orchard of fruit trees and two high tunnels. High tunnels are large green houses built from heavy plastic stretched across galvanized metal hoops.
Al took us into the high tunnels and showed us his raised beds of spinach, chard and leaf lettuce. Like us he and his wife Julie are striving to be more self sufficient as well as trying to make their farm bring in some income. The inside of the greenhouse was warm and it felt good to be out of the biting wind. The sides of his raised beds were built from two rows of staked concrete blocks that help to hold in the heat and keep the soil warm.
Al also showed us his homemade chicken plucker. Its a large blue plastic barrel with rubber nubs attached to a wheel. A small motor turns the wheel and plucks the chickens clean as a whistle. You can see how it works on their Facebook page. Sycamore Creek Farm.
They also sell eggs, and produce as the season provides.
Al has a wealth of information and experiences under his belt on gardening and farm life. Like most of us on this self sufficient lifestyle journey he has learned most things by trial and error. There are many books and articles out there with info too, but we still seem to learn more from like minded people and their experiences. Oddly enough they also know Lynne and Sandy from Two Lynne’s Farm.
We are beginning to become members of a network of people who want the same life as we do. Providing for ourselves and depending less on the outside world of the grid, grocery stores, and food that is packed and transported hundreds of miles. We are rookies and have little experience to share at this point, but we do have one thing that this network of self reliant homesteaders do not have. Living off the grid. That is the experience we can share and teach to those who are interested. In time we too will have the notches of farming experience carved into our hoes and will be able to pass that knowledge on to others. Thank goodness their are others out there, who are considered to be a crazy as us.
3 Comments | Chickens, Farming, Greenhouse, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe