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.
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.
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.
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.
My sister Janice and her husband Rick came for a visit this weekend and we all had a wonderful time. Once again its hay season, so Sonny and Rick helped John put up bales of hay. Its a busy time here in the country and its about to ratchet up another notch as soon as the garden is ready to harvest. There are already wild black raspberries coming into season and that means its time to pull out the jelly jars, lids and bands. The buckets are sitting on standby and Janice and I have already picked a few ripe juicy ones that sweetened our taste buds.
Sonny recruited Janice as his bee keeper assistant. Suited up in bee gear she smoked the bees while he checked for honey. The wooden frames covered in wax were full and ready to be harvested. Liquid gold filled each pocket of honey comb.
Sonny scraped the frames then we squeezed out the honey through a sieve and then filtered out any remaining debris.
We harvested a little over two quarts. The bees have been busy collecting pollen from the clover and wildflowers that grow in abundance here at the farm. Our honey has all the sweet flavors of these fragrant wild flowers and is a light golden hue.
This is a small batch and most of our honey will be distributed to family members but we may be able to keep aside a few ounces if anyone is interested in purchasing a sample. You can leave a comment or email.
Our plan is to order some more bees and start another hive. Hopefully we will have plenty of honey next year.
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.
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.
Bill Guinazzo has proven himself to be an expert in the art of road grading. We noticed the nice job he did on making an access road on his own property and asked if he would do the same for us. We didn’t have access to one of the pastures that connects up to the neighbors hay field other than crossing the creek and its too difficult to get the tractor across it. Of course no one lives there and the only time you see anyone there is during the hay season.
We have permission to cross the field only after the hay has been cut so that we don’t pack it down or destroy the grass. Lost bales of hay equals lost money. That limits our use of our adjoining pasture, so Bill cut in a road that leads off the main gravel road directly onto our property.
Now Sonny will be able to keep the pasture bush hogged and we have the potential to fence it in for goats.
The nice thing about living out here is that each one of us has skills that can help another, whether its construction, planting gardens, canning or making roads. There is all kinds of knowledge floating around these hills and all you have to do is ask for help. Its a code of neighborliness that was here long before any of us recent transplants showed up. Its a nice feeling to know you can count on one another.
Speaking of that, John and Sonny are planning another project here at PHF. We are going to build a lean too addition onto the right side of the pole barn. Now that we have more farm equipment than will fit in the pole barn we had to expand. We can use the extra space to park the tractor or the Kobota RTV and the four wheeler.
Sonny and I ran to town this morning to pick up the building supplies. Now, this afternoon John is going to taking us to see a guy who is selling his bee keeping equipment. It doesn’t hurt to go see what he has to offer. Right now our bees seems to be doing just fine, but we want to have another hive available for them to expand into.
Sonny and Bill set out on an adventure yesterday to pick up four piglets. They purchased them from a farm located a few hours from here near the town of Farmington. I’m not sure why it took all day but I believe the directions may have been a bit difficult to follow. Out here in the country roads are not always labeled and landmarks are often used instead. If you are not familiar with the area it can be quite a tail chaser to find your destination.
But despite that Sonny and Bill came home with four piglets. Two are blue butts and two are Hampshires. We will be raising the three females and Sonny delivered the hampshire male to Twolynns Farm where he will be treated like king.
Our three girls have already made themselves at home and are quite the princess piggies. I went down to the pig palace this morning and they were still asleep in their house, stretched out on a thick mattress of soft hay. I poured their morning rations into the feed trough and sweetly called out for them to come to breakfast. One of the girls raised her head slightly and gave me a look of royal disdain. How dare I wake them? I left them to their beauty sleep and figured they would eat when they were ready. So young and already full of attitude.
Its only the last day of March and the daffodils are already dried and withered. We have experienced one morning of frost, but we were prepared and covered all the berry bushes. The only problem is we forgot about the Hydrangea bushes and the newly sprouting leaves got a little burned. I believe they will be fine and recover.
We have extended the garden even more. Now it wraps all the way around the smaller PV array. Sonny and Bill have been busy putting up fencing. I planted about a hundred yellow onions and about thirty red onions. We didn’t plant near enough last year, so hopefully we have enough to graze on through the summer and be able to harvest a good many to put up for the winter. It sounds like a lot of onions, but what survives in a garden is always a gamble. The chickens already got in there and unearthed a couple of bulbs by doing the chicken dance on top of the rows.
We made sure we planted the rows wide enough for the rototiller to pass through. Hopefully this will help keep the weeds under control. We will still have to hand pull the weeds around the plants but we won’t have to kill ourselves weeding the walkways. We barely had the rototiller home and unloaded before Sonny had it out in the garden tilling up between the rows of onions. He did this even though they haven’t popped through the soil yet.
If all goes well we will raise some more pigs this year. Bill and Paula found some piglets for sale in the trader paper. We plan to go check them out tomorrow and if they appear to be healthy we will bring them home. Sonny has been scrambling to get the hog pen ready. We dragged out the feed trough this morning and scrubbed it out. It needs a little repair after the beatings it took from the frat boy’s (last years pigs) wild wing dings. We still need to make sure the fence is in good order, clean the water trough and set up the water tank. Bill is going to come over tomorrow morning to help get things in order before we all head out on our piglet excursion. I can hardly wait to have my ears drilled through with the shrill, nails across a chalk board, ear deafening squeals of those piglets as they are loaded onto the truck. (thats sarcasm if you weren’t sure). Maybe I’ll take a pair of ear plugs along and save myself a 150 decibel headache.
We hope to pick up at least three piglets. One for Bill and Paula, one for us, and then we will split the last one. Oh, and if they have another extra one available we will pick one up for Twolynns Farm. I’m definitely gonna need a those ear plugs.
The tomatoes and green peppers we planted in the greenhouse are sprouting up. Its been pretty cool at night so I have been bringing them into the house. They need temps to be at least in the 60’s to get a good start.
These warmer afternoons has had us hankering for a rest on the porch swing. We cleared away the stack of leftover winter wood for the wood stove and hung up the porch swing in its place. We weren’t the first ones to get to lounge on it though. The moment our backs were turned Moby The Immobilizer had taken his place on the slated seat and stretched out full length. Ahh, a mouse snack, a warm sunny afternoon, and a nap. Life is good for a farm cat.