SNOW DAY FUN…PHF STYLE

February 19, 2012

Sunday

Linda

This winter has been extremely mild and has felt more like spring than winter. Our daffodils are sprouting up and I noticed yesterday that one of our crocus plants is in full bloom with a crown of mustard yellow flowers. Old man winter may be in a romantic mood this year but his heart was on the frosty side last weekend when he blew six inches of snow across our hillsides. It was a perfect time for Harold and Clarissa to come out for a visit and the snow was perfect for some winter fun…Pot Hole Farm style.

Harold and Clarissa wrestled Duke into his blue snow suit and boots. Duke was pretty good about the ordeal, but I still think his parents deserve a gold medal for patience. All you parents out there know what its like to push boots on a kid’s feet who doesn’t want wear them. Once dressed Duke floundered on the bed attempting  to pull himself up. He reminded me of  Ralphie’s little brother from the movie “A Christmas Story”  when he fell in the snow on the way to school and couldn’t get up because his snow suit was so bulky. Duke finally gave up and imploringly looked at his parents to pick him up. The whole snow suit ordeal would soon be forgotten once he was outside and ready to play in the snow.

We were like a bunch of kids when we saw the snow piled on the hill across from the house and ideas were thrown back and forth on what we could use to slide down it. A toboggan would be the best mode of transport, but unfortunately we don’t own one of those. A trip to the garage was in order to find a substitute. How about one of the metal trash can lids on the feed cans? Nah, they have a handle and if we tear them up we won’t have a lid anymore. How about some cardboard? Don’t have any. Then I spied the chicken feed bags we had stashed in the corner. The labels on the outside were shiny and slick. Perfect for sliding.

The air was clear and cold as we trekked up the hill, our feed bags clutched in our hands. Moisture from our breath swirled passed our child like smiles and crystalized into the air. With pink cheeks and gleaming eyes of anticipation we crested the hill. The games were on.

Harold held his feed bag in front of him, took a few running steps and did a belly  flop. He sailed down the hill, snow flying up and over him as he cleared a trail.

Go Harold Go!

Clarissa followed close behind, gracefully doing a belly flop onto her feed bag and riding it like a magic carpet down to the bottom.

Here comes Clarissa!

I was not about to belly flop for fear that I would just bounce right back up, so instead I sat on the feed bag and pushed off. I ended up sliding down on my back, feet in the air, sliding out of control until I was flying backwards.

WAHOOOOOO!

The sounds of my screams echoed through the holler sending every coyote in the neighborhood scrambling for the protection of its den. Sonny was a little out of practice since it had been years since he slid down a hill, but he still managed to look smooth… for an old man. Sorry there is no picture of Sonny, but he was on Duke duty at the time and the photographer.

Duke got to take a ride with his mama and daddy. He wasn’t a bit afraid and sported a big smile between his apple red cheeks. It was too cold for him to be outside for very long and Clarissa took him in to put him down for his morning nap. He had no complaints and went right to sleep. Now it was free time for the rest of us big kids. Sonny challenged us to see who could go the farthest. We slid down on our stomachs, in sitting positions and Indian style. It didn’t matter how I started out I always ended up backwards. Harold was the victor and slid the farthest.

We made a feed bag toboggan by splitting the feed sacks long ways so all of us could sit on it and slide down together. Then Sonny stuck his feet into a another feed bag to make the front. Off we went down the hill ending in a pile at the end. It looked like a four car jam up.

The moral of this long story is that your never too old to act like a kid. We had a great day and our spirits were uplifted from it. So play in the snow, kick a ball, swing on a tire swing, or eat a PB&J under a weeping willow tree. It will do your heart good.


COUNTRY ROADS

January 22, 2012

Sunday

Linda

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.

Country roads.

Moby by the trickling water.

 

 


THOUGHTS OF SOLAR AND WIND

January 17, 2012

Tuesday

Linda

A soup of ominous gray clouds covered the sky as Sonny and I drove toward home from Ohio. I gazed out of my side window at the landscape dotted with farms, one connecting to the next as far as you can see. It reminded me of Delaware, my birth state, before the developers raped the farmland and covered it in a cheap coat of houses. Except for a few farms that have held out, there is nothing left of the many peach and apple orchards,or the small family run dairy and vegetable farms. In southern Delaware crops have been replaced with production chicken houses. As you can tell, it is a bit of a soar spot for me, so I gaze out of the window at the flatlands of Ohio and reminisce about my childhood.

As we pass miles of farmland set with nineteenth century farmhouses and barns, Sonny and I discuss how they could possibly benefit from the energy of a  windmill. Solar and windmill power is not the cure all for our nations energy problems, and not everyone can or wants to live off grid, but I think that solar panels and windmills could certainly take some pressure off the power grid. They could all be used in conjunction with each other.

One would think that in a wide open landscape such as Ohio, and I can only speak for the area we were driving through, that there would be the potential for plenty of wind. Even solar panels could be a good choice in areas where there are few trees. Its a bit more difficult in places where the sun has to rise above a high hill or mountain range. It is doable though as we have seen here at Pot Hole Farm. We just get less hours of sunlight to charge the solar panels.

Unfortunately for many who are interested in solar panels and windmills it is  still a costly investment. As the price of electricity rises and the power grid becomes overloaded and feeble with age we may not have many choices left. I think its naive to think that we can continue to add to the power grid we have now and think that it will be able to handle the load. All we need is a summer of sweltering heat and the on switch of air conditioners. We might find ourselves with rolling blackouts and empty pockets. Or worse.

I certainly don’t have all the answers to our power quandaries, but I think solar and wind could be good alternatives. In the future I would like to see businesses with a few solar panels on their roofs. If you think about how much power an office building uses in a day a little sun power couldn’t hurt.

The skies may turn dark and cloudy, but the sun will eventually shine. Good for making electricity and good for the soul.


A WHIRLWIND WEEK

January 7, 2012

Saturday

Linda

Its been a whirlwind of a week. I went with Sonny last Sunday over to Reston, Va. to close out his apartment. He has finally found a job position over here that will enable him to be home every night and NO MORE TRAVELING.

After eight years Sonny ended his job in the city  and starts a new job here this Monday, so we had to wrap up everything over in Reston. Moving is always so stressful. While he was winding things down at his old job, I was packing and cleaning. He didn’t have too much over there, but now we are trying to figure out where to put things over here. I think there will be a few trips to the thrift shop.

It took only about a day in the city for me to wish I was back in the country. I just cant take the crowds and the traffic and the shops now hold little interest for me. I did enjoy a trip to my favorite bookstore and sipped on a Starbucks caramel frappe as I perused the titles on the shelves. I finished my frappe, bought three books and walked happily away from the store with thoughts of curling up on the couch to read my new found treasures. Who knows when that chance will come. I thought I would have lots of time to read this winter and to write a book myself, but the time is slipping away. Before you know it Spring will be here and the farm will come alive, but with Sonny home every night now I will have a true helpmate to get those jobs done.

We have been hoping for a job opening over here for quite a while and he has had other opportunities that didn’t come through. There was no hurry and we didn’t get upset when those jobs didn’t pan out because we have always known the right job would come at the right time. Now that he is here we can really start stepping out on some new ventures. Our hope is to tap a few of the Maple trees we have here on the property and make some maple syrup with the help of Two Lynne’s Farm, and maybe now Sonny will have the time to complete some of our unfinished projects. Maybe… just maybe, I’ll get a chance to read book and to write one too.


A LADY AND HER POCKET KNIFE

December 30, 2011

Friday

Linda

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.


MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 24, 2011

Saturday

Linda

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.


Solar Hot Water project

December 22, 2011

Thursday

Sonny

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.

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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.


CHICKEN DINNER

December 20, 2011

Tuesday

Linda

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.


REAL FARM

December 16, 2011

Friday

Linda

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.

 


LIKE MINDED PEOPLE

December 10, 2011

Saturday

Linda

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.

 


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