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.
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.
March 31, 2012
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.
Green pepper sprout.
The beginnings of a tomato plant.
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.
March 27, 2012
We got our new garden tiller today.
January 17, 2012
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.
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.
April 17, 2011
April showers bring May flowers but they also make it difficult to get caught up on outdoor jobs. All weekend we have been dodging rain drops while attempting to catch up on some projects. Of course Friday was the usual trip to town to give Lowes and Tractor Supply their weekly cut of our paycheck. Throughout the week I make a list of things we need to pick up and am usually jotting down add ons while Sonny steers Festus down the highway. That old truck has carried so many loads from those two stores that it should be able to drive us there all by itself.
Friday afternoon we took a ride on the four wheeler up the back hills of our property. The four wheeler has been a life saver…literally… It has saved us from huffing and puffing and whining every step up the hillsides. We aren’t as young as we used to be. For two years we have wanted to clear away some of the trees that the logger let fall across the paths. Sonny was on a roll using the chainsaw to cut up the fallen trees like a seasoned lumber jack. It was a good thing I ate a big breakfast because I expected to roll the logs off the side. We were making excellent headway until the chain came off the bar. Of course all the tools were back at the house.
We were able to clear a good portion and some of the logs, most were so rotten so we were able to just break them apart. Just because the chain saw was out of commission didn’t mean our work was done. We walked the steep property line and put new ribbons on the trees to mark our boundaries. We actually enjoyed working up there and it was nice to see the buds starting to show on the trees, especially the red bud trees.
The greenhouse is on the mend and moved back to its original location. Sonny and I used ropes wrapped around the base on each end like a handle. We then lifted it, taking shuffling baby steps as we turned it completely around and settled it into place next the garden.
Back in place and looking better.
Sonny replaced some of the broken parts with the new ones we had ordered, but there are still more needed. He marked all the pieces with a silver marker so we could keep track of what we will need to order. It is looking much better and he was able to put in a few of the panes. Before long it will be as good as new and I think we may not need the roll of silver duct tape after all.
We brought the lawn mower out of storage and gave the grass a trim taking just “a little off the top”. PHF is beginning to shed its winter robes and is stepping into the festive colors of Spring. One of the steps in that direction was to clear away the wood bins from the porch, giving it a good sweep and putting up the SWING! You heard right. My swing is back and I couldn’t be happier. I think I hear it calling me for nap.
January 23, 2011
The other day Linda and I found a local farm that had Guineas for sale. After several emails and phone calls we headed just north or our place to find Two Lynns Farm in Shirley, WV.
There we met Sandi and Lynn Hopper. They had moved from the West Coast about 8 years ago and got their local Organic farm up and running. They gave us a tour of their place. Chickens, Ducks, Guineas, Cows (beef or milk) and even got a overview of their Maple Syrup processing. We talked for hours and quickly realized they were good down to earth people.
We picked up three guinea hens and one rooster. On the way home it dawned on us that we really didn’t have anywhere to put them. We could not put them in with the chickens because we needed to keep them locked up for a few days to help them figure out they had a new home. So we keep them in the dog cage (a big one) in the back of the Jeep overnight while we figured out what we were going to do.
The next morning it was a cool 20 degrees but we decided to get started. We put on our winter gear and went to the barn to gather all the scrap metal, left over 2×4’s and a old pallet. After about 5 hours we got it completed. We decided to use a tarp for the door until we can got to Lowe’s for more supplies.
Guinea Coop in the Garden
January 17, 2011
It may be January with snow on the ground and more to come, but it is already time to start thinking about what to plant in the garden this spring. Our garden did pretty well last year considering it was our first one. We learned a lot of lessons and I’m sure still have many more to learn.
As soon as the weather begins to warm we plan to get a load of donkey manure from my cousin’s farm and spread it on the garden. We probably should have done it in the fall but we ran out of time with other projects that seemed to run together. We still need to get a rototiller and it has moved up on the list of must haves. A nice load of nutrient rich manure mixed into the soil should be a good boost of fertilizer to grow all those scrumptious veggies.
This past weekend we ordered our seeds from Heirloom Organics (http://www.heirloom-organics.com). We wanted to try growing plants that we could gather the seed from after harvest to dry and use in the coming years. I don’t believe you can do that with hybrids seeds or maybe its that you can only save them a few times.
We don’t plan to grow any pumpkins this year. I was able to can up enough from last years harvest to last a few years. Sweet potatoes and white potatoes are off the list too. Ours just didn’t seem to do well.
We also hope to get a few guineas to help keep the bug population down. I have heard that they are also good watch dogs and alert you to anyone who enters the property. Ruby does a pretty good job at that already.
Time flies and before you know it, the days will become longer, the birds will sing and the temperatures will be just right for the crocus and daffodils to break through the crusty soil. The hum of lawnmowers will sing along with the bees and the sweet perfume of wild flowers will send our senses reeling. Ah…warm days are coming along with sunshine to melt the ice from our shoulders, and it will be time to brush the cobwebs from the porch swing. Are you ready?