November 6, 2010
We have had our first snow dusting of the season today. Large fluffy snowflakes fell like dandruff from the sky. Someone needs to use some Head and Shoulders Shampoo up there.
Actually it is a tranquil scene to watch through our picture window. Cold and snowy outside, comfy and warm inside. The wood stove has a warm glow showing through its window and a Lodge Pot full of Great Northern beans simmers on the top. The aroma of the chicken broth and ham hock that season them scents the air. It definitely puts you in a grateful frame of mind to have these few simple things… heat and food. Life is good.
First Snow of the Year
August 29, 2010
Pot Hole Farm is in the end of summer phase. We pulled out the string bean plants as they were no longer producing and the carrots I planted didn’t do well. They looked squished and stunted like little orange mutant carrots. Not very appetizing at all. They actually need a more sandy soil rather than the clayish and rocky soil we have here. I recently found out that like potatoes they need to have dirt pushed up on them as they grow, forming a hill. Our garden this year was an experiment anyway and this particular one failed. Sonny crinkled up his nose and carried them to the compost pile as if they were nuclear waste. I don’t think carrots will be on the garden menu next year. The tomato plants are turning brown and dying off. Grass has begun to take over the now vacant areas where the red potatoes were planted and the pumpkins have taken over the squash and zucchini plants. We still have Lima beans and the sweet potatoes and pumpkins will be harvested before the first frost.
This weekend Sonny and I cut up one of the large limbs that broke off an ancient Maple tree this past winter. It was the size of a small tree itself and will help to keep us warm this winter. Our minds are beginning to turn from summer projects to winter preparedness. We need to install the wood stove, put in insulation under the house, and cut wood for our winter fuel. Those are the major projects but there are also small things like painting the root cellar and the door trim of the chicken coop. We need to install a solar panel on the roof of the chicken coop so we can run a light in there during the shorter winter days. Chickens need about 12-14 hours of light to produce eggs. We also ordered and received three more 205 watt solar panels and he plans to order a ground mounting rack for them next. I think he is wanting to try to get a third bank of batteries before Christmas. Sonny wants to make sure that we have enough energy to support the house when grey days arrive.
It’s possible we may have phone service in the near future. I was surprised last Wednesday when a guy showed up with a ditch-witch to dig and bury the new phone cable. At least we are that far now. We have to wait for the phone company to come out and attach the connection box to the house and hook us up. It’s hard to say when that will be but its one small step closer to being able to communicate with the outside world. I know my Mom and daughter-in-law will be ecstatic when it gets connected. The phone lines will be smoking when that day arrives.
August 12, 2010
August is a tough month to get through. If the heat and humidity don’t do you in the crazy horse flies and other bugs eat you to death. I don’t know about other places but here in West Virginia during the month of August the horse flies go ballistic. If they’re not drilling craters into your skin they are dive bombing your head and crashing into walls and windows.
It’s especially hard on my cousins donkeys, and any outside animals. They are just tormented with the stinging bites of these flying demons. Despite August’s fiery disposition it does have it’s good points.
It is a time of harvest and today I picked our first batch of Lima beans. It was only about a half a pint but they are just coming on. The vines are full of immature pods and blossoms. I also picked another load of tomatoes and plan to can them up tomorrow. So far we have canned seven pints of tomatoes from a previous haul.
I hear a thunderstorm rolling in from a distance and the sky is turning a dark hazy grey behind the mountains. Hopefully some cooler weather will tag along behind it.
The cicadas are chanting for more hot weather, but just underneath their chatter you can hear the crickets tuning up for the Autumn concerts to come.
August can roast us, and bite us, and test our endurance, but the cheery song of a little cricket gives us sight of the finish line.
August 10, 2010
Once again the weather has turned hot and humid. As I sit here on the porch swing I feel like a wet dish rag that wasn’t wrung out enough. I look forward to Autumn when the skies are clear blue, the air is crisp and a soft flannel shirt is just enough to keep you warm. The leaves morph into a sunburst of color and the scent of apples and acorns float on the breeze. When chilly evenings are warmed up sitting by the wood stove with a cup of steaming coffee and a slice of apple or pumpkin pie….. Sorry I was caught up in a day dream.
The past few days have been less humid and I took advantage of the milder weather. I canned up eight pints of spaghetti sauce made with the tomatoes, onions and green peppers from our garden. I think it turned out pretty well. We had a huge pile of sand left over from the root cellar project and every time I passed it I kept telling myself we need to move this stuff. When its 89 degrees and humid, shoveling sand is the last thing you want to do. So yesterday evening when it was nice and cool I grabbed the shovel and rake. The ground in front of the root cellar was uneven with dips and bumps and it seemed a good idea to use the left over sand to fill them in. We really didn’t have any other use for it. After about an hour of shoveling and smoothing the black plastic the sand was piled on was empty. It felt good to have the job done. Now we won’t have to endure a pile of sand mocking us as we walk by. I also tackled the job of sweeping out the hen house and putting down clean wood shavings. My girls like a clean house and they cooed and clucked as they inspected my cleaning job. Happy hens produce good eggs.
The Dog Days of Summer will soon be over. Can’t say I will miss them. At least not until about January when the Gloomy Days of Winter kick in.
August 2, 2010
Tonight I took a few minutes to sit in my recliner, sip on a cup of coffee and puff on my pipe. I got to thinking about how much we have got completed on our Off-Grid home over the last year. A year ago last April we were just getting started with the finish sanding of the drywall mud. Next came the plumbing, sewer system and black pipe work in the crawl space. That next weekend we started buying the unfinished oak kitchen cabinets, bathroom and kitchen sinks. Oh yea, we had the well put in also.
Suddenly we wanted to have a mud room added and the porch extended. In September I ordered the solar system and within a couple of weeks we had a back hoe digging trenches and running 10 gauge power lines in PVC pipe. Panels installed and inverters and converters working in the electrical room we suddenly had power before Halloween.
Had to prep the water pipes to keep them from freezing and wire up a temporary back-up generator in the event of short winter sun shineless days. That winter was a lesson learning session from hell but we make it through everything anyway.
Spring came in a hurry and we got the barn built and the garden planted, summer slipped in right behind it along with a chicken coop, wood shed and our root cellar.
Within a week or two, we will be canning about 2 million tomatoes.
July 27, 2010
Every time I go out to the garden there are new surprises. I think I give it a good once over every day, looking in all the nooks and crannies for new produce popping up and I still miss things. This evening the dogs and I drove down to check the mail box. They look forward to going with me every day. Believe me when I say, there is nothing like hot dog breath on the back of your neck on a summers day. We have to go about a mile down the road because the post office will not deliver to the end of our driveway. That’s another story. As I drive out I always slow to a snails pace to ogle the garden before I reach the end of our lane.
Today I was surprised to see a miniature, green, baby pumpkin hanging from a vine. I stopped for a closer inspection and found another one further down the fence line. I was excited to see the little bulbous gourds. I know they weren’t there yesterday. Unfortunately the vines want climb the fence and these pumpkins are hanging on the outside. Perfect for the dining pleasure of deer or any other critter that wants to stop by for a snack. You can’t move the vines. If you do you will break the runners or clinging vines and the plant will die. Hopefully the little pumpkins will make it to adulthood.
Yet another one
I think Sonny would be real upset if we don’t get pumpkins for pumpkin pie. I can see that pouty face now. I don’t think I could bear that, so let’s hope there are others hiding on the inside of the fence, either that or I will have to buy Libby’s canned pumpkin from the store.
July 26, 2010
Finally a day that is not so hot and humid that you melt like an ice cream cone in a little kids hand. The storm we had yesterday cooled things off for the time being, but the force of the wind and rain blew over the tomato plant cages. Hopefully the fruit has not been overly bruised. I was barely able to push the cage prongs back down into the ground.
The plants are loaded with green tomatoes and are heavy and cumbersome to deal with. I’m afraid I will need Sonny’s braun to properly set them. The lesson learned is that next year we need to use something better than cages and twine to support the plants. On the upside I was able to pick one Big Boy tomato and six plum tomatoes. They look pretty good considering they were at the bottom of the plants and were somewhat squashed when the cage toppled over. The string beans looked pretty pathetic today too. The hard rains beat them to death, but I think they will survive.
Zuk's and Taters
I also plan to plant another variety next year. These are called Tender Pods and if anyone has a suggestion on a better variety we would appreciate the comment. Preferably a stringless one. A few years ago Sonny and I planted string beans and they were like chewing hemp rope even after we pulled the strings off. We tried picking them at younger and younger stages, but to no avail. I don’t even think a goat could have chewed those things up. If we tied them together I believe we could have made a hammock. I checked the zucchini today also and found two nice sized ones. They were perfect in every way. No matter how many times you check the plant you are bound to miss one. There is always one hiding in the undergrowth. It becomes a mutant zucchini, large enough and heavy enough to use as a club.
They are frightening when you come upon them. If left to their own devices they would gobble up the smaller ones and rampage the garden. Well, I guess if they can have an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movie they could have one of the Killer Zucchinis. Sleep tight tonight, lock your windows and doors. It’s out there, waiting.
July 25, 2010
Yesterday was a scorcher, and hard rains with thunderstorms were expected for today, so Sonny and I thought we better get our onions and potatoes harvested while the sun was shining. The tops of the potato plants were beginning to turn brown and the onion tops were already dry and laying on the ground. Those are sure signs that they were ready to be dug.
Basket of Red Potatoes
We got up early yesterday morning before the weather turned into a pressure cooker and grabbed up the spade fork and a bushel basket. The ground was still a little moist. It was easy for Sonny to use the spade fork to push up the potatoes while I pulled the plants out of the ground. We were excited to see a bunch of dirt covered tubers hanging from the bottom of the each plant. For weeks we have wondered what we would find, whether they would be a good crop or rotten or blighted. Since this is our first garden here and we didn’t have time last fall to plow and fertilize and we weren’t sure how things would grow. We harvested a little less than a half a bushel of red potatoes in various sizes. Some had to be thrown away because of bad spots, some were perfect and others had a few bad spots but will be usable. Not bad for our first year.
The yellow onions were easy to pull out of the ground. They were fairly small in size and probably came to approximately three pounds. We spread them out on an old window screen and placed them in the sun to dry for about a day. Then we will hang them to cure. They will get the dry papery skin that you see on the onions you buy at the store. We also pulled up the rest of the green cabbage. We were not impressed with the cabbage. It was ok but had a few too many worm holes. It is still edible, but I don’t know if I will grow any next year. We did a few more chores around the farm then got ourselves cleaned up and went to town to do some shopping and see a movie where we could hide in air conditioning until the slightly cooler air of evening.
July 19, 2010
The root cellar build is finally completed. Ronald, Vickie, and their grandson Paul came early this morning to put the final pieces of the root cellar together.
They installed R19 insulation batting in the rafters and then covered it with sheeting to make the ceiling. Then they put on the roof vent and gutters. Ronald built five rows of 19″ wide shelves with 14″ spacing between the shelves. That will leave enough room to stack two quart jars on top of each other if I need to. It’s a bit intimidating to look at all that shelving and wonder if I will be able to can enough stuff to fill them. I think my few jars of pickles and conserve are going to look lost in there right now. Ronald who is forever thoughtful, built me two step stools from leftover lumber so I will be able to reach the top shelves.
It will make it a whole lot easier than trying to climb the shelves like a monkey. I think I might be too old for that anyway. Might break a hip or something. Last but not least the door was installed. Now it actually looks like a building instead of a tomb. The only thing Sonny and I will have to do is paint the ceiling and and the outside block. Oh, and can, can,can….and hope and pray that our potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins do well. I think the completion of the root cellar was a little bitter sweet for Ronald. After all, it was him who has overseen and built every building on this property. Don’t worry Ronald, you don’t know it yet, but I have a few more projects up my sleeve.