June 11, 2012
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.
Scraping off the honey.
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.
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 7, 2012
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.
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.
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.
October 27, 2011
I hate to say it, but sometimes there is just too much rain. All spring and summer we have been rained on. Now it seems to have moved into fall. If this was snow we would be snowed in.
Too many days of rain makes it difficult to get in winter wood, or clear out the garden. We have cleared most of the garden, but there are a lot of weeds still in there. We wanted to dry some of lima bean and okra pods. They didn’t dry very well. I was able to get very few seeds that were worth saving.
It has been raining for two days now. Tomorrow should be a nice day, unfortunately we have to go town for a doctors appointment. That will be an all day adventure, so very little will be done here.
Saturday has been set aside to smoke the hams. Hopefully everything will go according to plan and we’ll see how this smoke house works.
Want to take a swim?
May 21, 2011
It was the usual Saturday morning, up at five and out of the door by six. The flea market was loaded with vendors. I believe everyone who had cleaned out their homes of extra stuff came to sell it at the flea market today. It helped that we had sunshine and warm weather to pull all those rain sodden recluses out of the mud and back into the life giving light. Its amazing how a little sunshine can change a person from a scowling umbrella carrying zombie into a light hearted smiling human being.
There were a lot of the usual vendors there, but there were also some fresh new faces with tables full of wares that had been pulled out from overstuffed garages, closets, and kitchen cabinets. There were all kinds of neat gadgets to catch a pack rats eye, fortunately I am not a pack rat and have a small home with little storage. Whenever Sonny and I walk down the rows of overflowing tables that spill out onto tarps on the ground, we ask ourselves if we really need anything. His eye is out searching for useful tools and I look for old rustic objects that would look nice as yard ornaments. I look for things that would work well as flower pots like old buckets or watering cans. I found a pretty flowered wreath to hang on the root cellar door. Even a root cellar door can look festive.
Carol likes things that can dress up the outside as well and we often grab for the same item. Today there was a rusted metal rooster that we both liked. Of course Carol being the nice person she is asked if I wanted it, but even if I did I would not take it from her. First come, first served. I would have to tease her a little about it first, but we were in luck today. Apparently there were a pair of roosters and the lady who was selling them brought out the second one and said we could have them both for five dollars. So we split the cost and we both went home with a homely looking rusted rooster with paint splashes for color. He will look just divine in our flowerbeds.
Rusty and handsome.
After the flea market and our traditional breakfast we went to Tractor Supply, Lowes and the feed store. I picked up six more strawberry plants and I got them into the ground as soon as I got home. We stopped by Two Lynne’s Farm for a short visit and of course I came home with three Coleus plants that Sandy didn’t have room for. I seem to always leave there with something fuzzy or potted.
Our guinea girl is still sitting on her eggs. Lynne and Sandy offered to let their turkey hen sit on some of the eggs until they hatch. Apparently she has been successful surrogate before. I think we just might take a dozen over for her to hatch. Sandy said they tried letting their guineas hatch their own, but once the eggs hatched the parents ended up leaving them to fend for themselves. I had read about that, but Lynne and Sandy have years of experience under their belts when dealing with chickens, guineas, ducks, geese and turkeys. So maybe we will have a few baby guineas after all.
I would like to give a shout out to cousin Arlena who I hear is a new blog follower. Welcome. You know how those Aunties gossip.
May 11, 2011
Yesterday when I went to town I looked for some onion sets to buy. Of course I am always a day late and missed the rush on onions ( I can just picture frenzied gardeners with shopping carts pushing each other like a roller derby match toward the onion set display). I did manage to find a mixed bag of onion sets hidden in a corner containing twenty each of red, yellow and white bulbs. It must have been bumped out when two carts clashed during the onion derby and rolled to a corner to seek safety. Our victory. We may as well have an assortment of onions. The red onions are great for grilled shish ke-bobs.
My first order of business this morning was to get the onions planted. I also planted my yellow straight necked squash plants I picked up yesterday from Lowes. Since the greenhouse catastrophe nixed starting any zucchini plants early I went ahead and made three hills and put four seeds in each.
Walking through Tractor Supply yesterday I found a nice straw garden hat that fit just right. The straw is woven in a pretty pattern on the crown to give my hot head some ventilation and it has a string tie so it doesn’t blow off in a strong breeze. The brim is big enough to keep the sun off my neck, but not so big like some hats that can shade the person next to you too. I wore it today while I was working in the garden and I have to say I give it an A+ for comfort.
Ready for work and stylish too.
The little chicks are starting to become more comfortable in their surroundings. Today they ventured out into the coop pen for the first time. It started off with one brave barred rock that tentatively peeked out of the open hatch and then stepped out onto the ramp. She cautiously put one dainty foot in front of the other and went slightly further out until she caught sight of a bug and threw caution to the wind to catch it. The rest of the teenybopper flock soon followed and the bug games began. Soon they will take an even bigger step and blend in with the older flock off to explore the wonders of PHF.
Get ready, get set, GO!
Whose There? Where did it go?