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.