UPS delivered our RION EcoGrow Greenhouse kit the other day. This 6×10 honey should take care of our early gardening needs with no problems.
Now all we have to do is wait the snow to melt.
The temperature was in the high 30’s today with the sun peaking through ever once in a while. Earlier this week Linda mentioned it was time to get the chicken coop cleaned out so today was as good as any.
We used the bucket on the tractor to dump the poop and straw on the garden. This should help us out when growing season starts.
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?
This morning started out like most mornings. The thermometer read 20 degrees this morning, so the first chore of the day was to stoke up the fire. We have been leaving the chickens in the coop until about ten o’clock so they will lay their eggs in the nesting boxes. All six of our hens are laying now.
My cousin is out of town for a few days so I had to go over to his farm and feed up the donkeys, goats, and barn cats. I can’t forget Sandy their fat Lab. She will be waiting impatiently for her breakfast. I always take Ruby with me so they can have a visit and a little playtime.
Nothing else was on the agenda today, so I thought I would can up one of those Cushaw pumpkins Vickie gave us. I got all my canning supplies ready and sharpened my knives. Apparently I sharpened them too well because I ended up slicing my thumb. I got the bleeding under control and put a bandaid on. Tough to do one handed. It still wanted to bleed, probably because I have to take an aspirin a day and it thins the blood. My pumpkin lay there on the table cut open with seeds spilling out. I had to finish the job or it would spoil and go to waste. The best thing I could think of to do was put on a plastic glove and finish canning the pumpkin. It worked great.
I canned ten pints. I’m usually very careful, but today was just one of those days. I went to take a lid off of a pot, without pot holders ( idiot) and the steam burned my fingers on my right hand. So, now both hands are bunged up. I hurried up and cut a leaf from my aloe plant to put on my burning fingers. It immediately soothed them. They burned most of the afternoon, but I kept applying the aloe and now they feel fine.
Later on I noticed one of my hens was not hanging with the rest of the flock. Went to check her out and noticed that she was limping and had a tear in the skin on her back near her wing. A chickens skin is very thin. I’m not sure what caused it, but I suspect it could be from the Roosters jumping on her back. The poor thing looked pitiful.
I was able to catch her by throwing a towel over her. It was hard to tell the extent of the injury while trying to hold her covered in a towel. Mind you my hands were not in good working order, but I was able to clean the wound with warm soapy water and peroxide. She will have to be separated from the flock or they will begin to peck at her if she shows illness. I put straw in our large dog crate and gave her some water. That’s the best I can do for her. I will be surprised if she makes it. Chickens are susceptible to shock and infection. Most injuries are fatal. We can only hope that she will recover.
It’s painful to see my animals hurt, but that’s part of farm life. Injuries are bound to happen and out here and you have to be able to take care of them yourself. After the events of today, hopefully I make it to bed without stubbing my toe or having to bandage a bloody dog paw.
Carol called me Sunday morning and asked if I wanted any pears. I gave her an emphatic affirmative. Are you kidding? Pears! In this neck of the woods you don’t pass up anything that can be put up in your pantry. Ronald and Vicki had picked pears at a friends farm and had a load of them. She worked up (canned) all that she needed and asked if Carol and I wanted what was left. So Carol and I rode over to Vickie’s to pick them up. She had two or more five gallon buckets filled to the brim with golden pears. They were ripening up pretty fast since they were picked the week before.
Vickie also had two large Cushaw pumpkins for me. She said she had enough canned to last them for two years and didn’t care if she saw any more pumpkins until then. I was glad to take them off her hands and appreciate being able to put more pumpkin in our root cellar.
Carol and I decided to work up our pears yesterday and Vickie said she would be glad to help. With that many pears to peel and cut up an extra pair of hands are always welcome. We didn’t get started on them until afternoon because I had to take the forty pound propane tank for the generator to be exchanged in town. Of course a trip to town takes all morning, but I hurried as fast as I could.
We girls had a great time while we peeled and cut. Vicki kept us entertained with conversation. John went to visit his friend Gary who lives down the road a piece. I guess he wanted to get away from the cackling hens. Carol has a nice area in her basement with everything needed to do canning. It helps to have an extra stove and all the large pots. We worked at my grandmother’s old aqua colored Formica table from the early 1950’s. I have many fond memories of sitting at that old kitchen table with my grandparents.
We decided to make pear sauce (which is like apple sauce) because the pears were so ripe. We had three pots of pears cooking down on the stove. I think we added a bit more water than needed and it took longer than expected to boil them down. We actually strained out some of the liquid to save time. The sauce was pretty tart so we added some sugar to sweeten it. We put up about sixteen pints of sauce and Carol made pear butter (something like apple butter) from the liquid we strained off.
Nothing from the pears was wasted. The chickens enjoyed a pan of scraps and the rest went into the compost. When I open a jar of pear sauce, I’ll have warm memories of time spent with good friends. As I open the lid the sound of tinkling voices, laughter and the sight of smiling faces as our hands busily worked will come to mind. That’s something you can’t get from a factory packed tin can.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.