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.
November 8, 2010
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.
October 29, 2010
Tuesday I got a call from Vicki asking if I wanted some freshly ground pork sausage. She and Ronald had a hog slaughtered for their winter store of pork and there was more than enough sausage to go around. They usually sell the excess to their friends for $2.00 a pound and it is already seasoned with spices. Of course I wanted in on that deal and headed right over to get some.
Vickie greeted me at the door with a metal spatula in her hand. The smell of frying sausage filled the small kitchen and she quickly bustled back over to the stove where sausage patties were frying in two large iron skillets. Rows of pint canning jars sat next to the stove, some already filled with cooked patties. I watched the master at work as she flipped the patties until they were perfectly browned and then placed them into the jars. She poured grease into the jars about a third of the way giving me instructions as she went along. Canning meat was new to me and I knew this was something I wanted to try.
She gave me a sample of a sausage patty to make sure it was to my liking. When I took a bite I could taste the freshness and the flavor was mild. This was definitely good and I knew Sonny would like it too. I left with eight pounds of sausage and of course a jar of elderberry jelly that she made this Spring and a jar of sausage patties. You rarely leave Vickie’s empty handed and its hard to give anything back because there isn’t a thing they need. But I will figure out something.
The rest of the day I canned sausage patties, but since I didn’t have a lot of fat I added a few cups of water to the drippings and boiled them. Then I poured it in the jars to about a third. Next you pressure cook them for 75 minutes at 10psi. I followed Vickie’s instructions, but I also followed some of the instructions I got from the internet. I made eight pints, but unfortunately two jars did not seal. I put them in the fridge and we will eat them this weekend. The lids were new and I followed the canning instructions so I think they may have been a couple of bad lids. Sometimes that happens. You just have to make sure to refrigerate those jars and use them within a week.
The root cellar is starting to look like a root cellar with all the pretty jars on the shelves. When my sister visited I asked her to bring me some more apples. Sonny likes the apple sauce we canned on her first visit, so we canned up some more.
This time I made it slightly chunky instead of smooth. We haven’t tried it yet so we’ll see which one he likes better.
October 19, 2010
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.
Watch those fingers
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.
Cooking them down
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.
Future Pear Sauce
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.
Pear sauce and Pear Butter
October 12, 2010
Last year we put our bird feeders on a standard Shepherds Hook type of thing. It worked fine until something pretty heavy decided to bend the 5 foot hook to the ground. It looked like a big “U” when we found it. The plastic feeder was destroyed and the biggest piece remaining was about 2 inches. We were not sure if it was a bear or a raccoon that decided it was hungry enough to due it in.
Last weekend we decided to get the birds ready for this winter and wanted to try to do a better job and install a stronger system. We picked up a 6 foot piece of Chain-Link fence post from Lowe’s and used the fence post hand pounder to get it into the ground. We put a cap on it, a hook and hung the feeder. We will see how it holds up this winter.
New Feeder and Post
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 3, 2010
Every morning while the coffee is perking I go down to the coop and let the chickens out into the pen. The dogs usually follow along with me. Yesterday when I entered the coop I spied two beautiful brown eggs tucked in the straw of a nesting box. Like Indiana Jones picking up a rare archeological find I grabbed them up and put them in my basket. I still get excited every time I find our egg treasures. It feels good to be able to supply our own eggs without having to run to the store. It’s another step towards self sufficiency.
The hens clucked and cooed while I filled the food bucket and checked the water supply. They were out of water. With the water feeder in one hand and the egg basket in the other I went outside to the rain barrel. We have a rain barrel on the corner of the coop that is attached to the rain gutter. It has a lid to keep out debris and a spigot on the bottom that gives us easy access to the water. It makes life a lot easier not having to tote water from the house. I set the egg basket on the ground next to the rain barrel while I cleaned and refilled the water feeder. Shiner and Ruby watched as I did my chores. They were such good and patient little dogs. I never thought to hook the egg basket on the hook next to the door.
When I stepped out of the coop door after returning the water feeder I was surprised to see one of my eggs broken, still in the basket and Shiner licking his chops. He couldn’t have been more guilty. I yelled at him, but it was really my fault. I guess Shiner wasn’t the only one with egg on his face. It was another lesson learned for me, but for Shiner….I think…not so much. The next time eggs are within reach he would do it again. Although, he may think about it for a micro second longer.
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.
August 1, 2010
The root cellar needed more dirt pushed up on the outer walls. This will give it some more insulation and help to keep the inside at a more moderate temperature. Sonny called Robert to see if he could bring over his backhoe and do the job for us. He came over Friday and in a blink of an eye he had his backhoe unloaded and went to work on building a bank of dirt on three sides of the cellar. His teenaged son came along to get some OJT from his dad. While he was observing his fathers skill at maneuvering the backhoe he asked if we wanted any laying hens.
He has about forty chickens and wants to lighten his load a bit. He said we could have them for three dollars a piece. He would throw in a rooster too if we wanted one. We passed on the rooster and said we would take three hens off his hands. What the heck for nine dollars we get three hens to practice getting eggs from. Yesterday we came home from town and found a note on the door that said our new chickens were in the pen. They made themselves right at home in the coop and nice plump hens they are too. I think they will fit in nicely here at Pot Hole Farm. Especially when they blessed us three beautiful brown eggs this morning.
I guess we’re a real farm now that we have produce coming out of the garden and eggs coming out of the chickens. Who would have thunk it.