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.
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.