A BLOG READER COMES TO VISIT PHF

May 17, 2012

Thursday

Linda

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.

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SNOW DAY FUN…PHF STYLE

February 19, 2012

Sunday

Linda

This winter has been extremely mild and has felt more like spring than winter. Our daffodils are sprouting up and I noticed yesterday that one of our crocus plants is in full bloom with a crown of mustard yellow flowers. Old man winter may be in a romantic mood this year but his heart was on the frosty side last weekend when he blew six inches of snow across our hillsides. It was a perfect time for Harold and Clarissa to come out for a visit and the snow was perfect for some winter fun…Pot Hole Farm style.

Harold and Clarissa wrestled Duke into his blue snow suit and boots. Duke was pretty good about the ordeal, but I still think his parents deserve a gold medal for patience. All you parents out there know what its like to push boots on a kid’s feet who doesn’t want wear them. Once dressed Duke floundered on the bed attempting  to pull himself up. He reminded me of  Ralphie’s little brother from the movie “A Christmas Story”  when he fell in the snow on the way to school and couldn’t get up because his snow suit was so bulky. Duke finally gave up and imploringly looked at his parents to pick him up. The whole snow suit ordeal would soon be forgotten once he was outside and ready to play in the snow.

We were like a bunch of kids when we saw the snow piled on the hill across from the house and ideas were thrown back and forth on what we could use to slide down it. A toboggan would be the best mode of transport, but unfortunately we don’t own one of those. A trip to the garage was in order to find a substitute. How about one of the metal trash can lids on the feed cans? Nah, they have a handle and if we tear them up we won’t have a lid anymore. How about some cardboard? Don’t have any. Then I spied the chicken feed bags we had stashed in the corner. The labels on the outside were shiny and slick. Perfect for sliding.

The air was clear and cold as we trekked up the hill, our feed bags clutched in our hands. Moisture from our breath swirled passed our child like smiles and crystalized into the air. With pink cheeks and gleaming eyes of anticipation we crested the hill. The games were on.

Harold held his feed bag in front of him, took a few running steps and did a belly  flop. He sailed down the hill, snow flying up and over him as he cleared a trail.

Go Harold Go!

Clarissa followed close behind, gracefully doing a belly flop onto her feed bag and riding it like a magic carpet down to the bottom.

Here comes Clarissa!

I was not about to belly flop for fear that I would just bounce right back up, so instead I sat on the feed bag and pushed off. I ended up sliding down on my back, feet in the air, sliding out of control until I was flying backwards.

WAHOOOOOO!

The sounds of my screams echoed through the holler sending every coyote in the neighborhood scrambling for the protection of its den. Sonny was a little out of practice since it had been years since he slid down a hill, but he still managed to look smooth… for an old man. Sorry there is no picture of Sonny, but he was on Duke duty at the time and the photographer.

Duke got to take a ride with his mama and daddy. He wasn’t a bit afraid and sported a big smile between his apple red cheeks. It was too cold for him to be outside for very long and Clarissa took him in to put him down for his morning nap. He had no complaints and went right to sleep. Now it was free time for the rest of us big kids. Sonny challenged us to see who could go the farthest. We slid down on our stomachs, in sitting positions and Indian style. It didn’t matter how I started out I always ended up backwards. Harold was the victor and slid the farthest.

We made a feed bag toboggan by splitting the feed sacks long ways so all of us could sit on it and slide down together. Then Sonny stuck his feet into a another feed bag to make the front. Off we went down the hill ending in a pile at the end. It looked like a four car jam up.

The moral of this long story is that your never too old to act like a kid. We had a great day and our spirits were uplifted from it. So play in the snow, kick a ball, swing on a tire swing, or eat a PB&J under a weeping willow tree. It will do your heart good.


THOUGHTS OF SOLAR AND WIND

January 17, 2012

Tuesday

Linda

A soup of ominous gray clouds covered the sky as Sonny and I drove toward home from Ohio. I gazed out of my side window at the landscape dotted with farms, one connecting to the next as far as you can see. It reminded me of Delaware, my birth state, before the developers raped the farmland and covered it in a cheap coat of houses. Except for a few farms that have held out, there is nothing left of the many peach and apple orchards,or the small family run dairy and vegetable farms. In southern Delaware crops have been replaced with production chicken houses. As you can tell, it is a bit of a soar spot for me, so I gaze out of the window at the flatlands of Ohio and reminisce about my childhood.

As we pass miles of farmland set with nineteenth century farmhouses and barns, Sonny and I discuss how they could possibly benefit from the energy of a  windmill. Solar and windmill power is not the cure all for our nations energy problems, and not everyone can or wants to live off grid, but I think that solar panels and windmills could certainly take some pressure off the power grid. They could all be used in conjunction with each other.

One would think that in a wide open landscape such as Ohio, and I can only speak for the area we were driving through, that there would be the potential for plenty of wind. Even solar panels could be a good choice in areas where there are few trees. Its a bit more difficult in places where the sun has to rise above a high hill or mountain range. It is doable though as we have seen here at Pot Hole Farm. We just get less hours of sunlight to charge the solar panels.

Unfortunately for many who are interested in solar panels and windmills it is  still a costly investment. As the price of electricity rises and the power grid becomes overloaded and feeble with age we may not have many choices left. I think its naive to think that we can continue to add to the power grid we have now and think that it will be able to handle the load. All we need is a summer of sweltering heat and the on switch of air conditioners. We might find ourselves with rolling blackouts and empty pockets. Or worse.

I certainly don’t have all the answers to our power quandaries, but I think solar and wind could be good alternatives. In the future I would like to see businesses with a few solar panels on their roofs. If you think about how much power an office building uses in a day a little sun power couldn’t hurt.

The skies may turn dark and cloudy, but the sun will eventually shine. Good for making electricity and good for the soul.


MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 24, 2011

Saturday

Linda

SEASONS GREETINGS FROM POT HOLE FARM!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a New Year that brings you much happiness and health. For all of you out there dreaming of living off grid or just living a more sustainable life we hope that our blog will be of help to you in the coming year. Sonny will be giving more updates on the solar hot water heater installation and you can still refer back to previous blogs on our solar panel installation and other learning experiences we have had with starting a farm. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of humor in our future as well. There always is no matter what we are doing. So enjoy life, keep things simple, love and take care of your family and be prepared for whatever the future might sling our way.


CHICKEN DINNER

December 20, 2011

Tuesday

Linda

Last night I roasted one of the free range chickens we bought last week from Sycamore Creek Farm. I brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled on some lemon pepper, then placed it on a bed of sliced onions and added a little water to the pan. Put it into a 375 oven and baked it until the meat fell away from the bone. I had always heard that free range chickens are tough if not pressure cooked or put into a slow cooker.

This chicken turned out to be anything but tough. The skin came out crisp and browned and the inside was moist, even the white meat. As for taste…lots of fresh flavor.

The nice thing is that we know where this chicken came from and helped support a local farm. This chicken enjoyed a free life roaming the farm snacking on bugs of her choice, and relaxing in a dust bath. She soaked up the warm sunshine on her shoulders and cooled off with a breeze that ruffled her feathers. Her life may have been short but it was a free life unlike the Big-ag chickens who live in an over crowded building and never see daylight.

Years ago Sonny and I never thought of that aspect of our food, but having seen how animals are treated in industrial food processing it is becoming hard to swallow. We can’t always eat only free range farm animals, but we are getting farther and farther from industrial food everyday. We are lucky that we are in the position to this, but also understand that not everyone has that option.

Chicken dinner with sliced tomatoes and squash casserole.


LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE

August 30, 2011

Tuesday

Linda

While hurricane Irene hurled her wrath up the East Coast last weekend, the weather at PHF was beautiful.  We attempted to work on some long overdue projects in between making phone calls to check on family members who were caught in her angry grasp. Prayers were answered and we are relieved that they all fared well.

On Friday John and Sonny worked on step three of building the smoker. It is beginning to take on shape, even though at this stage it looks more like a hunters blind or a kids play house. You are able to see now how the doors will fit across the front and where the grates will sit at the base of the enclosure.

Step three completed.

Also on Friday our solar hot water heater and panels were delivered. As of yet we are not sure when we will install it. Sonny plans to place the panels on the mudroom roof. At this point I am not sure how it will all work. That is a blog for him to write. The delivery service unloaded everything right there on the driveway. Sonny used the Kubota to move it over near the woodshed. He drove the Kubota and I held onto the box to keep it from banging into the tractor and possibly doing some damage to the panels. They are pretty tough though. It appears the Kubota tractor has come through for us again. I don’t know what we would do without it. It has become such a staple here on PHF.

Keep it steady.

Sonny and Harold have begun to bush hog the pasture that sits on the right side of our property. Its the same area as the infamous tree that got caught in the crook of another. Harold obtained some good experience using the bush hog and I believe is now an expert. They didn’t get it finished, but it is amazing to see how much bigger the pasture is than we had imagined. They still have to remove a few tree logs before finishing.

I haven’t complained much on the blog about how the shower Sonny and I installed in the bathroom has been a thorn in my side. All I can say is that it has been a real festering wound for me. Here’s a little advice for all of you that are planning to install a new shower. Do not purchase one that has umptine pieces and parts that have to be sealed together and get one that has a sturdy base. Ours leaked continuously and we were unable to successfully troubleshoot the area that the water was oozing out from.

Well our son and his wife came to Mama’s rescue and have offered to help us put in a new one. We have picked a fiberglass style that is much sturdier than what we had put in originally. We wanted one that was all one piece, but had to settle for one that is two pieces so that we can get it through the door. Harold is also going to install Roma Stone flooring like he installed in his house in Texas before they sold it. Thank goodness he has experience.

Saturday Sonny and Harold removed the old shower and flooring while Clarissa and I went to pick up feed. They had it completely gutted by the time we returned home. The floor was wet under the vinyl flooring and we finally found where the leak was coming from. It was coming from the area of the drain pipe. Now, this is another reason to get a shower with a sturdy base. I think the shower base we had was flexing when we stood on it allowing water to leak underneath. I have had fans blowing on the floor to dry it out before the men start to work on it this weekend.

Sunday and yesterday were down days for me as I had a little intestinal virus. I was able to lay on the couch all day (between bathroom visits) and watch episodes of my current favorite show that Sonny orders from Net Flicks. I figured rest was the best remedy. Today I feel pretty good and have started to can up the bazillion organic carrots that my bargain hunter daughter-in-law brought me. Thats ok this winter we will be glad to have them and I have no doubt in my mind that we will have some jars left for next winter. We have not been successful at growing carrots in our own garden.

Must be a sick day for Moby too. Oh wait, I think thats just a lazy kitty.

Sunday Sonny was able to go to Two Lynne’s farm and help them put up hay. He got some OJT on running the square baler and fixing it. No, he didn’t break it. It’s pretty common for the strings that tie the bales together to break or become jammed. A lot of these balers are well used but still have a lot life left in them. He enjoyed having a chance to get some baler experience and help our neighbors at the same time. Between my cousin John and Carol and Two Lynne’s Farm we might become decent homesteaders. Hopefully someday we will be able to pass on our experience to someone else. That’s how it works.

This coming weekend will be the Labor Day weekend. Here at PHF  we will definitely be laboring. So much to do…such little time. Life is good!


Replacement Generator

July 9, 2011

Sonny

Saturday

We had been using a small underpowered 3500kw Champion generator as the backup generator for the last two years. We always had plans to replace it with a bigger one but just never got around to it until this weekend. The Primary generator is a 8kw propane Guardian and it takes care of all our charging needs for those long dark rainy weeks.

Generac 8kw

You see, nothing is the same living out in the boonies and living off the power grid.  We have solar panels for electricity, a primary generator but also a backup generator. Everything has to have a Plan-B to go with it.  Our heat is from out wood stove but we also have propane backup.  We have 4 wheel drive cars, and a backup 4 wheel drive tractor just in case the snow is too much. We have lights but have oil lanterns, Gas stove to cook on but we can also cook on the wood stove. We have Internet, Satellite TV and Satellite radio to know the weather. We even have multiple stove-top coffee peculators.  We even have a great refrigerator but we still built a root cellar.

It is just our way out here.  And to be honest, continue to learn lessons every day on PHF.


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