TO THE FLEA MARKET AND BEYOND!

May 21, 2011

Saturday

Linda

It was the usual Saturday morning, up at five and out of the door by six. The flea market was loaded with vendors. I believe everyone who had cleaned out their homes of extra stuff came to sell it at the flea market today. It helped that we had sunshine and warm weather to pull all those rain sodden recluses out of the mud and back into the life giving light. Its amazing how a little sunshine can change a person from a scowling umbrella carrying zombie into a light hearted smiling human being.

There were a lot of the usual vendors there, but there were also some fresh new faces with tables full of wares that had been pulled out from overstuffed garages, closets, and kitchen cabinets. There were all kinds of neat gadgets to catch a pack rats eye, fortunately I am not a pack rat and have a small home with little storage. Whenever Sonny and I walk down the rows of overflowing tables that spill out onto tarps on the ground, we ask ourselves if we really need anything. His eye is out searching for useful tools and I look for old rustic objects that would look nice as yard ornaments. I look for things that would work well as flower pots like old buckets or watering cans. I found a pretty flowered wreath to hang on the root cellar door. Even a root cellar door can look festive.

Pretty wreath.

Carol likes things that can dress up the outside as well and we often grab for the same item. Today there was a rusted metal rooster that we both liked. Of course Carol being the nice person she is asked if I wanted it, but even if I did I would not take it from her. First come, first served. I would have to tease her a little about it first, but we were in luck today. Apparently there were a pair of roosters and the lady who was selling them brought out the second one and said we could have them both for five dollars. So we split the cost and we both went home with a homely looking rusted rooster with paint splashes for color. He will look just divine in our flowerbeds.

Rusty and handsome.

After the flea market and our traditional breakfast we went to Tractor Supply, Lowes and the feed store. I picked up six more strawberry plants and I got them into the ground as soon as I got home. We stopped by Two Lynne’s Farm for a short visit and of course I came home with three Coleus plants that Sandy didn’t have room for. I seem to always leave there with something fuzzy or potted.

Our guinea girl is still sitting on her eggs. Lynne and Sandy offered to let their turkey hen sit on some of the eggs until they hatch. Apparently she has been successful surrogate before. I think we just might take a dozen over for her to hatch. Sandy said they tried letting their guineas hatch their own, but once the eggs hatched the parents ended up leaving them to fend for themselves. I had read about that, but Lynne and Sandy have years of experience under their belts when dealing with chickens, guineas, ducks, geese and turkeys. So maybe we will have a few baby guineas after all.

I would like to give a shout out to cousin Arlena who I hear is a new blog follower. Welcome. You know how those Aunties gossip.


FENCING THE PIG PEN AND BUILDING A STRAWBERRY BED

April 10, 2011

Sunday
Linda

The temps today got up to eighty degrees and the sun was shining all day for a change. I actually broke a sweat while I planted the strawberry plants that we bought last weekend.

Sonny built a raised bed out of 2x6s and we decided to put it along the side of the porch. They will get full sun there. We needed to fill the bed with some dirt so we got a wheel barrow load from the garden. I had two bags of organic potting soil and we mixed that in as well. Our soil here is mostly clay and I’ve read that strawberries like a more sandy type soil. Luckily there is still some sand left from the root cellar project. The masons left it when they put the block up last year.
A dab of that mixed with the rest of the soil and the strawberry plants should be happy.

Strawberry Bed

Of course the chickens had to inspect while I was planting the strawberries. They were just itching to get in that strawberry bed and do the chicken dance. Unfortunately for them the strawberry patch will not be a chicken disco because I put a fence around it. I fashioned a fence out of chicken wire and four fence stakes. The fence stakes worked well as anchors on the four corners to keep the chicken wire from sagging. I secured the fencing material to the stakes by reusing the wire that had secured the roll of chicken wire. Then I stapled the rest of the fence to wood boards. It turned out to be pretty sturdy.

It should be easy to cover the plants with a sheet if we get a freeze and I have some wedding veil material that I picked up at the flea market last year if birds try to eat the berries. With any luck strawberry shortcake will be on the desert menu.

Saturday John and Carol helped us put the fencing up for the pig pen. Sonny bought some supplies but to keep costs down we have been using left over materials from other projects. We had some cattle wire and T-posts and John had the wood posts and gate. It helps when you don’t have to go buy all new materials to a job.

Pot Hole Farm Pig Pen

It took all morning to put up the fence but with everyone pitching in it was finished in no time. We still need to do a little damage control to make sure the pigs can’t root their way out, but if they do we all know whose pig it will be. Yea, thats right. Speed dial.


LIVESTOCK AUCTION

December 19, 2010

Sunday

Linda

At 6:00 a.m. yesterday morning the alarm clock screamed at us, its blaring bell cutting through our dreams like a sharp sword. Sonny and I arose and with wisps of sleep still clinging to our brains managed to make coffee and get morning chores done. We left the house by eight o’clock or so to have breakfast at John and Carols and then headed over to Weston to attend a livestock auction.

Our intention was to buy a good sized hog, have it slaughtered and split the meat between us. None of us has ever done this before and weren’t really sure what to expect. When we arrived at the market we walked through the stock area. Actually you walk on wooden passage ways that are raised above the paddock area. From there you have a view of all the stalls. There were a few calves, a pregnant cow and a goat but, no pigs.

We decided to go the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. There were still livestock trailers pulling into the snowy parking lot and the auction didn’t start until 1:30 anyway. There was still plenty of time for a some hogs to show up.

The cafeteria was crowded with groups of men dressed in coveralls, Carhart coats and work boots. Their faces had the look of seasoned bidders or sellers of livestock as they talked amongst themselves. Fathers had brought along young sons and daughters to teach them the ropes and there were a few women as well, but it definitely looked more like a mans world.

We took another look at the paddock area and saw that about five hogs had arrived while we were in the cafeteria. Round paper stickers with numbers were stuck to their backs and we all agreed on a hog that we wanted to bid on.

The auction arena had rows of cement bleachers placed in a semicircle around a small show ring with doors that opened out to the stockade. Above the ring was a balcony where the auctioneer would sit. I have to say those benches were the coldest seats I had ever sat on. It was like something out of the Flintstones except there weren’t any animal skins to keep your bum warm. Luckily the hogs were the first to come out to be bid on.

None of us were sure how this all worked and we agreed that my cousin John would do the bidding. It was a good thing, because neither Sonny nor I could understand a word the auctioneer said. One other man bid against John on the hog we had chosen but we won out. It all went very quickly.

We had picked a 195 lb. hog and paid 62 cents per pound which comes to 120.90 total. Not bad. Apparently you don’t want to get a hog that is overly heavy because then you are getting a lot of fat and less lean. We went to the office and paid our bill then off to the butcher next door to set up to have the hog processed. I believe it will cost 55 cents per pound. Still cheaper than what you would pay at the grocery store.

It was definitely a new experience and when you think about it we have just purchased a hog from a local farmer that had a decent life. It did not live in over crowded conditions or was over stuffed on corn. These animals tend to come from small farms like our own and are well treated. There is something to be said about choosing your own food source. The hog looked clean and healthy and of course they are all USDA inspected.

Sorry there are no pictures. Sonny and I both forgot to take our iPhones with us. Hopefully I have given you a good enough description to imagine what the auction was like. Next year we may raise our own hog and have it slaughtered in Fall.


LAST OF THE SOLAR PANELS

November 26, 2010

Friday

Sonny

Last week we finally received the last of our solar panels.  The system is a full 3.7 kw.  I know that doesn’t mean much to most of you but when we originally designed our PV solar system I knew right away I would be “building” it in stages. We just didn’t have the money to get it all at once.

Although I don’t think we will ever be completely finished. Next year I hope to get a solar hot water system ordered and start that install. Right now we have a propane tank and I would rather let the sun heat the water and that would easy my wallet on buying propane.

I also may start thinking about either a small wind generator or a micro-hydro to help keep the batteries charged on the short winter days and the days of heavy clouds. We seem to only get some wind in the winter and our stream only flows when it rains – heck it may take both systems who knows.

I do know that next week will be time for a load of donkey manure for the garden thanks to John and Carol and “Buck and Doe Run”.


NEW SUN OVEN

November 1, 2010

Monday

Linda

We bought a Sun Oven a few weeks ago and have been dying to try it out.  Today we had clear skies, sunshine, and free time from any other obligations.

 

Sun Oven

 

We decided to make a simple hamburger stew that included common ingredients we had around the house.  This is something I usually make on top of the gas stove. I did brown the hamburger first and drained the grease before adding the other ingredients.

The instructions for the Sun Oven recommended using thin walled pots that have a dark finish.  We used an enamel ware pot that came with a camp set.  You can get them in the camping section of most stores.  The ingredients I used were:

hamburger (browned and drained)

three cloves of garlic minced

chopped onion, carrots, potatoes and green pepper

celery salt (I prefer fresh celery but I didn’t have any)

beef bullion cube

chopped zucchini ( I had some I froze from our garden)

canned or frozen corn

A little dried Thyme, parsley, rosemary and a bay leaf

about a teaspoon of Worchestershire sauce

a sprinkle of dried red peppers if you like a little spice

water to make a broth

I believe thats it and of course any kind of stew can have whatever you choose.  We put all the ingredients in the camp pot and placed it into the Sun Oven.  The oven has a temperature gage and you can control the temperature by following the sun.  Full sun will give you a temp of about 350 degrees.  It doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter.  We let the stew cook for about 4 1/2 hours.  Sonny checked on the placement of the oven about every half hour to make sure it was in direct sunlight. Letting it slowly simmer allowed all the flavors to come out and mingle together. The outcome was a tasty one pot meal.  Add a slice of homemade bread and you have a delicious dinner on cold evening.

 

Comfort Food

 

You don’t have to slow cook everything.  You could heat up a can of soup, or bake a casserole.  I am anxious to try baking some bread.  For some it may seem like a toy, but when you live off grid using a crock pot is a no, no.  I see this as a good tool to use in the summer when you need to use the oven but don’t want to heat up the house.  I think it is a good use of the suns power instead of using electric or propane.  That’s not to say I will cook with it everyday but I believe it could become a normal mode of cooking on sunny days.


FRESH PORK SAUSAGE

October 29, 2010

Friday

Linda

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.

 

Winter Sausage

 

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.

 

Pre-Apple Sauce

 

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.


CLASSY CHICKEN COOP

October 4, 2010

Monday

Linda

I have spent an enjoyable week with my parents and sister.  It’s always nice to have family come and visit us at PHF.  It’s also nice to have the extra helping hands of my sister and she is always ready to delve into new projects and daily chores. You see she’s a farm girl at heart too.  So it was easy to get her to help me clean out the chicken coop.    It was quite a mess and I usually don’t allow it to get this bad.  With the two of us shoveling, scraping and removing debris the job was done in record time.

This place needs cleaned up

The worst mess was under the roosts so after we got it cleaned I decided to spread some straw over the shavings in that area. I think it will be easier to remove sections of soiled straw and replace it every few days rather than just the wood shavings that get soggy.  The alfa hen watched our every move as we cleaned even though we had thrown treats out in the yard to keep the flock busy while we worked.  Unfortunately they have to stay in a pen for now, because we can’t let them free range until the pullets start to lay and know to use the nesting boxes.  The alfa hen or queen bee as we call her, scratched up the debris as we shoveled.

Push...Push

I guess she didn’t want us miss any poopy mess.  Yuk. I can definitely say that scooping out a chicken coop is way at the bottom of the glamourous job scale. We did brighten up the coop with a bit of art. My sister brought a stitched picture that she has had since the seventies that says “The rooster may crow, but the hen delivers the goods.”  We hung it over the nesting boxes.  Kinda gives the coop some class. I’m sure the chickens don’t really care, but it gives me a chuckle when I see it hanging there.

Home Sweet Home

My two roosters are maturing and are trying to tune up their vocal chords for crowing.   Right now they sound like they swallowed a kazoo or young boys whose voices are changing, but I’m sure that within a week they will sing a perfectly pitched cock-a-doodle-doo.  I really need to do something with them because they are starting to harass my hens. I noticed that one of my hens had a bloody scratch on her back today. Sonny may have to become the executioner, but I don’t know if I could do that.


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