May 17, 2012
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.
July 9, 2011
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.
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.
May 21, 2011
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
July 14, 2010
This morning started out overcast and rainy. Nine o’clock came and went. I thought maybe the block layers would not show up due to the weather. About 10:00 the sun started to peek in and out and the sky cleared. Eleven o’clock Ronald rolled in with about four pick up trucks following behind him like a wagon train. Behind one of the trucks I could see that it towed a small concrete mixer. Four muscled men jumped out of the trucks and immediately started to work. Ronald filled them in on all the specifics. Within four and half hours they were finished. I couldn’t believe how fast they worked. Every time I checked on them they had a layer or two finished.
Moving right along
Tomorrow Ronald will tar the exterior sides of the building where the earth will be pushed up on the sides. We will also have get another load of gravel to be spread around the side edges before the earth can be pushed up against three sides of the building. All this will keep water from seeping into the cellar. He also put in two air vents near the top of the building that will automatically open and close depending on the temperature. Before long we will have a working root cellar.
Right now my meager amount of pickles and consort will look a little puny on the shelves Ronald will soon install, but I noticed we have some green beans coming on and the tomato plants are chock full of fruit. The onions are ready to harvest and I think the potatoes are too. We don’t have many of each. Next year I plan to plant more so we will have enough to last through the winter. This years garden was more of an experiment to see if we could garden at all. Overall I think Sonny and I have proven that we inherited some of our ancestors green thumb genes. Even if it is only on the tip of our thumbs.
July 13, 2010
Ever have those days where you feel like nothing gets done? Like your wading through a quagmire, trying to reach dry land, but the mud just keeps sucking you down. It’s been that way for me since Sunday.
Right now my house is mess, I have boxes of things that came from the apartment and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t like things in disorder. It stresses me out, even if I tell myself not to sweat the small stuff. And in reality it is small compared to a lot of other things that can happen.
Sunday I made a plan to go to town and buy the things I need to make squash conserve and bread & butter pickled zucchini. I have never made either one before, but it looked like a good way to use up some of the harvest. So with my list and a smile on my face I headed down Rt. 50 toward town. I figured I could get a head start on the week. Maybe can up the pickles when I got home and can up the conserve on Monday. I’m good at time management, I should be able to put away a few boxes and clean up the house in between canning. By Wednesday I should be able to enjoy a clean house and admire my gleaming jars packed with tasty treats harvested from my own garden. Uh oh, traffic ahead.
Apparently a large truck that was too tall tried to squeeze through an underpass. Traffic was backed up for miles on Rt 50. I was trapped. There was no turn off in sight. I had to sit and wait until we reached an exit. Two hours. I got off on the exit and headed straight home. So Monday I tried again. I made it to town just fine but it took me all day to run the errands. I did make progress though. I was able to make six pints of bread & butter zucchini pickles.
Squash Conserve and Bread & Butter Pickled Zucchini
Today I had to meet Ronald at 8:00 this morning to go back to town and pick up some supplies to finish the root cellar. It took us until after noon to get everything and unload it here at Pot Hole Farm. Not too bad. Still time to get something done. Then the census man came to the door. Then it was one thing or another to interrupt my plans, but I did prevail and was able to can up some squash conserve. At least that is something, and it sure looks pretty sitting on my counter. Hopefully it it tastes as good as it looks.
The boxes are still sitting there glaring at me, the laundry basket is overflowing, the floor needs vacuuming and I can write my name in the dust on the furniture, but no matter. It will be waiting for me tomorrow. Oh, the block layers will be here at 9:00 A.M. I will be busy taking pictures and watching the root cellar go up. That’s ok. When it’s finished it will be a big accomplishment. The other stuff….not so much.
July 1, 2010
Today the big red concrete truck arrived. They poured 10 yards of concrete for the garage floor and the Root Cellar. Sometime next week we will order the block needed for the walls and get the blocks layed.
The Floor is Poured
Below is Root Cellar
Root Cellar Floor
June 14, 2010
Footer and framing
Well the Root Cellar project has broke ground and moving forward. Ronald had the Kubota backhoe operator out today to dig the footer and level out the location where the concrete will be poured. Before they even got started they had to put in a 10′ x 8″ drain pipe in the water drain ditch in front and cover it up to allow the equipment to go across for access to the digging area. On an earlier supply run they had already picked up the rectangle drain material that will be mounted inside the footer to allow for a good drain system. This drain box material is also installed on the inside where the floor drain will be located. The backhoe was able to do much of the digging but the far side turned out to be a problem not allowing the bucket to get into position. After Ronald, Vicki and Paul did some serious digging they were able to finish.
Next will be adding some additional gravel and calling in the concrete truck to get the footers and foundation poured. They will also be pouring the Barn floor and entry ramp. Please Stand-By.