Friday, December 19, 2014

Blinking lights...tinsel....and the smell of Christmas.

Christmas time is busy. Stringing lights....wrapping gifts...decorating inside and out...and baking. Mix that all in with a homestead and you have one tired momma! That is me. We are finished with all of the decorating....finally. This Sunday our home will be filled with laughter and love. My two sisters and their families will all be here for our family Christmas party. We host it every year, since we have the largest home and plenty parking. I try to make it as festive as possible...with plenty decorations....everywhere! Yes...everywhere.
The entryway banister. This is what greets our guests.
In the front yard...a few of the decorations. The tree....
The Village...
There are so many more....but I didn't want to bore you.... So today....After the morning chores...I have 5 ricks of firewood being delivered. I was able to get a good deal... at least I think...I can only hope they will stack it for me, but if not...then I will have to get to it when I can. After the wood is delivered I need to make one last trip into town for last minute groceries so I can get to baking. For the Family gathering, we will have "finger foods" Sandwiches, cranberry meatballs and mini sausages, a large vegetable platter with dips, cookies, brownies, sweet breads....oh boy do I have a lot to get finished! We always have what is called a "dirty Santa" gift grab. Everyone puts a gift in the middle of the floor....and we draw numbers. Starting at one...pick a gift and open it....then number two...if they want number ones gift, they "grab it" and switch. It is exciting and fun...and the gifts are always great! This is what I received last year....
Luckily I had a high there was little chance that someone would "grab" it from me! The children receive several gifts. As the hostess, I buy each child a small gift...then that child's parents buy them each a gift... and usually my 2 sisters buy each child a gift. It really is about the kids...and the food and making memories. By Sunday morning...I will be found laying in a heap of Christmas bliss....Then I will have just a few days to recover for Christmas day. More baking, cleaning, and gift wrapping.One more trip into town to buy gifts for all of the critters outside. Fresh fruits and vegetables will be found by each one Christmas morning. Hanging cabbages for the chickens.... a mix of apples and carrots for the pigs, goats and rabbits. The dogs will have wrapped toys under the tree and snacks in their stockings. Nikki, our Macaw will not be left out. She too will have new toys and treats. Do you give your critters "gifts" this time of year?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A break in the weather... a blessing in disguise.

A few weeks ago, the weather gave us a taste of real winter. Single digit temperatures.... winds... snow... just down and out C O L D ! The water troughs were frozen with a 3 inch layer of ice. Hauling buckets of warm water to the animals. Fluffing the bedding so the critters could get down in it and stay warm. Yes, it was COLD! Then the weather broke. Highs back into the 50's, lows in the upper 20's and low 30's. This little break in the cold weather is a blessing. It gives us more time to get that firewood brought up to the house, get the plastic on the coop windows, stack in the feed and hay and just get ready for what is to come for us in January/February. It is much nicer to do these things in 50 degree weather. So, not really knowing how long this will last, The next few days I will be doing what I can, if it doesn't rain, to get the critters ready for winter. Plastic on the windows will be the first job, easy enough to do.... I can get that done in a day. Next I need to move a new crate from the storage area next to the shop, over to the pig area. Right now I have my sow and boar together, and the 2 little ones in a different area to grow out. My concern is that the sow will be bred for a winter farrow. I really do NOT want babies in winter... time is of the essence. Then I need to increase the size of the hut for the 2 little piggies. They are growing pretty quickly, and need more room. I plan to use a few wood panels from the crates we had taken apart, and just add on to the existing hut. Keeping these babies warm will keep them from burning off weight trying to keep warm. Putting up Christmas decorations are a lot easier in these warmer temps too. I want to get it lit up out there for the grand babies. The girls really "light up" when they see all of the decorations. A smiling child warms my heart. It is a lot of work, but worth it. Oh, and a wonderful surprise happened here. See, a few years ago, we were adopted by a stray female cat. With a small orange stripe down her forehead, I decided to call her Gizmo. She was super friendly. Her little motor would purr so loudly I could feel it rumble in my chest. I fell hard for Gizmo. A great barn cat, great mouser, friendly and super cuddly. Well, about 6 months ago, I noticed Gizmo didn't show up for breakfast. Not uncommon for a barn cat to miss a meal....but she didn't show for the evening feeding either. Days went by...then weeks...then months. No Gizmo. I haven't seen her in just about 6 months now. It was hard thinking about the "what if's" All I could think was... " I hope she didn't suffer" Well, a few days ago, as I made my way to the barn, I was greeted by several of the barn kitties, one of them being Giz2. She is Gizmo's little twin, ( daughter) Unfortunately Giz2 is feral so no chance to hear if she has that same little purring motor. Giz2 came running up, and as usual I reached down to try petting her. This time, she didn't back away! As a matter of fact, when I reached out for her, she leaned into my hand. I decided to try picking her up for a cuddle...and she let me! As I hold her, listening to that strong purr, I see...another Giz looking cat coming from the barn. So, if THAT is Giz2......the one I am holding MUST be... MY GIZMO!!I quickly checked her ears. Neither one of them have been MUST be my Gizmo! Yes, she is home! I have no idea where the last 6 months have taken her. She is fat and healthy...and hopefully NOT pregnant. She was not here for the " great kitty roundup" for spay/neuter day. Had someone taken her in making her a house kitty? Did she get in some delivery truck, or someones car and go on an adventure? Whatever her story is, I will never know. I am just happy that she made her way back to the farm. She is one of the "special" barn cats, that I had gotten close to. Now she is there to greet me every morning in the barn with her little squeak of a meow, and a loud purr. Welcome home Gizmo.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving morning.. all is quiet.

As I sit here in the morning darkness...the TV on in the back round, the fire crackling..ooops, went out, be right back. OK, ( cue sappy music ) the fire crackling in the back round... I sit here waking up with a cup of coffee steaming under my nose. Mentally going over the things I need to do to get Thanksgiving dinner ready. OK, ok, wait a minute. Its not all that "romantic" REALITY CHECK HERE! I crawled out of bed, my hair going crazy , achy and sore....barely made it to the potty before I wet myself. Stumbled to the kitchen... oh crap!! What a mess! Our daughter and son in law came in last night around 11 pm. I was just finishing up the baking.. so we sat down and chatted until well after midnight. I crawled into bed leaving the kitchen a mess! UGH! Got the coffee going....steal a cup and stumble to the computer. The fire had gone out, so I grumbled as I went over to get it going, only to see it was FULL of ashes, so I dug out the little block in the bottom that opens to the ash drawer underneath, get it out, only to find out that the ash bucket is full! UGH! Now I have to take the ash drawer out back and dump it in the metal trash can we have to hold ashes. *insert MUCH grumbling* Never fails.... as I go to empty the drawer into the can, the wind kicks up....covering me in a nice layer of ash...first thing in the morning... gotta love it.. NOT! Shaking off the ashes, back inside, clean out the wood stove and got a fire going. There... now that's better. I am going to sit here and drink my coffee.. then head to the kitchen and tame that beast... get the kitchen cleaned so I can get it dirty again getting that bird ready. I like to start with a " clean slate" Hoping by the time I get the kitchen cleaned, my daughter will be up to help get that tom in the oven. Breaking bread, cutting onion and celery, getting it stuffed and in the oven. Later today our daughter in law will be here with the 3 grand kids for dinner. Our son works retail so he will not be here. He has to work 9 am until 9 pm. I really wish the stores were all closed today so everyone could be with their families and friends. I always get a little melancholy on Thanksgiving. I miss the days when the kids were smaller.... and we had all 4 of them here. I always put up one of those 8 ft long folding tables in the dining room, just to hold the sweets I baked. I used to bake for days! Apple pie, cherry pie, pumpkin pie and chocolate creme pie. Then the cookies, chocolate chip, peanut butter, butter cookie cutouts iced in colorful icings.. there would be pumpkin bread, banana nut bread, home made peanut brittle, buckeyes, Russian tea cakes. What a spread! The busy morning preparing the big feast... kids running in and out stealing bites of this or that... putting the leaf in the big dining table to hold the big feast.Yes, I miss those days. Now, the kids are grown, they have married and started their own families. All but one have moved far away. We struggle to fill the house now on Thanksgiving. However now we have the grand kids. So after the feast is cleaned up and put away, we will drag out the Christmas tree, and put it up. Making new memories with the grand traditions. Eventually Thanksgiving dinner will be done at one of their homes... and we will go feast with them, watching them make new memories...and new traditions. I wish you all have a great Thanksgiving...make memories that last...enjoy your family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving.... giving thanks.

Yes... Thanksgiving is just about here. In a few more days, people will be getting together and feasting. Many of those people will mindlessly gather, feast, laugh, and share memories. I say "mindlessly" because so many people just do it out of habit. Because of the day that it is. "Turkey day" .... Thanksgiving.... phrases like "gobble till you wobble" or "eat until your eyes pop out" or maybe you hear " they were in a turkey coma" Yes, I have heard these phrases. Thanksgiving has become a day to gather and become Gluttonous. How many families REALLY give thanks.? How many people will pause before filling their plates and reflect on the past year, and speak out loud the things they are thankful for? Well, we do in our home. We will start at one end of the table and one by one go around until each person speaks out loud of at least one thing they are thankful for... then we give thanks to God. THEN... we stuff ourselves mercilessly. There was a time, many years ago, when my husband was in the military, we would open our home to single airmen or two, who had no family to celebrate with, to share our feast. Times have changed... our location has changed. We now live in an area and a time where we are afraid to invite a stranger into our home. It is a sad world we live in. As I sit here making the list of the foods I will prepare for our feast, I am thankful that I CAN prepare them. A lot of the food will come from our homestead.... food we grew and harvested from the sweat of our brow. I am thankful that we live in an area where we can grow and raise our food. Thankful I have the ability, strength, and knowledge of how to do what we do. In the back round the television is on, times are tough all over...some areas erupt in violence over a civil matter. I am thankful that we do not live in a larger city, where violence is prominent. So stop for a moment...reflect on your life....your lifestyle.... what are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weather = Wild Ride

Wow, already, this weather is freaking out! We have had frigid temps...5 inches of snow.... and today will be 40 degrees. This weekend will be in the low 60's with a potential of severe thunderstorms. Yesterday had the goats shivering. Making me feel so bad for them, today I am making goat coats. Yes... you heard me right. I am making little coats for the goats. I will post pics once I get them finished....and try to get a few pics of them modeling for me. For now, I am going to cozy up to the fire and wait for daylight.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It is cold.... that is all.

Yes, Old Mother Nature is going to really mess with us this year. This morning it is 3 degrees!!!! Our temps today are supposed to stay in the teens. Holy smokes. My back is hurting just thinking about it! I will be hauling warm water all day to the critters. Oh, and you want to hear the best part!??? By 4 days....we are supposed to be in the 60's!!! This 5 inches of snow will melt into "poop soup" Oh fun! The wood stove is blazing.... the furnace is on.....I am sitting here with a blanket wrapped around me with a hot cup of coffee...dreading that cold air outside. Today will be all about the layers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yep... we got "it"

Last night... " it" started. First it was rain....then, the temps dropped and "it" became white and a bit more solid...yep, our first measurable snow. As I headed out this morning it took my breath away. The first snow is always so pretty to me. Of course, in a few months I will be cussing it...but for now.. just a few pictures from this morning...while I am still enjoying it. The geese didn't seem to be thrilled about it....
This little kitten found a great few "Snuggle bunnies"
Looking down the shop driveway...towards the quiet...
So this is what the first snow is looking like....for now...i love it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

And we are in for our first..."Everyone forgets how to drive"

Yep, there is something about that first few snows. Is it the cold?? Is it THAT mesmerizing?? People everywhere forget how to drive once that first measurable snow hits. I took these pictures this evening. We are supposed to get 3 - 5 inches.
I personally do NOT have to get out tomorrow. If you careful! You might just see this!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanksgiving is almost here.... Oh boy!

So, today was a busy day. The power company has been traveling the back roads around here cutting the trees from the lines. Not just topping them, cutting them down, and leaving the wood cut into 3 foot sections, free for whoever gets there first. Today the hubby and I made 2 trips out and was able to get a full load of Oak. Of course it is green and we won't be able to use it this year, however, next year we will NOT be in the same position we are in this year, struggling to find firewood. We picked up a second load of hickory and a little Maple. We are going back out tomorrow to see how much more we can pick up. Next year we will have a jump on the firewood situation. So, after we got it all stacked, or thrown in a pile...we retired to the house. That was a good workout for the day. After evening chores, and dinner, we got the wood stove going making it nice and toasty warm in here. Got the jammies on, and I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. We snuggled in to watch the Hallmark channel. Yep, Christmas movies. Sitting here I started thinking about Thanksgiving. It is almost here...and... well.. Don't tell my friend Ohio Farmgirl, but I haven't made a pie in a long time! I need to practice on my crust making. Oh, you don't know Ohio Farmgirl!? You need to go check out her blog. She is my hero... as farm hero's go. She has these EPIC farm dogs.. they butcher their own hogs, right there on the farm! One day I will work up to that... maybe. She also tells the BEST tales. Seriously, you need to go check her out. You will not be disappointed. Here.. go look! Just remember, do NOT tell her I have not made a pie lately. Hey, I made cookies!! That counts for something doesn't it!? I want to try a new to me crust recipe. It involves.... VODKA! I kid you not! Here... go try this one for yourself. Perfect Pie Crust. 2 C. unbleached all purpose flour 1 tsp. salt 6 ounces ( 3/4 or a cup ) of lard. Cold and cut into 1/2 inch squares. 1 Tablespoon Vodka 1/4 to 1/2 cup ICE water. Whisk together the flour and salt. Mix the lard in by hand, it does make a difference. But if you want, you can use a pastry blender. Eventually it should look like coarse sand. Sprinkle the Vodka, and half of the water over the mixture and blend well, adding water as needed but only 1 tablespoon full at a time until the dough forms. Divide in half, make each half into a ball, then flatten to 3/4 of an inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill one hour. After the hour, lay one at a time out on a floured surface and begin rolling out to a 10 inch circle that is 1/4 inch thick. There ya have it. " The perfect pie crust" The theory is, while baking, the Vodka will bake out of the crust, leaving it light and flaky. I want to try this before Thanksgiving... sounds like a good recipe. So, looks like I will be making pie tomorrow... after we go gather a few more loads of free firewood. If you use this recipe, let me know how it turns out for you. Now, lets all go make pie!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

13 snowfalls?

So, today we had our first "snow" It wasn't a measurable snow.... just flurries all day. Today is the 13th. The old "wives tale" is, "whatever the date is you get your first snow, that is how many snowfalls you will have that winter." I am not sure I can believe that one.. and honestly, I am sure I will NOT remember to mark the calendar every time it snows. I DO know, today was DARNED COLD! I don't think we even reached 30 degrees. It was so cold... and windy. Most of the critters stayed inside for the day. The geese and ducks, and the guineas..( not so smart) were out in it all day. I personally stayed in as long as I could. I only went out to do what HAD to be done, then back inside to the warmth of the fire. I made sure everyone had plenty warm clean bedding, clean water, fresh full feeders, then back inside. I took cabbages out for the poultry. I hang them in the pens to give them something to peck at to keep the "cabin fever" at bay. The weatherman says 1 - 2 inches by Saturday night. Oh how I do NOT like our weatherman! This is how I see him.
I am going to make sure I am NOT out on the roads for the first measurable snowfall. People go crazy! Empty the store shelves, wrecks on every corner and in every parking lot. Nope, Not this old woman. I will be at home, with a good fire going... most likely baking something, sipping hot coffee. We are still trying to get all of the firewood brought in that we need. Last year we went through 15 ricks. Now, last year was unseasonably cold, even for these parts. I am hoping it wont be THAT bad this year, but we are going to plan on it. Only need another 12 ricks! *bangs head on desk* We are so far behind! Oh, and look at what I picked up the other day...
This is what it looked like when I got it. It is for putting water in on the wood stove, to help with humidity.
This is after the first cleaning. Nothing a sanding disc and a compressor can't handle. After sanding most of the rust off, I brought it inside and washed it in hot soapy water then put it in the oven at 500 degrees. Now I have to make the decision of my next step. Do I grease it down and bake it in the BBQ or do I paint it with high heat paint? It will have water in it all of the time....and be on the wood stove. Someone else suggest that I season it really well, then use it to bake casseroles in. I bet those sweet potato's baked in there would be pretty on the Thanksgiving table. Hmmmm. Not sure what I will do. But until I decide.. I have a large tea pot for the wood stove. What would YOU do with it!?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Its darned cold!!

Yes, I know, "winter comes every year" But.... this cold is "unseasonably cold" I woke this morning to the furnace going. The sound woke me, since it is propane, it sounds like money burning to me. I slowly got up and got the fire going. It won't be long and the furnace will kick off.... I hope. It is 32 degrees out there. Dang! Mentally, I am not ready. Oh, I have almost everything caught up outside...animals bedding is thick so they are warm, I made sure of it yesterday. But mentally, I am not ready to be stuck inside. We don't have all of the firewood we need yet, so I need to get busy! At least that will give me more reason to be outside. What is on your list to keep your mind busy on those cold dark winter days? I am personally going to work on dehydrated meals. Since I have 3 dehydrators now I can do quite a bit at a time. I am thinking I will work on some "meals in a jar" for Christmas gifts. In between dehydrating and packing jars, I also have quite a bit of wool I need to get cleaned, carded, and spun. That is time consuming, and relaxing. I also need to figure out why I can NOT add pictures to my blog, since this crazy computer downloaded Windows 8... nothing seems to want to work like it used too. *sigh* computers stump me. So, with winter creeping up quickly, time to get that winter list going. Make the list so I can start checking things off of it... do you make a winter list? What keeps your mind busy on these cold winter days?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Its a comin! Are you ready!?

Yep, fall is here, the leaves are just about gone from the trees...and the weatherman is threatening us with some pretty nasty language.... "Snow" , " Damaging frost" etc. So we have already had our first "heavy freeze" I have already once had to break ice from troughs and rain barrels. *sigh* "IT" is coming. Winter...cold... snow... ice. OK, ok, I will stop with the bad language. For the most part, I like winter. I try to romanticize it so it is a bit easier to handle the dark days, ice covered everything, shoveling snow, cold wet hands and feet... with a warm fire and a soft blanket, snuggled in with a hot cup of coffee. Then the Holidays are coming.. The lights, the smells of sweet treats baking... smiles on peoples faces... Children giggling with anticipation of the fat man in a red suit coming. Yes... even with all of those "happy thoughts" Sometimes I really dread winter. Hauling buckets of water, trudging out in the dark cold morning, barely awake as I drag myself from my warm bed out into a chilly room, rushing to get the fire going to take the chill off. The pantry is filling up nicely....only a few spots left to pack it all in for winter. To get ready for " the big chill" Now that the gardens are finished, we turn our energy to bringing in firewood. LOTS and LOTS of firewood. The persimmon seeds predict a "lot of snow". The farmers Almanac predicts a "lot of snow". The fact that the mice are moving in already, ( or trying to) predicts a " lot of snow" So, yes, we are trying to get in firewood. How much wood do you use? Or do you even use firewood to heat your home? On a "normal" winter we might go through 10 to 12 ricks Last year, we struggled getting firewood towards the end of the winter season.. because we didn't prepare for it. We went through 15 ricks of wood! That might have been because some of the wood was not the "best" for heating with, but this year, we are planning to get at LEAST 15 ricks, hoping to get 20, "just in case" So our days will be busy now, saw dust flying.... aching backs.... and the smell of fresh cut wood filling our senses. Happy Fall everyone... what are you doing to get ready for winters icy grip?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The last of the 70's

No, I am not talking about the 1970's. I am talking about temperatures. Today is supposed to be in the low 70's and then... 50's and 60's as far as the weatherman can see. ( or predict ) There are a few nights coming up that they are calling for 30's! Here it comes folks. Winter is just around the corner. We are still trying to get firewood stacked in. The tractor is not progress is slow. I pulled a few of the carrots last week. I am pretty impressed that they did so well.
They are not HUGH, but as I say.... better than none! It is "breeding season" for the goats. Our little buck, Freddie is most likely the HAPPIEST boy around. He has 4 ladies he gets to date... one at a time. So for the next 2 or 3 weeks... Fred will be one happy little buck. Then he will be one tired little buck! He started his dating with Lulu, the mini Nubian. Oh boy. This is her first breeding and... well... lets just say.. I am not sure he was able to make his "impression" We will just have to see if she comes back in. This week he is with Abby. She is the oldest of all of our goats...and she knows exactly what's going on. The only issue there is she is a full size Alpine, Fred is a Pygmy. Short legs vs. tall legs = me having to "help". It will be exciting to see all of Fred's little offspring running around next spring. It will be even BETTER knowing we will have an abundance of milk! Today I will be puttering around outside... doing the little things that need to be done. Mostly I am planning to enjoy this weather.. mostly because, I just LOVE FALL!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Busy days and cool nights.

Yes, summer has wound down.... no more days in the 80's, hauling bucket after bucket of water to the critters...trying to catch a breeze somewhere in the shade. The days are now more tolerable. Highs in the 60's and 70's. Nights are absolutely beautiful with temps in the 40's and 50's. yes, I love Autumn. We run around trying to get the last of the project finished before the first snow flies. Gathering firewood, cleaning gardens and picking the last of the produce. I pulled a load of tomato's and peppers the other day, made a few half pints of salsa. The half pints are perfect size for the two of us. I also picked a good load of beets. Ended up with 4 more pints. Even though I am only getting small batches done at a time.. every little bit helps...and they add up quickly. Carrots are coming along good...I think... and I still need to get the garlic in the ground. *sigh* Will I ever get caught up? The 2 little bacon seeds are growing nicely. Fat and happy pigs makes me happy. I can't wait to fill the freezer with chops, bacon, sausage, bacon, roast, bacon, ribs and....bacon! Before you know it we will be sitting by a crackling fire in the evenings...planning for spring.. waiting to break ground and get those seeds in the dirt. But lets not rush things....lets enjoy these cool fall days....

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A productive day....

Today was fairly productive, and I am feeling it now. After morning chores I had to water in the new strawberry patch. It looks like we lost about half a dozen plants. I have plenty left to fill in, hoping to get that done tomorrow. After watering strawberries, I drug the hose to water the beets and carrots. Then drug the hose again...watered the pigs...drug the hose to the poultry area.. cleaned and filled the 3 pools. Cleaned the kitchen and decided to put a whole chicken in the oven for dinner. Made home made stuffing however I am out of Sage! Who runs out of sage!?? Well, I did. I used garlic and Lemon Thyme to season it. Turned out great too! Chicken with stuffing, mashed taters, gravy and corn. YUMMY! I had a fella come by this afternoon and he bought the 3 extra piglets. I am glad to have them gone. Feeding out 5 pigs was NOT in my plans. I didn't realize until I was in there catching them, just how "healthy" they were. Whew! Heavy little pigs! They weigh between 40 and 50 pounds already. They are only about 12 weeks old too! I am already dreaming of bacon and hams. This will be our first time butchering American Guinea Hogs. I am interested to see how they fatten up and how the meat is. Every where I look and read about them it say's the meat is "gourmet" I will let you know when the time comes. While doing evening chores...I paused to take in the beauty of the sunset and the few early leaves that are changing color already.
While I was taking a picture of this little leaf.... I was robbed! Lulu decided it looked tasty. Just as I was going to take another picture, she nabbed it!
These little "mutt" chicks are old enough to be roosting, but decided they still want to sleep with momma. She is a silkie hen and they are silkie/white Japanese Bantams mix. There are 8 babies in that little 10 inch square box, with momma hen!
Enjoy it while you can little ones... Saturday they are headed out to an adoption event along with the rabbits and a few of the call ducks. Tomorrow I have an early doctors appointment to have my elbow looked at. Seems I have tennis Elbow. UGH! Once I get home I will head out to pick the green peppers and Brussels Sprouts. A little bit more for winter stores! Always makes me happy. The gardening is coming to an end...Beets and carrots are still coming in. They should be the last of it. Then we will cover every bit of the garden area with "stuff" from the barn and put the gardening to bed. It is sad.. but at the same time, I am glad to be finishing it. October will be time to breed the goats...and prepare for the Holidays that are coming way too fast!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sometimes... Homesteading hurts.

Yep, physically and mentally.... you have to be a little tougher than some. A few weeks ago, a little stray dog started hanging out. Me being the softie that I am, I decided to befriend the little runt...and just try to find him a home. Since I already have 4 inside dogs there is no way I can detain this new little guy. He has been running these country roads for a while. He does have a home, about a mile down the way... however they refuse to keep him in a fenced area, or better yet, inside. He is a cutie too, such a shame. Terrier mix, would make someone a great little house companion. However, he is NOT good around a farm. He chases cats, well, the ones that will run from him, then he runs from the big toms, tail tucked, screaming for help! LOL Another thing he chases.... chickens. NOT GOOD. Last week he went after mine. He was able to get my big rooster. Lucky for the dog, and the rooster, he only ripped out the tail feathers. I screamed at the dog, and he ran off... however he still keeps coming back. I know some people say.. " Ye'r gonna have to shoot him" I just can't. So for now, the chickens are in their pen... no free ranging until I find this pup a home. After he chased my rooster off into the woods, I went looking for him. Oh boy... there are a lot of sticker bushes in the woods... and they got me but good!
I have to keep telling myself.... he deserves a good home...he deserves to live... OUCH! Then the Guineas, in a panic, got themselves wedged between 2 pieces of chicken fence. I had to reach in and pull them out. My arm took the worst of that situation.
The pup deserves a good home... he deserves to live. One of the neighbors told my next door neighbor that if he see's this dog on his property again, he will shoot it. Apparently the dog got into his chickens as well. Killed a few of them. UGH! So, now I have to try even harder to get him a home, SOON! Later this morning someone is coming to look at the 2 little dairy goats we have, for sale. Hoping that she falls in love with them, and decides to buy them. This will help ease my load over winter. We do not need 4 dairy goats.... the 2 big ones we have are plenty. I had a talk with the girls this morning, and told them they better be on their BEST behavior! Stand tall, be polite, and just look so adorable that this woman will fall in love with them. Now I need to get out there and give them a good brushing. Hopefully later today we have a gentleman coming to buy the 3 little pigs. Hoping he doesn't back out. I do NOT want to have to butcher 5 pigs! Nor do I want to feed 5 more pigs through fall and into winter. Fall is a busy time of lets get out there, enjoy the cooler temps before the harsh winter sets in.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Making a list and checking it twice... a day.

No, I am not playing Santa Clause. I am ... a homesteader. This time of the year we start to feel the crunch time. Fall is right around the corner and winter will soon follow. Most days I feel like I am running in circles. So, to help me get to the tasks I need finished before the snow flies.... I make a list. Yesterday I was able to mark off a BIG task... building a grow out pen for the pig's and get the babies in there. Today...we moved strawberry plants. LOTS and LOTS of strawberry plants. The first strawberry bed we had is about 4 foot by 5 foot. This last spring and early summer we picked so many strawberries. Between 2 and 4 quarts a day! Great big strawberries too!
I had planted them in the summer of 2013. These are I believe "June bearing" They were a gift from a friend. Over this summer they sent out runners. A LOT of runners.... everywhere! So we decided to make a "real" strawberry patch and transplant them over. The new patch is about 30 foot by 40 ft. We planted 5 rows that are 4o feet long with just the runners! I didn't disturb any of the original crowns.... and there are still somewhere around 50 or so left. Oh boy, strawberry heaven. I don't think these new rows will be productive next year, most likely 2016. My plan is to pick them and take the surplus into town and sell at the farmers market. So, this morning I got out there right after morning chores and built up the rows.
After these were finished... it was time to transplant and water.
The temps decided to climb a bit today so we gave them a good long drink. Then it was time to put the bedding from the barn around them. This will keep the moisture in and insulate for winter.
So this is a big task I can now mark off of the list. My plans are that if they do well we will have enough to start selling at the farmers market. I have a feeling they should do well. Next year we are planning to focus on the thorn less blackberries. We need to move them over near the new strawberry patch and build an area for them similar to the strawberry patch. So, I have been able to knock out 2 big tasks this week. I don't even want to count how many are left on that list. I just know, there are enough to keep me busy until the snow flies.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Moving pigs...building fences.

So the baby pigs are big enough to be separated from momma. I have been putting it off for a few weeks now, just because to separate them is a big job. My husband brought home a couple HUGH pallets that he cut in half to make fence panels. Once he cut them in half they STILL weigh about 150 pounds each. For me to get them from the shop, where the pig pen is, I had to drag them with the lawn tractor and a strap. I drug 5 of them over there a few days ago.
This morning, I decided It was time to get busy. First I had to get one of the big wood crates over to the pen. These crates are about 4 ft square. They weigh about 200 pounds so moving it was a bit of a chore. I ended up flipping it end over end moving it about 300 feet. After turning off the electric fence, I was able to get it into the big pen and in place where I needed it. Then I had to move the panels. This took quite a bit but I finally had them in place. I ended up having to put electric at the bottom AND the top. I had the babies in the pen but needed to come up to the house to get the plastic conductors and when I got back out there, momma had jumped over the fence to get in with her babies. The brat! I finally got her out, and was able to keep the babies in. Set up the electric lines and plugged it in. Didn't take long for the babies to figure out that the white line bites! All I need to do now is put bedding in the hut and I will be done. Had to come in to take a break. Whew! I am worn out. So, here it all it's "glory"
Now I need to go get the double sided feeder, from the barn, and get it set up in there for them. Time to get some meat on them bones. After my lunch break is over I am going to get started on the new strawberry bed. There will be 4 rows, about 30 ft long. I need to build up the rows, transplant the plants and add the old bedding from the barn, BEFORE the rain gets here Saturday early evening.
I am hoping in a few years I will be able to have a U-Pick patch. We are also working on having a U-Pick thorn-less blackberry patch as well. THAT will for sure be a few years down the road. We are not even getting enough for just us yet. So what are your fall jobs? Are you getting them done? Crossing off any big projects yet?

Monday, September 15, 2014

What are your "winter preps" ?

For us, it is all about the firewood. Our home is a split level, with a finished basement. Well, MOSTLY finished. This is where we have the family room. TV, computers, laundry area and the wood stove. We spend most of our indoor time in this area...during the winter. Keeping the wood stove going is usually one of my duties. Now, the only "issue" with this is.. we haven't even started on firewood yet. The mornings are cool... in the 40's and I can feel a bit of "panic" setting in. The hubs is working 40 hour weeks and weekends we are scrambling to finish the outside things, putting the gardens to rest, moving plants. During the week I am still gathering and canning. Beets are coming in now so I will be canning and pickling those. I am going to have to designate a few hours a day to gathering firewood. Even if I am gathering the smaller stuff, I will feel better knowing we have a start on it. *sigh* Homesteading is never about sitting quietly, listening to the sounds of the woods and animals. There is always a "job" that needs done. And with that said, I need to get outside and get this day going!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Summer is drawing to an end...I will miss you my old friend.

So, summer is drawing to an end here. We are waking to temperatures in the low 40's...and highs in the 70's and a few days of high 60's! The woods are alive with the sounds of the critters mourning the loss of summer. Crickets sing louder....Squirrels chatter loudly as they hide their winter stashes. The birds are calling to mates and friends, talking about the long flight south. Very soon the woods will echo with the sounds of chain up the downed trees for firewood. Cool weekend nights bring on bon fires and friends. I can vaguely smell the scents of fall. Wet leaves, cut grass. I look at a pantry just bulging at the seams with the produce we grew and preserved for our winter dinners. Now that the days are cool, it is time to start making large pots of soups, and canning them as well. Time to winterize the animals homes as well. The other day I worked on one of the goats cabins.....with the help of a neighbor....we were able to finish the inside.
I still need to add a front wall...leaving only a door way for them to enter. Seems everyone is talking about how hard this winter will be. I want to be prepared. Fall means cobblers and pies....more baking now that it is cooler. The other day I made a peach cobbler. It was delish! It was SO good, we had it gone in 2 days. So yesterday I made another cobbler, this time I made a strawberry cobbler! OH MY GOODNESS! YUM! Hubby was especially thankful. Strawberries are his favorite fruit. I am glad I put a lot of them in the freezer while I had them! So very soon the menu will include pumpkin. I can't wait for pumpkin bread, pie, and muffins! Today the work will continue in the new strawberry patch. We are moving them into a much larger area and putting them in rows. Picking next year will be a lot easier. Once the strawberry plants are moved I will be planting garlic in there. Hoping we will have fresh garlic next year. The sun is finally warming things up, so it is time to head out and get started.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bees and Barn Bedding.

No, this is NOT a cute little twisted tongue teaser. It is for REAL! This morning I decided to start cleaning the barn, while the air is cool. There is one area by a door that we rarely use, I have neglected way too long. ( Most of this summer ) So, I rolled up the sleeves, grabbed my pitch fork, and dug in...right into a bed of BEES!! HOLY CRAP ON A CRACKER!! HUNDREDS of them! They were NOT happy about me turning up their "home" in the wet bedding. They attacked...and stuck like Velcro. I ran, arms flailing, wiping them from my shirt and pants, jumping and screaming...well, OK, cussing. I escaped, but NOT without battle wounds. No less than a half a dozen of those mean little suckers hit their mark.
These are NOT honey bees....and if they are, I do not want the "honey" since they are living in wet barn bedding. No, they are a bit longer, and aggressive! I doused the "nest" with almost half a bottle of fly spray, sending them out the door. Then, I grabbed my things and headed to the house to dab mud on my stings. *sigh* NOW I have to figure out HOW to get them out of the barn! DARNED BEES! My arms and legs are hands are shaking...and I am going to search on the best, easiest, safest way to get them out. But for now...I am going to sit here and pout a bit, and plot my revenge!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cool mornings....

Yes, Fall is just around the corner. Mornings in the low 50's then the temps climbing into the low 80's during the day. my personal opinion is PERFECT weather. Windows open, blankets on... brings a smile to my face. Then reminds me that summer is almost over...and soon winter will have her icy grip upon us once again. A little bit of panic rises in me. We still need to gather firewood. *sigh* Homesteading never lets up. Busy from one season right into the next....just different things to keep one busy. For now, the garden is slowing down. The fall beets and carrots are not ready...the green beans are slowing down as are the tomato's. So, this gives me time to head into the woods and start dragging out the fallen trees. I will drag them out, hubby will take the chain saw to them, then we will both stack it up. Yep, it is firewood "season" Have you started getting yours together?

Friday, September 5, 2014

September? Already?

It is hard to believe that September is here already! Before we know it the leaves will be falling and there will be a coolness in the air. However, Summer is not ready to let go of its hot sweaty grip. Another day in the 90's with high humidity in store. They are calling for the "real feel" to be near 100 again today. I am so glad I was able to finally pick up a swimming pool. I think today, after I trim the goats hooves and pull more weeds, and try to get another section of the barn cleaned...I will relax in the pool for a bit. I have had my head buried in the canning books! Tomato seeds flying, corn silk everywhere, wash, sterilize, cook, fill, stack.....I finally realized something was up when I was putting another load of jars into the pantry, and realized I am running out of room! What a great feeling! I was blessed by a good friend giving us " all the sweet corn I could pick" So, I picked up our 14 year old grandson, who towers over me, and we went to pick corn. We filled 5 feed sacks, not stopping to think, THAT is a LOT of corn! 15 DOZEN ears! Oh boy...was I in trouble! It took me 2 days, but I was able to get it all processed. 60 pints,and 11 quarts canned, and 50 + ears in the freezer. As the old man told Babe, "That'l do pig, That'l do."
I do believe the tomato's have "given up the ghost" We didn't get a whole lot, but what I have in the pantry should get us through. Green beans STILL coming on strong. I have 60+ pint canned and I am working on quarts now. I put up quarts of veggies for when we have company over for dinner. I had planted a second crop of beets. They are coming up great! Shouldn't be too long until I will be canning them as well as carrots. I am a little disappointed in the Brussels sprouts this year. Not really getting near what I wanted to get, but there will be a few nights of delicious little green balls of goodness for us. All of these wet, dewey morning have left me with great picture ops. I just love dew covered spider webs.
These little Sweet Pea plants came up voluntary. They smell so sweet...and the color is cheery... I love them.
Now that the gardening is slowing down, it is time to focus on bigger jobs. Fire wood! Oh boy, I really dread cutting, splitting, stacking...firewood. According to the Farmers Almanac, we are in for another epic winter. *sigh* This means we need to get at least 15 ricks of wood put in...and we haven't even started! Once we DO get started there will be saw dust flying everywhere....sweating, and I am sure a little cussing. The mad rush will be to beat the first freeze. During the day while hubby is at work, I will be buttoning up the coops and barn, laying in the compost on the soon to be finished gardens, and dragging the downed trees from the woods with the tractor. On the weekends we will cut, split and stack. Yes, the "lazy days of summer" are coming to an end. Where did THAT phrase come from?? Have you had lazy days this summer?? Must be a "city thing"

Friday, August 15, 2014

I have come to the conclusion.... blight happens.

Yes.... tomato blight. That's what I am talking about. Seems several people have different ideas on how to stop blight. I , like many others, started many years ago with those "easy to stack" cheap(ish) tomato cages you can get at almost any store that sells garden supplies. You know the ones...round, cone shaped, wire type? Yes, I think we all started with those, or have used them at some point in our gardening adventure. So, I went, I bought, I used. And guess what? My tomato's ended up with blight. I asked several people...many agreed it was those " nasty metal cages" I was told to wash them at the end of every season with vinegar and let them sit in the sun to dry. OK, I did that... used them the second year... and blight. So, again, I turned to my gardening guru friends. " Oh, never use metal. You need to build wooden ones." So, off to the shop, we cut and drilled, and screwed... sawdust flying.... and finally, wooden tomato cages. I proudly carried them to the garden after planting my precious tomato's.... this will take care of that blight. NOPE! Again, we get the blight. Someone else told me it was in my soil... so I planted my tomato's in a totally different area, far, far away from the previous years. BLIGHT! "don't stake them, let them grow free" BLIGHT! Treat with this... or treat with that... BLIGHT! So, I have come to the decision... Blight happens. I pull off the dead or dying branches as I see them, carry them off to the burn pile...doesn't seem to effect the tomato's really. So, yes, blight happens. I just have learned to deal with it. One thing I DO know that works.... if you plant Marigold's at the base of your tomato plants, you will NOT get tomato horn worms. You know what those are, right? Those big fat juicy green caterpillar type creatures from outer space that are as fat as your middle finger and as long, and can wipe out your entire plant seemingly overnight. They don't bite... or least I don't think they do...however, they still creep me out. When I would find them on my plants... I would break off the entire branch, just to not have to touch it. Now, I plant Marigolds. They glow with their sunny little heads and keep those creepy alien worms from my plants. I no longer go out to the garden and slowly creep up on my tomato plants looking carefully to see what might lurk in there. Besides....we all need a little "pretty" in the garden, right? So remember this next year.. when you plant your tomato's, grab a few handful's of Marigold seed and spread them at the base of your tomato plants.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Summer harvesting....filling the pantry.

Oh boy! I have been busier than a one armed paper hanger! Over the last few weeks I have been working out at a local military installation as a roll player. The military staged the area to look like a bomb had hit nearby, and we as roll players are the injured, displaced citizens. The military units come in, set up decontamination tents, medical tents, etc. and run us all through. The "wounds" we are given look awesome!
We act out our part, then the military does their part.... providing us with medical attention, and sending us to the Red Cross. It really is a lot of fun...some days are better than is usually very hot is the best training for our military. I love it! ( and the pay is pretty good too ) BUT.....even though I am working off the farm for 12 to 14 hours a day.. I still have the farm to take care of.. animals to feed, water, milk and the gardening to do. Whew! Now that we are done out there... I have to play catch up here! Yesterday I spent the whole day in the kitchen, from10:30 am, until 12:30 pm. Stopping only to do the chores and have supper. I was able to get 19 pints of green beans canned and 4 quarts of spaghetti sauce done. Today I will be focusing on the gardens again, tying up tomato plants....pulling weeds...and getting to whatever else needs done. Summer is winding down fast...soon it will be time to completely clear out the coops, give them a good scrubbing and all new bedding. I really need to finish the rabbit runs too! Our grapes are almost ready to pick. I have been snacking on them while working outside. They are so sweet. A great sweet sugary snack to give me that little kick I need sometimes. The sun is up..... time for me to head on out and get this day started. How is your summer harvest going?