Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Yes, I know, winter officially just started a few weeks ago....but I am already craving Spring. Every day I walk past my garden....sometimes pausing to just look at the " mess" I have in there. Last summer ended quickly, fall crept up and slapped me in the head and said.. " your gardening days are over for the year" We didn't have a fantastic garden year....and actually we barely had a garden at all. The summer was a lot cooler and wetter than "normal" My poor tomato plants struggled all year to put fruit on...and then to ripen. No, we didn't have a great year. I was able to squeeze out enough to get us through the winter...and early spring. Heck, I might even have enough to get us through a good part of this upcoming summer on some things. Tomato products are one of the things I had to buy from the grocer. Luckily, I was able to! Every year I tell myself... " THIS year I am going to be a bit more vigilant with the garden" And of course, by late summer...I realize I am falling behind, then make a mad dash to get caught up. But..... THIS YEAR....I will be more vigilant! HAHA! The last few days I have been craving strawberries. ANYTHING strawberry...as I walk through the grocery store...I am drawn to strawberry "flavored" foods. Breakfast rolls....cereals...ice cream...call to me. My mind drifts off to the strawberry patch outside my window....the plants laying dormant under the snow....just waiting to wake up and start growing, blooming, and putting on big, red, juicy STRAWBERRIES! Then I cringe with the thoughts of the work I have to do out there before that will be possible. Towards the end of the season last year, like many of us, the weeds took hold and took over. *sigh* Oh, but I have grand plans for that strawberry patch this year. I have a HUGH pile of composting material from the barn...sitting out there cooking away...ready to put in the rows and around the plants after I lay down a good layer of cardboard. Then a bit of panic sets in as I remember that the mobile vegetable stand I planned to build last year...didn't get built. I MUST get that finished this year since I am pretty sure we will be over run with strawberries this year. We started out with a tiny patch about 4 ft x 4 ft....and it was producing between 4 to 6 quarts a day. Now we have 5 rows about 30 ft long.....plus the 4 x 4 area. Yes, I plan to have enough to barter or sell. The big difference this year is I have a job now...and time will be precious. I need to get busy building that mobile vegetable stand before my time is consumed by working in the gardens. It will not be a large stand....I am thinking something about 4 x 6 or maybe 4 x 8. I have a small metal frame garden cart that has been sitting in the weeds for the last couple of years. I will build the stand over this cart so I can pull it with the lawn tractor to the front of the property and be able to move it for mowing and to be able to " put it away" for winter. Wish me luck! I have already been " plotting " out the garden layout. Dreaming of the warm sun...the smell of fresh turned dirt...then I am jolted from that daydream by the crackling of the wood stove, I sigh and go put another log on the fire. For now I will continue to plan...dream...because before I know it, it will be planting time and I will be rushing around trying to get things done. It happens every year...and ever year I tell myself... " NOT this time, I will be ready"! HA! How about you? Does your spring go as planned or are you caught in a mad dash to get things planted like me?
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
So after a few weeks off of work...it is back to getting up at 04:30, waking to the alarm clock. YUK! It will take me a few days of getting used to waking up to it....and with this cold snap of single digits and negative wind chills....that makes it even harder to want to get out from under the covers. Since we heat with our wood stove entirely...the house is cool in the mornings when I wake up. This morning it was 63 degrees when I got up. Luckily there were plenty of hot coals in the stove, so it didn't take long to get a blazing fire going. Sitting here with the fire crackling....feeling the warmth...the glow of my laptop and a hot mug of fresh coffee....it is hard to get motivated to go get my truck started so it is warm when I get ready to leave. Then my mind wanders to my animals...thinking how cold they must be out there. I feel so bad for them, but I know they have plenty warm bedding...and they are most likely warm enough...but I can't help feel so bad for all of them. I will get home from my morning shift around 8 am. Once I am home I will change into my barn clothes...and start hauling warm water out to them. The pigs, sheep and goats will all get a little molasses and Karo in their morning drink. This will help warm them and bring up their energy levels since I am sure they will use a lot of energy shivering. The birds will all get their scratch grains with plenty cracked corn. The corn is a harder grain so as it sits in their crops, it is a bit harder to digest. As the crop works to digest it, this warms up the birds. The rabbits will all get a large amount of hay with their pellets and Timothy....and I will cut a large hand full of Honeysuckle for them. Honeysuckle is the only thing growing here that still has a bit of green leaves on it...and the rabbits LOVE it! By the time I finish....I will have to come inside, get cleaned up and head back to work for the lunch shift. I might have enough time to sit by the fire with a cup of coffee for about 30 minutes. After the lunch shift, I will get home about 1:15 or so, I will need to get on my barn clothes and haul more warm water to the animals..do a "welfare check" and then I will have time to get a few things done inside...run the sweeper, wash a small load of dishes...maybe do a load of laundry, then head out and feed the critters and get them locked up for the night before heading back to work for the dinner shift. Since I don't get home until after dark, I like to have them all secured in their shelters, fed, fat and happy before I leave. This way, when I do get home, I can come inside, get my shower and snuggle down in my warm pajamas....and relax. It seems like a busy day, and I guess it is, but I love this little homestead life. It keeps me busy...keeps me motivated...and our " advanced years " I feel it is better to keep going. A few days ago I was starting to feel a bit under the weather, so I knew it was time to get my Elderberry Syrup made. Elderberries are wonderful little berries...they are full of vitamins and anti-viral properties. Now, I am not going to get into all of the scientific stuff but I can tell you they help boost your immunity. If you feel the "need to know" you can go here.. Now, if you look for recipes on how to make Elderberry Syrup, there are many out there, and everyone has their own idea on what you need to " add" to it. for me....I keep it simple. No need to add too many ingredients to " make it flavorful" After all...it is a "medicine" ( or preventative ) and besides....Elderberries really DO taste pretty darned good once you add a bit of a sweetener. Here is what I do. 3 cups of clean, ripe, Elderberries ( Ours grow here on the homestead, and are organic ) 1 cup local raw honey (I purchase from a local beek ) 2 cups water ( I use water from our reverse osmosis faucet to have pure water, free from metals and chemicals) Place the berries and water in a medium sauce pot over a medium high heat. Keep them stirred well and once they start to boil mach them up good with a potato masher. Cook them for about 30 minutes, stirring often. After 30 minutes, strain the berries through cheese cloth into a glass bowl. Let this cool down to room temperature then add 1 cup of honey. Mix it well and put into sterilized pint jars. Wipe the rims well and add your cap and ring. I label mine with "instructions" Take 2 teaspoons, 4 times a day as a preventative and 1 Tablespoon 6 times a day if a cold or flu has struck. Keep refrigerated. This batch should last you through the winter. Toss after 6 months.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
So, how many of us rushed out and bought " the winning ticket" for the Power Ball? I admit....we bought a couple. As we sat there last night, waiting on them to pull " our numbers" we fantasized on how we would spend our new found fortune. " Family first, take care of the kids. Fix up the old homestead, make our lives easier to care for the critters, and make it nicer for them...all the gardening essentials we would need, or want. New big shop for hubby to tinker around in, a nice green house for me to tinker in, a big stocked pond and of course....fencing all the way around." However.....we didn't win enough for a pack of gum. As a matter of fact... NO ONE hit the winning combination. Last night just before the drawing it was 900 MILLION. They are now saying it should be 1.3 BILLION PLUS, cash option is 800 million.! That's OK......it was fun to daydream. But now....back to reality. When we went to bed, it was raining " cats and dogs" I mean it was a real "gully washer" Throughout the night, the temps started dropping and this morning it is snowing....hard....big wet flakes. One channel says we will get 1 - 3 inches....the other channel says it will taper off quickly and accumulations will be light. I am watching the later channel. Doesn't really matter how much snow we get....in a few days the temps will really bottom out to single digits in the evenings. Mp plan for today was to have a big pot of beans cooking all day...filling the house with that wonderful smell....but I forgot to soak my beans. So, instead of ham and beans with cornbread on this cold snowy day...looks like we will have beef stew and biscuits. Either one will be nice on a cold snowy day like today. I will babysit the wood stove most of the day....and dream of that big lottery win...
Friday, January 1, 2016
Well, here we are, another year gone by. Whew! I can't say " I am glad THAT year is over" because it really wasn't a "BAD" year....for the most part. Sure, we had some ups and downs, but that's every year. I am not one to make "New Years Resolutions" per say....but if I were....I would say, " this year I am going to be more organized" HAHAHA! Yeah, and THAT is why I don't make them. We all know better....my life is scattered all over this homestead...a little here, a little there...and a lot everywhere. We had a few bumps towards the end of this last year....our sow who we thought was NOT pregnant, had babies in the cold mud. We lost 2 of the 4. The other 2 are fat and sassy...doing great. Our buck goat...for some reason started being really mean to our doe....he rammed her a few times causing her to lose her kid. :( I think I have him properly contained in his own paddock now. We shall see. For a little guy he is tough, smart, and determined. This last month has reminded me why I don't like keeping a buck here OR a Boar. I spent 2 days working in the hog pen....in 8 inches of soupy muck, trying to keep the boars from the young gilt. When I went out one morning, I heard her screaming.....when I got to the hog yards....the boys were in with her and both trying to breed her. UGH! I was able to get them separated with a wood panel fence but was about 6 ft short. I figured it would be OK, since I put up 3 strands of electric. Well....it wasn't OK...those boys went right through the electric fence. UGH. So I had to get another panel...they weigh about 150 to 200 pounds each and I had to drag them about 200 ft. Once I got it mostly in place, I was able to lure the boys with field corn and get the panel put in place. I still put electric along the boys side. That was a few weeks ago....so far so good. Now that the new year is starting...it is time to start planning the garden...yes...I am already dreaming of warm days....light breezes...juicy tomato's fresh from the vine....Ahhhh. I will have my work cut out for me this spring when it comes to the strawberry patch. I have been saving all of the cardboard and plan to lay it down in the rows..then cover it with the compost from the barn. I am hoping this will minimize the weeding needed this year. Last year the weeds got a bit out of control with all of the cool days and rain, and me working. I have to make a plan to minimize my work...so I can continue with my plans. This year we also have to replace the Harbor for the grapes. The overhead boards are rotting and need replaced. I am thinking I might replace them with either hog panels or cattle panels. I am just not sure how we will do this, since the grape vines are so full and I am NOT willing to cut them back. I am sure we will figure it out....just might end up being a bit of a challenge. So, lets all put on a happy face today....start this year out with a smile.....this is going to be another great year...!