Saturday, July 30, 2011


This week has been one where you roll with the punches, because that's all you can do.

Brief synopsis:

--Blown tractor tire.  DH ran over a buried 'stump' of a t-post out on the edge of the woods.  Evidently it wasn't buried enough.  Had to take off the tire and get it patched and tubed.  Anyone who thinks that sounds easy enough, it wasn't.

--Big storms pretty much all night Wednesday that took out our power (and only our power--guess lightning hit something on our power pole, which is the last one on the line.)

--Six inches of rain Wednesday night from the big storms.  Yep, you read that right SIX inches!!  Good thing I don't have any tomatoes nearing ripeness or they would all be burst from the sudden extreme overabundance of water.

--High heat and humidity, and no electricity to power fans or pump water from the well.   Trying to stay hydrated with room temp water that we had stored in the cellar for times such as this.  Oh, and keep the animals hydrated too.  (Thinking of drilling shallow well with hand pump out by the barn, very seriously contemplating this).

--Not being able to finish baking my farmers' market goods for Thursday's market since I had no electricity.  So I hauled to market what I had baked on Wednesday, and did a lot of apologizing for not having french bread, banana bread, zucchini bread, or the cookies (20 dozen cookies!) I normally have for my loyal customers.  Next week is Fair Week, so many of them will be over at the fairgrounds having their kids show 4-H projects next Thursday.  That means two low-sales markets in a row for me now.

--Getting woke up at 2:20 Friday morning to find not one, but two repair trucks from the electric company out in my driveway.  The dog was barking like mad, the trucks were attempting to backup a 400 foot driveway in the dark--I found the ruts where they missed once the sun came up Friday.  Backup signals shrieking like sirens in the night (*sigh*), and another storm with multitudinous lightning had rolled in.

--Those brave souls out working on the transformer on my electric pole in the midst of the storm got me hooked back to the power grid, and things in the house started running.   The sump pump going off every couple minutes (somehow, miraculously, despite 6" of rain the night before and no electricity to run the pump for over 24 hours, no water came up into the basement at all), the fridges running to cool themselves back down and the temperature alarm going off on the deep freeze were a barrage of noise.  Another hour of wakefulness due to the noise disturbing what had been an extremely silent night, if you discounted the thunder that shook the house.  Another wonder--when I cracked open the doors on the fridges and freezers once the power was back on and stuck my hand in to feel for squishy stuff and temperature, all were fine.  The ice cream was a bit soft, like a thick malt, but every package of meat I touched in the freezer still felt like a rock.  So, no losses there.  Not having opened them at all from bedtime Wednesday until the power came back on at 3:00 a.m. Friday (and wrapping the deep freeze in quilts) definitely helped keep the temps down.

--More rain, to the tune of 2-3 inches more, from the storm Thursday night.  We have standing water in the field.  The yard is like a saturated sponge, it squishes when you walk on it. We have standing water in the garden.  My tomato plants look like they are drowning.  Add more heat and humidity on Friday, and  my garden smells like a swamp.  The broiler chicks were supposed to come out of the brooder in the barn this weekend and into the portable pens outdoors for their final 3-6 weeks of life.  There's nowhere high and dry (that I want to put chickens) for them to go.  Guess they will have to stay in the barn a bit longer, at a higher cost of feed since they won't have access to bugs, grass, and clover like they would in the portable pens.

If this sounds less than uplifting, well, yeah.  I'm having one of those times where you question why you ever wanted to do things the way you do.  Rolling with the punches is exhausting.  Hope next week is more joy and less punch-dodging.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shelling peas, picking berries, campfires and sunsets

That about sums up what's been going on here lately.  Well, that and a whole lot of weeding in the garden.  About two hours worth of weeding every night.  It's a big garden, with, unfortunately, a lot of weeds.  Seems like what I grow best is weeds.  One of these days I'm going to try eating some of them, like lambs quarters and purslane. . .

But nobody really wants to read about weeding the garden.  And only a few people want to read about eating weeds.  So, how about I talk about the old fashioned enjoyment of sitting on a covered front porch, during a gentle rain, shelling peas and talking with my daughters?  One of those chores where they go "Oh, Mom, do we have to?" and then five minutes later are happily chatting and laughing while their fingers are busy popping open pea pods and stripping the round, fresh peas into a colander to be washed, then blanched and frozen.  It's kind of a Walton's moment: the womenfolk sitting around in the shade of the porch, hands busy working while visiting and having a good time

Basket of fresh picked peas from the garden.

The results of about 30 minutes of 'work' with my DDs.

 Well, maybe not totally a Walton's moment; DD1 was intermittently texting her boyfriend the whole time.  However, she was texting about shelling peas (he's never done that) and dancing in the rain (also something, apparently, he's never done).  She has vowed to teach him to do both.  He's agreed to learn, without passing judgment on our strangeness.  I like him.  ;0)

The black raspberries are about finished here, which means the honest-to-goodness blackberries should be coming on soon.  Saturday evening I picked a handful from the volunteer blackberry patch on the south side of the garden that I have kept DH from mowing down since spotting the first shoots in 2009.

The first blackberries of 2011.

Sunday afternoon I suited up (jeans, socks, boots, long-sleeve button-up shirt, and gloves) and went to the woods to see what I could see.  What I saw was poison ivy and oak intertwined with the brambles, as expected, and hence, the incredibly hot clothes for a 90 degree July day.  I got my first case of poison ivy/oak (I think oak, I could roll in ivy as a kid without ill effect) within a month of moving to this little place here, and it was a bad one, requiring steroids to conquer.  So, I sweat to death whenever I'm out in the woods in the summer now, because I have sworn I will never, ever, get poison oak or ivy again!,

But my nemesis green itchy stuff wasn't all I found--there were also some blackberries ripe.  And the very last of the gooseberries, and, to my delight, a few more red raspberry plants than the year before.  Now, for thirty-some years of my life I declared I did not like raspberries (other than the little wild button-type black raspberries), and I would not eat anything raspberry flavored.  Red raspberries were just blech!

Then two summers ago I saw one, just one, red raspberry glowing like a ruby amongst the blackberry brambles in the woods.  I ate it.  I loved it!!  I cannot possibly describe the difference between a 'store' raspberry and a wild raspberry; all I can say is they are not the same creature.  So it is with joy that I find a few more red raspberries the last two summers. 

To make my berrying excursion even cooler, Sunday I also found a golden raspberry.  I ate that one too, but I made sure to just crush it in my mouth, swallow the juice and spit out the seeds onto the ground so that hopefully they will grow more golden raspberries in years to come.

I think it is so amazing all that God provides us in our woods.  Someday I will do a post on those things.

A quart of mixed berries.

The days have been hot, but the evenings not so bad.  While the girls and I have weeded the garden each evening, DH has worked on splitting our gigantic pile of wood.  His splitting and stacking has created quite a bit of debris: bark, small sticks, and a couple of wickedly knotty chunks.  So we've had a few campfires this weekend, burning up the debris and relaxing after a sweaty day's work.

It's so relaxing to sit out by the fire ring, in chairs made of reclaimed deck boards (20 years as my parents' deck, now into their fifth year as chairs at our fire ring).  We watch the swallows and bats swoop overhead, eating bugs.  Yay swallows and bats!  We watch the fireflies come out as dusk settles in.  We watch the sky change colors as the sun makes it's descent behind the trees. 

A forming cloudbank to the east reflects the colors of the sinking sun.

The westward sky.

We watch the stars come out, and the flames dance in the darkness.  We talk. We relax. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Busy Wednesdays

Wednesday begins my weekly baking for the local farmers' market.  Usually I fire up the ovens at about 8:00 a.m., bake several types of breads, pies, and brownies until about dinner time, then shut the ovens off until Thursday morning, when I bake up the cookies and granola until roughly 2:00 p.m.  Then everything is wrapped, labeled, packed into the truck, and off to the market for four and a half hours.

Today, however, it is extremely hot and humid all ready (humidity at 93% due to overnight fog that hasn't quite burned off yet), and I'm contemplating the reality of low customer attendance at tomorrow's market--projected temps during market time: 97 degrees with heat index of 104--and that baking is seriously going to heat up my house, which is not air conditioned.

And so, I sit, stalling, on the computer, looking up weather forecasts for tomorrow, calculating, contemplating, and procrastinating turning on the oven.  I have strawberry jam made in June that I can sell tomorrow, as well as "Dinner in a Jar" which is pasta with a dry seasoning mix in a canning jar that you add to cooked ground beef, or diced chicken, along with water and simmer to make a quick, easy, and tasty dinner to feed 4 (or up to 6 with side dishes).  Perhaps this would be a good time to try a new non-baked item that I have been thinking of mixing up and selling: taco/fajita seasoning mix.  I've been making it for my own use for years, perhaps it might sell well at the market too.

I will go to the market, despite the heat and humidity.  It's not the idea of sitting out in that weather that intimidates me; I love being outside and I love being at the market.  It's a relaxing afternoon/evening spent visiting with my fellow vendors and loyal customers.  No, what is slowing my production this morning is trying to figure how much to make--that will sell and not be a 'loss' (actually a gain to my waistline because what doesn't sell always gets eaten at home, and I don't need to eat pie, cookies, and brownies everyday!).   Figuring how long to run the ovens, how much discomfort indoors is not imposing on the family too much, for what I know will be a low-sales day tomorrow.

M&M Brownies and Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Banana breads.

Crumb top apple pie.

Counter full of baked goods (not shown, cinnamon bread, french bread, zucchini bread, herb bread, blueberry pies. . .)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Three Favorite Colors

I love this picture.  It was a total fluke that it came out so good.  I was just out shooting things with the camera.  I'm certainly not that good of a photographer to purposely get the lighting right and the greenery in the background to blur just so. . .

It shows my three favorite colors: green, orange, and yellow, in all their bright glory.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harvest Moon. . . in July?

A big orange moon rose on Friday night.  Looked like a harvest moon.  But, wait, a harvest moon in July?

Sure!  The wheat harvest began late last week.  All the farmers are out with combines and grain trucks, getting in the harvest.  The portion of this little place here that we rent out to a local farmer was in wheat this year (last year it was soybeans, the year before was corn).

I say 'was', because the wheat was taken Saturday morning.  Taken as in harvested, not as in stolen ;0)

The field of wheat on Friday evening.

Grain truck ready for Saturday morning, and combine (behind truck) ready to harvest wheat.

Starting on the edge of the field.

Closer now, harvesting between the yard and the Marsh.

Emptying the wheat from the combine into the truck.

Same part of the field as picture from Friday evening, only with wheat harvested.

All done, except for the baling of the straw.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DIY Laundry Soap

Today I thought I'd share my homemade laundry soap recipe with you.  I've been using it for about ten years now (first saw it on an Internet forum), and from time to time I have people say to me "I hear you make your own laundry soap. . . How do you do it?"  Since it's really easy to make, and sooooo much cheaper than buying those jugs of detergent, today I'll share with everyone!

There's two methods of homemade laundry soap: powder and liquid.  Since I had always bought liquid detergent, that is how I make my soap--wet!  I've used it in both top load and front load machines, at home and in laundromats across the country and it works well in any machine.

(Sidebar: how many people, when they got on a trip of more than 5 days, plan a 'laundry day' into their vacation?  I've washed clothes in laundromats in Montana, Wyoming, Florida, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. . . With four kids the logistics of packing 5-14 days worth of clothes per person meant no room in the vehicle or camper for people, so we limited it to 4 days worth of clothes per person, with a laundry day--3 to 4 hours--every 4 days.)

Without further ado, this is how I make laundry soap.

1/3 bar of fels naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda (this is NOT baking soda, get the right kind, look in the laundry aisle of the store)
1/2 cup borax
water, lots of water!

I use an old cheese grater to grate the soap with.  Whatever grater you use, you will probably want to keep it just for soap making after this.  Check thrift stores (aka Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent, etc), garage sales, relatives forgotten kitchen utensils, etc before going out and  buying a brand new one for making soap.
Put the grated soap into a 2 quart saucepan, and add water until the pan is about 3/4 full. As with the grater, you will want to designate a pan specifically for soap making. Look for a used one of those, too.  Unless you have an old ugly one you've been wanting to buy a replacement for.  Then by all means, make the old ugly one your soap pan and get your dream pan as a replacement for cooking food in! 


Put the pan with the grated soap and water on the stove over medium-low heat, and stir occasionally until all the soap is dissolved.

Pour the soap solution into a 2 gallon container. Mine is a plastic bin with a hinged lid that was sold as 'great for storing pet food'.  I think it's even better for storing soap!  Add hot tap water, while stirring in 1/2 cup washing soda, then the 1/2 cup borax.  Make sure you stir them in in that order. Top off with more water until your 2 gallon container is full.

The soap will thicken up somewhat as it cools to room temperature.  Sometimes mine thickens enough to be called a gel, and I have to 'chop' it a bit with the scoop, or squish it between my fingers as I add it to the washing machine.  Works the same, though.

Some people add a few drops of their favorite essential oil to the soap as they are making it for fragrance.  Since one of the reasons I started making soap in the first place was because several members of my family are sensitive to perfumes and fragrances, I don't do that.  Getting your mind wrapped around clean clothes that don't smell floral or fruity takes some doing, but clean means washed, not smelling like the perfume counter in the stores at the mall.

For washing a normal to large load of clothes (I think in my house 'normal' is what most people consider 'large'--about 1 full large-sized rectangular laundry basket), use 1/2 cup of soap.  For smaller loads, use slightly less.  I'm guessing 1/3 cup?

If you're wondering if the cost savings is worth the time and effort to make your own soap, here's how mine breaks down according to my local grocery store:

1/3 bar of fels naptha at $1.39 a bar = $0.46
1/2 cup washing soda at $2.79 per 55 oz. box  (approx. 11 batches of soap per box) = $0.25
1/2 cup borax at $3.12 per 76 oz. box  (approx. 15 batches of soap per box) = $0.21
water = pretty much free from our well (no water bill, just enough electricity to run the pump)
6% sales tax on soap, washing soda and borax = $0.06

Total cost of 2 gallons of laundry soap:  $0.98

Now, 2 gallons of soap = 32 loads of laundry at 1/2 cup of soap per load.  So, about 3 cents per load.

Go make some soap!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Frugal Food #5: Get Inconvenienced

It seems like to Americans, food is all about convenience.  There's fast food establishments in every town.  The grocery store is chock full of ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat fare.  Even the health food stores stock organic "TV dinners" as I call them.

The hard truth is, if you want to save money on food, you have to get inconvenienced.  Instead of that $1 packet of taco seasoning mix, make your own for pennies.  Well,  maybe nickels; I'm not sure, I haven't really priced it out in forever, so I'm not sure what exactly my homemade taco seasoning costs now days.  But it sure isn't a dollar!! 

Taco Seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp crushed dried red pepper (or slightly less ground cayenne pepper)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Mix all ingredients.  Sprinkle over 1 pound cooked ground beef (drain the meat first).  Stir in 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Makes enough filling for 8-10 tacos or burritos.

Same goes for pizza sauce, which is easy peasey to make. 

Pizza Sauce
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine (optional, but really adds to the flavor and the alcohol cooks off, if that's a concern to you)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer about 10 minutes.  Makes approx. 3 cups of sauce.  Leftover sauce stores well for about two weeks in the fridge.

Spaghetti sauce isn't hard either, and you can throw tons of veggies in there, utilizing what's on overload in the garden (yes, you can put zucchini in your spaghetti sauce! Cut it up small and the kids--or husband--won't notice, especially if you have other chunky things in the sauce).  It's pretty much tomato juice, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning (or oregano, marjoram, basil, rosemary, thyme, and sage), some garlic, some onion and whatever veggies (such as peppers, diced summer squash, mushrooms, that dang zucchini), some red wine, some grated Parmesan cheese. . .and simmered awhile.  You can use a little corn starch to thicken if you're in a hurry.

Another biggie for me is shredded cheese.  Cheese comes into this house in block form only.  It is then shredded using the Power Shredder, aka my Kitchenaid with slicer/shredder attachment.  Operating the Power Shredder is a favorite task of DS2.  If an 18 year old boy can get that excited about shredding cheese for his mama, that's an awesome thing! Even without a Power Shredder, you can use a regular hand-held grater/shredder. You just probably won't have a teenage boy falling all over you offering to help.

In addition to costing less per pound, a benefit of shredding your own is that it then doesn't have those added things (chemicals, YUCK!) to prevent clumping that the packages of shredded cheese from the store contain.  We shred, then package into Ziploc sandwich baggies in 2-cup quantities (a lot of my recipes call for 2 c shredded cheese) and stick the baggies in the freezer.  When I need cheese, I partially thaw it, add it when the recipe says to, and cook.  No different than cheese kept in the fridge, except it will keep forever without molding (so doesn't need added chemicals to retard fungal growth either!)

Take some time to learn where the 'must sell today' stuff is kept.  Some stores have a special area for close-dated meats, others have 'clearance' veggie racks.   At the grocery store, I always take a few minutes to check the 'clearance' veggie rack.  That's where the old/blemished fruits and veggies are sold at a discount.  I got a lovely 5 pound bag of 'gourmet yellow potatoes' (Yellow Finn, I believe) for 15 cents a pound, or more than 50% off their regular cost, a few weeks ago.  Heck, they were cheaper than your common white potato.

It's always great to find bell peppers on the clearance rack.  Cut out any bruises or soft spots, dice, freeze on a cookie sheet, then pour into a Ziploc freezer baggie and put back into the freezer.  Now you have peppers to add to any recipe at any time instead of having to run to the store and pay top dollar for a pepper to add to your spaghetti sauce (or pepperoni calzone, or pizza, or sauteed onions and peppers, or stir fry, or. . . ).

Speaking of pepperoni, look for it in the deli case instead of presliced in those little 3-4 oz packages.  Not only will it taste better and be less greasy, it is so much cheaper!!  Yes, it's not in those tiny little circles ready to put on your pizza.  But, you can quarter each piece, and make tiny triangular wedges to put on your pizza! Be unique!  Call it gourmet pizza!

I buy my pepperoni by the pound at the local meat market and they slice it for free.  Then I take it home and throw it in the freezer.  When I want to cook with it, I pull out however many slices I think I'll need, make two quick cuts on the stack of slices, and I have pepperoni ready to use!

The best way to save money on food is to buy ingredients, not mixes.  No cake mix, no brownie mix, no refrigerated cookie dough or biscuits.  These are not horribly difficult things to make.  Whip it up in five minutes with the ingredients in your own pantry, and you are now at the same place you'd be if you'd used a box of mix or tube of dough: put it in the oven and cook it.  And you'll have spent alot less money.

Speaking of buying ingredients, the best place I've found for buying spices (like you'll need for taco seasoning and pizza sauce) is the natural food store (aka health food store).  They sell them bulk; you scoop out what you need into a baggie, they weigh it and charge you by the ounce.  You'd be surprised how large of volume an ounce is for some herbs and spices.  Look at those little bitty spice jars in your cupboard.  The ones you probably paid $2 or $3 each for.  How many of them say .5 ounces?  How would you like to pay 50 cents for .5 an ounce of a spice instead of $3?  Check out a natural food store near you.

Get inconvenienced.  Save some money.

Monday, July 11, 2011

They're Here!

6:25 a.m. Ring ring. "This is your local post office calling.  We have a box of baby chicks for you to pick up as soon as possible."

They're here!!  My chicks are here!

A short drive into the village.  A knock at the back door of the small, one window post office.  A smiling face appears as the door opens, and a good morning greeting from the post mistress.  A large, peeping box changes hands.  A short drive home.  Some photographs to document the occasion. 

Little balls of fluff lifted out of the box, one by one, their tiny heads dipped into the waterer and feeder so they will know where the buffet is.  A happy sigh.  They're here.

Fifty little white broilers, some golden buff orps, some white Delawares (new for me this year), some aracauna/ameracauna ("easter eggers"), and one 'free rare chick'.  

I love McMurray Hatchery's surprise free rare chick, it's like the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box.  That's him (I assume  it's a cockerel) in the picture above, the black one with the yellow pompom on his head.  I'm pretty sure he's a White Crested Black Polish.

They're here!  It's like having Christmas in July :0)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

They're Coming!

This year's batch of broiler chicks will be arriving any day now.  Got the email from the hatchery this morning that they have been shipped.  Most likely I'll get a call from my local post office about 6:00 a.m. tomorrow telling me to come get them ASAP (chicks are extremely loud in their shipping box).  I'm so excited!

Last year, I raised only a few broilers, as family interest in butchering chickens has become practically non-existent.  It's not a glamorous job, it's kind of smelly (wet chicken feathers, eww!), and who wants to smell wet dead chicken on their hands for several days after the deed has been done.  So, I only raised what I felt I could butcher completely by myself.

We ate those in about two months.  Then, it was back to 'store chicken' for the first time in years.  What a disappointment that was!  It was pale, it was tasteless, it had a texture akin to oatmeal (which is okay for oatmeal, but meat should be a bit firmer than that!). 

Early this spring I heard that a new poultry processor was opening up not ten miles from me.  Not a huge corporate one for the industrial food supply, but a small, family owned one for all us homesteading types and backyard chicken raisers.  Oh happy day!  I will willingly pay $3 a bird processing in order to have some decent chicken on my table rather than that bland mush that came from a package marked 'chicken' at the grocery store.

So, I ordered 50 broilers to arrive in mid-July (in years past I've found if I get the chicks then, I usually don't have to provide a heat lamp--I put the brooder on the west wall inside the barn, providing radiant heat all night, thus saving some money on raising them).  My mouth watered, tasting the true taste of chicken, as I clicked on 'confirm and pay'.  In just 6-8 short weeks, we shall have delicious, real chicken on our dinner plates again!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Overheard at the Farmers' Market

Q: Why does a chicken coop have two doors?

A: Because if it had four, it would be a chicken sedan!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Making Hay

To the uninitiated, making hay doesn't seem like a big deal.  After all, what's so difficult about mowing a big field, letting it dry in the sun, then driving a baler over it and making bales? 

Anybody who thinks it's that easy, I want your phone number so I can have you come help in about a month or so when it's time for second cutting!

What's so hard?  Mother Nature.  Heat. Humidity.  Rain that messes up your plans for cutting hay.  Rain that ruins your partially dry hay.  Schedules imposed by the "real world".  Heavy, scratchy bales that prick your arms and wear out the denim on your jeans.  Dust.  Sweat.  Sore muscles.  Perilous footing on the wagon as it moves around the field behind the baler.  Perilous footing up on the stack as you are hefting hay toward the rafters inside the barn.  The hay elevator that breaks somewhere around bale 120. . .

Mostly, though, it's gambling with the weather.  You're never one hundred percent sure what you'll get there.

Last year my first cutting had two nice days drying in the field.  The third day it was still too moist to bale.  The weatherman said we only had a 30% chance of rain that night.  So, we decided to let it dry one more day.

That night, it poured for hours.  And again the next day.  And, if I remember right, it even rained some more on the day after that, just for spite.  The  hay had to lie in the field for about four more days once the rain stopped, before it was dry enough to bale.  What ugly bales those were! Washed out, coarse, yellow things. My horses did eat them, grudgingly, but I had about 300 bales more than I needed.  Selling them for enough to cover the cost of cutting and baling was difficult.  Finally, on some, I took a loss just to get them out of the barn and make room for this year's hay.

Understandably, this year I was gun shy with the weather.  When the weatherman said 30% chance of rain, I considered it 100%.  So, my hay got cut about 10 days later this year than last year.  I was sweating it when, on the third day after cutting, the weather forecast suddenly shot from "sunny with 10% chance of rain" to "isolated thunderstorms".  This Spring, isolated had meant it would rain at my house, but probably not six miles away in the village.  We started baling hay, breaking tradition by going from the inside of the field (where the hay happened to be ready) to the outside (where it was still rather high in moisture). 

Half an hour into baling, I realized I was not going to be able to make the 4:30  blacksmith appointment I had for that afternoon.  With clouds filling the western horizon, getting hay up before it rained was more important.  I called the blacksmith to reschedule, knowing he would understand.  After all, he'd rescheduled on me just a few days before because he was putting up his own hay.

After almost 400 bales, it started to sprinkle.  The four or five outer windrows still had not dried down enough to bale without them ending up moldy inside.  So we called a halt to baling and concentrated on emptying wagons into the barn.  Of course, that's when the hay elevator decided to break.

After spending 20 precious hardly wet minutes fussing with it, we pulled the elevator back up into the loft before the sky decided to open up, and tossed what bales we could up by hand.  When the person on the wagon tossing hay could no longer see the loft, let alone reach it, we switched to stacking hay in the lower portion of the barn on pallets.

Wouldn't you know that five minutes after we pulled the hay elevator back up  into the loft (no easy feat in  itself), it quit sprinkling.  Once the third wagon was unloaded, half the hay up in the loft, the other half down on pallets, we were done with hay for the time being. We had a real dinner that night, instead of an exhausted hurry-and-grab-something-anything-meal that usually follows an afternoon of putting up hay. DH, who'd had afternoon meetings at work and couldn't come home early to help with hay, lucked out entirely.  We were done for the day before he even left work.

That night, it didn't rain!  (Although 10 miles away in town it poured.) And the next morning, it didn't rain.  In fact, it was the most sunny, windy day yet!  The outer windrows dried.  We baled them that afternoon, while DH was at work.  We put them in the barn with all the doors wide open so we could enjoy the cooling breeze while stacking hay.  DH lucked out again.  But really, I felt like the lucky one.  596 bales of primo horse hay.  230 of which I all ready had sold practically faster than they had come out of the baler.  A very good first cutting indeed.  Makes me wonder what I'm in for with second cutting; surely I can't get so lucky twice in a row! 

I mean, we are talking about making hay here.  ;0)

Ready to cut.

Raked into windrows.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

People are Funny

This is our 11.5 yo German Shepherd. 
 DD2 caught him with the camera the other day. 
I think he looks like he's enjoying a good laugh. 
 Probably at us.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's a Thousand Little Things

Recently, at DS2's graduation open house, we got many compliments on our property; how nice the lawn looks, the lovely flower beds, the great view, the large garden, the chicken area, the barn. . .

Which made us all who live at this little place here step back for a moment, and look at it not through the eyes of us who see it day in and day out, but by the eyes of a newcomer.  Yes, it is lovely, and we are quite blessed to be able to have this little place here.

On the other hand, back to the eyes of the workers/caretakers, and it's a lot of effort that goes into making this little place here such a wonderful place to be.  It's a  few gargantuan projects we have undertaken, but mostly it's a thousand little things that we do, day in and day out, that keep it so appealing to others when they only see the outside, and not the inner workings.

designing and building the house  --designing and building the barn --designing and building the portable chicken coop --designing and installing the paving brick walkways and patio

pulling weeds from between the paving bricks
grading the driveway regularly

planting flowerbeds --weeding the flowerbeds  ---dividing the perennials when they get overgrown ---deadheading the flowers so they keep blooming  ---collecting seeds to plant elsewhere or in future years

planting an asparagus bed --planting a strawberry bed --putting 100s of stakes in rows and planting the garden --tilling the garden --weeding the garden --watering the garden
picking strawberries --picking mulberries--picking blackberries
making jam

harvesting the garden --canning veggies --making sauerkraut --making pickles --blanching and freezing veggies --dehydrating apples and strawberries  --digging potatoes and sweet potatoes --pulling onions and garlic --storing vegetables in the cellar and basement

planting 100's of trees; the ones that line the driveway, the ones in the yard, the ones making a screen at the road, the dozen fruit trees in the 'orchard' --pruning the trees --removing dead trees --harvesting the small amount of fruit from our orchard and the larger amount from the wild apples in the woods

cleaning the chicken coop --bedding nest boxes --collecting eggs --letting the chickens out in the morning --shutting the chickens in at night --regularly moving the coop to 'fresh grazing' for the chickens --feeding & watering the chickens --scrubbing waterers and feeders --raising broilers in the brooder until they are old enough to go out into the portable shelters --moving the broilers daily --butchering broilers --plucking --gutting --cutting up and packaging for the freezer

picking rocks from the hayfield and yard before seeding --seeding the hayfield and yard
mowing the lawn ---whacking the weeds
cutting hay --baling hay --putting hay up in the loft --selling the excess hay we don't need for feeding our own horses

cleaning up storm damage --cutting up downed trees in the woods for firewood --hauling in the firewood from the woods --splitting wood --stacking wood --stoking the outdoor wood boiler six months of the year --cleaning out the ash bin --spreading ashes

tapping trees in the late winter --collecting sap --hauling in sap --boiling sap for syrup
mushroom hunting in the spring  --deer hunting in the fall --scoping out deer all year round --putting up tree stands --taking down tree stands --clearing shooting lanes --building blinds --maintaining blinds (hinges, doors, roofs. . .)
field dressing deer --hanging deer --skinning deer --quartering deer --deboning deer --cutting steaks and stew meat and jerky --grinding burger --making sausage --putting 100 pounds of deer in the freezer
cleaning guns --target practice --teaching the children gun safety --storing guns

cleaning up the fencerows --covering yourself from head to toe in order to battle the poison ivy vines in the fence rows

maintaining the tractor --maintaining the tractor implements: back blade, box blade, loader bucket, tiller, mower, posthole digger
maintaining the lawn tractor --the push mower --the weed whacker
maintaining the log splitter --maintaining the trailers

washing windows --changing screens and storms seasonally
sweeping the porch --sweeping the patio --sweeping the walkways --shoveling snow off them in the winter

PHEW!!  And we haven't even touched on the indoor cleaning!  It's a thousand little things, it's spending more time standing or moving than sitting.  It's a life of using your body as well as your brain.  It's a good kind of tired.

We do sleep well at night, usually.  Last night we had the windows open to let in the cool night air, and sometime after midnight I woke up to hear coyote pups yipping somewhere off near the woods.  Other nights we are wakened by coon dogs baying in their hunt, or deer snorting on the edge of the yard.  Those are sounds not everyone gets to be woken up by.  I'm grateful that I am.  :0)

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Last fall, I ordered and planted 2 heads of garlic.  Inchelium Red was the variety.  It was an experiment, as most things begin at this little place here. 

The line of thinking went something like this:  I want to grow garlic.  Can I grow garlic?  I'll choose a variety seemingly suited to my climate and taste, and give it a try.

Inchelium red, according to the tag that came with those two heads ordered from Seed Savers Exchange last year, was found growing on an Indian Reservation in Inchelium, Washington.  It is a softneck variety that produces 12-16 cloves per bulb and was rated the best tasting garlic by the Rodale Institute in 1990.

Sounded good to me. 

I planted those two heads, clove by clove, in rows in one of the terraced beds behind the house.  I mulched them with some hay that was too moldy to feed to the horses.  I laid chicken wire on top of the mulch to keep the chickens from scratching it --and the garlic cloves-- up (pesky chickens!  One of the hazards of free ranging.)

Then, I waited. 

Winter came.  I hoped the garlic was snug down in the ground under it's layer of mulch.  I hoped it wasn't too cold, or too wet, or too dry down there. 

Spring came, and I anxiously awaited shoots to show me the garlic was alive.

They came.  I was elated.

The shoots grew. 

They grew through the chicken wire at an alarming pace, making me worry that if I didn't remove it ASAP I would somehow ruin my garlic harvest trying to take the wire off of fully grown plants.  But how to keep the darn chickens from scratching for bugs and worms in the mulch?  Scratching chickens could decimate my garlic plants in a matter of minutes.

A conversation with a friend reminded me of a little blurb in Mother Earth News I had read during the winter about someone who took an old trampoline and turned it into a chicken tractor.  I looked out the window at the trampoline in our backyard.  The very trampoline that, the summer before, DH and I had declared off limits to our children because the stitching on it was old and rotten and a few of the springs had fallen off.  The trampoline that was no longer safe for it's intended purpose.  The trampoline I had declared I could not and would not resew to make into a safe trampoline for our adult-sized children to play on. (Just the thought of all that hand stitching through thick stuff made my fingers ache!) The trampoline we had been discussing "What To Do With", which is the discussion usually had before something leaves this little place here in the trash bin or with a "FREE" sign taped to it out by the road.  I knew what to do with that old trampoline now!

I bought a roll of chicken wire and some cable ties.  I 'fenced in' the underside of the trampoline, except for one section which I snugged right up to the chicken door of the coop.  Voila!  A portable chicken run to go with my portable chicken coop to keep my lovely but pesky chickens from digging up my soon to be planted garden and my garlic.

Happily, I removed the chicken wire that covered the mulch on the garlic bed.  The chickens were happy in their shaded, moveable run.  No longer free ranged, but pastured!  The garlic could grow freely.  I could relax.

I watched, as spring turned to summer.  The tips of the garlic leaves turned yellow. The necks turned from green to brown, and the plants leaned precariously over the mulch.  Was it time to harvest?

This morning, I decided, it was.  Tentatively, I grabbed the neck of the first garlic plant and gave a tug.  Up it came, out of the soil, out of the mulch.  A beautiful, round, white head of garlic!  Looked done to me.  So I pulled up the remaining 20 plants.

What a glorious sight!

Garlic curing in the air. 

I'll take the 4 or 5 largest heads and plant the cloves from those this fall for next year's garlic crop.  We'll eat the rest.  YUM! 

I think I'll also peruse this year's catalog from SSE and see about getting a hardneck variety to add to my new found garlic growing passion.