Category Archives: Homesteading

Week on the Farm – 1/13/2019

With winter, not much goes on outdoors here on the farm.  The pullets have a usual routine of venturing out into the pen each day and back at night, they still won’t come when I shake the treat cup, so they can’t free range yet.  They have to be able to follow me back to the pen when the dogs are out.   There have been five days in the past couple of weeks where they remained cooped due to the very cold temperatures and for the past three days due to the winter storm and its coating of ice that has us encased.  We were in a winter storm watch awaiting several inches of snow.  It began as snow Saturday, getting a few inches then turned to a messy wintry mix overnight that melted most of the snow and left us with about a half inch of ice.

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With the cold hanging on, the ice is still here.  An attempt to check on the chicks on Sunday was a hazardous walk.  Monday, I chipped the ice off the car and carefully made my way to the cleared paved roads to get to daughter’s house so she could go to work and I stayed with the “snow vacationing” kids.  I left at dawn and returned near dark, so the chicks were left alone in the coop.  This morning it was time to go deal with them, though it was a very cold mid 20’s.  First order of business was to break up some of the spoiled hay bale outside their fence and get enough of it on the ice for them to venture out.  Ice chipped off their ramp so they didn’t slide out into the cold.

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They are busy exploring what seed or bugs they can find in the rotting hay while I tackled the inside of the coop to undo several days of confinement.  Their food was low, the water dispenser nearly empty, and the straw a fouled matted mess.  It is too cold to do a complete coop clean, but the old straw was forked out, new straw piled in, feed filled, and the water dispenser brought to the utility sink for a scrub down and refilling with warm water.  If it gets above freezing, I will go out and fill the black tub seen in the above photo with warm water also.  They went straight to it when I let them out, but I had dumped the ice disc out of it and not refilled it.

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They have clean dry quarters and a few warmer days ahead.

We did drive to the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum in Wytheville on Friday to see the exhibit and the living quarters that they plan on restoring, and to look at a great wheel that I am trying to restore as she kept sheep on the White House Lawn during the war and the museum promotes sheep and wool in the display.

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It is an intact, including spindle, old wheel that doesn’t line up quite right.  I have reached out to restoration experts and to an Antique wheel group to try to resolve that situation.  Later this week, I will return to put leathers and a drive band on it and see if I can make it spin wool.  Prior to that though, I am going to Wilderness Road Regional Museum to give spinning lessons to a couple of adults who are interested.

Today though, I am working on kettle dying some Merino top using Wilton Icing Color, a food safe dye that with a vinegar bath will dye animal fiber.  If I am successful with this batch, I will try more.  If not, daughter will get several little pots of the concentrated color for her cake decorating.

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This batch is cooling and I think the colors are softer than I wanted, so maybe more dye needs to be used in the next pot once this one has cooled.

The featured photo today is the ridge to the south, ice encrusted trees, the clouds lifting, and the sun trying to peek through.  That was short living, it is again thick and gray, but nothing wet or frozen expected for a couple more days.  Sunshine would be welcomed.

A Month on the Farm – 12/20/2018

Tomorrow marks the first official day of winter and the shortest day of the year here on the farm, though the meteorologic winter began weeks ago.  I’m ready for the days to lengthen.  Being much a creature of natural light cycles, I awake each day around 5 or 5:15 a.m., but don’t want to get up and disturb the household until the sky starts to lighten in the east.  By sundown and full on dark, I am ready to snuggle in for the night, trying to stay up and awake with night owl hubby at least until 10 or 10:30 p.m., often to fall asleep in my chair before drifting off to bed.

The month has been a whirlwind with 5 craft markets in 5 weeks that require loading and unloading the set up and product from the car.

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This Saturday is the last one for the year with no more until spring.

The month also has included 3 Christmas celebrations, two in costume at Wilderness Road Regional Museum for their music, Christmas treats, and evening lighted tours as I spun on a beautiful old Walking Wheel that with a tiny bit of TLC by me, now works.

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I love this photo with the shadow of the wheel on the wall.  This one is credited to April the organizer of the events.  There will be one more on Old Christmas that I will also attend in costume.  The third celebration was with the spinning group to which I belong.  I have not been a very good participant of late with everything else going on, but made a point of joining them for that as many folks that don’t get to come regularly come for this event and I enjoy seeing my friends.  I hope to get back to the weekly spin days after the holidays.

The month provided another challenge as I bought a dozen winter chicks about 4 1/2 weeks ago.  They were fortunately already 2 weeks old and beginning to feather out.  The “brooder” I use is a huge 110 gallon flexible plastic stock tank with a heat table for warmth.  Not a fan of having the birds in the house, the stock tank is in the garage on a carpet covered platform about 4 inches off the ground.  It was cold when we brought them home and ended up adding a 250W red heat lamp and covering half of the top with a mylar sheet to help retain the heat.  This was functioning okay until we were threatened with and received more than a foot of snow.  Wet snow this time of year often results in loss of power, so the brooder was dragged around the back of the house and into the walk out finished basement where there is a wood stove, before the snow began.  The stove was kept going until we were sure the power was not going out, about 3 days.

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The snow was beautiful and before it was totally gone, the brooder was loaded onto a sled and dragged back to the garage.  By Monday, the littles were 6 weeks old, fully feathered and too big for the stock tank, so the thoroughly cleaned coop was layered with about a foot of straw and they were moved to tough it out without the benefit of supplemental heat.  We have had several very cold nights and all is well in the coop.  The basement then received a deep cleaning to remove the dust from having the chicks indoors for a week.

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I am working on teaching them to use the adult no waste feeder and no waste waterer, while providing the hanging feeder as well.  They are beginning to get their adult colorations.  By mid week next week they should know that food and water are in the coop and that is where to return when hungry and at night and they will be let out into the run.  I fear they are still small enough to get through the holes in the fence though and I don’t like to panic them by trying to catch them but until they will follow me back to the run for treats, they can’t free range.

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This view if you have followed the blog for long, often appears.  The end of that ridge in the distance drops to a gap to the New River.  That view is one of my favorites from the farm and it was just over 13 years ago that we saw this property for the first time in early December.  By January, it was ours to plan and build on.  If you can love a property in the bleak of winter, you can really love it anytime.

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The deck progressed in the past month as well, with a Thanksgiving weekend being spent by son and daughter in law preparing it for the decking, rails, and balusters.  Those materials are to be delivered tomorrow and by the first of the year, hopefully, we will be able to safely step out of the French doors of the dining room onto a solid surface, not a one story drop.  It is deceptive as the stairs come down on a flat created and held in place by a gorgeous stone retaining wall.  The deck itself is one story up from the grade below.

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With the prep for Christmas, the various events, cooking for family for Thanksgiving and preparing to cook for Christmas, little knitting or spinning have been done except for two pair of wool socks for a tiny farmer, the toddler son of one of the regular vendors at the market.  They have been knit this week after she asked last Saturday.  I hope they fit the little guy and can be passed down to his baby brother in another couple of years.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas or other seasonal holiday of this time of year and a Happy New Year.

Wind down, wind up – 11/24/2018

The first craft show is done.  It wasn’t a bust, but not a great success either.  There were many vendors with holiday decorations made with artificial flowers and purchased craft store doodads, a few nice country furniture makers, and too many vendors of body products.  My spot, though on an inside aisle corner was toward the end of the path though, so many other soap makers had already tempted the buyers.  My hand spun, hand knit wearables were out of the price market for most of the buyers.  It was an experiment and probably won’t be repeated.

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Additional hats and mitts are being knit to further supply the upcoming three weekend holiday markets.

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Two new 3 step displays have been purchased for the soaps, lotion bars, and salves.  They need to be stained and poly finished before next weekend.

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Their footprint is about the same as the crates, but raises the product to a more visible position.  As most of my soaps are vegan, I have purchased some organic soy wax and will make vegan lotion bars and salves as well and will have a vegan display and a soy free display.  They will be raised above the table height enough that men’s grooming boxes and beard/body oils can be displayed below.

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Each of my children were given a crewel work Christmas stocking that I made when they were infants and which they still use.  Each grandchild has been given one, either quilted or knitted intarsia.  Our 7th grandchild was born this past summer and she will get her stocking this year.  It still needs to be lined and some add on ornamentation sewn on and each stocking has a tag sewn inside that is a cross stitched message that says “Made with love, Mom or Grandmom, year” that needs to be stitched and added.

The afternoon of the craft show, our eldest son arrived on a bus to continue working on rebuilding our deck and reinstalling the Direct TV dish.  Toward the end of summer, he and his wife set in concrete, a metal post off the corner of the house for it to be mounted on, but it needed to set.  In the meantime, they had a medical emergency now ok which delayed further work, but he came to get more done.  His wife and son came Wednesday after work to celebrate Thanksgiving.

On one of our excursions out to get supplies for the deck and dish, we went to Rural King and they had chicks.  We came home with the lumber and hardware, set up the big rubber brooder tub and heat table with plans to go back the next day to get the chicks.  Instead, we had to go back out that afternoon as we realized that something had been left at one of the shops, so bedding, feed, and a new water base were purchased and a dozen two week old chicks were brought home for spring laying.

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The Buff Orpington and Welsummers that are almost two have not resumed laying since they molted and we have not gotten a single egg in a month.  Eggs had to be purchased for the family staying here and for Thanksgiving cooking.  We got 3 each Welsummers, Mottled Javas, New Hampshires, and Olive Eggers.  Being almost three weeks old now, they are feathering out and will soon try to fly out of the brooder.  A screen is over the top and the heat lamp that had to be added with the heat table because of the cold in the garage will hopefully thwart that attempt.  The hens will be moved to the cull coop as soon as the fence is fixed there and the coop will be scrubbed and sanitized so the chicks can be relocated out there when they are 6 or 7 weeks old.

Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated with two of our children and their families.  The almost 17 pound local turkey was spatchcocked by eldest son, the sides assembled and a delicious, hearty, mostly local meal was group prepared and enjoyed by all.  The left over turkey enjoyed again for lunch yesterday, and gallons of turkey broth made and frozen for cooking over the next few weeks.  Eldest son went home with some.

Today is our local granddaughter’s 7th birthday and we will be celebrating her birthday and her Mom’s tonight as her Mom will be away for hers.  That will end the November birthday’s for our family. Jim took me to my favorite local restaurant for my birthday last week and I had an awesome risotto with pumpkin, mushrooms, cranberries, and pecans.

During evening hours after a day’s work and knitting have worn me out, caused joint pain, or just stress from the day, I have turned to the calming, meditative art of Zentangle.  The two tiles below are the efforts of the past week, never spending more than about 20 minutes a day of refocus and calming.

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Kitchen Chemistry – Nov. 11, 2018

The day dawned very, very cold for this time of year.  According to our local weather blogger, the last time it was this cold this early was 1995 and a couple of weeks later they had a record snowfall.  I hope we aren’t headed for a repeat of that.

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More work has been put into the Asymmetrical Scarf of hand spun Merino and bamboo, the ball of yarn is getting thinner and the scarf is getting longer.  Hopefully it will be done by Saturday for the first craft show.

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I love the colors and realized that it blends with the project bag that is containing it.

The afternoon was spent with more kitchen chemistry.  The lotion bars that were molded yesterday weren’t firm enough and there was no more beeswax in the house.  A quick trip out to resupply it and get two essential oils.  Since the metal measure that was the top of the double boiler had another batch to be poured, beeswax was added to it and remelted, the soft bars that I froze overnight so they could be removed from the silicon molds were dumped on a labelled sheet so I wouldn’t mix the scents, the molds washed and refilled with a Man bar scent and some unscented ones and while they were setting up, one of the scents from yesterday was remelted and more wax added.  This process was repeated until all had been remade with a more solid mixture.

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While they were setting up, one of yesterday’s soap molds was sliced into bars to cure.  The other mold wasn’t quite ready yet.  A third batch was measured out and made, Moroccan Red Clay and Cocoa soap.  I am anxious to see how this one unmolds as it was divided in half.  One half getting the red clay, the other half getting the dark cocoa, they were then poured in two layers and swirled.  This was a new technique for me.

Once the soap was wrapped in a towel to set up overnight, the lotion bars were tinned up, labelled, and sealed with shrink bands.

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The big crate has 8 sections and seven of them have different scents of lotion bars leaving a jumble of salves in the front and a need for a way to display them.  There was a smaller deeper box that looked promising if altered.  The top part was sawed off and the slats broken apart, the two long ones cut to the length of the two shorter ones and the parts painted with the Melted Chocolate color paint that has been used on the other crates and frames.

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It is about half the size and once all the parts are dry, the slats will be glued in to provide spacers for the smaller tins of salves.  A bit of table arranging will be necessary to make it all fit, but it will work.

The kitchen chemistry for the day ended with the magic of making pizza dough and a homemade pizza with the fresh mozzarella purchased at the Farmers Market yesterday.  A jar of the pizza sauce I canned, a Farmers Market red onion and Italian Sausage, some mushrooms, and pepperoni from the grocer and again we enjoyed great pizza.  The chickens will enjoy the crust bits and the whey from the cheese tomorrow.

Back to knitting while the paint dried.

Fickle November, the Birthday month – Nov. 5, 2018

November rides a roller coaster, it is warm and wet one day, cold the next.  The nights dip to freezing one night and stay at 50ºf the next.  The heatpump goes on, then shuts off.  The sweaters and jackets are worn then removed and draped over a chair until you chill again.

Saturday was sunny, windy, and cold until afternoon.  Yesterday was cold in the morning, but the wind had died down and the later day was gorgeous, then it rained all night.  Today is gray so far but mild and getting up into the mid 60’s with more rain tonight and tomorrow morning.  After tomorrow the temperatures drop again, some rainy days, some sunny with rain Friday and a low in the 20’s.  Mountain snow shower weather.

With the end of Daylight Savings time, it is dark so early and sleep schedules disrupted until the senior bodies adjust to the change. Awake earlier than I want to be as I usually awaken around 5:15 and ready to go to bed way too early to sleep through the night.  We will adjust, eventually.

November is the month of birthdays, there are 6 in our family spread from the 4th to the 29th.  Daughter’s is the last of the month and one daughter in law starts the next month just a few days later, but is the only December one.

Tucked in the midst of the birthday’s is Thanksgiving.  We get our turkey each year from a local farm, fresh the day we pick it up.  By the weekend before Thanksgiving, they are huge, usually about 20 pounds.  A few year’s ago, elder son wanted to try spatchcocking or butterflying the turkey and we struggled to cut the backbone out as instructed, put a ton of herbed butter under the skin and in a very short time, like 90 minutes, the 20 pound turkey was done, beautifully browned, and juicy.

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I have done one without son’s help, but it was smaller and we should have a huge one this year as we have selected one of the latest pick up dates so it can stay fresh until we cook it.  Hopefully son’s family is coming and daughter’s family is coming, so we will have a houseful of family and plenty of good food.

November is the beginning of the holiday craft season with a big one I don’t vend, but love to attend coming up this weekend.  The first one I vend is the following weekend.  And taxes are due this month, the second half of the real estate taxes and the personal property tax on the vehicles and my shop equipment.

November is the month that a calendar is needed to just keep track of “Who’s on first!”

From Fall to Winter – November 3, 2018

Yesterday’s rain and wind blew through last night and the night was chilly, it was quite cool this morning still blowing strong making it feel colder.  Animal chores were done and after not making it to the Farmers Market in a few weeks, we headed in to town to get breakfast and shop at the Farmers Market.  We knew today was a home football game that always makes traffic worse and eating in local restaurants nearly impossible.  We didn’t know that it was Homecoming, there must have been 40 people waiting in the cold to get in to the little local diner where we often get our breakfast on Saturday.  The Waffle House and fast food places all had lines.  A little further out, not in walking distance is a bagel shop and we got there, got breakfast and sat down just as the line snaked out the door.

It was cold enough to warrant my winter coat, a knit hat, and gloves for the market, but veggies, bread, and meat came home for the week.  One stall has whole hog sausage, fresh mozzarella, and fresh cultured butter.  The Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella purchased decided dinner.

Once home, the huge 2 gallon bag of frozen red cue balls that have been in my way were dumped in the sink, some warm water run over them so the skins would slip off, chopped with the big butcher knife and seasoned with onion, garlic, and Italian herbs and set to simmer.  When started, I wasn’t sure if it would be pasta sauce or pizza sauce.  My recipes are basically the same but the pizza sauce if reduced until it is thickened.  There is 1 ripe tomato sitting in the kitchen window, it will be part of my breakfast tomorrow with a scrambled egg and a slice of toasted bread.

Because of the morning’s purchases and because we really like pizza prepared from scratch at home now that I have a crust we like, the decision was to reduce it to pizza sauce.  Seven half pints were canned plus one left out for dinner.  I had them about half canned when I remembered that I hadn’t added citric acid or lemon juice, so pulled them from the canner and we left to take a walk in the woods and around the pond.

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The pond always had a dozen or so geese and ducks, but this huge flock must be passing through and taking a feed and rest break.  There must have been more than 100, diving and honking at each other.

The walked relieved my frustration at myself for forgetting the lemon juice and once home, each jar was unsealed and reheated, lemon juice added and re-canned with fresh lids.

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Other than enchilada sauce once the Anaheims are all dry and toasted, the canning is done for this year.  There are many jars of Rotel style tomatoes for chili, plain canned tomato sauce, pizza sauce, apple sauce, bbq sauce, and jams to enjoy this winter.

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The remaining cup of sauce with the local sausage, fresh mozzarella, Farmer’s Market red onion, our own green peppers and pizza was made.  The trouble with making it is that one pizza is too big for the two of us and neither of us like cold pizza, so we both always eat too much and one slice always goes to the chickens.

When I went to the fiber retreat last month, I came home with 2 pounds of fiber.  One pound was more of some that I had purchased at Shenandoah Fiber Festival as I decided to spin and knit myself another sweater.  The other pound was a light green alpaca/merino blend.  Almost half of that has been spun and is to be plyed.

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4 ounces

Once it is plyed, I think I will change colors for a while.  Tomorrow I am going to introduce spinning to a new wanna be spinner.  Hopefully she will fall in love with the art as I have.  And later this month, I have two new wanna be’s to teach.

 

He came and conquered – Nov. 2, 2018

The day after our mower quit, the hayman returned with his big tractor and 10′ mowing deck and made short work of the rest of the big south hay field.  The spring bales are still there, but he said his young helpers were going to come pick them up and cut up the downed tree and the dead standing tree, leaving us with part of it for our winter warmth and enjoyment.  His return allows us to delay the purchase of a new mower deck until spring, the old one to be sold off as parts and scrap.  There is probably a farmer out there with the equipment and skills to weld on some plates on the deck, rebuild the trailing wheel support, and put on a new blade.

Our county is noted for it’s rocks.  The joke around here is that the county’s main crop is rocks.  You can mow an area one year without an issue and the next year hit a rock where the soil settled or the frost pushed the rock up just enough to clip the blade.  It is hard on the blades and the play in the blade then hitting the deck housing is hard on the housing.  Brush hogs are workhorses, they take a beating keeping the Autumn Olive and blackberries from the edges of the fields and mowing tall weedy hay.  They aren’t neat finish mowers used on golf courses and large lawns.  Our mower is more than a decade old now and wasn’t a heavy duty one in the first place as our tractor is only 28 hp.

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The farm looks so neat right after the haying or fall mowing.  One benefit of our smaller tractor and smaller deck is that we can get much closer to the rock piles scattered throughout the farm, keeping the brambles from escaping out into the fields.  Since our deck is no wider that the tractor’s rear tires, if they clear without hitting rocks then the mower deck clears also.

In the couple of days since I was mowing, the woods turned autumn colors, almost overnight.

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The top picture was two days ago, the lower one a zoomed one of the same area.

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Two maples, one wild, one planted.  The wild one in back is huge and turns a beautiful shade of golden orange, the planted one a vivid yellow gold.  As you see, both have lost about half of their leaves already as have most of the other trees in the area.  The wind storms of the past few weeks have stripped many leaves before they turned colors.  Soon the woods will be bare and we can voyeuristically peek at the wildlife in the edges of the woods as they seek nourishment from the evergreen scrub, acorns and other wild nuts that have fallen.

The fields were done just in time for several cooler, rainy days.  We have yet to build a fire this year, but maybe we will this weekend.  Maybe the sack of frozen tomatoes will get cooked down into sauce and canned or frozen as sauce.  Maybe a good book, some knitting or spinning, and for sure, lessons for a new spinner.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever the weather.

A week on the farm – Oct. 26, 2018

Today was to be the Spirit Trail event at Wilderness Road Regional Museum, a fund raiser for the education program there.  I was to be in the old kitchen serving hot cider and playing with kids as they made corn husk dolls or besoms.  The event has outdoor actors and a horse drawn wagon ride.  The weather had other ideas.  The day started at 43ºf and heavy rain.  Both have held all day and the event has been postponed until Tuesday afternoon and evening.  Some of the characters won’t be able to reschedule, but it will still be a fun event.

After two days of garden and fence work earlier in the week, followed by a couple hours wrestling the huge  Stihl line trimmer to beat back areas that have been neglected most of the summer, I was beat.  Yesterday, chest muscles and lower back revolted and said take a day off.

 

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Yesterday morning was spent knitting on an Asymmetrical scarf from some of my hand spun merino/bamboo, followed by a grocery run and dinner prep of a cold weather treat of Stout Beef stew.  While the stew simmered, enough energy was rallied to do a bit of mowing and bush-hogging.  Hubby had started at the top of the property and worked his way down to the house while I was fencing.

Last evening as we sat down to enjoy the stew, our hay man arrived and began bush-hogging the fields.  About a quarter was done before it got too dark and today too wet.  We will work areas that he can’t do with his 10′ machine and once done, the mowing will be done for the winter.

There are still two sections of fence to be taken down and one to erect when the weather improves this weekend or next week.  Most of the creeping charlie was covered with tarps, cardboard, and paper feed sacks to try to kill it off.

My favorite jam from this year’s prep was Asian Pear Orange Marmalade.  The recipe only made a few half pint jars and I knew it wouldn’t last the winter, even using it sparingly and interspersed with raspberry, wildberry, or grape ones I kept.  As pears are still available, a couple pounds of Bartletts were purchased and another batch this time Bartlett pear orange marmalade was made today for the shelf.  It again only made 5 half pints, but so delicious.

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The chicken molt seems to be ending, the coop and pen no longer look like daily pillow fights, but egg production hasn’t picked back up.  The daily count is zero to 3.

Now is time to sit back with the garden plan, the seed catalogs as they come in and plan next year.  It is also time to get more knitting and spinning done for Christmas gifts and for holiday craft shows.

 

Summer is Gone – 10/17/2018

The thermometer on the front porch is sheltered under roof and protected from the wind.  The sensor indoors indicates it is 47ºf outside this morning, but tonight’s forecast is for our first frost.  A frost tonight would be right in the average.

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Yesterday’s high on the porch was 62, today’s is predicted to be about the same, but the nights are getting progressively colder until Monday night when they will warm slightly.  It is the season.  We will have some warmer days, some milder nights before true cold weather sets in, but it is time to pull out the heavier quilt and replace the summer quilt on the bed.  Last night my feet were cold.

A frost will mean the end of the garden.  This is always a time of mixed emotions, glad to be done with it for the year, sad that there won’t be more goodness from it.  It could be extended if I covered the peppers and lettuce tonight, but the tunnel that was purchased this summer to cover the fall veggies deteriorated very quickly.  The cabbages will be okay tonight.  The lettuce will be picked once my hands rewarm.  After feeding the chickens and setting them to roam for the day, two baskets were filled with jalapeños, seranos, and Anaheims.  The baskets would hold no more, though there are many peppers still on the plants, and my fingers were numb.

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All of the Anaheims were harvested, all of the red seranos and red jalapeños as a batch of homemade Sriracha sauce has been planned since they were planted last spring.  The large fat green jalapeños were picked to pickle another jar or two, maybe try Cowboy Candy with a jar or two.  Hubby would hate it and likely it wouldn’t appeal to me, but son the elder loves hot peppers and pickles and would probably like it.  It was cold harvesting them, colder than the thermometer registered, windy and damp.    Later more will be harvested, the rest still on the plants will go into the chicken run for them to peck, along with the tomato plants and the last of the bean plants after mature beans are picked to dry for next year’s seed.  The barriers will be relocated around the cabbages and the chickens will have the run of the garden for the winter, scratching for bugs, weed seed, and turning the soil as they dig.

This fall’s hay never got cut due to the rain.  The hay man said he would brush hog it with his 10′ mower and larger tractor.  Though he can’t go everywhere that our smaller tractor and 5′ mower can go, it will save a couple dozen hours of mowing for us.  The driveway needs to be regraded, again after all the rain, then the brush hog put back on the tractor so that the parts he can’t get, can be mowed before winter.  The brush hog will then be stored, the blade reattached to the tractor to plow us out if we have deep snow.

The neighbor’s cows have serenaded us for the past couple of days.  She may have separated out the young ones to wean before market time, but they are calling back and forth.  That is one of the pleasures of living out away from towns, hearing the cows, turkeys, screech owls, watching the deer and the occasional bear or fox.  The coywolf/coydog howls are interesting, but unwanted.  There are too many with no real predators and they are predators of chickens, calves, fawns, barn cats.

The days are shortening, the nights are chilling.  Soon it will be time for fires in the fireplace and woodstove to take the chill off and for the ambiance of sitting mesmerized by the flickering flames and close enough for the warmth.  Sitting with a good book or knitting, a cup of hot tea, and a warm sweater.  The season of more leisure.

Peace and calm until next time.

Changes noted – 10/7/2018

As we were doing our weekly grocery run for those items that can’t be purchased at the Farmers’ Market or grown at home a trend was noticed, not for the first time.  After picking up a couple of items that were lighter than they used to be, I noticed this.  Rather than keeping food products the size they used to be and raising the price as needed to keep the business afloat, they decrease the package size and keep the price at the old level, or only slightly more expensive.

You used to buy a pound of coffee but now the packages are 8 or 12 ounces, sugar for making jams used to come in 5 pound sacks, now they are 3 or 4.  We buy an inexpensive cat food to supplement the diet of our barn cat and you could buy it in a 4 pound jug that could be refilled with bags until the jug dried out to the point of having to be recycled.  Then I noticed that the bags no longer filled the jug and when I needed to replace the jug, they were no longer available.  The kibble is now in a 3 pound bag for the price the 4 pounder used to cost.  These are just a few of the items, look at jars of nut spreads and mayo, most are fewer ounces than just a few years ago.  Some of these items are available in bulk at the natural food store, so the price is reflected by the ounce and you buy what you need, but it has made me notice when the foods are prepackaged, even items we don’t purchase.

Our grocery budget reflects this as the items must be replenished more often, so there isn’t a saving and the illusion that prices haven’t gone up is purely that, an illusion.

Time was spent in the garden a couple days ago, the corn is down and tossed to the chickens to peck for bugs and ears too small to harvest.  Much weeding was done, but the Creeping Charlie is taking over and must be eradicated somehow.  The asparagus ferns were attacked with hedge clippers that didn’t begin to cut through them, so a stalk at a time being cut with a small cross blade clipper.  They are only about 1/3 down and the pile of dried ferns is huge.  They have to be dragged over to the burn pile and not composted because of the threat of asparagus beetles.  Some people burn them in place, but my asparagus are in a wooden box, so no fires in my garden, plus it is only feet from my main chicken coop.

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More walks this week, one along an old now paved rail grade.  I love the cut through the hillside, it is always cool and damp no matter how hot the afternoon temperatures.

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Sumac and wild asters lining the trail.

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And another evening harvest and canning session.

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The beans harvested that night for dinner were tough and tasteless, that season is done.  The tomatoes are ending, but the peppers continue to overwhelm.  The rest will be left on the plants to ripen to red for drying and fermented hot sauces.

The chicken molt has taken its toll on the egg business, In 3 days there have only been 5 eggs from 15 hens.  There are no pullets ready to replace them as the schedule didn’t allow for raising day old chicks for 5 weeks this summer.  The old girls will be replaced before next summer and will be culled  before next molt season.  Usually at least part of the flock is replaced each year so some hens continue to lay, but the entire flock were raised at the same time and are 2 1/2 years old.  Laying will probably be scarce after the molt due to age and cold weather coming on.  This may be a winter with no hens.  Rural King can order me chicks now and they could be ready to lay by spring.  Something to consider.