Category Archives: A Week on the Farm

A busy week

This was a week of swim lessons for Gdaughter that lives here.  She is a little 4 year old fish.  Because of her lack of fear and the skills she learned last winter, they put her in a class of 6 year olds and up and she held her own.  Fearless to go under water, jump off the diving board toward a waiting instructor/catcher, swimming crawl and backstroke in a life vest and flippers.  I think she will be swimming well by the end of summer.

Today was a craft/vendor show for support of the Newport Volunteer Rescue Squad.  It was sponsored by their auxiliary that set it up in the Volunteer Fire Department building and served hot dogs, lemonade, and baked goods.  I have to consider my booth fee as a donation to the squad, because the event was not well publicized, was not well marked, and there were only 6 vendors.  Three crafts folk and three catalog sale type vendors.  The traffic was nearly non existent and I didn’t sell enough to even make my $35 booth fee in 5 hours.  I ended up with the full space that one fire truck parks in to set up my booth and though I knew that I wouldn’t sell knit goods in the summer, I still set up my newly homemade stand with shawls, hats, and mitts on it.  Many skeins of yarn, and a table full of soaps, lotions bars, healing salves, and men’s beard products were displayed.

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I finished the skein of yarn that I was frantically trying to get spun and plyed, but didn’t have time to wash it.  I skeined it up and took it anyway as it was lovely shades of green and not the reds, blues, and naturals of most of my yarns.  It didn’t sell, none of the yarn did, though my spinning on the drop spindles to pass the time attracted a fair amount of attention.

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Since it came home with me, I will wash and dry it before I put it in the shop.  It is about 180 yards of worsted weight with a bit of texture due to the Mohair carded in with the Longwool and Romney.

When I got home and unloaded, Jim and I drove to town to pick up a chair that I had ordered.  The furniture store was having a July 4 sale and I was able to pick up a chair I had wanted for about half price.

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Though I am a tall woman, my height is in my torso, so most chairs are not comfortable for me for any length of time as my back doesn’t touch the back of the chair in order to put my feet on the ground.  This chair fits me perfectly and allows me to recline or put my feet on the ottoman, or move the ottoman and spin from the chair.  It required assembly once home, but I haven’t moved from it in an hour.  It is so comfortable.  This is my new spot and I am loving it.

The young chicks are all escape artists.  Being so, they cause the hens angst and then they too manage to get out.  I have moved the netting around, expanded the pen, opened the meat bird pen to them which allows the chicks out through the fence, but keeps the hens in and still they escape.  There is still one sitting 10-12 eggs and another that wants to be broody, but as I am only getting 1 or 2 eggs per day right now, I won’t let her sit.  I am hopeful that if we get a few from this next brood that there will be enough birds to expand my flock a bit and still have enough for the freezer without buying day old chicks and raising them in the garage brooder this fall.

Tomorrow, I am going to take the large cardboard box that held a desk for my stepmom, that we hauled across the state with the table and chairs, and the box and packing cardboard from my new chair, and it will be laid to the path and just outside the garden fence to start the prep for next year’s perennial bed around the vegetable garden.  I am still trying to decide whether to remove the garden fence and return to electric fence and to use the fencing to create a large chicken run around the orchard for them to have more space to range.

Last night we drove up to the hill above our house to see if we could see where the logging noises were coming from, only to discover that they had clear cut the woods immediately behind our neighbor’s fields.  We think that there is land between it and us that is owned by someone else and are hopeful that they don’t breech the hill we see to the west of our lower field. While up there, I took a new photo for my header shot.

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Still loving life on the our mountain farm.

A Week + On the Farm – June 22, 2016

We were away last weekend, so I didn’t even try to post.  The hay was all baled, not as good a crop as in the past. We need to get Jeff to spread some manure before next spring.  The bales are sitting around the fields and yard waiting for him to return with his tractors and trailer to haul it away.

Our weekend away was to go pick up the table and Hitchcock chairs that belonged to my Dad and Mom and are the dining room furniture I grew up with.  My stepmom decided to replace it with a set she found on consignment that matches her Queen Anne living room tables perfectly and as I didn’t want the other set to leave the family, we drove down to pick it up, renting a trailer to haul it back across the state.  The chairs will replace the chairs we are using now, 3 of our original pine dining room chairs, and 3 folding wood and leather chairs that we bought as our chairs failed, were repaired and failed again.  The table and our 3 chairs, plus an oak kitchen chair to a table we no longer have, will go to eldest son’s house early next month.

This past weekend, we lost one of the younger chicks.  One was reluctant to leave the coop with Momma Hen and either got trampled or just got too cold.  Daughter and Gdaughter found the baby, found Momma Hen and the remaining 8 under the coop in the dark.  With a fishing net, they caught the hen and moved her to the coop’s safety then caught the 8 chicks and returned them to Momma Hen who was angry and upset. All of the remaining chicks get up and down the ramp just fine and are quite the explorers.  Today when we arrived home from Gdaughter’s swimming lesson, both hens and all the chicks were out of the pen and free ranging.  I don’t mind that if they could get back to safety if needed, but they can’t.  I spent a few minutes rearranging their pen so that there is no run off ditch under the fence.  I think that little dip in the ground is where they were escaping.  I wish all of the chickens could free range, but there are too many dogs, including ours that would be a threat to them.

We have another hen sitting a nest with about a dozen eggs under her.  Those chicks should be due around the 10th or 11th of July.  I may yet have enough for the freezer without having to buy day olds to raise in a brooder.

When we returned home, my Dad’s daylilly had bloomed.

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I know that each year that clump will enlarge and I will have a good growth of them at the house.  The ones up by the creek are budded, but I haven’t seen blooms there yet, it is more shaded.

We also found both the edible pod and shelley peas ready to harvest.

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I brought in baskets of both and we enjoyed our first dinner of shelley peas, the rest put in the refrigerator for another day.  We will get a second crop of shelley peas in another couple of weeks and most of them will be frozen.

The corn was engulfed in weeds again and I spent a bit clearing the weeds.  The tomatoes need to be tied up again, there are many green tomatoes already and peppers, but they will quit again until the weather cools some.

This weekend, I will be vending at a craft show sponsored by the Newport rescue squad auxiliary at the Newport Volunteer Fire Department.  Some organization and prepping has been done for that event.  Along with this, I made some sample size salves, lotion bars, and soaps as favors for the goodie bags at the spinning retreat in August.

Today is muggy, warm, and windy with rain on and off since last night. Perhaps tomorrow, I can get the tomatoes tied up.

I am trying to finish spinning up a beautiful colored fiber to ply and wash prior to the show this weekend.  I also received a cute Dealgan spindle, a Scottish Whorl-less spindle that I have been playing with before next week’s teaching session at a local camp.  I have made toy wheel spindles for all of the kids and they will also get an opportunity to use a spinning wheel.

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The baby sweater is complete, the blanket is 1/4 complete.  Traveling for 6 hours each way makes for excellent car knitting time.

Still loving life on our mountain farm.

A Week on the Farm – June 11, 2016

This has been a productive week on the farm.  The early veggies are coming in, with garlic scapes made into pesto and chopped for the freezer until tomatoes are ripe and pasta sauce can be made.  Edible pod peas and chard were on the menu last night.  Shelling peas are soon.

The tomatoes were pinched and tied a few days ago, the planted part of the garden, well weeded again.  The pumpkin patch still has me in its clutches.  I mowed the paths and worked with the hoe enough to create 3 hills for seed.  I still need to keep pulling the lamb’s quarters around them until they sprout and send out runners to choke out the weeds.  I am toying with trying to just smother them.

The Memorial Day weekend chicks are 2 weeks old now.  They move in and out of the Huck’s coop with ease, but also seem to be able to get out from under the plastic net fence, but not back in.  That makes the hen absolutely crazy and she will fly at me, pecking through the fence when I am trying to get them back in.  At 2 weeks, they are starting to grow the little wing feathers that come in first.  Another week and they will be scraggly adolescents and not so cute anymore.

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Day olds and 2 weekers mingling and meeting.

The other Broody started her hatch out yesterday.  She successfully hatched all 9 of the original eggs under her and has 9 little fuzzy balls to try to keep up with.  Her babies were moved in their bucket nest this afternoon when we found half of them in the layer’s coop, half in the nesting box, and Mama frantically fluffing and trying to scare off the other hens and B’rooster.  After they were moved she was so thirsty that she stood at the waterer until most of the chicks had escaped from the nest.  Both broods are locked in Huck’s coop now, mingling.  Tonight might be interesting if the wee ones can’t get back into the nest.  I’m not sure that I want to crawl in there with two protective hens to help out.  I may have to.  Maybe she will just create a nest in the hay on the floor of the coop and tuck them in there.  This morning, I found one that had gotten out of the nest in the layer’s coop, a flaw in its design in that there is a 3 inch board to help hold the hay in, but an insurmountable obstacle to a chick less than a day old.  The little chick was cold and lethargic, but perked back up once I tucked it back under the hen.  That gives us a total of 14 chicks out of 19 eggs (plus a few discards that were laid under the broodies by other hens in days that followed them starting to sit.)  A good many of the chicks are “ugly ducklings” as daughter is calling the mixed breed chicks.  They all have some dark fluff on them and can be distinguished from the pure Buff Orpingtons.  I am hoping for a few BO pullets to add to the laying flock.  The cockerels and the mixed breed chicks are being raised as meat.  I really would like for two more broods.  If we could get another dozen chicks, I wouldn’t have to raise any in the garage this late summer.

9 new fuzzy butts

9 less than a day old fuzzy balls

The fields around us are all mowed and baled.  Our power went out today around 1:15 and stayed out until after 4:30.  We went to town to return to the Farmers’ Market as I had lost several of my mesh produce bags, to get the fixings for a cold Mediterranean dinner, and a Priority Box to mail some fiber.  When we got home, we found the smaller tractor with the sickle bar mowing the hardest part of our farm.

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Spring moves on toward summer.  With it the heat.  This will slow down the grass growth and the frequency that it has to be mowed.  We will continue to mow around the house as needed, mow the hill with the trees a time or two, but the whole farm won’t be mowed again after this haying until a late summer/early fall mowing to knock down the invasive stickweed and Autumn Olive that crop up after the haying is done.

A Week on the Farm – 6/5/16

It has been another rainy week, raining now.  The front plowing through right now is supposed to dry things out for a week.  The rain has pushed the seed planted last weekend to sprout and the weeds along with them.  Tomorrow morning, I will attack the weeds again and begin to put the cardboard down under the bottom edge of the fence to try to deter the grass from encroaching under the fence.

Today between rain showers, I finally built and mounted a ramp to Huck’s coop.

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The first babies are a week old today.  Mama still runs to the back of the coop with the littles when I open the door to put food or water inside.  She hunkers down on the floor and the littles run around and over her til I close the door again and leave her sight.

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Broody Mama #2 is a much gentler soul.  She should start seeing her hatch around Friday.  She will puff up when I open the egg door on the coop, but purrs when I stroke her neck and back.  I hope she will be as good a Mom as the other one.  I figured with them sitting, another would get the urge to sit a brood, but so far, no interest.  If we don’t get another broody or two, I will end up buying meat chicks for the fall after all and I was hoping to avoid doing that.

We should be able to begin harvesting peas, garlic scapes, and chard soon, though the Farmers’ Market is ripe with greens, cucumbers, and summer squash already.  I came home with broccoli, spinach, salad turnips, radishes, and golden beets yesterday.

I will spin and read this rainy afternoon away.  Grandson has only one half day of this school year left.  Granddaughter has 3.  The morning routine is about to change for a couple of months.  Just when I can sleep in a bit, the sun comes up earlier and I awake anyway.

A Week on the Farm – May 28, 2016

Yesterday was our eldest son’s birthday.  It seems like yesterday that I was standing in our new kitchen (we had just bought a house and moved in only two weeks before) shelling fresh peas that we had bought that morning at the Farmers’ Market in Virginia Beach. We had also taken a walk up Mt. Trashmore, a city park build on the old landfill, with hopes that it would stimulate labor.  It did, sort of.  At any rate, the peas did not get eaten that night, a stay in the labor unit at the hospital instead and his addition to our family the next day.  He is a delightful, intelligent, grown man now, 36 years young with his own wife and our eldest grandson.

The week has been a mixture of rain and sun with only a little gardening done.  Our neighbor has an overgrown Bearded Iris bed with three colors of Iris in it and he has known for years that I wanted a bit of each to go with my Grape Iris and Dutch Iris that were already in my gardens.  I had permission to come get some, but always waited until they had finished blooming until I thought about heading up to get some and didn’t want to dig without knowing which clusters to dig from in order to get a bit of each color.  He called one night this week and told me to come up with a shovel and bucket and I came home with some of each color.  They were planted in a flower garden that I had begun early spring above the vegetable garden.  Next year they will have multiplied and I will have more beautiful color.

Yesterday, I also stopped and got flowers for the wooden wheelbarrow that my Dad made for me about a dozen years ago.  As the weather began turning to spring this year, I brought it in to the garage and refurbished it, putting a new axle, handle and leg supports on it.  It also was screwed instead of nailed together in my efforts.

Barrow and Bear

The little carved bear on the edge of the porch was a craft show purchase many years ago.  It is chain saw carved and holds a solar light that comes on at dusk, not providing much light, but a guide to where the edge of the front porch is located on a dark night.

Some preparation of products for my shop were done with all three salves made and a couple of scents of lotion bars formulated.  While doing them, I prepared a written lesson in salve preparation and making and lotion bar recipe and instruction for a class I will be teaching in the fall at a retreat.

I got brave this week too and finally tackled dyeing a skein of yarn for my shop.  My first attempt was not my hand spun, but a 150 yard skein of Suri Alpaca.  For my first attempt, I used the kettle dyed method and Greener Shades dye.  I tried dyeing half for 20 minutes longer than the other half, hoping for a two toned monochromatic skein.

Ruby and Garnet

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I don’t think I achieved what I was hoping for, but I am fairly pleased with the result.  I have several skeins of undyed natural white yarns in the shop and I will be dyeing several of them in the next few days experimenting with adding more color.

Two days of this week were spent in preparation and recovery from one of the dreaded diagnostics that senior citizens are encouraged to endure.  At least I don’t have to go through it again for another decade.

Today began with a solo run to the Farmers’ Market for salad, broccoli, a cucumber already, herbs, bread, and flowers.  Jim had breakfast with me in town and then took off on the BBH to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway and grab a hot dog in Roanoke.

After my early return, my day has been spent mostly outdoors, weeding and cleaning up the shrub bed along the front of the house.  It needs new mulch, but I didn’t want to drive back into town.  Pushing the mower up and down the hill by the driveway to clear around the shrubs growing there, the meat chickens pen which was up to my waist with grass and lambs quarters, the area in front of the Huck’s coop so that a containment pen could be made for the anticipated chicks.  We are on chick watch.  The next couple of days should produce our first batch of chicks for the season.  Their coop and pen await.

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A plastic chicken wire pen attached to step in poles awaits them.  The electric fence will be restrung this evening after I re-hydrate and it cools off some.

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The other layers (who have contributed to the eggs being sat) and the proud Papa continue to harass the two gals sitting.  One hen insists on laying her egg in the nest of the first broody each day.  I marked the original 10 under her and then quit as I didn’t want to disturb her so much.  Whatever doesn’t hatch in the next couple of days will be discarded.  The same will be true mid June when the second hatch is due.  I need to block off the nesting box for the first hatch before they coop up tonight.  I don’t want a newly hatched chick to be pecked or accidentally fall out the pop door as her nest is right at that door.  One of the girls has taken to pecking the egg of one of the Americaunas each day if I don’t collect them as soon as I realize they are in a nest.  They aren’t totally breaking the shell, nor eating the egg, just slightly fracturing the shell.  I hate having to discard an egg most days.

We are expecting rain for the next two days.  I may take advantage of the wet soil to continue the weeding of the garden.  I still don’t have the popcorn and pumpkins planted.  I did re-weed the blueberries today and there will be a small harvest of them.  One of the aisles between beds was weeded and covered with spoiled hay today as well. I have concluded that from now on, I will just buy my turnips at the Farmers’ Market.  I harvested the first few that I planted and they are all full of the little white worm that torments me each time I plant them.  I have used wood ash in their planting row and around on top with limited success in the past, but it didn’t work this year.  I guess the chickens will enjoy them.

Our neighbor that hays our fields came over to look at my brush hog today.  He is going to take it home and refurbish it for me.  Rough ground and rocks are hard on them and the design of the stablizer wheel on the back of the one we own is poor, causing the shaft that holds it to stretch out and has made the wheel unstable.  One of the bolts that prevents wobble is bent too and he is either going to cut it off and replace it or just weld those two pieces together to prevent the wobble.  It has gotten so that it gouges  the ground when I mow.

A Week on the Farm – May 22, 2016

Another rainy week and a week that I struggled a bit with a pulled chest muscle and spent more time indoors preparing for yesterday’s demonstration of Newport Past and Present than I did on the garden.  With that behind me and today being alternately sunny and showery, I decided that the seedlings needed my attention regardless of any other issues.

The areas that we weeded last weekend were already showing a return of Lamb’s Quarter, smart weed, and grasses.  An hour with the hoe and the 14 tomatoes were free of weeds, the area that was designated for the peppers, also cleared.  I managed to get 22 pepper plants in the ground.  All but three of them of the hot to fiery varieties, Jalapenos, Habeneros, Anaheims, Thai Hot, Tabasco, and one Hungarian Black.  With them were two green bell peppers and one purple bell pepper.  Three comfrey plants were also added.  They were mulched with matted, wet and rotting hay during and between rain showers.

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Planted and mulched.
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They were blooming and already producing little peppers in the flats on the deck.
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Cabbages and chard are thriving, the second planting of peas in need of something to climb, the first planting at the top of their fence.  Garlic is about to produce scapes.

I am excited that the Asian Pears and Apple trees have fruit.  Not as much as last year due to the late frost, but at least we will have some.

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The week’s weather is supposed to be warmer and drier, so perhaps I will finally get the bush beans, cucumbers, and summer squash planted.  I need help weeding the lower garden and soon we will get the three sisters planted.  The sweet potatoes are sprouting and will be rooted and planted within the next couple of weeks.  I still have some flowers, the sunflowers and marigolds to plant and the basil tucked in.  Soon it will be maintenance, watching the plants grow and produce and enjoying the benefits of the work.

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There are now two broody hens.  One is on 9 eggs that I know of.  The other is on an unknown number and I am leaving them alone.  We should see the first chicks around Memorial day weekend and the others by June 11 or 12.  I spent some time beginning to erect a chick pen of plastic chicken wire to contain and protect the hens and their babies around the brooder coop.  Once they hatch, they will be moved over there.  I still need to build a ramp to the door of that coop.  I wish that the hens would have allowed me to move them and their nests to that coop to sit the eggs, but that didn’t work out.

Now it is raining buckets full on the newly planted seedlings.  It is thundering, so my planting is concluded for the day.

 

A Week On the Farm – May 8, 2016

Today marks my 35th Mother’s Day.  Eldest was born a few short weeks after Mother’s Day in 1980.  Daughter followed in 1982 and youngest son in 1987.  They are wonderful children and great parents themselves.  Today would also be my Mother-in-Law’s 100 birthday.  She has been gone almost two decades.  Hubby and I have both lost both parents, but have been given 5 grandchildren to love.

This week was rainy and other than a single day in the garden, weeding where I need to plant the tomatoes and peppers, not much has been done outdoors.

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You can see to the right of the poles, the heavy cover of Lamb’s Quarters that I am removing.  I did get some weeding done in areas that are already planted, but I am just not motivated to get much done out there this year.

Yesterday, I realized one of the hens had gone broody and was firmly planted on half of the eggs laid yesterday and very resistant to leave them.  I had not finished what I needed to do on Huck’s brooder coop.

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I had stapled plastic up to the sides, but the wind had taken most of it down and I had not dealt with brooder boxes.  Today, Jim and I went to Lowe’s after he took me out to a nice lunch and bought 3 two gallon buckets with lids.  I cut out the lids to make hen size openings, leaving a lip to help hold in the hay and eggs, later chicks.  They have been secured together and placed in the coop with food and water, a short cedar tree trunk wedged in as a ramp out of the coop for the hen to be able to leave during the day to relieve herself. The plastic was again secured to the sides, and the inside of the coop layered in another deep layer of hay and she and 10 eggs were moved.  So far, she is very agitated and has not returned to the eggs.

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She is perched up in the top of the coop squawking.  Maybe, I should remove the eggs, leave her in there to create her own nest of them and see how it goes.  For now, I am leaving her alone and hoping that she finds the nest and eggs soon.  It is warm today, but not warm enough to keep them viable for long.  If she has gone broody, it won’t be long before another does as well and if she has company in the brooder coop, she may be less agitated.  Last year, we didn’t try to move them until the babies hatched and the brooder coop was not secure enough to protect the babies.  We hatched 50, raised 5 and only have 1 left between wild predators, a neighbor’s dog, and ending up with the last two being roos and having to kill one of them because they were fighting.  I really don’t want to raise meat chickens in a brooder box until they are old enough to be outdoors, I want these hens to raise them for us.

Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler and dry so I will finally plant the starts, the adage of don’t plant tomatoes until Mother’s Day will be fulfilled.  If I can get that area weed free, the starts planted and mulched, perhaps I can get some of the other seed in the beds.  I still haven’t even thought about planting the deck pots with herbs and flowers yet.  It is going to be summer and I am going to still be planning.

Yesterday was a great day for gardening, but I did a craft show indoors.  It wasn’t a huge success, but I did make my registration, recover the cost of the item I donated for the raffle and came home with a little cash.  Surprisingly, more than 80% of my sales were knit wear and yarn, not soap, lotion bars, and salves.

A Week On the Farm – April 30, 2016

This has been a busy week with some down time and almost no garden time.  We have reached our last average frost date and the little plants would probably love to be put in the garden.

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Some of the little pepper plants are starting to bud.  To get them in place, I must spend a couple of hours removing the 3 inch high Lambs quarters plants, set the posts for the tomatoes, and stakes or cages for the peppers.  It is raining right now, and I don’t really want to garden in the mud.  Once they are in the ground, the lower end of the garden needs the same treatment to plant the popcorn, pumpkins, and Anasazi beans in a Three Sister’s Garden.  Most of a long bed awaits bush beans, cucumbers, and flowers to be scattered in various spots.

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Last summer, I removed a large squarish rock from the hill above the house, leaving a substantial hole.  When son cleaned his deer last fall and the next day, he and I killed and cleaned meat chickens, we partially buried the feathers and unusable parts in that hole and dumped a sack of Black Kow on top, turned the wheelbarrow upside down over it to keep the dogs out.  The plan was to put a tree in that hole last fall, but winter came and went and the tree did not happen.  On Earth Day, SIL came home with two tiny pine seedlings and yesterday, I planted them, one in that hole and another uphill from it in another hole that I dug in an area that is very difficult to mow due to the rocks and contour.  The pines that you see above and to the left of them were planted as seedlings about 9 or 10 years ago from an Earth Day activity.  Once they have settled in and we have hayed that area for the spring, I will remove the tubes and tie caution tape on the poles next to the little trees to mark them as I mow.

During the week, I did mow an area around the house, garden and orchard.  A minimal area, leaving as much as possible for our farmer neighbor to hay in another 6 weeks.  It really limits the area the kids can play for a while and makes for messier dogs when they go out until the haying is done, but the area is still much larger than the yard the grands had when they lived in Florida.

We did our usual Saturday morning breakfast out and Farmers’ Market run.  I enjoyed my homegrown asparagus for two cuttings, but have left them now to help the bed get more established.  Our favorite market farmer, had asparagus and radishes (mine are still too small to harvest), another had bok choy and chard, a loaf of bread and some bagels, two pounds of garlic brats, and my first bouquet of flowers for our enjoyment this week were purchased.  I love supporting the local small farmers and knowing them and where my food was grown and how it was grown.

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The lilacs on our driveway bank are blooming.

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The week has allowed me plenty of spinning and some knitting time.  I finished a skein of Romney and Merino that I carded together and named Purple in Memorium and put in my new shop.

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And finished a pair of Autumn Double Cable fingerless mitts of my own design also in the shop.

Autumn Double Cable Mitts

Next time I need a better hand model, this one had dirty nails.

I am currently spinning Green Apple Merino and knitting another pair of fingerless mitts with three cables, also my design.  I am toying with selling some of my patterns on my shop as well.

Last week’s brooder coop, survived a week on Huck’s raft, I did get plastic stapled to the sides to help keep the inside dry.  I still need to put in some nesting boxes and await a broody hen or two.  Once they start to sit, I will put up a low fence and move them to that coop, hoping to raise a good couple of broods of chicks for replacement hens and meat chicks.  I really don’t want to have to buy meat chicks and set up a brooder in the garage this year.

Still loving life on our mountain farm.

 

 

A Week On the Farm – April 24, 2016

A Day Late!

Busy weekend.  Daughter and family went away for the weekend, but eldest son and family arrived.  Daughter in law had a job reinstalling an art piece for an artist that she works with.  They had de-installed it a couple of weeks ago and packed it up for the owner, who drove it to their new house about 45 minutes from here.  DIL and son went over yesterday to install the piece and we got eldest grandson time.

Today was dedicated to work and fun on and near the farm. Last year, we tried to use the chicken tractor that was too heavy for me to move by hand and not sturdy enough to move by tractor as a brooder coop, inside one of the chicken runs.  It ended up being a disaster, we lost batch of chicks after batch of chicks, regardless of how we tried to secure it.  Son was determined that we could make it work.  Last fall, he cut some cedars, stripped the branches and brought the trunks up near the chicken pens.  Today, we set about making a base for the chicken tractor that lifted it up off the ground on a solid floor.  One of our goals was to not spend any more money on it, as it probably only has a couple more years of life before the reclaimed wood fails.  My idea was to put it up on blocks with a plywood floor.  He said that was too expensive.  We had many old cedar posts that were being used mostly unnecessarily to try keep weeds out of the garden or to keep the chickens from going under fences.   We decided to use them.  Four large fairly flat rocks were located in rock piles and used as the corners instead of cinder blocks.  Two of the cedar trunks were used to be floor beams and the cedar posts, cut to length as the floor joists, surface.  Now I need to let you know that at this point, I threatened to rename son, Huck and give him a paddle.

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The end joists were screwed to the cedar trunk beams and the rest packed as tightly as we could put them.  “Huck” questioned whether they were close enough together and though they are, they surface is neither smooth nor flat.  I said that I would spread a thick layer of newpaper, wood shavings or hay over it and that would probably do.  DIL had the idea that we could make a sod house type floor to smooth it out instead.

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We started laying hay over the raft perpendicular to the floor.

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A few tractor buckets of soil and sod were layered on top of that, the rocks removed and packed down.  Thereby creating a sod floor over the cedar raft.

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The fence was removed from the meat chicken pen’s upper end (no chickens in there right now) and son and I wrestled the tractor out and adjacent to the sod covered raft.  The two of us could not lift it alone, but a neighbor and his friend were using metal detectors on our field looking for civil war treasures and they came up to help out.  With DIL eyeballing where it should sit, the other four of us each picked up a corner and set the tractor on top of the sod covered raft.

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This left a few gaps and we decided to line up the rocks that we had pulled out of the soil around the interior perimeter.  The shot I failed to get was son on his hands and knees inside this structure as I handed in rocks for him to fill the gaps.

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The structure is now soundly in place and as secure as we could make it.  The lower hardware cloth sides are going to be closed in, leaving the upper triangles for vents, a ramp built and the nesting boxes installed.  A low chicken wire fence will surround it to allow the chicks and their mommas outside once they are a few days old.  I still need to reattach the fencing that we removed to get the tractor out of the run.  A predator will now have to climb, and gnaw in to get to the babies.  Perhaps we will have better luck raising them this year.

Once we finished and had lunch, we took off on a hike that was a portion of the hike we did last summer backpacking.  The hike is about 5 miles total with the first half a steep climb to a ridge that is a beautiful, fairly level walk out to a rock outcrop that allows us to look through the gap to Blacksburg and Christiansburg in the distance.

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In spite of the beautiful blue sky, there was quite a haze off in the distance.

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The first shot, looking east toward the towns and the other looking west up the valley and the farmland.  Sorry they aren’t clearer.  It was definitely still looking like winter up there though the temperature was summer time.  There was no leaf cover at all at the elevation.  I certainly got my steps in today, almost getting twice the 10,000 step goal with 19,780, walking/hiking 8.63 miles, and the equivalent of 111 flights of steps.

They are headed home.  Daughter and her family have returned from their trip.  Leftovers prepared, eaten and cleaned up for dinner, a shower taken and now I am ready for bed.

Tomorrow is the last nice day for a week of expected rain, so I will try to repair the fencing, enclose the brooder coop and work more on garden prep.  We are approaching our last expected frost date and I will be able to plant the tomatoes, peppers, beans, popcorn, pumpkins, bush beans, cucumbers and flowers.  The part for my car came in, and that is also on my schedule to get the part installed and the reinspection.  An appointment has been made to get another estimate on replacing the ball joints in a few more days.

Loving life in the mountains.

A week on the farm – April 16, 2016

Saturdays are going to be a week on the farm posts as the growing, haying, chick hatching season is commencing.

The last two days have be spent in the garden, preparing for this season.  Last year, the garden was nearly doubled in size, but in my haste to make it the three sisters garden, I didn’t really spread out the remaining compost from where we had removed the old bins.  The top of that area is going to become a raised bed about a foot or so above the rest of the garden.  The asparagus, horseradish, bulb fennel, and the compost pile are in the top 5 feet of the area and the entire upper portion of the garden is deep, rich compost.  A few inches of it are going to be removed and spread over the remaining garden, the rest leveled and will be the area for the tomatoes and peppers this year.

veggie starts

These guys want to be put in the garden and if I look forward at the weather, after tonight it would probably be safe, but we are still 13 days from our last average frost date and I have always used the don’t plant them til Mother’s Day rule up here.

berrybed

The berry bed did get mulched down after I tossed old wood posts and boards from bed squares that had deteriorated outside of the garden.  I need to find a good spot to do a burn pile but much of that wood has screws or nails in it, so it needs to be somewhere than can be easily cleaned up afterward.  To the right of this bed, is one of the perimeter fences to the garden and this bed is about 12-18″ higher than the grass beyond it.  That slope is too steep to mow, gets full of weeds, is hard to weed whack, so I am laying down weed mat that was pulled from the garden last year and it is going to be held in place with a retaining wall of large stones.  We aren’t short of them on our property.

rockwall

The biggest rock there was dug out of the garden last year and I removed a section of the fence today to roll it over the edge of the hill.  The others were either already on that bank or were carried through the gate and placed there today.  There is an entire row of them edging a bed in the garden and they will be loaded into the tractor bucket to move in the next few days.  I hope that between that effort and the heavy compact hay layer on the berry bed to reduce or eliminate weeds there and make an area that will not have to be mowed and can be cut with the gas trimmer.

woodpile

In one of the recent wind and rain storms, the wood pile tipped and spilled down into the yard.  Today, I added more supports lengthwise and re-stacked the wood longer and lower with a second stack in front of half of it.  It now has the garden fence behind it to help hold it up.  I spotted another dead tree in the woodlot, we will have to bring it down, cut it up and I will get it split and stacked with the rest.  We will have enough to warm us during the power outages or extreme cold days next winter.

It looks like I lost a few raspberry bushes, but I see some volunteers and will moved them to fill in that bed adjacent to the chicken run.  If I can keep it only a couple of feet wide by removing other volunteers and thin it occasionally, that should be a good place for those bushes.

It looks like we might have lost one of our apple trees.  It was one that produced small misshapen apples last year.  We will probably replace it with a rust resistant  dwarf apple tree and add a couple of dwarf plums to the orchard soon.

The chickens were given a low run that allowed them to leave their pen and enter the adjacent run that has grass growing in it.  They were delighted to get in the grass and all returned to their coop at dusk.