Category Archives: Farm Life

A Week on the Farm – July 26, 2013

Finally a week of sunshine, moderate daytime temperatures and 50s-60s at night. It couldn’t be better. The garden is giving, we are eating and storing. Every couple of days, a meal with fresh green beans and a couple more meals worth in the freezer, a cucumber salad and a couple jars of dill pickle spears.
A few small yellow tomatoes (funny, I don’t remember planting one of them, must have been a mixup at the nursery), the red varieties, just beginning to pink up.
We have flowers to love, to cut, to tempt the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Sunflowers, yellow butterfly bush, petunias, brown-eyed Susans and Purple coneflowers. Marigolds, Comfrey, Daisies and a couple I don’t know the names of.
This week we were visited by the usual deer and turkey, but also this fellow came by to say hello. He has been seen in the area for a while and as we don’t leave garbage or birdfeed out, he was just passing through.
Yesterday, we deemed it finally dry enough to mow. The grass was up to my knees, especially in the orchard which I walk through to get to the chicken coop. About a third of the way through, the brush hog picked up a piece of left over construction debris, a 30′ long section of black electrical conduit. It was in an area that has been mowed before and it was never seen, but yesterday, it wrapped around the brush hog drive shaft so tightly we couldn’t get it off. A call was made to our farmer/heavy equipment operator neighbor for help. He was in West Virginia but said he would come by on his way home last evening. He managed to free it from beneath the brush hog, put the brush hog back on the tractor for me and get me back in business.
The orchard has to be mowed with a gas powered push mower, unless I want to remove the electric fence every mowing session and it took forever to push through the tall thick grass to get it done.
The chickens are still only producing 2 eggs a day, and this week we discovered that the largest and most beautiful Buff Orpington is a rooster. Dang, I thought we got rid of all of them.
We have had a couple of power outages lasting from a few hours to a few days this year, so Asplundth is out with a crew doing a job I would never dream of doing. A tiny helicopter with a huge dangling power saw composed of what looks like about 8 circular saw blades that spin and make a racket is flying over the power line right of ways, trimming back the branches from the lines. It is noisy, dangerous looking, yet totally fascinating to watch.

Summer moderates

  Last week’s heat wave has moderated to normal summer temperatures, still hot, but mostly tolerable.  The humidity is still wicked and we must be approaching a record for rainfall, at last report, we were only 8″ from the total normally received in an entire year.  The rain has wrecked havoc with the garden this year, the weeds growing fast enough to watch them.  The beans, peppers and cucumbers love it, the tomatoes not so much.  The plants look ok, but there are very few tomatoes and they aren’t ripening.  There is a stellar crop of grapes, I am hoping when they ripen to be able to make grape jelly.

     The garlic has cured and was moved to the root cellar shelves today.


There are now 4 pints of dill pickle spears brining in the refrigerator. The frozen vegetables are accumulating in the freezer. A second planting of beans has been done, the peas will follow soon, the cabbage and chard sprouts are developing on the back deck and they will soon be planted in the garden as well.
The young hens are reaching laying age, we are getting 2 eggs a day from them and hope to be getting about a half dozen a day soon.
It is such a delight to be able to eat from the garden and know that there will be home grown produce this winter and to decorate the house with flowers from the gardens.

Farm and Market Day

     Saturday mornings are Farmer’s Market day and with family coming for a week and a half, we wanted to get some meat in the freezer for them and winter and stock up on veggies, cheese, eggs, and fresh pasta for our week.  We are now getting two pullet eggs a day and have a great vegetable garden, but there are some things I don’t grow, but like or that just aren’t producing yet.  Today was a great market, live music and an art show in the street of the market block.  We left early enough to get pancakes and bacon for breakfast before shopping and arrived home early enough to start the farm work.

     One of my projects for the day was to reconfigure the chicken run to incorporate a peach tree for shade and to leave space for a Purple Beautyberry bush that I purchased a few days ago, also for shade.  The latest round of storms that we have had during the heat wave this week have uncharacteristically moved from east to west and the east window of the coop is a drop down flap with no overhang.  This has caused the inside of the coop and perches to get wet.  Another idea that I had was to create a sheltered area on the east side of the coop, also for shade and to hopefully provide shelter for that window and allow me to put their food outside the coop.  While I was moving fence and trying to figure out how to make the shelter, I watched my largest Buff Orpington, who was purchased as a pullet, attempt to mount one of the Red Rocks that are the only egg layers so far.  So we now know that the beauty below is a he, not a she…


He can’t stay in the coop and run if he is going to be aggressive, so he is either going to have to go to freezer camp or be rehomed.
The coop has been scrubbed out with a vinegar/orange/mint cleaner and new hay put inside. The old hay has been removed to the run to help reduce the mud during the afternoon showers. By reducing the width of the run to 8 or 9 feet and lengthening it to about 20 feet, I was able to erect a 6 X 8 tarp over hooped flexible poles and stapling it to the upper edge of the coop, there is now a 4 foot wide X 8 foot long shaded run that houses a small shallow pool of water and their food. The plastic poultry net is stapled to the upper edge of the coop and tied to the fence to drape over the peach tree and protect the rest of the run from the hawks.
Until I can get our eldest back here to help me build a lean to using the roofing metal left over from building the house, hopefully it will work for us.
And this was our afternoon visitor.

We Are Melting

     Last evening brought rainbows and lightening simultaneously. Wind and hail.  When the storm subsided, it still wasn’t quite dark, but the chickens were all huddled together on the perches in the coop.  The storm cooled the evening at least 30 degrees from yesterday’s high of 95f.  Today is another mid 90s day and with the humidity, I feel like I’m back on the coast. This is not mountain-like.

    The morning is already hot and humid, a heavy haze hanging over the ridges to the north and  south of us.

     The hens gathered early for some morning treats, but will soon disappear under the coop in the shade.


I’m trying to figure out how to give them more shade and a place to put their food and water outside in the shade.  The coop is well ventilated, and the roof is insulated, but it is still hot when the air temperatures are in the 90s.

     Today we are going to venture to the garden center to see what they have in vegetable starts and seeds to begin thinking about what to put in the beds that are empty from harvesting onions, garlic and peas.  I continue marveling at being able to walk to the garden and pick vegetables for our dinners and having enough to put away for the winter.  Our city gardens were for fun, a few small boxes with tomatoes, peppers, maybe a cucumber or two and a handful of beans.  Last night again, our dinner was entirely from our garden and the farmer’s market.  Live locally and eat locally.

Life is good.



Monday Heat Wave

  After a solid month of daily rain, often heavy enough for flooding of the creeks, the sky is clear and the temperatures are soaring.  The forecasters are predicting a heat wave.  According to them, that is a string of 3 or more days of temperatures at 90f and above.  Today is predicted for 91, tomorrow 95.  They are right on so far, it is 3 p.m. and it is 92f.  The entire week until Saturday is predicted to exceed 90.

     This is just as my young hens are just beginning to lay.  Today, I got my fourth pullet egg, they are so small that it will take to two to equal a large egg.  The heat may slow down the laying process, just as it started.  Most of the girls are hiding out under the coop in the cooler bare earth.

But one is sunbathing.
The rain has caused the weeds to flourish in the garden. Eldest son and I made a big dent in the weeds in the beds, but left the aisles due to lack of time. I will not use RoundUp or its generic equivalents, so this morning, I mixed up a gallon of vinegar with Epsom salt and dish soap and attacked the aisles that I had weed wacked late yesterday. A few minutes ago, I went out to see if it had done anything and was amazed by the success.
In the cool of tomorrow morning, when I go out to let the chickens out, I will add a thick layer of straw to the aisles in hopes of keeping the weeds down.
I’m glad I got it done this morning as hubby and I both had visits with the orthopedic specialist, hubby for his knee, me for osteoarthritis in my hand and trigger finger in my ring fingers. He was released to continue to rebuild his strength and do whatever he is comfortable doing. My wrist is doing better since the appointment was scheduled and so that problem has been tabled for now, except to leave with a splint/brace to wear when gardening, knitting, or spinning. The right ring finger received another cortisone injection. Normally, injections don’t bother me. I have had cortisone injections in my wrist, my shoulder and previously in my ring fingers, but that is the most painful injection possible, it totally takes my breath away. Now I sit holding ice and hoping it is less bothersome tomorrow.

Faint of heart

Building a house is not for the faint of heart.  Buying a neglected farm and building a house when you are retired is a short step from being declared mentally unstable, however, we took on this challenge almost 7 years ago.  For decades, each time my dear hubby asked what I wanted for a holiday, I always gave the same answer, “a cabin in the woods.”
Seven years ago, several things came together to allow it to happen. Well, it is a cabin and we do have a few acres  of woods around the edges, but the house sits in an open field.  We found the property on a whim  midway through our youngest son’s senior year of high school.  I had retired as  school counselor and was working part time for a non profit organization to cover the family health insurance.  Hubby was reaching retirement age and trying to figure a way to retire from his law practice.  We decided to research log homes and begin the planning stages of putting a house on the land.
In order to facilitate this, we decided to sell the home we had raised our children in, and again, on a whim, put out a FSBO sign on a day some neighbors were having a yard sale.   We were painting inside as we really weren’t quite ready to sell yet, and much to our surprise, we got calls.  Quickly, we designed a brochure, decided on a price and signed a contract with a FSBO organization that gets the listing on the web and in a weekly booklet and by the next weekend, had sold the house, just before the real estate market went south.  This meant we had to move with no where to go and a 90 lb old dog to move with us.  Apartments weren’t large enough for a 4 bedroom house of furniture and the dog.  We lucked into a 3 bedroom rental house with a small yard, stored some stuff and moved in for a year.  Once settled, we purchased a log home “kit,” hired a contractor, who turned out to be a loser, to do the log erection and rough carpentry, convinced our eldest son to move with his partner and their newborn son to the area where we were building to oversee the contractor, help make decisions and ultimately take on all of the finish carpentry and stone mason work.  With monthly visits to select the house site, have the perk test done, hire a well driller and see the progress, we plodded through that year.  As the year was ending, my part time job was going to have to become full time and I applied for a job in the county near our property, returning to a school counseling position to pay into the retirement system instead of drawing from it.  This meant that I would be living near the house and could help with carpentry work or more often, babysitting so the kids could work.  It also meant that hubby and I would be living 6 hours apart in separate apartments, me alone in the mountains, he with youngest son and dog on the coast. The new job was an all year position, not just during the school year, so moves were made, goodbyes said and we started what turned into a nearly 3 year long distance relationship until hubby put all the steps in place to leave his practice for retirement in the mountains with me.  At this point, we had been moved into the new house for almost two years on a temporary certificate of occupancy.
After I moved in, along with son and his family, they continued to work on the house, building the interior doors, the upper kitchen cabinets, doing hand grading and stone mason work when the weather permitted.  When hubby moved up, son and his family moved to an adjacent town for him to earn his Master’s degree at the local university, working on the house during holidays and summer time to finish the foundation stone work and last summer, getting the cistern system that the contractor put in improperly to actually work,  continuing the fieldstone fireplace down into the basement in preparation for the contruction of the 4th bedroom and rec room that was in the planning stages.  He and I also, finally finished the breezeway/utility room that joins the house to the garage.
While this work had been done with some labor on my part, the restoration of the fields to a condition that will allow for hay production and grazing of animals, has fallen to my hubby and me.  The fields had become very overgrown with weeds, brambles, invasive shrubs and cedar trees.  We purchased a tractor and a brush hog and commenced  regular mowing of every inch the of 30 acres that we could take the tractor.  Last summer, after our poorly constructed gravel driveway had reached a nearly impassable state, we hired a neighbor excavator contractor to take on regrading the property so that it would drain properly and reconstructing the driveway, this making several more acres mowable.  While he was working in front of the house, son, partner, hubby and I were digging a trench hundreds of feet down the south slope, laying a water line from the cistern, installing a yard hydrant and recovering the trench without damaging the water line.  This involved much hand shoveling, picking up and moving many tractor buckets of rock that we had uncovered.
Early in the mountain project, son and partner, put in a huge garden, but in later years of the project, the garden was not as totally utilized and 3 summers ago, I undertook to restore as much of it as I felt I could manage on my own.  Son and family have since moved on several hours away to further continue education.  Hubby loves the produce from the garden, but gardening  is not one of his interests.  I have boxed beds, dug weeds, tried to foil the deer with a temporary monofilament fence  as of yesterday, with the aid of a neighbor friend, finally put an electric fence around the vegetable garden portion of the gardens.  We also smoothed areas for safe working and mowability.  Over the years, we have planted fruit trees, berry bushes, and grapevines.  Last fall we finally landscaped the front.  This winter, the basement project was completed.  We are nearly to a maintenance phase, but with 30 acres and plans for raising some animals other than dogs, it will continue to be muscle taxing, bone weary work,…but there is a good night’s rest at the end of those days.