Category Archives: Homesteading

A week on the Farm – October 9, 2013

This has been another slow week as far as farm chores go. My garlic for the garden still has not arrived, so the garden has been neglected. A few beans have been picked, just enough to eat, not to freeze. The broccoli is ready and needs to be harvested and frozen.

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The meat chicks have mere days to gorge, and indeed that is what they do, before they all go to freezer camp this weekend.

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They don’t quite look like small turkeys this time, but several are substantial.

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The daily egg hunt continues to amuse me, especially when 1 is very round or very pointed or speckled, this girl had a faulty dyer yesterday.

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My shawl is coming along.  I’m on the last lace panel and it will be done. I’m hoping is blocks out larger than it appears now. I’m considering adding a final border to make it a bit larger.

Life is good on our mountain farm.

The Storm

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Rain beating on a tin roof;
Clouds scuttering along the mountain tops and valleys from west to east;
Wind whipping the dry leaves from the trees;
Blessed relief from the past couple of days of unseasonable heat;
As the tropical storm from the Gulf of Mexico blows itself out across the mountains and plods toward the shore.

A Week on the Farm – October 3, 2013

This has been a rest week after last week’s marathon mowing of the 30 acres. The garden is waning, with only beans, broccoli being harvested and waiting for the cabbages to head and reach cutting size.
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It needs weeding and a fall cleanup, but I was hoping my garlic would arrive soon and I could plant it at the same time.
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The chickens are funny animals. Whenever they see me in the side yard, they gather under their coop then follow me to whatever end of their pen I am working near, yet they won’t let me touch them except as they exit their coop in the mornings.
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Cogburn and his harem getting some free range time, their favorite time of the day as they forage for bugs, seeds and fresh grass.
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They are consistently providing us with 3 plus dozen eggs each week, yes one of them is green. The last pullet to mature appears like she may add another to the 6 to 8 we get each day very soon.
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Yesterday’s soap making solo, seems to have been successful. The two molds, a simple mold from Michael’s Arts and Crafts and a silicone baking pan, produced a generous number of bars, now curing on a mat for use in 3 or 4 weeks.
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My needle crafting has been in a doldrum until this week. I was making my daughter a black lace sweater to replace one I made last year that was ruined. I’m not a fan of lace knitting, nor knitting with black yarn, so I procrastinated, knitting very little on it this summer, but it was finished, washed, blocked, dried and shipped off to her this week. No pictures taken. Perhaps, she will send me one of her in it. Once it was finished, I picked up the Traveler’s Companion Shawl that I had been working on and seem to be making pretty good progress on it. It is being knit to go with a long travelling skirt I own.

Soap Making Solo

Last week was soap making 101, taught to a class of one by a friend who has been making her own soap for years. My interest began a little more than a year ago and not wanting to get too involved in equipment until I was sure it was a homecraft to be enjoyed and appreciated by the family, only a simple mold, a few pounds of melt and pour soap base and a small assortment of essential oils not already in my supply were purchased. Several batches of that soap were made, once with daughter here to assist and learn. That was fun, but it just wasn’t quite there. The ingredients of the melt and pour were still a bit sketchy, not fully revealing what it contained and certainly not satisfying the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder part of my personality. Making soap from 100% pure oils and fats, lye, water and essential oils for scent was exactly where my goals were taking me. It was enchanting fun to carefully measure the ingredients, mixing them at just the right temperature, stirring until it resembled pudding, then pouring into the molds, covering with lids and towels to cocoon them in for 24 hours while the chemistry magic of turning oils, fats and lye, saponifying into soap. Fancy craft fair soap. After a full day, it is removed from the molds, cut into bars, and placed on a mat that allows air to circulate around the bars until they are fully cured, in about a month. No, it isn’t instant gratification, but the process and the anticipation have me hooked.
From my lesson, last week, I did get a couple pounds of soap. We did two different 6 pound batches, mostly dedicated for her daughter to sell at a fall craft fair. I understand now why it is so expensive at the fairs and at the Farmer’s Market, but the satisfaction just isn’t there when it is purchased. The morning lesson was fun, educational, and having someone with me both made it social and alleviated my anxiety about trying it myself. No one is perfect and my personality has it’s flaws, usually well hidden, but there. The OCD has abated or I’ve learned to control it more as I have aged, but the anxiety at trying new ventures has gotten worse. It is perhaps that I struggle with these issues that I do tackle new things, often on my own, having taught myself to knit, spin, make baskets, pressure can, make jam and now soap, and taking horseback riding lessons.
Today was the solo attempt, making a special soap for eldest son and hubby.
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Tomorrow the two molds will be uncovered, unmolded and we’ll see how the solo venture turned out.

Where is the color?

This is often a favored season. Cooling temperatures, vivid leaf changes, the start of the holiday season. This year just isn’t right. The temperatures are cooling, 40s and 50s at night, but still reaching mid to upper 70s during the day, but the foliage isn’t doing it’s part. Instead of vivid colors, the leaves are browning and dropping from the trees.

The large maple that is usually the first to show bright gold and orange is barren without ever turning. This year was unusually wet after two years of dry conditions. Perhaps that stressed the trees. Hopefully it doesn’t mean that huge tree on the edge of our woods is dying. Under that tree is where we camped the first summer we owned the property. It provided shade for our brand new 9 week old grandson, our first. It sheltered our tents and picnic table as we met with a soil scientist for the perk test and interviewed several well drillers to get water for our planned home. We were sitting under that tree when we met our first neighbor as he and his son came down the tractor road to get his half of the hay that had been mowed with his equipment by his cousin. That tree has been the focus of many photographs from blogposts.
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In spite of the government shutdown, I will venture up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in route to Meadows of Dan on Saturday, to visit a friend and to purchase some corn meal, winter squash, and Ashe County cheese. As the elevation is slightly higher than here, perhaps, there will be at least a glimpse of fall color.

A Week on the Farm – September 27, 2013

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Getting yarn dyed especially for me to match a hat I designed, now I need to design the scarf to go with it.

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Learning cold process soap making with a friend. Now I can do it myself, but it is much more fun making it with a friend.

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Mowing the 30 acres for fall. There are still 4 or 5 to do and a gorgeous weekend to get it done.

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An end of week harvest, more beans for dinner and the freezer, the first two heads of broccoli also for dinner and one for the freezer, tomatoes for the freezer. A dinner that came entirely from our garden except for the ground beef from the farmer’s market.

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A daily 6 to 8 eggs from the flock, but oddly, they will line up to use the same nesting box when there are 6 from which to choose, occasionally one will use a different box, but not often.

Life is good on our mountain farm.

Homesteading Fun Day

     We are in the midst of mowing our hay fields for winter.  The summer rains have produced very thick grass and the mowing seems to be taking longer than usual.
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     The chicken project is yielding 6 to 8 eggs per day, with one pullet still not producing.  I thought that number of birds would produce an excessive number of eggs, but find with the availability of fresh from the nest eggs, that we are using many more than when they came from the grocery or farmer’s market.  One dozen is dedicated each week to one of our farmer neighbors who is always willing to help us when we need it and any other extras are gladly purchased by friends with whom I knit or spin. The meat chicks continue to grow at an alarming rate. The breed grows so quickly that some of them are already having difficulty supporting their own weight and they have 2 1/2 more weeks before they go to freezer camp. I have decided that I would rather grow a heritage breed, maybe a dual purpose breed that will produce eggs and later meat, even if they take longer to mature, but will have the sense to get up on perches out of the weather.

     Today, one of those friends, invited me to have a cold process soap lesson.  I made two six pound batches of soap under her supervision and now feel confident to make my next batch of soap by this process instead of the melt and pour process that I had originally learned.  It is so great to know exactly what goes into the products that we use for our personal use and for the household cleansing.  From these two batches, she sent me home with two molds of curing soap.  The rest of the batches will go to her daughter for a craft fair or for her personal use.

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     The day ended, knitting with the group of friends that meet on Wednesday nights at a local coffee shop for some social time, dinner, and knitting.

     Each newly learned skill brings us one step closer to independence.

     Life is good on our mountain farm.

Farm and Fun

After our Horsemaster’s Club ride yesterday, we both arose sore, facing a 10 a.m. lesson. A biscuit and newspaper in town to fuel our bodies and minds, we arrived a bit early, knowing which horses we were riding today and mine being Daisy that I rode yesterday, in the top field, I dropped off hubby at the arena, grabbed a halter and rope and drove to the top field to get her. Yesterday, she was at the top edge of that very steep field, today since I was at the top, she was at the bottom, requiring a scramble down the slope to get her. The roan in the paddock with her wanted to be my friend today and tried to put her head in the halter, then followed me like a puppy as I led Daisy out. Our instructor arrived and we worked on some skills, both complaining of being sore, so she went and got a horse and tacked up and we took our first trail ride. Our first ride out of the confines of the huge enclosed and roofed arena. It was so much fun and once at the top of their property, realized that we could see the power tower that is closest to our house. As the crow flies, we couldn’t have been more than a mile from home.
A few errands to get chicken feed and we arrived home to farm work. As it is fall, the locals are either doing a fall haying, in some cases, their only haying this year due to the summer rain, or as we do, mowing the now very tall grass down for the winter. It will make better spring hay. Today was the day we began to mow our fields. This is always bitter sweet as we will now be able to walk our property, we will be able to see the deer and turkey, but the mowing takes out thousands of white Queen Anne’s Lace, Daisies, and clover; purple thistle and red clover; golden flowers of the hated stickweed and goldenrod; and the cornflower blue of Chickory. The tall seed heads of the grasses standing above the tops of the tall rear wheels of the tractor.
A dinner break of a homemade pizza with tomatoes, basil, peppers and onions from our garden, hot Italian sausage from the Farmer’s market and a couple of lumps of fresh mozarella. It was delicious.
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After dinner, some more mowing as the sun deepened the shadows as the sun dropped below the west ridge, leaving the eastern ridges still glowing from the setting sun.
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Life is good on our mountain farm.