Category Archives: Homesteading

Fall is upon us

     Though officially still a few days away, fall has come to the mountains.  After a cool, rainy summer, we have had a dry spell of several weeks, today is chilly and foggy with a slight chance of afternoon showers as another front moves through.  It is unlikely that the colors will be stunning this year.  After two years of dry conditions and the stress of too much water this year, the trees that normally color first are browning and dropping their leaves instead



There are hints of color change, the emerald greens of summer are now dull, hints of rust and reds appearing.
The weather lore is that the morning fogs we have been experiencing for several weeks portend early and heavy snow. Last autumn, we had a school closing snow in October. Hopefully that won’t be the case this year since I went to the effort of putting in a fall garden. We have only lived in the mountains for 8 years and I have noticed that none of our farmer neighbors put in fall gardens. As I was pulling spent summer plants, weeding beds and dumping the weeds in the chicken pen, I wondered if by now, they are just tired of their gardens, or if by experience, they know that the weather will win. Most of them don’t work to keep the weeds at bay after their plants are established. They till it all in come spring, or they put down huge sheets of black plastic, punch holes in it and plant through the holes. I don’t want my food growing in beds that have plastic leeching into them. I will continue to weed, mulch and hope for the best. Perhaps, one of the huge round bales of hay should be spread around the trees in the orchard and over the fallow beds and aisles soon.

A Week On the Farm – September 13,2013

As the week and the summer draw to a close, the fall garden is beginning to take off as the summer garden is almost gone. Today, we picked our first batch of fall bush beans and enjoyed them for dinner while preparing 8 more meals of them for the freezer to enjoy this winter when the days are cold and the snow falls.
The tomato plants are all brown, the last of the tomatoes ripening or being attacked by grasshoppers and stinkbugs. The only ones left are small yellow, orange plum and Roma tomatoes. The volunteer that is sprawled through the grape bed, is producing the best crop right now.
The potato growing experiment was less than successful. We tried growing them in half barrels putting a couple inches of compost in the bottom, planting the seed potatoes and then adding more compost as the tops grew a few inches. We were hoping for a couple of barrels full of nice potatoes, but only got about 10 lbs. They are tasty though, we had some mashed with dinner tonight.
Today, for the first time, the hens produced 8 eggs. That leaves only one who still hasn’t figured out how to lay an egg.
The freezer, in spite of the cool wet summer, is beginning to look like it will hold us through the winter months. If the beans continue to produce, the peas make it to production size, the cabbages and broccoli are heading nicely, the chard is developing this time, we will be able to put more away and enjoy some more fresh produce. Today only reached the low 70’s and it is going into the 40’s tonight. The weather “prognosticators” are threatening us with an early and snowy winter, I hope they are wrong for a while.
The 4 1/2 week old meat chicks are tightly snugged in the chicken tractor with a tarp covering most of it and a heat lamp on to help them through the cold night.
On the craft front, our daughter in law asked me to make two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hats for two of our grandchildren as part of their Halloween costumes. One of the hats is almost finished, pictures will follow next week once they are finished.
Life is good on our mountain farm.

Dumb Chicks

     No, I’m not using a perjorative name for women, I am referring to the 4 week old meat birds that I am raising for my son. The ones that so quickly outgrew the brooder that they had to be put outside in the chicken tractor with a heatlamp and tarp to give them more room. They don’t have the sense to go up on the perches in the top of the structure to protect them from wind and rain. It only took them 3 days to foul the area under them so badly that the chicken tractor had to be moved today. Unlike the other chicks that I have raised, these birds are ugly and stinky. Even when they are fully feathered, they have naked spots.
These chicks, don’t have the sense to get out of the rain. The hens and rooster get under their coop or inside their coop when it rains. The chicks just sit there and squawk. The chicken tractor is triangular in shape and about 8 feet long.
It has about 12 feet of perches located across its width just above the solid roof, but they stay on the ground in the wire covered area and get wet. It is currently pouring down rain outside. Mostly falling straight down thank goodness. Once it stops, I guess I’m going to have to go out and make sure they aren’t drowned rats.
Dumb chicks!

Sunday Thankfulness/Week on the Farm – September 8,2013

     This is a combined version of two of my weekly posts.  This week just got by me somehow.  We did get a weekly horseback ride, looked at and rode a gaited horse as a potential buy, mowed the yard and cleaned the house in preparation for weekend house guests.  

     Yesterday, we made our semi annual visit up the Blue Ridge Parkway to show our guests Mabry Mill.  This is always fun as they have an old restored water wheel mill that served to grind grain and as a saw mill, a blacksmith shop, a cabin with a loom and several spinning wheels, a cabinet maker who demonstrates building chairs using only non powered hand tools.  There are short walks through the woods back and forth across the creeks feeding the mill.  Our fall trip always allows me to stock up for the winter on locally ground grits, corn meal and buckwheat flour. The photo is of the mill, but an earlier trip with our daughter and two grandsons instead of this weekend’s guests.


     From there, we ventured to the Poor Farmer’s Market in Meadows of Dan for our annual apple purchase for the freezer.  Peaches, white sweet potatoes, and cheese we also purchased.  We made a stop at Chateau Morrisette for a wine tasting, purchase of a few bottles of wine then back to the town of Floyd, we stopped for a light late lunch at Dog Town Wood Fired Pizza and tap house for a shared pizza and a pint of their own brew.

     Because of our previous night discovery that our grill no longer works, our dinner was all prepared in the oven, roasted veggies, pork chops and we were supposed to have beans that we had purchased at the farmer’s market earlier in the week, but they proved to be old and tough, a disappointment as they came from one of our favorite vendors.  We ended up pulling a package of the beans I had frozen and subbed them instead.  One of the bottles of Chamboursin was opened and enjoyed with our meal.  After a busy day, the evening was spent visiting and playing with the pups, but otherwise just chilling out.

     Our guests had requested that we make reservations for brunch today at Mountain Lake Lodge.  A bit of strolling the grounds, some photos for them to show that indeed, Dirty Dancing was filmed here, we found out that with the new management,the weekly brunch has not been held this year except for Mother’s Day and was just being re-instituted this week.  The spread was much reduced from prior years, but the food was varied and delicious and none of us left hungry.  Our guests left after brunch to return to the coast and I moved on to prepping the goodies for the freezer and getting some of the other neglected tasks accomplished.

     Just prior to their arrival, we realized that the 15 three and a half week old meat chicks had seriously outgrown the brooder box they were in.  They really are too young to put outside as they aren’t fully feathered and the nighttime temperatures are dropping to the upper 50’s, so a decision was made to move them to the chicken tractor anyway, but to hang their heat lamp inside and drape a tarp over the structure during the night.  So far they seem to be doing ok with this and seem to like the added space.  Early this week, I am going to make a temporary pen of 3 foot fencing and poultry net surrounding the chicken tractor, so that they can get out into more space.  



The hens and rooster wondering why they can’t get to those chicks.



Eighteen cups (a peck) of pared, sliced apples, vacuum sealed for the freezer.


More diced and crushed tomatoes, peeled and vacuum sealed also for the freezer.


The winter’s supply is looking better each week.  The beans are blooming and we should soon begin getting a second crop for enjoying and freezing.  The peas are ready for the trellis and hopefully will give us more to eat and freeze.  I haven’t lifted the row covers over the cabbages, broccoli and chard, but they seem to be developing well.  The potatoes are dying back, so they will soon be dug, the sunflowers are ending their season and the little birds are flitting around the garden enjoying the seeds.

Life is good on our mountain farm and we are enjoying the cool early fall weather.


 We have all seen the commercial of the camel, yeah, that one.  Yesterday, one of my hubby’s acquaintances posted an obscene version of it on Facebook.  No, I won’t share it here. I dislike the commercial on television, in fact, I dislike most commercials on television and the insurance ones are the worst offenders.
Today is hump day by definition and we had a very full schedule. Because I was away last week and did not get home until afternoon on Saturday, we missed the farmer’s market. There is one on Wednesday afternoon too, not quite as many vendors, but enough to take care of most of what we needed. We are having guests this weekend and needed meat in quantity for 4 instead of 1 or 2 and veggies as we are currently in a doldrum with only a few tomatoes and peppers ripening, the peas, beans, cabbages and broccoli are still growing and maturing. Wednesday is the day I get my bouquet from the flower share and that also involves a drive to town to pick it up from one of the two Natural Food stores. Wednesday evening is knit night and since I was away all last week, I had 5 extra dozen eggs to share and those ladies are generally ready for some fresh country eggs, so even though I had flowers and farmer’s market goodies that needed to get home, I stopped by for a short visit and sold some eggs.
As we have seven weeks at home before any more travel, babysitting, or other reasons to tie up our schedule, we requested some riding time this week and our instructor suggested today at 2 p.m. We accepted the schedule and that meant that the rest of the afternoon’s errands that couldn’t be done until after 2 would have to be done sore and dirty. We are currently looking for our first horse, and our first appointment to look at one was also supposed to be this afternoon, but we postponed it so that our instructor could go with us to look at the horse.
Every Thursday, we have training for the big dog beast, and that is mid day, messing scheduling much else, as we have nearly an hour drive each way from training. Tomorrow will include a grocery store run for coffee, cream and a few non farmer’s market items and then the house needs cleaning after a two week without one.
I did get some more tomatoes in the freezer for winter, enjoyed some stuffed peppers, the hens are consistently producing 6 or 7 eggs each day with two still not laying. We did get the yard and orchard mowed yesterday and this morning, most of the front bed weeded, but after we bring the dog home tomorrow, we will have to venture back out for fresh mulch for that bed. The wet summer has encouraged, clover, oxalis, smartweed, horse nettle, purslane, dandelions, and anything else that could gain a foothold in the garden beds.
Now, I’m tired, a good tired, but tired just the same. Time to lock up the chickens for the night and get a hot bath and some rest.

A Week On the Farm-August 22, 2013

The chickens are getting supervised free range time these days. The nine pullets are laying 5 eggs each day now, 4 of the girls still haven’t figured it out yet. Once they are all laying, we are going to have many eggs to share with friends. Selling a few dozen eggs will help with feed costs.
The summer is winding down, the weeds in the garden have the upper hand, the flowers are fading, the evening temperatures are getting cooler. We have had a couple of days reprieve from the rain.
Since hubby started the summer off with knee surgery, we aren’t planning our usual week of skiing this winter, instead will take a week long cruise with our youngest and his family this fall. This means that the fall mowing is being done a bit early this year. The task was started this afternoon and it was a challenge because the rain has resulted in a very thick stand that has grown tall quickly.
Some of our neighbors have just gotten their hay in, they will not have to do a fall mowing. Our hay was done in June, between rains and our fields will require a fall mow. One of the plants that we fight constantly is an invasive imported plant called Stickweed. It is a fairly attractive plant, but neither cows nor horses will eat it. It is a perennial and comes up anywhere in the yard that isn’t mowed at least once a month.
Mowing in the late afternoon has benefits and hazards. Our farms seems to grow rocks. Areas that are mowed regularly have been cleared of rocks or we know where the rocks are, so we can avoid them. When the ground is damp, sometime a rock that has been level with the ground will be flipped up to the surface by the tractor tires which results in the brush hog picking it up on the next round and either throwing it out or rattling it around the brush hog housing. Each mowing results in the collecting of more rocks being removed to safe piles.
One of the benefits is having a deer wander out into the yard, stopping to see what is going on, then moving on to a safer location. The evening skies are lovely to watch as each round is mowed.

A Locavore

This is an interesting word that has erupted into our language in the past decade. One of the bumper stickers seen in town says “Buy Local, Eat Local, Live Local.” In the interest of reducing our carbon footprint, it is a mantra that we strive to live. There are snack food items that we desire and indulge in on occasion, hubby likes cola, crackers and chips and I enjoy pistachios and coffee. I know that these are not local and in no way can be local. For the bulk of our food, we grow it, buy it at the local Farmer’s Market, or do without. We grow organically and patronize those farmer’s who do likewise. We astutely avoid GMO products and seek non GMO snacks, oils, and grains that we do not grow.
The garden each year is planted with those vegetables that both of us welcome on the table. There are some that I would gladly enjoy, but hubby doesn’t care for, and it isn’t worth my time and effort for them. I will indulge in the purchase of butter beans, squash, and Brussels sprouts at the Farmer’s Market when they are in season. So far, I haven’t started an asparagus bed, so they too are a seasonal treat from the market. That said, the variations in the summers here have altered the success of various crops from year to year. There have been years when the pumpkins, gourds, and cukes have nearly overrun the garden. This year only the cukes survived and only for a couple of short weeks produced. Most years, the tomatoes have been abundant, but the cool wet summer has not been kind to them and though, there will probably be enough for our winter fare, there won’t be much to share with our son’s family. Some years, I get almost no peas and beans, this year they are plentiful and with the cool wetness, the broccoli and cabbage are thriving.
With the peppers generously producing and not finding frozen pepper much to my liking, I have been looking for ways to enjoy them. Yesterday afternoon, with the temperatures cool enough to allow the oven to be on, I baked bread. Herb and onion bread, a recipe I have had for decades, one that was always enjoyed by my family and relatively quick to make. It is not a batter bread, but a quick yeast bread that is ready for the oven in about an hour and a half. It smells delightful baking, is delicious hot from the oven and toasted the next day. Since the oven was going to be on, while the bread rose, I minced and chopped veggies, thawed a cup of Farro, and browned a pound of local ground beef, mixed it together and stuffed peppers from the garden. There will be several more meals from the stuffing that was prepared. That and a homegrown cabbaged sautéed, made a meal fit for any guest, had there been one.
With a half a loaf of bread left, this morning’s feast was toasted herb and onion bread with homegrown fresh scrambled eggs with local hard cheese.
Life is good on the farm. By the way, does anyone want a beautiful large Buff Orpington rooster;-)

A Week on the Farm – August 15,2013

Half of this past week, we left our farm and traveled about 3 hours north to celebrate the 90th birthday for my active and vibrant Dad and to have two of our grandchildren baptized. The site of these celebrations is where our family began vacationing 57 years ago. I have not been a regular for all of those years, but all three of our children were baptized there, our daughter was married there 3 years ago and her children were the grands baptized there this year. The gathering was 4 generations, my Dad and step Mom, hubby, both of my siblings, one of their spouses, cousins, nieces and nephews, their spouses and children, two of our children and their families. The eldest, my Dad was 90, the youngest was a nephew at 17 months.
2013-08-08_18-23-16_71It was a wonderful gathering, though we missed a few family members, we did get a group photo taken of those in attendance. We returned home last Saturday and our daughter and her family left Sunday. We really enjoyed having them here for 12 days and wish they lived closer than the 13+ hours away that they do live.
The week allowed us to add 256 ounces of blackberry, blueberry, and black n’ blue jam to the summer production. Half of that returned to Florida with our daughter.
Finally, the tomatoes are turning red, though with this week’s highs in the 70s and lows in the upper 40s, production is slow. What we get will be put away for winter.

This is 3 of today’s eggs, typical of the variety we are collecting. The Silver Laced Wyandotte and the Delaware are laying the normal sized cream colored eggs. The Red Rock crosses are laying the larger dark brown eggs and one of them is laying the dinosaur sized eggs, often with double yolks. The dogs love when I cook one of them for their breakfast supplement. The number of eggs collected is exceeding the number we are using. One dozen was gifted to a neighbor, another will be gifted to my cousin. Three dozen were sold last night at my weekly Clicks and Sticks knitting group. We still have 4 gals that haven’t even started laying yet.
This morning started with a call from the Post Office that the fall meat chicks were awaiting me to come pick them up. They are now safely, securely bedded in the brooder with food, water, and their heat lamp. They are so cute at 2 days old, but this breed grows so quickly that they will soon not be so cute.
We have recently begun seeing a dog trainer that trains without the use of treats, to try to make us the alpha members of the pack and to get the 185 pound Mastiff to defer to us instead of being stubborn. We are also working to curb his recent anti social behavior toward strange dogs. This is as far as he got after we returned from today’s training.
The last news of the week is the return of our bear friend. He was seen last night and again this morning on the south edge of our farm near the woods. I guess we must be in his current territory. Unfortunately, he will likely be found and hunted down when the season begins, by someone on the mountain who will likely hunt him not for his meat.


     This has been a very atypical summer.  We have required very little use of the A/C but umbrellas and rain jackets have been a standard part of most day’s attire.  By now, usually, the fields are brown, the trees showing the stress of lack of water, the garden and deck pots requiring daily watering.  Not so this year.  The fields and woods are verdant, the flowers vivid.


The garden has been less productive this year, too much rain, too cool temperatures. The fall type crops, beans , peppers and coles are thriving. There won’t be many tomatoes for sauce and chili this winter. We will have to vary our winter fare to accommodate this failure. We had a couple of weeks of cucumbers and pickles were made, berries were plentiful and jam was put up, but not a single winter squash or pumpkin survived. A trip to Meadows of Dan is in order in the fall to stock up on them.
Today it is actually chilly. Sitting on the porch requires socks and a sweater to enjoy my coffee and the views. This pattern is to continue through the weekend. I am not complaining about this and neither is our power bill. At least today we have sun.shine

A Week on the Farm – August 3, 2013

     This week has been delightful, the weather is mild during the day and cool at night.  The rain has abated with only the occassional shower.  

     On Wednesday morning, our daughter with her husband and kids, along with one of their friends arrived.  We are really enjoying having our kids and grandkids here.  Their dog is getting along with our dogs fairly well.  There was really nothing scheduled, we picked wild blackberries on Wednesday afternoon and made a batch of 6 half pints of jam.

     Today we all went to the local you pick berry farm and picked nearly a gallon and a half of blackberries and about 3/4 gallon of blueberries.  Daughter and I have spent the better part of the afternoon making 2 batches of blackberry jam and 1 batch of blueberry jam for our pantry and for daughter to loves the blackberry jam, and this was her first time making jam.


It has been a week of pickle making, a couple jars of jalapenos put up, but still no tomatoes. The hens are now laying a fairly consistent 5 eggs a day. Four of the girls still haven’t figured it out, but I am seeing more mature signs from them.