Saturday, December 4, 2010

Outside My Window

I see snowflakes gently spitting around. There's snow on the ground and it's cold! Making ice cold. Well, ok, it's not like it's really all that cold, but you don't wanna be caught out there without a coat, some gloves and nice boots.
Also there's a plume of smoke. This morning bright and early I went out and gathered up all of the sticks left over from the last windstorm, the ones I could pick up anyway, a lot of them are already frozen in, but everything I can get cleaned up now, will be less to do in the spring. Also, there are some garden leftovers in there. Still left to do outside today is get the grill moved up by the house and get another skidder of wood.

Hubby went in to work, he'll have help there today, so maybe he can get things back on track. He sure is frustrated not being able to do much.

Outside my window there is also a plethora of roosters, too many for the hens I have, so soon I will put one of them in the oven. Can't butcher all of them as the freezers are still full from butchering the steers and also from deer season. And ice fishing season looms.
Mmmmm, nothing like blue gills through the ice, which now that I think about it, will make a nice dinner tonight.

Throughout the winter I'll butcher the roosters one at a time as I need them, until I have only 2 left, that will make a nice ratio and ensure babies in the spring.
I also have one hen who thinks shes a cat. Go figure, I'd have a strange critter. She sleeps in the window wells and up in the hay loft with the cats. She doesn't hang with the other chickens at all, but it's ok I guess, the others are content to be locked up in the hen house at night, but she sleeps out with the cats. Whatever.

Still working on my shawl, got a lot more done yesterday and will knit a bunch today too. Next will be a cowl, big enough to pull over my head for a hood. Would be awesome if I could make one out of Quiviet, but probably no go. I do, however, have some angora sport weight that will work nicely.

Ok, back at it! Gotta get the fish out of the freezer to start thawing, and go see if I can start the skid steer.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter Is Here

Winter in the Northwoods has finally arrived.
I'm sitting here, drinking my coffee, watching the snow fall (the same snow I'll see again in April or May) and just loving winter.
So many summer projects didn't make the cut. My big autumn project (greenhouse) didn't make the cut either but that's ok.
My arms are better so I can knit again, and with the continued pileup of the white stuff on the ground, I can make my goat paths again.

Up here some say it "snows every day". And mostly it does. Sometimes it's just a few flakes falling from the sky, and other times, look out! Today? A few flakes falling. Since we're supposed to be getting snow throughout the weekend, we should have a bit of a pile up by then.

Must get my sled running. Last winter it seized up and hubby has to fix it. He also has to tear down my bike and fix that motor too. And, he has to get all healed up from the nasty fall he took while hunting out in Wyoming (and the subsequent surgery to fix the ankle that resembled a jig saw puzzle). It will be awhile! But he'll get it done, and then I can ride.

Currently I'm knitting a shawl in the most gorgeous colorway of Aurucania you've ever seen! It's more of an autumn colorway, with the browns, greens, oranges, yellows, but it sure is pretty.

And, since it's getting a bit chilly in here, I shouuld probably get the stove going again!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Corn Crib

We've been building a corn crib. (And when I say "we", actually this time it's hubby).

This is where we'll store the corn until we can grind it for the steers and chickens.
What's with the 76 sign in the background? Well if you've followed my blog for any time, you know that I'm a scrounger. While looking for a top for my baby chicken pen which is 6x6 we came across this at an auction. It was on a "just take it" trailer, so we did! It fits perfectly. Let's light in. Keeps rain out. And keeps critters out.

It's been beautiful up here this last week, all the reds, oranges, yellows and the stark greens of the pines and cedars. Beautiful. Can't walk in the woods cause it's bow season, but I can walk on my property, which is 9 acres of just about every color you can imagine!

This weekend I will likely take one day (saturday) and scour the countryside for old apple trees to make my applesauce and apple butters. Sunday we are riding! My Colorado brother will be here and hubby and I and my brother along with an undecided number of friends will take a bike trip over to the west side of the state to see the colors over there. Not that they're any different from here, but when he comes in October we like to ride around and look. This weather won't last long and from here it's all down hill.
The garden is pretty much put away for the summer, although I still have to dig the potatoes.
My two knitting projects are progressing, have 2 baby sweaters due in a month or so. Yikes!
Sometimes my arms hurt so much I can't knit, but they're going to hurt anyway, so on days when it's not too bad.....
Lots and lots of fall projects. There's a hole in the chix coop floor, have to get that fixed, finish the enlargement of the chicken pen, get another pen ready for 2 new steer calves coming to live with us in a week or so, finish up a few projects that I started and never finished due to my weird summer. Among these projects is one I like to call "steps on the back deck". It's fun to jump from the deck to the ground, and it tests my athletic ability to try to hit the big stones, but it's not good when the ground is covered in slippery stuff. Have to get the screens out of the windows, washed and put away for the winter... I don't know how people who don't farm keep busy! If I didn't have this place to tend to, I'd be so bored, I'd probably have to go buy a farm or something!
Tonight there might not be a lot of "stuff getting done" as it being Wednesday and all, I might find myself partaking of the ale down at the local watering hole!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Under 2.00 a Pound!

The steers, Salt (shown right) and Pepper(left) are both nestled snugly in my freezer, and hubby's taxidermy freezer, and my mom's freezer, and the neighbors freezer. Holy S%^&*(!!
2 Steers is a lot of little packages to try to fit even in a big chest freezer that's mostly cleaned out.
Next time hubby decides he wants to go play with his friends and it's "pick up the steers from the butcher" day, JUST SAY NO!!
Here's how I got to my "under 2 bucks a pound" figure.
500 bucks for processing, roughly 600 for grain, 200 for the calves themselves, 100 for the milk replacer, and 300 for miscellaneous expenses (fencing, salt blocks, baling twine for the hay, feeders, castration, gas for the tractors, beer, electricity for the fencers...) that figure is probably low.
I have in my possession 1280 lbs of meat. So I did a bit of simple division (yeah, ok, I used the calculator) and came up with somewhere around 1.32 a pound. Since the 300 for miscellaneous is likely quite low I rounded up.
Before you get all "but I pay 6 and 7.00 a pound in the store" on me, let me tell you, we grow our own grain and hay. All of our feed and hay is organic, and we do all the work ourselves. These little boys take 2 years to grow to butchering weight. If you had to pay for grain, hay and veterinary care as well as routine maintenance (they do like to have food and water on a daily basis) it adds up.

So that's done for the year.

Seems we got only about 5 roosters in this latest batch of chicks, cool! So we'll cook them up one at a time as we need them, through the winter. I'll keep one to hopefully have babies in the spring. That was my rationale when buying one breed, to keep the flock going so I wouldn't have to buy them every year. Hopefully that little investment will pay off. I got Buff Orphingtons, a nice size bird, definitely large enough to provide a nice dinner, good layers and hardy through the winter.

More tomatoes to do. A neighbor says he's got all he wants from his garden and the rest are mine. YAY!! Soup, sauce, salsa, or just stewed tomatoes, don't know what they will end up as yet. I was going to freeze these ones to save myself a bit of time, but the freezers appear to be a bit... um... full of steers.
Plan B - can tomatoes instead of freezing them.
My baby sweaters are coming along - got a new granddaughter due mid November and another nephew about the same time. A few months ago I started to notice that my arms were hurting quite a lot. I'm a farmer. This isn't acceptable. Went to the doctor. Went to the specialist. Did all the tests. Tendinitis, likely brought on by too much knitting. Wait! What???? Too much knitting? A knitting injury? Really???
So now I either have to live with the pain, not knit or try to remember to knit "the new way" that doesn't move my arms a lot and cause too many problems. Seems to be the only solution. The only problem with that is that it's a bit cumbersome. Kind of like trying to type with my toes (I'm guessing, really, I haven't tried it). I begged the doctor to give me some mysterious diagnosis just for the respect thing. I mean if I told people I couldn't knit because I had a knitting injury, well, lets just say I've been the recipient of the "sideways look" before. But the best she could come up with was tendinitis due to too much knitting.
Also trying to get myself back into my groove. My Dad was sick for a long time. My mom, daughter and I took care of him until he died at home, just 2 short weeks ago. While that didn't throw me quite as much as I expected, it did throw me that it didn't throw me. Go figure, that's me, give me something to over analyze and I'll go to town!
Well, now I find myself with more time on my hands. Trying to get moved back into my house (the last couple of weeks of his life, I pretty much lived over at his and my mom's house), trying to clean between the edges... stuff like that. Hubby was awesome in keeping up with laundry and dishes.. even swept the floor, it kind of scared me.
And now I have time to decorate for holidays again!
Along that line I had youngest son bring up 2 or 3 bales of hay from the barn to put on the front porch for my "autumn display". They're still in the yard. Seems like when you're blessed with a batch of extra time, there's a whole lotta stuff just waiting in the wings to fill that void. Oh well, I will get them on the porch, get my scarecrows and pumpkins (to be displayed for awhile, then canned for pies in the winter) out, and Halloween and thanksgiving decorations put up. Likely just in time to take them down for Christmas.

Life is Good, and on the farm, it's never boring!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jam Is Gelled!

So, the grape jam is all jammed up! And so is the kitchen, but that's another story, didn't have time to clean up or was too tired, or NCIS was on the tube, take your pick, but the jam is done.
All jars sealed and this morning, just because, I flipped them over. I don't know why you do this, but they used to, so I do.
I haven't tried it yet, maybe tonight.

Just eyeballing the big bowl of picked grapes, I estimated 2 gallons of grapes, and complete with the added sugar, minus the skins and seeds I got 4 quarts and 3 pints. Pretty good.

Monday night (when I should have been jamming, but decided to go spinning instead), I went spinning. Not the riding the imaginary bike up and down imaginary hills kind of spinning, but the turning fibers into yarn variety. It's been awhile so I had to get tuned back in, but luckily, I have "J", the spinning extrordinaire instructor at my disposal, she got me going again. I had a nubby pink/blue/off white/brownish fiber that jumped out and attacked me while having early morning coffee in a very small Colorado Cafe. Go figure. I had to have it, you know how it is. It is spinning up into a very nice, trying to keep it a sport/sock ish weight, fiber, maybe a shawl will magically emerge from the bobbins full of this stuff.

Tonight Survivor starts, more knitting of the baby sweaters due in mid November, and maybe we'll get the bike that doesn't run taken over to the "bike that doesn't run so I'll fix it" guy.

Life is Good!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Grapes, Grapes and More Grapes!

I got grapes (concord)!
5 or so years ago, hubby bought me a grape plant for mother's day, or an anniversary, or a birthday, I don't remember. I planted it out in the yard and it entertained me for a few years. I cut off the grape vines, made stuff out of them, and occasionally would it provide me with a handful of yummy, tart grapes.

This year, I GOT GRAPES! Lots and lots of grapes. And they are soooo yummy. They have seeds, but no matter.

So this morning I went out and gathered them all up, not sure what I would do with them. Showed them to hubby and he said "jelly"! I said, "no"!

I don't make jelly, only because I can't stand to throw away all of that flavorful pulp just to make a clear jelly, so we compromised on jam.

Never made grape jam before, so I Googled a recipe and came up with the one below. Have a birthday party to go to this afternoon, so later on today I'll make my jam. I'm estimating I have about 2 gallons of grapes, so that should make for quite a bit of jam. Sooo excited.

Still have to gather up the remaining tomatoes, we will likely have frost this week, and the cabbages are almost ready too.

The steers have been butchered and the new roosters are starting to fertilize eggs (red spots when I crack them open).

Fall on the farm! Time for harvest, and this year, harvest I will. Didn't plant any pumpkins so I'll have to buy some, but that's ok. I'll put them out on the front deck for decorations, then can them up for pies and butters in the winter. After the first hard freeze I'll go after apples. Hoping to make tons of butters and applesauce. Yum! The smells of autumn in the kitchen.

Grandson #1 got his first deer this morning, very excited for him, now he can enjoy venison that he actually harvested.

Lit the woodstove for the first time this season last night. It only got down to about 39, but it's been cool for a few days, so the cabin is starting to cool down. Time to bring up more wood to the deck! I LOVE the hustle and bustle of autumn, and the colors of the trees? Let's not even go there. Spectacular!!

Taking a motorcycle trip over to the Western side of Michigan in a week or so to see the colors over there! Can't wait!!

This weekend was the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wood Festival and while I didn't do much shopping, I did take a couple of classes. One was in hand painting sock blanks, and the other was knitting 2 socks at once. It was fun and relaxing. Between classes I sat on a picnic table outside and enjoyed the smell of the cooking vendors and the cool breeze blowing through the gigantic oaks out on the fairgrounds.

Life is Good!!

Grape Jam

2 qts of grapes
6 cups of sugar.

Wash and mash the grapes in a stock pot, mash them to get the juices flowing
Heat until soft, then run through a mill to get rid of seeds (keep them in the fridge so they can be germinated next year!)
Stir in 6 cups of sugar
Bring to a boil and boil rapidly until the sugar is dissolved. Skim off any foam.
When it has boiled long enough that the cooled jam is of gel consistency (a frozen spoon will tell you immediately if it's cooked long enough) ladle it into clean, sterilized jars.
Process in a boiling water bath for 15 mins (either pints or quarts).

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Recap

This will forever go down as The Summer of "I Got Nothing Done".
Garden? Planted, weeded once in awhile, harvested- yeah right! Not yet.
Critters? Minimum amount of chickens, no pigs, 2 steers (to be butchered within a month). So there will only be a small amount of chickens to winter over.
Household projects? Stove restoration - still sitting on the front porch. Greenhouse? Still sitting in my head, although I think we have all the windows we need now. Back deck? Still there, still unfinished, still no steps or railings or cute little planters.
And on and on it goes.

Why? Because I got nothing done - or did I?

My Dad (my hero, my superman, my Daddy) is dying of parkinsons. Could be days. Could be weeks. Knowing the strength of my Dad's character, will and personality, could be months.

This is what I know about parkinson's (no respect for this disease, so you get no caps! Deal with it!)
The experts all say that no one dies from parkinsons, but that it's just a miserable way to live until something else kills you. I respectfully, now, disagree.
My dad can no longer eat much. He can't stay awake long enough to eat enough or even drink enough. He is quickly losing the "swallowing" instinct so chokes frequently.
How does this not kill him?
He's been totally and thoroughly degraded, humiliated and broken down by this disease.
How does this not kill him?
His body is ravaged to the point where he can no longer walk, talk, communicate, think, or even spend any amount of time awake, let alone spend any time at all in this world that I still live in.
How does this not kill him?
There are no more "good" moments for him, he is just lingering.
How does this not kill him?
So, while I don't have the appropriate letters after my name to make a statement like "parkinson's does not kill...." I disagree.

So, what did I do this summer? Between my mother, my daughter and myself, along with the awesome, wonderful, bestest (not a word? don't care!), most compassionate people on earth who fall under the tent called "Hospice", I have spent lots and lots and lots and lots of time with my Dad. Time that will never be wasted. Time that I can never get back with my home and farm (again, don't care). Every day I still learn something new from this man who most would only see as a shell. Every day I gain time, more valuable than all the gold on earth or in heaven, with this man who when I was a small child, did the same for me.
Because he's still there. I defy you to look in his eyes. Deep into his eyes, into his soul and tell me he's not still there. He is.

Whether he has days, weeks or months left, we will still continue to give him our best, to give him everything we have, while our heart breaks. While we watch him slowly slip away.

Because he's my Dad. And he would have done it for me.

And when it's my time to linger at death's door, I can only hope that I can pull it off with a shred of the amazing strength that he has shown. And when I am able, when he's asleep, I will tell him to go. That's it's ok to go. That his parents, siblings and one of my brothers are waiting for him. That he's done his job here on earth in shaping the lives of myself and my brothers, who are 4 of the most amazing people I know. And that it's time for the next chapter of his life, to make his Heaven into an equally amazing place.

I love you Dad!

Monday, August 16, 2010

4 Red Leaves!

This totally goes on the "What In The World" shelf. The other day (date is important here), I found, under my maple tree, are you ready for this? 4 RED LEAVES!

"So what?" you might say!

"???" I say! (complete with silent waving of arms and expression of disbelief on my face)

"What does finding a few red leaves on the ground have to do with anything?" you might say.

Well, for one, it means that fall is coming. You know. Fall. Autumn. The season before all of the white stuff falls from the sky and covers everything for months and months and months. And it gets really cold. Yeah, Fall, you got it now. It's coming. Soon. The Maple Tree says so.

"But it's only August", you might say.

"I know, right?" I say. (I love that new "saying"), it fits so well. Kind of like when my teenagers started the "whatever". "As if". thing.

But back to reality.....Yeah. Red leaves in August.

Everyone I've told this too just about shrinks in horror. With all of the dire warnings no doubt contrived from NASA, NOAA, the Farmer's Almanac and Uncle Joe. But to tell the truth. It happens every August. Right after the blackberry season. This is the first tree in all of Michigan to start the color show.

Before long, the whole landscape will look like this:

Yeah, I get it, it's gorgeous, and Michigan rakes in big bucks from tourists looking for color tours in mid October, but it's a harbinger of whiter, colder times. When all of the reds, yellows, golds and half of the greens turn into varying shades of grays, browns and whites.

When the whole world is covered in white. When Jeff Foxworthy, the famous comedian states, "You might be from Michigan if you sit on a frozen lake and wait for your dinner to swim by". Yeah, good times!
But before you get all "awwwwww, these pictures are gorgeous, I wish I lived there....", note that the REAL result of these red leaves falling and the soon to be white stuff on the ground is the end of motorcycle season. Go ahead and say it now..... "awwwwww......"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And Still, It's The Chickens

Last night I went home from work bound and determined to reclaim my house. After an awesome week at Bike Week the house had been lived in but not cleaned.
But that didn't happen.
Was very tired. Too many nights of bedtime in the single digits of the AM takes it's toll.

So what did I do instead? Well, chores are a given, critters do appreciate being fed and watered. As does hubby.

As I was dreaming up reasons to not clean up the kitchen I hear the unmistakeable rumble of the skidsteer motor coming to life. Here's the sequence (the part I understand anyway). Skidsteer rumbles to life and tears it's way across the yard. Skidsteer is engaged in moving "stuff". "Stuff" has to be moved for reasons unknown at that particular point in time. Skidsteer, after moving "stuff" rumbles back across the yard, tearing up things as it goes and rolls to a stop in it's place of residence.

Next I hear the "invention of words". This is indicated because hubby, who's big, strong, and all that, isn't as big and strong as he needs to be at the moment and a particular piece of machinery is trying it's best to defeat him.

This piece of machinery is the power auger. And lifting it up to put it on the PTO of the tractor is a 2 person job at best. But since no one came in to ask for help, and since I was in the process of making dinner and didn't go out to volunteer my services, it became a 1 person job. A 1 person job that required the "invention of words".

Mission accomplished on both fronts. Dinner? Done! Power Auger? Done!

Next thing I know, tractor, complete with power auger properly attached to PTO, rumbles across the yard and starts drilling holes for the often talked about but not yet planned, larger chicken pen. Guess what this means? I'll tell you what this means. This means that although my "current project" of finishing my back deck has now been put on hold, my chicken pen is FINALLY getting enlarged. YAY!!! Pictures to follow.

So, holes are dug. Poles are set. Plans are made for finishing, which likely will fall to me since the use of big toys is no longer needed. So tonight if it rains, I'll try to reclaim the house. If not, I'll work on the pen. Then try to get the deck finished. That will probably round out the summer, and my fall project is my greenhouse.

This is my world. Welcome to it!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's all about the Chickens!

So I deep-6'd 50 chickens. See, this is how it went.....

I ordered my supply of chicks from one of my favorite hatcheries (Mt. Healthy Hatchery). Originally wanting 25 we noticed that they had a special of 25 free chicks with the purchase of 50. Well, math not being my forte, I figured, ok, 25 more chicks. But then when that little concept sunk in got it was realized that 25 + 25 + 25 does not equal 50. Not even in my world, but more like 75 (most days). This was still ok (sort of), I'll let them grow and then put them in the freezer, keep a rooster and maybe 8-10 hens over the winter to re-populate next spring. But then a niggling feeling kept at the back of my brain. 75 chickens is A LOT of chickens. Way more than we need, really, and started thinking that maybe I should just call and re-do the order (even if that means giving up 25 free chickens!). So I did it. Just today. They're due to ship May 2, so likely they haven't even been laid yet (the eggs, not the chickens, let's not get into that).
My life is a bit complicated right now, and I neither have the time or space (or time to make more space) for 75 chickens. 25 additional will be a stretch, but MUCH more manageable. And they can still re-populate. And that, is how you deep-6 50 chickens!

Finished a pair of slippers last night, now have to throw them in the washer and dryer to shrink and felt them. Doesn't seem like the season to be knitting slippers, but my toes still get cold. I knit them out of bits and pieces and scraps of Lopi (which is really more of a roving than a yarn, but it knits up nicely, and will shrink felt just fine. Nice. Warm. Slippers = No. More. Cold. Toes! YAY!!

Lots of miles on the bike. Another YAY! The bike is my Zen, I start off down the road and "whoosh" everything just goes away. Very relaxing. Hubby and I are planning a 5 day bike trip around Lake Superior in July. I cannot wait. Have to talk The Mouth into taking care of my farm (and the Bu-Dawgh). She's more than capable, having grown up there, but she has time constraints too. My ultimate dream... one of these days I will ride my bike out to Colorado (brother), then on to San Diego (another brother), then up to LA (another brother), then up the coast to Alaska (another brother, that's all, I swear, there are only 4 of them, sometimes that's more than enough!) Then I will ride through the Canadian Rockies back down home. One of these days. And if hubby wants to go with, that will be even better!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lots of Stuff Done - check! Lots of Stuff Left To Do - check!

Took yesterday off of work so I could get bunches of stuff done. The problem is that for some reason, when I take a day off of work, my brain follows suit and figures that we don't really have to do anything because, well, because we took the day off!
So did I get the gourds out of the garden? No, I do need to do this because when hubby tears around in there with the rototiller, the seeds will get spread willy nilly and I'll have gourds and squash everywhere.

Squash is a good thing, but I prefer to put it where I want it. The zucchini, will grow where it wants, there's no getting around that, I'll just cut away all of the vines that are not in their appropriated space and in a day or so it will send out new ones.

I located some of my hollyhock plants, always good to find them, so I can mark them, thereby ensuring their safety from the lawn mower. Or bulldozer. Or whichever hits them first.

Got all of the laundry done and hung out, which with only 2 of us, is about 3 loads. But it still takes time, and when the brain is on vacation it's tough to stay on task.

That's about it. Oh, yeah, I did get out for a bike ride, that's a necessity when the temps are in the 70's.

And the temps hit 80 today. Not sure what this is all about but I'm not complaining. Tonight though I have to actually be productive.

I have to locate a bottle jack and jack out of the ground the fence posts that are surrounding the chicken pen. Then I have to repound them back into the ground along with a bunch of others. With 75 chickens coming, I have to make some room. Hopefully won't need more fencing, we'll see how much I can scrounge from my fencing pile. Thsi is a more than one day project, but since it's nice tomorrow too, and I have the afternoon off, maybe a good portion of it will get done. Also plan to plant a few more pea seeds, so far the chickens have left them alone.
Survivor is on tonight, plus I have a good book to read, plus hubby is gone fishing for most of the night so a full night is planned!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is It Too Cold To Ride?

Is it too cold to ride when there is a skiff of ice on the chicken water? Or in the cow tank? Is it too cold to ride when walking from the house to the bike shed results in frozen fingers, and your every breath hangs in the air?
Yeah, probably, but that didn't stop me. After the first 2 miles my face was frozen anyway, so it was all good.
So we have less than 32 in the morning (see above mentioned ice in chicken water) and up to 70 (tomorrow possibly 80) in the afternoon. What the heck? I will ride later this afternoon and tonight, I get on my motorcycle and whoosh. Everything goes away. It's a Zen thing.

Hubby and I built a couple of wood duck nests to take out into the swamp. Ok, I should clarify. Hubby built them and I stood there offering various opinions regarding sizes... with my hands in my pockets. Then on our trek out to the swamp I carried the hammer. He couldn't have done it without me. You might ask why we did such a thing? The recent acreage that we've aquired has a few swamps on it. Those swamps are ringed by trees. Some of which fell down over the winter. Trees do that sometimes. Especially while holding 583 tons of wet snow. Trees also contain nests, and when said trees fall, so do the nests. We felt it was our responsibility to help out the little wood ducks with new nests. That and it was a nice day and we didn't feel like doing anything else.

I planted peas yesterday. The seed package clearly stated and I quote, "As soon as soil can be worked in the spring".... we'll see. I only planted a few, then every couple of days I'll plant more, that way I'll have a steady supply of seeds for the chickens to dig up, I mean I'll have a steady supply of peas come end of June. The strawberry plants weathered the winter beautifully. No, they're not blossoming yet, it IS only March, but they're green, and growing. Peppers, tomatoes and cabbage have been started in flats. They go outside on the back deck once in awhile when it's warm enough, which would have been today if I had been home.

The cows have persisted in testing the fences and a few times I've had to chase them back into the pasture. They're so affectionate, but this is not good. They're big. And they have horns. And when they come at you at a good speed with their heads waving (presumably to get scratched behind the ears) it can be a bit daunting. Always want to make sure there's a tree to hide behind, they really don't know how big they are.

Some of my onions that I missed from last year are poking their heads out of the ground, I pulled up a few and they're mushy - duh, so they'll just get tilled under. The asparagus has been under attack by the chickens but the rhubarb is really doing well. My mints are coming up as are the wild violets back behind the cabin.

The stove restoration project still sits, I really have to get back to that. The only oven I have right now is a little toaster oven, which is a marvelous excuse for not having dinner ready, but when I want to cook, it's a pain. The chicken pen needs to be enlarged. I ordered 25 baby chicks this year from one of the hatcheries that I use and while checking out I noticed that they offered free 25 chicks if you bought 50. So instead of the 25 I really wanted, I will end up 75, all because no one ever showed me how to say no to a good deal. And, since the pen really isn't big enough for the 8 hens I have, it probably won't be big enough for 75 to grow until we butcher in the fall. They've been running around the yard scratching to find bugs and pecking at new green coming through the soil, funny to watch them. And they've started laying again. 8 hens = between 7 and 8 eggs a day. There's only 2 of us, but there is a steady stream of people who can and do use them up for us.

Been experimenting with making gas.... yeah, that's gonna wait for another post....

What's on the schedule for tonight? Well I've GOT to get out on my bike, that's a must, no excuse for it, but also have to scrounge out some t-posts so I can start on the chicken pen. And hang out laundry, and make dinner, and, and, and.... and then when the light goes away I'll sit and knit for awhile. Currently making some slippers cause my toes in their old and arthritic condition still get cold.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Is It Really Here?

Spring on the farm!

The chickens have started to lay again (good thing as I was getting down to my last 3 dozen eggs). I froze eggs this year in batches of 2, 3, and 4 for baking, but never needed them. Now I haul them out of the freezer and give them to the barn kittens, they love them!

I've had some coon problems the last week or so, so the chix are locked up again, unless I'm around and can hear the commotion, and the 22 is loaded and by the back door, just waiting.

My new batch of chix is due here the first week in May. I have to wait and get them later in the year because of the temps. We are "officially" zone 4, however, because of this little microclimate that we enjoy, it's probably closer to a 3.5. Anyway, because of this, unless I want to keep my chickens in the house until they're half grown, it's just easier to wait until later in the spring to get them. This year I got all Buff Orphingtons. Last year in my "mix-o-chix" I got one and she's such a nice size, lays nice big eggs, is docile and tame, so this year, we're going with all of them. I ordered them from Mt Healthy Hatchery and they had a special. I wanted 25, but if I ordered 50 or more I got 25 free, so I jumped at it. Only later did I realize that while I only really wanted 25 chix, I'm now getting 75. Good thing I like me my baby buk buks. And, it's still a crap shoot as to whether I walk into Tractor Supply and find turkeys that call to me. I like raising turkeys, but they sure are messy, and dumb. Turkeys are really dumb, but oh, so personable!

It's time to start seeds too. Tonight after work, I'll start some hollyhocks, tomatoes, peppers, and parsley as my parsley that I brought in died over the winter. It's a good thing I brought dirt from the garden up to the barn so I'd have some to start seeds. The garden itself is still under about a foot of snow and the dirt beneath that is frozen.
Part of my front yard will become garden this year, I'm thinking maybe the potatoes, and I'm going to start them early, outside in tires (which we have about a million of them around). Then, as they grow, you put in more dirt, and add another tire, then more dirt and another tire.... To harvest, just knock down the tires and you don't have to dig for the taters. Plus the tires help keep the soil warm during the cold nights.
And, if I have tires in my front yard, that's less yard to mow, right? The front yard is also going to see more berries. Raspberry and blackberries to be specific. I'm just flat out tired of mowing everything and I might as well use it. Want to extend my grapevine wall too, it will border one side of the chix pen, which I also have to enlarge, because in some strange universe, ordering 75 chickens when you only wanted 25 makes sense.

Have some fences to fix tonight too, while I was out chasing coons I noticed that the cow fence is down in at least one spot, so that needs to be fixed. Bu-Dawgh also pulled one end of his run line loose, gotta grab the ladder and secure that before he pulls it all the way out.

Tried a yarn dying experiment this weekend. I dyed some angora yarn in the crockpot using koolaid. Result... didn't use enough koolaid but it did smell good. The colors are more pastel than I wanted. Pink socks? Not so much, oh well. I'm in a sock knitting frenzie lately, they're a good take it and go project, can't ever have too many of those. My shrug is almost done, actually, probably tonight I will finish up the knitting and sew it up. Big Bang Theory is on and that will command my attention in front of the screen.

Also made yogurt in my crock pot. (Not the same one, I have 2) Don't know if it took or not, I'll have to try it and let you know.

It's a beautiful day today, me and the Bu-Dawgh walked to work and it was about 30! This afternoon, walking home it will likely be 45 or maybe even higher. The daylight is shining longer and longer during the day making outside chores more pleasant, but we're still burning wood at night. That will likely continue until May.

Getting anxious to ride my bike, but there's still ice on the back roads, of which I live on one, and salt on the main roads. So I really need to wait for a good spring washout rain to take the salt off the roads and that will also likely help to melt the ice. (I road my bike on ice once, didn't turn out so well, and while it seems I like to learn the hard way, eventually I do "get it").

Update on the stove project, - yeah, it's gonna be an outside thing when I start sanding, so I will also wait on that for a bit more.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weather Alert!!

A Weather Alert Has Been Issued For The Entire Viewing Area....
3-5" (with up to 8" possibly) of snow is likely. Yeah, ok! 3-5? I get it, really I do. The folks that issue these dire emergencies live down in the cities, which just happen to be populated with citiots who either can't or won't stay off the roads when The Weather Alert happens, thereby turning a stretch of asphalt into a slippery, icy length of destruction. Up here? Put it in 4 wheel drive and keep going, oh, and if you happen to have a plow on the truck, lower it and help out the road commision.

But. Even though 3-5" (with up to 8" possible) isn't really anything to be alarmed about there are still preparations to be made.

This time of year the wood pile is getting scarce. We don't run the stove as much, and I don't want to have 30 cords of hardwood on the deck at the end of the season, so I don't stock it up as much as say, in December or January. So, before the 3-5" (with up to 8" possible) happens, I do need to get some wood up to the house.

And get more laundry done, I have to do that too. At least another couple of loads hung out on the line.

There's another thing this time of year. We every now and then have a day that is so nice and sunny and actually happens on the weekend, that the realization that spring is on it's way begins to seep into the corners. And then it hits. Plans are made that require lists. Lists are made tha require plans. And the dirt out in the garden that still lies under a foot of snow (with more on it's way) starts it's siren song and the seeds and seed catalogs make their way out of the basement.

Must Get Hands In Dirt

Start thinking about spring critters (chix have been ordered, they will be here around May 3). I'm doing all Buff Orphington's this year. Last year in my "mix 'o chix" I got one and it was such a prolific egg layer, so gentle and tame and a nice size that I decided to concentrate on the one breed. We don't have a million kids around here anymore so I don't need to grow up the big breeds, the Buffs are a perfect size.

Also thought about getting some more pigs this year, but I'm going to wait. There are a few uncertainties in my life at this point and although I'd love to have some little porkers around (they till up a mean garden!) there are some time issues I may have to deal with.

I'm going to wait a bit before I start hauling dirt up to the house. Every fall I make a mental note to try to remember to remind myself to store buckets of dirt, so that when the ground is still under snow and frozen, I will still have dirt to start my seeds. We can't reliably plant anything that will be killed by frost until after June 1, so there's really no hurry. Last fall I actually remembered to remind myself. Not only do I have buckets of dirt, but I also filled up seed pots and trays. LOTS of dirt is ready for me this spring.

Found my perfect greenhouse in a magazine this morning while having coffee with hubby. PERFECT! And, what's better, is we already have most of the stuff we need to construct this gem. (why yes, it went on the list, why do you ask?). I've been wanting a greenhouse for so long. Up here our growing season is very short, so if I can extend it a bit on both ends I will be a happy camper. There seems to be a difference of opinion on where to build it, we'll see who wins this discussion. Oh wait, I'll win! The thought of having fresh lettuces, and spinach.. all winter long makes my mouth water! I'm so tired of the store bought, no flavor stuff.

As for today, I'll get more wood brought up to the deck and get the water troughs cleaned out (and laundry), they get dirty even in the winter. Maybe organize the barn again, and make more plans and make more lists out there. Have to keep myself busy after all. First the wood.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Northern Lights - NOT!!

So I have a standing order tradition with my oldest brother who happens to live in Alaska. I text to him: "Cold, Clear, Night....Ready...Set...Go" and he turns on the Northern Lights so we can see them. He lives in Alaska, he has control over those things, I'm pretty sure that in a conversation somewhere he mentioned that.

Last night, being Wednesday night, and taco night, I took my Dad to the bar (why, yes, I take him to the bar regularly, don't you take your dad to the bar?). Apon (upon? I really need to look that up someday...) coming out of said bar we both looked up to notice that the stars were very bright and twinkly, as stars have been known to be. So I issued the command..."Cold, Clear, Night....Ready...Set...Go!" to which he promptly (don't you love texting!) responds. "No, Can, Do. It's overcase up here so we've turned them out". Excuse me? So Not An Option! He knows better than to tell me "No", we're gonna have to have a 'scussion about that.

I took today off. Yay, right? Not so much. This requires planning, and I am a planning GENIUS!! Planning must be done, not only to secure a day off, but also to make the most of a day off. Rather than jump out of bed this morning excited to have a day off, I nudged. You know. Inch by inch, very unwillingly, crawled out of bed. Why? Why am I not excited that I have a day off? One reason, well, two reasons actually, one involving the inside temps this morning in the cabin, but the real reason:

Failure To Plan!

So rather than scurrying to start my day, the coffee was made, poured, and sipped while I made lists. This never fails to get me going. A list maker extrordinaire, (I have lists of all of my lists, just can't always remember where they are, or more importantly, to look at them) my reason for being quite often includes the making of lists, which always leads to more lists and adding to lists that already include sublists.

This morning, my list included cleaning up the kitchen and doing laundry. And paying bills, all stuff that I just love to do. I also included a bunch of fun things. Like taking the Bu-Dawgh for a walk. The sun is out (because the sky is clear, which is why the stars were twinkly last night), they seem to go together, unless they don't, in which case there would be precipitation of one form or another (usually white this time of the year), and since there isn't any, precipitation that is, it's a beautiful sunny day. I should go fishing, right? Screw the laundry!

Tomorrow? Dad and I have a pizza date! Maybe with wine, which is usually a good thing, actually the only thing better is a cold beer, or homebrew (ahem... Jeff...running low here.....)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Still Working On The List....

Today, filled with enthusiasm, vim and vigor for continuing work on my stove and my list of other stuff to do, I bounced out of bed at the crack of 7:45 or so.
Immediately, my plans came to a screeching halt!

No. Coffee.!

I'll say that again so you can get the full effect:
No. Coffee.

Is everyone ok? Yeah, it was a rough realization for me too. So, the next best thing being hot cocoa, we made do. Hot cocoa with marshmallows and coffee creamer (chocolate, raspberry) was in line. Although the lack of caffeine made the starting of the day a bit rough (yeah, I get it, there is caffeine in hot chocolate, but It. Was. Not. Coffee).
First thing hubby pops out of bed and says, "Is the coffee done"? After relaying the events that lead up to resigning myself to drink hot cocoa, he promptly dug into one of his bags and produced a hotel sample of coffee.
Augh. Sometimes I feel like Charlie Brown holding the football for Lucy to kick it.

I knew I had to go to work for awhile so I did that early to get it out of the way. Got home late in the afternoon and noticed that hubby had cut and split a bunch more wood.
Cool! Except that the last batch he cut and split hadn't been stacked yet.

I stacked the last load, took the wheelbarrow up to the woodpile and got a bunch of starter stuff. We have 3 kinds of wood. Starter stuff, stuff that will keep the warmth going after it dries out a bit and "holy cow it better be -84 outside cause it's gonna get hot in here". Stacked all in their appropriate pile and swept off the deck. The cows were demanding to be fed so I did chores. They're so funny, since I've been giving them a bit of grain now and then all of a sudden hay isn't good enough! So they watch me up in the hay loft and moo at me until I drop down the grain. Then they're happy. It's good to have happy cows. Kind of like the commercial, but mine don't smile. I know they're happy cause they're not yelling at me.

Finally got some of the clothes off the line. I believe they were wetter than when I hung them off, but we have a storm coming, so there's just no use in leaving them there, plus we do need clean clothes to start the work week.

Got 4 varieties of lettuce started, and some parsley. These will obviously live in the cabin for quite awhile, but I'm tired of paying grocery store prices for iceberg lettuce, so I've started some of my own. Plus parsley! People! Parsley! The folks that sell that little item must have seen me coming and know that I use it in just about everything! Well, take that "parsley sellers", I'll grow my own. Currently I've put all over by the woodstove to get a bit of heat and some light from the window.
Pouring through seed catalogs in January is a favorite activity. I've got my tomatoes and peppers picked out. Potatoes and onion sets I'll buy locally, but I like the heirloom tomatoes. One of these days I'll get organized enough to save seeds!

Currently I'm fixing dinner and trying to figure out which project to knit on tonight. Probably the baby sweater, I do need to get that done.

The next step in the stove saga is to construct some sort of "container" to keep the sandblaster sand in. Apparantly it is quite spendy and while hubby went yesterday to get new tips for his sandblaster, he ended up picking up a pneumatic hand held deal for me to use. That's his way of telling me he's not ready to bail me out of this project yet. So a "tent" will be constructed to put the pieces needing to be sandblasted in, so as to catch the sandblasting media for re-use.
This will be a good time!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Get 'er Dun!

So about 2 or 3 weeks ago, we decided to start restoring the Hasty Baker oven I bought over a year ago. Tarps were brought out and laid down, tools were assembled and deconstruction began. In the middle of my living room floor.

All was well and good until we hit a snafu. We both got kind of tired of working on it. So, this morning, I decided enough was enough. Today was the day. Carpe Diem and all that stuff. Going to get this project done! So I made a list, and put "stove" at the top of it. I put a bunch of other stuff there too, not humanly possible to get it all done in one weekend, but you have to at least try.

One of the other "things" on my list was to get as much laundry done as possible, being as how it's going to rain tomorrow. As much as possible is 3 loads which is all the outside lines will hold and the one every other week load that goes in the dryer.

There was lots of other stuff, but these two were enough to concentrate on.

A couple of different sized screwdrivers were needed as well as needle nose pliers and crescent wrenches. Some of the screws were obstinant, to say the least. No problem. Go get the cordless screwdriver/drill. Hunt up some drill bits and 3 hours later, all screws have been either removed forcibly or otherwise and we have lots of pieces. Still in the middle of the living room floor.

Since before my owning this stove, it belonged to a rather large family of mice, a good washing was required of all of the pieces and parts. I'm not going to lie, the smaller, more greasy parts went in the dishwasher, and I don't even wanna hear about how I can justify using the dishwasher when I'm hanging clothes outside, in January, in N. Michigan. I can, I just can!

So while the smaller parts are in the dishwasher, I'll continue to wash up the remaining larger pieces and parts and put them over by the woodstove to dry. Next step - sandblasting to remove rust, maggot juice, and everything else that the washings didn't get rid of. Wouldn't it be nice if the next things to do were simply to paint it and put it back together?

The paint part I can handle, the putting it back together, well, that might get dicey. However, I am, in possession of the most skilled hubby on the planet when it comes to reconstructing my disasters. And I did take pictures, of various pieces and parts coming apart. Lots of them, so when it's time, with any amount of luck at all, this might happen.

The downside? This is only 1/3 of the whole project. The upper, warming ovens and ledge. Still out on the front porch, but definitely on(the) deck is the oven/range part of this project. Then the bottom part that the whole she-bang sits on.

After washing up all of this stuff, I should probably go get the clothes off the line, as the weather people have opted to lie once more and instead of raining tomorrow, it is starting to mist a bit. The air is heavy, and the temps are hovering around 33. Not a good situation, as when the rain/mist, that will lead into snow hits the frozen roads, yeah, instant ice! Fun!!

As for knitting... so much for my "Project Monogamy"! Whils't in Colorado, I found some extremely pretty yarn - it was definitely a must have!, and promptly started turning it into some nice, dressier than normal, fingerless mitts to wear with my nice leather jacket. Those aren't done yet. There's the throw-it-on-to-run-outside-quick shawl in alpaca and wool that isn't done yet. There's a baby sweater, that's almost done (on my list for things to do today), there's a few other sweaters that I'm fiddling with as they don't have a pattern, just kind of winging it, another pair of fingerless mitts in some new yarn that I'm reviewing, and enough socks to feed a small army. Yes, I did just say that. I'm sure there's a few other things I'm not thinking of right now.

Back to the mice dropping, maggot infested pieces and parts that need to be washed! And where, might you ask, is hubby while I'm doing all of this deconstructing? As usual he stays clear of my disasters until I fly the white flag, but this time, he went in search of new tips for his sandblaster! YAY!! It's really gonna get done!!!