Monthly Archives: April 2017

Dressing Things Up

In 2013 when our prayer garden started to take shape it was only about 1/3 of it’s current size. To dress it up that spring I remember buying 8 bags of mulch. It was not enough. I ended up making a second trip for 4 more bags.

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The following year, after we had expanded the prayer garden to nearly it’s current size, buying bags of mulch was just not feasible. My husband took his pickup truck to the local landscape supply and brought me a truckload of mulch. When I had emptied the truck and spread all that mulch in the prayer garden, it wasn’t enough.  He made a second trip and brought back another truckload of mulch so I could finish the job right.

The next year the prayer garden had expanded slightly to it’s current size and since it is a main focal point on the farm dressing it up is important to us. It took three pickup loads of mulch that year to do the job. This was getting to be expensive.

Last year we decided to take a different approach. I had read that often times tree trimming companies will deliver free mulch if they are in the area and need a place to dump it. There is actually a website where you can sign up to have mulch delivered. https://freemulch.abouttrees.com/#!/home  Rather than take our chances with this website, hoping that maybe one of the companies in our area participate, we decided to take a more direct approach. Last May when I saw a crew trimming trees in our community I immediately told my husband. He found where they were working and stopped to talk to them. He asked what they do with the mulch. He was told they usually take it back to their facility and sell it. He told them if they wanted a location near buy to dump a load we would love to have some. He left them with the address to our farm and his phone number. We didn’t really hold much hope that we would be getting mulch from them, but later that day when we arrived at the farm we were pleasantly surprised.

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This mulch was a little crude. It had larger pieces and some whole sticks that apparently passed through the shredder unscathed, but the price was right. I was more than happy to pick out the pieces that didn’t belong as I spread the mulch over the prayer garden. Not only did we have enough to cover the entire prayer garden we were able to use it for some other projects as well.

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We used it to build up a couple of pathways through the woods, and we mulched around our currant and blueberry bushes.

This year we have a different priority. We had an extremely wet winter and that weather pattern has continued on in to spring. I am hesitant to curse the rain as for several weeks last summer it was so dry we were praying for rain. So since we can’t change the weather we have to find a way to deal with it. Our property is old farm land that has not been graded, groomed or manicured, as a result we have high areas and low areas. In wet seasons the some low areas do not drain and become either puddles of standing water or just a mucky mess. We decided we needed to work more on drainage by building up the low areas. We talked about using wood mulch, but since our supply from last year was nearly gone we thought saw dust might be a better option.

We are blessed to have a friend who owns a saw mill in the area and we thought we could get a couple truck loads of sawdust pretty inexpensively. When my husband went to get the first load he found that there was an abundance of saw dust and our friend refused to take any money for it. “Just get it out of here” he told my husband. So my husband shoveled the back of his truck full of sawdust and brought it to the farm.

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We started by dressing up the area around the chicken coop.

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The second truck load was spread in the apiary and a third load we used to build up another muddy area that we use often.

While sawdust might not be as effective as mulch for weed control, it will certainly help build up low areas, absorb water and eventually biodegrade.

 

 

Aloe

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If you’re going to have any house plant, and you should, (check out the link below to learn why) you should at least have aloe.

http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/photos/15-houseplants-for-improving-indoor-air-quality/a-breath-of-fresh-air

Aloe is easy to grow, while some articles that I have read say that it should be placed by a sunny window, I find that it does quite well in the corner of my dining room where it does not get direct sunlight. It does not require a lot of attention. I usually give it  drink of water every 10 – 14 days and this is quite sufficient. I have discovered that it also enjoys coffee, so every 3rd or 4th watering I dilute some of the coffee that is leftover from that morning and use it to water the aloe.  The plants really seem to brighten up after having their morning coffee. I do have to be careful, when using coffee to water the plants, not to get any on the aloe leaves because the coffee will damage the leaves. I only pour the coffee on the soil.

I think everyone should have at least one aloe plant in their home, not only are they helpful for the indoor environment, but they act as first aid in the case of burns. Whether it be a sunburn or accidently touching something hot, simply snip an aloe leaf, peel back the outer part and apply the sticky, oozing gel directly to the burn for quick relief. We do not deal with other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis but if we did I would certainly try aloe before seeking help from pharmaceuticals.

The most common way I use aloe nowadays is as an ingredient in my soap. My aloe soap is probably my favorite of all the different soaps I make. I don’t know that any of the healing properties of aloe remain after it is processed into soap, but it has a luxurious lather and just feels so good on the skin.

I do have aloe soap available for sale. Anyone interested in purchasing some should contact me by email @ ruth20012001@yahoo.com and put soap in the subject line.

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part V)

If you are new to reading my blog you may have missed these earlier posts, so check them out and catch up on our year in growing garlic.

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/09/30/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-i/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/13/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-ii/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/18/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-iii/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/01/28/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-iv/

In my Part IV post that I wrote in January I expressed our great concerns about how well the garlic would grow in the wet conditions that we were having this past winter. The wet conditions continued pretty much throughout the winter, with only short freezing periods, and now into the spring. At this point we have learned that garlic is much more resilient that we believed it to be.

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The garlic is coming up beautifully and we are so thankful. Since it has all grown up through the straw, we will leave the straw in place to help with weed control. If the garlic had not grown through the straw we would be raking the straw away in hopes of revealing the garlic spouts.

As the ground dries and temperatures warm I expect to see vigorous green growth on the garlic. We will keep them weeded and watered as necessary and probably side dress it with nitrogen fertilizer in the spring to encourage the green growth. It is recommended that fertilizer not be given after May because at this point the bulb will be developing.

 

Old Dog New Chicks

A few days ago, as we prepared to get chicks, my husband brought in the stock tank that we use as a brooder. When Scout saw this he began looking around for the chicks. We had to tell him “not yet, Scout”. We weren’t planning on getting the chicks until the following day. Scout has been down this road before, in fact 4 out of the past five years we have brought home baby chicks and raised them.

The first year I had great concerns about Scout being around the chicks. When we adopted him from the shelter in 2011 we were told he was about 3 years old and part terrier. Nobody knows what kind of terrier but that was not important to us. Over the next several years we found that he definitely had the terrier instinct to hunt and kill small animals and he was quite proficient at it. He could quickly and cleanly dispatch a raccoon, possum, ground hog, cat or baby turkey by just snapping it’s neck. He was about eight years old when we first started raising chickens.

I pretty much left it to my husband to train Scout with the chicks. Dom would hold a chick and let Scout sniff it and nudge it with his nose and he would tell Scout that those were his (Scout’s) babies. “You have to be nice to your babies,” we would say. Scout would become very excited, and want to look into the brooder, whenever he would hear the chicks make a noise, and anytime my husband or I were doing anything with the chicks (feeding, watering, holding or cleaning the brooder) Scout wanted to be involved.

That spring Scout learned that he was not allowed to chase and kill the chickens, unfortunately it was at the expense of one of our hens, but for a dog of his age and breed to learn not to chase chickens, or any other small critter, is a huge success.

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Scout Welcoming Our New Chicks

Nowadays I have no concerns about Scout chasing the chickens. Our free range chickens wander, peck and scratch throughout the farm and we have total confidence that neither Scout nor our other dog, Trooper, will cause them any harm.

 

One of Scout’s nicknames is “Chicken Daddy”, and he loves it when we tell him he is a good  Chicken Daddy. At age 13 (in people years) Scout has slowed down a lot. He does not pay as much attention to the chicks, but he was still very eager to see/sniff them when we brought them home.

The other thing he really enjoys is helping close up the chicken coop at night. When we go into the coop to count chickens and make sure everyone made it back home, Scout will step inside and sniff a couple of chickens to say “good night to his babies”.

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He really is a good chicken daddy.

2017 Maple Syrup Season Is Over

The following picture was sent to me as an email. The sender apparently found it on Facebook. Since I’m not on Facebook I thought I would share it here.

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Our maple syrup season ended Saturday, March 25th . This is the second year we have made our own maple syrup, and I will share some of the things that we learned this year.

We started the syrup season by tapping the silver maple trees on our farm  on February 13th.  The weather over the four weeks that followed was very erratic as was the sap flow. Some days were warm and sunny and the sap seemed to flow good, then the temperatures would drop back down below freezing and the sap would stop. Some of the trees stopped flowing early on, so we moved taps to trees that had better sap flow. We lost track of the amount of sap that we harvested and the amount of syrup we made. I guess next year we should keep a daily log.

A few things we learned about the silver maples are that they seem to have a sugar content equal to or better than the sugar maples. When we cooked the sap down into syrup it took about 10 gallons or 40 quarts of sap to make 1 quart of syrup. Silver maples make a dark syrup with a robust flavor. Silver maples bud out earlier than sugar maples so their sap flow season ends earlier.

We pulled all of the buckets before the wild wind storm that came through on March 8th. At this time the sap flow on the silver maples was to a minimum and the trees were beginning to bud.

The weekend following the storm we had freezing (winter) temperatures, but once the weather began to warm again my husband noticed that the sugar maples in the woods behind our house were not yet budding. With permission from the community manager he set 20 taps in the sugar maples.

From March 13 until March 25th he collect the sap from the sugar maples. The weather was still erratic with some days having great sap flow while others yielded little. As with the silver maples we cooked sap on days when we had collected 10 or more gallons of syrup. On March 25th, when my husband collected the last of the sap, the trees were flowing slowly but had not completely stopped and the sap had not turned cloudy. We were, however, done.  My best guestimate is that we cooked 3 1/2 gallons of syrup all together which at the ratio of 40 to 1 means we collected about 140 gallons of sap.

The syrup made from sugar maples was much lighter in both color and flavor than that of the silver maple. Both are very good.

Our biggest challenge in making syrup is finishing and filtering. Real maple syrup is usually very runny but we like our syrup a little thicker, so we first started cooking it down to a quite thick consistency. When we did this the we were unable to filter the final product, as the syrup was too thick to run through a filter. We discovered that there was no need to filter this because apparently any sand, or niter, had cooked into the syrup. We had no sand settle to the bottom of the jars. The other thing that happens is that the syrup has a tendency to turn to sugar. We didn’t consider it ruined because it still goes good on pancakes, French toast or waffles.

When we began cooking the syrup so that it was not so thick filtering it was still a challenge. We first tried pouring the syrup through a store bought filter. Even though it was still hot enough the syrup just sat on top of the filter. We next tried filtering it through felt. This worked well to remove a lot of the sand, but we still ended up with some sand in the bottom of the jar. After reading some websites I learned that before using the store bought filter it is best to pour hot or boiling water through it. So we tried this and the syrup ran through. Much of the sand was removed but we still ended up with a small amount of sand on the bottom of the jar. The sand is really nothing to worry about as it is largely comprised of calcium salts and malic acid, neither which are harmful when consumed. The act of removing the sand is purely for aesthetic purposes and a must for commercial producers.

It may seem like a lot of time and effort for so little syrup, but we consider this time well spent. Fortunately the season does not conflict with planting, growing or harvest seasons, and it is a great activity to get us out of the house in the late winter/early spring.