Category Archives: The Farm

Getting Ready For Winter

Fall is a transitional period and much of our time recently has been spent getting ready for winter. Today I’m going to share just quick overview of some of the things we have been up to.

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The driveway needed more gravel so my husband had 30 tons of 21 AA, also known as road gravel, delivered. 30 tons or 60,000 pounds doesn’t really look like a lot. It certainly didn’t cover our whole driveway but we were able to fix the bad spots.

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This job meant I got some tractor time as we worked together to get the stone spread.

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I LOVE Tractor Time!

Another thing that my husband put a lot of time into is getting all of the equipment winterized and stored. Over the last few years we have acquired quite a collection of motorized equipment. The tractor, lawn mowers, rototillers, chainsaw, power washer and more, all requiring maintenance in various forms.

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My husband had mentioned several times that he needed to put together a Preventative Maintenance Schedule, he also referred to it as a PMS, and I laughed. When I saw him winterizing the equipment I decided to make him a preventative maintenance schedule. Even though my computer skills are not that good I was able to make him a chart that can be used as both a reference document and working document for all of the equipment. As a reference document we can record the name and #’s of each piece of equipment, as well as fuel requirements, spark plug numbers, and numbers of other parts that need to get replaced on a regular basis. With all of this information in one place he doesn’t have to pull out the manual for each piece of equipment to find this information. As a working document he can record the dates that any maintenance is preformed on the equipment.

Here is a link for the PMS document that I made pms feel free to save it, print it, or change it, if you think it would be useful.

 

Stocking firewood for the winter is another task that we, but mostly my husband, have been putting a lot of time and effort into. For us this involves cutting down trees, mostly dead ash, then removing the limbs from the tree, cutting it into approximately 18 inch logs that will fit into our fireplace, then splitting and stacking the logs. Since the trees that we are cutting are dead we have found that they don’t need to be seasoned. They are already dry enough to split and burn.

One of the things that has always concerned me is watching my husband cut up logs with a chainsaw. First of all the bending is not good for his back, but mostly my concern is the way the logs tend to slip while they are in contact with the chainsaw. It just seems so dangerous. A while back I was reading an article in Countryside Magazine that talked about a sawbuck for holding the logs while they were being sawed. I had never heard of this before, so I did an internet search to see what I was missing. I came across this site http://www.firewood-for-life.com/sawbuck-plans.html that had complete plans, including a list of materials and detailed instructions, for making a sawbuck. It looked easy enough and quite affordable so I decided we were going to make one. I showed the plans to my husband and he agreed it was a good idea. He had a better idea. A few days later he showed up with a sawbuck. It was a different design from the one above, and it has definitely been used, but it meets his needs. Apparently when visiting a neighbor earlier this year he had noticed this piece of equipment. At my mention of his needing one he decided to inquire about the one he had spotted. When he asked the neighbor if he could rent or buy the sawbuck from him, the neighbor told him he could have it. 🙂 Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

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When I talk about firewood I always like to mention our log splitter. https://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200640136_200640136 I bought this log splitter several years ago when I wanted to be less dependent on my husband for splitting firewood. My husband had always used a maul to split the wood and had pretty much mastered the art. I, on the other hand, found using a maul a struggle. It took a lot of searching to find a log splitter that was not electric or gas powered and this is the only one that I came across. That’s why I like to tell people about it. Although it’s capabilities are limited to logs with a 6 1/2 inch diameter, it works for most of the logs we are trying to split.

Cutting fire wood is something we will continue to do throughout the fall and probably into the winter. If you burn wood for heat, you can never have too much firewood.

While tomorrow we will take the day off to celebrate our Thanksgiving Holiday with family, I wish all of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving, and if you are reading this but not celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday I hope that you, too, have blessings to celebrate. 🙂

Our Homemade Halloween Costumes

In the 17 years we have been together my husband and I have never been to a Halloween costume party before.  A few weeks ago we received a flyer in telling us that our community was having a Halloween party with food, games, and prizes for the best costume. I set the flyer aside and didn’t think much about it until a few days later when my husband, who had been weeding the strawberry patch all day, told me that he knew what he was going to dress up as for the party.

When he shared his idea with me I thought that it was very clever and would be a lot of fun. I wasn’t surprised that he came up with this cute idea because when you spend all day on your hands and knees pulling weeds you really do have a lot of time to think. Pulling weeds is a very mindless task. I am glad he didn’t want me to guess what he was planning because even though I was certain it would be farming related and that it wasn’t going to cost much, if anything, I would never have thought of this (unless maybe I had spend all day on my hands and knees pulling weeds).

He told me he was going to be a Boo Keeper – think Bee Keeper + Ghost Buster. “I’ll wear my bee suit and carry a net and have little ghosts flying around me and some in the net,” he said. My wheels started turning and in my mind I already had the little Kleenex ghosts made.

About a week later my husband asked what I was going to dress up like for the party. I was just thinking of putting together a scare crow costume out of some of the clothes I have on hand. “You could be a Boo Keeper too he offered, or how about the Queen Boo.” Okay, I liked the idea of Queen Boo. We created both of our costumes mostly with things we had on hand. So here is what we did.

I started with making little ghosts (boo’s). IMG_3355

We decided to make them bee-like so I first used markers to put some black and yellow stripes on them. When I went to my craft supplies I discovered that I had some Styrofoam balls that were the perfect size for the head. If I did not have the Styrofoam balls I would have just balled up a piece of newspaper. I centered the Styrofoam ball on the Kleenex then gather the Kleenex around the ball and tied it with thread. I think I learned to make these little ghosts when I was in grade school. I left the thread long enough that I could thread it through a needled and attach it to the costume.

I then cut some wings out of tissue paper and glued them on.

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Our little ghost bees became known as boo BEES. Warning: Please be careful how you pronounce that lest you get the wrong idea.

Next I made my Queen Boo wings. My husband had a spool of wire, so I used the wire to form a frame for the wings. After forming the first wing I twisted the wire around itself then made the second wing and again twisted the wire together in the center. I covered the twisted ends of the wire with duck tape so I would not get poked or scratched with the ends of the wire.

I glued one wing to a full size piece of tissue paper. When the glue was dry I glued a second piece of tissue paper to the other side of that wing. When the second side was dry I cut the tissue paper in the shape of the wing leaving about 1/2 inch overhang. I repeated the process with the second wing.

 

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My crown was made of poster board. I wanted it to have a honey comb pattern. To make the honeycomb pattern I decided I could use a wax foundation that we use in the beehives. The bees use these foundation as a base for building their comb. Since the poster board was too thick I decided to use printer paper the make the honey comb design. I placed the printer paper on the wax foundation then colored over it with a brown crayon.

I then  removed the paper from the foundation and colored over the brown honeycomb with a yellowish crayon to give it a honey-like color. I glued the printer paper onto the poster board strip then waited for the glue to dry before cutting out the crown points. I fitted the crown to my head and used tape to hold it’s circular shape.

My husband suggested using glitter on the crown to give it some glitz, but I don’t do glitter. In my personal opinion glitter is an invasive species. Once glitter is introduced into an environment it will spread like wildfire and it seems you will spend the rest of your life trying to get rid of it.

I wore a black turtle neck and black leggings with an oversized white t-shirt that I picked up at Joann Fabrics for $3.00. My husband wore a pair of Tyvek coveralls that he had on hand, then put his bee suit over top. I attached some of the boo BEES to his suit and net and attached some of them to my t-shirt as well. (It’s the worker boo’s job to protect the queen.)

I put on some white face paint to look more ghost-like and my husband picked up some Bit-O-Honey candies for me to pass out.

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Here we are at the party on Friday evening.

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Our neighbor, Maggie, won first place for her wonderful witch costume. My husband won second place a $25 gift certificate and, to my surprise, I one third place a $25 gift certificate as well.

I love that we were able to put a Halloween spin on something that we do in our daily life and were able to create the costumes at little expense. The only money we actually spent on these costumes was the $3 for my t-shirt and a few $ for the Bit-O-Honey candies.

We enjoyed a fun time with some of our neighbors but had to excuse ourselves as darkness fell and duty called. Once out of public eye the Boo Keeper mysteriously morphed into Chicken Farmer and rushed off to close the chickens in the coop where they would be protected from any dangers that were lurking in the darkness.

Note: This is  not an advertisement but years ago I discovered that I can often find t-shirts on sale for $3.00 or less at Joann Fabric. At that price it was worth stocking up so when the kids were in school I would keep a supply of these shirts in various colors. When the kids would come home from school needing a special color shirt for a school activity or project I usually had what they needed. These shirts are designed to be used for craft projects such as tie dye, painting, iron-on, cross stitch and more but are also suitable for wearing just as a regular t-shirt. I in fact have a few in my wardrobe.

I would love to hear your creative ideas for Halloween costumes. Have you ever added a ghostly or funny twist to something you do everyday? Have you made a clever costume out of things you have on hand? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Celebrating

Woo Hoo! I exclaimed at 1:46 P.M. as the last bulb of garlic was planted. My husband chimed in with a Yee Haw! We began preparing bulbs last Monday and have been working towards todays finale all week long. We were blessed with a week of beautiful weather. We finished up today with 7700 cloves planted, and none too soon as tomorrow’s forecast is for cooler temperatures and lots of rain 🙂

It was 1:56 P.M. while I was cleaning up some of the area when I spotted the Blue Bird. Yes! Our Blue Bird of Happiness paying us a visit to share in our celebration. This evening we wrapped up a few things like running wire and twine around the area to hopefully deter deer and chickens. We would like to invite you to share in our celebration. You can do so by pouring a glass of your favorite beverage and raising it as a toast and/or saying a simple prayer of thanks to God and asking that He bless us with a bountiful crop in 2018. You could also hit the like button at the bottom of this page or leave your comments to let us know you care.

If you would like more information about what was involved in our garlic planting activities this week please check out this page https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/  that details our 2017 garlic growing season.

Thanks for reading and God Bless.

Our First Apple Crop

This has truly been a wacky year for food production at the farm. Some things that normally grow in abundance have floundered and some things that have never produced before have done well. Apples were among the crops that did relatively well this year.

We have seven young apple trees of various varieties that we have planted in the past six years, three of which we planted in April of 2011 before we even closed on the property. Each year the apple trees have had had at least some blossoms in the spring but they never developed into more than a few apples. Last fall, as an experiment, I put a small amount of wood ash around the base of three of the trees. This spring nearly all of the trees blossomed heavily so I am not certain how much effect the wood ash had.

In May, when the apple trees were in full bloom, we had several mornings of heavy frost. Since the frost damaged asparagus, rhubarb and grape leaves, I am still stumped that our apple trees were unaffected.

Our honey bees were more that happy to do their part in our apple production, flying from blossom to blossom and tree to tree collecting pollen from one blossom and redistributing a portion of it on the next blossom while they collected their pollen from that one.

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Honey bee – too busy to pose for a picture

Being our first apple crop we didn’t know what to expect and it seems that our apples fell victim to bugs, worms and disease.  Then to add insult to injury the crows  decided to make our apples part of their diet.

A couple weeks ago when my husband was tired of watching our apples being destroyed he decided to pick what might still be good before the crows got anymore. He first brought home a bag of red apples and since I was busy that day, probably cleaning garlic, I put them in the refrigerator and half forgot about them. A couple days later he brought home these golden delicious.

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He had been talking about dehydrating apples or making apple chips for a few weeks so I decided to use the useable part of these apple to make chips.

When I peeled the apples I was pleasantly surprised to see that the blemishes, which I have not positively identified but might be apple scab, were only skin deep. Once I removed the peel there was no evidence of disease.

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I peeled, cored and sliced the apples. I placed the slices in a single layer on my dehydrator trays. Each tray held about four apples.

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I filled up all nine trays and realized I had peeled way too many apples. So I needed to come up with a semi-quick or easy way to use the other half of those apples. Since fruit pies are a favorite dessert here and pie filling freezes well I decided to make apple pie filling.

I know that golden delicious apples are not necessarily a cooking apple so I was happy to find a recipe for pie filling that just called for apples instead of “cooking apples” or a specific variety of apples. Not that it would have mattered because I often change up recipes, substituting what I have on hand for what is called for in the recipe. Sometimes it turns out really well and sometimes not so good. The apple pie filling is in the freezer for now but I am certain that we will enjoy the apple pie that it makes.

The apple chips on the other hand are disappearing quickly. They make a nice snack.

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When I took them out of the dehydrator, after about 18 hours, I packaged each tray of apple chips in a sealable plastic sandwich bag. This way I know that the package contains about four apples or four servings. Then I put the bags in jars for storage. It is important to know an approximate serving size because these apple chips are so good that it could be easy to get carried away and eat way too many. I warned my husband that eating a whole bag at one time was not a good idea, and that you need to make sure you drink enough water when eating dried fruit. He told me that this was a lesson he learned as a kid – the hard way.

A few days ago when I was looking for a side dish to go with the stuffed green peppers I made for dinner, I came across the “half forgotten” bag of apples in the refrigerator.

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Stuffed Peppers

I decided to cook up some apple sauce. I didn’t need a recipe for this because I have cooked and canned apple sauce many times in the past. Although many of these apples had bites taken out of them (crows) and a few had worms in them, I was able to cut away enough of the bad parts and cook up a wonderful dish of apple sauce. To make apple sauce, after I peeled, cored and cut away any bad parts, I put the apples in a pan with a small amount of water. I brought it to a boil then turned it to low and let it simmer until the apples were very soft. I then mashed the apples with a potato masher. I then continue to let is simmer and thicken up a little. There was no need to add sweetener. I put it in a bowl and chilled it before dinner and it made the perfect side dish.

Over the next few months we will be researching natural options for controlling disease and insects on the apple trees with hopes of growing even better crops in the future, and who knows we might even build a scarecrow or two. https://www.todayshomeowner.com/scarecrows-in-the-garden/

A Year In Growing Garlic Part X

We are wrapping up 2016-2017 garlic season and at the same time preparing for the next planting so this will be my final post in this series. I’ll start where I left off. We began harvesting garlic in mid July and although we had stopped watering the garlic two weeks prior to that, as is recommended, the soil was saturated from the rains that finally came.

Though larger garlic producers may have other methods, harvesting garlic for us means digging each individual bulb by hand. My favorite tool for digging garlic is this shovel with a narrow blade, a short shaft and a D-grip. It is a comfortable height for digging the garlic and the long but narrow blade can get close to each bulb and dig deep enough to loosen the soil under the roots. We bought a second, similar shovel this spring so my husband, who did most of the digging, would have one as well.

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My husband and I started together digging the garlic but before we got our first hundred bulbs out of the ground I needed to shift gears. I began laying the garlic  on racks so that the bulbs were exposed to the air in order for the dirt to dry, while he continued digging.

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When we ran out of room on the racks my husband began tying the garlic in bundles and hanging them from the fence posts. They still had good air exposure this way.

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and when we needed even more room he set up this system on the trailer hooked to the tractor which he could then park in the shade until we could get to them to brush and bundle them.

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The garlic coming out of the ground this year was very wet as the rains came just when we didn’t want them too. Once the dirt on the bulbs had dried it was time to remove it.

I have discovered that the easiest way to remove the dried dirt clumps from the roots and bulbs by hand is to wear garden gloves and just rub it off the bulb and roots. In the past years I would where cotton gloves and usually ended going through a several pair of them, ending up with hole in the right glove and a left glove that was still intact. (Yes I am right handed.) This year we used leather garden gloves and they held up much better.

After we rubbed off all of the dirt that was loose enough to come off we used twine to tie them into bundles of 10-25 bulbs so they could dry or cure. The garlic needs to cure in a dry, area with good air flow and out of direct sunlight for the next three weeks or so. The large bundles were hung from rafters to dry and smaller bundles were dried of shelves.

Since many factors contribute to how quickly the garlic will cure I would check different varieties, when I needed garlic for a meal, to see how they were coming along. To check them I would snip a bulb from its stem, clip the roots and peel it. When the bulb is cured all of the layers of peel inside should be completely dry and papery.

It was about three and a half weeks after we first began digging the garlic that some of the garlic was cured and I started the final cleaning. The finale cleaning prepares the garlic to be sold or stored. It involves clipping the dried leaves and stems as well as the roots. It also involves removing any dirt that still remains.

If you are growing garlic just for personal use there is really no hurry to do this. In fact leaving the stems and roots intact and even a little dirt on the bulbs, right up to the time you want to use it, will probably prolong the life of the garlic.

These are the tools I prefer to use for clipping and cleaning.

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On our first day of clipping and cleaning I was blessed to have my sister Jamie, and cousin Abby here to help. Abby is a farmer too and is always eager to help out if I say I need a hand, and while Jamie may not claim the title of farmer, she has done her share of farming related activities. Things such as growing her own vegetables and fruits, raising her own chickens and now she can add cleaning garlic to the list.

Working as a team seems much more efficient than each person doing their own pile of bulbs, so I clipped while Jamie and Abby cleaned. We all gabbed and the time flew by. I was even more grateful when they offered to come back to help one day the following week.

When I refer to clipping I am talking about removing both the leaf end of the garlic and the root end from the bulb. At the leaf end I usually cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the top of the bulb being carful not to clip the tips of any of the cloves. On the root end I clip as close to the bulb as possible but some of the roots still remain. It is my understanding that any garlic that is imported into the United States must have the entire root plate removed but garlic that is grown in the US can be sold with roots still attached. I am not sure why this is but since it is easier to just clip the roots down that is what we do.

As for the final cleaning we start by brushing each bulb with the scrub brush. Sometimes this is sufficient to remove the dirt and make the bulb look presentable. Sometimes the outer wrapper is dirt stained and one layer needs to be removed. Our goal is to get the bulb as clean as possible while keeping much of the outer wrapper in tact.

While cleaning the bulb I also give them a quick inspection for quality and sort them by size. To inspect the bulb I feel for firmness. Each outer clove should be firm. I also look for bulbs that may have been accidently sliced or dented while being dug and bulbs that do not have the outer wrapper in tact. Any bulb that does not pass inspection is set aside along with the very small bulbs. These will be used in my kitchen or dehydrated for powder. For sorting by size I am first looking for next years seed. Approximately the largest 15% of this years crop will be saved to replant in October.

Since we don’t punch a time clock I really don’t know how many hours my husband and I put into clipping and cleaning the 5000+ bulbs we grew this year, but I can say it was a long and monotonous process and I am thrilled that it is done.

I hope you have enjoyed following us through this year in growing garlic and if you haven’t been following along but would like to find out what you have missed you can find the whole series here https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ . If you have any garlic related questions or comments be sure to leave them in the comments section below and I will be happy to respond.

I will conclude this post by responding to some of the things people have said or asked about growing garlic.

Comment: “Garlic is easy to grow.”

My Response: We have had much success in growing garlic but since I have had many people tell me that they tried growing it without success I am not sure that it is so easy. I do agree that given the right planting time, the right weather and soil conditions and the proper TLC garlic is easy to grow, but this seems as if it could apply to most crops.

I do find that people who make this statement are growing garlic only for personal use, and as a garlic farmer I need to add that while each step in the garlic growing process is easy enough that it could be performed by a 10 or 12 year old, growing 1000’s of garlic bulbs becomes both time and labor intensive.

Comment: I didn’t know that there were different kinds of garlic.

Response: I’ve read that there are as many as 600 different varieties.

Comment: I like the ones with the red coloring.

Response: There are many different varieties that have red or purple coloring on the skin. My varieties may be different then ones you have had before.

Question: “Does garlic really keep vampires away?”

My Response: – “I assume that it does since our farm and home are completely vampire free,” or if garlic is present at the time of questioning I say, “look around, do you see any vampires?”

Additional Statement: “No vampires  were harmed in the growing of this garlic.” I guess I just needed to satisfy any potential readers who belong to Vampire Rights Coalitions and such.

Thanks for reading. 🙂