Category Archives: The Farm

A Dip In The Pond

Our weather has not been warm enough for me to even think about going for a swim yet. In fact it will take a few consecutive days with temperatures in the 80’s Fahrenheit to warm the water to my liking.

Trooper on the other hand found the water most refreshing. Every year he is the first one in.

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He also enjoyed some time laying in the shade.

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I did get some yard work done this week while soaking up some vitamin D (sunshine) and starting on my tan. 🙂

My dip in the pond will just have to wait.

First Flowers

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These daffodils that began opening yesterday, and I photographed today, were not the first flowers to blossom at our farm.

Earlier this week I spotted these coltsfoot blossoms.

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Although coltsfoot is usually thought of as a weed, this wild plant is edible and offers medicinal properties. Check out this link http://www.ediblewildfood.com/coltsfoot.aspx to learn more about it.

Lastly I will leave you with a photo of these beautiful pansies that my husband rescued for me 🙂 from work today.

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It would have been tragic to let these beauties die when they can instead make somebody smile.

Thanks for visiting and have a beautiful day.

 

Life Is Happening Faster Than I Can Write

There are so many things going on that I have wanted to write about but it seems there has little time left for writing. Thankfully I have been taking some pictures along the way to remind me of what I want to write. I have decided to combine many things into this post.

BREAD BAKING

I will start with an update on my sourdough bread making. IMG_4878

This loaf was made the same as my previous breads but I reduced the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and baked it covered for 35 minutes. I then removed the cover and baked it for about 25 minutes more. I am very pleased with the results. 🙂

SPRING AT THE FARM

It seems like a slow transition into spring but it may be better that way. When warm weather comes on quickly and all the plants begin to flower there is an increased risk of losing them to a spring freeze or heavy frost.  Here are some of my observations of our world awakening from it’s winter nap.

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The hickory buds are swelling.

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The maple trees are flowering. They provide pollen for the bees.

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The lilac buds are getting ready to open.

 

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The garlic is about three inches high.

 

 

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This time of year the back corner of our farm is a swamp. It becomes the noisiest spot as the chorus of frogs announce the arrival of spring. I love to hear the frogs sing 🙂

PLANTING

While it is way too soon to do any outdoor planting. We have a lot of stuff growing indoors.

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My husband started two varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of peppers, cabbage, basil and parsley.

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Several years ago we constructed this grow shelf by attaching florescent lights to the underside of  each shelf . As the seedlings begin to sprout we place blocks or boxes underneath their trays to get them closer to the light. We then gradually lower them as the plants grow taller.

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Having them closer to the light helps them grow stronger stems. We also have plants growing near many of the windows in our home.

While I normally don’t plant many annual flowers this year will be different.

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My husband took a job at a greenhouse for the season. They are a wholesale supplier of annual flowers. For various reasons not all of the plugs make the cut, so my husband has rescued many that would have otherwise been discarded.

We shared some with neighbors and family members and even donated several flats to our friends at Special Dreams Farm. Once the weather warms I will be planting Marigolds, Geraniums, and Phlox in our flower beds.

BEES

This year our son-in-law, Ken, decided to become a bee keeper. Since he does not have property of his own to set up a hive we welcomed him and his bees to our farm. Ken said he has been reading about and studying bee keeping for a couple of years now. After doing so he decided to design and build his own hive and feeders. I can’t describe all of the bee-friendly features that this hive has, but if it works out well perhaps Ken will do a guest post to share his hive design.

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He decided to keep Buckfast bees, a breed that we are not experienced with. His bees arrived on Saturday, April 6 and we were blessed with perfect weather for hiving bees. Since the Buckfast bees are known to be a gentle/non aggressive breed Ken was comfortable not wearing a full bee suit. (He only got stung once.)

My husband was there and walked Ken through the process of hiving the bees. When I spoke to Ken later he said that he was thankful for the help and probably the best thing my husband told him was to take his time. I understand this because standing amidst  10’s of thousands of bees can be unnerving.  It is important to stay focused and not to rush to get things done. That is how mistakes happen.

Our hive is doing well as evidenced by the number of bees coming and going on warm days. Since there is not much in blossom for the bees to forage my husband set up an outside feeder for them.IMG_4857

He poked small holes around the bottom of the ice cream bucket. He then put honey in the bucket. The honey is thick enough that it does not run out of the holes but the bees can suck it out.

We have ordered five packages of bees. They are scheduled to arrive on May 10th so I expect I will write a post about setting up five new hives.

CHICKENS 

I saved the best story for last.

Our first batch of chicks, the ones I said won’t be with us long, have moved to the farm. We had decided that once they were out of the brooder we would get a second batch. Rather than the Cornish cross chickens that we got the first time around and are normally raised for meat birds we decided we wanted a breed that would forage for it’s own food.  Jersey Giants was the breed we selected. I had spotted some recently at our local farm store. As their name suggests Jersey Giants are said to be the largest true breed of chicken. They are know as dual purpose birds being raised for either egg laying or as meat birds.

Our plan was to go last weekend to get some but that just didn’t happen, so when Monday came around I offered to go get them, “or we can go when I get home form work” my husband suggested. We eventually decided he would stop on his way home from work to get them. “How many should we get?” he asked. “Eight?” I said. “Eight sounds right,” he agreed.

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When he got to the farm store and found the brooder containing Jersey Giants he discovered there were only eight left. Perfect timing!

While he waited for the customer service person to assist him, he noticed a women holding a very small chick. “The others were picking on it,” she told my husband as she showed him the sore area on it’s foot where they had been pecking at it. “My husband won’t let me rescue it,” she said.

“My wife will,” he replied as he took the tiny bantam chick from her. “Let me take this one home,” he said to the store employee. She agreed.

We have never raised bantam chickens before so I had to do a little research to find out what we had. I learned that bantam chickens are small breeds. There are several breeds that are “true” bantams but each regular breed of chicken also has a bantam variety. Other than a small incredibly cute chick I still have no idea what we have. In fact these chicks are not sexed before sale so we may even have a rooster.

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It seems a dichotomy that this tiny little chick that was being abused by it’s peers has been accepted by this group that is 3 or 4 times it’s size.

“You get to name it,” my husband said to me.

“That is tough,” I replied “when I don’t know if it is a male or female.”

“Pick a name that could be either or,” he said.

After a few minutes of thought it came to me…

 

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Let me introduce you to Big Bird! LOL.

 

Do you also feel like time is flying by?

Are you experiencing nice spring weather and the beauty that comes with it?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

 

Fresh Eggs Year Round

If you have been following my blog for a while now you may remember in this post from last spring I mentioned that we were adding to our flock with hopes that they would continue to provide us with fresh eggs through the winter. At that time we bought 12 chicks – 8 buff orpingtons and 4 black astralorps. When they were just a few days old one of the black astralorps became sick and died. We lost a second astralorp during the summer to some kind of predator, likely a hawk that carried it away, and we lost one of our young buffs due to an injury that wouldn’t heal. Thus we ended up adding 9 new layers to our flock.

I am happy to report that our plan has been a huge success. From December 1st through today our flock has provided an average of 7 eggs per day. Way more than my husband and I use.

Our current chicken count is 24. Here is the lineup –

  •  1 rooster and 23 hens
  • 2 of the hens will be 6 years old this coming spring (probably no longer laying)
  • 2 of the hens will be 4 years old this coming spring (probably laying few if any eggs)
  • 7 of the hens will be either 2 or 3 years old this spring ( we have had so many buff orpingtons it is hard to keep track of which ones we have lost) (should still be laying but maybe not as many as they once did).
  • 3 hens that will be two years old this coming spring (should be laying regularly)
  • 9 hens that will I year old this spring and just began laying late this past summer (laying regularly)

Having excess eggs has allowed us to continue to share them with family and friends. A couple days ago when we dropped some off for a neighbor he told us “these are the best eggs.” My husband replied “because we have happy chickens”.

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We keep happy chickens by allowing them to free range. They have plenty of room to spread out and peck and scratch and do what chickens love to do. Yes, there are risks involved and some times we lose chickens to predators, but thus far the rewards have far outweighed the risks.

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During the winter months it becomes more of a challenge to keep “happy chickens”. While we allow them access to the outdoors every day, when temperatures are bitter cold or there is snow on the ground the chickens seek protection from the elements.

This year my husband made them an additional sheltered area. He pulled our trailer near the chicken yard where it would be stored for the winter. After he blocked up the wheels to keep them off the ground, he  covered it with a large tarp. The tarp drapes over both sides all the way to the ground. He placed bricks on the tarp, both on the ground and on the trailer, to keep it from blowing in the wind.

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Underneath the trailer he spread straw and hay for the chickens to nestle in or scratch and peck through. He also places their food dish under the trailer each day.

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Thus far we have had an unseasonably warm winter and snow has been scarce, but on the days that we have had cold winds or snow, the chickens have taken advantage of this shelter rather than stay in the coop all day.

Do these look like happy chickens? 🙂

 

 

 

Gangly and Awkward – Our Perfect Christmas Tree

It was sunny but cold Saturday when we went to the farm to cut our Christmas tree. Although having snow in the air and/or on the ground might have made the event more festive I was thankful for the ease of not having to trudge into the field though several inches of the white stuff. It was also nice that we did not have to clean up puddles of melted snow after setting up the tree in the living room.

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This is our third year of cutting a tree from our farm for a Christmas tree. When we bought the property in 2011 it had absolutely no evergreens growing on it. So in the spring of 2012 we bought 50 12-18 inch spruce seedlings (twigs) from our local Conservation District spring tree sale. When our trees arrived we had no idea where we were going to plant them all so we made a nursery area in our main garden. At least the trees were in soil and could grow there until we decided where their permanent home(s) would be. This also made it simple to care for them especially since it was a very dry summer and we spent much time watering.

By fall the twigs that we had planted had begun to take shape and turned into small trees. We then planted them along the north and east sides of the back field where we hoped they would eventually grow large enough to act as wind blocks and provide privacy. We have continued to nurture these trees, fencing them in the winter to protect against deer, mowing around them so they have not been choked out by weeds and watering them during extreme dry spells. Despite our best efforts we have lost some. Each year we order more seedlings to replace ones that we have lost and to increase the spruce evergreen population on the farm.

2016 was the first year we cut our own Christmas tree. Life had changed. The girls were no longer living at home. They had grown up and moved out. Some were married, some were in college, some were working and I had to accept that our days of the girls and I all getting together to put up a tree were over. It made me sad. Life had changed in another way. My husband who had always worked a job that took him away from home for weeks or months at a time and often missed the holidays with the family, was no longer working that job. He was home for the holidays. This made me happy. To help cheer me up he suggested we start something new – make Christmas ours – by cutting a Christmas tree that we had grown on our farm. I loved it.

I think it was in September this year when my husband pointed out the tree he thought we should cut and I agreed it was a good choice. It was a the right size since we set it up on the coffee table and it had a nice straight trunk. It’s not exactly picture perfect and probably not a tree I would have picked out had we gone to a place to purchase a tree. It has an awkward shape and the braches are gangly and reaching out in all directions, but I am delighted that this tree is a product of our farm.

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When we had the tree set up my husband helped me put the lights on the tree and the Angel on top, then I brought out my collection of Snow Angel ornaments to adorn the tree.

My Snow Angel ornaments are small angels each having a different pose and a tag attached that assigns them as a  different blessing. There are Blessing of Love, Blessing of Hope, Blessing of Generosity, Blessing of Playfulness… I have 36 of them in all.

When the girls lived at home and we decorated the tree together I would take out each Snow Angel, read the tag and assign it to a specific daughter to hang on the tree. They would read the tag out loud and everyone would talk and sometimes laugh about why I gave that particular ornament to that daughter. Sometimes it was a characteristic that I admired about that daughter and sometimes I thought that daughter may have needed more of that particular blessing. At times it was difficult to decide and the blessings were given out randomly. This activity was one we enjoyed year after year.

For the past two years, with the girls not being there to help decorate the tree, I had left the Snow Angels packed away but this year, I am not sure why, but I decided to bring them out.

As I hung the ornaments on those gangly braches that reached in all directions I noticed how easy it was for the ornament to hang freely, something I struggle with when decorating a “perfectly shaped” tree with nicely tapered branches. Thus increased my appreciation for this awkward looking tree.

The more I look at it the more beautiful it becomes. I see this tree as representative of our life. Much like this tree our family has grown and our lives have changed in the past 6 years. We have branched out in all different directions and each branch bears blessings. Yet like this tree each branch stems from and is supported by the same trunk. It binds us together. Our trunk is love – our trunk is Christ.

 

 

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Merry Christmas!