Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class.  Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?


They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

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We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

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The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.




Day 250 – tomatoes, chicks, fall, onion eggs

IMG_0361There’s still so many of them – I picked the left side of this row and ended up with a 1/2 bushel basket full.  And I still have the right side to pick!  I’m going to enjoy tomato soup this winter, I’m going to enjoy tomato sauce this winter.  But right now I’m tired of picking tomatoes!

IMG_0368It’s done!  And I have no idea what that fuzzy bit in the center is all about.  But the mini-yard is enclosed (and lidded to keep little nuggets from becoming hawk snacks), the door has latches, and —

IMG_0370—we have new nuggets!  These are Barred Rock hens from Meyer Hatchery – we’re trying them to see how their chicks do for us.  They were shipped on Tuesday, arriving on Thursday morning.  So they are already growing their wing feathers and giving me the “stink eye” as I call it – that sideways look that chickens give when they’re sizing you up.

More nugget pictures, just because they’re cute!  And one has figured out how to jump up on the warmer.  That’s, Just. Great.  Usually if they are that quick, they are going to be a handful when they grow up.

IMG_0363It’s looking more and more like fall.  The tall grasses are dried, the bean fields have a little more yellow in the green, and the corn is about 1/2 dried (or more).  It will be nice to see all the way to the river.  Corn makes me a bit claustrophobic – it’s so tall and looming!


And which of these things is not like the others?  I’ve been drying the onions on racks in the garage, and it seems that a lot of the onions are more or less egg-shaped.  Which leads to the hens pulling the onions off the racks, and nesting them.  Sigh.  They’re going to be pretty upset in the morning – I removed all the onions.  This is the fun you get with free-range chickens who are too smart for their own good.





Day 244 – another week in the books

My part-time teaching gig began this past Monday night, so I am re-acclimating myself to being places at particular times and articulating all that Spanish that’s banging around in my head.  Added a Humanities class just to spice things up a bit (2 mornings a week), and am loving it.  It’s all those things I’m interested in – music, dance, 2D and 3D arts, art history, theater, cinema.  And it’s hopefully giving people a wider window to the world.  Plus my class is pretty good on the participation thing, which always makes a teacher’s life easier.

So the chick coop is mostly ready to go – as you can see, the door is on, the ramps are installed!  I need to adjust the frame piece on the right – this is on corrugated siding, and it won’t lay flat for me to install the door locks.  So will pull it off, add an appropriate shim, re-install, and hopefully it will be even enough to install the locks.

And as an FYI – oak is a pain to work with.  For cutting, used the circular saw.  For drilling – punch through a pilot hole, then ready to run a screw through.  But it should last!

As to the grooves cut in the ramps, my Dremel Trio helped out with that.  We had seen a chicken coop at the fair that had grooves cut in the ramps (as opposed to nailing a small piece of wood across the ramp), and I thought that was pretty neat.  Just in case – the grooves or cross pieces of woods give the chickens something to grab on to as they go up and down the ramp. Otherwise, they slide down, and may not be able to get back up the ramp into the coop because there’s nothing for their claws to grip.

What else happened this week?  More canning of apples and tomatoes and green beans (they’re still blooming?!!)

And our chickens look like someone did a bad job plucking them.  This poor birdy is scraggly all over.  Some have just lost their neck feathers, some just on their backs between their wings.  They look really sad right now.

2013-08-29 17.27.06Another week of farmers markets, and it was pretty stinking hot and humid for our afternoon markets.  This is my view at Vandalia:2013-08-30 15.05.12

The red tent on the left has salsa (new vendor, didn’t get a chance to try their product), then we have Muddy Truck Patch with some great veg (and mums for those of you who need some fall decor).  Rinaldo’s – simply amazing baked goods (breads of all types, sweets, soft pretzels…), and next to them is Rue Farms from Springfield with their delish potato chips (several varieties and no salt chips available).  And looks like some coffee and mugs in the foreground.  🙂

Seriously, this is a great market to patronize if you’re anywhere near Vandalia on Fridays from 3-7.  Fruit, veg, soaps, baked goods, coffee, honey, food trucks, artisans.

And if we needed another sign besides the cicadas that fall is coming, check out the goldenrod.  2013-09-01 19.17.23


Day 237 – applesauce, tomatoes and honey

It’s been a food-themed few days around here.  Tomatoes keep coming on, so I’ve been coring them and filling baggies to keep them in the freezer until I have several hours to can.  I think I’m at 4 or 5 bags full right now.

I was out harvesting tomatoes this evening, while the apples were cooking, and saw that there are even more green beans ready to pick.  I’m very happy about this, since we had to dispose of jars that did not seal properly this year.  As the House Stark motto goes – winter is coming.  I’d rather see too much food preserved, than not enough.

Also cooked down and canned up the mess of apples from our tree, along with some various and sundry apples that were laying around our refrigerators.  6 pints of applesauce later, that’s done.

Had the great opportunity to watch a honey harvest Saturday afternoon at Angry Hippy Farms.  Robert has had bees for several years, and they open their home at honey harvest time to show the process and sell the honey right then and there.  Doesn’t get much fresher and pure than that.

We’ve been considering getting bees for the farm, and since it would be up to me to tend the hives (Denny + bees = bad), I wanted to get an idea of what I would be getting into.  Robert already had taken the supers (the boxes with the honey frames) from the entire hive, so I didn’t get to see the excitement that happens when working around angry bees, but I remember from having hives as a youngster that lots of smoke is advised, to keep the bees sluggish and less likely to sting.  Robert said he wasn’t able to pull all the frames because of time, and the bees were particularly angry that morning.  Good thing for bee suits.

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This picture is Robert using an electric “knife” to cut the wax caps from the comb.  Once both sides are un-capped, the frame goes into a separator, which spins the honey out of the frame.  From there, the honey is collected and strained several times to remove any wax, bee bits, and other debris.  Finally, the strained honey goes into the jar, and out the door.

Final answer – it’s not easy (but what is on a farm?), but doable.  Another beekeeper friend gave me his last year catalog, from which I can buy starter kits – comes with everything needed to start beekeeping.  Looks like my Christmas list will be very short – beekeeping kit, please!

Tomorrow is the first day of one of my 2 college courses to teach, so that will throw another “thing to do” into the mix.  I’m ok with that though, because time management has never been one of my strong points.  I actually do better (well, up to a point!) with a busy schedule, because I know that thing A needs to be done, and class A starts at this time, so I better keep on track or else thing A doesn’t get finished.


Day 232 – apple picking

2013-08-20 20.32.19They ain’t too pretty, and I didn’t get out there early enough to get more of them, but we have apples from our own tree!

The last few years weren’t very good to our fruit trees – no fruit for at least 2 years, maybe 3.  We have a lot of crabapple trees, and several apple and pear trees.  They are all producing very well this year (except the one apple tree that we pruned a few years back -sigh).

The trees are old and have been left to their own devices, so we’re trying to be cautious about pruning, so as to not over-prune and kill the trees.  And as the fruit comes in, I’ve been planting apples in pots to see if we can start some new ones.  We don’t know what type of apples or pears we have, but they are tasty.

I’m now looking around the internet to find a nice fruit picker – I was out there balancing on a ladder, on uneven ground.  Yikes!


Day 223 – music fest

2013-08-13 13.31.16We had a booth at the Miami Valley Music Fest this past weekend – coffee, cookies, pie-in-a-jar, s’mores kits, and other goodies for sale.  Two long days, but no one had to work the entire time.  Nice people to talk to on either side, and some good music.  Definitely some interesting people-watching!

It was a long Saturday for us – markets in the morning, a couple of hours off to relax, feed the animals, then work the booth and tear it down that evening.  Come home, close up the chicken houses, collapse!