Thursday, October 24, 2013

Happenings Around the Barnyard

We have managed to accomplish a lot of the goals we had for this year and the year isn't over yet. We find that setting goals and objectives are essential for managing our various projects and getting this old farm up to a level where we aren't buried in maintenance/rehabilitation and we can be a productive farm.

Back at the beginning of the year we mentioned that getting electricity to the shop was a main goal along with at least starting to renovate the big barn. We would have done it sooner but life, other commitments, and finances got in the way so we got a bit of a late start.

We ended up having three power poles placed in the back (had to get a utility easement from a neighboring farm to tie onto his line). The meter will be placed on this pole with an underground power connection to the shop breaker panel which will be in the back left of the shop as you look at this picture. I still need to start the wiring inside but that will be pleasurable and we will end up with an outside light over the roll up door, a porch light, an outside 110 and 220v outlet and plenty of outlets and overhead lights inside. I want the 220 for my welder and so I can plug in the camper up there if need be.

One of the reasons we didn't go with a complete underground system was cost but we also wanted a dedicated transformer close to the shop so we didn't get too much voltage drop for the welder.

We have noticed that cats like to be in a box of just about any type and Whiskers has taken over this old abandoned flower pot.

Judy continues to make and sell quilts and still longs for her own quilting machine.....but they are upwards of 20K...can you imagine that for a glorified sewing machine? She still holds out hope though and maybe she will win the lottery.

The unexpected and early hard frost meant we had to harvest most of the remaining garden crops and in the next post we will show how we preserve this through canning, dehydrating and freezing. We got about 50lbs of mostly green tomatoes that will go into relish and green tomato pickles while some that had started to ripen will be allowed to fully ripen. We also got a mess of bell peppers and pounds of Serrano and Thai chilies along with some herbs.

We didn't plant as many sweet potato slips this year as I am not particularly a fan but we got a good harvest and what we don't sell we will store in the root cellar. Right now they are inside hardening getting their protective skin.

We got rid of most of the old doors on the barn and rebuilt them like they should be built and we have painted the trim white which looks so much better than the dreary grey trim. A barn should be red with white trim...I think its some kind of law (or should be). The hay loft elevator door still needs to be rebuilt along with the double door on the lower right.

We have a long way to go with new framing around the windows, some structural repair, refastening some of the tin, some new posts inside, and we have a few more doors to rebuild but just what we have done so far has made the barn much more useful and the paint really brightens it up.

For some reason the previous owner made some doors that opened out instead of in like they should be and they were made of thin interior grade lumber but we have rebuilt the doors with 2x6 pressure treated lumber with Z bracing inside and heavy duty hinges and barrel bolts.

We also need to touch up the paint on the bottom of the stem walls where the previous owner painted down to where the grass had grown up instead of trimming it and doing it right. I don't mean to harp and I am sure that plenty of people could criticize our efforts as well but some of the short cuts we have had to fix are aggravating.

We only cut hay on one pasture for the second cutting and ended up with 56 bales which compares to the total of 65 bales for all the pastures we managed during last years drought. We now have over 500 bales in the hay mow and its a very satisfying feeling.

That is a lot of hay for us to have put up but there is nothing like going into an old barn and enjoying the smell of the hay, the smell of the old machinery, and looking for all the treasures in an old

This claw foot cast iron tub that has good porcelain and only needs to be cleaned up and the bottom painted. It has all four claw feet intact which is hard to find and we will be installing this when we remodel our bathroom next year.

Buster our bull calf is growing and doing well and we are still expecting Louise to drop her calf before Christmas.

My best friend and wife Holly sure looked pretty in the fancy gown she wore for the wedding but I confess I much prefer her like this. Riding her four wheeler in the back pasture and scouting for turkey and deer. Its hunting season soon and we are looking forward to filling the freezer as we have almost consumed all of our wild game from last year.

Holly, Judy and I have found we get great pleasure from wandering around our little farm and seeing the results of our labors. It was a blank slate and so run down when we bought it that we didn't know where to start but now we see the fences and the corrals and the renovations and building additions along with the animals and the place is alive. We both gave up high paying jobs and opportunities to embark on this regrets what so ever.

Its hard to convey some of these scenes in pictures because the sounds and smells are just as big a part of the enjoyment (at least for me) than the sights. As I took this picture the new rooster was crowing in the background, Thelma (this cow) was slurping water, the sheep were bleating and Maybelle decided to get vocal up on the hill. No other sounds other than a few birds. The smells I also find pleasing, I have always liked cattle and the faint manure smells, the smells associated with their regurgitation (cud), the smell of the earth and the fresh air all combine for me to equal peace.

Another crop we haven't harvested yet besides the carrots still in the ground and the cabbage and broccoli that are thriving are these Persimmons. We have several Persimmon trees that all bear way more fruit than we could ever want and we offer it to anyone who wants to come pick it...its just that no one wants it in these modern times. Used to be they were a staple around here but along with Hickory nuts they aren't much sought after anymore. We plan to harvest them and make jam with them but you have to catch them when they are just ripe because they are very bitter until a frost softens them and brings out their sweetness.

They are very tasty when ripe and you can make bread and a bunch of other things with them but if all else fails......

The chickens love them and we supplement their daily scratch rations with Persimmons when they are available. One interesting thing we are still figuring out though is that they tend to ferment sometimes and we wonder if we are making alcoholics out of our chickens...hmmmm

And finally for this post, we harvested the last of our Asian Pears and will be canning these for use in tarts and pies this winter. One of the things we want to improve with this blog is that we want to show more of how we do things and the next post in a day or so will show how we are preserving this late harvest. We have a NESCO dehydrator which is very reasonably priced and it is a good way to preserve food even if you live in a city and want to take advantage of some of the sales that come up in the store. Nothing finer than preparing meals in the middle of winter with food you preserved and you just can beat the taste. So until next time.... 

Minnesota and the Wedding

Well its been almost a month since the last update and its been a busy one. I continue to attend Fire Fighter II school which is starting to take a toll during this busy time of the year, we travelled to northern Minnesota for our daughter Jenny's wedding, we have had the electrical poles and transformer put in to get electric service to the pole barn shop, we have cleared brush, we did our second cutting of hay and groomed the various pastures, we made significant progress on renovating the dairy barn, and last but not least we had to do our fall harvest a little early due to an unexpected and early hard freeze.

The wedding was nice but it was a long way to go and we are now tired and broke. Northern Minnesota (Brainerd) is beautiful but the last time I was there was 30 years ago when I was in the Marine Corps and went through cold weather training at Camp Ripley and the sleepy northern countryside I remember has been replaced with lots of traffic and development and it was frankly depressing to see. Everything went off without a hitch but we didn't get to see much of Jenny or her now husband Steve and I wish we had been able to spend more time exploring the area but it was not to be.

One thing that we really appreciated though was that our other daughter Heather was there with our grandson Alex and we got to spend a lot of quality time with both of them. Alex is about 21 months old and we had never seen him in person and he took to Grandma and Grandpa right away.

The night before we left I had class until 2200, then we got up at 0400 and drove 3 hours to St Louis, took a shuttle from the parking area, flew 1.5 hours to Minneapolis, then took a shuttle to the rental car place, then drove another 3 hours to Brainerd and 3 days later we reversed the process except we left Brainerd during a snow storm. To say we were relieved to get back to our old farm and the 73 degree sunny weather is an understatement.

The cabin we rented was close to everything for the wedding and right on the lake.

This dock was right outside our bedroom and though the pictures make it look like it was warm it was in the low thirties and we had a lot of wind and scattered rain, sleet and snow all weekend.

My first inclination was to wear my best bib overalls but I got overruled by the ladies. When I was commissioned in the Marine Corps and went to the Officer's Basic Course they spent a lot of time teaching us how to choose clothing and dress like gentlemen even in civilian attire and though it never really took with me, I actually do know how to dress appropriately. Thankfully, its now a rare occasion where I have to break down and wear a tie.

My three ladies, Holly, Jenny and Heather. Note the pained expression on Holly, the hair dresser had her hair pinned up so tight it was painful and she was wearing makeup which she dislikes immensely.

Alex was such a good boy during all of the goings on and we are looking forward to having him out to the farm.

Newlyweds Jenny and Steve made a fine looking couple. They are still debating where to take their honeymoon but I think they are leaning towards Belize.

Grandma Judy and Jenny. I know Holly and I were tired and can only imagine how tired Judy was. When we got back she went to bed almost right away.

Heather was Maid of Honor and looked radiant in her gown.

And finally just to show how country we are. When we got home we checked the cattle, the fence lines, the sheep and the chickens and all seemed to be in order so we went to bed early. About 0600 the next morning, I awoke to the sound of a rooster crowing (remember our rooster Carmine died of a heart attack earlier this year so we didn't have a rooster) and I poked Holly to get her to confirm. She stirred and told me it must be the neighbor farmers rooster but the crowing was very close and his farm is almost a mile away. I finally got up and found this beautiful Araucana rooster locked up in our pen and all of our other chickens fully accounted for. He has fit in quite well and though we haven't figured out who did it, one of our friends came over and gave us a nice rooster while we were gone.
Yup, its good to be home.