Category Archives: Farming

Lightning and Computers

Please bear with me for a bit while I get my computer repaired after a lightning strike.  The storm tore down trees, burnt up fence chargers, and scared the puddin’ out of me.  We are fine and I will be back with catch up posts when the computer is repaired.

Back on Top

I’ve been out of touch for a bit (two weeks) due to a bronchial infection brought on by all the pollen in the air but I’m back up and running!  Here’s a touch of things that have gone on while I was down.

I’m thrilled with how the rose garden is blooming over and over this year.

The old-fashioned white rose began blooming last week. They open pink and then turn white. It’s so pretty.

Last years yellow rose is such a beauty and has just began blooming. It will be moved into my rose garden early fall.

The hostas have outdone themselves again this summer.

We got both gardens planted and they’re doing well. We have onions, cucumbers, squash, cabbage. broccoli, green beans, and corn in the garden at the house and the garden over at the mansion has white potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peppers and tomatoes. The deer are making it hard for the sweet potatoes to produce because they’re finding ways to get to them even when we surround each plant with chicken wire, and we put a perimeter fence within the garden around the plants and they still ate them off Sunday night.

A new rug crocheted for a classmate I graduated with. I finished it while I was sick!  She has a red kitchen like mine.

A new tractor was introduced to the farm.

The heifers were introduced to their first boyfriend.

The garden at the house was reduced this year in hopes of getting rid of the Colorado potato beetles by rotating the potatoes, peppers and tomatoes.

It started and quickly stopped

On June 7th we finally got a break from the rain that saturated the ground.  Eddie headed to a small meadow that is in front of our house.

On June 7th, hay harvest season officially begins and the rain is over for almost two weeks.

Thankfully before it broke down one field was cut, season, tetted, raked and baled.

Eddie cut it down, Heather tetted and raked and Eddie baled it without getting it wet one time!!

Beautiful 4 x 4 bales that the cattle will love come wintertime!!

He moved on to a field that we normally pasture but this spring the grass is waist-high to my tall farmer and he didn’t want the cattle moved on it to only eat the short under-growth and waste the chance for a few extra bales in the haylot.  THEN EVERYTHING CAME TO A HALT!!

After three rounds of mowing in the field this major piece of equipment, called a haybine, had a major meltdown.

There are two rollers with heavy rubber that looks like big tire rubber under the outer frame of the haybine.  One end of the bottom roller had some heavy damage and the hay started wadding up between and on the end of the roller causing bearings to burn up.  No hay made for two weeks waiting for that roller replacement to come in and a half day to replace it on the machine. Eddie had the awesome help of our farming neighbor, Andy Hutton, to fix the haybine!   The parts to repair cost  almost $4000.  No farming is NOT cheap.  While waiting on the parts to come in, Eddie called other farm equipment dealers and talked to other farmers to find out what kind of an ordeal he was in for and no one had EVER heard of a roller wearing out!!

Anyway, the equipment is repaired and we’re ready to roll on the hayfields again but we have to wait for our next four days of rain to come in and move out!!  Life goes on!!

 

 

 

 

 

First batch 2018

Sweet joy-black raspberries growing wild beside our garage.

Cleaned and ready for a quick freeze until I have enough to make some raspberry jam or ice cream OR BOTH!

I spread them out on a baking sheet after they’ve been washed, dried with a paper towel and then spread them out. Pop them in the freezer!

They’re really nice this year and sooooo sweet!

We got a 12 ounce Cool Whip bowl full.

We should have another bowl full by the weekend and then another patch on the farm should start ripening!  I’m so excited that I have something to finally store for the winter of 2018.

Cleaning Up The Apple Orchard

What a mess!! The blackberry vines have taken over our apple orchard at the farm the last two years. It was actually hard to get to the apple trees to pick the fruit!  This picture was taken last fall after Eddie had mowed off enough to allow us to walk through the orchard.

Three years ago we had a bumper crop of blackberries all over the farm.  I froze more berries that year and made more juice than we had ever had.  We think what we didn’t pick, reseeded or the birds and raccoons  ate them and reseeded everywhere they went.

Hubby on the tractor using the bushhog to take the mess down. You can’t restore the orchard if you can’t get to the ground to plant new tree stock.

The equipment attached to the back of the tractor is the bushhog. You run over the brush and unwanted vines and it chops it all up much like a lawnmower but on a bigger scale.

The blackberry vines had come up in rows all through the orchard.

Half way through and it’s looking so much better.  The blackberry vines were from four feet tall to well over 10 feet tall.

This is a different angle from half way back in the orchard looking toward the front where most of the mess was.

I think it looks 100% better now. The chickens were having a blast digging through the downed brambles!!

 

Overgrown Rhubarb

Three years ago I bought some rhubarb tubers for my garden.

New rhubarb started in 2015,

We had some extra old tractor tires that I decided to use for the rhubarb bed.  I didn’t put them directly in the ground because we have such a problem with wire grass.  Wire grass regenerates itself by spread roots underground and it’s really hard to get completely out of any garden bed and flower bed.  I laid black cloth under the tire and then filled it with garden soil and manure from my chickens and rabbits and mixed it up really good.

I expected it to grow but not as much as it did.  The tire bed is 12 inches deep and  44 inches around.  Three years later the bed is too crowded and my rhubarb it way too thick.  I dug out two of the four plants in the bed and and divided the tubers into six pieces each and started a new bed near our quince tree in the corner of the garden.

One small patch beside the tire bed. I cleaned out all the grass, worked up the soil with a spade and fork and added a little dirt from the garden edges.

The tubers are 12 inches apart  in  up and down the bed and across the bed.  I fenced it off to keep the chickens from digging it up since we haven’t fenced off the garden yet.

Wonderfully rich soil and some rain showers should give the new beds a great start. I don’t expect to get anything from them this year but next spring should prove very fruitful if the weather cooperates this year.

The tubers in the tire bed have twice the room to grow and now maybe they won’t bloom as quickly.

Now there are only two bunches of rhubarb in the tire. I will probably have to pull one bunch out again next year. We’ll see how it goes!

The rhubarb stalks were getting about 8 inches long and then blooming, not good!!  I always pull off the blooms to send the energy to the stalks.

I froze a lot of rhubarb last year.  My favorite recipe is to clean and cut the stalks into one inch cubes (about four cups)  and pour just enough water over the cubes in a saucepan and slow cook until the rhubarb cooks up.  I take it off the heat and add two cups of sugar and box of our favorite jello.  We especially like strawberry or raspberry jello but I’ve also used cherry or blackberry, yum!!  Let it cool completely in the pan and serve.  This usually makes enough for four pints of fruited rhubarb and I pour it in plastic tubs and freeze three of them.  It freezes well and it’s fantastic to eat like applesauce or on toast like jams/jellies.  DELIGHTFUL!

Fruit Tree Frost Damage

The last three weeks have been warm and then cold, rain, ice, sleet, snow, we’ve had it all.

Our cherry trees were in full bloom and BAM and now they’re brown and all the blooms have fell off.Image result for blooming cherry trees

Our peach trees had started blooming and BAM, the blooms are falling off.Image result for blooming peach trees

Heavy bloom on the plum trees looks now like they’ve been burnt.Image result for blooming plum trees

The apple trees are budding and the quince tree is budding.  The rhubarb leaves are curled up and the asparagus stems are mushy.

We’ve had a lot of very warm days and then the temps drop in the 20’s*.  Mother Nature just isn’t being very nice in this spring of 2018.

 

In Our Backyard

The last two weeks have shown us a beauty of nature that we rarely see.

Lovely little American Goldfinchs gather on and under our bird feeders in our back yard.  The red house finch is in the middle of this little flock.

Adult males in spring and early summer are bright yellow with black forehead, black wings with white markings, and white patches both above and beneath the tail. Adult females are duller yellow beneath.  We normally don’t have them at our feeders or in the fields until late spring, early summer so this is a real treat.

At one time this week I counted over thirty on the ground under feeders eating up the sunflower seed that had been picked out of the feeders.

I love watching all the birds from my kitchen window.
We have finches, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, long-tailed blackbirds and several mourning doves every morning.

Since they’ve arrived so early I’m hoping with all my heart that spring is truly just around the corner.

Firewood For the Next Heating Season

Crazy isn’t it??  We’ve just about finished a heating season and now we start preparing for another one!  It’s not a vicious circle, it’s life on the farm!

Last fall we had this huge pile of firewood stacked on the outside of the wood house.

We covered it up so it would continue to dry.  The wood house was about half full and we didn’t want to add any to it because a lot of it had been seasoned for 2-3 years and needed to be used.  So we emptied out the woodshed and didn’t have to cut any firewood all winter.  We used about half of the stack in the photo above and I just recently stacked the remainder to start our fuel for next winter.  We NEVER burn unseasoned firewood!  Flue fires are not on our list of fun!

The woodshed is probably a 20 ft. x 24 ft. shed and we now have two full ranks front to back and about 7 ft. high.

We still have room for four more ranks to fill it up. This is well seasoned and under a covered roof so it’ll be great for heating in 2018 thru 2019 winter.

Hubby has already cut down four huge dead oak and wild cherry trees to complete the harvest and we have two truck loads of already cut up but needs to be split.  We use locust, ash,and maple for firewood, as well.We’ll try to get this done in the next month so it won’t interfere with hay season and it won’t be full of bees and snakes.

Just a little more work on the farm!

Spring Cattle Move

Today a job that should have been done a month ago was completed.  Weather changes and the fact that Eddie and I have been sick for a week prevented us from pulling a bull from our fall calving herd.

Stormy weather prevented the cattle work for at least a month.

Buckshot has been with this herd since November 30th, 2017 and we normally only leave the bulls with our herds about three months.  Moving a bull away from a herd is not always easy but today it was a piece of cake!!  A bucket of feed, a cattle prod and competition down the lane will work every time.  He stood at the gate with 46 cows and calves and all the master had to do was walk him to the front of the line and when he herd his brother bulls down the lane he came through the gate pretty as you please!!  He is now in the bull lot with the other two bulls showing them whose boss or so he thinks!!

Buckshot and Samson back in the bull lot together again for about three months. Arby is in there with them but he would rather eat his “Cheerios” first before confronting big brother!

Now, our mountain long field is opened up and full of the Fall calving herd and hopefully all of them mother’s have been bred.  There’s 23 cows and 23 calves grazing our part of Little Mountain today and it will be wonderful sitting on the front porch watching them graze but not today!

Our Fall herd is enjoying some very precious green grass this afternoon.

The three bulls are playing nice for the moment!

I’m back in the house out of the wind nursing my sinuses and trying to get well!! We’ve been sick since last Tuesday and a week is too long to not be out on the farm or at least on the front porch!  I’m so tired of being cooped up when the sun is shining.  The wind is still blowing so I mustn’t take chances of being out too long.

 

Addition To The Farm

You would think that I have enough to do on the farm but alas NO!!  I have a friend that had a big flock of ducks and she had been giving me her duck eggs because they don’t eat them. They butchered most of their flock and asked me if I wanted the what was left over.

I got seven full-grown ducks from Nikki & Eddie Garey and I appreciate them so much.

I got two drakes and five hens and what a beautiful addition to our farm animals.  It only took one day for them to get use to their new owners and home.    They’re very easy to tend to, all I do is put out feed which is usually whole corn and maybe some leftover biscuits crumbled up for them.  They get water from the pond and in the winter I will keep a trough of warm water out for them to drink.  They don’t like being cooped up, so they’re free to range the farm as they wish!

I’m very lucky to have them because I love to bake with duck eggs and they are awesome when making French toast, cakes and pies.

I’ll be making lots of beautiful and mouth-watering pound cakes for hubby.

Last night I made two egg custard pies, my favorite! The duck eggs helped to fill the deep dish pie crust up to the rim!!  I am getting two eggs a day now and will be using the next ones for making my loaf bread and rolls.

From left to right, duck egg, white chicken egg and brown chicken eggs. Most all of my chicken eggs would be considered large if bought in a grocery store.

This is the last carton of beautiful duck eggs given to me and I stuck a brown chicken egg in the carton to show the difference in size.

These are American Pekin Ducks and the Pekin duck is a domesticated duck used primarily for egg and meat production. We will have them for their egg production and beauty on our pond.

They love the pond and love grazing the lawn around the pond and through the garden searching for night crawlers (WORMS). It’s very entertaining watching them playing in the water and noodling around the pond edge searching for food.

They’re resting now after a good swim and cleaning. I think they’re one of the best birds at cleaning and oiling themselves, especially after a run through the garden. They come out with their breasts brown and yucky and just a few minutes in the pond and they’re snow-white!

From Inside the House

This morning we woke to snow on top of last weeks snow but we had a beautiful blue sky.  Last week we got about 10 inches of snow and the most we’ve had all winter. Over half had melted and this morning we woke to five more inches on top of the leftovers.  It was 25* when we woke this morning and now its 38* now.  The best part – we didn’t lose any calves this time.  Here’s a touch of our beauty in western Virginia and Craig County on the mountain:

It’s melting now and by mid-week we’ll be in the 60’s and rain.  It will be a sloppy mess but needed for our crops and gardens.  We haven’t had snow like this for a couple of years and we all knew it was time.  I’m not saying the spring snows are over but sure hope they are.

We have six more cows to calve from our spring herd and these mom’s and their little ones could sure use a break.

My chickens don’t like the snow either and a few got trapped under the grainery last night and refused to walk through the snow to their warm house but it looks like they all survived and are ready to see some green grass and mud!

Everyone be safe and spring is here even though it doesn’t look like it!!!

 

Snow for !st Day of Spring

We got another batch of wintry mix last night that started as rain.

Nine inches so far and it’s still snowing.

It’s peaceful and quiet! The only thing moving this morning are the birds at the feeders and a red fox at our pond. He had caught a mole and was heading back to his den with breakfast (I never have the camera in my hand for shots like this).

 

Hubby has gone out to feed the cattle and check for new babies.  Thank goodness those expectant mothers held out for at least another day.

It’s still snowing but supposed to end sometime this afternoon but not looking much like it right now.  Everyone stay warm and enjoy the bright whiteness while you can.  As farmers we don’t mind this very much because we know our fields, pastures and garden will grow abundantly in the coming months!

Have a great second day of spring!!

Our First 2018 Thunderstorm

March 17, 2018 and we have a huge thunder and lightning show around 8:30 last night.  We were sitting in the living room watching TV and I saw the flash and heard the boom immediately and it just about rolled us out of our recliners!!!  I jumped up fast and ran to the computer to unplug everything, hoping it wasn’t too late.  In the past I’ve had three computers, phones and phone jacks burnt up by lighting rolling through our phone lines.

It’s a beautiful sunny morning on the farm today!! Chilly but gorgeous!

It’s so hard to believe how green everything is.  We expecting more winter weather on Wednesday and hoping all of those spring calves come before or after this weather gets here.  Hubby is out feeding now and checking the fences to make sure the lightning did not hit the fence chargers.  It does that a lot around here when we have these storms.  When we know the storms are close and coming our way we unplug the chargers.

This little gal was the first of the year born on March 4th. She can run like the wind and keeps her mama in a tither all the time.

But for this Sunday we will enjoy and feel blessed to have such a glorious day!  Yes, there’s lots of mud but we will take the rain soaking up our fields, pastures and garden for now.

I think I’ll cook up some fresh trout, pinto beans and fried potatoes for our dinner tonight which will top of the spring day!

Spring Calving Season is Here Again

Our first calf was born on March 4th and since then we’ve had six more, two this morning.  I didn’t get to see any of them until Sunday and those four were quite lively.  They’ve all been smaller than usual and one of the two born this morning in low 20 degree temps and high winds is not doing well.  Eddie says it’s very weak but is getting up, when it’s up his mom is laying down.  He took me to see the spring her and their new babes on Sunday afternoon.

They were spread all over the hill eating grain until they heard the old gray Dodge start down the driveway. By the time we got to the field gate, they were all there except the little guy born that morning.

When the cows see that white bucket they know there’s some grain in the troughs.

This is the spring herd getting some grain and bringing their youngsters to meet the old woman on the farm (me)!

This little gal was the first of the year born on March 4th. She can run like the wind and keeps her mama in a tither all the time.

Daylight Savings Time bought this little guy to the farm.

A closer shot of the newborn.

 

 

 

 

 

After feeding the grain and we were leaving the field I got this closeup and he was looking for mama and bawling.  She went running!!

Mama, where are you???

We went back to the stable to refill the buckets. This gives you a view of the gray Dodge (1970) and the feed wagon.

Inside the feed wagon is three ton of corn gluten. The cows love it!!

The little ones born this morning are doing better than we expected but we’ll keep a close eye on them and in the meantime, we have another mama trying to deliver while I’m posting this little ditty!!

Accumulation

Finally we had some snow this morning to help the spring pasture growth!!  Here it is the middle of March and we get around five inches of the white stuff.  It started a little before 5:00 this morning and now it’s over and there are hints of blue sky peeping through.  

Maple Syrup Season was Short & Sweet

Hubby and I had a quick window of time to collect our sap this year and it turned out perfect!  We decided to make the syrup by ourselves this year because of the unpredictable spring weather.  We also decided that about half a batch would suffice so we only filled the sap tank with 135 gallons of clear maple sap!

Brick firepit before pan is placed.

The cleaned pan before and after.

Pit of ashes after all is completed and the cleanup is done.

These are the scoops we use to move sap from one section of the pan to another.

This is the paddles we use to scrape the foam off the cooking sap!! They’re handmade by one of Eddie’s ancestors but we’re not sure which one.

Pancakes and french toast will be on the breakfast menu for a while!!

135 gallons of sap yielded 3 1/2 gallons of delicious maple syrup.

When the sap goes in the pans it’s clear as water and the longer it cooks the more golden it becomes.

This is a gallon bucket we use to dip the paddles in after dipping the foam from the sap.

This is the foam that builds up while the sap is boiling. We have two paddles on hand to dip it off the hot sap. If left on it will leave a crusty top on the sap and we don’t like that.

Of course we have entertainment as hubby hooks up a jambox on the rockwall above the cellar!!

It was an absolutely gorgous day and a spectacular blue sky stayed with us the entire day.

Early morning at the sugar house!

The only equipment in the sugar house is the firepit and the pan over for cooking down the syrup. We do have a 1/2 gallon scoop that we use to move the syrup from one section to the other.

Mr. Caldwell started the process by lighting the fire around 5:00 a.m. and let me sleep in until 7:00. He is so good to me!!

Front view of the sugar house which is open on two sides to allow the steam to roll out!!

We save old fence posts just for the cookoff. They’re locust post and locust rails that are perfect for this special event!

We hook a water hose to the tank which is on the back of our Dodge pickup and park it on the driveway above the sugarhouse and let it gravity feed to the pan. It has a cut off so that we can cut it off when the pans are full. This saves us from carrying milkcans up and down the path.

Attaching the hose to the tank and flowing to the sugar house

The pan has four sections that we keep full at all times. The first two are wider than the last two and there is a slot opening that the sap flows through to keep the cooking at an even level. The third section of the pan is where the first thickening really starts to show and the smallest section holds about 3-4 gallons of sap and is the final thickening pan. As we work down the sap the pans stay full and when we run out of sap we start filling them with water to keep the pans from the scorching because the fire in the pit has to continue to stay hot and boiling.

The sugar house firepit was blazing and the steam coming off the pan was heavenly. Nothing like a good steam bath to open the pores!!

This is our holding tank that the sap is stored in during the tapping season. It holds 275 gallons but we downsized this year.

We only tapped seven trees that were in our yard and around the sugar house this year.

Closeup of the straining screen on the bucket.

Metal strainer bucket for straining at the trees when we gather and again before putting it in the holding tank.  Some of this is out of sequence but I think you’ll get the gist of it.  We had a wonderful day and my youngest aunt and uncle came and spent the day with us.  They had never seen the process and seemed to enjoy the day!  This was the first year that our kids weren’t involved but they had to work and the weather situation would not allow us to put it off!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Feed Ritual at the Farm

Our morning ritual around here in the winter season begins shortly after breakfast and I always fix us a good breakfast to start the day.

Hubby heads out to feed the three small herds of cattle.  Each herd is a little different but the two biggest herds (25-30 cows) get two 4×5 round bales of hay every day.  One of these herds also has 24 calves with them which are 2-3 months of age.  They mimic mom and eat some of the hay too but mainly depend on her milk until they’re about 5-6 months old.  The third herd consists of 14 heifers that will be bred in June.  They are fed one 4×5 round bale each day along with a five-gallon bucket of corn gluten/whole corn mixture every other day.  Then we have our herd of bulls which is only three but those guys can eat and get two square bales of hay each day and corn gluten once a week.  Everyone is fat and sassy!

My feeding schedule consists of three rabbits that we use for breeding stock.  They are part Lop but the perfect size for meat rabbits.  Each morning and afternoon they are given fresh water, a cup of rabbit pellets, a carrot and half of a sweet apple.  They love apples and I treat them in the winter time because there is no fresh grass to feed them.  I keep a bat of hay in their hutches for eating but I also keep hay covering the wire floor of the hutch to keep the frigid wind off of them.  They have a nesting box in the hutch in the winter time to get out of the wind. Their hutches are cleaned weekly regardless of the weather.

Sebastian

Marigold

Cleome

 

 

 

 

 

Then I head out to the chicken house with a gallon of hot water, an egg basket and any scraps from the table.  I have 33 chickens, one of which is a rooster.  I have five young hens that tend to roost in the egg nest every night after I shut them in the building.  Each morning those nest have to be cleaned out so the eggs aren’t nasty because chickens just don’t care what they lay those eggs on.  The chickens have a large tub outside of the building for water during the day and a large pan inside that doesn’t freeze often but when it’s in the 20’s it has to be refilled four or five times a day and the eggs are gathered more often too.  They have a feed trough that is four feet long, six inches wide and about four inches deep.  I fill it every day with scratch grain, black-oil sunflower seeds and during the winter laying crumbles.  In the summer they forage the entire farm but there’s not much to be found in the wintertime.  A few times a month they get a treat of dried mealworms which they love.  Currently with all those chickens I’m only getting about a dozen eggs a day but they’re wonderful eggs that are large, brown, pink, green, blue and a couple white ones.  Egg production will pickup in the spring!

                                                                                                                                                

 

Once the feeding is done and the eggs are gathered, I’m off to the wood shed to bring in enough to fill of the stove for the night and if it’s calling for rain or snow, I fill up one end of the porch.   The bird feeders are then filled and then it’s time to come in and make preparations for dinner!!

Last Day of January 2018

Can you believe it’s the last day of January?? I spent the morning do normal indoor chores like, sweeping and mopping the floors, making the bed, two loads of laundry and other minor jobs after having breakfast with the Mister!  I got pork tenderloin out of the freezer for dinner and then saw that the temperature had risen to 40* and no wind.  OUTSIDE I GO!!!

We’re still in for some cold weather and hopefully some snow because our pastures, yard, hayfields, just the earth in general needs a good soak before spring really appears!  I knew I had some pruning to do on some fruit trees but the grapes needed it worst than the others.

A tangled mess of four vines that have been planted two years and I’m expecting big things from this year.

In order to get those beautiful grapes they need to be pruned each year.  Grapes grown on new stems each year!

This end of the arbor holds grapes that we started from an old vine on the farm. They are blue, not real big but so sweet. The vines usually provide a lot of grapes!

I use some wonderful little hand pruners on all of the small vines, trees and my rose bushes.  It’s very important to sterilize them and I use just plain old rubbing alcohol.  It took about an hour but they’re all trimmed and now we wait!  While waiting we pray for no late frosts to kill them.

Hubby thinks I scalped them but from past experience I know I’ll have more grapes and if Mother Nature cooperates they’ll be bigger grapes.

They’re thinned of their old bearing branches and the only thing left to do is tighten the arbor lines that we made from plastic covered clothes line. It tends to stretch each year but is easy to tighten.

After I finished pruning the grapes I went around the garden and trimmed suckers and water sprouts off the green gage, peach, pear and blue plums.  The big job will be trimming the apple trees which seem to get less attention each year but I’m going to get what I can from the ground and hope for some help with the higher branches.

I am so ready to start growing something!!!

 

It’s Been A Year

I still can’t believe she’s gone and still get weepy when I think of her. Our Cocker Spaniel, Sassy, died a year ago today and we’re so sad.  Eddie bought her for me as a puppy in 2004 and she has been our baby ever since.

 

 

 

 

 

Rest in peace my beautiful girl!!

 

A Taste of Frigid Weather

I don’t like being unprepared for much of anything but the last two weeks or so of frigid air gave me a real kick in the pants!  We have been used to teens and single digit weather but not with 20 – 45 mile an hour winds.  We were able to keep the house good and warm but had to keep heaters in the cellar and laundry room around in the clock.  We didn’t have any frozen water pipes or lose any of the valuable canned goods.

We did however have to keep chopping holes in the streams that water our cattle.  We had to move two herds due to the mountain springs freezing solid and the feed we gave them was increased by an extra roll of hay each day, giving the two larger herds three round bales and the heifers two.  The heifers and bulls  were given corn gluten every other day.

January 3rd we went to Rural King to pick up salt and feed for the chickens and he bought me a new insulated barn coat and insulated bib coveralls!!!  Along with the Extreme socks Heather bought me for Christmas, the flannel lined jeans Shawn got me and these from Eddie the winter weather coming would not be taking hold of me!!!!

First pair of flannel lined jeans I’ve ever had and they are so comfortable.

Flannel-lined jeans, heavy flannel shirt, black under armor, insulated flannel lined bibs and a wonderful insulated hooded barn coat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know how the Pillsbury Dough Boy  feels now, waddling around!!!!

January 5th was the worst day and the pickup wouldn’t start, the big tractor fuel was frozen and wouldn’t start, and we used the small Kubota until the hydraulics froze up.  At this point the cattle were fed the old fashioned way by using 15 square bales of hay loaded onto the old Dodge pickup for the larger herds and 10 square bales to the heifers.  We keep bales of hay in the loft of the bull barn for the bulls and they were fed hay and grain.  I had filled up the firewood on the porch and in the house and was constantly chucking it into the woodstoves.  I made a huge pot of soup on the stove and our bodies stayed warm and full on the inside!!! The chickens and rabbits were checked hourly along with Mischief, our coon hound and all were given fresh warm water. Mischief stayed wadded up in her house with enormous batts of hay! We had been feeding her extra food to keep some fat on for just this kind of weather. We take good care of all of our animals. The temperature that day finally reached 12* but the wind was raging and expecting to last through noon Saturday.  With the wind chill the last few days our temps were ranging from -12* to 0*.   Mr. Caldwell was working on thawing the tractor all day in the frigid cold and wind!

Finally on Monday we were able to get out and do some extra winterizing to prepare for the next onset which might be within the next week!

The chickens are out and able to free range again although there isn’t much grass for them to find and they love anything green.

Cleome staying in her warm nesting box loaded with fresh hay.

Marigold is doing the same but she comes out more than Cleome.

Sebastian has two sections to his hutch. When the wind is howling you won’t catch him out in this open area of his hutch.

During the storm they didn’t have this loose hay out in the open part of their hutches but they will now until spring. There is one area of their hutches that has no hay and that’s because it’s their “potty” area behind their nesting boxes..

Marigold likes to sit on top of her box a lot but didn’t during the bad weather! It’s unbelievable how Mother Nature had provided them with such luxiourious fur coats for the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with the rabbits taken care of before the next batch of frigid weather, I went straight to the hen house.  Extra bedding was put in their nests to help keep the eggs from freezing.  There’s not much I can do with their water freezing except take them warm water more often.  Hopefully in the spring the electricity will be added to their house but this new house is much warmer and cleaner than the old one.

The chickens are out and able to free range again although there isn’t much grass for them to find and they love anything green.

The hens belong to this cinder-block building now. It’s warm, easier to clean because it has openings along the lower end of the shed to clean out under the roosts with a pressure hose. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter UNLESS it gets in the 20 degree range or lower.

We have a frost-free spigot outside of the building to get their water. No more hauling jugs of water up the hill behind the house anymore!!

We have 36 hens now and Eddie put 14 nesting boxes so that everyone will have plenty of room to provide us with wonderful farm fresh eggs.

There’s no crowding on the roosts but chickens are the worst for having a pecking order.

Yesterday I put a layer of fresh hay on the floor for the older girls to sit in during the day. These ladies are all four to five years old and don’t lay much but they’re my girls so they get preferential treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use a metal pan for their water so that when it freezes I can take it outside, pour a little hot water over the bottom and the ice pops right out.  I do carry a jug of hot water with me when I go check the water for the rabbits, chickens and the dog.  They love that warm water to warm their insides!  I’m keeping the rabbits and the chickens feed bowls full.  If they have plenty to eat their fat stores will help to keep them warm.

Now that the animals are better prepped for the frigid air to return it was time to fill up the porch with two types of firewood.

The east end of the porch has well seasoned firewood. I put one end of a 9 x 12 tarp down on the porch and place the wood on top of it. This protects the porch and the leftover end of the tarp is pulled up over the wood and held in place with extra sticks of wood and bungee cords. The stack when full if about five feet high and fills the eight feet length of the end of the porch.

The west end of the porch has the same amount of wood but this has not seasoned as much and we use it at night to hold the fire for several hours. It’s heavier because it’s not been cut and split as long, is dry but not as dry as the other wood. We don’t have to worry as much about Flue fires with seasoned wood and there’s been a lot of complete home losses in Virginia this year due to fires!

We have two piles of wood outside and one is seasoned, split and covered.  The other is dried but not fully seasoned and not split.  We have plenty more in the woods ready to take down and bring in to the house.

We keep a large rack of firewood in the house beside the stove (about 18-24 inches away from the stove so we won’t have to go out everytime we need to fill the stove.

 

 

 

We have two large ponds on the property and both have 8-10 inches of ice on them now but the overflows water the heifers and the bulls. The other cattle now get their water from some lowland springs that rarely go dry but we have to watch them because with the weather we were having they will freeze and have to be broken up a few times a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve made it through the first of the really cold winter weather but we’re ready for the worst to come in the next three months.  Between now and then I’ll sit with my new seed catalogs and prepare for what we all hope to be an early spring!!   When we expect high winds and possible power outages I keep plenty of buckets of water in the laundry room for flushing the toilets and several gallon jugs of water for cooking and hand-washing.  We keep supplies of candles, oil lamps and matches on hand and small wood on the side porch for the wood cook stove.  Four small tanks of propane are always full to heat the laundry room (holds our main source of water pipes) and the cellar.

Stay warm and don’t forget to prepare for the next winter hit of weather!

Cleaning Up the Mountain

 

View of the mountain from our front porch before the cleanup..

A “before and after” view of our mountain is such a huge change and it  took several hours and days to complete.  Our mountain view has disappeared over the last few years due to barberry, alm olive and other obnoxious shrubs.  We contacted Aaron Calfee from Paint Bank to do the work for us.  He has a bushhog that fits the front of a track loader (Bobcat, maybe).  The shrubs had taken over a lot of really good pasture land for our cattle.  It’s very steep and Eddie just would not get on the side of a mountain with any kind of equipment.  It looks really great now and we’ll have to keep a watch on it in the spring and do some spraying to keep it knocked down and the cattle will eat a lot of the tender young sprouts.  Here are some after photos that show how the mountain opened up.

Finish out 2017 . . . .

Today and tomorrow I’ll be finishing up some posts of 2017, so bear with me.
It’s been such a busy year and I just don’t understand how it can be the end of December 2017.

On Christmas Eve morning I went to Covington to pick up my brother Dean and brought him to the farm to spend the day.

We had some quality time together and man can that man eat!

He waited until after our late lunch to open his gifts and then he was ready to go back to Covington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Christmas day we drove to Roanoke to spend some time with hubby’s sister Dreama.  She was full of family gossip and news and she seemed to like the gifts we took to her and we thoroughly loved the gifts she had for us.

Dreama is a worry wart and always so sad of anyone’s troubles whether they relate to her or not.

She’s wearing out the Christmas sweatshirt that Heather got her for her birthday. She is a huge fan of Christmas and has Heather put up her tree the day after Thanksgiving and doesn’t want it taken down until March if she can get away with it. She’ll leave all of her gifts under the tree until it comes down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a wonderful evening with the kids the day after Christmas.

Christmas with the family, Heather is taking the picture.

Heather and Jippy waiting to open gifts. Jippy loves to lay under all the wrapping paper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather fixed a wonder dinner of baked ham, mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped asparagus, and so much more.  We were all stuffed but still able to trod upstairs to open the gifts.   Our children always gift us with wonderful things that we can use throughout the year and this year was no exception.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Happy New Year!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone  from Caldwell Farm!  Hope your day is full of blessings!

Down with the Old

The chickens needed a new home due to the age of their existing house!  It leaked like a sieve.  Critters were getting in no matter what we did and killed eleven of my new chicks that were under two months of age.  The hill I walked to get to it was becoming a hazard for me in the winter months.  We moved the chickens (they were not happy at first) into a cinder block building which has electricity and water and a separate room for their feed.

Old Chicken house is made mainly of wormy chestnut. When we started tearing it down we were able to save some better boards.

After two weeks of tearing off boards when we had an hour to spare, it’s starting to look like a spooky shell!!

As we tore off the outsides, everything was thrown to the inside of the shell to burn.

The only parts of the building that weren’t wormy chestnut were oak and pine replacements over the years.

Even the nesting boxes were wormy chestnut. We saved them to use for nesting boxes in the new house.

Next we cut the main support beams on the interior and wrapped a chain around them which was attached to the tractor and started pulling it down.

Amazingly the roof fell straight down on to the interior debris.

Within two hours the fire was almost finished except for some large beams that served as ground support. It took two days for the smoke to dissapate and then it was time to pile up the tin roof and dispose of it.

Fairly simple clean up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the chickens use the remaining area as a dusting bath!  Next spring I’ll spread it out a bit and start a new area for gardening.