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End of Deer Season

The final week of deer season ended yesterday and our freezers are full.  This year no trophies were taken because we felt we needed to thin the herds (5) due to the small does and too many of them.  We talked about this during the summer and decided the bucks were too small and does were very small and believe this is due to inbreeding.  They’ve had plenty to eat from the grasses and gardens in the summer and the nut crops in the fall.  Only the family participated in the hunts because most of the hunters were looking to kill trophies which there were very few so they hunted elsewhere.  My new crockpot and Instant pot have been keeping our bellies full!

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Homemade Pizza

Today was a cooking day and I made two cocoanut creme pies and a 14 inch pizza for dinner.  The pies were made this morning and I just had a slice and have to watch myself or I’ll eat the WHOLE thing!!  I love cocoanut everything!!!  To make the pies I had to ready-made pie crusts in the fridge, used a Rawleigh pie filling and some eggs and milk.  I love these pie fillings because the filling turns out so thick and creamy and the only place I’ve been able to find them is at The Cheese Store.  These are country type stores usually run by Amish or Mennonite families and when I go to their stores I am in heaven but spend so much more money than I planned.  The pie fillings will make nine 9″ pies and use two eggs and a three cups of milk for each pie.  I also bought some meringue powder there and it makes beautiful tall meringues!

Cocoanut Pies

For dinner I made a basic pizza using the pizza crust mix that I bought at the same store, one bag will make two crusts and all you add is water.  I made my crust, covered it with my homemade pizza sauce which I’m almost out of, and then used what I had in the fridge for toppings.  That consisted of thinly sliced onions, green pepper, pepperoni, smoked sausage, and mozzarella cheese.  It was divine, even if I did make it myself.

Only two slices left which we may have for breakfast!!

Yesterday I tried a new experiment with my Air Fryer and a small bear roast.  First, I always boil my roast for about thirty minutes in plain water to roll out any excess fat on the roast.  The fat is what can ruin a bear roast!!  I drained the roast with was only about one pound, rubbed it with two new seasonings that I found at The Cheese Store, and placed it in the Air Fryer following the instructions for a large beef steak but cut the time in half.  It was to die for!!!  Not kidding!!!  When I took it out I sliced the roast into quarter inch slices that will fit perfectly on a biscuit and we had it for lunch yesterday  and then for dinner I poured a brown gravy over it and served with mashed potatoes, green beans and macaroni salad!  Did I say I’m trying to lose weight???

        Hickory Smoke Salt

Barbecue Spice

       New recipe bear roast

A Quiet Day at the Farm

The only thing busy today are the birds at the feeding station and not very many of them!

It has been a quiet day at the farm with lots of fog, very little rain (thank goodness) and enough clouds to make it look like late afternoon, early evening.  Except for letting my hens and ducks out this morning and bringing enough wood to fill up the wood rack, I’ve spent the entire day inside writing letters.  I hope this is not a lost art because I love writing and receiving letters from friends and family that aren’t living close by.  This will be a short post today but I’m sticking to the challenge/resolution to fill my blog with things from the farm daily!  Have a blessed evening and we’ll catch up tomorrow.

Those Honery Creatures

During most of the summer of 2018 (when I wasn’t blogging much) I was working hard to make a rose garden in one corner of our front yard that gets sun most of the day.  It was hard work and a challenge to position all of them into one corner.

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

There are over twenty different types and colors of roses in the bed and it looks a little different from the picture above because all of the non-roses were also dug up and moved to different areas of the yard inside and out.  Several of them survived the winter of 2017-18 due to the ice and creatures called wild rabbits!  They chewed the bark off of every rose in the yard!!

Bark eaten off of nearly every rose.

I meant to put up a barrier fence in the new rose bed during our first frost but never seemed to get around to it.  My procrastination proved to be maddening, the rabbits got to them before I did.  Immediately Eddie and I started putting up the barrier fence around the rose garden.

This is the same plastic fence we use around our garden to keep the deer and chickens out during growing season and take it down at the end of the growing season.

We have chain-linked fence around the yard so we only had to stake the fence around the roses from the inside of the yard.  I’m glad we found the damage before it was to far gone to save the roses.  We will be having Brunswick Stew if I catch the creatures getting through this!

Fencing barrier around the roses.

I think these are worth saving!!!

I absolutely love this color!Peach, orange and yellow, great idea for a quilt.

New rose in a beautiful deep pink/scarlett.

The wild rabbits killed most of my roses during the winter so my wonderful children gave me 10 new roses for Mother’s Day. This beauty is one of them.

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

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How Hard Can It Be

Really??? Two days into the year and my one and only resolution is down the drain!  Why?  I can’t blog if the internet connection is non-existent.  I kept going to my computer yesterday to post a note but my computer kept saying “no internet connection”.  Oh well, today is another day and I’ll remedy the situation with two posts and hope you can stand two in one day!  🙂

I had a note from a cousin New Year’s Day wanting my Crockpot Apple Butter recipe and I sent it to her.  I’ll share it with you as well and if you have any questions just comment at the bottom of the post.  I’ve wanted for the last several years to make a copper kettle full of apple butter but we’ve not had enough apples to fill the kettle.  I have had enough apples of different varieties to freeze lots of applesauce which we love but it’s been building up.  Our smallest freezer is half-full of containers of applesauce and I thought maybe if I use up about half of it Mother Nature may give us a good crop of apples in the coming fall.

I store/freeze the applesauce in the large 48 oz. margarine containers or Cool Whip containers.  They’re sturdy and very stackable in a chest freezer.  After I cook up the apples, I always add sugar to the pot and stir well to make sure the sugar dissolves before I freeze it.  When we need apples on the table (just about every day), all I have to do is thaw it.

Now for the recipe:

I have two six quart crockpots with two settings of low and high.  One has a lid that can be vented and the other has securing handles but the lid had a pencil size hole in the top of the lid for venting.  I fill the crockpot almost to the top of the pot with applesauce (fresh or frozen) and turn the heat setting to high and cover with the lid NOT vented.  I want it to get hot and can tell when it’s hot enough because it will have little bubbles forming around the edge of the pot or may even bubble up.

First step–notice the color.

A very important note to making apple butter in a copper kettle or a crockpot, you MUST stir it.  In a copper kettle it has to be stirred constantly but in a crockpot you only have to stir at least every thirty minutes.  Why? In the copper kettle over an open fire it will burn unless stirred constantly.  Not so in a crockpot but it will get thick on top and form almost a crust of very thick sauce and you will have to stir harder and longer to get it to smooth out and incorporate into the rest of the sauce.

Once your applesauce has heated up to the point of bubbles add THREE cups of sugar and stir well.  This is why you don’t fill it all the way to the top, you have to make room for the extra sugar.  When you first add this the sauce will thin some.  Remember, stir well every thirty minutes or so.  DO Not put the lid on tight this time.  The vapor of the water in the apples needs to get out and this helps the applesauce thicken.  Also be careful of bubbling sauce popping out on your skin.  Each time that you stir you will notice the sauce turning colors as you stir.  Try to pull the bottom sauce to the top.  I found out a couple years ago the blending and stirring is easier if you have a good whisk to work it.

Notice the change in color?

At this point, continue to leave the lid cracked, stir every thirty minutes, and continue this step until the sauce gets thickened to your taste.  I don’t like it real thick, it spreads better on buttered biscuits and toast if it’s a little thinner.  Last step, this is where you flavor the sauce and it becomes applebutter.

Oil of Cloves and Oil of Cinnamon

This is the step that can make or ruin your apple butter.  Some people only like cinnamon, we like cinnamon and cloves.  My recipe is 4-6 drops of cinnamon and 3-5 drops of cloves.  Be very careful when you add this to your batch and taste test after one or two drops of cinnamon.  Once you have flavored with the cinnamon, then do the same process with the cloves.  You can add more drops of each depending on your taste but taking baby steps in flavoring will make the process worthwhile.  After you have the flavoring in cook the applebutter about 20-30 minutes longer stirring more frequently.  You will notice the applebutter will be darker.

First canning of 2019–Nine pints of Apple butter.

During the last minutes of processing, prepare your jars.  I use regular mouth pint, half-pint and jelly jars for canning.  The half-pints and jelly jars make great gifts but the gifter may come calling for more because it’s sooooooo good!  I pour the hot applebutter into the jars, put on the lids really tight and set aside with a heavy towel over the top to retain the heat until the jars seal.  You’re done!!  Easy and so good!!

Happy New Year from Countrygirllifeonthefarm!!

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Wishing all a very happy, healthy and blessed 2019.

I closed 2018 with a busy and productive day and hope to do that with every day in 2019.  I started the day by dropping off eggs to a customer and proceeded with cleaning up the kitchen when I got back, laundry done and put away, did some computer file clean up, completed two hours worth of ironing, filled up my new crock pot with applesauce to be turned into applebutter,

First canning of 2019–Nine pints of Apple butter.

put four more rounds on a rug I’m making for the bathroom,

Crocheting a blue rag rug for our bathroom.

did stitching around two more blocks of my granddaughters Christmas quilt, cleaned up my closet and put together a large trash bag of clean clothes for the Thrift Store, and took care of my animals.  It was a busy day but not a “wear me out” day!  It was also 52* when we went to bed and 55* when we got up this morning.  Crazy, considering in 2018 on this date it was 9*!

Today was spent preparing a grocery list after fixing a big breakfast.  While I brought firewood in the house hubby fed the cattle and let the birds out of their houses.  I have 38 chickens and three ducks, we get FOUR chicken eggs a day and one duck egg. I’m not upset about this because two weeks ago I wasn’t getting any eggs except from the ducks.  My plan is to get more chicks and ducklings in the spring and maybe a turkey poult or two.

I really feel good about this post because I’m hoping to post one everyday or at least one a week for 2019 as my blog was sorely neglected in 2018.  This is a start to my 2019 resolutions!!  More to come, I promise!!

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!!