Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Meet Bear

I'm still in a little bit of an unmotivated mood like I was on Sunday. So here's my post.

Meet Bear, our 125 pound baby. You've seen enough pictures of his little blond sister. We call him Eeyore because that is exactly who he acts like.

Brian already had Bear when we met. Bear and I had some issues to work through back then. Brian went away for the weekend and Bear wouldn't get off the couch. I mean really, he refused. I pulled on him, he curled his lip. Then I got smart and pulled the cushion out from under him. Still, he wouldn't move. I finally put the cushion on the floor next to the couch and coaxed him on to it. Then, I slid the cushion across the wood floor to the doorway. Picture the big lug on an iceberg, that's what it looked like.

In fact, he still will hardly touch the floor. He's scared to death of it. Too slippery I guess. He actually walks on his tiptoes to get to the couch. As I type, he sleeps next to me, curled up on his couch cushion. Since we got the new (used) furniture awhile back, we got rid of the old couch. I thought the cushion would make him a nice bed so I saved it. I think it made his life way, way better. He loves his cushion.

Can't you see it in his eyes?

P.S. He stills grumbles at me occasionally, but we've worked it out with some leash training. I have a slip leash in every trouble spot and if I even think about putting it on him he moves as quick as a big dog can.

Growing Challenge Check In

Here's what I'm growing so far:

Seedlings under light:
Amish Paste Tomatoes
Green Zebra Tomatoes
Waltham 29 Broccoli
Ping Tung Eggplant
Long Purple Eggplant

In the garden:
Red pioneer potatoes- 10# - planted
Red onions - 2-3" tall
Dwarf GreySugar Peas (hybrid) - 1 20' row - just up
Asparagus - up and growing
Black seeded simpson lettuce - 1 20' row - some up
Black seeded simpson lettuce - 1 20' row planted 4/27
Sugar Ann snap pea - 1 20' row planted 4/27
Victoria Rhubarb - approx. 25 seeds planted 4/27

Around the farm:
Heritage Raspberry - 4 canes planted 4/26
Strawberry - nice and green
Gooseberry and Currants - 2 of each - planted last year - doing great!
2 Red Haven Peach trees - planted
1 Harrow pear tree - planted
1 Bartlett pear tree - planted
1 Montmorency Cherry tree - planted
1 Gala apple tree - planted
1 Golden Delicious apple tree - planted
4 blueberry bushes - planted last year - still alive

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Stroll... Sort of

I just really didn't feel like doing much today. Yesterday Brian cut up our old rabbit cage so I could have 2 pieces of plywood for our new farm sign. I painted them this morning. Then we went to breakfast with Brian's Grandpa. I'm pretty sure he turned 93 this year! After breakfast I put on a second coat of paint. We watched King Corn. I was really disappointed! I guess it might make a bigger impact on people who don't farm but it really didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I was hoping the film would help Brian to see why corn in everything is a bad thing, but it wasn't too convincing.

After the movie Brian worked out in the shop for awhile. It was pretty rainy and cold today so I didn't go out. I've been working on our website like crazy and it is almost done!! Get ready, I'm going to want everyone's opinions of it once it is done! :) Then I worked on tracing our logo on to the farm sign. I've got one piece almost done, then I can paint it. Anyway, since I'd really like to get back in to Sunday Strolls, I have some garden pictures to share from this week, plus one that shows where I've spent most of my day!

The garlic is getting so tall!

The onions are coming up!

I have been so tempted to snap off a piece of asparagus to taste...

The peas are coming up. I really thought they wouldn't make it since I planted them so early. I'm glad they did!

This is where the cat and I have been, and I think I'm heading back there...

Head over to Quiet Country House to see who else is strolling today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This is WAR!

I am so sick of dog tracks in my freshly planted garden...

of dog poop all over the garden (I thought I'd spare you a picture) when I'm trying to dig in it... and now... now I'm really, REALLY mad. This...

is damage to my garlic. My precious, vigorous, first-time-for-me garlic. The same garlic that is the only thing actually growing in the garden so far. Except asparagus. Anyway... THIS...

is the solution to all my doggie garden problems, or at least I hope so. The garden just happens to be next to the electric pasture fence and I just happen to have some push in posts and extra wire. I love animals, but I'll be watching tomorrow morning as they bound out to the garden for their morning business. And I'll be doing a victory dance as they get they get the shock of their lives. After all, this is war, and I'm hoping to win!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Asparagus The Movie

This one really hits home for me and I hope you will feel the same. The movie focuses on the asparagus industry of Western Michigan and how it may be negatively affected by U.S. foreign policy. You can watch a trailer for it here and find out more about the movie here. The best part is that it supposed to be broadcast free on PBS on April 29th at 8 PM. I couldn't find that listing on tvguide.com or the movie's website but it was advertised in the latest Michigan Farm News so I'm hoping it is true.

Also check out The Beginning Farmer's latest post for a couple more good movie ideas. I'm really excited about the Food Inc. movie and it looks like it will be available through Netflix eventually.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Building An Eggmobile: Part 1

This weekend we began building our eggmobile. The intention is to use it for our laying flock during the warmer months, in conjunction with an electric poultry net. I told Brian to pretend it was a fun project. He was not convinced! ;)

I bought the trailer from my Dad for $40. It is made from the bed of an old S-10 pickup. The deck measures approx. 5' x 8'. First, a little planning...

5x8= 40 sq. ft.
Approx 1 sq. ft. per bird = 40 bird maximum
1 nest box per 4 hens = 10 nest boxes minimum
I also calculated perch requirements but don't have the figures in front of me...

We wanted a single sloping roof to make construction easier. I didn't want to lose floor space so we added a 1' overhang to the floor on one of the long sides, thus making a nice spot for the nest boxes.

First we put on a base made of 2x4's. Brian drilled in to the metal frame and bolted the boards right to it. We salvaged the 2x4s from pieces that didn't burn on our shed, so they didn't cost us anything. That means I spent most of my time pulling old nails out of the boards while Brian did most of the actual construction.

Once the base was on we started to build up. The short side (with the overhang) needed to be at least 2' tall to allow for 2 nest boxes stacked on top of each other, at 1' tall each. The 8' long x 2' high area will hold 16 nest boxes total and they will each measures approx. 1'x1'x1'. Make sense?

We decided to make the other side 5' tall so that a person can enter from that side to clean or dispense feed. We want the walk in door on the side so that we can climb in, even when the trailer is not hooked to something, without worrying about it tipping over. Picture a giant seesaw if we step on the bumper.

Then we added 2 angled pieces, one at each end. I hope the shadowing hides our gaps, neither one of us remembered much from geometry. We are not builders, and this is why!! We didn't have a saw that would cut the angles we did finally figure, but things still came together fine.

Then we added the two cross pieces.

At this point we drug up some siding, also salvaged from the shed fire. I patched the old nail holes with indoor/outdoor painters' caulk.

Then we attached 2 pieces of siding to make the roof. Brian used special screws with washers to hold on the siding. The pieces were the perfect width with only a slight overhang on each side. We left some overhang in the front. We also left the back long for now, figuring it will be easier to trim now that it is attached and held solidly.

That's as far as we've gotten so far. I'm picturing the walk in door over that tire on the tall side, with a chicken access door to each side of that. Nest boxes along the back wall, perches where ever they will fit best. The birds will only be confined at night and during inclement weather so it should be comfortable for them. In the near future we will have about 32 birds (knock on wood), so that should be just right.

We're planning to close the rest in with siding and possible add foam board to insulate the roof. I'd like to leave a gap open at the top to screen for ventilation but I'm not sure how much that will let in wind and rain. Plus, I don't want the wind getting in and causing the whole thing to tip over.

Watch for part 2, whenever we get the time! :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fruit Trees!

My order from the Conservation District came in on Friday. I took advantage of the 70 degree temps (!!!) yesterday and planted them. I put them on our sideyard near the one pear tree I planted last year. Now we have 1 pear, 1 peach, 1 cherry, and 2 apple trees there. I still need to add another pear and another peach.

I also got in touch with a neighbor who graciously came and showed me how to prune our older trees. We take care of the empty house across the road and there are a few apple trees in the yard. I picked a lot of apple from the trees last year and wanted to prune them back nicely. I didn't do a lot because it is quite late for pruning but at least now I have a better idea on how to do it.

My nice neighbor gave me a recipe for tree spray and recommended I use it repeatedly throughout the season. He insists that he tried organic methods with his and was not happy with the results. What are you thoughts on this? I hate the idea of spraying them but it did make for a lot of extra labor last year trying to cut around the buggy spots.


Friday, April 17, 2009


Lately I'm all about keeping things simply and easy to manage. If you read here regularly then you already know that. Despite my normally crafty ways, I am at a loss when it comes to how to store spices. The pic above shows my growing collection. I never had much trouble keeping salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Now that I'm cooking more "real" food I've added all kind of things... paprika, celery salt, nutmeg, etc.

Right now a lot of them are the inexpensive brand from the grocery. I like it that they come in glass jars (still with plastic tops). Ideally I will move away from store boughts and start to make a lot of my own seasonings. The rest I can buy in baggies at the farmer's market.

So, here's the question: where do I put them? People joke about spice racks but should I get one? What do you do with yours? In the cupboard I can't see what they are. On the shelf they still get hidden plus 3 fall off for every 1 I grab. As you can see in the pic I've got over a dozen different ones to store. I don't want to use counter space but I could mount something on the wall. Thoughts? Help, please, they're driving me crazy!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Few Turkeys!

Last year at this time I brought home some chicks from the feed store so I could gain experience with egg layers. After having them all year I felt confident enough to order some heritage chicks that will arrive next month.

I think that someday I would like to offer turkeys to our customers, especially around the holidays. Of course I want to raise a heritage breed but they are very expense and usually have minimum order requirements. I've heard turkeys are much more fragile than chickens but have never raised them myself.

So...today I brought home 3 Bronze White turkey poults from the feed store. They'll be good to practice with and maybe we'll even have our own turkey dinner next winter! In the meantime I'm just going to enjoy how cute they are and pray that the cat does not break in and eat them since they are currently living in our basement. I'll keep you posted on how this project goes! Any turkey advice to share?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A New Forum...

Just in case you haven't heard, there is a new forum in town.
Nature's Harmony Farmer's Forum has just been created and I'm already addicted. Check it out! Respond! Share!


Monday, April 13, 2009


I just love it when people come to visit our farm. I hope people take me seriously when I invite them out because having visitors is one of my favorite things about living on the farm. Especially when the visits include children. I get a kick out of their reactions and how their eyes light right up. Today we had our good friends over with a whole group of little ones.

The smaller children were a little leery of the lambs at first but I think everyone petted them eventually. Of course the mama sheep were more than happy to be bribed with all of the corn the kids fed them. Next, I brought out a hen for them to feel and passed out eggs to the older kids. That didn't last too long because of the potential for breakage but they were pretty excited to hold them for a few minutes. Then, everyone trudged out in the cold to pet the horses. Pooh Bear and Pistol stole the show but I believe they were wondering were their treats were.

I invited them all back in a month or two when we'll have baby chicks to see. How fun! Do you have a good memory of someone visiting your farm? What about a visit to a special farm that you have been to? What animals do you like to see the most? Any ideas or tips on what would make this visits even better?

You Know You're A Farm Wife When...

You know you're a farm wife (or a country girl, or a redneck) when you look down in church and notice the gray heel on your black sock peeking out from your dress shoe. You realize that the only black socks in your dresser are John Deere thermal socks and are very grateful that your pants cover the tops of your shoes.

I hope you all had a happy holiday! We had a busy but enjoyable day and got to see both our families. Plus my Mom sent us home with some angel food cake for dessert, my favorite! In fact, I'm eating some for breakfast right now.

What little parts of farm life make you laugh? Do you hate getting ready to go someplace nice like I do? I have no fashion sense when it comes to dress clothes and never feel like I look right. I'm perfectly happy with my figure, it is just more comfortable in jeans and a hoodie. What's your favorite thing to wear? Any fashion faux pas to share?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Planting Onions!

This should by no means be taken as a tutorial since I am planting onions this year for the very first time. I wasn't even going to post about it until I saw that little paper bag sitting next to the freshly planted row and thought what a cute picture that would make.

We don't eat many onions, just a few in casseroles and such, so I probably didn't need to plant any. Our good friend Rob shared some of his last year and is growing plenty again this year. These ones just caught my eye in line at the feed store so I picked up a couple bags. I figure it can't hurt to learn a new skill.

The paper that came with the onion sets had decent directions: plant 2-3" apart just deep enough to cover the tops in rows 12" apart. Thin later to 4" apart, then harvest in July or August when tops dry and fall over. I pretty much followed the directions except went about 4" apart right from the start. I've never been one to "thin" plants out, I just can't bring myself to pull up the little buggers just when they get going.

While out in the garden I also cut away the old asparagus stalks from last year and trimmed back some of the old strawberries too. My favorite part of last summer was spending a few hours in the garden each morning before work. It has been so nice to be out there again the last few days.

I was thrilled that today was nice enough to plant without getting hypothermia. I put in one row of lettuce and one row of sugar peas on Monday and thought my fingers were going to fall off. Only in Michigan do you have to hoe through the snow to get your seeds in at a decent time.

Have you ever grown onions? Did you start with sets or seeds? I tried seeds indoors last year but none of the seeds I started then did any good. What are you planting? Are you getting back in to a routine that includes garden "chores"?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My New Favorite Cookbook

I borrowed a lot of cookbooks from the library a few weeks back. One of the best ones I tried and ended up buying is Make A Mix. I had never heard of it and stumbled upon it while browsing the freezer cooking manuals. Basically the first half contains recipes for mixes. The section includes dry baking mixes and other mixes that need to be frozen or used right away. Then you turn to the back half and find recipes for all the different meals you can make with each mix. My favorite so far is the Hot Roll Mix. I mix a large batch of the dry mix and then use it make some delicious things like Big Soft Pretzels, dinner rolls, and even Pizza Crust! I did find some good freezer cooking recipes in other books (more about that later) but Make A Mix is a great way to supplement those meals. Like I said, I found it through my library first. I liked it so much that I bought a used copy through Amazon.com pretty inexpensively.

By the way, those soft pretzels were a life saver when we decided to go to the church pot luck at the last minute. I rolled them out, Brian applied a little egg and salt, and they baked within 15 minutes. I don't want to cheat and share the recipe but it is very good! Enjoy!

What's your favorite cookbook?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Git 'Er Done Update

I've been busy again...if you'd like more details on any of these projects just let me know! Hopefully this will inspire you somehow. :)

Time to update the master list. Red = done last year. Black = to be done. Blue = done in 2009.

New bedding (received as wedding gift)
Paint walls & ceiling
Move closet (tear it out and rebuild in a different spot)
New TV (flatscreen - eliminated stand and gave us more floor space)

Mount lamp on wall
New trim
New curtains
Add 2nd clothes rod in closet
Cover hole for access to pipes (we cut this when changing plumbing in bathroom)

Rewire (and new switches/covers)
Curtain on closet
New light fixture
Paint window frames

Bathroom sink before

Paint walls & ceiling
Eliminate old rust stains
New faucets/hardware
New shower curtain & rod

New curtain over window (in shower)
Curtain around base of sink

Refinish cabinet
Get a quote for recoating the tub
New trim
New lighting
Replace mirror (or make it look better)
Rewire (and new switches/covers)

Bathroom sink after

Find Brian a desk
Get a deal on a desk chair

Paint walls & ceiling
New lighting
New curtains

Removed wallpaper/patched/painted (Thanks Mom!!)
Refinished cabinets/rearranged them
New countertops
New trim (started)
New stove
New (used) dishwasher
New faucet

Paint window frames
Curtains in front of sink/trash

Finish trim
Baseboard for long cabinet
End caps on countertops
Paint baseboard on sink
Paint fridge

Hook up range hood
New lighting

Brian tearing off old trim with 10 coats of paint on it

Back Room (entryway):
Paint walls/ceiling
New trim (almost done!!)
Paint window frames
Refinish cabinet door
Build/buy a bench/shoe rack
(Coat rack was her - now we don't need it - removing this)

Clean off/organize stair shelf

Nice new trim in same area

Old gross couch that smells like dog

Living Room
Paint walls & ceiling
Refinish trim
Have floor refinished
New area rug

New light fixture
Make slipcovers for couches - don't need this now because we have a new to us couch and NO DOGS are allowed on it! Yay!

Nice new clean couch!

Rabbit Room aka Guest Bedroom
Paint walls & ceiling

Move rabbits out
Fix window screen (where rabbits chewed through it)

Touch up paint on trim

Start cleaning/getting rid of everyone's junk
New washing machine
Buy laundry tub
Build corn storage bin
New corn stove

Finish cleaning
Install laundry tub
Install shower
New cabinets/tables/shelves (build or buy)
Dust/vacuum rafters
Clean out cistern (Baxter thinks it is his litterbox...gross)
Curtain @ base of stairs

Landscape around 1/2 house
Plant 2 pear trees (one died already)
Create garden
New porch roof
Tear our overgrown bushes
Repaired bad spot in shop roof
Built lean-to on back of shed (burned)
Get rid of lots of junk/scrap that is filling backyard
Install fence/plant pasture

Finish landscaping
Plant more fruit trees (they're on order!)
Paint foundation of house
New exterior doors on house
Farm sign/flagpole/strawberries?
Flowers by mailbox/along road
Repair shed fire damage/build new
Finish/repair fences
Tear down little red barn
Paint new OSB on shop ceiling
Paint small shop door
Tear down garage?
New stonecrete in driveway?
Better plan for black walnuts (help!?)
Plant corn & pumpkins
Improve pasture
Poultry tractors/fence

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wantin' & Havin' It All

So here's what's on my mind, or I guess let's start with why it is there. Today I had a local electrician come out and give us a quote on completely rewiring our house. Remember my post about poor service? Well it is a good thing I had already written about that or I would have yesterday. I have been in touch with 5 electricians and the guy who came out is the only one who even returned my calls!! I have such a hard time believing "there are no jobs" when no one wants to work.

Anyway, this electrician is GREAT! It was Dave from Affordable Electric for readers in my area. I spoke with him yesterday and he came right out this morning, showed up early, offered us a reasonable price, and was super friendly. I had no idea what to expect and was guessing it would cost around $3-4 K to rewire our whole house. I was way off - turns out it will cost more like $7,000, and I think that is a pretty competitive rate. I would really like this done because A)I am paranoid about fires now for obvious reasons and B)we would like to have our home insulated with spray foam and that would make it almost impossible to rewire later. I think we're going to start with setting up a new fuse box, installing all new light fixtures on the main floor, new lights and a switch in the basement, and a new outlet for the washer & dryer. Then we can do the rest later on as we can afford it.

Okay - here's the real point I'm getting at. I heard something said once about all these 20-somethings trying to have everything there parents have and going in to debt to get it instead of realizing that it took there parents 30 years to get all those things. I don't want to be one of the people! I don't mean we're going in debt, we've managed to pay for everything so far except our mortgage, some of my college, Brian's truck, and a very small operating loan for the farm.

Really I feel like now IS the time to spend spend spend because we're both working full time. Hopefully someday I'll be home at least most of the time with our children and we'd love for Brian to be home too (not sure that will happen though). So it seems that if we could get the major stuff done now we could live well on a lesser income someday. Major goals for us include: rewiring, building an animal barn, adding 2 rooms and a garage on to the house, buying a loader tractor & stock trailer, and maybe buying more of the land that we currently rent. That all calls for some major spending.

I'm a saver by nature and feel a little extravagant lately spending all this money. Then I think, well, that's crossing one more thing off our list. What do you think? How has your spending changed with your age? Have you ever stopped to think that it might take you 30 years to get what your parents have? What are your theories on money? Do you think we'll ever get there or will our list just keep growing? I would love to hear what you think and how you handle this.

I hope this post doesn't make it sound like I'm addicted to stuff. What I want the most is to be at home and all this "stuff" is all that stands in the way of that.

Friday, April 3, 2009

C'mon Seedlings!

They can make it... I hope. See what happened is I bought a shoplight and 2 plant bulbs way back before I planted my first seeds. I wanted to be prepared. Then I waited until the plants were sprouting and hooked up the light. Of course it didn't work! Why would it? So plan B involved me going to the hardware store (not where I bought the first light) and finding another light that was supposed to be compatible with my plant bulbs. Luckily this one works.

Now I know that my next batch of seedlings will have a good light, I'm just not sure how this first batch will do. As you can see they are awfully spindly and crooked right now from seeking out natural light. I rigged up the light in my closet and plan to plug it in with my Christmas light timer set for 14 hours of light per day.

How are your seedlings doing? Anyone care to place bets on whether or not these seedlings will be worth a darn?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sheep Update

Lambing season is over on this farm! Our last lamb was born Saturday afternoon. I had to help the mama with this one. I came home from knitting class to find her walking around with 1 foot and a nose showing. I tried to be patient and watched her push quite hard, off and on, for over 30 minutes. Then I decided it was time to step in. First, I felt for the other foot and found it just inside. I was relieved that both front feet were present but knew she still needed help so I consulted Managing Your Ewe. The book helped me figure out that the lamb's elbows were probably bent and locked. Picture yourself with your hands up by your face impersonating a rabbit. That is basically how the lamb was positioned. What we want is more like a person with there hands up above their head ready to dive into a pool. Make sense?

So I sloshed my hands in some disinfectant and felt around for those feet again. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had to pull really hard on each leg, both of which were very slippery, and there wasn't a lot of room to work! I finally pulled one leg out, then the other. My biggest fear then was that she would lay down or turn and damage the legs. Then she pushed again and the lamb came out in my arms. One more big push let it all the way out. I was so relieved when it started breathing! Mama did very well, the only problem was that it took her a long time to stand up afterwards. She was obviously exhausted. I moved the lamb up by her head and she did a great job cleaning it off until she finally stood up. I caught him nursing later on and he's been doing great every since.

So... 4 ewes, all first time moms, produced 5 lambs for us this year. Total count is 3 girls and 2 boys. The twins and the solid black lamb are all very sturdy looking and large. The first lamb born has had some trouble, first with an infected tail band and then with limbing due to, I suspect, a joint infection stemming from the tail infection. I've treated her with penicillin injections for the last 4 days and am going to take the wait-and-see approach now. I don't condone routine antibiotic use but won't let any animal gimp around like that when I can fix it. She is a lot better, only slightly less active then the others now. This last baby is doing great he is just a little on the small side and sort of knobby kneed.

We'll see how it goes but the plan now is to send the two males and possibly the first female to the freezer and keep the other two to add to our breeding flock. I'm not good at judging sheep conformation but feel very good about the twins and the black female, they look very good to me.

Have you ever had to assist with a birth? Have you ever tried lamb or mutton? Did you like it?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring has sprung - here!!!

I've been watching jealously as one by one my fellow bloggers have posted pictures of their first spring shoots. Now I can finally join in the fun!!

Farm mom inspired me to plant garlic for the first time last fall. I have not yet removed the thick layer of straw that covered the planted cloves all winter. Today I went out to inspect the patch and guess what - the garlic is already growing even through all that mulch! I still didn't remove it but I pulled back a good section and found several sturdy looking sprouts. How exciting!

Then I wandered over to my strawberries. I planted them last spring in a big metal pot that we found when we tore out the bushes around our house. I neglectfully forgot to mulch them over the winter so was prepared to find them dead this spring. They are more durable than I expected. I found several fresh green plants making their start already. Mmmm, I can't wait for that first batch of jam.

I planted two pear trees last spring as well. One tree didn't even live through the summer but the other is doing well. Check out the little tips already growing this spring.

I am so excited now and all fired up for spring. Last year my Mom and I went to our favorite nursery on Mother's Day. I'm hoping we can make that a tradition and find some great new plants this year. What are looking forward to this spring? How did your plants come through the winter?