Summer Happenings

Summer and Fall are busy times ’round here.

It seems there is something that needs to be done every day just to keep up, or else…

First, there’s trying to keep up with the garden.

We’ve had lots of glorious rain this year which is wonderfully nourishing for the plants but is equally nourishing for the weeds.  And, when you garden organically, that means trying to keep up with the weeds just so you can see your crop!

Then, there’s the harvesting of said crop.

Currently we’re only harvesting cucumbers (lots and lots of cucumbers!) and a few tomatoes here and there.

With so many cucumbers ready every few days I am trying new-to-me recipes to preserve them.

In the last blog post I talked about making Bread & Butter pickles.  I can’t wait to try them in a few weeks!

Today, I started the process of making Sweet Icicle Pickles found in the Complete Blue Ball Canning book.

summer happenings 10

Four pounds of cucumbers in a stainless steel stock pot and covered with pickling salted water.

summer happenings 11

I placed an inverted plate over them and sat some canning jars full of water on the plate.

summer happenings 12

(It’s a green glass plate which is why it’s so green!)

These will sit in the cool pantry with a thick towel over them for a week before the next step.  There are six steps total so this process is going to take a while.  After all that I hope they turn out!

Once the rest of the veggies we’ve planted are ready to be harvested our days will be non-stop and there will be veggies all over the mudroom and the kitchen waiting to be preserved.  Yea, it’s a lot of work but when you see your pantry fill up with all the food you started from seed and tended to and harvested there is nothing more rewarding!  And, we’re able to eat that reward all throughout the year, woot!

Of course, with all the wonderful rain we’ve had it also means the grass is growing as well.  So, there’s mowing to be done every week and bush-hogging the upper and lower forty every other month.

We really need to get a hay rake and a small square hay baler so that we can bale the grass from those fields to use in the chicken coop throughout the year.  Some day.

Speaking of chickens, this guy has got his hands, er, feet FULL!

summer happenings 01

The gorgeous Fuzzy Foot always has a lot to say!  I guess that’s the only way to keep up with seventeen laying hens and sixteen ‘babies’.  Either that or he’s awfully proud of his brood and wants everyone to know!

And, speaking of babies, the chicks are no longer chicks and are growing like our weeds!  They are eleven weeks old and getting so big.  I will have to take some photos for y’all to see.

I’ve enjoyed taking a few minutes here and there and walking around the farm with my camera.  Well, let’s just say for the sake of keeping it real, I’ve mostly enjoyed it.  I’ve had issues with my camera for a while.  It seems it likes only one lens now and half the time the automatic focus doesn’t work meaning I miss out on a lot of shots.  I know that’s neither here nor there for y’all but that’s my world.  ha!

I did manage to capture a butterfly or two when they were hitting the daylilies…

summer happenings 14

I love watching the butterflies flit from one flower to another!

A friend of ours gave us this plant last year and it bloomed this year…

summer happenings 03

I have no idea what kind of plant it is but the flower is larger than my hand.  Anyone know?  These are bulbs and will spread.  I already have two large stalks and two smaller stalks.  Yay!

There was a full moon last Saturday and when I went out to lock the chickens up the moon was just over the barn.  I had to walk back in and grab my camera…

summer happenings 09

Along with summer comes the heat.

So far, we’ve had a decent summer.  With no air conditioning in the ‘ol farmhouse we appreciate a decent summer.  We open the windows at night and close them when the sun comes up and the house usually stays fairly cool.

My bees, on the other hand, have taken to bearding in the evenings to stay cool…

summer happenings 13

Bearding typically takes place during the warmer months.  With all the buzzing and humming and work going on inside the hive it tends to get warm in there.  In order to stay cool, the bees will congregate outside the hive in the evenings creating a beard-like effect.

Another reason they may do this is when they are getting ready to swarm.  If they are out of room in the brood box they will swarm, congregate outside the hive getting organized waiting for the scouts to return then leave the hive and go to their new home.  I checked the hive and, thankfully, there was plenty of room for them.  I even added another brood box just in case so I know they are just bearding to cool off.

Another summer time happening is the process of gathering wood for the winter.  This will be our third winter here and maybe the first winter that we will be completely prepared for it.

The first year, we had no heat source, bitter cold temps, lots of snow, and no snow shovels.  We moved from Florida where one doesn’t need snow shovels!

The next year, we had some heat sources (wood burning insert and propane) and we had gathered quite a bit of wood but we still needed to be frugal with burning it and even then, the wood shed was empty by the last cold spell.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a bad winter.

This coming winter, we hope to have the wood shed completely full and get a jump start on wood for next winter as well.

I mentioned earlier about all the rain we’ve had but we’ve also had some terrible wind associated with several of those storms.

Quite a few friends and neighbors have had several trees come down in those storms.

CountryBoy is currently helping a friend from church cut up a HUGE tree that fell recently.

summer happenings 04

This is only half the tree and just the branches are shown.

summer happenings 05

The wood shed is half full and they haven’t even gotten to the trunk yet!

summer happenings 06

Another church member told us about a couple hundred trees that came down in his cousins field that we are welcome to.  YAY!  Y’all just don’t know what a blessing and relief it is to know that we will stay warm this winter.

While the guys were cutting up the tree I meandered over to take some photos of the original cabin on their property.

summer happenings 07

The history of this homestead is that two elderly ladies occupied this little house up until the time our friends bought the property.

There is no electricity and no creature comforts that we are accustomed to.

summer happenings 08

The ground is slowly taking this little cutie pie piece of history.

The current owners had taken up the wood floor before it started disintegrating and stored it in their barn although much of it was stored under a roof leak and had started to deteriorate.  They gave us quite a bit of that flooring that was in somewhat decent shape and, one day, I hope to salvage what I can of it and put it in the second guest room.  It will be nice to have a finished floor in that room and some local history in the farmhouse.

There’s never a dull moment during the summer but we do manage to get some down time, especially during the heat of the day, allowing us to do some fun things or just relax.  After all, it’s all about balance!

We’re Still Here!

My apologies for being absent for so long.  I was politely scolded by my best friend for my lack of blog posts (she loves me!) and then CountryBoy jumped on the bandwagon and scolded me, too, telling me I’m going to lose all our followers.  sigh.  And, they’re right.  This year I am going to make more time for blogging to keep y’all abreast of what’s going on ’round here.  Sound good?  Okay.

In my mind I do have good reasons for not blogging… one of those being our efforts to gather wood to fill our wood shed for the winter months.  Many of y’all remember the year we moved here that we were without any good heat sources and it was very, very cold in the ‘ol farmhouse.  I mean, see your breath kinda cold.  Brrr!  (My previously mentioned best friend threatened to call the National Guard she was so worried about us, ha!  I told her she’d better not and that we were fine.  Cold, but fine. wink.)  Anyhoo, I am glad I took that time helping CountryBoy cut and split wood since we have had to use the fireplace quite a bit already and as I type this it is snowing outside.  Yay!

We love the snow!  It is so beautiful and the snowy days don’t seem quite as cold as non-snowy days.

beehive-parts04

We are only expected to get a couple of inches this go ’round.  This ‘born in upstate New York but raised in Florida’ girl has loved experiencing all four seasons since moving to Kentucky! Each and every season is special in its own way.

One of the things I’ll be doing on this snowy afternoon (right after I finish blogging!) is getting back to assembling something new this year at the farm…

beehive-parts01

Any guesses?  If you guessed frames for a beehive you guessed right!  (Can you tell by CountryBoy’s body language that he’s thinking ‘oh good grief’ and is not thrilled, heehee!)

Two big boxes arrived yesterday with all sorts of wood bundles in them and some bee paraphernalia.  I couldn’t wait to start putting them together so we sat on the floor yesterday afternoon and spent more time trying to decipher the poorly, or almost non-existent, instructions than it did for us to put ten frames together.  That is, once we figured out how to do it.

I mentioned to CountryBoy that I probably should’ve spent the extra money to buy it already assembled but a) where is the fun in that? ha! and b) I’m cheap frugal.  I figure that extra money will go towards something else we’ll end up needing to get the hives up and running.  Oh yea, he said he would’ve spent the extra money, haha, but again, where is the fun in that?!

beehive-parts02

We have thirty more frames to put together.  It’s pretty simple now that we figured it out (thank goodness for the beekeeping books we have and their good diagrams!) but it is time consuming.    There are specific places where they are to be nailed which is tedious.  Once we get those done we’ll start putting the boxes together.  We picked up some resin glue (see, I KNEW we would need to get something else before it was all said and done (wink)) while in town this morning.  They recommend gluing the boxes at the dove tails even though they are nailed together for extra support since they will be handled often.

We are buying a deep box and frames with a honey start on them from a beekeeper friend in New York.  This will give the bees a head start and will allow us to have a bit of honey this first year.  Yay!

Along with the hive kit I had to buy a beginners beekeeping kit…

beehive-parts03

hat with veil, smoker, hive tool, feeding caps, goatskin gloves and book on raising bees and selling honey.

Speaking of honey, the store owner where we bought the glue heard me mention what the glue was for and he seriously wants to buy a quart of honey already!  As he said, local honey is hard to come by as I know all too well.  We just may have a market here.  I see more hives in our future!

For now, the one hive will have to do.  As with any new venture it’s a huge investment to get started.  Down the line we’ll purchase another deep box, bottom board and top, split the medium boxes we already have and hopefully be able to split the bees and then we’ll have another hive.  Bit by bit!

And, speaking of bees, I ordered the bees and queen along with the boxes.  It’s a first come first serve basis when it comes to bees so I wanted to make sure I was nearer to the top of the list rather than the bottom.  On April 15th, we will drive two hours one way to pick up 3 lbs. of Italian bees and a marked queen and we will be official beekeepers!

This is all so very exciting!  It’s another dream come true for me.  CountryBoy is helping me get set up and reading up on the bees but this is my baby.  I will be the one going in and out of the beehive – he’ll be the one with the smoker and stepping aside.  Teamwork!

Another new venture for the farm and one that has consumed a bit of time will be the opening up of a new Etsy shop.  I had an Etsy shop years ago with a few things I’ve made here and there but things have changed so it’s time for a new shop with a new name and a new focus.  I am still working on the farm logo; coming up with items to make and sell; then there’s the actual job of creating the new Etsy shop; making products; photographing products; editing the photos; pricing the products; listing the products; advertising; etc. etc.  It’s no wonder I have no idea where the time goes each day!

Here’s a few of the products I have in mind so far…

esty-store-items

homemade balms & serums using therapeutic grade essential oils, upcycled tinted jars for decorative purposes, handmade afghans & quilts and who knows what else!  We would love to have a physical shop here at the farm one day where we could sell all the above plus some extra home-canned goodies but, for now, an online shop will have to do until we can afford the shop building.  Bit by bit!

And, speaking of essential oils, that has been another thing that has consumed some of my time.  I am purposefully focusing on growing my Young Living business this year.  I love their products and they have done wonders for boosting our health and wellness over the past several months so I want to share that with others who are interested.

There is at least one more venture currently planned for the farm that I will share with you after things are firmed up.  You know, cuz I love to keep y’all wondering (wink!)!

So that’s what’s been going on ’round here and what’s about to go on.

Thank you for bearing with me and for still being here.  Y’all are the best!

Till next time our farm friends!

Winter Challenges

So far, this winter has proven to be very similar to last winter even though the folks ’round here keep telling us that this is not typical of winters in these parts of Kentucky.   Cold weather – yes; a couple inches of snow – yes, but not a FOOT or more of snow!  We moved here from Florida so I’m pretty sure we can’t be blamed for ‘bringing it with us’, ha!

snow-inches.jpg

Although the weather may be similar our preparedness is vastly different this year than last.

Jan-snow-1

We had only moved in two short weeks before the first snow fall.  Talk about two Floridians unprepared for a foot or more of snow, yea, that was us!

Jan-snow-3

Last winter we were on pins and needles wondering about the water freezing and pipes bursting since it happened on several occasions.

Jan-snow-4.jpg

This winter we were sailing along fairly well.  We were warmer (of course I spend most of my time in front of the fireplace or upstairs in the sewing room where it’s warmer as the rest of the house is still cold – not the see-your-breath kind of cold like last year but still cold); the house is warmer, overall, which helps keep any pipes from freezing even in single digit temperatures.  So, we started to relax about possible winter water issues when it happened.  We had a night of below zero temps and woke up to frozen pipes.  sigh.  I had been lax about filtering the water and filling our water dispenser since it seemed we weren’t going to have any issues.  THANKFULLY, I had prepared the coffee pot the night before so we were, at least, able to have our morning cuppa coffee before having to deal with the nightmare issue.  And, we had some water in the cistern so we were able to flush the toilet.

Long story short, the water had frozen outside where the water line enters the house.  It thawed and all was well.  CountryBoy is going to thoroughly insulate the current poorly insulated box and hopefully, that will keep it from freezing.  And, we spent the rest of the day filtering water and filling up our water dispenser and all of the animal’s waterers.  You know, just in case!

But, this morning, we woke up to a busted line behind the kitchen sink where it is next to impossible to access the water lines.  sigh.

Again, we had our coffee, a few tears were shed then CountryBoy came up with the solution of re-routing the lines and abandoning the lines in the wall.

The re-routing of plumbing is complete and drying.  Here’s hoping that solves any future freezing water issues.  Well, that and insulating the metal box that covers where the water line enters the house.

Another challenge with this much snow is getting out of our driveway.  Thankfully, a neighbor came by the other night and scraped it the best he could.  We were extremely grateful since CountryBoy had a doctor’s appointment this morning.  After several attempts in 4-wheel drive, we made it to the road and to the appointment.  From there we went to Lowe’s to purchase the necessary plumbing needed to re-route the water lines in the kitchen.  Course, I had him drop me off at Hobby Lobby so I could get some sewing paraphernalia (wink!).

It’s also been a challenge for the poor chickens.  They have had no desire to investigate the white stuff and have stayed in their coop even though their door is opened every day.  CountryBoy shoveled paths to the coop, the wood shed and the tool shed to make it easier for us to get back and forth.

snow-paths.jpg

I have given them homemade suet cakes to occupy and nourish them but without them leaving the coop they were unable to get their daily and necessary dust baths.  So, I took a metal tray that had been left by the previous owner from the barn and filled it with some loose dirt and mixed cool ashes from the fireplace in it and put it in the coop .  Before I even had it all mixed up a few of the girls were checking it out.  It didn’t take them long to start scratching in it and eventually taking their ‘baths’.

chickens-in-winter

Gotta keep the girls happy and healthy!

This afternoon, the paths that CountryBoy shoveled were beginning to melt so I carried the girls, two by two, out to where there was some grass.  They were thrilled to be out of the coop!

They spent the afternoon traveling up and down the paths, eating grass, drinking melted snow and a few even ventured down the still-snowy driveway a bit towards the barn.  Here they are heading back down the path from the wood shed…

chicken-line

Instead of having all my ducks in a row apparently I have all my chickens in a row, haha!

Do you see the metal box beside the blue coffee canister?  That’s where the water line enters the house and the box had very little insulation in it when CountryBoy opened it up yesterday.  That’s the culprit.  sigh.

Most folks are afraid of losing electricity in storms such as we had but our biggest fear is loss of access to water.  We can survive without electricity, thanks to wood and gas heaters, but we can’t survive without water for very long.  Water is essential for the animals as well as for many of our needs.  We have also made many preparations for survival without electricity, such as, being able to cook with a wood-burning fireplace as well as warmth from it; oil lamps in every room and a supply of lamp oil; and for me, lots of books to read!  But, water?  We can’t do without it for very long so we will do whatever we can to avoid being without for very long and/or be prepared just in case.

Temperatures are supposed to be warmer this week with some rain so maybe most of the white stuff will disappear and the girls can get back to their routine.  In fact, maybe we can ALL get back to our routine, dog and cats included ;).

LizzieBelle-in-snow

Apparently, this amount of snow (that was cleared by our neighbor) is OK for LizzieBelle!  More than that?  No way!

How ’bout you?  Were you in the midst of the Snowpocalypse?  What preparations have you done for those ‘just in case’ moments?  I’d love to hear them – it may be something we need to think about and/or do.

Stay warm and safe friends 🙂

It’s Snow Pretty

Have you ever just sat (or stood) and watched the snow fall?

It’s so peaceful and creates such a beautiful scene.

snow-pretty-4.jpg

We have accumulated over a foot of snow, so far, here at the farm.

snow-pretty-2.jpg

The chickens are occupying themselves in the coop; the cats have a litter box indoors again; and LizzieBelle is carried to the barn to do her business. But, this girl just had to leave the coop to lay her egg in the tool shed!

snow-pretty-5.jpg

Luckily, she ventured out this morning while it was only several inches deep!

I looked out the guest room window upstairs a bit ago and saw this hanging from the roof…

snow-pretty-1

I am thankful that I do not have to leave the farm in these conditions and that I can absorb the beauty.  It’s seems God brings the snow to wipe the earth clean; so it can start over; a clean slate.  It’s beautiful in sight and meaning.

For those of us who have chosen this farming/homesteading lifestyle winter also gives a chance to slow down; to rejuvenate so that we are, hopefully, ready for the upcoming busy months of planting, harvesting and preserving.

I cross-stitched this piece a long time ago because I love snowmen and birds but now it just seems apropos for our Kentucky winters!

snow-pretty-3

Stay warm, my friends, and, hopefully, you can spend these winter months rejuvenating your mind, body and soul for it’s snow pretty!