Follow The Beginning Farmer's Wife on Facebook for additional personal peeks at building a family farm.

(Be sure to click both the Facebook "like" and "follow" buttons to not miss any posts.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Slow and Steady Builds the House

Sorry it has been awhile since my last update, but it has been a full week. I have spent the days packing things into boxes for our move, trying to keep the house under control, preparing meals for our supper at the farm, and of course, making sure that Caleb and Hannah aren't ignored during this crazy fall (or year, I should say!)

This week of building has been kind of slow week compared to last week, or so it seems. As I mentioned earlier, we are just working evenings this week. With spending Monday in Des Moines all day, we have had three evenings at the farm.

Last week was quite exciting. We got a lot of work done and saw big changes as walls went up and wiring got started. This week, however, the changes aren't as pronounced. We have been working quite hard, but the things we are working on are piddly little things that go unnoticed so it seems that not much is happening when we walk inside.

Progress is being made, however, even if it doesn't jump out at us. These things are all things that need to be done before we will start to see big changes again when the insulation and drywall go up. Then, of course, there will be another phase of piddly little work that doesn't stand out very much.

So here is what has happened this week:
On the contractor end of things, the septic system is finished and the plumbing is set up along with the bath tub being installed. A note on the tub - it isn't blue. That's just a protective covering. It is however, two inches wider than a standard and quite deep. This was one of the few luxuries (even though it was about the same price as a cast iron tub) we wanted from the beginning. (Yes, Ethan was in on this one - I actually had to walk him away from tubs with jets multiple times!) We don't care that our bathroom is barely big enough to fit it. There's just something about a nice warm soaking after a hard days work!

The plumbing and the septic were the most noticeable changes of the week so far, especially since quite a large portion of the pasture got torn up in the process of putting the septic in. (It will come back though, and we can graze and make hay over the system too.)

The things we have been working on are the things that aren't very noticeable.
In addition to picking out and buying more materials, we have caulked around the entire base of the building where the concrete meets the wood. This will help tighten up the building to prevent bugs from coming in.

We fastened boards to the concrete around the perimeter of the building to nail the dry wall to . More outlet boxes and outlet spacers were installed (the one pictured isn't finished if you noticed it was crooked) and more holes have been drilled for the wiring. (I can see why the bid to have the electrical job contracted out was around $8000. It just plain takes A LOT of time!)

Ethan has gotten 3 of the 4 cabinet shelves constructed with 2 of them nailed into place. (Since our ceilings are 10 foot tall, we are going to have built in cabinets above our closets for extra storage.)

Caleb and Hannah also chipped in on their own and spent a good hour sweeping up sawdust and dumping it into the garbage.

It's amazing how every little hand helps out, and each little project that gets done brings us a step closer to seeing big changes again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another day at Menards

We haven't worked much at the farm since Friday. Saturday and Sunday we pretty much collapsed. Ethan did run out on Saturday with a new load of feed for the hogs. I rode along and took the opportunity to pull some more wire for about 30 minutes. Other than sleep, that's about it - besides doing some packing up of the house and Ethan writing the sermon for Sunday morning.

Now that we are semi-rested, we are ready for more. Today we got a lot accomplished, although if you peeked in the house you wouldn't know it. We started the morning with a scheduled baby appointment and spent the rest of the day in Des Moines spending money.

Our wood burning stove and all the stove pipe are now purchased. We felt that needed to get done ASAP since prices have gone up 15% since we started building, and they are continuing to rise. We also spent another 3 1/2 -4 hours at Menards getting materials. It's amazing how much time it can take to pick out faucets and bathtubs! (By the way, all materials are rising. The flooring we got in Feb was $1.28/ sq ft at regular price and now it is over $1.50/ sq ft. Thankfully we got it on sale for $0.99/ sq ft! )

With our shopping done (this round at least) we are now ready for the plumber to finish his work and for the Amish to install the stove pipe. (The chimney store was quite unsure of how it would work to run stove pipe through a steel roof without water leaking through the roof. Thankfully we know Amish who live in steel buildings too and of course use wood stoves for heat!)

With more materials boughten, we are also ready to continue our projects. We won't be working full days like last week since Ethan needs to take care of his office work, but we will spend a bit of time out there when the desk job is done for the day.

By the way, the countdown really begins. It is now exactly one month until we have to be out of our house!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Last week we got a lot accomplished out at the farm since we were able to be out there all day. Ethan has a great summary of the week on his blog if you haven't had a chance to read the daily updates here.

Also, I need to send out a HUGE thanks to my parents for helping us get going on our building this last week! We are so happy with what we got accomplished, and we were able to get to a point where we can continue to progress on our own - although we always will welcome any offers of help. :)

Not only did we get a lot accomplished, but we also got a lot of eggs! Knowing that our chickens are eating their eggs, I frequently checked the pen to snatch them before they disappeared. Some days I managed to rescue up to four of them. It is nice to have a good supply of eggs in the fridge again, however, I think I could use them up in less than a week: hard boiled, egg noodles, banana bread, omelets . . . Pastured eggs are so nutritious, especially for expecting moms. You can read about some of their benefits here.

Unfortunately, we probably won't be able to stash away the eggs this coming week. Although we will be out there working a bit, we won't be able to be out there all day long like last week.

It won't be long now until we will be living there though. And next year, when we have eggs for sale, we will definitely have a fresh batch of hens!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Last Day Of Work

Today was the last day that my parents were here. We put the pantry up, and now all but one wall is up. The last will go together after the drywall is out of the way. We spent a good part of the day starting the wiring, and I was very excited to see that that septic system got started today too!

I forgot to include this picture yesterday. We now also have a drive way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Continuing with Building

Today we had and an air nailer that a friend is letting us borrow. It helped quite a bit in putting up more walls, ceiling, and detail work. I also got the electrical boxes in place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Roll Call

Becca's mom - sweeping out the dried mud on the floor from the builders (during the morning - nap patrol in afternoon)

Caleb and Hannah - hard at play outside and in the "safe during construction" framed in rooms (during the morning - naps in afternoon)

Ethan - at home with a 101+ degree temperature (except for an afternoon check-in)

Becca - third trimester of pregnancy and trying to fill Ethan's shoes for the day. (I limited myself to light nailing, supporting walls that were going up, calling some contractors, and fetching things needed.)

Becca's dad - doing the hard work!

Accomplished: A cleaner floor to work on, new walls up, closets framed in, entry door framed in, ceiling drywall prep, and other misc.

(Thankfully Ethan's temperature broke this evening. Hopefully he will have some energy to do some work tomorrow.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Electricity, Ceiling, and Walls!

Pounding Nails

My dad has taken the week off this week so we are blessed with his expertise and are starting our own construction inside. The camper is also being put to good use now too. :)

We spent close to 4 hours at Menards on Sunday getting materials, and yesterday the pounding and sawing began! Although the electricity is still not in (it was "supposed to be" Friday, but did get started yesterday), we are moving ahead with muscles and a chainsaw.

Ethan and my dad will do the heavy work (my cousin Tim came down last night too - thanks Tim!), and my mom and I will feed them, do any light work, and start packing the house. (It is actually quite hard for me to sit back and watch the construction work since I would usually be jumping right in if I wasn't expecting, but after a few nights with a sore back I have learned that I need to set some boundaries.) The kids will be tagging along with their toy tools too.

I probably won't type much this week, but I will most likely keep a photo journal of our progress for us to look back on. Feel free to shoot any questions out if any arise from the pictures, and I will see if I can carve out some time to answer them.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Des Moines Register Visits Stoneyfield Farm

Over the last few months the Des Moines Register has came out to our land to interview Ethan and learn more about what we are up to. We enjoyed visiting with the reporter and sharing our story.

This past Sunday was the last Sunday of the Iowa State Fair, and it is when they ran the article about our farm : A Farm is Born. We were surprised to see that we were interesting enough for our story and photos to take two pages! We feel the reporter did a nice job too.

Also, I can't forget to mention that my cousin Tim has helped us set up a website for our farm. You can now go to to check us out. Tim did a great job as well!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We Have Keys!

The builder is now finished with our building! (Except for a small strip of siding missing by the slider, but we're almost positive that it just got overlooked. I'm sure he will come back to put it on.) We are now able to lock up the building and are free to do our work on it.

Everything has fallen into place beautifully this last week. The house sold Saturday (we will now get Ethan's housing allowance to help with our loans starting September), the builder finished Monday, our construction loan closed yesterday, the electric meter box got installed on the house yesterday, and the electric company is scheduled to come tomorrow to hook up our electric (we've been working on that one a few months too!). Our plan now is to start our construction work on Monday. My dad has even worked overtime the last few weeks so he could take some time off to help us get the ball rolling.

We have spent a lot of time in prayer over this new venture of ours, from the time that we started thinking about getting into farming, to looking for land, to buying the land, and to the construction project. Not everything has gone easily or smoothly, and like I have said earlier, I'm sure we have many more obstacles in front of us. When things finally fall into place, however, it is such a blessing.

I also wanted to post a picture of the keys to our house. After we brought them home, I took a close look at them so I would remember which ones they were in our pile of mismatched keys.

I could hardly believe it when I saw the word "DEXTER" printed boldly on the face of them. Our Dexter cattle are the centerpiece of our farm. I guess we won't have any troubles remembering which keys go to the house!

So now we are about to start making our house a home - or at least give it a bathroom! Come September 26th, we need to have vacated the house we are in now.

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
Psalm 127:1

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Closing Day for our Construction Loan

Today was the closing day for our construction loan! Finally!! After at least 5 different investors have worked through their vacations, illnesses, and paperwork, we now will have money to build!!

I think I know what you are thinking. "Ummm . . . You have been building. Where did you get that money?"

Before I answer that, let me give you a little background on our finances.

Early on in our marriage, Ethan and I learned the difference between needs and wants and how to scrimp and save. (Even though I'm sure we have much more we can learn.) The first year we were married I was finishing college and Ethan was a youth director in a small town church. After I completed my last year of college, we both went to work at Cono Christian boarding school.

The first year we worked at Cono I earned $6500 for the year. Ethan's salary was less than $9000. And that's before taxes. The second year we each got a slight pay raise. So we really didn't have a lot of cash to do as we pleased with, and we learned even more how to save money.

Granted, we didn't have to pay housing. We got to share a house on campus with 6-8 high school boys. We also didn't have to buy our food. We were free to . . . errrr . . . required to eat all of our meals in the dining center. So right there we learned that we didn't need to have an extravagant house or eat extravagant food.

Also, since we needed to be on campus 24/7 during the school year, we learned how to entertain ourselves without spending money. One of our favorite things to do was to go shoot guns across the road by the sewage lagoon in the field. (See what I mean by nothing extravagant!) Also, the only time we really ate out was when I was expecting Caleb, and we got to leave campus for my appointments.

As for the summers there, the first summer we were moving in and the third we were moving out - so not much time to run around spending money in the summers either. And for the summer in between, we re-shingled my parent's house and garage, resided the house, and helped them get started on their addition.

After we moved from Cono, Ethan took another youth director position, and I became a stay at home mom. Ethan's salary increased a bit from what he made at the boarding school, but since my salary disappeared when I became a stay at home mom, things pretty much evened out. So we continued to find ways to cut expenses and stretch the penny.

We knew from the beginning of our marriage that if we wanted to move out to the country we would have to save hard. So that is what we have been doing the last 7 years. We also knew that we would probably never be able to afford big loan payments, so we saved until we could have some cushion and flexibility to help keep our loan payments low.

Which brings me back to the question. Where did our building money so far come without our construction loan? Well . . . we have been spending the cushion we have saved up the last 7 years, and we have never been so broke in our marriage before! I have been carefully monitoring our budget though and keeping in contact with the lenders. Now that the loan is here, we will turn in our bills to be reimbursed for what we have spent and continue with the project.

We are so thankful that we were able to have that cushion when we started this project. If we didn't we would JUST be calling our builder to let him know we were ready for the building to go up - and we probably wouldn't have been able to start work inside until November. We never imagined that it would take over than 3 months for our loan to close. (Not including the 2 months of talking to the lender prior to submitting our information.) So although the 7 years of saving up seemed like it would never end, it has definitely helped out.

Follow The Beginning Farmer's Wife on Facebook for additional personal peeks at building a family farm.

 Tools of My Trade
This kit is one we have used and is worth every penny you will spend on it! Even if you have a good grip on your finances, there will be things you can take away from this study that will be a blessing to you.  As Mr. Ramsey says in his radio show when it comes to figuring out how big of a mortgage you should take out on a house, "You want your house to be a blessing, not a curse."  I believe that this advice fits with all purchase that are made.  In addition to not having them be a curse by needing to make payments, we also need to keep them from becoming curses down the road by using up money that could have instead been set away for emergencies or more important purchases.  This plan helps you figure out how to budget your money in a way that you will move more and more from finances becoming a curse in your life to more and more of them becoming a blessing.

If you just want a very helpful, but not as in depth version of Mr. Ramsey's financial advice, the Total Money Makeover is another wonderful resource. We have a large number of friends who have used this book to help turn their finances around. You may be able to find a used copy of the book through e-bay or You can also pick up a new copy from the link below.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is it Done?

Since it looks like things might get even more crazy soon, we decided that today would be a good day to go to State Fair.

We headed out to the farm first to check on the animals and saw that the builder was back out there. He said that he was going to be able to finish it up today. He only had one other worker with him (there are usually 3) who was picking up the building site while the main builder worked.

After a quick chat and taking care of the animals, we headed to the fair.

It was a beautiful day and in the low 80's. (I really appreciated that, especially since I will be starting my 3rd trimester next week and my thermostat has been turned up a bit.) Caleb and Hannah had a great day too. Among other things, they went through the Hands on Farming center, saw lots of animals, and got some fun free things. It was also nice to take a day to just do something fun as a family that had no connection with building or work.

We didn't stop by the farm on the way back, however, since we were all exhausted so we aren't quite sure if everything got wrapped up there or not. Hopefully tomorrow we will see that it is done though!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Ethan and I received the great news yesterday that our house sold!

I have been praying for timing in our construction and house sale, and this seems like the perfect timing. Our builder is practically done now, and our construction loan will be closing on Tuesday. (More on that then.)

The closing date for the house is scheduled for September 26th. We should have enough time to make the house livable before we move in (I had told Ethan all I wanted before we moved over there was a bathroom), and we will be able to be "moved in" a good month before the baby's due date.

Here's a picture when we first moved here. I realize that we will be living in a construction zone and out of boxes, but I would rather do that then have the actual move with a baby. Caleb was 5 weeks old when we moved here, and that was not enjoyable. I bet you couldn't have guessed by how relaxed our faces look in the picture (said sarcastically!)

The story on how the house sold is a great story. We have gone 4 weeks without any interest in the house. This past week was the National Sprint Car races here, and there are thousands who invade our town of 9000. One of the couples from our church was out for coffee at the local restaurant and "happened" to be sitting next to someone who had come from Washington State for the races. They have a snow removal business there removing snow from private drives in the mountains during the winter. They were talking about how much they spend coming to the races in the summer and how great it would be to have an acre property to stay here in the summer, with or without buildings since they could build.

Well, the couple from my church heard what they were talking about, and they told them they really needed to check out our place. The couple from Washington mentioned that they should really sell another property they own first before buying here but called a realtor to check it out anyway.

Well, to make a long story short, they came and looked at it and after giving 4 offers and receiving 4 counters offers a price was agreed on. The papers are signed now, and a closing date is set!

So this next 5-6 weeks we will packing up and getting the bathroom functioning, along with doing other construction too. If all goes as planned, we will be on the farm September 26.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Camper Curtains are Done

Last night I finished the last of my 14 lined camper curtains. They cost less than $7 to make. I found the deep green fabric for $1 a yard and had to buy some thread, but the lining was used from old thin flannel sheets that had been laying around.

If you ever make curtains, I highly suggest lining them. After I worked through my first lined curtain a few years ago, I was surprised at how quickly they go together. It almost takes the same amount of time since you don't have as many rolled and hemmed edges. They keep the light out better, and the lining also prevents your fabric from sun bleaching. (You can use lots of things for lining - muslin works well too.)

I considered posting a photo tutorial on lined curtains, but things are so crazy now I'm just going to link you to this site where I learned how to make them. (The curtains in these instructions use curtain tape for rod hooks, but I just used two seems to slip the rod through and have ruffles at the top.) I do plan on making some more lined curtains for our house once we are settled in, so maybe I'll get to a photo tutorial then.

As for the camper, it is now ready to sleep in at the farm, either ourselves or our helpers. The cushions I recovered are done and curtains are up. You can also see the new flooring that we put down. It was less than $20 - just stick down tile that was on sale at Menards.

Although the camper was quite disgusting when we first bought it, I am quite happy now with how it turned out. It's still not perfect, but it looks really nice with just a little money and some hard work invested into it.

Here's a taste of the before. This is one of the old cushions. We ripped out old carpet, threw out the old curtains, and replaced a few boards too, along with a good disinfecting and scrubbing. Think 40 years old, a bachelor's house for a year, and a hunting camper afterwards.

Follow The Beginning Farmer's Wife on Facebook for additional personal peeks at building a family farm.

Tools of My Trade
Shock Wave was the chemical that the mold remediation service referred us to when we were battling mold in the house we were living in. We were told it is what is used to clean hospital rooms that have had hazardous organisms, and that is is EPA safe. This is what we used to clean our camper and cushions, and we were very pleased with the fresh smell of the previously musty smelling camper.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Wait Continues

Well, the builders haven't been back the last two days. Their ladders are still there, and we haven't gotten the final bill yet so I am assuming they just went to another project for a bit and will be back to finish ours. It seems as if they are trying to juggle quite a few projects right now, but it is hard to be patient especially when they are so close to being done.

At least the ridge vent is on the roof now and all of the doors can be closed so we don't have to worry about water getting in anymore. It is also possible to lock everything up so maybe we'll start moving things over anyway.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 12 of Construction

They are sooooo close to being done! It looks like there isn't even 1/2 a days work left. If it wasn't for the ladders they left, I would have thought that they just overlooked a few of the details. Here are some pictures:

6 Random Things that Led to Farming

Today I was tagged by my friend Lindsie at This Abode to write 6 random things about myself. I encourage everyone to check out her blog - it's a great one!

So here are my 6 random things. I will preface it by saying that these are actually things that have been popping into my head as we have started up on this farming journey. They didn't directly lead to us farming, but when I look back at them I can see how they fed into what we are doing. So here I go. This may make me look like a nerd! :)

1) For some random reason in high school, I decided to keep a record of every penny I spent and earned. I would write down my transactions on a little 2x3 notebook I kept in my purse. Then I would take it home and enter it into a spreadsheet I put together on our old Macintosh Performa. I could then see where my money was coming from and going to.

2) Ever since I was young I have had aquarium fish. When I was in junior high and high school, my interest in aquarium fish really took off, and I decided to start raising guppies. Maybe it was because they were relaxing, maybe because I love to go fishing, maybe because I wanted to make money, maybe it was because I enjoyed the record keeping and management of it all . . . but I had at least 5-6 tanks of them upstairs and in our basement at one time. They were really pretty - I remember they were Blue Delta Tails and Pink Flamingos. I kept careful records of how many were born, how much I spent on them, how many I sold, and what I earned from them. It was either those records or the ones from my Buff Cochin raising project that went to the Iowa State Fair. Although I knew it was a strange hobby, I enjoyed it.

When I met Ethan at UNI, I told him about what I had done. He set up 3 tanks and tried it himself. I don't think any of his made it to the pet store though. :) We still have a 55 gal aquarium of fish that we have kept multiple types of fish in, but I'm afraid to say that our fish days are probably over once we move to the farm with no central air and just a wood burning stove.

3) This is somewhat related to above, but my relatives (that's you Tim) had a computer that you could do a career assessment on. You answered questions about your interests and skills, and it gave you a printout of what careers you would be well suited for. I did this my junior or senior year of high school. Everyone laughed at me when my top career was "Animal Breeder". I laughed too and thought that even though I enjoyed working with animals I would never be an animal breeder for my career. What a random career.

4) I also love working with plants. My bedroom looked like a rain forest in Junior High and High School. I had all kinds of indoor plants (and a cockatiel and parakeets) in my room. I enjoyed working with the plants - seeing how I could propagate them and under what conditions they would grow well in. I took care of our family garden in the summer too. meaning I planted it, weeded it, and ate what grew in it. (I don't know if I did it more for the food or the great tan!) Also, I was the one who pruned and trimmed all of the bushes, fruit trees, and shade trees on our 4 acres. It was a type of art to get them to look nice, and it was interesting to see how the trimming affected them.

5) My mom was the Home Ec teacher at my high school. I was the bad daughter and never took any of her classes, even though both of my brothers did. I filled my schedule with as much math and science as I could fit in, and then I used my left over time slot to take the agriculture class every year - aquaculture, farm business management, and two other things. I was also in FFA. I didn't really know what I wanted to do with them. We lived in the country but just with 4 acres and a variety of small country pets. I just knew I enjoyed that kind of stuff.

6) At the end of my Junior year of college I decided that I was going to Iowa State and was going to do something with horticulture. I went with my parents and my cousin Tim. We signed up to meet with advisers and get the full tour. When we got there, the only thing they showed me was their turf grass management program. I was so bored. I didn't want to spend my life working on a golf course taking care of their grass.

Around Christmas of my senior year, I decided to open one of the multiple college mailings that I usually threw away. It was from a Christian college, as were many of the other letters that got tossed in the trash. After I opened it, my eyes immediately fell on the words "Christian Education". It was like they were in bold print. At that moment I wrote off Iowa State and decided to go to UNI to major in Education. I graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. I spent quite a bit of time reading in the small campus greenhouse though.

Just a few years ago I was quite upset to find out that Iowa State has scores of green houses that I never had heard about, as well as multiple horticulture programs besides turf grass management. It all worked out though. I met my wonderful husband my freshman year at UNI, worked 2 years at a Cono Christian School as the 4-6 grade teacher after graduation (we also had 6-8 high school boys living in our basement in our care), and then I became a stay at home wife and mom - and I absolutely love teaching our kids.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So there you go. The budgeting that I did has helped me with managing our money up until now where we felt able to make the move to the country, and I believe it will help me with keeping our financial records with the farm. The fish (and chicken) projects were a great learning experience and I'm sure will be a help with our registered Dexter herd, other animals, and finding which divisions of the farm are most profitable. Little did I know, but the career assessment may have been more accurate than I thought it was. What I learned about plants has definitely helped me get going with our gardening and food preservation (although you wouldn't be able to tell from this year!) Although I was the bad daughter in my class choices in high school, I believe they have benefited me with what we are starting up. And lastly, although my college choice may have been a more beneficial career choice if I went to Iowa State (although I do LOVE teaching!), UNI was definitely the better family choice - which holds far more importance than any career!

All of this makes me think of these verses, God's plan for my life, and the way he created me. No point in fighting it. :)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139:13-14

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. ~Proverbs 9:16

Thanks, Lindsie, for the opportunity for reflection. (Make sure to check out This Abode!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Day 11 of Construction

Since today was a detail day with construction, you might want to click on the pictures to see the detail a bit closer.

The final trim work, ridge vent, and slider are all that is really left for our builder now.

From this first picture, you can see the soffit is now in place under the roof overhang. The soffit is complete all around the house. They also got the trim in place on one of the corners. It looks really sharp, and up close it looks like a white column.

They also got started on the detail work of the porch. The red siding is halfway across the porch overhang, and some of the trim is started along side it. I think this really sets off the porch. You can see the difference from yesterday's picture.

Yesterday the builder thought they would be completed on Wednesday, so hopefully tomorrow we will see every last bit of trim on and will be able to start locking things up inside. Ethan ran into someone driving their 4 wheeler around the house last week when he went out, and tonight I saw more fresh 4 wheeler tracks. I will feel better when we can put some of our things behind lock and key.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Day 10 of Construction

Ethan has quite a busy week this week, so this morning I went out to the farm with the kids to check on the pigs.

When we pulled up, I was quite excited to see that our builders were back! Today they are working on the ends of the house. When I went back out at noon to spray the pigs down (it is HOT this week - high humidity and heat index over 100) they had one of the sides done already. They said that they hope to be completely done with the building by Wednesday.

Also, when I pulled up and hopped out of the truck this morning, there was a gravel truck that followed me in. I was quite confused for a bit since I hadn't ordered any gravel for the drive yet, but I soon found out that they were starting to bring the loads of rock and sand for the septic system. Good news for us girls on the farm!Other than that, I picked some more berries during my morning trip before it got too hot. I will put these in the freezer and combine them with my next picking so I am sure to have enough for all blackberry jam.

The second picture is from 10:30 am on Tuesday. They were just finishing putting the last siding pieces on the peak when I pulled up. They were also working on the soffit on the mudroom.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Double Berry Jam

This week as I walked down to the ravine to gather blackberries, the cool of the valley hit me about the same time as the sweet smell in the air. I knew the blackberries were starting to swing into full gear!

I have saved my last two pickings of blackberries in the fridge so yesterday afternoon I thought I would give jam making a try. I am usually quite nervous when I try something new like this, as I was when I started experimenting with canning last year.

I would prefer to learn along side someone who is up to date on the safety standards with canning. It is hard to find people who still do canning though and who are familiar with how things have changed since Grandma did it. It is even harder to coordinate time to work together too, especially with two little ones and our random building schedule this summer. Thankfully, I live in the information age and have the help of the internet at my fingertips! (Although, you have to remember to check sources and cross examine information since anyone can post anything they want, accurate or not - including myself!)

So, after digging up recipes for blackberry jam, I finally gave it a try. It was surprisingly easier than I thought, and the Sure-Jell box of pectin even had step by step instructions - which I found after looking for them on the internet. The internet was still useful, however, since I was able to see pictures, get the steps in more details, and learn a few tips not included in the pectin packet.

My jam turned out great, and although I found out mid process that the blackberries I had weren't quite enough, I had some frozen strawberries on hand that I added to make my blackberry jam a double berry jam. I think it was a good addition to the jam, although I'm curious to what plain blackberry jam tastes like. I'm hoping to pick enough next round to do find out the answer!

Here is a site that I found that was very helpful.

Also, although I know to put vinegar in the water bath when canning, I didn't think of it while doing jam. The jars came out quite cloudy on the outside from the minerals, but a good wipe down with vinegar made them sparkle again to show off the beautifully colored jam inside.

And one more thing . . . someone once told me not to buy off brand sugar when making jam, as it usually contains beet sugar - which doesn't allow for a good set. So I bought the pure cane sugar, and my jam set nicely.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Who Wants to be Stewed?

Ethan and I have been a bit disappointed with our new hens. If you remember, we brought back 6 from Ethan's uncle. This is the same number we had last summer when we were getting a 2-3 dozen eggs a week. With these hens, we are happy to get 1/2 dozen a week.

I have had my suspicions about these hens. There has been a time or two when we have been out to the farm in the evening and have pulled up to see an egg in the box. When we go to collect the egg before we leave, however, it is gone. So I've been thinking that maybe it isn't the laying of the eggs that is the problem, but the eating of the eggs - by the chickens.

Well, today we were out at the farm for 2 hours talking with the Des Moines register. When we pulled up there was an egg in the nest box. I grabbed it right away. While we were visiting, 2 more eggs appeared in the nest box. Out they came too!

Hmmmm . . . as many eggs in 2 hours as we sometimes find in a week. Something doesn't seem right about that! So, unless we can find a way to get these hens to stop eating their eggs, they might not stick around that long. Feed is too expensive to just end up feeding them the eggs that pay their keep.

Anyone have any ideas or things that you know work?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...