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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry Christmas from Stoneyfield Farm!

You might be thinking that I'm bit late and should be wishing you a Happy New Year. Well, it's still Christmas around here. We have 7 family Christmas parties in 9 days this year with 2 to go. So we're getting there.

As you might have noticed from Ethan and my blogs, or lack thereof, December has been a busy month. I read once that winter was supposed to be the down time for farmers. I feel like that is quite the opposite here. Chores go A LOT slower in the winter, equipment is harder to work with, and the animals need extra attention - especially with record setting snow storms and rain/sleet/ice/snow storms that go for days.

I have had multiple times where I have just about been ready to sit down and write a blog post, and then something comes up (or our home computer stops working for a few days here and there). So I now decided to just take a moment and let anyone who still happens to lurk know we're still hanging in there. We have managed to keep the fire going too, literally, with the help of church friends blessing us with a few truckloads of wood on a few separate occasions - without being asked and always when we just run out.

So to end this quick, random update - may the promise of Christmas continue into your New Year, even if you don't have 2 more Christmas parties left. :) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

How to Avoid Thawing a Turkey

Usually around Thanksgiving time, Ethan cooks a turkey and I freeze it for the meat for the year. We didn't get around to getting one last year with all of the building and moving, but the year before that we did. I remember that it was a big one, and I remember Ethan saying, "I'm never getting one this big again!".

Well, this year Ethan brought home a turkey. Obviously he didn't remember his declaration because it was a 24 lb turkey. In order to save freezer space, I canned all of it this year. So here is what a 24 lb turkey yields - along with a few meals and turkey sandwiches.
Next year we hope to have a non-Walmart turkey. I will see if I can convince Ethan into getting another 24 lb turkey so we can see the difference in amount of meat.

(Also, if you don't get my title, you will have to read the previous post.)

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How to Thaw a Chicken

Step 1: Raise free range chickens who like to sleep pell mell across the farm.

Step 2: Assume that the chickens will take cover during a storm.

Step 3: Wait for a ginormous snow storm.

Step 4: Look outside and see a chicken wandering around in the snow storm.

Step 5: Go outside and find chickens hunkered down in snow drifts with chunks of ice frozen on them.

Step 6: Gather said chickens.

Step 7: Place said chickens in rubbermaid tubs and bring into the house to thaw.

After chickens have thawed, bring a pen into the shed. Leave them in the pen for 2 weeks until they realize that it is their new home. (Otherwise they will likely return to their pell mell roosting around the farm.)

Note to self - gather all pell mell chickens in the fall and pen up in the shed for 2 weeks prior to snow.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stoneyfield's Winter Meats

A lot of what I do in my free time now is farm related. Someday I will get back to my quilt, photos, and other hobbies (I hope), and I'm fine with that for now. I would rather do business work here than work on my quilt in town any day! With that said, this week we sent out a newsletter about our winter meats. For those interested, here it is:

Happy Thanksgiving from Stoneyfield Farm!

We hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that you were able to reflect on the blessings from the year. We have been blessed so much on the farm this past year through friends and family. We were glad to be able to spend the holiday with our families and happy to share a Stoneyfield ham on Thanksgiving Day with so many who have helped us.

With more holiday parties coming up and people looking for a gift for that person who has everything, I thought I would take a minute to share with you what we will have available this winter for meat. Right now we have 3 different options with our pork: sampler packages, individual pork cuts / sampler add ons, and orders for wholes and halves.

As always, our hogs are raised according to the same standards as Niman Ranch. They are kept outside free of confinement houses and have been allowed to live the way pigs were designed to live - rooting up the ground, wallowing in the mud, and relaxing in the sun. They have not been given or fed any antibiotics or hormones, and their custom rations contain no animal proteins.

~+~ Wholes and Halves ~+~
We are now taking orders for our winter pork that will be sold as halves and wholes. Our processing date is scheduled for January 14 with the pork being ready around the last week of January. The price per pound hanging weight to Stoneyfield Farm is $1.85. There will also be a locker fee of around $0.60 - $0.65, depending on the types of cuts chosen. We have attached a locker worksheet showing the various cut options.

~+~ Mix and Match Pork Sampler Packages ~+~
Our Mix and Match Pork Sampler Packages are still available while supplies last. Although we currently have a variety of choices, we do only have one package left for a couple of our sampler package options. A comparison chart of our sampler packages is attached and prices for packages are as follows:

Sampler 1 $25 (~6 – 6.5 lbs) SOLD OUT
Loin End Roast, Sandwich Ham, Bacon, Cottage Bacon, Breakfast Sausage

Sampler 2 $25 (~5.5 – 6 lbs) SOLD OUT
Butterfly Chops (2), Ham Steak, Bacon, Breakfast Sausage, Ham Hock

Sampler 3 $30 (~7.5 – 8 lbs) SOLD OUT
Loin End Roast, Ham Roast, Cottage Bacon, Italian Sausage, Soup Bone

Sampler 4 $30 (~7.5 – 8 lbs) SOLD OUT
Iowa Chops (2), Ribs, Ham Steak, Bacon, Italian Sausage

Sampler 5 $35 (~7 – 7.5 lbs) SOLD OUT
Tenderloin (2 unbreaded), Sandwich Ham, Shoulder Roast, Bacon, Ground Pork, Soup Bone

Sampler 6 $40 (~9 – 9.5 lbs) SOLD OUT
Butterfly Chops (2), Ham Steak, Shoulder Roast, Bacon, Italian Sausage, Ground Pork, Ham Hock

~+~ Individual Pork Cuts / Sampler Add Ons ~+~
Our Individual Pork Cuts / Sampler Add Ons are new and will be available as supplies last. If you found a sampler package you like but want just a bit more, you can buy individual cuts of pork by the pound. These cuts are also available without purchasing a sampler package if you just want to give our pork a try. Prices for individual cuts are as follows*:

~ Ham Cuts ~
Sandwich Ham - $5.00/lb
Ham Steaks - $5.00/lb SOLD OUT
Ham Roasts - $5.00/lb SOLD OUT

~ Bacon Cuts ~
Cottage Bacon - $5.75/lb
Traditional Bacon - $5.50/lb

~ Loin Cuts ~
Iowa Chops - $4.25/lb SOLD OUT
Butterfly Chops - $4.50/lb
Tenderloin (unbreaded) - $5.00/ lb

~ Roasts ~
Shoulder Roast - $3.75/lb
Sirloin Roasts - $4.25/lb

~ Ground ~
Ground Pork - $3.00/lb SOLD OUT
Breakfast Sausage - $3.25/lb SOLD OUT
Italian Sausage - $3.50/lb

~ Ribs ~
Ribs - $3.75/lb SOLD OUT

~ Soup Bones ~
Soup Bones - $1.80/lb
Ham Hocks - $1.80/lb

~+~ Pork Delivery ~+~
The Mix and Match Pork Sampler Packages and Pork Sampler Add Ons / Individual Cuts can both be purchased from our farm. We are also able to deliver into Knoxville most days and can deliver to drop off locations in Pella, Des Moines, and Cedar Falls when we gather enough orders for a trip. We will consider other delivery locations if there is enough interest.

~+~ Grass Fed Dexter Beef ~+~
We have been getting quite a few inquiries about our Grass Fed Dexter Beef. Since we are building up our herd right now, we are not yet selling by the whole and half. We are hoping to have sampler packages available on a limited basis this winter. All we are waiting on now is making some additional room in our freezer (by selling a few more pork sampler packages) or by acquiring another freezer. We are currently taking names to be put on our waiting list for our beef. Our waiting list is getting quite long, but we will work our way down the list as soon as we have beef available.

If you have any questions about our grass fed beef or naturally raised pork sampler packages, individual cuts, or wholes and halves, please feel free to contact us. May your blessings continue to be evident as we move into the advent season!

*Some prices have been adjusted since our newsletter.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was very enjoyable. Not only did we get to get away for 2 family parties, but we also celebrated our daughters 4th birthday, which fell on Thanksgiving day this year. She is growing up so quickly, and loves playing mommy. Most of the day she is found walking around the house with a purse or two and pretending. This year I made her a purse cake. :)

As I mentioned before, this last year has been a bit overwhelming at times, but it has also been filled with blessings. I think sometimes it takes seeing how great your needs are to see how great your blessings are. We have had countless blessings throughout the year through friends, family, and even people we are just getting to meet. When we got home last night from our second Thanksgiving party, I was reminded again of the Lord's provision and the blessings He sends through others.

To back track a bit, Wednesday night Ethan was going to come home from work and get ready to leave early Thursday morning for our time away. Getting ready to leave meant unloading 3000 lbs of pig feed from our trailer, getting the chores done to be gone for 2 days, and then heading to the woods to cut firewood - of which we had just enough left for a small fire to warm the house that night. All to be done before the winter sun set.

Well, when there are nights like this things never go as planned, and this held true on Wednesday. Before Ethan even got home there was a pig emergency. (Hopefully there will be a post on this later in the week.) Ethan spent the rest of the evening with a sow. By the time he got things squared away with her to be able to leave for two days the sun was well gone. We went to bed that night with chores done to last 2 days but no new firewood for when we got back or feed unloaded.

Thankfully, my dad has wood so while we were visiting we squeezed in a nights worth into our over packed van. We could burn that the night we got home, and then Ethan could gather a bit the next day to get us through until he could really go cut again.

Well, when we pulled into our drive last night we were greeted with a surprise. We hadn't let anyone know we were out of wood, but while we were gone someone had dropped off a pile of logs. So today Ethan just had to cut some of it to size and can focus on some of the bigger priorities around here. (Funny thing how wood to keep warm turns into a small priority on the farm, but that's the way it goes sometimes.)

Hopefully next year we will be able to start the winter with a woodpile. Like I said though, sometimes when you have bigger needs you see how great your blessings are. I hope that your blessings are evident as well this Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Has it really been a year?

It was about a month before Isaac was born that when we finally moved into our house, and now we have just celebrated Isaac's first birthday. Just like Caleb and Hannah, Isaac loves the farm. His first word was "Oooff" (or Woof). Whenever he is held or in his seat, he looks out the windows for our oooffs. His love for our dogs started this fall when he sat outside in his stroller or highchair and the dogs licked his feet. Not only do the dogs captivate him, but watching the pigs, cows, and chickens is almost as much fun. So for Isaac's first cake, I pulled out everything but a cake pan (corningware dishes, a mini bread pan and a cupcake pan), and I put together a dog cake for him.

So here we are. A whole year on the farm. It seems like we've been here forever, and then it feels like we have hardly started. I think of the list of things that I wanted to get done this past year and realize that very little of it has actually been crossed off. Then I remember what we started with - a field of CRP grasses with no development whatsoever except for a colony of gargantuan ant hills - and I am amazed at where we are and so grateful for the community of friends, family, and church members who have helped us get this far.

Hmmm. A whole year here. Kind of crazy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blender Woes

When Ethan and I got engaged 9 years ago we ran around Target with a gun - scanning things to put on our registry. The way we scanned was the way I would have shopped, getting the most economical option available. One of these things scanned was a Hamilton Beach blender. And for 8 1/2 years of our marriage, it has blended well on a low demand basis.

Recently, however, I have been a little more demanding on our blender. This fall I have been blending up sugar pie pumpkins that Caleb grew and apples that my parents blessed us with from their place. We don't have all of either done, but we have a decent amount of pumpkin and a good start of apples. While working on these, I noticed that my blender was not too happy with me for asking a little more of it.

Last night I was working on apples again, and my blender finally had enough. I no longer have a working blender . . . or even a blender that will pretend to work.

Since I already had apples cooked down and ready to blend, I finished the night by just canning apple slices. (If you notice, I like to leave the skins on. You can't tell when they are blended up, and it adds in nutrients and also a pretty color.) I'll use these apple slices in our oatmeal, but I still would like to make some more apple sauce.

So now I am thinking about blenders. I really haven't looked at them much since the day 9 years ago when we walked around Target, giddy with our little scanner gun.

What do you think? Do any of you have any suggestions for a blender that can put up with a farm wife who hopes to fill the pantry with fall produce? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stoneyfield Snapshots: Fall Sunrise

Yesterday morning I watched this sunrise. It was a beautiful one! (You can click on the pictures to enlarge them and see how brilliant the colors were.) There are so many reminders out here of God's faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning . . .

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fall Cleanup

If you have noticed that Ethan and I continue to be strangers a bit on our blogs, it is because we are working hard to knock off our to do list before winter. Right now we are in "priorities first" mode, because it just isn't going to be possible to get the list completed. Thankfully, we have some extra help though.

Our calves and heifers have been a bit of help over the last few weeks. They get to wander freely around our yard, and we have put up an electric wire across our drive to keep them on our property. (The heifers are separate from the rest of the herd, and the calves can still walk under the single wire fence.) They spend most of their days now mowing our yard, eating down the sweet corn stalks, and eating up our corn stalk decorations from our front porch. (Which is okay because now I don't have to take them down.) Just watch your step if you are in our yard. :)

This year Caleb grew our gourds, and boy did he have a bountiful harvest! We didn't even get get around to harvesting them all. Since they are in the garden for next year, however, they do have to be taken care of. This week we finally figured out what to do with them, and Caleb and Hannah have been tossing them to the pigs who are more than happy to help us with the job.

Today is going to be a beautiful day, temperatures in the 70's, so we are going to continue trying to get this place ready for the snow to fly!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pressure Canning Trouble Shooting

I have decided that I like to can with a pressure canner that has a weighted gauge rather than a dial. I'll admit that I've never tried a dial gauge, but with young kids and a short attention span, I would probably forget to keep an eye on the dial. If I hear noise every once in a while I don't forget that I'm canning.

I have run into a problem though with my canner. I tend to over pressurize things, which leads to some overflow. I think I have figured out that the problem is that my stove burners aren't level which in turn throws off the weighted gauge.

To attempt to solve this problem, I am trying to level out my burners by putting coins underneath the plate. This helps a bit, but I don't think that I have just the right adjustment yet. I will keep fidling with it and hopefully get it figured out within the next couple of batches. If all else fails, I'll start canning some water with food coloring to check for overflow.

I just don't think I can bring myself to using a dial though. Any thoughts?  (** Added later - I now use washers to level out my canner, and it has done the trick!)

Tools of My Trade  
Much of what I preserve is pressure canned due to their low acidity in order to kill all bacteria that would cause dangerous food born illnesses. They can be safely canned by using the recommended times and pressures given for your altitude. I have a couple older Mirro pressure canners given to me that work wonderfully, and my mom has a newer one that she loves as well. If you do some asking around, you might find someone who has given up canning and has one available, or you can look for one like the one pictured below. It should hold around 9 pint jars or 7 quart jars.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I just wanted to let everyone know that I've set up another blog, Tom Kies Woodworks, but this one is for my dad. :) He's a GREAT custom woodworker. I grew up working in his shop, carrying his lumber, and learning the rewards of hard work. Feel free to check out his site and see some of the things he's made over the years. (The furniture with the wood looking floor underneath is mine.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stoneyfield Recap

This summer I spent quite a bit of time doing business related things. I set up our Stoneyfield Farm Facebook, we became certified to sell our meat by the cut, we sold some hogs by the half and whole, and I did a lot of bookwork. There is still quite a bit to do on the business side of things, but we are slowly being able to settle in and expand.

Here is the biggest project I have been working on lately - setting up pricing and packaging so we can sell our pork by bundles. Last night I finally got the last pieces together, and now we have Mix and Match Pork Samplers available. We don't have a lot available this time, but it's nice to be set up and able to expand. (You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orchard Recap

If you remember, at the beginning of spring I was given some saplings to start an orchard. You can read about it here and here. We planted these right next to the garden, with some in the old hog lot and some not. Just like the garden, you could tell which ones were in the hog lot. It was especially noticeable with the cherry trees since some of those were in both places. (I'll try to get pictures)

I did quite a bit of work in the orchard, mulching, seeding between trees, and watering. The orchard didn't start out as good as I had hoped though. About half of the trees ended up surviving. The ones in the hog lot did slightly better than the ones that weren't there, but I think it might have had more to do with their delivery. They were supposed to arrive dormant, and when I received them, they were starting to leaf out.

All of the peach trees had leaves, and none of those survived. Although I watered them faithfully, their leaves quickly browned up after we planted them. None of the pear trees survived either. About half of the apples and plums did, and I think all of the cherry trees did.

I called the company that sent them, and thankfully they said they would replace them free of charge if I could send the roots back before November. I will then receive new dormant trees to plant this year yet. So you can guess what I'll be doing this week. :) After I get the trees dug, I will start making wire wraps to prepare for winter. Got to keep those bunnies away!

So hopefully with trying dormant trees in the fall instead of spring, and with some added compost, we will have a bit more success this round.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Garden Recap

This summer I had high hopes for my garden, but this year wasn't that much of a garden year.

Part of the reason was because of the weather over the summer - a lot of people were disappointed with their gardens. In the spring there was so much rain that it was impossible to weed for two weeks, and the weeds loved it. Once it stopped raining, it stopped raining - things got pretty dry for awhile. The temperatures were also extremely cool for the summer, which in turn slowed down gardens in our area.

In addition to the weather, our summer continued to be full of farm and house set up. Even though gardening was high on my list of things to do, it was low on the list of what needed to be done.

Even so, we did get a bit of the garden in and did get a bit of produce. We enjoyed eating fresh out of the garden - cauliflower, beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, lettuce, etc., and I even got some canning/freezing done. I ended up canning 34 pints of green and wax beans, 27 pints of stew tomatoes, 18 pints of spaghetti sauce, and froze 52 - 2 cup bags of sweet corn. Right now I am digging yams and carrots and will have enough for fresh eating for awhile. I have also gotten 23 pints of apple sauce and there are more apples arriving this week from my parent's house. The kids are in the middle of harvesting their pumpkins and gourds too, which I think did the best out of everything!

Although I had higher hopes out of the garden, I am still thankful for what we were able to get and also for being blessed with some extras from others.

As a side note, it was quite interesting seeing how the garden grew this year. We planted the sweet corn, pumpkins, and gourds in the hog lot from last winter. They did tremendous. The rest of the garden went into newly plowed land. It didn't do too tremendous. There were a few plants, however, that bordered where the hog lot was, and there was no guessing which those were. I wish I had taken pictures, but the tomatoes that were in the new garden were maybe 2 feet tall with a handful of leaves and a tomato or two. The tomatoes that bordered the hog lot were over 4 feet tall, loaded with tomatoes, and tipping over the cages! The same was true with the carrots, beans, and the other plants.

Next year we are planting most of the main veggies in last year's hog lot, and the sweet corn and pumpkin/gourds/squash will go where we have let our pigs root this year (when not on pasture). We are also going to put the hogs in the new garden area for a bit this fall or winter to do some conditioning there - but we will have to give it sufficient time to rest so maybe that will be my flower holding ground until we get flower beds made.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I'm Back! I think . . . :)

Well, what I originally thought would be a week or two vacation became a 4 month vacation! It was definitely needed though. There was a lot around here that needed to be put in order, and I was honestly quite overwhelmed. Although we are a LONG way from being settled in and set up, I am starting to feel like things are not quite as overwhelming here.

And now I have 4 months of things that I have been itching to share - things about farming, Stoneyfield Farm - our farm, the garden, the house, the landscaping, the family, and just things that I thought would be fun to share. Although I want to jump in and start shooting off tons of new posts, I do need to pace myself or I will soon find myself with too many things that aren't getting taken care of.

So, I am going to try to catch up while keeping up with new info, I am also going to really restrain myself and try not to post more than once or twice a week for awhile. Even though I blog to keep a journal for myself later on (which is one reason why I really hate taking breaks), I might be swayed to pick certain topics if there is enough persuasion in the comments. :)

So here we go again!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blogging Vacation

I often go back and forth on keeping my blog. I love to keep a record of our journey and what I've been up to, but I feel like I have too many irons in the fire right now. So instead of stopping completely, I've just decided to take a little vacation from blogging. You can still keep up with what we are up to from my husband's blog, and there is also a link in his side bar that will show when I'm back. Hopefully when I am back I can share pictures of what I did on vacation. :)

Outside Progress

Last week we made quite a bit of progress outside, none of it was really expected. It started out with my parents dropping in for a day's visit. Although I told them that I didn't want them to have to work, they wanted to. Shortly after they arrived, we got a call that Mr. Vanhouwelingen (the namesake of our black chickens - named by Caleb) was going to come out with his tractor and tiller. So this is what we accomplished:

  • Moved the woodpile into a wagon to get it out of the front yard
  • Moved a bunch of junk out of the front yard
  • Moved a bunch of "junk" that was scattered around the orchard area - wood, fence posts, buckets, etc.
  • Moved my flowers from the old garden (old is a relative term) to my new flower bed by the house
  • Planted red raspberries starts that my parents brought. They went in the empty corner of the orchard
  • Got the front yard tilled, dirt moved to level it (the next day), and ready for seeding
  • Got the ground in between the orchard trees tilled and ready for seeding
  • Got the garden tilled and ready for planting (The garden is now 1/2 of the old hog pen and 1/2 old garden and new sod tilled up. The other 1/2 of the hog pen got trees planted in it.)
I'm sure that I'm forgetting something too, but we got a lot done! The place is starting to look a bit less constructiony outside. And although I had settled on possibly just having a fall garden, I was able to get some of it planted and should be able to get it all in now. It's such a blessing to have friends and family who volunteer to help out!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Beautiful Beans

Although it is starting to warm up and dry up, we have had a bit of cool, wet weather here lately. Since we had ran out of chili beans, I decided that it was a good time to get out the canners, can some beans, and warm up the house a bit.

I ended up canning black beans, navy beans, and pinto beans. Some I left plain for soups and some I added seasonings for chili beans. I ended up with 6 quarts and 9 pints of beans.

This is the first time I have tried something besides pinto beans. It really wasn't any different to can the black and navy beans, although they might not need to soak quite as long as the pinto. I think they look neat together though, and next time I might try canning them as a mix.

Right now I just use my beans for soups and burritos. Since they are such a good source of fiber (good for Ethan's cholesterol) and a great source of protein, I would like to try a few more recipes. I'm looking for a good baked bean recipe, but other than that I really don't know what else is a possibility. The only beans I ate growing up were baked beans or in chili. Any suggestions?

Click here for my post on how to can beans.

Tools of My Trade

Beans MUST be pressure canned due to their low acidity in order to kill all bacteria that would cause dangerous food born illnesses. They can be safely canned by using the recommended times and pressures given for your altitude. I have a couple older Mirro pressure canners given to me that work wonderfully, and my mom has a newer one that she loves as well. If you do some asking around, you might find someone who has given up canning and has one available, or you can look for one like the one pictured below. It should hold around 9 pint jars or 7 quart jars.

I also have some canning tools that are invaluable. The wide funnel helps keep messes to a minimum when filling jars. When I heat my lids, I just drop them into the hot water of my canner and then lift them out with the magnetic wand. The jar lifters are great for getting those hot jars out of the canner as well. You can buy these tools separately at many stores, or you can purchase them in a kit which contains other useful canning tools, such as the one pictured below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Farm Science Experiments

We now have our cows and bull in an electric fence and our calves in another electric fence. Every once in a while I check to make sure the fencer is working and the fence is charged. To do this, I grab a piece of grass and touch it to the wire. If it is on, I can feel a small shock at the tip of my fingers.

The other day I was a bit curious when doing this, so I licked my fingers to wet them and then touched the wire with the grass. A slightly bigger shock. Not much, but noticeable. Just what I expected.

Last night Ethan put up a bit more electric fence. This was by my request (from having lost count of how many times I've had to put the bull and cows in by myself), and it is on the inside of the cattle panels that keep getting broken through.

After the kids went to bed I did a few things outside, and before coming in I decided to see if the new fence was working. So I reached through the cattle panel with my piece of grass. Without thinking, I also held on to the cattle panel while touching the wire with the grass. I quickly found out that a cattle panel makes a very nice ground as I felt the electric current enter one hand, travel through my arms, and then go out the other hand - just by touching it with a piece of grass.

Hmmm. . . I wonder what would happen if I do it again and lick my fingers first . . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stoneyfield Snapshots: Rainy Day Rooster

Sometimes you just have to go dance in the rain, even if you will get your feathers wet and feet muddy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Plant Orchard - Check

It seems like there is an unending list of things to do around here and nothing ever gets completely done - just done enough to get by and then on to the next thing that needs attention.

This past week, however, we were able to get all of the 27 fruit trees in the ground. After changing the location to a third spot, taking apart a calf pen, moving deep bedding, and three days of planting (not all day though), the orchard got planted. I still need to do the mulching, wrapping them with wire, and tie them to steaks, but at least the trees are in the ground and out of the bucket.

Here is what we planted. I didn't do to much thinking about the order to put them in, and maybe I should have, but I am happy enough with the layout. I am excited to watch them grow, and it will be interesting to see which varieties thrive here. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Killdeer Eggs

Even though there is a lot to do inside, the is also a lot to do outside. So with the nice weather, I have been trying to get the property cleaned up and in a bit more order.

One of the things I have been doing is cleaning up the wood pile. We hadn't really made plans for our wood pile in the fall, so in front of our house we had a sprawling wood mound. There was still a good amount of logs that weren't burnt up from either being too wet or too big, and there was also wood chips and bark all over the ground. So I spent some time last week stacking the logs and raking up the yard. Although the wood pile still needs to go somewhere else, this will do for now.After I had raked up the wood chips and bark, I loaded them up in the lawn cart and dumped them by the septic drain to add more organic matter in hopes of slowing down the runoff.

A few days later I went to see if the chips were doing anything. On my way back, as I was walking over the rocks that were left on the ground from the installation of the septic system, I was startled when a bird flew out from almost under my feet. When I looked down I saw four eggs neatly arranged on the rocks. After closer inspection I saw the broken grasses which formed the nest.

It didn't take me long to figure out that it was a killdeer nest. Close by was the momma killdeer trying to lead me away from the nest. She would walk a bit and then get on her side and flap her wings to pretend she was injured. When I walked over to her she hopped up, ran further from her nest, and did it again.

Every few days I check on her to see if there are any babies. Now she flies when I am about 20 - 30 feet away. Without her staying on her nest until I am there, it is quiet difficult to find the nest since it blends in so well.

Thankfully I can follow my husband's tractor tracks. If you look closely at the first picture, you might see that he was 3 inches from running over her nest when we were putting up fence!

Monday, May 11, 2009

More Egg Eaters

Last week Ethan went to his uncle's to get some more chickens. His uncle was wanting to clear them out since they were getting in his wife's flower bed. We were more than happy to take 2 roosters and a dozen hens. They spent about the first week here in a temporary house - 2 hog huts welded together. Ethan's uncle was kind enough to put them together, build some roosts inside, and send a next box as well.

You might remember that the last batch of hens we got from his uncle turned out to be egg eaters. It has been quite the challenge to get eggs from them, and you can read all about it in my posts under livestock. Well, we soon found out that this batch of chickens is from the same flock, and they like to eat their eggs as well. If we were lucky enough to get an egg out of the next box, it was almost sure to have yolk on it.

After the new chickens had been contained to their house for about a week, learning where their roosts, food, water, and nest boxes were to be found, we let them out. We are happy to see that the egg eating has slowed down. There must be too much else to do besides sit in their coop and eat eggs. If we can't break them of it completely though, they will be rotated out.

One of the things they have found to do, unfortunately is take dust baths in MY flower bed. Last week I dug the trench to put the weed border in, and the chickens decided that it makes a great community bath tub. I don't have much planted in the flower bed yet, but once I do we will have to move their house away from our house and put shade close by.

As for our old chickens . . . we don't see them around much anymore. They spend most of the day hiding under wagons. They were quite content without any roosters, and once we let our new flock out the roosters quickly noticed the hens they hadn't met yet. Along with that, they couldn't hold their place in the pecking order showdown with the new hens. Oh well . . . at least we know where 2 of their stolen nesting spots are, and they do lay quite regularly.

(By the way, if you are in our area and interested in eggs, we might start selling some soon.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stoneyfield Snapshots: After the Storm

Since I often would like to put on more posts but don't have the time to actually write a post, I thought I would start a new topic category just called "Stoneyfield Snapshots". Although I'm not a professional photographer by any means, and we don't have an expensive camera, I hope some of these pictures will show you a little more of what life is like here at Stoneyfield and display some of the wonders of God's creation. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bird Feeder?

Not exactly what I had in mind when I hung up my bird feeder . . .

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time for T-Bones

This morning I posted about rounding up our bull, cows, and calves and finally getting an electric fence up so the bull can be in the grass that he has so desperately wanted to be in.

Well, this afternoon I couldn't believe what I saw.

There was our bull

Not in the fenced in grass

But in the dirt cow pen


I was a little worried about bloat so I went over to him. He hopped right up. He just wanted to chill out in the cow pen.

I couldn't believe it.

He's Out Again

Yesterday I had the pleasure of putting 3 cows and the bull back in the fence (the new wires weren't enough) while Ethan was gone. He told me I could just let them graze the pasture - and I was going to let them - but they put themselves in an easy enough place for me to get them in.

This morning was a different story. After putting the calves back in (you can click here to read my husband's account) I noticed there were some animals missing from the cow pen. It turned out that the bull had busted out again with the same 3 cows as yesterday. Ethan and I chased them around for quite awhile with nothing close to getting them in. It was decided that it would be best to build a fence around them, which we needed to build anyway.

After about 3 hours of dealing with cattle today, the bull is now fenced in the grass along with his cows. Hopefully that will keep him happy until we get our perimeter fence up.

(And for those wondering about the kids, I check on them frequently, Isaac takes great naps, and Caleb knows how to use my cell phone to call Ethan if there is something that needs attention.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gifted an Orchard

Ethan is big on doing things according to where your passions are and what you like. This is why we are doing cows/pigs/chickens even though it would have been A LOT easier to do a market garden. If you know Ethan at all, you will know that his tastes for meat and his tastes for veggies are in stark contrast.

I am kind of the opposite. Although I do eat meat, I really don't like eating big chunks of meat. A little is plenty for me. I do really like veggies - which is why I love my garden.

What I really pile on though is the fruit. I LOVE fruit. I could make myself sick off of eating too much fruit. Not only that, but I love to prune - trees, vines, bushes - and with fruit comes plenty of pruning. When I started talking about the fruit that I want to grow I was a little worried that Ethan would want to save the area for pasture, but I was surprised to have him be excited about it too. (If you know Ethan you might also know the only fruit he will eat is store grapes and bananas.)

All this is to say that I have been anxious to get fruit crops going and especially the ones that take awhile to get established. With all of our start up expenses though, I assumed that it was going to have to be something that would require my patience.

Well, this spring I learned that I might not have to be so patient. A very generous friend let us know that in a few weeks we will have 27 fruit trees and 3 flowering trees (for pollination) appearing at our house! Here is what will be coming:
  • 3 pear trees
  • 3 plum trees (2 varieties)
  • 5 cherry trees (4 varieties)
  • 7 peach trees (4 varieties)
  • 9 apple trees (6 varieties)
This is such a blessing, and I am so excited to give these a try! Right now I am doing some research on the best way to plant our variety of trees. I would love any input that you have. Until then, I will dream of fresh fruit and preserves . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our New Storm Shelter

You know when you are cleaning the house and you have something that really doesn't fit anywhere so it is continuously shuffled around but always in the way?

Well, our storm shelter project has kind of been like that through this whole building process. It is something that is extremely important to have in Iowa. We had lots of options of things to do, various places we thought about putting it (both underground and above ground - inside and outside), and just as big of a range of price options. So we talked about it with contractors and family, kicked ideas around, made decisions and changed our minds, and avoided the final decision as long as possible.

Well, spring is here and with that was coming nightmares of tornadoes and nowhere to take the kids. So it was time to make a decision.

First we decided to not have it in the mudroom - first of all because we didn't want to give up the space and secondly because we wanted it underground.

Next came the decision of what to put underground. There were 3 choices.

Option A - Build one ourselves with my dad's volunteered help. This was very generous of my dad, but with Ethan's schedule we ruled it out since we didn't want to make him build it by himself.

Option B - A 6X8 rectangular precast concrete shelter with a metal door and seats. This one didn't call for a drain or sand underneath, and it was ready to go once installed.

Option C - A 6 foot wide, 6 1/2 foot long cylinder out of precast concrete with no doors and no seats. This one needed to have a PVC drain run and sand underneath. We would have to build 2 doors and get wood for seats. We can also get wood for shelves and it can double as a root cellar. This one installed was two-thirds the price of Option B, even with the sand and drain.

We went with Option C - the cylinder. I affectionately call it our glorified septic tank. It WAS made by a septic tank casting business.

Next was where to put it. To make a long story short, 5 minutes before it was dug in we picked our spot. We chose to put it at the end of the porch instead of behind the house by the mudroom door because of where we want our shed and winter cattle area.

So our storm shelter is in. We were happy to see that it didn't get water - even after getting 3 inches of rain with storms that passed through this weekend. We now have some doors to make and landscaping to do, but I'm glad this decision is done!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

I've Had Enough, Mr. Bull!

It is spring.

The grass is turning green.

The bull in the cow pen knows the grass is turning green.

The wires on the cow pen are rusty.

The bull has figured out multiple times that the wires on the cow pen are rusty. (Which by the way was put up for cows and not a bull.)

This is not a good combination with the fact that Ethan is also gone a lot with coaching soccer in the spring.

Now I have nothing against activities that get your heart rate up. But rounding up cattle that have broken out of the pen once a week is not my first choice of exercise.

Today Ethan was gone all day with work and an away soccer game. All I'm going to say is that I spent the LAST half of the afternoon/evening rewiring the fence. Instead of 2 rusty wires, each end of the panel is now tied up with 2 rusty wires and 3 new wires.

Hopefully now I can choose my own form of exercise, and hopefully Ethan got my text message and will bring me home mint chocolate chip ice cream after the game.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Jealous Bull?

When our bull gets out, he often heads over to the septic system. (Our fence wasn't made for a bull in mind, but it will be beefed up soon.) This is where the grass is the greenest right now. The septic drains into the valley where two hills meet, which is naturally greener from extra water runoff from the hills. With the extra septic outflow, however, it is really lush.

Tonight while I was tucking the kids in, I went to close their curtain. Their window faces the septic system, and I happened to notice 9 deer feeding there. It must be a popular spot. I just hope that our bull doesn't get too jealous and think he needs to go protect his spot!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Plowing the Garden

Over the fall and winter we had our pigs where we wanted to put our garden. The back half of their pen we left grass, where we would move them in and out during the growing season. Once winter hit, they got full run of the pen. We had hoped to not have them in there so long, but since we didn't get our perimeter fence up they stayed put. Because of this, the garden spot not only got rooted up nicely, but it also got packed back down.

Last night Ethan started getting it ready to be a garden. As you can see, it plowed up quite nicely. It still has to be tilled, and it is errr . . . well . . . quite ripe smelling.

It was suggested to us to just plant things that are off of the ground in this spot this year since it hasn't had a chance to fully compost yet, putting the crops that come in contact with the ground in a different spot. So the crops I'm thinking of planting here are sweet corn, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, and also pumpkins and gourds that won't be eaten. I will also put a nice layer of mulch under the plants that are semi close to the ground to prevent "backsplash". Let me know if you have any thoughts about putting these veggies here and if you have any other suggestions of others.

So, now all we have to do is get the garden tilled, and then I can start planting. I am excited to see how it does.

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