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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.)
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