Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Seed Catalog of the 2013 Season

Lookie what came in the mail today!  It's my first seed catalog for the 2013 season.  It is from Seed Saver's Exchange.  I haven't ordered from them yet but spent quite a while perusing their website this year.  Especially during the Glass Gem Corn fiasco earlier this year, lol.  I haven't sat down with the catalog yet and will save it for a special treat when I can sit down with a cup of tea and spend my time browsing.

I told TH that I wanted to grow sweet potatoes next year and he asked if I'm giving up red potatoes or white potatoes to make room for them.  I then told him I wanted to grow yams next year and he kind of laughed and said okay ;).

TH has been reworking our chicken pen today.  We did a quick job of getting them some extra room this summer when they had to be pinned but now that they are able to graze freely, we have the chance to rework things before next year's garden season.

We were talking today about the need to throw the guineas out of the chicken yard once we have it repaired.  They need to live in the goat barn so they can get out and catch bugs for us while the chickens remain penned when we plant the gardens next year.  We have a little bit of time before we have to deal with that though.  If the guineas keep being mean to my chickens, we may be eating guineas this winter!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Corn Sheller At Work

Things have been pretty quiet on the home front.  The guineas are grown now and think themselves barnyard royalty.  They push the chickens around and seem to hate them all except for our old rooster Roy and the hen that raised them.  They truly are the dumbest birds I've ever seen.  They will run back and forth along a fence for 3 hours just runnin' and squawkin'.  For some reason, they forget they can fly and could go over the fence any time they choose.  Sometimes Frank likes to help them remember by spooking them into flight.  I would yell at him for it but after 3 hours of squawking, I'm glad to have them over the fence.

Our momma hen sat one last time a few weeks ago and hatched one more baby for the year.  She and the baby live in the goat barn away from the craziness that is the chicken coop.  I believe we have 4 young roosters running around and we'll have to thin the herd very soon.  I'll choose one to serve along side Roy as he has slowed down quite a bit this past year.  There are two little feather-footed black and gray roosters that I like the looks of but I'll have to see how their temperament is as they get a little older.

The goats are doing well.  Bunny just passed through heat but we didn't have a buck ready for her so we'll be waiting for that to happen again.  When you add a goat in heat to five uppity guineas, you get quite the chorus in the barnyard.

I wanted to post a video on how TH's corn sheller is doing.  He had to tweak it a bit to get it to work but it is much better than using our thumbs to take off every little kernel!
You can see part of TH's woodworking area behind him.  We should be getting out there more as the weather gets colder.  I have lots of things I'm hoping to get built this winter!

TH made our corn crib to be able to roll around the garage floor.  One thing he forgot to build in was a way to retrieve the corn if you just wanted a few ears but he used his "I-Have-An-Idea" super power and came up with this solution:

                                                   Princess #2 thought it was a grand idea!

That'll do it for tonight!  I promise to try and update more regularly.  Thank you all for visiting!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

TH's I-can-fix-it Power

I'm very proud of TH tonight.  We had bought an old corn sheller at a flea market last year and TH got it to working tonight.

I'm not sure what all he had to do to it but after he repaired it and attached it to a wooden box, it makes our corn shelling much easier!

Before this repair, we had to shell all of our field corn by hand.  That takes a lot of time and wears your thumbs out!  I was amazed that it is even designed to kick the empty cobb back out.

TH deserves many kudos for this repair!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Greetings from Learn As We Grow!

It has been quite a while since my last post.  We've not been doing too much to write about but I did want to update with some of our harvesting from this week.

Our potatoes did pretty well this year.  The red potatoes yielded more per pound planted but the kennebecs had pretty good numbers even with having to throw several away due to rotting.  Usually moles are the major problem with our potatoes but this year with the long stretches of wet weather, rot was more of a problem.

The decorative gourds did pretty well for the first year.  I have birdhouse gourds, big apple gourds, bushel gourds, and another kind.  I'll be hanging them soon and hoping they cure out over the next few months so I can try  my hand at decorating them.  I had read that you could use wood carving and burning tools on cured gourds so I planted these with that in mind.

I pulled the last of my peppers off today.  Over the next couple of days, I'll dry and freeze some for winter/spring use.  I still have two jalapeno plants to pick from so I hope to have a few more pints of pickled jalapenos soon.

These weeds are Jerusalem Artichokes (or sunchokes).  I planted them last year inside a tire to try and contain their growing area but TH threw out the tire and plowed the area up.  They loved that and have taken over a corner of the garden.  I found some recipes for them in a magazine this month and will be trying them out on the family soon.  I'll let you know how that goes!

Hope everyone is having a plentiful harvest!  We are very blessed to have some food to put away and we are very thankful to God for it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Catching Up...

Haven't posted in a while.  Things have been wet and gross around here.  Our tomatoes finally succumbed to the blight so I'll be putting those away for the next week.  Pepper plants look awesome and I hope to get lots more of those.
This is a picture of our Victorio Food Strainer in action.  It allows me to process tomatoes without the hassle of peeling and coring.  A spiral forces the tomato pulp through the screen and the left over seeds, peel, and core is pushed out the end.  The chickens really enjoy the leftovers.  Our strainer was a gift from a very dear friend but they can be bought at and are worth every penny.  There are additional screens you can buy for berries and pumpkin but we use ours primarily for tomatoes so the screen that comes standard works well for us.

Today I am making Chipotle Bbq Sauce from Jackie Clay's Growing and Canning Your Own Food.  Her description of it sounded so good, I couldn't resist giving it a try.

We have realized a major mistake in our garden this year.  We planted way too many varieties of beans.  I tried to keep up with my garden map but we got off somewhere and it's a huge mess trying to find which bean is where.  Next year we will plant Blue Lakes for our green snap bean and Cherokee Trail of Tears for our dry soup bean.  There is no way to confuse those two varieties.  We have been very frustrated with our beans this year.

Our baby birds are doing well.  We did run into some losses with our guinea babies when the momma chicken that hatched chicks decided the guinea keets were in her way and started killing them.  We separated the momma hen with the keets and they are now living in the goat shed.  They are free to roam during the day and return to the shed in the evening.
The momma hen with the chicks has been able to keep all 12 of hers alive and happy.  It is definitely noisy out in the chicken yard and we'll be downsizing some soon.  We have a few hens that have reached retirement age and are no longer producing.  MHM has asked for them to get his dog used to chickens living at his place again.  We plan to give him the older hens and a young rooster.

We did increase our chicken run by 40 feet.  They love having the new space to run and look for bugs.  I'd say the insect population in that stretch of grass didn't know what hit them that first day.

I'll try to do better keeping everybody up to date on anything interesting happening around here!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Guinea babies!

We have teeny, tiny guineas!  The momma started doing the "my-egg-are-hatching-and-it's-very-uncomfortable" squat yesterday morning so I knew it wouldn't be long before little guinea heads started peeking out.

Usually, if I can make a sound similar enough to a baby chick, I can get little heads to poke out from around momma and get a peek.

This picture was while the momma and babies were still in the nesting box.  This morning I moved everyone down to the baby pen on the floor of the coop.  I really should figure out a better method of getting this done but for now a pair of heavy leather gloves is the way to go.

I first took most of the babies out of the nesting box and placed them in the new pen.

Between pecks, I was able to move momma hen down to her babies.  She calmed down once she realized that everyone was okay and even began to teach them how to eat.  

She did have a few eggs that hadn't hatched yet but felt like they may have a chick in them so I let her keep three eggs to see if they would hatch by tomorrow.  I also cleaned out the nesting box she had been in.
Guinea eggs are very pretty and a tad smaller than my regular chicken eggs.

Yesterday was our 11th anniversary.  We celebrated the best way we could.  TH, THB, and MHM went to cut a load of firewood on some property TH used his charm super power to gain access to.  I stayed home and canned 14 quarts of green beans using my new All American 930 canner.  It went much faster than when I would use my Presto and have to do two runs.  After we were done, we took the Princesses to the drive in to watch Brave.  It was a good movie and the princesses love getting out and visiting the drive in movie. 

Everything is still wet here.  The weeds are really enjoying this weather.  Our tomatoes have finally started to ripen.  I had one on the vine that I was saving for today but I suspect THB or MHM was granted access to the garden by TH and I lost that one.  Oh well, one tomato for the help of a load of firewood is a pretty good trade!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Farm update

It's been an interesting few days here on the farm.  We had a thunderstorm roll through that caused some damage to the garden.  Most noticeably to the corn. 

The path of destruction stated with the loss of a cayenne pepper plant that was broken off, went through my pumpkin patch knocking the plants over to one side but thankfully no permanent damage there, tossed around some of the sunflowers, and then pummeled the best corner of the corn patch.  It could have been much worse so we're glad most things bounced back.

We have discovered the best bratwurst topping in the world.  For Independence day, we grilled out and I was thinking how I could sneak some squash and zucchini into the meal.  I brought a cast iron skillet out to the grill and warmed up some olive oil and just a touch of margarine.  To that I added diced squash, zucchini, red onion, a garlic clove, and two sliced hot hungarian wax peppers.  I cooked the brats and the topping side by side and they finished at the same time.  We put the brat in the bun, added a stripe of mustard down the middle, and then loaded the topping. It was UNBELIEVABLY GREAT!
TH says he has eaten a lot of brats from the big cities in his day but that these were the best he had ever tasted.  He ate two and a half and I managed one and a half myself!

We have been picking beans this week.  I received my dream canner as an 11th anniversary gift from TH and am now waiting for the high btu burner we ordered to get here so I can use it outside.  I made the mistake of trying it out on my kitchen stove last night and didn't think I was ever getting to bed.  It was almost 1:30 am when I finally got to lay down after starting around 6:30 pm.  I also ran into the problem of my lid sticking which I already knew was a possibility through my research of the canner.  A slight pry with then end of a claw hammer and the lid popped right off.

We still have two rows of beans to pick and can for this first picking session.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The zucchini and squash harvest continues.  I've been sneaking it into almost every supper but we still have an abundance.  I sliced and shredded some yesterday to put in our dehydrator.
I sliced it, steam blanched it for 5 minutes, and then dehydrated it for several hours.  I think it was about 24 hours to get it to the brittle state.  (sorry for the pics, my camera and I were not getting along yesterday!)

I'm always amazed at how many veggies you can fit into a quart jar after dehydrating.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a yard sale today!  It was a bit of a drive but worth the trip.  I bought a new pocket knife, a cake container for two tier round cakes, and an old metal detector.  The metal detector is missing the battery cases so I've sent out an email hoping for someone to help me figure out which ones I need to make the detector usable again.  I figured for a dollar, I'd bring it home and tinker with it.

We keep putting off our bean picking.  We've finally gotten some rain which we desperately needed but has put us behind.  I hope to pull the peas at least today.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blueberry picking!

We visited a you pick your own blueberries farm today.  We have not had any luck growing our own so we were excited to go buy some at a great price to put away for another day.  So far tonight I have made blueberry muffins and have eight 1/2 pints of blueberry jam in the canner.  I still have over a gallon of berries to go so I'm excited at all the prospects!  I wanted to share some photos of our day out.

TH used his "We'll-Take-The-Scenic-Route" super power today and we saw some beautiful countryside on the way home.  I love our scenic routes!

Hope you all are enjoying summer so far!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eating and Preserving from the Garden

The squash and cucumbers are doing awesome this year!
This was what I picked Sunday morning from our garden.  TH and I decided to make pickles Sunday afternoon and had a good time working on it together.
We made some dill pickles and bread and butter pickles.  We did have a few learning opportunities throughout the process.  I learned to always check the acidity of your vinegar before beginning to can.  I had some generic white vinegar on hand and it was only 4% acidity.  For home canning, your vinegar needs to be at 5%.  We had one jar that cooled off too much before we added it to the simmering water bath canner to process and it burst the bottom out of the jar.  I also tried writing on the hot jars with a crayon as they came out of the canner.  It worked great!  I had heard of this method of marking your jars but hadn't tried it until yesterday.  

Tonight I'll be making a stir-fry with lots of squash and zucchini.  We are loving having all this fresh produce!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The garden continues to provide fresh veggies for our suppers.  I've already begun to sneak squash and zucchini into dishes that you normally wouldn't see them in.
The tomatoes are coming in though they are all still green.  I hope to have lots of tomatoes to can since we planted so many tomato plants.  TH says I need to pick my favorite two varieties and do only those next year but I love seeing how the different types grow.
We are having to approach our guinea situation differently than first planned.  Since five of the original six seem to be lost forever, we let our remaining guinea named "Doodle" bunk with the chickens.  He was caught after being spotted running across the backyard two days after the great escape.  He somehow manages to get out of the chicken yard and always lets me know that he's out and about.  He is a noisy little creature but we like him.  We bought a dozen guinea eggs to sneak under our hateful ole broody hen.  She started sitting and within two days, I was able to get the guinea eggs.  Guinea eggs take 25 to 28 days to hatch as opposed to the normal 21 days for chicken eggs.  I'm hopeful that the momma hen will stick with it hatch us out a chorus of guinea babies.  We know they will still wander but hopefully being raised by one of our chickens, they'll have a better understanding of where home is.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our first produce of the year!!!

We've been eating onions for a while out of the garden but today is the first day we'll be enjoying fresh produce from the garden!  TH says "Success!!!".  It is a great feeling of accomplishment when you get those first young squash, zucchini, and cucumbers off the vine.
We're conserving cooking fuel and cooking everything on the grill tonight.  We have a chicken, some potatoes, and a pouch with zucchini, squash, and onion cooking at the same time.  We'll just cut the cucumbers up and enjoy them alongside supper.

On a sadder note, the guineas flew the coop sometime between 8:30 pm last night and 9:00 am this morning.  There is a very slim chance that they will show back up but we figure that was a loss and a lesson learned.  I really do not believe a predator got into the goat shed to get them but that they simply wandered off.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The weeds are taking over!

Or trying to at least.  At the moment they are winning.  We had some really good rainfall this week and the garden has gone into overdrive.  This also means the weeds are growing fast and furiously!  I hope to get out the tiller today and do some damage control.

I had won a photo contest a month or so ago and still had a little money left over.  I wanted to buy something that I would have a long time so it didn't seem like I had nothing to show for the win.  TH was going to a Stihl dealer to look at a weedeater to replace our old one that was literally falling apart.  I tagged along and fell in love with a Stihl tiller on the showroom floor.  I whispered to TH to see what kind of deal we could get if we bought his trimmer and the tiller together.  We didn't get too much of a discount off the purchase price, but TH kept asking for free stuff and we got a couple of little things to go with our purchases.  They also had a deal that if you bought Stihl oil, they would extend your warranty to four years.  We went for that as we don't have the best track record with outdoor power equipment.  Hopefully, by buying a quality product, we'll have better luck this time.

I had received an old, small tiller a few years ago from freecycle.  We worked on that thing every year but never could get it to run just right and once it did run well enough, it started leaking gas.  MHM likes to tinker with those things and I also had picked up a vintage Vitamix blender at an estate sale the MHM really liked.  TH was able to work out a trade and we were able to barter the tiller and blender for a utility trailer he had been wanting for quite a while.  TH plans to enclose the sides and use the trailer to haul trash and the occasional goat.  It is too high for loading cattle though, so that problem is lurking in the back of our minds.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Time to bring out the sprinklers.

Yesterday was a good day around the farm.  I had ordered Homestead Blessings:  The Art of Making Bread from one of my favorite online stores  I started watching the dvd at 9:00 am and by noon, I had a pan of cinnamon rolls in the oven.
They rose very well and tasted great!  I used half white flour and half freshly ground wheat.  You can definitely taste a difference.

Later in the evening, TH and I worked out in the garden.  He did most of the work as I still needed to fix supper and didn't get out that way until later.  He decided to go ahead and hook up a sprinkler as there is no rain in the immediate forecast.
I found this sprinkler new in the package at a yard sale yesterday afternoon.  We did have some water pressure issues to begin with.  The sprinkler got stuck in one position and caused a wee bit of flooding in one part of the garden.  Other than that, we were pleased with the new sprinkler's reach.

I worked on the cucumber climbing trellis.  We had an old metal swing set frame the TH was going to scrap but I asked him to let me try growing cucumbers on it.  I have tied several strings around and through it to give plenty of climbing directions.  The first string I used was the brown twine but after seeing how brittle and frail it is, I have added a second set of string with a white poly string.
TH offered to remove the last swing part but I told him it adds more character.  The shade cloth is working very well.  We still need to till between the rows but our vines growing out of the cloth are growing well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Almost ready for squash!

Our squash plants have little baby squash growing on them.  I was hoping that a good rain this week would make it possible to start eating them next week but I'm not so sure now.  We've had several overcast days but no more than a drizzle as far as rainfall goes.  We are all anxiously awaiting our first meal with fresh squash and zucchini!

We were given some hay bales from some very kind friends this week.  TH and THB went to pick them up using his car hauler trailer.  During moving the bales from the trailer to the barn, TH lost some of the hay and left it there for me to glean for the garden.  Now, mulching with hay is usually a big no-no as it can introduce weed seeds to a garden but our garden is situated in a middle of a weed field and we have no hope of preventing weed seeds.  I mulched around a few pepper plants that didn't get placed in the shade cloth and around my pumpkin plants.  I hope the pumpkins will grow wildly around their section and flourish.

I had bought a large lot of canning jars from an estate sale recently and just finished boxing them up.  I had seen an ad on Craiglist for the jars but they were a little overpriced for my budget.  I called and left a message that while I knew they were asking a certain amount, if they were unable to sell them at that price, I would give them a lesser amount.  The gentleman called back within two hours and said they would be happy to accept my offer and to come on over to get them.  We loaded boxes upon boxes of jars.  We had taken the seats out of our van and still it was a tight fit.  The ride home made me a bit nervous.  We had a van full of glass jars and over 40 miles to travel.  
I don't have room to keep the jars in the house so we store them in an outbuilding.  I label each box with what type of jar is inside so I can find what I need quickly once canning season gets rolling.

The guineas are still doing well.  TH is using his carpentry super power to build a house for them.  We hope to move them out of the garage within a couple of weeks.

Hope you all are having a great week!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Our newest poultry!

After a few years of deliberating, TH and I finally decided to add some guineas to our farm.  They are supposed to be wonderful for pest control and predator alerts.  I'm hoping they will eliminate our need for pesticides in the garden.  We are still making the final decisions about where they will be trained to house.  We know they may choose to roost in the trees but we hope to have them know where safe shelter will be for bad weather.
We found an ad on Craigslist for a lady nearby who offered guinea keets for sale.  We went yesterday evening to bring these little darlings home.  It's hard to believe that such cute little fluff balls turn into guineas.  We are looking forward to their antics and to a lot less ticks.

The lady we bought them from was a very knowledgeable woman.  She took extra time to answer any questions we had.  She also gave us four Barnevelder eggs for us to try and hatch.  If they do hatch, it will add some new blood to our Barnevelders and might allow us to bring up a young rooster to serve along Roy our older rooster.

I didn't get to very many yard sales this week.  I did find a painting at a junk shop that I love.
This painting is special to me because it was painted by my great uncle.  We had only one of his paintings hung in our living room and this one will be a nice addition to it.  When I saw it across the shop, I thought it looked very similar to ours and was very happy to see his name signed on the corner.  I know it is a thousand wonders that I came across it and felt that I needed to buy it and bring it home.  I paid $10 for it which was my limit but feel it was well worth it.  The man in the shop asked if my great uncle's paintings went for a lot of money and I told him they may not be worth a penny to anyone else but it was important to me.  He was glad to hear my connection to the painting and told me that they got in an auction or sale in Virginia. It's funny how things come about.

We have a couple of other projects in the works I hope to blog about next week.  We are working on a homemade incubator and I just bought a small tiller to use in the garden.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Minister's Treehouse

 This is what you see when you first arrive at the treehouse.
 Inside the chapel.
 View from above the chapel.
 Stained glass window on 3rd or 4th level.
 Exterior walkway.
 Tree with lots of character passing through the treehouse.
 Another shot looking down into the chapel.
 Nativity scene inside the chapel.
View looking up at the treehouse while sitting in the lawn chair swing.