Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Patch

This weekend we went to a local pumpkin patch. The girls loved pulling the wagon, walking through the patch, and picking out pumpkins. We hope to carve a couple of them this weekend.




They are growing up so much. They are little girls, not toddlers anymore. Here they are last year at the pumpkin patch. 

And this was Clara in 2012. For some reason I don't have Esther in a picture at the pumpkin patch.
 

Friday, October 03, 2014

Farm Bounty

Our big summer garden has been mostly "done" for a while. We had a  few first year garden issues, but overall the garden produced well for us. We had a mild summer, which helped. In addition to eating a lot of fresh veggies in the summer, we sell some, give some away, and then can/freeze/store a lot to use throughout the year. We have recently starting harvesting some of our fall garden produce also. The garden should be better next year and years to come as we get the soil in better shape over time.

We canned about 20 quarts and 30 pint jars of green beans, 30 pints of spaghetti sauce, 30 pints of salsa, 10 jars of hot sauce, 10 jars of plain tomato sauce, and 10 jars of pickled peppers. We also froze about 40 packages of corn, some on the cob and some off. And we froze some summer squash to use in soups and stews this winter.
Green beans, spaghetti sauce, pickled peppers
Salsa
We didn't weigh them, but we also harvested some potatoes (about 2 milk crates worth). Red, white, and purple ones. We also have been harvesting sweet potatoes recently (at least a milk crate full).

We planted a bunch of winter squash, but the squash bugs killed it before we were able to harvest much. We did get a few butternut squash before the vines died.

The butternuts that made it to harvest.
We recently discovered two apple trees in front of our rental trailer. Our tenants used and gave away a lot of them, but we were able to harvest a few gallons of apples. Josh made 6 jars of applesauce from them. We can't wait until our fruit trees and berries are producing so we can preserve more fruit for the year.
Applesauce

We also had a steer butchered a couple of months ago. We split it with Josh's parents, so we have a couple of hundred pounds of beef in the freezer too.

Beef and corn


For our first year on this farm we feel like we did pretty well on producing food for ourselves. We hope to do better in future years. We are hoping to add pigs, butcher chickens, and turkey as early as next year. We also hope to increase the amount of food we sell in the future also. It is nice to have fresh produce and to know where you food comes from.




Monday, August 11, 2014

Chicken Waterer

There are a few things that define my farming style.  Two of the main ones are practicality and creating less work for myself. Practicality- I am much more into things being useful and serving a purpose than looking good.  That is why you don't see a lot of flowers around my house. I would much rather spend my time on plants I can eat than ones I can just look at. The other big thing is doing as a little work as I have to.  Farms are a lot of work and I always have something to do.  So anything I can do to create less work for myself is good.
One of the things I have recently done to create less work is to build a chicken waterer that will hold more water so we have to water the chickens less often. Margo mostly does the watering and feeding of the chickens so keeping her happy by her doing less work is good too. Several years ago I built a chicken feeder so that we did not have to feed them every few days. I posted it about it here if you want to check it out. I have made a few alterations to it since then.  We usually put 150lbs or so of feed in there which means we only have to fill up the feeder about once a month or so (for 25-30 chickens). At our last two houses we had ponds relatively close to the chicken coop so the chickens would get a lot of their water from there and we did not have to fill up the waterer in their coop very often. At our current house, the pond is a long ways off and so we were having to fill up our 5 gallon waterer almost every day.  Margo was not a fan of that and it was bad for when we had to be gone for several days.  So I started to do some research on ways to make bigger chicken waters (that don't use "city water").  I found some good ideas using nipple waters and used those ideas to create my set-up.  I ended up putting up some old gutters on my chicken coop and ran those into a 55 gallon plastic drum that is on a stand.  I have pvc coming out of that which goes into the chicken run. I then hooked a long section of pvc to that  and screwed in nipple waterers to that.  For my chicken coop roof (16x9) it takes about 1/2 inch of rain to fill up the barrel. We have had it for 2-3 months and the rains have kept it full. It only took the chickens a couple days to get used to it.  I would probably design it a little different if I did it again but so far it is doing great.
As you can see I hooked the gutter directly into the barrel, I used some wire mesh as a screen to keep out debris so it would not stop up the pipe or nipple waterers.  I have the pvc coming out of the bottom.  One of the caps on a drum like this has threads for a pipe hookup so I just used that to screw in the pvc in to. 

Here is a chicken drinking from it.  You are supposed to mount it so the chickens have to reach up to the nipples. It helps them waste less water.  But it seems like there is still quite a bit that gets wasted. 


Monday, August 04, 2014

Pontoon Playhouse

I wrote a blog post late last year about a pontoon boat we found in the woods after we bought our house that I decided to make a playhouse out of.  We moved it during the Thanksgiving holiday last year using a tractor and truck as evidenced in this video. I finally got around to working on it this spring and finished it prior to 4th on the Farm this year which was my goal.  I still have a few things I want to add but the main part of it is done.  I am planning to make an upper deck lookout when the girls get a little older and I would like to add some musical components. 
I am pretty happy with how it turned out and it seems to be a big hit with our girls and all the other kids that have come to our house. It is funny how all this worked out with having a random pontoon boat and repurposing it into a playhouse. Several years ago, before we moved here, I had told Margo I really wanted to build our kids an interesting playground out of recycled stuff. I didn't want just a normal kit playground you buy at the store but wanted them to have something really cool, interesting, and almost artsy. Part of this idea stemmed from spending time at City Museum in St. Louis (which is one of the coolest places I have ever been) and from an episode of American Pickers where a guy had made a really cool building from recycled junk. I wanted my kids to have the coolest playset around. Fast forward a few years and I think I came pretty close. Even though it is not exactly what I had in mind when I originally thought of what a recycled/repurposed playset would be, it is really interesting and cool (not sure about artsy).


Here it is in the woods where we found it

Here it is getting put in place for being a playset.
This is after I had dismantled it and was working on removing the old decking.

This is after adding new decking and putting it back together. I framed the enclosed area, added windows, and was working on putting together the enclosed part and the swing arm. 
Here it is finished
Front view
Back and other side view.  It has two slides.
Deck view. I got the girls a couple adirondack chairs and built them a table and stools for inside.
Here are the girls enjoying the swings. Esther has recently learned to do flips on the trapeze bar. 
Enjoying the old boat swivel chairs I attached to the front.  
Kids enjoying it during 4th on the Farm
More 4th on the Farm fun.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Swimming

As I have talked about previously, with the girls getting older, we are getting to do more and more with them which is lots of fun. We decided they were old enough to enroll them in swimming lessons this summer.  One of my worst memories growing up is my dad trying to teach me to swim at a motel on a family vacation. So, I definitely want to make learning to swim as good of a experience as I can.  We signed them up for two week lessons at Wilson Park pool in Fayetteville and they finished this past Friday.  Clara's age group had a parent in the pool with them. Margo was the one  lucky enough to be in the pool because swimming is not my thing (see above).  Esther's age group was just with instructors. Overall it went pretty well, but as most of you probably know, our girls have very different personalities. Clara is up for anything so she was really into it and progressed really well over the two weeks and did great. Clara's instructor was impressed with her and asked Margo why she was so advanced in the pool for her age. We had no idea because she had only been in a pool a couple times. We guessed she just came by it naturally from Margo because Margo loves the pool. Esther enjoyed being in the pool, but was not a big fan of the lessons themselves and wasn't really into participating in the lessons.  It definitely helped her with being better in the water but she did not make as much progress as Clara.  Esther was also sick for a couple days so she missed a couple lessons.
We are going to keep working with them throughout the summer and hope that they will pick up swimming and enjoy it.  We have a great aquatic park in Prairie Grove (especially for being a small town) and plan to visit it often.  We took them today and they did great. Clara is super confident so you have to stay on top of her because she will just jump in off the side even though she can not really swim. She loves jumping in and will do it all by herself with her floatie on.

First Day
Esther with the instructor
Here is a video of Clara jumping in today at the pool.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The big 4 for Esther

Today is Esther's 4th birthday. It is hard to believe that she is truly a little girl, not a baby or toddler anymore. She is a very smart, creative, and independent little girl. She loves to color and draw. She creates multiple masterpieces everyday! She is actually really good at coloring. She stays in the lines and is very creative with her color choice. She still loves to read. We read lots of books everyday. We plan to start working with her soon on reading. She knows how to spell and write several words. She knows all her letters and sounds and can recognize several words already, so hopefully she'll pick up reading fairly easily. She really likes to play dress up too. She got some new dress-up clothes and jewelry for her birthday this weekend and has played with them non-stop since. She picks out her clothes, dresses herself, can somewhat brush her hair and teeth by herself, open the car doors, get in her car seat and buckle herself in. She can fill her cup with water from the fridge door all by herself and helps Clara fill her's also. She helps set the table for dinner every night, helps unload the dishwasher, and puts away her own laundry. She also plays (and fights) really well with Clara. 


We had a party for her this weekend with our friends and family. She requested chocolate cake with purple frosting, butterfinger ice cream, and party hats! The kids had a fun time playing and the adults had a good time visiting.
 







Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden and Farm Update

I thought it would be good to put up an update on how the garden and farm are coming along. The garden is doing well overall but some things are struggling a little bit.  The first year of a new garden is always a little worse because the soil is not quite up to my standards. It takes a good 2-3 years for me to get it all worked up good and get the right amendments in and get a good worm population going. This garden seems to be struggling even more than previous first year gardens.  I think it might be because there was a barn where the garden is when we moved in and we tore it down. That ground had not seen rain or sunlight for many years and tractors were stored in there so there is no telling what fluids got dripped onto the ground.  I did bring lots of new soil and compost in to make my raised beds but I am thinking the soil that was there is having an effect. There are parts of the rows where whatever I have planted is stunted, yellow, and not looking good. It is really crazy.  I am hoping it will work itself out in a year or two. Overall though we are doing pretty good on vegetables. We had lots of early season bok choi, radishes, spinach. We ate on sugar snap peas for a long time and just recently cut them down as they had mostly stopped producing. I don't plant a whole lot of potatoes but what I did plant produced great, it was a good potato year. We have canned I think 20 quarts and 30 pints of green beans so far and they are still producing. As usual, we also have an overabundance of squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. Peppers are going crazy right now also, I am planning to can some pickled peppers and hot sauce soon. We are starting to get tomatoes, although they are not looking as good as I would like. This corn is really struggling this year but I am hoping it turns out ok. I have pretty much given up on the eggplant, it just has not done anything. My winter squash and cantaloupe is coming along nicely. The fruit trees and berries are all looking good also, especially the strawberries, they are growing like crazy. I hope to have lots of berries next year.
I have been able to start selling more produce this year with my bigger garden and hope to continue to sell even more in the future.  If anyone in the area is interested in fresh veggies, let us know.
The farm is coming along nicely also. I feel like I am starting to catch up on all my projects and getting the "to do" list knocked out. My biggest project I still have left is fence but most of it will have to wait for the fall and winter. Our animal count is growing also. We currently have 25 chickens, 10 sheep, 6 goats, and 9 steers.  We are taking a steer to the butcher on Saturday and will soon have lots of beef in the freezer which is exciting. We ran out of home grown beef a couple months ago and it is hard for us to buy beef from the store. We had a baby lamb born sometime last night so that is very exciting.
One thing we are loving about all of this is having the girls get involved in helping with the garden and animals. They seem to really enjoy themselves and are learning lots. And I am excited for them to experience and help even more as they get older.





Steers
Sheep
Here are the goats. The big goat in the middle is our ginormous billy goat named Heisenberg. He is one of the biggest goats I have ever seen. For perspective, the goat standing to the right of him is a normal sized full grown goat.