Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Farm and Garden Update

It has been a while since we have talked about the farm on the ol' blog. It is not because stuff has not been happening, blogging just seems to get forgotten at times.
The garden has done pretty well this year. It has been a weird year with lots of rain and lots of hot temperatures. Some things have done great (especially the weeds) and some things not so great. Being our second year in this place, our berry production has really ramped up. We had tons of strawberries this year. We froze 6-7 gallons and sold some too. We also had a lot of them rot because of so much rain early on in the year. We also had lots of raspberries this year to eat fresh and we froze 2-3 gallons. We had mulberries as well from our mulberry tree. Our blackberries produced tons also. We froze 3 gallons of those and sold gallons also. We were also able to make 10 pints of mixed berry jelly.
The garden has been a love/hate thing this year. Weeds have been out of control with all the rain and heat, I could barely keep up with pulling them. Some of our early veggies did not do so well like onions and potatoes but the later veggies have done much better. This was the second year for our asparagus bed and we were able to get quite a bit from it and it will only get better in the future. We have been doing tons of canning the past month or so but that is starting to wind down. We canned 12 pints of pickled peppers, 20 pints of salsa, 35 pints of spaghetti sauce, 10 pints of tomato sauce, 15 half pints of hot sauce, and 30 pints of green beans. Our corn struggled a little this year but we were able to freeze 100 ears of corn. We also had lots of fresh squash, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, okra, spinach, radishes, bok choi, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. We should be able to harvest sweet potatoes soon as well. I have been planting some of my fall garden and some of it is already up and growing...winter squash, more summer squash and cucumbers, and more corn.
When we moved into this new place I increased the size of my garden from our previous location by about 50%.  I have come to the conclusion that this is too much and requires too much of my time to keep up with it.  I am planning to reorganize during the winter and downsize a little bit. I don't want to be spending so much time in the garden and farm that it takes away too much time from more important things like doing other things with the family.
The animal part of the farm has been doing great so far this year and is growing. We had several baby goats and sheep born which have mostly been sold now. We bought 10 new weaned Holstein steers to raise through the year and sell this winter.

We also decided to try pigs this year so we got two young ones in the spring. We had never done them before and were not sure what to expect.  But they have actually been pretty easy to deal with and not caused any real problems or anything. We plan to take one to the butcher in a month or so and sell the other one. I think we may continue to do some every year in the future.

And the biggest news on the livestock front is we were finally able to buy some young heifers to start our real cow herd. They will be ready to breed later this winter so I will need to get a bull for them. Then we can start having our own calves and hopefully grow our herd to maximize the use of our land.


Since we have not built up enough animals yet to eat all our grass on the farm we had our hay cut this year again. We were actually able to get two cuttings this year since we had good rain. A neighbor cuts it for us and we split the hay with him. Total, we got 32 round bales the first cutting and 300 square bales along with 11 round bales the second cutting.  Our part of that should take care of our hay needs for the winter which is great. I am anxious to see how many total animals we will be able to have in the future with the great grass that we have.
We are slowly working this place into "our" place and getting the farm set up how we want it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The big 5!!!!!!



Today is Esther's 5th birthday! I know I say this every birthday, but the time has gone so fast. It seems like we just brought her home. She is such a smart, sweet, and fun little girl. She is introverted, shy, extremely independent and stubborn. Getting her to comply with a request is sometimes quite challenging. But she is a really great kid and we are proud to be her parents.


Some of her favorite activities:
  • Drawing, coloring, creating artwork. She brings home a stack of artwork everyday from school and she is always drawing and coloring at home. We think she is really good and are quite impressed with some of her drawings. She has started writing and illustrating some little books. It is so fun to see her imagination.
  • She loves to read. She has progressed really well since she learned to read last summer. She is reading books on a 1st-2nd grade level. At nap time and bedtime she sits on her bed and reads books until she falls asleep. She loves to read and look at books, but she hates to read for other people. She will read for Josh and I, but won't do it for anyone else.
  • Playing dress up and make believe. Her and Clara are always dressed up, playing with their babies, playing school, and pretending to have restaurant or a store.
  • We spend a lot of time outside and her and Clara have lots of adventures. They do lots of digging in the dirt, riding bikes, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and playing in their playhouse. She loves our cats and dogs and is always hugging on them. Feeding the cats is one of her chores. 
We had a little birthday party for her this weekend. We let her decide all the details including who she wanted to invite. She wanted an afternoon party with cake and homemade ice cream. She wanted a Frozen cake and wanted it to be blue with white icing. She wanted hats and blowers. After cake and ice cream we went to the pool to swim. Several friends and some family were able to join us and she had lots of fun. Here is a little video collage of her birthday party. She was feeling shy and didn't like us singing to her and didn't want to blow out her candles.


She starts kindergarten in less than a month. We are excited and a little bit nervous to see how she does at school. We know she is ready. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Little Swimmers

Last year the girls' swimming lessons were ok, but we knew we wanted to put the girls in swimming lessons again this year. Esther is more tentative in the water, so we knew she really needed some more personalized attention to actually make her try to swim. And we knew Clara could probably progress a lot with some good instruction. So when a friend of mine was offering semi-private swimming lessons we knew that it would be great for the girls.

The first day Esther didn't even want to get her face wet (while Clara was dunking herself), but by the end of the first lesson she was willingly putting her whole head under water. That alone was worth the price of private lessons! They both did really great. The practiced going under water, bobbing, floating, kicking, and paddling. They loved it and had so much fun. 

By the end of the lessons they were both swimming. Esther will swim short distances. Clara is a little fish and can swim across the pool. Clara would also jump in to the pool and then swim back to the side all by herself.





 We are looking forward to going to the pool often this summer so the girls can keep practicing. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Vacation 2015





I wanted to capture an overview of our vacation before I forget about it. We went to Navarre Beach, Florida for the third year in a row. You can read about our 2013 and 2014 vacations. We once again went the week before Memorial Day. It is cheaper and less crowded to go then. With Esther starting school in August, our future vacations will have to be later in the summer.

On our way down to Florida we stopped in Little Rock to visit the dinosaur exhibit at the Clinton Library. The girls love to play with dinosaurs so we thought they'd love it. Esther was a bit scared at first, but once we convinced her the dinos weren't real and weren't trying to eat us she was ok. It was a fun exhibit with big, moving, roaring dinosaurs.

T-Rex, notice Esther's tight grip on daddy.




Our beach vacation was pretty similar to the past two years. Beach, naps, beach, pool, eating lots of seafood. The beach is a great vacation for the girls while they are young. They are happy to play in the sand for hours. They were braver this year and went out in the waves with me. They had their floaties on and would "ride the waves." They were both a lot more confident in the pool this year too. With their floaties they "swam" all around the pool. Clara loved to jump in to the pool over and over. Esther was happy doing synchronized swimming/dance moves on the stairs!






The Gulf Coast National Seashore is just a few miles from our condo. We like to go down there because we usually have the beach to ourselves and the sand is really soft. 
Clara loved to get buried.
We went to Fort Pickens one morning. Josh and I really like historical sites and museums, so we are glad the girls are getting old enough to visit some things. They enjoyed exploring the old fort.


Family selfie at Fort Pickens
Esther and Clara at Fort Pickens
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Josh likes to look for shells, but unfortunately this year there were hardly any shells. There had been a bad storm the day before we arrived. The water was really rough the first day and the currents were strong. The last day we were there the water was filled with a thick green algae/seaweed. It was really gross and we didn't get in the water that day. The shells were lacking, but Josh did find a live starfish and a crab. The girls loved seeing those things.


                               


Thursday, May 28, 2015

First Graduation

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
  Ferris Bueller

It always drives me crazy when people say enjoy your kids because time flies and next thing you know they will be gone, because in day to day life time seems to drag on. But then all the sudden the little baby you swear you just brought home the other day is graduating Pre-K.  And in a couple months she will turn 5 and start kindergarten.

Last Friday was Esther's Pre-K graduation.  I don't get to exited about those kinds of things because it seems like they do those kinds of things all the time with kids these days.  I think it is more for the parents most of the time than the kids and this parent isn't really in to it. We were also taking bets on whether Esther would actually go up there and participate because you see Esther is kind of like her father and is not into those kinds of things either. But she did go up on stage and wear a cap and gown but she did not sing the songs.  Overall it turned out to be pretty fun.  The kids sang a couple songs and when they walked across the stage they gave the kids' answers to questions about themselves....Esther' favorite color is pink and purple, she wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and at school she enjoys coloring. Both sets of the grandparents came which was fun also.

Esther is growing up fast and it seems to go faster the older she gets.  She is definitely a little girl now and has her own distinct personality. She is a daddy's girl.  She is really fun to be around (most of the time) and is very bright. However she is not into performing for people or being put in new and different situations. We always kind of joke when Esther talks or interacts with someone she doesn't know well and tell them how special they must be that she actually interacted with them. She is very contemplative and likes to know what she is doing before she does something.  We always try to explain everything to her so their are no surprises.  She is very head strong and things have to be her idea if she is going to do them, so we never know if she is going to choose to do something or not.
She and Clara are the best of buddies (and also fight like crazy). It is fun to see them playing together.  Esther loves to draw and color and is really good at it.  She also loves to read and is an amazing reader for her age. Most of the time she would rather read than do anything else and always wants to be read to. She is currently reading on about a 2nd grade level which is crazy. It still shocks us when she reads the menu at a restaurant, signs on the road, or things at the store. She is ready for kindergarten, and we are excited to see how much she'll grow and learn.




Thursday, March 26, 2015

Water Collecting

One of my goals for our farm is to collect rain water which in turn conserves water by not using "city" water. Part of the reason I chose the locations for our garden and orchard is the proximity to buildings. I hoped to collect the water off the roofs to use for watering. I finally got around to getting my system up for the garden and finished it this past week just in time for this week's rain.

I started my water collection last year with collecting water off of our chicken coop to use for watering the chickens. You can read about that here. I put it in last May and never had to water the chickens again until we started having freezing temperatures. Unfortunately one night I forgot to empty the nipple water line in the winter and the pvc pipe froze and burst. But it worked out ok because I got to rethink my chicken waterer and try something new. The nipple waters worked fine but a lot of water was wasted by the chickens because they did not catch it all when getting a drink and therefore it kept the ground constantly wet under the water line. This time I decided to go with a pan type waterer that uses a float system to keep the bowl full. I was able to connect it to my existing 55 gallon barrel set up. So far it is working great and I like it much better than the nipple waterers.



For my garden water collection, I am collecting water off of my shop roof which borders the garden. It is a really big roof so it will collect a lot of water which will be great for watering my garden. I decided to go with IBC containers because they are relatively cheap and easy to find. I bought two 275 gallon containers so I would have 550 gallons total. I read lots of posts online about different set ups and watched lots of videos until I had an idea of how I wanted to set it up.  Unfortunately the shop roof line comes down kind of low so I was not able to do it exactly like I wanted but I was still able to make it work. I had hoped to raise the containers up to increase the water pressure but was only able to raise them 18-20 inches. I had to build really sturdy supports because that much water weighs over 2 tons. I connected the two containers with PVC pipes and then have an outlet that I can hook up my water hose to. I decided to cover the containers in black plastic to prevent algae growth. And I have it so when the containers are full and I can switch the pipe to have the water empty out into the pasture instead of just overflowing right next to the building. I plan to eventually have this run in to a livestock water trough. Our first rain since I finished the set up was last night and we got 1.5 inches which was enough to fill them up.  I was really happy that it worked out. I hooked up the water hose and there is enough pressure to push the water out of the nozzle on the setting we use for gentle watering.  I hope to set up another system like this one sometime to use for watering our fruit trees.

Here is what it looks like. It is not pretty but luckily it is behind the shop.

I connected the two containers with a pvc pipe that connects to their outlets. The gutter only empties into one container but both of them will fill together having them hooked up this way. 


Here is my outlet hooked up to the water hose

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Biggest Farm Project....Done

The biggest and most expensive farm project on all the farms I have had (3 if you are keeping count) is fencing.  Our first place in West Fork did not have fence and I had to put in everything from scratch. Our last place and our current place both had fencing but not in good shape and not good enough to hold goats and sheep.  This is our biggest farm so that means a lot more fencing.  By my calculations I put in about 6,000 feet of fence including perimeter fence, yard fence, and cross fences.  I have been working on fence off and on since we moved in but have really been working on it hard this winter.
Our current farm was completely fenced but some of it was in bad shape or just piecemealed together, A lot of the fence was leaning over really badly also. For the most part it was just several strands of barbwire which would not keep in goats (goats are notorious for escaping).  The type of fence I need is field fence with a strand of barb wire on top.
One good thing was part of the yard fence and some of the corner posts were steel tube so I could use them. And I was able to reuse all the steel t-posts.  But I still had to dig and put in a lot of big posts for corner and stretch posts. About half the fence I was able to straighten up the posts without taking them out of the ground and then I just put the field fence right on top of the existing barb wire.  The other half of the fence I had to completely take down and pull up the t-posts before putting up the new fence. Around the barns there were to many different paddocks with fences fencing in fences it seemed like so I re-organized them. I also moved around the yard fence a little bit. 
I am really happy to have it done. It was a long, hard project. I can now put any of our animals on any part of our land without worrying about them getting out. I am also happy that I can move on to other projects that I enjoy more and are not so daunting.