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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

We learned our kid to read

I never liked the parents who always talked like their kid was the best, or smartest, etc. I always said I would never be like that and not be an annoying parent who thought their kid was the best. Then we got Esther and as she got grew older we realized that she actually was the smartest girl in the world.  Just kidding.  However she has always been very advanced and bright for her age. This is not just our grandiose parent-skewed thoughts but teachers and other have told us this as well.  And the fact that she was meeting milestones one to two years ahead of her age. She knew her numbers, letters, colors, etc by the time she was 2 years old and was writing her name and lots of letters by 3. She has always loved to be read to and since she was a baby she would sit still and quiet for as long as you would read to her. All you needed to keep Esther happy as a baby/toddler were books. A lot of time you would just find her sitting somewhere looking at books. This past year she has shown a lot more interest in knowing how to spell words and wanting us to tell us what words were in books.  She has a great memory and would memorize them a lot of times.
We decided after her 4th birthday in July that she might be ready to learn how to read, she seemed to be meeting all the prerequisites.  A lot of people recommended the book, Teach your kid to read in 100 easy lessons, so we decided to give it a try.  I would love to say that it was so easy and went so smoothly but that is not the case.  I found out really fast that teaching something like reading (especially to a 4 year old) is not easy. And teaching reading the english language makes it even harder, I did not realize how crazy our language is until this. But we stuck with it even though we wanted to give up a few times.  And Esther did well with it and caught on pretty quickly. She is very stubborn though and sometimes she would just refuse to do a lesson.  But we persevered.
 I am happy to report that we finished the lessons last week. Esther is officially now reading.  She is on a beginner level but she can read basic stories.  We got her some of those beginner reader books and she can read them with only needing a little help with some words she does not know. But she does good at sounding out words she doesn't know. We always try to define new words for her to help grow her vocabulary. Being young she struggles a little with comprehending what she is reading while she is reading it so we always try to quiz her about it and try to get her to tell someone else the story that she just read.
Needless to say, we are very proud of her. We think she is pretty bright for a 4.5 year old. We know how vital reading and enjoying to read are to her future and are happy she is able to start so early.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Clara is 3!

Today is Clara's 3rd birthday. I know I say this on every birthday, but I really can't believe she is 3. The time has flown by and I can't believe I don't have a baby anymore. A few highlights about Clara:
  • She knows all of her upper and lowercase letters, numbers, colors, shapes. She is getting better at counting out objects and can write about half of the letters. 
Practicing her writing
  • She loves to draw, color, and cut paper with scissors. Some of her drawings actually look like things now. 
Clara and the dinosaur she drew
  • She has a great imagination and loves playing with her dolls, play kitchen, and building things with blocks. 
  • Clara all dressed up
  • The girl loves to make a mess. If there is dirt, water, or anything messy she will find it. I can't keep liquid soap in the bathroom because she dumps it out to make bubbles in the sink.
  • She is really funny and always keeps us laughing with her antics. She is always singing and dancing. She makes up songs and never just walks somewhere. She talks in silly voices and will do anything to get a laugh.
  • She is very social and extroverted. If anyone comes to our house, Clara runs out to greet them. 
For months she has been saying that she was going to have a rainbow cake and chocolate milk for her birthday. She also requested hats and blowers. This morning we took the girls for donuts and chocolate milk, a major treat in our house. We also made her a tye-dye/rainbow cake. 
With her birthday donut

Monday, November 03, 2014

Halloween of Hale

We had a fun time celebrating Halloween with the girls this year. The weekend before Halloween we hosted a get together at our house for lots of our friends and their kids. We carved pumpkins, roasted pumpkin seeds, ate chili, went on a hayride, and made smores. It was in the mid-80s, so it felt like a summer day, but we carried on with our chili, cornbread, and pumpkin desserts.

Pumpkin carving
Scooping out the guts
All the pumpkin creations
First Farm of Hale Hayride
We carved another pumpkin with the girls. They loved getting out all the gook. They could play with the slimey insides for hours. They really like to see the pumpkins all lit up.

This year for trick or treating they went as a chicken and a monster which was really cute, and they both really liked them. First we went to the Fayetteville Square and trick-or-treated there on Friday afternoon. We then met up with some of our friends for dinner and trick-or-treated in a neighborhood. Esther and Clara sprinted from house to house and had lots of fun. They loved trick-or-treating!

Chicken and Monster

Walking to the Fayetteville Square, ready for candy.

Trick or treating

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
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.

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.