Saturday, March 31, 2007

A day spent indoors.

I woke up early this morning and spent some time on the computer before the kids woke up.

Neil got up and started his day and headed outside to work on a number of projects he has going on. He got the crushed rock all spread under the deck (it looks great BTW), he mowed more of the pasture for a while, pulled out the fence posts closest to our trailer neighbors where our future fruit orchard will be and just did some more needed cleaning up.

My plan for dinner is Beef Stew. I figured I would throw it all in the crock-pot and let it stew all day. That took me about 30 minutes to put together since I floured and browned the meat and then sautéed the onions before adding them to the pot along with potatoes, carrots, spices, broth and some red wine.

After I cleaned up the kitchen I realized I was still in my jammies and was quite comfortable. I looked around the house at all the boxes still piled up... most of them in the room across from the dining area that we intend to be the kids play room. I made the decision that I was going stay inside and do some much needed organizing and rearranging. It took most of the day but I managed to reduce the boxes in the playroom to be stacked in just one corner. I cleaned what remained of the room and then began moving to kids toys from their bedroom into the playroom. I also unpacked some of the kid’s toys/books that I previously had no room for. Both the playroom and the kid’s bedroom look so much better now. The kids love the playroom, especially McKayla as it is much brighter then their bedroom and so close to the kitchen where I spend most of my time. Both of them played most of the evening in there. Made me feel really good for taking the time to set it up for them.

The other thing that I squeezed into my afternoon was to put the ingredients into the bread machine for a sourdough wheat bread to go along with the beef stew for dinner. It will be the first time I use the sourdough starter I started last week when we were up here at the farm long enough to stir and feed it everyday like you need to when first starting out. I kept it in the fridge while we were back in SC but yesterday I took it out to warm up knowing I wanted to use it today.

Dinner Results: Beef Stew was wonderful! Sourdough wheat bread was heavy and dense but very tasty and went great with the stew. Will try to get a higher loft next time. Neil commented that it didn't have much "sour" taste to it. I told him it takes time to develop in the starter and it should get better with age and use.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Back at the farm....

Well, we arrived at the farm around 4:15am this morning. It was a long drive last night. Neil and I took turns driving and we still needed to pull over and sleep for a while. We were glad to crawl in bed once we got here!

We needed to drive all night because our new steel building was getting delivered this morning and we needed to be here to unload it. It is hard to believe that such a small pile of metal can turn into such a large building! Our neighbor Dan is going to be pouring the concrete pad for this building soon (I hope). I will post more photos as this job is completed.

Once the delivery was done we packed up the kids and went out to brunch as we didn't have much in the house to eat. Stopped in at Lowe's and Food Lion to get what we needed for the weekend and then headed home. The rest of the day we spent doing yard work. Neil raked all the leaves from around the house. He said he didn't think this had every been done before since their was glass and bits of shingle under the leaves. The house has had a metal roof for 5 years! The problem we have with stuff like dried leaves here is that unless we want to shift everything out we can't put it into our compost bins since it has so much trashy stuff in it. So, we have to pile it out by the junkpile in the woods until the time comes when that whole mess needs to be delt with.

Neil and I took turns with the JD push mover around the house and in the tight places and then I got to mow the large side yard with the Kabota tractor. Neil had them install a deck mower on the tractor when he bought it. It works great! After I finished the side yard and some of the larger bits around the house I headed out to the pasture. It was in bad shape after not being grazed most of last summer and fall. We did have a neighbor come and bushhog it down for us last fall but it has just been laid over since that time. I was pleased with how the pasture looked after the mowing. The deck mower did a pretty good job chewing up the large straw that was choking out the new grass from growing up. Made it much easier to walk through and for us to see the debri we needed to remove from the field. Bits of lumber, down fence posts, rocks, two big gopher holes that will need to be filled in. I am not too worried about gophers staying in the field once our LGDs are on patrol.

Neil took over mowing the pasture once the kids got tired and wanted me to go inside with them. I figure the cleared pasture is 7-8 acres and we managed to get about 1/5 of it mowed today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Change in chicken delivery date.

I called the McMurray Hatchery today and changed the date our chickens and turkeys will be delivered from May 28th to May 14th.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Can it really be Friday already?

What a day... I am soooo tired tonight!

Our day started with loading the trailer with trash for the dump. This was not just 4-5 bags of household trash. This was the "stuff" that we have been picking up from around the yard, out of the barn, in the woods, etc. We had to stop when the trailer was full. Then off to the dump which is about 35 minutes from our house. They have a neat set-up where they weigh your vehicle on the way in and again on the way out. You pay by the differance in weight.

Once home, I started right away on painting the grey primer on the new barn walls that Neil has been installing. I started on the end of the barn with the excisting chicken coop. The plywood that the previous owner's had used for the exterior walls had very deep grooves in them which ment every one had to be cut-in with a brush before I could use the paint roller for the flat surface. It took FOREVER to get that one section of the barn done! Once past the chicken coop the painting just flew. The roller did a great job on coverage with no cutting in at all... yeah! Both Evan and McKayla helped with the painting along the way. I think McKayla got more paint on her then on the wall but she loved it and she washes!

By the time I finished painting what I could, cleaned up from that and got the kids in the tub in was almost dusk. I had just enough time to run out to the garden to plant garlic and peas. Then I watered all the beds covered them back up to protect the seeds from the birds and headed inside for the night.

We are having leftover spagetti for dinner with homemade garlic bread. Then a movie with the kids and bedtime. I am going to sleep like a log tonight.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Homestead Happenings...

It is about 8am and there must be 15-20 robins out on the side yard, eating bugs in the grass. I love watching the birds. We seem to have a lot of them around the farm. Hopefully they will help keep our bug population down this summer.

I planted more in seed trays today:
Bush Buttercup Winter Squash - 4
Baby Blue Hubbard Winter Squash - 4
Early Prolific Straightneck Summer Squash - 4
Black Beauty Zucchini - 4
Yellow Scallop Squash - 4
Connecticut Field Pumpkin - 2
Bush Sugar Baby Watermelon - 2
Glaskins Perpetual Rhubarb - 4
Rosemary - ~30 seeds (only 20% germination rate)
Sweet Basil
Small Spoon Gourd - 4
Birdhouse Gourd - 4

Today I finally got things planted in the garden!
Red Onion Sets (variety unknown) - 1/2 pound
Red Creole Onion - ~150 seeds
White Onion Sets (variety unknown) - 1/2 pound
Texas Early Grano 502 Onion - ~150 seeds
Precoce D' Argenteuil Asparagus - 75 seeds

I also got 5 of my tires stuffed with wheat straw in the rims and set on top of newspapers/cardboard. Then I put about 4" of garden mix soil in the tires and planted my seed potatoes in them. Finally, topped them off with about 2" of soil. I got my seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, ME. I have never grown potatoes before so am excited to see what happens with them. Neil is a little apprehensive about the look of the tires. I told him I would paint them if that would make him feel better about them. I planted these four varieties:
All-Blue - 2
Russian Banana Fingerling - 3
Caribe' - 4 (2 each in 2 tires)
Island Sunshine - 3

Oh, and I almost forgot! Some of my first tomato seedlings are up in the trays! Several varieties of tomatoes already are about an inch tall! I swear they were not up yesterday! Yaw-Who!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Spring!

I began our day today with a batch of fresh baked cinnamon rolls. Oh so good! They were so simple to make since the bread machine made the dough for me. McKayla helped roll out the dough and sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon. I let them rise one more time after assembly and then into the oven for 25 minutes! Once baked I drizzled (ok... drenched) them with icing. A treat for sure. Neil ate three and then proclaimed he could not move and was done for the day!

Today is the first day of Spring! It is also Neil's farther's birthday... Happy Birthday!

We ended up taking a trip to Lowe's as a family to order the lumber to finish the barn. Get the red paint and a few other odds and ends. On the way home we stopped at the garden center to get more ingredients for filling my garden boxes. As a last stop we stopped at the tire center on the road to our farm and asked if he had any used tires I could have to grow our potatos in. He was more then happy to give me all the tires I wanted! We came home with 12 16" (interior size) tires. Now I just need some staw to fill the tire walls and I can plant my potatos!

Just before dusk I got another garden box layered with newspapers, three layers of cardboard and filled with soil and the grid in place on the first garden box. Got too dark to plant seeds tonight... that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Neil got a bon fire going with some of the scrap wood that was around. The kids loved that as they have never been around a big fire before. They ran around the yard looking for sticks to through in. They ended up getting very wet as Daddy would spray them with the hose every time them came close. The kids were so tired. After dinner they quickly fell asleep on the couch while watching a movie.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Old and New buildings

There was frost on the car when I woke up this morning. It didn't last long and it was a beautiful cool day to be outside working today.

We had several things happen here at the farm today. First a representative from U.S. Buildings was scheduled to stop by to talk with us about putting up a steel building for Neil's garage/work shop. They have a "Display Referral Program" that we wanted to know more about. The program allows you purchase a steel building at a discount if you agree to have other interested people come and look at your building and talk with you about it. In the end we ended up buying a 25x32 foot building. We need to assemble it ourselves... it's like a big erector set! It will be delivered a week from this coming Friday.

Later on we got a delivery of 3/4" crushed rock that Neil wants to use for drainage in front of the barn, his new garage and under the deck. The kids loved having the big dump truck come to the house. They played "king of the mountain" on the rock pile all afternoon.

Around the farm, I continued to rake and remove the trash/rocks/tree debris from behind the barn. It is going faster then I thought it would. Still.... it will be a long project before it is finished. Neil started framing in the front of the barn. I am so excited about this! This is going to change how the whole property looks! Evan wants me to paint the barn red... I tend to agree. :)

For dinner we had spaghetti with meat sauce... nothing fancy but I did make my first loaf of bread in the new bread machine: Italian herb bread. It was very tasty! I can tell the bread machine is going to be getting a work out here.

Finally, Neil got a job offer today! We're very excited about it and after talking it over I am pretty sure Neil is going to except the offer tomorrow. If he takes it he was be starting sometime around June 1st. I wish he didn't need to work off the farm but until we are up and running with the alpacas one of us needs to work fulltime.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

All that glitters is NOT gold!

We had a quiet morning here. Neil slept in late. I was awake so got out of bed and chopped up the leftovers of our Corned Beef Dinner from last night and put it in a skillet for corned beef hash for brunch. We topped it off with fried eggs... sure was good!

Once we were all up and about, Neil had to run to town for a few things. The kids and I wanted to break in the new bread machine that came a few days ago as I just unpacked it last night. We had plenty of bread in the house so I wanted to make something different. We settled on soft pretzels. We had a blast watching the machine "do it's thing" and then shaping the dough into snakes and rings. As the pretzels were cooling the kids and I headed outside to work.

One of the main things I have done every day that we have been here is to pick up the broken glass and other bits of trash all over the ground. It's everywhere! But, it is especially bad behind the barn in the wooded pasture where the pigs used to be. Part of this area is where I intend to keep the cows and goats. I have been working hard at getting 99% of it cleaned up so I will feel ok about having the animals on that ground. This area is so littered that it would take months to pick it all up by hand. I have been raking the area and then using the tractor to scoop up the piles. It is a lot of heavy raking since there are rocks in the mess of stuff I am removing as well. But, it seems to be going quicker then I thought it would. I at least want to get the area directly behind the barn clear where the turn out pens will be. I will work out from that area later.

Once Neil got home he worked on moving the semi-truck trailer that the previous owners had against the back of the barn. It makes for good storage but for us it is in a terrible location. The past owners actually built the barn roof over the trailer so for us to move it we need to move it sideways a few feet before we can go forward or backward with it. Neil managed to get the back end of it away from the barn today! Our wonderful neighbor has volunteered to bring over his backhoe in a few days to try to move it into the trees away from the barn for us. Gosh, I hope it works.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy day. It is Corned Beed and Cabbage for us for dinner!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Seedlings Finally Started!

Well, after a much delayed start yesterday from Anderson, SC, we finally got to the farm in Roxboro, NC just after midnight. Got the sleepy kids from the car and slipped them into their beds. Neil and I were close behind them and I slept like a log until just after 7am when McKayla came in to wake me up. We snuck out so Daddy could still get more sleep and went to make breakfast of bacon, cheese omelets and toast. I am so looking forward to having our own fresh eggs here on the farm.

It rained all night and all of today. Which was probably a good thing since we had errands to run in town and with the rain we couldn't do much at the farm anyway. One of the stops was to the post office to cancel our mail forwarding to SC. We are going to be up here at the farm enough now that we can just get our mail here. It is the little things like getting your mail that makes a place truly feel like home.

While out, we also stocked up on our groceries for the 10 days we will be here. It is nice that we are leaving the power on to keep the fridge running when we are not here now. This allows us to keep the fridge stocked so we don't need to purchase every little thing we need each time we come up. With the cold rain all day today I wanted some "comfort food" so I made a Shepard's Pie for dinner. Yummy!

After dinner I pulled out the box of seeds that I purchased this winter along with the seed starting trays I had gotten. I got my tomatos and peppers all planted tonight. Will have to go through the rest of the seeds to see what else needs to get started this early. Anyway, this is what I got started tonight:

Tomato - White Currant - 4
Tomato - Riesentraube - 4
Tomato - Gold Medal - 4
Tomato - Cherokee Purple - 4
Tomato - Homestead - 8
Tomato - Yellow Brandywine - 4
Tomato - Amish Paste - 12
Tomatillo - Purple - 4
Pepper - Golden Greek Pepperoncini - 4
Pepper - Thai Little Red Chili - 2
Pepper - Jalapeno - 2
Pepper - Charleston Belle - 4
Pepper - Mini Red Bell - 4

I am hoping for no rain tomorrow so we can get started on some of the projects we hoped to get done this trip... mainly closing in the barn and getting it ready for the livestock.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Happy Aniversary to us!

Today is Neil's and mine 6th Aniversary of being together! It is hard to believe all the changes that have happened in those six years. Two wonderful children, a move from Maine to South Carolina. Four years of college at Clemson U for Neil. And now, another move to North Carolina. Fullfilling a long time dream of having a small farm and being semi-self-sufficent. Discovering alpacas!

I can only hope the next six years will be just as wonderful but maybe a little less "change" would be ok too. :)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Beginnings of a garden.

I have been extremely anxious to get our vegetable gardens ready so that I could start things growing in them! My hope with the gardens this year is to get a solid start at being self-sufficient in our food growing. I know it won't all happen in one year... but I have grand plans anyway!

This weekend we got started on building the raised beds that I intend to grow most of our veggies in. I am planning on 10 boxes 4 x8 in size. I wanted them to last, and not rot out in 2-4 years, so I did a lot of research on-line on pre-fab garden boxes made out of recycled products. They were all very expensive, about $150-200 per box (and needed to be shipped), and once assembled where not true 4 x 8 in size but slightly smaller. I talked with Neil about it and he suggested we go to Lowe's and look at their recycled decking boards. I wanted boxes deeper then 6 inches (even though in SFG 6 inches is supposed to be deep enough). We found the perfect stuff! Among the recycled deck boards they had deck top rails too. These boards were 12 foot long, 11 inches wide and only about 3/4 of an inch thick. So two boards would make one box 4 x 8 in size. Including the price of hardware and recycled "wooden" stakes each box came to about $50. A HUGE savings over the pre-fab boxes. They only had 12 boards in stock, enough to make six of my boxes, and we bought them out.

The future garden with flags.Once back at home we measured out where I wanted the boxes to live. I had choosen the area of lawn near the pastures to have my garden as I will need to walk past this area numerous times a day going from the house to the barn to care for the animals. So, hopefully, I will not suffer from "out of sight - out of mind" when it comes to caring for the garden. It is also a slightly sloping south facing area that gets lots of direct sunlight most of the year.

Assembling the boxes was pretty easy. Neil cut each of the 12 foot boards into 4 foot and 8 foot sections. He then drove in the corner stakes and attached two 4 foot boards and two 8 foot boards to the stakes. Finally, he placed an additional ground stake half way along the 8 foot sides (inside the boxes) for support so the wight of the soil did not bulge out the sides.

Next the kids and I covered the ground inside one of the boxes with several layers of wet newspapers and then 2-3 layers of cardboard to help prevent the grass from growing up through the future garden. The newspaper and cardboard will decompose over time and will add organic matter back to the soil.

Then, using the Square Foot Garden (SFG) formula for the garden soil mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost we filled the box up. We only got one box filled with soil this weekend. Finally, since we are not planning on being back at the farm for two weeks I covered the box with frost cover to prevent the loose soil from blowing away in the winds. Next trip up... planting!