Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Food Is Love

Migrant Farm-Hand Becky took off on a new adventure today. She's been a huge help around the farm for the past few weeks. We are all really going to miss her.

At our house we follow the philosophy that "Food Is Love." Last night I was pretty sad that she was leaving, so I went to the garden and gathered up some love.

I feel better knowing that she'll have some of the farm with her. Good luck Becky - you're going to do great! (But come back and join us in the back yard whenever you want.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Friday!

We went back to our real jobs this week. Farmer John and I are so glad it's Friday! We're looking forward to a weekend full of canning tomatoes, visiting with friends and just hanging out with all the animals.

Including this crazy cat:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fair Night

Six years ago Farmer John took me on a date to the Wetzel County Fair. I didn't know just what to expect since it was the first county fair I'd ever attended. Well, I was shocked at just how much fun I had. With a sense of humor in tow, my inner country-girl came out and I embraced everything the fair had to offer.

That first night we scoped out the canned goods and produce, admired the arts and crafts on display, laughed at all the tacky merchandise, rode some rides, ate something deep-fried, cooed at the livestock and cheered for the local talent show. And then, the moment I truly fell in love with the fair...we went to the track.

That night the track entertainment a truck pull. Now, if you've never experienced the joy of a truck pull I'd recommend that you watch this. Basically a truck is attached to a weighted sled, the truck pulls the sled and as it does this the weight increases. Whichever truck pulls the sled the farthest wins. However, none of that really mattered. What mattered was that it was loud, the smell of diesel was in the air, and everyone was cheering for this event that I'd never seen or even heard of in my whole life. I jumped on that bandwagon and cheered right along with 'em!

Since that night, we've returned for one night of fair-week each year. Sometimes we take visitors with us - since it is quite the sight to see. This year "Migrant farm-hand Becky" joined us.

We checked out the livestock. These two hogs belonged to one of our students.

Then we headed over to produce area. Here's the Best of Show. I'm sorry to say there was no canned squirrel this year, we checked.

Then it was time for a whole new track event! It was Mud Bog night. Again, this was something I'd never experienced. However, it didn't take long before Becky and I were cheering along with the crowd.

Notice the clean truck in front of the excavator. When one of the crew waved the green flag the truck revved it's engine and drove straight into the mud pit.

Mud goes everywhere, the driver floors it the entire time, and we all crane our necks to see how far it will go before it gets stuck.
Much like the truck pull, I'm now enamored with the mud bog. My life has changed in MANY ways since moving to the farm, and this is one of them. Let me tell ya, I'll be back next year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tomato Season

Step #1 : Harvest
Step #2 : Set on the back porch table to ripen.

Step #3 : Slice and devour.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A few new photos

For those of us that need a little cheer today, here are some recent photos from the farm. I took them yesterday.

The blind calf has been hanging out in our yard and munching on grass. In this photo she was just resting and chewing her cud.
These are ripe and tasty.

This is the calf that was born in March. The picture doesn't show just how silky and shiny her hair is right now.

The dahlia on the front porch finally bloomed.

And the rest of the porch flowers are looking lush.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Raising the Upper Building

Here's a post from Farmer John himself! This should explain that mystery picture that went with my pies. Read on to see how he raised a building with his own two hands!

Most of our outbuildings here on the farm were built with materials that could be taken right from the farm with little to no cost. Our buildings, as with many local farm sheds, are pole structures using rot-resistant locust poles and sided with rough-cut lumber. Eventually the locust poles begin to degrade and farm buildings begin to sink into the ground. All of our structures are at progressed stages of sinking and more resemble an abstract art installation than the nice square and utilitarian buildings originally constructed. It’s a mission of mine to level and salvage these buildings over the next few years.

I decided to start with the upper building. Pictured below are the house, building, and upper building. The upper building is above the building next to the house, hence upper building. I felt this would be a good place to start because I thought it would be the simplest to raise and if I really screwed up and the whole thing fell down it is our least valuable outbuilding.

The first step in raising the building was installing the temporary treated crossbeam, which would be used to lift the rotten locust poles. This beam was held into the poles using lag bolts. The next step was to jump right in and begin lifting the building. Raising the structure was accomplished using my favorite tool, the handy jack. This small wonder is able to lift seven tons with little to no effort. On a hillside farm where level is rarely found, the handy jack is always there to right the situation. Notice the starting location of the jack mechanism.

Twenty minutes later the building was near level. Notice the ending location of the board and jack mechanism. I estimated the poles were raised at least a couple of feet. The upper-building groaned, creaked, and complained a little on the way up, but overall a pretty smooth process.

I decided on using pressure treated 4x6 posts sunk in concrete as replacements for the rotten locust. The new posts were set next to the locust posts and then attatched using 18 inch steel all threads. Drilling through the locust was a challenge. While, the bottom two feet of the post is rotten, the top was hard as concrete.

Here I am with the finished project. The rotten part of the locust posts were sawed off and the temporary cross beam was removed. I was happy that this project could be completed without any major disaster and that this part of the building is fairly level. Now onto other buildings, two posts down, fifty to go.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back to reality

Here's what I did on my last day of summer vacation. Self-explanatory I hope.

And here's what Farmer John did. More on this project later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My #1 Farm Tool

Alright, who's been keeping track? Do you know what my second and third favorite farm tools are? If you've been waiting with baited breath for #1 here it is:

My favorite farm tool is our Echo Chainsaw. Why is it the best tool around? It's lightweight so it's easy for me to handle. It's small so my hands fit around the throttle. AND, it's a chainsaw, which is just generally fun to use.

Here's Farmer John and the Echo:

Here's "Migrant Farm-Hand Becky" with the Echo:

It's a great saw. We used it to cut up a tree the other day. Farmer John usually uses the big Makita saw. Unfortunately, the chain came off and we were up on the hill and we didn't have the right tool to fix it. We still were able to cut up a truckload of wood.

We've cut about four truckloads of wood so far. We'll need some more before winter rolls around. A few more days in the woodlot with my trusty chainsaw should result in being warm by the fire all winter.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The best part of my day

Our eggplant plants have looked so good this summer. They are big and bushy. They also survived being eaten by flea beetles.

But for a long time they just looked like that - big and bushy. No flowers and no fruit.

But, lo and behold, look what I found today!

I breathed a sigh of relief, then jumped for joy, then called everyone over to "ooh and ahh" at the baby eggplants!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Feelin' Saucy

Yesterday we made applesauce.

First, Farmer John climbed the apple tree and shook all the branches. I do not have a picture of this to share with you, and for that, I am truly sorry.

Next I collected all the fallen apples, which turned out to be a bushel of them. It was much more than we'd expected.

The apples aren't the prettiest ones ever. They have lots of insect bites on them. But, we subscribe to Joni Mitchell's apple-growing philosophy.

In the afternoon "Migrant Farm-Hand Becky" and I made applesauce. We peeled, sliced and cooked the apples into a chunky sauce. This was frustrating because it didn't cook down the way we'd expected.
So, this morning we ran the sauce through the "Squeezo-Strainer". Farmer John plopped the sauce into the hopper on the top. Then we cranked it. The chunkiest parts came out the end and into the blue bowl. The sauce came out through the strainer and down the chute.

Finally we ladled the applesauce into jars, then stuck it in the fridge and freezer. We'll pull out a jar every now and then this winter and remember the bounties of summer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Dinner

This was dinner last night. All of it was picked less than an hour before we ate.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blind Calf's Big Adventure

Our blind, shaggy, girl has had an exciting week so far.

While Farmer John cooks dinner I want to share it with you. Isn't that nice of him to cook dinner? I should tell him what a good husband he is. In case you were wondering, he's making quesadillas - but not with onions, because all our onions rotted in the garden. Phooey.

Back to my point though, this week we've started to halter-train the blind calf.

We've never tried to do this with our other calves, but with the challenge of a calf that can't see us we thought we'd give it a shot. Another farmer that raises Highlands taught us some of the basics of this process. The most important idea is that the calf needs to know to walk towards the pull of the halter, rather than pull away from it. She was not about to walk towards Farmer John.

They stayed in this stalemate for quite a while.

Then I tried coaxing her along. Some ear-scratching and finger sucking was all she needed to get going. She was happy to follow anyone around the yard if there was finger nearby that she could nibble on.
We spent some time out in the yard, which was exciting because it was one of her only trips outside her stall. By the time she needed to go back to the barn she was a bit easier to lead with the halter.

Since then we've worked with her and the halter a couple times. Each day goes better than the last. She has stopped resisting the halter so strongly and will follow where we lead.
I tied her out in the yard today and left her alone while I worked in the garden. There was a lot of moo-ing, but she calmed down eventually. I think she might have even eaten some grass.

That'll do Blind Calf, that'll do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In the pasture

Here's Ewok.

I know I have said we don't name the cows. However, he was the first calf born at the farm and I started calling him Ewok and it just stuck. He is the most curious and most ornery of the herd, which is why he came trotting over to me in the pasture. He was ready for his close-up.
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