Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Night

Clyde out trick-or-treating tonight. Much more trick than treat. 


Our cat Beast is missing. We noticed on Saturday that he wasn't around. We were outside a lot working on the cabin, and he wasn't getting underfoot - which isn't like him at all. He's disappeared before, and been gone for about a week. I'm worried about him, and wishing he'd come back from his adventure. 

In the meantime this guy has seemed pretty lonely. We've been giving Beast Lite a little more love recently and he's even come in the house for a visit. Everyone is hoping his brother returns soon. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Here comes Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is on her way. Much of the East Coast will be affected, and I hope people are listening to the warnings and getting ready. 

We may get hit with some wind, rain, and maybe snow. We aren't too worried, but we are prepared. 

After the storm this summer, we took some steps to prepare the farm for emergencies. The first step was to make sure the animals would be alright. We worked with NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) to install a spring development and water tanks. 

We have three large tanks that the cattle can access from different pastures. As long as the spring is running, and it always is, then the tanks will have water. No electricity required!

I'd also gathered some supplies over the summer. We have plenty of water for ourselves, along with some food and first-aid items. If the winds are strong enough, I wouldn't be surprised if we lose power. We are grateful that this storm isn't going to hit during a heat-wave, and we can stay cozy by the wood stove. 

Good luck to everyone in the mountains and East of us. Batten down the hatches and hold on!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Final Harvest?

Last week we got our first hard frost. In preparation for it we picked as much as we could from the garden. 

We harvested all the green beans, green peppers, eggplant, and basil. 

We then proceeded to eat green beans every day for a week, and slice and freeze the peppers. 

This is the latest we've ever had these crops, which means the second plantings really paid off. There's still more in the garden that can tolerate colder temps and some frosts. We'll be eating from the garden for a few more weeks at least. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

A day in the life

We have a friend that is good at reminding me, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed, that Farmer John and I are working four full-time jobs between the two of us. Most of the year it doesn't feel like that, but the past two months have been busy. I kept track of how we spent our day a few weeks ago. 

4:45 – Mollie wakes up (because I haven’t been sleeping)
5:45 – Both of us get up and get ready for work
6:30 - Wake up Badger, who is always sleepy in the morning, take care of dogs
7:00 – Arrive at work
8:00 – Fill student’s brains with all kinds of important stuff that we hope they’ll remember tomorrow
3:15 – Mollie meets to plan after-school tutoring program, Farmer John brings tools to school and works on our car in the parking lot
5:00 – Arrive back at the farm, take care of dogs
5:15 – Get beef order ready
5:30 - Deliver beef and visit with customers in town (Thanks Scott and Linda!)
6:00 – Visitation in Paden City (We’ll miss you and your music Mike)
6:45 – Mollie washes and packs eggs, Farmer John takes care of chickens and cats then starts coals for grill
7:15 – Cook dinner, prep for Farmer’s Market
7:45 – Dinnertime – steak, leftover garden salad, and corn from Scott’s garden
8:10- Clean up, take care of dogs
8:20- Get ready for work tomorrow, collapse on couch
9:05 – Goodnight!

This was an average day for us. We usually have meetings after school, then try to get into town in the evenings for any errands and to go to our gym. Our days are busy, and we wish we had more time to work on the farm. However, everything always seems to get done one way or another. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Birthday!

This is reason #1,617 why I love Farmer John. Happy Birthday to my favorite Lumberjack!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wood weekend

There's a quote by some old-white-guy that says wood warms twice, or three times, I'm not sure.  But, after this past weekend I'm convinced it warms SO MUCH MORE than whatever he said.

First there's the hauling out into the field.

Then comes the cutting into stove-length chunks. 

Then, inevitably, there's the fixing of equipment. And, as was our case this weekend, there was the trip to the hardware store to buy a new chain and some sharpening files. 

Next Farmer John got warmed up by splitting lots and lots of wood. He was so warmed up that he broke the new handle on the splitting maul. 

Which meant another trip to town for a new handle. However, the old-white-guy standing next to him in the handle aisle recommended that he just by a new maul. "Hope you're not buyin' that for a splittin' maul. It'll break right at the end." Farmer John took his advice. 

We were back in business and the warming continued with the loading of the truck...

the unloading of the truck...

and the stacking.

Finally we loaded the truck for the fourth time, and cleaned up all the tools.

Thanks to our hard-working wood crew we have half a winter's worth of wood cut. By my count it's already warmed us eight times, and we haven't even burned it yet!

Monday, October 15, 2012

By the numbers

1 weekend
2 visiting parents
3 rowdy dogs
1 new chainsaw chain
1 new splitting maul handle
1 broken splitting maul handle
1 new splitting maul
0 hydraulic wood splitters
4 strong backs
4 truck-loads of wood
Half a winter's worth of wood

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Building the Bathroom

**A treat for you on the blog, today's post is by Farmer John himself.** 

The cabin project continues. We've built a form, roughed in the water lines, and poured a slab for the bathroom at the cabin. This weekend we made BIG progress.

Really, I should say that Mark made BIG progress. Our friend Mark used to be a carpenter and was in charge of crews that built and renovated hotels. Have you ever stayed at a Marriott? Yeah, that was Mark. Anyway, he's been helping us with this whole project. He made the plans and got a materials list together. He's given us some materials that he had at his farm. And, on Saturday he volunteered his tools, time, and energy to framing the room. 

The project started by drilling holes in treated 2x4's to attach the bottom plate to the slab.  This would make it easier to place the framed wall onto the bolts to be fastened down. We might have gone a little overboard on bolts, but we poured the slab not long after the infamous derecho and I had nightmares of our bathroom walls being blown into the creek.

We had our first setback early in the day when the compressor used to power the nail gun broke down. Break downs and setbacks have become commonplace with every project around the farm and we've become good at taking them in stride. While it is certainly possible to frame this small room with only a hammer, the nail gun is a nice way to ease the work and speed up the process. They are also probably the most fun of all carpentry tools. So Mollie ran to town after a small compressor loaned to us by Uncle John.

Before anyone could blink an eye Mark had two walls put together and we were hoisting them into place. The speed at which he worked was quite remarkable. In the time it took me pound one nail into a stud (and bend three more) Mark could have an entire wall put together. He and a crew of four were able to frame two complete houses in a week when he was doing this for a living. Our sixty-four square foot bathroom didn't provide much of a challenge.

After we had the third and final wall in place we realized that we had forgotten to rough-in the window. But after a few quick cuts and nails we had rectified the problem.

The frame was in place and now it was the time for roof rafters. Mark made a template with our first 2x10 and we used it to make the other five rafters. Mark climbed up the structure with a nail gun and fastened the rafters down while I handed them up. While watching Mark nimbly walk across roof rafters and shimmy up the building with a hand full of tools, I realized that carpentry would have been a poor career choice for me. I am much more industrious on the ground with feet firmly planted to the soil.

Sheathing came next. Part of the idea behind making the room 8x8 was that the sheets of plywood would fit evenly around the building without much cutting. For the most part it worked except that the concrete pad was just slightly out of square. The picture above shows us working the final piece into place and nailing it down.

Finally our progress ended for the day with putting down the chipboard on the roof. Mollie and I cut out the boards and Mark nailed them down. The room was beginning to take shape and we were beginning to get tired.

My first picture inside (partially) our new cabin bathroom. Thanks to Mark for all of his help. We will keep you updated as progress continues.

Monday, October 8, 2012

For Grandpa Toppe

** Thanks to everyone that commented or e-mailed after the last post, your ideas got me going again. Stay tuned for more regular updates. **

My Grandpa Toppe had a farm in my hometown. He raised some cattle and chickens. However, the livestock were gone by the time I came around. What sticks in my memory is his pumpkin patch. Every year he would grow pumpkins behind the barn and garage. Most years they did really well. There were enough pumpkins in that patch for my parents to throw a party and have their friends, and all their kids, come to the farm and pick their own. 

So, my goal at our farm has been to grow pumpkins, just like my grandpa. But that goal has proven to be a challenging one. Over the years we've lost pumpkin plants to fungal diseases, squash-vine borers, and general neglect. This year we thought the same thing would happen. The patch was overtaken by weeds (purposefully put there by the gas company?) so we didn't have much hope. 

But, look what we did yesterday! 

I've never harvested anything with tears in my eyes, but I did yesterday. I guess I wanted pumpkins much more than I thought. It was a dream coming true and I was filled with joy.

We loaded them up and took them to the house to clean up and set on the porch. They are nice decorations for now, but we'll eat some of them eventually. 

I was thinking about Grandpa Toppe all day, and I hope he would be happy with our harvest. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


If you've been following along with the blog recently, you'll have noticed that I've got nothing. No farm projects, no farm stories, and no new photos. 

It's not that there's nothing going on. Quite the contrary. The farm is busy. There have been projects, stories, and photos. I've just lacked the time and motivation to share them with you. 

Is there anything in particular you'd like to know about the farm? Photos you'd like to see? Maybe some ideas will give me the push I need to get going again. 

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