Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Chirstmas

Merry Christmas from
Mollie, John, Coco, Badger,
and everyone else back at the farm!

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 Outtakes

As tradition dictates, here are the photos that didn't make the cut for our Christmas card. 
(Outtakes from 2011 here, and 2012 here)

Hours of bean-picking turns us a little stranger than usual. 

Too shy for the camera

Pig butts! 

Fresh pasture makes cattle stick their tongues out.

For several days Porch Rooster kept an eye on all kitchen activity.

One glorious spring afternoon, our hayfield became a softball field. 

Finally, we gathered in Lexington to celebrate the marriage of two sweet friends,
and I wore guinea feathers on my head. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Came Early Part II

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the comments about my early Christmas present. Unfortunately, no one guessed the correct answer. Fortunately, they were all entertaining submissions. Yesterday I became the proud owner of the 1953 International Harvester Farmall Cub pictured below.

I purchased this beauty yesterday from an old retired Pennsylvania farmer who was selling it on Craigslist. These tractors were the smallest of the Farmall line of tractors. They were designed to replace the mule on the small farms of the forties and fifties. Today they are coveted by small farmers for their perfect size and set of implements for working in the market garden. This one came with mounted cultivators and a snow plow. I already have a bare root vegetable transplanter that will attach to the back. I am excited to post some videos in the spring of this little powerhouse in action.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas came early

As I type this Farmer John and Uncle John are on their way back to the farm. They are driving their version of Santa's sleigh. Farmer John just called to tell me what they picked up in Pennsylvania, and he sounded more excited than I've heard him in a long time. I'll let him tell you and share photos. But, in the meantime any guesses what he got? 
P.S. - No guessing if I already hinted at this in an email (A+K) or on the phone (Sam). 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The farm on Instagram

Instagram is a social-media site that is a platform for sharing photos. We've been enjoying snapping photos on our phones and posting them through Instagram (and sometimes Twitter). If you follow the farm then you'll be familiar with these shots. If not, you can follow us by clicking on the icons over there on the left. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013


It sounds like Winter has hit some areas of the country, and it may be headed our way. 

This morning, on our way to school, Farmer John and I listened to reports of very scary wind chills in Montana. It made me think about the farmers, ranchers, and cattle in that area. I hope they all stay safe and have a way to care for their herds. 

I know some farmers in Wisconsin are dealing with all the new snow. Thankfully, they know what they are doing when it comes to that type of weather. Even if they do need to break up ice on their water troughs with a sledgehammer. 

As for our farm, the temperature is supposed to drop. I'm glad we have plenty of wood for the stove. Farmer John keeps a close eye on all the animals over the winter, and although it will be cold, they won't be in danger. I think we will end up with just rain, so Farmer John will keep his fingers crossed that it won't be too much and I'll hope that it turns to snow. 

Monday, December 2, 2013


Post by Farmer John

Our farmer friends George and Julie are moving. It is a sad occasion because their encouragement and example of how small farms work in our area was vital to me taking the big step to full time farming. George is ready for retirement so they bought a few acres in Missouri along a nice clear steam so he can slow down. They are in the process of liquidating some  farm machinery and crops. He called me up and asked if I wanted some non-GMO open pollinated ear corn for my livestock. I said sure. 

George grows a few acres of corn every year to fatten a few hogs and feed his chickens. He has the equipment to plant, cultivate, and pick his few acres from the seat of a tractor. It is a pretty slick operation. This picture below shows us unloading corn from the gravity wagon onto the elevator and into the back of the truck. All of this equipment is older than I am but still works well.

Once the corn is loaded into the back of the truck we can slowly drive it back to the farm. A truckload equals about a ton. To measure the corn weight we made a couple of trips to the gravel yard truck scales.

There is an old corn crib in the upper building at the farm. Corn cribs have slatted sides and are the perfect dimension for drying ear corn. At one time, there were several other corn cribs around the place but they have rotted back into the ground over the years. This corn crib is still several sizes larger than I need. I don't have an elevator like George so I have to unload the corn by the shovel full.

Here is Mollie in the crib with all of our organic corn. We have to wait about a month until all the corn is dry before using. My neighbor has an old hand crank sheller we can borrow to shell the corn. Once it is shelled I can take it to town to be ground into chicken and pig feed. I am excited to feed  my animals local organic corn and will save some seed from this batch to plant an acre or two of corn next year.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not Santa

After our house became filled with smoke on Saturday night, we decided it was time to clean the chimney. John used a wire chimney brush to clean out some of the gunk that had built up since the last cleaning. Then we emptied the stovepipes. Finally I cleared out all the ashes from the stove. And although it was a sunny morning, it was one of the coldest we've had so far. It wasn't the best day to let the fire go out, but it was necessary. Since then we've been very cozy near the woodstove and the house has been smoke free. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Constructing the High Tunnel - Part #2 (aka the correct video)


Sorry about the video mix-up yesterday. I would have fixed it sooner, but it was raining so our internet didn't work. If only we still had Patrik around to keep us in line! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Constructing the High Tunnel - Part #1

Farmer John and the Tajik Goat Herder have been hard at work on the high tunnel. Their first step was to unload all the pieces from the delivery truck. Everything was unloaded in a wide spot in the road across from the farm. 

Next, they had to figure out how to get these long pieces across the creek. The poles were much too long for the truck, so they strapped them to the four-wheeler and pretended they were knights in a jousting match.

Next Farmer John had to figure out where the high tunnel would be. He measured out a patch near the other gardens and tilled the soil. He decided to till this with the tractor because it will be hard to get the tractor inside once the structure is built. We will probably use walk-behind tillers when we plant inside the tunnel. 

These are the poles that had to be driven into the ground to anchor the structure. We had a lot of help to install these. It takes a combination of a stake-driver and a sledge-hammer to sink them 5 feet into the ground. After driving 38  poles there were a few sore muscles, a couple blisters, and one broken 8 pound sledge hammer. 

The next step was putting up the arches. So far, this has been the most satisfying part of the project. 

After the arches were in place, the cross-braces had to be attached. This part was more of a challenge because the guys had to be on ladders. We may need to borrow or buy a much taller ladder soon. There are purlins which run the length of the ridge of the gable, which is about 16 feet high. 

Farmer John is waiting on the re-shipment of a few pieces. He'll continue construction once they arrive. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

International Harvester Farmall Super C

I've undertaken a project to restore our Farmall Super C. In the time Mollie and I have lived here this tractor has been  a lawn ornament collecting rust and weeds. But I've got big plans to turn it into a working tractor again  for cultivating, planting, and plowing my vegetable gardens.

The Super C was purchased used by my grandfather in the mid 1950's. It significantly changed the way farm-work was done. Before the Farmall all the work was done around the farm by the horses, Fred and Blanche. They were a big part of my father's childhood. He loved Fred. He didn't always have nice things to say about Blanche who enjoyed biting him. With a tractor they were able to use a square baler (all the hay was put in loose with horses) and significantly increase their corn acreage on neighboring farms which they used to raise hogs and cattle.

My grandfather always operated the Farmall. It could get pretty dangerous trying to operate a tricycle-front-end tractor on the hillsides of West Virginia. When he passed away in 1990 my father did not wait to long to go buy a Massey Ferguson with a wide front end and lower center of gravity. So we parked the Farmall and haven't used it much since.

Farmall Super C's were great crop tractors. I am now farming more vegetables and crops so it makes sense to get the old gal running and productive again. But that's not the only reason for restoring the C, it gives me a connection to my father, grandfather, and the the farm's past which is pretty priceless.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Before + After #3

Before: Matching overalls (because we're farm dorks)

                After: Muddy matching overalls (because we pulled up all the black plastic mulch)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Before + After #2

Before: Amish Pie Pumpkin

After: Pie for an early Thanksgiving celebration

We have a few more of these pumpkins stored in the cellar. What is your favorite way to use pumpkin?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Clyde strikes again

Clyde has been finding his way out of the fence a lot recently. In truth, he doesn't find his way out, he MAKES a way out. Using his horns he rips big gaps in the fence, and then strolls right through. We've found him in the yard almost every day for the past week. Farmer John and The Tajik Goat Herder have some plans to work on fence repairs soon. Clyde has always been relentless in his search for green grass, so I'm sure it won't be the last time we see him snacking outside the fence. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spreading Lime

Today's post by Farmer John

I've heard raising cattle and other ruminants referred to as "grass farming". Growing good grass should be your focus. The goal is to have the healthiest and most nutritious forage possible. The cattle simply harvest your crop for you. There is a lot to learn about growing healthy stands of grass, but it all starts with the soil. Our soil is nutrient rich, but too little of these nutrients can be used by the grasses because the soil is too acidic in our region. The only reasonable way to correct the acid soil (4.0) to a good pH (6.0) is by adding lime.

We recently enrolled in a lime cost-share program through our local conservation district. They will come to your farm, spread the lime, and pay a 50% reimbursement on the cost. Sounds like a pretty great deal to me.

The first step is taking soil samples from around the pasture to find out the exact soil deficiencies. We sent these samples to WVU and they made recommendations on how much lime to add to the pastures. We had very low pH so they recommended 3 tons per acre.

Next the good folks from the conservation district show up with the lime and equipment to spread it. We had almost 63 tons of lime spread onto our fields. This covered about half of our pasture acreage. We will have the rest of the acreage completed later.

After the lime is spread, it will take about a year for it to settle into the soil and neutralize the acidity. The result will hopefully be more grass growth, bigger gains on the cattle, and more profit from the beef. We hope it all works as planned.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beans, beans, beans

This year was the first year we ever grew dry beans. They were very easy to grow, the work came after they were dry.

First they have to be harvested from the garden. Migrant Farm Hand Becky and I picked a bucket of them to test out the process. Then when my parents were here they picked the rest.

After they are picked, beans have to come out of the shells. This can be done by hand, but it's much easier and quicker to do large batches at a time. Patrick the "Tajik Goat Herding Farm Hand" took up the challenge. He loaded a batch into a feed sack and then stomped on them. Once the shells are cracked the beans come out. 

The next step is getting rid of the shells and chaff. Most of the shells can be picked out by the handful. Then we pour the beans out of the feed sack and into a bucket. This was done in front of a fan. In the process of pouring the fan would blow away the dirt and chaff and the beans would go into the bucket. After passing the beans back and forth in front of the fan a few times, we had a clean bowl of beans. 

As you can see our three varieties of beans are mixed. We grew kidney, pinto, and black beans. So the next step was sorting those beans by variety. We really didn't find a quick way of doing this besides        feeding our helpers some wine and dinner and asking them to do it.

 Finally the beans were sorted into Mason jars and we put them all in the freezer. Freezing them ensures that all the little bugs that may be in them are dead. (I should note that this photo is only part of the harvest.)

We'll be ready for lots of soups and chili this winter. What are your favorite ways to use beans?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Since You've Been Gone

Since you've been gone:

We've cried, we have cried so hard sometimes.
We've laughed, we have laughed so hard sometimes.

We have told so many stories.
We've listened to old stories, and learned new ones.

We've planted a tree for you - it's a Magnolia, and it's next to the cabin.
We've grown big beautiful pumpkins.
We've cut all the wood for the winter.

We've watched the Pirates make it to the playoffs.
We've attended a Steelers and Mountaineers game, but aren't ready to watch your Blue Eagles.

We've shared meals at your kitchen table, and lots of dessert.
We have fully embraced "comfort food".

We've passed red Jettas on the road, but it wasn't you.
We've tried to fix the driveway at the farm, but don't know how.
We've thought about the barn project, but it seems too hard on our own.

Your little boy turned 30.
Your little boy inherited your bid number at Captina Creek.

We've canned tomatoes from the auction.
We've played with Nate and Will and Mikey.
We've gathered as a family and celebrated Brittany and Michael's wedding.
We have thought of you and missed you everyday.

Your John Boy and Mollie Bell

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkins galore!

Pumpkins are my favorite fall crop. Last year we finally had a successful pumpkin harvest, which made me happy to the point of tears. This year the harvest was even better. 

We grew four different varieties- Cinderella (deep orange), Jarrahdale (blue), traditional Jack-O-Lantern, and an Amish pie pumpkin. Farmer John planted them under black plastic mulch, which may have contributed to the bountiful harvest.

We also grew some little gourds and Butternut squash. Both did very well. We sold a lot of the gourds at market, and Farmer John's Mom cooks some tasty squash. 

This little guy wanted to haggle over pumpkin prices. Farmer John gave him a good deal, and the kid walked his bike home with a bagged pumpkin hanging off the handlebar. 


Of all the parts of growing pumpkins, the harvest is my favorite. However, my second favorite will come soon - eating them!
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