Saturday, November 7, 2009

Visitors at the Farm (continued)

I've been so busy with work lately and too tired when I get home to finish telling about our visitors!!!!

When my daughter and her family arrived, I changed hats from carpenter to Grandma!  I started the fire back up and got it ready to roast hot dogs.  Nick immediately took over my job as carpenter assistant and he and Jeff got the roof up rather quickly.  After a quick lunch I uncovered the tractor and took Nadija for her first tractor ride.  She's a natural and all smiles.

We took our little entourage on a tour of the corn field and we picked an ear as a souvenir.   While we were out having our fun on the tractor, Kainen was comfortably snuggled to his mama's chest keeping warm.

All in all, it was a day filled with work, fun and play and as the sun started getting low in the sky, there was evidence of a good time had by all.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Visitors at the Farm

Sunday morning we forced our way out from under layers of sleeping bags and comforters.  And nothing.....I mean NOTHING is worse on a cold morning than putting your feet in icy-cold shoes!!!!!  I take that back.  There's one thing that equals it and possibly exceeds it!  That's dropping "trou" to take a pee when the grass that tickles your butt is white with frost!!!!!

The sun was shining and Jeff got the fire going and cooked breakfast while I got some stuff put away in our "bedroom".  While the bacon sizzled in the crisp morning air, a hot air balloon floated over the ridge to the south.  That should be me up there!  Jeff has promised to put me on a hot air balloon.  All I have to do is set up the appointment.  Seeing this was a great incentive!!!!

After breakfast we started right in on the roof.  Mostly to get it done, but working also warmed us up.  Soon we were down to sweatshirts and making good progress.  We got 2 sheets of the metal roofing up when our guests arrived.  My daughter and her husband and their two kids came to see the farm for the first time.  And what fun we had.  More about that in my next post.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stars and Shivers

So we get to the farm after visiting the potters and set up camp.  I'm thinkin' "This is gonna be really nice having 4 solid walls around me while I sleep.  We will be MUCH warmer than we were in the tent two weeks ago!!!"  Man, I couldn't have been more wrong!  We built a fire under a cloudy sky and Jeff cooked up dinner while I got our "home" ready in the shed.  (Note the open gable under the roof peak.)

After dinner we just sat around the fire for a couple hours and listened to the coyotes come out of their dens and talked and ate roasted marshmallows.  Around 10 pm we looked up at the sky and the clouds had moved out.  We could see the Milky Way!!!  It looked like a mist across the sky, but when we looked at it with the binoculars, it was a gazillion little stars!!!!

With everyone falling asleep sitting up, I think we crawled into bed around 11 pm.  We had four sleeping bags.  We were each inside one, with another one over the top of us.  The dogs were on the bed with us for additional warmth.  I threw my coat over my feet and Dakota.  Jaeger was snuggled up between Jeff and me.  We could lay in bed and look at the stars through the open gable......which also let cold air in!!!!!
Around 2:30am I felt the bed vibrating!!!!! Jaeger, who has a very light coat, was shivering next to me!!!!  I climbed out of my bag and grabbed a big comforter that we had thrown on the floor for the dogs (ha!) and threw it over the entire pile of us.  He settled down and we got some shut-eye.  Sleeping wasn't as sound as it was out there 2 weeks ago when it only got down to 39 degrees.  We bottomed out at 28 degrees this time and it was a fitful slumber with trying to keep warm and all!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Saturday's Pottery Stop

I didn't post last week after going to the farm on Sunday because.......Sunday was my only day off from work.  Long drive out, long drive back and lots of work in between.  Then work the following morning!  ugh!  And we had an employee quit and "guess who" gets to cover all his evening hours!!!!  double ugh!  So enough of my pity party.....
Last weekend we got the trusses up and the OSB board on the roof.  Getting those big 4'x8' sheets on the roof with just the two of us was quite the undertaking.  Jeff boosted one up onto the edge of the roof while I was inside the shed on a ladder.  I grabbed and held on while he got a 2x4 to push it further up to me.  When I got a good hold on it, I pulled it up the back side of the roof, balanced it over the peak and down the front side of the roof.  We had to bring it all up from the back side since the shed is built on a slope and the front side is too tall to reach from the ground.  When I got the piece onto the front side, Jeff ran around to the ladder and nailed the leading edge so it would stay put.  Then, with both hands free, we finished nailing it the rest of the way together.  When all the pieces were nailed in place, we tacked a tarp over the top of it all and called it a day.

THIS weekend was another story.  We opted to drive out Saturday afternoon and visit some local potters that hold an annual tour of their studios.  Right before we left, Jeff discovered one wheel on the trailer was loose.  Looks like we might have a worn bearing, so everything in the bed of the truck got crunched in Tetrus fashion to make room for the stuff on the trailer!  Everything but the ladder fit and it went on the roof.  We got there later than originally planned and only got to stop at the potters that set up around the outdoor, wood fired kiln.  A bit about this kiln, cuz I think it's soooooo cool.

The opening is big enough for me to stand inside and it takes them an entire day to load the thing correctly.  When it's all loaded, it takes another day to brick up the doorway and cover it with adobe.  Here's a picture of the back of the kiln so you can get an idea of what it would look like closed up.

When it's sealed tight, they build a fire in the firebox on the chimney side and burn that fire for 12 hours just to heat up the chimney and cause draft.  Then they fire up the box on the side opposite the chimney.  This is the real thing.  When it gets going, the temperature in the kiln gets up to 2350 degrees!!!  The fire has to go from the firebox, over a baffle, around all the pottery and down through vents on the floor of the chamber THEN up the chimney.  Even then, a 6' flame shoots out the chimney.  Someone has to be present the entire 48 hours it's firing.  When it's done, they let it cool for four days, then open it up and take the pottery out!!!  It's certainly not a simple thing to fire a few pots, so a co-op of potters all use it and tend it together. Here's the side of the kiln where they heat up the chimney.

And here's where they add the wood to the main firebox.

And here are two pieces we bought that were fired in this kiln.

The one on the left is a platter that will be perfect for Christmas cookies.  The one on the right will hold the first pumpkin pie made from my own pumpkins!!!!
More about our first night sleeping in the shed in my next post!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Extreme Emotions

Two weeks ago (yes, I've been busy and I'll explain with what), we started building the shed walls.  Things went well, and in a few short hours, Jeff and I had four walls and a roof framed in.

While Jeff was tacking things down tight, I decided to take the tarp off the tractor and mow the "pasture area" where the shed is located.  The tarp was literally covered completely with Box Elder bugs.  Not being a bug lover, I used a broom and swept them off as best I could.  It probably took me 10 minutes before I was  comfortable enough to get close enough to grab one side of the tarp and pull it off.  When I did, I discovered a pile of grass packed neatly on the center of the tractor hood.  I lifted it and it contained one naked baby mouse.  The mama mouse must have grabbed as many of her babies as she could while I was sweeping the bugs.  I took the baby and the nest and laid it under the nearest bush in hopes that Mama would smell it and take the last baby to safety.  That didn't happen and I became the adoptive parent of Winthrop, the baby mouse!

This little palm sized guy is why I didn't update the blog last week.  He consumed all my free time.  Every 2 hours he was fed puppy formula with a syringe with a tiny tube attached.  Then his bottom was wiped to stimulate him to pee and poop.  He was thriving and growing hair.  He was becoming the most adorable little guy and I loved holding him in my palm and beholding the wonder of something so perfect yet so tiny.  On his fifth day with us, I noticed that he wasn't pooping when I wiped him.  I was hoping he was doing it on his own when he was in the shredded papers of his house.......but I was wrong.  And with any animal, if it can't eliminate its own waste, toxins build up and it dies.  This is what, I think happened to Winthrop.  I fed him around midnight on Friday night and put him to bed.  He appeared to be fine......but I found him dead early Saturday morning.

Here's the last picture I took of him Friday night.  His passing ripped a tiny, mouse sized hole in my heart.  I buried him this weekend in a satin lined box in a corner near where he was born.
Now, on to happier things..........
This last weekend, we returned to the farm with more building supplies hoping to get walls and a roof on the shed.  We arrived at 6 pm on Saturday and set up camp.  By the time we got everything in place, it was getting pretty dark.  Jeff got wood ready to start a fire.  All the wood we had piled out there was wet from the rain that day, but Jeff had brought charcoal lighter with us, so we should have been okay.........until we discovered that the lighter was empty and the matches were too damp to light.  Luckily, with the help of the cigarette lighter in the truck, we got the matches to light and built a beautiful fire.
Jeff cooked up some brats while I laid out the condiments on the shed floor behind us.  We dined on brats, macaroni salad and a bottle of wine.  There we sat under a full moon listening to the night sounds.
Fresh air and hard work sent us scurrying off to the warmth of the sleeping bags by 9:00.  Right about then the night sounds changed as the coyotes emerged from their dens.  We lay in the tent listening to them talk until we fell asleep.  The temperature dropped to 39 degrees over night and the coyotes woke us several times.  It was then we discovered the only parts of us that were cold were our noses!!!!  I slept like a baby and woke to a crisp autumn morning with the sun filtering through the trees across the meadow.

Jeff started the fire and cooked up coffee and bacon and eggs for breakfast while I fed the pups.

Then it was on to shed building!
While putting up the last 2 roof rafters, Jeff decided they weren't sitting properly and decided to take the roof down and replace the rafters with trusses.  It wasn't a happy decision, but he made it and tore the rafters down.  While he did this, I busied myself with trimming some of the brush along the perimeter behind the shed and took out a few of the branches of a fallen tree.  A small chain saw would have been nice then ...... as my shoulders are telling me this morning!!!!
We got the siding up all the way around the shed except for one gap on the back wall.  The gap will be closed next weekend......and hopefully we'll get the trusses up.  It's taking longer than we thought.

It sure felt good to get a shower when we got home!!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Buggy Day

What a beautiful day it was today.  Not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was a perfect 80 degrees with a slight breeze.  We got to the farm knowing we didn't have much to do.  We probably wouldn't have even made the trip today, except I read that if you leave the bug bags up too long, the dead bugs in the bottom start to rot and stink and chase away any new bugs drawn in by the lure.  Jeff gave me a choice before I looked at the bags.  Did I want to change the bags or whack weeds around 120 trees?  I opted for the bug it too late to change my mind?????  They weren't lying about the smell!!!!!!  OMG!  The aroma was that of rotten meat!  The bags were full to capacity with roiling, live bugs on top!

This was one of the most disgusting things I've done for a long while!  As I'm loosening this moving mass of bugs from the hangers, I'm being buzzed by incoming beetles.  Brings whole new meaning to Beetlemania!!!!  They were landing on my shirt and buzzing in my hair as I was trying to get the smelly bag of boiling bugs into a big, black garbage bag.  Ugh!  One down and three to go!  At the second location, after getting the bag off the hanger, I had images of the bugs in the garbage bag, escaping their prison in a massive cloud in my face.  I opened the bag cautiously, and, thank God, they were still in the little bag inside the big bag!!!!  I was now a bug bagging expert and proceeded to put new bags on the remaining two traps. Then I dragged about 2 pounds of dead and dying Japanese Beetles back to the truck.  I left them on the ground in the sun to bake them dead before we took them home to put them in the garbage.
While Jeff finished trimming around the trees, I checked in on the new pumpkins.  There's one that's basketball size and getting orange!!!!!  Another one is a little smaller and elongated.  They hold promise of being pretty big before the first frost!!!!

We had five Bluebird houses up this year and all were occupied.  We had Bluebirds in one, wrens in two and Sparrows and Swallows in the other two.  One Wren's nest had an abandoned egg in it.
While I was cleaning out the bird houses, a Bald Faced Hornet landed on the side of one and was munching the cedar wood off the side of the house.  I didn't think to get my camera out until he was gone.  Here's a couple of paths he chewed in the wood!!!!  Fascinating to watch, but I kept my distance.  They are a very big, heavy bodied, aggressive hornet and can sting repeatedly.  Not something I wanted to experience!!!!

We relaxed a bit down by the creek before packing up to head home.  That's when I discovered that my decision to leave the bag of bugs in the sun was a bad one!!!!!  I thought they smelled bad EARLIER!!!!  The stench was sooooooooo bad, we left them in a garbage can at a gas station!!!!
All in all, it was an easy day compared to the past few weekends.  We are taking the week of September 21 as a "vacation" and plan to camp there for a couple days and build the shed.  I will "shed" light on that week after it unfolds!!!  Have a great week!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pumpkin Harvest

Saturday was a good trip to the farm.  The pumpkins were ready and we picked them all.........but much to my surprise, there were a couple NEW big jack-o-lanterns forming on the vines.  The vines had recovered amazingly well from the hail and put out new shoots and blossoms and the new "babies" were about soccer ball size already!!!!!  We may get a few more!
As you can see there's evidence of the hail damage......but that should just give a face another creepy dimension for Halloween!
We finally brought some Japanese Beetle traps with us.  These critters do MORE damage to the trees in July and August than anything out there!  Spraying really helps, but we decided to try these traps as an added control method.  As we assembled them on the tailgate of the truck, we started getting buzzed by a few of the bugs.  By the time we got the first two traps ready to hang, we had swarms of them flying around us.  One even dropped into the trap before we hung it!  When we hung the second set on the opposite side of the orchard, as I walked back toward Jeff hanging his, I could see a cloud of beetles in the corn taking flight to find the scent!  The bags look like they will hold about a quart of beetles.  I will bet they are full when we go back next weekend.
So, I wonder, what happens inside the bag on the trap?  You've lured these bugs to the trap with a powerful pheromone.  They drop into the bag below, still smelling this pheromone making them as amorous  as can be.  Now you have a bag FULL of horny bugs.  Do they just screw each other to death?  We'll find out!

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Day of "Rest"

A day of rest isn't really such.  It's just a Sunday we don't go to the farm.  We both needed to stay home today for our own reasons and it was nice not to have to make that 3 hour drive each way!  Jeff got the windows ready for the shed and I made labels for the applesauce and jalapenos that came from the hail harvest. 
I also made some terrariums from old jars and moss from behind our garage.  Has nothing to do with the farm, but they turned our pretty cool, so I thought I'd include it here!  They will eventually have their lids back on, but I watered the moss and it would be too wet in there with the lid on right now.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Summery Summary

Ah, if it weren't for this day of rest, this blog wouldn't be starting.  We've got several people following our, sometimes comical, antics at the farm, so we decided to start a blog to make it easier on everyone......especially us!
We've been tending the farm pretty much every weekend all summer.  It's been a rough one, to say the least.  In the spring, the orchard was gorgeous.  Absolutely loaded with blossoms. 
The very first downside was finding that little voles had eaten around the trunks of some of the trees.  We lost a few and made a mental note to install trunk guards before the next winter.  After the blossoms fell and we started seeing apples, we started to spray.  Things were looking good until we noticed black spots on some of the apples.  A bit of research on Jeff's part revealed we had a fungal infection called (of all things) "black spot".....duh!  Another mental note to spray for THAT next spring!  Things were going along pretty well.  We made trips every weekend to spray and fertilize and mow and trim and...and......
We also planted a garden out there.  We put in 36 jalapeno plants, 2 pie pumpkin plants and 15 jack-o-lantern plants.

Then came the golf ball size hail.  That damaged all the apples.  We picked them all and made 6 gallons of apple sauce.  All but 2 of the big jack-o-lantern pumpkins were damaged so bad they rotted on the vine.

The pie pumpkins have thicker skins and survived the pummeling and will make great Thanksgiving pies!

The vines are still alive and blossoming and trying to grow some more giant pumpkins......but I don't think they will have time before frost.
It's been a rough summer so far, but nothing that we couldn't handle and learn from.
The shed is started in the pasture area and has a floor now, but no walls. 

Jeff is in his workshop working on the windows as I write.  Walls may be coming next weekend.  We'll keep you posted!!!!