Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rain and More Rain

It has rained all week here, sometimes just a light drizzle and then the downpours. 1/2" in the gauge this morning, Wednesday had 3/4". The constant overcast is a bit depressing, so many unfinished projects here that the mud and rain are putting on hold. I spent some time in the front garden this morning pulling grass and weeds. I had to give up when my fingers got so water logged I couldn't grip the stuff to pull it out. Didn't hardly put a dent in it! I'm almost afraid to go out back and look at the corn patch. Forecast is calling for rain every single day next week too. I don't know when I'm going to get the beans in! Maybe I'll have to mud them in! I'd really prefer to cultivate the ground so the weeds are at least knocked down a little but that may not be an option.

Crazy weather we're having......

Monday, May 25, 2009

Spike in "Suburban Survivalists"

A nice article I found this morning, written by Gillian Flaccus, a writer for the Associated Press.

Crisis Spurs spike in "Suburban Survivalists"

Gillian writes about how every day people are starting to wake up when it comes to the shape out country is really in economically. How ordinary people that would never think like a "survivalist" are now stocking up on the basics, thinking of taking care of themselves and their families.

From the article:
"From teachers to real estate agents, these budding emergency gurus say the dismal economy has made them prepare for financial collapse as if it were an oncoming Category 5 hurricane. They worry about rampant inflation, runs on banks, bare grocery shelves and widespread power failures that could make taps run dry."

"These people snapping up everything from water purification tablets to thermal blankets shatter the survivalist stereotype: they are mostly urban professionals with mortgages, SUVs, solid jobs and a twinge of embarrassment about their newfound hobby."

Nobody should ever be embarrassed by wanting to take care of themselves and their families. This country was founded by people that took care of themselves and even talked to and helped their neighbors. Somewhere along the way we lost that. We need it back now more than ever.

From the article:

"I don't want to be a slave to anybody," he said. "The more systems you're dependent on, the more likely things are going to go bad for you."

That's a philosophy shared by Vincent Springer, a newcomer to emergency preparedness from the Chicago area.

Springer, a high school social studies teacher, says he's most worried about energy shortages and an economic breakdown that could paralyze the just-in-time supply chain that grocery stores rely on."

Well done Gillian Flaccus, well done.

Lazy Day and Homestead Cheese

Boy do I wish some days that I was a barn cat. Just laze around, get petted and fed, catch birds and mice and at the end of the day just fall asleep where ever looks good!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Days-Self Sustained Living Style

It's been a busy few days for the son and I around the farm. We've been scraping the bottom of the hay loft for a couple days sweating out the first cut of hay. We just did 2 of our small patches to check the equipment out and make sure it's all in working order before getting into a big field. We got it all done and the boy cussed me a bit for baling them so heavy. Half way thru the job it got overcast and smelled like rain so I cranked it down a little bit. It didn't rain so I got the "told ya so" along with the dirty look. LOL

I took today off and drove up to visit some new friends and had a very nice time. Thanks Clovis and Sardog for inviting me. I'm so glad you liked the cheese, I got a bunch better at it, eh? LOL Practice makes perfect!

We seem to have dodged the rain so tomorrow will be bean planting day. I'll need to clean off the hay string that seemed to find it's way onto the tiller so I can roll the soil over for easier planting.
6 rows, 100' long will be the order of the day. That will give us enough red kidney beans to last a year. I'll probably get the melons put out as well. Tomatoes are also starting to take off after being about drown to death, I'll post pics when they flower out. I still haven't knocked all the grass out of the onion/garlic patch, I'm still miffed about it too, LOL.

I still haven't finished the chicken coop, actually haven't touched it in 2 weeks. Another half done project to add to the list. If my back doesn't peter out on me I think I'll dig a post hole or 2 for the enclosure. We need to worm a few animals and dehorn some calves too but I need to work it in somehow. The chicks are getting big enough to jump out of their cubby inside the coop and I don't want them to be lunch for the barn cats.

Oh! I almost forgot! We saw our first cougar! The dog was acting like the big scaredy cat he is, whining and such so I figured coyotes were too close. Went out and saw the big son of a gun with the night vision in the CRP about 200 yrds out munching a deer. Scary! I thought they were just urban legend/rumor. Guess not! Hope he doesn't run out of deer.

Just another day on the little bitty farm...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Self Sustained Living compared to others lifestyles

Sometimes I wonder why I ever leave my farm. People just amaze me. Okay, I'll explain it.... Tonight was my daughter's school awards thingy. She got an recognition for her full scholarship for basketball, an Excellence in English award and of course, her honor roll award. I had to linger at the end while they took pictures etc and was approached by some people that know me and asked how our farm made it thru the inland hurricane. I of course said "just fine" and I was then subjected to a whole string of complaints about the Red Cross storm relief food and how they gave out generic bottled water, how awful it was for them to not have electric and how they missed their favorite TV shows, how they had to wait in long lines at Walmart and the grocery stores, how they had to wait in line at KFC because the local pizza joint had no power, on and on...

What's wrong with them? I know it's not me with the problem. I ate ribeye, fresh eggs and home stuffed sausage, pancakes, smoked pork loin with fried potatoes, had plenty of water available, we ate better that one week that we do on "normal" days and we never left the farm the whole time.

Self Sustained. What does that mean really? For me it means not having to rely on anyone, a single person or governmental agency except myself for my day to day well being. I know I eat chemical free food and live a simple but comfortable lifestyle. It's the satisfaction of knowing whatever happens, I've got it covered. The world could burn down or be blown away and I'm still gonna eat without having to sit by strangers in a church basement eating something I can not identify off of paper plates with plastic spoons and forks. Every time I walk into my pantry I feel good looking at all the jars of food I grew and canned myself. What a feeling! If I run out of bread I know that the next loaf is just a couple hours worth of rise time away. I never run out of eggs, I always have a block of cheese and a gallon of milk. Life doesn't get any better than being self sustained!

Here's something else I love to talk about. Cheese. Artisan cheese often sells for $20 to $35 a lb. Store bought cheese is anywhere from $5 to $7 a lb. I spent $31 and I made 530lbs of cheese! Or, how about canned corn? Even at the discount grocery, it's .50 a can. I haven't spent any money on corn seed in 10 years. I can 60 pints of corn each year plus what we eat fresh and freeze for later. It's free. Same goes for peas, beans, tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, apples, pickles and so on. Since I seed save, I consider my food free. It does cost a little time and effort tho but I'm not spending money for it or for the fuel I would need to drive to buy it!

So, I'm self sustained. I take care of myself and my family. We live in an average home on small acreage with average furniture just like everybody else. What we don't do is the daily rat race. We hate the mall and Walmart, we don't run up and down the road every day and we don't eat out. When we want pizza, I make it for us. Our meals are not eaten in front of the TV and we actually talk to our children on a daily basis.

How's that for the American Dream?


Well, the chicken brooder-aka- 100 gallon water tank- is never going to get out of my frontroom! It's been 24 days and that duck is still setting on that nest of mixed eggs. So me being the curious sort I am, had to go mess with her. What did a find? I whole bunch of baby chicks. Some ran in between the straw bales and I couldn't catch them up, but I did manage to get a few. If I don't steal them, the cats get them. So I have chicklings to go with the chicks I stole from the RIR who is also still setting on her nest. Yesterday while she was off eating, I replaced the eggs with fresh ones since she's been setting for 45 days now and if they haven't hatched yet, they aren't going to!

I cut 2 hay fields yesterday, the haybine is working great and is ready for the season. They weren't big fields, just my back pasture(about 2 acres) and another 5 acre spot. Hate to get in a big field and have the equipment fail on me. I'll rake it all sometime this afternoon and with any luck be baling tomorrow.

I spent about an hour in my garlic/onion patch yesterday too. With all the ain, the weeds had gone a little silly. Somebody, not naming names, mowed the grass into the garden and now I have tiny spider grass growing all over it. The spot has dried out enough to make it too much on my back to mulch the grass out with the garden tool so it's gonna have to wait for another rain.

Other than that, it's business as usual here, waiting for something in the gardens to produce so I can eat fresh instead of my canned....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Farming stuff

The old beat up farm cat is still going strong. She's used up 8 of her 9 lives over the past 15 years and is too old to be having kittens anyway but she ran out the door and now look what we've got! She had 4 kittens on the couch. I knew it was coming when she followed me around all morning meowing at me so I put a towel up there and let her rip. Had to sit next to her so she'd stay there and get it over with.

LOL the worst part of it all was- I was working on a batch of cheddar cheese and every time I had to get up to stir curd or check temperatures, I had to get one of the kids to sit there. Kind of a trade out thing. As you can see, I got the cheddar done in good order and it's drying on the butcher block table.

Today will be a garlic cheddar day as we've eaten all of it and need some to sell. I've got a couple of regular customers now so I need to focus on cheese making more regular along with everything else going on.

We've finally seen a break in the rain, looks like just a slight chance of rain on Wednesday and clear for the rest of the week. Good news since I really need to cut some hay!

Crop reports have me a bit worried too. Seems the world is suffering a coffee, sugar and wheat crop failure. Since I don't grow sugar cane, I've been thinking about stocking some up. The price has gone up a bit lately which backs the reports. Maybe another 200lbs or so for the cellar is in order. Thankfully my little wheat patch is looking okay and is headed for harvest on time. Somehow my little metal harvester scooper thingy(guys at the coal mine made it for me) got ran over and broken so I need to come up with another one. I'm thinking I could whip one up from left over plywood if the single blade cut isn't too wide to catch the straw stalk. Tack it up in the shape of a wooden feed scoop and harvest my wheat that way. Peeling wheat one handful at a time will make for a long day!

This weekend I'll be finishing the chicken coop, I'll take pictures. I've already put some of my pullets out there, they were making too much noise in the house so out they went. Since I don't have the back wall or door on it, I banked them with straw bales. They're now big enough to jump the straw and forage but are returning every night to the coop to roost. Speaking of roosting, the door blew off the old barn stall I had my bantys in during the big storm we had last Friday. I was pretty disappointed because I could not find my bantys. No worries, they've returned and are roosting back in the stall every night! I continue to feed them like I always did in the stall so they keep roosting in there.

That about covers the farm news, don't forget about the wheat, coffee and sugar crop troubles, might be a good time to add a little to your preps and avoid higher prices.......

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lessons learned

I lost my favorite apple tree. Lesson 1- never depend on a single thing, always have a backup. One granny smith apple tree could be wiped out on you and then you won't have any!

Bucket baths are cute if your camping for the weekend. They just don't cut it if your going to have to do it long term. Lesson 2- have an alternative way to bathe and a way to provide enough hot water to cover everyones bath. Cold water just doesn't cut it!

Washing clothes in a bucket for yourself in an emergency is okay but if you have kids, forget about it. All you'll do is bucket laundry all day. Lesson 3-have a way to wash clothes, more than a shirt or 2 and some socks at a time.

Something else I've taken a bit for granted, my coffee. While I grow my own and have an endless supply, that 40 minute wait each morning to get a fire going, have a good coal base and heat the pot up enough to brew about made me unpleasant to be around! One morning was enough for me to learn I needed to brew it the night before and just heat it up for that first cup of life saving coffee. Lesson 4-think and plan ahead of time for everything. Doing things the "old fashioned" way takes much more time than the fast paced on demand society we are is used to.

Walking across the yard today to look at my poor apple tree was like it's been for the last month around here, really soggy! We received 3" of rain overnight with some high winds in the form of a nasty thunderstorm on top of everything we've already gotten. More limbs to pick up, again.

I am pretty anxious now to get the brick oven and grill set up built. This of course is not my picture, it came from a site I don't recall offhand but the lady I think has a vineyard and is from Italy and designed and built it like the one she grew up with in Italy. I want mine to be kind of something like it with a brick grilling/cooking area (wood fired) next to the oven and some butcher block or stainless steel counter space for food prep around it. I'd like to build it close to the house so I can incorporate it into the enclosed porch section of my home(still in the working stages) but not interfere with where I'd like to have the sunroom/greenhouse. I got lots of ideas going. I just hope my skills can handle my dreams as I get into the project itself.

ARG! The gardens will be overtaken by weeds soon if the rain doesn't quit. Way too soggy to even attempt to get in them to weed them. I checked the corn patch this morning and I'm glad I was barefoot because I sank mid shin. Woulda ruined my sneakers! So weeding is out of the equation for now.

The chicks lived thru the 5 days with no heat lamp. They complained almost constantly but now they have their heat lamp back and have quieted down. Glad I didn't move the bigger chicks out before the storm, the little ones burrowed up under them to keep warm. Big chicks are out now and it's back to the peaceful chirps of happy chicks.

I'm working on a batch of cheese today, gotta replenish the eating stock! Hard enough getting all the cows milked without the milker machine let alone have time to make cheese. The cows are happy now and I get to make cheese again.

I'm off to have another cup of hot coffee.........

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back to normal life

The storm is done and it's back to normal living. The garden out front, partially covered by the apple tree that fell over has a small bit of damage. I lost my cucumber plants! They were pretty big, already producing but could not take the high winds. Guess I better get some more started today to replace them. Too bad, I was looking forward to some cucumber and sour cream with dill. The already in bad shape ban had a few pieces of tin ripped up. It needs repair badly. Not even sure at this point if the joisting can hold my weight to tack the tin back down.

All in all, we made it thru in good shape. I'm really excited about my brick oven and grilling area I plan on building sometime this year. It needs to quit raining so I can pour the concrete pad! The wind caused some cooking problems for me and the rain was also a hinderence. Once the covered porch and cooking area get finished, one major trouble spot will be eliminated. The only other trouble spots I found were laundry and hot showers. I could heat the water no problem but the actual showering proved to be a bit more than we'd expected. So, I'll be working on some ideas to fix those areas as well.

So, I feel like my self sustained livestyle is a worthy adventure. I had more than enough home canned food and a way to pump water without electric, I had a way to cook, it worked out well.

Now for a greenhouse and an outdoor shower.......

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

more Inland hurricane

Nothing has been said on MSM about this at all. The rest of the world hasn't got a clue about how bad this storm has hit us. I know what New Orleans felt like now for sure. 155mph winds were recorded by the anamometer(reads wind/air speed) before it blew off the pole. Widespread damage from trees falling, homes an businesses smashed, etc. I guess the ice storm we had this past winter didn't teach people anything, thousands were caught unprepared. This is something I just don't understand. For us here, it's business as usual more or less. I of course still don't have the brick grill and oven built, it's rained too much this spring for that. But, a nice smoker/charcoal grill has been my stove and it's worked out pretty well. Now if the wind would quit, I'd be more happy with it.

Thankfully the gardens aren't real tall with growth, they weren't damaged much. I did have part of a tree fall in my corn patch. It'll need replanted. The chicken house was untouched but I noticed yesterday my corn crib is gone and my thresher is ruined. Both can be easily replaced as I built them both myself.

We're under another storm warning for today and tonite, another bad one headed our way. Just what we need is more rain on already saturated ground and soaking storm damaged homes and businesses. I'm sure a storm will slow the power guys down in their efforts as well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Inland Hurricane!!!!

Hey all, southern Illinois was hit by an inland hurricane Early Friday afternoon. By 2:30pm, 4 counties were pretty well wiped out! The farm got hit pretty hard and we've been out of power since Friday around noon. We're all fine tho, pictures when I have more battery power!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A crop for Self Sustained Living

Potatoes, glorious potatoes! We're obviously potato eaters, roughly 10lbs a week here. The cost of purchasing a 10lb bag of potatoes every week adds up to roughly $15 a month here. Doesn't seem like a bunch of money but that's $180 a year I don't have to spend if I grow my own. There's tons of simple and easy ways to plant potatoes and you don't need a bunch of room to grow them. Car tires make great potato growers. I grow German Butterballs and Irish Finns, they both have wonderful flavor and keep well in cold storage. Not to mention I know for sure the potatoes I'm eating haven't been sprayed with some chemical or picked and stored in some unsanitary way. I also despise buying a bag of potatoes that have been frozen during shipping, yuck! A big concern for me, I'm not fond of e coli or any other of the various contaminants commercial food seems to carry. Call me a stickler over that if ya want to, I'm just picky! ;)

We've suffered thru some serious rain these past 3 weeks, 4 days it hasn't rained in all that time. Hard to get things to grow when they're drowned and not getting sunshine. The ground is very spongy here and I am thrilled to see that the potatoes haven't rotted altho I did suffer a small section that appears to be a low spot where I've apparently lost the hills.

It looks like I need to get going and finish the chicken pen, those dang hens are scratching my hills down! They can't help it tho, the soil is fresh out of the compost pile and teaming with yummies. The chicks in the house are doing well and they're close to being moved outside and I need somewhere to put them where the cats and misc wildlife can't make them lunch. So, it looks like chicken house work for this weekend even if it's raining. I hate working in the mud...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Growing Thyme

This post is another request from a reader. I don't know tons about Thyme but I have had moderate success with it and have learned a bit about it's growing habits. Hope this helps you out HM....

Of all the herbs, I like Thyme the best. I like it because it holds it's flavor well in cooking and it blends great with other things like garlic, tomatoes and my favorite oil, olive. It also goes well with cheese, eggs, meat marinades and bread. Thyme weathers the winter well with a little bit of straw around it for protection. Thyme likes to be almost neglected, the more you tend it and mess with it, the worse it does. Thyme prefers to be drier than everything else and grows well dry. Damp soils make mold and rot the roots. It also likes poor soil to the richer potting soils or nutrient heavy composted garden soil. A full sun lover, it thrives in containers in sunny windows. The only pest I have in southern Illinois is those tiny little red ants. They seem to like the Thyme and nest in and around the plants occasionally killing them off. I suspect some root disturbance or maybe they are eating the plant.

The only other trouble I ever have with Thyme is when the soil is too wet like it is now with all the rain we've had this past week. Sometimes it makes it, sometimes it doesn't. Thankfully, Thyme starts easily from seed, just sprinkle it on some soil and barely cover it. Lightly mist the soil and sprouts in about a week if kept in a warm, sunny spot.

Hope this covers growing Thyme... happy gardening!

Growing Asparagus

This post is for lady in Pa that asked for asparagus help. My plantings of asparagus were inherited when I purchased my land and are more than 15 years old. Apparently, there are a few little tricks to them to keep them going. Mine keep growing to spite me I think. Here's an article I found that is very instructive. I don't use the fertilizer or weed killer they suggest(hate commercial stuff) but it's still a good instructional piece. It's from Ohio State and it's posted here. I liked the part of it I posted here very much and it covers how I harvest mine. After the harvest, I just kind of neglect mine, it ferns out into a big mess I mow around for the rest of the year.

Asparagus spears will start to emerge when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F. After this, growth of asparagus is dependent on air temperature. Early in the season, 7 to 9 inch spears might be harvested every 2 to 4 days. As air temperatures increase, harvesting frequencies will increase to once or twice per day, harvesting 5 to 7 inch spears before the tips start to fern out and lose quality. The second year after planting, the length of harvest can increase to about 4 to 6 weeks. The third year after planting and thereafter, harvesting can continue for 6 to 8 weeks. Since the length of harvest season will vary from year-to-year depending on air temperature, stop the harvest when the diameter of 3/4 of the spears becomes small (less then 3/8 inch). Experience gained by growing the crop will make it easier for the gardener to know when to discontinue the harvest.

Also provided is a list of Asparagus crown growers. I copied them for convenience...

Some Asparagus Crown Sources *

  1. Jersey Asparagus Farms, Inc.
    R.D. 5, Box 372
    Newfield, NJ 08344
    (609) 358-2548
  2. Nourse Farms, Inc.
    Box 485 RFD
    South Deerfield, MA 01373
    (413) 665-2658
  3. Daisy Farms
    91098-60th St.
    Decatur, MI 49045
    (616) 782-7131
  4. Krohne Plant Farms
    Rt.6, Box 586
    Dowagiac, MI 49047
    (616) 424-345

Stacey, I hope this helps. Good luck and happy gardening!