A Taste of Winter

Fall is finally hear.  The absolutely soul crushing heat has finally subsided.  You will never hear me complain about cool and cold weather.  I may get sick of snow after awhile but I hate excessive heat, especially humid heat (which, fortunately, we don’t get here).  Having the temps even get down into the mid-80’s later this past summer seemed heaven sent.  Now that its been in the 60’s, I’ve been in my element.

The weather is weird now though on a pretty regular basis (cuz nothing is wrong, nothing urgent to see here).  Yesterday we were in the mid-sixties.  Today, with a storm racing out of Canada on the now completely broken Jet Stream, we have two inches of snow on the ground and the high will be 27 and tonight it is going down to 14.  A thirty to forty degree temperature swing in one day.

So in amidst the canning yesterday, Zina was busy outside getting all the eyeballs and stomachs all situated for the impending early onset of winter.  The turkeys were fed and watered, the goats got fluffed up straw in their huts to hunker down in, the chickens are closed up and the donkeys are all dressed up in their winter coat finery.  This morning she went out and checked on everyone, broke open the waterers and just made sure everyone was cozy.

Next Tuesday is supposed to be 60 again.  Ever get the feeling we are totally screwed?

 

These are the sweetest boys on the planet.  Ain’t they cute!?

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The Pantry Is Filling Up Despite The Drought!

We had a terrible gardening season.  The drought and the excessive heat (because we all know there isn’t any global warming – idiots) totally destroyed our hard bean, carrot, tomato, pepper, potato, melon and squash plants.  We did get green beans, a few tomatoes, lots of cucumbers, basil, egg plant, sweet potatoes and celery.  Our garlic was great but that is because it is planted before the hottest time of the year.  The onions were on their way and then got wiped out in a hail storm.  So all in all it was pretty sad.  We produce tons of food and this year we kind of watched helplessly as it all withered in the heat and sun.

So as always, the problem solving had to start.  We are in the process of putting up hail guards and sunblock netting over the gardens by the greenhouse.  We may begin converting the big garden to more trees and berries.  If these crazy heat waves continue (Which NOAA says will continue until at least 2022 – and I think will continue well beyond) we will be continually learning how to improvise, adapt and overcome until we simply can’t.

I am in the midst of canning as usual though.  Our goal is to have a couple of years of just canned food in the pantry that we can rotate in order to keep current.  We are on our way and we probably have close to that amount of food (not all canned) if you take into consideration the 2 pigs and 40 chickens in the freezer, the never ending re-supply of chicken butt nuggets every day for breakfast, a flock of turkeys,  and the individual items that we have canned like carrots and beans, etc and the hundreds of pounds of pasta, dry beans, wheat berries, and oats we have in storage buckets.

We were lamenting the fact that the tomato harvest was a disaster.  We got a couple of gallons of sauce made but not nearly the same was the hundreds of pounds we usually get.  Low and behold though, we had a source to get some cheap!  Zina has a relationship with a food bank near her office.  In the past month they had an open house for their donors so they had a lot of excess that they couldn’t give away (probably because of food safety issues).  It was still good though, they simply couldn’t use it.  Usually, Zina picks up the waste to bring out for us to compost.  This goes to the critters and also to fertilize the gardens (We have fed our pigs loaves and loaves of left over bread from them over the years).  But this time she came home with about 40 lbs of Roma tomatoes and probably close to 50 lbs of potatoes!  The tomatoes were tasteless, but when combined with ours, it made a pretty good sauce.  I had already purchased about 30 lbs of potatoes so we combined them with the food pantry potatoes and spent all day yesterday canning 40 quarts of potatoes!  Brilliant!  So in the last couple of days we have canned over 68 quarts bringing this fall’s canning production well over 100 so far.

Next up is more split pea soup, white bean and ham soup, black bean chili, baked beans, chicken soup, and whatever other canned meals I can dream up.  So despite it all, the pantry is staying stocked.  Food self-sufficiency folks.  Get after it.  Even if it is just canned goods from Costco.  The prices will never go down, and…. well…. ex-financial advisor here…. the next crash on the horizon will make 2008 look like a ride at Disney.  Plus the food tastes better and is better for you.  Sorry.  It’ll make you have to do something else other than work on your short game at the country club though.  Bummer.

Two is one and One is none:

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She Gets Me

So as one does after making it around the sun again, I got another year older in September.  My birthday present and Christmas presents for the next 10 years will be my loom, but Zina surprised me with a great birthday gift.  Plastic gas cans, especially with their infernal safety valves are one of the worst inventions ever conceived.  You can’t get the top off to fill them and then when you use them to fill a tank, they spill everywhere and make you smell like gas!  I had a plastic one for diesel fuel for the tractor and replaced it with a steel one for the same reason.

So Zina got me a steel gasoline can!  YAY!  I detest plastic Chinese manufactured crap!  I never buy junk and these plastic “cans” were way grumping me out.  Now how many of you can say you got a gas can for your birthday!?  Woohoo!!

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Farm Conveniences!!

As most of you who follow along know, we put up a livestock barn this past winter.  After selling the city house and moving out here permanently, The farmer retiree can now take care of critters in a way that we couldn’t do when we were both having to be corporate slaves.

The barn is awesome and we had the guys that installed the solar system come out and run electricity to it.  That alone is fabulous!  Not having to lug my big ol’ generator out there when I have to work on something AND being able to switch on the lights while feeding in the evening is down right decadent.

The issue was water.  Out here we are practically in the desert.  Most of the time you can get things to grow if you can get water to it, but that requires irrigation systems (which we have) and lots of hoses (which we also have).  We discovered in a big hurry what a pain in the butt it is to drag hundreds of feet of hose to different stations for use – Especially when it is full of water!  We had a hose attached to the house that we would drag to the garden, drag to the apple trees, drag into the barn area to water the goats, turkeys and donkeys.  I was loathing this in the morning.  Last winter when the donkeys arrived we also were faced with having to haul buckets of warm water out to them through snow drifts twice a day so they wouldn’t have a frozen water trough.  Now with the electricity out there we can add a trough heater.

Fed up with the hose situation we got in touch with a contractor that we have used before and talked about running farm hydrants.  I was hesitant to do so as some of the last quotes we got were pretty shocking (the cost to trench from the well to the barn (about 350 feet) was considerable).  He quoted far less than this and we pulled the plug and did it.  He worked incredibly fast and had the thing done in a day and a half!  We had a line run from the well head up to the greenhouse, had a faucet installed there, and from there ran the line to the barn and installed a faucet there.  NO MORE HOSE HAULING!!  Woohoo!  The water pressure is fantastic and I’ll be able to hook up the faucet by the greenhouse to the drip irrigation cutting off a good 150 feet of tube and making the flow rate much better.  We now just have to walk out to the barn, turn on the faucet and fill the troughs.  Sisyphus has been freed!

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We Got You!!!!!

When I was first down because of my back injury we had a predation issue with a fox.  The sneaky little so and so raided our layer flock and in one morning while we were out to breakfast, attacked and killed a dozen of our chickens.  If you’ve ever had an issue like this you know how maddening it can be.  I can understand having a hen or two disappear because he/she wants to feed the pups, or just like everything in the world, it likes the taste of chicken, but not one was eaten.  Heads were missing, feathers were everywhere, but none appeared to be used as dinner.

We figured out that because I wasn’t able to get on the tractor to mow down the weeds, that this little shit would hide in them and then just go on a hit and run mission.  Over the past year we have had a couple of opportunities to get him, but I was still moving much too slow to grab the .22 and get him.  So in the last couple of weeks we lost 5 more and that took our old layer flock from over 40 last year, to 8.  We have 35 new ladies that have just started laying (It takes about 22 weeks for them to get old enough to start laying eggs). We were fortunate that it wasn’t these new little girls that were out in the free range field at the time.

How we got him:

We also had a family of feral cats arrive in our shop/garage this year.  We have a barn cat for mousing (affectionately named “Fluff”) who has dropped our mouse problems down considerably.  However, we have to keep the people door on the garage open so she has a place to call home.  We keep some cheap dry food and some water out for her and all works out swimmingly.  This year, though, I happened to look out the bathroom window one evening and there were about a half a dozen kittens and the mom bouncing around by the door.  Being surrounded by estrogen, this sparked a “kitty” project I don’t think we will ever recover from!  Zina got in contact with a woman in the area that traps feral cats and has them fixed.  She brought over some live animal traps and we spent weeks trapping kittens, taking them to the vet, having them fixed and then integrating them into the mouse brigade.

The cat lady, as luck wouldn’t have it, got into a car wreck.  Because of this we still have her traps.  After our most recent chicken slaughter, we figured “why not?”  We baited the traps with kitty kibble, put them out where I saw him/her escape, and about 3 days later, VOILA!  Fox in a cage.  This little shit won’t be bothering us again.  We are still keeping our eyes out in case there is another one, but it appears this year long battle is finally over.  I guess having a bunch of feral cats show up wasn’t the worst thing (except  the fox was also going into the garage to get the cat food – we would go in there and the things knocked off the shelf indicated that there were some skirmishes happening).  Thus endeth the fox saga for the time being.  This one won’t be bothering us again.

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The Weaving Game

With entertaining the mother and my sister in for a few days along with all the other farm duties, its been awhile.  We have had the worst gardening year in the 15 years we’ve been at this.  We had a horrific drought and the temperatures climbed in the 90’s and 100’s right out of the shoot.  The drip irrigations did their thing but because it was so dry the plants just respired the moisture into the air.  We had a few stand outs but we got completely skunked in many other areas.  Once we got a reprieve in the temperatures and the plants looked like we might eek out a harvest, we got hit with a major hail storm.  Done.  Oh well, I’ve got ideas in store for next year.  If you can’t keep looking forward, you should NOT be a farmer.

So the last post I put up showed the initial stages of making my first set of kitchen towels.  While I don’t have a picture of them all cut and hemmed, this is what they looked like fresh off the loom (Makes ya want to come over and do our dishes!):

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My second experiment after having my weaving class end was a set of placemats, table runner and napkins.  I learned a lot but I think they turned out pretty nice.  Slowly starting to understand what happens on the loom when threaded for different patterns.  I am having a lot of fun with it.  Bathroom hand towels are up next.

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I also had a chance to get over to the yarn store and pick up some cotton yarn for the Christmas project I’m going to attempt.  It is a type of pattern called “Overshot”.  My loom is an 8 shaft set up and so far I have only used four.  This next one will use all 8 and will be pretty involved.  Its a table runner and placemat and napkin set.  If I can find a picture I’ll post it later, otherwise I’ll put it up when its completed if I’m not too embarrassed to show it!  But these are the colors of course:

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The Towels Are Threaded

My first weaving project that isn’t class related.  I am making my first set of kitchen towels.  They are made from unmercerized organic cotton using a “Waffle” weave pattern.  Actually there will be four towels all threaded the same.  The difference in texture will be in how the treadles are tied up.  It’s all about which threads get lifted and in what order.  Weaving isn’t just the back and forth of yarn that you are likely most accustomed to seeing.  A good 80% is in the design, the warping process and then getting all those threads on the loom without turning it into a rat’s nest.  These are just about ready to go.  493 threads all in their own individual heddles.  This is such a fun hobby.  I’m eager to keep going (Of course, tomorrow I’m going to be on the tractor mowing for 5 hours, so maybe I’ll get it all wound and tensioned).  One thing for certain is that one does not rush the set up.  It leads to mistakes, which leads to cussing, which leads to…..

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