Homestead Update

Since Ed updated you on the bees I thought I would  update you on the rest of the homestead.

A couple months ago, I found out I had an umbilical hernia. While we waited for the insurance company to decide if I could have surgery, and then get said surgery scheduled, my doctor gave me one order: No lifting and no straining. Great.

I had visions of spending another summer completely out of commission. I am now happy to report that I had the surgery, it was a success, and I have just been given the go ahead to gradually increase the work I am able to do. Yes, I am obeying the “gradually” rule because I really want to get better.

Since I didn’t know for sure if I would be able work outside this summer, I decided to not have a garden. For the first time in years, I did not buy any seeds or plants. I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something. I am going to use this summer to plan next year’s garden, and work on getting the ground ready.

My camera got knocked off the table with the lens open, and suffered some damage. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Chicken Girl took these pictures, and had trouble getting consistent focus.

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Thyme growing inside the tire. If you look closely at the right side of  the picture, you might be able to make out the blue flowers on the Borage plant.

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Love in a Mist

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Wild grapes

The thyme survived the winter, and there are some volunteer sunflowers.  Last summer, I planted some Borage and Love in a Mist, but they just decided to come up now. Gotta love those unexpected blessings. I’ve found wild grapes growing in one of the fence rows, and some of the mulberry trees are producing like crazy. The blackberries we planted last year survived for the most part, and a few plants even have some green fruit.

The lawn and weeds have taken off too. Unfortunately, one of our weed eaters, and both lawn mowers are out of commission. Ed will probably want to tell you about that. I did pull a few weeds yesterday, but I got tired quickly, and decided I probably shouldn’t over do it.

The dogs have finally decided to stay put. Ed is two thirds finished with a new dog house, and they have already moved in. Libby is still digging like crazy, but she has found other places beside the fence. We just have to watch for the sink holes!

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Meeko and Chicken Girl “helping” Ed build the new dog house.

My mom’s best friend decided that Chicken Girl needed a better chicken coop, so she bought one and had it shipped to us. Moony and his girls are living there, and Sunny and company were finally moved from the oldest coop to the new one that we built. Everyone seems happy for now, and the eggs are coming steadily again.

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Moony and the girls in the new coop

Chicken Girl and I finished the school year, and we were both ready. Several months ago, I told you we were getting ready to start dissection in Biology. She did one crayfish, and begged me not to make her do any more. I didn’t, but I adjusted her grade accordingly. Oh, she just had a birthday. She’s seventeen. Time sure flies.

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Chicken Girl and the unfortunate crayfish.

Last week, we had three days in the 90’s and three nights of some intense thunderstorms. We didn’t have any serious damage; just a few limbs down off the big elm tree near the garage. One of those mornings, I stepped out on front porch just to take a quick look around. The weeds all survived. So did this guy.

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Frog just off the front porch.

This morning about 5:00, Ed and I heard a dog barking in our front yard. It wasn’t one of ours. We got up, looked, didn’t see anything, and went back to bed. When we got back up later, I realized two of the cats were outside. Captain came in, but Adora didn’t. We found her this afternoon. She was alive, and she didn’t have any marks we could find, but she was obviously not good. The vet couldn’t find any marks either at first. She has super thick fur. When he finally did find them, there were three or four bite marks and they were on her back end. So, he gave her fluids, antibiotics, steroids, and liquid nutrition. He said to bring her home, keep her warm (her temperature was below normal), and call him in the morning to let him know how she’s doing.  Now she’s covered up in a box in Chicken Girl’s room.

This is a picture I took of her a few days ago: A living bookend. I thought the glowing eyes were funny. IMG_2114

Well, that’s all the news for now.

Connie

 

 

 

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Endangered Skill #3: Small Appliance Repair

My dad tells stories about his older brother taking apart toasters, blenders, etc, putting them back together and having them work better, even with a few “leftover” parts. I’m not sure if that’s completely accurate, but I do know that my uncle was really good at fixing things. My dad isn’t too shabby at it either. He’s good at making what he needs out of what he has too, but that’s another blog post.

As a kid and young adult, I remember visiting repair shops where toasters, blenders, and other small appliances were repaired. Sometimes those places fixed TV’s and VCR’s too. I haven’t seen a place like that in a long time. I did an internet search to see if any of those places still exist. A few do, like this one that, at least for awhile, had a blog too.

I found one repair shop that seems to deal with large appliances, but had advice for small appliance repair. They said “Most small appliance repairs are simple so many people generally try and fix them instead of calling a repair person”. You can read the rest of that article here.

I don’t know that most people really do try and fix it themselves. I think they throw it away and buy a new one, because that’s how most of us do things now. That’s what I did for a long time. Sometimes I still do it. Sometimes things aren’t designed to be fixed either, but that’s another blog post too.

My next stop was YouTube. I’ve been part of at least two discussions in the last few weeks where someone said, “You can learn how to do anything on Youtube!” I don’t know if that’s true, but I know that Ed and I both have learned how to do things by using YouTube videos.  I use it as a home school supplement too. I will offer one little piece of advice about that, however. You might want to look at a few different videos, because the one you start with may leave out an important step, (or loosen bolts/screws ahead of time) and not tell you.

Anyway, I searched YouTube for “small appliance repair” and found some great tutorials. I really liked Adam DIY, and watched several of his videos.

I tried to insert his “how to repair a broken toaster” video here, but it keeps showing up as “how to clean a table saw blade”.   I tried another video on his channel, and it did the same.  The table saw video is the first one on the list, and for some reason that is the only one that will play embedded here. Here is the link to the toaster video.

This video from comeinhandynow, is good too, but it’s dealing with a more complicated problem.

Have you ever tried to fix a small appliance?

How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

Connie

Endangered Skill #2: Black Smith

I don’t know about you, but when I think about a blacksmith, I see a sweat soaked, soot covered man wielding a hammer. I think of him as someone from the past, as most of us probably do.  My research brought some nice surprises. Blacksmithing is alive and well! The knowledge is still out there, if you want to get it.

So, what exactly is a blacksmith?

According to the American Heritage dictionary, a blacksmith is:

1. One that forges and shapes iron with an anvil and hammer.
2. One that makes, repairs, and fits horseshoes.

Foxfire 5 has an entire section on Iron Making and Black Smithing. It includes drawings and pictures of furnaces, as well as explanations of the difference between wrought iron, pig iron, and steel. Of course, in true Foxfire style, there are the interviews with “old timers” who have inside information on the relevant subject.

“A blacksmith forges objects of metal typically wrought iron or steel. To forge metal is to shape it, by heating then hammering, or pressing it into the desired form.” Foxfire 5, pg 112

“At that time the blacksmith played a vital role in his community and was generally accorded his respect. There is hardly a facet of life his work did not touch upon; indeed without his skills , the prevailing life-style would have been extremely primitive. Most of the items a blacksmith made and repaired were either tools or other work related items, such as harness fittings and ox yokes. In a culture where everyone, even children had to work just to get by, it’s not hard to understand how important the blacksmith was.” Foxfire 5, pg 108.

The book goes into great detail about what a blacksmith does, the tools he uses, and the importance of proper care of tools and equipment.

“On the subject of tools, Leo Tippett said, ‘My father took good care of his tools. He never threw them down in the dirt, or on a rock. They’s scarce. My daddy’d give me a going over if I throwed a tool down in the dirt or rock. And I’m glad he did. You have to respect tools. Good sharp tools are the name of the game’” Foxfire 5, pg. 112

That comment, in itself, says a lot about how attitudes have changed.

Don’t know about Foxfire books? Ed wrote about them here.  It took us awhile, but we finally got the full set.

The blacksmith was important to a community because he made much needed tools and equipment. Today, much of what he did is manufactured in factories and shipped to stores where we buy it. One video I watched said the local smithy has been replaced by Lowe’s and Home Depot.

A partial list of things the blacksmith made is also listed in Foxfire five on pages129-131. Included are the things we normally think of, like horseshoes and axes, but we also find knitting needles, shoe buttons, nails and screws.

According to Simon Grant Jones, the passing of the time when horses were commonly used for work and travel spelled the end of the “traditional country smithy”. Simon is a practicing blacksmith, so take some time to explore his site. Another interesting historical fact he mentions is that often, at the end of the day, embers from the smithy were taken to the bread ovens to bake bread. Talk about members of a community working together!

Once again, I went to YouTube to see what I could find about Blacksmithing. I found a lot! The best one though, was this treasure.  Love that he had kids learning in the shop, not to mention the techie.

If you decide to try and learn yourself, let us know how it goes.

Connie

New Hens and Other Updates

Ed is feeling better and working to rebuild the dog pen. He hoped to finish today, but the weather has not cooperated. Cold and wet is not a good environment for someone barely over an upper respiratory infection, so he spent yesterday working inside. He worked some this morning, but then went to bed, because he has to work tonight. When we finish new pen, we’ll show you what we did.

Last week, I had the opportunity to purchase six grown Rhode Island Red hens from an acquaintance who had more than she needed. When the hens were delivered last weekend, we learned they hadn’t been handled much. Chicken Girl was going to have her job cut out for her.

When we first got them, we dumped them in the chicken tractor…literally. They came in a dog crate and the old owners upended the crate under the tractor, while we blocked the sides to prevent escapes. The funniest thing was that within five minutes of getting them in the tractor, Moony Rooster escaped his pen and came running to investigate the new girls.

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Moony Rooster

That evening, we decided we needed to put them in the big coop with the other chickens, because the tractor doesn’t have much in the way of shelter. That was an experience for Katherine. First, raising the tractor enough to grab a chicken that didn’t want to be grabbed. Then trying to hang onto it long enough to get it into the pen. Once she got them all in the pen, then she had to get them into the coop. Still, once she gets hold of them, they calm down quickly. She only got scratched once, and she considered that a win. Every day, it seems that they are easier for her to handle.

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Sunny Rooster and three of the new hens

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Katherine says this is Voca Hen. I’ll have to take her word for it.

The six new girls and the two old ones are having to work out their differences of course, but that was expected. Like she always has, Tundra Hen escapes several times a day. Then Moony Rooster follows her. Day before yesterday, during one of the many daily escapes, Katherine had a moment of panic when she realized Tundra was inside the dog pen. Then she remembered the dogs weren’t there. Later however, when when Ed was moving the dog house, an egg rolled out. Then I noticed the second egg inside the house. I guess Tundra was feeling a little crowded with her new coop mates. Coop improvements will be coming soon.

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See the egg?

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Close up

 

Have a great weekend,

Connie

One of Those Weeks

Well, maybe, one of those months.

Since Ed and I both write posts for this blog, we trade off weekly posting; last week my post, this week his. The idea is that we both then have two weeks to work on writing a post worth reading…Yes, I know, we don’t always get there.

This is technically Ed’s week. However, Ed has been sick for the last two weeks. What started out as a sinus and ear infection has moved to his chest. He went to the doctor for the second time yesterday, and she started him on a new round of antibiotics and a prescription cough medicine. He really hasn’t felt well, and to be honest, I don’t know if he realizes it’s his “turn”. I’m not going to put any more pressure on him than he has already put on himself. He missed two days work that first week. He made one day up, and has been working ever since, except for his normal days off.

Several weeks ago, he wrote about our constant battle to keep our dogs contained. Pallets around the fence perimeter seemed to be the solution…when we could get pallets. Unfortunately, the supply dried up, and we were back to using whatever we could find. At least twice a day, one of us would walk the fence, looking for evidence of new digging. Once or twice, we found some and were able to block the hole. I would love to go buy everything we need, and just fix the stupid fence, but we don’t have that kind of money, so we do damage control. At least Meeko quit climbing right?

Wrong!

A few days after Ed went back to work, the dogs got out, and I couldn’t find the hole. Using flashlights, Katherine and I walked the whole fence, and could not find where they escaped. I was doing some things in the house that made bringing them in for the night extremely inconvenient. In frustration, I decided to shut them in one of the rooms in the barn that had a cement floor and locking door. Katherine and I carried blankets, food and water out to the barn, and locked them in for the night.

The next day, Ed and I both looked for the escape route, but couldn’t find it. I still can’t believe that Libby climbed the fence, but I don’t have any other explanation for her escape. To see if we could catch them, Ed put out the game camera for a few days. The only thing we saw was chickens, three of our chickens have found out how to get out their pen, and have decided to free range themselves. The interesting thing was that the dogs really didn’t seem interested. Four days later, we found out how wrong we were.

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 From the game camera: chickens outside the dog pen. If Libby sees them, she’s not interested. 

Last Friday, we finally got good, gully washing, basement flooding, rain. We needed it. It’s been a dry winter. That day, our three free range wanna be’s flew out of their pen. I saw them and told Katherine. She can round them up faster than I can, so she went out to get them. A few seconds after she went out the door, I heard a noise that I cannot describe. I went to investigate, and met Katherine and Meeko at the back door.

“Put him in the house! He got Hoppy! Hoppy ran off!” Katherine was already running off to find the rooster when I grabbed Meeko, pulled him inside, went outside myself and shut the door behind me. (Ed was sleeping). My first thought was of Libby, but she was still in the pen.

Katherine and I found Hoppy hiding in the weeds. At first glance, he looked like he had been plucked. All the feathers were gone from between his shoulder blades and from his back, near his tail feathers. Later I would change the impression from “plucked” to “skinned”.

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Hoppy’s back near his tail feathers.

I rounded up the other chickens, and then went to get Meeko put back in the pen. Ed was awake and I quickly explained what happened. Once Meeko was out of the house, Kat brought Hoppy in and we cleaned and treated his wounds. Then we put him in a crate in Katherine’s room.

Did I mention, it was pouring? Yeah, we were all soaked.

Ed and I restarted the discussion we’ve had too many times: How do we keep the dogs in? Ed went to the barn and came back with two cables with hooks on them. His thought was that we’re going to have to tie them up, we just weren’t sure how to do it.

A little while later, one of us, I don’t remember which, saw Libby outside the fence. I went out first while Ed went to get his shoes. By the time I got outside, Libby had bolted. I saw both dogs on the far side of my neighbor’s house, and called to them. Then I saw the other dog. Meeko ran toward it, and then both dogs ran back toward me, with the new dog coming quickly behind. I got Meeko, and gave him to Katherine. I turned to see Libby head back toward the other dog. In the meanwhile, our neighbor’s son came calling the other dog. I called Libby again, and for the first time in her life, she came to me, and I was able to get hold of her.

The man was apologizing for his dog, and I was apologizing for ours, and somehow, Katherine lost her grip on Meeko. Fortunately, Ed was out by then and was able to get him before our neighbor’s son was in the middle of a dog fight. Fuming, Ed headed toward the barn with Meeko. I sent Katherine to the house for a leash, and when she brought it, I used it to take Libby to the barn as well.

Ed had to go to work, so Katherine and I would have to deal with letting the dogs out to do their business. That would be ok for the night, but what about tomorrow? Then I remembered the cables. I attached them to a stall door, and then was able to use them to let the dogs out.

Hoppy died the next day. We were even more determined. We know that we need to do something about the chickens too, but we feel that the dogs are the bigger issue. Even if we could protect our chickens, some of our neighbors have chickens too.

The original plan was to keep the dogs tethered out for a few days  while Ed and I did some serious refurbishing of the pen. We decided we would start over. We would clear the fence rows, and combine everything that we have to dig and climb-proof the pen. We would even get out the electric fence box and see if we could figure out why it won’t work. We would start on Ed’s next day off. The dogs would only have to spend a few nights in the barn, and a few days tethered.

The Ed got sicker. His chest is so congested that he gets winded easily and has been sleeping a lot. I can’t help but feel that if I had been a little more on the ball with learning about natural remedies, he might have been able to head some of this off. I’m not real crazy about his having to take a second round of antibiotics, and neither is he, but that is where we are.  I’ve been dealing with some health issues myself, and that doesn’t help either.

Ed says he is feeling a little better today, but he has to work tonight, so we’ll see how he is in the morning. Prayers are always appreciated.

As for the dogs, they are just going to have to deal with being tied out for a little while longer.

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Unhappy Dogs

Connie

 

Endangered Skill #1: Shoe Repair

We need shoes. Many of us don’t want shoes, but we have resigned ourselves to the necessity. We don’t want to be barefoot outside when it’s 10 degrees and snowing. Others, like the infamous Imelda Marcos, and my Grandma Elvera, want shoes for every occasion. Grandma had to have matching belts too, but that’s another story.

Shoes used to be made by hand. One of my favorite fairy tales is the one about the Shoemaker and the Elves. In the story, a poor shoemaker has only enough leather to make one more pair of shoes. He carefully cuts out the leather pieces, and leaves them out over night, intending to sew them the next morning. When he awakens, he finds the shoes already finished. You can read the rest of the story here.

Just out of curiosity, I got on YouTube and entered “shoe makers” in the search box. There were 89,30 results! Maybe shoe making and shoe repair are not as endangered as we thought. Still, they are not nearly as common as they used to be, and if the skill isn’t passed along, it could be lost in a generation. This is a nice video from the Victoria and Albert museum showing the making of a pair of shoes.

Most of us do not buy our shoes from the shoe maker. We get them at Walmart, or Payless, or some similar store. When they wear out, we go buy a new pair. Most of our shoes are mass produced, and the manufacturers don’t intend for us to get them repaired when they wear out. They expect us to buy more.

That’s not to say that you can’t find well made shoes that last; you can, but you will have to pay more than many of us can reasonably afford. Every day shoes used to cost more, relative to the income of the time, and people wanted them to last as long as possible. That’s why most towns had shoe repair, or cobbler, shops. Shoe repair shops do still exist, but often, the cost of fixing a pair of shoes may be more than the shoes are worth.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t repair our shoes when we can, especially, if its a job we can do ourselves. So, no I have never repaired my own shoes, but I do wear them until there is nothing left. I’m hard to fit, so when I find a pair that does, I want to keep it as long as possible.

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One of the two pairs of combat boots I was issued when I entered basic training in 1981. I was supposed to switch back and forth between the two pairs, but I didn’t. This pair used to be kept highly spit shined and on display. The other pair is long gone. I would still wear these, but my calves are too fat now!  No, those are not the original laces.

When I was in the Army, back in the early 80’s, I bought a pair of cowboy boots at the Post Exchange. I paid fifty dollars for them. For me, at the time, that was a lot of money. I loved those boots, and I kept them for probably eight years. The only reason they lasted that long was because my dad fixed them every time I went to see him. Both boots were resoled and reheeled, and he even stitched the faux leather, in the back of the ankle, where it had worn through. I wore them all the time. They were like an old friend. I hated to give them up, but finally, there was nothing left to fix. There is probably a picture of them somewhere. If I find one, I’ll post it on our Facebook page.

Another YouTube search, this time for “shoe repair”, brought 353,000 results. Many of those were made by professional cobblers, so I searched “DIY shoe repair”: 376,000 results. This was the first result. I have to admit, I like this guy!

Even if you don’t want to go through all that, take a look at the other tutorials available. The next time I have a pair of shoes that need mending, I’m going to see what I can do. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the meanwhile, you can always try making your own shoes. This was Ed’s first attempt at making moccasins for me a few years ago. Not bad for a first attempt, and I know he learned some things in the process. He really needs to get back into that. Oh, the beadwork was mine. I needed more practice too!

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The moccasins Ed made for me.

 

I guess the thing is to keep trying.

Connie

Eight Endangered Skills

In his post last week, Ed mentioned how leather reminds him of his grandfather. I have a similar relationship with leather, but mine comes from time spent in my dad’s shoe shop when I was a little girl.

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on the counter in the shoe shop. I was probably three or four years old. Dad would let me play with leather scraps. I remember turning the hand crank of the leather cutter and watching the split pieces of leather come out the other side. I remember shelves that held customers shoes.  People came in all day long, dropping off or picking up shoes for my dad to fix.

The equipment from Dad’s shop came from his father-in-law, my grandpa. When he was a young man, Grandpa had worked in his father’s shop just a few blocks from where Dad’s shop was located. The first time he saw my grandma, Grandpa was working in that shop, but that is a story for another time.

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My grandpa at his shoe shop. The calendar behind him says January 1956. He would have been 35 years old. Notice the shoes on the shelves behind him.

Today, as far as I can tell, shoe repair has nearly disappeared.  That got me thinking about other lost, or endangered, skills and crafts. I even asked my friends on my personal Facebook page what they considered a lost art. Several of them said things, like “listening”,“using proper grammar”, and “common courtesy” which are definitely endangered, but not really within the scope of this blog.

Here are eight that we came up with.

  1. Shoe Repair
  2. Black Smithing
  3. Small Appliance Repair
  4. Reading the Weather
  5. Orienteering (Ed suggested this one).
  6. Foraging
  7. Making and playing home made instruments. This one made me think about home made toys too.
  8. Making do with what you have.

Over the next few weeks, We’re going to look into each of these endangered skills, and what caused them to no longer be necessary. Then we will look at what each entailed, and what, if anything, is being done to revive, or at least preserve them. We may even try some of them ourselves. Ok, probably not black smithing, but I do have an old blender I might try to fix.

I left off things like sewing and canning, because I know many people who do those things, including people who do not consider themselves the “homesteading” type. I will say however, that those skills need to be taught to every generation.

What do you consider a lost, or endangered skill? Leave me a note in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

While I’m working on this, Ed is preparing for the new bee arrival. That will probably be the theme of his next post.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Connie

More of the Same

It was a quiet week on the homestead, except when we were putting the dogs back. It seems like we spent most of the week just doing that. Three times in one day nearly sent Ed and I both over the edge. However, we did agree that we could be thankful that the weather has stayed fairly warm, so we weren’t having to try and do all that with ice, snow, and frigid temperatures. On the other hand, if the ground had actually frozen this year, Libby wouldn’t be able to dig out!

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In the afternoon sun, resting up for tonight’s digging!

Ed’s pallet plan seems to be working. We just need to be able to get our hands on enough pallets. To do the whole fence line, will probably need about 75 pallets. How many do we have now? Nine. Yeah, it’s a work in progress, and basically damage control for now. We find  where she’s digging and block the hole with a pallet. For two days in a row, we went out in the morning and the dogs were still in. These days, that is a major victory!

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Pallets on the gate side of the pen

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Two more on the opposite side. This is where they’ve been working the most.

I had some concern that the chickens were taking lessons from the dogs, because Moony rooster has been leaving his pen three or four times a day. I think Hoppy rooster may be picking on him, and he just needs a break. When I mentioned moving him, Ed said something under his breath about putting a diaper on him and bringing him inside. Um…no. Not doing that. Katherine and I did notice that the hens seem to be a little protective of him though. It’s kind of cute. Oh, and they have started laying eggs again.

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Rooster on the loose!

Like I said, it was a quiet week, so I don’t have much to tell you. I need to start thinking about starting seeds for this spring’s garden, but I just haven’t been able to get much into it. To be honest, I’m just tired. I’m carrying too much weight and I’m still having some problems with my foot from last summer’s surgery. I’ve gone back to cutting sugar and other processed carbohydrates. I feel a lot better when I keep with a paleo type diet. The most exercise I’m getting is up and down the basement stairs, and back and forth to the dog pen. I need to work on that too.

This weekend, Katherine will start the dissecting part of biology. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.

Connie

We Surrender!

Well, no we don’t , but those words did come from Ed’s mouth yesterday as we were leaving for a day trip to Independence.

As I walked out the back door, I looked out across our front pasture. None of the pastures were mowed last fall, and they are  overgrown. Something caught my attention, and I went back into the house for the camera. A plastic grocery bag, caught by the wind, was caught in a bare sapling. As Ed and Katherine turned to see what I was photographing, Ed laughed and said, “We surrender!”.  I had to admit, the bag did look like a white flag.

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See the white spot in the middle of the picture?

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Here’s  a closeup

We all had a giggle and got in the car.

Let me back up a minute. Night before last, late in the evening, we had a thunderstorm. Yes, that’s right. A thunderstorm in January, in northern Missouri. I didn’t see any lightning, but I did hear the thunder and the rain. It poured!  So, yesterday morning, everything was pretty soggy. On top of that, the weather must have remembered where it was, because it was windy and getting colder by the minute.

As we made our way along 116, Ed said that it looked like we might be going into some fog. We’ve had a lot of fog lately, so I really didn’t think that much about it until a few miles later. The air became cloudier and I had a moment when my mind had to make a small shift and remind me that fog does not blow across the road…no, snow does that.

Ed asked if I thought we should turn around. I didn’t, and we were out of it in a few miles.

The rest of the day went pretty much as planned, and we got home in the mid afternoon.

The dogs met Ed as he got out of the car. Then Meeko decided he should come across the driver’s seat to say hello to me. While Kat and I carried in groceries and other things, Ed went to plug the hole. It didn’t take long.  They have found a new place, but Ed will have to get more pallets before he can fix it permanently.

I think Ed is right about the free roaming dogs being the major catalyst behind the escapes, but I also think they might get a little bored. Let’s be honest, they have nothing but time when it comes to figuring out how to escape.

Kat and I have slowly eased back into school after the holidays, and this last week, in Biology, we looked at fungi.  We collected two different types from outside, as well as a mushroom from the fridge. She was able to get some spore samples and look at them under the microscope. Her overall takeaway is “Mushrooms are cool!” Next week, we move on to sea life. We’ll be starting some dissection soon. I’m not sure how well she will take to that.

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The three specimens

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Investigator Kat

Ed and I went to the monthly bee club meeting on Monday, and Ed was able to order new bees. They should be here in April.

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!

Connie

Damage Control and Starting Over

That is how I would describe the last few months on the homestead. Kind of like one step forward and 250 steps back.

When we first started this blog, our thought was to chronicle our journey into homesteading while we deal with the challenges of getting older, as well as dealing with a teenager who has challenges of her own. The challenges seem to have taken over, and there hasn’t been much growth on the homestead. That includes keeping up the blog, and for that, we apologize.

When I started to write this post, I had to look over the pictures I did manage to take over the last four months to give me some perspective and see that there was some progress, albeit not nearly as much as I would have liked.

I’ve been scooter and crutch free since the end of October, but I still have a lot of pain and stiffness. I don’t have much stamina and tire easily. The doctor said it could be six months total before I am completely healed, so we are looking at another six weeks or so. The Lord must really think I need to work on my patience!

Ed’s work schedule leaves him unavailable four days a week, with the other three days for trying to catch up. It’s not working out all that great, especially since he has to spend at least part of the time finding and fixing the new dog escape route. That deserves its own blog post, but let’s just say that Meeko meets us at the back door nearly every morning now. Libby has got out several times too, but she insists on digging her way out and Meeko just finds new places to go over. Apparently, he has forgotten that is how he dislocated his hip last winter.

The garden was mostly a bust; and what wasn’t, mostly rotted on the vine. We did collect a few tomatoes, and I did manage to make some bread and butter pickles from the over sized cucumbers. I found the recipe here (You have to scroll down the page a little to get to the recipe). They were really good, and I am not a big fan of bread and butter pickles.

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Romas

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Lost in the jungle!

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Finished Pickles

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I know it’s hard to tell, but this is basil. I hope I get some volunteer next year.

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Awesome Elephant Ears. I think I was supposed to dig them up before it froze. Too late now.

The first week that I was able to get about without the crutches, I decided that Kat and I would harvest the sunflower seeds The same day Ed decided to start clearing the fence row between the yard and front pasture. We both worked about two hours and I pretty much wiped myself out. From Ed’s side of it, when he quit for the day, there was a spot where you could actually tell there is a pasture on the other side of the fence.

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Sunflowers off the front porch

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Sunflower heads

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Seeds and Chaff

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Ed in the fence row

The okra continued to grow into November. We had a super mild fall and only recently have had freezing temperatures. I decided to just let it dry on the vine in hopes of collecting seeds and using the dried pods for art projects…They are still out there.

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Okra “Fingers”

We collected quite a bit of honey, and even sold some locally, but then the hives were infested with hive beetles and the bees died. So, we are working on cleaning up the hives in hopes of getting new bees in the spring.

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Dead bees on the hive bottom

A few weeks ago, Ed, James, and Kat, built the new chicken coop. We officially have three roosters and two hens. The jury was out on Hoppy’s gender for quite a while, but his crowing made it official. Since we discovered that a single rooster’s amorous tendencies are more than one hen should handle, we decided to separate the girls from the boys, by building a split coop. The plan was to run fencing between the two sides, but the weather caught up with us. The first night the roosters all stayed in the same coop, Sunny attacked Moony and Hoppy. There was a LOT of blood. So now,  Sunny stays in “time out” in the old coop, while everyone else seems to be getting along fine, at present, in the new one. Yes, we know we still have one rooster too many with the hens, and that really, there needs to be more hens for the one rooster. We’re working on that. The girls, particularly Scarlet, did start laying eggs this fall, but they have stopped now. We got a couple dozen fresh eggs anyway.

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The New Coop. Notice there are two drop down doors. Only one is open.

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Shingles we found in the garage when we moved in. Just right for the chicken coop!

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Hoppy the Rooster

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Eggs!

So what else happened since July? In August, James had a relapse of sorts and is back on probation. Bam Bam got married in September. I turned 53 in October and Ed turned 66 last week. James and I have both had to deal with some Bi Polar issues and we’ve all dealt with a stomach bug that cost Ed a week’s work. That, of course, caused us some financial strain, but the Lord took care of us, just like He always does.

On a positive note, school is going pretty well this year. We finished a study of ancient Greece and have moved on to Rome. In American History we are finishing up the “Gilded Age”(1877-1912ish) and have formed strong opinions about Herman Melville’s writing.  Have you ever actually read Moby Dick?  Now, only morbid curiosity makes us keep reading.

Katherine has discovered a handicraft that actually sparks her interest: candle making! We did manage to get some bee’s wax, so we will be playing with some of that.

Although I plan to get back to consistent posting, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with it until after the holidays. If I can’t, Ed and I  both want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

Connie