Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The New Website is Up

I finally put up a website for garlic sales. I tried doing a blog, but decided after Amy told me about a free website service, to go for it. This is a link to it here. It called Big Red Barn Gourmet Garlic. Like before, I don't have the shipping worked out, but there is a contact page and we can add shipping after you place your order. It is a big relief to have the site up because the time for planting garlic is closing in fast. Check it out. Maybe you would like to try a different kind or two.

On the home front...I have been picking & steam juicing more elderberries. I also have lots of tomatoes coming in so another batch will be juiced tomorrow. Blackberries are coming in very slowly. A few every day. They are huge though.

As most of you know, I rarely relax, but I decided that has to change. Now, the last couple of nights, about an hour before sunset, I have been bringing all the animals outside to play. Mia isn't much for playing, so she sits on the retaining wall & looks around. Tigger is stalking everything in site :-) & Vinnie just likes being outside even though he isn't allowed to walk around too much yet. Tonight, I let the chickens out of the run (Vinnie was on a leash) & let them forage where ever they wanted. The still stayed close to the coop, but I'm sure they will get braver the more they are out there. I can find things to do around here 24 hours a day. I just have to choose not to.

So it is 11pm & I need to relax & go to bed. Another busy day tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We had a fun & relaxing (me anyway) weekend. Amy & Rob came up to visit. They always volunteer to help us with projects and we let them. :-). Rob helped Steve build a door for the chicken run and did some landscaping which required moving the dirt pile I hadn't gotten to yet. Thanks Rob! We put up the predator lights on Sunday along with window latches. Still a couple things to do, but isn't there always "one more thing" to do?
Rob & Steve working on the door.
The small black boxes are predator lights.
Amy & I harvested bunches of elderberries which we steam juiced afterward. I didn't get a pic of the elderberries in the steamer, but here are the apples & tomatoes I did earlier. FYI: I was stung by a wasp while we were harvesting, squeezed an elderberry on it, and the sting went away. Never knew it would do that.

We went out to eat at the Driftless Cafe for pizza later & then started a campfire. A few beers, a little wine, good conversation & a zillion stars watched later, it was time for bed.  Sunday morning after breakfast, Steve & I packed up some garlic orders for them to take back.
First canteloupe I've ever grown.

Too soon, it was time for them to head back home. We had a great time & Vinnie & Tigger miss a you guys :-).
I have to say that I am in love with the steamer/juicer I bought. It  is a Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer made in Finland. I keep thinking of new things to make in it. So far I've done tomato juice, spiced apple juice and elderberry juice. After juicing the tomatoes & apples, I used the food strainer & made a tomato puree which I added back into the juice for a thicker drink (along with peppers, celery, onion, garlic, etc.) and apple sauce, which I froze. Today, I made another batch of apples & tomorrow I hope to can the applesauce, I will run out of room in the small freezer we have if I don't start canning more. I also picked beets & turnips tonight. The turnips I peeled & sliced to dehydrate and the beets I will can in the morning along with the applesauce.
In between all that, I am still working on the website for garlic sales and trying to finish a baby afghan while a energetic kitten is playing with the yarn :-). Vinnie is still limping. He is a little better, but not much. He hop/walks now. We are keeping him inside as much as possible to rest.
Handsome boy Vinnie.
The chickens have adjusted well to the coop & run. They put themselves to bed after sunset. We haven't let them roam outside the run much yet. Vinnie is too interested in them & we don't want to risk a confrontation. Tigger has run inside the run, but they ignore him for the most part. They are used to seeing both Vinnie & Tigger and aren't scared. Can't wait to see the first egg which should be around September or October.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chicken Update

The coop is almost done
A few more finishing touches and it's complete. We put up the outdoor run on Sunday with the help of our neighbor Jim. We still need to make a door and put up the solar predator lights & solar motion detector spotlight and I think that's it. Tonight the chickens moved to their new home...
Settling in. This is as clean as it will ever look :-)
Looking through the other door with the hanging waterer & feeder.
Bubbles (the rooster) was the first one in tonight. We had a trial run on Sunday night to see if he could figure out the ramp which was pretty funny. Not how he reacted to the ramp. It was how he followed me back into the barn. He is just like a dog :-) He follows me everywhere. So tonight, I just put him down in the grass & he walked behind me to the coop. I locked him in & got the girls. I carried them. Wasn't sure if they would follow me & I needed to get other things done before sunset. They all settled in quickly. Tomorrow I'll let them out & see how they handle the great outdoors. I will leave Vinnie & Tigger in the house. Not sure what their reaction would be to the chickens walking around the yard. Tigger is so playful I'm afraid he'd get pecked at by Bubbles. Vinnie went & sat down by the coop as soon as I let him out so I think he will protect them.
Speaking of Vinnie...he hurt himself on Friday afternoon. The vet said his knee is injured. He started to run & must have twisted it. Poor guy. He already has a bum leg so now he is kind of hopping. He is on pain meds & arnica & is supposed to be resting. Hope he gets better soon. He is my shadow most of the time & I hate to leave him inside.
Big barn...little coop

Going down our driveway with the thrasher
The Amish have been thrashing the oats for the last couple weeks. They brought this McCormick-Deering thrasher up to Eli & Lizzie's last week to do theirs. The horses in the back were used to "brake" the machine as it went down the hill. It's like living in the 30's or 40's around here sometimes :-).
Beautiful pine after the grime is removed.

Last week I started to work on the pine boards for the floor. The wood looks great under all that dirt. It does take time to do each board, but it will be worth it in the end. I have about half done now. I need to work on them when there is no chance of rain. Tomorrow I'll have to find another project to work on, which I have many. Taking the indoor chicken cage down is one of them along with playing with my new "toy", a steam juicer. It is almost time for the elderberry harvest. The steamer should make it so much easier.
Another thing I did last week was buy six dozen ears of corn from the Amish down the road.
Part of the corn I preserved.
That was a lot of work! I will not be doing any more this year. I tried both ways. First, I blanched the whole ear & cut it off. Then I tried cutting it off first, before blanching. Both ways have their drawbacks. I chose to freeze not can the corn. Mainly because I have yet to use the pressure canner I got a couple years ago. I will be trying it this year though. I promise (to quit being a chicken about using it).
Some of you might have noticed that I started a new blog about the garlic we grow. I have set up a way to order the garlic, but haven't figured out the shipping yet. It is after 11pm so I gave up researching PayPal for the night. Hopefully, I can figure it out soon. I'll let you know :-)
Have a great week!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The State of the Garden

Mia having some outdoor time.
This sums it up...a lot of weeds :-).  I just can't seem to get ahead of it. Even with this dry spell we are having, the weeds continue to grow.  The veggies are still growing. It's just hard to find some of them. I have almost totally lost the leeks. I found the row, but there aren't very many there. I think I pulled some as weeds. Carrots are also a problem. A few weeks ago, I weeded a partial row, the rest are lost in there somewhere. It all started by going on vacation for a week followed by an intense garlic harvesting. The weeds just got out of control. You know, if you get them while they are little, it is easy to chop them with a hoe. When they are a foot tall, you need a machete :-). So I have been pulling & chopping away every day, making some headway. I can now see the cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, basil, oregano, pinapple sage & parsley. Some of the corn is visible along with the potatoes & squash.  Speaking of potatoes & squash, I have had bug problems. First was the potato bugs. Lots of them. Then the squash started wilting & the leaves turned yellow on a few hills. That was caused by the vine borer. I dug them up & put them in a plastic garbage bag to cook in the sun. Hopefully, the rest of the plants will be okay.  I do have three cantaloupe on a vine which is a first. I have never grown it before. I hope the lack of moisture doesn't affect it. We have harvested a few potatoes (there is nothing like fresh hash browns for breakfast), lots of cherry tomatoes (red & yellow), about 6 large tomatoes (they are just starting to come in), a dozen or so peppers, peas, cilantro, basil, oregano, thyme, chocolate mint, orange mint, only a few cucumbers & zucchinis (not sure what's up with that), a few summer squash, lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions and of course, the garlic. On my list this week to pick is beets. I have never canned beets before, so I intend to learn how. I also need to buy some sweet corn from the Amish down the road to freeze. I am growing corn but not enough to do anything with.
On the fruit front, I have picked loads of strawberries and Nanking cherries, a fair amount of blueberries. A smaller amount of raspberries & about a cup full of jostaberries. Almost ready to pick are the blackberries & elderberries. Apples will be next after that, then the rose hips.

I have purring kitten on my lap now. He has been such a joy to have around. That's what we think, not Mia. She is having a terrible time adjusting. I know it takes a while. I have never heard such a low growl out of her before. Growls & hisses every time Tigger is near.  She is camping out in the bathroom now with her water, food & litter box.
Tigger playing in the window.

Tigger out hunting bugs :-)

Vinnie & Brutus (neighbor's dog) got into a big fight today in the basement. We have a bank barn so you just enter the basement through the garage doors. Well Brutus wanted a drink from Vinnie's bowl & Vinnie showed his teeth & barked. Brutus didn't back down so they were biting each other. Steve broke them up & sent Brutus home. The problem is (I think) is that they are both alpha dogs. Not knowing the history of Vinnie, we can only guess at why he is the way he is with Brutus. Vinnie guards the house & his bowls from other dogs. People are fine.
Vinnie in front of the garlic bed.

Besides the animal disharmony, we had a nice weekend. It was my birthday on Saturday. Steve took me out to eat Friday night & I gardened on Saturday while he shingled the chicken coop. We ordered pizza & made a strawberry-chocolate malt for desert. Yum. Then we sat in the lawn chairs and watched the sunset while Vinnie, Mia & Tigger played outside. 
Sunday, putting the hardware cloth around the bottom of coop.
Today we put the hardware cloth around the bottom of the coop. The screens made of hardware cloth & chicken wire for the run are laying on the ground in front of the coop. That is next week's project. We might finish it yet.
Steve brought up the last cabinet for the kitchen. My favorite cabinet. Worth waiting for...
The new "hutch" cabinet
It is a beautiful piece of furniture. I love the three small drawers. As you can see, I have already started to fill it up :-).
This week I'll be in the garden for more weeding chores & am starting on the wood flooring. It all needs to be scrubbed & dried then stacked in the house to be installed this fall or winter. I am still working on a garlic description & price list for sales coming up. I did sell another 15 pounds to the restaurant in town on Friday.
Another awesome Driftless sunset!

Time to get to bed..have a great week!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time is just flying by! Lots has happened since my last post. Three days after our neighbor told us about
Vinnie, he knocked on the door holding a kitten.
Meet Tigger. Our newest addition. He weighed under 2 pounds when Dave brought him over.  Someone had dropped him off on our road :-(. He is a sweet kitty, part Siamese, I think. Has a huge appetite & won't leave my keyboard alone :-). Vinnie & Tigger get along great. Mia is very unhappy. She hisses & growls at both of them, especially Tigger.  Hope she adjusts soon. I feel sorry for the old girl.
Vinnie got his teeth cleaned & groomed & looks like a different dog.

He is much cooler now. He had 3 pounds of fur taken off! He is adjusting so well. He barks when he should and puts up with Tigger pouncing on his tail.
I finally found homes for the two roosters. It was a struggle. Craigslist and other online forums didn't work. Finally I tried FreeCycle (thanks Karen!)  The coop will be done in a couple weeks. Steve has worked so hard on it, putting all the other projects on hold.
I finished painting it tonight. I'll have to check in the morning to see if it needs another coat of red. We still need to make the ramp, put the screening on the windows and put up the outdoor run, which is already made except the door. I ordered three "predator lights" the other day. They are solar & have a red blinking light that is supposed to scare off bad beasts.  They are set up by height of the predator. That is why I got three of them. We'll try different heights for coyotes, racoons and deer. No, deer are not predators of chickens, but the orchard is behind the coop & I thought it would be good to keep them away from the trees.
On the garlic front...I sold some to The Driftless Cafe a couple weeks ago. We ate there Saturday night & had the garlic appetizer plate. It was very cool to eat our garlic at our favorite restaurant. I am gearing up for individual sales of garlic for seed or eating too. My final total of garlic dug was 1,470.
It was a huge amount of work, then add in the 90 + degree weather and high humidity. But it is done. All hung up and most of it is dried already. We mowed the garlic bed this weekend, put composted horse manure on it, then neighbor Jim tilled it in yesterday. Today I seeded it with buckwheat that will be tilled in a couple weeks before I plant the next batch of garlic. I also ordered two more kinds of garlic. That comes to 32 different kinds for next year.
Last week I visited Kristin, Tim & Jaelyn. It was so much fun. I love playing with Jaelyn & hanging out with them. Soon, very soon, there will be another little one to play with. September is approaching fast. The baby's room is almost done. Here are a couple pics from last week...

 It is getting post will be about the garden & what I am preserving.