Monthly Archives: April 2010

Weekend Plans

I have all kinds of plans for the weekend, although there isn’t as much to do as I originally thought.  This is a big weekend for me because it is the first time I’ll be planting things in the garden outdoors!  It is exciting because the first batch of meat chickens are moving out to pasture.  Here’s what on the agenda:

  • Start cucumbers inside.
  • Plant peas and onion sets outdoors.
  • Set up broiler fence/shelter and move the birds out there.
  • Make bread for communion (rising right now).
  • Enjoy a good book and some time to relax.

What are you planning for the weekend?  Anything exciting?  Working in the garden at all?

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Trying a New Routine

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.  Head on over and see what other tips are being offered.

I’ve been making a bigger effort to schedule my time lately.  Amy over at Raising Arrows recently wrote a great post about scheduling for large families.  A lot of her tips would apply to individuals as well.  She mentions 2 basic types of scheduling:  a basic routine or a more formed schedule with set times for each activity.  I would hate a schedule with times on it because I would fall behind and give up.  Instead, getting in to a routine works really well for me.  This is the week Brian’s work schedule changed back to 4 days a week for the summer.  I took advantage of that to start my new routine.  Here’s a general idea of how I go through the day:

  • Get up around 6 AM as Brian’s leaving.  Then we don’t crowd each other in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Round 1 of cleaning: get the automatic cleaners going.  This means I put in a load of laundry and run the dishwasher if either one needs to be done.  I also dust and tidy up one room and start Roomba going in there.  This is NOT the time to do other labor intensive chores, I just get everything started so the machines can work while I do other things.
  • Do chores.  This means feed and water all the animals.  I usually do one or two other jobs too such as add bedding, clean out the chicken coop, scrub the water tanks, sweep the barn, etc.  Whatever needs to be done that day.
  • Check my plants in the basement, water if needed.
  • Round 2 of cleaning: this is where I do more hands on work like put away laundry, hand wash dishes, clean the stove, etc.  When I’m done I set Roomba up in a second room.  I always try to dust and tidy up the room before I turn on the vacuum, that way it can clean up the dust and hair all at once.  Doing 2 rooms per day 6 days a week means all the floors get done twice a week.
  • Work out.  We’ll see if I stick to it this time.  I’ve been doing the 30 Day Shred again.  Exercising really gives me a better attitude throughout the day.
  • Shower/dress/brush teeth/do hair/etc.
  • Eat breakfast while reading blogs or a book.  I also make grocery lists, balance the checking account, etc. during this time.  Plus, I get out dinner to thaw and make sure things are as ready as they can be.
  • Pack my lunch and head off to work.  I should start packing my lunch the night before like Brian.

Since I get most of my cleaning and housework done in the AM I don’t have to do it all after work.  Brian usually does PM chores while I make dinner.  Then I’m free to relax, read, knit, pay bills, or help him with whatever he needs.  This works out really well for me since I don’t  have to be to work until mid-morning but get home a little later.  I have to be flexible on the days that I’m scheduled earlier but I just flip flop things with work earlier and other stuff later.  As long as I keep a rotation going the house stays looking pretty good.  I do our entryway and kitchen on Tuesday and Friday so it looks good for the weekend when people usually visit.

Do you have a routine or a timed schedule?  Does it work for you?  What about cleaning house: do you have a method to your madness that helps you stay on top of it all?

This Is NOT A Hobby

This is not a rant either, so please stick with me if I sound a little crabby.  I don’t mean to be.  This is a tough topic to write about because my audience here is a mix of other farmers (who want the straight talk) and customers (whom I obviously don’t want to offend).

Over the past couple years Brian and I have become more and more serious about farming and making the farm profitable.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Brian would enjoy driving his tractor if he had to pay to do it.  I certainly love dealing with the animals and will probably always keep a few around.

That being said, there are a lot of things we would NOT do if we didn’t hope to make a profit from it one day.  Examples include:

  • sleeping poorly and getting up several times per night to check that the latest ewe isn’t stuggling to lamb or that the heat lamp for the chicks is keeping them warm and isn’t burning down the barn
  • juggling feed bills, fertilizer bills, seed bills, rental payments, etc.
  • foregoing certain home improvements so the animals can have a new barn
  • spending good portions of the summer baling hay and good portions of the winter moving and delivering it
  • allowing for botched vacations because things at home need attention and we can’t take the risk of “letting it go

I’m sure I could come up with more but I think I made my point.  I’m not whining here.  By no means is anyone making us do these things.  We’re doing them because we do enjoy farming and want to make a little money at it.  If we can’t, we’ll scale back.  Sure, we’re busy right now.  We all know a lot of people who sacrificied to start businesses.  Some lose, some win.  The verdict is still out on us and that’s OK.

We are in a location that makes things interesting.  There is little demand to go organic, at least on the animal side of things.  People in this area are not going to pay $4.50/pound for chicken even if God Himself raised it.  We’re trying to provide food from animals grown humanely and somewhat naturally, at a price that the average guy can afford, and not go broke doing it.  It’s challenging.

We are, like most farmers, do-it-yourselfers.   We tend to look at things and think, “Oh, yeah, we could probably build that instead of buying it.”  So I understand that some people will think that way about what we do.  I think it’s great when people keep a few chickens or raise their own turkey dinner.  You will never have more confidence in the quaility of your food then when you grow it yourself.  After all, that’s why so many people have vegetable gardens.

Anyway, I don’t mind offering a few tips here and there and helping out when someone wants to raise animals.  I’m not a vet and I could lose my LVT license for offering veterinary advice so I generally won’t help much with medical problems and that’s not going to change.

I do wish people would think a little more before they ask certain questions.  You don’t call your local tractor mechanic (hi Robin! 🙂 ) and expect him to explain to you every last detail of fixing your tractor and oh, could you borrow his special tool for doing so?  You don’t call your hairdresser and say, yeah, my sister’s going to come with me for my next haircut and watch how you do it so she can take over.  We don’t get to buy Turbo Tax and then call our accountant and say, hey, Jerry, I don’t want to pay you this year but what do I put in boxes C & D?  And you know what: in every example, even if you did those things, the results wouldn’t be nearly as nice.  The job wouldn’t be done nearly as efficiently.  Make sense?

I’d love your feedback.  Farmers, can you relate?  Consumers, does this make sense or does it sound too harsh?

Now We Can Call It Spring!

We're letting the sheep out on pasture now, and Brian is farming!

He's getting the ground ready for soybeans to go in.

We set up the poultry net for the laying flock and moved them out there.

We integrated the first two batches of chicks (that I hatched) in to the layer flock. The first ones won't start laying until mid-June.

I am so, so proud of our Buff Chantecler rooster. He's right there is the middle of all the new, young birds and he's not terrorizing them at all! ❤ him!

Can't a girl get a little privacy!?

Pooh Bear is starting to shed!

The calves are wondering when they get to come outside. Soon!

The broiler chicks are still in the barn. They're not feathered out enough to go on pasture yet.

I almost forgot to introduce you to our two new additions: calves!

I saved the best for last. This is the view through our bay window.

To see who else is strolling today head on over to Quiet Country House.

Starting Seeds

You may remember my seed starting schedule…

To start indoors:

  • Tomatoes start 4/1 plant out by 6/1
  • Eggplant start 4/1 out by 6/1 (or dc 6/1)
  • Cukes start 5/1 out by 6/1 (or dc 6/1)
  • Pumpkins start 5/8 out by 6/1 (or direct seed 6/1)

I finished planting the tomatoes and eggplant on Saturday.  I’m running about 2 weeks behind but I’m not too worried about it with our crazy weather.  The pics below shows 4 flats germinating.

Once they sprout they go under the light.  The one on the bottom here is celery that I planted on Saturday.  Instead of using cells I spread an inch or two of mix in the tray, sprinkled the seeds over it, and patted the mix down with my hand.  I’ve never grown celery before so I’m excited to see if it works!  The tray on top is a batch of Amish Paste seedlings that I started a couple weeks ago.  The other tray is an experiment so to say.  I spilled a whole flat that had just been planted with Jersey Giant tomato seeds.  To salvage them I scooped up the mix and spread it thinly in a tray.  So far 3 sprouts have popped up.  I’ll transfer them to cells once they’re a little bigger.

A close up of the Amish Paste seedlings.  I’m trying 4 different varieties of tomato this year: Rutgers, Big Month, Jersey Giant, and Amish Paste.  I was happy with the APs last year but I was impressed with the size of our neighbors.  The bigger tomatoes made processing go faster.  I’d like to settle on one variety that I like the best so that next year I can save seed.

How are your seeds coming along?

Planting Potatoes

I planted my potatoes last weekend, so the second weekend in April.  This year I planted some in pots versus in the ground.  I’m hoping this method will make it easier to avoid or minimize a blight outbreak if one comes our way.  Portable pots will fit in the garden better too.  If nothing else, I’m interested to see how they yield.

One downside to growing potatoes this way is they require more regular watering since the soil dries out faster.  I’m not too worried about that.  My biggest concern was finding enough material to fill the pots with.  Brian solved that problem for me.  On the left is a scoop of composted hay.  On the right is some topsoil he scraped up from where the lean to was that burned.  There were cattle in there before the fire.  He cleaned up the old bedding and manure a long time ago but I’m sure a lot of the nutrients seeped in to the soil underneath.

I mixed the soil and compost about 50/50 and spread it a few inches deep in the bottom of each pot.  Then I placed the potatoes in.  I put anywhere from 3-6 potatoes chunks in each pot depending on the size of the pot and whether each chunk appeared to have a viable eye.

Then I covered the potatoes with just a couple inches total of soil, then compost.  When the sprouts come up and are several inches tall I’ll add more material, leaving just a few leaves stick up.  The process will be repeated until we reach the top of the pot.

Last summer I asked a local landscaper (Matt Kirk for the locals) if he would mind saving me some of the tubs from trees and plants.  He saved me plenty.  Thanks Matt!  The tubs are perfect because they are durable and already have holes in the bottom for drainage.  Plus, they’re free!

I started with 15# of Red Pontiac potatoes (certified seed from Big Acre).  They’re good size so I cut them in several chunks each.  The picture above shows what’s left – quite a few.  Looks like I’ll be planted the remainder in the ground.  That’s probably not a bad idea anyway so I’ll have a back up supply.

This is the first year I’ve grown potatoes in tubs.  My Mom and I grew them in tire stacks filled with straw.  We only did it one year but it did work and seemed to produce good yields.  There are several other people experimenting with buckets and tubs.  Kate wrote about her experiences over at Living the Frugal Life.  A quick Google search will pull up a lot of other resources.  I’d love to hear how it goes if you try it!

So Much… and Nothing!

There is so much going on!  Not that I’m really busy.  I’m just dabbling in a lot of things.  I keep thinking I should totally do a post about this and this and this and yet when I sit down at the computer I enjoy reading everyone else’s blogs instead.  Plus, I’m following Dancing With The Stars for the first time ever this year because Kate is on there.  I know she’s kind of crazy but I really like her.  I think it’s because she says what so many women are thinking/feeling.  She’s certainly not setting a Godly example for her children so I’d love to see her make some changes and I’m cheering for her (in life and on DWTS).  Anyway… LoL

So what have I been doing?  Planting potatoes in pots, starting seeds, organizing the basement (or thinking about it), trying to settle in to a housework routine that works, raising chickens, thinking about pasture arrangements, trying to eat healthier, trying to have a better attitude, trying to work in some new recipes, etc.!  Enough for you?  Now what do you want to hear about?  I’m not promising I’ll write about it all so if you’ve got priorities you’d better speak up! 🙂