Sunday, October 27, 2013

Occupational Therapy

This was one of those things I never quite got the gist of....Bill had it every day while he was in rehab, and even some days when he was in the ICU, and it covered everything from brushing teeth to putting wooden pegs in their holes...but here on the farm, we have our own version:

We had a bumper crop of apples this year, so it's apple cider, applesauce, apple jam, apple get the idea....

Bill is working his fine motor coordination by feeding the apples into the press while I crank.  You can see how much weight he has lost (almost 60 pounds! but here he has gained back about 15) when you compare to his pic several posts ago...

He was happy to be contributing to the flow of things around here, and his cider was part of tonight's dinner, so this is what WE consider occupational therapy....

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What happens when YOU dial 911?

Many of us live where we live SPECIFICALLY to get away from people/noise/traffic/stress (fill in the blank).  But there's nothing like an emergency to make you instantly wish you lived right next door to the fire department/ambulance/emergency room....(you get the idea)...

We live in  Petersburgh, NY.  Pretty much right where New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts come together.  It's a wee little town with somewhere around 5,000 people and not a hell of a lot more.  We live 3 miles from the garage of the Petersburgh Volunteer Ambulance.  We live 14 miles from the garage of the Bennington Rescue Squad.  When the neighbor dialed 9-1-1, it took 18 minutes for the Rescue Squad, and 20 minutes for the Ambulance.  All of which seemed like an ETERNITY as I was huddled there on the lawn, cradling my husband and trying to keep him calm and warm.

If you don't know already, then it's time to figure out for yourself - how long does it take for help to arrive? 

Not only ambulance, but fire and police as well.

Who responds?  State police or locals?  Fire volunteers or municipal firefighters? Do you live near a hydrant, or will they use a pond?  Is your house # clearly displayed? If it is nighttime, do you have adequate lighting?  Do your personal cars block access to your property or house? 

In a former life, I trained social workers who do field work with the mentally ill, and I ran them through these same questions.  I stressed these points over and over, and still was caught off guard when it happened to me.

And here's the really important one:

What do you do while you are waiting?

Seriously.  Do you need a safe place to wait?  Do you have access to a phone?  Do you need to lock up, move cars, secure animals, gather anything? Are there kids that need to be comforted/ occupied/ supervised?

Run a drill, a drill.  It will be the best 15 mental minutes ever used.  Stop for a minute and ask yourself: 

What happens when I dial 9-1-1?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What happened???

If there actually is anybody who was wondering, it's a very long story.  Which I will tell you, but it will take some time.  I'll try not to make the telling as excruciating as the actual living through it...

On August 10th, my husband had a stroke.  In an instant, my whole world as I knew it disappeared.   Everything went frighteningly liquid; no firm ground, no thing to hold on to, no plan, no future, no nothing but the very panicky present moment...

And probably the only reason I can write this post, is that he is finally coming home.  Tomorrow.  After an unbelievable saga, practically everything but pregnancy (or at least it felt like it), mistakes, incompetence, horrible stories (and a few funny ones), and some amazing friends who helped us through it....

On the 77th day since it happened, my sweetheart gets to come home.  The place is a mess; the farm went to pot, the bathroom is not totally finished, but I just don't care.  He's coming home - we'll just start from there.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Where there's one....

.....apparently, there is often two.
RIP x 2!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Just strange...

It was hard to get the camera to focus well on both of them....but the bunny has a new "friend" which seems to find her poop tray an especially good place to hang out.  See the garter snake resting its head on the edge below her?

It's not just a fluke thing....they've been hanging together all summer!

Monday, July 22, 2013


Yeah, yeah.....I know how the trap is SUPPOSED to work, but after 2 devastating years with this critter just wreaking havoc on my veggies and my psyche, he/she HAD to go.

Today we finally said our final "goodbyes" to this PITA.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Are you my mother?

Remember that (slightly) annoying children's book where the fledgling runs around asking all kinds of creatures if they are it's mother?

Another chapter of that saga played out in the pasture the other day.  While the boys were out grazing, I noticed they had a tiny, brown shadow that kept pace with them wherever they went.   It hopped along, grazing bugs and seeds, never more than a few feet away...periodically cocking it's head as if to ask, "Are you my mother?"
None of the sheep seemed to have the answer...but it wasn't daunted.
In fact, it hung with the sheep for at least a half an hour and I was beginning to think it couldn't fly.  Of course as soon as the camera showed up, it took off but we got in one good shot...
Anybody know what kind of bird this is?  I don't remember ever seeing it around here before....

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Scape escape

It's that time of year, and anyone who grows hardneck garlic knows there's a "hidden" crop beyond the garlic bulb.....scapes.

Right now, the garlic is flowering.  And it's this flower that you pick (looks like a curly-q piggy's tail) and make so many wonderful things with....

My favorite: Garlic Scape Pesto

1/2 lb. chopped garlic scapes (about 25 scapes)
3/4 C grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
1/2 C chopped nuts (pecan, walnut, pistachio, pine nuts)
3/4 C virgin Olive oil
1T lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

Place chopped scapes in a food processor, pulse until fine.  Add the cheese, nuts, salt, pepper and mix well.  While running, add the lemon juice and olive oil.  Process till nice spread consistency.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Can be frozen.  (like in the video below!)

For more ideas, check out this link to a college friend who does a culinary thing.....

Mark's Culinary Compass

Saturday, June 29, 2013

NOT a farmer...

No....that is not a privacy screen for the tomatoes....and, Yes, I realize row cover is supposed to be laid horizontally on top of the crops....

It is today's proof that I am perhaps NOT the farmer I purport to be....

Because when I was preparing another section of the garden for planting (power tools, blades, gnashing, chopping, yikes!) I found this:
What?!? You can't see it??

Let me pull back the grass a bit and help you...

The "screen" is keeping Mama Bunny relegated to the tomato corner of the garden until Nursery School is over.  Then it's fix the fence, and bunnies beware.....

So, I've just enabled one garden pest to become potentially  6.....I am SO not a farmer.....

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday, June 07, 2013

Plan Bee

It's a good idea on any (homestead) farm to always have a back up plan....and the beekeeping saga proves that's usually the case....

We were planning to split the hive that over-wintered, as it appeared strong and a cursory glance inside at the beginning of spring showed an abundance of bees, comb, honey, brood, etc.

But, how to do it?  We researched different ideas and plans, and the first important thing we learned (back in early May) was NOT to do it too early in the year.  The first brood are ones that were likely laid as soon as temperatures allowed.  They hatch to become nursery bees that care for the second wave.  They don't have the experience to do anything else, and will never pick up the skill of going out and foraging for pollen, nectar, etc.

So, we waited.  After only a week or so, we saw a significant increase in the number of bees coming and going, so we concluded that round one of the brood had hatched, and we were clear for splitting.

The plan was as follows:

Get an empty deep hive body with 6 frames of drawn out comb.  Place that on a bottom board, and transfer four frames of brood (with nursery bees attached) to the new hive.  Next, a queen excluder, then the two deep supers of the original hive on top of that, their original queen excluder, their honey super, and the hive cover.  One big stack.

Wait 24 hours.  The nursery bees will stay with the brood.  Any other workers will make their way back up into the original hive.  (Queen will stay out of the new hive!)  After 24 hours, take all parts of the original hive off, and put back in their usual place.  Cover the entrance to the new hive with screen, then give them a newly ordered queen (in her box), and cover this new split with the usual hive cover.

After another 24 hour period, take the screen off and place branches in front of the entrance so the bees think they have moved (their "neighborhood" looks different with the branches at the front door so they navigate by smell back to the new queen).  Check in a week to make sure the queen has gotten out of her box and begun to lay...viola! TWO HIVES.

Well, when we opened the hive to begin, we discovered we had a laying worker, no queen, no brood, and we moved to Plan B.

We saw an abundance of drone cells:
(The larger, bumpy ones)
We saw quite a few queen cells, mostly empty.
And inspection of the central frames showed no queen in site.  The three of us working the hive concluded that the hive had indeed hatched a new queen.  She likely went on her mating flight a week ago.  It was a ridiculous 35 degrees last weekend.  She froze.  Enter the laying worker. (Although the ideas sounds good, she is infertile, so she cannot lay anything but drones.  And who needs a hive full of guys who don't work? )

So, we scraped off the queen cells we saw in case any were still viable, and gave the newly ordered queen to the original hive.  So much for two hives this year....

We go back in a week to make sure she has gotten out of her box, is laying, and we plan to harvest 6 frames of honey from the deep super, replacing them with drawn out comb, and let this hive continue to produce honey in the usual honey supers (they have a very good start on one already).  Hopefully, the $$ we make from honey sales will allow us to purchase more bees next spring to expand the yard or replace this hive, should it succumb to mites....

Monday, May 06, 2013

Let the shearing begin!

FINALLY got around to putting this together on there's nothing but procrastination (and work - that wretched place...) between me and shearing....

I've made this before; plans are from the Jan/Feb 2006 issue of Hobby Farm.  I don't remember the cost the first time, but it lasted at least 5 years of abuse and neglect before disintegrating....this time it cost me less than $8.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The drought is over!!

Finally, after 4 years and 6 little boys....we got our girls!!!
Better photos will follow in the next days, but I scooped these two up for a quick pic before Mom got too worried...
OK, so maybe Angel was more concerned at the moment with fresh grass...but she would have been worried....soon......a little.....maybe.....

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Could someone please explain why we can't seem to get a ewe lamb on this farm?  I mean, really...
And he just HAD to be the cutest one yet.....sheesh.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Universe is Speaking....

....and it's reminding us to hug our kids, appreciate our educators, and always be aware of what is going on around you.

This was my daughter's school day today.  Some jackhole parent showed up to confront a teacher, and brought a handgun.  Lovely.


Sunday, March 03, 2013

From Garbage....Goodies!

Call me frugal, creative, cheap....but the thrill of getting something from nothing (or close to nothing) never fades....

Ever since I have been knitting socks, I have been SOOO reluctant to give up the small ball of extra yarn that is usually left over.  I finally bit the bullet and decided to do a Beekeeper's Quilt, and so the first hexipuff rolled off the needles...

I am only stuffing them with the tiniest bit of fleece...actually the leftover stuff I scrape off the drum carder and save as stuffing for fiber projects such as this...

And since the gardener in me so COMPLETELY finished with winter, I just had to be doing something green and food related, so I fished the scallion ends out of the trash and planted them.  In just a few weeks, we have this:
It's not the first time I have tried this, but I had forgotten about it, so I was reminded by this blogger, and it just happened to be on a day I was using some scallions!  I use much more of the scallion than she, so my ends were not much more than 1/2 inch, but it worked!

And here in Zone 5, it's about time to start thinking about seeds, so I planted leeks and onions, which need a good amount of start time before they get set out in the garden.  We made these little "greenhouses" with leftover containers with our 4-H group - what a great way to capture sunlight and warmth...not to mention easy transport to the garden when it is time for transplant...
This year I started American Flag leeks. ( Love good in soups! ) And the larger container has two types of onions: Copra, a good yellow storage onion in half, and Ruby Ring, a nice red onion in the other half.  The boxes are set in a window with southern exposure, and which happens to be close to a heater vent, so it actually gets warm enough to germinate seeds. (The rest of our house is kept around 62 degrees, and I often have to break out the heat mat for seeds...)

Spring is in 16 days and 2 hours....does it seem desperate that I know that???

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

FO#1 2013

First knitted project off the needles in 2013.  Socks for my daughter, and no yarn was purchased for this project!  Moving on...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Potty Day!

Perhaps a "crappy" title, but appropriate, see Saturday was all about the potty.  Let me give you the "poop"...

It was warm enough (high 40's) to allow our bees to take a cleansing flight.
You see, bees don't go to the bathroom in the hive.   So they spend the winter with little legs crossed, waiting for a warm enough day to "take care of business".  It also means for us (anxious beekeepers) that we get to see that the hive has survived so far...
Temperatures were also warm enough that hibernating bears woke up for a mid-winter neighbor/friend lost a hive to a foraging bear the same day (major bummer!)

And keeping with the waste removal theme...
Here is the riser, or opening to our septic tank.  Why am I taking a picture of that, you ask?  Well, it turns out that Saturday was also the day we had to have an emergency visit from the Septic Folks to deal with a blocked septic tank.  Fun.

Actually, I dug the riser out myself as a part of my trying to diagnose the problem.  Only the unnaturally curious or seriously poor/cheap do that sort of thing - but it paid off.  I saved $45 off the service call.  Do you know where your tank is?  (Might be a good idea to check that out, and mark it! )

All is it really was a happy potty day!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Love, love, love my winter sprouts!  Probably all the more because I can't get into the garden, and they are the closest thing to farming right about now...

These are organic alfalfa sprouts and cost me about 35 cents to grow.  Compare that to $2.99 at the grocery....

We use a large mason jar.  The lid is replaced with 2 circles of screen, cut from repair screen we had on hand, and placed in the rim so that the gridwork of the screen is reduced by the overlapping holes/wires.  Large enough for water to drain, and small enough to keep the smaller sprout seeds from washing down the drain.
Throw in a few Tablespoons of sprout seeds, cover with water and soak for an hour.  Drain off the water, and put in a dark cupboard.  Next day, and each day, rinse with water, swirl well, and drain.  After 4 days or so, you should have decent sprout growth:
From here on out, place the jar in/near a sunny window so the sprouts will leaf and green.  They usually take 7-8 days.  Store in fridge.  Or eat.  Immediately.

NOTE:  I choose to live life on the edge.  Therefore, I disregard the warning on the organic seed packets required by the litigation-fearing lawyers who represent the seed company.  Rinsing my sprouts in a bleach solution just doesn't sound like a good idea.  You make the call.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Knit faster, dammit!

It's COLD!!!!  That's what the chickens are saying.....hoping to get some poultry lingerie...I am sure.   It dipped WELL below zero the last two nights.  It's the kind of weather that makes me want to do NOTHING more than cozy up on the couch with some knitting....
These socks languished on the needles all during December - not for lack of interest - but because I got practically zero knitting time (dratted job!).  The pattern is mine - anyone wanting a copy should e-mail me, or shout out in the comments section.  It will eventually be up on the website/Ravelry, but that may take a while....
My daughter is also chanting the mantra, "Knit Faster!" as these are her socks.  Basic ribbed design, in Dyenamics colorway Starry, Starry Night.  Believe me, these are not all on her list, she has ideas about a pair of fingerless mitts...

Meanwhile, Chicken Mamas - Don't forget our feathered friends in the cold - we swath all combs, wattles and tender parts in Vaseline for the cold weather to prevent frostbite.  Liberal application, frequently.

Stay warm!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Lard, that is..
Not much to look at, I realize.  But when we had our pig butchered, leaf lard was one of the products we got back.  (We had to request it, actually.  Many butchers keep it and sell it to willing customers if the uninformed aren't smart enough to ask for it.)

Leaf lard is the highest grade of lard. (Didn't know they graded that stuff, did you?)  Lard is pork fat, BTW.  I, like many, thought it referred to just fat in general. It comes from around the kidney/loin area of the pig and is highly prized because it is an excellent neutral-flavored cooking fat for moist, flaky pie crusts.  (Pie crust?  I'm in....)

The rendering is quite simple.  Just cut the lard into small cubes.  If you notice, it does not cut completely smoothly like butter, but has some residual "threads" of gristle (that's what rendering separates out...more about this stuff in a minute...).  Put just the slightest amount of water  (about 1/4 cup) in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add lard, and heat in the oven on a low temp - I use 250 degrees.  Think low and slow. (Crock pots on low also work....)

Stir it occasionally as the fat melts.  The "cracklins" begin to form - they are the strings of pork you felt as you cut that cook out during this process.  Pork rinds!   They are actually quite tasty and have uses - don't waste!  Once the cracklins settle, remove pan and pour the liquid fat through a fine strainer or cheesecloth into canning jars.  It will keep in the fridge for a month or more.
This jar is actually darker than usual (I let the lard render longer than I needed - got distracted...imagine that!) But it will cool to a nice creamy white-ish color.

I told you to save the cracklins - also know as chiccharrons in some Mexican recipes -
This time we used them heated in a nice green tomatillo salsa, then loaded into tortillas with black bean refried beans.   Don't forget the dollop of sour cream.....

Thank you again, Mr. Pig!