Thursday, July 31, 2008

The summer harvest continues...........

Summer is always a busy time of year and July has been no exception. The gardens are really starting to produce and all the hard work of planting, nursing crops and dealing with whatever mother nature decides to throw at us is paying off.

First string bean harvest
Tuesday morning after chores we harvestested our first 10 gallons of string beans. This is a green/yellow mix. I've never grown this particular seed before and so far it's done well. Mom and I nipped and cut them, preparing them for canning.

Sterile jars ready for vegetables

As you can see my cook stove serves many purposes. These jars have been sterilized and are ready to be used for canning the green beans. I would like to put up at least 250 pints. We are big green bean fans here.

My kitchen

When we designed our new home, the kitchen was the most important area to me. It's a big kitchen and it's wonderful to can in. It has easy access to everything and there is more than enough room for both Mom and I to work in there together and not step on each other. We love to can together and I cherish every minute of it.


The first batch out of the canner. While the beans were processing, we put up 6 quarts of the Everlasting slaw. Three quarts from green cabbage and three with purple cabbage. I've posted the recipe at the end of the blog entry for those that have asked for it. Simple, quick and delicious :) It has quickly become a favorite of my family.

Everlasting slaw

Everlasting slaw recipe:

  • 1 medium size head cabbage
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated horseradish ( I used 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish)
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 1 tsp. turmeric

Shred the cabbage and carrots. Chop the green pepper and onion and combine it with the cabbage. Boil together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices, only until they are well blended. Pour over the slaw and allow it to set for several hours before serving. Once it has cooled off, I fill quart jars to store it. Will last forever in the refrigerator.

Before we got the last batch of beans processed, the telephone rang - it was our hay man. He had 200 bales in the field ready to be picked up. No more canning for today. When the hay man calls, we drop what we are doing, load up and go.

Filling up the barn for winter

It was a late night - we finally piled in for dinner about 8:45. Thankfully Mom had made a huge pot of spaghetti. We had energy enough to eat, cleanup and hit they hay :O)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Saturday project.............

The muddy pig yard

Due to the never ending rain, our pig yard is a muddy mess. The pig house is dry but the pigs really like to lay outside during the day. I know pigs are supposed to really love mud and they do seem to have a lot of fun in it , but knowing they do not have a dry place to lie around outside bothers me. Besides, it really smells! It's sticky, nasty mud. It would dry out quickly if it didn't rain for a few days but there isn't much hope of that happening.
Saturday morning we decided to extend the pig pen so Steve and I headed for the feed store. We use 16 foot, 52" livestock panels for our outside pig pen with 7' t posts. The panels are a little pricey but it's a great way to create an escape proof pig pen and that's a necessity here.

Before we could get started, we needed to get the pigs closed in the pig house. A little corn does the trick. The guys managed to get the door closed but Dave couldn't latch it.

Steve trying to get to the door without losing his shoes in the mud!

Setting up the new panels

The pig yard will be about 20 x 64. The grass won't last long with 8 hogs rooting around. I'll put a round bale in here for them as well. They eat alot of the hay and root around or lay in the rest of it.

The pigs checking out their new digs

I have two heavy metal, 4 section hog feeders that we keep chained to the fence so the pigs don't drag them off. We have a hard time keeping them clean due to the mud when the pigs step in them, etc. Tom came up with the idea of building a platform out of pallets and plywood and setting the feeders up on the platform. Works like a charm :)

He actually likes them! They like the apples he's feeding them :)

Our supervisor, refreshment and cheering committee (my Mom) with her watchdogs obviously working very hard

It was a busy weekend -the whole family worked hard. We accomplished all that we set out to do. The pigs are happy and I feel better that the pigs are more comfortable. Happy pigs are tasty pigs :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A crazy day.............

If you've been reading blogs that belong to folks in the Northeast, you know that we are receiving an entire "rainy season" worth of rain in just a few days. Two inches an hour at times and now it has no place to go there is so much of it. The day started out gray and showery but it's been that way all week so it looked rather normal. Not long after chores the TV weatherman issued a tornado warning - yep, a TORNADO warning in Maine - we never have tornadoes! We went about our usual routine, getting drenched every time we went out the door. The only thing we accomplished was creating a mountain of wet laundry.
At 1 p.m. the weatherman said two tornadoes had touched down to the west of us. Fallen trees, down utility poles and wires, demolished homes and one person dead. It's just terrible. This line of extremely severe thunderstorms was heading straight for us. We did not have a tornado preparedness plan......we do now. We just never thought of it. With the mountains all around us, it didn't seem to be an issue.

The wind picked up tremendously and the rain whipped through here but it was a fast moving storm, and thankfully it moved just north of us so the damage was minimal. It continues to rain and a tornado watch is posted until 7 p.m. as their is another line of severe storms headed our way.

We have never had such extreme weather as we are this year. Severe thunderstorms rolled through here last friday. Two young people were struck by lightening at the same time six miles from here. Lightening striking people is so rare - you just done think. It was so tragic.

Mixed sunflowers

The rain is such a mixed blessing. The gardens are thriving but too much more and things will start to rot. I try not to worry or complain. I know there are so many areas that desperately need the moisture. The sunflowers remind me that the sun will return at some point! I planted several packages and have many different varieties growing in my veggie garden. I absolutely love sunflowers. I also love gladiolas and have many of those planted as well. They are getting ready to blossom and I will have both brightening up my house soon.


This is my Mom's little dog, Pepe. Isn't she just the cutest little thing?! Mom spent the afternoon with us, riding out the storms. Both she and Pepe dislike thunderstorms and we all feel better when we are together.

Stay safe.......

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Weaning day...........

Today is weaning day. The "choir" above have been singing the blues since this morning when we separated them from the ewes. I always feel sad when I have to do this but I know it's best for the ewes and the lambs. Some of these poor little critters have laryngitis so bad tonight they can hardly baaaaa. They will be back to normal in a couple of days. They can see the ewes through the fence so it's not as traumatic as if I moved them out of sight. I tell myself that and it makes me feel better :) " Magpie"

Magpie didn't miss her Mom as much as her Mom was missing her. I bought a new shetland ram last year to combine with three ewes I already had, trying to get lambs this lovely moorit color. I have not been at all disappointed. She's a beauty and will stay on the farm. I'm hoping once she's weaned, she might become a little friendlier.

Woody, Quail & Towhee

These three handsome fellows are purebred shetland ram lambs out of the new ram. They are a little over two months old and have great horn growth already. They are rams through and through and already know what their jobs will be. It was time to get them away from the little girls.


This is another shetland/finn cross ewe lamb. I haven't decided if she stays on the farm or if she will be sold. She's lovely if you like bold color and markings and her fleece is going to be beautiful.

Jay, Kite & Phoebe

All the lambs are very curious about people but shy. They seem to find their nerve once they are separated from the ewes. These little guys couldn't wait to come and check me out and check out the camera today. Two days ago, when they were still with the ewes, many of these babies wouldn't have anything to do with me. I have a sand chair meant for the beach that I sit in out in the lamb paddock. After a few minutes, many of them are climbing in my lap, chewing on my earrings, hair, shoelaces, etc. It's a nice way to spend a few minutes in the afternoon, especially after a very hectic day :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Winter prep, quality time & a visitor

A view of the farm looking west from the pasture

Today was set aside to cut a few big oak trees down for winter firewood. These trees were along the new fenceline of the three acre piece we had opened up last fall. Several small oaks and maples are leaning from a wind shear that came through here last fall so those will go as well. One of the huge oaks was struck by lightening a couple of years ago during a nasty storm. We happened to be setting on the porch when it was hit and could see it smoldering even as it was raining. We didn't have easy access to the tree until this year. Of course, because we needed to work outside today and we had help lined up, it started to rain shortly after chores this morning. No matter - it is very warm and humid. You couldn't tell if we were wet from sweat or rain!

Preparing to cut the big oak

Without knowing how damaged the tree was inside, Brian had to be very careful how he went about cutting down the tree. His saw blade wasn't as long as the diameter across the trunk so planning was very important. Even though these guys are comfortable with a chainsaw, they take nothing for granted. We've seen firsthand how quickly they cut skin and bone.
Steve & Brian inserting wedges to make sure the tree falls in the right direction

This tree didn't come down without effort on everyone's part. After alot of deliberation, using wedges, cutting notches and thinking, finally the tree landed right where they wanted it to.

Tyler giving Steve a hand limbing the tree :)

Brian & Dave cutting up the second oak tree

We made good progress.....the rain came in heavier and we decided it wasn't safe to use the chainsaws so we will finish cutting up the trees next weekend. We will haul it all up near the house to stack and finish drying for winter. Before snow we will cut it to stove length, split it and stack it in the wood shed. I love the smell of wood and enjoy the whole process of filling up the shed. It's a good feeling, knowing we've got plenty of wood to keep us warm for the winter. We should have a couple of cords from these two trees we cut today.

"Quality time"

Tyler received a BB gun for Christmas and this weekend Steve had time to spend with him teaching him the proper way to handle it. He's used it a couple of time before now in the spring but the weather was much colder and they couldn't stay out long. They set up a great target and before they were finished Tyler was hitting what he was aiming at! He sure enjoyed spending quality time with his Dad and he's very proud of his BB gun :)

BB Gun target

Proud Father & Son

This little fellow showed up on friday - when we went to the barn to do night chores, it was perched on the barn roof. He/she has been here since and enjoys picking up grain in the stalls where the cows slop after they go out to pasture. I think it's a rock pigeon but I'm not sure. My neighbors had a pigeon show up not too long ago and it comes and goes as it pleases, showing back up when they think it's gone for good. It's a very pretty bird and we are enjoying it while it's here.

All in all, a good weekend :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New hay, summer flowers, etc........

It seems it's feast or famine with our weather patterns. It's either so wet we are complaining about too much rain or we are in drought conditions, such as we are now. The gardens are dry and we are watering just enough to keep things growing. The only good thing about this dry weather pattern is farmers can put up hay. We added this 6 ton load to the barn on Tuesday. Another load like this and the right side of the barn will be full. The left side I fill with square bales. I love to see the barn filling up. It's a secure feeling knowing we will face another Maine winter with a barn full of hay.

Unskirted, unclean wool

When I'm not haying or in the gardens I'm skirting wool, getting it ready to send to the processor. This is white finn wool. I did get three large bags picked over and delivered yesterday. It will be washed, carded, and spun into lovely two ply yarn which we will hand dye and take to Common Ground Fair in September.


The boys moved the electric fence and the sheep have new pasture to graze in. They were all so excited as we opened the gate to let them out. This little ewe lamb, Dove, was jumping like she had springs in her feet. This was a mid-air photo. She has beautiful markings and she's going to have gorgeous wool.

butterflies on the bee balm

The gardens are enjoying the warm, muggy weather we are having. We are enjoying our first cucumbers and eagerly waiting for the green tomatoes to turn red! The cabbage has been delicious as well as the zucchini and summer squash. A variety of lettuce, mescalin mix greens, rainbow swiss chard and easter egg radishes make great salads at dinner time. My pole beans are struggling and I think it's lack of water. The bush beans are flowered with little beans on them so we will have a harvest. Not at big as I planned but the pole beans may surprise me.

The bee balm patch is huge this year. The butterflies are loving it! In years past my bee balm gets mold before it flowers but not a sign of it this year. The other day we saw a dozen butterflies at one time. It was a beautiful to see them all.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day to day..............

Rosemary and Basil Herb Garden

All has been quiet on the farm the last few days. Summer weather continues. It's cloudy and foggy this morning and we are crossing our fingers for rain. It's dry again although not dangerously so. The gardens could all use a good drenching. We are enjoying a good harvest every Friday for Farmer's Market and I'm waiting anxiously for my first tomato! Tons of green but no red yet. Shouldn't be long..............

Had a break in outside work on Saturday so I made our butter for the week. The photo above is butter I just dumped out of the churn. I set the cream out about about 4 hours before I was ready to churn and it we only churned about 5 minutes and we had butter.

In this photo I've rinsed the buttermilk out. I like lightly salted butter so I've added a small amount and am working that in.

I've worked in the salt and worked all the water and air bubbles out of the butter. I have a French butter keeper that holds 1/2 lb butter balls so I freeze them that way. Today I made 3 lbs. I make butter once a week as a rule, sometimes twice. It freezes nicely and thaws quickly.

Pansies and the sheep will greet you on my front porch steps :)

I'm off to make raspberry turnovers before chores. A very good friend of mine is coming for a visit this morning. We don't see each other often and it's a great day for a visit.

Have a great day!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One more step towards self sufficiency......

As more and more people consider alternative energy, wind power is growing in popularity in Maine. New technology is making it easier and more cost effective and energy rebates also make it an attractive alternative. Several wind farms have been erected in the last few years - you can read about two of the largest wind mill farms in Maine at or

We had studied it for several years prior to our move here and we knew we would put up a windmill at some point. I expect it will be sooner than later although it's a costly project and like anything else, time consuming. It's become less expensive to harness wind power than to use solar energy but recovering your initial expense can take a few years depending on your location and normal daily wind speeds. The model wind mill in the photo requires wind @ 8mph to keep it moving at a constant speed.

We have much more research to do, but we have the ideal location and the fact that we do not have neighbors to consider is a bonus right out of the gate.

When we moved here we considered ourselves on the 10 year plan. Year ten has ended and we aren't anywhere near finished :) Looks like we are starting on the new "10 year plan" !

Stay tuned.................

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

summer work keeping us busy.........

We are in a HHH pattern right now. It's was close to 100 today! We've had very little rain for five straight days so farmers are making hay like crazy. I love looking up in the barn and see the hay stacking up nicely. Very little movement around here during the middle of the day. It's extremely humid - just walking from the house to the barn causes you to sweat profusely. We have to refill water tubs several times a day. Most of the animals eat and drink their fill at night when it's cooler. They spend their days in the shade.

Early morning breakfast

The sheep enjoy feeding early morning as well. This is about 5:30 am. Once 10:30 rolls around they head for the sheep sheds and the shade. Same with the cattle and the goats.

Lambs will eat anytime :)

We are starting to get ready for Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine in September. We have been skirting wool, getting it ready to send to the processor. She will send it back as nice clean yarn which we will dye with wonderful colors in August. Anthing that will be processed into roving won't come back until later in the month so it's nice and fluffy for the fair. When I can't be in the gardens because of the heat and humidity, I have a spot beside the house in the shade where I can skirt fleece and prepare wool to ship out. It's relaxing and keeps me outside. Banjo usually keeps me company as you can see from the photo below.

Stay cool and comfy wherever you are .....

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The unexpectected continues........

Just after daybreak 7/5/08

I never get tired of this view. I was out early this morning to work in the gardens before the heat of the day arrived. I prefer the early morning hours before everyone and everything is stirring. I love the quiet and everything smells so good. My dogs are great company and they were many birds around this morning.

Freshly weeded green beans

It's been a slow week. I haven't been able to blog or read much due to my injury on Tuesday. The bruising and swelling travelled down my face and settled into my left eye, making it difficult to focus. I had a terrific shiner for Market yesterday - a great conversation starter! Thankfully the swelling is starting to subside and the pressure is letting up. The colors are starting to dull as well. I sure won't forget this for awhile.

Steve & Dave pounding the point

Our fourth of July was spent digging up our water line to the house. We are very fortunate that our property and the property that surrounds us sits on an 8000 acre aquifer. Our soil is basically sand with a couple of inches of topsoil. A few feet down it is more like beach sand and the farther down you go, the courser that sand gets before you eventually hit small pea size gravel once you get through the hard pan. The water table is very high here, that being the reason we have a four foot crawl space under most homes instead of full basements. All that being said, you can drive what is called a sand point anywhere on our property and hit water. We have four of them. Each home, barn, shop, etc., has it's own water supply.

Sand Point

The point for our home is down about 20 feet. About every 10 years you have to pull these up out of the ground and clean the screen which is on the bottom 2 feet of the pipe. It gets built up with sediment, rust, bits of dirt,etc., which clogs the screen and prevents the water from coming into the pipe. Our pressure has been low and we have had air in the water. We pulled the point out with the tractor. Our neighbor came and dug a new trench for us to run a large water line to the new house. We cleaned the screen and all the section of pipe and replaced the point back in the hole. It's a slow process driving that point back in the ground. Manpower is the only way. Steve and Dave shared the load and in about half an hour it was back in place.

Thankfully all of this we can do ourselves so the cost is minimum. We did upgrade our water line to a larger size and a few new fittings but the expense was minimal compared to what it could have been if we had a conventional well with water problems. We are so grateful for the clean, fresh water that we have, and an abundance of it. My family teases me because I'm always squawking about not wasting water - I try not to take anything for granted and I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that they can either. They may not always live in a place where water is so plentiful.

Everyone was grubby and tired out and didn't feel like driving anywhere to see fireworks. We shared a couple of cold beers with our friends, The Kimball Family, and called it a night. Steve and I turned on the tv and enjoyed the fireworks and some good music with the Boston Pops.