Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Looking Back On a Strange Summer...

As fall has suddenly arrived here, it's interesting to look back on what has been an unusual year...

Let me start by saying, we do have so much to be thankful for.  There are so many people who have dealt with drought, fires, hurricanes and other issues that we need to keep it in perspective. The weird weather has all of us in the same boat.  All we can do is shake our heads, share stories with our farmer friends and hope for a good harvest despite the weather difficulties that were/are 2018.

We saw rain totals this year like I don't ever remember. With the exception of the month of June, I can't say with confidence that we had many long stretches of consecutive days of sunshine all summer long!

Lancaster County averages 43" of rain annually.  This year we surpassed that total by the end of August.  There was a storm that stalled over the county on August 31, that dumped at least 10" on a nearby town in just a few hours, resulting in unprecedented flooding.

The West Lampeter Community Fair saw major mud this year.  I saw tractors pulling 4 X 4's out of the mud on Wednesday morning, as the vendors were trying to set up their booths.  The fair's board of directors "and company" did an amazing job of making it a memorable year despite circumstances that were out of everyone's control.  Trailer loads of mulch were hauled in and spread...they arranged shuttles from satellite locations for fair goers and they patiently dealt with the many headaches that they were handed.  Hats off to them~ it was still a fun community event!


Baling hay was a challenge all summer, but right now Jim is raking up the last of 5th cutting hay, hoping to bale tonight or tomorrow morning.

Here's what the corn and beans look like today...




It sure would be nice if all the beans looked like this!



There are reports of corn sprouting on the ears in the fields.

There are reports of truck loads of soybeans being rejected at the mills because of mold.

It's been that wet.

It's been cool and windy this week, so I went to the basement and dug out the quilted flannels, washed them and hung them out to dry in the breeze. It didn't take them long!  We haven't had to run the big fans in the barn, so it's been blessedly quiet...



...and just for fun, here's a picture I took at a neighborhood auction about a week ago.  Our little Amish neighbors couldn't wait to try out their "new" sled!


I guess they're dreaming of snow a  bit  lot more than I am!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

And Just Like That...It's Fall...

What a difference a few days can make!

The past weeks have been...IMHO...horribly uncomfortable.  The humidity has been so thick you could just about cut it, and the temps just couldn't come down.

Yesterday we spent the day at Eric's final home cross country meet.  How did he become a college senior so quickly?!  It was a beautiful day for running...overcast and in the mid 70's.  First day we've had weather like that in a very. long. time.

He had a great race...


...and the team had a great finish, winning the invitational.  He's 3rd from the right...



Afterwards, as tradition has it, the team and families held a tailgate potluck.  My fingers were freezing by the time we were finished, but I'm not complaining!  As long as there's a blanket to throw over me or a sweatshirt to put on, I'm good.

This week we finished our silage harvest. With all the rain we've been having, the guys have been burning the candle at both ends.  They've been putting in really long days, trying to keep up with all the farms that they need to get to before the corn gets too dry.  The equipment arrived at 1:30 am, and sat waiting until they arrived around 8 am...



For some reason, the silage pipe kept getting plugged up.  Jim is up at the top, and Mark is sitting on top of the blower, working at getting it open...


The last load of silage...


The guys moved on to the next farm quickly, and took the blower with them.  Silo gas, which can be deadly, forms when fresh silage is put into a silo.  To deliver fresh air into the silo, farmers usually run the blower when working inside the silo for the first day or so.  The gas doesn't form right away, so Jim quickly leveled the silage and we set up the unloader after lunch. I was at the bottom of the silo inside the silage room, lowering the unloader at his instruction.  I found our kids' handprints in the concrete, where we had reinforced with shotcrete years ago.

Eric...


...and Jenna...


Things change so quickly!

For now, we hope to enjoy fall!  The West Lampeter Fair is this coming week, and I'm sure we'll be spending a lot of time there.  It might be a muddy mess (it's raining, again!) but it will happen regardless!  It's one of the highlights of the year for us. Goat, sheep, pig and dairy beef shows, baked goods, contests, fair food, and much more bring the community together for a great time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Home" Improvements...

We've finally seen a few projects completed that we've been anticipating for a while!

One project was our side porch...



In the almost twenty five years that we've lived here, we've replaced the wooden floor boards on this heavily used porch at least twice...maybe three times.  The tongue and groove boards looked nice, until they began to rot from moisture over time.  We tried to keep them painted, but over time there wasn't much option but to replace them. Again.

This time we decided to go with a composite material, from a local Amish company that we've used before for PVC and hi-tensil fencing.  We lined things up in late April, but with the rainy summer we've had, things didn't get underway until last week.

They ripped off the old porch boards on Thursday afternoon,  and came back on Friday morning to install the new floor...




The dogs couldn't stay off the porch even while they were working in it.  I overheard one of the guys commenting that "it looks like she's reclaiming her porch!"


Yesterday the came back to finish up.  They put hinges in the door to the basement, and replaced the pump trough...


...and they finished the other part of the job.

This section of fence around the barnyard was begging to be replaced for a while, and it looks so much better now!  We opted to also put up a section of fence to block off the skid tanks that hold our diesel and gasoline.  I would say it was a great improvement!


You know what would make it even better? 

Some SUNSHINE!  I was just looking up rainfall totals for Lancaster County this year...
Lancaster County usually receives about 41" of rainfall per year.  We've already reached/surpassed that amount, with four months to go in 2018. 

SUNSHINE...please?


Friday, August 31, 2018

Silo Filling 2018

Yesterday was the day...

Jim tested corn stalks twice in the last week, and yesterday morning corn silage went into the east silo.  Jeff (the guy who chops our corn) bought a different harvester over the winter.  He always had a John Deere, and this time he bought a Claas.  Merle ( our neighbor and the man who used to chop our corn) wanted to take some video of the harvester so he hung out on the barn hill for a while...


It didn't take long at all to fill this silo as full as Jim wanted it.  Some changes are coming...soon...on our farm, and we don't need both silos to be full right now.  More on that later...but don't worry...we're good with it!



It still makes me nervous when I see Jim "run" up the ladder on the outside of the silo!  I only do it on rare occasions, and I'm shaking in my boots the whole way up...and down...


The silage is beautiful and the unloader is all set up, ready to go!  As I sit here typing, our Amish neighbors are running up and down the road with their horses/mules and empty wagons, preparing for their corn harvest.  I don't envy them that job!  What takes us a few hours can take them days, sometimes several weeks to finish.

Wishing farmers everywhere a safe and bountiful harvest!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Canning Update...

My garden is tiny this year.  In fact, so tiny that I'm sure the local tour guides who pass by in cars with tourists, use it as yet another way to distinguish an "English" garden from an "Amish" one.  Years ago when my garden was big (by my standards) it was regarded as small by said local tour guides, so I can't imagine how it's regarded now!  (yes, it ticked me off a little bit when I found out, can you tell?!  :)  Oh well...)

It's also very overgrown with grass right now, and I will be the first to admit that an Amish garden would NOT look like mine in this regard.  In my defense, the 10" + of rain that we had in the past month did nothing to help with weed control!

Regardless...I'm happy with the results of my canning efforts this summer!

First came the pickles... 


I only got two batches of banana pickles processed before my cucumber plants wilted, but these will hold us over for a while!  The  pear butter on the top shelf is from last fall...

Next came jellies...

Raspberry jelly, blackberry jelly and white grape jelly.  I like to give these as gifts, and we'll still have plenty leftover for ourselves...


Then came tomatoes...

I have four tomato plants this year, and they were doing great until the monsoon season hit.  Now they're suffering from blight, although there are still enough tomatoes out there for a small batch of sauce now and then. 

I made two batches of salsa so far this year...eleven jars each, and I still hae several jars left from last year.  I'd like to do another batch if I get enough tomatoes at once, because I like to gift these jars as well.  We eat a lot of salsa ourselves, so I want to have plenty!


This year's salsa is on the top shelf, the second shelf is several batches each of pasta and pizza sauce.  I use Mrs. Wage's mix for those sauces.  It's quick, easy, and we like the flavor!  My go to Sunday lunch lately has been french bread pizza.  Just slice a loaf of french bread horizontally, spread some sauce, cheese and toppings of your choice, bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400*, and you have a quick lunch!  Bake it on a stone, and the bottom even gets a little crispy.  Mmmm...

Our white grape vine overachieved this year, and I got what I feel like is a huge amount of grape juice on top of the jelly that I made!  I have sixteen quarts of juice on the bottom shelf that I made "the old way", and twelve quarts of juice concentrate on the middle shelf that I made using my friend's steamer.  THAT, friends, is a nifty way to make grape juice! 

The other things on the shelves are things from last year that I need to use up!  I don't have any canned beans, and that disappoints me, but it's my own fault!  We won't be starving anyway this winter, that's for sure!

What kind of canning/preserving do you do?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Grapes, Grapes and More Grapes...

The grapes are ready!  I guess they really liked all the rain we've had this summer, because the vines are that heavy that they've fallen off the top wire, and have begun pulling one of the posts over!



This bucket full is from a section only about three feet wide...


Yesterday's outcome, from one bucket full...two batches of white grape jelly.  I never tried it before, but just followed the directions for Concord grape jelly in the pectin box.  We had some on English muffins for breakfast, and it got a thumbs up!  (that's salsa in the jars behind the jelly.  The tomatoes are just as happy as the grapes!)


If you need me today...or for the rest of the week...I'll be standing at the kitchen sink!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Quick Getaway...

It's been a long, long time (10 years!) since Jim and I have been able to both be away from the cows at the same time!  Other than just a couple (4, to be exact!) of times in the last few years where we've missed a milking together for a couple of graduation parties, a wedding and my parents' sale, we've had to divide and conquer when it came to taking time off.

This weekend, while we are in between hay cuttings,and before Jenna heads back to college tomorrow we were able to take a quick trip to Ocean City NJ with Jenna and a friend.  Eric would have gone along, but already had made plans with some college friends.

We left the cows in the trusted and capable hands of our friends Ivan and Victoria, and neighbor Daniel for three milking and we skedaddled!

Ocean City NJ is a short three hour drive.  We tied up the cows in the morning, and pulled out around 6 am.  Before lunch, we were relaxing on the beach...


Within the hour, thunderstorms rolled in, and the beach had to be vacated.  We hung out at the music pier for a while...


...saw a beautiful rainbow...


...and went to an Escape Room for some entertainment.  We were paired up with another group of four, and we found the pirate's treasure before the time was up!


The beach was closed for the rest of the day, so we checked into our boarding house and cooled off, and then headed to the boardwalk for supper .

Later, Jim and the girls rode the ferris wheel...


We bought our salt water taffy and walked the boardwalk for a while before turning in for the night.

This morning was beautiful!  Jim got up early (his body clock just wouldn't let him sleep in!) and went to the boardwalk for coffee.  Later, we all took a walk on the beach...


 The water was warm!





While Jim and I packed up the car, the girls headed out to the water for a quick swim before we headed home again.  It was just a quick trip, but it felt so good to finally get away from the farm for a bit of relaxation!