Thursday, July 21, 2016

Save the Trees...

A couple of years ago, PPL (the electric company that has a power line and therefore a right of way through our farm) decided that it was time to do a massive tree trim.  Anything...anything at all that was within 75 feet of the center of the power line had to go.  No exceptions.

The fence line along our meadow was 69 feet from the center line, so all of our trees had to go.  That meant all of our shade for the cows was gone, with the exception of one lonely tree.  Here's the post I wrote about it.  It all turned out fine, because PPL made good on their promise to replant trees in another spot for us!

We chose four Autumn Blaze Maple trees, which they planted about 30 feet further in from the fence line.  During the hottest days of that first summer, the kids took 5 gallon buckets of water to each tree daily, to get them off to a good start and keep them alive.  They're thriving now.  Here's a picture of one of them last fall...


We've had wire fence around the trees since they've been planted, and the cows have pretty much left them alone until this summer.  Now they've decided it's entertaining to pull at the lower branches, stripping them of leaves, breaking branches and causing damage...


Enough is enough!  We're not going to have these trees damaged to the point that they die.  So...we had tree boxes put up around them last week...


They're 7 1/2' squares, made with four round corner posts and 2 x 6's.  The cows might still be able to chew on a few leaves, but shouldn't be able to break the branches in close to the trunk...


I like the way they look...in my opinion, kind of old fashioned!


Here's hoping for some huge shade trees in a few years!

I'm linking up with Good Fences today.  Thanks TexWisGirl for hosting!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Overzealous Tomatoes...

For the past twenty two years, I have struggled to grow tomatoes in my garden!

What?!  Who can't grow tomatoes?  Apparently I can't couldn't.

Why?  Maybe partly because there's blight in my soil?  Maybe because when I would sucker them, I was damaging the stem and allowing disease in?  Who know why.

I make a lot of salsa, and I can a lot of pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and plain tomatoes for cooking.  I was determined this year to "do it right" and by the looks of things, I've finally succeeded.  I'm 5' 5", and this one is up to my nose, and just about as big around...


I found a couple of ripening ones this morning...


This is the cherry tomato on steroids.  I'm almost certain it grows a foot each day lately...


There are tons of baby cherry tomatoes hanging on the vine...


So...what did I do differently?

*Last fall I talked to an Amish neighbor who has a green house.  He sold me something to sprinkle on my soil.  Unfortunately, I don't remember what it was called!  It was a 40 lb bag of something that resembled lime in color and texture, but it wasn't lime.

*When I planted this year, I immediately sprayed the leaves with Liquid Copper, which helps to prevent early blight among other diseases.  I'm not an "organic" grower, but for those of you who are, it's an organic approved treatment.

*I also mulched heavily with straw, which prevents the soil from splashing up onto the leaves when it rains, which is how blight spreads to the tomato plant.

*Last, I didn't sucker the plants, but just put the cages around them and left them be.

The results seem to be positive...

All in all, it's a lesson for me to "never give up"!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Memories of Grandma...

This is my Grandma...my Mom's mom...Ella Neff Herr.  Today she would be celebrating her 117th birthday...

Ella Neff Herr  July 11, 1899 - December 31, 2000

I grew up on the farm where she and my Grandpa farmed, and she and Grandpa lived just a short walk across the meadow.  We had a path worn from our house to theirs, and I remember walking often to their house, opening the white wooden gate at the corner of their yard, walking up the short hill, under the rose arbor,up the walk that was lined with Portulacas and across the porch.  After a quick knock at the door, I would hear "come in"...in a voice that was so welcoming and sweet.  It got shakier as the years went by, but it was the most kind, most welcoming voice you could ever want to hear.

In earlier years, I would often find Grandma quilting in the back room. Sometimes I would play at her feet, pretending to play "Noah's Ark" with plastic animals.  I would line them up under her quilting frame and bring her rubber boots to wear so that her feet wouldn't get wet.  She always wore them with a smile!

Sometimes she would be baking those famous sugar cookies.  She always would let us eat more than Mom would, but would remind us not to spoil our supper!

I remember eating breakfast at Grandma and Grandpa's house in their tiny kitchen.  The toaster sat on a shelf above the table, and sometimes...if we were lucky...the toast would pop out of the toaster and fall directly onto the butter dish that was strategically placed below.  :)

Grandma grew beautiful flowers and huge cabbages, like you see in the picture above.  I know she and Grandpa grew other things in their gardens too, but these are what I remember most.

In later years when I would stop in, Grandma would be in her black rocking chair and Grandpa in his recliner. She would often be crocheting and Grandpa would be reading, with the radio always tuned to the same local Christian radio station.  She and Grandpa weren't outspoken about their faith, but taught us by example how to follow Jesus.

All of us twelve grandchildren would say that Grandma made us feel like she loved us the best!  I just happened to be one of the lucky ones who lived next door.

I'm so glad to have this picture of Grandma with Eric and Jenna, taken just a few weeks before she died.  Both kids have vague memories of her...


Grandma always said that she wanted to fall asleep one day and not wake up again. On Sunday, December 31, 2000, Grandma got her wish. She lived a full and happy life...101 years of it...left many, many happy memories with those of us who loved her!

Oh how I would love to be able to spend a day with her again.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Garden Bounty...

Last year's cucumber plants died.  All of them...and before I got to make any pickles!

So this year, being almost completely out of pickles on my canning shelves, I planted four cucumber plants.  Here is today's bounty...



Last week I made a batch of Bread and Butter pickles, and today I made a canner full (seven jars) of Banana Pickles.  These are a favorite of ours.  I first tasted them at a birthday party for my friend Sue several years ago. Her Mom served them, and I soon asked for the recipe.  They're super easy to make, and are a good way to use up any over grown cucumbers that you may have!

First you peel them and scoop out the seeds.  I just use a spoon...


Then you slice them lengthwise...


Next, you fill the jars, packing them as tightly as possible, and fill them with syrup, leaving 1/2" - 1" head space...


Boil them in a hot water bath for ten minutes, and you have delicious pickles!  (recipe for syrup is below)

Last but not least, you feed the peels and seeds to the chickens, and they go crazy...


Here's the syrup...

To fill three quarts...mix together 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, 3 cups sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp mustard seed and 1 tsp turmeric.  Bring to a boil and pour over cucumbers in jars.

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Day On Our Dairy Farm...

June is dairy month.  Did you know that?  I'm joining today with a group of dairy farmers to give you a glimpse into a day in our lives. Click on the links at the end of this post to read their posts.


Which day do I choose?  Hmmm...they're all so different!

Yesterday was a crazy day, and today is much more laid back, but both are typical days on the farm.

I guess I'll chronicle Monday for you.  It went something like this...

5:30 am...I hit the snooze again, and struggle to wake up.  Jim's already been up for a while, so I drag myself out of bed and head downstairs.  I am not a morning person, can you tell?  I can hear the cows starting to walk into the barn, stalls rattling as they find their places.

6:00 am...cows are ready for milking and Jim starts milking the first two rows. (we have four rows of cows in our barn)  I hop in the car and drive over to the other farm where we keep our bred heifers and dry cows. There's a springer (a cow about to calve) that needs to be checked.  She's fine, so I head home again and go in to pack Eric's lunch.  Our neighbor Daniel pulls in just after 6:00 and starts the feeding.  He helps us three mornings a week before his other job, and our kids help the other mornings before they leave for work. We are switching a few extra cows around right now, so I milk the extra cows and switch them into box pens so that when Jim brings the other three milkers over to the 3rd and 4th rows, we can keep right on milking.

7:30 am...Daniel heads for his other job, and Jim does the daily run with the manure spreader.  I start the pipeline washer and head to the hutches to feed the calves before breakfast.  They're eagerly waiting for their food...


The one closest to the camera is eight weeks old, ready for weaning off milk, and she's not happy about it!  Notice her mouth is wide open?  If there were sound here, you'd hear her protesting loudly.  She's doing fine...just misses her milk.

There are two fields of second cutting hay laying. It's been a good drying weekend, but rain is forecast for this afternoon, so Jim heads out after breakfast to rake the hay into windrows.  Jenna heads to the barn to do "the morning work"...bedding up with sawdust, feeding the heifers hay, getting balage down in the cart for the noon feeding, and general barn cleanup.  While she's doing that, I wash up dishes and run a couple of errands.  Oh...and work on that huge Monday morning laundry pile. At least when I wash dishes I can enjoy the view from my kitchen window...



Late morning..Jim starts baling, and Jenna and I bring empty wagons over from the other farm and drop them in a corner of the meadow where he can easily hook up to them with the baler when he's ready.

Noon'ish - 1:00'ish...We left the cows in the barn today with the fans running, so Jenna and I give them their noon time feeding of balage and corn. Jim is almost finished baling, and he calls me from the field.  The sky is looking pretty threatening, so Jenna hooks me up to the full wagons and I take them over to the other farm where they can be backed into the barn if it rains.  Just as Jim finishes filling the last wagon, the rain drops begin to fall!  He gets the wagons under cover and feeds the heifers and dry cows while he's over at the other farm.

Meanwhile, Jenna has been browning beef for the co-op meal I'm making tonight.  I finish it up and deliver the meals.  Luckily I had chosen a simple recipe for today. Sloppy joes are super quick and easy to make!

4:00 pm or so...Eric gets home from work, soaking wet from working outside in the rain.  We get a short break before evening milking.  Eric feeds, Jim and I milk, and an Amish neighbor boy takes care of calves and other chores.  Jenna warms up supper so that after milking the guys can eat before unloading hay.

7:00 pm...Jim, Eric and my cousin Steve unload two of the four wagons full of hay. Since there's no more hay ready to bale right away, there's no hurry to empty all the wagons tonight. I think they're planning to unload the others tomorrow evening.

 The mow is getting fuller!  Sometimes we fight with the weather all summer and have trouble getting nice dry hay, which we prefer to feed...but this year the weather has cooperated a little more and we're thankful to see the mow slowly filling up.


7:30 pm..Jenna and I put the cows out into the meadow for the night and clean up the barn.  One cow is in heat, and goes a little crazy as she leaves the barn.  She finally gets to the meadow and settles down a bit.  Jim has me call the breeder for early morning service tomorrow.

8:00 pm...After the hay is unloaded, Jim goes to check out the springer at the other farm once more before bed, and finds her with a little heifer calf.  We like to have them home before they calve, but sometimes they go early like this one. He heads over with the cow trailer and tractor, and since it's almost dark, I follow him in the car with the flashers on to bring the cow and calf home.

It's finally time to relax before bedtime.  Somehow after a day like this one, relaxing quickly turns to sleep for all of us!

Not nearly all days on the farm are like this one, thankfully!  It gets a little crazy sometimes, but I find that the busier I am, the more I get accomplished!  The next few days will be a little more relaxed...at least for me...and I would imagine you'll find me much less motivated and easily distracted!

Farm life is not boring, that's for sure!

Here are the other links! Thanks to Sadie from Dairygoodlife.com for pulling it all together!

Eat Farm Love

New Day Dairy

Guernsey Dairy Mama

Dairy Good Life

SC Farm Wife




Monday, June 27, 2016

Finishing Up Second Cutting...

It's all baled...finally!

It was a good drying weekend, but rain was forecast for this afternoon.  So Jim headed to the field right after breakfast this morning and raked up the last two fields of second cutting alfalfa.  He began baling late morning, and finished up with four big loads, just as the drizzling started.  There were a few bales that wouldn't fit on the last wagon, so he dropped them on the ground. Jenna and my cousin picked them up, stacked them on a neighbor's empty wagon, and unloaded them at the other farm.

All the full wagons were backed into the barn to stay dry until after milking tonight.  Jim, Eric and my cousin unloaded two of them...


The mow is getting full!  Some years we can hardly get dry hay, so we're glad for every load that is put in the mow!  Balage is nice, but dry hay is the best!


Tomorrow the other two loads will get unloaded, and next Jim will bale the spring seeding.

It never ends!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Friday's Hunt...#26!...

When I decided to join with Teresa at Eden Hills for Friday's Hunt each week, I didn't expect the time to go by so fast...here we are at week 26 already!  I missed two weeks, but tried to catch up with at least a photo for the letter from the week when I did my next post.

Here we go with "the letter Z"...

This is the inside of one of the big doors upstairs in the barn. Can you see the Z? You can see that some repairs have been done to the door, and only the outside's been painted...


"Week's favorite"...

My purple cone flowers opened this week!  I moved them to the bed close to the house last summer when I got rid of my big perennial bed, and they have grown in leaps and bounds!  They're probably three feet high, and look so much healthier and happier than they did ever before.  Maybe it's that compost I added to the soil?  I have a lot of favorite flowers, and this is definitely one of them...





"Today"...

This prompt is wide open!

This is looking west over the fields here at home today, from up on the barn hill.  The corn and beans were planted on May 26th and 27th.  They came up quickly, and with the rains we've had lately, they should continue growing well. There's a line of white ag bags out along the water way on the left side of the picture.  Some are first cutting alfalfa and some are rye grass...



I also tried something new today...

Home made pesto, with basil from the garden...


I've been wanting to try it, and finally got around to it.  I usually plant basil in pots on the porch, but this time I had an extra plant that I put in the garden. Apparently it's happier there, and has grown huge in a short amount of time...much bigger than the ones on my porch!

I hope you've enjoyed the Friday's Hunt posts.  It's been fun to participate!