Monday, September 11, 2017

Silo Filling Prep...

It looks like today is the day.  The chopper is scheduled to roll in around 2:00 - 3:00 this afternoon, so we spent the morning doing some final prep work in the silos.

We have two silos here at home.  The west one had been empty for some time already, so Jim put that unloader up a few weeks ago.  This morning after feeding the cows, he got the second unloader ready to winch up to the top of the silo.  There's some prep involved...first, the unloader has to be lowered so that there's enough slack in the cable for him to hook it up properly for the journey upwards.  That's my job...cranking it down.  And it's a pretty easy one...


That big electric cord is unhooked...


And here's the cable fastened to the bottom of the silo.  We don't crank it the whole way up by hand, but rather remove the handle...


...and use the electric drill that you see in this second picture.  This picture was taken when the unloader was the whole way up at the top, and you can see how much more of the cable is wrapped up...


Doesn't it look kind of like a lunar lander?  I enjoy seeing the unloader from this perspective, with the shadow against the inside of the silo...


By this time tomorrow, Jim will hopefully be leveling off the full silos, and we'll be setting up the unloaders from the top!  There's a lot of climbing the silos involved on the agenda these next few days!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

To Chop Or Not...2017

We've done it before...and we'll do it again this year...

...walk the corn fields and test the moisture level in the stalks before chopping corn, aka filling silo.

This was my view this afternoon...


...and there's one of my helpers!


Phoebe and Murphy tagged along this time, and they had so much fun!  It was like a maze for them...running through tunnels of corn, stepping on the stalks I was dragging...STOP IT!...and getting out some of their pent up energy after several days of rain.

The corn is being tested this afternoon, and we'll have to soon commit to a day for chopping.  There's a narrow window with our small silos...too dry, the silage won't pack well and the air will allow the feed to get moldy.  Too wet, and there's juice, juice, juice.

We'll see...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Granola Recipe aka "Keeping the College Kids Well Fed"...

Earlier today I posted a picture of a pan full of delicious granola that was in my oven...making my kitchen smell soooo good...


I sent both of our college kids on their way this past month with a box of food.  You know...in case the cafeteria doesn't feed them enough.  Things like nutella, peanut butter, popcorn, dried fruit, granola bars...all kinds of things...and of course homemade granola!  Bonnie, a friend of mine, gave me this recipe a while ago, and it's the only granola we've eaten ever since!

One of the kids asked for a refill this week, so this morning I threw a batch together.  It's that easy.

A bunch of you on Facebook, asked for the recipe...so here it is!

HEALTHY GRANOLA

4 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 c. raw nuts and/or seeds (I used sliced almonds)
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 c melted coconut oil (she has used olive oil and likes it, but I prefer the taste of coconut oil)
1/2 c maple syrup or honey (I use 1/4 c of each)
1 t vanilla extract

2/3 c dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts/seeds, salt and cinnamon.  Stir thoroughly to combine.  In another bowl, mix the melted oil, maple syrup/honey and vanilla together.  Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.  Spread the granola evenly on the lined baking sheet.  Bake until golden, about 21-23 minutes.  (I set the timer for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through baking).  If you prefer to have chunks of granola for snacking as opposed to a cereal, don't stir, but be careful to not let it get too dark.  Allow the granola to cool completely, undisturbed before adding dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container at room temp for 1-2 weeks, or in a sealed freezer container for up to 3 months.

Enjoy!




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Still Canning Tomatoes...

It's been a few weeks since I posted...and guess what?  I'm still canning tomatoes!

I made three batches of salsa, one batch of spaghetti sauce (I have some left from last year) and I'm on my second batch of tomato soup today!

Oh...and in there, a friend came and picked several buckets full of tomatoes when I was gone taking Jenna to college in Kansas.  They just keep growing and ripening...yay for those of us who like tomatoes!

Yesterday when I got up, I was planning to make a fourth batch of salsa...but I read a post on face book by a friend who made soup, and so I changed my plans.  I think she froze hers, but I found a recipe that looked good that was for a pressure canner, and so I gave it a try.  I think the kettle full of veggies looks so pretty!


Such an easy recipe...and I got ten pints, plus enough for our supper last night...


Normally, a pint jar of soup concentrate wouldn't be nearly enough for our family...but I'm having to retrain myself to think in terms of cooking for two, not four.  Both kids are away at college, so it's a season of change here in many ways.

Here's the recipe, if you'd like to give it a try...

TOMATO SOUP CONCENTRATE

8 lbs ripe tomatoes, unpeeled, quartered
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups onion, diced
1 cup fresh parsley
6 bay leaves
3/4 cup clear jel
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp salt (optional...I used less)
1/4 cup sugar (optional)

Place tomatoes, celery, onion, parsley and bay leaves in a large stainless steel pot.  Cook gently, uncovered, until tender, stirring as needed.

Press through a food strainer, or sieve into a large stainless steel or enamel cast iron sauce pan.  

Set aside 2 cups of puree to cool.

Whisk together clear jel, and cooled tomato puree to form a slurry.

Bring soup back to a boil and stir in the slurry.  (This is when I added the salt, pepper and sugar)  Continue to boil for about two minutes, until it thickens.  *Soup will not resemble commercial soup concentrate, but rather a slightly-too-thick tomato soup.

Ladle into pint or half pint jars and fill to 1" head space.  Wipe rings and set two piece caps.

Process in pressure canner...at 10 lbs pressure for a weighted gauge and 11 lbs pressure for dial gauge...for 25 minutes.  Do not use quarts for this recipe

When ready to make the soup, just heat with equal parts liquid such as milk, water or chicken broth.


I kept some extra out for our supper last night, and we were pleased with the taste!  Grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh lima beans from my Mom's garden made a tasty meal!  



Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Bumper Crop Of 'Maters...

It's been a fabulous growing season here!  Rain, rain and more rain, and hot humid days have given every plant the extra boost needed to grow.  Even the weeds.  :(

Like most other crops, my tomatoes have over achieved this year.  I planted six different varieties...one plant of each...and they've gone wild!


I planted Celebrity, Early Girl, Mountain Fresh, Amish Paste, Abe Lincoln and ??  I can't seem to remember the last one, and the tag is missing.  All of them are producing large fruit that are ripening evenly without cracking (from all the rain) except for Mr Lincoln.  I don't think I'll plant that one again. Those tomatoes are yellow on the shoulders and have mostly cracked. Lucky for the chickens, their pen is right next to the garden, and they get the rejects for snack!

This morning I picked a large bucket full, and made my first batch of salsa.  I tried to make it a little on the hot side, since Eric and Jim both like it better that way, but I'm not sure I was too successful. Eric will be living in an on campus apartment this year at college, so I figured I'd send a stash with him. Hopefully he and his room mates will like it even if it's mild.

It looks like tomorrow or Saturday I'll have another bunch ready for picking...


My favorite cherry tomato ever is Sweet Baby Girl.  I've not been disappointed in her this summer either.  These beauties are just the right size for a bite sized taste, and they're wonderfully sweet...


This afternoon's harvest...


...and the batch of salsa that I made this morning is bubbling away in the canner as I type...so see...I'm not wasting time, I'm multi tasking!  :)


Jim is about half finished with fourth cutting hay...Jenna is mowing the yard...Eric is at work...and we're enjoying our last week together as a family before both kids head off to college next weekend.  It's going to be really, really different around here as we do the "empty nest" thing for the first time!

What's happening where you are?  In your garden? On your farm?

Here's a link to the salsa recipe that we like!


Friday, July 28, 2017

Shelling Out the Corn Crib...

Last fall, rather than selling our excess corn out of the field, Jim decided to pick corn and fill the crib. Today he had it shelled out and sold...


There were several trucks and a hammer mill.  They used an elevator to load the corn into the hammer mill...


...where the corn was shelled and the cobs were ground.  They were then separated into the two trucks. The corn was then sold and the cobs went to a mushroom house...



It sure didn't take them long!  In about two hours they finished, and left behind the empty corn crib...


When they started this morning, Jim asked the guy to estimate how many bushels of corn were in the crib.  He guessed 1100.  This afternoon when Jim called to find out how the yield was, he was told there were actually over 1300 bushels, which was a nice surprise.  The corn was also nice and dry, which means there will be no docking of the price for moisture.   

Before we know it, it will be harvest time again.  The jury is still out over whether or not to go this route again.  We'll see!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Summer Update...

I've been terribly negligent in keeping you up to date on our corn and soybeans, and you might be surprised at how tall they are now!  This is what happens in five weeks during a typical Pennsylvania summer.

I had to use live measuring devices, since they're so tall...especially the corn! It's well over my head now, and I'm 5' 5" ...



Phoebe is the measuring device for the soybeans.  (she was looking for a cat that disappeared into the field in front of her. This was in between bounces)...


Everything is growing like crazy right now.  We've had a lot of rain (another almost 2" today!) and hot, humid temps, which together make both miserable conditions for the humans and terrific growing conditions for the crops!

Jim just finished up third cutting of alfalfa last night before the rains came, so we're happily enjoying a small break in the craziness.

How's your summer going?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What A Summer...

What a summer it's been so far!

We've been incredibly blessed with some gorgeous weather this past week...gorgeous enough that it almost makes me forget the horrible, humid, hot days that we had a few weeks ago!  The breeze is blowing through the house, the birds are singing outside the windows and the blue sky with puffy white clouds is welcome.  When we look south out of the barn in the mornings and see the hills clearly, we know it's going to be a good day!

We've had a lot going on here, and I haven't had much time to read or write blog posts lately.  I have a few minutes today, and some pictures already on the computer, so here's a snap shot of what we've been up to.

Jim finished 2nd cutting hay on June 15th, and baled barley straw that week also.  That Saturday, June 17th was my parents' auction.  They'll be downsizing and moving in less than a month, to a house right across the road from us.  That's our big project this summer.

Here are a few pictures of the house renovations...

The original owners liked the "Bermuda" look.  It looked very nice in it's time, but we were ready to make it our own, and it was sorely in need of new paint and new flooring...


My sister and I, and Jenna started painting the second week of June. Because we knew we were replacing the carpet, it was nice to be able to not worry about dripping paint on the floor.  We chose a darker shade for the front living room, and a lighter shade for the rest of the house.  As you can see, it has a very open floor plan, so it would have been tricky to paint several different colors not in the same family...


Jim ripped out the carpet over the past several days, and the new flooring is scheduled to be installed soon!


I spent most of yesterday pulling up tack strips where we'll be putting vinyl instead of carpet.  Namely the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry area.  They were glued and nailed to the concrete floor, so it took a while.  There was a little damage to the concrete to the floor where we pulled the nails out, but shouldn't be too complicated or time consuming to repair before the vinyl goes down...


While I did that, Mom did some more painting, and she and Jenna did some clean up work.

Next we have to decide what to do in one of the bathrooms where the wallpaper is coming off, and we need to repair some loose ceramic tiles around the shower.  It's been quite a project, but it's been fun to see it coming together!  

If I'm awol from the blog for awhile, it's because I've been just a little bit distracted.  Bear with me...and stay tuned for some "finished" pictures soon!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hay, Straw and a Heat Wave...

Jim says that the week that the barley is combined is always the hottest week of the summer, and this year is no exception!

But first, there was hay to unload.  Jim's in the middle of 2nd cutting of hay this week, and with no rain in sight for several days, he was able to get several wagon loads of dry hay.  We pulled a small crew together and they got it unloaded this morning.  Oh boy, was it ever hot! I think the temperatures were close to 100% today.  Yuck.

Just a few short weeks ago, this mow was completely empty, and housed a puppy kennel for the chilly nights (which are but a distant memory)...


We'll see how full this mow gets this summer.  It's not quite at the half way mark yet.  I climbed up the elevator for a different perspective.


The crumbs left in the wagon got shoveled into the hay racks in the meadow, for an evening snack for the cows.  That's the first place they go when they're left out of the barn for the night...and if there's nothing in the racks for them, do we ever hear about it!


Then it was time to head over to the barley field.  Those windrows of straw are what was left behind by the combine...


Jim started baling around lunch time, but the straw was still a little tough, so he stopped and waited a few hours to try again. It was nicer (drier) by then, but still not as nice as he would have liked, so he left the rest lay for another day.

I'm glad today is almost over, and right now, I'm thankful for a shower, clean clothes, and for the cool breeze blowing in the window beside me.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Corn and Beans..."Episode 2"...

They're still growing  (they'd better be!!)...

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of the tiny corn and bean plants that were beginning to grow in our fields. We've had a lot of moisture, which is good...but the temps have been cooler than usual, so the growth in the fields hasn't been quite as fast as some years.

Here is the corn today, 16 days later...




And here are the beans...


The corn always seems to grow faster than the soybeans, but when you figure how much taller it has to grow than the beans do before maturity, it makes sense.  If we continue the pattern of plenty of moisture and the temps soar next week like they're calling for, everything should grow like crazy!

All in all, it's doing really well for 3 1/2 weeks.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Watching the Corn and Beans Grow...

A couple of years ago, I did a series of post throughout the growing season, following one particular corn stalk...from seed to harvest.  You can read that series of posts here...

I decided to do it again this year...but I'm going to compare the corn and soybeans.  They were both planted on the same two days...last Monday and Tuesday (May 15 and 16).  Over the weekend, I noticed a few shoots poking through the soil, and this morning you can clearly see down the rows.

Here are the soybeans...



...and the corn...



It's clear the the first time I did this (2012) that the corn was planted earlier than this year!  The weather has so much to do with it...but by Memorial Day, which is fast approaching, the corn that year was already several inches high.  We'll see though...with the rain we just had, and the warm temps to come...it's going to grow in leaps and bounds!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Update...the War On Chickweed...One Month Later...

This is a happy story...

One month ago today, I posted about  the downside of a mild winter. Chickweed had overtaken my flower bed along the meadow fence. Granted, it's at a spot where weeds from the meadow can easily creep in, but I'd never had it look this bad in the spring.  Using mushroom mulch didn't help a thing, as it not only builds up the soil and feeds the good plants, but it feeds the weeds as well.

One month later, I'm happy to show you pictures, not only because it took a lot of hard work, but because I'm flower happy this time of year!

Most of the iris came from a former neighbor who grew hundreds of varieties to sell, as did the peonies.  The roses, which are struggling a bit, came from another neighbor.  That's just one of the beauties of perennials...you can enjoy the flowers as well as the memories of friendship!

I know...the edges of this flower bed aren't straight...and that bugs me.  A lot!  Actually, the intended edge is straight...and mulched.  You can see it if you look closely. However, the chickweed also crawled into the grass.  The weed killer that I used worked quite fine...except that now I need to seed some new grass to fill in the gaps.

Here we go...







The peonies will be open any day now.  Their fragrance is wonderful! (and much nicer than what I'm smelling from the fields right now!)

Do you see who photo bombed my picture?!


Iris and peonies don't like mulch, as their roots need to be on the drier side...so I mulched around them, leaving some space around each plant.  It doesn't look as tidy as I prefer, but whatever keeps them happy!  I also used regular bark mulch this year, hoping that it well better hold back the chickweed.

My war on chickweed isn't over.  It never will be, this close to the meadow...but for now I'd say this battle has been won!



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Signs of Spring...2017...

I'll ask you to forgive me ahead of time for the picture heavy post, but SPRING is here. Completely here, and the sounds and colors make me quite happy!

I like sleeping with the windows open,  hearing the birds singing in the early morning...

I love so many flowers, I might just have to show them all to you...


Dr Ruppel, my early blooming clematis...



Coleus are some of my favorites, and they do well on my porch where they get both sun and shade...


I call this "Happy Row".  The challenge is keeping the dogs from knocking the pots off the bench...


These old fashioned Rhododendron bushes must be around forty years old, at least!


The house finches have once again built nests in my Begonia hanging baskets.  I love hearing their sweets sounds...



And yes, rain is part of spring.  The only sure way to dry running shoes without the dogs dragging them off and chewing them up...


Can you see him?  The corn planter is here!


Phoebe is loving the weather...and is loving destroying the ball that Eric gave her last week...


We'd better enjoy SPRING today, because summer is coming tomorrow!