Monday, October 29, 2007

Around the Farm

The boys showed me how easy it is to upload photos from our digital camera; now I need to try it out for myself!
David decided it would be fun to get Samson to sleep with him in Peter's bottom bunk.
I took this photo through the bedroom window, so the boys didn't know it was taken. Friends gave Andrew the three wheeler, and he was busy trying to change one of its tires. He has quite a mind for vehicle repairs. I guess we can truly consider ourselves homesteaders, since Sunday another family brought us our first tractor! Too bad it doesn't work. The guys were out today, trying to get it to start.

The goats were all brought into our barn area for the fall/winter. It took a while for them to decide who was head honcho; finally things have settled down and they all tolerate each other.

Back to Business

It has been a very beautiful day today. Can't believe it's in the 60's and sunny -- and almost the end of October! The younger boys are upstairs doing what our friend Steve calls the "bean dance," which is jumping on the dried bean pods to harvest our navy, kidney and great northern beans. Peter went to town with Jim to mail the homeschool association newsletters I processed this morning, and I just came back from a trip to the mailbox to check for mail. I was kind of forced outside, since our wood stove decided to back up again for the nth time. I have a feeling we should give up on using it until Jim decides what he is going to do with it. The pipe outside is not reaching above the roof line, so we've had a lot of backdrafting. At least we have floor heat to fall back on until we make some decisions and do what we have to do to use wood heat again.

About 2 weeks ago we managed to butcher close to a third of our chickens. Jonathan was determined this time to keep the skin on them, so they devised a cauldron type thing to scald the chickens. They used an old pressure canner and suspended it with chain over a fire, utilizing a thermocouple to check the temperature of the water. It worked slick, and I had no complaints when the plucked and gutted (or should I say "eviscerated") chickens made their way into the house. I need to review the Mesko family's DVD on chicken butchering and Herrick Kimball's tutorial on chicken butchering because I did a terrible job of cutting up the chickens to place in the freezer. I finally got so tired of trying to find joints to separate the parts that I made quite a few knives dull by just cutting through the bone!

The boys and I returned last Thurs. from our big trip to my folks' place near Duluth, MN, and attended my niece's wedding. We had lots of car trouble, but thankfully limped successfully to Mom and Dad's house. I parked the car, and scheduled it to go into the shop the following Monday morning. Unfortunately, by that time the car quit acting up! We had a very special time with family. Uncle Mike and Uncle Mark made sure the boys has a great time, and Grandpa W. taught them how to make box joints. They even came back with a jig for making them. I'm looking forward to lots of boxes for storage. Uncle Mike sent back a trailer full of different types of wood for them to build their creations.

I'm not mentioning any names (!!), but when visiting I stepped down on carpeting and thought I had landed on a needle. Trying to be nonchalant, I took a peek, and it wasn't a needle -- it was a porcupine quill! One of them was doing quill work, and accidentally dropped a quill. Needless to say, I found it for her. I had stepped fairly hard on the quill, so it required pliers to pull it out. Ouch! Now I can empathize with our dog when he had to have quills pulled from his nose and mouth area. I did benefit, though, as for my birthday I received a beautiful pair of quill earrings.

We were gone a total of 8 days, and it was very hard for me to leave my folks. Hopefully the Lord will make a way for us to visit everyone at least a couple of times every year. I am very thankful for emails and the ability to make long distance phone calls.

Jim was busy when we were gone as well. Since I took the family car he was pretty much stuck here, but had plenty to keep him busy. We have 2 bee hives, and he managed to extract a couple of gallons of honey. I am glad I wasn't here when he did it! He also had to deal with one of our tomcats that decided to kill 2 of our laying hens (caught him red handed in the chicken coop with a newly killed chicken), and a dog that had 6 puppies. Jim was our official goat milker and goat chaser when they decided to get out of the fence, and very capably took care of all the daily chores. He also teaches 2 live online Algebra courses on Mondays and Thursdays, so he was unable to go on the road with us. We were very thankful that he was a good sport and took care of everything for us.

I celebrated my birthday while we were gone, and Jim and the boys bought "me" a digital camera. I must say I need to learn how to use it, but the boys have already mastered all the bells and whistles. Hopefully we will now be able to post more photos on our blogs.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Indian Summer

We had a beautiful day today, definitely our Indian Summer. Good thing, because we have a lot to do before winter hits.

A lot has transpired since my last post almost a month ago. Jim made his trip to Albuquerque, NM for a HSLDA leadership conference, and two days later his folks arrived for a visit from New Hampshire. It was a later in the year visit than normal, and the temps were a lot cooler than they were used to. We hadn't had any rain to speak of since July -- and then it rained the last 3 days they were visiting. We all enjoyed having Grammy and Grandpa here, and the time went much too quickly. I'm sure we'll be posting some photos in the future. I think the highlight for the boys was making a potato cannon with Grandpa. That thing could really shoot! Amazing what you can do with hairspray.

We have also been working feverishly on our "to do" lists. The boys cleaned out the garden areas, insulated the goat barn, installed protection for our fruit trees (in broad daylight a few days ago Jim spotted a deer in the garden, calmly eating raspberry leaves), hauled haybales closer to the barn, constructed a shelter for the pigs, and I forget what else. Jim has completed the floor that will separate the 2 floors of our house. He also built a box for the potatoes that were dug yesterday. They will be kept from freezing by heat from the woodstove which will come through a hole in the floor to the basement just above the woodstove. Hopefully it will work.

I still have tomatoes and apples to process, but that will have to be placed on the shelf until later. Tomorrow we will butcher 25-30 chickens. Not my favorite job, but a necessary one. Instead of just taking off the chickens' skin with the feathers they opted to try to scald the carcasses and then pluck the feathers ... Guess we need a Whizbang Chicken Plucker , but that will have to wait for another year.

Later this week the boys and I will travel 900 miles to help celebrate my niece's wedding and visit my family. What a blessing that by the end of the month the boys will have spent special time with both sets of grandparents. The visits are too few and far in between, and hopefully some day we can make more trips to visit both families. Jim will stay behind with all the animals. I have a very large "to do" list for him, and we'll see how much he can get done! Our dog may have her puppies while we are gone, and we'll see what kind of a midwife Jim turns out to be.