Monday, September 27, 2010

North Dakota's Best Kept Secret

Today friends of ours came for a visit, flying over in their family's airplane. Jim, Andrew and David met them at the town airport, and Jim and David went up for a quick flight over our farm.

This is what the Turtle Mountains of ND look like by air on a beautiful fall day.

The bright green area in the middle is what we call our "big field." This is where Jonathan has his chickens and turkeys.

The above photo is our farm.

I never knew this area of ND existed until we started looking for land in the country.

Thanks, Roberts, for a special day of fellowship and fun!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tomato Culprit?

Today the guys were changing our electric fencing for the pigs so they could be directed into one of our cornfields. Hopefully they will clean it up for us. It took some doing, but they managed to get all 6 pigs into the field. We just can't drive into the yard because for the time being the electric fencing goes across the driveway.

While this was happening, David saw something run near the house, and got everybody's attention. It was a mink!

Too bad he wasn't spotted earlier in the season -- it may have saved my ripe tomatoes. I don't really know if that is what took a bite out of my nice ones, but the size of the teeth may correspond to the size of the bite in the tomatoes.
I had forgotten how big those creatures are. I was thinking they were more like weasels, but not so.
Life is never dull around here!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Frost Warnings

The guys spent most of the day picking green tomatoes -- lots of them! We planted over 200 plants, and hardly any of the tomatoes have ripened. We did plant some in the hoop house, but when I went into the area to pick the ripe ones I discovered most had a bite taken out of them. Would a skunk do that? I was plenty discouraged, since I love tomato sandwiches. Hopefully some of these tomatoes will do a good job of maturing upstairs in our unfinished dining room area.

Tomorrow night is supposed to dip into the lower 30's.

By Saturday we are supposed to have a high in the low 50's. Fall came early this year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

One of Those Days

We had a beautiful sunrise this morning ...

After the sun was up the clouds created very unusual patterns in the sky.
David woke up this morning with cold symptoms, and was pretty miserable.
At 7:30 someone called to let us know that an elderly neighbor had passed away yesterday while in church. It's a comfort to know this godly man is now in Heaven, but I feel sad for his wife, who is unable to live alone due to health reasons.
Temperatures lately have been in the lower 60's during the day, and the talk is of snow by October 1. Tonight the temperature will dip down to 36 or so, which is getting dangerously close to freezing. We've already witnessed 2 mornings of frost on the chicken coop. Good thing the frost only hit in the valley, or our garden produce would not have made it.
I have a feeling we'll be picking green tomatoes tomorrow, since predictions are of nighttime temperatures in the lower 30's by Thursday night.
Yesterday our family picked our finally ready field of sweet corn. We had hoped to have sold it over Labor Day weekend, but the weather had not cooperated to give us the mature corn we needed. After a few hours Jim and Jonathan returned home with almost as much corn as they left with earlier in the day. So, we got to work and processed corn, corn, and more corn.
I think I gave up cooking corn about 11:30 last night, and needed to finish up today. So, I spent the afternoon canning and cooking up what was left. And to think we still have more corn to pick that wasn't quite ready!
While I was processing corn, the guys were outside grinding field peas for the animals. It takes one to grind, one to move buckets and pans around, and one to man the accelerator of the truck. The only problem was the grinder broke. Jim will have to find someone that can do some welding for us since we can't weld cast iron.
Oh yes, something else happened.
Our bathroom area also contains the laundry and items such as water heater, water softener and pump tank. We've had some very humid days lately, and there's been the problem of sweating tanks. Our well water is extremely cold when it comes into the basement, and the water softener seems to be a constant source of condensation which drips all around its tank. I've resorted to placing towels on the cement floor around that area to soak up the water.
I decided to do a load of towels, so I grabbed the one that was placed in front of the water softener and had quite a surprise:

And yes, it was one of the bigger ones, and yes, I yelled! At least I didn't scream! Andrew took one look and ran to get the camera; Jonathan grabbed a newspaper and one of my stock pots and got the thing into the pot and out of the house.
I'm not sure what they are called, but we call them salamanders. The size of this thing (including its tail) was about a foot long. We have no idea how it ever got into the house -- if it came in through the front door when someone had it open it would have had to slither all the way to the back of the house! I shudder just to think about it! I would have preferred to have a mouse (which we've never had) over this!
These creatures actually go on the defense when they feel threatened, with the swinging of their tail. They will also emit a milky, stinky substance, so the object is not to get them too riled up.
I remember back to when we were going to butcher chickens a few years ago. Everyone but me was outside getting set up. I walked into the kitchen and discovered one of those salamanders positioned right in front of my stove. Our screen door (which we don't have any more) didn't fit the entry area correctly, and it must have crawled in when no one was looking.
I had no one to rescue me and was afraid it would crawl under my stove, so I picked up a newspaper, grabbed the salamander, and ran out the door with it, throwing it into the bushes. And then I yelled!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My New Stock Pot

A couple of weeks ago I visited my friend Marci's blog called Down on the Farm. She was having a drawing for $60.00 worth of product from CSN Stores -- and I won! My new 16 quart Farberware stock pot arrived a couple of days ago. It will be perfect for making cheese. Now I need to find the time to try it out!

I see Marci has had another drawing for $60.00 towards something from CSN Stores since I won. Maybe if you keep checking she will have still another one!

Thanks, Marci!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Where Did the Summer Go?

I am having a hard time believing it's September already. It just didn't seem like we had much of a summer.

We started out with a very mild spring, but then it turned colder and the rains kept coming. I think we only had a handful of days when the temperature hit 90 degrees.

The boys didn't advertise for work, but were approached by people needing work done on their yards and buildings. It was enough to keep them actually too busy, so by July 1 they cut back to only doing yard work for 2 widows and some odds and ends for the association that takes care of the bike path around Lake Metigoshe. It was quite strange to have 2 or more of the boys gone during the day, returning home in time to get their evening chores done. Whoever was home took up the slack.

In early July, Jonathan and Peter attended an Appleseed Project Rifleman Boot Camp and then a weekend Appleseed shoot that took place close to an hour from home. The rest of us scrambled to keep up with what was happening on the farm. Thankfully they were home in time to do the milking and chicken chores every evening of the 8 days they participated in the Appleseed events and up early to do the same. As soon as Peter finished milking he would hand the milk can to me and I would process the milk and clean up everything afterwards. I gained a real appreciation for all the work he does.

During the week of Appleseed both Jonathan and Peter received their "red hats" -- which means they are now instructors for the organization. Jonathan is also state coordinator for the Appleseed Project in ND.

This strange photo is what we viewed this summer during one of our many thunderstorms. The rains just kept coming and coming -- and most of the time they were accompanied with lots of thunder and lightning. One afternoon the rain was so intense that in just a 4 hour period we received 3 inches of rain.
Our neighbor is the one who cuts our hay; he told us back in mid June he would be over to cut hay by the end of the month. Well, due to some family illness and with all the rains he didn't make it over until the middle of August. This meant our alfalfa was already drying out by the time it was cut.
We were waiting to see what our raspberries would do this year. Well, they didn't do much.
The summer of 2009 we harvested and sold raspberries for 3 weeks, but this year we only had enough to sell on 2 different days. It was a disappointment for us, but turned out to be God's Providence, since we had so many things going on that we probably couldn't have handled an abundant harvest. Thankfully I still had frozen berries in the freezer from last year, and we were able to make some raspberry sauce and jam for ourselves with what we were able to harvest before selling what we did sell.
It was just too wet of a season for us to grow a lot of raspberries. Jim said the bushes will be ready for a good crop next year.
One day while we were picking raspberries we heard our dog Samson barking excitedly over by the hoop house. Peter walked over to take a look, and discovered a skunk in the trench we had dug to store our potatoes and carrots over the winter! Peter took care of the problem, but the odor of skunk lingered for quite a while.
A couple of nights before this skunk was discovered we smelled its odor outside, and thought Samson had tangled with his second skunk of the season. It turned out to be our tomcat, Henry, that had tangled for the first time with a skunk!
Skunks were in abundant supply this summer. Shortly after Jonathan had placed his young Rhode Island Red chickens in poultry netting up in what we call our "big field," there was quite a thunderstorm, and Peter had shut off the power to the electric fencing. The next morning Jonathan went up to get the chickens fed and discovered something had figured out it was a good night to get some delicious chicken, killing at least 15 of them. He thought it had been a skunk, due to the conditions the carcasses were left.
Even earlier in the season the boys had taken out the raft Andrew made last year to go swimming; Samson chose that time to find a skunk and chased it into a hole in the ground. Of course Samson got too close and received a good dose of its spray! Peter said he could actually see the mist of the skunk spray from his position in the lake.

In August, our 5-year-old cat David named Funny Face had another batch of kittens. There are 5 of them, and we have people standing in line to take them home. Funny Face has the nicest kittens, and they usually turn out to be good mousers.

Jim has been diligently working to prepare our bees for winter. One day when we were picking raspberries we heard quite a commotion, and it turned out to be one hive that was swarming. Jim managed to capture the bees and their queen and get them into another bee box. So far so good this season. I'm not sure if we'll be able to harvest any honey this fall or not.

We have 6 pigs this year, and most of them have already been spoken for. Jim decided to keep 2 females and plans to winter them, as the end of Sept. we will be purchasing a boar named Zorro from friends. Zorro is a Berkshire, so we'll see how he does with our Hampshires. They have the run of a field and into the woods along the driveway, so every time I walk down to get the mail they come running to see if I have any scraps for them. It's amazing to me that they have learned to respect an electric fence and have never gotten out.

Unfortunately all the rain caused problems with our gardens. We lost half our potato plants, all of our cucumber plants as well as our kidney and navy bean plants. The green beans weren't as plentiful as in years past, and I am grateful for the crop we had last year because we are still enjoying the surplus. I should have a few more beans out in the garden since the plants were still flowering. Everything is late this year; my tall zinnias didn't bloom until a week ago.

These little Cornish Cross chickens are all Jonathan has left of his 600 meat chickens. We've spent lots of together time as a family butchering chickens! It's amazing to me that the first 2 batches are all sold, and this batch is all spoken for. We even have a waiting list for people wanting more. I'm thankful for the ones that ended up with a broken wing or some scratches, because those are mine to keep.

Jonathan has had a lot of success with selling eggs as well. Earlier in August I found myself begging our neighbor to sell me some of her eggs since Jonathan was selling all of his! I will be thankful when his Rhode Island Reds start laying so there is a surplus and we can have egg meals once again.

I think my favorite animal on the farm this year has been Jonathan's turkeys. They have so much personality! They, too, live in poultry netting up in the big field. I didn't realize how much they like eating grass and whatever else they manage to get their beaks on. Jonathan has had to go out every night and get them off the top of their hoop house style shelter and inside for safety.

Turkeys are the ultimate when it comes to curiosity!

We have a new addition to our chicken butchering -- a Whizbang Chicken Plucker! Jonathan ordered the kit after his first batch of chickens, so we tried it out on the second batch. He probably should have given it a test run before starting on the 104 chickens we had to butcher that day, as there were a few glitches.
Last Wednesday they decided to butcher 20 of Jonathan's oldest laying hens, and the Whizbang worked like a dream! Now I need to figure out how I can possibly improve my system of quality control, bagging and weighing in order to keep up with the production line!

A couple of years ago someone gave Andrew a 3-wheeler that didn't work. Well, now it works! Andrew and David have had lots of fun with it. However, Andrew said it is very temperamental, since it doesn't always start when they want it to. Andrew is our resident motor/engine maintenance man, and does a good job of diagnosing problems. It's still amazing to me how each of our 4 sons has a different interest -- and Andrew's is in engines.

Our hay fields are finally hayed, and all that is left is to take the ones that are ours and haul them down to the barn area.

Some of my flowers did very well this year.

My herb garden wasn't in a very good spot. We didn't take time to get rid of all the weeds and do a good tilling job before jumping in and planting a bunch of things, so this spring Jim made me two raised beds. I transplanted the herbs that wintered well into those areas, and they did very well. I still need to move my lavender plant into a raised bed, but Jim needs to make one more for me before I am completely done with the old herb garden area. I'm hoping we can get it all cleaned out and use it for lettuce, spinach, and other things like that. My comfrey plant is still in there as well.

David was thrilled to find a saddle for purchase at a garage sale in the area. Even Calliope seems to enjoy riding, now that David isn't riding bareback. She makes it tough for him to catch her, but once she is caught she enjoys galloping in the field.
I am amazed at how much David has picked up on his own when it comes to horseback riding. Today he was figuring out how he will talk Jim into taking him to a rodeo that will take place in a couple of weeks.

One of our sources of apples is no longer a source for us, since the couple sold their home and moved out of the area. There is another home we pass every time we head down to town that has 2 apple trees in their front yard. Our friend Steve happened to mention one time that someone should approach the owners about picking the apples and cleaning up what had fallen, so Jim took the idea and we've been picking those apples ever since.

In May the boys surprised me with their gift to me of a Champion Juicer! We've been waiting to give it a try, and found ourselves actually enjoying making applesauce this year. The sauce is much nicer with the apple skins juiced in with the rest of the apple. I've also been using the Champion Juicer to process tomatoes, and it is a real time saver!

A week ago we did our first farmers market. The man that owns a golf course at Lake Metigoshe asked if he could buy corn from us for a corn feed, and also requested that we set up our produce and baked goods for sale -- along with some bluegrass music by the boys. I don't think we'll do it over there again, since we figured we would have sold more where we usually set up shop at a local convenience store.
This past Friday we sold out our load of corn at the corner, and then Saturday morning we all were up and outside by 6 to pick corn by flashlight. Jim took Andrew and David to Bottineau for the farmers market that opened at 8, and sold everything we had picked.
We have another field of sweet corn, but it is just on the verge of being mature. The temperatures this week may not climb above 60, so we are patiently waiting to get it picked, sold and processed. Nothing like having corn off the cob in the middle of winter!
We also have a field of tomatoes that are yet to ripen. Since the temperature tomorrow night could plunge into the mid 30's we may be forced to haul them into our guest cabin to ripen on newspaper. I hope it won't come to that, as maturing on the vine is the absolute best.
Well, this is just a touch of what we have been doing. I'm hoping to get back into regular posting and reading our friends' blogs. I've missed it a lot.