Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Memorable Couple of Days

Yesterday was David's tenth birthday! I think it was a special one for him.

Andrew decided to fix up David's go cart as his gift to him. The go cart went from this:

To this:

I know Andrew had as much fun fixing it up as David was thrilled that he had done the work.

The go cart had been in Andrew's shop for a while, so at first it didn't want to run. After a bit more work, Andrew got it going.

David chose brownies for his dessert after homemade pizza. Happy birthday to our ten-year-old!
Which bring us to this morning's events.
Our family has decided it's better to pick raspberries in the morning and then sell them in the afternoon, so we are getting up early to go get busy. This morning Peter went out first, then came back quickly to inform Jim that a swarm of bees was collecting on a cross post by the raspberry patch.
Jim grabbed his bee equipment and got to work.

We aren't sure where the bees came from, but we were glad Peter spotted them.

Peter took some great shots of the swarming bees.

We could get fairly close to the bees, since they were very busy. I was glad Jim had on his bee suit!

Jim got the swarm into a box, and we continued on to picking raspberries.
We started picking berries in earnest last Friday. We have a third of an acre in bushes, and it's enough to keep the family busily picking for about 2 hours each day. In later afternoon Jim and one of the boys travel to the local convenience store to sell them in the parking lot. I have also sent along some jam to sell.

These berries are as large as Peter's thumb!

Peter caught a shot of David and Jonathan picking berries.

This morning was rather cool, and I picked berries wearing a heavy sweatshirt and a jacket! This cooler weather is nice for picking, but not so nice for helping our corn and other vegetables to mature.

After picking I took some photos of my flowers. Below is a photo of my Missouri primrose plant.

These were raised from seed a year ago, but didn't flower until this year.

Here is a picture of one of my calendula plants. I had ordered some pink ones as well, but they all turned out to be variations of orange!

My lavender is about 3 years old, and still going strong.

The petunias I planted around my Sweet Williams are kind of taking over the garden areas. The white petunias volunteered from the plants I had last year.

As you can see, I love lots of color in my gardens!

And then ... Just as Jim and Jonathan were going to leave this afternoon for selling raspberries -- Jim spotted another swarm of honey bees! I'll save that for my next post!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quite a Saturday

We did a test run of chickens on Monday, but Saturday was our big day. Jonathan had his customers scheduled to pick up chickens in the afternoon, so we got going bright and early.

Our jobs were the same as on Monday. Andrew took photos this time, so we don't have one of him scalding chickens. It was tougher for him on Saturday because there was hardly a breeze and smoke from the wood fire underneath the scalder kept hitting him in the face. At one point he took the garden hose to his rubber boots because they were smoking! Guess he got too close to a burning log.

The first step was to take the chickens from their movable pen in the field and bring them over in the back of the pick up truck. It's amazing what that truck has been used for since the boys were given it!

On Monday I worked inside, but this time my work station was set up outside. I did "quality control," which involved removing anything the boys didn't remove, washing, weighing, bagging and recording. I then carried them to the freezers inside the main floor of the house. Quite the exercise! My back was a bit sore when we were finished from bending over the table. It's a bit tough to read the sheet, but these chickens averaged between seven and eight pounds! Lots of good meat.

This wasn't exactly David's favorite occupation, but he still managed to enjoy the day. David was our "go fer" and helped everyone with what they were doing. In the photo below he was helping Peter. Note the location of our horse in the background.

Thankfully the flies weren't a problem.

Jim was back to manning the chicken plucker. I was a bit worried before we got started, because last week he had injured his right knee and was hobbling around. A taller stool helped him to get the job done.

In the middle of the morning we viewed a crop duster as it flew over our house and took multiple swoops over the ridge and lake to spray a field to the south of us. It was kind of interesting to see it flying over and over again.

A few times the plane flew directly overhead, and I was hoping the sprayer was shut off. We don't do any spraying of our fields and wish our neighbors wouldn't, either.

Close to lunch time all the chickens were butchered and cleaned up, but the quality control lady was still at work. Everyone but I went into the house for lunch, and I kept working on the chickens that were remaining.
All of a sudden from behind me I heard a very loud whistling sound. I turned around and was shocked to see a huge B-52 bomber flying over our horse and gardens! To me it looked so low that I thought it was landing.
I had forgotten the camera was still outside, and yelled for the boys to come running. How often does a bomber fly over your house? Not that we want them to, but it was quite an experience. In Fargo we lived not too far from the airport/air guard base and had front row seats to watching the Blue Angels and other precision jets fly in formations over our house during the yearly air shows. We also had plenty of F-16's and commercial jets overhead, and couldn't wait to move to peace and quiet in the country.

Andrew took this photo below as the bomber was flying away toward Canada. I kicked myself because I could have taken a very close up view -- to the point that I felt as if I could have seen the pilot!

The bomber took a loop and came back over the house, heading south.

Later in the afternoon when a customer came over to pick up his chickens he told us he had also seen the bomber over his house. He said it had come from the Minot Air Force Base (approxomately 100 miles away), where they were having Northern Neighbors Day.
Jim had invited one of the families picking up chicken to stay for supper, and we had -- guess what? Chicken!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back to Fall?

We had quite a bit of rain yesterday, making our driveway rather sloppy again. David and I delivered strawberries to someone, and almost went down the hill sideways with the station wagon. David thought that was great, but I sure didn't.

This morning Peter came in after milking and asked for a winter hat -- it's only in the lower 40's this morning with a very stiff wind. Originally the forecast predicted a high today of 60, but now they are saying possibly upper 60's. This has been a very different "summer" for us.

I thought I would hang my clothes out last night to save some time this morning. They should be very clean, as they probably received at least three extra rinses. We'll see how long it takes before they actually dry!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken Time

Another busy day today, with chicken butchering on the agenda. We managed to take care of 75 so far, and hopefully we'll be able to do more later this week.

This is the Director of the North Dakota Home School Association's side job! And he does a good job of it at that!
I didn't take a photo of Jonathan doing his main job, which was doing in the chickens. This was the first time the deed was done in full view of my kitchen window, but I was too busy to think much about it.
These chickens are the result of Jonathan's diligent work in raising these broilers from chicks. It has taken 10 weeks.

Peter, doing the eviscerating, which is a fancy term for gutting a chicken. Notice how close Samson is laying to the box of scraps. He was very good about not helping himself.

David got the job of using the chicken plucker. We borrowed this one from a neighbor, but hope some day to make our own Whizbang Chicken Plucker.

We used to use the bottom of an old pressure canner to scald chickens, but this batch was too big for the pot. So, Jim cleaned out and heated water in a metal garbage can. Andrew did a very good job of dipping the chicken until they were ready to be plucked.
We had some trouble getting broiler bags ... Apparently some companies don't like dealing with checks instead of credit cards, and when Jonathan finally called them to see what was happening, they were just sitting on the check. It was a good thing he did give them a call, as the person on the line said they would begin processing our order. They have yet to arrive.
So, I volunteered my bread bags that I purchased through my friend Marci of Down on the Farm blog fame. She has a wonderful online store, and I was able to call her to see if she had more bags for us. She did, and they will soon be on their way. What a blessing. Marci told me these bags are what she uses to freeze her chickens.
When Jonathan produced his brochure in preparation for selling these chickens he stated they would probably weigh in between four to five pounds. However, partly due to waiting for the bags to arrive the chickens had a tremendous growth spurt and actually the dressed weight was more between six to a little over eight pounds! I am thrilled with that, since our family needs something like an eight pounder to feed my growing boys. Hopefully others will be thrilled with it as well.

We cooked one of our eight pounders tonight. I love my enamel covered cast iron baking pan; it helps to make things delicious. The only problem is getting the pan out of the oven!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Homestead Newcomers

I wanted to show my Mom some photos of my garden by the patio area. My delphiniums are starting to blossom, and I think they are so very pretty. I took these photos before the big storm the night before last, because I thought the flowers might not make it if the winds were going to be as strong as predicted. Thankfully they did fine.

Below are the Sweet Williams I transplanted out of the garden area near where my herbs are growing. They are also doing very well. I have some petunias in there, too, which were started from seed.

The delphiniums that have yet to blossom in this photo are a different shade of purple. Today they are open quite a bit more.
You can see our trusty house wrap in the background. Jim has been talking to a mill near Bemidji, MN to see if they would do rough pine boards for us for siding.

I walked outside about suppertime, and found something else in my garden:

These are Funny Face's kittens that were born the weekend the guys were participating in the Appleseed shoot. She had them in David's go cart, and when the boys wanted to start working on it they transferred them to underneath the goat's milking stand in the barn.
One day we showed Funny Face's kittens to a lady and her nephew who were interested in some barn cats, and picked out two for when they are weaned. Apparently Funny Face didn't like how we exposed her kittens, so that day she moved them to the woodpile in the big culvert we have at the edge of the woods. That made it very difficult to even get close to the kittens, since as soon as they heard or saw us they would scatter farther into the woodpile.

Today was the first day they ventured by the house. I have a feeling Funny Face is getting tired of feeding them (although last night I saw her bringing a mouse over there), so she brought them over to give us the opportunity. We soaked cat food in goat milk and let them at it. They ate like troopers!

Hopefully they will become more friendly, and soon will be ready to find new homes.
PS: Our family is hosting an Appleseed Project weekend on our farmstead, August 22-23. You are welcome to attend!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

My Protector

We had quite a storm last night, starting a bit after midnight. This morning Jim said the rain gauge recorded 2-1/2 inches, but I'm wondering if there was some water in it before the storm which had collected from watering plants. Today was so fresh and the air very clear from all the activity during the night. The temperature was somewhere in the lower 70's.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing laundry today, since it meant I was outside hanging clothes on the line. There was quite a wind, but the clothes managed to stay on the lines.

I have a protector when I do laundry: Samson. For some reason, he takes it as his duty to walk with me over to the clotheslines and watch in the shade until I am ready to head back to the house. When he knows I am finished he either walks back with me or heads off to look for someone else.

Today we were also joined by our cat, Lena. She can be a bit of a pest, as she enjoys climbing into my laundry basket to check out how nice the clothes feel. While we were out there, Lena noticed a bird on the crossbar holding up the lines. The bird was facing the other direction and singing to its heart's content, so Lena decided she would try to snatch the poor thing. Samson was lounging in the shade, but I noticed that he suddenly picked up his head and was watching Lena. Just as she was about to spring he jumped for her and scared her out of her mission.
I doubt if Samson deliberately tried to keep the bird safe, but I do know he thoroughly enjoyed foiling Lena's plans.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Second Try

Peter, Andrew and David gave it another try today. Andrew used bigger bolts and some other things to hold the snowmobile engine onto the go cart frame. I was hanging clothes outside at the time, and it was quite a bit of noise! But, they got it going.

Peter, taking the go cart for another spin.

Unfortunately, by the time Andrew returned from his route they noticed a bolt had gotten loose and is now missing, and the engine was bouncing around again. So, it's back to the drawing board.

Jim has been coaching the boys, but they are responsible to figure out what to do next. Good homeschooling project for a warm, sunny day.