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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New website launched

One more major project has been completed here on the farm - the new website has been written and launched.  It is not a masterpiece and anyone who does this for a living will cringe at the amatuer code and links behind the pages, but it is a major accomplishment for this self-taught html novice.  As with any new website there are a couple of bugs and some missing or broken links - I have already noticed a couple of things that need fixing.  Over the next couple of days I hope to have the new beads added to the bead supplies page, some new items added to the jewelry page, and the new profile to the about us page. If you find anything that is missing or broken feel free to send us an email so they can be added to the list.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

who needs sleep anyway?

Beautiful sunshine is melting more of what little snow we have left on the farm while passing clouds tease us with a light flurry which sparkles in the sun as it blows around.  Sitting in the kitchen feeding my little one this morning thoughts of all the projects I could be working on swirl through my head.  The page on the notepad on the table next to the big chair is just about full, but I haven't turned the page yet for fear that I will get overwhelmed or discouraged and not get anything accomplished today.  Learning to squeeze in projects between feedings, play time, and diaper changes is taking a little getting used to.  He doesn't care that I have plans to expand the greenhouse, repair the roof on the chicken coop, build new trellises for the cucumbers and tomatoes, or a shed to house the straw and hay; he just knows that Mommy is there when he cries to comfort, feed and change him.  I am not complaining, mind you; I wouldn't trade him for absolutely anything.

This week I was able to find time for saving three packages of seeds including one that my grandfather used to grow and which has become one of my favorites - tithonia or Mexican sunflower.  Lack of the properly sized metal drill bit brought the portable greenhouse project to a standstill.  Fiberglass roofing was acquired from the great couple on freecycle for the shed, although actual construction not yet begun.  The pile of salvaged pallet wood is growing daily as DH works on them between collecting maple sap and cleaning out the garage.  Windows for the outdoor greenhouse expansion have been collected and are awaiting my layout and measurement so framing can begin.

There are days when I wonder why I push myself so hard.  I think about the people who enjoy the their leisurely weekends camping or picnicking or out on the boat, content with a 40 hour work week and 48 hour weekends.  Then there is me/us (I wouldn't be able to do what we have done so far without the love and support of my DH).  It used to be eight hour days at my 'real job,' four to six hours on the farm, a couple of hours of sleep and maybe an hour or so spent planning what I would do when I got home from work tomorrow.  That timing will change some with the new baby.  What won't change is every extra cent going toward farm equipment, supplies or maintenance.  Sleep will continue to be traded for just one more hour split between time with my son and working on repairs to the chicken coop.  Muscles will be sore from hand chopping wood for boiling sap because the money that we will spend on the evaporator pan will return its investment faster than a wood splitter this year.  Vacations are traded for a used bush hog and the next 1,000 Christmas tree seedlings.  Vacation time from work is used to plant them.

Every item on that to-do list fuels the dream of making our existence on the farm.  Having just enough for food on the table, a roof over our heads, a fire in the wood stove and perhaps just a little extra for college or a vacation every five years.  Knowing that each seed saved is one less that has to be purchased.  Each building built with salvaged materials is one less day worked off of the farm.  One baby step at a time - who needs sleep anyways?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Maple Syrup 2012: the beginning

We have doubled our sugaring operation this year - 10 taps/buckets!

Here are the results from the 2011 season, which happened
before I realized there would be a new one on the way.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pork, Pallets and a Poultry Plan

My mother is a great baker and a better than average cook.  Growing up she made sure that we had good, home-cooked meals for almost all of our meals; pizza or fast-food hamburgers were a less than once a week occurrence.  I learned to appreciate a good meat, vegetable and potatoes meal.  It wasn’t until I had moved into my own place and started working with two Italians from the New York Islands that I really learned to appreciate food.  I remember going to Long Island for a weekend and walking into the Italian deli with the sopressata hanging from the ceiling and behind the counter they were just finishing stretching that day’s fresh mozzarella; you haven’t tasted cheese until you have tasted mozzarella cheese made from hand that is less than fifteen minutes old.
This winter I learned that fresh pork is supposed to have its own flavor.  In November I told you about the first livestock to return to the farm, Bacon and Pork Chop.  December they were given a new home in the chest freezer in the back room.  The night after they were dispatched my husband cooked a pork loin roast.  Flavor – oh my, absolutely delicious.  My family visited over the holidays and my parents each left with their own package of farm raised pork.  Phone calls since confirm that their meals tasted just as good.
Earlier this week I was getting tired of plain old pork roasts, albeit delicious.  I rooted around the internet and found a recipe for pork medallions in balsamic vinaigrette; I have found a new favorite.  It can be prepared in less than 15 minutes which comes in handy while attempting to calm a crying eight-week old.
Over dinner, DH and I discussed the projects that I hope to accomplish before going back to work at my 'real job.'  Expanding the greenhouse, building a shed for hay storage, repairing the chicken coop ceiling, new fencing for the garden, electric fencing for the spring pigs, etc., etc., etc. are among a few from the list.  We have been collecting pallets from a business in town.  He puts them out to the side of the road for the trash man and luck y for us our travels take us past there at least twice a week.  Our first, tiny greenhouse is made from mostly recovered wood from pallets.  DH began recovering the usable wood from the pallets this week and weather cooperating I will start working on the greenhouse expansion next week.
Thankfully, I didn't fall prey to cabin/spring fever and start incubating eggs on the last couple of fifty degree days.  The forecast this weekend is for two or three nights of below zero weather.  Last spring, amidst a sea of morning sickness, I managed to get a brooder built in the garage.  Unfortunately without any heat out there, the lamp is not sufficient to keep young pullets alive when the temperature falls below fifteen degrees.  DH has assured me that he will not let me start the incubator until the Ides of March to ensure warm, healthy pullets.  I might try for March 1st. Dispatching a couple of three-plus-year-old hens and at least one rooster are planned for this weekend and once the greenhouse has been completed the chicken coop roof will receive some long overdue attention.  It is off to freecycle to look for some salvaged metal roofing.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Old Butch

Forwarded from another chicken owner...

          John was in the fertilized egg business.

          He had several hundred young layers (hens), called 'pullets,' and ten roosters to fertilize the eggs.

          He kept records, and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced.

          This took a lot of time, so he bought some tiny bells and attached them to his roosters.

          Each bell had a different tone, so he could tell from a distance, which rooster was performing.

          Now, he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells.

          John's favorite rooster, old Butch, was a very fine specimen, but this morning he noticed old Butch's bell hadn't rung at all!

          When he went to investigate, he saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing, but the pullets, hearing the roosters coming, would run for cover.

          To John's amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so it couldn't ring.

          He'd sneak up on a pullet, do his job and walk on to the next one.

          John was so proud of old Butch, he entered him in the Saint Lawrence County Fair and he became an overnight sensation among the judges.

          The result was the judges not only awarded old Butch the "No Bell Piece Prize," but they also awarded him the "Pulletsurprise" as well.

          Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making. Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the unsuspecting populace and screwing them when they weren't paying attention.

          Vote carefully this fall, the bells are not always audible.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade bread can be taken for granted

It becomes very easy to take things for granted.  When I lived in Connecticut, I took for granted that I could get a pizza delivered to the house at one o’clock in the morning.  I also took for granted that that pizza was going to be a thin, New York style pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil with marinara sauce that did not come directly out of a can.
When I moved back to Vermont I realized that I would be giving up some of these conveniences in order to live in a rural setting with fresh air, no traffic and the opportunity to see more than two stars each night.
Now that I have been making fresh wholesome meals for me and my family, I had taken for granted the sheer delic-ee-ousity of homemade bread.  I make bread twice or three times a month for DH and I.  Additionally I make cookies, rolls, pies, cakes, etc. as need or desire warrant.  This weekend I had made fresh bread for the week and tried a new recipe for crusty rolls (like the kind I could get at any deli in Fairfield County, CT or Westchester County, NY; but you can’t find anywhere in VT). 
While we were waiting for the rest of dinner to cook, DH and I broke into the still warm loaf of wheat bread resting on the counter.  I had taken for granted how fantastically delicious a slice of warm, fresh baked bread with a slab of butter can be.
I ended up eating less dinner and I now have to make more bread for this week.