Friday, July 13, 2018

Deep Dark Dumpster Love

Like an overdue baby, we waited anxiously for our dumpster. 

It was ordered over a week ago but did not appear on Monday as promised, or on Tuesday as promised again. Frustrating as we had to move the cows pasture wires back and forth as the dumpster would sit partially in her space, which as you can see below, she wasn't too excited about.  Finally it showed up Wednesday and it's all I can do not to just sit alongside it, rubbing it's beautiful, spacious, sturdy metal, dumpsterness.

I love dumpsters.

We routinely do not keep one on the farm, nor do we have regular garbage pickup.  It's a budget thing. We burn what we can, recycle what we can, and talk family members into taking items to their own garbage pickup containers, when we can. So having this monstrous cavern to dump into is quite thrilling.

It doesn't take much to make me happy. Just total world peace, a little Jameson for the evenings I'm writing,  and a king size dumpster.

Located between our Looney Bin home and the 1868 house, we are able to drive the tractor up to the old house, fill the bucket with debris and then back up to the dumpster or burn pile. It certainly has saved us from going up and down stairs with barrels of stuff or transporting items via wheelbarrow. 

By yesterday afternoon we had it over a third filled with mostly plaster from the 1865 house. Since we've already taken three of the eight rooms in the house down to the studs, we should be ok with this 30 yard dumpster for taking away what we cannot burn or recycle. Insulation from the old house has been bagged up/set aside and will be reused in Keith's new shop in the barn. 

This has included blown in insulation that is likely sixty or more years old and Styrofoam panels perhaps installed in the 80's. Either way the more we keep OUT of the dumpster and reuse, the more bang we get for our dumpster money which was $565 for 30 days. About $18 / day. Not a bad deal at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

1868 House Demolition Continues

Officially day 6 of the 1868 house demolition and great progress is being made despite the return of the heat. 

With each hour passing more of the old houses' original structure is popping through. False ceilings, glued on walls, Styrofoam panels for insulation, plaster, paneling, and layers upon layers of wallpaper are stripped back. 

Room walls have been removed and floor lino and carpeting was stripped away. 

Thankfully the original tongue and groove wood floors seem in good shape and will be saved to build the loft floors and walls in our new (recycled) barn.  They've been covered for decades and are seeing the light for the first time since probably the 50's. 

A large amount of material is being sorted on the homes' back deck into piles for burning, piles for re-use, piles to take to the recycling centers for cash, piles to list on eBay.

Our middle son Jason was able to help for a few days, and Keith took several days vacation from his job this week to jump start the process.

As the history of the home is revealed in old window openings, and previous chimney shadows, it is obvious that this was once a solid (not fancy) farm home where children were raised and busy lives led. 

Yes, in some ways we do wonder if we could have saved the house, lived in it instead of building the grain bin house, but the horrible foundation, the crumbling roof, reminds us we would've invested nearly $80, 000 just to renovate it to safe standards. 

Instead, we'll honor its' past through re-use of as much of its bones as we possibly can. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Beating the Heat Like a Big Fat Pig

It's reminiscent of our childhood summers, this recent heat wave. Hot enough to make the road tar melt causing that definitive car tire bubbling-whine noise. Hot enough to take away all concern about your loose underarms flapping in the breeze; you're wearing sleeveless tops anyway. Hot enough to fight with the dog over tepid water in the cow trough because it's too far to walk to the house for a non e-coli  filled drink.

Hot enough for pigs to swim.

Perhaps you've been hit with these above average temperatures as well. I know Ireland and other parts of Europe are certainly dealing with high temps and low rains. I find myself dressing in less and less as the day goes on. Modesty takes a back seat to comfort when it comes to me and heat.  Remember that if you're thinking about a drop-in visit. A two minute warning call will save us both some embarrassment.

But whatever you do to cope please remember not to say,  "I'm sweating like a pig", as you'll be wrong. Reason being, pigs do not sweat, nor can they pant like a dog. This means they don't handle heat well and require regular farmer assist.

Forgive me, loyal long time followers, I know I blog about this every summer, but for the newbies out there I must repeat myself. Livestock loss in summer heat is a sad reality of homesteading, but can be prevented in many cases. Take for example, the pigs.

The chore of watering the pigs these record breaking days requires much more than keeping water pans filled. It also requires maintenance of the pigs water hole which is about the size of a kiddie pool but a bit cloudier. This porcine pond serves a few purposes. It cools the hogs overall body temp. It increases their hydration status as water is absorbed through their skin. And it decreases annoying parasites like flies, mites and fleas by suffocation via the resulting thick mud.

It also makes the pigs very, very happy. They see me with the hose and they line up underneath it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sayonara 1856 House, Hello More Barn Material

 The decomposition of the 1868 house on our property has begun. Our son Jason and Keith commenced with the ripping apart of one porch and one upstairs room so far. Our goal is to recycle all that we can, and use the material to make the lofts and walls in our new (recycled) barn. Already with just the tearing apart of a couple rooms, we are discovering amazing 12 by 1 pieces of lumber in excellent condition.

Keith also discovered the original tiny doorway into the attic. It was constructed well, with square nails and nicely crafted support pieces. I'll keep it and recycle it into a scarf hanger I believe. A piece of our farm's  history that deserves to live on.

The original brick chimney is a mess but after I've been around for 150 years like it has, I expect I'll have large crumbly areas myself. Still, I love looking at those joints, thinking about whose hands took such care to secure each brick in order to provide a warm home for a family.

Of course large amounts of badly installed drywall, crumbling insulation, 1960's paneling, popcorn ceilings etc...had to be removed to find the real bones of this building.  It is on one hand sad to take it down but with luck we'll salvage 50% of it and use it elsewhere.  We'd like to have the house down by the end of summer, or maybe late fall, or at least before we die.

Once the 1856 house is no more, the area between our Looney Bin home and the new barn will be a wonderfully shaded, park like spot for more flower gardens, sitting areas, and a family recreation zone: badminton nets, Koi ponds, miniature golf maybe.

Koi ponds?!?! We'll be lucky to keep the weeds in that area at knee level or less. Better a wild animal preserve I think.

Anyway we're excited to be at this start point. Well, another start point. We're always starting something. I've rented a large thirty yard dumpster (22 ft long by 6 ft high by 4 ft wide) for a month and it will be delivered on Monday. We considered other options like digging a big hole and burying the debris from the house that we cannot recycle, but the idea of putting more garbage into the earth around us when we are still digging up and disposing of all the garbage left by other owners over the years-felt disingenuous. So we're coughing up the $565 for the dumpster.

Let me tell you. I plan to fill that sucker up to its brim! Poor Farm Cleanup Time!

Funny though. The county does not allow the digging of a small 4 foot deep hole to go under ones' outhouse but it's ok with them to dig a HUGE hole and bury old house tonnage. Logic and government. A true oxymoron.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Don't Worry, Bee Happy

Bees. I love them. But it wasn't always that way.

When Keith first wanted to keep some on our farm decades ago, I (this is so embarrassing) said NOPE. I'd seen too many killer bee movies. So he kept a hive on a friends farm and they split the honey.

He wore me down though, and I eventually gave in to having a hive way in the back behind the barn on our old farm. See no evil etc...

Over the years the hive mysteriously got closer to our home-strong little buggers, who knew they had that kind of upper thorax strength? 

When we moved here to The Poor Farm, Keith located our two bee hives in the center of our property (in a grove of protective trees) and I learned to work around them. I am now the one who makes sure they have lots of water in the kitchen garden bird baths. I also planted masses of colorful annuals this year so they would have a steady supply of nectar.

Two weeks ago Keith finally talked me into a bee suit and I was hooked! Absolutely fascinated with those industrious creatures, all B Movie bee drama left my goofy head. 

Our granddaughter Allana, now fourteen, has always loved the bees and starting working them with Keith when she was five. She especially likes talking to them while they are hanging out at their water hole. It's really not all that surprising the way she gets up close and personal with them-she also has a pet rat!

Recently her ten year old brother Wesley expressed an interest and this morning both of our older GK's came out to check hive status with their Papa. 

Afterwards I made them all a well-deserved meal of pancakes (made from our milk and eggs) plus sausage and bacon (thank you hogs). The three bee charmers reported the hives were doing very well, we had a strong queen bee presence, and we'll need to harvest honey soon! 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It was a Dark and Stormy Sight

Look at me! Three posts in one week.

World must be coming to an end, or it's raining a lot and I'm inside too much. 

Looking west, from just in front of our Looney Bin about 6pm yesterday
 Yes, it's raining. Lots.

April was rainy too, but cold, and getting items in the garden was tough going. May was unusually hot here in Illinois and very dry. Keeping the garden alive was tough going. June has resulted in several inches of rain and keeping the garden from drowning is tough going.

Heavy rain on the left moving to the right over soybean fields

Homesteading is never, ever, dull; a Russian Roulette game when it comes to weather. The storms have been magnificent to watch though, as they roll in and out, creeping across the corn fields that surround us, hovering over our heads like massive gray Zeppelins.
We live on a bit of a hill so our views extend a good distance.

View from the center of our property looking northwest.

Our seven acres is the grove of trees, just off center in the photo

Getting closer you can see our new (old) barn in the center. 
Our Looney Bin house is to the right of the barn hidden in the trees.

We can often see approaching storms forty or so miles away, which allows us to batten down the hatches (i.e. milk the cow quick, close up the broilers in their sheltered house and get the pigs fed). It's always amusing how Accuweather will report "chances of rain 20%" while hail is pounding us, or "thunderstorms imminent" when the sky is clear and the blazing sun is frying our brains. 

Thus, Keith and I refer to the media service as inaccu-weather. 

Our region is considered part of tornado alley, but we've not seen much major activity in the Land of Lincoln for a few years. I feel we are overdue and this hot spell in SPRING nonetheless, just reinforces that thought. I saw a small funnel cloud as I was leaving Pontiac yesterday. It dropped out of the black clouds to the north, all thin and ropey, but then withdrew as if to say "nah, not today, maybe next week".

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Plant It and They Will Come

Hard to believe it's not summer yet when our garden is exploding and I've already got the pressure canner going. Going to be a very busy season!

We have three vegetable gardens this year.

The kitchen garden just outside the looney bin door is filled with herbs, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, peas, kale, zucchini (and other salad stuff) plus flowers for cutting and pest deterrence . The photo below is our view out the bathroom window. Annual flowers are just beginning to bloom. It's fenced in with old wire pig panels and chicken wire. Not pretty but keeps the fowl out. 

Beyond that, on the other side of our main electric pole (center of the top photo above) is a bigger main garden.

It is filled with 16 more tomato plants, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, rhubarb, asparagus, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and brussel sprouts. I also recently added a scarecrow. I don't believe they do much to frighten birds away, since I've seen robins perched on her arms, but still; she adds a little character and color to all the greenery. 

Some have suggested she needs more in the bosom area. Critics. Everywhere. Obviously, she's a work in progress.

This space is enclosed with electric chicken wire fencing which is not electrified. Our chickens still avoid it.

Our beets grew very fast this spring and I managed to can a few pints, both plain and pickled. Seriously feels like summer when you're manning a hot pressure canner on a 95 degree day. We've had lots of 90 plus days in Illinois so far this year. But, as I write this it is raining cool and fresh. Alleluia! (the version by Leonard Cohen is my favorite by the way)

Our third veggie garden is the corn garden located just behind the area where our broiler chickens are kept. When the corn is higher the broilers will be allowed to forage in there for bugs and grubs. We have planted both sweet corn and popcorn in this area which has a sturdy wire paneled fence surrounding. This will keep broiler chickens in and our other free range layer chickens out.

e don't run the two groups together since it's too difficult to catch the broilers when its time for butchering. Plus they receive a higher protein feed than the layer chickens do.

Scattered about in the veggie gardens, and a few planters close to the grain bin house, I do have a solid array of flowers.. I hated leaving so many of our perennials at the old farm and it's taken me four summers to build up the flower gardens here. But finally, they are all taking off.

The bird bath above is located in our kitchen garden and the Thumbelina zinnias surrounding it were only supposed to get 6 inches tall. A tribute to our excellent homemade compost used this year.

I should be soaking my feet in it. I have my own height issues.