Monday, June 27, 2016

Barn in Absentia

In 1995 my husband built us a beautiful, monstrous, red and white barn 85 ft by 65 ft. He did this without contractors, skid steers or cranes, using an old tractor with a rickety bucket. An amazing feat. Please forgive the fuzzy photo, I can barely chew gum and walk at the same time let alone fly and take photos. 

  Keith used the old wood from the property's first barn built in 1898, hauled it to the new site and used that wood for the bones of the building. We purchased new steel siding and new roofing materials. It had a large hay mow where our grandchildren begged to play with each visit and inside we sheltered horses, cows, calves, hay, straw...etc. The small addition was our milk house added in 1999. We loved that barn. Here it is up close.

An intern, back in the day when we had such, 
helps Keith put up hay.

We loved that big barn so much we left it, to start this new simpler but albeit, barnless life.  Please refer to the word "morons" on this blogs header, above. What we have instead,is this quaint building measuring a whopping 25 ft by 20 ft.

The original shed, to the right, was likely built about the same time as the old decrepit house on our property, in 1867. Somewhere along the line, a  concrete floor was poured. I love the look of this shed and it is hoped we can save it and use it for many years. It contains feed barrels for cats, chickens, and pigs,  horse tack, garden tools, buckets, fencing supplies etc...

The addition to the left is crap on a cracker as my mother would say. She was from southern Indiana and prolific in her quotable quotes. Miss her I do. Primarily it is cheap fiber board and warped plywood with a dirt floor. One day it will be torn down and replaced, but for the moment it serves a purpose. It houses our hay, straw and miscellaneous inventory. With the exception of a disoriented duck or laze-about dog, the building does not routinely house livestock. Instead, we house our animals in numerous creative ways.

A small milking "barn" for Holly and her mentor Mucca, the livestock trailer for Ennis the horse (pulled in and out of her pasture as needed to haul hay or other large items that won't fit in the back of our truck) and the old well house for the steers, who were not at all kind to the old well house. 

Well house circa 1867, turned steer shed 2015 turned chicken coop 2016.
Yes, repairs are scheduled.

With winter just 5 short months away we are considering our options for 2017. Stay tuned. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lions and Tigers and F2's...oh my!

Dorothy and her crew stopped by for a brief visit Wednesday night just as Keith and I were settling in for the evening. Cell phone alarms are so grand when you are too far away from town to hear Tornado Warning sirens.

It's also helpful that when all four of your adult children are in the general path of bad weather, there is social media to help with gentle text instructions...GET IN THE BASEMENT NOW! (Me to youngest son) or "Tornado in area, hope you get this message in time, if not, then tell the wicked witch hello for me" (Message from oldest son to me)  Our daughters message wins the prize for emergent brevity. "We're ok are you ok?" Even the middle son who avoids all technology more than he avoids vegetables, sent a facebook message. "Hey old folks, Still alive?" With no basement of our own in our grain bin house,  we just stayed close to the concrete foundation, snacked on floor crumbs and waited for our metal cone to start spinning.

All ended well for our immediate family. Our two oldest and their families, who live in Pontiac which was hit on the west side by an F2, were unscathed, but their neighbors had roof and yard damage. Worst hit was the area near the Rt 116 and I-55 interchange. There the BP gas station was badly damaged as were a couple trailers just south of town. Many businesses were also hit but our local hospital, just on the other side of the interstate, was missed.

Fortunately, only a hand full of injuries and no deaths. For more damage photos/video go to ABC Channel 7 News

We also received 3 inches of rain here on The Poor Farm that night, which was desperately needed. It's been humid since the storms and work outside is a sweaty, muddy experience but we are happy about it. Our well ran dry on Tuesday night (someone forgot to turn off the hose when watering HIS garden which almost makes up for the all the times I forgot on our old place) causing us to fret about an upcoming dry summer. So when we got drenched with the post tornado rains, we were giddy with relief. The well is full again and all is uh,,,well.

It takes little to make us giddy here, we're just that simple (minded).

Monday, June 20, 2016

We Do Not Sweat Like Pigs

Even though we've had several days in June over 90 degrees, one recent day it was 97 with a heat index of 103 F, we are not sweating like pigs for the simple reason that...pigs do not sweat. They have other wonderful attributes: they learn quickly, they don't poop in their sleeping areas (unless crammed into a confinement building where they have no choice ) they taste wonderful when raised on pasture, but they cannot sweat. So, when it gets hot they depend on the homesteader and a GK or two to help with relief.

On our old farm we raised 60-70 hogs at a time and we had large water holes filled for them. We also had two wells. This year on The Poor Farm we have one well that is not so deep, and we are experiencing a very dry spring, presently three inches of rain below normal. Two thirds of Illinois is currently in a "pre-drought" status.

Of course I must ask, isn't all weather outside a drought "pre-drought"? if we had 20 inches of snow or 2 inches of sleet, or a single sand storm would that all not be "pre-drought" ? Sorry, the older I get the more my pea brain wanders.

  In contrast, last summer it was extremely wet. Que Sera Sera. Unsure of how summer and fall will evolve we are cautious with our water supply. Fortunately we also have a limited supply of livestock: two cows, one young bull, five steers, assorted chickens and ducks, two dogs, four cats and four feeder pigs.

If the temp stays below 85 and there is a breeze, the hogs do fine but they show signs of stress about the 90 degree mark (increased respirations, less active, demanding long island ice teas with extra ice, and fanning them selves with ducks in the outstretched wing position (I told you they were smart). At that point we hit them with the hose. They get sprayed which makes them laugh out loud and leap in and out of the stream, bringing back fond memories of my Chicago youth. 

Image result for chicago kids of the 1960's in fire hydrant water

After that I will fill a small area with water on a dirt hill in their pasture. Of course we fill their water pans often. My GK Allana is well familiar with this routine as she has played with the pigs since she was very small, and though she is now a sophisticated age 12 she was not above getting down and dirty recently with the porcine four. I am also happy to say that for her recent birthday she talked her parents into giving her two pet rats. 

We two hippie homesteading grandparents could not be more proud. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grain Bin House Gets the Blues

Our inside work on the Grain Bin House continues, but certainly not at the speed of the outside work. Priorities man. Still, two projects were recently marked off our ongoing list of items to be finished; the pantry and the stairs.

The pantry was, for the last eight months, a freestanding set of plastic shelves under our stairs. It sufficed, but we needed more shelves, permanent shelves and more room on each shelf. Enter Keith and his supply of leftover wood.

Leftover from other GBH projects, leftover from my sister Mary's kitchen remodel, leftover from our old farm, leftover from we can't even remember. Every piece of the new pantry came "pre-paid." Keith built a frame under the stairs then pieced together several very deep shelves that more than triple the square inches we had in storage with the old plastic shelf unit. I came along with paint, more leftovers from our bedroom walls, and the pantry is complete. More or less.

We plan to add additional shelves, about 8 inches in depth, to run at right angles to the deeper shelves. These we will use for jars of canned goods...coming in a few weeks. I may or may not cover the area with a curtain, certainly we don't have room for any doors.

Now onto the stairs. The risers were made with leftover wood but the tops were new pine.

I wanted color,  so with GK Wesley's help, we picked three shades of blue,  and then alternated them. We had some mighty heat here last week so I painted outside which quickened dry time.

When I was done it all looked very Pianoesque, and I imagined a future picket fence painted the same way, but for now, it's only the stairs.

With the risers done, I decided to cover the tops with a combination stain/polyurethane (see bottom step.) It's a bit light for my taste but we'll see how a second coat goes. Eventually we must close in the top of the stairs over the pantry but I expect that will become a fall job as garden duties are increasing in intensity.

This is our first summer of serious food production and we plan to be on top of everything when the veggies are ready for harvest and preservation. But we all know how God responds to our planning don't we? He drops to the floor, rolls around and laughs so hard he wets himself.

Or so I've heard.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Lint Trap Longing

I'm feeling down about my lint trap.

I don't own one anymore.

When we were proud, middle class, farmburbanites, we had TWO of them, both secure inside the front of their electric dryer homes. One washer/dryer combo on the second floor for our good clothes, sheets, blankets and one combo downstairs for chore clothes. Every time I dried clothes I removed the lint from their traps and tossed it away.

In the summer on our old farm, Keith would periodically hang clothes out on the line, but not me. I found the task too time consuming. But, those decadent days are over, we said goodbye to our drier over a year ago and now oh so ironically, I am doing the majority of the laundry and it ALL is hung on the line, Even this past winter we managed to hang out clothes several days each month or if too cold they hung on racks behind our rocket mass stove. But still, late at night when it's quiet and the world is mostly asleep, I ache for my lint trap.

How does one keep the lint off of clothesline items?

I wash our clothes with homemade laundry soap and add vinegar to the rinse water.  I wash towels separately from other clothes. My laundry comes out clean, smells great, and the vinegar makes everything soft, but how I hate the way the lint still clings to some things; certain shirts, my nicer cotton pants, some of my knit blouses, socks.

Any tips from other regular clothes-line-hanger people would be well appreciated.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Trash

The clean up of The Poor Farm continues...and continues...and continues. We knew when we bought the place nearly three years ago it came "as is." People, for a very long time, had treated this place like the town dump. It may have been the owners, the renters or just drive-bys after the place was reposessed, it no longer matters.  Now, its all ours to deal with.

Last summer we hired some young folk to haul off TWENTY pickup loads of debri. We did not pay them, they instead took the loot that was recyclable , cashed it in and kept half of the loot. A good deal for everyone. Over these last few months, we have continued our discovery work and moved all metal findings to a group pile, which does not look too bad from a distance, somewhat reminiscent of a metal teepee. But with close inspection, the historic teepee dissolves into the metallic mish-mash we've harvested from our seven acres.

When I say "we" it has been primarily Keith since (this is where she pulls out the school card again)  I was in college full time. Now, I am not. Thus, I've had the pleasure of adding to our collection. Sometime in the near future we'll again visit the recycling center. That's if I can keep myself from pulling some items back OFF the pile and giving them new life.

For instance this metal door. Window? I love it's stucture, its heft, but I have no clue what to do with it. All I can think of is a guillotine for five. Of course there would be the expense of blades. How medieval of me.

Then there is this thick, twisted, metal cable. I imagine using it for door trim, or a clothes line for my oriental rugs, if I had oriental rugs.

How about this three section sink? A planter perhaps? Snack bowls for company? It's over three feet long, a mighty grand place for chips and gallons of dip.

The ideas, as well as the steam punk junk, goes on and on.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Moo News


I'd like to thank the academy (blog follower Kris) for the post title. THANK YOU KRIS. Now onto my first edition of "Moo News."

Last fall you might recall we lost The Poor Farms  only milk cow, Polly to hardware disease. This was a bummer extraordinaire, but we replaced her in December with Holly. Named by our grandson Wesley, as we obtained her on Christmas eve, we had high hopes for her. Raised on another small farm we liked her because she was not too big and appeared healthy.

She remains healthy, spunky perhaps, spirited you might say, down right possessed by Beelzebub I submit. Treated kindly, given time to adjust, allowed to vent her feelings of loss and confusion, she has yet to give up her contankerous ways. Some days she stands well for milking, other days she kicks hard, some days she meanders into the milking shed all goodness and light, other days she breathes fire as she approaches. Because of her Sybil-like behavior, Keith has insisted only he will milk her and being a dutiful wife, I have obeyed this directive. (Like I would step foot in that she-wolf's pen anyway.)

For a few weeks we kept her separate from the other cattle but then thought maybe loneliness  was an issue. We introduced our young heifer Mucca (Italian for cow) into Holly's pasture and they are fast buddies but still, Holly is unpredictable. Some times when a visitor just walks near her pasture she'll approach them in a threatening, head tossing manner. Yet, she has her attributes. Her milk is fabulous and she demonstrates no signs of illness or pain. She also birthed a beautiful bull calf two months ago. And as I said, some days she is a gem, but last week when Keith came into the house with his shirt pocket ripped off from a flying hoof, he announced she would be heading to the locker for burger making as soon as Mucca delivered her first calf.

Thus, Holly has been warned, straighten up or straight to the grill, medium rare, you will go.

Holly and Runner-Up, Mucca