Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The new drinking fountain!

I discussed my search for an outdoor drinking fountain a few months ago here. It took a few months of following eBay to find a decent one that was cheap. TIP: If you ever want to buy lawn furniture or a drinking fountain on eBay, wait until December when most of the country is snowed in!

We gave the fountain to the kids on Christmas eve. Hubby modified an old post to attach it to, but he'll need to go to a plumbing specialty store to find the correct pipe b/c they didn't have the correct kind at Home Depot. The pipe that is currently attached is a gas pipe and is full of rust.

Excuse my daughter's closed eyes in that pic!

I'll take another picture when it's finally installed!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Can I hold your dirt?

I put an ad on a while back -- advertising our hay bales for sale. A young, college-age girl called and we made arrangements for her to come over and pick up her bales. Like most customers, a 10 minute chore turned into an hour-long discussion of chickens, "Whereyafrom?" and other farm-related conversation. Turns out, she and some friends have formed (what sounded like) a hippie commune, where everyone gets to live on the acreage for free, so long as they help with the garden and their joint booth at the farmers market.

The area where these folks have their farm is near a sandy creek about 10 miles away from me. When this young girl turned and saw our garden, she freaked out. She kept asking what we amended our soil with. We explained that this was only our first year with the garden, and we didn't do a thing except till it up. She couldn't get over how dark and rich it was...and finally just asked, "Can I go over and touch your dirt? Can I hold it?"

That's the first time I've ever been complimented on my shirt dirt.

She even paid cash for one of our surplus roosters.

I like that girl.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Summer's End

I pulled our jackets from the back corners of the closets today. Our days of swinging barefoot in the summer sun have come to a close.

Thrifty Genes

I failed to inherit the thrifty gene. I don't wash and reuse Ziploc bags like I should, and I've been known to throw out clothing that needed mending simply because I knew I would never get around to doing it. I've always admired my maternal grandparents and their ability willingness to save, create, and reuse.

My mother brags that my grandmother would bring friends to her house in the midst of the depression, and her friends would drool. There was canned chicken, tomatoes, eggs, and preserves aplenty. They rarely went without a good meal.

My grandmother has rescued every fern and dying potted plant placed along the roadside, and within a year has them looking better than a newly purchased plant from the finest nursery. My grandfather disconnected the light in their doorbell to save on energy costs. No lie.

Recently, my grandparents brought my husband a stack of my grandfather's old clothing . Hubby is always ruining shirts on the farm, so it's a nice way to recycle. My grandfather finally retired, so he had a good excuse to downsize his wardrobe. I just had to take a photo of one of the shirts in the bunch.

My grandfather worked as a civil engineer for about 60 years. Like most nerds engineers, he had to have several pens and pencils available at all times. To this day, he carries a few writing instruments in his front pocket for working crossword puzzles. Well, sometimes my grandmother would find an exceptionally nice shirt at a garage sale or Goodwill, but it wouldn't have a pocket for my grandfather's engineering tools.Thus, the tail-pocket was born.

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has cut off the shirttail and sewn a nice pocket on my grandfather's work shirts. She is so ingenious!

The title of this post reminds me...

    Following the birth of my 3rd child and a subsequent weight gain,  I went to an endocrinologist to check my thyroid levels. When all of my tests returned normal, he told me that I just had DNA that liked to store fat and that it's probably what saved my ancestors from many a long winter. He said I am blessed with "thrifty genes." Doesn't that sound a whole lot better than "You're fat!"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's on YOUR answering machine?

A friend of mine posted this on facebook yesterday. She is a teacher, and this was an answering machine greeting that she heard when she called one of her students. I think it is hilarious!

...this is the outgoing recording on an answering machine I heard today: "I'm a cotton-picking, cornbread-eating hillbilly, the government's broke, what's in your wallet? I'm out feeding the chickens, answer to the beep." 


Monday, October 12, 2009

Time for some couture

I received the sweetest comment on my last post from a new reader. I visited her blog and realized she has a love for design. Her beautiful photographs made me realize that someone new to my blog would wonder "Where is the couture?" Well, I aimed to post items only relevant to farm life on here because I wanted to record all of the ways that the farm has changed who we were into who we are now. I still love design, even though it's become less of a passion as other stuff has become priority!

Anyway, so here's one example of how I got my blog name. Some couture to add to the country...

This room started off with 8.5' ceilings, dark moulding, and nasty sheetrock. It has since gotten new windows, so I need to take some new photos. It's hard to believe that we gutted that room, vaulted the ceiling, refinished the floors, hung sheetrock, and put a young toddler in that room over 2 years ago.

Posting these photos was therapeutic. I needed to show off something couture:

to make up for feeling oh so country:

We've had a week of rain, and I counted 20 pairs of muddy shoes by the back doors last night. Hubby and I returned from an evening out and couldn't help but laugh and take this photo with my phone. I couldn't even fit them all into one photo! The kids would have NEVER gotten away with this at our old house!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Frozen Corn on the Cob

While eating supper tonight, I was reminded to blog about the ears of corn we ate. This past summer, after picking, husking, blanching, cutting, sauteing, and stirring corn for hours, I was tired of "putting up" and searched online for alternatives. I read somewhere that you can freeze fresh ears without blanching them, so long as they are frozen within an hour of picking.
Simply take the husks and silks off, wrap the cobs tightly in aluminum foil, and place in a Zip-Loc freezer bag. Freeze immediately. Obviously, you can't do this with all 300 ft. of corn, but it's nice to save some with the cob on.
The corn was delicious!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stir Crazy

I'm going stir crazy and no spoons are involved.

The weather is beginning to cool off, so it's incredibly tempting to be outdoors right now. The fall garden isn't finished, the roosters haven't been slaughtered, the fence needs staining and mending, and I have a million projects I want to begin in the yard.

The baby is 5 months old now, so it's really difficult for me to get things accomplished outside. I've tried strapping him in a stroller, but he'll get fussy or I'll have to stop what I'm doing, de-glove, and nurse. There's nothing like being soaked with sweat and then nursing a baby to make you BOTH want to take a bath. Then, by the time I finish nursing, I've cooled off and it's difficult to get going again!

I've tried to put him on a blanket in the grass, but he's crawling now. The last time I attempted this, he ended up choking on grass and was bitten by an ant.

I usually spend his nap times catching up on inside housework. Every now and then, I run outside to water the plants or feed the chickens, but getting involved in an "outdoor project" during nap time is out of the question. They don't make baby monitors with enough range, and most of the projects require the help of my husband (who is at work.) Perhaps I should reverse that to "most of the projects require me helping my husband."

My husband suggested that I pump and hire a babysitter for the weekend.

#1: The last time I tried pumping (2004) it threw off my milk supply for a week. I don't think a garden is worth suffering any amount of engorgement.

#2: I don't even own a working bottle.

#3: Even if I had someone watching the baby (with bags of breastmilk,) I'd still have to stop and pump every 3-4 hours. Anyone who has smelled wet chicken feathers will understand why I don't think I could stop culling chickens to pump. No amount of Germ-X could make that a safe choice.

#4: Mercy on the poor soul who would have to rock my ninny-baby to sleep without a big boob in his mouth.

I keep telling myself to just accept that I must hibernate inside until next spring, when the baby will be walking and (hopefully) able to toddle in the grass while I work. We are considering that this may be our last child, so I am also trying to be content in holding him all day and savoring every minute of babyhood.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hounding Them About Hydration

We got this playset for the kids 2 years ago. We anticipated having 4 children, so we figured that it was worth the investment to get a large scale set that would grow with the kids. The swings are high enough for any adult to swing freely and comfortably. We always thought that older preteens avoided playsets because they were too mature, but we've found that they enjoy playing here because they aren't too big for it!

The mulch is recycled tire rubber. It's the industry standard for safety. From a farm perspective, the bugs hate it. I suppose it gets too hot for them. We haven't had issues with spiders, ant beds, or webs on the playground. Our mulch came from International Mulch. The NuPlay nuggets are large enough to find and toss back in if they get misplaced in the grass. We are still recovering from the heart attack that accompanied the price of the rubber mulch, but if you do the math on tree bark mulch that needs amending every year, it pays for itself eventually. Pea Gravel and sand were out of the question. They are annoying and messy in your shoes, a cat-haven, and they aren't rated to prevent a head injury from the maximum height of our set.

While most children go to their swing-sets to exercise, we've found that the kids gravitate to the playground to cool off! They will run around the farm and then stop for a while to swing, play in the sandbox, or sit up high and pet the cat for a while. Because this is where the kids usually stop to rest, I think it would be the perfect spot for a water fountain. In the south, we call them water fountains, but I've learned that there is no such thing on eBay. The proper term is "drinking fountain."

I've been stalking eBay for a "drinking fountain" for about 5 months now. I've bid on a few, and the one that I really wanted got away at over $80.00. Can't you just imagine the kids stopping by for a refreshing sip of water from one of these beauties?

I prefer the really old porcelain fountains that are petite and have the gear turn. I've resisted the urge to bid on some of the pretty nice ones that have only a push button. I'm afraid a button will be too difficult for the little ones to press.

I've also entertained the idea of purchasing a bubbler with handle. They run about $40. I've been brainstorming ways to make my own basin and stand. We have some 8"x8" Cypress post remnants laying around, but I can't figure out what I would use for a bowl. Even though it would drain into the grass, I think a bowl would prevent them from getting themselves soaked. I considered a few things, but it really needs to be shallow so it doesn't fill with leaves and spider webs.

No matter what the fountain looks like, I know my kitchen floors are bound to look better! No more muddy footprints inside, and no more empty cups strewn about the backyard!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Squash Dressing

One of our sweet customers at the farmer's market mentioned that she had a great squash recipe. I asked her to bring it with her the next time she came to the market, but no, she drove all the way home and came back with a photocopy! She was right, it was very yummy! How can you go wrong when something has a pound of breakfast sausage in it?

Squash Dressing

8 medium yellow squash, chopped fine and cooked
1 medium onion
1 bell pepper
1 can mushroom soup
1 jar pimentos, chopped
1/2 pound of Velveeta cheese, cubed
1/4 cup melted butter
1 pound browned breakfast sausage
1 package Mexican cornbread mix
chopped jalapenos (to taste) if desired

Bake cornbread according to directions, then cool and crumble. Cook down the onion and bell pepper in the butter. Either boil your squash separately or add to the onion and pepper mix with a little water and boil down until it's mush. Add everything else, mix well, and put in a large casserole dish. Bake @ 350' for 30 minutes.

Watermelon is $150 too late

With such plentiful veggies, I only made a shopping trip every 2 weeks or so last month. My husband would stop occasionally for some steaks, milk, cheese, etc. but that's about it.

I'm not usually a "sweets" kind of person. I'll take some french onion dip and chips over pies, cake, or ice cream any day. Well, after eating mostly okra, squash, potatoes, cornbread, tomatoes, blueberries, etc. for a month, my our appetite for junk food took over.

I must have looked like the worst mother in history. The conveyor belt was full of $150 worth of gummy bears, chips, makings for ice cream sundaes, brownie mix, sugar for baking, cherry pie filling, chocolate chips etc. My check-out lady even commented, "Yo sure do have some kina sweet tooth!" I replied that I now understand those old movies and books where kids freaked out over receiving only a tin of candies for Christmas or their birthday. I always thought my mother was crazy for putting an orange and apple in our stockings at Christmas. I can see where the tradition originated who had eaten squash all summer long must have thought an orange was divine! She has also told me childhood stories of my grandparents' generation, when kids would steal satsumas and walked miles just to go cut down a stalk of sugarcane. Those 2 weeks of eating almost only homegrown food put things in perspective!

Which brings me to the melons. Our watermelons are just now ripe. We planted a HUGE variety. It took them forever to ripen. The wait was well worth it. We cut open the first watermelon this evening. It was delicious! I think they still have some more growing potential. The red flesh was really sweet, but unlike store-bought watermelons, the white of the rind was soft and sweet too! The cantaloupes are ready as well. If we had planted little icebox melons that have a shorter growing time, then maybe I could have saved myself that trip to the store for sweets! Next year, I should keep a million jars of figs and blueberry jam on hand for emergencies such as that!

What do you think? Does anyone else with a farm get the occasional junk food munchies?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Heat Wave

We've been busy in the garden, but with no rain for a few weeks, it has definitely become unbearably hot. The heat index has been in the 100s. It wouldn't matter so much if we were "early birds," but anyone who knows us well, knows that we are NOT morning people.

One can only water with the hose so much between rain. The plants and flowers are showing their suffering. The giant sunflowers are all blooming and making the bees very happy. Their petals are shriveled and scorched though.

We have learned a lot thus far. The largest lesson of the summer is:

100 feet of cucumbers is too much!

We have cucumbers everywhere! Mom and I canned a few jars of pickles, we gave away a ton during Vacation Bible School, gave away a large rubbermaid to an assisted living facility for a pickling project (which tasted much better than mine--I need their recipe!) We also sold about 10 ice chests-full at the farmer's market.

Speaking of the market...
We initially agreed to join because
1) I was worried that without enough participation, it would fold in the first year
2) and I wanted to help boost the number of vendors
3) as a way to get rid of our excess veggies

The market hasn't helped all that much though. It's only 2 weekends a month, so we only get rid of excess every other weekend. I've already "put up" as much as will fit in the freezer, so now I suppose I'll be putting zucchini on neighbors' doorsteps in the middle of the night!

Our biggest hit at the last market was the zinnias. I picked and picked the morning of the market, but with 4 kids decided it wasn't worth my time to strip the leaves and make arrangements, so...

I dunked all of the flowers (leaves and all,) into big buckets. I provided scissors, a trash area for leaves, and SOLO disposable cups filled with water. All of the little girls who tagged along with their parents on Saturday enjoyed making their own bouquets. The SOLO cups were the perfect size to fit in their car cup-holder for the ride home. We sold out of zinnias, potatoes, cucs, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, and okra. We made enough money to cover the garden portion of the summer water bills, but more than anything, it was nice to meet new people in the community and encourage other people to begin gardens of their own. The kids enjoyed it too.

Tomatoes. I don't think we have a red thumb among us. Stink bugs ruined the first ones that turned. We sprayed them like normal, to no avail. Hubby eventually used SevenDust and the most recent tomatoes are looking (and tasting) better. Part of the problem is that I simply picked a random variety of cherry tomatoes when I bought seed. The skin is much tougher than I would like. Jerry and his wife (the booth next to us at the market) have tomatoes with skin like a grape. His are delicious! Ours are only good cut up in a salad. They're a little tough for snacking.

Our larger tomatoes are pretty good. We waited until after Easter to plant, so they're just now turning.

The corn is plowed up. We sold a bunch at market, and I blanched about 400 ears, stir-fried and put up about 300 ears, gave away some, and froze a bunch whole. All of our local co-ops and feed stores are completely out of sweet corn seed, so my aunt in MS mailed us some from her co-op. We'll plant that where the potatoes were.

I guess that's all for now. I'll try to remember to include pics of the baby chicks in a future post. So far, our rooster (son of Puff-Daddy) has sired 15 chicks. We also have about 20 pullets, and another 24 ordered from Murray-McMurray scheduled for July delivery. Hopefully the repairs to the coop will hold and these new chickadees won't become another possum or raccoon's midnight snack.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Start of Summer

I've neglected to blog for a few months. This evening was pleasant, so I carried my camera outside when we went to check on the garden. This year, we started everything from seed from Willhite Seed in Texas. I was impressed with the overall germination rates of everything. I felt horrible having to thin nearly everything we planted!

Here's what's currently in the ground. Most everything has its own 100 ft. row: corn (x 3 rows,) peas, cucumber, Zinnias, potatoes, squash, zucchini, eggplant, okra, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and bell pepper. We also planted fig trees, a blueberry orchard, and erect blackberries.

The chickens are laying like crazy. Hopefully we'll have some setters this season.

By the end of the summer, I hope to have the barn restored to its original shade of red. Five gallon buckets of red barn paint are almost 1/3 of the cost of regular paint, but I don't know if it does well over white primer. I think it's really intended for bare wood applications. If you have ever used it, then please let me know how it performs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gris-Gris Greens

Hubby is itching to get the entire garden turned over in preparation for the spring, so we cut all of the remaining collards, then cleaned and stripped them, and boiled them in the crawfish pot. Rather than blanch them, we cooked them all of the way down with some pork before freezing (like my grandmother does.) We then divided everything into small-portion containers for the freezer. Our 100-foot row of collards cooked down into about 3-4 gallons of greens.