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Everyone Needs A Cheering Section November 24, 2010

Posted by Joe in Farm.

A friend of ours gave us a couple of pickup bed loads of firewood over the weekend. I’ve spent most every free moment since then cutting it to length and splitting it for our pot belly stove.

I like splitting firewood the old fashioned way, with a maul. There’s just something manly about swinging an eight-pound piece of steel affixed to the end of a three-foot length of hickory. Hearing the sharp crack of the red oak as it yields to the blow and knowing that it’ll provide good warmth on cold nights this winter is rewarding.

This morning, I was splitting the last of the wood. My two year old son was there to “help you.” With every swing, he’d yell “Whoa! Awesome!”

As my friend in Virginia frequently says “Every day is Father’s Day.”


When Opportunity Crows August 10, 2010

Posted by Joe in Farm.

Or in the way that The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had two names for every episode “Make Hay When The Rooster Crows”

After supper, I went out to give the turkeys and chickens in the portable tractors some fresh water and I noticed that one of the tractors had some new residents. It contained three roosters we’d kicked out of the tractor earlier for being mean to the other residents. We had just turned them loose to forage and fend for themselves. And they’d done that well.

A couple of weeks ago I learned why they’d been so successful surviving on the outside. While I was processing some of the other chickens, I tried to catch the mean-spirited cockerels to include them in the day’s activities. I couldn’t. They were elusive little buggers.

This afternoon however, the playing field was leveled a bit. They had somehow worked their way back into the tractor and thus would be easier to catch. So as daylight was rapidly yielding to dusk, I quickly gathered my supplies and went back out to capture the three roosters for a quick processing.

As I entered the tractor, I was entering their domain. But I was able to capture two of them rather quickly. Unfortunately the third escaped through the same hole that allowed him to enter. Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad as they say.

So since the unexpected opportunity presented itself this evening, I processed two roosters for Laura to make into canned soup. It’ll be good this winter!

An Exhilarating Sunday Afternoon August 8, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.

Remember Easy Like Sunday Morning from Lionel Richie? Well Sunday mornings may be easy, but this Sunday afternoon was full of adrenaline for me.

I needed to take several items down to the toolshed where we store off-season clothes, camping equipment, and of course some tools. When I got down there, I noticed a couple of wasps flying around near the door.

Generally, I don’t mind all of God’s creatures being around. They’re part of nature. They exist for a reason. In His omnipotence He created them. I don’t pretend to understand why He created some of them, like the horsefly, but I know He had a reason.

So I live and let live for the most part. There’s an exception for me, though. If the animals are causing problems for us, they’ve got to go. For example, I don’t mind chicken snakes, unless they are eating our eggs. In this case though, the wasps were in a very inconvenient place. I didn’t want Benjamin or Rachel to get stung while getting something from the toolshed for me. So the wasps had to go.

I sent Benjamin back up to the house to get the fly swatter. As he walked back up to the house to get it, I began unloading the totes and items from the bed of my truck and taking them into the toolshed. I’d gotten about half of the items into the shed when he returned with a fly swatter and a very old can of Raid. In fact, I believe both the Raid and the flyswatter were purchased when we moved into the house 5 and 1/2 years ago.

I decided to go ahead and take care of the wasps before unloading the rest of the items in the truck. As I approached the door armed with just the flyswatter, I noticed that another wasp came out of a baseball-sized hole in the side of the toolshed. I carefully peaked into the hole. And there, inside the hole, was a whole swarm of bright red wasps busily doing whatever it is that wasps do.

Wow! I immediately retreated, nearly falling over myself, and grabbed the can of Raid that Benjamin had brought for me. Since it was  a very old can, I tested it out before approaching my newfound Sunday afternoon nemesis. I’m glad I did. A fine mist came shooting out of my secret weapon. Well, shooting is not exactly the right word for it. It was more like a mist from can of spray starch. Then I remembered. A couple of years ago, the nozzle of the can somehow broke. I replaced it with the only other nozzle I could find, one from an old can of spray starch. So the can of Raid that boasted of a being able to hit bugs at 25 feet now couldn’t shoot 12 inches.

Undeterred, I approached the hole in the wall, aimed the spray starch nozzle at the home of the little stingers with wings and let it rip. Mist!

And did the wasps come flying out! It seems a fine mist of Raid is very effective at getting a swarm of wasps very agitated. As I turned to run, I nearly knocked over into my 20 month old son, Timothy, who was standing right behind me. A picked him up, holding a can of spray in one hand and a flyswatter in the other and awkwardly ran toward the truck. Benjamin was under the truck.

I ordered Benjamin to take Timothy to the house. He didn’t object.

Then I approached the clearly annoyed wasps again. There’s something very exhilarating about doing battle with a swarm of wasps. Your adrenaline starts pumping was you swat one out of the air, mid-flight. The only thing more electrifying is swatting at one, missing, and then losing sight of it as it flies right by your head. That’ll really start your cardiovascular system to pumping.

In the end, I did battle with the wasps for 20 minutes. I’d get two or three of them, and then have a couple of close calls that sent me running back to the perceived safety of my truck. I’d slowly approach again, score another couple of points and then hurriedly retreat again.

I’m glad Laura didn’t have a video camera on me. I’m sure it wasn’t a pretty sight. Me swinging wildly left and right with a bent flyswatter then high-stepping it out of there with my elbows pumping.

But I’ve got to say it was as fun; fun like going to a haunted house and roller coaster all rolled into one. If you do well, you win. But there’s always the threat of intense pain when one of them gets through your line of defense.

Fortunately, I bested the wasps this day. And I didn’t get stung.

After it was all done I still had to enter the toolshed and finish putting away the remaining items. I was a bit nervous about it. I was still on high alert. But I finished my task without getting stung.

Who says you can’t get a cardiovascular workout while doing farm chores?

What about you? Got any stories bug stories you’d like to share?

A Cat by Any Other Name… August 2, 2010

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.

As you may imagine, living in an old farm means being surrounded by a lot of history. It’s fun to imagine all of the births, lives, and events that must have taken place over course of this house’s 110 year history. We love living in the country and being the next chapter in the story of this house and land.

But living in an old farmhouse also means being surrounded by fields full of mice just looking for their opportunity to join us inside. That’s one of the reasons we got two outdoor cats a couple of years ago. After getting Patch and Coco, we noticed an immediate and dramatic drop in the number of mice we saw in and around the house. The cats often leave remnants from their hunting excursions on the back porch; I think they’re paying tribute to us for providing them food and shelter.

Our kids have learned at an early age about life. They’ve learned about the circle of life and where our food comes from. It doesn’t bother them to know that what we have on the dinner table may have once walked in our fields. That’s the natural order of things, the way it’s supposed to be.

But what did bother them a bit was the disappearance of Patch a couple of months ago. One day she was here, the next day she was gone. Patch would often hunt at night. We surmise that one night she met with an owl and the predator became the prey.

So over this past weekend, we went to pick out a new kitten from some friends who suddenly found themselves with many more felines than they cared to manage. We are now the proud owners of a new, solid black, male kitten.

We haven’t actually taken possession of this newest resident of Blessed Acres Farm; he still needs a week or so with his mother. But when he does arrive, he’ll need a name. We’ve been talking about names almost nonstop since he was selected on Saturday. Personally I like the name Chubbs. But Rachel, who somehow feels the most ownership in the cat, is dead-set against that name. She prefers Miko or Thin Mint. She is willing to compromise a bit and go with Tubbs.

So, we’re looking for suggestions for a name for our new outdoor kitten. Got any?

The Revenge of the Piranha OR The Chicken Has the Last Laugh December 9, 2009

Posted by Laura in Farm.

This past weekend, we finished up the last of the Cornish X (meatbird) chickens.  They are unpleasant birds to raise and we have to remind ourselves frequently that it is a short-term, high-return venture.  (For the uninitiated, these are hybrids that have an incredible [unnatural?!] rate of gain.  For every 2 pounds of feed they ingest, they gain a pound.  They are eating machines.  For this reason, we have nicknamed them The Piranhas because I’m pretty certain if I fell into the move-able coops, they would reduce me to bones in a matter of minutes.  They are humanly engineered, poorly feathered, obese-looking, and prone to heart attacks and broken bones.  We go back and forth about whether we should raise such creatures, but in the end, time constraints and economics have won out so far).

With a sigh of relief, Joe processed the last ones and I readied them for the deep freeze.  After the recommended 2-3 days in brine, I packed them up and headed down to the tool shed freezer to store them away.  (Some birds get cooked & pressure canned for ready-to-eat use and some get frozen for roasting later.  Spent layers become canned soup).  I opened the freezer and set down my heavy load on the floor.  Just as I bent to retrieve the first one for shelving in the freezer, a large one from the top shelf slid off (and reached terminal velocity) and whacked me on the back of the head.  (The parenthetical part added by Joe after viewing the lump on my head).  I think I said some negative things about that chicken and gravity at that point, but no one was there to hear it fortunately.  I’ll repent of it later after the swelling goes down.

Back to the Land November 18, 2009

Posted by Laura in Farm, Preparedness.

Since moving to our farm years ago, we have been working toward a more natural and self-sufficient lifestyle.  With God as the center of our lives, we have sought to live in a way that we feel is less worldly and more pleasing to Him.  As part of that, we have tried to increase the amount of our own food that we raise and put up food in times of plenty for the leaner winter months.  We feel that our understanding and connection to the entire food chain has made us better stewards of the gifts He has given us.

Recently, we took a field trip with the homeschool group to a working farm/store/school to learn more about aspects of homesteading that we do not do, specifically dairy cows.  The owners are wonderful people and we look forward to going back for future lessons on other topics.  Here are the older two children enjoying the “hands-on” experience.  Since I was helping Lydia, I didn’t get any pictures unfortunately.  Timothy was itching to get out of his stroller and join in but those ole Jersey girls were pretty much stretched to their limits having new milkers without a baby crawling through their legs!  🙂


Rachel did a great job milking Vanilla.


Benjamin got the hang of it really quickly.

The kind owners showed us how to make butter and treated us to homemade cookies and lemonade too.  Can’t wait to go back!

Interesting Times and Our Reliance on the Power Grid November 11, 2009

Posted by Joe in Farm, Preparedness.

Hello all!  Hope you are enjoying Fall.  We have had
some light frosts here, but I am surprised that several things in the
garden still haven’t been frost-bitten enough to die yet.  Our
eggplants, for instance, are the size of mature shrubs and are still
putting out (ugly and kind of stunted) fruits.  Even the lima bean
plants haven’t entirely succumbed yet.  The harvested sweet potatoes
and cool-weather greens are breathing down my neck to be “put up”
before they go bad.  Overall, it’s been a pretty good gardening year.

There have been some interesting things in the news lately.  My brother and sister both mentioned the 60 Minutes piece that aired this past
Sunday evening.  It gave an overview of some of the vulnerabilities of
the American electric grid.  It is well-worth watching.  Here is a link
that I think will work.  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5578986n&tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel
It pretty much focuses on international espionage/terrorism as the
reason for knocking out electricity.  That is highly possibly-
depending on who you ask, maybe even the most likely scenario.
Regardless of how power could be knocked out, I feel better being
prepared to heat our house and cook food without having to rely on
consistent electricity.

Also, if you are looking for a really good (fiction) read about
Americans coping in a sudden “grid-down” situation, I’d recommend One Second After by William R. Forstchen
.  It’s quite a page-turner!


The Death of King Percy June 15, 2009

Posted by Laura in Farm.

When we moved to our little glimpse of heaven 4 1/2 years ago, we were delighted to see it came stocked with a horse, a few ducks, and a small flock of chickens.  Among those chickens was the undisputed king of the henhouse, a Jersey Giant cross we named Percy.  Here is a picture of him taken a few years ago.


Percy has weathered a lot- he’s protected the womenfolk, he’s intimidated the young upstarts into submission, and he’s been a good-natured fella.  The ladies swooned when he strutted by.  He would often find a particularly good treat while foraging and call “his girls” over and offer it to them.  While they enjoyed the tidbit, he would stand watch over them and keep the peace.

A week and a half ago, an odd thing began to happen.  Percy was being pecked and chased by Guido, the smaller but annoying guinea who adopted us a few years ago.  I saw the pursuit across the yard several times and would find Percy hiding in the bushes, cowering while Guido “sucker-pecked” him.  I broke it up, but that didn’t last.  Percy began limping.

A few days later, not only was Guido the Unwanted Guinea attacking him, guinea-2006-12-18

but also little Nappie (short for Napolean).  He is a Mille Fleur bantam, just a bit larger than a dove.


I would say they were “double-teaming” poor Percy, but the two weren’t actually on the same team.  They were just both exploiting this new weakness simultaneously.  For several days, the king spent most of his time lying down in the same spot in the yard, keeping an eye out for assassination attempts but getting up to eat very little.  At the end of the week, I put him into a chicken tractor with a few benign Buff Orpingtons to recuperate and keep him safe.

The first 2 days, it seemed like he was improving.  The third day, not so much.  The fourth day, Joe and Benjamin went down to move the tractors and feed the chickens.  Percy was mobile for the move, but breathed his last while eating some scratch grains and died peacefully.  All in all, the most a rooster could hope for!

We don’t get overly attached to most of our chickens, but Percy was the oldest resident of the farm, a regal presence in the yard, and kind of an icon.  Things don’t seem quite right without him.  He will be missed.

Tree-Climbing Dolts May 22, 2009

Posted by Laura in Farm.

For all their annoying habits (like getting their heads stuck in the fence and eating the blueberry plants 😦 ), goats (a.k.a. “dolts” according to Lydia) are entertaining.  I glanced out the window yesterday to see this.



No, they didn’t do anything particularly amazing to get up there, but it was funny to see.  Remember that tree that came down (well, partly anyway)?  The goats are able to climb onto the ends of the limbs that haven’t quite separated from it and and go up from there.  They are pretty proud of themselves.

Out of the mouth of babes May 11, 2009

Posted by Joe in Family, Farm.

Lydia’s vocabulary has grown considerably over the past few months and she seems very pleased about it. And so are we! She can communicate much better now, telling us what she wants rather than playing a frustrating form of toddler charades until we figure out what it is that she’s trying to say.

She frequently points at something and calls it by name as if to make sure we know that she knows what it is.

Her pronunciation, however, has lagged a bit behind her growing vocabulary. Sometimes when she says something, it’s not quite as clear as it could be. But that’ll come with time. In the meantime, it can be a source of great amusement.

For example it tickles us when she points at the goats and says quite confidently “Look, dolts. Dolts, Mommy, dolts”.

She probably more accurate than she realizes.