We told you about the new windows we had installed almost two weeks ago. Well, we have made a little progress on trimming them out, but they aren't finished yet. Frank had a great idea of making the top board longer and angled. I think they look great. But since we aren't finished with that project, the porches are still in disarray. It really doesn't bother me much, life goes on with our daily routines even if things aren't in their customary places.
You may be wondering why two weeks later, the windows still aren't trimmed. Well, a day or so after the windows were installed, we began a large project on the barn, which is only about half complete at this stage. This project involves building lean-to shed roofs on the east and west sides of the barn, the full length of the building. After much planning and consulting with the two man crew we have hired to do the building, then acquiring the needed supplies, this project got under way.
The day after the barn supplies arrived the local electric cooperative came and set a new pole for us. We have long wanted power to the barn, but it is quite expensive. Well, this is the year. The pole is about 120 feet from the barn so we will still need to run the wire underground to connect there.
We expected to have a meter and power once the pole was set, but then we discovered that we needed to install a breaker box on the pole and connect it to the meter box. Enter Frank and his many abilities to fix and build things. While the work crew began their tasks using a generator, Frank worked on installing the breaker box and connections. In a couple of days, the cooperative was back out with the meter and we were in business. Then Frank got busy installing an outlet on the pole with a 20 amp fuse, so the guys could have power via heavy duty extension cords. This provided stronger, more consistent power for their tools which was great. It is truly a blessing to have a husband that can do or fix just about anything.
As we began the barn project one of the first things that we had to do was dismantle the pig pen. We had already allowed the pigs out into the larger pen that contained their small, initial pen. But the first day of construction, the pens were dismantled and the pigs were allowed out into their two acre pasture for the first time. Needless to say it was a little confusing to them. That was the day I became a pig herder, spending a lot of time with them showing them around the pasture.
Because of the floor leveling and window installation and rain, we hadn't had the chance to brush hog the pigs entire pasture, so Frank made some wide trails for them to use. They lead to the one, lone tree in that pasture, down to the pond and provide three 'lanes' to the barn area. At first, I coaxed the pigs to the tree with food and water. I knew they needed shade, water and mud. So that day and for several days after, I carried many a bucket of water to the tree. After about two days, the pigs would go to the pond on their own, enjoying the mud for a wallow and whatever they found that was tasty at the pond's edge. Now they comfortably wander around on their own and we don't have the concern of lack of water or wallow to keep them cool.
So, how are the pigs? They are doing great. I have to say, I am really enjoying them. We can pet them and scratch their backs almost any time we go into the pasture. We even scratch their heads while they are anxiously awaiting the contents of the feed bucket in our hands. Every so often one will bump the backs of our legs when we are walking to the feed pan. This is when I remind them not to bite me. But
really, I don't think they would, it's just a 'Hey! Feed me!" kind of bump. They are really funny, and I'm getting used to their grunting and squealing sounds. We are planning a trip later this week to bring home another gilt. She will be much smaller than these guys we have now, but I hope she will work out well.
The pig side of the barn should be complete tomorrow, if we're not rained out. Then we will reconstruct a pen and place their house under the shed roof. This will provide more shade and a place to pen them if need be. But for now, they have free range of their pasture. I will give you a more specific pig update in a few weeks.
The west side of the barn is next on the barn project docket. It includes our rain catchment system which we are very excited about. I will do an in-depth article with the whys and hows of that project as we get closer to completion.
Our cheese stash continues to slowly grow. We now have 24 wheels of cheddar aging. Well, make that 23. I have been wanting to see how it was doing for a while, so I have opened the first wheel. It is drier than I like, which means I pressed it too hard. It also has a bunch of small holes in it, which it is not supposed to have. Frank read an article recently about why swiss cheese has holes and it was because of the bacteria on hay dust that got into the milk before the cheese was made. This was back in the days before milking machines prevented any air contact with the milk. This made me wonder if something similar caused the holes in our cheddar. It doesn't appear to affect the taste. This wheel has a very, very mild cheddar flavor since it was only allowed to age for two months. It's good, though, and we are enjoying it.
We have begun to eat yellow squash from the garden. There is nothing like that first squash of the season. I hope to begin canning some before long.
We have also discovered that we like a dish of turnip greens, collards and beet greens. Not only is it tasty, but very nutritious. Since the turnip patch is almost overrun with crab grass, we plan to harvest the patch and see if there is enough to blanch and freeze the greens. We've already done this once and they taste just fine. Not quite as good as fresh, but most things aren't. Now I need to learn to can them. That will come with the fall crop.
The wild and tame blackberries are ripening now, but the tame berries are not sweet at all. I don't know if the extended rainy period we had in April and May caused this or not. I do know that these berries need sunshine to sweeten up, but we've had a couple of weeks of sunny weather lately. I was hoping that would make a difference in the flavor, but it has not. I ate a few ripe wild berries this afternoon and they were much sweeter, so I hope to pick some in the next few weeks to help decrease our dependence on store bought berries.
The baby chicks and their adoptive mom are still doing very well. Before long they will be moved to the pen next door to make room for the next batch of chicks that will be hatching. Our chicken house will be getting very full of little cheepers, but that also means that in a few months our freezer and canning jars will be filling up as well, and that is good.
The kids we put in the 'boys' pasture to wean continue to nurse through the fence at times. We had to do some rearranging when the barn project started, and for now the does are in a pasture adjacent to the weaning kids. It has cut down on our take of the milk, but that's okay. It just means we only make cheese about one to two days a week, and with the building project and the garden needing attention, that has worked out rather well. We will be breeding two of the does in July for December babies. This is something we tried last summer, but it didn't work out. Our plan is to breed two in July and the other four in November. This will provide us with milk through the winter and a larger supply in the spring for next year's cheese supply. We'll see how it works out this time.
The beneficial insect class I took taught me to identify a few more bees and a few more plants, but didn't really cover insects specific to gardening. I learned some new information, but it hasn't really affected my gardening techniques. I did learn that 90% of bees are loners that nest in the ground. I thought that was interesting.
We continue to prepare for Frank's survival radio class which will be starting in a few weeks. There has been quite a bit of interest from our small communities, which is exciting. The possibility of creating a communication network in our area is very important to us. It could make all the difference in the world should a natural or man made disaster, emergency or collapse occur. We will let you know how it goes.
Life on the homestead is good. Very good. Busier than usual with projects underway, new animals, a different gardening season this year, and just normal daily chores and routines that come with living a life of producing all we can for ourselves. I know some of you have been wondering if we have made soap. Not yet. We have everything we need, and have talked about it a number of times, but it hasn't happened yet. One day we will surprise you, and us, with that post. It is almost time to make another batch of lotion. I am really glad we make our own now. It's quick, easy and not full of chemicals.
Until next time - Fern