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Friday, August 29, 2014

Canning marathon

It has been a busy past few weeks here on the homestead. With the lose of my mom, then 11 days later my uncle passed away unexpectedly. The garden has really done well this year. Although with all the chaos we did lose a good bit of our sweet corn. When dealing with a lose its really hard to pick and put up garden stuff too. I think we probably lost about 1/3 total as it got too hard before we could get to it. The green beans also went a little too long. Lots of them as of last picking had turned yellow, ripe and had to be shelled out to can with the rest. This tells the plant "mission accomplished" as in it has produced seed and is done living so they stop flowering and start to turn yellow and lose leaves. End of the bean patch for the most part. Same thing is happening with our tomatoes. Not being able to pick them as they ripen creates big loses with them rotting on the vine. But not much can be done about all that. Am very thankful for what we do have and have canned. We are still picking tomatoes but its sad to see all those rotted ones in the patch. Last week we canned 21 quarts of green beans, 22 quarts of bean soup, and 21 quarts of veggie soup with venison in it. So we make progress. Rodger and I went to the garden last evening and picked tomatoes and bell peppers. I am guessing about a bushel of tomatoes and close to that many big bell peppers. All still need to be worked up. Not sure what the hell I did to my back but when I rolled, and I do mean "rolled" out of bed this morning I could not stand up straight. Bending over is just out of the question. I went out to let the chickens out for the day and did as Rodger told me and took my cell phone with me. All was good till on the way back in the house I dropped the phone in the grass. Not able to bend over to pick it up, I had to kick it over near the out building so I could have something to hold onto and bend down and pick up my phone. So back in the house I took muscle relaxers, Advil and anti-inflammatory meds and went back to my bed. I was a tad bit better this afternoon when I got up but a totally wasted unproductive day in my book. So I still have tomatoes, bell peppers and hog plums to get taken care of tomorrow. They cant wait any longer. Of course Rodger will be here to help tomorrow so I think we can get it done.

It is time to get my order in for Cornish cross chickens so we have some meat in the freezer to last till the spring batch. But before I have a place to put them I will need to get my older laying hens in the jars. We plan to butcher at least 12 of them this weekend while the men folk are off work for the Labor day weekend. And labor we will. I still have 31 young birds to get raised up and butchered off as well. Something tells me I will be in the winter butchering chickens, again.

I must say thank you to all my kind sweet readers who sent prayers and their condolence on moms passing. So nice to know that total strangers, or friends I have not met in person is a better term are so thoughtful. From all of us here, A heart felt thank you.

Not much else happening here on the farm, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Garden in full production, Moms passing

Our garden is in full production right now. Although I did lose the last of my sweet corn. It was just not important last week. We had other sad things to endure. My mom passed away suddenly August 8th. She had been doing really well after her stroke in April and up till about 2 hours before she passed. I find comfort in the fact that she did not suffer at all. My suspicion is she had another stroke or threw a clot. We buried her beside daddy on Tuesday. The week prior we were planning on Amoy and Liam visiting for a week and were scheduled to pick them up on Saturday at the airport. Rob was not gonna be able to come home with them due to trying to save his vacation time for when our lil Zachary gets here. But as it happened mom passed on Friday night and when we let them know Rob got a flight out of Phoenix for Sunday morning an got home Sunday evening. I was sure happy to get to spend some time with the kids and especially that sweet lil Liam. He just melts our heart.

He just had a hard time getting thru the flowers to get to his momma. He would eventually make a good lil country boy. There is truly nothing greater than grand kids. He did get to walk barefoot in the grass, step in his share of chicken poop, play in a creek, and pick and eat maters right off the vine.

Liam and daddy picking and eating Blueberry tomatoes that I planted in the herb bed. My good friend Deb sent me the seed for the tomatoes. That is the odd thing I grew this year. They are blue to purple in color and get red if they are in the sun. Liam liked em.  Love that precious lil boy. And his momma and daddy too of course.

Our tomatoes in the garden have done great this year. Rob and Rodger picked about 2 1/2 bushels on Sunday and I finally got them worked up on Tuesday. It will be hot for several days then rain for several days and this is hell on tomatoes. It will make them split and crack. Then they rot before they get totally ripe. But we are still having a lot  I made about 15 pints of salsa, and about 8 quarts of mater juice. When I wash and prep the tomatoes to run thru the Squeezo strainer to make juice I squeeze the seed pockets out of them. When they are run thru the strainer the juice comes out almost as thick as tomato sauce. Next project is to make spaghetti sauce to can. Probably this weekend. We had planned on picking green beans and tomatoes this evening but it poured rain till nearly dark. So maybe Rodger can do that tomorrow evening for me. Jason should be able to help him.

 I have to be out of town for visitation Thursday evening and the funeral on Friday for my Uncle Charlie. He was mom's sister Carla(deceased) widower. He had surgery on Monday to remove a tumor in his lung and passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday morning. My cousins are just devastated as to be expected. Two of those cousins were here last week as pall bearers for my mom's funeral. Love them dearly and loved uncle Charlie to pieces. It has sure been a rough couple weeks here on the homestead. Life can change in the blink of an eye. So tell your loved ones you love them today, tomorrow may never come.

In the past month since my last post, I did manage to get all my carrots processed. Some sliced and frozen, chunked and frozen, others shredded and dried. So they are all done. Now if it will just stop raining long enough to get the potatoes dug before they start to sprout with all this rain. I will most likely can most of them this year. We can keep them in the cellar but they do tend to sprout and thus ya lose a lot to sprouting. So if they are in a jar they are good till you decide to use them. So far I have only had time to make one canning of veggie soup and can it. Need to do lots more. Its also time to get the venison we have left out of the freezer and used up before the hunting season starting in October. We don't have much left but its still good and will use it in veggie soup and chili. What ever roast are left I will just can for barbecue or venison and gravy. Nothing goes to waste around here. When I took Rob, Amoy and Liam to the airport Monday I made a run to Sam's club and picked up another 50 lbs of onions to dry and use in soup as I can it. I got more pinto beans too for canning bean soup. We eat lots of soups in winter especially. Just glad Josh was in town that day to go with me to Sam's and help load the car. He is such a good friend to Jason and all of us. It was nice to get to spend some time with him even though it was during moms funeral. Dana and Dalton were taking care of his parents while he was here with us. Just wonderful folks, all of them, that we love like family.

I had planned several weeks ago to get my herbs cut and dried and still don't have it done. They have grown like crazy with all the rain. Maybe next week. God willing it will happen. If not, oh well. We will make do with what we have on hand. We have been more than blessed with our garden this year so I wont complain.

Not much else happening here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The garden is nice

I have to admit it is more like Rodger's garden this year. He has done all the hoe work and plowing and keeping weeds out this year. It sure does look good so far. Our potatoes are dead so its time to dig those. I told him this evening when we were in the garden I think it best if we just dig maybe a 5 gallon bucket at a time so I can can up the smaller ones so we don't lose them from shriveling over the storage. We picked enough cucumbers to make 8 pints of dill pickles while we were in the garden. And I found 4 small ripe tomatoes.

The green beans are trellised on fence panels. They are full of bloom and beans. Next week will be picking beans.

The sweet corn has tasseled and has ears formed. It should be ready in a week or so. Yummy!!!

I think we planted enough sweet taters to supply a few counties. They look really nice and healthy if the deer will stop eating the leaves. They haven't done a lot of damage but ya know they been in there.

My tomatoes did not get staked and I guess you can say we do them the lazy way. Just them fall over and run all over the ground. They have lots and lots of green tomatoes on the vines. I did find 4 small ripe ones this evening.

We have about 30 ft of cucumber plants trellised on fence wire. This is where we picked enough to make pickles this evening.

If ya look close enough in the vines you can see the green beans hanging in there. At least the bean picking can take place in the shade this year. Either of us can walk under the trellis so at least on hot sunny days it might make life a lil more bearable.

More onions to get sliced and dried tomorrow, and herbs to pick and dry. Another busy day for me.
Not much else happening here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another lesson learned

I have always thought that everyday you should try to learn at least one new thing, no matter how trivial it seems. Then there are days when we learn big things. I learned something new this past week since my last post. I had my incubator running to try and hatch off more baby chicks with the intention of replacing my laying flock with their off spring. I use one of the square Styrofoam still-air incubators with the automatic egg turner. It is tricky to keep the temp adjusted in those things when the air is not moving to keep it even all around. With this in mind, I decided to set the temp for eggs that would be directly under the heating element. So I put the turner in, placed my thermometer on the egg turner under the element and turned it on. With a few trys I got the temp right at 99.5 degrees for chickens. Then I proceeded to load the incubator by putting eggs just in the holders around the perimeter under the heating element. With water in the lil tray area in the bottom I counted the days till hatch time. This time around I got a 50% hatch rate. The best I have ever had I think. After a couple weeks I did candle the eggs and several were not fertile and some the shell was dark and dense and I could not tell if they were living or not so I left them all in the incubator. Now if I can just get better control of the humidity I think even that rate will increase. In the past I had been placing the thermometer in the center of the machine and set the temp for that area. Looking back I think the eggs near the element was getting too hot and killing the chicks early in the game. So if you are using one of the still air incubators to hatch chicks, only place eggs under the element once you have the temp set for that area of the incubator and you should have a better hatch rate. Or maybe you already knew that. But dummy me did not think about it.

Our weather has been really nice today. The forecast was for storms and rain today but so far we have seen none. I got out early, well early for me, today and weeded most of my herb bed. Then in passing I noticed I had several big weeds in the strawberry bed and got it weeded too. I actually feel like I earned my keep today. Now to deal with the sore legs from squatting down weeding. I also got fertilizer on the strawberries and herbs and some of my ornamental things here in the yard. So far this summer everything is growing really well. Our garden is really nice, the best one we have had in several years even if we did plant later than we wanted to. Although I have had to spray several times for potato beetles. They have really done some damage to the plants but still we do have some nice taters under there. Rodger dug a hill last weekend to see if they had made anything and we were both pleasantly surprised to find some nice ones. Another couple weeks and we will be up to our arm pits in stuff to pick and can. I still need to catch a not so hot day and clean out the cellar and empty things that our long past their prime and search out jars that may be unsealed. We pulled our onions last evening and they didn't do anything. They just did not grow much beyond the size of the sets we planted. I was kinda upset with that. So I guess I will try to buy a 50 lb bag a lil later and dry most of them for onion flakes. I seem to use more of those than fresh onions anyway.

Now provided we don't get too much heavy rain or too hot I plan to try to clean out chicken houses tomorrow. I really need to get the 16 lil babies put in a building. For now they are in a tote in the dining room. I really don't mind cause for now they don't smell and they are so cute and fluffy. I like playing with them during the day.

Not much else happening here on the farm right now. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It's summer and it's hot!!

I think we went straight from winter to summer here. It has been really hot for us this year. Not to mention the rain raises the humidity and makes it worse. I reckon I am getting too old for this heat or something. Dang it drains me of life and energy. If I cant work much outside you would think I could get tons of things done inside. Not sure why but that is not the case. I guess I am gonna have to get up early and work a bit outside and then come in for the rest of the day when the heat sets in. Hope to get started tomorrow drying some herbs. My pantry supply is running pretty low right now. I am totally out of my homemade version of Ms Dash. I did finally get some celery on sale and dried a good bit of it to use in seasonings. So far all the garden looks really good and is growing in spite of all the rain. I know we need rain but seems like it rains enough to keep the ground too wet to work in. And it makes the grass and weeds grow faster too. Its a constantly battle with bugs, disease and weeds when you garden. But that is life on the homestead. I know several friends are having issues with disease in their gardens. I am inclined to think its caused from the wet weather we have been having. So far we have not had that problem, only bugs here.

Over the past weekend we got the 4 young roosters butchered off. Yep I butchered the ones that were my pets. I had one that was getting really mean and beating up on the other 3. One had been hiding in the weeds in self defense. Sadly he came out just in time for the butchering.  But they certainly made some nice stock. I got 10 pints of nice rich stock plus a good bit of meat canned from them. So it was a gain. I have babies due to hatch this coming weekend in the incubator. Just hoping for a good hatch. It will be time soon to place my order for more Cornish cross for the fall butchering. I am hoping to get them delivered around mid September so they can be butchered off by late October. Most likely I will order 50 for the fall butchering to supply our meat for the whole winter. I am hoping to only keep about 12 laying hens and 1 rooster for my laying flock. Provided I hatch off enough pullets to replenish my old ones. Talk about making awesome stock. The old hens will for sure make great stock for soup and dumplings. Also the meat from them canned makes wonderful casseroles. Maybe we will have a cheesy chicken spaghetti casserole tomorrow for supper. I can actually eat that dish with Velveeta in it.

Blackberries should be ripe this weekend. We checked them last weekend and they were starting to ripen then. Might pick some to can for cobblers. I think blackberry cobbler is Rodgers favorite. I personally like peach better but by golly blackberries are free and that in itself makes them good. We have lots of wild blackberries growing here on the farm around the edge of the fields. I remember as a child going with mom to pick blackberries and she would not stop till she had a couple 5 gallon buckets full. Then she canned those for later use. And ya know, back then I don't remember getting tick bites and not really many chiggers. But nowadays you get eaten alive with ticks and chiggers. Oh my, the thoughts of the itching almost makes me not want to go berry picking. Its just part of the country life so we take the good with the bad suppose.

Not much else happening here on the homestead. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Monday, June 23, 2014

You can tell summer is here!

It has been really hot and humid in our neck of the woods for the past few weeks. The humidity is killer as well. I know, I know, my southern friends are laughing about now with that complaint. Not to mention we have had plenty of rain this spring and early summer as well. For most of last week are temps were in the high 90's with at least 70% humidity daily. Miserable to be outside. So this ole girl stays in if and when possible.

As you well know, my memory is not the best. But with that in mind. Last week I had went out back to let the chickens out to roam. It has been so hot the hens head straight down from their building to the edge of the woods in the undergrowth where it tends to stay pretty cool. My young roosters (mean lil shits) follow me around back to the deck an hang out under there with Luna where its cool. I had taken all the plants out of the greenhouse due to the extreme heat in there and moved a large pot with my friend Mamie's started grape vines to the back near the sidewalk so I could keep them watered till she got time to come get them. On my way to the spigot to water I spied 2 short pieces of hose, nope wait damn it that's not a hose. Yep I was jumping up and down screaming so Luna comes bounding from under the deck to the rescue. Yep it was a snake lying beside the short black hose that connects the spigot to the hose reel. I keep a hoe beside the deck for just such occasions and quickly whacked his head all while Luna is trying to get at him to protect me. Once I mashed the snakes head I let her have at him. She finished him off and shook and dragged him to the far side of the drive way. Bless her heart she spent the rest of the day in the shade of my car watching the snake to make sure it didn't move anymore. I hate snakes of all kinds. I don't scream for just any reason, but a damn snake will make me scream every time. So far that is the only one we have seen near the house this year. Although I know they are around. We live near woods and our grass in the yard had gotten totally out of hand. Last week our yard was so pretty(unless you like grass in your yard) with all the short white clover blooming. It was super thick and with all the rain Rodger had just not been able to get time to mow. Not to mention a pretty well manicured lawn is not even on the list of priorities around here in summer. The garden is really ALL we really worry much about. Rodger has managed between rains to keep it looking good. He got it all hoed out last week and another evening he plowed. All of the garden so far is growing and looks great. I am so very thankful too.

I am hoping that maybe next weekend we can get the young roosters butchered off. They are fast becoming a nuisance especially to the 2 young pullets that are with them. Every time I go out to close them up or let them out one of the roosters wants to peck my feet, flog my pants legs and just make a spectacle of himself. If I pick him up and scold him when I let him down he follows me all over like a lil dog. Along with 2 of his brothers. But they are big enough to make good stock and that is what I need more than little feisty roosters. I have the incubator set with eggs again that will hatch in a couple weeks. I set it and them the power went off and stayed for too long, the eggs got cold and I knew those were dead. So I reloaded with more eggs. I am trying something a lil different this time tho. With still air incubators you have next to no air movement inside. In the past I had been placing my thermometer in the middle. Once the temp was set correctly I loaded the eggs in. With the heating element around the perimeter of the top of the incubator I am thinking most likely the eggs around the outside may get too hot thus lowering my hatch rate. So this time. I only put eggs in the turner around the perimeter and placed the thermometer on top of those eggs and try to keep the temp consistent. I will see if this increases my hatch rate. Will post more when this clutch hatches off. When my friend Mamie came to get her grape vines today she brought me about 18 turkey eggs to put in the incubator as soon as the chicks hatch. I am certainly hoping for a good hatch of them. Be nice to have some turkeys to butcher for the freezer this year. Not sure yet where I will house them but maybe by time they hatch off I will have figured that part out. Ain't that just like me. Get something with no idea where to put it. Rodger always loves when this happens. Not!! Usually ends up being a good deal of work for him and Jason. Another building?

We went out of town yesterday to Dalton's birthday part in Maysville Ky. Dalton is Josh and Dana's lil boy. They are like our adopted kids. Love them dearly. Jason and I had went deer hunting several years ago and we stayed with Josh's parents at their house. Just wonderful folks. At that time I was able to hunt and we spent lots of time in the woods and I didn't get to talk with his parents much that time. Always intended to go back and just hang out with them while Rodger, Josh and Jason hunted. Well that didn't happen as planned because I have been working at the hunting lodge in west KY for several years. So we were invited to Dalton's lil birthday party and we went. I got to spend some time with Larry and Sandy and talk with them. I thoroughly enjoyed that trip and visit with them. I can tell ya it wont be years before we go visit them again.

For me to be able to get much done around here I guess it means I am gonna have to start going to bed really early and getting up early if I need to do things outside. And heaven knows I got lots of things that need doing. For one I need to pull some weeds in the herb bed. Dang it I thought if I put down black plastic and with the heat of the sun it might kill most of the weed seeds. Well that didn't lat as long as I had hoped. I am guessing that some plants produce seeds that need light to sprout. I have lots of weeds but they seem to all be the same variety. I need to get up in the early mornings before the heat hits and spend a couple hours weeding. May take several mornings of work to get it all take care of but a little bit at a time will get the task done. I have several varieties of herbs that are big enough to cut for drying already. I think I still need to sow more parsley. I use lots and lots of that stuff. Both frozen and dried. I will for sure have to plant it where I can reach it with the hose. At least till it gets growing well.

Not much else happening here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

I did it again!!

Yep, I did it again. It has been near a month since I posted here. Dang time flys when ya ain't lookin. And I guess I wasn't. Not sure what happened to spring, and here we are in the summer already.

I am happy to report that my mom is some better. She had a really tough battle with a urinary tract infection and it almost got her I do believe. But finally with the right antibiotics she recovered and as for now is alert, able to use her left side normally and a lil bit on the right that was effected by her stroke. Sadly she is not talking at all or attempting to now. But as long as she is not hurting and is well cared for, I guess we can deal with that. Please keep her in your prayers for comfort.

I guess all the traveling and stress from mom's illness kinda wore me down a good bit. After mom was better I think I crashed. Kinda a normal occurrence for me when I deal with stress tho. I have felt better and more rested today than I have in a good while. Maybe because I went to bed last night about 10 and slept till near 11 today. That alas helps with what ails ya. I just did not plan to do anything today and I am proud to say I accomplished that task. Even managed to take a nap today too.

I was lazy but I sure cant say that for Rodger and Jason today. They went and picked up the 10 cattle panels that we wanted to get to trellis our green beans with, got those up for the beans to climb on and they are big enough to do that already.We do finally have all the garden planted, all crops are in now, so we work and wait till harvest.

This photo was taken about a week ago before we got some good rain on the garden. After the rain the beans put out runners and everything grew quickly. It looks good. So praying for a good harvest this year so I can refill some of my empty jars. I took me till last week to finally get still and have time to make the chicken stock from the bony parts of the chickens we had butchered back in early April before leaving on vacation. So that is done and ready to store. I have grown celery in the past and it can be time consuming and a real pain so I watch sales and pick up a bunch of celery stalks during the year to dry for our seasonings an to use plain in cooking. So that is my task for tomorrow. I do have a few herbs that are ready to start cutting for drying also. I am getting pretty low on my herb stock in the pantry. Parsley is my big thing that I do think I use the most of and it is the very one I am having a harder time than usual getting to grow well this year. But we take what God gives us and be happy with it.

I started my incubator up this evening after getting it disinfected and cleaned so it can heat up. Need to hatch off more chicks. I have confirmed I have only 2 lil pullets from the bunch I hatched in early April. The rest of mean lil roosters. They are so friendly and sweet tho. They can hear my voice and come looking for me. I was sitting at the dining table and talking to Rodger in the house and looked out the dining room window and had 3 lil roosters perched on the rock wall looking it at me. One wants to pick a fight with my shoes and pants legs every time I go out tho. Am thinkin this might cause him to have a short life span. But he is just young and starting to crow and wants to show who is the boss.

They are big enough now that I don't have to fence them in. They run free with the other birds during the day and go back to their house at night to be closed up. I just like my chickens. Entertaining critters they are.

I have all but finished with my greenhouse for the season I think. I got a few more plants in there to get moved. Some will be shipped to my friend Anna in Virginia this coming week and the very few remaining will be transplanted here. I did get my grapevines that are cutting from our vines here into pots , 2 in each pot as I was low on pots, so they can grow till early fall and be planted in the vineyard. In taking cutting I managed to get 2 leave nodes on some of the cutting below the soil surface and they make roots at both nodes. I am sure this will make for a more resilient plant in the long run.

I moved the pots to the herb bed among the mints so the pots get some shade and don't dry out so quickly and the plants will still get lots of sunlight. They should make nice vines to plant this fall. Tomorrow I plan to call my friend Mamie and let her know her cutting are ready to be potted up to plant later. Then we can disassemble the green house and put it back in the box for storage till next spring. Did I tell ya I love my lil greenhouse? I do for sure, so handy for plant starting.

Our kids have moved from Nevada to Arizona so Rob could take a new job and expand his job skills and knowledge. Today they finally got a lease on a rental house till theirs in Nevada sells, hopefully soon. Maybe in a couple more weeks they can be all moved in and settled again. They have said they love the area they are in but the temps in summer range from 105 to 113 average and that is a lil warm. But at least they don't have to deal with 8 months of cold like Nevada. Just hope Liam is able to get outside some in the evenings when it cools a bit so he can enjoy the outdoors. Was kinda hard to do in Nevada because of the weather. Not to mention lack of grass to walk in. Poor lil Abby I am sure wont like the heat any more than Liam. We will for sure be visiting in December this year we are blessed with our second grand baby. Yeas we are getting another lil grand baby. Don't know yet if we are getting a girl or boy but soon we should know. Prayers please for Amoy that she has an easy pregnancy. So proud of those 2 as they are wonderful parents.

Not much else happening here on the farm as of right now. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.