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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I'm back home now

I got several emails and messages from friends and readers of my blog saying how much they missed reading here and asking if I was OK. Well I'm fine, was just away working for a few days. Made me feel good knowing I was missed tho. I finally got back home yesterday evening late. I had been in western Ky for over a week helping my aunt and to attend my friend Jackie's memorial service. The service was really nice and one that I think Jackie would have approved of as well. I always enjoy time spent with Aunt Ann and got to spend some time with my second cousin Matt, a really nice young man. I picked him up on my way west on Sunday and he was going to spend a few weeks with my aunt which is his Gram. Any way we worked all week and got lots done. I left aunties house on Monday morning and headed back east and stopped off the spend the night with my friend Rosie an her family, then on to my house on Tuesday. I enjoy going to west Kentucky but I alas like home best. But I think that is pretty normal for most people.
Any way back at home all is going well. Rodger did really good taking care of the greenhouse while I was gone. He did have to turn the heat on in there a couple nights when it got really cold. I have lots of seedling coming up and they all look healthy an happy in there. I always come home with things to plant every time I go somewhere in spring time and it was no different this time. Rosie had picked up some apple trees for me from a nursery grower so I have those to plant soon. Not to mention the ornamental things from my aunts. I also took cutting from several different kinds of shrubs at aunties house and have those in soil to take root.  Before I left Rodger had said it was too wet to plow an plant anything here but after I got on the road he checked the ground an it was all good to plow so that is what he did. When I called home he tole me he got the peas planted an a 150 ft row of onions, about 50 ft of carrots an 75 ft of beets. Then of course it rained shortly after so that should help them sprout an come up pretty quick. I think it rained several times here and when I was on the way home he tole me he was going to have to dig the tractor out, he had been plowing an hit a soft sandy spot an the tractor sunk. Prolly not a pretty sight but it was out an he finished plowing as I was getting home. I was only gone for about 10 days buy my goodness how things greened up in that time even with it turning off so cold. We have lots to do when it is dry enough to work outside again. I have things that will need to be potted and put in the greenhouse for a while, more grapevines to get started, several bushes to get planted, raspberries to plant in the field. Still waiting on a tree order to get here so they can be planted in the orchard. Not to mention the brooder house needs to be readied for the baby chicks that will be here next week. Oh joy, I just hope the weather warms a bit before then. But I still will have a heat light for em. It has been rainy an cool all day today and that sure don't help the arthritis one bit. I did go out to town today to get some cleaning supplies that I needed an came home an cleaned house. May as well do something as I was gonna be in all day anyway. Still a lil tired from being away but maybe I will rest a lil more tomorrow and relax a bit as I do some more planting in the greenhouse. Really need to put more benches in there for all the plants. The benches that I have now are all full and still lots of things on the floor, but I can manage if I have more benches over the stuff that is in the floor. Have to see if I can talk these guys into building some for me. We will have to wait an see how that goes.
Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Starting sweet potatoe slips

I had almost forgotten to start sweet taters when I did all the other seeds last week. I could have been in a whole mess of trouble if I had not got sweet tater plants for the garden. We have 2 varieties of sweet potatoes, 1 is O'Henry and the other I am not sure of. Both heirloom varieties tho. The unknown one has deeper eyes and a lil drier flesh than the O'Henry's. Both are white as well. Everyone does sweet tater slips different but this is how we do it. Take a large pot, any flower pot will do, does not really have to be that deep. I filled the bottom half with shredded paper.

I used the paper because the pots were fairly deep and it would just be a waste of good potting mix.

Cover the paper with about 3 inches of good potting soil or potting mix. At this point you can dampen the soil or not, don't really matter.

Lay the sweet taters on top of soil and try to keep the upper surface of them kinda level. If they already have some sprouts, just leave em on there.

Cover the taters with soil mix and water them well. Keep the pots in a warm location with good light and keep the soil moist but not soggy.Soon you will see green leaves developing. It is OK if some of the upper surface of the tater can be seen, they will still send up sprouts or slips where ever there are eyes. Once the sprouts come out on the taters just leave them on the tater and in the soil. The slips will make roots due to the fact they are in soil. No need to break em off an pt in water to make roots. When the slips are 8 to 10 inches long tug on them to see if they have good roots. If they do an weather permits you can take the tater out of the ground and pull the slips off the tater and plant the slips. The tater is no longer useful so you can toss it.

I am really happy with my grape vine starts. This is only part of them, more beyond this at the end of the bench. The long bench that runs the length of the greenhouse is filled at this point and so is every other level surface in the place. So I should have plenty of seedlings for the garden.

I still have the raspberry plants my friend Rosie gave me in a container along with the rugosa roses. It has been too wet to get in the garden to plow and get them put out. It should dry up before long and then we will be very busy trying to get caught up as usual. But such is life on the farm.

Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Friday, March 18, 2011

In memory of Jackie........

This post is in memory of my friend Jackie Cooper who lost her battle with Lupus on Wednesday March 16th at the age of 46. Jackie was diagnosed with lupus several years ago and is one of those hard working people who fell through the cracks of no medical insurance. At times she worked several part-time jobs to make ends meet and none of them afforded her health insurance. She had a bad flare up of lupus several weeks ago when I was in west Ky working. I was so glad I got to see her, although she was in the hospital at the time. I got home and a few days later got a text message from her that she was released to go home. The week I was there she finally got approved for disability albeit too late. After being home for about a week she had another flare up and was back in the local hospital and ended up on a vent. Even with the vent her body was failing and the decision was made to remove the vent. Jackie would not have wanted to be an invalid. She passed away shortly after she was taken off the vent with her family and friends at her side. She had an appointment at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee for March 17th, one day too late. So sad the life of a dear sweet lady was lost due to not being able to afford the right medical care sooner. The docs at her local hospital did all they could do for her with the Lupus winning the battle for her life. A memorial service will be held Monday March 21st for her. She wished to be cremated and her kids honored that wish. Some of her ashes will be buried in west Ky near her brother and remainder will be taken by Aunt Ann and some of Jackie's friends to Panama City Beach Florida and scattered on the beach. Jackie's favorite place. Rest in peace Jackie. Love ya and will miss you.

Blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The greenhouse is pretty full

The greenhouse is pretty full of trays of dirt right now. Well those trays of dirt do have seeds in them. I filled the bench on one whole side today with seed trays of things that will go in the big garden. I started one tray of tomatoes and some peppers for my Aunt Ann. Another bench that is about 6 ft long if filled with trays of what I hope will be herbs. A few new ones I am trying this year. Stevia, an all natural sweetener for one. And some borage as well. Borage has beautiful flowers on it. Star shaped blue lil flowers, pretty and edible. Now its water and open doors, turn on fans and babysit till the seedlings emerge. I really didn't start but a couple ornamental things in the greenhouse. I tried to same room for all the important stuff. Still need to bed some sweet taters for slips. When we got the plastic on the greenhouse Sunday we moved the pots that had the grapevine cutting in them to the greenhouse. I decided to check them to see if any had taken root yet. Oh my, I had lots of new grapevines. About half had developed lil roots. I transferred them to pots so they could get established and get some growth on them before they get put in the field in their permanent location. The ones who have not opened their buds are still in the pots of sand to see if they decide to make roots or not. No sense wasting potting soil and pots if they are not going to grow. I guess tomorrow I will need to round up my fan and a long cord to get it set up to move air in the greenhouse. The moving air blowing on the plants helps to strengthen the stems and also helps prevent damping off.
I think spring is here finally. The temps today were in the 70's and I saw several robins in the yard. Absolutely beautiful day to be outside. The forsythia is starting to bloom, peonies are peeking up thru the mulch, green all over the herb bed. Speaking of herb bed. I do think I will need to expand it again this year. I just don't have sufficient room to grow all the herbs that I would like. But then I wonder if I ever would. Then there will be the new strawberry bed that is needed. I get some pretty dirty looks when I mention building beds.
So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Its time...............

It is finally time and its not raining or windy. Time that is to put the plastic on the green house and get started with the seed starting. The wind was calm today so we got the plastic on the greenhouse. It really didn't take long this time with 3 of us working on it. The guys were looking online yesterday to see if they could find a pre-made greenhouse with the plexi glass panels and when they tole me the price I tole them maybe we can do that later in the season when those are maybe on sale. I am perfectly happy with the one I have for now, it does what I need in the spring to start seeds. The solid material ones would likely be a lil easier to heat and could be used to extend the growing season for lots of frost sensitive veggies. Anyway for now I have the greenhouse up and spent several hours cleaning and disinfecting pots and seed trays to get ready to use. I moved the tray of leeks, onions, and cabbage to the greenhouse. The cabbage were sown in a pot and while I was in there I got those into cell packs so they can get some growth on them. I also moved my grape vine cuttings to the greenhouse and now maybe the heat in there will help them root better. They have lil leaves on them already and some are starting to get some length on the shoots. I spotted the pots those will go in as soon as they have lil roots. Now I need to get more potting soil and hopefully I will be in business.
They are forecasting rain all this coming week for us. Tomorrow I am sowing lettuce in some containers for early leaf lettuce. Its far too wet to get in the big garden to plow or plant anything. Rodger did get the lime spread today tho. He went to start the tractor to disc the lime in all to find it had less than an inch of fuel in the tank and that would have just gotten him stranded in the field. Such is life on the farm. All of a sudden I get the feeling we are getting behind again. Still got a fence to put up for hogs and fence to put up so the laying hens can be turned out during the day to forage. I got the fence material last spring and still don't have the fence up. But that is one of the things that can be done when the ground is too wet to garden.
My next project will be to get the brooder house ready for chicks. I got those ordered Friday and they should be here around April 1st. Then we will be butchering about mid May. Then later in the season I will order more to butcher in the fall for freezer. Its a never ending cycle. I still have enough chicken in the freezer to supply our needs till we have more big enough to butcher. The biggest challenge in raising birds for meat is that we have to stock up on chicken feed when we are in the big city because we have no source for high protein feed in our area. So I have my list started for when we are in the big city again. Just hope it is before the chicks arrive.
There was a change of plans on getting pigs. We decided to wait till around June and get a couple that weigh about 200 lb each and finish them out till November. They should be about 450 or more by then. The price of feeder pigs is far too high right now to consider. A 40 lb pig will cost $90 and a 200 lb hog about $120. No way I can put 160 lb of weight on them for $30. So let someone else feed them till June and by then we should also have plenty of garden scraps for them as well. Still want to get set up to raise a few sows and keep a boar and then sell the excess pigs. Thas for a lil later tho.
So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Weeding, planting, starting plants

The weather was rather nice today and I actually felt like getting outside to do a few things. The past couple days I have been pretty sluggish. I think it is probably the new blood pressure meds and they may be elevating the blood sugar as well. I will get them adjusted soon, at least I hope. Damn it, take meds to fix one thing and it breaks something else. Oh well!!
I worked on the strawberry pyramid out back today. It had a good deal of weeds that had gotten started in there. I decided it was easier to just take all the dormant strawberry plants out and dig up the whole thing and replant the plants. So that is what I did. I had about 50 or so plants that I didn't put back, lack of room, so I put those in soil in a tray to transfer to the berry patch in the big garden a lil later on. As I tole ya before I got damping off in my onion seedlings and I decided to just cut my losses and re-seed the 2 trays. I dried the soil today and treated it and got more seeds in there and the trays are back in the house, WITH drain holes. Now we can see how we do this time around. Sometimes you just have to laugh at your boo boos and move on. 
I got the herb bed and onion/asparagus beds weeded today too while it was nice out. Now I need to get mulch hauled to cover them to keep em looking nice and keep down weeds. All the herbs are starting to green up and start growing again.
Yesterday the guys got a big cage built to fit the back of Jason's truck for transporting small livestock. So hopefully if the rivers are not out of their banks this weekend we can go get out pigs before the price goes up any more. Livestock prices in our area are getting ridiculous. We have been kinda plotting on getting set up to keep a few sows and a male to raise our own pigs. We are figuring it will likely take at least 3 sows having pigs twice a year to be able to sell enough to pay to keep the stock and our meat animals will be free. This might be something we could do next year. This year we just don't have buildings or fences ready for em.
I had also hoped that it would be dry enough to plant raspberries and move some strawberries in the field this weekend but sure don't look like that will happen. It is raining now as I write. But this lil rain should settle the plants in that I disturbed today. 
Nothing else happening here, so til next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Little things I learn along the way............

Just thought today I would share a few things I have learned along the way. Well for one, OK Sheri you can laugh, I don't know shit about growing onions and they don't do well with being neglected. But my friend Sheri gave me really good planting tips and I did most of em with one small exception. I didn't put drain holes in the bottom of the seed trays. The seeds sprouted and came up fine, I moved them to the summer kitchen in front of a sunny window and it was about 65 degrees in there. I think the onions are damping off. The soil is cool and damp, and the lil onion plants are kinda limp. So yesterday I went to the store and got a spray bottle to mix peroxide and water in to spray for the damping off which is a fungus. I mix about 1/8 cup of hydrogen peroxide with about 1 quart of water and mist the soil well with this. I have had excellent results in past years with this treatment. The trays now also have drain holes in them to drain out excess water so I am hopeful this will save them. Although we know onions will grow in cooler weather they don't do well with wet feet. Just to be on the safe side I am gonna start another flat of onion seeds to make sure I have enough onions. It really don't matter if they are big or small, I do dehydrate most of my onions any way. So lesson learned.
The grape vine cutting I took when we pruned the grape vines a few weeks ago look good. The buds have opened up and to me that is a good sign. It means they are taking up water so they should make roots pretty soon. If so I should have about 50 new grape vines to plant this summer. Also the creeping and spreading juniper that I did cutting from are still green and pliable so it seems they are getting water thru the stem also. Hopefully they will root and we will have some new plants to use for erosion control. These plants will all get moved to the greenhouse as soon as the weather drys again so we can get the plastic cover on it. Maybe this will provide a lil more climate control for them and give them a better chance. It will be several days till we are past the rain here. We are forecast to have rain till mid week and then warmer and dry. So I guess next weekend will be my window of opportunity to get the greenhouse set up and start sowing all my seeds. I really am looking forward to being able to get outside and get started on that. Dang I am tired of being in the house.
Not much else happening on the homestead this weekend, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Getting caught up

Things sure do have a way of backing up on the farm when you turn your head for a little bit. The past several days we have not been able to do much outside with all the rain. Then for me there is the inside stuff that needs to be done up. Routine house cleaning, laundry, ya know the kind of stuff. It was nice out today with sun and a lil breeze so I got some laundry done and hung outside to dry. I had gotten a clothes display rack from my aunt Ann so I could set it up on the back deck in summer to dry laundry instead of running the dryer for long periods of time. It works really nice too, heavy so the wind cant blow it over and very sturdy. I do love sheets dried out doors, makes them smell so nice.
A couple weeks ago Jason and I ordered a 250 ft roll of burlap to use some to make a shade cloth for the greenhouse. Imagine the mess that made when I unrolled it in the living room floor to cut the shade cloth. But I got the shade cloth made and cut 4 extra pieces about 8 ft long to make sun shades for the front porch this summer. The evening sun can get pretty hot out there in summer. Now all I need is to get the furrowing strips cut to length and the burlap tacked on those for shades. Seeing that I already had a mess in the floor I decided to use the 2 big king size comforters that I had bought about 2 years ago at the big 127 yard sale to make slip covers for the patio chairs. Got that done and the chairs will be just like new.  So there, a couple things done and the mess cleaned up.
I hope to be making some lye soap in a couple weeks. I have some lard that I will be using along with some oil that I need to wash. Yes you can wash oil. Sound strange? It is quite simple. You can wash any cooking oil to remove odors and bits of fried foods that end up in there. You will need a deep kettle to which you add about 1/4 as much water as used oil or lard. Heat till almost simmering and stir this mixture for about 5 minutes or so. The stirring helps the oil let go of the particles and they drop to the bottom into the water. Remove from the heat and let cool. If you are washing lard chill in the refrigerator till lard is hardened and gently remove the solid fat and blot the water off and store in a clean container. If you are washing oil, chill well and use a bulb baster to remove the oil from the water mixture or you can freeze the water and oil and once the water if frozen it can easily be separated from the clean oil. This is a good way to get more mileage from your cooking oil or clean it up to make soap. I have done this to remove odors from cooking oil and it ends up as good as new not to mention the money saved as expensive as good cooking oil has gotten.
In talking to some friends and chatting about whats for dinner I had mentioned that I had made some Cajun Pasta for supper last night. So here is the recipe/instructions for my version of quick Cajun pasta.

1 jar Alfredo sauce
1/4 cup chopped bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 lb peeled and cleaned shrimp(small ones are best)
1/2 lb polish sausage, cubed
1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon liquid shrimp and crab boil
Linguine pasta

In large kettle cook linguine pasta till tender while you make the sauce.
In skillet saute onion, peppers, shrimp and sausage in 3 tablespoons of butter till veggies are tender. Sprinkle in Cajun seasoning and shrimp and crab boil and stir well. Add the jar of Alfredo sauce and stir to combine and heat thru. Drain the pasta well and add pasta to the sauce using as much or as little as you like and stir to combine and heat. Serve with garlic toast and enjoy.
The above amount of shrimp and crab boil will give the dish a lil heat but not too hot. You can add more boil to make this dish hotter if you like really hot food. I like mine medium so I use about 1/2 teaspoon.
Till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.