Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Clean Sweep

Almost.  Still have to move a camper and truck out of a snow lane.  But close.  I have been re-wiring a house for brother Tom so a bit off schedule.  Not that I am ever "on schedule".  But it progresses.  This was the view from the green house a couple of days ago:
Yes, that white stuff is the cold white stuff! 
Past experience and a couple of light snow falls, coupled with predictions of a long cold snowy, el Nino, driven winter has added some impetus to the chores.  All the tools are put away.  Hoses coiled and stored in a heated basement - just in case of winter emergencies.  Fuel stocked up.  Chains checked and ready for mounting on the skid steer.  The gardens cleared and tilled.  Missing planting some Garlic.

I went to a local Art Knapps, a plant store, a week ago to buy some garlic and a few cold hardy seeds and walked into this:  
A whole two months before Christmas.  I just about freaked!  This was a plant store!  Full of artificial Christmas trees and Xmas doodads.   When I asked for garlic I was told they only had daffodils. and they were in the back. Well I know a Dutch fellow who had to subsist on them during the horrors of WW11,  but this is 2011.  Horrors!  Ah well, maybe some cloves from store bought garlic might work.  Or order online.  But by the time they get here the ground will be frozen.  Kinda like my brain when I walked into this place thinking I could peruse the seed packets for some over winter and  green house planting needs.

Memo to self.  Get the planting supplies before fall!

We were very relieved to see our chucks start laying.  With 14 less Roosters ( banished to the bachelor quarters - awaiting freezer weight ) the Hens are a whole lot calmer.  Not having to sit with their rear ends against the wall!  We've added a small 60 watt incandescent on a timer to give them 15 hours of light a day and that seems to help a whole lot.  Mind you, roosters crowing at 3 a.m. could take some getting used to!  12 laying hens and one old bitty will more than keep us in fresh eggs.

Looking forward to a wild game meat cutting course this weekend.  I don't hunt myself but all the local butchers have gone out of business so I've been lending a hand- and some sharp knives with the family hunters.

We've got six pigs coming up to butchering time, and they are going to be the honored guests at another course on pig butchering at the end of the month.  And I have a large calf to process in the next week or so.  Luckily I have access to a full featured meat cooler and processing place an hours drive away.  Local beef prices have gone way up with cows going for over a thousand bucks.  Great for the local farmers,  not so great for our doggies.  It will cut into their allowance for this year.  Perhaps time for us to raise a couple of cows next year.

Hope your winter prep is all complete, the snow hats and mittens at hand, and you have a great week.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down..

There was no trumpeting, just a low rumble.  About a cord of wood or more came spilling out of the space under the veranda.  We were counting on a row of wood placed two years ago to keep a pile of wooden roller bearings in place.  Bad counting.  First one side came down.

We moved the errant wood out of the way and added a large pallet to act as a wall.  Moved the wood back.  Everything hunky dory.  Then the second bay came down.

Enough.  Trying to do things the short cut way just leads to more work.  Next year we are building an extension to house the winters 16 cords of wood.  This year, with a hard frost on the morning ground, and snow possible at any time,  we will just make do with a bearing wall we can pile the wood up against and then every four feet or so use a cross brace piller to give the pile some strength.

The lesson for me is to be aware of the voice that says: "hmmm - that doesn't look right.."  To stick with the basics.  I know,  you would think that piling wood is a very simple procedure.  And it is. But it was also very easy for us to get it wrong. Without  and end wall or split wood piller to stabalize  the wood it's like trying to stack roller bearings!

One of the reasons for piling wood is to dry it out.  Not a problem for us as all the wood is from Pine trees that are standing dead and have been for several years.  However, piled wood takes up a lot less space.  We've tried just leaving it in a pile - that's certainly the easiest - but digging frozen wood out of a mound of snow can be more work than is readily imagined.  So we completed the wood wall and started re-piling.   Two days later here's the finished project. 17 1/2 cords of wood.  Braces and an end wall in place.  All the stacks inside the end one you see here have a cross piled pile every four feet.  Probably going to make this the warmest winter on record.

Using a tote to bring the wood from one pile to another really speeded up the transfer.

That's the last block of wood and it went straight to the blue shed to keep the animals warm when it gets chilly.  And the guy that shovels the crap..

And using a wood handlers secret weapon: the Pickeroon, really made it easier.  No bending over to pick up blocks of wood.

 The little one is my weapon of choice. A Stubai ( the people who make world renowned ice axes ) from Lee Valley.  The yellow handled one sorta works but isn't in the same league.  The point isn't hooked enough and isn't sharp enough to get a grip on a block of wood without a heavy swing.

On the Chicken front we finished the new and improved chicken nests and added a handy dandy ladder for the birds.  Now we can get eggs without going in the chicken pen.

Of course some of the older birds want to get their own IPhones to keep in touch with all their many friends.  They are pretty good with the hunt and peck method of typing.  But most of their posts are just a bunch of squawking! Like mine, actually.

The new chickens should start laying any day now and we are looking forward to not having to buy eggs from the Super Value (not) in town.  I just about laid an egg myself when I saw a box of "Presidents Choice" free run eggs that were going for six bucks.  Wow!  If I could get six bucks for a dozen eggs we'ed be building fenced acreage for several hundred birds..

The Pigs are growing in leaps and bounds.  And they do leap and bound.  We were out last night under a half moon light moving a couple of old bitty hens into the main pen, a job we have learned that is way easier when the chooks are asleep.  We heard a grunt from just beyond the fence.  All the pigs were out gamboling in the moon light!  They have taken a particular fondness for windfall crab apples.  A couple of them will stand up when we enter the animal shed in hopes of receiving some treats by hand.

 Generally not a great idea, but they are very careful ( and we are too) and they pull the treats in with their front lips and happily and noisily crunch them up while keeping an eye on the next one - admonishing any other pig who gets too close to their treats!

We are getting hard frosts at night.  Early morning trips require some window scraping.

We installed a new wood heater in the living room.  Well new to us - it used to reside in Jo-Ann's parents house and I think it's major use there was to burn Christmas present wrapping paper.  With glass and brass cleaned with wood ash and newspaper and a coat of stove polish it looks great!  It works well, but I still have to tinker with the damping system.  I suspect something is clogged up on the air intake a bit.

Now that the woods in the next project is to get the garden harvest in.  Yesterday we dug up some spuds. Just not a crop to brag about!  Ah well we are grateful for what we did get.  Here's a sample of the three types we planted in tires:
Scab is a recurring problem.  Tho we noticed that some red spuds we planted in a mound of clay soil came out virtually scab free.  From top to bottom: Cariboo, Russian Blue, and Yukon Gold.  

Last night Cleo and I camped out on the balcony.  Enjoying the brisk fresh air and moonlight peeking through the clouds.   Cleo certainly enjoys it and remains happily ensconced in her own sleeping bag the whole night through, waking to the Rooster alarm clock as the Eastern sky lightens. Now to get her to stop snoring!

Hope where ever your camped this week is nice and cozy!