Friday, August 28, 2015

Silo Filling 2015...

It's the first week of school here, and so it must be time to fill silo!

It's this kind of a day today...


The corn is really tall this year, and the ears are higher than my head...between 5' 6" and 6' high.  I didn't measure to the top of the stalk, but all that rain early this season sure made the corn grow!


The corn at the other farm has been testing drier than here at home, so this morning the guys started by filling the tile silo...



Headed out to the field for the first round...



I relaxed on an empty hay wagon and watched until they came in with the first full load...


They just finished the other farm, and started here at home about fifteen minutes ago.  The corn here is a little wetter, and Jim's checking to see he wants them to continue, or wait a few days to let it dry down some more.

While they were filling at the other farm, I made a second batch of salsa.   We were completely out from last year, so I'm glad to have about twenty jars to put on my canning shelves.

I know I haven't been posting much lately, but it's been a little crazy here...

...We took Eric to college yesterday, and he's settling in.  I got a nice happy birthday text from him this afternoon!  :)

...Jenna and I made a couple of trips in search of a better violin for her.  Last week it was to Philadelphia, and she thinks she's finally found the one she likes!  School also started for her, as well as cross country practice, so now both of our evening barn helpers are gone!  A couple of neighbor kids are filling in the evening slots especially over our busy time.

Jim's Uncle Ray...who wrote several blog posts for me...here and here...passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday afternoon.  He had been ill, but no one expected it to happen at this time.  He and Aunt Marilyn live at the other farm, so we would see him often...out mowing the yard, working in his garden, sitting on the porch, etc.  He turned 81 one over this past weekend, and celebrated his birthday with his grandson, who turned 12 just one day later.  He will be missed!

Uncle Ray and his grandson this past Sunday, celebrating their birthdays... (photo thanks to his wonderful daughter in law)


So...a lot has been happening here.  It would be nice if life would just slow down a little and we could take a deep breath.

If you figure out how to make that happen...let me know!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

4th Cutting Begins...

Look!  It's a new style of lawn ornament...


This used to be a regular occurrence, but this year we haven't had much luck with baling dry hay because of the weather.

Finally this week, we got a forecast (that actually held true!) for a long stretch of dry weather which just so happened to coincide with when the spring seeded alfalfa was ready to be mowed.  Jim mowed on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and last night was able to get it baled dry.  They finished unloading around 10:30 last night.

You can easily tell which is the newly baled hay, by the color difference.  The brown hay has been cured for about a month, maybe longer...


More empty wagons sitting around this morning...


Jenna and I took the truck (with the dogs, of course) up to the fields and she picked up the bales that missed the wagon last night.  Then she threw them into the hay racks for the cows' bedtime snack tonight...


Of course the dogs found the best possible spot for "helping".  Any time Jenna takes the truck anywhere, the dogs hop in the back for a ride, and as soon as they stop and the door opens...in they jump.  Murphy called shotgun.

What a life.  Follow their girl anywhere and they're happy!


Jim is now mowing 4th cutting at the other farm, hoping for more dry hay at the beginning of the week.  It sure is nice to see the mow getting filled up.

Everyone around our house likes to feed dry hay better than balage, and there's nothing quite like it for keeping a cow's rumen in good working order!





Thursday, August 13, 2015

August Around Here...

Can I ask again, if it's really August?

You'd never guess it, with the gorgeous weather we've been having!  Mid to upper 70's, low humidity.  Wow.  Just wow.  And "thank you"!

August is a transition month here...especially this year, because Eric will leave for college two weeks from today, and Jenna will soon start her junior year of high school...and get her driver's license!

The weather will slowly begin to have a fall-like feel to it.  Cooler nights, good for sleeping...

The garden plants are beginning to turn a little brown, and the canning shelves are beginning to fill again...

Jim just began  mowing 4th cutting hay...

The corn is slowly beginning to dry and turn a little brown, suggesting that silo filling is just around the corner...

(actually this field isn't really all that dry yet, but I just love seeing the corn and beans stretching out beside each other! :) )



And the silos are getting empty...

Don't mind all the silage dust in the feed room...but here's where the silage comes down the chute from the silo into the feed cart...


See that hole behind the chute?  The open door means that the level of the silage is almost to the bottom of the 50' silo, and it had better be soon time to fill again, or the cows will be really hungry!


Yesterday Eric picked up these new silo doors at a nearby Amish shop. Eventually the wood rots and the doors need to be replaced, so they re-use the hardware from old doors and make new ones.  When we're ready to fill the silos, Jim will put the new doors in place, and close and fasten all the doors shut, the whole way to the top of the silo.

There are two different styles of doors here...two are for the old tile silo at the other farm, and the one in the foreground is for here...


We almost always begin filling silo (chopping corn) the last week of August, which coincides with the first week of school.  We'll see how the timing works out this year!

Of course with August in full swing, that means that fair season is almost here too!  That's one of my favorite times of the year, although it's usually crazy busy.

What does August feel like to you?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Garden Goodness...

August has been good to us so far...

We've been having some gorgeous weather this week.  It's been hot, yes, but the humidity has dropped below it's normally (IMO) unbearable levels, and we couldn't ask for a nicer day today!

We've been enjoying produce from our garden...not nearly at the volume of other years...but maybe that's part of why I'm enjoying it so much!

The cantelopes are ripening all of a sudden...


I picked four so far, and there are two more that will be ready in another day or so.  I plant the Athena variety.  They seem to be disease resistant, and they're nice and sweet.

My Black Cherry Tomatoes are loaded.  This is the first year I planted this kind, and they're not quite what I expected.  They're a little larger than I thought they'd be.  I've picked a few ripe ones, and the jury is still out on the taste...


I'm glad I saw this guy before I reached in...


The first batch of regular tomatoes that I planted have all died, as usual, but I found some for a dollar at a neighbor's greenhouse late in the spring, and gave them a shot.  So far they're doing well, and haven't shown any signs of blight or whatever usually ails my tomato plants!  Maybe it's because the second half of our summer has been much drier than the first half?

The red raspberries are growing in leaps and bounds.  I planted three plants behind my garden shed a few years ago, and now they've gone wild!  These particular bushes bear all summer long.  I pick a few cups a day, and freeze them until I have enough for jelly or pancake syrup...


My new chickens like to hang out by the fence beside the bushes.  They like the shade they get there, as well as the occasional berry that falls on their side of the fence.

Earlier this summer the Japanese Beetles had a feast on the leaves, but now they've moved on and the bushes have set more fruit.  Don't they look delicious?


The chickens also eat my scraps.  These young ones are still learning that garden scraps are tasty.  They've eaten a few overgrown zucchini, they love watermelon rind, and are learning how good cantelope tastes as well.  They still don't come running when they see a bucket like the old ones did, but they're learning!  They're 18 weeks old, and will soon be laying a few small pullet eggs...


Here's a sample of what I found in the garden today...


My zucchini outdid themselves this year.  I found one small one yet this morning, and it might be the last one.  We'll see.

I don't think the kids will mind!


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Making Use of the Cistern...

Do you know what a cistern is?

It's a tank for storing water.  In our case, it's an underground tank made of concrete, which is fed by the rain spouts on two sides of the house.

Our house was built a little over 100 years ago, and I have no idea when the cistern was put in...but it's a handy thing to have.  We've been regularly putting it to use ever since we moved to the farm in 1994.  We try to use it about every 4 - 6 weeks, depending on how much rain we have.  The water is not suitable for drinking, so when we plan to use it, we fill up enough water jugs to last a few days.  If we run out, our neighbors are glad to let us fill a few jugs from their faucets. (We all have wells, so no one is paying a water bill!)

You'd never know it's there if you don't know where to look.  See the spout coming down the side of the house, angling down to the left under the window?



That spout collects rain water and runs it directly into the cistern, which is under what we call the "shop".  That corner has become a bit of a catchall for some garden tools, but you can see where the spout goes down into the concrete.  There's another spout on the north side of the house as well...


The heavy !! metal grate covers the cistern...


The lid is heavy for an adult to lift, so we had no worries about the kids removing it and falling in...


The cistern is made of concrete and is probably around 7' deep.  To be honest, I don't know the other measurements.  A few years ago it was leaking, and we had it pumped out, cleaned, and the concrete repaired and sealed.  At that time, Jim was down inside, and I looked in to get an idea of the size, but I'll suffice it to say that it's big...probably at least as big as our farmhouse bathroom, which is pretty big...


Why do we use it?

With all the water that we use on the farm, our well pump gets used hard, so using the cistern occasionally gives it a break.  It also keeps the cistern pump in good working order in case of an emergency.  I remember one very hot summer, our well pump gave out, and we had trouble with the new one not working properly.  We had a load of water brought in and dumped into the cistern, and the thirsty cows were very happy!

The water is also great for doing laundry, as it's naturally soft, so when we run the cistern I do as much laundry as I can find!

I guess the rain barrels that folks are getting these days are a similar thing, except for the size and the manner in which the water is accessed.

Do any of you still have a working cistern on your property?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New Chickens...

I've been waiting for a long time to get chickens again, so I'm happy to say that today I picked up a dozen, sixteen week old pullets!

I've missed having chickens.  I love hearing their quiet clucking noises when I get near their pen, and I'm anxious to have our own fresh eggs again.

I'm not sure that they're nearly as thrilled as I am...yet...


Most of them huddled together in the back of the shed...


...except for these three brave girls who wandered outside together...


After milking tonight I checked on them, and they were picking at the grass...finding some bugs I'm sure...eating some spilled feed and doing some exploring.  It'll take them a few days to adjust to their new surroundings, as usual, and hopefully in about two weeks I'll find some fresh eggs!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Shades Of Green...

Green is my absolute favoritist color.  Yes, you read it right...favoritist.

This year we're seeing more green because we've had lots and lots of rain. Last night we had another 1.5" during a thunderstorm.  The corn and beans are growing like crazy!

At a recent family reunion, I was talking to Jim's Aunt, and she mentioned how many different shades of green there are, if you just look around.  She's right, you know!  I've been paying attention, and today I took the camera and captured some of the beautiful shades of green in our neighborhood. Some are at home and some are not, but all are within a two mile radius of home.

Roadside weeds, neighbor's hay fields, corn and tobacco...


Neighbor's tobacco...



Grassy meadow at the other farm, beans, a "just baled" hay field, and corn...


Jim started mowing third cutting alfalfa today...


I think the green hay wagon counts!  Waiting for "hopefully" Saturday, to be filled with some dry hay if the weather behaves...


Headed back home again...corn, tobacco, trees, hay...so many different shades of green...


Back home, the corn behind the barn with tassels, giving it a different look...


I love all these shades in my shrub border and the garden beyond...


...and these lovely variegated coleus are my favorite...


Green really is my favoritist color!  How about you?