Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fishing for Solutions

I've had a love/hate relationship with the goat water buckets for a long time. I loved how quick they were to fill and that I could raise and lower their height by hanging them on the fence. And using buckets made it easy to adjust how much water we used in relationship to how many goats were in the pen. But the disadvantages were starting to bug me more. The bucks would bump their buckets causing them to spill out the top third of the water. And although cleaning them was easy, the only way to really get rid of the algae buildup was to use some bleach and that caused the plastic to break down from the scrubbing. **I will add, for anyone thinking of using buckets, that rotating to a clean bucket and hanging the used one to dry EVERY DAY, prevented a lot of the algae to begin with. But it began to feel wasteful and time consuming to keep that up.** So about 2 months ago we decided to experiment with water troughs.

Since our herd is so small, we went with 2 small black rubber troughs. They hold about a week's worth of water at a time. I've been checking for cleanliness and making sure they hold a cool temperature daily. Every couple days I add a little water to top it off and once a week I dump and scrub the algae out. I haven't used any bleach yet but I also haven't been able to get all of the buildup removed. ARGH!

I remembered reading sometime ago, before I even had goats, that some people use goldfish in their water tanks to remove algae and mosquito larvae. I decided to give that a try and this week when we were at a WalMart that has a fish section in their pet department, I picked a few up. We got them installed in their new home a couple days ago. Now we will watch and see how they do!

Do you have experience with using fish in your livestock tanks? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section below!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Raised Bed Experiment Begins

Back in July I shared about the raised beds that Dh had made for me. I've been steadily filling them with kitchen scraps and wasted hay and the cleanings from under the rabbits, chickens, and goats. While DH was home last time, he had to rebuild the goat buck shed- again! He went the extra mile and scooped out the composted manure that I normally clean out in the fall. I used that to finish filling one of the raised beds. 

Today I went through the box of garden seeds and picked out a few packs of old ones that probably wouldn't get used next spring. They're perfect to use on a fall planting "experiment" in the raised bed! Since I'm not counting on any of them to produce well, if even at all, I can just use them to see how these types of plants will do. It's possible that the bed's dirt was still too hot for planting but if I didn't try it soon the frost would prevent success. Oh well, if nothing comes up, I'm not out anything except the time I took to plant it! I'll let you know how it goes.

Here's what I've learned so far- 
1- Even though the added height of the beds will be handy after the plants are in them, it's been pretty difficult to shovel the heavier stuff into them. I don't know if there's a solution to that problem. Luckily, they only will be filled once.
2- We put the drainage holes in the bottom before we started filling in the dirt. Even though we had some rain the last two days, the dirt and other material was still desert dry. I spent a lot of time with the hose this morning trying to wet it down while the water ran out the drainage holes like a sieve. We will probably have to find a way to "shrink" our drainage some how.  

Lettuce, Radish, Carrots, and Beans

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hello Again

Summer's coming to a quick close, isn't it? Right now we're getting a tiny little bit of what's left of Irma. It's breezy, cloudy, and there's some sprinkles every whip stitch- just enough to remind me to be grateful for not having to go through the dangerous storms that others have faced lately. I've got a nice mug of tea and a snoozing dog by my side. And the cherry on top? My internet is working. Working! Hallelujah!  So real quick (before it decides to quit again) here's a recap of the last month.

DH and MIL
Grandma is recovering from her hip replacement surgery nicely. She's back to her shenanigans in the nursing home and my presence isn't needed around the clock anymore. MIL is on the mend from her lung surgery. She's home, still on steady oxygen but gaining strength. Grand-baby is growing like a weed and is a source of pure joy even though I don't see him as often as I'd like.

I spent a while in Massachusetts with DH. When he wasn't working, we visited some local parks and hunted some geocaches. One day he got off work really early and we drove to Plymouth. I'd wanted to see Plymouth Rock for years and it was a great trip! When he returned home for the Labor Day holiday, we took off on an overnight backpacking trip in the Hoosier National Forest. It was a repeat of a hike we've done a couple times before but I loved it. We didn't have a lot of time to plan so it was safer to go with a trip that we were familiar with. All in all I think we spent about 3 solid weeks together last month- a real marriage booster!
Plymouth Rock

Coffee by the lake

Our garden produced really well this year. I've got a freezer full of okra, tomatoes, and peppers. I didn't get time to figure out my canner but there's always next year. Four of our hens went broody. I really didn't want to add to our flock this year so I only let them hatch one egg each. Right now there are four cute little fluff balls in the coop. We didn't breed our rabbits this season. The doe is just too old to produce a good size litter so I am looking for a new one. Meanwhile, the goats are doing great! All three little doelings are eating and growing at a good rate. I'm hoping to have plenty of goat milk next spring and lots of baby goats to sell. DH checked the bees and seemed to be happy with the hive. We still need to lay up a winter supply of hay but I don't think we'll have to scramble for it, our weather this year was really nice! 
Got treats?

Free ranging

I think that's a pretty remarkable list of blessings! Hopefully the internet problems will be resolved soon and I can keep in better touch. Please leave comments about your own summer, I hope it was as good as mine! 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Peek A Boo

After a hard fought battle with a nasty pneumonia, Grandma got released from the hospital on July 26. Unfortunately, less than 48 hours later, she fell and broke her hip. So back to the hospital we went. She's had a replacement surgery and is now back to a facility to recuperate. And I'm taking a deep breath and gearing up for the next round of care-giving, this time with my MIL. It's a rough patch right now but there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Hopefully everyone will be well and I'll be back to full time homesteading before long.

While I'm busy with the ill folks, I'm still getting some small projects done. This morning I've been slicing tomatoes for the dehydrator. I've already put a few gallon tomatoes in the freezer, where space is at a premium. I feel kinda sad that DH spent sooo much money for my Christmas gift of an awesome pressure canner and I haven't got to use it yet. But there is a learning curve to those things and I want to wait until I can focus all my attention before I attempt it. I want to make sure I don't develop any bad habits by skipping steps or rushing through it.

So if you've got a minute, drop some ideas for dehydrated tomatoes in the comment section. I'll check them out while I'm bedside sitting!
Amish Paste Tomatoes

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Taking Care of Grandma

I've spent most of the past few days sitting in the hospital with Grandma. You might remember her from the interesting conversation (click here) I shared a year ago. 
Grandma turned 90 last October
Hopefully she will be back to her normal self soon. Until she is, I'm splitting up my time between the homestead and the hospital. I'll check in every chance I get. Have a great week!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bees Wax

My DH loves to scare me, in a playful way. One of his favorite ways to do this is to say, "close your eyes and hold out your hand." Most wives would probably get excited if their DH said this, expecting maybe chocolate or a diamond ring. But this wife has gotten a wide variety of surprises- ranging from the first ripe blueberry to an old rusty nail and everything you could imagine in between. So last month, when DH clomped up the stairs to the office/craft room to find me and then promptly announced his desire for me to assume the pose for a surprise, well you can imagine the thoughts running through my mind. And then he presented me with this:

Oooookaaayyy. I had no idea what "this" was. Should I be horrified or disgusted? I took one look at DH's face and knew. I was supposed to be thrilled. So I forced a smile and asked what it was. "It's my very first beeswax!" Oh! All right! This was a neat surprise! Shew!!

A month later he harvested his honey and we worked together to render the first "real" beeswax collection. So now we have this:

 I'm looking forward to figuring out how we will use it. It smells wonderful!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Raised Beds

The garden has been producing like crazy this year. You might remember that we decided to try plastic mulch and how much I hated the idea. But it has really paid off. The weeds have been practically nonexistent except for along the outer edges where we planted the cucumbers and green beans. Even those have been so much more manageable! But using solid plastic prevented us from planting anything from seed. From past experience, I knew that trying to get seeds to sprout through tiny holes in plastic was almost impossible. So all the garden plants were started indoors and transplanted. Unfortunately, we didn't get any radishes, turnips, carrots, lettuce, or any other goodies that would have been direct sown. I just don't have the time or ability to bend over all day pulling or hoeing or chopping weeds. But wait! The gardening season isn't over and DH crafted up some raised beds for me to try planting some of those things in for a fall harvest.

First he took a couple of those cheap metal barrels that the farm store carries and set them up outside his workshop. It was a hot day! Then he found a plastic lawn chair and set it up a safe distance away for me to watch from. (That's how I got my knee in this first picture.)

 After donning some safety glasses, he cut the barrels in half, lengthwise.

Out came the welding helmet for the next phase of welding the open ends of the barrels together, to make 2 long beds. Then he drilled some drainage holes into the bottoms.

 Next up, a short break and a clean shirt! Then back to building a wooden frame to rest the barrels in from some scrap lumber we had stored.

Then I got to help! We carried all the pieces to the garden plot where they will be set up permanently and put some wasted hay in to get the filling started.

As we were adding the hay, I scraped my arm pretty badly on the sharp edge of the cut metal. The next day DH solved the problem by re-purposing an old garden hose into an edge cover.

Ta Da!