Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drawer Pulls and Such

When Don and I bought our current farm in 1996, it had a house that was not really livable but too good to tear down.  We decided to rebuild the old place while we were living in the 7-sided house just a few miles down the road.  We completed sections of the house in stages over the course of years and finally moved in during 001. 

We discovered that when one is trying to get a house to the point of being able to move in, a few little teeny-tiny things seem to get put on the back steps to the upstairs, well in fact the entire upstairs, and a kitchen.  We slept in every corner of our downstairs (very open floor plan) as we worked on completing various projects, such as a kitchen.  We did have a temporary cooking space in our sunroom that consisted of a hot plate on a sagging table.  It was pretty bare-bones for people that live too far from town for take-out.  So as you might imagine, just getting to the point of having a kitchen became a high priority.  We designed and built all our cabinets and planed all the lumber for the floor, a process that kept us cooking in the temporary kitchen for a good while longer than we wanted.  When it was finally "finished" we abandoned the old kitchen with great glee, except the new kitchen wasn't quite finished.  I embraced the "openness" of my pull-out shelves and dared Don to put doors on them.  He conceded that point but we both agreed it woud be a nice touch to actually get oak drawer fronts attached to the drawer frames. That conversation was so long ago now that I don't even remember what year it was.  Poor Don, who likes to actually finish things and is living with a person who can overlook minor details, finally took the bull by the horns and decided to finish the drawer fronts with or without my blessing.  Don cut rough-sawn oak, planed and put a finish on the drawer fronts and set them aside so we could discuss "hardware".  That was last year.  Somebody who shall remain nameless, dragged her feet, never providing input on hardware so last month Don, in a last attempt to engage me, presented me with his options for drawer pulls.  We settled on the rustic look and lo and behold we now have drawer fronts!  Thank you Don!  They look wonderful except now we both have to retrain ourselves to use them.

Our kitchen.

Cabinets without drawer fronts.

Cabinets with drawer fronts.

Oak drawer fronts with willow handles.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pottery, Furniture, and a Good Time Part 2

Thanksgiving weekend found us on the banks of the Coal River at Lower Falls near St. Albans, WV at another pottery open house.  Christie Berry of the Brass Bell Pottery graciously invites us to spend the weekend of Thanksgiving with her at her camp/studio/gallery so we can sell our soap and rustic furniture during her open house.  Christie is a talented artist in several media but her pottery is her passion.  Some of her signature vases and trays feature a raised acorn/oak leaf motif.  She is also becoming well known for her other designs as well.  It is always fun to see familiar faces that come to buy Christie's wonderful stoneware and also our furniture and this year, our soap.  If you missed it this year, please come and browse the gallery with me.
The Brass Bell studio and gallery.

Christie's pottery and my rustic lamp.

Gold pottery.

Lovely sage green stoneware.

Some of our rustic furniture.

Soap of various kinds.

More stoneware.

Don's hand-carved bowls on a rustic table.

One of Christie's many unique designs.

I hope you enjoyed your tour.  Please plan to join us next year at Lower Falls for for a fun and relaxing shopping experience.  Come spend black Friday and shop-small Saturday with us and just maybe there will be fresh oatmeal cookies to munch on while you stroll the gallery if you get there before we eat them all!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pottery, Furniture and a Good Time

As some of you may know, one of our farm enterprises is making and selling rustic furniture.  This year I have also branched out into making goat-milk and other handmade soap.

Poplar table.

Cherry table.
We are fortunate to have a few great sales opportunities throughout the year.  One of our favorites is the three-day open house in early November at Hannah's Pottery in Scott Depot, WV.  Hannah and Don invite several local artisans to attend their open house which makes for a great time and a lot of really nice Christmas gift possibilities.  The weather this year was warm and sunny and many guests took advantage of the beautiful weather to stroll around Hannah's wonderfully inviting eclectic garden.
A view of Hannah's garden.

In addition to Hannahs signature maple-leaf pottery, there was jewelry, vintage Christmas  decorations, our furniture and soap, birdhouses, hanging globe lights and enhanced digital photography.  Here are a few pictures from this year's event.

Jewelry by Jackie.

Soap and pottery.

Don with our furniture.

Hannah's pottery.

We will also be spending the three-day Thanksgiving weekend at the Brass Bell Pottery open house in Lower Falls, a small community along the Coal River near St. Albans, WV.  In addition to pottery there is a lot of interesting history about the falls and the mill that was located there.  The gallery and studio are located at 3707 Phillips Street in St. Albans, WV.  Come on out and spend "shop small Saturday" with us!  You'll know you're at the right place if you see this:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What I Believe

We had a good scare yesterday thanks to my young flock of chickens.  We have nine chickens, four of which have turned out to be roosters (to be dealt with soon) so I am used to a certain amount of squawking and positioning as the young roosters come of age.  The chicken coop is adjacent to our vegetable garden so this time of year I am able to let the chickens out of their run to free-range.  They are still young enough that they generally stay within sight of the coop.

Yesterday I was busy packaging soap for our upcoming weekend gallery event so I was in the house.  Heidi, our young Pyrenees was loose on the farm.  I heard a chicken kurfuffle down in the garden but thought nothing of it.  Later on in mid-afternoon I took a walk down toward the garden.  All of a sudden I had a weird feeling.  It took a few moments but I realized there were no chickens scurrying and scratching around in the old mulch.  In fact, there were no chickens anywhere.  Usually on a sunny afternoon they are busily searching for food.  I dashed to the coop and looked inside.  There were two roosters and two hens huddled  together on the roost. That meant that three hens and two roosters were missing.

The possiblities flashed through my mind.  Did Heidi our young Pyrenees have something to do with this?  She is not around the chickens too much but everytime I have had her with them she basically ignores them, even when they fly up around her.  Did they manage to fly over or squeeze through the field fence into the large yard where our Spinoni (bird dogs) were?  I noticed that two of the dogs were particularly agitated.   Did that screaming fox that passed through the farm the night before return with his fox friends and snag five chickens?  Maybe a hawk swooped down and snagged one but where are the other four? 

I was devastated.  I realized how attached I had become to my relatively new flock.  Besides, all these chickens were given to me by friends and  I had promised to care for them and keep them safe and now five were gone.  Just GONE.  I mounted a search.  Don hopped on the ATV and started looking around the vicinity.  Relatively soon I found one young rooster hiding in the shed next to the garden.  He was clearly traumatized but unharmed.  Okay, now I had three roos and two hens.  These chickens had obviously headed for cover so I checked our large barn.  No chickens anywhere.  I looked around up in the nearby shrubby woods. I looked everywhere I could think of.  No chickens, no feathers, no nothing.  After an hour or so I peeked in the coop.  Yay!  Another rooster had returned sometime while I was off searching.  Hopefully they were all just hiding somewhere.  As I continued my search a brown hen came racing across the garden from the direction of the big barn.  Double yay!!!  Another one returned.  It was Cheeky, one of my favorites.  I was starting to feel better, but I was still missing two of my five hens.  I looked around and saw my big rooster running toward the coop from the direction of the driveway.  Apparently they had really scattered after some kind of attack.  After a few more minutes of looking, I decided to go back to the house and finish working on my soap project.  An hour or so later I couldn't stand the suspense so I walked back down to the coop.  Blackie was on the roost with her buddy cheeky.  Yippee!

Cheeky (left) and Blackie (right).

Although I was really happy, I couldn't help but believe that something had probably snagged the one remaining hen, my little Barred-Rock pullet.  I was really sad.  In our previous years of having chickens we had never lost a bird. I felt I had failed my flock and my friend.  By now it was late afternoon and it would soon be dark. I dreaded thinking about closing up the coop for the night in an hour or so without my little hen tucked safely inside.

Just before dusk I went back to the coop to check on my traumatized birds and lo and behold my little Barred Rock hen was sitting on the roost!  I was so happy to see them all together again.

Barred Rock pullet who now needs a name.

I checked all the chickens briefly and all seemed unharmed.  I realized how relieved I was to have my little flock safely tucked in their coop for the night.  I suppose I will never know what happened that afternoon but I strongly suspect the fox.  Now I am wondering if Heidi may have actually helped save them from what ever attacked.  I think that is what I will choose to believe.

Final note:
I had never heard a fox scream before and it was enough to make us jump on our ATV's and race to the back field pistol in hand (literally) where our bucks live expecting to find one of the large cats, rumored to hide in these relatively unpopulated areas, attacking our goats.  Apparently it is the mating call of the female.

In case you have never heard a fox scream here is a link to the sound we heard that night. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

And I thought I was prepared....

With the remnants of hurricane Sandy bearing down on our little corner of WV we have been busy the past few days making last minute preparations in case we lost power from either high wind or snow accumulations. Part of these preparations included rearranging food in our two freezers so that we could concentrate on using food from one and using the other for more long-term storage.  This strategy is not just because of the storm but is also part of our winter food-usage plans.  Some weeks ago I had also defrosted these two large freezers and placed food that needed to be eaten first in the freezer compartment of one of our two refrigerators.  This is the same fridge that is in my little milking area and where I store my milk.  Last minute storm preps yesterday involved a trip to town in the morning to pick up some milk since the goats are tapering off now with once-a-day milking and to pick up a few other perishable items.

Yesterday when I went to rummage in that refrigerator's freezer compartment I discovered that the food was mostly defrosted.  What????  How could that be?  Had I been so preoccupied with storm preparations that I failed to notice the refrigerator wasn't even working?  Guess so.  Unfortunately I had packed that little compartment full when I cleaned out the large freezer so I had a lot of mushy food to sort through.  There were a couple of packs of homegrown sausage and bacon, some sauteed shitake mushrooms, blackberries we had picked, and bags of cranberries slated for future muffins this winter.  There were also some zip-lock bags of goat milk that I had saved for soap-making.  There was also lots and lots of sweet corn from our garden.  We determined that everything was still fit to eat (mostly) so the day was spent trying to salvage all this food.  In the end I made a huge pot of corn chowder with the corn, bacon and mushrooms and a blackberry cobbler for dinner.  That may end up being dinner for the week based on the quantities involved.  I made cranberry sauce from the several bags of cranberries and I ended up cooking the sausage and we will reheat it to eat with our eggs and whatever else I can think of that goes with sausage.

One bag of store-bought strawberries leaked all over the freezer and mingled with some leaking goat milk (yuck) and I just couldn't manage to deal with all that corn.  Fortunately we have chickens that will appreciate what we couldn't save.  Now there is a cooler full of chicken food sitting on the porch in the great outdoor refrigerator until I get it fed to the chickens.  It is snowing now so I think it will keep fine, much better than in my dead fridge.  Because we tend to always have a back-up strategy, we moved important items (beer and cheese mostly) to a newer fridge that we had not placed in service yet.  This is mostly because I still need to run some electric to where that fridge is located.  It is now connected by a 25-foot extension cord.  I suppose that project will have get moved to a higher priority on that "to-do" list. This is also where I need to thank Don for spending a couple of hours yesterday cleaning out the new fridge that had accumulated a bit of mold and yuck from sitting empty for a few months.

As this day wears on the snow just keeps falling and we now how 4 inches of accumulation and it is now predicted to keep on falling until tomorrow sometime.  So:
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nut Job

One of the wonderful things about living in WV is the bounty that fills our woods and fields through out the year.  This is the time of year to go nut-gathering.  Timing is critical otherwise you find this:

Pile of walnut hulls left by an industrious squirrel.

Black walnut trees commonly grow in the moist bottom land along our road so all one has to do is hop on the ATV and go looking.  We also have lots of walnut trees on our farm.  We strapped containers on the 4-wheelers and headed off for a ride on a lovely warm fall day.

One of the bonuses of collecting walnuts off our gravel / dirt county road is that the minimal traffic crushes the hulls off the very hard inner nut shell.  Because there is so little traffic, one can park in the road and gather walnuts.   As long as the roads are not muddy, the hull-less nuts can be picked up off the road.  If it happens to be a wet period then those nuts become part of the road bed.  A lot of the nuts I gathered were in the road and already de-hulled.

Pre-hulled walnuts collected in the road washed and drying in the sun.

As we were tooling down the road on our walnut-collecting adventure, we stopped to visit with a neighbor.  He happens to have two large chestnut trees in his yard along with walnut trees too.  I happen to love raw chestnuts.  They are commonly roasted (on an open fire according to the Christmas carol) but I have never really liked them this way.  He offered to share some chestnuts so we spent a few minutes in his yard sorting through porcupine-like outer hulls picking up the shiny and brown leathery nuts.  Gloves are definitely a must!  I also picked walnuts (in the hull) out of his yard.

Chestnuts encased in their spiny hulls.

Unfortunately, chestnuts commonly fall victim to the chestnut weevil that lays its eggs in late summer in the outer burs.  As the nuts mature, tiny larvae form and eventually eat into the nut meat. If you pop the nuts in the freezer for a few days immediately after picking, the larva don't develop and the nuts will store without being ruined.
Chestnuts ready to pop into the freezer.

One thing about nuts, they generally come well-protected with outer hulls.  Instead of spiny burs, walnuts come with messy, brown-staining hulls which are commonly used as a natural dye.  The outer hull is generally green when fresh but quickly turns black.  Gloves are a must for working with walnuts to prevent nearly permanently staining fingertips.

Freshly picked walnuts.

Folks use various methods of de-hulling walnuts ranging from putting them in their driveway and driving over them to remove the hull to smashing them with a hammer.  In any event the walnuts must cure and dry before they can be cracked open to get to the nut meat.  Some folks cure them in the oven to speed the process and others let them dry naturally so that by winter, one can sit by the fire and crack nuts.  I have a friend who has described her method of curing walnuts in her blog Dandelion Dairy.

Walnuts have a very hard shell when dried so most people use a hammer.  It seems however that everyone that collects walnuts has their preferred methods of cracking them.  Walnuts are generally cracked from the flat side rather than from the edge as are hickory nuts.  As soon as mine cure a bit I'll be sitting on the floor, hammer in hand trying to get enough nut meats to put in our oatmeal this winter. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October Veggie Garden

It is October 21  and the veggie garden is mostly put to bed for the winter.  

I skipped taking a photo of all the frost killed plants because most things looked so DEAD.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, okra, squash, and peppers all wilted or turned black; gone for the year.  Many of the tomatoes were already dried up from various blights and I can't say I was sad to see the end of the peppers.  A couple of days were spent clearing out vines and dead plants so the garden looked pretty bare.

All the plants are gone.

Broccoli and brussel sprouts are pretty frost tolerant so they are still growing.  Often they last well into December.  We have picked a bit of broccoli already and it looks like a few more heads may have a chance to mature since warm weather is predicted for this week.  Kale and collards are much better after a touch of frost so they are still in the garden and we will pick them to eat fresh until the weather turns really cold.  What ever remains of them will go into the freezer.
Collards and kale.

We erected a temporary fence around the kale and collards from livestock panels to give them a bit of additional protection.  Deer pressure this time of year is generally greater than other times of year even with our electric fence still connected.  Also they need protection from smaller mauraders:

Chickens can now free range in the garden.

Our small flock of mixed-breed chickens can now free range in the garden and scratch around in all the mulch looking for bugs and seeds.  I love to wander down to the garden and just watch them.  Even though the growing season is technically over, it is fun to see such industrious activity in the garden this time of year.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The great excuses for October

It has suddenly dawned on me that October is flying by and the Intermittant Farm Report has been more intermittent than usual so I thought I might ought to give an update. My first excuse is that I have been running an outdated version of Internet Explorer and Blogger would no longer load on IE7.  I finally got around to upgrading to IE8 so at least Blogger works again.

My second excuse is that on the first day of October, the does finally decided that yes indeed it was fall, signaling that a young doe's fancy turns from food to bucks.  As a result, there was a succession of five days filled with seven restless, bleating does followed by me leading a parade of various bucks twice a day back and forth from their pen in the back field to their anxiously awaiting mate.  Because does only stay receptive to breeding for 12 to 24 hours, breeding of individuals has to occur within a very short window of opportunity or else one must wait 21 days for does to cycle again.  Because we hand breed, each buck is put in a pen with one doe and then removed after a successful mating.  Later in the day the mating is repeated to help insure a successful breeding.  WIth one or two does coming in to season each day, that made for a lot of hiking back and forth with anxious, smelly bucks. 

Gratefully, by my birthday on the 7th, matings for October were successfully completed and I could actually take a day off for my birthday (third excuse).  I had friends come by to visit my bucks (and maybe us?) to check out potential suitors for their does.  This visit culminated in the great "chicken swap" the next day.  She needed a rooster for her flock and I ended up with an excess of them.  She had a few extra hens.  So Voila!  I have more hens and her chicken "Wild One" can set on fertile eggs and be happy and fulfilled.

Also on my birthday, Don and I had a great visit with Leslie and Diane where we spent the afternoon at their house. We ate a late lunch/early dinner of manicotti that was worked off playing four games of cornhole. But then we packed it all back on again eating birthday cake. 

This brings us to Monday the 8th which was the day of the actual chicken swap (fourth excuse).  I took the rooster that I had grabbed the night before off the roost, and took him to town.  My friend is an urban farmer of sorts.  She doesn't live in town but just outside the city limits.  I admire her accomplishments raising food (veggies, milk and eggs) and fiber in a non-farm setting.  We scooped up some extra hens and put them in dog crates for their short journey to their new home. 

My new chickens.
 Tues the 9th I don't really remember.  Maybe I was in a delayed sugar coma from Sunday. I hope I don't offend anyone.  I won't really use this an an excuse.

I'll pick Wednesday as my fifth and sixth excuses.  Wednesday was spent gathering and organizing produce and craft exhibits to enter in our local Black Walnut Festival.  I do have to admit that Don did most of veggie organizing though. He also always enters the Black Walnut woodworking competition which pays $25 for first place.  It used to be $75 but I suppose the economy has taken a toll on everything.  The exhibits were taken to town Wednesday evening and entered in the agricultural and craft exbibits with the rest of the local entries.  It is always fun to see how one's largest sweet potato stacks up against your neighbor's largest sweet potato and if that walnut lamp Don spent hours hand sanding is deemed worthy of the $25 prize.  First place for the agricultural exhibits pays $3.00 so we always hope to at least win gas money to get our stuff to town and back.

Wednesday was also the time to pick remaining veggies in the garden before the first predicted frost of the season.  We seem to be overrun with peppers of all colors. 
Asampling of the peppers.
 Also on Wednesday, another friend travelled from Mason County to pick up three of my Nigerian Dwarf goats that will now be residing at Indigo Acres Farm.  I will miss them but I know they will have a great home.  She wanted to increase her herd a bit and I needed to reduce mine a little.  I'll get a goat kid or two back next spring with different genetics and she will have several additional does that should serve her well with both milk and kids over the next few years.  This also means of course that "herd reductions" are generally only temporary.

Thursday was busy with salvaging the green peppers after the first killing frost of the season.  It was right on time because our growing season on average ends on the 10th of October and by gosh if it wasn't dead-on this year.  I'm beginning to feel like those folks who start hiding excess zucchini in people's cars.  We made an ATV trip around our back road that is populated with hunting camps to give a huge bag to a friend who is here to escape the heat of the deep South for a few weeks to enjoy the lovely cool fall weather.  Fortunately he likes peppers. I'll use this day as excuse number 7.

Friday was miscellaneous chore day in the morning culminated by a trip to the fair in the afternoon with my childhood best friend who lives out-of-state.  Definitely a GREAT excuse so that will be number 8.  Because my Spinone (dog) Tia is so adept at opening gate latches I decided it was time to repair a few of them.  The goats are pretty good at it too so I have come home a couple of times this week to a galloping goat herd greeting me in the driveway.  It was also time to change the in-line sediment filter in our spring-fed water system.  I also used today as an opportunity to start ripping out dead garden plants.  Our spring is adjacent to the veggie garden and I had to wait for the spring to cycle so I could be sure the pump hadn't lost it's prime.  Flow is slow this time of year so it didn't ever cycle back on in time to go to town for the afternoon so getting the pump back on-line had to be postponed until evening.  I did get a lot of plant debris cleaned out though while I was waiting.

This brings us to Saturday (today!!!),.  I'm going to publish this NOW before I have to come up with more excuses and besides Heidi says: 


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

September Veggie Garden

It is almost impossible to believe that it is October already.  I'm not sure what happened to September but I'm fairly certain that it has come and gone.  The garden is looking a bit tired now but frost will be coming our way soon anyway.
Garden at the end of  September.

Contrast this with the fresh spring view of April.

Early spring garden view.

September was a busy month in the garden and by the end of the month most of the leftover summer veggies such as beans and tomatoes have become chicken food.  We did can and freeze the last of the tomato crop and I think we managed to put by 70-some quarts of tomatoes and 60-some pints of salsa.
A few scraggly tomatoes that have succumbed to diseases.

We began harvesting the sweet potatoes that Eve gave us and they did amazingly well.  I dug the first hill and it had 40 pounds of potatoes in it.  I stopped there for a while.
Twenty-six  pounds of the forty-pound hill.

Although the summer garden is done, the fall garden is doing well.  We always plant greens and broccoli which always do well in the cooler weather.
Turnip greens.


Broccoli ready to harvest.

Brussel far all Brussels and no sprouts.

We also have a few Italian fig trees that are doing very well this year and have provided us with quite a few figs.
Green and ripe figs.


October will signal the end of most of the garden plants so we'll be able to send in the clean-up crew.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Goat Husbandry Class in the hills of West Virginia

This past weekend I had the opportunity and privelege to teach a goat husbandry class at the Chickens In the Road retreat held at Camp Sheppard.  For those of you that don't know, Chickens in the Road (CITR) is a hugely successful blog run from Sassafras Farm located in southern Roane County. Farmer and author Suzanne, has built a virtual community that gathers annually in the fall to learn country-living skills such as soap-making, bread baking, canning and preserving and much more.  To get a glimpse of what this years workshops were all about go here.  As the week progresses there will be a lot of updates and photos regarding the 2012 retreat at the Chickens in the Road site in case you'd like to see what the retreat is all about. 

During the days leading up to the retreat I was gettting a bit nervous but as soon as the class started, folks were so interested in learning about goats that I was immediately put at ease by this wonderful assemblage of  goat enthusiasts.  A few had goats already, many were goat-owners to-be and some were just interested in learning to see if goats might be for them someday.  My goat class had 14 participants from all over the country including California, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Missouri and Pennsylvania.  For three hours we talked about how to choose a goat, health issues, goat conformation and then we did some practical things such as giving shots, trimming feet and learning to milk.  By the end, of class folks that wanted to, had tried their hand at foot trimming and milking.  I had a wonderful time and I hope all the participants did too.

Here are a few pictures Don managed to take while running around helping me.  I will refer you to the CITR site to see more of the activities.

Our classroom.

A kiss fron Lulu my Mini LaMancha helps put me at ease before class.

A student learning to milk on my Nigerian Dwarf Tenacious. 

Me demonstrating how to trim a kid's hoof.