Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beat the Heat

Here is our forecast for the next few days:

Thursday -  High 96F / Low 66F; Chance of rain - Zero
Friday -      High 103F / Low 72F; Chance of rain - 10%
Saturday -   High 104F / Low 73F; Chance of rain - 10%
Sunday -     High 102F / Low 73F; Chance of rain - 20%
Monday -    High 101F / Low 70F; Chance of rain - 10%
Tuesday -    High 98F / Low 71F; Chance of rain - 10%

Is that CRAZY or what!?!?  We do not have a measurable chance of rain until July 4th and even then it will only be a 30% chance.

So, this week I started making blocks of ice by freezing water in the large yogurt containers I save from the store (you know - the poor woman's Tupperware!). We can put them in the chicken's waterer, in the pool to cool it down so it can feel refreshing instead of like bathwater, and worst case scenario, if we lose power from everyone's air conditioning running full tilt, 24 hours a day, it will help keep the freezers cold so we don't lose any food in them....I hope...fingers crossed!

Eggs are still on the light side - but I really have nothing to compare it to as they didn't start laying until the end of summer last year.  But it still seems like we were getting the same amount of eggs from them over the winter as we are now.  I guess it is the sudden heat wave.  I have been tracking egg output and here is what we have so far:

January 2012 - 49 eggs / average per day 1.6
February - 49 eggs / average 1.7
March - 76 eggs / average 2.4 (nice jump!)
April - 79 eggs / average 2.5 (consistent!)
May - 81 eggs / average2.6 (creeping up!)
June - so far 63 in 27 days / average so far 2.3 - see what I mean???

Now, in March, we did find where one of the four was "hiding" her eggs in the coop - she would lay it on the other side of the coop and then cover it up with the pine shavings.  When we discovered her stash while cleaning out the coop, we found a clutch of 10 eggs!  She was not broody - never sat on them all day - just hiding them...which I guess would be instinctive in the wild.  We were able to break her of the habit and I wondered if maybe she was doing it again with the counts dropping off.  But I moved all the shavings around in the coop and found no egg stash...and there are days where we will get 3 eggs (from 4 hens) so they do not have worms.  I am out of ideas...

Picked another cucumber and yellow squash; dug up one more potato I missed; planted some more; planted my yellow beans; got a few cherry tomatoes off the vine...we received some advice on the blossom end rot on our regular tomatoes.  My father-in-law said to stop watering them - only water them when they start to wilt.  So, we will try that.  Although I am not certain this is the weekend to start that routine!!

I hope everyone stays cool!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Time Flies

Time just keeps getting away from me!!  But we have been busy...and that always seems to make time fly even faster.

The garden is doing pretty well - we have already pulled about 4 cups of green beans, 3 yellow squash and 2 cucumbers.  The tomatoes are starting to ripen - but some are also showing the blossom end rot.  We have been watering every day if it does not rain, as they say irregular watering is one of the main causes of blossom end rot.  So we are not sure why some of the fruit is doing that.  I was thinking of trying some Epsom salts (a family member of ours swears by it for their tomatoes).  Have any of you tried it?  Successful or not?

Our peppers are getting big - about the size of baseballs.  We should be picking them in about a week or so.  This past weekend I dug about six pounds of red potatoes out of the ground.  We had them for breakfast (homefries) and cooked in foil on the grill with onions - delish!!  Here is how we do it:

Take two sheets of foil and lay them out like a cross (so you have double thickness).  Cut potatoes into bite sized pieces and place in the middle of the cross of foil.  Slice up some onions and add to the pile.  Season with your favorite seasoning - we used seasoning salt, garlic powder, black pepper and paprika.  Add a dollop of butter and some ice cubes - depending on the size of your packet, add 1/2 - 1 dozen ice cubes.  Fold up the first layer of foil to seal (down the middle first, then curl in the sides), then the second layer the same way (that way you end up the middle seals going opposite directions for a better seal).  Set on the grill over medium coals for 10 - 20 minutes, depending on how large the packet is.  Be careful when you open it!!!  There will be a lot of steam trying to get out.  But the potatoes come out cooked to perfection and oh so yummy!  This is a variation of a recipe we use when we go camping.  We add a chicken breast to the bottom before putting the potatoes and everything else on.  You have to make the sheets bigger too.  Then we cook it over medium coals for about 25 - 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breast.  A quick meal that tastes great and no cleanup - the foil goes in the trash :-)

The weather is finally heating up - no more open windows.  As a matter of fact, the forecast for this weekend is 101F on Friday, and 100F on Saturday and Sunday.  I hope it is just for this one weekend!!

Stay cool and have a super day!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tidbit Tuesday

  • It is June, and today I have the windows open and it is only 75F outside - nice!
  • I may have found a cure for the itch of chigger bites - diatomaceous earth!  Rub a little on the bite (as long as it is not dug open) and in about 5 minutes, the itch dies down - I have to reapply about 5 hours later, but for those of us who have suffered from these bites, 5 hours is a L-O-N-G time to not itch one!
  • I have had my chickens for over a year now - where did the time go??

Hope everyone has a super day!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Out of Hibernation has been a VERY LONG TIME since I last posted.  As I said in my previous post, we have had a lot of things going on.  So, time for an update (warning - not everything is homestead-y in nature):

At the start of the New Year, my daughter's long engagement ended and she moved back home.  There was an adjustment period for everyone and now things are much better.  As a result of all the stress during that time, she had some health problems that required doctors, hospitals, and tests.  For now things are quiet and we hope they will remain that way as long as she takes care of herself.

Winter was not as bad as the previous year, but, since we didn't have any "killing freezes", the result is a PLETHORA of bugs now.  Everything was able to over-winter so there is an abundance of every kind of bug imaginable!  The chickens seemed to weather the cold well - I was nervous as this was their first winter.  We still averaged about 2 eggs a day (from 4 chickens) throughout the winter months.  We decided not to use supplemental light in the coop as Mother Nature has a reason for the slower egg production in the winter to give their little bodies a chance to rejuvenate.  Now, we are back up to about 3 eggs a day, with the occasional one egg instead.  There have only been two instances of "overnight laying" where the egg was on the floor of the coop in the morning when I went down to let them out for the day.  They were both fully formed, just very thin-shelled and no color on the shell.  So those got thrown out into the woods.  Emmy Lou appeared to have a broken beak about a month ago - not sure how she did it.  But we figured one of two things would happen - a) she would be unable to eat and would have to go to freezer camp, or b) it would heal and all would be fine.  It took about 4 days, but she was able to eat and had no other changes in her behavior and has now made a full recovery.  Keep in mind please - the chickens are livestock, not pets.  There was no question that we would not be taking her to the vet.  There would not have been anything they could do anyway - it's not like you can splint a broken beak.  But as I said, all is fine now.

At the beginning of April, we had to put one of our cats down.  Princess was 19 years old and was not doing well.  When we took her in to be put down, the vet said her kidneys had already failed and that we were making the right decision.  We knew in our hearts that it was, as she had started suffering, but it is still never easy.  So now she is with Tessa and hopefully the two are having a grand ole time!

My daughter graduated with her associate's degree in May and we had a party for her and a few of her close friends here at the house.  My husband made an octagonal picnic table for the party and it will be handy in the days to come.  We removed the spa that we only used once from the back patio and put the table there instead.  It looks fabulous!

My husband has re-engineered the log splitter and is currently rebuilding it.  The I-beam he used the first time was not as thick, so when a tough log was being split, the end would twist and pop like it was going to break, causing me serious heart palpitations each time it happened!  The new I-beam is about twice as thick and will solve that problem.  And my husband is having a ball with the all welding he has to do to put everything back on it - engine, pump, hydraulic oil tank, etc.

The garden is growing in leaps and bounds this year.  We have already harvested our first green beans and one yellow squash.  We have "tomato trees" - they are almost six feet tall!  There are tomatoes already on them - some are already the size of baseballs!  I had tried carrots again, and was disappointed in their size after two months in the ground.  I don't think I will do them anymore.  Our potato plants are HUGE!  I have to figure out another way to grow them instead of in the raised beds.  You can't pile dirt high enough when the plant is two feet tall.  I had planted some tomatoes from seed and they are doing well.  Then we also planted some starts from the local nursery and they really took off.  We also planted 3 kinds of pepper plants and they seem to be doing well.  I planted green beans, yellow squash and lettuce from seed, and onion and garlic sets - all are coming up grandly.  We have 3 beds - in one, I put the "used" bedding from the chicken coop and let it sit for two months.  Seems to be working well.  Another, I used the leaf litter from the chicken run as a mulch and it has really kept the weeds down except along the edges where grass is just starting to come through.  The last bed, my husband put black cow and 10-10-10 and that is where we have the "tomato trees".  All three methods seem to work - I guess we will know which is best when the vegetables come in.

This spring we bought a camper - 1992 Jayco 25 ft.  We only had to make some minor repairs to it and have already taken two camping trips with it.  So much nicer than tents and tarps!  It has a/c and heat, gas stove and oven, microwave, stereo and a bathroom with a very small shower, but at least we do not have the use the "community" showers at the campgrounds.  The first trip was to Bassett, VA - Philpott Lake in April.  The last trip was to Wilkesboro, NC - Fort Hamby on Kerr Scott Reservoir in May.  So much easier to load up and go!

So, we have been busy...lots going on...and I think I have finally found my desire to write again.  I hope you all made it through the winter and spring so far without any major headaches or heartaches.  Thank you for being patient with me!