Sunday, December 20, 2015

December Update

 Wow, almost Christmas!  I should be wrapping gifts at this moment, but thought I would take a few minutes to put a blog together... then I'll get to that.   I'm starting with a few pictures I took yesterday.  The sun was out and the snow so pretty.  Above is a view of the farm buildings from the backside.   Was Rollie being creative with the siding on the back of the pole barn, or just being economical?  I don't know if you can see it very well, but the woodshed has a pretty good supply in it already.  Rollie, Kevin, Ardis, and Kurt all contribute to that effort.


My last post was from before Thanksgiving I think.  I hope you all had a pleasant holiday; we sure did.  Since then the weather has been typical Minnesota... you never know what your gonna get.  Some unseasonably warm days, some really cold, and some in-between.  Last week was particularly nasty with some freezing rain and ice-coated roads followed by snow.  I am driving Little Blue Subaru these days, and it's pretty good in the snow, thank goodness.  I really, really love the heated seats - what a great invention!

The pigs are gone now which means less chores to do in the cold and early darkness.  Also, we don't have the horse related chores this winter.  Running water to fill the big water tank and making sure it stayed plugged in wasn't much fun.  That said, we do miss them anyway.

In the Winter Coop, there are three more hens that my cousin Richard agreed to part with.  Now there is one more of the Dark Cornish, which are such striking birds, and for the first time in many, many years, white chickens, two of them.  We don't know for sure what breed they are since they came from a mixture of chicks, but I think they could be White Wyandottes.  There are a couple of other white feathered breeds that lay brown eggs though, so we'll never know for sure.

Today had us doing some goat chores.  Kevin and I cleaned out the does indoor pen, which was starting to feel like walking on a pillow-top mattress because the hay and straw was getting so deep.  Everyone got a hoof trimming, and Ranger moved back into the bachelor pen with Forest, and Daisy came back to the doe pen.  I am still milking Vinca twice a day; she's giving a little better than a quart most mornings, and a little less than a quart most evenings.  I will have to cut her back to once a day at some point, and then dry her up, but am in no hurry to give up the milk.
Ranger modeling his new red halter.  He is much less stinky these days, thank goodness.  We still put all of our chore clothes in the laundry after the hoof trimming though!

So there is your update.  I'll be back in January sometime.  Until then, I wish you all a happy, safe, and healthy holiday.  Be well!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Game Over

My title this week refers to the roulette wheel of weather that is such a big factor in our lives as farmers and gardeners.  Mother Nature always wins of course.

The mud of our driveway is rutted and frozen, all the critters have heaters in their waterers now, with the exception of the chickens,  They keep the Winter Coop pretty comfortable with their own body heat, at least for now.  We've moved the milking stand into the shop where it will stay until Vinca is dried up, sometime in January probably. This evening we had our first measurable snow...  of course I didn't measure it, but an inch or two... it's white out there anyway.

I won't be blogging weekly for a while I think.  Much like last year, there just isn't that much to "show and tell" during the winter. Once or twice a month will suffice.

I do have one last photo of the pigs to share.  We are waiting on the butcher to fit them into his schedule.  They may be gone tomorrow.. it might be next week, it could be a couple of weeks.  Anyway, I had Kori put me in the picture for scale.  Those are pumpkin seeds & skins they are chomping on. 

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.  If you are traveling, please be safe out there.  And of course, be well.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A post from both of us this week

First, Kevin gets his two-cents worth in:

What a difference a week can make when it comes to hunting.  Kent and Kellen flew in from Cheyenne on Tuesday and did see some deer, nothing with antlers. Kellen wanted to be a little selective on his second deer.  Well, it got to Saturday with just seeing fawns.  They did see some deer, and Kellen did shoot at one but did not get it.  But Kellen was able to participate in the “Beaver Dam” drive on state land and Kent was able to make his famous walk in the woods next to the road.  They were not productive, but the next generation of hunters at Ole Lake Farm got a taste of the “good old days”.  This weekend Tim and Nick returned to help fill some stands.  After seeing a whole bunch of deer last weekend, this weekend kind of shut down.  We did see deer, but with only Kellen having an antlerless tag, we did not see any bucks. We still have 3 buck tags to fill with 7 days of the season left.  We are all pretty “sat out”, so while there may be a little more sitting yet this season, it probably won’t be much.  So that is the deer hunting report for this past week, and I will let you know how it all ends up next weekend.  

Ah, now my turn... two weeks to catch-up on.

I don't do much with the deer hunting myself, other than as support staff.  A ride here, some assistance with meat wrapping on occasion, some cooking.  This year though, I claimed the fat tallow from the deer.  I have rendered down one batch, and have another big batch to do yet.  I plan to make soap with it this winter.

Mother Nature has not favored us with snow yet, or even very cold weather really.  We had been waiting for the on-and-off rain to stop, and when it did out came the combine and the sunflowers were finally harvested.  Ardis recorded the event on her camera, but getting those photos from her memory card into my computer has proved to be problematic.  Anyway, the sunflowers were sort of an experimental thing here at the farm, from the planting with our old corn planter to the cultivating and the harvest.  We did get some sunflower seed and a fair bit landed on the ground for the wild critters to enjoy.  Rollie and Kevin now have an idea about how the combine works with this crop, and next time will go better.  The pigs (yep, they are still with us) are getting to eat most of the seed.  What's left will get mixed into the does' kibble.

Rollie is not only our farmhand, but our handyman too.  He hung this door on the winter coop recently... I really like it and the old door was disintegrating anyway.   It came from friend Leslie's house... I thank you both, Rollie and Leslie, and so does my poultry!
Pretty snazzy door for a chicken coop, and it lets in a lot of light.  Someday I am going to get the shutter put back together...  maybe...

I have taken advantage of the weather to be able to harvest what is left in the garden when I have time to, instead of having to try to do everything at once.  The carrots are now all dug and put away and the beets are dug (but not put away).  I'm still eating kale and swiss-chard in my salads and will continue to do so until it's buried. This weekend I got the trellises down and worked on removing the cornstalks.  Not quite done with that project yet. 

In the greenhouse, the tomato plants continue to amaze me.  I pruned them back again this weekend... I cannot imagine what it would be like in there if I hadn't done any pruning at all...could I even get in the door?  Is it worth it for the few tomatoes I am getting out of there?  Maybe, just for the "wow" factor.
Not as good as ripened in the garden, but WAY better than the tasteless tomatoes offered at the store in town.
So, I have a new bird to show you.  I like to keep around thirty chickens in the winter coop over the cold season.  Because of the dog losses and a couple of deaths, the census out there is a little low.  My cousin Richard was nice enough to part with four of his birds, and two of them are Dark Cornish.  
I am quite taken with these hens.  Their sleek feathers, russet with black penciling are just beautiful.  Their body shape is a little different that my usual heavy layers, more primitive looking.  They have pea-combs, which adds to their exotic look.  This one just might get a name.

So, a pretty long post.  Enough for now I think   One or both of us will be back next week.  Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Be well friends.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The hunt begins

Hello everyone, You have Kevin posting tonight.  Debby will be back (after hunting season) to tell you about chickens and such, but is letting me have a turn at the blog.  She says I have to warn folks right away that there are dead deer pictures below.

This opening weekend we had a group of 7 hunters, Rollie, Kurt, Kori, me, Cousin Tim and his son Nick and my friend and coworker Mike.

The Department of Natural Resources tells us that our deer numbers are way down, but they must not have spent any time in the woods at Ole Lake Farm.  Between Saturday and Sunday we have seen over 40 deer.  Every member of the group has seen a minimum of 4.

We have a first time hunter in Nick this year and opening morning he shot his first deer from the stand we call the "Big House".  I think more first deer have been shot out of that stand than any other on the property, including both Kurt and Kori a long time back.  Here is a picture of Nick and his first deer.

Nick's dad Tim is back hunting at Ole Lake Farm for the first time in about 10 years or so.  He kept saying "all I want is for Nick to get a deer, I don't care if I get anything".  Well that is all good to say until an 8 point 175 lb buck walks out; he was pushing Nick out of the way to get to the gun, and here is a picture of Tim with his first BUCK ever! .

Saturday morning I was sitting on a stand watching state land that had been logged off last fall.  After sitting about an hour a deer walked out in front and for the longest time I thought it was a doe because I could not see any antlers, until he wiggled his ears and showed me little spikes.  And here is a picture of my buck.

Today Mike and Kurt filled the two antlerless tags we had, so for the 7 hunters we have 5 deer ready to start cutting up.  Once again we have had a very good opening weekend with some very tasty venison ready for great meals through the winter.  Next weekend my brother Kent and nephew Kellen will be here, so stay tuned for my next week's report

Good night and be well everyone.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November begins

So, here it is after 9:00 Sunday evening and I want to get out a blog, but I'm tired and bed is calling.  Once again, you are getting the condensed version of life at Ole Lake Farm. 

You would think that we would be slowing down a bit now, but not so... not yet.  The sunflowers are still waiting to be harvested (delayed yet again because of an ill-timed rain shower) and I still have a lot do out in the garden.  Wood cutting & hauling is always going on.  Kevin is also getting geared up for Deer Season which begins next Saturday.

I'm pretty happy to have pretty much all of the apples cooked up into sauce; finished that today and hope to get that canned tomorrow evening.  There are still squash and pumpkins to take care of, and out in the garden still some carrots, beets and cabbages. I'm also still eating kale and chard from out there.

The pigs are still with us for a few more weeks, so Kevin and Kurt ground feed today; it gets to be a pretty dusty job.

The hens are hopefully nearing the end of their molt.  The pullets are starting to lay now, thank goodness.

This is one of my older hens, not a pullet, but I just like the picture...
Ranger moved into the main goat area in the pole barn to step up his romance with Echo and Vinca.  Daisy and Forest moved out to the bachelor quarters for a while.  I have dried Daisy up and she is retiring so she will not be dallying with Ranger anymore. 
Daisy and Forest were not thrilled with the move, but they are adjusting

One last thing, non-farm related.  Last weekend was the Cross Lake Monster Dash.  I dressed up as Frost and Kori helped with the make-up.  I had a good time, but ended up with a rather painful calf so no running for me for a couple of weeks.  Anyway, for those of you who like to see me looking silly, here you go:

So I'll hopefully be back next week with a successful hunting report and farm update.  Until then, be well folks.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 25, 2015

Instead of a regular post, this blog is observing a sort of "moment of silence" in memory of Aitkin County Deputy Steve Sandberg, who was shot and killed one week ago.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Changing of the guard

This post is dedicated to Javier.  He is gone now, and Diego is the new man-bird of the coop.  

Javier was a Good rooster.  Not because he was a handsome fellow, which he certainly was.  Not just because of his egg fertilizing skills which were considerable.  Not only because of his excellent guard duty skills in the chicken yard.  Javier was a Good rooster because he was not a Bad rooster.

Bad roosters are the ones you cannot turn your back on.  Bad roosters are not welcome here, and do not last long.  

Javier was a Good rooster.  He called the hens with a special cluck when there is something especially toothsome to eat.  He would pick up an item, then it drop in front of a favored hen to gobble up, much as a mother hen does with her chicks.  He was ever vigilant for signs of threats, scanning the sky and ground for anything that might have been a cause for concern.  When he was even the slightest bit suspicious, he sounded a warning, sort of a heads- up alert to the rest of the flock.

It might seem kind of funny to get sentimental about a bird, just one of the flock, but I miss him.  Farewell to a good bird. 

The 11 cockerels that have been residing in the winter coop since the end of may are now in the freezer.  I accompanied them to Wellspring Farm yesterday where they ceased to be chickens and became just chicken.  Last year I was able to drop my birds off and drive away, coming back to pick them up later all neatly plucked and packed in ice.  This year, I was asked to help.  

To be honest, I would have rather spent the day in my dentist's chair than participating in this activity.  But, to use a saying borrowed from friend Leslie, I put on my big girl panties and just did it.  They have a great set-up for this, an outdoor, open air abattoir.  I was quickly shown what to do, and I did it.  And I'm glad it's done.

  The pigs were moved again today, and a pretty good distance.  They are now right up by the shed so an electric heater can be added to their waterer.  The picture here is of Kevin, Kurt, and myself moving them along.  They are inside a triangle made of 2 gates and a fence panel, and it really works well.  They will be with us just a few more weeks.

So, another week gone by.  Until next time, be well you all.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Alien Invasion

They're back.... a very unwelcome insect, Asian something or other Beetles.  They are everywhere outside and a few have made their way into the house.  They stink, they bite. I won't say much more about them other than YUCK!

Thursday after work I came home to this:

Rollie working the excavator and Ardis providing an extra pair of eyes and guidance.  The trench from the stove to the house took just a few hours with this handy machine.
Older boy, bigger sandbox, and that's no Tonka Toy but...

When Kevin got home, the waterline was muscled into the trench, and the trench was filled in again.

On Friday, Rollie and his handy friend Kermit (who also was the lender of the excavator) hooked it all up and the house is warm.  Thank you so much fellas!

And now for some critter pictures:
Diego has matured considerably since you've seen him last.

And the pigs have really grown!
Mickey posed for a minute for me with our new star, a gift from A&R which will be moving to the back of my garden shed (so toward the road) soon.

And last, one of the curious cockerels.
It was a beautiful weekend.  I hope you all enjoyed it too, wherever you are.  Until next time, be well.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dog(s) Gone Weekend

I wish I could figure out where the hours go...

We finally have our frost and fall weather.  It's been very nice actually, but brisk at times.  
Spot spends a lot of her time laying in this sunny spot by the garden. 
I'm doing what you would expect this weekend... making more tomato sauce (almost the last), cooking up squash and pumpkins, freezing peppers, etc.  Kevin moved the pigs and goats paddocks as he does most weekends.  The pigs new quarters are located in the pumpkin patch.  I wish I had caught a photo of us moving them... Kevin enclosed them into a triangle of three metal gates and with the help of Kurt and myself, we just shuffled them along. 

Kevin is working on a pretty big project, which is putting in new waterline from the outdoor furnace to the house.  This is actually two lines, one to run the really hot water from the furnace to the house to be circulated around through the rooms, and another to return the cooled water to the furnace to be reheated.  The two lines are encased in a protective foam layer and then plastic.  Step one was to rip up part of the deck and dig down along the basement wall to where this needs to go through.  Step two was making a new hole in the poured concrete wall... pretty hard work!  Kevin decided the hole needed to be the size of a Folgers can, so that is what it is currently plugged with.

The opening in the deck and the new hole... pretty cramped quarters for digging, drilling, and chiseling.
The inside view, plugged by the coffee can.
I think the next step is digging a trench... stay tuned.

The title of this post is referring to a couple of lost dogs.  Here is the abbreviated story:  We woke up in the night either late on Friday or very early on Saturday to barking.  Two dogs were here and were looking for something to eat and seemed to want in the house.  They were very nice hunting dogs and we assumed (incorrectly as it turned out) that they had gotten lost when out hunting on the state land behind us.  We put the word out that we had a couple of found dogs.

These were really nice dogs.  There was just one problem, and a pretty major one.  The young dog just didn't know better and before we knew it got into the chicken pen and injured a hen so badly that Kevin had to put it down.  I reinforced the gate, but this morning he found a weak spot in the fence and I lost three more of my gals, including two of my new pullets.  I know he didn't know better but that doesn't make me feel any better about it.

The story has a happy ending,  for the dogs anyway.  Turns out they belongs to some folks who live about three miles away, but not that far as the crow flies.  They are now back home where they belong.

So, anyway, that was our weekend.  Be well folks, and keep your gates latched tight and fences in good repair.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Late September

Amazing, but we have had no frost yet!  Patchy frost is in the forecast however, so I had better get the rest of the tomatoes and peppers picked.

So, no blog last week.  Sunday evening I thought about it, but didn't really have much to say... almost could repeat the previous week and didn't have any cute critter photos to share. 

I'm still doing much of the same things... making tomato sauce and cheese.  I have gotten the Jacob's Cattle Beans picked but not shelled and the onions pulled and in the garage.  This was Flowers Funny Farm weekend which is a Boy Scout event that takes place here every year.  The boys came up to the house from their campsite on the other side of the woods to the south and picked the pumpkins.  They sell the pumpkins to earn money for events like camp.  This was a good incentive for me to get out and pick my pumpkins and squash, since they are in the same patch.  Plenty of pumpkins for pie and muffins, but not as many squash as I would have liked.

Pumpkins for the Scout families to pick up
the overflow area

2 kinds of pie pumpkins and 3 kinds of squash

Something new for me was making Pepper Jelly.  Since discovering the delights of goat cheese with Pepper Jelly on wheat crackers, I have been buying the stuff at the farmer's market.  I do like to support the folks there too, but since I have a good supply of peppers this year, it seemed like a good idea. I used the Surejell recipe and it turned out well, at least the first batch did.  I now have two batches done and I'm not sure the batch I made today is setting up right.   As I type this my hands are still feeling the heat and it's been several hours.  I think washing the dishes has intensified the burn.  Yeah, I know, I should wear gloves... but I'm just not a glove wearing kind of gal.

Tasty and pretty too!
One more picture of the tomatoes in the greenhouse.  I pruned them some today, heaping vines in the wheelbarrow to overflowing.  I transplanted a few lettuce plants in there around the bottom of the plants.
up to the roof and then some!

Still to do... dig potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbages, and whatever else is out in the garden still, pick apples (and make applesauce), clean up the garden, harvest the cornmeal corn (not yet though), clean out the chicken coops... and that's just my list... you should see Kevin's!  He has the big jobs!

A quick animal update... pigs are happy, young roosters are about 3 weeks away from the freezer, hens still aren't' laying very well, the does are still milking, but a little less now, and Ranger is even stinkier!  Cats are good and there is a stray around from time to time. 
ForestRanger were very interested in what the Scouts were doing with the pumpkins, but the kids were more interested in visiting the less odorous animals... like the pigs!

Anyway, there you go.  I'll be back with a new blog next week, or maybe in two again.  Until then, be well friends!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A New Good Thing

If you visit my garden it will pretty obvious that I like rusty stuff. 

I used to be very interested in ornamental gardening, still am I guess.  On my bookshelves are many flower gardening and design books, and although I do not have the time for many flowers any more, my current vegetable garden has been influenced by this interest.  I like structure and I like rustic.  So I am tickled with my new tuteur.
tuteur... A four-sided pyramid- or obelisk-like trellis designed to train climbing plants.

This is something I've had in my head for quite a few years.  When Matt Hurd started bringing welded garden art to the Farmers Market in Aitkin, I just had to ask him if he could make it form me.  He did, and it is perfect.  I LOVE it!  I have all winter to decide how fit it in to the garden.

Otherwise, a usual fall weekend around here.  We dodged a frost-bullet Friday night and the weather has been grand.  I cooked up and canned more tomato sauce; Kevin did some field work.  We ground feed for the critters.  Kevin moved ForestRanger's house and paddock, as he does every weekend so they have fresh grass.  Thank goodness they are getting further from the house as Ranger is getting even more stinky.  As you can see in the photo, they are close to the road, so passersby would be well advised to keep their windows rolled shut!

That's about it.  See you next time and thanks for stopping by the blog.  Be well all.