Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Way of Things

I couldnt say it better than Robert Frost

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is way in ours. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Started a small batch of kimchi.... mostly from our own garden grown veggies....
Cabbage, green and red
And store bought ginger and habanero and daikon radish.

Add nice sea salt, pound it all to release moisture, then let sit for a few hours to allow even more moisture to release.  Then simply pack tightly into quart jars, top off with brine if needed, and let ferment for a few days to a week.  It will be ready to eat then, but can sit in the jar in the frig or cool cellar for months...

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Never Ending Task

Clearing brush is a constant chore. The forest is continuously trying to take over the open spaces, and diligence is required to keep pastures clear. Vines, weeds , weed trees, thorns... they all love to take root and take over.
Since this maintenance had not been done here for a number of years, we are having to play catch up.
Today I spent about five hours working on clearing a steep hillside that was severely overgrown.  The chickens were pastured on part of the hill and definitely helped ... but it still required loppers and garden shears... the weedwhacker would not cut through the heavy stuff so it was all by hand.  Only the trees too large for me to cut with loppers are left.
Now this whole hillside can be mowed. A good days work I say!

 And after..
Looking down the hill

Looking back up

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Water Woes

So..... we are having water troubles for the last week or two.
A combination of events, a sort of perfect storm of circumstances, created conditions that caused the problem.

The natural spring that feeds the house with water is situated in the forest uphill from our house.  I have sketched what the spring housing looks like with the lid off.  It is just a brick and concrete cistern of sorts, about 4 feet deep, surrounding the natural spring which flows from underground.  The cistern has a brick wall dividing it in half.    This wall allows the spring water, which bubbles up from underground, to fill up the uphill side of the dividing wall to about 3 feet deep.  Then, water flows from this reservoir into pipes that travel downhill to our house.
Its been used as the water supply for more than 200 years.

What we believe happened is that seasonal low water levels in the spring, coupled with a few small leaks that developed in that brick dividing wall, allowed the water level in the reservoir to drop to only a few inches deep,  exposing the pipes which feed our house.  We have been hearing glug glug noises for a week or so.  So, not only was little or no water now flowing through our pipe, but this allowed air, and silt or debris to get into the line, which normally would be several feet underwater.  Besides the glug glug noise, we discovered a live salamander in the filter ! This was the main clue that something was really amiss, but thank goodness for filters, huh?  That little guy was able to crawl into the exposed line... must have been a fun ride downhill to the filter!  Weeeeeee.... !

So, we have plugged and repaired the leaks, but there is evidently something still clogging the line.  It could be just air in the line, or some *Thing*.  It is slow work, as the reservoir is filling v e r y slowly.   Once there is sufficient water in the reservoir, we will try again.

The guys took our generator on the tractor, and drove it up to the spring, hooked an air compressor to the generator, and blew out the line from the top.  It took awhile, but finally water is flowing! Woohoo!!  I had to man the hose in our basement, to monitor things if water began to run through, and put the hose into our overflow pipe so we didnt flood the cellar... nothing really came through except a very little silt and a few leaves, so it was probably airlocked (not some bloated dead frog which is what I was fearing). But finally clear water is flowly at about 5 gallons a minute....
You dont know how wonderful running water is, until you dont have it!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015


It comes in whispers, this autumn thing.
When suddenly the leaves are piled against the barn in golden mounds, stirring with the breeze. Or floating, floating down from treetop heights, spiraling softly across the grass.
The colors fade; the skeletons of empty trees reveal the backbone of distant ridges.
Everything is slowly sliding into gray.
It brings a respite from the labor of the harvest.  The implements of summer are stored and locked away. A few gentle days of rest, songs of thankfulness for what the earth has provided.

But also a foreboding.  The earth is letting go and giving in.  Winter looms.
So I gather the vines, and twist them into an unruly circle, hang them on the door, and sigh. A tribute to the end of things.   Is this why they are called Bittersweet?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Horse Dreamin'

Maybe next year.....


I think sunflowers are attractive even when they are brown and faded.  These are drying on the front porch rocking chair and bench, to be tossed to the chickens this winter.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Burning Brush

Today was a bit rainy and mostly calm winds, so it was a good day to burn a large brush and debris pile. The old shed we demolished made a big part of the pile.

 You didnt think the geese would miss out on this excitement, did you?
 Lighting up...
 Good flames

Slowly burning down.  It will probably smolder till at least tomorrow....

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Frost Protection

Supposed to get super cold.  I decided to pull anything in the garden that might be killed by the frost, and take steps to protect the few things that might survive it.
So I pulled carrots, celery, and turnips, and then created some quick hoops to protect things like lettuce, spinach, and kale.
 A wheelbarrowfull of produce.
I then had to figure out what to do with all this! I began by cutting off carrot tops from carrots, and also turnip greens from turnips... the celery will take a long time to clean and store, so i put it all in a bucket of water to hold it .
Rabbits get the carrot tops, we get the turnip greens. In fact, they got cooked for supper with a few chopped turnip bits...yummy.

Generally speaking, the cellar isnt cold enough to store these root crops yet, so i still have to figure a temporary solution till cold temps are here to stay.  I dont know about you, but we dont have room in our frig for 40 pounds of root crops and five gallons of celery... i will have to get creative.

For the things that are left, i made hoop houses and covered them with plastic.  Even the chicken coop got some plastic covering on its side wall.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Soap and Shampoo

Soap and shampoo bars curing. They need to sit about a month before using.
Made a batch of soap and a batch of shampoo bars, as we were just about out.  For our own soap, I dont bother trying to make them pretty, just functional. And a nice essential oil for fragrance helps too.
I have stopped using any commercial products on our skin, since they contain all sorts of chemicals , all of which are absorbed through your skin.  I figure we have plenty of exposure to toxins without purposefully putting them all over ourselves.  These soaps only contain natural oils like coconut and olive, and the potassium hydroxide necessary to saponify the oils into soap. You can also use hardwood ashes(potash), but thats a bit more work.  Making soap isnt difficult, it doesnt take long, you have control over what goes into them, and its kinda fun.

Plus, its way cheaper than buying them.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Walk About

I walked around the core homestead today to take some photos. I basically did a circle around the barn and garden areas.
 I step out the door and walk across the driveway.
 Up the slope in the horse paddock to the grand old oaks..
 To my right is the barn
 Ahead is the boundary stone wall.
 Behind me is the house.
 And the old and new barn.
 Walk down a little and see the horse stalls and ramp on this side of the barn.
 Walk a little further and look back towards the barn and house.

I walked down past the White House . We still dont know what to do with it.  Right now it is storage.  If it had plumbing, it could be a tiny guest cottage.

 I am outside the paddock area looking back.

 To my right is the north side of the barn and woodshed.

And in front of me is the back garden where we just moved the chickens. I just had a load of manure put here and they are tilling it all in for me.  Free labor.
 In front is the pasture.  I am going to walk downhill and around to the right. I will stay on this side of the pasture.
 At the botom of the hill i turn right. We are in process of clearing underbrush  in a thick stand of trees. You can see where we have and have not done any clearing in this photo.
 A little further and i am past the stand of trees and down in our little orchard. Two tiny apple trees and two larger pear trees are in view.
 If i look back up the hill, i can see the house.
 To my left, though not clear in this photo, is the run off from the spring.  Its running slow right now.
 Now i will start back up this steep hill.
 In this pic is a good example of chicken clearing. On the left is where chickens were pastured. On the right is what it looked like before. They ate up all the weeds.
 Here is our new fence.
 And ahead is the barn.

 To my right is the garden area and the geese and goat pens.
 Walking back up to the driveway, which, by the way, just got repaved.
 Through the stone wall by the old garage.
 And back to where we started.

And the sun is glowing through the foliage.