Sunday, December 22, 2013


The weather says it is 63 degrees in Kutztown right now.  Except in our little valley it is 50 degrees by the house and along the stream.  Then when you walk up any hill you hit a wall of 60+ degree temperatures. And the fog is incredible. Of course, the weather only says it is cloudy out.
From the upper pasture you can see the fog in the valley. Our house is down there somewhere.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snow fun

Three snow storms in one week.  Lots of snow outside. Sledding time!
Our property is mostly hills, we are in a little valley with the stream running through the lowest part. Should be some good sledding.
The goats liked watching the girls sledding. Or maybe they were just waiting to get fed.

Of course we had more trees fall out of the game lands today.  About 4 or 5 are laying across the old road and into the upper pasture.

Just what we need, more firewood!  Here is a picture of our current wood pile.
We probably have enough right now for three seasons.  Guess we need to figure out something else to do with all this wood.
And here are some pretty pictures of the snow.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


We had snow followed by ice on Sunday and into the night, then 3 inches of snow on Tuesday, and more forecast for Saturday.  I hope enough sticks around for Christmas.
The snow does make some things easier.  Maddy and I used an old sled to take the hay out to the goats.
Of course, if there was no snow on the ground I would have just driven my Forester down to the goats.
But look at the pretty view from my kitchen sink!
Everything looks prettier with a coating of snow.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 5th and still gardening

Crazy weather! The end of November was frigid and today the high temperature is supposed to reach 61 degrees. And its lightly drizzling; the perfect weather to transplant iris.
The iris tubers were growing in an area overgrown from the bank of the old road and where Hurricane Sandy knocked over the white lilac bushes.
I dug out what I could find and planted it in the beds out front.
These iris, if I remember correctly, are a pretty pale blue.  I am hoping the are happy in their new location.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Its Popcorn!

I decided to grow corn in the garden this summer.  It seems that corn has a place in a proper crop rotation and I could use the husks for tamales.  I decided to try popcorn.  Today I finally tried it.
The variety I grew was supposed to be pink. The corn silk was pink but the kernels are definitely not pink.  They may have cross pollinated with the Bantam corn that I planted 2 weeks later but still overlapped a little in tasseling.
But it pops! And it tastes like popcorn!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Moving red raspberries

It feels like a never ending job, moving all these raspberries.  I am finally getting the red raspberries out of the garden.  On Saturday Alan scooped the sod off of a trench and loosened up the soil a bit using his new tractor, boy that thing is sure coming in handy.  Sunday I transplanted approximately 70 plants from the vegetable garden to their new home near the fall gold raspberries that I transplanted last spring.
The white is ashes from the woodstove.
The chickens had a great time helping me dig up the raspberries.  They have the run of the garden right now in hopes that they will greatly reduce the chigger population there.
The red raspberries did fairly well in their over-run patch where I could hardly reach half of the plants for harvesting.  I definitely like the red raspberries taste the best.  I hope they like their new location and extra care and give us a good crop next summer.  They will certainly be easier to harvest in their new location.  Only one problem though, I only removed about half of the plants from the garden.  Anyone want any red raspberry plants?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ewww, Stink bug poo

We, along with many in eastern PA, had a huge number of stink bugs this past year.  I have had to clean up quite a bit of stink bug poo inside the house.  But the siding on either side of the front door was the worst. 
Our siding is old aluminum which has been painted.  Warm water with detergent and a scrub brush wasn't enough; I needed to add a little bleach as well.  Even then, if you look closely, you can still see the marks.
But overall the porch, and while I was at it I washed the rest of the front of the house, looks so much better. Now I will feel better about putting up Christmas decorations.
We've been discussing what type/color of siding to put on the house. Is there a color called "Stink bug poo brown"?????

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sometimes good things don't come to those who wait

Way back in January I wrote this post about Thai Pumpkin Custard.  I tracked down the seeds and planted them in late spring, watched them grow throughout the summer and finally harvested the squash.  Next I had to find the recipe again, and yesterday I made the dish.

First, you have to clean out the pumpkin.  This went pretty much like cleaning out a jack o'lantern.
Then you mix up the filling of eggs, coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla. The hardest part of the whole process was configuring a steamer.
I learned a lot and if I make this again I would change quite a few things.  For example, the recipe says not to cover the pumpkin, and to now look in the pot for 55 minutes.  Well, 55 minutes is a long time to wait to find out that the top of the custard is now full of steam that has condensed and falled onto the top of the pumpkin.
Also, the picture in the magazine has beautiful white custard.  My chickens' yolks are so orange there is no way they would keep the custard white.
The taste was pretty good, just not sure if it worth the work. I think I would like to try the custard in cups baked in a water bath.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The old apple trees

Despite their lack of care this year, our two apples trees gave us close to a bushel of apples.  I pruned them drastically last March, but they need even more pruning.
Both trees have fallen way over and are being supported by their branches on the ground. These branches on the ground made it very difficult to keep the grass cut underneath the trees. And are probably a nice highway up the tree for insects as well.
The first tree, closest to the house, fell over in Sandy.  I am thinking of cutting and propping up as below in yellow.
The other tree, which started leaning many years before we moved here, has an even steeper lean. But the end result, I am hoping, could be the same.
This tree outperformed the other tree by at least 2:1 this year.  And we were happy with the taste of the apples so I think it is worth the effort to try to rejuvenate them. 

Fall clean-up

I have always loved fall.  But I don't love raking leaves.  One of my favorite tools around the yard this time of year is our trac-vac.  We bought it last year to help with the leaf clean up when we bought the new house. And it sure was useful.  I don't know if I could live here without it.
We cleaned up the entire yard in about 2 hours last weekend.  With rakes alone it would have taken all weekend, or at least all day.
The other great thing about the trac-vac is the processing it does.  It doesn't just suck up the leaves; it chops them up while cutting the grass and mixing in the grass clippings.  It makes the perfect combo of green to brown aka nitrogen to carbon needed for good compost.
We put the clippings in the garden last year and the chickens turned them into great compost and we are putting the girls to work again this year.

The chickens love to scratch around in the clipping/shredded leaves and their constant movement of the leaves helps to break them down nicely.  Get going girls!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Planning for a barn

One of the first projects for the new house is a barn.  We have had a cobbled together collection of temporary and portable structures for our animals and hay storage over the years so I am anxious to get a real barn.  Unfortunately, we can't afford to build what I really want:
I love old barns, but to replicate one is just not in the budget. So we will have to make a pole barn look as much like an old Pennsylvania German barn as possible.  I am hopeful that with the right basic structure I can get the new barn looking like it belongs on a Pa German farm. Adding older doors, big wrought hinges, old windows and aged hex signs should help.
Here are a few of the barns built by the company that came out this morning to look over the site and give us an estimate:
We will look at a couple other companies and, with cooperation from the weather, will have a barn by spring.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gardening with chickens-part II

I've been spending a lot of time in the garden catching up on all the things that didn't get done while we were focusing all our time and energy getting the old house sold.  And the chickens are helping me.
Here are my girls helping to clear the weeds from the garden. They, hopefully, are also eating up the chiggers as well.  The garden, particularly the red raspberry patch, was the worst place for getting bitten by chiggers.

I planted garlic and shallots today. The hard part will be keeping the chickens from digging them up.
Before I let the chickens into the garden space I fenced off the blueberry and gooseberry bushes.  I planted the garlic and shallots in front of the gooseberries and was able to move the fence around the garlic as well.  Although, after I put the straw bedding on the garlic the chickens came over and were trying to figure out how to get at the straw to start scratching around.
In other poultry news, our one remaining Mottled Java is moulting and looks so pathetic.
But all our old laying hens have a date with the butcher soon, along with our three remaining turkeys.

We had an owl problem and lost a bunch of turkeys and sold our breeders before they were eaten as well.  I hope to just have the nine new pullets and the three goats for the winter. And a busy winter it should be.  We are getting estimates on building a barn and fencing in the pastures.  Lots more to write about!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Bye Old House

It has been a while since the last post and in that time we finished all the details and staged the old house.  It was on the market for eight days when we reviewed the four offers we had received.  Settlement was supposed to be on October 8th but was pushed back, not with any input from us, until the 17th.  But the whole saga is over.  Buying a house is a whole lot more fun! Selling a house is not something I want to do again any time soon. It was definitely one of the most stressful things I have ever done. Too many sleepless nights worrying about the house, choosing the right realtor (I don't think we did), getting the house looking good for showings, having my gallbladder out in the middle of all this, and trying to pick the right offer.

But when we moved everything out on what we thought would be our last time in the old house, it was very bittersweet.  So many emotions going through my head, and then the tears started to flow.
Ahh, the memories.  Camping out and freezing our first winter as the water line from the well kept breaking under the driveway.  Cleaning out bags and bags of bat shit mixed with loose insulation from the attic. Huge plastic walls to keep kids out of construction areas.  Our oldest falling face first off his trike into the newly poured concrete for the chimney foundation. So many holidays.  Bringing our three youngest home from the birth center. First days of school, home schooling, back to school, my office for my schooling-a bachelor's and master's degrees.  So much music! It was a great house acoustically.

But we are on to a new project.  The grounds at our new house are my therapy.  Whenever I question why we moved I just walk around outside and the answer is all around me.
So back to the blog to continue chronicling  everything we are doing here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The tree finally fell

We thought the locust tree would finish falling when the predicted thunderstorms came through Saturday evening. So Alan took the fencing down from around the garden in the area where we expected the tree to fall.  Except, we never got the predicted thunderstorms. But the tree did finally fall down Monday morning, after a gentle rain. And we were close to predicting where it would fall, only off by about 8 feet.  It landed on my ready to be dug potatoes instead of the squash plants.
Now its time to clean up the mess.

Next step, dig up the potatoes, then put the fence back up! The adolescent turkeys are eying the garden!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Agricultural Vinegar

Agricultural Vinegar is 20% vinegar used for killing weeds.
We have been slacking on the new house maintenance and were in need of some weed killing on our patio.
It took some doing to finally get the vinegar, but within 8 hours of spraying, our patio now looks like this:
I'm sold!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid July garden update

The weather has been just about perfect for the garden, and the weeds.  My first attempt ever of growing corn seems to be going well.
Not quite as tall as an "elephant's eye" but above my waist.  I was worried about the corn in the field behind the house across the street pollinating my corn, but it is tassling now and should be pollinating way before my corn.  I am growing popcorn and a bantam corn.  I wouldn't have included corn in my garden but I want to make tamales and I want to know where my corn husks came from, and corn apparently has a place in crop rotation.  According to Eliot Coleman, potatoes do well in soil that grew corn the year before.  So we'll see next year how the potatoes do there.

Garlic is another thing I have never tried growing before.  I will definitely be planting more this fall.  It was super easy and the cloves look great.
The hard neck garlic has bigger cloves than the soft neck so I think I will plant more of the hard neck.

The squashes are enjoying all the hot weather with a regular rainfall.  The Boston Marrow has really taken off and I am looking forward to trying that squash for pumpkin pie.
The spaghetti squash is also doing well.
The tomatoes have been hit or miss.  They don't like to be close to the walnut trees.  The plants farther away are doing much better.  Hopefully, I will have enough paste tomatoes to can.
When we were looking at houses one important consideration was firewood.  Well, we don't need to worry about firewood here.  It just seems to come to us.  In the past month we have had at least 5 trees fall down, the majority of which are black locusts.  According to the internet, black locust is second only to hickory in BTUs and it makes little ash.  I don't think we will need to worry about firewood for a long time, as long as the game land keeps sending us trees,
Unfortunately, there is a very tall black locust leaning towards my garden.  I am hoping it will wait till everything is harvested before falling.  Some other large branches came down onto my black raspberries just as they were ready for picking.
Yes, there are raspberries under there.
This is a picture of the big locust leaning towards the garden.

Looks like when it finally falls we will be fixing fencing on both sides of the garden.