Sunday, April 24, 2011

planting these ones . . .

I normally don't respond to mail campaigns for donations.  I am a little, really a lot, skeptic that even a dime goes to the actual cause.  But a few weeks ago I got a letter from the Arbor Foundation that wanted a minimal donation of only eight dollars.  Even when they are minimal like that, I don't respond.  I like helping people or organizations out where I can see where the money has helped them, not being used to pay a WHOLE bunch of people who sit behind a desk to solicit more funds.
On this occasion they send me 10 flowering trees and 2 Lilac bushes.  I had dug the holes on Friday to plan out where I wanted to see some beautiful foliage in the future, then yesterday some of the children and I went about planting them.  Since it was a warm day, they went barefoot, AND got to dig in the dirt!  Does it get any better than that for a child?

 The trees that came were color marked so we were able to tell the difference between them.  And they were really small.  It will be several years before we get to see the fruit (the beautiful spring buds) of planting these ones.  In a week or so I will be receiving the 11 fruit trees I ordered, and the 30 raspberry bushes that will be adorning the small patch of woods next to the house.  I am excited to get, and plant them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

pork roast, pork shoulder, pork loin . . .

I brought the pig back from the butcher shop today.  And for some strange reason, I was a little giddy.  Like a boy with a new toy!  Only in this case, a man with a processed pig.  :)

The shop called yesterday and said they were finished sorting it out and packaging it.  The final numbers went like this.  2/3 of the total weight is known as the "dressing weight."  Dressing weight was 234 pounds.  The way the shop figured his "live" weight was to divide the dressing weight in half, then multiply it by 3.  So that is 117 x 3 = 351 pounds.  Based on my measurement calculations, he weighed 344 pound.  I was really close to the weight they said he probably was.

I ended up with 170 pounds of pork cut in pieces like pork roast, pork loin, shoulder, and pork side to name a few.  I also brought the fat home for Ildi to render for her and the girls to use in their cooking.  YUM!

With $242 of feed in him, and about $150 worth of processing charge, that came out to about $2.30 per pound for a freezer full of meat.  For our first attempt at raising our own meat . . . I am one happy camper!  I had the younger boys and Amory help me put it in the basement kitchen freezer.  Next thing on the food list is chicken.  Today I ordered 50 chicks that starts our spring chicken raising season.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

more farm skills


Since it is now officially spring, we have the great pleasure to get out in the garden and start the planting for this year.  And this year, the peas we planted the other day are going to have a new look.  We cut some branches off the "down" wood in the woods, and then plugged them into the ground for a trellis of sorts.  And a pretty, natural kind of trellis at that!  I love natural looking, functional things.



And to the city slicker, we looked like pros taking the pig into the butcher shop tonight.  To the farmer . . . we looked like what we really are . . . GREEN at it all!

Our pig reached the grand scale weight of about 344 lbs so it was time to take him to the market.  That weight, plus I had already put close to $250 worth of feed in him.  The trip to the butcher shop started the other day with putting a hitch on the van.  Which  didn't work.  So we "phoned and friend" who helped us out with his truck.  Along with the borrowed truck, and the borrowed trailer, we coaxed the pig to the end of the barn, and with lots of help, and using some old futon bed frames, got him in the trailer with relative ease.  I was quite impressed with the children and their help.

For those that want to know how to weigh a pig that you can't actually pick up, you simple follow the string (or flexible tape measure) method.  Measure the distance from between the ears to the tail.  Then measure around the heart girth right behind the front legs.  Multiply the hearth girth, times the heart girth, times the length and divide by four hundred.  For example, if the measurement of your pigs length is 53, and the heart girth is 48, then the math would look like this . . . 48 x 48 x 53 = 122,112.  Then divide that number by 400. It goes like this . . . 122,112 / 400 = 305.28  At that point, you can estimate that your pig weighs around 300lbs!  Once you get over 300 lbs, this way tends to over estimate the weight by a few pounds.  As well, if the pig is under 50 lbs, it will tend to underestimate the weight a slight bit.

All this to say that we will have some choice cut pork in the freezer in the next couple of days that averaged us around $1.74 a pound, and a whole new set of farm skills.

Friday, April 1, 2011

growing food in hard times . . .

My newest art venture is the barn quilt I am working on for my barn.  I have always been fascinated with quilting patterns, and have done several projects in and outside the classroom with designs notable on quilts.  This one is a 4' x 5' piece of plywood that was on the property when we moved here.  It was one of two signs that advertised the family's antique and dried flower business.  The other sign I used as a giant chalkboard in front of the farm to write notes on.  The design on this sign has a pattern on a 4' x 4' section in the middle of the board.  I added the words BARN on the top and QUILTS on the bottom 6" sections in hopes that I can conjure up some barn art business.  I am hoping that this launches a whole new idea to people of how to display art on the outside of buildings.  Barn Quilts are recognizable art for people who who want to adorn their barn with art. To me, that is just the start!

 Today we started the groundwork for two new sections for the garden.  I first started by putting some recycled concrete in places to mark out the garden spot.  Next, I mowed it down as far as could to get most of the grass and weeds clipped off.
 After the mowing was complete, I had the boys help in spreading some of the barn manure on the area; a great way to clean out the barn, and to add matter to the soil to make it more fertile.  My next step is to add some COF materials (complete organic fertilizer) and then we will be ready to plant.  It will be another few weeks before we put anything out but we are getting ready now since the weather is so nice outside.  I am currently reading "Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food In Hard Times" by Steve Solomon and am motivated to try gardening in a different way.
 
 These two new plots adds 3000 more square feet to our garden.  In total, this year we will try to keep up on 9000 square feet of garden space.