Sunday, August 29, 2010

raising and growing . . .

There's starting to be a welcomed hint of Fall in the air the past few days. And milking time in the morning feels slightly chilly, the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up with a blanket outside with a hot cup of your favorite morning drink.

Speaking of hot, morning drinks, I have converted to drinking Tea in the morning instead of coffee. About a month ago I decided that the levels of coffee I was drinking was a little too high. And it seemed like after I had already had a couple of cups, I still wanted more coffee to drink. Over the years it has really bothered me to be "addicted" to something and feeling like I needed it in order to function. I sort-of felt that way with coffee. So, I decided to stop drinking it for some time to remind myself that it (the coffee) was not in control of me, instead, I was in control of whether I drank it or not. I had a small, annoying headache for a day or two, and then a week or two of not having the energy I have after having a few ounces of caffeine, but now I am back to feeling normal, without the need to have "another" cup. And the Tea in the morning has been nice.

Our home business of providing eggs for folks has picked up, and we have gained a couple of steady customers. It is interesting to have people come to the farm for food and be a store of sorts for their shopping. And a couple of weeks ago I sold some chickens we raised, and word has been getting out that we have poultry for sale. One couple, who has made it over now a few times to buy eggs, are now wanting to get eggs, chicken, and some other raw unprocessed items that we are raising and growing here. It gets me motivated thinking about possibly having a healthy, grocery type of store here on the farm!

These are our new, two week old chicks already outside in the movable chicken house. These birds will be on that grocery store shelf in six weeks.

Another big change has happened around here with the animals that live with us. We have recently found homes for all nine of the coon puppies our hound had, and have acquired three more horses to the place. It is beautiful to see horses on the pastures running together and it has been a great time for the children to each have a horse to ride. Two of them are on a semi permanent loan and one of them is a visiting horse being weened from her foal.

And our garden continues to grow . . .

Saturday, August 21, 2010

jumping . . .

Lady (and Nolan) jumping again. Both the horse and the rider are getting better at it!

back to school . . .

Well . . . summer break is coming to a close. That means school/work starts again!

For years now people have asked me if I like going back to school after the summer break. As well, they have said things like "Aren't you going to miss staying home . . . " and "Are you READY for school to start?" It it really interesting how throughout the years my attitude has changed about work at home and away.

For the most part I keep quite a simple attitude about going back to school after the summer break. I am here when I am here, and when school starts, I am there. No emotion, no attitude, no wishing something different. It is what it is. When school starts I am happy to go and teach and enjoy the friendships I am making professionally. I spend time training students to become productive citizens. And I make lots of artwork!

I never spend time "counting down" the days until time off is over. That is a waste of energy and can be quite depressing. I don't "wish" it was Friday so I could get home for the weekend. I don't HURRY UP to relax! I just take each day as it comes . . . enjoy it, and be as productive in it as possible (minus the days that I am purposely lazy!)

So, am I ready to go back to work . . . well, not today, but Monday I will be! :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

learning to jump . . .

Nolan in his first few attempts to jump lady. He made a jumping pole out of PVC pipe and built a couple of stands for it. For this, he has the pole set at two feet high. She's made it over it a couple of times. This is one of her misses.

working with what you have . . .

My dad was full of ideas and built all sorts of gadgets for himself to do his work. He was a machinist and worked with his hands all his life, and he came up with some REALLY useful ingenious devices. One creative idea that I learned from my dad was this dust-blowing tube that keeps your work clean while you work. Since I use the scroll saw tons, I needed something that would blow the dust away while I worked so I could see the pencil lines on the project I was working on. After years of blowing it off with a puff of breath (and nearly passing out) I rigged up a tube that is attached to the arm of the saw using a wire. Under the saw is a bulb syringe, attached to the tube, and being pumped from the movement of the arm. The result is the small puff of air that seems like a continuous stream to blow the dust off.

While I am at it, I'll share some more of the creative ways I am using some of the materials that I have found around the farm to a good purpose. First, there are my upcycled fencing that I am using as tomato cages. Out in the woods I have a metal/concrete graveyard. We call it the graveyard because all this junk/material was just put there to die. Anyway, I started to visit the graveyard and see if I could re-purpose some of the materials to a better use. Once old and dying, now new and usable. Ildi needed 80 cages made so I decided to use the rusted rolled up fencing to make them. I had originally thought to make them vertically, but then got inspired to try to work with their natural bend. They have sat in the woods for years rolled up. Here I cut them in the middle of the 13th and 14th square making sure to leave some wire to push in the ground. They naturally drape over the plant and have enough space for the plant to grow UP THROUGH the holes creating support for the blossoming plant. I am thinking that I might have to add a larger cage on top if the plants gets much taller. I have enough fencing to last a lifetime!

And these are my upcycled blocks of concrete turned garden markers. We have four paddocks of garden so I put 16 pieces, one on each corner, to mark out where the garden starts and ends. It also makes a nice border for mowing the grass next to the first rows.

I found some flat blocks and decided to make a patio of sorts outside my wood shop door. The step over the doorway was a little high so I put some sand down, added the concrete pieces as pavers, and then brushed sand between them much like you would do for a brick patio. I am in process of making the same thing on the back of the house for a patio. My goal is to let the grass grow up between them to give it all a cottage design look and feel.

Using the same kinds of blocks, the family has been enjoying some outside fire pit cooking as well. A few months ago I built the pit using the concrete, and lined the inside with really small stones. The blocks are movable so if I decide I want the fire pit elsewhere, I just move the pieces to the new site.

And lastly is our skid recycle bin. One skid on the bottom, four around the sides to create a great place to put scraps of plants, manure, and the occasional dead chicken or groundhog. On top I have my compost sifter that fits over top of my wheel barrel. I just heap a bunch of compost on it, shake it down, and then return the larger pieces for more decomposing time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

cut way down . . .

This is what the finished plucker looks like in action. And it WORKS! It was one of those things that was either going to work really well, or not at all. I am sure glad is was the former. And all of us are glad that the whole plucking time has been cut WAY down. The last time we butchered, the plucking of the birds was the most time consuming, and the most dreaded work of processing. Today, all of us stood around to watch the first bird lose it's feathers, and cheered! The whole bird was plucked in less than thirty seconds. That is one half of one minute . . . not ten minutes per bird.

And this is how squeaky clean the bird gets in a thirty second spin on the ClayBoss pottery wheel turned plucker. (although it gets altered a bit to pluck birds, it still functions as a pottery wheel)

Notice the happy young man carrying it in the screened-in room for the rest of the processing. Speaking of processes, it usually took us about three to four hours to finish 30 birds with me doing another three to four hours cleaning up the pin feathers and the "after" mess. Today, the first fifteen birds took us an hour and a half while we were getting used to another system of working together. After a short break, we grappled the other 14 birds in 45 minute! And that is with me doing NO MORE work inside. Talk about another happy man. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

the latest projects . . .

I love making art and appreciating the art that others make. One of those such artists is Rodney White, a creative man who's work I LOVE! His modern day inspirational paintings inspired me to create an inspirational painting of my own on my wood shop door. He does work reminiscent of the early 1900's works that were painted to advertise products of the day.

My wood shop, which is attached to the garage, has been the latest project of mine to get into order since we moved here. The room is a 15 x 20 area that has some old wheel and pulley systems (still in tact) that was used back in the thirties when the man who owned the farm did blacksmith work. I decided that it was going to become my workshop where I make all my wood products. Here I painted my Etsy slogan "Make Something Creative" on the door to the outside in a 20's poster style like Rodney does his work. This being the first of hopefully many creative doors to come in my home. I am thinking of painting all the doors in my basement in this style as well.

And speaking of making something creative, here is the next to last step of my HOMEMADE Chicken Plucker. The last butchering session reminded me that I did not want to spend hours plucking the feathers off of the thirty birds we butcher at a time. It got me thinking. Thinking I certainly didn't want to spend $600 to $1000 for a chicken plucker! In the morning after milking I have gotten in the bad habit of leisurely lying around in my big chair. Consequently, it has been a perfect productive think time for me and where I came across the idea to use some of the materials I already had to make a plucker of my own. This one, which I am not finished with yet and don't know if it will actually work, started off with my Clay brand potter's wheel and a plastic barrel my farmer friend gave me. I cut the top off the 55 gallon barrel and then manipulated it by cutting and getting the wheel to fit into the barrel without cutting too much of it away. This was the result. The lid is one I cut off a 35 gallon barrel earlier. I drilled two holes to attach it to the wheel, and my next step is to drill 3/4 inch holes to attach the KENT C25 fingers I bought from Herrick over at The Deliberate Agrarian. If I can get it done in the next day or two, it looks like a Friday night butchering time. :)

I thought I would also show you a little more of my finished wood workshop. This is the view toward the back of the space. Today Nolan did most of the work in assembling our new table saw. I say ours because two of my boys are old enough now to use power tools like this MasterForce Professional Grade 10 inch table saw. For years I have used other's saws, or just used a Skil saw with horses and a yardstick to do the work of a table saw. It was high time to get one of my own. And since my Etsy business has sky rocketed this summer, I decided to get a nice one that I could use and then hand down to my boys.

On an earlier post I mentioned that I like to burn things. Here's a picture Nolan captured of me on another one of my fun burns. I had quite a bit of old rotted wood that I had been piling up and added some of the MILLIONS of teasel weeds that we have here on our pastures. In addition, we added some of the weeds we've been pulling from the garden. It made a beautiful white smoke that wisped through the woods. You can notice me sitting in the hot sun only a few feet away from the pile enjoying the heat of it. Also in the picture you can see Macy's finished hip roof chicken mobile, and Nolan's finished chicken house in the back.

My discussion with Ben on how I want him to repair the fascia board on the south side of the Big Barn.

The Big Barn east facing roof almost complete.

The finished work . . . No more leaks! Years ago I never thought I would be happy to pay to have a roof put on a barn. But, this project has actually made me happy to invest in. The whole Ohio Bicentennial barn project is a part of Ohio history, and I am glad to now be part of the heritage of this historical time in Ohio's past. She's a beautiful barn!