Preparing for Spring Greenhouse

Seeds for Christmas and seeds not used last year put me way ahead of the game. Winter has not been nice though so there are repairs to do and changes inside to think about. I’m ahead of the game in other aspects though! I sterilized all of my pots, every last one of them, and that’s a big chore in the spring.

I love it when the seeds arrive.

Needs are few, including Pro Mix, new shade cloth, repair the roof and one window, and kill two sand briars that made it through the four-inch layer of gravel last summer and are still alive after scalding them with boiling water, spraying with vinegar and pouring salt water all around the base of the weeds. Nothing worked, they’re still alive!!! Those are hateful weeds!! Deciding on which heat system to use, when to actually start the growing processes and making a canning and freezing plan are things also on my mind every day that the sun is out.

Spring can’t get here soon enough!!

I’m still sifting through my seed catalogs for four new plants to try this year which is a project on my Bucket List. I know what vegetables we like and that do well here so the new plants will probably be in the form of flowers or herbs and I’m leaning towards the herb group.

I have lots of fruit and nut seeds that I’ll probably start first because they’re simple and quick to start. They are in the dormant, dark and cold area now to give them a good start. I got apple root stock and almond trees started and planted last year. This spring I’m leaning toward more apple, blueberries and hazelnuts, three of each. I’m not planting as much of this for 2023 because it does take up a lot of space and need to be watched just like anything else in the greenhouse. Of course, the big problem is I have all of these good intentions that seem to fly out the greenhouse doors once I get started!! I do love to play in the dirt and grow anything and everything!!!

2023 Hopes

I started the year with a Bucket List which so far is going well, and my daily planner keeps me on track. I also have so many “hopes” for this new year with the first month almost gone. Time sure flies when you’re almost 70 and when did that happen???

These are my top 20 hopes for 2023:

  1. A smile for everyone I meet and talk too, leave’em laughing is a good thought!!
  2. Visits to friends that never seems to get accomplished due to weather, pandemics, gas prices, time, and any other excuses that render themselves to me. I have six friends that live within 60 miles of me that I HOPE to see this year.
  3. A cure for Covid, cancer, and Alzheimer’s! That’s not too much to hope for when scammers can invade our lives!!! Is the cure already out there and big money is holding it back????
  4. To see our grandson at least four times this year and maybe even spend a week with us or his Dad. Every month is hoping too much with the busy lives of the parents but I’m so afraid he’ll forget us or grow up too fast which I know he is already doing!!!
  5. Hope that our granddaughter complete’s yet another degree/certificate in her field of education. Fifth graders love her and that tells me she knows what she is doing in her classroom.
  6. That nothing gets anymore of my fowl!!! Something got one of my ducks three days ago in the daylight hours. Predators are brazen and apparently hungry!! I’m left with a duck and drake and will miss those two eggs every morning from the ducks.
  7. To have a very impressive growing season in my greenhouse and garden. The cellar shelves need filling again.
  8. For a plan to stop ALL of the senseless killings in our country that can’t be entirely blamed on the guns. Guns don’t pull triggers by themselves.
  9. For my family to stay well and HAPPY! We ended the year with lots of sickness for the kids and grandkids.
  10. To complete the fencing in the pasture field that we started in December.
  11. To grow a bigger stack of firewood than we had this year. We’ve used over half of the pile and it was one of our biggest in a while. We forgot how cold and windy it can be but hasn’t for a couple years. Our worst weather months are coming up fast!!!
  12. To take care of me and my better half throughout the year with NO sickness or accidents.
  13. To have a very successful calving season with no losses!!!
  14. For our country to stop all the endless bickering and get something done like they were chosen to do. I DO NOT TOLERATE POLITICS AT ALL!!!
  15. To have a great fruit crop this year! No surprise frosts in May would be a very good thing.
  16. Hope to have a better relationship with my siblings!! The loss of our sister was huge!!!
  17. Hope for a successful maple syrup season, it’s looking better so far.
  18. To make our farm something our ancestors would be proud of.
  19. Hope for our economy to pull out of the mess it’s in without hurting our day to day living!!! We need to learn to take care of ourselves and our families without taking advantage with these increasingly outrageous price hikes in everything.
  20. Hope that our country will become more self reliant and not depend on other countries so much! Why can’t the big spenders use their affluence to bring back the factories to our country, pay our employees instead of other countries, and make it profitable for the company owners as well as our people!!!

That’s my rant for the day and hopes for the year!!! Good luck 2023!

Seasoning Firewood II

And the rest of the story. . .

We cut our firewood 6-9 months before we plan to use it so it can “season”. This means it needs to dry thoroughly before using it in your home woodstoves. After the would is split, we stack it on heavy plastic and let it air during the entire summer, only covering it when it’s calling for rain. Having it out in the open, facing north and west winds and at least 12=15 hours of sunlight on it helps it dry fast even when it’s stacked.

First load in 2021 and before it’s split to dry.

When the weather starts to change in the fall, we cover it with a 20 ft. x 60 ft. tarp. We place heavy logs around the bottom and slabs on the top to keep the tarp on as much as possible. The wind fights all winter and we do have a woodhouse to store it in, but it dries much better and faster outside in the sun. Any, if any, of the outdoor stack will be put in the woodhouse for following winters.

If not seasoned the creosote from wet wood will build up in your stove, stove pipe and the chimney and the result will be a major fire in the chimney that can burn your home down. Years ago, we had a flue fire that sounded like a freight train outdoors but was in our chimney. Luckily, I was home and called a friend of ours to tell me what to do. I needed to let the fire burn and shut off, burn and shut off. By shut off, I mean, open the stove to let air get to the fire and gradually let it burn until the creosote burnt up and burnt the fire out. I was scared out of my mind. It was a season of warm days, then cold days, and more of the same over a couple weeks’ time. We weren’t burning the stove hot enough to keep it from building up the creosote. The next warm day, Eddie got out the chimney cleaning brushes, took the stove pipe loose and worked several hours to clean the two-story chimney thoroughly. The rest of the season if we had a fire and it got too warm in the house, I opened the windows a bit instead of letting the fire burn completely out because it was very cold in the morning and late at night but warm during the day and early evening.

This is the house we had before we moved to the family farm. It was our first year there and we had lots of work to do to it and the chimney with the fire was in the front middle section of the house and went up through two stories and attic. We moved from there in 2002, I think, and have been in our existing home since then. It was long after we moved that I found out that the first house was built by John Caldwell and the date is on the chimney (1800+). John would have been Eddie’s great, great, great uncle!!!

Seasoning Firewood

We are fortunate to have plenty of forest land on our farm and are able to cut all we need for the coming heating season. As you can tell from the photo we start early and usually right after deer season. We cut while the trees are dormant or dead. It’s faster to season the wood if it’s dormant and we try not to cut when it’s wet.

Last spring, we had lots of green trees that are wild cherry trees. These trees can be deadly to our cattle if they are leafed out. The wind can blow down a tree and when the leaves wilt and the cattle can get to them. They’ll eat every limb clean of the wilted leaves which are toxic. It makes for great firewood and last spring we found a large group of them along a pasture fence, so we decided to take them all down. There were plenty of oak and maple trees that will get plenty of light to grow tall and strong where the cherry wood was taken down.

We fall the trees on one day, cut it into 32-36 inch lengths the next day and haul to our splitting area at the house. When we get a large pile built up, we spend several hours splitting and stacking on old tin sheets. We try to keep it off the ground because the wood will draw moisture from the ground, and it will not dry.

A lot of the trees we cut will have small limbs about 4 inches around that do not have to be split. Six inch and up will be split at least in half, quartered and even smaller. It is easier to get in the stove at this width and it also dries much faster when split smaller.

We have a 1970 4×4 Dodge pickup with an 8-foot bed that we use to haul in the wood. It usually takes 15 – 20 loads to do for the winter and that’s stacked as high on the truck as the pickup can usually handle. As big as the truck is, it still gets around in the woods really good.

We’re late getting started this year and need to get some more fencing repaired before we start cutting again. I love going to the woods to bring in firewood. When you’re in the woods you’re back to nature in a really awesome way and we have together time doing it. Eddie cuts them down, limbs them up and I load them on the truck!!! Togetherness in so many ways!!!

Weather & Honeybees

We had three weeks of unusually cold temperatures and then three weeks of unusually warm temperatures. These spurts of strange weather are very hard on honeybees. They’ve been out swarming the maple trees because they too like this warm weather and really swarming my birdfeeders. The last three or four years we have lost our honeybees due to this very weather oddity or so we think.

Apparently when the weather warms like it did last week, in the 60’s, the bees think spring is here and they eat up their winter stores and start raising young bees. Then the cold returns and they don’t have enough food to stay alive, much less raise young. They all die.

We don’t like to mess with Mother Nature and try not to interfere with any animals’ normal lifetime. Some people feed their bees honey and it is the best fuel for them. Depending on how long the winter is, a beehive will need about 30 pounds of honey to make it to spring. When we take honey for ourselves. usually in June to mid-July, we try to make sure there is still plenty of pollen plants in the area for them to refill their hive. We leave another hive on top of the main hive full of frames for them to fill for winter stores. You can’t take all the honey from your bees because they need food to survive cold winter months when they’re confined inside their beehive. We place “supers” on top of the two main hives, which are shorter in height than the main hive. The honeys made in these boxes is what we take for ourselves and leave a few frames in them just in case the bees need them in the winter/spring.

Honeybees do not hibernate during winter. They remain active and shelter inside their hive, huddling together to keep warm and protect the queen. As winter begins, brood rearing ceases and the queen stops laying eggs. The hive depends on the overwintering of the queen.

Honeybees don’t just collect nectar and pollen. They also gather resin and sap from trees and plants which bees turn into bee glue, this sticky stuff is made by combining plant resin with saliva and beeswax. Bees use this bee glue in particular for sealing up any unwanted gaps in a hive and in preparation for winter honeybees will close up any cracks to prevent any cold draughts. We try to locate our hive in a location where the low winter sun will be able to warm the front of the hive during the day, we have a bee house that protects them from the north and west winds of winter. It’s at least 20 inches off the ground which helps protect them from predators such as skunks and coons that will raid and destroy the bees.

Some people make/buy feed for their bees to make sure they make it during the winter months. The one we hear about more than any other is a syrup of 2:1 sugar water. Our son uses winter patties and candy boards, I believe. Shawn is following in his granddad’s footsteps and his dad’s, who are/were beekeepers.

Culling Cattle

This is never an easy job and it’s another reason most of the cattle that we cull are 20 – 30 years old. Lots of farms cull at 10-15 years but we know our cattle and keep them in good shape. They are usually still fertile and raise good calves but in the times we deal with now you have to think of the money that you would not get if they died on the farm.

The other reason we might cull (sell to the nearest livestock market) a cow is curled hooves (crippling disease that is genetic), loss of calves before born in more than one year, deformities of their calves in more than one year, infertility, rogues (tear down fences), and cows that never milk well enough to keep their babes alive.

Because we only get the cattle in holding pens is to vaccinate babes, check for lice or worms and other health problems. The less you have to do this the better, the cows will stay calmer and easier to work with.

One of the cows we just sent to mark was famous number “18”. She was a beautiful cow and raised beautiful calves. But when she had a calf and you got anywhere near her, she would run you down. She didn’t want anyone or anything near her babe. She was very protective and gave us more than 20 calves over the last 18 years. She was raised on the farm and knew when the cows were called to the loading/working pens she would not come. The only other one that we had this issue with was another Angus girl “29”.

Gielbiev #18, great mama and very protective of all of her calves.

So, to deal with this problem the cows were brought in around the barn lot a week ahead of time and fed grain along with their daily ration of high-quality hay and lots of green grass to graze for a couple days. The only person allowed near them at that time was hubby. He was a real cow whisperer!! Our daughter learned pretty quickly when helping her dad to stay away from these two mommies!

My Deer Season Is Over

I truly love hunting with my bow and didn’t have a lot of luck this year like I did last year. I needed one more deer to make Sadie’s jerky. It’s not a seasoned meat at all, it just small strips of deer meat dried to perfection and given to her almost every day as a treat.

Today I plan to start the dehydrator and get this last meat dried and stored in the freezer in quart bags just for her. I have two tenderloins, two hams and one shoulder and a few minor scraps that I will put away for her. It’s very healthy with no spices or additives. this is why I freeze it; with no additives it would mold pretty quick, and I know this for a fact!!! I’ve heard that some dog treats that come from another country can make our dogs very sick. I take every precaution when it comes to my fur baby!

Fur baby

Memory Book

Do you ever have your children or grandchildren ask you about how things were when you were a child? Do they want to know where you lived and were born? Do they ask you about where you worked or what you did to have fun? I’ve been thinking about these sorts of questions lately, maybe because I’m about to hit 70 years old this year. I wish I had asked my grandparents or parents. I know I’ve asked my mom questions like these but for the life of me I can’t remember what she told me.

I’ve kept journals over the years and have started putting them together in binders for my kids and grandkids. I have my blog, but it won’t last forever. Memories are a funny thing, a sad thing, an amazing thing, a teaching tool, a lifetime of bits and pieces.

When I pull out a journal or binder and look back at all the things we did as a family and things I did as a mother, I’m amazed at how many things I have forgotten.

Do you have a journal for your family and heirs? All you need is paper and pen. All you need is a $2.00 blank journal you can buy at a department store. You don’t have to write in it every day, but your thoughts and memories will be important to someone down the road. Even a day calendar would work with just the things you did on a given day. It can take five minutes to write it down or an hour depending on how deep you want to get into the day.

Think about it!!!

My Hunting Dog Surprise

Sadie is my animal baby!!!

Sadie is my Norwegian Elkhound and family dog. She loves to hunt squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, mice and any other creature she can play with first and then it dies. She hates snakes and so do I!!!

I never know what she’s going to bring to the front porch anytime day or night. One-night last night she brought me an opossum and the porch was covered with blood (sorry for the graphic story).

Yesterday though, she really surprised us. Keep in mind it is JANUARY!! Eddie heard her barking below the garage where he was working and didn’t go to her figuring it was a mouse or swamp rat and then he saw her give something a whiplash shake!!! She only does that to one thing!!!

Yes, it’s a gray water snake that was in the wet weather spring below the garage! Yes, it’s January and snakes aren’t supposed to be out!

Well, I guess that’s one less we’ll have scare me to death next summer when I’m going to the cellar!! Sadie amazes me at how quick she catches and kills them then walks away. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t want on the front porch one morning!!

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