Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What we did on our summer vacation!

We've had a pretty busy garden season this year.  While the winter squash and tomatoes didn't produce very well, the other fruits and vegetables did pretty well. Here's a run down of what we did this summer:
Canned goods:  dill pickles 3 quarts, blackberry jelly 4 1/2 pints, apples 64 quarts, blueberry jam 4 pints, strawberry jam 4 pints, red cherries 2 quarts, black cherries 4 quarts, pears 4 1/2 pints, peaches 19 1/2 quarts, yellow pickles 4 pints, grape jelly 12 pints, pickled beets 8 pints, tomato sauce 16 pints.
Frozen goods:  blueberries 2 gallons, stuffed patty pans 2 gallons, beets 5 gallons, green beans 16 gallons and counting, zucchini 1 gallon, yellow squash 6 gallons, corn 3 gallons, peas 1 gallon, pea pods 1 gallon, green peppers 1/2 gallon and countin, patty pans cubed 1 gallon, butternut squash 1 gallon, pumpkin butter in process, sweet potatoes still in the ground.
Still growing goods:  fall crops of turnips 9 rows, mustard greens and kale. 

We had a patty pan escape our notice and it grew to 2 pounds while the average patty pan we picked was about 5 ounces.  We made patty pan parmesan and it was good!!  Think we'll do that again; on purpose this time!

Tired? We are!!!  But we are still working on the gardens, and will be probably until the end of the month.  The chickens are producing 7 to 8 eggs a day average.  They are yummy! 

We also started composting this year.  We built a wire compost bin and we fill it with kitchen waste and chicken poo dirt along with branches and some leaves and rotting wood pieces.  Hopefully, we'll have good compost for the garden next spring.  I just love projects!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012


Today, July 13th, our ladies began laying eggs!  We had two today.  The first was cracked, but usable (and we ate it for breakfast).  Unfortunately, the second one took a leap from the run ramp and broke.  Hopefully, they will learn to lay on the ground or in the laying boxes - we'll see.  They are also now eating big girl chicken feed for laying hens.  That should make the shells a little firmer.  The gardens have been producing for about 6 days now.  We have harvested cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, patty pans, kohlrabi, lettuce and, today, beets!  We had about 14 or so that were about 3 inches in diameter - best crop ever!!!  Stir fry vegies have been on the menu along with really good salads!  Also, the blackberries have been pretty good along the road, so tomorrow we'll be making jelly along with yellow squash pickles and pickled beets - YUMMY!!!   We've also done cherries, canned as just cherries for pies and cobbler, strawberry jam and peach slices!   Tomorrow also should be the beginnings of green bean pickings!!  They are getting larger every day and should be ready to pick in the morning.  Our corn is chest high now, the tomatoes are forming and growing very well as are the peppers and peas.  The sweet potatoes are vining out very nicely and the winter squash vines have gone wild!!  We also managed, so far, to save a few branches of peaches from Mr./Ms. Squirrel!!  We hope to pick them sometime next week and finish ripening them inside before the wildlife gets them all!  So far we have almost 1/2 gallon of blueberries picked and frozen.  We may end up with about 3/4 of a gallon.  So at least one more year down in Sparta to pick blueberries.  (Blueberry buckle, and blueberry muffins rock!)  We've had a lot of rain this week after last week's really HOT weather.   We went to Charlotte last week and it was 107 degrees when we left but only 92 up here on the mountain.  The chickens did really pretty well with the heat, they just need frequent water changes and some ice cold watermelon in the afternoon.   It's going to warm up this coming week, so with that and the sunshine we should have vegies rolling in!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It has been a busy, busy week in Cowland.  After waiting for the seeds to pop, we have nearly complete poppage!!  Rows and rows of vegies!!  The tomato plants, sweet taters and peppers are all doing really well.  The eggplants had a little bit of a bug disaster - but we still have one plant without lacey leaves.  All in one day little black bugs ate their way through the leaves.  We think we saved the other one which was in a different part of the yard, with Sevin Dust.  Time will tell.  The two houses got baths earlier this week; all the green algae stuff is gone and the porch railings have been cleaned.  The front porch got a patch paint job on the floor and the back and side decks have been stained - and then it rained........  At least it had time to dry really well.  We put two grape vines in on the fence in front of Mom's house.  Green grapes and the plants had a little time to grow at Lowe's so the vines look pretty good stretching up to the first rail.   The chickens are doing well, still growing and eating and pooping.  Their sleeping habits have changed again - see the picture posted.  We are growing some sprouts for the chicks, hope they like them.  We went to Ikea on Wednesday and got a few things for the bedroom - curtains, duvet cover and some room accessories.  Sometimes it just needs a little updating....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Garden Is In

After a slight delay due to rain, rain and more rain; the garden is finally in.  We spent day #1 of the planting putting in the black cow and peat and day #2 planting the tomatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes.  As of today, we have poppage!!  The cucumbers have broken ground!  We hope to see more coming up by the beginning of next week.  I'd post a picture, but it would pretty much be just dirt to look at..........  Once the garden was in, we returned to the spring weeding and made some pretty serious inroads on that.  Just to be outside.....  Made some more mozzarella today and we are brining some more corned beef.  (I make lots of dishes)  The peaches are coming along very nicely.  Hopefully all the little bags of mothballs will trick those nasty squirrel noses and they won't find them.  Blueberries are looking great.  They are beginning to have a little blue tinge to the berries.  The chicks are growing like crazy and developing some funny traits - like feeding frenzies at weed-feeding treat times and greeting us for the daily poop scooping.  They like to stand on the trowel or lay down where I am scooping poop - so cooperative!  They have begun sleeping together on the top rung of the roost - all 8 of them!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What a week it has been!  We had wanted to plant our garden on Tuesday or so, but we had too much rain and tilling was going to be impossible.  So, plans are now to try to till in the black cow and peat tomorrow and plant and get the last fence up on Saturday....  We'll see how that goes.  The tomato plants and pepper plants are sitting and waiting.... as am I.  We had lots of good company since last weekend.  Since the ground was too wet, we went to downtown Galax and did a little junk shopping.  It was fun!  The chicks are still amusing us greatly.  They love their run.  I woke them up this morning at 8:30 - all eight were still on the roost!!!  Of course, once the door was open, out they ran and flew and ran and ran some more.  Then it was breakfast time - attack of the Cracken on food!!  So, dirt tomorrow, maybe a little planting... keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Wet Week

We've had a lot of rain this week, so yard work has been slowed up a bit, although the rain did help with the weeding of the flower beds.  We did get both gardens tilled and weeded.  They are ready for the Black Cow and Peat Moss which hopefully will go in early next week.  The fencing of the newly enlarged back garden has begun.  Kirby got the gate moved and set as well as the wood poles for the fence.  The fencing will go up after the final till.  Then --- PLANTING - and my nervousness over "poppage" will begin.....  The chickens are doing really well in their coop.  They are eager to go out every morning and come in at dusk to settle in.  They are eating and pooping great!  Once again, our peach tree is loaded and hopefully we'll see the peaches this year. We put up the mothballs to ward off that peach scent from Mr/Ms Squirrel(s) and trimmed back a few trees to hinder the jumping of said squirrels.....  Every spring - great hopes of good things!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What a busy week we have had.  We began with a long weekend trip to Florida to see Tim and family in their new home.  They have a beautiful piece of property with so much potential.  Tim and Maddie went fishing and a fish was actually caught!  It was a 14 to 16 inch long bluegill.  Catch and Release!!  Okay, so I tried sushi....  It was really good.  We had a wonderful time, got to go to Publix - catch the awe and aura about the name....  ooohhhh!  Also did some clothes shopping and got some wonderful deals on summer stuff.  Frankie did really well on the trip - gas cost was just about $60 for the round trip - and was very comfortable.  Thanks Tim, Rebecca, Cris and  Maddy for a great visit.  Especially to Maddie for giving up her bed for two nights.  While there, Maddie informed us that one of her chicken names is Olivia.  She also did some beautiful chalk drawings and had great fun swimming with Grandpa and Daddy.  Also got to see Katie and her boyfriend, Matt.  Upon return, we released the Cracken sisters from the coop and after some coaxing finally managed to get them out in the run.  They spent several hours there and had to be helped back in the coop.  The next night and tonight, no problem - it was roost time, so in they went and up to the third rung of the roost.  It appears to be the most popular spot for night time.  They are really having fun scratching for bugs, but worms are still the most popular treat.  (yep, we have to dig for them......)  Today we finally got to mulching up the winter's sticks supplied by our trees and mom's leaves - we got nearly 10 bags of mulch done.  Not nearly enough for all the flower beds, but we still have trees to trim up (of stuff that didn't fall yet).  Next week is tilling in black cow, peat and then fencing in the newly expanded garden (as the Cracken sisters have taken over the old back garden).  But, first off to drive Frankie on the Dragon by Knoxville with Dan, family and Pugsley................

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Moving Day

The coop is finished; water is hung, food is loaded in the new feeder, the heat lamp is up and the bedding is down.  So, today is moving day for the chicks.  They will be 5 weeks with us as of tomorrow and have plenty of feathers.  The temperatures look good for the next week, so it is time.  We video'd (sp?) the move, but it doesn't play on this blog.  The chicks are definitely not so afraid of being handled as they were when little, and actually seem to like a little petting.  Pooping, eating, drinking and chest butting are definitely the daily activities.  Can't wait until egg laying is in progress!!!  It had been a cold rainy 4 days and I am so ready for spring and warmth.  I am done with sweaters and pants; I want shorts and short sleeved shirts!!!!!  We put in a few more plants today and moved a few yellow lillies to some bare spots - free is good!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chicken Run

It has been a crazy week here in Cowland.  We had Mia and Elizabeth here for part of their spring break and had a great time.  There was a lot of play outside along with great help watering the new plants and fertilizing the blueberry plants, azaleas and hydrangeas.  Also, Kirby did the second mowing of the year. We made lunchmeat - four kinds and 21 pounds of meat: Berliner, venison, pastrami and bologna.  Towards the end of baking it, of course, a power failure of 5 hours!!  At least it wasn't bread baking and at least the meat was 99% up to temperature.  It did finish by leaving it in the oven until the power came back on.  During all of this, Kirby and Kevin worked on the chicken run which is nearly complete now.  It just needs some of the dirt at the edges smoothed out and packed down.  Today was build a walkway day.  The old stones from Mom's front door were used (as she now has a lovely cement walkway) and mortared with old mortar from previous projects.  As you can see, the coop is looking classy!  The chickens have been with us for four weeks now and are really growing quickly.  They are definitely pooping machines.  Good fertilizer after composting!!  We still have to build the roost, a poop box for underneath the roost and install the outside watering system for the run.  Inside will be the jugs attached to the wall.  Kirby finished the automatic 5 gallon bucket feeder today and it works great!  We had a rainy day yesterday so the house got cleaned up - which doesn't happen too often when the outside calls!.  Now, if only I could get back to weeding..............

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


This is last Thursday's post!!  Well, finally got the coop painted; between rain showers.  The chickens are really growing in their feathers and getting pretty good size.  It is impossible to tell who is who name-wise, so once they're fully feathered, we'll figure out who is who!!  We put a few more plants in the garage hillside.  It is finally starting to fill up.  It is hard to find "littles" - small containered perennial plants - that will fit in between the roots of the maple tree.   Had a few freezing nights this past week, but the plants seemed to have survived.  We are looking forward to warmer temps.  The porch and decks need painted yet and weeding - that never-ending chore must be done again........

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Of Cheese and Chickens

Today being a rainy day, we tried AGAIN to make the mozzarella and ..... it turned out great!  This time, we used powdered whole milk and added citric acid and after 2 1/2 hours we had a beautiful hunk of cheese, as well as some more ricotta cheese.  It's a great day!  Yesterday, with no rain, we worked on the chicken condo.  The shingles are nearly all finished, just short a few.  Hopefully, completion of that will be tomorrow.  Also, the condo is caulked (I learned how to caulk) and almost all of the white trim has been painted.  Just one fascia board along the roof over the nest boxes to paint is left.  Weather permitting, the outside walls should be painted this weekend.  Then more hardware to keep the vent cover on and open and close it and also the hardware for the run opening.  The chicks are getting their feathers in really well now and their looks are changing daily.  They eat and poo really good!  They have learned to drink from "nipples" attached to a water bottle - no more poo in the drinking water!  Yay!!!  So far, the four of the ladies have names - Abigail, Dreamer, Splashy and Charlotte.  More to come......

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Turkeys and Chickens - Oh My!

Happy April First!  The courting season for turkeys has begun.  This morning, Mr. Tom Turkey was in our yard strutting his stuff .  He was sooo handsome..  Kirby got a really good picture of him.  The chicken condo construction began yesterday and continued today.  The chicken ladies are going to live in style.  We still have about a month to finish it - some final touches like hinges and paint and stuff but the major work is done - Thanks Dan!  The chicken ladies have grown some feathers on their wing tips and are now starting with some feathers at the tops of their wings.  They eat like crazy and nap attacks abound.  They ate their first worms and crickets this weekend. Such a treat.  It was like holding out a chocolate bar to a chocolate fiend....A lot of chasing of the lady chick with the worm by the other seven ladies.  In the kitchen department, I tried again to make some cheese.  This time cheddar, but the stuff just is not cooperating fully.  It did finally curd and it is in the cheese press, so we will see how it comes out.  At least, it should be edible.  Also, ravioli was on the menu this weekend.  The ricotta did turn out and the ravioli was really good.  So, some success in the kitchen - we'll have to wait on the cheddar!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring continues

Spring work continues here in Cowland.  We have been very busy the past week with weeding all the lovely spring weeds and removing the last of the leaves from fall.  Some painted daisy seeds have been planted under the front fence and green onions and basil in the herb garden.  Also some lettuce seeds in a small patch with the rosemary.  The first till of the newly enlarged garden has been done and four or five wheelbarrow loads of grass roots removed.  The Bradford pear trees and the cherry trees in the front are all but done blooming as well as most of the azaleas.  The blueberry bushes are looking like a good crop for pretty new bushes this year, lots of leaves and flowers for berries.  The daffodils are hanging on a little and other bulbs are coming up.  It looks GREAT around here.  We even had our first lawn mowing already!  The baby chicks are growing; we've had them a week now and some feathers are coming in on their wings.  They are almost outgrown the box they are living in.  We hope to have a new box tomorrow - much bigger!  Chicken Condo work begins this weekend - should be a very lovely place for them to live in.  We now have all of our seeds for the garden but we have more work to do before planting!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Chickens are Here!

Our new chickens arrived yesterday.  However, instead of the six we were planning on, we upped the number to eight.  They are all so cute and tiny.  It makes the 50 pound bag of chicken feed look a bit to the extreme.  They had to be taught to eat and drink which only took about an hour.  They are pooping machines!  So far, three of the eight have names and they are Charlotte, Splashy and Zelda.  Our granddaughters will be naming the rest.  Their home is a lovely really large cardboard box in the garage with a "red light" district to keep them warm.  They seem to like about 82 degrees.  So, next up is building them their chicken condo.......

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Has Arrived!

Today is the first day of Spring - although spring weather has been here for a while.  We have started cleaning up the yard from the "winter" winds and old foliage.  The cherry trees, Bradford pears, azaleas and forsythia are in full bloom, as are the daffodils.  The crocuses - both purple and white are already finished.  It is beautiful here.  Temperatures have been in the low to mid 70s and mostly sunny with occasional showers.  Perfect!  We have most of our seeds purchased for the vegetable gardens, pretty much we just have to get the tomato plants, peppers, sweet potatoes and patty pan seeds.  It is still too early to plant the gardens, but we are having just the weather to get the soil worked with Black Cow and peat moss.  Canning has already begun, though.  The Florida strawberries are so sweet, so today we made 4 1/2 pints of strawberry preserves.  We hope this will be a good summer!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Inside Projects

After a wonderful Christmas and New Year's, we have been BUSY with some of our inside projects.  I received a beginner's cheese making kit for my birthday and we have tried, unsuccessfully, to make Mozzarella cheese - only to find out, it is probably the hardest cheese to make.  It looked easy, but we couldn't get the curds to join up right to make the stringy cheese texture.  So, we're going to try some cheddar next.  Curds stay curds, just pressed together tightly.  Will keep you all updated!  Then on to home improvement projects.  Mom's bedroom has been painted a really pretty light green shade and it looks GOOD!!!  The last week and a half, we have been remodeling our guest bathroom.  New tub, new tile in the tub area as well as on the vanity and a paint job of the old vanity.  (Plus plumbing, rebuilding the shower walls, sanding and all the stuff you don't see by just looking).  It turned out pretty good looking.   Husband is SO GOOD and talented to do all the destruction and reconstruction.  In the meantime, in the evenings when we are exhausted from all that construction, I have been working on more sweaters; one for Kirby and one for me, just have to get that last skein of yarn for Kirby's and it will be done.  The back of mine is about half done.  Should be finished by summer - so we'll probably not get to use them until next winter.  Sophie is glad we are done with the remodel - she's tired!!  No naps in her afternoons as she felt she had to keep an eye on what we were up to!!  Superbowl was fun.  We made flat bread chicken bacon ranch pizza, semi-spicy wings and fried up a few "nachos" from our low carb wraps - all turned out pretty good.  Go Giants!