Thursday, July 31, 2014

Catching up again!

Time to get everyone caught up again on the happenings at the Hoosier Country Homestead.  I was all ready to post late last weekend when we discovered our internet had ceased to function. By the time we were back up and operational, I was into the work week at my "away" job and am just now getting a free evening to get caught up.

"Papa" reads to his little girls
Last weekend was a largely a 'grandchildren' weekend.  Whenever we are inside, there is always a stack of books for Papa to read to little girls.  The favorites seem to be "Go Dog, Go", "Bubble Puppy" (from the Bubble Guppies TV show), "Daisy Gets Lost" (about a little duckling), and "Just Go To Bed!" (A Mercer Meyer "Little Critter Book" -have to the 'the voices' right on that one) with "Go Dog, Go" and "Just Go To Bed!" being the most read.  There are also songs to sing and tea parties to attend.

We spent quite a lot of our time outside, too.  In the morning we looked after the chickens and the girls got a chance to feed the birds some scratch.  They 'helped' fill the feeder and put down some more shavings for bedding.  We have some rubber boots for them to wear while they are here, and they love to put them on and go the "farm".
They love the chickens!  They weren't too sure about them eating out of their little hands, though.

Like most little ones, they love to help.  Time to get more feed!

Time to add some pine shavings to the coop!
No worries about getting dirty here!  They were eager to get in the coop and do some work.  I had the birds shut out and they went to town getting the new shavings in all the corners.  We did a REAL good hand cleaning when that job was done.

After that we went down to the garden and to let them do a little harvesting.  There wasn't much ready, but we made sure they got to pick what they could.  They were especially excited to hunt for pea pods that were full and ready to pick.  There were a few picked that didn't quite make the cut, but we still had a ball.

We also went to out to eat a real sit down restaurant, did some shopping for chicken feed and a few groceries.  Finally, because we're Gramma and Papa, we took the girls to Diary Queen.

Two little girls' first garden harvest.  It didn't take the younger one long to discover peas fresh out of the pod are yummy!

No hot summer day is complete without a little time spent cooling off.  Gramma and Papa were spectators for this sport.  We also had one of the sprinklers set up for them to play in.  It was so much fun watching!
Heaven and Harmony discover the water right out of the hose is a little chilly!

They wanted a water slide and set one up for themselves.  They did have a good time with it!
Finally, after the (future) grandkids and son-in-law headed back home and the 'old folks' had time to recover, we got some more time in the garden in the next few days.  We got a bit of a late start onour planting so we're a bit behind most of the rest of you, but De got our first canning done.  We'll have LOTs of those by the time the green beans and tomatoes are all done.
And so it begins!
What a wonderful weekend!  Seeing things through the eyes of a child is such a great way to get a fresh look at the marvels of God's creation.  Once again, we are blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Not very pretty but doin' the job

In contrast to some other parts of the country that can't seem to dry out, here in NE Indiana we're starting to get just a little dry.  Dry enough, anyway, it was time to get some water on the garden.  I've been intrigued by some of the soaking and misting systems some of you have going, but the garden really couldn't wait until I'd scrounged up materials for something like that, put it all together, and got it all working.  In the mean time, I wanted a way to water all the beds with one sprinkler.  I have a sprinkler head on a little tripod that sets up about 4 feet, but that's not near tall enough to allow it to get out to the corners. 

The answer, of course, is a trip to the barn in full scrounge mode.  Our yard barn is mostly an oversized storage shed.  Being my father's son, I have a hard time parting with anything I 'might need' in the future.  That means there are lots of little nooks and crannies with 'stuff'.  I managed to find a sprinkler of the type that has a spiked base that's intended to be stuck into the ground.  I also managed to find what looked to be a 10 feet section of 1" (or so) galvanized pipe.  Providentially, the central spike on sprinkler fits right down into the pipe.  Tada!! A tall sprinkler system created out of tucked away stuff I 'might'!  Mark the Packrat is (for once, anyway) vindicated.

I put the whole thing together (two parts plus an old bungee strap and the garden hose - not rocket science), took out my hearing aids (they don't like to get wet) and let 'er rip.  The head sits up about 8 1/2 feet and with only a little fiddling, and a partial soakdown of the designer, my garden was enjoying a cold, well water shower.  Anyway, here are some pics.
Final Assembly complete and testing begins

Well, look at that! It works!

Tomatoes and Bush Beans enjoying their simulated rainshower

Cabbage, peppers, peas and the rest liking it, too
It is nice to be able to 'make do' with things you already have on hand.  It just seems like the way homesteading ought to work.  I'd be interested in hearing what other folks have 'kludged' together to a successful end, or in how you water your gardens.

Col. 1:9-12,


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Things that make me smile!

Today I was reminded several times of how much the little things in life make me smile.  Here's a list from today's activity:
  • The day's first cup of coffee.  More of a ritual than anything, but a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning just sets the tone for a good day.
  • A quiet morning spent getting a bunch of little chores done.  It's encouraging to see the fruits of your labors, even if it's nothing more than organizing and picking up around the place.
  • Letting Zyla the dog come along on a drive in the truck.  If there is any creature in God's creation that can teach us how to find happiness in simple things it's a dog.  Head out the window, wind in her face, a hairy, black, bundle of joy!
  • Hearing Fred the Golden Polish cockerel crow for the first time.  De has heard him before, but today was my first hearing.  He's not got his full voice yet, but he spent 5 minutes working on it.
  • A late breakfast with my wife.  Just the two of us (Daughter #2 sleeping in) with a simple breakfast. (And the day's second cup of coffee!)
  • Watching the barn swallows zip around catching bugs in the yard.  With the barn door out of order they got in and built a nest in our little barn this year.  Dad would always get rid of other bird's nests in his barn if they built where they would make a mess on the machinery, but barn swallows always got a pass.  It's working out the same way for me.  Another in a long list of ways in which I'm my father's son, I suppose.
  • A mowed lawn.  Daughter #2 did almost all of it, which was also nice.  Just seeing another job done brings a sense of satisfaction even if I didn't do it.
  • A short visit from my Mom.  I won't get those much longer.  I've learned to appreciate them even more in the years since my Dad's been gone.
  • Hearing that wife and daughter had a nice time with friends for a couple hours in the afternoon.  It's good for everyone to be happy.
  • Along the same lines, seeing De happily working on another dollhouse project, this one is being done in French Country (whatever that is).  I'm always happy to find a place for another one of her creations. (We have 50+ so far!)  Check out to see what she's up too.  There's also a link on my side bar.
  • Spending time in my Bible.  Studying for a class I'm teaching isn't quite the same as just settling into a comfortable chair and reading, but it's still pretty good.
  • A quiet evening spent at home settled in my recliner, checking everyone's blogs, and chatting with De.
  • Finally, as I was taking a bundle of shop trash out the cans, I came across this in our yard:

A small patch of little wild strawberries!  I'm not sure why I found that so cool, but it was a high point in an already good day.

I'm guessing it's not just me that finds the little things so satisfying.  What little things make you smile?

I'll say it yet again; I am blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, July 13, 2014

More of the Garden, Layers Club Upgrade, and Farewell to Henry

Just an update on the garden and info on some minor improvements.

We spent a good part of our Saturday beating down weeds, like every other gardener.  The beds are pretty much set, but the plots need still some weed-bustin' love on a regular basis.  This year I'm doing the thing with potatoes where you add soil around the plants as they grow.  I'm probably the last gardener in the US to pick up on this, but I heard it on one of Scott Terry's 'Christian Farm and Homestead Radio' shows some time back.  Since potatoes grow above the seed potato you planted, adding soil above as the plant grows should make more place for new potatoes to grow and increase your yield.  I'll let everyone know how it works out.
You can see some of the soil piled up around the potatoes.
 We also added some extra rope and string for the pole beans.  By the time we got done the whole looks kinda like a cattle panel.  Duh!  Guess what we'll be using for pole beans next year?

We also made a couple of upgrades to the Layer's Club (our chicken coop). Some of the particle board was starting to show it's age when we moved the old bus shelter building and turned it into a coop.  We added some plywood to reinforce the wall below the laying boxes.  I suspect the next time I get my hands on a sheet of plywood we'll upgrade the back wall above the boxes too.  I also added a long step to get up into the 'people' part of the coop.  We did have a 2x12 wood scrap garden bench there, but it was a little wobbly and De was afraid it was going to roll out from under her.  We got them both in and painted up in just a bit over an hour.
Plywood reinforcement for an old particle board wall.

Wall and step in and ready for use.
Finally, Henry the Gold Lace Wyandatte cockerel has left the building!  The family that took him has two flocks, one of which needed a rooster.  They know what they doing with chickens and are used to cranky roosters.  It's a good deal all around: We were happy to see him go to a good home with knowledgeable folks and they were happy to get him. It should be a little quieter around the run!

Take care all, and have a great week.

Col. 1:9-12,


Friday, July 11, 2014

Balloons Aloft!

De and I took the evening off and went to what has become an annual event at our local airport near Angola, Indiana.  The event is called 'Balloons Aloft!' and is essentially an air show centered around hot air balloons.  There is no charge for the event, and there are a limited number of tethered and untethered balloons rides available for purchase.  No rides for us, but here are some pics.  It made for a nice evening out away from the homestead.

We were told the 'skinny' ones were "racing balloons"

We didn't count, but De and I think there were 15 to 20 balloons in the show

Seeing the sky filled with hot air balloons is a rare sight.

They launched one after another over something like 45 minutes.
There was one very large balloon that was of an especially interesting design to homesteaders.  We watched from early inflation through launch.
Enter the sleeping giant
Getting bigger!
Learning to stand!
There we go!
Up and away!
There were a few others that inflated but didn't fly.  Mostly a 'static' display, I guess.

Three bees (one hidden) , a butterfly, and two others inflated and making a show of it.
The butterfly was amazing!
Our buddy, the scarecrow, flew over.  Note the difference in size.
Bye, Dude!  Watch out for (big) loins and tigers and bears! (Oh, my!)
It's small town community events like this that add a little spice to our days.  We enjoyed the evening and are looking forward to next year.  Thanks to all the folks who bring this event our little community.  We are blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Garden Update - It's always Amazing!

I'm always amazed at how quickly the garden goes from seedlings and sprouts to something, well... amazing!  The glory of God's ongoing process of creation is a wonderful thing to watch.   Here's a tour of the Hoosier Country Home garden:

Cabbage and Peppers are doing great!
Peas - Not so much. Healthy looking, but not a great stand.

Green beans are looking real good.
Our first year for so many pole beans.  Looking good and starting to climb!

It will be time to be canning tomato sauce and salsa soon.  And I LOVE green fried tomatoes!
About time to add more soil cover to the potato plants

Pumpkins and corn doing well
Squash, more pole beans, more corn, and zucchini (far end) coming along, too
So when do I harvest my horseradish?
Here is my lone surviving raspberry plant.  The rest seem to have perished in the exceptionally long,cold winter we had this year.  I thought I had more but, to my embarrassment, what I had thought to be other survivors turned out be Queen Ann's Lace.  Oops again!

Finally - Here's Henry the Cockerel - a nice looking Golden Lace Wyandotte.  Henry has been making a pest of himself with the pullets.  So much so he has found himself to be "poultry non grata".  De is making arrangements for Henry to be shipped off to another homestead where he will be (hopefully) appreciated.  Bye, Henry!
Take a moment to check out De's blog, De-Lightful Minis.  Her link is off the the right.  She been busy making a miniature "Crooked House Layers Club" chicken coop complete with Fred the Golden Polish cockerel.  It's very cool!

So ends anther day on the Hoosier Country Homestead!

Night all!  Col. 1:9-12


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hog panels, Wheat Straw, and Chicken "Haircuts"

We are finally catching up on a few things here at the Hoosier Country Homestead.  We needed to because most of our garden is doing very well, which meant we needed to get the tomato cages up and also strings and such for the pole beans to climb. Also there was the usual weeding, weeding, weeding and we're trying to do more mulching this year.

1 - 12 foot and 3 - 8 foot tomato beds
Red wires ties holding hog panels together
I promised in a comment on another excellent homesteading blog (the comment hasn't posted so I won't name the blog yet) I would get pics up today of the hog panel tomato cages, so I'll start with those:  Like many folks who grow tomatoes we found the usual wire cages you find in stores to be not up to the task of shoring up an actual tomato plant.  Since we grow actual tomatoes we needed to find an alternative to the usual commercial offerings.  I don't remember where, but I found somewhere on the internet where someone was forming hog panel into circular cages.  We modified the idea and use them almost 'as-is.'  We grow our tomatoes in beds, but I think this would work even if you grow in rows.  We cut the panels to the length of the bed with bolt cutters then simply set the panels in the beds over the plants in a teepee.  We use plastic wire 'zip' ties(red in the pic) along the top where they join to hold them in place. We invert the panels from the way you set them for hogs, so that the larger openings are at the bottom.  This makes it easier to get tomatoes on the inside of the teepee.  Sometimes simply weaving the plants through the openings is sufficient, but we also use some of the green garden wire to guide them onto the panels.  We've done this for four years now and found it be an excellent solution.

Pole beans - Look for yellow strings...
We're doing a lot of pole beans this year in addition to our usual 3 - 4'x8' beds of bush beans.  We like
the beds for bush beans because you can plant close together (usually we put 4 - 8' rows in each bed), and still reach them from the edges.  Even in my mid-50s the miles are starting to show and I appreciate not having to get down quiet so far to pick.  Since this is our first year for more than a few pole beans we're experimenting with poles and climbing strings. Here a pic of the one bed. You can barely see the yellow string in the picture but they run from the outside edges of the bed up to the old tree branch.  The rest are in a row in a plot. I'll keep the pics coming and let you all know how the different methods are working out.

We're also doing more mulching this year. We're using wheat straw and are hoping to keep a little more moisture in and a few more weeds out.  I'll let you know how that works out for us, too.  Another thing I'm trying this year is the use of diatomaceous earth for bugs.  I dusted our potatoes with this today.  I'll should get an idea of how it works pretty quickly since the potato bugs seem to be out in force early this year.
Green beans
Peppers and cabbage

A load for the brush pile!
Here in NE Indiana we're at the tail end of "tornado alley".  Most years we can plan on a dozen or 
storms that could generate a tornadoes.  Some years less and some years double that.  We had another big storm early this week that knocked out power for us for the better part of a day and for the better part of the week for others.  This storm generated 7 tornadoes in our area. There was fatality in a local town as a tree fell into a house.  We had a bunch of branches knocked out, but no real damage.

Fred the Cockeral Pre-"Haircut"

Fred Post-"Haircut"
De and I broke down and decided to give our polish chickens a 'trim'.  They have the crested heads, and the feathers had gotten into their eyes enough it was clear they were struggling to see.  Since this is our first year with chickens we we're sure exactly how to do this, but with a little on-line research we were ready to give it a shot.  I did the holding and De was the "hairdresser".  We'd be interested in thoughts from anyone who has done this before.  Too much?  Not enough?

Finally, De and I read that chickens like to have something to do in their runs.  I took some of those branches knocked down and rigged up a little outdoor perch. It seems to be a hit, for whatever that's worth.

Col. 1:9-12,