Sunday, April 19, 2015

Getting the Orchard Underway

A great weekend here on the Hoosier Country Homestead!  Friday evening was warm and sunny, and I had some thoughts about getting a boat load of garden stuff done after I got home from the 'day job' and before sunset.  It turned out that De and I both decided it was also a great evening for a date night, so we picked out a somewhat upscale restaurant and made an evening of it.  We did do some internet research on apple trees together when we got home, so we counted that as productive time in cultivating both our marriage and our homestead.

Saturday morning was the usual list of weekend chores in the coop and yard, along with a bit of shopping on my part.  Saturday afternoon, however....

I've mentioned before that this year's big homestead projects are fruit trees, berry bushes, and getting the boatload of unfinished projects from previous years done. We'd picked out a place for our fruit trees some time ago, with one little fly in the ointment:  There was a non-fruit tree growing right where our new orchard was going to go.
I believe it thought it was a Black Locust.  I simply identified it as "in the way".
After only a little fiddling around I managed to get my chainsaw started.  It was time to clear the way for those fruit trees.

This tree really didn't get the "love" it needed when it went in, and had been allowed to fork six ways from Sunday, which obviously made the job harder.  What made it even more challenging is that Mark has been sick to some degree most of the winter (working on 8th round of antibiotics and 5th round of steroids now) and has gotten woefully out of shape.

Getting a start on the first bit of it.
I decided, since I had tree parts poking out everywhere, to take it down a bit at a time, hoping to get it all to eventually fall to my front and right side from where I am working in the picture above.

After lopping off some branches to get in where I wanted, the chickens and one of De's fingers jumped in to help.
Bingo!  First part fell just where I wanted!

By the time I got this far, the wind was picking up, and I was getting whooped.
Part way through, I realized three things:  1) I was in far worse shape than I had considered myself to be, 2) the tree was actually a bit shorter than I thought which meant the house, wellhead, and fence were safe, and 3) I was more than willing to sacrifice style points for just getting the thing on the ground.  This is supposed to be the easy part!

As is often the case, just when I thought I was near to getting done, a complication arises.  Off pops the chain.  It's not a big job to get it back in place, but I was ready to be done.

Don't forget Mark, the front side of that saw is hot!

With the saw back in shape and branches all over, it was becoming a contest of wills.  The wind was picking up even more and even though I wasn't at much risk of falling the rest of it on any of the homestead infrastructure, I was still kind of keen on keeping it off the homesteader.

Getting down toward the end!

Style points: Zilcho.  Manliness points: Maybe 3 out of 10.  Safety points: Probably 8 out of 10.  Just getting the job done:  Nailed it!

I still have to work it up and get it out of the way, but the first step to getting the homestead orchard in is underway!

Col. 1:9-12,


Getting caught up on Last Weekend

Things have been a bit crazy lately, and I've fallen behind on keeping up with the blog duties.   This evening I managed to get caught up on comments, and now need to get my own blog posts out.

First from last weekend, then I'll get another post on it's heals for this weekend.

In my last post I shared the fun we had with the granddaughters Friday and Saturday.  On Sunday morning, as we were making breakfast before Church, I did manage to get pics and wanted to share those with everyone.
Heaven takes care of the eggs from the beginning ... the end.  She always does a great job!

Harmony picked up getting the toast ready....

and also LOVES to help!

After Church we met their parents about 2/3 of the way home to give them back.  We bought a late lunch for everyone and said our goodbyes.  We really did love having them and look forward to doing it again.  I will say, however, that the relative silence in the car on the was especially golden!

We are blessed!  Col. 1:9-12,


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Weekend with the Grandkids - Saturday

Another big day with Heaven and Harmony - Our two granddaughters.  It was a great day and we did a lot.

The morning started with our usual breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and 'cutie' oranges.  Heaven is at the point where she pretty much cooks the eggs herself.  All I did was get bowls out the cupboard and run the stove.  Everything else, from getting eggs out of the refrigerator to serving them onto the plates, Heaven does without any help.  This time younger sister Harmony took care of the toast and got the oranges out of the 'fridge.  No pics - Papa was busy trying to keep some semblance of order about the whole process.

After breakfast and getting dressed into "work clothes" (Miss Heaven did not want to wear 'play clothes', she was going out to work with Papa!) it was off to work for the morning.

The day started with more work in the garden beds.

Harmony is doing her share of the digging.
Where ever there is digging, there is a chicken looking for a worm snack!  Harmony's not so sure about the help....

It didn't stop her from getting out the 'big tools'!
Always the worker, Heaven fills the feed bucket for the chickens,...

... and puts clean water in the clean bowl.
After that was lunch time, then a surprise!  Gramma and Aunt M took the two of them to see the movie 'Cinderella' (and for ice cream and a little shopping after.)  All three princesses had tiaras for the movie.
All cleaned up and ready to go see Cinderella!  (Harmony - I liked it except for the "kissing" parts)
After the movie it was time for just a little more playing then supper, bath and bed.  But supper was something a little special!

Heaven and Papa roasting hot dogs at a little backyard cook-out.

It's a little chilly out, but everyone is enjoying their food.

The girls enjoying S'mores while Gramma works on another batch.
Nothing like some sticky, gooey, yummy goodness.  It's a good thing bath time was next!
Another wonderful day!  Tomorrow we take them back home after Church.  We're meeting their parents part-way there at a restaurant and enjoying a meal with the daughter and son-in-law (and girls) before we all say good-bye.

Once again, I must say - 'We are Blessed! (and tired.)'


Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekend with the Grandkids - Friday Evening

De, Aunt M. (Daughter #1) and I made the 3 hour trip (one way) south to pick up the granddaughters for the weekend.  We got to see K (daughter #2 ) for a short visit, then it was back on the road.  Most of the day was spent driving, but we got home in time to get some of the chores done, and a little more. 

After we got everything in the house it was time to pick up on the chores with two additional helpers.  Eggs were collected, chickens were let out of the run, and were fed a little scratch.  After that, since it was a nice day with only a moderate wind, we decided to take a walk to the garden.  If we're going to the garden we need to have our boots on.  Papa has the big, black rubber boots.  The ladies' boots are all little more colorful. 
Polka dots for everyone.
Those of you with gardens know that "just taking a walk" in a garden that needs some attention is a dangerous thing. Papa noticed that some of the beds were badly in need of a lot of weeding before planting time.  A big clump of crabgrass here, another there and pretty soon everyone is working!  And I do mean everyone.

Heaven (in blue) and Harmony (Pink) help Papa clear crabgrass

Of course if there's digging to be done, the birds are all in.

It seems the birds are all in with Aunt M, ready or not!

Heaven is the more cautious of the two and, since it had been awhile, was initially very concerned about the chickens being right there with her.  Fortunately, that didn't last very long.  Harmony, the younger, is much more likely to be found at Grandma's side so when Grandma went in, she went too.  Heaven, the older, loves to work with Papa and work she did!

There were weeds to haul to the compost pile, so off she went, and the wheelbarrow comes back empty.

A Red Star inspects some of Heaven's work

Heaven offers a worm in exchange for the help.

We had supper and baths, and are now playing quietly (mostly) until bedtime.  This will be the first time girls have stayed overnight alone with Grandma and Papa, so we're not sure quite what to expect.

What fun!  And more to come tomorrow and Sunday!  We are blessed!

Col. 1:9-12



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Its a Start!

I can't say I've been wildly productive this spring to date, but I did manage to make a start.

First things first - I got the tractor back up and running.  This involved an hour or so with a headlamp flashlight and little machinist hammer laying on my back trying to tap a new hydrostat bearing seal into place.  The hardest parts were convincing the chickens I did NOT need their help, and getting my tri-focals, the headlamp, the hammer, and the silver dollar-sized part (the big one, not the Susan B. Anthony version), all pointed at the same place at the same time.  I can state unequivocally that I was FAR too unsympathetic towards my Dad when he complained about the same thing when I was teen.  Once again, what goes around....

The next job was to get the compost pile turned over.  I've not really got the compost thing right yet, but it gets a little better every year.  I've been throwing the chicken manure/pine shaving bedding I mucked out of the coop on top of the pile all winter.  Now that it was thawed (mostly anyway, somewhat to my surprise) It was time to turn it over.

Compost pile with a winters worth of coop cleanings piled on top.
Step one: Roll it all over enough that the cleanings are inside the pile.  Still some frozen bits!

Step 2:  Spread it out a bit so the chickens can do their thing with it.
With that done, it was time to pay some attention to the experimental compost bed in the chicken coop.  At the end of last year we were doing pretty good at putting chicken friendly garden cleanings in the bed, and the chickens were working it pretty hard.  One of the last things we did was add some corn stalks:  That was probably a mistake.

Coop compost bed as it came through the winter

Corn stalks all pulled out.  It looks better already!

After it was all turned over it became very interesting again!
I was hoping to get a clear picture of what was under the surface, but some of the girls got very interested in what I was doing and didn't event wait until I had it all turned over to get back in the bin.  If the weather is not to too bad, I'll get some pics this weekend. 

I'm slowly getting better from a health perspective.  I took a little turn for the worse and saw the specialist doc again two days ago.  I got a shot in the backside the likes of which I haven't had since USMC boot camp, another bottle of antibiotics, and more cough meds.  I've still got a hack like a lifelong smoker, but I actually feel much better.  I felt good enough today that De and I took a drive to an Antique shop we hadn't had the chance to explore.  De got some decorations for the kitchen and I got a small brass abacus to add to my slide rule collection.  I need to get 'back in the saddle'  'cause all the exciting homestead spring tasks are out there waiting!

Coming up:  A deal for a hoop house shed, and granddaughters coming for the weekend!

Col. 1:9-12,