Sunday, July 27, 2014

if you visit us

We will put you to work! Weekdays or weekends, it does not matter to us there is always something that needs doing.

Marc visited years ago, and returned this week with Louise. They flew in from Denmark, rented a car, drove here and collected eggs. The next morning it was this:

The back of the truck was filled, walkways in the garden covered...there were meals too, and a fire in Homer's home made fire pit, and fire flies and now they are off to Boston. After Marc took care of all the morning chores. Seems that routine has not changed much since last visit in 2010, just like riding a bicycle.

Friday, July 25, 2014

not quite ripe

Last winter was brutal cold. At this time of year it is usually the opposite here: so hot and humid it is hard to breathe.

The sun is out and it is almost noon. The temperature is 70° and there is no humidity.

We wonder at the low end what these need, temperature wise, to ripen.

It seems like this year we might be testing the lower limits.

These too.

I'm under the impression high temperatures are needed. Time will tell.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

a full day

We had a full and productive day. Egg layer peepers, 200 of them, arrived on the farm. Bee sting between my toes. Wasp sting on Homer's hand. Chickens moved from field to fridge. Cattle, pigs, poultry, ducks, dogs and farmers watered and fed.

It was hot and humid. In the evening we took a quick drive (about 12 miles round trip) to the boat dock at Pinchot Park. Here on the farm we are closer to the back side of this 2,000+ acre state park, and have to travel to the spot where kayaks and canoes can be stored. This area provides quick access to the lake and no need to transport, as privately owned watercraft can be stored there.

As we walked the lake edge it was nice and cool. We watched a heron fly just above the water a long distance. And then I saw movement just out of the corner of my eye.

Homer circled back to retrieve the moving object. A crayfish!

That thing made me freak out! It feels and looks like a creature from a different time, like it forgot to evolve to something cute. It looks so similar to a scorpion, and since I was still puffy from my bee sting I needed no more adventure.

We picked it up (we?! Homer touched it, no way was I gonna do that) and placed on a kayak for a quick photo.

And then it was set back on the ground were it backed straight into the water at a high rate of speed.

Our intent in visiting was to investigate access and to remind ourselved to ask our friend Jeanne if we can borrow a kayak or canoe. Our schedule depends on weather and snafus. Its a challenge to know exactly when we will be able to go for a paddle. We've lived here for years and have not been out on this beautiful lake that is so close to the farm. Kinda busy when its warm and no desire when it is cold.

We have been out in other waterways on little boats before and it is always lovely. Just above the water, able to see what's traveling above and below. A nice way to spend a hot summer evening.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the no longer broody hen

We had separated out 3 broody hens. 2 sat with duck eggs under them and now we have a couple handfuls of ducklings.

Another was removed from her flock. We wanted to check and see if, like the other 2, she was really not making eggs but was willing to sit on a nest. Then the cover was removed from her nest box. She could get into the pen at night while wandering the farm during the day.

We have a rooster that was donated to us. He is calm and beautiful and does not crow very much. Most important for his survival is that he does not attack me. As long as he behaves he escapes the stew pot.

These two birds, on the loose, have survived for months now. Long enough for her to begin producing fertilized eggs, and for the chicks to hatch. She nested in the grass, inside her sort of open pen. I saw her off the eggs once, when the nest was in the direct sun and the temperature was above 90°.

Difficult to see right next to their momma, as they are tiny balls of fluff the same color.

So Miss A held one of the chicks to pose for a better photo. And because holding baby chicks is just a great start to a day.

Jasmine looks pretty interested too. The chicks will go into protective custody until they are larger, and not of such great interest to the dogs.

Growing a few egg layers here!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I run for the shower

Today it was not overcast. It has been for a portion of most days for about a week now. When this happens we run for the hoophouse and get to work clearing out as many weeds as possible. There are always more all summer long so sometimes it can feel fruitless. But we have made huge progress in these long, hot days and are so tickled with the results.

And then there is this. One small plant can send farmers into fits and crying when, after removing a bit of morning glory vine that was covering the walkway this appears.

Some grass. A volunteer tomato plant. And there, almost out of sight. Poison ivy. The other day I ended up standing on it after pulling a clump of those all covering morning glories away. My feet, ankles, hands and arms were in the poison ivy.

Shrieks happened. And a few curse words. Then a run back to the house, clothes straight into the washer, farmer right into the shower.

There are rumors rumbling that if washed off in 15 minutes the poison ivy reaction is stopped. Since hearing this news it is possible to occasionally witness one of us in the midst of the poison ivy run/wash. We might not be found at the local, community fundraiser 5k anymore. Instead we run the farm version.

It is working so far. The last couple years we have each only had small patches of the rash. 

Homer brought the long handled shovel and dug this growth up. Not certain what happens after that. I'm certain he does not burn it, as that opens up untold horror we want never to experience!

Monday, July 21, 2014

and on the side of the road

Just north of us is Harrisburg, the state capital. Beyond that, as you drive north along the Susquehanna, there are small towns and lots of fields.

I drove this route when we needed a little help a couple of weeks ago. Past gas stations, BBQ spots, a few waterfront towns, one winery, and then this.

Maple syrup for sale. No person there, just jars and jugs of maple syrup.

And this:

Of course I had to stop and get a bottle of maple syrup. Homer has figured out how to make gluten free pancakes and maple syrup is perfect on them. Such a treat.

And no line.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

if you saw this...

Would you think this place was still in business? Would you drive the steep gravel drive to check?

Years ago I was afraid, but Homer had heard rumor of sawdust and wood chips. The first visit was without me.

Now we visit as often as time will allow. The sawdust and wood chips are available by the truckload. Of course, we have to shovel them in ourselves.

The established date on the sign is from the early 1960's. The equipment predates that. Their home is a beautiful place, at the top of the hill. There are solid roofs on every structure, and they work in the shade. It has probably been decades since they owed money to anyone for the property, the equipment or the inventory of wood. The pace is casual and relaxed, there is no pressure to going for the next customer. 

They repair their gear. The saw blade is probably 8 feet across. We guess they can sharpen each of the teeth themselves. They take massive logs (entire tree trunks) and split them into usable size pieces.

Mostly all we have gotten are the shavings and the chips. Some wide boards, some 2x4's. There is no barcode inventory tag, loading the truck is simple, they now know Homer by name. 

We fill the truck as often as we can. There are endless uses for wood chips on a farm. If you visit, and it seems like we can't think of anything for you to do as help, remind of us of this job. Always needed, every season of the year. Always welcome.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Zinnias bloom

We moved here in late summer 2009. There was a lot of work to be done to get the property set up so that we could farm here, and do so efficiently and with a production level that would support us.

Flowers were not one of the things we could spend time planting or growing. And each subsequent year we continued building infrastructure and ran out of time for getting flowers into the ground.

This year we purchased 3 packets of zinnia seeds, for a total of about $7. And found a spot to get the seeds into the ground: way past the squash plants now starting to produce. We focus on vegetables and livestock, so flowers are certainly lowest priority even now. We managed to get the seeds in and even weed a couple of times.

So now there is this.

An entire bed of buds and blooms!

We cut a few and brought them inside.

And put a few in a vase that utilizes a frog...a spiky thing that holds upright flowers in place.

And a mason jar filled, so that we have cut flowers from the farm in two rooms!

For years: decades really, I've grown flowers enough to have extra to bring into the house. We lived in houses with azaleas and rhododendrons. Many bulbs: tulips, daffodils, crocuses. And a series of perennials that bloomed spring, summer and fall. There are plants that flower here but not ones I want to cut and bring in the house.

We are still working every day on the farm. But the infrastructure we have worked to establish is working, and now, our 5th season growing here, we don't have as much of that work to do. The chance to get a pack of seeds in the ground and have flowers in the house...from now until fall...makes me ridiculously happy.

Friday, July 18, 2014

we did it!

This was broken in several pieces when we paid $5 for it at an auction. It had lived outside for a bit and was a lot sad.

The glass is beyond filthy. And has quite a gap in one corner. All the pieces of glass are accounted for, and since Homer repaired my eyeglasses more than once he is certain he can piece this glass together.

And so we did this: glued the foot back on, and painted. The mirrors on back are quite cloudy and streaky, probably why it was kinda abandoned in the first place.

Its bright, yes.

We both like bright so this works for us!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

farm grown

Our broody hens are doing a great job as incubators.

When they first break out they are soaking wet. (The x on the other eggs is for making certain eggs are rotated daily)

The ducklings join the rest in the brooder once they are dry and mobile.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


We keep a small herd of cattle. We had plans that are in constant flux it seems with all livestock. We want milk from a cow that gets to eat grass here year round but have had challenges in that. For now we have a Jersey heifer and a few charloit for beef.

The ducks work the damp spots with their bills, and get the insect eggs before they hatch.

The cattle clear out grass and a lot of other green things. They don't eat milkweed or thistle. Turkeys eat thistle. Monarch butterflies eat milkweed.

And everyday the birds appear to stand on the cows, eating all the flies that the ducks miss. The bald face hornet eats flies too: they swoop in and grab them in midair just like birds. There are still flies here but there are also happy ducks, birds and hornets. And fat and happy cows too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

plum time

The other day I went to fill the dog bowl with water. And this was in it.

A perfect round, ripe plum. We have two plum trees on the farm. They are no where near the dog bowl. Our orchard is back by the hoophouse and these water bowls are just inside the fence gate near the garage.

So one of the dogs picked it up and carried it up here without breaking it, leaving it where we would find it.

So I went and looked at the plum tree. There must be more ready to eat, right?

Nope. There they were. All green. The entire tree.

And there was this too.

A birds nest right in the tree full of green plums.

The second tree was full of mostly green plums too. But then I saw a few of these. And picked them. Ate some and shared some with Homer.

We don't apply any pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or insecticides in our tiny little orchard. We mow a little under the trees and pull chicken pens under. We discovered a couple of things over the years. Chicken poop has just about the sane ingredients as commercial fertilizer. Chickens eat every bug, even those below the surface of the soil. And chickens do an amazing clean up job, as they love fresh fruit and eat every speck. So each year our plums, peaches, pears and apples look better. The plums are having a great year. I learned to pull off a few fruits so they are not rubbing against each other, as that is the spot where bugs hide. And then reproduce. And to carry away the inedible (even for a chicken) unripe fruit because the fruit eating bugs will find the fallen fruit and lay eggs in them. Get rid of the host and curculio moth looks elsewhere. 

Now I'm on the hunt for plum preservation methods. Its a bumper crop.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

cleaning up

While the house itself is not big, there are many spaces we can fill up with junk. Not just the flat surfaces in the house get covered with stuff. Entire buildings. Fields. Man cave. Camper area.

Things fill up and we clear spaces back out. What is this stuff? How do we acquire things?

A year ago we visited our local junk yard. There we found a set of wide and deep metal seating frames...outdoor furniture. Purchased at the cost of the metal, we bought the set for about $20.

And we waited for the price on outdoor furniture cushions to go on sale. That happened a couple of weeks ago, so we jumped on great deals. The directors chairs have been collected over the years from yard sales and stuff. For about $160 we have a place to sit, and later this will be on the to be built deck.

The metal bakers rack will also go on the deck. Found at our scrap yard it was about $2. 

The Hoosier cabinet will go into the revamped kitchen. Found in a front yard.

The model of the Homer House still gets to be right at the window.

Plans for this room include big glass doors overlooking the farm. The metal baseboard heaters will be removed and sold for salvage. That way doors can open. Tile floor with radiant heat under it. Lighting fixtures that are easy on the eyes and don't buzz. And the drop ceiling will go.

Time and money. All it takes for anything.

Friday, July 11, 2014

and now

It must be a combination of sun and temperature factors. The flowers we grow from seed or root stock are all starting to pop.

Other homes I've owned have had perennials planted. We have just 2 beds that bloom each year, along with wildflowers all over.

So tickled to see dahlia, sunflower and zinnias beginning to open to the sun.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

steel wheels

We know a few farmers. Visitors, PASA tours, conferences, farmers markets, get together, equipment purchases: there are many reasons we interact with other growers.

Yesterday our power was out. The shortest storm ever blew through here the other night and thousands of people lost electricity without getting a real watering for the fields. Water is critical. We have thousands of gallons in reserve. Lots of it potable. And a generator.

There was work that needed to be done that required both running potable and electric. Setup and clean up. Along with everything else that needed to be done yesterday we hired out.

And made a drive north up the Susquehanna.

The main difference I see on this farm and others?

Steel wheels. Clothes are a bit different too. 

We've stopped using inflatable rubber tires on our poultry pens. They all have solid rubber wheels now. Steel wheels? Show a commitment to farming for a really long time. Never repair a flat or figure out what to do with one after it starts allowing the tractor to slide out from under you.

And then a built in hitching post. Not on every farm either.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Its been gorgeous. Cooler days and nights, dry with amazing cloud formations. We have been working on many projects.

Squash transplants.

Sunflower nurturing.

Free seeds, planted and now calculating if there is enough time to harvest before first freeze.

Finding cool chair on the side of the road.

And finding triple pane glass doors for free that have my husband thinking.

Could we build our own refrigerator? And freezer?

Friday, July 4, 2014


Luna has funny chewing habits. We have learned to provide chew things on a daily basis to satisfy her urge to chew. But still, this happens:

Claire's farm boots. While Claire is not here daily, she works when she visits and needs boots. Its blueberry picking weather this morning so she needs to put them on.

Homer's handiwork is the fix.

And we are off to fill buckets with berries. Overcast most of the day, perfect berry picking weather.


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