Thursday, January 31, 2019

Surviving the Vortex

The news is filled with the current polar vortex hitting our region.  We had temperatures down to -12 last night and I can't even guess what that was with the wind chill factored in!

The critters are staying as warm as I can make them.  My three horses, Sassy, Bandit, and Lochlin, enjoy the extra grain they're getting along with plenty of hay to keep their internal fires burning. 

Bandit's coat is so well insulated that the snow doesn't even melt! 

Loch doesn't look as fuzzy, but his coat sticks almost straight out and he looks like a teddy bear.

Sweet horse lips.

Sassy, the old girl (she's 31!), needs a little extra help and she gets a nice warm blanket to give her the little bit extra she needs.   I think Bandit and Loch would be overheated in a blanket!

I have to admit.  I spent a good portion of the day sitting by the wood stove and watched the wind blow snow high across the back yard. 

But that's partly because the morning started off with a soul-freezing challenge!

I said that I would pass along farm life's bad with the good.  

I saw this meme on Facebook and actually laughed out loud:  

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Water is always a problem on the farm.  

I checked the horses' water at the start of the polar vortex and they were great!  Then overnight they must have slurped down half their trough of water!  

My wonderful new water spigot that was run down to the barn this fall froze a week ago.  So I hauled out all the long hoses (I'm smart now and use Magic Hoses that fit in a bucket!) and took them out to the spigot closest to the barn.  I twisted the connections together, laid out the hoses so they wouldn't knot, and reached for the spigot.  The handle was frozen solid and NOT going to turn.  

So.  I reloaded the hoses in their bucket, hauled the hoses over to the other, farther away, spigot and found that just enough water had frozen on the threads of that spigot to make it impossible to twist on the hose connection.  This was the last chance spigot and had to work!  I warmed the threads with my hands and gloves and was finally able to get off the ice and connect the hose.  I turned on the water full force because, at these low temperatures, water will freeze up in the hoses in an instant!

I hauled the spraying hose end through drifted knee deep snow down to the horse trough.  I have a bungee cord tied on the hose end so that I can attach it across the horse trough and not have to stand for 30 minutes filling the water.  But... one end of the bungee cord was tied on shorter than the other in a way that when attached it either sprung off the horse trough (and you know how those Magic Hoses contract back about 50 feet) or the water sprayed out of the trough - and that bungee cord was frozen solid so I had to work with it the way it was.  Finally, finally, I was able to use every bit of strength and attach the hose in a way that worked.  Remember too - this was all done in negative degree weather.  Painful!  Then went on to finish the rest of my feeding chores.  

There's some not so glamorous stuff that happens on the farm.    

One other report of bad news.  We're very sad to say that our old lab, Daisy,
had to be put to sleep this week.  She was having problems urinating and we found that she had an inoperable tumor.  She was a sweet old girl we're going to miss that big old hair, farting, loving soul!

Friday, January 25, 2019


Every single time I buy one of those plastic clamshells of not inexpensive organic greens, I end up getting one or two salads out of it and then start seeing lots of slimy bits.  So the pigs get the remaining greens and the recycle bin gets the clamshell.  

It stunk to have to put one more plastic container into recycling when we're hearing that a lot of stuff isn't getting recycled as we thought!

So I decided to follow up on a speaker, Peter Burke, whom I heard at the Mother Earth News Fair a couple of years ago and start growing my own microgreens.  

First, I got his book, "Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening," as a Christmas gift.  

Then, I started collecting all that I needed - the dirt, the compost, the seed, the dishes for growing.  Peter Burke suggests using aluminum foil bread pans, but I don't like to use aluminum foil in anything if I can help it as I've read it's linked to Alheizmers.  And the pans wouldn't last indefinitely - so I went to our local Goodwill store and picked up some glass baking dishes.  

Following Burke's instructions I put the growing medium in a bag (I know - plastic - but I plan to reuse it over and over - I need to think about this) and kneaded water into the soil to moisten it. 

I had these seeds left over from a failed attempt at growing sprouts.

The growing medium gets placed in a dark place for four days and then the emerging seedlings get pulled out and placed in the sun to green and grow. 

 You can see these two growing pans about four days apart.  The bottom dish will get a couple more growing days and then I'll have an incredibly fresh salad!  

As we eat the greens, we'll feed the root ball that's left behind to the pigs or chickens for a nice fresh wintertime treat - zero waste!

...Then reuse the dishes and start the next round of salad greens.

Is it as easy as purchasing greens at the grocery store?  Definitely not!  And there is a start-up cost for supplies.  

But I hope, that once I get a growing rotation in place, I'll never again have to waste money to buy greens that turn slimy. 

And I won't be adding more plastic to the landfill! 


Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Cozy Moment Before The Storm

Here in north-central Pennsylvania, we are preparing for the big storm that may dump as much as two feet of snow.  

The horses are hayed and their water is topped off.  Sassy, (my 31-year-old mustang) is wearing her blanket - the old girl got pretty spritely and ran all around the pasture after I put it on her - I think she really liked it!)

All the other animals are warm, tucked in, and we're ready to go. 

Last night, I fed the horses and pigs.  Then I walked out for the nightly feeding of the chickens and turkeys.  As I walked back to the barn to return the water bucket and give the horses their nightly "cookie" I saw Lochlin waiting and watching for me and I thought, "this is the epitome of coziness."  

When we get cold and snow like this I think of a story out of a book from my childhood, "Stories That Never Grow Old," edited by Watty Piper.

Inside this marvelous, enchanting book, with its beautiful illustrations, is a story titled, "Shingebiss." 

Shingebiss is the story of a duck who defies the North Wind.  

"'How fortunate it is that I have a comfortable lodge with a good fire,' said he to himself.  And he looked at the great logs that would keep his fire burning until spring came again.  There were four of them - one for each of the cold months."

"Far up in the Arctic, the North Wind lived.  He was a quarrelsome creature.  He liked to come blowing down over the earth, frightening the animals and birds.  Sometimes he froze them to death, if they didn't hide when they heard him coming."  

The story goes on to relate the struggle the North Wind has to defeat Shingebiss as it freezes the lake ice, blows ice and snow over Shingebiss' back, comes into his lodge to blow out his fire, and tries to blow down his lodge.  Shingebiss replies with:   

"Bring your frost and ice and snow; I'm still free to come and go."

I hope that we can all feel like little Shingebiss after this great storm blows through!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Our Little Forest

In December of 2017, we purchased about 23 acres of forest nearby.  The property was lightly logged by Amish (much less impact on the environment) and in the process, a few nice trails were created. 

One of our other purchases of 2017 was a Vizsla puppy.  And the saying, "a good vizsla is a tired vizsla" is certainly true!  Ladybird, our young vizsla, needs me to get her out of the house for some exercise at least once a day or she becomes cuckoo!  Our trails through the new forest give her plenty of running space.  The exercise seems to help our old lab, Daisy, as well.  

The peace of a calm and silent forest is like meditation.  It soothes and rejuvenates at the same time.  

I really enjoy seeing signs of wildlife.  The white-tailed deer travel on self-made highways through our little forest.

And I was confused by the tracks you see below but found that an animal who travels by stepping into their own tracks is probably a red fox. 

What made this track?  I'm not sure.  I thought it might be vole tunnels, but that's just speculation.

Most days in which the wind isn't blowing hard you'll find me taking time in this forest.  I'm leery of widowmaker trees when the wind blows hard and walk carefully.  

What is a widowmaker? In the general sense, it’s anything that has the potential to kill men, thereby making widows of their wives. In a more specific sense, widowmakers are dead branches caught precariously high in trees, ready to fall on unsuspecting individuals below (source:  

I certainly wouldn't want to be standing near this tree below when it gives out!

This forest is a wonderful place for walks and peace, but it serves a much more real purpose in that it will keep us in firewood for years to come.



Friday, January 11, 2019

Deja Vu

I started this blog on July 31, 2010.  

I have written 688 posts! 

Sometimes I feel like I'm out of things to say or I have to wonder if I'm repeating something I've already written!  

But I keep writing.  Even if it has become a bit sporadic.  Because there are people out there who ask me about my blog.  And that makes me happy.  

So, going into my 10th year of writing, I'm trying to commit to writing more often.  

But I would like to know if there is anything specifically about which anyone would like to hear?

In a lot of ways I've sugar coated what goes on on the farm.  Deaths and failures don't get a lot of press, but I think for the sake of my readers I'm going to change that.  

So here goes...


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