visitors

We had some pheasants in our yard today, quite a surprise because our yard is not what I’d describe as wildlife friendly right now. We don’t have much for pheasant food, the grove doesn’t really provide any substantial cover, and we have a great oaf of a dog running around all the time.  We rarely even get songbirds, let alone anything much bigger in our yard. But, two pheasants showed up and poked around the wood bin for a while. One got stuck, actually, and took a bit of beating as it tried to get out. Hopefully it didn’t do itself any permanent damage. We threw out some of our chickens’ cracked corn to see if we can draw them back, but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed, at least for the immediate future. Eventually we’ll improve our windbreak and yard landscaping to provide more feed and cover, but that’s a long-term project.

Crappy picture, taken through our glass door leading out onto the back porch.

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bucky loves the snow

We’re not such big fans of having to clean up after him.

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New barn roof

When we bought the house we knew that one of the first big projects we would have tackle would be fixing the roof on the barn.  Over time the roof had developed a couple of weak spots that began to leak quite a bit.  Although the leak had only caused minor problems with the floor in the haymow, it needed to be fixed as soon as possible.  After getting a few different quotes on different types of repair we decided to go with a new steel roof that matches the rest of the out buildings.  We hired a local contractor and his crew to do the work.  For some reason the idea of standing on a ladder holding 12ft lengths of steel roofing didn’t seem like a very safe proposition.  We figured that the saying “leave it to the professionals” applied in this situation.  Other than it taking a while to get the crew out the farm, everything seems to have turned out great.  It is certainly nice to have it done, especially because it was finished about 4 hours before our first big snow.

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New windows

It is amazing how much more you notice a breeze in your home when the air coming through your windows is five degrees below zero.  When we bought the house last year we knew that a window upgrade was defiantly in order. While we enjoy many of the older characteristics of the house, the wavy glass, cracked panes, and balloon-filling air leaks were not some of them.  The old windows were the original single-pane, wood double hung windows that were installed in 1916.

Last spring before Mark changed jobs we were able to purchase windows through JELD-WEN with an employee discount.  We chose to go with white vinyl windows because of their ease of replacement and energy efficiency.  With the employee discount and the 2010 energy tax credits, we were able to outfit all 22 windows for a very reasonable price.  It would have been nice to upgrade to wood windows for the traditional look, however the additional work and cost eased our concern of changing the look of the house.

It is actually quite surprising how easy it is to install replacement windows.  As long as you have taken the correct measurements for your new windows, the old come out and the new go in.  Other than needing to insulate the chambers where the old window weights were hung, very little needed to be done.  In addition, the majority of the original woodwork was able to be reused, creating even less work when trimming out the new windows.  For the most part, this is a project that can be done by anyone.   Window manufacturers provide relatively good directions and with a few basic tools, an extra set of hands, and a nice afternoon you will likely be surprised how quick a few new windows can be put in.  I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have a ex-window salesman in the house, but either way, it is by no means impossible.

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carrot harvest and carrot salad

Despite Mark’s doubts, I had been convinced all along that we could leave our carrots in the ground all of winter if we covered them with enough mulch and were willing to dig through snow. I was wrong, leading to a desperate rush to dig what I could salvage from the already partially frozen ground (even under 8 inches of dead leaves) in mid-November. We had a lot of casualties: smaller ones frozen all the way through already; bigger ones that snapped when I tried to pry them up; lots that were severed by my careless shovel. But, we still had a good enough harvest for us. They’re all buried in sand in a wooden box in our basement. Apparently, this will help keep them crisp. We had very poor luck in storage last year (they were all floppy within two or three weeks), so anything will be better than that. Either way, they’re in the basement until spring since the 50 pounds of sand will bust out the bottom of the box if we try to move them now.

We use carrots mostly in soups and stocks, and sometimes roasted in the oven with a little butter. Recently, we’ve been trying carrot salad, which I never liked before when it was mixed with raisins, apples, and mayo dressing. Instead, we mix shredded carrots with a light dressing of olive oil, lemon juice or white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, a bit of sugar, and some chopped parsley. It’s  summery, but sometimes that’s a nice break from heavier winter food. Plus, it’s nice to get to shred, rather than try to chop, the more impressively disfigured ones.

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the truck for newbie farmers

At the end of November, we made a last ditch effort to get a bit more fuel for our outdoor stove before snow started falling. When we gathered wood before we, thanks to various family members, had access to a truck and trailer. Not so this time. Here’s proof that you don’t need a 4×4 to get some work done. Just a dog that doubles your work by “fetching” every log you cut and a willingness to sacrifice any and all resale value of your current vehicle.

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weather recap

We’ve been extremely lax in posting for, ummm, about a month now. Here’s a few shots of the weather we’ve gone through the past four weeks or so, starting with the ice storm that was our first winter weather.

The kale survived the first few light frosts we had, but we have tried using any since the ice storm since we have plenty in the freezer. We haven’t bothered pulling it, or the broccoli that we let flower. Hopefully it won’t be too mushy of a mess when we have to deal with it in the spring.

Now, we’ve had about a foot of snow fall. The snow fence we put up under our grove didn’t seem to do much to prevent drifting in the 30-40 mph winds that accompanied the first major storm. We’ve got a killer yard for snow play, and Bucky loves charging the mini mountains that have blown in. Come on by and make a snow angel or two.

 

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