Monday, September 30, 2013

Take Time to Relax...

Make sure to take time to enjoy beautiful evenings like this one.

         Mom and Dad can be so cute sometimes. They missed their morning walk together this morning so they took it this evening. They always walk the perimeter of the property and tonight they took a rest stop at the trampoline. I just had to snap a picture!
   I love these two people SO much! They have given their lives to care for, teach and love my siblings and me. What a wonderful life they have given us. Thank you so much Mom and Dad ... 
    I Love You!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Buckets & Buckets of Red Raspberries

    Raspberries are one of the few things left to harvest and preserve, but it's an easy task: we pick all the rows every other day, wash them in the kitchen sink and freeze them in gallon ziplock bags or can them as peach raspberry jam (after saving a few out in a tupperware to eat with our morning granola). 
    In the winter we mainly use the frozen berries in fruit smoothies which we all drink in the morning during scripture study (making those smoothies and doing the laundry are my two family chores that I have done before breakfast). Other than the smoothies we use the raspberries for icy jeweled parfet, topping on Dad's honey whole-wheat cheese cake and some other things.

    We have over two hundred feet of raspberries planted in rows on our hill. We have two varieties: Carolinas and Heritage. It's my joke that as soon as Mom and Dad grow too old to manage the farm and give it to us kids to take care of, I'm going to rip out the Carolinas and plant Heratage instead. I personally don't like the Carolinas because they're stickery and bare small mealy berries, while the Heritage give us BIG beautiful red raspberries and are not as stickery.

    See the beetle? That's a Japanese Beetle and they are responsible for how ragged some of the raspberry leaves are. Every year, Mom offers us a penny for every beetle we catch and kill. I've never done it (I don't like how the beetles feel in my hand) but my brothers and sisters enjoy the little side job. They pick with two buckets attached to their belts: an empty one for berries and another one with an inch of soapy water for the beetles. 
    It doesn't take very long for these beetles to die as long as there's soap in the water and once they're dead you can pour them out around the plants that you want to protect. I guess other beetles can smell the dead ones and stay away.

    We didn't discover this belt trick until we went to a you-pick blueberry place and saw it done. Mom has found belts of all sizes at the Amish thrift stores for really cheap. We keep them hung up in the green house with the picking buckets (we have two-gallon and one-gallon picking buckets). When it's time to suit up for berry picking we find a belt, loop it through the bucket's handle and secure it around ourselves. The belt speeds up the process because it allows you to pick with both hands instead of holding your bucket with one. 
    However the buckets do get heavy, so pick as a group with smaller buckets, or (if you're by yourself) empty your bucket halfway through and start fresh. 

    I love picking raspberries all alone (I do get tired  and start pining for a partner by the end :) because the process is repetitious enough that my mind can wander. I usually ponder my brewing story ideas, but sometimes I just listen to what's going on around me. Today I could hear out neighbor and his brothers building his house down the road. If I pick early in the morning (before 8:00) I can hear the Amish school bell ring, and there are always birds. My favorite bird is the Mourning Dove.

    Believe it or not, picking raspberries is an exhausting job :)

    Of course, when you don't use pesticide, it's granted that you'll have to share a bit of your harvest with the pests. We've just learned to plant enough to feed out family, the birds and the bugs. But we always wash the berries before freezing them to get rid of all the bugs.
    The number of raspberries we get every picking is never the same. It climbs and then drops over the season. We keep a year supply of frozen raspberries so they'll last us until the season starts again the next year: about 12+ gallons. We didn't have to can any raspberry peach jam this year because we made extra last year. BUT I really want to share that recipe with you because it my Mom's original recipe and it's SO good. Until then ...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Harvest is Basically OVER!

    It's always a great feeling when both the spring and lower gardens are asleep for winter. It means that all there is left to worry about are the berry plants (blue berries, black berries and red raspberries) flowerbeds (evergreen garden, forget-me-not garden, oval garden and front beds), lawns and the orchards (fruit orchard and nut orchard).

    Harvesting and canning are my favorite chores on the farm. When you can see all your hard work start to fill crates and freezers and shelves, that's when you realize that it was all worth it.
    There are also a couple laughs to be had during harvest time. Mr. Carrot riding his Potatosaurus made me laugh. I just had to blog it. Enjoy your oddly shaped vegetables!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Putting the Lower Garden to Sleep

    Finally, we have closed the lower garden down for the winter. It feels so good to have the whole thing bare (besides the cover crop and straw). I love being home for autumn, it's a beautiful time of year. Spring is my favorite, but I'm at college then, and --I'm sorry-- but it is just not as pretty in Idaho as it is here :)


    My little brother found a praying mantis in the weeds that we were pulling. I really don't like this type of bug (not quite as badly as spiders though :) but my brothers let the things crawl all over them. I will take and post pictures of them and that is all ...

    There was a lot of leftover weeds and even rotten vegetables that we left in the lower garden so they could act as compost. My brother tilled them in before we fertilized. He wore a bandanna because the exhaust pipe was blowing right into his face and the bandanna helped to block the smell.
    Since becoming friends with the Amish, this brother of mine has adopted the handkerchief. He keeps it in his pocket and uses it instead of Kleenex. I'm fine with it, because he does his own laundry. At fourteen-years-old we get a laundry hamper for our birthday and start doing all of our own laundry, and around sixteen-years-old we start buying all of our own clothes because by then we should be finished growing and will want to keep our clothes.   

    After tilling, we fertilized the garden. I talked a lot about what kind of fertilizer we use and whats in it in my post about putting the spring garden to sleep. This garden is a lot bigger than the spring garden so we used quite a bit of fertilizer.

   This little tiller is great for mixing in the fertilizer and decompose, before we spread the cover crop. I didn't get any pictures of us spraying the garden with decompose or even spreading the cover crop but there are lots of pictures of us doing the same thing in my post about putting the spring garden to sleep

 As long as the blade is off, we enjoy riding on the front of the zero-turn mower like this.

    The little man hooked the wagon up to the mower with a bungee cord and went to bring us a bale from the lower porch. Dad and my brothers used the bales to make a doghouse for the dogs for winter. The dogs stay pretty warm down there because they're close to the house and the bales act as insulation from the wind.  

It took eight whole bales to cover the lower garden--four for each side.

    My older brother not only carries a handkerchief, but a knife too. It comes in handy all the time. My little brother borrowed it for a minute to cut the twine off the bale. We try to keep track of all the twine that comes off each bale, but sometimes the strings get away from us and end up in the zero-turn blades.

Our favorite Mormish cheerleader :)

At Last! It feels GREAT to be finished with that garden for a couple months.

    It was an exhausting afternoon/evening, but with that garden out of the way we can afford to relax a little bit before we close down the orchard/berries and start cider pressing season. Things never stop around here and I love it! It's nearly impossible to be bored.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Putting Away All That Landscape Cloth

    It's time to put away all of the lower garden's landscape cloth.We forgot that we had sweet potato planted so we dug those up before tearing out the cloth. It was the first time we actually tried growing sweet potatoes so we didn't get very many and they were all small and shaped strangely. But we know that, someday, we'll might not be able to get sweet potatoes at the store or anywhere else and will have to know how to grow our own ... so it's best to learn now while there are still stores :)

    Some of the landscape cloth strips were easy to get out, but some were just a bear. It was all our fault too: we let the weeds get totally out of hand on one end of the garden and they overran the landscape cloth ... they were so bad we couldn't even weed-whack them so we just tore them up as we folded back the cloth.

Next year, we'll just have to double up on the landscape cloth :)
or take better care that the weeds stay in hand :)

    Landscape Cloth Equation: My brother pulling up the cloth + Mom tearing out the weeds + my sister chopping away at the roots with the shovel + Me taking pictures = Team Effort :)

We knew we were bound to find at least one of these while we were at this job.

   We let the strips dry on the grass for one day (as long as it's a dry day) to dry away the dirt clumps and stray weeds that may still being clinging to them.

    Then we sweep them off, roll them up, and store them in the tool shed until planting season. I will  be away at college when it's time for the family to lay the cloth back out next year, but I'll be home in time to put it away.
    Things are really winding down now. Only a few more chores until we settle down to heavy schoolwork and snow shoveling. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Watering System in the Blueberries

    I wasn't going to post about our watering system because I really don't understand fully how it works, but after some urging from Mom I did go out with with my younger brother and sister before breakfast and took some pictures before they buried it.
    It was a beautiful cool misty morning and it was fun to spend time with the two youngest. These will be the times that I will cherish when I head back out to college this next January.

    Anyhow, we already have a watering system like this in our fruit orchard. We wanted something that was connected to our well, could water one or multiple trees at a time and was below ground so we didn't have to move it every time we mowed. So we came up with a series of valves/shutoffs, a network of underground PVC pipe that was connected to the pump at the top of the hill, and a small sprinkler above each of the trees.
    It worked so well that we put it in our raspberries rows, only this time we used drip-line instead of sprinklers. We can fertilize through the system too through a pump that sucks up the fertilizer at the top of the hill and distributes it evenly through each row through the drip-line.

    Didn't I just write a post about stray drop-off animals? Well, here's something to prove it. This little dog wandered onto our property a week or two ago, and because he found food he decided to stay. He's just like most drop-off strays: patches of no hair, wants to be inside, afraid of brooms, etc ...
    We're not sure what to do about him. He's quiet and hasn't caused any trouble so it's easy to forget about him. Once we have a spare minute to two we'll decide whether he stays or goes.

    This watering system weaves through the blueberry plants and also runs all the way down to our kiwi plant. Both the blueberries and kiwi were neglected this year (as far as watering goes) so hopefully this new watering system does the trick for us next year. 
    It's almost time to blow the water out of the underground pipe with an air compressor to prepare for winter. We don't want water to freeze in the pipes because they'll burst.

My sister and me (and the stray) under the kiwi trellis

    I love efficiency and this watering system really does a great job. Besides that, it's an excuse to do something big and challenging together as a family. I love having ongoing projects around the farm. There's always more to do and I LOVE IT! What with finishing some of the basement, harvesting, canning, building the watering system,  putting the gardens to sleep and starting school we keep quite busy around here. AND, we're excitedly planning next year's projects. 
    A farm is a lovely ongoing adventure! Life Is Wonderful!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Preparing the Basemnt Drywall

    Finally, the crew finished up in the basement and left us the drywall to prime and paint. I am so excited to have a room of my own again! I've been sleeping in the library since I've gotten home from college and I'm ready to have a room that stays clean and is a little more private.
    BUT, there's a lot to do before I can move down there and the first step is to prepare the drywall for primer. Before we discovered the vacuum, we used brooms to removed the dust. The air got so thick (even with all the windows open) that my camera refuse to focus and my throat refused to swallow.

    We had a huge pile of dust by the end of the day and it was fun to write little messages in it. You can't read it, but my sister is writing "Proud To Be Mormish" with here toes in the picture.

    After sweeping/vacuuming the walls we swept the floor and mopped. I never did get to mop because it was the popular job, but I supervised quite a bit. 
    Everyone, besides me and the two youngest, were out for the day, either shopping (Mom and Dad drove an hour+ to look at a trailer that someone is selling) or working (my sister works at the bakery and my brother  works at a furniture shop after early morning seminary). The three of us were quite a team and were able to get a lot done though.

    After that we wiped down the walls with a slightly damp cloth and the drywall was ready to prime! There's still a whole lot to do before it's finished: prime, paint, finish the electric, put a drop ceiling in two of the rooms, tile the bathroom, put in the bathtub surround, put in a vanity, trim, put shelves in the closet, flooring, etc... It's a big job, but it's fun to tackle something like this as a family team.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Picking Grapes for a Friend

    The closest member of our ward (member of our congregation) lives about five to ten minutes from us. He's an elderly man, but he still lives on a farm. This year, he wondered if we would like to come and pick his grapes, take them home and use them. We said we would pick them, and even though we didn't need them this year we knew someone who did.
    So a couple of us went over and spent an hour in the evening (before dinner) picking grapes. 

    These gapes are not the eat-off-the-vine type. They are strong and have seeds in them, but they're wonderful for juice. Someday we want to have a beautiful grape arbor and vines on our farm. We want to try our hand at both varieties: eat-off-the-vine and perfect-for-juice.

    It was fun to come out just the two youngest, Dad and I. It was a beautiful evening, the air was warm and fresh and a breeze was blowing. I didn't even take any shoes. I would go barefoot all year if I could. The country life for me!

The little man didn't seen to care that the grapes were seedy :)

    The skylight is one of the fun things about our little car. We like to stick our heads out as Dad races down the driveway and into the garage. I remember doing that when I was younger, now I just stick my head out of the back window and take pictures of my siblings. 
    I love my family and I love my life ... I am truly blessed!