Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's a Grape Day for the Grape Press

We brought two gallons of grapes up to my parents this past weekend so we could try out my papa's apple cider press. I grew up seeing their press covered in dust in the basement. It was a project Papa put together but it never operated correctly until he had it worked on. My brother and I were always fascinated with it so when Ashley and I had the opportunity to try it out, I was excited. 

First Ashley sprayed off the dust. 

The boys helped (they had been riding plasma cars which explains their helmets). 

Lots of cranking...

And then the juice started to trickle out!

After one press we decided the grapes had more juice in them. 

And we were right. Two gallons of grapes gave us a little over two quarts.  

We all tried a glass of fresh muscadine juice. 

Ashley and I will probably buy our own press to have at Okra Hill since this worked so well. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

If boys make me a mama, pigs make me a farmer

The pigs are porking right along. We're raising them to 200 lbs. So far they're happy with their arrangements and doing their part to make sure we have no food waste. 

When I had my first baby, I became a mama. I feel like I've become a farmer now that we have the pigs. I am responsible for their care and am really starting to enjoy it. There's something very satisfying about going out to get their slop ready every morning and then watching them waller in the dirt. 

Okra Hill has become a farm (though still very much a hobby farm) and this mama of three boys who used to be college academic advisor is now happily a farmer. 

Speaking of growing along, our grapes are in full production mode. We grow mostly muscadines (with one random scuppernong vine--that's my favorite). 

The boys were pleased with this morning's harvest. I've made one batch of jelly and plan to do another run, plus some grape sorbet. I'm also selling grapes to friends. 

What a blessing to live this life. There are days when I gripe about some of the chores but I can't imagine raising boys anywhere else

On a related note, Saturday a young couple from North Carolina visited us because they had found my That New House blog and plan to eventually build our house on their own land. It was a neat afternoon sharing our thoughts and helping them build their dreams. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not Everything Is a Good Idea

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the blogging world and think everything works out perfectly. I hope I do a decent job of accurately representing our life at Okra Hill. 

But just in case you were wondering what hasn't worked out so well, here are a few recent examples. 

We're novice pig farmers and it's definitely be a "learn as we go" endeavor. One thing we've had to figure out is how to best provide water for our swine. We started off with a large bowl, which the pigs promptly overturned. Then Ashley used his landscaper brain and created a watering tube out of a large PVC pipe, outfitted with a nipple. 

This seemed like a good idea until we quickly realized the pigs' snouts were too long to use the nipple. 

So we bit the bullet and purchased this ingenious waterer from our local feed store. The pigs figured it out almost immediately (they press their snouts against the metal plate and water fills in the blue basin for them to drink).

One of my biggest disappointments this summer has to do with this very lush green bean crop...

The green beans are so healthy and thick that they managed to block the majority of the water for the garden behind them. The okra is doing fine (such a hardy plant!). 

But the, they needed water that was taken by the beans. Although we've talked about a drip irrigation system for the garden, Ashley continued with the overhead sprinklers this year. I lost out on cucumbers and pickling--but in the end, it's been a blessing. Most evenings I'm pretty tired and don't feel like canning. If I had the gallons of cucumbers like years past, I would have felt obligated to pickle them. 

The corn also didn't make. We're not sure if this was a water issue or if there were some other factors at play. 

Waylon and Ziggy were happy to help us with the corn stalks.

So instead of letting the plants flounder, Ashley went ahead and plowed them under. We learned a lesson about remembering the heights of plants as they grow and how they will impact their neighbors. The green beans and okra are still going strong, as are our tomatoes and basil. I'll try to do another post soon to share the starting of our fall garden.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Pasture for Pigs (and Goats)

We've had our pigs for a month now. They're growing right along. Ashley transitioned them to living in the goats' pen/pasture yesterday. Although they squealed like pigs (we really could have used ear plugs while Ashley was carrying them over), they loved their new space once they settled in. 

Wallering in the mud...

Rooting up the ground...

Making their goat brothers wonder what in the world just arrived....

It's amazing watching them use their snouts. They particularly love rooting under the Hickory trees. 

Ziggy and Waylon weren't that thrilled about their new pen-mates, but they seem to all be adjusting just fine. 

Ashley put on his thinking cap and made these awesome troughs out of PVC pipe and wire. Both the pigs and goats are bad about standing in their food--the wire prevents that. 

It was a family affair as usual. 

I'd say the finished product works great!

For all parties involved. 

I'm thankful to have Ashley as my partner. There's no way we could do this Okra Hill farming thing without being a team. I'm responsible for the animals' day-to-day general upkeep (feeding, water, etc) but it takes Ashley to do the larger things like animal relocation and trough building. Although I was a reluctant pig farmer, I'm getting used to it now. And to see the girls running around in the pen is awesome. They're so happy--and pretty clean, too!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Swine and other summery things

We have officially become a farm now- two weeks ago we added two pigs to our menagerie. We're keeping them temporarily in a dog pen while we work on their larger space and feeding arrangements.  We're raising these girls for pork but we are committed to giving them a good life this summer and fall (until they reach 200!!! lbs). 

With the pigs arrival, the chickens aren't receiving as many kitchen scraps. I made sure to treat them to all the weeds I pulled in the garden this morning. 

Speaking of the garden, it's coming right along. I'm not planning to do much canning this summer because our youngest has just started walking and is proving to be like his older brothers- busy! Right now we have plenty of zucchini and squash and the cucumbers are coming along (though one type isn't doing much--to my disappointment!). The green beans have just started and we've picked about 15 okra pods--enough for supper tonight. 

I picked gallon of blackberries this morning. I'm sharing these with two friends- one who gave my boys a sack of hand-me-down clothes and the other who has worked with me at Bible school this week.  

These gladiolas are stunning!

And so are their neighbors, the blueberry bushes. 

Because this is a catch-up post, I wanted to share two other favorite things this summer- these SunPatiens Ashley planted at our front door. These are doing wonderful in the shade and hot afternoon sun. 

We also finally got around to building a bike shed on the side of the house to get the bikes off the front porch. This was a family (and neighbor) affair and we love the final product. Ashley may add a partial door to the front. He also plans to plant vines (jasmine?) to creep up the sides. 

So all in all we've had a great start to summer. I hope y'all have too. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stink bug battle over the blackberries

Grrr.... the stink bugs are back again, bothering my blackberries. The bucket on the left has berries damaged by stink bugs. 

The chickens didn't seem to mind the taste--but goodness, I hate it! So disappointing to see a beautiful plump berry and then notice the stink bug prick. 
Luckily the vines are producing more now. This morning I picked almost a gallon of stink-bug free blackberries (but I did flick at least three stink bugs into soapy water while I was picking). 

Passing of the Peas

Our peas did a great job this spring but once the temperatures increased, they dwindled fast. The chickens got to enjoy the vines. 

Tyler wondered what happened....

Waylon and Ziggy made quick work of their snack.

Someone ate something in the garden...

Mason and Levi have been attempting to fix this garden cart that Ashley ran over by accident with the CAT skid steer. Not much success but they've had fun with it. 

Fence expansion phase 1 complete

A few weekends ago we expanded the goat's pen to include the area below the grapevines. In the past this was a weed fest that Ashley had to mow. Now we'll have natural mowers!

I'm proud of myself for learning how to wire a t-post to the fence :o)

This piece of equipment made stretching the fence possible (and even more enjoyable for our boys, especially our middle son--whose brain is shaped like a Bobcat!). 

Fence complete. Goats in their new place. Ashley and Levi outfitted the maple trees' trunks with drainage pipes to protect their bark. 

Here's the view from the upstairs. Love our land!