Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall- Officially Here

Well there is no doubt about it, Fall has arrived. We had a hard frost last night and the garden is prettty much done for. Just the other day we put 4 quarts of brussels in the freezer and I hope we can go and get another batch in the next few days as these are not really affected by the cool weather. We have also learned that here in upper Maine a summer garden is really a fall garden. So much of it is just now coming fully ready and then the frost gets it. We have absolute bucket loads of green tomatoes out on the now frost killed plants. How fair is that? I did get a bucket in on thurs of ripe ones and another of Italian peppers. We will just have to put up what we can. I did manage a huge pot of apple butter over the weekend and sent some home with the kids. Even Teddy took some back to college with him. Kelly made 4 wonderful zuccini breads with pecans and we have already devoured one.
Kelly's big accomplishment was getting some of the Christmas Soaps made. She did a big double batch of Gingerbread with pumplin flakes and several Holiday scents with stuff like cranberry seeds in it. It smells so good upstairs where it is all drying. It takes 4 weeks to harden and for the lye to ?dissapate or ?react or whatever it does. To turn into good luscious soap. The website still is not up so you can't get it yet but hopefully soon.
The chickens were free range for 3 days but are now back in their coop. We made a lovely door to the yard and set the girls free. They were delighted. So were we. We just got such a kick out of them that we sprawled in the grass and watched them for hours. They ate grass and chased crickeets and carried on when they got a grasshopper. How funny they are 46 hens and 2 silly roosters trying to guard them. Then yesterday we spent hours in the flower garden getting the new peonys from Canada planted and weeds pulled and dirt moved it low areas. Today the hens came in while we were asleep and chewed up flowers left and right. They scratched big holes and generally tore things up. So they are banned until we can figure out how to keep them freely home on the range and out of the garden.
Our neighbor Chris came and cut down the pasture grass along the fence lines while we were asleep also. Now we can get the new posts in and the fences started.
We took Leah, Kelly's daughter and her sweet baby to the pediatrician yesterday so she could get a persistent ear/sinus infection treated. I hate it when the babies are sick, they just don't understand why they feel so crummy and she keeps pulling on her ear. Hopefully in a couple of days she will be better.
I have a new great niece Wren. Welcome to our world. I miss your mommy and my sister has sent me beautiful pictures of you. Know that you are loved. Well thats about all for tonight. We keep our friend peggy at Hidden Haven and her daughter Melody in our prayers and for all our servicemen and women. From the far north....Alex

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mid Week Blues

Here we are at work again and this month has a crappy schedule. Seems we are working 2 on and 2 off a lot. But as you sleep the whole first day you are off you can't get a lot done. I have felt crummy the last few days but Kelly actually got some things accomplished. She painted the stairwell. No mean feat with rigging boards to serve as scaffolding. And it is beautiful. A rich Sage with lots of white woodwork. The spindels for the railing are still in a pile in the barn as we slowly get the old paint off. There are multiple layers and no amount of paint remover or stripper gel etc seems to want to work on the innermost layers. So we scrape and sand and rub steelwool for hours for each spindle. But each is turned intricately till about half way up and then becomes an elegant spiral. You don't see anything like that today so we are trying to save them. And the railings are a dark wood, maybe mahogany. We will stain the treds to match all the other floors and the paint the risers white. the spindals will be white as they were originally and the rails dark. But not any time soon. Kelly also put another coat of mud on the kitchen cornices so we may be able to prime and paint soon. We picked out the colors for the dining room. This is the biggest room in the house. Lots of windows and 4 doorways. The area below the chairrail will be a deep colonial red and above a soft cream. All the woodwork in the house is white plus the beams in this room are boxed and white. Well the pellet stove came in and we picked it up yesterday. Ted managed to get it down to the basement today but now we have to move the water heater and redo some of the piping. that is not an outrageous job but its one you cant stop till its done once you start. So I need several days off as a margin of safety. then we can hook up the stove and get an electrician in for power to the controls and thermostat. Always something. Well the bugger chickens go to the butcher on Sat. I will be doing the chicken dance in front of the barn. Ted has one rooster who is not going. He is "the Captain " and he follows Ted around the yard and thru the barn. If he is going to stay he will have to go in with Sampson and the hens but so far 3 of the hens have been kicking his butt. Wish him luck. We need to go up to the wellhouse and check on the light that provides heat in there. Forgot to mention that during the summer we had to have the well casing and foot valve replaced as they were cracked and found the whole elect. outlets for the light had also failed. Now that entire mess was an unforseen expense. Just what we needed. Good thing we found it now and not when its 5 degrees and the well is frozen. I hope to get some apples picked and make some apple butter and pumpkin butter this weekend. Today, for the first time, all the windows were closed as it was cool and very windy. Kind of nice actually to curl up in a sweatshirt and warm socks. Of course cats and a dog snuggled in are nice too. Teddy called from college. He has already worn out his basketball shoes and needs new ones right away as he had an apparent blowout. He wears a size 16 shoes so these have to be ordered. But he loves his classes and has lots of friends so shoes are just part of the package. Hope his coach understands about shipping time. well folks I think thats about it for tonight. Alex

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back at last

Well what do you know, the computer at work decided to let me on. You never can tell what its going to do. I know it has been quite a while but let me try to get all that we have done in some sort of order. In July we picked 19 quarts of strawberries and made our first preserves. Well we made some preserves and some syrup. Pectin , it seems is magic and we are novices at its control. We have about half the jars (about 25) that are just too soupy to be called preserves. But its good on ice ceram. And the freezer has a goodly amount in their natural state. Our chickens have matured nicely. We now get about 30 eggs a day and are selling them. We are talking to a caterer and that would be sweet if they want 12 dozen a week. We got 25 cornish cross roosters to raise as meat birds and I will not be sorry to see them go. All they do is eat and sleep. And they are not nice when you go in to feed, they peck at your legs constantly and spur you. So I say " to the freezer with you old buggers" and I will keep my affection for my sweet brown hens. Ted built us another set of nest condos as 9 was not enough. The girls were pushing and shoveing and laying eggs everywhere. Now they are much happier. The weather has been an issue for us all summer. It rained here in upper Maine for a month straight, every day. No one could get hay cut. Well some did but not us. The fellow who was supposed to cut our hay does not like to square bale but has both a square and round baler. He gets half the hay for the job. This year he thought he had a lease on a much bigger field a so kept putting ours off till the rain started. When it finally ended we had hay and weeds and his lease fell thru so he came and cut ours. Then his square baler wouldn't work so he round baled everything, except sheep want dry hay and we have no tractor to move round bales. So we have an empty barn and round bales sitting out in the rain. He on the other hand can use round balse and has the tractor. Go figure. So Kelly and I have decided to go to the USDA and jump thru their hoops in the hopes of getting a loan for a tractor mow bar, rake , and baler. With 20 acres of hay we can do our own. So additionally, due to weather, high grass, and general lack of funds we still don't have our fence posts in or fence wire purchased and up. We did , however make a trip down to Skowhegan and check out the Tractor Supply Company. What a candy store! They tell us one is coming to Bangor next year. I can't wait. We have a pellet stove paid for and are waiting and waiting for Lowes to get it in. We've been 5th on the list for a month. Pellets are also reserved thru our feed store. The sheep are coming in January so we have much to get ready. The second side of our old barn is now all cleared out and just a few repairs needed for the sheep to come. I have to build a bunch of doors before winter gets here. Now kelly has decided to get some dairy goats. I have to find out about mixing the goats with the icelandics and what the differences in care are. Her Soap making is going great with many different kinds of wonderful all natural goat milk soap. Selling well. If we can ever figure out how to get the web site up and running you can all see it. Now she is going to make bath bombs and maybe lotion. I have started making cheese. So far Mozzerella and ricotta and soft chees spreads. A neighbor has goats and lots of lovely milk and is going to teach me to make cherve though I still can't pronounce it. Lets see what else... Teddy, Kellys youngest is off to college this last weekend. Phones and says he loves it so that is good. The house sure is quiet. The bees are doing well according to Kelly. I still look from an allergic distance. The back of the house has the siding completed and all the kitchen cabinets are in. We built a huge island around the chimney and it has lots of custom stuff like tall sheet pan cabinets and cutting board slots and soda can bins and is all tiled. We took down the wall that was so cold in the kitchen last winter and found..surprise, no insulation at all. nothing, just the ouside boards from when that end of the house was a barn 160 yrs ago. So it is now insulated and sheetrocked but has yet to be painted. All the bedrooms upstairs are finished. Floors are done, walls painted and decorated. Thats 5 rooms. All that is left up there is the hall and the yet empty bathroom. Someday!We did end up with some tomatoes squash cabbages brussels, lots of Italian peppers and onions. The grape vines are ok as are the raspberries but the blackberry didn't make it. The blueberry bushes look fair. Our asparagus patch lots like it will be ok too. Some of the trees are already changing. The days grow perceptably shorter up here and I made a big double batch of homemade bake beans. Must be fall coming. I am headed to NH in Oct for my eldest sons wedding and have been clothes shopping, which I hate. but I finally have something to wear. Kell'y birthday was last week and mine is in 2 weeks and so time marches on, right over us. All her kids were up last weekend which was loads of fun. Good to see them and the grandbabies. well thats it for now. Glad to be back. Alex