Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hay Gods

Every year we face the impending day of hauling hay. In the past it was hauling small square bales which were labor intensive. But the lady we buy from sold her equipment and now has the farmer down the road bale it into big round bales for her. He takes the majority of the hay in trade. Last year we rented a large trailer and the farmer loaded it for us in the field. We hauled it with Sean's Jeep that has a decent towing capacity. It wasn't ideal though, the weight of the trailer and hay was pushing the limits of the Jeep. So we started looking for a farm truck to haul stuff around here. Enter the big black F250 we bought back in February. It's main purpose is to haul hay every year...and the occasional milling machine.

We didn't want to keep renting trailers from the rental place like we've been doing for the last 13 years of living here. Heck, we probably could have purchased a trailer with all the rental fees over the years. Oh well. So Sean researched trailers for several months before finding the perfect trailer for us. He wanted something that would be easy to load the skid steer on and found a company that makes car haulers that tilt. We ordered an 18 foot tilt and picked it up the beginning of July. So now we have a tow vehicle, a trailer and a skid steer to load the big round bales. We were set!

I was running out of hay last weekend and we decided to head over and pick up a couple of last years hay since the new hay had yet to be cut. It was also a good dry run for the big day of hay hauling. The skid steer was loaded, strapped down and we were off for the 20 minute drive to the field. I followed in my car with the kids. About half way there Sean pulls into a driveway and pulls open the hood to coolant bubbling everywhere. The serpentine belt was shredded. A quick drive into town and a new belt installed and we were on our way. We were thankful for the big driveway as doing this on the side of the road would not have been fun.

We were able to pick up two of the old bales and get home. The tilt trailer worked great, I would crank it up while Sean drove the skid steer onto the trailer. The I'd release the pressure and let it down.

So that was last weekend. The lady with the hay called Friday and said the farmer was baling the hay and we can come pick up our 20 bales whenever we'd like. So Saturday we headed out. We took our skid steer out again and loaded five bales on the trailer, two side by side in the front, one in the middle and two side by side in the back.

 I don't think I mentioned that it was 106 degrees out on Saturday. The heat index was well over that. Miserable would be an understatement. Oh and the air conditioning in the truck decided to break a week ago. The clutch and pulley went out. Sean didn't have time to fix it. So that was fun too (please note the sarcasm). We took turns driving to and from the field which was about a 25 minute drive, the other got to follow with the kids in the Ford Edge (with great air conditioning).

We got three loads home (15 round bales) and went to start the truck and it blew a spark plug. Apparently very common in the v10 engines. That was it for the truck. So we parked it and the Edge and connected the Jeep to the trailer and I followed in the F150. We didn't want to over do it for the Jeep so we did three bales and one in the back of the truck. And then a final load to bring home the skid steer. The final load was brought home at 9pm and all the rearranging of bales was done in the dark. It was the longest day. ever. We escaped with only slight heat exhaustion, one dead truck and a skid steer that is dripping some unknown fluid. So glad this is only once a year.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Juicy Fruit

I do love growing my own food. It's very satisfying. The thornless blackberry bushes are growing like the weed they are. The three pathetic tiny bushes I put in the ground a few years ago are gigantic and popping up suckers in all different directions.

Daily harvest
 The kids and I go back there daily and pick several bowls full. The stash in my freezer was to the point I had to do something. In the past I just freeze gallon bags full and use them throughout the year to make cobblers and sauces for waffles. But this year I wanted to become a jam maker. It has intrigued me for awhile but I always put it off. Wish I would have started years ago, it's super easy. I made 14 half pints of blackberry jam. Half with seeds and half nearly seedless. So delicious!

 This made me want to make more jam. There is a peach orchard not 4 miles from us with big banners out telling customers to come pick their own peaches. I'd been meaning to take the kids there for a couple summers but the heat index has kept us home. Well this year we went out early and were there when they opened up at 9. It was so fun, although the kids were whining about half way through of the's been pushing 100 for the last few weeks so even at 9 am it was in the 90's. We picked 15 pounds with a nice mixture of white and orange flesh peaches.

I wrapped them up in brown paper bags and let them ripen on the counter top for a few days before a majority of them were ready for jam. I got twelve half pints of peach jam and still have about 6 pounds to do something with.

Can't wait to put more stuff in jars this year. I have about 20 pounds of tomatoes on the counter right now....what to do with them. I'm thinking salsa.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tortoise Bath

The tortoises have gone to live outside for the season and now that they are getting bigger they are outgrowing their water dish which just happens to be a quiche dish. I've been wanting to pour them a concrete pool for awhile now and decided this summer was the perfect time. It's hitting 100 degrees now for the past week and it's important to keep these reptiles hydrated.

I did a little research online and sort of adapted several methods I found into one for our pool. I bought five 80 pound bags of concrete, not knowing how much I'd use. I also picked up a roll of chicken wire to provide some structure.

I set to work creating a nest shape out of the chicken wire. Putting several layers in each direction until it looked like a big bird bath.

We took turns mixing up each bag until it was a good sculpting consistency, not too runny. We used a metal bowl to smooth it out and make the edges a few inches taller than the middle. I didn't want them to have any problems getting in or out of their pool.

Three bags seemed to be enough and when done we loosely covered it with a tarp and weighed it down so it wouldn't blow away or get rained on. Twice a day I removed the tarp and sprayed it down with water per instructions on the bag of concrete.

On the fifth day I took the tarp off and sprayed it down with the hose to remove any film and filled it up. I did research sealers but wasn't able to find any good aquatic sealer for concrete. I also read on a bird bath forum that they don't need to be sealed if they are thicker than two inches, which I believe this is. It's been in use for a week and it doesn't leak or absorb into the concrete. I also rinse and refill it daily. The tortoises seem a little weary of it for now so I'm picking them up and plunking them down in the middle each day to show them where the water is. They take a drink and scoot out of it.

Yesterday was particularly hot and I plopped Billy Bob the sulcata (in the above picture) into the cool water and she sat there using her front limbs to spray water up on her back. It was cute and made me feel like they may actually use it. So that's one of the projects we did over the 4th of July weekend.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Birthday Boy!

Wesley celebrated his 10th birthday yesterday. He's such a big kid now, double digits and everything! He had a little celebration last weekend with his friends Alex, Abby and Evie. He is really into this odd superhero he created called "Super Pooper" and wanted me to create it for his cake. It's just a poo emoji in a cape, so I said sure. Here he is with this cake.

Super Pooper with his minions.

He wanted a pogo stick and once he recieved it he promptly went outside in the 100 degree heat and jumped 1100 times in a row. He says he wants to beat that record but might wait for it to cool down a bit. He also learned how to jump without hands. Crazy kid!

My parents got him a starter bow and arrow for him to learn archery with. The kids got some good aim and got it in the target more than once. His bow is not strong enough to pierce the target bag but Sean got his bow out and shot a few arrows into the target. Sean has had his bow for a few years but this is the first time he's shot it. It was a fun evening and has prompted me to shop around for a heavier duty bow for myself to start practicing with.

To celebrate his actual birthday (and because it's a fun thing to do on a hot day) we went to the arcade to blow a couple of hours. Sean took off work a little early and met us there. We only go to this place once a year and every time we go it's different. They get new games in and rearrange the joint so it's like a new place every time we visit. The kids love it and get to cash in their tickets for cheap toys.

Greta found a claw machine full of rubber duckies of all different varieties (cowboy ducks, piggie ducks, pirate get the idea). I tried to steer her away telling her how difficult it is to win any claw machine but she persisted and took several tokens over to try her luck. I believe in the end she won 5 rubber ducks and gave Wesley two of them since it was his birthday. She sure loves those ducks!

Birthday dinner at Cheddars.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Summer Fun

I can't believe that the kids have been out of school for nearly two months. I blink and summer is almost over. We've been having fun and keeping oh so busy. I need a day off from this go go summer to just relax!

We signed the kids up for the Summer Reading Program at the library like we do every year. This goes through fifth grade so Wesley only has one more year of it which makes me sad. They always have a fun time and do great projects each week. Plus it's free which is nice in this day and age. The most memorable project so far has been the bridge building project. The got gum drops and toothpicks and had to make a bridge. Then at the end of the hour they got to test their bridge with weights to see how it stood up.

On the summer bucket list was a trip to our local nature center. It's a big park right in the middle of town with miles of trail over marsh lands and ponds. Lot of wildlife to see and trails off the main road to wander down. The kids enjoy it as do I. Jessica and her kids met us there and we had a nice time all wandering around.

We've been working on some home improvement projects this summer, one of which is new gravel. We've got a fairly long driveway that is riddled with potholes due to poor drainage. We also have a power line that runs in the air right above the driveway. This prevents dump trucks from dumping gravel on the driveway. So we have to have them dump it up by the house and then move it by hand to the driveway. This just seems like too much work so we haven't done anything in years and the driveway shows it. With the new(ish) farm truck being heavy duty I decided to take it to the local lumber store and have them put a few skid loader scoops of gravel in the back. It can handle 3000lbs in the bed and we put two 1200lb scoops back there. It turned out to be the perfect amount to fill the potholes. I had a helper for about half of it before he got too hot and headed inside. The only down side to fixing all the holes is that I won't know when the UPS guy is here with a delivery anymore. His truck didn't handle the potholes too well and made all sorts of noises coming down the driveway. I bet I'll get a thank you card from him.

Oh and since I brought up home improvement, I thought I'd show you a picture of the new (to us) dining room chairs I found. I enjoy the garage sale pages on facebook where people post the stuff they have for sale and you just comment if you'd like to buy it. I've picked up some great stuff over the years. These chairs came up and they were only like two miles away so I grabbed them.  Eight chairs for $150, seemed like a good deal after seeing what new chairs sell for. I think it  updates the dining room (plus the old chairs were getting a bit rickety).