Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cherry Tomatoes Galore

I don't really know why, but I always plant one cherry tomato in my garden and have way more than I could ever use.  I accidentally bought two cherry tomato plants this year, so I am absolutely overrun with them.

This is harvest from two days.  I have too pick, at the very least, every other day, or they will start to go bad on the vine.

In the past years, I've just throw them out and it's such a waste, but since I discovered a couple of years ago that dehydrated tomatoes are so stinkin' delicious and useful, I decided I'd try to dehydrate the cherry tomatoes, too.  I wasn't disappointed, they are very good, if not a pain to cut up and dehydrate.  I mean, each tomato had to be cut into thin slices, about 1/4 of an inch thick.  So, that means each tiny tomato made about three to four slices.  Tedious, to say the least.

I was lamenting this to Husband and he suggested that I use my food processor.  I'll admit, that had crossed my mind, but I was picture a mushy mess.  After a few days of slicing each tomato individually, I decided to give it a try.  And, it worked wonderfully.  My Breville has a blade that can be adjusted for thickness.  So I packed up the chute with the tomatoes and whirled away.

At first, I thought it did turn them to mush.  But, when I opened it up, I found that there were just hundreds of perfectly sliced little disks.

All I had to do was take them out and place them on the dehydrator.

It's not fun (there isn't much about preserving food that is fun), but I'll be enjoying these little bits of deliciousness for the coming year, so I guess it's worth it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Which Bedding is Best for Goats in a Barn

Finally, after nine years I have solved the problem, cracked the code, discovered the secret of how to maintain a goat stall.  Each year, I have searched the internet trying to find someone to tell me how to keep the goats in the barn without having it be stinky and also keep the goats really clean overnight so that it takes minimal effort to get them ready for milking in the morning.

For the first several years, I used hay on the floor of the stalls.  I read about "deep bedding", but didn't really understand it.  I thought that was what I was doing, but it wasn't working for me.  After several weeks of having the goats in the barn during kidding and milking season, the stalls would get full of poop and soggy with urine and the barn would get that unpleasant ammonia smell.  My nanny would frequently come out of her stall in the morning and jump on the milking stand with a big glob of poop on her hoof or poop stuck to her side. and Tom and I (mostly Tom) would have to clean the stall by taking out all of the hay bedding every week to two weeks.  That is a tough job.  Then I would replace all the bedding.

One year, we tried using wood shavings.  That worked pretty good for a while, but we still ended up having to clean the stalls out too frequently.  Plus, buying wood shavings seemed like an unnecessary expense to me.

Last year, we designated one of our three stalls as a test for having sand as the bedding.  That really did work well, but each morning, I had to use a large kitty litter scoop to scoop out as much of the poop as I could.  Our stalls are 10x20, so it was like scooping a mammoth kitty litter box.  And there really was no easy way to do that and no tools on the market that I could find to facilitate that process.   It did keep the goats clean, though, and there was no smell.  We use sand in our chicken coop and it is the best.

Anyway, maybe farming isn't supposed to be easy, but I like easy.  At least, I like to make things as easy as they can be.

This year I tried something new.  Or, at least it was new to me.  I think I just finally figured out "deep bedding".  But, truly, this was THE answer.

For those of you searching for THE answer, I'll tell you how I managed my stalls this year, step by step.  I've had two adult goats and seven kids in the barn since the beginning of March and my stalls still smell and look like clean, fresh hay.  And, I haven't had one glob of poop tracked up onto the milking stand.  Now, we grow and bale our own hay, so those of you who have to buy hay might not find this as economical as we do.

So, here it is:

I started out the season by covering our clay floored stalls lightly with hay.  It took two bales in each stalls to get this done.  It's not all a waste because while it's clean, the goats will also eat it.

Each morning after I let the goats out of the barn, this is what the bedding would look like.  Some visible spots of urine.

Some goat poop sitting on top of the hay.  If there are kids in the stalls, they run around and play and much of the poop gets buried or half buried by the hay that they kick around.  I was sometime lucky enough to have undisturbed piles like this that were easy to scoop up.

I would take my fork and scoop up any obvious wet spots like this one.

And dump it in my wheelbarrow.

I did the same with any poop that I could easily see.  I did not go digging around in the bedding searching for wet spots or poop to scoop out.  But, when I scooped, I took a lot of the surrounding hay with it.  If I tried to pick up just the poop with this fork, it would have just fallen through the tines and scattered.  It's better to just sacrifice a clump of hay, even if it is clean and dry.

Each morning, I would have a wheelbarrow full of dirty hay to haul out.  Tom just took it to the burn pile, but it could have been composted.

I always have a hay net hanging for the goats to eat from.  Usually, when the goats pull hay out of it, a lot of it falls on the ground right below the net.  And, the goats tend to stand with their nose to that spot instead of their rear, so that is the one spot that is usually safe from pee and poop.  Because of that, I would place a bale of hay just below the hay net.  For the next several days, I would use this hay to scatter on the spots that I had scooped out and anywhere else that I could see wet hay or poop that hadn't been scooped out.

The goats eat from this bale as well, so it gets torn up and scattered, but I found that most of it stayed in a mound right there and I could use the clean hay for about 5 days.

Again, if kids are in the barn, they love to jump on the bales and they get torn down and spread about much more quickly than the stalls that the adults stay in.  This is a bale after just two nights of kids playing in it.

This is kind of hard to see, but this is a divot where I scooped out the soiled hay.

Here I am taking from my clean bale of hay.

And liberally spreading it over the soiled areas.

Now it's covered up with clean hay.  The clay floor is damp underneath there, but it is dry and fresh smelling on top.

After two months, the hay is about eight inches deep in this stall and looks, feels and smells fresh.

Here's another picture of my set-up.  Hay net, hay bale, deep bedding, water bucket with fresh water every day (I've discovered that it is easier to keep a smaller water bucket in there.  It's easier to refill and, surprisingly, the goats never spill it).  I also put a few bowls out with a dab of sweet feed in them for the goats when they come in.  They know it's there and are always very eager to get back to the barn in the evening, so there is no dilly dallying on the way.

We also have a ceiling fan in each stall.  I turn these on full force and let them run all day.  I feel like this keeps the air circulated, helps dry out any wet spots that I may not have covered, and also discourages flies from hanging out in the stalls.

And, there you have it.  This worked great for me this season.  I know that it's going to be a bear to clean out at the end of the season because there are several bales of hay and the hay is damp underneath, which will make it very heavy.  But, this made my daily maintenance sooo much easier and quicker.  It only took me about 20 minutes each morning to clean two stalls and get them all prepared for when the goats came in at night.  So, all I had to do is open the doors and let them run in.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

DIY China Hutch Turned Sewing Cabinet

I think I have a new hobby.

I found this semi-old china cabinet at an estate sale for cheap.

And, I got to thinking...I need a place to put all my sewing stuff.  It was beginning to take over one of the guest room closets - hard to keep organized and hard to get to.  So, where to put it, where to put it?  Aha!  I have a niche in the room we sort of use as an office that this would be perfect for.  So, I brought it home and organized all my sewing stuff in it and it worked out great.

But, I was itching for another project (even though, ahem, Chester Field is still in the barn awaiting attention and I'm ashamed) and I couldn't just leave this alone.

Extra can of chalk paint in the closet, meet sewing hutch.

All white.  I'm thinking...not enough bling.

And, I do so love to paint birds.

And, one here on this side.

Another one here. 

One on the door

One on the drawer.

On another drawer.

Just one more on the other door for good measure.

All done.

Ye Olde Singer gets a place of honor.

I figured, why hide that little work of art in it's box when I have room to put it on display?

A word about chalk paint.
I used Annie Sloan.  I've used it before and I like how it looks.  But, eh, I think I'm over it.  I've seen lots of websites, videos, blog posts, etc. that claim that a can (a very expensive can) of AS chalk paint will do, like, five pieces of good sized furniture.  I have not found that to be the case.  I thought, for sure, that I'd be able to easily do this project with one can of paint with some to spare for another project.  But no, I had to drive an hour away to find a "stockist" (that's what they call their distributors) and pay the big bucks for another can, which I used about half of.

I asked the stockist about it and she told me I needed an Annie Sloan brush and that will make the paint go further.  Uh.  Not buying that one or the bridge they also wanted to sell.

Then, there's the waxing.  Man, what a pain.  It's fine if it's a small piece of furniture with only flat surfaces.  But, I'm exhausted from applying the wax.  My plan was to put a dark wax over the clear wax, sort of as a glaze.  But, I barely made it through the first coat of clear.  I'll still probably get around to doing the dark wax, but I've gotta rest a while first.

And, a word about Blogger.  They've changed some things and I must apologize for my pictures appearing blurry.  They are not blurry until I put them on Blogger.  My videos also don't work, so there's that.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Many Hands Make Light Work

I posted about building the new chicken yard a while back, but we weren't quite finished.  So, while Sister-in-law and Niece came for farm camp week, we put them to work helping us install the half inch hardware cloth.  Man, it sure made the job go a lot faster.  It still took the whole day plus a few man hours (put in by Husband) the next day.

Since the roof is angled on this side, we figured that we could cut one angle, then for the next piece, just flip the hardware cloth around to use the angle we just cut.  The only problem with that was we had to heft the whole roll up onto the roof every other panel.  Whew.  That's was a tough one, but cutting the angle every time is tedious and would waste material.

A rare sighting of this Blogger.

And, Blogger balancing precariously on boards to tack the hardware cloth to the roof over the chicken's herb garden.  The rest of the yard will have a tin roof (waiting for the poles to "cure" before putting on the rest of the roof so that they won't get ripped out and blown away by our frequent high winds), but the herbs will need sun and rain.

It's finished, except for the tin roof.

If I was a chicken, I would want to live here.

I originally was going to just staple the half inch hardware cloth over the 12x4 frame.  But, after some thought, I decided that I might need to dig out old plants or plant new ones at some point.  So, we made these lightweight frames that I can just lift out when I need to.

They quickly caught on to the new entry.

Monday, April 03, 2017

New Chicken Yard. WooHoo!

Y'all remember when I was complaining about our awful, weedy, overgrown chicken yard?
Well, I got on craigslist.com and found some free building supplies and our neighbor, who was tearing down his old pole barn, let Tom tear down and take part of the lumber for free.

So, we finally got around to building a new one (for under $1,000 *wink*).  It's not quite done, but I'm so excited that I couldn't wait to write about it.

We built a basic pole barn structure.

Approximately twelve feet wide by twenty-four feet long.

Tom set the support poles.  If you build a structure like this, using these creosote logs as supports, you are not supposed to use concrete.  You just dig a deep hole (I think ours were about four feet deep), set the pole in it and pack the dirt back in.  Concrete will make the wood rot.

After setting the poles and making sure they were level, we added two-by-six beams for the roof support.

The outside 2x6's were screwed directly into the poles, but the others were hung with joist supports, which are supposed to hold the frame together better in high winds. 

Tom sent me to Home Depot to pick these up.  What's funny is that the clerk at Home Depot asked me what they were and what they are used for.  I could barely find them without help.

Next, we attached 1x6 boards crossways on the 2x6's.  That's what the tin roof will be screwed onto.

Tom had this idea to make the yard even bigger by building what we call a "bump out".  It's 8x12 and juts off the side of the main structure.  This part will have a wire mesh roof rather than tin because I'm going to put a little herb garden in there for the chickens.  Yes, I said "herb garden".  Don't be hatin'.

Here's the bump out from a different angle.  That back part will contain the herb garden.

We used one of the old screen doors that we took off of our house when we remodeled.  We seem to have an endless supply of those.  I painted it to match the red on the other structures around the property.  It looks crooked in the picture, but I assure you, it is level.  The sloping ground and roof make everything that is level look wonky.

Chicken patio.  Yes, the chickens needed a patio.  (More of the endless supply of terra cotta tiles that we took out of the house, too)

Next, Tom put 2x4 uprights at four foot intervals so that I can staple my 48 inch wire mesh to it.

Last last bit of framing was for the little chicken door.  We let our chickens free range most of the time, so they need to be able to come and go to lay their eggs and get a drink.  We built it out of a 1x4, cutting it into four 12 inch strips.  The fourth strip got ripped in half and screwed to the other three to hold it all together.  We used hinges from some cabinet doors that we took out of the RV.

When it's open, it's a ramp.

All of the framing is finished.  I'm waiting for the ordered wire mesh to arrive.  Tom wants to let the poles settle in real good before he puts the roof on.  He is convinced that it is going to fly away like a kite when he puts the roof on and is considering buying some kind anchors that screw into the ground and attach to the poles that helps hold them in.  I don't know.  Nothing else (without anchors) has flown away around here, but...what do I know?  Supposedly, when you build a roofed, but open structure like this, it's supposed to face a certain direction so the wind won't pick it up.  

View almost finished project here.