Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bird Houses

Some previous owner was obviously into bird watching.  These are some of the bird houses that came tumbling down when we took out the old trees earlier this year.  There are also bird feeders scattered throughout the yard that I never fill.  I think there's plenty to eat out here without me feeding them - except for the hummingbirds.  I do put a feeder out for them just because I love watching them.  Although, since I've got real flowers out back now, they seem to prefer the flowers over the feeder.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spiders and Snakes, Oh My!

When we had five large trees removed from our back yard, we saved the branches and twigs for making mulch, piling them up along the outside of the back fence.

Yesterday, while I was shopping, Tom got the wood chipper out and started making his way through the piles of brush, a.k.a. snake havens.  He discovered a copperhead in the pile, baring its fangs at him.  After beating it senseless, he cut it's head off with the loppers.  Then when Harry finished barking at the lifeless body, the chickens ate it for lunch.

This morning I put the mulch into my two new flower beds, which are ready to receive all manner of greenery.  I put a plant called "catmint" in this one (to the right of the birdbath).  I guess it is called catmint for a reason, because Jasper cat would not leave it alone.  I finally had to wack her when she broke a stem off of a nearby plant because of her crazy rolling around.

I continued this informal flagstone pathway a little further to edge the flower bed and filled it in with mulch.  I had intended to put red hydrangeas in the back of this bed, but found some Niko Blues on sale a few days ago.  I'm not sure if my soil is acidic enough to keep them blue, but I guess I'll find out next summer.

This is as far as I got today.  I'm not going to have enough to make the pathway actually go anywhere, so I need to figure out what I'm going to do from here.

This is the third black widow spider that I've found in the pile of flagstone.  This one, the smallest of the three, is scuttling up under the nearest rock to get away from me after I uncovered her lair.  Before I realized that they were there, one got carried from the pile to the path and I even held the stone up against my hip for support.  Ack!  There are probably more, but I am wearing gloves and checking all sides of the rocks before picking them up.  There was a day when I wouldn't have gone within 20 feet of a place that I thought might contain a black widow spider.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jelly Making

This is about half of the thirteen pounds of muscadines (confirmed by someone who knows grapes from muscadines) that I picked the other morning.  Even though one of the recipes that I found on the net said not to bother taking them off the stems and they can be cooked with stems, I just couldn't bring myself to cook the stems, so I picked them all off.  And I learned something new.  Picking muscadines off of stems makes your hands itch so bad that they feel like they've been covered by fire ants, bitten all over, then rolled in poison ivy.  Lesson learned.  Wear gloves.

Next step:  mash muscadines.

Jars that I bought a few seasons ago are perfect for jelly.  This recipe makes four pint jars full.

Boil the muscadines for about 20 minutes, mashing occasionally to squeeze out more juice.

In the meantime, boil the jars and lids to sterilize them.

Wash up in between each step and enjoy the pretty blue dishwater that the muscadines make, but scrub your sink because it stains.

This is the juice from the muscadines that I first tried to mash through one of my jackpot contraptions.  When that didn't work out so well, I tried to mash it through a sieve.  Not the easiest process.  After that, I strained the juice through a double thickness of cheesecloth.  This is five cups of juice to which I added six cups of sugar (!) and a package of Sure-Jell pectin, stirring until it was all dissolved.

I poured the jelly into the jars, put the lids on and then into the pot of boiling water they went.  I learned something else here.  Don't try to save time and scrimp on pots by using a regular pot for the processing.  As the water boils, the jars jostle all around and end up bunched up together.  Since all of the instructions say, "don't let the jars touch" I was very paranoid about having exploding jelly jars in my kitchen (and the possibility of injury number three that is looming) and was constantly shoving the jars away from each other with my handy jackpot canning tongs.  Lesson learned:  use that scary canner.

Four jars of muscadine jelly.  All the lids sealed despite my inept boiling-in-an-inappropriate-pot method.

And I couldn't wait another moment.  As soon as the jelly cooled, I had to open one and taste it.  It actually tastes good, although, it is too runny.  Either I didn't leave it long enough to set up properly, or I did something else wrong.

I have another five cups of juice made and am going to follow the Sure-Jell instructions on the next batch of jelly and see if that makes a difference.  I noticed that their instructions say to dissolve the pectin in water before adding to juice.  Maybe that will help.

Bargain Extraordinaire

Oh, I am very excited about this.  While perusing craigslist.com on Wednesday, I came across these birdbaths.  A woman who was cleaning out her yard just wanted them gone and sold them to me for 25.00.  What a bargain!  I would never have bought them new because they are priced at hundreds of dollars.  I was at her house shortly after 8:00 the next morning to get them.

I put this one in the new flower bed that I'm preparing.

And some day, there will be a flower bed out there in the corner.  I'm thinking hydrangeas as a backdrop would be great there - something pretty to look at while blocking the view of the wood shed and wood piles.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Grinders and Stuff

I got into my jackpot box and put the contraptions together.  Not an easy feat with all kinds of parts from two different contraptions and no instructions.  But I got 'er done.  This thing is a grinder/slicer.  Supposedly it slices and dices and grinds just about anything you might want to slice, dice, or grind.  Those little discs laying on the counter are the different blades.  There's one that says "butter" on it, intended for something like almond butter, so it claims to grind stuff up pretty fine.

After I put this one together, I tried using it to strain the grapes for the jelly.  Hmmm, not a good idea.  It pulverized the grapes, seeds and all and got clogged up so that I couldn't crank it and basically was just a big mess and I had to give up.  I think it has other uses that I haven't discovered yet.  It might be good for making some kind of jam with a berry that only has tiny seeds.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Moon Plant

This is my moon plant.  My green thumb neighbor at our previous home gave me seeds one year which I planted in a big pot on the front porch.  It comes back every year, so when we brought the big pot in the move back in the fall, the moon plant, in it's dormant state came along with it.  It sprouted three plants this year.  I let this one grow in the same pot and moved two of them over to the well planter. 

The moon plant blooms at night, hence the name, and then closes up during the day, which is too bad because we aren't usually out at night to enjoy it.  Although, it doesn't close up immediately at daybreak, so it can be enjoyed part of the morning.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Incubation Impossible

Since our hens are a year old and I've read that hens are good for laying eggs for about two years, I've been thinking that we need to hatch some chicks so that we'll have a continuous supply of laying hens.  None of our hens seem inclined to hatch any on their own, so I went and bought a cheap-o incubator from Tractor Supply.  It's called a Still Air Incubator and is from Miller Manufacturing Company. 

I looked up how to incubate eggs on the net and found instructions.  Those instructions say that to hatch chicken eggs, the temperature must be a steady 99.5 degrees.  So, how hard could it be to stick some eggs in the incubator, turn them a few times a day, and hatch some chicks?  Hmmm. 

This is the incubator.  It's styrofoam, has some indentations in the bottom of it that have to be filled with water because the eggs need humidity.  They also need ventilation so there are a couple of small red plugs in the top that have to be removed.

On the top are two plexiglass observation windows through which you can see the heating element and the eggs when they are in there.  Also, there is a tiny dial that you turn to increase/decrease the temperature.  The incubator also comes with a thermometer mounted on a piece of clear plastic.

The first incubator I got didn't work properly.  No matter what the dial was set on, the incubator got so hot that the thermometer was all the way to the top - over 120 degrees.  So I took it back and exchanged it for this one.

It's supposed to be exactly the same, but the thermometer is even cheaper than the first one and is so tiny that it is unreadable.  You can't even read the whole numbers on it, much less the .5 that you're supposed to read.  I had to resort to getting Tom's fancy thermometer that just points and clicks.   The problem with that is I have to open the incubator to get a reading.  When it's open it immediately begins to cool.  Not that it really matters, it seems that it is impossible to get the incubator to the temperature of 99.5.  Too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold.  I've been adjusting the temperature dial for about 24 hours now in the tiniest increments possible trying to regulate the temperature. 

At this rate, my hens will have quit laying eggs and died before I can put any in the incubator.

Hitting the Jackpot

As I was mentally fortifying myself to get in the kitchen and make some jelly out of the grapes that I picked, I was searching for jelly recipes on the net.  All of them mentioned things like canners and canning tongs, so I was making a list of things I would need to get before I could start the jelly making process.  Of course, as usual I was using that as an excuse to procrastinate.  I don't like to cook.  I don't want to make jelly.  I don't want to can beans.  I don't want to dry herbs.  I don't want to preserve zucchini.  It all reeks of cooking, but it all must be done.

Anyway, I suddenly remembered that my friend, Janice, had given me a canner/pressure cooker before we moved out here to the farm.  In addition, she had given me a box marked "canning supplies".  It's been two and half years since she gave them to me and I've managed to put off learning to can this long, so I hadn't even opened the canner or looked in the box.  But, I was down to the wire.  I had picked the grapes and something must be done.  So, I dragged the stool out to the laundry room and climbed up to peek into the canner stored there.  Voila!  There were some canning tongs right there in the canner!  Yay!  No buying tongs.  Boo.  I have all I need to make jelly.

While I was up there, I spied the canning supplies box, which I had totally forgotten about, so I dragged it out along with a package of jars that I had optimistically bought two summers ago.

And, man did I hit the jackpot!

There was this grinder thing with three sizes of sieves.  And see, there are the tongs.  They look vintage.  I like that.

And two other grinder things, which I have no idea how to use...yet.  And loads of lids and rings!  This is very exciting!  I even took them back to the bedroom, where Tom was watching TV, and spread them out all over the rug for him to see and admire.  :o)

Yay for friends who give us things!  And a big thanks to Janice for her generosity.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Injury Number Two

I hope they don't come in threes!  First Meagan's finger, then Tom's face, am I next?

Tom planted several of the trees today.

The little Japanese Maple is here by the walkway.  I'm thinking about making a flowerbed around it.  We put a couple of oaks beyond that in the back yard to replace some of the trees that we took out earlier this year.

Then we lined them up along the west side of the barn.  They should provide some good shade in a few years.

Then a couple in the front in one on the east side.

This tree wants to lean, so we decided it needed to be staked.  That's where the trouble began.  The ground is very hard right there, so Tom borrowed our neighbor's fence pole pounder, which is now laying there beside the tree.  At the end of a long, hot, work day, Tom lifted the pounder up and over the t-pole to pound it in.  Somehow the pounder bounced up or tipped over onto Tom's face, Tom was falling on the ground in pain, and blood was flying.

We got him all cleaned up and doctored and he's OK.  Thankfully, it missed his eye - by an inch or less, but he might have a shiner in a few hours.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


We have this vine growing at a corner of the yard.  It climbs way up into the two or three trees that are near it.  I knew it was some kind of grape vine, but up until this summer, it has never had any fruit on it.

This year it is LOADED with some kind of grape.  I've eaten a couple and didn't get sick, so I guess they are edible, but they are kind of sour.  The skin is thick and the middle part surrounding the seeds is kind of a slimy ball.  They aren't like a grape that you buy at a grocery store, but the taste is familiar and they leave a familiar sort of ...scratchy feeling in the back of my throat, so I must have eaten them as a child at some time.  I admit, I've always been one to pick and eat something just to see what it taste like.  There's a little clover-like plant that grows a tiny little pod that looks like an okra that I've eaten since I was a child.  It reminds me of pickles.  Not that I going around grazing like a goat, but, you know, if there's one around, I might pick it and eat it just for nostalgia's sake.

Anyway, could I make something with these?  Jelly maybe, with lots of sugar?  Does anyone know what they are?

Annnnd, yay for friends with tree farms!  We just got these trees from a friend who is going out of the tree farm business.  They are red oaks, lace bark elms, a Japanese Maple, and a couple of crepe myrtles.  We'll be planting several of the oaks around the barn for shade.  The maple is for an ornamental in the yard by the house.  I'm not sure where I'll put the crepe myrtles.  I need to find out how big they'll get before I decide - maybe between us and the neighbors for privacy.