Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Losing a Big Oak, Gaining Firewood

We had this wonderful old oak tree die last summer.  It had been ailing, I'm not sure why, but had a big spot on it that we had the Arbor Barber treat a couple of years ago.  I think the drought finally did it in despite my faithful watering.

The tree is right by the much used path that leads from the house to the barn.  We were afraid that it might start dropping branches on us as we walked back and forth.  In addition to that, we need more firewood.  We are shocked at how much wood we're using this year.  Tom had the wood shed completely stuffed with wood and we were all ready for the winter.  But, winter came early to Texas this year.  We're getting many days of freezing temperatures and we've already used half (maybe more, I haven't looked in a few days) of the wood Tom had stored up.

Thankfully, we're having a nice mild week and are able to get some farm work done.  Cutting this tree down is one of Tom's goals.

An acquaintance of ours has this cherry picker that was broken.  Tom fixed it for him, so he's letting Tom use it for free.

Driving the cherry picker, Tom is maneuvering the bucket into place.

He's using a chainsaw on a stick.  As a side note, this is why it is nearly impossible for me to buy Tom a Christmas present.  This morning he said to me, "You know, if you want to get me an early Christmas present, I sure would like to have one of those chainsaws on a stick (I'm pretty sure that's not the technical term for it, but I can't really remember what he called it) like your brother has.  I think it would be safer to use."  I got all excited and planned to go get him one this very afternoon because I have yet to think of anything he would want for Christmas.  But, within the space of about ten minutes, he had gotten on the internet, found the best one for the best price and in five more minutes, was on his way to Tractor Supply to buy it for himself.  

Well, so much for that idea.

Up in the sky, ever so high.

He got all the major branches off and just has the main trunk to deal with tomorrow.  That there is a big load of firewood already.  He probably won't be able to fit the whole thing in the woodshed.

I hated to lose that tree, but there are two or three smaller ones surrounding it that will benefit from the sunlight that they will now receive.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Vardo, Part One

I've embarked upon a new project, mostly just for fun and to satisfy my decorating appetite.  This one will probably be a long drawn out process (I still haven't finished recovering my dining room chairs from last year at this time...well, I did predict that it would probably take me a year or more) for three reasons:  (1) I'm a procrastinator; (2) I seem to be able to work on these kind of projects only when the mood strikes...and the mood doesn't always strike often enough; (3) It's big, so I'm only setting small area goals.

Well, enough of that.  I'm turning our  travel trailer  into my version of a Gypsy Vardo.  If you'll remember, the trailer had leaks which Nephew repaired by completely tearing out and rebuilding.

Instead of replacing the cabinetry that was on this wall, I had him fill the wall with shelving.  I thought it would be better use of the space.

You can't see the whole wall (in the back) because the slide-out is in, but where there were once upper and lower cabinets with dead space in between, there is now an entire wall of open shelving.

Painting the shelving was the first thing I did.  It was the most easily implemented part of the plan; something I could accomplish quickly and cheaply without getting discouraged by the enormity of the project.  To save money, I went to the local paint stores and bought their "mis-tints".  Those are the paints that were custom made for customers who decided that they didn't like the color so they returned them to the store.  I got a gallon of Sherwin Williams premium flat paint in a neutral color for one buck.  I used it as a primer instead of buying their regular primer, which is probably 20-30 bucks.  The only paint I had to buy for regular price was the red because I couldn't find a mistinted red and I really wanted to get finished with this part.  

I also painted the kitchen cabinets with a mis-tint.  You can see the teal color in the bottom left hand corner of the picture above.  Even though I'm finished painting them, I'm not ready to show the kitchen yet because I still have some work to do on it.

To finish this wall, I had to make the curtain for the window.

I ordered enough red velvet from Hobby Lobby to do all of the windows in the trailer.  There wasn't enough room to mount the curtain rod the way it's supposed to be (on the wall at the corners of the window) and I had to hang it from the shelf above.  It's not ideal, but it works.

And I got these at the flea market, which are looking pretty tiny all alone on the shelves.

Y'all might be wondering why in the world I'm doing this.  Well, besides the "fun" aspect of it, I really can't see this travel trailer ever doing any more traveling.  Because of the leaks, I couldn't, in all good conscience, sell it to anyone who wanted to use it as it was intended.  I decided we should keep it as overflow guest quarters and for living space for family in the event of an economic crash (and I feel compelled to say "which we are hoping won't happen, but Tom still thinks it will").

So...I want it to be comfortable and cozy for guests, but I can't fill it up with a bunch of unnecessary, (but cool) stuff, because if someone actually has to live in it, they'll need the space for their own stuff.  But, I need to put the necessities in there for guests.  I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for colorful old china dishes, rugs, etc. at the flea markets, junk shops, and on-line.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

Since I have all of these homegrown pumpkins, it seemed a crime not to have pumpkin pie at our Thanksgiving dinner, so I added it to the menu.  My mom usually brings pecan and pumpkin pie, so I haven't had much practice making gluten free crust.  Even when I used to eat gluten, when I made pies I would use the Pillsbury pre made crust that I just had to roll out and put in the pan.  Then when I started eating gluten free, on the rate occasion that I made a pie, I'd use a mix.  Since I decided sort of late in the game that we should have pumpkin pie, I didn't have a mix on hand.

I thought it wouldn't be a problem because I knew that there was a pie crust recipe on my favorite go-to website for baking gluten free, gluten free pie crust .  I was happy to have all of the ingredients on hand and the recipe looked easy enough.  I made it a couple of days in advance and let it sit in the refrigerator until I was ready to roll it out.

The pie crust recipe consist of three kinds of gluten free flours, xanthan gum, salt, and water.  Part of the instructions say, "For a tender crust, pinch and rub the shortening into the flour with your fingers until the flour is the consistency of cornmeal.  If you want a flaky crust, then measure out your shortening and divide it into small pieces.  Freeze those pieces and then cut them into your dough.   You can use a pastry cutter or just press the thin pieces with your fingers.  You want the shortening to be visible and in thin, flaky pieces."  I rubbed the shortening and flour with my fingers, but it never became the consistency of cornmeal.  Instead, it became a sticky mess which coated my hands and fingers and I had to scrape it off with a butter knife.

I don't blame the recipe.  I blame my inexperience, but it did turn out OK.  I tasted it after I had it all mixed up and ended up adding three teaspoons of sugar to it because I just had to have a tiny bit of sweetness in my crust.

After a couple of days in the fridge, the pie crust rolled out just fine and I was able to use it for my pumpkin pie.

Then I got to looking at my pumpkin pie recipes and all of them had cans of evaporated milk in them.  I didn't have any of that in my pantry.  It's not something that I usually stock.  So, I googled "pumpkin pie without evaporated milk" and came up with this:

1 pastry for single-crust pie
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
1/4 cup half-and-half OR light cream OR regular milk
(I used 1/8 cup heavy cream and 1/8 cup goat milk)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. all-purpose gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Prepare and roll pastry for single-curst pie.
Line 9" pie plate with pastry.
Trim; crimp edges as desired (Martha Stewart's website has good ideas for this)
Stir together eggs, pumpkin, and milk/cream
Stir in sugar, flour, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice.
Pour pumpkin mixture into pastry.
To prevent over browning, cover edge of pie with foil for the first 10 minutes of cooking time.
Bake in 375 F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Cook on wire rack.
Cover and refrigerate within two hours.

This pie was delicious.  Definitely a recipe to keep.  In fact, I'm going to throw out all of my other pumpkin pie recipes (well, except my Martha Stewart chocolate pumpkin pie, which I haven't tried yet).  Who needs evaporated milk?

The crust was delicious, too, and held together well, which is important for gluten free baking.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Tradition Perfected

I made our traditional Thanksgiving cheesecake today ( recipe here ) and just took it out of the springform pan.

Usually, when I take the pan away, a nice fat layer of the cake remains stuck to the pan and I get to enjoy scraping it off and eating it.  It's enough for a nice little snack.

Well, not this time.  I went to unspring the pan, looking forward to my snacking...

lo, and behold, not a single bite stuck to the pan.

What price, perfection?

(imagine wailing)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Another Tractor

The farm acquired a new used tractor this week.  The tractor that we bought the first year we were here turned out to just be too small for our needs.  Tom said the hay equipment is putting too much of a strain on it and it frequently overheats and breaks down.

When Tom was choosing a tractor, the conventional advice was to get one with one horsepower per acre.  For example, if you have 25 acres, get a 25 horsepower tractor.  He followed that advice, but I suppose it wasn't entirely accurate.  What you are going to do with that horsepower seems to make a big difference.

Anyway, Tom finally decided that we had to add another tractor to our equipment shed.  We kept the smaller Branson and got a bigger one, a used model from the dealer.  This one is 65 horsepower and should be more than adequate.

It's pretty fancy and even has a cab with A/C and heater.  If you ask me, tractors with A/C and heaters are for Pansy Farmers.

Here's Mark posing with the Pansy Farmer tractor.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Green Tomato Salsa

I made green tomato salsa using the green tomatoes and jalapeños that I picked a couple of days ago.

This is good with chips or as a condiment on hot dogs, burgers, and Tom even likes it on steak.

I didn't really measure anything, but I included approximate amounts as a guideline.  It can be adjusted to suit your taste.

 8 cups quartered green tomatoes
1 small onion, quartered
1-2 cloves of garlic, quartered
2-3 jalapeños, quartered
handful fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil

Toss everything into a food processor and process until minced or finely diced (or more if you don't like chunky salsa).

Taste with a chip and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

End of Season Gardening

Bleh.  I've neglected my garden this past month or so even as it has continued to produce.  The impending freeze prompted me to go out there and gather what I could before last night.

Loads of green tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapeños.  If I can find some will-power, I'll make green salsa out of those.

Butternut and cucumbers were still hanging on the vine.  I don't know if the dukes will be any good after hanging there for over a month.

Several enormous zucchini.  I thought I'd see how big they'd get.  This one might be about twenty inches.

Loads of stringy green beans were revealed when the freeze killed the vine last night.  I'll probably have a bunch of unwanted volunteers next spring.

This is the only loss hard to take.  The pumpkin vines recovered somewhat from the squash bug damage, and started putting on late season pumpkins like crazy.  There are about 20 pumpkins in varying stages of ripening.  They are bigger than any others produced this year, but I guess they don't have a chance now because the freeze killed the vines off.  It's probably futile, but I'll leave them out there for a while to see if there is any life left in them.  

The asparagus got huge this year.  Looks like over six feet tall.  I scrounged around in there and picked a bunch a couple of weeks ago, but I think it's done putting up shoots for the year.

I've got a lot of clean-up and winterizing to do out there.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Fun With a Dead Tent

Well, I made a big mistake and left Liam's tent set up a couple of weeks ago.  I was going out of town for a couple of days and it was raining the day we were playing in the tent (the day before we left).  So I didn't want to put the tent away while it was wet.  When I got back home, I found that Ginger had ripped the tent apart and broken one of the staves.  There was no way to repair it, so I salvaged what I could.

The floor of the tent was one big piece of this heavy tarp-like material, so I cut away the rest of the tent, keeping only the floor.

Liam thinks that climbing and playing on the truck and trailer is "coo", so I laid the tent floor on the trailer and in between his truck and trailer climbing, Liam help me spread it out.

These handy tabs at each corner will be perfect for hanging the tarp up.

Then I cut these shapes.

And Liam helped me outline them with Tom's colored electrical tapes.

I threaded baling twine through the tabs to hang our tarp and used the tent stakes to stake it to the ground.

 Liam and I rounded up some balls to toss through the holes.  It would have been great to have a football.  Unfortunately, Ginger had already torn up Liam's new nerf-like football.  We couldn't even find a soccer ball with air in it, so we had to settle for a tennis ball and a hacky sac.

Here's Liam winding up for a toss.

There it goes through a lower hole.

And, zing...through the red square.

He wanted to take a picture of me and I want to encourage his creative side.  I think he's inherited Tom's photographic talents.  heh.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Lucky Number Thirteen

Here's something weird.

I make a habit of counting the chickens.  It helps me to know if they are all in for the night so I can close the gate or if I should leave it open for stragglers.  For a while, I had lost count because Tom was closing them up in the evenings and egg gathering duty has been delegated.  (There is something to be said for having your hand in all areas when it comes to caring for the livestock and the only way that I know to do that is to do something with the animals on a daily basis.)  In addition to that, Ginger had a spate of attacking chickens.  On three separate occasions, she was caught with a chicken in her mouth, gnawing away, with the chicken apparently playing dead or having accepted its fate in anticipation of the giving up of the ghost.  Oddly enough, when we caught Ginger red-handed and made her drop the chickens, they did recover...a bit shell shocked at first, but after about ten dazed minutes, they got up and went on their way.

So, Ginger wears the collar of shame every day for that reason, as well as the "no-attacking-guinea" training.

Back to the weird thing.  I started counting the chickens again about three weeks ago just to make sure we weren't losing any, and there were twelve Rhode Island Reds, the one Copper Maran hen, and the one Black Astralorp rooster.  Since the two black ones stand out, I only have to count the RRRs.  Twelve.  Every day, twelve.

But...yesterday, there were thirteen!  What?  One had gone rogue - recovering from a mauling?  sitting on a nest of eggs?  going for a walkabout?  Whatever it was, it is back.  It reminds me of the crazy goldfish episode .

It makes me sad to think she might have been sitting on eggs and that they are either half developed, or she sat on eggs that were not viable, or worse, that she hatched them, then deserted them to come back to the coop on her own.

I guess I'll never know.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


The guineas are stalking me now.  If I happen to be at my computer when they saunter by, they all line up and look at me through the window.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Guinea Progress

Well, things are progressing well with the guineas.  They've learned from whence comes their food, just as all the other animals on the farm have.  For a while there, I feared that all the coop conditioning was for nought.

They're leaving the safety of the paddock now and roaming all over the place.  It's been a good test for the dogs.  They were practically on top of Harry in the yard yesterday and he didn't move an inch.  Ginger watched out of the corner of her eye.  They were on the roof of the house as we left for church this afternoon.

I wanted to film how they now come running and honking to me when they see me and will follow me to their coop.  I can't very well film myself, so I had to ask for help.  I wanted a video and this is what I got.

Waiting for the photographer to find the right buttons on the camera.  Guineas are impatient and confused.  "Why did she stop?"

On our way to the coop.

Well, I don't like my picture taken anyway, so I guess it's OK that my head and shoulders are cut off.

All this waiting around and another person (photographer) over there is super confusing for the little guinea brain.

And, photographer finally found the right buttons.

So...guess who the photographer is.  I'll give a hint.  It is not Liam.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Lighting the Chicken Coop

It's time, once again, to put a light in the chicken coop.  We do this every year because it helps keep the chickens laying eggs throughout the short days of winter.  It also generates a little bit of heat in the coop for those extra cold nights.

We plug the light into a timer which is set to come on at dusk and go off two to three hours later, then string it up to the roof supports in the coop.

There is no electricity to the coop, so we always have run an extension cord from the coop to the garage and there it lays on the ground all winter.  It's never been a problem.

Up until last year, we ran the extension cord into the garage and plugged it in there, but Tom decided it would be better to have an outlet outside the back door.  It comes in handy having an electrical engineer as a husband.  If we need an electrical outlet somewhere...he just puts one in.  Here's this fancy outdoor one with a cover and all.

Well, this year, we didn't figure on this gal.  Little Miss Destructor.  Of course, the first night we had the extension cord laying out there, she went and gnawed on it.  Tom was furious.  Another near death experience for Ginger.  She's looking a little sheepish at the moment.

So, I had the idea to just string the cord up through the trees to keep it out of her reach.

And, that is what we did; out the back of the coop to the nearest tree.

Then to the next tree...and, so on.  Luckily, there are several trees close together.

Tom wound electrical tape around each spot that had been chewed.

And, our handy-dandy McAlister's cup to protect the plugs of the extension cords (from the wet weather) where they come together.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ball o' Shrooms

Saw this weird thing out in the yard.

Turned out to be a big ol' ball of mushrooms.  I don't know if it's a whole bunch growing in one place or actually one mushroom.

This little guy must have gotten chased up the tree during the night.  He slipped away some time during the day while the dogs weren't looking.

Can you see him?