The Good News is the Floor Got Clean

When the Outside Water Came In.

This area of Tennesse is known for its waterfalls. I had no idea I would have one in my home.

Let me back up a bit. Two weeks ago, I had a prompting to start tackling some of the bigger projects on the homestead. This means calling in contractors and shelling out substantial amounts of money. Mr. J is handy, but he is not replacing the roof handy. Time to bring in the big guns.

Our home has a metal roof that looks a bit like a patchwork quilt. I don’t know much about metal roofs, but I’m pretty sure that is not a good sign. The roofer confirmed it. He also found an area of the roof that had several inches of standing water and no slope to drain it. He promised to fix this issue when the roof is replaced…two weeks from now.

We weren’t too concerned, because while the house has several leaks there were none in that area…until early Saturday when we were hit with 6 inches of snow and below freezing temperatures.

The dam broke loose. Our son woke to water dripping on his bed at 6:30am and our day began.

Handy Mr. J overcame bitter cold and fear as he climbed the ladder again and again to try to scoop water off the roof with a squeegee on a long pole. On the inside, I was adjusting buckets and sopping water with towels.

Our outlook improved as the drips appeared to stop, but that was really just the water turning to ice as the temperatures dipped into the low teens.

This morning’s bright sun turned that around and we looked into our son’s room to find this…

Honestly, after a while, you take inside waterfalls in stride. It makes you take a good look at the dust bunnies on the floor and provides plenty of water to wipe them up with.

When outside water comes in, use it as an opportunity to clean the floor.

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And did I mention we have guests arriving this afternoon? And before heading to church this morning Mr. J found a leak in our hot water heater?

Taking it in stride my friends. God allows these challenges to both humble and strengthen us.

Dandelions and Duck Eggs

Stuff to get excited about.

I suppose most people think of dandelions as weeds. I happen to know that they are one of God’s gifts. I am always excited to see them after a good rain and some sunshine. Then I know it is time to forage the flowers to make dandelion oil.

Dandelion is one of the first plants that introduced me to the healing properties of the plants around us. My first exposure to practical herbalism.

These simple flowers are known to reduce inflammation among other things. When the flowers are covered in oil and warmed the oil becomes infused with this anti-inflammatory property.

Several years ago, when I first read online about making dandelion oil, I thought “I can do that.” I kept my eyes peeled as I drove my boys to and from soccer practices. I found a bonanza at one of their soccer fields. I was thrilled to learn that this was also a “no pesticide” park. I happily filled my grocery bag with dandelions during my son’s practice while the other parents looked at me out of the corner of their eyes and surely thought I was nuts.

I took the flowers home and let them air dry overnight. The next morning, I put them in a glass jar, covered them with olive oil, and placed the jar in a sunny window. This step allows the sun to warm the oil and the warm oil pulls out the goodness of the flower. After a few weeks the oil is ready to be used. It can be used as is or turned into a salve. I use dandelion oil and a few other ingredients to make a salve I call Lion Balm. We use it on sore muscles, bruises, aches and pains.

I make this salve every year.

This week I found dandelions in my yard. Yay! I am so excited. But I am not going to pick these first flowers. Instead, I will let them go to seed in the hopes of multiplying my dandelion plants in the future.

Yep, I am that crazy person that cultivates dandelions.

I encourage you to look around for dandelions in your yard or neighborhood. Maybe, do some foraging and make your own dandelion oil. It is an easy first step towards learning more about the herbal gifts God has blessed us with.

If you would like to make your own dandelion oil, you can find more information on the Mommypotamus page: How To Make Dandelion Oil (And 5 Ways To Use It) (mommypotamus.com)

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About two months ago, I purchased a flock of chickens from a family that was downsizing in preparation for a move. This flock of birds came with two ducks. I was told their names are Minnie and Daisy. I asked if the ducks laid eggs. The owner replied, “Once and it was really good.” Hmmmm.

Well, it looks like I got a pair of pet ducks. Ideally, all our animals on the farm have a role to play, I am not really interested in feeding a bunch of freeloaders. We will have to see what happens.

Our relationship was off to a cool start. The ducks did not trust me and would studiously keep at least 6 feet away from me at all times.

That was until they figured out that the food comes from me. And it is pretty good food. Then their attitude changed from one of mistrust to joyful declaration of my approach. If they hear me walking towards the chicken run they announce “QUACK, quack, quack, quack, quack” as they waddle their way towards me.

O.K. So that’s really cute and endearing. But they still aren’t laying eggs.

As I would feed and water the birds, I would tell them they needed to pick up their slack. For a while I had nine birds and was only getting two eggs a day. (Of course, three are roosters, but that’s another story.) Feeding all those birds makes those two eggs quite expensive.

The ducks have taken up residency under the chicken coop. Plenty of space. Keeps them warm and dry. A pretty good place for a duck.

Once in a while I look under the coop for eggs. Chickens don’t always lay in their nests and perhaps one or two were laying under the coop. I also still held out hope for the ducks.

Then I found them! I looked under the coop and saw two eggs.

Exciting!

I got down and reached under. One. Two. Wait, I feel more. Three. Four. Dig a little more…5, 6, 7!

What?!!

They had been laying. But the nest was so deep that I didn’t see it until these last two on top were visible.

A total of six duck eggs and one chicken egg (the green one). I feel bad for giving Daisy and Minnie a hard time. I have no idea how long have they been down there. Are they still good? There is an easy way to tell: the float test.

Put your eggs in a large bowl filled with water. If they float, they are too old. If they stay on the bottom, they are perfectly fine. As you can see, mine are on the bottom (no floaters) so we are safe. I gave them a good wash and put them in the fridge.

I normally store my eggs unwashed on the counter. This is how eggs are stored throughout most of the world. There is this magic that a chicken does as she lays her egg. She surrounds it with a protective coat called a “bloom.” The bloom prevents bacteria from penetrating and helps preserve it. Washing the egg removes this coating. So washed eggs go in the refrigerator.

Farm life is marked by the simple excitement of dandelions and duck eggs. I’ll take it.

Homestead Happenings – February 2022

Our life in pictures.

Arrival of the woodchipper –

We have a lot of trees on our property. Consequently, we have a lot of limbs and trees to clear. An investment in a good woodchipper was an obvious choice. Especially, since I use woodchips as a mulch in my gardening.

After much research Mr. J made his decision and purchased the machine online in early December. We were given an expected delivery time of December 22nd. It arrived, after many phone calls, at the beginning of February. And as they say in Tennessee: “It’s a big ‘un.”

I got to try the beast out this weekend as I tackled a dead pine tree near the front of our drive. It easily chipped branches up to 4 inches thick. This machine is no joke. I look forward to many piles of woodchips in my future.

The Hoop House –

There is a never-ending list of things to do around the homestead. Then I come up with more projects. Like a hoop house to extend my growing season. Fortunately, Mr. J loves me and has the patience of Job. He has tackled this project over the past month, and it is taking shape.

When complete, it will provide a 10-foot by 20-foot space for growing vegetables earlier in the spring and longer in the fall. I can’t wait to get in there and see what I can do.

Hog Netting for the win –

The girls made thorough work of tilling my garden space and we needed to move them out to other areas of the property. I invested in electric hog netting from Premier 1 to make this job easier. The starter kit includes a battery and solar charger.

The netting gives the pigs a zap to their nose if they push against it. This keeps them contained. It allows greater flexibility when setting up an area for them to forage. Finally, one person can carry and set up the nets easily and fairly quickly. This is much easier to work with than the hog panels I had been using. Well worth the investment.

Jane joins the family –

Since bringing Magnus home in November, we have known that we would need to add another livestock guardian dog. Having two LGD’s allow the dogs to work in tandem against any predator. It also lets them take turns getting rest.

We needed to get the right dog for our situation. Fortunately, we found her. Jane is a two-year-old Great Pyrenees/Anatolian mix. She is a great fit for Fiat Farm because she knows her job and can teach Magnus, who is still a puppy, the ropes. She is also the more dominant and keeps Magnus in line. Jane wants to please her people and protect her charges. We could not ask for more.

Homestead Happenings – January 2022

Our life in pictures.

The Return of Helen Reddy and Panda

After two weeks hanging out with our neighbor Travis’ herd of Angus we finally have our heifers back on the homestead. The recent rain and snow made the ground too muddy for us to retrieve them until two days ago when we had enough of a gap between wet weather to give it a go. Our neighbors across the road lent us their livestock trailer and Travis was a life saver in separating our girls from his. He even used his tractor to pull our truck out of the mud.

Fencing, Fencing, Fencing

Cows

Helen and Panda’s escapades made it clear that our fencing was sorely lacking. While they were safely contained in the neighbor’s pasture, we put all our energy and time into fencing one of our pastures. Thankfully, we had some extra help from visiting friends, extended family, and our two grown sons visiting for the holiday.

Mr. J quickly educated himself on how to install durable perimeter fencing – H-braces, 5 strands of tensioned barb wire, woven wire, and gates. Our brother-in-law suggested we rent an auger instead of digging the post holes manually. Genius! As of this post we are more than halfway done. Lessons learned here will be applied to fencing the rest of the property.

Pigs

The pigs have been much easier to work with than the cows, but fencing is still a focus. We currently use hog panels and t-posts to set up temporary paddocks in my garden. The pigs happily root up the soil each day and I rotate them to a new space weekly. I will need to invest in some electric fencing for the pigs so that when they finish with my garden, we can easily move them to other areas of the farm to be worked. They are already trained to the electric wire, but I would feel better if they were surrounded by electric hog netting.

Our weather has been cold and wet. To keep the pigs warm and dry we bring them into the barn each night. I am training them to follow me from the barn to the garden in the morning and from the garden to the barn at night with voice commands and food rewards. Every time I go down to feed the pigs I call “Piiiiiig, pig, pig, pig, pig” and they squeal in anticipation. When we open their fencing to relocate them, I continue my call while shaking a container with some food. They either follow right behind or run ahead because they know where to go.  My hope is that this association with my voice and food will make it possible for me to herd them farther distances. So far so good. Plus, it makes me laugh.

Chickens

I have a confession. Our Great Pyrenees is a chicken chaser. He will walk towards the birds and if they start to move away, he will give chase. The faster they move, the more excited he gets. For him it is a game, but it may not turn out well for the chickens. So, I decided to enlarge the chicken run to give the birds more space. This meant in addition to everything else, we quickly put up a run with welded wire fencing and t-posts. It was completed yesterday, and the girls were let out of their smaller enclosure. What happy chickens!

As I write this, snow is falling, and our fires are burning as we anticipate 6-10 inches of snow.

Beautiful.

Peaceful.

Magical.

Fiat Farm