Thursday, December 11, 2008

How's This For Lack of a Better Title

Dear Readers of this Blog,
I have an important announcement to make:
(but don't worry, it's nothing serious)

It has come to my attention that there have been wars, I mean complaints and rumors of complaints that there has been very little action on this blog. Which means, I guess, that I should dispel all of the myths and conspiracy theories which I'm sure don't abound in the blogosphere. So here's the grand abolishment of all of the above: We Haven't Written Anything Lately. And so there you have it. (in other words (to condense the prior paragraph) there hasn't been any action on this blog.) (And all this merely proves that I can write all that and basically say absolutely nothing!)

I am happy :-) to report that I'm now feeling quite a bit better after being under the weather for about a week (off and on). I am sad :-( to report that now Mom and Jonathan seem to be suffering from the same blasted bug.

However, (as some of you may have guessed by now) I'm not feeling particularly serious tonight, so bear with me. (it was you who asked for a post after all) (although perhaps that could be developed into a strategy for generating comments, you know that whole prolonged absence bit...)

Here's a piece I wrote some time ago but never really finished, and of course never posted. But perhaps it will amuse y'all for a bit so have at it. (While your readin' that I'll just mosey on and write a bit more--see ya in two shakes of a dog's tail (provided you have a slow tail wagging type))

"The shades of evening come all too soon, daybreak is later, and still there seems to be no time to rest.

Tonight I stayed home from AWANA because of an incident I had with a logging chain. The whole thing started (and ended) at the W. family farm....We were trying to accomplish a simple task--take hay to the sheep in the first field which is covered in about six inches of snow and is not affording much forage at this point in time. To do this we load round bales on to flat rack hay wagons with the skid-steer and pull them out to the field with a tractor. I warmed up the ol' Ford 7000 and hooked onto the load. The main problem with that choice of horsepower is that Ford (as we affectionately call her) don't have enough weight to say so, and thus in the winter she is apt to sit and spin. Which is what she did. We got her started with a little push from the skid-steer and and I made it as far as the road. Where I stopped to let Daniel climb aboard. That was a mistake. Now I couldn't get started again. (This could (should?) have made us think about getting the bigger tractor right there) So once again I got moving with a shove from the skid-steer (which now has new tires that make it possible to actually do more that just sit and spin-and that was on concrete in the middle of the summer) and this time I kept on going. The road was so icy that Ford did a lot of spinning even once she was going. (Another clue) Now to get to the pasture, you drive down the road aways (maybe a 1/4 mile) and then through a couple of railroad ties and down a lane. Or I should say UP a lane.... Now can you guess where I next ground to a spinning halt? Yup, half way up the hill. Great. Now what? Well, Daniel came up with his Dad's old four wheel drive pick up. He pushed. The tractors wheels spun. The truck's wheels spun. We didn't move so much as an inch. So we went back to the "farm" and got the International 1066 (the "10") and a couple of little chains. Now I mentioned chains seemed kinda small for the job at hand, but we were in a hurry (as usual) and Dan didn't know where the big chains were. I said I didn't want to be around when the chains snapped. (Now in case your thinking ahead here, what you think happened didn't.) So we get the two tractors hooked together, and Dan pulls with the 10. The chain came unhooked. I re-hooked it. Again Daniel pulls. The hook and about four links of chain pull off of the one chain. I re-hook again. Once more the 10 moves forward. Then it happened (don't worry yet). The chain snapped. And landed in a pile in the snow. So we take another trip back to the house where my truck is parked with three logging chains in the back. Unfortunately the chains were frozen in. Fortunately I was able to get them out. Back to the hill where Ford sits stranded. This time we have enough chain that the 10 will be on level ground to pull. So we're laying out the chains and hooking everything up....I hook one chain to the front of Ford, but this one has a frozen link in it. It's not good to pull on a link of chain sideways so I throw my weight into it to break it loose. It broke loose all right. The chain from the tractor that is. The hook came up and hit me just under the eye, leaving a nasty gash (well maybe it's not that bad, but it sure don't look too pretty either), and more of the chain hit me in the mouth. Thank the good Lord for that permanent retainer that the orthodontics people put in--that's the only reason I can think of that I am writing tonight with all of my teeth still in my head. The one tooth is moved slightly out of position but considering the force of the blow, not bad. Apparently the cut on my cheek bone was bleeding quite freely, since the blood was dripping off of my nose and chin....So I did what anyone would do in such circumstances--grabbed a handful of snow and held it to my cheek. Works quite well really, the snow is cold, the pressure helps stop the bleeding, and the snow also absorbs quite a bit of the blood. It is also fairly prevalent. The injury sustained didn't kill me by any means so we continued hooking up the tractors and pulled the hay into the field. I wasn't much help pushing the bales off since I was clutching snow and ice to my face, but we got 'er done and I drove Ford home and deposited the wagons by the hay pile and parked her in the barn. Then we went to the house to wash the extra blood off and see exactly what was what."

Now y'all have a good time readin' that did ya? Almost written in a kinda entertaining style if I do say so myself. (Which I guess I just kinda did)

Well for Christmas this year, What's that? Oh, you want to know how the whole story turns out? Now this is where all them big time authors would leave you hanging till the next post...which in my case might be some time right along about the middle of May...2010 ;-)

But I guess I'm in a kinda ramblin' mood tonight so why not finish up the story 'eh?

Here goes: I went in the house washed off the blood, got a professional (sort of (no offense)) opinion from Mr. W. ("it don't need stitches"), got a wet cloth to hold against it (in a continuing effort (and becoming more successful) to stem the tide of blood), got into the truck and drove home. Mom patched 'er up really good with one of them there surgical sutures replacements, the steri-strip, butterfly bandage type thingys. So in the long run (now that it's healed) I've got a little scar under my left eye (to match the one over my right eye on my forehead that I got from banging my head on a bed headboard when I was little (all you little kids out there take note: jumping on the bed is potentially dangerous. And I'd do it anyway (provided your folks don't mind)). Nothing to fuss over really.

Now on to more interesting things.

Grama came up on Christmas Eve, so we've been doing lots of game playing (in between feeling really poorly and just laying around watching the old TV shows we got for Christmas on DVD (like Hogan's Heroes and Gomer Pyle) At least with all the laying around and doing nothing I've got pretty well rested up. And I managed to avoid, Um that is to say, I very unfortunately missed out on the two extended family Christmas parties. (I'm such a Scrooge :-)) Oh well, at least now I'm ready to get back to work. All the laying around has half killed me, especially all of the feeling well enough to do a little but not well enough to do much (if ya catch my drift). And I reckon I'd better jump back into doing something before I get too used to doing nothing (it might be catching, kinda like this blasted bug) (not exactly sure who I'd catch it from, but ya'll know how it goes.)

And now I can't think of anything especially exciting (telling the end to that there boring story done made me forget them all) so I'll sign off. (With nary a promise nor hint of another post anytime soon.) (so there!) (But the next one I just might try to make a little bit serious....You never know ;-).....)


Matthew

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Busy as Usual

Well I can finally believe that it's November (now that the month is better than half over...) the trees have been completely striped of their leaves by the cruel wind and rain, snow has fallen, regular deer season has started, and the days are getting shorter.

I'm working at a deer processor's again this year, which is always interesting (managed to slice my thumb pretty good, so I have it all taped up which is making it difficult to type! But so far I've been able to avoid cutting my knuckles off with the bone saw like I did last year which is nice). In the last three days five of us (me boning, two guys cutting and two packaging) have done 72 deer. The guy that owns the place (Mr. S.) hired another cutter this year to help him keep ahead of me, so the days have been a lot shorter this year than last. Today was an especially short day since we only had 17 deer to do. Business is a bit slower this year. And we're faster, which makes business seem really slow. Maybe someday I'll try to do something like what Mr. Kimball did with his "How to Butcher A Chicken" blog except for deer. (although it probably won't be quite as thorough, or as professionally written. But maybe it would help someone)

Mr. W. has had surgery on his foot, and is back home recovering. We aren't cutting deer tomorrow, so I reckon I'll mosey on out there and see what's up. Mr. W. is going to have a really hard time just sitting around with his foot up. Although chances are that it will be harder for his family than for him.

I've got to figure out what I'm going to do exactly with my layers for the winter too. And if it should happen to warm up enough I need to finish up my garden cart. (if I'm home)

Well Supper is ready so I guess I'll go eat.

Till later,

Matthew

Monday, November 3, 2008

November Already?!?!!

The weather has warmed up again--it's been getting up into the 60's some days--I was reading in Countryside and Small Stock Journal and they called this time of year the second spring. The more we look around we agree.

I can hardly believe that it is already November....What happened to October? I do vaguely remember the tree turning, there are still some leaves on some trees, but I guess it is looking like November sorta. This also means that there are only 11 (can that be right?!?) days left 'till deer season! (Well actually, to be precise firearm season--this year we had an early doe season (Sept. 18-22) bow season (Oct. 1 - Nov. 14) and then we've got regular firearm (Nov. 15 - 30) late bow season (Dec. 1 - Jan. 1 ) (but when it's that cold, and hence you've got that much coat on, who can actually pull a bow back?) overlapping that we have muzzleloading (a type of gun) (Dec. 5 - 21) and finally, late doe season (Dec. 22 - Jan 1)) So all in all we have plenty of opportunity to shoot (ok...hunt) a few deer around here. For some reason this year I haven't got very excited about hunting. I still enjoy it, it's just there's so much work to be done. That's why I haven't gone out with my bow at all this year. That and I already have one in the freezer from early doe season, so I'm not too worried about getting enough for meat. My hunting motivation has kinda done a 180 degree turn. The first couple of years I hunted strictly for enjoyment and fun, this year I'm pretty much just hunting for the meat. My first years, even the thought of seeing a big buck set my heart to beating wildly. This year during early doe I had several good size bucks within range, but they didn't excite me much more that doing the dishes would. For one thing I knew that they were off limits for that season, so even if they were in range I couldn't shoot, so why bother getting excited? Two smaller buck did get into a "fight" a little ways behind me and that was pretty neat to see even if they were just sparing. But anyway venison makes good eating. Around here they're pretty much all corn/soy bean fed so they don't taste much different than beef. In fact some people call them quick beef! (due to the fact that they often run quite quickly--unlike a feed lot beef) The meat (for the most part) is very lean, in fact at the deer processor's where I worked last fall, they recommended adding 20% pork fat just to get some grease in with it. Otherwise you have to add some kind of fat or oil (we often use olive) to get the meat started frying.

My last batch of broilers met the freezers of my customers the last part of September and the egg production is really slacking off. I also helped/taught another family of agrarians butcher some chickens for the first time. It's always pretty neat to meet other people working towards the same goal, whether it be in person or on the internet. One afternoon, a while back, our family had a wood splitting party--we were able to split and stack roughly 13 cords of wood I'd cut last year with Mr. Joe. We have use of a wood splitter so we can move along at a pretty good clip. There's still quite a pile of logs to split yet, so hopefully we will end up with enough to keep up through the winter--I figure that we need about 25 cords to last us. Although if the winter is as long and hard as some people say it's gonna be (and I hope it is) we may need more like 30 cords. I reckon we'll find out.

We've had several hard frosts, but now it is getting back up into the 60's. My "fall" garden planting is still going strong (I think, haven't actually checked it for a day or two), but the tomatoes are toast. We had them covered but the frost still got them. So much for tomatoes at Thanksgiving--I'll have to try again next year.

The colors were especially beautiful this year, and I even got some pictures. These are at the W. family's farm.


I took these from the top of their grain bin-- some sheep and a few green fields:



They had their woods logged this summer/fall--if you look carefully, you'll see some big equipment in the right side of the photo back by the woods:Here's a close up:
And this is their small stack of round bales:

Well, I’d better run along--TTFN! (as Tigger always said)


Matthew

Saturday, October 4, 2008

COLD!

It is getting down right chilly here, got down to at least 34 degrees last night--personally I think it was colder than that--and we had a fairly heavy frost. We had to cover the flowers and the garden. The latter is doing quite well for a change, I planted some more lettuce and such a while back and it is all up and growing--I need to get out there and thin the stuff down some. The watermelons are also still going, although I haven't checked them after the frost.


Today I spent most of my time over at the W. family's farm again. The prognosis for Mr. W.'s foot and leg is looking worse and worse. The Dr.s are saying that IF they can repair the foot he'll have to be off of it for six to ten months. If they cant save the foot, they will have to amputate just below the knee...in which case Mr. W. will have to be laid up for about six to ten months. So in either case he needs to cut way back and basically quit working for ten months--he has trouble not working for ten minutes! He also is fighting an infection in his bone--for which he has a pick line in his arm for daily doses of IV antibiotics (at $800 a pop).


We're now experiencing my favorite time of year--Fall. The only problem is that it's so darn cold. Well maybe it's just that I'm not used to it :-) I am also now Officially a year older (as of Sep. 28) that puts me up to the ripe old age of 19--time sure flies. If anyone has a way to slow time down please let me know!


Whelp, supper's about ready so I'll say sayonara for now chaps. ;-)

Matthew

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

August in Review

August has gone and September has come. It's hard to believe--where has all that time gone?!? It wasn't too long ago that I couldn't' hardly wait for the snow to melt and spring to arrive. And just a few days ago (or so it seems) wasn't it June? And, why, it seems like just yesterday or the day before it was July. But now the calender tells me it's September already. It doesn't seem possible.

Today is the first day of mandatory lockup (I mean school!) for the children in our area; the prison buses are running again, and the neighborhood is strangely quiet. Gone are the golden days of freedom....

At PotterVilla Academy the school year is also due to begin shortly--we traditionally start the Monday of Dad's birthday week, which this year is September 8th. (Dad's birthday is the 7th) So Jonathan will soon be back to calculus, advanced physics, and band practices. I'm really glad that I've officially graduated so I don't have to go back to books. As it says in Ecclesiastics: "Much study wearies the body, and of the making of many books there is no end." I would add a hearty 'Amen' to that! I'm becoming more restless as the years go by, I think. (Is it possible to grow into ADD?)

As I sit here and type, I wonder how I ever was able to sit still for an hour or two of Saxon math a few years ago. Back a few years ago (say six or eight) I was an avid
reader (is 'avid' a strong enough word I wonder?). I would sit (or lay) for hours on end reading. Historical fiction by G.A. Henty was probably my favorite. I also like books by Kjelgaard --he wrote about men, hunters and trappers by trade, living out in the wilds with their dogs. Irish Red, Big Red, Sean, Smokey (?) were some of my favorites too. I don't remember if Kjelgaard wrote Two Against the North too, or if that was by somebody else. I also kinda liked Where the Red Fern Grows although it is kinda sad too as I remember. Another historical fiction I really liked was Mara Daughter of the Nile--that kept you on the edge of your seat the whole book. Even earlier reading I liked was The Happy Hollisters, The Boxcar Children and of course the Little House books. Later I had to do some reading for a Lit. class--The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Cyrano De Bergerac (or cry nose de bugerback, as I liked to call him). I didn't much care for those two. I didn't like Frankenstein either. Why would anyone think that a book that was created because of a contest to see who (of three authors) could write the most hideous horror story would be a classic?!??!!?? (by the way, Frankenstein won hands down) I didn't care for Kipling either. At least his novels...the short stories were pretty good--like The Capture of Red Chief. I also tried the Sugar Creek Gang, but I think that I tried them too late, and they didn't seem very exciting compared to conquering armies and war heroes. Of course I also liked My Side of the Mountain, Robinson Crusoe, and The Swiss Family Robinson, and Mark Twain stories. (now what was the purpose of writing all this?.....) (oh yeah....I remember now) These days I don't read much. Mainly because I know that if a pick up a book one of two things will happen: either I'll soon lose interest and/or need to move on to my next project and then not come back to it till I can't remember what is happening, or I'll suddenly become so engrossed that all I'll do is read the book until I finish it (to the neglect of pretty much all else). Usually what happens is the former, but every so often, say once or twice a year, I'll just drop everything and read for a couple of days. And then I feel guilty for not getting anything done! Such is life. :-)

================

On the radio just now
(actually internet radio--Rejoice Radio), Tom Palmer was talking about families and using examples from the early days of the Bible--Noah, Abraham etc. He said that Abraham built an alter to establish worship, Noah built an Ark to protect--and that how as parents "we need to prepare an alter so we can worship, we need to prepare an ark so we can protect." Mr. Palmer also reminded parents "your kids will love what you love." If you love TV, if you would rather stay home and watch the football game than go to Church, don't wonder why kids and teens do the same things. Another observation that hit me was that "the family has a greater effect on the Church [in America today] than the Church has on families." Personally I believe that family ministry is sorely lacking and obviously missing from Church "programs." Yes, it's all good and fine to reach kids, but for the most part they will ultimately follow their parent's example.

=================

Well, back to August.

The other day I pulled all the onions and carrots from the garden. The onions are drying on the patio table till I figure out what to do with them (and till they're dry). The few carrots I need to clean up and put in the fridge. I also picked the remaining few ears of corn--boy did they do poorly this year. The ears were only about 4 inches long and a good portion were no good because they were full of bugs and half eaten. The chickens dined well for a few days--over half of what was left went to them. I'm averaging about three to four eggs a day now. The eggs are still small but getting a little bigger.

The broilers are getting bigger too. I still can't hardly believe how much those little buggers eat. Just 50 of them are going through about 5 gal of water a day too.

It is quite hot today, supposed to be up close to 90. However overall we've had a cool summer pockmarked by hot spells. It started out looking like it would be another dry summer, but then June and July were really wet. But now we're in the midst of a parching drought. I don't think we've had an inch of rain all month. The good news is that there is a chance of rain five times in the ten day forecast. Apparently there is a cold front coming through--Thursday's predicted high is 65. Then we're back up into the mid-70's.

The Farmer's Almanac (which claims an accuracy rating of 85%) says that this winter is going to come early with lots of snow and cold. Sounds good to me. We've seen some geese heading south already, and other people have remarked on other signs of the animals preparing for a hard winter ahead. One of our white pines is loaded with pine cones this year, which is unusual. We're wondering if that is a sign of a long winter.

If winter is indeed coming early this year, I'd better put the plastic up on the green house hoops earlier than I'd planned. I hope to keep the tomatoes producing at least till Thanksgiving. I don't know if I can do it without an artificial heat source out there or not. It's worth a try at any rate. Eventually, what I'd love to do is put up a block wall at the North end and put a stove there. Then we could cover the entire garden and have a space 12' x 50' to grow stuff year round.

I'm hoping to rent some land (about 5 or 6 acres) across the road this fall. I'll reserve about an acre +/- for a garden and put the rest to pasture for the chickens. I also really want to raise a couple of pigs. And of course have a Jersey milk cow, but better to start slow. (unless you can jump in all at once, right?) The neighbors have a barn, but I don't know as it's in good enough shape to where I'd want to risk having a cow in it.

I was looking at the Johnny's seed catalog and came up with a "wish list"--only about $300 worth. Who knew garlic was so expensive? (80 bucks for 5 lb!) and potatoes, for 'organic' seed it's over $80 for 50 lb, or for non-organic it's $24 for 50 lb. I guess I don't need 'organic' for that much. And then for 5 lb of seed it's like $13. So it's not quite twice as expensive for ten times as much seed. Figure that one out. (needless to say I would like to get the 50 lb!)

Tonight I planted a fall garden. I'm trying the peas again, and I planted more lettuce, radishes and carrots. Hopefully they will all do well. My theory is that the cooler weather is what they need, not necessarily Spring.

=================

This afternoon Dad had a phone interview with Dart Container. They will let him know within a week or two whether or not they want to continue with further interviews etc. Or as Dad said whether or not they'll let him get a job at Spartan Motors (a local Charlotte company that produces chaises for fire trucks and motor homes. (trying to take the Edison approach, "well now we know that doesn't work--lets move on to the next plan.")

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As I briefly mentioned before, I am now officially graduated. Mom says I had better say more. Here it goes:

We had a lovely ceremony (short and sweet) at the dinning room table on Sunday August 17 (a day that will forever live in infamy). That evening we had a celebration/Sunday night church at a member's pond. It was a nice event and I was amazed at the number of people who cared enough to come out to it. And then there were a select few whom I could thank for coming not to my graduation celebration but to the church event! (I didn't want any fuss. None. Nada. Zip. Mother overruled ;-) ) That was the second of two events that weekend. The first was as archery practice--a similar event to the Sunday night shebang, but less structured. (and a little more to my liking.)

There I hope that suffices. The things a person has to do to please his mother..... ;-)

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Well it's time for this missive to end. (you never thought you'd get to the end of it did you? ;-) ) All good things come to an end eventually (or at least that's what I've heard) so like August this post is fading into just a memory.

At least the coming of September does bring some benefits. Like squirrel season, fall colors and cooler temps. And actually this year there is an early doe season in our neck of the woods. From September 18th through the 22nd, we have a chance to help the insurance companies and lower the deer population. Plus with only does in season there's a greater chance that they'll be shot (at?), rather than hunters holding out for that buck that might be just around the corner. And after that there's the youth hunt, and then starting on October 1st we have bow season. (not sure how much I'll get out for that--esp. if a get a deer (or two) during the early doe season) Following bow season, on November 15 - 30 there's the regular firearm (shotgun (or muzzleloader, which is what I'll use--especially since I just got a new one (my first) last year) around here). After that I think there is late bow season followed by muzzleloading and late doe season. So if I can't get a deer or three it won't be from lack of opportunity. (which is nice) Unfortunately, the cost of ammo is going up and up and up. I'm torn to whether I should stock up on some of that stuff, like guns and ammo, or save my money to sink into property, fences and livestock etc. It's quite frustrating really, its really getting harder for a guy to get a good start in agriculture. (not that it will stop me from trying, it's just that stuff is getting so darned expensive--kinda upsets me.)

September also marks the beginning of Fall. Which is my favorite season (I think--Winter is nice too--all that snow and cold, cutting wood and more hunting; but then there's Spring...hard to beat Spring with the melting snow and that ever present feeling of hope and joy; and Summer too, idyllic days and lovely warmth and all that yummy garden produce pouring in....hmm) Well one of my favorite seasons anyway, with the start of hunting, and the crisp air, the spectacular color shows that the trees put on, and the way the fields look just before and after harvest. I must also admit I love watching the giant
machinery lumber across the landscape devouring the rows of corn or beans, the golden stream of grain pouring out of the combines into the grain wagons....

=============

I almost forgot--we've been doing some canning too. I've done a few dozen quarts of pickles (the cukes are doing the best of anything I planted this year) We have also canned some green beans, but no tomatoes yet, they just won't ripen this year. It seems to be a common problem, for some reason. Maybe next year. We've frozen about a dozen bags of sweet corn too, but as I mentioned, we've had problems getting it to grow well. On my tenitive Johnny's order I have enough open pollinated sweet corn for a little over five 100' rows--hopefully that would be enough to eat and freeze all we wanted and still have plenty to save for seed. Hard to tell untill we try it.

============

Well I really do have to sign off now,

Untill next time,

Matthew









Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eggciting News

Today was the day. The day we've all been looking forward to. (or at least I have been) the day that my "pretty birds" laid their first eggs. Three so far. Slightly irreggular granted, but it's a huge leap for mankind (me at least) in their quest for space travel (I mean self-sufficiency)! It's so eggciting! :-)

There they are in all their beauty. Gorgeous specimens of eggs at their best, unless of course you enter fried eggs, omelets, quiches, souffl├ęs, eggs in cakes, cookies and so forth and so on, into the contest. Delectable delights. All brought to you by the incredible edible egg--that being the "farm" fresh variety, not the poor substitutes commonly called eggs found in your typical giant superstore.

I found one this morning when I moved the pen, and then two more after Baxter and I put the recalcitrant Turken back into the pen. (Baxter is eggtremely good at catching on to things like this. This time all I said (in very conversational terms) as I was talkin to the dear dog, on the way to get my shoes on, was something like "Baxter we've go to go get that chicken that's out." He latched right onto the "chicken out" part and tore out the door, raced over to the pen and, by the time I reached it, had the hen pinned down in a convenient location for me to pick up and put back into the chicken tractor! I think we ought to get some sheep. (But I'd rather have a Jersey dairy cow))

So anyway, I guess that means that I'd better change feed over to an egg laying ration. And put some wood shavings in the nest boxes (I'd left them bare for the starters, because they were all sleeping in them. But now they're roosting on top of the nest boxes--a much better place in my opinion--so now I could put bedding in there.)

============

We've also picked some blue berries, canned some pickles, and a few green beans. For my gardens not doing so well, we've still gathered considerable bounty from thither and yon. We've been blessed by many generous people.


Here's some cucumbers waiting to be made into pickles:

And here's the fruit of about an hour and a half's labor for five people:
The blue berries were hard picking this year, the place we go to lost over 80% of the berries to the bad hail storm--this is their second bad year in a row. Hopefully not their last year, but Mrs. Cook was saying that two bad years in a row means it's time to quit.

==========

Well I'd better get back out and check on my chicks again. I just moved them out side into the big pen yesterday afternoon because they were getting too hot in the garage. My total death loss is four so far--more than I'd like but it seems to be somewhat typical.

"Talk" to y'all later,

Matthew

Friday, August 8, 2008

An Awesome Opportunity

Some interesting things have been happening around here lately. Here's the run down.

Yesterday morning my next batch of broiler chicks arrived. I'm trying something a little different this time--I borrowed a stock tank to keep the chicks in for the first few days. Right now they're in the garage, and the tank is working out a lot better than the cardboard box I've tried in the past. It's been pretty warm (in the mid to upper 80's [great weather for mowing away hay in the back corner of the barn where's there's no breeze!]) and although it's cooled down some, it is still warm enough that the chicks don't need nearly as much supplemental heat as my previous batches did. So my plan is that after the first few days of having them in the tank on newspaper and wood shavings, I'll move them right out onto the grass in the big broiler pen. I imagine that I'll still have to keep the heat lamp with them, but I think that the earlier that they're exposed to grass and dirt the better they'll do over all.

Now that the chicks are here and requiring attention, I've been staying home rather than going over to the Williams farm (that's where I was helping mow away hay on 90 degree days--the weather really has been quite good for hay this year--really good rains, but enough hot, dry days too, although we're a touch dry now.) After working over there and always being busy, now that I'm home I'm actually getting kinda bored. I guess I ought to make up a list of projects to work on. The gardens are disappointing me this year. We're only just now starting to get yellow tomatoes, the beans aren't producing as well as I'd hoped, (not to mention the fact that they didn't come up very well in the first place) the peas...(where to begin) I've replanted them twice and the few that did come up are doing really poorly. The pop corn that I planted at a friend's house--I put it down on the low ground because it looked like a dry year--is still yellow and not much over knee high because it's so wet down there! Oh, bother....................

On a brighter note, Grama is coming up from Florida. She'll be arriving tomorrow at 11:08 am at the Lansing airport, so Mom and I are going in to pick her up (and make the traditional run to Gordon Foods and Horrock's, plus look for another pair of high top shoes for me (it seems that hog manure is hard on synthetic soles and such)). Now this is the game playing Grama--we always have a ball with her. Cribbage, Uno, Triominoes, Dominoes, Farkle, Skip-Bo, Phase Ten, and Phase Ten Dice are all favorites that are usually well played before she has to leave. (Just for the disclaimer--yes we do still get a few things accomplished--she's also the sewing, weeding/gardening and walking Grama) We always look forward to her visits. Plus with the recent medical circumstances she wasn't able to make it up at Christmas, so it's been quite awhile since we've seen her.

Well, on to our Awesome Opportunity. On Monday afternoon of this week, we received a certified letter sent by FedEx--the letter was a "Warn Notice" from Von Wise--the company that currently owns the business where Dad works. Or I should actually say used to work. Tuesday was his last day of work. The whole company is folding up (unless by some minuscule chance they find a buyer), production is keeping going until the parts in stock run out, and then they'll be laid off as well. So we now have an Awesome Opportunity to trust God to provide and protect. Since the lay off was so sudden--Monday afternoon we got the letter, Monday night (due to rumors that there would be guards and locked buildings in the morning) we all went in and helped Dad clean out his desk, Tuesday morning there was a meeting, and 120+ people (out of about 212) were laid off--it's quite a shock to the system. The company was on the news and everything. He doesn't get any severance pay, but he does get the rest of his vacation paid--which is about three weeks. The insurance will run out on the 15th, so Mom's been trying to make sure we're all caught up on routine medical stuff--eye doctor appointments etc. So now we're trusting God to provide a new job for Dad, and in the mean time see if there is any way in which we need to try to cut back and live more frugally. We don't think that we'll have to make any major lifestyle changes, since we already try to live sensibly.

Overall, we are in good shape, both financially and (more importantly) Spiritually. I believe that the days ahead will be an excellent time to draw closer to each other as a family, and to God as we trust Him to supply our needs (in a more direct way than usual). It will also be an opportunity to be an example to the world of faith and perseverance in times of trouble. It's also a good time to have a big garden :-) (even if it isn't doing the best) Now if I could just convince Mom and Dad to get a Jersey milk cow..... ;-) ...and a couple of pigs, a horse or two, some cattle and a few sheep...Oh, and a few hundred (or thousand) acres would be nice too :-) (Ah well, a guy can dream, can't he?)


Well that's all the news that news worthy (I try to be more discriminating than the liberal media :-) ), so I'll sign off for now,

Y'all take care now, and remember that there is always peace in the shadow of His wings.

Matthew

Friday, July 18, 2008

Update and the DMV

Hello again, you might remember us--Matthew and Jonathan from PotterVilla Academy? Yes, it hasn't been that long, but a lot of things have happened since our last major update. Matthew butchered his 48 broiler chickens on the tenth--a week ago yesterday--and has sold all but one of them. His setup got reviewed by one of our friends on his prestigious blog, Iron Ink. This friend is the pastor of a reformed church in town; his nickname is The Poison Pen, and his blog used to be called Acid Ink. However, his comments on Matthew's butchering wasn't at all scathing, to the contrary, he seemed enthralled with my brother's (as he called it in his blog) piece-de-resistance, the Whizbang Chicken Plucker.

We prepared one of the chickens to split between samples for the customers and dinner for us, and it turned out absolutely delicious. It cooked in the crock pot for about seven or eight hours, and when it was done, fell off the bones with hardly any water added. No seasonings either. The pasturing really paid off in taste, as well as economy.

On Sunday, I will be turning 17, and mom decided to get me my driver's license for a birthday present. I finished driver's ed about a while ago, but then it got put off until it was winter (I didn't want to take my road test in the snow and ice), and then it got put off some more. However, we finally got around to setting up the test (I passed without too much effort), and then headed off to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The nearest office is in Lansing, about 20 minutes (and $8 of gas) away. Matthew had gotten his license previously, and so we thought we had a basic idea of what it entailed. We looked up (in the driver's ed book) which documents we needed to take, I put on a nice shirt, and we were off. We also (as we do every time we go to Lansing) took a long shopping list. Matthew took three chickens he was selling to a member of the Lansing Homeschool group. Anyway, we got there, and after waiting in the initial customer service (or dis-service) line, were told that we didn't have enough paperwork. The rules (made up by some high-ranking government official) had changed in January, and we needed my whole life history. So we just left, and did our shopping.

Today, we returned, bearing a file cabinet (just a file, really), including my birth certificate, my social security card, my state issued photo id, my road test certificate, my level 1 driving permit, mom's photo id, and my bank account number (it's the truth; they want two somethings that show that you live a a certain address, and a bank statement is one of the things that counts [junk mail from the army and the marines don't count, probably since they got my address from the secretary of state--circular mailing]). Don't forget a check made out to them for $25 to add to all the tax money they already get. And then, when we got up the the customer service desk, they asked us what our address was. This is documentary proof that the public school system is failing: even government employees have trouble reading. I mean, that address was on just about all of those documents. We haven't moved, people!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, they finally did let us wait again, to fill out a second set of papers and to stand in front of a malfunctioning camera. Then, they give you a new piece of paper (to replace the old tattered one) that has one number changed. Boy, that was really worth it. But at least they'll send a plastic one with a picture on it in the mail. :) And I can at least drive myself to Bible School, since mother can't go because of her English tutoring classes.

I've also finished (mostly :)) the pottervilla.net webpage, putting up some of our chicken, etc, information.

My other recent project is dumping all of our home videos onto my computer; it's very time consuming since it has to be done in real time, but it doesn't require very many man hours, just computer hours. :) I'm getting to the end of it, the last 15 or so video tapes.

I found this video recently. If you can get through the pagan mythology that comprises the vehicle, the overlying themes of self sacrifice are quite moving. When viewed through biblical glasses, there's a lot of meaning to this short film. To avoid clashing music, you will probably want to turn off the player in the sidebar. :)



"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.


This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." - John 3:16-19

In His service,

Jonathan

Monday, June 30, 2008

Remind anyone of what people do in America today?

We must buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price.
- Lamentations 5:4

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chicken Plucking Report

This morning I took the plucker over to some friend's house and helped butcher their 30 some odd Cornish Cross birds. I got there just before seven a.m. and then set up (including screwing the cones to the stand thingy) and we were done (including clean up and putting all of the stuff back into the truck) by 11:45 a.m. The plucker worked beautifully. The vote was unanimous that it saved many, many hours in the plucking department. The last time they did chickens they borrowed a table style plucker--it made a real mess and didn't really do a very good job. The birds were plucked once on the machine, two or three times by the eviscerators (sp?) once in the house--where they cut them up and packaged them--and then once before you put them in the pot to cook! With the Whizbang method the machine plucked them once and then the people pulled out a few tail feathers and that was it! It took me a few times to get the scalding down, but once I "mastered" (really I'm no where close) that it was a breeze.

Well I've been getting up at five or six for the past week or so and not going to sleep unitl midnight so I'm kinda tired (slept for two hours on the couch and still feel like I could sleep for a week) so that's it for now.

Matthew

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Completed Chicken Plucker and a few Other Thoughts

It's quite chilly this morning. We open the windows last night because it's supposed to get up close to 80 degrees today but as I sit here at the computer my fingers are so cold (and slightly numb) that I'm having a hard time typing. Yesterday I could see my breath in the morning. I've had to dig out the flannel shirts and sweat shirts again. ('Course if it was winter I'd be wearing a short sleeved t-shirt--it's only getting down in the low fifty's or high forty's!)

The Amazing and Famous Plucker Project
Well I finally finished it. It's been a kinda long process, I started gathering parts in February, but I took a few breaks too (some longer than others!) --to help some friends with lambing, to wait for more parts to come and to work on other things. However The Whizbang Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker is now complete and ready to try out (I even added a couple of up-grades--one was in the plan book and one I came up with my self.) And so without further ado...(drum roll please)...here's a picture:

As y'all can see, it's quite nice, if I do say so myself! You can also see that I added the "Mobile Whizbang" option. Here it is in action:
That blue plastic tub was just the right size to cover up the motor (which must weigh about 50 lb!) This is a sideways picture of the bottom pulley's etc. Right now I have the wrong idler pulley on there-it's a v-grove and I need to replace it with a flat one, but it works....And now for my own innovation.....see if ya can guess what it is from this picture:Here's another clue....
What you are looking at is....A rigged up spray ring (so ya don't have to stand there with the hose for the ten or fifteen seconds it takes to pluck a couple of birds--just flip the lever! Who has time to stand around and wait for ten whole seconds!?! ;-) )

What I did is took an old hose (hard rubbery plasticy stuff) and hooked to the 1/2" ball valve. Then I mounted the ball valve to the plucker frame with plumber's strap, and the hose to the plucker tub with the ever handy zip ties. Finally, I cut little one inch slits in the hose so that is sprays like this:
And then when you flip the power switch as I'm doing in the above picture...I think that the thing might take a few feathers off! I can hardly wait till the broilers are ready now:There they are in the Joel Salatin style chicken tractor. It has three doors--two on the front and one big one on the back which is covered with a PVC roofing material. The pen is fairly light--without the doors on I can stand in the middle and pick it right up and carry it. On the ground though, it drags a lot because of the width (digs into the ground)...so I cobbled up a dolly for it:
It's made out of an old push lawn mower and a couple of boards. Make it do or do with out! I basically just took the handle and bolted the wheels to it. (that did end up needing some reinforcing to keep the wheel straight--weld a piece of pipe between 'em) Then I took that pesky kill switch handle thingy, and used it to hold the board at the proper angle.


I've also been working on some butchering tables and such (with a lot of help from the gentleman from church that gives me lumbar). I think that it's safe to say that I'm the only one in the county with furniture grade butchering tables! This one holds two (out of three) pieces of slate counter top that another friend gave me. It's about six feet long. Made out of planned ash boards. [He doesn't do plugging and touch sanding though... :( ]Here's a few other things:That would be the Whizbang Garden cart pieces in the bushes, and the two height (sitting or standing) single stand, and the fully adjustable killing cone stand. (plus a few odds and ends!) Here's a close up of the singe stand:And in these two you can see how the cone stand adjustment works:
The guy helping me does very poor work as you can see! (insert extreme sarcasm into that last sentence if ya haven't already) He doesn't have any tools either. For instance the back of the single stand are held together in part by two biscuits (wooden kind--ya wouldn't want to eat 'em!) which were cut out with a nifty little biscuit cutter outer jobber thing. I'm very pleased with how the stuff turned out.

He also has an old cast iron double sink with drain board that he is going to give me. (Did I mention that he's pretty generous?) Then I'll just need to figure out how to rig up the foot operated water switch....


Well I'm out of time this morning. I get to go help worm sheep today :-)

Until next time,

May He who is able to keep you from falling make your way straight, and rescue you from all ungodliness.

Matthew




Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Technology, picture update, and politics

Two days of spring left. Temperature has dropped back down into the balmy 60's (as opposed to the scorching 90's, the steamy 80's, and the somewhat satisfying 70's). The house is being reclaimed by the people and animals, pushing the remnants of the pre-garden and some of the larger, hardier house plants outside. Baxter has nearly caught 175 ice cream pail lids (Frisbees) and has jumped almost to eye level--somewhere around six feet in the air. He has the legs of a frog. :) Matthew's plucker is complete (pictures later) and is collecting parts for a garden cart and some other chicken and gardening equipment. The garden is coming up nicely. Most things are doing well around here; the exception being the tomato plants, which look more like small trees but have yet to start producing any tomatos.

As I write this, I'm listening to Chopin's piano concerto #2 in F minor. (ED. it's now after supper, and I'm listening to Beethovens No. 1 and No 3, Eroica) Classical music can be quite relaxing after a hard day. If you want proof, just Google 'the effects of music'. Another good Google seach is for web radio, and the first entry has some good clasical stations. One of these days, I'll have to try to get some classical back on the blog. Of course, the bluegrass would still be there. I've finally (I think) figured out how to change the content of a page by the information after the ? in the url--so you could choose which music you want--but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Technology

If you are not technologically inclined and have trouble comprehending terms such as web browser, then feel free to skip this section. Otherwise, here we go! :)

I discovered a cool new website that has some nice color combos, and I've tried one of my favorite on pottervilla.net. I'd love to hear what you think. Pretty soon, I'll be re-designing this blog away from the standard (three of the people in our blog roll use the same one) to something in close correlation to pottervilla.net. Also on the agenda is moving the sidebar to the other side, so we can see the entire music player. :)

On the Tuesday of the blackout, I received a new hard drive I'd ordered (it was a day late, but I didn't complain since I had no power to run it with :) Since then, I've been trying to swap that out with my current boot drive (the hard drive that runs your operating system, or in my case two operating systems), but have been having currently insurmountable difficulties with my copied dual booting setup. Now, I'm giving up and am going to use that drive as my secondary data drive. I also have an old third hard drive that I'm going to try to install Linux on. Apparently, Linux needs three partitions, and each hard drive can only support four. You can support more if you use logical partitions instead of primary partitions, but that requires having a dynamic hard drive, which apparently can only boot one operating system. It doesn't make sense to me ether, but that's what the computer is saying. The new hard drive should make backups a lot faster, as well, since I would only have to backup to a drive in the computer rather than to a drive all the way across the network.

Firefox 3 is finally out! It's a worthy upgrade, especially if you already use Firefox. If you use Internet explorer, it's still a worthy upgrade. If you use any other browser; or especially--terror of all terror--a browser provided by your internet service provider, it's definitely an excellent upgrade. I've just finished outfitting mine with the quintessential Google Toolbar, ad-block plus, FlashBlock, Foxmarks (keeps your bookmarks on a server so that you can synchronize them to any computer), IE Tab (which will let you open the few pages that don't render well in Firefox with the Internet Explorer rendering software, but you still don't need to leave Firefox), Fire Ftp (which is a file transfer utility for your Firefox browser, better than the add supported one that I currently use), and Fox Forecast (which gives an Accuweather.com forecast for the next four or five days, day and night, as well as a radar and sever weather warning alert). McAffe SiteAdvisor is also an installed must.

Pictures

A Recient Sunset

Breakfast :)

A Sunrise

Baxter playing with Dad (the shadow)

Baxter Playing with the chicken plucker
We have a bunch more pictures of the plucker, but I'll let Matthew post them.

A tree growing in a tree - not good

The sky and fields looking south

The flag against the sky

A Picture with interesting power lines :)

Two bushes in the new landscaping

Jimmy - one of the roosters that's going to survive butchering time.

Politics

First off, let me say that I abhor politics. Politics is just a bunch of men (and now women) in fancy suits slinging verbal mud at each other; politics is fueled by the dirt of hard working taxpayers, and powerful corporations supply water. You and I buy the suits--not by choice, mind you--and still submit to every kind of abuse. The suit-wearers place unrealistic controls on us; they bombard us with propaganda through their servants the media; they even limit the control we have by submitting to an international "consensus" which delegates power to a committee of so-called 'experts.'

Unfortunately, politics is necessary. Not the kind of politics that I just described above; that is the kind we have now. Some statesmen (basically truthful politicians), such as Ron Paul (who sadly dropped his bid for republican nominee), Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr still have a vision for a good government. Not all people follow the first and second commandments: love The Lord your God with all your heart, etc., and love your neighbor as yourself. Early after Israel settled in the promised land, they did not have government by man; they had judges and priests who kept things in order--some of the time at least.

Now, we have no such system. We have republicans and democrats. The republicans are hypocrites and the democrats are lairs. The truth of the matter is that a truthful democrat is ether a fool or ignorant. Republicans who do what they say are really constitutionalists.

The first issue at hand is the move to electing officials by 'popular vote', essentially changing America from a representative republic into a rough hewn democracy. The powers that be plan to do this without the necessary constitutional amendment. Beware the easy road; Take care when politicians make no big deal of something!

Next is an issue on which I don't really have an opinion: whether we are better off with Barrack or Hilary. Obviously, since she dropped out, it isn't something worth considering any longer, bar a government class paper. :)

Is the economy really in a slump now? According to bea.gov, (I realize the government can't always be trusted, but how political are statisticians?) the 'Real Gross Domestic Product' has been positive since 1991, and has only been negative seven times since 1950. That's in inflation adjusted numbers. For a good report on current inflation head over the the turtle mountain hillbilly. Inflation certainly has an effect on the economy. I know that my faimily (and probably most people reading this) are spending less these days than they have previously. In inflation adjusted dollars, dad's making a lot less now than he did five years ago. I guess that constitutes economic problems. But then, we live in michigan where our wonderful democratic governer managed to pull the state into economic crisis well before anyone else felt anything, then (in my opinion) pulled the rest of the country with us. :)

Concluding thoughts:

"The more you read and observe about this Politics thing you got to admit that each party is worse than the other." - Will Rogers

"A politician is a statesman who approaches every question with an open mouth." - Adlai Stevenson

"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism." - Ronald Regan

"The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one." - Adolf Hitler

"This is what the king who will reign over you will do:...He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants...He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves." - selections from Samuel 8.

Wow, 10%... we need a king!

"But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh." - Genesis 47:24

20%...We need a pharaoh!

Now To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!

In his name,

Jonathan