Good bye city life! Our family designed and built an industrial but old fashioned farmhouse on nine acres. Now we are building our homestead ~ or is it building us? Grab your boots and join us on our journey to country living.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Home on the range

Yesterday was homecoming for our boy's new calves.  10 of them.  I went along to the ranch to be the photographer but other than that this was their deal. 

They did the talking, the helping, the learning, and the paying.  It promises to be a big investment in time and money.  Hopefully their pasture raised Black Angus will be profitable.  Because increasing numbers of people want to know where their food comes from, we think they will do quite well.

The calves were penned up ready to work.  They looked so little until they went in the chute, then they showed how big they really were.

The boys helped give them immunizations and ear tags.

And helped with the castration too.  Ouch!

J3 thought he was a little up close and personal for this procedure!

The calf didn't feel sorry for him in the least.

Then they were loaded up and delivered.

Final instructions from the rancher and their adventure has begun.

They still look a little lost ( the calves not the boys, ok, well maybe both) Hopefully that won't last long.

They look good out there.

Welcome home, boys.

To see the beginning of their adventure go here.

Monday, June 27, 2011


It's blackberry season.  And blackberries are our garden favorite!
So much so that I had to make a sign to start of the season.

Truth is, signs are fun to make
so the blackberries were just a good excuse.
I made this one out of a broken fence board.  It was already painted with white farm paint so I just sanded the edges for a weathered look.  Then I painted the lettering and berries on with exterior oil based paint (just in case it ever finds it way outside).  Exterior satin wood sealer finished it off.

It's perched happily on the open shelving in the kitchen where I hope to have bowl fulls of blackberries soon.

But the blackberries aren't doing as well as last year.
Some research over the weekend told me where I went wrong.
Pruning ~ or rather, lack of it.

Turns out, blackberries need to be pruned every year.  The crowns (the base of the plant) live for many years but the canes (branches) only live for two years.  This is our third year for this fence row of berries.

We have 1st year canes that are growing but not producing yet.
They will bloom and berry next summer.

And we have second year canes that are producing fruit.

And then we have third year canes that are producing tiny berries but also shriveling up and dying at the same time.

So after berry season is over the second and third year canes need to be removed at the base.  This will allow the first year canes to berry next year and give next years new canes room to grow in.

So for my other first year blackberry row, I have moved all the canes to one side of the fence.  This will help me keep them seperate.  Next year they will bloom and fruit and the new canes will be tied to the other side of the fence. 
Then every year, I will cut all the canes on one side and the other side will fruit.  And the next year I will do the opposite.  It will be a lot easier than trying to figure out what is what like I will have to do this summer. 

Then maybe we will have berries like these again!
One picking from a 16 ft row last year (2 yr canes)

Look at the size of those!
There is always something to learn about hobby farming.
Grow and raise and live and learn ~ that's what we seem to be doing on our little farm.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Repurposed egg basket

My "great deal" egg basket is a great deal too big for the small amount of eggs we are getting presently. I decided to give it a new purpose.  Turns out it is perfect for holding fruit.  And it looks cute in a country kitchen too!  How much of a great deal was it?  $5 at Tractor Supply.  Who knew you could buy kitchen items at TS?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Skillet green beans

Ok, you asked for it. 
There's no recipe but I'll tell you how to make them.

First you need a mess of fresh green beans. Heat 1/2 stick of butter in a large skillet and toss in the green beans.  Cook on medium heat stirring often for about 20 minutes until tender.  Some will brown but that just makes them taste better.  Add a little salt, pepper, and onion powder a few minutes before they are done.

I make skillet new potatoes the exact same way but you have to cut them up small if you want them to cook in the same amount of time.

Olive oil can be used instead of butter but it does tend to pop more.  Besides, everything tastes better in butter!

That's it ~ our favorite way to enjoy summer fresh green beans.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bringing home the bacon and the beef

Today we picked up our meat from the processor.  Yes, the fruits of our labor will finally be on our plates. We kept the largest pig whose hanging weight was a whopping 287 lbs.  The steer we split with my in-laws and our share was 281 lbs hanging.  Every bit of that was wrapped in freezer paper to our specifications and ready to bring home today.

This was our share~
9 bags the size of feed sacks.

Our 17 cubic foot freezer was completely empty. 
It's full now!

Tonight for dinner:
grilled ham steaks
skillet green beans & new potatoes
pickled beets
and homemade whole wheat bread

Every bit of it was grown or made right here on our farm.
That's a first and it sure felt good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chocolate Cake

My father in law got a cake as a Father's Day gift ~ a chocolate cake ~ an old family recipe handed down from sweet Aunt Effie.  She was the kind of lady that wore dresses and pearls everyday.  Ladies like that knew how to bake! This worn recipe card was written in her hand.

So what happened with the cake?  My father in law, Papaw, had a piece last night and then another before bed.  This morning he had cake as a pre-breakfast snack. Then cake for breakfast and another slice before lunch.  Nana wasn't going to have that!  She called and said they had cake and he didn't need to eat the whole thing.  Off went one of my boys to get cake.  At lunch, we devoured the whole thing.  So good but not nearly enough! 

So what did I make this afternoon? You guessed it ~
Aunt Effie's Chocolate Cake.

Do I dare take Papaw another piece?

Aunt Effie's Chocolate Cake

1 3/4 c sugar
2/3 c oil
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c cocoa
1/2 c boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour bundt pan.
Make a paste of boiling water and cocoa.  Set aside to cool.
Cream oil, sugar, & vanilla.
Add eggs one at a time beating after each.
Stir together flour, soda, and salt.
Add to cream mixture alternating with buttermilk.
Blend in chocolate.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Do not overbake because it will be dry.
Ice with mixture of milk and powdered sugar with a dash of vanilla.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Water, please!

Sammie has found a new past time,

following me around the garden begging for water from the hose.

It's better than her other new past time. 

 Yes, that's right, dollars.

I guess money makes you extra thirsty!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Farm sign

Well, really a ranch sign. 
In honor of our three boy's hard work in starting a cattle business, I made a sign for them.  You may remember that I made a sign for our entrance and it was lots of fun.  Instructions on how I made it are here.

I have to tell you ~ I love making signs!

I've been wanting to make something for this spot on the side of the rec room.  It's right by the breezeway where we walk by a thousand times a day.  That big wall just needed something ~ something big ~ like four feet big!

We bought 1/2 thick 8 inch wide cedar boards and screwed them together with a few runners across the back.  The screw heads show from the front for a little rustic flair.  Then my husband cut the boards out in a circle.  Next up was Sikken's oil based clear sealer for the wood (It's great stuff).  And then the hand painting with oil based exterior paint.  That was the fun part!  Hubby designed the brand.  Isn't it cool?  I love how the J is rockin'.

It needed a little something extra when I finished so I added the barbed wire free hand.  I really like how that turned out.

Even if our boys don't run cattle for very long, this sign will remind them that they can do anything if they work together.  And if they do turn it into a successful business, they can fight over it when they get older.

BTW: they registered that brand with the Oklahoma Cattleman's Association.  They are official.  Very cool!  And they have decided to raise grass feed beef and market it to individuals.

So there you go, my new view from the kitchen sink.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Natural horsemanship

Our life with horses began one year ago.  It would be an understatement to say it has been a challenge. We didn't have a clue what we were getting in to.  It's been harder than anything we have tackled on our road to country living.  And you know what? The work has been worth it.

But let me start at the beginning so you know where we were coming from...
We had done some riding as a family but we had never owned horses. Our boys had taken years of summer horsemanship. We even tried out some cattle sorting but we still considered ourselves novices.  So we purchased nice, trained horses, one of which was considered a "babysitter".  It didn't take long to find out that we were in over our heads.  The trained horses that we bought soon found out that we weren't trained and quickly started taking advantage of us.  When they didn't want to listen and respond, they just didn't.  They were also scared ~ of everything.  One of us was going to get hurt if we didn't do something.  We started looking for help.

Help came in the form of a natural horsemanship trainer.  He normally trains other people's horses in his barn but what he really wanted to do was teach others how to train their own horses.  What we wanted was someone to come to our arena and round pen and teach us how to work with our horses.  It was a perfect match.  The first time he talked with us he said three things,  "We are going to start with groundwork", "I don't want you to ride until I think you and your horse are ready" and "we will only go as fast as the slowest person".  Those three things were not encouraging but he also said, "I will have you riding bareback and bridleless when I get through with you."  We knew he was the right person so we agreed to meet once a week for 3-4 hours (remember there are 5 of us).   It would be an ongoing investment.  But we had already invested in the horses, arena, pen, saddles and tack.  Besides that, this is what we wanted to do ~ what we had always wanted to do.  That was in October.

We feel like we have come a long way since then.  Diligently working many times per week, sometimes everyday, we have learned a lot about horses. Still we have a long way to go. We continue to work on groundwork and aren't riding our own horses although we are taking riding lessons on our trainer's horse.  Each time we work with our horse, we learn something new or reinforce something learned. While we do that, we build the partnership between horse and horseman. Our natural horsemanship training really has been more about training us to work with our horses rather than training our horses.

We have faced some challenges with each horse and with each of us.  Three of our horses were fed a diet of all alfalfa before coming here and had never been desensitized.  The most important things I have learned have been about myself and how my own actions and reactions directly affect my horse.  I'm still working on my self confidence, my fear, and my determination.  Natural horsemanship is making me a stronger person.  I say that and yet it is a work in progress.  I was teary eyed yesterday in the round pen because things weren't going right.  Each day has sucesses and failures of it's own.  It's just part of life with horses, I guess.

The techniques our trainer uses are primarily Clinton Anderson but he also pulls in some Pat Parelli and John Lyons too.
Here are a few of the things that we are working on now...

Ground tying (not moving from the spot where you left them untied)

Flexing (working toward the one rein stop)

Patting down with the saddle blanket and saddle especially in places that it should not go.

Throwing the lead rope over their back, rear, legs, & neck without them moving.

Rubbing them down and even slapping them with a stick and string or stick and towel

or even a plastic bag.
This is not easy since horse are scared of things that move and make noise. Plastic bags are horse eaters, you know.

Little Cowboy has been working on standing still while being groomed, ground tying, and

just waiting patiently.

We are doing lots of this ~
establishing leadership by making them move their feet where we want them to go.

Stop when we ask them to stop

and give us "two eyes" when they do.
This is the sign of a respectful horse.

We are also disengaging their front and rear ends 360 degrees, circle driving and lunging.

Our motto is, "Do it a thousand times, and then do it a thousand times more."


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