My, but hasn’t January blown by quickly!
It has been a busy time here on our little homestead nestled amidst the rolling hills of New York’s Finger Lakes region. I am diligently working away at a time-consuming project that I’ll tell you all about in a month or so. But, for now, I’ll share a few things on my mind and fill you in on a few happenings.
Plain Talk Tapes
Marlene and I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to all 6 of the Plain Talk recordings this past month. Every single one of the interviews is informative, encouraging and inspiring. I’ve listened to each at least twice now. Marlene’s was impressed with how balanced and wise the discussion was.
My 11-year -old son listened to Tom Scepaniak’s interview one day while I was at work. When I came home, he proceeded to tell me how to raise hogs— how important it is that they have dirt. And if that’s not good enough, several days later I was driving down the road with James and his 14-year-old brother, Robert, and we passed a fairly large dairy operation. Robert told me that farmer was probably in debt and would do better if he had a smaller operation. If you’ve heard the recordings, you’ll understand the context. If not, you really should treat yourself to the good, down-to-earth conversation.
Nine Mile Hike
Snow has come and gone a few times here in what has been a realtively mild January. A couple weeks ago, with the snow mostly melted and the daytime temp getting up to almost 50 degrees, I decided to take a Friday off from work and go hiking with Robert and James.
Highland Forest is a county park about 45 minutes from our home. They call it the Adirondacks of the Finger lakes. I had heard from a friend that it was a great place. So that’s where we went. We got there around 10:00 in the morning and had the park to ourselves. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. The government schoolers were in their cells. A couple older ladies were walking their dogs. That was about it. I was in the mood for a “power hike” so we tool the 9-mile loop.
There was still some mealy snow in the woods and ice too, so that made the going harder than I expected. And 9-miles was longer than I remember. We hiked up and down and up and down, through hardwood forest and softwood forest, over streams and through swamps. After 2 miles I was wondering how I would ever make it to the end. But we all did it—— 4-1/2 hours later. Two of us had leather boots on, one had sneakers. All of our feet were soaked with ice water when we got to the end.
We were, of course, starving for food after power-hiking 9 miles. But I was ready for that. We had hot dogs and corn chips and hot cocoa to wash it down. We got a bonfire of deadwood going in one of those iron barbecue things and cooked the dogs on a sharp stick. I brought a pot to heat the water in. It tasted real fine and It was a good time. I hope to do more hiking with the kids this year. It’s inexpensive and fun. It’s also a good workout. The muscles in my legs were sore for the next two days.
Sugar Season is Coming
That weekend of the big hike was an opportune time to get our backyard sugar shack put up. James and I put it together. It is made with sections of old pipe scaffolding, scrap lumber, scrap sections of roofing tin and a collection of well-worn tarps and, yes, even some baling wire. It is literally a shack which measures around 6’ by 10’ . There is a flat roof on top and two walls on the windward sides. Inside is stacked a supply of firewood on one end and in the other end is a homemade 55-gallon barrel stove (on its side) with a homemade stainless steel evaporator pan.
We’re talking minimum investment here. That’s the beauty of it.
Sometime around Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22) the trees will be tapped and we’ll be in business. Making “maple” is a great family activity. And we sure do enjoy using it throughout the year. I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about it later.
The subject of community is something I plan to blog about soon. A community event we enjoyed this last month was the 2nd annual chili cook-off held at the old country Baptist church we used to attend. I was nominated as one of the judges. There were lots of good Christian country folks there. I was able to talk gardening and poultry and deer hunting and economics and and all that good stuff. It was a fine time. I brought one of my Plain Talk recordings and gave it to a homesteading friend of mine who I thought might enjoy it. He brought some of his homemade kimchi to the event. I have never had kimchi before. If you don’t know, it is fermented cabbage, sort of like sauerkraut, but it’s not the same. It’s kind of hot and spicy. I think it’s an acquired taste.
I’ve heard a lot about kiefir but I’ve never tasted it, until today. I bought a quart of it in the organic section of a supermarket before work. For those who do not know, kiefir is like a thin, drinkable yogurt. It says on the container that it contains ten different live active cultures. That’s what prompted me to get some. I’m a big yogurt eater primarily because I want to get those live active cultures into my gut. God has blessed me with a healthy body and I want to do what I can to keep it that way. Taking “power hikes” and eatin’ live active cultures helps. That is what I believe.
Marlene makes yogurt now. She will be making kiefir soon.
I love garden seed catalogs, don’t you? This year we’re planning to have the “mother of all gardens.” Well, I don’t know it it’ll be that big but it’ll be big. We’re planning to put up a lot of food in a lot of different ways.
James and Robert are even looking forward to growing some of their own crops. That sort of thing warms my heart. My oldest son, Chaz, will, I expect, be working next summer again at the lumberyard, but I’m hoping he will be inspired to plant a little something of his own too.
Moon & Stars Watermelons
Robert planted cantaloupes last year and he is geared up to do that again. But now he has his heart set on watermelons too! Robert and I plan to grow some heirloom “moon and stars” watermelons.
I bought an organic “moon & stars” at the Ithaca New York farmer’s market last season. I dished out a ten dollar bill for one. I could have had a bigger one for $15, but ten bucks was quite enough. For ten bucks it better be good, right? Well, it was good. So good, in fact, that we’re inspired to grow our own. My mouth is watering at the thought of it.
I don’t know if it’ll really happen or not but we sure are thinking seriously about getting a pig. Well, actually two, since I understand they like company. We don’t eat a lot of pork, but Robert and James asked if they could get pigs and the last thing I want to do is discourage something like that. I have to see if my neighbor will allow us to use a bit more of his land than we already are for our expanded gardening ventures.
Yours truly turned 48 years old today. For my birthday I bought Marlene a book: “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. And I bought myself a book: “Wild at Heart.”
I feel older, and I don’t much like that. But I still feel wild at heart, maybe even more so than ever. That’s something I do like.
Experimental handrail failure - [image: Handrail failure up close.] Our furring strip handrail only lasted 4.5 years before breaking yesterday.
9 hours ago