Crazy Fall continues-October

October began without much change…while Nia spent the night, KC traveled again for work. I started the final garden clean up by pulling up the last of the tomatoes and green beans. I also pulled up two beds of Great Northern beans for soup and spent many hours shelling and processing them. All of the mold and garden dust took its toll and I began  three weeks of snot and coughing. A good chance to practice using the essential oils I bought at the Mother Earth News Fair.
Our weekends were filled with preparations for winter…cleaning the barn and the chicken coop, doing final garden harvest: celery, sweet poatoes and squash-plus saving some flower seeds. We also planted garlic for the first time…we’ll see how that goes.
As a reward for all of the hard work, we took a bike ride at Moraine State Park…an awesome 14 miles along beautiful Lake Arthur. Fall biking is my favorite: with the leaves crunching under your tires and the crisp fall air, there is nothing finer to end a busy week.
Week three was another trip for KC and a chance for me to get some cleaning and paperwork done. I managed to sneak in a 36 hour respite when I had two unexpected days off…I spent an entire afternoon at our friends’ pond and caught 33 fish…that was fun.
Weekend number three was more winter preparations. We butchered the extra roosters and the wether. We also gave the goats vaccinations and worming as well as trimming their hooves. Our break this week was trip to Red Lobster to use a gift card then on to Tractor Supply for wood chips, winter gear and a pasture gate. Sunday was Farm Exchange group…always a great discussion time. Afterwards we finished cutting and grinding the goat meat. Whew!
We have more fun scheduled for the rest of the month…maybe I can keep you posted a little sooner…stay tuned!

Whew…Crazy Fall is winding down-September

Septemer blew by in a haze of activity – there is never enough time for much writing so I end up with massive epistles to try to catch up…sorry.
We started the month with a trip to our friends’ old orchard…the apples aren’t beautful but they are not sprayed and plentiful. Great for applesauce. After picking 6-8 bushels, we went on to their camp site at Canadohta Lake for a boat ride and awesome time of food and fellowship.
During the week I picked, shelled and processed 47 pints of pinto beans. We also started picking peas…such crazy weather we have had this year that peas were JUST beginning to produce. Tomatoes were also in full swing. Always something to pick, clean or process.
We declared the first weekend of the month, AppleMess and had an all-day apple processing extravaganza. KC and I made 121 jars fo applesauce and 9 pints of apple butter in about 8 hours.
KC traveled for work the following week while I stayed home to continue the harvest..more tomatoes and peas.
On Frdiay we left for our annual get away to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs…always a fun time seeing new products and listening to many great speakers. We always learn something new at the Fair. This year we had the added blessing of having some friends to hang out with for dinner and fellowship.
Our third weekend was equally busy with a nine hour pistol course on Saturday and our Farm Co-op meeting on Sunday.
During the month we were also working hard to complete the renovations on The Bowman House. We had our first guests the fourth weekend. We also squeezed in a dinner with Harry, Amelia and Nia on Friday evening. Plus a raised bed seminar AFTER the Tea Party Patriots monthly meeting on Saturday. We escaped to Geneva Marsh on Sunday for a bit of a break and a gorgeous Fall kayak ride.
KC traveled another week and spent a night/day in Pittsburgh with his brother who was having a cornea transplant.
Add in taking the truck to the garage, an eye appointment, a couple of family dinners, an overnight visit from Nia and a couple of funerals 🙁 …it was a crazy month!!

The Produce rolls in at Big Oak Ridge

Just a sample of this year’s produce at Big Oak Ridge.


Every year some things do well, some not so well it seems. This year we got almost no fruit due to a late frost and cold, wet spring; but the root crops are doing well, and last year we got a good fruit harvest so we have enough to carry us through.

Our Adventure in the Swamp

So, we went to the Geneva Marsh with the kayaks last weekend – probably our last kayak outing  this year. Definitely different than anything else we’ve done with the kayaks. [hover over each image to read the caption.]

We entered the marsh based on some internet directions we reviewed – directions clearly meant to let you “view” the marsh, rather than launch a kayak into it! We had to make our way through a small hole in the vegetation to launch our kayaks, then paddle about 20 yards before we actually reached open water.

Once on the water we passed under a very low bridge, then made our way to the I-79 bridges. I probably ruined some young kid’s plans… when we paddled under the I-79 bridges we realized there was a nice boat launch there. I paddled up to the launch just as an old pickup approached. I walked up to the truck to ask how he got down in there; in the truck were a teenage boy and girl. It didn’t take much to figure out why they were there, and it was kind of funny because the kid “couldn’t tell me” how he got there.

After we got off the marsh we went for a little drive and figured out the route to the boat launch. We wrote down directions, which I offer here for anyone interested (adults, not necessarily amorous teenagers):

SR 322 to Cochranton.

SR 173 toward Meadville.

Right onto PA 285.

Right onto 19 North.

Right onto Rung Road.

Right onto Shaffer Road.

Boat Launch will be on your right. There is a sign, but you have to watch for it. We had great difficulty finding any directions to this launch on the web, so hopefully this will help someone else!



Why We Do What We Do…


“Apple Mess 2014” at Big Oak Ridge

Today was “apple mess” day at Big Oak Ridge. We processed 8 bushels of apples into 121 jars of applesauce and a roaster full of apple butter. Good Day’s Work!


Paula and I worked from 8:00 to 6:30 on this little project. Fortunately we like working together and it was actually pretty rewarding to spend an entire day together.

Paula was able to get this large project organized into “stations” which worked very well. I’ll try to get a video put together soon.

When the day was done I went out to gather eggs and saw this:


Beautiful ending to an enjoyable day!

Kitchen Chaos

The Kitchen at Big Oak Ridge takes a lot of abuse, as you can well imagine. Here is a “before” picture on a typical day:


Paula does an amazing job of keeping house, and she’s pretty efficient at it. This is what the kitchen looked like a couple hours later:


I’m thankful that my wife is a bit of a neat freak 🙂

New Deck on The Bowman House


One of the first things we had to do at The Bowman House was add a deck. This has needed done for some time, and getting the guest house ready was a good excuse to finally take action.

We hired an Amish crew – a dad and his two sons – to do the work. What a difference compared to some of the other contracting work we’ve had done! I went and picked them up to bring them to “work”, but that was a small price to pay. They built the deck, replaced the kitchen counter, repaired and painted a wall, all in two days, and the labor was very reasonable.

The results speak for themselves.


A Farmer’s work is never done

Today Paula canned tomato juice,and on three of the jars the Tattler lids popped off the jars in the canner. Bummer. She is experimenting with the reusable lids; We are learning there is a little more to using them than just slapping them on the jars.

Yesterday was Sunday, but we are eager to get the guest house done, so we worked on that most of the day.

The grass is ready to mow, the beans are going to seed, and I want to bring in our Coleas this year and try to “overwinter” them.

In a couple months baby goats will start arriving, so I have to get the barn ready. I have 3-6 gates to install, and a new garden to build.

I love this life, but it’s not easy!

Easy Pickled Beets

This is the time of year where chickens are producing eggs in abundance and the beets are ready for harvest. When I get inundated in both categories, I make a gallon of pickled eggs and beets…here are a few helpful tips for the process and my favorite recipe.

Eggs: I usually let mine age for a week or so because fresh eggs don’t peel nicely. I always used my beat up eggs with beets and my “good” eggs for deviled eggs. A friend mentioned that she heard that you should not use broken or cracked eggs as pickled eggs…I was pondering this and realized that I often have an egg break in the beet juice and it makes a nasty sludge in my beets. Probably why you shouldn’t use the beat up ones…maybe a contamination issue and definitely not pretty.

Beets: My recipe is scaled to use a 15 ounce can of store bought beets. I don’t normally buy canned beets but have found that the scale works well by using a pint of my canned beets or fresh beets. If you have never cooked fresh beets, here’s how to start. Choose beets of similar size so that they will all get done about the same time. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Small beets take about ½ an hour and larger beets longer. Test for readiness by fishing one out after ½ an hour. The skin should slide EASILY off the beet with no real effort on your part…if it doesn’t, give them a few more minutes. Sometimes when they are close, I just turn the fire off and let them sit in the boiling water for an extra ½ hour. When you are ready to peel them, just pour off the hot water and put them in a sink full of cold water and slide the skins off. It’s actually kind of fun. 🙂

My Recipe: I usually quadruple and make a gallon at a time
For each pint or 15 ounce can (save the liquid)
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp salt
(note some folks use a cinnamon stick…we have allergy issues and don’t use cinnamon)
After you heat the ingredients to boiling, carefully add the beets and bring back to a boil. Place eggs in a clean jar and spoon beets over top (or layer if you don’t want to fish to the bottom for the eggs). Pour the hot liquid over the beets/eggs…if they are not covered, add a bit of the reserved beet juice. If you are using fresh beets and come up a bit short, just swish some vinegar in the hot pan (to get any stray spices) and top of your jar with that. They will keep in the fridge for weeks.