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Sunday, October 20, 2013

The story of our pigs

Gosh I started writing this and didn't get very far.  Phil and I discussed raising pigs for several years ... I wanted to and he didn't. 
He and Mike built a place for pigs to live in 2012, but we didn't get a pig.  This spring I pushed so much that we got 2 pigs.  We didn't know what we were doing.  We didn't really know how to take care of them.  To be totally honest we were both a little afraid of them. 
In April we took delivery of two little pigs.  In April we lost our hearts to two little boys who became so much a part of our lives. 
I have always read that pigs are as smart as a 2 year old .... but I honestly had no idea.  These two boys stole our hearts.  They learned to love us, and wait for us to come visit and feed them. 
We decided not to name them, instead called them big pig and little pig. 
Big pig was much more accepting and loving.  He accepted petting and in fact would fall asleep when we petted him ... he would fall over like a dog.  Little pig was a bit more standoffish.  He didn't want to be petted. 
As time went on, they were both accepting of pats and loving.  PLUS they learned that when we came to visit they would get treats.  We would bring them "slop" from our house, or from some of our friends house.  I must insert here that I have a wonderful friend who saves all of her "slop" year round for me.  She has a bucket at her house and saves all of her organic waste for our critters. 
Our "boys" were always excited to see us.  They got so happy when they would hear either of our voices.  It didn't matter what we brought them ... as long as we would pay attention to them and play with them. 
The time came to butcher them .... neither of us wanted to follow through with it.  We  planned for it .... we practiced what we would do.  NOPE.  We didn't want to do it. 
Time caught up with us.  We had to take them to the butcher  Phil and I both knew it would be best if I would butcher them ..... but I couldn't do it.  I don't have the ability to butcher a 300# hog.  I think it would be better if I could.  I would be happy to know they went peacefully ....
so we took them to the butcher ..... We got 20 minutes away and I said NO!!!  I wanted to take the boys back home and forget butchering.  Phil being the more "grown up" of the two of us at that moment said no. 
We were both sad and upset when the butcher came out with a cattle prod to get them out of the trailer.  I told him my boys were well mannered and he didn't need to use that on them.  They were troopers when they walked out of the trailer into the holding chamber.  I thought I was being quite grown up until I started sobbing like a baby in the butchers office.  Driving away and leaving them there was so hard. 
It took a couple of weeks to get used to the idea of eating little pig (we sold big pig) but he is delicious.  We are enjoying pork chops and home made sausage.  Last night we had a ham steak.  Yummmm.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Honey Harvest Part 2

I thought we were going to wait until today to extract the honey.  We got everything all set up (that takes a while) and Phil said “lets get started”.  I’m glad we did because we had some problems to work out like the motor on the extractor not working.  Everything went very smooth after Phil got the motor working.  We worked until about 11 (I think) last night and decided to finish it this morning.  Extracting didn't take to long this morning, the cleanup seemed to take forever!
We extracted about 34 frames of honey.  I left a lot of the frames to do later in the year.  There was a lot of uncapped  (not quite ready) honey that will be ready to harvest in the fall. 

When I pull the frames of honey from the hive I put them in a hive box and bring them to the garage.  Everything is cleaned and covered with these blue hospital tarps.  This keeps the garage clean as well as keeping the honey clean.

This is the inside of the extractor.  We put 4 frames of honey in and turn it on.  It spins fast and the honey is thrown out into the stainless steel drum

and out of the drum into a bucket with a filter on top.

There are dead bees, pieces of comb etc in the extracted honey.  The three filters on top of the bucket filter all of that debris out.

Phil is holding down the extractor.

This is a full frame of capped honey

I am using the scraper to pull the wax back and expose the honey

I found this extractor at an auction several years ago.  The only person bidding against me was a drunk guy.  He was telling me how much money he has and he was going to get it no matter what the cost (they are expensive brand new).  He was so drunk he didn't realize we were bidding on the extractor and I got it for $65.  I felt like buying that guy a beer.   LOL

Friday, June 21, 2013

Honey Harvest

I harvested honey this afternoon.  I didn’t harvest last fall because I had a huge hole in my leg and I was ordered (by the doctor) to stay off of it and keep it clean.  I should have harvested early this spring, but for so many reasons didn’t.  I tried to harvest about 6 weeks ago but could not because the queens had started laying eggs in the supers that normally contain only honey. 

I chose the first day of summer and the hottest day of the year so far.  It is over 90 degrees and over 90 percent humidity.  I was covered from head to foot in protective gear.  Thankfully there was a nice breeze that saved me.  I didn’t realize how hot I was until I finished and was walking to the house and got “shaky” and felt like I was going to pass out.  I think I finished just in time. 

I give the bees as much space as I can, so they are not completely crowded.  I have a spacer that gives them about 4 inches at the top for air movement.  One of the hives was completely full of honey, every frame was being used.  They decided to use that little space to build come comb.  I honestly don’t know how much honey was built there, but it was heavy!  Phil took it to the house and scraped it onto some platters, cake pans etc.  I think it is time to start selling comb honey! 

We are going to put the frames through the extractor tomorrow morning when it is still relatively cool.  I pulled over 30 frames of honey and there is still a lot left that is not capped, not ready to be harvested.  We will harvest again in the fall.  This will be our best year for honey production.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dad is still teaching us

I am finding that even 20 years after my father passed away his lessons live on.  I was talking with my boss about fishing a few weeks ago and told him that my dad would nail a catfish to a tree to "skin" it.  I never thought another thing about it until he came in to work and told him he had been fishing with his boys.  They were struggling to skin out a big fish and remembered what I had told him.  He nailed it to a tree and had it cleaned in no time at all.  He even took a picture of it for me. 
Phil is always calling on my dad's wisdom.  He will ask me questions about "how did Dad do it".  Sometimes I don't remember.  Sometimes I have to call one of my big sisters.  Sometimes I will remember part or all of what he did.    Usually we are able to figure out how to handle things from there. 
I remember Dad was normally able to fix anything, given some time.  He saved EVERYTHING because you never know when you are going to need it.  His shop was neatly arranged with nails, screws, bolts, nuts, washers etc each in their own can, drawer, container etc.  If you would ask him for a screw he would be able to go to his bench and know exactly where to find it.  He made lots of drawers to fit under his bench.  Each drawer had a particular tool, plyers, hammers, vice grips etc in it.  When he finished with that tool it would be put away so it could be found next time.  That is one of the things I miss so much about him when I go into our garage.  Nothing is ever put away or organized.
Some cool things I remember;  When we lived on the farm there was water trough in the barnyard that had holes in it so didn't hold water.  Dad used it for bailing wire.  Every time he opened a bail of hay he would bind up the wire and throw it in there.  Years after we moved off the farm I remember him going back to get some of that wire and using it on the acreage.    Dad saved plastic.  I don't know where it all came from, but I remember him always having plastic to cover things in the rain.  It was a very thick heavy plastic and for some reason I believe he brought it home from the quarry but I am not sure.  After he died we pulled enough plastic down from the garage attic to fill an entire dumpster!  Dad saved nails.  Every time he pulled a nail if it was usable he would pound it out on the anvil and make it straight then straight into the correct coffee can so he could find it when he needed it.  Dad saved old inner tubes from bikes as well as cars (Yep I am showing my age here).  He would use a piece of that rubber to make a washer, or wrap something so it didn't scratch someone.  He even made me a few slingshots out of them.  (People are so afraid of everything these days kids aren't allowed to have a sling shot). 
When we went fishing we usually didn't have weights for our fishing poles.  Dad would ties a spark plug or a washer on the line.  It worked great.  The swing set in our yard didn't have a regular swing, it had a swing made from a very thick piece of rubber like material scavenged from the quarry when one of the lines that carried rock broke.  We had a tire swing as well, made from an old tire!!!!   Mom and Dad didn't worry about us swinging on it .... if we hit the tree we would figure out how not to do that again. 
I had a BB gun.  I was never told that I could not shoot it without an adult around.  I knew what I could and could not shoot.  If I was stupid enough to shoot something I wasn't supposed to shoot I knew that I would get my backside tanned.  Dad wasn't the person to punish.  He would leave that to Mom.  It took me years to realize that is because he was a total softy.  I don't think he was able to spank.  He yelled a LOT, but the corporal punishment was left to Mom, and she was quite good at it!!!!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

I was driving to work yesterday and realized how beautiful Iowa is.  The rolling hills are green and lush.  The trees and bushes are just starting to bloom.  The farmers have not yet started to plant but I have seen a bit of plowing.  Spring is very late this year.  We have been so cold and wet unlike last year when we had temperatures in the 80's in March. 
The peas  I planted a month ago are just peeking up out of the ground.  The onions are up but the potatoes have not yet poked out of the soil.  Even the trees are late budding out. 
I need to work very hard tomorrow to get seeds in the ground, wire and posts up for verticle planting, a place to grow greens for the rabbits, and swapping out bee boxes and frames.  Spring is very busy.  I can't keep up, or get everything done.  I am not sure I could keep up even if I didn't work outside the home!
This has been a very stressful week.  My BFF's father has been very ill.  He has been a second father to me.  When Cindy and I went out (years ago of course....) he would take care of us and remind us to be "good girls".  He has had a bad week and died last night.  I am thankful he is at peace, but I am sad he is gone. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February ramblings

Today is butchering day for the rabbits.  I have learned to deal with butchering chickens, but the rabbits are rally difficult for me.  It’s hard to “get over” their cuteness.  It is even more difficult for Phil because he is much more tender hearted than I am, and he is with them daily.  Thankfully I have done most of the butchering so he doesn’t have to deal with it as much.  It is hard to take the life of such a sweet innocent animal. 

I am still dealing with my foot problems.  The wound from the cellulites has for the most part healed but the foot pain is still there.  It is difficult to walk at times, making me feel quite old and helpless.  I am concerned about this years gardens.  I hope that I will be able to keep up with my work this coming season. 

I am getting a bit of spring fever.  I have already planted peppers and today I plan to plant broccoli, Brussels sprouts etc.  It’s fun to watch the plants pop up and grow.  I started sweet potatoes a while back.  I started saving seeds last year.  My hope is that next year I will no longer have to buy any seeds at all!