Monday, July 30, 2012

Rocking horse from a pallet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This rocking horse was made from a pallet that was from cherry wood.  We drew the picture on paper to get the general idea of the shape we wanted.

The wood was glued together and cut into the shape. Put together, sanded and sealed!                                                                                                        
In hindsite, we would have added a back to the seat, to make it more saddle-like

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chicken coop

I am hoping that by writing this blog, my husband Jim, will be inspired to build me a new chicken coop!
  You see, Jim has built many chicken coops, but so far has sold all of them! The favorite one is this one:
This coop has a large enough door to get in and clean the coop. But if you don't need to, on the front are the nest boxes, and you can gather eggs from the outside.
On the back of the coop are custom made food bowl holders made by Jim's cousin Dave of  Physical Steel

The holders rotate out of the coop to be filled.

A few other mini-coops Jim has built that could also be used to house bunnies:

(Here we are finishing up a coop, that houses 4-6 chickens, to be delivered)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Raising Pigs

 ***Currently we are not open to the public,
 due to illness, changes and construction.***

Pigs are a great 4-H project for kids. The goal of the 4-H market hog project is to encourage integrity, sportsmanship, cooperation and an ability to communicate through activities such as demonstrations, talks, judging events, tours and exhibits.

Some believe that pigs were the earliest animal to be domesticated, not the cat or dog. Paintings and carvings of pigs over 25,000 years ago have been found. The Chinese domesticated pigs 7,000 years ago.
There is a difference between the farm pig and the potbelly pig - and it is not just related to size.  If you would  rather have a pet and not raise the pig for food, then I would suggest a good pot belly pig - The price is higher than a farm pig, so be sure to get what you are paying for...


FEEDING: Use a pre-mixed feed from the feed store - This is the easiest way to feed. They eat up to 3 pounds of feed. Or get your own: corn,peas,  barley, oats, rye even weed seeds are all fine to feed a pig. 

You can also feed a pig any discarded food from your plate - they will eat anything except onions and citrus peels. Don't feed chicken bones or any pork.

Raw vegetables. If you have a great source (Farmer's Markets, food stores, etc) or you grow your own, vegetables and fruits are wonderful feeds for your pigs. Let your pigs clean up the garden after the harvest.

Pigs can be raised on the long as food and water is accessible to them they won't wander. They love to eat greens.  Rotate the pasture by moving the pigs every day with an easy to move electric fence.

 Pigs can get rather aggressive when they are  hungry. If your pigs aren't hungry they won't try to eat you.
When pigs are young, fencing isn't much of a challenge - they stay where the food is! Even in an unfenced pasture. 

A pig needs to be kept cool, they have no way to sweat much - the way they cool down is in the mud. Provide a place for the pig to wallow - Otherwise, spray him down. White pigs will get sunburned, so they need shade.

Pigs need minerals from dirt - clumps of sod will work - they will eat the greens too. 

WATER: Fresh clean water is essential. Water is the most important part of a pig's diet. One-half to two-thirds of a pig's body is made up of water. Pigs should be supplied with as much clean, fresh water as they will drink. Pigs can live longer without feed than without water.

FENCING: they will stay in an electric fence, but once they learn to get out they will.
Stone, woven wire, and electric have all been used. Woven wire with electric on the bottom seems to be the best.

Some pigs root a lot and some do not. The black and white ones (Hampshires) seem to root the most (in our opinion). The red (Durocs) are less likely. But all pigs do root. They can root up asphalt their noses are so strong!

They do not jump, so the fence doesn't need to be high, just sturdy enough to withstand rooting. (Burying the bottom board is best)

The minimum space for one pig to be happy is 100 square feet. But if you will only have it a short time, less is OK. The boards on the fence should be close together, nail all boards to the inside of the posts. (The pig will push them loose).    

We love our pigs. Pigs are one of the larger animals on the farm. They are smart, and gentle (this is NOT the way with the boar). We have had the pigs be a hit in our petting zoo. We had tubes in the fence, and visitors simply put feed through the tube which fell into a trough - the pigs appetite is insatiable...

Duroc: These pigs have a medium length and slight dish of the face. The ears should be drooping and should not be held erect. color may range from a very light golden, almost yellow color, to a very dark red.  On the average, this breed needs less feed to make a pound of muscle than the other breeds.

Tamworth: From England, the head of the Tamworth is rather striking as compared with that of many other hogs in that it is long and has a snout that is moderately long and quite straight. When seen from the side, the face usually has a very slight suggestion of a dish. Long body, and long legs.
Yorkshire: An all white pig, it is thought that the first Yorkshires brought into the United States were brought
Berkshire: Black with six white points (nose, tail, and legs), these hogs have erect ears and a short, dished snout. They work well in enclosed facilities and are noted for their siring ability.
Hampshire: These are the oreo pigs. The Hampshire breed of hogs may well be one of the oldest original early American breeds of hogs in   existence today. They are black with a white belt that extends from one front leg, over the shoulder, and down the other front leg. They have erect ears and are popular for their lean, meaty carcasses.

Mariann sitting with "Portia the Pig" in labor


BOTTLE FEEDING THE PIGLETS: If you need to bottle feed a piglet - use fresh goats milk if you can. If not, we have used powdered goat's milk you can find in the grocery (in the baking aisle)  Another choice would be milk thickened with a little baby food and sweetened a little with light corn syrup. A bottle with a lambs nipple will work. It won't take long before the piglet will eat out of a pan and can have cream of wheat, or oatmeal. If the piglet isn't thriving, the best thing to feed is an egg.  2- 7 of them 3 times a day.  It won't be long before you're ready to get them outside in a regular pen!

If you love those little guys, piglets can be house broken. They gravitate naturally to sawdust. have a box with sawdust near their pen and they will do their business in the box. 

That is it in a nutshell


Hamlet is a mini pig. He is probably one of the most enjoyable animals we have  raised. He lives in the house with us, is litter trained,  gives kisses for Kiss the Pig contests, walks on a leash, and knows the words:  "no", "pigpig", "Hamlet", "sit". Here he is taking a  treat from my daughter's mouth.

Bath time.

Hamlet is now 5 years old.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Even thought the weather has not been the warm sunny days of Spring - the way I totally like them, I decided I needed to start cleaning out the part of the barn that holds our rabbits. It is backbreaking work and I have to admit I am going to do just a little at a time. Tomorrow I will work more, and hopefully if it's not rainy, I will take some cages outside so I can work around it easily. I hope to have a Bunny Barn somewhere near the chicken coop so the main barn can be used for other things.

There is always work to be done on a farm. Even one as small as ours. Cages to be cleaned, barns to be mucked out, animals fed, gardens tended to, fences mended or built...

Staying cool on the 4th of July

There are a lot of people this 4th of July that are still without poser from a storm that blew through a number of Mid-Atlantic states. 

So, how are you keeping cool today? Add your ideas!

One of the first things we do in the winter, is try to keep the cold out of the house by covering the windows. Using the same principal, keep the hot out of your house the same way. Window coverings work ok, but an insulated curtain works wonders. I have taken 2 pieces of material, slipped a piece of fabric batting in between and sewn them up. I use this in the winter, but when you have not ac in the summer this also helps. Blankets will also work. Bubble wrap in a pillow case.  Cardboard with aluminum foil to reflect the sunlight out. 

Keeping direct sunlight out of the house is the goal. At night, when the temperatures drop a bit, open the windows and let the cool air in. In the morning, shut the coolness into the house by closing and covering the windows.

If you are lucky enough to live by water, go swimming. The best way to keep tempers in check is to cool off. It also gets rid of pent up energy.

Sometimes the cities will open fire hydrants.

If you have no way to go swim, wet a washcloth and place it on top of your head. This will cool your body down. Years ago, Jim and I went to the Indy 500 where it was sweltering. Putting the wet washcloth on our heads was a way to keep cool.  A spray bottle with some water in it to mist your face works well too. I remember seeing a spray bottle with a personal fan attached at the Dollar Store a few years back. That would work well too...

Ice in a small bag or ice pack in your hat. When I was in high school and would march in the band, the uniforms were extremely hot. The 4th of the day parade can be one of the hottest times to march. My mother would fill an ice pack and put it on top of my head under the band uniform hat (which was very similar to the British Guard uniforms!)

(Ice packs can be found on

If you can go to the mall, or shopping center that has ac. 

Drive in your car for a little bit. If you can find a road with a lot of trees, you will be amazed at the 10 degree difference that could make. 

If you have water, fill the tub with cool water and soak.

Place cooling sheets over the fuzzy material on your furniture.

If you have a basement, create a way to get the cool air up stairs. My grandmother had vents in the floor of her house. When we were upstairs, we could see through them and watch the adults downstairs. These floor vents can be opened and closed.

If all else fails, rent a room at a motel for a night... 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Are you prepared for the loss of electricity?

In light of the past few days where so many people in the Mid-Atlantic region lost power, I thought I'd address some issues. First of all, you CAN survive without taking a shower for a few days, You CAN live without air conditioning. You CAN live without t.v. or  lights. (Go to bed when the sun goes down and get up at dawn) 

Air conditioning was invented in 1902  by Willis Carrier  as a solution to keep muggy air in a printing plant from wrinkling magazine pages. As with the modern day computer, the air conditioning unit went through many stages before it became a common household machine. It was considered a luxury. As a child in the 60's I remember my best friend's mother taking us swimming in their car which had air conditioning. It was stifling inside because she insisted the windows be kept up until the ac had sufficient time to cool the air. We were glad to get out at the local pool as by then the sweat was rolling off of our faces. When she came back to pick us up, the card was frigid. We, of course had cooled off all afternoon at the community pool, and the car felt like it could snow at any moment!

We went to school without ac in the schools. After recess, our bodies dripping with sweat, our faces red, the teacher would keep the lights off, the windows open and we would lay our heads down on the desk for a cooling down period. I remember one teacher telling us that the quieter we were and the less we moved we would be able to feel the slight breeze coming in through the windows. To this day, if I am that hot, I often lay quietly near a window, and wait for the slight breeze to find me.

As Americans, we are quite spoiled when it comes to our comforts. And the least little thing to change that comfort throws us into a panic. Yet there are people all over the world without ac. In our own country, the Amish do not have air conditioning. Yet if you see their houses, you will notice deep porches, which keeps the summer sun from shining directly into the windows. There are also trees shading the house. The house that I grew up in had huge trees all around it and a wrap-around porch. I have to admit, though, that my Dad kept a fan in the window upstairs as a way of pulling out the days heat, then pulling in the night air.

Although on our homestead we do have electricity, we lived here for 8 years without any in the house. We found that when you live without electricity, going outside to work and do chores is not much of a problem. You simply don't notice the heat that as much - the outside temperature is pretty equal to the inside. But, if you have air conditioning,  you really notice when you are going from a cool house to the oven outside. Yes, you can actually survive without the air conditioner.

So, if you are already used to it, and the power goes off, what can you do? I am sure a lot of you have already read preparedness information and simply didn't think it would apply. Now is the best time to access what you need to do if this happens again.
First of all, be sure to have water. Water, water, water is a huge key to survival. When the power is off, the pump will not bring water to you to drink, or to use for cleaning the dishes, flushing the toilet. So, you will need a supply of water for drinking and some for the other things. Washing your dishes by hand is easy. Using paper plates temporarily may be a better option.  Flush the toilet only when needed. Take the tank lid off of the back and fill it with water, then flush. 

Matches and a lamp filled with lamp oil will help keep the rooms lit when it is dark. Don't use these to light your way through the house as the possibility of dropping them and starting a fire is too risky. The lamps can be placed in a room, maybe in front of a mirror and light the area. Flashlights should have plenty of fresh batteries.

Sleeping can be a big issue. Move your beds to the lowest level of your house. Sleep near a window that may let the night air in. Sleep on your porch or even in the yard. The night air is cooler so get as close to being outside as possible. 

The hardest part is keeping your food refrigerated and frozen. Not always something that you can accomplish. Don't open the freezer. The longer the power is out the less likely you will be able to save your food if you keep opening it. Keep your windows covered to keep the sunlight out if there are windows near the unit.  You can also put ice in a cooler and keep your refrigerated food in there. We used a cooler for many years as a fridge without any problems. We did have to purchase ice, so be sure to have enough coolers to hold the ice you think you will need. 

When the big black out on Nov. 9, 1965 came and took out power to 7 states and parts of Canada,  my mother told me then to always cook with a gas stove. And I have always had a gas stove. Without power, you can at least have a hot meal (although this isn't a blessing in the heat of the summer). The new stoves now  have an electric ignition that won't let you  light them (all for our safety, you know). In that case, a camp stove with those little propane cannisters will do in a pinch. Cooking outside on the grill is an option. And for those adventurous, use a solar cooker. The first one we had  was made out of boxes, but Jim made me a wooden one last year. There are also sites you can get ready-made solar cookers.

My great aunt was without power in the middle of winter for 3 weeks. She was in her 90's at that time. She put blankets over all the doors that led out of the kitchen and brought in her small love seat. She stayed in the kitchen with her oven on for warmth. Not that I would recommend this to anyone, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

A generator is a huge help. This time when the power went out, my husband, Jim, ran the generator 2 hours at a time, then let it sit for a couple of hours before running it again. This was to keep the 2 refrigerators, one freezer and our incubators running. That was all the load the generator could take, and with the run-on gas that we experienced, (the lines were so long)  we didn't want to run out of gas and not be able to use the generator at all. It is a noisy, annoying thing to have, but it saved all of our food (although we do not know if what was in the incubators survived yet). 

And last, but not least, if you can find a lake, pond, river, creek with good water to take a dip in, this is a great way to relieve the tension of being hot all the time!