Tag Archives: weather

Soup for the soggy soul

There are days that challenge my commitment to farming.  Like today.  Cold, wet, slushy, rainy, soggy…sick cows, muddy pastures, backed up storm drains in the milking area, I am tired and feel sick….it goes on and on.

So, as an antidote to all the woes of the world I made soup.

We had a hog butchered at Home Meats in Shelton.  They do an old-fashioned slow cure on their hams and bacon.  Very tasty indeed.  We had the ham for dinner earlier in the week and all that was left was a meaty bone.  I tossed it in the crock pot this morning with a pound of white beans, a chopped onion, a couple bay leaves, 3 quarts of water and about 1/2 cup of pan drippings from roasting the ham.  Pan drippings are my secret ingredient any time I need to give a soup or gravy a boost.  Intense, smoky and salty, the pan drippings  are strained and defatted and stored in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  It is so salty that it doesn’t really freeze properly, just getting firm but not solid.  A couple tablespoons adds life to potato-corn chowder, or gives an added layer of flavor to sausage gravy.   #2 son is always saying, “Everything is a little better with some pig on it!” and I think he might be right.

This afternoon when the beans were cooked I tossed in a couple potatoes, peeled and diced and half-a-dozen carrots, sliced up.   I stripped the remaining meat from the bone, chopped it up, tossed it in the pot and gave it a couple turns of the peppermill.

When we got in from doing chores this afternoon, chilled and soaked to the bone, it really hit the spot.  It will be even better tomorrow but for tonight it was good enough!

Our Big Adventure

Or, Farm Girls Don’t Wilt or Melt!

So, by now if you follow our exploits over on Facebook (Search for the WSU Kitsap Small Farms and “Like” us!) you are aware that Shannon and I had A Big Adventure on our way home from the statewide Small Farms Team meeting and retreat in Plain, WA.  The weather in Plain, was well, plain.  We had some drizzle but coming from Western Washington we weren’t even fazed by that!  After spending a busy two days talking about challenges and opportunities for farmers, coordinating programming and getting great ideas for new classes and programs to implement in Kitsap, we hopped in the van and headed across Stevens Pass to head back to home and hearth.  On the way we needed to stop and pick up Shannon’s kiddos at the Grandparent’s so we were eager to get back to the west side.   There was some mixed rain and snow at the summit of the pass but as we headed down the west side it was raining HARD.  At this point that the warning light came on and the van began to pull to the left.  We turned out in the chain-up area (a nice convenient wide spot right where we needed it!) and sure enough the driver’s front tire was the going flat.  Bad Word, Bad Word.  (This is a family paper after all!)

We called road service and they couldn’t get to us for about two hours – so we used the smart phones to try find someone closer.  Billboard Towing in Skykomish (8 miles away) answered the call and despite a 4 1/2 star rating on iKarma they were half an hour away.  Groan.  So, we said a little prayer for A Break! and put on our raincoats.  Farm Girls won’t melt when they get wet!

Some exploration revealed the spare tire under the back – but the latch on the back gate of the van is broken so all access had to be over the seats through the side door.   After some grouching and groveling on the pavement (with a river of water running down the hill beside my head!) on a couple of feed sacks the spare was free and we started removing the flat.  Note here: Farm Girls always have feed sacks in their cars!  It comes in handy when trying to get out of a snow bank or change a tire!

At this point the rain had let up a bit and it was merely sprinkling on us, but we were soaked.  Then, a good Samaritan turned around and came back, offering to help.  We were almost done and there wasn’t much point in them getting wet too so we thanked them for their kind and good thoughts but declined.  Shannon, who had a lot more good humor about this affair than I said, “You know we will HAVE to blog about this!” so I whipped out the phone and documented the Farm Girl in action!

Once back on the road we cranked up the heater (did I mention it was really COLD rain?) got on the phone and called Les Schwab in Monroe.  They were closing in about 10 minutes but told us “We’ll leave a light on for you!”   Arriving a few minutes after 6:00 they put us in the bay and fixed our flat – for FREE!  I love the good folks at Les Schwab!  Their customer service is second to none and they consistently support farmers by carrying products like farm truck or tractor tires and buying from 4-H and FFA Jr. Livestock Auctions.  Their “Free Beef!” promotion is a nod to their farm and ranch origins in Prineville, OR.  We changed our clothes and were back on the road within 30 minutes, warm and dry!

While it was nice feeling to meet this challenge, it was so good to get the tire fixed and back on the road and head home!  Heading out of town, with our Big Adventure behind us,  I was able to feel briefly jealous of Monroe, WA.  They had three Farm and Feed stores in town, and a fertilizer and tractor dealers!  Next summer I will have to take a field trip up there and check out some local farms – hopefully the weather will be better!

As a final note, I was feeling blessed by our circumstances as we got home.  It was an unpleasant little hiccup but we were able to prevail.  The goodness of people willing to stop and help two drowned women encouraged me, and Schwab’s generosity warmed my heart.  I know that all the truckers heading up the pass who honked at us while we were changing the tire were only doing so “In Support!” (okay, perhaps not all of them!)  But when I turned on the news the next morning and the pass was closed with a 15 foot avalanche and the Skykomish River was flooding the valley, I felt doubly blessed to be home safe!

Scenes from the farm in winter

Found the camera!  As my mother would say, “It was right where I left it!’  Of course, I used to hate it when she said that because it meant that I was still unable to find what I was looking for….

The hens were unimpressed with the snow.  They spent most of their time fussing about in the new straw and didn’t even leave the coop.  When they did come out they went right back inside because the snow was so cold on their feet.  I have a mixed flock of 19 Delawares, Golden Comets, Rhode Island Reds and Cross-breds. Most days I get 14-16 eggs and we sell them to friends and neighbors.  I have the chickens under lights to keep them laying during the winter and they will molt next fall.  The coop is a livestock panel stapled to a wooden frame with wire fencing for the front and back of the coop.  The door was $5 at the St. Vincent de Paul and the nest boxes were made out of scraps of OSB left over from building the house.  Total cost was about $50.  During the summer it is moved daily to give them access to fresh grass but from now until spring it will be parked on the garden and they will be bedded on straw.   

The snow did a good job of insulating the veggies that are still in the garden – about all that is left is broccoli and carrots.  The broccoli was pretty much done but there were some side shoots still coming on.  The carrots were fine under the snow and we had some for dinner on Thanksgiving.  I need to get them pulled and put in the basement before we have another cold snap but like many other chores this fall, it didn’t happen because I was busy with something else!  

The Princess Cow (aka Alexis) was unimpressed with the white stuff.  She spent most of the day in the cow palace munching on hay.  She came out for some grain but wasn’t thrilled about how cold the water in the trough was.  I had to pack water for her and the calf on Wednesday because the hoses were frozen.  Typically I fill a 100 gallon trough and use it to water the animals during cold snaps.  I also make sure all of the hoses are drained and ready to roll out for watering in cold weather.  We have frost free hose bibs on the house and frost free hydrants in the yard.  When the bathtub/trough gets low I roll out the hoses, fill it up and then drain them all.  Tiresome but better than packing 5 gallon buckets. But, this time I got caught with my hoses full and they froze solid.  I loaded up the utility cart with buckets and hauled it out to her.  She drank 10 gallons and since milk is 95% water and she is giving about 4 gallons of milk a day that accounts for some of it but she was also grooving on the warm water!  

The kiddo was doing laundry when the power went out.  I convinced her that frozen pants were better than having them sour in the washing machine waiting for the power to come back on.  However, she REFUSED to believe that they would dry in the cold weather.  They were on the clothes line all day and came in stiff as a board (which was very amusing for everyone) but when it started to thaw out in the house the clothes were only slightly damp.  By this time the power was back on so we tossed them in the dryer.  We had to bend the pants and stack them in the dryer but the only had to tumble for a few minutes until they were done.  Kiddo was impressed (briefly) and since she is 14 and seldom impressed by anything her mother has to say right now, I made a note of it! 

The final pix is of my Better Half plowing the driveway.  The chains were bought after we had so much snow two years ago. The tractor kept spinning out so we wrapped logging chains around the tires and through the spokes on the wheels.  It worked but we didn’t have enough chains to completely cover the tires.  We didn’t get to try the chains out last year (thank heavens!) but they worked a treat this year.  Tirechains.com! 

Since I am making product endorsements – check out the boots hubby has on.  They are kind of hard to see but they are “Muck” boots.  I have a pair of the boots and some Daily Shoes in pink!  They are awesome!  If you have ever worn regular barn boots you know that there is nothing more bone-chilling than slipping your foot into a pair of boots that have been sitting on the porch all night.  Even with felt insoles they are still cold and stiff.  Mucks are a foam lined rubber boot that are warm and waterproof.  If you have to be on your feet for long periods of time they have enough cushion to stay comfortable and they come in cool colors!  They aren’t cheap but I wear mine every day and they are built to last!  Pair them with a Peet Boot Dryer and you almost look forward to going outside on cold mornings!


It has been a while since I posted – mainly because I have had family visiting for the past couple of weeks.  Their vacation became my staycation.  We had fun, picked lots of beans and enjoyed the time reconnecting.

What is hot?

A few weeks ago, during the hot spell, things got pretty crispy.  Like most farmers and gardeners I found it difficult to keep enough water on things.  The cucs stalled, the carefully nurtured second seeding of lettuce and spinach bolted straight out of the ground and the raspberries shrivelled on the bush.  About the only thing that seemed to thrive were the SLUGS!  I have never had an infestation this bad.  They are getting about 20% of the tomatoes right now and a significant number of the cucs and zucs.

What is done for the year:

  • raspberries
  • beans for the freezer
  • strawberries
  • garlic

What’s Blooming Now?

Dahlias!  Finally they are popping out.  Every time I drive by the Silverdale Post Office and see the Dahlia Society demonstration plot blooming like crazy I lamented that my flowers were so late this year (mainly because I was late getting them in!)   Now they are coming out like crazy.  I didn’t label them as I was planting them (Memo to self: Do that next year) so all of the blooms are a total surprise!  I love dahlias because they seem to grow just about anywhere, they bloom like crazy until frost, and the deer don’t bother them! 

Other things that are coming on gangbusters:

  • sweet corn
  • zucs
  • pickling cucs
  • tomatoes
  • peaches
  • blueberries
  • plums
  • beets
  • red potatoes

The cow has had a visit from the bull this month and hopefully she is in calf.  Farmer George is coming for the hogs next week and we will be butchering chickens with the neighbors then as well. 

The rain has provided a momentary respite from the heat and the need to constantly switch water from one section of the garden to another.  I have also had the chance to get all the fall veggies transplanted.  I will have to wait and see how many cabbage and broccoli I end up with.  Again, I meant to label the seed trays and before I got around to it one of the children moved them around.   We dug all of the red potatoes to make room for them and they are taking off!

Rain, rain, go away!

Tonight was one of those nights when I have to wonder if I am crazy to be doing this!  It poured rain all afternoon, and when I could put it off no longer, I dug out my raincoat and boots and went out to do chores.  This time of year evening chores include milking, feeding the calf and the hogs, checking for eggs and topping off the chickens’ feed and water.  I went out to the barn, put out the cow’s feed, started the milking machine and went to get the cow.  Happy and dry under her shelter, Alexis (aka “The Princess Cow”) had limited interest in making the 50-foot trek to the covered milking area tonight and her normally greedy nature didn’t outweigh her dislike of the rain.  I opened the gate and called to her and she just looked at me.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Milking time ‘Lexie!” 

Princess Cow: “I don’t suppose that you have noticed that it is raining?”

Me: “Come on girl, there is grain!”

PCs: “I don’t like to get wet!”

Me: “You’re a cow – last time I checked they were water-proof!”

PC: “The least you could have done was brought an umbrella!”

At this point she headed out into the rain, dropping her head and turning her nose to the side as if she were traipsing through a blinding snow storm.  She actually shook her feet off after walking through the puddle on the way.  What a drama queen!


Hubby started calling Alexis “The Princess Cow” soon after she arrived last spring and proved to be a notoriously picky eater.  Cows typically eat just about anything – but not Alexis!  A five-year-old Jersey cow, her full, registered name is “Sambo’s Dazzling Alexis” and she came from Gilman’s herd in Port Orchard.  Her slightly pretentious name and Princess attitude aside, she gives us about 40 gallons of wonderful, creamy, delicious milk every week and has a gentle and winsome nature. 

Just don’t ask her to go out in the rain!