Author Archives: Melissa

Bountiful blackberries

WHEW!  The blackberries are really coming in now – I thought last week was pretty decent, but this week they’re bigger and more plentiful.  Last night I picked right around two gallons; tonight I need to get one more gallon, so we can start a batch of wine.  It’ll be about a year before we’re drinking it, but I know it’ll be worth the wait.  🙂


Peas and jelly

I have been on the search for a peahen friend for Bill since last fall.  I’m specifically looking for a hen of 2-4 years of age, but I’m not particular about the coloring.  I have yet to find one available in our immediate area; I’ve got my eye on one that’s about 1.5 hours away.  Just need another reason to travel to that area, and I’d gladly buy her!  In the meantime though, I did find someone locally who had two peachicks for sale.  While it will be a long time before they’re big enough to get out in the yard, at least he’ll have some friends.  I wonder how long before I’ll be able to tell if they’re male(s) or female(s)?

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We’ve been doing some blackberry picking around the pastures, which is pretty awesome!  Rob used to have to go out and pick next to roads and highways, but we have many mature blackberry canes growing on the fence rows.  They’re thorny as can be, but the fruit is juicy and sweet!  Made the first of hopefully many batches of jelly yesterday:



Farm life isn’t for sissies

So, I’ve mentioned before that our garden is pretty darn big, right?  As I recall, the plan was for 100′ rows – and they were overshot a bit.  We started out with a good 6′ path between each of the eight (I think) rows, plus three rows of corn.  It’s big, and there’s a lot of green out there – quite a lot of which are weeds.  However, for as weedy as that garden is, it’s pretty productive too!

The potatoes seem to be coming in well, we’ve dug up a few taters to check on them.  The brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, and onions are doing poorly.  Okra is growing well, we should begin harvesting in a week or two.  We put down 40 Roma tomato plants, and if only half of them produce we should be overrun.  It’s looking as though they will all produce.  😉  The cherry tomatoes are coming ripe, a few each day – that’s a bit disappointing because there’s just not enough to actually do anything with (other than eat them while still warm from the sun).  The cucumbers are doing fairly well, green beans and wax beans are starting to produce – we’re quite happy with those!  Now, the squash and zucchini – we can grow the heck out of them.  We’ve cooked, baked, frozen, given away, and donated quite a lot of them, and they still keep on coming.  I’m thinking in probably a week or so though, they’ll be done producing.  Our green peppers are rather small, but overall not bad.  I’m really looking forward to some butternut squash, and corn.  🙂

Doing anything outside at this time of year is so taxing, the heat is relentless.  I’ve gotten used to it, but I still don’t much care for the heat.

In other news….

This past Friday, we apparently had a visit from a nasty dog.  At least, I suspect it’s the same dog that killed the neighbors lamb, and has been generally terrorizing animals in the ‘hood.  Long story short, I found one of Abby’s ewes (Hershey, I later found out) had escaped the pasture, presumably by jumping the fence panel and entering the barn.  She was hiding in a stall, behind a bunch of scaffolding.  Poor girl had a sizeable wound on her leg, that was bloody and oozing.  Ew, right?  I got her cleaned up as well as I could with what I had, then Rob helped me doctor her again the following day.  What really stinks is that whoever this dog belongs to isn’t doing their job – keeping their pet safe and at home.  Ultimately, it won’t end well – either for the animals it encounters or the dog itself.


What’s All the Buzz About?

That’s the title on the most clever and creative display board I’ve seen in a while.  😉  Ok, yes, I made it so I’m quite fond of it and insist that it is put up at honeybee presentations!

Today, Rob gave a presentation to a group of kids attending the STEM camp at PES.  The star of the show really is the observation hive that he built a couple of years ago.  The kids are always enthralled by watching the honeybees doing their thing on the visible frame, spotting the queen, and seeing the eggs and larvae.  I love that kids are interested in the honeybees and what they do, that they are soaking up the information and learning about honeybees.

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HalfAst Update

Being true to the farm name has been easy – we’ve been quite half-assed about updating the blog!  It’s time to change that, though.

Last year around this time, we signed a contract to purchase a home.  The sellers were an ordeal in themselves, but we were steadfast and we survived!  We really love the new homestead, and the location is perfect.  We had been admiring this place from our old house the whole time we lived there.  There’s a lot of work to do, always, but we are grateful for our new home, and enjoying the space and freedoms it allows us.

The garden:  It’s the largest we’ve ever had; we’re looking forward to a bountiful harvest for canning, freezing, eating, and sharing.  Night before last, we had the first zucchini of the season with dinner.  It was delicious!

The animals: The new house came with a beautiful India Blue peacock we call Bill, and numerous Guinea fowl.  I’m in the market for a peahen lady friend for Bill, if you know of any available.  We still have the New Zealand meat rabbits, hens, and honeybees.    We’ve added more pullets (two of the kids are participating in Chick Chain with 4-H), current could is 19 for the kids and 7 for me, in addition to the 4 remaining hens.  Abby recently took an interest in the 4-H sheep project, so last month we bought 4 lambs – 3 ewes and a ram.  This past weekend we purchased 2 young calves – a red Angus and a baldy (Hereford / black Angus cross).  We’re looking forward to adding more calves and possibly swine to the homestead.

So that’s it for now – we’ll try to be a little less half-assed with updates!  😀

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Guinea fowl

This was written by our eldest daughter on November 1, 2014:

As you may know, our new house came with 9 ginneahens. They mostly roam the property and the neighbors property eating bugs and stuff. We had no idea which were girls and which were boys.

Well, mom picked me up from school and said the usual “what we sold”

and who bought the stuff. Mom said “As the couple who bought chickens went down the driveway, they were taking a long time. We went down to see what was up, and they found 6 little ginneahens chicks!” (I don’t know what they are actually called)

The wife wanted one, so my mom handed her one in secret and kept it in her pocket. (Shoutout to her husband: I wish I could have seen your face when you found out) We now have 5 on their second day of life.

Two are gray and three are brown and black. They are extremely noisy, they are incredibly fast, they have little fuzzy feathers, and are eating chick starter by their first day. At time of writing, they are doing fine.

We have a heat lamp in a horse trough with wood shavings (same as rabbits).

So, we now have 14 ginneahens, 1 dog, 1 peacock, 7 chickens, 9 and one pregnant rabbits, some occasional sheep that wonder into our yard, and countless bees.


That morning

It started, as they say, as a normal day.  Rob was up very early and went out to go hunting.  I got up around 6 am, and sat down with my coffee and Hay Day app (what a fun time waster that is).  Our three daughters (ages 11, 9, and 9) were up around 6:20 and began their school day rituals – the elder one showered, the younger two lazed around wishing it was Saturday.

Just before 7, the girls started to get their breakfasts.  Typical morning – reheating homemade frozen waffles, getting juice, etc.  We noticed an odd smell.  An electrical smell.  I shut off the heat (it had been a very cold night, but I had turned on the heater a few times that week so it wasn’t that ‘dust on the coils’ smell), and went down to the basement to do a ‘sniff test.’  I didn’t smell anything unusual down there, so I went back upstairs.  I sniff tested the two upstairs bedrooms, and found nothing odd.  The girls were concerned about the smell, so I opened the top portion of the window near the kitchen table.  I kept going around the living room and kitchen area looking, and I remember motioning with my hands in the air saying, “it HAS to be right around here, but I can’t find it!”

I wish I had taken it more seriously right then and there.  I keep thinking that if I had, I could have saved more.  I could have gotten my cat out.  I could have done….better.

Right after I said that I couldn’t find it (the source of the smell), we saw smoke coming up from the corner heating vent in the living room.  The smoke alarms started going off, upstairs and downstairs.  I believe that was the point when my cat ran for the basement….his favorite hiding places were all downstairs.

I told the girls to grab a coat and get outside and get in my truck.  It was around 32 degrees that morning, I think.  One of them asked, “should we get our shoes on?”  Emily, 11, yelled, “NO!  We have to GO NOW!”  And out the kitchen door they went.

I went to the corner of the living room, and realized that smoke was now also coming up through the vent next to the door.  I ran out on the porch and saw that the girls were indeed in the truck, then ran back into the kitchen.  I saw flames coming up through the vent in the corner.  I said, “oh SHIT” and grabbed the fire extinguisher from beneath the kitchen sink.  Thank goodness the use of an extinguisher is simple and ingrained: pull the pin, extend the nozzle, squeeze the handle.  I aimed for that corner vent, thinking what a mess this was going to be to clean up.  I got the flames down, then saw flames coming up through the vent next to the door (both vents were located on either end of the couch in the living room).  I started using the extinguisher on that vent; then looked over toward the corner.  Flames had come back up and the living room curtains were on fire; it looked like the couch was starting to smoke.  I realized then that I could not possibly get this fire out with the extinguisher.

I grabbed the phone from next to the table, called the dog out with me and went out the kitchen door to the porch, to call 911.  The phone was dead.  I put the extinguisher down and ran back in, and got my cell phone from the kitchen counter and dialed 911.  I quickly told the operator my house was on fire, the address, and please hurry.  I know I kept saying that…please hurry.  Please hurry!

While on the phone, I went back inside and made it as far as the kitchen table.  The black smoke was awful, and was hanging in a thick cloud several feet down from the ceiling.  I turned around and got my purse off the hook by the door, and picked up a large envelope from the top basement step.  It was full of documents I had needed earlier in the week for an appointment, and that I meant to return to the bank safety deposit box: passports, vehicle titles, birth certificates, and so forth.  I remember being on the porch, kneeling in the kitchen doorway.  Watching the smoke and flames consume our home.  I wish I had the presence of mind to call my cat, to try to get him out.  But I couldn’t think.  It was so awful.

The 911 operator told me to get away from the house, and when I got to my truck and put the dog in with the kids she said that a first responder was on site.  There was a woman at the bottom of the driveway, and she told me to move the truck down on to the road and away from the house.  When I did that, we could see flames shooting out of the corner of the living room.  The girls were in hysterics, and I wasn’t any help to them at all.  All I knew then was that they were safe, my husband was presumably safe in the woods, and I had my dog with me.

I’m thinking that was probably around 7:10 am.

In retrospect….

I sent Rob a text after I moved the truck.  I didn’t call him because my thought process was that he was in the woods, and therefore he wouldn’t answer the phone.  But I should have called, so there would have been no question in his mind that the kids were ok, from the first minute.

It all happens so quickly.  Have a plan.  It isn’t pleasant to think about something like this happening, but if you talk about what to do ahead of time then you’ll be better prepared to react IF it does happen.  No….my going back in the house wasn’t a part of the plan; the plan was to get the kids safe.  After that I was winging it – and not very well.  It was a stupid move to go back in, but this was our home and I had to do SOMETHING.

Good Lord, I miss that cat.  He was my fat buddy, and I fervently hoped and prayed that he ran back upstairs and out the kitchen door, and was hiding someplace.  Over the next several days, we searched the barn, we called for him whenever the kids were not with us.  Rob and I both so badly wanted Spooker to have gotten out alive.  I am thankful that Rob continued to search the rubble until he found Spook.  It was such a heartbreak for us, but at least then we knew.

Our little house wasn’t perfect, but it was home.  It’ll be a long while before someplace feels like home to me again.

I have always loved our daughter’s school – the faculty and staff there are wonderful, and I knew that before.  However, that morning several people from the school came to check on us, give us hugs, and encourage us.  They genuinely care about our children and our family as a whole, and I appreciate them more than I know how to express.

So many others also came to see us – neighbors, friends, strangers.  All came with condolences, kind words, hugs, and offers of assistance.  The amount of support we have received from our community has been amazing.  Our kids have all recognized the kindness and caring of our community, and have expressed gratitude to be a part of it.  From 9 and 11 year olds, that’s pretty awesome.  God has shown us a lot of wonderful things during this experience!

While we have lost a much loved family pet and all our possessions – we have so much for which we are thankful.