Friday, March 14, 2014

Frugal Farmhouse Wood Floors & Goodbye Carpet !

An old 100 plus year old farmhouse, stained off-white carpet, one daughter who sometimes suffers from allergies (and carpet doesn't seem to help), and a five hundred dollar budget.  What to do?  Step 1:  Carpet had to come up.


I mentioned in an earlier post about sharing some of the frugal ideas we've been carrying out while absent from posting on the blog for so long, and this project is one of our favorites!   Step 2:  Boards from a sheet of plywood, yes PLYWOOD had to be cut 8" wide to achieve the farmhouse look we wanted and each sheet proved six 8" boards.
We really wanted something which would look like wide plank farmhouse floors and with the appearance of being original to the old house.  But how might that be done on a $500.00 dollar budget?  And in the living room and dining room?  Plywood!  Bethany found the idea on Pinterest and we're thrilled with the results!!  Step 3:  Take the wood planks outside and stain each one
Jordan laid out the room, he, Josh and Jacob cut the sheets of plywood, Josh, Jacob, Johnathon and Jeremiah did most of the nailing down, Judson was everyone's bestest helper, and my sweet daughters did the staining and coats of polyurethane!  It was truly a project which involved the whole family.:)     Step 4:  Apply liquid glue to the underside of the planks.
Step 5:  My sons used three lengths of planks in order to achieve the appearance of random sized boards.  But they did follow a staggered pattern for each row. 
Looking great!  Oh, we stained the boards outside cause we didn't want all the smell and trouble of doing that inside the house.
Step 6:  In order to get the farmhouse look we wanted, the fellas used a framing square to achieve an equal amount of space between each plank and row.  I definitely wanted the bit of gap between each board.
Step 7:  In addition to the liquid glue having been applied to the underside of each board, they are also secured by using small nails in the nail gun.  You really can't see the nails, but we did purchase some old-fashioned looking square head nails.  Those we haven't put down yet and are really just for looks since the floor is already securely attached to the sub-floor.
Step 8:  Once the boards were stained, dried, and put down, and after the first coat of polyurethane applied, they had to be sanded just a little before the final two coats were applied.
And there you see a second coat of polyurethane being applied.  Love it!
The left side of the room is what the floors look like once you've sanded off a bit of the first coat of poly.
Don't you think they look nice and old??
Since the polyurethane had to have time to dry and we didn't want to be unable to use both rooms at one time, we chose to do one room at a time.  We allowed ourselves three days per room so as to give plenty of time for drying and getting furniture back in and between company coming.
We chose Early American as the color of stain because that's what appears to have been put on the old stair case and it does match beautifully!
And we're so happy to have all the carpet out of the house.  You wouldn't believe how much dirt was underneath.:(
And while we'd never dreamed of being able to use plywood instead of wood flooring, I can't tell you how pleased we are with the results.  We knew that if we had to pay the price of hardwood flooring it would be a very long time before we could get rid of the terribly stained and dirty carpet. And I'm so very appreciative of all the hard work my sons and daughters put into this project!!!
And if any of you are interested in such a project, we used the following:  plywood, nails and a nail gun, a table saw for cutting the plywood, liquid glue, stain, polyurethane, brushes, and a framing square.  And since I'm TERRIBLE at giving directions, you might want to head over to Pinterest to get better instructions!  Oh, they also have pictured a whitewashed looking plywood floor and it is so pretty.  And while my favorite color is white, we didn't think it would be to good for this old working farm and farmhouse.

Blessings,

Sherry

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Cow, Epsom Salt, And A Baby Diaper

Life on the farm.  Happy, clean and carefree children (with nary a speck of dirt under their fingernails) playing and visiting around the old barn....
Contented cows waiting for the last days of winter to pass and the first sprouts of spring grass to arrive...
Beautiful horses dressed in their finest....
High hopes of fresh lettuces and gardens full of spring's soon-to-arrive goodness....
And loaves of freshly baked bread beckoning all to come to the warm and cozy kitchen for a slice slathered in fresh butter.
And who can resist fuzzy adorable rabbits...
and chickens providing the farm family with the freshest of eggs?  Isn't that what life on the farm is like?  Total bliss?  Everyday?
Well, while we absolutely adore this life, I must admit that children do get dirt under their fingernails (lots of it), lettuces are sometimes eaten by the goats before we can harvest a single bite, chicken hawks or skunks are forever and always looking for a fresh chicken dinner, and cows sometimes suffer injuries.  Thus the title of this post.:)

One cow recently suffered a foot injury, the foot injury caused an abcess, and Abigail recalled a wonderful tip given to her by a vet.  She put approximately one cup of epsoms salt on a disposable baby diaper, covered with just enough water to dampen the salt, and used duct tape to secure the diaper on the cows foot.  She then tied the cow up for a couple hours or just long enough to keep her out of the pasture and from running around and causing the diaper to fall off to soon.  And. It. Worked!  And we are THANKFUL!

And while the outcomes aren't always so good, a quote by Joel Salatin comes to mind:  "Don't quit.  The opposite of success is not failure, it's despair." 

And as far as the dirt under the fingernails, I've heard that cooked and baked dirt and clay are actually sold in health food stores, and some say eating dirt may actually be good for your health.  Hey, my children are getting the dirt for free.  Maybe it's boosting their immune system, too.:)

And the goats aren't eating ALL the lettuces and greens, and the chicken hawks aren't getting all the chickens, even though they do seem to think we're running an all-you-can-eat chicken buffet.

So while life, whether on or off the farm, sometimes includes setbacks, it is never boring and is oh so good. Thankful for home (wherever it is) and hoping you and yours will have a blessed evening,

Sherry

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Snow, A Wood Cookstove, And We're Snug As A Bug.....

We're still here, the snowflakes are falling, the new/used wood cook stove is working out wonderfully, and we're "snug as a bug in a rug".  And I can't tell you how happy we are to be heating with wood and with not having a heating bill.  Several months ago we were blessed with a beautiful wood stove which was being sold by a local Amish family.  Because it provided too much heat for their home, the price was incredible and now we're learning to cook and bake with wood and realizing that we have lots to learn and that the learning is lots of fun.

And friends and family, I can't believe it's been such a long time since we last posted, and I so appreciate the kind emails received asking how we're doing.

Like most, we've had an extra cold winter, and today we're watching it snow and staying near the wood cook stove in order to stay snug and warm.  We former Alabamians are still in awe at the site of snow, and the younger kiddos are anxious to get out and play before all the white wonder disappears.:)
We also had a new momma cat give birth to kittens this week and she and her babies have settled on a warm spot by the toasty fire.  And of all days, a baby jersey heifer was born today, and we are so excited!  Since her momma just arrived from Georgia, we figured she might not be to used to the cold either.  But she and baby are NOT joining us by the fire.  They've been given a warm spot in the barn.:)
With winter being a time for catching up on projects not easily done during the busyness of spring, summer and fall, we've been busy as bees around here and can't believe spring is just around the corner.  Many projects have been completed and there always seem to be more to be done on this pretty old homestead.  We are thankful for the work opportunities, thankful to be here, and hope to post about some of the frugal projects done during these past five or so months.

And while on the subject of work and being busy, as I know we all are, I was reminded these past months, and especially during this mornings devotion time of how when there are to many things to do, I must not follow mans natural response which is to fret and fear. According to Elisabeth Elliot, "The plan of God for me, for this one day, is meant not to trouble but to GLADDEN my heart.  Christ's yoke, according to His own promise, is not hard but easy--if we bear it together with Him and if we bear it as Christ bore it, in meekness and lowliness of heart."
And, "There will be both time and strength to do the will of God.  The course He sets for us in His commandments is not an obstacle course, but one carefully planned to suit our qualifications -- that is, not too rigorous for our limitations, not too lenient for our strengths".  --  Elisabeth Elliot
I don't know about you, but those words greatly encourage my heart.  And remind me to always be seeking His face and His will for the day.  And to pray.  And that's always a good thing to do!
Other happenings since our last post include the birth of many piglets here on Leegacy Family Farm, and they are growing nicely!  Johnathon's momma pig also had a nice big family of nine piglets which have been sold. and there's also a couple of adorable twin lambs in the pasture:)
Boy, it's cold out there!
And the farm chicks started laying again in January.  Yay!!  And I suppose that's the end of this update.  I do hope you are all well and warm, and I've very much missed you all.  Blessings,  Sherry for the family 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Making Sorghum Syrup 2013

The pressing of this years sorghum is now complete and bottles of the gooey sticky syrup line the pantry shelves!  And in addition to being gooey and sticky and good on a hot buttered biscuit, did I mention all the iron, minerals and sulfur?
Here in the south it is often called poor mans maple, southerners syrup, or sorghum molasses.  And whereas the ratio for maple syrup is around 40 gallons of sap for every 1 gallon of syrup, sorghum requires only 8 gallons of sap for every 1 gallon of syrup.  I'm not really sure why it is often called sorghum molasses.  Molasses, I believe, is made from sugar cane.  Sorghum is made from the stalks of the sorghum plant. 
The animals and blueberry bushes love the leftovers, and sorghum seed heads are great for feeding chickens, grinding into a flour, or for popping as popcorn.  We've heard that some people grow a type of sorghum just to be used as animal feed.  It is also known as milo and is shorter than the kind we plant for making syrup.
We think sorghum looks a lot like corn, we've been told it is very drought resistant, and that it originated in Africa.  It is also very popular used as a flour, cereal, or sweetener.  And although sorghum is considered by many to be a very southern crop, it will grow wherever corn will grow.  But one does have to watch out for frosts and plant it so that it matures and is pressed before frost occurs.
We were so thankful to get a Chattanooga #14 press earlier this year and it worked beautifully.  Jordan just had to soak some of the old bolts in some food grade oil and it was ready to go!  Johnathon is seen busily trying to get a temporary set up since we didn't know if we'd be able to press this year. Pans and presses are VERY difficult to find and we didn't know if we'd have a pan in time for cooking (before first frost).  But as I mentioned in another post, we were so blessed when a pan was found just in time.:)  Perhaps by next year we'll have a little sugar shack and a more permanent set up such as the one we had in Alabama before the storm.

For those who've asked, first we prepare the ground and plant the sorghum seed sometime in May.  We usually cultivate it twice and then, like corn, it is tall enough to somewhat shade and stay ahead of any weeds.  Sometime in October the seed heads mature and look sort of milky. 
The stalks are then stripped of their leaves and this job is an excellent one for younger children.  With the leaves off, the stalks are now ready to be cut down with machetes and they are stacked on the ground in small bundles.  We leave them there for up to a week, more or less, before pressing.
On syrup making day, these bundles are then loaded and placed near the press and someone keeps them coming till all have been pressed.
The stalks are fed through the sorghum press and the watery looking sap is then collected for cooking.  The sap has a sweet taste, as does the stalk, and my younger children very much enjoy chewing on them.:)
My oldest son has a pair of Percheron horses named Jim and Jack and they go round and round in order to power the sorghum mill. The mill presses out all the liquid (sap).  Jordan heads up this project but has plenty of brothers and sisters who love to give him a break from all the walking round and round.  So I guess you could say that another benefit is that one gets his exercise while also getting something to eat in the future.  Can't beat that, right?  Walking off those calories in advance!
Again, this years set up is temporary and was hastily put together.  My sons had to cut down a tree to be used to replace the telephone pole we used to have.  They also quickly made a fire pit using concrete blocks found on Craigslist..
A very hot fire is needed under the sorghum pan in order to cook the sap, and water is placed in the pan before the sap so as to keep it from burning.  The sap at the beginning of the pan is directly over the fire and much hotter.  As it turns to syrup it is pushed to the other end of the pan where it is cooler (to prevent burning) and then out of the pan and ready for bringing inside to cool and pour into canning jars.
I forgot to mention that it is filtered before it goes into the collection barrels.:)
We always look forward to this time and especially enjoy how hard work with friends and family also equals a great time of fellowship and a sense of having accomplished something worthwhile and beneficial.  And we also get something else off the grocery list, and have tasty hot buttered biscuits and sorghum to look forward to and a replacement for honey in our homemade bread recipes.
Friends were so kind and brought us a meal of homemade sausage gravy and lots of buttered biscuits.  We took a break from cooking the syrup and a wonderful time of fellowship was enjoyed by all.  And we had our first taste of the new syrup on the biscuits they provided!
Growing sorghum and making syrup is a lot of work but very rewarding. And while we have much to learn about the whole process and about sustainable farming, we are very thankful for the opportunity and for those who continue to help us learn and who encourage us along the way.
  Life is very busy these days, as I'm sure it is for you, but we wanted to post these pictures and preserve special memories of a wonderful time of year.  May God bless you and yours....~ Sherry for the family ~


"A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes."   ~ Wendell Berry, from "The Pleasures of Eating" ~

P.S.  Writing this post brings back many memories of the first year we grew and made sorghum syrup.  That was before the storm and our loss of Tom and it was also the last "big" farm type project we all worked on together.  We had some neighbors across the road who lived through World War II in Europe.  The very week of sorghum making they had company ( from Germany) and they saw us making syrup and came over to visit and to see what we were doing.  The woman (neighbor) was eight years old after the war and said the whole process brought back so many memories of her childhood.  According to what she shared that day, she and her family survived those years off a similar syrup they made and brown bread.  And that's about it.   Reminds me of how many choices (food) we now have and of how much we have for which to be thankful.