It has been a busy week with 2016 winding down. Kentucky is experiencing a mild dry winter. Taking advantage of the mild temps and a bit of rain that came through we moved the pigs to a new field. They had pretty much turned over the small field they had been in. We moved them to a combined woods/pasture/pond area that morning but the electric fence charger had less charge than we realized and they escaped. There is nothing like chasing 3 pigs around the hills to get your blood pumping.
They love chasing the Gator for some reason, so Boone hopped in it and took off across the field with them in hot pursuit. Me? I was bent over double with my hands on my knees gasping for air.
One of the neighbor’s has a small donkey herd. Generous people with huge hearts they had originally rescued a jack and jenny. Nature took its course and the herd grew beyond what they were prepared to handle. They decided to re-home the herd and found homes for all the adult donkeys so the last to go was a foal about 6 months old.
Everyone in our area knows if they have an animal that needs a new owner to call Boone. He and I both love animals and if we cannot take it on we often know people that can. When we received the call asking if we were interested in a foal donkey Boone brought home little Miss Rosebud. I have been around a few donkeys in my life that were foul-tempered and would come at you with teeth bared so I was not terribly excited about her. At the least, I thought she would be a good experiment to see how a donkey lived with the sheep. I had always heard donkeys were good with predator control as they naturally dislike canines and would help keep the coyotes away.
Turns out little Miss Rosebud has the sweetest, calmest personality. We have pulled burrs out her coat, wormed her and given her shots with minimal fuss on her part. She lets us pick up her feet and loves being scratched. She has a small field to herself and part of the run-in shed while the meds take effect. She has touched noses over the fences with some of the sheep and Bruno, the calf. Most of the day, she grazes on her side of the fence with the 3 little pigs rooting on the other side.
The sheep are now all bred so we will be moving Romeo, the ram, to his own field along with Bruno soon. At that time, we will put Miss Rosebud in with the sheep. I have great hopes they will form a tight bond.
My dad made the best biscuits and I have never been able to duplicate his so I am always on the hunt for a great biscuit recipe. Isn’t it funny how recipes with lots of ingredients can turn out great but simple dishes like potato salad, pimiento cheese and biscuits are hard to get right? Or maybe it is just me!
Anyway, I came across this recipe on the Southern Living website and really love it. It makes big flaky biscuits. Boone loves them with Apple Maple jam or with any of my homemade jams. They are just as good with only butter or with sausage or ham on them.
The only thing I did different from the recipe is I never have self-rising flour so I usually make a batch up when I plan on having these biscuits. The biscuit recipe has several ways to bake them and my favorite is to warm a cast iron skillet in the oven, then rub a bit of butter in it and put the biscuits in. That gives them a crunchy bottom that is so good. I tend to roll them a bit thicker and normally get around ten biscuits. My skillet only holds eight so I cook the last two later.
One of my favorite jams is Apple Maple Jam is from a past Ball Blue Book but can also be found here: Apple Maple Jam. The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. That is a little strong for me so I only use 1/2 teaspoon.
I was recently in the North Carolina mountains during apple season and bought lots of local varieties. I think the best jam is made with a variety of apples. Another good way to use this jam is to mix some with Dijon mustard, spread on a pork tenderloin, then roast.
The garden has been put to rest. It has been really good to us this year; potatoes, corn, peppers, melons, beans, herbs, berries and so many tomatoes that this summer I must have broken some kind of record for eating tomato sandwiches. I think I ate at least one every day.
I love the fall. Growing in southeastern North Carolina we did not have four distinct seasons. Kentucky is in a late fall warm spell but cooler temps are on the way. Makes me want to have crackling fires and hot chocolate with a good book! But for now it is time to get out in the woods and gather pears, walnuts and hickory nuts. Yesterday was another blue sky sunny day so Boone and I got out into the woods briefly to check on one of the trail cameras. It is placed near the Cherry bee tree. The bees were happily buzzing around but thankfully ignored us.
One of the trail cams on the sheep farm caught a big bobcat. I know sooner or later we may have problems with them or the coyotes so we are considering a livestock guardian dog or maybe a donkey.
Sunday morning, Boone fished while I got breakfast going. To make things easier we prepped a lot of our food before we left on the trip. We have a tabletop grill but for this trip everything was cooked on the propane camp stove. I like to have all of the food that is taken on the trip eaten with nothing being brought back home so here was our meal plan:
For the Saturday trip down
ham, turkey and Swiss cheese sandwiches
cutup celery and carrots to munch on
peanut butter on saltine crackers
Saturday night: eat out
Sunday Breakfast: scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, toast, coffee and juice
3 farm eggs that were cracked into a jar with about a ¼ cp. sharp cheddar and a splash of milk. All you have to do it shake it up!
8 slices of Italian bread in a baggie, 4 for breakfast toast, 4 with dinner
6 slices of bacon wrapped in aluminum foil
Premeasured coffee in a jar; just enough for me on Sunday morning & evening (Boone does not drink coffee), premeasured orange juice in a jar
Carrots, red & yellow bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and onions cut up into a baggie
About an hour before dinner I poured a bit of Zesty Italian dressing in the baggie to season the veggies.
2 prebaked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil
Boone started a camp fire so I put the potatoes on the edge of it, not in it and turned every so often. I had already baked the potatoes so they just needed to be warmed up.
Small amount of Italian dressing
Half and half for coffee
2 pork chops
Bottled water for drinking and coffee
While the camper refrigerator does a great job, we try to stay out of it as much as possible. I always pack a cooler for drinks and the snacks that need to stay cold that we can get into often. Boone hooks up the camper the night before a trip which is when we pack everything except for the food that needs to go in the frig. I like the frig to get good and cold overnight then I will pack it with food right before we leave.
After breakfast we headed out to the Highland Games. It was being hosted at the Maryville University. Maryville is such a nice small town and the campus is beautiful. The first thing we heard was bagpipes, yay! There was a lot of activities going on in different fields and stages. We saw kids learning how to milk a cow – so funny and cute, athletes tossing what looked like whittled down telephone pole, clan tents and more. The competitions were the best and the competitors come from all over.
After leaving the games we relaxed by the water, just chatting and fishing. With the farm, we always have something to do so to just slow down, sit back and do nothing feels like a luxury.
Listening to the wind, water and birds was simply great.
I am half Scot through my father. My grandparents came from Scotland and Dad was first born here in the US. It’s not really a factor in my life but every now and then I do like to attend a Highland Games. I really like the sound of bagpipes and it is one of the few places to hear them live. Boone has never been to one but he was game to check it out so we took off to the Smoky Mountain Highland Games in Maryville, TN this past weekend.
We loaded up Little Bill the camper, and took off down the back roads. I have been wanting to get comfortable towing so I drove the majority of the trip. Little Bill is really light and being a small fifth-wheel camper, he sticks right with you (no fish tailing) so the towing was pretty easy. The hardest part was getting the electric brake set just right in the truck and getting used to braking with it.
Being on the back roads was great as we just took our time and enjoyed the drive down on US 127. Sometimes the interstate is the way to travel when we are in a time crunch but the two-lanes are my favorite. We stopped at a general store along the way to get drinks to go along with the sandwiches we had packed. As with some of the small stores around our area, it appeared to be a local hangout as there were some local older gentlemen sitting out on the front porch passing the time chatting and whittling.
Yarberry campground lays between Lenoir City and Maryville off of Hwy 321. We rolled in around 3 o’clock and got set up pretty quickly.
The Knoxville Flea Market was going on so we decided to drive over and check it out. It turned out to be quite the disappointment. There were only folks selling stuff you could buy anywhere; socks, lotions, CD’s, etc.
We had planned on eating out the first night and for some reason I had pecan waffles on my mind so off to the local Waffle House we went. The food was great and nicely stuffed we rolled back to the campground. Boone bought a TN fishing license on the way down so he was ready to do some fishing.
The next morning, we strolled around the campground. It is really nice and sits on a peninsula. Along with the campground, boat rental is available. The roads are gravel and our site was very spacious and pretty level with lots of trees. The rates were reasonable, only around $76.00 total for the two nights. There were only a couple of things lacking. One was that while the bathrooms were extremely clean, there were only two stalls and one shower in the bathhouse near us. The campground had around 70 sites so that seems pretty small for so many people. The men’s side was the same. There was another bathhouse that we did not go in but it looked to be the same size. The majority of sites were for RV’s so maybe that accounted for the small bathhouses as there are not that many tent sites. The other thing was I never did see a play area for children. The campground is growing; adding in new sites – a beach, a pier, and more so maybe the playground is in the future plan.
When I made the reservation over the phone (the only way to make it) I did not receive any type of confirmation via email or otherwise which would have been nice and is pretty standard these days. I had asked if they had internet at the campground which they did not so maybe that was the reason. Hopefully, they will get access at some point. All in all, we had a great time and would recommend camping there. The host was also very nice as we met her at the gatehouse when we first got there. Our site was #69. We also liked sites 17-21, 25, 31, 33, 67 (our favorite), and 71.
P.S. The fishing was great! Boone caught 8 good sized cats.
Boone grew up in a traditional household. His father had a job in town and his mother stayed home raising the eight children while working the farm. His family lived in the hollers of Kentucky and milked cows, stripped tobacco, dug ginseng, gardened, hunted, fished and robbed bee trees periodically.
Since Boone is regularly out in the woods and pastures he is very good at spotting honey bees. We happened upon one of our bee trees purely by accident while out hiking. We were headed back to the house and smelled something really strong and oddly sweet. Backing up we started looking around and spotting a black walnut with bees buzzing around it. It was a bee tree and what we were smelling was the honey. It was that loaded with it.
We only take a small amount of honey from a tree. We need our bees to pollinate and they need enough honey to get through the winter. Boone, myself and our son went out to harvest some honey last year but due to so much rain ruining the pollen for the bees the honey was not as plentiful. We decided against harvesting any in fear that the bees would not have enough for themselves.
A couple of days ago, we had a beautiful frosty sunny morning and Boone pronounced that it was a good day to collect some honey. We gathered our tools in a bucket; knife, hammer, crow bar, caulk and caulking gun, smoker, handfuls of hay and matches. I donned a bee hat because while I have read that smoking the bees will make them retreat, I have never done it and only halfheartedly had faith in it until I had proof that it would work. This bee tree is a black walnut that is in a pasture near the house so off we go.
First, Boone uses the crowbar to pry the opening out. Years ago, he chainsawed a block out of the tree for an access hole to the honey. The bees have their own access hole on the other side of the tree. Once he gets it open, we will be able to get to the honey. The bees are buzzing away somewhere in the tree but we do not see any yet.
The block is out and wow, look at that honey! It is new honey with light colored combs bursting full. The smell is amazing. I have the smoker in hand and SON OF A BEE TREE, here comes the bees. They have been down in the bottom of the tree and a few hundred it looks like come up to see what we are doing. I start pumping the smoker and sure enough they simply withdraw back into the tree. Boone had a few minutes of hopping around as one of the bees did fly out and land on him somewhere. We found it, plucked it off and put it back in the tree. Boone cut out a bit of the comb and we could see plenty of dark honey behind it but we did not mess with it.
Combs are in the bucket and a few bees have come out to sit in the sun at the opening of their access hole in the sunshine but do not bother us.
We tap the block back in place, caulk all around it to keep the cold air out, gather up our tools and we are done. All in all, it took only about 20 minutes.
Back at the house, I crush the comb, set a mesh strainer inside a large pot, then line the strainer with a new paint filter, pour the honey comb in, put a lid on it and set it by our wood stove.
The heat from the stove will warm it up a bit so that it will strain easier. Using this method, I strain the honey until it is free and clear from any bits of comb, etc. This batch took 3 strainings. After straining I ended up with a bit over a quart of honey and it is heavenly. I cannot wait to make Zippy Wings, they are going to be amazing made with wild honey.
There is another bee tree that was part of a dead cherry that was brought down in a storm a few years ago. Fearing an animal would ravage the honey thus killing the bees, Boone trimmed the bee section out and propped it up to get the bees higher off of the ground. He has already cut the access hole so we will be checking it out next.
The sheep have found a hole in the fence and wandered out into the cattle field to graze. Luckily, they are like chickens that come home to roost every evening so we do not have to go out and catch them.
The sheep run-in shed has been mucked out.
It rained yesterday so it is a good day to burn some of the brush piles that have accumulated from cleaning up the undergrowth in our small forest.
Now that the holidays are over, this is the time of year I start planning….planning on what to put in the garden this spring, where to go camping, what farm/house projects to tackle, and more. From now until around March, Kentucky is normally too cold and raw to do much outside so I sit inside and make lists and plan for warmer days.
Boone is working on putting a woodstove and more lighting in the garage so we can tackle small projects in the evenings in relative comfort. I have already got the Small Project list going: painting lamps, finishing a covered headboard, and painting tins to name a few. The first thing to tackle is the garage itself. Being on a farm brings lots of mud, tools that need sharpening, empty canning jars, feed sacks and such to the garage. It is a catch all for just dropping things off that we will get to later.
The big snow storm left us with around 20” of snow. We were lucky in that we did not lose power. It was hard getting out to feed but we got all the animals taken care.