Broiler Chickens (Cornish Cross)

It’s a little early to be talking broiler chickens, at least in my neck of the woods, but here is an overview of my thoughts on the Cornish Cross. Believe it or not, there is a chicken controversy and I’m about to give my opinion but first a little about the breed itself.

The Cornish Cross (Cornish X) has an interesting bloodline. Apparently there are trade secrets in the breeding stock depending on the breeder. The generally accepted origin is a double breasted Cornish variety male with a large boned strain of Plymouth Rock (Wiki).

The male Cornish X can be dressed as early as 6 weeks with a weight of 3-4 pounds. The females will dress at the same weight about 1 – 1/2 weeks later. Typically these birds are processed no later than 10 weeks as they will reach full weight between 8-10 weeks.

Now for the controversy.

There are numerous blogs and articles, too many to cite here, regarding the ethical concerns of raising the Cornish X. This bird is reported to be intolerant of extreme heat, being extremely susceptible to sunburn and heat stroke. I have read reports that in extreme heat owners have found birds as close as 20 feet from a water source, dead, because they refused to leave a shaded area to get to a water source. There are also reports of skeletal (fractured legs) and cardiovascular issues (sudden cardiac death) due to the extreme weights, and fast growth rates.

Now for my observation.

This year will be my third year raising these birds. Last year I received twenty five newly hatched chicks from a local Mennonite family.  I had to cull one bird in the first 48 hours due to extreme illness to prevent further suffering. I raised twenty four of the twenty five original birds to maturity at 8 weeks. I had these birds processed at a local Amish family for $2 a bird, how can I pass that up. I had no issue with cardiovascular or skeletal pathology. I will admit that at 8 weeks, I noticed some in the flock were slowing down and have had some issue with walking, waddling would be a more accurate term.

I can say that these birds are delicious. I have put several of them through the smoker, and roasted several in the oven.  There is a distinct flavor and tenderness that far outweighs anything I have purchased in the store. I am relatively new to smoking meats, and one thing I discovered is that freshly smoked meat is unbelievable, freshly smoked meats given the chance to mature in the fridge for 24 hours, is even better.

The one thing I will do differently this time around will be letting them go to 10 weeks. When I picked up my birds from the Amish gentleman that processed them, he asked me if I raised them to 8 weeks.  Surprisingly I said yes, and asked him how he knew that. He walked over to another cooler and pulled out a finished bird at 10 weeks and the difference was amazing, it looked like a small turkey. He said waiting another two weeks will give me an additional 1-2 pounds, depending on the sex. So this year, 10 weeks it is.

This year will likely be the last year I raise Cornish X.  My reasoning is not because of some moral high ground, it is simply because I have decided to raise and hatch my own New Hampshire Reds. I have receiving a small run of chicks last year and all of them are laying. My rooster seems pretty active as well, doing what rooster do, so I’m looking forward to seeing if I can hatch a few of these birds on my own.

Last year I tried turkeys as well, but but unfortunately I had an issue with a predator, and these guys didn’t make it past 8 weeks. I’ll be more careful this year as I would like to try again. Ill keep them in a brooder as long as I can and when I do put them out to pasture, I will be sure to have them locked up at night. Whatever this predator was, it didn’t affect my adult birds, but Ill take the same considerations for them as well.

Spring Garden Update

It is the very beginning of growing season here in Pennsylvania, so I thought I would share a garden tour before it gets too crazy.  A little background first: My house sits in rural Pennsylvania right in the middle of Amish Country.  I recently planted 10 new fruit trees and a perennial garden. I do keep an annual garden as well with traditional tilled beds as well as several raised beds.  I have a few laying hens and just started another round of broilers last week.  Turkey chicks will be arriving in about two weeks.  So, lets get started…

This is a shot of my perennial garden, or at least the start of it.  I have a few varieties of blueberries as well as raspberries in (They are the sticks you see every once in a while popping up).  As you have likely already guessed, these were bare root plants put in this winter and they haven’t started to leaf out as of yet.  In the bed to the right of the raspberries, I have strawberries almost ready to go in.  From left to right, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.

I’ll place two tarps over a 10 x 12 kennel for the broilers when they are ready to be outdoors.  I move this cage up and down the row about once a week to give them some fresh grass to feed on.  I have buckwheat planted in these bare gardens, ready to start sprouting.  I haven’t decided if I will till these under this year or chop and drop the buckwheat and plant directly in the beds. In all likelihood, it will likely be some combination of the two as a little experiment.

My compost pile is ready to go.  The pile in the back is a combination of horse manure and fallen leaves.  To give some reference of volume, I dumped 4 loads of manure from a 10 ft x 6 ft dump trailer, and 6 loads of fall leaves that I gathered.  The original pile was at least twice as big as this, before it composted down. Even with 10 full trailers of compost material I still do not have enough. I replenished my raised beds first, and will use any remaining compost as an adjunct when planting. The smaller pile is a load of fresh horse manure that I will compost in a separate area, and add to when the resource becomes available, so I can get a head start on next years supply.  I generally like to compost right in one of the garden beds because I would rather have any leachate and remnant compost to be right where I want it, in the garden.  I plan to use this bed for a crop of corn this year. An added bonus of composting in the bed is that it should aid in growing my heaviest feeder, corn.

These are some of my raised beds.  I established them in the fall two years ago, so this will be my first growing season with them.  I started with mushroom compost from a local nursery as a bottom layer, and then added added 6 inches of my home made compost to the top.  I repeated this process for the long wooden beds as well as the half barrels.  I obtained the barrels from a local dairy farmer.  They originally held an organic milking machine cleaner and they are food grade.  I think I paid $10 for each barrel, so that averaged $5 for each half.  I have 5 more barrels that need to be processed and will ad them sometime this spring giving me 10 additional round beds.

This is my mini orchard.  I planted 4 apple and two cherry last year, and added 10 additional bare root fruit trees this winter.  I actually got one apple (Gala) last year from a third year tree (first year for me), and surprisingly it was very good. I have 6 apple (Macintosh, Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji and 2 Honeycrisp), 4 cherry (Bing and Ranier), 2 plum, 2 peach and 2 chestnut.  I actually found an nursery in North Carolina selling American Chestnut so I was happy to add those.

Regarding my cold frame, I generally only use this for seed starting. I did have a setup in my basement with heating mats and shop lights, but have not been satisfied over the last year or so with this setup. The seedlings just didn’t seem to do as well as those started in the cold frame.  I’m not sure if it was an issue with the heat mat or the lights in general, but no matter, I prefer the cold frame anyway.

It still gets in the low 40’s and even the low to mid 30’s on occasion, so I added a ceramic heater at night.  I set it in the mid range and it keeps the cold frame in the 70 degree range.  I also have a fairly cheap remote thermometer I picked up at Lowes for $15 and have been very satisfied with it so far.  It really takes the guesswork out of trying to adjust the temperature of the frame based on observation alone.

These are my original raised beds I put in several years ago, and have grown just about everything in these. Since the addition of my other raised beds, I generally only put leaf vegetables, herbs and cutting flowers in these beds as they are close to the house and are easy access from the kitchen.

I also put in several varieties of bare root grapes this winter as well and am waiting for them to leaf out.  I am anxiously awaiting some fruit form these, but I know it will be several years before that happens.

I even have a little time to grow some oranges.  I wouldn’t suggest eating any of these though, well at least that’s what my brother said after I talked him into trying one. Apparently they are VERY sour!

If I see an open space anywhere, I try to put something edible in its place. Along the fence is a raspberry and a currant.  I have never had currents before so I thought I would give it a try, if I don’t like it, well I could always use another berry bush, maybe blackberry this time.

Anvil Restoration Part 2

In part 1 I shared my anvil restoration and a little history regarding anvils as well.

Today, I’ll complete the anvil restoration process with a stand for it. I reviewed multiple anvil stand builds on Youtube and found several that I liked and took some inspiration from them. We’ll see over time how well it works, hopefully it won’t fall apart in a year.

I started with a stack of 2×4 material from the local big box store. It took me a while, but I picked through the pile and pulled out a bunch.

 

I cut the 2x4’s into roughly 2 foot and 3 foot pieces and stacked them, while alternating every other row. I sunk 3 inch deck screws wherever it seemed reasonable.

 

After 15 alternating rows and a few pressure treated pieces on the bottom, I finally had it to the right height. Since my anvil is roughly 10 inches tall, when it is placed on top it will be roughly “knuckle height.” The general rule is to keep your anvil top to the height of your knuckles as you stand with your arms to your side for the ideal positioning of stock as you hammer.

I planned ahead (rare move for me) and placed the screws securing the top row around the sides and away from the middle of the stand. This way I could outline the base of the anvil and use my router to remove about a quarter of an inch of material to create a pocket for the anvil to slide into.

I finished off the anvil stand with some strapping material and secured it to the top. I purposefully placed the anvil to one side to expose the horn as well as give me a place to sit my hammer, tongs, etc., in a convenient, easy to get to spot.

Now, I can finally get some use out of my brake drum forge that I just built as well.

 

Garden Calendar: January

The Farmers Almanac tells us that in zone 6B, the month of January falls 12 – 16 weeks before the last frost date (April 23).

First thing first, I realize we discussed the frost dates in the introductory post and I stated that the Farmers Almanac is calling April 23rd the last frost date (LFD) for my area, however as I review several websites searching for planting guides, I noticed some significant discrepancies regarding this date. I have noticed LFD’s from as early as April 23rd to as late as May 15th.

Take it for what it is worth, with almost a month of varying dates, it is wise to simply pay attention to the weather and consider the adage of better safe than sorry. Transplanting seedlings in 50-60 degree weather for a few extra weeks, doesn’t give much advantage in my book, and the risk of losing a significant amount of your hard work due to frost is simply not worth the risk.

The Urban Farmer suggests that the first week of March is the earliest time to start seedlings indoors for cold hardy plants such as broccoli and cauliflower, so this being January we have plenty of time to prepare.

January is the month that I take inventory of all my gardening supplies, seed starting supplies, and seed stock. I will order any seed I need for the upcoming year that I haven’t saved from the previous season. I grow mostly heirloom and open pollinated vegetables so I save quite a bit. I do, however, incorporate fresh seed into the mix every 3-4 years as I am not the best at isolating my seed stock.

This is also the time that I run a few germination tests on my saved seed. I like to hit an 80% germination rate, if I don’t, its time to get fresh stuff. The last thing I want to do is waste my time starting a bunch of seeds that have no chance of producing for me.

There are generally a few days right after the new year that are not terribly cold, so I try to take this time to work on garden tools that are in need of repair and get my machinery up and running. Oil changes, general cleaning and sharpening are in order. This is the best time of the year to do these things, as there is little else going on and the last thing I want to do in the spring is stop what I am doing and tune up engines or sharpen tools.

I generally check my compost pile around this time of year as well with a compost thermometer. If it is still in the cooking range, generally around 120, I let it go for a few more weeks. If it is borderline or on the downtrend, I’ll turn it and check it again in another month or so.

I may actually consider starting herb seeds this year under my grow lights. I have always struggled with herbs as when it comes time to plant the seed, I usually get busy with other spring chores and lose sight of this task. I eventually end up directly sowing the seed in the spring and don’t give myself enough time to actually enjoy these herbs before they bolt in the summer.

This is also a good time to do any building for the spring planting. I have a goal to build a small cold frame for my uncle so he can start his seeds a little earlier as well. I would like to build a solar dryer for preserving vegetables as well, but we will see how it goes.

I will likely get to one of these projects but not both, because winter is generally the time of year where I can get out to the wood shop on a consistent basis, and I don’t want to spoil that time.

January is a relatively lazy month, when it pertains to gardening, so I will enjoy the rest. It won’t be long before I start asking myself where did all the time go….

 

 

 

Garden Calendar: Introduction

Winter gives the homesteader time to catch up on things and to prepare for the next growing season. Just as the soil and vegetation enjoys the resting phase, so do I. Personally I enjoy the break, but by February, I am usually chomping at the bit to get started again.

I thought it would be interesting to chronicle the activities I complete, or plan to complete, during each month of the year from a growing perspective.

Any timeline needs to have a starting and stopping point. I am not at all suggesting that the homesteader ever has a stopping point, but the growing season does to some extent. Currently I do not grow in greenhouses or cold frames (hopefully this will change someday) over the winter months (3 season garden) so I base my calendar according to the expected first and last frost dates for my area (Zone 6B).

I think it is important to mention that the frost date (either first or last), or as it is officially known as, “the average frost date for zone (Insert your zone here)”, is just that, an average frost date. Why is this important you ask? Because whatever date this falls on in your region, there is a 50% chance that you may have a significant frost event after the last frost date in the spring and before the first frost date in the fall.

Frost dates should be used as a guide and not gospel. According to the Farmers Almanac my zone’s (6b) last frost date is April 23rd and the first frost date is October 19th, giving me 179 frost free growing days. Remember this is an average frost date. I won’t consider planting cold sensitive vegetables until well after the last frost date in April. Even then I evaluate how the season has been going thus far (average day and night temps, rainfall, etc.) and make the decision to plant or hold off another week. Generally this him-hawing around has me planting around June 1st.

To be perfectly honest, I have been burned too may times by planting cold sensitive vegetables too early simply because I have been impatient and want to get something in the ground. For this reason, I generally do not plant any cold sensitive transplants before Mothers Day and I plan direct sowing by ear. Beats, lettuce, peas, potatoes, etc., go in as soon as I can work the soil. Something like corn, will usually wait until the end of April, and then get planted every two weeks for two or three sessions.

So, I guess that’s were we stand for now. I’ll try to post these articles in a timely manner, but I want them to be interactive as well, with actual pictures and descriptions of what I am doing so this will likely not be a “do this now” series, but more of a “look what I just did” perspective.

 

2nd Amendment Rights: My Thoughts

This post was originally written shortly after the San Bernadino attack. I had posted this on a previous blogspot blog, which I have since closed and carried over to this forum. The writing is a little old, but the sentiment still holds true.

Over the last few weeks, there have been two disturbing events carried out by terrorists, the first in Paris and most recently in San Bernardino Ca. Our presidents response to this was to call for more gun control laws and use these horrific events as a platform for his agenda. I find this to be disgusting.  He calls on the sympathy of the people to close “gun loopholes” and tighter restrictions on gun purchases.  He states that the best way to stop these events are to close these loopholes and restrict the sales of guns in America.  TRANSLATION: The President of the United States wants to deny US citizen’s their 2nd amendment rights, guaranteed to us under the constitution.

Our president is either lying to the people of the United States or he is ignorant. In fact, I believe he is both. If he were with me right now I would ask him how more restrictive background checks would have prevented these events? The truth is, they wouldn’t have prevented these maniacs from committing evil acts.

How does denying citizen rights prevent these massacres? It has been proven time and time again, that these gun law restrictions simply do not work. I have a better solution. What do you think would have happened if there were armed citizens carrying weapons in the immediate vicinity of the recent California shootings? In Paris? In the movie theatre in Colorado? In our children’s schools? I certainly do not believe that these events would have been prevented, but I am confident that the carnage would not have been as severe. You see the truth of the matter is, these events happened in gun free zones, where citizens had little chance to defend themselves. Gun free zones that our president and his fellow liberals worked hard to establish.  Our leadership has denied citizens of the United States the right to defend themselves while they, and their families, enjoy the benefit of armed guards 24 hours a day.

The fact of the matter is that the liberals have established a foothold in our nations cities. Where are economic policies failing? Where are violent crimes against each other occurring at a staggering rate? Where is a family most susceptible to physical or financial harm? The truth is, any of these events can happen to any American at any time, but the overwhelming concentration is in our cities where the liberal theories have condensed common sense into a talking point on some CNN agenda, otherwise ignoring it in daily practice.
Citizens of these metropolises have become so conditioned my liberal madness, that they have literally drank the Kool Aid for so many generations, they are oblivious to the true threat to their well being, and often take out their frustration on each other.
The FBI reports in 2014 that there have been 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013.

     1. 486 people killed, 557 wounded.

     2. Active shootings have occurred in 40 out of 50 states, including the District of Columbia

     3. 66% of these shootings ended before the police arrived.

     4. In 64 incidents the duration was 5 minutes or less, in 23 incidents, the duration was in 2 minutes or less.

FBI statement “Even when law enforcement was present or able to respond in minutes, civilians had often had to make life and death decisions, and therefore should be engaged in training and discussions on decisions they may face.”

The very best response times for police have been estimated at 5-7 minutes for shooting events.  According to the previous data, almost one half of these shooter events would have been over before the police arrived. Simply put, the police are not able to defend civilians during an active shooter event. The onus is upon us, citizens, to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and the liberals want to take that protection away from us while enjoying the liberties of armed guards everywhere they go. This double standard is simply unacceptable. What was the very first tactic Adolf Hitler used when enslaving the Jews in Nazi Germany, he took away their means to defend themselves. I’m not trying to make light of those horrific events nor am I incuinating that liberals are Hitler incarnates, but we all know how that turned out.

I have given myself to God, a lamb of God, a sheep in his flock. I refuse to be a sheep to another man. I believe in life ever lasting, but while here on earth I believe in the preservation of life for me and my family over the life of another man committing evil actions. Thou shall not kill, does not mean though shall not defend themselves, it means thou shall not commit murder.

Would we be so willing to give up our right to freedom of speech? Why is it so easy to protect the first amendment but not the second? If you will not Hear my words, then take heed to our forefathers:

     1. A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” – George Washington

     2. “That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of The United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms…” – Samuel Adams

     3. “…but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights…” – Alexander Hamilton

     4. “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” – Thomas Jefferson

     5. “Those who hammer their guns into plows, will plow for those who do not.” – Thomas Jefferson

     6. “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike especially when young, how to use them.” – Richard Henry Lee

     7. “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people.” – James Madison

     8. “…to disarm the people – that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” – George Mason

Some food for thought:

     1. What’s more frightening, being in the presence of a trained concealed weapons holder or a bad guy hurting you or your family and you have no means to help them?

     2. Isn’t it interesting that a large portion of the people trying to deny our 2nd amendment rights, are the same people that walk around all day with armed guards? (Politicians)

     3. When there is a legitimate threat to you or your families life, what would you rather have a gun or a cell phone. We know by the data discussed previously, it is reasonable to assume that a police officer will likely be there to take information after the fact, not to necessarily save your life in the immediate danger.

     4. My gun will never kill someone that is not trying to hurt me or my family.

     5. Consider the multiple school shootings, theatre shootings, news station shootings… if there were a concealed weapon carrier present with a gun, would it have been a different scenario?

     6. Background checks are a vehicle for the government to keep tabs on gun purchases. It is apparent that it does not deter bad people from doing bad things with guns or obtaining them.

     7. There are more gun laws in the US that I can count. Enforce the ones we have, not create new ones that do not work.

     8. There is only one way to eliminate all gun deaths, accidental or otherwise, and that is to eliminate all guns. Therefore let us also eliminate:

          a. Vehicle deaths by getting rid of all cars.

          b. Hospital deaths by getting rid of all doctors and nurses.

          c. Stabbings by getting rid of all knives.

          d. Plane deaths by eliminating all planes, and vehicles of flight.

Sound ridiculous to you?  Yes, me too, as ridiculous as taking our 2nd amendment rights from us.

The right to bear arms is just.  This right is based in scripture as well as a legal right according to the US and PA constitution. Pay particular attention to the statements of shall not. It is clear and concise. If I signed an agreement stating that I shall not <pick your scenario> then I would certainly struggle to legally back out of this agreement in any court of law, so why is it continued to be argued by politicians?  There is no room for interpretation or back door avenues to deny citizens these rights.

     SCRIPTURE

          1. Do we not remember David slaying the Philistine Goliath with a slingshot?

          2. Luke 22:36 And He (Jesus) said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.

          3. Genesis 14:14  And when Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

     US CONSTITUTION

          1. 2nd Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

          2. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that held the amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.

          3. In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Court clarified its earlier decisions that limited the amendment’s impact to a restriction on the federal government, expressly holding that the Fourteenth Amendment applies the Second Amendment to state and local governments to the same extent that the Second Amendment applies to the federal government.

     PENNSYLVANIA CONSTITUTION

          1. Right to Bear Arms Article 21: The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned.

          2. This is a statement of entirety, there is nothing else in the 21st article regarding this. This is the complete statement regarding this right, it is clear and concise.

Gunfacts.com

  • After passing their concealed carry law, Florida’s homicide rate fell from 36% above the national average to 4% below, and remains below the national average (as of the last reporting period, 2005).
  • Crime rates involving gun owners with carry permits have consistently been about 0.02% of all carry permit holders since Florida’s right-to-carry law started in 1988.
  • In Texas, murder rates fell 50% faster than the national average in the year after their concealed carry law passed. Rape rates fell 93% faster in the first year after enactment, and 500% faster in the second. Assaults fell 250% faster in the second year.
  • More to the point, crime is significantly higher in states without right-to-carry laws.
  • States that disallow concealed carry have violent crime rates 11% higher than national averages.
  • CCW holders have prevented or curtailed mass public shootings – Pearl, Mississippi (Pearl Junior High School), Edinboro, Pennsylvania (Parker Middle School), Winnemucca, Nevada (Players Bar and Grill), Colorado Springs, Colorado (New Life Church), just to name a few.
  • Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year or 6,849 every day. Often the gun is never fired and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.
  • 60% of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. 40% of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they thought the victim might be armed.
  • Washington DC has essentially banned gun ownership since 1976 and has a murder rate of 56.9 per 100,000. Across the river in Arlington Virginia, a distance of less than 10 miles, gun ownership is less restricted. There, the murder rate is just 1.6 per 100,000, less than three percent of the Washington, DC rate.
  • Every year, people in the United States use guns to defend themselves against criminals an estimated 2,500,000 times – more than 6,500 people a day, or once every 13 seconds. Of these instances, 15.7% of the people using firearms defensively stated that they “almost certainly” saved their lives by doing so.

I will gladly give up my gun, when the Washington Liberals give up theirs and put themselves on an equal playing field for violent acts by evil men, as they are asking my family to do.

The original inspiration for this post came from the following podcasts: The Christian Survival Network, The Handgun World Podcast and Gun Talk.

Deck Rebuild

I spent the better part of two weeks rebuilding our back deck. I should actually say, we, spent the better part of two weeks rebuilding the back deck.

I had looked into contracting this job and was given a quote of $5,000. This price was for labor only. Materials as well as stain/paint were on me. Being as frugal as I am, I brought in two of my nephews to give me a hand. These boys are 12 and 16 and did one heck of a job.

Without a doubt, I could not have done this without their help, thank you boys.

This deck was in bad shape, the balusters were falling off at a rate faster than I could replace them. The flooring had significant splits and checks that you wouldn’t dare walking on without shoes on. The railing was so warped, there were spots that you couldn’t put a cup down without it falling off.

The dimensions of this deck are approximately 80 feet by 30 feet. It is primarily pressure treated wood secured with nails. My father in law had been replacing boards and balusters one at a time for over a year, trying to salvage what we could in the hope that repairing it would save me some significant work and expense.

My wife’s parents actually pressure washed and re-stained this deck last year in an attempt to forgo a full rebuild for a few years. Needless to say it was too far gone, it was great after they were done, but looked terrible the following season. It was evident that this avenue wasn’t working so I decided to rip it up and replace everything.

The demo started and was a bear. It was in the mid 90’s almost every day with the heat index at 100 degrees or more. Most of the deck had been secured with nails and they popped up rather easily, but we had previously replaced about 10% of the floor and used 3 inch screws to secure them the previous season, so it was a mix of material to remove. We started tearing off every other row to give us somewhere to stand (and sit) to replace the previous rows.

Once the floor was done we started replacing all of the railing, supports and balusters. This took more time than I anticipated as the previous parts were so damaged, we didn’t trust them to be used for patterns, so we essentially measured and cut all of the angles to fit.

We decided it would be best to stain all of the railing parts prior to replacing them as this operation could be done in a gang as opposed to painting each individual piece after it had been secured. I am glad we had the foresight to do this, staining all of these balusters after they were replaced would have been a nightmare.

You may notice that not all of the supports are painted. We had a little “misunderstanding” regarding the count of materials. The balusters were spot on, but we neglected to multiply the supports by two, so we ended up with only half of the materials painted at the time of assembly. Rather than take the time and wait for the new parts to be stained, we decided to replace them as is with the painted pieces toward the bottom as these pieces would be the most difficult to paint later. The top sections could be painted without using a ladder from the outside to gain access.

The steps were the final part of the build process. The bottom supports were rotting, so they both needed replaced. We noticed that the stair stringers needed some serious reinforcement once we had all of the pieces off and could actually see the frame. Originally the stringer had only been secured with a few nails, so we beefed this up with a few lag bolts to the support posts and the deck. The stair threads (steps) themselves were also in pretty bad shape so we replaced them as well.

With all of the build complete it is now time to seal this thing up. Even though this is all pressure treated lumber, I decided to go with a premium stain and sealant, honestly because I want this deck to outlive me

Dog Days of Summer: Midsummer Harvest 2016

dog-daysIt is early August, summer is officially half over. In my zone (6B) the dog days are almost gone, there will be a few hot and humid days remaining, but generally not an entire month like July. We had roughly one inch of rain the entire month, but that’s still better than some parts of the country, I guess I shouldn’t complain.

This is the time of year where you sit back and start to take advantage of all the hard work that you put into your garden for the last 12 months. Peas have been picked and beets have been pickled. Actually I’m a little late in getting the fall peas in the beds, I’ll give it a go this weekend and see what happens.

We have been picking and pickling cucumbers for about a month now, and they are great, bread and butter are my favorite.

Onions are almost done and I have quite a few picked for storage. I even tried to pickle some homegrown carrots, we’ll see how this goes, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

We started picking tomatoes, banana peppers and even took an eggplant so far. Amish paste and Marglobe are the tomato varieties I like to grow. The Marglobes are an old heirloom variety my grandfather would grow in the 1930’s. They are great for fresh eating, and when added to the Amish Paste, this makes fantastic great tomato sauce. Bell peppers are plump, but I like to wait for them to turn color, that’s when they are the sweetest, green is just boring.

Two crates of potatoes are harvested and in the basement for storage. These Yukon Golds are the best in my opinion. They store really well, and taste better than any other potato I have ever had, especially when you grow them yourself.

I’m especially happy with these sunflowers this year.  I have no idea the variety or even producer, they were free samples from somewhere and I planted them as a “we’ll see what happens” theory.

The bees certainly like them, if you look close enough you can see their saddle bags are full of pollen.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the view from my front porch. Doesn’t get any better than this.

This is a past post from an old blogspot.com blog I have closed when coming to this venue. It is a little old, but the intent is still the same.

Blacksmith Anvil Restoration

The last time I traveled back to my old stomping grounds, my dad gave me a few relics from my grandparents farm. The farm is out of the family now and has been for almost 20 years. All that remains are a few of the things my dad and his siblings picked up before it was sold.

My dad took home the old Farmall Cub my grandfather bought over 60 years ago. More on this sometime later though, this post is about the blacksmith anvil. This thing was in pretty rough shape when I got it, even the wire wheel struggled to get through it.

I don’t know anything about anvils or blacksmiths, but I’m about to learn. I have some thoughts to build a forge and try my hand at it, but first I need a good anvil and that’s where this story starts.

After taking some time to wire wheel this thing down (my nephew helped as well), I looked for some sort of marking, but all I could find was something that looks like 1.0.16. I had no idea what this could have possibly meant so I simply Googled: Anvil 1 0 16. By the power of the internet, I actually got my answer. My initial guess was some sort of date, maybe January 1916, eehhh… I wasn’t even close.

It appears that these markings are identifying the weight of the anvil using the hundredweight system. I am familiar with some of the old world measurements such as grains, troy ounce, stones, etc., but I have never heard of the hundredweight system, expressed cwt. Apparently the first digit (1) designates the hundredweight (that happens to equal 112 lbs-go figure). The second digit (0) represents the quarterweight measurement (28 lbs). The last digit (16) represents whole pounds.

The second number (quarterweight) is never more than 3, otherwise it would be equivalent to one hundredweight (4 quarterweights) and the third digit is never more than 28 (1 quarterweight). The closest relationship I can come up with would be counting on an abacus, but even this is a very loose comparison as the abacus at least has the common courtesy to be expressed in multiples of 10’s. It’s no wonder Europe went to the metric system.

Having said this, this anvil weighs 128 lbs (1.0.16=112 +0+16). My understanding is that these measurements are relatively accurate +/- 1 lb. I actually weighed my anvil and…It was a lot closer than I thought.

I cannot seem to find a makers mark, so I am guessing that this anvil is English or Swedish as they used the hundredpound system.  American anvils were supposedly marked in straight pounds.

Anyway, I had been able to wire wheel everything down and put a coat of paint on it. I’m sure I am guilty of multiple blacksmith faux pas (what is the plural of faux pas anyway, faux pi?), but protecting this thing was more important to me than historical accuracy.

Not too bad for an amateur. There is one defect that I was not able to repair on the face edge, the next time I travel back to the rents, maybe I’ll drag this along and have my dad show me how to stick weld a repair to it.

Now all I need to do is just need to find some time to get this forge built and start banging some metal.