Merry Christmas! (Almost)
Just in case you’ve been wondering if we farmers here on Mitchell Family Farm ever have anything to do through the winter months and have thought we’re probably just sitting around twiddling our thumbs…I’m on a mission to prove otherwise! By the way, it did get cold since the last update. We saw a low of 6 degrees one morning! Glad the wind wasn’t blowing!
Dad was on vacation for a couple weeks and now he’s on a few weeks of temporary layoff. Boy has it been good having him home… Unfortunately we pretty well have put him to work and haven’t let up enough to have much "play time." We have tried to have some fun while working though which, if you know our family, can usually be done.
With Dad’s vacation starting Thanksgiving day we decided to do everything up right and we cooked over at G-Jean’s house most of the morning and got lunch ready quicker than we’d anticipated. Since it was just the six of us eating Thanksgiving dinner together we decided there wasn’t anything keeping us from having an early lunch so we dug in! After a wonderful meal and desert Dad and I headed out to work on welding the hog hut for most of the afternoon.
As is tradition we had to get Christmas decorations down for G-Jean either Thanksgiving day or the day after. Since we didn’t take time to get the decorations down Thanksgiving day it was a sure fire thing we had to get over to Granddad and G-Jean’s house and get everything down from the attic the following day! Dad, Jena and I spent most of the morning helping get all the Christmas decorations strung up around the house including the 35 year old artificial Christmas tree! While it’s loosing the original flocking each year we take something like the stuffing that goes in stuffed animals and flock the tree making it look like a heavy snow storm came through and it covers up most of the imperfections. We can’t get rid of the tree now…it’s a tradition!
Once all the Christmas decorations were up Dad and I started plowing after lunch with the Kubota and walking plow. It was a beautiful day with temperatures reaching up in the 60’s! Plowing just as long as daylight permitted and a little beyond we quit and waited until the next morning to finish our plowing marathon of about 1-3/4 acres. With Dad and I trading off driving the Kubota over the rough ground and plowing we both got to where steering the walking plow was starting to get easier unless we really hit a patch of hard ground. That hard ground syndrome came quite often in our clay soil…almost always a stretch in every round. One section with a particularly thick stand of clover was extremely "tight" and came up in big chunks of soil instead of crumbling.
All 28 horses in the little Kubota’s engine were saying our 12" walking plow was all she wanted to pull when plowing deep and we hit a hard spot! No wonder the Belgians were saying that plow was too much!
Randy Boss of Wild Cat Trucking hauled in a couple loads of gravel to help fill in the mud hole around the big hoop house and start a big circle drive around the hoop house going back to the county road so CSA members and customers can drive by the garden on their way home after picking up their share!
Some of the garlic is coming up through the mulch so I’m hoping all is set for a wonderful growing season and harvest next year!
By the following morning (December 2nd) our weather was changing rapidly and we had an alternating light mist, sleet, light rain, snow mixture falling from the sky most of the morning, and the wind was coming across the country too! A big thanks to Curtis, a brave volunteer that came over and helped me dig out the corner and brace post holes for the west fence’s gates! Starting out I’d hoped it would warm up enough to pour concrete around the posts, but the temperature kept dropping throughout most of the morning! Not completely surprising for Kansas it did warm up a bit (still cool) and the sky cleared, turning out to be a sunny day by that afternoon, but I was unable to pour the concrete.
With the weather report I decided to not heat the hoop houses for the small amount of produce that was left in them. Since the skies were clear our thermometers started dropping with the sun and kept dropping all night until they hit a low of 11! My what a change from the beautiful 60 degree weather we’d had just a few days before! The temperatures climbed slowly the next day hitting a high in the 30’s and then dropping back again down into the 20’s that night. After our low of 11 I decided to go check the next afternoon around 1:00 and there was still ice in the middle of several different crops!
By December 5th we’d had enough cold weather to form the first skim of ice for this season across the ponds. Later in the morning once it had warmed above freezing I planted a couple of fruit trees in the orchard which had arrived just prior to the big dip in temperatures!
After the plowing was completed Dad and I worked on the hog hut here and there as we could get time between other projects. December 7th only hit a high in the 30’s and after working on the hog hut for a while we decided it was a good day to decorate our house! It took a good section of the day to get things dug out of the "wash house" where our decorations were stored, unpack and clean up some things, set up the tree, get the old strings of lights working again and then hang them in the house and around the tree.
December 8th, 2009, a day that will live in Mitchell family memory! That was the day Dad and I started the process of setting up a filing system and clearing off my desk! It took many, many hours and several days of work to finally actually see the top of my desk! However with the cold temperatures, the winds blowing and damp or misty conditions, we weren’t missing all that much fun outside. Although, I would’ve preferred working outside sometimes while in the middle of trying to sort everything out!
Taking a break from the filing system the next day, December 9th the entire family, all six of us, baked cookies together! There was a gale blowing outside and our high for that day was only in the mid 20’s, but we had lots of fun baking inside! It was almost even a little too warm inside with the oven going all day!
G-Jean has baked lots of cookies around Christmas for many years of her life. This tradition started before Dad was born and as Dad grew up she and Dad always baked lots of cookies. She continued the tradition for several years after Dad grew up, married and moved away and then Jena and I came along. It was just a Christmas tradition for Jena and I to bake cookies with G-Jean each year. However, the last few year’s everyone has been busy and we haven’t kept up the tradition of baking lots of cookies and have only made a few kinds. This year, on the other hand, we made thirteen different recipes totaling to about 102 dozen cookies (we didn’t count each cookie so that’s just a rough estimate) plus 6 lbs. of fudge and lots of mints! In our cookie count we included no-bake cookies, "strawberry" cookies (shown in the picture) hay stacks and chocolate hay stacks as well. We had lots of fun and still had a few more kinds of cookies we hadn’t made when we quit. By the end of the cookie baking we were ready to call it a day and were so tired of cookies they didn’t even sound good to eat!
The morning after all our cookie baking we woke up to nearly all the red stuff having leaked out of the thermometers! Ok, so it wasn’t that bad, but the low of 6 certainly felt coolish! I was very glad our high winds from the day before had calmed so that the cold didn’t bite so bad.
I had planned on attending the Broadaway Christmas get together the 12th (G-Jean’s side of the family) but came down with some kind of "bug" and ended up having to stay home. The next day our friend, Sherlyn, from Tulsa, came up to visit and after a good lunch and afternoon visit she started back home. However, man made mechanical equipment has a tendency to go out just when you least expect or want it to and her car started acting up as she neared Independence on her way home. Sherlyn ended up having to leave her car at the dealership in Independence and spend the night with us. Monday, the mechanics found some of the problems and thought they’d have it ready the next day so Sherlyn took a day of vacation to stay. By Tuesday mid-morning the car still wasn’t fixed and there were a few more complications discovered so Mom took Sherlyn back to Tulsa to keep her from using any more of her vacation waiting for her car to get fixed.
I can’t believe I missed the exact day Dad and I finished clearing my desk, but it was probably about Wednesday, December 16th! That was a good feeling to have when we could actually SEE the desk instead of where it was supposed to be under the two foot high piles mounting up all over it! From the information and materials cleared off my desk Dad and I made over 250 files to categorize and organize it all! Note: The photo shows a working desk must always have a few important papers on it such as a sweet potato plant company’s catalog laid there shortly after the filing process was done…however, the catalog does have a file number now!
It seems as though things kept coming up shortly after we’d start working on the hog hut causing us to only get an hour or two’s work in before having to quit on it. One day it was loading the feed barrels so Granddad could go get feed for us and then unloading the four tons of feed when he got back. I suppose that’s the way life is though so we’d better learn how to get along with it and go on from there. We finally finished the hog hut enough it was usable so we moved it out to the pigs once we completed it about dark December 19th! It was a good feeling to have that off our minds and finished!
On a couple of our warmer sunny days G-Jean has been out in the hoop houses cleaning the old crop residues out. They are now ready to compost so they’ll enrich the soil next season.
Practically all the garden seed is ordered now and we need to plant onion seed as soon as possible!
Well, I started out this update with the purpose of proving that we hadn’t been sitting around on our hands even though no updates have been sent out… Are you convinced yet? If not maybe this partial winter need-to-do list will help:
Finish setting corner and brace posts along West fence, build new pasture paddock fence for pigs, fasten down bottom of the chicken palace plastic for winter, plant onion seed, prep hoop houses for next spring’s crops, finish taking the Ford tractor’s engine apart, rebuild Ford tractor’s engine, clear 1/2 mile fence line of brush and take out old wire where necessary before installing the new wires, mulch strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and asparagus, finish cleaning up old garden crop residues, make tomato and pepper cages, finish fixing up the disc cultivator, reroute water drainage through barnyard and around house, fertilize where next year’s new black berry plants will be planted, work on some government paper work, and the list could go on, but I think you get the general gist!
We’ve had a few cute new lambs born since the last update!
Don’t forget the true reason for celebrating the Christmas season. It all happened about two thousand years ago in a stable when a child was born… And his name was Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
May you have a blessed Christmas this year with friends and family. Don’t forget to take time and thank God for His most precious gift, His son, Jesus Christ. Have you accepted Jesus into your life as your personal Lord and savior? Jesus Christ loved the world so much (and you specifically) that he died on the cross to take our sin (that includes yours) upon Himself. Now you have a choice…either you can accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior, taking up your cross daily to follow Him through your everyday life, and be saved, or choose the alternative of denying Him and going to a real live hell…there’s no middle ground and the decision is eternal. What’s your decision today?
While the above decision is the most important one you’ll ever make, living for Christ doesn’t mean you can’t ever have fun either…
Farmer Josh and the Mitchell Family