Chainsaw Review

Chainsaw Review

Husqvarna Rancher 455 — A Workhorse

chainsaw review
Husqvarna Rancher 455

This is one of the best tools that I own. My property is 12 acres and about 4 of those are woods.  Because of that I wanted a workhorse and I got one in this model.  It starts reliably. The handling is good for it’s size.  I must mention that you need to consider safety around any instrument like this and know what you are doing.  You must respect the power of a tool like this.

Maintenance

When I bought this I went ahead and bought everything that I needed to go along with it.  A nice grease applicator for the bar gear at the end.  A big ole jug of bar oil. Anew can to mix the two-stroke fuel/oil combination (50:1 for this model).  I made one mistake with the maintenance on this chainsaw since I have had it.  I removed the side cover with the safety bar engaged.  This made it difficult to line up the sprocket for the safety mechanism for reassembly.  A quick jump to a video online helped me to rectify the problem.  You have to use a screwdriver to carefully turn the sprocket to the on position so the chain will move.  I only mace that mistake once.  Keep it clean and you can beat it like a rented mule.  I generally do a pre-work check every time I use it.  This includes greasing the front sprocket, filling bar oil, cleaning inside, and chain tension adjustment.

Blade Sharpening

The most dangerous chainsaw is one with a dull chain.  It kicks back, gets stuck, and slows you down.  Don’t do it.  If you don’t want to sharpen your own chains, buy extras and get them sharpened regularly.  You will know when they need it. Options for sharpening are a local shop or do-it-yourself at home.  There are many options for self-sharpening.  I use the Timberline which I will review separately.

All in all, this Husqvarna is a real nice piece of equipment.  I love mine and you will love yours too.

chainsaw review

Winter Farm Projects

Farm Work Never Ends

When retirement comes I am certain we would be in Florida by now.  However, I maintain an off farm position. Our fifth year at FiveDollarFarm has seen better planning and job completion primarily due to learning how to manage our time better. Below are some of our winter projects.  Improvement never ends if you are committed to it. Come along and grow with us.

Bee Hives for Spring

Spring will see the completion of two newly populated hives.  Pollination of our orchard will be better than ever this year.  Bees love apple blossoms.  These are homemade.  I made a finger joint jig to help make the work flow like a river. All that’s left it finish with ‘two coats of paint.

winter farm projects

Electric Line Repair

The man who fixed the plumbing wrecked the electric. His excavator nicked the underground 3/0 line that provides 100 amps to the garage and greenhouse.  I dug it up but had to hire an electrician to do the work as I wanted it done correctly.  You can see how contact with the ground oxidized the aluminum wire very quickly. as I measured the voltage on that leg on the ends it dropped 10 volts a week until nothing was left.

winter farm projects

Firewood and Dead Tree Removal

I had a tree to be cut down but just couldn’t get to it in the spring.  This was an ash tree that fortunately seasons very quickly so I can burn it this year. I surprised myself with a first fairly level cut whilst holding the saw on the horizontal.  See the Husqvarna chainsaw review here.

winter farm projects

Stay tuned as we find more fun things to do on the farm this winter.

 

Tomato Varieties Planning for Spring

Tomato Varieties

It seems too early to begin planning for what tomato varieties you want to grow next year.  Businesses are thinking about it and you should too.  Keeping records of what you grow and how successful you are is important to future success. Growing too many tomato varieties will become overwhelming. You will be more successful with fewer varieties. You can give each one more attention.

tomato varieties

Start Small

For the novice or beginner, select five types to start with.  Two or three for eating and two for preserving.  And maybe one or two to experiment with.  If you consider two varieties as experiments you will not have high expectations and will learn much more.  We experiment with more varieties every year now.  We have a desired outcome.  In our top five are ‘Sun Gold‘ from Johnny’s, ‘Big Beef‘ also from Johnny’s  , and one more from Johnny’sPink Beauty‘.

Seed Quality

For years we used seed from different sources. Using seed from a reliable source is important because you don’t want to waste your time.  To be successful, model success.  We use Johnny’s almost exclusively now because of reliability.  Quantity discounts are considerable as well.  Using seed from prior years give marginal results as we have found and generally discard any unused seed.  We have kept seeds from our favorite varieties to grow the following year.

Plant Location

Plant location is important so think about it now.  We have grown tomatoes in the same area two years in a row but most would not recommend it.  We take other precautions so we do not think we are affected as greatly.  Consider sun availability, drainage, wind direction and breaks, and nuisance animals for your location.  We had to fence off our main growing area as deer trample anything in their path.

Quantity Considerations

Too many plants are always started on FiveDollarFarm.  We end up selling or giving many away. It is better to have too many than not enough in our opinion.  We have plenty of room in our greenhouse so we generally don’t worry about how many plants we are starting.  As they grow and continue to need more room, transplanting will quickly take up a significant amount of space.  We go from seed trays to 4 inch pots after about 2-3 weeks.  This gives us a nice hardy plant when it’s time to harden off and plant out.

spring greenhouse

Keep Notes

Until recently I never kept notes on what we were doing in our garden.  Now I write extensively about my observations.  As my friend Tony says, “A life worth living is a life worth documenting.”  Experiment, play, have fun, and be joyous in the harvest that is given to you.

Peace, love, and farming.

Top Ten Winter Vegetables

Swiss Chard

winter vegetables
Swiss Chard

White-stemmed forms tend to be hardier than their red counterparts, so expect the latter to turn to mush in harsh frosts (but if you’re lucky they’ll re-sprout a crop of new leaves in spring before running to seed). I’m never without a row or two of Swiss chard. The ‘Bright Lights’ selection (Johnny’s ) is a cheery mix of whites, yellows and reds. The best chard I’ve found for eating quality is red-stemmed ‘Fantasy’ (Thompson & Morgan) – if anyone’s got any experience of how robust this is, I’d love to know as I sowed it in a mild winter. A tunnel cloche of fleece is handy.

Leeks

Leeks are an absolute must on a winter plot, as they’re great for combining with, for example, potato for soup, chicken for pies, a rich cheese sauce – they’re also excellent just sweated off with butter and black pepper. If rust is a problem in your area (it tends to be more problematic in mild, moist autumns) choose a variety showing strong resistance such as ‘Oarsman’ (Marshalls). Leek moth is more widespread these days (it used to be just confined to the south), so if it’s known in your neighborhood, cover plants with fine mesh netting. Purple-leaved varieties tend to be hardier, such as the French classic ‘Bleu de Solaise’ (Real Seeds) and the British bred ‘Northern Lights’ (Dobies).

Kale

winter vegetables
Kale

A row of black Tuscan kale (such as ‘Nero di Toscana’, from Real Seeds, who have a mouth-watering selection of kale varieties) is a welcome treat on any plot. The leaves are of the darkest bottle green and the taste is as robust as the vegetable itself – great with liver and bacon or a hearty lamb stew. Grow yourself some sturdy plants by autumn, and they stand there, proud as you like, till they run to seed in spring. By that time you’ll have had multiple winter harvests from them.

Cabbage

I like Johnny’s Storage No. 4. I’m sure there are other great winter cabbages available, but there’s something incredibly appetizing about those deep green crinkly leaves. The outer foliage may well get ravaged by caterpillars and dirtied by soil, but the tightly-packed heart will escape unharmed, ready to be sliced, lightly boiled or steamed and dressed with butter and black pepper – casserole fodder like no other. Winter-cropping plants are incredibly forgiving, as long as they’re given the chance to build up a strong root system in summer. Good-sized heads will naturally follow. ‘Storage No. 4’ (Johnny’s ) is a favorite of mine because it’s compact and stands incredibly well through the winter. It’s an F1 hybrid.

Brussels Sprouts

Again, I’ve memories ingrained about standing in a large field of sprouts on freezing cold days. My brother and I were given the job of removing the lower leaves as they yellowed and would be bent over double in our oilskins, in fits of laughter, as we grabbed the leaves and threw them over our shoulders to cover whichever poor soul happened to be standing behind us (generally a parent). Childish I know, but it makes me smile whenever I pick sprouts these days. Anecdotes aside, ‘Diablo’ (Johnny’s) is always the variety we choose to grow – it’s an F1 hybrid with a deliciously mild taste. Beginner growers take note: plants need to be sown in April for a winter harvest; sprout tops are delicious, too.

Spinach

I was recently surprised how hardy annual spinach is – to me it looked quite a delicate, soft leaf but as an experiment, I left an August sowing of ‘Tetona’ (Nicky’s Nursery) over winter last year on the allotment, alongside ‘Reddy’ (Kings). Both provided pickings all through winter (uncloched) and well into spring – I’ll definitely be doing that again. ‘Tetona’ is a classic arrow-shaped green spinach; the leaves developed a beautifully meaty thickness and deep color as the weather cooled, but they remained incredibly tender. The foliage widened and hugged the ground for warmth so needed a good wash. ‘Reddy’ is a different beast altogether.  Its leaves became much more spear-like (a little like a dandelion), and the taste wasn’t as buttery, but the prolific harvests of melting foliage let me forgive that fact.

Parsnips

Coming in to a steaming bowl of curried parsnip soup is blissful after a spell out in the cold, so make sure you have a row of these hearty roots handy. There are a few things to watch for: the seed’s shelf life is short so buy fresh each year; avoid over-rich soils, as this can give excess leaf at the expense of root; don’t sow too early as germination will be poor on cold soils and it also increases the likelihood of canker disease; sow seeds in clumps in the soil, then thin to the strongest seedling. Don’t let all this put you off.  Just sow little clusters of fresh seeds in May and avoid being heavy-handed with the fertilizer. There are some great canker-resistant varieties out there: ‘Javelin’ (Johnny’s).

Jerusalem Artichokes

winter vegetables
Jerusalem Artichokes

I’ve never bought Jerusalem artichoke tubers. This is the thing with these sunflower relatives.  Once you’ve got them you’re never without them which, if you like them, is rather handy. The swollen tubers can reach deep into the soil, especially sandy ones, so despite all your digging efforts you’ll never get them all out. Plants grow tall – 6-8ft at least – so utilize this by making them into a windbreak for more delicate crops. Introduce them gradually into your diet, because they contain inulin rather than starch and once this reaches our large intestine, digestive bacteria have a bit of a party converting this into gas. Lots of gas. They’re delicious roasted, having a sweet, nutty, melting flesh a little like a mild parsnip. I’ve not tried them as a soup yet but apparently this is good, too.

Broccoli

Most of us are familiar with the purple form of this brassica (affectionately referred to as PSB).  It is one of my favorites. There is also a white form, which is underrated, prolific and delicious. This type make large plants when grown well – at least 1m tall and wide – and they need to be sown in April in order to give you crops worth waiting for. The classic season for this plant is early spring (when growing, for example, ‘Red Fire’ from Johnny’s) and such old types are reliably hardy. Improvements in spear size and expansions of seasons have led to some varieties being less hardy. So a harsh frost would knock things on the head. I’m an old stick in the mud here and like the ones I grow.

Cauliflowers

Beginner gardeners take note: winter- and spring-cropping caulis are far easier to grow than summer or autumn ones. Pop yourself a few plants in, in June or July, water well to avoid any check in growth.  The impressive curds come the cool season. Wider spacings (80-100cm) will give you larger curds – great for big families. Plant closely (20cm apart each way in a grid) for mini-curds, ideal for one person portions. ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Aalsmeer’ and ‘Mayflower’ (all Mr Fothergill’sand all with an RHS AGM) will together give a good harvest over a long period. Try ‘Clapton’ if clubroot is a problem in your area, because it shows resistance to this troublesome disease.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

A Time to be Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving! This is one of my favorite holidays.  The people I love the most come to FiveDollarFarm and celebrate.  They tell us how much has happened in the past year.  We invite strangers that have no where to go.  They meet new caring people and the world get a little better.  One forkful of wonderful nourishment at a time.  How can you not love that?

happy thanksgiving

A Bountiful Harvest

This year we received an abundance of produce from the earth.  We learned many new lessons about caring for plants and animals.  Infrastructure improvements continue.  Neighbors became better friends.  The bookshelf received many new volumes.  At church new friends were made.  Heat is provided by trees we fell.  Memories were made.  We care for strangers that cross our path and need help.

We only hope to have another year that has been as good as this one.  I could go on about all the wonderful experiences we have had this year but I think you understand.  My hope is that your year was even better and the next even more so.

Happy Thanksgiving!

happy thanksgiving

Eating Healthy Once Again

Nutrition is the Key to Good Health

Today I go to see my cardiologist.  I will be in his office in about four hours from now.  I had a conversation with my wife this morning regarding that visit and how I envisioned it would go.  Sadly, I do not think that my cardiologist really has my health as a top priority of his.  It is definitely not nearly important to him as it is to me.  I need to determine my best interests myself and not be mindfully captivated by what this so-called cardiology expert’s opinion of my health really is.

eating healthy
If I had spinach like this as a kid I would have eaten it everyday.

Everyday is a New Day

I have set down to determine what I should be doing, how I should be doing it, and when I will be doing it.  This mostly involves my lifestyle choices, primarily what I choose to eat.  Let me stress that just a little bit differently since it really is a life and death issue for me.  This mostly involves what food I put in my mouth.  My gut instinct is that our nutrition and eating habits are the number one most important factor in determining the state of our health.

As I contemplate this choice that we have, I have realized slowly but surely that our healthcare system, our food production system, and yes, even my cardiologist, have their own well-being as their primary concern in their lives.  I shouldn’t be so upset about this but I am somehow.  Follow along with me as we make the changes necessary to take control of our own lives in every way that we can.  This will primarily concern our health, but you will learn that I have discovered that everything in the universe of universes works together as an orchestration to make you who you are.

 

 

“Blind and unforeseen accidents do not occur in the cosmos. Neither do the celestial beings assist the lower being who refuses to act upon his light of truth.”

Immediate Health Benefits

Blood pressure, pulse, weight, and an EKG were completed rather quickly.  Everything looked good although I did not have my bloodwork completed.  This means no one really knows what my triglyceride levels are right now but they were really, REALLY bad when I had them done in May.

I had a brief conversation with my cardiologist.  He is a good doctor and a sweet man but as I stated, he ultimately is not interested in my health the way I am or the way I should be.  Everyone slips once in a while and eats something they shouldn’t although others are reckless and just don’t care.  I am more of the former.  Watch what happens now.

eating healthy
This was the haul for one day, much more than we could consume.

I am going to take control of my own well-being and personal health.  My life will be the way that I design it. Share with others the knowledge you learn about healthy eating, lifestyle, and general health.  I have new empowering beliefs.  You will accomplish any task that you decide to undertake.  I determine my own destiny by my decisions and my actions.

Peace, Love, and Farming.

 

 

Becoming Simple

Mastering Small, Simple Tasks

This past weekend was the first weekend where we had a chance to slow the pace down and relax a bit after all the chaos we have recently experienced.  I was able to get a number of small things done that had been bothering me only slightly.  For instance, the front driveway light on the lamppost was not working.  After trying three different bulbs, I determined I must have hit the electric line with the weed whacker.  Simple ten minute fix once I determined what the issue was. (More on this important topic here.)

I moved on to completing an important task of clearing off a storage rack and then moving it out of the way so I could fit the Mahindra tractor into the garage for winter storage.  I was originally concerned that I would not have enough room to maneuver around it once it was in there but I was pleasantly surprised once it was that I had ample room to navigate around the tool benches.

As we get to the time of year where we can slow down a bit I tend to read more and spend only slightly more time indoors depending on the weather.  I have been reading a book by Eliot Coleman The Winter Harvest Handbook.  This is a very insightful publication for anyone who is interested in farming or making their farming better.  While reading this book I had somewhat of an epiphany.  Over the course of my adult life I have had the habit of making tasks more complicated and difficult than they need to be.  I also have thought that someone would always be there to scrutinize my work and tell me that it was wrong or not good enough.  More on that at a later time.

Yesterday as I took inventory of my available seed stock I realized I had more than I needed on hand and didn’t need to order as much as I initially thought.  As I sat and pondered if the seed was still viable I also thought I will just put it in the starting process and see if it germinates.  If it does, that’s great. If it doesn’t, I will get some more.  How simpler could it be?

becoming simple
Child Tying Shoe

I have now become determined to simplify as many aspects of my life as possible.  Can’t get water to the greenhouse?  Put some water in a can or container and carry it to the greenhouse.  How simple is that?  All our plans don’t have to be 12 month plans, but they can be 21 day plans as that is the maturity to harvest with the radish seeds I have.

We have a tendency to get caught up in our own devices and always or almost always make tasks much more difficult as they need to be.  I have determined that 2017 will be the year of simplification for me and we shall do the most with the little that we have.

Leave a comment and let us know what you can do more of with less.

 

 

The Minute Details of Farming

Yearning to Have a Small Farm

Recent trends indicate that more younger people want a small farm. New farmers but might be discouraged by initial capital outlay, lack of resources, or a bevy of other challenges.  FiveDollarFarm started with an older couple that just flat out wanted to do something different.  Purchasing the land to farm was not so much an issue as the knowledge of how to farm which seemed to be wanting.  By sheer determination we decided to reclaim the knowledge that almost everyone in the world before us had known and utilized.  And what we couldn’t we would learn by trial and error.

Small Farm Important Lessons

One of the first important lessons we learned was about timing and we still don’t have it down completely but are much better off than we were originally.  Food can be grown in specific seasons and not when others arrive.  By most don’t know how long the “shoulder” seasons are and variety of crops that can be grown within them.  Crops such as cabbage, carrots, lettuces, beets, Brussels sprouts, and others can be grown the weather doesn’t instinctively seem conducive to do so.  In our opinion, many of these crops taste better having been grown in a colder season that includes a frost or two.

 

A Winter Garden

 

We are attempting to manage our timing for planting and harvesting on our small farm.  We also care for our crops with the use of technology through calendars and such, a benefit our grandparents never had.  They also did not have the distractions of answering phone calls and texts messages either.  We do utilize hand written notes and notebooks for records. We use the Google calendar mostly for remainders of upcoming events.

Another issue we have had to deal with on our small farm is quantity.  I have a tendency to plant a much greater quantity of each vegetable than we will ever consume. Field space was not available so many plants were discarded.  We are utilizing spreadsheets to plan quantities more effectively so that we are not nearly as wasteful.  An added benefit is that this process helps us to manage our space in the greenhouse better.  As an aside, it was a personal growth experience for me. I realized I had issue from my youth on wasting resources.  I determined I had to let this go and instead made a neuro-association to observe all the abundance that God has given us.  We also attempt to charitably contribute any excess we generate to local organizations or our church.  Thank you Tony Robbins for the guidance.  You can read about him here.

At some times during this fall we had counters full of tomatoes that we had difficulty consuming or finding the time to process by canning.  We did end up putting aside a significant amount of tomatoes and sauces from home canning.  We did not get a chance to make pickles as we normally do but we expect to be able to do that next year.

 

Canning Tomatoes

 

So as you see there are many challenges to be a new farmer.  That does not stop us here at FiveDollarFarm.  We provide for ourselves and our family through determination. We will assist those in need in our community.  If you a new to farming or live a rural lifestyle and have some advice for anyone, please leave a message below.  We would love to hear what you think.

 

End of Year Farm Report

Farm Report

Here it is in mid-October and I find myself online looking at all the many of varieties of tomatoes that are available for sale.  I quickly became frustrated and literally had to walk away from the computer and get myself a cup of coffee.  I did get back to it eventually after giving some thought to what I had learned this year about all the different things we did successfully and also the challenges we faced whilst growing our tomatoes and other crops.

First I will list some of the expectations I had for the tomatoes that we grew and what actually ended up happening to that particular concern or area of focus.  I must tell you that it was a difficult summer for our family as your patriarch and author had some difficult health challenges to deal with.  That in itself was a challenge and was definitely unexpected but thankfully my beautiful bride stepped in to save the day again. (She always does)  The reason I point this out is for a gentle reminder to all that “We plan and God laughs.”

 

Weeding and Watering

— Last year we recognized quite early that most of our disappointment came from two main areas that we did not focus on in particular.  Watering.  This was not just with our tomatoes but with all of our plants, mostly vegetables but some landscape perennials as well.  Weeding was the other.  How we dealt with it was not that extraordinary.  We created an infrastructure plan to provide water to our newly built greenhouse and growing area with plans to enhance it later on by drilling a well out in the growth area as we expect to grow and thrive in the future. For the weeding, we dedicated time to actually get out there and pull some weeds.  Also we learned of multiple efforts of some like Curtis Stone to grow in such a manner as to prohibit weeds from overtaking areas by methods I call “gang-cropping.”

The results while initially seeming unspectacular were actually quite good.  We had such a blessed abundance of items for consumption and even managed to sell some to our close friends.  The water project is not totally completed but is well on it’s way to making next year more successful.  We laid a polyethylene pipe from our surface well into a trench that runs to the greenhouse.  Both ends need to be plumbed, one with a shallow well jet pump and the other with a pressure tank  and piping needed for greenhouse and field.

Plant Spacing

— In the greenhouse we utilized boxes constructed of 2″ x 12″ lumber to grow in.  We bought 2 of these that were 12 feet long and cut off a 4 foot piece for the ends resulting in a 4′ x 8′ box.  We filled each with our special soil mixture of peat moss, decomposed double-ground  hardwood bark mulch, and composted horse manure.  However, in the box where the cucumbers were grown we put too many plants in one area and it quickly became overwhelming.  We pruned back the plants significantly but they may have made them grow even faster.  In the end we generated quite a large harvest but our technique is not recommended.  In the field the spacing seemed to work to our advantage as the close proximity of the plants blocked the sun so that weeds could not overtake the area.

A note about spacing as well in the greenhouse is worth mentioning here.  We are still learning how to best utilize the space in that resource as well.  Also added was a heat source being a “Warm Morning” coal heater that we found for sale cheaply.  We haven’t decided if we will heat the greenhouse all winter or just extend the shoulder seasons.  Stay tuned to see how it works out for us.

Simple box construction to grow hydroponic vegetables.

Variety Selection

–Another challenge we faced was my personal ambition to do too much all the time.  I wanted to grow a large variety of plants to have available for our own use as well as to sell to others.  Unfortunately, our learning curve reminded us that we are not that experienced with growing certain varieties.  This year some of our crops did very well and we learned how to grow them successfully.  For example, our tomatoes came our very well and we put up about 100 pints of tomatoes in a variety of forms such as pizza sauce.  I think our sauce came out much better than last year mostly because of the  way we processed it and secondly because of the variety we selected.  It is very satisfying to put food away for use later.  It gives me a great sense of independence.  We did have to deal with the cursed “tomato hornworm.”

By focusing on a smaller variety and learning them well we did much better with those particular plants like red beets, carrots, spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts.  To think all that our grandparents knew how to do that we forgot in a mere two generations.

One other note on variety selection is that we were very successful with some tomato varieties.  I have gathered many seeds from the tomatoes that we successfully grew this year for use in our operation next year.  It doesn’t take much effort and your cost savings can end up being significant if you maintain your own varieties.  Eventually we may do some experimentation with plant genetics.

As we approach our downtime and off season now in the winter that is usually our planning time, I am thinking more about what needs to be done and how we should do it next year.  I remain very humbled knowing I am blessed with all the gifts that God has given to us.  Working on our farm is a priceless treasure that I would not trade for any item or any amount of money.

Leave a note with your thoughts and sign up for our email list to be notified when new information is available.

God bless.

 

 

Fall on a Farm

Orange is the Color of Fall

Fall harvest on our farm is a wonderful time.  So many things happen when autumn arrives on a farm even a small one like ours.  We have been blessed to learn so many new and improved concepts this growing season.  Our tomatoes have been outstanding this year and we have made a great quantity of sauces by canning tomatoes.  We have had to deal with some tomato pests such as the tomato hornworm.  We kept to our self-made promise to not use any chemical sprays on or near the food we intend to consume.

 

fall harvest

 

The children had a fun summer that included swimming almost every day.  Some days we had a difficult time getting them out of the pool for supper.  I have a great relief that the children can swim.  I won’t feel uneasy about them being around or in the water.  Much time was spent with them in the pool.

We did not get away for vacation this year as we have decided previously that we would stay here and prepare for our wedding celebration on the farm in October.  Friends and family will arrive mid-month to help us celebrate John and Michelle’s matrimony on a special fall day.  We are also having a gathering the next day following the reception before our families leave to head home.  It will be a nice fall time on the farm.

 

fall harvest

 

The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are going lower at night but still get quite warm in the middle of the day.  Plants put in the last great effort to store energy for winter dormancy.  It is a transition time that we love and stop to reflect on what we have accomplished and how to make constant and never-ending improvements in our farm and live personally.

Enjoy the Fall.