A Little Retreat from the Pennsylvania Winter

My parents have a place in Florida that they retreat to for the winter. Mostly my mother, however my father has been staying a little longer as the years progress. This year, my mother had asked two of my daughters to drive her car down and she was going to fly in. Somehow, that turned into a mini family get away for most of us.

My daughters drove their grandmother to the airport and continued their journey to Florida, three days later. my wife, Deanna, flew down to Florida to visit her parents. A couple of weeks later I drove down with my father to “help him drive”. I didn’t drive one inch of the trip! I got in the truck at 5:20 AM, we stopped once for gas and a couple other times for restroom breaks and arrived 15 hrs later!

Dad sticks around for that extra 2 weeks because we still have deer hunters coming in for muzzle loader season. During those two weeks he closes down his house and we winterize the hunting camp after the last hunters leave. We also load the truck with about 400 board feet of lumber. Dad places ads in the Florida papers for lumber and takes orders to be delivered, he says it pays for his trip to Florida.

Sorting lumber to be taken to Florida

My daughters flew back from their trip a few days before dad & I took off. It worked out perfect! They were able to get my moms car to Florida and visit with her for a few days, visit with their other grandparents, spend a little time running around Disney World, and make it back home to take care of chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs and be here for their brother, Sawyer.

After arriving in Florida, I spent a few days with my parents and then met Deanna and headed down to her parents to spend a few days. Deanna’s mother, Betty, has been going gangbusters canning and dehydrating! She bought us a 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator for Christmas and I can’t wait to get started!

Excalibur 9 tray food dehydrator

Betty has been canning chicken, ground beef, meatloaf, hamburger patties, beans, pie fillings, jams, and jellies. She usually had a water bath canner, two pressure canners and two dehydrators going at once.

Pressure canners
Canned Potato
Jelly that Deanna made


I’m not sure what brand of pressure canner she uses, but I have a couple of All American pressure canners that we will be using.

She also had this cool old utensil to pry off the lids from canning jars. It’s called a “pry-a-lid” and I believe she bought a few from ebay.


When Betty is dehydrating, she stores all of her dried fruits and veggies in quart and half gallon mason jars. She uses a FoodSaver machine with a jar sealer accessory to take the air out of the jars and secure the lid. What’s nice about that versus the bags is that you can reseal & reuse the jars over and over again.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer

Deanna and I helped out a little and learned a lot. I think Deanna is excited about getting started on the canning and dehydrating.

I also helped my father-in-law, Terry, rebuild the gate going into their back yard. The old gate was very heavy and mounted with hinges that were too small, so it had sagged over the years. The new gate uses the type of hinge and pin we use on the farm, lag bolt style gate pins. We also used an Adjust-A-Gate gate frame that Terry had purchased. I have to admit, I was a little leery of it, but it worked great and looked good too!

Installing 2 adjust-a-gate gate frames
Almost done


Putting on the finishing touches

All in all we had a great time visiting family in Florida, but now its back to the grindstone. I have a lot to do around the farm this winter!


Additional canning and dehydrating supplies:

Jar lifter, sure tight band tool, regular mouth jar storage caps, wide mouth jar storage caps, regular mouth lids and bands, wide mouth lids and bands, Jelly Jars, wide mouth pint jars, wide mouth quart jars, Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, fruit pectin, non stick dehydrator sheet, Recipes for Adventure, mandolin slicer

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New Video Posted to the Save Our Skills YouTube Channel

Setting Fence Posts
This the second support video to the blog post Building & Mending Fences (pt. 1)
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Building & Mending Fences (pt. 1)


One of the many activities around the farm during the fall season is building and mending fence. We have several styles of fence around the farm, woven wire, high tensile single strand, and board panels to name a few.

Board panel fence


Woven wire fence


High tensile single strand fence

If you have fences or plan on building fences on your property it is well worth the effort to cut your own posts and install the fence yourself. Contracting a fence builder can be expensive!

This past year we built traditional fence and had some fence installed professionally. The contracted fence wound up costing $5.00/ft. or more and when we do the work ourselves it costs $0.65/ft. That is a huge cash savings! However, it is a large investment in sweat equity!

Most of the fence posts around the farm are locust or hedge (osage orange) that we have cut and split from the property. If you’re going to be building fence around your property you will need a few tools. The first tool you’ll need is a chainsaw to fell and limb the trees that will be cut into 7′ fence posts.


16″ chainsaw


Next you’ll need a sledge & wedges and an ax for splitting the larger posts into smaller posts. You will want to save some of the larger posts for use as corner and gate posts.

Splitting fence post


Double bit ax

Sledge hammerWood splitting wedgeAx


Once the post are split it’s time to start building fence. We set the first corner post and run a string near the ground, 550 cord works great for this, to the next corner post. If the fence is longer than your string just set a post at the end of your string. Along the string we mark a spot on the ground every 10′ where we will dig each post hole.

Setting fence post row. The post in the foreground is a corner post, notice the string tied to its base. It runs to the next corner post and we marked every 10′ on the ground for each post hole


This is the same fence row as above, looking from the other direction

550 cord


Digging post holes manually can be quite a chore. If you have a tractor with an auger the job is much easier. If you don’t own a tractor you could use a 2 man power auger which could be rented at most equipment rental stores and possibly Home Depot or Lowes. If you have no powered auger option then your left digging post holes with a shovel, digging bar, and a post hole digger. When I was growing up on the farm, my brother and I built many miles of fence this way. Even if you use an auger, it’s still a good idea to have these tools on hand to clean out and level the bottom of the post holes.


old style post hole digger


tamping & digging bar


Dad & Jeff drilling a post hole


ShovelPost hole diggerTamping/digging bar2 person powered auger


Now you can start setting the posts you have worked so hard to cut and split. Move the string to the top of the end posts and align the top of the post you are setting with the string. When you have the post aligned start filling the hole with a shovel and tamping evenly around the post as you go. Continue in this fashion until all posts are set.

Neighbor, Jeff, getting ready to set & tamp a post


Hand set fence posts prior to stapling on wire


You are well on your way to finishing the fence!

In future posts I will be discussing corner braces, gates, water crossings, stretching & stapling wire, and much more on building and repairing fences. Also, tune into the Save Our Skills YouTube channel for future videos on this subject.


Be sure to check out our support video on splitting fence posts on YouTube – Splitting Fence Post


Some links are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase from these links. Thanks for your support in this way.