Saturday, May 28, 2011

Still planting..

 Sprite melons went in today.. so did some Anaheim peppers, 2 different bush beans, some sort of gigantic sunflower seeds planted and still a ton to go. I still have 2 dozen + tomatoes to transplant.. somewhere.. I moved them to the small farm as something at this house is devouring them. (A caterpillar is the something.. and the small farm garden is literally surrounded by birdhouses.. each sporting a very hungry family.)

 We attacked the area behind the polebarn. The grass is waist high and full of massive rocks. The rocks we can move will go towards building a retaining wall.  The retaining wall is to rebuild the side of the house where the AC unit is. Erosion soon will claim the AC unit if we don't get it done this year. 

 Wax beans go in tomorrow and scarlet runner beans. Jalapenos and thai peppers need to go in.. and butterbush squash. At some point the next section will be tilled for melons, squash and other vine crops. I plan on tossing some cosmos in with the squash and possibly a bit of wrought iron for fun. I really want to get the Hubbard squash going. A massive squash like those could hold over my husband and daughter for a week. (They can get around 40 pounds.) Squash and sweet potatoes are something we never get bored of having.

 I didn't get a chance to check on the pole beans, tomatillos and eggplants. They should be ok. My time working was repeatedly interrupted by tick removal.

 6 keets... I need like 600. Speaking of which they are flipping out over some food right now. 

 Guinea fowl are able to forage up to 90% of their feed in the summer. Some use broody chickens to hatch them. Should my flock survive that is probably what I would do. Somehow for as much as we know and for as much as we have made things fool-proof... you can't beat a good hen.

 I'm beat (I must be a bad hen lol.) I'm not even sure if this post made any sense! The ticks have me wigged out. I got 8 of them on me in under an hour. I kill every one, but still everyday I get about 20 on me. None have attached yet, but it is unnerving. 

 Ticks generally need to be attached for a whole day before transmitting anything to you. Use pointed tip tweezers, get as close to the skin as possible, then steadily pull them off. You don't want to pinch their bodies as it will essentially make them empty their stomach contents into you  (higher risk of getting something like Lyme's disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.)

 It sounds like escapees from the brooder box again. I'd better check on the gang. Take care all.

Buffalo Gnats and Eye Gnats.. Kate and Keet Richards at it again

 The bugs are out in droves. The last 2 weeks the bugs have been coming out in what seems like clouds that make time outside uncomfortable. 

 Eye gnats, sometimes called grass flies or as kids we called them eye-lickers, make a cloud around your head. They fly into your ears, nose, eyes, hair repeatedly and swatting brings you maybe one second of relief. A beekeepers veil would probably be really helpful to keep them away while you work. I've been rocking the Hee Haw bridal look with netting on a straw sun hat. 

 Buffalo gnats as well are out and about. They sort of look like tiny house flies, but bigger than eye-lickers and they bite! Their bite turns into something like a mosquito bite, but larger and itchier. My husband isn't allergic to mosquitoes, so when they bite him, nothing happens. When the buffalo gnat bites, their saliva is an irritant and creates those itchy big bumps. They are also not something to be trifled with as they go after many animals and have killed poultry.

 While the eye-lickers are out for essentially the summer, buffalo gnats stick around for a month. So if you see some goofy freckled Hee Haw bride chasing poultry, produce flailing about wildly.. it's just me in my mid-life crisis garden.

 We have a solid white keet and I named it after my friend Kate. Mainly because I like writing notes on her facebook wall or send her messages, but also it is a nod to "Taming of the Shrew". We have a pied keet that I named Keet Richards. Rather swarthy and disheveled, it is always causing a stir. Keet Richards and Kate are the ring leaders of this feathered mob. 

 Keet and Kate frequently can be found partying on the top of the brooder box. They like life on the edge. They are above the common peeps. They are out-of-the-box thinkers.

 To give a dark spot in the brooder for the birds to sleep (cause I was a dummy and got the white light. A red heat bulb minimizes pecking and lets them sleep more comfortably), I draped an old shirt over the corner. 

 Keet and Kate, when busted, will jump on to the shirt, slide down and hop into the box. It makes me laugh every time because you can't help but think of those cheesy action movies. The character jumps over the edge... lands on a cafe awning.. slides.. and gets to safety below where they can disappear into the crowd.

Meanwhile in the garden things are still wet. Wet, wet, wet.. and from the look of the clouds.. soon to be a bit more damp. The pole beans are sprouting. A few washed up in the rains, but I sowed it pretty thick so no biggie. 

 The wet weather also is triggering powdery mildew along with the pesky pests.. so out comes the spray bottle of baking soda in water. Changing the ph helps nerf powdery mildew, but you have to catch it quick. If you wait until it looks like a talcum powder truck jackknifed in your garden.. you waited too long. 

 Now is also the time to check under leaves here for eggs of various unwanted visitors... namely squash bug eggs. I've been popping them off into a container and then chucking it in the freezer to kill them. I am hoping the guineas find them tasty when they are old enough to roam the garden.

If you don't know what the eggs look like.. check here for information about them. The eggs are on the underside of the leaves.  

Friday, May 27, 2011


 I figured no time like now to try to give the little birds some clue on how things work. I whistle when I give them food. Hoping they get a clue after a few billion times.

But.. what to whistle so the dog doesn't get confused? I can't use the typical "come hither" whistle everyone uses... Dogs + chickens = bad idea. Even ours, who watches the chicks closely, isn't that trustworthy.

 So I just whistled whatever seemed upbeat and happy. The chicks all stopped, turned to face me and stared. SCORE! Ok.. this will do! So for over a week now I whistle to them every time I get them new water and food. They come racing over.. progress! The tune seemed familiar, but I couldn't quite place it.

 My husband walked up to me this afternoon as I was cleaning the brooder box. 

 "Hey hon.. I've been meaning to ask you something.."

 "Sure, what's up?"

 "Well.. is there any reason why you are always in there whistling the theme song to Austin Powers?" 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Awareness is key... for avoidance of problems

 We headed out to the larger farm today to try to track down the apple trees. Sounds weird, I know. Like, who the hell can lose an orchard? Of course, if you met my Mom... you wouldn't ask such things, it is a given.

 Sorry.. sometimes there is only so much anti-logic one can deal with before they get tired of bashing their head against a wall trying to accommodate the insanity snippy. Example.. giving away the spools of chicken wire after asking your son-in-law to put the chicken coop here... (rocky area gets cleared of waist high grasses by hand)... no wait... over there... next area cleared... wait, wait... over there. The whole area is littered with limestone boulders hidden in a sea of grass. Did I mention it is sloped too? All of that... is a drop in the bucket-of-fun we have been wading through trying to get things going.

 Bah... back to finding the trees swallowed up by the forest...  After hiking well over a mile we found a couple apple trees! A few sapling apples as well, but they are well snacked on by the deer, but still alive. The trees are in really really rough shape (over crowded, fungus, etc.), but one is so far loaded with fruit and another that has some fruit set!

 We found several mulberry trees, wild plums, staghorn sumac, wild grapes (look at the top.. that vine growing up the silo and is through out the tree..a wild grape), some horseradish, a few errant chives barely surviving, lots and lots of wild blackberries covered in buds (a few blooms have opened), lots of wild roses, and many gooseberries with itty bitty baby pea sized berries growing.. 

 I was particularly thrilled to see the huge old pear tree had a little life to it yet. It has been nailed by lightening which killed 1/2 of it, and then by bugs.. but it has enough living bits to graft later! That tree, a little over 20 years ago, used to put out obnoxious amounts of fruit year after year. I got many many horses hooked on those juicy sweet pears. They are not overly large, and do have very tiny stones in the flesh, but you bite in and you'd better have on a bib! 

 So meandering for several hours, we found a lot.. you would have thought we would have noticed even more...  Like that we spent most of that time surrounded by poison ivy/oak!!! 

 We made pretty quick time getting back to the car, faster time getting home.. and sonic booms were heard as we sprinted to the shower. We were immune to it before.. but that can change, and you really, really don't want to find out when that status changes!

 So far so good! *knocks on wood* Clothes were tossed in the wash immediately as we don't want to find out just yet our daughter's immunity to it.

 We also are mitigating the "loon factor" by not asking where the Maternal Unit would like things... but rather telling her where we already put them. I'm rather... irked.. at the moment. Seeing as how I was just told she rented out the fields... in particular the area I wanted to put in the vine crops (squash, melons, etc.) We already had to dig up the fruit trees we planted.... (so not joking).

 I may go to hell for this.. but...  she actually commented on my lack of emotion to her latest onslaught. My evil humor got the best of me.. and I told her it was because I found her  Lorazepam. I am totally kidding..... or am I?  


(I didn't..  but her reaction had my husband all out laughing... and he really needed that.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Transplanting.. still at it

 Trying to prep new ground, take control back of overgrown everything else.. we've been working hard. 

 So far we have 50+ tomato plants in and they seem to all be doing well. We just put in 30+ eggplant and broccoli was also in. Sage, flat leaf parsley, dill, more chives.. all planted. Mishap with a ton of basil and I have to restart a new flat. I got some ancient tomatillo seeds to sprout so those are now in the ground. I have a bunch from last year, but those tomatillos were very sweet and very pineapple flavored. Not what I was looking for!  About a dozen pepper plants are in and I need to transplant out a bunch more. Pole beans are in.. hoping to get the "pole" part of that crop in today.

 Today I am attacking the next section. Cucumbers, melons, squash.. I have to get them in.. they should have been planted like, last week. Next sowing of beets, kohlrabi, turnips, dill also needs to be done. Also 4 more varieties of beans have to go in. Those 4 will go through the taste test and if we like them, then I will save the seed to do large plantings of it next year.

 We haven't had a moment to get to the other farm. I can only imagine how high the grass is... and the fields. I need an army just to keep the decorative landscaping in control. 

 Still on the list to do.. attacking the raspberry canes, rose bushes, grape vines. The "I'll get to it at some point" list involves a chainsaw and a LOT of dead/ diseased/ etc trees. 

 I'd love to use the laundry lines too dry clothes, but we have a lot of birds that have made nests in the little birdhouses along the fence and then every light fixture has a swallow's nest. They like to use the lines as perches. They are getting rather gutsy too. They are using our efforts to their advantage. When we till.. they hang on the fence and swoop in when we are 10 feet away if they see a bug. I toss all of the grubs into a tray and when I go to grab some water.. they move in to dispose of the grubs.

 And somewhere in the midst of all of this my husband has his own additional list (I am more than happy to help if I can!).. that includes building a coop, building chicken tractors, installing 2 new toilets, painting trim on 2 of the houses, fixing and cleaning the gutters of 2 of the houses, re-fencing the dog run, building storage for the pole barn, making trellising, hanging new drywall.. to name some of it.

 Still no luck finding a job yet. As well the horrid situation of our place in CO. We sent copies of the keys to the place to a friend, and they didn't work. He can't get into the house. The tenant disappeared. So far he hasn't filed a forwarding address so the utility companies can't make him pay. That also means we can't turn the utilities on there to get the place taken care of unless we pay his bills. Really hard to tackle that when you don't have the finances.

 For now.. doing as much as we can with what we do have.. and hoping for some good luck. Really hoping.. lol because the japanese beetles out here are a force to be reckoned with.. also why I am grateful we were able to get guinea fowl.

 Alright.. back to work I go. Almost done at this place and time to go to the other. I have developed an insatiable taste for dandelion greens. I don't know what it is about them... but the ones growing in the less desirable locations.. rocky, dry, poor soil.. are more mild flavored. I found a recipe for dandelion fritters (flowers dipped in a slightly sweetened beer batter) but have yet to try that. The greens I have been going nuts on.. but my husband and daughter like it better when mixed with swiss chard to mellow it out a bit. Me.. give me a vat of it and a pitch fork and I am good to go.  Really young dandelion can go into salads.. a little older leaves you can cook. The "old" leaves are fibrous and much more bitter.. and for some reason those are the ones I am hoarding. lol. Today I will sautee up a few pounds (like all greens, they shrink down a lot when cooking).. in garlic and olive oil with crushed red pepper flakes, a pinch of sugar (helps tame the bitter), salt & pepper.. and a hit of lemon juice.  

poor bug never stood a chance..

 The keets (Guinea fowl babies) are wild ones.  In their tiny noggin resides an even smaller mind. A few are already trying to fly (they are 2 1/2 weeks old).  The shift from complete sleep - read they sprawl out like a drunken fraternity after a big bash- to I MUST FLYYYYYY! Throwing their fuzzy semi-feathered selves inches into the air.. clear across the I-Wish-I-had-a-bigger-box brooder smack into the pile of chicks.

 If you get chicks.. and get the galvanized feeder.. get the lid that makes them poke their heads through to eat. Otherwise these kids will just hang in the food container. 

 The keets will also lay in the container and scoot themselves along like a duck in water kicking feed everywhere. They have a strong need to scratch the bedding too.. and creating a pine shaving Pompeii where the baby chicks get buried alive. 

 Then a keet will find a dark pine shaving. All hell breaks loose. It's head pops up above the crowd as it scans for a safe location.. meanwhile the chicks (who could have cared less until the keet got excited) now are looking.. PARANOIA! You can not have my precious! Flee to safety!

 So the keet then runs laps around the box with minions in tow. Minions.. who are just following.. but not sure why..   About the 4th lap the keet sees the packaging tape, that is reinforcing the box, sparkle. Oh Shiny! Shaving dropped and now the random box pecking begins.

 Well.. a bug fell in today. The chickens looked at it.. it moved.. the chicks ran for cover. The keets moved in and pounced. Real treasure! By the 4th lap it stopped, swallowed the bug and box pecking resumed.

 The keet fleet are the tall ones in the back. I seriously can't wait for them to be able to go outside and snack on some ticks. I got 10 of them on me today (thankfully none attached.. but I still have the heebie jeebies.) I wasn't even in tall grass! I was planting 30 eggplants in the garden!

 Sadly.. we did have our first loss today too, a very tiny barred rock. It was much smaller than the others but wasn't quite right. So far the rest seem ok *knock on wood*.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quick peek at the peeps

 It is late and they are tired.. eating and sleeping at the same time. I need to move the feeder so they spread out more. Just as soon as the batteries charge and there is some daylight, I'll post more pictures!

The red ones are Rhode Island Reds-10, the black ones with the white spot on their head are the Barred Rocks-10, the speckled/stripey ones are Ameraucanas-10... the yellow & gray & lone white ones are the guinea fowl.

30 chickens and 6 guinea fowl!  I almost got ducks.. seriously thought about it.. but I have to wait and get these little ones settled in first.

picking up Chicks

 Headed off to Schlecht hatchery..  

bedding $8
heat lamp $15
30 day old chicks $45

... waiting for your Mom's expression when she finds out you are raising poultry in her kitchen...


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Runaway Walking Onions

 Perennial onions in the garden.. surrounded by grassy weeds. I've been on my knees all day in the roasting sun picking out the grass blades and saving the errant sets. I will drag out tha camera tomorrow and take pictures to show what I am tackling.

 June bugs are out. They emerged just a few days ago. Right now they are pelting the window trying to fly to the light. It sounds like a lawn mower over pea gravel.. aimed at my window.

 Boxelder bugs galore, I gave up using the broom and went right for the ancient dustbuster. All 3 houses have them, and the farmhouse on the larger property has a seemingly endless supply. That house I round up several hundred.. just in the livingroom... daily.

 When the sun had finally set and we could no longer see.. We called it a day and wandered home. Dinner was whatever leftovers anyone had the energy to warm up. Simultaneously from opposite ends my husband and I let out a surprise " AHH!"  He was jumping into the shower and was surprised by a boxelder bug racing up his leg. I was experiencing the same bug joys.. except it was under my shirt and ran under my bra. 

 Clothes were flying. Thankfully the kid already went to bed. Not sure how well the neighbor could see. He thinks we're a bit odd anyways. Me yelling and streaking through the house by now has to be par for the course. I'm too tired to be humiliated. 

 It happened at the farm too. There's no one around though. Wow I'm exhausted. No clue if this makes any sense.. and probably wandered into the land of TMI. Time to jump in the shower and then pass out. Hope you all had a less energetic day lol.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Can you dig it?

 The rain let up and it has dried out enough to mow, till, and try to get things going. YAY!! Beautiful gift for Mother's Day!

 So we planted the "free trees" from Arbor Day Foundation. Each one is a flowering tree and these were itty bitty sticks. That works for me as it means it is a 1 person job. The major thing is trying to keep in mind the size it will be when it is mature. This week the fruit trees should be arriving, so I am still deciding where to plant this orchard. 

 The really nice thing about Arbor Day Foundation is that they guarantee their trees, even the free ones.. and getting replacements is only $3.50 for shipping.

 The bird barn is going to be put next to the pole barn on the small farm. That area can be fenced off pretty easily, has trees for shade, is close to a water source and hopefully is better able to be protected. It is also getting overgrown there and has limestone rocks hidden all over so it isn't a place that can be mowed. The birds are more than welcome to obliterate all of the vegetation they want! 

 While we have to till this year, I hope to use chicken tractors later to prep new sites for expanding the garden. 

 My husband stopped by the local feed store and checked it out. I have to admit I am partial to the one the next town over as that is where I used to get the sweet feed for my horses. (Their sweet feed smelled divine. Sticky, aromatic, sweetly scented.. I could catch any horse with that... except my gelding who was impervious to every tactic ever employed.. save his 1 weakness, a small kid. No one over 4 feet tall could catch him otherwise.) There were 6 others in there as well as the mill employees.. and all of them said Schlecht Hatchery is hands down the way to go. Each one is a devoted and repeat customer having said the birds are of very good quality and excellent health. I can't say I am too fond of hatcheries, but it has been interesting to locate local stock. This hatchery is a small family operated business and they do take pride in their birds.. but I can't shake the feeling like I am supporting a poultry version of a puppy mill.

 I am tackling the old garden as there are June bearing strawberries hidden in the weeds, multiplier onions, oregano patch galore and wild grapes gone wilder. Raspberries as well have wandered near the wild rose which is thriving. Clearing the area around them is painful.. literally. I wish I had steel weeding gauntlets.. you know that legendary item that someone out there has.. and you could really use. 

 Garden cart. I need one. The child operated lug-this-bucket is fickle at best and is prone to breaking down. It isn't very accurate as often the delivery system misses the compost pile when acting up. I can tell when it is about to act up as it starts muttering and sputtering.. then comes the whining. (Yay.. the teenage years! I am joking though.. she is a good kid.)

 Lunch break is over.. time to head back. Armed with tweezers to fend off thorny intruders I hope to get clearing around the prickly plants completed today!

 Happy Mother's Day! Woot!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Busy Busy

 We are scrambling, and trying to make the best of the situation. That seems to be par for the course. 

 If you ever decide to rent your property, you take a risk. We took one, a huge one, and it didn't pan out. I've kinda given in to throwing my hands up in the air and just trying to focus on what is in front of me. Hindsight is always 20/20. So we are going to lose our house due to this tenant. 

 Took a gamble, thought we had our bases covered, thought it was a win-win for the whole arrangement. It happens. It left us financially devastated. I hadn't budgeted to cover a scenario such as this one... and it is a whopper.

 Day to day is how we are handling things. Trying to get all 3 properties + my sister's place taken care of is hard when you can't do anything for your own place. Thankfully my Mom is eating better and is (knock on wood) doing better. My sister with cancer is trying to get into a NJ clinical testing trials. My oldest sister's fiancee HAD pancreatic cancer.. had.. he is a survivor thanks to this very program. He was also late stage. The juicing is keeping her energetic, and keeping the fat content in her blood very very low.. so she qualifies for the trials. They stated it is highly unlikely she will have the same results and she knows this. She also is of the opinion that at least they can learn from this.. and she is going to find some good out of it all. 

 So we did find fiddleheads when we walked the farm. We carefully picked only about 2 cups worth and tossed them in a stir fry. I find this hilarious because that took us several hours.. and then we discovered the grove of trees behind the house in town has TONS. So we picked a bit more making sure not to take more than 1 fiddlehead per plant.

 Still waiting on the morels, but did notice the plethora of gooseberry shrubs were getting ready to send out flowers. I ripped out tons of garlic mustard and barely made a dent. Shagbark hickory and Black Walnuts must have had a bumper crop last year as the nuts are all over the place. Many of them are eaten, and crafty critters have decided to snack on them in all sorts of locations.. like the barn loft, under the old Jeep in the garage, in the tipped over water trough.

 Several big storms have knocked a bit more of the old barn down. The plan is to get the coop built on the small farm's property for the chickens and guinea hens. Now.. just to settle on the coop design...  As I have spotted a lot of slugs already, ducks and probably geese are also slated to join the menu zoo. Rabbits are yet another, but no large livestock yet. We have more than enough room, but hunters, shroom hunters, tree thieves, etc. have obliterated much of the fencing. Cleaning up the farm is a lot of work. 

 Ironic that in this area they are fighting hard to keep a CAFO (contained animal feeding operation) from operation.. because it will cause so much pollution. Irony is that many people around here commonly dump their own trash in the gullies, streams, ravines, etc. Beyond bottles and cans.. we are talking TV sets, old dishwashers, an old furnace, even a burned out car. Yet when you drive through this area it looks like a beautiful farming area. 

 Our larger farm has been treated in such a way by others. It is just something we'll clean up to make it safe before adding livestock. 

 Baby steps... the transplants need to be set out. Just hoping for that break in the weather to till. I think I have made a few dozen notations to remind myself later that the rhubarb has to be divided. 

 Myopic outlook on just day to day things bring a little relief. What do I need to do today? What can I do today? How much can I get done today? Get what you can do, done today. Kinda funny when everything I need to do today is in preparation for tomorrow, but today... today everyone is feeling ok. I am grateful for that.