Back to the farm

Well as April 15th once again approaches, you can see how politically motivated I can get! (read post below) Anyway, I do have a farm to run, so I’ll try not to hop up on the political soapbox too much, since this is supposed to be about our homesteading experiences!

So back to farm life….the other day, my friend, Suzie, came and picked up her 10 Buff Orpington chicks that I’ve been brooding for her as well as our other Ameraucana rooster.  Boy, the coop sure does look empty!  Even though we still have 12 Silkies, an Ameraucana rooster, and 10 Ameraucana chicks, 2 turkeys, and 6 ducks!  I am so ready to get some eggs out of this deal! 

The other day, we took our two oldest ducks, which are both Snowy Mallard males, down to the pond for the first time.  You would expect them to wildly zip into the pond and never come back.  Yeah, right!  We had to literally push them into the water, and even then they would only get where they could touch bottom.  They did feed for a while in the mud, but after about 10 minutes, they jumped out and started walking up the hill, looking over their duck shoulders as if to say, “Are you coming?”.  So we all had to walk up the hill together (they wouldn’t have it any other way, since they like to follow us) and I put them back in the pen.  So much for the call of the wild!

In gardening news, the weather has been fairly fabulous lately, with few exceptions.  We have been having temps in the 70s with plenty of rain.  Part of our broccoli has been harvested as well as our lettuce.  The cabbages aren’t too far behind, either.  I am really excited about our potatoes, as I haven’t ever grown them before.  We’ll see how that goes!  In disappointing news, some of our onions are bolting; meaning, they are now sending up a flower head, which means that the bulb growing is done.  Grrr!  So I just went and pulled those up, and set them out to dry.

Oh, lastly, we placed an order with Angel Food Ministries earlier this month and picked up the order this past weekend.  Now, y’all, I’m really serious here.  If you really want to save some $ on your groceries and you don’t want the hassle of coupons, place an order with this program!  I was very impressed with the food quality.  Plus, all of the food is from USA or Canada (hurrah!).  At least it was this past month.  We ordered a ‘basic’ box and the fruit and veggie box.  It cost us $52 dollars and let me tell you that it was so worth every penny!  Last night I made a fruit salad with the cantaloupe and it was excellent.  I ate a tangelo last night and I assure you that it was the best tangelo I have ever eaten!  Perfectly ripe and so juicy you couldn’t hold it without a napkin.  The cantaloupe was also excellent; it was fully ripened and very sweet.  We also have eaten some of the apples, and though they are small compared to what we’re all used to getting at WalMart (ugh), they were very sweet, had great flavor, and super juicy. 

In theory, one ‘basic’ box will feed a family of 4 for a week. For the month of April, I have already placed my order, and I ordered 2 basic boxes, 2 of the ‘heat and eat’ meal boxes, and one fruit and veggie box.  This cost me about 150 bucks.  Naturally, if you need dairy products, it will add to your monthly food bill, as well as bread if you don’t make your own, but still, it keeps you from buying all that crap you don’t need and it is good, restaurant-quality stuff.  You do have to pick it up at whatever host church is in your area ((it comes in on a Saturday, and you MUST go get it that day), but I’d rather do that than go to WalMart or the grocery!

Yeah, I’m going there…

I really try not to bring up politics or religion in any conversation…I know those are taboo subjects, but I’m going to have to say something today.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting a local business, C. Miller Drilling.  I found out during lunch via the Operations Manager, that Mr. Miller had become somewhat of a media sensation last year when he wrote a disgruntled letter to then-elect Barack Obama.  Anyway, I was given a copy of the letter and read it on my way home.  Some of you may have already received this letter via email, but here it is in its 4 page entirety:

As I read it aloud to my husband while he was driving, I was not only impressed by the articulate and succinct wording of this letter, but I literally felt my heart fill with American “Can-Do” attitude and pride.  I also felt simultaneously angered, because, I too share Mr. Miller’s views on many levels.

Being the wife/office manager of a small business owner, I can feel Mr. Miller’s emotions in every sentence that he wrote.  If you think that owning a small business is easy, you’ve obviously never owned a business before! I get to witness firsthand, everyday, the hard work, dedication, and sheer pain that it sometimes takes to keep a business afloat.  My husband has kept his business going for 13 years…I can only imagine how intensely difficult it was to begin.  I do know, for a fact, that the local bank refused to give him a loan, because, as they told him, “If we needed that kind of business around here, we’d already have one here.”  I do know, for a fact, that he sometimes worked around the clock, all through the night, to turn out enough jobs so he would make enough money to pay vendors that month.  I also know that he has had 13 years of extreme physical and mental anguish that go along with running a business.  I also happen to know how sickening it is that we pay several 10’s of thousands in taxes yearly, to find out that our tax dollars are possibly, and probably going to built a high-speed train from Disneyland to Las Vegas (to the tune of 80 BILLION DOLLARS, I couldn’t make that up), or something just as equally ludicrous. 

What I’m getting at is this:  If you aren’t pissed off about what’s going on with our government, you need to open your eyes.  I used to be one of those people, in my 20s, who had never voted and didn’t really care who was in Congress or President or whatever.  Because at the time, I naively believed that those people ‘up there’ didn’t make a difference in my life.  That what they did didn’t directly affect me.  Well, times they are a-changin’.  NOW, I know that I am directly affected by whatever happens in D.C.  And I hope that you know that, too.  It’s so easy to sit back and put on your blinders and try not to pay attention to what is really going on in this world.  I know, because I did that for so long.  But please realize that changes that are made in the laws and government and whatnot will affect you, and definitely not always for the better. 

I do not pledge my allegiance to any one political party.  I will vote for the better man/woman, or, in some cases, the lesser of two evils.  I’m not an Obama-basher, even though I didn’t vote for him. I did give him a chance, which I think he totally has blown. 

I’m sorry if you’re rolling your eyes because I am on my political soapbox, but I really believe that as a nation, we’re in trouble.  I’m sorry if you think I’m a conservative nutjob, but the reality for us is that as small business owners, we are being eyeballed by the government, who are trying to tax the hell out of us.  If you don’t agree, maybe you should swing by and take a peek at what I have to pay in taxes a year. 

So, Mr. Cory Miller of C. Miller Drilling, hats off to you. Your letter reflects my feelings perfectly; I only wish that my tired old brain could have said it as well as you managed to.

And it all comes back around again…

Sunset at our place in March
Sunset at our place in March

Yesterday, I attended a free seminar hosted by our county extension office, the title being “Growing Your own Groceries”.  We had a good time talking with various people, discussing chickens, goats, goat cheese, gardening, and the like.  Our own chicken tractor was on display for  all to see!  It was fun.  I am going to go ahead and add in here; if you have never tasted goat cheese, it is DEE-LI-CIOUS!  I know that everybody has this negative image of a dirty ol’, smelly goat with smelly milk or something, but let me say this…have you ever driven by a dairy cow pasture in high summer?  That smell is enough to make you gag, but we drink that stuff like there’s no tomorrow.  Anyway, they had some of the goats there and I swear, they’re about the cutest animals you’ll ever see. 

Oh, but the cheese! It was made that morning and it was a soft, crumbly texture.  It is called Queso Blanco, which of course, means white cheese.  It is very, very creamy and doesn’t really have much of a flavor, but is quite similar to cottage cheese/cream cheese mix.  MMMmmmmm.  Yes, one day, I will have some dairy goats!  And when I do, I am going to make my best friend, JJ, taste some of the cheese without telling him beforehand what it is, because I know that he is ready to vomit after reading this, lol.  This is the same person who can’t eat anything but white boneless chicken because seeing the bones makes him nauseated!  haha.  I can’t wait (evil grin). Also, they were selling goat’s milk soap and let me be the first to tell you it is AWESOME!!!  I used it last night and this morning, and it is very, very mild and lathers better than any soap you’ve ever tried, I guarantee you that.  They make a lot of different fragranced and also non-fragranced soaps.  We got the Coco Bolo (to die for), Tuscan Garden (also to die for, just a touch more masculine than Coco Bolo), Lavendar, Tea Tree, and Gardener’s hand Soap, which has Starbucks coffee grounds in it!  It makes for a good exfoliant/cleanser.  Please do yourself a favor and buy some soap from these guys:

Check out the goat’s names while you’re there; it’s hilarious.  Also, they go to events like Tomato Fest, just check the website.  Oh and lastly you can cut the bars in half…they are quite large bars, and cutting it in half makes a ‘normal’ sized bar.  In quarters, it would be a good size for your kitchen sink soap dish.  Anyway…moving on..

So, anyway, one of the Extension agents, Renee was telling someone how the people who lived through the Great Depression had it all right, and we ignored them, but now it’s all coming back around.  They were right, we are wrong, and we’re going to have to go back to the way that things used to be.  I couldn’t agree more.  I was a child of the 80s…we were so spoiled compared to past generations!  Remember the song, “Material Girl’, by Madonna?  Didn’t that say it all about the 80s?  I think we were all raised to be materialistic, if not by our parents, then by all the commercials and crap that the media shoved down our throats.  It’s just as bad or worse today!  I HATE watching some of the kid’s channels because every 5 seconds they are trying to push some crappy Chinese made toy on our kids. My 3 year old can sing the jingle to Peek-a-Boo Barbie, for crying out loud! 

Anyway, back to my point:  it is time to simplify our lives.  It is time to learn that we don’t have to run out and buy everything new.  My new favorite phrase is the oldie but goodie, “Use it up, wear it out.  Make do, or do without.”  I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that I don’t ever go buy crap I don’t need.  I know that I shouldn’t, but old habits die hard.  But, what I have been trying to do it use what I have, and if I don’t have it, get it secondhand.  My SIL just gave us a couch and a kitchen table for no cost!  They may need a little work, but they didn’t cost us a dime.  I have even considered stopping and picking up furniture on the side of the road that people toss out.  Don’t think this Junkyard Gypsy won’t either!  I have dug things out of dumpsters; I have stopped and asked people for furniture that they have sitting by their trash can.  I have scoured alleys and taken various things that people have thrown out.  And I’m not ashamed to admit it!  I don’t know why we have this stigma about using other people’s ‘trash’.  You would be amazed at the things people toss out, I assure you!  But let me get back to the Depression folks…

When I bought my Mamaw’s house in 2004, we had to do a through cleaning of all the cabinets.  At the time, I laughed my way through the 9,000 butter and cottage cheese containers, 4,000+ yards of fabric, 500 rolls of old wrapping paper, years of rubber bands scavenged from newspapers, and saved bits of tin foil.  I shook my head in amazement at the 25 bottles of dishwashing soap, 50-odd still-packaged dishtowels, and bottles upon bottles of various cleaners.  Then, it was funny to me.  Now, it’s not so funny…it was just plain damn smart!  At that time, I thought, good Lord, Mamaw should have joined “Butter Tub Savers Anonymous”.  Now, who could it be, that has about 60 plastic bottles and milk jugs saved out in her shop?  And who is it who stocks up on dish soap, toothbrushes, shampoo, and toothpaste when it is next to nothing/free at CVS???  If I hadn’t had my head up my rear at the time, I would have been saving things all along.  Because, after all, who knows when you’ll need some of those things that we are all so used to tossing in the trash?  I use coffee cans for feed scoops, and cut off milk jugs for mini-greenhouses and to protect my plants from frost, and old half and half containers to start my plants in.  I don’t have to buy a Jiffy greenhouse kit, or pots, or feed scoops.  I hope that all of you will walk away from this and really, really think to yourselves about re-using what you already have, and stocking up on things when they are little to nothing at the store.  Times are getting lean, and we all need to take away some notes from our grandparents! And for crying out loud, we don’t have to try and ‘keep up with the Joneses’!

Dogwood~March 09
Dogwood~March 09

Busy month, spring is so close!

Well, I apologize for taking sooooooooo long to touch up on this thing!  My computer has been in detox/repair a couple of times and so I have really gotten behind!  Plus, it’s planting season and baby chick season and I have been so terribly busy.  We got in 10 Ameraucana pullets (that’s females in chicken speak) and 10 Buff Orpington pullets.  The Buff Orps aren’t mine, but I’m holding them for my friend, Suzie.  One of them is a real B, if you know what I mean. If you put your hand in the enclosure, which I have to do at least 2 times a day, she will try and take a beak-sized plug out of your hand!  I usually call her a little buff B, and threaten her with the stewpot.  Lol.

I bought 2 Broad breasted Bronze turkeys day before yesterday.  I wasn’t sure what breed they were, but from process of elimination on the dealer’s website, i figured it out.  That is disappointing to me because they have been bred to have so much breast meat that they are incapable of reproducing naturally.  Yes, that means artifical insemination. Yes, that means they’ll probably be destined for the dinner table cause there’s no way I’m going to be a middleman in any kind of turkey sex! 

You all should research about Broad Breasted White turkeys (that is what you will get @ the grocery).  These are totally freaks of nature.  Not the real Nature, but human nature.  What I’m saying is that these birds were bred, inbred, etc, ad infininum, to make these turkeys that have freakishly large breast muscle, to keep us, the American public, happy.  They can’t even breed because they are so heavy in the breast, that the males can’t perform their, uh, duties.  Now, Broad Breasted Bronzes are the same thing, just in their natural coloration.  I am really, truly interesting in ‘heritage’ turkeys; read: natural, heirloom breeds.  These turkeys can breed normally and some raise their own young.  Other turkeys must be hatched in incubators because the broodiness has been bred right out of them.  So, in other words, my little baby turkeys may literally be our Thanksgiving dinner.  Kindof weird to say, but I don’t really need BB’s as pets.  Anyway, so I’m getting off of the soap box now, but what I was going to get into was how different turkey chicks (poults) are, as compared to chickens.

You may hear that a turkey is stupid, it will drown in the rain, blah blah.  I really hate to use the word “stupid” when referring to animals because I think, “Well, ‘stupid’ when compared to what?”  I mean, I’m sorry, but I know a great many people who could be outsmarted by a carrot.  Anyway, after doing research, I learned that poults are a little……..slow.  They move slow, their wings sort of  droop, and they are slow to learn what and where the food and water is.  However, I love them.  When I stick my hand in, they come running to peck at my ring.  Slowly, of course.  I did read to put something shiny in the water and food so that they learn to peck at it.  I grabbed a couple of beer caps for the water and a Mardi Gras bead necklace and ran it into the food dish.  It just so happens that my shiny objects are alcohol-related…don’t let it fool you; I very rarely drink and I got the necklaces for a song at a garage sale.  I didn’t have to flash anyone for them!

Anyway, these little poults are so endearing to me.  Sorry to say they may end up in the freezer, but if it isn’t them, it would be some random, saline-injected turkey that lived a miserable life in some God-forsaken turkey ranch.

I also got my 4 Cayuga ducks in, and we have 2 Snowy Mallards.  Now, ducks are a whole different ballpark.  The negative is that they are SO MESSY.  Just un-Godly messy.  Now, that is when they’re in their enclosure indoors, I mean.  I have never seen a creature consume that much water and splash it that much.  It is like trying to raise a baby whale on land or something.  They manage, within a few short hours to totally drench all of the bedding and their brooding box. I mean flooded, and totally stinky.  If you don’t like to clean, don’t get a baby duck.  On the other hand, when they are in their outdoor enclosure, that is no problem.  Plus, they run after you at super-duck speed (at least 65 MPH) and manage to try and trip you with every step.  They love to eat bugs here and there and mine also eat a great deal of sand for some reason.  Anyway, I love my ducks!

Garden-wise, I have gone ahead and planted all of my herbs.  I hope that we don’t get a frost, but if so, I’ll have to cover some of them.  Tomorrow I am going to go ahead and plant my tomatoes, peppers and the like.  This is a very exciting time of year for a gardener in Zone 8.  March 15 is our typical last frost date.  However, you all know that Texas weather is anything but typical.  I’m going to take my chances, though. Back to the herb garden…I made a little mini-fence out of American beautyberry limbs, honeysuckle vines, rattan vines, and grapevines that I harvested out of our woods.  Let me confide in you here for a moment.  I do say curse words.  Fairly frequently, actually, but never in the presence of children or company, or people that I don’t want to think badly of me (of course, my BFs don’t care, but anyway).  Well, my dears, let me tell you that ‘gathering vines’ is work.  Saying, “I gathered vines today.” sounds like something that comes out of Martha Stewart’s mouth, and certainly not mine.  Saying, “I gathered vines” is like being stranded in a boat on the Pacific for 3 months with no water, no food, while being sun-bleached and having to eat seagull poop, and telling everyone upon your rescue that, “I took a little seafaring excursion for the last several weeks.”  Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but let me tell you, I figured out what kind of vines Tarzan swung around on.  That would be called the rattan vine.  I don’t know if that’s the proper name, but it’s a green, smooth vine that has the tendency to twist around a tree, cutting into it, and eventually weakening it to the point of death.  How befitting!  This same vine is the one that I scraped my arms, bruised my calves, and worked up a gallon of sweat trying to rip it out of trees.  I decided that if I ever made a grapevine wreath, it would go for about $435,000.  My God, I don’t know if there are anything tougher than vines.  Naturally, as I was pulling with all of my weight, one of them came loose, and I flew backwards and bruised both of my calves on a log.  And then that vine broke in half, so that added insult to injury.  Anyway, I was down in the bottom for about an hour and a half, swinging, quite literally, from these titanium vines.  But, I did manage to get a pretty good amount of them to use in my fence.  It’s pretty cool, and I’ll have to post pics soon. Oh, and back to my cursing….throughout my vine ordeal, let me tell you that the woodland creatures really must have gotten an earfull that day.  It’s a good thing that Bambi doesn’t know English.  His father would wash out his mouth and send him to bed with no supper.  It’s also a good thing that my woods are not close, at all, to anyone’s home.  Also, may I add that no children were at home that day to hear my tawdry use of language. 

Well, my fingers are tired, but I hope to get some pics and post more tomorrow.