Showers N’ Flowers

Today I am sitting at my desk at work, contemplating why I even attempt to re-ink a stamp. The frugalista in me says, “Why buy a entire new stamp when a bottle of ink is three dollars?” The realist in me says, “Every time you re-ink a stamp, you end up looking like you were booked and fingerprinted MULTIPLE times in the county jail.” I now have ink on my desk, my face, all of my fingers, my pencil cup, my mouse, and the book I was reading. Luckily, I wore a black shirt today.

But let us discuss more pleasant and pretty things. My yard, for example!

This spring was chilly all the way into the first of May. Not that I’m complaining, HOWEVER, my corn I planted never came up and my cream peas were lackluster. My tomatoes were sad and took forever to grow. Even so, now that it’s warmed up, things are filling out. Let’s take a look around:

View from our porch. It rained today for the first time in a MONTH, PTL! I was already tired of watering.  Yarrow and daylilies are at the forefront:

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View of the house. The front porch will eventually be screened in the front, and closed on the sides with big screened windows. I call it my future three season room. You can see that the blanketflower (on bottom left) really took over. It is all over our yard now.

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Front left side of porch. From left: Indian hawthorn (covered in blackberry I can’t kill), blue/black salvia, daylily, and then my lemon trees I grew from seed five years ago. Also, a couple of geraniums.

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View of what I call “The Salad Bowl”. Jason leveled the front yard, and this required making a hill around the driveway. I have really been working on this hill with tomatoes, wildflowers, asparagus, and Drift roses, among many other things. Trying to keep it covered to prevent erosion. Also, it is 100% ‘sugar sand’, so I am slowly digging out sand and replacing with compost. The flat ground is where we will plant big thing like corn and okra, and you can also see my sad peas and my rows of green beans. The flowers are brown eyed Susans, which I love!

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Raised metal bed that Jason built. The plan is to trellis indeterminate tomatoes here. This is a 10′ bed, but a 20′ is in the works. I will put anything vining or trailing on these.

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Prime-ark Freedom blackberries! Only 2 yr old vine and producing tons of huge fruit. I love this berry!

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Backside of the ‘rose garden’. Time to clean up the old bulb leaves. Once they are brown, they are fine to remove.

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Iris bed with orange, purple, and white irises. Also have some daylilies and crocosmia planted.

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The ‘rose garden’, with a few unidentified roses, but also has “Trumpeter”, “Electron”, Mutabilis, “The Fairy”, and “Dolly Parton”. I put assorted impatiens in the empty spots just to fill space.IMG_20180520_190023805

Another view of the iris bed. You can see the lighter green crocosmia taking over, but it’s so gorgeous here in a few weeks, who cares? The little tree on the right is a lemon tree that I planted from local seed. There are two lemon trees in Jacksonville that I know of, and both are ancient. I got seed from both trees about five/six years ago, and one tree is just now fruiting! We are sooooo excited. BTW, the Coors can you may see isn’t mine; it’s for the slugs. Yes, I am a bootlegger for slugs. Only kidding…slugs are apparently addicted to cheap beer and they will come by the hundreds to a beer-filled dish only to party and subsequently perish. Try it for yourself if the slugs are driving you crazy!

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Hope you enjoyed the tour! In the next month, things will start getting crispy out there and I’ll only come out “when the sun hits the pines”, which is to say, either before sun up or after sundown!

 

Cat In Glasses, Weird Dog, and Walk Your Chicken Day

We recently discovered that our cat, Milo, loves to be dressed up. That is, he doesn’t resent it very much. Okay, fine, he doesn’t hate it and tolerates it more than ten seconds, which could indicate ‘love’ for a cat. Anyway, Milo was dressed to the nines this week, all while sitting in a tiny wicker rocking chair with a doll blanket on his ‘lap’. Amazingly enough, he never objected to any of this treatment and we all came out of this photoshoot with no bloodshed. Maybe in all the spare time I have (HA), I’ll make a cat calendar. Then again, probably not.

 

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Later in the week, Nancy ‘remembered’ an old trick of hers: Bring us the dog food bowl and whack us on the legs with it until we fill it. It’s cute when it really is ‘cookie time’, but can get slightly annoying when, thirty minutes after she eats, she is already beating your ankles with her bowl. Still, I have to say she is a smart dog who knows what’s important in life. (FOOD)

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We ended the week by putting a chicken in a dog harness and seeing what would happen. Things can get monotonous in the country sometimes, so you have to spice it up a little. As you can see, Rae did very well for his first walk. Really, it’s much like ‘walking’ a cat, which is to say, you put it in a harness, pray it doesn’t go berserk and scratch out your eyes, and follow it wherever it wants to go. Again, no bloodshed other than at the 0:11 mark, my child is attacked by fireants. We awarded Rae with a cabbage leaf covered in baby cabbage worms, and yes, he ate it down to the rib.

 

Have a fabulous pre-Thanksgiving weekend friends! I’ll be decluttering more, bathing dogs, and probably walking chickens.

 

 

Facebook, Redneck Trees, Creepy Garden Dwellers, Sewing, and Hygge…

and this is how the past week rolled here on the farm!

I had started week two of Facebook freedom, and it dawned on me that I did not have any way to contact a particular group of friends other than Facebook.

Sigh.

Feeling fairly defeated, I have logged back on. BUT, I have only been checking it twice a day. I think that is better than my former record 4,537 times a day and every time I went to the bathroom.

Do I still think it is possible for life without Facebook? ABSOLUTELY. I now realize that I didn’t have a good back-up plan for contacting folks (other than Facebook) which I have been working on correcting this week. I have only been looking at my group of friends page, and not my feed. Otherwise, I’d be back to spending a ludicrous amount of time on there.

Moving on!

I finally found a sign that I love after a four year search for the ‘perfect’ sign for my kitchen wall. It also helped that it was 50% off at Hobby Lobby! On the very same day, my food order with Mary Jane’s Farm  arrived. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was. I have been an official “Farmgirl” with Mary Jane for five years, and following her site/magazine subscriber for eight. I had never tried her food before and I have no idea why I hadn’t before. I also had forgotten that as an official Farmgirl I get free shipping! Hello!

So, I got a sampler pack that lets you try the Budget mix (think: Bisquick on a heavenly, organic level) and then a couple of instant meals that you just add water to the bag! They are intended for on-the-go or for camping/backpacking. All I can say is: WOW. Simply…amazing. In fact, I have already restocked yet again. More on that later.

Here is my sign and some of the food items.

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Then the next day, I planted lots of pansies and violas in my gardens. I am not sure why I never (!) have planted pansies before but I love them so much!

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And as I stepped out to check on the garden that evening, I saw these critters. We have a cute little toad and a massive spider. I have only seen three of these spiders in the nine years we have been here, but counting his legspan, it is easily as wide as my palm. Ack! It’s a good thing that I like spiders. Perhaps even more creepy is how well this little feller mixes in with the background…

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With all of this extra time I now have (thanks to my Facebook reduction), I decided to get back to sewing. I have a love/hate relationship with sewing. There are times when that’s all I want to do, and then when it gets frustrating, I want to throw my sewing machine and all the fabric and sewing notions right into a burn pile. I had to use my seam ripper more than someone SHOULD on this dress. To be quite honest, I had to go to the store to get another seam ripper as I dulled my first one, if that tells you anything. Anyway.

It is a Dottie Angel design; Simplicity 1080, if you’d like to see the pattern. I plan on throwing on some leggings and doing farm work in it. I had read several critiques of this pattern and they are not unfounded. There are definitely parts of the pattern which just seem overly complicated. I still have to hem it and then figure out how to fit it properly so I don’t have the ‘back bunching’ that I have going on now. Losing 10 pounds would help, but until then, perhaps some well placed darts will do.

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Later in the week, influenced by my dear friend “Big Rig”, I went to the dollar store to get some holiday “day-core”, as we say. Of course, all of the fall/Thanksgiving items were gone with exception of a lonely package of plates, some fall napkins, and a vinyl tablecloth, despite the fact it was only the first week of November. Actually, I want to say it was November second, perhaps? So a word to the wise, if you need autumn ‘day-core’ at the dollar store, you’d better head up there in August, I guess.

Even though I was pretty peeved that it looked as though Father Consumerized Christmas had just upchucked his wares on half of Dollar Tree, I just could not pass up the gold glitter deer head. So then I had to pick up a tiny dollar tree, a tiny strand of LED lights, and some gold ball things in the floral section. I grabbed a roll of gold glittery tulle (hint: UNWRAP IT OVER A TRASH CAN, unless you want your entire house coated in gold glitter). Yet, one deer head was just not enough.

Then it was a trip “up to the Wal-Marts” for more deer heads and tiny pinecones. All told, it was under ten dollars for my little redneck tree and I love it.

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To finalize my week, I have been re-reading about the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hue-gah’ or ‘hoo-gah’, depending on who you listen to). I had looked this up several years ago, being the trendsetter that I am and all (NOT), and I love love love the idea of hygge.

What is ‘hygge’? From what I gather, hygge is:

  • Snuggly blankets
  • Fireplaces
  • Wool socks
  • Cinnamon buns
  • Cake
  • Hot tea/coffee
  • Candles…many candles
  • Friends
  • A purring cat
  • Soft lighting (read: more candlelight)
  • Books
  • A cozy chair
  • Togetherness
  • Unfinished pine wood
  • Anything you can find at IKEA, surrounded by purring cats, lit candles, friends and family wrapped up in ‘cosy’ blankets wearing wool socks in front of your roaring fireplace, shoveling cinnamon buns and cake in their mouths while drinking hot tea/coffee and reading long, engaging and meaningful novels in a room preferably with either unfinished pine walls or an unfinished pine table.

And that, friends, is ‘hue-gah’ for you! So I would like to present my little snippet of farmhouse hygge to you. We have a purring cat in his cozy bed in an IKEA bin. Please note that this IS in a room with unfinished pine walls (unseen in photo).

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For more hygge ideas, there are now a bajillion books, e-books, and websites dedicated to this 2017 word of the year, or, you can simply order a free IKEA catalog, curl up on your couch with a warm blanket and hot coffee, and peruse the pages at your leisure.

Until next time!

Year nine on the farm: Older, fatter, and furrier

October 2017 marks two milestones for our family; we have now been on the farm for nine years, and I turned forty.

Turning 4-Oh

Something about turning forty has changed me. With any luck, I hope to live another forty years. It would be a gift of another lifetime! With that, it got my little pea brain churning, thinking about:

  • The importance of living every day to the fullest
  • Celebrating every birthday, and that sending birthday cards to family/friends is no longer optional
  • Planning for a life we’d like to live after the kids have moved out
  • Becoming debt-free so we can work minimally and live to the max
  • Maintaining our health so we can enjoy life to the fullest

I also think about how I have already lived four years longer than my own grandfather did, and how every day is truly a blessing.

On a funnier note, I am trying to understand why, at forty:

  • My body has begun to cling to every single calorie like a person dangling from the side of a cliff
  • God decided that visible nose hairs are not optional just because you are a woman while simultaneously they become more prevalent/darker…yet at the same time, I am losing the hair on the top of my head
  • Any new hair I DO happen to grow on my head is either white and silky or a thick and extremely unruly black menace that sticks straight out
  • I can throw out my back by simply standing up and moving my leg half-inch in the ‘wrong’ direction

These are the things I ponder now.

 Year Nine on the Farm

With this year, we are still working on paying off our debt, maintaining the home and grounds, and now we are downsizing.

While I did keep some baby chicks hatched this year, the new goal is to continue to downsize the flock until we have a nice number of laying hens. Let’s face it: I do NOT get $100 worth of eggs a month that I’m paying for the feed at this point! We do have some older layers as well as several hens who are more like pets, but as usual, we also possess a disproportionately large number of roosters who are getting fat on my dollar.

Now for a review in photos!

October 2016:

That time that everyone got ticked off after playing Sorry:

November 2016:

The cold and wet beginning to our square foot beds:

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Our living room/library area after bringing in the ferns for the winter:

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Fall foliage:

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December 2016:

A beautiful winter sunset!

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From 65 degrees to 48 in 47 minutes!

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January 2017:

One day, as I was hanging laundry, I looked up to see this ‘mackerel sky’. I made myself pretty dizzy trying to take a good pic.

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This year marked the beginning of new beds and a new gardening method: Square Foot Gardening. I love it!!! Jason built the beds. The soil you see was just, well…crappy, but it’s all I had. Now it has much better soil.

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2017 was the Year of the Annoying Ladybug/Asian Ladybeetle invasion. Here is a group in our barn, but there were hundreds in the house. Yuck. Glad they do eat aphids, but it would be lovely if they would hibernate outdoors like REAL ladybugs!!!

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February:

Being sensitive to sodium nitrate (Read: gives me major migraines), I can only eat uncured meats. Let’s face it, when you live in the sticks, things can be difficult to find. Our local Wal-Mart decided to stop carrying ‘my’ bacon, so I was forced to drive thirty miles to find some. Jason came to the rescue with my Valentine’s gift!

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Ladybug invasion continues in the warm sun:

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A true ladybug! I found several Twice-Stabbed ladybeetles on our pear trees. Yaaaay!

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March:

Another ‘true’ ladybug, the Convergent Ladybeetle. I probably learned more about ladybugs this year than in my last 40 years!

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April:

April showers and all of that!

May:

May’s warmth brings out the reptiles! Anoles and rat snakes are in full force!

June:

A cicada emerges!

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Swedish strawberry cake:

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A new friend emerges from the woods! My first photos of Eleanor, the wild cat.

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July:

Happy Fourth!!!

We add another new family member. Meet Esther. Note: Esther is the one without the beard.

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August:

Esther enjoys robes and hiding in the mini pantry. This behavior was not endorsed by yours truly. No one likes cat hair in their cereal.

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September:

Another new family member! Meet Milo:

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2017, so far, has proved to be the Year of the Cat! I also have declared it the year of Returning to the Homestead since I have now deactivated my Facebook account and suddenly have hours and hours added to my day! Amazing, isn’t it? Hope you enjoyed this year’s re-cap.

On to 2018!!!

Lamplight

The electricity hasn’t gone out. There is something absolutely magical about reading by the light of an oil lamp. 

When days grow dark at five o’clock, artificial light given off by electric bulbs seems harsh to my eyes. It’s too bright; too unnatural, perhaps. 

Tonight I’m enjoying the illumination and warmth given off by my Mamaw’s green glass lamp. 

I wonder how our sleep cycles would be affected if our homes weren’t kept as bright as daytime when night begins to fall?

Now, back to my reading. Goodnight, friends. 

The Grey Days

During the fall and winter a couple of years ago, we had two or three sunny days in four months. It was terrible. Every day started off with a grey hazy morning and ended just as gloomily. I actually love cloudy days, but after a month of seeing no sun, my attitude became just as ‘blah’ as the forecast.

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Starting around Thanksgiving, I felt bone-dead tired all of the time, then eventually my attitude worsened to where I didn’t care to do anything. I didn’t want to clean, cook, do crafts, or work on my garden plan, which are all typically things that I enjoy. I also drank too much sugary coffee and stuffed myself with whatever carb was handy. Subsequently, I put on extra weight. I clearly remember one day in January where the sun was barely peeking out from the oppressive cloud cover. Since it was in the 20s that day, I sprawled out on the floor of our sunroom just like an old cat, basking in the warmth. I was desperate for some sunshine!  The ‘meh’ feeling went on for several months until February, when Mr. Sun decided to show his face again. Days were warm enough to get outside, and my mental fog dissipated.

While I believe hormones totally rule our female world and could account for at least part of my ‘blah-ness’, I also thought that there was a deeper explanation for the lethargy and overall depression I had experienced. That’s when I began to research Seasonal Affective Disorder.

As it turns out, SAD (how appropriate!) is a cyclical depression that affects people most often during the autumn and winter months, although it can happen other times as well. SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight, so the number of people who are afflicted will increase the further you move from the equator. It can also occur if you live in a cloudy area with little sun or even by working in a dark office.

So what to you do to lift your mood? Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, who first wrote about SAD in 1984, gives several tips on his site. One suggestion is to increase the light in your life! Get outside in the sun when possible. Open up those heavy drapes, or even invest in a light box. This is one reason that I pick weeds for at least an hour a day when weather permits throughout fall and winter. Other tips: Reduce stress! Don’t overeat sugary and starchy foods. Get some exercise!  Take a vacation to a sunny place and bask. And of course, if these ideas do not work, definitely talk to a professional.

After the Grey Days of 2013-14, I was talking with a friend, and she went through the exact same thing! Remember that you are NEVER alone!!!

Have you ever had the grey days of winter? I often wonder how many women go through this and don’t speak up!

May your days be sunny and bright, friends!

 

Some days are good for…

A cool and drippy November day is perfect for snuggling up with a friend!

Front Yard Do-Over (Again)

August 2008: This is the front yard the day we bought the farmhouse. To the left there is a holly tree, which we immediately removed since: A. I don’t like giant holly trees and B. It had a huge hole in the trunk and would be weak anyway. On the right was an odd little tree that resembled a ginkgo. It was not a ginkgo, but we did end up removing it for some reason or other. Normally, we don’t take down trees at all, but…

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March 2009: Where the front garden all began. You can see that we fenced it in and were in the process of doing raised beds. There are lettuces, broccoli, onions, and cabbages planted here. What you may also see is that we did not remove the grass, which turned out to be a VERY BAD decision. I assure you, you will NOT WIN when battling Bermuda grass. Do yourself a favor, save your sanity and START WITH A BLANK SLATE.

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May 2009: You can see that the lettuces and broccoli are done. The cabbages, as you might notice, are completely eaten up by cabbageworms. Hurrah. Not. Also note that we had a nice watering system that misted all of the beds. Also note that the grass is growing at a rapid pace.

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January 2011: If you read my yearly reflections, you will know that I am always saying to live simply and not take on more than you can handle. Well, here I am, not following my own advice. Even though my front garden was crazy with grass and not well kept, I decided to plow up and landscape even MORE yard! Go me!

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August 2012: Three years of battling Bermuda grass has driven us to the breaking point. It has invaded my beds and even grown into some of the wood. We have the tractor in place to remove the raised beds and we ended up burning them. It was a happy/sad day!

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Here is the front space that we created back in 2011. I seeded it with a wildflower mix and a poppy mix. See the lovely grapevine on the fence? Something ate its roots not long after this photo was taken and the entire plant collapsed in two days. I still weep for that grapevine. This is early summer, 2013.

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These beds were also seeded with wildflowers. You can see my onion patch here, too.

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June, 2013: You can see that the grasses have been trying to grow back. Also, note the blackberry bush in the lower left corner. It honestly made the nastiest blackberries I have ever had the displeasure of eating. They had to be dead ripe to get any sugary taste, and even then, it left your mouth with a bitter taste. Gag. It was labeled as Rosborough. Nope, never again. I finally tore it out in 2016.

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Shpring has shprung! This is April 2014. I love the wildflowers, but they are just hiding the fact that I don’t really want to deal with the yard at this point. Trust me, there are a ton of grasses in there that are already seeding…

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April 2015, from our bedroom window. Love love love me some irises!

 

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A favorite orange variety, given to me by an old schoolmate! I adore this iris and it is very hardy. I divided it this year (2016), so I hope for a LOT more!  In the background, you can see oregano, then Lamb’s Ears, and….more irises!

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Spring 2015:

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Looking awfully grassy out there….No garden beds 😦

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June 2016: The Brown-eyed Susans and Indian blanketflowers were absolutely insane this year. True, I had no real gardening beds (other than those right by the house), but I couldn’t tear these out…yet.

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September 2016: The breaking point that has built up for eight long years! It’s time to do this dadgum yard RIGHT! One of the major issues was that it was never properly leveled, so you were always walking up or down a slope. After a few hours’ deliberation and some quick sketches, Jason and I decided to do this right so we NEVER HAVE TO RE-DO THIS AGAIN. Time for the “reno”!

First, you take a backhoe:

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And you start to work on the leveling. It is really impossible to tell here, but that little scrape-out is about 3 foot tall or so! And then…

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You raze that sucker and get it as flat as a pancake! Notice, almost no weeds…Praise the Lord!

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We left this cornerpost because it supports a big climbing rose I have. The apple tree is actually going to be removed as sadly, it is too blighted to keep. Darn it.

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And, welcome to our desert garden!

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Now, for this shot, I had to get in the bucket of the backhoe and Jason lifted me up. Did I mention that I HATE heights! Whew. The asparagus bed to the far right was removed and we put it along the newly created arch next to the driveway. I call this garden the “Salad Bowl” because of its shape!

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Here you can see that bowl-shape I was talking about. And here we have laid out our beds to run east to west. I can see everything from my front porch! Woohoo!

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All my cute little beds…

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To keep me from losing my mind, we gathered all the pine straw we could to cover up the sand. I wish you could have seen how much came in through my front door in that first week…yuck. I hate a sandy floor! And you can also see the four ornamental beds I have created in the very front of my house. We used logs from our woods to make the edging. It’s still a work in progress, but I did relocate almost all of my roses to the beds on the left, and then a lot of irises to the bed on the right. The crepe myrtle coming up in the bed was a volunteer. We have more baby crepe myrtles than anyone I’ve ever seen. We have relocated many to the chicken coop and some more to the front yard. This particular one is a nice pink color. I have no clue where it came from!

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Sanity has been restored! Here we are in October 2016! It’s pretty amazing because so much has already grown up in the two weeks since I took this picture.The roses have really started filling out, and I planted tons of bulbs and some daylilies.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour through time! If you take away anything, just remember that Bermuda grass is the devil and you’d better rip all that hot mess out before you get to planting! And yes, it goes deep underground. Had we done that to begin with, I’d have a really lovely eight year old garden now. Oh well! Live and learn!!!

Until next time!

Buffy

Good morning, dah-links!  Just out of curiosity, how old is your oldest chicken?

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This is Buffy, the Buff Orpington. Very original name, I know. We bought her with a group of 25 other Buffies in 2009 when we raised them for a friend. So, she is now 7.5 years old. Now I know many people butcher old hens, but you have to realize that Buffy isn’t a hen. At least, SHE doesn’t think so. As a young pullet, she hated to be with the flock. Wherever the flock was, Buffy was not. She stayed as far away from everyone as she possibly could.

One morning, before we had good chicken fences, I heard a knock at the front door. I peered out of the door window. No one was there. Another tiny knock. Again, no one could be seen. Suddenly, at the window, there appeared a little golden chicken head and she knocked on the glass. Of course, we had to let her in at that point. Here was a hen who knew what she wanted in life.

Several times at dusk, when I went to close up the coop, Buffy was missing. I always dreaded the thought of finding handfuls of golden feathers and Buffy bits scattered on the lawn. But no, there she was, roosting in a woodpile. Or on a truck. Or in our shop. Buffy is not one for conventionality.

In March of 2015, she decided she wanted to become a mother. Never before had she wanted to set eggs or even become broody. Mind you, this was at 6 years of age, which is ancient for a chicken. I agreed to let her hatch a single egg to help her achieve her motherhood goal. And a single egg she did hatch! Of course, it turned out to be a rooster (it always is a rooster…), but he did turn out to be gorgeous and she loved mothering him very much. After that, she has yet to become broody again. I guess a single child was all Buffy ever wanted.

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Year 8 revisited

October 18, 2016 marks our eighth year of living on the farm. I can hardly believe it. I can hardly believe that I’ve been writing this blog for seven years now. I often wonder if anyone reads it anymore; of course I don’t do it for fame or fortune, but I do hope it gets a little bit of foot traffic!

So, every year, I try to write about things that we’ve learned over the previous twelve months. Usually, I find that it’s the same thing: Keep good fences. Plant what you eat. Live simply. Learn to laugh at your mistakes. 2016 wasn’t much different, and I’m not sure what I will have to add other than telling you that we are seriously cutting down on debt this year. I know I’ve said it in the past, but we really have gotten much more focused in becoming debt-free. One thing that I have fallen in love with is the so-called “No Spend” months. These are months that I choose (almost always a five week month for us since we are paid weekly) and they consist of no-frill spending and only about $100 on groceries. It takes pre-planning and dedication, but at the end of these months, we have found that we are saving an entire paycheck plus some. This extra goes to our debts. Maybe one day I’ll write more about it, but in the meantime, you can get some ideas here. It truly is quite simple, but again, especially in the food department, it does require pre-planning, and meal planning is a lifesaver here.

So, let’s recap the last twelve months with some pictures! Every year, we try to make it to Arkansas. If you have never been, there is a reason it’s known as the Natural State. It is absolutely gorgeous. Miles and miles of countryside to see. Caves, hot springs, mountains, rivers, lakes…Arkansas has it all. We usually go in spring or fall for the best weather, but be forewarned, these seasons also can be very volatile. Tornadoes and flash flooding are not rare occurrences here, so if you do go, be sure to check the weather forecast!

Once place we went last October was Blanchard Springs. The springs themselves are beautiful, but it is also home to the Blanchard Springs caves. I had never been to a cave before. The beauty of it literally brought tears to our eyes!

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The river that runs through it all…absolutely breathtaking:

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But meanwhile, back on the farm: We caught a hawk! Okay, not true, he caught HIMSELF in our fence while trying to get a chicken. I found him wedged between the chicken wire and the 4 x 4 fencing. Honestly, I thought he was dead. After some very careful manipulation with gloves and a towel, we extracted the little jerk from the fence (he is responsible for all hawk-related chicken deaths over the past year) and we found that he had injured a wing. So, off to the rehabber he went. Although not much larger than a pigeon, this Sharp-shinned hawk ate up about 15 of our birds. They overwinter here. In fact, we’ve already had a hawk attack by one again this fall, so I’m assuming his mate or offspring made it back.

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In November, we had the most adorable baby chicks born. Like, EVER. The especially ‘poofy’ one is “Yin”. And yes, we also had a “Yang”. We still have both, although sadly, their beautiful brother died the following spring.

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Every year, we go to the Homestead Heritage Fair in Waco. This is an absolute MUST if you haven’t been. I really can’t say enough good things about it! Due to torrential rain, they opened it for another weekend. Typically, it’s the weekend immediately following Thanksgiving. We brought home these baby Ameraucana chicks to add to our flock. I am happy to say that we have all but one a year later. They lay beautiful blue eggs.

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February 2016: Because every chicken needs a bonnet:

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And Fran needs a bonnet, too:

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March: It was a banner year for frogs and toads. We had so many pollywogs at the pond, it was black along the edges. Unfortunately, we also had an equal number of bullfrogs born here. I have no clue what will happen to the other frogs now that we have about 900 million huge bullfrogs.

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March also means baby bunnies. Here comes Peter Cottontail!

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The lazy flock of Silkies:

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I told you the bullfrogs are huge!

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Spring also brings out the snakes. This is a copperhead that we relocated. Yes, they are venomous.

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This summer brought the most insane number of Indian Blanket flowers I’ve ever seen. These all came up on their own without being reseeded:

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And naturally, flowers bring butterflies. We have SO MANY this year!

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Summer also brings mulberries! Delicious!

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Summer also brings us…TOMATOES!

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Because we had two ‘rainy’ years, the crepe myrtles and all things that flower were absolutely stunning this year! I have never seen them bloom like this before.

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The front yard in June:

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To catch a snake:

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And toads. Toads everywhere!!!

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Beautiful summer skies of July. We had some very dry months (including this October…ugh), and then some crazy wet ones! That’s East Texas for ya.

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Creating a ‘classics’ shelf in my mini-library, complete with a Brussels Griffon look-a-like a la Hobby Lobby:

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Ribbon snakes on the farm!

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Life is good for this eleven year old Mastiff:

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And this eight year old Brussels Griffon:

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Well folks, that about wraps up the last year! I’ll post again about the major yard renovation, but it’s time for me to refresh my (very cold) coffee. I hope you enjoyed the farm visit with us!

Stay golden…