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.┬áIt 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…

Texas: Hotter’n a pot of collards

It’s no secret that in Texas, if you want the weather to change, just wait two minutes. Honestly, it’s a real mixed bag around here. You can walk out in shorts and a tank top that morning, and come back a few hours later in need of a pair of woolen underwear, four layers of clothing, and a full-body zip-up sleeping bag with arm and legholes. But that’s just fall.

In the summer, it is hot. Like…deathly hot. Like…walk into a steaming hot blanket kind of hot. You will hear us say all of the time, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Well, I am here to tell you that it’s both, and it’s horrible. And hint, hint, it gets worse the older you get. I have learned that I need to be inside from about 10:30am until just before sunset. If I can’t do that (and let’s face it, I can’t), then when I AM outside, I’m hugging the treeline to stay in the shadows. It is on days like today that I dream of moving to Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine….pretty much anywhere where my shoes aren’t melting on the pavement and where snow is not a rarity.

Fortunately, there are only a few months that are pretty gross, and our winters are mild. Starting mid-July through September, however, I am ready to live in an igloo and hunt caribou. Or whatever igloo-dwelling people do. I don’t care. I no longer wonder why people take mid-day naps around here and siestas in Mexico. It’s because it is too hot to even manage a decent conversation without wanting to kill or seriously hurt someone. You want to see mayhem? Go check out a line of people waiting for ANYTHING in Texas come July. It ain’t pretty.

BUT, at least earlier this year, we got rain. A ton of rain. Enough to scare you kind of rain. And with a lot of rain, you get a lot of wildflowers. And this year, the crepe myrtle were so beautiful, they literally brought tears to my eyes…I swear I saw a double rainbow and white doves and the American flag in the background as I was taking photos. Really.

So please feel free to live vicariously through my happy photos during the month of May and June. Sadly, everything in my front yard now looks like it has been hit with a blowtorch.

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