First Hard Frost

Well, it’s December 4th, and we’re finally, officially going to have our first ‘hard’ freeze around here.  Goodbye Brandywine tomatoes.  Goodbye my Romas and Sweet Cherry 100s who are still producing.  Bye, bye big, lush basil.  Ugh. 

I was going to name this post “Check out my Hooters”, but I haven’t gotten pictures of them yet.  Stay tuned for the madness and mayhem.  Just kidding.  Well, about the madness and mayhem, anyway.

In farmhouse news, I’m ripping apart the interior of ye olde farmhouse and re-arranging things more to my liking.  Now that we’ve been here over a year, I know what I’ll use and where it serves me best.  So, I’ve been “Martha”-ing it up all day today and I only got to 3 rooms.  Oh well.  Feels good to get rid of clutter.  Sorry I don’t have current pics, but my camera is dead today.  I re-re-arranged the pantry, making a ‘maid’s’ corner (yes, that is me).  I love it!  Will get photos soon.

In farm news, today I lost my last female duck. I let her out this morning, and by midday, she was gone.  Just disappeared.  I am almost certain it was a hawk, and well….I’m pretty pissed about it.  I LOVE duck eggs to bake with.  Sigh.  But, here’s some pretty happy news…I took 2 of her eggs and put them underneath a setting hen, and both are developing!  Funny thing: I just was researching this phenomenon (chickens hatching duck eggs) and I found this quote:  ” One good breed of chicken to consider to hatch your ducks is called the Silkie.”  Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing!  I have my fingers crossed that they’ll hatch into two beautiful little females.  I will keep you updated on that.  At any rate, this spring, I will be adding some more female ducks to the farm as well as female geese.  Did you know that ducks are actually as efficient, if not more so, at laying eggs than chickens?  The eggs are also much richer.  Because my ducks do not eat funky stuff in a pond, their eggs do not have any weird, off flavors.  Anyway, I’m down to 2 geese and Mr. Duck. 

Well, time to go sit in front of my fireplace, finish my coffee and work on some crafts!  Hooters coming soon!

Afterthought:  I want to add some pics I snapped of the Christmas tree in our kitchen!  Enjoy!

An ornament for my Mamaw and Papaw circa 1978
A Vintage Japanese Skating Santa with a....skirt???
A vintage Japanese snowman ornament. Isn't he so cute?
A vintage Japanese angel ornament, playing her harp

Just around the corner…

Wow, and to think last time I wrote to y’all, days were in the 100 degree mark and HUMID.  Today, it’s misty and 72 degrees!  So, now we know fall is just around the corner.  This is my other favorite time of year, other than spring.  I always love the transitional times of the year the most.  The leaves are now beginning to turn; the sassafras is putting on its flame red foliage.  We should have a beautiful autumn this year for two reasons; we have received over a week of rain, and the fall’s first cool front is due next week, which is atypically early for us.  I’m excited!  Well, I may not be so excited when we are experiencing an extremely cold winter, but for now…

We have had a LOT going on in the past month, mainly illnesses in my little farm family.  Our youngest developed mesenteric lymphadenitis after a bout with gastroenteritis, and I have been on and off ill with a cold (flu? allergies?) for over a week now.  I do have much more energy now,  but I think that with all of this rain, I am reacting to the mold levels.  In other news, we adopted 2 kittens, a brother and a sister, about 3 weeks ago.  They are brother and sister, named Mr. Bobo and Ashley.  Aren’t kittens just about the cutest thing to watch?  Fran loves to chase them down and chew on their heads, but it’s all in good jest.

We also bought 2 white Plymouth Rock hens and we were graciously given 4 18 month old Leghorn hens, who are still laying big, white eggs.  I am planning on buying some MORE chickens very soon.  I also want to get some more Cayuga ducks.  The duck eggs are WONDERFUL.  I know most people balk at the mention of eating duck eggs, but I am telling you that the flavor and richness are unsurpassed by chicken eggs.  They do not taste “eggy”; it is a very complex and delicious taste.  Of course, our chicken eggs are also delicious.  There is NO comparison between ‘grocery store’ eggs and eggs from hens that are allowed a more natural diet.  I have the pictures to prove it!  Unfortunately, my camera is angry with my computer and refuses to share pictures with it, but I will get them on here ASAP. 

The newest additions are 4 guineas that I picked up at the feed store (and one that was hand-delivered…thanks, Rachel!). They are so funny to watch when they see a bug.  I told Jason it was like watching a pit bull in a chick suit.  They are extremely focused on movement and I have the feeling when I let them in my garden in a few weeks that they will do a great job of snapping up my pests. 

Well, Jason finally finished a log splitter that he built out of spare parts at his shop.  We already have about a 3/4 of a cord of wood from a fallen hickory in our woods.  It sure makes short work of chopping wood!  I can’t wait for more of our fireplace cookin’! 

I can’t believe we have already been here almost a year.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else!  Still a LOT to do here…but we’re whipping things into shape slowly.  The kitchen garden is ever-expanding and Jason finished several of the raised beds.  Now I just need to fill them with compost.  It’s also time for me to plant my winter garden.  I did plant some winter squash, beans, and cucumbers. I am still harvesting lots of okra, tomatoes (Brandywines from spring), and tons of cherry tomatoes.  Oh, and I do finally have peppers, lol.  I didn’t do so great with my peppers this year.  I’m not sure what happened there, but with the cooler temps and tons of rain, they are finally ‘makin'”.

I have also been putting up LOTS of muscadine and scuppernong grape jelly.  We picked 32 pounds of muscadines at a farm, and I am slowly working on turning them into delicious jelly!  I hope that soon myself and my MIL will get together (with our new food processors….NO MORE CHOPPING) and put up some more tomatoes/tomato products.  You just can’t beat homegrown flavor…no doubt about it! I also got a lot of figs last month, and I’m planning on doing a strawberry-fig jam.  I do have to wonder how many people in my age group can things?  Hmmmm….I’m willing to  bet not many.  What a shame.  Here’s a great LINK for making muscadine jelly, juice, or jam.

Today’s favorite thing:

Well, I am still on a budgeting kick!  I had to update my ‘cash flow’ form last night and wanted to share this form with you.  The idea is that NO dollar is unaccounted for.  It is fairly self-explanatory, but it is also great to have the book, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, which is currently on sale for under 10 dollars.  Download this FORM.  It is in PDF format.  I use this form every month, and I also use 2 envelopes.  One holds my receipts for anything that comes out of my checking account, and one holds receipts for anything that I pay cash for (that is NOT deducted out of my checking account).  So, at the end of the month, I have a paper trail, and also keep up with where my cash goes.  I NEVER have to ask myself, “Where did my money go?” because I KNOW.  It is so liberating, trust me. This is a system that works wonders for me.  I have been doing this since May 18th of this year.  If you are in debt, I URGE (and beg and plead for) you to try this system and find freedom for yourself!!!!

Well, that is all that I have for today, plus my entire right arm is aching for some reason!   :0)

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.