Cannin’ and such – The end of summer 2021

Here is a short list of things I don’t like:

  • Humidity
  • Oppressive heat
  • No rain
  • Wasps
  • Fleas
  • Stinkbugs in the garden
  • A summer cold

And here is a short list of things that always happen during Texas summers:

  • Humidity
  • Oppressive heat
  • No rain
  • Wasps
  • Fleas
  • Stinkbugs in the garden
  • A summer cold

At least I can say that summer 2021 DID have more rain, at least through early July. Plus, we didn’t have but a few days of 100+ degrees.

I was not inspired this year to do much in the garden. Last year, I grew stuff like there was no tomorrow (and frankly, who knew?). But this year was the summer of B.L.A.H. (Being Lazy And (probably) Hormones (because frankly, when do they NOT rule our lives?).

Even so, I did get some things accomplished.

I planted enough cucumbers to make almost a years’ worth of pickles. I made a few “spicy” jars this year.

We grew some apples! You don’t hear about Texas apples, do ya? But it can be done! Despite me running over the tree two years ago on the UTV, our tree survived!

Our muscadines produced really well, due to all of the rain we got this year. I still had about 21 pints of grape jelly from 2020, so I couldn’t figure out what do. Then, it hit me: JUICE. Who doesn’t love grape juice? Well, duh. So if you are into making jelly or juices the ONLY way to fly is to get a steam juicer. Throw the fruit in, add water to the bottom pot, heat, and POOF! You get beautiful juice that can be canned as is, or made into beautiful jellies. Don’t even touch the fruit on top; don’t squeeze it with a spatula or you get ugly jelly, like I did in 2020. It puts sediment into your juice and makes it cloudy.

This picture is when I was juicing “Carlos” bronze muscadines. They are amazingly sweet and remind me of those expensive “cotton candy” grapes.

On the left is the finished juice of the “Carlos” grape, and on the right is the finished jelly of “Noble” – a purple muscadine. See how clear the juice/jelly is? So easy with the steam canner. Worth every cent. (Mine is no longer available on Amazon. As of 9/23/21, they have a Roots & Branches brand for $69 that looks nice! It’s one quart smaller in capacity than what I have, but I paid over $125 for mine, thanks to the 2020 canning frenzy)

And in the Weird files, which, admittedly, are very thick over here on the farm, I had a mystery squash come up in my orchard along the fenceline. It grew all over my grapes and I just left it to see. Well…it was a spaghetti squash! What the heck! I could have planted a million of those seeds and probably never grew a vine as nice as this one. I think we got 6 squash from it and they are delicious. So I think I’ll plant some sketti squash next to my grapes on down the fence next spring. Why not? A little cabbage worm ate off some of the skin, which is what you see here, but it didn’t hurt the squash at all.

So maybe it wasn’t my most productive summer ever; oh well. Now I’m just ready for the rains to come to break the official spell of dryness that always hits us in September. Meanwhile, the insane amount of seedlings I have started for our fall garden are sprouting and growing. I have promised them that I’ll not fail them when it comes time to get them in the ground.

Goodbye, summer of B.L.A.H.! Here’s to a productive fall!

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!

 

Another way to look at weeds

If you have ever gardened, it’s a known fact that if you don’t cover the soil with something (like mulch), God will cover it for you. Normally, this will be done with weeds.

But what is a weed, anyway? It is simply a plant in a place where you don’t want it. They are certainly not all bad, and in fact, many are very nutritious for us. We can look at them with utter hatred, or we can choose to make something positive of the situation. In my case, I see them as free chicken food from Mother Earth. Or, as I call them collectively, “chicken salad”. Every day, I have been going out to get my sunshine dosage (more on that later…I get seasonal affective disorder, I am pretty sure), and as I’m basking in that wonderful warmth, I silently thank God for each weed. Each one helps my little flock to stay healthy through the winter, and in turn, they produce healthier eggs for my family. This makes us healthier, too.
I think far too much when I’m weeding.

I think how weeds, just like the obstacles and trials in our own lives, can either be met with contempt, or they can be used to better us; to strengthen us. We may not be able to choose whether or not we get a yard full of weeds, but we can choose the attitude in which we greet them. As it is with life, our attitude towards the negative things we encounter is our choice

Now go out there, put on a big smile, and pull up some chicken salad. Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

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!

I don’t want to be a farmer today.

On February 10th, we had a pretty catastrophic thing happen at the farm.  Over the course of approximately four hours, we received 3.40 inches of rain.  It was a deluge…absolutely torrential.  Admittedly, I did sleep through the majority of it with the exception of about 4 seconds at 4 in the morning when I peeked through my blinds to see rain falling so heavily that the entire world appeared white.

When I got up that Sunday morning, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the grass was green….and my front yard had washed downhill.  The front yard that we have slaved on ever since the day we moved here.  For any new readers, you may want to take a look back at my posts about the Bermuda grass situation.  In a nutshell, the yard which we had decorated beautifully with a fence, gates, landscape timbers and 15 raised beds was razed flat to the ground because it was infected, YES INFECTED, with Bermuda grass.  After four years of battling the grass, we finally had enough and tore it all out this past September.   For many weeks, we sifted soil by hand to remove any remaining grass and we added countless bags of mulch anywhere that we didn’t want our plants to grow.  I have boiled down the process to a few sentences, but it took many  months of work to get where we are today.  Or at least where we were Saturday, because on Sunday about a quarter of my mulch was gone and my newly seeded wildflower bed was all but washed away.

As I was looking at the damage done, my eyes fell on my arugula/Asian greens seedlings.

Wait.

Where the hell are my seedlings?  I frantically bent down, and performing some immediate Front Yard CSI investigative techniques, I discovered that the greens had been mowed down by a wild rabbit.

Great, so not only did my garden get hit by a flash flood, but now the seedlings that I had been waiting for since January got completely assaulted by a buck-toothed, garden-destroying furball.  It was just too much.  I should also add that I was in the murky depths of a hormonal fog.  So I was on the verge of tears standing in my garden, trying to take in the destruction that lay before me, trying to decide whether to give up, cry, or find some stray dynamite and do the entire thing in.

In the end, I got over it.  Jason vowed never to touch it again, and so far, he hasn’t.  He would love nothing more than covering the entire thing in about 10 inches of mulch and saying to hell with it.  Myself, on the other hand, being the type who is either absolutely insane or loves self-punishment, decided to keep forging ahead and take a clue from Mother Nature.  A good lesson here is to never work against Her.  Bad idea.  This time, I noted where the run-off had been the worst and just worked around it.  Why would I plant or put mulch there if they’re just going to get swept away?  Now I officially have my very own “Horseradish Island”…my way of working with Nature by allowing water to run around my horseradish bed in a natural, teardrop-shaped form rather than trying to keep a 4×10′ rectangle.  I also added some rocks to the upper sides of some of the beds to prevent any further erosion.

I ended up not crying, and not setting off any explosives.  As for the rabbit, two weeks after the flood, Jason called to tell me that a certain little furry enemy of ours was lying dead in the ditch beside our house.  I like to think of it as Mother Nature’s peace offering.

I accept.

All good things…

…as they say, must come to an end.

I have never written a chicken obituary/memorial before, but I figured that I owe one to this particular bird.  The other day, as we were coming home, Jason spotted a familiar chicken that we all know and love….in the middle of the road.  Quite flat, actually.  I am glad I did not see it.

It was not THE Wayward Jones, but rather her sister, who apparently, even though she was warned of the dangers of hitchhiking and living loosely, still ventured too close to the road.  I COULD mention the age-old joke here…but out of respect, I won’t theorize why the chicken crossed the road.  Actually, now I suppose we’ll never know.  Anyway, Ms. Jones was interred September 17th, 2010.  Casseroles, chicken scratch, and donations to P.A.R.C. (Persons Against Runaway Chickens) will be accepted.

In other news, it is finally cooling down enough that I have made progress around the farm.  Tonight, we have been working on adding a top to the chicken yard.  A couple of weeks ago, I found the headless body of one of my barred Rock hens, which is indicative of a raccoon murder.  Let me say here that I do not like raccoons.  Sure, they may look all cute and fuzzy, what with their little people-like hands, thick fluffy coat, and ringed tail.  But behind their mask lies a cold-blooded serial killer.  Let’s not mince words here.  I won’t go into detail about what I would like to do to the ‘coon, lest you think I am just a cruel person.  So, to avoid further bloodshed, particularly for the ‘coon, we are putting a ‘lid’ on the outdoor run out of wire.

I have been lazy in my garden.  I haven’t pulled weeds in weeks and haven’t really cared to.  Jason made the comment the other day, “Nice bed of Bermuda you’re growing here.”  I couldn’t argue.  If I were TRYING to grow Bermuda, it couldn’t have looked much better than the thick, jungle carpet that has now dominated my old lettuce patch.  BUT, now is the time to plant, so I hope to take new pics and show you what will be in store for winter.  I am planning on having a really kick-butt winter garden this year, mainly by really utilizing row covers and my chenilles.

In farmhouse news, it’s really nothing new.  Please, please, please, if you do repairs on your house, have them (or do them) professionally.  And for crying out loud, please don’t use the cheapest parts you can buy.  Our poor heat pump/blower was apparently brought over on the Ark, and probably the same model used by the ancient Egyptians.  Ok, maybe those time periods don’t coincide.  Whatever, you get the picture.  Our kitchen faucet is leaky, the kitchen sink is made out of white plastic (what masochist picked THAT out???) and the supposedly new septic tank is overflowing.  Not complaining, just venting.  Anyhoo, it boils down to I am about to have to spend a good chunk o’ change to have a new heatpump installed, so that we don’t freeze to death this year.  I mean, last year, our house was at 58 degrees.  I’m sorry, but I don’t care to live in a meat locker.  Thank the Good Lord for all my quilts.  I looked like some sort of strange chrysalis all winter last year, wrapped in about 14 quilts, along with thermal underwear, a full set of clothes and 2 layers of socks.  I didn’t go anywhere without my throng of quilts.  THIS YEAR (I’m pulling a total Scarlett O’Hara here), with God as my witness, I will not freeze again!  We are going to insulate the house.  I hope they blow 5 feet of insulation in the attic.  I want so much insulation, it is scraping the rafters.  I want so much that it is spilling out of every vent and pore of this house.  I can’t say enough about good insulation.

I think I will end my post here.  Hopefully, next go ’round I will have some sort of interesting pictures for you all.

Gettin’ my goat…

Lately, we have been having ‘problems’ with our goats. Oh, they’re perfectly healthy and robust, but unfortunately, they all seem to suffer from some sort of co-dependent paranoia/eating disorder that if I do not come and feed them every 10 minutes, they are at the fence (unfortunately which can be seen through my back door) and scream at the top of their goat lungs. An incessant, “BAAAAAAAA, BAAAAAAAA, BAAAAAAAA” from early morning to nightfall.  It is to the point that my husband is ready to gut and clean every goat and have a giant, citywide barbeque.  So much for the peace and quiet of the country. We currently have eight goats; I am trying to get that to two or three to quiet the decibel level of “Baa”.  Oh, they have full access to about 12 acres of brushy, goat-friendly goodness, but they’d rather take a hand-out.  Reminds me of some of the people in this great nation.  Anyway, maybe that’s why I find it doubly irritating.  I don’t know.  I did just look and the goats were all where they are SUPPOSED to be, which is in the woods.  Maybe they will learn, yet.  We shall see. 

In farm life, yesterday, we had a couple of ‘our guys’ come and help us burn dead wood out in the goat pen, clean out the goat pen and apply it to my garden, and haul bricks to our pathway we are constructing in front of our house.  It was really great to have 4 extra hands!  I found one of my up and coming Rhode Island Red hens with her rear end virtually pecked to a bloody mess (ah, the fun you can have with chickens) so, I had to put her in a separate cage, clean and medicate her chicken bootie, and see how she does.  She’s a lot better this morning.  If you didn’t know it already, chickens will ruthlessly peck most anything that is red, blood especially, to the point they will kill a fellow chicken.  It can be extremely annoying and frustrating.  That’s why many chicken brooder lights are red, so that they cannot distinguish one red area from another.  So, I’ll have to turn back on the red light, I guess.  Oh well.  They are almost ready to put out with the big guys. 

So, screaming goats and doctoring chicken booties aside, yesterday was a really good, productive day!

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)

Upgradin’

Last night, the kids were gone (THANKS, MOM!!!), so Jason and I worked on upgrading the garden.  He took cedar planks, cut the to our 4’x8′ bed length, stacked em 3 high and nailed them together with stakes.  They look so cool!  The old way was just making a 4’x8′ rectangle one high and stacking them on top of each other.  This is so much faster!  I’ll post a pic when we get them up.

I sat out and worked on my microdripper system.  I LOVE my microdrippers/sprayers!  It’s the only way to fly when you have a garden.  I upgraded my minisprayers to those with a valve built in, so if that bed is not in use, I can shut off the water to it.  Then I added a couple of new ones to a grape vine and to an ornamental bed I have on the sideyard. We covered our yard in hay, so I buried all the lines under the hay.  These systems are so easy to install, I think everyone should have them!

Anyway, we’re waiting for a chimney sweep to come this morning.  I’m interested to hear what he says about our chimney.  I am sure it’s pretty disgusting looking.

Lastly for today, I’ll share a website with you:

www.cowboyflavor.com

We watch this show on RFDtv.  Bill’s moustache must be 4 feet across, seriously!  They do chuck wagon cooking, using our favorite pot; the Dutch oven. We can’t wait until fall when we can once again make fireplace beans and soup!

Summer Swelters on…

Wow, I’m a really bad blogkeeper!  Been over a month now.  Well you can’t expect much when school’s out, lol.  I’ve learned a lot over the past few months.  Allow me to share with you:

GARDENING:

Always, always, always, with no fail, label your plants.   I thought I could remember what I had put in the ground.  HA!  I planted green beans, cream peas, and pintos.  So, one day, after things were lookin’ about ready to pick, I thought it was time to pick me some peas.  So, I waited till the pods looked a little dry and got my friend and his son to help us ‘shell some peas’.  I did not realize my mistake until about 2 weeks later when my REAL peas matured.  We had actually picked PINTOS and had the worst time trying to shell the little boogers because they weren’t ready yet!  I thought those were funny looking peas!  Now I know!

Keep out the chickens.  In my rose-colored little pea brain, I imagined some kind of idyllic symbiotic relationship between my chickens and my garden.  The chickens would remove all the pests while simultaneously fertilizing my garden with their nitrogen-rich poo.  I had about 30 – 2mo. old chickens loose in my garden.  At first, all was bliss.  Then, over time, I noticed they were eating my cherry tomatoes.  No big deal, I thought…I give most of ’em away anyway.  THEN  they started eating my big tomatoes.  That definitely put a hitch in my giddy-up.  Now, I work hard on my ‘maters and I’ll be danged if some stupid chicken is going to eat my meal (I still like chickens, mind you, I was just really upset with them.  I really don’t think they’re stupid.) Then, I found that my squash had been slowly but cluckingly methodically picked on.  THEN, they poo’ed all over my porch.  But not just the porch.  The chairs, my blankets, my tables, and to top it off, trampled my moonvine and my poor, poor Christmas cactus. Now I was really hot.  OUT, OUT, OUT!!!  I screamed as I snatched them up.  Anyway, now they’re safe in their own coop, and no more poop for me to contend with!

God praise canned green beans!  You would think they’d be easy to grow.  Apparently, this year at least, not so.  I know this because not only did my lovely, lush vines only produce 8 measley pods, but my mother harvested her bumper crop of 4 pods, and her friend reaped 3.  God Bless the Jolly Green Giant.

Hoss and Fran taking a nap

Hoss and Fran taking a nap

LIVESTOCK:

Goats:  After several months of budgeting, I found that having 12 goats costs me approximately: $25 a month in hay, and $29.24 a month in feed.  Not including their wormer, which, by the way, is quite pricey at $80 a bottle!  Fortunately, though, it lasts a LONG time.  We are planning on selling 8 goats, so I figure I can quarter my costs.  $15 a month isn’t bad for having some brush trimming!

Poultry:  It costs me about $43.75/mo. to feed my chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys.  Now, the geese and ducks don’t do anything besides honk, quack, and crap, but I really do like my geese.  The turkeys are endearing except for the fact that they lay on my plants and would eat a 50# sack of corn in one sitting if I let them.  Plus, now they’re too big to butcher.  Now what?  The chickens are the most useful so far, as they are giving us copious quantities of lovely brown eggs.  I think I will always have some chickens till the day I die! They also love to eat lots of grasshoppers and i haven’t seen hardly any around lately.

In General:  While free livestock is appealing, the reality is that you have to feed ’em, house ’em and clean up after ’em.  You really have to ask yourself if it’s all worth the cost and effort.  As far as my geese go, they love to eat grass, which I think it hilarious and they honk when they see someone they don’t recognize, which I also think is hilarious.  They are definitely more ‘pet’ to me than useful livestock.  The ducks quack and crap.  I hope that will change and eventually I’ll get my 100 eggs a year out of them.  Maybe next spring.  The goats are very useful for eating brush.  You will be very amazed at how clean they leave a wooded plot behind.  However, twelve is too many for me at the moment.  The turkeys are very interesting, but gobble down food at a phenomenal rate.  Granted, I do have a breed which is very large, so I am not sure how the ‘heritage’ breeds would do, but I can tell you that these guys totally chow down.  Bottom line is that my chickens and goats are, so far, the most useful livestock that I own.

FARM LIFE:

For the past 3 months, we have been budgeting.  I’m bringing this up because I feel budgeting is very important to everyone, and especially for farm folks so we can assess our profit to loss ratio.  I have learned that I just can’t currently sustain as much livestock as I thought I could, and that’s ok.  Actually, it’s a weight off of my shoulders to sell off some of my flock, not just financially, but also mentally!  After a major talk with myself, I decided to whittle down to bare minimum, and really throw most of my efforts into my gardening.  After all, so far, it seems to me that my garden has paid off more than any of my livestock (except, perhaps, my laying hens), and it is SOOOOO much less effort for me to ‘keep up’.  Sure, it’s work, too, but I don’t have to worm my plants, or chase after them, or clean up plant poo.  So, I’ll always have a garden.  The other thing I like about vegetable/fruit gardening is that you can sell the produce, sell something you’ve created with the produce, like baked goods or canned goods, or even just sell seeds. Anyway, I think it’s a win/win situation all around. 

So, with budgeting in mind, for a very, very small initial fee, I can have a great big, gorgeous garden for pennies on the dollar.  So, plants are in, new livestock is out for now.  And that’s the farm report for this time!

My favorite thing for the moment:  Ever listen to talk radio?  I didn’t either until a few months ago when my favorite oldies station morphed into a talk radio station.  That’s when I discovered Dave Ramsey.  After I had listened to his no-nonsense style for about a week or so, I bought his book, The Total Money Makeover.  So, I am currently on Step #2, which is the Debt Snowball.  I have never done a real budget before, and before this April, budgeting was very hard because of the way our business was set up.  Now that we get ACTUAL, REAL PAYCHECKS (lol), I can budget.  I did my first budget in May, and thought, my God, no wonder we’re always broke!  I have faithfully stuck to my budget sheet (which I print out monthly from daveramsey.com) and I have never, ever had this much money left over at the end of the month.  I even amazed myself!  We have paid off about 6 of our debts already and are slaving away to pay off our next debt.  I even have enough now, saved up, to pay for our house taxes for this year.  I have NEVER had that happen!  You can do it, too!  I like Dave because it’s not some weird scam, and he seems to be very down-to-earth about things, and seems to have good ol’ common sense.  One day, I’m going to call the Dave Ramsey show and scream, “WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!!”  Just you wait and see!