Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Foiled again!

Well, the universe is at it again. Messing with my head and foiling all my plans! Dastardly universe! I had such big plans for today. I was going to put more plants in the ground!

Last week, my old man, the consummate bargain hunter, Craigslist shopper, and wanter-of-cheap-tools, found a wood lathe and it's accompanying set of chisel-things on Craigslist for a very small amount of money. He's wanted a lathe for a very, very long time. So off we went. Immediately. I'm talking, turned off the oven in the middle of cooking dinner immediately. We got to the old guy's house and B went to chatting and loading up the lathe. The guy asked him if he wanted tomatoes. B said no. What?!?! Why'd you say no? Cause we already have a million tomatoes started? So what?!? So, I got out of the truck (where I'd been sitting and reading during the men-talking-about-tools part of the trip) and wandered out to say hello. The old guy asks me if *I* want some tomatoes. "Of course! I'd love some! Thank you very much". turns out, he grows three different kinds of heirloom 'maters. One he said is fuzzy like a peach, one is huge and purple, and one is a crazy vining variety that I'll need to let run on something. And he gave me A LOT of 'em. I mean A LOT!

So, I've given a few away and am giving more away this week, but it still looks like we'll be overrun with tomatoes (have I mentioned yet that I really don't like tomatoes? I mean, salsa, ok; tomato sauce, not bad in a pinch; other things you make out of tomatoes, sure; but the actual fruit itself? bleh!). There are at least 50 of them under the lights right now. FIFTY!

And today I had planned on actually planting them. Cause...well...it's time. My bathroom is going to look remarkably like a tomato jungle if I wait much longer. But no. It had to rain.

So what am I doing instead of planting? Starting more seeds. Duh! I still have one empty rack on my light stand! Watermelon, sunflowers, more herbs (the herbs i started a few weeks ago look like they want nothing more than to lay down and die), and...and...umm...other stuff. I forget what packets I pulled out yesterday. Oh! And I need to start my morning glory and moon flower seeds soaking so I can plant them! B moved the WHOLE wood pile so I can plant right in front of the house (good call, mother-in-law!) and I'm going to (maybe) let those run up the posts on the porch.

But, if mother nature and the universe keep whispering in the corner about how to screw up my plans, nothing will ever go in the ground and all of this will be for naught!

On a happier note, all the wee little, cheepy, chirpy, fluffy balls of chicken are doing well! We had a cold night and I was concerned but everyone is present and accounted for, including the 5 hatchlings I moved out to the brooder yesterday. Two of them are still in the incubator...they're a little slow off the mark at fluffing out.

On a totally unrelated note, my dear sister has asked me to write about the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad, and completely sucky day I had last week where every single thing I touched turned to poop and the universe cackled wickedly in my face every time I turned around. That's not for today though. All I'll say regarding the-day-that-shall-not-be-named is that Sancho Panza gave up the ghost and FELL RIGHT OVER. He's still there. On the ground. I should go pick him up and allow him to do his duty, but...meh, it's raining. And I'm still a little discouraged about *whisper* that awful day I had. But, that day? It was just ONE day. One bad day in a string of awesome days, so I still feel like I'm ahead of the curve.

And I live on a farm. On a mountain. Which, even in the rain, is pretty damned awesome!

Good day everyone!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Three weeks ago, we started with some eggs. We put them in an incubator which sat on my kitchen counter. It was just a box of eggs. No big deal.

Then, all of the sudden, something happened. They started moving. Eggs. Moving. And peeping. Yes, eggs. Just plain ol' eggs. Making noises and moving around.

Then, something all together weird happened.

A few hours later, something else happened.

And then, as if eggs in a box, wiggling, making noise, and poking holes wasn't weird enough...

When I thought our eggs in a box experiment couldn't any more bizarre..

A chicken popped out! Oh, it was a herculean effort, it was! That little guy was exhausted!

But I guess he got his box-mates excited, cause the next thing you know..

Two! Two tiny, slimey little balls of future-cute! That was last night. When we went to bed, there were two; when I woke up this morning...SEVEN!! Seven tiny little chickens were flopping around in our incubator!

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "K, you just said that the two hens you have lay plenty of eggs." And you might go so far as to do some math, and say, "Now, K, if all of those eggs hatch, that'll give you 15 chickens! Why on earth do you need 15 chickens?" A valid question.

But wait. There's more.

The egg hatching started Saturday night. Saturday afternoon (during a TORRENTIAL downpour), my old man and I took a little road trip (halfway across the state), to the home of a chicken breeder. I found them on that venerable website, Craigslist. And they had some very cool breeds. So I convinced B that a roadtrip was in order, and off we went.

Now, let me preface all this by saying that chickens can be somewhat...addictive. Once you have a few, you want more. And once you see how many cool breeds there are, you want a lot more.

That being said, I'm NOT going to tell you how many we bought. It's just embarrassing. Y'all will think I'm turning into one of those crazy cat ladies sans cats. I will say this though: we got some of these, a few of these, a couple of these, a handful of these, one or two of these, and finally, the coolest of all, some of THESE!!

Yep. That's a lot of chickens, I know. But, dangit! They're cute!

So, that was pretty much our weekend. It involved way too many chickens. Also, the inlaws came to visit in the midst of all this chicken business and we had a fantastic time dragging them through the woods, touring the property, checking out the falling-down farmhouse in the corner of the property, walking through the garden, and...talking about chickens!! I hope they don't think we've completely lost it at this point!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our new hire...

We brought on a farmhand this morning. He seems a loyal, hardworking sort, who's seen his fair share of adventure. He said his old boss was a bit of a nutter, running about the countryside picking fights and causing trouble. But, like I said, loyal, hardworking, doesn't ask alot of questions. I think he may be Spanish, and maybe a little older than he looks. I think he'll like it here.

Meet Sancho Panza!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Surprises abound!

Look!! Peas!!

And here! Are those, could they be..onions?!

And over there! Spinach, mayhap?

There too!! Lettuce!

And, what's that? A baby strawberry, you say?

Are those blueberries I spy in the distance??

And grapes to boot??

And...*doubletake*...Hazel and Darnell, making their blog debut.

And, Betty. She's such a diva. Apparently, this is her good side...

And finally, the prettiest weed in my yard. I mowed around these the other day!

Good day everyone!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The taint has been lifted

When I promise something fuzzy, I don't mess around!

Oh, but I promised a flower as well, didn't I?

There. I now declare this blog to be free from the taint of homegrown meat. Mom, it's safe to come back now.

So, lets talk about my garden, shall we? It's a mess. A total, complete mess. It was allowed to go to seed last year, so on top of all the normal weeds, I keep finding random things that I KNOW are some vegetable or another popping up. I feel like I shouldn't pull em up, but I do it anyway. A weed is anything that grows where you don't want it growing, right? So, that kale that's hanging out on the butt-end of two of my rows? Weed. The spearmint that's running riot across everything? Weed. Actually, the kale is going to the bunnies and chickens and the spearmint I'm hoping to dry or distill or something...I haven't decided yet. Ergo, a LOT of time spent weeding this week. With luck, I'll get stuff in the ground tomorrow. I'm tired of having to carry out trays upon trays of plant starts from under lights to outside. I think they're hardened off enough...and if not, it'll be trial by fire!

So, this year, I'm trying to "plant by the signs" using the phase and placement of the moon to schedule certain garden tasks. Old timers down here swear by it. So, according to the moon, tomorrow and into the weekend is the time for planting leafy and fruit bearing plants...and it just so happens that's what my bathroom is full of. Last night was a new moon, and according to traditional wisdom, new moons and full moons are barren days and are better spent weeding, hoeing, plowing, etc. Not planting. Tomorrow, I reclaim my bathroom AND get to start fretting over my baby plants out in the great, wide world all alone.

Also within the next few days, something really, really cool should start happening. A couple weeks ago, we bought an incubator for the abundance of eggs we were getting. Seriously, it looked like we were saving up eggs for the war. We had WAY too many. So, we stuck a dozen in the incubator, set it for a toasty 99.5 (which apparently is the temperature which most closely mimics a momma chicken's butt), and waited. Within the next week or so, they should start hatching. Hopefully. I can't wait. We'll definitely have photos of fuzzy stuff then.

I guess I'm off to pull more weeds. Maybe I'll stick one or two plants in the ground today to test out this barren new moon day theory. Experimental plants. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scratch that off the list

A disclaimer before we get started today:

This post is not for the squeamish. If you are disturbed, bothered, or otherwise put off by where meat comes from, do not read any further. Seriously. Mom, stop reading right now. What I'm going to relate is not gory, or cruel, or insensitive, but some people are a little touchy about the whole killing animals for food thing, so I say to them, go read something else and come back tomorrow. I'll post a flower.

Now, that's out of the way. If you chose to continue reading, you're going to hear about chicken. Chicken the way our grandparents and great grandparents ate it. And if you think that's cruel, go look at some pictures of the chickens they use for meat at the big chicken farms and you'll come back and tell me I'm a saint.

Years ago, when my old man and I first started talking about self-sufficiency and independence, raising our own meat was at the top of the list of things we wanted to do. At that time, however, we lived in an apartment near Atlanta, half a mile from a major highway, where the only open, arable land around was devoted to that noblest of pursuits, golf. Suffice it to say, back then, raising our own meat was but a dream.

Fast forward eight or so years and you would've found us a bit further off the beaten path with a bit more land to spare. You also would've found us with our first chickens. And then our goats. Then, just when we were getting ready, our lives took a bit of an unexpected turn and we found ourselves moving, and moving, and moving again. And now we're here; on the little farm, with more chickens, more goats, more animals period. We have more land and everything is coming up roses so to speak.

So, in the ten or so years since we first began to even think about doing this whole farming thing, we never got the chance to raise anything for meat until now. This weekend *drumroll* we slaughtered our first chicken. It was quick and painless, don't worry. And, it was delicious. Seriously. It was really, really good. A bit tough, cause he was an older bird, but still. Yum. And no, I'm not going to go into details about how exactly it all went down. If you want to learn, let me know and I can point you in the direction of a dozen good resources.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it after the fact. Since, my job for years has been, you know, keeping animals from dying, I wasn't sure how I would react. In all honesty, I came away from it feeling pretty dang good about the whole thing. I know that chicken had a good life. I know he was fed healthy food. I know where he'd been and to what he'd been exposed. I know that he wasn't cramped in a tiny little cage with five or six other birds with genetically modified breasts so large his poor little legs couldn't support his weight. He'd been in the sunshine, eating bugs and acting like a proper little chicken. And, I was able to thank him.

So, yeah, it was a good weekend. A major goal was accomplished and my psyche and delicate sensibilities weren't crushed.

Tomorrow, something fuzzy. I promise.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I'm not feeling particularly verbose this morning and nothing very noteworthy happened yesterday, aside from the rain. So, I thought I'd leave you all with a few photos from around the little farm.

This poor, lonely little house needs a tenant. There was a chickadee who seemed interested last weekend, but apparently the place failed the inspection.

Papa bluebird, standing guard, awaiting the return of his hardworking ladyfriend.

King Leon, master of the farm.

King Leon's liege lady, Little Red

And finally, what's more fun than a barrel of monkeys? A tubful of ducks. The only part that's not so fun? Cleaning up after a tubful of ducks. They had a right proper throwdown in this here bathtub. And they have not been back in it since. They now prefer to party in a bucket outside.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Spring Rain

It's raining on the little farm this morning. It's one of those gentle spring rains; the kind of rain that makes the temperature drop a bit, but a warm breeze is still blowing. The sky has a purplish cast and the trees seem to stand a bit taller, welcoming the drink. All the animals are snugged up in their houses, peeking out, waiting for the sky to stop inconveniencing them with that awful wet stuff, except the chickens. I'm not sure if it's because they enjoy the cleansing rain, wings aflutter, clucking contendedly...or if they're just "too stupid to come in out of the rain."

Weather like this puts me in a nostalgic mood. When I was a kid, whenever there was a thunderstorm we'd all go out on the front porch (we had an AWESOME front porch)and rock in our rocking chairs and watch the rain. Until my mother, who instilled in me a healthy (a little too healthy if you ask my old man)respect of the weather, would usher us back inside to the middle room of the house and wait for the impending tornado. Now, all you midwestern inlaws are surely a bit more cavalier about storms and impending tornadoes, but cut me some slack. I'm not from the plains.

Luckily, this isn't that kind of rain. This is slow and steady with a little breeze, a good rain. It's the kind of rain that makes me want to go for a walk, splash in a puddle, dance, and just watch as the ground drinks up the moisture.

But, whatever. It's 7:30 in the morning and there's no way I'm going out in it. I'll just watch from my cozy, dry front porch, while rocking in my rocking chair. And you can bet that if the wind picks up and the thunder starts, I'll be back inside in the middle room of the house, waiting for the impending tornado. But, should the sun peek through the clouds today, I plan on grabbing a few more descriptive photos of the place to post. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Taming of the Shrew

Something bizarre happened this morning.

I, for most of my life, have hated waking up with an undeniable fervor. Ask my mother. I, historically, have NOT been a morning person. Ask my old man also. He used to make it a point to avoid engaging me in conversation before my second cup of coffee. I am grumpy and generally disagreeable. I stumble to the kitchen, bleary eyed and cursing, running into dogs, hair disheveled, pajamas akimbo, to pour a cup of steaming hot nectar of the gods. And not until I've sated the grump-monster within am I capable of anything resembling a decent conversation. This is not an exaggeration. This is an accurate portrayal of my morning alter ego.

(Disclaimer)Now, understand, morning as a time of day, I've always rather enjoyed. But, I've always preferred to enjoy it alone. I like to sit outside and drink coffee alone; smoke my morning cigarette alone. Quietly. I don't have a problem with morning. I have a problem with waking up and talking to people. I don't like to be bothered when I'm gathering my wits and shaking the sleep from my brain.

I say all that so that when I tell you what I did this morning, you will all know that there must have been some sort of planetary realignment, shift in the magnetic forces of the Earth, alien invasion, solar flare while I slept. SOMETHING happened. I woke up and...*drumroll* made breakfast for my old man and actually sat down at the table and had a pleasant conversation. I know!! It was all very surreal. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't make eggs benedict or anything. I cut up a kiwi and put it on a plate. No great shakes to some of you, but for me? Groundbreaking. Tomorrow, we're going to move up to toast and jelly. Who knows, maybe eggs benedict is in my future!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

As promised, a few photos. Maybe not exactly what you guys had in mind, but hey, they're pretty!

Oh, baby apple flower, you're going to make such yummy jelly when you grow up.

I'm not sure what you are, but I bet you'll be good in a jar!

Hey, there cherry blossom! I'm looking forward to making a pie out of you one day.

I walk out through our fruit trees every morning and am consistently surprised by the changes I see. These guys were naked just last week. I can't wait to be able to traipse across my front yard, basket in hand, and pluck future pies, jams, and jellies right off the tree. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, pears, peaches, apples, cherries, grapes...holy cow, how am I ever going to have time for all that baking (and munching!)?

In other news, I look like a lobster. I was able to locate my nuclear fallout proof sunscreen, but alas, i was too late. My pasty, pasty visage just doesn't hold up well under 90 degree, blazing sun. Seriously, 90 degrees. This isn't funny Mother Nature!! *shakes fist at Mother nature* Stop toying with my emotions and bring spring back! I'll be spending a great deal of time INDOORS today to punish Mother Nature for being so tricksy. I bet she'll get the message.

I'm antsy to start planting. But, people smarter than me say the average last frost date up here is around the twentieth or so of this month, so, even though it's 90 *glares at Mother Nature* I'll be holding off for a little while. Except for the squash I planted yesterday. We're calling them experimental, guinea pig squash. And! If they die, no worries...I hate squash.

So, I'm off to hide from the sun and unpack all day. Maybe by this time tomorrow, there will be enough room to walk without stepping over stuff and maybe even vacuum. Maybe. If there's room.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Weekend, She Was Productive

This was a marathon weekend for my old man and myself as we're expecting two different spates of company in the coming weeks. My sister will be here in a week and his folks are coming up in three weeks. And, suffice it to say, the little farm is not yet company ready. Not to mention, Spring is pretty much in in-your-face mode these days and Spring is very demanding! She wants you to plant stuff, and clean up your yard, and dust the cobwebs out of the corners, and go for walks and pick flowers, and play with the dogs, and go to the river and have picnics, and grill out, and plant more stuff, and cut the grass, and clear land so you can have a bigger pasture, and hang a hammock so you can take a nap in her sunshine and procrastinate doing all that other stuff.

Unfortunately, we don't have a hammock. Yet. Wonder if I can make one...

Anyway, we got a ton accomplished over the weekend. We hoed and planted and dug and cleared and lifted heavy things and chipped and shredded and, of course, got sunburned. Yep, first sunburn of the year, right here folks! I burn like a fiend every time I'm in the sun for more than an hour or so. And, go figure, the sunscreen (which is super, heavy duty spf 1000 that I got in California on vacation a couple years ago AFTER getting the worst sunburn of my life [remember that, sister-in-law? i looked like I'd been broiled]) was still packed somewhere in the deepest recesses of the house; the house which is still about 3 boxes deep around it's entire perimeter.

All things considered though, it was a fantastic weekend. We now have lettuce, spinach, peas, and some bunching onion seeds nestled snuggly in the garden; we have an almost clear spot for the new chicken coop; and we have a new push mower! I LOVE mowing the lawn. I know. Don't say it. It's weird. I'm aware. But, I do.

Whatever, everyone's got quirks.

Hopefully, I'll be posting some photos from around the place later today. I'm not sure how well it'll work out with this satellite internet (read: slow internet), but we're gonna give 'er a whirl.

Good day, everyone!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

"But It's a Good Tired..."

"It's a good tired"....I've decided that's code for "I'm bone weary, tired to my very core, but I can't complain about it because it's from doing something I a)love to do, or b)chose to do." Either way, "good tired" translates into "the kind of tired that makes you collapse into bed at night, oblivious to everything; not even rousable by crying cat or crowing rooster." That's how I felt yesterday. I was so beat I could barely lift my arms. Not sore, mind you, just absolutely wrecked.

Wednesday, in a fit of unprecedented productiveness, I moved furniture. A lot of it. And it was all big. Those of you who know us, know that we have a lot of crap. We have furniture enough to fill two modestly sized homes (which we just finished doing), and now we're trying to find a way to cram it all into one small home. So, I pushed and pulled and tugged and lifted and cursed and sweated it all into some semblance of order. The living room looks like a living room...albeit, a very crowded living room, but a living room nonetheless. The tv is where a tv should go, sofa where a sofa should go, bookshelves in the proper place, recliner shoved into a corner, weird fold-out sofa thing my old man's folks gave us crammed into another corner...all is as it should be if it were a much larger room. But it's cool. We just need to do a little more purging. And until then, we're stepping over stuff.

Yesterday, upon waking and realizing that I was experiencing "good tired", I promptly went to the porch to drink coffee and watch the sun rise. It was still dark out and the crickets and peepers were all chattering to one another about their nights. The birds were waking and calling good morning to their neighbors. I could hear a donkey in the distance, braying his disapproval at having his sleep disrupted by the many, many roosters you can hear anytime after four a.m. (including mine, but Leon is awesome, so he can cockadoodle doo to his heart's content). You know what I didn't hear? Cars. Sirens. Horns. People.

It was a good morning.