Friday, June 27, 2014

Challenge #24: Go on a Picnic

When was the last time you went on a picnic?  Eating fast food in your car or on the bleachers at your kid's little league game doesn't count.

No, a picnic needs food prepped and packed from home, plates, napkins, and a blanket.  It requires you to sit on the ground.

It's been a while since I actually did that: sit on the ground and eat food that was served on a blanket.  Usually when we eat outdoors we use a picnic table or the little wooden folding camp table that a neighbor made us years ago as a thank you after DH gave him some rough sawn pine boards.  But what with having K3 visit this week, I'm doing all sorts of things that I haven't done in a while.

Pb & j, lemonade, cookies, some fruit, and a blanket in the yard. Easy peasy picnic!

Now it's your turn! Go on a picnic (pb & j optional, you can eat fancier if you'd like, but don't forget the blanket!) and you can leave the yard if you wish.  ;0)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Special Guest

I haven't posted much lately. I even missed posting a Challenge last Friday. That is because DH and I made an out of state trip to see DS2 compete in Nationals with his Concrete Canoe team (they came in 8th Overall), and while we were there, DS1, K2 and K3 traveled to meet us.  It was great to see them all, and even better to bring K3 back to Michigan with us for a visit.

Which means, however, that this Grandma is on two-year-old patrol from the time I get up in the morning until about an hour or two before I go to bed at night.  And that blessed hour (or if I'm lucky, two!) with a sleeping toddler is spent getting the house cleaned up before my blonde whirlwind wakes up and blows through it again.

Honestly, though, we are having a lot of fun.  It's been 14 years since I had a 'round-the-clock two-year-old shadow.  I'm not getting a heck of a whole lot done around the homestead (oh, the weeds in the garden!!), but I'm coloring, and playing ball, splashing in puddles, reading old favorite books, giving concerts of not-yet-forgotten children's songs (thanks, Raffi, for burning them into my brain so well), watching the ducks and geese and turkeys and chickens, even making a trip through the grocery store with a passenger in my cart (and neither one of us cried).  I also have a chef's helper.  And a reminder not to leave the butter dish uncovered if I turn my back for a minute.

K3 will be with us for about another week, then it will be time to go home to SC and greet her baby brother when he makes his entrance into the world.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Storms We Didn't Get Yesterday. . .

. . .We are making up for today.

I was awakened about 3:30 this morning by rain coming in the window at the head of my bed.  Dreaming about getting a shower is one thing; actually getting one while you lay in bed is another.

After shutting the window, I went back to sleep, and slept really well.  For some reason, I have always slept better during a stormy night than a calm one.

The next thing I knew, it was six a.m., but still very black out, darker than the sky had been even at 5:00 a.m. for several weeks.  I thought I had just beat my alarm clock by ten minutes, then I realized that what had awakened me this time was a change in the sound of the storm.  The wind sounded differently, it's howl had changed pitch.  I decided to get up for the day, and check things out for myself.  I even briefly thought about waking up DD2 and sending her to the basement, until I realized she wasn't home, having spent last night at a friend's house.

Clouds were whipping by outside, driven down from the north.  Their bottoms were suspiciously unflat, even pointed in areas.  I kept an eye on them while I brushed my teeth and got dressed, looking for any points that might start extending ground ward.  A sign that I, myself, should probably retreat to the basement.

None did (and so I didn't either), in fact within a half hour the brunt of the storm had passed by.  Now the sky looked more like morning.  A gray, dreary wet one, but at least it resembled morning more than pre-dawn.  Time to head out to feed the horses down at the farm.

It only rained about twenty more minutes in the next two hours, which allowed me to get most of my animals chores done without the aid of my raincoat.  (Side note: that raincoat is probably the best 25 cents I ever spent, purchased at a garage sale in 1993 for a quarter, I've been wearing it for outdoor work in rainy weather ever since.)

the 25 cent raincoat,
a bit grubby on the sleeves but still waterproof

We had about a five hour reprieve from any stormy weather; then, mid-afternoon, the black clouds rolled back in.  They came from the west, but as the front hit, the wind abruptly changed to be from the north again.  This little place here was swiftly enveloped in the storm.  It seemed like the clouds wrapped around the property in a giant bear hug.

to the northwest,
over the hay field

low-hanging cloud bottom over hay field

to the west,
going to come over the orchard and the duck/turkey/goose pen

looking south southwest,
over the garden

over the field

due north

Then the rain hit, suddenly and hard.  No warning sprinkles, just a sky that burst open and down came the rain, so thick you could hardly see through it.

the field and oak tree

The temperature has dropped ten degrees in the last thirty minutes, since I began snapping pictures of the clouds that were moving in.  It's a decent storm; I think the eye is overhead at the moment, as the sky has lightened, the wind died to nothing, and the rain is a steady gentle patter on the roof.  Just a few minutes ago I had to have every window in the house closed, as the wind was pushing rain in from every direction.  The leaves on the trees were all belly up in the rushing wind, but now they hang quietly, as if asleep.  Thunder rumbles and echoes, not quite dying away entirely before it increases in volume again.  I'm ready for round two; the backside of the storm.

I love storms.  They fascinate me.  I think in another life; or rather, had I been born a girl-child in the nineties instead of the early seventies, I might have become a storm chaser.  As it was, I was married with four kids before I was aware that such a career even existed.  A little too late for me.  So, I am content being a storm observer from this little place here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another Baby Quilt

Time is getting short before my nephew is due to arrive in this world, and I figured I should probably get his quilt finished.  Today's weather forecast was originally stormy, so I had planned that, being stuck inside due to inclement weather, I should spend a few hours sandwiching and quilting my newest creation.

The weather forecast was wrong; not a drop of rain fell all day.  It was, however, hot and humid, so the middle hours of the day were best spent indoors.  And, while I had the iron out and heated up for pressing the backing fabric of the quilt before assembly, I knocked off my pile of ironing too.  Killing two birds with one stone, as it were.  (And much easier to explain how several hours of my day was spent 'playing' instead of working, LOL)

I really like how this latest quilt turned out.  I had chosen the fabrics, wanted to do pinwheels with them, and drawn up a couple different color combos and placements for the blocks.  DD2 was privileged enough to be my design consultant (I have yet to make a quilt from a kit or pattern thought up by someone other than myself), and she picked the design that featured an equal number of light and dark blocks.

Now that the quilt is done, I really like how it turned out.  She has a good eye.  I'll have to remember to get her opinion for future designs too.

I call this one "What's His Name's Quilt", since, as last I heard (two weeks ago), his parents had not yet agreed upon a name for him.  He'll be here in the next seven days--as per a deadline given by the obstetrician--so they'll be deciding on a moniker pretty soon.  Or else this eccentric old aunt will start referring to him in person as WHN.  ;0)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Just Hangin' With the Wildlife

It was a busy weekend at this little place here, but not much of interest to write about.  Hoeing weeds in the garden, replanting my peas (sometimes you just gotta till it under and start again--a few pea plants in all of six double rows made that area just not worth weeding, so I had DH hit the pea patch with the tiller and I replanted them in hopes of better germination this time), splitting and stacking wood for this winter. . .

Mowing the lawn and the paths in the garden, as well as the perimeter path around the property. Planting a few annuals in the flower beds. Grilling and chilling with some burgers and some micro brews out by the fire ring. . .

It was a pretty quiet weekend, and we got a lot of work done.

DD2 had gone with me when I went shopping on Friday, and she talked me into the annuals that I bought.  I did need a few to dress up the front flowerbed and the flowerbed in front of the propane tank now that the early season flush of perennials is just about over.  Next come the day lilies and the Asiatics, then there isn't a whole lot of blooming things other than some salvia and black-eyed Susans (called brown-eyed Susans around here, as one of my grandmother's was named Susan and she had brown eyes. . .) to carry the floral show through until it's time for the mums in the fall.  Hence a few pansies and petunias sprinkled in here and there for interest. Plus I needed marigolds to put in the garden amid my tomato plants to ward off tomato worms.

Anyway, DD2 was admiring the hanging baskets of annuals at the store, and I happened to mention that I had an old, empty hanging basket in the barn that she could use to make her own arrangement.  We also have potting soil, so why buy a basket and dirt just to get the pretty flowers when we could buy her choice of flowers (on sale, of course) and she could make her own personalized basket.  She immediately chose three different types of annuals she wanted to make her very own basket with, a combination that would be much more colorful that anything ready-made at the store.

Creating that living floral arrangement took her an hour or so this weekend.  She hung it on the (previously empty) shepherd's hook in the front yard.  About five minutes later, she declared it 'needed something to balance it out', as my shepherd's hook is the kind that can hang two things, not just one.  It didn't take her long to rummage around in my collection of 'haven't used it in years but can't quite get rid of it' items out in the barn and come back with the hummingbird feeder.  She proceeded to wash that up, look up a recipe for homemade hummingbird food (4:1 water and sugar, plus a little red food coloring), and once the feeder was filled, hang it opposite her basket of flowers.

Within a few hours a bluebird was drawn to the colors now hanging from the shepherd's hook.  It added even more color while it perched for a few minutes, checking things out.

By the next morning several hummingbirds had discovered the feeder.  I was able to get a picture of one, later in the day.  It appears to be a female ruby-throated hummingbird.

Looks like DD2 needs to whip up another batch of hummingbird food.

We even had a deer come in about 50 yards from the fire ring, lay down in the shade of the big oak tree and just watch us for a while.

Have I ever mentioned how much we love living at this little place here?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Challenge #23: Make Dessert

This should be a challenge that everyone can participate in.  I can't imagine anyone out there in the wide wide world who might be reading my blog and is unable to take part in this challenge.  It's not limited to those who have children, it's not limited to a certain gender, it's not limited to those who live in rural areas. It's not limited to those who have animals, or gardening space, or crafty aspirations, or cluttered closets.  This is a challenge without prejudice, lol.

Make dessert.

There it is, in all it's glory: make dessert.  Whatever your heart desires.  Or, maybe whatever you have readily available.  Right now, for us at this little place here, it's strawberries.  We have enough strawberry preserves in the cellar to last another year or two, so I'm not so concerned with 'saving' the strawberries that ripen daily this week and next (and then that's about it for my personal strawberry season) for jam making.  Instead, we are eating our fill of them.  Strawberry smoothies.  Strawberries on my breakfast granola (yum yum yum!  and yum again!).  And of course, strawberries in desserts.  Last night was parfaits made with chocolate pudding, fresh strawberries, and freshly whipped cream.  Pure decadence!

Plus, this Sunday is Father's Day, and most people I know have some sort of special meal for their dad or their husband (ie. their children's dad) on that day.  Add dessert to that meal, and you've got this challenge wrapped up.  One of those no-brainer kind of things that you can look back on and feel a sense of accomplishment for without actually having to add in a herculean task to your all ready busy life.

Besides, who doesn't like dessert?

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I'm not talking about people here.  People are their own ball of wax, and I'm not touching that subject with a ten foot pole.

Nope, this post, this Diversity, is about my observations on how the flora and fauna of this little place here has changed in the twelve years we've owned it.  How it was as a farm field (conventionally grown grain crops) with a chunk of woods, a weedy wooded fence line, and a road frontage with a few large walnut trees but mostly brush and vines.  How it is now with hay field, yard, garden, orchard, partially cleaned road frontage and fence line, and it's original wooded chunk.

The first thing I noticed, when we began making our personal mark on the land, was the absence of earthworms.  No matter where in the vast acreage of field I dug, I could hardly find an earthworm.  That just seemed so strange to me.  Worms live in the soil, so why, with all these acres of soil, could I not find even a handful of worms?  What was up with that?

The second thing I noticed, when we attempted to grow a small patch of pumpkins and corn in what was cut off from the acres of field by the loop in our driveway (a piece of ground we commonly refer to as "The Circle"), was that the soil was hard, pale clay.  And that no matter how much water we hauled to those plants, they didn't grow.  Every single seed had sprouted willingly, but after that initial sprout, it was all downhill for those poor plants.  Despite the watering and the weeding, they were all pale, sickly looking seedlings.  Most of them died within a few weeks, and all of them by about the ten week mark.  Not a single pumpkin nor ear of corn was produced. Meanwhile, back at our other home, the one we owned and lived in prior to buying this little place here and completing construction on this house, my garden thrived.  Same weather, same care in terms of watering and weeding, even same variety of seeds, but different soil. At that house the garden had been carved out of a long-time lawn, the soil was sandy loam, and it received an application of composted pony manure every fall/winter.  No sprays or pelleted fertilizer had ever touched that garden (due to DS2's sensitivity to chemicals), unlike the nasty clay soil I was trying to grow corn and pumpkins on at this little place here.  Interestingly, the corn in the garden at the other house was a healthy dark green and thrived all summer long, growing taller than DH and producing well shaped ears that were filled with juicy kernels.

As the years went by, and I started an official garden plot at this little place here, I hauled in, spread on, and tilled in several tons of composted horse manure.  As the years went by, the soil in my garden loosened, and darkened, and didn't crust as badly.  And the worms, oh my gosh, the worms!  I can't put my trowel in the soil anywhere in that garden and not come up with two or three or more earthworms.  What a difference from not one worm in a whole shovelful of soil at the beginning of my gardening endeavors at this little place here.  (Interesting sidenote: on the acres we lease out that are still farmed conventionally, there continues to be a lack of earthworms.)

It is not just the worms that have migrated in and thrived.  The number of species of birds continues to increase.  At first, we only saw birds in the woods, with the occasional starling taking up residence closer to the house (like in the boom of the backhoe we owned at the time).  I was still putting out bird feeders back then, and rarely saw anything other than starlings and a few sparrows, with goldfinches showing up if I filled a feeder with thistle seed (something I really regret doing now, as thistles continue to be a nemesis in the garden, whereas before feeding the darn birds thistle seed there were no thistles. . .).

Now we have robins and larks and house finches, barn swallows and tree swallows, several types of sparrows, red winged blackbirds, hummingbirds, bobolinks, yellow warblers, kildeer, bluebirds, catbirds, and new this year is a northern mockingbird.  And I have not set out a bird feeder in probably seven or eight years.  They all have natural food sources here now, as well as nesting sites.  When the majority of this little place here was mono-cropped, sprayed field, they didn't have that except on the edges: the woods, the overgrown road frontage and fence line.  Now there are flowers and bushes and trees scattered here and there; there are the pests that like garden plants and herbs and hops--the pests that are the natural food source of those birds.  As long as the birds are around, the pest population never gets so bad that it makes a negative impact on my harvest of those plants, herbs, and hops.  I get fed, the birds get fed, and I get to enjoy the birds too.

I'm a believer in diversity.  I've seen for myself what a difference there can be when there is a variety of plant life on a piece of land; how that in itself will bring in a diversified fauna, and how they all interact together to keep things balanced.

(As an example of how abundant the bird population has become, the following pictures were all taken so far this month, either in the garden, near the house, or near the barn.)

barn swallow in the rain
(they have a nest above one of the second story windows)

male gold finch

male red wing blackbird


northern mockingbird

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I have fond memories of going strawberry picking with my mom and my brother when I was a kid.  Funny thing is that I honestly don't think we did it but once (I really don't remember my mom making strawberry jam more than one summer), but in my head it seems like something we always did.  I remember that we went just one road over to the local strawberry patch, the farm was named The Bara Patch; a play on words since the Bara was the family name and berries were their only crop.  I also remember that they sold berries by the quart--a heaping quart not a scant one, and that they encouraged their customers to 'taste' as many berries as the customers wanted. Happy customers are repeat customers.  Happy customers are also the best advertising.  Strawberry picking was fun, and yummy.  What a great time!

As my kids got old enough, I began taking them strawberry picking at whatever u-pick places I could find near where we lived at the time.  Those memories are not so fond for me, as they revolve more around strict 'no tasting!' rules imposed by the owners of the patches, berries sold by weight, trying to keep my kids from eating too many berries (and getting caught and kicked out by the owner of the patch), and listening to my kids whine about being hot and thirsty.  (You know, if you eat juicy berries, you don't get very thirsty.)

In fact, my best strawberry picking memory of the last 12 years (before my own patch got large enough that I didn't need to go elsewhere) is not about picking the berries themselves, but the fact that we ran into a friend and her five children, also picking berries; people that we hadn't seen in a couple of years, since the friend had not re-enrolled her children in the Christian school mine attended but instead had begun homeschooling them.  To run into them at that berry patch was the highlight of the day!

Despite what I recall as fairly negative experiences strawberry picking with my children, they still seem pretty fond of the activity.  The ones living at home still anxiously await the ripening of our berries.  You can't pick a berry until it's red all over, they will seriously tell anyone who might be picking with us; strawberries don't ripen once they are picked, so don't pick the pink or orangish ones, only the ruby red ones.  And gently turn over each berry before picking to make sure the tip isn't still white (like you find on the strawberries stocked in grocery stores); that berry isn't fully ripe either.

tempting, but not quite ready; 
the large berry still is white at the bottom

This week our berries are finally turning all the way red.  DD2 was the first one out to the strawberry bed to start picking.

This first harvest didn't yield much, but it was enough for a batch of strawberry shortcake.  Made totally from scratch, with homemade sweetened whipped cream on top.  Those didn't last long enough to get a picture of.  Probably should go back out to the strawberry bed and pick some more today so I can make another batch.  :0)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Shufflin' Poultry; aka Project Duck Pen

For the last two weeks, I've been separating and rearranging and gradually moving outside my young poultry.  First out were the Freedom Rangers (this year's meat birds) to the small portable coop referred to as the Triangle Coop--an A-frame affair we inherited from some friends in 2007 when they moved out west.

Once the Freedom Rangers had been removed from their brooder, I added my 10 brown-egg-layer pullets (from my hatchery 'Homesteaders Delight' order) into it, where they became buddies with the two Welsummer pullets I'd purchased from the feed store with the Freedom Rangers.

That left the three turkey poults, the two ducklings, and the two goslings in the dog cage brooder.  So much more space!

Until the waterfowl had a big growth spurt about four days later.  Not so much space.

Then, about the middle of last week, I set up a temporary pen inside the chicken coop for all my pullet chicks.  This helps introduce them to the adult chickens without getting beaten to death (yeah, it happens.  They are animals, after all).  It also meant that their brooder would be available for the turkey poults to move into.  The poor poults are dwarfed by the waterfowl and weren't getting their fair share of food (or water), especially the one poult we have determined is of the breed Midget White.

pullets in the big chicken coop,
 one divider moved so I could feed & water them after this picture

they look so tiny in the coop!

Once moved, the turkeys seemed thrilled to have an entire brooder all to themselves.  The ducklings and goslings, however, suffered from separation anxiety and developed the habit of crowding along the side of the dog cage closest to the turkey brooder.  They also ran to the turkeys every time I opened the door of the dog cage to refill the waterer and feeder.

Add to that scenario the wet mess the ducks made of the dog cage several times a day with the water (going through about two gallons of water a day, most of which was absorbed by the pine shavings I replaced every twelve hours or so), and DH was beginning to grumble about having poultry living in his garage.  On Saturday, he wanted to know when their moving day was.

"Well," I told him, "I have to get a pen built for them.  I could just pound in some t-posts and stretch some of that old field fence around that little shed" (also inherited from the westward bound friends in 2007) "that I've kept turkeys in before.  But what I'd really like is a nice portable pen I could move through the orchard."

Yesterday DH took me out to the used lumber pile, and started asking questions about the dimensions of the portable pen I wanted to create.  Then he loaded a bunch of it into/on top of the tractor bucket and hauled it up to the house.  Then we proceeded to spend about four hours constructing a nice roomy poultry pen tall enough for the ducklings, goslings, and temporarily the turkeys to live and grow up in.  Temporarily for the turkeys because we're talking about constructing a second pen for them, so in the future if we want to raise a half dozen turkeys or so, we have a place to put them that is all their own since keeping turkeys with other poultry is not highly recommended.  Plus, that Midget White poult is so darn small DH is afraid the ducklings are going to hurt it.

The pen is 6' x 9'4" (mainly because I told DH it needed to be about 6'x8'; he wanted to make it 5'x almost 10' because that was the most common sizes of lumber he had in the piles, but I insisted 5' was too narrow.  So it ended up 6' x 9'4" when he trimmed broken ends off some boards that weren't quite 10' long).

basic frame

 The back one-third (roughly) has a roof and 3 walls as a wind and rain block.  It will also provide a shady area for the birds to get out of the summer sun.

sides wrapped in chicken wire

It was at this stage I took this picture and texted it to DS1-- because he and K2 are allowing K3 to come spend a week or two with us without them, and as the time for her visit gets closer, I get more an more phone calls asking about our readiness to have a toddler in the house again.  Which leads me to think that he and K2 are getting nervous that we aren't ready for a two year old around the homestead.  Like we'll lose her or something. So I took this picture and told him we had it covered; she wouldn't "get loose" while she's here, LOL.

Once finished wrapping the pen sides and top in chicken wire, and installing the door on the 'front', DH moved the pen to it's intended location: the orchard.  My plan is to move it forward one length at a time between the three rows of trees, allowing the birds to graze the grass and (hopefully) control any insects that would be harmful to the fruit trees.

finished pen towed out to the edge of the orchard,
poultry installed

happy birds, loving their new enormous space (and the grass!)

Such a nice sturdy, roomy pen, and it cost barely anything.  The lumber, sheeting (walls), and wire we all ready had on hand either from previous projects or brought in as someone else's "junk".  Cost was fencing staples, and two hinges.  We're still debating whether we want to get some T1-11 to cover the sheeting, or just slap some outdoor paint on it as sealant.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Challenge #22: Weekly Salads

This week's challenge is actually going to be an on-going one, at least through the summer if not longer.  At this little place here we decided we needed to expand our salad repertoire beyond potato salad and the typical green salad of lettuce-spinach-celery-carrots.  So, we have challenged ourselves to eat salad at least once a week, and not to eat the same salad recipe two weeks in a row.  Which means there has been a whole lot of looking through the salad sections of my cookbooks.  Who knew there were so many yummy ways to make salad?

I've got a list of new salad recipes to try.  Now I'm challenging you to do the same.

For the next several months, eat at least one salad a week; preferably a salad you don't usually eat, and you can't use the same recipe two weeks in a row.

So far I have gotten the family to eat two new side salads: a yummy broccoli and bacon salad, and a surprisingly well received asparagus black bean salad.  Last night we had grilled chicken caesar salad, and will most likely have a tuna salad sometime over the weekend.  I'm dying for a nice ripe local tomato (versus the ones from the store that taste like cardboard no matter how long you let them sit on the counter to 'ripen'--I refuse to spend money on those anymore) so that I can make our favorite macaroni salad recipe, but it will probably be late July before that happens.

Salads can be main dish, side dish, dessert (remember jello salad, which I personally hate but many people love), or even a snack.  Grapes were on sale at the store this week, so we bought some and DD1 made a grape salad (grapes, vanilla yogurt, walnuts, pretzel pieces) and we've been using that as a snack.

To get you started on your salad quest, here is the recipe for the asparagus black bean salad I made earlier in the week:

Asparagus and Black Bean Salad (adapted from Betty Crocker's 40th Anniversary Cookbook)
makes about six 1/2 cup servings

  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into 1" pieces and cooked (I steamed mine)
  • about 2.5 cups cooked black beans (original recipe calls for one 16 oz can, but I rarely buy canned beans so I guesstimated, plus we like black beans)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" pieces (I bought the largest one I could find at the store--they were priced per pepper not per pound--and only used 1/2 of it for this recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped onion (original recipe called for 1 Tbsp, but we like onions!)
  • Cilantro Dressing (see below for recipe)
Mix all ingredients together in a medium size bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours to let flavors blend.  Serve cold.

Cilantro Dressing

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro (or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh, but I don't have fresh yet--just last week seeded it in the garden)
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced and crushed

small bowl of asparagus black bean salad
(the leftovers, lol that were my lunch on Thursday)

This salad is super quick and easy to make.  Everyone at this little place here liked it, even DH had two helpings despite his assertion that it needed more vinegar. He loves vinegar, I don't really care for an overwhelming vinegar taste, so as far as I'm concerned the recipe stands as printed above.  It is definitely a salad I will make again.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Garden--Early June

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I had finally finished planting the garden.  As of last weekend, every veggie we want to grow is out there.  Whether or not it stays there (ahem, deer), and whether or not it grows (missing a whole lot of the peas I planted several weeks ago, grrr) is another story.

Here is a picture, taken this morning from the front porch, of most of the garden.  At approx 120' long, it's really hard to get the whole length of the garden into the picture.  I'd have to stand so far away it would look like a dirt patch in the foreground of the neighbor's pasture.  And I really don't need a picture of the neighbor's pasture.

This year I decided to separate the garden into four sections.  I'd say quadrants, but that might give you the impression they are all equal in size.  And they're not.  I also decided that instead of attempting to keep the paths separating the sections tilled and weed-free, I'd just let them grow up in grass, weeds, whatever and keep it mowed.  It only takes DH a second to buzz through there on the zero-turn.  So that is the big green stripe going from left to right and from the pergola back toward the neighbor's pasture fence.

The big green patch in the left side of the picture is peas in the front, and strawberries in the back.  The peas really really need to be weeded badly.  That is on my agenda for this afternoon.

really weedy pea rows

three pea plants in a row!
The six rows of peas are not filling in very well, 
I'm thinking I might have to go buy more seed and replant if I want any shelling peas for the freezer.

Most of my annual veggies are to the right side of the garden (which is the west side, if you were here).

first rows west of the north/south path contain a couple hundred onion seedlings 
(and weeds, which I can grow better than veggies!)

nice sturdy tomato seedlings, 
Romas I started from seed

Honey & Cream sweet corn

beans, beans, the magical fruit :0)
Several rows of a variety of dried beans for soups,
a couple rows of rainbow mix (green, purple, yellow wax) bush beans 
and to the left you see the edge of one of the bean poles planted in Kentucky Wonder pole beans.
KY Wonder is my old stand-by for canning.

potatoes, and weeds
I did the tilling between rows, now need to do the hand weeding between plants

squash seedlings, just sprouted

The strawberries look pretty good; if the birds don't get them, I should have a good crop.  Some berries have started to turn red.  Which means I should be enjoying lots of fresh strawberry goodies next week!

With the rain we had yesterday, and more warm weather on the way, the garden should really start growing in leaps and bounds.  I know the weeds are.  Doing the delicate hand weeding around seedlings is time consuming, especially because I'm the only one at this little place here who can identify a veggie seedling from a weed seedling.  Honestly, I think the rest of the family avoids learning the difference, so they don't have to do the hands and knees, pulling with your fingers work that hand weeding requires.  Like in the lettuce.

little lettuce seedlings only as big as the tip of your finger

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When It Rains, It Pours

This morning, when I first thought about sitting down and writing a post for the blog today, I thought I would talk about the weather.  How we had massive rain, which made the garden too wet to work in, followed by about two weeks of gorgeous weather that dried up the soil and enabled me to finish planting the garden, and now that all the seeds have been tucked into their rows and hills, the rain has returned.

I thought I'd talk about how I went from having nothing to do in the garden because the weather and soil hadn't warmed up enough, to tilling and driving stakes and planting like crazy while I had the chance.  And now that we've had some rain followed by warm weather, all the rows I got planted earlier are in need of lots of weeding because the weeds grew while I was busy getting the later sections of the garden planted.

I thought I'd talk about how we eagerly awaited the first stalks of rhubarb and spears of asparagus after not having any for nine or ten months, and now we've been eating rhubarb and/or asparagus several times a week, almost to the point where some family member says "asparagus, again?"

I thought maybe I'd mention going from "hmm, no mosquitoes this spring, maybe that long cold winter wasn't so bad if it killed all the mosquitoes" to an absolute dearth of the flying bloodsuckers.  I mean, so bad that the only time of day you can go outside without being attacked is when the sun is baking everything during mid-day (boy, do I have a doozy of a sunburn I could show you!)  One good thing about yesterday's all-day high winds was that I could work outside in peace without miniature buzzing vampires making a meal out of me.

I thought I might even talk about how I went from about 5 minutes a day of chicken chores (doesn't take long to care for 7 free ranging hens and their rooster) to having broilers in one pen, layer pullets in another, a few turkeys and ducklings and goslings in a third.  How those darn ducks are so messy with the water that it takes me about 10 minutes a day just to strip and rebed their brooder pen (I cannot wait until they can go outside in another week or two!).

And after a quick call from DD2 this morning during her first hour class (the teacher of whom happens to be the FFA advisor for the school) I thought I might talk about going from 8 head of poultry to possibly 43--my broilers from the farm supply store plus my chick/poult/duckling/gosling order and now: because the eggs that the FFA provided the third grade class with for hatching in April resulted in 6 live chicks that are in need of a home now that school is just about over for the summer.  The FFA advisor wanted to know if I might be willing to be that home for them; they appear to be 4 pullets and 2 cockerels.  (Of course I said yes, as any homesteading, chicken-owning fool would).

But no.  This post didn't end up being about rain, or the garden, or mosquitoes, or poultry.

Because this morning even more crazy things than being offered the third grade class's chicks happened.  For several months, DH and I have been talking and researching finishing off my barn with horse stalls and installing fences on what was planted, in 2004, as pasture and ended up being used as hay field since 2008.  It's come down to time to order and install the materials for that.  As in, he wants to finalize where we are getting them from, and make the purchase in the next week. I'm good with that.  I had told the owner of the horse farm back in February that I would be moving my horses home this summer and that I most likely would not be available to work for her after I moved my horses.  (I've been working for board, so if there is no more board, no more need to work.  Especially when there is so much to do at home:  garden, poultry, housekeeping, being wife-mom-grandma extraordinaire).

Well, this morning she asked me if I was interested in buying her farm from her.  To back up a little, I had told her, in May 2011, that DH and I were interested in buying her farm on a land contract, and that we would give her a life lease on the house (she was in very bad health at that time, since improved a little, but the reality is that she is in the end stages of emphysema and knows she most likely will not be around more than a few years).  In 2011, when I'd presented the idea, she was interested but wanted time to a) think about it and b) deal with her pressing health issue (did she want to pursue a lung transplant?) first.  Three years have gone by without any further discussion on it (every time it came up, she wasn't ready yet to talk details), which is why DH and I had decided just to go ahead with building stalls and fences at this little place here.

To say I was dumbfounded that NOW she wants to talk terms of sale would be an understatement.  Not only is she open to getting a sale underway, she says she is ready to just be done with having a farm and all the management, staffing, etc that goes along with it.  She is ready to give up control 100% (which has been my biggest frustration working there the last two years; I do the majority of the managing and dealing with staffing, yet she wants not just final say in every decision, she wants total control when she feels up to it, then dumps it all back on my shoulders when she isn't feeling as capable.  The inconsistency is killing me. . .)

Am I still interested?  Yes.  Am I leery?  Yes.  There is a whole lot of legal stuff to become familiar with and writing into the terms of sale in order to make this sale run well, especially as she might die at any time and neither of us would want the sale to be negated on her death (or me to have to take out a mortgage to pay off a land contract I'd only had for a few months--because if DH and I could afford to buy it with a mortgage we would instead of doing the land contract).  Am I almost reluctant to tell DH she now wants to sell?  Yes.  Because I know that when I tell him of this new development, that will most likely cancel what I have spent my spring putting in motion:  the stalls and fences to have horses at this little place here.  Ideally, I would like to have my older horses home, and have the horse farm down the road--literally, it is less than 2 miles from my driveway to hers) for my main riding horse (the only one who really needs the use of an indoor riding arena) and for paying clients.  Board rates in this area for a farm with an indoor are almost double what you get for board with only an outdoor ring or riding trails, which is all I would have at this little place here.  I would stop leasing my field to the crop farmer, and instead grow 18 acres of hay.  Which would be more than enough to feed the 20 horses there are stalls for over at the horse farm, plus my own horses and most likely still have extra I could sell (horse hay seems to be going for $4 a bale out of the field this spring and up to $8-$10 a bale at the local hay auction).

Too much to think about for one afternoon. How do I process the change of thinking that is required to go from having to work to pay board on my horses, to hopefully finishing my facility and moving my horses home in the next month or two, to maybe becoming the owner of a 10 acre, 20 stall dressage facility with indoor and outdoor riding arenas and 5 boarders (ie paying clients) ready right now all in the course of a few weeks?  Literally two weeks ago I was wondering if I would have to work off board for the rest of my life and never have a farm of my own.  Today I'm wondering if I should finish my barn or if I should set events in motion to buy an existing facility, or if (even better!) it's possible for me to do both.  It's overwhelming.  I don't think I've quite wrapped my head around it yet.  I'm not sure I can wrap my head around it.

 However, I don't want to take too long to hash it out, because I want to get my fences up and stalls built and my three horses home to this little place here before the summer is over.  If we don't buy the horse farm, I still need to quit working for someone else and get my own business off the ground.  A business based at this little place here.

It's a dream I've had since I was 16; to have my own horse farm.  I shelved it when the kids started piling up and I realized I couldn't be both a successful horse trainer/business owner and a great stay-at-home mom (of two, three, four?!?) kids, especially with a husband whose career required all sorts of travel and unpredictable work hours.  Now that the youngest kid is nearly a senior in high school, I feel like it's now or never.  I'll either get my horse business up and running, or it will never happen because I'll be too old. (I know 42 isn't all that old, but when you are talking about breaking horses, 42 is no spring chicken).  And now that it looks like I might be able to get a turnkey horse farm, one I'm intimately familiar with after having worked there most of my adult life, I hate to waffle and miss what might be the perfect opportunity.

When it rains, it pours.