Saturday, October 31, 2009

a little bit softer now

Aaahhhhh, it is finished. the last rooster is chilling out... without its voice box. to be honest, the noise itself didn't bother me that much... i kinda got used to it. but i knew our sweet neighbors like to sleep in when they're able... and 30 minutes of cackling did not afford them that luxury. and it is QUITE bothersome in the summer when the sun starts rising at 4:30am. All this week, when I'd go to collect eggs from that pen, I'd find a hen sitting on a couple. Its a shame we couldn't give breeding one more try, but frankly, I didn't have it in me. We could have left one living, but I think we've trampled on our neighbor's good graces enough this year. We can't forget the rotten fish emulsion fertilizer episode either! We offered her a chicken as a peace offering (no pun intended), but I could tell she was a bit wigged out to eat a bird that was slaughtered next door. We get that a lot. Randy and I wonder how long we have to do this and how many birds we have to eat without ever having food poisoning before people will trust that we know what we're doing? I mean, we may not have a stainless steel slaughter table, but we also don't have to soak our meat in bleach because we blew out their instestines and embedded fecal matter into the muscle fibers. Oh well. The roosters themselves, though grand and glorious, were all feathers. The two meat bird hens that we had saved out from the last slaughterfest for breeding were almost double their size. Since we only had 7 birds to slaughter, we didn't bother borrowing the automated plucker. But hand plucking is for the birds! The feathers come out easy enough, but the hairs are awful.
So now we have all 19 layers in one pen. That pen has been nicely dressed with a new tarp and its frame reglued and tightened. The pen most of our layers were in is in dire need of repair. We need to build a whole new top. We designed it with corrogated PVC roofing as the lid, but it was always blowing open and now is cracking and splitting also. We hold it closed with a heavy 2x4 and the frame to a metal chair- VERY redneck! The slowing of grass growing in the winter means we often have to move chickens to the front yard. That pen will need some major attention before we can set it out for every neighbor to see! Our next batch of chicks will be arriving on Thursday and Friday of next week. I'll do my best to have it spruced up nice before then.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Firsts and Lasts

Postponing folding laundry for a quick post. We've gotten a lot of good work done in the last 4 days.

1) We ripped out the watermelon vines. They still had young melons and lots of blossoms, but anthracnose had really taken its toll. My pre and post-birth hiatus was just too much for them. Blacktail Mountain is the clear winner (shown in picture). Every single one of the Sugarlees split before they were ripe. Since I still have some seeds left, I'll try them again in the spring, but I'm pleased with the Blacktails enough to make those our standby variety.

2) Farmer Girl helped me to stake up the peppers... that are doing fabulously! I'm really excited about these. Sweet Chocolate Belles are winning w/ vigorous healthy plants, heavy yields and lots of good tasting bells. Charleston Bells are fairing ok, but not nearly the performers like sweet chocolate. Got our first picking in a mexican dish i made up on the fly for tonight. if it doesn't taste good we'll have to blame it on my made-up recipes and not the peppers!

3) Having a very difficult time with tomato germination. I still had 2 half beds empty waiting for toms and nothing germinating! So... off to the big box store (because the nurseries don't have handy carts to contain 2 active toddlers and close too early). I got a 9 pack of better boys and another 9-er of celebrity. Got those in this morning with farmer girl's help. Also noticed our first tomato, a cherokee purple, is starting to blush.

4) Direct seeded radishes are coming up well so took a chance w/ others: cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips, lettuce, & onions. then noticed ants literally running away w/ my seeds! poured the last of my diatomaceous earth on them and prayed for the best. i really need a second sprouting station so I can keep things moving better... and not moving into an ants winter storage!

5) Again, farmer girl helped rip out an overgrown herb garden. I took cuttings from the basil and stevia to plant when ready. Next week I'll put in my parsley, sage, cilantro, rosemary and thyme that is taking up space in pots.

All for now... back to folding. Ug.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

a little of this, a little of that

4give the shorthand... most computer time is 1-handed due to a hungry little boy.

GARDEN- the weather is down right odd. it cooled down some, then got back up to 100 with the heat index, back down to 70 and the high by fri. is 87. seeds that i planted well over a month ago stunted. just quit growing. i put some cabbage and brussels sprouts transplants in the ground on sat. they were so tiny i didn't expect much, but i needed to make room 4 a new round of seeds. by yesterday i couldn't even find what i had set out. i direct seeded some radishes also which i'm still hopeful of. i have 2 trays of seeds now that i hope will sprout well despite the coming heat. i did manage 2 weed the garden on sat. feels good to have that done. it was hard... especially w/ a babe in the moby wrap, but we did it. farmer girl helped. hubby was busy mowing and milking.

CANNING- while we don't tend to have much extra bounty for preserving, i still can. i get good deals on organic produce thru our co-op. this month i ordered a case of pears- 40lbs worth. yesterday i canned about half of them and have the dehydrator filled also. i'll process the rest tomorrow. next month i'll get apples. its nice to have good organic fruit all year even if its not from our own trees. this will likely be farmer boy #2's first solid food.

CHICKENS- we've decided to quit trying to hatch our own chicks 4 now. we're going 2 slaughter the roosters first chance we get. we're also going to be ordering another round of chicks: dixie rainbows from s and g poultry and barred rock hens from ideal poultry. if anyone lives in the area and wants 2 jump in on the order, send me an e-mail at we hope to get an early nov. hatch date.

GOATS- we think our goats are bred. milk production is down 2 a pint a day, mostly from 1 goat. the other i'm purposely drying off and am considering doing the same w/ the main milker.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Arch Nemesis

Here it is... my current arch nemesis. And I have no idea what it is. This is what I think has killed 2 orange trees in the last 3 weeks and is still working on our 3 remaining citrus. But I could be wrong. I've been battling this "thing" all summer, clipping off the affected leaves and spraying with soapy water and neem oil once a week. But I always seemed to be clipping off more than was growing. A couple weeks off this regimine proved fatal. I've searched online, in books, every book that is supposedly an expert on citrus and have gotten no answers. I've seen this wormy thing on leaves before, usually only one and that's rare. And they're not hard to spot. Yet citrus leaves show up paled, curled, wrinkled with black leaf-miner like trails all through them even on trees where this worm isn't found for weeks or ever. I'm stuck. I don't know what to do. I've been so frustrated with the growth rate on our citrus trees already before this attack that I'm close to ripping them all out and planting our entire back yard in figs instead. The chickens didn't even want to eat this sucker... it looked just like their poop! Hubby squished it in the chicken pen to prevent it from escaping should it be the cause of all our citrus woes.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Another week

Another week of garden neglect... but this time with a babe in arms. Farmer Boy #2 was born at home Sept. 25th and is doing great.

And if it weren't so dry, I'd say the garden was holding its own. I'm still doing the bare minimum in the garden (hubby is still doing all the animal chores), but thankfully, even though the rain just isn't falling, the temps are lower and the "bare minimum" is considerably less than it was a few weeks ago. Even some lettuce seeds that I gave up for lost have sprouted in the cooler nights. My bok choy wilts in the afternoon and the brocolli is still holding on by a thread, but I think it will allow me another week of recovery before I need to jump in with both hands.

The only thing that I've done since birth is tie up the tomatoes... and discovered the culprit that devoured so many of them in a single night... a hornworm! I only found one- though that one was so big the chickens didn't quite know what to do with it. I'm still surprised it was able to chomp through a big stem, but that has to be it. The plants are making a decent comeback now that the threat has been dealt with.

I've also harvested a couple Blacktail Mountain watermelons. The first still seemed a bit unripe (though still more flavorful than our first attempt at watermelons!). This made us hold off on cutting into the second. The aphids have slowed significantly as have the fungi without the rain. The main attention that I'm giving those vines right now is keeping them from climbing the tomatoes and swarming the peppers!

While my to-do list is taunting me, I know I'm not ready to spend all day playing in the dirt just by my pure willingness, yes even desire, to merely stay inside, seated in a comfy chair sipping (or gulping) cold water and knitting while the electronic babysitter sedates my 3 year old. And until I am ready... please, God, keep the highs at 80 or below and send a good rain cloud twice a week, ok?