Category Archives: Us and Stuff

Back when…

One upon a time, I had a girl-sack. Last couple of years, I let it be drained…Haven’t talked to my mom or older brother in two and a half years because I divulged a memory and shared that I was suicidal. Somehow, they’ve come to resent and hate me. I know, it sounds like a Springer episode. Nestled within this “drama” is my flailing relationship with my younger brother, who lives in mom’s basement.

I’m all done with menopause symptoms and not-getting-enough sleep and over-sleeping and over-reactiing and hot flashes and night sweats and no one retuning phone calls, feeling useless and despairing of ever having a best friend again and knowing that that was always a baseless construct and getting fat and not wanting to write or create. Fuck them.

We live in a truly amazing place now. We are not physically moving until a medical examiner says OK. Ten acres, 15 minutes from Spokane, raised beds, 2 dogs, 3 cats, 12 chickens. 2/2 with an open concept.

We just accepted an offer on our Texas farm yesterday. We’ve had really good renters there for two years; lucky.

I think that was the log-break, selling Texas. I’m sick of shutting up because of my family. I’m sick of shutting up because I’m a 5 year-old, inside. It’s made me scared, fat, silent, occasionally abusive, and someone I hate.

Those asshats don’t win. I do. From here on out, I speak my mind again.  I have an awesome husband, animals, farm, land, food truck, life. Here’s *FUCK YOU* to all you jealous bitches.

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Year In Review

A year has passed since we got the farm. One whole year. We celebrated by hosting the chef’s parents for Thanksgiving, and eating off some 1930’s English china* we found at our local antique store, while watching the Texans almost lose to the Detroit Lions.

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(*Total freaking score, btw. Alfred Meakin service for six, with six serving pieces for $60.)

One year. I’ve dealt with deaths, large and small. I’ve made some important friendships, and lost a few relationships I thought were important. I’ve learned that I’m tougher than I thought, and to take better care of myself by standing up for myself. I’ve realized that it’s a lot better for me to drop poisonous people than to put up with their bullshit and let it leak onto me.

I’ve learned a LOT about organic gardening and sustainability this year, just by doing. I’ve learned that books are only a pathway to the reality out here, and I’m thankful for our inventiveness and outside-the-box thinking. I’ve learned to can, and how to do household, yard, and pool maintenance. I’ve gotten to be a much better shot.

I’ve learned to not dream so big and to manage my expectations, for myself, my husband, this farm, my friends, my family. For every minus here, there seem to be pluses.

My plans for the big, bad-ass garden were too ambitious, and I could not keep up. My dreams of a huge flock of chickens didn’t work400197_10151483437318368_1546550247_n out, because they just kept dying this summer. One of my geese literally flew away and never came back. But two have stayed, a mated pair that will give us eggs and babies  this spring. We got four more pullets, and we’ll have six layers by spring.

Despite all the set-backs our first spring and summer, we managed to produce so much veg that we have an over-filled freezer and about 40 jars of product.  The greenhouse didn’t happen because the winds blew the covering off and mangled the frame, but we’ll try it again in the spring. We’re doing two beefsteak tomato plants in our indoor greenhouse, so winter tomatoes!!

The pool never seemed to get quite right until the very end of the season, when we finally figured out the necessary chemical brew. We still haven’t had the money to buy a lawn mower, but it’s kind of okay, because we learned that our neighbor is a super-nice guy and brings his tractor over to drag the grass and keep it looking tight. We had two trees felled that didn’t make it through last year’s drought. Pine tree for the burn pile, and pecan tree for the smoker. (Oh yeah, we got a smoker!) I’ve learned to deal with scorpions and coyotes, and last evening while putting up the chickens for the night, a rattlesnake struck my boot. I’ve learned that I can run pretty fucking fast.

We’re installing raised beds in 2013, and that will help with the manageability for me. The beds will be closer to the house, closer to a water source, and we’ll be installing irrigation. I won’t have to deal with constant weeding, and the Bermuda grass can have its way with the big garden area, where we’re getting many ducks and geese to eat it.

IMG_1915We adopted a puppy (Mongo) and found a Siamese kitten (Mr. Peabody). I went through my first-ever dog-in-heat experience (she’s since been fixed). Doggy diapers = nobody wins. Total count: five male cats, two dogs. We’re stopping there.

This is my birthday week, and we’ll be going next weekend to cut down our Christmas tree and put it up in the great room. It looks magical when it’s all lit up, set against the backdrop of this 1930 Texas farmhouse. We’ve fixed up the house so it’s comfortable and nice for us and anyone who visits, and 2013 will see some painting and power-washing, to get it even nicer.

We got married here, and it was a magical day. I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else in the world. We’ve been able to share this place with friends and family, and that’s pretty freaking sweet. A few parties, a pig buried and eaten, our first deep-fried turkey (kick-ass, btw), music, dancing, laughter, tears.

Can’t wait to see what the next year here brings.

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Transitioning

After my last post about the horrifying rate of chicken attrition (Note to self, new band name: Chicken Attrition), we lost two more, bringing our total number of hens down to two. (One had her neck broken by the geese; one died of general failure to thrive…Chickens now have their own separate sleeping area, because geese are assholes and their time is limited*.) We’re getting more hens in a couple of days. Makes me happy!!! My little Rhodie and her buddy CM are doing their job, but two eggs a day just ain’t cuttin’ it.

Up yours, Bitch Grass.

Future home of raised beds

Garden transition from summer to fall has been slightly painful. See all that grass? That’s my garden, overtaken by Bermuda grass, or as we call it, Bitch grass. It started to seriously make a move about two months ago, I didn’t get on it fast enough and now I have watermelons, winter squash, bush beans, and carrots all competing for life. I have weeded around them, but I just don’t care anymore because they’re thriving anyway AND! Transitions. We’re moving to a raised bed system**, and giving that yard over to ducks.

Seriously. *Ducks in the big garden area, geese in the back two acres, because DUNH DUNH DUNNNNH…We’re starting an ethical foie gras business. I’m not jinxing it by giving it a name yet (I have several AWESOME candidates in a spreadsheet, awaiting availability checks and a Facebook popularity poll) or describing all of our proposed production methods. But I will say that we’d be the only ones doing it in this country (based on a model by this badass, Eduardo Sousa of La Pateria de Sousa), we’ll have around 100 birds, and the Texas A&M Poultry Sciences Department has expressed an interest in helping us develop the concept. So booyah! Come on, grant money!! (Maybe. Hopefully.) No gavage, no cruelty. Just a bunch of chattering, happy buttheads eating whatever they want for 18 weeks, then eating as much corn and yellow lupine that their little faces can gorge on for four weeks in the fall. Then, a truck ride to their final reward and the Brazos Valley and Houston suddenly become a lot more delicious!

Come spring, this is going to be one noisy joint. This winter: planning, cross fencing, building of shelters, repair of existing outbuildings, installation of Nite Guards, and dreaming of creamy foie gras on toast and duck confit next fall.

Diaper of Shame

In other news, Ursa the puppy has attained her majority. So to speak. Two weeks shy of her big operation, she jumped the shark. Again, so to speak. Anyway, lots of cleaning, lots of Doggy Depends, lots of worrying about coyotes trying to break through our windows to get at the lovely Miss Ursa. (Not really, but that’s where my brain goes when I hear them in the surrounding fields.) We have three weeks to wait until she gets to see the vet again. Yay. *sigh*

Scorpions are back with a vengeance. We’re hitting the perimeter with spray and a borax/DE mixture because it’s gotten so bad that the husband literally hallucinated one in our bed last night. He screamed, “Holy shit! Look at that!” and I was looking and looking and said, “I don’t see anything!” and he started flipping the blanket around and there was nothing there. Well played, scorpions.

**Raised beds, YES PLEASE! I just can’t keep on top of the weeding and mulching required to beat back Texas Bermuda grass. We had originally chosen that

Mulberry thinks it’s spring. What up, nature?

yard because it has 7′ deer fencing and we wanted the protection. Lessons learned? NO DEER IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD. The farmers shoot them, they got the memo…Whatever. They’re not here. I’ve seen two in a year. Also, Bitch grass will always win. Always.

So, eight 4×8′ cedar raised bed boxes will be built this winter, lasagna layering installed in each, and come spring? Let’s just say I’m really excited about not weeding, having the gardens closer to the house and the water supply, and the boom that is going to be our production. We’ll also have a large in-ground bed for the spreaders (melons, winter squash, etc.), but I at least can handle weeding one 4×12′ bed.

Jesus Christ, I just realized: That’s a busy fucking winter. What have I done?

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Summer Shenanigans

I don’t know what happened to my writing muse but she needs a spanking, and not the fun kind. I think part of it is that I’ve been tits-deep in writing TWO business plans for some projects we’re hoping to get off the ground, and that kind of work is a muse-killer. She started crying about two days into it and just sort of limped off into a closet in my brain that has snacks (fudge Pop-Tarts), and Xanax. I’ll admit it here, too: I got sucked into DVR’d Olympic games for about two weeks (p.s.: Best way EVER to watch the games. Screw you volleyball, marathons, and speed walking. SPEED WALKING??).

Das Ladies.

Farm news: The chickens started laying!! I’ve waited for what seems like forever to have more than my faithful little Golden-laced Wyandotte put out her one egg a day, and BLAMMO. Went out there a few days ago to find four new eggs in one of the boxes. Sad news, however, as we lost one of the sex-links…I’d been coaxing her along to help heal an injured leg by isolating her to the smaller “chick” area of the coop, then came in to find she’d injured a wing overnight. That night, I put her in a huge cat carrier with food and water, and when I came in in the morning, I found she’d either broken her own neck or suffocated somehow. Anyway, I’ve got one lady with a cut on her leg that’s healing up nicely, and a goose that scared the crap out of me by pretending to have a broken leg for a day. Thank you, Trase of Serenity Acres Now for talking me off the ledge on that one!!

We got winter squash, cantaloupes, pumpkins, beans, corn, and carrots installed for the fall. Our peppers are still going monkey-shit from spring planting, so good news there. The tomatoes are all done, which means next year, all the heirlooms are going in the greenhouse. They just can’t take Texas.

We’ve been enjoying the pool, finally, after spending most of the spring and the early part of summer just trying to figure out how to stay on top of the algae situation. Pools are a gigantic pain in the ass, we’ve learned, but also TOTALLY WORTH IT when you’re floating around in a $2 inner-tube, listening to way loud classic rock on the shop radio, baking in the sun, and naming the clouds things like Nelson Rockefeller On a Unicycle.

Those eggs are not for you, Mr. Peabody.

Here is a gratuitous shot of our newest animal addition, Mr. Peabody. He found us outside our local grocery store, by loudly proclaiming his love from behind a row of carts. He has incredibly blue eyes, and is just now finding his Siamese voice, God help us all. The other cats are still pissed, but screw them. Mr. Peabody rules.

Thanks to everybody who emailed or commented looking to make sure I’m still alive. I’M ALIVE! And that was super sweet. I’ve been reading y’all, rest assured…SO MANY FELLOW SHENANIGANISTS!©

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Not There. Here, Now

So, where am I not right now? On a scheduled flight to Chicago. One flight got cancelled today by Southwest Airlines, and it was mine. No other flights today than one that gets in at 9:45 p.m., and no flights available tomorrow that don’t land smack-dab in the middle of the funeral (or after, which is pointless). So thanks a pant-load, Southwest. My heart is broken. But one cousin (my cousins are AWESOME, btw) said, “Uncle Don knows you tried” and another said, “You must have to stay home for some reason or this would not have happened.” So, maybe it’s okay.

I think I’m going to do some art today. I’ve been wanting to do a series of rough pen & ink drawings of farm stuff, like chickens, trees, outbuildings, all from our farm. Way less intensive than the work I normally do, which is pointillism (one of my pieces, below).

Monet’s Lilies

Maybe the Universe is telling me to get out of my own head and make something this weekend. I just found out someone I care about has cancer. I’m going to send good energy her way, do something creative, and maybe can some more tomatoes. Maybe vacuum. Play with the kitten. Talk to the family by phone. Hug my husband when he gets home. Nesting and creativity seem to be the order of the day.

I made breakfast this morning (3 small pullet eggs, scrambled; flour tortilla; 2 Roma tomatoes) and realized that two of the three things on my plate were made on this farm, with help from me and my husband. That made me feel good.

And then I cried for my own selfish reasons, because I can’t see my family this weekend.

Suck it up, you big baby. Uncle Don would say the same thing.

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Wherein I Whine…

So last night I’m all braggin’ on how I’m a badass because [from Facebook]: “I’ve discovered that I’ve got actually THREE scorpion stings in the same area (think *BAP*BAP*BAP*), because they’ve turned kind of hard, itchy, and (maybe) necrotic. So I’m not only a badass, I might be dying. Good-bye, non-scorpion-bitten friends.” and how I’m like TRIPLE THE BADASS because I got three stings instead of just one.

I’m a great big baby.  I had a grasshopper-related meltdown on my way to the big garden today, that had it been witnessed, would have resulted in my immediate hospitalization.

Only slightly worse than the farm…Also, these are locusts. Like I give a shit.

The grasshoppers have been bad here, but never, ever this bad. They.are.everywhere. They drown in the pool and clog the filter. They’re losing their fear of people. The dog brings them in and eats their legs off, leaving me to step on squirming grasshopper torsos. I go outside to get the old Siamese out of the grass (he likes to sleep in the sun), and he’s covered in grasshoppers. One was on my shirt, sitting right on my boobs last night when I came inside and I had a baby spaz attack to the point where Allan grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away from myself. I think he thought I was being attacked by a cobra.

THEY FREAK ME OUT.

*Scene: Me walking along in the grass this morning around 7:00 a.m., surrounded by a veritable cloud of grasshoppers, more than I’ve ever seen or been around, EVER. Kind of like the picture, but WORSE, because it was happening to ME.

*Me* Getting more and more freaked out as I walk along, I start to wave my picking bag around in front of me, and start to yell, “Fuck OFF! I fucking HATE YOU! Just DIE!” And then one got down my boot (certainly not the first time) and I finally lost my shit. I started crying and yelling, “I fucking HATE IT HERE, ALLAN!* This is the biggest ball-sack of terrible EVER!” and jumped around on one foot shaking out my boot and snot running down my grown-up woman-baby face.

But I pulled up my grown-up lady shorts and went into the back garden anyway, and picked about a ton of tomatoes, the tears subsiding a little as I picked and sweated. Then I fed and watered the geese and chickens, and at least there are no grasshoppers there. They eat the SHIT out of those things.

And I’ll have to suck it up here in a little bit and go out and do my evening watering, and put the ladies up for the night, and deal with those assholes again. Because that’s what needs to be done.

It has come to this: I no longer hate poison.

NOTE TO HUSBAND: BUY 600 GALLONS OF THIS STUFF OR SIMILAR, OR I’M MOVING TO SASKATCHEWAN.

*He was at work while I was yelling at him here.

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Fancy

So, faced with the awful prospect of any amount of our prodigious harvest going to waste (see Exhibit A), we sold some via Craigslist customers, canned and/or froze part of the first-of-June harvest, and gave the rest away to family and friends in Houston. We won’t be back to Houston for a little while, so now WHAT TO DO WITH HARVEST 2?

I’m going for the über fancy tomato concassé (which really just means peeled, seeded, and chopped). We go ahead and call it tomato concassé however, because the husband is a super snooty (about his food anyway) French chef, and that’s how we roll in the country.

Then, I’m making this recipe for salsa, and performing my first solo canning event! I’m excited and nervous, because who wants six quart jars of shit salsa? NOBODY. I do get to use the Cuisinart that my family drove down all the way from Missouri, so that’s cool.

Exhibit A: There are only two of us!

STOP IT ALREADY

 

Also today, I will attempt to freeze the summer squash, except for crap’s sake, not with this recipe! THAT’S HOW MUCH I HATE COMIC SANS. Phew, this lady makes me slightly less stabby.

To wrap this up, I’ll share that I’m feeling especially virtuous because I’ve already weeded the potager, planted an olive tree, built a shade shelter for the Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and have done two loads of laundry. I’m like a farm Marine. Without the overseas combat experience.

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Texas Summer

Texas on fire: True story.

While it’s not as bad yet as it was last year, this summer has started with a vengeance, with very little rainfall and temps nearing 100 already. Yesterday’s first-of-the-season climb to near 100 had me hiding in the living room where the A/C works the best, and Googling things like, “Is it tacky to leave your new husband to move to Canada, but only for the summer?” Google had a lot of baffling responses, not the least of which involved Mounties and Bullwinkle.

So it looks like I’ll tough it out, because I’m not unlike a rock star who also has super powers (imminent). Because last night I got my first (AND ONLY UNTIL FOREVER) scorpion sting, and IT DIDN’T EVEN HURT THAT BAD. I don’t want another one to prove my point, mostly because I’m not a psychopath, but seriously? Manageable. Threw an ice cube on it, husband applied vinegar, got back into bed and went to sleep.  After cussing a lot and making sure that motherfucker was smashed to shit. Because come on, FUCKING RUDE. In my bed. Near my face. Oh yeah, the husband got stung too, but it was on his ankle so not nearly as terrifying as my near-face experience.

In other news, the grasshoppers have taken over the asylum. When one walks outside, one is surrounded by a cloud of flying grasshoppers, whose main job is (apparently) to try to get down my shirt, inside my boots, and onto my eyeball. I walk out to the gardens flapping my arms and making noises that I can’t properly articulate in print. I think they’re the noises that cause psychiatrists to prescribe lithium, stat.

My new summer missions: Kill all the things*, and save all the plants. Because the plants are really suffering already. I have an extremely frugal rig involving old sheets and bamboo poles, in order to shade some of my more delicate heirloom tomatoes. Because losing those would make me sad. Also getting researched for my database are extremely drought-tolerant varieties of everything else, because it’s Texas, y’all! I’ve got another planting season coming up here in a couple of weeks.

*As for killing all the things, here are some genius suggestions for killing adult grasshoppers (we’re dumb and didn’t take care of this shit in the spring, when they’re WAY easier to kill):

I hate you. In your faces. With a hammer.

  1. Plant flowers. Really, ask.com? REALLY? That’s almost as helpful as the time I looked for “recipes for leftover turkey” and you suggested “Sandwiches.”
  2. Weed control. Seriously. Double Ew Tee Eff. I live surrounded by working cattle fields, some of which contain weeds that could block out the sun. Should I call my ranching neighbors and request they organically spray several thousand acres for grasshopper control, because dinosaur-looking asshole grasshoppers are scaring me and eating my cabbages? That sounds reasonable.
  3. Get chickens! We live on four acres. Maybe 100 chickens per acre should do the trick. Think the husband will notice?
  4. Wait for cold weather. I swear to God, the Internet is just begging for me to come to its house and kick it in the scrote.

In reality, we’re going to have to broadcast EcoBan Semaspore bait and maybe Nosema locustae bait, and play the waiting game.

In other farmhouse news, FRONTLINE SUCKS. You heard me. Useless. It vaguely works on the cats, but the puppy is miserable. I bombed the house, vacuumed everything within an inch of its life, washed everything that is washable, gave her a bath, applied Frontline, and waited for the magic to happen. The fleas laughed at all of us, reattached themselves to my baby puppy’s body, and have never been happier. So now we get to wait for the month to pass before we apply Advantage, which is even MORE expensive. Congratulations, fleas. You win this round.

In awesome news, we’re having a pig bury/pool party on July 7th! The chef/husband is digging a hole, then filling it with lava rocks and a burlap/chicken wire-wrapped 50 lb. pig. We’re expecting around 40 people, debauching the pool and braving the heat. If you’re a vegetarian, I recommend a 20-mile safety buffer. It’s going to be epic. We’ll have misters on the front porch, a party tent on the pool deck, a keg of Lone Star, and rock music as loud as we can stand it.

PS: We’re going to cover all the vegetables and do a yard-wide application of Ortho Home Defense spray a few days before the party. Suck poison, you dinosaur freaks.

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Organic Gardening: The Lessons

I’m learning something new every day out in the gardens. Some big lessons, some smaller. All vital to having an even better garden next year.

For example:

  • Insect control: Cabbage loopers DECIMATED our cabbages; they were skeletonized within two days. We Neem-oiled the crap out of everything, but it was too late. There are still viable cabbages in the middles, but I doubt they’ll reach their full potential. NEXT PLANTING: Covers.

    (Borrowed from the IntraWebz.) Ours is even worse. It’s too sad to photograph.

  • Insect control: Flea beetles ate the SHIT out of our Rapini. NEXT PLANTING: No Rapini. Because not only is it susceptible to flea beetles, it doesn’t do well in the heat, it bolts, and is very low-producing.
  • Heat control: Plan for the heat earlier. It’s Texas, Donna the Dummy. Even “heat tolerant” varieties are melting in the sun. And it’s not even really hot for the region yet. NEXT PLANTING: Shade covers, more frequent watering, mulch.
  • Mulch: Put the mulch around the plants, Donna. It’s not doing any good in the bags, except as a perfect home for scorpions.
  • Tomatoes: Learn early on which are determinate (bush type) and which are indeterminate (sprawling monsters). That way, you’ll know which are coming out early and can be replaced (determinate) and which will continue to produce throughout the season (indeterminate), and plan your garden accordingly.  So your garden doesn’t look like ass because of big gaping holes you didn’t plan for.
  • Succession plant: Put beans in planned areas week after week, so you have continuous production. Same with tomatoes: Have seedlings going all the time in the greenhouse so you can replace what needs to come out.
  • Automate: Because standing out there watering in the 6:00 p.m. highs of 96 degrees (soon to be 106) is balls.
  • Packet/product labeling: Remember that labeling is not necessarily accurate for your conditions. We planned 3×6′ beds for our watermelon. The first plant that came up is now easily 15′ around. It is taking over the entire garden and will have to be pruned back (much to the horror of the husband, who is convinced it’s from another planet and wants to see how big it will actually get). Labeling also doesn’t necessarily know that we live in Texas, so “full sun” means plants probably won’t thrive here, which is actually the SURFACE of the sun.
  • Compost: Learn now to make compost tea and get it made, because that Jobe’s organic fertilizer just ain’t makin’ it. I have yellowing leaves (nitrogen deficiency), and a general malaise on some of the plants that just won’t do.

Nice tomato shot…Again, not ours. *sigh*

Some things you just can’t plan for. Like volunteers and what I call “wanderers”.  We have several of both in our gardens. The volunteers just kind of pop up in totally unexpected areas (a tomato in the cucumber patch, a sunflower in the cucumber patch, a bean plant in the tomatoes).  Wanderers happened from our torrential April rains shifting seeds from bed to bed. I refuse to pull either “mistake” up. If they have the temerity to live where they weren’t planned, then good for them, the little rebels.

I CAN, however, plan my garden better next year. We just kind of free-balled the plants this year, with only an eye on height (tall stuff in the backs of the rows). In the winter, my plans on paper were very elaborate and precise. By the time our seedlings were up, all that changed, only I didn’t account for it on paper. See, seedlings don’t all come up, and the ones that do don’t necessarily make it through the hardening-off stage. Plus we went and impulse-bought different seeds (for direct sowing) than what was accounted for, and changes didn’t get incorporated into the on-paper plans.

Which reminds me, NOTE TO SELF: Paper plans are pretty, but impossible to maintain. Find software for garden planning.

I DID make a database last night of our plants, so I can record what’s working and what’s not, planting and picking dates, and which tomatoes are which. Because if we want serious production (and we do), we can’t keep winging it out there.

To-Do List This Week:

  • Find easy compost tea recipe, make and apply
  • Get down mulch (at least on tomatoes)
  • Buy row cover supplies for shade
  • Finish database
  • Start plan for summer planting
  • Weed (always)
  • Take out non-performers
  • New beans, cukes, corn, cilantro
  • Set out basil, yellow peppers
  • Plant olive tree in potager

Who said this was easy on a larger scale? I guess people who have never done it before…

p.s.: SUPER HELPFUL tomato list.

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2,4-D Drift: Organic Nightmare

Tractor of death. The tree in the foreground is on our side of the property line.

Yesterday morning, I was all doodly-do, doing my morning stuffs, when I heard big machinery noise, closer than normal (they’re working on the county roads around us right now). I went outside and couldn’t see anything, and then all of a sudden there was a crop-spraying tractor, complete with two big white chemical tanks and two giant boom arms, spraying the shit out of our neighbor’s acreage. I called the husband and said, “Holy shit, they’re spraying chemicals on the front acreage” and he suggested I stop the guy and talk to him, so I did.  What follows made me later throw up my lunch.

Me: *Hailing tractor guy*
TG: *Stops tractor and comes over*
Me: Hi, are we neighbors?
Him: Nope, I'm working for the guy who leases this parcel, M*******.
Me: Whatcha sprayin'?
Him: 2,4-D, for goat weed.
Me: Oh. Um, we have an organic farm over here and it's drifting onto my 
property...
Him: Welllll, the wind's mostly blowing my way and it's a real light spray, 
so you oughtta be all right.
Me: You're kidding, right?
Him: *Goes right on spraying*

2,4-D. Mother-humping goat fuckers. This devil juice makes (and I’m not exaggerating in the least) RoundUp look like harmless chemical Kool-Aid. Dow AgroSciences’ contribution to the weed-killing business is the main defoliant contained in Agent Orange. It’s been around since 1946.  It is under attack again (thank God) because Dow is trying to get approval for its 2,4-D Resistant Corn, to take the place of Monsanto’s failed RoundUp Resistant Corn, which created super bugs and super weeds, and is no longer able to withstand RoundUp bombardment because of genetic mutations. Genius! (It’s in the EPA’s lap right now; let’s all count on them to do the right thing, right?) It’s a DEFOLIANT, which means it kills plants dead. What it doesn’t kill, it mutates. It’s suspected as a cause of “…major health problems such as cancer, lowered sperm counts, liver toxicity and Parkinson’s disease. Lab studies show that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity, and immunosuppression.”

If you’ve followed my blog for even a short amount of time, you know how I feel about chemicals in our farms, ranches, food supply. Here, about Colony Collapse Disorder; here about pesticides and BPA; here about Monsatan, again, and again, and again.

We’re out here in a tiny patch of Texas, practicing only organic gardening, using compost, organic fertilizers, organic topsoil and mulch, Neem oil, blood, sweat, tears, dreams, and hand-weeding. Do y’all know how much EASIER it is to be conventional in a garden? Of course we could use RoundUp for the weeds; it’s an extremely effective, efficient killer! Of COURSE we could use Sevin insecticide! It’d be way easier than having to get up extra-early to apply Neem oil, or smooshing cabbage rollers by hand. We did ALL OF THIS SPECIFICALLY  TO KEEP CHEMICALS OUT OF OUR FOOD.

“Before” picture of the big garden.

Just writing this post is making me cry. I cried yesterday when I fully realized what had just happened to us. I pulled up my research on 2,4-D and found lots of new stuff, all horrifying. I learned about ground permeation, wind drift patterns, plant aspiration, and the life of 2,4-D. I contacted a professor/friend at Texas A&M’s Ag Sciences Department. He shared with me that tomatoes are especially sensitive to 2,4-D, and to keep an eye on them first. He told me to keep photo documentation of the plants in case the rancher might not do the right thing by us.

And of COURSE tomatoes are affected first and worst. They’re the crop we’ve most heavily planted, in the greatest variety. We were looking forward to canning, sharing, and perhaps selling a few to our chef friends.

I’m upset still, even after I learned the leaseholder’s name (who’s responsible for the spraying), contacted him (no response), found out the regulations he violated*, and reported him to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Tomatoes galore.

I’m upset for several reasons. We started this entire farm endeavor with one goal in mind: organic sustainability. That has been ruined. I can no longer bill these vegetables as organic, and we now have to decide if we even want to eat them ourselves. I’m upset because to get rid of this poison (assuming it doesn’t kill the crops outright), I’ll have to pay to have the site dozed, replace the topsoil and amendments, and start all over. All the little baby plants we started from organic seeds in our little greenhouse, misting and lighting and thinning for MONTHS, then lovingly potted to harden off, then transplanted and agonized over for months while they struggled to grow, all fucking ruined. A’s first gardens EVER, all ruined. Every hour we spent digging, weeding, fertilizing, watering, pruning, caging, and loving these gardens have been fucking RUINED by this dude’s careless disregard for anybody but himself.

*Prior Notification: Nope. None given.

Proper notification for use of methyl, ethyl, butyl, isopropyl, octylamyl and pentyl esters. Nope.

No use in winds higher than 10 mph? Fucked that up, too.

Amine-only 2,4-D? Don’t know. I doubt he even obtained a permit to do the spraying.

I’m going to use this blog as I do regularly, but now with the added feature of keeping record of what’s happening to our plants, and what’s happening about enforcing the regulations. If I didn’t have a place to vent, I might possibly go mad.

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Farm Wedding

Well, we did it. Got hitched at the farm. It was a small but fierce gathering, and everything I’d hoped for was included: Family, friends, reunions, good food, good music, marrying my best friend. The groom gave farm tours, we had a taco truck, and the bride was a little flibbertyjibbet, but it was a beautiful day and I’m grateful to everyone who helped share the love.

Pictures!!

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The Larch (But Not Really)

The puppy and I spent the last week at my best friend’s house, hanging with her and her husband, making wedding plans and being lazy. It was a “farm hiatus,” the only one I’ll get for quite a while. So many awesome purchases and plans for our little wedding soirée that I can hardly stand how cool we are.

A week away from the farm with the partner in charge (who works more than full time) went okay. Nobody died. However, SO MANY WEEDS. But honestly, our seeds/seedlings are so new that it’s only been in the past week that we can tell the difference between them and weeds. The YAY thing is that the seeds I thought had failed AGAIN have germinated and are thriving, both in the big garden and the potager. We have:

  • Corn
  • Beans (purple and green pole)
  • Squash
  • Broccoli Raab
  • Carrots
  • Six different types of tomatoes
  • Four different types of hot peppers
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Scallions, chives, onions
  • Cabbage
  • Cilantro, lavender, rosemary, thyme, basil

Still to go in (late): garlic, peas.  We got some weeding done yesterday and installed home-made tomato cages. We also got some herbs and extra tomato and pepper varieties installed. This week, I’m building bean teepees out of saplings and twigs, weeding, mulching, and cleaning out the chicken yard.

THE NETTLE IS DEAD!!! But to be honest, I don’t think me and my vinegar jihad made any difference (I don’t think the vinegar was strong enough). I think nettle is just super stupid and committed suicide. Either way, I’m clearing that crap out of the chickens’ yard this week, because it’s almost time to introduce the new chickens! They’re almost fully feathered out and will have a little get-to-know-you week, segregated behind a defensive line of chicken wire. Then it’s on! Give me some eggs you ingrates!!!

No longer "The Mysterious Larch"...it's actually a Mulberry.

The berries will stain your life purple.

The most exciting news is this: What I though was just a really pretty tree in our yard (of indeterminate lineage) turns out to be a Mulberry! I went out there to hang a birdhouse yesterday, and BLAMMO, 500 kajillion Mulberries!!! So we laid out plastic sheeting, whacked the crap out of that sucker and we now have about two gallons of the things, ready for me to clean this morning and throw into freezer bags.  How cool is that?? I’ve never eaten one, and it turns out they taste just like sweet tea! Weird and fantastic. I’m looking forward to peach/mulberry pie, mulberry ice cream, mulberry preserves. I learned how to make freezer jam, so that’s happening. We ought to have about six gallons before this thing runs its course. Yay team!

Also, I’m going on another full-blown rant later today. Gird your loins.

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Staying Ready

We got this farm for several reasons. One of those, that I’ll speak to today, is preparedness. We’re not avid “preppers,” nor are we over-the-top “survivalists,” but we do think things are getting worse before they get better (tanking economy, civil unrest, new wars), and feel like it’s smarter to be prepared than caught flat-footed. What it took was a tiny shift in paradigm, embracing a larger worldview while simultaneously focusing on our own backyard. I don’t even think of it as as “survivalism” so much as homesteading.

This farmhouse is over 80 years old. It was last remodeled in the late 80’s or early 90’s. The outbuildings are in disrepair and in need of some serious love. It’s kind of the perfect spot in which to learn how to REALLY reuse/reduce/recycle. That and the fact that we’re on an extremely regimented budget makes this way of life essential, rather than merely interesting and practical. And it IS interesting! Go look at any article on sites such as:

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me (and others who were fans of the book series, Little House on the Prairie as kids). I love the idea of making my own soap and candles, of canning and preserving, of someday having a root cellar.  Hell, I wish I had a reason to want muslin, or actually like saltwater taffy (for a penny). I’ve gone in for gardening and truly appreciating the earth and what it can provide for so long that if I didn’t get this farm, and soon, things were fixin’ to get really stabby in our previous urban loft. But that isn’t all this farm is intended to provide for us. It is intended to provide a sense of safety and security. That’s why we chose a relatively remote location. It’s intended to be as self-sufficient as possible, which is why we chose a place with a good well. It is intended to house animals, which will provide us with milk, meat, or eggs, which is why we went for as much acreage as we could afford. It is intended to go off the “grid” enough so that we can sever ties with the electric company, by eventually having solar and wind powered batteries and a generator.

All that takes money, to be sure. So for now, we’ve laid in our gardens, which was pretty expensive, but necessary ($100 to have tilled; seeds, $90; organic fertilizer, $25; compost tumbler, $300; assorted tools, $100; greenhouse, $800) to be at least off needing fruit and vegetables from the grocery store by the end of summer.  Not 100%, but close enough so we can feel like we’ve made progress and have enough to donate to the food bank, and still enough left over to put up some stewed tomatoes (or something). We have two mature laying hens and a mixed run of six chicks (who have gotten big enough that I had to build them a new “condo” out of large moving boxes and duct tape yesterday). We have a dog who is getting so big that we’re going to have to buy her a large crate sooner rather than later. Her job is to be my farm buddy, and protect me from predators, animal or human.

Alternative F: Sometimes for cooking.

The partner (who is a working chef) has this insane dream of replacing our propane stove with a wood-burning stove. A wood-burning stove. I told him I refuse to light a pile of logs to fry a couple of eggs, and if he’s hell-bent on cooking on a wood stove, he can get one of those stoves with a cooking surface, and it’s going in the living room because its primary duty will be to heat the house. Dude’s nuts. We NEED a stove to stay warm next winter; I don’t NEED to light one in the summer to cook a pork chop.

Every day is hands-on learning, learning, learning. Way different than theorizing in my head and education from my books. I wrote on Facebook yesterday, “I just accidentally punched my ear really hard, freaking out when what felt like a Pterodactyl flew into my head. It was a butterfly. I think I’m going to have kind of a difficult first spring/summer out here in the country.” And it’s true: The next six to eight months are going to be a trial. Will I survive the bugs? Will I survive the heat? Will I strangle the first rabbit I find in my cabbage patch? Will a hornet sting me in the eye? Will I shoot my first diamondback with the .410? Who knows.

There are a few blog sites I follow that are pretty hardcore from a prepper standpoint, but I really enjoy the posts. Two of them have semi-annual writing competitions, this one at survivalblog.com and one at thesurvivalistblog.net, both of which I had considered entering. (If one of y’all wants to enter, the prizes are freaking COOL.) But I’m going to hold off until I actually know what I’m taking about. I want to write about organic gardening and sustainability, but until I’ve actually weathered a couple more seasons with regard to both of those topics, I’d feel like a poseur.

So I’ll just keep pushing through, learning something new every day, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

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If you’ve not seen it before, we have a Soilent Greens fundraiser going on here, Organic Farm Business. As always, we hoping for either an “angel investor” or as little as a dollar, all towards the goal of self-sufficiency, making a little money, and helping to feed the Brazos Valley. (Our story is at the bottom of the page.)

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Pesticides/BPA – Another Rant!

I subscribe to a ton of newsletters and Facebook feeds regarding sustainability and organics and farming, and I just ran across this piece called, “Foods That Contain the Highest Amount of Pesticides.” Which just pisses me off. Not because of the information (I love learning), but it reminds me that my local grocery store only offers a few organic options. We were shocked to learn that they offer any at ALL, to be honest, but it is only potatoes, apples, oranges, and something else I can’t remember. (I’m even starting my potato garden from their organic russets!) We live in a rural part of Texas, where peoples’ idea of “organic” is “that hippie shit that pot smokers eat.”

And wait, holy cow, awesomeness plus. As I was writing this, my FB popped up with THIS:

Thanks, Greenpeace!

Greenpeace Shoppers’ Guide to GMO-Free Food.

How exciting! I’m no fan in general of their shenanigans, but dang, this saves me a lot of work, because frankly, I was setting about making my own list to share with you all. What a ton of work I’ve been spared! Cool. (I know it’s for Canada, but I recognize everything on that list as being available in the United States.)

Anyway, pesticides and herbicides…I’d rather skip the potential cancer (and every other) risk inherent in those chemical controls, but until our garden comes in, all we can do is hope for the best by avoiding what we can,buying organic when we can, and doing diligent washing when it’s questionable.

We’ve stopped buying canned goods because of the BPAs…And Oh My God, I’m getting pissed again, just doing research on the horrors of BPA. Look at this bullshit piece of propaganda, which I’m fixing to refute.

“Myth: BPA causes heart disease.”  Truth: BPA causes heart disease: BPA Chemical May Be Tied to Heart Disease. Chemical BPA Linked to Heart Disease, Study Confirms.

“Myth: BPA causes cancer.” Truth: BPA causes cancer: New Study Links In Utero BPA Exposure to Breast Cancer. Study: BPAs, Parabens Linked to Breast Cancer.

“Myth: A harmful amount of BPA gets into your food from storage in polycarbonate food containers.” Truth: A harmful amount of BPA gets into your food from storage in polycarbonate food containers: The main way that people are exposed is through eating and drinking contaminated food and beverages from containers containing BPA.

“Myth: BPA exposure from sales receipts can pose health risks.” Truth: BPA exposure from sales receipts can pose health risks: Synthetic Estrogen BPA Coats Cash Register Receipts.

Sometimes, there's not enough dynamite.

“Myth: Hundreds of studies have linked BPA to a large number of serious diseases.” Truth: Hundreds of studies have linked BPA to a large number of serious diseases: Google “BPA health studies. Thousands of links to hundreds of studies. (Here’s just ONE from the NIH: Expert Panel on BPAs.)

“Myth: Government agencies rely on industry-funded studies and ignore other science.” Truth: Government agencies rely on industry-funded studies and ignore other science: FDA Draft Decision on BPA Deeply Flawed.

“Myth: Government regulators are heavily influenced by industry lobbyists.” Truth: Government regulators are heavily influenced by industry lobbyists: How Lobbyists are Spinning Weak Science to Defend BPA.  Opening the Industry Playbook: Myths and Truths in the Debate Over BPA Regulation.

Myth: Government regulators routinely defer to industry officials and delay regulatory action to restrict BPA at the request of industry. Truth: See above.

Myth: An increasing number of state lawmakers believe BPA is a risk; the federal government has not been upfront about the dangers. Truth: See above.

Hell, every single link on Wikipedia leads to evil.

Screw those chemical guys AND the FDA. We don’t buy anything with bisphenol A in it, and know this, many canned goods companies (like Campbell’s) are phasing out their use. But until that time, get rid of any plastic containers that have the recycling code “7” on them. Buy “BPA-Free” products. Avoid canned goods for now. Be safe, folks! They don’t care about anything but the almighty dollar.

Okay, enough of this angry-making jazz. I’m off to put sparklies in the garden to scare the birds and rabbits, build a bigger enclosure for the chicks, and write a blog piece that hopefully will win us some stuff!!

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Gardening Waves

Beautiful SC Texas. I'll come back to this when the grass is dead this summer, and remember...

Behbeh chicks! Someday, they're going to love me. Right now, not so much...

Let’s kick this post off with a view of the farm, so freaking pretty that I had to share. The trees are all coming in, the grass was mowed on Friday, everything’s stowed, and the farm’s looking tight. Springtime in South-central Texas. Can’t beat it.

Plus, chicks!!! Under the red grow light, their eyes look Satanic. They peck at my rings and generally have a shit attack when I try to gently pick them up. I’m wearing them down with food and love, though…

Surprise bulb from the former owner. Thanks, garden present!

So far, the gardening comes in waves. We were *able* to plant three weeks ago, but probably shouldn’t have, because of the two bouts with torrential rainfall that drowned both seeds and seedlings. There was just no way to know that, though.

After the floods, we couldn’t work the gardens for days and days afterwards, which causes downtime even when it’s sunny, to allow the gardens to dry out. Which is super-frustrating.  Then we caught about a weeks’-worth of break with sunny weather, tried all the seeds again, and then got three days of non-stop rain. Gaaahhhh…

And although I’ve been a gardener for about 15 years, I’ve never had anything larger than roughly 40 s.f. to plant in. Now I have almost 2/3 of an acre that we’re devoting solely to crops, and this is the first time I’m going totally organic. In the past, I’ve cheated and relied on Miracle Gro and Sevin, when things just got too hairy. You’ll kind of try anything when your roses have all succumbed to black spot. Now it’s just us vs. nature’s nasties, armed with a garlic/dish soap concoction for the rust, a chili pepper/dish soap concoction for the bugs, and vinegar/hand-pulling for the weeds. The learning curve is pretty steep, but we’re getting there.

First up in the experimentation: Tomato rust vs. garlic stuff.  Garlic stuff wins!  I started with just a blended garlic/water deal, and have graduated to this (plus blended garlic):

2 tbsp. canola oil
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 tsp. Murphy’s Oil Soap
1/2 gallon tap water

Before chili pepper spray. Next week: "After" picture. Stupid bugs.

which super-extra works. I pulled all the blighted leaves off, have been spraying with this stuff for a week, and the tomatoes look awesome. My tomatoes, peppers, cukes, and cabbages have fallen prey to grasshoppers and caterpillars already, so I’m using a chili pepper/garlic water spray, which the jury is still out on. It’s only been two days of application, so we’ll see how we are in a week.

Today is remarkably beautiful. 79 degrees, slight wind, low humidity. I got in beans, corn, squash, and watermelon, replacing what was washed away, drowned, or moved to a new location. I’ve got what looks suspiciously looks like corn growing where we definitely did not put it. When the garden comes up fully, I’m going to tell people we did it that way on purpose because we’re non-conformists and eclectic.

Okay! Off to check the fire ant mounds that I poisoned yesterday morning, and if that poison doesn’t work this time, it’s a boiling water enema first thing tomorrow morning…

Meet your foe: Vinegar, bitches!

Oh, and p.s.!!: Nettle update. I’m trying a full-on vinegar attack out in the chicken yard.  Here’s a “Before” picture. As soon as it starts dying, I’ll throw a party and post pictures of us dancing on nettle dirt.

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Never Dull; Sometimes Gloomy

On a much happier subject, here’s a farm update. This weekend the chef had to work on Saturday, and good God, the torrential rains would have kept us from working outside anyway. The Brazos Valley here in Texas received between 4-6″ of rain in a 72-hour period, and yesterday alone added about another inch and a half. Then, it was suddenly gone. We have lakes and streams and impromptu creeks and bogs and swampy marsh all over the property.

But that didn’t stop the fiance from chainsawing down several dead pecans trees (when the sun finally burst through). These were fully mature pecans that had been producing great bushels of nuts before last year’s drought. It made us super-sad to lose them, but we’re honoring them by incorporating them into a big cactus garden we’re starting at the entrance to the property. We cut some of the larger, more interestingly-shaped limbs into what will be our bed borders, to be accented by large rocks, then cacti and yard art in the beds. Part of the yard art is going to be based on our old toilet, and that’s all I’m going to say about that until it’s done.

Besides that, we installed a new toilet this weekend!  Thank you, porcelain Gods.

Before: Potential ass chiggers and listeria

After: The Toilet Angel Choir sings

Since it was a foreshortened weekend, that’s about all we got done. A got new rubber galoshes and we figured out how to finally get our white clothes white. This stuff, Super Iron Out, is a miracle product. All of our whites were yellow and orange from the high iron content in our well water. Until we can afford a whole house filtration system. I thought we were stuck looking like hobos, despite having tried several other products and methods to get the freaking clothes white. I don’t know how I didn’t hear about this stuff before, since it’s been around since the ’50’s. But yay! White clothes!

The hens are cruising along, getting bigger and making a little more noise. They haven’t come out of the coop yet into their yard, nor have they laid any eggs. Is that weird?

More rain today, then four days clear, which hopefully will get the gardens dry enough to work in. I have SO MANY seeds and seedlings yet to get in the ground; it’s maddening to have to skip planting for this long. So today I’ll probably post one more time here, start some herb seedlings, vacuum the house (yay new belt!!), do the rest of the laundry, and finish the wedding invitations.

Oh, speaking of which, for the fellow blogger who asked about my wedding boots, here they are!!

The very best boots ever

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I Heart Chickens

What a fantastic weekend at El Rancho Loco. Chef had to work on Saturday till about 3:00, and I managed to get some house stuff done in that time, but after that, it was all hanging out and FARM.

Yesterday, we installed pampas grass out by the pool, and put in a grape vine and golden raspberry bush on the back fence.  We started gardening with the remaining Three Sisters beds, and installed tomato (three varieties), cucumber, and cabbage seedlings in the Big Garden and in the potager. He’s never ever planted even a seed. I am not exaggerating to share that my heart sang when he pushed his first seed into the dirt, covered it up, and moved on to the next little hole.  I showed him how to make rows with a 1×1″, and he put scallion and onion seeds in himself. He wanted to get the entire garden planted yesterday, even though it was too windy for some of the smaller seeds, and I needed a little time to plan for an unexpected surplus of corn and bean seeds. How awesome is that? That took up the bulk of our Sunday. Then he got to mess around with the air compressor, and figure out how to fill the Duraworx cart wheels, which were pretty spongy.Total guy activities…air compressor, a little time with the 12 gauge.  We talked to our neighbors’ cows, who were awesomely close to the fence. So many calves!!

We were due to meet friends in Brenham yesterday afternoon, which is very close to the (self-proclaimed) Crazy Chicken Lady, with whom I’ve been speaking for a couple of months. Plans kept changing and we could never seem to get out there to pick up our first hens, which has been pull-my-hair-out frustrating. Finally, we got to see her place!!!  It’s called Blue Star Ranch, and it was a booger to find, but oh man, was it worth it. She’s got over 2,000 birds!! She took us on a tour of the facility and I could not stop giggling after I saw about 200 chicks under lights in this little room. The cuteness. I could have died from the cuteness. She was describing the virtues of different breeds and ages and I was kind of turning around and around going (in my head), “Oh, the crack.” She advised us not to get two hens and a roo, which was the original plan. She said that a rooster with anything less than 10-12 hens would “rape them to death” and I believe her. I mean, dude, she’s been raising birds for 20 years and this operation was CRAZY cool. All the birds were healthy and inoculated and being kept in fresh bedding that didn’t smell at all.  She had this giant fishing net and when we decided on our hens, SHA-BAPPP, she’d nail them with the net and pick them out and hold them. It was vaguely ninja-like.

Seka and Lovelace. *sigh* Where are you, John Holmes?

We got two ladies (to start)!! They are Seka (Plymouth Barred Rock) and Lovelace (Golden Laced Wyandotte). We got them safely tucked into their coop last night, and so far this morning, they’re not availing themselves of the very large yard. I’ve been out to visit half a dozen times, and Seka is much more curious and while smaller, she’s the leader. They seem pretty happy with their food and water situation in the coop, and have plenty of shade and grass and weeds and bugs. I’d totally want to be a chicken here (until, um, they stop laying and just turn delicious). Yes, the first rooster will be named John Holmes. No, we won’t name all the chickens after 70’s porn stars.

Next payday the plan is two more, and so on and so on until we get a rooster. Then it’s hatching and baby chicks! Unless I can’t stand the wait and just order a mess of them online.

I ate some of the dozen eggs we bought from Crazy Chicken Lady this morning, and oh my shit, SO FREAKING GOOD. I keep asking the ladies, “Ready to make with the eggs? You look ready to make with the eggs. How come you’re not making with the eggs?”

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Real Farmer!!

Yesterday was the day I finally got to feel like a “farmer.” And frankly, it wasn’t even the “farming” that did it. I think I was part of the mainstream population who aren’t farmers, when I formerly pictured in my head what “farming” is. Some middle-aged dude on a huge John Deere combine tooling through a cornfield with a cuppa Joe in hand, looking a bit haggard and windblown, but relatively happy. Um, that’s not at ALL what it’s like, at least for me.

Native American genius at work

Yesterday morning I didn’t even bother changing out of my PJ’s until around 1:00 p.m., and that’s only because I got too hot. I figured yoga pants and a T-shirt were fine for gardening, so I just threw on my rubber boots, tucked in my pants, leashed up the puppy and headed out to the big garden to start planting. I started by defining the beds with my feet, turning the 20×26′ portion of the 75×100′ garden into 3×4′ beds. In addition to everything else, we’re doing Three Sisters planting this year, the most awesome system of growing ever. Corn, beans, squash. The beans climb the corn, the big squash leaves help with weed suppression, the corn shades the beans and squash so they don’t get sun-burned. I composted and planted the seeds and banned the puppy from the garden, because she thinks it’s a gigantic dig site and was in danger of receiving a boot to the head.

Then I started multitasking, like what “real” farmers do. I put the puppy in her crate and turned a fan on over her. I got a jug of water because it was starting to get hot, and I threw that, stakes, spray paint, wire, hardware cloth, wire cutters, a new hose, my cell phone and an ECigarette into my cart (we quit smoking two months ago!!), and headed for the potager area. I fenced the potager with cinder blocks and hardware cloth to keep the puppy out. As I was moving cinder blocks, I noticed scorpions were STILL hiding under them, so I shifted gears, turning into a murderous pile of rage, smashing them with a trowel, smooshing them with my boots, yelling at them, “Just DIE, asshole fucks!” and then masked up and sprayed the entire perimeter of the house with Demon WP. CHRIST, I hate them. (As I was moving a pile of stakes, I noticed a little smear of something on one of them. It was the tiniest baby scorpion I’ve seen yet, with its body smooshed and its tail sticking up in the air…It was adorable, all dead like that.)

We're fancy!

Potager (French for kitchen garden)

Also, I noticed a gigantic fire ant mound in the freshly tilled potager, so I had to take some time out to douse the area with poison and water it in. Then I walked the grounds and poisoned about another dozen ant mounds and watered the poison in.  I dosed the pool with these little chlorine tablets, because while I was over there killing ants, I noticed the algae’s getting out of hand.

Then I spray painted some stakes silver to mark my Three Sisters beds. I staked and chicken-wired a secondary compost area next to the compost tumbler (after learning the night before that I’m composting wrong).  I installed four tomato plants in the potager, and got bottom-less containers around them to protect them from the 20 mph gusts that are headed our way right now*. I got my new hose hooked up at the back garden and sprayed in my seeds and then got the tomatoes watered in.

During this farmer-y day, I took several a/c breaks in my office, because I’m a heat-fainter from way back. While inside, I Sharpied “3 Sisters” on the painted stakes, then cleaned the kitchen and threw in a load of laundry.

Going back outside to admire my handiwork, I noticed that the ornamental pears are starting to bloom, as are all the trees that made it through the drought last year. My potted cucumbers have their first flower, and my strawberry plants have actual strawberries already. As I was watering Brad, the pear tree, I noticed new buds. The mower dude was out here and worked his magic and the property is looking tight.

Today, I’m putting in three more Three Sisters beds, and seeding in onions, scallions, beets, cilantro, chives, basil and purple snap beans. The fiance’s working till 2:30 today at his chef gig at A&M. Then we’ll go to Tractor Supply for more hardware cloth and chicken feed, because the ladies are coming tomorrow!!! I’ve got to finish laundry, and finish getting the wedding invitations addressed, go buy stamps, and finish a letter for Allan’s nephew. Still have to get the seedlings in the ground, and finalize the garden plan.

*A got off work early yesterday to help me stake down the greenhouse with proper ground ties.

The work here never ends, and I’ve figured out that’s what “farming” means. I could not be happier.

p.s.:  OOOOO, I saw my first snake the other day! A little brown guy who slithered away under some weeds when I tried to say, “Howdy.”

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If you’d like to help us with our Soilent Greens goal, would you consider either a $ donation or pimping this site out on either your blog or Facebook page? We’d sure appreciate it, and will pay it forward however we can. Organic Farm Business. Thank you!!

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Best Laid Plans…

So here’s the part where I admit that we might have bitten off more than we can chew, financially. We started trying for this house all the way back in June. We planned the gardens and dreamed of sustainability and looked at endless pictures of goats, chickens, horses, dogs, geese, and farmhouses. We looked at root cellar plans, and bought seeds and books on construction, plumbing, and electrical, before we even had a closing date.  We got practical and made a business plan and did some marketing research and budgets for the business and our home. Several appraisals and a whole lot of mortgage company shenanigans later (seven months later), we finally closed on the farm.  We had saved money and borrowed money and lived frugally and missed the holidays to keep expenses down. We thought we had done everything right, with an eye towards bringing in some profits as soon as the greens started coming in.

We found out there was a leak in the roof right before closing. We thought it would be simple enough to fix, so we closed anyway. Then the rains came, hard. The leak turned into a much bigger deal than we had anticipated, and while still all fixable by us alone, it ate into our Soilent Greens and family gardens money. Then we encountered electrical and plumbing issues, and found out what a black hole it is financially to keep this place warm in the winter.  Everything conspired to cost us more than we had anticipated.

Not nearly as fun as putting it up...watching it crash down.

Big weeds, goin' down

Behold the greenhouse disaster. While not super expensive to fix (it requires a “Tie Down Engineering High-Wind Load Kit” which we wished we had known about…but somehow we missed that part before 20 mph winds whipped through the field two days after the build) it still eats into our Soilent Greens money. (We DID tie it down with long lengths of rebar, but apparently that was not enough…duh.) To add to our money freakout is the fact that not only did Ranger (Walker, Texas) find us, but after I made the mistake of saying, “All we need is an orange one to complete the menagerie” it came true. What appears to be Ranger’s un-neutered brother is an orange tabby A named Jujube.  They love on each other, then tear each other up. We’re looking at some patching and vet bills until we can get them fixed.

So far we have the land tilled for the Soilent Greens vegetables and our personal gardens, 7500 sf plus our 11×22′ kitchen garden. We have some seeds started, and have one greenhouse, tables, tools, and willpower. What we’re lacking is everything else.

We are AGONIZINGLY close to our dream. Please consider helping us realize it? Further explanation is available at the site, Organic Farm Business.

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Seed Time and Anal Retention

I just happened to glance over at my work table (kitty-corner from the computer desk) and noticed this lovely vignette.  It’s a snapshot of part of my life here during the winter build-up to planting and greenhouse production. (If you look too closely, you’ll see some things that might offend you if you have delicate sensibilities. Tough potatoes.)

The process is this (these are not my first gardens, btw): In October and November, you start losing your mind and thinking that spring will never come. To console yourself, you make sure all your seed catalog subscriptions are up to date and add half a dozen more because you can (dreaming is free).  Then they start coming in.  You get them into a a stack in a quiet place where you have lots of room to spread out (floor works best). You grab a notebook and pen, but that’s for later, because you’ve already become entranced by say, “Moon and Stars” watermelons on several catalog covers and you HAVE TO SEE what else is inside like three representative catalogs.  Then, you start circling items, turning down page corners, and yelling out to your partner, “Are six varieties of radish too many?”  Then, when you’ve culled through each catalog, you start your lists (in my case this year: one for Soilent Greens outdoor production and one for greenhouse microgreens; one for personal use, outdoor gardens).

This year I’m working from a graph paper design because my layout is new. And I’m making several lists, because I’m working with three grow-ops and several vendors.  But it didn’t start off this organized, oh no! Because my initial circling, page turn-downs, wish lists, and doodlefests put the price tag at over $3000.  That’s three zeros.  Not including ornamentals, fruit trees, berry bushes, or amendments. Did I mention we just bought an 80 year-old farmhouse? Turns out, it’s kind of a pricey proposition and we’re not exactly the Rothschilds. So I had to whittle my choices down to common sense proportions, meaning sure-fire organic seeds on varieties that we love, and the least expensive organic options on the Soilent Greens purchases.

That part is painful to my soul. (It’s almost as hard as culling seedlings, where you thin out the weak ones to give the strong ones a better chance.)  The part of myself that reveled in the Sears Toy Catalog every year as a child (turning down every page corner and making elaborate demands of Santa Claus), the part that wants everything right now, with icing, gets a little chapped that she can’t buy every item in every catalog.

So now the anal-retentive grownup sits at a lovely table with a view of the neighbors’ cows, and makes very sensible choices from a plethora of seed catalogs and sites.  I mean come on, I’m using a calculator, ruler, dedicated notebook, graphed garden plots, and the Farmers’ Almanac. I should get a grown-up discount from…life.

By the way, this seed catalog madness process from beginning to end takes about three months. Three months of revisiting the pile,  finding new items (how is that POSSIBLE) where you say, “Holy crapple, how did I miss *this* little gem?  This is definitely going on the list!!” and driving your partner batshit.

The seed deliveries and in-store purchases starts a whole new level of crazy. And I haven’t started with the Farmtek catalog. A’s going to need cocktails.

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