Tag Archives: cats

What a Difference a [Year] Makes

Holy crap, it’s been forever since I posted. I miss it so much. Quick synopsis of the past ten months:

  • In January, chef left his job of six years because it was unsustainable from a “putting up with shitbags” standpoint,
  • We lived off our preps and in limbo for the next four months while chef looked for a bigger, better gig.
  • We wasted a month in Post, TX. Never go to Post, TX. Result: Psychopaths learn your phone number. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
  • Battled long and hard with unemployment and ultimately lost.
  • Several promising interviews later, we decided upon Klamath Falls, OR, where he’s Executive Chef/Food & Beverage Manager for the Running Y Ranch
  • We’ve kept the farm! It is experiencing the worst drought since 2011, which was the worst Texas drought in a hundred years.
  • My husband lost his mom to cancer a few weeks ago; it happened pretty quickly and we’re still a little shell-shocked.
  • In July, we moved a household across six states in a UHaul truck with a car-hauler attached. Four cats in the back of the truck. The dogs rode in the pickup on a trailer. Never.never again. Five days.

It has been a HARD (almost) ten months. I didn’t get a garden in because we couldn’t afford it. No farming. My gander flew away right before the goose laid her 18 eggs, and her being abandoned and an inexperienced layer meant a freeze killed all the eggs. We ended up selling all the chickens because we couldn’t move them across country, and adopted out the goose to a good home. That was hard. I killed a copperhead with a shovel, on a day where my husband had been gone at the new job for three weeks already, the ignition shot craps in the truck, and it was 106 degrees. That was a special day. We struggled with money to the point where my awesome neighbor actually showed up with groceries because he was so worried about us. Unannounced, unasked for or even hinted at by us, he just showed up. It still makes me tear up with humbleness and gratitude. We found out A’s mom had cancer, and it was so advanced that the future looked grim. That proved true.

We kept pretty quiet about it all, which is mostly why I haven’t been blogging. Waking up worried four months in a row in a hot house with two depressed adults and a bunch of heat-struggling animals isn’t something to share.

But! When A landed this gig, we also scored the most awesome house ever, and the ability to still own the farmhouse. He loves his job. We’re living on an amazing 52,000 acre ranch with landlords who have turned into VERY good friends. We’re laying in stores for the winter, are making plans for the future, and could.not.be.happier. The view from our front door is breathtaking. We are 45 minutes from Crater Lake. I got what I call my Freedom Mobile.

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My depression about having no farm this spring turned into a blessing. The drought would have killed it and me. My worries about the future have turned around so much that I am thoroughly excited about our futures. The husband is healthy and happy, as are my friends and family. We are sad that A’s mom is lost, but believe that she is at peace.

We live in what we call Little House in the Big Piney. We meet interesting people every day. I’ve got 15 pullets in the garage, waiting to be moved into a coop that I’m constructing this week. The dogs are being trained on a wireless electric fence, because if they keep chasing the cattle, they’ll be shot (hey, that’s how it rolls on a working cattle ranch). We are preparing for winter, and are completely stoked about having a fireplace in the living room.

We are endeavoring to be better children/friends/partners to our loved ones. We’re excited about our one/three/five years plans. And know now, thoroughly, that planning only takes you so far.

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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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Double Down

We’ve had a rough few days at El Rancho Loco. First, on Saturday morning early (like 5:00 a.m.), we both woke up to start the day. Nice start to our weekend, yay! I reached to the floor, in the dark, for my kick-ass Dickie’s camo shorts and SHABBAP, got hit by a scorpion. I screamed on the top of my lungs, “Motherfuckingshitballsfuckingscorpion *breathe* AAAAAHHHHHFUCKYOU!!!!” The only scorpion in the entire house was sitting right where my thumb reached. We know because we spent the next 15 minutes looking around the carpet with a blacklight. What are the fucking odds? Why my bedroom? There’s no water there, there is only certain death. I think my friends and family are safe from scorpions though, because every one of those pieces of shit will come for me while my loved ones run away.

When Lovelace was the biggest lady in the yard.

So I iced my thumb and put NeoSporin with lidocaine on it and went out to let out the chickens/geese. I noticed my favorite (she’s my favorite now, despite this post where I called her Bitchface #2) is looking a little funky. She usually stands in front of the geese right at the door, waiting to be let out (she’s the alpha). That morning, she was on the ground, and when she got up, she was limping. Then I noticed that she had a little eye funk and was wheezing a little. So I did some research in my books and online, and we got some VetRX to help with possible respiratory infection and cider vinegar to add to the water, to help with her overall malaise and possible parasites. I spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning her butt and rubbing her with medicine and watering her. I put her in the jumbo cat carrier to isolate her. She spent the next two days sliding downhill.

Yesterday, I called a chicken pro who told me it might be Marek’s, might be CRD and to get Tylan or LS-50 to inject her with. I spent all day yesterday feeding her little sips of water with apple cider vinegar, and rubbing her head and talking to her. She fell asleep in my arms a few times. We’re a one-car family, so I waited till the chef got home to take me to Tractor Supply. I watched a couple of videos to see how to inject her. I went and checked on her before we went. We got home, I loaded up the syringe, took it out to the coop and she had died. Ants were already covering her face. I started bawling and brushing ants off her face while Allan went and got a garbage bag.

I know it’s stupid and it’s not really my fault, but I feel like a failure. I know it’s stupid to have gotten so attached after I said I wouldn’t, but I did anyway. I know it’s stupid to take this personally, but I am.

Body count since March:

3 dead goslings (pecked to death by Seka and Lovelace)
1 dead Cuckoo Maran (pecked to death by Seka and Lovelace)
1 dead Plymouth Barred Rock (Seka) decapitated by owl
1 dead sex-link (unknown reasons)
1 dead Gold-Laced Wyandotte (Lovelace) and I don’t know why

We have three geese left, plus one sex-link, a Rhode Island Red, and two Cuckoo Marans, only one of whom is laying because the other one has a failure-to-thrive syndrome where she has not properly developed her comb or wattle, and doesn’t have a proper vent size for laying. So at least we still have three layers.

More proof that I suck.

We talked to some friends and we’re going to keep doing it, even though I feel like the worst Mom ever. (Ursa got bit by what we’re afraid might be a brown recluse or a black widow spider. We have to keep an eye on it for necrosis. Researching how to treat it at home in the meantime. This picture looks like she’s in pain or is lethargic. This is actually her relaxing after tearing around the yard after toads, rabbits, grasshoppers, the wind, like she does every day, rain or shine.)

We’re going to get more chickens and a rooster, so I can start brooding chicks. We decided that the rate of attrition in a free-range Texas chicken yard is always going to be a little high, so let’s double-down on this effort.

I’m going to spend today and maybe part of tomorrow feeling like I’ve let the team down, then snap out of it and start looking at new hens.

They will not get names.

Here are some good things from the past few days…

Mr. Peabody. Scourge of all other animals in this house.

Surprise flowers. Lilies? Ideas? I didn’t plant them.

Seeds up: Broccoli, thyme, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, cilantro, Swiss chard.

Pool looks awesome.

Chef’s awesome.

My mom came through a cataract surgery totally great.

My dad’s still kickin’ it in his La-Z-Boy.

Weather’s getting cooler.

Getting my car fixed next month.

Party on October 6th.

Still breathing.

Big p.s.: Awesome friends and family. Thanks for making me feel a little better, y’all. Big love from me and Allan.

UPDATE: Ursa has histiocytosis, a common benign growth on her nose that is apparently kind of like a wart that will go away on its own. So, Huzzah! to both our vet, who didn’t charge anything, and to life, for not handing us another shit bouquet.

Also, those red flowers are Oxblood Lilies.

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Floodin’ Down in Texas

When Texas says a big ol’ storm is coming, it ain’t playin’.

Aftermath:

Extreme foreground: Ancient, blind Siamese (Louie)

Dang, that’s the fig tree…

So guess what I get to do today? Use the chainsaw!* Break up all those limbs into firebox-sized pieces, pretend I’m Jesse James Dupree from Jackyl…

*Oh wait, I only said that to scare the husband. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE CHAINSAW! Even I know that. I’m extremely uncoordinated, easily distracted**, and prone to flights of physical and mental fancy. Not what the safety direction writers had in mind when they were handing out wisdom on the use of death-dealing tools.

**Actual Facebook excerpts regarding my canning experiences yesterday:

“I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson here. No more canning for Donna. Because part of canning should never be the words, ‘OHJESUSGODMOTHERFUCKSHIT’ while running for ice, then burn salve.”

“‘Tomato concassé is fun to do!’ said no one, ever.”

PS: It only rained and blew so hard because I planted a wee baby olive tree in the potager. Thanks, Texas. Jackass.

PPS: In other news, my scorpion sting is extremely inflamed and itchy. I think I’m paying for my “I’m a badass” statement from yesterday by (perhaps) developing life-threatening shoulder tuberculosis. Pictures later!

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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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Inside: Rain Days

Not my photo...too lazy to grab camera. *sigh* Wish I had Pop-Tarts.

I’ve had to declare “Rain Days” as if they were “Snow Days” and school was cancelled, like when I used to be in junior high/high school in the suburbs of Chicago. While those usually involved hours and hours of MTV, hot chocolate, Pop-Tarts, and gabbing on the (corded) phone, my grown-up Texas rain days are filled with reasons to put things off, a general feeling of malaise, gross chores and not getting my MF’ing gardening done. Some of the babies are in and protected, but the high winds, rain, and cold temperatures for the last three days and the upcoming three means no weeding, no planting, no mulching, no composting, no farm scampering.*

Come on, Texas, give me a break:

Today: Periods of rain and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 49. Northeast wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
Tonight: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 46. Northeast wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 55. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Saturday Night: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Low around 55. Southeast wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
Sunday: Showers and thunderstorms. High near 68. South wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
Sunday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 56.

I finalized my heirloom/organic seed lists, and I’m sharing them with you! (Who doesn’t love a good list?)

Seed Savers Exchange

  • Empress Beans (bush)
  • Burpee’s Golden Beets
  • Copenhagen Market Cabbage
  • Danvers Carrots
  • Golden Bantam Corn
  • Doubled Yield Cucumbers
  • Li Strada de Ganida Eggplant
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Red Romaine Lettuce
  • Sweet Granite Melons
  • Red Wethersfield Onions
  • Green Arrow Peas
  • Thai Hot Chili Peppers
  • Ruby King Sweet Peppers
  • McMahone’s TX Bird Hot Peppers
  • Sunset Runner Beans
  • Bloomsdale Spinach
  • Lady Godiva Squash
  • Black Sea Man Tomatoes
  • Blondkopfchen Tomatoes
  • Halladay’s Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes
  • Purple de Milpa Tomatillos
  • Cherokee Moon & Stars Watermelon (yellow fleshed)
  • Genovese Basil
  • Dark Opal Purple Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Grandma Einck’s Dill
  • Hidcote Blue Lavender
  • Giant Italian Parsley
  • French Fingerling Potatoes

Baker Heirloom Seeds

  • Bleu de Solaise Leeks
  • Lightning Mix Habaneros
  • Thyme
  • Broad Leaf Sage
  • Common Oregano

Annie’s Heirlooms

  • Red Bunching Onion
  • Spearmint
  • Rosemary

I’m giving Seed Savers the bulk of the business because I admire their work, they have flat pricing, and a great selection. The other places are picking up where I couldn’t find heirloom/organics at SS.

So while I wait for seeds to come in, I’ve got seedlings to start in the greenhouse, household chores to do, wedding stuff to take care of.

HOW BORING! I want to play with the chickens and dig in the dirt and run around the yard with my dog like a babbling moron!

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*All this bitching is foreshadowing to the real bitching which shall commence the first day the temperature gets over 92 degrees, and then lasts like that for four months. You’ve been warned.

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On Procrastination and Pests

I’m supposed to be writing two blog pieces (I’m a paid SEO writer in my other life), one on Legionella standards in hospitals and one on Hospital Emergency Preparedness, but I just can’t wrap my brain around those two subjects right now, as sexy as they sound. I’ll get to them after I blog here, I swear it. What has distracted me most this morning is fruit flies, then that lead to thoughts of our stray cat problem, the scorpion problem, the stinging nettle problem, the wasp problem, and my level of acceptance for each (or lack thereof).

  • Fruit flies: Moderate
  • Stray cats: Moderate
  • Scorpions: Zero
  • Stinging Nettle: Zero
  • Wasps: Zero

Elvira called. She'd like the name of your manicurist.

I went ahead and availed myself of one of the tips on this site: Wikihow’s Six Methods to Get Rid of Fruit Flies. I chose one of the killing methods because, really? “Catch and Release”? For real, why? They’re not endangered tigers. They’re not even trout. They used to be maggots, and now they’re still disgusting. (Also, what up with the badly painted nails, yo?) We’ll see if the kill-mixture of water/dish soap/apple cider vinegar really works.

Stray cats. Not sure what to do here. It started with Ranger and Jujube, and that was kind of cute and okay. Then over the course of a few days, it became apparent that Ranger’s actually kind of a dick and keeps beating up his brother Jujube and spraying all over the house, around the house, and under the house. If I open a certain window, the smell of cat spray comes blasting through, and makes the four indoor cats a little nuts (plus, God, the smell). The other night I heard a fight brewing right outside the front door, and when I turned on the light to investigate, it was Ranger squaring off with a previously unseen larger gray tomcat, who ran away when I banged on the glass. Most definitely NOT okay. We can’t have this place turn into tomcat central! For one thing, we can’t afford to fix all these idiots. For another thing, I will NOT be the weird cat lady! (Mostly because I already want to be a weird chicken lady…two titles seems pretentious). So I guess we’re looking at calling animal control, which sucks. (A was driving to work yesterday morning and called to tell me there were kittens at the side of the road a few houses down. I told him to keep driving.)

Scorpions. I don’t know what to do except keep poisoning the perimeter and getting a bomb for under the house and up in the attic. Because after two sprayings, which has worked in the past, we had one cruise right across the bathroom floor last night. A cat even stepped right on it, but was unharmed. My level of hatred for these things is beyond super-nova powerful.

Stinging nettle: This shit got to go. It’s EVERYWHERE around the farm. If you haven’t been zapped by this stuff, it feels like you’ve been burned and then it just keeps burning, because they leave tiny little hairs filled with toxin in your skin. Charming! I learned last night that white vinegar works on it and it’s non-toxic to animals, so that’s one of my chores later today. (Most of the gardening sites and forums I read last night suggest using Round-Up. Round-Up? Suck it, you earth-poisoning twats.)

Wasps: I hate to poison these dudes because they have a job to do, too, but they completely skeeve me out because unlike bees, their stinger stays intact and they can just keep coming at you. We have abandoned nests all over the outbuildings and the attic, so we’ll have to bomb those, too.

I’ll report back later regarding the efficacy of these removal methods. And gladly blog elsewhere right now, because Legionella seems less depressing than having to contact animal control.

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